Blood, Sweat & Twitter: One Woman Paul Pope fandom? Bitches, please

Good friend of the blog and semi-committal comics reader Camden had the, what, dumb luck?, no, unique opportunity to see Paul Pope talk about his craft during spring break. So of course we thought it would be a perfect opportunity to have her share with our readers here something of her experience. What her piece here seems to get at it is how Paul Pope has a certain something, a bit of the rock star, almost, about him that sets him apart from other comics artists. What she doesn't mention is how she had to be talked into ditching her dad's girlfriend's middle school musical to go see Paul Pope. She also doesn't mention the octopus drawing she commissioned for me. -d

I had the absolute privilege of seeing Paul Pope speak at the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco, which is where I live in real life. San Francisco Bay Area, not the Cartoon Art Museum, although the Cartoon Art Museum is a real treat and I do wish I had been less starstruck by His Popeliness to wander around a bit more, as they had some really cool stuff on display.

Now, you must understand where I come, pulphopefully speaking. I have been a fan of Paul Pope for about a year. David gave me a copy of Heavy Liquid to read on a plane. I think I finished it before my plane even left the airport. It was a magical moment for me. Later after I expressed my enjoyment of Heavy Liquid in several exclamation-laced sentences, David handed me 100% which I of course adored with the passion of a thousand burning suns and thus my love for Paul Pope was solidified for all eternity. I love the man and his work and though I have no background whatsoever in illustration or comics, I think his storytelling is phenomenal.

So like any good fangirl after her first fannish epiphany, I googled him, put his blogspot on my Google reader, added him on Flickr and called it a day. Later realizing that his blogspot is one of the least informative sources on all things Pulphope, at least in terms of his actual Goings On, I set up a Google alert which sent me emails every day containing extensive articles about Pope John Paul II and the occasional article casually using Paul Pope’s name in reference to something that invariably had very little to do with him. One time an actual interview with him came up! That was real exciting. Another time MTV referenced his twitter! So I added him to my Twitter feed and promptly forgot about it. Then I cut the alert email, because it was annoying.

This entire process took about thirty minutes, not counting the time I took, one day, to go back, starry-eyed, through his flickr. I merely wanted to make sure I got up-to-date information on whatever he happened to be putting out or where he might be going and signing stuff or what have you, since he is not a man who seems to make many formal appearances and who does not rapidly produce work, at least new comics. I also wanted a peek inside that magnificent brain of his, having so very little knowledge of him. I’m an English major prone to close-reading and obsessive analyzing and the only thing I have ever learned is that too much information is never enough. Twitter, Flickr, and a blog? That’s me not even trying.

Anyway, I received an email from The Cartoon Art Museum the day before the event telling me that the actual Paul Pope would be in MY STATE talking about HIS COMICS and I flipped.

I was disappointed in the talk, sort of. Forty-five minutes of talking (split between Pope and Dr Michael B Johnson talking and an audience Q&A) was never going to be enough for me, and certainly did not satisfy my desire to know more. Nevertheless, I was pleased with what I got. Johnson obviously knows Pope well and had me scrawling down illegible notes in one of my school books regarding Pope’s answers. They covered a fair bit of the artist's history, which I do feel most people could have gotten had they spent more than thirty minutes on the internet looking for tidbits of his life. I was content to learn about this part of his life though, given I’ve heard all of one interview with him. It was an interesting interview to bear witness to, and I enjoyed it, honest. It just wasn’t long enough.

However, they opened the talk with a brief poll of the audience. Who here is involved with the creation of comics (writing, drawing, etc)? At least half the audience. Who here is involved with projects around comics (apparently this means movies)? The other half of the audience. Even the surly-looking bro in the front row was an artist. I sat in my corner of the room, clutching my stupid books and thinking great, here we go, an entire talk about the industry, something I care very little about except in the context of how the industry affects the art which in Paul Pope’s case, as I learned that evening, is very little for everything between THB and Batman Year 100, and then again after the publication of Batman 100. (At this point in his career, the man is basically unstoppable. And he knows it.) But maybe there’ll be something of interest?

