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Category: Media

Peiratikos Live from Pittsburgh

[Edit by Steven: Fixed David’s URL.]

I’m writing this in our hotel room in Pittsburgh, because a certain member of the Peiratikos duo insisted on a hotel with free internet access. And we’ve come to Pittsburgh for the Pittsburgh Comicon, except not really. The con was fairly small and jammed full of vendors and pop culture icons (for lack of a better word) with a few artists interspersed. We came for the prospect of a blissful weekend away from reality, which really just means that there will be more bills and chores for next week than usual, and to meet fellow bloggers Ed Cunard and David Welsh, both of whom were delightful company and what I’d expected and hoped for and more. I’m amazed how comfortably real and online life parts can intersect.

I don’t really know what to say beyond that except that I was a thrifty spender (Steven is still in a mostly non-comics phase, plus I’m pushier) and we have a whole bunch of trade paperbacks to read now, although I’m strongly tempted to write something about each story in Project Superior. All of that is for later, though, since the night is young and there’s so much time for me to sleep! Before that, though, I need to preserve for posterity the photographic evidence of this historic meeting.

Rose, Ed, David
Rose, Ed, David, looking our best for this mug shot.
Steven, Rose, David
Steven, Rose, David: same setup.

And that’s it for me, happy tonight.

More Klarion, Actually

Actually, I’ll say one more thing about Klarion the Witch Boy.

Does it have the funniest Wiccan joke ever? It does. The whole Puritan pagan thing? Good stuff. The basic plot is nothing new (so far), as Jog points out, but, as Roger Ebert likes to say whenever he wants to justify his praise for an ‘immoral’ movie, a story is not about what it’s about but about how it’s about it. Which isn’t really true, but it’s sort of true. And how Morrison does Klarion is lovely. And how Frazer Irving does it, that’s lovely too. The art is also my favorite so far in Seven Soldiers, even with the monotonous coloring, which I actually like.

And while I’m here, I might as well announce that I’m probably not writing about comics for a few months. I’ve got my postmodern horror, a lot of science fiction (and maybe some fantasy). Look for H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, some cyberpunk and its literary and cinematic descendents. And that pomo horror. When? Whenever I stop being lazy, of course.

Seven Soldiers and Dorkiness

Rose and I were going to have one of those What We Bought This Week posts, except it would be a What We Bought This Month post since that’s how often we go to the comic-book store. Except the store didn’t have a few of the things we wanted, so we still ended up with about half what the typical comic-book blogger buys in a week. We’d only embarrass ourselves by attempting such a post.

(Just kidding about embarrassing ourselves: I take much pleasure in not being a typical comic-book blogger w/r/t buying piles of comic books every week.)

Anyway, one of our books was Klarion the Witch Boy #1. I liked it lots. Zatanna and Klarion are my favorites so far, mostly because I prefer their kind of fantastic fiction to superhero fantastic fiction. I’ll probably wait until the series are finished to comment on them, though, because (despite Grant Morrison’s claims, blah blah blah) these first issues are not at all self-contained and I suspect some of the seeming flaws (which other bloggers have commented on) will not seem so flawed in light of the complete works. But I don’t want to jump to these stories’ defense prematurely.

I do want to talk about something related, though. A while ago, Tim O’Neil said:

While we’re tangentially on the subject, man, the more I think about it the more Seven Soldiers seems like the sophisticated-superhero version of bear-bating. It’s been designed to divide the comics electorate between “cool kids” and not-cool kids, people who “care” about old continuity and the people who are too cool for that. I’ve seen a number of people commenting on the series with something to the effect that “nobody cares about these characters in the first place” - but the fact that some people do care pretty much kills that theory. The fact that some people do care means that whether or not you will enjoy the series depends on a “litmus test” of sorts […] I don’t necessarily agree that characters should be wed to continuity one way or the other, but man, any book that makes a political imperative of chosing [sic] one side or the other of the debate in order to enjoy it is just too aggressively cynical in conception for me to get concerned about.

And—sorry, what? Seven Soldiers forces you to choose between adherence to continuity and rejection of continuity? It does? Are these miniseries even “in continuity”? I haven’t seen Morrison or anybody else comment on this, but they don’t look like they are. They’re totally cut off from the rest of the DC Universe. I guess some characters mentioned the JLA in Zatanna, but other than that? They’re totally irrelevant to the rest of the DC Universe. They have no effect on anything outside themselves, and even if they are “official” (which I suspect they’re not), all of Morrison’s changes will be retconned in two weeks anyway.

Moreover: where’s the “litmus test”? Are there mobs of comic-book bloggers waiting in ambuscade for anybody unhip enough to claim a dislike of Morrison’s reinterpretations? Is Morrison sitting in his lair, cackling cynically in anticipation of all the poor unhip losers who will be saddened by his disrespectful portrayal of Klarion the Witch Boy?

I doubt it.

Seriously, “political imperative”? It’s a superhero comic book. Nobody cares if you don’t like it, I promise. (OK, I can’t promise that, but I can promise that anybody who does care is definitely an even bigger dork than you.)

Seriously—Grant Morrison has founded his Seven Soldiers project on the aggressively cynical goal of making people who don’t like it feel like dorks? Um?

But frankly, anybody who feels genuinely victimized by Seven Soldiers is a dork. Harsh but true, I think.

Edit: By the way, before you get offended because I made fun of you for being a dork, consider that I just used the word “ambuscade” in public. I don’t have the moral high ground, here.

“All the books that were ever written in anyone’s head”

I’m really having trouble writing for this blog lately. I don’t know if it’s spring and the last few days of warmth before my life becomes all work all the time or what, but my brain is not here.

