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10/30/09 12:20 pm - I'm a little out of the loop, I know - but I just saw the new Batgirl...

Hmm. Just what comics need, another blond, white icon.

I'm all for creating new female characters, but here - it only seems like we're losing one. If Spoiler is Batgirl - then DC loses the Spoiler (until someone new fills that costume).

And am I the only person who doesn't feel like taking a pre-existing female character and recycling her into a role most recently held by the only minority character in the Batman mythos - is not a step forward? 

8/3/09 10:38 pm - Inker/Artist Needed!

Hello all,

I have twenty two pages from early this year that I was determined to finish, but I'm not confident that my inking style is appropriate for the book.

I'd like to get this issue finished once and for all though, so I need an inker. If you think you can handle this, or you know anybody you think could help - please contact redridcully@gmail.com.

And if you read what follows and you enjoy it - and if you're an artist who is you're looking to work with a writer - then this could be the start of a beautiful collaborative relationship. This is just inking, but it could be a way for us to get a sense of what it's like working together.

And if we do work well together, I have a lot of ideas both big and small that I could sorely use an artist on.

And you have my guarantee that whatever we collaborate on - I will pitch the hell out of it to everyone I know or meet within the industry.

Regards,

-M


Words & PencilsCollapse )

Also - I'd like to point out that there is a very pencilly free comic under the above cut.

7/26/09 02:54 pm - Torchwood... went there?

You know - I hate Torchwood. Or - that's what I would have said to you the day before yesterday. Now I’m eagerly anticipating the next season.


The BBC Sci-Fi television series ran for two seasons before returning for a recent third entitled Children of Earth. I watched most of the first season expecting the show to get good for some reason, and gave up around two episodes into the second, realizing that the shoddy writing wasn't likely to improve any time soon.

OLD TORCHWOOD

 

The UK series one, part one (Episodes 1-5) DVD box

Image via Wikipedia




It's not that I didn't appreciate what they tried to do, I did! Torchwood took a couple of characters from the recent Doctor Who revival, teamed them up with some new characters designed to fit into the same world to form a ragtag team of paranormal investigators based in Cardiff of all places. Furthermore - it was intended to be a show for Adults - and I fancied the UK needed to be producing some darker, grittier Sci-Fi.

I'm a die-hard Who fan, which means that I cling onto the franchise in the face of frequent lazily written crappy episodes because occasionally it hits - and it hits hard. I see Doctor Who more for what it could be - or the potential it has than what it generally delivers - but I couldn't feel the same about Torchwood because they never seemed to deliver anything.

Among the qualms I had with the show are the generally aimless plots and the fact that everybody in Torchwood seemed to be bisexual with the over-active libido of a thirteen year-old boy. I have nothing against showing any kind of relationships or sexual acts when pertinent or even incidental to the plot; but the writers never built up to it - it all just seemed to happen very suddenly - like a Sci-Fi series has no room for romance.

That and it always seemed unlikely to me that out of the five main characters - not one of them was insecure enough with his or her sexuality that they'd shy away from same-sex relationships. I also felt like the flow of episodes in Torchwood were persistently interrupted to show two characters (often only distantly related to the show's plot) getting hot and heavy. Where were the reluctantly tolerant homophobes? This is Britain - not everybody is the accepting open-minded person they should be.

From an early point I became aware that the show was somewhat ethically bewildered. In fact – in the very first episode, the character Owen is shown using an alien perfume to make an uninterested woman want to have sex with him, in spite of being in a relationship. That – to me – looks like a high-tech date-rape. I thought when I saw that – so we’re not meant to like this sleazy little guy then? But in the very next episode (aired on the same night) we see Owen track down an old man who had once committed a date rape – and treating him with utter contempt. That might have been his chance to grow as a character – but there was no introspection there – no difficult and overwhelming self-discovery. Nothing. Just a hollow non-plot with no real meaning.

