November 28th, 2009


Rambling, Randomly

Beasts of Burden #3 is out in shops that ordered it, and is also available through online comic shops and those crazy bit torrent sites for you download thief-types out there. Anyway, here's what one person thought of the new issue. And what another person thought. My thanks to everyone who has given us some attention on-line, it's been really cool to see some folks really enjoying the series so far. It's been so long since I've worked on a continuing narrative with a regular cast of characters, I forgot what it's like to get feedback on this sort of material. It's been fun, I'm sorry we only have one more issue to go and haven't figured out if we're taking the series any farther. I hope so, and I think it'll happen, but I'm not counting on anything until I'm actually writing another issue. Comics doesn't have a great track record when it comes to new series.

Speaking of the eventual trade, Jill Thompson just finished up a swell new painted cover for the Beasts of Burden book, which will collect the first four BofB short stories and the four-issue series. At least 147 pages of niceness. I'm assuming the series cover illustrations will be tossed in there, maybe some odds and ends as well from Jill's files. We haven't gotten that far in discussing any extras that may or may not be be included.

Speaking of collections, the one-page Plastic Man strip Stephen DeStefano and I did as a back-up for Wednesday Comics (in case anyone missed a deadline) will be included in the Wednesday Comics hardcover, shipping in May. And speaking of Stephen, he's drawing a graphic novel that will be published by Fantagraphics, which is terrific news. Not enough DeStefano art out there in funnybooks since animation (rightfully) snapped him up.

I did an interview for a Swedish website about Beasts. Give me a thousand years and I will conquer the world. By conquering the world I mean I will do at least seven or eight more interviews for foreign websites.

I might have some work for next year. Not a lot, but every little bit helps. I'm slightly optimistic about our prospects for 2010, but then again, I thought 2009 was the year things would turn around. Who knows.

If I lived in the Los Angeles area I would have tried to sell some art to take the family to see the live Pee Wee Herman show. Sarah read me a really nifty interview that Gary Panter recently did with Paul Reubens, I'd link to it but I don't feel like looking for it. It turns out Panter was involved with designing the new stage show, which is pretty cool to hear.

I will be one of a number of guests appearing at Comic Book Jones here on Staten Island during their second anniversary celebration. Other creators include Bryan Glass and Alex Robinson, please click on the link an scroll down a bit to see the flyer for the event, which takes place on December 17th. There will be a 25% off sale all day, and an after-party at a bar which serves them there alcoholic beverages.

