It’s been hard for me to get any blogging done recently not due solely to a lack of time (I’ve been busy, but I’m always busy), but due to a high level of distraction. We have visiting relatives at casa Murry from about a week and a half ago till about 2 weeks from now, and we spent the last (long) weekend at USC for the game and visiting my oldest son, Brandon (I’ll have to talk more about USC, LSU, and the collage football thing later). There is also a week at Disneyland in my near future. So, though I probably could have made the time to write, it’s just that nothing has pushed past the other these more pressing mental concerns.
Not that there hasn’t been anything to write about. The few comics I’ve had a chance to read have been good (Ocean, the 3rd issue of Ultra, etc.), and the Brubaker interview in the Comics Journal is above average for a Groth/Spurgeon interview (which is to say slightly better than really really good). The TV season has been shaping up nicely with many shows putting up terrific episodes (Las Vegas’ George Hamilton episode was nearly perfect), Veronica Mars shaping up better and better with each show, and Lost holding the high note of interest on which it started (it’s pretty clear there is some sort of material manifestation of the id thing going on now, so the show is going in that psycho fantasy direction I speculated on earlier). But nothing pushed me over the hump to get to the keyboard until now.
The point of interest that got me a thinkin’ about a bloggin’ was this post
at the Crooked Timber
. The “Friday Fun” question is, on the surface, a mildly interesting one in a wish fulfillment sense – if you could replace one member of any musical group, which group and who would you choose. This allows for the obvious choices (though I guess it’s too late to kick Linda McCartney out of Wings), bold choices (like the example of a Jagger-less Rolling Stones), and funny choices (Black Sabbath fronted by Tiny Tim was recommended). Everyone has at least one favorite group that they feel are (or were) one member away from perfection. But the interesting part of the question, I think, is in the qualifiers.
“You need not be bound by practical considerations; you’re free to ignore the fact that (say) Peter Criss was the only one who could properly apply the KISS makeup. For example, you can replace Liz Phair (the singer) while keeping Liz Phair (the songwriter). How do you use this power, and why?”
This brings up a host of issues that are probably best addressed by specifically tackling the Liz Phair example.
Now, I admit that Liz Phair is one of those artists that I think about much more than her impact on my life dictates that I should. She came to my (and just about everyone else’s) attention when her first album, a song for song answer to the Rolling Stones’ “Exile on Main Street,” was released. This was an interesting experiment that was, other than this high concept/marketing gimmick, simply a low key examination of how sometimes it’s hard to be a girl/woman because men are pigs, and it’s hard to know what you want when you’re young. A few of the songs were good (I still love “the Divorce Song”), but the project was so compelling not because of the music but because of the context, ambition, and Phair’s image.
The image in question is that of the fragile f**k me feminist. Phair is cute, with somewhat elfin features and a horn-rimed mouth that has two modes: winsome smirk and come hither sulleness. She seems to know this and uses traditional modes of seductive posturing and dress to achieve a degree of empowerment through enticement. At the same time, she manages to project a slightly damaged quality, fragile as if she’s been beat about a bit. And she also radiates minor instability, like she might get a little crazy if you caught her at a bad moment.
Whip Smart, Juvinallia, Lilith Fair, Whitechocolatespaceegg, and the newer self titled album followed, and really have added nothing. The author of the C.T. post claims to want to keep Liz Phair “the songwriter,” but I am (mostly) a fan and even I can’t think of 5 of her songs I consider essential. It’s hard to imagine anything good coming out of someone covering one of her tunes. So why do I read about the new album, follow her career, etc.? It’s the primarily the enigma of the image, with enough interest in the music to support it. If you replace her because of her thready, flat voice, get another songwriter too, but keep the personality, the attitude, the look, and the mystery.
Thus, applying this to one of the other examples, if we replace Mick Jagger with Otis Redding, do we have to watch Otis onstage, or do we get Mick with Otis’s voice? Because if it’s the former, it’s not the Stones no mo’. This gets to the crux of why this is an interesting question – can you replace a central member of a group and still have the same group, even if you cheat with the above songwriting proviso. Someone probably has written a thesis on this topic (with Pink Floyd as the primary subject), so I won’t delve further, but if we set up rules for this game, we need to consider the physical presence as an entity separate from the musical ability.
