I'll admit to being initially wary of Poseur Ink's Side A: The Music Lover's Graphic Novel. I was afraid I'd be faced with story after story of people talking about where they were when they heard OH NOES, Kurt Cobain killed hisself (you three or four longtime readers may remember how little patience I have for Cobain Canonization). Thankfully, though, my fears were unfounded.
The book's unifying theme - the effects of music on the lives and works of the people involved - is very broad, and the creators make the most of the freedom that allows. A few stories cover some of the expected territory - teenage musical awakenings, failed attempts at rock stardom, valentines to a particularly beloved genre, etc. - while others approach the topic from unexpected directions: artistic depictions of operatic movements, discussions of the effects certain music has on the actual comic creation process, a musical biography set to its own drum beat, the lifelong search for an odd song heard in childhood, and the hellish concert experience that actually drove two women away from feminism.
Now of course, the main strength of an anthology, the breadth of material, can also be a weakness in a lot of cases, since not everything is going to be necessarily, you know, good. Again, though, Side A does a pretty reasonable job of putting any such fears to rest. The quality may vary from story to story, and certainly some entries work better than others, but there are no real clunkers, either. I may not have liked everything, per se, but at least it was all interesting. As far as I'm concerned, that's winning the battle right there. And it was all the more impressive considering how few of the contributors I had heard of prior to this book. I was familiar with Liz Greenfield from StuffSucks.com, Tod and Cory Marie Parkhill from Young American Comics, and Ben Snakepit (whose diary comic minis are also put out by YAC), but the vast majority were entirely new to me. And I'm happy to say that I'll be looking out for some of these folks in the future, particularly :Mara Sternberg, Sarah Shay, and Rachel Dukes (Dukes was also the book's editor and mastermind).
The promo copy on the back cover likens the book to a mixtape on paper*. And as anyone who has ever made or received a mixtape can tell you, it's an incredibly tricky thing to do well, and for better or worse, it can definitely influence your opinion of the person who made it. Well, Side A: The Music Lovers Graphic Novel is a good mixtape, and you'd do well to get to know the people behind it a little better.
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review.
*Sigh... I miss mixtapes. CD-Rs and iPod playlists just aren't even in the same galaxy.
I was thinking about music in comics the other day, thanks to a book I'm in the midst of reading for an upcoming review. And I know that this is no great epiphany, but it struck me as strange that for all the bands and performers we've seen depicted in the funny books over the years, we very rarely get an idea of what they're supposed to sound like.* But until they start putting sound chips in comics (and please, Comic Book Industry, feel free to avoid doing that at all costs), we have to derive our idea of the sound from visual cues - the look of the band, the people in the audience, the font the song lyrics are printed in, and so forth. And I don't know why, but I'm fascinated by the whole idea of having to hypothesize conclusions in the absence of the one sense that would firmly establish the facts.
So here are a handful of musicians/bands I've read about in comics over the years, and what the visual cues lead me to believe they'd actually sound like if they were real. And we'll start with the most obvious:
Dazzler - Be-skated mutant singer. Clearly light opera. The disco thing? That just pays the bills. Seriously though, I kinda always imagined she sounded a bit like Yvonne Elliman (Saturday Night Fever Yvonne, not Jesus Christ Superstar Yvonne).
Rick Jones - Every Marvel hero's BFF. To this day, Rick is still firmly stuck in the 70s. His dream gig would be playing sidekick not to another superhero, but instead to Peter Frampton, I'm sure.
Lila Cheney - From various X-books. The big hair, the vests, the flying-V guitar... I'm thinking Joan Jett or Lita Ford. She definitely got her start in 616's version of the Runaways (no, not those Runaways).
Cats Laughing - Kitty Pryde's favorite band in Excalibur, IIRC. Looked sort of folk rocksy, and the lead singer was supposed to be an author, too, so I'm thinking somwhere between Edie Brickell and early 10,000 Maniacs. UPDATED - Commenter Matthew E tells me that Cats Laughing was, in fact, a real live band with actual people in it and everything. I couldn't find any song snippets online, but the Wikipedia entry informs me that my folk rock guess was pretty much on the money. So I've got that going for me, which is nice.
