Saturday, November 05, 2011

That gum you like? Its time has come.

Damn, the David Lynch years on Doctor Who were weird.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

First Issue Special? Bill Ranks DC's 52 #1s

For laughs, I decided to read all 52 new superhero #1s from DC Comics. I survived to tell the tale. Let's break 'em down, then, and count down from the best the new crop of series has to offer, to the comics that would have been better off remaining in tree form. To be as scientifically accurate as possible, we will rate them on the 5-star quantitative Morrissey/Marr scale, with no editorial commentary whatsoever.

There Is a Light That Never Goes Out
(5 out of 5 stars):


Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me
(4.5 stars):

Atomic Robo and the Ghost of Station X (Oops, wait, that's not DC.)

A Rush and a Push and the Land Is Ours (4 stars):

1. Static Shock
2. All Star Western

This Charming Man (3.5 stars):

3. Swamp Thing
4. Action Comics

5. Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE
6. Demon Knights
Birds of Prey
8. Batman
9. Animal Man
10. Batwoman

Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want (3 stars):

11. Justice League Dark
12. Men of War
13. Deathstroke
14. Wonder Woman
15. Aquaman
16. Superman
17. Batman and Robin
18. Stormwatch
19. The Flash
20. OMAC
21. Resurrection Man

What Difference Does It Make? (2.5 stars):

22. I, Vampire
23. Batwing
24. Nightwing
25. Green Lantern Corps
26. Green Lantern
27. Green Arrow
28. Captain Atom
29. Grifter
30. Blackhawks

William, It Was Really Nothing (2 stars):

31. Justice League
32. Justice League International
33. The Savage Hawkman
34. Legion Lost
35. Green Lantern: New Guardians
36. Blue Beetle
37. Supergirl
38. Superboy
39. DC Universe Presents: Deadman
40. Voodoo
41. Legion of Super-Heroes
42. Teen Titans

That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore
(1.5 stars):

43. Suicide Squad
44. Mister Terrific
45. Batman: The Dark Knight
46. Detective Comics
47. The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men
48. Red Hood and the Outlaws
49. Catwoman

Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now (1 star):

50. Red Lanterns
51. Hawk and Dove
52. Batgirl

Monday, September 05, 2011

Superhero Comics

Sometimes when you try too hard, you start fuckin’ up, because you forget the fuckin’ ingredients. When McDonald’s has their 99-cent Big Mac sale, right, people love the fuckin’ Big Mac. But because it’s 99 cents, everybody fuckin’ wants ’em, right? People order four, five at a time. But now, the people who work there gotta rush. They gotta fuckin’ rush to make the fuckin’ Big Macs faster, because everybody wants ’em. They’re fuckin’ 99 cent! But, now they’ve fuckin’ rushed them so fuckin’ fast that every once in a while, you’ll bite into a Big Mac and it’s missing one of the goddamn ingredients! Everybody knows it’s two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame bun, right? You fuck around and bite the Big Mac and one of them missing special sauce, you’re like “Fuck! There’s no special sauce on this motherfucker.” You bite another one, the pickles ain’t in the shit. You know why? Because motherfuckers is rushing. It takes time. You gotta make the shit how it’s supposed to be made. When you start rushing the burger, you open the shit up, the burger crooked and shit. What the fuck? The burger’s hanging halfway off the goddamn bun, because they fuckin’ rushing, and they not doing it. You gotta make it how the ingredients was initially pitched to the person, and how it’s supposed to taste, and how it’s supposed to look, and how it’s supposed to feel. And that’s what the problem is when you start to make too many fuckin’ changes to shit. And you don’t know what the fuck they want, because they don’t know what they want.

~J.B. Smoove on a crappy sitcom he was on, but really, what doesn't it apply to?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"OMAC lives... so that MAN may live!"

Colin Smith started writing about OMAC, and if anything's going to assure I pop up out of the woodwork, it's somebody talking about 70s Jack Kirby comics. I wrote the following comment on part one of Colin's post and, being the narcissist I am, decided it was TOO GOOD just to leave in a comment gallery. So here's what I scraped together:

OMAC is one of my favorite Kirby works. I mean, obviously New Gods ranks higher from a more considered standpoint, but OMAC is barnstorming stuff.

We're most likely not supposed to care about Buddy Blank. Look at that name-- he's a cipher trapped in a world he never made, a world that's in the throes of becoming Orwell's 1984, a "world that's coming." It's some kind of left-wing nightmare world, where the Global Peace Agency is a vaguely sinister, faceless group of deciders with an omniscient sentient satellite on the payroll, and *they're the good guys*. Where OMAC is the hero because he is a one-man military who has the might to be right. He's an apotheosis of an individual but the antithesis of the world that made him-- note how he doesn't say he's bulletproof, but that his body "is rejecting the bullets!" That is some fine hyperbole, but it also speaks to the nature of OMAC's character in this world.

It is interesting that OMAC never transforms *back* into Buddy Blank between adventures. This isn't Captain Marvel, where a child lives out his fantasy of being a cool adult. This is a cog in a machine being transformed into a living weapon that can break that machine. Buddy Blank's only friend is Lila, who isn't even real, and he becomes OMAC, who is equally unreal, or, this being Kirby, uber-real, realer than Buddy Blank. It could be read either way. But look at that story where he fights "Kafka," who is clearly a sci-fi Castro, but with the name of an existentialist writer. What the hell does it mean?