The other issue of inseparability is that groups often evolve their sound around the weaknesses of the members, such that a given weakness can be converted into a strength. Black Francis, who was a candidate in the comments section for insertion into other groups, can’t sing, but developed a perfect working relationship between his voice and the Pixie’s music. The Filth and the Fury (the excellent Sex Pistols documentary) contains a top-notch discussion by Johnny Rotten of how he developed his style of vocal delivery despite the fact that he had a “defective instrument.” Since this is a developmental issue, it is often off beam to suggest that someone should be replaced because they can’t sing. Jagger, Morrison (Jim), and Daltry (all mentioned in the post or comments as replaceable) are examples of voices inseparable from the groups they helped define.
That said, I wish Nick Rhodes would get the hell out of Duran Duran. Then life would be perfect.
COMIC QUICK TAKES
DEMO #10: The letters page claims that Wood changed the end of the story to make it seem less like the others in the series. This results in confusion on my part, with a lot of “wha? How are they going to explain that” moments that we never get back to. The most interesting thing this issue is trying to figure out what the “power” is this issue, or why it is that this issue alone in the series lacks one. We think the power is the girl’s ability to know so much about him (mind reading? Empathic powers? Omniscience?), but when we see her surveillance equipment (any rational explanation for this?), that jig is up. The cover suggests that the guy might have the powers, until the end (which explains the cover). But wait… isn’t the powered being always on the cover? So does the guy have some power that is subtly hinted at that I missed?
303 #1: I’m a sucker for this. Nice tight military action with uber-confident soldiers and pansy “modern” recruits. I love Ennis in this mode.
CONAN AND THE DAUGHTERS OF MIDORA one shot: I like Texeria more than is fashionable in today’s comic atmosphere, but WHO INKED THIS. The inking killed the art, despite clever use of 2 page panel layouts. Simple effective story, but who cares.
JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED #2: For the kid. Very blah. OK art. Oddly enough, I liked the insert story a little, despite the fact that it was a very thin toy adaption comic.
SWAMP THING #8: Nice art on this and the last issue, but pretty useless story. I’m getting bored with the relaunch already.
Y THE LAST MAN #27: Didn’t expect this, even though it’s so obvious they had to do it somehow. Is the engagement ring the protective device? Can’t be, but still spooky.
NYX #5: Might have been OK if I waited 4 weeks for it, but not enough at this point. What happened to Middleton? Has he left? I must have missed the press release.
SABRETOOTH #1: Much better than expected. The inks really tame Sears into something that looks pretty good, unlike the recent fiasco over in Cap and Falcon. My only problem is if Sabertooth really is in the habit of killing this many innocent people (and maybe he actually didn’t – I’ll wait and see), why doesn’t Logan hunt him down and put and end to him.
WOLVERINE #20: Another pleasant surprise. Millar pulls this off better than I thought he would, and the story somehow feels well paced and substantial. My faith in Millar’s take on Marvel characters has been eroded lately (due to Trouble and Spider-Man MK), but this isn’t half bad.
QUEEN AND COUNTRY #27: Liked this a lot, probably due to the fact that I’m currently reading Gentlemen’s Game: A Queen and Country Novel (great so far), so I kinda’ feel into the characters.
BATTLE ROYALE #9: Back to bidness after last issue’s discharge filled porn. I really like where this is going, and I note some storytelling similarities with Lost (the ABC TV show). I need to write a bit on Lost, as I wonder if I’m the only one who thinks this show is going in a psycho-fantasy direction (is the island in the kid’s mind? Is this a Stephen King-like war between good and evil in idea-space?).
Next week’s gonna kill with the new Comics Journal, Locas, the Punisher arc finale, new Astro City, and Brubaker Tom Strong.
Oh, the problems of the Marvel timeline.
I’ve mentioned that I like John Byrne’s work a lot, but that I have a tendency to be disappointed with him as of late. Someone (I have no idea who to give credit to) suggested that this is due to the fact that he is still punishing us for the “failure” of Next Men, but to me the issue started a bit earlier (and I think the “A Flame about This High” columns serve as an excellent glimpse into the womb of his current online persona – more on these thoughts later). However, Spider-Man Chapter One was, in my opinion, the low point of his career. Byrne had touted for years his theory that “Marvel time” worked by the following means: one year their time equals seven years of our time (dog years or so – I’ve heard different estimates), but that the current universe drags the timeline behind it (and I quote) “like the chains of Marley’s ghost.” This means that Reed Richards didn’t take the illegal spaceflight in 1961, but (as of now) about 1998. In a few years, as this reasoning goes, the Iron Man suit with have been invented post 9-11, and the Punisher will graduate from the first Gulf war to the second.
