- A couple weeks ago Hasbro released their 2010 toy line. We were all wowed by Tony Starch, but one toy slipped through the cracks. The toy was a new take on an old favorite: Check out Biggus Helmetus Galactus.-j

-So, last week on the Howard Stern show, the story about the Action Comics selling for a whole lot of money segued into a classic, bad Stern childhood reminisce in which he told a story about how one day he got home from school and his parents had given all his comics to some other kid down the street. What was interesting is how Stern mentioned his cousin Jack Adler, a DC Comics cover artist and colorist, as the source of many of his comics. Adler was one of the many worker-bee, artistan-like comics artists who understood that balance of efficiency and clarity and the perfect amount of stylization. Check out this cover; it both looks like plenty of pulp you've seen before and has some perfect design/illustration in it too.-b

-Mouse Guard: Fall is going into it's third printing and author David Petersen talks about it in a couple of interviews with Flames Rising and Crave Online. In an interesting section on the Flames Rising interview, Petersen talks about what goes into making his Mouse Guard RPG. Everything from how much a mouse can carry to what it takes to becomes a Guard. In the Crave Online interview, he talks about 11 pages of new Mouse Guard he's putting out for free comic book day on May 1st. Definitely getting me excited for his upcoming Legends of the Guard and Black Axe due out later this year. -j

-Fantagraphics put up this really sparse, really simple teaser for the upcoming Jacques Tardi trade It Was the War of the Trenches but no one's watching it! 35 views?! In a way this is better than some "preview" scans, you just kinda grab these glimpses of the art and story. Can't wait until April.-b

-The biggest shlockmeister in the world Gene Simmons' son Nick has a comic that no one really reads, that is, except for fans of Bleach. Tracing pictures and stealing direct dialogue and plot points goes beyond inspiration and into, you know, plagiarism. The internets has the whole story. Can you imagine his father, the most full of himself man on Earth, having to deal with this? At least it'll make Family Jewels actually interesting. -s

-With all the talk of dream super hero movies this week, let's talk about a real one. Woody Harrelson plays Defendor, a man down on his luck but making an attempt to change the world. Sorta like Batman, sorta like the Maxx, I can't believe I didn't write about Harrelson as Batman.-s

-So, Jim from The Office might be Captain America. All I have to say is..."if you thought out dream comic book movies were ridiculous...". No really, this is good in theory but bad in execution because John whateverhisnameiz is one of those 2000s actor who is always in-quotes and smug and like, uneasy in his roles, so he won't sell anything. We'll get this like frumpy dumpy embarrassed Captain America and man...FUNK DAT!-b

-We are all familiar with Wookiepedia, the best source of Star Wars information on the net, but what about Banthapedia, the Non-Canon Star Wars Wiki? Ever wanted to know Luke Skywalker's death toll? The names of the Jawa Football League teams? It's got it all. -s

The Best Comic Book Movie of 2009 Was Not an Adaptation

What shall the history books read?
—Col. Hans Landa, "The Jew Hunter"

If you're concerned about spoilers, you probably shouldn't read this post, though if by this time you don't know what happens at the end of Inglourious Basterds, you probably don't particularly care. When I watched Quentin Tarantino's Nazi slaughter-fest for the first time, I can remember feeling a sense of displacement upon seeing members of the Basterds gun down Hitler and Goebbels inside a Jewish-owned Paris cinema during the premier of Stolz der Nation. Here was this movie dealing with subject matter that has become all-too familiar and yet presenting the events in a way in which they did not happen. It felt almost obscene, or sacrilegious—not that I objected, per se; it was more akin to the feeling you get when someone standing next to you says something dreadfully offensive.

In the 21st century, we've come to a point where we practically fetishize the notion of historical accuracy in stories that depict events from the past. The process of writing a novel or screenplay has come more to resemble that of composing a dissertation, for all the research that's required. But this slavish submission to historicity is based on the flawed assumption that fidelity to historical detail somehow brings us closer to events as they occurred, when in fact the very idea of historical accuracy is itself a fiction.

Quentin Tarantino has a clear sense of the ways in which history and fantasy interact in storytelling. With Inglourious Basterds, he has taken the sacred cow of historical subject matter, and told a story that is at once rigorously researched and yet plays fast and loose with the ordering of events as they read in history books. Tarantino understands that historical detail sets a mood and creates a setting in which fictional characters play out fictional scenarios, which may or may not resemble events you may have read about in a history class.

As anyone who's ever read Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay can tell you, comics were used during World War II as a means of exorcising the anguish and aggression that people felt over events on the world stage. They were about fantasy, rather than history. It was an avenue for writers and artists, many of whom were Jews, many of those having been displaced by the rise of the Third Reich, to envision scenarios in which heroic men with semitic features and preternatural abilities could quite literally kick the shit out of Hitler and his goons. I doubt very seriously that a single comic book from this period envisioned Hitler holed up in his Berlin bunker in 1945, eventually shooting himself as the end drew near. That's not a particularly satisfying scenario, either from a narrative or moral perspective.

And I would argue that the collective want of satisfaction that we feel over the manner of Hitler's demise has something to do with the surfeit of movies and books grappling with this material in recent years. However widely these stories have varied in their particulars, the critical events have been treated as somehow sacrosanct, perpetuating the sense of historical injustice. It took a gutsy writer like Tarantino, borrowing some of comics' native editorial brio, to reappropriate the historical record, giving us an end that satisfies our human desire for vengeance in a hail of bullets and righteous Jewish anger and finally allowing us to let go of that particularly unsavory part of the past.

Of course this discussion of the recasting of historical events ignores the equally salient question of period detail in historical narrative. Ironically, this is the sort of issue that tends to set off the pompous fulminations of armchair critics. But there is a difference between those details which demonstrate the fastidiousness of the artist and very little else and those which have a qualitative effect on the story as a whole. While it might be perfectly diverting to discuss the relative accuracy of the depiction of Countess Sophia Tolstoya riding about her family's estate in a landau, rather than a troika in The Last Station, such details are ultimately superfluous.

On the same token, the languages spoken by characters in a movie about World War II are anything but superfluous. When you think about it, it's really remarkable how many 'serious' films dealing with this period—historical movies in general, for that matter—simply convert all of the languages spoken by the various combatants into English; it's downright scandalous. Tarantino's choice to have each of the characters speak the appropriate language or languages reveals a level of verisimilitude and sophistication that is simply absent from more traditionally respectable films.

And that's just it: Inglourious Basterds delivers an impressive measure of sophistication and truth, all smuggled in—to borrow a concept from Brandon—under a thick veneer of pulp-adventure bombast. This subtly beguiling mix of whimsy and sophistication is precisely what drew me to comics in the first place. It is largely unique to the medium precisely because pulling it off requires a level of risk-taking that is untenable to most novelists and filmmakers. Simply put, it's the reason why a movie that was never a comic to begin with turned out to be the best comic book film of 2009.


