Month: July 2005

If It Ain’t Broke (and even if it! is), Don’t Idee Fixe It

If It Ain’t Broke (and even if it is!), Don’t Idee Fixe It

Yes! They’re talking Mulholland Dr. over at Peiratikos, and (in direct contradistinction to the Peiratik Duo’s hopeless attempt to find common ground for discussion with “comix pushers” Alan David Doane and Chris Allen) they haven’t been wastin’ their time! I like the direction in which things seem to be headed, and I’ll be very interested to see what Steven has to say about the blue box (my own MD duet with Charles Reece–with substantial contributions by a number of others–can be found here)

I think Steven is right to mistrust Lynch’s infamous “10 clues”–and I like his characterization of these unsubtle aids to miscomprehension as extratextual amplifiers of the film’s exploration of “obvious fakes” and “seamless forgeries” (as opposed to real vs. unreal)… I’m also intrigued by this brief discussion of cacophony and euphony that was triggered by James Smith’s comments:

The desire to replace cacophony with euphony—that reminds me of Borges’s “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” the false world that replaces the real one because it makes more sense. That’s Betty/Diane’s problem.

This is a little-remarked upon aspect of the film, at least in my experience. It’s not just that the Betty segment is “happier” than the Diane segment, it’s also far more coherent (i.e. linear–think about it…there’s no “time problem” in the Betty segment…it’s full speed ahead, from the airport to the discovery of the box…whereas the Diane segment is a crazy patchwork quilt of bad memories and even worse extrapolations from these same heart-breaking incidents). Oddly enough, my agreement with Steven on this point leads me to go back and take issue with one of his earlier statements:

Is there really less evidence of conspiracy in the “grim n’ gritty” region of the film (doesn’t it seem that everyone is going out of their way to piss Diane off–and then taking demonic pleasure in their success?) It is indisputably true that, in the first constellation of stories, the conspirators remain hidden from the protagonists, while their later counterparts come out onto the stage to work their mischief. Of course, there is no “backstage” in Diane’s neck of the woods–and maybe that’s the problem! One of the things that I find most fascinating about the film is that the part that is generally considered a dream has a far more “open” quality to it than the ostensibly “real” drama does. You might be tempted to infer that Betty’s world is happier than Diane’s because Rita/Camilla is more tractable to her wishes in the first segment–but it’s much more than that. The “dream” is by far the least solipsistic part of the film. Betty is capable of empathy–Diane is not. Everything in Diane’s world is explicitly happening to her. Betty, on the other hand, enjoys a kind of connection with a variety of figures (preeminently Adam–but don’t forget Dan…and you might want to include Rita on that list)… and her story also includes the extraordinary two-way telephone conversation  between Adam and Cynthia… Betty is consumed by curiosity, but she isn’t burdened by the dreadful certainty (“this is the girl”) that poisons Diane’s life… Again, this is why I think the “I’ve Told Ev’ry Little Star” scene (in which Adam speaks the words that will doom him–and Betty/Diane) is the key….This–not the Silencio scene–is the true site of the “break” (which is not a break in diegesis, but in the will to live in a mysterious world) in the film.

Good Afternoon Friends!


Why Must The Brave and Bold Ones Die?

Why Must The Brave and Bold Ones Die?

Seventy-two ain’t bad, but there’s no such thing as a happy ending–and I’m gonna miss Jim Aparo too. This is a guy who (in the pages of The Brave and The Bold, along with the remarkable, and already much-missed, Bob Haney) made Batman palatable to me–a die-hard Bat-hater… I also had a weakness for The Outsiders (which Aparo co-created with Mike W. Barr), back in the mid-eighties. However, I would argue that Aparo did his finest work (in collaboration with Michael Fleisher) on The Spectre serial in Adventure Comics #431-440… What bizarre tales! They can best be described as supernatural Dirty Harry stories (just imagine if ol’ Clint had been capable of tossing sea monsters at the riff raff he so enjoyed being mean to on the streets!), which sounds like a recipe for disaster, from my bleeding heart perspective, but, somehow, the hyperbolic assasination methods always managed to make vengeance look like the petty thing that it is, rather than the glamorous “who-needs-a-girlfriend-when-you-can-rip-someone’s-balls-off?” emotion that Frank Miller and friends have so often portrayed it as… I mean–the Spectre definitely inhabits a black and white universe–his victims are undeniably “bad people”…but who among us would use our powers to do something like this–even to a crime boss known as “Ducky”?

