The Intermittent

Why Are You Still Here?

Friday, October 31, 2003

ALL DRESSED UP AND NOWHERE TO GO, WALKING WITH A DEAD MAN

Some quick thoughts on horror and comics before I head out into the night....

Shock horror really doesn't work in comics. Shock horror, as I use the term, is scaring the audience by startling them; the monsters leaping unexpectedly into the frame, a sudden sound effect. This is much harder in comics, as the audience controls the pace of the experience. And people tend to take in a full page before breaking it into panels in their mind; the lead up and the payoff are noticed simultaneously, undercutting the suspense. There are structural ways to try and replicate the type of shock horror found in movies--putting the buildup on a right side page and the payoff on the next left page--but, by and large, comics that rely on shock horror don't cut it. Check out Garth Ennis' run on Hellblazer; the shocks aren't really all that shocking, even when the POV is through a man's shotgun shredded groin.

This applies to the actual images as well. For whatever reason, a dead body drawn in a comic is typically less disturbing than a dead body on film, even if the comic corpse is deployed in such a way as to try and make it horrific. In this, comics lag behind both film and prose; the images in the former are more disturbing than their comic equivalents, the image derived from the latter more potent for occurring in the mind of the reader. Though there are some comic artists that convey disturbing images--the whole of The Silent City is deeply unsettling, for example, like a painted Brothers Quay film--on the whole, the images in comics fail to shock.

What comics can do is conceptual horror. There is likely a fancy name for this found in one of Sean Collins' many papers on horror, but I'm using the term simply to refer to disturbing concepts. Read Ellis' run on Hellblazer, collected into a handy trade. The sheer human evil on display is objectively horrific; it forces the reader to imagine what human beings can do to one another without pity or remorse. For an interesting comparison of the limits of the medium, and proof of my earlier assertions, read the script to Ellis' haunted arc. Read as a script, it's creepy. Especially his description as to what was done the victim's corpse. Compare that the scene in the finished comic; and I proffer to you that the scene was scarier, more disturbing as written in the script than as drawn. And I think that John Higgins is a good artist.

There are other comics that have figured out how to generate scares in the medium. But most don't. For us horror fans out there, it's too bad they haven't.
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THE TWO DAVES

Also, note that there are not one, but two Daves involved in this site. I'm Dave Intermittent, going the semi-anonymous route for work related reasons. The first comic I remember buying and reading was X-Men 166; that was a long time ago. My cohost is Dave Jon, former manager of two book stores, trained artist, and a man with a smiley and happy disposition.

Our long promised third blogger has yet to arrive; working as he is in Cambodia, perhaps the Tcho-Tcho's got him. Pity.
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WELCOME, AND SORRY ABOUT THE MESS

To all those who ventured over here on Jim Henley's link, welcome...and apologies for the fact that we're still under construction. The links need work, there's not much content here yet. We were hoping to have it all ready by late next week, as real life construction has killed my phone line at home. In any event, so long as you don't mind a little sawdust and unpainted walls, you're welcome to stay.
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Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Don't Cry For Me, Argentina.

Don't get me wrong, Ross is not the "be all, end all". But seriously, how can you deny the life in Batman War on Crime? With a Winsor Newton Series 7 brush, the man works wonders. And his layouts are graphically challenging and dynamic.

And if I'm picking Argentinos, it's Eduardo Risso, hands down.
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The Strokes

I don't like The Strokes. Is there something wrong with me? I mean, I feel fine...
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THE HORROR, THE HORROR

Nothing on any list of horror films can compete with the dread, awful site of Mark Madsen throwing down on Milwaukee. There is a Devil, and he's taunting us.
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AWAY WITH THEE, REALISM!

Dave John's love note to Alex Ross is sort of interesting for me to read, inasmuch as I really don't groove on Alex Ross all that much. I mean, I can appreciate, at a formal level, how good his work is; the ridiculous amount of time he spends making sure that the clothes hang just so. But I don't get that excited to look at realistically painted spandex. And his art looks very posed to me; I sometimes think Ross spends so much time worrying about getting the gleam of the reflections right on the Silver Surfer's torso that it drains the life from the work.

Actually, I don't much care for most of the "realist" school of art, at least as that term seems to apply to superhero's. As cool as I thought Jim Lee was when I was sixteen, that style of art doesn't really do it for me anymore, no matter how many treads Lee draws on a shoe. I don't know why this is so, given my teenage enthusiasm for the whole Image school.

It could be that I've simply built up a tolerance; years of bad Jim Lee knockoffs have numbed me to the allure of the "Neal Adams on Steroids" school. Marcelo Frusin is simply a fresh new high. Or it could be that as a thirty year old I look at art differently than when I was twenty. Or I'm just trendspotting. Who can tell?