Comic Adaptation Week: Clint Eastwood's Old Man Logan

Millar and McNiven’s Old Man Logan isn’t about the animal Wolverine, it’s about the man Logan. Leaving his past behind him, Logan becomes a pacifist in a world where the villains have won, until his landlords--the Hulk’s inbred children--threaten to evict him if he can’t come up with his rent. The now blind Avenger Hawkeye offers Logan enough money that he’ll never need to work again in exchange for playing bodyguard on a nationwide road trip, delivering mysterious goods to the rebel party. Even though Logan has left his brawling ways in the past, the money is too good, so he agrees.

Although it has its moments of complete badassery, it’s not a comic about how a tough, aging Wolverine slashes his way through the country. OML is about being old and tired and just wanting to quietly live out the rest of your years, but something is preventing you from doing just that. It’s about being a good person because it’s who you are, even though you may not like it.

Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino plays with similar themes, the 80 year old Eastwood stars as um, an 80 year old man, war-worn, full of good old American racial hate, but also, you know, a good heart. Eastwood’s portrayal of a man who’s lost it all and is just waiting for his time to end struck me as strange, the man you knew for, “You’ve gotta ask yourself a question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya punk?” spends his time just working on his car and garden?

It felt like giving up, but then I realized it’s not giving up, it’s starting again and having the opportunity to really be who you’ve never been able to. By also directing the film, Eastwood would be able to add that sense of grizzled heroism from the movies that he's become known for, revealing the motivations behind a mean old man's actions without forcing pity out of the audience. Eastwood's ability to portray an older man who isn't helpless, but obviously somewhat frail and sick, is what an old Wolverine would need. There also aren't a lot of old men who know they could kick your ass and that's important too.

Comic Adaptation Week: Jean Renoir's Doom Patrol

One could be forgiven for concluding that my suggestion of a film adaptation of Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol by Jean Renoir is little more than a self-indulgent lark. What could the French master of poetic realism possibly have in common with Morrison's madcap masterpiece? But critics and casual moviegoers tend to forget that Renoir had a career outside of his justly famous French films of the 1930s. In his early career, Renoir experimented heavily with filmmaking forms and effects and many of his films of the 1920s have more in common with Doom Patrol at its most surrealistic than, say, Grand Illusion.

1927's Charleston Parade (Sur un air de charleston) is bizarre mash of scifi and flapper culture, which imagines a post-apocalyptic 2028 in which Africa is the center of civilization and Europe is a dark terra incognita. In Renoir's jazz age retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Match Girl," La petite marchande d'allumettes (1928), an inappositely lusty Catherine Hessling--Renoir's first wife--descends into a phantasmagoric dream world, in which the inhabitants of a toyshop window come to life.

But as much as these early experimental works establish a visual, stylistic connection between these seemingly disparate artistic poles, it is the human stuff that first made me think Renoir could do this material justice. In Morrison's incarnation of the book, Doom Patrol is only tertiarily about superheros. What's really at the heart of this group of misfits is precisely their misfit status--they are quite literally the only people that will accept each other. Renoir's celebrated movies of the 1930s, particularly Grand Illusion, but also The Rules of the Game, tread similar territory. The ensemble casts of these films are populated with just the sort of people who were facing increasing hostility in the politically charged France of the 1930s: Jews, foreigners, homosexuals. The theme that pops up again and again in these movies, regardless of the subject matter, is that the boundaries that we use to separate people are wholly arbitrary. It was as though he had been engaged in trying to convince a Europe that he knew was about to destroy itself that it didn't really need to happen.

Perhaps even more striking is the similarity between the ways that both Morrison and Renoir have expressed the paradoxical impossible possibility of love. In the scene from Doom Patrol from which the above panel was culled, Cliff is pouring out his heart to Jane about the difficulty of living without a body. A big part of this is his reminiscence of the things that he used to be able to do and FEEL, particularly racing, that are now forever closed off to him. The corresponding scene from The Rules of the Game plays out almost identically, even down to the rarefied setting. Octave, played by Renoir himself, is reminiscing to his friend Christine about his younger days as a musician with her father, a famous Austrian conductor. As he puts it in the film, he misses the sound of the audience and the feeling of performance and feels that now that he does not perform, he lives only as a parasite. In The Rules of the Game as in Doom Patrol, the scene culminates with the woman confessing her love for the broken man. But again in both cases, it's an impossible love, in Doom Patrol because Cliff doesn't have a body and in The Rules of the Game because Christine is married to the Marquis de la Cheyniest, piling on a class division to the already problematic societal mores concerning marriage.

Finally, Doom Patrol was ultimately a vehicle for Grant Morrison to wield his satiric sabre against any number of social and cultural sacred cows. Benevolent Horatian though he may have been, Renoir was ultimately a satirist who created stories that allow us to love the targets of his mockery.

Comic Adaptation Week: Michael Mann's Batman

When the first ten minutes of The Dark Knight made their way onto the internet and it was sorta just a straight rip of the bank robbery in Heat, it sorta justified my thinking that a Michael Mann-helmed Batman movie would be perfect. It wouldn't gross as much money as Nolan's and it'd be way more polarizing but it would be a better better for sure. Where most of our ideas have been rejections of Hollywood's dark variation on the comic book hero, Michael Mann's a director who could bring that kind of hyper-modern, brooding to Batman and make it work.

His Batman would be an adaptation of the Loeb/Sale trilogy--Long Halloween, Dark Victory, and yes, Catwoman: When In Rome. For Mann, that Catwoman tale would be just as important, as there's always this contrasting focus in his films on women. Catwoman/Selena plays a prominent part in Dark Victory and her absence is felt by Batman/Bruce (think of the romantic longing in Thief or Miami Vice or Public Enemies) and Mann could easily weave Selena's time in Rome into a rather epic story of Gotham city. All Mann movies have these kind of weird, "why is this in here?" tangents to them, and this one would provide greater characterization to Bruce's relationship to the women in his life--something every Batman movie's failed to do.

Mann is a Chicago director and though Nolan kinda already based his Gotham on Chicago, Mann is also an internationalist, and could provide a great deal more sensitivity to the portrayal of the fictional city. Think of how low-rent Mann made Chicago look in Thief, or how epic Los Angeles appears in Heat, or how smoothly he translates between the glitz of Miami and the near-third-world-ness of its trailer parks--it's the kind of all-over-the-place, multi-layered urban life, one that bleeds into one another quite easily, that Mann excels at portraying.

Most importantly though would be Mann's ability to inject some real character and feeling into the Batman character. There's too much pseudo-stoic, gruff talk in the Batman movies. Batman can't talk like Bruce Wayne, I got it, but that it always comes out like a guy doing a tough-guy voice is ridiculous. One of the best aspects of Mann's movies is his ability to understand the roles people, especially men, play and the way that person's "reality" seeps through to their "character" in one way or another. Nearly every Mann character's already doing the Batman thing, they all talk like ridiculous hard-asses, but when it comes to the drama, the real acting, when they've been betrayed or fucked-over or had their heart broken, he allows them to subtly shift, not do a 180, and it's all the more affecting because you see and hear the cracks in the armor. Obviously, Colin Farrell in wounded Sonny Crockett mode would be Batman.


