Hate Superboy. Hate Legion. Hate Hate Hate.
October 3, 2012 6:13 AM   Subscribe

Comics critics groupblog The Hooded Utilitarian ("a pundit in every panopticon") turned five in September and to celebrate ran a month long festival of hate, "in which contributors will write about what they believe is the worst comic ever — or the most overrated, or the one they personally hate the most, as the case may be."

Though there are some obvious targets, like Richard Cook's takedown of Marbvel's mid-nineties Onslaught crapover, quite a few sacred cows are slaughtered too, from Watchmen to Chris Ware by way of Betty and Veronica, taking a detour to take on everbody's favourite example of grownup comics: Maus. There's something for everyone.
posted by MartinWisse (94 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
a month long festival of hate, "in which contributors will write about what they believe is the worst comic ever — or the most overrated, or the one they personally hate the most, as the case may be."

Heh. I don't know about these guys but that would seem redundant for the bulk of the comics interwebs.
posted by Artw at 6:27 AM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


In his EC Comics and the Chimera of Memory, Ng Suat Tong writes:
Shouldn’t such childhood experiences be confined to an aesthetic boothill alongside like-minded, nostalgia-laden refuse like The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits?
And that was when I knew that this man has never had a valid opinion in his entire life.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:30 AM on October 3, 2012 [13 favorites]


There's a fair bit of uninformed badly written contrarian nonsense here, TBH. I'm sure there's room for a good essay on why Watchmen isn't all that - Morrison is pretty brutal about it in Supergods for instance - but this one falls flat. Probably there's less room for a takedown of Maus in the world and "I thought some of the autobiographical elements were a bit mean spirited" really isn't worth all that verbiage.

I dunno, maybe I should check some of the low hanging fruit ones, it's alway fun seeing Geoff Johns getting a kicking.
posted by Artw at 6:38 AM on October 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


If link-baiting critics are going to attempt to take down the likes of Watchmen in 3,500 words—a third of which spent protesting how much they want to like it—then merely throwing adjectives at it ("dull", "pretentious", "ugly", "annoying", etc.) isn't going to make a dent in the critical consensus. And let's not even start on the Maus hit-piece's "Not that I’ve actually read the thing, mind you. I don’t want to, I don’t need to, and you can’t make me."

Come at the king, you best not miss.
posted by Doktor Zed at 6:40 AM on October 3, 2012 [13 favorites]


The take down of Ross was enjoyable.
posted by drezdn at 6:43 AM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Though to be honest I kind of agree that Watchmen is "ugly," but isn't it kind of /supposed/ to be?)

I loved reading about Spirou and Fantasio because I got REALLY sick of how casually racist the French are when I was over there, and the theory that they get pumped full of it from reading archaic comics written by old right-wing bastards just might carry some weight.
posted by Mooseli at 6:44 AM on October 3, 2012


Any proper takedown of Maus needs to touch upon the fact that Spiegelman also created Garbage Pail Kids.
posted by radwolf76 at 6:53 AM on October 3, 2012 [11 favorites]


The Peice in Ware is factually correct in that Ware has never produced anything as good as Acme Novelty Library #4 and never will. The reason for this is holy fucking shit look at that thing. Dudes earned himself a holiday for the rest of his life producing stuff that is merely great (though, I would probably agree, occasionally a bit samey).
posted by Artw at 7:02 AM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just read two different pieces attacking Alan Moore in a row. This list is bad for my rage.
posted by infinitywaltz at 7:14 AM on October 3, 2012


To be fair Moore himself isn't all that complimentary about V and Watchmen at times.
posted by Artw at 7:17 AM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's a fair bit of uninformed badly written contrarian nonsense here, TBH.

That's pretty much the Hooded Utilitarian's stock-in-trade; they strike me as people who've latched onto the very worst aspects of The Comics Journal and run with that ball. Many of their contributors have written for TCJ and HU was an important aspect of TCJ's internet presence. They managed to do a pretty good job of running the brand into the ground until someone at Fanta came to their senses. They're the Comics Internet equivalent of "Oh, That Guy, Yeesh" on MeFi, or any other web community.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:17 AM on October 3, 2012


TCJ was worse than it is at some point?
posted by Artw at 7:19 AM on October 3, 2012


Their forum was made up almost exclusively of people who used the old TCJ Blood & Thunder letter columns as wanking material.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:24 AM on October 3, 2012


This morning's entry: New Yorker Cartoons – A Legacy of Mediocrity
posted by 1970s Antihero at 7:24 AM on October 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


My god this whole thing may be worth it if just for that New Yorker post.
posted by skrozidile at 7:39 AM on October 3, 2012


This bit from the Ware piece made me laugh:
Ware began networking in earnest with the insufferably ironically sincere elite of the patronizingly-educated-middlebrow culture industry– Dave Eggers, Ira Glass, and Chip Kidd, for starters.
Testify!
posted by Chrysostom at 7:44 AM on October 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


The take down of Ross was enjoyable.

