Thursday, March 31, 2011

Not-really-duck Comics: Mickey Mouse Annual 11

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Alphaville, Forever Young (1984)

Back in the day, when I was trying to figure out what kind of music I liked, I had a book called Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide (it was an older edition than the one in the link). The idea here was that, instead of just evaluating each album by a given act in methodical fashion, there would be little blurbs on what to buy, what to buy next, what's just for diehards, and what to avoid. Everything else would just be listed in a list sans commentary. Looking back, it's hard to see what possible justification there could have been for this decision, aside from "this is easier for us 'cause we don't have to write as much." Oh, and also, 'cause it's a "hound," albums are rated in "bones," from five at the top to "woof!" at the bottom.

The bigger problem, though, was that they let people with serious chips on their shoulders regarding various artists review said artists' oeuvres, resulting in quite a number of entries displaying a quite shocking lack of professionalism. One act so dismissed was German synthpop band Alphaville. Holy shit that dude hated Alphaville. I wish I knew where the book was so I could quote from it. But I believe nothing got more than one point five "bones." And because, ooh, it's in A Book, it has an air of legitimacy to it (or so I thought in my younger, naïver days), so I sure wasn't listening to Alphaville back in the day, I'll tell you that much.

And that SUCKS, because how perfect is the band's first album, Forever Young? Pretty much completely perfect, is the answer. Pure bliss. Seriously, I know most people don't have the sort of eighties-synthpop fetish that I do, but regardless, what kind of awful, joyless individual could possibly dislike this? I mean, okay, as the genre goes, it doesn't have the icy grandeur of your Ultravoxes or the political chargedness of your Heavens 17--and yes, what with being written by a non-native-English speaker, some of the lyrics get a bit silly on occasion (though nothing all that egregious), but does any of this matter?

Not when the opening "A Victory of Love" is being the most awesome piece of melodrama you've ever heard--just when you think it can't go any higher--bam, higher, until it breaks into the glorious "she's playing with love" refrain. Or when the similarly-awesome single "Big in Japan"* comes on. Or when it's "Sounds like a Melody," which completely goes nuts (in an awesome say!) in the final, instrumental bit. Or when…well, when anything else is playing, really.

*Some guy on the internet claims that the fact that singer Marian Gold is straight indicates that the song is NOT about gay hustling, in spite of the lines "I will wait here for my man tonight" and "Pay--and I'll sleep by your side." What an odd mindset.

Jeez. Seriously. Every song here is great. Admittedly, I haven't had a lot of luck (to this date) with getting into the band's later albums, but this is gold. Screw you, Musichound! You've betrayed me for the last time!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Duck Comics: "The Beauty Business"

Sunday, March 27, 2011

My fantastic dreams: part something in a series of something

I was in some library, and I passed by some guy who was watching, on a computer screen, some fox-news-type blonde whining about racism against white people (one component of which being, I believe, that we're not "allowed" to say "nigger"). For some reason, I knew he was watching this not because he agreed with it, but just to see the latest right-wing outrage. I shouted "fuck--us poor white people!" and went on wherever I was going. But alas, a librarian--an older woman--came up to throw me out for saying "fuck;" I was also given to understand that I might be required to participate in future sting operations to catch other people who use Bad Language. She was not impressed that I was a grad student. So I started bellowing profanity, even though I knew I was just making it worse for myself, and made my departure.

Happy 110th Birthday to Carl Barks

I feel like I should have some sort of special tribute, but really, I have an entire blog that is essentially a Barks tribute, so I think I'm covered. He's the reason we're all here. The fact that Google has not prepared a special logo for the occasion is a travesty.

Duck Comics: "Search for the Cuspidoria"

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Duck Comics: "The Salmon Derby"

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Other people's comments

I'm afraid I am not sufficiently informed on the Libya situation to comment in a cogent manner, but that is not something that ever stops wingnuts. But I saw this alicublog post, and in the comments I found this highly piquant bit from an individual known only as "Cargo," which seems to me to succinctly sum up the winger mentality to perfection:

So wait, wingnuts are all "no blood for oil" now?? WINGNUTS? There really IS nothing Obama could do to make them happy. "Look, I'm bombing the shit out of arabs! isn't that something you LOVE?" and the three year old Republicans are sitting at their plate full of cupcakes and cookies and ice cream and going "NO!!!"

Monday, March 21, 2011

Highly Questionable Headlines dept.

No further comment.

Frank Miller et al, The Dark Knight Returns (1986)

As part of my ongoing semi-quest to understand superheroes, I read this comic, because everyone ever says it's the BEST BATMAN COMIC EVER. I did not buy it; it belonged to my brother, who is or was at one point something of a Batman fan. I asked him what he thought about it. He replied, diplomatically, that it was "okay," and added that, given the state of superhero writing in general, it is not inconceivable that something not-that-fantastic could perhaps gain a better reputation than is necessarily merited purely on the basis of quality (man, how circumspect can you get?). Hey, I'm not sufficiently familiar with the genre to evaluate this statement; it's just what he said.

