Home Columns Kibbles 'n' Bits Land o’ Links, 3/5/09 (now with WATCHMEN)

Land o’ Links, 3/5/09 (now with WATCHMEN)

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Really only time for a few today…it’s been crazy around here and we’ve been huddled in a blanket eating crackers.

§ Dan Nadel looks at Craig Yoe’s new book on Boody Rogers.

§ Ben Morse looks at some notable recent comics Whatever-happened-tos, including Will Pfeifer and Darryl Banks.

§ Sarah at Alert Nerd looks back at the Brian K. Vaughan run on SWAMP THING and finds that time heals all wounds:

Speaking of the now…I recently unearthed a complete 20 issue run of this Swamp Thing in one of my old longboxes and gave it a read to see how it’s held up. I have to say, the things that I loved about the series in the first place — the things detailed above — are still there. But there are some other elements I feel a bit differently on, or things that just look a little different when viewed through the prism of time. One of my favorite issues, for instance, is one that I remember being kind of “meh” on: #7, wherein Tefe befriends a random teenage girl and gets a taste of the evil humans are capable of. What’s so fascinating — and so great — about this issue is that it perfectly captures Tefe’s complete lack of understanding when it comes to human behavior, highlights her shifting desire to empathize with others, and displays her terrifying powers. All in 32 pages! (Less with ads, actually.)

And now our DAILY WATCHMEN links.

§ it seems that Anthony Lane reviewed WATCHMEN for the New Yorker and had some ignorant things to say about graphic novels. Mr. Lane is the kind of snarky prose stylist who just says these kind of things to be snarky, but Jeet Heer rises to the defense, shaking his fist at the heavens:

Comics are a medium, not a genre. That is to say, comics are like print or film, not like science fiction or detective stories. So it’s not surprising that there is a huge diversity of styles and subjects done in comics form. Some cartoonists, like Art Spiegelman and Marjane Satrapi, use words and pictures to create memoirs. Others, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons in Watchmen, are more likely to do genre fiction. This diversity shouldn’t be surprising since a medium is a tool of communication and doesn’t, pace McLuhan, dictate the message.

Let’s imagine a clueless Anthony Lane who knew nothing about books or movies writing about these mediums. He would compose sentences like this: “The world of the print books is a curious one. For every masterwork, such as ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ or ‘Speak, Memory,’ there seem to be shelves of Harlequin Romances and cheesy Star Trek knock-offs, shoddy paperbacks whose covers display rock-jawed heroes and their melon-breasted lovers.”


Yeah!

§ The AV Club suggests 24 more graphic novels we’d like to see made into movies with an emphasis on the unfilmable, like Jimmy Corrigan and Cerebus. Please. Life is too short. Let them be.

§ Matt Yglesias ponders which recent president is most like Ozymandias.

§ And Kiel Phegley interviews the original WATCHMEN editor, Len Wein:

KP: A lesson that a lot of creators took from Watchmen wasn’t necessarily the right one in that they didn’t start doing more sophisticated, more adult type stuff. It was just more grim n’ gritty.

LW: Well, my favorite line about Hollywood, where I live and work for the most part these days, is that in Hollywood no one wants to be first, but everyone wants to be the first to be second. That’s kind of what happened with Watchmen and Dark Knight. I certainly know that Alan did not intend it. I don’t know if Frank did either. I doubt that he did. But I doubt that they intended everyone to follow them and go, “Ooh, here’s something that was successful and made a lot of money. We just go dark and grim and gritty.” In fact, Alan got so upset that everyone was following him down that dark path that he came up with the whole 1963 idea when he was at Image. He was desperately kind of going, “Jeez, if they followed me into the dark and gritty, maybe they’ll follow me back into the fun and happy comics in 1963.” So that was his apology I think in many ways to history. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for everyone to go bleak and dismal.”

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  1. Good call on the Onion/AVClub article. What, exactly, would be the point of trying to turn “Jimmy Corrigan” (or even “Bone” or “Maus”) into a movie? Do we need an opera of “Citizen Kane”? A novelization of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”?

    As for Anthony Lane, I think Jeet Heer is missing the point to a certain degree. Yes, it’s annoying when people refer to graphic novels (or comics) as a genre, but it’s not only in the minds of hacky journalists that “comic books” == “superheroes”. That equivalence is deeply ingrained in most people’s minds, and I think it has at least as much to do with the comic book industry itself as it does with the media’s coverage of it. It’s not like Marvel and DC are putting out reams of “serious” comics and they’re being ignored. Even Vertigo publishes mostly “genre” comics.

    Basically, I think we’re in a period similar to the early days of the prose novel, when novels were considered a tawdry form of writing, not worth mentioning in the same breath as poetry or drama.

    At that time, the proportion of trashy/”genre” novels to “serious” novels was probably about the same as the proportion in the funnybook world today.

