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    Recap 61

    Whose Brain Have I Got?

    By min | October 20, 2014, 10:42 PM | D&D | Comments (1) | Link

    All politics is national

    Why won't black voters vote for politicians like Mary Landrieu and Alison Grimes that have been doing nothing but running away from Barack Obama and the Democrats' national agenda? The mind boggles!

    By fnord12 | October 19, 2014, 3:11 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link

    Feast Time Will Soon Be Upon Us

    Which is why fnord12 and i stocked up on vegan turkeys of multiple varieties. But behold this new treasure we found:

    Apricot plum glaze, my friend. And we can even slice it up for sandwiches!

    I don't even love ham all that much. It doesn't matter! I'm so excited by the idea of all this food that i think i have to convince fnord12 we should have a pre-Thanksgiving feast day.

    By min | October 19, 2014, 11:38 AM | Vegan Vittles | Comments (0) | Link

    Where *is* my panic button?

    More good news. Austerity and irrational inflation fears are getting ready to plunge the world back into recession. More of the same from Krugman.

    By fnord12 | October 15, 2014, 3:08 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link

    WMDs in Iraq

    As Kevin Drum says, this isn't a "Bush wuz right" moment, but if you click through to the New York Times article it does look like our troops were treated very very poorly. Again.

    By fnord12 | October 15, 2014, 3:01 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link

    SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

    I know i promised to buy Axis and i will keep that promise, but due to problems in the supply chain i only have one book to review this week:

    Captain Marvel #8 - Well, Min was right. After we both read last issue, Min said that she liked it better when Rocket Raccoon thought Carol's cat was a strange alien creature called a flerken but he was obviously wrong. It seemed like just a silly joke: Rocket is unfamiliar with cats. But then when last issue's focus was about the cat being a flerken and ended with it having laid eggs in Carol's spaceship, Min made her comment. And i said well, let's wait and see. It could just be a red herring and we retain the joke. But no, the cat really is a "flerken" and now it has laid a million flerken eggs which have hatched into flerken kittens. This issue has CM, Rocket, and Tic fighting an amorphous blob thing to defend the flerkens. And that's the story and it's not really that great.

    By fnord12 | October 15, 2014, 2:34 PM | Comics | Comments (10) | Link

    That's a good airport security story

    Brian Schmidt, describing traveling with his Nobel Physics Prize (in Scientific American):

    They're like, 'Sir, there's something in your bag.'
    I said, 'Yes, I think it's this box.'
    They said, 'What's in the box?'
    I said, 'a large gold medal,' as one does.
    So they opened it up and they said, 'What's it made out of?'
    I said, 'gold.'
    And they're like, 'Uhhhh. Who gave this to you?'
    'The King of Sweden.'
    'Why did he give this to you?'
    'Because I helped discover the expansion rate of the universe was accelerating.

    By fnord12 | October 13, 2014, 4:47 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link

    Maybe tell them not to hate people for no reason

    Social conservatives react to good changes coming from the Vatican:

    "What will Catholics parents now have to tell their children about contraception, cohabiting with partners or living homosexual lifestyles?" asked Maria Madise, coordinator of the Voice of the Family, which counts pro-life and conservative groups as members.

    "Will those parents now have to tell their children that the Vatican teaches that there are positive and constructive aspects to these mortal sins? This approach destroys grace in souls."

    I'm sure the phrase "destroys grace in souls" has some special meaning, but it makes them sound like crazy people.

    By fnord12 | October 13, 2014, 4:35 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link

    Mark Trail gets awesome

    I of course wouldn't be aware of the awesome snake vs. croc battles in Mark Trail if it weren't for the Comics Curmudgeon.

    By fnord12 | October 12, 2014, 11:42 AM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link

    Drum on Klein on Krugman on Obama

    Everybody reacts to Krugman's Rolling Stone article. Klein suggests that Obama turned things around by giving up on his promise of lovey dovey bipartisan agreement on everything. Drum wonders if that was ever an actual goal of Obama's in the first place. I kind of think yes, based on another Drum post about Obama closing Guantanamo by executive order. My first thought on seeing that was "If he thought he could do that, why didn't he do it sooner?". Then i said to myself, you complain when he does things and complain when he doesn't. So i didn't blog it. But now this post lets me blog it anyway. I'd say that earlier he still hoped that he could come to a bipartisan agreement with Republicans in Congress, but now realizes that's impossible. So he's given up on bipartisanship in order to get things done.

