Better Living Through Graphic Storytelling
A Comics Blog About Shit We Like
30 June 2007
holy motherfuck.

this is probably my favorite image ever. i stole it directly from here.
28 June 2007

So without any new solicitations to view, comic book piracy has become the new hot issue on the web right now.

That is not to say that this is not an issue worth discussing, and I'm really really glad to see everyone from comic creators to fans to unabashed comic pirates chiming in and explaining their positions in a seemingly civil manner.

I am a life long comic fan. I still go to the store every Wednesday and spend approximately $20 a week on brand new floppy comics. That amount does not include the price of trades, collections, or graphic novels. You may even say that I, like many of my fellow fans, am addicted to reading comics.

Unfortunately my budget is smaller than I would like it to be. My salary is paltry. My rent is high. The cost of living in New York City is consistently rising at astronomical rates.

Did I mention that my weekly comics budget 6 months ago was $30 a week? And that 6 months before that it was $40 a week? That was not always the average amount I spent per week, but it was my maximum price range.

In the past two years we have seen the price tag of the average mainstream floppy rise from $2.50 to $2.99 per book. That bump may not seem significant, but as most fans will point out, we are essentially getting 22 pages of a 5 - 7 issue story. That's a minimum $15 minimum per story. That's approximately $15 for 110 pages of story.

Now, I'm not saying that the $2.99 price tag is not justified, and as grateful as I am for better coloring technology and better quality printing, $15 per story is still a lot, considering that the average Dean Koontz paperback, which is probably closer to around 200 pages of story, costs about $10, and it takes me about 30 - 40 minutes to digest the average trade paperback.

Maybe I should curb my habit (more than I already have). Maybe I should do that thing where I don't read floppies anymore and simply wait for the trade. Unfortunately, a lot of my favorite books are not guaranteed release in a collected format. They need to sell enough floppies in order to do that.

What downloading comics allows me to do is be a more conscientious comics consumer.

I was first introduced to Alan Moore's Promethea series via a collection of cbr files that my buddy past along to me. Now I own all of the trades, as well as several others in Moore's ABC line.

I shelled out a $100 as part of DC's special 52 subscription plan. I didn't get all of my issues, the ones I did get were all at least 2 weeks late (2 weeks, after the 1 week delay we were told about in advance), and some of them showed up in my mailbox fucked up. I wouldn't have minded if I had enjoyed the series more, but I didn't. It was a waste of $100. That's a $100 I could have spent on rent or bills or food.

I was a fan of Ultimate Spiderman in the very beginning of the series. For one reason or another I stopped reading it regularly. A few years back I got back into it. How? Reading the trades for free in THE LIBRARY. What story lines my local library didn't carry, I caught up with by downloading the torrents. I have been buying the floppies every month since then.

I have a friend who makes his living primarily as an artist. That means money is infrequent and irregular most of the time. He's also a huge comic fan. When he does come across money he immediately spends it on comics. When he doesn't have money (and I mean, doesn't even have enough for food or clothing) he downloads his books, and buys the hard copies when he gets paid. As an artist who makes his life selling his art, he surely recognizes the necessity of comic creators being paid fairly for their hard work. He simply can't afford to support artists on a regular basis on the terms of the current market.

This is not everyone. There are quite a few people who have no shame in downloading or uploading comics on a regular basis, with absolutely no intention of ever paying for one. But as a few people have rightly pointed out, that is not really taking money away from creators as much as never offering it. I suppose it is the difference between being mugged at gunpoint, and being pick-pocketed.

I have no qualms about downloading comics regularly, simply because I still do give my money to the books that I think need it or deserve it. I'm not willing to sacrifice my own lifestyle in order to ensure the lifestyle of everyone else in the comics industry, but I am willing to compromise my lifestyle a bit in order to ensure the lifestyle of a handful of creators and publishers that I think merit my support, in exchange for 22 pages of culture. If you personally enjoy reading Countdown or World War Hulk: Frontline, please buy it. Please support those books. But if you are not, don't. Please. That is worse than stealing it in my opinion, because that just means that books you don't enjoy will be stealing shelf-space and potential budgeting for books that you do or will enjoy. This is a scheme that the Big 2 are banking on, because it is easier to sell crappy stories with existing properties than it is to conceptualize new ones with good stories.

