God Save The Queen: Hibbs catches back up

I owe you reviews, and I'm stuck working on a Sunday (the first of 13 days in a row, at that!), so let's go!

The worst part, actually, is that I really don't have much to say about the last two weeks of comics -- not a lot of stuff stood out to me, good or ill, so this is going to be fairly short (I suck, I know). And, in fact, we're going to start off with something that ISN'T comics...


XXX OLYMPIC OPENING CEREMONY: Man, the Brits are kind of wacky, aren't they? OK, or maybe just Danny Boyle, but someone else had to sign off on that. In the Olympic contest for "Sheer Batshit Spectacle", that has to come pretty close, I think. If you didn't see it, here's a short precis: they showed "UK through the ages", starting with the Olympic Stadium being a bucolic English countryside, complete with milkmaids, and flocks of sheep (!), then it became the Industrial Revolution, and towering smokestacks literally erupted from the sod and soaring to the air as Kenneth Branagh (!) portrayed Abe Lincoln Isambard Kingdom Brunel in a series of vignettes about industrialism, until what looked like live molten steel formed flying rings in the sky, that became the Olympics logo. Is "barking" the correct British-ism for this?

What I loved about the whole thing was that I can't imagine that anyone actually AT the ceremony could have had the slightest idea of what was going on -- even with the television cameras doing close tight up shots, the audience at home could barely tell what was happening, how much worse must it have been in person where every seat (it looked) was rigged up with shifting lights?

Then the entire production shifted to an appreciation of (and I swear I am not making this up) the National Health Service, and I'm so so sad that we didn't have a Mitt-cam focused on Romney's face throughout this spectacular ode to socialism. In America we had Meredith Viera providing color commentary, and she, on several occasions said things like "I have no idea what this represents" -- it was a spectacular paean to ignorance! But I think she mentioned that the 10,000 (!) dancers out there were actual doctors and nurses of the NHS which is just crazy cool.

So the doctors and nurses are running around the glow-in-the-dark-yet-also-trampolines-beds of the sick children, which culminates in, and, honestly I really and truly am not making this up, and the real reason why I felt I could write this HERE, but it culminates into the end of LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: CENTURY: 2009. A giant 100 foot tall Voldemort rises up to menace the children, and is beaten back by scores of Marry Poppins flying down from the sky. He may be communing with Snake Gods, but you can't tell me now that Alan Moore isn't the UK's Single Greatest Psychic.

Then the Queen of England skydove into the stadium with James Bond.

Maybe "Barmy" is the correct word?

Bicycling doves! Sir Paul McCartney! One of the (honestly) most spectacular and over-the-top firework displays I've ever seen in my life! The end of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon! ("As a matter of fact, it's all dark" Sure, that's an Olympics theme!)

Bra-vo, England, bravo indeed -- it really isn't possible to have real life more resemble an issue of Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol, so good on you! That was EXCELLENT.



ARCHIE #635: I think I said this before: you have to give Archie props for at least trying to modernize a little, but this issue, where we learn about the "Occupy Riverdale" movement, and the street protests against the 1% (though, as Kevin Keller says: "Riverdale's always been about more than the one percent or the 99 percent -- it's about the 100 Percent! It's a safe place where everyone is welcome!"). Still, it's utterly disconcerting to see characters in an Archie comic book discussing the possibility of being TEAR GASSED. Wow. The actual arguments are.... well, they're exceedingly reductive and poorly explained, but it's an Archie comic, so you can't expect much, I guess.

I also want to say that I very much liked the art by "Gisele" -- recognizably Archie-like, but also somehow close to realistic, and genuinely dynamic in places, a little manga-y, but still sweetly cartoony. This is the nicest I've ever seen an Archie comic look, and I really do think it will appeal to a lot of readers out there. I'm actually recommending this comics: I thought it was pretty GOOD (given it's limitations as an Archie comic). If your LCS doesn't have it,  is also available on our digital store


CAPTAIN MARVEL #1:  "Ms. Marvel" was always, sadly, a pretty generic hero -- flight, strength, blasts, toughness, but nothing about her really stood out to me. Kelly Sue DeConnick's solution seems to be turning her, kinda, into Spider-Man, with the quips and all, and the script really does work well as far as keeping my interest page-to-page goes. There's two problems, that I see: first, I wasn't given any real reason to come back for issue #2. No cliff-hanger, no compelling supporting characters, no threat, no suspense. Carol's cool (and I love the new outfit), but there's no hook here.

