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  I felt that Stan Lee was too wordy and the illustrations by Kirby felt outdated.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  I just find it hard to read those early comics which feel so outdated compared to modern iterations of the same characters.  Apparently late period Kirby (1977-85) was also criticized by his fans for being outdated even as he was working on characters that he had created decades earlier.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.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Learning how to Write

It would seem that today I am using to finally clear out all of those books I started in a moment of excitement, but never finished.  The fourth book finished on the day is The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics by none other than Green Lantern and Green Arrow scribe, Denny O'neil.  I mainly purchased this book because of O'neil's attachment.

O'neil writes as a writer and an editor at DC, which puts him in a place to give advice.  Unfortunately the advice seemed regressive and harmful for any person wanting to write creatively.  He offers pragmatic advice by avoiding taking risks with stories and by following the comics formula.  This was written 12 years ago, but I imagine the safe story telling is still in vogue today, and may help explain the declining comic book market.  This period in mainstream media should be called the Age of Pragmatism because I am tired of art that plays it safe.  I don't want the sequel or the typical comic anymore.  O'neil seems content to preach the status quo.  I can't fault him too much because he is working within an industry where the status is maintained, and as an editor that doesn't want to lose his job he has to play it safe and only occasionally take a calculated risk.  I imagine the hardcore fans, much like the extreme teapartiers, will make themselves heard at an imagined misstep.

Reading this guide to writing has brought my frustrations to the surface with what I perceive as problems endemic in mainstream anything.  Guess if I want original and experimental I will have to keep reading independent publishers.

Holy Superheroes!

I started this book awhile and then stalled on it.  I couldn't really find much to value from it since it wasn't what I was looking for.  The book is about superheroes.  Or really I should say the book uses superheroes as a way to illuminate some of the more important lessons to be gained from Christianity.  This is a spiritual book disguised as a theory book.  Garrett would bring up a lesson from history like 9/11 and show how some (not all) superheroes reacted to that tragedy.  he would then show how those superheroes were behaving as though they asked WWJD.  This is the basic formula for each chapter.  Bring up pedestrian philosophical point and then show how superheroes follow said philosophic point.  I need to make a point to read Amazon reviews.  sigh.

Voyeurs - Gabrielle Bell Part II

I realize that the year is still young, and yet here is the second book I've read by Gabrielle Bell.  Titled The Voyeurs, the book is an autobiographical account of a thirty-something woman trying to make sense of the world and herself in it.  She is an artist that isn't sure what her purpose is and what she wants.  The character on the page is exceedingly complex and hard to define.  Maybe the complexity is what draws me to Bell's narratives.  The premise is not something that I am attracted to, but the execution makes all the difference.  I already have another of her books in the mail, and wouldn't be surprised if it doesn't appear in this blog in February.

In the meantime I need to focus my energies on theory.  I need to show restraint and save the next Bell book until I finish Metafiction.  Lets see how well I restrain myself.  Taking bets.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Green Lantern and Green Arrow

I finally got around to finishing this collection of Neal Adams (artist) and Dennis O'Neal (Writer) who paired the two green characters from DC to fight social problems like racism, drug abuse, environmental destruction, violence, and propaganda.  Some of the writing lacked subtlety and felt very heavy handed.  One of the characters was supposed to be a liberal and the other was a conservative, but they would often be confused in their varying approaches that neither seemed to fit any mold perfectly.  I think Green Lantern was supposed to be more liberal, but I am unsure.

Though I do enjoy Neal Adams rather evocative art.  He is the artist that was told that any book he illustrated would not receive the comic code of approval just by the way he drew his female figures.  They were not exceedingly curvy, but there faces often betrayed something sexual.  I imagine that threat came about by his handling of Dinah Lance (Black Canary).  It is easy to forget the majority of the comics here were written in 1970-72.

Friday, 11 January 2013

The Art of Amanda Connor

I wanted to have a better look at how a women in the mainstream comics industry drew superhero comics so I purchased a large folio/book that showed and also talked about the art of Amanda Connor, one of the top illustrators today.  I was really interested in how she would draw women, since she was a woman.  The zaftig females she draws are far more voluptuous and alluring than the ones drawn by men.  I have seen her pictures used in articles condemning comics for portraying women as sexual objects.  Though those articles failed to mention the pictures were drawn by a female.

Putting aside her female figures, her drawings also feel very human.  Her characters evoke charm, warmth, and emotion.  Connor's characters are not ultra realistic, but have a sort of cartoony quality.  I would place her art next to any artist working and show how her art better conveys the story than most other artists that take pride in their hyper realism.  I am a fan of hers, I just wish she would work with writers that I enjoy reading.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

What You See Is What You Get (wysiwyg)

It snowed about 6 inches today, so I was locked in all day.  But thankfully UPS delivers in all sorts of crazy weather.  Around 1pm today I received a package from Amazon containing this book about a prolific hacker.  I could not put it down today, well I did have an intermission for dinner and Inception.  But I picked it back up and finished it today.  Nearly 300 pages and just over four hours of reading here I am.  Piskor often details the steps that Kevin (hacker) takes when he was phreaking, or taking on new identities.  While reading I was wondering if some of these hacks still work.  I probably won't try and get a dead person's birth certificate, but it was fun reading about past hacks.  Though the main character did feel distant and without much personality.  So when he is being brutalized in prison I found myself not really caring about him.

This was a nice independent graphic novel.  I must remember to keep my eyes on the small publishers.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Beta Testing the Apocalypse

Mostly I was intrigued to purchase this collection of short stories based on the title alone.  Intriguing.  I was also intrigued that this was a collection of short stories written in sequential art.  What I didn't expect was a graphic narrative heavily laden with postmodern theory, architectural theory, and quantum theory.  The purpose controlled the plots of the stories, which tended to depict a cynical world where people are reified.  I will have to read this collection again to better grasp the concepts.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013


I'm trying to read more independent comic book artists/writers so that I don't get stuck reading about Batman and Superman all the time.  I especially want to read more female writers, who seem far too scarce in the medium.  First up this year is a semi-autobiographical account of Gabrielle Bell's introduction and rise in the art industry.  Well, that may be too simplistic a description of the book.  It also shows her insecurities, loves, failings, trials, and everything else that may seem to plague a twenty-something living in New York with little direction.

Her art is simple, yet eerily effective in its simplicity, and her stories are everyday, yet compellingly executed.  This is a gem of a book that chronicles three different periods in her twenties and how she was trying to be a professional artist.  Part of me did want her to explain her artistic choices as a sort of treatise of her style.  As is, this is a lovely graphic narrative with the occasional touch of humor.

Monday, 7 January 2013

First Post of 2013

So I fell short of 100 by about 10 books.  90 is not too bad.  I'm hoping I can do a little better, and hopefully my classes this semester will have me reading actual books and not a huge assortment of random essays like last semester.  I can't include essays in this blog, no matter how amazing.

So to start the new year I have read one of my books for the upcoming semester.  This is a slim book of nearly 180 pages about how some teachers excel where others fail miserably.  I couldn't help but constantly visualize myself as a teacher in Korea doing everything wrong.  Whenever Bain would point out poor practices of not-so-good teachers I remembered myself doing those exact same things in Korea.  Like the ever popular, "guess what the teacher is thinking" game.  Or the motivation through grades and exams routine.  How I wish I could go back and rectify my style.  I feel over the years that I have improved and was closer to what Bain was talking about, though not nearly as successful as the teachers he mentioned.  I know I still have miles to go before I am a good college teacher.  This was an great way to start the year.