My body’s here, though (and there were body-related reasons for my absence, including a pretty spectacular blow to the head; from now on I’ll remember where the shelf is before standing up beneath it) and I guess that’s what I’m going to talk about. Our latest comics haul included the first girl-directed manga I think I’ve read, Paradise Kiss volume 1, as well as the first female-fronted floppy comic I’ve read in a long time, the first Seven Soldiers issue of Zatanna. There was something exciting and pleasant in reading about women for a change, even though neither is all that much like me. (Okay, I am going to confess later about how very, very autobiographical my reading of Paradise Kiss is, but probably not tonight.) It’s not that I think either was a peculiarly feminine book, but I did find myself responding differently and want to think about that.

The most interesting thing about Zatanna is that it’s not as much a story as a bunch of bits of other stories thrown together into one volume. I haven’t read enough DC stories to know if the people in her superhero self-esteem support group are standard characters or whether they were created just for this. And I can assume that the locust riders are the little fellows we met in JLA Classified, although I like the hidden implication that a plague of locusts just disguises the real invasion, the tricky riders. The backstory of any of the characters who accompany Zatanna out of the world might be more interesting than her solipsistic self-analysis, but I don’t know if we’ll ever find out why Taia’s body ages and regenerates. I assume we’ll find more about Baron Winter, the separate seventh member of the crew. And all of this would have been more interesting to me than Zatanna’s self-pity (and I think it is that, rather than guilt, that really drives her here) and it’s because of this that I assume the story is supposed to be annoying, that the support group frame story is a support itself.

Because really Zatanna’s problem is that she can’t realize she’s in a story. Even though she’s been to the world of unwritten books, she somehow still thinks she’s a free agent. And so while rational people who’ve been haunted by terrifying dreams would hear the background music rumbling ominously when considering a spell that says, “Bring me the man of my dreams,” that’s not how it works for Zatanna. She thinks that because she has the power to write the world with her spells, no one or nothing could be writing her. (And I do think there are hints enough even beyond the obvious one that the author is Grant Morrison that an underlying theme of Seven Soldiers will be something about fictionality and the way people long for and reject an author and a template for their lives.) And so she does what a person who’s been sleeping badly, haunted by horrible dreams might do: she makes a stupid, thoughtless decision that makes everything worse.

But really, that’s the problem with writing your own life. You get to sabotage your character development, get yourself stuck in ruts that would drive a reader crazy. And that’s Zatanna’s problem, that she’s become a dull character. If she can take the sort of drama that wins her a prize at the superhero support group, look the end of the world in the face and still think that it’s all about her, she has issues and she’s being aggravatingly human. To me, that’s refreshing. I’m not sure there are many superhero stories that are about the complete alienation from the doing stupid, self-defeating things that seem to comprise a lot of human existence, but they wouldn’t be very interesting to me even if there were. At the end of the book, Zatanna has lost her power to write, to create with magic, and is miserable thinking of herself as just another person, another character. I look forward to watching her embrace that more than I do the presumably inevitable return of her magic powers.

I’m getting repetitive, so I’m not going to go on about this anymore and will save Paradise Kiss (which I really enjoyed) for another night. I’ll just add that when I was a tiny girl, age 3 or 4 or so, when I’d get tired I’d start talking in a sort of third person. “‘I find myself getting tired,’ she said,” I’d say. The boundaries between fiction and non- would start to blur, and I’d be narrating myself. Luckily my relatives found this endearing rather than disturbing, but I think it was a telling sign about how I viewed the world. It was hard for me to believe that I wasn’t story fodder for someone (maybe God, although I hoped he’d have the decency to check in on someone else when I was in the bathroom) and that stories weren’t real in their own ways. I was convinced that because of the word-power of my name I could hide in wild rosebushes during hide-and-seek games and that they would accept me as one of their own. This seemed to work, but maybe would have worked for anyone small who was willing to move deliberately. Later I decided I was my own writer, which has its ups and downs. I wish I were more dedicated, more self-assured, more willing to let myself have great adventures, but I instead had to focus on Zatanna’s story arc, stopping myself from being a martyr and denying myself anything that could lead to happiness or satisfaction. Now I don’t know what I believe, but that doesn’t matter to me. I know how to treat myself and try to treat the other characters I meet with respect and interest. This goes for Zatanna too.

Movies for the ET Kids!

In honor of one year of Milo George and his quest to end Endemic Treponematosis, we’re stuck with a movie meme.

But we couldn’t quite follow the rules, especially since we have a policy of not passing on these stupid things. However, if you want to swipe a copy, this one wouldn’t be your worst choice. We realphabetized the list to get things where they belong to begin with and to treat numbers differently and ignore leading articles in all titles, English or not. Foreign movies are listed by what we deem as the most readily recognizable title here in the U.S. All movies have years associated, now including ones directed by Kevin Smith (which Steven wouldn’t let me remove). The Three Colors trilogy only shows up once instead of twice, although it’s a little crazy that the Matrix trilogy gets three entries when Kieslowski and Satyajit Ray get three-in-one treatment.

And speaking of three colors, movies seen by Steven and not me are displayed in red. Movies only Rose has seen are blue. Movies we have both seen, together or separately, show up in purple, which I realize is sickeningly symbolic and romantic and whatnot. Movies we own are in bold. Because of this, we apologize to any visually impaired readers, but you’re really not missing anything if you have to skip this post anyway.

