Sunday, July 22, 2012

- – - P.S.: I Wrote This on a Self-Destructing Memo

Shawn Starr / don’t need no hug 

———————-Batman: Earth 1 ———————-

The point of the Earth One line of OGN’s is to capture the proverbial “new reader” that never seems to appear. My guess as to why, is that comics are by and large expensive and shitty. Fifty Shades of Grey is $10 and, although poorly written, will at least make your mother and sister cum; Batman: Earth One is $24 and will just make you feel empty inside. Batman has a strict no cum policy in place. AND HE IS THE LAW!

The only moment of emotion felt in Earth One is when Batman sweeps Alfred’s leg like Johnny Lawrence in Karate Kid and showed that cripple son of a bitch who’s the boss. Because in that moment Alfred (and you, my dear reader) know Bats is really ready for the mean streets of Gotham, because only Batman is so cold that he’d knock the prosthetic limb off of the only man who was ever there for him. He took lassie out behind the shed and put a .22 square between his eyes and became a man in that single moment, because that’s how you become a man, by killing the things you love. And Geoff Johns kills everything he loves. Because he is a man. And so is Batman.

—————–Batman #11——————–

The joke was there was no joke.

——————Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred #6————–

No review, just this.

———————-Thickness #3 ———————-

You ever see anal beads shoved up a man’s urethra? If not email me, I got pics for you.

———————- Walking Dead #100——————-

This is going to be the highest selling comic of the year, maybe the decade, and it seems set out to prove to everyone that Marvel and DC do not have a monopoly on shitty comics.

It takes a cynical man to write the same comic he did 55 issues ago and think no one will pick up on it, and I guess in between screwing his co-creators out of royalties so he can buy more KFC grease to rub on himself, Kirkman got his cynicism down. Joey (Alusiolioe) posits that Kirkman has a random plot generator, i posit that he has a 3 sided dice with maim, kill, copy plot of -50 issues ago that he rolls each arc to determine the fate of his characters; and copy takes up 47 of the 52 sides of the die.

———————–Spider-Men #3————————-

The following is an excerpt from the pitch meeting for Spider-Men:

Marvel: “Come on baby, i thought we had something special here, it’ll be quick, you won’t feel a thing.”

Bendis: “I’m not sure… i don’t feel comfortable about it…”

Marvel: “Baby, don’t you love me?”

Bendis: “Yeah, but…”

Marvel: “Then you’ll let me…”

Bendis: “I don’t know…”

Marvel: “Baby…”

Bendis: “I just don’t know… will it hurt?”

Marvel: “Will it hurt?”

Bendis: “Yeah, will it?”

Marvel:"I would never do anything to hurt you. Never.”

Bendis:"Are you sure?"


Bendis: “Ok. I guess”

Marvel: "Are you sure?"

Bendis: "Yeah, I'm sure"

Marvel: “I love you”

Bendis: “I love you to”


The primary obstacle in comics, for the artist, is to convey motion. Unable to show every action, like animation, artists need to pick out the major beats and convince the reader the character got from one point to another. All in the span of a single gutter. It’s a difficult task, and the over-rendered nature of mainstream comics has made it all the more so. Readers expect splash pages and group shots, but inherent in this is a reduction in the spontaneity of the artists line work: when every line is pre-planned and pre-arranged; before ever being put to paper the image just sits there like a stiff corpse. There’s a reason why Kirby’s panels jump off the page, and it’s not because he’s laboring over each panel.
One of those silly philosophical questions you’re asked as a child is “if a tree falls in the woods, does it make any noise?”. The actual answer is no, since sound requires a human (or “living” entity) to register the motion taking place. It is because of this fact that sound in comics is impossible, but for it to even be a possibility it requires the artist to provide the semblance of motion on the page. Which far to many fail to do.

It is for this fact that the use of sound effects is so widespread in comics, they are used as a way to hedge one’s bets against the incompetence of so many artists and show explicitly whats occurring on panel. Where the purple prose of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing once secured this fact, writers and editors are now stripped down to this single tool. Which they use as subtlety as Snoop Dog’s drug advocacy. This in turn ruins the artwork of competent artists by adding foreign objects into the composition and making each element unbalanced.

There’s no real point to this , besides that you shouldn’t ruin Jerome Opena’s art with sound effects to reinforce the point that he did in fact illustrate someone getting stabbed, but maybe it’s OK on a Billy Tan page.