The second problem, for me, is that I just didn't care for Dexter Soy's artwork. It looks like, hrm hrm, my first thought was "like a Comico comic" -- Matt Wagner and Bill Willingham certainly grew into being great artists, right? -- but this looks like still a few steps being ready for primetime, to me. Maybe he'll grow into the gig.

So, yeah, noble noble try, but I walked away from the comic feeling very EH.


NATIONAL COMICS: KID ETERNITY:  I have to say that I don't understand this title/initiative. I guess it gives DC a steady flow of new #1s, but with "DC Universe Presents", I don't see what market needs this fills. Maybe it's an attempt to see if Digital (since these are digital-first comics, I think? At least that's what the solicit for "NC: Looker" says, but the comiXology page says NC:KE was released at the same time, so I don't know?) can create the groundswell for the new Sensational Character Find?

I don't see it happening in print though. This isn't a home-run of a revamp. The plot plods on, the character isn't visually exciting, and it's been divorced from the "any character from history" premise to a boring old Spectre-lite police procedural. Gotta give this the thumbs down and say AWFUL.


That's it for me (told you I wasn't as motivated this week)... what did YOU think?



Wait, What? Ep. 93: Thrill Power Overboard

PhotobucketAbove: The Chocolate Waffle, which is a liege waffle covered in dark chocolate, from The Waffle Window, Portland, OR

Yup, Episode 93.  I would say more but I'm slightly overwhelmed with the amount of shite multitasking I'm currently doing (kinda dashing back and forth between two computers at opposite ends of the room at the moment, which neither makes me feel like a mad scientist or a keyboardist in Journey but just someone who is old, Internet, so terribly old).

On the other hand (and behind the jump):  show notes!

0:00-7:51: Greetings; getting schooled by Graeme on Tharg and the mascots of 2000AD and other British comics, with a half-hearted attempt by Jeff to pitch Mascot Wars [working title] 7:51-11:37:  By contrast, Jeff guiltily admits he's been reading the first volume of the Vampirella Archives 11:37-13:37:  Somehow this leads to a discussion of the fascinating copyright information found in Dynamite Books 13:37-15:51: Bless him, Jeff is not giving up so easily on his Mascot Wars idea 15:51-18:55: Jeff gripes about getting back into the routine after his Portland trip, Graeme gripes a bit about getting back into his routine after the 4th of July holiday 18:55-20:52:And so, finally, we start talking comic news--the announcement of Marvel NOW! and the launch of Monkeybrain comics. 20:52-24:35:  Graeme has a thing about the Uncanny Avengers cover and I really cannot blame him; 24:35-25:57: And since we are on the subject, Graeme has a few things to say about that Marvel NOW! image by Joe Quesada, too. 25:57-38:25: And so we talk about Monkeybrain instead, including Amelia Cole by friend of the podcast Adam Knave, Bandette by Colleen Coover and Paul Tobin, the other launch titles, and what we would like to see from the line in the future; 38:25-41:54:  Speaking of fantastic digital comics, the second issue of Double Barrel is out!  And neither of us have read it. But it is out!  And you should consider getting it.  Because it is also Top Shelf and also coming out in digital, we talk James Kochalka's American Elf. 41:54-49:57: Jeff talks about League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century: 2009. Here there be spoilers! 49:57-1:06:42:Graeme's interesting rebuttal concerns whether bad art can be forgiven if it is suitably ambitious. We have a tussle of sorts and then move on to discuss when does the creator develop that "not so fresh" feeling.  (Bonus: Graeme does a pretty great job of justifying our existence, pretty much). 1:06:42-1:15:37: Incentivizing the singles? Does it work?  Brian Wood's The Massive, Ed Brubaker's Fatale, and more discussion of the Monkeybrain publishing plan and a discussion of what works in the direct market. 1:15:37-1:29:48:  Who is stronger, Watchmen or Walking Dead?  Fight! 1:29:48-1:38:32:The possible Thief of Thieves TV show and the need to keep creating new IP for Hollywood; and when or if the Big Two will come around on that. 1:38:32-1:42:37: Uncanny Avengers.  We are a little fixated. Also, Graeme sings the ballad of Cafe Gratitude (except he doesn't sing and it's not a ballad).  And then some clever Brass Eye jokes that Graeme has to explain to Jeff.  Again. 1:42:37-1:47:36: On the other hand, Jeff did get to the comic store that week so he has that going on for him.  His quickie reviews while Graeme listens on helplessly:  Batman, Inc. #2, Fatale #6, The New Deadwardians #3 and 4; Mind MGMT #2; Prophet #26; Popeye #3 (which is awesome and must-have-ish); Tom Neely's Doppelganger; Flash #10; and Action Comics #11. 1:47:36-2:04:08: San Diego Comic Con! Graeme has two questions about it.  Crazy predictions are made and anxiety dream stories are exchanged. [brrt! brrt! David Brothers alert! brrt! brrt!]  Also, Jeff once again tries to coin the term "Nerd Vietnam" to describe SDCC. 2:04:082:09:20-: Closing comments, and a few reviews of waffles from the Waffle Window.  And then....sign off!