Comic Adaptation Week: George Clooney as Nick Fury

A blight on uncreative comic artists is drawing in celebrities instead of a new face, as found in Bendis’ Secret War and Ennis’ The Boys. When Nick Fury, Sergeant of the Howling Commandos and Cold War secret agent, was introduced in Marvel’s Ultimate comics series, Samuel L. Jackson’s likeness was used. In recent years, Jackson has been cast almost exclusively as the angry Black man, birthed in Pulp Fiction but defined in almost all his roles thereafter, now to the point that he's a kind of ironic, internet meme, like "It's a trap" or something. Not good.

Samuel L. Jackson has now been cast as Nick Fury in Marvel films, beginning with a secret scene after the credits in Iron Man. The overlook of the importance of Fury’s character in the Marvel Universe, even the movie MU, by casting directors ready to snag a big name for the character will effect the coming Marvel films, especially as the leader of the World's Greatest Heroes in the upcoming Avengers film. You need someone who’s brooding while being charming, and more versatile than, you know, either Jules or Mace Windu. Also, save for that aforementioned comic-nerd internet contingent, who even cares about Samuel L. Jackson anymore?

George Clooney’s sense of style and casual seriousness capture the essence of Nick Fury. An almost James Bondian character, Fury would just as soon shoot you in the head from a mile away as he’d take your girlfriend. While guns and explosions are a part of who and what Fury is, he’s also a secretive person with the world on his shoulders. Clooney’s ability to portray grace under pressure, along with a slight self-effacing streak important in big-budget superhero movies, would do the character a lot of good. In his role as Danny Ocean in Ocean’s Eleven, he never has to raise his voice to be a man understood, or respected. You don't question him because he is legend, only Clooney could portray him as a man as great as his myth. It helps that he looks exactly like the original Nick Fury.

Comic Adaptation Week: Samuel Fuller's Ode to Kirihito

The affinities between Hollywood B-movie master Samuel Fuller and Osama "God of Manga" Tezuka are so rich and varied that I want to kick myself for not seeing the connection prior to considering them for this week of dream adaptations. In both cases you have an artist who utilized popular, 'low-culture' forms in order to tell onerously plotted stories, heavy on melodrama and bathos, which stretch the reader/viewer's notions of plausibility. If all of that sounds like a bad combination to you, you're beginning to get a sense of the genius of these two consummate artists.

It is difficult to state simply why Fuller's films and Tezuka's comics are amongst the best in their respective mediums, but it has a lot to do with the genuine moral complexity that underlies the surface simplicity of the stories. Ode to Kirihito is perhaps the most novelistic comic that I've ever read--and I'm talking about novels in that wonderfully prolix 19th century sense of the form. Tezuka has created a world teeming with vainglorious scoundrels and greedy villains, in which the only virtuous figures are also broken almost beyond repair.

Fuller's movies also teem with such benevolently cracked figures. Consider The Naked Kiss's Kelly, a prostitute who finds her way to the charming small town of Grantville and who wakes up the morning after servicing her first customer, looks at herself in the mirror and realizes she can't do this forever. So what does she do, but get a job helping handicapped children in the local hospital. You can't make this shit up (at least I can't). But there is a lot of Kelly in Ode to Kirihito's Reika, the traveling circus performer whose great stunt involves curling herself up in a tight ball and allowing herself to be dipped in tempura batter and deep-fried. Both Kelly and Reika are deeply disturbed and yet ultimately possess hearts of gold.

In fact, their hearts are so golden that one's initial reaction is to sneer at the apparent simplicity of the moral architecture in these artists' stories. But that simplicity is deceptive; look deep into the best of Tezuka's comics or Fuller's films and you'll find in both a realism that is jarring in the face of the deep humanism of their respective creators. Both Tezuka and Fuller were profoundly affected by war--Fuller joined the infantry in World War II and Tezuka came of age during and immediately after that war--and the works of both reveal a deep understanding of the complex implications of armed conflict in the post-industrial age.

Ultimately, though, I think Fuller would be the only filmmaker capable of bringing Tezuka's opus to the screen because he's perhaps the only other storyteller I know of who understands that precise balance between the almost gothic absurdity of plot and relentlessly driven pacing that make Tezuka's long works such bewilderingly wonderful reads. It's that mix of the bizarre and the compulsive, the brutal and the life-affirming that makes Tezuka and Fuller such enduring classics.


Comic Adaptation Week: Werner Herzog's Gardens of Aedena

Gardens of Aedena begins in the future, with the basically sexless characters Atan and Stel. It's the kind of future we're used to seeing: metal spheres, ugly machinery, weird skull caps, etc. The story slowly moves to something else altogether--the titular gardens--which are something more natural, but no less mysterious and harsh. When Atan and Stel are dropped in the garden, the story turns to a realization of their human condition within the context of their foreign selves.

This is where Herzog would bring his fierce intelligence, and unromantic view of human nature to the story, a kind of futuristic, Teutonic Adam and Eve redux. I picture him really emphasizing the sexuality of the story--the fierce emotions--as well as the wonder of Moebius' naturalistic future and kinda cutting to the chase in his own way, removing some of the weird, towards-the-end "action" of the book, but retaining Moebius' "sitting around and chilling" tone. Think of all the purposeful downtime in Aguirre or Fitzcarraldo.

But more importantly, Herzog is qualified to take on a Moebius comic is because he wouldn’t cut corners when it came to visual representation…and I’m not talking computer graphics. He would travel all over the world to find the perfect wonderfully natural locations and he wouldn’t skimp on the eventual nudity or even the SPACE--which I would like to imagine would be elaborate, naturalistic sets. This is the guy who recently shot a movie in Antarctica. Who took a whole filmmaking team to Peru for Aguirre. Who visited am erupting volcano for La Soufrière. Who really did pull a boat over a mountain for Fitzcarraldo. He'd go any and everywhere to recreate Moebius' imaginative worlds.

It would also be great to see Herzog pick up a comic book adaptation because even though he has never done it before, I feel like he would really understand adapting it, while respecting the already in place visual representation. He has an appreciation of making things as real and as fantastic as they need to be, often shown in his admittedly, embellished documentary style. What he calls "ecstatic truth"--an apt way of describing the goals of Moebius' work too.

Comic Adaptation Week: The Duplass Brothers' Boys Club

The Duplass Brothers make movies about bros, plain and simple. But they make really knowing, really hilarious, damned subtle movies about bros. Weirdly moving but not sentimental in the least, they're the anti-Apatow. Their series of shorts--especially This is John--and their debut feature, The Puffy Chair are all about the weird ways, goofy white guys connect and don't connect, express themselves and don't express themselves and all that. And their follow-up, Baghead is a one-joke idea stretched into a feature until the joke is maybe that it's a half-baked one-joke stretched into a feature...and then it makes sense. It's weird.

