Friday, April 29, 2011

Duck Comics: "One Thin Dime"

Monday, April 25, 2011

Why the story was written

Hilda placed her hands on Rebecca's head.

"The snow is coming," she said. "Soon it will be snow time. Together then as in other snow times. Drinking busthead 'round the fire. Truth is a locked room that we knock the lock off from time to time, and then board up again. Tomorrow you will hurt me, and I will inform you that you have done so, and so on and so on. To hell with it. Come, viridian friend, come and sup with me."

They sit down together. The pork with red cabbage steams before them. They speak quietly of the McKinley Administration, which is being revised by revisionist historians. The story ends. It was written for several reasons. Nine of them are secrets. The tenth is that one should never cease considering human love, which remains as grisly and golden as ever, no matter what is tattooed upon the warm tympanic page.
--Donald Barthelme, "Rebecca"


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Duck Comics: "Donald Duck, Special Correspondent"

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Duck Comics: Ultraheroes

Monday, April 18, 2011

Marx was skint but he had sense/Engels lent him the necessary pence

Terry Eagleton's "In Praise of Marx," from the Chronicle of Higher Education, is a great, must-read essay.  I'm not sure how you could read it and continue with the "grrr Marx evil" business that so many do.  Well, you'll see how if you check the comments section: either don't bother reading it or very cursorily skim it and then present anti-Marxist objections that the article clearly outlines and debunks.  No TIME for considering new information!  We have a weltanschauung to maintain! Not saying there are no possible objections to be made here; Eagleton obviously has a point of view, and the fact that I mostly share this point of view does not mean that it is unassailable. Probably a thoughtful dissenter could raise counter-arguments that would at least require me to think! But there seem to be few who care to be thoughtful on this topic.

It's like I tell my students: sure, you can argue X, but you CANNOT, in so doing, pretend that objection Y doesn't exist.  Of course, it's pretty unsurprising that so many of them have difficulty grasping this point, as our culture militates quite vigorously against the idea.  I don't let them write gay marriage argumentation papers because there are no good arguments against gay marriage. Like reality, I have a Librul Bias™.  However--well one might ask--if there are no good arguments against it, then why is it still illegal in so many states?  And the answer is: because we typically prefer to believe things through sheer force of dogma than for any other reason. Of course, gay marriage isn't legal in most of the world, it's true; but A) we fancy ourselves an "advanced" nation, so it's really incumbent on us to get with the picture; and B) we have an AWFUL LOT of these things: taxes are always automatically bad, medical care HAS to be expensive, global warming and evolution are satanic hoaxes, the drug war makes sense, and so on. You may not believe these things, but the culture at large refuses to treat them with the derision they deserve. CAPITALISM IS TEH ROXXOR HOW DARE YOU QUESTION IT may not have any logical power, but it sure is deeply embedded in most of our brains.

Friday, April 15, 2011

This week, in Mallard Fillmore

Now, you probably don't follow Mallard Fillmore, 'cause you're not dumb like me, but I think you should know that this week he's ranting about how the IRS is targeting him as retribution for bravely speaking TRUTH TO POWER by calling Obama a poopyhead. No lie. Assuming that there are a handful of deeply sad people who consider themselves "fans" of this comic, surely even they're gonna be able to see that their hero is a pathetic, paranoid drunk? 'Cause he's really laying it all there now, if he hadn't been before.

Hey guys, Let's Play NES Jeopardy!

So you're familiar with the concept of a "Let's Play," are you not? Where you record yourself playing a videogame of some sort and provide commentary that may or may not be incisive. Yeah, well, that's what this is. With Jeopardy! For the NES! I'd sort of thinking it would be fun to do something like this for a while, but I was held back for two reasons. First, because I thought I'd have to get special equipment of some sort, but this turns out not to have been the case; my computer has everything necessary build-in. Sure, the sound quality could be better, but it's certainly adequate. And second, because I kind of suck at most videogames except some RPGs, and they aren't really very appropriate for the format. But then I realized, hey, game show ports exist! And some of them are fun! So, long story short, I recorded this and after not insignificant levels of wrangling, I cut it into three pieces and put it on the internet, and that is about that.

Whether you enjoy it or not depends on how much tolerance you have for my insane babbling, I suppose, but I found it very edifying to record, so I'll do some more in the future--for other versions of Jeopardy, for other game shows, and hey, maybe even some non-game-show content.

Let's Play NES Jeopardy!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Duck Comics: "Return of the Micro-Ducks"

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Mouse Comics: "Sky Island"

Monday, April 04, 2011

Grant Morrison et al, All-Star Superman (2005-2008)

There's a[n] [All-]Star [Super]man, waiting in the sky
He'd like to come and meet us, but he thinks he'd blow our minds;
There's a[n] [All-]star [Super]man, waiting in the sky,
He's told us not to blow it, 'cause he knows it's all worthwhile...

