Sunday, 4 August 2013


I remember trying to read the Fantastic Four starting from issue #1 several years ago and managed to read about four before I tired of the style.  I felt that Stan Lee was too wordy and the illustrations by Kirby felt outdated.  I think if I were to try reading FF again I might make it a little further, but not much.

Charles Hatfield goes a long way in showing the importance that Kirby had on the superhero genre in the 60s and 70s.  Kirby's importance should not be understated, his ability to pencil over three issues worth of comics a month is staggering, and his explosive genius on the page is mind-boggling.  Kirby was prolific for several decades, and should be remembered as foundational for the Marvel universe and for the core of the DC universe.

I liked most how Hatfield set up his talk of Kirby with an underlying theory and method that would inform his approach to Kirby's art and narrative techniques.  Though I became bored when he began talking about Kirby's work.  Hatfield mentions it, and I must admit to it, that I never really found Kirby's art style to be beautiful or pleasing.  I am not alone in this regard, but the work he produced is heavily influential on modern comics and for that it should be studied.  I just find it hard to read those early comics which feel so outdated compared to modern iterations of the same characters.  Apparently late period Kirby (1977-85) was also criticized by his fans for being outdated even as he was working on characters that he had created decades earlier.  I appreciate Kirby for all of the ideas he brought to the genre, I just find it difficult to enjoy his work.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Comic Book Scare

I bought this history book, not because I felt I needed to read it, but because Charles Burns had drawn the cover.  I remember I was told not to judge by the cover.  I was happy with my choice.  This book is about comics and the eventual creation of the Comic Code in 1954, but there is more than comics here for the reader.  It is really a story about censorship, scaremongering, scapegoating, and the age old struggle of nature vs. nurture.

So in the late 40s people started blaming comics for juvenile delinquency and had comic-book burnings across the country.  Book burnings, and in less than a decade since the Nazis!  People would bad mouth the art, the perverse stories, and try and ban them.  Legislation would ban them, the post office refused delivery of anything that they felt was immoral.  The artists and writers were ashamed of their profession and would often not admit to having anything to do with comics.  This was a shameful time in our history, and David Hadju does a splendid job of finding sources and documents to tell this story of censorship.  It is all the more amazing since there are not many books written on comic history, so I can imagine the amount of footwork Hadju had to make to create this book.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Jack Cole

It has been a while since I have written anything.  Mostly I have been reading books on semiotics and theories derived from semiotics to help explain how comics make meaning.  I have also been reading history books on comics.  And though many of this has been helpful and interesting. I just didn't feel like writing on it.

But I just finished a book on Jack Cole that was written by Art Spiegelman, of Maus fame.  This was more of an essay interspersed with issues of Plastic Man and True Crime stories, as well as several images from Cole's years as a Playboy artist.  I wanted more writing from Spiegelman, especially on how Cole was a masterful artist and storyteller for Plastic Man.  What really came through was a humanizing of Cole.  I'm not quite sure how Spiegelman did it, but when I came near the end and read about Cole's suicide my heart leaped in pain for Cole and those that loved him.  I can only imagine Hugh Hefner was devastated, as he was the recipient of one of the suicide letters.  This is a quick book, about 4 hours to read, but there is enough in here to love the work of Cole, and question his sudden end.

The pieces selected are either important to comic history, "Murder, Morphine, and Me" or show an artist apparently screaming through his narratives.  Maybe the perfect selections helped to reveal an artist asking for help but no one had any idea, and this created a much more human and complicated characterization.  It was no accident that Spiegelman chose these stories, and I wonder if he is manipulating the reader or he reads comics as a Freudian.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Frank Miller and everything 80s

I have been reading a lot of 80s Frank Miller lately: Ronin, TDKR, Daredevil: Born Again, Batman: Year One, and DK2.  When he was on his game he was the best writer in comics.  Better than Gaiman and Alan Moore at their respective bests.  My preference is for the Miller storytelling through brooding narration and the redefining of the superhero.
One I read for the first time recently was Ronin (1983) which was an amazing book that reminded me of Aeon Flux, and has inspired me to rewatch Samurai Jack, which is a basic reworking of Miller's text.  (I'm on episode 3 of season 1 right now!)
I have seminar papers to write, but all I want to do is read another Miller story, or re-read which seems to be the case now.  I wish he had written more.  I also wish he hadn't lost his touch, looking your way All Star Batman and the Boy Wonder, and Holy Terror.  When he goes wrong, he goes wrong like no one else.  But nothing he does can take away from his brilliant decade of the 80s.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Pounding it.

I didn't think I would like reading criticism from Ezra Pound, but this books was pretty funny.  This was a required class text, otherwise I may never have read this book.  Pound is so sure of himself, that when he makes bold assertions it comes off as hilarious.  I really liked how he dissed Shakespeare in favor of Chaucer, as having lived more was was less provencal.  Way to go Chaucer, still impressing after all these years.

Not much more I can say about this text than the funny assertions and the suggestions on how to read literature like a boss.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

McLuhan Massage

This must be one of the more interesting books on media that I have read.  Everything varied, nothing was constant, which I expect is meant to imitate the expanding role of media in society.  I don't want to say this is a book of platitudes, but more about short comments on how media is changing YOU.  Most of the book was images expanding or portraying the message that was written.  The relation between image and text was interesting, and sometimes the meaning was obscure.  I must say it was gripping and amazingly prescient considering it was written in 1967 and seemed to be talking about the internet. I kept thinking about my tendency to browse Reddit, and McLuhan seems to have anticipated the internet.  Quite amazing.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Batman wrote a book on Multimodality?

Oh…its Bateman, guess I should read a little closer.  The first of several disappointments.

This is the first entry for foundational reading concerning my dissertation.  Wanting to do graphic narratives I should probably learn the theories of layout and semiotics.  So I started with this book of multimodality which was nearly 300 pages of very dry text.  I didn't choose it because Bateman is an accepted scholar in his field, but because this happened to be cheaper than the books of the leading scholar, Kress.  What I found almost immediately is that the first 100 pages Bateman is arguing with Kress, and is trying to establish an empirical approach to multimodality, while dismissing logic that would seem to say that an empirical approach to semiotics probably won't ever ever ever work.  What I have also come to notice about Bateman is that he is never cited in other essays on multimedia.  I'm starting to wonder about this lack of presence in the field of multimodality.  Looks like I will have to fork out the cash for the books written by Gunther Kress.

Ah Bateman, if only your name was Batman and you kicked ass.