    By fnord12 | October 10, 2014, 2:19 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link

    Good reason to vote for something, actually


    The Republican challenger to Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) on Thursday blamed his double-digit lag in the polls on single women and mothers who vote Democratic because they are "wed" to the social safety net and "need benefits to survive."

    Jeff Bell's solution is for everyone to get married, by the way. Not a jobs program or a living wage or anything like that so people can survive without benefits.

    By fnord12 | October 10, 2014, 2:15 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link


    Kevin Drum shows why we can't save the Kurdish town of Kobani on the Syria/Turkey border from ISIS. The answer again leaves me wondering what we are doing there at all.

    By fnord12 | October 10, 2014, 10:14 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link

    The deficit is down

    "and nobody knows or cares" - more from Krugman.

    By fnord12 | October 9, 2014, 7:59 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link

    Krugman on Obama

    In Rolling Stone, Paul Krugman has a (longish) fair but mostly positive assessment of Obama's record. Somewhat surprising for a guy that supported Hillary in the primary and has been fairly critical of Obama. I'll say that i think the section on "national security", which i think is meant to include the NSA and state secrets stuff (or else those areas are left out altogether), is pretty weak. Krugman acknowledges that it's not his area of expertise, but there's a lot more to say there, and brushing past that will definitely leave the overall assessment more positive than it should be (from a liberal/civil libertarian perspective, of course).

    By fnord12 | October 9, 2014, 7:54 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link

    Then why is it an elected position?

    TPM has a kind of click-bait headline of GOP Nominee For Wisconsin AG Says He Would Defend Interracial Marriage Ban and of course i clicked on it.

    The actual exchange is a little more nuanced and perhaps even understandable:

    HOST: "But if you had been attorney general in, say, the 1950s, in a state that did not allow interracial marriage, do you think the proper role of an attorney general then was to not put himself or herself into the mix and say this is wrong?"

    SCHIMEL: "Yeah, it is."

    HOST: "Your job is to uphold the law, even if it's something that we might look back in the future and say that's absurd?"

    SCHIMEL: "It might be distasteful to me. I've got to stay consistent with that. As the state's lawyer, it's not my job to pick and choose."

    I've watched some of the video of this interview, and Schimel makes a perfectly coherent slippery slope argument. I wondered if they followed up with, "Do you find the ban on same sex marriage 'distasteful'?", but they don't. They do ask a different good follow up question, and he acknowledges that an attorney general ought to be advising the governor on which laws to put resources into enforcing.

    But Schimel's argument makes me wonder why the attorney general position is an elected position in the first place, if the role is just supposed to robotically enforce the laws. The general electorate isn't qualified to determine who would make the best lawyer. So it must be about the electorate picking the candidate that best represents their positions. In which case when you have one candidate saying i do not support the same sex marriage ban and another not taking a position on it, all while public opinion is increasingly comfortable with same sex marriage, it seems like a dodge.

    By fnord12 | October 9, 2014, 7:35 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link

    Basically we should all work less and take naps

    They study doctors and judges but it's true of the rest of us too.

    By fnord12 | October 8, 2014, 12:08 PM | Liberal Outrage & Science | Comments (1) | Link

    Blonde Phantom vs. the Spoiler

    I'm working my way through 1989 in my comics timeline, and i'm up to John Byrne's She-Hulk series, the conceit of which is that She-Hulk is aware that she's in a comic book and so she continually breaks the fourth wall. And she meets a character named Weezi who turns out to be the Golden Age heroine the Blonde Phantom. Like She-Hulk (and unlike most other characters in the book), she's also aware that she's a comic book character. The joke is that she's getting old now and she wants to join She-Hulk's supporting cast so that she can age in Marvel time instead of real time.

    In the She-Hulk series, Weezi is breaking the fourth wall before ever meeting She-Hulk and she actually seems more experienced at it. So i was curious if it was ever the case that she broke the fourth wall in her old Golden Age stories. I don't own any original Blonde Phantom appearances and it's even difficult to find digital versions online, but i did find one in Sun Girl #3 (Dec 48) and holy crap if it isn't just perfect for what i was looking for. Blonde Phantom fights the Spoiler, a villain who ruins the endings of stories.