For what it's worth, these days it's the artists that play around with design that really interest me: Mignola, any of the Argentinians currently rampaging through the scene. Frank Miller, whose art has gotten more and more abstract and stylized and unreal. Perhaps the reason these artists appeal to me is that their art is quintessentially comic; it's stylized in specific ways to convey a specific emotion or context called for by the large narrative. They're the kinds of images that can't be easily replicated in movies or tv. Look at Kalesniko's art in Mail Order Bride (which will be the subject of an indepth look in a future post); it would not be possible to film that book and retain the nuances that the art provided. Imagine the poor director trying to film Elektra: Assasin. The story could be approximated, but no visual effect could convey the headfuck of Sienkeivicz's art. Because it's stylized and unreal, the art retains its impact for me. As good a theory as any, I suppose.

And for the record, stylized though it may be, Rob Liefield's art is an abomination to man and God alike.
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THOUGH THEY WERE NOT AS BAD AS COVENT GARDEN

Appropos of the title of this post, there was a local band when I was in high school called the Limbic System. Sort of an art-punk thing. They really, really sucked.
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EINSTEIN WAS GOOD AT PHYSICS

Yes, that was a terrible statement of the obvious. So you should be prepared for the next earth-shaking tidbit I'm about to drop. Alex Ross is good at art. Mythology has just arrived in bookstores, and it does nothing more than prove my "Forty-six Inches to ride this ride" theory of life.
The theory states that, like having to be 46" to ride the best rollercoasters, you should be so good before you attempt to enter a given field. You must be as good as Brazil before you write a movie. You must be as witty as Lewis Black before you become a comedian. You should be as good as Alex Ross before you draw comics.
O.K., that is nigh immpossible, but you see were I'm going. Think about some of the best before you plow headlong into your project, whatever it should be.
Take a look at the 2002 Oscar Poster he created. That statue is a super hero.
A friend and mentor of mine, Joe Soren (a freakishly talented artist in his own right) once said "never worry about being the best in your class, think about having to be the best in the world. Because that is your competition."
Thank you, Alex Ross, for keeping the bar sky high.
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Tuesday, October 28, 2003

WHERE IS MY BEAUTIFUL HOUSE

There would be posting today, sweet wonderful posting, but for the fact that the renovation of Casa De La Intermittent began today. My kitchen is now a dusty hole, my yard resembles the set to Sanford and Son. I'm beat. Too all three of this site's readers, I apologize.

But then again, one shouldn't expect continual posting from an Intermittent site.
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Monday, October 27, 2003

BLOGGERED

At one point, there were three really neat posts up. Now there are none.

Dammit. I'm going to bed.

(UPDATE)

Now they're back. I'm still going to bed.
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INTERMITTENT REVIEWS

Some spoilers, ok?

Up today, Dave Brin and Scott Hampton's, The Life Eaters, in which Thor is just a little more...aryan than he's typically portrayed in comics.

The conceit of the story is the Norse gods fighting on the sides of the Nazi's. As high concepts go, this is a pretty good one. It appeals to my inner geek, so much so that reading it made me immediately think about what a cool role playing game campaign setting it could be; and that was before Shiva made a guest appearance.

Unfortunately, however, Brin betrays the inherent coolness of his concept to give a civics lesson in the virtue of the common man. Brin doesn't much like the way that fantasy fiction tends to err on the side of the great man theory of history; in his view, this theory underpriveliges the role and abilities of just plain folks. Thus, while the book was marketed as "Captain America versus Thor!" the Captain America role was outsourced not to the swaggering embodiment of American virtue but to an amorphous collection of earnest American scientists. It's more a smackdown of the concepts underlying the two characters than a beat down in the Mighty Marvel Manner.

This approach might have worked in a three hundred page novel. In the more compressed page limit Brin has to work with, he has to make his metaphors more obvious, which means that the narrative grinds to a halt in several spots to provide room for narration about pulling together and civic virtue. These interludes are so often and so earnest one half expects that a barn raising will break out on the next page. Even worse for Brin, every panel spent singing the praises of the average joe is a panel he can't use to explain away some glaring holes in the plot; really, no one in the nifty underwater base was able to suss out the science behind global warming? This kind of hole pops up with some frequency. If a science fiction writer has to fiat the science, his story has deep structural problems.

On the other hand, Scott Hampton's art sure is pretty, even the pages that look like storyboards to a Frank Capra film.
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SEAN COLLINS ON THE RING

I've been really enjoying Sean Collins' take on horror movies this month, and he's generally been spot on. For some reason, though, he beats around the bush, however, in discussing what makes The Ring such a brilliant bloody film.

The Ring was the first horror movie that's gotten under my skin in years. It really is a terrifying movie, impeccably put together. Its real power, though doesn't come from the use of horrific images--it comes from the power of its idea.

