Wait, What? Ep. 133: Born Before '61

 photo 2dbf736d-a049-4513-aac6-8146f61dc223_zps80e75131.jpgAs I reacall, Patti Smith shit-talked the Bizarro Movement in Just Kids, didn't she?

yes yes yes this is a real thing that was published and yes yes yes it is Steve Gerber how did you know?

After the jump, another episode of our humble little show, complete with show notes that are even more humble and, um, even more little?

0:00-4:26: A weirdly off introduction! Words are exchanged about the weather, albeit briefly.There were some Natalie Merchant/10,000 Maniacs I was going to drop here in the show notes because she sings some song where the chorus mentions the weather, right?  I owned that Maniacs record where she sings about  beat writers and I don't know why, but thinking about that now makes me wish I could travel back in time and punch myself in the face.  I mean, technically, I could just punch myself in the face right now without the time travel (and god knows, there's plenty of times where I do exactly that, most days) but it seems like it would be letting the me of the record-buying era off far too easily. 4:26-17:20: "You know what it is?  It's nature preparing us for James Spader as Ultron." And with that, we are officially off to the races!  Also covered: Variety headlines; Nextwave: Agent of Hate; Ben Stein; every Ultron story ever; and Dan Slott's interview on the Nerdist. 17:20-26:47:  This leads to us talking more specifically about Superior Spider-Man by (you guessed it) Dan Slott and various artists. 26:47-33:57: By contrast, Graeme also has a lot to say about Young Avengers #9 by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.  Graeme also is loving Wolverine and the X-Men by Jason Aaron and Nick Bradshaw (with heavy-duty spoilers at the 31:01 mark for about a minute?) 33:57-40:00: And we had positive things to say about Justice League #23 by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis and the conclusion of Trinity War. (And there are spoilers here at 35:52 until about 37:00, if you want to avoid having one of the book's big moments revealed.) 40:00-43:31: The Batman Inc. Special! Dear god, am I going to list the times for every one of these books, and also whenever we spoil an important moment in that book?  I wonder who will find my desiccated corpse in this chair? Anyway, we talk about this grab bag "epilogue" with a special shout-out to the terribly executed afterword by Grant Morrison.  What the fuck, DC -- that is basically the special shout-out (spoilers!) -- what the fuck. 43:31-55:09: The American Vampire Anthology! Adventures of Superman #4 with stunning work by Chris Weston!

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Action Comics by Scott Lobdell and Tyler Kirkham!  Superman Unchained by two unknown newcomers whose names escape me! 55:09-1:12:02: Superman related!  Jeff grabbed Superman: Phantom Zone by Steve Gerber and Gene Colan and he has mixed feelings about it.  Adoration, sure, I mean how can you not adore stuff like the image that heads up this entry but….well, there are things, and Jeff talks about them. (Oh, does he talk about them!) 1:12:02-1:25:42:  Graeme has read the latest Batwoman collection, Batwoman Vol. 3: World's Finest. And this leads to us talking about the fruits of collaboration, the current difficulty with seeing today's work as such, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, and more. 1:25:42-1:34:59:  Speaking of Jack Kirby's OMAC: One Man Army Corps:

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Jeff speed-reread all eight issues of OMAC and oh man that is glorious, glorious stuff. Since this was recorded the day after Jack Kirby's 96th birthday, we had to talk (all too briefly!) about the wonder that is the man's work. 1:34:59-1:38:03: Jeff also read the collected The End of the Fucking World by Charles Forsman, finally getting a chance to finish it many months after loving the first issue. 1:38:03-1:44:21: Jeff has read Batman 66 and walks to talk about it, and tries to instigate a bigger conversation about digital motion comics that, sadly, neither Graeme nor Jeff himself are really ready to have yet?  Oops. 1:44:21-1:53:53: This does lead us to discuss Infinity's infinite comic, which leads us to discuss recent work by Jonathan Hickman for Marvel, which leads us to discuss Matt Fraction's work for Marvel, which leads to... 1:53:53-end: Closing comments!  Ben Affleck as Batman! Scary fingers! And…scene.

Look to the skies! (By which I mean: iTunes!) Look to the skies! (By which I also mean:  our RSS feed, which is absurdly long now.  It's like the opening scrawl to Star Wars -- it just scrolls into the horizon forever, at this point.)  The candy-coated skies!  (By which I mean, uh... you are also welcome to check out the episode below, should you choose, at your leisure?)

Wait, What? Ep. 133: Born Before '61

As ever, we thank you for your kindly attention!

Wait, What? Ep. 80: Bats and Birds

Photobucket Apologies to those of you already pestered with this image on Twitter:  I thought it was worth a re-use, in no small part because I must once again plead mentis mortis (I have no doubt I'm handling this dead language so poorly, a charge of necrophilia could well be leveled), thanks to how late it is that I'm composing this and where I'm at for a variety of reasons that will probably become clear once you hear Wait, What? 81 next week.  (Hint: it's a terrifying topic Graeme and I have tackled before.)

