Random Bulletins…

Random Bulletins…

just a few items today:

1. check out my roommate Maggie’s meditation on Persepolis/Maus + webcomics

2. the estimable Larry Young sent me a copy of the forthcoming trade paperback of The Black Diamond this week… I vow to read it this weekend–the review will be up by Monday…

3. on a related note–I also vow to read and review anything that any of you comics pushers out there see fit to send me… I haven’t been very good at keeping my promises on this blog, since about 2005, but this is one that I will keep!

4. I’m about to begin re-reading the Gruenwald Captain Americas. When I’ve built up a reasonable head of steam (and pre-written posts), you’ll be hearing from me (although it may not be on Motime)

5. and, over on Geoff Klock’s blog, Jason Powell is on the verge of discussing X-Men #150, which, even to my somewhat Claremont-indifferent mind, looks like quite a milestone issue indeed, in retrospect–so I’m gonna re-read that one over the weekend too…


6. I’m still puzzled by the amazing outpouring of love for Dark Knight, especially by all of the “it redefines what a superhero movie can be” stuff…

how on earth does it do that?

it’s got one great performance (by Ledger); careful visual design, well-choreographed action sequences; and…what else?

the political philosophy was pedestrian (and reactionary); the performances were mostly competent, but unmemorable; and the Two-Face stuff didn’t make one damned bit of sense (not that I require movies to make sense–you know me better than that!–but it made no sense in a completely uninteresting way–unless you count Nolan’s assumption that the audience would accept Dent’s transformation into a maniac bent on attacking Gordon because there were some corrupt police on the force????????? as a fascinating cultural phenomenon?)

oh well–no one understands why I love D.O.A. either…

(p.s. more Bat-talk, with Jim Henley, over at Tor.com)

good afternoon friends!




  1. Continuing to share with you some of my primordial comic-book reading experiences: Some of my earliest comic books were Gruenwald/Dwyer issues of Captain America, particularly in and around the replacement-cap story (was his name John Walker)?

    I remember being astounded at the violence of some of them — there was one in which Walker beat the living hell out of a group of mutants called … The Resistants, maybe?

    And another when the Avengers seemed to be violently taking down the Soviet Super Soldiers, only to turn out to be a new Soviet super-hero group that wanted to punish the Soldiers for defecting.

    Intense stuff that burned into my 11-year-old brain.

    Can’t wait to see the Gruenwald blogs!

    Watching boys and girls and the sex appeal,

    Jason Powell

  2. yup–the Johnny Walker storyline dives into eighties-superhero violence with Verhoevenesque gusto (and does so, I would argue–WILL argue–for the same reasons that a film like Starship Troopers does)

    Gruenwald is, in fact, the closest thing superhero comics have ever had to a Verhoevenian ironist–every single thing he wrote grapples with the political and philosophical implications of the genre–and he did this without ever winking at the reader, the way people like Moore and Miller did by insisting upon prestige packaging and Morrison and Gaiman did with their densely allusive scripts…

    consequently, Gruenwald’s stuff has been criminally neglected by the “elevate the medium” brigade–but I think Squadron Supreme holds up brilliantly–and I expect Captain America to do likewise!

    Dave–like a beggar with no luck

  3. Interesting … this is all new to me. I’ve tended to think of Gruenwald as being comfortably mainstream. This will be an education for me.

    Feelin’ hella good,

    Jason Powell

  4. I’m not invested enough in The Dark Knight to mount a massive defense of it, but I saw it last night and thought that it was good.

    It didn’t redefine a damned thing, of course — instead, it took the messy, OTT psychological playground that I associate with the better Batman stories and channeled them through the sleek, doomy modern blockbuster framework.

    To my eyes it’s no more or less rediculous than the sixties Batman, or the Burton Batman, or Miller or Morrison’s respective takes on the character — it just uses the form of Hollywood realism to explore various Bat-tropes in an ever-escalating series of crescendos.

    Of course the Bat voice is pretty goofy, and some parts of the film (the ease with which the Dent/Two Face split occurs, the chat about the hero gotham deserves vs the one they needed) need you to buy into the films own logic pretty unquestionably. But… it worked for me, in the same way that Batman Begins did, only… more so, because LOUDER.

    (Plok wrote a good piece on Batman Begins way back when, if you haven’t read it. He focussed on the weirdness and inconstancies in that film in a way that intrigues the hell out of me.)

    And… what was I saying? Oh, yeah: the politics are juvenile and reactionary, for sure, but that’s not what I come to the Batman for. Instead, I see the movie as a great, clanking expression of the various ways the mind can react to some of the more frightening aspects of the outside world. Very few of these reactions make that much sense when analyzed closely, but yet… there’s an understandable gravity to these reactions, within the movie’s own sphere of logic. I mean, the talk of Batman being the hero Gotham deserves comes so close to the Joker’s chat about giving the town a better class of criminal that I can’t imagine that’s an accident and that… that’s interesting. Is the movie endorsing this logic, or just accepting it? Seems to be the latter, but there’s some light in there, with the very literal prisoner dilemma at the end.