No. Take a crowd of mostly young and hip artists and comics dudes who are precisely the age group to which the iPhone is marketed and the first Q&A is a question about what brushes Pope uses. Um, what? He’s answered that question like a million times on twitter, dude. Or at least once and I’m sure that question has come up before. He suffered a few other questions about his art – do you thumbnail, what kind of paper do you use, what kind of ink do you use, what would you change about your art if you could start from the beginning – before I finally managed to steel myself.

I raised my hand in a sea of seemingly informed Paul Pope fans and I inquired politely as to what the fuck Shakedown actually is and what is he doing there and oh my god Paul Pope and burlesque how perfect etc, and a man sitting near me asked, “what burlesque are you talking about?”


Apparently the rest of the crowd looked fairly mystified as well and a quick explanation was in order. It is not, Paul the Illustrious said, him doing burlesque. (“Oh damn,” said half the crowd sadly, including me.) It is a show that he helped to organize with his girlfriend who is a burlesque artist. I was moved to tears, he said, at a burlesque show I went to, and I wanted to give back to this community that inspired me.

YOU’RE SO GREAT OH MY GOD I said in my head. The Q&A session moved on while I hung back, shocked – shocked! – at the ignorance of these young hip comics peeps around me. Dude next to me had a website for his comics. This other guy used ebay to buy Pulphope swag. Clearly an internet savvy crowd, as anyone over the age of two is wont to be. And yet they’d never heard of the Shakedown shows? Were they stupid? Did they just not pay attention? Was everyone here a pretender and I alone was the only true Paul Pope fangirl? Was I, in fact, the only Paul Pope stalker in the room?

Impossible. I’ve never even read all of THB. I read like half an issue once and got distracted by pasta. But Shakedown is all over his blog and his twitter and check out sheer amount of scans and photos of his art for Shakedown on his flickr. His enthusiasm for Shakedown, whatever it may be, is impossible to miss even if you visit his blog a mere once a month.

So what gives, dudes? A twenty-one year old with no independent interest in comics outside of Kate Beaton should not be more informed than you, actual comics creators with decades of knowledge, on the goings-and-comings of Paul Pope. Everyone who attended the event – and there were quite a few, standing room only – was clearly a fan. So what’s with the ignorance? Is it willful? That stupid misled fan desire to keep the creative separate from the man? But Paul Pope himself talked about “skingrafting [his] identity” onto the character of Batman in Batman Year 100 and anyone with eyes knows that it is utterly impossible to get away from Paul Pope in Paul Pope’s work. Furthermore, Paul Pope produces too little work that is so immediately difficult to get hold of that it strikes me as utterly stupid not to devote a little time and energy into keeping up with him. Particularly in something that is so obviously important and interesting and exciting to him.

Plus, it’s burlesque. Paul Pope and burlesque.

So come on, motherfuckers, get it together.



-One of the best record stores in Baltimore dwells in the back of a comic store turned Yu-Gi-Oh tournament space, Celebrated Summer is filled with really awesome hard to find punk and hardcore, some old soul and rap and lots of Japanese rarities. Just check out Tony's--nicest record store owner on Earth--crucial Balzac collection. And you thought comics collecting was tough?-s

-I've been playing a lot of music lately, hence my lack of activity on the blog, and reading a lot of metal blogs. Metal Sucks list of Ten Great Bands That Inadvertently Helped Ruin Metal is pretty infuriating and spot on at the same time. Don't worry, it's comics related, there's a picture of Two-Face. My guess is a "Ten Great Comics That Inadvertently Helped Ruin Comics" list would be similarly fun/infuriating.-s

-All of these "covered covers" are really incredible, it was hard to chose one image to capture them all so I went with Baltimore great Brian Ralph. Some artists do almost exact reproductions of the covers just in their own style while some take every artistic liberty possible. It's got everyone from Johnny Ryan to Tom Neely, some of the pieces are even available for purchase!-s

