Eli Valley’s comix collection Diaspora Boy

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Diaspora Boy, new from O/R Books, collects Eli Valley’s comix from the past decade.

Here’s O/R’s blurb:

Eli Valley’s comic strips are intricate fever dreams employing noir, horror, slapstick and science fiction to expose the outlandish hypocrisies at play in the American/Israeli relationship. Sometimes banned, often controversial and always hilarious, Valley’s work has helped to energize a generation exasperated by American complicity in an Israeli occupation now entering its fiftieth year.

This, the first full-scale anthology of Valley’s art, provides an essential retrospective of America and Israel at a turning point. With meticulously detailed line work and a richly satirical palette peppered with perseverating turtles, xenophobic Jedi knights, sputtering superheroes, mutating golems and zombie billionaires, Valley’s comics unmask the hypocrisy and horror behind the headlines. This collection supplements the satires with historical background and contexts, insights into the creative process, selected reactions to the works, and behind-the-scenes tales of tensions over what was permissible for publication.

Brutally riotous and irreverent, the comics in this volume are a vital contribution to a centuries-old tradition of graphic protest and polemics.

Diaspora Boy, subtitled Comics on Crisis in America and Israel, is enormous (if a slim 144 pages). Valley’s comix are reproduced on full pages; his thick inks and worried lines are never cramped here—and neither are his words. Here’s a shot of the book with a Penguin novel as a comparison point:

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The anthology makes great use of its oversized format. On the left-hand pages, Valley introduces each comic (all chronologically-ordered, by the way) with a short essay that offers context, personal reflections, and even analysis or interpretation. The comics are then reproduced on the right-hand pages. You can see this below, in Valley’s mash-up of Kafka’s The Trial with the Knesset vs. J Street hearings:

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The cultural, political—and personal—contexts that Valley provides are perhaps essential for many readers, like me, who may know a bit about comix and Kafka, but are perhaps lost when it comes to a discussion of a “hearing into the heart and soul of Diaspora Jewry” (as Valley puts it).

Valley is constantly riffing on American popular culture, mining comic books, films, television and music for his bitter mash-ups, as in “Choose Your Own Apocalypse” below, a comic that turns the Iran debate into a grotesque and ironic Choose Your Adventure tale:

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Like many comix artists, Valley’s target audience is nebulous—or rather maybe it’s just himself. He appropriates American culture’s broad shared mythic signifiers to satirize the incredibly specific details of an American Jew’s relationship to Israel—namely, his relationship. The first comic in the collection, 2007’s “What if Batman and Robin Worked in the American Jewish Community?” satirically captures Valley’s teenage anxieties about his relationship to Jewish identity:

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In his thorough (and completely necessary) introduction to Diaspora Boy, Valley recounts at some length a complicated relationship with his parents, both Ba’alei Teshurva (he points out that this Hebrew expression “literally means ‘Masters of Return,'” but continues then characterizes it as “a fancy way of of saying ‘Born Again Jews'”). Valley writes that his father interrogated him daily as to whether or not his new friends and acquaintances in his public high school were Jewish or not, and it’s hard not to read these personal anxieties into Valley’s comix (even if I know it’s not good criticism to extrapolate that Valley is “Johnny” in the Batman riff above). Valley’s mother later left the orthodoxy and the marriage, becoming “secular.” Valley positions them, perhaps, as two poles of “reverence and rebellion” which inform his work.

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The “reverence” might be hard to spot. In their press page for Diaspora Boy, after three quotes praising Valley’s comix, O/R includes some scathing gems: from former New Republic publisher Marty Peretz: “Your work is disgusting. And also stupid”; Abraham Foxman, former National Director of the Anti-Defamation League: “Bigoted, unfunny”; neocon hack Bret Stephens: “Grotesque…Wretched.” It’s plain to see how conservatives like these might be offended by Valley’s comix. Indeed, it’s not just the message, but the form that they might object to—Valley’s style is sharp but rough, its subtlety relying almost wholly on an extremely ironic viewpoint.

