Wait, What? Ep. 82: The Problem With Problems

Photobucket Hola, chicos!

The above image is from Dave Sim's Glamourpuss #24, just one of many fine comic book hoohahs under discussion in episode 82 of the latest podcast from the brilliant (but presently ill!) Graeme McMillan and the generally slow-on-the-uptake (but mostly healthy!) yours truly.

I gotta say, we pretty much drove right in on this one, and ended up talking Action Comics #8 in the first three minutes of this two hour twenty-five minute blabapalooza, and also managed to hit topics like OMAC #8, the colorization of  Scott Pilgrim, the battles behind the TV show Community, a great blog post by Steve K. about the state of the comics Internet, Casanova #3, Supreme #20, Fatale #4, Strike Force Morituri, and that stunning issue of Glamourpuss mentioned above.

Also!  We have the first (and hopefully last) installment of Listen to Jackass, in which I respond to blog posts I haven't even read yet! It's a bit like that old Johnny Carson 'Carnac The Magnificent' sketch, except instead of cheap laughs it kinda goes more for the "feeling ashamed for Jeff and, in a way, the whole human race" kind of feeling.

iTunes?  Well, of course!  But also right here and now, ready to be cradled like a baby bird that has tumbled from its nest:

Wait, What?, Episode 82: The Problem with Problems

Oh, and I should warn you--because Graeme is feeling very under the weather, and I am feeling like I want to watch The Raid: Redemption over and over and over until they drag me kicking and screaming out of the movie theater, we won't be recording this week, so there won't be a podcast next week.  You understand, don't you?

In any event, we hope you enjoy this latest installment, and thanks for listening!

Dipping a toe back in

[I'm kinda cheating a little bit here, because this isn't about comics, per se (Thursday for that, I suspect, once I've read some of this week's books)] One of the things that happens when you own a comic book store is that people expect you to magically know everything even tangentially related to comics, but especially movies. I've had people asking me for weeks what I think of Joss Whedon's AVENGERS film, or about THOR.. and there's not so much I can say, is there? I have no magical insight, and, in fact, I try to avoid reading "movie news", so I'm actually surprised when the movies comes out.

In fact, I'm probably the WORST person to ask about comic book movies, these days because I have a seven year old. Oh, I'll go to movies that a seven year old can watch (though, really on most of them I leave that to the grandparents), but I'm having a hard time recalling exactly what the last aimed-at-adults movie I saw in the theaters actually was. Tzipora and I made several tries to go see INCEPTION, but we never actually made it (for a variety of silly reasons)

So, I wait for DVD... and, even worse, I usually wait for DVD from the San Francisco Public Library. You can put yourself on waiting lists before the films are even released, and it's not unusual to be person #127 in line for a new or popular film. Buuuut, the upside is that they're free (well, I've already paid my taxes for them, that is), and they're delivered to your local branch, whcih we're already going to 2-3 times a week as it is.

But this puts me months and months and months behind the zeitgeist.

Case in point: just this last week I watched two films I've been waiting some time for -- KICK-ASS and SCOTT PILGRIM.  *Now* I can finally tell people what I thought of them, and just about the point where no one cares any longer! Yay! So....

KICK-ASS:  I totally thought that the comic book "lost the thread" of the story once Hit-Girl was introduced, and KA himself had less and less to do with the comic, but in the film version I thought this was much less of a problem. In fact, the film is really more about what an ineffectual boob KA is, so to have him upstaged in his own movie is almost clever.

And Hit-Girl is just an awesome character in the movie -- pretty much everything one would want, and a portrayal that worked for me in a way that the comic simply didn't. On the other hand, this is a movie my wife had ZERO interest in watching, and after watching it, I couldn't find anything to recommend it to her, in particular. (Ben really wanted to watch it, but that was a big "NO WAY, DUDE!" from day one)

So yeah: Shiny action, loud coarse vulgarities, lots and lots of gore, and a cute little girl in the middle of it all. I enjoyed it while I was watching it, but after it was over I felt reasonably cold -- it's all 16 year old boy wish fufillment, with 16 year old boy insecurities -- dude, the 10 year old girl is better than you are! -- and that's about it.

