Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Graphic Lit: The manga of Takehiko Inoue

Those who work in or follow the American comics industry tend to get all giddy when a particular comic book or graphic novel hits the best-seller list or breaks the 100,000 unit mark in sales.

That’s all chump change to manga artist Takehiko Inoue, whose 31-volume basketball series “Slam Dunk” sold more than 100 million copies in Japan. Let me repeat that for extra emphasis: that’s 100 million copies. It was so popular it not only spawned the usual cartoon shows and films, but single-handedly brought about a huge surge of interest in the sport in Japan.

Now “Slam Dunk” is here in the United States, courtesy of Viz (a previous attempt to publish the series by the late Gutsoon! Entertainment never got very far).

It’s not too hard to see why “Dunk” was such a success. It’s a light-hearted, occasionally hilarious sports story that plays on traditional cliches (likable neophyte becomes enamored with sport and works his way up through the ranks against all odds) while adding enough characterization and plot development to keep from becoming stale.

The story centers on sullen tough guy and high school student Hanamachi Sakuragi, who is so unlucky in love he’d settle for just being able to carry a girl’s books home.

So when cute student Haruko takes an interest in the big lug and asks if he, by any chance, plays basketball, it isn’t too long before Hanamachi finds himself trying out for the school team.

It turns out Hanamachi has a talent for the sport, but he’s more than a little cocky, and he bristles up against the coach (who just happens to be Haruko’s brother) and upcoming star player (who Haruko just happens to have a crush on).

All this could come off as rote and tired, but Inoue infuses the manga with humor and warmth. He gets a lot of mileage by making his characters reasonably flawed.

After finishing “Slam Dunk,” Inoue followed up with two more realistic and adult-oriented series, “Real” and “Vagabond.”

Like “Dunk,” “Real” is a basketball manga, though its tone is much more serious.

The main characters are Nomiya, a goofy high school dropout who feels guilt over a motorcycle accident that left a young woman paralyzed, and Togawa, an angry young man who is confined to a wheelchair after a bout with bone cancer. Though antagonists at first, they bond over their mutual love of basketball.

If all that’s not enough, there’s the subplot involving the jerky basketball team leader whose spur of the moment bicycle theft leads him to become — you guessed it — paralyzed.

Though Inoue’s art is more detailed and realistic here, a lot of the humor has been drained. As a result, “Real” has a pretentious, melodramatic feel that drags it down. Unlike “Dunk,” in “Real” the traditional boys manga cliches tend to overwhelm the work — you can see plot twists coming a mile away. Worse yet, you get the feeling Inoue is taking himself a bit too seriously.

Much better is “Vagabond,” Inoue’s adaptation of Eiji Yoshikawa’s novel “Musashi,” a fictional biography of Japan’s most renowned samurai, Miyamoto Musashi.

Like “Real,” “Vagabond” is a much more adult and serious manga.

The real draw, however, is Inoue’s art, which is rarely anything less than sumptuous. Though bloody, “Vagabond” has a compelling, elegant feel that draws the reader in. Ultimately, I prefer the visual horseplay of “Slam Dunk,” but “Vagabond” has enough going for it to warrant your attention.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2008

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Oh OK, I'll play along

See here and here for details.

Plain = Things I don't have
Bold = Things I do have
Italics = I have some but probably not enough
Underline = Do collections count as runs? If so yes, if no no

1. Something From The ACME Novelty Library
2. A Complete Run Of Arcade
3. Any Number Of Mini-Comics
4. At Least One Pogo Book From The 1950s (my mom's cousin has an impressive collection of these though).
5. A Barnaby Collection
6. Binky Brown and the Holy Virgin Mary (It's included in the Binky Brown Sampler, so I feel safe bolding this one).
7. As Many Issues of RAW as You Can Place Your Hands On (Of the first run, I only have the Read Yourself Raw collection, but I do have all the later Penguin anthologies).
8. A Little Stack of Archie Comics (these are really my daughter's, but she shares).
9. A Suite of Modern Literary Graphic Novels
10. Several Tintin Albums (I'm a Tintin junkie).
11. A Smattering Of Treasury Editions Or Similarly Oversized Books
12. Several Significant Runs of Alternative Comic Book Series
13. A Few Early Comic Strip Collections To Your Taste
14. Several "Indy Comics" From Their Heyday
15. At Least One Comic Book From When You First Started Reading Comic Books (Sadly, most of my original collection has gone the way of the dustbin, twas so overread).
16. At Least One Comic That Failed to Finish The Way It Planned To
17. Some Osamu Tezuka
18. The Entire Run Of At Least One Manga Series
19. One Or Two 1970s Doonesbury Collections
20. At Least One Saul Steinberg Hardcover (I have the book that came with the recent DC exhibition of Steinberg's work, but I don't suppose that really counts).
21. One Run of A Comic Strip That You Yourself Have Clipped
22. A Selection of Comics That Interest You That You Can't Explain To Anyone Else
23. At Least One Woodcut Novel (D&Q's reissue of Laurence Hyde's book makes this one an easier proposition).
24. As Much Peanuts As You Can Stand (and I can stands quite a bit).
25. Maus
26. A Significant Sample of R. Crumb's Sketchbooks
27. The original edition of Sick, Sick, Sick.
28. The Smithsonian Collection Of Newspaper Comics
29. Several copies of MAD (I lost most of my old copies of Mad somewhere between adolescence and adulthood, but I still have a few issues filed away here and there).
30. A stack of Jack Kirby 1970s Comic Books
31. More than a few Stan Lee/Jack Kirby 1960s Marvel Comic Books
32. A You're-Too-High-To-Tell Amount of Underground Comix
33. Some Calvin and Hobbes
34. Some Love and Rockets
35. The Marvel Benefit Issue Of Coober Skeber
36. A Few Comics Not In Your Native Tongue
37. A Nice Stack of Jack Chick Comics (I've got a few, but not enough to qualify as a "stack").
38. A Stack of Comics You Can Hand To Anybody's Kid
39. At Least A Few Alan Moore Comics
40. A Comic You Made Yourself (I had a brief bout with self-publishing. The less said about it, the better).
41. A Few Comics About Comics
42. A Run Of Yummy Fur
43. Some Frank Miller Comics
44. Several Lee/Ditko/Romita Amazing Spider-Man Comic Books
45. A Few Great Comics Short Stories
46. A Tijuana Bible (I've got that book of reprints that Art Spiegelman wrote the intro for, and I think it counts).
47. Some Weirdo ("one" qualifies as "some," right?)
48. An Array Of Comics In Various Non-Superhero Genres
49. An Editorial Cartoonist's Collection or Two
50. A Few Collections From New Yorker Cartoonists