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If it’s easy to see how conservatives might resent Valley’s satire, it’s also possible to see how moderates or liberals might misunderstand these comix too. Cartooning has always been a form with an inherently broad appeal. Editorial cartoons are meant to telegraph their ideas quickly and coherently, message and medium intertwined. Valley’s cartoons are harder to suss out. The layering of meaning is intense, magnified. Comic book heroes become displaced into ironic inversions of themselves, consumed by self-hatred. Literary tropes are twisted into a complex entanglement of Jewish-American cultural relations. Biblical stories are transposed into  hallucinatory modern horror stories. And in turn contemporary figures—political, economic, cultural, etc.—are subsumed into the same mythic tropes that superheros operate within. It can all be a bit perplexing, and readers who only glance over the surface will miss the real message.

Thus, Valley’s introduction to the volume and his prefaces to each comic become essential context to understanding how to read these comix. The need for political context is especially strong when a cartoon has lost some of its currency due, simply, to the passing of time (they were editorials, after all). However, even when Valley is satirizing a particular news story or political moment that we might have forgotten, a viewpoint comes through, coherent and biting but sincere under all the ironic mechanisms in play. I’ll give Valley the last word here, letting him characterize his own project:

The comics in this collection take pride in Diaspora. Not just in a general sense but in a specific strain of Diaspora experience: the secular, post-Enlightenment, universalist Judaism informed by centuries of Jewish narrative tradition as well as by the experience of living in and amongst other communities. Among other things, it transformed memories of inequality into a lasting cultural norm of solidarity with the oppressed. Theses comics celebrate, relish, and dialogue with that history, a strain of Diaspora that finds far more inspiration in early and mid-twentieth-century social justice movements than in anything wrought in the contemporary Middle East. That is Jewish Pride: pride in the Jewish tradition practiced, experienced, and cherished by the vast majority of American Jews today. And for me, it’s personal. If I’d been brought up solely in the strain of secularism and social justice, I probably wouldn’t have come to filter political passions through an emphatically Jewish lens.

 

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Sunday Comics

Swamp Thing #34 (March 1985), “Rite of Spring” is one of the best “mainstream” comic books I’ve ever read. I need to write a full thing on it, but for today, some panels, splashes, and the cover. Art by Stephen Bissette and John Totleben; coloring by Tatjana Wood. Script by Alan Moore.

Sunday Comics

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From Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Vol. I by Hayao Miyazaki. VIZ Media English language edition.

Kafka/Cerebus (Books Acquired, 1.31.2014 + Bonus Circumcision Anecdote)

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Picked up books last week, not needing them, but hey.

A digest of Kafka’s diaries; good stuff, great random reading.

This is a great little anecdote:

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Austerlitz is of course the name of a W.G. Sebald novel. From that novel:

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I also picked up the sixth issue of Swords of Cerebus by Dave Sim. It’s a second printing and in terrible shape and I already have the issues in other forms (reprint and graphic novel) but it’s still a pretty rare find. And I am a nerd.

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The book also includes a short little excellent wordless comic, “A Night on the Town,” where Cerebus parties with a corpse. I have the reprint somewhere else, but still:

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“As the Rat Rises to the Surface, Its Head Becomes the Head of Yew Bee” (Fletcher Hanks)

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Book Shelves #6, 2.05.2012

Book shelves series #6, sixth Sunday of 2012: In which we dig into the comix inside the book shelf we looked at last week.

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When I was 13, I sold a fairly large collection of superhero comic books and earned enough money to buy an electric guitar—a weird mutant by Fender called the Bullet—and a small practice amp. It was the early nineties, and Marvel was about to burst the comic book bubble big time by flooding the market with gimmicky covers, hologram cards, and other nonsense.

I continued to buy comics (or comix, if you prefer) over the years, although eventually economic concerns led me to just wait for graphic novel editions. Anyway, the book shelf above now contains most of the “underground” comix that I own. A few samples:

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Most of the comix in this unit though are issues of Dave Sim’s epic (and insane) series Cerebus. I bought issues of Cerebus intermittently for years at a time, usually getting frustrated and then waiting for the “phone book” graphic novel editions of the series. Sim, along with background artist Gerhard, produced 300 issues of Cerebus over 25 years. The issues from the early ’80s to the early ’90s are brilliant; eventually Sim cracked though and went on an insane, reactionary (and arguably deeply misogynistic) bent. He created his own religion, a mix of hardline Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, and the later books in the series suffered greatly, as the book detoured to chronicle projects that seemed far outside its original scope (including strange, long satires of Hemingway and Fitzgerald). Anyway, some issues:

