1. Review : Satellite Sam (Fraction, Chaykin, Bruzenak)

    image

    It starts with a television and it gets bigger. Foreign objects revolving around centralized signals expanding and forming new trajectories, stories spinning out of a singular location, but becoming something – something more.

    Satellite Sam begins in a sequence, or rather extended sequence that reminds me, of one of my favourite sequences of any medium, the intro to Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights. The beginning of boogie nights is anything but conventional. Well it start’s conventional and it is for a bit , there’s the normal black screen, a slight orchestral swelling, the typical bullshit production credit , but then , then everything changes. There’s this big fucking bright pink sign that reads boogie nights, and the disco pops in and explodes, and we rush right into it.  We move away from the sign in an almost ethereal sideways manner, and we follow a car, we follow this car as it pulls up to Hot Traxx, and our characters get out and enter the club. It’s all one shot don’t forget—and Anderson does this thing where we’re moving through the club, in this sequence, exploring the time and space of the moment, and meeting our characters, and interacting with them in the most honest and objective way we will at any point in the story, and eventually , finally we reach the protagonist of Boogie nights, Dirk Diggler. But we’re not introduced to him in a glamorous or sympathetic way, but rather in a sort of mundane manner, as he buses tables.

    Satellite Sam , like “Boogie Nights” opens with an understated convergence of stories,  with a sequence of shot’s orienting the process of the people in the environment that they have chosen to submerge themselves in , in this case it’s the production team and crew of Lamonde’s  at best B grade science fiction program “Satellite Sam”.

    Fraction and Chaykin, in a sequence that feels a lot like it could be one flowing cut, take us through the set and introduces us to the cast of Satellite Sam: The girl backstage with the cross tattoo, the pervert who’s helping her zip up (pervert is relative, I suppose), the writer tired of seeing his script his precious script bastardized live on television, the studio head facing crumbling pressure at the hands of the FCC.

    The way we’re introduced to our protagonist is not altogether different from observing the Bus Boy Diggler busing tables miserably. There’s a light bulb here, and a fuckload more alcohol, but it’s that same sort of unglamorous pressure that we meet   Mikey White under.

    The Titular “Satellite Sam” is functionally a shadow that looms over the first issue, and once you’re finished reading it, you’ll recognize the entire series. It is a book characterized by the absence of the enigmatic Carlyle White. Carlyle is characterized by a general impression he seems to have left on the show, some sort of charcoal impression on the emotional well of those who work with him. Looking at Libby wander into Chaykin/Bruzenaks black and white and Helvetica 58th street seems to tell us more about Carlyle then any bit of dialogue could ever. Of course for those who demand more concrete bits of characterization , Fraction/Chaykin bring you what you demand, in the form of a box of  telling polaroids.

    Word’s cant do the beauty of Chaykin and Bruzenak’s New York beauty, but I’ll try. I fucking love Howard Chaykin art, in fact I can’t even understand  not liking it , and surprise: I like it in black and white best of all . This feels like some of Chaykin’s best work in forever . Chaykin owns the studio, chaykin owns the streets, Chaykin owns the fabric of Woman’s clothes, he owns the tattoo on the back of one of the characters, he owns the 1950s sci fi B movie goodness, he owns it all.  Bruzenak’s riding shot gun for all of this , making the particularly dense, yet immaculately paced script , sing and guide readers across panels and grids, making the period advertisements sing , and making you generally remember that design in comics is a thing .

     I don’t bag and board comic books: they’re beautiful and disposable, and I want them to get fucked up, I and fall apart, and go to shit, but this I will be bagging and boarding, sending it forward into the future, like some sort of time capsule reminder of a truly beautifully crafted artifact that demands attention. Like some sort of Satellite orbiting the earth, waiting for just the right moment…

     …to come crashing down. 

     

  2. Black Kiss

    When people think of revolutionary comics released in the 80′s they are quick to drool out the titles of works such as Moore and Gibbons Watchmen , or Frank Millers’ The Dark Knight Returns , these people often overlook the revolutionary work of HOWARD CHAYKIN . Around the same time as Watchmen and DKR were coming out Chaykin was putting out medium pushing and career defining work in the form of the sci fi/political thriller American Flagg, and the work I want to talk to you about today , Black Kiss.

    Published in 1988 by VORTEX COMICS , Black Kiss is an impeccably made, angry comic made by and angry man , who is frustrated and done with the censorship of the Comics Code Authority, and the industries (still) awful treatment of artists.