Really only one thing stuck with me, this weekish later, and it's something really kinda stupid and throwaway and insider, and maybe I'm even reading in to it something that isn't actually there. In the old 50s Superman TV show, thugs would routinely empty their chambers at Supes, then kind of stare in disbelief, then throw the empty gun at him. Christ, what can THAT do?

But there's this little eensy bit in one of the big fights where Hit Girl runs out of ammo, and she kind of stares at the gun in disbelief, then she throws it at her attacker. A absolute perfect reversal of that moment. Like I said: I have no idea if that was even intended -- it's an obvious enough bit of business that didn't have to be inspired by Superman, but I'm going to keep believing it was intentional, because I really really liked that.

So, yeah, I'll give KICK-ASS a GOOD while I was watching it, but only an OK days after the fact (hows that for being an inconsistent reviewer?)

(Also: Aside to Millar [yeah, and Bendis, and anyone else publishing an Icon book] -- given that "Icon" is *effectively* self-publishing, can y'all take a little personal responsibility on your Final Order Cut-off notifications? It is EXTRAORDINARILY TIRESOME to place your "final" orders for KICK-ASS 2 #2 week after week after week (or the latest POWERS, etc.) Please please please don't put a book on FOC unless you're SURE you're ready to go to press. Anything else makes you look bad, and turns us into liars when we start telling customers "yeah, three weeks. Er, no, three weeks now. Um, no, three weeks NOW" Thanks!)

(Also? 4+ months between issues? Not good)

SCOTT PILGRIM VERSUS THE WORLD:  Walking into this one I expected very little. For the most part I find Michael Cera extraordinarily uninteresting as an actor, for example. Plus, I was pretty concerned that you could cram 6 books into a single movie, and have it work well (or at all)

And yet, I liked the film, in certain ways, even better than the book -- Knives, for example, is pretty fully realized in the film in a way I didn't really think she was in the comic; and I got a stronger sense of specific time and place, and I thought the music was very effective in the film.

Even Cera, I thought, showed some relative "range".

At the end, I told Tzipora that she might even like it (I dunno how the video game stuff would go over for her, though), which is always the Big Move. This strikes me, maybe, as one of those films that is going to to be a "cult classic", like, dunno, BIG LEBOWSKI or something. (Unless the video game stuff dates it out too much)

Either way, I enjoyed it immensely -- VERY GOOD.

OK, that's me warmed up (well, still warming up, aren't I?) -- comics later in the week, and, here's hoping for twice-weekly for at least the next 3-4 months...

What did YOU think?


Scott Pilgrim Release Party video

Christopher Rogers took a bunch of video from the SP6 release party last week, linked under the jump...

The first sales at 12:01

The first books are sold at Comix Experience\'s Scott Pilgrim 6 Launch Party

The View from the top of the stairs:

The View From the Top of the Stairs

An interview with Robert Easley about the Cardboard Tube Fighting League

Interview with Robert Easley about his Cardboard Tube Fighting battles

The final battle of the Cardboard tube fight (sorry, it's dark -- by this time someone had broken the lightbulb in the backroom!)

Cardboard Tube Fighting Final at Comix Experience\'s Scott Pilgrim 6 Launch Party: Skylar vs Fayrn

And, an interview with Fayrn, the winner of the battles (and how awesome is it that such a wee girl beat the entire field of fighters?)

A brief interview with Fayrn, cardboard tube fighting champion at Comix Experience

There's also a bunch of photos that Jim Flood took up on Facebook, linked to the CE page -- I'm working on getting copies of those to we can ungate those...

It was awesome, and fun!


Scott Pilgrim v6 release party: teh awesome!