Doctor Who

Image via Wikipedia

 

The producers of the show seemed to confuse the idea of creating mature fiction with creating immature fiction that happens to include sex and bad language. This wasn’t mature Doctor Who – it was just loud Doctor Who.

 

Anyway - bottom line - I didn't get it. The Sci-Fi was bad, as if to say; 'well it's really about character interaction' and the character interaction was bad as if to say; 'well what do you want from us? It's a Sci-Fi, not a Romanic Drama!'

NEW TORCHWOOD



BUT, the other day my friend Geoff Wessel and I were on the phone and he told me that the new series (Children of Earth) was really good - in spite of being a Torchwood series. I've been seeing advertisements all over New York City for it and dismissed it until now. I mentioned it to my wife - who had also heard good things, so we watched it.

Well...

I'm not sure why, or when it happened - but Torchwood got good. Really fucking amazing, in fact. I felt like they finally began to deliver the things that they set out to bring viewers. We watched in open mouthed awe as the creators took the show in unexpected and disturbing directions.


Instead of just being bad Doctor Who with sex and swearing, Children of Earth is its own deep and dark psychological and philosophical look at the Sci-Fi Genre, without all the boring Deus Ex Machina bullshit inherent in the previous seasons (and Doctor Who). There were in fact - no sudden easy ways out of the terrible quandaries put forth in this season, no miraculous machine or magic word that the main character remembers at the last minute employed to revert everything back to normal...

Every decision that the characters are forced to make are difficult, scary and eerily realistic - the kind of things that will have a lasting effect on the characters for a long time to come.

It seems to me that the show tried to borrow a little from Battlestar Gallactica, introducing a hitherto unseen political element to the throws – and edgier camera work to really bring the viewer into the scene. There also seemed to be elements of fictional works such as Watchmen, in that a similar large-scale ethical dilemma is posed. Finally I noticed that this show seemed to bring British Sci-Fi back to its roots, somewhat. It reminded me of shows like
Quatermass  , or old BBC dramas that weren’t even necessarily Science Fiction.

Quatermass and the Pit (film)

Image via Wikipedia

 

 

None of that is a bad thing – because it stands out as an original work of science-fiction, haunting, daunting and far more intelligent than anything I’d ever expected to see in Torchwood.

 

As for the character development – well that was superb too. Both the heroes and the new villains tend to be portrayed as interesting and well-rounded human beings. In fact – I felt like the new supporting-characters introduced were every bit as interesting and important to the plot as the main characters.  I also learned more in five episodes about the old cast than I ever did in previous episodes of Torchwood.

 

08/09/2008 09:49

Image by alun.vega via Flickr

 

Perhaps, again – as with Watchmen – the smallest characters tend to be the most interesting. Ianto’s family who attempt to defend a council estate from threats far larger than they are... a dim-witted policeman who just tries hard to keep up with the trouble… families, civil servants, doctors, politicians, they all bring refreshingly human undertones to this twisted story – showing that everybody from the top to the bottom of British society is rocked by the incredible circumstance they find themselves confronted by.

 

Furthermore, it’s accessible.

 

 New viewers don’t need to have seen anything to appreciate this – and disappointed old viewers (like me) can forget everything they ever learned about the show and start anew.

 

And it feels good to leave the past behind, because this is one of the best shows I’ve watched in a long time – and I’m truly looking forward to a new season.

 

Because, you know – I love Torchwood!


cdhooortw

doctorwho

torchwood


7/24/09 09:41 pm - This is Marvelous! No - Miraculous! No - it's fucking MARVELMAN!

Miracleman

Image via Wikipedia


Today is a momentous day for comics.



A couple of months ago I was at a Neil Gaiman signing (about the third or fourth time I've met the legend) and I was that annoying fan to ask the worn out Miracleman/Marvelman question.

