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Random Thoughts! (November 8, 2011)

Random Thought! Finally, two days off in a row! It’s been too long! It’s Random Thoughts time! Get excited!

Link Thought! GraphiContent for comics. butterbeatleblog for popculture. 411mania for wrestling reviews and the occasional CD review (like my review of Lulu by Lou Reed & Metallica…).

Random Thought! Am I the only person who really likes Cyclops right now? He’s in such a different and new position that there’s so much potential to the character. He’s gone past the Xavier/Magneto binary and is sort of floating outside of the typical hero/villain bullshit. I really hope that Marvel doesn’t have him ‘go too far’ and ‘see the error of his ways’ or just outright become a villain for the X-Men. That would be pretty dull. Keeping him as the leader of the team while having him act in ways that aren’t traditionally heroic (or villainous) is too damn appealing. Hell, it’s what made me enjoy Uncanny X-Men #1 more than Wolverine and the X-Men #1. The former relies a bit on political theory and charting new territory, while the latter is a fun pop comic. Both serve a function, Uncanny X-Men just falls more in my field of interest.

Random Thought! Strange decisions at Marvel lately. I would be (more) outraged, but they’ve yet to affect a comic I was buying. That, of course, means that I tend not to care too much right now. If that bothers you, why? Why would I care about comics I’m not buying/wasn’t going to buy getting cancelled? Like everyone else, I’ll care when it affects something I care about. Harsh and a bit jerky but true.

Random Thought! I got a full run last week of Cyberella, the Helix comic that Howard Chaykin and Don Cameron did. It was priced $10 for all 12 issues, but Retailer Tim only charged me five bucks. We like Retailer Tim. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. I was too distracted by working, 1Q84, Lulu, and finishing Married… with Children.

Random Thought! The final season of Married… with Children was disappointing. The use of cold opens seemed to fuck with the flow of the show. The finale was one of the worst finales I’ve ever seen. The only bright spot was the three-part “Breaking Up is Easy to Do” story, which would have functioned as a much better finale. No, I also liked the episode where Peg posed as a stripper, because it was a genuinely clever concept: she gets Al to become infatuated with her and she becomes his fantasy. The fourth season (I think) still stands out as the creative high point of the show. But, it held up pretty well throughout its run. Now, I’m torn on what to watch next. I have the complete King of Queens and Trailer Park Boys. I’m tempted to just work my way through the two three-disc Shawn Michaels DVD sets and the Hart Family one in preparation for the Michaels/Hart DVD set that I hope to get for Christmas (and will buy if I don’t get it as a gift).

Random Thought! I am honestly surprised at the amount of negative reactions to Lulu by Lou Reed & Metallica. I understand Metallica fans hating it (but, Metallica fans seem to hate everything Metallica does, so…), but Lou Reed fans? Were any of them really surprised/taken aback by this? I know I wasn’t. I found it a little strange at first, but, soon enough, I got into it and really love it. What sold me on it was listening to it on my discman Tuesday night with the lyrics book — and, then, listening to the first disc while doing to get comics on Thursday. It takes a little bit to find the rhythm of the album and the way that Reed’s vocals mesh with Metallica’s playing. I find that his voice suits Metallica better than James Hetfield’s voice does. It has that ‘end of the world’ feel to it that Metallica seemed to be looking for in the ’80s. His voice is death. Some of the album is quite catchy. I found myself singing “Cheat on Me” more than a few times last week… same with “The View.” (Also, am I the only one who thinks that much of “The View” could act as a pretty badass/strange Triple H promo? Maybe if he faces the Undertaker against at WrestleMania, he could use it as his pre-“The Game” music… After all, Motorhead and Metallica alone weren’t enough to beat Johnny Cash. He clearly needs Lou Reed. Heh.)

Random Thought! I also don’t quite understand the reaction to Bucky’s death being a fake-out. Did people want it to be made explicit when it happened? Did they want him to stay dead? What do you want? Me, I’m pretty happy to see the character still around and being used in stories that seem to suit him more than acting as Captain America did. Steve needs the shield, James does not.

