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Random Thoughts! (April 24, 2012)

Random Thought! The little kid sitting next to me at Raw last night kept falling asleep and poking me in the side with his elbow. It’s Random Thoughts time! Get excited!

Link Thought! GraphiContent for comics. butterbeatleblog for popculture. 411mania for wrestling reviews and the occasional CD review.

Random Thought! Raw last night was fun. Since I do my Instant Analysis of Raw for 411mania every week, I did a Live Analysis this week.

Random Thought! No “Riding the Gravy Train” for last week’s trio of Avengers vs. X-Men books written yet, because I came down with a nasty cold that left me unable to sit up and write… followed by a very busy weekend at work. Hopefully, it will be up later today… just in time for new comics tomorrow. But, since I have to work Thursday/Friday this week, I get a Wednesday off for the first time in forever. So, hey, that’s a plus. I’ll be there shortly after the shop opens to get my copy of AVX: VS #1… surely to be the great battle comic of the decade. Right?

Random Thought! I rather enjoyed David Brothers’s piece on Moore and Kirby. Something I really respect about David is how much thought and effort he puts into things like that. He doesn’t simply jump into rash decisions. He thinks about situations and does what’s right for him. It’s something I mentioned when talking about Holy Terror on my blog — he didn’t react impulsively to that book, he took the time to struggle with it and his love of Frank Miller’s work before coming to a final opinion. When he says stuff like he’s stopped buying comics from Marvel and DC, I admire that he’s standing by what he feels is right for him. It’s what everyone should do.

Random Thought! I don’t like the way that the cover to Wonder Woman #8 lies. It’s a lying cover. I hate lying covers. (The comic is better for not showing the cover scene, of course…)

Random Thought! New Jack White album! …not quite what you’d expect from him… unless all you expect from him is the unexpected. Then… it’s what you expected… except, because it’s what you expected, it’s no longer unexpected, which means it’s not what you expected, making it unexpected… Yessssssssssssssss…

Random Thought! The price of Avengers #1 keeps dropping. First, it was $3.99. Then, I saw it in my shop in a box of dollar comics. Last week, they just gave it to me for free… I already have this, though.

Random Thought! Yes, Walt Simonson does draw a big picture of Thor. Bendis knows what he’s doing.

Random Thought! Seriously, is there a translation of the text at the bottom of the pages in Defenders #5 yet?

Random Thought! I love the pages of Batman’s Rogues Gallery reacting to him shooting someone dead so much. Perfect thing to have in the final issue of Batman: Odyssey. What a strange and wonderful series.

Random Thought! Last Thursday, while sick, I watched the 2003 Royal Rumble. I wanted to see the one where Brock Lesnar won and there was also the bonus of the Triple H/Scott Steiner match that I had heard so many horrible things about. Yeah, it was bad. Not the worst thing ever, but bad. The Rumble itself was entertaining — so was the Angle/Benoit match.

Random Thought! I will never quite understand the logic of other superheroes not showing up in a city like Gotham when a bunch of costumed assassins are slaughtering public figures. I get why it doesn’t happen from a real world publishing perspective, but the logic within that world… Sorry, ‘Batman may make a mad face’ doesn’t seem like a good reason.

Random Thought! I would kill to read “The Oral History of Batman” by Frank Miller.

Random Thought! So… the Owls didn’t know Bruce Wayne was Batman? I guess they’re not so amazing… especially with unmasking people they kidnap and drug. (Or was I misreading the way they reacted to the Batcave?)

Random Thought! Someone has to have done the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen one already, right? Bluewater perhaps? If not, I’m… well, I’m surprised.

Random Thought! Hey, Marvel, you know what’s awesome? When you release comics one week apart that depict the exact same events in two drastically different ways! Explain how New Avengers #24 and Avengers vs. X-Men #2 both happened. Go ahead. Here’s my ‘No Prize’ explanation: shitty editing.