Well, we didn't have 2000 (!) people like The Beguiling did, but I'm going to go ahead and call our SP6 Midnight Release a pretty epic success. From the moment we opened the doors back up at 10 PM, we were literally wall-to-wall people, which utterly shocked me. I was sort of thinking we might have 20-30 people show up (It's a Monday night, fer cryin' out loud!), and we somewhere between 3 and 4 times that, instead. SP6 leaped to the #1 best-selling book of 2010 so far, in 25 minutes of selling it -- crazy!!

If I had known there would be THAT many people showing, I would have done things a little differently -- like I would have "pre sold" the book, so people could have just picked up their copy at 12:01, instead of having to wait to buy it... but virtually everyone was amazingly cool about the line, so I guess we didn't suck too hard.

All of my pictures came out way blurry (Drinking and shooting doesn't seem to work), so I've shamelessly ganked this pic from Awesome UbiSoft point-person Claudia Ng's Twitter (thanks Claudia for giving up her night to demo the SP game, shipping next month -- sweet sweet game!)

I want to thank everyone who showed up to join in the fun, everyone who brought beer and drinks to share, and our partners -- the Cardboard Tube Fighting League, Alliance Media for the Scott Pilgrim movie tickets (we're hoping to have another round of them later in the week), Ubisoft for bringing the Scott Pilgrim Video Game, Jesse Spencer for the loan of his television, and my amazing staff, Matt and Carissa, for all of their help.

And thank YOU for coming, if you did, because you're teh awesome!!!


Scott Pilgrim Volume 6 Midnight Release Party!

READ! Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour before anyone else! SAVE! 20% off everything in the store (excluding New Comics)

PLAY! Scott Pilgrim vs. The World video game (Courtesy of Ubisoft)

LISTEN! To an All-Canadian Soundtrack!

FIGHT! Cardboard Tube Fighting Championship!

WIN! Movie Tickets to the film Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (Courtesy of Allied Media)

Monday July 19, 10 pm to 1 am

A Pilgrim's Progress: Jeff Gets It Together and Finally Reviews Scott Pilgrim Vol. 4.

A lot of things impressed me about Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together, but what really caught my attention is how different it is from the previous volume, Scott Pilgrim & The Infinite Sadness: whereas vol. 3 is jammed with action (it's only 13 pages into vol. 3 before someone gets punched with a bionic arm) and veined with character interplay, vol. 4 grounds the humor and emotional relationships in the foreground and keeps the action sequences very short until the end: it's as assured in its pacing as volume three was messily ambitious, and there's nothing unresolved here that isn't clearly laying groundwork for a later volume. By the time I made it through the final thirty-plus page climax which neatly intermingles fight scenes and emotional confrontations, I felt vol. 4 was the best volume of Scott Pilgrim since the first. That being the case, why did it take me a month to review it?

Back when I reviewed volume three, I wrote the book made me "wish O'Malley hadn't been staring down the barrel of a blown deadline so he could've taken the time to really fine-tune the material." Vol. 4 gives me that wish in quasi-Monkey's Paw-ish spades: the darn thing feels as tightly structured as a Hollywood movie, and that amazingly satisfying finale works the same way a finale works in really good action movie--with the final action sequence and the main character's emotional arc resolving simultaneously.

Unfortunately, as with many a good action movie, that satisfaction may come as a result of some potentially dishonest manipulation. "Oh, hey," Scott says at one point to an old friend he's showing around, "maybe I should have mentioned that my friends are retarded douchebags," which is sadly more-or-less true. Although Scott's friends in the past have had varying levels of patience for his general cluelessness, occasional whininess, and stretches of passivity, in SPGIT, they act less like friends than annoyed older siblings stuck taking care of a younger sibling. While it leads to any number of great lines (After Scott gets a job for doing little more than vowing to work hard, his friend Kim says, "Scott, if your life had a face, I would punch it. I would punch your life in the face.") and increases the drama of the final confrontation, it also adds a slightly unpleasant tone to the book. In the past, I've thought of Scott as a well-meaning but self-absorbed tool, and O'Malley goes to great lengths here to set me and others like me straight and show Scott for the genuinely sweet guy he is, but it comes at a bit of a cost. At one or two points during my first read-through, I found myself thinking, "Uh, am I the only one having fun here?"

