Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
So I get this email from Cronin the other day. Apparently Comics Should Be Good is turning ten. Ten actual years, not like a little over one year for dogs. Actual decade. Ten years ago a group of nerds that met on comic book message boards (remember still going to those?) and decided to make some sort of vague stand on the quality of comic books. I think we were, in part, tired of repeating ourselves on message boards and decided if we could just have a link to, say, “Why Crisis on Infinite Earths sucked,” well, we might as well make a dang blog ourselves.
Of all the things in my life I’ve started and abandoned, this is the only one that is still going. The lesson here is if you want something to last, do it with Brian Cronin.
(Also he’ll make it better than you ever thought it could be, An Actual Thing.)
Anyway, Brian emailed those of us that started this thing and asked if we’d like to contribute something to the anniversary. I immediately agreed and near-immediately thought “Oh shit, I haven’t written about comics in years. What the eff am I gonna write about?” I mean, it’s been a loooooong time since I’ve done this, it feels. Which is weird, because I’m probably reading the most great comics I’ve ever read at this point in my life. It’s not like I gave up comics, not in the slightest. There is SO MUCH AWESOME out there. Marvel is chucking out great superhero comics at a rate I almost find alarming. The creative cabal there is just killing it, overall. Hickman’s meta-narrative just keeps getting awesomer. Scott Summers is my hero. The slow burn of the end of the world in BPRD and its associated books just gets more chilling. Al Ewing makes me very happy.
But if I were to pick two books that are really connecting with me the most, it’d be Jasons Aaron and Latour’s Southern Bastards and Rick Remender and Wes Craig’s Deadly Class.
Holy shit, guys. I don’t see much being said about these, but my comics blog reading is basically just here these days. They’re fantastic! I think, in part, because though these books drip in genre beauty, they are also deeply personal in their own way.
It’s funny, I didn’t expect much out of either book despite being very fond of both writers’ recent work. The high pitch I’ve heard used for Deadly Class is “John Hughes does Hogwarts for criminals.” And on its own, that’s kind of a little too on the nose, right? But, hell, I gave it a shot. And it grabbed a hold of my brain’s testicles and hasn’t let go yet. Cause that pitch is just the window-dressing, awesome though it may be. This is a book about growing up in the 80s and all your teen angst is right. Your government is led by a shithead ex-actor with shenanigans aplenty that by the present time have really come back to bite us in the ass. We were right. They WERE assholes. It’s about that frustration of knowing the powers that be are, in fact, horrible human beings and what can you fucking do about it? You’re a kid!
The central character’s main goal is the assassination of Ronald Reagan. See, the John Hughes comparison is bullshit. Yeah, it’s school kid outcasts in the 80s, but this isn’t the sanitized (and weirdly pro-rape) stuff where it all works out in the end. This is actual punk rock, boomers already up their own asses, fuck you 80s. And it is glorious. Though the kids are mostly children of crime families throughout the world, they translate perfectly to the social deathtrap that teenage politics can be. Every move seems fraught with emotional peril. Every heartbreak monumental. All in all it is a tasty cocktail of hash and stolen beers that does my brain right.
And if I, in depressingly deeper ways every week it seems, can connect with the righteous outrage of Deadly Class, then count Southern Bastards even moreso. The two Jasons have talked at length about how it is an ode to all they love and hate about the south. I don’t know if eastern Kentucky counts as southern, truly, but Appalachia is kind of like the south, let’s be honest. I grew up in Ashland, Kentucky (now three years in a row the official Most Miserable City in America and Most Obese City in America) (I did not make that up sadface) and I left at 18 and have spent the subsequent 18 years here in New York, thirteen of it in Brooklyn. I got the hell out and never really looked back.
The south can be an infuriating place. The plague of obvious racism in the news lately isn’t news to anyone that grew up down there. It’s an ugly truth. (This is not to say the north is not racist. It absolutely is, people just work harder not to seem like it.) Almost everyone you know has bought into right wing bullshit because of fear, misinterpreted religion, and the fact that most of the folks with the power keep feeding them the same lines. Kentucky specifically has been in the news lately, for some gross reasons. Apparently it’s one of the most corrupt state governments. And some literalist nuts are making a giant Noah’s Ark theme park and they might even be tax exempt, despite being disprovable creationist horseshit.
The south just rips your soul up and spreads it across the fields. BUT there is so much beauty to it, too. The culture, the music, the food …rich and amazing. And despite all the bullshit I mentioned above, it is filled with wonderful people. It’s a frustrating problem.
Southern Bastards knows all of this. I’m not going to go into plot too much. A man goes back to his hometown to deal with his late father’s stuff, and he can’t wait to get out. It’s exactly as shitty as he remembered. But then other things happen. That’s all you’re getting out of me. It’s another great example of pulpy, grindhousey genre work being used to explore something personal while allowing it to be equally mythic and grounded.
Both series have their first trade out now and have only had one or two issues out since, so they’re easy to catch up on. I recommend the heck out of them.
So, at least from my perspective, comics ARE good these days. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED and with relatively little torture.