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

From the vault: God Hates Cartoons

Note: This review originally appeared in issue #252 of the Comics Journal

“God Hates Cartoons
Bright Red Rocket


If I were to tell you about a new comic anthology featuring work by such artists as Tony Millionaire, Sam Henderson, Ivan Brunetti, Kaz, Walt Holcombe and Jim Woodring, no doubt many of you would be quickly updating your Christmas list. If I were to tell you that said artists’ work was featured not in a comic, but in a new collection of animated shorts, just released on DVD, no doubt many more of you would be doubly intrigued, if not reaching for your wallets.

Well, slow down there pardner, put that billfold back in your pocket. The sad truth is that while such a DVD, “God Hates Cartoons from a company called Bright Red Rocket, does indeed exist, the whole is a good deal less than the sum of its parts.

The compendium starts off strong with a particularly funny contribution from Mark Newgarden. “Cartoons and You” is an amusing parody of a public-service announcement, featuring a chirping little doodle that warns us of the dangers of watching too many animated shorts.

The collection quickly deteriorates from there, however, with “My Friend God” a tired superhero parody involving action figures that’s been done to the point where you can see this type of thing on Nickelodeon.

Other, more notable contributions fare little better. By all accounts, Sam Henderson’s “Lonely Robot Duckling” should be a laugh-filled affair. After all, the original material it’s based off of was great. Yet this adaptation comes off as strangely muted. The timing seems off and the pacing is uneven, even though the whole thing only lasts about two minutes. Overall, it feels amateurish in the bad sense of the word, which is odd since it comes from someone who works on SpongeBob SquarePants (there’s Nickelodeon again).

Tony Millionaire’s “Maakies” are short run-and-go segments lifted straight from the strip. While it’s great to see Millionaire’s work in full color, the segments, again, seem stilted and not nearly as manic or funny as the original material.

And so it goes. Even at a little under an hour, “God Hates Cartoons” feels too long. Virtually every contribution comes off slow or awkward, and the variety of sophomoric toilet humor seemed too obvious or trite to garner so much as a guffaw from me (the two Kaz pieces barely even resemble the original strip).

It’s odd perhaps that what I once laughed at on paper somehow seems so humorless when animated. It could be just a result of poor translation, but to some extent I think there are other forces at work here. Just as you can get away with a certain level of violence and satire in a cartoon that you could never do in a film using live actors (at least not without a great deal of difficulty), so too can what seems offensive but funny in a comic strip come off as just offensive in an animated cartoon. There’s something about reading Ivan Brunetti’s “Diaper Dyke and Captain Boyfuck” strips vs. watching the characters move and talk through my TV. Somehow that distance needed to keep that kind of edgy humor alive has been breached and it falls flat.

The only two bright spots in the collection come from Walt Holcombe and Jim Woodring. Holcombe’s “The Courtship of Sniffy LaPants” beautifully captures the blend of melancholy and slapstick familiar to readers of “Poot.” On top of that it’s the best looking of the bunch as well, with wonderfully stylized animation and brilliant use of color. And it’s pretty funny too.

Jim Woodring’s “Whimgrinder,” meanwhile, is everything you’ve come to expect from a “Frank” story. Disturbing, evocative, black humor amidst a surreal and treacherous landscape. Though only a few seconds long and soundless, it manages to do what none of the other cartoons do, leave you wanting more.

Those who purchase DVDs for their extra features will no doubt be doubly disappointed with “God Hates Cartoons” as there are no real special features to speak of, barring some text biographies of the cartoonists involved. Some artists, like Kaz have included slide shows of their various artwork, but by and large it’s a no-frills affair. Would it really have been that difficult to include interviews with the various creators talking about their contributions?

Normally at this point in the review I’d say just rent the damn thing, if for no other reason than to see the Woodring and Holcombe pieces. Yet I doubt whether your local Blockbuster or Hollywood video store will carry such an obscure item. Part of me wants to say just buy the thing anyway, since you’d be showing your support for a number of struggling artists and Bright Red Rocket seems like a nice company that wants to expose people to good work. The fact remains though; that your $25 would be better spent buying up the original comics by these individual authors than on this DVD. So how about this then: If you’ve got everything else by all of these contributors, and you absolutely, positively need to have more, even if it’s not very good stuff, then get this DVD. But only then.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Graphic Lit: An interview with Eddie Campbell

He’s done historical fiction, horror, superheroes, adventure stories, sly updates on Greek mythology and (most notably) autobiography. But acclaimed artist and author Eddie Campbell has never once written a book about the circus.

Until now. In his latest graphic novel, “The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard,” Campbell, along with co-author Dan Best, details the life and times of Etienne Leotard, nephew of the famous trapeze artist Jules Leotard, whose work he is forced to continue after his uncle’s untimely death.

It’s a delightful lark of a book, silly and sly while also sincere and moving at times, with Etienne stumbling into one major event after another without ever attaining true fame.

I talked to Campbell while he was in New York City promoting “Leotard.” Here’s what he had to say about the book.

Q: How’s the tour going?

A: It’s exhausting but I’m almost done. I’m at that stage where I’m washing socks in the hotel sink. (laughs) I think one more pair of socks will get me through till Sunday when I’m home with my parents.

Q: How did the concept for Leotard come about?

A: I almost can’t remember where I read this because you never realize the moment of inspiration when it actually happens in retrospect. It’s something that Will Eisner said and therefore I can’t remember where he said it or even if was actually him that said it or Michael Chabon, but he said that all the characters in modern comic books have their antecedents, their prototypes, in the old circus.

I gave this a test, let’s say the Fantastic Four. Obviously that would be India rubber man, the fire breather, the strong man and the girl who disappears in the magician’s cabinet. And all the mutants would be the sideshow freaks. You see what I mean?

There’s a certain type that interests me. Do you remember in the 1940s they started giving the heroes all got to have a midget as a sidekick?