Hey, maybe you had to be there--I will concede the possibility that the state of having-been-there-ed-ness might be of assistance to you. If you know all about the character and his history and his ups and downs and all this, maybe this was just plain ol' a breath of fresh air. Maybe. But I, personally, did not think that it was a very good comic book.

Surprisingly, given my jaundiced attitude towards Frank Miller, I did not find it especially political troubling. It takes an appropriately ambiguous view towards the question of this whole vigilante-masked-crimefighting thing (you can quibble with a few bits, like the psychobabble-spouting therapist, but I'm inclined to give such things a pass here), and it doesn't at all display the sort of violent, misogynistic nihilism that made Sin City so off-putting. So cheers to that.

No cheers, however, to the fact that the story, such as it is, consists mostly of a series of virtually incomprehensible fight sequences punctuated by talking heads, who sometimes explain what's supposed to have just happened, which is good, because otherwise there would be no way of knowing. This might be somewhat less problematic if the art were less terrible, but it's not. Characters are really crudely-drawn, and there is virtually no sense of mise en scène; everything takes place in a vague, murky haze. Towards the end (spoilers!) the country is reduced to nuclear-winter-ish conditions; this ought to be a visceral thing (recall the climax of Watchmen), but it's not--it creates no impact because everything's such an incoherent mishmash.

To be positive, here are three things I liked in the comic: I liked the portrayal of the aged Commissioner Gordon, who has an earthy likability to him. I liked the female Robin, even though it's far from clear who she really is or what she's doing here (seriously, I thought the idea with Robin was that his (or her) parents had, like Batman's, died somehow--that doesn't seem to be the case here. So what's happening? How does she get leeway to just go out and Fight Crime? What's the deal?). And finally, perhaps surprisingly, I really, really liked the portrayal of Superman--the scene towards the end where he's diverting a nuclear missile from its target is legitimately well-done and emotionally effective.

But man, that's about it. Batman is not very interesting at all. Okay, he's older and retired. And he drinks too much (although that instantly ceases to be an issue as soon as he goes back to crimefighting). But aside from the odd I'm-too-old-for-this-shit-type line, that doesn't really seem to have much impact on the story itself. And the less said about the "classic" villains that appear here--Two-Face and Joker--the better. Two-Face in particular is really disappointing; the idea is that Dent's face has been fixed thanks to reconstructive surgery, and the question is: can his mind be fixed as well? Answer: no, and there's no preamble or anything; he pretty much instantly turns evil again when he's released, and it's not even a little bit psychologically interesting. And then, as far as I can tell, Batman doesn't actually kill him, but he disappears from the narrative just like that. His appearance seems to serve no purpose other than to hold a not-very-interesting mirror up to Batman himself.

I'm not using this negative reading experience as an excuse to condemn superhero comics as a whole, because it's flaws pretty clearly aren't--or needn't be--endemic to the genre. But here's the thing: I've read Watchmen, which displays both a technical and an emotional mastery of the form, and in which every damn thing is carefully considered. Don't try to tell me that something as crude as DKR is the best we can expect from the genre! I've seen the counter-evidence!

Bah, I say! Bah, and furthermore, humbug!

Duck Comics: "Island in the Sky"

Friday, March 18, 2011

"Conversations à l'école française"

In summer of '04, I attended this intensive French school thingie at Middlebury College in Vermont. The idea was that everyone was supposed to talk, read, write, and think in nothing but French, though everyone violated that commandment pretty much all the time. Anyway, there was a little newsletter, released, I dunno, weekly, maybe?, and in the fifth issue of that newsletter was this little comic, which will be meaningless if you've never been compelled to engage another student in a halting conversation in very, very rudimentary French, but really, really funny if you have--or at least, I find it so. It perfectly captures the utter inanity of such exchanges, via the exact tropes and phrases in which said inanity comes. The extreme smiliness of the participants just makes it funnier. Presumably, there are equivalents in all languages, but the French version is the one that I know.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Duckblogging for Japan

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


...please behold my might: type "A Day in a Duck's Life," "70th Heaven," "The Loony Lunar Gold Rush," "A Course in Confusion," or what have you into google. You don't need to use quotes. What comes up? Damn straight! This won't work with stories that have more generic titles, or that share a title with a famous real-world thing, but even for extremely well-known things like "Dangerous Disguise," I'm well up there. Bam! I hope I never become corrupted and start using my power for evil.

Duck Comics: "A Day in a Duck's Life"

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Portrait of the Artist as a Fourteen-Year-Old Who Apparently Wants You To Think He Is Totally Badass And Rebellious

Yeah, a bit faded--for some reason, high school ID cards don't seem to be designed to last for seventeen years. But you get the picture. You can also tell how rebellious I was by the way I refused to actually sign the signature line. Anarchy.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A bit hard to laugh at this Chick tract

This is really all you need to know:

...I mean, yes, it's hard not to find that a little funny on first reading (worse than a lesbian?!? The mind reels!), but Fucking Christ, Jack, it's 2011. This is just embarrassing, like an old neo-confederate ranting about miscegenation.

