Saturday, November 15, 2008

Comics, comics, comics

I've spent two days surrounded by more comics than at any other time since I was 10 or 11 years old. And guess what? Some of this stuff is pretty good.
***
As I was saying before I was distracted by an evening of wholesome family fun, Duane Swierczynski and Michel Lacombe's The Punisher opens with a disquisition on spearing a human being:
"Harpooning a man isn't as easy as you think. ... You've got to catch bone. ... Otherwise the hook will just rip away. ... So you aim for the ribs. ... Avoiding the heart. ... Especially if you want your catch ... to make it back to shore."
Makes you want to keep reading, doesn't it? And that's what a good prologue ought to do. Oh, and the first three panels are wordless. Lacombe's art carries the action alone and does so as simply, dramatically and economically as one could imagine: nothing but a rope unfurling against an aquamarine sky.
===============
Jason Aaron's Scalped both updates and remains staunchly faithful to noir. Updates? The story takes place on an Indian reservation, a category of setting largely if not entirely unexplored in noir. Faithful? The protagonist is named Dashiell Bad Horse, and the tribute to Dashiell Hammett has not a trace of the cute or the nostalgic about it. This is dark stuff: violent, full of the hardest kinds of choices between bad and worse, and all richly abetted by R.M. Guera's dark art work, redolent of night, blood and arid plains.
===============
Part III of my Great Comics Adventure was a visit to Geppi's Entertainment Museum in Baltimore, a vast repository of American cultural artifacts from the dawning of the mass-media era. That era started earlier than one might think, but that's material for another post. For now, I noted with interest the occasionally dark shadows amid the garish colors and sharp, stiff lines on comic-book covers as early as the 1930s. Noir influence found its way into comic book early on.

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

31 Comments:

Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

If you havent read Watchmen you should now before next summer's hype ruins it for you and everyone else.

I remember back in high school in Carrickfergus in 1986 praying "Dear God dont let me die before the last installment of Watchmen." There were a few other prayers about Catherine Deneuve but this is neither the time or the place to reveal those.

November 15, 2008  
Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

Let me step away from the wholesome family fun long enough to say that Brian is always telling me I have to read Watchmen, so I think you should listen to Adrian.

November 15, 2008  
Blogger Neil said...

Yes indeed, SCALPED is the shit. Hardcore, raw as your skin after a Minnesota wind storm. Good stuff.

November 15, 2008  
Anonymous marco said...

If you havent read Watchmen you should now before next summer's hype ruins it for you and everyone else.

I remember back in high school in Carrickfergus in 1986 praying "Dear God dont let me die before the last installment of Watchmen."


I must admit it only comes third in my personal all-time list.
I still consider Sandman (the series as a whole) as one of the greatest novels of the last century and prefer Moore's V for Vendetta to Watchmen -it may be simpler and less ambitious,but for me emotionally more powerful.
That said,Watchmen is great:Rorschach-Dr.Manatthan reflecting on humanity on Mars,so many exceptional moments-though Adrian and me are self-confessed comic geeks -I feel it loses a bit if you've never read or liked superhero comics.
Haven't seen the V for Vendetta movie and ain't going to see the Watchmen one.

There were a few other prayers about Catherine Deneuve but this is neither the time or the place to reveal those.

Have you seen the Hunger? Weird little classic with Catherine Deneuve,Susan Sarandon,David Bowie and Bauhaus'Bela Lugosi's Dead at the beginning.

November 15, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I shall look for Watchmen, possibly as soon as tomorrow. Already today I have been warned that there is no "the" in the title and that referring to The Watchmen is liable to earn me a sound kicking from purists.

November 15, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Haven't managed to step away from the family fun long enough yet, Sandra, , but yes, I shall -- even if you don't do so first, as you should.

November 15, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Neil, thanks to your post, I feel that cold blast of Minnesota wind already even though my only exposure to the state has been to change planes once at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. I may read a few more episodes of Scalped tonight.

The first volume is on that list of stories that I like to think of as reinvigorating noir or, if you prefer, proving through renovation that the old form is still vital.

November 15, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Marco, thanks for both tempering the hype for Watchmen and adding a title or two to my list. I can also tell you that, while Catherine Deneuve may have competed with Watchmen for Adrian's teenage attention, he has not ignored Susan Sarandon either. Ask him to explain what he fantasized about offering her with her tea when she shopped at the bookstore where he worked in New York.

November 15, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter, Marco,

I wont deny Sandman's greatness and I am a big fan of V for Vendetta, but I dont think either quite approach the epic nature of Watchmen. And if we break the tie between Sandman and Watchmen with a beard contest Neil Gaiman loses to Alan Moore big time.


