Tuesday, July 28, 2009

From Girls to Grrlz

I saw this slim pink volume with polka dots on the cover at the used bookstore I frequent. I had not heard of Trina Robbins before, but the subject matter: A History of 'female' Comics from Teens to Zines seemed interesting enough to me to pick it up at a good price.

The book is divided into four chapters, each with some degree of chronological overlap, but each detailing a different aspect of comics for girls or women, or featuring girls or women, etc. The chapters are 'Girl's Comics' , 'Women's Comics', Wymen's Comics' and 'Grrrlz' Comics' . It starts at the beginning of the Teen Comics boom, when Archie debuted in the early 40's, and walks us through the present when the word 'girl' has been reclaimed by women.

The book design is a bit odd to me. There are lots of squiggly dotted lines running through everything, and there seems to be an overabundance of capitalization and enlarged text. It doesn't make it unreadable, but it does make me wonder if it adds anything to it.

The good thing about the book is that it chronicles a lot of comics and gives us a lot of names to consider as far as creators and the people responsible for the various 'girl themed' comic lines. It includes a lot of pictures of the subject matter, and includes a lot of content description as well. There are a number of places where you really seem to benefit from Robbins' personal experiences in comics and in the area of women's comics specifically.

I'm glad to have it on my bookshelf, but I was also glad to not pay full price for it. It has given me a lot to think about, and a lot of people to look up and find material by.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Emily the oddly familiar

I recently borrowed several Emily the Strange comics from the library. I had no real preconceived notions. I like the character design just fine and thought it might be worth a look. The issues I got are #1,2 & 3 from 2005 and are titled Boring, Lost, and Dark.

Emily is a pretty standard sort of Wednesday Adams kind of character. It's not a particularly new thing. She's dark and a loner and... Actually i don't see a whole lot more to her than that, not from the comics anyway. Other than seeing Emily sort of moving around talking about various things in various not very well written scenes, the art isn't particularly good. The main character looks good, I like the design, but mostly it's sort of pretentious nonsense with no real point and no real art to it either.

It's just a lot of sort of abstract stuff built around the one word theme of each issue. As far as comics go... Emily makes a good T-shirt.

It's possible that the inevitable movie will be a better way to actually get some character out of the character. I like the character design, regardless of how much it really does look like it had at least part of it's roots in plagiarism.

SDCC - oh really?

In my bitterness, I propose it change it's name to SDPCC or SDGCC. That end part would be pop culture con or geek culture con, but I guess anything that suggested it was really just a way to market movie, tv and video game stuff to my people by claiming to be something ... it is... would be an appropriate name. Yes, I can't suggest that it isn't also a big ass comic convention, but it's focus is certainly divided. I'm not even sure that's a bad thing.

Also, I mean... It's not like I'm sitting here at home watching G4's coverage and wishing I could be there or anything... You don't know... I could be standing while I watch it.

One thing I will say about the G4 coverage is that they did just call comic books a genre. I yelled at the screen. I am pretty sure my tv won't make that mistake again.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

CBD 7/8/2009

North 40, Wednesday Comics, Unwritten, Dark X-Men

North 40 #1 - Aaron Williams, Fiona Staples - I had put in for this title when I saw it in previews based on the premise and the artist. Here's the story: Two kids unwittingly set of what equates to a Cthulu Nuke in a small town. Tentacles and disembodied voices abound. This first issue is pretty much just a series of establishing bits in addition to what may just be the tip of a more complex origin story, or it may not be. I think everyone deserves to write at least one story that starts with someone reading or opening a book they shouldn't, as the justification for everything that happens next. That's not even sarcastic. The writing looks good so far, although as I said, it's the first issue, and we get introductions to a number of characters, as well as the sorts of things we can expect to see more of. I love that we have more than a few people who seem to have voices in their heads, and a lot of wildly different results from the 'event'.