  • Adaptation. (2002)
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood (1939)
  • After Dark, My Sweet (1990)
  • Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)
  • Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974)
  • Alien (1979)
  • All About Eve (1950)
  • Amadeus (1984)
  • Amarcord (1974)
  • American Beauty (1999)
  • The American President (1995)
  • American Splendor (2003)
  • The Animatrix (2003)
  • Annie Hall (1977)
  • The Apartment (1960)
  • Apocalypse Now (1979)
  • The Apu Trilogy (1955 - 1959)
  • Around the Bend (2004)
  • L’Atalante (1934)
  • Au Hasard Balthazar (1966)
  • L’Avventura (1960)
  • The Band Wagon (1953)
  • The Bank Dick (1940)
  • Barefoot Gen (Hadashi no Gen) (1983)
  • Batman (1966)
  • Batman (1989)
  • The Battle of Algiers (1967)
  • Battle Royale (2000)
  • The Battleship Potemkin (1925)
  • Beat the Devil (1954)
  • Beauty and the Beast (1946)
  • Being John Malkovich (1999)
  • Being There (1979)
  • Belle de Jour (1967)
  • The Bicycle Thief (1949)
  • The Big Heat (1953)
  • The Big One (1997)
  • The Big Red One (1980)
  • The Big Sleep (1946)
  • The Birth of a Nation (1915)
  • Blowup (1966)
  • The Blue Kite (1993)
  • Blue Velvet (1986)
  • Bob le Flambeur (1955)
  • Body Heat (1981)
  • Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
  • Le Boucher (1970)
  • Bound (1996)
  • Bowling for Columbine (2002)
  • Breathless (1960)
  • Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
  • The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
  • Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)
  • Broken Blossoms (1919)
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)
  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
  • Casablanca (1942)
  • Casino Royale (1967)
  • Chasing Amy (1997)
  • Un Chien Andalou (1928)
  • Children of Paradise (1945)
  • Chinatown (1974)
  • A Christmas Story (1983)
  • Citizen Kane (1941)
  • City Lights (1931)
  • Clerks (1994)
  • The Color of Paradise (1999)
  • The Color Purple (1985)
  • Comic Book Villains (2002)
  • Conan the Barbarian (1982)
  • The Conversation (1974)
  • Cries and Whispers (1972)
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
  • Crumb (1994)
  • Damage (1992)
  • Daredevil (2003)
  • Day for Night (1973)
  • The Day of the Dolphin (1973)
  • Days of Heaven (1978)
  • The Decalogue (1988)
  • Detour (1945)
  • Die Hard (1988)
  • The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)
  • Do the Right Thing (1989)
  • La Dolce Vita (1960)
  • Donnie Darko (2001)
  • Don’t Look Now (1974)
  • Double Indemnity (1944)
  • Dr. Strangelove (1964)
  • Dracula (1931)
  • Duck Soup (1933)
  • Dune (1984)
  • E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
  • The Earrings of Madame de… (1953)
  • Easy Rider (1969)
  • Edward Scissorhands (1990)
  • Ed Wood (1994)
  • 8 1/2 (1963)
  • Elektra (2005)
  • The Elephant Man (1980)
  • Eraserhead (1977)
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
  • The Exterminating Angel (1962)
  • The Fall of the House of Usher (1928)
  • Fanny and Alexander (1983)
  • Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)
  • Fargo (1996)
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
  • The Firemen’s Ball (1968)
  • Five Easy Pieces (1970)
  • Floating Weeds (1959)
  • Four Rooms (1995)
  • The 400 Blows (1959)
  • From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
  • From Hell (2001)
  • Gates of Heaven (1978)
  • The General (1927)
  • Ghost World (2000)
  • Gigli (2003)
  • Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
  • The Godfather (1972)
  • Goldfinger (1964)
  • Gone With the Wind (1939)
  • The Goodbye Girl (1977)
  • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1968)
  • GoodFellas (1991)
  • The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)
  • Grand Illusion (1937)
  • The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
  • Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
  • Great Expectations (1946)
  • Greed (1925)
  • Groundhog Day (1993)
  • The Hand (1981)
  • A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
  • The Hearts of Age (1934)
  • Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
  • Hellboy (2004)
  • High Fidelity (2000)
  • Hiroshima mon amour (1959)
  • Hoop Dreams (1994)
  • House of Games (1987)
  • The Hustler (1961)
  • I ♥ Huckabees (2004)
  • Ikiru (1952)
  • In Cold Blood (1967)
  • The Incredibles (2004)
  • It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
  • Jackie Brown (1997)
  • Jaws (1975)
  • JFK (1991)
  • Jules et Jim (1961)
  • Juliet of the Spirits (1965)
  • Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)
  • Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004)
  • Killing Zoe (1994)
  • Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
  • King Kong (1933)
  • Lagaan (2001)
  • The Lady Eve (1941)
  • The Lady from Shanghai (1947)
  • The Last Laugh (1924)
  • The Last Picture Show (1971)
  • Last Tango in Paris (1972)
  • Last Year at Marienbad (1961)
  • Late Spring (1972)
  • The Lathe of Heaven (1980)
  • Laura (1944)
  • Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)
  • Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
  • The Leopard (1963)