I would also like to point out that maybe 40% (that's a really rough guess) of the comic torrents making the rounds out there is material currently unavailable. Like the underground Wimmen's Comix collection or a lot of scantilated manga & BD (which does often make it's ways into the hands of US publishers). So, as a note to publishers, don't just look at torrent stats as a way of determining who is stealing money from you. Also look at it as a way of determining what sorts of stories, or what sorts of old material there is a demand for that is not being met by the current market.

The last thing I will say is that going to the store and paying $20 for a collected edition of any comic series is far more convenient than configuring your computer and your router to run some of the better, and therefore more popular, bittorrent clients. The fact that so many people are willing to take the more frustrating route says something.

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26 June 2007
Our Thoughts Are With You, Mr. Gerber

Legendary comic writer Gerber, has announced that he is sick. At this point, he has already received aid from the HERO Initiative. If you are able to, please donate to them.

I would just like to point out that Gerber may not be as well known beyond his creation of Howard the Duck, but let me assure you that the man knows his craft and has written some damn fine material. I refer you to his interview The Comics Journal which can be found in their The Comic Journal Library: The Writers(Buy this book fast. You may have heard they're being sued over it.)

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23 June 2007
Saturday Doctor Who

In case you didn't know, the MoCCA Art Festival is going on right now here in NYC. I'd really like to go, but for reasons I leave unspecified, I doubt I'll be able to. Also, Subway Cinema is holding this year's Asian Film Festival which includes the New York premiere of I'm A Cyborg But That's OK. Again, we'll see if I can make it.

In any event, the third Season of the Doctor Who revival continues it's three-part finale tonight. For all of you DW fans eagerly anticipating tonight's episode, here's something to tide you over:

I'll try to continue posting images like this each Saturday, in attempt to ensure everyone's weekend goes well.

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Oh The Irony...

This from Tom Crippen's 2006 review of Civil War (from The Comics Journal #281):

The Marvel heroes are fighting each other in a very serious, no-fooling-around war, like a Shakespeare history play but with mutants and Nick Fury robots and everything else we're used to seeing. The effect is weird. We are supposed to feel the tragedy of Reed Richards' and Tony Stark's fatal flaws, but it takes a tremendous leap to believe they can have fatal faults. You have to believe that this time the editors won't snatch the ball away and there won't be a Reed clone or some secret mind control or a reality shift.

Skrulls, dude. Skrulls.


Crippen makes an excellent point in his involved description of the giant-sized funeral of Goliath - Civil War turned out to be fucking hilarious. I know everyone's pissed off at Marvel right now, but you have to admit that they have given us no shortage comedic material since the whole 'Cap must die for MySpace' thing.

I suppose that is Crippen's point. Super hero comics, by there very nature need to be fun, not 'realistic'. Of course, every piece of fiction must have the ability to resonate on a realistic or human level in order for readers to relate, but wasn't that sort of subtle awareness always what was so great about some of our favorite comics?

Ultimately things like this mean nothing. Next week, or the week after that, there will be some other ridiculous marketing ploy designed to shock us (or delight us) into buying more units. Some of us will comply. Some of us will not. This does not diminish our love of the medium. It only strengthens it, and makes it clear where we stand and what we are willing to put up with.

In spite of being point on about why we as comic fans should probably not make a big deal about the zombie Mary Jane cover, Steven Grant is incorrect about the story featuring a zombified Mary Jane in it. I love what they've done with the Out-of-Continuity Mary Jane comics, but that's not what irritates/upsets me about this cover. What is upsetting is that it's just another crass example of consumer capitalism desperately flailing its arms around in an attempt to survive. More than anything, the seriousness with which the most ardent fans and the publishers themselves take these stories, characters, and images, is pitiful.

I'm not saying that our beloved fictions are not important. What I'm saying is that they're too important to let it be bogged down by the same exact bullshit we have to deal with. So let's all be good grown-ups and let the play be play.

Let's have some fun...

..with Skrulls.

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20 June 2007
Flash #13
This just went down at the comic store:

Mark: Captain America dies, you saps all pour in. The Flash dies, nobody cares.

Dude: That's because nobody cares about Barry Allen. We're talking Steve Rogers, here.

Me: Actually, it's Bart Allen.

Dude: Good. So the whole Allen line is dead. They'll just kill another one next year.