    I want to also note, while I have your attention, the masterful lettering and design work of the virtuoso Ken Bruzenak. A huge part of why Chaykin’s output is as influential and brilliant as it is , is the shear level of brilliance Bruzenak brings to his layouts, text placement, and graphic design of the pages (take a look at the poster behind the phone).

    The comic is famous for (among) other things, it’s graphic and pornographic depiction of sex. Characters in Black Kiss don’t have they’re genitalia obscured by cleverly rendered shadows, or inanimate objects, Chaykin lets it all hang out in a time when no one had ever really let it all hang out .  The sex in here is absolutely divisive  it’s not rendered with the intent of relaying “story” or moving forward narrative, it’s done in a way to piss people off, to make them uncomfortable . That was the ultimate goal of this work after all . Black Kiss is a fairly simplistic mystery/crime/supernatural mashup once you get down to it , nothing to shock , certainly , but its this intent , this raw angry unfiltered sexual energy that Chaykin carves into the pages that elevate the work beyond that . We follow the enigmatic and curly headed CASS POLLACK who scurry’s around as he attempts to find a reel of film which depicts secondary character Beverly in coitus with a man of the cloth .  Hi-jinks ensue, revelations are made, and in true Chaykin fashion, someone you didn’t think had a penis, does in fact have a penis. 

    Black Kiss was intended by Chaykin to be a final send off , a final “fuck you” to the world of comics he had grown to despise before his departure to Hollywood , where he would toil as a show-runner and scriptwriter on what he would later describe as “twenty years of shit television” .

    Black Kiss is a Molotov cocktail thrown into a the church of comics–american comics– by a man sprinting full speed to get out, and that’s one of the most intriguing parts of this work to me . Viewing it in posterity we have the luxury of pulling Chaykins life narrative to the equation , and seeing that after all these years, after the one last big porno comic heist before he left town, he ended coming back anyways. Seems like a pretty apt metaphor for the entire industry.

    ////Curt Pires

     

  3. Black Kiss part two

    image

    Black Kiss #1 : Howard Chaykin , Ken Bruzenak 

    Hello Lover… This is Dagmar. 

    This page is a veritable visual essay on why Howard Chaykin comics are awesome. 

    First of it’s the utilization of the eight grid , which is actually a really cool and underused structural system. The eight grid retains the sense of dense pacing of the 9 grid , but with more room to breathe, less of a sense of outright claustrophobia to the pages . Chaykin’s work is some of the first to really popularize this structure, though certainly not the only. 

    Each panel has almost three planes to it : 

    Up front we have the level of the word balloon  the information we need to actively consume, a layer behind that we have the phone , the table, the pictures, which all seem to be positioned in such a way to give them weight , height, a sense of real space. 

    The final layer, the really cool one to me is the third layer . The third layer being the immaculately constructed and supremely cool Ken Bruzenak film poster, and beside it the kinky masks and paddles and fun stuff that reminds us , hey guys, your reading a Chaykin comic. 

    Chaykin’s one of the early pioneers of the Noise/ Wall of Sound approach to page/panel/information density , and this page is a perfect example of that. 

    Curt Pires//2013

     

  4. The Last Days of Superman

    image

    Superman #156, 1962

    Written by Edmond Hamilton, Penciled by Curt Swan, Inked by George Klein

    There’s no denying that The Last Days of Superman is a silly comic. Here’s just a few things that happen: Supergirl moves a runaway planet with her bare hands. A “vast cloud of fungus in distant space” is stopped from reaching Earth with a cloud of iron bricks levitated by Cosmic Boy. The polar ice cap in Antarctica is deliberately melted down to “someday be a home for Earth’s expanding population”. This comic is filled with Silver Age craziness that, while extremely awesome, is more than a little goofy and nonsensical. Despite the dream-like logic of the narrative, there are moments in there that are very poignant and cut to the core of what Superman means.

    image

    Superman is dying. He’s been exposed to Virus X, a deadly strain from Krypton that is fatal and incurable, which was conveniently adrift in space near earth inside of a Kryptonite coffin. As he gets sicker and weaker, he attempts to solve a bunch of problems that could threaten to destroy Earth in the future with the help of Supergirl, the Legion of Superheroes, and a fleet of miniature, super powered Kandorians…he’s putting his affairs in order. He’s taking care of the loose ends and saying his goodbyes. 

    image

    "It’s hard to say goodbye to even your memories, at your life’s end! But I’ve other farewells to make…"

    In the middle of the crazy narrative that has downright absurd, science defying scenes of Silver Age fantasy, there are moments like this that feel real. On some level, everyone can relate to this. Everyone knows what it feels like to say goodbye when you don’t want to, everyone knows the bittersweet feeling of having to move on and leave a life you loved behind. This is the point of Superman: the powers and the situations are unbelievable and absurd, but his experience is universal. We can all relate to being a stranger in a strange land. 

    image

    "With desperate, dying strength, Superman launches himself into space to write a farewell message…to the whole world!"

