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Meta-Messages #4

This is the fourth in a series (of indefinite length and regularity) explaining the context behind (using reader danjack’s term) “meta-messages.” A meta-message is where a comic book writer comments on/references the work of another comic book in their comic. Each time around, I’ll give you the context behind one such “meta-message.”

Today we look at an instance of Garth Ennis parodying Neil Gaiman…

Cassidy: Blood and Whisky was a one-shot where Cassidy, the Irish vampire from Garth Ennis’ Preacher series, goes to New Orleans and encounters the first vampire he’s ever met.

The vampire has a little bit of a cult of personality, with a bunch of vampire enthusiasts who treat him like a god.

One of his fans should be quite familiar to a lot of comic book readers…

Yep, that is quite clearly a bit of a parody of famed comic book writer, Neil Gaiman…

right down to the lettering font…

I don’t exactly get the precise connection of Gaiman to Anne Rice’s vampire novels (which make up the majority of the parody Ennis goes for in the issue), but for whatever reason Ennis chose to parody Gaiman a bit (and really, it’s quite a light parody – doesn’t appear to be malicious or anything like that), there it is.

55 Comments

Later in the series when that coven of vampires returned there was a cover with a girl who looked like a morbidly obese version of Gaiman’s Death. Not sure of the issue number.

Pointing out the reference is nice and all but some actual analysis would give this piece a lot more substance than just filling up space with scanned pages.

i dont see it.

Pointing out the reference is nice

Thanks, that is the entire purpose of the feature. I’m glad you noticed and appreciated the point of the bit.

I think the connection is that Neil Gaiman has a lot of gothy fans, and I guess Garth Ennis finds goths pretentious? Something like that. In the followup story where these kids come back as villains, Lili points out that Roger left when he got his first royalty check, which could be another shot an Gaiman for largely getting out of comics to write novels and such. I’ve never heard either man say anything about the other outside of this Preacher incident, so it’s hard to say if Ennis was just doing some good-natured ribbing or if he really wanted to satirize Gaiman.

Still, I always thought it was a bit foolhardy on Ennis’ part to insult a man who is friends with Alan Moore. I just imagine him sitting over a cauldron with a photo of Garth Ennis, using his joint to burn the eyes out. “Picking on me little buddy Neil, are we?” Then Ennis’ eyeballs explode.

I think it veers more towards “good-natured ribbing”…

And taking the piss out of people who want to be vampires like the coven do…

The Obese Goth Girl that Annoyed Grunt mentions, for example, was a common sight in the ’90s…

There were also a lot of “Gaiman-wannabes” too… at least at a lot of the UK conventions in the ’90s, so maybe it’s more of a dig towards the whole “Anne Rice/Neil Gaiman Generation”, rather than a dig at Anne Rice or Neil Gaiman themselves…

As mentionned above, I think Ennis was making fun of the mans for than Neil Gaiman himself. Cassidy sums up how many people feel regarding that goth type of fans. The fact that it is a “light parody” confirms that.
I don’t think it qualifies as a meta-message but its nive how the comunism lighter from Preacher shows up twice in Y: The Last Man. It is very funny when it shows up later in the series (on that russian train).

I think it veers towards good natured ribbing, and for me it’s looking at the whole cult-leader/cult thing, not Gaimen/Goth axis specifically. Ennis knows his audience, and this is a good fit. Gaiman is self-aware enough to take it in his stride.

The funniest part is where Cassidy refers to ‘Eccaris’ as a wanker, and one of his acolytes asks if that’s a European pronunciation of ‘vampire’ comedy gold.

When Preacher debuted back in ’96, it was a huge departure from the usual vertigo books, mostly magic-wielding DCU characters in an “adult” setting or Grant Morrison projects full of weirdness (not to suggest that some of those books weren’t good- I liked Sandman & Books of Magic, as well as the occasional mini-series or one-shot- but there was a bit of sameness to the line). Ennis made fun of the Vertigo style of writing in a text piece in the first issue. He didn’t mention Gaiman, of course, but wrote a short paragraph full of overwritten Gothic prose to point out how lame it was, and how his series would be nothing like the usual Vertigo comic.