———————-MORE OF AN ASIDE: Pop that Pussy Patrol =====================

I went to the beach this week; this is what I learn’t:

Mandy is supposedly a bitch.

Some girl within earshot had sand in her crotch.

The proper ratio of rum to cola, in a beach setting, is one liter to one pint.

Sand crotch girl doesn’t remember where she got all her bruises from… she drinks a lot.

All I learn’t about beach life from 1950′s movies was a lie. There was in fact, no beach battles, nor was there a clam shack rock band playing music for all the beach babes to bop the night away at.

I am not a fun beach companion.

——————————-BloodStrike #1———————-
RUBBING THE BLOOD is no longer a provided service. I demand a refund.

——————————- LINK DUMP—————-

This was awesome

Additionally Sean Collins has taken up Tom Spurgeon’s call to talk about Love and Rockets during Comic Con pretty seriously. You can read some of his reviews and essays here . I do have to say that Jaime's Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 story was easily the greatest ending to a comic ever published. I read both Locas omnibuses over two amazing months last year and when you reach the final pages of Love Bunglers its truly a transcendent experience. Jaime Hernandez is one of the mediums greatest artists and produced one of the decade’s defining stories, his absence from both the Harveys and Eisner’s is a tragedy.

Chad Nevetts posts on Avengers vs X-men are so much more than that shitty comic ever deserved.

For all you’re League of Extraordinary Gentlemen news may I suggest The Mindless Ones and Comic Books ARE BURNING IN HELL

Tucker Stones 10 most anticipated comics of the year are pretty spot on. Although he did neglect those EC archives Fantagraphics are doing and the new Johnny Negron book from Picture Box Negron. But you know, opinions are opinions.

Mickey Zacchilli is selling original artwork from her Thickness strip. (

The Chemical Box put up a new podcast, I attempted to record an episode with them earlier this year, but it was 7 hours long and unusable. This one is much better. (

MOCCA died and no one should give a fuck.

———– Digression #8———–

No Black Kiss review, just more Chaykin. See Black Kiss is old and therefore irrelevant. Cheer up
though, I’ve got seven inches of natural blonde on retainer for tonight.

= ==== Random Haunts, Random Digs, Random So Called Lives+++++++++++

The Scatology of Freud. –       #PossibleBandNames
 The Scatology of Freud –       #MyNewComic
  The Scatology of Freud –      #MyNewS&MClub
   The Scatology of Freud –     #MyGraduateThesis
    The Scatology of Freud –    #NotFunnyAnymore
     The Scatology of Freud –   #GrandmasFavoriteBook

Well, I got fired from the column this week, see you never.

- – - exit

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Left Me Wanting More Reads


Every time I read a Brandon Graham comic all I want to do is get on the subway, put Blueprint (KRS-One not Jay-Z) on repeat and read a stack of quarter bin comics. This collection is no different.

Escalator collects Brandon Graham's early short stories, along with some nice commentary on each stories genesis. What I always liked about these types of collections is seeing how a creator got from point A to point B (or C, D, E, F, G...). Looking at Adrian Tomine's 32 Stories collection and seeing him change so dramatically over just a few issues of Optic Nerve is amazing, especially knowing where he ultimately ended up. Grahams progression isn't as dramatic as Tomine's though, Grahams style is firmly cemented in these early stories, just less refined than it is today. His panels become busy at points, overly angular (look at his self-depiction in I Owe You compared to now) and his inking is looser, but his basic style is there.

Sugarless Candy is the first story that feels like a Graham comic, its just a guy talking to his girlfriend and looking over the cityscape before she gets on a plane for home. Graham's ability to forge an immediate connect between his characters and the reader is astonishing, even in his creative infancy within three panels he makes you identify with each character in the story in a way i still don't connect with any "mainstream" creation; curled feet peeking out of a blanket, sock puppets, old sugar free candy, Indian headdress from old memories box. These little things craft a  connection that you buy wholeheartedly in mere panels, where others take tomes. 

There's also some nice forays into auto-bio with True Crime and I Owe You, along with a funny two pager about starring at girls asses when they walk by. 

The final story collected is an early installment of Multiple Warheads which is the most accomplished (and "newest") entry in the collection. His art and writing are fully formed in this short, his hyper-detailed and yet open panels , his proclivity for puns, small side-character moments ("The ladies love a field hat") and his need to draw pretty girls with there asses sticking out are all on display here. I'm genuinely excited to see him continue this strip with Image later this year.

