Practical question about allegories: Do we measure them by the number of minds they change? The raw potential to change someone’s mind? Or is it sufficient for an allegory to dramatize a situation in the tell-it-slant sorta way? Mr. Freedom, Klein’s late-sixties black comedy about American imperialism, has pretty amazing costuming and set design, as well as a heavy smugness running through it. At the peak of US involvement in Vietnam, maybe films like this provided a release for people, and that was enough—but I can’t imagine it converted many people to the antiwar cause.
I talked to novelist-critic Brian Evenson about format/story/the comics of Chester Brown:
I’d like to tug at one of the notions in your book. Specifically, can we overstate the importance of a transition to a comics culture that includes the graphic novel? Since most young cartoonists still publish mini-comics or single-issue comics before moving onto larger volumes of work. Publishing in the graphic novel form can be as much a matter of resources and profile as it is an aesthetic choice. I think the graphic novel does come hand in hand with a greater respectability for comics, but is the shift in form as substantial as the shift in perception?
I think the shift in form—you’re completely right, that there’s all sorts of ways, web comics and other things, to get your work out as a comic artist that really have nothing to do with the graphic novel. But at the same time, when Chester Brown was publishing Yummy Fur, there was really a robust culture of independent floppies. So you could go out and you could count on selling quite a few issues. I think he lived on his comic books for a while, and I think it’s very hard for most people to do that at this point.
So I think that’s it. It’s not that that a culture [of independent floppies] doesn’t exist; it’s not that you can’t use it, as a comic artist, as a testing ground; that you can’t do some really amazing things with it. It’s just that it no longer has the kind of prominence—it’s not a kind of necessary step that everybody goes through. And it’s also not something that—I think it’s less likely to lead naturally do the graphic novel than it used to be. A lot of people publish first as a graphic novel, but of course that has a lot to do with finding the right editor and things. And then a lot of people who publish comic books just never get to that point.
Detrimental Information collects entries in the Holden brothers’ zine of the same name, spanning 2001 to the present. The book is perhaps best read in installments—readers will encounter enough anuses and severed limbs to derail a sustained read. Even so,Detrimental Information’s segments have an undeniable cumulative power. Taken together, they form an unsettling portrait of Catholic boyhood and a life beyond it.
I reviewed 2D Cloud’s Detrimental Information collection.
This is an absurdly entertaining movie for most of its running time, the kind that makes you wonder why it doesn’t have a cult on the level of Verhoeven’s Robocop or Cox’s Repo Man, and—you don’t always want to judge the work of the past by the standards of the present, but—then comes a moment in which the hero punches his old flame in the head, theoretically as a means of keeping her out of further danger, and you’re like, ‘That explains it.’ Occasionally great, occasionally gross—a fun movie you could be forgiven for dismissing completely.
"At Minneapolis’s Boneshaker Books, Alden discussed pencil artwork as a means toward efficiency and spontaneity. But intention is only one of the factors that inform how we read stories like “Hawaii”. If Alden isn’t working to conceal his level of effort, his pencils still suggest a kind of sprezzatura comics."
— I made a guest appearance in Alec Berry’s CBR column this week, talkin’ ‘bout Sam Alden’s comics and the concept of sprezzatura.
I’m not sure whether I severely misperceived Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life before reading it or the book was just marketed in a way that highlighted certain parts of the book over others, but Ulli Lust’s comic memoir was much different—and more powerful—than I expected. What I had understood to be a document of the ’80s Austrian punk scene is more of a travelogue, and not merely a travelogue but also a narrative about the treatment of female bodies. Lust recalls her teenage travels through Italy, a time in which she is leered at, fought over, and abused. She is an agile cartoonist, and the many negotiations and close calls of Lust’s stay in Italy really come alive. Surprising, and surprisingly fun, even with its heavy content.
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Speaking of perception issues: Miracleman is one of the works Alan Moore wrote in years leading up to Watchmen, and Moore’s Miracleman stories have a substantial cult in their own right—many conversations about superhero genre subversion start with these comics. And fair enough! There’s a lot of genre subversion to be found in the Dream of Flying collection. But man oh man, there’s a lot of purple prose too. Staggeringly pretentious prose—lines that Chris Claremont would’ve thought twice about. A couple years ago, when I first read Miracleman, Moore’s caption writing didn’t make much of an impression on me. This time around, it overwhelmed my reading of these stories. I don’t know if Moore matured drastically as a writer in the years between Miracleman and Watchmen or if he was under more editorial scrutiny or both, but yeesh, this is rough stuff on some pages.
This is still a great cover, though: