o “Just Dithers and Dithers and Dithers”

Douglas Wolk and crew discuss a bunch of comics at Techland.

One of them is J. Michael Straczynski’s Superman, which seems to be on track to replacing JLA: Cry for Justice as the most unbelievably awful superhero comic of the year in the realm of public reception, evidently.

Here’s an excerpt from Wolk’s take:

“On reading this issue again–and believe me, it’s like driving the spike in a little deeper every time I do–there are two possibilities for the “jumper” sequence: either 1) it means that JMS has never read All-Star Superman or 2) he’s using it to make his Superman go head-to-head with All-Star Superman and one of its most fondly remembered moments. In which case, he is, as they say, tugging on Superman’s cape. I went back and read the All-Star scene with Regan the would-be jumper, and you know how long that thing is? ONE page. Five panels. (Plus a little bit of context before that.) In contrast, this thing just dithers and dithers and dithers.”

Also: X-Men: Second Coming and the latest Darwyn Cooke.

o “The Phone Is the Panel Is the Page”

Over at Techland, meanwhile, Wolk has a sterling think piece on the storytelling implications of digital comics:

“It’s been 75 years since the earliest American comic book publishers figured out that their magazines could be more than reformatted reprints of newspaper strips. Now there’s a new mass medium that’s waiting for comics that aren’t just reformatted reprints of print or Web-based material–and I suspect that whoever shows up earliest with genuinely compelling, formally appropriate work for tiny little screens is going to make a mint.”

It’s something anybody working in comics should start thinking about if they haven’t already. Do yourself a favor and read it.

o “Grueling and Humiliating”

Because the practice applies to comics as well, here’s a neat Salon piece by Laura Miller on the much frowned-about trade convention of blurb-writing:

“[W]hen publishing people look at the lineup of testimonials on the back of a new hardcover, they don’t see hints as to what the book they’re holding might be like. Instead, they see evidence of who the author knows, the influence of his or her agent, and which MFA program in creative writing he or she attended. In other words, blurbs are a product of all the stuff people claim to hate about publishing: its cliquishness and insularity.”

For a fun exercise, pull out some comics paperbacks from your shelf and look at the blurbs on them. You may find that some comics creators are better connected than others.

o “Avenging 3-View”

I have nothing to add to this screenshot taken from the Newsarama homepage a couple of days ago, in which the top four “stories” are bundles of Marvel previews. I can only assume the site is doing very well and there is no reason for them to do focus on doing anything differently than they are right now.

o “The People It’s Happening To”

At Comic Book Resources, Alex Dueben interviews Kurt Busiek.

The occasion is Astro City Special: Silver Agent, the latest chapter in Busiek’s own, long-running superhero series, but the writer also talks about his approach to writing Astro City: and superheroes in general:

“Most superhero stories are about what happens, Astro City‘s about how people react to what happens, how they feel as much as what they do. So a lot of that is internal, and that’s not as easy to make visual as, say, a punch or an explosion. But that’s the challenge of it, that’s what keeps it interesting. Finding a way to establish a voice, a viewpoint, to make the story come alive in a way that the reader feels like he’s there alongside the characters, feeling what they feel, rather than watching it as an outsider.”

Which is, pretty much, the definition of literary fiction, of course—or, as I like to call it, “good fiction.” Busiek also shares his outlook on life, in broad terms, in so far as it informs his work. A great, insightful little piece, all told.

o “There’s Been Some Kind of Breakdown Between Bendis’s Authorial Intention and My Reading of This Issue’s Final Scene”

This brief back-and-forth between critics Timothy Callahan and Douglas Wolk on a 2007 issue of New Avengers grazes a whole bunch of considerations that deserve more play than they are getting in the discussion of pop comics.

o “Robocop Meets Toxic Avenger as Played by Sylvester Schwarzenegger”

Now available: Officer Downe, a one-shot comic book by writer Joe Casey and artist Chris Burnham, descriptions of which sound positively bonkers.

With rare exceptions like The Milkman Murders and Rock Bottom, Casey has been sticking to the superhero genre throughout his comics career. Officer Downe mostly looks like an effort in fine, no-holds-barred, over-the-top ultraviolence, so it’s going to live or die on the creators’ ability to, forgive me, go batshit crazy.

After reading Casey’s recent Dark Reign: Zodiac miniseries and looking at some of Burnham’s art in the preview pages, I have no doubt that it delivers.

Marc-Oliver Frisch writes about comics at his weblog and at Comicgate. You can also follow him on Twitter.


  1. I think the new Superman story “Grounded” is an excellent one so far. I can’t wait for the next issue. It finally feels more like the old Supes, where their are no monsters and it’s more focused on story.

  2. Don’t worry yourselves none over this Superman business. We all know that while JMS will bust his ass to make the book more dialog-driven & the character more sympathetic & three-dimensional, as soon as the NEXT BIG EVENT comes along, the Big Blue Boy Scout will be back punching giant robots through ‘deserted warehouses’ in no time.

    Someone suggest to Geoff Johns that this is taking place in a ‘pocket time anomaly’ or some shit while you’re at it. Haven’t had one of those in a few weeks.

  3. Don’t know what kind of research JMS is doing for his new Superman title, but speaking as a Philadelphia resident in 701 a cheesesteak is not called a cheesesteak “sandwich” and South Philly is not referred to as the “southside”, we are not Chicago! Wikipedia is not a good reference spot.

  4. I read the Wolk-Callahan piece. Callahan’s perspective is faulty. Take this:

    A text has no responsibility to “be” anything. It doesn’t have to be entertaining, or suspenseful, or funny, or even clear. It simply has to exist. Then it’s up to the reader to figure it out.

    Text is communication. Text that contains grammatical errors or logical errors is flawed communication. A misspelled word isn’t a reason to question whether misspelled words actually exist, nor is a plot hole a reason to question whether a story actually needs a coherent plot.

    The onus is on the writer (and his editor) to ensure that his story communicates information about something to the targeted demographic.