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

 


February 17, 2014

wesley kimler

1:41 am in Uncategorized dustin hostetler

Screenshot 2014-02-16 20.24.36

Screenshot 2014-02-16 20.23.47

Amazing! wesleykimlerstudio.com


December 23, 2013

Comics Review – Late December 2013

Technically, i read all these comics at once, like a week and a half ago, but hey, let me try my best to remember what was what. While it’s still fresh in my mind, let us get straight to it.

Velvet #2- Brubaker & Epting – Ok

Sometimes i wonder how successful writers/artists pitch work to publishers. Do they step in an office, greet their contacts warmly, and say “Hey i wanna do the same thing i’ve always done, again, will you publish it?” Do the publishers then respond “I dunno buddy, i’m not sure anyone will buy it..” and then they both laugh hysterically, “I’m just fucking with you. Sure, lets publish it. Nah, i don’t even need to see a script. I’m sure you can handle this. You’ve been doing it as long as I am,” There’s nothing wrong with Velvet. There really isn’t. Any critiques i’d have, would be pretty nitpicky (like the lettering of ZZZZZZZZ over a sleeping man’s body, in multiple panels), but overall, it was just a matter of boredom. What need is there for another generic, cat-suited super spy against generic FBI?CIA?WTF?LOL? goons? What need is there for gruff men with secrets, and sexy ladies who are gruff too, and gruff men who live on boats; by this point, i’ve seen it done by Angelina Jolie like at least seven times, and Velvet isn’t adding anything new.

There’s also the problem of almost every fucking floppy, is just this constant in-media res story telling. I understand the economic necessities of making a floppy, but these are writers who have been writing for years, and every year, i find less and less books that actually function as single issues. People wait for the trade, but what you end up with, are a bunch of single issues that didn’t work alone, but have so much padding, that the whole shitty story could’ve been told in a single issue. I guess that’s what job security in comics is, pull as many pages out of an idea as possible, and you can’t jump the shark, because careers don’t get canceled in comics, they just get promoted.

Should you read Velvet? I dunno. Did you watch that movie Salt? No? Well, i’d say don’t worry about it. The Conversation with Gene Hackman, much better espionage-ish type film. I’m so meh on Velvet i don’t even wanna curse. And that makes me sad.

Pretty Deadly #2 – DeConnick & Rios & Bellaire & Cowles – Art – Great, Words – Good/Ok

I ragged on DeConnick for Captain Marvel before, in November, and a book like Pretty Deadly is the far opposite of that Marvel series. I wouldn’t really know where a writer’s passions are, but something about Pretty Deadly, even though i didn’t really understand what was happening, felt like she REALLY REALLY cared about this book. You have some ideas, when you’re an artist/writer, that just sit in your heart like children that haven’t been born. You can see their features, hear how they’ll laugh, and even see how they’ll die. Then you get a chance to make those stories, and you don’t care what people say or if they like it or don’t, its yours and thats all that matters.

I really enjoyed it, and the art, the sequential story telling, the ladies that be lookin’ fierce, was really excellent. Sometimes i watch Beyonce videos, and all i can think is how she’s really gotten down every one of her moves and the whole look. Its just on point. Emma Rios, is on point. This is a book that i’d see young cats try to emulate and fail at. There’s panel layouts going on in this book that stretch your muscles til they might pop. Personally, i’m fairly conservative with my panel layouts, so seeing something like this makes me think about what i can do with my own game.

The story is kind of dreamy, and at times, i had trouble figuring out who was talking to who, and what the hell they were talking about. But rather than feeling frustrated with it, it really just made me want to keep reading more, so i could figure it out. If you can make me care, even though i feel disoriented, i’d say you’ve just pulled off a nice hat trick. High five, there’s passion in this book, and this is new. So i think this might be the first book from my reviews, where i’ll actually go and buy #3 (and #1)

Viking’s End – Rich Tommaso - Great

This is my favorite of the week. Have y’all ever listened to Hardcore History? That podcast right there, its the real deal. You guys need to put down your lame ass comics, for a second, and learn something real, something substantial, or something like Viking’s End. History was really fucked up. People spend a lot of time thinking about today’s every day cruelties. In the last day alone, i saw Paul Walker’s crushed face and burnt body, i’ve seen a black kid bleeding out on a San Francisco street, I’ve read about Scott Lobdell getting his dick all hard like a 5th grade poindexter and not knowing how to deal. 

