Tag Archives: Alan Moore

Yes, I am petty.

So… I was somewhat looking forward to the above upcoming Superman one-shot. It was written by Martin (“Marty”) Pasko as part of DC’s nostalgia-driven “Retrograde” mini-event this month – a last hurrah before the big line wide reboot coming next month. It’s a series of one-shots that’s supposed to feature artists and writers (when available) who worked on various DC characters in the 70s, 80s, and 90s writing those same characters again in stories set in those decades, and presented as if they were written and drawn back then. This event was announced back in April, well before the reboot news hit, but it’s obvious looking back that they planned it to sequence this way. (The reboot, of course, should have hit back in 1985 after Crisis on Infinite Earths, but that’s another blog post.)

Marty Pasko wrote Superman stories in the late 70s / early 80s, back when the character was under the editorship of Julius Schwartz. Julie’s Superman was my first Superman, and was possibly one of the worst interpretations of the character in his history, usually only tolerable when Curt Swan was on art duties. Still, I couldn’t / can’t stop reading it. You read one, and it’s, like, “That was complete shit! Maybe I’ll buy another one!” “DC Retroactive: Superman – The 70s” is the kind of comic they make for guys just like me.

But, the thing is: I am now boycotting this comic.

Yes, you heard me right, Crime Fans. Pick yourselves up off the floor. I’m boycotting it! There’s no way I’m even flipping through this thing any more. Why? Because of recent comments by Marty Pasko about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:

If you REALLY wanna interview someone who’s a creator of TMNT as we know it, f*** Eastman & Laird; talk to David Wise

TMNT was a lame, amateurish B&W indie when TV ani producer Fred Wolf bought the option for chump change. No key TMNT branding element came from Eastman or Laird–not Turtles’ personalities or any shtik like pizza thing. Every TMNT thing that was leveraged 4 big licensing bux came from the cartoon, not the stupid, insipidl B&W indie comix. TMNT works almost exclusively thanx 2 creative innovations by the brilliant David Wise

How do I know all this? I wrote the 3rd TMNT episode of the ongoing series (i.e., after David Wise’s 5-part “pilot”) & a few more TMNTs, & I can swear that what made TMNT huge & famous was what David brought to it. Why? Bcoz I consulted comix AS WELL AS David’s pilot script & bible & the comix were useless as ref. 4 series that estabed property. Fanboys hate hearing this, but most peeps who get “Created By” cred have high-powered lawyers who fuck over collaborators.

 

 Whoa, whoa, whoa! Slow down there, Marty.

1) However “lame” or “amateurish” or TMNT might have been, I don’t think Pasko should be going around pointing fingers when at the same period of time he was writing complete fucking corporate rubbish aimed at six-year-olds. At least TMNT was self-published.

2) How much more artistic merit did TMNT the animation have over TMNT the comic? I mean, really? This is like Pac Man The Cartoon (the pot) calling  Pac Man the Game (the kettle) black.

3) How much of the Superman comics of the 70s got used in the Christopher Reeve movie?

4) Most Importantly: TMNT inspired the catastrophic self-publishing boom and bust of the 80s from which comics never full recovered. But that Turtles money also led to foundation of:

a) The Xeric Foundation, which helped dozens of now-vital cartoonists get on their feet.

b) Tundra Publishing, which – though short-lived and insane – brought us Dave McKean’s Cages, Understanding Comics, Al Columbia, From Hell, Lost Girls, Skin, and more.

Eastman and Laird – whatever their missteps – have been vital to the development of alternative comics, and they deserve respect for that. What has Pasko done for the development of comics as an art form? Nothing. With “Retroactive,” Pasko is going back to the artistically bankrupt corporate sludge gutter once again, so you deserve the fucking, Mister Pasko, not Eastman and Laird.

KS

P.S. Even though he’s writing the Punisher and I suffer from Punisher-itis, I boycotted all of Jason Aaron’s comics a while back too. Though for different reasons, you can probably guess why.

Superman by Marty Pasko and a Committee, not at all like...