The Ring is horror at its most Lovecraftian; its message is that there are things in the world older and bigger and more powerful than us, things that hate us, and want us to suffer. And there is nothing we can do about it. Evil is fundamentally alien. It cannot be bargained with, understood, or defeated. Its this idea that separates The Ring from, say, a film like A Nightmare on Elm Street; Freddy was grotesque, but acted out of human motivations. Evil in the Ring is like the devil in The Exorcist; its very presence mocks human motivations.

And its the suggestion of that possibility (along with a headcrush of a concluding scene ) that keeps us up at nights, or checking over our shoulder as we head home.
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ITS THE GENRE'S, STUPID

While not a direct response to my question, Shawn Fumo seems to argue that it's the multiplicity of genres that's fueling the Manga boom.
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THE SAVAGE POSTS OF PEACE

Jim Henley says that the anti-war crowd lacks the stomach of Max Boot and friends, by way of the most savage analysis I've seen in weeks.

This is good stuff.

Incidentally, Unqualifed Offerings is in many ways the inspiration for this here blog. To the extent we suck, however, blame us, not him.
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THE THIN LINE BETWEEN EDUCATION AND TRIVIA

Social Studies, in my day, was a class that was mandatory. Most of the kids hated it because it seemed like a ridiculous list of names and dates that needed to be memorized to simply regurgitate on test days.
But there is more to it than that. Those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it. Trite? Yes. True? How about that quagmire in Iraq? If only the Iraqiis were a little more tenacious we could call it "Vietnam 2". Which I think was the title of a Chuck Norris movie.
The fact is, todays youth are becoming less and less aware of the world around them. I happen to believe this is due in large part to history and social studies becoming little more than questions fit for 'Jeopardy' and 'Who wants to be a Millionaire?'.
WCCO (local television here in Minneapolis) and Minnesota Monthly magazine have both produced stories regarding new proposals for state curriculum in history and social studies.
The truth is, these proposed changes still don't go far enough.
If we truly wish to survive in a global economy, we need to educate our children properly.
Trust me. Our Wrestling Governer left office before Arnie took his.
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Sunday, October 26, 2003

MAKING COMICS IS HARD

Lawrence Rider, at Ninth Art, says that making your own comics is hard; and here he talks not about publishing, but about the physical act of creation--the writing, the drawing, the lettering.

To which I add from the gallery, Amen. Making comics is hard.

About two years ago I decided to get off my ass and actually start writing comic scripts. I had no illusions these would sell, but I had stories I wanted to get out; and it's easier, for me at least, to write scripts than prose. So. Two months later, I have scripts for three twenty two page comics. Three first issues of three seperate mini's. I'm very proud of myself. But....I can't draw, not even a little. I put up an ad on Digital Webbing. And, lo and behold, responses! This is so easy! I'll be holding my comic in my little hands in no time!

Except that half of the respondents were bad artists. Half of the good artists only wanted to do superhero's, or didn't want to do a horror book, or a historical action/adventure. Half of the artists that like the concept wanted more money than I could afford. And half of the artists that I could afford said they were busy now, but in six months....

In spite of all that, I found an artist for each project. Both lived multiple time-zones away from me. I've never met either artist. Artist A starts work diligently. Artist B dicks around with concept sketches. Artist A emails me rough pages. I send back suggestions. Artist B sends me gorgeous pages, like something from Travis Charest. My jaw drops. Artist A sends me twenty two finished pages for a friend of mine to ink and letter; I'm about to have a book! Artist B has to stop working on the pages to deal with real life. I'm okay with this. I'll wait for quality. And anway, I've got Artist A's pages...except that A's pages weren't drawn with the scripted dialogue in mind, and there is simply nowhere to cram the words. So now I'm scrambling, playing with Quark, rewriting my script. While I'm doing that, Artist B drops off the face of the earth; or rather, moves jobs and changes emails, and I have no way of getting in touch with him.

Short story long, it's two years on, and I have two scripts and twenty two pages I can't really use. Making comics: yep, it's hard.
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HI-DIDDLY HO'S

A big welcome to the second member of our Intermittent team, Mr. David Finch. Finch's beat is sports, music, comics; largely the same as your standard Intermittent content, only with the super-sized attitude of a surly Minnesotan.

Also, be on the watch for our international correspondent, making his debut in the next couple of days. He's a good friend, a hell of a writer, and might someday be Thailand's first superhero.
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TOM JACKSON

In light of recent comments by Rush Limbaugh and now Warren Sapp, I firmly believe that ESPN's Tom Jackson is the only intelligent man left in professional football.
Warren Sapp's "slavemaster" comments are ridiculous and far fetched at best, hurtful and inflammatory for certain, and as Warren goes - simply stupid and uneducated.
The same can be said of Limbaugh.

