Archive for September, 2012

Posted: September 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

My ongoing series for Through The Shattered Lens continues —

Through the Shattered Lens


It occurs to me that before we delve into the “meat,” so to speak, of our story any further, I should take a brief step back and say explain what I have in mind for Catwoman , at least conceptually, in our little hypothetical series, and since my last post ended with her on-screen introduction, and I’ve mentioned a time or eight that she will be playing a major part in the Batman III, and III trilogy, now is probably as good a time as any to give folks an idea of what I view the “ideal” Catwoman for this series to be like.

Which doesn’t mean I’m going to drop names as to who should be playing her. Sorry. Casting ideas are waaaaayyyy down the road a piece, after our plot is all laid out, so we’re not going anywhere near all that — yet…

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Hmmmm — I’ll be honest, folks, this third issue of Len Wein and Jae Lee’s six-part Before Watchmen : Ozymandias perplexed the hell out of me.

On the one hand, it was pretty well-written as far as its depiction of the principal players involved goes. Like Amanda Conner and Darwyn Cooke, Wein seems to have a better handle on the characterization of the Comedian than the writer of Eddie Blake’s own book, Brian Azzarello, does. And Wein has quietly managed to get his own central character, Adrian Veidt, pretty well spot-on by this point, too. He’s also got a fairly nice handle on Dr. Manhattan, who figures rather prominently in this issue, as well.

On the other hand — the plot really goes off the rails here. Again.  Wein has Ozymandias all but abandon his search for clues as to what really happened to Hooded Justice — you know, the very plot device that led to his confrontation with the Comedian in the first place — and abruptly shifts gears here to focus on Adrian’s stalker-like fixation with and on Dr. Manhattan. All of which means that by the time we get to the end of this issue, which marks the halfway point of the series, it’s flat-out impossible to tell what the central storyline of this book really even is — assuming it has one at all. We’ve gone from an issue of needless origin recap to Ozymandias-gets-revenge-on-the-drug-dealers to the aborted Hooded Justice investigation to this latest Dr. Manhattan obsession, and while it’s all flowed together reasonably well, that doesn’t mean there’s an actual plot unfolding here. It’s all, frankly, a perfectly coherent mess, which is a bit of a rarity, I suppose, but doesn’t mean it’s any less messy. You’ve heard of throwing a lot of shit at the walls and seeing what sticks? Well, Wein seems to be throwing a lot of shit at the walls until something sticks.

As far as the art goes, well, it’s pretty much of a piece with the first two issues in my book. If you like Jae Lee — and lots of people seem to love him — then you’ll be in heaven. If you find his stuff fundamentally unimpressive and  more than just a bit lazy, as I do, then you’ll continue to scratch your head and wonder what all the fuss is about. I still think it all looks pretty stiff and lifeless, and neither of the variant covers (as shown, by Lee and Massimo Carnevale, respectively) does a whole lot for me, either, although it would certainly be unfair to say that either is actively bad in any sense of the term.

So, again, I’m sort of in a quandary here. Thus far in this series we’ve gone from one plot point that’s quickly dropped to another — and this time around it doesn’t even take a transition to do so! No sooner is Ozymandias’ opening battle with the Comedian over than Veidt’s “voice-over” narration informs us that he dropped the whole Hooded Justice thing that led to the confrontation in the first place. I guess we can only hope that Wein decides to see through this new Dr. Manhattan-based plot thread to its conclusion, which at least means the last four issues, starting with this one, will have some sort of point — but even then you gotta wonder, why make this series a six-parter when four issues would do just fine?