Q: Yeah, like Green Lantern with —

A: Doiby Dickels. He’s my favorite. Or Plastic Man had Woozy Winks. And the Spirit had Ebony White. So my guy Leotard has this midget clown called Zany that follows him around everywhere as his sidekick.

Have you seen the book?

Q: Yeah. I got it twice actually. I just finished reading the color one last night. I had gotten a black and white version earlier.

A: I was annoyed at them for doing that because if ever there was a book that had to be seen in color it’s this one. It’s full of bogus circus posters using the typography of 19th-century circus posters. Every few pages the narrative is carried forward by a double page spread circus poster.

Q: Yeah, the full-color version definitely improves the reading experience.

A: I’m glad you saw that then. I was annoyed with them.

Q: Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like starting with Fate of the Artist you’ve been doing more watercolor work.

A: The first opportunity I had to do that was with the Batman book, “The Order of Beasts.” I remember we sold them the script first and then I thought “right now I’ll approach the subject.” I said to Joey Cavalieri, “Now I’d like to draw it myself,” and he said “Oh.” He did a double-take. He couldn’t see my style in a Batman comic. I pointed out I had drawn eight pages of the X-Men.

I said to Joey “And I’d like to paint it.” And he said “Oh, hold on, we can’t do that. It’s too expensive.”

“No, no. You just give me what you’d give a guy for penciling, inking and coloring it and I’ll give you the whole package all on a disk, all ready. I’ll even put the lettering on." Which we did. We packaged the whole thing in house. They just had to stick a cover on.

Q: What does doing that give you, particularly on a book like Leotard, that using another method wouldn’t?

A: I never really used computer coloring, although I told a lie in that Publishers Weekly interview. Actually I told six lies. The interviewer didn’t seem to know who I was. So I thought “I’ll just lie” and I invented a complete fabric of fictions.

I have to put on a different hat when I try to draw in black and white. I’ve always wanted to paint a whole book and never got the chance until just recently. Since 2004 I’ve done a color job once a year. I just love it. I love to throw the colors around and mix them up. The computer guys, they just throw in one flat color and then muddle it. They have to cause they don’t know what else to do. It’s all purple and blacks in the comic books these days.

Every book should have a different color, a different personality. Int he Black Diamond Detective Agency last year, that was all greens and ochers with an occasional outburst of crimson. That was its color character. This one I wanted to have all the primary colors with the lithographic posters of the period.

Q: Speaking of purple you’ve got that beautiful two-page sequence where —

A: Oh yeah, that’s pure purple. That’s deep. The purple of a mystical midnight.

Q: How did you end up working with Dan Best on the project?

A: Dan’s a lawyer by day. There’s a bunch of chartered accountants and lawyers I meet for lunch once a week. All my pals wear suits and ties. They’re comic book enthusiasts. In fact they’ve all ended up doing comic books on the side. One of them commented recently, "How do you get into comics? Well, the quickest way is to buy Eddie Campbell a drink.”

The idea started as that abstract Will Eisner observation. He had the idea that this could be a book and started finding characters. We had already had the idea for a book that would span the late 19th century. We could have characters Forrest Gump-ing their way through the great historical moments from the siege of Paris to the sinking of the Titanic. There’s a 50-year span there and we find this guy Jules Leotard, who was the original "Man on the Flying Trapeze." They wrote the song about him. He’s not named in the song, but he was the inspiration.

He was the Elvis of his day. He was a handsome man and loved by the ladies. He was the first man to wear the tight-fitting costume in a circus act. And he filled it very well apparently. It later became named after him, the leotard.

But for our purposes, he died at the early age of 28 in 1868 of smallpox. He was like the James Dean of his time. But he was of no use to us. So our conceit is that he dies on page 12 and the book is about his much less interesting nephew. And there’s another tie-in to the modern superhero, it’s a man with a secret identity. He’s got a false mustache and pretends to be the great circus star Leotard.

Q: Is there any basis in fact for the nephew?

A: No, we had to make him up. He was an act of desperation.

Q: Can you give me a blow-by-blow account of how the two of you worked on the book?

A: Dan would just keep supplying me with stuff, pages and pages of characters and directions. I told him at the beginning he was going to have to do it on a page by page basis because I could change the direction of the thing at any moment. He wasn’t to write to far ahead in case I derailed the thing and went off at an angle.

For instance, not being a comics writer of long experience he tended to write dialogue that was too much. And I was shortening it and selecting from it and using the bits I needed. So that I’d used up all the material at one point, far ahead of when I was supposed to.

We had 10 years we had to fill to the next important episode and I thought what are we going to do. That’s when we had the idea of having him go to sleep. He tucks himself into bed and then he wakes up 10 years later like some Rip Van Winkle. Suddenly he’s got Grey hair. That was one way of jumping the 10 years. But that’s how it came about. It was just a humorous solution to the fact that I’d used up all the material.

Q: You’ve done a lot of collaboration but you’re equally well known for working alone on things like the Alec series. Do you have a preference?

A: It varies. I like working with fresh ideas that don’t come naturally to me. I enjoyed doing the "Black Diamond Detective Agency" even though it was kind of an odd thing for me to be doing. It’s an odd book altogether. It’s not quite a Western. I call it a mid-Western. It does take place in Chicago.

I do like the challenge, although I consider my core work, my pure work to be my autobiographical work. That’s the work I’d like to be remembered for. “And he also did these other things.” In fact, I’m hoping to be taking that work to another level over the next year because I’ve got a TV show in development.

Q: I heard about that.

A: Has that gone all around the Internet while I’ve been traveling?

Q: Yeah.

A: I haven’t had a chance to get online in days. A couple of producers came to me. They wanted to adapt The Fate of the Artist.” I think they’d seen American Splendor and said "This is great. We should do something like this.” I think they started to see a way of developing the idea further, of adding to it or expanding it. They just needed something to work with.

So they came to me with the idea of optioning "Fate" and I said “Well, I’ve got all these other books too.” They were overjoyed at this huge fount of material to work with. They had originally approached a network -- I can’t name it, it’s not far enough long yet where they’re comfortable with me giving names -- but they approached the network with a plan.

It was originally only going to be these little five-minute things. The network said "This is great material. This is worth the full treatment." So we’re writing it up as a series of eight half-hour shows. It’s going to be a big thing. We’re in development, which means we’ve raised funding to come up with a script, casting, costing and a synopsis for the whole series. I don’t know how far ahead they are because I’ve been on the road for a few weeks. I’m hoping in a couple of months we’ll be green lit and get into production, but you know how these things go. But it’s kind of exciting. That’s what I really want to be working on.