If you are of an iTunesian inclination, you may have already chanced upon us.  But if not, we offer you the chance to give a listen right here and now:

Wait, What?, Episode 93: Thrill Power Overboard

And as always, we hope you enjoy--and thanks for listening!

Better than never: Hibbs on 6/27

As far as I am concerned, this isn't "last week's comics" until I open the front door of the store on Wednesday!

BATMAN INCORPORATED #2:  This one is kind of a master class in communication using comics, as Morrison and Burnham basically tell you Everything You Ever Needed To Know About Talia Al'Ghul (But Forgot To Ask) in an incredibly economical, yet massively packed, 20 pages. Some pages have as many as five different scenes on the page! An absolutely EXCELLENT tour-de-force on this one.

  FUCK ALAN MOORE BEFORE WATCHMEN NITE OWL #1: Uh, wow. You know, I expected some of these would be bad, but I really never expected them to be almost a parody of the very idea of prequelling WATCHMEN.

This is just staggeringly bad: from the bizarre rapey childhood home, to the changing the original text (the worst sin of all in a project like this), to the scenes of Rorschach using-'hurm'-as-a-catchphrase ("DY-NO-MITE!"), to the cringeworthy "destiny of love" bullshit, I almost get the feeling that Staczynski thinks he is trying to make WATCHMEN "better". This comic, sadly, just reeks of hubris and shame.

I'd hoped to at least appreciate the art, but I found Joe Kubert's inks to be kind of overpowering on son Andy.

Either way, the writing just kills it here: this is everything you possibly feared a "Before WATCHMEN" comic might be.  Full-on CRAP.


FATIMA THE BLOOD SPINNERS #1: Beto is just insanely prolific, isn't he? Terrifically gory, this is a kind of perfect 70s-ish exploitation B-movie, but totally of the moment as well somehow. Gore! Horror! Large Breasts! I'm glad I live in a world where I'm going to sell more copies of this than of THOR and HULK combined, y'know? GOOD HYPERNATURALS #1 : I think this is kind of a perfect comic for you if you have a sympathy for the basic concept of Legion of Super-Heroes (Future, many heroes from many worlds), but not necessarily liked any specific execution of that concept. Or if you like the Marvel Cosmic stuff that DnA did, it's similar tonally. Extremely sturdy construction of ideas here, if not exactly brimming with truly compelling characters. I thought it was solidly GOOD. LOEG III CENTURY #3 2009:  It may be because I simply "got" more of the references and cameos, but this was vastly my favorite of the three parts of Century, and it brings everything together in a deeply satisfying way. I also find the idea of the universe being saved by **** ******* to also being oddly perfect and correct. Kevin O'Neill's art, as always, veers between the grotesque and perfectly captured. I thought this issue was pretty damn EXCELLENT.

(You can also get v1 & v2 on the Digital Store, if you wanted) PROPHET #26: With all of the people telling me they can't buy this book in their LCS, I'm more and more convinced that Image erred in renumbering from the 90s series. Without a doubt, this is the best science-fiction series being published today. And a great series got better with Brandon Graham himself drawing this issue, and kicking the concept a door open further. I admire (and get frustrated, I admit) by how this book doesn't try and spoon feed you its concepts. Really VERY GOOD stuff. OK, that's really all I have time for today, time to open to the teeming hordes (ha!) I am, seriously, going to try to get to THIS week's books before Friday and be "caught up" again. Wish me luck!


What did YOU think?



“There’s Buses Along Watling Street To London…” Comics! Sometimes they don't half muck you about a bit.