Kirby wasn't trying to make literature here, just crazy action comics, but his 70s DC work, particularly the Fourth World, has a lot of personal philosophy bleeding into the pages. I imagine OMAC is the same, but it's a much more cynical philosophy.

Now you've got me wanting to write an article on the book, and I have thought about doing so before. I'd also love to resume the series with #9, just picking up with the story 35 years later like a day hasn't gone by, and keeping Kirby's original series going. There's so much you can say with OMAC's world, and from a modern perspective, there's so much more you can do with the concepts Kirby brought up but didn't quite flesh out.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

And now for 52 Marvel relaunches

They asked, I answered. I never thought I'd make it to 52, but then, well, I hit over 60, and had to pare it down.

Whereas DC Comics seems fit more for big ideas and concepts, Marvel is all about character interaction. There are a lot of team and group books below. Marvel's also got a bigger problem with diversity, in my opinion, but I tried to hit as many vital demographics as I could, and I push hard for a wider audience base. Anyway, here we go:

The Marvel Universe:

1. Fantastic Four
2. Marvel Two-in-One featuring The Thing
3. Amazing Spider-Man
4. Web of Spider-Man: A monthly collection of a free weekly six-page Spider-Man webcomic
5. Sinister Six: A series about Spidey's rogues gallery
6. The Avengers
7. Secret Avengers: Featuring Black Widow, Venom (Flash), Ant-Man, Sleepwalker, Cloak, and Dagger.
8. Avengers UK: Captain Britain/MI13 but with a more profitable title
9. The All New, All Different X-Men: Hated and Feared
10. Iron Man 2099
11. Here Comes Daredevil, the Man Without Fear
12. The Incredible Hulk
13. Black Panther
14. Sleepwalker
15. Journey Into Mystery with Beta Ray Bill
16. Marvel Boy
17. ROM Spaceknight
18. The Offenders: Starring Deathlok, SuperPro, Zombie, Satana, Sun Girl, and Nth Man the Ultimate Ninja
19. Nextwave: Kick/'Splode
20. Shang-Chi: Kung Fu Superspy
21. Alias Cage & Jones
22. Devil Dinosaur: Agent of SHIELD
23. D-Man and the Howling Commandos
24. Marvel Comics Presents - a bi-weekly or monthly anthology that also collects webcomic features in print. Starts off with Wolverine, Deadpool, Damage Control, and Howard the Duck, with rotating features.

Marvel Midnight:

25. Dr. Strange
26. Ghost Riders
27. Brother Voodoo
28. Nightstalkers: Starring Man-Wolf, Wolfsbane, Werewolf by Night, and Hannibal King
29. Where Monsters Dwell: Starring Elsa Bloodstone, Gilgamesh, and the Legion of Monsters

Young Adult/Teen:

30. Thor: The Mighty Avenger
31. Captain America: The Fighting Avenger
32. Avengers Academy: Now with Amadeus Cho
33. X-Men: Gifted Youngsters
34. Runaways
35. Power Pack
36. Galacta, Daughter of Galactus
37. Spider-Girl and the New Warriors: Featuring Spider-Girl, Gravity, Thunderstrike, Patriot, Power Man, and Ladyhawk)

Written, Drawn, and Edited by Women, for Women, Starring Women:

38. She-Hulk: Super-Lawyer
39. Miss America: A new, Native American superheroine
40. Night Nurse: Hospital drama set in the Marvel Universe
41. Thoroughly Model Millie: '60s-set romantic comedy
42. Dakota North, PI
43. Heroines for Hire: Starring all the women of the MU


44. Punisher MAX
45. Nick Fury MAX: Starring Samuel L. Jackson
46. The Gulf MAX: A “sequel” to The 'Nam about the current Iraq War
47. Dazzler MAX: A mature readers book aimed at women.

Everything Else:

48. Ravage 2012
49. Strikeforce: Morituri
50. Killraven: War of the Worlds
51. Not Brand Ecch
52. Street Poet Ray

Sunday, June 05, 2011

So they asked who should take over the Batman film franchise...

...over at Spinoff (hi, Graeme), and I said:

Wes Anderson: A wry, modern reclamation of the 1966 TV series, Anderson's Batman (Sam Rockwell) is a guy in the throes of a midlife crisis, who has built himself a family from the ground up, with Robin (Jason Schwartzman), Batgirl (Ellen Page), and his trusty butler, Alfred (Michael Gambon)-- plus Aunt Harriet (also Michael Gambon), who is starting to think Bruce and Dick's relationship might not be so platonic. Meanwhile, he continues his harried caped crusade against his enemies, including a Joker who's forgotten how to laugh (Bill Murray), a Catwoman who's becoming more cougar than sex kitten (Gwyneth Paltrow), a Penguin who's just been diagnosed with lung cancer (Bud Cort), and a Riddler who has seemingly mellowed out thanks to prescription medication (Willem Dafoe).

Also, every villain's henchmen are played by the same three guys-- Luke, Owen, and Andrew Wilson.

Friday, June 03, 2011

If they asked Bill to relaunch the DC Universe and write all 52 titles, these are what they'd be.