In line with that we’re bringing out the Alec Omnibus.

Q: When is that coming out?

A: That’s definitely coming out next year. It’s all finished except for a couple of pages that I have to fill in. But it’s going to be 640 pages. It’s everything except "Fate of the Artist" which is in color and with another publisher.

Q: So it’s everything up to "After the Snooter?"

A: Yes, except I’ve added a 35-page book at the end that brings it bang up to date. I’ve got the "History of Humor" in there as well.

Q: Are the small books like "Graffiti Kitchen" —

A: They’re all in there. And they’re in chronological order so you can see everybody growing up like in "Gasoline Alley." You can see the kids growing up year by year.

Q: And Top Shelf is putting that out?

A Yeah. I’m excited about that. We’re calling it the "Alec Omnibus," but we want to see what title the TV show ends up with because it’s got three or four titles right now. It would be great if we could have the book tie in somehow.

Q: Well it seems like every big book that comes out is an Omnibus now.

A: Or what is that Sandman book called. Ultimate?

Q: Absolute. The Absolute Alec.

A: That’s why the first one was called the Complete Alec. It wasn’t that it was actually complete. It was more like, you know how you say “He’s a complete idiot?” (laughter) He’s an absolute fool. I’ll pass that along to the editors.

Q: Getting back to Leotard for a minute, it’s striking how experimental it is. You do a lot of breaking the fourth wall, you put a lot of stuff in the marginalia. You’ve got this four-panel grid structure and then you mess with it as much as possible, depending on the situation. Can you talk about some of the choices you made as opposed to doing a more straightforward narrative?

A: I’d been wanting to do something with — I’ve talked about the uses of the margins in medieval manuscripts in "The History of Humor." Michael Camille, the writer on medieval art had died at the young age of 49 a few years ago. A very insightful academic. But he had an idea in explaining marginalia because why are these grotesques and ugly things and obscenities going on in the margins of these holy books? What’s going on there, what’s the point?

He had an idea that the page is the universe and at the center is everything that’s good and holy. Evil is on the fringes, on the outside. That’s why you have the gargoyles on medieval churches. They’re on the outside. The worst thing you could be in those days was outside the church. To be excluded or pushed to the fringes. The page as a representation as everything.

I decided to try and use that so that in my book life is in the middle and the margin is outside. It’s a symbolic commentary on life or footnotes or the author can be in the margin. Characters once they’ve died can have a life in the margin. They can pop up there to make commentary or get messages to the living. By the time this book has finished all the characters have ended up in the margins. There’s nothing going on in the center. Everyone’s in the margins talking amongst themselves. That was the idea behind it.
Q: You also do some things with your two page spreads like using the music sheets in the beginning or the two-panel watercolor done in the childish style. You break up the basic structure like the newspaper article on Zany.

A: This was fun. This is a real book of fun. It’s a book of novelty and conundrum and imaginative diversions. One of me first reviewers said it was so diverse it wasn’t a story. That struck me as an odd comment.

Q: You mention how Etienne is the lesser nephew and it struck me that despite all his fantastic adventures, he never attains any success or happiness.

A: He’s an everyman. He’s a lovable everyman. And yet he’s loved. The point was he was loved by those around him whereas Leotard — nobody cheered when they realized he was still alive. Until they saw it was Etienne. Leotard’s the famous one, but they held him in suspicion and disregard.

Q: There’s definitely a theme of community or family that runs through the book. Is that something you consciously wanted to explore?

A: Yeah. I wanted to create a lovable book. Having made books like From Hell, which are terrifying and frightening. I wanted to do a book without being sentimental, that would be warm and enduring without being syrupy and saccharine.

Q: At the same time there’s a sorrowful thread that runs through the book.

A: There’s a melancholy, yeah. There’s a melancholy glee through the whole thing.

Q: They board that ship to rescue Zany and of course with their luck it happens to be the Titanic. They have no luck at all. They can’t catch a break (laughter). Is that something you were aware of as well, or was it simply putting the characters through their paces?

A: There’s a theme I always come back to in my work, the theme of fate that no matter what we do we’re screwed. That’s one of the overriding themes in my work. The idea behind "Fate of the Artist" is that I’ve never met an artist or read about an artist that ended up happy. Everyone ends up disgruntled and pissed off.

Q: A lot of your works, especially recently, have focused on the late 19th, early 20th century. Is there something about that time period that fascinates you.

A: No, it doesn’t really. The one thing I’ve never done is the future. I did an Escapist story set in 1939. There was a Batman story set in '39. From Hell was in the 1890s. And of course Leotards in the 19th century. I think once you’ve done it once, people come to you with those ideas. You tend to gravitate one way without having made a plan or a decision to do so. it’s like the characters in Leotard. They don’t seem to make decisions and see them through. They just get dragged along by an uncaring fate as we were saying a minute ago.

It’s not something I set out to do. I don’t have a master plan where I want to write world history or something. One of my favorite subject of reading is artistic biography, so I’m always reading about the past, whether it’s medieval manuscripts or 19th-century French art. My mind is always prying and perambulating and peregrinating around the past so I suppose I’m bound to pick up story ideas while I’m there.

Q: I was just wondering if there was something about that particular period of time versus say the medieval era —
A: I’d much rather be writing about the modern day. What’s happening here and now is what I think I am writing about. I regard these things set in the past as momentary diversions. I suppose to my readers that’s what I do, draw the past.

Q: Does that bother you? Do you worry about being typecast as the historical fiction guy?

A: No, just so long as they don’t forget me. (laughter) As long as I’m remembered for something.

Q: You’ve worked in a number of genres. Is there any type you haven’t worked on yet that you’d like to?

A: No. I absolutely can’t think of any. It’s odd that I end up doing crime and detective stories a lot. From Hell and Black Diamond. The one thing I don’t like is horror. I don’t know why I ended up doing Jack the Ripper. The reason I think it worked is that it wasn’t drawn by a horror artist. If Bernie Wrightson had drawn that it would have been filled with macabre glee. He loves drawing gas lamps and fog and evil things lurking in street corners. I think "From Hell" worked because it was so mundane. There was no sense of it being in a horror film word where everything is dripping with evil. It was run of the mill workaday life in Victorian England.