Great Frog - Speedy's band. Psychedelic rock, but probably with an anti-drug message. Probably toured high schools as part of the "motivational assembly that makes kids actually wish they were in Algebra class" circuit.
Scare Tactics - From the book of the same name. I'm thinking either The Misfits if they had ever appeared on Scooby Doo, or else maybe "Phantom of the Park" era KISS.
YEAH! - From the Peter Bagge/Gilbert Hernandez book of the same name. I'm thinking a lo-fi cuddlecore type of sound, a la Gaze or Cub, but with more spacey elements to appeal to their alien audience. Either that or the "...in Outer Space" season of Josie & the Pussycats.
Riot Grrls - This all-girl punk band appeared in early 90s Superman books, and I think Jimmy Olsen dated one of the band members. And one of 'em was a vampire, I think. Maybe the one Jimmy dated, I don't remember (it'd make sense, though). Anyhoo, they probably sound like what the Superman editorial folks thought angry girl punk sounded like (Really watered-down Bikini Kill? Bland Sleater-Kinney wannabe? U Decide!).
That Griffin Guy They Always Talked About in Strangers in Paradise - Strives for Morrissey, maybe reaches the level of a James Blunt. Maybe.
Sex Bob-omb - Scott Pilgrim's band. Can you describe what is probably Pure, Unrefined Awesomeness with mere words? Well, okay, you probably can - and I think those words would be along the lines of "kinda New Pornographers-y" - but whatever the case, almost assuredly the greatest comic book band ever.
This list is nowhere near exhaustive, obviously, and there's a lot of stuff left out because I either can't remember them right now, or I just haven't read their books yet (like the band from Garage Band, or the Amazing Joy Buzzards). But these are my guesses. Feel free to add your own, either on any of the above or on your own suggestions.
*There are exceptions, obviously. We know what The Archies and Josie & the Pussycats sound like thanks to their cartoons and the albums "they" released. And of course, a large number of real musicians have appeared in comics over the years (KISS, Alice Cooper, Kid 'n Play, New Kids on the Block, and just about everyone in between).
The Photoshoppery was poor, but I stand by the concept, meant as a loving tribute to everyone's favorite blogging bovine (and inspired by the Magneto shirts seen in Grant Morrison's New X-Men and the Bully shirt seen in Church & Birdie's The Rack). Feel free to adapt and improve as necessary.
All Star Batman #6 – I said this way back when this was originally solicited in 1802, but I really dig this cover. It ties into my whole Yvonne Craig-fueled thing for cute depictions of Batgirl. And who knew Frank Miller could even do cute?
Brave and the Bold #5 – Like having the Legion as drawn by Perez in this issue wasn’t enough to make me wanna buy it, anyway, it looks like Batman is wearing a flight ring on the cover. That might well qualify as a "f--- yeah!" image if ever I saw one.
Green Lantern Corps #14 – Looks like it crosses over into the whole Sinestro Corps story in the regular GL book... I hope the latter isn't required to understand what's going on in the former, because I’m not interested, thanks( I like to keep my GL reading as Hal-free as possible). I hope we get the cover-promised Soranik Natu vs. Sinestro fight, though.
Justice Society of
The Spirit #8 – This is still the best book DC publishes that isn’t called All Star Superman. Just wanted to remind everyone.
Supergirl and the LSH #32 – That solicit is a little spoilery, don't you think? Razzafrazzapart2… Anyway, that aside, it sounds good. Not as good as the stuff Christopher Bird is pitching to the world, but it’ll do for now.
Tangent Comics Vol. 1 – It’s kinda cool to see this get traded – I guess Ion was good for something after all – but it doesn’t seem to contain the first Joker book, or Secret Six, which along with Green Lantern were my favorites from the first batch of Tangent titles. The “Volume 1” leads me to believe we’ll see the rest collected over time, which is cool, but that $20 price point is steep for books you can still find in dollar (or cheaper) bins.
