August 7th, 2004


This and that

NY-area fans of asian cinema, click here and rejoice. There's a new asian film center in Manhattan and they're going to be setting up screenings, programs and events. Very cool.

Comics-wise, picked up the Presspop import Jim Woodring picture book, Pupshaw and Pushpaw. Spendy and a bit thin at $17 (thank you, discount), but if you have even a passing interest in Woodring and his Frank cast, you'll need this. Silent childrens-style picture book, exquisite paintings, nifty little book. Purchasers of the book will find a form from Presspop enabling them to buy a "life-size" Pupshaw vinyl toy, for a mere $250 (estimated, the item, price is still up int he air). Supposedly this will be available only to those who purchased the book. How they can control this, I don't know. I severely covet the hell outta one of these as-yet unproduced toys, I've long wondered why someone hasn't manufactured a Frank or Pupshaw vinyl seeing as how Woodring is practically designing urban vinyls (i.e. plastic toys and dollies for "arteests" and "heepsters", yeah, right, whatever), full-time these days. Anyway, I might have to sell extra stuff or do commissions to afford one of these, and even then I shouldn't buy one the way things are going. Maybe a christmas gift for myself. And birthday. Sheesh. Why couldn't they just make a small one for $40 and put it in Previews.

Also picked up the latest Comic Art, beautiful as always., A very nice "in the studio" with Seth, the urbane and genteel fake-named Canadian cartoonist. Very nice feature, as is the one of Virgil Partch. There's some hamfisted academia in the back that I haven't wrapped my midbrow around yet. The only bad thing about Comic ARtist is that it humbles lesser talents like myself with the coverage of some of the best and brightest who ever picked up pen, pencil and brush. A lot of what they cover are comics that "matter", and knowing you're not in the same league but have some of the same tools and language at your disposal might be how apes feel when they watch humans build things or paint. If you know what I mean. I'm not sayying I suck, I'm just saying that Comic Art makes me feel forever like a chimp with a crowquill. Some of us can only take it so far, and as the comic editor/crime-fighter Harry Callahan once said, a man's gotta know his limitations.

Speaking of limitations, I'm reading the fourth T.H.U.N.D.E.R. ($*&#@! hate typing that stupid acronym) Agents Archive from the glossy paper fiends at DC comics. Best I can say abouit it is that Micheal Uselss, sorry, Uslan, doesn't do the introduction. It was funny to see the word "shitkicker" in Bhob Stewart's opening essay, quoting Wally Wood's ex-wife discussing his favorite music. Guess kiddies ain't buying the Archives (duh). Anyway, I'm about halfway thgrough these "classic" comics, and I think we should change the meaning of "classic" re: old comics to, "hacked out moron material you liked as a kid but is now only entertaining from a nostalgic standpoint, because one of your favorite artists was involved, because you are a fanatic for the main character, or because you're sad and hot for a decades-old female cartoon character like the Iron Maiden". This stuff is pretty b-a-d, I don't undertsand what the near-mythic fuss was/is over Wally WQood's superhero project, done mostly by other people hacking away like crazy. The wriitng is terrible, I mean, basic transitions and establishing sequences are mashed together with often disastrous results, dialogue is stiff and cornball, 50's end-of-an-era serial-style lockjaw godd and bad guy talk, stiff action, some deadly dull characters (Beware the "warp Wizard! No, really, beware, he's gonna rob a bank or something. Look out for the villainy of the Gnome! A small, er, gnome-like evil genius! The Gnome! STart fleeing in terror now! Even Bush and Cheney ten points down in the polls wouldn't put a color on this terror "threat". Cripes.) These are all short stories, compressed, matter-of-fact, unexciting, getting worse with each Archive. The early stories had some pulpish, serial drive, what happens next, a character dies (it's not nrearly as dramatic as some 50-year olds would have you think). But it's unfolding into the most basic crud, with Wood's aura and legend the only thing holding any power over a reader. He has less work in here, who knows how much oif it is Adkins work anyway, and guys like Kane and Sekowsky, who I normally like, turn in some slapped out stuff even in comparison to their worst Marvel and DC hack jobs. I don't expect genius or anything from these books, but they're not even stupid-fun, more often than not they're just dumb, to the point of irritation. You never really get a feel that the Agency all these supertypes work at exists, there's no Lee/Kirby logic or world-building, just random randomness to fill out the books. Interesting characters who don't always act in character, faults and character quirks that rarely are used or brought to the fore, these are quaint, almost golden-age style comics with occasionally nice Wood-studio work. Sheeshola. And it's not like the 60's couldn't produce funkier, more fun comics, maybe people are inundated with the Marvel stuff, and the Tower stuff was so hard to actually read, so at some point this myth built up about this awesome comic line that Wood directed, with weird characters and they killed somebody off and he STAYED DEAD, and Noman switches bodies, and hey, it's Wally Wood...and it's Wally...and it' really aren't very good. Skip these, if money is tight and you don't own a comic shop, and read the much more enjoyable Doom Patrol Archives from the glossy paper loving re-touching airbrushing folks at DC Comics. Arnold Drake's scripts are a kind of mix of Lee/Kirby "outcast heroes with problems", Lee's "reality", the Metal men's penchant for whacked-out villains and plots, albeit without Kanigher's condescending writing and outright hackery. And without the typical 60's DC "magic" ending, where logic leaps out the wiondow and flies to the Hidden Fortress of Stupitude (not that those stories can't be entertaining). Doom Patrol is surprisingly fun, a limited cast with a set of odd powers, personalities and problems that are either alienating them or killing them (or both). There's a bizarre early rogue's gallery including the Brain and Mallah, a brain in a tank and an inbtelligent, machine-gun toting ape/assistant, respectively. I'm sold right there (I liked these two goofs when I first read about them in the Wolfman/Perez Teen Titans run). Everyone talks about the parallels between DP and the X-Men, both of whom prenmiered fairly close to one another, squabbling outcasts with odd powers and fates led by a smart crippled guy in a wheelchair. I think I prefer the early DP stuff to early X-Men, which seemed like also-ran FF and Spider-Man slapped together, with Lee coasting on stories, characterization and plot with a heavy load at the time. Also, Bruno Premiani's art on DP is pretty sweet, clean and simple but tight with the right amount of detail, clearly delineated characters and types and backgrounds, I see a lot of Bolland in here, imho. Anyway, Dynamo and company is boring me to tears, Doom patrol is making em laugh ina good way. A shot of a giant, mind-controlled, crystalized Elastic Girl attacking New York City with a shouting gun-toting ape on her shoulder is great trash entertainment for this imbecile. And I like that the Doom Patrol is apparently the only group of DC goodie-two shoes who bicker and are moody, which holds up nicely against the chuckling plasticity of Superman, Aquaman, Batman, Robin, the Legion of Spoiled Brats, etc. Me dig Doom Patrol.