I don’t think in terms of genre. I always like to think I was existing outside the world of genre. I would never want to be thought of as a genre writer or artist. I’d rather be somebody who told the world something about life and the way we live it whether it’s in the past present or future. A non-genre if you like.

Q: Did Leotard offer any sort of specific challenges different than your past work?

A: The scale of it. In my autobiographical work I’m drawing people in rooms or bars. There’s a human scale even with from hell. Drawing large scale disasters like the sinking of the Titanic terrified me at first. It’s something outside of my range. I had to think hard about how I was putting that one over.

Q: I liked how you had it as a page from his diary.

A: (laughs) I’d like to have done the whole book as his diary. That was the most enjoyable part. The fact that his diary is such a mess because the footnote keeps telling us that it got waterlogged. But it didn’t get waterlogged at the sinking of the Titanic. What the hell’s waiting up down the line?

Q: What about the idea of the circus as a metaphor for life?

A: You could be right. Even when I was doing this book, I wasn’t particularly interested in the circus. For instance at no point do you ever see how a trapeze works or how a tent is put up or the grubby goings on behind the scenes that is supposed to be the life of a circus. Carny folk. You don’t get any of that in my book. My book is really not about that, which I think you’ve kind of picked up on.

I was more interested in circus posters. I wasn’t interested in the nuts and bolts of real circus or whether they were likeable folk or washed very often. I didn’t care. The glossy presentation to the world or the pleasing and entertaining image of the circus. I wasn’t interested in looking behind the facade. I think in a sense you’re right. To me the whole thing was a metaphor for something else.

Q: You mention the TV show and the upcoming Alec Omnibus. Do you have any other irons in the fire?

A: No, that’s enough to keep me going.

Q: You mention in the PWCW interview you had a book that no one wanted to publish.

A: Oh, I forgot to mention that. I’ve got a book which — it’s actually finished. It’s my next color book. It’s called “The Playwright.” It’s about the sex life of a celibate middle-aged man. I can’t find a publisher that will touch it.

Q: First Second doesn’t want it?

A: It’s kind of outside of their range. I haven't even showed it to them actually. They’re tending mostly to kids books. I don’t think they want to go that way. I don’t think it would be a home for this book. I think Leotard will be good for them because it kind of looks like a kids book on the outside. I just hope they still think that even by the time they get to the bearded pirate.

Q: I think they’re trying to bridge the gap. I think they’ve had the greatest success with their younger books but I think they’re trying to have a foot in the other camp as well.

A: I worry that the whole market is perceived as for kids all over again. The whole thing seems to be obsessed with young readers. I’ve never even heard the expression young readers until the last couple of years but I’ve been offered gigs by two different book illustrating scripts by young reader authors that I’ve never heard of before. What’s going on here?

Q: There’s a lot of jumping on bandwagons, and with the manga craze publishers are looking for a quick graphic novel they can put out. What’s easier than taking an established book and get someone to do a comic version of it?

A: The problem is we’re back to where we started. 30 years ago it was the comic book has grown up and we call it the graphic novel. Last month I read in the Christian Science Monitor, the graphic novel has grown up. We’re back where we started!
Q: I have noticed there’s been a resurgence in deliberately making comics for kids. The difference I suppose is now you’ve got educators wanting to make comics for kids.

A: I think that’s a perfectly good thing, I just feel like I’m getting pushed to the fringes again. I spent all me life on the fringes and now I’m getting pushed back out there. That’s my worry at the moment. As I say I’m having trouble pitching this book around. A few places, they won’t touch it. It’s full of masturbation.

Q: I’d think Top Shelf would want that.

A: It might be Knockabout or Top Shelf. That looks like the way it’s going. I was hoping to get an advance offer from somebody.

Q: Do you miss the days of self-publishing?

A: I got out of it because it became too complicated. Once you’re dealing with the book trade you’re dealing with returns, and stuff like that. When it was just printing comic books monthly, you got the order, you printed what you needed, that’s the end of it. Now it’s all complicated. It’s returns and remainders. It’s another world. We always wanted to bridge that gap or make that interface between the comic book world and the book world but it brings up so many complications it’s too much for one guy. You need more diverse expertise. It’s too much for a one-man operation.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

From the vault: The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby

Note: This review originally appeared in issue #263 of The Comics Journal

“The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby: The First Graphic Novel”
By Dav Pilkey
Scholastic Press $4.99

Why oh why oh why can’t more children’s comics – hell, more comics in general – be as witty, off-the-wall and as gloriously silly as this slight little book? Yes, it’s yet another superhero parody, and yes, as you’ve no doubt guessed from the title, it’s filled with the sort of scatological humor that seems to pervade every aspect of the entertainment world these days until the lowest common denominator has hit negative numbers. And yes, some of the jokes are on the same level as the Bennett Cerf riddle books you used to own as a child (only about poop). So what? “Super Diaper Baby” (a phrase I never thought I’d write in a review) is so thoroughly charming, so cheerfully offensive, so delightfully childish that only the most tight-lipped, blue-nosed, knee-jerk reactionary would be completely immune to its appeal.

Anyone with a child between the ages of nine and 12 (or even a casual interest in kids’ books) should be familiar with Dav Pilkey, as he is the creator of the immensely popular Captain Underpants series. In this spin-off comic, George Beard and Harold Hutchins, two holdovers from the Underpants books, pen the origin of Super Diaper Baby in an ultimately futile attempt to get out of their detention homework. Their story within the story, meanwhile, tells of . . . well, suffice it to say there’s this baby who gains super powers. His nemesis is Deputy Dangerous, who accidentally gets turned into fecal matter. And then there’s Deputy’s sidekick, Danger Dog, who’s just into the whole evil thing for the kibbles. He ends up getting super powers too, and . . . OK, I’m going to stop now.