-Just some really good Pokemon art for those who enjoy that sort of thing. -j

- RASL #7 comes out this week and Jeff Smith posted a preview on his blog. I don't know if anyone else is reading RASL, but you really should be. Issue #6 was great and explained a lot about the RASL universe. Nothing beats universe traveling and existential sadness in my book.-j

-Internets has been buzzing about the Scott Pilgrim movie, but there's also a video game coming out. Internet Legend Paul Robertson--see video above--will be working as art director for the game. With new "old school" side scrolling 2D--while being sorta 3D--games like Megaman 9, The NEW Super Mario Bros., and the upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog 4, side scrolling is back, this thing's going to be big.-s


Powerful Panels: Stokoe's Orc Stain #2

Issue 2 of James Stokoe's chunky, tripped-out, does-whatever-it-wants Orc Stain begins with One-Eye and Pointyface, on their way to Scrubtown to give their share of chits to The Norman, a J. Jonah Jameson-like Orc, authority figure and somehow their boss...or something?

Pointyhead quickly dismisses a Nymph--in Stokoe's world, they're blue and pixie-haired and look like they should be in Nylon magazine--and both Orcs jump on these insane, almost bi-pedal, bug-eyed Triceratops and "head North".

Stokoe gives the fantasy-world thrill of creatures racing through some weird, foreign, craggly land two action-packed panels. The first is a kind of low-angle (think of those from-the-floor angles in Citizen Kane, it's that low) image of the creatures' legs kicking-up dust. They're caught mid-extension, legs bent, claws curved. Everything about the panel is slightly off or awkward. Your eyes end up focusing on this stubby, mound of dirty and grass that's a little left of the frame's center because it's the only complete thing in the whole image. The angle is, by conventional standards, "poorly framed"--there's not enough space at the top or bottom--and it's neither a wide or a medium shot...and it's not a close-up either.

All of the things that are "wrong" with the panel though, are why it's so weirdly, subliminally effective. Stokoe basically does a rote action scene in a slightly "off" way and makes it interesting again. That's probably true of Orc Stain as a whole--turning the familiar new by ignoring genre rules and expectations--but it's especially cool here; a blip of odd energy and excitement.

The panel moves, not because it's typically kinetic or possesses some killer visual narrative, but because the energy that it usually takes the interaction of panels to achieve, is done in a one, strangely framed, detail-packed image. You can imagine the panel as a shaky, hand-held camera, doing its best to capture the action, as the ground rumbles, and dust, dirt, and rocks kick-up in the foreground.

The next panel, though framed slightly "better", is on the same shit. Dust and chunks of ground jump around in the background, One-Eye and Pointyhead and their creatures, smooshed into the frame enough that they can be seen, but it's working with the same concept of the panel/"camera" not being able to appropriately capture the action. This panel feels almost like a still from footage of the creatures running, like a freeze-frame that clamps down on chaotic footage and kinda sorta makes it makes sense.

Before, I said these panels possess their own power, that they don't depend or use visual narrative, and though that's true in the sense that they totally work on their own and don't need each another, they are talking to one another. Look at the way Stokoe cleverly switches from the dust and grit in the foreground of the top panel to the dust and grit being in the background of the bottom panel. Also, when the panels are combined, you get a full illustration of the creatures: Their bottom-half and their top-half. Then, there's the contrast between those two action panels and the sedate tall panel on the left, the bored/annoyed One-Eye, totally not interested in what's going.

The sizes of the panels too, on the bottom third of the page, but the overall layout just as well, provide a "narrative" in the sense that there's a movement and trajectory to them. How they're arranged and how that final panel, the front view of the running creatures, is just crammed in there is really fun. One of the coolest things about Stokoe is how he's really trying to give you a fun read, not something you just slurp up and wait a month or two for the next one. Something that rewards you when you stare into it: A comic that's overflowing with images and ideas and jokes and cool little things--like this too-small, totally awesome panel.