Nah, don’t get up my account, see I want a word in your shell-like. Don’t flinch, son, I just want to talk to you. Talk to you about this thing what Alan Moore wrote and Kevin O’Neill drew. Won’t take long. We've all got homes to go to. Don’t cry, be  a brave soldier. Be over before you know it… Photobucket

THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN CENTURY #2 “1969” By Alan Moore(w), Kevin O’Neill(a), Todd Klein(l) and Ben Dimagmaliw(c) Top Shelf/Knockabout Comics $9.95/£7.99  Crikey, mate! Things look proper rum as the psychedelic ‘60s spiral towards a massive downer! Can our enduring chums make everything groovy again!? Don’t freakout, Grandad, the future is sure to be far out!


It's pretty much business as usual in the world of LOEG with the latest installment. A slender plot groaning under an ungainly agglomeration of references and in-jokes, comedy, nastiness and an overriding suspicion that Alan Moore thinks popular culture is going down the crapper. If you liked the last installment you'll like this but if you've been liking them less and less since THE BLACK DOSSIER you're going to like this even less. I'm okay with them myself what with them being well clever and as visually attractive as Valerie Leon in go-go boots.

Alright then, first things first: Is it fan fiction? Yes, I think it is. But I also think you’d be hard pressed to find any genre comic that isn't these days. YMMV. Also, I've never actually looked up a definition of “fan fiction” but we’ll persevere. Crucially what it is is fan fiction of the very highest order. How can it not be fan fiction filled as it is with fictions pulled from other sources and made to dance and warble at the behest of The Magus? At least he has a purpose in mind, at least Alan Moore is using them to some narrative end intended to educate, illuminate and entertain. But then again I could read about the seedy adventures of characters who greatly resemble Jack Carter and Vic Dakin all day.


Oh, It's a grand life with The Magus but it wouldn't be half so grand without his aiders and abettors. Herein Kevin O’Neill is his usual majestically unusual self. Considering the fact that his art already resembles a bad trip the fact that he can actually go further and depict a bad trip is pretty incredible.  Kevin O'Neill heroically packs his (mostly) constricted panels with detail and incident that really gives the book a sense of place and it's a place populated by a hectic bustle of humanity. The panels of streets where the shiny future invasively looms over and creeps into the grotty present is done brilliantly. It’s a smart way to convey the way the future arrives. Not in a sudden jump but rather like a tide lapping in and around the present, eroding the shabby terraces and backstreets of now until it was like they were never there. You get a real sense that in ten minutes the future will be all around and it will be as though the future was here all the time.

Todd Klein and Ben Digimagmaliw are afforded a chance to shine and really rise to the challenge. Usually letterers and colourists are just required not to make any mistakes and generally just not get under anyone's feet but given the gift of the psychedelic showdown climax they really go to town. It's lovely, lovely stuff indeed. It's worth buying purely for the visual wizardry on display. Corporate comics aren't ever going to let your eyes graze on such delights as Kevin O'Neill and Co. at full tilt pedal to the mental like this. All the visual artistes do an absolutely smashing job at keeping this thing from sliding into incoherence.


While the whole is unquestionably successful in conveying the shabby reality the '6os briefly disguised and the fact that it may have been a Sexual Revolution but, still, all revolutions have casualties there remains something off about the whole thing. In the early pages in particular Moore’s dialogue reads like raw exposition, which is surprising considering how neatly he captures the “voices” of the supporting cast in the parallel plot. In fact those parts are a far more satisfying read than the adventures of our three primaries. I could have read a lot more about Vic and Jack and a lot less about Mina, ‘Lando and Allan. The gangster stuff had drive and purpose while the League stuff just seemed aimless and repetitive. Maybe the contrast was intentional after all it isn’t the heroes who “save” the day in the end. So caught up are they in their own problems they can barely get it together to be in the right place at the right time. They muck it up good and proper and no mistake.


I get that what Moore’s going for is the whole immortality has its price thing, I get that loud and clear because he never stops bloody banging on about it. Moore makes some good points, some interesting points but he keeps making them without developing them. This doesn't result in a terribly satisfying reading experience but it does at least explain the almost hilarious ineptitude The League displays. Immortality is sure doing a number on our three chums and no mistake. Orlando has his sexual organs growing and receding like a tide of biological confusion, Allan has to carry a monkey around on his back forever and Mina has to cope with the the wounds of her past.