The Captain Underpants series has dabbled in comics before, but only as short interludes to the main story. This is (as far as I can tell) Pilkey’s first full-length attempt at comics, and he does a good job keeping the action and the humor moving along at a brisk pace. No one would ever confuse his work with Chris Ware, or even Carl Barks, but that’s sorta the point. Since the book is supposed to be drawn by two grade school kids, Pilkey adopts a crude style, but he uses it to his advantage, parodying the inexpressive anatomy and simplistic features you see so often in children’s art. He also pokes fun at their desire when telling stories to get to the good parts and avoid the smaller details that often aid in the telling. (“Deputy Dangerous and Danger Dog went straight to jail. But then they escaped.”) Even though he’s obviously a better artist than the average nine-year-old is, “Super Diaper Baby” feels like kids drew it, perhaps the best compliment I can give Pilkey.

No doubt there are plenty of parents and other adult figures out there that will boycott a book like this based on its content alone. Some might even object to the frequent and deliberate misspellings in the book, fearful that it would encourage bad penmanship from its readers. That’s a shame since the idea of a villain made out of poop is more offensive and disgusting than anything Pilkey does with the concept. And I’d like to think that most young readers would know that you don’t spell pursuit with two “o”s.

The fact is, “Super Diaper Baby” is too eager to please, too busy taking delight in its own impishness to be agitated by it. The book has a manic energy, a spark of goofy joy that puts it high above most of the comics I’ve read this year in terms of pure reading pleasure. And then there’s the fact that it’s really funny. Besides, any comic that contains the phrase “Don’t forget to boycott standardized testing” has already gone a long way to winning me over.


Friday, September 19, 2008

From the vault: Cancer Vixen

Note: this review originally ran in issue #283 of the Comics Journal

Cancer Vixen

By Marisa Acocella Marchetto
Knopf 226 pages, $22 Color, hardcover

Giving the thumbs down to a book like “Cancer Vixen” seems like the critic’s equivalent of kicking puppies or pushing an old lady down the steps. The woman’s a cancer survivor for God’s sake! How can you possibly say mean things about her book in print? The fact remains however, that “Cancer Vixen,” while far from awful, just isn’t very good.

Whenever author Marchetto delves into the nitty gritty of her cancer treatment, she’s on target. She’s got a strong eye for detail, and including things like the fact that the nurses ask your age every time you go in for chemo give the book an intimate feel that helps glide over some of the book’s rough spots.

It’s when she makes a stab at profundity, however, that she fails miserably. Musings like “When you light a candle you illuminate a soul” are asinine when found in a fortune cookie, never mind a graphic novel. And the book has a lot of these moments.

Credit must be given to Marchetto’s willingness to use visual metaphor and play with the panels in order to get her points across. Rather than attempt a straightforward, dry account of her illness, she keeps morphing her images and layout to keep the reader’s eye moving across the page.

The problem is she constantly relies upon the most banal and obvious metaphors to get her points across. Cancer cells are portrayed as frowny faces. Gossipy people are drawn as literally sour grapes. Angry people have nuclear reactors for heads. Even the Grim Reaper puts in an appearance.

Ultimately, “Cancer Vixen” just doesn’t offer enough insight or nuance to push it above the heads of the dozens of other books out there, comics and otherwise, that deal with this type of subject matter. No doubt those who are suffering from this disease will be able to take some comfort from Marchetto’s story. But that in and of itself doesn’t make the book one for the ages. We all share our stories of suffering with those who can relate. We just don’t always publish them.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Graphic Lit: Two 9/11 books

As you no doubt already know, last week was the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Certainly the media have been well aware of the date, as there have been several news stories and nonfiction books published about the event and its aftermath.

Comic publishers have been busy as well. Two new graphic novels — “After 9/11: America’s War on Terror” and “American Widow” — have hit stores in recent weeks.

“After 9/11” by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon is a sequel of sorts to their previous “9/11 Report,” a best-selling adaptation of the 9/11 Commission’s report.

As ambitious as that book was, “After 9/11” is even more so, attempting to provide a detailed timeline of the events that occurred in the years after the attacks, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the investigation into the attacks.

Lest there be any doubt as to the author’s stance on the current administration’s handling of these affairs, they open with a pointed 1994 quote by Dick Cheney, citing the “quagmire” that would occur if the U.S. were to invade Iraq.

Jacobson and Colon’s thesis is simple: The war in Iraq was a needless, trumped-up military exercise that has ruined countless lives, cost us our good reputation abroad and potentially created more terrorists than it stopped.

Unfortunately, the authors muddy the waters considerably.

This is an extremely dense book, packed with names, dates and places, and the inclusion of events such as the Space Shuttle disaster — no doubt included to provide some extra context — only make the book needlessly complicated.

There’s also overreliance on talking heads, especially toward the end of the book, where Colon seems to have discovered PhotoShop, altering photos of world leaders so they look more “drawn.” It’s rather ugly and suggests nothing so much as desperation under a tight deadline.

“After 9/11” is useful as a quick chronological reference of recent events, but it fails on many levels as any sort of narrative art.

“American Widow,” on the other hand, aims to tell a more personal story, namely that of author Alison Torres, whose husband perished in the North Tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.

The book chronicles the following year, as Torres’ attempts to console herself while dealing with the birth of her son, a mound of paper work, unhelpful Red Cross volunteers and the prying media.

Unfortunately, it’s an even less cohesive book than “After 9/11.”

While, to its credit, “Widow” never dissolves into self-pity or solipsism, details often are fuzzy and vague.

Artist Sungyoon Choi’s drawings are nondescript, so there’s no real sense of place. And the narrative jumps around from moment to moment and back and forth in time so often that I found myself frequently lost.

At one point, for example, Torres is given a “family tour” of the disaster and debris sites, but no real explanation is given as to why. A bit more background would have been helpful.

The book is at its best when Torres confronts the red tape apparently given to victims of the disaster.

If she had been as equally detailed in discussing her relationship with her newborn son, late husband and other important people in her family, “American Widow” would have been much better.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2008


Friday, September 12, 2008

VG review: "Civilization Revolution"

2K Games, for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo DS, rated E10+ for ages 10 and up (alcohol and tobacco reference, mild suggestive themes, violence), $59.99 and $29.99.

I've always been a sucker for strategy games, especially the kind where you're creating and controlling vast cultures, amassing armies and in general playing the role of some omnipotent demigod.

I can, for example, easily (and not necessarily fondly) recall the hours I frittered away playing "Civilization II" on my old Mac, tirelessly building and rebuilding empires.

The game has re-entered my life in the form of "Civilization Revolution," all gussied up for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 (and, to a lesser extent, the Nintendo DS).