... "stupid" and "insipid" TMNT comics by Eastman and Laird.

Fisticuffs

Gaze into the Fist of Dredd

"Gaze into the Fist of Dredd" by John Wagner & Alan Grant and Brian Bolland. From "Judge Death Lives" (2000 AD #224-228). IPC Magazines, 1981.

 

One Punch

"One Punch" by Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire & Al Gordon. From "Gray Life Gray Dreams" (Justice League #5). DC Comics, 1987.

 

Burn

"Burn" by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. From "For The Man Who Has Everything..." (Superman Annual #11). DC Comics, 1985.

 

Hot Roll Grab

"Hot Roll Grab" by Jack Kirby. From "Street Code" (Argosy vol 3 #2). 1990.

 

 KS

Review: X-Women

(by Chris Claremont and Milo Manara. Marvel Comics, 2010.)

Okay, I have no idea where to begin writing a clever introduction to reviewing this head-case of a comic, so let’s just dispense with the beginning, middle, and end business, and I’ll lay out the review in bullet points. These are copied from the notes I made when I first read the book, so some may seem random and nonsensical, like the comic itself.

* The comic is, of course, drawn by famed Italian sex comic artist Milo Manara. It is, to the best of my limited knowledge, the first time he has done original comic art for a mainstream American comic company, or any American comic company that I know of.

* Who the hell is the audience for this book? I think regular X-Men fans prefer their X-Women with more bombastic tits and asses rather than Manara’s waifish mannequin types.  And Manara fans would want nudity and the women actually fucking people (or things). Both camps are doomed to disappointment.

What Marvel fans really want (I think)

 

* What a hilariously ironic title.

* The plot involves some X-Women losing their powers and then become slaves of some South American dictator or something, blah, blah. I don’t even really remember it, except somehow it reminded me of Mad Max 2.

* I’ve heard people say that, even if you put aside the sex, Manara is a great sequential artist. All the evidence here points to the contrary. He seems very average to poor (i.e. distracted), and once or twice I even noticed characters bounce from place to place in a room without rhyme or reason except to make sure they are posed facing the camera with the right pout.

How did Rogue get next to Storm? And what’s Storm looking at anyway?

* For my money, Paolo Serpieri is the better artist by far. But, that said, I’ve never actually made it to the end of a Serpieri comic, because I tend to get, uh, distracted by Druuna’s ass.

Manara vs Serpieri? NO CONTEST.

* Why didn’t they just get John Severin to draw this thing?

* There is at least one reference to Diff’rent Strokes (?!?!). Oh, no, wait — is this supposed to lead us to think of “stroking it,” a complex association like that reference to the yellow leaves in James Joyce’s “Araby”?

* I haven’t read an X-Men or Chris Claremont comic in a long time, and early on I had trouble following what was going on. Despite the fact that this is Claremont writing, it’s missing his good ol’ standby: “My name is Rogue. I shoot rays out of my ears and can transmute metals into fly paper” every other page. Would have been helpful, you know, of all the times to break with old habits. Throw a brother a bone, would ya, Claremont?

* In my notes, I wrote the words “Down Syndrome” on two separate occasions, not realizing I was repeating myself. So, as you can guess, the impression was frequent and in-your-face. I mean, just look at that cover.

* Manara’s goal is to make every single panel “sexy.” Manara will invent fetishes where they don’t actually exist for every conceivable human activity. Storm feeds the pigs? SEXY. Rogue does the laundry? SEXY. X-Women fall off a cliff? SEXY. Etc.

Do you have a pig feeding fetish?

* As I was reading it, my wife looked over and said, “What is THAT?”

Me: Well, it’s an X-Men comic drawn by this famous Italian sex comic artist who doesn’t normally do this kind of thing.

Wife: Yeah, I was about to say that! Haha!

Me: It’s weird. He’s always posing them in these crazy fetish poses no matter what they’re doing.

Wife: Oh, they’re just having  a bit of fun.