I can’t tell you how stupid I think this is. This idea arises as a solution to a problem that does not exist. Who cares that in the Marvel universe it’s only been 5 years since Vietnam, or whatever. So they elect a president twice a year. I. Don’t. Care. Byrne’s solution imposes a definitively more malignant solution than any potential implication of the problem. (Aside – I realize that probably the biggest actual problem that arises is about what to do with the movies. The Punisher movie puts him in the gulf war, and it kind of works, but jettisons a lot of the jungle imagery from Frank Castle’s history. I miss it, but it is probably not a big deal to audiences, so that sounds like a good solution – change the movie as much as you need to to make it work. They didn’t have to mess with the time period in Spider-Man or X-Men at all.) Byrne can operate under any assumption he wants, but by publishing Chapter One, the theory was imposed on the Marvel Universe. It has been blatantly ignored on an irregular basis (see the Born mini-series), but some damage has been done.
So what do we do with the future chronology? Is the future pushed ahead of the present by the expanding timeline, altering as it goes along? This could potentially explain some of the inconsistencies between this and the previous 2099 incarnation. But still, shouldn’t there have been some attempt to at least establish whether the other 2099 stuff ever happened, or whether this is a completely alternate future?
With relation to how the timeline functions, the specific example that I find the most interesting is the issue of Punisher and Electra’s grandson. It is 95 years from now till then (13 and a half in Marvel time), with the Punisher and Electra now, what, in their mid to late 30’s? (anyone have the new Marvel Universe Handbooks to give a definitive answer?) So either they have 13.5 years to fall in love and have then raise a forty something year old daughter and for that daughter to have a coming of age son (if you say “John Byrne was right!”), or Electra will be having her baby at age 60.
It’s interesting to compare this 2099 project, with its one shot/end of story approach with AiT’s Demo. Both set up a premise that could be used to launch a series (building a small cast of characters and an open ended situation), give them some sort of crisis point at the end, and give it a sense of kind-of closure with a resolution that suggests a direction rather than being a real ending. Demo is supported by a consistent artist, while each of has different artist likely for the sake of timing (getting it done), but also giving each one shot it’s own look. But while Demo manages some imaginative things each issue, this seems like a scramble to rub together enough quick ideas to fire up a universe. This is in part, no doubt, due to the fact that Kirkman is writing entirely too much at this point (I think I’ve read 13 of his books in the last month). But what really kills me is how joyless this whole enterprise is. All the books except for Mutant were flat out depressive. I mostly enjoy Kirkman’s books, but I think he has to slow down at this point.
Ha ha ha ha ha!
I have the 2099 post half written, but after seeing the Nip/Tuck season ender last night, writing about this takes immediate precedence. Let me establish that this is a show that I have seen every episode of, even though I did not really like it that much when it began (this is one of the handful of shows we started watching because my wife insisted on it). In fact, I don’t think I can say I began to actually like it until some point in the second season, but now – yeah! This is a great show.
Laying my bias cards on the table, one reason that I was so slow to warm to it (along with the fact that it contains no truly likable characters) was that I have a general problem with the A plot the show maintained for a while. A lot of people, I think, have a particular aversion to specific plots (some people can’t stand kidnapping stories, some cringe at rape, etc.). I personally can’t stand the “family guy has his life and family dismantled due to some external force he can’t control” plot. The Denzel Washington movie Ricochet was extremely uncomfortable to sit through for me (this obviously taps in to some primal fear on my part). Nip/Tuck’s first season dealt heavily with the control exerted by drug dealer Escobar Gallardo, and how the blackmail threw Sean (the family man/asshole doctor) and Christian (the womanizer/prick doctor) into an ever-deepening spiral, jeopardizing Sean’s family, their practice, bank account, reputations, medical licenses, and futures. These plots were fairly well tied off at the end of the first season.