  • The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)
  • The Lion King (1994)
  • Lolita (1962)
  • Lolita (1997)
  • Lost Highway (1997)
  • M (1931)
  • The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
  • Mallrats (1995)
  • The Maltese Falcon (1941)
  • The Man Who Laughs (1928)
  • The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
  • Manhattan (1979)
  • The Matrix (1999)
  • The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
  • The Matrix Revolutions (2003)
  • McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)
  • Mean Streets (1973)
  • Metropolis (1926)
  • Mon Oncle (1958)
  • Moonstruck (1987)
  • Moulin Rouge (2002)
  • Mr. Hulot’s Holiday (1953)
  • Mulholland Dr. (2001)
  • The Music Room (1958)
  • My Darling Clementine (1946)
  • My Dinner With Andre (1981)
  • My Life to Live (1963)
  • My Neighbor Totoro (1993)
  • Nashville (1975)
  • Natural Born Killers (1994)
  • Network (1976)
  • The Night of the Hunter (1955)
  • Nights of Cabiria (1957)
  • El Norte (1983)
  • Nosferatu (1922)
  • Notorious (1946)
  • On the Waterfront (1954)
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
  • Orphée (1949)
  • Out of the Past (1947)
  • Pandora’s Box (1928)
  • Paris, Texas (1984)
  • The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
  • Paths of Glory (1957)
  • Patton (1970)
  • Peeping Tom (1960)
  • Persona (1966)
  • The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
  • Pickpocket (1959)
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
  • Pinocchio (1940)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean (2003)
  • Pixote (1981)
  • Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
  • Playtime (1967)
  • The Producers (1968)
  • The Prophecy (1995)
  • Psycho (1960)
  • Pulp Fiction (1994)
  • Raging Bull (1980)
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
  • Raise the Red Lantern (1990)
  • Ran (1985)
  • Rashomon (1950)
  • Rear Window (1954)
  • Red River (1948)
  • The Red Shoes (1948)
  • Reservoir Dogs (1992)
  • Return to Glennascaul (1951)
  • Rififi (1954)
  • The Right Stuff (1983)
  • Roger & Me (1989)
  • Romeo and Juliet (1968)
  • Romeo + Juliet (1996)
  • The Rules of the Game (1939)
  • Le Samouraï (1967)
  • Santa Sangre (1989)
  • Saturday Night Fever (1977)
  • Say Anything (1989)
  • Scarface (1983)
  • The Scarlet Empress (1934)
  • Schindler’s List (1993)
  • The Searchers (1956)
  • Se7en (1995)
  • The Seven Samurai (1954)
  • The Seventh Seal (1957)
  • Shane (1953)
  • Shaun of the Dead (2004)
  • The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
  • The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
  • Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
  • Solaris (1972)
  • Some Like It Hot (1959)
  • South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut (1999)
  • Spider-Man (2002)
  • Spider-Man 2 (2004)
  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
  • Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
  • Star Trek: The Search for Spock (1984)
  • Star Trek: The Voyage Home (1986)
  • Star Trek: The Final Frontier (1989)
  • Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
  • Star Trek: Generations (1994)
  • Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
  • Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)
  • Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)
  • Star Wars (1977)
  • The Straight Story (1999)
  • The Strange Case of the End of Civilization as We Know It (1977)
  • The Stranger (1946)
  • Strangers on a Train (1951)
  • Strictly Ballroom (1992)
  • Stroszek (1977)
  • A Sunday in the Country (1984)
  • Superman (1978)
  • Sunrise (1928)
  • Sunset Boulevard (1950)
  • The Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
  • Swing Time (1936)
  • A Tale of Winter (1992)
  • The Tao of Steve (2000)
  • Taxi Driver (1976)
  • The Terminator (1984)
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
  • Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
  • The Thin Man (1934)
  • The Third Man (1949)
  • This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
  • The Three Colors Trilogy (1994)
  • Three Women (1977)
  • Tokyo Story (1953)
  • Touch of Evil (1958)
  • Touchez Pas au Grisbi (1954)
  • The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
  • The Trial (1962)
  • Trouble in Paradise (1932)
  • True Romance (1993)
  • 12 Angry Men (1957)
  • 28 Days Later (2002)
  • Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
  • Ugetsu (1953)
  • Umberto D (1952)
  • Unforgiven (1992)
  • Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election (2002)
  • The Up Documentaries (1964-1998 [so far!])
  • Vertigo (1958)
  • Victim (1961)
  • Walkabout (1971)
  • West Side Story (1961)
  • Where the Buffalo Roam (1980)
  • Wild at Heart (1990)
  • The Wild Bunch (1969)
  • Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)
  • Wings of Desire (1988)
  • The Wizard of Oz (1939)
  • Woman in the Dunes (1964)
  • A Woman Under the Influence (1974)
  • A Woman’s Tale (1992)
  • Written on the Wind (1956)
  • X-Men (2000)
  • X2 (2003)
  • xXx (2002)
  • Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
  • A Year of the Quiet Sun (1984)
  • Yellow Submarine (1968)

