November 17, 2014

.@AminoAcidBoy, and the work of Diego Lazzarin

5:58 pm in art,books,comics dustin hostetler

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Diego is making a comic book, and he’s sharing his progress on tumblr! It’s intense, colorful and full of great detail. I can’t wait to see the finished piece!

It’s a story about an alien boy sent on Earth by his Lord to accomplish an explorative mission.


June 23, 2014

Summer Time Reading

9:04 pm in comics,illustration,reviews,zines Ulises Farinas

I’ve been reading some crazy good stuff lately. When i go to a comic book store nowadays, i think “Hey, if i’ve been this harsh with comics for so long, maybe i should just give up on comics like how some dads give up on their other family.” Like a sick part of my brain, wants to buy comics just to hate on some shit, but like a lot of comics don’t even inspire hate. You ever hear something described as so ‘meh’ its ‘meh’? That’s what’s mostly everything, you don’t even wanna review it, you just want your time back. But you can’t ever get that time back, and why waste time not being passionate. I love haters, i love lovers, i even respect a motherfucker who tells me that they LOVED Man of Steel. Shit, i can’t take that away from you, no matter how many times i tell you you’re wrong. You are wrong, you should not like that movie. But even myself, i’ve watched Man of Steel like 3 times now, and it’s fun to hate. It is inspiring. It is inspiring in the same way as Shia LaBeouf’s face is inspiring to punch.

So i’ve changed my approach. I’m no longer getting random comics from Floating World, i’m no longer even really caring what the words on the page say. Truth to be told, the writing is usually the weakest part of a comic. Writers are like grilled cheese instructors. Some dudes need instructions to make a grilled cheese. Do you put the butter on the pan first or on the bread? How many slices of cheese? But the artist is the one who brings the ingredients and puts them together. I’m not saying all writers are this lame (i’m not contractually obligated to say NOT MY WRITERS, but i’m gonna say NOT MY WRITERS, cause i really like working with Douglas Wolk, Joe Casey, and Erick Freitas – shout outs), but a lot of writers could use a refresher course on not being lamer than the end of a horse racing movie. I only go looking for that high level, pure shit. Art that makes me regret leaving it in the store. Art that makes me feel small, makes me feel stupid, makes me feel like if they ever dated a girlfriend of mine, i’d know i couldn’t measure up. So this is the stuff i’ve been pretty happy to read.

I’ll start with the floppies, which i mostly avoid.

Star Slammers by Walt Simonson

So who doesn’t like some Walt Simonson. I found the story nearly incomprehensible, these are like a race of mercenaries, the BEST mercenaries, and they can just beat up everyone. I read this nearly at the same time i read the Metabarons, and they are almost identical in the way they approach this race of bad-asses. I don’t know if its a swipe or whatever, probably someone who reads a lot more comics can nerd me out on this, but its basically a whole race of perfect superdudes. Kind of if you liked Thor, Superman, etc. but thought they needed more guns and klingon style dialogue. But the art is pretty star slamming. Something about those fat lines, the little ink scratches on the edges of armor, the stippling and kirby krackle, you can understand how this style evolved into the “put scratches on all textures and faces to look cool” style of the 90’s.

This is your fault Simonson – just kidding, i love Liefeld

So the whole thing has got that retro appeal, with ridiculous costumes that don’t look ridiculously bad. Its strange, you see all the weird knee pads, shoulder pads, gauntlets and helmets, and you just think “That works.” I don’t know why even Kirby’s giant Galactus Helmet works, but they are so outlandish that they just read as “legendary”. With superheroes, there’s like an uncanny valley with costumes. Very close to something we can make/buy ourselves, we accept it. Something that goes to the other extreme, that’s cool too. But that weird spot in the middle, just looks like bizarro pajamas. Compare movie Thor to movie Superman –

Magic Science Armor

Magic Science Onesie

The most impressive part of the art is some truly innovative panel layouts. The scene where all the warriors are trying to mind link, is done with these fractured layered panel grids, some of which are full-white out until they finally unify as one connected mind, on this perfect grid. It looks like it would inspire a hundred imitators to do poor imitations of this sublimely simple device. Remember, everything you love about comics, you’ll eventually see a shitty version of. Star Slammers was fun, even with its goofy story, and i love the proto-Warhammer 4o,000 designs.