I like that this panel doesn't need to be there. That the sequence would be even more terse and like, clever if Stokoe just gave you the top panel of the legs running. From Pointyhead's "We ride north" to a sprawling panel of the creatures well, heading north would be conventionally comic book-like. And it'd give the page a more comforting sense of parallelism. But no--instead, you get this moment stretched-out and made more complicated. One-Eye's mocking "North." and then, the two panels of the creatures that make it less an epic moment (though it still is exciting) and a weird, wobbling, you're totally in-it action sequence. Most people prefer the former, Stokoe prefers the latter. Me too.


Monday Links

Flying solo this week, so this is shorter and not really a "team-up"...

-New comics this week: The second issue of James Stokoe's mind-blowing Orc Stain. I finally say down and read the second volume of Won Ton Soup earlier in the week and so another release from Stokoe couldn't come at a better time. What's so great about his work is how it looks beautiful so you don't even have to read it, but the story's actually fairly complex and weird and so, you keep coming back to it. A big chunk of his work like Won Ton Soup is almost too much and it's really cool to receive monthly--or bi-monthly I guess--doses. Also: King City #6!

-The other day, Karen basically sat me down and told me to read this Josh Simmons story "Cock Bone" from issue three of the Robin Bougie-curated Sleazy Slice and wow, one of the best, most fucked-up reads ever. Like, it sticks with you and it randomly pops-up in your head days or weeks later. Sean T. Collins' review here pretty much nails it, especially this sentence: "And in the comic's most memorable, haunting effect, it doesn't so much end as give up--rather than actually showing what happens in the last two panels, Simmons superimposes simple caption boxes over the visuals that sum up their hidden contents in one or two words, as though the main character, Simmons, the world couldn't bear to endure the real thing." Word to Atomic Books for having a copy of Sleazy Slice which I promptly bought the day after reading "Cock Bone". Though it's hardly new, I'd like to direct everybody over to Simmons' website and read his unofficial Batman comic which is equally great and disturbing, if less explicit.

-Also, some real cool comics-related stuff added to NETFLIX 'Watch It Now' last week: Meteor Man and Harlan Ellison: Dreams with Sharp Teeth! Meteor Man just plain rules and is at the tail-end of the mid-80s, early 90s politically-engaged black comedy boom that's all but nonexistent anymore. Also tons of cameos and small parts by dudes like Big Daddy Kane! The Harlan Ellison doc is pretty good, especially for not idealizing the lovable curmudgeon but also portraying him as this no-bullshit legend. I rewatched it last night and noticed that over the credits, there's a part that says "Harlan Ellison wishes to thank..." and it's followed not by friends or family but basically a cool list of influences. I screen-capped it below:

-Sorry, that's all the comics news I got. DJ Paul of Three-Six Mafia released a mixtape last week that's really good.

-Check out this study on dancing babies!!!.


Joe the Barbarian #3

Joe the Barbarian #3 feels like the third issue/part/whatever of nearly every Morrison book since All-Star Superman (or really, We3 or something, real talk: When's the last time you thought about or returned to All-Star Superman?), which means it starts to feel half-assed and rickety and a little nonsensical. Namely, Morrison sucks all the emotion out of a story that more than anything, has a lot of emotion and just leaves the meta high-concept conceit and a bunch of genre signifiers. My guess is a lot of other people will consider this the best issue of Joe.

Issue #2 raised the stakes by lowering them: Jagged shifts back to Joe's house made the intense, not-Joe's house scenes of war that much more alarming. In issue #3, the shifts back to "reality" just feel kinda perfunctory and the actual narrative just rolls out explaining a lot, and setting up some big stuff for later issues and nothing more. It's jam-packed with set-ups and exposition like the first issue, but you totally know it. It doesn't yield its own rarefied awards. You can hear the gears turning and the result is a big "meh" feeling. When something approaching an explanation for the whole "Joe's some kind of savior" is revealed with a very cool, single-page, world-less panel and it's just whatever, something is wrong.

