TOPLESS HEROES AND CHILDHOOD OBSESSIONS
Can we talk about fan service a little bit?
There's been a lot of discussion lately about creative works that exist just to thrill the most prurient interests of its fans. While those fans may claim they come for the creative works, really they're just titillated by good-looking people of the opposite sex showing some skin and thrusting their hips out. Phallic imagery is clear to see, though its creators often claim it's only in the eye of the beholder.
It's even worse when the works they so desire are driven by a nostalgic rush from their childhood. Some might even call it an arrested development to still be appreciating and celebrating one's childhood so much, 20 or 30 years later.
These centers of interest attract often homogenous crowds, which gather together (perhaps annually) to celebrate their shared love at larger venues across the country, mostly on weekends.
You can have your New York Comic-Con and your latest issue of "Catwoman," and I'll raise you one Rick Springfield concert:
I photographed his concert last Friday night. And you know what I learned from that experience, while being surrounded by a crowd 80% filled with women who worshipped Springfield 30 years ago as a pop/rock hearththrob? Sometimes, all that window dressing doesn't take away from the creative work. You can have a perfectly good concert, enjoy the music and the showmanship and not spend a week afterwards complaining that the man took off his shirt, or walked into the crowd and thrust his hips toward the second row while a sea of female hands groped him. All in good fun.
If you want technically proficient people playing mathematically pure music and dressed to the nines, go check out the symphony down the street.
The other obvious parallel here: The crowd was overwhelmingly female. The men who were there were mostly dragged there by their wives, you could tell. Now reverse those roles and stick them into a comic-con. And the three year old with the Rick Springfield t-shirt on was the hit of the show. Was he a cosplayer? He's even on YouTube now, because we all know that concert venue prohibitions against audio and video recording are jokes.
So, you know what? If "Catwoman" wants to be a sexy action/adventure/spy book with a giant wink and a nod to a culture soaked in and obsessed by the pursuit of carnal interests, I'm fine with it. I may not read it, but I'll let it be and, when the time comes, give my daughter some Archie Comics, some "Little Lulu" reprints or "Amelia Rules" books. She doesn't need "Catwoman."
One last thing: Rick Springfield is 62 years old. Look at that picture again. Now how old and fat do you feel?
This week's Pipeline was supposed to be my travelogue to New York Comic-Con. Unfortunately, last minute illnesses prevented me from attending, so let's take a look at some of the comics from last week and this coming week:
"Pigs" #2: Strong series. We're only two issues in, but Ben McCool and Nate Cosby are pushing all the right buttons. After last issue's dramatic set-up, this issue focuses on one character, The White Russian, a suburban father who thought he was out of "the game," only to have the game return to him. Not the most original concept in the world, but it works for these pages, and I'm intrigued to see more. The series might not be getting the same kind of buzz that "Morning Glories," for one example, did in its earliest days, but it's off to a very promising start. And it's monthly!
"Savage Dragon" #174: I have to admit that I'm a little lost. All the twists and turns the series has taken, particularly when it comes to Rex Dexter, have completely lost me. I had to learn to sit back and enjoy the ride with a certain calmly detached feeling towards the issue. Nice art, nice coloring, nice lettering (Tom Orzechowski!) and some stuff happened. Done in one. Nice. Let's see if next issue's possible return of the original Dragon brings me back into the story properly. I loved the "Emperor Dragon" storyline, and was happy to have it wrap up so much of what had come before. I just wish there weren't still so many loose ends.
"All Nighter" #5: Here is more proof that collected editions are the way to go. I enjoyed the series as a whole, and this issue, in particular, but missed the point of the final pages. There's a strong visual clue that I'm sure is a callback to the first issue that will explain everything, but I can't remember that far back anymore. It's not David Hahn's fault. This book was originally a graphic novel. Read in one sitting, it would all make perfect sense. My mind just can't hold onto such details for months on end anymore.
As I've said of all the issues in the series, I'm amazed at how each part of the story feels almost like a completely different work. These five issues, originally conceived as a piece, feel like five separate stories that happen to tie together in the end. You were never sure exactly what was going to happen, but it never disappointed. That's what impresses me the most.
It's not a story that needs a sequel, but I look forward to whatever Hahn wants to work on next.
This format for a story, by the way, is also a nice argument for digital comics. For those of us whose collections are a mess of jumbled comics and disorganized chaos, a digital repository of comics seems so much easier and neater. If I could just look back on my hard drive for the other issues -- through a comics app, or a keyword or title search -- I could find that first issue again easily and grasp the whole work so much better. It beats thumbing through a dozen longboxes.