Joss Whedon did a very similar thing around the same time, by having Buffy encounter a group of vamp-wannabe goths– while Gaiman is a great writer, the subculture that often idolizes him is a very, very easy target.

The fact that it is a “light parody” confirms that.I don’t think it qualifies as a meta-message

It is not an example of “where a comic book writer comments on/references the work of another comic book in their comic.”?

For serious?

this is nice, but it didn’t make me howl like Snuff and Swoon did in Cerebus.

Hi Brian,

I enjoy all of your columns. I think the “”where a comic book writer comments on/references the work of another comic book in their comic” theme is too broad a brushstroke, and that is why folks are nonplussed. The initial Doombot column set the bar very high. It gave me the impression that part of the “meta” aspect was the incident was self contained ie one writer referencing a previous writer’s take on the same character or story within that title, and doing it in a clever in continuity manner, etc. I thought that would be the theme of the column.

The columns since then been more comics industry insider parody type themes. The Spidey jab at DC was a throwaway inconsequential to the plot. The Architects and the Gaiman cameo were homage/satire existing for their own sake. I guess there are only so many Doombot incidents out there.

Garth Ennis is quite talented. Garth Ennis also comes across as a self-righteous prick to me. He doesn’t like religion, he doesn’t like superheroes, he doesn’t like the government, he doesn’t like the left, he doesn’t like the right, he doesn’t like roleplayers, he doesn’t like the French (well, who does?), he doesn’t like models, he doesn’t like goths, he doesn’t like Keats, he doesn’t like Gaiman, he doesn’t like Anne Rice, he only likes and believes in three things:

* macho heroes you’ll find in western, war, or cop stories.
* male bonding.
and
* (sometimes) family and being loyal to your relatives.

Oh, and bars. He likes bars too.

Is it growing up in Ireland that makes one so darkly cynical? Oh hell, the world of comics would be poorer without him for all that I find him a smug SOB.

Brian,
I just don’t think that meta-messages and references are the same thing. In Y, BKV has Yorick show that he thinks (and we assume BKV thinks) that Preacher is a wicked series. There isn’t a message by BKV to Garth Ennis or to the readers of Y about Preacher. Nothing is elaborated on.

I would think growing up in N. Ireland in the 70s and 80s would be enough to make anyone cynical depending on the level of violence you were submitted to.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

February 17, 2010 at 6:53 pm

He doesn’t like religion, he doesn’t like superheroes, he doesn’t like the government, he doesn’t like the left, he doesn’t like the right, he doesn’t like roleplayers, he doesn’t like the French (well, who does?), he doesn’t like models, he doesn’t like goths, he doesn’t like Keats, he doesn’t like Gaiman, he doesn’t like Anne Rice, he only likes and believes in three things

That’s a bit broad…. most of those things aren’t liked by many people.
Does anyone think models are useful to have around?
Does anyone really like roleplayers, except for the people who do it?
Does anyone not think Goths deserve to have the mickey taken? (both of which play into making fun of Gaiman and Rice. Does anyone not make fun of Rice these days?)
Does anyone think the extreme left or extreme right aren’t silly?
As for the French, at least he has specific reasons for not liking them, unlike most American writers who make fun of them.
(Well, I don’t even know if he personally dislikes them, but he has his characters give a reason – nuclear testing in one part of Preacher – as opposed to just calling them ‘surrender monkeys’ or something).

But also, just because he pokes fun, doesn’t mean he doesn’t like these things, just that they are a bit silly from certain angles, but so is everything in life.

“I don’t exactly get the precise connection of Gaiman to Anne Rice’s vampire novels”

“Annoying goths are way too into both of them” just about sums it up. And that’s coming from a Gaiman fan. (Rice can take a flying leap for all I care. Nothing bores me more than writers expressing their fetishes in print.)

some actual analysis would give this piece a lot more substance

Like, with bar graphs and pie charts?

This is timely. I just finished reading Preacher. Way overrated, in my opinion.

But I did enjoy this one-shot. I always enjoy someone making fun of people who take themselves too seriously. Especially rich kids who are slumming for cheap thrills.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

February 17, 2010 at 7:55 pm

This is timely. I just finished reading Preacher. Way overrated, in my opinion.

It is, but did you at least find it a fun and entertaining read?