Finally, it’s time, at least by my accounting, for another quick look at the pirate-centric backup feature in all these books, The Curse Of The Crimson Corsair, now being written, as well as drawn and colored, by John Higgins. The strip continues to look great — Higgins’ art has pretty much established itself as the high water mark of the entire BW enterprise in my book — but the story, while pretty much exactly the same as when Len Wein was writing it tonally, has quickly devolved into a standard “quest for the missing objects”-type of thing. It’s still an okay enough read, but that’s about all I can say for it at this point. Oh well, we’re four days away from seeing what Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo have in store for us in Rorschach #2, which will either be the point where they nail things down after a promising enough first issue, or where they just let it devolve into another pointless career rehash a la what’s happening over in Comedian and, to a lesser extent, here in Ozymandias, as well.



So, yeah, here it is, the end of my “Comix Month” that went on for three — no, make that four months — and that still actually isn’t really all that over with since I’ll continue with the Before Watchmen reviews I’ve been doing (in fact, another one of those will be coming up this weekend) as long as I’m still picking those books up, but the fact is we’ll be moving back into film reviews for the most part starting on Monday. But hey, as far as comics/comix go, I did save one of the best of the bunch for “last,” so without any further ado let’s take a look at legendary Yummy Fur and Louis Riel writer/artist Chester Brown’s latest hardcover opus, his flat-out disarmingly matter-of-fact accounting of his time as a patron of the world’s oldest profession, Paying For It, subtitled, appropriately enough, A Comic-Strip Memoir About Being A John

First off, before we even tackle the subject matter here, let me say this about Brown’s ever-evolving art style — if you loved the detailed cross-hatching so prominent in Louis Riel, a lot of that’s gone here, replaced instead with a really strong use of inky blacks and frankly it fits his theme — Brown seems to have moved on from a world where things are indeed quite shaded to one where things are pretty solid, pretty black-and-white, in his mind. His attention to detail is getting more and more meticulous yet he’s doing it with fewer pencil-and brush-strokes than he used to, which is also reflected in his writing, as that’s grown more and more economic, shall we say, as his career as progressed, as well. So if we had to choose two words to describe this book’s overall aesthetic, they would be frank and direct.


As you’ve probably managed to figure out by now, this book, Brown’s first-ever work not to be serialized in an ongoing standard-comics format, is an autobiographical account of his, shall we say, “journey” from guy in a relationship to guy who pays for sex to, finally, guy who still pays for sex and has come to view romantic love as not only unattainable, but flat-out undesirable, as well. It’s an interesting philosophical “progression,”(if that’s the word we want to use), and while it gets to be a bit of a polemic, Brown never seems overly preachy simply because he’s always so calmly matter-of-fact about everything. His good friend, fellow Canadian cartoonist and Drawn Quarterly “stablemate” Seth (who features quite prominently in theses pages as does Spent creator Joe Matt) has taken to calling Brown “The Robot” over the years (one of many interesting facts revealed in Brown’s extensive and thoroughly engaging footnotes section at the end of the book — as always with Brown’s work, this section is where half of the real “action” in the book is to be found and shouldn’t be skipped over under any circumstances), and it’s easy to see why — he’s so clinically, even bluntly,  objective about pretty much everything, most especially his own life, that it’s almost dizzying at times.

All of which isn’t to say that most readers will find themselves in agreement with every argument Brown is advancing here, or that his frankness and objectivity (both in the literary and visual senses) can’t be pretty off-putting in and of itself at times (for instance, Brown displays few, if any qualms after patronizing a prostitute who could very well be underage — he does have a brief moment of semi-queasiness about it, but he sees her again anyway, and is simply willing to take her word for it when he asks if she’s 18, and he certainly doesn’t glamorize his sexual encounters with any of his paid-for partners in any way, with most appearing quite repetitious, no faces of the women ever being shown, and Brown drawing himself as, in the terrific words of another online reviewer, “a praying mantis with testicles”), but he certainly earns points for absolute philosophical consistency, if nothing else.

