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CSBG Archive

Random Thoughts! (October 6, 2009)

I love the conversations that pop up from these posts. I never know where they’re going to come from. Always fun. It’s random thoughts time! Get excited!

Random Thought! So, Spider-Man: The Clone Saga wasn’t nearly as great as I was hoping for. But, I wasn’t surprised by that (or anything about the comic including its rushed storytelling), because revisiting things you have a fondness for from your past is never as great as you hope it will be. No, it just reveals something you didn’t want to know: you had shit taste then. Take that to its logical extension: future you will think that present you has shit taste, too. Revisiting works from your past is proof that your taste in comics (or anything else) is total crap. We all suck.

Random Thought! Flipped through the latest Green Lantern (as it was among my dad’s purchases this past week — as I’m still at my parents’) and it contained one of those scenes that I absolutely hate (SPOILERS!) where Mongul and Sinestro fight and just when it looks like Sinestro is dead, he activates his override on the yellow rings Mongul is wearing to have them stab him with energy spikes or whatever. WHY THE FUCK DIDN’T HE DO THAT IN THE FIRST PLACE INSTEAD OF GETTING THE SHIT KICKED OUT OF HIM? “But, Chad, it’s more dramatic!” you whine. No! No, it’s dumber! Why would he willingly get beaten down instead of just going, “Hmm, yeah… die!” and then taking out Mongul? What reason is there beyond drama and ‘being cool’? Because, if there isn’t any reason, then anything the scene gains by the conflict it loses for being very, very dumb. Besides, what’s more badass: a last minute reveal after getting beaten up or executing a plan without having to actually fight?

Random Thought! Ignore the above rant if it was previously revealed that Sinestro gets sexual pleasure from pain. Because, if that’s the case, the scene makes more sense. But that’s the only way!

Random Thought! Okay, a Black Lantern teething ring is a clever idea. But that’s the only thing that looked anywhere close to clever in that Blackest Night: Teen Titans #2.

Random Thought! This week, Bill Reed asks: “What’s the best first issue you ever read?” I’m going to open this up to first issues of runs on titles as well, because it’s my post and I can. That’s a hard question, though. Some immediate prospects: The Authority #1, Planetary #1, Automatic Kafka #1, Marvel Boy #1, the Ennis/Dillon Punisher #1, New X-Men #114 (first Morrison issue), X-Force #116 (first Milligan/Allred issue), X-Man #63 (first Ellis/Grant/Olivetti issue), Wildcats #8 (first Casey/Phillips issue), and, jeez, countless others that I’m blanking on. My answer is going to be The Authority #1 since no first issue has ever gotten me so excited, caused me to pour over the issue with such intensity, or want the second issue immediately as much.

Random Thought! Honestly, “The Circle,” that first Authority storyline may be my favourite comics story of all time — the unity of writing, pencils, inks, colours, and letters is amazing. I read the issue when my dad got them and then still bought them (something I never did then). I then carried those issues around in my backpack for a month, rereading and rereading them, breaking things down, examining the art… hot damn.

Random Thought! On my blog this week: some short thoughts on Hancock, a lesson in getting your comic reviewed, liveblogging the first hour or so of Hancock, and reviews of some of this week’s BOOM! releases.

Random Thought! The lesson, by the way, is this: you don’t get to decide what criteria I use to review your book. Everyone has biases, everyone has things they pick up on more than others, everyone looks for different things in art and entertainment. Also: just because a reviewer doesn’t like a genre doesn’t mean that he or she can’t tell if something is good or bad, it just means they don’t like the genre.

Random Thought! Have to wrap things up now. See you next week.

53 Comments

Past me loved Raiders of the Lost Ark

Present me approves.

And “E for Extinction” is on my short list of “perfect story arcs” and New X-Men #114 knocked me flat on my ass in its awesomenes. It felt like the X-men(and comics in general) had just moved into the 21st century…and it was great.

drivingsideways

October 6, 2009 at 2:28 pm

The override that Sinestro activated appeared to be a manual one, in which he actually had to TOUCH the ring for it to occur. If so, then he did have to get close enough to Mongul’s hands. Mongul himself even noted that Sinestro was putting physical pressure on his fingers. That’s probably why Sinestro got himself beaten down, he had to get into Mongul’s grasp somehow.