From the first page of Escalator to the last, you see Graham grow as an artist and storyteller, infusing his work with elements of Science Fiction, Autobiography, absurdism along with playing around with his story structure and subverting reader expectations. When you put down Escalator its easy to see how he went from this, to King City

Wild Children:

Grant Morrison's Bat-Epic opened with Batman shooting the Joker in the face, a rejection of the chaos that the Joker represented, along with the chaos of his previous comics. Morrison's initial Batman run is a story of structure and stability, wheels within wheels. Wild Children kicks off by shooting Jim Gordan in the fucking face. A direct act of rejection towards Morrison's latter day work as a corporate cog. Wild Children is a shift to the Morison of the early nineties, retro-fitted for the current zestiest. A post-Morrison, per-Morrison, comic for the Facebook Generation.

Unlike The Invisibles though, which existed in a world of Transgender Discotecha’s, Philip K Dick novels and ecstasy, Wild Children exists in the internet era. Mass communication ("For fucks sake. Televised-Youtubed-Casualties") widespread and accepted forms of fetishism ("Want me to Piss on you some more") internet criticism (" 'Sequence is Magic' – Matt Seneca") and self referential entertainment ("The Space-Time Worms in Donnie Darko, the All Now from The Invisibles, the Five Dimensional beings in Neonomicon") rule the day, and are therefore key components to Wild Children, and pop culture at large. When Morrison wrote Kill Your Boyfriend and St. Swithin's Day he was talking about youthful rebellion in the age of the post-60's protest movements, Wild Children approaches them in the post-internet digital revolution, the Anonymous movement, hacktivism, Occupy, Wikileaks.

Its a comic about comics, based on comics about comics, that have been deconstructed for a decade over internet message boards until they became something completely different. I can see readers rolling their eyes at every page, in a couple months i may too, but for right now i am fascinated by the balls behind this thing. It's both new and old, and dying to be ripped apart on 4chan. 

It's a mission statement of whats next, sent from the past to fuck up the present. 

Captain Marvel

There's nothing particularly good or bad about this comic, the script has some bounce to it in the beginning, but that dies a slow cancerous death and descends into exposition and melodrama after page five. The art seems out of place for the most part, its in an inky Rafael Albuquerque style that doesn't work with the script very well. That's not to say it's not good, it's just out of place.

The whole time reading this i was thinking how nice this comic would be if Jamie McKelvie had drawn it and they just cut out the second half and just talked about britpop while at a club full of cute girls. That would have been nice.

What i am getting at is Jamie McKelvie needs to draw more comics about cute girls dancing in clubs.

God i miss Phonogram, when's that coming back? Soon right?

Also mullet.

Fantastic Four 608

This was terrible, but i do want a comic about WW2 Black Panther fighting Japaneses soldiers in a white suit drawn by David Aja now.

Blacksad: A Silent Hell

The only real reason to pick up Blacksad is for the art, and even more specifically for the coloring. Juanjo Guarnido linework is solid with an eye for detail, but his colors are vibrant and lush. That may be why this collection devotes over thirty pages of extra's to his coloring process. His understanding of lighting is probably his most astonishing skill, being able to differentiate between a neon drenched street and a room lit only by candle light, or the shading produced by a tree's canopy, it's awe inspiring.

Juan Diaz Canales scripts are fine, they don't set the world on fire and tend to delve into genre tropes far too often. There are some nice period references and his research shows in the text, but it never really coalesces into something more. Noir and crime stories are always difficult to pull off from a writing point of view, The Third Man isn't remembered for its script but for its atmosphere, but, ultimately, theres just something missing in Canales's script.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Marra Dialogue a.k.a. Bitch Swag

Alec Berry & Shawn Starr / couldn’t come up with a title

Originally published at

Alec Berry: Benjamin Marra is the dude who can’t be told ‘no’ at the moment. The industry, or the side aware of him, has latched onto his work, and no matter what genre, content or heinous thing he draws, the people can’t get enough.

I would place myself in that camp of the faithful. Like most of the industry, I too was unaware of Marra’s comics up until this year, but now after having spent time with them, I find his attitude and passion for creating engrossing, and I feel his comics represent a long forgotten aspect of the medium. Representing, of course, for the betterment of comics.

