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Random Thoughts! (August 30, 2011)

Random Thought! Of course, now I’m going to demand $500 for charity once a year, you know. It’s Random Thoughts time! Get excited!

Link Thought! GraphiContent for comics. butterbeatleblog for popculture. 411mania for wrestling reviews, Curb Your Enthusiasm season eight reviews, and CD reviews.

Random Thought! I got engaged on July 1. Don’t think that was ever mentioned here. Wedding is set for October 13, 2012.

Random Thought! The new DC books that I will be buying the first issue of for sure (more could be added for review purposes, I can’t say yet): Action Comics, Animal Man, Batman, Batwoman, Grifter, Justice League Dark, Men of War, Stormwatch, Swamp Thing, and Wonder Woman.

Random Thought! What comics discussions have I missed out on in my hiatus? I should have been keeping a ‘Random Thoughts’ document for my return. Make that first post a cakewalk. Dammit.

Random Thought! Normally, I disagree with Tim Callahan’s view that Marvel’s Essential and DC’s Showcase Presents books are inferior because of their lack of colour… but I picked up The Trial of the Flash last week and those Flash/Reverse-Flash scenes lose something in black and white.

Random Thought! Also, why is it that every time I go to look for a special Essential book it’s out of print? Not so ‘essential,’ eh, Marvel?

Random Thought! Is it just me or has this season of Curb Your Enthusiasm been the weakest in the show’s history? Aside from “The Palestinian Chicken,” none of the episodes have really rocked my world. Some have been good, but just as many have been disappointments with the most recent being one of the flattest, most unfunny episodes of the show I’ve seen. The lack of an overriding story seems to be the problem. There’s no focus, so it’s just become a broad sitcom. Which is fine… if what you want from Curb is a broad sitcom.

Random Thought! For anyone that didn’t read Ultimate Fallout, that’s Reed Richards in the helmet on the first page of The Ultimates #1. Also, why was the comic bagged? Why was the signed variant signed by Stan Lee? Does anyone have an answer?

Random Thought! I tried watching one of those trailers for DC’s new books and… well, was the intent to make me both roll my eyes and laugh mockingly?

Random Thought! Everyone upset over Spider-Man ditching out on his fellow heroes, I want to remind you that Peter Park is a selfish child. That’s his character.

Random Thought! Because I work from 10-6 on Wednesdays, I get my comics on Thursday and once of the most enjoyable parts of my week has become chatting with my retailer Tim for ten or fifteen minutes. We were talking the DC relaunch and there are four people at my store buying all 52 books. Beyond that, Static Shock is the one with the fewest pre-orders (no additional ones).

Random Thought! I’ve been growing tired of the amount of writers using plots that revolve around something unknown from the character’s past coming back to haunt him. It’s been bothering me especially on Brubaker’s Captain America. It made sense when James was Cap, because he would logically have to get past his time as the Winter Soldier, but it seems every story with Steve is the same thing. Does the character have any relevancy that doesn’t come from the fact that he was in World War 2?

Random Thought! More exciting: the DC relaunch or the return of Casanova? I’m cautiously optimistic about both.

Random Thought! I got the complete series of Married… With Children on DVD for $45 on Amazon.ca a few months back and just got to season seven today. Season four still seems like the show’s creative peak, but it was still going strong by this point. Though, the addition of Seven is a clear misstep. Hell, they’d already sidestepped this problem by making Peggy’s pregnancy a dream (thankfully), so why jump into a pile of shit you were previously smart enough to avoid?

Random Thought! Been reading and enjoying Mark Blake’s Comfortably Numb: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd for the past while (putting it down to read other stuff at times). I’m in the middle of the making of The Wall right now. It’s becoming very anti-Roger Waters at this point, but that’s hard to tell how much is the author’s opinion and how much is skewed by the fact that everyone hated his guts then.

Random Thought! The pitch I came up with for an Adam Warlock series the other day:

Adam Warlock is Grant Morrison. The Magus is Alan Moore. Thanos is Neil Gaiman. Drax the Destroyer is Garth Ennis. Pip the Troll is Mark Millar. Gamorra is Warren Ellis. Moondragon is Peter Milligan. Mentor is Frank Miller. Starfox is Paul Pope.

Paul Pope as Starfox was Tim Callahan’s idea. I didn’t come up with anything else, because the book writes itself from there.

Random Thought! Thanks to a Twitter conversation today, I remembered that Victoria Hand is gay. Isn’t it great that she’s gay and that isn’t even close to a defining trait for her character? That’s just who she is.

Random Thought! The best part of Schism so far, by far: Idie looking at a picture of the original X-Men and going “”I don’t understand… why are they smiling?”

Random Thought! The WWE’s recent DVD release The Greatest Superstars of the 21st Century is worth picking up for the complete Kurt Angle/Brock Lesnar 60-Minute Iron Man Match. They even get rid of the commercial breaks, so the match is completely uninterrupted. The storytelling in that match is superb as they really use the stipulation of the Iron Man Match to determine what they do and how the story is being told. Pretty much everything else on the DVD is a bonus after that.