I really enjoyed Chris Wisnia's Doris Danger: Giant Monster Adventures, which SLG just released. Funny stuff. If you like the old Atlas-era giant monster books that Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Larry Lieber, Dick Ayers, Steve Ditko et al, did, you might dig this. Apparently this was a self-published project that SLG collected. It's presented as a series of reprinted 50's comics, with letters pages and editorial pages. The "old comics" are randomly run because they "couldn't find" all the old issues. The use of "quotes" around "certain phrases" will give you an "indication" of the approach to these "comics". Very tongue-in-cheek, loving but aware of the inherent silliness and stupidity of those old comics, the "stories" are more about the insane convolutions and cliches of those old tales than an attempt to tell a thorough, ongoing story. Although there is a narrative, which I won't even try to penetrate, about a girl reporter trying to prove that giant monsters exist, while a number of covert organizations and the U.S. government fight to dissuade her and the public from that belief. Or they want to kill giant monsters, or "liberate" them, or use them in their dopey plans. The lead character hardly matters, even the various goofy giant monsters with their jerky names and "abilities" or "attributes" don't figure into things as much as you'd expect (although some of the monsters are really funny, especially the one that keeps arguing with his attackers, refusing to "be quiet" or "stay still" or whatever they say he should do). Some of the monsters aren't monsters, they're robots, or projections, some of the robots are people, some of the people are robots, some of the people are french, or "midgets", most everyone is a double or triple-agent. It's nuts, and the deadpan idiocy builds really nicely and the book really grows on you as you go along (at least it "grew" on "me"), it reminded me in places of Michael Kupperman's genre-oriented strips, or perhaps Bob Burden's Mystery Men stories if memory serves on how he approached those comics. Layer upon layer of contrived nonsense builds to a point where the repetition and stilted dramatic dialogue itself becomes funny , certain shticks become more welcome and funny the more it gets piled on ("imho"). Ditto the anachronisms ("hippies" and out of place "hip talk"), running arguments between characters on monsters, truth, secrecy, Christian fellowship, personal choice, etc, the various secret organizations MO's, and a few characters who are obsessed with specific things like their missing legs, to the point where everything they say has to be put in terms of their obsessions ("missing legs", get me?). The art is more or less perfunctory, Kirby-inspired, and actually inked by Dick Ayers for several chapters. It does the job, and the author makes fun of his own art in the "letters pages" ("You suck! Buy a ruler!"). If you're looking for more polished art offerings, look no further than the various guest pin-ups sprinkled throughout the issue, done by folks like Dave Gibbons, Jaime Hernandez, Gilbert Hernandez, Mario Hernandez, John Severin, Russ Heath, Art Adams (an insanely detailed two-page dinosaur vs Kong-like ape spread), Ramona Fradon, Mike Allred and some folks whose names I'm forgetting because I don't have the book in front of me. I'm not a professional "comics reviewer", give me a "break" here, will you? Its a weird little comic that provides a lot more laughs than the average ode to silver age madness, and it's a measly $10. And you get pin-ups of monsters by cool people. When I was done I was willing to "read more". That means I "liked it". (By the way, if anyone from SLG is reading this, I think it would be a good idea to list the contributing pin-up artists on the website listing for the book -- it strikes me as a "good selling point").

Last night I couldn't sleep so I watched Phantasm on DVD, a copy of which I borrowed from friends on Halloween. God, I still love this dopey movie, it's creepy and crazy and doesn't make much sense. Especially when you factor in the three sequels, one of which I love (#2) and two of which were incredibly disappointing, disjointed and confusing to no good end, imho (Hint - #3 and #4). If I had the sequels I'd likely fire them up tonight and tomorrow night. Despite not liking the last two, and feeling, as a fanboy, that they throw tepid water all over franchise, I'm one of those folks who becomes fascinated with franchises, even though they pretty much all go to blazes and suck the life out of your enthusiasm for the original outings. Hell, I'm strangely intrigued by film series that started off with films I don't like at all (the convoluted and stupid Jason Voorhees saga of crap), or started off with films I liked that immediately went to hell with the first sequel (Halloween, although for some reason I'm kind of fond of the fourth movie, the one with the little girl), or started off with a film I really used to like but am now very cool towards (Nightmare on Elm Street). There's something about following the confusing trail of genre crap left by too many cooks working on concepts that aren't strong enough to warrant all the fuss...I just get sucked in by the possibilities, the missed possibilities, the WTF aspects, the garbage, the fan speculation the whole mess and magilla that comes with being a fan. I'm sure it harkens back to my childhood, following the serial adventures of various comic and book characters, moving through the various pleasures and disappointments of the ever-building story where nothing really ever changes despite the endless piling on of subsequent stories and the ever-expanded, distorted and cheapened "canon" (Let me not get started on Marvel Comics here...). I wouldn't be surprised if the old Universal monster franchise didn't help kick-start the interest, those are the earliest films I can think of where I was able to follow the stories and things continued, with, of course, diminishing returns. But when you're a fan, you often feel you'd rather have "some Michael Myers" than "no Michael Myers", although I've fallen into the latter camp when it comes to The Shape (of things that never stop coming). I'm not interested in everything out there that I once liked (I was done with Star Wars --oh, once beloved Star Wars -- when the tweaked originals came out, enough, oh god, enough. And I never did see the third Matrix movie, as the second one beat all interest out of me forever). But with some things, the fan brain kicks in, and I want "to know". I'm the kind of geek who finishes even bad books and movies, as if compelled to, to start what I finished, for good or bad. I rarely fought to fast-forward through a miserable film when we all used to get together at The lawgivers for junk movies, I argued to sit through even the dullest of them (but even I gave up on shit like The Mangler, one of those "why was this made/completed/edited" deals only the truly addled can stomach).