    And sure enough:

    But who really won that fight? After all, the dramatic ending was spoiled from the beginning.

    Ok, i might have edited one of the word balloons in one of the panels above, and there might even be an anachronism in there, but it's still pretty awesome.

    Continuity alert: the Spoiler also once fought the Sub-Mariner.

    Also, since i don't have any appearances of Sun Girl, either, i'll note that in this issue she fights King Kong...

    ...and meets some alien Humpty Dumptys.

    By fnord12 | October 8, 2014, 10:29 AM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link

    Overweight teens will earn less

    Kevin Drum links to a study that shows that overweight teens are likely to earn less as adults. To be clear, it's not that overweight adults are discriminated against in the workforce. It's that overweight teens are less likely to learn "noncognitive skills" like how to socialize. If this is true (it's just one study, and the conclusion isn't necessarily the only one to fit the data), i wonder if the results would change as being overweight became more common among American teens. It's also worth thinking of the implications for other ostracized groups, like ethnic minorities. Not geeks, though, since we've seen plenty of (awful) "revenge of the nerds" articles talking about how geeks are doing well in the modern tech economy.

    By fnord12 | October 7, 2014, 2:00 PM | Liberal Outrage & Science | Comments (0) | Link

    Once more unto the banks, dear friends

    Last night we watched the always depressing Bill Moyers, where he interviews William Black, who led the S&L and Keating Five investigations. Black described the Obama administration's complete failure, and more importantly, lack of interest, in prosecuting banks that caused our current crisis (link, including summary, transcript, and video).

    And then as if on cue, this news this morning:

    The Justice Department is preparing a fresh round of attacks on the world's biggest banks, again questioning Wall Street's role in a broad array of financial markets.


    The charges will most likely focus on traders and their bosses rather than chief executives. As a result, critics of the Justice Department might view the cases as little more than an exercise in public relations, a final push to shape the legacy of Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who was blamed for a lack of criminal cases against Wall Street executives.

    Yet the breadth of the suspected wrongdoing in the currency inquiry -- Deutsche Bank, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays and UBS are among the dozen or so banks under investigation -- might distinguish it from the piecemeal nature of the crisis-era investigations.

    And prosecutors are testing a new negotiating tactic, two lawyers said, using the currency investigation as a cudgel to potentially reopen other cases. Arguing that the misconduct would violate earlier settlements involving interest rate manipulation, prosecutors have threatened to impose new penalties in the interest rate cases.

    We shall see. I am sure Min will say i'm Charlie Brown running up to kick Lucy's football again. But maybe with both Holder and Obama thinking about their legacy, we'll see something more than trivial fines this time.

    Update: here's the Matthew Yglesias explainer on this.

    By fnord12 | October 7, 2014, 8:41 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link

    There is no wrong way to waste time

    From the cover of Thor #408.

    By fnord12 | October 6, 2014, 10:50 AM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link

    There's Glory For You

    Remember the scene when Alice meets Humpty Dumpty and he says,

    When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean...

    My family seems to adhere to that philosophy, as well. The conversations at family gatherings are always interesting and baffling. Oh, and loud. If your point wasn't understood the first time you said it, just say it more loudly. That's the same thing as clarification, right?

    By min | October 5, 2014, 12:56 PM | My stupid life | Comments (0) | Link

    Fake Geek Girl Rehash?

    I haven't read Gone Girl, but i've read the "Cool Girl" rant that's in the book, and it sounds like a rehash of the "Fake Geek Girl" meme, which is completely offensive. It's assuming that a woman who likes things associated with so-called "straight male interests" has no agency and no independent opinion - that she only professes to like these things in order to make herself appear more appealing to men. I'm calling bullshit.

    "Men always say that as the defining compliment, don't they? She's a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she's hosting the world's biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don't mind, I'm the Cool Girl.

    Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they're fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men - friends, coworkers, strangers - giddy over these awful pretender women, and I'd want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who'd like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them. I'd want to grab the poor guy by his lapels or messenger bag and say: The bitch doesn't really love chili dogs that much - no one loves chili dogs that much! And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They're not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they're pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be. Oh, and if you're not a Cool Girl, I beg you not to believe that your man doesn't want the Cool Girl. It may be a slightly different version - maybe he's a vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he's a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics. There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every fucking thing he likes and doesn't ever complain. (How do you know you're not Cool Girl? Because he says things like: "I like strong women." If he says that to you, he will at some point fuck someone else. Because "I like strong women" is code for "I hate strong women.")"