Random Thought! I boycott nothing except comics I think are bad.

Random Thought! Will the “Oral History of the Avengers” ever be finished? I was looking forward to Bendis tackling “The Crossing.” I would like to see it return and run parallel to the use of that technique in the comics proper. Then again, I’m the only person who read and enjoyed those text pieces, so…

Random Thought! I finally got the first four Peter Milligan-penned Hellblazer trades and really enjoy his take on John Constantine. Just constant fucking up and ugly, horrible behaviour. Thankfully, it ignores the awful end to Andy Diggle’s run and just gets on with showing that Constantine is a fairly repulsive person much of the time as he gets set in his ways and gets older. I like the addition of the scar over his eye and the lighter hair colour, too. He almost looks his age.

Random Thought! Soon: Holy Terror! Yesssssssssssssssssssss!

Random Thought! Prison Pit Book 3 is absolutely lovely. Not as funny as the second book, but Johnny Ryan delivers some of his coolest, most compelling visuals.

Random Thought! You know what’s fun? Cutting some of the pages in your copy of ‘Breed II because they weren’t cut already… not cool, Image!

Random Thought! On Monday, Michelle and I going to see the Blue Jays play the Red Sox in Toronto with our parents. It’s the first meeting of the parents. I already regret not putting Michelle and I in seats in a different section.

Random Thought! Yes, I sang Alan Moore’s reworked “Sympathy for the Devil” out loud… I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.

Random Thought! And, yes, I was alone. Of course I was alone!

Random Thought! Anyone know what the purpose of The Search for Swamp Thing was? You know, aside from proving that DC clearly has no standards for what they’ll publish…

Random Thought! Because it would amuse me, I should spoil everything Greg refuses to… people who decide to wait for the trade make their choice and that choice should know that spoilers are possibilities. Greg’s just too nice, that’s the problem.

Random Thought! Party Down was a pretty good show. I got both seasons on DVD in a combo pack for $13 on my last visit to Detroit. Now, that’s a goddamn good deal.

Random Thought! Some clarification on my view of superheroes/what I want out of superhero comics that I kicked off the Blogathon with. This does not mean I want overly ‘grim and gritty’ or comics like that DC Decisions or whatever the fuck it was called. Nor does it mean I don’t want fantastic works of fantasty and surreality and craziness. It’s that I’m more inclined to like works that explore the concepts of superhumanity and what that would entail. Take when the Authority took over America. I lament that that was never used as an exercise in thinking out how to radically alter the country based on the idea of a small group with enough power to enforce any changes they wish. Political fiction on an entirely different scale than we’re used to. Ideological, philosophical think pieces. Something I love about Ellis’s superhuman trilogy is how it tries to explore how being a superhuman makes you different from a human. I strongly criticised Mark Millar’s Ultimate X-Men run for constantly talking about mutants as the next evolutionary step while writing them like any other person. But, that’s me. And it’s not all I’m interested in.

Random Thought! Reading The Trial of the Flash, I’ve learned that I was wrong about Barry Allen. I used to argue that he had no personality and was boring. He wasn’t. Like most DC Silver Age heroes, he was a fucking asshole. An absolutely horrible human being.

Random Thought! I really wish the final two issues of Secret Warriors had been one big issue.

Random Thought! Recent Grant Morrison interviews don’t surprise me and simply place him in the same category as many writers whose work I like, but whose public statements I don’t agree with. Nothing new there.

Random Thought! No DC books to buy this week… thankfully, Marvel pushed back a couple of titles (whether on purpose or by accident I don’t know) like Secret Avengers #16 (Ellis comes aboard!) and The Mighty Thor #5. I’m as surprised as anyone, but I’ve gotten into The Mighty Thor after two less-than-stellar issues to begin the new series. It’s actually cohered into some entertaining comics.

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading. Later

50 Comments

Congrats on the engagement, Chad!

Incidentally, the reason Peggy’s pregnancy was retconned into a dream was because Katey Sagal was pregnant in real life, then miscarried. (Her later absence over most of a season was due to a second pregnancy, which was happily successful.)

Huh – you are getting married on my wedding anniversary.

I wonder if the prominent use of World War II is at all editorially mandated by Marvel to appeal to the Captain America movie audience.

I’m not sure I’ve read the Morrison interviews of which you speak – what in them don’t you agree with?

Funny you should mention “Married With Children” today. Ed O’Neill just got his star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame.

It’s in front of a shoe store.

Seriously.

J.

Welcome back. This blog’s been missing your every-man random mind-dump. Hopefully your time away has recharged the batteries, so to speak.

Really looking forward to Ellis’ Secret Avengers next week, along with all the big DC relaunch titles. Ellis’ twitter posts about the series the other day got me kinda giddy. More secret, less avenging. And he promised secret explosions, so that should be something.

Speaking of which, I didn’t think I’d be this excited about the DC relaunch, but as it aproaches I’m starting to feel it. Action, Swamp Thing and Animal Man this first week. If I have a couple extra ducats I might pick up OMAC or Batgirl, too. And JL tomorrow. Should be interesting, at the very least!