A bit of a tangent here, but i think about sex pretty god damn often, like shit, human procreation is really fucking mind-bending, but i ain’t once ever been on a panel and looked at a person next to me and thought ‘Time to get some. Yes. right now. This will work. Lets do this.” Come on man. Every time i read about harassment in comics, I think this, in this order: 1. AGAIN!? REALLY!? AGAIN!? WHAT ARE YOU, TWELVE??! 2. You should get punched in the face 3. These motherfuckers ain’t got no fucking game. Here’s a bit of advice, for anyone who’s trying to get laid. Treat the person you wanna see naked with respect. At best, you get laid and at worst, you’ve treated a human humanely. You don’t ever have to worry about being a creep, if you respect people’s boundaries, respect their work, and respect when they aren’t interested.

Apologizing for some person ‘not getting your humor’ is such bullshit. Sometimes, i wonder how male cartoonists would feel, if i kept implying that they got nice dick-sucking lips during a panel. Then i’d say “BRO, I’m JUST JOKING!” I’m not gonna pretend to be some noble post-masculine feminist, cause i’m as much of a meathead chauvinist as any other dude from Jersey (i’m working on it), but any time i’ve done some fucked up shit, i didn’t wait til i read about it on xojane.com to respond. The time for apologies, isn’t years later. Straight dudes live in a bubble of knowing they can get away with anything, but there’s a god damn reckoning coming. Scott Lobdell apologized with the quickness, cause the internet hate machine does not have patience for your sluggish reply. I recently replied to a post about this, asking “why don’t people just name names” and got a schooling from Laura Hudson. I got my own bubble of being an aggressive straight dude, where honestly, i’m not gonna come up against many situations where i can’t solve with more aggression. In some ways, i can’t see beyond my own bubble. But i can see, that if you’re gonna be a creep in comics, you’ve just about used up all your get-out-of-jail free cards.  Its been hard out there for a lot of people, and now, straight white dudes, you can join the rest of us in the gravel pit.

Okay okay…speaking of white dudes, let’s get back to that Viking comic. I’m sorry Rich Tommaso, cause your comic was both historically enlightening and also wonderfully drawn. It’s got a bit of a chris ware feel? I’m not sure, but you know, little square boxes and geometric humans, that kind of stuff. And the story is about some little brat, who goes straight gangsta, and kills a man’s daughter, after getting her drunk. No victim blaming here, but i know better than to hang out with murderous barbarians who’s family has been at war with my family. It’s actually kind of hilarious, even though its just a cruel trick to get the father to join the battle. It works, the Father is pissed and smarter than the little shit, and the the little shit gets 86′d. Justice was swift on the battlefield, and i’m always aghast at how much blood we used to shed on the regular. I’ve cried thinking about 9/11, but human history would place that event in a thimble, compared to the buckets of guts that other massacres have been. The ending was a sweet surprise, so i won’t spoil it, but everything in this book is delightful. Sorry about the tangent again.

In Pace Requiescat – Sean T. Collins & Julia Gfrorer – Art – Good , Words – ???

Who wants to read a comic about glory holes? Who likes Edgar Allen Poe? This comic is for you. Good Art, but the rest? Personally, and this i’m admitting is a bit more biased, more just my tastes, i felt this was just an artsy indie idea that didnt amount to much to me. Like any time you’ve gone to an art gallery, and you’re with friends, and they are watching a video of a dead fox slowly decomposing, and you don’t wanna be the first dude to be like ‘i don’t get it’ or leave, so you watch the whole thing too. But then you watch it like 3 times, and realize your friend has been waiting for you to leave, but neither of you know when this thing properly ends, so you are just kinda waiting for some kind of interruption. Then a complete stranger gets up and leaves, so you leave too. Man, that shit is so awkward.

Keep Fresh – Zejian ShenArt – Ok, Words – ???

Real creepy, and if you want to read this in english, good luck, because all the english text is crammed in the bottom of each page haphazardly. In a way, it kinda adds to the creepy effect, but by the end of the comic, i missed something and didn’t know what, so i could not figure out the conclusion. Sometimes, i just feel straight up stupid. I think “Is it me? Do i just not have the reading comprehension necessary for this comic?” My high self esteem quickly discards that question, and replaces it with “WHY CAN’T I READ THIS SHIT!?” But nah, this isn’t shit. I actually enjoyed it, because i like reading sorta-horror comic about motorcycle dude smashing the brains out of a pervert with a hammer.

I wonder why that image would appeal to me? I wonder….

On Your Marks, Short Run Anthology #1 – Various ArtistsGood!

There was some not so good comics in this, but some very good comics too. And it was mostly very good. Most of the time i read anthologies, and i just think “great, inaccessible toilet paper” But this was a quick read of enjoyable short comics. Notable stand outs -

Spirit Hand by Gfrorer – Real creepy and unsettling

Tuesday by Aidan – pitch perfect description of depression in six panels

This Magic Ring & Crab story by JFish – would love to read more adventures of these characters, and probably has the most possibility for expansion.

That’s it y’all. Mostly a good week. Besides some boring comic and some inscrutable comics, everything else was really enjoyable. Cheers to you!


