08 December, 2012

A series of moderate reactions to the film "Young Adult"

*I heard a lot of good things about this. I love Patton Oswalt. I love Charlize Theron. I like Diablo Cody quite a bit. This should be fun.

*Oh no, I'm fucked.

*Shit. I think I dated this chick. No, wait. I know I dated this chick.

*I can't help but feel that if anybody besides a woman wrote Juno it wouldn't get the same amount of hate. No, wait, fuck that. I know if a man wrote that movie people wouldn't care about Juno being too clever.

*This movie is really good at making my feelings hurt. I haven't paused something so much since I watched the original version of The Office.

*Guide me Christopher Hitchens. Thy will be done. . . what's that? You want me to drink more? Alright, you're the not-a-ghost!

*Oh, I see it-- This whole movie is a young adult novel itself! Except that in all of this post-modernism it has replaced being a disposable piece of art with imbuing in you the need to accept death.

*Jesus Christ.

*Jesus Christ.

*I think Diablo Cody understands that Nightmare on Elm Street is bullshit. The real nightmare is going back to high school. I seriously have that nightmare.

*Oh God, please, Young Adults, I'm sorry for renting you! I'll never do it again! Just please stop! I'll go to Church! I'll stop drinking! Please just make it stop!

*Oh Jesus. I just. . . I called a lot of things in this movie and I. . . oh God. She's got a reason for all of this. Fuuuuuuuuck.

*Best garage door reveal to a different world in all of cinema. Put that one in your book, academics.

*It's not over! No! You can't. . . You can't do this!

*I never thought the scene in Metal Gear Solid where Solid Snake is whooping the shit out of the Cyborg Ninja and the Cyborg Ninja screams "Hurt me more!" would have a legitimate equivalent in a film, but I found it. It's this movie. It gets it.

*Oh, the sister is in love. Right? Stop hurting things in me, movie! Stop finding new organs to poke needles into!

*I like that the quirk in Oswalt's character is an actual thing that actual people like him do instead of the normal rom-com bullshit where someone is, like, a dog therapist or a cheese salesman or a lawyer or whatever.

*Wait. . . is this is ultimate treatise on modern America? It just might be. That might explain a lot.

*I never have wanted a boner looking at Charlize Theron less than I have right now.

*I . . . What did I learn here? I need to talk to my friend who is into S&M. He must know what this feeling is like.

*I just want to feel clean again.

28 November, 2012

Skull bashingly good!

Hotline Miami is a videogame as much as it is an interpretation of what a fight between the spirit animals of Gaspar Noe and Nicholas Winding-Refn and it plays somewhere between the original Grand Theft Auto, Dead Souls, and maybe a little bit of Condemned thrown in to boot. It's an incredible game at what I'm saying. At ten dollars, it also might be one of the best games I've played in a long time-- at the least it is one of the best values I've had in a long time.

It's simple, it's brutal, it's quick and to the point and it's this boiled down intensity that makes it work and it is what makes it work despite being a game that is built entirely around trial and error. Having sweated my ass off trying to figure out algebra for much of my youth I realize just how terrible trial and error can be, so it's amazing that this game is as fun and as addicting as it is. It also manages to give you a feeling like you've actually got the game beat and not just that you played until the end.

The aesthetics remind me of being somewhere between this washed out faux-VHS look that we've been seeing lately (I'll blame Drive, it's also made its way into things as varied as Max Payne 3 and this interview with Emma Stone in Interview magazine) if it was filtered through the kinds of custom made playsets we all used to make with Legos. It's looks have been mentioned in every single little review I've seen of it, but it's something worth agreeing with, because it is the core to understanding this game. It's hard to say it without both sounding and feeling like a pretentious asshole, but the visuals of Hotline Miami are the game.

There is nothing superfluous to it and it's this strict aesthetic style that makes something as simple as a smoking cigarette or a pool or blood or a hot-wired door frame seem so cool. The look is as stripped down and no nonsense as the game play. If you want to rap about game play not jibbing with the rest of the world, Hotline Miami is not that game. The only thing that thing resembling gilding is the soundtrack and that is as integral to the tone of the game as the spurts of blood and globs of brain flying everywhere-- but that's what I mean by nothing being pointless.

Hotline Miami is a game that seems to achieve everything it set out to do. From the through back visuals to the wonderful soundtrack to the gameplay, it is a game that wastes very little effort, even though it must have taken quite a bit to make something as well formed as this is.I really, really like it.

Play it.

27 November, 2012


The following trades have been standing on my desk, safely nestled between a speaker and a row of paperbacks on the Vietnam War. In an effort to get them off said desk and onto my brand new/second-hand desk from good will--

Art and Words by Paul Pope

It's the kind of story I wouldn't bother to write. Considering that we already have Batman: Year 100, The One Trick Rip-Off, and Heavy Liquid, that means that Paul Pope doesn't need to write a cyberpunk action or crime story or whatever, because we already have that. What 100% is using that world and all of those concepts and basically waste them by telling a story not about a society or a dystopia, but the most simple human collection, which is a couple. It's something that could be told in the 18th century or with cavemen and that's what makes 100% so much fun, and it also makes me pine for a certain time and place in a way that I haven't felt in a long while.

