The Intermittent

Why Are You Still Here?

Friday, January 30, 2004

FIDDY WAS NOT HERE TO SING

Today was my birthday. My wife got me a guitar.

She rocks.

And soon, I will too.
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FROM THE WRONG END OF THE TELESCOPE THE UNIVERSE IS VERY SMALL

One more thought on the topic of genre specific readers I alluded to below. The breadth of a genre is a matter of perspective; to those deep into something, minute variations look very large. I know friends, for example, that are deeply into motorcycles. And they can quote me chapter and verse as to why this random 1977 bike is different from the '78 version; different muffler, handles, rides different, etc. And I can't see it, at all. To them it's a whole different bike, to me it's more of the same.

The same holds true for devoted fans of any genre. Dilettantes wonder how the fan can read another book about people with powers, or watch another movie about zombies, or listen to yet another version of the Rites of Spring, since the all read/watch/sound more or less the same. And the fan can point out the minute and wonderful differences in every story, film, or performance. The fan can't see the limitations of the genre because they're attention is on the details; and so it never occurs to them that less obsessive types find fanish behavior odd.

Ask a superhero fan if the genre is limited and he'll come back with Watchmen, or Sleeper, or Swamp Thing, or Powers as examples of the genre's breadth. He'll tell you how it can be used to address all sorts of issues, be made a metaphor for many things; how the only limit on the stories to be told is the imagination of the creators. And from his perspective, he'll be right.

When you're this deep in, there is no need to read outside of the genre.
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WE HATE YOU, COME JOIN US

John has been hosting a forum discussion on why superhero fans don't try other genres of comics, stemming from a discussion of Baraka and Black Magic In Morocco, and the commercial fate thereof. Lots of good stuff which I won't rehash here; but I will throw one idea into the ring (and it's not a new one, by any stretch). Many superhero fans don't branch out into other genres because they've been told for years that other genres are not for them.

Seriously.

The attitude of many of those who read, produce, or sell art comics (and this is of course a gross generalization) is oppositional to superhero comics; these latter are the bastard stepchild of the industry, to be hidden, and when not, scorned. By extension, the fans are idiots that need to "get the fuck out of comics."

This is a really unfair swipe at ADD, and we all know it; I'm pushing a position using his words that I doubt he in fact holds, and he clearly reads superhero books himself. And everyone knows that Austen is an awful, awful writer. It's been proved with charts and graphs. But really. Say someone likes, for whatever reason, Uncanny X-Men. For this they should be yelled at? Kicked around? And to what end? Do X-Men fans hear the taunting and nod their heads in amazed agreement: "My God, the man with the Monkey v. Robot is right! I have been wasting my life! Where oh where can I find a copy of Safe Area Gorazade?"

No. When people pick fights, fights occur. Lines are drawn. Books are categorized as for us or for them. For the snobs or the unwashed masses or the fans or the intellectuals. And no one wants the other in their camp anyway: as much as people bitch about how books sell, very few actually want people to read art comics who won't "get them." It's indie rock syndrome, the comics version; no one can like the little band I like, because you won't love them the way I do and never will.

If we didn't insist on making one's taste in comics a litmus test of personal worth, or of commitment to the medium, we'd be much better off.
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THE ECHO CHAMBER

Simonson FF in trade? Amen to that notion, brethren.

That new Britney Spears song with the messed up string bit? I'm bout it bout it.

For more people, products, or places that qualify for the coveted Intermittent Seal of Approval, check back here, and Make it Intermittent!
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VIRGIN THOUGHTS

Was in Virgin Records today. They've got a big sale going on; lots of their OGN/trade section is in the clearance section. And not just stuff like Call of Duty; a bunch of manga trades, Bendis Daredevils, Bizarro comics, etc. A quick glance at the shelves of the Graphic Novels section sort of bears out this trend. Some superheros, some mange, but mostly, of all things, art comics. Fantagraphics books, Top Shelf stuff. Not sure if this is a country wide trend in Virgin or just at my store; but it looks for all the world to me as if Virgin has decided that upscale art comics are the market niche it's going to fill. And this makes some sense, as the Barnes and Noble in the mall has the manga crowd, and the comic store across the street has the spandex crowd.

Also: can someone explain to me how in heaven's name there is a four cd Motorhead box set? I mean, I like Motorhead. I own two Motorhead albums. I wear a Motorhead shirt when I play in basketball tournaments. But there is no way--no way-that there are four discs worth of worthwhile Motorhead material. It's simply not possible.

I find the whole thing quiet disturbing.
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Thursday, January 29, 2004

THE INTERMITTENT STACK OF INTIMIDATION

In this case, the stack of unread comics next to my bed. Man, have I gotten behind. Sitting there, making me feel guilty, are:

Luis Riel
The Maxx v. 1
Metropol v. 1-5
Brat Pack
Dead Memory
Bloody Streets of Paris
Testament
Ultimate X-Men HC 3
Jinx
Hectic Planet v. 2
Peculia

At some point, I'm going to just have to lock the doors, curl up with some cheese, pretzels, orange soda and spend a day getting my geek on; it's going to be me versus the pile, and the pile ain't going to win.

All apologies to John Jakala.
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Wednesday, January 28, 2004

ROCK AND ROLL HIGHSCHOOL

I'll take the Sean Collins challenge. Here are the eighteen albums that rocked my world the most in highschool, no doubles allowed per artist.

1. Camper Von Beethoven - Key Lime Pie
2. Husker Du - Zen Arcade
3. Descendents - Liveage
4. Living Colour - Vivid
5. Led Zeppelin - Physical Graffiti
6. Guadalcanal Diary - Jamboree
7. Fishbone - Reality of My Surroundings
8. Pixies - Doolittle
9. Fugazi - Repeater
10.U2 - Joshua Tree
11.NoMeansNo - Live and Cuddly
12.De La Soul - Three Feet High and Rising
13.Public Enemy - Fear of a Black Planet
14.Bob Mould - Workbook
15.Uncle Tupelo - Still Feel Gone
17.Rush - 2112
18.Tribe Called Quest - Low End Theory
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A NARRATIVE; OR, WHY WE'RE ALL DOOMED

Overheard today while waiting for my box to get pulled. This narrative is as accurate as I can remember. Seriously.

Customer, a middle age man wearing a green lantern shirt, pointing at some Manga near the Pokemon cards: "Do people actually read those?"

Manager: "Yeah, they do okay."

Customer: "I've been reading all on the message boards and stuff about how popular that stuff is. But I've never seen anyone reading it."

Manager: "No, it's mostly younger kids. Not the regular crowd. I'm not really into it."

Customer: "Me neither. I've seen some of the cartoons. They're so kiddie, you know? None of it makes any sense. And it's all the same."

Manager: "Yeah, it's all really similar. Lots of big robots and stuff."

Customer: "Yeah, I'm not surprised its not selling to adults. It just looks really juvenile. I don't see what the big deal is."

Manager: "The fans are really into it. Like a cult. People dress up, all sorts of things."

Customer: "This is why I don't trust things I read online. I can't believe this stuff is going to stick around. It's just a fad."

Manager: "No, only a couple of our regulars order it. It's mostly just walk in traffic. We don't order it very heavy. We don't want to get stuck with it."

Whereupon the manager finished ringing him up, and out the door he went. I don't have the heart to even attempt to comment on this exchange, and present it to in the spirit of anthropology; a dispatch from the belly of the beast.
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BUSTED

Dirk catches some errors in my piece on decompression, and depants me for the world to see. Corrections are here. And apologies are here.

This is therefore a good time to give what, on a much more pretentious blog, would be labeled as a statement of principles or somesuch. I'm enjoying doing this, but I also have a wife, and a job, and lots of other hobbies that I very much enjoy. I frankly have neither the time or inclination to do lots of fact checking; and thus, I'll freely submit that this blog is likely ridden with errors. Hell, many of my opinions are wrong. But part of the fun of this whole thing is learning things I didn't know. And I try to keep this blog ego free. So--if I paraphrase some book I read seven years ago, sorry. If I butcher your argument, sorry. If I fail to note that someone else made the same argument two weeks ago that I'm making now, and made it better, sorry. No malicious intent, I assure you; only a case of priorities.

Thank you, and goodnight.
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Monday, January 26, 2004

WAITING FOR HENLEY

Jim Henley, while talking about Watchmen, sketches out his thoughts on the superhero comic as the perfect metaphorical vehicle to explore the ethical duties of power relationships. I'm not going to try and summarize it; Jim's a better writer than I, and deserves to have his thoughts read as they were written; but suffice to say, he should hurry up with his long promised OGN. Some of us are real interested to read it.
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I DO NOT THINK THAT WORD MEANS WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS

I know I said posting would be light. Sue me.

Anyway, Graeme points to this article by Brandon Thomas about the horrors of "decompressed" comics; and of course, Thomas is just the tip of that particular wave of discontent. I'd be much more likely to jump in myself if I thought that any of these folks knew what the hell they were talking about.

Look. Decompression is a narrative technique; it is not shorthand for "talky comics." Seriously. Go pull The Dark Knight Returns off the shelf. Find the scene in Book Two where Joe Chill tears off Mrs. Wayne's pearl necklace. Look at it. Notice the abundance of little panels? This is decompression; an action that could drawn as two panels is drawn as two pages of panels to generate a particular mood; in this case, tension. Decompression has nothing to do with the story being told--it has to do with tools used to tell the story. A decompressed story can be full of action, as a quick look at lots of manga demonstrates. Polemical tip: it helps if you can correctly name what it is that's driving you nuts. Let's not stigmatize what can be an incredibly powerful tool for telling stories.

Now, having gone and called the good folks dumb, I'm going to be nice. I think that the substance of this critique, though mislabeled, has some force: I think that monthly comics are often padded out. But this is due to the market, which can't support monthly comics without the trades. If monthlies were still viable there would be no line wide push for six issue arcs, ready for collecting into trades. The solution is not to save the monthly. The solution is to finally let it die and to start publishing something else.

NOTE: I can't find my copy of Dark Knight. It might not be Issue Two. But you know what section I mean.

UPDATE: Dirk correctly points out that it was Brandon Thomas, not Brandon Stenger. Maybe I was thinking of the Sequential Swap member. Or maybe I was just lazy. In any event, it's always embarissing to have major fact errors in pieces talking about the factual errors of others. D'oh. Also, it's entirely possible that the example I used came from Scott Mcloud, or someone else; it seems familiar to me, but I really don't have the time to track it down. In any event, I'm not taking credit for it.
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DAVE: WHAT HAPPENED

So. It's been a while. Again. And it's not as if I've been lacking things to say...but the sad truth is that real life has moved working on the page here way down on the priority list. Posting will be Intermittent until further notice. Apologies.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2004

SHAOLIN, WHERE YA AT?

Dirk via Neilalien points out to this list of songs with comic related lyrics. Pretty good, but why no love for the Wu? I mean, it's members sometimes go by Tony Stark and Johnny Blaze; and songs sometimes sound like extracts from the Handbook to the Marvel Universe. Johnny Blaze the Ghost Rider, ghost stories by the campfire, the nightbreed ducking from the Wu-Tang production....
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FOLLOW THE LEADERS

Ok, I think that we've pretty well established that, from a practical standpoint, this whole Mars thing doesn't make any damn sense at all. But even if it wasn't going to be a technical clusterfuck, the question remains: why do we need a national rallying point? Why is it the job of the government to give us one?

I mean, I thought that the whole point of this little experiment was to let each and all of us, to the greatest extent possible, pursue their own happiness; and the government was there to play referee, to prevent us from hurting other people. And if each of our visions of happiness were different? Big deal. To believe in America is to believe in an ethos of freedom, not a public works project. We don't have to line up for a Great Leap Upwards to come together; we don't have to follow the Leader. A respect for the freedom of each citizen, freely exercised, is enough a national purpose for me.

I mean, I respect the government. The government, both federal and local, does many good things. It does things that make my life better in many, many concrete ways. But it does not give my life meaning. It does not provide me with my reason for being; that's a job for my family, my friends, and my God. I don't need the President to be Moses; I don't want anyone in the government to tell me what the point and purpose of my life should be, or to be impressed into building a new martian pyramid. I voted for a President, not a Pharoah.

I supported Bush in 2004 because I thought that Gore had the greater messianic tendencies. Funny how things work out, isn't it?
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Tuesday, January 13, 2004

HELP THE AGED

Anyone out there care to englighten me on how to set up comments? I'm sure its very simple to those of you out there who, unlike me, have been doing this for a while. Please bear in mind when offering assistence that I'm dumb. It may be necassary to type slowly, and in all caps.

Any help is appreciated, and should be emailed to the Dave Intermittent email address over yonder. Thanks.
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IF YOU WANT TO DESTROY THIS SWEATER

So, evidently, it's bad for Gen. Clark to wear sweaters in an effort to try and project an image that appeals to voters. Why is trying to appeal to voters a bad thing? Because Glenn Reynolds says so, dammit; and really, there is no more need for analysis once this pronouncement is made from on high.