It’s no wonder that at this point they are acting like a bunch of blockheads. Blimey, this lot can’t even save the world properly. Who in their right mind would drop drugs on the cusp of a climactic confrontation upon which they believe the fate of the world to hang? No one. But then these people aren’t in their right mind, so I guess that works. There’s a nice comic pay-off when even the villain appears baffled by their stupidity (“You cretinous CHIT!”) and his plan, which isn't even the plan The League think it is, is only derailed by the actions of a background thug who has no real notion of the events in which he is so pivotal. Which can’t be accidental. I mean, let’s face it, Alan Moore runs a tight ship narratively, if it’s in there it probably means something. What it means is that his is a pretty bleak experience both for the characters and the reader. Photobucket

Oh, there’s humour in here but not enough to lift it far out of the doldrums. In fact the jokiest joke is the worst joke here. There’s a whole panel wasted here on a Jumping Jack Flash joke that is so leaden I actually resented its hogging of an entire panel. Even the best joke, the one about body swapping (“I’m perplexed.”), is so delightfully nasty it just serves to reinforce the desolation of the book rather than relieve it. Look, the last image in the book is of a sad old man assaulted by the music of the young and angry while slumped on a chair dripping with his own piss. Not exactly Benny Hill is it?

Which, not entirely smoothly, brings me to the most likely cause of upset regarding this here periodical: there’s far too much slapping of little bald men’s heads to the accompaniment of a jaunty tune. No, of course not, but there is quite a lot of sexual violence on these pages. I’d really like to just breeze past that one but sometimes you just have to grasp that nettle. Remember when I used to just make terrible Dad Jokes about bad super hero comics? And Kurt Busiek would patiently correct my blunders? Such happy times! What? I’m not avoiding anything!

Oh, okay…  Fair disclosure here, I’m about to give Alan Moore the benefit of the doubt. I have read and enjoyed his work since he poked his young head up in the pages of 2000AD. I guess I am a fan? I’m not uncritical though I try not to be that kind of fan. I mean I love Howard Victor Chaykin to bits but I’m never going to recommend FOREVER MAELSTROM to anyone, okay? Similarly with Alan Moore I didn't buy LOST GIRLS because the page I saw in TCJ had a woman talking about the texture of a bull’s pizzle. Maybe it was a horse, anyway the point is I don’t want to read about beloved children’s characters achieving sexual satisfaction by touching animal’s privates. I’m funny like that. Call me old-fashioned. So while I’m not a hater I guess I’m not a lover but I am a fan. Caveat ends.


So, having thought about it a bit more than I feel I should have had to the nearest I can come to some kind of explanation, some kind of reason for this approach is that Alan Moore is trying to explore some of the connections between sex and violence. I think Alan Moore sees the genre comic’s reliance on violence as unhealthy because it isn't real violence. The power of violence has gone and only empty shock remains. Alan Moore’s work has demonstrated, to me at least, that he understands violence. He knows that violence happens and then keeps right on happening. Violence isn't just the act it’s also the effects of the act. Violence is the original gift that keeps on giving. Any honest depiction of violence should upset you, I think. I could be biased about that. Genre comics don’t deal in honest violence they deal in pantomime violence: safe violence and, thus, fake violence. There are 7o some years of gelding behind every act of violence in genre comics. If you want the violence in your comic to hurt, to be real what to do? It’s this dilemma that leads me to believe Alan Moore is attempting to make violence violent again. And the way I think Alan Moore is attempting to do that is by introducing sex into the equation. Because that's really going to touch a nerve.


That’s what I think and I think that because I know this: practically every act of on-page sex in LOEG:1969 is accompanied, contains or is contrasted with an act of violence. Where conventionally there would only be violence here there is also a sexual element. This is disturbing and upsetting, at least to me. Now, I can only assume (that most dangerous of critical acts) that this is intentional. As I've said the big thing that strikes me about Alan Moore comics is that they have very little room in them for the accidental (or the unintentional). Something as obvious and persistent as the sex/violence link in LOEG:1969 being happenstance seems pretty unlikely. It must have a purpose, it must be intentional. To dismiss it as being merely some kind of accidental twitch of an aged libido or the unconscious seepage of suppressed desires would, I think, be fundamentally wrong at worst and ungenerous at best.

But that leaves me with the puzzle of why Alan Moore goes to such great pains to ensure the reasons for this, the most striking aspect of the work, remain so occluded. Really, I have no recourse but to send comics into the kitchen to help Mother do the dishes while I lean forward to Alan Moore, with his hair brushed and parted, and ask: "But what are your intentions?" And I don't like doing that. If the work has failed to communicate its intentions with regard to an element as pervasive as the sexual violence is in LOEG:C 1969 then the work has failed and failed badly. But not totally.