December 1, 2013

Mega Comics Review Part 2 – November 2013

Man, i’ve been reading comics like they are going out of style. This is part 2 of the End of November review of reviews. Of all the comics i’ve reviewed this month, i have rated more comics “GOOD” than anything else. Second to that were “OK” comics, and after that, about 4 crappy comics.

But my pick of the month is…

POOR THING – DREW MILLERAll around great comic

This comic. THIS COMIC. It made me laugh, the art was boss, and the story was hilarious. A lot of times, people confuse complexity with quality, and that’s not the true at all. The quality of something is best measured by it’s own merits. You wouldn’t get upset with a pig, cause it tasted like a cow, but you would feel ripped off if you got ham instead of bacon on your BLT. What i mean is, a comic should be the result of the artist/writer putting their best work out there. Most comics are content to either have good writing or good art, and that’s enough to call that comic GREAT. That’s why so many of my reviews just say something is okay, cause the whole package falls apart.

But Poor Thing, is a complete package, from the cover design, to the inside cover, to the sequentials, to the humor. I could see if someone doesn’t find it funny, like i do, but that wouldn’t take away from the quality, as it is still very well drawn and the story hits all the beats at the right time. There are other comics that try so hard to seem effortless, but often can’t shed their ‘Am i being edgy? In the right way?” self consciousness. This comic is weird, kinda gross, made me laugh, and made me want to draw. Great all the way.

Sex Criminals #2 & #3 – Fraction & Zdarsky – Good

I missed the first issue, but i think any comic, any where, if presented in a floppy format, is REQUIRED to stand on its own. I don’t want to wait for the trade. If you don’t think your vision works as a floppy, do not publish it as a floppy. But this comic, i really much enjoyed. Fraction’s writing can sometimes get a little carried away with itself, and its a symptom of all the good writers in this industry. They simply believe their own hype too much. But unlike Casanova, which i found to be incomprehensible at times, once this got going, i was really going with it too. I was afraid that a comic about sex, would be plagued with a lot of the same heteronormative bullshit that straight dudes never think twice about, fearful that their dicks will get too excited at homoeroticism and run away without them. But nah, this comic is actually very sweet. A boy meets girl, girl meets boy, both of them fuck and STOP TIME AND ROB BANKS AND THEM SOME SCIFI PRISONERS OF THE PHANTOM ZONE TYPES ARE AFTER THEM. But it’s all very sweet, the whole “waiting on someone to text you” bit was nice, and for once, i believe that a comic book writer isn’t a fat piece of shit who hasn’t seen his dick in 12 years, so he must stare at comic pinups so he imagine a swelling in his sweatpants. The writing was slick, the art was mostly good, the coloring was shitty at times. But, good! I liked it! November is ending on a good note. Also, IMAGE on a whole, has the best graphic design for its publications. This applies to Zero, below, too.

Zero #3 – Ales Kot & Mateus Santolouco & More – Good

I don’t know about you, but when i read Wild Children, i thought this was a writer sucking his own literary cock so hard, that he’s already came a million times and is now a skeletal ouroboros of footnotes and bad meta-fiction. You know, you can’t believe your own hype when it’s your first comic, but then again, i’m all about bragging and thinking you’re the shit, so i can’t really hate on a brother for thinking he’s god’s gift to grant morrisson. But Zero, it seems he’s hit his sweet spot. I can see why the dude is gonna be writing some Avengers, cause i’m starting on issue 3, and i thought it hit hard, when the Lady he’s sweet with gets her arm detached. The science fiction elements are fresh, and “kickstarter of terrorism” is admittedly, kinda hokey, but also, something i figure would exist. Ales Kot is writing a 30 seconds into the future spy game, and it benefits the story by sticking to more conventional plotting.

I don’t hold a grudge in comics, i never believe that if you wrote or drew a bad comic once before, that you can’t pick yourself up and make a great comic the next time. I also don’t think that means, the one after that is gonna be any good either. Each according to it’s own merits. Like i’ve said before, i want a comic to IMPRESS me. Zero #3 did. Good Job Ales.

Adventure Time #22 – North & Paroline & Lamb – Good

Adventure Time is like the Wolverine of kids comics. Its the best at what it does, and what it does is pretty cool. Cool points go to the costume design of the two princesses in the comic, i thought that was sweet. If i was a girl, i’d wanna cosplay as them, and also wear them on a date, cause i’d look good. The humor is easy, breezy, but maybe likes to say “Real Talk” a bit too often. But there’s funny moments, and i always think Adventure Time is the model that comics should look at. Good art that can be AMAZING, and fun short stories that you can take or leave. No reason to reboot, no reason to take itself so seriously, just make a good fucking comic, and the masses will come. Who knew, that quality sells?