    Does The Dark Knight move away from the first film’s “you are how you act” credo towards something way more depressed and reactive/reactionary? Probably, but its machinations are still huge and fascinating to me.

    In fact, it’s almost like the irrational counterpart to the grounded analysis of The Wire…

    Anyway, I’ve rambled on enough now — can’t wait to read your pieces on Gruenwald’s Cap, wherever they may appear!

    David Allison

  5. Franz–

    thanks for posting those links! it is indeed true that I made a tentative foray into Cap-blogging about 5 years ago–I’m going to avoid re-rereading those posts right now though–I want to come at the books from a fresh perspective!


    I can quite understand your reaction to the film–it IS a stunning piece of machinery (although its plot mechanics are pretty slipshod)… I myself have a long history of ignoring the obnoxious political dimensions of films that I like for other reasons (especially Frank Capra’s “populist” trilogy)… What baffles me are the reviews that make a point of exalting the film’s “thoughtful” explorations of political philosophy–which amount, in my eyes, to nothing more than a blunderingly naive reiteration of old-time “civic virtue”-based republicanism.


  6. Oh, I totally agree that TDK is slightly clumsy in the plot sense (internal logic necessary, etc), and politically it doesn’t do anything for me, so… I’d put some of the mainstream praise to be an example of any attempt at depth and grimness still seeming novel to critics unused to encountering these ideas in such strangely-costumed form.

    As for the insider raves, well lots of them are probably just as hyped for the bigness of the drama as I was. Beyond that there’s a lot of goodwill out there, a sense that “our” culture is finally getting an intelligent showing, which will probably take the film a long way.

    I still like The Dark Knight, mind you, and I intend to see it again in the next couple of weeks to see how it stands up, but I’d agree that it’s got more praise for its political intrigue than it deserves.

    David Allison, who’s almost ready to blog about the Filth… almost

  7. David– “What baffles me are the reviews that make a point of exalting the film’s “thoughtful” explorations of political philosophy–which amount, in my eyes, to nothing more than a blunderingly naive reiteration of old-time “civic virtue”-based republicanism.

    Ha^^) well I suppose it all depends on what kind of reactionary one is thinking of.

    The pugilistic 20th C. edition that Miller cued or something more Thermidorian in nature. I’m still sticking with the movie is quite different from the comic’s eternal vigilante though it chops off that thread in the end to open-end it for sequels and account in part for the fits and starts tone that plagues the whole film.

  8. Hey, I got a mention! Thanks, David.

    Dave, I’ve got to see TDK again, it’s not fresh in my memory anymore, but…for me the thing about Batman Begins was that the ideal of “things getting better” in a simplistically idealistic way is the way of Thomas Wayne, a childhood value of Bruce Wayne’s that his father was actually just kind of making up to indoctrinate him with (as all parents do one way or another). Note the bit of business about how Thomas is a doctor — boy, talk about your unimpeachable salesman, but for what? As you note, a status quo; and if the status quo has any real true moral value of its own besides “we got more”, then it’s buried. Thomas Wayne epitomizes it, at least to his son. But was it ever really there? When we find out the Wayne family helped slaves flee north, I don’t know about you but I cringed — and I do believe that wasn’t because the film didn’t know what it was doing, because it’s just too god-damned perfect, isn’t it? More honest is the bit in TDK where Alfred admits “we burned the forest down” — ouch. Hard to get happy after that one.

    So, not to witter on too long, but everything you’re saying is true, except it’s a tragedy, because Bruce Wayne was stupid enough in TDK to let himself believe in what he already learned was unachievable in BB: his father’s dream. Batman’s just hanging on: yup. You nail it.

    But past that, it’s just a summer blockbuster. Nothing the Joker says is something a functioning adult shouldn’t have already come pretty much to the end of wrestling with some time ago…deep, nossir. But I think when people get to the end of wrestling with obsessions over control, chaos, and personality, if they’re healthy they let what the Joker says in a little, because there’s truth to it. But so what about that? The interesting thing is what happens to Harvey, when he drinks the bitter dregs. Yikes, I’m gonna just plain start rambling now if I don’t watch out, so I’ll sign off and try to work up some less jumbled thoughts later on. Anyway, as political philosophy it’s pretty poor, though its topicality can’t fail to slap people in the face who’ve never heard of philosophy. But that’s a bit of a smokescreen, I believe. Or, rather, as a surface meaning it’s all fine and intentional, but Nolan puts a couple of flies in the soup before he brings it to the table, and for that I liked it a whole lot.

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