God games (as titles are referred to) are usually regarded as PC, only their menus and controls are too complicated for console users.

"Revolution" proves that ain't necessarily so. Though stripped down a bit, the game's controls are intuitive and simple, and the tutorial does a splendid job of showing you how to manipulate your various resources.

The game is similar to past entries in the "Civ" franchise. Taking turns with other players (either computer-based or human), you pick from a variety of cultures from Zulu to Japanese. You then go about building a city, raising armies and warriors, garnering knowledge and expanding your empire.

There are several different ways to win, from military might to being the first to explore outer space. You can even win a "cultural victory" by building things like the Great Wall of China or getting famous people like Albert Einstein to settle in your cities.

Diplomacy is tremendously important in a game like this, especially on the harder levels, In fact, I found every level beyond beginner to be surprisingly tough and full of world leaders eager to crush my forces.

Though missing some of the complexity of the PC versions and seeming a bit unbalanced at times (especially in the diplomacy department) I found myself once again completely engrossed and saying "just one more turn" well into the wee hours of the night. Such is the cost of being a demigod.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2008


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Graphic Lit: The Victorian Horrors of Old Mauch Chunk

Having grown up in the environs of Jim Thorpe -- or Mauch Chunk as it was known back in the day -- Michael Bann and Robert Caton have always been fascinated by the area's sense of history and Victorian architecture.

"The town has always held a certain allure, probably because of the geography of the landscape," said Bann, a photographer now based in Washington, D.C. "It just had this power to evoke a lot of imagination. I thought this would make a great setting for a story."

The pair attempt to capture that allure in "The Victorian Horrors of Old Mauch Chunk" a new self-published comic book series plotted by Bann and Caton, with dialogue by Caton and art by Singapore artist Allan Gallo.

Set in the 19th-century heyday of the coal barons, the comic opens with a group of miners discovering a mysterious cave that comes complete with some odd-looking crystals. Enter young geologist James Ashton, who is hired by the mining company to investigate, only to be greeted with dire warnings and ominous happenings.

Caton, now of Mechanicsburg, said the series will combine traditional supernatural horror elements with real-life historical characters and events like the Molly Maguires.

Ultimately, he said, the book is about the transition of power and technology as America moved forward from the industrial age into the early 20th century.

"For every new power there's an old power that's not going to give up easy. The older power wants to hang on to things. The old folks gotta step aside, no matter how reluctantly, to cede power," Caton said of the book's themes. "It's a battle for control of a new century."

Although Bann originally planned to present the material as a novel, he says there are some unique and helpful benefits to producing the work as a serialized comic.

"There are a number of ways we can test it as we go," he said. "We can adapt. There are things you can learn as you get an issue out that helps you better present the story."

Caton concurred. "The power that the medium has in telling a story from multiple perspectives and timelines is unmatched," he said.

Both Bann and Caton are serious about playing up the Pennsylvania angle, even printing the comic and several marketing materials via a Harrisburg company.

"We have a home-team mentality. We want to give back to the community," Bann said.

To that extent, the duo paired with a number of Jim Thorpe businesses (ads for various stores and restaurants dot the inside pages), the most notable being an online contest in which participants can win a weekend for two that includes lodging at a bed and breakfast, a private tour of the Asa Packer Mansion and dinner at a restaurant.

Bann and Caton said the current story will run about 10 to 12 issues then be collected in a trade paperback, though they have lots of ideas to continue the series.

"The town has so many more places to go, so many people that need to have their stories heard," Caton said

More than anything, though, Bann and Caton hope the book draws more attention to Carbon County and its unique attractions.

"Hopefully the book will inspire people to go to the town and learn some stuff on their own," Caton said.


Thursday, September 04, 2008

From the vault: Penny Arcade

Note: This review originally appeared in issue #276 of the Comics Journal.

Penny Arcade: Attack of the Bacon Robots!
By Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik
Dark Horse Comics

In the world of Webcomics, Penny Arcade is the shining city on a hill. How many aspiring cartoonists, online or off, can boast the sort of devoted following that writer Jerry Holkins and artist Mike Krahulik have been able to garner? How many Webcomics not only are financially viable but can boast 2 million visitors in one day? How many strips are popular enough to create their own three-day festival that attracts upwards of 9,000 people? Not to mention a yearly holiday charity drive that nets thousands of dollars in toys and other materials for children’s hospitals across the U.S.? I’m wracking my brains and PA is the only strip that has the same sort of devoted following.

A good deal of the strip’s popularity is due to their laser-like focus on video games and the video game industry. As a sort of tri-weekly editorial cartoon of gaming culture, PA has attracted a number of people who are more interested in the specific content than the format. In other words, the gamer geeks who follow the strip for the funny references on “Metal Gear Solid” and Lionhead Studios aren’t necessarily interested in or even aware of “Acme Novelty Library,” much less “Bone.” That’s not true of every single PA fan of course, but I think it’s safe to say that most readers aren’t necessarily devotees of the art form.

Now, at what may be the peak of their popularity, Dark Horse has seen fit to collect a number of initial Penny Arcade strips into one, actual, physical, softbound book, “Attack of the Bacon Robots.” When first published in January, the book sold of its entire 30,000 print run in less than two weeks, again, testifying to the strip’s popularity.

Rather than attempt to cull through the years and compile a “best of” collection, Holkins and Krahulik decided instead to run the strip in chronological order, so that “Attack” (a title which has absolutely nothing to do with the contents inside by the way) covers the period from November 1998, when the strip started, to December 2000.

I’m not sure that was a very good idea, as the strips collected here fail on any number of levels to entertain. This is early, awkward work and not really representative of where the strip is now. If the reason for this book is so Luddites can discover what they’ve been missing, they may ultimately decide they haven’t been missing much.

For those of you not in the know, Penny Arcade deals with two main characters, Tycho and Gabe, who serve as stand-ins of sorts for Holkins and Krahulik (though they don’t look anything like their cartoon counterparts). There are a number of supporting players, including neighbors, wives, second bananas and an angry, alcoholic DIVX machine, but they serve mainly as window dressing or to offer a not-too subtle punchline. This is Tycho and Gabe’s show all the way.