I find it’s only flaws to be that whilst each story is pretty entertaining, the second half doesn’t have the stakes of the first half (War In The Sun kinda makes the threat in Alamo seem a lot smaller) and that the search for god overarching story quietly fades in to the background, only really affecting one character – which would be fine, but the Crusades arc really amped up the finding god storyline, out of proportion to what it was for the greater narrtive.

I think the second half of Preacher suffers from meandering plots and the fact that Cassidy becomes a despicable villain (although I really liked how Ennis resolved that particular character arc). Gone was the buddy humor and likable supporting character. In its place was depressed characters wandering around, waiting for everything to come back together for the finale. That’s not to say that the second half of the series was bad, it just lacked the plot momentum and characterization balance of the first half.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

February 17, 2010 at 8:52 pm

That’s not to say that the second half of the series was bad, it just lacked the plot momentum and characterization balance of the first half.

Yup.

That said, I think the arc Salvation, which was unpopular in singles but reads great in trade, is top-notch, because it abandons most of the cast, and sets up a whole new lot of support characters, even a buddy, for the lead.

When I read the Preacher series back in the day, I used to look eagerly forward to each new issue, just to see just how far Ennis and Dillon would go.

I get the same feeling with The Boys.

I do wonder what Gaiman thought of his so-called appearance in Preacher?
Probably had a good laugh.

i’ve always thought that this was a bit more than mere light ribbing (a bit more like “taking the piss” as i think ennis would say), as i always remember ennis in one of those one-paragraph bits vertigo writers do to promote their stuff (he was about to write either HELLBLAZER or PREACHER) making a point about horror comix not being about pale people w/ pretentious names wearing black shirts and such.

ellis also gets in on the action in a separate piece, “mocking” SANDMAN in his trademark way, specifically the MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM issue, it being the first comic book to ever win a non-comic book award, and for horror, too.

and, haha, i agree with them both.

That said, I think the arc Salvation, which was unpopular in singles but reads great in trade, is top-notch, because it abandons most of the cast, and sets up a whole new lot of support characters, even a buddy, for the lead.

Salvation is actually my favourite of all the latter half PREACHER stories, being a very very very well-written story in itself AND giving the readers a great coda on one of the major characters from the first half AND foreshadowing the end AND giving custer the chance and mindspace (character development) to do what he had to do in the end. it’s basically the whole of what PREACHER is about, in less than ten issues.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

February 17, 2010 at 9:51 pm

a bit more like “taking the piss” as i think ennis would say

Taking the piss and a ribbing aren’t all that different.

The terms could be interchangeable – it’s all about context with ‘taking the piss’.
It can mean from a light ribbing, to making fun of (in a mean sense), to talking nonsense.

.
ellis also gets in on the action in a separate piece, “mocking” SANDMAN in his trademark way, specifically the MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM issue, it being the first comic book to ever win a non-comic book award, and for horror, too.

It didn’t win a book award for horror.
It won the World Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction.

It won Bram Stoker awards for ‘best illustrated narrative’ twice, but both times were for the graphic novels that came after the series.

Where does Ellis mock it?

AND giving the readers a great coda on one of the major characters from the first half AND foreshadowing the end

Who does it do a coda for?

(My memory’s rusty)

Yeah, I’m a big fan of Salvation, too. It probably helps that I read it in trade in quick succession after the previous volumes.

The terms could be interchangeable – it’s all about context with ‘taking the piss’.
It can mean from a light ribbing, to making fun of (in a mean sense), to talking nonsense.

true, all in the context, although for me, the context of “taking the piss” has always been a bit meaner than “light ribbing!” thus my usage. but anyway!

It didn’t win a book award for horror. It won the World Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction. It won Bram Stoker awards for ‘best illustrated narrative’ twice, but both times were for the graphic novels that came after the series.

seems like i’m the one who has a rusty memory!

Where does Ellis mock it?

it was either in the olde WEF promoting his aborted run on HELLBLAZER, or in an interview somewhere in the internetz. i remember ellis distinctly mentioning the ill-fitting stoker awards, as SANDMAN isn’t what horror is/ought to be (w/c was ennis’ point in his own editorial) for him. in a later text, i remember ellis clarifying that SANDMAN is more dark fantasy than horror, the context being his statement that TRANSMETROPOLITAN was vertigo’s best adolescent dark fantasy title since SANDMAN.