… And, well, that was a point I couldn’t argue with. Despite all my above complaints about the craft or intent of the thing, Manara and Claremont are just having a good time here. In fact, I would go even further and suggest that quite cleverly Manara is actually satirizing Claremont’s writing with his art (exposing the sexualized depiction of every activity that X-Women are always made to perform), and Claremont is satirizing Manara (writing mundane situations which he knows Manara will automatically sexualize). In that respect, this comic is comparable only to the Peter Bagge drawn issue of Alan Moore’s Tom Strong which achieved the same remarkable feat.

So, I can’t recommend it, but I recommend it.

KS

Click to “enlarge” — ha! Get it?

My Toronto Something-Con 1998 Sketchbook

This was — I felt — a tiny little “con” (more like a market) occupying only a couple of rooms in a convention center in Toronto which it was sharing with a Jehovah’s Witnesses Convention on that same weekend. I can’t even remember the name of it but I don’t think it was the Fan Expo which is a rather large and significant affair these days, I am told. Or maybe it was and the Expo has actually grown exponentially over the years. Anyway, there were very few mega-guests from the Big Two (except for Joe Quesada or Jimmy Palmiotti — I can’t remember which, and John Romita JR), but there were some excellent Canadian stalwarts as you shall see below. Click to enjoy!

Dave Sim

He had just done his four-part mega-interview with Alan Moore in Cerebus and was happy to chat about him for a bit.

Greg Hyland

Koichi Ohata

This is fairly bad ass.

Stuart Immonen

Joe Matt

Seth

Joe Matt and Seth were looking pretty… uhh… unoccupied at this particular show. They had lots of time to do fully rendered sketches. Matt even did another one for me in a copy of The Poor Bastard that I bought off him. I can’t remember if I bought It’s a Good Life from Seth directly at this show or if I got it some other time.

Stephen Platt

When Stephen Platt first started out, he was eager to work on the Punisher. The Punisher editors at the time didn’t like him, but he ended up landing on Moon Knight where he earned his 15 minutes of mega-fame, while Platt look-a-likes started appearing in the Punisher books where the editors were kicking themselves. Platt went on to mostly mediocrity. I’m not sure what the problem was. Maybe his sequentials just weren’t that great. Maybe he could only draw one facial expression. Anyway, for a moment there, his art style was in the right place at the right time (early 90s / Image steroid armor fest), and it always pissed me off that we never did get to see this “hot” artist on a Punisher book — which is what HE wanted in the first place — instead of the amateurish artists they were using instead. So when I got the opportunity to ask for a Punisher sketch, he was more than happy to oblige. That is a wicked image right there. They outta give the guy some covers at least.

KS

Review: PHANTOM ZONE #1-4 & DC COMICS PRESENTS #97

(PHANTOM ZONE #1-4: written by Stever Gerber, art by Gene Colan & Tony DeZuniga, 1982. DC COMICS PRESENTS #97: written by Steve Gerber, art by Rick Veitch & Bob Smith, 1986.)

As usual, I can’t remember exactly how or why these comics ended up on my wish list. I think I may have read something about it in the Krypton Companion, and I do like learning minutia about Silver Age Superman mythology, so maybe that was it.

Anyway, first up is the Phantom Zone miniseries by Gerber and Colan. There is a guy at the Daily Planet named Kweskill who we learn was once incarcerated in the Phantom Zone but upon his release somehow lost both his powers and memory and is now living like the Average Joe. Except the villains still in the Phantom Zone are psychically manipulating Kweskill to build a Zone projector which releases the criminals while trapping Superman and Kweskill inside. The pair then spend the remaining issues trying to escape, while Zod and the other escapees build a giant Zone projector to phase the whole planet Earth into the Zone.