I say "waste" in the best way possible, because the story isn't about the remnants of this massive war floating around or the hover cycles or the erotic x-ray shows

The science fiction of the world is incidental in that it doesn't get in the way of the plot. Keeping in mind my fondness for Blade Runner, that film has very much the same tone. It isn't about the off-world colonies or cloning technology, it is about people getting to work and about people dying. In that same way Blade Runner might very well be a film that belongs to any other genre in existence (whereas Prometheus would really have to struggle to be something else).

In a cynical way, it might just be a hook to get people to read a story about three intersecting couples coming together in various ways. Paul Pope is a very talented man, though, so the world is much more than just a hook. It shades their relationships and watching people fall in and out of love in this messy, cluttered world somehow makes anything seem possible or even magical. That might not be the purpose of all good science fiction, but that certainly seems to be the goal of a good romance story and 100% is certainly that.

The Activity
Art by Mich Gerads and Words by Nathan Edmondson

The Activity feels like a half-step between the madcap and high-concept excitement of Warren Ellis' Global Frequency and the kind of good old fashioned action comic that Greg Rucka or Chuck Dixon (and then again Garth Ennis, though that comparison would bring with it quite a lot of assumptions-- mostly positive in my case).

In short it doesn't feel like an action story, nor does it feel like any sort of heavy duty spy story. I want to like it and the next few issues have piqued my interest, it is just that, as this trade stands it is much too light to work as a serious military piece or as a romping war comic. If it's a smart piece about characters and outwitting the enemy, fine, we have plenty of books like that. If it's a dumb piece, then we have James Bond. In either case we have structures for what works (or if you're a thief, what can be ripped off, or, if you're a clever-type, what you can design an homage around).What we don't need is something that bridges a gap that doesn't exist-- which is I guess is very much a feature of the military industrial complex, so maybe the writer is smarter than I am giving him credit for. . .

Then again it has some solid torture sequences and more acronyms and military jargon than you can shake a stick at, so if you want something-- even something that doesn't quite work-- then The Activity will fill that very specific need and not a whole lot else.

(Hey, Black Ops 2 came out as I am writing this. Hmm. Hmmmmmmm.)

Manhattan Projects--
Art by Nick Pitarra and Words by Johnathan Hickman

I avoided this comic book for a bit because I don't know too much about Johnathan Hickman, other than he did a pretty solid run on the Fantastic Four and that the first issue of Red Wings left a bad taste in my mouth. Hearing about The Manhattan Projects and its high concept I felt that it could go either way.

On the one hand you're playing with ambitious historical figures in a Cryptonomicon-on-peyote-like manner  and on the other hand you have the kind lame-ass name dropping that gets us books where Nikola Tesla is fighting vampires or Shakespeare fights Cthulhu or some other bullshit idea. It's rocky ground, for sure.

Luckily, The Manhattan Projects executes the fuck out of its central concept. I don't just say that because it is about the secret super-science underbelly of World War II and has an alcoholic Einstein haunted by a mystery machine.

The Manhattan Projects is a great example of a book that sets up a massive idea and continually stacks more characters and more ideas onto the story (what little there is, this book is more about small episodes and well-designed plotting than it is about anything else) and it moves forward with a fantastic energy.It doesn't run out of steam and it doesn't get confusing, so at the end of the four or fives issues in the book we go from establishing that John Oppenheimer was some sort of dimension-spanning cannibal to the genocide of an entire alien empire. At no point does it stumble or ask to pause for breath.

Above all it is the kind of comic book that comic books were created for. It's a mad-cap confluence of high-minded sci-fi (and a lot of low-brow stuff for good measure) scrambled with real-world history stacked on top of a series of increasingly mysterious and psychotic events.It wouldn't work as a movie and it wouldn't be fun as a TV show. The Manhattan Projects perfect little encapsulation of what a comic book should be.

Or at least the kind of book that I want to read, but would never write.

(It also needs to be stated that the covers for this book are some of the best designed that I have ever seen in comic books.)

Art by Fiona Staples and Words by Brian K. Vaughan

There's not much to say that isn't obvious: Brian K. Vaughan is back and we should all be fairly pleased about the whole thing. Saga is a pretty wild book and it does what a space opera is supposed to do: Be big and weird and epic.

While it does have the DNA of a well defined genre, Staples and Vaughan have crafted a universe unlike any other I could name. It isn't Star Wars, it isn't Star Trek, and it isn't Robotech. It's fresh, it's new, it's different, and it has all of the fun and energy of something with a promise like that.

So there's that. You should probably go and check it out already.

My only real problem lies with some of the book's dialogue. It's just too cute for its own good.

Y: The Last Man cannot be described as a work of realism, but it is the perfect example of humor and tone coming from a character and rather from an author. In that book Vaughan balanced its sense of humor with the constant violence and horror of the world without men. Saga is similar in tone, it just does not work as well this time, because the jokes and the clever one-liners often seems to distract from the scene as opposed to existing naturally within that scene.

With the first scene of the book, the credulity of the characters is called into question by the amount of quips that come out of their mouths. The world itself is never in question, that is sort of a given (and the world is introduced at such momentum that you almost have to go along with it). So, it's an odd bit of world building, to throw out a big, fat sci-fi world and stumble on something like two people talking.

My main hitch in that scene-- and it might just be a hitch-- is that I have my doubts a woman who just gave birth in a garage, without medical assistance, and in flight of her own armed forces is going to be tossing out one-liners like she was James Bond and she just crushed a guy with a milk truck. Wiping the afterbirth off of your thighs with a wet nap is not the time to be dropping quips

Anyways, back to the topic on hand: You should probably buy it.