Who does it do a coda for?

not to spoil it for people who haven’t read it yet, but simply: custer’s mom AND as a PS for the inbreeding cyclops family.

Yeah, I’m a big fan of Salvation, too. It probably helps that I read it in trade in quick succession after the previous volumes.

i read it when it was coming out, and there were moments when it felt like it was meandering off of the storyline, but i was already into the title for nearly 60 issues, so i trusted ennis and dillon would deliver in the end, and they did. PREACHER is the only series where i have both the floppies and the trades, although i eventually gave the floppies away to charity, hahaha.

about the meandering bits: the arseface bits were the ones that really felt out of place, even when they gave the character a decent ending that sort of tidied up a few things in the book. but yeah, i know, second chances and such. and the arseface chapters were always funny. but still.

Keep them coming Brian, my new favourite column besides Legends and Reviews (oh and Scotts Old Comics).

Funny how certain fans feel that this column should only contain mean and nasty references, and anything else doesn’t belong?

“Funny how certain fans feel that this column should only contain mean and nasty references, and anything else doesn’t belong?”

I don’t think the point that people are making is that it has to be mean and nasty, as you say, they were just expecting a reference that says SOMEthing about the work being referenced more than just acknowledging its existence. I don’t understand why this qualifies as a meta-message more than the rest of the issue, if anything, I think the Anne Rice parody would be more of a meta-message than the Gaiman parody.

I don’t understand why this qualifies as a meta-message more than the rest of the issue, if anything, I think the Anne Rice parody would be more of a meta-message than the Gaiman parody.

“A meta-message is where a comic book writer comments on/references the work of another comic book in their comic”

Anne Rice is not a comic book writer. If she were, then yes, it would apply.

To reiterate, “A meta-message is where a comic book writer comments on/references the work of another comic book in their comic.” When you come to Meta-Messages, you will see instances “where a comic book writer comments on/references the work of another comic book in their comic.” If you have invented some other definition for meta-message that does not equal “where a comic book writer comments on/references the work of another comic book in their comic,” such as, “a reference that says SOMEthing about the work,” then you are reading the wrong column, as from the get-go, this feature has been defined as showing instances “where a comic book writer comments on/references the work of another comic book in their comic,” such as Cassidy: Blood and Whisky, where comic book writer Garth Ennis references Neil Gaiman’s Sandman in his work, Cassidy: Blood and Whisky.

Brian, I wish you’d stop being so unclear. What exactly is Meta-Messages about?

I don’t think that is just good-natured ribbing. Hungry tigers devouring their prey alive are slightly less savage than Garth Ennis’s mockery. :)

Funky, I also disagree with you that Ennis doesn’t necessarily dislike the things he mocks. The guy seems to me very, very passionate about what he writes, though many people discount that only because he is using humor.

But that isn’t the reason I find him a judgmental, self-righteous prick. It’s because he doesn’t just writes satire. He also always inserts his alter ego, the Typical Garth Ennis Hero that is a Tough, Cynical, Foul-Mouthed, Self-Reliant dude that is supposed to embody all the things he approves of. It’s like he puts himself in the stories to pass judgment on the stuff he dislikes.

Warren Ellis, I think, does the same thing.

(Despite all I’ve said, I like his stories. Preacher is awesome. And I like Ellis too. I suppose I have a love-hate thing with them both)

I think The Boys is the first major work of his that deviates a little from the formula. Butcher is the Typical Garth Ennis Hero, but Hughie and Annie are not. It got me by surprise that he is using “softer” protagonists. but we still have Butcher, because we can’t have Ennis without the Typical Garth Ennis Hero.

Oh, and Neil Gaiman? i’ve read an interview with him about the subject.

Gaiman didn’t just laugh it off. He got very angry and called Steve Dillon. Dillon convinced Gaiman that the “Roger” character wasn’t supposed to be a Gaiman parody, and then Gaiman cooled off. I don’t think Gaiman ever talked to Ennis about that.

“Salvation” was very good. I especially liked the female deputy (I’m horrible with names), and would have liked to see her and Jesse in a relationship- Tulip was cool sometimes and annoying other times. The coda issue was great- my favorite ending was for the Mexican character.