So all we have left is Tom Jackson, trying very hard to keep his head above water, and keep things on track. Talking about the GAME of football.
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Friday, October 24, 2003

WHY MANGA?

Evidently Media Play, or at least the store by Shawn Fumo, has consolidated its Manga with its Anime section, creating some overpowering wall of Japanese-ness, with all the posing and shouting and big eyes that might entail. Which gets me to thinking...do manga readers wean themselves onto the books through anime? Is manga cool not because it has multiple genres, speaks more to girls and kids, etc...or because it's Japanese and therefore foreign and cool? Obviously, if the answer to either of these questions is yes, the mainstream (and yes, I realize how ridiculous that word is in the context of American comic book publishing) comic publishers are going to have a hard time emulating manga's success, even if they ape form or expand genre.

Smarter people than I have probably already discussed this, and, were I not about to make dinner, I'd poke around Google to see what the consensus is. It'd be interesting to hear what folks more in touch with the animange community have to say.
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RUSH, ATTACKED

Over yonder, the Rock and Roll report lays into the Rush haters out there; and there are lots out there. Not me, of course. I can play La Villa Strangiatta on the piano, thank you very much--though perhaps I've said too much....

It's weird to me how pervasive--still--Rush criticism is. Are they pretentious? Oh god yes; Free Will, anyone? But so is Radiohead. Is Geddy Lee an, um, unique singer? Yep. But tell me: is Pharrel's weird falsetto croon any less disconcerting? Is there lots of instrumental wankery? No disputing that.

But inspite of all that (or perhaps because of it) Rush works for me, tapping directly into my little fourteen year old lizard brain, even to this day. Also, over the course of twenty some odd years, they've written some pretty catchy pop bits, which also helps. The Spirit of Radio isn't a staple for nothing now.

And besides, if it's cool to like Lynnyrd Skynnyrd these days, can Rush's day in the critical sun be far behind? Get ahead of that wave, now....
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I'M A SURVIVOR

This post takes this site past the forbidding two day barrier, where none but the most hardy dare tread...or something to that effect, anyhow.

Check back in a week. I might even have links up by then.
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Thursday, October 23, 2003

AMERICAN NINJA TV

This really should be on Spike TV.

(Link via Warren Ellis)

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HEY HEY HO HO

Newsarama has an interview with Ho Che Anderson up, talking about the third volume in his MLK opus. I haven't read either of the previous two volumes -- I'm not only waiting for the trade these days, I'm waiting for the full series of trades to come out; but I did read his Milestone miniseries Wise Son. And that did for that particular imprint what Miller did for Daredevil; it took what was an undeniably silly silly character (really, the blood syndicate?), stripped it to its core, and pumped it back up into a pulp myth. Perhaps not surprisingly, he cites Miller as a strong influence in the interview, though Ho's art reminds me more of Mark Badger than Miller.

Which is a long way of saying this is on my pull list, if for no other reason than I respect his talent.

Also, note the commenters to the interview complaining about the art quality in the old Classics Illustrated. Also note that the First Publishing iteration of Classics Illustrated featured art by Kyle Baker, Jill Thompson, J.K. Snyder III, Matt Wagner, and Mike Ploog. Draw from this whatever conclusions you want.
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Wednesday, October 22, 2003

This is a brilliant idea. And it would be a way to make money off backcatalog material, though I would assume that the startup costs would be substantial. But still...I would pay a pretty good amount to get my copies of Helfer and Baker's Shadow out of the longboxes and onto the shelves.

Or, for that matter, the Priest/Bright run on Powerman and Ironfist; I'll pass on the Duffy, thank you very much.

At some future point: my trip down that well worn path, trades I'd love to see but never will.
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A GOODMAN INDEED

A left field, but apt, choice by Sean Collins, continuing his tour through the graveyard: Barton Fink. The first time I saw this film I was too young to really appreciate it; the rather deliberate pacing of the first two thirds killed me. And then the end started, and I woke right the hell back up.

I watched it again, a couple of years back. And now it's obvious how the whole movie is designed to lead up that particular end; the pacing is so deliberate because it is inevitable.

To this day hotel hallways sort of freak me out.
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REALLY, DOES CALIFORNIA CARE?

The last out in the Marlins/Yankees game happened at, I think, around 12:30 last night; or much, much later than I wanted to stay up. Given that both teams are in the Eastern time zone, is is too much to ask that the games start at times that are convenient for the East Coast?

Although since California has supplanted Florida as "the most laughed at state in the Union", perhaps we should be nice to them for a while....
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Check, check check.

Sybillance, sybillance, sybillance.

Can everyone hear me out there?
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