Unbelievably Ugly and Frightening to Small Children and Animals Supergirl Vinyl Statue - What the holy hell is up with this thing? Just when you think they couldn't mess that poor girl up any more. Ugh. And why is it vinyl? Is it easier to clean, um, fluids off of vinyl than ceramic?
Avengers Classic #2 - I personally need a monthly Avengers reprint book like I need a fourth arm (three are just fine, thanks), but it's kinda cool that it's out there, since I sometimes sort of miss all the various Marvel reprint books of yore (Marvel Tales, Marvel's Greatest Comics, Marvel's Merely Passable Comics, etc.). Another excellent Art Adams cover, though. Release a comic of his covers and I'd actually consider it.
The Champions #1 - Mighty Avengers #1 taught me that post-Civil War mainstream Marvel isn't really for me. And given the lineage of this particular team name, well there's strike 2. But the concept sounds surprisingly interesting, I liked Kitson's work on Legion, and I'm super-interested in Matt Fraction's work after hearing his great Comic Geek Speak interview a month or two back. So despite initial misgivings, I may have to give this a shot.
Giant Size Marvel Adventures Avengers # 1 - Okay, I will actually quote the solicitation copy on this one: "Remember your history–The Avengers didn't thaw out Captain America, and Kang the Conqueror became Master of the World throughout all time. To make a brighter future, our heroes have to go to the 1950's and enlist the help of The Agents of ATLAS! Plus extras!"
How am I ever going to switch to the digests on on this book if they keep doing stories I want to read immediately? I'll try and hold back, but it'll be difficult, Oh, well played, House of Ideas... well played.
New Avengers Illuminati 4 - So Grant Morrison's Marvel Boy is 616 continuity again? I thought that was later written off as the unofficial first Ultimate book, or that it was just a generic alternate Marvel universe or something. Was I imagining all that?
New Avengers/Transformers #1 - I'm also ashamed to admit it, because I'm not a big fan of either party involved in this particular equation, but this sounds way more fun then it should. I think they had me at "the Decepticons and Dr, Doom." Definitely a wait for the trade - or better yet, convention dollar boxes - though.
Super-Villain Team-Up / MODOK's 11 # 1 - Sweet Jebus, this couldn't sound any more perfect if they tried. I should really wait for the trade, but if it's a small enough month otherwise, I may have to pick this up.
Thor #1 - With JMS at the helm, I have nothing but trepidation about this book. However, I do like the Olivier Coipel cover. Kinda generic, but well-designed. I dig the new armor, which is reminiscent of both the original Kirby costume and the Simonson-era armored suit, but still original and snappy.
Devil Dinosaur Omnibus - Really? I mean, really really? I like it and all - it's Kirby at his "I just don't care if it's even remotely coherent at this point" best - but I think it'd be better off in paperback like the 70s Black Panther series. At least they're not charging Eternals price for it, I guess.
Immortal Iron Fist Vol. 1: The Last Iron Fist Story - Well, I'm glad that this exists, since I liked the first issue but found the ad placement to be so awful as to interrupt the story flow. So like many others, I decided I'd pick it up once it got collected. I was hoping for a trade paperback, though, and not a "premiere hardcover." But then again, the $19.99 price point is only a buck or two more than they'll probably charge for the eventual trade, so it all comes down to finance and patience, I guess. If DCBS makes this a 50% off item, it may be too hard to pass up.
Invaders Classic Vol. 1 - While it's cool that they're also including the Liberty Legion story from Marvel Premiere, I see no reason why this shouldn't have been an Essential instead.
Captain America: War & Remembrance - It's excellent that they're bringing this back in print, since the too-brief Stern/Byrne run is my favorite Cap era ever (Sorry Gruenwald run, I loves ya and all, but, you know, Cap Wolf. And Superia Stratagem. And the one where Cap gets hopped up on Ice.). Glad I picked this up the first time around, when it only cost half as much (and I think I picked this up at a con, too, so I think it actually ended up costing a quarter as much).
I'll give this much to Fox... just when you think that they couldn't possibly dig themselves any deeper, they go and get a stronger shovel.