See, that makes sense as well.

re: Sinestro vs. Mongul (clause: I haven’t read the issue in question, or many Green Lantern issues at all, but I did read the Sinestro Corp War). Fighting first could make sense if Sinestro wanted to keep Mongul as a minion. Given the Sinestro Corp mentality, Sinestro may have believed that beating Mongul down would have made Mongul more loyal to him. When that failed, he went with the tried and true “loyalty or death” approach. Now, I grant, that leaves readers to fill in a lot of explanation, but it could make sense.

Sinestro is incredibly arrogant. He thought he could beat Mongul without using the override.

Hey Chad, I’m going to throw out this discussion point, because we’re taking a break from The Splash Page and that’s where I would have brought it up normally:

Looking at your list of favorite first issues and thinking about your reaction to Geoff Johns work, I wonder if you just find sincerity repellent in your comics. Johns may go for the “being cool” scenes every once in a while — or maybe every issue — but he’s certainly sincere as hell about his superheroes. The stuff you like tends to fall on the side of cynical irony, rather than sincerity, I would say.

Discuss!

I didn’t have a problem with it mostly because it’s Sinestro – I don’t expect perfect logic from a dude like Sinestro.

Also, Mahnke sure did draw the hell out of it, didn’t he?

You think Johns is more sincere than Morrison, Tim? I don’t think I buy that.

You think Johns is more sincere than Morrison, Tim? I don’t think I buy that.

I’d agree, Dan (and I mean that not as a shot at Johns, but as a compliment to Morrison, as Morrison’s non-cynicism is likely his greatest quality), but I don’t think Morrison was who Tim was referring to – I think he was thinking Ellis, and Johns likely is more sincere than Ellis.

I really liked the first issues of Agents of Atlas, Astonishing X-Men, Immortal Iron Fist, and Destroyer. Also All-Star Superman, but I didn’t read it until all 12 issues were out, so I had heard how good it was.
There are probably better first issues out there, but these are what hooked me!

I did not and do not have shit taste!

The first comic I remember reading was “Robin Dies at Dawn.”

My favorite comic as a kid was Enemy Ace.

The comic that kept me a comic fan when I should have been out-growing them was Kubert’s Tarzan.

The first back issues I started collecting were Nick Cardy covers.

My favorite comic ever is Simonson’s Thor.

The last comic I bought was the Nextwave TPB.

And I once kissed Laura Dern on the mouth.

Face it, kids. I’m tastier than you.

;)

What do you mean by sincerity? I consider Ellis’s works VERY sincere considering every single one of them is about people trying to make the world a better place, often displaying shockingly basic human kindness. On the surface, you’re right, Tim, it is cynicism and irony, but beneath the surface (and, sometimes, right there at the forefront) is that sincere desire to help others and improve the world.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

October 6, 2009 at 4:55 pm

Now, for true insincerity, there’s always Mark Millar….

Sincerity is one of those words that seems so ambiguously defined. It seems to me that if you’re espousing anything: joy, nostalgia, love, hate, cynicism, skepticism, whatever, as long as you’re doing it because you really feel it, it’s sincere.

To me, the only way insincerity makes sense when applied to comics writing is if you’re going for one of those moods or themes because you think it’s what the fans want, or it’ll make you more money, or whatever, but you don’t really feel them, that I think the term insincerity can be brought into play. And I’m not sure how many of those guys there are. Probably not a lot. Comics are a low-paying field to be involved in if you just want to cash out.

I’d argue that even Mark Millar seems pretty sincere in his love of big explosions and ass-kickings, just like Johns nostalgia, Morrison’s appreciation for metacommentary, and Ellis’ crusty humor all seem legit rather than put on to me. I will allow for the possibility of my own naivete, though.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

October 6, 2009 at 5:26 pm

No, it just reveals something you didn’t want to know: you had shit taste then.