Other Dude: What about his brother, Larry?

Claire: Didn't he pitch for the Sox?

I don't care how many times I see it. I don't care if they release nothing but 13 issues of the Flash dying. I will fucking cry each time, man.

There are only two things I get super fanboyish about (some would dispute that):

  1. The Flash
  2. Doctor Who
Thank you, Mark Guggenheim, for giving us Bart Allen fans the ending we deserve. Without spoiling anything, if you are a fan of the Flash legacy, regardless of who is your personal favorite, the last three pages will kill you.

Kill you.

Like you were involved in a company-wide cross-over.

Kill you.


They seriously killed off Bart to bring Wally back? The twist on this better be really fucking good. Better than just bringing back Barry Allen. Seriously. And we had to wade through all of that excrutiating JLA/JSA cross-over to get to this point? Although, having the Legion of Superheroes be the ones to bring back a Flash was good. We'll see.

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Miller + Owen + Chandler = A Close Approximation of That Sin City Sequel You're Never Going to See
Seriously, as much as I'd love another Clive Owen movie, is this really necessary?

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18 June 2007
Fastest Book Alive

This weekend was Father's Day weekend, so I had more important things to do than sit on the internet, hitting the refresh button on my browser over & over again, in an attempt to get the news from Wizardworld.

It was only this morning that I heard the news, and all I have to say is...


Seriously, fuck you, DC. Fuck you Bob Wayne & Dan Didio. Fuck. You. Mark. Waid.

This new Flash series was just starting to get good! You know how long I've waited to see Bart's moment in the sun? You know how long I've waited for this book to finally come out?

Since I was 13, motherfuckers! Since I was buying Impulse, another one of the few ongoing comics that I KEPT BUYING when no one else was. And when it was cancelled, what did I get?

I got Young Justice starring baby Lobo.


Now as exciting as it is for fans to see Mark Waid helm the book again, I have to admit that it doesn't really do anything for me. Sure his run on The Flash was great, all those years ago, but isn't it somebody else's turn? Isn't it time we got over this very slim minority of internet assholes who just troll the message boards screaming "WE WANT BARRY BACK!!", even though these fuckers weren't even alive when Barry Allen was the Flash?

Fuck you! You took away Wally. Now you're taking away Bart? Have we loyal Flash fans done nothing for you DC? Have we not tried our damndest to ensure that whoever it is behind the red and gold, that The Flash remain one of the cornerstones of the DCU? Don't we fans of Bart Allen deserve something for sticking with The Flash, Impulse, Young Justice, and The Teen Titans?

The only thing that might make this news bearable for me, is that Waid is writing the new series, entitled All-Flash. "All-Flash"? What could they mean by that? Don't they mean "All-Star Flash"? Like the proposed All-Star series featuring Barry Allen? Or do they mean....

We'll see, Waid. We'll see, Didio. Let's see how long you can keep me faithful to this book when you're disappearing all my favorite characters in the DCU. We'll see if All-Flash can serve the same purpose as The Flash, as the only mainstream superhero DC book I continue to spend money on each month. We'll see...

UPDATE: Wow. I just re-read that post, and I only now realized how unnecessarily harsh that sounded. So I apologize guys. I love you Bob Wayne. I love you Dan Didio. And, I especially love you Mark Waid. If not for you, we wouldn't even have Bart. Just warning you guys, no matter what the internet says, there are some hardcore Flash fans out there (not Barry fans, not Wally fans, not even Bart fans; Flash fans). I've been reading the Flash since the days that I was able to buy my comics with saved-up pocket change. I lamented the end of Impulse. Be careful, Mr. Waid. I know you have a handle on the legacy and the characters, but sometimes wanting to go beyond that is what seperates a good comic from a great comic.

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12 June 2007
This Is Weird

For anyone reading either of these blogs...

I used to have a personal blog entitled ResonTence. It was pretty stupid, but I got a bit of traffic due to my exorbitant amount comic book related posts. Good times. Good times.

Anyway, in case you haven't noticed, I no longer maintain that blog. That's essentially what I've created these two separate blogs for - one for discussing comics, and the other for discussing...well, mostly science fiction I guess, but in theory I get to discuss other things (like this, which might as well be science fiction, but it's not...)

What does any of this have to do with anything?