Random Thought! I’m somewhat surprised that someone who has written Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman has the image of a ‘creator-owned’ sort of writer with people… Brian Azzarello is very much a ‘work for hire’ sort of writer. Obviously so. And that’s cool. I really like that about him. He’s a gun for hire that always does a good job. I wish comics had more writers like that instead of people whose primary goal is to scratch that itch they’ve had since they were seven and get by through ‘passion’ and ‘love’ more than skill.

Random Thought! I don’t know why exactly, but The Manhattan Projects #2 was a comic that made me very happy while I was reading it. Just enjoyable. Rockin’ and rollin’, baby…

Random Thought! Michelle is now hooked on The Venture Bros.

Random Thought! If my shop has a rack copy, I may buy the first volume of Batman: Knightfall tomorrow.

Random Thought! Looks like a good week for comics tomorrow. Four Avengers vs. X-Men titles, a new issue of The Ultimates (which is always an event for me these days), the end of Moon Knight, and more Spaceman. Plus issues of Daredevil, Mighty Thor, and Captain America.

Random Thought! The following Joe Casey question is appropriate given AVX: VS #1 coming out tomorrow and Joe Casey’s issue of Hulk Smash Avengers coming out in a couple of weeks. Right now, that’s the only issue of that series I’m planning on buying, but I do love Lee Weeks’s covers for the series. So much that I’m tempted to pick up more than just that issue.

***

Random Joe Casey Question! One thing I’ve noticed (and others I’ve spoken to have agreed) is that fight scenes in superhero comics tend to suck. I would even argue that the average squash match in wrestling is a more entertaining and coherent fight than what you see in most superhero comics. What’s your views on fights in comics and how do you try to make them more interesting and better executed in your comics?

Random Joe Casey Answer! There’s a semantic thing here, so maybe we should clarify something: there are fight scenes in comicbooks, two opposing forces — either individuals or groups of individuals — beating the shit out of each other… and then there are action scenes, where something physically and visually dramatic is happening, usually on a larger scale. A car chase is an action scene, for instance. Someone firing a gun in a shootout is an action scene. An alien invasion being repelled is an action scene. A super-villain enacting a scheme that involves a fair bit of property destruction is an action scene. But since you made the wrestling analogy, which is typically two guys going mano-a-mano, let’s just talk about fight scenes…

I pretty much agree with you… maybe not about the squash match part… but the whole concept of fight scenes in superhero comics has become pretty fuckin’ impotent as a device to propel or advance a story. For me, it’s because the stakes involved are usually either dramatically nonexistent or so esoteric that they end up meaning nothing to the reader because they can’t relate to the overriding conflict involved (Iron Man fights Captain America. The Marvel Universe fights Skrulls. Avengers fight X-Men. The Flash fights an Elseworlds reality. The DC Universe fights its own continuity. Blah, blah, fuckin’-blah… another verse, same as the first). It’s all video game bullshit. When they truly matter on a dramatic story level, a physical confrontation between two opposing forces is representing that story’s philosophical or ideological conflict in some way. It’s physical-izing the stakes, whatever they are. For myself, in my own work, I don’t even know how well I succeed at making them mean something more… oftentimes I resort to subverting them in some way, shape or form. I think maybe that has more to do with the other reason that fight scenes occurred so often in superhero comicbooks… THEY WERE FOR KIDS. But there’s a different demand there. Kids like to see characters displaying their abilities. Kirby was a master at this… his extended fight sequences tended to be exhibition matches for heroes and villains to show off what they can do.

I just did an issue of a mini-series coming out in May, HULK SMASH AVENGERS (or whatever the fuck it’s called, I don’t remember), where the 1970’s–era Avengers end up fighting the Hulk over a classic Marvel misunderstanding (as they tend to occur when it comes to the Hulk). I gotta say… it was kind of refreshing to write, to provide the set-ups for the Hulk and the Avengers to use their powers in a manner that wasn’t intended to portray the kind of mindless viciousness that modern fight scenes seem to end up glamorizing. But I was writing it for the ten-year old me (who I probably idealize as a lot brighter and more sophisticated than I actually was at the time), not the mid-thirties superhero reader.