The next floppy i picked up was that latest She Hulk #5 by Charles Soule and Ron Wimberly.

The cover alone is worth the price of admission, by Kevin Wada

I’ve read the previous issue, and Soule’s got some light elegant writing. I ain’t mad if i keep reading this, but i’m not reading cheap tricks to try to force drama or write so little story i have to buy the next issue. Half these comics nowadays feel like they are asking you to deposit 50 more cents to finish your phone call with a sex line. You’re always just so close to being satisfied before the writer starts acting coy again. Just giving me the damn story in 22 pages or less, is that so hard? Last issue of She Hulk, she’s rumbling with Dr. Doom, and it was funny and She Hulk brings more than just punch punch pow to every situation. Same here with #5, which is illustrated by the ever-kinetic Ron Wimberly.  I don’t know why everything is done with a fish eye lens, but i like it, and it makes you feel like you’re watching the dopest Busta Rhymes video featuring Marvel Superheroes. Even a scene of She Hulk and the Shocker having some chinese food is infused with a cool energy.

He’s got that head nod shit, that makes you break your neck. Woo-Hah! He’s got you all in check

On to the next one – Batman Incorporated #13 by Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham

It took me awhile to actually finish reading this one, even though its a year old. There was some shit about Talia Al-Ghul, their son, blowing up Gotham Tower, tearing up Gotham City, blah blah blah, It wasn’t actually very interesting. It almost felt like Morrison was tired of writing this story, cause it wasn’t so much an epic conclusion than just a “I’m gonna leave the bathroom cause i can’t shit anymore, but i still feel like i have to shit”. But don’t let this get you down, cause i got this for Burnham.

Lately i’ve been seeing a lot of Mike Allred, and it’s like i’ve hit an over saturation point with his work. It’s not that i think he’s a bad artist, i think his stuff is great, but it feels like it’s gone as far as it can go. If i’ve seen one faux-retro Allred piece i’ve seen them all. The colors, the lines, every human face. Why am i talking about this? Because i remember when i first saw Chris Burnham’s work, and my first thought was to dismiss him as a Quitely clone. I wasn’t into it, like someone switched my mayo for miracle whip. But he’s an artist that i think has more ahead of them than behind them. I really like his work now, and part of that is that it keeps looking fresh. For a Batman comic, which is always so deadly serious, its nice to see a sense of fun. Here’s a world where a dude has made a whole gang of Bat-dudes. It’s like watching that Warriors movie. The faces are gnarly, and that scene above, feels closer to the tone of the sixties Batman show, than any of the Batman ’66 comics i’ve read.  Chris Burnham is more Allred than Allred at this point, and it’s only because Burnham isn’t getting comfortable. Below is a variant cover for Aquaman, in which Allred simply swiped images for underwater creatures from google imaes. Go ahead, google “megamouth shark” “frilled shark” and “hydrothermal worm”, its like he copied and pasted them on to the page. This is still a cool cover, but you can see that the least amount of effort has gone into it. Swiping is only cool if it says something about what you just swiped or you transform it enough, otherwise you’re just being lazy. I hate lazy artists. I really like Chris Burnham. Since its a year old this comic, i should see where he’s at now.

Swampson by Bjorn Daniel Miner

Bjorn gave me this comic at a signing. It is a pretty little package, thin and hefty. When i see work like this, it makes me proud of all the artists who are striving to make comics. Most of the time, all i feel is anger at going to a small press show, and table after table has identical looking work. They’ve all figured out that most of their currency will be in trades, so everyone’s trying to get rid of their hyper-inflated currency. Its three short stories, all of which have some pretty funny moments, without having to resort to drug and/or genital references to get its edgy laughs. Its refreshing to read an indie humor comic that’s not trying to fulfill all of Vice Magazine’s editorial mandates (Please add someone on the toilet, please add crude sexual antics, please write something that will be offensive on tumblr).