Well someone re-registered the blogger URL that I was using before, as well as the blog's title/name. All of this is pretty amusing to me since, as far as I know, it's a word I made up when I was drunk.

When you visit the URL in your browser, nothing pops up though (except that wretched pistachio background thing), but in my RSS reader a post entitled Prescription drug purchasing pool when an employer..., written by "Steve" pops up.

For anyone occasionally bothering to visit the old URL, this is not me. I wish I had this man's access to the bevy of prescription medication, but no, this is not me. I don't review drugs. My name is also not "Steve".

Call me paranoid, but all of this is a bit hard to believe. Why on earth would anyone register the URL for a blogger account that includes a word I made up on a whim? Is it possible that that person thought they were making up the same word? Were they drinking the same thing I was when I made it up?

It's a bit odd to say the least. I'm going to refrain from making any assumptions that don't include coincidence, but it still creeps me the fuck out.

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08 June 2007
Japan Vs. America... FIGHT!

Yet again, Blog@Newsarama's point/counterpoint column addresses one of the many differences between the Japanese manga market and the American comics market.

On the Manga Johou forum, a translated article by Yoshikazu Hayashida, which basically states that the Japanese manga market is able to produce a lot more groundbreaking material with great frequency due to the weekly anthology format, which publishes maybe tens of short serialized comic stories in one volume. This format, according to Hayashida, allows a handful of proven successful manga stories to bear the brunt of keeping up sales, while allowing other stories to experiment a bit more. Given the sheer quantity of "filler" manga stories not responsible for making or breaking sales of a title, the efficiency with which one of these stories will strike a chord and eventually become successful enough to be the next torchbearer in terms of sales, is that much more likely than a magazine/book that features only one story/creative team on it.

Dave Carter of At Yet Another Comics Blog concedes that Mr. Hayashida is correct in many aspects of his analysis, he strongly disagrees that the American comics offers only the one format adopted by most mainstream publishers for their superhero comics. Carter argues that the American indie/alternative/comix has offered an alternative to the ghettoization of the medium for over 30 years.

At this point, this is not a new argument. American manga fans have been arguing that the manga format offers more possibilities in terms of storytelling than American comics. Non-exclusive manga fans, however, have been arguing that their is plenty of diversity in American comics if you look beyond the superhero genre which tends to take up most of the shelf space in any given local comic book shop.

I think both commentators are missing the point.

Carter is correct in that Hayashida is equating American comics with a single genre (admittedly born and raised here in the states). However, what Hayashida is talking about is not a diversity in experimentation present in American comics, but rather the presence of this diversity and experimentation in a format that is as widely available as the most popular best-selling comics. Imagine, if you will, being able to buy an anthology that not only included Countdown or what have you, but also something a kin to The Invisibles as well as an Anders Nilsen strip or an Ivan Brunetti strip.

For some reason, the anthology format is not one that mainstream publishers have tapped into for a long time. If they do, it's generally in the form of a collection of "indie" renditions of popular properties (see: upcoming Marvel "indie" anthology or Bizarro World by DC). The only other publishes putting out anthologies with any regularity are independent ones, who tend to focus on artists already established within the "indie" or "alternative" comic communities.

There is no cross-breading here.

And that's just the way Americans are.

The fact that we're still having this discussion - the fact that we're still making a hardline distinction between "manga" (usually lumped in with it's other aesthetic brethren man-wha and OEL manga) and "comics" proves that we as a community have not really evolved beyond petty playground territorialism. It's essentially the same argument as "DC vs. Marvel", and I'm astonished that we're still giving this any credence.

Yes there are lessons to be learned from the Japanese manga market, just like there are lessons to be learned from the French BD market. Just because one format is dominating the American market currently, doesn't mean it's the answer to every single problem we have with the medium. It's not a question of aesthetics, and it's not a question of form. It's a question of format and marketability.

Dirk Deppey stated it best in a post when, referring to an old George Carlin joke, stated that comics are "resilient". By this he means the medium, just like printed text or moving images, will continue to surivive any changes in technology or the market. I mean, if your big concern is that when manga takes over the American comics market entirely, you may not be able to get your Superman comics on a monthly schedule anymore, then I'm just going to continue to ignore you and pretend you didn't blog anything.