Anyway, Phantasm. In a nutshell, what's interesting, or, depressing, about the series is that unlike most of these things, the creator of the franchise has been behind the steering wheel the entire time. And it still doesn't make sense, in fact, as it progresses it makes less sense than ever. Don Coscarelli has stated that the first film was a stand-alone, it was not designed as the first in the series. The second film, more or less, works like a better-funded remake of the first, a la Evil Dead 2. Then it gets cheap, crazy, and worst of all, dull and routine, with the third film. A few odd touches, but any film that falls back on the "thugs who die and come back as undead thugs" as a major plot point is a bit lost. It wastes a great mausoleum, iirc, and goes nowhere, lacking the solid black humor, creepiness and surreal nightmare moments of the first two. It's just not fun or inventive, and the world-building around the Tall Man and the spheres isn't enough of a hook. Except for idiots like me wondering what's going on, okay, yeah, but as a film, a slender hanger. The last film is a disaster, the main points of interest being outtakes from the first film presented as flashbacks, whether or not they make sense in the narrative. Anyway, I didn't mean to get on a Phantasm kick, but what the hell. The thing is, as lousy as I found the last two flicks, here I am, wondering and complaining about the series, because I was drawn in. I can't help but wonder about these sorts of thing,s not only, imo, what the hell happened to the storyline, but what the hell happened to the creative spark and energy in the filmmaker? Nobody should have a better handle on the franchise than Coscarelli, but he's left a legacy of head-scratching frustration for most viewers certainly for myself and my circle of friends who've seen the four films. Thinking about that sort of thing, "where did it all go wrong", always freaks me out, because in my small part of the entertainment industry, I'm juggling concepts and ideas, and I am terrified of the idea of screwing them up, losing sight of my own ideas, getting old, soft, lazy or just plain sloppy. It makes me wonder, was George Romero always super-talented, or did he just know how to do a few thrilling, crazy zombie flicks before his abilities went south? What's the deal with John Carpenter, a once-reliable maker of fun, efficient and creepy movies (some of which I don't feel hold up anymore, like The Fog, much of Escape From NY, but whatever) -- but has cranked out some of the worst, creakiest and outright stupidest known quantity genre flicks in memory? Is anyone consistent, or do we all end up sucking? Does fame and money and laziness work it's way in? I dunno. Certainly Don Coscarelli isn't rich or famous by Hollywood standards. I guess I"m just fascinated by the contortions a franchise takes, even when they disappoint (which is what -- just about always?), it's a weird organism.

Really, do any movie franchises stay strong? We all have our personal favorites, but if you can admit a lot of what you like isn't really "good" it becomes difficult to find any series of three or more films that seriously satisfy (I'm in the minority of my social group for enjoying the fourth Alien film, it doesn't do much for the franchise, but I like it as a junky ride. Despite what some folks say these days I'm not buying into Alien 3, which for all it's interesting ideas, is mainly a stalker/victim snorefest with an unsatisfying ending. And no, I will not forgive them jettisoning Newt, et al, especially the way they handled it. I tend to search an apartment I once saw a roach in better than they went over their escape vehicle, and Ripley should've known better after the first film. And the second. Sheesh! .Most folks dismiss the Night of the Living Dead remake, I think it's mostly super-solid. I like Texas Chainsaw 2, which is kind of lousy. I'm not entirely sold on Evil Dead 3 which some love. Return of he Living Dead 2 is a shitty remake and isn't a good movie, but for some reason I enjoyed it and don't have the knives out for it like die-hard fans of the superior in every way original, etc etc).

I guess what I'm saying is I'm in the mood to bullshit about horror movies and crap. I should've just said that straight out and made this a separate post. Too lazy, too tired, too jaded. Remember when this blog was fun? Now it's just degenerated into stupid crap. I shouldn't have let other people take it over. I should have just stopped after the first post, it was all downhill from there. Maybe Rob Zombie can reboot my blog, make it absolutely horrendous, and successful. yeah, that's an idea...