    So while that doesn’t excuse the snobbery, it does explain it. Most people form their opinions based on first impressions, and the first impression you get from the comic book industry is still “SUPERHEROES!!!!”

    If you walk into your average comic book shop, you’re unlikely to see rack after rack of serious graphic novels. What you’re likely to see is rack after rack of “cod mythology and rainy dystopias, patrolled by rock-jawed heroes and their melon-breasted sidekicks”, with (if you’re lucky) a small number of serious works interspersed. That’s simply the state of the industry today. It’s like if you walked into Borders and all you saw were Harlequin romances and Star Trek tie-ins, with a small rack in the back holding Joyce and Dickens (and you had to go to a particular store in a different city if you wanted to read “obscure” authors like Don DeLillo or Thomas Pynchon).

    Prose writers didn’t gain respect by sneering back at the people who sneered at them. They gained respect by writing great novels, which, over the course of years and decades, became recognized as works of art. Until we get to the point where we can count the unquestioned “serious literary” classics of the comic book genre without taking off our shoes, we should recognize that the sneering isn’t going to be ending any time soon.

  2. What the f–k ever happened to the 1963 stuff. Did it officially end?

    Wasn’t Wildstorm Studio suppose to finish it and then they were bought out by DC Comics?

    Was it ever collected into a graphic novel?

  3. Lane isn’t as ignorant as Heer makes him out to be. In the review, Lane mentions PERSEPOLIS and MAUS, so he doesn’t confuse the format with the content to the extent that Heer seems to believe he does. Rather, Lane, in writing “. . . shelves of cod mythology and rainy dystopias, patrolled by rock-jawed heroes and their melon-breasted sidekicks.”, asserts that the content of graphic novels is mostly superhero fiction. Further down, he refers to Moore as a “lord of the genre.”

    SRS

  4. I guess my last paragraph should read “Until we get to the point where we need to remove our shoes to count the unquestioned “serious literary” classics of the comic book genre…” Teach me to be a smartass first thing in the morning!

  5. Um, isn’t the Onion a joke paper, and wouldn’t that list therefore be a joke? I mean the last title is League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, famously adapted in Sean Connery’s farewell performance as LXG.

    I will caveat that the lists satirability is measured in terms of movie studios actually likeliness to make those films – which I think for most translates that why we would all hate to see those movies made it would not actually surprise any of us if some moron at a studio thought they could pull it off.

  6. Ronin was made into a movie, but they used giant turtles instead.

    Okay… here are the two movies I would love to see in the cinema:
    The Cowboy Wally Show
    Proposition Player

    And wouldn’t it be ironic if the Watchmen Motion Comic was a better adaptation than the movie?

  7. LOL, Jim. I’ll put you down to work on the adaptation of “Jimmy Corrigan”. I think we can get Frampton to star as Jimmy.

  8. I agree that it doesn’t sound so much like Lane is confusing the medium vs. the genre, but neither does it read to me like he’s just saying that the super-heros dominate. What it seems to me like he’s saying is “Why, in a world where comics can produce a Persopolis or a Maus, do they even bother producing super-hero comics?”. The answer being that the super-hero genre, when done well, is as interesting as any other genre. As well as to note that not everything has to be great literature, some things can just be fun casual reading.

  9. Interesting theory on 1963. Now that Len Wein mentions it, I think Moore tried to make reparations with Rob Liefeld’s Youngblood. Think of it: what better way to overturn the grim-and-gritty paradigm than by trying to transform one of its most extreme off-shoots? The Youngblood of the Awesome Comics era felt like a return to the goofy superheroics of the 1950’s.

  10. By the way, is Heidi MacDonald friends with the AV Club staff? I only ask because I follow both sites religiously, and The Beat articles have been popping up on the AV Club with more frequency as of late. And now we have The Beat sorta returning the favor….

  11. The series was supposed to end with a 1963 Annual, which Jim Lee suddenly announced he was going to be the editor of. Alan Moore kept waiting for Jim Lee to contact him to work out the final details. Alan Moore is still waiting.

  12. I was also delighted by Brian Vaughan Swamp Thing at the time. It’s so emotionnal, wild and surprising.

    I wrote a 4p praising article on this serie in Scarce n°67, the famous french magazine on comics. People have to check those issues! I’m also putting a link to a very nice Tefe drawing i asked Giuseppe Camuncoli to draw at an Angouleme festival. It’s so beautiful!! You’re gona like it!

    http://xavier.lancel.free.fr/Fredeur%20contreattak/tefe.JPG

  13. ” Fans of the stuff are masonically loyal, prickling with a defensiveness and an ardor that not even Wagnerians can match.”

    I’ve never met a Ringnut, but judging by the reaction, he’s probably right.

    My only quibble with the review is that Nixon would be starting his FIFTH term in office in 1985, not his third.

    Roger Ebert, on the other hand, wrote a fairly balanced review. He actually states he will see it again.
    I’m seeing it Sunday.

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