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Cerebus Jam, a one-off collaboration with a cover by one of my favorite artists Bill Sienkiewicz (I still have his entire run on Marvel’s The New Mutants in a box somewhere):

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A panel from the issue’s collaboration with comic book legend Will Eisner, featuring his seminal character The Spirit:

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Picture Parade — Weird Comic Book Covers Gallery

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Not sure exactly who should get credit for putting together this great little collection of bizarro comic book covers, but muchas gracias nonetheless. Just a few images from a really cool gallery:

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Roughing It

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The American cover isn’t bad…

Simon Mason’s The Rough Guide to Classic Novels covers “a selection of 229 novels . . . from 36 countries, published between 1604 and 2002.” Roughly pocket-sized (if you have big pockets), Classic Novels provides short, simple summaries of each of the books, outlining the plot as well as contextualizing the relative importance of the novel. Mason also recommends the best English translations and discusses film adaptations (quite even-handedly), where applicable. He also includes a “Where to Go Next” bullet for each novel. Sometimes these suggestions work: liked Brave New World? Then check out Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker. Other times, they’re a bit nonsensical–does anyone really go to A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man after they’ve made it through Ulysses?

...but we prefer the British cover
…but we prefer the British cover

But this criticism is mere quibbling; Mason does a great job with an almost impossible task–after all what books would you cover in such a limited space (and you’d have to include Ulysses, and you’d have to give it pride of place over the Portrait, right?). Simon admits in his preface that inevitably “the selection is a personal one, and not likely to be the same as anyone else’s.” Of course he includes the “classics” that will jump to anyone’s mind–Jane Eyre, War and Peace, Moby-Dick, etc., but he also includes works by Toni Morrison, Don DeLillo, and Haruki Murakami, along with dozens and dozens of books I’ve never heard of, but now feel that I simply must read. And in exposing a potential reader to a book they’ve never heard of, Classic Novels is a success.

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If Danny Fingeroth’s The Rough Guide to Graphic Novels is less successful than Mason’s Classic Novels, that shortcoming is in his attempt to sanctify a canon in a medium that is still often misunderstood as a genre. While most of us will readily agree that Don Quixote and The Catcher in the Rye are classics, the canonical works of the comic book medium still need some sorting out, and many fans of graphic novels will find Fingeroth’s language a bit too-definitive. After a great first chapter that asks “What Is a Graphic Novel?,” a brief history of the comic book story-telling medium, and his own comic, “For Art’s Sake,” (a fun but forgettable overview of the graphic story-telling arts from an artist’s perspective), Fingeroth initiates the bulk of the book, “The Canon: The Sixty Best Graphic Novels.” As if his language weren’t definitive enough, he kicks the section off with “Ten Graphic Novels Everyone Should Read.” And while Fingeroth’s “Canon” and top-ten list are full of obvious choices that should certainly be there–Spiegelman‘s Maus, Satrapi’s Persepolis, Charles Burns’s Black Hole, Clowes‘s Ghost World–there are also gaping holes on one hand and complete over-representation on the other, as well as some real head-scratchers thrown in to boot. Why, for instance, does Fingeroth include Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Strikes Again over its vastly superior and more influential predecessor, The Dark Knight Returns? Why is Sin City canonized at all? Although Alan Moore’s From Hell is canonized, why is his controversial recent novel Lost Girls included over work like Watchmen, V for Vendetta, or Saga of Swamp Thing–all books that had a tremendous impact on comic book storytelling? Why does Dave Sim’s massive contribution Cerebus get glossed over in a single sentence, while Kyle Baker’s trifling missive Why I Hate Saturn is given pride of place on the top ten list? Fingeroth could’ve saved himself a lot of nitpicking by simply changing his language a bit to at least admit that his choices are subjective. Far more satisfying is the next chapter, “The Icons,” covering some of the most influential persons in comic history, including Robert Crumb, Chris Ware, Joe Sacco, and the Hernandez Brothers. I would’ve liked to have seen this chapter expanded quite a bit (perhaps at the expense of the superfluous chapter on manga); if The Rough Guide to Graphic Novels is to be a starting place for new readers interested in this medium, “The Icons” best represents that starting place. Those interested in discovering graphic novels they haven’t heard of will also be pleased with the many full-page art reproductions throughout the book, probably its best feature. Despite its flaws, however, there is something admirable about Fingeroth’s attempt to create a canon out of a medium that has for far too long been marginalized.