Random Thought! I’m not doing that write a novel in a month thing, but did use it as an excuse to try and start something. After five or six attempts, I finally hit on something I really like and am invested in. I’ve only written 600 or so words, though. But, I think my not immediately hating the first paragraph is a good sign. I hated all of the others. What’s fun is that every attempt, no matter how different, were all done with the same title. It’s a title I’ve wanted to use for a long time and just needed to find the right fit.

Random Thought! I don’t know. I just seem to be ‘into’ other stuff than comics more lately. Music, DVDs, books… they’ve got me more excited lately. Just a phase most likely. It seems to go like that. For example, I’m really excited to get Hawksley Workman’s Almost a Full Moon Eleven, which I pre-ordered yesterday and should ship sometime today. Oddly, the album was officially announced yesterday. Since it’s only being sold online, I guess there isn’t a need for a big pre-order time period or anything. It’s a rerecording of his holiday album Almost a Full Moon (it’s a two-disc set that includes the original album as well). I love that idea — the idea of revisiting something a decade later and rerecording it. That’s an idea that’s always fascinated me. Not so much ‘remakes,’ but ‘remakes’ done by the people who did it the first time, but years later… how does the voice change? What remains the same, what’s changed? You get that a lot in music through live albums (my favourite example is Lou Reed’s Berlin: Live at St. Ann’s Warehouse) — but, in comics, it’s usually other people doing it. Writers and artists will revisit themes, ideas, even characters — but it’s never a straight up ‘rerecording’ of what they did the first time. The closest you get usually is something like The Dark Knight Strikes Again. Then again, my line of thinking leads to Brian Michael Bendis doing “Ultimates Disassembled” after Jonathan Hickman leaves the book… actually, I think I’d dig that.

Random Thought! Wrestling has also left me cold lately. Still watching DVDs and such, but have given up entirely on TNA, while the WWE continues to show that they have no idea how to book longer than a week ahead. Anything they plan for beyond that suddenly becomes a boring story with tons of filler. The big mistake still seems to be not booking John Cena vs. Rey Mysterio for the WWE Championship at SummerSlam. Rey wasn’t at his best, but still worked the show (and his immediate injury problem happened after he wrestled Cena on Raw, so who knows what would have happened if that match hadn’t happened…). The two biggest faces in the company squaring off at ‘WrestleMania Jr.’ just seems like such a no-brainer. I’m not sure if that will ever stop bothering me. Maybe if they start producing quality shows again…

Random Thought! When the fuck is Haunt #19 coming out?

Random Thought! Hell Yeah sounds like it will be interesting. I plan on buying it when it starts in March.

Random Thought! Point One #1 comes out this week. What a stupid, godawful title for a comic. Just lazy, mind-numbing bullshit. Why not call it “2012” or something like that? Not amazingly clever, but it actually means something. It’s baffling that this is meant to be SO important that Marvel is sending retailers double their orders and they call it “Point One.”

Random Thought! Proof that people love Brian Michael Bendis: the two most-viewed posts on my blog are, by far (really, it’s not even close), the Bendis Secret Invasion Reading Order and Blogathon 2009 Archive (aka the Bendis Blogathon) posts. Hell, that reading order post has gotten so many hits that I’m beginning to think that Marvel should publish a deluxe hardcover using it as a template…

Random Thought! Direct Message 01 parts one, two, three, and four. Alec Berry and I talking about DC’s relaunch. The next topic we’ll discuss looks to be Criminal. But that, of course, could change.

Random Thought! There’s something about Action Comics that reminds me of Ultimate Spider-Man… maybe I’ll develop that thought further at some point — probably after Action Comics releases a good chunk of issues.

***

Random List! Some people asked about this, so here’s my list of the ten greatest Joe Casey stories. It’s not too far off from the democratically-decided list, but is more specific when it comes to stories rather than runs or trades. I also put a few limitations on my selections: 1) Nothing Casey co-wrote (so, no Mr. Majestic). 2) Only complete stories (so, no Vengeance or Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker). Nothing from Gødland made my list for the simple reason that I haven’t reread that series much and couldn’t really remember where one story ended and another began… shameful, I know. Plus, this list is meaningless and would be different a week from now and different again a week later…

1. “Lil’ Folks” (Automatic Kafka #4): The Peanuts issue and the issue that, more than any other, sums up the themes and ideas of Automatic Kafka. Okay, maybe the last issue did that a bit more, but it was also explicitly stated, which isn’t nearly as much fun. Hell, this issue demands you actually read with enough purpose to see that it’s the Peanuts gang. (Fun fact: someone asked Casey on the DC message boards when this came out why ‘Sally’ was named ‘Sarah’ and he said it’s because he knew a girl who changed her name from Sally to Sarah.)