Marra’s books, while lewd, grotesque and absurd, are keeping this funny book thing on the ground, balancing out the high reaching works of Craig Thompson, or whatever other clone there may be, celebrating some of the roots associated with comics while simply presenting an artist who doesn’t really give a fuck what you think. Marra’s making the shit he wants to see, and from this I feel it’s appropriate we discuss Marra’s work after our previous discussion which pertained to Rob Liefeld. Because Marra, like Liefeld, celebrates the trash entertainment value found in comics, but does so with an energy and charm that cannot be overridden. Yet, as an added bonus, Marra’s comics juxtapose the trash subject matter by presenting astounding craft and draftsmanship, making his books into these bombastic scraps slammed together with staples.

For anyone who spends any time on the comic industry’s side of the internet, this may not be anything new to chat about as Benjamin Marra has become a very well covered, and discussed, cartoonist. You can read just about any interview with the guy and discover what I just wrote, straight from the man himself. But, this aside, he does have a new book out titled Lincoln Washington: Free Man, and I think we would be remiss not to discuss this book because, of all the Marra comics I’ve read, I feel Lincoln Washington is his absolute best. It really brings all the ideas of his work home and houses them under a perfectly illustrated composition.

From the subject matter to the characterization to the humor, this comic performs in every way. And we can’t forget the six panel grids. But, fuck, let me stop. You’re the bigger fan than I. What did you find appealing about Lincoln Washington?

Shawn Starr: I think what makes Marra important is that he makes genuinely fun comics. That seems like an odd statement, but when you examine the landscape of comics in the wake of the 80’s / 90’s intellectual movement (in both art comics via RAW and Art Spiegelman and in the “mainstream” by the likes of Alan Moore and Frank Miller) everything became serious. Too serious. Every comic, from superheroes whose only power was to shoot arrows and look like Robin Hood, to the ‘zine some guy xeroxed on his lunch break about middle-aged samurai kangaroos, was considered the pinnacle of art.

Everything became graphic-novel-this and graphic-novel-that, and comics were thrust into the hands of the mainstream under the guise of “Art”; even the Batman movie was accompanied by a Grant Morrison / Dave McKean “graphic novel” that would grab the attention of none of the moviegoers. Seriously, that book is fucking impenetrable.

Intellectualism is what everybody decided made comics acceptable, I guess. That’s why all those RAW guys live on yachts and pour champagne on bitches all day. Except Spiegelman; he just puts his cigarettes out on their inner-thighs and watches them dance real slow. Real slow. And now no one looks at the kid reading the new issue of Wolverine on the bus weird, because everyone knows how serious Wolverine is. Dude’s got adamantium claws and can’t remember his past. Dostoyevsky, eat your heart out.

Except, none of that’s true.

The problem is that Spiegelman and his disciples looked at EC Comics and MAD Magazine and saw an air of intellectualism in Harvey Kurtzman, and assumed that’s where comics went right, and pumped it up a thousandfold. They abandoned all the horror and humor that made those comics popular for an attempt at respectability. They tried to make comics for the “masses” (those masses being people who hang out at Cambridge coffee houses and try and pick up Grad-Students with an insightful critique of China’s economic development they culled from last year’s New Yorker) and lost what made comics, you know, comics. Liefeld and the Image guys recaptured that to a certain degree, but they were never able to get that underlying intellectualism down. It was a perfect mix, that everyone took the extremes of and lost what made it truly great. (The Wally Wood art didn’t hurt either.)

That air of intellectualism and is an important feature of EC and MAD, no doubt, but its beneath the surface to a large extent, or at least as beneath the surface as a 1950’s comic could be. Kids didn’t read EC and MAD to find out about Cuba’s strategic geo-political value or Soviet Collectivism, they wanted to see poop jokes and ghouls ripping limbs off unsuspecting college students, and Marra perfectly captures that feeling. Gangsta Rap Posse is steeped in the history of Gangsta Rap, but Marra doesn’t allow that to constrain the book. It’s all there if you want it, but the book is first and foremost an exploration of a 12-year old’s perception of NWA and Gangsta Rap. A view warped by the perception that the band itself put forward and the media’s further distortion under Reaganomics skewed morality. He makes comics warped by white suburbia’s fears of the violent, aggressive and subversive extremes of art and culture. Something Robert Crumb would have loved, if he hadn’t turned into a old curmudgeon who yells at his direct (rather than theoretical*) descendants to get off his lawn.