Hey, folks. It’s me again. The sharp-minded among you may recognize me as that guy that posts extremely rarely, except when he has an idea for a project that he eventually lets languish. Well, one reason I so often lose time for posting is my job. I teach public school in the poorest neighborhood in Brooklyn and have for the past decade-plus. I’m still at the same school, but this year I was offered and opporllenge (opportunity + challenge, duh). I’m teaching eighth grade ELA (English Language Arts (reading and writing)). So far it’s actually been excellent. I’ve never taught this age group before and while the challenges are certainly different from the young ones, the rewards are pretty great.
However, the biggest problem in getting these kids to be life-long self-motivated readers is the classroom library. This is probably the best classroom library I’ve ever inherited, but it’s hardly flawless. Motivation is the key missing factor in a lot of these kids’ reading lives. I did an interest survey among all three classes and found that even the kids who say they hate reading had topics they wanted to read about, or, more on-point for this site, methods of media presentation: comics.
My school literally has no money for books. We can’t even hire subs when someone is absent. It’s rough. There’s donorschoose.org which is a great site I’ve used before, but the reading material is centered on younger kids.
So I went to Amazon and started a wish list for the class. It’s got all the sorts of books the kids want: comics, stories of realistic problems and relationship drama, social issues, action stories, etc. So.
I know I’m not around much but I’m going to link to that wish list. If anyone has a few dollars lying around, buy us a book or two. Heck, buy the comics (lots of “normals” are buying the non-comics). Brighten these kids’ futures by showing them it is possible to enjoy reading when it isn’t the fifteenth time you read that Encyclopedia Brown book. I’ll be adding to an altering this list as the year goes on to fulfill whatever needs we have at that point.
Many thanks to Brian and the CSBG crew for allowing me to panhandle like this. I promise to write something actually about comics soon. (Or not …if you’d prefer me to keep my trap shut.)
WHAT?!?!? I’m back already?!?!? This is momentous folks. Not only do I have content for you two weeks straight for the first time EVER, we have our first returnee-review. Alex, from our first-ever column/outing, did not let a mediocre war comic strip him of his comic book lusts. He came back for more, and like a man on a wonderful rebound, found something sexier, dirtier, and better. This is a man with tenacity; this is a man of true grit and determination. This is a man holding a big cock proudly. (This is also a man deeply shaming me in Words with Friends.) Take it away!
Reviewed today: Annihilators Volume 1 and Prophet #21
Back again, ladies and gentlefolk. Hope all is well. This week we have a slight change of pace. Today we’ve got two readers again, but both of these have some proper previous comics experience. On our most recent outing, we were joined not only by comic book novices, but by some other folks, as well. First off we have Frequent CSBG commenter and all-around dude-of-words, Michael P. Take it away, Mike!
Hello, and welcome back, sports fans. My of-uncertain-regularity posting of the reviews by “normals” of comics continues. I was away on an incredibly nerdy Weezer cruise a couple weeks ago, and my brain and body took until this week to recover from the nautical debauchery. There is a slight chance I am married to someone in Mexico; remind me to look into that.
But even if I wasn’t in international waters (where anything is fair game, you know), I would not have been able to post because my beloved, dear friends, are not always easy to prod into action. But today the lovely Nicole B sent in her review AND thoughts on the superhero floppy we’re still going to have a round-table for (spoiler alert: thought confusing at first, she ended up really enjoying it and wanting the next issues …this, I believe, is good news). Anyway, take it away, Nicky B, with Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Lost at Sea.
Welcome back this grand experiment wherein we look for answers to some seminal questions: “What happens when you take normals to a comic book store?” “What hidden nerdy desires do we all hide deep within the recesses of our hearts (or on our t-shirts)?” and of course, “How difficult is it to wrangle a group of busy people during the months often used for vacationing?” The answer to that last one is “real difficult.” (Did you know there are people who use their weekends to go to the top of a mountain and then go down the mountain, piece by piece, on wooden things? This sounds like science fiction, but they call it “snowboarding,” and it apparently only sounds like torture.) Continue Reading »
I was sitting in a shithole of a Manhattan dive bar once frequented mostly by collegiate assholes and now simply by assholes. It was the sort of place not even I drank from the taps, so the Abita was from the bottle. To make matters worse, they had thrown some blow-out of a party the night before, depleting the bar of all bourbon while adding to the overall stench. Tequila it was to be on that cold winter’s night, notebook serving as a holder of both notes and drinks.
I was writing again. Point of fact, I was writing for Comics Should Be Good again. It had been some time, but some ideas say “fuck you” when you try to push them away, so best let them run their course. See, I really liked Kelly Thompson’s Girls Comics Project and Comics Project. I haven’t blogged much about comics in quite some time because I feel I’ve mostly said what I have to say about them. Aside from the occasional “Oh, man, that was awesome,” not much strikes me as very post-worthy. If I want to discuss comics, I’ve got gentlemen like Misters Cronin and Cox readily at my disposal.