2. “Serial Boxes” (Wildcats Vol. 2 #14-19): After half a year of driving the ‘team’ apart, Casey brings them back together for a decidedly unheroic ‘mission.’ This story absolutely nailed the tone of the second volume of Wildcats (which was better than Version 3.0, by the way) and reminded us that these characters may drift apart, they may argue, but they’re family. They’re not heroes. They’re former soldiers and, when you fuck with one of them, they will put a bullet in your skull. Also, a great example of Casey’s ‘villain who loves being a bad guy’ villain.

3. “Codeflesh” Pt. 8 (Double Take #8): One of the most experimental things Casey’s written. What’s amazing is how well it works. An absolutely stunning use of the juxtaposition between words and pictures in comics — and done in a way that doesn’t really work in any other medium except for music videos.

4. Adventures of Superman #612-616: Superman vs. the Hollow Men where he confronts his own Golden Age origins, his role in the world, a town of superheroes, and reveals that he’s a pacifist. The following seven issues build on these five for one of the best Superman runs of the past decade.

5. “Autopilot” (Reveal #1): A deeply personal story about what it’s like to write big time commercial corporate superhero comics. How do you balance commercialism, artistic integrity, fandom, and your personal life? Can you? Is there a right balance? Mostly forgotten and the only thing that didn’t make the official list that should have been on it.

6. “??????????” (Wildcats Vol. 2 #13): The story of Void. Touching and strange, it’s not quite like anything else he wrote in Wildcats. Basically, he writes out the character by sending her to heaven. Edit: I see that it didn’t publish the title properly. It’s in Russian. Stoopid blog.

7. “The Nemesis Contract” (Cable #59-62): Casey’s Cable run still stands as one of the most impressive debuts I’ve seen from a writer. He had a clear vision for the character, was paired with a fantastic artist (Ladronn!), and dove in fearlessly. He tried to move Cable away from the X-corner of the Marvel Universe and just plant him in the Marvel Universe. “The Nemesis Contract” is balls to the wall insanity with Cable taking on S.H.I.E.L.D. in a Kirby/Steranko mash-up that also set up Deathlok. Pop comics fun.

8. The Intimates #6: The gang go into Sykes’s brain for a trippy ‘concept album’ issue. This one rewards rereading and is the creative peak of The Intimates. In a series where Casey tried new things, this was the strangest, most ‘out there’ issue.

9. “Great Minds” (Wildcats Version 3.0 #18): The best issue of that series. Marlowe telling the president to fuck off. I almost swapped it out for the Coup D’Etat issue since I love Marlowe’s verbal beatdown on the Authority. But, this was the issue that managed to really bring together the concept of the series as being about the corporation as superhero the best.

10. Uncanny X-Men annual 2001, #408-409: The official list included issue 407, but it doesn’t belong. It’s a decent issue, sure; it just doesn’t have anything to do with these three comics. It’s a different story and Cronin was wrong to include it. These issues represent what we all wanted from Joe Casey’s run on Uncanny X-Men: great art and cool, forward-thinking concepts. The annual introduced the drug-peddling Vanisher and the two issues that concluded Casey’s run took him off the board. The annual was a test for Casey working with Wood on Automatic Kafka, while issue 408 and 409 are a tease of Wildcats Version 3.0. Warren paying the Vanisher’s men more to not deal drugs was great. And, of course, issue 409 has the best title a comic ever got: “Rocktopia Part 8 of 5.”

***

Random Comments! Have I scared away the trolls? I don’t get many (any) of them these days…

Kevin Madison said: I always forget Random Thoughts is on Tuesday, and it is always a pleasant surprise…this edition included.

Thanks!