The concept of the Zone is that you can only think and observe while you are there — no feeling or aging, though criminals can psychically communicate with each other. So I actively disliked the way that Superman only had to do a bunch of stuff to escape — much the way he came back from the dead in the 90s. Somehow the way Gerber delineates the Zone in such physical detail detracts from the existential horror of the idea. And the whole idea is so huge that plot holes are bound to emerge if you try to describe it too much. I have to admit though that I found Gerber’s approach less disconcerting on a second read through. Still, at times it was almost as if he bit off more than he could chew. Gerber’s best notes are played on Kweskill, who is the kind of Man-On-The-Street Gerber excelled at writing and often appeared in Gerber’s Howard the Duck. In fact, the fact that he makes time for the panel below amongst the chaos is classic Gerber.

But there is some weird stuff in this series. One the very first page of issue one, in the very first sentence, there is a misprint which reads: “Perry White is a newspaper of the old school.” Ironically, this page is about newspaper editing. (It’s so blatant part of me wanted to believe it was some kind of meta-commentary by Gerber.) We get a bit of history of Jor-El’s discovery of the Zone as well. Jor-El proposes the Zone as a punishment for criminals instead of cryo-freezing them and rocketing them into orbit as they do currently and the council seems to accept this after one day of deliberation — no scientific investigation or anything. Jor-El explains that the criminals are in the same physical space as them after they are projected into the Zone, but it’s not clear how they “travel” from place to place — how did they get to “Earth space” 30 years later? The council decides to rocket the projector into space to protect people from the psychic influence of the prisoners. This makes no sense since the criminals do not exist in the projector, and dooms them to eternity in the Zone no matter how long or short their judged terms were. It’s also very, very fucked up that Perry forgets that Kweskill was a Kryptonian until Batman reminds him in issue 3! And why does Superman keep a “disintegration pit” filled with “radioactive Kryptonian fuel” at his Fortress? Where did he get that fuel anyway? It’s also weird that Superman only has to destroy Zod’s mega-projector to return Earth from the Zone after being half phased into it. Really? So all you have to do is destroy any projector and whatever’s inside pops back out? Finally: Zod escapes and his one goal is to completely destroy the Earth — but his motive is never given. As far as we know, the Earth never did him any wrong. And if he kept the people alive, with his superpowers he could rule over them as slaves.

In terms of art, the work by Colan — a frequent collaborator of Gerber on Howard the Duck as well — is beautiful and moody and horribly reproduced. The heaviness of it is well suitted to the wasteland-like Zone. So why did they choose to make the covers so “comedic”? Weird. And I found it odd that when the villains manage to launch nuclear bombs against the Earth and Superman is forced to watch helplessly from the Zone, his face is practically emotionless. Also — probably not Colan’s fault — I disliked that Zod was bald. Aren’t Braniac and Luthor enough bald villains for Superman?

DC Comics Presents #97 (the last issue of the series) on the other hand, is one of the best superhero comics I have ever read. Gerber returns to write, this time with Rick Veitch on art, to create the final chapter of the Phantom Zone’s history in which the living entity which is the Zone becomes corporeal in our universe, fusing with Mr. Mxyzptlk, and releasing the prisoners once again.

As the cover states, this is an “Untold Tale of the Pre-Crisis Universe” — meaning Gerber had almost complete freedom to mess things up as much as he wanted since the continuity he was writing for no longer existed — much like the freedom Alan Moore had with WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE MAN OF TOMORROW. In fact, Gerber seems to have had so much freedom, that some of the events in here involving Mr. Mxyzptlk seem to contradict directly what Moore did with his story.

There is a very obvious Moore-influence here. Gerber often narrates in the first person here, instead of the omniscient third person narration he used in the miniseries. And the Zone, as a sentient being, speaks in an appropriately “unhuman” version of English — something too difficult for the 11-year olds reading the miniseries, but something Gerber seems quite comfortable with after Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing bomb hit DC Comics in 1984. This isn’t a knock-off though — it’s more like Moore revealed to Gerber more tools in his shed that he could be making use of, and Gerber used them to craft his own kind of house. (Although it is possible that the miniseries and this issue are each enriched by reading the other.)