And because the issue's not very good, some of the weirder stuff from the previous two issues feels just confusing instead of willfully odd or challenging. A couple of times in #2, Morrison did these really jarring compressions of time. It trimmed the fat and it added a level of like "you're getting a weird fractured version of reality here, stuff's a little off or out of order" to the whole thing. Here, it feels just lazy and pragmatic. The really limp undersea monster chase just kinda farts out--and artist Sean Murphy's trying really hard to sell the action with his art--and then the Pirate dude lets out a "Ya harrr!" and there's a big, beautiful single-page panel of a town. Some time's conflated there, not much, but we go from the sighting of the town to the submarine fully docked. It comes off as "clever" or capital-I interesting because it doesn't seem tied to any kind of meaning and it lacks the intended punch.

Or the just plain "huh?" transition from the dinner/food fight with the fat kid (again, whatever, none of this is interesting) to Joe and Chakk on a cool-looking mountain, Chakk building a memorial for his dead comrades. That scene works on its own as does the impending dread and awesomely Doom Patrol-like of the scene with this weird dudes watching Joe on a screen, but none of it comes together. #3 isn't a terrible issue or a bad comic, and it's not even disappointing enough to write the series off or nothing, it's just kinda whatever...which may be worse than it just turning to shit. Mediocre Morrison--who needs that?



-Some GameFAQS for the upcoming Doctor Who for the Wii: Be sure to level up your witty retorts skill. It will come in handy later. Study up on your physics for Level 3 'Actually Plotting a Course Through Time.' Don't forget the red jelly babies fill up health and the blue jelly babies put enemies to sleep! The faster you wave the Wiimote on the Daleks level the faster the Doctor will decide whether it's moral to eradicate an entire race of evil beings or not.-j

-So that Spiderman broadway musical/abortion is apparently gonna happen again or something. They realize Howard Stern already beat them to it, right?-b

-Comics to get this coming Wednesday: Joe the Barbarian #3, Hercules: Fall of an Avenger #1 (art by Cable's Olivetti and written by Pak & Van Lente!), Siege #3 (fuck the "director's cut" of #1 though), and Groo: Hogs of the Horder #4!-b

-For the three people in the world that enjoyed my indulgent Doctor Who week, and/or are interested in this whole "Hypnagogic pop" thing. A very awesome and very makes-you-feel-gross video for James Ferraro's "Headlines (Access Holywood)" from Last American Hero, which you can order here.

-Also noticed the BOOM! reissue of Don Rosa's The Life & Times of Scrooge McDuck is out on Tuesday in hardcover at 25 bucks with "Volume 2" out next week. I was in a Barnes & Noble tonight and saw it already on the shelves so yeah, maybe you can get it early.-b

-Hard-to-find comics Brandon was able to get his hands on this week and read: The Bodyssey by Richard Corben and The One Trick Rip-Off by Paul Pope.

First up, The Bodyssey. Basically, this is Corben in the mid-80s, probably at the height of his powers, devoting all his immense talents towards a joke fantasy comic. It's like if Yngwie Malmsteen followed up Rising Force with songs about farts or something, but it was still just as technically awesome and perfect as the other stuff. Corben just flat-out is the heir to sword-and-sorcery comics, but it's almost like he doesn't care or more perversely, loves using his talents towards a big joke. So the characters comment on how dumb the story is and like, the main character Pilgor fights these weird ball sack monsters called Scrotals and a guy bounces a woman's boobbs around and goes "Look I'm a juggler" and there's lot of perfectly-drawn dicks flopping around.

Paul Pope's early stuff is legendary because it's OOP and remains OOP but it deserves the almost myth behind it because this shit is really, really good. Post-Heavy Liquid I'd say Pope's writing gets weird--his art's always great--but in these early stories they're these wonderful genre tales full of big sincere romance and cool action and a very Hemingway-like sense of "the world's fucked". And I don't just say that because Pope cites Hemingway in the intro to this book, Escapo feels that way too. One Trick Rip-Off doesn't have an ending-type ending, it just kinda floats away, and there's way more time spent on Indian food and end-of-the-world romance than crime, but that's how it should be.-b