The best story is the one about the jerkwad kid trying to get into the main characters’ tree house. The Jerkwad isn’t entirely unsympathetic, but he goes to pretty disturbing extremes to get what he wants. I remember when my brother and I were kids, we had a neighbor who was our enemy. We never walked past each other without yelling at him, and vice versa. But we could never understand why the kid would pull his penis out at us. The kid would drop his pants and swing his dick around, and we’d be disgusted and tell him that he’s gross. This is how the stories in Swampson feel, you don’t know why they are doing this, and kids often have the most mysterious motivations, but it all makes sense to them. Bjorn ties it all up though, and it never feels like he’s just writing stream of consciousness comics. The stories are dreamy and strange, but the writing is on point.

Adventures of a Japanese Businessman by Jose Domingo

This is probably the best comic i’ve read in months. A static panel layout, and within there’s the craziest adventures of a static character. If you’ve ever played the videogame Katamari Damacy, you’ll know the joy of turning a corner and finding some strange scene playing out that you could not imagine. The colors are so vivid, and the movement through the world is so animated, it made me want to stop what i’m doing and draw a comic in this same format. I want this to be a genre of comics in itself, something everyone tries their hand at, just to see what they come up with when they only impose the fewest rules on themselves, but follow them strictly. The book, published by NoBrow, is also a beautiful object in itself, with a hard cover and spot gloss. Really, you should have this in your collection, because it’s a book you’ll keep coming back to for inspiration.

Metabarons by Jodorowsky & Jimenez

Steelhead with a new head

This is one of those comics that i’ve been meaning to read for a long time. You know, one of those things you’re embarrassed to say you haven’t read? This is it. I finally got a chance to pick it up, and it is as beautiful as everyone says. Its like if Star Slammers started working out one summer, lost all its baby fat, and the next time you saw him, you’re all like “Daaaaayum!” But the story leaves something to be desired. It’s mostly repetitive like the bible. This dude begot that dude, this person slept with this person and begot this person. There’s incest, father-son rivalries, and the women are there to just keep the genes going. I didn’t care that the story wasn’t mind-blowing, because the art often was. Alien vistas, strange civilizations and awesome mega-violence that never lets up for hundreds of pages. The sheer size of the thing is impressive alone, and i wouldn’t be surprised if this didn’t have its own religion in 100 years. At least it wouldn’t result in wimpy Jedi-faith followers cosplaying in bathrobes.

Finally, the last great book i got, wasn’t a comic, but a book of Maps by by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski

I always say that my biggest influence in my life, when i started out drawing, were children’s books. Children’s books have an efficiency to them. It becomes impossible to find what you’re looking for on wikipedia or google, because you’re not allowed to browse or aimlessly explore. Children’s books provide an entry way to a billion concepts, without being overwhelming. Perfect clarity is necessary for a simple understanding, and simplicity encourages further exploration. Combining maps with hundreds of adorable illustrations related to each place is the perfect introduction to a new world. A world that we live in and never know enough about. For seasoned pros or new creators, this book is a must have for anyone who loves maps, world building, and history.

All of these comics and books i was happy to have read, because each one has planted seeds in my head for my own art. What if i draw maps more like the Mizielinskas, or how do i refine my work to Juan Gimenez’s level? The energy of Wimberly, or the playfulness of Burnham? I never review comics for other people, those reviews are always in my head. My harsh approach is universal, because it must inform my own work. A lot of conversations about criticism are always demanding GOOD CRITICISM, and i’ve read more effective criticism about criticism than i’ve read of actual criticism. It’s all pretty circle-jerky. But what is criticism for me? It’s just a way of putting in words, not what i want from the comics medium, but what i want from myself. All the hate and harshness, all the praise and pleasure – Its just a letter from my future self. People get the impression that i think i’m the best there is, but doing most creative work, often feels isolating and depressing. You’re doing all this work, for what? Because there’s an 85 year old man, somewhere in the future, who is everything i want to be. I’ll never become that man if i don’t believe that he’s better than i’ll ever be, or that comics can be better than we ever expected.