The Golem of Gabirol – Olga Volozova - Bad Art – UNREADABLE WRITING

What the fuck Sparkplug? Did you print this shit up at kinkos? Not only is this comic printed way too dark at times, its FUCKING UNREADABLE. Lettering that fades to scribbles, art that looks like mashed potatoes and spilled ink and white out. Characters that are indistinguishable from one another, words coming from nowhere, saying things about Jewish mysticism that would be pretty enjoyable to read, if this was a comic that understood that I HAVE TO BE ABLE TO READ IT. I don’t think this comic’s story is bad, i don’t know if this story is good, i tried to read the whole thing, but by the end, i was just skipping pages. Sparkplug says its “A gorgeous tale from Olga Volozova, based on the legends of poet and scholar Solomon Ibn Gabirol. Crowded pages filled with breathlessly light linework and a touching, dreamlike narrative.”

Crowded: yes. BREATHLESSLY LIGHT? FUCK NO. No control whatsoever of her tools. And DREAMLIKE: YES, if you think dreams are a superior substitute to clear writing. Shit like this is what makes me so fucking angry at comics. There’s absolutely no standard. You can read Vortex which is also dream-like, and then read THIS, and somehow they both warrant publication? It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that a comic can’t be read. This book is a failure. It should be pulped. The artist should discover what one of her tools does, and then just use that one. Simply put, if you can’t draw, but can write, write a novel. If you can’t write, and can draw, draw artbooks. If you can’t do either, don’t make comics.

Part One! No more GTA! MOM! NOOO! – Unknown Seattle Based Artist, approx. 11 years old.

This comic, could teach Golem of Gabirol a thing or two. This creator is a little kid. I spoke to the kid for a few minutes, asked him what was the best thing he made. He recommended this dollar comic, that he folded himself. It’s simply an account of a bratty kid screaming about playing GTA V with his mother. And it is funny. Its mostly a lot of “BUT MOMMMMMM!!!!!!” that is pitch-perfect. “I WANNA KILL HOOKERZ!!!” When i see a kid, making comics, wanting to tell stories, this young, i know he’s got that fire. The fire that’s inside of us, that drives us to create. It’s wonderful, and i hope he never burns out. I hope he burns so bright, that one day, one day, i’ll tell him “The art sucks in this comic. Why was this even published?!” And he’ll burn that much brighter. Also, if anyone knows the artist, let me know. He didn’t sign his name. Total AMATEUR (just kidding. Stay Gold, Pony Boy)

That’s all for November. I’ve probably read more in this past month, than in the past six months. And overall, my opinion of comics, is that we strive to hit mediocrity so much, that we’ve become exhausted by our own laziness. Like when you’re laying in bed so long, you’re not even tired, its just you’ve atrophied all over. I believe in destruction, terror, and violence, because nothing motivates someone more than trying to prove another person wrong. Continue to prove me wrong. Only a few comics this month could be said to hit my ideals. So these are the best of NOVEMBER:

  1. FATA MORGANA – a beautiful Nemo in Slumberland hyperbright dream sequence artbook
  2. COPRA – More Kirby than Kirby imitators anyday
  3. POOR THING – Ren & Stimpy grossout evolution
  4. SEX CRIMINALS – mainstream style comic that is fun and sexy (rare)
  5. THE BOY IN QUESTION – simple story with good art, would love to read a more complex plot though

And the worst:

  1. BATMAN: BLACK & WHITE “Manbat” – Lose your job
  2. HARLEY QUINN #0 – Should be ashamed of yourself, but are probably really proud
  3. THE GOLEM OF GABIROL – Go back to school. No, not art school. This is where you learned this shit
  4. ST. OWL’s BAY – If all your peers are writing the same shit about getting high, why read this? Good art that is wasted on stupid juvenile writing. You’d have more fun getting high yourself.

Let’s see what December has in store.


Mega Comics Review pt 1. – November 2013

11:20 am in art,books,comics,conversations,reviews,Uncategorized Ulises Farinas

I went to this small press comics convention today, called SHORT RUN. I went with a friend, we had plans to do some other things, and was asking me how long we’d be in there. We stayed an hour and i saw too much. If you’ve been to one small press convention, you’ll see about a hundred cats that all got the same spots. I think a lot of people would at least say that they want EVERYONE to read comics, but when it looks like a cool kids club where your uniform is bad body odor, cat-eyed glasses for the ladies and stupid little hats for the boys, then you think they’d be satisfied with their friends reading it in the bathroom later that night.