An audibly irritated Gaiman attempted to (politely as possible) let me know that I wasn't getting my exclusive from him - he said that the further the legal battle progressed, the less likely it seemed that he would have any control over the character. I asked him if Miracleman might pass into the public domain and he implied that this was less than likely... I asked him what would happen next if he continued his run and he implied that I should move along because there were seventy or so people standing behind me.

Fair enough, every writer has a question like that - that they can't stand hearing.

For those of you not in the know - Marvelman was a Golden-Age British knock off of Fawcett's Captain Marvel (now owned by DC comics). Captain Marvel used to be reprinted in England, but scared by the legal battle between DC and Fawcett, thanks to the ingenuity of a writer by the name of Mick Anglo - they decided to rip-off the Captain Marvel concept, creating their own atomic powered stand-in by the name of Marvelman who would say 'Kimota!' to change between the forms of a small boy and a super-human adult (Captain Marvel does a similar trick by reciting the name of the wizard 'Shazam').

Miraculously (or some might say 'marvelously') this was all nice and legal in the day - and Marvelman was published for a long time after. Our own little British Superman.

Eventually there came a lull in the superhero market and people seemed to forget all about Marvelman - until the bearded mad-genius wizard of comics Alan Moore began using him again in the eighties. First (I believe) for a cameo in his run on Marvel's Captain Britain - and later in his own ongoing series 'Miracleman' under Eclipse comics.

The disclaimer in the back of issue one let's us know that the name Miracleman was purely affected because Marvel comics were uncomfortable with anyone else using the word 'Marvel' in either a title or a character's name
Miracleman #23, art by Barry Windsor-Smith.

Image via Wikipedia


So, Moore ultimately finished his amazing run - and Neil Gaiman took over. Both of these runs on the book were titanic. These old issues are everything that Swamp Thing and Sandman would later become - and unfortunately they're no longer widely available.

Out of print.

Long story short. Eclipse died before Neil ever finished his run. Todd Macfarlane bought the rights. Gaiman claimed he held the rights to Miracleman. Todd Macfarlane tried to ignore that. Big legal battle. All Miracle-Man stuff ended up up out of print.

Marvel sided with Gaiman - created 1602 as a 'war-chest' of sorts to raise money and so on and so forth...

It's been such a long time but the battle is over.

Finally the courts decided that EVERYTHING since Moore's Eclipse run started was all some kind of accident. The rights never truly left series creator Mick Anglo. Anglo still owns the Miracleman/Marvelman property and everyone involved was under the misapprehension that the rights had passed on.

Now that's resolved, Anglo - the fucking awesome guy that he is - has sided with Marvel Comics.

You know what that means, kids?

Moore's run will be reprinted (Anglo will get a 50% cut, because Moore says so)...

Marvel are in talks with Neil Gaiman about finally completing that epic run... I also foresee reprints in his future too...

And...

Because Marvel owns him...

Miracleman, or Marvelman or whatever you want to call him - will finally live again:




Rule Britannia!




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6/30/09 11:36 am - All-Star Seven Soldiers of The Final Infinite Crisis on 52 Multiple Earths

Today I'd like to talk yet again about the master of Crossovers - Grant Morrison. Specifically about two of his most ambitious works to date - The Seven Soldiers of Victory and last years Bat-Killing Blockbuster - Final Crisis.

Really it was about two years ago that I discovered Seven Soldiers - when I read it in trade paperback format. I'm assured by many that this is the way that it reads best - and having picked up a couple of individual while the series was still running (and not understanding that it was part of something bigger) and I am inclined to agree.



As a finished work it's plain to see the sheer scope of vision that went into piecing it together. Seven Soldiers is a rare and bizarre experiment in comic story telling - a crossover event where the main characters are almost entirely unaware of one another. They (meaning the Shining Knight, Manhattan Guardian, Zatanna, Klarion the Witch Boy, Mister Miracle, Bulleteer and Frankenstein) must unite their efforts to save the world without even meeting. The bulk of the story is told in seven different mini-series, each belonging to one of the 'soldiers', and each written in a different comic-book style.