With art as beautiful as Staples' and with the amount of good stuff Vaughan has done in so little space, there is every reason to believe that, hiccups aside, Saga is going to be one of those books we're going to be talking about for a long while. . . It's just nice to get in on the ground floor with a book like this.

IN SHORT: Read comics.

23 November, 2012

A Movie I Am Thankful For

On this glorious Joe Toye Day I thought I'd talk about the movies-- or maybe just one movie-- that I am thankful for.

John Carter immediately comes to mind.

Key Largo was at the top of my queue, but because it had a "long wait" I ended up with John Carter and another movie I was looking forward to-- Young Adult.

Having watched the majority of John Carter (not of Mars, at all), I can safely say that Young Adult is the better movie. It must be the better movie.

Having survived Dune and Alien 3 and any number of other sci-fi failures, I felt that I was prepared for the depths that John Carter (still not from Mars, why would you even think that?) has decided to dwell in. It's garbage and it is garbage even by the standards of half-cocked sci-fi movies. I

It is literally nonsense. Front to back gobbledegook. Fuck this stupid movie.

I am watching this movie and thinking "This would work with a young Harrison Ford." Unfortunately we got Taylor Hitch, who I feel is most notable for being a Timothy Olyphant look-alike and having resulted in my friend's wife castigating me for daring to ask the question "Who the fuck is Taylor Hitch?" in front of her mother. I am American and I deserve to answers.

A young Harrison Ford-- or any actor with a range that could includes things such as "I am on Mars, this is a ridiculous thing" or "I am on Mars, I am glad for my experiences here"--  would have been awesome. Instead this movie wants to have a white-washed, half-assed Clint Eastwood act like he's Lawrence of Barsoom (or at least Dances with Wolves on Mars Minus the Humanizing Bits About American Indians). Clint Eastwood has never been on Mars and the gun-slinging, ass-kicking, whore-raping Eastwood that we all know and love has no place in a Disney movie built by committee and sold by invalids.

Thinking on it, John Carter makes Avatar look like Blade Runner.

It's Zardoz without the kitsch. It's gold plated garbage and I have never seen a more expensive movie look this cheap. Even the Star Wars prequel-- shit though they are-- had, wait. . . I'm comparing the prequels to something with a positive slant. Is this where we are? Is this what John Carter has brought me to?

Is this my life?

There's an old Dolly Parton line that goes "I takes money to look this cheap," well John Carter found a way to make a fool out of Miss Parton. Way to go, John. I hope you're happy.

I like attacking things. Invective are nice, but it's not why I love film criticism or talking about movies. Recently I have had a number of great conversations about why or why not Looper worked and why Skyfall is one of the greatest Bond movies of all time. I love movies. I love good movies. I love tearing apart bad movies, too, because sometimes this shit needs to be vented. Remember when Homer became obese and his drinking bird fell over and a meltdown happened? That's basically what happens when I watch a John Carter and don't get out there and bitch about it. Nobody wants to read about a clean-up.

The most legitimately human and funny moment in the film is when John and his army of native green people storm a city and find out that their princess is in another castle. At that moment there's this wonderful little pause and the green jefe slaps John in the back of the head. It's funny because it's a wonderfully set up joke, all of this thunder ending in no flash and that physical violence is inherently funny, but there is also this transcendent aspect buried in the moment. It's this moment where you realize that maybe even the film is aware enough to reach out into the world and slap somebody with a bad idea upside the head.

At the end of this grand holiday, I want it to be known that I am thankful for never having to watch John Carter ever again.

12 November, 2012

The Master and Margaritas

I got out of The Master and I really don't know what I think. Not yet. The one thing I am sure of is that it was a good idea not to bring a flask to that picture. That would have been. . . well, it would have been a different theatrical experience, I'll put it like that. Now 13 Assassins, there's a movie you can take a flask to.

Actually, I am sure about one more thing which is that it is good to have Joaquin Phoenix back.

It's hard for me to put a description to what it is he's doing in this movie (and I kind of don't want to right now). What is the most striking about it, though, is how he literally looks like a man that has been broken up. The way he carries himself and moves around and holds his arms akimbo like he's going to spill all over the place. One role that it reminds me of is Klaus Kinski in Aguirre: The Wrath of God. In both cases the men seem to have been picked up after a bad accident and lashed together just enough so that they can walk around.

Thinking about it now, I realize that the Lacon acolytes in the crowd would have a field day with this picture. Between the addiction and (possibly) Oedipal relationships and the preponderance of boobs I think this film has in it the very power to keep an entire classroom of graduate students going.I don't say that as a dig, it just seems obvious to me that there is some sort of psychological angle to this, especially when you consider that Scientology-- er, the Cause-- is rooted in a sort of anti-psychiatric stance. It's just too tempting of a target.

Part of me is also afraid that I'll reveal myself to be an idiot if I don't like it or if I don't get it. I know that I liked There Will Be Blood and even loved that film and it has much of the same DNA as The Master.

I'm just going to go lie down for a bit. That seems like the wisest course of action.

11 November, 2012

Talkin' Bouncer: Raising Cain

My first knowing exposure to Alejandro Jodorowsky was the psychedelic western El Topo. It’s a hard movie to describe and a harder movie to watch more than once, but if I would have to describe it, it is about Clint Eastwood taking on the quest of Gilgamesh mixed in with the story of Siddartha Guatama and, I don’t know, a weekend with Timothy Leary if you added. . . I don't know, it's just one hell of a movie. Yeah. That is the ticket.

