by Dan Nadel
Monday, March 31, 2008
The unflappable Chris Beckett gets high on Cold Heat in this profile / interview.
Check it out here.
I’ve been a little bad about writing (as usual), but there’s a lot going on in PictureBox land and man oh man it’s hard to think. Anyhow, I’ve recently gotten into the fun habit of stopping off at my local comics shop, Rocketship, and buying some comics on my way home from the office. Oh man it’s enjoyable to do that. Lately, co-proprietor Alex Cox has been egging me on to buy various pamphlets and, since I can’t resist, here’s what I’ve been reading lately:
Punisher War Journal: Matt Fraction writes it and Howard Chaykin draws it. I have to say, I really like this title. Fraction is firmly in the Morrison/Milligan self aware tradition, but he has a sarcastic, easy style — somehow more casual than the the Brits. I like his work here, which so far concerns washed up super villains going about their daily lives. Basically these are noir slice of life stories, like a riff on Eisner’s Spirit, where The Punisher only appears at the end to, well, make it a Punisher comic. Chaykin’s art is awfully fun. He’s never been the most subtle of artists, but he’s using photoshop is some very curious/possibly retarded ways and I like it. In any case, can you believe Howard Chaykin is drawing the Punisher? Remember American Flagg? Or Cody Starbuck?
Nexus 99 and 100: Well, whenever I read Nexus I think of Frank’s smiling face, so how can I resist. This is totally fun space-opera stuff. Rude is in good form and he looks more like Russ Manning than ever. This is just delightful stuff written and drawn with utter conviction. It’s nice to see a comic book that’s not snarky or “meta”, and yet still contemporary enough to hold my attention.
Powr Mastrs 2: I read the first fifty pages last week. They’re being scanned now. Let’s just say that CF might’ve learned a thing or two from Russ Manning as well. It’s his best, most exciting work to date.
The Last Defenders #1: This comic was more or less incomprehensible to me.
Omega the Unknown #6: Another great issue, as the plot deepens and some very odd formal tropes come into play. I love this series and I think the more intricate it gets (now there’s a “Watcher” stand-in) the better.
Rasl #1: This is Jeff Smith’s new comic. I was never much of a Bone fan, but I like this. Did anyone else notice the similarities between it and Sammy Harkham’s Crickets? Or Frank’s Incanto? Lone man wandering in a hostile landscape? Well, not the most unique idea, I know, but funny to see it pop up three times in recent months. Jeff Smith’s rendering can irk me a bit sometimes — it feels overdone, too knotty and muscled. But this story, which sets us in the midst of a somewhat ambiguous scenario, moves swiftly and is perfectly paced for the pamphlet format. It’s a complete story but leaves enough questions to make me want to get the next one. That’s good serialization.
By the way, I re-read Miracleman 1-6. Oh boy, it’s awesome — it’s funny to read it now and realize it’s still so much better than the million imitators still going.
That’s all for now. Back to work.
Everyone and his sister has already linked to this profile of Paul Pope in the Wall Street Journal.
And I still agree with John Updike’s rule for critics: “Review the book, not the reputation.”
But man, I have to say this makes me wish I’d been a little harder on Heavy Liquid last month.
This does not reflect well on me, I know.
This isn’t much really, especially split three ways, but it’s a lot better than the $0.00 I’ve actually made on this so far. I want a raise, Dan.
[Via Paul DiFi.]
1. This old interview with Matt Groening popped up in my RSS reader about a week back, devoid of any context or explanation. I’ve decided to take it as a sign that now is the time for me to declare that — strange as it sounds to say about one of the wealthiest and most-celebrated cartoonists alive — I think Groening’s comics work is highly underrated.
Most episodes still have a few funny moments in them, but The Simpsons lost me as a big fan at least a decade ago. And while I was initially excited by the concept of Futurama, it never hit that sweet spot for me that the first two or three seasons of The Simpsons and many of Groening’s early Life in Hell strips reached on a regular basis. The strips collected in books like Work is Hell, Love is Hell, and School is Hell are not just incredibly funny and insightful, they also display a barely concealed sense of real dread over the human condition. That underlying pain raises the humor above the amusing into something that I find genuinely moving, and even strangely comforting — yeah, sure, life is pointless, but at least I’m not the only one who feels that way. To me, early Groening at his best belongs to the same great tradition as Kafka and Ecclesiastes. (Or at least it’s a small, awkwardly beautiful fish swimming in the same big river.)
2. Incidentally, it occurs to me that with all the endlessly recurring talk about “literary” comics versus “art” comics, if you go by the only definition of literary comics that makes much sense to me (the relative importance and prominence of the words), then Groening and Lynda Barry are two of the most literary cartoonists around. It’s strange that their names never come up in those discussions.
3. Since I’ve written some harsh things about the critic Noah Berlatsky in the past, it seems only right to point out his recent post on Alan Moore, which I think is quite good. I don’t necessarily agree with him in all the particulars, but it’s a really strong, fair, smart piece. For some reason, writing about Moore tends to bring out the best in him.
4. Finally, I don’t think I’ve linked to Charles Hatfield & Craig Fischer’s relatively new comics site yet, but it’s been worth regular stops for a while now. (I probably never would have bought the fascinating Fantastic Four: The Lost Adventure comic if I hadn’t read their write-up, so I owe them for that alone.)
Anyway, while I regularly disagree with many of their individual judgments, their writing is unfailingly thoughtful and fair. This week, they took on Frank’s Storeyville. Again, I don’t concur with everything they say about it, but it’s nice to see the book finally getting some real (and overdue) critical attention. (If I didn’t feel constrained by ethics, I’d write more about it myself.) I hope this helps get a good conversation going.