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Monday, December 05, 2022

State of the weblog address...

So, as another year draws to a close...

Had a pretty good run of activity here for a few weeks in the middle of the year.  That was weird.  Could happen again, in terms of volume of posts, but probably not in total wordcount.  Those posts were way too long for what I had to say.  Anyway, got distracted by a few things, but lately have gotten back into more frequent reading of comics, especially now that I have appropriate eyewear to the task (I've needed reading glasses for a few years now, but was delayed in getting them first by the pandemic, then by general procrastination).  It's fifty/fifty on whether that reading will result in a desire to write about what I'm reading.

I've also started to buy comics again, after two years of buying almost nothing except a few mail order things and stuff I get free, thanks to an on-going tour of the Toronto and surrounding areas comic shops I've been doing with a friend I've re-connected with after a decade when he lived abroad.  Initially the comic shop visits were more of an excuse to get together for lunch and drive around, but I ended up finding a handful of places where I could get a nice selection of fairly cheap ($1-$3 or less) back issues, some of which fill long-time gaps in my collection, more often are things I was curious about from ads or previews in other books or fanzines, or from other work by the creators, and some just catching my fancy in the moment.  This resulted in a crazy acquisition spree in the past year, about 1000 comics, which pretty much makes up for the two years of nothing (my ideal acquisition rate is one comic per day on average).  Still have to read most of those, it's been hard enough indexing and filing them...

(that graphic on the right is a random sampling of they kind of stuff I've gotten)

I've also now got a list of about six comic shops that I intend to hit every six months or so, which should give them time to replenish their stock. I also have a longer list  of comic shops I'll probably never go near again, but that's neither here nor there. I'm kind of hoping in the next year I can mostly wipe out my list of older comics that I want that are in my price range and unlikely to be reprinted or legally available digitally.

So there'll be no shortage of stuff I can read and write about, if the urge arises.  And that's just print stuff I own.  Between that, the print and digital resources of the Toronto Public Library and the DC and Marvel "streaming" digital offerings getting closer to comprehensive (whenever I get around to subscribing to them), I'm not at any loss on things to read and write about.

And of course movies and TV are more accessible than ever.  But still more often than not I tend to re-watch something (lately SOPRANOS, NEWSRADIO, PARKS AND RECREATION, THE GOOD WIFE or COMMUNITY) rather than watch something I haven't seen before.  A few new to me things have caught my eye recently.

SEVERANCE was probably the most successful, with one season complete on AppleTV+, and more to come eventually.  It's a science fiction show about a world where a corporation has developed a technology where employees' minds are bifurcated, so while they're at work they have no memory of the outside world and when they leave have no memory of work.  That's all sinister sounding enough, but everything about the show compounds it, to the clues about the mysterious work our main cast of four (led by Adam Scott) is doing, hints about the past of the characters, various cultish activities and conspiracies both inside and outside the corporation which make the work/home divide much less firm than they'd have you believe.  Nine episodes in the first season, it starts off a bit slow, but picks up, making you sorry by the end that you'll have to wait an indeterminate time for more.  Definitely a show not to binge, though.  Take at least a few days between episodes to let it sit in your head.

A few other things I watched on AppleTV+ while I had the service.  THE AFTERPARTY was a mostly successful high-concept comedic murder mystery, where every episode was filmed with the trappings of a specific TV/film genre based on the character whose perspective is the focus. Doesn't completely work, but it was a worthwhile experiment. I'm not sure how it will sustain a second season, but if it's there whenever I re-up to watch more SEVERANCE I'll give it a look.

Which I probably wouldn't say about LOOT, the Maya Rudolph show about a recently divorced multi-billionaire who tries to find some meaning in her life and rehabilitate her reputation by working directly with the charitable foundation she was previously hands-off with. I don't know, I usually like Maya Rudolph, but I think I like her more in smaller doses. As a series lead she can be a bit much.  This seemed to have the bones of an interesting show, and a pretty good cast, but it just didn't gel. Maybe having the lead be so ridiculously wealthy got in the way. It also seemed a bit odd how out of touch Rudolph's character was when it was clear the wealth wasn't something she was born with, but came to her in her adulthood. Anyway, not ruling out watching more, but won't seek it out.