It wasn’t until years after I saw that movie that I realized Jodorowksy had transformed himself into a comic book writer (because the word “transformed” is the entirely appropriate when it comes to men like him) and that I had read some of his work previously.

He has a fairly storied career, at least among European comic book fans. He created the Metabarons and went on to work with no less than Moebeus himself (RIP) with The Incal.

Whether that is a detriment or not we can all agree that Jodorowsky's oeuvre is a unique lineage in the comic book medium. Thankfully, perhaps.

Bouncer: Raising Cain is less like The Incal and more like one of the screenplays I half wrote nine times during my freshman year in college. For those that are not me, that means that this book is far less awesome than the sum of its parts and could have, at some point, used somebody of authority and taste saying “No, get rid of this, this is gross. Please stop. You weirdo. Ick."

And so forth.

But that never seems to go down. Instead we get a crazy person's vision of a western and that, at least on paper, is a cool thing to have in existence.On paper this is a full-blooded western, a proper Western, even, especially when you consider that most of El Topo was dedicated to murdering queer yogi messiahs in the middle of the desert as I understand it. Also: Rabbits.

Anyways, the basic subject of the comic is about a young man looking to avenge the death of his parents at the hand of an evil Confederate brigrand. In order to accomplish this he seeks out a gunslinger who he believes will aid him in this task. In short, it is your basic “regeneration through violence” myth that is prevalent in the Western genre (and, well, American history), but written by a Jewish Chilean/French jack-of-all trades-cum-madman. That’s where the wrinkles appear.

Nothing in this story seems to exist without some sort of corollary symbolism—or at least strangeness that creates a gap where symbolism might be imagined. Things do not happen on a grand scale so much as they appear on some sort of theatrical scale. It is as if Jodorowsky fears that we’ll miss the importance of something happening if it appears to be realistic or that we will miss that something happens when it happens. His default position—and it appears this way in all of his works, as I understand it—is to point a high key light on the action.

People do not catch snakes, they catch three snakes. They do not find guns, they find guns from the devil (off screen). They do not get shot, they get shot and raped and decapitated. Oh, also: Illuminati symbolism (another carry over from El Topo). It might be that he isn’t just gilding things, it might be that he is actually attempting to weave in some sort of philosophy into his works. But if so, what?

You can see this in how the young man trains to be a gunslinger. His attempts at becoming a gun fighter more closely resemble a person looking to become a kung fu master or a lama than it does a shootist. It's a fun twist on the trope, if slightly contradictory. Hard though, it is to over analyze something like that when our main man's spirit animal is a legendary Scottish gunfighter who changed his name to "Butterfly."

It's at this point I would say "Yeah, it's that kind of a book," but the universe really doesn't allow for more than one of these kind of things to run wild at one time.

Adding on the fact that this young man also takes mushrooms to reach some sort of martial enlightenment seems to make me think that Bouncer comes across as El Topo Lite. While reading it, I wondered if some segments of Jodorowsky's abandoned Los Topos story (or stories) are what Bouncer became. It certainly feels like it. There's enough sexual violence, augery, and disabled people to pass for a sequel, even though this book seems to be set in America as opposed to some sort of a acid-washed wonderland. It wasn't until later (while reasearching this article) that I found out that El Topo Dos: Topo Mas Fuerte is actually, finally, possibly in production as we speak. And what is the title: Abel Cain.


The real star of all of this is the artist, Francois Boucq. He draws in panoramic landscapes and amazingly drafted details that only really seem to exist in the European tradition of comics (or at least how I imagine that tradition to be). His line work is really just stellar. . . even if everyone in this book seems to be some sort of a caveman. That’s acceptable though, when you have the closest thing to John Ford panoramic that I’ve ever seen in comic book form. He’s a pretty swell drawer and I’m poorer for having just found out about him.

Though he does draw a revolver in the 1870's with a swing out cylinder, which is crazy, as that wouldn't have been invented for a good long while afterwards.I mean, who does he think he's fooling?

My real problems with this book is that it seems senselessly and bizarrely cruel. There seems to be a lot of rape and pederasty in this book. Considering the amount of psychosexual activity in El Topo (and just the trailer for the Holy Mountain), I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. That movie starts with a naked eight year old, so I guess I really should have known better.

And also I guess my problem is with how light of touch these horrors have. People murder each other because they're bad! I guess! And people rape the children of the murdered because the world is bad! You know! That's how things are. Anyways, this diamond.

I mean, what? What is going on? If you're going to drop some dark, dank shit in my lap, you had best give me a fucking reason. Cormac McCarthy is my favorite author. He understands how to lay down some well reasoned horror and by extension I think I might, as well. Alejandro Jodorowsky, on the other hand is no Cormac McCarthy (and he is no me, which is a shame, I would have a much better beard if this were the case).

Now do we avoid these sort of things because we don’t want to put anyone in danger or do we avoid them because they’re morally wrong? Or do we avoid them because it can easily become exploitative? I don’t know that Jodorowsky knows. What I know is that there are large chunks of this book that make me feel icky. Oogie, even.

Then again the violence is so hyperactive and the plot and characters so surreal, so maybe there’s an argument for the sexuality being as weird as it is. When it all comes down to it, regardless of the actual reason or intention, there is only so much pederasty I am willing to put up with in my art.