NWA smokes crack, fucks hookers and kills cops. The end. So why not make a comic about that, and not the 10,000th auto-bio comic about how you can’t get laid and no one understands you.
Marra makes fun comics first and foremost. That may be why he can do no wrong (currently), and Lincoln Washington is his best effort yet. It’s the exploitation movie Tarantino wishes he could make (and may now have) done in twenty-three expertly crafted pages. Even his use (along with the current crop of art/alt-comics creators) of the comics pamphlet is revolutionary; a back to basics approach to comic making in the strain of the original EC Comics shock aesthetic, reproduced on the disposable newsprint (which American Psycho used perfectly) that created the ideal of the trash culture of comics. No more multi-arc genre deconstructions based on a Yeats poem the author misunderstood, just single issue fistfights, with a little something more if you want it. Straight up comics.

Even Marra’s books that end with a “to be continued…” read more like a threat than a promise of more to come. Maybe Marra has a Lincoln Washington #2 in mind, but #1 did everything I wanted and more. I’m not sure comics could handle a follow up.

I don’t know. I’ve had enough of intellectualism and pseudo-realism in my comics. They have their place, i just don’t think that place is at the forefront anymore. I just want comics to be comics again, and Marra (and company) captures that aesthetic perfectly.

Also on your point of Marra’s apparent “lewdness” do you actually see his comics as “lewd” or is it his use of violence and sexuality for satirical purposes that causes that feeling? I assume that’s his intent, to create lewd and obscene work, but I don’t think any Marra book is as violent as anything that DC puts out (just look at an issue of Green Lantern and you’ll see a female in far skimpier attire than anything Marra depicts disemboweled for 20 pages at a time) or as sexual. If anything it’s less, since Marra is depicting a slave ripping out his “owners” spine purely for laughs (even the slave-owners rape of Lincoln Washington’s wife, although horrific, is done with the readers knowledge that he’s going to get what’s coming to him sooner rather than later). Maybe the problem is that Marra makes the reader complacent, or even proactive in the violence? I know when I saw what happened to everyone I was gleeful. I literally rushed out to make my brother read it and point out panels to him. While when you read the same thing in a Batman comic you’re kind of disturbed by the whole experience. Batman’s real, or at least his world is portrayed as real, Marra’s is always firmly dealing in the fictional.

AB: While the content plays into the humor or Marra’s fascination with trash entertainment, it is, by nature, still provocative, and I wouldn’t go as far as to say a DC or Marvel comic is worse or just as bad. Maybe in terms of the context, yes, a Marvel or DC can take a lighthearted thing like Green Lantern and pervert it through violence or an overly serious tone, but the violence, by itself, is still technically worse and more explicit in a Marra book. But it can feel lighthearted, as you say, because of association through humor or knowing exactly what you’re reading from the start. Batman going out and raping someone or whatever will come at more of a shock and leave more of an impact (that’s for you, Joey) just because of the expectations placed on a Batman comic. A Ben Marra comic brings with it a whole other bag of expectations. So, to a degree, I can agree with your point.

I’m not trying to demean Marra’s subjects or make these comics out to be offensive. In fact, I find the lewd quality as a definite benefit to the work because I feel it helps accomplish the mission of what Marra’s doing, in that, these are w to people. You should read Gangsta Rap Posse or Night Business alone in your room, and when your mom walks in, tuck it under the bed.. It brings back that idea of hiding shit from your parents. Like, even now in my own apartment, I stack Marra’s stuff underneath other comics because I don’t want someone to walk into my room and get any ideas about the shit I’m into. But again, that’s cool. Like you usually say, “comics as weapons.” Or comics being the poison which ruins your kids. I love that concept or perspective on the medium.

I like your thought on Marra’s violence making a reader more proactive because I do think he uses violence in such a way, as do stories or entertainment of this sort. Especially for this subject matter where good and evil are so black and white (no pun intended). You can’t help but cheer Lincoln Washington on. And that even comes down to the characterization. Washington is such a set-in-stone hero and the Klansmen are such vile pieces of shit. Nothing’s grey, and it completely dodges this current idea of what we see in super hero comics or other stories in general. Every character has turned into a washboard, contemplating life’s big questions before acting. Marra’s characters just do what they do without any further thought. Bad real life practice, great fictional stance.