Bully sorta did a gag like this already, yes. And I won't clog up CSBG space with my fandreams. But really, DC, you shoulda gave me a call before you went ahead and gambled your stamp. You can't just publish "superhero comics." Everything needs its own subgenre.
  1. Action Comics #1 - Would not actually be #1, but #905 or whatever, for there are some traditions even I like to uphold. This one would basically be Superman Family, an 80 page bi-monthly anthology aimed at the newsstand market especially. There will be action in it.
  2. Superman #1 - The Adventures of Superboy (when he was a man). Sci-fi adventure romance.
  3. Supergirl #1 - Actually aimed at teen girls, because it's about a teen girl
  4. The Adventures of Jimmy Olsen #1 - A crazy, hyper-compressed day-glo adventure tour of the DCU.
  5. Lois Lane & the Daily Planet #1 - Investigative journalism adventure.
  6. Detective Comics #882 or whatever, not #1, that's just silly, Batman didn't even show up until #27: Another 8-buck 80-pager, covering the Bat-family. Lead story is crime-fic, but with Batman. Or supernatural horror, but with Batman. Whichever.
  7. Batman #1 I guess: The Wire, but with Batman. And punching. And death traps, and explosions. Did The Wire have those things?
  8. Batman Inc #11: Grant Morrison can keep this one. It has two ones, so it is superior.
  9. Robin the Boy Bastard #1: Damian needs his own series.
  10. Batwoman #1: Because JH Williams has to draw something and I guess he wants to draw this.
  11. Gotham Central #1: Now with Gordon and Bullock back, it'll be even better.
  12. Aquaman #1: Undersea Arthurian science-fantasy adventure.
  13. Flash #1: A new guy. Asian particle physicist. No more Speed Force, no more Barry. Science hero for the 21st century.
  14. Green Lantern #1: A new lady. Indian astrophysicist. Space exploration adventure for the 21st century.
  15. Wonder Woman #1: Anthropological mythology adventure. Yes, I use the word "adventure" a lot. I will continue to do so. Superhero comics are about adventure, goddammit.
  16. J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter #1: Philosophical detective spy-fi superhero adventure. The concept shapeshifts as much as the hero.
  17. Justice League International #1: Bwa-ha-ha but with the Big Seven or Eight or whatever.
  18. JLB #1: The second-run team. The back-ups, the reserves, the trainees. The Little Seven or Eight or whatever.
  19. Justice League Universe #1: A bi-weekly, 16-page (with backmatter) series exploring the whole of the DC Universe, no stone left unturned, no character left unloved. Sold for $2 an issue.
  20. Jonah Hex #1: Hardboiled western noir.
  21. Blackhawk #1: Retro-future aviator espionage adventure. There are no white guys in this comic. There is a talking gorilla.
  22. Challengers: F#$% the Unknown #1: In glorious KIRBYVISION.
  23. Phantom Stranger #1: A tour of the supernatural underbelly of the DC Universe. H.P. Lovecraft's Doctor Who.
  24. Swing with Scooter #1: Archie meets the Beatles meets Scooby Doo meets Buffy meets Scott Pilgrim.
  25. Wednesday Comics II #1: It is what you think it is.
  26. Teen Titans #1: There's gotta be a way to make it not suck.
  27. Legion of Super-Heroes #1: See also - Teen Titans.
  28. Shazam! (is a word Captain Marvel says) #1: See also - Legion of Super-Heroes.
  29. Metal Men #1: This one is a manga.
  30. Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld #1: So is this, but for girls.
  31. Swamp Thing #1: By comics blogger law.
  32. Justice Society of America #1: Takes place during WWII, dammit.
  33. Sgt. Rock #1: So does this, come to think of it.
  34. OMAC #9: This one picks up where Jack Kirby left off and just keeps going like it hasn't been 36 years.
  35. Elongated & Wife #1: Thin Man. With superheroes.
  36. Plastic Man #1: Because you can probably sell two different series featuring stretchy dudes if the tones are drastically different.
  37. Kamandi the Last Boy on Earth #1: Post-apocalyptic boy's adventure, c'mon.
  38. Adventure Comics #1: 80 pages, 8 bucks. What's in it? Space adventure, sea adventure, land adventure.
  39. Blue Beetle #1: Jaime gets another go.
  40. Doom Patrol #1: It's been like three months, time to do it again. But properly. Existentialist, nihilist body horror superheroes. With hearts of gold. Who stumble into the weird shit.
  41. Rex the Motherfucking Wonder Dog #1: Maybe it's a Vertigo title.
  42. Seven Soldiers #1: A new mini-series, with seven different obscure DC characters, in various points in the timeline, and yes, Tommy Tomorrow and the Viking Prince are in it. And probably Tomahawk, or Scalphunter.
  43. Frankenstein! #1: But let's not forget the last Seven Soldiers guys. Especially the spy-fi horror action hulk.
  44. The Manhattan Guardian #1: Or the inner-city adventurer of the people.
  45. The Sinister House of Secret Love #1: Because damn, what a title.
  46. Solo #1: For those too cool for Wednesday Comics II.
  47. Static #1: For Dwayne.
  48. Black Canary & the Birds of Prey #1: Chicks with kicks. (Just for giggles, let's say the "Birds" this time are Huntress, Big Barda, Nightwing (Cassandra Cain), the Bulleteer, The Question, and Skyrocket. None of them have exposed midriffs.)
  49. Xombi #8: John Rozum can keep it. I don't want it to go away.
  50. Dial H for Hero Hotline #1: I had Hawkman in this spot, but fuck Hawkman.
  51. Plop! #1: Yes.
  52. First Issue Special #1: Tee-hee.
I was running out of steam by the end, but I could also keep going, because I am an idea machine.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