As if this weren't a feet large enough, Morrison gives himself the further challenge of recreating or reworking each of the primary characters in such a way that they'll fit into the new DC continuity in a modern and interesting way. The overlying plot-line is at first subtle and seems to creep slowly into each of the titles sneakily and almost without you noticing. Before you know it you're simply aware of this larger plot-line that you've subconsciously pieced together by reading these seven very different comics. This alone makes the book a new and extraordinary experience for the reader.



Created as an independent sequel (of sorts), Final Crisis was another of those books that was somewhat difficult to enjoy at the time of its release. However - having just read it in the newly compiled hardcover format, with the Superman Beyond mini-series included in context - as well as another integral one-shot about Black Lightning and the Tattooed Man - the story flowed as I believe Morrison had intended it to, and worked well as a dark, slightly haunting look at the superhero genre and the direction in which the industry seems to be headed. Morrison literally pits the superheroes we've known since we were children against the greatest threat imaginable - Darkseid.



If you don't know what that means - don't worry. I didn't until a few years ago.

It means that they're facing Gods. Evil Gods who enslave humanity by destroying our free will with body-snatching helmets. It all turns into a demented game of tag as friends suddenly become enemies and villains are forced to ally themselves with the heroes for the common good. Oh - it sounds familiar enough - it sounds like nothing we haven't read before - but the surreal, dark quality of writing and the consistently strong artwork (although not consistently drawn by the same artist) turn it it into something new.

It starts with a benevolent God - found dead in the garbage. Can you imagine much more powerful imagery than that? An all-powerful being flung into the trash, discarded like a coke-can, yesterday's pizza box or used tampons.



And when the time came that Morrison decided to kill the Bat-Man himself he did it with powerfully poetic symbolism. Batman's life ended as he had been created - with a loaded gun. Batman is never seen with a firearm because he believes them to be the 'weapon of the enemy'. Bullets tore through his own parent's bodies and destroyed his childhood, after all. But in this instance - for possibly the first time - we see Batman himself holding the gun. He betrays his most important rule for the greater good, and he pays the ultimate price for it.

Of course, he won't stay dead, that much is made obvious. But it's a good death, even if the Joker, or Two Face, or any of the Gotham villains weren't behind it.



Something that delighted me in Final Crisis was seeing a return to the DC Limbo. Morrison revisited this aspect of his existential 1980s run on DC's Animal Man. The oddly self-aware idea being that when the DC writers are no longer using a character and that character is written out of continuity - that character is forced to reside in a limbo world where nothing ever happens - no stories occur. It's just a world full of forgotten losers waiting for someone to decide to re-use them. Many escape Limbo, Animal Man and Mr.Freeze amongst them, but should they escape, they no longer remember any of what took place there, or their lives before the exile.

This is one of many themes Morrison revisits throughout the numerous DC titles he's worked on. You'll actually see everything connecting up the more of his work you read; aspects of Animal Man break through into Infinite Crisis, he reappears as a major role in 52, and more elements of the Animal Man run reappear in Final Crisis. The Crisis books are linked to his Justice League run  - and that, strangely enough  - kind of ties in with the out-of-continuity All-Star-Superman. In fact - the more Morrison work I read, the more I begin to wonder if he isn't really trying to turn all of DC comics into one giant Seven Soldiers of Victory...

Maybe some much grander plot will become apparent if someone reads everything in the right order, if then it'll all come together like some kind of magical rubik's cube.

17.


6/18/09 12:50 pm - Hey everybody, it's WHAT SHOULD I READ Thursday!

I've tried to encourage responses to my reviews and entries in the past - and I'd like to use Kryptonrays to inspire discussion and the free exchange of opinions on comics.

So how about you... yes YOU! How about you suggest a book for me to add to my reading list. Either a monthly title or a graphic novel.