Presumably, Glen intends to suggest that this shows desperation on the part of Clark; or that the "natural" Clark is not what the candidates want. And one or the both of these might be in fact correct. But let's not kid ourselves: Clark is not the only politician to worry about PR, or to alter themselves or their message in response to PR concerns. Are we really to think that President Bush doesn't worry about the way people see him? Are we really sure that his appearance isn't stage managed? Really? The RNC employs all those pollsters and spindoctors just to keep them off the streets? It's the Republican version of midnight basketball?

Right. I guess Bush must always fly onto aircraft carriers in navy jets and wearing a full flight suit, then. And all of the President's photo ops are magical, spontaneous events; pictures are never staged for political effect. Karl Rove has never, shut your mouth, tried to position Bush or policy to better appeal to voters, no sir. And even if, you know, maybe they did rig policy to appeal to voters, which is worse: jury-rigging up illegal steel tariffs or wearing more wool? I mean, one is an offense against free trade; the other is a crime against fashion. Clark is clearly the more insecure.

It's one thing to be naive about the dirty business of politics. It's quite another to know the truth, and, in the service of a political assault pretend that business as usual is a sign of weakness. A fool does the first; a hack, the second. Put Instapundit, in this case at least, in the second category.
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MICHIGAN PORN LAWS: THE RETURN.

Remember that Michigan law, the one that was going to make displaying comics in places where kids could see them potentially illegal? The one we were all worked up about? It's been challenged by a consortium of booksellers. More as things develop. I'd guess there'll be a request for a preliminary injunction staying enforcment of the law; and the hearing on that request should be a pretty good barometer on the merits.
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RECYCLING: IT'S GOOD FOR YOU?

So, now that Sean and Jim have cleared the waters of sharks and other lurking horrors, I’m taking the plunge too: I don’t think that the Marvel Age books are either a bad idea or a desecration of comics history.

Taking up the first point, I don’t see the business downside of this for Marvel. Those stories are paid for, and aren’t making them money, leaving aside a trade program based on nostalgia; why not put those stories to use? And hey, maybe if these are successful, Marvel can better subsidize new genres....ah, to dream.....but, assuming that Marvel doesn’t flood the bookstore market with dreck, it can’t hurt. Besides, we’ve already established that multiple genres are a key to the manga boom; and it therefore can’t hurt to have some superhero’s in the casserole.

With respect to the second point: yeah, I suppose that it’s sacrilege or something to redo the StanSteveJack stories. But on the other hand, movies are remade. Songs are covered. Plays are restaged. Why are comics sacrosanct? I can’t think of a good reason. And it’s not as if this will poison kids to the glories of Jack Kirby; I mean, I got news for everyone. Kids, by and large, are going to think that Kirby art looks silly. I know I did. I remember looking at old DC Who’s Who’s and very clearly thinking that some art looked cool and some art did not. And Kirby art did not. I remember getting a Captain Victory issue in one of those Sears’ catalog twenty comics grab bags. I thought that it sucked; it looked ameaturish. At that point, I suppose I thought that Mike Zeck was the bomb, as the kids say, or maybe Paul Smith. Byrne or Simonson, or maybe Romita Jr’s X-men work. But Kirby? Nope. John Buscema? Nope. Sal Buscema? Heeeellll no. Herb Trimpe? He was the butt of jokes. And I was not the outlier in artistic taste. When you’re twelve, Kirby looks like your granddad’s artist. If you’re lucky, you keep reading comics and look at Kirby with new eyes and an appreciation for the craft when you’re older. Of course, that won’t happen unless you started to read comics young--and hey, what do you know, that’s where the Marvel Age books are targeted: to the young. Hmmm. Maybe this isn’t that bad for the Masters after all. Also: these stories aren’t new, true. But then again, if you’ve never read the originals (or the countless retreads) they’re new to you. If I’m a ten year old reading comics for the first time, I don’t know that Electro has fought Spiderman once a year for forty years; I just know he’s fighting him now, and that it’s cool as all hell. Repitition is only a problem if the audience stays with a book for ten years; it’s not a problem for the new reader.

And of course, this is in no way a vote of confidence that Marvel will in fact pull this off, and will avoid being boneheads about implementing the whole thing.
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GOOD NEWS FROM TOKYO

Speaking of manga, good to see that Warren Ellis is planning on writing for Tokyopop, if for no other reason than it signals that Tokyopop isn’t abandoning the adult market in favor of young girls; the thought of a Warren Ellis comic for young girls is slightly horrifying.
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Wednesday, January 07, 2004

FOR THE SLEEP DEPRIVED

Evidently, oral arguments in were held yesterday in the appeal from the Gaiman/McFarlane lawsuit. The MPEG of the argument is here; PDF's of the briefs are here. But remember, heavy machinery should not be operated after reading legal briefs of any sort, and this site cannot be held responsible for any caused by legally induced drowsiness.