Mazel tov on the impending nuptials!

Hell, they’d already sidestepped this problem by making Peggy’s pregnancy a dream (thankfully), so why jump into a pile of shit you were previously smart enough to avoid?

Actress playing Peggy was pregnant in real life, then lost the baby, so they altered the storyline accordingly.

Random Thought! Everyone upset over Spider-Man ditching out on his fellow heroes, I want to remind you that Peter Park is a selfish child. That’s his character.

Oh no, it so isn’t. The whole point of Spider-Man is that by allowing himself to act like a selfish child just once, someone died. And he resists acting like a selfish child ever since. I’d argue Superman is much more of a selfish child than Spider-Man, as seen in the Weisinger Superdickery years and in Kingdom Come.

I knew Sagal was pregnant, but didn’t know about the miscarriage. (I also knew the reason behind the ‘Peggy’s search for her father’ story.) I stand behind the statement that adding a little kid to the show would have been a mistake then — something Seven proved later.

Victoria Hand…? Is she still around? I’d honestly forgotten the character existed until you mentioned her. Huh.

Toldja that Angle/Lesnar Ironman match is the tits (I’m adopting “the tits” as an expression beause I’m childish).

Oh, certainly. Cousin Olivers never work. Fortunately, Seven vanished pretty quickly.

Victoria Hand…? Is she still around?
Victoria Hand is the SHIELD liaison to to the Luke Cage Avengers at the moment, i think. I can never remember which Avengers team is which.

Well, I may be too nice, but I’ll spoil something if I have to. If I can write about something without spoiling it, I will. I think you’re just one of those rude Canadians everyone in the world doesn’t like. Those are Canadians who put American flags on their backpacks when they’re hiking across Europe, right?

congratulations on the engagement ! And, by the way, Millar as Pip is pure genius.

You got an obscene deal on Party Down!

I heard that it was Fox that forced Seven onto Married With Children, and that all of the creators and cast were against it. Supposedly Fox then backed down when they discovered that all the viewers hated the idea, too.

It’s not just the people who wait for trades that get the stories spoiled. People with old-style mail-order subscriptions also suffer (they usually arrive two or even three weeks late). Not to mention all those who simply can’t get to a comic store every week; some of us have to travel to other towns to find one.

Congratulations on your marriage.

Congrats on the engagement!

You Adam Warlock pitch is genius.

SO JEALOUS OF YOU GETTING YOUR HANDS ON PRISON PIT 3!!! Review copy?

13 bucks for all of Party Down? Hot dang!

constantly talking about mutants as the next evolutionary step while writing them like any other person.

Maybe it was unintentional from Millar’s end, but I think that says a lot about the characters and the world, thematically.

Married…. must be int he air or something; after almost 20 years, I’ve been rewatching it from the beginning on Netflix just this last month.

And I thoroughly agree about Brubaker’s Cap — in fact, every single villain to date since the first Brubaker issue some years back has turned out to be someone one of the Caps fought or was connected with in the 1940s or 1950s (or one of their children). It’s weird that Brubaker hasn’t tried shaking things up with a brand-new, very present-day sort of threat.

I just pulled out a random issue of Avengers from my collection and read that Oral History for the first time. I loved it! Somewhere there has to be a list of what issues had it. Then again I’ve always been a big Avengers fan and still find some of my buying habits (Initiative, Moon Knight, Hawkeye and Mockingbird) directly connected to the young fan discovering the team for the first time

If you really look at Peter Parker, he is a self centered child. His entire personality is based around his being responsible for everything bad that happens. The world revolves around him and his choices. He treats his friends and loved ones like crap in the notion that no one but he can stop Doc Ock, Venom, etc. He feels this way despite the fact that NYC has about a thousand other heroes in it.

I think it may be a difficulty with trying to write Captain America as anything other than a standard superhero. The choices are WWII legacies or some conspiracy in the government making his life hell.

I see your “Famous Comic Book Writers as Marvel Space Heroes” and I raise you “Famous Comic Book Writers as the characters of Watchmen”

Alan Moore – Rorschach
Neil Gaiman – Nite Owl
Grant Morrison – Doctor Manhattan
Mark Millar – Ozymandias
Garth Ennis – The Comedian

Now all I need is someone to be Silk Spectre…

At least you haven’t reached the bit where the dog dies and his soul is judged by a mouse lawyer and a cat prosecutor and then he’s resurrected by Father Guido Sarducci.

I heartily agree on Grant Morrison’s public persona. I just finished “Supergods” and it strangely manages to make his work appear much less interesting. It is the strange mixture of admitting to the constructedness of his public persona, but then hammering it home relentlessly (I paraphrse “I became a punk. I realized everything I had done was punk! I had always been a punk! punkpunkpunk!”). Also, he makes crazy ideas seem really mundane when he directly ties them to his otherworldly encounters. When he casually mentions his otherworldly states of mind, magic rituals and so on, it doesn’t seem like Alan Moore’s descriptions, which always seem to encourage participation, magic as making something from nothing in the mind, through imagination, shared by everyone who wants to delve into fictional worlds. Morrison is all about demarcation, true artist vs. sweaty fanboys, Grant Morrison pre-transformation vs. post-transformation shamanic hyperwriter etc. He makes his fantastic, limitless stories seem much more confined, if that makes any sense. Only antidote: Less interviews, more Flex Mentallo, I suppose.

