Last night for the first time, there was a nip of fall in the air…a snap in the step and a whiff of pumpkin in the latte. And then came a blast of hay fever or something and I started sneezing. But other than that it was great. SPX is this weekend, along with the Brooklyn Book Festival and a lot of other great events. The fall season is kicking off and and a lot of great comics are about to be here. Celebrate!
§ Let’s get in the mood with Two Comics Narrate the Unsaid and the Unknown in which Anthony Cudahy analyses two comics by Kris Mukai (above) and Aiden Koch.
§ This is from last week, but Rob Kirby interviewed Josh Simmons about BLACK RIVER, one of the more disturbing and powerful comics of the year—a bleak post apocalyptic zombie feminist tale that pairs nicely with The Oven, I think. Simmons also went on a very long tour and mentioned it:
Josh Simmons: I think it qualified as a full on tour-tour rather than a mini-tour. It was super-nutso and exhausting and fun. Driving for an average of 8 hours a day mostly, with 24 stops all over North America. I put 10,000 miles on my car in two months. I would be happy never to sit in a car ever again. Got to visit friends and family all over the country whom I hadn’t seen in 2, 10, 20 years. The events took place everywhere from comic shops to bars to festivals to gallery spaces. The audiences ranged from 1 to 60+. I did a weird artist’s talk and got to show my little movies to audiences for the first time, which was very gratifying. Making comics, you have very little sense of how people are absorbing it all, but with film screenings or performance, you get that instant feedback. Mostly people laughed and seemed to appreciate the movies. Sometimes you get those dead fish audiences. I have some experience with showmanship going back to my cirkus days in the early ’00s, and tried to bring that to the tour to make it more than a guy sitting in a comic shop signing books.
§ Sadly artist Matt Batt Banning has some prints stolen from his booth at Long Beach Comic Con. You can see photos and how to recognize the stolen prints on his FB page. The art was stolen overnight and that really, really is low low low, people.
§ A history of BEN DAY DOTS for you craft fetishists. IN case you don’t know, these are patterns that were printed on sticky paper and applied to line art to give it some texture. They were made famous by Lichtenstein.
§ This store tour of my home base comics shop, JHU Comics on 32nd Street, includes a great interview with manager Aimee LoSecco about every aspect o running a store.
How do you reach out to new customers? How do you advertise?
We try to make the most of social media, since that’s how everyone communicates nowadays. They like the tweets and the facebooks and the instagrammings, so that’s what we do too. I always say that cheekily because it’s so informal, and we like to be the local comic shop where people hang around and socialize. We also have a membership program that offers weekly discounts on new releases, and also have seasonal, holiday, and “just because” sales that are only for members. We like to reward our customers for their loyalty and support. In an economy where it comes to comic books or rent, and people choose comic books, we like to show our appreciation however we can. And that’s mostly through sales, signings, events, and going above and beyond the call with customer service. We even post pics of customers who come in costume or have cool comic-themed tattoos or T-shirts.
§ Here’s a review of another graphic novel by and about indigenous peoples, in this case, The Outside Circle by Métis writer Patti LaBoucane-Benson and Canadian illustrator Kelly Mellings.
The Outside Circle is more than just a story about two aboriginal men growing up in Alberta, though — it is a story about the past, the present, and the future of Canada. Pete and Joey are two Cree brothers facing ongoing pressures such as gangs, drugs and an unwanted pregnancy. Like many indigenous youth, they are residential school intergenerational survivors who don’t know about their family’s struggles in the schools. All they know is the violence that comes after.
§ I’ve heard many good things about The Outside Circle, but this description did remind me a bit of a passage from Jenny Zhang’s much quoted essay on Buzzfeed about race and privilege in literature:
White supremacy tries to reduce people of color to our traumas. Resisting white supremacy means insisting that we are more than our traumas. One quick perusal through the shelves of world literature in any bookstore confirms just what the literary world wants to see from writers of color and writers from developing nations: trauma. Why, for example, is the English-speaking literary world mostly interested in fiction or poetry from China if the writer can be labeled as a “political dissident”? Even better if the writer has been tortured, imprisoned, or sentenced to hard labor by the Chinese government at one point. Surely there are amazing Chinese writers who don’t just identify as political dissidents just as there are many amazing white American writers who don’t identify, or rather, are not identified as one thing. Why are we so perversely interested in narratives of suffering when we read things by black and brown writers? Where are my carefree writers of color at? Seriously, where?