Objectively THE MORNING SHOW is even worse, but it might just dip into the rarefied of being so bad you have to watch it.  I mean, an absurdly expensive cast, great production values, incredibly self-important writing (and delivery of same) about what everyone should realize is a shallow subject matter, taking all the wrong lessons from the Aaron Sorkin school of scriptwriting. How can you not love it between shaking your head at how awful it is, and how little it realizes how awful it is?  Oh yeah, I'll watch more, but I'd caution you about getting sucked into it.

Other than that, FOUNDATION was terrible, but I'll probably torture myself and watch more, and BLACK BIRD was okay, but seems to end a bit abruptly.

The rotating streaming service wheel has spun to a free 6 month subscription to Disney+, so I'll probably watch a lot of Marvel, Star Wars and Muppet stuff.

Movies I've also fallen way behind on new stuff in favour of revisiting old favourites.  I'm still not willing to go back to... those big rooms where they charge you too much to watch movies with rude strangers in uncomfortable seats, with over-priced unappetizing food, and they don't even let you pause or rewind or turn on subtitles.  What did we call those?  Of the 2022 movies I've actually seen in 2022, I thought EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE (2022) was easily the best. Of the 2021 movies I got around to seeing this year, DUNE (2021), CODA (2021) and NIGHTMARE ALLEY (2021) are the ones I'd recommend.  Got some time coming up, planning to catch up on some more recent stuff, including NOPE (2022) at the top of the list (I think the last two non-children's movies I've been to in the... theatre (?was that what they were called?) were Jordan Peele's two previous movies).

Since I've been driving a bunch lately, I've been listening to more music than I normally do, both from digging the old CDs out of the basement and listening to Spotify, as opposed to listening to the same 1400 songs I put on an MP3 player a few years ago that I can no longer modify because it uses an off-brand proprietary USB connection instead of a standard.  I'd been kind of interesting to hear a few things I haven't heard in years, or occasionally go into deeper cuts beyond the dozen greatest hits for a few artists.  As I may have mentioned before, my taste in music largely ossified back around the time I was 25, which is now officially more than half a lifetime ago, and I'm not sure anything can reach both my head and my heart at the same time as anything I heard before that, but sometimes something gets close.

Well, that's more than long enough, and I didn't really get to the point of what I meant to write about, just some rambling about stuff that I want to write about in more detail that history shows I probably won't.  Maybe I'll get back to the other stuff later.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

DEMON by Jason Shiga

Jason Shiga's DEMON was first self-published in 21 chapters, print and digital, from 2014 to 2016, and then collected into four books from First Second in 2016 and 2017. It's the story of a man who, upon attempting suicide, discovers that he's a demon, meaning when his body dies his consciousness survives and he "possesses" the nearest human at the time of death. Complications ensue.

This is a really fun, if absurdly profane, comic, maybe Shiga's magnum opus to date (though I still have to pick up his new ADVENTUREGAME COMICS book, which seems promising). He creates a weird set of rules for how and why "demons" work in this world, and explores them in ways I can't even begin to understand how he got there.  I have to admit, there is a twist in the final book which I'm not sure I completely understand, in terms of what we've been told of how everything works, but I trust Shiga that the logic works out.

Just read it for the third time, but the first time in a short interval (one chapter a day most days for four weeks, and I have to day, a lot of those cliffhangers made sticking to the one-a-day plan difficult). I think it reads much better this way, and I'm kind of surprised that First Second split it the way they did, instead of one big book, or haven't come out with a complete one-volume version since.

Wednesday, November 09, 2022

Scribbly art update


Update on the Scribbly art by Sheldon Mayer I wrote about here.