Independent comics, self published comics, have the BEST opportunity to not only stand out from the crowd, but to appeal to a whole new crowd, and attempt to get them there. But the art is almost laughably identical. The artists look up at you with hungry eyes, soft-sells to buy their overpriced xerox comic, and all i can think was “Your shit looks like everything else here”

A few highlights of the show. It’s always good to see that the indie scene is almost 50% split on the gender front. Race-wise? Its whiter than the back of a map. It was free to get in, which is smart, and the size of the convention provided a good crowd to table ratio. Would i recommend going to it? No. Don’t table at any conventions, it’s a trap. But if you wanna buy a lot of self published comics that have shitty art and shittier writing, you can’t do any worse than that one. However, the comics i did buy, had a better ratio of things i liked than when browsing at a comic store. What does that say? I believe the best ideas will come from the self published crowd, if they could stop their daisy chain for a minute and actually care about increasing their skills. On to the comics reviews.

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This is one month of me doing comics reviews. After today’s review, i will see what the average rating of the lot of them was, partially as a snapshot into the quality of comics each month, and also as a snapshot of my own mood towards comics. It’s not scientific at all, because i can barely do math, so bear with me.

The end of the month was a big haul, so big, that some had to be left for next week. I’m changing the rating system slightly. It will still be TERRIBLE – CRAPPY – OK – GOOD – GREAT – AMAZING, but if there’s a significant quality difference between the art and the writing, i’ll indicate that. First off this week is

CAPTAIN AMERICA – WINTER SOLDIER vol 1 & 2. - Brubaker & Various Artists – OK

This was one of those comics that was a recommendation. Upon making one of my sweeping statements that there hasn’t been anything amazing in the last 20 years, this was offered as a possible candidate. Recommendations are awkward, because as much as you wanna believe that a person really thinks this is “AMAZING”, it’s very hard to ask them for another book recommendation when their definition of amazing basically amounts to “Decent art and a story that is cohesive and mildly entertaining” My bigger criticism though, is what i call PRAISE INFLATION. I think it’s a result of 1. an overly friendly professional community 2. no one actually is looking outside of comics for quality. I just came home from 12 years a slave, and that movie made me cry like a little bitch, really powerful, expertly acted and expertly filmed. EXPERT. Not DECENT. The distinction is important, and i guess when you’re eating so much shit, when you get a mouthful of froot loops, you’d believe it was fruit from the Garden of Eden.

Look upon that scene, and tell me that you can say that’s AMAZING in the same breath as you speak of CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER. Maybe i’m comparing apples to oranges, or maybe i’m comparing apples to froot loops. I got a simple barometer of taste “Did this provoke an emotion?” Was i excited? Saddened? Elated? Inspired? Or did i close the book, and think “meh”.

Brubaker really crafts a serious superhero action story, but most of it’s energy is spent trying its damndest to craft a slick thriller. It doesn’t work. You’re never in any doubt who is the assassin (Spoilers – IT’S BUCKY!), and you never are shown any real reason why this assassin is fucking with Captain America. And let me be clear, he really just fucks with him. Doesn’t kill him, doesn’t kill his friends, and all the mysterious mysteries don’t ever illuminate what the grand scheme of it all is. The nature of endless serialized superhero stories means that the writers NEVER have any balls. This comic has written on the back cover, “THE STATUS QUO SHATTERING SAGA”. Such bullshit. Not only is it not a saga, since it takes place within about a couple week’s time in-story, it’s not status quo shattering in the least. Everything remains the same as it began. The only people who get killed, you’ve only seen for one page or two. Any important characters are spared, uninjured, and continue the fight the next day. The solution to years and years of brain washing and war trauma, is Captain America makes a wish, and the Winter Soldier is Bucky again. It’s a bullshit solution to what was trying to be a smart comic. Brubaker REALLY tries to sell you on the idea that Captain America would put a 16 year old kid in harm’s way, specifically to do the dirty deeds in war. But you can’t have it both ways, you can’t present a realistic world with moral consequences, where the Captain is this paragon of virtue, and then have him easily convinced that “Yeah, sending a kid to do black ops is totally fine”

Its very clear here, where Marvel Movies get things right, because the idea of a sidekick is so outdated and frankly – STUPID, that they aged up Bucky in the films, so that you wouldn’t think “WTF CAPTAIN AMERICA” Honestly, if he didn’t want to be haunted by war crimes, he shouldn’t have enlisted child soldiers. That’s not a question Brubaker deals with, because fanboy nostalgia means you break your back to include the things you love, instead of trying to just write a damned good book. Its OKAY. If you want to see all the different ways that you and the Captain can make it happen, it’ll be a good read. If you actually want someone to change your mind on what is a great comic, this won’t be it.