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The other cool thing about the series is that, oddly enough, it featured a lot of “romance comic” type interludes between Gwen Sterling and her intended corpse groom, which gave Aparo a chance to show off his skill at conveying intense states of mind through the faces and postures of his attractive uncostumed characters (I think Aparo’s women are almost up there with Colan’s, Infantino’s, Heck’s, and Wood’s):

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Isn’t that final panel great? (sob!)

Good Afternoon Friends!

Hey! This blog is now searchable!

Hey! This blog is now searchable!
(the “search” field is two or three inches above this header…see it?)

Those Motimers never stop working to improve the quality of my online life! (why doesn’t anyone else in the comics blogosphere use Motime?)

Now you can see how many times I’ve used the term “dynamic stasis” in the past two years and giggle to yourself!

Also–just about everything I wanted to say about Miller and Lee’s All-Star Orphanmaker has been said by the Shrew!

good night friends!

I Got Your Agenda Right Here

I Got Your Agenda Right Here

Over at Peiratikos, Alan David Doane had this to say, in response to Rose’s (admittedly, rather pointed) criticisms of Comic Book Galaxy (and of the minds of those whom she perceived to be behind that site’s present state):

Considering the women who I have had personal interaction with who have commented on this very thread as to their experience with me and CBG, your comments are truly laughable. Hate to break it to both of you like this, but not only is your agenda showing, but you’ve painted a big red target on its ass.

I’m not sure what he means by this, exactly, but I do agree that everyone who writes for an audience (even an audience of one) has an agenda. In Alan’s case, the agenda is clear–get people excited!!!!!!!!!! (about 1. “the medium”, and 2. Alan David Doane) He’s a huckster (which is not the same thing as a charlatan), and he plays his role well. I think he’s good for the ‘sphere, even though I don’t think I’ve ever taken anything he has written very seriously. Why should I? He isn’t writing for me. He knows his audience and he’s giving them what they want. If Rose erred at all, it was in asking him (and Chris Allen) to be something he is not… Although I’m not sure that she did even that–after all, she doesn’t really seem to be expecting Comic Book Galaxy to change…she merely expressed the (hardly disputable) notion that, when it comes to online comics criticism, and no matter how expansive CBG might be (or deem itself to be), many Galaxies remain unexplored!

I, of course, have my own idea of what I want comics criticism to be (MORE CLOSE-READING!!!!!! more speculative criticism….In my own way, I’m sure many would agree, I’m even more obnoxious than ADD), and I think I’m finally at peace with the fact that ADD, the Comics Journal, Johanna Draper Carlson, Ninth Art,Tim O’Neil, etc. are going to pursue their own agendas, regardless of how much I’d like to alter their respective courses. You’ve gotta build a consensus from the ground up. Which is why I get so excited when I find a site like Double Articulation! I think Jim has outdone himself in his essay (and, unlike my own scattershot posts, Jim really does write essays) on comics-to-film adaptations. Jim is doing some really interesting thinking about these texts (I love his discussion of Raimi’s dangerous “Batmanning” of spider-man–and I quite agree with him on that score) and I can’t wait to see where he goes next!

Anyway–bon weekend les amis!

This Probably Isn’t News To You, But…

This Probably Isn’t News To You, But…

Jim Roeg’s Double Articulation is an astonishingly good (mostly comics) blog!