The problem with tying everything Cap to WWII is that according to the Oral history of The Avengers, everything that ever appeared in an Avengers comic actually happened, so our “man out of time” from the 40s has lived through a dozen planetary invasions, travelled to a hundred worlds, died six or seven times, trained every Avenger, fought Nixon, quit and rejoined a few times, etc.

It wrecks the one thing that sets him apart from all the other heroes; He’s your grandfather, only he’s still 25 and dropped into the internet age.

I knew Sagal was pregnant, but didn’t know about the miscarriage. (I also knew the reason behind the ‘Peggy’s search for her father’ story.) I stand behind the statement that adding a little kid to the show would have been a mistake then — something Seven proved later.

You’re right that adding a kid was a horrible idea. It’s just that you were wondering how the writers were able to figure out it was a bad idea the first time around when cancelling Peggy’s pregnancy but didn’t figure it out the second time around when they decided to add Seven. Our point is that the writers never actually figured out it was a bad idea the first time because the cancellation of Peg’s pregnancy wasn’t actually their personal choice. It was just a reaction to a real world event.

Congrats! And good to have this column back… one of my favorites.

Hey, glad you’re back, congrats on the engagement.

I just got my Top Shelf email that I get sometimes, and you’re quoted about Infinite Kung Fu. Yay!

Where’s Moore’s reworked Sympathy for the Devil? I’d totally sing it out.

And echo the YES on Holy Terror. One of the reasons I dig your stuff is that you think well of DKSA when a whole lot of other people seem to not only dislike it but think that Miller’s lost his mind.

Now I’m gonna go off to the comics store and see what all the fuss is about Flashpoint 5 and Justice League 1. Optimistic? No, but I’m wondering WTF happens. And that’s what the companies want, isn’t it?

Ed (A Different One)

August 31, 2011 at 7:17 am

Yay! Random Thoughts is back! Welcome back Chad and congratulations on the impending nuptuals.

With all the hype surrounding the DCnU, the X-men relauch, etc. ,etc. I had forgotten about Ellis coming on board for Secret Avengers. That’s a very pleasant suprise and gives me something solid to look forward to (while I’m cautiously optimistic about a lot of the other things, I know Ellis is solid and will do something fresh and different with SA).

Count me in with those who think that Peter’s bowing out of the Fear Itself conflict was out-of-character. Carl’s take on his self-centered nature is a valid opinion, but, if accurate, would serve to motivate him that exact opposite direction that Fraction sent him on – instead of bowing out, he would be convinced that the Fear Itself calamity was somehow connected tho his own bad decisions, feeding into the flawed notion that only he can stop it and oh let’s not forget that he recently vowed in Slott’s ASM that “nobody else dies”, etc., etc., etc. I dont’ see Spidey asking for Cap’s permission to bow out at this point. I see him swinging around the city in an unrealistic attempt to save every single person in peril or swinging into the midst of the battle with Skaldi or the Serpeant and doing something incredibly stupid and desperate, but heroic nonetheless. After all, this is the guy who fights all the harder when he’s hopelessly outclassed – see Juggernaut (Stern), Firelord (DeFalco) and even Morlun (JMS).

And Chad – Looking forward to more of your musical references as well. On more than a few occasions those comments have served to turn me on to artists I probably never would have tried otherwise. I know I said this already – but welcome back!

Hold on!!! You aren’t satisfied with Curb this season?!?!?!?! I think Larry and the writing staff has been at his absolute best this season. At least 4 episodes so far have to rank in the all time top 10 of the show. The Juicing episode was outstanding. I admit last episode wasn’t as good but this still has to be one of the best seasons of this series. Even ESPN writer Bill Simmons (on Grantland.com) has devoted lengthy columns to this season and how it matches up to past seasons. It’s a great chance to compare episodes and seasons to each other. Check it out!

I wouldn’t trust Bill Simmons to do a writeup of Curb. He’s not smart enough in the least, such a task is totally out of his depth.

Be that as it may, I still contend this season of Curb has been great and I can’t agree that it has been lacking in content or laughs (regardless of the presence of an overarching theme).

<blockquote?The new DC books that I will be buying the first issue of for sure (more could be added for review purposes, I can’t say yet): Action Comics, Animal Man, Batman, Batwoman, Grifter, Justice League Dark, Men of War, Stormwatch, Swamp Thing, and Wonder Woman.

Why Grifter?

T.-

That comment just shows that you don’t read enough Simmons. He’s better at clearly and coherently writing about complex ideas in simple ways than just about anyone out there. All of his work is accessible, yet so much of it is about themes and ideas that are deceptively multi-faceted. His arguments are clear and concise, yet they’re rarely half-assed and don’t contain holes. People often get thrown off by his humor, because it’s seen as “sophomoric,” but people said the same thing about the humor in films like Borat, 40 Year Old Virgin, Superbad, etc., and those are some of the smartest comedies of their generation.