    Also, it's a rant coming from a character in the book who turns out to be a horrible crazy person, thus undermining the validity of the argument anyway.

    So why are women giving this rant the thumbs up?

    By min | October 4, 2014, 3:00 PM | Boooooks & Liberal Outrage | Comments (2) | Link

    Why can't we teach the "nice" history?

    The one where we gave up slavery "voluntarily".

    By fnord12 | October 3, 2014, 4:56 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2) | Link

    Enthusiasm gap

    Fun stuff, and predictable:

    The dumb war in Syria will haunt Democrats' 2014 prospects.

    Growing evidence that Obama's decision to wait on immigration is hurting Democrats.

    If i thought Obama was making these decisions for principled reasons, then fine, political implications be damned. But the decisions seem like they are made for defensive political reasons. It's bad enough that i think they are wrong on the merits, but they are failing as political tactics, too. And it's not like it's a new or wild idea that midterm elections are decided on base enthusiasm.

    By fnord12 | October 2, 2014, 10:21 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link

    SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

    New Warriors #10 - One comic this week. And as the Evolutionary guy (i forget his name and there's nothing in this issue that tells me) says after a page with two empty panels, we are wasting time, "and time is something we have far too little of right now". But this issue does move the main plot forward in a big way while still providing some nice fight scenes, character moments for everyone, and a Team-Up between Jake Waffles and Mr. Whiskers. But what happens to Whiskers is just shameful. Wrong and cruel. No amount of Eternals showing up on the last page are going to make up for that when Min finds out about it.

    By fnord12 | October 1, 2014, 10:06 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link

    Count Duckula, no!

    I guess polybags are technically vegetarian, but that's no reason to eat them.

    Also, those bags may have technically been polybags, but not in the way we comic collectors understood it.

    By fnord12 | October 1, 2014, 6:38 PM | Comics | Comments (5) | Link

    What is "To Not Be a Jeopardy! Category"?

    Jeopardy!'s "What women want" category did not include answers like "healthcare" or "equal pay" or "bullshit like this category not happening".

    No. Instead, women apparently want jeans that fit and a guy who will do the vacuuming once in a while.

    They forgot to include "Dating superheroes and becoming their wives".

    By min | October 1, 2014, 11:04 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (3) | Link

    Public Hearing on Force-Feeding a Threat to National Security?

    Every day it's another story about another thing our government wants to be secretive about.

    The Obama administration has asked a federal judge to hold a highly anticipated court hearing on its painful force-feedings of Guantanamo Bay detainees almost entirely in secret, prompting suspicions of a cover-up.

    Justice Department attorneys argued to district judge Gladys Kessler that allowing the hearings to be open to the public would jeopardize national security through the disclosure of classified information. Should Kessler agree, the first major legal battle over forced feeding in a federal court would be less transparent than the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay.

    Attorneys for Abu Wa'el Dhiab, a Syrian detainee on hunger strike whose court challenge is slated to begin next week, said the government was using national security as an excuse to prevent the public from learning the extent of a practice that the judge in the case has considered brutal.

    They also sealed the videotapes of the force-feedings. Other than covering up prisoner abuse, i'm not sure what issues of national security could come up in a case about breaking a hunger strike. Did they call in undercover agents to perform the force-feedings? Are they wearing shirts embroidered with their passwords?

    And this was supposed to be the less conservative (batshit crazy) administration.

    By min | September 30, 2014, 2:22 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link

    How did you pass the time during 1989's Plague of Frogs?

    By fnord12 | September 30, 2014, 10:13 AM | Comics | Comments (4) | Link

    State of our media

    Blogger begs comedy show to expose conflict of interest on cable news.

    By fnord12 | September 29, 2014, 6:13 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



    Meanwhile, in the real world after-tax corporate profits as a share of overall national income are at an all-time high but median household income is lower than it was in 1999. So for the plight of the overtaxed American corporation to become a leading cause of concern for a Democratic former president and potential First Gentleman of the United States is a bit peculiar.

    By fnord12 | September 29, 2014, 10:43 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link

    Isn't it called Twitter?

    I give the latest SMBC five stars.

