Archive for October, 2007



Thursday, October 11, 2007

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I’m probably not going to write anything extensive about Jonathan Lethem and Farel Dalrymple‘s new Omega the Unknown miniseries until the whole thing gets published, but here’s a post just to note that the first issue is out. (For those who want a more thorough review, Jog has written a good one.)

I’ll limit my remarks to these:

1) It’s nice enough, but I’m not sure if Dalrymple’s art really works for this story. Jim Mooney‘s fairly generic ’70s superhero art in the original series really effectively set the tone, and pumped up the creepy “what’s happened to the Marvel editors?” factor a great deal. Dalrymple’s drawings, on the other hand, are too weird on their own to create that clash of expectations. Still, it’s way too soon to say anything definitive, and I’m not sure exactly where this story’s going yet. It may work in the end. And it’s nice to see Marvel experimenting art-wise in any case.

2) I think it’s funny how many of the online reviews of this comic have mentioned the literary tone of the dialogue, and attributed it to Lethem’s background as a novelist. It’s funny because that aspect of the new comic comes pretty much directly from the Steve Gerber & Mary Skrenes original.

3) So far, the new Omega is following the original plot very closely. Only a subplot featuring a mysterious superhero called the Mink (civilian name: Mr. Kansur) is new. His part in all this remains to be seen, but considering that the comic credits the script to Lethem and “Karl Rusnak” (hey, that’s “Kansur” backwards!) I imagine that’s where a lot of the action will be.

UPDATE: Using my crack journalistic skills, I’ve learned that Rusnak is a real person (and Lethem’s best friend from childhood). Still, my Sherlock sense is still telling me that that name’s a clue!

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Books Books


Thursday, October 11, 2007

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With all the talk about how some people think comics are too influenced by literature, it may be worth remembering that there are people in the literary world who think contemporary fiction is becoming too influenced by comics. No big point here — just that these things get kind of complicated. Personally speaking, as long as the comics work as comics and the prose works as prose, I don’t care what influences whom.

Recently, I’ve read two pretty terrific comics-inflected novels that I thought might be worth pointing out to those interested in such things.

First, Junot Díaz of Drown fame just published his first novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. It’s been getting tons of great press, but I’ve been surprised that it hasn’t come up for discussion more in comics circles, because it’s probably the most comics-friendly novel I’ve ever read. There are constant references to comics past, from Clowes (one character is described as looking like he walked straight out of the pages of Eightball) to Kirby (the novel’s epigraph is right from Fantastic Four 49: “Of what import are brief, nameless lives … to Galactus??” [bold case and double-punctuation in the original!]).

Díaz has been fairly vocal about his regard for Gilbert Hernandez, recently saying in a Los Angeles Times profile of Hernandez, “For those of us who are writing across or on borders, I honestly think he was, for me, more important than anyone else.” That becomes readily apparent on reading the book, as allusions to Love & Rockets recur at a steady clip. The title character’s Dominican mother is repeatedly compared to Luba, both in terms of physique and personality, and her storyline (complete with gangster boyfriend and political terrorism) is obviously an extended homage to Poison River, among other Beto tales.

But it’s not just in his references that Díaz demonstrates his influence, but in the very structure of his novel, which meanders and jumps in time and circles back to fill in backstory in almost exactly the same way that the Hernandez brothers have done for so long in their Palomor and Locas sagas. Some day, a grad student’s going to have a very easy time writing a thesis about all of this.

It’s also a great, tremendously funny (and sad) novel, and Díaz runs rings around most of his contemporaries with his prose style. Anyone who loves Love & Rockets (actually anyone period) should really read this book.

The other comics-saturated novel I read this summer, Jack Womack‘s Ambient, probably doesn’t possess quite as wide an appeal, though I liked it a lot. It’s a cartoonishly violent, satirical capitalism-run-amok dystopia, sort of like Mad Max-meets-the-corporate-boardroom; Long Island has become the location of a decades-long Vietnam-style military quagmire, and lower Manhattan is filled with a punkish underclass, many of whom have mutilated themselves in a kind of impotent social protest.

Much of the imagery and tone reminds me of Gary Panter, though Womack never refers to him directly. The cartoonists Womack admits to following are Chester Gould (one of the main bad guys has a framed Dick Tracy panel on his wall), George Herriman, and Walt Kelly (the aforementioned “ambient” underclass has developed a patois-like language nearly Elizabethan in its complexity that Womack has said was inspired by the dialogue in Krazy Kat and Pogo).

Some of the elements of this novel feel a little dated now, such as a religion that worships Elvis Presley, though they undoubtedly seemed fresher when the novel was first published twenty years ago. Still I enjoyed it, and plan on checking out the rest of the series. You can probably tell based on the description whether or not this is your cup of tea moonshine.

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This weekend’s hype!


Monday, October 8, 2007

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PictureBox will debut 6 new titles at SPX:


Powr Mastrs
by C.F.
Maggots by Brian Chippendale
New Engineering by Yuichi Yokoyama
Storeyville by Frank Santoro


Cold Heat Special #1 by Jon Vermilyea and Frank Santoro
Wu Tang Comics by Paper Rad

We will also have the new issue of Brian Chippendale’s Battlestack Galacticrap, a new mini by Frank Santoro and assorted other goodies.

C.F., Brian Chippendale, Frank Santoro and Jon Vermilyea will be on hand to sign books.

Signing Schedule


4 pm – 5 pm: Jon Vermilyea, Brian Chippendale and Frank Santoro
5 pm – 6:30 pm: Brian Chippendale, Frank Santoro and CF


11:30 am – 1 pm: Brian Chippendale, CF and Frank Santoro
2 pm – 4 pm: CF and Brian Chippendale
4 pm – 5 pm: Jon Vermilyea and Frank Santoro

On Monday, Oct. 15 in NYC:

PictureBox and D.A.P. Present

A mega book signing featuring:

Frank Santoro : Storeyville

Brian Chippendale : Maggots

C.F. : Powr Mastrs Vol. 1

7:00 – 9:00 pm
Monday, October 15, 2007

Spoonbill & Sugartown
218 Bedford Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Tel. 718.387.7322

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