Thanks for reading.

previously appeared on The Idol Box 


June 11, 2014

Secret Prison

3:50 pm in art,comics,zines dustin hostetler

SP7_COVERv2_original

You should buy these comic books.


April 18, 2014

Punching a Woman in the Face

5:14 am in comics,community,conversations,reviews Ulises Farinas

And then she rapes you.

Recently, there’s been another outrage outburst in the comics community. A woman criticized a sorta shitty comic cover, and naturally, she was threatened with rape. It feels pretty disgusting to write ‘naturally’, but sadly, that’s where we are at as a society. But just as naturally as guys throw around rape threats on the internet, then came the tweets, the blogs, the facebook comments. It seems now is the time, i’m serious guys! Lets start calling out when dudes we know do this! No quarter will be given to the sexists, the douchebags, the white cis male comic reader mouth breather! NOW IS THE TIME!

Give me a fucking break.

This shit is happening on the regular. And you know why it’s happening, cause it goes all the way to the top. We aren’t passive participants, we aren’t victims of rape culture, the comics industry is a manufacturer of rape culture. We’re expected to call out some losers on our news feed, with the naive hope that this will be the change that is needed. But this is what is what we sell, who pays our bills, who we give interviews for, watch his shows:

invincible026
The explanations, the accomodations, the rationalization has already poured in. This is a rape of A MAN, so it’s turning the whole “Superhero Rape” cliche on his head. Nice Try. This is why men yell rape. Because it isn’t real to them.

Invincible #110 begins with some superboy coming back from being presumed dead, and his girlfriend is pregnant, and she’s breaking up with him, cause his superhero life is TOO MUCH for her. Single tears are drawn, hands being pulled away, a pretty white girl is pregnant and her life might be hard! And Superboy type dude just. can’t. handle. it. Then he flies away to cry, cause THIS IS A SERIOUS STORY! Please ignore the spandex, they are REAL CONSEQUENCES IN INVINCIBLE. And a super hot sexy superwoman decides to have sex with him, and so she rapes him.

You see, a steady stream of garbage like this, is what a man is fed from day one. Rape doesn’t happen to nice girls, to pretty girls, to your best friend, to your family, in your family. According to TV, and movies, and comics, men have been taught their whole lives that rape doesn’t really happen at all. Men don’t know what rape is, even when they are raping a woman.

.. I say “Kiss it a little,” she says “No, all the massage oil is on it” and I take the back of her head and I push it down on my d**k and she doesn’t do it. And I say “Open your mouth, open your mouth,” and she does it and I start facef**king her.”

That is David Choe describing consensual oral sex from a masseuse. That is just another dude, some artist, who painted murals at the Facebook offices, living his life, 100% believing that holding the back of a woman’s head, in a private situation, and forcing his penis in her mouth, is not rape. If that’s what we’re dealing with, what do you think legions of comics fans think of rape, when it’s simply another plot point?

“Why should murder be so over-represented in our popular fiction, and crimes of a sexual nature so under-represented? Surely it cannot be because rape is worse than murder, and is thus deserving of a special unmentionable status. Surely, the last people to suggest that rape was worse than murder were the sensitively reared classes of the Victorian era … And yet, while it is perfectly acceptable (not to say almost mandatory) to depict violent and lethal incidents in lurid and gloating high-definition detail, this is somehow regarded as healthy and perfectly normal, and it is the considered depiction of sexual crimes that will inevitably attract uproars of the current variety.” – Alan Moore


Alan Moore, despite his cantankerous perceived personality, is still considered one of the greats in comics. And who’s calling him out? Last book he had published, was by what? Top Shelf right? His career is where he wants it to be. Yet, for him, rape is just another plot point.

When you’ve learned all your moral lessons from spandex-clad ubermensches, who never die, who are always resurrected, you can’t honestly say that “murder” is what we are seeing when we read comic book deaths. We are simply seeing a character take a break for awhile. But when you draw a person being raped, you can’t say it’s just another crime. People don’t live with murder. Although it may seem strange, when real people are raped, they have to live with it for the rest of their lives. You don’t just get to pull a Jean Grey and come back as a new character after a couple months.