I’ll be honest — I’m not sure how persuasive Brown’s overall arguments will prove to be to folks on either side of the prostitution issue. I went into the book believing it should be legal and came out feeling the exact same way. On the other side of the coin, sorry Chester, but I still believe that good, old-fashioned romantic love is a worthy ideal and one worth striving for. Life, in fact, would seem to be pretty empty to me without it. But Brown does do an effective job of charting his own thought “progression” (again with the quotation marks) on the issue, beginning with the ending of his long-term relationship with well-known Canadian performance artist/dancer/actress/television presenter Sook-Yin Lee and ending with his return to a monogamous relationship, albeit one in which he still pays for sex on principal alone, with a former prostitute he identifies solely as “Denise.” He admits he even loves Denise at the book’s conclusion (be forewarned this book doesn’t have an “ending” so much as it just stops at a certain point in Brown’s life), but that he still thinks all sex should be paid for directly and that monogamy should always be a purely individual decision and that just because one partner in a relationship (of whatever sort) chooses to be monogamous doesn’t mean they have they have the right to expect that the other person in that relationship should be, as well.

It’s all interesting, even downright fascinating, to contemplate this stuff in theory, but most readers, myself included, will find it pretty hard to relate to many aspects of Brown’s outlook simply because we can’t divorce sex from emotion in the same way that he so clearly has. So be prepared to be challenged here, and don’t expect to agree with, or even to be able to relate to, all of Brown’s outlook here,  even if you’re sympathetic to pretty good chunks of it. Like all the best art, this is provocative stuff that has the ability to get you to look at the very nature of human interrelations in a new way. Whether it changes your mind on anything is almost beside the point — the fact is, Brown’s much more interested in simply relating how and why he thinks as he does and how he came to see things in that way than he is in getting you or me to change our minds. Chances are you’ll end up really enjoying Paying For It — I certainly did — but the absolute truth of the matter is that even if you don’t, you’ll still walk away from this work respecting what Brown’s done here. That’s pretty remarkable in and of itself, don’cha think?

Posted: September 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

Yet more in my continuing series for Through The Shattered Lens website —

Through the Shattered Lens

Hello once again, friends, and welcome to yet another in this seemingly endless series on relaunching the Batman franchise for the silver screen. Our introductory graphic this time around comes from the rather lackluster Batman : Earth One graphic novel, which I don’t really recommend anyone actually read, but I’m kicking things off with this picture because it’s a pretty accurate depiction of how I’m thinking Jim Gordon ought to look in this movie, and where this story falls for him chronologically in terms of his career. More about which in a very brief moment —

So, as we left things yesterday, Bruce Wayne was on his way back to Gotham, having headed west Boxcar Willie-style and spent most of the trip daydreaming about his past, giving us a pastiche of origin/background scenes to either tell us what we already know about his origins or tease us with aspects we…

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Posted: September 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

My ongoing series for Through The Shattered Lens continues —

Through the Shattered Lens


If you’ll recall, when we left things yesterday, the basic plot background for our hypothetical Batman I  was pretty well underway, and Bruce Wayne was hopping onto the back of a boxcar to make his way westward in preparation for catching a flight there that would mark his “official” return to Gotham City. Which probably, and quite naturally, makes you wonder why I would choose to kick this post off with the cover to the classic 1970s Batman origin story “There Is No Hope In Crime Alley!” by Denny O’Neil and Dick Giordano (who was in full Neal Adams rip-off mode at the time, like a lot of the comics industry).

Well, friends, that’s because I figure that this type of scene would give us the best opportunity to give this flick the closest thing I really want it to have to an “origin of the Batman” sequence, which…

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Posted: September 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

My series for Through The Shattered Lens continues —

Through the Shattered Lens


The above image, in case you hadn’t figured it out, is an updating of the classic Batman “quick-version” origin story, “The Legend Of The Batman – Who He Is And How He Came To Be” by Bill Finger and Bob Kane that I included with the last post. This modernized version was done for the Jeph Loeb/Jim Lee Batman storyline “Hush,” which is considered something of a modern “classic” even though, for my money, it pretty much sucks. I’ve never been a fan of Lee’s art, and the story here is essentially another drawn-out murder mystery by Loeb a la his “Long Halloween” storyline, and in point of fact he even employs the exact same plot conceit to disguise the identity of the true killer that he used in that previous series! All of which has precisely zero to do, specifically, with the hypothetical storyline of our hypothetical Bat-trilogy…