-Pretty much everyone who cares about comics was annoyed at this "The 10 Most Important Gay Moments in Comic Book History" because it didn't include stuff like Dykes to Watch Out For or Howard Cruse's boring books but you know, the list was "important" moments and shit that happens in a big stupid mainstream superhero book is always gonna be more important than the stuff the happens in a book whose audience is already gay or gay-friendly. Sorry. Also the site is called "Ranker" and so, it makes dumb lists so we argue about it. In the blogging "industry" we cynically call posts like Ranker's "DIGG bait". Even though no one uses Digg anymore.-b

This is really great!-b


Rick Geary's Housebound

Rick Geary is easily one of the most underrated and over-looked creators in comics. His series Treasury of Victorian Murder and now Treasury of XXth Century Murder contain some of the most well crafted and innovative comics around. While they do make the year-end lists, he still seems somehow slept-on. Part of this may have to do with his inability to fit into narrow categories. Although his Treasury series has obviously serious content, his visual style is closer to something out of a comic strip. His website even lists him as a cartoonist and illustrator, and I think it’s this perception that helps him get overlooked on the grand comics landscape.

Housebound collects some of Geary’s early works from National Lampoon, Epic Illustrated, and some self published mini-comics. They are short, most are a single page, and they are far more personal than reading his other works. His Treasury series is so well researched that it can often take a hyper-objective tone, like an outsider carefully observing an event from all angles and perspectives, but in Housebound, many of the short comics seem to be events from Geary’s life.

Geary was born in 1946 and raised in the Midwest, and much of Housebound deals with life in the region and with the social climate of the 60s. Reading Housebound has the effect of reading a comics diary throughout the years, watching his style and composition improve, but also just more of an opinionated slant. Instead of the objective third person narrator, there is a main character and a theme or point to the stories that they are pushing. It isn't buried behind objectivity like in the Treasury series. Not to say that this objectivity is bad, it's what helps make Treasury unique and truly creepy, but it's nice to see his personality really shine through in these tales. As is common with personal stories, early works, and short comics, they sometimes fall flat, suffering from a lack of a real narrative core and ending up acting like quirky ruminations and nothing more.
There are still plenty of stories that give us the Geary we know and love. “Communal Life”(1,2,3) is a particularly good diary story where Geary tells about living with twenty-one other people and how things slowly devolved from a community to him isolated in his room. He gets a piece of cake for his birthday, which he shares with the house while saving a piece for himself. Geary draws it carefully wrapped in tinfoil with a wordless post-it emphasizing the betrayal you’ve probably already guessed at. The story doesn’t quite fall into this obvious trap though, because the main part of the story is him that night at a Peace Rally where he is abandoned by his peers. He mans his post holding his sign, getting berated by passer-bys, and no one comes to relieve him. The cake, eaten by one of his housemates, is just a coda in the larger comment on his generation that has the guise of ideals and community, but in the end is ultimately selfish.
Geary’s genius comes from his straightforward but complex storytelling like in “Communal Life,” but also from his panel transitions and imagination. “Let’s Get Organized”, “The Age of Condos”, and “American Motels” are the origins of his panel work showing various items or views from the titled categories. “America Motels” shows various motels from 1978, but only a certain part like an ashtray and lamp or five towels stacked on top of each other in the bathroom. Later he works these items and specific scenery into larger works providing for really interesting transitions that also add to the story. On the back cover Alan Moore describes it as, “a world seen in glimpses and remembered in fragments, where days or months or years may elapse between panels.” He's not afraid at all to put you out of your comfort zone and to use a panel to show something that might be weird or take you a minute or two to figure out exactly what's going on.
His imagination shines through in “Our New Dad”(1,2,3,4) and “In search of Dr. Einstein’s Brain." The former has a robot become the family's new father in a sort of typical sci-fi story, but his drawings, like one where they put a replica of the father's head on the robot, make it weird and hilarious to see --picture Short Circuit with a human head. "Einstein's Brain" has the same sort of imagination where a scientist tracks down pieces of Einstein's brain only to find a piece secretly powering an entire town. It's the premise itself, brain's apparatus, and the list of the things it powers--everything from commerce and industry to civic beauty and entertainment-- that make reading it actually exciting. We've talked about comics' ability to capture this sense of wonder about the world on this blog before, and how it's what differentiates comics from a lot of other mediums. Geary has it in spades, and it's definitely what makes his comics in a league of their own.