Getting back to the point, I would also like to make reference to the fact that British comic publishers have been putting out weekly anthologies, much like the Japanese, of comic stories long before 52 or Countdown. I mean, British comics may not have produced any American blockbuster film adaptations like a Spiderman or an Ironman or a Batman or a Ka-ChingMan, but their was a time when this format allowed British comic creators to revolutionize the way in which we interact and thought about the comics medium on a regular basis.

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07 June 2007
The Black Diamond Detective Agency (Quick Review)


You should be reading this.

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Black Summer #0 (Quick Review)


This book is so dense it hurts my face. Eight pages of comic story, six of which are tightly packed, dense-as-hell nine panel grids.Juan Jose Ryp's art is thick as hell. Each line is pitted against the others, and each panel/illustration is just visually packed with information. The illustration used for the wrap-around cover is a perfect example of Ryp's dense style, and in combination with Ellis's writing...

Argh! It hurts!

The fact that Ellis was able to squeeze this much information into eight pages of comic story is testament to his level of skill, which I don't think anyone at this point was still disputing. God. It reads like the first paragraph in a J.G. Ballard novel. This comic will fuck you up.

I guess I'm buying the rest of the series, even though I didn't have any particular interest in following this story before.

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06 June 2007
Oh, BTW (Tonio's Pull-list)

New books are out today. People have been talking about the girth of quality comics out this week, but I suppose I have to disagree. Not much interested me this week, but a few things caught my eye:

This week's All New Atom looks like the first Countdown crossover for the new series. I've really been enjoying this book, in spite of the last two issues being fairly weak in comparison. Personally, this might be some of Simone's best work, simply because she's reached the point where she's ready to stretch herself, once again, as a writer. Every few years she gets a bit too comfortable, and while this may chalk up to some excellent Birds of Prey books, it certainly doesn't always mean other good titles from her. But she's a decent writer, and every once in a while she goes out on a limb and tries something new. More often than not, these "new" things turn out to be excellent superhero comics. I'm excited for this issue.

$1.99 issue of Invincible. I've loved this book from the beginning, and in spite of some weaker patches, the book has maintained a level of quality unseen in most mainstream superhero titles. This issue is being advertised as "New Reader Friendly". Not sure what that means, but having flipped through the thing, it doesn't look like it'll be another recap issue like the 99 cent one. It looks like there may be some recap, but also bits of new information.

Warren Ellis's Black Summer #0 comes out today. As Ellis pointed out on his website and on his BAD SIGNAL mailing list, this is chapter 1 in the story. It's not a prologue and it's not an introduction per se. It's the beginning of the story, and apparently, a necessary component in understanding everything. To be honest, I'm not too interested in this book, but considering the cover price, I figured I'd try it out.

Oh, and Eddie Campbell's Black Diamond Detective Agency is out today from TopShelf Books. Do yourself a favor and buy this. I'm pretty excited, since,outside of From Hell, I haven't read too much of his straight fiction. Everything I've read from him has had tinges of autio-biography, if not being completely auto-biographical. My roommate still has all the issues of Bacchus and I've been meaning to read that stuff, but I have developed a bit of a back-log in my reading list. But this is something I'm just going to devour the second I get home.

Almost forgot to mention MPD Psycho, which is a manga anyone with even a passing interest in the form should read. Craziness. Scantilation copies of this have been floating around the web & torrent trackers for a few years now, so if you haven't read any of it yet, now is your chance to read it. You have no more excuses. Also, everyone should see the Takeshi Miike film adaptation of this book. Not because the manga is good, which it is, but simply because Miike is amazing.

That's it for now. Might write more on these books later, after I've actually read them.

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Veitch vs. Kubert vs. America

Army Times has a profile (of sorts) on Rick Veitch's new Army@Love title. The article is particularly of note, since in it Joe Kubert comments not only on Veitch, his former student, but the book whose title is derivative of his own Our Army at War. It's interesting to note that, judging from the comments in the article, that both cartoonist - possibly two of the finest cartoonists of their respective generations - have the utmost respect for each other, and are very respectful in their disagreement (Kubert does not agree with Army@Love's position on war, apparently). It's also interesting that the article covers Veitch's short tenure as the back-up story artist on Sgt. Rock, as part of a deal Kubert struck with DC Comics to get his students work.

