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Sunday Brunch: 8/22/10

The comics internet in a nutshell. Gird your loins!

ITEM! Matt Seneca, quickly becoming my new new favorite non-Abhay comics critic, internet category, writes about his favorite Superman story:

If there was only one Superman comic, it would be this one, which takes up every aspect of the grand tapestry that is Superman, strips it down to the essentials, and feeds it through the hands of the best artist ever to draw the character. It’s an entire universe in one go, an artifact that distills the power of all the thousand other Superman stories into a surging core.

He’s not talking about All Star Superman! Ha! I totally got you.

ITEM! J. Caleb Mozzocco does my solicit statistic thing so that I don’t have to! Twenty Batman or Batman-related titles in November. Eleven comics with the word “Avengers” in the title. Nine Thor books. (Not pictured: Forty-seven Green Hornet comics, one Atomic Robo issue.)

ITEM! Todd Alcott finishes off his analyses of Batman films with the best of them all, The Dark Knight. It’s great reading:

When folks complain that Two-Face isn’t in the movie enough, I think what they mean is that the cool special-effects makeup isn’t in the movie enough, and that Two-Face doesn’t have any kind of outlandish, colorful scheme to implement. Well, that’s too bad, but the Joker doesn’t have a scheme either. There isn’t any “end” to this for the Joker, he wants to take the whole world and send it down the toilet — an endless project of disorder to match Bruce’s endless project of order. Whereas Two-Face has the opposite of a grand scheme — he wants to kill the people who made him suffer, and then kill himself. The folks who pine for a “bigger” Two-Face story, one to match the one in, say, Batman Forever I guess, where he teams up with the Riddler to build a giant mind-control ray, miss the great tragedy at the heart of The Dark Knight — they want a supervillain, whereas the Nolans have imagined him as a human being.

OBLIGATORY SIMS THE RESTRAINING ORDER ARRIVED ON THURSDAY DEPT: Chris Sims reads Tarot so that the world doesn’t have to. What a man:

For the record, Vera’s breasts aren’t merely convenient handles, they’re actually a cunning trap: Her black vinyl bra and fishnet bodice are actually wired with enough electricity to kill the two werewolves, while leaving her more or less unharmed. Which… Okay, look, I know this is a book about witches and ghosts and werewolves and that’s fine, but I’m pretty sure that an sending a hundred thousand volts through one’s own electric bra would probably be a phenomenally bad idea. Just sayin’. But then, that’s what they’re there for.

And hey, that quote doesn’t even mention the naked werewolf ladies.

ALSO AT COMICSALLIANCE, we’ve got the Lets Be Friends Again guys navigating the murky waters of Aquaman continuity, a labyrinth no man can survive:

ITEM! Webcomics wizard John Campbell done had an art show:

ITEM! Tim Hodler of Comics Comics returns to the idea of auteur theory and how it fits in the world world of comics comics:

In the conventional cinematic version of the argument, you’d have to say that the artist (“because the visual, the image, will always predominate”) is the auteur, and in fact, in fannish opinion (if not more mainstream reporting), fairly or not, Kirby and Ditko tend to get the lions’ share of credit for their collaborations with Stan Lee. (There is no room to get into the complicated arguments surrounding those books right now, but they have been well rehearsed by many other writers, online and off.) The decision gets much trickier when considering the Frank Miller and Alan Moore books, though in these particular cases, it somehow feels right to nominate the writers as the “auteurs”.

ITEM! Brendan McCarthy has a new comic that needs a publisher. C’mon, publisher-guys. This is a no-brainer.

AXE COP MOMENT OF THE WEEK: I think this speaks for itself:

REMAKE/REMODEL redoes Wonder Woman, and without chokers and leather jackets, for the most part. My shout-outs this week go to Felipe Sobreiro and Andrew Nixon:

That’s the week, full stop. Or maybe semi-colon; see anything cool this week?