But we want our cake and eat it too. Comics blogs want their interviews with Robert Kirkman, they want their sound bites from Alan Moore, aspiring artists want their chance at the next hit image book, and aspiring writers need that pull quote. Yeah, go ahead, and call out the 14 year old loser on your news feed. That ain’t gonna change shit. You spend 10 minutes at the next convention, and you tell me how many maxim magazine style pin ups you see. But you can’t call that out, dude just loves the female form. You read about “cosplay is not consent” but these barely clothed superheroines were manufactured without consent. It’s only a matter of time before they become just another sexual object in the comic, to be punched, to be ogled, to be sexualized, then victimized, then forgotten. How can we have a conversation about how dudes act at conventions, when every comic they read teaches them that women are simply tits & ass and if they aren’t asking for it, they didn’t say no either. A convention is akin to a strip club, but strip clubs at least have a very strict hands-off policy. But we can’t admit that we’ve created a strip club, so we won’t admit we need a hands off policy. There’s no bouncers at conventions, only creators and their fanboys who’ve carved out one of the last few bastions of pure male power. Don’t you dare challenge it.

The indie scene is much better, simply because its independence has allowed it to exist apart from the parasitic environment where one denounces rape culture, while giving interviews to Scott Lobdell, Brian Wood, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Robert Kirkman, Geoff Johns, Mark Millar the next week. When an argument about whether wonder woman wears pants or not is considered ‘feminist’, and where artists argue whether highly stylized figure drawings are anatomically correct. Who gives a fuck about the boob size of a teenager, when criticizing anatomy totally misses the god damn point. The titanic is sinking, but we’re talking about a cracked window and not the giant gash pouring ice water into the ship. Teenagers have large breasts, and small breasts, and some have breast implants too – the problem is the comics industry is controlled by large dudes, and small dudes, and right now, its women, that are the breast implants. That is, they are the odd man out. They are the thing that we say we love, we love our “strong female characters” which are all pretty, skinny, white, sassy, Scarlett Johanssons with no muscle definition, sexy, sex symbols, but OMG, SHE IS SO EMPOWERING.


Its like breast implants. We pretend to love them, but actual breasts, the ones that come in weird shapes and sizes. The a-symmetrical breasts, the areolas that are too dark, the stretch marks, or the blue veins, the breasts that aren’t the same since i lost weight. Ain’t no one wanna see that. We congratulate our male writers, editors, artists for giving us just enough, while they can still masturbate all the way to the bank, secure in the fact that they are still attracted to the women they write.

And that’s the rub. Women aren’t human to comics creators, to comics fans, to most men. Women are this subspecies of man. And the man’s gotta be in charge, gotta be on top. Why are we so surprised, that men who read these male-power fantasies, completely lose their shit when their power is threatened? What’s the thing that most dudes are most insecure about? Their goddamn dick size. And what’s the thing that men use to prove their power over others? Their goddamn dick size. The powerless man is a subspecies of man – a woman. A powerless man is a sissy, a bitch, a fag, a cocksucker, a queer. So when a man loses his power, all he’s got is the only thing he’s ever known. He better fuck something.

A man tells a woman he’ll rape her because its the only thing left where he can still have power. You ain’t gonna shame no dude into stop doing that. Shame is exactly why he does it. Dude knows exactly how offensive he is being. And if it offends his dude friends? They think, “That’s cause they’re little bitches too, so fuck them. I bet they can’t get laid, so they just pretend to be feminists to hang out with chicks.” Teach men not to rape is one of the most useless ideas, not because it’s not true, but because your target audience has learned just the opposite. The modern man is at an impasse. They don’t know what rape is, except from what they’ve learned from TV, comics and movies. They know that its extremely shocking, and so they can always rely on it to end the conversation. And they know they are losing their future.

Teach men not to rape? Too late. A rapist is a friend, a brother, a father, a cousin, a step dad. They truly believe they have never raped anyone. Those steubenville kids? Remember that they began crying only after they were put on trial. It was all fun and games before then. Call out your friends, fans, who make rape threats? No, call out the creators that keep making rape stories cause they figured out it gets them on the front page of comic book resources, bleeding cool, etc. etc.