SAGA vol. 1 – Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona StaplesGood Writing / Ok Art

I got mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, the pacing and character interactions are really sweet, and it was really brisk and easy to read. On the other hand, it started off pretty rough, and there were tons of characters that i could not care less about. Basically, any time one of those computer head characters were around, i just wanted to skip ahead. That, along with some pretty shitty world building, made me want to stop reading it. Little things like winged characters that live in a world with stairs and ladders. All of the science fiction elements were window dressing, and it probably would’ve been better served reducing a lot of those details. There’s this cliche galactic-wide war in the background, and i really didn’t care about any of it. The art can get reeeeally weak when it comes to the backgrounds, and i wish they hired another artist for that cause there’s not one background that’s more rendered than a few colorful brush strokes.

That being said, once the bounty hunters and forest Ghosts got involved, and the story was chugging along, those details could fade away and allow the character interactions to shine. This story actually seems to be much more like a fantasy, that happens to have science fiction elements; think Star Wars with more visible genitals and written/drawn by a creative team thats actually gotten laid a few times. The last 20 pages is what changed my mind on this comic, so hey, go check it out and see how you feel. I might even go actively follow where this story goes. I wouldn’t be surprised if this got adapted into a miniseries, because the dialogue is sharp like dat.

One nitpick – but i like to point it out, in every comic i see. There are two sex scenes in this comic, and one of them is an orgy. In this orgy, they are like five different couplings of female on female. You know how many depictions of male on male there are? None. In a galaxy far away, with sexy spider woman with bared breasts, and caterpillar whores, there’s not one dude who wants to suck dick. No. But lesbians aplenty. It’s really annoying that science fiction writers gotta be so fucking hetero all the time.*

*ASTONISHING DEVELOPMENT – So when looking for images for this article, i read that in a later issue of Saga, there is a scene of gay sex, but it’s on a tiny screen. I guess that’s better. Hip hip Hooray! Blowjobs equality!

Cartozia Tales – Various Writers & Artists - Good for Kids

You know how easy it is to get a good rating from me? Just throw in a good ol’ fashioned fantasy map. I go nuts for that kinda thing, and when i was a kid, i’d pour over the details of them. Anyway, this is an anthology, and so it’s hit or miss in some stories, but the tone is pretty consistent, and if i was a kid, i’d be inspired to draw my own Cartozia Tales. So good job Team Cartozia.

Island of Memory – T Edward Bak - OK writing / Good Art

I got this today at the Short Run comics thing, and honestly, i haven’t finished it. The art was pretty nice sometimes, like looking through a frosted glass, which compliments the icy setting it takes place in. But often times the writing was very stilted, but more so, i just felt kind of bored 3/4 of the way through. I kind of feel its a bit of the fault of the subject matter, which has a lot of period piece conversations and bunch of dudes lost up in the wintry wilderness. Boredom is maybe the worst enemy of any story, and i don’t fight it. There’s only so many hours in a day, and if i wanted to take a nap, i’d get in bed and close my eyes. Maybe i’ll finish this later, but i doubt it. I think i’d prefer to see another book by the artist, because i don’t doubt he could write something captivating, this just wasn’t it.

Thunder in the Building #2 – Margaret Ashford-Trotter - Ok to Bad Writing / Ok Art

This was the biggest disappointment of the entire haul. It read like you were walking in on the middle of conversations, catching glimpses of someone’s photo albums, and completely disconnected from “WHY SHOULD I CARE.” It’s not that the writing was bad, it just was in service of nothing. Some girl and boy hit a dude by accident once, and then she got cheated on? or Did that happen first? Then she reports the crime? Or was that in the past? There’s so much time jumping, with no indication of what time has passed, that its extremely chaotic and just leaves you feeling lost. The art is really plain. Like plain like that movie She’s All That. It could be beautiful, but its just so obnoxiously plain, you feel it had to be intentional. It doesn’t do the story any favors, the whole thing is like receiving a box of broken crackers. They are plain, they taste the same as normal crackers, but i don’t fucking want broken crackers. This won a xeric grant. My reaction to this comic is best summed up with an emoticon. :-/

Harley Quinn #0 – Various Crap – Terrible Writing / Useless Art

You shouldn’t write meta fiction if you’re an idiot. I don’t even got much to say, besides the usual DC diatribes. But this comic, each page is a new artist. Perhaps, with all these different artists, and 22 pages, the writer could think of a better idea than “OH I GOT IT! ON THIS PAGE, SHE SHOOTS EVERYONE!” But that’s almost every page. Every joke. Every wink at the audience. It’s like watching a bad impersonation of George W. Bush. You know the president was an idiot to begin with, but someone poorly impersonating an idiot, is somehow even more pathetic. If they wanted to be meta, here’s a good idea for Harley Quinn #0: Don’t print any art, simply apply the cover to a roll of toilet paper, and never wipe your ass with it. You wouldn’t want to give DC any of your best ideas.

