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“The Paradigm Shift, part one”
Collider, no. 1
Vertigo Books, July 2013
Simon Oliver & Robbi Rodriguez
With: Rico Renzi & Steve Wands
Featuring: Nathan Fox
Months ago, when Karen Berger stepped down from DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint, I believed that the imprint was essentially done-for. My suspicion was that Vertigo would move more into DC-proper publishing and eventually dissolve. Instead, the house seems to have run in the opposite direction, away from Swamp Thing and John Constantine and closer to the spirit of autonomy that the imprint made itself famous for.
“This rap shit is like reality TV, it’s totally different from what it’s marketed as.”
“Quivers ‘n’ Shakes”
Sex, no. 5
Joe Casey & Piotr Kowalski
With Brad Simpson, Rus Wooton and Sonia Harris
This is less about the comic and more about marketing.
When Joe Casey, co-creator of Sex, was making the rounds to publicize this series, he described to readers a story wherein sex would be a driving and integral factor. Instead, five issues in, it appears to be a fairly standard post-superhero crime-comic. With one sex scene neatly packed into each issue, tucked into the story to justify the series title.
“Family, part 2”
Lazarus, number 2
By Greg Rucka & Michael Lark
with Santi Arcas
Image Comics, July 2013
Meeting the Carlyle Family during the Carlyle Family Meeting, this is kind of a stressful issue. Trying to keep all of the siblings straight was an exercise in futility. They’re all bad guys, so frown at all of them. Papa Carlyle is the only character here who appears to be somewhat reasonable. I’m interested more in his perspective, he’s clever enough to know that his kids are wilding out.
Eve, or Forever Carlyle is your basic tough guy, killing machine, Terminator/Robocop, invincible, heartless human murder factory. In this issue, she hints at having something like a conscience but it’s probably just tactical doubt about her siblings’ war schemes. I bet the next batch that this story arc ends with Forever screaming “I’M NOT LIKE YOU” with tears streaming down her face as she sends one of her siblings to the hereafter.
Spoiler: there is no hereafter after here. So don’t fuck around and yet murdered by a vat-grown super soldier.
I’ve never been to Los Angeles so I can’t feel much about how post-earthquake-dystopia L.A. Is depicted. Based on the size of the shacks, the “Hollywood” sign seems smaller than I imagined that it is. In general the destruction is beautifully rendered as old and settled-in. Eve goes into what looks like a shantytown village or an open-air market (or likely, both) and those are the two pages that feel the most alive to me. For one obvious reason, there are people of all ages wandering around, doing whatever it is that the poor do in the world of Lazarus. For another thing, we are shown the figure, the ground, the background and the sky. Those pages feel airy and open because they are depicting airiness and openness.
The next scene is in the Mexican desert but it is too open for me to enjoy. Like…desert. Deserted. When the machine-gun-men show up, it actually feels more comfortable for me as a reader, even though the protagonist is in “danger.” (Not really, she’s the protagonist and invincible)
Everything is really grey and dingy looking which is fine for a post-apocalyptic shantytown but becomes a drawback when looking at the Carlyle Family home which feels like it should be brighter and more opulent. I know that resources are scarce but these people are royalty. It just looks like the lights are physically off in these scenes. This is where Michael Lark’s heavy-black, jagged-ink style works against the scene depicted. This isn’t some back alley at night, this is during the daytime in the living room of one of the most wealthy people in the world. Turn on a lightbulb.
Don’t get me wrong, the harsh figures, the rough-hewn shadows–it’s all beautiful on the page. It just doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.
Two of the siblings are doing incest. Probably “twincest.” I know that I’m meant to be repulsed and disgusted and horrified but I’m just glad that somebody lightened up in this piece.
Smile or somethin!
Answering questions on Tumblr, an anonymous asked me:
“How do you feel about webcomics”
So I responded:
Glad you asked.
I’m a hip hop guy, for twenty years. I’ve been into hip hop since The Big Kids came to the playground with a boom box and a tape of Onyx and Dr. Dre. It would not be accurate to say that I “live” hip hop but it informed many of my values and a lot of my ideas about how art and commerce work.
The thing about music in general and hip hop in particular is that they give that stuff to people for free. Before anybody asks you for money, they’ve given you their art with no money asked. Buying an album or paying for a live show feels like a transactional formality by the time it occurs. Back when I was in high school, mixtapes used to cost money. In this day and age, mixtapes are free. It’s just an economic thing. We have computers. Mixtapes can afford to be free now. So they are.
Meanwhile. Comics in the 1990s: Bone, Scud the Disposable Assassin, Hepcats, et cetera. The lasting image that holds in my mid is Rob Schrab (Scud) hunched over his kitchen table, both drawing the comic and figuring out how to pay for it. And likely, how to convince people like you and me to part with $2.99 for an issue. Yeah, comics still cost $2.99 back in 1997 but that was worth a lot more back then.
The point that I’m getting at (and this is how I tell stories in real life) is that when webcomics began to rise up and become a part of people’s daily lives, we see people being better able to expose themselves to the artform. The medium of comics became something that wasn’t restricted by parting customers from their money nor was it bound by readers’ access to specialty stores. Webcomics made comics truly free.
The thing that bothers me and I’m including myself heavily in this since I haven’t worked a webcomic since 2010 or so: rappers put stuff out. Rappers put lots of material out and it isn’t even album stuff. Rappers will make multiple mixtapes and follow them with official albums which represent more material. Not all of the material is exclusive, but enough of it is. People remain engaged with the artist on a continual basis. For that reason, I aspire to the model of webcomics which allows one comic to be seen in public and generate interest in an artist while that artist works behind the scenes on other comics. I call the latter “black comics.” Mostly unseen, until they need to be seen.
Personally, if I were to return to webcomics, I would prefer to use them as a more freewheeling, disposable free thing that causes me as little stress as possible, while concentrating my more detailed labor on projects that I would sell.
Mixtapes versus albums.
[Feel free to ask me anything, via my Tumblr Ask Box!]