§ Jack Ohman, present of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists reflects on security concerns at the organization’s recent gathering:
Suddenly, I was faced with a completely new world. Instead of a nice, quiet convention in nice, quiet Columbus, Ohio, I had lots of concerns – like would any of us be murdered en masse. After the shootings at the ridiculous Pam Geller-instigated Muhammad cartoon show in Garland, Texas, I was even more concerned. So instead of a hotel lobby and convention site filled with happy editorial cartoonists (not an oxymoron), there were lobbies filled with bomb squads, bomb-sniffing dogs, a SWAT team on a nearby roof, sheriff’s deputies, and uniformed and plain-clothed Columbus police officers. I was the only president of a cartoonist group who required Secret Service protection, although the Secret Service was probably the only agency not represented. The Department of Homeland Security, formerly a cartoon subject, became my wingman as I asked for occasional updates. They hadn’t picked up any terrorist chatter, so that was a relief.
§ Mark Gallagher, University of Nottingham tell us why Why Superhero Movies Suck, and he’s loaded for bear.
- Superhero movies repackage subcultural esoterica and sell it back to us in bloated, unrecognizable form. Or, speaking personally, movies such as 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man, the 2013 superhero sequel Thor: The Dark World, and this year’s repackaged Fantastic Four cynically monetize my childhood objects of wonder. Did the baby boomers, I wonder, feel this way when the 1960s were endlessly repurposed for later generations’ consumption? Maybe they found themselves in a warm cocoon of familiar pop cult as the world around them evolved, both in and not in their own image. As for me, when confronted with entertainment spaces and referents repurposing youth-centric popular culture from deep in the past century, I feel I’m inhabiting an adolescent dystopia far more disturbing than anything presaged in Lord of the Flies (1954) or Wild in the Streets (1968). Message to Paramount, Columbia, Fox, Universal, Warners and Disney (and of course, Marvel Studios): please stop.
The discussion continued in a second part
- Superhero movies relocate film-industry resources from more original material and siphon talent from richer projects. Many people involved in superhero films’ production are doing the best work they ever will, which is a compliment or insult depending on one’s judgment of the finished product. Others—particularly actors given the visible evidence of their work—appear to be squandering their considerable talents. Mark Ruffalo may use his Avengers paychecks to bankroll his political activism and to appear in films that make greater demands of his craft, but his normally prolific output slows to a trickle in the Avengers films release years of 2012 and 2015. Elizabeth Olsen shows off her casting-a-spell pose on The Daily Show.
§ I don’t think superhero movies must perforce suck, they just fall into familiar, predictable patterns that don’t allow for much that is truly original or surprising.
§ Months after the rest of the world, I finally got time for my second viewing of Mad Max Fury Road and loved it to bits once again. Interestingly, despite all the crowing over the practical effects in the movie, it actually had 2000 CGI effects — more than Avatar. The above link has some before and after shots and also a description of how the film was made:
A CG car was used most dramatically in one scene in which a twister picks up a vehicle and a group of War Boys into the air after being nudged by the War Rig. The car is ripped apart as a stream of bodies tumble about onto other vehicles and past the camera. Early previs for the shot had the bodies as fixed figures spinning up into the air – this was based on Miller’s initial desire that they followed real dynamics and physics, since a great deal of crash reference footage the director had sourced tended to show that movement. Wood also sourced crash footage, including from Isle of Man TT motorcycle races. “If you get flung off something at high speed,” says Wood, “you have no control of your arms and legs – they fly out like a windmill, basically.” Iloura applied that real world behavior to digi-doubles of the War Boys in rag-doll sim software Endorphin. But when Miller saw the result he felt it no longer looked right for the scene. “The reason is,” suggests Wood, “that there’s a real difference between what we know as real world actions and movie actions. We’re so used to seeing what stuntmen do in these kinds of crashes. They will take a run and jump off a bounce board and fly through the air and circle their arms and pedal their legs – it’s an exaggerated performance and totally part of film language.” Ultimately Iloura went back to Endorphin with more elaborate sims and key frame animation for the final flying War Boys shots.
The real world shots are still pretty amazing even without the grading and cgi.