From Annie, who got it from Jeremy, who got it from Jim, and so on down the line to, I believe, the Biblical Abraham (though I can't be certain), it's the Hatred Meme! Because who likes someone who's positive all the time?
YOUR MOST DISLIKED...
CANDY: Black licorice. It tastes like artificially sweetened bile, like you’ve just binged and purged a whole pound of Equal or something.
BEVERAGE: Grapefruit juice. It lures you in with it’s orange juicy appearance, and then pimp smacks your taste buds with awfulness.
COLOR: Barbie pink. I used to work at Toys R Us, and the Barbie aisle was always the worst. And it wasn’t the little girls, either; it was the menopausal Barbie collectors that always made it a miserable experience. Hardcore action figure collectors care a lot about package condition, but the Barbie ladies make them seem merely a little fussy. I hate them, therefore I hate the color that represents them.
MOVIE: Strictly Ballroom. I hate dancing movies. I hate bad romantic comedies that aren’t funny and feature characters I can’t even respect, much less bring myself to care about. So while there are very probably movies that are worse, this represents the Alpha and Omega of full-on movie hatred for me.
ANIMAL: The pit bull down the street that keeps getting into my garbage and growls at me menacingly in my own yard. I’m generally a peaceful, easy-going guy, but I wish nothing but bad things on that beast. I will throw a party when it’s dead.
INSECT: Spiders, centipedes, and those fat worms that look like green dryer tubing.
BIRD: Pigeons and seagulls, because they try to either steal your food or crap on it, and any bird that thinks 5 a.m. is an alright time to sing loudly outside my window.
SEASON: I really don’t like extreme heat or cold, so I could do without most of both summer and winter. Perpetual spring and fall would be pretty awesome.
AGE OF KIDS: Kids can be crappy at most any age, actually. So don’t just hate the kids, hate the terrible parents who raised them to believe it’s acceptable to act like a total ass pretty much all of the time.
ANNOYS YOU MORE THAN ANYTHING WHEN…
DRIVING: Learn to merge properly, humanity! It works like a zipper… everyone lets one person in, and it all flows together smoothly. Also, if someone is on the side of the road for any reason whatsoever, we don’t all need to slow down (or stop completely) to gawk. Honestly, we don’t. I’m not lying about this. And tailgaters… if you’re so interested in the contents of my trunk or backseat, how about we both pull over so I can give you a proper look?
TALKING ON THE PHONE: Just about everything about the phone bugs me, truthfully.
WHILE WATCHING TV OR MOVIES: Stop asking me questions about what’s going to happen. Isn’t that why you’re watching the movie, to find out what happens? Just let it play out and leave me alone!
EATING IN RESTAURANTS: Dear Waiter or Waitress, please check back on me every so often to make sure everything’s alright, and let the refills flow with reckless abandon. I know you have a lot of people to keep track of, but your tip depends on my happiness, and I’m the sort of guy who will tip well for good service even if I’m not terribly psyched about the food.
DRIVE-THRUS: I prefer to have actual human contact when ordering food. Also, it’s easier to correct any mistakes in person than having to drive back around or stop and go inside anyway. Plus, if we’re talking about someplace like Dunkin Donuts, I like to go in and see the selection available to me rather than just guessing what’s available.
SLEEPING: I get so little, and it’s been that way for as long as I remember, even before parenthood. A good night for me is waking up less than 5 times. I’ve had maybe a dozen really excellent nights of sleep since, oh, 1983 or so, and I wish I could do something to change that.
SHOWERING: The hot water in our house is painfully inconsistent. I get a really good shower once a week, maybe twice if I’m very fortunate. The rest of the time, it’s a minute or two of hot water, a minute of lukewarm, and five minutes of me threatening to destroy every piece of plumbing in the house if it doesn’t warm up again damn soon.
YOU'RE AT THE BEACH: See, that’s the problem right there. I really dislike the beach and just about everything about it.
YOU'RE AT THE GROCERY STORE: I realize the aisles are small, and people are going to occasionally going to block each other. But you know what? Those Emeril Lagasse marinades aren’t going to go anywhere if you divert your gaze long enough to let me by. I promise you.