Steven Van Zandt once said that it’s easier to write a symphony than it is to write “Louie Louie,” because creating something that is simultaneously so simple and so timeless is the ultimate mastery of an art form. That’s the way Simmons writes about pop culture.

If you want the best examples of his work, find his original Levels of Losing column, his March Madness column about the Holy Cross-Kentucky game from 2002, his NBA awards column where he honors the season with quotes from A Few Good Men, or, more recently, the column where he confronted his daughter possibly becoming a Lakers fan, or the column from last summer where he explained several baseball sabermetric stats in easy ways.

Nick Hornby once wrote an essay about Bruce Springsteen, where he said “sometimes it’s hard to remember that a lot of people liking what you do doesn’t automatically mean that what you do is of no value whatsoever. indeed, sometimes it might even suggest the opposite.”

I never disagreed more with Peter Parker being a selfish child. Whenever he DOES act like that, everyone gets on his ass for acting wildly out-of-character, like One More Day. He constantly puts his life on the line to save people, and doesn’t require a thank you, even if it means physical harm, poor relationships with his friends/family, losing out on good opportunities, etc.

I’m so sick of of Brubaker’s Cap right now. Its so damn slow, and McNiven sucks. His panel layouts are boring, his action is stiff, he seems to be in a competition with Jim Lee over how many lines can he get away with drawing on people’s faces, etc. I can’t WAIT for Alan Davis to come on in the next story arc.

Angle/Brock at WMXIX > Angle/Brock on Smackdown. A good example of “less is more”. George Lucas has apparently not heard of this concept!

Congrats, Chad!

And even if it were in Peter’s character to be little more than a selfish man-child, how would that make him a sympathetic protagonist for an ongoing series? I get plenty of that following the exploits of Christian Weston Chandler.

Bill Simmons is a fratboy bro hack. He’s awful. This article describes why way more eloquently than I can, but let me just say many of the things you say are good about him are exactly what I think are awful, like the horrible way he tries to shoehorn pop culture references and movie quotes into sports articles.

http://www.mrdestructo.com/2011/05/bill-simmons-and-grantland.html

Steven Van Zandt once said that it’s easier to write a symphony than it is to write “Louie Louie,” because creating something that is simultaneously so simple and so timeless is the ultimate mastery of an art form. That’s the way Simmons writes about pop culture.

I agree with Van Zandt about how hard it is to write Louie Louie. Where I disagree is with your assertion that Bill Simmons pulls that off the written version of Louie Louie. He’s more along the lines one of Black Eyed Peas’ b-sides. And he’s especially not timeless. He is one of the most intellectually shallow and vapid writers ever, he’s just a “bro” who punches way above his weight and is constantly out of his intellectual depth. I find him to have no redeeming qualities.

If you really look at Peter Parker, he is a self centered child. His entire personality is based around his being responsible for everything bad that happens. The world revolves around him and his choices. He treats his friends and loved ones like crap in the notion that no one but he can stop Doc Ock, Venom, etc. He feels this way despite the fact that NYC has about a thousand other heroes in it.

If that’s the case, then every single Marvel hero with a secret identity is a self-centered manchild as well.

I heartily agree on Grant Morrison’s public persona. I just finished “Supergods” and it strangely manages to make his work appear much less interesting. It is the strange mixture of admitting to the constructedness of his public persona, but then hammering it home relentlessly (I paraphrse “I became a punk. I realized everything I had done was punk! I had always been a punk! punkpunkpunk!”). Also, he makes crazy ideas seem really mundane when he directly ties them to his otherworldly encounters.

This is what I was talking about recently when I got into a debate in the comments section about why I hate his self-insertion in Animal Man. I used the word self-aggrandizing, when perhaps “masturbatory” was a more appropriate word. But you nailed it with an even better word, “constructedness.” I feel he has a very prominent version of what Karen Horney calls an “idealized self” or a “false self,” and he’s always more concerned with serving the myth of his own legend more than the myth of the character he’s writing about. He’s like if the Wizard of Oz instead kept saying “PLEASE! Pay attention to the man behind the curtain!”

Anyway, what you describe as his constant propping up of a constructed and phony public persona in his interviews is what I feel he was doing in Animal Man too, especially because he still uses some of the more quotable lines from his Animal Man appearance in recent interviews (like his line about Superman being older than us and surviving after all of us die, hence he’s more real than we are in some ways).

Third Man: On reflection, I shouldn’t have come off so harsh. I just really have bad visceral reactions to Simmons. Like, every time I try to read one of his columns I get enraged, that’s how offensively bad they are to me. The way some people react to Liefeld in comics is how I am with Simmons, but at the end of the day it’s all subjective and if other people are his fans I should try to respect that more. Everyone has a right to like what they like, so I’m going to try harder in the future to be less harsh when being critical

T. : That article is awesome, and I don’t even hate Simmons (although I do have to read him very sparingly, because he repeats himself so much). Own up – you totally wrote it, didn’t you? Anything with “beta-male” in it has to be written by you, man!