Indeed. I like that Alex Ross exists, in that he adds a nice contrast to the overall tapestry that is comics art, but the only thing of his I can actually sit down and read is Marvels.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:46 AM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


If I had unlimited spare time, I would completely do a takedown on when and how both the Hacker Files and Nomad went from great to horrible. Just one moment, it's all interesting art and fascinating, somewhat edgy stories and then BAM! Chicken scrawl pencils and crossovers - it's like the anti-Sandman, where the editors put a choke-collar on things to ensure they remained in the mainstream superhero orbit rather than letting go to see where things could wander.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:54 AM on October 3, 2012


Like the hipsters slouching in the corner, smoking American Spirits, harshing on the squares, I find Watchmen guilty of trying way too hard.

See, this very essay reminds me of the movie-version of the hipster, who hates things because they are mainstream. She sort of gets why the art is "ugly" (though I find it to be so in a beautiful way, if that makes any sense), but certain things she says makes me think she doesn't really know what she is talking about:

And don’t get me started on that fucking pirate comic. Good god, people!

Does she even understand why the comic-within-the-comic is a pirate comic, or why it is even there in the first place?

I feel no connection to these characters. I don’t care enough about Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl to trudge through his ornithological articles. Laurie Juspeczyk and Dr. Manhattan’s relationship fails to induce any sympathy. Rorschach and Ozymandias are just dicks.

To me, this says more about the author of the essay than the Watchmen. I see Watchmen as a study of different aspects of humanity, and I feel she missed that (rather obvious to me) aspect of it. I haven't read it in a few years, but I honestly don't remember much about Dan's "ornithological articles". But I did care about him as a character, his visits to Nite Owl I, his loneliness and feelings of inadequacy, etc. But, if his articles is what you take away from his character, I posit that you are focusing on the wrong thing. I have no idea if Laurie and Manhattan's relationship was supposed to induce sympathy. To me, watching Manhattan slip away from humanity was interesting, while his relationship with Laurie was just something to help further that (Not to mention Laurie's own story of loneliness). Rorschach and Ozymandias were dicks, I suppose, but again, it was interesting to see why they were dicks - Rorschach's upbringing and Ozymandias' intelligence, not to mention the disorders they might be diagnosed with were they real people. Actually, many of the characters in this comic display traits of possible disorders...as most real-world people do from time to time, I suppose.

Most of all, though, I find the books seeming raison d’être, a critique of the superhero concept, to be just plain annoying. I just don’t buy that superhero stories are necessarily fascistic, that enjoying a superhero story makes you necessarily suspect, that we should always be suspicious of do-gooders.

What? Again, I don't think that was the point at all. I am fairly sure that basic story of the Watchmen could be told without the superhero backdrop - it's not really about superheroes. It's about humans: Rorschach and Ozymandias are dicks, but exist at opposite ends of the spectrum. Laurie and Dan are lonely, but exist at opposite ends of spectrum. Edward Blake and Jon lose their humanity, but again, exist on opposite ends of the spectrum.

It’s visually crowded, the people are unattractive, the colors are weird.

Even her cuts against the art, which suggests she knows why the art is what it is, tell me this is a person likely raised on American tv where everyone and everything is beautiful. I mean, I get it in a way, but I don't discount British tv just because they more often put "regular-looking" people on the air.

Oh, I see that in the comments, she defends herself. I suppose it's ok that she gets everything wrong, then:

Well in fairness to me, you don’t have to read far into my piece to find out I haven’t read it, and the piece is in fact about why I can’t bring myself to read it. The fact that I can’t bear to finish it is actually the point. But by all means, mount a campaign for Domingos to write a hate-post about Watchmen. We all want to read that.
posted by mysterpigg at 7:58 AM on October 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Indeed. I like that Alex Ross exists, in that he adds a nice contrast to the overall tapestry that is comics art, but the only thing of his I can actually sit down and read is Marvels.