But as for participating in that violence, or anticipating it, banking on it … I do find that an interesting way to read into people. Trash entertainment, being what it is, speaks to that savage side of us. That side that’s not really concerned about the consequences but just wants bloodshed, tits and hard drugs. You could go into a whole debate about whether it’s a good thing to stir up that side of our psyche or not, but I feel the point is it’s there. We possess such an instinct, and storytelling such as this feeds or at least exercises that shit out in a relatively safe way.

There’s more to say about these types of work than just wish fulfillment or humor. Maybe they help keep us sane?

For Lincoln Washington, it’s about payback. It’s about rubbing shit in the white man’s face as well as confronting some of that white guilt – on top of being about a man ripping another guy’s spine out. And it all sort of satisfies by the end, no matter the reader’s skin color, because you feel in a sense justice has been rightfully served, fictionally. But though fiction, it still hits and means something. The reaction either is one of they got what they deserved, or I, being the white man, totally needed my ass kicked.

Maybe that’s an unnecessary reading, but I like the idea of Marra’s work both being trash as well as well-thought out and intelligent. I feel much of that resides in Lincoln Washington, and it builds a little on what you were saying about the violence inciting a proactive response. The violence has a purpose. Like all the best stories.

How did you feel about the inking style on this book? It sort of reverted back, in a sense, to what he did before Gangsta Rap Posse #2. Does it fit the book for you? I would say so. The bold blacks certainly give the story more of a defined stance, and the inking really helps to depict Washington’s character as this bad ass hero type who appears cut from stone.

SS: He certainly has a lot more spot blacks in Lincoln Washington, a contrast from his last work (Gangsta Rap Posse #2) which was all line work. I’m not sure if it’s a reversion, though. His early inking style is quite heavy handed, while Lincoln Washington’s inking seems like more of a continuation from Gangsta Rap Posse than a reversion. His inking here is more restrained than his previous works, and utilized with greater purpose, something that I wouldn’t generally identify with Marra. By doing away with all the excess inking, Marra seems to have figured out when and where it’s absolutely necessary to the story and leave it out in any other instance.

In Gangsta Rap Posse #2 Marra choose not to distinguish the black cast from the white with any additional shading or color, that probably stems from  trying to keep the colors (black & white) in balance on the page, along with streamlining the process. It works on that project, and there’s a definite improvement in the art between issues #1 and #2, but in Lincoln Washington it needed the blacks to distinguish the character from his surroundings.

Lincoln Washington is the only black character in the book (except for his wife, who appears for a total of three pages), and he’s entering an “alien” and hostile place (Post-Civil War South), so his color has to be at the forefront, requiring a heavy shading/color process to separate him from the white residence. What could be ignored in Gangsta Rap Posse really can’t in Lincoln Washington. Race is a far more prominent detail.

If you look at the first page of Lincoln Washington, the only two objects that are completely black are Lincoln Washington and the title “O’ Sins of Men, What Demon Fathered You” which both distinguishes Lincoln from his surroundings and connects him with the title explicitly, the title both works as a comment on the sins of racism (America’s original sin) and Lincoln Washington, who is a man empowered by the souls of slaves to avenge the wrong doings perpetrated by white slaveholders. The colors are used as a way of separating and defining Lincoln as a character.

I also want to expand on Marra’s use of the six panel grid which you touched on. His layouts are simple, concise, and have a great 1-2 beat, while the nine panel grid always seemed too dense (probably due to its association with Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s Watchmen) and anything less reads too fast (Widescreen comics and their Three/Four panel grid for example are closely associated with decompression). The six panel grid allows Marra to tell a whole story, both between each panel, and over the course of twenty-three pages, without any sense of decompression, or limiting his artwork by confining it in an overly dense panel.

Marra’s ability to keep his pages kinetic has always impressed me, and I think the six panel grid has a lot to do with it. He has a particularly stiff line compared to most artists, which he uses to a great effect in showing his characters body language and adding a subtle hint of contrast between his characters by playing with their bodies “stiffness” and “looseness” on the page. But his line’s stiffness never seems to constrain the action. Everything’s in constant motion on a Marra page, making it seem that each panel is being pushed into the next. I think this is where the grids’ simplicity comes into effect. It allows the action to flow smoothly from one panel to another while still remaining clear and rhythmic, which Marra uses to offset anything static about his line work.

AB: This Matt Seneca interview with Marra is a great read, if you haven’t already.