13 Comments

• Why did they ever retcon Aquaman’s original origin? “The son of Jacques Cousteau fights Nazis underwater” is a concept any reader could grasp and any writer could run with. Somebody should steal that.

The Project: Rooftop Inventational has unveiled Black Canary and Green Lantern redesigns by Joe Quinones and Mike Maihack, respectively. Looks like Flash, Hawkwoman, Martian Manhunter, and a mystery woman are the only members left to be revealed.

Harry Knowles talked to Bryan Singer about X-Men: First Class, and Singer confirmed that Kevin Bacon will be Sebastian Shaw. I’m putting money on the Hellfire Club summoning demons via mutant sacrifice. Enter: Jason Flemyng’s Azazel and Oliver Platt’s “Man in Black.”

Travis Pelkie (Bill Reed's heckler)

August 22, 2010 at 5:34 pm

You know, I stopped reading as soon as I got to the first word of the post title. I know it’s Sunday, I don’t need some blogger telling me. And with your track record, that’s probably the only correct thing on this post.

The analysis of Dark Knight by Todd Alcott is very good. It was very interesting. I also enjoyed the postcript he added in the comments:

“In August of ’08, I had a meeting with a producer who has had some experience producing Batman movies. The Dark Knight was still the number one movie in theaters that day, and conversation naturally turned to it.

ME: So — The Dark Knight.
?PRODUCER: I know.?
ME: Right??
PRODUCER: I know. It’s amazing. I know.?
ME: So. You tell me. You make this kind of movie. You tell me. How?
?PRODUCER: How what?
?ME: How does a movie like that get made? In this environment, where anything complicated or challenging or pessimistic or visionary get ironed out to appeal to the broadest possible market, how does a movie like that get made? That’s an expensive movie with a lot of moving parts — the producers, the cast, the special effects, the location shooting — how does a picture like that get made, and end up that good?
?PRODUCER: Because Christopher Nolan gets no notes.
?(pause)
?ME: What do you mean?
?PRODUCER: I mean, the studio gives him no notes. None. Zero.
?ME: The director gets no notes?
?PRODUCER: None.
?ME: So, you’re telling me, Christopher Nolan and his brother write the script –
?PRODUCER: And then they shoot it. And the studio gives them no notes. They’ve given them the project, they trust their vision, and they let them shoot it the way they want. And that’s how a movie like that gets made.”

Right or wrong, isn’t that also basically what the studio did with Superman Returns and Singer? And that did not work out quite so well.

@Ian A: Holy shit, you just made Aquaman cool. I didn’t believe anyone other than PAD could do that, but you did.

Also, I must respectfully disagree with Matt Seneca. If there is only one Superman story, then it has to be “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?”.

Aquaman’s always cool.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

August 23, 2010 at 12:05 pm

@ Shiny Jim and Ian A: Even when his premise really was “the son of Jacques Cousteau fighting Nazis underwater,” Aquaman was never enough of a draw to get his own title or a lead feature. Unfortunately, Aquaman, like Namor, suffers from the more general and rather odd aversion most people seem to have to fantasy and sci-fi with an underwater setting. While the myth of Atlantis has stuck around, it’s hard to find multiple examples of successful popular fiction that use undersea settings, no matter how cleverly developed those fictions are.

Part of this is that underwater environments are hard to film in and even hard to convincingly fake in live-action. Well-remembered underwater stuff like James Cameron’s The Abyss spent so much filming underwater that its domestic box office didn’t cover the productions costs of the film. And other attempts to build popular franchises in such settings have failed in various media from comics to live-action TV to animation. Even in our myths, we’re usually more interested in mermaids and Atlanteans coming to us on the surface than we are in exploring their world.

To go back to that Jacques Cousteau example: name any other person who’s managed to become popular as an oceanographic researcher before or after him. He’s a lone exception, not an example in a big category. And as the years since his death grow in number, you’ll find fewer and fewer people in the target age group for comics who know who he even is. People have never warmed up to subsea adventure, and every Aquaman fan-turned-pro thinks their concept is the the magic remedy. None of ‘em have been right to date.