Then the big redemption at the end of the story is. . . incest? I guess? I mean, they’re cousins and it’s olde timey, but, really? We’re supposed to be down for this? Is that the point? Is Jodorowsky so European as to make that his central feel good point? Do I care? There’s a lot to unpack and that’s without the fact that the diamond that acts as the story’s MacGuffin is hidden exactly where you think it would be. . . which I guess makes me a sicker man that three depraved murderers.

This book creeps me out in a lot of ways. Then again I bought it for five bucks at Vroman’s, so I do have the standing to be too irked.

Bouncer is a fine spiritual successor to El Topo and, fortunately, it is free of the nonsensical mysticism of that John Lennon championed film and instead replaces it with the use of child rape as a major plot point. Beyond that (if you can get beyond that), it has a passable story and some amazing art work. Outside of Jonah Hex it’s hard to find a decent western comic book and Bouncer: Raising Cain is most certainly decent.

SIDE NOTE: If you haven’t read up on Jodorowsky’s Dune yet, then you definitely should. It’s. . . well, it’s, um, completely fucking nuts. It has a gold toilet. Shaped like a dolphin. And the Emperor of the Universe uses it as a throne. And that Emperor is Salvador Dali.
**And even Jonah Hex isn’t even in the West anymore. He’s in Gotham. The hell is that about?

05 November, 2012

I am Published

This weekend I attended the Long Beach Comic Con. It wasn't super exciting, but I bought a few pieces of artwork from Olga Ulanova, as well as a few 1970's Sgt. Rock comics. I also happened to be there as a professional or an "exhibitor" or whatever the hell the terminology was. I was selling a book (with 23 other people) and I had a badge and a chair and that felt good and while it didn't pay, at my real work I don't get a chair.

I did so along with the rest of my friends and co-comickers at Old College Comics and as weird and as Brechtian as the whole situation was, I feel like I could kind of walk away from the whole thing feeling a bit more inspired and a bit more proud. This, whatever it is, is real.

While it wasn't San Diego (which, I have a higher chance of appearing at as an actor than I as a comic person), it was at my college town and I did have a fairly nice conversation with Howard Chaykin, even if he kind of was a dick to my artist friend Andrew Wilson.

And that sucked.

If there was a highlight it was when a Simpsons illustrator complimented me on writing a scene where a guy kills another guy with the broken handle of a spear. Now that I think about it, that is basically the high that I've been chasing since I started writing.

And that was pretty swell.

(Andrew Wilson also drew said scene with said spear.)

I'll be making a post about what I learned as a "professional" at my first con here, so stay tuned for that, as well.

Oh and I also did a minor commission for what was either an autistic or a pervert or maybe an autistic pervert. It was pretty dope.

28 October, 2012

Old City Talkin' Blues

 Alright, let's make this quick--

Giannis Milonogiannis is rapidly becoming one of my favorite artists. There’s something about the specificity of his lines mixed with the fact that it has the raw energy of a sketch. It’s an exciting book to look at and even in its most referential (the book basically wouldn’t exist without the Ghost in the Shell comics), it still stands out as a wonderful book to look at.

The fact that he's younger than I am is as amazing as it is depressing-- on the definite plus side, at least I have a greater chance of getting him to draw something for me. . . in time.


His line work reminds me of the work of Yoji Shinkawa (another of my favorite artists and apparently one of Milonogiannis’ if his blog is to be believed) mixed in with a dash of Paul Pope (there are way too many excited brush strokes to ignore).

Old City Blues is a skeleton of a story that exists to basically show off Giannis’mad megalopolis and his wonderful bits of technology yet to be. In a way that is enough. Almost. What little plot there is exists only as a sort of boiler plate cyberpunk story (if there is such a thing), which, in many ways is fine. It leads to future cars running through well composed future landscapes, as well as a robot fight or two and this world’s equivalent of mechs, “Mobile Guns.” Again: standard cyberpunk shit.

Well-- Very standard with streaks of underlying brilliance. It's all there, it just can't get through. Not yet, anyways. . .

The outstanding difference being it takes place in a sort of recovering post-apocalyptic Athens, which unfortunately could just as easily be Neo Tokyo or Neo New York or some other fake disaster ridden future city (in Milonogiannis’ defense, though, he seems to be aware of this and his “New Athens” is as much of a tribute to those fake fictional cities as it is living in their shadows). The place doesn't feel like a place, it feels like a generic world in which there are robots. That's awesome-- and really, no joke, it is awesome-- it's just that awesome isn't the sort of thing that makes a book last. Or worth lasting.

Taking all of its flaws and piling them up really makes me think that there is a much bigger and more intensive story than Old City Blues’ meager 120 pages. And if it is going to be a book that lasts it will be because Milonogiannis eventually came through on the promises of this book.

In its defense (not that it needs it), it does seem to have the kind of prescient hallmarks of a great artist that can only be found in their first major work. Old City Blues is not perfect, nor is it revolutionary, like the first works of other respected artists like Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson. Bottle Rockets and Reservoir Dogs aren’t perfect movies (especially when compared to some of their later works*), though, as fans and as an audience we can still see the little inklings of genius in between the scene that go nowhere and the ones that go on just a little too long. That’s this book in a nutshell. His work on Prophet only seems to confirm my belief that he’s going to get a whole hell of a lot better.