Fiona Staples does a really good job with the art. Characters are expressive, creepy things are creepy, dark shadowy things are dark and shadowy, and the style isn't heavy at all. The color works great and helps set the tone. If you like Horror or supernatural stuff with an elder gods angle, this looks pretty great. I also get a sense that we may get some Walking Dead type character development in this as well, but that's just a guess.

Dark X-Men #1 - I have seen some Namor recently in Agents of Atlas, but nothing prepared me for the bizarre extended shower scene that opens this title. We are a full ten pages in and Namor is still without pants. Norman Osborn probably demands that all of his meetings involve someone showering... good to be the king I guess. After the shower scene in which it's all about ...'we're really quite alike, you and I' Which again, I imagine that at some point in every conversation with Norman, someone uses that line. "Here's your McMuffin mister Osborn... You know we're really quite alike you and I... with our dual nature and our liking of McMuffins..."

Also in this issue is a big feature with Mimic (a character I have never cared for, but who seems a bit cooler in this, with the beard and everything), and another with Dark Beast, another character I have never cared for. So why did I buy a comic filled with characters I don't like? and pay 4 bucks for it, at that? I liked the cover, and I'm kind of an idiot. I don't want to get any more of this.

Unwritten #3 Still liking this. It's developing well so far. It's different from anything else I am reading, and it's well written. I like the sense that there is this deeper reality to writing and fiction, and that if you study fiction, there is a sort of magic available to you.

Wednesday Comics #1 - I loved this. I am looking very forward to getting the entire run of it. There are a number of stories that seem sort of out of place in this format, but a weekly serialized anthology filled with a ton of undeniable talent, with a focus on the art seems like a perfect way to make people think that 3.99 for a comic is kind of a bargain. There are a lot of people who have written exhaustively on this thing, but in addition to the feeling of the thing, is a truly undeniable quality to the majority of the offerings you get here. 15 different stories, 15 different titles, 15 different top notch creative teams. Full page newspaper sized comics, nearly all of which are just beautifully done artistically. We will see how the writing is, after we get a few pages into each, but the art is amazing. There's something strange about the format that seems to make the retro styled offerings look amazing, while the more modern looking pieces (Superman specifically) looks sort of out of place. Neil Gaiman's first page of Metamorpho manages to get the lines - "She was hoping for the mother of all pearl necklaces, and now she's trapped" as well as "a blast of frozen nitrogen will take care of Sapphire's giant clam!" - innuendo-y The style is perfect though, and Allred's art makes you feel like you are back in time.

It is a format that makes you feel like you are reading something and destroying it at the same time. It really tests you to see if you are committed to reading and enjoying comics, or collecting them. I found it a little hard to find a way to hold it that didn't make me self-conscious about ripping it up every time I turn the page. It's funny that something that really pushes the envelope in my opinion does so as simply as using bankable talent, focusing on artistic creativity, and doing it in a larger format and a low tech package. It's kind of brilliant, and I am pretty certain that my LCS ordered as few copies as it possibly could because it assumed people were tired of weekly comics... because of Countdown and Trinity...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Comic Book Day 07/01/2009

Reviews-Marvel Divas, Batman and Robin, Echo, Agents of Atlas, Destroyer

Marvel Divas #1 - I am going to claim that I held off on posting this until Comicsgirl had posted her review of it. I am not going to worry over whether or not that is the whole truth. I respect her opinion, and appreciated where she stood on it prior to it's release, when it was getting a lot of negative comments based on the cover that seems to exist in a completely different universe than the comic itself was supposed to.