The auction was won by Alex Johnson, and if it had to go to someone who wasn't me (or someone who would give it to me), Alex would have been my choice. He's found out a bit more about the history of the art and its prior owner. Look through his gallery, he's got some other Mayer work, plus lots of commissions of other artists doing covers for the non-existent "SUGAR & SPIKE #100".  All of them are great, but pay special attention to the Sergio Aragon├ęs and Ramona Fradon ones.

He's also provided a closer look at the editorial note on the artwork.  Here's what we think it says:

1st line: Dear ... [maybe starts with a G?] Eliminate boardwalk
2nd line: Leave BG for sky. Also note
3rd line: Buzzy and Susie are okay in
4th line: position. Show other girls
5th line: All [being] seated and standing
6th line: in BG looking toward Buzzy.and Susie
7th line: Smiling flirtatiously and some just
8th line: Smiling (not as Sheldon
9th line: Interpreted them)

("BG" means "background")

That name on the first line is maddeningly unclear, but I'm pretty sure it starts with a "G".  And as it happens, "Graham Place" is the name of a major artist of the DC teen humour titles of the era, including being attributed with some BUZZY stories and covers (they were almost all unsigned, except for Mayer, so credits are spotty).  Anyone familiar with the styles of the time want to weigh in on whether he drew the BUZZY cover based on Mayer's unused SCRIBBLY cover?

Monday, November 07, 2022

Kevin O'Neill, R.I.P.

Sad to note the passing of Kevin O'Neill, comic book artist known in these parts for Nemesis the Warlock, Marshal Law and The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, 

First, here's a cross-section of his career in covers:

Now a random look at some interior pages:
Obviously THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN has been his major work for the last two decades, with six volumes in collaboration with Alan Moore.  An interesting series, with O'Neill called upon to do some almost impossible things a few times every issue, and managing to make it look easy.

He did a few stories featuring the character Lobo, the most notable being LOBO CONVENTION SPECIAL #1 [1993] with Keith Giffen (Lobo co-creator with Roger Slifer) and Alan Grant.  

Here's a nice oddity, O'Neill inking a Jack Kirby page, featuring an obscure SHIELD villain of Kirby's creation.

A pair of pages for DC featuring their classic characters.  The Batman splash is an interesting design, and the Bizarro page from WHO'S WHO has some funny stuff in the background.  Rather famously, Alan Moore once talked about a proposal for a Bizarro series he wanted to do with O'Neill, which never came to pass (O'Neill did eventually do a short story with another writer).

Here's a promo piece for another of his major works, Nemesis the Warlock with writer Pat Mills.  Always thought it was a shame O'Neill wasn't able to draw more of the series, though the other artists (especially Bryan Talbot) did a good job carrying on in the world he designed. Definitely my favourite series to come out of 2000 AD.
Here's a nice charity piece he did for AARGH [1988], an anthology inspired by some homophobic laws being passed in the UK in that era.

O'Neill came in a few times on the OMEGA MEN series created by Joe Staton and Marv Wolfman.  The short story "Brief Lives" is an early collaboration with Alan Moore, and a cut story, while the other page is from a Marv Wolfman story, nicely realizing a nightmare alien world.
MARSHAL LAW is another major work, again in collaboration with Pat Mills, starting with an Epic series in 1987 and continuing through various publishers and crossovers for years after. I think that was the first place I saw his work.  A great series, always outrageous, frequently funny and a must read.

Another Alan Moore collaboration was "Tygers", a Green Lantern story featuring Abin Sur (created by Gil Kane and John Broome) which had more ideas per page than a lot of creators come up with in their careers.

Saturday, November 05, 2022

417 years ago today...

 Remember, remember

 the fifth of November

The gunpowder treason and plot.

I see no reason

why the gunpowder treason

Should ever be forgot.

(with thanks to David Lloyd, Alan Moore, Alan Grant, Norm Breyfogle, Jack Kirby, Joe Simon and whoever drew BUSTER)
Weblog by BobH [bobh1970 at gmail dot com]