The Rough Guide to Classic Novels and The Rough Guide to Graphic Novels are now available from Rough Guides,

After the jump: Fingeroth’s top ten list vs. Biblioklept’s top ten list–

Continue reading “Roughing It”

Strange Tales of the Unusual, Men’s Weird Adventures, and All Sorts of Marvelous Horror

Let’s kick off Halloween week right by analyzing some old horror comic book covers from the 1950s.

I love this one: the jagged posture, the bloody reds, the weird mystic guy. And what can beat a title as redundant as Strange Tales of the Unusual?

Of course, all of these titles are strange, except when they’re weird or uncanny or unusual. Or mystical. But honestly, what’s so strange about putting your head in an old guillotine? I mean, seriously, relax. Who hasn’t put their neck on the chopping block like this. Literally, that is. (I love the bottom corner panel that just says “HATE!” incidentally).

Let me be clear on this: I am a man. Further, I am a manly man. Therefore, I require–no, demand–only men’s adventures. Further, I require my adventures to be weird. And not just slightly weird. I need creepy-green-gay-zombie weird. I need mark-of-the-witch weird. Newspaper-oriented-murder weird. Chair weird!

This comic is a clear forerunner of all those eighties slasher films that warned against teenage sex. Look at all the sexual anxiety here: “THE THING THAT GREW!”? “TWO WERE ALONE!”? “GOING DOWN!”? Jeez! Or, alternately, I am a pervert who sees sex everywhere. But seriously, don’t go into caves, kids.

My grandpa always taught me that the only thing more maddeningly menacing than a werewolf is a green werewolf.

Nothing snarky to say about this one: it’s beautiful. But really, I love them all.

All images from the Timely-Atlas Cover Gallery of old horror comics covers. Great stuff.

High Society–Dave Sim

If you’re at all interested in reading any of Dave Sim’s epic 300-issue comic book Cerebus, a book chronicling the life–and death–of a misanthropic mystical barbarian aardvark, High Society is the best (and possibly only) starting point. High Society tells the story of Cerebus’s political adventures in Iest, the largest cosmopolitan city-state of Estarcion. Guided (or perhaps manipulated) by Machiavellian Astoria, Cerebus undertakes a strange, comic odyssey of political ascendancy, culminating in an election for Prime Minister (against Groucho Marx stand-in Lord Julius’s goat, of all things). Sim has a deft ear for political satire and the volume holds up particularly well to a rereading against the backdrop of the current American electoral process. While High Society conveys a certain cynical contempt for the cronyism, deal-making, and the general nasty malfeasance that underwrites politics, there’s also a reconciling of democracy, liberty, and art here that you could never find from a CNN analyst or a Fox News hack. By this point, the crude art and flubbed pacing that hampered the first few years of Cerebus are nowhere to be found. High Society is tightly-plotted, full of smart gags expressed in Sim’s keen lines, without an over-reliance on bubbles overstuffed with exposition.

The book is funny without ever being light, and rereading it again, I was surprised at how moved–and exhilarated–I was by the conclusion. Although the parody of Marvel’s forgotten Batman ripoff Moon Knight doesn’t hold up very well, and the “sideways” issues at the end are an annoying (but interesting) experiment, High Society continues to deliver both laughs and insight about the political process over twenty years after its single-volume publication. Very good stuff, and highly recommended (read it along with/against the 2008 election).

(Strange aside that I couldn’t work into the piece–remember Ken Jennings? That guy who won Jeopardy! like, a year straight? According to his blog he’s a huge Cerebus fan).

Cerebus — Dave Sim

Quick disclaimer:

What follows is a review of the first Cerebus graphic novel, not a review of the series as a whole. I initially contemplated such a feat, but handling Dave Sim’s (and Gerhard’s) 300-issue-long magnum opus in one post would result in either a really, really long post or a really, really inadequate handling of such fine (and troubled) material. Instead, I’ll review the series chronologically, covering one volume a month.

