January 2004 Archives

Tragic comics

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Only recently did I get around to reading Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth, after receiving it as a gift from the Cute Little Red-Headed Girlfriend. She actually ventured into a comic book shop all by her lonesome to get it for me, even though its book format meant it was widely available in more familiar places, such as bookstores. But it makes sense, doesn't it? I imagine the thought process went something like this: buy comics as gift > go to shop selling comics > go to comics shop.

About halfway through the book I started to think of Chris Ware as sort of a male version of Sylvia Plath, that's how impressed I was with his unrelenting, let's-all-slit-our-wrists vision of the world. Staring straight into the abyss for long periods does have its downsides, however. I knew the book was having an impact on me when the Cute Little Red-Headed Girlfriend turned to me with suspicion and asked, "Is Jimmy Corrigan depressing you?" "No," I replied guiltily, trying to avoid an intervention.

About midway through the book, just when I was beginning to think it might be a good idea after all to put it down, the mood of the book shifted. I found I was no longer standing at the very lip of the abyss, but was instead strolling around it, at about a two feet distance. The change was a relief, but it also struck me as quite an artistic achievement. Because we know--from Sylvia Plath's life and works, for example--that another option would be simply to continue standing there at the edge, or else to step forward and plunge in. I don't disparage those options, not at all, I simply call attention to the artistic feat of being able to examine the darkest human emotions and then being able to pull back, just so.

So Ware is not the male Plath, but he does give an airing to the underbelly of male identity. He also makes quite a contribution to the representation of sound in comics. Throughout the text, my eye was drawn to the scripting of such usually overlooked noises as, for instance, the tsssssh of water running, the chngle chng of keys in a lock, and the sound of a horse going up a staircase. Along with the included cut-out toys, the sounds expanded the story beyond its visual dimension. As I said above, I was amazed at the moodiness of this graphic novel, but also at the rich texture of that mood: its palette, its soundtrack, its architecture.

Waiting, wanting

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I was alerted by a post by Tegan to a discussion among comics readers regarding buying single issues versus graphic novels. I was reminded of this issue this weekend, after I finished reading two single issue comics, The Caper #1--a back issue, but bought recently--and Fables #20. Both delightful stories. Adding to my pleasure of these titles was the idea that there would be more of them. I knew I could get another Fables issue sometime soon, and even more exciting, there were at least two more issues of The Caper already in stock at my local store.

In the U.S., our culture is increasingly oriented toward entertainment and immediate gratification. We have short attention spans. We want to be entertained whenever it is convenient for us, say, now. While I enjoy many aspects of the immediate, "always on" digital culture, I also value those experiences that unfold at a more leisurely pace. I treasure the sense of anticipation that reading single issues of comics gives me. I like being left with the feeling of wanting more.

Blog reading

I made two happy discoveries while reading through my blogroll recently.

Via Neilalien, I discovered Flat Earth is back in business. I had never taken it off my blogroll anyway, so perhaps it was fated to happen.

Also, I checked back with a site that had gone dormant for awhile, psychicpants.net, and discovered they are back at it again, with a new design in place.

I had neglected the DykeWrite web ring for too long, so I checked back in with the main site, which has been reinvigorated with new writers and is looking quite flash. The original Dykewrite ring has grown so large it's now divided among three rather sizable rings.

I tried visiting all three rings this past weekend. One thing I discovered is that many of the DykeWriter's have a prominent link to a pro-gay marriage online petition on their sites. I believe the origin of the petition was as a response to a petition by the right--one of the so-called "Defense of Marriage" propositions.

As offensive as the arguments of the right are, I can't really get that worked up over the issue. Recently, I've developed this unfortunate song association in my mind whereby anytime I see or hear anything having to do with gay marriage, I hear Lou Reed singing this one lyric from the Velvet Underground song "Boots of Leather":

"Kiss the whip,
Now bleeeeeed for me."

That may sum up my feelings on the matter. Nonetheless, I appreciate the sentiments of my fellow DykeWriters who have taken this issue to heart. Lots of good reading to be found on those rings.

Firefly Campaign

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From my recent blog reading, it sounds like a lot of bloggers found the Firefly first (and only) season DVD set under their tree. There's a new fan site up that's trying to spread Firefly to a wider audience by promoting the DVD set. They're also hoping to keep demand for the movie up.

Comics-themed L.A. Weekly

L.A. Weekly has published a special comics issue, including an overview of the best comics and graphic novel of 2003, a feature on Alexandro Jodorowsky, and artwork by Kim Deitch and Kozyndan, among others. Also, don't miss the back page-artwork by In Sequence favorite Robbie Conal, a new portrait of Condaleeza Rice called Black Hawk Down.

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