-"The Smuttiest French Novel Ever Written, Still Shocking 50 Years Later" by Sasha Watson for Slate: I guess it's cool that somewhere, anywhere's reviewing Crepax's Story of O, even if it's a whole bunch of months after the release date and barely reviews the graphic novel and just kinda gives you a rather weak narrative of Story of O's publication history. But there's one sentence, I'd really take issue with: " But the images, which can be merely voyeuristic in the absence of Aury's layered writing, do not quite get at the crux of the novel." As if the only thing an adaptation can do is closely resemble that which its adapting? This is especially moronic because Crepax's adaptations are almost like their own form of literary criticism or something, where he's messing with and confounding the original, not so much making a typical adaptation. I get the feeling the author of this piece knows nothing about Crepax.-b

-Independent comics publishers during the 80's were popping up left and right and just like punk bands or rap record labels, there was too much shit going on to really know what was good or bad. One of the comic's companies that did have success however, was Mirage Studios, best known for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. What most people don't know though is that they published a ton of other weird books, nearly all of which are listed here. If you're looking for some new a White Box Hero to check out, go dig through some dollars bins for Grunts!-s


If you scan the timeline in the Hellboy Companion, there's a quick reference to Hellboy befriending some Mexican wrestlers and getting really drunk with them. 1956, May-October, Palenque, Mexico: "Hellboy's "lost weekend." He teams with three Mexican wrestler brothers to fight monsters and drink. After six months, B.P.R.D. agents are sent to bring him home." The opposite page has a cool Mignola drawing of Hellboy with a Luchador. ANYWAYZ--so this is becoming a comic finally! Drawn by Corben! Comes out in May.-b

-Also, what the hell is iMAGE Comics doing? Here is their website's listing for the comics that come out this week. Elephantmen #24 comes out this week, not #26, and well, we're still waiting on Orc Stain #2. The site's been like this forever and it's just sort of amazing how half-assed it is.-b

-Jerry Lawler Wrestling Art: Swiped from a link from another article on Robot6. Pretty self-explanatory.-b

--Awesome Bendis/Fraction Interview You Probably Read Already: Also stolen from Robot6 and lots of other places, but really, two guys who really take their craft seriously talking about it is endlessly fascinating.-b

House of the Devil directed by Ti West. Watched this last night and highly recommend it. It'll freak you the fuck out, but it's also just this well-made, solid movie. Though it isn't always employed, Horror is really the only genre that's just like, bare-bones cinematic and direct. Where your basic film grammar and tricks like omitted information, creeping atmosphere, etc. still really work and don't come off as well, manipulative or bullshit. House of the Devil just really ratchets up the tension that comes from these tricks until you're kinda going insane watching it. Lots of critics say the "pay-off" doesn't work and well, that isn't the point, but it does work. Really really well. Don't want to ruin anything about this so I'll just stop typing. Rent it.-b


The Invincible Iron Man: Stark Disassembled

I mean this in the best way possible: The Invincible Iron Man: Stark Disassembled is pretty up its own ass. The first issue was pretty much all prologue, pages of pages of Tony Stark just explaining, it's totally wrapped up in continuity type stuff, and it's got those completely insane comic book sequence of events thing where say, Tony Stark's computerized body is jumpstarted by Thor striking the Captain American shield with his hammer creating electricity or something. In the end, it's basically a story arc hurtling towards retconning the character.