I'll repeat that chat up Sarandon line because it could have been my moment of greatness on Earth. (It only works if you've seen Atlantic City though): Ms Sarandon was always coming in the Barnes and Noble where I worked. On more than one occasion I wanted to bring her her tea and ask "a squeeze of lemon, Ms. Sarandon?"

Have I seen The Hunger? Are you kidding me, certain scenes are hard wired into my brain.

November 15, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

As a formerly bearded man, I endorse that tiebreaker. Either that, or I'll just have to read all three of the works in question. I could start on that project tomorrow.

November 15, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"though Adrian and me are self-confessed comic geeks - I feel it loses a bit if you've never read or liked superhero comics."

I've never considered myself a comics geek, but I certainly read superhero comics when I was a lad. By then, whatever dark nuances that may once been part of DC comics had been pretty thoroughly scrubbed out. (Of course, even such a bright 8-year-old as myself may have been oblivious to noirish touches.)

In subsequent years, I would roll my eyes at the new, dark versions of DC superheroes. All the shadows and saturated, full-bleed color and Superman with downcast eyes seemed like a marketing gimmick, a calculated bid to keep up with fashion, and an excuse to sell comic books for $8.99 instead of twelve cents. So I'll be interested to see if Watchmen comments on provokes reflection about old-time superheroes.

Why do you suggest that Watchmen might lose something for those unfamiliar with superhero comics?

November 16, 2008  
Anonymous marco said...

Peter

Watchmen is a superhero comic-only one of the characters has true superpowers (though Adrian's namesake is a genius polymath with a pair of outlandish physical feats) -but he (it) is practically a God and has singlehandedly shifted the world's balance of power.
The comic is at the same time a celebration and decostruction of the concept of superheroes,from the earlier naivety and optimism to later cryptofascism and vigilantism,and looks at the complex and contradictory reactions their existence would cause in real life- from herophobia to groupies to superhero-themed Tijuana Bibles.

Sandman creates its own mythology,weaving together gods,legends,fairytales,Shakespeare and much more-but it's certainly the less realistic of the three at first sight-the main character and his "family" are the personifications of abstract concepts.

V for Vendetta is a dystopia set in an alternate England-in the manner of the great dystopian novels like 1984 or Brave New World,and may also have some affinities with the Lawton book you discussed recently.


Adrian

I do think Sandman has a comparably epic nature-but arguing Sandman vs Watchmen is a bit Beatles vs Stones-plus I did read Sandman more or less at the age you did read Watchmen,so obviously we're both biased.
V for Vendetta is more like a punk band-raw and full of energy.
It may be a lesser work,but for me almost nothing can match the intensity of the scene where Evey reads Valerie's letter.

It only works if you've seen Atlantic City though

I didn't,but I googled Sarandon+Atlantic City+Lemon and I understood.

On more than one occasion I wanted to bring her her tea and ask "a squeeze of lemon, Ms. Sarandon?"

But you never did.What a big chicken.

I approve of beards,and the idea of a tie-beard. I'm kind of an anti-lycanthrope myself, in that I shave once every full moon-but Adrian in the pics I've seen you look remarkably clean shaven-You'd lose first round against Peter or McFetridge.


v-word:expect (but what?)

November 16, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Marco

But Peter has darkly hinted that he is a formerly bearded man...Hmmm.

"what a big chicken"

You dont need to rub it, a wasted opportunity and I know it.

November 16, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Marco, I bought Watchmen today, and I've read the first three chapters. I understand why you suggest it might lose something for someone unfamiliar with superhero comics. Moore's ability to comment on the form of the superhero story while telling a story of his own at the same time is stunning.

All the ingredients you suggested have come into play so far except for the groupies. My favorite feature is the integration of superheroes into American cultural phenomena from an era somewhat later than their heyday. The idea of superheroes having afterlives as corporate executives and mental patients is brilliant. And Rorschach's taunting a fellow ex-masked-hero for merchandising his persona for action figures is as clever a piece of satire and as thoroughly imagined an act of fantasy as I can, er, imagine.

Looks like the hype on this one may be justified. Oh, and Hollis Mason's interpolated autobiography is fiction, satire and cultural criticism at the same time. I can see why critics exhausted their superlatives on this one. It's easier to fling adjectives than to give this the discussion it deserves.

The one character with the true superpowers has been a bit less satisfying for me than some of the others, though his splitting himself into two because he thought his girlfriend might enjoy it provoked a smile, especially because the scene is played for anything but laughs.

"Expect" is the most evocative v-word I have heard of yet.

November 16, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

But Peter has darkly hinted that he is a formerly bearded man...Hmmm.