For an example of what I mean, see this entry on the mid-to-late seventies FF’s by Len Wein and George Perez--my only quibble here is that, in a footnote, Jim has misattributed the authorship of FF #176 (return of the Impossible Man!) to Wein… don’t mess with Roy the Boy, dude!

Also–Dylan Abbott looks like a man to watch (especially if you, like me, are in search of a fellow pilgrim on the miserable road to Cerebus #300)

Good evenin’ friends!

No Revoltin’ Developments Here!

No Revoltin’ Developments Here!

Well, we saw The Fantastic Four yesterday. I thought it was well-cast (of course Chiklis steals the film–didn’t Ben steal the comic too? but the others–including Alba, whom I hated in Sin City, and whom I feared–based upon the publicity stills–would again be forced to serve as lightning rod for fanboy lust–filled their roles admirably) and I reveled in the sheer plotlessness of it all! No “he’s going to destroy the world” summer blockbuster plot. Not much action at all, which suited me to a tee! The FF is–and always has been–a sitcom that gets religion during sweeps week. These folks go on jaunts to the Negative Zone or Ancient Egypt a little more frequently than Alf and the Tanners head to the country, but, in each case, the real “work” of the series takes place within the friendly confines of the family home. The film is very much consistent with my favourite interpretation of the strip (Moench-Sienkiewicz’s wonderful run on the title from the early eighties, cut short when John Byrne began throwing his weight around in the aftermath of his monstrous success on The Uncanny X-Men):

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 This isn’t spider-man, carrying his existential shell with him wherever he goes, nor are these the X-Men, battening down the hatches against a world that hates them–Reed, Sue, Johnny, and even Ben may not always be sure what the hell’s going on with their bodies, but they are not trapped in their own heads. They’re pure Jack Kirby characters–untroubled by epistemological concerns; confident that the world is actually there, ready to be acted upon. Ditko’s characters, by contrast (and despite the artist’s Randian credentials!), never demonstrate that kind of Johnsonian certainty. As a scholar, I’m much more interested in the Ditkoesque end of the Marvel spectrum, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate Kirby at his best (i.e. his work with Stan Lee) These characters are made of real flesh and blood (and rubber and fire and rock, it seems), and, unlike Spider-Man or Dr. Strange, what they say to each other is a lot more important than what they think. You can say a lotta things about the King, but writing snappy banter just wasn’t in his line. Fortunately, Stan was up the task–and France and Frost did a nice job of this in the film.

I expected to be annoyed by the integration of Dr. Doom (well-portrayed by Julian McMahon–although I wish they hadn’t buried the Richards/Von Doom enmity under a love-triangle, forcing ol’ Victor to take on the role that the Submariner played in the early issues of the series)  into the FF origin story–but it wasn’t so bad (and we may even see Latveria sometime soon!)… I wasn’t sure how the hell they were gonna exlplain the “cosmic ray” mishap (nor account for the presence of this particular quartet on the ship) in a post-manned spaceflight world–but the update satisfied me completely… In short–I liked it and, as with any good superhero comic, I’m looking forward to the next installment!

Good Night Friends!


Bats Behind the Wainscoting

Bats Behind the Wainscoting

I’m enjoying Tim O’Neil’s BatRoast over at the Hurting… (I’m also loving the comments by Cole Odell and Rasselas)

As usual, I concur with Tim’s gut reaction, whilst disagreeing with his analysis of said judgment…

Near the end of the first comment-section, I added this:

my opinion of Bats is very similar to yours, Tim… but, in my own case, the antipathy has nothing to do with a dislike of hard-boiled crime writing (in fact, this is my favourite type of “genre” writing)

my objection to Batman is that (as Cole states) he’s a Shadow clone that has been (unwisely) given a suffocating origin story and too much of the spotlight… the great thing about the Shadow, the Continental Op (all of Hammett’s main characters–as opposed to protagonists– actually), Hawthorne’s Coverdale, etc. is that they don’t HAVE origins and we aren’t supposed to understand or relate to their behaviour–they are pure literary devices…dramatic catalysts , not people… that’s where Batman, the Punisher, etc. go wrong, in my book…

It does all come down to Robin, but not because the little guy’s antics damage the Bat-world’s “realistic” cred. Readers have pointed out that, in the first few Bat-adventures, the character was free of the origin that I despise so much… The explanatory moment (which comes in ‘Tec  #33) wasn’t so damaging in itself, I suppose (future writers could have ignored it, continuing to treat Bats as an inscrutable melodrama-generator)–but when Robin came bob bob bobbin’ onto the scene, the game was over.