In fact, there rarely is any sort of ongoing plot or continuity in Penny Arcade. Characters frequently die only to pop back up again a few weeks later. Tycho and Gabe are never really developed in any significant way beyond the two-dimensional wiseacres they were designed to be. This is strictly a “get in, get out, three panels and you’re done” comic strip, with nothing extraneous to get in the way of the humor. It’s not character-based like Scott Kurtz’s “PVP,” another popular game-themed strip is. Its sole job is to alternatively ridicule and laud various games and the people who make and play them.

Penny Arcade thrives on anger and antagonism. Violence is its central means of sustenence. Virtually every strip involves someone being maimed, beaten, injured or hurt in some fashion, if not outright killed. Threats are frequently thrown around like so many penny candies at a Fourth of July parade. There is no situation, no set up, and no punch line that isn’t enhanced with someone’s blood or pain. And when they aren’t, there’s lots of good-natured snark to go around.

Oftentimes this in-your-face hostility is quite funny, but it’s so frequent that as a reader I start to wonder if Holkins and Krahulik area just a wee bit defensive about their love for their particular hobby, so much so that they overcompensate in the strip by presenting a faux sort of manly aggression, complete with ironic distance.

The strip, as you may suspect, is entirely dependent upon your knowledge of video games, the more extensive the better. Never heard of Battle Arena Toshiden? Too bad for you. Even with extensive game knowledge, though, you might have trouble. I remember Chu Chu Rocket for the Dreamcast, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out exactly what the particular strip in “Bacon Robots” is trying to say.

Each strip in “Bacon Robots” comes with its own flavorful commentary from Holkins, further underscoring the point for me how much I hate strip collections with commentary from the author. In general these types of annotations are very useful, and Holkins’ is no exception. What I find astonishing is that he had a great opportunity to offer some insight on some of the more dated strips. A few sentences explaining what say, “Soul Reaver” was might have gone a long way to uncovering the humor in jokes that have long since passed their sell by date. But no, instead we get useless blather. A note to all strip cartoonists compiling their work into book form: unless you’re Bill Watterson, Charles Schulz or Gary Larson, let’s just avoid commenting on every single strip you ever made. Use the extra space to add more strips, lower the page count and drive the price of the book down, OK?

I’ve been quite harsh here in my assessment of the “Bacon Robots,” but the fact is, Penny Arcade is frequently quite funny, at least these days. As the cover art for the book suggests, they got a lot better. The strips signal to noise ratio is much higher now than it has ever been (though it’s still pretty low if you don’t follow video games). Much, much better, funnier material awaits future collections, which is where I would recommend most PA newbies go to slake their curiosity.

Or you could just go read it all online for free.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

From the vault: Comic Book Holocaust

Note: This review originally appeared in issue #283 of The Comics Journal

As the title implies, “Comic Book Holocaust” is not a friendly, warm little book. It doesn’t want your love, nor your respect. The only thing it demands is your laughter, and it’s willing to debase itself in the most thoroughly degrading and offensive ways to ensure that you do so.

Good thing the book’s actually funny then, ‘cause it would really be kind of pathetic and just plain disgusting if it wasn’t.

The book collects a number of sketchbook strips Johnny Ryan did (in between bouts of Angry Youth Comics no doubt) parodying an assortment of revered funny book characters, from Beetle Bailey to Harvey Pekar and anything in between. Each strip only lasts for one page and are exactly 12 panels long. And in those panels some of the lowest sort of gross-out humor occurs, usually involving sex organs, fecal matter, vomit and various others sorts of unpleasantries.

There’s no comics cow so revered that Ryan isn’t willing to grind it up into hamburger. Linus, for example, smacks Charlie Brown with his balls. Joe Sacco interviews just his. Krazy Kat builds a concentration camp. And Chris Ware ends up digging through Mort Walker’s soiled garbage. No one is safe from his shit- and semen-stained rampage.

Ryan obviously takes great pleasure in being obscene and shocking as possible. And if that was all there was to the book, then you could pass this off as the work of an emotionally immature cartoonist – someone who’s sense of humor never made it past eighth grade -- and be done with it.

But it’s Ryan’s sense of absurdity, his equally strong willingness to be as utterly bizarre and silly as possible, that makes all the scatological humor work. The strips have a loose, haphazard, anything goes feel to them that suggest Ryan is just following his muse and not worrying too much about where it takes him. That leads to some interesting and often hilarious back alleyways. A strip about Dick Tracy, for example, might start off with him crying over jury duty, have him dress up like Mr. Spock and end with the appearance of a giant floating vagina. A parody of romance comics begins with someone getting hit on the head with a giant McNugget and ends with a boy sucking off a rainbow. The non sequiters build on top of the other at such a furious pace that it’s all but impossible not to grin at the sheer ridiculousness of it all.

What also makes Ryan’s strips work is the injection of mundane pop culture banality into his otherwise off the wall parodies. Jimmy Olson’s shameless neediness is funny enough in and of itself, but the fact that he wants to play Cranium with Superman is priceless. Having Tubby dress up as a testicle in a top hat is worth a smirk, but having him decipher the secret of The Da Vinci Code as “Ain’t no party like a West Coast party ‘cause a West Coast party don’t stop” is worth several guffaws.

Ryan seems to save his purest venom for the alt-comix crowd, who have comiited the unpardonable sin of being boring and self-indulgent. His “Every Auto-Bio Comic Ever Written” can easily be read as a manifesto. Some will no doubt blanch at seeing revered icons like Art Spiegelman put through the wringer. I dunno, I like “In the Shadow of No Towers” and I still laughed out loud at the line “I’ll have to borify it by 30 percent.”

Obviously your mileage is going to vary pretty wildly with a book of this nature. Those with weak stomachs or easily rattled consciences are going to be less forgiving of this sort of material than those of a more forgiving (or less sympathetic) nature. Were there jokes in here that offended or disgusted me? Sure. I fully admit to not being tickled by all the overly racist ethnic gags. And the constant references to fecal matter tended to blur some of the strips together in an unappetizing way by the end of the book. Anyway, I actually don’t mind being offended in this manner every now and then. It’s a good reminder to myself that there are things I still care about. That I’m not completely dead inside. Yet.

Besides, that sort of inconsistency is to be expected with a book that has such a scattershot, off the cuff approach. It’s part of its appeal really. The bottom line is, there are enough pure gems here to make the book worth your time. Assuming you’re the sort of person who laughs at the thought of Spider-Man having an immense collection of tranny porn of course.

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