Also, good to know about Rum Diary. Lowered expectations are easier to exceed that high expectations are to meet.

Yeah. I always try to tell myself that… but, sometimes, it’s hard not to get higher expectations.

Randy said: Francis Manapul should have been on that list of great art in comics last week.

I don’t buy Flash and was only including artists of comics I bought/read.

Also, Chad, are you looking forward to Matt Fractions Defenders?

I wasn’t. Then, I read his interview with Comics Alliance yesterday and, now, I’m not so sure. We’ll see.

Travis Pelkie said: True on the bit about Watchmen not being able to go out of print, I’ll grant you. But I will argue your “nothing is a waste of talent” bit. Just taking Moore — was his Spawn related stuff a better use of his talent than if he’d been able to finish Big Numbers? (and was Sienkiewicz using his talent better inking SpiderMan books during the Clone Saga than if he’d just done BN?)

Ideally? No. But, nothing about those projects meant that the quality had to be low. The talent brought to those projects could have made the books pretty damn good. Then again, without those ‘real world’ financial concerns met, who knows how good something Big Numbers could have been? Hard to bring your best when you’re focused on real world shit.

Captain Comet said: Chad, the thing about the Rum Diary is, if you bring a bottle of rum with you to the theater (which i have just done) and look at it as a prequel of sorts to both Depp’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Thompson’s later works, it gets so much better. But pretty much take a drink every time someone in them ovie does. You will love it.

You’re right about it being a ‘prequel.’ And, if I need to drink to enjoy the movie, it’s not worth enjoying.

Kevin Hellions said: How far do you go back with the theme music? Over his career CM Punk has had some great music, but only 2 songs in WWE. Also, while people speak of the songs only in spite now, Undertaker had a good run of songs there too.

I can’t include indies where they use any song they want — that makes it pretty easy to be awesome. The WWE is limited to in-house compositions covered by bands usually, so any run of great entrances is rare.

JRC said: Weak? Brief maybe, but I appreciated the brevity.

Normally, not what people want. Also, it was light on comics content, which tends to not be a crowd pleaser as well.

rob t. said: You are the first person I’ve encountered on the Net to say ANYTHING positive about Lulu. I streamed it for a while until I could not take it any longer. It just sounded like bad rap-metal to me and I owned Metal Machine Music on LP and CD at one point. So there.

Quitter. You’re missing out.

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

15 Comments

I may not agree with Cyclops, but I do love what they’re doing with him as a character. Really, his evolution over the past ten years (thanks for kicking that off, Grant Morrison!) is one of my favorite success stories of the decade.

The Married: With Children finale wasn’t supposed to be a finale. They didn’t find out the show was canceled until they’d wrapped the season.

I’m not writing an entire novel in November, but I may well end up finishing one.

… Lou Reed and Metallica? This is a thing? Even more mystifying, I had no idea it even happened?

Man oh man, Metallica. Their career since the Black Album has been a comedy of errors and bad decisions. I can’t argue with the fact that said decisions have typically made them a lot of money, but I do argue with the quality. This odd choice, however, comes after they seemed to get some of their groove back.

… I should probably listen to this; the disconnect between the two should be, if nothing else, interesting to listen to once.

Again, I say NO to Loutallica. I am an avant-weird music freak (and I’m the Metal Machine Music guy from last Random Thoughts) so I know my way around abrasive and harsh sounds.

Let’s put it this way: there have been many many other artists who have created more entertaining and interesting sonic trainwrecks than they did: Captain Beefheart, the Shaggs, early Sonic Youth, Jandek, and heck even the Velvet Underground (which Lou was a founding member) serve as excellent examples of dissonant nirvana. In contrast, Lulu commits the worst sin possible for me. It is boring as hell.

Chad,

Sorry I didn’t see your response there, thanks for reading. Not that it changes my mind or anything! I just saw the positive review of Lulu and flew off my rocker. :)

rob

Ah, you’re in ‘good’ company there. It seems seeing that review and flying off one’s rocker is the thing to do. No worries.

There’s a rock and roll hall of fame 25th anniversary concert on netflix where metallica and reed first hooked up. Great stuff!