Greg,

What leaves you cold about Curb this season?

Third Man,

Thanks for the article link. I do think Simmons can be insightful in a lot of ways but I also see how he can be grating to a lot of readers. I agree that Simmons can put out some great stuff but sometimes he seems to try to hard to make his point about pop culture and some articles seem to be forced.

T,

I respect your opinion. I didn’t expect such venom for Simmons. I was just trying to point out that lots of people feel this season of Curb has been excellent and he laid that point out very well in his articles.

Sorry! I mean Chad, not Greg

T.-

I appreciate the semi-retraction of your comments, or at least the tone of your comments. But I still have to point out how wrong you are in a few respects. When you call Simmons vapid and perpetually out of his intellectual depth, you seem to be ignoring the fact that several other of the most talented writers out there (Chuck Klosterman, Dave Eggers, Malcolm Gladwell, William Goldman, etc.) consider Simmons to be a talent on equal par to their own. Indeed, those writers constantly commend Simmons for how good he is at writing with a specific tone that’s remarkably difficult to capture. In comic terms, Simmons is a bit like Busiek’s Marvels. Just as Marvels captured the viewpoint of the commoner like no comic had before it, so does Simmons in his ability to write about sports worship as a fan instead of as a behind-the-scenes analyst.

And saying Simmons has no redeeming qualities is also ignoring the contribution that Grantland is having on this country’s collective appetite for good writing. How many great writers (Molly Lambert, Andy Greenwald, Chris ryan, etc.) have an exponentially increased readership–and more opportunities–because of Simmons’ vision with Grantland?

In a lot of ways, I think Simmons is like Jim Lee. Mega-popular, huge level of appeal, but also a huge level of backlash. But behind the scenes, both men have held a huge responsibility in the greater popularity and exposure of their art form. A lot of people may hate Jim Lee’s art, and that’s fine, but I can’t stand it when people argue that Lee has been bad for comics. How many people got into comics because of Lee’s X-Men? (I did.) How many great comics would have NEVER existed without Lee’s vision as a publisher? (Planetary, The Authority, the entire ABC line, most of Astro City, Sleeper, etc.) How important was the launch of Image comics to both the feasibility of independent publishing and to creators rights? The bottom line is, even if you hate Lee’s work as an artist, Jim Lee has been a huge force for good in the comic book industry, and it’s a better industry for his being in it.

It’s the same with Simmons. Even if you hate his writing, that ignores so many of his contributions. Even small things like… how many people watched The Wire because of his profuse recommendations of it? It’s one of the greatest shows ever, and most people who watch it think they’re a better person for that experience.

It’s often hard to distinguish between taste and objective quality. If you don’t like Bill Simmons’ writing, I certainly can’t tell you otherwise. But saying he sucks is trying to assign objective truth to something which is merely subjective fact. Not only is that a logical fallacy, but it’s also simply not fair to creators which slave over their work and deserve at least some standard of respect. For example, I really tend not to like Peter Milligan’s writing (though I’m still looking forward to Justice League Dark because I just think the concept is fantastic). But I would never say he sucks. For one, a lot of people with great taste tend to think he’s great. There’s a critical consensus that he’s a good writer. But more importantly, it’s just unfair to try and assign fact to something which is merely my opinion. And for that matter, a dissenting opinion. Peter Milligan does not suck, I just don’t like his work.

I’m a film critic, and one of the most difficult aspects of the job is trying to figure out when your opinion is objective enough to be used as fact. Did this movie suck or did I just not like it? Was this movie a masterpiece or did I just irrationally respond to it? (That was why Inglorious Basterds was the most difficult movie for me to ever write about. I am Jewish, French, and a film geek, I love David Bowie, and I’ve always had a soft spot for cheesy badassery. Really, no film could ever be created that’s MORE tailor-made for me to love. But I panicked and only picked it as the 3rd best film of ’09 because I thought my love for it was getting in the way of my ability to view it with any sense of objective responsibility.)

But here’s something we can all agree on: Nickelback sucks. That is both subjective truth and objective fact.

T.-

Sorry, forgot to respond to the link you posted of the blogger who trashed Grantland. Honestly, that guy’s entire argument is fundamentally flawed for one very, very simple reason: he refers to Grantland as a culture site, and spends the majority of his time “proving” why Simmons is unfit to rule such a thing. But he’s wrong. Grantland is not a culture site, it’s a WRITING site. The site was conceived–and operates–with one very specific goal: create a home on the web for great creative nonfiction writing. That’s it. Grantland’s mission is to be a place where the best creative nonfiction writers can show their work, and readers with appetites for great writing can find a lot of it in one place, about a wide variety of subjects.

I also think that blogger’s entire second paragraph, where he chastises Simmons for his narrow taste, essentially proves he formulated his opinions by reading a grand total of maybe 6 Simmons columns. There’s even a part at the end of that second paragraph where the blogger claims Simmons refuses to watch The Wire, which is the exact opposite of the truth. Simmons is one of the most vocal proponents of that show out there, and countless people have probably watched it on his recommendation. It’s aggravating that some bloggers disregard the necessity of fact when constructing their arguments.