I only recently discovered the Life Of Ben Reilly blog (thanks to Brad or Bill… someone linked to it here) and it’s pretty funny reading and remembering how cool you thought it was when it started, and then it hit holding pattern and you remember the issue you decided to put back on the shelf.
(You could make a really good doco about that storyline – especially as it pretty much tells the story of the industry at that point as well… although it would sound niche, I’m pretty sure it could achieve universal appeal).

I then carried those issues around in my backpack for a month, rereading and rereading them, breaking things down, examining the art… hot damn.

That was possibly the most excited I’d ever been about comics, around that time.
Starman was wrapping up, Planetary and Authority came out, ABC had just launched, and I believe Joe Q was starting to make waves at Marvel.
I not only loved the books I was reading, but felt really positive about where comics were going.

FGJ — I linked to it a week or two ago in my random thoughts post. I may not have been the only one, though.

Also, 1999-2003 or so was a FANTASTIC time for comics… I’m with you there. I was so excited. That I was a teenager at the time probably helped as I discovered all of these writers and artists for the first time and seriously read their work.

I haven’t read The Clone Saga, nor did I read “The Clone Saga”, but I read Amazing Spider-Man #150 fresh off the spinner rack. Peter throwing away the unread report Doc Conners gave him that proved who was the real deal is still one of the Great Comic Book Moments.

They should have stopped there.

Ellis is a weird mix of sincerity and cynicism. He’s certainly very cynical when we writes or talks *about * superheroes, but most of his superhero stories themselves seem pretty sincere- Authority and Planetary in particular. I guess Nextwave is cynical in its way.

Even Nextwave has, at its heart, a group of people who fight against a corrupt government agency that’s funded by terrorists… sure, they’re all damaged and bastards, but they still do the right thing when it comes down to it.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

October 6, 2009 at 6:31 pm

I was so excited. That I was a teenager at the time probably helped as I discovered all of these writers and artists for the first time and seriously read their work.

I was late teens, and had been following most of the writers (Ellis, Moore), but to see your faves suddenly take control of lines was super exciting.
Being a late teen, it all happened right around the time I started earning money as well, so I could buy whatever the heck I wanted.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

October 6, 2009 at 6:33 pm

I’d argue that even Mark Millar seems pretty sincere in his love of big explosions and ass-kickings,

Except that he always likes to throw in references to the fact he’s mocking those types of comics, even though he isn’t.

Chad, it’s not that old stuff is never as good as we remember it, it’s that the Clone Saga, specifically, was fucking terrible.

Chad, I don’t know if I missed this, but what were your thoughts on the last issue of No Hero, especially with regard to the “sincerity” of that story?

I reviewed No Hero #7 at CBR: http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=user_review&id=1429

(Spoilers for that book in my comments from this point on…)

As for the ‘sincerity’… it was the mirror image of Black Summer where heroes with the means to enact serious change in the world were criticised for not doing so — here, Carrack Masterson and his group did just that and, as the final pages showed, were successful. Again, on the surface, all people (including Joshua) saw were cynical people in it for self-gain and that was an element, but they also did a lot of good as the secret rulers of the world. Things weren’t perfect, but they were better… until they were removed. It was sincere in the sense that it suggested that superheroes saving the world by larger means is possibly a good thing — but people will never allow it. Now, Supergod looks like it will take things another step down that line…

I hope to examine all three minis after Supergod has finished to get a larger look at the thematic trilogy.

FGJ: “Except that he always likes to throw in references to the fact he’s mocking those types of comics, even though he isn’t.”

Interesting. If he really claims that he’s satirizinging those comics, given what I’ve read of his, that would seem to be a fair example of insincerity, or at least low levels of self-awareness. Do you have an example of what you’re talking about?

FunkyGreenJerusalem

October 6, 2009 at 10:33 pm

Do you have an example of what you’re talking about?

His run on The Authority, most of The Ultimates, Wanted…

Right, but to me, those are just straight up ass-kicky explodo comics. There are attempts at humor, successful and otherwise, but I don’t see much that would indicate that he’s attempting to parody or mock other kinds of comics (well, three willy Seth perhaps).