An excerpt from the upcoming Chesty McBookerton novel, Seduction in the Stacks: Tales of a Bacardi Librarian

by Geraldine Bouvier

Chesty delicately slipped the latest bound collection of the Horn Book Guide back onto the shelf between its compatriots. As she reached up to adjust the plain beige bookends to firmly tighten the shelf's tomes, the top button on her self-knitted sweater burst from her chest, her ample cleavage surging forth like water threatening to topple a dam. The button, in its aerial bid for freedom, hurtled through the empty space amidst the shelves, into the adjacent aisle, before coming to a sudden stop.

"Ow!" came a voice. Shortly thereafter, a ruggedly handsome face poked around the corner. "Yours, I presume?" asked the gentleman to which the face came attached, holding the button gently between his thumb and forefinger. He seemed to be winking at her, but Chesty soon realized the button had fired from her breasts straight into his eye.

"Sorry," she replied nervously, taking the button from him. Their fingers met; his felt coarse, the fingers of a man whose livelihood came from his hands.

"No problem," he assured her. "After all, it gave me an excuse to talk to you." At that remark, his face turned slightly sheepish.

She gazed into his eyes, the deep and penetrating eyes of a longshoreman, or perhaps a cattle farmer of some kind. "I'd wondered what you were doing amidst the library journals," she said. "Could I--?" She paused, swallowing, nervous. "Could I help you find something?"

His eyes faltered, his line of sight dipping toward her bust. "I think I've found it," he told her, taking her waist into his strong, rough hands, and lowering his perfectly-stubbled face toward her smooth and waiting one.

Friday, May 13, 2011

In which Bill pitches his latest book idea

It's called Things Hipsters Like.

Page one: "Irony."

Pages 2-200 are blank.

Thursday, May 05, 2011


What Bill's thinking/watching/reading/writing/doing. This is the shape of my head.

//X-Men: First Class Title Sequence from Joe D! on Vimeo.

//What Is Pop? by Colin Smith. Why aren't comics pop anymore? That's it, Colin. Get angry.

Competency and caution is the name of the game in 2011, with occasional brilliant exceptions and pathetic collapses of craft serving to make the sub-genre at times seem more dynamic than it is. Mostly, I read unambitiously well-structured and utterly predictable stories written for the trade. Often this means that I'm paying for complacent rubbish churned out by folks who surely should know better, but who apparently don't, although they do produce a story in the requisite number of pages. I read stories written by folks with no apparent concept of the genre's long history and the skills developed by generation upon generation of comic book professionals, but who know how to tell a four issue arc perfectly adequately, as if creating comics was a mechanical rather than a creative endeavour. I experience page after page of shoddily designed and executed storytelling, packed with money-shots of be-muscled costumes and porn-actress "super-heroines" parading as if their function is as masturbationary aids for young prospective metrosexuals prevented by their parents from using a search engine and the "start private browsing" button on the family computer. I see not Pop, but aspects of exploitation and complacency which could be fascinating if they were part of a brilliant creation rather than lazy unquestioned examples of shallow thinking and practise.

... is that what Private Browsing does!??!? I mean, uh...

//The Spaces Between Stars by Warren Ellis:

So when I write science fiction I’m a crime writer, and when I write crime fiction I’m an sf writer. I’m talking about our lives, and the way I see the world. I’m writing about the new thing, the disruptive event that enters that world, its repercussions and the attempts to deal with it. But I’m talking about where I think I am today, and what I think it looks like.
//Lois Lane, Girl Reporter - a pitch by Dean Trippe and friends. I would buy this. Is anyone listening? I am far from the target audience, but I can tell from the pitch that this is a caring, considered thing that would open up new doors for new audiences into our little world, and it needs to happen.

//Chris Sims writes a nice little essay on one of my very favorite comics, Jack Kirby's New Gods:

Kirby, a veteran of World War II who had nightmares about the horrors he saw for the rest of his life, created a mythology where there's no such thing as a god of war, because the very act of war itself is a losing proposition. Orion himself refers to it as "packaged murder," and at best, it's shown to be a regrettable necessity that can never truly be won through the temporary solution provided by, but by eliminating the root causes of hatred and fear.
//Remake/Remodel is Aquaman for HBO, so of course I loved it. (Pia Guerra; Craig Payne)

I throw up a little in my mouth

every time someone says "I threw up a little in my mouth."

Real men (and ladies) go the whole hog and full-on vomit. That's the way it's done.

Saturday, April 02, 2011


What Bill's thinking/watching/reading/writing/doing. This is the shape of my head.

//They should do a big-budget remake of The Final Sacrifice, right? I'd say Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Troy and Danny McBride as Zap Rowsdower.

//Speaking of gloriously awfulsome movies, here's a trailer for The FP, a film that can only be described as a post-apocalyptic competitive video game dancing movie:

The FP - Trailer from Trost Bros. on Vimeo.

// Old-timey minimalist paperback covers for comics storylines: some new, some have been kicking around a while.

//What ostensibly begins as a discussion between Abhay and Mark Sable over Secret Avengers turns into a madcap dissection of mainstream super-comics.

