"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Film, Comic Books
From the moment I first saw it as a child, the 1946 Powell and Pressburger film A Matter of Life and Death (or Stairway to Heaven as it was called in America) instilled in me a strange fascination with death. Not in the morbid sense, but with the logistics that would inevitably be a part of any agency burdened with the organization of life after death. In A Matter of Life and Death, a WWII pilot whose plane goes down is lost in the fog and the agents of heaven miss picking him up when he should have died, so he goes on living for a little while. In that time he meets an American woman and they fall in love, when the heavenly agents come to claim him he argues that now two lives will be ruined which would otherwise never have intersected. The issue is deemed complex enough to warrant a trial, one adjudicated and witnessed by the massed ranks of the dead residing in heaven. The sheer enormity of the bureaucracy involved in this one lost death is only hinted at, but the scope of it is quite fascinating.
When I read Si Spurrier and PJ Holden’s Numbercruncher I knew that I’d finally found someone just as enthralled by the administration and inhuman efficiency set forth in A Matter of Life and Death. Numbercruncher presents a story about a man so in love that he is willing to sell his soul in order to get another chance at life with his beloved. As is so often the case in these situations it doesn’t quite work out that simply. However, in a radical and refreshing departure from the norm this story is not presented from the point of view of our lovestruck young man, but instead from the perspective of the beleaguered administrative “angel” who is assigned to his case. This miserably reluctant employee of the afterlife is descriptively named “Bastard Zane” (which tells you nearly everything you need to know about this frustrated thug). Continue Reading »
This weekend I attended Printed Matter’s LA Art Book Fair. While I was curious to see what it would offer, I didn’t have very clear (or high) expectations. A few comic book creators and stores had tweeted that they would be there so I hoped that there might be something interesting to me. As it turned out the show was packed with fascinating works and people who love books and comic books as much as me.
If you took your lessons from TV, (where people are depicted in broad generalizations), then all nerds (or geeks, whatever you want to call the people who like the type of things we like) are part of one giant group. Apparently we all go to Comic-Con, we all dress up in costumes, we all read comic books, we all love science fiction, we all play endless games, we all play D&D, we all love Lord of the Rings movies, etc… But it isn’t true. Some of us like some of those things and some of us definitely do not like some of them.
In contrast to this strange media depiction of one giant, inclusive community of nerds, in many circles there is a pretty exclusionary attitude towards the other circles of fandom. While it isn’t very extreme (there aren’t Warriors or West Side Story style confrontation going on at conventions between Doctor Who fans and Game of Thrones fans… even though that would be very entertaining) there is a fair amount of animosity. One group will often have little or no understanding of what the other groups are into, and we can find it quite insulting to be lumped into one amorphous “nerd” banner. This kind of division can seem random from the outside, but it is nothing new, and certainly isn’t isolated to our culture of fandom. It has always existed within politics, religion, sexuality, etc. People like to be acknowledged for their unique features, not randomly labeled in ways they do not identify.
The name Drew Struzan might not be a household one, but if you saw an American movie in the last few decades then you’re probably very familiar with the work of Drew Struzan. Star Wars, Back to the Future, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Blade Runner, Big Trouble in Little China, The Thing… the list goes on an on.
As a film poster artist in the ’70’s and ’80’s, Struzan’s work subliminally informed everything many of us would grow to associate with adventure and excitement in movies. Without even realizing that we were seeing the world through his eyes, his ubiquitous movie posters embodied the most exhilarating films we grew up with. His style is intrinsically associated to a specific type and quality of movie. Today Struzan’s skills continue to be utilized by savvy film makers like George Lucas and Guillermo Del Toro to brand and market their films, lending them a language of fun and daring which is synonymous with Struzan’s work. Continue Reading »
Here are the results of the survey I posted last week. Thank you for all of your help and input, the next survey will be coming soon…
(Click the image below to view a larger version.)
Happy new year! It’s time for the first survey of 2014 and this time I want to know if you gave or got any comic book gifts. There are only 8 questions, (and then for each “yes” there are a couple of questions about whether the gift worked or not). You’ll see, it’s pretty basic and should only take about a minute to fill out.
The survey closes at the end of the day on Tuesday the 7th of January (in 6 days) so that there is time to collect the results and design an infographic based on them. (Check out previous infographics based on reader surveys here and here.)
It’d be great to find out how many of us are spreading and getting the comic book love, so please share this with as many people as you can.
Here is a link to the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FB2BR37
Since it’s Christmas (whether celebrating it or not) I thought I’d forego my usual Wednesday column for something to do instead. So here are five snowflake templates to print and cut out, each based on a different superhero; Batman, Storm (I used her old headdress, who knows if she’s still wearing that), Iron Man (both the old circular chest reactor and the triangular one incorporated), Wonder Woman, and the Punisher (I wanted to make the knives serrated, but my paper was too thick and it was too fiddly).