...and that's enough of that nonsense.

The first thing to be said about All-Star Superman: it is absolutely gorgeous. The contrast with the barely-adequate Dark Knight Returns is really quite shocking. I know, I know--different tools are more appropriate for different kinds of stories. And DKR probably wouldn't have worked with Frank Quitely's artwork and Jamie Grant's coloring. But it doesn't work anyway, as far as I'm concerned, so now we're right back where we started. So yeah: beautiful, restrained, evocative, sophisticated, and it provides an emotional heft that something cruder would not have done. Major kudos to that.

The second thing to be said about All-Star Superman: it is goofy as hell. Given that the overarching premise of the series is "Superman learns he's dying--now what?"--and given the rather sober art--I was sort of lulled into thinking it would not be goofy as hell, but goofy as hell it is. So, f'rinstance, in one chapter Superman gives Lois Lane a magic potion that lets her have superpowers for one day, and they're going to use them to fight lizardmen from the Earth's core, but then two random mythological superhero dudes, Atlas and Samson, show up and take out the lizards, and the two of them vie for Lois's affections. Then, a time-traveling sphinx appears 'cause they've stolen its magic artifact thing, and Superman has to answer a dopey riddle. Even the serious-ish chapter featuring the death of Kent's foster-father features goofy Supermen from the Future. Also, Krypto the Superdog*, 'cause why not?

*Wikipediain' around, I find that "Krypto had the distinction of belonging to not one but two organizations of super-animals: the 30th-century Legion of Super-Pets and the Space Canine Patrol Agents." As if that weren't delightful enough, the latter of these groups, I learn, has a "battle cry and sacred oath," which goes:

Big dog, big dog, bow, wow, wow!
We'll stop evil, now, now, now!

Don't get me wrong, though; once I got over the goofiness, I kind of enjoyed these shenanigans. My implicit assumption that this was all going to be some sort of austere, Nordic meditation on mortality was in retrospect kind of preposterous, and if it's this or Frank-Miller-ish "grittiness," I'm not going to have to think too hard about the choice. I understand that this is meant to evoke the goofier sort of silver-age heroics with a contemporary sensibility, and in that respect, All-Star Superman definitely succeeds. And, you know, I don't want to suggest that it's purely goofy. The story sometimes captures genuine Wonder, and there are parts--even amidst the goofiness (such as the one intelligent guy among the mindless creatures of the Bizzaro World where one segment takes place)--that really have emotional resonance. Also, the stone-cold viciousness of Lex Luthor is, for want of a better word, Cool. The book is not what I feel like my platonic ideal of a satisfying superhero story would look like (the jury's still out as to whether there IS anything resembling such a thing in the real world), but I can't deny its artistry.

However, I do think there's a fairly substantial problem with this work as a story qua story, which is also why I think recommending it to newcomers, as people so often do, is somewhat wrong-headed. All-Star Superman is fairly explicitly meant as a tribute to Superman: to the idea of the character and to the ethos behind him and his storied history. Which is fine--but what it means is that the story more often seems to just be gesturing in the direction of the characters and their adventures--paying tribute to their existence--than it is actually embodying these things. The signifier is overwhelming the signified, you might say. So you have the aforementioned Atlas and Samson, 'cause hey, look at the kind of silliness that superheroes got up to back in the day! There's no effort to really integrate them into the narrative in any organic way. Likewise, Krypto the Superdog; the various Supermen from the Future; a villain called "The Parasite;" Luthor's psychopathic niece*--I could go on. As a result, there's a somewhat superficial, greatest-hits-ish feel to the whole thing. Don't get me wrong--if you're a long-time Superman fan, I can easily see how this could be absolutely delightful; pure manna from heaven. But the fact remains, by the very nature of the project, there isn't any sort of deep, cohesive narrative to suck anyone in who hasn't already been indoctrinated. I don't think it's impossible that someone could write a story that simultaneously pays tribute to the character and is also deep and compelling in its own right. But it wouldn't be easy, and 'tain't no sin that Morrison didn't quite get there (I would humbly suggest that there are a few duck stories that manage this sort of thing, though I'll freely admit that my perspective is totally skewed).

*Mainly because I haven't got the first clue what context there is for this very specific over-the-top gothiness (none in the story itself, that's for sure), this to me is the funniest thing in the book:

Fact remains, though, while All-Star Superman certainly went down smoothly enough, I ultimately only found it entertaining in an incomplete, not-entirely-satisfying way.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Duck Comics: "Micro-Ducks from Outer Space"

Friday, April 01, 2011

Adlai Stevenson Comics Revue