“In the world of the super-cowboys, there’s always blood.”

And I’m driven to post again! Have I mentioned yet that I think I’m in love with James Smith’s blog? Clearly the best blog source for non-stop really good writing on comics is Jog - the Blog, but I’ve really been enjoying James’s takes on comics and blogging. And then today’s installment was so full of things I find interesting that I finally felt compelled to actually write a post of my own rather than just spout off in the comments thread (though I may find myself doing that anyway at some point) to talk about sex, violence and recent Grant Morrison. I’ll start by saying I’m going to disregard everything Grant Morrison says, because I think he’s really only useful when writing fiction. His interviews seem manipulative and ridiculous, though I read and enjoy them anyway.

I think I’ve always been public here about my discomfort with overt violence in life and art. I (used to) go berserk watching movies with car chases because there are never any repercussions, never any reparations for the property damages. And I care more about all the fictional people whose lives are being ruined when their stores are destroyed and their cars smashed and so on than I do about the perfect-haired protagonists. And it’s not that I’m trying to hide from the fact that violence exists in reality. As a kid, I was obsessed with reading about the Holocaust and dressing like a WW II war orphan. After a few years, this led into stories about nuclear holocaust, and from there to nonfiction accounts of life in warzones of several sorts. There are some nasty (although not really violent) episodes I’ve suffered in my own history, and I’ve ended up doing a lot of counseling for other sexual assault survivors and tons of education on the topic. It’s not that I think any of this should be glossed over, but that I think the standard portrayal of violence does just that. It’s because I know how real the real world is that I don’t like rape jokes or movies starring automatic weapons or anything in which people get kicked in the crotch. Other people know about the real world and like these things; I’m really just talking about me.

And then there’s sex, which I’ll touch on quickly before dropping (I hope). I wrote about breasts in Sgt. Frog, and I keep thinking back to that in the recent discussion of gender roles and sexual violence in manga and for manga readers. I had surmised that some young, female readers might not see the breasts as offensive but be willing to read against the grain for a more liberating version of events. I don’t know what girls actually do think about this sort of thing, and that seems to be the question everyone is wondering about. Having been a girl not long ago, I can only assume the answers would be ambiguous and passionate and a bit muddled, or else that the speakers might change or expand their opinions in a few years. I know that sounds awfully dismissive, but I imagine in a few years I’ll be able to look back on this post and see it as not only uncharacteristic of what I’ll believe then, but not wholly aware enough of my situation now. Anyway, the point is that I’m sure there are plenty of problems with sexism and non-consensual sex in manga, and that this is something manga fans should be analyzing and addressing. I don’t like the idea that just because the problem may be different and bigger in American comics, particularly the superhero ones, there’s no room for people to be critical of issues in manga and among manga readers. (This is all an aside I did not mean to make.)

Anyway, I wanted to talk about sex in the way James talked about sex, looking at The Whip from Seven Soldiers #0. This is completely my own crazy bias and I realize it makes no sense, but my general thought is that characters who are wearing more fetishy clothing (The Whip, new Batgirl, especially in her sewn-shut mouth days) seem more self-assured, as if they have made choices about their attire. I’m not sure what I’m comparing them to, but The Whip is much more palatable to me than Phoenix, at least costume-wise. The self-aware characterization helps, of course, but I’m more comfortable with sex and sexualized bodies when they’re not also being sold as wholesome. (And maybe Phoenix isn’t the best example there, but instead The Wasp or something. I dunno.) Since I’m not actually making an argument here, I’ll just add that I’ve been wanting to make a joke about how the real reason I read superhero comics is because they make me feel normal for having scoliosis. But even my body doesn’t twist the way superheroines’ often have to. And of course the best place for an abstract joke is way in the middle of an unrelated post. Maybe I’ll resuscitate it someday.

In mentioning Vimanarama #2, I said that I wasn’t sold on the coloring, and was reminded of that when James talked about the uneasy mix between romantic comedy and fairly grisly violence. Because the violence is just as shiny and pretty as everything else, I think we’re supposed to infer that there is no break, no real division. And despite talking about the place of violence in the fabric of reality right above, I’m going to say that I don’t like its place here. I don’t like that it’s as cartoony as everything else, that head-smashing has the same weight as the moment before a kiss. Maybe it does in reality and maybe it should in some stories, but I’m just not convinced that this is the right story, the right balance. But maybe the problem, too, is that I fear I’d like the story more if the fighting took place farther off-panel and the other sorts of conflict got more pagetime.

And yet I don’t have the same problem with The Manhattan Guardian #1. The violence is lurid and vibrantly colored but I was able to skim over it without feeling bad for not being more invested and without feeling like I was missing out, as in Vimanarama. It was just a violent backdrop, an extremely violent backdrop, to what is probably going to be a violent story. Like James, this elicits no real emotional response from me. Am I supposed to be horrified? Intrigued? Aroused? Beats me, and not just because I don’t go in for that authorial intent stuff much. I just don’t go in for watching people beat each other up, have never found it cathartic to read about a pivotal punch. So why do I read this stuff? Beats me, at least to some extent. I guess I find it interesting to see what gets built around the violence, what the rest of the story is. I let myself believe/pretend that everything else is the real story with the violence as some sort of metaphor-heavy frosting. I’m not sure if those of use who read this way (James, I think, and David Fiore and myself) all do it in the same way and if our readings differ greatly from the normal ones. I guess the more important thing is that it doesn’t matter to me and that I keep on doing mine. So this is some sort of segue back to blogging, I hope.

Rose’s Book Picks

Yes, I’ve been gone for a million years. No, I don’t have a good excuse. For those who had behind-the-scenes information, Steven’s wisdom teeth came out successfully with only minor weird snags. I’ve got ideas for several posts I’d like to make, but first I have to play along because Lyle Masaki hit me with the little book meme, although I’m considering doing the big book meme too, although with a certain amount of commentary to make it a little more worthwhile and to disobey the rules.

Anyway, here’s the best I can do bookwise:

You’re stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?

Ian Brill said that he wouldn’t want to have to recite all of Infinite Jest, which has convinced me I would. It would be so much fun to figure out how to deal with all the footnotes and footnotes to footnotes that I’d never have to recite it the same way twice.