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Posted: September 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

My ongoing series for Through The Shattered Lens continues —

Through the Shattered Lens

So here we are, after seven posts setting up background, detail, etc., and we’re finally ready to begin exploring the (admittedly skeletal) plot structure I have in place for our new Detroit-filmed, more-emphasis-on-the-detective-and-heroic-aspects-of-the-character Bat-trilogy, which we’re (tentatively, at any rate) simply titling, in succession, Batman IBatman II, and Batman III.

But first a word about that classic “Legend Of The Batman” panel “by” Bob Kane reproduced above. Like all the classic early Bat-stories, it was drawn by Kane, but the story and all the concepts behind it are the work of comics writer Bill Finger, who Kane conspired with DC management with to completely screw out of his co-creator’s claim to the Batman character. If you want to know how complete and thorough-going was finger’s contribution to the Caped Crusader, consider not only that by most reputable accounts he created Gotham City, The Joker, and Robin…

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What happens when you devote the first issue of a four-issue mini-series to pointless set-up and needless backstory that achieves nothing? Well, not only do you get a crappy first issue, you end up with something on the other end like Before Watchmen : Nite Owl #3, which has to do waaaaayyy too much because that opening installment didn’t even get the overall plotlines that are being set up for conclusion here going in any way, shape, or form.

Seriously, if J. Michael Straczyski had just started with the second issue, and split the various components of this third issue into two, we’d be in a much stronger position as readers to actually give a shit about how this is all going to wrap up — instead what  we got was a first issue that didn’t need to exist, followed by a second issue that finally decided maybe this series had better have an actual point to it after all, followed in turn by a third issue that actually isn’t all that bad but has to cram an awful lot in before we finish up next month. All this, as is the case with all these BW titles, from a series that has three fucking editors working on it, none of whom seem to actually show up for work.

Anyway, what we’ve got going this time around is Dan Dreiberg, aka Nite Owl 2, working side-by-side with costumed criminal/madame Lady Nightshade to crack the case they’re working on involving the murders of several prostitutes, a case the cops obviously don’t give a shit about. Meanwhile, Walter Kovacs, aka Rorschach, has taken a job as a janitor at the church he attends, while elsewhere on planet Watchmen, for reasons we don’t know, grief and anguish are eating away at Nite Owl 1,  akaHollis Mason, who’s taken to hitting the bottle. By the time the issue is over, we’ll see Dan and Lady Nightshade get it on (although essentially get nowhere on their case), Dan get some free bedside psychoanalysis from his surprsingly well-adjusted new ladyfriend, Mason turn the first draft of his by-now-legendary Under The Hood autobiography over to Dan (it’s apparently far more confessional than anything we’d previously been led to believe, ‘cuz reading through it seems to send Dan to the edge of a nervous breakdown himself), and Rorschach come much closer than his erstwhile crime-fighting partner to solving the murdered-hooker case when he makes a seriously grisly discovery in the church basement.

Like I said, compared to that first issue especially, it’s all quite readable. But it would read a lot better spread out over a couple of issues, where Rorschach’s grim find in the basement and Dan’s heartbroken reaction to Mason’s book could both have served as pretty solid little separate cliffhangers. Instead, what we get is  Dan breaking down as he reads Mason’s manuscript (which, let’s face it, probably has a lot more to do with the supposed “big revelation” coming up in Minutemen #5 than it does with anything going on here, and in fact won’t be “resolved” in this series at all) while there are still a few pages to go, and then Rorschach’s —- uhhhmmm — “situation” serving as the cliffhanger at the end of this book, which is pretty absurd when you think about it because — this is supposedly Nite Owl’s book, not his!