YOU'RE ON A DATE: I don’t think I’ve ever been on a date without already being involved with the person I’m on the date with. I never did the thing you’d always see on The Brady Bunch or whatever, where people go on dates for awhile and then get together after deciding they liked each other. It was always sort of a period of just hanging out with a girl, then sloppy, awkward make-outs, and then we’d actually go places that required money and/or planning. That’s more or less the way everyone else I knew operated, too. Do people go on for-real dates anymore?
COOKING OR BAKING: I’m pretty terrible with knives, and I’ve got a couple of fun scars on my fingers to prove it, so although I enjoy both cooking and baking, I farm out the chopping whenever possible.
WHAT HOUSEHOLD CHORE DO YOU DISLIKE THE MOST: Scrubbing the tub and shower. Way more effort then it’s ever worth, since you could use a sandblaster and never get it completely clean.
WHAT WOULD BE THE
WHAT'S MOST ANNOYING IN OTHERS? The way a lot of folks these days will make you listen to their opinions on anything and everything, but will shout you down and declare you to be wrong the second they disagree with anything you say. I listened patiently to your rambling, hateful diatribe, asshat, now you have to listen to me actually make some sense.
MOST IRRITATING THING ABOUT YOUR CAR/TRUCK? Nope. Not going there. I’ve had enough trouble with the thing. I’m not gonna jinx myself.
TO BE COMPLETELY STEREOTYPICAL, WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST ANNOYING THING ABOUT GIRLS? The whole bad boy fixation is pretty annoying. If he treats the rest of the world like crap, ladies, he’s not “different” with you. You’re either too blind or dumb to see it. And yes, he’s cheating on you, probably with a friend of yours, and they’re both laughing at you because of it.
TO BE COMPLETELY STEREOTYPICAL, WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST ANNOYING THING ABOUT GUYS? I hate that everything eventually turns into some sort of stupid contest. There are some aspects of life that don’t revolve around competition of any variety at all. And the way a lot of them think the only way to get a girl’s attention is to make the other guys around look bad in comparison. A lot of guys pull that one, and it seems to work a lot of the time. Which actually always made things a little easier, come to think of it, as I was never impressed by the sort of girl that this “lesser of two evils” approach works on, since they usually fall into the category I outlined in the last question.
WHAT/WHO IS ANNOYING YOU TODAY? The people who think that $230,000 is a completely acceptable price for a small, 3 bedroom house in
Mart Tatulli's relatively new strip Lio is one of the few comic strips in the Sunday paper I actually still bother to read these days (Get Fuzzy, Red and Rover, and Spider-Man being the others, though Spidey isn't ever particularly good; too bad we don't get Pearls Before Swine). It's usually pretty clever, but this strip, from a few weeks back, brushes up against the genius level... one of the best intra-comics parody strips I've ever seen.
I mean, honestly, Lynn Johnston is about the only person in the world who seems to think that Anthony yutz is an alright guy.
Sketch done on the Foreword page of The Complete Bone Adventures Vol. 1, which was the original Bone trade paperback collection. I think Smith published the first two collections under this title/format before moving temporarily moving the book to Image and drastically changing the trade dress (for the better, I might add). Not that you care, but there you go.
Incidentally, this sketch and signature wasn't acquired in person, nor did I know they were in the book when I bought it. One of life's happy accidents.
So I was wondering… when did the people who make The Batman cartoon decide to start making it, you know, good?
I tried watching it when it first came out and really didn’t like what I saw. I mean, I knew it probably wouldn’t be able to hold a candle to the 90s Batman cartoon – which wasn’t just the best Batman cartoon ever, but the best Batman anything ever – so I tried to take that out of the equation, but even still, it just wasn’t very good. Terrible villain re-designs (dreadlocked Joker and Goth Riddler, I’m looking at you), boring supporting characters, lame plots … besides the catchy theme song and the admittedly cool designs for Batman himself and the various bits of Bat-tech, it just didn’t have much going for it.