Jeet Heer’s delightful little book about Françoise Mouly’s journey from comic book-loving girlhood through to editor of The New Yorker is absolutely marvelous. It’s such a fun, easy read that I had to forcibly slow myself down so that I could savor it, and the only complaint I really have about the book is that I wish it were longer, because I would love to have read more anecdotes about all of the adventures Mouly had on her path to publishing.
Working with Brad Simpson over the last couple of years has allowed me to see the diversity of his coloring choices, most recently on Sex and Gødland (the finale of which is out today), and he has gradually transformed my own personal preference for black and white comic books. Previously I thought that black and white comic books were always superior, with a more stark and aggressive look than the messily colored art I associated with comic books.
Luckily, designing comic books with Simpson has allowed me to see his tremendous capacity to transform and create a broad range of moods and environments. He uses color as a storytelling tool and it has enhanced my enjoyment of the books he works on, as well as my interest in bolder, more directional color palettes in my own design work. Brad agreed to answer a few questions about his work for us.
I was surprised today when an outspoken friend expressed embarrassment about liking something. I suppose I’m so used to people openly lambasting the comic books, movies and TV shows which they don’t like, that I didn’t know that they felt inhibited to share their positive opinions. Personally I like all kinds of ridiculous things and I’m used to people laughing at me for it (if you read this column you’re probably used to me agreeing that comic books or movies are flawed and still finding a way to enjoy them). I hope that you feel comfortable to come out and share your joy, no matter how ridiculous or dorky it might feel… after all, there was a time when everything comic book-related was deemed embarrassing and we were all in this together.
This being the day before Thanksgiving, you’re all going to be far too busy to read this today and so I’m going to write whatever I feel like (even more so than usual). I was brought up as British and we don’t exactly celebrate losing you guys, however, I do appreciate the little pre-Xmas steam valve the holiday provides as well as the opportunity to take a moment to express gratitude for all of the good things in our lives. With that in mind, and feeling the weirdly liberating effects of knowing none of you are really looking, I’m going to give thanks for a few things that are really working for me.
Growing up, I didn’t always have access to comic books but if I looked hard enough, even the most boring adult’s book cases or magazine racks contained at least one classic book, packed full of strange illustrations. Works like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Salome, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas are still as well-known for their art as for their stories, and the writers’ words have become inextricably linked with their illustrating collaborators’ imagery. While they weren’t comic books, they used pictures to develop and enhance the stories to such an extent that they transformed them. Those drawings shaped the way the world perceives and celebrates these stories. Continue Reading »
One great thing about watching dorky, ancient reruns of The Addams Family on some forgotten TV channel at 3am is the commercials. (Aside: I’m sure it’ll come as no surprise that Morticia Addams was one of my earliest female role models.) Very few of these cheapo late night commercials are for anything very good, mostly for gadgets no one wants or needs. However, when I was decompressing from working too late and thoroughly enjoying The Addams Family in all it’s monochrome glory, I caught a commercial for the library and I suddenly realized that in over a year of living in LA I’d forgotten all about the incredible resource of the library.
As a (supposedly) lightweight medium, over the years comic books have managed to provide us with a safe space to look at some very difficult aspects of human existence. One of our most fundamental fears is death, the fear of our own and of the loss of people we love. It is tough to say which is the worst or most complicated to confront, but suffice to say that dealing with death isn’t really at the top of the list of accepted smalltalk. It is a difficult experience to broach or express, and exploring the broad range of experiences of death isn’t something we generally choose to discuss or share in our daily life. But within comic books, the mourning ritual has been dealt with in some very personal, evocative stories, often providing us with unexpected opportunities to meditate on loss and impermanence. In the instances below, (picked at random out of the many comic book funerals which have touched me), there are three very different depictions of the fall-out of loss, from the very intimate moments of mourning to the actions which spur change and growth. Continue Reading »
According to this show I’m trying to watch, S.H.I.E.L.D. is “a giant bureaucratic organization that is tracking your every move.” This is interesting, (or rather it isn’t), because we already have the NSA. This most recent comic book inspired television show is unfortunately less exciting or exhilarating than the comic book and worse – it is even more tedious than real life. Like most comic book readers, I’m constantly asked by friends and family who (meaning well) think the television and movie adaptations of superhero comics will appeal to me, operating under the assumption that this is the “kind of thing I like”. It is frustrating and embarrassing to be associated with this endless parade of mediocrity, and I’m finding it increasingly difficult not to lecture them about how little these disappointing offerings have to do with the power and potential of comic books.
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