The second season won me over not by redeeming anyone or adjusting the plotlines, but by becoming so unhinged that I couldn’t help but respond to the psychotic elements of the drama. The season ender made me giggle with delight at the profoundly ridiculous revelations, but this show has earned its ludicrous moments by having established a deadly serious and high stakes tableau (much as a football team might develop the passing game by establishing the running game...uh, kinda). I cant go much further without a…
Famke Jansen’s a man, baby. How do we find out? The ol’ dip stick test. Just checking the oil, mam. Apparently Christian’s experience as both plastic surgeon and philanderer uniquely qualifies him to identify post-op trannies the old fashioned way. Who knew? And how about Alec Baldwin’s deliciously unreal performance? He is an actor well suited to playing fakey characters (like Col. Doolittle in Pearl Harbor – not a shred of reality in that performance), which is why he’s so good on SNL. His portrayal of Dr. Moore is such a great parody of a performance that I almost jumped up and down with delight. Also, the closing minutes of the episode closed off a lot of the possibilities for the “big mystery,” while bringing up new questions, just to drop us off on such an incredible cliff hanger! Bravo!
The big mystery is, of course, who is the serial rapist/disfigurer (The Carver) is. Being forever affected by the Green Goblin turning out to be Norman Osborn, my Stan Lee (not Steve Ditko) nature implores that the Carver must be someone we know well. Let’s take stock of where we stand with this puzzle. First, who’s (reasonably – anything is technically possible) ruled out?
1. Sean – was (halfway) disfigured on camera by the Carver, but was never a likely choice anyway (low emotional believability, low plot believability)
2. Christian – ruled out in the last scene of the season for same reason as Sean (seen in same place same time). Slightly more likely candidate than Sean before this final scene, but it would still have been a hard sell believability-wise.
3. Adrian – Dead before the attack on Christian, so out. Formerly the #1 suspect from a believability standpoint (unstable, seen buying knife), but probably too obvious.
4. Ava – On plane to Paris before Christian’s attack. Even before this, she was problematic due to his/her lack of a (current) penis (the victims were raped anally), but this could have been possible with a device, or as part of some co-conspiracy (with, for instance, Adrian). This goes for all the females on this list. Moot point for her, now.
5. Bobolit – Assume he’s in jail. Plus, he’s too known-to-be-crazy.
6. Annie, the McNamara Daughter – Too young, no penis, only mentally stable person on the show. Perfect daughter. Maybe too perfect. Hmmmm, not so fast…
So, who are the prime suspects left (in no particular order):
1. Sofia Lopez – My wife’s big lead. Although essentially absent this season, she/he (I can’t believe how often I have to type that for this show) is unstable enough, and has issues with the surgery. Bonus points for being mentioned in the last episode in order to get a transgender councilor to show Sean and Christian Ava’s records (eliciting an ambiguous response from said councilor). Still has a penis (I think).
2. Kevin – Not a lot in the way of knowing what makes this guy tick, but making Julia’s boyfriend the maimer would be the kind of kill two narrative birds with one stone cop out that often turns out to be the answer. Say it with me now, he has a penis.
3. Dr. Moore – Pro: acts like a serial killer, making him a candidate for the similar m.o.’d carver, has plastic surgery issues. Con: late introduction may feel like a cheat. Has penis, will travel.
4. Any other male plastic surgery recipient – frostbite guy, or even the earlier Carver victim can’t be ruled out because they all have issues, and the all have penises.
5. Liz – The sentimental favorite. Some think she is some kind of moral center on the show because she bitches about how “what we’re doing is wrong” before doing it, but I think this makes her the morally weakest and most despicable character. Has issues with plastic surgery and the cult of beauty, and is not liked well by the fans. Would need to solve the “how did she rape them” problem common to all the females on the list.
6. Kimber – No brainer inclusion. Recent increased mental stability actually makes it MORE likely she’s the one, and boy, does she have the specific issues necessary.
7. Gina – Too weak with HIV now? Has all the issues necessary, but this one just feels wrong.
Some of the less likely ones:
Matt – OK, no one wants this one, but once Adrian was eliminated, some of that focus has to shift to Matt. He seems too stable, but does have some issues that could act as a raison detre for the Carver. Not really a credible choice. Again, and I can’t stress this enough, he has a penis.
Natasha – Disfigurement too symmetrical for a blind girl, but you have to at least consider her.
James Sutherland – Lives far away, but has a morally righteous streak, and a penis.
Grace (Dr. Santiago) – Has to be mentioned because of a big prior part in the show, and issues with Sean, Christian, and plastic surgery in general. Unlikely.
Julia – Weak choice, but needs to be mentioned. Same believability issue as with Matt, Sean and Christian.
Anybody who watches this show have any ideas?