These fans do not exist as an anomaly. They like what we make. We write stories that make them believe that rape is just no big deal. Dude, its a comic, don’t take it so seriously.

Invincible punches a woman in a face, then gets an erection, then is raped. Yeah, it’s the fans that are the problem.

previously published on the Idol Box


April 4, 2014

Feminism as Self Protection

9:55 am in comics,community,conversations Ulises Farinas

Why be feminist? Why care if any of your comics or movies or tv shows pass the Bechdel test? Recently, i saw some headline that movies that pass the Bechdel test may perform better at the box office. Who cares? And more and more women are on screen, on panels, in panels, writing and coloring and making all sorts of stories. Why does that even matter? Economic arguments, appeals to diversity and better story telling, and all of it is bullshit.

It matters because we are all human. Any other argument is missing the point.

Here i am, at 1:30 am, and i’m watching this collection of clips from Glee.

And i’m crying like i cried when i was a little boy. Violence is infectious, i truly believe that. I am a violent person, i have violent feelings almost every day. I bounced off of social media for a bit, to chill out, and some of my friends have mentioned how they missed the venom. Some folks say that it takes a lot of energy to hate, to be angry, to be negative, and it becomes exhausting to remind them, that no it doesn’t. I hate because its in my blood, because there’s a violence in me that i can’t get out. I was maybe 3 or so, and my mother was crying and her face was covered in cigarette ashes. My father had thrown a cigarette ash tray in her face. I can’t let it go.

Thats the real world, and drawing comics and watching tv has been my escape for just as long. I never remember drawing for the first time, but i do remember the first fights. Broken vase, screaming mother, tired father. I remember bugs bunny, and how he’d dress like a woman to make a joke, to escape an attacker. I remember hugging my mom when she cried, pushing her into her bedroom and closing the door so he couldn’t get to her. The TV was always on. Power Rangers. Animaniacs. Discovery Channel. Muppet Babies.

When the world looks kind of weird, and you wish you weren’t there, just close your eyes and make believe and you can be anywhere.

As an adult, I see men all around me, who write violence, who draw violence, who have never been infected by violence. Most women you know, have been victims of some sort of violence from a man. But where is Batman and the battered woman? Where is Captain America and the saddest conversation you can have with a girlfriend? Where is all the heartache, the pain, the disgust and the powerlessness?No one ever writes the hero origin story who just had crappy parents. That’s saved for the villains. All these writers and artists, and the only time they think about rape is as a plot point. They have sisters, mothers, cousins. But real violence, its terrifying. Men spend most of their time, avoiding this inconvenient truth.  They wanna write the grown up stories, but can’t conceive that spandex is a terrible outfit to cry in.  A thin sheet of bristol board separates their fiction from the reality. That women are human.

Why be a feminist if you’re a man? Because its fair? Because it’ll make money? Nothing in life is fair, and wishes don’t come true in the real world. And economics is the refuge of the morally bankrupt. I am a feminist, and a man, because without it, i’m afraid i’d be a monster. And in the real world, a monster doesn’t twirl his moustache, he gets away with anything. Every dude who’s not an asshole, always wants to be appear as a stand up dude. So lots of liberal guys, they say they are feminists, and they say they want diversity and are progressive in their politics, but most sexual violence is done by a friend, a family member, a colleague. It means i’m a feminist because i’m not only afraid of myself, i’m afraid of other men constantly. Liberal Progressive Men included.

I know i’ve spoken to a few guys, who after reading about the latest sexual harassment story at a comic convention, worry “What if i’m next? What if the feminist mob comes after me for a misunderstanding?!?” I fear it. And even if men privately voice their reservations about the big feminist manhunt, I know i’d deserve it. We’d all deserve it. There are mexican women being murdered and killed en masse on the mexican border, and if you’ve had sex with six women in your life, then one of those women was probably sexually assaulted. So i don’t really think it’s so unfair if a comic book dude gets some bad press. The worst thing i ever have to fear is a week and a half of finger-wagging on comics blogs, and rumors and whispers about me being a pervert. I’m sure that already happens.