Veitch’s work on this story is phenomenal. Gerber covers a lot of the same Zone backstory that he did in the miniseries (was it already in place before then even?), but he’s far more passionate about it here, and Veitch — Moore’s frequent collaborator on Swamp Thing — attacks it with the eye of Victor Moscoso, abstracting and intensifying the layouts. Characters are sweaty and paranoid and visceral — I felt like Veitch was channeling Justin Green the whole time. I haven’t seen superhero characters look this emotional since Kirby. After reading this and Veitch’s Heartburst and Shiny Beasts recently, I am convinced that Veitch is one of the true greats of comic art, and I wish sometimes he could draw every superhero comic.

 

(Faora and Binky Brown — separated at birth?!)

The other great thing about Gerber’s freedom on this book is that the ending is negative in a way that I don’t ever recall seeing in a superhero book up to that time. It’s almost like the DC Universe version of Miracleman #15, with Metropolis largely destroyed — which totally makes sense if Kryptonian villains were allowed to run rampant on earth — and Mxyzptlk having seemingly become a god.

Excellent. A heady, feverish experience of a superhero comic book. Highly recommended.

KS

Warlock 5, 4, 3, 2, 1!

The comic I’ve been reading this week is Warlock 5 — the “complete” issues 1-13, by Gordon Derry and Denis Beauvais, and published by Aircel Comics.

Years ago I owned a copy of issue #7 which I bought new off the shelf in what must have been 1987. I have no idea what happened to that copy, but a brief “appreciation” of the series on Newsarama a few years back prompted fond memories of that single issue I owned and curiosity about the rest of the series. So I put it on my want list, and finally got around to ordering them a few weeks back.

I said “fond memories” before, but that does not accurately describe my feelings about Warlock 5 #7. Warlock 5 #7 was categorically badass. Back in 1987 when I was reading Superman, Transformers, Excalibur, and I’m sure something else which I can’t quite remember right now, I would still scan the shelves at the comic shop even for the indies, which I did not read, and the cover of Warlock 5 #7 refused to be denied. I mean look at this thing!

There were very few painted covers on comics at the time, and this one was beautifully executed with an awesome range of character designs the likes of which only I myself could have come up with at that age. I mean, who cares if the robot is a Terminator rip-off? It’s still such a wicked visual. The air-brushed black-and-white interiors were not exactly photo-realistic per se, but they had a three-dimensional solidity to them which I had never seen in any other comic before — certainly never in any of the 4-color Marvel and DC books I was enjoying at the time. To this day I remember the last panel here:

And I loved the violence of this sequence:

And then, at the end of the book, there was this:

Holy Shit!!! Boobies!!! Believe me, at 13 years old, I spent A LOT of time with that last panel above. I mean, MASSIVE amounts of time. I mean, INCREDIBLE, MASSIVE, WHOLE LOTS OF TIME. HOURS AND HOURS OF TIME. MEGA COLLOSAL, HUGE TRACTS OF TIME. REAMS OF TIME. GARTANTUAN, MONOLITHIC GALLONS OF TIME. I MEAN, STUPENDOUS, INCALCULABLE AMOUNTS OF TIME.

Anyway, there was no “Mature Readers” label on the cover. I wondered if the guy at the counter would sell it to me — I would have been 12 or 13-years old at the time. I had to own those boobies no matter what. I had to give it a shot. Hopefully he hadn’t read it and wouldn’t know that I should not actually be allowed to buy it. So I took it up to the counter and, as I recall, the guy sold it to me without a word.

This comic never made any sense to me. And, really, if you’re jumping on at issue #7 it’s unlikely it would. It begins with some kind of medieval battle between a witch and a sorceress on the top of a castle, when a knight in armor enters the fray; then it’s the present and some dude gets stabbed by two women in the street and the women are pursued by bikers in armor, and that’s kind of it. But that cover and the art is still riveting. And I still love the scanned scenes above. The incomprehensibility of the plot only made the comic more compelling as an object in my mind — like a page ripped out of someone’s diary that you find in a gutter. I got a dream-like sense of the greater tapestry beyond the reach of my conscious awareness. And, speaking practically, how many more of these would I be able to sneak past the guy at the cash register anyway?