//Colin Smith begins a new series of articles-- one I feel he's uniquely suited to write-- entitled "How to 2000AD." I'm taking notes.

//Seneca on Quitely on Kirby.

//Remake/Remodels: Fantastic Four and Misty, the world's craziest comics anthology for girls. My favorites (Chip Zdarsky; Tom Bland):

Lots of great stuff all over those threads, really.

//Via Warren Ellis, of course:

//Oh geez oh man oh geez oh oh oh

Oh, dear, sorry. Better clean myself up.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Greatest Film Subtitles of All Time

Can you place the subtitle to the movie? Let's begin:

1. Electric Boogaloo
2. The Wrath of Khan
3. The Secret of the Ooze
4. The Revenge
5. The Legend of Curly's Gold
6. In Space
7. The Stone of Cold Fire
8. Back in the Habit
9. Back 2 tha Hood
10. High Voltage
11. The Quest for Peace
12. ... Your Sister Is a Werewolf

Can you think of any other awesome ones?

Friday, March 25, 2011

When I was a kid...

... I thought there was a specific curse word assigned to each finger.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

R.I.P. Michael Gough

My grandmother comes from a large family, so there was always another great aunt or uncle popping up out of the Polish woodwork when I was a lad. Having watched the 1989 Batman movie a few hundred times, Michael Gough may as well have been another great uncle of mine. I'll miss him, and always return to Batman, or Top Secret!, or what-have-you the same way one would return to a family album.

Friday, March 11, 2011


What Bill's thinking/watching/reading/writing/doing. This is the shape of my head.

//Dear Hollywood: Can we get a Frederic Wertham biopic? I don't ask for much. Can Christoph Waltz star as Wertham? Thank you.

//Gary Groth arguing with folks about the merits of Dilbert. My view? Dilbert, at its height, was hilarious and awesome, and occasionally, we still get a glimpse of same.

//Jog on Ditko's recent output and Alan Moore's Swamp Thing. "Novel-length criticism!" a '70s comic would say.

//Witzke and Seneca go to town on Elektra: Assassin.

//The Mindless Ones' Amy Poodle writes about The Invisibles for the new Comics Journal, which is the new happenin' place to be (which is why I'll never be invited to their parties).

//Naked Cities by Miru Kim. (Contains butts.) Absolutely tremendous photography, a haunting exploration of our dilapidated urban detritus, as if these images come to us from a post-apocalypse, when the first brave, naked human wanders back out to explore the destruction we brought upon ourselves.

//Qaddafis/Bluths. It's Arrested Development.

//Four unused songs from the Scott Pilgrim movie.

//Chris Sims talks about one of my all-time favorite comics (spoilers: it's ROM Spaceknight).

//Weird old comics TV show interview with Grant Morrison (with hair!) and Dave McKean about Arkham Asylum and stuff.

//Stained glass comics cover reproductions by Brandon Michael Barker. Holy crap, you guys.

//Enter the Void: I kinda wanna write more on this later. But, it's a fucked-up visual feast. See it.

//So I've now watched the first three Friday the 13th movies before they expire off my Instant Queue, and... they're not very good, are they? I mean, they're passable, sure, and improve as they go along, which is rare for a franchise, but they're not about anything, are they? Each movie is basically a remake of the last one. Is it an anti-teen-sex PSA? With machetes? Compare it to Halloween, which defined the slasher genre for America, or to Evil Dead, which was visually inspiring and self-consciously ridiculous, or to Nightmare on Elm Street, the first of which works great thematically and visually, a fine entry into the Craven/Raimi one-upmanship competition, and clearly a major influence on Joss Whedon's Buffy, and, and, etc. The Fridays have almost no interesting or likable characters, very little plot, weak atmosphere, the endings are deliberately nonsensical, etc. Line up the pins and cut 'em down, that's all they are. Hardly the stuff of horror cinema legend. I guess that's why Jason inevitably becomes the protagonist, instead of the villain.

(Now, Jason X, there's a movie.)

Saturday, March 05, 2011


What Bill's thinking/watching/reading/writing/doing. This is the shape of my head.

//Aquaman redesigns over at Project: Rooftop. But you can't improve upon perfection!

//Read The Pint Man by Steve Rushin - a book I feel written just for me, about a guy who spends a lot of time in bars and holds a lot of useless trivia inside his head. "His mind was like a lint trap"-- holding the detritus of knowledge around him. Low on conflict, but enjoyable.

//Goodnight Dune.

//Legend of the Super-Heroes in retrospect.

//Remake/Remodel: Magician of Mars

//MGK on Superman.

//James Bond covers.

//Like Ed Gorey, Maurice Sendak, and the guy who drew Scary Stories (Stephen Gammell; thanks, Internet!) had an art baby.

//My favorite part of To Kill a Mockingbird (the film), as drawn by Dan Hipp:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

If I were to rank the Coen Bros. movies, which would be a silly thing to do...