    This is one of my all time favorite Superman moments. The last thing that Superman does before he succumbs to Virus X is write a “farewell message” to humanity on the moon. The idea of lasering something onto the moon like it’s a celestial post-it note is ridiculous…but the sentiment is beautiful. If Superman could say one thing to humanity before giving up the ghost, it seems so right that it would be, “Do good to others and every man can be a Superman”. This is what Superman was always about. It was never about the god-like superpowers. The point was always that Superman is just a guy who’s trying to do good for everybody because it’s the right thing to do

    ///Seth Andrew Jacob

     

  5. Fantastic Four #4

    image

    Fantastic Four #4

    Written by Matt Fraction, Penciled by Mark Bagley, Inked by Mark Farmer, Colored by Paul Mounts with Edgar Delgado and Rain Beredo, Lettered by Clayton Cowles

    This was one of the most touching issues of Fantastic Four that I’ve read in a while. It’s about Reed Richards falling in love with Susan Storm. It’s about Reed contemplating the best thing that ever happened to him in the face of his mortality. The important stuff drowns out everything else when you’re dying, and as the unstable molecules that make up his body wither away and death draws nearer, Reed thinks about Sue. In many ways, it’s always been about Sue. What made this issue so great was that I bought it…I believed in the emotions of the narrative, I believed in Reed’s reflection on his love for Sue and his approaching end. 

    "Did the shaman-friends of many sleeps ago paint they vision? Did they paint they dreams? New friends we forgot, many sleeps ago?"

    image

    I don’t have any desire to spoil how we got here to this cave wall painting of the Fantastic Four on an alien world…check out this issue for yourself if you’re interested. I highly recommend it.

    "We knew we have friends out there when we see this. We knew stars…we knew sky…we knew the out there had friends.

    What I want to talk about is the mythological aspect of this idea. These aliens talk about “the before-times” when they evolved in this very cave, and rediscovering the caves after gaining sentience to find these mysterious paintings. The Fantastic Four has literally become a myth to an entire race of extraterrestrial beings. They are the “ancient aliens” of this world. There’s an element of metafiction to this idea: the Fantastic Four is a myth to us in reality. It’s a 20th century pseudoscience saga, they’re the four elements of Fire, Air, Water, and Earth given form as a family of super powered heroes.

    ///Seth Andrew Jacob

     

  6. sequencedestroyer:

    image

    American Barbarian

    Written and Illustrated by Tom Scioli

    American Barbarian is a surreal post-apocalyptic joyride. Meric, a red, white, and blue haired warrior journeys through a sci-fi dreamscape of robot dinosaur armies, mobile fortresses powered by oscillating black holes, and marauding…

    Been trying to find this comic locally everywhere. Cannot find it. Seth’s awesome piece on it only makes this even more torturous ! 

     

  7. American Barbarian

    image

    American Barbarian

    Written and Illustrated by Tom Scioli

    American Barbarian is a surreal post-apocalyptic joyride. Meric, a red, white, and blue haired warrior journeys through a sci-fi dreamscape of robot dinosaur armies, mobile fortresses powered by oscillating black holes, and marauding hordes commanded by a giant megalomaniac with tanks for feet. American Barbarian is like Conan, He-Man, and Jack Kirby all fused together in one fever dream epic.

     image

    American Barbarian is unapologetically weird and crazy. It’s almost aggressively nonsensical at times, and it has the tenuous logic of a dream. The hypersurreality of the narrative is matched by the art with insanely cool shots like this one of Meric battling a bunch of robot dinosaurs. Scioli executes the amazingly action packed panels and the dynamic movement of American Barbarian so well. 

    image

    The saga of Meric and his quest for revenge against the tyrannical Two-Tank Omen is absurd and whimsical, but it also feels so epic that it’s like a myth filtered through the stretchy logic of a fever dream. Why are there robot dinosaurs roving the landscape of this post-apocalyptic world? What exactly is Two-Tank Omen, why is he inexplicably ten feet tall, and why does he have tanks for feet? Why does Meric’s sword trail red, white and blue, an effect that creates an amazing illusion of motion? No explanation is ever given, and do you really need one? American Barbarian is an intensely surreal epic that basks in its own insanity and awesomeness. 