@Dalarsco: I think you underestimate the degree to which Moore’s Superman material, and especially “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?”, rely on a reader’s prior knowledge of and connection to the Weisinger-era Superman mythos. Show that story to someone who knows Superman mainly through movies or TV, and it loses them quickly with its unfamiliar characters. For example, how much of the Bizarro and Mr. Mxyzptlk stuff relies on the reader having an emotional sense that these are light-hearteed characters gone horribly, horribly dark and wrong? Sure, we get one line from Lois about Mxy being a silly imp, but from his first appearance in the story to his horrific end, the story doesn’t really communicate that to a new reader. Compare the Curt Swan stuff above, which has lighter moments, to the continually-descending gloom of the story you suggest. You need happy Superman stories to make Moore’s sad Superman story resonant.; therefore, it can’t be the “only” Superman story you ever need.

Indeed, Moore’s Superman work in general is memorable, challenging, and distinctive because Moore tended in those days to deconstruct the fundamental optimism of the character and his world. We love them because, in their context, they’re surprisingly heterodox Superman stories, pushing dark and melancvholic adult themes into one of comics’ most utopian franchises. Virtually all of Moore’s 1980s Superman tales are versions of the optimistic fantasies of superhero comics gone sour: the 1960s was full of bright shiny returns to Krypton, so Moore gives us Kal-El’s grown-up sense of the planet’s overdue demise, showing the utopia spoiled by sectarian violence and urban decay (“For the Man Who Has Everything,” hereafter “FtMWHE”); the exciting discovery of a living piece of Kryptonian heritage in another Moore Superman story turns out to be a disease that demands Superman become extinct like the rest of his world (“The Jungle Line”); and the idea of Superman’s last battle against evil, which resulted in a crime-free utopianb Earth in the Weisinger “Imaginary Stories,” becomes a dark and foreboding iteration of Gotterdamerugn that Clark Kent survives, but Superman and most of Superman’s friends and loved ones don’t (“Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?,” hereafter “WEHttMoT?”).

In contrast, the Superman of the Wesinger stuff and the Morrison stuff is a man who makes even impending death a chance to do great good; in contrast, Moore gives us a Superman for whom things like a return to Krypton (“FtMWHE”) or the threat of death (“The Jungle Line,” “WEHttMoT?”) take him into despair and fear. Moore’s Superman overcomes these, but usually with great help (as in “The Jungle Line” and “FtMWHE”) or by permanently sacrificing a big part of what “Superman” is, as when he resorts to killing in the story you name. The stories are brilliant, but they are brilliant because they violate the character and the spirit of the Superman concept, not because the exemplify it. More importantly, they do so by negelecting the cheerier parts of the Superman mythos, which I’d argue are an integral part of the whole that Moore deliberately discards to show us, by its absence, how central it is to making Superman work as a character and an idea.

name any other person who’s managed to become popular as an oceanographic researcher before or after him

Steve Zissou.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

August 23, 2010 at 7:23 pm

Who Wes Anderson said was based on Cousteau, and whose film bombed horribly in the domestic box office, making 34 million on a 50 million budget. Next?

I’d say Steve’s eaten-by-jaguar-shark partner was the real Cousteau analogue, but I also don’t really care. Stop by the store on your way home, pick up a sense of humor.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

August 24, 2010 at 8:20 pm

I figured you were joking, but the last few days I’ve been hideously pedantic for no good reason. My apologies.

Um, just so it’s clear, I was joking in my post also. In case anyone cared.

I liked in that Aquaman panel the part “he was written by Erik Larsen” and the implication that that could be the thing that’s worse than all the others.

And I had to look for the naked werewolf ladies. And I was perturbed, and maybe even disturbed. Or vice versa.

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