I have no doubt this is the comic Alan Moore wanted to write but as I'm unsure why that is I have to go with OKAY! Everybody else involved in the visual stuff gets an EXCELLENT!

Now be off with you, I've got to take me Mum her cuppa. What's up with a boy loving his Mum? Tell me that whydoncha? Gwan. Hoppit.

And the Number One Reason I'll Never Be A Paparazzi...

I was at Kevin O'Neill's signing at CE Sunday night...with my camera...and asked the gracious and stylish Mr. O'Neill if I could take some photos...to which he graciously and stylishly agreed....and I barely took any photos at all. Because I am absurdly meek, and a FUGGIN' IDJIT. Nonetheless:

Here's a shot of the man himself. (Obviously, I shoulda run it through some light adjustments on Picasa before uploading it.) We were shop number seven in four days on his tour, and the guy would do a sketch in anyone's Black Dossier if they wanted. Really cool.

I knew he wouldn't be anything like his drawings, more than likely, but I was still somehow unconsciously surprised he wasn't one of his terrifying lantern-jawed crazy men chortling "Hur, hur, hur!" while demeaning all of us.

I thought I could catch from this angle (behind and above him) the sort of casual charisma he radiated--it was like everyone in the store, even nearly all the people hanging out at the front all had their body turned toward him the whole time he was signing. Instead, all I really caught was that awesome infinity-loop bald spot he has--it's insanely better than the goose egg I'm sporting.

Another wuss shot by me--I thought it would be cool to catch him in mid-sketch as he draws Mina Harker in Sue Riddle's sketchbook (that's her work on the left page, I'm pretty sure). But, uh, nope.

We had a steady line the whole time I was there, as you can see. But I'm mainly putting this photo up so those who've never visited the shop can admire the lovely original Matt Wagner JSA portraits on the left, and the Mike Driggenberg original Endless portraits on the right. (Oh, and also because I didn't take enough pix of Kevin O'Neill, right?)

The first--but hopefully not the last--collaboration between Ian Brill and Kevin O'Neill: a commissioned sketch of Scott Pilgrim. Maybe we'll get lucky and Oni will release it as the "Oni Zombie" alternate cover to SP4 early next year...

Wow. See? That--that--is a perfectly shaped ear, right there.

Meanwhile, up at the front of the store...

No, but seriously. Go buy Black Dossier--it's even more filling than a 40 of MGD.

So, in conclusion: I promise to be better at taking photos in the future. Also, go to Comic Oasis and/or the wonder that is Ralph Mathieu's Alternate Reality in Vegas tomorrow night and experience the wonder that is Kevin O'Neill yourself. You won't regret it.

Extraordinary Gentlemen!

I just want to say that Kevin O'Neill is a Prince Among Men -- we had an absolutely wonderful signing with him last night, and he was extremely gracious with his time, given virtually every person who showed significant "face time", answering their questions, and doing quick sketches for each and every person. What a class act!

If you're down in the San Jose area, Kev appears at Hijinx Comics today (Monday) from 5-8, then he goes to Las Vegas and Alternative Reality Comics [edit: and Comic Oasis, sorry, Derek!] on Tuesday to wrap up the tour.

I suspect Jeff will be along before TOO long with pics of last night's signing.

We've got an EXTREMELY limited number of copies left over that Kev signed (though no sketches, sorry!), so if you haven't been able to score your copy yet, feel free to email me and see if we can accommodate you.



Also last night was Alan Moore, art spiegelman, and Dan Clowes on the Simpsons -- if you didn't see it, at least for the moment it is up on YouTube, and I thought it was perhaps the funniest 10 minutes of Simpsons I've watched this decade. Oooh, let me try that embedded thing....

Let's hope that worked...

Even my wife, Tzipora, who only barely understands comics or comics culture, was howling in laughter at this segment.

Weird ending to the episode, though -- it looks at though the Android's Dungeon is closed permanently?!?

Anyway, WATCHMEN BABIES IN V FOR VACATION is a huge winner of a joke!

[Edit #2: I just noticed the LOST GIRLS poster in the background of the clip -- nice, Fox is advertising pornography, w00t!]


The Alchemical Marriage: Jeff Looks at the LOEG Black Dossier.