Link via Journalista

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05 June 2007
The Truth is Out

The Forbidden Planet International Blog has a follow-up story regarding a previous post about Australian cartoonist Bill Leak getting into trouble with the folks at Moulinsart SA in Belgium - the people who own the copyright on Herge's Tintin - over his appropriation of the character's appearance in his depiction of Australian politician Kevin Rudd.

“Rudd looks like the little bloke who is taking on the big adventure and who just might prevail in the end,” Leak explained, adding that he didn’t have to do much to make Tintin resemble Rudd, “All I did was add a bit of a chin to him. And sometimes a little bit of a firmness to the mouth.” (Bill Leak via FPI)

Now I admit that my legal expertice/experience is nil, and that anything I've learned about copyright has come from reading admittedly biased sources, but doesn't this just seem... I don't know....not fair?

Moulsinart, commenting on the situation, stated that Leak not “commercialise paintings and other cartoons reproducing parodied adaptations of Tintin and Snowy” w based on the principles of copyright. I mean, if Leak was drawing a parody of Tintin, would that not be included in fair use? Also, Leak is not drawing a parody of the beloved Herge character. He is making a political statement about a politician, by using Herge's Tintin as an a simile. I mean, surely there has to be room within copyright law to allow literary devices, right?

Ultimately, the issue is not about Leak disrespecting Herge's character, or even disrespecting Moulsinart's ownership of the character (which is funny to me because Moulsinart is a fictional house, and the idea of a house owning anything, let alone a French cartoon house, drums up some very amusing imagery in my head), but rather Leak "disrespecting" Moulinsart's desire to be the only people who make money of a dead man's cartoon character.

Don't get me wrong. Moulinsart is well within their legal rights to take any sorts of actions they desire, if they feel that Leak is going to start making money off these cartoons through commercial sales rather than editorial journalism (yes, I just said that cartooning counts as editorial journalism), but the question to me is whether or not Moulinsart is within their ethical rights to stop Leak from publishing these cartoons through a news periodical.

As cheesy as it sounds, Tintin belongs to the world. I would think it would beneficial to 1. the politician Leak is portraying as such a beloved character, and 2. to Moulsinart, who might benefit from the press and move more units. Again, I don't know much about the business side of comics, and I don't know much about copyright law. But the fact that all of this is making a bit of a stink (small stink, not big stink) leaves a bad feeling in my gut.

Of course it could just be the abhorable excuse of a falafel sandwich I just ate...

All links courtesy of Forbidden Planet International Blog

UPDATE: Apparently Moulsinart's comments about Leak not "commercializing" their property was part of some resolution where they conceded the Leak does in fact have the right to appropriate the image of Tintin as long as he does not sell collections of the cartoons in question. Leak responded, "I'm not a lawyer, I'm a cartoonist. I poke fun at people for a living. I'm sure Herge would have approved," which I just thought was a fun quote. Links courtesy Eddie Campbell's blog (which you should all be reading anyway).

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01 June 2007
I Believe in Ed Brubaker

Ed Brubaker may be one of the finest comic writers working in mainstream super hero comics. For sure, the artists whom he chooses to work with contribute quite a bit, whether it be Sean Phillips, David Aja, or Michael Lark. However, Ed Brubaker is one of the finest comic writers today because he is, first & foremost, a writer's writer.

One of the biggest assumptions that people have when considering writers, is that they assume all writers work in the medium of text - that it is really the artist/director that directs the visual impact of any given work, whether it be film, television, or comics, while the writer mostly deals with the words we read. I don't find this to be true. Any true creator needs to be aware of all facets of the medium in which s/he chooses to express themselves, and thinking about a comic book or a television show in terms of the words used is simply not enough because it's not the words telling the story.

The illusions that Brubaker creates in his comic (if you prescribe the Wellseian concept that all fiction/stories are part magic-trick, part con) are virtually seamless. Unless you're like me and spend far too much time dissecting all the tiny little facets of every story you read, it's hard to really explain what makes Brubaker's storytelling consistently work as well as it does. I mean, Deadly Genesis aside, I don't think I've read a Brubaker story, post-Dead Enders, that can be misconstrued as being indulgent on any level. Brubaker's story-telling style is so lean that it almost hurts, and in a genre where most people seem content to write "for the trade" or whatever, that is more than a breath of fresh air. It's a godsend.