I read this comic and thought it was cute and funny. I don't think I watched an entire episode of Sex and the City... ever, so I can't compare it to that. When I read this, especially with the cancer plot, I thought it's Adamantium Magnolias, or Marvel Beaches, or... etc. You have a group of strong women, who all have their quirks and weaknesses, etc., and when they get together I imagine they love each other's company, and talk about whatever they are thinking about at the time. It is a bit heavy on the lamenting about men side, but that doesn't make it unrealistic. I bet you, there actually are groups of single young women who talk about their love lives and ogle people in bars, etc. when they get together. The only two page spread in issue #1 that doesn't feature talking about guys is the two page spread where one of the characters tells her friends she has cancer. It fails the Bechdel Test. Does that mean it's evil? Nope, of course it doesn't mean that. We are seeing a group of women with a lot in common who hang out in a sort of support group for each other. I bet a lot of people could put together a 23 or so page comic where every page has a reference to men or women or football, whatever. That doesn't have to be a statement about all people of that gender, it could just be the specific people, or the editing you choose to do.

I think this comic is written really well, and maybe drawn even better. Aguirre-Sacasa's writing is sharp and funny, and Zonjic's art is distinctive and expressive. It is the opposite of everything the cover is.

I am pretty sure that isn't the point, but entertain this idea for a moment. The cover shows the 4 women in their sexy super-hero fanboy wet-dream poses and costumes, every one of them with gigantic round boobs, arching their backs at least slightly, and looking fierce or dripping sexuality. One might say that's how they are viewed, or what people might think is their purpose, etc. You open the book and you are looking at them in their' real lives'. These are flawed but pretty women more realistic features and no great propensity to try and put their butts and their boobs on the same side of their body. These are women who get annoyed at the a-listers, and cry together when they find out one of their friends is ill, and who enjoy a good time together, etc. I think it's a contrast that should make some people ashamed of the way they look at the world, and others just nod. Just because there was no irony intended doesn't mean it isn't there.

This isn't exactly my thing, but I am probably not the exact target for it. I will most likely get the whole thing if I have the funds for it. I really like the art, and want to see how the rest of the story plays out. $3.99 an issue is pretty steep, though.

Agents of Atlas #7 - Still a fun and excellently written book. The art is pretty cool. The style is interesting, but still has a bit of beauty about it despite being a bit dark.

Destroyer #2 & 4 - I finally got issue #2 of Destroyer. I had read issue 3 already, and two is great and does give me more setup information for #3. I enjoyed it a lot, even out of order. Issue 4 definitely has less blood than 3... The Red Cross has less blood than issue 3. Issue 4 has a terrific battle with a big slug like worm thing, and a LOT of human interest, interaction and family dynamic. This title really excels at showing us the humanity of a superhuman character. There is a feeling of realism and humanity in this that you don't always get in super-books. The art and color are perfect as expected, Walker and Staples deliver beautifully in the action scenes as well as in the human drama sequences. I will almost gladly pay 3.99 for the final issue of this mini.

Echo #13 - At 3.50 this now looks almost like a bargain. Another great issue. I sort of feel we had some forward progress taken away from us in this issue, as we were very close to a potential meeting between Julie and Ivy, but we got a sort of deus ex machina to pull her away. I hope it serves more of a purpose than just that. I guess it shows us her humanity and her priorities. We also get a bit more Pam (Julie's Sister) in this issue, and a cool development with Dan Backer (the giant bearded guy we met earlier on in the series). I am enjoying this series, but really wish we got more of it at a time.

Batman and Robin #2 - This is extremely good Batman comics. Someone else way better at comic reviews pointed out how cool it is that Quitely is drawing very recognizable Batman, with all the standard batmanishness about him, and yet he does it consistently in a way that lets you know without a doubt that the guy in the suit isn't Bruce Wayne, isn't the guy you are used to seeing in the suit. I am also loving Damien as Robin. I also also kind of love Robin having a Robin of his own. Damien is an obnoxious and headstrong brat, but when you see him and hear him, and know his pedigree, you kind of believe his hype. This kid isn't just a bratty obnoxious kid that needs people to bail him out (although he is, and does), you really get the feeling that he means business and his overconfidence may really be merited. It really looks like they are doing this comic right... and hey, it's only 2.99... a bargain!