When I was a tiny kid and had a better memory than I do now, I could recite full pages of several of the Narnia books, but I don’t think that’s what I’d want to keep with me for all time. I’m not sure David Foster Wallace is either, but I’m hoping that if I ever get stuck inside Fahrenheit 451 it’s a pretty safe bet that this post won’t be considered legally binding.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

I know I’ve written here before that I’m really bad at having celebrity crushes. It just doesn’t seem plausible that anyone I don’t know would want a relationship with me, nor would I with someone I don’t know well. So while this all seems like nonsense to me, I’m going to give this my best shot and Steven will probably tease me later for being inadequate and lying. Anyway, I’m not really sure. As a child, I was very taken with Ernestine Gilbreth of Cheaper by the Dozen and Belles on their Toes, although since they’re basically autobiographical that probably only counts on a technicality. I certainly idealized and adored and yearned for all three main characters in Emma Donoghue’s Stir-Fry, which might be as close to a crush as I can get. I was often convinced as a child that if I could only meet the characters I was reading about, they would be better friends than any live children could be, and I suppose it’s this sense of cosmic rightness on an adult scale that’s what constitutes crushes of this sort. Boy, I’m not answering the question. Maybe I should move on and come back if I actually think of anything.

The last book you bought is:
Not counting comics/trade paperbacks, it was probably when a trip to a used bookstore in Knoxville netted me a whole load of feminist theory stuff, especially several books on eating disorders for well under $1 each. Oh, and a very cool-looking book, The Medieval Greek Romance, which I haven’t begun yet.

I tend not to buy myself new books much because they’re so expensive and I’m so stingy. My rule used to be that I only bought very cheap books or books I knew I’d lend out, but I’ve loosened that rule a bit.

The last book you read:

Again, excepting all the comics I’ve been reading, I think the last book I finished would be The World According to Mimi Smartypants, which is a collection of posts from the blog of Mimi Smartypants. I’d already read all the posts in their original, more fun and hyperlinky context, but while I won’t go so far as to call this a character crush, I do sort of think of Mimi Smartypants as an alternate universe version of me, if I’d managed to do cool things and have better friends and druggier experiences and a different homelife, but with the same violin background and dorky Greek obsession. I can’t believe I’m admitting this on the blog, which is yet another proof that even if I’m right I am indeed the doofus version.

I read Neal Stephenson’s The Baroque Cycle and Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell in fairly quick succession a few months ago and haven’t read much fiction since then, although I’m about to swing back in that direction.

What are you currently reading?

Oy. This is embarrassing, because as I said I’m very much between novels and so have a bunch of different things going and going slowly. Bedtime reading has been Kim Chernin’s The Hungry Self: Women, Eating, and Identity, which is not too exciting but still a seminal eating disorder book. Various articles from Feminism Beside Itself and The New Feminist Criticism show up as bathtime reading when I’m not featuring manga or a frivolous magazine. And then I really need to get back to Victorian Sappho, a book by Yopie Prins on reinterpretations of Sappho’s poetry and biography/identity by Victorian poets, because I haven’t even gotten to the argument about how my beloved Swinburne’s uses of her meters have more to do with the way they sound like flogging than the extent to which they are direct homage. And of my birthday books, I must admit I’m only reading Epileptic and slowly for some reason, I think to savor it. Usually I’m an unstoppable reader who devours things, but I’m taking my time here and haven’t even gotten out of the material covered in the first volume I’d already read.

Five books you would take to a deserted island.
(Was anyone else annoyed by the way this quiz started with full sentences and fell away from it quickly?)

Gravity’s Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon. Adam Stephanides is rereading it and now a blogless friend is reading it for the first time and I’m tempted to go back into it. It’s a book that could sustain many rereadings and hold me for a long time.

I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith. Maybe Cassandra should count as a crush, because her voice is one of the most amazing and consistent of any I’ve ever read. This book makes me laugh every time I read it.

I’d need some giant poetry collection, Norton or something. I used to have an amazing two-volume set of 20th century poetry, Poems for the Millennium, but I’d need it to cover more time than that.

And since I think I’d want something to keep me cheerful, I’m going to go for a massive P.G. Wodehouse collection of Jeeves & Wooster stories over Robert Benchley’s My Ten Years in a Quandary and How They Grew, but it’s a tough decision and one I’d probably regret a bit eventually.

Fifth is going to be my cheaty one. I want The Odyssey in Greek, but of course my Greek isn’t good enough to just read it, so I need a dictionary and maybe a grammar and some pens and notebooks, which would help pass the rest of the time anyway. I figure this is no worse than people bringing the complete works of Dickens or something like that. And I won’t even try to sneak in The Iliad on analogous grounds, because they clearly have different authors and I clearly prefer one to the other. Although both Andromache and Hector give some potentially crush-worthy speeches….

Postmodern Horror

I’ve been trying to write a post about Shaun of the Dead, but it’s been tough going. I know vaguely what I want to say, but I seem to have no interest in turning my vague thoughts into words. Oh well. Instead, I’ve been thinking about postmodern horror of an entirely different kind.

But should I first discuss what kind of postmodern horror Shaun of the Dead is, since I’ve already contrasted it with the kind of postmodern horror I actually want to write about? Yes, I suppose I should. Shaun of the Dead, of course, is in the tradition of self-conscious/ironic horror movies, movies like Scream and even Scary Movie. The authors (I will use “authors” to refer collectively to the people who made a movie) of Scream take on the relatively easy and ultimately banal task of making a straight slasher flick, with one crucial violation of the rules: the characters know about slasher flicks, spend much of their time discussing slasher flicks, and recognize immediately that they are living inside a slasher flick. The result is a movie that balances precariously on the line between jokiness and sincerity and isn’t quite deft enough to avoid stumbling. It’s reasonably entertaining, although the authors’ mocking indulgence in the slasher genre’s violent and exploitative virgin/whore morality makes for some particularly queasy scenes. The second and third movies might have improved on the formula—I don’t remember clearly.

