Lest people think my attack on Bigfoot was because of it’s “cutesy” factor– and not what I found to be problems in the writing– I bring to you my second choice for best of 2010: Werewolves Of Montpellier by Jason.
So much has already been written about Jason’s simplistic yet elegant style of drawing and writing that it’s daunting to me to try to add anything to the subject. But I don’t have to: this was one of my favorites last year, and I just have to tell you why.
[Spoilers ahead, if thats the kind of thing you're worried about in a Jason comic.]
166 Jay Bodnar Reviews You Can Use: Bigfoot edition ~or~ Can We Please Stop With the Goddamn Emo Books Already?
Bigfoot (Drawn & Quarterly)
by Pascal Girard
I don’t even know how to begin this. So far, in my very brief tenure as a writer for this esteemed site, I have yet to write any negative reviews. My thoughts on that were, “why would I waste my time reviewing things that I thought sucked? I should spend my time pushing all things cool into your collective heads.” I mean, the boring and mediocre have a million fans and detractors, did I have to be among them?
Mind you, it’s not that I’m not reading garbage on occasion, it’s just I chose not to bother you with it. That is, until now.
Bigfoot by Pascal Girard is in a long line of books I should not be reading, but on occasion, because of my fondness for the publisher, (in this case, Drawn & Quarterly) I sometimes take chances on a book I should not.
Why bother telling you this? Well, it was also brought to my attention that maybe part of a reviewers job is to tell people what you don’t like, because if an audience likes what you do like, it stands to reason you can sway some people away from the other stuff and save them some time and money.
I’m going to spoil everything about this book. Everything. I need to, in order to explain why I disliked it as much as I do. If you plan on reading it, or have it and have not yet read it, you have been warned.
OK, so I know that Destroy All Movies!!! The Complete Guide to Punks on Film isn’t a comic. But it’s published by Fantagraphics books, and since they mostly publish comics (and mostly publish the best ones, it seems) I’m running with it.
First off, I would like to give thanks to the two writers of the book, Zack Carlson and Bryan Connolly, for taking the time to research and write it, because I’m sure like many others it’s a topic that has come up for me in conversation. And after spending the last two days plowing through this majestic slab of crucial, comically informative reviews, part of me envies them in having done it first, while some other part wants to thank them for taking a bullet the rest of us don’t have to.
What we have here is an alphabetical list of movies containing punks from the years 1974-1999. It covers the obvious big ones (Suburbia, D.O.A., The Return Of The Living Dead, Class of 1984) to the less obvious and completely obscure.
First, I don’t think it can be overstated what a tremendous impact Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison and Brian Bendis have on mainstream comics. Douglas Wolk points out that the 26 best-selling DC single issues were all written by Morrison or Johns, and if you look at the top of Marvel’s charts, Bendis rules the roost over there. In fact, taken as a group, Sean T. Collins points out that 65 of the top 75 best-selling comics of the year were written by one of three people.
I also don’t think it can be overstated how unhealthy this is, though I’m not sure who it says more about: the industry or the fan base. I’d like to believe that it isn’t the fault of the fans, that Marvel and DC are just shooting themselves in the foot here. Banking on three people for all of your output sounds like a bad creative decision and an even worse business model, and I don’t really believe that’s something fans want. Logic dictates that the more kinds of comics there are the better comics will be overall, and that the more people creating comics, collaborating with and challenging each other, the better the stories will be. If fans are that easy to please, that lazy, there’s nothing to stop companies from continuing that practice.
In my very first semester as a journalism student much of our focus was on working through the fundamentals of what makes a good journalist. We went through all kinds of drills: crime drills, courtroom drills, drills to help us make sense of statistics, drills that focused on education or politics. One of the drills that I really took to was the obituary drill. On the surface it seemed a little morbid– we were given a certain public figure, and told to write an obituary about this person, complete with fake quotes from real life people– but it ended up being really interesting. Good obituary writing is an art form: you have to hone in on that one element of a person’s life that was unique or interesting, something that defined that them, and you have to look at their life through the lens of that element.