But enough of that for now, there's a podcast to be had!  Wait, What? Ep. 80, in fact, a done-in-one of approximately two hours and twenty-five minutes in length.  Yes, you all know I can be pretty wishy-washy (I prefer the verb "to waffle," for obvious reasons) and Graeme and I both thought there were a lot of great and compelling arguments made for keeping this in one.  I do appreciate the minority views, however, and wish I could figure out a way to appease both parties (or offer some consolation for the two part crowd) .  Hopefully, I'll figure something out.

Yes, so--a done-in-one, with the first forty minutes or so being the mighty Graeme McMillan and I talking the reception to the John Carter movie, the lack of interesting Wondercon news, shelling pistachios, costume design, and conspiracy theories about bad movies.

Then, once it becomes obvious, we should maybe start in on the comics and not worry about waiting for a break, we really hit the gas, and start in on recently read comics, including The Wasteland Omnibus, reading The Flash and writing for the trades, Justice League #7 and the Shazam! back-up, Secret Avengers: The Children's Crusade, Avengers X-Sanction #4, Wolverine #303, Dominique LeVeau Voodoo Queen, Wonder Woman #7, Astonishing X-Men and Wolverine and The X-Men, and a heckuva lot more.

You interested?  Oh, come on!  All the cool kids are doing it!  Look on iTunes: iTunes is doing it!  Look right here at this entry, just below!  This entry is doing it!  Don't you want to try it?  Aw, come on!  It'll be cool:

Wait, What? Ep. 80: Bats and Birds

(See, I warned you--admittedly in debased Latin--about how braindead I was!  Nonetheless, I promise to do better next time.  And, as always, thank you for listening!)

An Essay About Essays: Jeff Looks at Casanova #7 and Phonogram #5

Now that it's my turn on the wheel of "blog until you drop" here at SC, I probably can't get away with the whole "somebody someday should write an essay about so and so" that I just dump in the lines of one of the 3700 reviews we do every week--there's really no reason I can't take the time to actually take one of those ideas and expand upon it. So rather than getting Part II of my review of last week's books (and I'm starting to worry there may be a very paltry Part II if it ever does show since my memory of last week's books has faded radically), I thought I'd try something different and look at PHONOGRAM #5 through the reflecting prism of CASANOVA #7, and vice-versa. Casanova #7 came out a few weeks ago, the last issue in the first miniseries by Matt Fraction & Gabriel Bá about a reality-hopping super-spy dealing with hilariously complex family issues, and as I recall I left a placeholder in a blog entry in the hopes I'd get around to reviewing it. Phonogram #5, which came out just last week, is the next to last issue in the miniseries by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie about a music-based magician battling to keep his self intact as a group of other music-based magicians create a perversion of the Britpop movement to which he's tied. Phonogram utilizes a fatter version of Casanova's Image Slimline format, where the writer fills the page count in back with essays about the work in front; whereas Warren Ellis (who came up with the format) invented the idea I think out of money-saving necessity, Gillen piles on all the material on top of a full twenty-two pages of story & art.

Many of my earlier complaints about Casanova centered around these back page essays from Fraction; although very enjoyable reads, these essays threatened to overwhelm and overwrite the reader's impression of the issue he'd just read. By contrast, Gillen's essays have moved from explaining references the reader might not understand to explaining plot points the reader might have missed to, ultimately, being the point of the whole exercise--Phonogram's densely coded emotional autobiography, although terrifically illustrated by McKelvie, is far more obtuse and has far less drama to it than reading Gillen write about Britpop like a man possessed, alluding at several points about a very personal emotional event from which his ideas for Phonogram--and the bitter, arch protagonist at its center--sprang.

Now, here's where I reach the branching fork in my essay and tell you a little bit about the road I'm not going to go down. On that road, I talk about DVD commentaries, opening weekend box office numbers, Newsarama and these essays. I talk about how, for better or for worse, consumers of story-driven art today consume it in a very multivalent way, as both traditional spectators and informed contemporaries; and thus there are two fantasy experiences the audience goes through simultaneously, the fantasy experience of identifying with the protagonist and experiencing the story, and the fantasy experience of identifying with the creator of the story and experiencing the story's creation. And down this road somewhere I probably suggest that whether it's a good thing or a bad thing, it's something that isn't going back in the box anytime soon, but that eventually a more complex form of criticism is going to have to emerge, one which is going to be able to ascertain the extent to which a work succeeds or fails based on the dimension in which it's working. Because the DVD commentaries and the essays presented in both Casanova and Phonogram (among all sorts of other ways in which professionals interact with fans) are already working on how the fans receive the work, and is also in some weird way part of the work itself, but is either being excluded from the criticism of the work or else included with the criticism of the work incorrectly, leading to a lot of muss and fuss and bother and frustration on the part of everyone involved.