Before I saw Shaun of the Dead, I expected a goofier, indier Scream. But whereas Scream approaches the problem of self-conscious postmodern narrative by presenting characters who discuss horror-movie cliches at the same time that they act out those cliches, the trailer for Shaun of the Dead suggests that it takes the different approach of riffing facetiously on little details and problems that tend to get glossed over in other movies—viz. the talk-show guest who insists on staying married to her zombified husband. Sort of a converse Scream, a self-conscious joke-horror movie that shakes up the familiar narrative by making the characters less clever instead of more—not only do they not notice the zombie-movie plot mechanics clunking along around them, they mess with the mechanics by failing to fall properly into their roles.

That’s what I thought before I saw the movie. Mostly, anyway—I’m partly reconstructing my thoughts in light of having seen it. What do I think now that I’ve finally seen it? Well, it’s sort of like I expected it to be, but it also has other more interesting things going on. It starts with a strong romantic-comedy foundation. Shaun is a 29-year-old guy who suspects he ought to take things more seriously but seems to have trouble finding things that right taking seriously. His sidekick is Ed, who “doesn’t have too many friends,” which is an understatement. Shaun’s girlfriend is Liz, who has tired of Shaun’s inertial inability to discover nightly entertainment opportunities outside the local pub. Her sidekicks are David and Dianne, a pretentious twat and a flightly failed actress, respectively. Liz is one botched date from dumping Shaun for good. David is in love with Liz and doing a pathetic job of hiding it from his girlfriend Dianne. Dianne wants to know when Shaun’s going to hook them up with free cable. Ed’s single endearing quality is his ability to perform a remarkably poor impression of an orangutan. Shaun—well, he doesn’t exactly want to spend the rest of his life drinking himself to death at the Winchester (the aforementioned local pub), but all the better alternatives have the flaw of requiring him to do something other than sit around the local pub.

Hmm, it’s been several days since I looked at this post. I seem to have been writing some kind of plot summary of Shaun of the Dead. But what’s the point—I don’t have the movie anymore, so I can hardly do a close reading. It’s been weeks since I saw the movie! I will now speak vaguely and noncomittally.

So Shaun of the Dead starts as a romantic comedy, and it could easily have kept going without zombies for a whole movie. Throwing in zombies is dangerous, because it means people like me might say, “If they wanted to do a romantic comedy about the unresolvable opposition of needing to grow up and not wanting to become one’s parents, why are they wasting their (and, more importantly, my) time with zombies?” But I didn’t say this while watching this movie. Partly because the authors take the time to play connect-the-themes. The shots of a stumbly, zombie-sounding Shaun who turns out to be merely a sleepy, yawning Shaun, the zombified wage-slave drones who are literally zombified and then put to work as—zombie slaves, I guess—funny jokes, but also plugged right into Shaun’s real-life concerns. (And, yes, terribly obvious and presumably done in every other zombie movie ever. Well, it’s a zombie movie, you work with what you’ve got. Shaun of the Dead works with what it’s got stylishly and intelligently. [???????But if they wanted to do a movie about the unresolvable opposition &c., why did they waste their time with zombies?” I’m not going to get into a defense of using the fantastic in art here, sorry. Um, because sometimes mere naturalism isn’t enough for some others, and then they break out the zombies.]) Let’s continue that line of thought, but outside the parentheses. What the zombie stuff does is latch onto specifc real-life concerns in the narrative, complicate and modify them, cause them to resonate with greater intensity.

Damn, I’ve been sloppy in talking about the romantic-comed aspect of Shaun of the Dead. Because, when you think about it, romantic comedy as a genre functions like a lot of fantasy—i.e., it latches onto specific real-life concerns, complicates and modifies them, causes them to resonate with greater intensity. So Shaun of the Dead has the romantic comedy and the zombies messing with the narrative. But is that enough for Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg? Certainly not. They add that extra layer of self-consciousness, which allows them to slip back and forth between zombies and romantic comedy without getting bogged down in either. There are three big things going on in the movie—the romantic comedy, the zombie stuff, and the mucky “human drama”—and each is so emotionally intense (and gorily harrowing, in the case of the zombie stuff) that it could easily overwhelm the whole movie. But the extra layer of irony allows the movie to flip deftly with precision timing from the chilling revelation of Shaun’s mum’s impending zombification to jokes about David wanting to shoot Shaun’s mum to simple “human drama” as the relationships between characters build tension and explode in heady conflict. The section of the movie from the musical zombie fighting/dancing choreographed to Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” to the moment when Shaun, Liz and Ed find themselves trapped behind the bar is the final buildup and climax of the movie. These scenes have everything going on at once, and it really shouldn’t work but it does anyway, and it’s lovely.

Er, I guess I ended up writing a lot about Shaun of the Dead after all. And not about the kind of postmodern horror film I claimed I’d write about at the beginning of this post. I suppose I could edit the beginning of the post to make things make more sense, but I think I’ll leave it as is. More to come on postmodern horror… some time. I won’t promise timeliness.

“Careful! It’s razor-sharp.”

So I haven’t been here in a while, it seems. I’ve been sick a lot this winter, but also just completely worn down. I don’t know when either of those will relent for good, but I’ll aim for weekly posting and see if I can work up from there. If I have anything to say (and I do have a big post on identification festering, but it’s not written yet) I’ll try to get it up here somehow. For tonight, though, just a few quick truths with little analysis.

Vimanarama #2 made me cry a little, but only a little. Dig the Taj Mahal interior, though! I’m not sold on the coloring and I read a lot faster when the Fireborn are doing their thing. I wish this were going to be more than three issues long.