Though how exactly Matt Furie's loveable Boys Club characters, Andy, Brett, Landwolf, and Pepe--all of them, these weird hard-to-identify animal creatures--would translate to real-life (CGI? Puppets? Stop-Motion? Big dumb costumes?) isn't something I can even imagine, The Duplass Brothers could get the silly, touching, absurdist interactions of Boys Club just right. The same way Furie's in part, parodying the gag-strips like Garfield or whatever, the Duplass' mock the navel-gazing, dialogue-heavy, indies of the 90s, by doing the same thing, just with a more knowing, self-mocking tone.

And they fill their movies with reality. As in, there's acting in The Puffy Chair, points where it's awkward to watch and the characters are crying and yelling so loud it kinda blows out the mics or seemingly scares the cameraman a bit, so the camera shakes unexpectedly. Sure it's funny, but all the farting, pooping, and throwing-up in Boys Club is the same kind of rough version of something that's usually smoothed-out and clean-looking. Or like, think of those totally tripped-out gag strips where the joke is just that it's the horrifying acid-freak-out? Kinda the same thing as those Puffy Chair moments where it gets unexpectedly heavy.

Issue 3 of Boys Club also reveals the possibility for something beyond one-page jokes for the comic and it's similar in style to the Duplass' ability to balance a really simple concept (two dudes pick up a chair they bough from eBay, a guy with a bag on his head is really scary) with plenty of character-defining tangents. Imagine issue 3 of Boys Club punctuated by the weirdo jokes of the first two issues, played relatively straight and you've got an awesome adaptation.

Comic Adaptation Week: Mickey Rourke as Thor

Until recently, I thought Thor was the worst superhero ever. Stan Lee straight-up picking something from Norse mythology, sending it through the Jack Kirby thought machine and, wings on your helmet and you've got a new superhero. Recently though, especially because of the incredible work of Straczynski and Coipel’s Thor series, my opinion has been turned around and in turn, made me reevaluate my knee-jerk response to Lee and Kirby’s Thor.

Most comics fans still have this idealistic view of the character as a ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ boy-scout, but the film version would have to be closer in style to the Thor one shots Ages of Thunder and Reign in Blood. These one-shots get back to what Thor was in the original myths: a warrior. He didn’t mind killing because that’s what happens in battle. The movie would translate to Thor trudging through muddy mountains battling Frost Giants to some really intense metal. Think of the rather slept-on movie Severed Ways without all the contemplative nonsense--or less of it--and a whole lot more big-budget battle scenes.

This is where Mickey Rourke comes in. Rourke has proven himself in his long career to be capable of handling physically demanding roles, and his recent "return" as Randy “The Ram” in The Wrestler proves he can not only still hack it, but use his aging body and physicality for the good of the film. Thor doesn’t have to be this beautiful dude as long as he has a fighting spirit and intensity. Rourke has shown time and time again that he can play a hard-ass, but always one a little more interesting, maybe even charismatic. Combine that with the noblility and toughness of his performance as Randy, Rourke would make for a really thrilling performance as a Frost Giant-battling Thor. Of course, Rourke brings his acting chops to the table well, always, making potential interactions with Odin, Loki, and Sif realistic and engaging.

Honorable Mentions:
Triple H
AJ Hawk of the Green Bay Packers


Comic Adaptation Week: Darren Aronofsky's Silver Surfer: Requiem

Darren Aronofsky has gone from turning a movie script into a comic, so it really shouldn’t be too hard to reverse the process. His tone is a perfect match for a character who at his heart is contemplative, truth-seeking, and at least a little depressed: Max in Pi, Tom in The Fountain, Randy "The Ram" in The Wrestler. The slow, ponderous pacing of his movies and his ability to juggle intense real life moments with crazy metaphorical events and images make him ideal to direct a Silver Surfer movie.

The Surfer’s original comic series was the home of more than one philosophical monologue pontificating his place within the cosmos. Straczynski and Ribic’s Silver Surfer: Requiem has many of the Surfer’s original philosophic elements, only it ups the tragic aspect of the Surfer even more than usual. The whole series focuses on a dying Silver Surfer as he and others come to terms with his eventual death. A scene with the Surfer and Spiderman would be perfect if portrayed in the same style as in Aronofsky's The Wrestler; grand, and epic, but brutally realistic at the same time.

The Fountain deals with similar sorts of themes: life, death, and literally, the cosmos. One of the three storylines of The Fountain is a man floating through space with a tree in a bubble. There are scenes of a silhouette doing Tai Chi in front of a star field and like the one shown above where Hugh Jackman’s character meditates through the cosmos. It’s easy to picture the Silver Surfer flying through a similar backdrop as his silver shell slowly blackens.

The Surfer’s final act in Requiem (not For a Dream) is to give everyone on his planet a small portion of himself and his power. It’s the same circle of life idea as in The Fountain as all of the storylines combine into one another and the Tree of Life dies and is reborn. The power unleashed from the nebula in this scene makes me believe that his action sequences, what little there are in Requiem would be exciting. It’s clear Aronofsky could make every scene of Silver Surfer: Requiem come alive, while still being true to it's ponderous, philosophic nature.

Comic Adaptation Week: Nicolas Cage as Dr. Strange

When Robert Downey Jr. played the alcoholic hero Tony Stark/Iron Man, it changed who could play a superhero and how a superhero could be played in a big, comic book movie. Downey brought eccentricity to superhero movies. He didn't play a stoic or a bad-ass or a cocky motherfucker (or more accurately, just a cocky motherfucker), but a person who takes on not a role or persona, but a larger cloak of responsibility. This is, of course, what super hero comics are to comics readers but not the general public: Humane stories dipped in superhero stuff.

Nicolas Cage, certainly an eccentric actor, but also a comic book fan and comic creator himself, would be able to put the stoner perfect world of 60s Ditko into the contemporary world, without the ironic tinge that most would undoubtedly employ. Cage understands his place in the world of Hollywood better than most. He plays serious sad guys in movies like Weatherman with the same sincerity that he presents in movies like Con Air, where he plays a weird not-so-tough not-so-sexy tough ass sexy dude, and even in weird stuff like The Wickerman. Instead of becoming these characters, he becomes who those characters see themselves as, like when ten year old boys draw themselves with sunglasses and chain wallets. He's painfully sincere. Always. This understanding of the character he's becoming has been what's allowed him to present them in a way most people would over look, exaggerations that define his roles.

Ditko-Era Dr. Strange is all about weird eccentricities like these; garrulous spells and exaggerated hand motions. Cage's ability to be completely aware of who and what he is while still putting on a "show" would be perfect for Dr. Strange. His serious but goofy demeanor would award Dr. Strange the respect he deserves--other actors would try to create an aura of mysticism that would be too mannered and thought-out. Strange is Sorcerer Supereme, whoever acted these incantations out would have to not only believe them, but would have to be able to say them as naturally as he walks. Cage could do this.

Comic Adaptation Week: The Maximortal by Ethan and Joel Coen

I suppose in the interest of full disclosure I should admit that unlike many of my contemporaries, I am not an unreserved admirer of the movies of Ethan and Joel Coen. Be that as it may, the Coens represent perhaps the most widely recognizable body of work within a certain creative instinct unique to what one might call postmodernity. That is to say that the Coens partake in a revisionist assessment of American culture that is rooted in the stories that have helped to define us for generations and whose method involves a modified recapitulation of that storytelling tradition.