I hate what i’ve seen. I hate that i feel like it’s a part of my DNA. So I don’t know if i’ll ever have children, but i would want to inoculate them from getting my shit. But i know when i’m crying like i was when i was a little boy, i watched TV. I read comics. It was some protection, a place to be safe. Somewhere, some child is crying, and they’ll need something fictional. They’ll need heroes that don’t tarnish, that save the world, that love them, that they can love. Feminism will protect that boy too. Feminism will protect all the boys. No boy should have to learn these lessons this way. You shouldn’t have to grow up into a man feeling like you never learned how to do this. Hyper sexuality, braggadocio, machismo – all things that i’m guilty of. I shouldn’t be afraid of  other men, i shouldn’t be afraid of myself.

But i am, and feminism is the only way i know to keep the violence in me from spreading to other men and boys. I thank my sisters, my mothers, my friends. Feminism is necessary, and there’s no argument to be made. Without it, i’m a savage.


March 8, 2014

.@LineworkNW

10:16 pm in art,art events,comics,community,zines dustin hostetler

tumblr_static_lineworknw

I’m seriously considering a trip to Portland in April. This looks like an amazing event!


February 27, 2014

Non-Review Review – February 2014

10:32 am in comics,community,conversations,reviews,Uncategorized Ulises Farinas

In case anyone is wondering where the comic reviews have been. It took me about 2 months to get exhausted reading comics. Its exhausting to sift through so much coal, and find that you’re trying to make diamonds yourself, trying so hard to find the good in all of them. I’d read about 5 comics at a time, maybe finish a trade paper back, and i’d find myself struggling to not be thoroughly MEH on everything. Like i’ve found a basket of oranges, but they are so old, they’ve dried out, and are hard as rock. The surface that is facing me is a bright orange, but you turn one over and find a forest of fuzzy mold in their shadow.

It’s pretty exhausting to get recommendation after recommendation, only to find that people have become so used to, so invested into believing that their cherished medium is so valuable, that the only reason its still floating is on the hot air of praise of an entire comics structure that is incapable of self-reflection.

The comics journalists, they need to maintain good relations with the comics publishers. The comics artists need to keep good relations with each other. The comics editors need to justify their existence. The comics writers need to assert their ability. Its not that the Emperor has no clothes, its Adam and Eve, ignorant of their own nakedness. Meanwhile, the shelves are lined with colored paper, no more worth while than colored paper.

What’s their to review? I’m not sure if i’m gonna stop 100%, or if i’ll stop at all. But I remember times, where i had a girlfriend, and of course, you want to share your interests. They’d make an honest effort, pick up a few comics, read them fairly regularly. All the while, i could see, that they were mostly just doing it for me. I’ve never made much of an effort to read comics regularly, but now i feel like i have more of a reason not to read comics regularly.  Pretending i was a new reader of comics, only ended the illusion that i actually am a fan of comics.  I like comics, i love comics – specific comics, particular comics. But saying i love comics, all comics, is like saying i love chinese food when all i ever order is General Tso’s. American Comics are the takeout equivalent of chinese cuisine. I pick up a book made by anyone outside of america, and i might not like it, but the things i don’t like about it don’t start at the bottom of the barrel.

I review comics like i’m working on the railroad, and i’m hammering all the live long day. But i’m not hammering hard nails into hard wood, sturdy and strong, ready to carry some Story Trains to gold paradise. I’m insane, i’m a crazy motherfucker punching a muddy floor. There’s no nails, no wood, no steel. Just slop and shit and dying things, and i want to believe that i can build something out of that slop. It can’t be built. I can dry those shit cakes in the sun, and make a shit castle, but the majority of what i have read, was like seeing a piece of glass in a pile of garbage and pretending i found diamonds.