But generally, it doesn’t seem like the tone of the whole or even most of those books is supposed to be read as satire, unlike, say, whole arcs of Ennis’ MK Punisher or Hitman.

Yeah, Ennis, for instance, has written some incredibly cynical comics (Crossed could practically make you want to kill yourself), but if you write it well (and Ennis does), I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.

Same with a lot of Ellis comics. The guy’s a great writer.

“WHY THE FUCK DIDN’T HE DO THAT IN THE FIRST PLACE INSTEAD OF GETTING THE SHIT KICKED OUT OF HIM?” Why didn’t Wonder Woman prepare sufficiently for her fight with Medusa? Why did she rely on a flimsy blindfold’s not slipping in the heat of battle? Because it’s more dramatic if she “permanently” blinds herself with a snake during the fight than if she temporarily blinds herself with a chemical before the fight.

Even though Tim Callahan used the words cynical and sincere, I don’t think cynicism is really what ties together those writers. I think its narcissism. They write like they and their views are more important than the characters and stories they are writing. Sometimes it is explicit, like when Morrison actually inserts himself in Animal Man and gives himself all the best, witty lines and makes it ultimately about him and his views on serial fiction. Or when Morrison has his prose Joker story which basically has the characters acting as mouthpiece proxies there to espouse his personal philosophies on why the Joker changes each era and what it represents. Whenever I read a Morrison or Ellis or Millar work, I always feel first and foremost the message I’m getting from the writer is “Look at me! Aren’t I smart? Aren’t I brilliant? Aren’t I clever? Look how up to date and cutting edge my references are! I’m the first person to think of applying steampunk/cosplay/flashmobs/twitter to the superhero concept! Congratulate me for my hipness and timeliness, and yourselves for being hip enough to catch the references! Now you’re cool by association too!”

Of course I think any great writer wants to use the work to show how smart or witty or clever they are, but writers like Johns at least are less transparent about it and do their best to make it about the characters and history and legacy of previous creators first and foremost and self-aggrandization second. Ellis, Millar, Morrison, Ennis, they all seem to be self-aggrandizement and narcissism first and foremost in the most transparent way.

For example look at when someone like Busiek or Johns give an interview on inheriting a writing gig on a major character like Wonder Woman or Superman. They’ll usually spend it gushing about the character, the legacy and doing their best to live up to the tradition. I read a recent interview where Morrison was talking about if he got to do Wonder Woman and he basically said the premise has always been flawed and disturbing and how he would finally be the one to actually write the character correctly and to her full potential. That school of writers very much has a messianic complex when it comes to their approach to writing established characters. They think their job is to purge the characters of their original sins (be it misogyny, poor characterization, black and white moral naivete) and “save” them from themselves and bring them salvation.

^I very much enjoy when writers who aren’t completely fanboys do superhero stuff, so they do less hero worship and try to plug in all their pet characters. Which isn’t to say fanboys can’t be great writers(Dan Slott bleeds Spidey, Mark Waid is great, as is Geoff Johns from time to time, hell Grant Morrison is the anti-Ellis), but I think we you have someone who isn’t a big fan of the character, the story works in a much different way. Its why I love Ellis’ Thunderbolts so much; he doesn’t have love for any of these guys, he just tries to make the best damn story possible.

Didn’t Tim Callahan or Chad Nevett have a post like this? I swear I read something like this before.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

October 7, 2009 at 9:21 am

You really think Morrison gave himself the best lines in Animal Man, T.? His self-insert admits that the writing’s been preachy, says that he’s at a loss for how to plot the book (“Uh, here, go fight the Shark and Kraven.”), and finally undoes his own plot developments out of remorse.

It’s pretty self-critical moment, all told.

You really think Morrison gave himself the best lines in Animal Man, T.? His self-insert admits that the writing’s been preachy, says that he’s at a loss for how to plot the book (“Uh, here, go fight the Shark and Kraven.”), and finally undoes his own plot developments out of remorse.