The Reach of the Mind – Sam BellNonexistent Writing / Good Art

I’ve been considering writing separate reviews for Artbooks. So many comics i read, especially indie comics, are so devoid of story, as to be simply sequential art books. This doesn’t really bother me, if the art is really interesting. And this comic was pretty satisfying. Gorey as all hell, but some rendering that is sometimes gloriously incomprehensible. I wonder what it’d look like with color. Anyway, if you like gnarly skateboard deck crazy shit, read this comic.

Vortex – William Cardini - GOOD (same as above)

Taking a different approach, definitely more digital dot-matrix, but equally bizarre and black & white as The Reach of the Mind. This comic also, enjoyable art, but music-video level story telling. Which one did i like better? Probably Vortex, mostly cause it was cleaner and the artist seemed much more confident of the images he was making. That panel above was the bees knees, and just a nice little moment. Little still moments like that are where comics prevail, and this comic has lots of cool brain bending spots, so i’d definitely keep reading this series, i think its up to #4 now.

Okay, there’s a few more, but i’m tired and running out of space, stay tuned for my PICK OF THE MONTH : POOR THING by DREW MILLER

 

 


 


November 14, 2013

J-L-HATE

7:08 am in comics,community,internet,reviews,Uncategorized Ulises Farinas

You ever have a time as a kid, where you and a bunch of friends, are messing around and joking a whole lot, and there’s a teacher or a parent there, and everyone’s having a good time? And then one of the dudes gets out of hand, and says something that’s just so messed, like “HAHA YEAH, THATS WHY THE HOLOCAUST IS FUNNY!” and everyone stops, looks, and the teacher is like “Ok, thats enough guys. Get back to work.”

That’s how i feel about JL8.

I’m not against fan art, and the first reaction people will have to me hating on this, will be “BUT DIDN’T YOU DRAW A BATMAN COMIC TOO?!” Yes, yes i did, and you know about me mostly because I DID fan art. I still DO fan art. Because our industry is so broken, that regardless of how good an artist you are, if you don’t get down on your knees and worship at the altar of geek consumerism, you can’t get noticed.

Every. single. blog. Spends way more time covering established properties than any creator owned works, and that’s not really an issue to me. That’s business. People get hits on shit thats familiar. So even though I had drawn over a hundred pages of creator owned comics, it was only until I did some lego superhero stuff that anyone looked my way. Comics like the Oatmeal, they know all about making easily digestible, shareable content, regardless of whether it’s good or bad or drawn well. But at least it’s original.

There’s a mutual understanding between major publishers and the creators and the fan base, that you’re gonna make a little side money for yourself, maybe make a bit of a name too, but somehow we all understand, that we are only borrowing what’s not ours, and if they took them back, we can’t whine and complain, we graciously give them back and go on with our lives. Many fans ultimately become the creators, and so fan culture is a major part of comics culture. But what happens when a dude like Rob Granito comes around, takes some drawing you did of some character, and redraws it and sells it like its his? We hate him. How dare he! But a dude like Yale Stewart, nobody says a thing.

There’s a line, and he crossed it. People have told me, that the story is good. What if, for instance, tomorrow, I thought “I could do Cold Heat better than Santoro, I’m gonna start writing my own Cold Heat comics.” At conventions, my whole table was “COLD HEAT – A ULISES FARINAS fan COMIC” and everyone told Santoro “But it’s a good story” One page, one time, fan art of the work, would be flattering, basing your entire career on someone else’s work, is theft.

We can not be advocates of copyright reform, of creator rights, of better standards in our comics, if we can’t agree what is a fair use of taking existing works and remixing them in our culture, and what is just deceiving the consumer into directing money into your pocket that should go to the original owners. If his storytelling is so good, his art is obviously drawn well, then he should have the balls to let them stand on their own. It’s not just a crutch, the dude has amputated his own legs and replaced them with stolen parts.

I find it disgusting to see an artist who’s got no spine, basically draw DC Precious Moments as his entire career. I would love if DC could somehow purchase it, but it’d basically justify any person who bootlegs their properties. Just do it long enough and successful enough, and you can steal your way into their good graces.

So many times, you’ll hear comics conversations about how Stan Lee stole from Jack Kirby, how this artist is being screwed over by this publisher. And I myself, I steal comics and movies from multi-billion dollar companies. Sometimes you’re Jean Val Jean and you just stole a loaf of bread, other times you’re an asshole. Its partly the fault of DC, for not recognizing that a product like this they should already be making. But at the end of the day, here goes a talented artist, who may also be a talented writer, who isn’t a david to a goliath, he’s the lice in both their hair.

It makes things weird for us, who are at cons doing this legally grey artwork to survive, and it’s weird for companies like DC, who if they go after him will have another PR nightmare just cause a dude didn’t know when to stop. I draw a lot less fan art as i used to, mostly cause it served its purpose, and now I try my damndest to sell my original ideas to publishers.