The same creative instinct behind the peculiar marriage of Homeric myth and a notion originating in a Preston Sturges screwball comedy provides the underpinning to Rick Veitch's The Maximortal. Veitch's superhero deconstruction performs the seemingly paradoxical task of celebrating the origins and tradition of the comics that perhaps more than any other popular art form symbolized the American century while shining a light on the dark human forces that are behind our fetishization of superhuman heroes.

But what really makes the Coens the perfect creative team to bring The Maximortal to the cinema is the pair's sharp eye for character. Just about any Coen brothers' film is a veritable menagerie of human grotesquerie, from No Country for Old Men's Anton Chigurh to The Big Lebowski's, well, Big Lebowski, to just about anyone and everyone in Fargo. Not only do the Coens have a knack for creating these lovable monstrosities on the page, but they've also been blessed with the abitity to find the perfect talent to embody them. Casting the Coens' adaptation of The Maximortal would be as simple as calling up the names from their stable of regulars (and one not-so-regular): Frances Mcdormand and Steve Buscemi as George and Meryl Winston; John Turturro as Jerry Spiegel; and who else but Javier Bardem as El Guano.

It is actually somewhat surprising that the Coens have yet to try their hand at a comic book movie. The hard-boiled crime novels that have provided the basis for so many of their screenplays are part of the same pulp tradition. A filmmaking team with the Coens' singular eye for visual detail, coupled with their peculiar mix of lowbrow convention and high concept theoretical nuance would be the perfect fit for bringing Veitch's perverse American epic to a wider audience. Now if only they can contract Eminem for the lead . . .


Comic Adaptation Week: Wes Anderson's Batman: Snow

Though Wes Anderson wouldn't make a very good Spider-Man film, he's an ideal director to make a comic book movie. Especially one free of the slathered-on pathos and darkness that's taken over every comic book blockbuster. The genius of Anderson's work is the way he breaks apart the "quirk", the fragile, perfectly-designed production he's known for and exposes something that feels extra-real, that really hits hard, because it's wrapped in artificiality.

Kinda like a comic book--this "juvenile", rather rote format that when done right, is all the more powerful because it isn't "supposed" to get serious or be all tragic and stuff. Imagine the awesome production design of Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy or the Adam West Batman show, tongue removed from cheek and focused on serious, down-to-earth concerns.

A Wes Anderson version of Batman: Snow would be perfect. The central theme of a singular focused individual whose kind of a jerk but ultimately sympathetic is already there, as is the multi-ethnic group of weirdos right there with the hero, as is the mix of deep empathy and just-as-deep irony. It's a strange approach to character in Batman: Snow--but Jesse already told you that--and Anderson is one of the few directors who I think, would really get it. Who could run you alongside of a destructive but sincere nutbar and show his ever-so-slight shift towards self-awareness.

Anderson's empathy, his Renoir-influenced "Everyone has their reasons" approach to character would be perfect for Mr. Freeze too, who just can't be a disturbed guy with a messed-up background who went "bad"--like say, Penguin in Batman Returns--but a character viewers really need to understand. And of course--the production design! The world of white snow and bright primary colors and weird, Seth Fisher-isms are totally in the Anderson wheelhouse.

Comic Book Adaptation Week!

You probably saw the video above somewhere or another, earlier this month. If you didn't, it's a not very funny, like, speculative fan video/parody that presupposes: What if Wes Anderson got the job to reboot Spider-Man? Only it doesn't do that, it just takes a lot of stuff from Wes Anderson movies and sorta kinda grafts them onto the basic Spider-Man storyline. It's also not a thankless fan parody but a secret commercial for one of the guys who made it's sissy singer-songwriter music but hey...internet in 2010!

That said, it did get all of us over here pondering comic book adaptations (why do so many suck?), recalling some of those lost or long-rumored ones (the Incal movie, Kevin Smith's Superman script, Aronofsky's Ronin, even David Gordon Green's Freaks of the Heartland), and drumming up a few of our own "dream" comic book adaptations. So, all this week, we'll be drumming up a bunch of our own comic-nerd wet-dream adaptations as well as defending a few unfairly maligned superhero movies, and other comic book movie related stuff.


Snow Days: Batman versus Mr. Freeze in Batman: Snow

If you were anywhere on the East Coast last week you were likely caught in the double blizzard of 2010. Regardless of your geographical location, it’s the depths of winter, so I though I'd take a look at Batman: Snow, one of the finest, weirdest Batman books out there.

Written by Dan Curtis Johnson and J.H. Williams, and one of the last works by the great Seth Fisher, who if not for his untimely death, would be mentioned in the same breath as Frank Quietly and Geof Darrow. Fisher always worked with writers, but despite that, his comics have a cohesive tone--like he was an uncredited writer or something. He's a kind of "auteur" penciller or maybe just a really good collaborator. His work on Batman: Snow is considerably darker in tone, focusing on characters villain and hero alike, with extreme emotional and psychological issues.

Mr. Freeze is the obvious example, but Batman is almost equally as disturbed. Snow has the typical thematic comparison between the hero and villain, but Fisher’s art gets into some deeper more disturbing levels. A year or so after his crime fighting debut, Batman is barely holding his life together and getting lost into the dangerous world of Gotham’s criminal underbelly. He’s so tightly wound that he jumps when Alfred walks in behind him to bring food, and he’s not completely in control of every situation like in so many other Batman tales.

Though he's disturbed, even a bit sociopathic, Fisher’s Batman isn’t the typical "Dark Knight" depicted recently. His costume is blue and gray with the giant yellow bat-symbol on his chest. His mannerisms are closer on the Batman spectrum to Adam West then any other Batman. There’s a reality to his awkward actions like in the TV show, like a real-life guy moves and bends, not a cloaked-in-shadows hero. Think of the wrinkles in the suit at the joints, and when Batman and Robin climb the side of the building their bizarre walking crotch and the goofy weirdness when someone pokes their head out.
Because it's almost always glossed over, there's a strangeness in a comic book when someone's just acting out what is natural and commonplace in real-life. It looks odd. That's why comic movies have to be dramatically changed--every frame can't be a perfectly-posed, supercool, iconic image and so, things are made to look cleaner and less real. Unfortunately, this has transferred its way back into comics, so your comics look more like the comic-book movies they inspired than the their own thing.
Seth Fisher though, draws Batman like none of the movies ever happened. Heck, he draws Batman like none of the many revisionists comics even happened. Instead, he tells a dark Batman story with the tools of the chintzy 60s TV show. And so, Fisher embraces awkward, realistic posing and uses them for comic relief and as a jarring reminder of reality, which enhances the narrative and highlights the darker points of the story. Fisher goes by the philosophy, "if you want to write about darkness you will hit the mark the most directly by telling a light story and letting the reader find the darkness," which is very apt here. Every time Batman pops out of a bush or we watch him awkwardly hop out a window it puts emphasis on how Batman's character is really out of place--how he's sorta nutty.