I suppose, also, that a quick primer or introduction may be necessary, so here goes–

Cerebus is a 300 issue black and white comic book, conceived, written, and drawn by Dave Sim (with stunning background art by Gerhard in issues 66-300). Sim published the book himself via his Aardvark-Vanaheim imprint. The book follows the adventures (and non-adventures) of Cerebus the Aardvark, a surly barbarian who, as one of only three existing aardvarks in Estarcion, has a sort of catalytic power to influence major world events. It’s satire, it’s drama, it’s action, it’s art. The series contemplates politics, religion, literature, economics, and just about everything else under the sun. Only this is really not an adequate summary at all, so I’ll stop here, and get to the actual review. You can google “Cerebus” and “Dave Sim,” of course, and read all about Sim’s rise and fall (it gets spectacularly crazy, folks!); or, you can just wait until we get to the Reads book to learn all about Dave Sim, misogynist. But I’ve digressed before I’ve even begun. (The Cerebus Wikipedia page is pretty good; and this 2004 AV Club interview is also insightful).

Let’s start the review with yet another non-start: another disclaimer:

If you’re at all interested in Cerebus, Cerebus, the first graphic novel in the series, collecting issues
1-25, is not the place to start. If you really are interested in Sim’s work, start with the next collection, High Society. It’s much funnier, tighter, and Sim comes into his own as a draftsman by these issues (although there’s no denying that the art only gets better and better as the story progresses). Sim claims that he knew more or less from the beginning that Cerebus would have a scope of 300 issues (taking 27 years to complete), but the first 15 or so issues don’t really reveal anything that promising. Very early Cerebus is a silly funny animal Conan-Red Sophia parody. However, with issue 20, “Mind Games”–a comic Sim composed in interlocking images that when reconstituted created a new image (all right, that’s not a great description)–the book starts to get really interesting. By this point, Sim has already introduced my favorite character, Lord Julius, the anarchic Groucho Marx parody who wreaks havoc throughout the series; Sim further stirs things up by injecting the matriarchialist Cirinists into the chaos. The emerging Cirinists’ political/martial power becomes the conflict that will dominate the first half of the Cerebus series, and the larger issue of female power can rightly be named the Sim’s thematic obsession throughout the entire comic’s run. Before these themes come into their own, issues 1-17 or so of the book are stock fantasy tropes poked at with a stoner’s sense of humor. Like I said before, Cerebus–volume 1 of Cerebus–will be most enjoyed by those who’ve already had a taste of the good stuff–High Society and Church & State. Good stuff. More to come.

Frank Miller Reconsidered

During a horrible illness I suffered the other week, I turned to the only thing that I can digest when I’m really, really sick–comic books. I randomly chose to reread Frank Miller’s classic re-imagining of Batman, 1986‘s The Dark Knight Returns. I’ve read this comic–or “graphic novel,” if you want to sound like an asshole who’s afraid of being seen reading comic books–at least a dozen times now, I’d guess, but the last time I’d read it was after its sequel The Dark Knight Strikes Again came out in 2001.

The Dark Knight Returns didn’t disappoint; it never does. Set in a future with a very old Bruce Wayne, the story figures Gotham City as an urban dystopia, chaotic with child-gangs running rampant. The superheroes that once policed the world–including Superman–have been forced to retire by the government. The anarchy in the city prompts The Batman to return. The Joker revives his old crime career. The Soviets invade a Caribbean island. Superman and Batman fight. Batman leads a youth revolution. It’s really fucking spectacular, grim, violent, and funny–the book works at all times to satire the media-obsessed materialism of the 80s. Great stuff.

I don’t own the sequel, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, which says a lot. The story’s not great; in fact, it’s highly forgettable.The plot overreaches, eschewing the essentially frail humanity of The Batman–always the character’s most interesting facet–in favor for a plot stuffed with too many of the truly extra-human characters of the DC universe. Superman, Brainiac, and Captain Marvel are just too hyperbolic to serve as effective foils for gritty Batman. Fifteen years later, Miller’s sequel overshoots, taking Batman from the underground, from the streets, and up into the air, where he just doesn’t belong.

The Dark Knight Strikes Again also came out after Frank Miller had had tremendous success with his Sin City series, published by Dark Horse. I remember when the first Sin City comics came out: I was really disappointed. The artwork was fantastic–a new level of excellence for Miller, whose Jack Kirby-influenced lines always managed to convey energy, tension, and action. Sin City looked like no comic before it that I can think of, a chiaroscuro film noir that rippled and moved. Unfortunately, the story was basic at best and flat and one-dimensional at worst. Without thematic depth or any measure of subtlety, the Sin City stories are aesthetically pleasing but hardly essential.