I don’t have much to add, except to say that I tend to dislike Bill Simmons, but Third Man’s post is a great example, both tonally and intellectually, of how to write a defense of your opinion without coming off like an asshole. I’m not always great at that, and the internet would be a much better place if more people followed his lead.

Third Man

That was a fantastic, reasoned defense of Simmons and his intentions as a writer. I know that he has done more for writing about pop culture (along with Klosterman and heck, most of the writers at Grantland) than anyone but there seems to be waves of inevitable backlash and I am glad that you defended him so eloquently. You have showed that it’s easy to take shots at easy targets but most come from the flimsiest of glass houses.

wow… um so about comics…

I agree with your assessment of the limitation of the Showcase/Essentials in B&W. I have The Trial of the Flash coming in my monthly order and I didnt even think about the impact of the Flash/Reverse Flash problem with the format. This is the same reason why I’ve never picked up a Green Lantern showcase (and Im a huge lantern fan) . Weakness against yellow? I cant tell whats yellow (and they didnt always say in text if something was yellow so it gets even more confusing). They did the Aquaman special last month as a color reprint, wish they could have done that with Flash too.

I apologize for the comment thread hijacking and will lay off the topic after this, but Third Man did indeed post a good response so I thought I should address it.

I appreciate the semi-retraction of your comments, or at least the tone of your comments.

You were very respectful and I realized on reflection that it could come off like I was attacking or mocking you, which wasn’t my intent at all. It’s just that for some reason, Simmons infuriates me. I think it’s because I have to do so much reading to get to his final point, only to realize that the final point is, to me at least, utterly banal, then I get madder. Like if it was just short and banal and less peppered with badly forced pop culture analogies and quotes, I’d hate him less.

I appreciate the semi-retraction of your comments, or at least the tone of your comments. But I still have to point out how wrong you are in a few respects. When you call Simmons vapid and perpetually out of his intellectual depth, you seem to be ignoring the fact that several other of the most talented writers out there (Chuck Klosterman, Dave Eggers, Malcolm Gladwell, William Goldman, etc.) consider Simmons to be a talent on equal par to their own.

Chuck Klosterman I consider on par with Simmons, so I’m not surprised there. I agree with Mark Ames take on Klosterman, although I think he goes a little too far in the personal attacks. Google “Mark Ames Klosterman” and click the first link “Flip Flop King.” I would link direcrtly but don’t want to get this comment caught in moderation. But he uses that same thing Simmons does of using strained Hegelian Dialectics to make the most nonsensical pop culture observations that are the intellectual equivalent of not only using an atom bomb to kill a cockroach, but missing the target altogether to boot.

The Gladwell thing sincerely boggles my mind, as well as other writers I respect like TV writer Alan Sepinwall cosigning him. My theory is that maybe it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. People like Gladwell and Sepinwall get to expand beyond their usual more highbrow audience into the “18-40 year old fratguys with shorts and flip flops” demographic and make more money, while Simmons gets intellectual validation from the associations. I can especially see why with Gladwell, since Gladwell also uses the Hegel dialectic style, except he does it intelligently.

It’s the same with Simmons. Even if you hate his writing, that ignores so many of his contributions. Even small things like… how many people watched The Wire because of his profuse recommendations of it? It’s one of the greatest shows ever, and most people who watch it think they’re a better person for that experience.

I don’t see why this is such a good thing. Especially because yes he discusses the show but as usual performs his very poor, utterly superficial analysis masquerading as a deep pop culture Hegelian dialectic to the party. For example, for the Wire finale, Simmons gave his summation of the show, a eulogy if you will, and said a bunch of things about it that were either superficially true, or outright wrong. For example he said that the show was so unique and outstanding because it had no main character or protagonist. First this is wrong because there are plenty of shows that have had no obvious, main protagonist, they’re called ensemble shows and while less popular than shows with a clear-cut protagonist it isn’t as noteworthy or as novel as he was making it out to be. But consider that the same day, Alan Sepinwall, one of Simmons writer buddies and a true pop culture genius in my opinion, wrote a eulogy of the show and said how many people just dismiss the show as having no main character, but there is a main character if you go beyond facile analysis, and that main character is Baltimore, or more specifically, the various interrelating systems that form the whole of Baltimore.

That’s Simmons to me in a nutshell. Uses a lot of words and convoluted reasoning to come up with a shallow analysis when it’s all over, while someone like Sepinwall uses a quarter of the words and will truly dissect the thing and get to the heart of it and change your view on it.

It’s often hard to distinguish between taste and objective quality. If you don’t like Bill Simmons’ writing, I certainly can’t tell you otherwise. But saying he sucks is trying to assign objective truth to something which is merely subjective fact. Not only is that a logical fallacy, but it’s also simply not fair to creators which slave over their work and deserve at least some standard of respect.