Freeze has the same outsider nature to his personality as Batman. They act awkwardly around people, have a high intelligence, motivation, and have suffered an extreme tragedy. They’re unique in the sense of the story, in that they’re the only characters that are “super” in the sense of hero/villain, they're extremists for better and worst, and that even extends to their outfits, which none of the supporting characters wear. The large population of supporting characters like Batman’s team, Freeze's scientist partners, and the police in the story are "normal" and by being "normal", they really cement Batman/Freeze's position as outcasts only existing on the fringes of society. How they deal with their outsider-ness though is quite different: Batman embraces and cultivates his oddball position in society while Freeze rejects it--almost in denial.
The above panel gets to the heart of what’s going on in Freeze's story. It’s the transition that makes the panel particularly effective, but it works pretty well on it’s own. The preceding panels show Freeze in his delusional dream world, talking to his imaginary wife. The panel above brings Freeze out of his dream into his actual surroundings, or at least allows the reader see them. Fisher uses background as an entrance into Freeze’s deteriorating psyche, and the panel's an excellent visual metaphor for Freeze’s life. He surrounded himself in a kind of shell that protected himself from the realities of the world: Job security, the true nature of his research, and the extent of his wife’s illness. Freeze, with icicles and a crazed expression on his face, looks just as odd as the people on his team saw him to be every day. It’s the angle of the shot on Freeze that focuses on his particularly harsh and unforgiving surroundings. It has none of the magic and excitement that he wants in the world that's in actuality, just filled with utilitarian pipes and containers.
While Freeze has just decided to commit more murders, the panel seems to have a particular sympathy for him. While clearly crazy, there’s definitely a sadness to Freeze and almost a sympathy for his worldview. Fisher makes his dreamworld attractive and lends one to think that Freeze has a creative side that's been squandered in his job working for the Defense Department. He is also only a hairs length different from Batman in the story, and it’s as if this panel is saying: No wonder he had the reaction he did, surrounded by the conditions of society and caliber of people in his world, who wouldn't freak out?

This brief sympathy is squandered by his insanity and his complete desire to murder. He wants the world to stop changing and embraces death as the ultimate way to achieve his goals. This is obviously where he and Batman split. Batman protects life at all costs, which keeps him as the hero despite his radically pragmatic tendencies. The final confrontation between the two reveals Freeze's insanity-- trying to freeze out someone's eyes for pleasure-- and Batman's intense protective, paternal nature. His paternal reaction to Freeze's threats bode well for his future endeavors, which the ending implies will be a refocused effort with the Boy Wonder himself, showing a real growth in Batman's character. Batman's hardly perfect in Batman: Snow, he's often as single-minded as Freeze, but unlike Freeze, Batman adjusts, changes, and learns.

Joe the Barbarian #2

In sharp contrast to the leisurely paced, deceptively simple first issue of Joe the Barbarian, #2 is an extended action sequence--like if you remade that brilliant single-take war scene from Children of Men with your He-Man toys. The only thing that breaks the on-the-fly chaos of the issue are quick shifts back into "real-life", where it's just Joe and his pet rat Jack, and not, Joe, a confused prophet, and Chakk, a hard-ass samurai rat, racing through a war-torn sci-fi fantasy landscape.

If it weren't for these tumbles back-to-"reality", the second issue of Joe would almost feel like a different comic book...like some weird, never-completed series, post-TMNT/B & W comics boom, in which a bunch of stuff is jammed together, made kinda dystopian, and cartoony and weird. That's a good thing though and really, the brief returns back to real-life, though they take you out of the action, ratchet up the level of intensity and remind you that something's at stake. Namely, Joe's weird hallucinations are brought on by his lack of insulin.

And so, the emotions of this issue are closely tied to touchable things: Joe's fantasy-world sense of "What the hell is going on, here?" and real-world worry of "When's my mom get home from work, I might be dying." This is Morrison taking full advantage of the two-worlds conceit of the comic. A trick in a lot of action movies are these quick ways to make the big, epic violence feel personal, so a character will hit his shin or step on something amongst explosions and gunfire--this is what say, Die Hard or even, Home Alone, perhaps a perfect filmic counterpart to Joe is all about. What Morrison does is just have this like other thing going on, that's very real, not banal but everyday, and runs it alongside the action.There's a real sense of dread to the (purposefully) rote but still very awesome fantasy-action story.

At the same time, Morrison, with the help of Sean Murphy's just amazing artwork, injects the story with a bigger-than-our-world feeling of apocalypse. That double-page spread on pages four and five is like Playmobil Bosch or something. Night & Fog meets Pink Floyd's The Wall. A lego man running away in terror. Everything on fire. A TV showing endless images of cross-shaped graves. And most horrifying: a clothesline of hanged samurai rats. Like his whole run on Doom Patrol or, the parts of Final Crisis and "Batman R.I.P" that didn't make sense but at least felt right, this is Morrison doing sick-to-the-stomach, end-of-the-world stuff like nobody else.

The raised stakes put a clever spin on the simple story of outcast kid gets lost in his dreamworld because the dreamworld is not only a nightmare, but one in which Joe has (for the time being at least) no control over. Though the issue starts with the standard outsider/prophecy-fulfilled jazz, it helps that Captain Picard is the one doing the talking, and that Joe just kinda wanders away from it because he's half in the real-world and just trying to get to the bathroom in his mom's house. Once he meets up with Chakk, he's an annoying tag-along--none of the tenderness he has for Jack in the real-world translates over to Chakk in the fantasy world. There's no wish fulfillment in Joe the Barbarian, just two parallel worlds that are both sort of terrifying.


Tails of the Pet Avengers

When Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers was first released, I praised it for it’s ability to be a truly All Ages comic. Very few comics can be enjoyed by weird twenty-five year olds like me as well as my 9 year old little sister, the exceptions really being Bone and maybe that's it. I spent a lot of time here in Hoth, Maryland snowed in with my little sister enjoying shows like Nickelodeon’s action and continuity heavy Avatar: The Last Airbender and weird as hell Spongebob Squarepants and it became clear to me, how similarly children digest the stuff they read and watch.

It’s important for kids and their parents to be able to enjoy the same things, to enjoy things together. Kids know when they are being spoken down to--it’s why when I was young I refused to order off the kids menu, even at 6 I wasn’t going to degrade myself by ordering a “Buckaroo Burger”. You want to be treated grown up and respected. My experience back in my mom's house, back as kinda sorta "the parent", would do a lot of comics writers, artists, and business types a lot of good.

Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers did a great job of being something I could share with my younger sibling, not only because it was ageless, but it was genderless and therefore could actually be for everyone. Things being so un-gender neutral in the world of children’s entertainment lead to her saying “This is a boy show” when talking about Star Wars. She constantly reminds me of this while watching shows like the above mentioned Avatar as well, even with one of the main characters being a strong female lead. Action and bad guys="Boy show". Buying her Pet Avengers and talking to her about the characters, seeing her draw them and be interested in where they came from was awesome, I’m glad I could share something like that with her.