What’s up with the (potential) total depletion of other Kentucky comics bloggers? To make up for the gaps in my pseudopeer group, I’m pushing for a clique of comics bloggers who read manga in the bathtub. It looks like there may be some overlap with the comics bloggers who enjoy gin (a more casual grouping that exists only in my head, as far as I know) which suggests some clear options for socializing that I’ll bet we’ll never try.

Steven is on spring break and thus did a Wednesday comic run, which still seems sort of weird and obscene to me, but I hoped it would net us Project Superior, which the store had not ordered. They should have one for us next week, and I do realize that if we weren’t so passive and uncomfortable talking to people we would have had one now. So there was none of that and no manga for my bath, so I resorted to feminist essay collections. From Feminism Beside Itself, I liked Elspeth Probyn’s piece, “Perverts by Choice.” She writes of belonging/be-longing as “a loose combinatoire of being and longing, becoming and nostalgia, as composed of lines of desire that run along the singularities of sexualities, bodies, spaces and places.” (264) I quote this not to scare anyone off from drinking gin or enjoying bathtime manga, but because it’s something I’m going to be thinking about off-blog and possibly but probably not on-.

I know not everyone liked I ♥ Huckabees, but I think the mud sex scene was one of the most emotionally realistic portrayals I’ve ever seen in a movie. Anyone who disagrees is wrong, but that’s ok; I know beauty when I see it. I got the double-disc set as a birthday present (thanks!) and am looking forward to rewatching the film itself this weekend. I got very close to finishing a major in philosophy before dropping it, in large part because I hated so many of the other students, so I’m not sure if that means I’m more sensitive or less sensitive to dopey philosophy stuff, but nothing in Huckabees bothered me.

And continuing my trend of no real segues, I’m probably going to be teaching a class on sock knitting, so I’ve been doing a bit of it myself. I have a really hideous pair I made to test some techniques and a cotton/wool yarn (I’ll have to teach on larger than sock yarn, though, because apparently size 0 needles terrify new knitters) and I should probably put a picture of them up here so that the ugliness will be a good incentive to post something substantive to get it off the top of the page. The plus side is that they fit me perfectly and keep my feet warm when it is too, too cold in the apartment, which has definitely been the case over the last few nights.

I haven’t yet done any blogger interviews because I haven’t really done much of anything except work ridiculously long hours and try to sleep (well, and knit socks). I think I’m getting close to having my research done for the first, though. I’m hoping I live in enough of a shame culture that my commenting on this will push me to do it, but past performance has not been a positive indicator, to use work-speak. Maybe soon.

Rose’s Little Brother on Seaguy

Several months ago, Rose and I lent her brother Seaguy #1-3 after extracting a promise that he would tell us what he thought about them. The idea was to get a thirteen-year-old’s perspective on an esoteric Grant Morrison comic book and present it for the benefit of the comics blogosphere. Rose mentioned a few weeks ago that I never got around to posting about this, so here it is now, a thirteen-year-old’s thoughts on Seaguy:

Rose’s brother:

I liked them. They were kind of confusing, though. For example, what are the “Mickey Eye” people doing everywhere? What exactly is the Xoo? What is that giant beetle doing on the moon and why did it stop the revolution of the moon?

Do you have the fourth one?


Unfortunately, there isn’t a fourth one, yet. This is a complete story, but there may be another story later.

Do you have any theories about what Micky Eye and its people are doing, or what Xoo is? I have my own ideas, but I wonder what yours are.

Rose’s brother:

Mickey Eye is these things, since they’re in the comic-
-They’re against the Xoo people.
-They’re trying to wake up the beetle or something.
-They are very wide spread.
-They have plenty of money.

Xoo is these things-
-A substance made that can become conscious.
-Manufactured for use for anything.

So these are my ideas-
1= Mickey Eye is an evil organization that wants to wake up the beetle to take over the world, and Xoo is the only thing in its way.

2= Mickey Eye is an organization that wants to stop Xoo’s spread because Xoo is too powerful, or a threat to their power. The beetle is the only thing that can stop Xoo, and Mickey Eye is trying to wake it up.

3= Mickey Eye and the people who make Xoo are both evil and want to take over each other, and the people who make Xoo created Xoo to destroy Mickey Eye. Mickey Eye is planning to counter with the beetle.

4= Mickey Eye and Xoo are working together, for reasons unknown.

What do you think?


I think everything you say makes sense to me. I don’t know how Xoo fits into the big picture—it seems to be a wild card. Mickey Eye made (or discovered, it’s hard to tell) Xoo, but it can’t control Xoo. I think what Xoo is, basically, is the New. I mean, not any specific new thing that Mickey Eye has invented, but a strange physical manifestation of the abstract concept of novelty—that’s why it can be used for anything. Mickey Eye wants to control how people are exposed to new things, and they want to control how people think about new things, but Xoo (New) is too powerful, especially with meddling heroes like Seaguy getting involved.

And as for Mickey Eye, I think it’s supposed to remind us of Disney (hence the “Mickey” mascot and the amusement parks). Not that Disney is as powerful as Mickey Eye, obviously, but just imagine what things would be like if Mickey Mouse ruled the world: the whole world would be Disney World. Disney World is the happiest place on Earth, but it would surely get oppressive if you always had to live in manufactured bliss and weren’t allowed to stop being happy. That’s the world Seaguy lives in.

(By the way, does anybody remember which blogger first came up with the Xoo/New idea? I remember reading about it when Seaguy #1 came out, but I don’t remember where.)