...the list might look like this. But then, most of these I've only seen once, and in the case of the one that comes dead last, I gave up halfway through. Still, the Coens remain in the top echelon of my favorite filmmakers; even if I don't like everything they do, everything they do is still worth seeing, and usually interesting in some fashion or another. Right? Right. Your list is your own, but mine is like this:

1. The Big Lebowski
2. O Brother Where Art Thou?
3. The Hudsucker Proxy
4. True Grit
5. Intolerable Cruelty
6. The Man Who Wasn't There
7. Fargo
8. Miller's Crossing
9. Raising Arizona
10. Blood Simple
11. Burn After Reading
12. A Serious Man
13. Barton Fink
14. No Country For Old Men
15. The Ladykillers

I should watch some of these again. Hell-- all of them.

Monday, February 14, 2011


What Bill's thinking/watching/reading/writing/doing. This is the shape of my head.

//Black Sabbath is another one of those Italian giallo films-- I'm a bit addicted now. This one lent Ozzy's band its name and Pulp Fiction its structure, according to the infallible internet. "A Drop of Water," the first story in the American version and the last in the Italian, makes the whole film. Once again, it's all about the colors-- gorgeous, eerie, unsettling colors, adding to the general Poe vibe of the whole story. It very much looks and feels like a short story from EC Comics-- in fact, the whole movie is basically an issue of Tales from the Crypt or Vault of Horror or what have you, including its own creepy host character, played here by Boris Karloff, who also appears in one of the stories, looking like a vampiric Mark Twain.

//Mike Norton's Battlepug.

//Giger bar.

//Great Gatsby reconfigured for the NES, like some even-more-feverish fever dream version of Michael Jackson's Moonwalker I played on the Sega Genesis. Damn those spectacles.

//Jack Nicholson's Joker = Jack Nicholson's R.P. McMurphy in whiteface.

//Matt Seneca writes about racist caricatures in Will Eisner's Spirit:
When I try to think of a comparison for the comics field's benign neglect of Eisner's Spirit work, the first thing that jumps to mind is the recent, much-maligned "New South" edition of Huckleberry Finn, which replaces all Mark Twain's original-text uses of the word "nigger" with "slave". New books for a new world. But it's not a perfect comparison because Ebony White, the ridiculously offensive racial caricature above, was the Spirit's sidekick for the better part of a decade -- and this being comics, there's no easy way to replace Eisner's cringe-inducing pickaninny with a more palatable depiction of the black kid who helped Denny Colt's alter ego out of many a jam when he wasn't commenting wryly on the hero's tangled love life.
Berlatsky rebuts:
Cutting out “nigger” from Huck Twain defaces one of the great anti-racist texts we’ve got; doing so lies about the nature and the contours of the struggle against. On the other hand, Ebony White doesn’t show Eisner struggling with racism. It just shows him being racist. And when you talk about Ebony White as part of a “textured, carnivalesque America of yesteryear,” you come really close to celebrating it for its racist caricature. Because that textured, carnivalesque America? It was really racist — more racist than Mark Twain’s America, in many ways, which still had a strong strain of racial idealism and hope which got crushed after massive Southern resistance to Reconstruction.
And Seneca rebuts again in the comments, etc. Anyway, it's an intriguing argument, with two valid sides to it. When's the last time both sides of a piece of internet discourse made valid points? Never?

//Tina Fey, sayin' stuff:
I know older men in comedy who can barely feed and clean themselves, and they still work. The women, though, they’re all “crazy.” I have a suspicion - and hear me out, because this is a rough one - that the definition of “crazy” in show business is a woman who keeps talking even after no one wants to fuck her anymore.

The only person I can think of who has escaped the “crazy” moniker is Betty White, which, obviously, is because people still want to have sex with her.
I wish I was half the woman she is.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


What Bill's thinking/watching/reading/writing/doing. This is the shape of my head.

//So Matt Seneca wrote this pair of pieces about Grant Morrison's short-lived revamp of Wildstorm's Wildcats and Authority properties, both of which suffered from crib death after an issue or two, never to return. That makes them little nothings, overlooked and ephemeral curios, but that also makes them fascinating. Were these comics too beautiful to live?

I've got nothing to say about the glo-pop sex scenes of Wildcats that Seneca hasn't already covered, but The Authority intrigues me, mostly because I dug it out of the bins and read it on the toilet (BIFF BAM POW, TOILET NOT JUST FOR SHITTING ANYMORE) today. And the toilet is the perfect place for this comic, which goes out of its way to achieve banality:
It's astonishing to see stuff this actively drab in a mainstream comic, to own a commercial object that gives up this hard. The total lack of motion on the page, the failure of the grid to cohere into a single design unit, the choppy cropping that always fails to hit whatever germ of drama this rather pathetic scene might contain... there's really no comparison to make, nothing I can think of that makes this much of a point about getting the mechanics of its medium wrong. ...

Like I said, this isn't just mediocrity -- it's aggressive mediocrity, visual art by a couple of talented artists working at evoking something. That something, of course, is the "real world" the comic's titular characters are set to collide with, and while it's still drawn on a page and printed on thousands of copies more, it gets closer to the gray ghost-guts of de facto existence we've got going here on Earth-Prime than anything pretty or even half-assed would be able to.
Of course, this being a Grant Morrison comic, this is done on purpose. In fact, the complete devotion to reproducing the mundane makes this the most visually important comic book of the past decade, outside of, I dunno, We3 (which was also a Morrison book, you see).