Painted art slows down action - which is entirely appropriate for Marvels which is essentially a series of still shots. For something like Kingdom Come it's still pretty but less appropriate.

He's a great covers artist.
posted by Artw at 7:59 AM on October 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Reading the introductions to each decade of The New Yorker’s publication history in Mankoff’s Complete Cartoons, each written by a different author connected with the magazine — from Roger Angell and John Updike to Lillian Ross and Calvin Trillin — one is struck by their apologetic tone. They are forced to acknowledge the obvious: that The New Yorker’s cartoonists almost never managed to comment intelligently — or indeed at all — on the important events of their time, be it the Great Depression or the Second World War, the civil rights movement or Vietnam.

That's an interesting observation. Have there been any New Yorker cartoons about the Occupy movement, or the Tea Party, or Arab Spring, etc.? I haven't really noticed.

Still, I will not brook criticism of Roz Chast or BEK. At least he recognizes that they have unique personalities among NYer cartoonists.
posted by painquale at 8:14 AM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ugh that Watchman piece misses the point so hard it's like it's on another planet

The Peice in Ware is factually correct in that Ware has never produced anything as good as Acme Novelty Library #4 and never will. The reason for this is holy fucking shit look at that thing. Dudes earned himself a holiday for the rest of his life producing stuff that is merely great (though, I would probably agree, occasionally a bit samey).

Ware is boring. There, i said it. Everything he does looks and sounds like everything else he's ever done. Same tone, same viewpoint, same ideas, same colors etc. It's like the other New Yorker crowd favorite, Adrain Tomine, oh look the waifs-are-staring-meaningfully-again I'm going to put my bad reviews on the cover oh goshers it's all so significant. I don't need books to passive-agressive at me.
posted by The Whelk at 8:15 AM on October 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


and I like calling "twee" being "nostalgic for feelings".

Actually a lot of Watchmen could be about the dangers of nostalgia.
posted by The Whelk at 8:30 AM on October 3, 2012


The Whelk,

Check out Ware's earlier strips featuring Quimby/Quimbys the Mouse. Somewhat different from everything else he's done, and certainly not boring.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:34 AM on October 3, 2012


Ware is boring. There, i said it. Everything he does looks and sounds like everything else he's ever done. Same tone, same viewpoint, same ideas, same colors etc.

1 2 3 4 5
posted by Greg Nog at 8:35 AM on October 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oh No I agree Ware has a metric shitton of talent, but he's easily gone a decade and change just re-making the same thing over and over.
posted by The Whelk at 8:35 AM on October 3, 2012


That's an interesting observation. Have there been any New Yorker cartoons about the Occupy movement, or the Tea Party, or Arab Spring, etc.? I haven't really noticed.

This makes me want to go back through the cartoons of, say, Steve Bell, who is all about the political zietgiest and see how well his concerns of the day in the 80s and 90s match up with what we now think were the important events of the era. It could well be that some stuff gets dismissed as obvious that was crucialally important while at the same times other things get overly inflated - I have a horrible feeling that with historical perspective the Arab Spring is just going to be seen as part of the regular shuffle of horrible regimes in that area for instance.
posted by Artw at 8:38 AM on October 3, 2012


Let's just say that even if Ware (or Clowes, or Tonine) draws a really, really good story about a misanthropic loner I'll probably think it a little redundant at this point. All still great artists who have done great work though.
posted by Artw at 8:41 AM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Not that I’ve actually read the thing, mind you. I don’t want to, I don’t need to, and you can’t make me. Does this mean I’m not allowed to have an opinion? It does not."

No, it does mean that, though.

I'll probably think it a little redundant at this point.


I would say there's a world of difference between the seething rage of Rusty Brown and the meek tentativeness of Jimmy Corrigan, even though they're both social misfits drawn with smooth lines.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:43 AM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I've done a piece on my own blog about the one page of Ware you need to read to get most of what he's about.
posted by MartinWisse at 8:46 AM on October 3, 2012


Chris Ware frustrates me because he is just so scary talented. (I remember the anectodes in The Imp where other cartoonists visit his studio, and then want to quit cartooning afterwards.) I wish I could appreciate his stuff more, but his bitterness, the contempt he has for his characters, and his nostalgia are too off-putting for me.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 9:03 AM on October 3, 2012


painquale: "At least he recognizes that they have unique personalities among NYer cartoonists."