Despite its shortcomings Old City Blues is one of the coolest books you could hope to pick up—and I do mean that literally—the actual packaging of the book is really cool. It’s a wonderfully put together hardback and at 15 bucks—even with all of its flaws—it’s a steal. If you love Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, or even Johnny Mnemonic, then this comic is for you. It’s a wonderful mash-up of the best things you remember from the video games you played and the anime you watched as a kid in an actual piece of art. I’m glad Milonogiannis is getting work with Prophet and I am glad that I discovered this book (thanks, Warren Ellis!).

SIDE NOTE: Do you think that the Fallout: New Vegas DLC "Old World Blues" ripped-off this comic or do you think that they both ripped off the same source? Or maybe it was just some weird coincidence? (I'll start taking bets here.)

SIDE SIDE NOTE: iFanboy is always a good opinion to lean on despite their unfortunately aged name.

*Namely Pulp Fiction, Rushmore, Jackie Brown, and The Royal Tenebaums-- Those are all perfect films.The Darjeeling Limited and the Kill Bills. . . perhaps less so.

24 October, 2012

Fuck you.

Fuck you forever.

And I don't even like Evil Dead.


Please go watch this movie if you have not already. You owe it to yourself.

Goddamnit. . . I really need to figure out how to steal from this movie.

Besides my loves of Powell and Pressburger (as seen here) what I love about this movie is that it combines the sort of mythological and kind of racist imagery of India with a fairly apolitical and unromantic story. It's a movie about opposites colliding (as I guess all good movies basically are) and the results are as beautifully shot as they are emotionally brilliant.

I mean, for goodness sakes, the movie is about nuns. This isn't a movie trying to titlate you or trying to hit your more vulnerable spots! It isn't about soldiers or spies or politics, it's about people just trying to do their menial and unglamorous jobs. Beyond that it is much more, but there is an intelligence to the grand romance of the picture.

Recently my lesbian and (I think) latina boss asked me what I'd do without England. I don't quite have an answer for that. I do know that without Black Narcissus, my life would be that much more gloomy.

Sub-question: Are you a Clodagh or a Ruth?

23 October, 2012


I get a promotion today and now I got this rumor!?

Come on, God! You owe me this much!

While I never finished The Pacific (my relationship with people with VHS and HBO was not what it was in the early 2000's), Band of Brothers is one of the best pieces of television ever made. It's a beautiful, lovingly made story about the greatest of the greatest generation. You don't so much watch a show as you get to know a great group of men-- a feeling that is only accentuated by meeting these actual men.

It wasn't sincere, it wasn't ironic, and it wasn't worshipful. It was a show that somehow was exciting and respectful at the same time. Despite all of the art and all of the choices made by the creators of the show, what you ended up with was a work of art that was somehow both realistic and mythological. As many WWII shows and movies as I have watched, Band of Brothers is the one that seems to nail the feeling of it being the way it was.

I'd be a liar if that show didn't reduce me to tears. I still get chills from the reveal in the final scene of the final episode.

I want to feel that way about a television show again.

And more than that I want to be Winters, who was a great character and a greater human being.

09 October, 2012

The Master List

Out of a slight challenge to myself I decided to list my top 50 films of all time. After struggling and cutting one or two out, I think I got a pretty solid list down. I don't think it should really surprise anyone. Or interest anyone. Or serve any real purpose.

12 Monkeys
Aguirre: The Wrath of God
Animal House
Apocalypse Now
Battle of Algiers
The Bank Dick
Blade Runner
The Big Lebowski
The Bridge Over the River Kwai
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Children of Men
Dead Man
The French Connection
The Friends of Eddie Coyle
Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai
Grizzly Man
La Haine
High Fidelity
The Hustler 
Jackie Brown
Miller's Crossing
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
The Man Who Would Be King
No Country For Old Men
The Proposition
Princess Mononoke
Pulp Fiction
The Road Warrior
Terminator 2
There Will Be Blood
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
The Royal Tenenbaums
The Thin Man
Le Samourai
Sunset Blvd.
Full Metal Jacket
Seven Samurai
Saving Private Ryan
Taxi Driver
The Thin Red Line


Japanese Movies-- 3
Foreign Films-- 11
French Films--
American Films--
Japanese Films--

Herzog Movies-- 2
Kurosawa Movies-- 2
Coen Brothers-- 3
Scot-- 2
Husto-- 2
Kubrick-- 1
Copolla-- 1
Scorsese-- 1

Comedies-- 8
Westerns-- 7
War Movies-- 8
Horror-- 1
Documentaries-- 1
Science Fiction-- 5

Films pre-1968--12
Films post-1968--38

Color Films--38
Black and White Films--12

17 September, 2012

And Overdue Comic Book Thing

for the past month or so I've had almost a dozen books sitting in my peripheral vision every time I jump on the computer. It's long overdue that I actually address the reason they are there: I want to talk about them. I want to write about them. I'd like you to listen to me.

There will be no pictures.

Here are the comic books I've read in the past three months or so are as follows (in more or less chronological order)--

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: 2009--
This to me felt like a step back in the right direction of the League series (which I will never abreviate as LXG, thank you very much), which seemed to want to meander into minor points about metatext or imagination or whatever and not really deal with the nut meat of what made the first two volumes so grand, which was folks you know (and some folks you don't) all getting together and having an adventure.