So flash forward to a few years later, and I hear they’re introducing Robin into the show, and it’s on right after Legion of Super Heroes which I’m already watching anyway, so I figured I’d give it another shot. And it was good. Surprisingly so, in fact. Still not BTAS good, but quite fun in its own way (and the Paul Dini-penned episode that introduced Harley Quinn to this particular continuity was a blast). And having now caught re-runs from at least a season or two back (whenever they brought Batgirl into the mix), it looks like it’s been pretty good for awhile now. And I think the secret is this: it actually looks like a Batman cartoon. The earlier episodes I saw had a whole slew of created-for-show characters and situations, as well as a whole “the GCPD think Batman’s an outlaw, too, and one of the cops assigned to bring him in is Bruce’s friend, OH NOES!” subplot that just didn’t work. But it looks like they quickly wised up, and brought in stuff like Commissioner Gordon, the Bat-signal, Batgirl, Robin… you know, stuff that’s gonna make a Batman show actually be a Batman show, not just Jackie Chan Adventures in a cape.
Long story short: I dig it, more than I ever thought I could, and I’m glad I gave it a second chance. I still hate Riddler-as-Hot-Topic-regular, though.
Speaking of TV shows… in a matter of weeks, we’re going to get the third Spider-Man movie, and shortly after that, the second Fantastic Four movie. It seems to me that there’s quite a bit of tie-in money to be made there, so why hasn’t anyone ever got around to releasing the countless hours of TV devoted to these characters on DVD yet? The 60s Spider-Man cartoon got a much-deserved DVD release a few years back, but where’s Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends? Or the syndicated series that ran right around the same time? Or complete season sets of the Fox cartoon? Or even – and I realize I may well be the only person asking for this – a complete set of the live-action show with Nicholas Hammond?
And where’s the Hanna-Barbera Fantastic Four cartoon? There might be rights issues here – Marvel owns the FF, but Time-Warner probably owns the show itself, sort of like the Time-Warner/Fox fooferaw over the Batman show – but clear that up and cash in already, people! And the 80s show with HERBIE the robot… not great, but it had its moments, and it should see the light of day again. Hell, you could probably find someone willing to buy the Thing cartoon with the teenage Benjy Grimm and his magic rings (“Thing rings, do your thing!”) if you look hard enough.
Maybe it’s just me, but this all seems like no-brainer stuff.
I know, it's only week 2. There's a lot of season left to go. But this still makes me feel a little better about things. Foolishly, perhaps, but there you go. Even in this Post-Curse universe, Red Sox Nation is one giant teeter-totter.
This may never come to pass, but it really should. Please, God, please let Christopher Bird write the Legion of Super-Heroes.
John August, screenwriter for the Captain Marvel (Shazam) movie, on the sort of material he's not consulting for his script: (via)
Why I’m not including the vintage collections
DC publishes hardcover anthologies that gather up decades’ worth of Captain Marvel comics. If I were writing a dissertation on the evolution of the Captain Marvel character, these would be invaluable. But I’m not. So every time I read one of these, I’m struck with the same realization I encounter trying to watch The Honeymooners or a black-and-white movie: Wow. Old things suck.
I'll refrain from playing the Fanboy Entitlement Card on this for fear of sounding like those people who protest every change in the Transformers movie ("What do you mean Hugo Weaving's voicing Megatron? Waaaaaaah!"*), but the "Wow. Old things suck." thing will earn him a vigorous beating about the head and neck when I reshape reality to my own whims. The only person I let get away with that sort of attitude is my wife, and that's only because she's really, really cute.
Robbery and jaywalking. Joker's as evil as they come, huh?
*Seriously, Transformers fans, get over this. Weaving will do an awesome job, and it's not like Frank Welker will ever hurt for more voice-over work. The man's been working since the 60s. His IMDB page lists nearly 550 individual acting and V/O credits. He probably lives a very comfortable life in a very nice house. Weep not for Frank Welker.
Don't get me wrong, I'm always happy when an underdog team can turn things around and actually be competitive. It's good for the team itself, and it's good for baseball as a whole. And if the early scuttle is to be believed, the Kansas City Royals might not be perpetual basement dwellers this year. And I legitimately hope they do well!
But not against my team, and not on Opening Day! *Sob.*