Finally reading the complete series this past week, it is sadly disappointing. When you read a single issue, you can only imagine the greater framework. Seeing that actual framework, you realize how terribly flawed and dishearteningly uninteresting it is. You realize how many of the same traps it falls into that other black-and-white indies of the era did — this thing wants to hyper-accelerate the construction of a giant comic book universe without any meaningful development and the resulting impression is of a typical kind of Marvel knock-off conceived by a 14-year old. (In fact, every founding title from Image Comics suffered this same juvenile approach.) I mean — Great Krypton — weren’t any of these people reading Love and Rockets or Cerebus, or at least ElfQuest?

From issue #1 the plot still makes no sense. Supposedly the book is about: “five Guardians struggling for control of a Grid that is the intersecting point of five conflicting realities” (so says issue #12). The back pages are filled with supplementary matter to help explain the structure of the universe — almost all of it is confusing mumbo-jumbo that fails to illuminate anything. Characters regularly spout lines full of generalities like: “Maybe the only way to solve the imbalance of the universe is to change the present reality. I’ve discovered that the turbulence of cosmic energy is centered on this time” (actual dialog from issue #12). As if this helps to delineate anything. Sometimes they even try to clarify the plot in the letters pages! While the “grid” seems to operate according to certain rules, there is no discernible internal logic to the magical abilities people seem to randomly display.

At the end of issue #3, one of the Guardians is about to kill the other four with a nuclear bomb and the caption says: ‘To Be Continued.” At the beginning of the next issue, everything is back to status quo with no mention of what happened — and, no, I didn’t skip an issue. They apologized for this TWICE in the letters pages: once explaining that it was some kind of radical new storytelling technique where the readers were supposed to imagine for themselves what happened, and the second time explaining that they had to cut short story pages resulting in the gap (and yet the issue in question also contained a back up story and house ads).

Most issues fall into a basic pattern of one or more Guardians showing up to fight one or more of the others, while the remaining one(s) try to convince the others to stop fighting until the next issue. One of the fatal flaws of the series is that a Guardian seems to die in almost every issue only to be shown to have survived in the next. If you’re going to kill off and bring back, say, Colossus or Kitty Pride every 100 issues or so, that’s one thing, but in Warlock 5 the cycle is only two or three issues long — the formula almost instantly becomes predictable and tedious.

An exceptional issue is #13 which oscillates between wince-inducing cliché / Alan Moore pastiche, and some really interesting formalist sequences, the likes of which had never been even hinted at in the series before:

But worst of all: there are no boobies in any issue except #7.

Denis Beauvais’s art, though, improved with each issue. Issue #1 in fact is a bit clunky, alternating from somewhat not-ready-for-prime-time line work, to his signature airbrushing:

I’ve only seen one or two other Aircel books — Demon Hunter and Samurai (illustrated by the one-day-to-be-famous Dale Keown) — but they did seem to have a kind of “house style” — a kind of fetishistically shaded Eastman and Laird — and Beauvais definitely fits into that category at first. But by issue 4 or 5 he hits his stride and distinguishes himself. (Demon Hunter by Barry Blair and Samurai samples below.)

Aircel is a company I know almost nothing about except that they were based in Canada, and they seemed to survive the Black & White Boom and Bust, which is a fascinating event in comics history in itself. Another weird thing about Warlock 5 is that, while I called it “complete” above, in fact there were a lot more issues. The thing was taken over by a radically different creative team after issue #13 and went on for a further, something like, 15 issues (illustrated by Barry Blair of Demon Hunter above). What’s odd is that on Beauvais’s website he states that: “15 issues were created in total, issues #14-#15 unpublished.” This is odd because Derry and Beauvais owned the copyright on the series. So how did they end up losing control of the series — what the heck is the story there…?

Long story, short: to some extent I actually regret having read these comics. They’ve destroyed the illusion of greatness I got from issue #7. Fortunately, none of it is very memorable, so my plan is to sell off all of them except #7, forget all about them, reconstruct my awe around that one issue, and climb back once again into the moist, sultry womb of nostalgia.