Because the whole point of Robin is that he serves as a bridge between the reader and the title character. When Dick’s parents are killed, the young reader is practically forced to think–“oh no! this isn’t just a story–this could actually happen to me–and how would I react?” And, of course, the only answer the story offers to that hithertofore extraneous question is Bruce’s own caped coping mechanism…  At which point, the narrative becomes trapped in the Bat-Jar, effectively foreclosing upon all possibility of future narrative development (as opposed to “progress”.. think of Peter Parker–who may not really age all that much, but who does have a very definite post-origin life history)

In other news:
Cerebus is really pissing me off.

good afternoon friends!

I liked Dave Sim better when he thought he was God

I liked Dave Sim better when he thought he was God

wow…until a couple of days ago, I truly believed that I could handle this Cerebus thing (reading all 300 issues I mean)… I was doing fine too (the lettercol shenanigans/advent of strident anti-feminism that originally alienated me back in the late eighties still don’t convince me, of course, but I was able to get into it, as performance art + the metafictional elements remained fascinating), going through the series(including all of the lettercols and text pieces at the back of the issues) at a record pace–until I reached the Hemingway storyline (“Form and Void”)… since I ran headlong into that atrocity, I’ve been reduced to taking two/three hour breaks between issues…and, you know, it’s not the misogyny (Sim calls it “anti-feminism”) that ruins it (“Reads” is as anti-feminist as it gets, and it’s still interesting–even though Sim really isn’t much of a prose stylist)…it’s the way this zealous new convert has yoked his feelings about gender (and everything else–from economics to literary criticism) to his “daddy’s boy” metaphysics that has transformed him into a droning bore…


the thing that set me off, more than anything (because I wasn’t prepared for it) is the “writer” vs. “typer” distinction that Sim introduces in order to voice his (“brave”) dissent from the consensus that Ernest Hemingway was a master prose stylist (well, colour me “duped” Dave–I’ll bet you think Dashiell Hammett “phoned in” his novels too!)… if you’ve read this stuff (“To Ham or Not to Ham”), you know what I’m talking about–if not, well, I’m tellin’ ya, the argument is roughly analogous to the ol’ “my child could’ve painted that piece of modern art” chestnut (in fact, Sim makes this association himself, opining that Norman Rockwell is a far greater artist than Picasso)… As I say, I was NOT prepared for this… Sim’s tendency to conflate “floweriness” with “prose artistry” has been evident from the get-go…which is why his comics tend to work better when he lets the pictures and the dialogue do the talking…but, in terms of narrative construction, he is–or was–one of the greatest… the craziest thing–to me–is that he seems to have been headed toward a moment (Jaka is the “perfect” woman for Cerebus–and yet–perhaps for precisely this reason–they can’t live together) very similar to the one that I placed at the center of my novel… Who knows where Sim the secular humanist would’ve gone from there? One thing’s for sure–he wouldn’t have blamed Jaka for distracting Cerebus from the “one true path” to God… Maybe–just maybe–he would even have allowed his protagonist to recognize that the fact of intersubjectivity (as opposed to the lurid result of ontological speculation) is the only reasonable (as opposed to “rational”) ground upon which to base one’s ethical (not to mention aesthetical) decisions… which makes it all the sadder (again, to me) that, five sixths of the way through his opus, Sim traded in his “writer” gig for a job as “God’s” “typist”…

more later (I’m not going to stop reading at #270, no matter how much I’d like to!)

good afternoon friends!