When 300 came out as a film last year, I took the time to read it–at Barnes & Nobles. Again, the book, especially in its oversized format, is visually striking, but where the old Frank Miller–the guy who created Elektra and made Wolverine the coolest mutant in the world–would’ve just drawn a great story, the late nineties Miller forces the drama down the reader’s throats. On virtually every page, 300‘s narrator tells you how you should feel about what’s going on in the story; the book is probably better without any lettering at all.

Although 300 was published in 1998, as criticism of the film has shown, its themes of patriarchal violence, unabashed militarism, and outright xenophobia are amazingly prescient to America’s post 9/11 ideology (my biggest criticism is undoubtedly the film’s depictions of idealized bodies contrasted with the extreme vilification of any “othered” bodies: this is a film that hates the differently-abled at all turns). Frank Miller has been something of a spokesman for this gung-ho mentality. Consider his September 11th, 2006 contribution to NPR’s “This I Believe” series, in which he blandly recapitulates the Bush administration’s “with us or against us” (in being against them) ethos; in an interview (again on NPR) a few months later he rails the “Bush-hating” “spoiled brats” who are not on board with the Iraq war. For such comments, Miller’s become something of a hero among right-wing bloggers, and his work has been reinterpreted within this light.

I wouldn’t hold this against Miller if his work held up, but I’m not sure that it does. He hasn’t produced anything that could touch The Dark Knight Returns in the twenty-plus years since its publication, and his recent announcement that he is writing Holy Terror, Batman! a self-described “piece of propaganda” in which “Batman kicks al Qaeda’s ass” is a truly lamentable decision (even Stan Lee, of all people, described the idea as “corny” and out of touch). Miller’s aim to write a piece of “propaganda” seems dead on, actually. Divorce “propaganda” from whatever politics it’s meant to convey, for a moment, and you have exactly the kind of work Miller’s been producing for quite some time now: thoroughly one-dimensional, brutishly simple pulp that hides its vacuity under a thick veneer of stylized violence.

To come back to where this long post started: after I finished The Dark Knight Returns, I reread Ronin, Miller’s 1983 tale of a masterless samurai lost in an apocalyptic future New York. The story explores dystopic race relations, emerging technologies, telekinesis, and bioethics. There’s also a demon. Ronin is cyberpunk on par with the best of William Gibson, and certainly the best thing Miller ever produced–and possibly the most overlooked. Apparently, a film version of Ronin is planned for release in 2009, which will undoubtedly lead to future confusion connected to Frankenheimer’s 1998 car-chase opus (also titled Ronin). Miller, however, seems to have no major hand in the movie–he’s too busy adapting and directing Will Eisner’s classic strip The Spirit for a 2009 movie release. The Spirit is fantastic source material, and Samuel “I Will Act in Your Movie For Money” Jackson is playing the villain, The Octopus, so it might be good. Then again, Miller is the screenwriter responsible for both Robocop 2 and 3, movies that completely missed the tone of Verhoeven’s satirical original. And whether or not Miller’s future movies–including sequels to Sin City–are any good, the gritty and grimy tone that he established in series like Daredevil and the original Wolverine book, as well as his groundbreaking revisioning of Batman led to a new seriousness and depth to an art form that had too-long been relegated to the margins of literature. And that’s a good thing.

Comic Book Writers on The Simpsons

Even a die-hard Simpsons fan such as myself–I’ve been watching the show for over half of my life on a near-daily basis–cannot deny that the show has been in a slump for the past couple (some might say dozen) years. And so far, the 2007 season has been pretty awful–even the highly anticipated “Treehouse of Horror” episode failed to elicit a single laugh. So I was unduly excited by the first segment of last night’s episode, which featured three of our favorite comic book writers: Art Spiegelman, Daniel Clowes, and Alan Moore. Jack Black guest-starred as the owner of Coolsville, a new comic book shop where the elite underground trio gathers for a book signing (much to the ire of Comic Book Guy, of course). Somehow (and of course, if you watch The Simpsons, you know exactly how), this plot lasts exactly until the commercial break: in part two Marge opens a gym, and in part three Homer gets plastic surgery. Sigh. Luckily, Youtube allows us to preserve and isolate the most pleasing fragment of last night’s episode and watch it again and again obsessively.

Check out the super trio here (and take note of the prominent display of one of our favorite graphic novels ever, From Hell):