In a just world, the best way to review of Moore & O'Neil's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier would be type up a pastiche in which history's most famous and infamous literary critics team up: Dorothy Parker, Kingsley Amis, Harold Bloom, Alexander Woollcott, Edmund Wilson, Michiko Kakutani, H.L. Mencken, and Gary Groth all trot on panel to fight The League's attempt to collapse fictional and non-fictional reality (thus rendering critical thought--the border between fictional and non-fictional reality--impossible). Of course, to be a true pastiche, the reader would have to endure--after a gripping opening--the repeated erotic couplings of Wilson and Kakutani, with only the occasional bit of thuggishness from Mencken or Groth to spruce things up (until each kills the other), and the pastiche finally becomes a free-falling history of the universe as told by the critics (wherein one only finds out in a footnote or two what happened with the group's original encounter with their adversaries) and that this universe is actually a pastiche of the true Platonic ideal of the universe. Reality, it would turn out, is literally a work of criticism.

To really to do justice to the book under consideration, however, the pastiche would have to be bogglingly brilliant. If you're the type to derive succor from technical brio and steely formalistic ambition, The Black Dossier is a veritable winter's feast, capable of plumping up your brain to survive many a long, dark day.

For much of my life, I considered myself exactly that type. But either I've changed over the last few years, or technical tour-de-forces don't quite kick me in the breadbasket they way they used to--even as parts of The Black Dossier made me grin in delight (The League running for their lives inside a giant Brobdingnagian vajayjay as a sky-blotting cockhead threatens to destroy them all was where I actually laughed out loud), I found myself wondering what, exactly, was the point.

Having finished it, I think there may be several points to The Black Dossier, ranging from the absurd (I mean, it's The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe by way of Gravity's Rainbow, for cryin' out loud!) to the sublime (is imagination, as represented by Mina and Queen Gloriana,a feminine force, and "reality," as represented by misogynistic Bond family, a masculine force, making Orlando,gender-swapping hermaphrodite, a representation of life as it is lived, according to Moore--sometimes one, sometimes the other, frequently both?)

To elaborate on that last point, the Black Dossier includes pure text as well as, in the collection of postcards with which the League sends back and forth and the various maps and diagrams, (near)pure image. Are comics, like Orlando, a combination of two interrelated opposites, and thus more able to capture a higher essence than either? (I mean, there's also a 3-D sequence at the end which is the meeting of two sets of images (and even in that sequence, sections where the images occupying the same space are not the same)). The Black Dossier is not only an alternate history story, but a history of alternate graphic story styles--gag panels, political cartoons, serialized biographies, Tijuana Bibles...

So. History as an alchemical wedding of imagination and reality, and comics as the formalistic application of same? I dunno. Of course, if you really want to know the point of an Alan Moore story these days, you need only go on the web and a much-interviewed Alan Moore will be along sooner or later, happy to tell you at precise and injudicious length his intentions. I'm probably alone in this but I've begun to think the lifespan of today's graphic lit would benefit from creators clamming the fuck up about a work's meaning. Although I'm sure it stems from both genuine relief at finally being taken seriously, and to correct the paucity of genuine knowledge endemic to comics' previous Dark Ages, the resulting pre-chewed nature of many of comics' big works may prevent them from looming larger in the cultural imagination than they otherwise might.

(Which is all my way of saying that my above theories probably stem from reading too many Alan Moore interviews, but I haven't read any of his interviews about The Black Dossier...yet, God help me.)

In a way, I wish this review could be more like Hibbs', and I could go on at length about what I thought of the various pastiches, since they--along with the delightful Easter Egg hunt of literary references--are the most enjoyable part of the book. I will say that, although no Shakespeare scholar, I found Faeries's Fortunes Founded pretty passable (although it reads more like early Shakespeare than the later Shakespeare it's presented as) and Sal Paradyse's Beat novel is pretty close to an utter disaster as it tries to imitate both Burroughs & Kerouac simultaneously and so badly bungles 'em both (this is assuming, by the way, that Dr. Sax is written in the bebop heavy rhythms Moore uses here--of Kerouac, I've only read some poetry and On The Road and the latter isn't half as absurd as the stuff we get here).

But overall, the delights here are many and varied--where else are you gonna find a Tijuana Bible based on Orwell's 1984?--and I regret I lack the language, both critical and otherwise, to praise Kevin O'Neill's amazing art in this. O'Neil's art (and stunning accompanying colors by Ben Dimagmaliw) is able to evoke all the various art styles on call while also remaining truly and clearly his own, and in a book that moves from postcards to paperback covers to subway maps, from Victorian literature to German Expressionism, from the dreariness of Orwellian England to the brightness of Dan Dare's Britain, it's hard not to see it as a crowning achievement. If Lost Girls had looked half this good, maybe I would've been able to actually rub one out to that damned thing.