    ///Seth Andrew Jacob

     

  8. Max Mercury and the Zen of Speed

    image

    The Flash #78

    Written by Mark Waid, Penciled by Greg Larocque, Inked by Roy Richardson, Colored by Matt Hollingsworth, Lettered by Tim Harkins

    Max Mercury is the Obi Wan Kenobi of speedsters. For him, the Speed Force isn’t just an extra dimensional energy field…it’s cosmic enlightenment. It’s Speedster Nirvana, if only you are fast enough, if only you are worthy enough to break the speed of light. This line from Mark Waid’s reinvention of Max Mercury (who was originally called Quicksilver and published by Quality Comics) sums up his zen perspective on the Speed Force much better than I can:

    "He had locked eyes with God—and had blinked. From that day forward, he was burdened with an empty ache more painful than the greatest dream dashed…or the greatest love lost."

    image

    Max Mercury is on a quest to become one with the Speed Force, to attain the unbearable beauty of that plane of existence that he glimpsed for a fleeting moment. He’s tried many times to transcend the light barrier, but each time he is bounced off of the outer membrane of the Speed Force and flung forward in time. He’s like a speedster Sisyphus racing up a hill at near light speeds only to fall down and start all over again in another time and place. 

    "Let your power flow. Like fine sand. Like water. Like quicksilver."

    ///Seth Andrew Jacob

     

  9. Amazing Spider-Man #2: Secrets of Spider-Man’s Web

    image

    Amazing Spider-Man #2

    Written by Stan Lee, Illustrated by Steve Ditko

    Something I loved about Amazing Spider-Man is that there would frequently be a full page at the end of the issue explaining the intricacies of his costume and equipment, or the weird things he was capable of with his spider-powers. They weren’t really necessary to understand the story, but these pages that were almost like instruction manuals gave Spider-Man’s world what felt like consistent rules. The parameters for his powers, equipment, and costume were explained and defined, and the stories that followed adhered to those guidelines. Somehow, that made the series more identifiable for me, and more immersive.

    "Although it is not a matter of public knowledge, he is probably the world’s greatest authority on the subject of webs and their creation…"

    There’s this idea that it’s too unbelievable that a teenager could invent webshooters in his spare time…of course that’s true, it is unbelievable, especially since researchers are just now figuring out how spider silk works in 2013. Still, there’s something awesome in the idea that Peter Parker just holed up in his room and studied spiders until he was able to synthesize their webbing. Not only that, but he engineered a device that he could strap to his wrists and fire the stuff at fast enough speeds and long enough distances to swing from skyscrapers. Peter Parker is arguably the forerunner of the DIY ethic.

    It paints this picture of Peter Parker as a wunderkind, a prodigy who was able to make a scientific and mechanical breakthrough at a really young age. Yes, it stretches your suspension of disbelief, but is it really so crazy? There are stories all the time just like Peter Parker and his synthesized webbing…for example, 17 year old Catherine Wong invented a way to do a cardiac examination with a cell phone. Or how about 15 year old Jack Andraka who invented a new low cost, mobile strip test that can detect the early stages of pancreatic cancer? What about 17 year old Angela Zhang who invented a nanoparticle that detects and eradicates cancer cells? The idea that Peter Parker is a wunderkind on a similar scale is extremely interesting to me. Rather than asking too much of my suspension of disbelief, it reminds me how astonishingly creative and inventive people are capable of being.

    ///Seth Andrew Jacob

     

  10. 022: All Star Superman #12

    image

    All Star Superman #12

    Written by Grant Morrison, Art by Frank Quitely, Colors by Jamie Grant

    "No one but me can repair the sun, Lois."

    All Star Superman will probably go down in history as the single greatest Superman story ever told. A huge part of what made it such a successful Superman narrative is the romance between Superman and Lois Lane. Their relationship is bittersweet taken to hyperreal levels. They are star-crossed lovers in every sense of the phrase; their love is literally "thwarted by a malign star" as Superman must sacrifice himself to repair the sun and save everything.

    "My cells are converting to pure energy, pure information. And I only have moments to save the world."

    Superman is transforming into an idea. His body is being transmuted from leaden matter to pure golden energy, and in these final moments, the love between Superman and Lois couldn’t be more heartbreakingly beautiful. For a moment, you might lose yourself in the haunting reality of this scene that’s draped in the decidedly unreal elements of superhero comics. You might really believe that Superman and Lois Lane will love each other until the end of time.

    ///Seth Andrew Jacob