A good obituary is powerful. It’s the last word on someone’s life. A great obit writer can make a tremendous career for himself, and the job of the obit writer involves a flourish of creativity that you don’t see in a lot of other reporting positions. I often turn to the obit section of the New York Times website just to see some of the worlds’ interesting stories and moments we often miss.
Daytripper focuses on those moments that make up the measure of a man’s life.
So the last couple of weeks I have had a couple of conversations about this post by Jason Aaron more or less telling Alan Moore to “Fuck Off” for talking shit on the comic industry and, by proxy, himself.
And while I want to comment on some things, one thing I don’t necessarily want to do is take sides. Where as I can understand why Mr. Aaron could get upset at what Mr. Moore said, I think he made the common mistake of holding a person up to their work.
What I mean is– and in my life this has happened a few times– where you meet a musician, or comic writer or artist you’re really into, and they act like a complete piece of shit. It may just have been a bad day for them, or they may actually just be rotten people. I try not to let it affect my view of their work. And while I understand it’s human nature to hold a grudge against someone who says or does something to you in person, I find it weird to get upset over a third party interview. Alan Moore talks shit. That’s what he does. At this point in his career he’s known as much for that as his actual artistic output.
That being said, there are a couple of things that have, for a while now, bugged the shit out of me about Watchmen and Mr. Moore’s dealings with the property that I am sure are going to come off as possibly a personal attack on the man. Not so: other than Watchmen, I very much enjoy much of his output, Promethea being one of my favorite series ever.
But Watchmen is its own beast.
In a recent response to the Alan Moore/Jason Aaron non-controversy, Air writer G. Willow Wilson had a lot to say about Moore and the times in which he wrote his comics versus the times in which we live in now. Wilson’s point ostensibly seemed to be that Moore would never be able to get away with the comics he wrote now, because we live in a much more conservative society where views like his would be frowned upon and/or censored. I have my own thoughts on that topic, but that’s not really what I’m focusing on today. Wilson cited the V for Vendetta film as proof that, as a country, we don’t respond well to films in which leftist or counterculture views are portrayed prominently.
“Look at the reaction to the V for Vendetta movie, set against Bush-era issues,” Wilson tweeted. “It was a universal ‘meh’. We have no balls.” Wilson continued, saying “the box office returns were dismal, and the comics community at large pretty much abandoned the film.”
First, I completely disagree with her last point– I seem to remember a whole lot of comics people raving about the movie, and that’s one problem I want to touch on today. That leads to my second point, and what I think is the deeper issue here as it pertains to comics culture and films based on comics properties, and that’s the false equivalency Wilson places between American audiences’ feelings about the movie’s importance, and Americans’ politics as a whole. The problem with V for Vendetta was not that the American public is not ready for revolutionary politics on film, it’s that the film in question wasn’t very good.
I want to try and segue that into the topic of superhero films, because it got me thinking. Movies based on characters in superhero comics are, by and large, terrible. I would say the vast majority of films based on a Marvel or DC property are downright unwatchable. Fantastic Four, Wolverine, Superman Returns, Daredevil, Catwoman, both versions of Hulk, Ghost Rider– I’d venture a guess that for every good superhero movie there are at least two terrible ones that have come out or are coming out. Yet comic fans tend to be apologists for the genre, as if arguing the merits of the latest superhero blockbuster is equated with defending comics’ honor.
Comics don’t need that, and they don’t need bad superhero action flicks giving them a bad name. The superhero movie is an awful trend and, if 2011 pans out the way I think it will, it’s also a dying one.
So, it’s my intention to write ten reviews in ten days for the end of the year best of list. Which is absolutely not daunting to any living soul other than myself. Mostly because I am lazy, but also, it was a terrible year for comics. 2010 had its moments, but they were few and far between. In fact, I think in other years it would be hard to narrow down to a best of ten. This year? I’m lucky I got ten. Lucky me.