But the thoughts of this sort of green crew of fresh-faced folks ready and willing to give comics a shot …now these were interesting to me. And I knew I had plenty of friends who had expressed interest in comics, so after talking with Kelly for a bit I decided to branch out and try a sort of “in person” version of her project. I sent out an email to a few friends here in the city to see if anyone would be interested in getting some drinks, going to a comic shop, getting more drinks (perhaps with solid food involved), and later having a conversation about the comics they picked.
So, some sort of introduction might be in order here. Hi, I’m Joe. Way back in the blogspot days, I co-founded this blog with Mr. Cronin, Mr. Cox, and some other internet pals. It was an attempt to raise the level of discourse about comics online from your usual message board “Yes it is/no it isn’t” nonsense. After a few years, I realized I was running out of things to say about comics, so I semi-retired, a reservist like the Phantom Stranger for the JLA: commenting from time to time, and very occasionally even posting.
These days I write for Here Comes a Regular, another group blog I founded with good intentions. Several of my real life friends and I wanted to talk about the drinking life as we’ve found it, sans excuses, judgments, or stereotypes. It fell apart after a while, but has been reborn as of late. For Christmas I was given a booklet of thirty coupons, each for a free beer at a different bar in Brooklyn. I’ve decided to visit at least one a week and write about the experience; not just the bar in some Yelp-review like slant, but the environment both literal and metaphorically. In other words, I’m trying to get to the bottom of what these bars mean in my own personal mythology, this complicated, tangled narrative full of double, triple, and opposing meanings.
Anyway, I guess Brian kind of liked it because he brought up the idea of having a blog crossover in the form of a MoCCA party, and I could write one of my entries, which I’ve dorkily named “Mono-lagering” (GET IT?!?!?) about the experience, then post it here at CSBG. So, anyway, without further ado, here it is. Hope you enjoy it, and feel free to check out HCAR for more of this, and a back catalog filled with other stuff.
For this party, I actually chose a Manhattan bar. I knew some attendees might be travelers, and it’s often difficult to make them realize how much better Brooklyn can be. Besides, I like the joint. King’s Head Tavern is one of those bars you find completely by random (this one because its proximity to the L train and my at-the-time-particularly-full bladder). Twenty beers on tap, a good variety, and a very good bourbon selection. There’s a back room with lots of space, shelves full of red books, some semi-pre-Raphaelite paintings, and a big-ass throne. So the place had space, was accessible, and I knew there was tasty imbibery to be had.
I’m not totally sure but I think this is him.
Dang it if this fellow does not make some nice formulas in his cells, just totally proper
Certain characters really hit home with certain readers. And certain characters really strike a nerve with a lot more people than others. I’ve been thinking for a while about this in relation to superhero comics. Captain Marvel (the real one, Billy Batson) has always been a favorite of mine. Something about him really clicked. And it was only in the past couple of years when I started thinking more seriously about comics that I began to wonder why. And I truly didn’t have a worthy answer until some post or question had me thinking about him in relation to Batman. Continue Reading »
Everyone knows that DC and Marvel superhero comics are pretty terrible these days. Even more people than everyone knows that big-time crossover events are even worse, the lowest common denominator among the lowest common denominators of comics. And who isn’t tired of the “darkening” of these comics where often evil triumphs, moral ambiguity is about as much as you can hope for, and ethical relativity rules the day. These are KNOWN THINGS in the main ways.
But, you know, this Dark Reign thing? It’s kind of awesome.
I’d not date other comic fans.
Do we really need an extra thousand things to argue about? I’ll stick with where to eat and whose parents are crazier. I don’t need to yell about the relative merits of Joe Matt vs. Johnny Ryan.
I’d have saved my anti-Crisis-on-Infinite-Earths Piece
Seriously, I can’t find that anywhere. It makes me sad. It was fucking brilliant.
I’d never have quit CSBG in the first place.
Can you imagine me with some sort of moderation ability? I would burn a swath through the comment fields like a case of mono through the popular kids in junior high. Lo, I would be feared indeed.
The Colonel writes some pulp: Here Comes a Regular (sorry, that one’s kind of self-serving)
Appropo in regards to recent conversations here, the Mindless Ones have a good piece up about the recent issue of Final Crisis (and from my birthday no less!). Theirs is a great blog worth reading often.
And Bob Temuka’s Tearoom of Despair is starting off really well. Love and Rockets and Flex Mentallo already!
So I know I don’t post here much and there are certainly folks that are glad about that. But if there are still those among you who enjoy my writing, hopefully you’ll come check out another group blog to which I was recruited. Here Comes a Regular is a blog founded by an older gentleman from somewhere down south meant to illuminate and elucidate on all aspects of drink and drinking culture. We’ve got reviews, style profiles for wines and beers, bar stories, fiction, guides and how-to’s, art, photography, everything. Drop by and check it out and I hope you enjoy it.
I’m writing under a pseudonym because of the teaching career but you can tell which one’s me pretty easily. Who else is going to name-drop Dragon magazine?
Thanks and sorry Brian!
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