It’s pretty self-critical moment, all told.

I think it’s insincere self-deprecation. Kind of like how in a Woody Allen movie even though Woody’s dialogue is horribly self-deprecating they’re often the movie’s best lines. It’s possible to have dialogue that is self-deprecating on the surface but makes you look witty as hell. Another example, Rodney Dangerfield’s stand-up. One example from Animal Man is Morrison’s “You existed before I was born and you’ll still be around after I die. Truth be told, you’re more real than I am.” (paraphrase) You know he thinks it’s awesome because decades later he still uses it in interviews (“Superman’s older than most of us and will be here long after we’re gone. He’s actually more real than any of us are.”)

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

October 7, 2009 at 9:39 am

So your evidence that Morrison likes himself better than the characters is that he repeats a line in which he says the characters will long outlive him?

So your evidence that Morrison likes himself better than the characters is that he repeats a line in which he says the characters will long outlive him?

NO. I used that as evidence that he thought his own dialogue was awesome in Animal Man. I was responding to your assertion that he didn’t give himself good lines (or lines he didn’t think were good) in his Animal Man story. If he didn’t like his own self-inserted character’s dialogue in Animal Man, he wouldn’t be still paraphrasing that line decades later, would he? He’s obviously very proud of those lines.

Now if you’re saying that the CONTENT of that line disproves my assertion, I disagree. First because most of his actions, writing and interviews convey the opposite and outweigh that one line. Second because it’s possible to say something that ostensibly is self-deprecating on the surface but actually has the result of making you look very clever, brilliant and insightful, as in my Woody Allen and Rodney Dangerfield examples. The more they would put themselves down, the more praise as geniuses they got. That wasn’t an accident on their parts, just like the fact that Morrison’s act of self-deprecation in that line also happens makes him look so insightful is no accident either.

My main point is not to single out Morrison, it’s to clarify what I think the actual unifying theme between Morrison, Millar, Ennis, Ellis and others actually is. A lot of people mistakenly call it cynicism, and people in these comments rightly pointed out that it may not be a good umbrella term. That’s why I clarified that I think the unifying them Callahan was actually picking up on and calling “cynicism” is actually narcissism.

I think they’re terribly in love with how brilliant their ideas are and are in love with the sounds of their own voices. To a degree I assume all writers are guilty of this because to enter a field like professional writing you mast have a very strong belief both in your personal voice and in the strength of your ideas. My problem with the Morrisons and Ellises and Millars of the world is that the narcissism and self-satisfaction bleeds onto the page too much and is just way too transparent and sucks me out of the story sometimes.

This is not to say that the Busiek and Johns of the world are better writers either. Their opposite extreme of fanboyishness and continuity worship and idolatry often sucks me out of the story as well.

Smart stuff, T.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

October 7, 2009 at 10:34 am

So who’s left, then?

Now Johns is a model of sincerity? Really? The guy who kills characters like other people eat potato chips? Oh yeah, Johns was being totally sincere when he killed off Hawkman, I really believe that this death will stick.

Come ON now. Johns is a hack, this generation’s Roy Thomas, only without the sense of wonder.

“Revisiting things you have a fondness for from your past is never as great as you hope it will be. No, it just reveals something you didn’t want to know: you had shit taste then. Take that to its logical extension: future you will think that present you has shit taste, too. Revisiting works from your past is proof that your taste in comics (or anything else) is total crap. We all suck.”

Sorry, Chad, but even when the stuff from my past doesn’t hold up to the memory of it, it still tends to surpass the efforts of today’s creators. Now to be fair, the era of my youth is a good fifteen to twenty years before the era of your youth apparently (assuming Spider-Clone Saga is representational of the era of comics in your youth).

But the industry and market is so dramtically different today than it was in the eighties and early nineties, that I don’t think today’s creators have a fraction of the freedoms we did back then. Self-publishers had better opportunity when there were 8-12 distributors to support them than today’s monopolized market. Marvel and DC weren’t as overbearing with flooding the market back then. Back then, you could buy the entire Marvel or DC lines if you wanted and could AFFORD to, and nowdays we can’t afford to and the publishers try to force you to anyway with crossover events.