Yes, I recognize that this issue is one of my own making, but I doubt I'm alone.
"Walking Dead" #90: It's not due out until next week, so I'll keep it extremely brief: Another good issue, but wall to wall talking heads. Talk talk talk talk talk. I like that kind of thing, but others might not. Consider yourself warned.
"The Shade" #1: I wish this one was just talking heads. Any page of comic where James Robinson gets to write dialogue for The Shade is almost a guaranteed good page of reading. This issue is no exception. The issue falls apart for me at the end, when the mini-series plot is kicked into motion with a bit of violence from a surprise guest star. I don't think it's so much the violence that bothered me as it was the fact that it was so over the top, you know it's meaningless and will be reversed shortly. It made me wish The Shade could have just sat down the guest star of the issue for a spot of tea and discussed his violent ways, perhaps with references to Oscar Wilde and rare Hawaiian shirts along the way.
Violence needs verisimilitude, no?
"Heart" #1: This is the Blair Butler-written, Kevin Mellon-drawn comic from Image Comics due out in November. The story is one of a mixed martial artist who started as a 98 pound weakling and became a fighting champ. This first issue is competent, breezy and not at all difficult to understand or fight through. It uses a couple of neat time-based transitions, showing a better than average understanding of the medium for a first time writer, and there's none of that overwriting that first timers often fall into. Best of all, there's no supernatural twist. Unfortunately, there's nothing outstanding or unique about it. It's another boxing story, basically, with a slightly different style of violent sport. It's going to be a four issue mini-series, so we'll see where it goes. Hopefully, a bigger hook will come into play soon.
You can read more about the book in CBR's interview with Blair Butler.
Near Death #2: I still want to like this book more than I do. In this month's done-in-one installment, Jay Faerber puts Markham through the wringer again, pushing him into a corner where saving a life might not be such a warm and fuzzy thing to do. Problem is, Markham's solution to his problem at the end is something I saw coming. I've probably seen it on another cop show before, and I'm guessing it was "The Shield" or "Homicide." I was hoping for something a little crazier, I guess, but felt let down by the ease with which he pulled it off. The events that happen after this issue -- and that won't be followed up on, because that's not the point of this book -- might shade the issue in a different light. Maybe this weak ending is really a strong beginning for a story that isn't in this book. I guess I need to see "Law & Order: Near Death" #1 for the rest of the story.
Also, I like Simone Guglielmini's art a lot, but there's a bad bit of storytelling in the opening scene that destroys the big action moment. Some logs fall on the bad guys and pin them down. I think. I can't tell. The two panels depicting it are drawn at angles such that it's impossible to say. There are logs in front of the bad guys. Then there are bad guys seen trying to move logs. But there's no way to tell if they were hit by them or not. You can see what I mean on page four of the CBR Preview for the issue.
There is still a lot to recommend for this series, but I'm still waiting for the perfect combination or art and story to sell me completely on it.
OF ZOMBIES AND PREQUELS
After reading "Hoodoo Voodoo" for the first time for last week's column, I had to go back to reread the eleventh chapter of "Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck" to fill in the backstory. In case you've forgotten, that chapter takes Barks' original story and uses it to create a pivotal moment in Don Rosa's tale of Scrooge's rise to fortune. Rosa nicely integrates the story, explains in detail why some parts of Barks' story works (even if, at first glance, they shouldn't), and blends in countless details from random Barks works to fill it out. This is the issue where Scrooge becomes his own biggest enemy and where things have to change if he's going to learn to live with himself. It's a real turning point for the series, just as it was winding down to its twelfth issue finale. It's not too late to read it, either, as Boom! reprinted the trade paperback edition of the series last year.
In his notes on the issue, Rosa talks of restoring the zombie to Barks' original eyeball-less design, while adopting the new coloring policies of modern publishers to help smooth over the insensitive racial characteristics of the African characters. Rosa goes a step further in actually showing us Scrooge's awful ego-driven power trip to destroy the villages and burn down that which he cannot have. It's a complete cluster-you-know-what, and is as tough to read as any Duck book I've ever read. And I mean that in the best possible way. Rosa doesn't sugar coat the main thrust of this story. And having read the story it launches off from now, Rosa's story is all the more impressive.
But, really, Scrooge got a bit full of himself and became a jerk there for a while. I forgot just how bad it was.
If you already have a copy of "Life and Times," keep an eye out for the Fantagraphics reprint of "Hoodoo Voodoo" next month to help flesh things out. It's eye opening.
You can see more pictures from that Rick Springfield concert over at my photography blog, AugieShoots.com. My main personal blog is VariousandSundry.com, though I've been more active with Google+ lately.