I'm not really sure who deserves the most credit here, but let's just say that Gene Ha (lines) and Art Lyon (colors) combine to create the most brilliantly drab comic of all time. There is no How-To-Draw-Comics-the-Marvel-Way dynamism, no outlines around the panels, no bold four-coloration. Objects and whole panels go blurry, come at odd angles. Heads and bodies get chopped off, like someone's not framing the image correctly. Panels and moments linger on mail dropping through the slot, alarm clocks, ashtrays, cups of coffee, cell phones-- these are the things we look at during the day. This is what real life looks like when broken up into static moments. Pause a movie, it's not always going to be a perfect image-- blurs set in. Pause life, you might catch us staring at our breakfast.

This is a superhero comic? The title characters don't even bother to show up in the first issue, coming late to the party. Most of the action is about a guy waking up, looking for his phone, going to work, and losing his wife. Sad white folks gettin' divorced-- that's true literature! These nine panel grids of introversion, they're the visual equivalent of the Raymond Carver style of writing hammered into me in college. Clipped sentences, sad actions. Grays, browns, a bit of mauve-- the yawning colors of reality. At least, in comparison to the bombastic colors of comics from days gone by.

Small actions fill this comic-- hitting the "End" button on one's cell phone, stirring your cuppa-- the kind of actions we don't see in comics, that occur between the panels if at all, that aren't important. Here, they're given importance, shown to us instead of kicks and uppercuts. We do these things on automatic in our daily lives, and here, Morrison, Ha, and Lyons point them out. The dialogue is naturalistic, the actions realistic, the colors muted. This is the comic folks would read in a superhero universe, to escape from their fantastic, over-the-top lives. This is a comic for superheroes, not about them.

//So at last I saw Dario Argento's Suspiria, a 1977 Italian horror classic, which does the opposite thing that The Authority does-- Argento bathes this film in primary hues, drowning the viewer, and the characters, in a four color soup not unlike what your parents secretly think all your comics look like. The name of the genre is giallo, after all, a word which means "yellow" in Italian, and refers to the sickly color of old paperback novels. Suspiria is far from a hacky B-movie, however; it is, in fact, a secret A-movie, with a visual auteurism that serves as a clear influence on stuff like Sam Raimi's Evil Dead, which came out a couple years later, and some of Tarantino's stuff. The story/script is clunky, the acting is often dreadful, but the way the camera moves is magnificent, the soundtrack is chillingly awesome, and the use of color in this film surpasses every other movie I've ever seen. In terms of how it looks and sounds, Suspiria was probably a decade ahead of its time. They literally do not make them like this anymore-- the printing process that gives this film its glorious Technicolor atmosphere is deader than disco now. Hell, it was on the outs at the time.

Being a movie about a ballet student drawn into a psycho-horror nightmare, it would probably serve as a good companion piece to Black Swan (haven't seen yet), and Natalie Portman's name was even floated for a possible remake. Remakes, though, are usually for suckers-- today's horror films, despite all the torture porn, can't live up to the ballsiness or sheer weirdness of their predecessors. These movies were gritty and visceral, by virtue of being filmed with practical effects in bizarre conditions. When the zombie fights a shark in Lucio Fulci's Zombi 2-- the best zombie movie ever made, even if it's technically worse than its fellows in every respect-- that was done by having a guy dressed as a zombie mess around with a drugged-up shark, something you probably couldn't-- wouldn't want to-- get away with today. When George Lazenby fights some guy in an Ozsploitation movie whilst on fire, he's actually on fire.

I spent a lot of time reading about Italian horror today-- movies with titles like The House with Laughing Windows, Naked Girl Killed in the Park, Planet of the Vampires, Don't Torture a Duckling, Twitch of the Death Nerve-- and ended up with another dozen things on the ol' Netflix queue. Our current American horror flicks are the latest bastard descendants of these grimy, exploitative, psychosexual, shitty weird movies cooked up by crazy Italians and Australians and what have you. Tracing this stuff back to the source gives you the real, primordial experience-- less practiced and refined than modern movies, but also less artificial. They're weirder, sillier, funnier, scarier. These fascinating old movies don't exist in our canon; they lurk, and feed on those that cross their paths.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

The Essential X-Files

Here are the ones worth watching, if you're not as crazy as me and decide to spend half a year watching the whole thing. These aren't the only good ones-- there are a lot more-- but these are the crown jewels. You will note, however, that none of them really have anything to do with the main conspiracy plot, though several are informed by their context. To be honest, all the conspiracy episodes bled together in my brain, and it's hard for me to distinguish any specifics.

In chronological order:

Beyond the Sea (Season 1, Episode 13): In the early years, Scully was often used as a go-to damsel in distress, always needing to be rescued by Mulder and the power of his convictions. Here, she takes over, as she has her first real crisis of faith. Her father dies, Mulder needs her, and an apparent psychic on death row (Brad Dourif, being awesome) is the only one who can help. Gillian Anderson acts the hell out of this one.

Humbug (Season 2, Episode 20): Auteur screenwriter Darin Morgan's first full episode. Mulder and Scully investigate mysterious deaths in a circus sideshow community. Here, Mulder and Scully are the freaks of the week, and it's everyone else who looks at them funny.

War of the Coprophages (Season 3, Episode 12): Mulder investigates a town-wide infestation of roaches. He and Scully have an episode-long duel over explanations thereof. Extremely funny and clever. Darin Morgan again.

Pusher (Season 3, Episode 17): One of the earliest episodes written by Vince Gilligan (later to create Breaking Bad), this episode just happens to be a really, really well-crafted monster-of-the-week, played as straight as an arrow. This time, our monster's just some guy, who can talk anyone into doing anything.