But that's not what I'm here to talk about, unfortunately, although I needed to say all that as justification for the stuff I am going to talk about, so you know where I'm coming from and hopefully can understand why, hopefully, what I'm going to say about the essay pages in both Casanova #7 and Phonogram #5 is worth talking about, and relates to more than just the essay pages of both works.

In the text pages of Casanova #7, Fraction talks quite movingly about his wife's pregnancy and miscarriage, and the ways in which both affected the work he did in Casanova and the way he perceived the work he did in Casanova.

For example, Fraction writes about suddenly quitting his regular job with the company he helped start:

Just like that, the whole I love my job theme that Cass fought throughover these seven issues took on a new context. I saw for the first time, what I really wrote about. Cass, me, the jobs and the identities we chose to identify ourselves with...I hadn't been writing about free-spirited Cass not wanting anybody to tell him what to do...I wrote about me. I dunno, maybe a shrink could nail that from 100 meters but it sure as shit blew my mind. 

Interestingly, to my eyes, the first issue of Casanova reads to me like that, but the series comes to be overshadowed by a completely different set of themes. In fact, Casanova spends most of the arc (Fraction uses the term "album" so I'll probably use that from here on out) caught between the demands of his controlling father and his vast government organization, the evil scientist who similarly has Cass under his thumb, and Cass's own complex desires to save his family. In short, I'd say that it's not I love my job so much as here's the life of a freelancer: telling people what they want to hear while I try to figure out how to get what I need out of the situation and also provide for me and mine.

Similarly, although Gillen writes extensively about Britpop in his back pages, it's interesting to me that The Afghan Whigs pop up repeatedly. It would be interesting to me, of course, because I'm one of those guys who played Gentlemen over and over and over, listening to it with gradations of awe and dread and shame and relief. (As Gillen perfectly puts it: "If you listen to Dulli's lyrics, it's like crossing the event horizon into the black hole of the male psyche.") The Whigs were not Britpop, unless there's some weird definition of the term that allows a band from Cincinnati to be included. Rather, Gillen keeps including them because it's central to understanding the psyche of his intensely male protagonist--the re-awakening of the Goddess that the protagonist fears is symbolic of the not-quite misogyny at the core of the protagonist--but it's a topic he can barely bring himself to address in all those thousands of words about The Manic Street Preachers and Oasis and Blur and Pulp (although I'm also a huge fan of Pulp's This Is Hardcore and can see how they fit into the protagonist's psyche as well). It's not fair to put all this on Gillen as I haven't seen his last issue yet (and, to be honest, my eyes glazed over at some of his earlier text pieces) but, like Fraction in Casanova, I wonder if Phonogram is really about what Gillen thinks it's about. Phonogram reads like it's supposed to be a dense, allusion packed meditation on the way pop culture, for better or for worse, matters, but it actually reads like a comic written by someone who would rather talk about anything other than what they're really there to talk about. (And although I can't quite get a grip on what that is, it has something to do with that event horizon of the male psyche and its relationship to pop culture--something beyond the stuff we find in Nick Hornsby's High Fidelity, where the pop fanatic uses his obsessions to hide from both responsibility, his fear of responsibility and his fear of his fear of responsibility. Phonogram has something even darker at its core and I can't quite get a handle on it.)

In the Savage Critic way of things, I'd give Phonogram an OK and put Casanova #7 on the high end of Good. But in this ultra-extended "how-the-hell-does Jog-do-it?" essay, what's more important is why both books aren't Great, even though I think they (and their creators) have the potential to be. They're both starting out, these guys, and it's easy and probably preferable to attribute a lot of it to just them learning the ropes, pacing problems, newbie blues, and there's a very good chance we won't see those problems as much or again as their careers go along. But there is also the chance--and that chance makes it worth putting all those words down, I think--that they might get tangled in the nets of their own essays, interviews, websites and commentaries, and let all their proclamations blind them from what's really going on in their work, and prevent them from taking those things and refining them. Because I do think the shit you can't bring yourself to talk about is precisely the shit that's most interesting in your art (and it's in your art precisely because it's so important to you and yet you can't bring yourself to talk about it). It'll continue to come up, of course, but whether or not it may or may not become fully realized and ferociously utilized--and every piece in an artist's work has to become fully realized and ferociously utilized if the work is to make itself indelible--is another matter altogether, a matter for which any number of essay pages, commentaries of blog entries may not be able to compensate.

Whew! Okay, now that's off my chest, let's see if I can remember anything all about GHOST RIDER: TRAIL OF TEARS #2...