But that’s no reason to disparage the comics made that were actually good. In fact, it almost makes it imperative that I write this best of: you need to know. And if not me, than who? You? Highly unlikely. First of all, you would have to have a command of the English language, that quite frankly, I don’t believe you possess. And secondly, how could you possibly know what my choices for the top ten are? You could speculate at best. But that’s not what you do. That isn’t what our relationship is like. I give, you take. I accept this.
Also, just for the record, I’m writing ten reviews in ten days, but they’re not in order of least to best. Nope– not what I do. These are just my ten favorite, period. Also, the more I think of it, it might be like the top six or seven. I told Paul my top ten list, and he pointed out that three of them came out the year before. I don’t feel like bumping up the honorable mentions to bonafide hits.
OK, let’s begin.
My favorites of 2010 are not to be confused with what might be the “best” of 2010. It’s just some of the stuff I really liked that I thought I’d be able to add something to. I don’t think I have more to say about King City, for example, that David Brothers hasn’t already covered in one of his 12 Days of King City pieces at 4thletter!.
While the dearth of superhero comics worth talking about that I mentioned last week in my cry-like-a-baby post is troubling, and the creative output by mainstream publishers downright offensive, it also helps bring to light some of the stuff that’s worth discussion.
Irredeemable started in 2009, a year I thought brought a lot of quality mainstream comics. Detective Comics, Scalped, Batman & Robin and Chew, all produced by mainstream publishers, each made it onto I Love Rob Liefeld’s Best of 2009 meta-list. Twelve others cracked the top 50. While that’s a crappy percentage compared to the amount of comics these companies produce, it’s a pretty impressive to see a book starring Batwoman placed among the ranks of David Mazzuchelli and Darwyn Cooke. Irredeemable didn’t make my top 10 last year, but I listed it as an honorable mention. In 2010 it makes my list in a heartbeat.
I remember starting Wednesday’s Child in the early hours of 2009, and the kind of content I imagined I would produce here.
Initially, I remember thinking that there needed to be more intelligent criticism of comics on the web. Music, film, literature, even television: all media with an extensive and impressive critical history, all featured prominently on arts and culture sites the web over. There is no dearth of thoughtful examination on the films of Hitchcock, or Kurosawa, or even Uwe Boll. People have intelligent opinions on everything from Faulkner to Palhaniuk. If I hear another LOST theory, I’m going to fucking shoot somebody. Why do I not get this kind of talk about comics? You know: that old argument.
I discovered soon after that there were a bunch of people worth reading. When Abhay Khosla or Tucker Stone talk about something you should probably listen, even if on the surface it doesn’t sound very serious. I found out that Tom Spurgeon was a person who existed. I read that Douglas Wolk book, and despite a few glaring problems I’m not going to get into here, it’s probably the best collection of comics analysis around. There’s very few people worth reading, mind you, but they’re there, and although it’s a crime that they aren’t read by more people, that probably says more about the squares of the world than the quality of critical comics analysis available. I always thought I could contribute to that, if not in sheer quality of content, then at least in approach. If I wanted more criticism, better criticism, it should start with me, probably.
I soon realized this was a stupid idea. Maybe it was true, I don’t know– maybe the lack of thoughtful comics criticism is a serious problem to some people, but not to me. Not really, because it’s not something I feel is necessary. And it’s part of the reason why I hated comics this year, why I got so sick of them. I know Serious Comics Journalism™ is probably a good thing in theory but I don’t know how it can work when the people making the comics– and I’m talking about mainstream, superhero comics here– when they don’t care about what they say or mean or look like.
I wrote a review of Wilson, and I liked it, and I even got into a little debate about it in the comment section of Tim Hodler’s post, which is cool because, hey, I sometimes like Tim Hodler’s writing as much as those other guys up there. What a fun time. That was really great. Books like Wilson get a lot of recognition from people, and a lot of thoughtfulness goes into making it, talking about it, and putting it on our super-duper top 10 lists. That is a comic a lot of people thought was great that I thought was only mediocre, and had specific analysis as to why I thought that was. The world is better for having talked about Wilson.
Do you know how difficult it is to do that with an issue of Superman? Or how pointless?