Now, granted, I like to see a bit of the ol’ ultra-violence in my comicbooks… especially when it’s well done. The Ellis/Hitch AUTHORITY comes to mind. Or Frank Miller’s work in the 80’s, where his fight scenes had a visceral, almost balletic quality to them. The good shit that’s out there gets it right. But I’m probably appreciating them purely on a craft level, not to mention those fight scenes usually had a point to them. And when I put over-the-top violence in my creator-owned work, I’d like to think the subtext is always there. Of course, my creator-owned work is generally for adults only, so there’s that. But in comicbooks for adults — even superhero comicbooks for adults — a fight scene is not a prerequisite. Nor should it be. How many extended fight scenes are in WATCHMEN, y’know…? Even AMERICAN FLAGG! is a lot less violent than you might expect.

***

Random Comments! Deliver unto me content ye masses…

Dan Billings said: I loved 2003-era Superman, but then again, I started reading them when Superman was a lightning bolt, so I suppose I’m not the best judge.

No. You’re not.

Ian A said: If you haven’t already, you should definitely check out Marijuanaman. In addition to showcasing Mahfood’s funky, energetic art, it’s the thematic sequel to Casey’s pacifist Superman. The tone’s different, and it’s not as “subversive,” but if you’re jonesing for another hit of that particular high concept, it’ll satisfy.

I haven’t purchased that book yet because I found the prince point a little too high. Maybe I’ll find a cheaper copy…

Michael P said: The thing about DC’s response to the Moore blowback is, it doesn’t have to be very good, because they’ve got a legion of volunteer shills at their beck and call who will gladly believe and parrot whatever bullshit they come up with. DC could say that they haven’t done anything wrong because “purple monkey dishwasher,” and you’d have fanboys tripping over each other to post “purple monkey dishwasher” every time some blogger mentioned Moore’s name.

…that is absurd. All of it. Do you ever listen to yourself? That’s not at all how comics or comics media work…

daniel the demon cleaner said: That’s gotta be a call-out to the old Spidey/Juggernaut fight from the 80?s, those were some good comics… but yeah, you’re right, Peter is dumb.

Definitely an allusion… and a reminder that Peter is stupid, because the Junngernaut flattened him then.

As for the “oral histories” question, Stan Lee on Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and Alan Moore on Superman, Batman.

Stan Lee? That sounds awful. Really.

George S said: if Counter X: X-Man can get collected, surely Terry Kavanagh’s run can too? I’m a big fan of 90?s Nate Grey, and most of his early issues have been hard to find.

“Counter X” was a three-title revamp headed by Warren Ellis, which is why they have been collected. Those comics you mention will get collected, too, but only because Marvel will collect everything. Don’t be fooled into thinking those comics are any good or should be collected. There’s a reason why they’re hard to find: everyone tossed them into landfills worldwide. Where they belong.

Neil Kapit said: My favorite Marvel story period is Invicible Iron Man: World’s Most Wanted by Fraction and Larroca. It was also a tie-in to the larger Dark Reign crossover. It worked because the only real element of Dark Reign plugged into the story was Norman Osborn, who was used as a sort of homunculus of Tony Stark’s recent sins; the story kept its focus to Tony Stark, his intellectual degeneration, and his subsequent atonement.

“Dark Reign” wasn’t a crossover or event, it was the title of the status quo of the Marvel Universe at the time. That’s quite different from trying to tell stories alongside a central story.

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

16 Comments

No, that’s not how comics media work. That’s how comics *fans* work. If you don’t believe me, read the comments section of that Chris Sims post you linked.

“Random Thought! So… the Owls didn’t know Bruce Wayne was Batman? I guess they’re not so amazing… especially with unmasking people they kidnap and drug. (Or was I misreading the way they reacted to the Batcave?)”

The way I interpreted this one, was that the COURT knows, but that the Talons they sent werent briefed on this. Why would the Court relay anything to a bunch of reanimated dead anyway, right?

Yeah, I have trouble with the same event being portrayed in radically different ways too. I remember that bugged me with Cap beating the crap out of the Punisher during Civil War –how if you read the Punisher version of it, it became this self-aggrandizing thing of, “Yeah, but I only LET him do that.”