Ain’t that just the breaks for poor ol’ Dreiberg, though? Always kind of an “also-ran” character in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ original Watchmen series, here in his own fucking book he can’t even score the penultimate issue three cliffhanger, and is effectively reduced to being of secondary importance in a series that bears his name on the cover! Again, I gotta ask — three editors “worked” on this?

On the creative front, Before Watchmen : Nite Owl #3 (variant covers, as shown, by the Andy and Joe Kubert and something called Chris Samnee, respectively) sees, sadly, the departure of the late, great Joe Kubert on inks about halfway through the issue. Not sure if his health had taken a turn for the worse and he literally couldn’t continue beyond that point or if these pages by his son Andy weren’t inked at all before he passed away, but whatever the case may be, the remainder of the issue is inked by — Bill Sienkiewicz? Holy shit there’s a name I haven’t heard in ages, and I just have to ask — what happened, Bill? To go from Elektra : Assassin and Stray Toasters to last-minute fill-in work like this where your primary job is to ape another guy’s tyle? Man, it just hurts to even think about a fall that steep. Bill gives  Joe’s incredibly distinctive look his best effort, sure, but it’s still nowhere near the same because, well — it just can’t be. But Bill, seriously, if you’re ever reading this (ha! as if!) — dude, you’re better than this. You really are. You’ve written and drawn some of the most unconventional, envelope-pushing stuff ever published by the “Big Two.” I know a paycheck’s a paycheck, but seriously : this kind of thing isn’t your forte, man. I’m as sorry as anyone that Big Numbers didn’t work out, but to go back to work-for-hire quickie cash-grabs like this? Well, I’m gonna remember you as you were, rather than what you’ve been reduced to.

Anyway, don’t get me wrong — this series has, on the whole, improved dramatically, apart from the immeasurable loss of Joe Kubert on “inks” (I still think he was essentially drawing the book over Andy’s rough breakdowns), but that waste of a first issue put Straczynski’s story in such a hole that climbing out of it’s been a pretty steep endeavor and left us with a cliffhanger in the book’s biggest moment that , again, absurd as it sounds, doesn’t even feature the (at this point nominal, truth be told) title character. It’s not so much that this is a bad series per se, just that it could have been so much better and stronger with  a few quick fixes that are so readily apparent that anyone can see them.

Except, apparently, a DC editor.

Posted: September 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

Still going on at Through The Shattered Lens —

Through the Shattered Lens

That right there, friends, is my personal favorite Batman logo.

I know, I know — it’s far too campy and cartoonish to fly in today’s movie market, but the hypothetical Bat-trilogy we’re cooking up in this series of posts is, as we’ve established, probably going to have a lot more emphasis on the heroic and detective aspects of the character than it is on the “Dark Knight” aspects. and as such, I like to think having this new trilogy go out under an “old school” logo like that would be a pretty cool thing. And while this particular logo may not be the exact logo from the old Adam West Batman TV show per se, it’s still pretty close, at least thematically, so any way you slice it, I’m sure it’s a no-go.

That being said, there is a somewhat “retro” logo that I think would form a rather…

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Posted: September 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

More from my ongoing series for Through The Shattered Lens —

Through the Shattered Lens

I’ll be honest — I’ve never played the apparently-insanely-popular Batman : Arkham City video game — or any Batman-related video game, for that matter  As far as I understand it, though, the idea behind it is that there’s been a jailbreak of some sort at Arkham Asylum and all the “lunatic” criminals — uhhhmmmm — “housed” there are now loose on the streets of Gotham.

Neat idea, and it seems to be catching, as there’s an Arkham City comic book mini-series being published by DC as we speak. Wonder where they got it the concept from in the first place? Oh yeah — it was the central plot conceit in the third act of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, although the video game, apparently, ups the ante quite considerably.

All of which leads us, in an admittedly rather roundabout way, to the subject of today’s “What I’d Do Next With…

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