    By fnord12 | September 26, 2014, 1:29 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link

    Balls to you, Daddy

    We don't watch television at home, so forgive me if this is old news, but while i was in the waiting room at the dentist today, a Cadillac commercial came on and they were playing a lifeless version of what i think of as a Clash song, Brand New Cadillac. It turns out the song isn't actually by the Clash. So as terrible as that commercial was, i at least have it to thank as i now go do some digging and find older versions of the song. Which is so easy nowadays. At one point learning this would have triggered a cross-state epic record store adventure; now i'm just going to do some googling.

    By the way, one version not mentioned in that Wikipedia article is the hip-hop Incognegro version.

    By fnord12 | September 24, 2014, 6:45 PM | Music & TeeVee | Comments (1) | Link

    Comics and the narratives of criminality

    I confess i still like the Death of Jean DeWolff storyline, but Osvaldo Oyola points out a lot that is problematic with it, especially regarding how it handles the politics of crime.

    By fnord12 | September 24, 2014, 1:58 PM | Comics | Comments (2) | Link

    Evangelical Harry Potter

    I don't really think this needs any commentary from me.

    "I'm new to this whole fanfiction thing, but recently, I've encountered a problem that I believe this is the solution to," Grace Ann wrote on "My little ones have been asking to read the Harry Potter books and of course I'm happy for them to be reading, but I don't want them turning into witches! So I thought 'Why not make some slight changes so these books are family friendly?' And then I thought 'Why not share this with all the other mommies who are facing the same problem?' So-Ta da! Here it is! I am SO excited to share this with all of you!"

    Jezebel goes on to quote parts of the book. The writing is pretty spectacularly terrible and that's without even considering the awkwardly shoehorned Christianesque additions. Those are spectacularly terrible in their own right, but at least they're amusing.

    Christians are people who want to be good," Hagrid explained wisely; and crouched down so he was on eye level with Harry. "We want to go to heaven after we die. Do you know what heaven is, Harry?"

    Harry shook his head; and his big eyes were wide and curious.

    "Heaven is a beautiful place where we can be with God."

    Aunt Petunia smacked her hands over Harry's young ears; and her voice was sickly sweet when she said, "Thank you very much for your concern, sir, but he does not need your religion, he has science and socialism and birthdays. Haven't you heard of Evolution? I have a very good textbook on Evolution that I could give you on it if you would like to learn things."

    Hagrid laughed wisely. "Evolution is a fairytale. You don't really believe that, do you?"

    "Yes, I do!" Aunt Petunia screeched.

    "Well then prove it!"

    Aunt Petunia could only stare at him; and her big mouth hung open dumbly. Here she thought she was so educated; and always demanded that Christians prove what they believed in; but she couldn't even prove her own religion. It was then that Harry knew who the smart one here was!

    Yes! Science, socialism, and birthdays! Atheism rocks!

    By min | September 24, 2014, 12:18 PM | Boooooks | Comments (0) | Link

    SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

    Elektra #6 - This issue is missing the surreal art by Michael Del Mundo that was a big part of why i've been liking the series so far, but the art here, by Alex Sanchez, has its own unique style that is pretty good. Similar in tone to Del Mundo in some respects but not trying to imitate him, so he's a good pick. He seems pretty off-model when it comes to some of the pre-existing characters (Tiger Shark, Anaconda), but nowadays i never know if that's because the artist is really off model or because a character has been changed somewhere. But this issue does something that i really hate. It opens with a two page splash panel that shows that Elektra has been on the run keeping her current wards protected, and she's fought Blizzard, Whiplash, Shocker and Boomerang, Crossbones, Tiger Shark, Jack O'Lantern and Blackout, and Whirlwind and some other people i can't make out (Vermin? That can't be Misty Knight on the balcony?). And, like, why wouldn't you actually show those scenes? How do you montage your way through a ton of cool super-villains as if it's just like the boring junk we have to get out of the way? I also don't love the idea that all those guys are working for the Assassin's Guild. And there's possible continuity concerns, too, although i'll concede that stuff like this can work itself out in the long run. Crossbones seemed to be working for a larger cause in Black Widow so it seems odd to see him taking a freelance assignment here, but that's just a question of placement, i guess. My real annoyance is with Shocker and Boomerang, who have been in the process of trying to kill each other in the Superior Foes series (where, i'll note, their motives have been at the much more reasonable "heist" level; i definitely don't see Shocker working for an Assassin's Guild). So when does this take place? Before the entire SFoes series? During it? Can it possibly be after? I guess it'll depend on how SFoes ends. It just seems odd to use two characters starring in a currently ongoing series in a completely different way here. Finally, i smirk at the idea that Elektra considers none of these characters "worthy" of her and says (later) that the assassin's guild knows these characters won't actually succeed. Because sending actual super-powered villains (Tiger Shark!) against a non-powered ninja like Elektra is just stupid and bound to fail, right? Only Lady Bullseye is awesome enough to defeat her. So all of that put me in a bad mood, which is too bad because there is some cool stuff here, like Elektra's group hiding out in an abandoned Inhuman settlement and a fight with the Serpent Society (although i don't like the way Sidewinder is drawn, Anaconda is apparently very svelte these days, and i guess Death Adder talks now).