A bigger problem for me was at the beginning of the New 52, when both Batman #1 and Batman: The Dark Knight #1 showed Arkham riot/mass breakouts (both juxtaposed with narration from a Bruce Wayne charity speech, no less)–only they couldn’t have been the same Arkham mass riot/breakout, because they played out in very different ways, and the depiction of Two-Face was completely irreconcilable. (I complained about that more at length on my blog at the time: http://theidiolect.com/comics/the-four-faces-of-batman/)

Michael, I was being sarcastic.

Tom Fitzpatrick

April 24, 2012 at 2:49 pm

The Oral History of Batman by FM.

In the good ol’ days, when FM spoke, everybody LISTENED whether they wanted to or not, agreed with him or not.

These days, no more. :-(

Poor Michelle, you have completely corrupted and tainted her with your subersive random thoughts and taste.
She will never be the same again. ;-)

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Stupid text-based medium.

I disagree. Bendis does not know what he’s doing, at least since Seige. If he told Simonson to put Jessica Drew in that getup, I rest my case.

In other news, Casey’s delineation between “fight scenes” and “action scenes” gets me thinking.

Billy Bissette

April 24, 2012 at 3:38 pm

“I will never quite understand the logic of other superheroes not showing up in a city like Gotham when a bunch of costumed assassins are slaughtering public figures. ”

Holy Musical B@tman! sort of gives an answer, in that the citizens of Gotham would simply rather be rescued by Batman than someone like Superman. To be fair, he is a hometown hero, he’s got cool toys, and you have to already have a bit of a weird mindset to continue to live in a town where a different villain poisons your water supply every month.
http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL96B8289ADF77A8C4&feature=plcp

I found this comment about Marijuanaman funny for the “high” bit:

” I found the prince point a little too high”

Then I saw the “prince” typo and I laughed more. hee hee.

And shitty editing is the answer for 90% of what’s wrong with comics. Maybe.

I saw the Avengers #1 giveaway and saw that what it was, and wondered why the hell they’re using that as a giveaway. Is that what’s supposed to entice people to the movie? Hell, I read it when it came out, and I was confused with all the post-Siege events and all, and I’m vaguely familiar with the Marvel U.

And on other giveaway stupidness, why the hell is DC putting out the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo giveaway now, when the book doesn’t come out until November? WTF, DC? I did at least see the ad for the HC of Black Orchid, though, so that made it ok.

And I think anyone with even a vague interest in superhero comics will latch onto Venture Brothers and love it like crazy, and hope season 5 is coming soon, and wish that the big 2 had fun universes like that. Sell it to people who seem reluctant to try it as being tangentially related to the Tick (since Edlund did do a few eps). Or if they’re comic geeks, tell them there are cool elements to it reminiscent of LOEG, Tom Strong, or Knight and Squire (the camaraderie between heroes and villains is the element from that that I like in VB). And how great are all the season finales? (Well, every ep is great. I can’t think of one VB ep that isn’t cool in some way.) Also, Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick are extremely good at laying down plot elements that they pick up later on, and the threads all tie together so well.

OK, enough of that. Will any of THAT get me into Random Comments, big boy? Boom, yummy!

“Will any of THAT get me into Random Comments, big boy?”

Travis, you WHORE.

Anyway…I admire this Brothers guy for his convictions. I wish mine were so strong. I don’t buy many modern comics, but that’s ’cause I ain’t got no money.

I do have a sort of quibble with his complaints about Kirby, though. I agree that during his life he was absolutely screwed. I do not feel that his estate should have any sort of claim on the copyright, though. It’s not that I don’t believe Kirby deserved it. In fact, I believe he did. His heirs do not. Some might call it getting justice, but I call it living off of someone else’s legacy (even if that someone else is dad or grampa).

Some may point out that Marvel’s doing the same thing. They’re right, I think Marvel’s also wrong. The purpose of a copyright should be to protect intellectual property while the creator is alive. Extending it beyond that time serves no real purpose other than to make people who didn’t create the property rich.