Honestly, I don’t care how long someone slaves over their work. If you slave over it and slave over it, I’ll give you some props for discipline and work ethic, but if I think the end product sucks, it still sucks. Likewise if you did something great and did it effortlessly and didn’t have to work at it, and in fact are often quite lazy, that doesn’t change the fact that you did something great, even if it is a shame that you’re lazy. So Simmons work ethic to me is irrelevant. For example if I was a teacher grading a paper and a student slaved and slaved to hand in an F-grade caliber paper, should I give him a good grade?

My problem with him is twofold: first, he has the most convoluted, tortured analogies and attempts at Hegel dialectics both to create an intellectual dilemma where there is none and then to walk the logic back to his ultimate conclusion, and second, after all that rambling, illogical train of thought, he ends up with a wrong conclusion.

I’ll give just one example although there are plenty: his recent piece about Hollywood and Ryan Reynolds vs. Will Smith, Hollywood stardom, and how calculating Will Smith is in how he chooses his movies and why he’s worse than Leo Dicaprio and others for not experimenting more in his career. Then a long analysis with very dubious sports analogies, etc, with all types of irrelevant tangents, without considering the most obvious fact: WILL SMITH IS BLACK WHILE BRAD PITT AND RYAN REYNOLDS AND LEO DICAPRIO ARE WHITE. Since 90 percent of leading man roles are for white men, they can afford to experiment and flop and still find work because the demand for handsome white men is always huge in Hollywood. For a black man, it’s not the same. For a black man the opportunities to get A-list blockbuster leading man work are much smaller. If he slacks off or flops for even one or two movies in a row, that gives a chance for the other black actors nipping at his heels to take his spot. Hollywood only needs one big name black leading man actor at a time.

Howard Stern used to talk about certain Hollywood actors who could somehow manage to stay in the high B-list to high A-list status despite years of flops. At the time in the 90s pre-30 Rock Alec Baldwin was in a huge string of flops and Stern commented at how he amazingly was still A-list and offered plum roles. We can all think of examples. Ryan Reynolds is always in a new trailer for a big movie, even though he flops and flops and flops. Justin Timberlake flops and his imdb dance card is full. Mandy Moore, while not exactly Meryl Streep, still somehow gets a far bigger share of plum movie roles than she should given her box office record.

What all these actors have in common is that they’re white, so 90% of leading movie roles are written for them. There are more than enough roles to go along because of simple supply and demand economics. How many black actors can you name who did multiple flops in a row and kept their A-list heat? Why does Ryan Reynolds get 8th, 9th, 10th chances at A-list stardom but Cuba Gooding didn’t and Chiwetel Ejiofor gets so much less leading man work than Reynolds?

Will Smith simply is more calculating and takes far less risks in movie role choices not because he is somehow a worse person or a less respectable artist than other A-list actors, but because as a black man he simply can’t if he wants to remain A-list. He needed to build his rep high enough that he would become so popular that not only would he get first shot at all the good roles written for black people but even get so popular that he’d start getting offered roles originally intended for white people.

Once you grasp that basic, obvious concept, the rest of his arguments about how Will Smith doesn’t take risky roles like Tom Cruise fall apart. For example, if a black man acted as crazy as Tom Cruise did on Oprah and was high up in Scientology and became the butt of as many jokes as Tom Cruise did, do you think that black man would still have A-list summer blockbusters lined up like the newest Mission Impossible? Ask ethnic Vin Diesel how passing up obvious blockbuster sequels to star in more daring artsy films worked out for him.

When you read the piece, the guy did 4500 words not including footnotes and never mentioned the one, most obvious fact that would have rendered the rest of his argument moot: Will Smith is black, making his A-list actor status a whole different beast than the A-list actor status of his other white examples. He’s so desperate to look smart like Gladwell and find what’s not obvious that he ends up missing out on the obnoxiously obvious point that makes his discussion a nonstarter and ironically ends up looking LESS intelligent for it. Meanwhile, he throws in really odd analogies trying Will Smith to Kobe Bryant that make no sense to me.

And let’s not get into when he tries to sound “edgy” like sharing his friends’ (non)hilarious utterances or their (totally un)exciting Vegas “adventures. He comes off like the guy in this Onion piece: http://www.theonion.com/articles/area-man-likes-to-think-of-own-past-as-sordid,1524/ He writes like he thinks he’s some kind of settled down Hunter Thompson or Tucker Max and he’s just a totally normal fratboy bro without an edgy bone in his body. His adventures are like a Vince Vaughn comedy or The Hangover if they were neutered for the ABC family channel.

I just don’t find him to be this great oracle of pop culture everyone claims he is. I could name a ton of people better at observing pop culture through a highbrow yet accessible lens, like The Last Psychiatrist, Film Crit Hulk, the Partial Objects blog, Overthinkingit.com, What’s Alan Watching Et Tu Mr. Destructo and others. And of course the CSBG crew.

But here’s something we can all agree on: Nickelback sucks. That is both subjective truth and objective fact.

I agree, but I think Bill Simmons is totally the writing equivalent of Nickelback if not worse.

But there isn’t a single smart person alive who defends Nickelback.

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