Of course my main problem with this is that it revolves around Orlando, a character which I never liked. She/he always felt like an interloper into a story which was about everyone else but her/him. Orlando brings a lot of interesting things to the table, especially when you think of her as this sort of Bond-like cudgel that exists more to get things done and to bring out the interesting things of people around her. I don't know. I guess I just liked the Victorian adventure aspects of Alan Moore's story than did I enjoy the counter-cultural pansexuality bits. One seemed far more in keeping with the work than the other, but that's just me.

So, it's better than 1910, but I'm going to side with 1969 being the best of the bunch if only because it involves a prolonged reference to Performance and for once I think I understood something that no one else did. It also has Harry Potter pissing lightning, so, I don't know, if that doesn't sell you then I don't know what else to say.

This is the most fun and energetic book this side of King City (see several paragraphs from now for my King City review). If I had to describe this book, it is somewhere between She and Adventure Time, which is to say that it relentlessly loves treasure hunting in equal measure to it being English (which to me is basically only calling cookies "biscuits." Weird.). It reminds me of the kind of wonder you used to get by looking at a Legend of Zelda instruction manual. It comes from a place of pure energy and wonder and it's a nice bit of fantasy to counteract the books that I usually read. It is also gorgeous. This dude can draw dinos is what I am saying.

War Stories Vol. 1--
It's not much of a category, but as far as war comic writers go Garth Ennis is the best there is (who else is there? Greg Rucka? Jason Palmiotti, maybe? Jason Aaron? He likes 'Nam, right?). This collection came out a long time ago and its spiritual continuation exists in the Dynamite Comics series Battlefields. I would say that these are a classic group of comic book war stories, but then again it is Garth Ennis, of course it is. My favorite story is "The Reivers", which is about the SAS' involvment with the LRDG during WWII. I won't spoil it, but it has everything a Garth Ennis war story needs: The SAS, metaphysics, hats, and things getting bollocked (bollocksed?) up. In short: A masterpiece.

Baltimore: The Curse Bells--
This whole arc, as beautiful and fun as it could have been fell flat. I don't know what it is. Perhaps it is the fact that this little story wants to be, on one end, a fun little one-off in the classic comic-book sense and on the other end it wants to be a much more involved continuing story. I think. I guess the main problem is that the adventure doesn't quite work as it stands. You've got Madam Blavatsky and the Theosophy movement on the one hand and on the other hand you have the Grand Wizard Hitler and somewhere between that chasm my efforts to care got lost. I think it might have hit its head on something. The point is we haven't seen it since. We assume it dead, but maybe crab monsters might bring it back. Only patience and prayer will see this dark time out.

Parker: The Score--
It's Darwyn Cooke doing his Darwyn Cooke thing. So, yeah, it's pretty stellar, thanks for asking.


Also, just a thought, but if I said this "Darwyn Cooke is the world's best cover artist that just happened to work in comic books", would you get mad at me?

Guerillas Vol. 2--
If I didn't talk to you about the first volume of this book, I appoligize. For those who don't know what this is, Guerillas is a book about a platoon of AWOL chimps during the Vietnam War and the Nazi scientist who is tasked to catch them. It really is everything I want in a comic book and all wrapped in a wonderfully illustrated package. I really, truly hope that this book makes it to its conclusion, because it deserves it. Comic books about ape soldiers in Vietnam is the exact purpose comic books were created.

Sweet Tooth Vol. 1--
Sweet Tooth, in my mind, is one of the great sleeper books that Vertigo has put out in the past five years. It's a sweet book that manages to take place in an Apocalypse somewhere between The Stand and Huckleberry Finn. As rough as the art may be, the book has a lot of heart. As brutal as this world is and as frequent as the violence may be, it is a book that is generally sweet on the people in it. . .even if terrible things keep on happening to them. It's a less sadistic book than is The Walking Dead and it also has a much more arresting mythology.

So, with that I haven't re-read it, but the fifth volume is coming out soon, so believe me when I say that I've got some homework to do. . . And so do you for that matter.

Fatale Vol. 1--
I can't say that I get this book. It's the same team that made one of my favorite books, Criminal, and yet it doesn't have the same punch, which is odd. As high as the body counts may be and as gruesome as the takes might become it seems to have less impact that Criminal had during its best moments. As the scope widened, the impact lessened. I guess there's something to be learned in all of this.

There are a lot of flashbacks and parallels and unreliable narrators and so forth bouncing around between the covers and yet none of that seems to come to a head in the way that it should. I mean, if you're going to use a frame device-- a horror device going back to Frankenstein-- wouldn't you do something else with it besides use it because it's a horror device dating back to Frankenstein?

It's a better book than The Curse Bells because it didn't leave me quite as flat. I wish it was a much better book than it actually is. . . Oh well, at least the cover is awesome. Oh well. At least we still got Incognito. . . OH SHIT THERE'S A HARDCOVER COLLECTION!?

The Sixth Gun Vol. 2 and Vol. 3--
As we speak I am about to dig into the third volume of this lovely little book. . . Alright. I dug through it. This book is great. While it doesn't have the highs or the hard-end of the first arc, it still has the energy, the artistry, and the overall sense of adventure that it had. It also has manny more mummies and mudman action in the second and third arc than does the first one, so there is that to consider. Mudmen. Mummies. Ghost slaves. A Vincet Price look-alike. . So, yeah, Why aren't you buying this? It's great. The fact that it has lasted this long is nothing short of a miracle. I mean, it's a Western book in the paranormal stylings of a comic book you would use as rolling paper in 1977 and it's going to hit at least 30 issues. That is incredible.