Looking at the briefs, Gaiman looks to be in better shape. Gaiman is in even better shape with Judge Posner on the panel. Perhaps more than any other Federal Judge, Judge Posner understands the perspective of an author; Posner is the Brian Michael Bendis of the Federal bench, cranking out book after book after article after opinion, most of impeccable quality, though not without controversy. This perspective is apparent in the oral argument; Judge Posner just lacerates McFarlane's lawyer on the sufficiency of the copyright notice included in various issues of Spawn. And then he tears into McFarlane's counsel for trying to claim that Gaiman had no rights to Cogliostro; after all, Posner notes, if Gaiman had no rights, what was McFarlane promising to get in return for giving up the rights to Miracleman? Given what we know about Todd, it doesn't seem likely that he'd give something for nothing, baseballs excepted.

Now, granted, the tenor of oral argument is not a perfect polestar to the eventual direction of the opinion. Sometimes Judges kick around lawyers whose position they agree with to make sure the parts really fit; or sometimes, just for the fun of it. Federal judges have life tenure, and get to be inscrutable if they want to be. Notwithstanding that caveat, I suspect that Gaiman comes out ok in this appeal. McFarlane's statute of limitations defense is very much crippled by the factual findings of the lower court; appellate courts do not very often disturb findings of fact--that's a big no no for appellate courts, which are not in a good position to evaluate facts or witnesses. McFarlane's second point on appeal, that Gaiman could have no rights in Cogliostro and Medieval Spawn as these characters can't be protected flies in the face of common sense. As Judge Posner points out, if these characters can't be protected, McFarlane Toys is in big trouble; and since McFarlane clearly thinks that--at least as used by him and his company--these characters can be protected, Gaiman could share in the copyright as joint author. Which means Todd owes Neil money or Miracleman, take your pick.

Final observation: it's never good practice to admit to an appellate panel that it's been over a year since you read the case you're putting forward as the touchstone to your legal analysis. Bad idea.

Final observation, part the second: Judge Posner is a personal hero to at least one of us here at the Intermittent. We would very much recommend his book Overcoming Law; a great work about the sources of legal doctrine, impeccably written, and with far more wit than is normally allotted to this type of scholarly work. More Posner here.
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DEPARTMENT OF EGO INFLATION

Sean Collins, while smacking Rich Johnston about the head and face, notes that the comics blogosphere broke the Joss Whedon news before the "legitimate" news sites (to the extent such things actually exist). We also broke the story about the Hibbs/Marvel settlement before it the news sites did.

Therefore, if you've been reading this site since October, you've only wasted 97.4 percent of your time.
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PTI JLA

Watching Pardon the Interruption today, and Tony Kornheiser notes that the planet Mars has given us, first among other things, J'onn J'onnz, the Martian Manhunter.

I have it on reliable authority that he also endorsed Desaad for the Oakland coaching job, what with the need for better team discipline and all.

This latter is a joke, by the way.
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Tuesday, January 06, 2004

A STORY OF SOME RINGS

So. I've since been there, and back again. And there were rings involved, though more symbolic of comiitment than tools to establish power relations; also, the ceremony was unclear as to whether we get to pass into the West or not now--note to self: check on availability of boats. Long story short, there is now an official Mrs. Intermittent, and I am truly fortunate to have found someone to put up with all my tomfoolery and general dunderheadedness. Also fortunate to have so many friends and wellwishers at the event--including Mssrs. James and Dave Jon--and across the web. I am, to quote Richard Ashcroft, a lucky man.

I'm going to be easing back into this thing in the next couple of days. I didn't stay much abreast of news, comics or otherwise, while in Belize (a destination I highly recommend, by the way), and prior to the honeymoon I was preoccupied with trying to hold the wedding plans together; just when you think you've got it all figured out, someones jacket comes in midget size and the connection to the PA system doesn't work. Yeah, that's right--we DJ'ed our own wedding, thus avoiding my having to through a hired DJ off the roof for being obnoxious; and there is something to be said for having the ability to play the Gear Daddies cover of Little Red Corvette when you want a slow song.

Anyway. Thanks again for all the support, both for my wife and I and also for the site--for the half-assed hobby of my mine (the site, not my wife) I've been blown away by the reception. Hat tips, all around; and a promise of more posts, of Intermittent quality.
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