Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Much like a giant bucket of candy provided by a masked stranger, the following post is composed of delicious, empty calories, and will make you sick if you eat the whole thing. Onwards!
QUESTION(S) OF THE WEEK: 1. What’s your favorite subgenre of horror? I’m a sucker for zombies, myself. 2. Has a comic ever scared you? (My answer… under the cut!)
ANSWER OF THE WEEK: Yes, I have been scared by a comic! I was but a wee lad when I read Wonder Woman #55 by George Perez and Jill Thompson, a comic which featured this scene (click to enlarge):
Needless to say, I was utterly terrified, and hid the comic under the bed where no human eyes could see it, until we moved away, at which point it went into my comic files and never came out again– until this very day, almost 20 years after it was published. Looking at the scene with adult eyes, it is still pretty frightening. No wonder I’m so screwed up; this thing traumatized me for life.
BRAVE AND THE BOLD DEPT: “The Criss Cross Conspiracy!” Written by Marsha Griffin
“Well, nobody’s perfect,” says the lovestruck Felix Faust at the end of this episode, a reference to Joe E. Brown’s closing line in Some Like It Hot. The same can be said of episodes of this show, I suppose, as I felt this episode had at least one major problem. For one thing, it comes off as sexist– despite being written by a woman. Here, Batwoman isn’t Kathy Kane, but Katrina Moldoff, a rich heiress crimefighting for kicks. She’s not very good at it, however, and is unmasked by the Riddler, and banned from superheroing. Flash forward to ten years later, when the Riddler escapes from prison and Moldoff decides to seek revenge– by buying a body-swapping spell from the enamored Felix Faust, borrowing Batman’s body, and heading out to kill the Riddler. The moral of the story, as Batman says, is that “an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.”
Unfortunately, as soon as the bodies get switched, the episode becomes a silly comedy piece in which Katrina-as-Batman, as played by Diedrich Bader, acts like an over-the-top old diva, with overacting body language, a stuck-up valley girl attitude, and other stereotypical behavior. In the above screencap, Batman’s in the midst of asking Nightwing if he looks fat in his costume. Meanwhile, Batman-as-Katrina has trouble moving around in high heels, and falls over because her “center of gravity is higher than usual,” thrown off-balance by her own breasts. Luckily, Batgirl’s added to the plot to provide an example of a competent female superhero, otherwise things would probably look worse. But hey, at least nobody died in this one!
(Also Aquaman comes off as a complete buffoon in the teaser, and there was a reference to Batman Forever.)
RANDOM THOUGHT! Jon Stewart’s closing speech at the Rally to Restore Sanity was the best, most intelligent speech delivered in years and years. It aired on Comedy Central. God bless America.
ITEM! David Brothers continues his “Gamble a Stamp” series pivoting around Flex Mentallo with a piece on the death of superhero comics:
[Dark Knight Returns] is the blaze of glory. It’s a revitalization before death. Watchmen is the autopsy. At the end, there are no secrets. What’s Flex Mentallo? It’s a wake, that time when everyone gets together, gets drunk, and talks about the deceased.
And then some guy named Dylan in the comments comes out with a brilliant line:
While I can definitely agree with the wake analogy, I also think that Flex serves as the moment where, after lamenting the loss of the superhero and remembering all the good times you had together, you go to the tomb and find it empty. They are not dead, they are risen.
I agree with Dylan, in that Flex Mentallo feels like a reconstruction of superhero comics in answer to the deconstruction provided by Watchmen and its ilk. Funny enough, they’re the two best comics ever made.
ITEM! Shaenon K. Garrity does some doomsaying with Ten Things to Know About the Future of Comics:
Monthly comic books are dead. We all know this, right? Again, it’s a format with a lot of good qualities that will be sorely missed (foremost among them the ability to sample a story cheaply before investing in an entire book), but the direct market is a mess and pamphlet-style monthly comic books now barely work even as loss leaders. Among younger readers, “waiting for the trade” is the default position, to the point that most teenage fans seem only foggily aware that the monthly format even exists.
Not all is lost, of course, and she also brings some good, uplifting points.
ITEM! The Webcomics Overlook peeps fire back with Ten Things to Know About the Future of Webcomics:
A regular schedule will become even more important than ever. Many successful webcomics seem to have settled into a twice or thrice a week updates. The once a week update? Just ain’t cutting it. Also, audiences aren’t getting younger. Hence, stretching out a year-long story that could’ve been covered in a month with better pacing just isn’t going to cut it any more. Economic storytelling is the future.
ITEM! Laura Hudson interviews Kate Beaton, awesomeness ensues:
CA: I like that comparison between intense history fans and intense comics fans, because I think that level of investment works a similar way in all sorts of fields.
KB: It also explains why when people who read those Aquaman comics or those Wolverine comics see that joke, they laugh and they love it because they’re in on it. It’s their thing; it’s their guy. And when I write a comic about some character that someone wrote their thesis on in their undergrad, people love it because it’s their thing. It’s the thing they know about the most, and they love it.
Speaking of Kate Beaton, in the spirit of today’s consumerist holiday, she’s got some Dracula comics up on her site:
ITEM! Colin Smith looks at Iron Man II, world is never the same again:
Everyone’s at least something of a villain in “Iron Man II”, except for some of our superhero’s friends and those thoroughly unaccountable Agents Of Shield, and yet one of the very worst of the bad guys is Tony Stark himself.
YES, VIRGINIA, THERE IS A BATMAN: The Mindless Ones turn their lurid yellow eyes on Batman, and discuss whether or not Batman works in outlandish sci-fi situations (short answer: yes).
Grant Morrison, with his love of all things damned and fortean, was always going to excavate the stories hated by Miller worshipers, but as far as this reader’s concerned it’d come steam engine time anyway. Those stories were bound to be reintroduced into bat-canon at some point. Like it or not – there’s no point disliking it really because this is the way it is – we live in a post-modern Internet culture where everything bat-related is available at every single moment, it was only a matter of time before some young turk raised on Grant Morrison comics – arguably the writer who more than anyone else represents the post Miller age – began to reappraise the Batman of Zur en Arrh. But happily enough, praise be to Barbatos!, in the end it turned out to be Grant himself.
RE:COVERED: More goodness over at the Covered! blog. Here are some pieces by Vince Allen, Valerie Fletcher, and Matthew Allison:
ITEM! The fellows what bring us El Gorgo have a special Halloween treat this year in the form of a new six-page story:
AXE COP MOMENT OF THE WEEK: Hi, Axe Cop. I’m Chris Hansen. Why don’t you have a seat over there:
DOCTOR WHO DEPT: Alan Kistler critiques the Doctor’s many fashions over the years at the Newsarama Blog. My vote goes to Jon Pertwee, of course, as the best dressed.
That’s it for the week… or is it?
No, it is.
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