Note also that the cited article (which, of course, the reader isn't actually supposed to check, since the answer is "yes, but rarely, and usually for reasons other than having sex with women"--seriously, distaff-gender people, if all you want to do is play the odds, this is definitely the way to go) is by a lesbian activist who probably doesn't appreciate having her work used by moronic fucking troglodytes like the jackoffs at ChickCo. Grrr.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Superhero Anthropology

Sometimes, I think about superhero comics. I am…well, not much of a fan. I mean sure, I read Watchmen and was duly wowed (let's all try to forget about the loathsome shitpile of a movie), and I also enjoyed the entire run of Neil Gaiman's Sandman (if that counts), but beyond that…not much to say. When I was small I read a few superhero comics collections that my school had, and I had a li'l mass-market paperback of black-and-white Batman stories (of what provenance/vintage, I couldn't tell you), and I guess I liked the stuff okay, but…eh. It didn't blow my mind. Certainly didn't resonate as the ducks (or Little Lulu, for that matter) did. I must have liked the idea of superheroes, because I did read that stuff, and I did get my dad to take me to the local (now-gone) comic book store…not exactly a positive experience; I freakin' well knocked down an entire row of comics in a domino-effect kind of way (what kind of stupid move was it to make them all freakin' overlap?), and the humorless proprietors were hellbent on confirming the Comic-Book-Guy stereotype. But that was that as far as that went! I didn't feel a keen absence in my life. More recently, I've enjoyed a few superhero movies--well, basically Ironman (shame about the sequel, though) and The Dark Knight--but they don't make me lust for more.

So I don't know. I feel like I sort of understand the appeal, but…not really. Not in any visceral sense. I mean, it has to go beyond mere wish-fulfillment stuff, doesn't it? Because that only goes so far…doesn't it? Not that I'm saying it makes me super-sophisticated or anything, but I don't think my duck fandom is a lot of help in this regard--it seems like Disney comics and superhero comics are pretty much fundamentally different in kind. Remind me to do a post sometime enumerating the differences.

This confusion is why I really enjoy reading Chris Sims, and in particular his "Ask Chris" column. Dude's passionate and knowledgable about this stuff, and I feel like he makes me sort of understand the appeal (and he is a fan of the L&T, so I know his sensibilities aren't completely alien from mine). It doesn't exactly make me want to go out and start a big-ass superhero collection or anything, but it does make me a little curious to read at least something in the genre.

I think the problem I have, though, is that--as far as I can tell--superheroes are pretty monolithically Fight-Bad-Guys oriented, which…well, it's just not that interesting to me. I mean, look, I own five-hundred-plus comics about the same half-dozen characters. I'm hardly in a place to complain about someone who enjoys reading about Batman beating dudes up over and over and over and over. But I dunno…obviously, there are things you can do thematically with superheroes that you can't with ducks, but it all just feels so limited. Even if I enjoyed it at first, I think I would get bored fairly quickly.

And then there's this, which makes me think I really don't get it even a little, and am kinda glad I don't. I mean, "The Single Greatest Comic Book Of All Time" is obviously meant to be sort of humorously hyperbolic, but fact remains, Sims clearly is a big fan, and the article consists of a long string of "dude, isn't it totally sweet how Batman just stone-cold takes out these dudes?" which I find…well, not at all sweet, and actually kind of morally repulsive. I mean, I'll cop to having enjoyed RA Salvatore's pornographically detailed fight scenes when I was small, but, you know…I grew out of it. There's no defending things like that on any higher aesthetic level. Or if there is, Sims doesn't do it.

Think I'll stick with the ducks (with maybe a few mice on the side) and John Stanley. But if I do make some sort of anthropological journey outside, I'll be sure to report back.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Duck Comics: "The Secret of Mars"

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Duck Comics: "70th Heaven"

Don't wanna touch you but you're under my skin

Look, we all know what sociopaths they are. It's kind of pointless to belabor the point. But for the record: republicans are pro-poisoning--slashing the budget for poison control centers from twenty-nine to two million. It may not put any sort of meaningful dent in the deficit--it will probably in fact cost money in the long run. But, you know--sometimes the sight of four-year-olds who got into the medicine cabinet writhing around in agony and dying right there on the carpet is just its own reward, you know? Certainly for the lawmakers who constantly jerk off while writhing around in giant piles of money with exactly that fantasy in their head.

To give republicans the benefit of the doubt, why would anyone possibly give republicans the benefit of the doubt? They consistently do the worst things in the world. Who cares about their motives? Sure, maybe they're motivated more by the deep-seated conviction that money is more important than people and that therefore the budget must be slashed at all costs (regardless of whether it actually saves anything in the long run)--but are you really telling me you think that's less depraved than the poisoned-children fetish? If anything, my version is actually treating them with undue respect.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

My first--and, god willing, last--vblog (vlog? Vog? Vog-Sothoth? Who cares!)