I’d say you summed it all up nicely, Shawn; therefore, I’m going to let it go at that.

Purchase Lincoln Washington: Free Man here. That is a demand.


*Johnny Ryan and Ben Marra have more in common with Crumb content wise (especially Crumbs early work) than every artist RAW published combined, and yet Crumb identifies with the latter instead of the former. Going so far as to criticize Johnny Ryan for his content. Which always seemed odd from a man who started out drawing a mixture of racist and perverted comics meant to offend squares in San Francisco.

"Filling Words"

So we filed our last Spandexless Reads column this week, you may have missed it due to it being posted at 7pm on a Saturday night over SDCC weekend, i doubt that was intentional, and merely an editorial oversight. I mean who's supposed to know when columns go up? Sure as fuck ain't me.

I liked that final column, Alec writes a nice good bye and keeps things professional. If there's one thing that guy is, its professional. Chad and Rick contributed stellar entries, Joey abstained (or simply stopped caring to contribute, either one is likely), and i wrote a 1,200 word pile of petty bullshit. Because that's who i am.

We were fired because we changed the focus of the column from short snippets on what we were reading (akin to every other site on the internet) into something more focused on long form discussions of creators work, interviews, and essays ranging from Manga's use of violence to european erotica to old Ed Brubaker comics, and that was all very unacceptable. It broached the readers trust, and trust is paramount to everything i guess.

What they objected to was everything that i loved about that column, it was unwieldy, unpredictable and unrelenting. It started out as a derivative thing that aspired to be just that, and evolved into a jam piece that we could all fuck around with each week.

What they saw as us "filling words", i saw as evolving past a stale premise.

But, hey, whatever it's their site. I hear they got a great scoop on some My Little Pony comics. So goodluck to them.

Column highlights (for me):

Alec Berry's essays on The Nightly News and The End of the Fucking World. Those were gangbuster.

Everything Rick Vance wrote, not one dud in the bunch.

Getting an article that discussed wizard throat rape onto Spandexless.

Getting to write in the same column as Chad Nevett, that was a fucking cool.

My and Alec's 8,000 word discussion of Rob Liefelds Youngblood #1. That bordered on hedonistic.

Getting Joey Aulisio to write anything.

Oh and those time's Ben Marra linked to something I wrote and didn't hate it.


Hey, this was under 400 words. I think i got the "being concise" thing down. Can we have our non-paying jobs back now?

No... oh, ok.


Friday, July 6, 2012

spotting deer: a conversation between shawn starr and joey aulisio

Shawn Starr: Michael DeForge straddles the line between the alt-comics premiere horror creator and the next Clowes. His primary book, Lose, is probably the clearest example of this. Lose #2 tells the story of a child befriending an animal and finding happiness. While that sounds like a made for Disney Channel movie (I’m fairly certain that’s the plot to Air Bud only without basketball and an evil clown), DeForge depicts the child not in the Disneyfied “I just moved to a new town that banned Basketball because the preacher didn’t like all the gyrations” pre-teen angst way, but instead as an insular and bullied child. But, not to be reduced to a pure Clowes-ian mix of depression and cynicism, DeForge injects a horror element. The child’s new best friend is a severed horse head piloted by an “alien” spider who infects the child’s tormentors with a horrendous rash and whose offspring eventually overrun the city. Even his artwork is a mix of Clowes’s clean line mixed with Ware’s geometric circles, only with an added layer of sweat and grime to make it his own.

In a review, Stephen Bissette said he would have loved to publish Incinerator in Taboo, which is a perfect way to describe DeForge’s output. A horror artist / anthology that became so much more (from a re-imagining of EC to the publisher of From Hell). Even his short in Thickness #2 (College Girls By Night) takes the genre tropes and overt social commentary of old EC horror stories and adds layers of depth that those stories could never achieve. It’s a simple werewolf story that’s inverted into a commentary on transgender sexuality and gender identity.

Dudes got chops.

Spotting Deer, like Lose and Thickness, takes on a familiar format and twists it into something new. Riffing on old nature documentaries (the kind you watched when you Biology teacher is out sick), DeForge creates a near perfect homage. All the story beats are there, the uncomfortable section on mating rituals (DeForge’s depiction of the “Sexual Aqueduct” perfectly captures that feeling of awkwardness experienced in a sixth grade classroom) and the oddly nationalistic / hyperbolic statement on the animals importance in popular culture and ecosystem. The book is even designed like an old CRT monitor, and its use of the four panel grid is reminiscent of a slideshow presentation.Even the close up of the “Snout” resembles one of those cheap plastic anatomy figures you’d find in a high school science class.