I hope not, because the book is so filled with delightful tricks and jokes and charming details--eight bit captions and video game references, depleting thirst and pee meters, directional arrows, dotted paths a la Family Circus, panels of people laughing pulled straight from Charles Schulz's Peanuts, inventories of pockets and shopping carts, ellipses becoming a character's wide-eyed fear of speaking--one would like to think O'Malley had at least some fun in creating it.

[I've been casting about for a way to organically work in how much O'Malley's art has grown between volumes and I'm not having a lot of luck, but if you go to just about any page of SPGIT, you'll see how impressively rich in detail the work has become. The page that got me was the first one at Sneaky Dee's, where one panel has five main characters in a booth, five other clearly delineated bystanders, the Sneaky Dee's logo, and even clearly discernible food on some plates, a task I can't even contemplate accomplishing for a book published in digest size. And this richness in detail in no way clutters up O'Malley's clean and focused storytelling, which is doubly goddam amazing.]

But even if one does suspect O'Malley wasn't having oodles of fun working on this, this volume of Scott Pilgrim is a pretty massive win, the kind that would have Entertaiment Weekly titling their review, "Bryan O'Lee Malley Gets It Together." And if this volume's achievement comes at the cost of feeling a touch too professional--one tiny step closer to Scott Pilgrim's Well-Crafted Product--there's no way O'Malley can be faulted for that: in the course of giving us nearly 800 pages of material in a little over four years, it's only natural O'Malley's powers of craft will begin to catch up--and perhaps even exceed--his generous talents and ambitions. Whatever happens, Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together is absolutely Very Good work, and definitely worth your time if you haven't yet picked it up.

I'm not liking what I'm typing, throw it all away: Graeme thinks of the good times.

So, following on from my reviewamarathonarama last week, it's pretty fair to say that my brain was fried - I finished reading Plain Janes on Saturday evening, and suddenly became unable to stop reviewing everything in sight ("This sandwich is Good, but if it had had more onions, it might've made Very Good." That kind of thing always makes Kate happy, as you can guess). It also made me unable to enjoy anything, because my head was just constantly spinning arguments and potential negatives to be weighed about everything that I was reading... which meant that it was time for me to recharge my batteries and get a palate cleanser of a comic to read. Which, this time, was Scott Pilgrim.

Now, I know that there are people out there who don't dig the Pilgrim, but those are people who have no joy in their lives and have never stopped to smell the roses or danced their little hearts out to "PO Box 9847" (which is possibly my new favorite song, by the way; if I could sing or play a musical instrument, that would be the song that I'd cover all the time). Rereading them - again! - this time around, the sheer fucking JOY just shone out from each page, the dumb jokes and not so dumb ones, the emotional subtext becoming text in the third book (Am I the only one who really gets choked up by the Scott/Envy slow breakup flashbacks? I can't be the only sap out here, surely), watching Bryan Lee O'Malley becoming a more confident and stronger artist over the three books, the whole shebang.

There's something wonderfully COMICS about the series for me, in the same way that there is about Eddie Campbell's Alec, or Kirby's Fourth World or Eternals. It's the love and joy for the medium that's there on the page, the inventiveness on display, that completely wins me over and makes me feel as if anything is possible. But I'm not telling you any of this to convince you of how much I love Scott Pilgrim, but instead to ask those who are brave enough to comment: What are the comics that you completely and unconditionally love that always give you the indescribable thrill when you read them?

(Also, if you haven't read it yet, check out Jeff's movie reviews below. They're Excellent. Shit, there I go again.)