    Savage Hulk #4 - I've enjoyed seeing Alan Davis draw the Neal Adams era X-Men (well, Sal Buscema era to be very accurate although not very clear) fighting the Hulk. And i should probably just leave it there. But i thought having the Hulk mutate into a telekinetic was a weird place to go. The Leader's observation that "the gamma potential is fluid -- shifting between an array of possibly physical manifestations" is an idea that the ramifications of won't be seen for decades after this story takes place, so it's odd for it to be brought up here (and in front of Xavier too), knowing that it can't go anywhere. It really would have been better for Davis to keeps things simpler and less psychological (last issue taking place entirely in people's minds wasn't a great move) and without the X-Men having been tied up for an issue and change. Oh well. I have to say i'm 49.99% intrigued by the next arc's story which will take place during the Hulk's Crossroads period, but it's not by Davis and i'm sure something will happen that will annoy me so i had better skip it for now.

    Daredevil #8 - Interesting, creepy, and well done as always. The scenes about Kirsten and her dad had some good character work, too. I assume Waid is aware that the Purple Man already has a daughter born through the same type of circumstances as these kids, but it wasn't necessary to bring that up in this story (although he still might in a future part).

    By fnord12 | September 23, 2014, 9:09 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link

    Continuity is the selling point

    I have just finished reading Rob Salkowitz's Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture, which was published in 2012 and takes a look at the comic industry (and related "geek culture") from a business press point of view. It's an interesting read that i recommend to people thinking about the comic industry and where it might go, but i don't really want to review the book per se. In addition to being a business "futurist", Salkowitz also happens to be a comics fan, and even a super-hero comic fan specifically, which is why he chose this particular topic for this book (Salkowitz's previous books have titles like Generation Blend: Managing Across the Technology Age Gap).

    And thanks to his comics enthusiasm, Salkowitz is generally sympathetic to comics fans, even to the ones he categorizes as "aging fanboys". That said, as he describes various trends in the industry - the influx of a new generation of geek girls thanks to things like Twilight, the influx of mass acceptance and interest due to the successful movies, the attempts at expanding beyond the superhero genre by Japanese creators and alt.comics writers, the attempts at expanded outreach through digital comics, - it's the aging fanboys mired in their crusty continuity and, in a sort of symbiotic relationship, with the direct market retailers that represent one of the biggest challenges for a successful future for the comics industry. An interesting point that he makes is that when we say "mainstream" comics, we really mean the super-hero comics that are the opposite of mainstream in any larger sense, whereas most smaller publishers deal in genres that are much more mainstream to the general populace.

    By the end of the book he describes four possible outcomes:

    1) an "Expanding Multiverse" where digital comics helps the industry reach mass appeal. This is the most utopian, allowing all genres and publishers to thrive.

    2) An "Endless Summer" where the Hollywood hits keep coming and the spectacle at Comic-Con keeps getting bigger and bigger, albeit by crowding out the indie publishers.

    3) A "Ghost World" (a reference to the indie Daniel Clowes comic) where the Hollywood hits stop coming and Warner and Disney pull the plug on their comic publishing outfits but the vacuum is filled by indies.

    And 4) An "Infinite Crisis" where again the Hollywood hits stop but the aging fanboys and retailers have their way and both indie and digital fail to expand in a significant way, leaving the industry basically an ever shrinking niche market for super-hero fans.