What made Pet Avengers so special was that it was like this strange comic you'd find only the third issue of in a quarter bin: Animals with super powers collecting the most powerful items in the universe to keep their master's safe. Relationships and characters were defined on a single page, the usual over complication of origins is ignored to make room for the story. Take Blackbolt, the Inhuman's dog Lockjaw can't speak. Naturally, Thor Frog--the only non-sidekick of the bunch-- communicates for him. They search out each of the four infinity gems, fighting Devil Dinosaur, Giganto and even Thanos, and even meet the president, all in four issues. It's simple, fun and perfect. You didn't need to know or understand anything to enjoy it.

Then, Tails of the Pet Avengers came out, and I will not be buying it for my sister. What the first volume of stories achieved in all ages comics, the second fails miserably. Instead of a single story with the group of animals fighting together, each Pet Avenger has been given it’s own “tail”. Not all the stories are bad, but one in particular, one that I’ll assume was geared towards little girls who read comics, upset me knowing that I wouldn’t feel right giving it to my younger sister.

Drawn by Chris Eliopoulos and written by Buddy Scalera, Prom Queen is the Lockheed story, about not a little girl, but a senior in high school who is obsessed with dragons. Her obsession has caused her to be an outcast amongst her peers, and has earned her the name “Dragon Girl”. Eventually Lockheed flies in and oh boy, she learns that Dragons are real! With Lockheed now at her side, she’s proud to be called Dragon Girl, moral of the story is that it’s okay to be different kids!!

Unfortunately the strength a real "Dragon Girl" would need couldn't be given by a dragon because they aren't real. The very real problems--her only friend in school is a teacher, being an outsider, etc.--aren't solved at the end of the story, she just has a dragon now. The ridicule she has been receiving presumably her whole high school career will continue, kids just aren't nice.

The artist, who's well-known for this work on Franklin Richards: Son of a Genius, draws overweight Dragon Girl surrounded by thin "pretty" girls who are decorating the prom she doesn't have a date for, suggesting further insecurities on Dragon Girl's part and more underlying problems with the story itself. This girl is given no redeeming factors, nothing to make you care about her, and you are left not understanding why you were supposed to care in the first place.

It's important to teach kids that it in fact is okay to be different, it's also important, like I said, to respect them. The depth given in a story like Bone or even Disney and Tokyopop's Kilala Princess is important to them. For a $4 comic the lack of actual content in a comic like this is appalling, and I know what you're thinking "Sammy, dude, it's a kid's comic, give it a break", but kids don't want that, they accept it. Children don't have the options and resources adults have and so, all too often, they have to "settle" for what entertains them. They'll read bad comics and see Beverly Hills Chihuahua because it's all they got, but when something smart and complex comes along they flock to it. This is whyHarry Potter is so big. Surprise, surprise, adults love Potter too. Kids are starving for stories with depth, something that they can return to in a week and still enjoy.

A disposable, forgettable story like Prom Queen doesn't stick with kids, they don't feel the intended impact of the message, and will just move on. Nerdz can talk shit all they want about novel series like Twilight, but the positions those characters are placed in are what kids want, things that give them a sense of adulthood or escapism and reality.

Pet Avengers could, and should be stories that while tackling "issues" kids care about can also be fun and weird. It's why Goonies and Labyrinth are popular--they are stories about loners and outcasts that don't take shortcuts, that don't write in too much shorthand, that let the stories play out. Tails of the Pet Avengers could have been a continuation of the first series, something I could be proud to give to my sister, but is instead something I won't buy her. There are enough pieces of mindless entertainment for her to enjoy already.



-Joe the Barbarian #2 comes out this week, which is very exciting. It will be interesting to see how and where the story develops after the pitch-perfect debut issue and because it's Morrison, it could be great, it could be awful, but it'll at least be interesting.

-Also, Punisher #14 which means...MORE FRANKENCASTLE! If you're not reading this storyline, you're nuts. Go read Sammy's post if you more further convincing.-b

-Oh wow, the latest issue of McSweeney's is out and it's done in a fold-out newspaper style and is as twee and predictable as usual. Complete with a comics page full of all your favorite smug, alt-comix bros (Tomine, Clowes, Ware, Seth, etc.). Finally! Something crappier than Wednesday Comics!-b

Kevin Smith too fat to sit on the plane?: Alright so, Kevin Smith is a hefty dude but not the type of hefty one would think problematic to sit next to on a plane. But apparently, Southwest Airlines kicked Kevin Smith off a plane for just that reason. This is next level airline customer disrespect- the kind you can't blame on 9/11. Anyhow, Kevin Smith tweeted about it and was given a $100 voucher for his next flight...hmm? I would call that further mishandling the situation...-m

-S.O.N 2 by James Frankhouse: DJ Dirrty of Ballers Eve--Wednesday from 10pm-12am on East Village Radio--posted this amazing skate video for which he mixed the music: Lots of rap, some metal, it's all awesome. I want a whole DVD of this stuff!-b

Wahahafactory Halloween-o-fies a Hong Kong Double Decker Bus!: I was hipped to Wahahafactory by The Fader's really great style contributor, Chioma Nnadi. Wahahafactory is a weirdly diversified group? or person? designing everything from art, makeup, jewelry and media. Kind of reminds me of an asian version of the French graffiti artist, Fafi. I took to the "tram" because it's actually kind of eerie looking like the Cat Bus in My Neighbor Totoro and much more bizarre and fun-looking than the art-buses that run around in my city right now! -m

-So, I was watching Nausicaa Valley of the Wind last night and was really taken by the score, done by Joe Hisaishi, who does a lot of the Miyazaki scores (and also scores for Takeshi Kitano). It's a mix of J-Pop melodrama and some like killer 80s synth type stuff (at points it's downright Hypnagogic), and even some very weird Terry Riley-esque synth drone shits. A lot of it doesn't seem to even fit the movie but it works. Especially this early fight scene set to a song very similar to "Steppin Out" by Joe Jackson.-b

-Producer AraabMuzik's been providing rapper Cam'ron with these weird, trebly, electronic type beats for a while now and more recently, he's been releasing these amazing solo performances on his drum machine. Really mind-blowing stuff. Someone needs to book this guy a tour or something.-b

POKEWALKER!: Every so often, there comes a moment in life. A pokemon moment. I'm having one of these moments right now...and March 15th, Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver launch in the United States. But hold on, that's not it. The most exciting thing of all, is this great little device that comes with the game called a Pokewalker. Essentially, it's a pedometer that also allows you to interact with your friends (kind of like fighting tamagotchis...or..hold on, DIGIMON) and also, include these experiences or items gained in gameplay. Can't wait.-m


Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan's Demo #1 "The Waking Life of Angels"

Brian Wood has a lot to feel good about. His 50-issue run on DMZ continues to be one of the most successful and challenging responses to the post-Terrible Tuesday world that comics have yet to offer while Northlanders proves that you can write an historically accurate, morally probing comic about Vikings that still offers everything that is FUN about Vikings. As if that were not enough, Wood is now revisiting his reputation-making collaboration with Becky Cloonan, herself one of the most talented and interesting artists of her generation, with a new series of Demo stories.