Yep, I'm feeling a bit like a superhero whose disguise is a small black shroud that covers the lower half of his face. In the early, innocent days of DC Comics, I'd have been called Clean Face, and I'd have worn a sweater with a bright, bold CF splashed across the front. In the angsty eighties and later, I'd have been drawn in a panel all black relieved only by streaks of indigo and purple. I'd be sitting with my shroud ripped aside, my clean-shaven face buried in my hands as I wept with shame and fatigue over all the horror I'd seen. My name, in keeping with the times, would now be X-Beard.

November 16, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

X-B it is then.

I've always enjoyed this quote:

"All the whores and politicians will look up and say 'save us' and I'll down and whisper 'no'"

Rorshach's Journal October 12 1985

November 16, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I like: "You see, if you're the only one who'd bothered to turn up for a free-for-all in costume, you tended to look kind of stupid."

Cool screen test, though that's probably not how I'd have imagined the voice.

XB

November 16, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Actually that should read I'll LOOK down and of course they're SHOUTING "save us".

Whenever we used to play Watchmen as an RPG everyone wanted to be Rorshach, even though he has no superpowers as such and not even any kit. I agree with Marco about the Mars scene. Beautiful.

I liked that clip, its from the DC motion comic (as opposed to the DC movie) Both are very controversial. Alan Moore has had his name removed from the credits of both.

November 17, 2008  
Anonymous marco said...

I should clarify that there aren't actual scenes with groupies-I used the term as a shorthand for various aspects briefly touched in the text,like the letter a fan writes to Sally proposing himself as a sidekick,the prurient articles on the erotic life of superheroes or the megastar status of Adrian Veidt.


v-word: supesse (French for superness)

November 17, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, my post Monday links to an interview in which Alan Moore discusses his feelings about the movie. His points are well-taken, particularly about certain narrative techniques in the comic being ill-suited to screen adaptation.

Role-playing games are a phenomenon that never attracted me, but why would anyone want to be anyone but Rorschach in a Watchmen game?

Come to think of it, Watchmen is a kind of role-game itself, imagining superheroes in the real world.

November 17, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Wow, that fan letter will be something to look forward to. Thanks.

Incidentally, I've found some interesting interviews with Alan Moore, including this one. The man has quite the satirical and self-mocking sense of humor.

November 17, 2008  
Anonymous marco said...

By the way,Peter,your Clean Face/X-Beard comment is absolutely brilliant.
Makes me want to go and post in a comics forum just to use it as my signature.

November 17, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"Whenever we used to play Watchmen as an RPG everyone wanted to be Rorshach, even though he has no superpowers as such and not even any kit."

I'd say that mask of his, with its shifting blots, was a pretty darned good costume item.

November 17, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Marco:

Steal my identity at your peril.

CF/XB

November 17, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Or will X-Beard's first adventure be a battle against identity thieves from a country ruled by an evil media mogul who emerged from a wriggling mass of corrupt power grabbers?

November 17, 2008  
Anonymous marco said...

The identity thieves would surrender gladly if x-beard could manage to do away with the mogul and the corrupt power grabbers

November 17, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Such a squirming congeries of calimari would difficult to grab hold of. Sounds like a job for -- X-Beard.

November 17, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

You didnt miss out on much not playing RPG's. I remember the ratio was about 3 hours arguing about the rules time to 1 hour's play time. Couple of sidelights: Call of Cthulu gave me INTENSE nightmares and once while playing the now defunct MERP set in a post war Middlearth, Aragorn (who had become something of a oligarch) had my character executed.

November 17, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I think I just missed the first explosion of RPG games, though there was a Dungeons and Dragons group at my university. Oddly enough, though I may have thought the game and its practitioners weird, the one member I knew was witty and intelligent.

Don't role-playing games have a tendency to last anywhere from hours to weeks? What would a player do if his or her character was executed or otherwise killed early on? Be in charge of fetching drinks and pizza?

November 17, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Weeks and sometimes months. Usually you play two characters so if one dies you're ok.


Fortunately the Aragorn incident was right at the end of that campaign. That Aragorn was a bad king isn't that surprising. He had no training whatsoever for the role and was a poor administrator. Like Churchill - great in wartime, bad in peace. He was unable to impose law and order outside the cities or provide rudimentary services within them. In retrospect my coup attempt was misjudged but I felt it was worth the gamble. The players whose characters were executed along with mine weren't so convinced.

November 17, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Aragorn sounds so fantasy-ish. Call me old-fashioned, but I'd rather be Carlos or Offa or Brian if I were going to be a king.

November 18, 2008  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home