But it works. Every goofy Marvel's character entrance or exit was thrilling because at any moment it could've gotten stupid and even when it did get stupid it was the good kind of stupid, where writer Matt Fraction just thought, "fuck it" and went there. There hasn't been this kind of devotion to the Marvel Universe and blatant disregard for it since say, Old Man Logan (or to go back a bit further, Civil War). The difference is, "Stark Disassembled" wobbles but it never falls down and each issue got better, not worse. Still, it shares Mark Millar's understanding that comics always gotta be fun. And emotional.

At the heart of Fraction's Invincible Iron Man twenty-four issues ago, was Tony Stark's painfully sincere--too sincere really--attempt to not be such a douche. Sounds like most aware Iron Man comics since well forever, but a lot of it, this time around, is filtered through a weirder, sympathetic but kinda ambivalent perspective on Stark. He's not the lovable playboy and he's not a jerk readers just kinda roll their eyes at, he's somewhere in between. And he's also a genius. Fraction understands how important that is, the complex, jerky genius part.

We don't like the word "genius" anymore because it's divisive and elitist. A decade or two of little league where everybody gets a trophy has us too comfortable with the idea that everybody's special. Fraction's hip to this but he knows it's a little bullshit and really stifling and so, he makes the comic book less about Tony Stark the genius and more about Tony Stark the genius who is also a prick and maybe more of a prick because he's a genius? The tension of the comic, that sorta palpable discomfort you get reading it, comes not from Stark as conflicted individual, but just how much bullshit he can make his friends and employees fucking deal with before they give up.

The answer is a whole lot. But for good reason--Stark is a genius, remember? In its original context--the first part of a cool-looking Iron Man storyline--Stark's almost issue-long monologue was just obnoxious. But as each issue came along, I realized, that's the point. It's made clear in Pepper's angry, scribbled, half-finished note to Tony in issue #21: "When is it my time? When do I stop living to support your life and start living mine?" Again, this isn't all that different from other comics, but Pepper is less a weak female or whatever, and more a self-aware person, who can't help but be pissed. "I'm throwing a tantrum and I know it." she writes a few lines before the "Why me?" portion of her letter.

Notice there's not a lot of comment on action or plot here because there actually isn't that much in "Stark: Disassembled". A lot of stuff happens, but violence and fighting are kinda besides the point. The exciting stuff is seeing how all the pieces are put together: Thor and Captain American showing up, Doctor Strange showing up, not the threat of The Ghost but how he'll be defeated. It's a comic book, Fraction seems to quietly remind readers, nothing's really at stake here. So you get your perfunctory violence and thrills and nick-of-time saves and it's fun, but there's also plenty of raw, complex emotions. People mad at Stark for his actions of the past, but concerned about him still. Stark, in his weird subconscious dreamworld confronting his actions of the past, most violently in #24, via a weird blood-filled palace with his parents--an odd, half-symbolic representation of "the Stark Legacy".

This is comic book stuff yeah, but take it out of the comics realm, say, this was the next Iron Man movie and it'd be a fucking head-trip (where's the conflict? the resolution? the conventional love interest?) but that's a good thing. Fraction isn't so much "reinventing" or deconstructing his hero, which is sorta what every comic book does these days if it isn't totally towing the party line, but shifting how stuff plays out just a bit. He's using every bloated, event-ish aspect of contemporary superhero comics and turning it just enough that it means something again. But what does it all build-up to? A clever way to make Civil War something that never happened. This is both frustrating and pretty awesome. For once, I'm psyched to see where a mainline superhero comic is gonna go next.


Pokemon Size Comparison Chart

Threw this together today for some kids who were interested/arguing about Pokemon sizes. I saw a size chart a while ago in some book, but couldn't find one on the internet. The size of Pokemon in the games is also kind of nebulous. You catch Dialga and it's the same size as Torterra in battle. I don't watch any of the movies or shows so I had no real idea their sizes compared to each other.

The heights are all based on the ones listed on Pokemon.Marriland.com. One block is equal to one foot, so you're probably about as tall as the top of Snorlax's head, unless you're a kid then you're probably closer to Lucario. I edited some sizes for the sake of their image. Snorlax is about a foot shorter than listed because he's lounging, and Groudon is shorter because he's hunched over.