And creators are caught in this mess, trying to make best of a horrible situation.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

October 7, 2009 at 4:01 pm

Right, but to me, those are just straight up ass-kicky explodo comics.

They are, except there’s plenty of signs in them that Millar wants to be doing more with it – many reference in The Authority about this being better and different to anything else you’ve seen, those last few pages of Wanted trying turn the work into something it wasn’t,

FunkyGreenJerusalem

October 7, 2009 at 4:04 pm

Sorry, Chad, but even when the stuff from my past doesn’t hold up to the memory of it, it still tends to surpass the efforts of today’s creators. Now to be fair, the era of my youth is a good fifteen to twenty years before the era of your youth apparently (assuming Spider-Clone Saga is representational of the era of comics in your youth).

You’re aware Sandman was coming out at the same time as the Spider Clone right?

So, the whole ‘my guys were better than your guys’ part of the argument doesn’t really hold up.

Again, while Tim could say for himself, I’m pretty sure he was NOT referring to Morrison, vis a vis referring to cynical writers. Which makes sense, as Morrison is not a cynical writer (again, being a cynical writer doesn’t mean that you’re bad).

FunkyGreenJerusalem

October 7, 2009 at 4:29 pm

Which makes sense, as Morrison is not a cynical writer

All Star Superman screamed cynicism if you ask me.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

October 7, 2009 at 4:43 pm

All Star Superman screamed cynicism if you ask me.

Uhm…how so, exactly? I found it to be, if anything, a bit too utopian at times.

All-Star Superman was pretty much the exact opposite of cynical.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

October 7, 2009 at 5:28 pm

Uhm…how so, exactly?

Sarcastically.

ASS is pretty much an argument killer to ‘Morrison is cynical’.

I got the Amazing Spider-Man CD-ROM a few years ago. Interestingly enough, I read every issue, but as the clone saga kicked in, I ended up reading less and less and eventually quit reading altogether. So I guess it wasn’t just 12-year-old me that ended up abandoning the clone saga.

“You’re aware Sandman was coming out at the same time as the Spider Clone right?”

I think it was just wrapping up, wasn’t it?

Ultimately irrelevant, though, as books that definitely were coming out at the same time as the Spider-Clone stuff include Preacher, Starman, Bone, Life & Times of Scrooge McDuck, and, towards the end, Morrison’s JLA.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

October 7, 2009 at 10:40 pm

Either way, a claim that creators in the 70’s were just plain better isn’t as cut and dry as some would hope.

(Had Preacher really kicked off then? Sandman was probably in Kindly One’s, or it was just about to begin, but was Preacher really going?)

Someone liked The Clone Saga?

I totally forgot that I stirred the pot here. Anyway, I’m back!

I guess “sincere” was a silly choice of words, though I promise you that Johns is a sincere as you can possibly imagine about everything he does. Maybe I was thinking cynical vs. hopeful. Even Johns at his most bloodthirsty creates hopeful stories, and, yes, Morrison does as well, though I think Marvel Boy and New X-Men are two of his least hopeful runs (at least based on their first issues, which Chad brings up here).

It seems as if my good friend Chad prefers his stories to be this: Bad stuff is happening, and it’s gonna get a whole hell of a lot worse.

As opposed to: bad stuff is happening, but that just makes the heroic victory all the sweeter.

Chad and I will have to do a Splash Page on this topic!

Normally I’d heavily agree with you about the “dumber” issue, but there are a couple of abers here. The main one being that Sinestro is incredibly arrogant. He would have preferred to be able to personally best Mongul without trickery, but was hopelessly outclassed in this regard.

The much smaller second one being that a true sadist likes to dangle hope and certainty of success in front of an opponent before ripping it all away. It can make the inflicted immediate pain more intense. But Mongul isn’t the type who ever gets intimidated by anything, so that doesn’t really apply here. He’s a more brutish Darkseid-Thanos character.

You don’t “pour” over a book – you “pore” over it (unless you’re spilling something, I guess).

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