Jose Chung's "From Outer Space" (Season 3, Episode 20): The seminal, and final, Darin Morgan episode. Considered to be one of the finest episodes of any television show. An author (Charles Nelson Reilly) investigates some weird stuff and crosses paths with our heroes. I... I don't even think I can encapsulate this one. Read what Todd VanDerWerff said instead. The truth is what we make of it. The truth is what we believe. Nothing sums the series up better than that.

Home (Season 4, Episode 2): The darkest episode of television I've ever seen. The nicest small town in the world's darkest secret-- the inbred family on the outskirts of town-- seeks an ugly vengeance. I can't believe this ever made it on network TV.

Paper Hearts (Season 4, Episode 10): Tom Noonan plays a serial killer of children who may be responsible for the disappearance of Mulder's sister. Things twist from there, but Noonan plays a better creep than anyone else alive, and sells the whole thing on his performance.

The Post-Modern Prometheus (Season 5, Episode 5): Chris Carter tells a bizarre story (in black and white) of a modern Frankenstein's monster obsessed with Cher. Yes. It's awesome. And weird.

Bad Blood (Season 5, Episode 12): The Rashomon episode! Every show has one. Mulder and Scully remember events surrounding vampiric attacks differently, and hilarity ensues.

Triangle (Season 6, Episode 3): Another off-kilter Chris Carter episode. Each "act" is done in one extended shot, Rope-style, as Mulder is lost in the Bermuda Triangle and finds himself in 1939-- but surrounded by folks who look just like the people in his modern life.

X-Cops (Season 7, Episode 12): The X-Files crosses over with COPS as the reality show happens upon an investigation by Mulder and Scully, who continue to chase a monster that no one describes in the same fashion. Brilliantly filmed, it's about all the wild fears one has in a bad neighborhood, and how panic acts as a virus.

Other Favorites/Honorable Mentions: Ice (The Thing, but with Mulder and Scully), Eve, The Host (Fluke Man!), One Breath, Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose (Darin Morgan, Peter Boyle, and the nature of life and death), Quagmire, Memento Mori, Drive (how Vince Gilligan met Bryan Cranston), Orison, Hollywood A.D. (Garry Shandling, as himself, as Mulder. Yes.).

The Truth Is Outre

I just spent the past five-and-a-half months watching the entirety of The X-Files, a pop culture curio-turned-phenomenon-turned-curio-again that I had somehow missed in its entirety when it was on the air (I was too busy watching Batman and SWAT Kats to notice, I guess; then I discovered Buffy, and that was that). Had I found the show as it aired, I'm sure it would have turned into an obsession to rival that of Fox Mulder's; with time and distance on my side now, I can look at it more objectively. What the hell was the X-Files about?

One could say it was about The Truth; after all, that's what Mulder searched for all those years. The Truth, however, is an ambiguous concept, something the writers seemed to understand. Answers are hard to come by in life. Often, they never do, and when they do, they're rarely easy. Every time Mulder thought he found what he'd been looking for-- evidence of a worldwide conspiracy, or the existence of alien life, or what happened to his sister-- the rug would pull out from under him, and he'd tumble down a different rabbit hole. The truth is out there, remember-- it's never here and now. It's weird, it's scary, and it sounds stupid when we try to explain it to other people. It's never what we really want to hear. Perhaps we're better off not knowing.

The X-Files is also about belief, or, at least, wanting to believe. Mulder's the resident "believer," but Scully's the heart of the show, and it's her beliefs that drive the storyline-- not necessarily in aliens or ghosts or fluke men, but in faith, in God, and in Fox Mulder. The entire series showcases the death and destruction Mulder leaves in his wake during his quest. Scully is the first to be caught up in this, and outlasts all others. She sacrifices everything she has for a mission that's not even hers, all because she believes in one man. That belief is the only thing either of the two leads has in the conclusion of the show, a convoluted, unsatisfying ending that leaves our heroes broken and alone. A lot of poor writing goes into those final moments, but in many ways it's the only possible ending-- two people holding onto each other, in the shadow of a nigh-incomprehensible colossus they can neither control nor escape.

The show sheds light on hidden corners of America, where monsters, myths, folklore, and legends live, where superstitions are always true and the more improbable answer always turns out to be the right one. The X-Files mythologized America, and it's in the standalone, monster-of-the-week type episodes that this comes out. The series often lost the plot, as it continually expanded the nature of its ongoing conspiracy arc, in needless and confusing ways. That aspect of the show does not conclude, but rather peters out. The standalones however, do what their name implies, standing the test of time and lending the show its real strength.

Is there a happy ending? No; the show doesn't really end at all, in fact. Mulder and Scully should ask themselves-- was it all worth it? I'm not sure what they'd answer. As a viewer, was it all worth watching? Well... 70-75%, sure. When it was good, it was damn good. Were those last couple years a slog? Yes. (Robert Patrick is the most watchable thing about them. He gives it everything he's got, but at that point, he's the only one trying.) Will the truth set you free? Perhaps not. If your belief is strong enough, however, the truth doesn't really matter.

Sorry for the poorly-written rambling above. I spent a lot of time watching this damn show, and I have to make some record of it. Coming soon: the Essential X-Files.