    Ok, so that turned out to be, if not a review of the book, at least a summary. Again, i think Salkowitz takes a fair approach to the topic. "Fanboy super-hero continuity nerds are preventing the comics industry from growing" is hardly a new insight but he makes the point well (hostile reaction to the Twilight fans, hostile reaction to the influx of movies and video games at Comic-Con, hostile reaction to... etc.) while also making the counterbalancing point that fanboy super-hero continuity nerds in a sense are the comic industry.

    But all of that is just background to what i really wanted to talk about, which is this section on continuity itself. I think Salkowitz sets up an interesting point but fails to actually make the point. Perhaps it's a point that only i, as a fanboy super-hero continuity nerd, can see. But here goes. He starts off by talking about how television shows including Smallville, Lost, Fringe, and Heroes had crossover appeal to comics fans, and says the connection was "much deeper" than subject matter. Specifically, it was:

    ...serialized storytelling with a core cast of characters who develop yet remain fundamentally unchanged. Each individual episode or issue must stand alone to provide a point of entry for newcomers, but form a part of a larger story line to keep people coming back week after week.

    So basically, it's the continuity. Continuing directly:

    Most prime-time TV programs weren't always like this. From the 1950s to the 1980s, very few shows had any kind of continuity story lines from episode to episode. Even heavily plotted dramas, police shows, or science fiction series like Star Trek (the original series), which may have had recurring characters or occasional cliffhangers, rarely referred to prior events or offered any coherent sense of their characters' histories or motivations.

    The revolution that transformed episodic storytelling first took place in the pages of Marvel Comics in the 1960s, when Stan Lee and his collaborators (principally Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko) wove long story arcs over dozens of issues and multiple titles, each of which also provided a satisfying individual reading experience and usually wrapped up the primary plot points in a single issue. In case anyone wonders why Stan Lee, the kindly old charmer with his name on every licensing deal, is so famous and well regarded today, that's why. The bold artwork and wild flights of imagination and fantasy of the Marvel Silver Age gripped readers, but this sense of integrity to the entire comics universe (provided partly by Lee's consistent writing and editorial voice) kept them coming back for more and buying anything with a Marvel logo on the cover. Before he became a brand unto himself, Stan Lee was one of the most important brand innovators of the twentieth century.

    Chris Claremont, who wrote the wildly successful X-Men books for Marvel starting in the late 1970s, elevated the continuity aspects of comics storytelling to rarefied heights under the universe-building stewardship of then-Marvel editor in chief Jim Shooter. X-Men was not just about good guys and bad guys, or mutants trying to fit into a world that was prejudiced against them; it was an ongoing soap opera with handfuls of overlapping subplots and long-simmering conflicts bubbling under the surface at any given moment. Like a soap opera, it sometimes got so tangled in its own mythology that casual readers couldn't make heads or tails of any given issue, but hard-core fans kept demanding more story, more X-titles, and greater complexities.

    Emphasis mine, of course.

    By the way, after reading that nice description of Stan Lee's contributions, i'm reminded that Tom Brevoort today trotted out again the idea that Stan Lee used to make continuity mistakes all the time. He doesn't give any examples but when pressed in the past he's cited things like calling Bruce Banner "Bob Banner" or calling Cyclops "Warren" or whatever. Those aren't continuity mistakes. And having been all through the Silver Age comics for my project, i can't think of any other continuity errors that Stan Lee made. It's sort of besides the point - errors can happen! - but it's been a regular claim of Brevoort's that continually annoys me, and i also wanted to link to that post because it's relevant to the larger point here.

    Salkowitz then goes on to talk about how this continuity innovation influenced television, saying that "Well-executed shows in this style that have no connection to comics whatsoever are now discovering that they are attracting comics fans, who tend to be vocal advocates for stuff they like." Breaking Bad is cited as an example.

    So the above quotes alone tells me that mainstream viewers can "handle" continuity and that it is even a selling point. I grant you that no television show has ever approached the "multiple titles" aspect to the degree that Marvel (and DC) comics have. But that doesn't say one way or another if that would be successful.

    But my point here isn't to argue for more continuity on television. It's really about defending the need for it in comics, basically that far from being the thing that prevents the comic industry from growing, it's the glue that prevents it from crumbling. So let me continue. A little earlier in the book Salkowitz describes friends of his that are indie creators that produce a comic called Supernatural Law (aka Wolff and Byrd - Counselors of the Macabre). And he puts that comic in a category along with Bone, Finder, and Strangers in Paradise, that in the 1990s was dubbed the "new mainstream". This movement...