So…there’s that.

P. Boz — I wouldn’t whore myself out if Chad used my comments ever. 1 comment since he’s been back, and it was to poo on me!

re: fight scenes — is it possible that one reason they really suck “lately” is that the artists are going for the “money shot” more than a coherent narrative with a fight? Back to Kirby, most of his greatest fights are in 6 panel grid pages, with a splash page here and there, but only after it’s been “earned”, whereas modern fight scenes tend to play out over less pages, with less panels per page…and let’s not even bring the manga influence (without the manga page count) into it….

I also noticed, in finally reading some comics for the first time in awhile, that either I expect more out of a comic, or the new 20 page story just hasn’t been done well yet by modern writers. I’d get to the end of the book and wonder why it was suddenly done. Maybe I’m just getting old.

But I did really dig Resident Alien #0 and Reset #1. Sweet sweet comics. They’re done by guys with 30 years experience in comics, so maybe that’s why they’re more gooder?

Garth Ennis Oral History of John Constantine. Or the Punisher for that matter.

I think a fight scene done right in superhero comics is in Batman and Robin #2 by Morrison and Quitely where Dick and Damien are battling the “circus freaks.” Frank Quitely exhibits a great sense of geography and choreography that really makes you feel the impact of every blow while never losing that kinetic energy.

Here’s another Quitely example. Remember in New X-men when the team is trying to stop Quentin Quire’s crew from rioting all over the X-manor and Beast has to chase one of the members (who is on fire) down a busy road in an attempt to rescue incoming traffic? Now that is a brilliant action sequence. You really get that sense of speed, and you get to see Beast’s secondary evolution at work. Plus, it’s funny!

Another fairly recent fight that I can remember being quite good is Sentry vs. Ares in Siege #2, a great example of a larger scale fight that conveys the grandness and physicality of the characters. Coipel didn’t get to show a lot of action in that series, mostly just posing, but that fight left an impact and looked amazing, even if the gory conclusion felt gratuitous, imho.

Immortal Iron Fist w/ Fraction/Bru/Aja had some surprisingly lackluster fights but I remember Rand vs. Fat Cobra being quite good, where they keep falling through different dimensions. The first issue also had a jaw-dropping action sequence with Danny Rand escaping Hydra that had me hooked right from the start. Aja also did a commendable job in that Secret Avengers issue w/ Shang Chi as well.

But I tend to agree with you, as these are more exceptions to the rule than par for the course in western comics. To me, what makes a truly great action or fight sequence is the combination of great choreography/geography and the context surrounding a fight. An emotional connection to a battle usually makes it more enjoyable for me, like when Kitty Pryde takes out Emma Frost in Astonishing X-men (near the end of the third arc, Torn). That fight works as much for my emotional investment as it did because of the creative use of Kitty’s powers. Punisher vs. Daken also worked well for this reason, both the one where Frank Castle dies and the epic crossover rematch. Damn, now I miss Frankencastle.

If you ask me, many Japanese manga artists have excelled at action, since the style in the east is usually much more “in the moment” than plot driven. For example. Goseki Kojima drew a great fight in almost every other issue of Lone Wolf and Cub, and Akira Toriyama literally wrote the book on amazing fights with his work on Dragonball. Seriously, if you want to see almost perfect action sequences in a comic, read Dragonball/Z. Lone Wolf and Cub isn’t really a superhero comic, but I think Dragonball fits the mold nicely, especially in later issues when Goku is an adult and everybody starts flying around. Good thing all those alien tyrants and villains knew martial arts too, eh?

One of my favorite fight scenes is the climax of The Golden Age. The assembled heroes battle the Big Bad as a group, but the main cast members each get their turn in the spotlight. James Robinson & Paul Smith built the fight from lower-powered heroes (The Atom) to higher (Green Lantern), almost had the villain win, then gave a couple of unexpected combatants the knockout. It was thrilling. Contrasted with today’s two-page spread of people frozen in a moment, or half a team being bit players in the main story, I feel twenty years older railing about how things were better in my day (which was the friggin ’90s).

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