I can’t believe there’s a comic called Point One #1. It reminds me that there was a video game called Final Fantasy X-2 (meaning it was called Final Fantasy 10-2, instead of Final Fantasy 11). Anyway, this just goes to show that all comic book numbering is meaningless. At this point, they might as well go by month and year instead of numbers.

King of Queens was nice when it started, but Leah Remini got on my nerves. Part of it is Leah Remini herself, and part is her character.

King of Queens doesn’t hide that it is aping the Honeymooners, but with more modern character designs. The husband is the lovable goof, and more of a childlike innocence than Gleason’s Ralph Kramden or even the cartoon Fred Flintstone. On the other hand, the wife is suppose to be a strong character. After all, it was a modern era. More than that, you couldn’t risk the idea that the wife appear weak against a physically larger husband, particularly when emulating the Honeymooners, a show where the most iconic line was a threat of domestic abuse. (The movie The Incredibles is a good illustration of this concern as well. When Helen confronts Bob, they ended up making Helen stretch herself larger as she argues with him, making Bob the smaller character on the receiving end of the tirade, because if Helen remained her normal size it made it appear that Bob was the one overwhelming her with his physical presence.)

The problem with this design in King of Queens (and to a lesser extent shows like Everybody Loves Raymond) is that the wife drifts into “b*tchy” territory. Carrie is in the wrong as often as Doug. The difference is that Doug is wrong through childlike innocence, while Carrie is wrong through an arrogant, abusive, or “my opinion is more important than yours” attitude. That Doug is such a childlike innocence only makes it seem even more abusive on Carrie’s part.

I’m right there with you in regards to Cyclops. I think Morrison sewed the seed in his run, by having Cyclops openly acknowledge all the craziness in his life. And subsequent writers have taken it from there to the extent that Cyclops seems to be one of the few characters who’s able to look at his circumstances and react with “What’s the best thing to do here?” instead of falling into obvious traps. I guess it’s the ultimate logical extent of his role as master strategist. He’s not just a strategic fighter, he exists strategically.

Thanks for sharing your Joe Casey list. I’m with you on Godland. I’ve got all the trades out so far but I read them all in one long sitting, so I’d have to purposefully go back and reread them to pick out individual stories.

I couldn’t agree more about Cyclops. I’ve loved the path the character has been on for about the past ten years. This is a culmination of everything he’s been through since the Apoclaypse possession and I really hope they don’t fuck it up. I also loved that UXM story by Casey that you mentioned. I’ve not read much of his work, but the shortlived period where he, Morrison, and Claremont were each doing perfectly complementary kinds of stories with three distinct teams is currently the high point of post-original-Claremont X-Men for me, though the current direction could eventually surpass it with hindsight.

I used your secret invasion template and had all my single issues bound in hardcover. The story is a massive improvement when read that way.

Since there are talks of people having done suggested reading lists for comics in the past, can anyone point me in the direction of one for the post-Morrison X-Men, or can you eventually do one Chad? I want to catch up but have no idea where to start.

If I recall correctly, those involved with “Married… With Children” (actors, producers, writers, etc…) were ticked off that they never got to do a proper sendoff. I believe it was one of those deals where FOX strung them on, not committing to returning or canceling the show before it was too late.

Whether you liked the show or not (and MWC always had strong sides either way) if a show lasts as long as MWC they deserve a final chapter.

I’m currently watching the complete run of “The West Wing”. Just started season Two. Some great work on this show, especially with Sorkin still involved.

Geez, all you guys praising Cyclops makes me wish I hadn’t dropped all the X-men titles after Morrison left. But all those X-Men titles were just too convoluted. Too tangled up and too pointless.

Truth is, they lost me “forever” during the Jim Lee era. Editor Bob Harras ruined the X-Men for me. No interest in reading about Gambit, Bishop, Cable, or all these other third-string mutants. Tired of keeping track whether Magneto was a bad guy this month or a good guy. Tired of seeing Wolverine in 42 comics per month.

It think the writers, artists, and editors who proliferate this garbage need to be taken out back and shot. Or worse — they should be forced to read their own comic books for all eternity!

But I follow Morrison wherever he goes… (as long as he doesn’t write Cable!)

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