Mediocrity is rewarded in comics. No, not rewarded. Mediocrity is incredibly sustained. Whether its writer’s getting exclusive contracts, to make any kinda shit they want. Or its editors who provide no insight, no comments, nothing but their name on the book and a paycheck from your work. Or its artists who get no credit, shit pay, and no time. Its a system that isn’t doomed to fail, and i wish it would, but it’s better described as Homer’s bobbing bird:

Do nothing, add nothing, take no chances, keep the wheels turning, keep the bird bobbing. I can’t read book after book, that has no inspiration. Where every fucking convention announcement is treated like Moses coming down from Mt.Sinai. These aren’t the stone tablets, we ain’t got no Moses. What we do have, is the golden fucking calf.

All our comics, we’ve built up into an empty idol, and i go and read other reviews. After i review a comic, i go and see what other dudes and dudettes are saying, just so i can get some kind of context for what i’ve just experienced. I don’t really care to see if someone liked or didn’t like what i liked or didn’t like. Cause honestly, a lot of this is subjective taste. The reason i read other reviews, is because critical thinking should operate from a certain standpoint. We all gotta be speaking the same language, understanding how a story works, characterization, that kinda shit. And when i go and read other reviews, it quickly becomes clear that IT JUST DOESN’T HAPPEN. There are no ten commandments. There’s no one talking about story, why Batman is doing something Batman-ish. Just because we all understand the archetype doesn’t mean you get to get away with brooding for 172 pages cause THATS JUST HOW HE IS. Do you know how many superhero comics have basically just skipped any kind of character development? How many comics have basically abandoned any kind of narrative structure and called it ‘serialization’ and ‘decompression?’

How many reviews are unwritten right now? Already preformed, just looking for the right moment to burst forth. You don’t have to wait, i can write them for you. “TREES by ELLIS IS A SCIENCE FICTION TOUR DE FORCE,” You see, I’m not even saying that Trees will be a bad book, or a good book, or a great book, or any kind of book. But i can guaran-damn-tee it, that it doesn’t matter, there won’t be any reviewer, journalist, comics blog, podcast, that doesn’t hedge their bets, that doesn’t watch their tone, that doesn’t say flat out “Yeah, this doesn’t work” Every word in comics journalism has to pay for itself, and every comics professional only talks to the comics journalists that will help them pay their bills. The interests of the two parties are so inextricably linked, the persons involved so codependent, that we should just give up the facade and just make a central comics news node, we can call it “PRESS RELEASE DROPBOX”

So i’m just tired. I’ve read a lot of times, “Don’t be so negative. Its better to spend your energy on your own work,” In a way, they are right. But it’s not that it takes energy to be negative. That shit is automatic. A negative feeling is an automatic reaction to trying your best, to find the best in a medium you’re supposed to love. It takes energy to TRY to love something. It takes energy to pretend that you like comics like everyone else does. It takes energy to explain that you’re not just trolling, you’re not just hating. I went and saw that movie Robocop. The Remake. Yes, that one. I saw a lot of hubbub about how “It shouldn’t even have been made!” And it takes energy to pretend that this movie, this by-the-numbers action flick, isn’t just as good as that Rocket Girl comic. I’m not knocking that Rocket Girl comic. It’s one of the last comics i read in the last month. But let’s not sit on our high horses, and believe that some B-movie remake into another B-movie is somehow at a lower level than our B-comics. Cool Special Fx – Check. Some moments of good dialogue – Check. Light Social Commentary – Check. Which story am i talking about? You decide!

It takes energy to be disappointed.

I’m not gonna make comics better by bathing in mud. Comics aren’t gonna get better. I don’t want to read any work of my peers, i only read to learn and i ain’t got nothing to learn from them. Bunch of 30 year olds who had better ideas when they were 12. 50 year old who act like they are 25. 60 year olds who aint got shit to offer. 20 year olds with dreams ready to be crushed. Infinite Blandness.

A desert of corn flakes. A dessert of corn flakes.

I leave you with some words taken from Tupac,

Dying inside, but outside you’re looking fearless
While tears, is rollin down your cheeks
Ya steady hopin things don’t all down this week
Cause if it did, you couldn’t take it, and don’t blame me
I was given this world I didn’t make it

 


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