JL8 makes it seem like it might just be more worthwhile, to be a parasite than a scavenger.

As an afterthought, a counterpoint, an artist who does lots of fan art, but I respect, would be Corey Lewis. That’s how you do fan art:


November 8, 2013

Theoretical

9:25 am in Uncategorized Ulises Farinas

People ask me why i’m so mad, people have told me i come off as an asshole when i talk about racism, people have said to my face, “No one’s gonna think you’re not white and not hire you” Every single time i talk about racism, it’s guaranteed that the number 1 argument i face isn’t HOW racist shit is, but how it’s not that much of a problem. Then you got every kid on the internet, boycotting this and signal boosting that, and what the hell does that get done? And you got your questions about why are all the avengers white? And you got your discussions, debates and analysis. You got your commentators and bloggers saying things are getting better, and asking “What can we change?” We got dudes tweeting about why aren’t there any females heading their own books, all white dudes writing an all black avengers book, dudes writing all of the comics journal, and asking questions about comics criticism and listing a bunch of other dudes. All of this theory, none of this shit is put into practice.

Then you got your own life, when academic questions mean shit next to paying the bills, and you see this:
http://imgur.com/VlmA8ig , and you know that the reality is, that none of these questions make any difference. I saw that today, and my stomach sank. Because it’s easy enough to hear racist shit from assholes you don’t know, its easy enough to hear about questionable politics in someone else’s company, but you don’t think that the dude who’s work is all over your work, is a guy who thinks half your blood is savage blood. And my friend, she said maybe i should speak to him, tell him to keep his politics to himself. But i ain’t about to tell a person to keep their politics to themselves, when i won’t either.

But this is what people don’t get, when they think i’m so mad about something they consider pointless. “It’s just comics” i hear. Another way to tell me its not a problem. But it’s not like this shit is created in a vacuum. I know, because i’m the one MAKING these comics. I say all the time, that if you live in a racist system, to succeed you have to work within those racist constraints, and so i’m stuck with the impossible position of promoting a book, with covers done by a dude who’s first reaction to a women being killed is to be like ‘BUT BLACKS KILL MORE WHITES DONTCHAKNOW!?” You know what the first reaction was to that, “I do love his work, but I don’t want to give money to an ignorant ass. Fuck it, boycott.” And i gotta tell them “No, because i work on that book and thats my livelihood.”

I don’t believe in boycotts, 1. cause i separate the author from his work, 2. because them motherfuckers already done got paid. Its like trying to be Rosa Parks after the dude done pushed you off the seat already. Too late. And so the whole fucking boycott is a nice little slacktivist protest, do nothing and pretend you’re doing nothing. Don’t read a comic thats purely optional to begin with, and pretend that it can change something. I live and work in an industry, where at the end of the day, i gotta shake hands, smile and make nice with everyone, because if truth be told, if skills sold, i’d probably be, lyrically, talib kweli. What makes this shit feel the worst, is i’d love to take a stand, and be that dude who stands by his ethics and demands a boycott too. I’d love to be like “Fuck that comic! Fuck that artist!” But when you’re dealing with dog-whistle politics, and you’re the dog, if you bark too much, no one is gonna throw you a bone.

I see dudes at every con, that i once heard say “My best friend is black” and “It’s really more of a class issue”, and you wonder why cyborg is the only brown dude in the justice league. When i’m not brown enough for people, so i gotta always explain my mixed background as an introduction.  Shit, ain’t nobody telling Cyborg, “But you’re not really black, you’re half robot.” And i tell them that they don’t get it, that they won’t get it, that it’s all just a debate to them, that they can have at their convenience, and i just wish, someone would have a conversation about it and be more worried about how this shit keeps on happening, but instead all i keep hearing is dudes acting like,”NOT ME THOUGH”

Its all theoretical to them, and they care for as long as they can keep doing nothing, and keep drawing and writing the same stories. The same white faces, white places, on white paper, and its the industry thats racist, but none of us. That its institutional and not personal, that its politics not personal, that everything that you are feeling as a person, is not personal. You know why i ‘pass’ for white, because unless you put some ethnic marker before it, Capital-A American is the only real american. I tell a person i’m Cuban-American, nah, doesn’t count. African American, Arab American, Native American, nah, doesn’t count. I can’t just say “I’m American” and not have that mean “I’m White”. Do you know how much it sucks to always have to qualify what type of american you are? And its a funny joke sometimes, but they can’t ever imagine what my experience was, and i guess i can’t ever imagine what it’s like to be a white guy on the internet, who hasn’t found it necessary to update their way of thinking for the last couple hundred years.

Because it’ll never cost them a moment’s discomfort for them to shake my hand, it’ll never cost them a paycheck, it’ll never cost them a professional relationship – cause my angry opinion can never change their mind. Because it’s all theoretical to them.


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