COMICS – QUICK TAKES 10/5/04
I’ve been on “late” for a couple of weeks at work, and it’s tougher for me to post as regularly due to timing, but I hope to get a few good posts in this week. I’ve seen some troublesome TV this week that I need to address, which includes a really off episode of Las Vegas, and the 60 Minutes analysis of the “Echo Boomers” that I feel I need to comment on. But, to get something up, here are my takes on various books (mostly comics) from this week.
ADAM STRANGE #1: The art works so well, that it covers up the wonkiness of the beginning of the story. I’ve got to start commenting on how well colored some of DC’s books are because, although the line art here is really great, the colors are truly striking (if I was one of those people who referred to visual stimuli as “scrumptious” I would do so). The interrogation room thing didn’t have the “verisimilitude” that Diggle was going for, and it was annoying that the cops were so incredibly hot to send him to the loony bin (they weren’t interrogating him like they actually thought he was crazy – but I guess, in Gotham, threatening Arkham is a good way to get information). But once Diggle gets the police procedural bug out of his system, things start to take off, and at least we don’t have to see 6 issues of homeless Adam Strange coming to grips with his sanity of some similar bullocks. When we buy Adam Strange we want the BIG ADVENTURE, with a tinge of longing for temporarily lost love not the BIG LONGING. The last half of the tale hints it’s moving in the right directions. I don’t remember Strange’s guns being so blatently phallic, though (nice glans).
HELLBLAZER #200: Nice mix, here. The pacing’s a little funny, with Dillon drawn story slowly progressing, and the other two ripping along, but this was a nice sample of distinct styles, with solid structuring before the conclusion, which sets up for the next run of issues nicely. I miss Dillon when I don’t see him for a while – he’s so good at making talking head scene’s visually interesting. Is the last artist the new guy on the title?
LOSERS #16: It’s nice to have Jock back, but the title, for me, lost some momentum while he was gone. Diggle has to ramp up this plot faster to wake me up a little, or at least lay some more infrastructure to the series. Sluggish.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #512: Just read The Savage Critic’s
thoughts (scroll down to Thursday, Sept 30) and chalk me up for feeling the same, but at about 80% the level. I was similarly angry at Byrne for Chapter One, but in many ways, this was worse. You hear from time to time the story of haw some younger writer at Marvel wanted to make Peter an unwed father in the 1970’s, and that essentially everyone has always been glad that they didn’t let it happen. This is uncomfortably close to that idea, and just doesn’t make emotional sense to me. I’m hoping MJ wakes up and it was all a dream. Has David Fiore
has commented on these developments? I’ll have to look.
POWERLESS #4: I haven’t commented on this title before, but I really have enjoyed it both for the great Gaydos art, and for being the only halfway interesting stab at the alternate universe/what if old standby at a time when there are record numbers of these things floating around. I don’t know why this book hasn’t gotten more attention. I mean, it stars JK Simons (in his role from Law and Order not as JJ Jameson), has a Bendis family pedigree, and is actually readable in a way that makes me want to read the next issue (at least until the ending ruins the whole series for me – I’m predicting this, but I could be wrong). That being said, this issue suffers from all-middle-itis, an ailment of our times.
2099’s: Oh, boy. Where to start. You know, I think I’ll separate this to its own post.
DAREDEVIL #65: I liked the last arc more than the average blog opinion, but this was a useless hodgepodge. I couldn’t get a read on what the point was supposed to be, and the art was a disappointment in relation to the level of talent involved (uninspired).
DOOM PATROL #4: I really need to buckle down and tackle my feelings on Byrne sometime. Until then, suffice it to say that I expect to be disappointed with any of his new work now, despite the fact that I feel the urge to defend it when people lambaste him for being a hack (which reminds me, I need to tackle the George Lucas issue too). This issue was definitely an improvement on the last three with a few big ideas in the opening, and a little more passion in the art throughout. But hoser, please, you’re down to like three plots now - you just keep changing the details of and recycling (at least there’s no backwards time travel storytelling or virtual reality simulation in this arc…or did I forget some).
GUARDIANS #4: I liked the opening of this series, but now that it’s “taking off” (badum-bum), it seems to be getting a little silly and hard to swallow. What happens in Space stays in space, indeed.
MISTER MONSTER WWII SPECIAL: Is this reprint? Cause it fells exciting, cheap, and exploitative like all those indy action comics of the mid to late 80’s. Purely a nostalgia rush here, as this must be considered inconsistent by any objective standards.