In the introduction to a couple of graphic novels (whose names escape me) Neil Gaiman characterized many of the comic writers who followed after Alan Moore for taking the type of violence Moore used too far while also lacking the substance of Moore’s work.

After reading that Preacher one-shot I wondered if Garth felt that that characterization was directed at him and decided to strike back.

It was just a thought. I have nothing to cite to support that theory.

Funky, I also disagree with you that Ennis doesn’t necessarily dislike the things he mocks. The guy seems to me very, very passionate about what he writes, though many people discount that only because he is using humor.

and PREACHER was very much his soapbox for EVERYTHING, w/c was part of its appeal, especially the bits about america, w/c, being non-american, i agreed with. i don’t think ennis’d be able to write anything of that complexity ever again (w/c is probably why CITY LIGHTS is delayed, if it’ll ever come out).

FunkyGreenJerusalem

February 18, 2010 at 7:24 pm

I’d say Punisher MAX, War Stories and Battlefields are all as complex as Preacher.

Not as many issues devoted to having a go at something, but more complex in and of themselves with what they are saying.

I’d say Punisher MAX, War Stories and Battlefields are all as complex as Preacher.

i agree they’re all complex, but not as complex as PREACHER, as PREACHER had other things going for it outside of the novelty of the narrative push. as great as WAR STORIES and BATTLEFIELDS are, they’re reiterations of things we’ve already seen in PREACHER (and in that war pilot ghost one-issue story in HELLBLAZER), although they’re reiterations done very very very variedly well. and PUNISHER MAX (w/c i love so much i have them in the oversized hardbacks) struggles to go outside of its initial premise – a psycho declares war on the arbitrary chaos of life – but still falls back to it. it very much reads like Frank Castle being possessed by the Saint of Killers, especially in light of PUNISHER: BORN.

i suppose i see PREACHER as ennis’ INVISIBLES – it was him waving his very own freak flag, and everything else after it were elaborations on themes he touched on that first major personal thing.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

February 18, 2010 at 8:55 pm

I’m not sure how they aren’t as complex – Preacher covered a lot of different issues during it’s run, and its characters were very well rounded by the end of it, but I’m not sure I’d ever say it was complex.

Oh, and Neil Gaiman? i’ve read an interview with him about the subject.

Gaiman didn’t just laugh it off. He got very angry and called Steve Dillon. Dillon convinced Gaiman that the “Roger” character wasn’t supposed to be a Gaiman parody, and then Gaiman cooled off. I don’t think Gaiman ever talked to Ennis about that.

It’d be awesome if you could remember where you read that! I’d love to read it. Thanks!

I read that interview about him phoning someone about it too, can’t find it for the life of me though.

Sorry, Brian.

I tried a couple of google searches, but so far wasn’t able to find the interview. It’s been years since I’ve read that.

Hey Brian, thanks for another meta-message. i always like these [obviously!] and i wish that there was more to the story. Something like there was a big cat-fight between these two writers or something. That would be a great story. Thanks again,
DFTBA

Nice catch

These columns are great Brian, but then, I never meta one I didn’t like

“but for whatever reason Ennis chose to parody Gaiman a bit”

the reason being is that Gaiman and especially Sandman reads like awful purple Goth prose.

Sandman is far from awful mckracken and I feel bad for you that you think it is.

” quite a light parody – doesn’t appear to be malicious or anything like that ”
I don’t think so. Heheh

[…] Garth Ennis tirou o sarro mais fantástico com ele no spin-off “Cassidy” de Preacher. Check it here. […]

[…] and Garth Ennis pretty much agree: This about sums up Gaiman and his writting: Meta-Messages #4 | Comics Should Be Good! @ Comic Book Resources (so yes, I think all you fellows who adore Gaiman must be in secret teen-age […]

A post from Neil Gaiman where he mentions talking to Steve Dillon on this subject

http://www.well.com/conf/inkwell.vue/topics/125/The-Barking-Mad-Gaiman-Mob-Who-a-page66.html#post1632

[…] I think Ennis said it best in Preacher: Meta-Messages #4 | Comics Should Be Good! @ Comic Book Resources […]

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