Try to sell it to me with your reply and maybe I'll review it when I'm done.

REGARDS!

-M

6/8/09 10:51 pm - Grant Morrison re-invents Batman and Robin

I'm a little late on the bandwagon, but I just got around to reading the fantastic new Batman and Robin by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely.

I love books where a writer manages to re-invent a concept by turning the dynamic we're used to entirely upside-down.

That's Comics 101. Stan-lee did it in the sixties when he put the 'human' into 'super-human' and Alan Moore did it in the eighties with Miracle man and Swamp Thing. The method is so well-recognized that when Moore appeared on the Simpsons in a recent season, he said this of Springfield's top-selling comic character - Radioactive Man:

'You like that I turned him into a heroin addicted Jazz critic who's not radioactive?'

That's the ticket. That's what makes us take notice, it's tried and tested - and no one rocks it quite like Morrison.
 
So the question is; what can you change about one of the best known comic characters in the world that won't destroy what makes him great?  The answer is; you do what very few people would dare do.

Batman is a dark and brooding character - we all know this. 'The Dark Knight'. Robin is a splash of boyish enthusiasm in his dark world - Batman's opposite.

What Morrison has set up in his previous run on RIP is a complete reversal of what we know about Batman and Robin. 'Killing off' Bruce Wayne and replacing him with a former Robin (Dick Grayson), and introducing Bruce's son Damien as a new, dark Robin, we seem to now have a more jovial Batman and a borderline psychopathic Robin. In this first issue alone, Damien is shown acting much more like Batman than the new Batman, whereas Dick Grayson is more or less the same old Robin, now in Bats clothing.

If I were working for Batman, I'm not sure this is a move I'd ever dare to take (not that editorial would ever let me, I'm sure) - and I know many other writers would agree that it's a serious gamble... but seeing it in play?

Awesome. It just works.

I haven't steadily picked up Batman in a while - but I do not intend to miss one issue of this new series. Morrison and Quitely are bringing their A-Game, igniting the old franchise with the magical flame that made All-Star Superman and those early Morrison issues of New-X-Men so special.

If you're on a high from reading the new Batman and Robin issue and can't wait a month for some more Morrison/Quitely goodness, pick up either of the two books I just mentioned - or the hugely underrated JLA: Earth 2 - which is equally as good - and features a super-powered dominatrix Lois Lane who uses Jimmy Olson as her sub.

6/5/09 12:53 am - Old Man Logan - Mark Millar gives Wolverine his Claws back.

Wolverine is a fantastic character.

I didn’t see the movie. The trailers were enough to suggest that I’m perhaps not in the target audience for that film. I realize how unusual this statement must sound – if a self-confessed comic-book obsessive who dedicates time and effort to writing reviews in a home-made Livejournal with a tongue-twister for a name doesn’t think a movie about one of the most recognizable comic-book characters in the world was made for people like him to watch – then who the hell is it for? Well, everybody else by the looks of things – Hollywood made its changes to appeal to the wider masses and to kids. I know I’m just going to sit through it watching Deadpool and Gambit jump around looking cool in bullet-time – and all I’ll be thinking about is what might have been.

That’s fine by me though, I really don’t mind - because I’ve got my comics.

Ever since those X-Men issues where Wolverine made his post-Hulk debut thirty-odd years back, he’s been one of the most striking, interesting characters in the X-Corner of the Marvel U. The one that readers wish they could be – tough, cool and he takes shit from no one.

However – three decades has taken its toll on old Logan – and the character has slowly but surely started to become a parody of himself. A character who used to be portrayed as quietly intelligent, Wolverine would occasionally reveal a new skill in the long list of different disciplines he was versed in that we were given to believe somehow tied into his mysterious past. More recently- he has been reduced to a string of beer jokes and become a character whose defining characteristic seems to be that he will grow back from anything, no matter how heavily mutilated he might be.