    ...attempted to stake out a space between the standard superheroics of DC, Marvel, and Image Comics and the artsy fringe of "alternative" comics... The concepts were varied, accessible, and usually well done. Typically involving some combination of fantasy, mystery, science fiction, adventure, and humor, the titles reflected the kind of genre mix you'd find in the mass-market paperback books or network television. The stories were rich without the crust of "continuity" and whiff of juvenilia that hovers over superhero comics...

    However, Salkowitz goes on to say that in the early 2000s the "new mainstream" fell apart, partially due to production costs and Diamond dropping low selling indies from their catalog, but:

    At the same time, the natural audience for "new mainstream" titles found its entertainment desires satisfied by dense new episodic genre shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lost, and Supernatural, which tap into the same kind of sensibilities and appeal as comics.

    Salkowitz doesn't tie it all together, but i will. Readers abandoned the "new mainstream" titles that eschewed continuity when those genres became available in other formats and at the same time those formats were adding continuity. Meanwhile, the continuity-laden super-hero comics are the ones that survived. And it makes a kind of sense. If (true) mainstream genres are available in other formats (television, paperback books) why would people need to seek out this non-mainstream format for them? Even the super-hero genre, once notoriously difficult to transfer to the screen, is now gaining traction in movies and on television. If that happens; if, say, the "Defenders" line of Netflix shows kicks off an era of super-heroes on television, is Marvel prepared to pack in their publishing line?

    I've always said i don't think it's super-heroes specifically that makes Marvel interesting. If i just wanted great super-hero stories, there are a lot of options out there. And if Science Fiction or Swords & Sorcery or anything else had been the genre fad when the Lee/Kirby era started, would things not have picked up in the same way? It's the shared universe that kept people engaged. When Tom Brevoort (in the link above) says the job and the goal is "not to maintain the continuity, it's to tell excellent and engaging stories that excite and involve the readers", i disagree. Sure, we want "excellent and engaging stories", but we can get that from a lot of places. The unique thing Marvel has to offer is its continuity. And multi-title continuity with a history that reaches back 50+ years is the one unique thing that comics can offer long after everything else is available in other formats. So how did it become the industry's boogyman?

    By fnord12 | September 19, 2014, 4:23 PM | Comics | Comments (6) | Link

    Marvel Sales


    By fnord12 | September 19, 2014, 4:04 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link

    It's a Gordon Ramsay world

    Restaurants are reducing the number of options on their menus. No word on whether they're also replacing all their tables with booths and benches.

    (Kevin Drum disputes the idea that they're reducing their menus for aesthetic reasons and not as a cost cutting measure, but that ruins my joke. "Joke".)

    By fnord12 | September 18, 2014, 1:47 PM | TeeVee & Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link

    SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

    Captain Marvel #7 - Well we all knew that an issue featuring Rocket Raccoon and Captain Marvel's cat was going to be well received in this household. And the guest art by Marcio Takara was unobtrusive and pretty good. My only question is if these flerken are in any way related to the space cats from Speedball #6.

    New Warriors #9 - What to say at this point? It continues to be a great book but even if i convinced anyone new of that, it's already cancelled. This issue featured Justice and Scarlet Spider fighting a giant bear sports mascot, but that was really just a disguise for some nice character development, and it was a downtime issue for the rest of the cast, although it's still moving a plot forward for Hummingbird that i'm wondering if there will be time to get to. And speaking of unresolved plots, what happened to Phobos, Helio, and Gronk?

    Ms. Marvel #8 - Ok guys, i've been convinced to take this book seriously because i think it's really good. But now that you've got my attention, that also means you get my nerdy niggling questions. Like, she recognizes this giant teleporting dog as Lockjaw, but she doesn't seem to question at all why he's been sent to her? She's just sort of adopted it and is using it to teleport her around. And that's cute and cool and all, but it makes her look overly naive, especially for someone that is supposed to be a knowledgeable fangirl. She doesn't wonder if it relates to her origin, or at least consider trying to send the dog back home? Anyway, still a very fun book.

    By fnord12 | September 17, 2014, 6:12 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link

    No need to stop here. There's plenty more SuperMegaMonkey where that came from.