Sure, Brubaker knows his way around a sentence. He knows how to deliver a piece of dialog with enough that Chandleresque punch, where every word is like a jab to the gut, and he knows what kind of language is not only appropriate for his characters/world, but what language is best (possibly the only issue I ever have with Brubaker's Iron Fist writing partner, Matt Fraction, is that the language of the franchise characters he writes always sound like Matt Fraction, and not Danny Rand or whoever). But even beyond that, beyond the words, the man knows how to write comics - he knows how to layout a page; he knows how to angle his characters; he knows when to pull out the view and when to close it in. The man knows how to tell a story with pictures & panels.

I'm sure being a cartoonist himself certainly helps Brubaker get a feel for what sorts of visual requirements any particular scene needs in order to work best, but it doesn't stop it from being impressive every time I read it. I briefly mentioned in an older post that I was wowed by Daredevil's conversation with Vanessa Fisk in issue #92, which is entirely made up of super-tight panel grids. These sections perfectly convey the emotional claustrophobia of the situation, only increasing with each turn of the page as the panels get smaller and the grid gets tighter.

I remember thinking to myself as I read it, "This is possibly a perfect comic book. It reads like Phillip Roth paragraph."

I had a conversation with Eli last night regarding Brubaker's run on Daredevil, versus his last story in Criminal. Clearly, they are two very different animals, but Brubaker handles both so flawlessly. Much of this conversation was centered around the "Our Love Story" issue (#94), which got a lot of flak from readers for being "boring" or "unnecessary". I disagree strongly with this sentiment. Aside from the fact that Daredevil is a superhero book, and Criminal is obviously not, the formatting of the series also comes into play. Criminal all takes place in a single world, but jumps from story to story, connected only by the social context of the fictional environment. Daredevil is an ongoing serial set in somebody else's universe. When dealing with stories in a longer form (i.e. story starts before you get there, and ends well after you leave), it is necessary to provide breathing room. It's the sort of situation where filler is necessary, in order to give the world a more organic feel. If every single issue of Daredevil was comprised of fight scenes and high drama, the illusion that Brubaker is creating would loose it's effect. It would become glaringly obvious that these are not actual people, dealing with actual emotions. Obviously, it's still fantastic fiction, but it's important to consider whether a story can be considered believable given the context in which it's presented in. In order for that, we need a bit of padding here and there.

Brubaker does this well, without the padding/filler ever being irrelevant. He understands the importance of pacing within a story-arc and in between story-arcs.

One other point of contention between Eli and I, is that when Brubaker deals with superhero properties, I don't get the feeling that he is dealing with them as superheroes. He deals with them as characters. The "The Devil Takes a Ride" story-arc was just barely a superhero story. If you notice, none of the characters, besides Daredevil himself, ever appear in a gawdy costume, and all of the fight/action scenes are comparatively small on scale - they are not battles, they are brawls.

Contrast this with something like Captain America #25, where Brubaker is dealing with a truly momentous event/idea. I mean, for a series so aware of it's own history and gravitas, the first few pages are surprisingly small in scale. Rather than start the story off with a flashback, or the tail end of action scene, Brubaker gives us a crowd scene. Any flashbacks that occur are told from the perspective of characters in the crowd. This tells us, from the beginning, that this is not Captain America's story. It is the Marvel Universe's story. Even more surprising, for me, is that this actually meant something when I was first reading it. Having grown up a life-long DC fan, Marvel was always the publisher I turned to for creators, not characters. At this point, I could give a crap what the climate of the Marvel U is like, but Brubaker made me care and even believe that something like this could work.

My primary reading interests, even in comics, rarely focuses on superheroes anymore. The resurgence of continuity-porn/crossover fever, has embittered me to the genre. I still believe that there are quite a few really excellent comic creators working within the genre, even for the two big publishers, still worth reading on a regular basis, but I always say that these people should not be writing/drawing superhero books anymore because it's like they're cheating their fans (Greg Rucka is a perfect example of this, because I absolutely love Queen & Country, but have trouble caring about Checkmate in spite of knowing that it's a good comic book). Ed Brubaker, on the other hand, is one of those writers working in the ghetto of the superhero genre, obviously capable of more, but actually makes the genre interesting again. Rather than stoop down to the level of the superhero genre, he elevates it.

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