Regular readers of this blog know that I've been an admirer of Wood's work for pretty much as long as I've been reading comics. More than probably any other writer of his generation, Wood has figured out the magic formula for crafting stories that allow the images to drive the narrative. Hold up an issue of DMZ next to, say, Watchmen and the first thing you'll notice is that the former is made up of images with an occasional smattering of text to provide detail, while the latter is a grandiloquent architecture of words spruced up with a few drawings like so much window dressing. Of course I'm being a bit glib here, but the point is that Brian Wood doesn't so much write comics as facilitate visual storytelling. He's sort of the perfect wing man for any penciller worth her nibs.

But where Wood really shines is in the short form comic; he is a master of the one-shot or mini-series that reads like a six-issue trade. In the little "History of Demo" printed at the back of the first issue, Wood explains that an apparently toxic ex-girlfriend introduced him to short films, which in turned spurred his exploration of this style of storytelling in comics. As Wood writes of the original series, "each story presents a turning point in a character's life where what they do, what action (or lack thereof) they take will forever change their life." Anyone who has ever taken an introductory level literature class knows that this is what separates capital-L Literature from pulp--that turning point, the moment a character makes a choice that will change her life and change who she is. Of course comics are not novels and attempts to develop character in a novelistic way will generally fall flat, or at least run out of pages. Thus, what Wood's stories, like "The Waking Life of Angels," do is represent a sort of perfect compromise between the drama of human development and suffering of Literature and whiz-bang fun of pulp.

"The Waking Life of Angels" gives us the story of Joan, a young, attractive San Francisco professional who is plagued by a preternaturally vivid dream in which a girl falls from inside the cupola of St. Paul's Cathedral in London. The dream so troubles Joan that she quits her job and spends the last of her money on a one-way ticket to London, ostensibly to rescue the falling girl. So, she makes her way to London, heads straight for St. Paul's and charges up the cupola stairs without buying a ticket only to find--SPOILER ALERT--that the falling girl is herself.

It is telling that Wood cites the Dardenne brothers' Rosetta as a major inspiration for Demo. In that film, as in the "The Waking Life of Angels"--this cinematic portmanteau of a title is perhaps a bit too precious--what is interesting is everything that is left out. Rosetta's story is heartbreaking and powerful and yet maddening because of the title character's reticence. Ultimately, viewers learn next to nothing about what goes on in Rosetta's mind, what keeps her going despite the soul-crushing awfulness of her hand-to-mouth existence.

One could almost say the same thing about Joan: we know that she's had this dream and we know that it's kept her from sleeping, but really, what drives someone to drop everything and spend her last dime on plane ticket to London in order to see if a dream will come true? Of course we'll never know and that's sorta the point. Finding out what happens in the end is always less titillating, less fulfilling than the anticipation. Ultimately it doesn't matter what Joan's job was, who her friends are, why she lives alone, but all of those questions swirl in the reader's mind as it dashes from panel to panel.

And let's talk about those panels for a moment. As Cloonan indicates in her own additions to the "History of Demo," she has "always been experimental with [her] comics." In "The Waking Life of Angels" she seems to be invoking Guido Crepax, complete with dynamic panel designs. The effect these retro-elegant lines and schizophrenic layouts is to convey to the reader something of the combination of madness and sang-froid that Joan seems to radiate. It's also a perfect way to express in visual terms the story's version of a New World invasion of the Old, in which Joan becomes a sort of 21st century version of a James heroine, with the looks, but without the money and filled with all the neuroses of our time.

So yeah, perhaps even more than Wood, readers have a lot to feel good about with this second volume of Demo. Wood is reunited with one of the maybe half-dozen most exciting American artists working in the medium, creating the sort of stories he was born to create. Beats shoveling snow, anyway.



So, it snowed a whole lot. Shit was like Hoth out there. Hope everyone's safe and warm now though. A little late on this, but here we go...

-One of my favorite blogs, Comics for Pervs has finally been updated. Dude's just uploading cool, weird comics, some hard to find, some not so much, all of them kinda weird or sexy-like and it's nice to see him back.-b

-"Still Underground" by Martin L. Johnson from Baltimore City Paper: A smart article from our city's free alternative weekly about anime. Namely, it's a sober look at how niche anime remains, how despite the sense that all us nerds have about say, Miyazaki or something, as this dude everyone knows about--well, not everybody knows about him. I won't front, part of my reason for leaving Ponyo off my "films of the year" ballot for the aforementioned City Paper was the sense that it's the cliched anime everyone would pick. And it is. That doesn't mean it isn't great and worth of our attention. FAIL on my part.-b

-"I'm Sick" by some Whiny Guy: This should probably get its own post, but really man, fuck this self-righteous, smart-guy snobbery. Dudes ripping dudes in half is part of what comics are all about! This looks awesome, so get over it, mayne. To discuss why this is stupid would be one thing, or to like unpack it into a larger concern about comics or whatever would be another, but to just sorta toss this out there, all hyperbolic ("I'm sick") and assume comics readers will just understand is obnoxious. That indeed, this view is the one held by most comics readers is why this blog is always, at the least, simmering with anger. Grow up! Violence is cool. Dude's also sipping on a big 32oz bottle of Marvel hater-ade, but that's nothing new.-b

-Bob Fingerman's late-night TV style infomercial for his upcoming From The Ashes trade is really funny and well done, but sorta sums up what sucks about most casual comics readers. People get too freaked out by issues and far too often wait for the "graphic novel" editions, like it's cool to read a comic on the bus if it might, just maybe, look like a book to anyone not sitting behind you. Fingerman's work is really weird and honest, it's post punk, and I mean that in a good way. -s

-Toycutter showcases custom toys from all over the internet. John Struan, who also runs Super Punch, posts have no commentary or reviews, just pictures of action figures, vinyl toys and even Warhammer 40k miniatures. By not adding his own two cents the toys and artists themselves are really able to shine, and honestly, without Toycutter I would have never known that people make Super Punch Out toys. -s

- Some oldie-but-goodie classics here for all your spaceship nerds out there. Jeff Russell's Starship Dimensions is a super enjoyable size comparison site for ships from Star Wars, Star Trek, Robotech, and a bunch of other Sci-Fi classics. Some of the sizes are in question like: is Unicron from Transformers the Movie really smaller than our moon? It seems to be pretty well researched, and if you use Internet Explorer, you can move the ships around for a side-by-side comparison. The other site is Concept Ships' Blog. They have page after page of incredible spaceship centered art, but sometimes borders on the annoyingly technical.-j

-Amazon has a listing for an Absolute All Star Superman coming out in October. Doesn't seem to be official or anything, but still exciting to think about especially since it's one of this blog's favorite recent comics. (via)j


-I'm going to take a self-indulgent second here and pimp my article on Richard Christy of the Howard Stern Show and of the awesome metal group Charred Walls of the Damned, in this week's Village Voice: "On Richard Christy's Fun-Metal Opus Charred Walls of the Damned".b

-Speaking of metal. You reading our buddy Julian's metal blog Heavy Metal Infinity? You should.b

-Oh yeah, there's some movie called Babies coming out. Babies!!!