Thankfully, Mark Millar and Steve McNiven arrived to save the day. Their run on Wolverine started about a year ago – entitled ‘Old Man Logan’ - in which Wolvie is given the Dark Knight treatment. The reader is propelled several decades into the future of the Marvel Universe, only to find that Wolverine has become a pacifist family man with a new troubled past concerning practically every Marvel character you can think of.

Millar at once masterfully turns Wolverine’s character upside down – and at the same time takes him back to his roots. He gives Wolverine back the mystery that once defined his character – yet he takes away Logan’s will to fight – his unstoppable pluck. All that is left of Wolverine is a shell of the man he used to be, he won’t fight, he won’t even pop his claws to threaten – even his once seemingly all-powerful healing factor seems to have diminished to the point that it can take him days to heal from a heavy beating.

Much like another brilliant book by Millar (and the always awesome J.G. Jones) – Wanted, Old Man Logan is set in a world where the heroes lost – and the world is owned and run by the Super-Villains. Unlike Wanted however, OML approaches the concept from another angle; for instance, the reader knows that so long as ol’ James Howlett is around – even if he’s not calling himself Wolverine anymore and even if his healing factor can’t seem to heal his broken spirit – then there’s hope for the good guys.

What I also found rather striking is that Millar starts the tale in a part of the USA that is now run by the Hulk and She-Hulk’s incredibly inbred grandchildren (that’s right, the Hulk Cousins did the nasty). This is an obvious allusion to Logan’s character origins in an issue of the Incredible Hulk – and I like it.

In Old Man Logan, Wolverine now works a farm in Hulk-Land and the Hulks beat the hell out of him regularly for rent money. You see him take a beating right there in the first issue. You see Wolverine stand there and take a beating. Wolverine… Somehow that makes him all the more compelling to read about.

What could have broken him so bad?

It’s so good, but I’m not telling you.

What I will tell you to whet your appetites - is that the whole Marvel Universe is given a dark and disturbing makeover to fit in with Millar’s brilliant futuristic Dystopia. Nothing is what it seems – or what you would expect it to be. Hawkeye is now blind and very possibly a drug smuggler, all the X-Men are apparently long dead, Venom… well he has to be seen to be believed – and perhaps my favourite of all – the arc-enemy of the Avengers – the psychopathic killing machine Ultron - is now actually a friendly, hard-working family man raising Hawkeye’s psychotic daughter, who also happens to be Spider-Man’s Granddaughter and calls herself ‘Spider-Bitch’.

Furthermore, there’s a fantastic sense of Geography in the book. In the first part of the story (and every subsequent part) you’re given a map charting Logan’s journey. Written across it you find bizarrely familiar names that hint at what will be seen in later issues. There are lots of fantastically imaginative little ideas scattered across that map - sometimes you only see these things in passing, but that’s enough to suggest the horrible fate that befell all of your favourite characters.

The whole story thus far has been expertly rendered by McNiven’s careful hand, with beautiful colours to compliment every panel. You don’t just get a good story here, every time a new issue is released, you hold a work of art in your covetous, geeky hands.

This is not a book for all ages. I think it skims by on a T+ rating frankly, it is clearly written for the adult fans. There are numerous adult references, some ‘language’ and that’s not to mention a great deal of no-holds barred gory violence – very little of which is directly influenced by the titular character…

We readers are all eagerly awaiting the final part, which is due to arrive some time in the God-Knows-When – in annual form. Everything up until now has been immensely satisfying – Millar will not let us down.

If you’re a Wolverine fan – hell even a Marvel fan, if you’re an Ultimates fan, a Wanted fan, if you liked Frank Miller’s Dark Knight, if you like familiar heroes done right – then this is unmissable.

TTFN

-M

6/4/09 12:10 pm - The Coffin - Another Suggestion for the Wayward Watchmen Reader

I know I only posted a review two days ago - but I've read something else recently that caught my attention. Another hidden gem of the 'never heard of it' variety that managed to be better than many of the things I have heard of - and hear far too much about.