Still, though, the most resonant moment in The Black Dossier comes when Allan and Mina, after sex, languidly flip through the dossier and Mina remark with light surprise and fondness upon finding the section on themselves, "Oh. Here, darling, look at this. It's us." It's the moment most familiar to anyone who enjoys reading--the sudden thrill of recognizing something of one's self in a work of fiction--and it's precisely that moment I found entirely absent in The Black Dossier: eternally young, beautiful, and seemingly unstoppable, Orlando, Quartermain, and Murray fight, flee and fornicate across nearly every fictional realm ever created, but there's hardly anything left in them with which to emphasize. Imagination isn't only a realm where we regale in our triumphs and strengths, but a place in which we peek at our failures, our frailty. I wish there had been more of the latter amongst so much of the former.

And so, while The Black Dossier is hardly the first technical triumph that fails to stir the heart even as it inspires awe, it's a measure of the regard in which one holds Moore that it feels nevertheless like a disappointment. It means that I can only give this Very Good book a rating of Very Good, despite the nearly consistent Excellence of its concept and execution. Get it; devour it; annotate it; but don't be surprised if you find yourself, all too soon, forgetting it.

BLACK DOSSIER annotations

Jess Nevins popped into one of our comments threads to point us to the online annotations of the BLACK DOSSIER HC -- I thought it deserved some time up on the front page so go look In other BD news, DC is SOLD OUT of the book (excepting whatever copies they've held back for damages and shortages) -- I found this out when I wanted more for Sunday's signing and was told "Nope."

I am cunning and strong, so I managed to get more copies, but still... when's the last time that DC sold out of a GN, and especially a HC, on the first day of release?


Oh, god, I need to give this a title?

Let me acknowledge, right up front, that maybe I'm a little biased, given that Kevin O'Neill is appearing at the store this Sunday (11/18, from 4-6 PM, right, I can't help myself dammit, I am a retailer!) But, really, I thought that the LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: THE BLACK DOSSIER was one of the most extraordinary things that I've read this year.

I barely have the vocabulary for a decent review -- not only did I miss at least a third of the references (I'm aware, intellectually, of [say] Jeeves and Wooster - but its not like I've ever personally read a word of Wodehouse's), but even the ones I actually get, I don't actually have the language to comment on. Jog, or Lester, or Wolk are much better candidates for really and actually understanding the intricacies of what Moore and O'Neill have pulled off within this book.

But, although I've never actually READ _Fanny Hill_, I'm still able to understand how well Moore has written in that style' and though I've never read a page of Jeeves & Wooster, how well the melding of the Cthulu mythos to that really flows.

This is a comic that will have you checking your internet connection every few minutes -- I like a book that actually sends me to a dictionary for words I don't know (Tribadism, anyone? -- Firefox's spellchack even says that's not a word!); or exposes me to concepts I've never heard of before.

But sometimes even Google fails you, and I have to admit that I wasn't even slightly clear on the significance of Sir john Night and Night Industries, or Bill of the hiked-up pants, and the secret spy school, or the character that allowed Our Heroes access to the Blazing World. I'll admit that I'm just barely educated enough to know that the Shakespeare section scanned properly in Iambic Pentameter, but other than that, I can't really judge how close he got it, and so on.

I think I "got" about 75% of THE BLACK DOSSIER (which is maybe high for an American?), but even the parts where I was confused about the antecedents, I could tell were masterfully constructed, which much thought and form and craft.

Kev's, perhaps, the real master here -- dancing from style to style, yet still remaining clearly the work of Kev -- I was particularly taken by the art in the Fanny Hill section which generally looks "normal" to the eye, but when you look twice is incredibly filthy and pornographic. There's at least 5 generations of styles that are covered within this work, and Kevin hits them all pretty much dead on perfect. This is really an astonishing effort on Kev's part!

I really think that on almost all levels this book is a tour-de-force, and there's hardly a level in which it doesn't deeply satisfy. There's absolutely no doubt this is EXCELLENT work.

And I want to add that I spent nearly three and a half hours with this book, which is a real rarity with comics-related material -- this is a happy and easy $30 spent.

But, as always, what did YOU think?