King City-- 
King City is like the cousin of Dinopopolous that got it high after that one family reunion. It's a bit of a trouble-maker and a bit rough around the edges, but there is a clear and important genetic link. It is a madcap and energetic work that deals out sex and references to Sega in equal measure. It is the kind of comic that I am sure we're going to get a lot more of (Scott Pilgrim jumps to mind for many reasons). In terms of storytelling it isn't a perfect book, but I'd like to think that it is the perfect example of what an indie comic book should be.

It is an uncompromised piece of work that indulges itself and goes off in tangents in ways that a mainstream and "commercial" book will not or cannot go. It's a rough, book, too, but that is part of the charm. You can see the evolution in the art and you can see the problem of not having an editor hitting you with a measuring stick every three days reminding you of the fundamentals. King City is too much fun for any of those prickly problems to matter. Even though I realized that half of the crazy ideas in this book are puns what remains is an insane book that has to be read to be believed.

I mean, the book revolves around a twenty-something cat master (that is a man who has a specially trained cat that can become anything through special injections) fighting some kind of evil hell-master and his machinist friend and his ex-GF that is dating a drug addict veteran of the zombie war. THIS IS A BOOK THAT EXISTS AND IT IS MAGICAL.

Also: It was really good weed. King City is not going to push that stank schwag on you, my gentle homies.

Single issues that I have read (in brief)--

The Goon #40 and #41--
I love The Goon. Even with Watchmen and Preacher and League and Sandman, Eric Powell's junkyard magnum opus is what got me back into comics. It's a story with all of the heart and beauty of the soft-focused 1940's with all of the grim horror that you knew was going on just behind the scenes. The Goon is a comic book written by a Jimmy Stewart movie that after a showing went home and beat its wife. While The Goon hasn't quite been what it was (at least in my hazy memory), it is still a great looking book with a fine sense of humor and more than enough knives finding their way into people's ocular sockets to keep me satisfied for another forty-one issues.

The Massive #1--
As a rule Brian Wood's insistance on bringing his reactionary liberal politics into things irks me to no end, this book seems like the Brian Wood other people are always talking about (ie: The one that can write very good comic books).

Personally I thought DMZ was a fine premise and a fun book that devolved into a raving mess, Demo I found to be indie nonsense, and Northlanders was a pretty good, if spotty book*. That is not to say that his work didn't have something in them. I mean, he is clearly not an imbecile, it's just that I got the sense that he wanted to talk more about an issue than he wanted to tell a story. The Massive is interesting because the issue really is the plot. Maybe he's found a way of tricking the Republican part of my reptilian brain. Who knows? All I know is that The Massive is a good book from what I have read.

This is the Brian Wood that made me believe in DMZ and I'm sure it is the Brian Wood that many others see. It is only one issue and maybe it'll go tits up by issue 16 like DMZ, but maybe he can take his bleeding heart off of his sleeve for a moment and get down to making some more awesome comic books (that are also about things of a political nature).

Oh, no, wait, his Conan book is pretty fun so far.

Prophet #27 and #28-- 
I honestly have no idea what the hell this book is about any more and after reading King City I get the impression that this is at least partially the style of Mr. Graham. This sense of confusion and transitory curtain pulls is more Graham's style than it is a disfuction. That is encouraging, but I would really like more from this book. The first arc was great and so were the odd little epic side-stories that we have got since then. That doesn't mean that it couldn't use more of a story (which, to be fair, seems to be what this current arc is about). Even if it doesn't all coalesce, though, what you have in this book is one of the raddest pieces of science fiction I've ever seen in comic books. Good for everyone.

Graveyard of Empires #4--
I have no idea what went wrong with this book. For a zombie book I enjoyed it mightily because it had some well constructed characters, some amazing art and lay-outs, and a real attempt at warming over the zombie genre. This issue has none of that. It is clearly an issue put together over too long of a period of time and was constructed out of a need to finish

It is too cluttered, too unclear, and nonsensical to the point of it resembling a clip show of a graphic novel. I liked this book. I liked its covers and I liked its premise. It's a shame that it so badly undoes all of that with this (presumably) final installment.

Fuck this book makes me angry. It also makes me sad as all get out. This is why I am afraid to write or to draw. I'm sure it's the same for you people. If these people, who do not seem to be fools, can put all of this effort into a work and have it get mangled so poorly what can we do? Can you not see your own future being borne out so poorly? Christ. My comic is even about Afghanistan. Jesus. Is this the world it's going to live in?

Fucking shit.

Just go read Prophet instead, would you? It is apparently under threat of being cancelled. The first trade is out now and available for only ten bucks! What a steal!

SIDE NOTE: Since actually finishing this entry I've read a whole new heap of books. This is a rough game, this graphic novel business.

SIDE SIDE NOTE: I used a British English affectation in this article! Try to figure out which one it is! I'll be waiting anxiously!

*Oh, wait, shit. The Couriers was a vulgar dogshit sack, as well-- not the contents of the bag, I mean. I actually do mean the bag itself was vulgar for its purpose. The Couriers read like someone cast a magic spell on a high schoolers margin doodles during his Econ class. What is worse is that I was recommened that book by someone. . . I'm going to say Wizard. Fuck you, Wizard.