I'm referring to The Coffin by Phil Hester and Mike Huddleston.



I'm not sure exactly where it came from - probably from the same friend who feeds most of my comic-addiction needs, but nevertheless; I found it in a stack of graphic novels on my living room floor (actually, I only think there's a living room floor under all of the comics, but for all I know - there might just be more comics, going down and down, deep underground twisting and turning until they meet the rest of my collection back home in England...), I was drawn in by the intriguing dark, realistic, colourless art style - and the book's seemingly pulp inspired cover.

Upon cracking it open and reading only a few pages, I found the writing to be as deliciously dark as the artwork - and an immensely satisfying read. The Coffin is a self contained story (which I do like to see) and is essentially yet another look at the superhero design from another interesting and previously unseen viewpoint.

The story revolves around an apathetic man of science named Dr. Ashar Ahmad who creates an Iron-Man-looking suit, or 'Coffin', that kills whoever wears it and traps the soul of the wearer at the point of death. The Coffin's deceased inhabitant can go on living within this horrific shell indefinitely, unless a leak is sprung through which their soul could escape. Essentially, if you climb into one of those shells, you die - and are condemned to go on living as a corpse in a box, possibly forever.

Dr. Ahmad believes in souls - in a clinical scientific way, but he is not a spiritual man - and doesn't understand the soul's significance until he himself becomes trapped in one of the Coffins. His world is soon turned upside down by the realization that bad people may in fact go to hell when they die - and that he may in fact be a despicable person - who deserves no less than that harsh and painful punishment.

The Antagonist, Mr. Heller, is quite frankly, a brilliantly evil character. An ancient business man who has survived well into his second century by harvesting the organs of his unsuspecting employees to replace his old dying parts. An investor in Ashar's work with the Coffins, he'll stop at nothing until he gets exactly what he thinks he is owed.

This is essentially a familiar tale of redemption, beautifully retold - with wonderfully diverse, eerily realistic artwork. It's packed with excitingly surreal imagery, which my wife was quick to point out; may well have been inspired by Japanese Manga. The writing pleasingly amalgamates heavily spiritual tones with a strong science fiction setting in a way we rarely see, making it a unique and a quite frankly - remarkable read.

If you like thought-provoking comics like Watchmen, Planetary, Swamp Thing, All-Star Superman, or if you took my advice on Kinetic a few months back and enjoyed that - then this could well be the book for you.

Go on! Read something different!

That's all for now.

TTFN.

-M

6/2/09 09:23 pm - Bang! Tango: A Book with Balls.

It’s been a little while since I posted an entry (unless you count the cat that looked like the Juggernaut) – but I feel the need to write about a great book that I only just discovered: Bang! Tango.

About a week ago - I was hanging out at my friend's office and I saw some dynamic looking artwork on his computer screen - I read the title; 'Bang Tango'? Never heard of it. Apparently - I shouldn't be surprised - it's one of DC Vertigo's lowest sellers, sadly. Still - the artwork drew me in - and so I asked him about it.

My friend wouldn't tell me what Bang! Tango was about - just that it was good, that he'd give me all the issues thus far (there have been four) and that I had to read it. No question – I just had to read it.

I tried to get a sense of the premise, asking more questions and getting no genuine answers. It felt a little like he was dodging the subject, or like he found it difficult to put into words.

In the end, I took the comics home and started to read it.

Hmph.

To begin with - Issue One seemed a little typical of the Vertigo books I don't often read.

I did like the art (by Adrian Sibar), the gaudy colour palette and design of the whole thing - which reminded me strongly of the Filth for some reason - and the pencils took me back to the nineties. Back then the most important thing someone really seemed to need to be an artist in comics - was to look like they really enjoyed what they were doing. Sibar genuinely succeeds in doing just that – and the enthusiasm rubs off on the reader.