So, Joey, what makes this your favorite work by DeForge?

Joey Aulisio: It’s not just my favorite work by DeForge but probably one of my favorite comics period. I told a story on a chemical box episode about how I read this comic and nothing else, every single day for about a month. Something about this book just hooked me like few other books in recent years have.That said, I have found it difficult to explain why it resonated with me so much. What I can figure is that at the time I read it, I was going through a phase where I was just sick of comics and “comics culture” and really contemplated disengaging with it permanently. I don’t know what your interpretation of the story is, but I saw it as Deforge going through that same line of thought.
I think DeForge started out trying to make a book savaging the “fanboys” and then by the end realizing he was just like them, which was the real horror of it all. That moment of realization rendered by DeForge is truly chilling, nobody draws disappointment and disgust quite like him. A turn of the cheek says a thousand words.

Shawn Starr: I hadn’t considered that reading. It certainly makes the last page hit a lot harder. Obsessing over Spotting Deer (or comics) for years and writing a book, just to be asked “Why?” during a reading. Then to add insult to injury, watching your life’s work end up on a bargain table and ultimately the dump being picked over by wildlife.

I think the “savaging” is to intimate to be from a fanboy. My reading of it is more as an affirmation of DeForge place as a cartoonist. He may have started as an outside figure (the writer), but once he (the writer) appears it moves away from the first half’s exploration of “herd” (nerd) culture and becomes explicitly about cartooning.

The panel when the writer takes a picture of the spotted deer reminds me of those old Sci-Fi shows when people switch bodies or imprint their conscience on someone else. From that panel on, I think DeForge realized he was one of the spotted deer. A part of the “study group”. It’s even more explicit on the next page when all the “deers” social anxieties are superimposed over the writer’s image.
Then there is the “Deer in Society” section, moving away from home to the city (but not before being ostracized by your family / community), the “ink spot” neighborhoods, the livejournal communities and the “pay farms” where their “psychic meat” adapts the characteristics of other products; It seems to all be there, the artist communities, the livejournal groups (now twitter), DeForge’s work as a storyboard artist (along with countless other cartoonists).

Joey Aulisio: Maybe you are right in that a “savaging of fanboys” is too easy a way to reconcile this work, and it’s actually just about being a cartoonist/working in comics or maybe just working in a creative field to paint with a broader brush. It still seems like what DeForge is talking about is very specific to comics though (and how could it not be considering it was presented in comic form).
Comics have a certain stigma to them that other mediums do not have, you get the impression that if you worked for 20 years in comics and weren’t successful, most people would say “well why did you waste your time on these silly things” (you would probably get that reaction even if you were a success in comics, let’s be honest) whereas replace comics with film, literature, music, etc. the response would be “well at least you gave it a shot, you tried to live your dream”. Failure in other mediums is still viewed as more triumphant than a success in comics which is still viewed as tragic or sad.

Now take Deforge, clearly a master of his craft just a few years into the game. He’s someone that sits heads and shoulders above his peers, and I guarantee he has been given more attention for working on Adventure Time (or his 5 page Adventure Time story) than anything he has done in comics. That has to get to you after awhile. When the writer at the end stands on that podium and gets asked basically “why do you keep doing this?”, it really hits that point home and must be hard for you to reconcile after a certain point.

I am sure working in comics can be fun, but from all accounts it seems to be rather exhausting most of the time with little reward. “Depression. Anxiety Attacks, Migraines. and Sleep Disorders”, comics will destroy you if you let them. Now you sit in front of a desk drawing away at things that mean so much to you, and you put out something you feel proud of just to have someone in an audience ask “this is alright, but when are you going to move onto a real thing like a novel or a film?” , and then knowing your work is probably going to end up lining a litter box one day. It’s a sobering thought.

Shawn Starr: Yeah, it difficult to watch Ware and Hernandez remain in relative obscurity, while Mark Millar and Stan Lee are household names. No matter how much talent they bring to the craft, they’re always just making funnybooks. That is, until those funny books become movies.

Since I like to end things on a down note, I guess we’ll end things here.

If you want to read Spotting Deer you can find it here and purchase it here