It was the writing I wasn't sure about. There was a violent, over-sexed Hit-Man named Vin – who essentially has two girls fighting over him. The trademark Vertigo quirk seemed to be that the Hit-Man also danced the tango - and he was trying to leave his troubled, criminal past behind him to pursue his dream of being a professional dancer.

Girl one of the two fighting for his attention, Mel - she represents the life he's trying to lead now, safe and legal. To begin with, he seems to be happy enough in that world – even though you quickly get the idea that it’s all a comfortable lie.

Whereas girl two - Autumn comes straight from the troubled world he's escaping - and she brings the unwanted, sexy excitement right back into his life.

I guess that all wasn't exactly bad - but it didn't really grab me - I felt like I'd heard the story before – or some variation of it...

Until the last page of that issue –suddenly it got very bizarre and pretty damn interesting…

I understood why my friend couldn't really explain the title to me. It falls squarely into the category of 'indescribable' - at least, not in a few small sentences - and not without giving away the first big twist in the story.

And it is a good one. Without exposing said plot-twist myself, there's very little I can say about the book that will make you understand just how good it is and why - so permit me to spoil you, just this once:

The second girl I mentioned - the girl named Autumn - Little Miss Exciting from Vincente's troubled past... well - that girl has a penis. Yup. She's a man. As in: born a man, dresses as a woman. As in: the kind of man who has a penis.

It seems like such a small thing really (figuratively speaking) but it changes the book's themes dramatically, turning the series into a challenging, edgy read - all about what it is exactly that defines sexuality and gender - and just how much it should matter.

Fundamentally, it's a story about a man who is haunted by his overwhelming attraction to someone he doesn't want to be attracted to. Vin is someone who is afraid to explore his true emotions for fear that it will change everything he believes he knows about himself.

Often Vin is an un-likeable character - repressed, prone to homophobic outbursts and violence. But genuinely - I think - he is a realistic depiction of a small-minded heterosexual man who might find himself reacting badly to this kind of situation. He's tried all he can to get away and hide from it - but his attraction to Autumn never truly leaves him - even when he is with the first girl, Mel - for whom he seems to hold some measure of genuine affection.

His opposite lead in the book is Autumn, the pre-op transsexual who is so convincing as to fool practically every man she meets into dropping their jaws and gawping at her in awe like teenage boys who have just discovered breasts. You get a genuine sense of tragedy with this character too. She doesn’t seem to have psychological issues with her gender as she knows she’s a woman – she just has one lingering physical issue that she needs an impossible sum of money to take care of.

It’s clear that she cares deeply for Vincente too, even though she can’t be with him – and that his behaviour towards her cuts her deeply - that every time he calls her a ‘faggot’, it’s another dagger through her heart. Like I said – she’s a tragic character.

The Villain of the story is a villain is a fat mob-boss called ‘the Jock’ – a character who brings an element of Garth Ennis style sadism to the tale.

The book reminds me a little of another Vertigo title - American Virgin, in that it isn't frightened to tackle sexuality from multiple viewpoints - although it focuses a little more on one character's unwanted obsessions than on numerous different themes from story to story. The writer (Joe Kelly) takes things slow, and that's okay. He takes the time to weave this odd, gritty plot over the course of a six issue mini, never giving away too much at once - just enough to keep things interesting.

It raises a genuinely intriguing question - and one that not many men want to answer: What would you do if you met your perfect woman, beautiful, interesting - and sexy - only to find that she was – or had been a man? And if that subject matter scares you, you might want to think about it for a while and come up with a good answer for why that may really be.

Think about it as the Godfather, meets the Crying Game, meets… one of those dancing movies I’ve never seen… I’m going to say Dirty Dancing.

Maybe it's a clichéd response – or at least - an overly obvious one, but this book has balls - and if you're a Vertigo reader looking for something a different, something insightful and above all – something that will make you think; then this is the book for you.
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