Yeah, I really appreciated that the New Yorker piece was making informed criticism-he was familiar with the various artists, not just currently, but through history. I disagreed with that criticism, but unlike, say, the Watchmen article, the required research was done.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:06 AM on October 3, 2012


Is it okay to not like the Watchmen? The piece on HU was a little weak, but she hits all the right notes: It DOES try way, way too hard to be a "literary" comic. It is dull, sometimes so dull to be boring. Dave Gibbons' style is hard on the eyes. The pirate story was completely unneeded.

My personal gripes; Rorschach is practically fan service to kiddies wanting tough-guy moral fantasies and less a criticism of them. You could cut out almost half the characters and still have essentially the same story. I'm not even going to go into how romantic relationships in comics, especially in this one, are so unrealistic they're almost inhuman and best avoided unless you really want to spill some ink on the subject. Also, to be frank, Moore is better than this. Watchmen is positively phoned in compared to his run on Swamp Thing or even Halo Jones.

On the plus side it broke some boundries which led to some interesting things, and that's great, but its a little like saying Tim Burton's Batman broke enough boundries to have the comic book-based moviefest we have today. Batman 1989 and Watchmen look good via nostalgia and for what they accomplished for the industry but not what they are. Its hard to sit down and enjoy Citizen Kane, but at least I can appreciate what it did to the industry.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:06 AM on October 3, 2012


I've got to say, the Matthew Brady takedown of Geoff Johns' Green Lantern is not just a fine dismembering of the work itself (and would make a good 'Exhibit A' for reasons why I stopped reading superhero comics), but probably also an excellent argument for why the Green Lantern movie sucked as well.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:14 AM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Butler's takedown of V for Vendetta is quite articulate and he makes a good argument.
posted by fatbird at 9:19 AM on October 3, 2012


My personal gripes; Rorschach is practically fan service to kiddies wanting tough-guy moral fantasies and less a criticism of them

Uh, no.

But on the other hand he's been adopted as that to a degree I find disturbing. I'm pretty sure anyone who liked the movie or bought the Before Watchmen comics reads him as "the cool tough one", but on the other hand those things are abominations aimed at idiots anyway.
posted by Artw at 9:19 AM on October 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Rorschach is a perfect example of the principle that you can't simply exaggerate the tough-guy sociopath action hero and reach a point, no matter how far you go, where fans of that archetype will recognize it as critique.

Then Lobo showed that parody doesn't work either.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:23 AM on October 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


My personal gripes; Rorschach is practically fan service to kiddies wanting tough-guy moral fantasies and less a criticism of them. You could cut out almost half the characters and still have essentially the same story. I'm not even going to go into how romantic relationships in comics, especially in this one, are so unrealistic they're almost inhuman and best avoided unless you really want to spill some ink on the subject.

You're entitled to dislike whatever you want, but I feel like this paragraph shows you missed the point of a lot of what went on in Watchmen.

Rorschach was specifically supposed to come across as "fan service to kiddies wanting tough-guy moral fantasies" because Moore explicitly created him as a parody of Steve Ditko's violent Randian characters the Question and Mr. A. Moore discusses this at length in various interviews. Rorschach was supposed to show the absurdity of such a worldview; it's not Moore's fault that other authors thought such childishness was awesome.

And the romantic relationships were supposed to be inhuman (literally, in the case of Dr. Manhattan and the Silk Spectre). One of the major themes was how fucked up a superhero would actually be, and so all of the characters have deep personal issues that profoundly complicate and harm their attempts at relationships.

The problems you seem to be having with the book seem to be ignoring precisely what the book is trying to say about what it's presenting.

I thought this set of pieces of interesting in that it perfectly showcases both ends of shitty criticism: badly-written, pointlessly contrarian pieces on popular things to show how hip the critic is, and utterly, utterly lazy attacking the easiest possible target. I mean, come on, Onslaught is almost universally acknowledged as the shittiest of shitty 90s events. It's like writing a piece on how bad Rob Liefeld's art is.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:24 AM on October 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Someone do how Heavy Metal went from raunchy, leather-jacketed, New York-by-way-of-Paris to (only) soft-porn rape fantasies.

I miss Metal Hurlant.
posted by clvrmnky at 9:25 AM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


The term we're looking for here is Misaimed Fandom
posted by The Whelk at 9:25 AM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


You're buying Prophet, right?

Anyone missing old weird Heavy Metal should be reading Prophet.
posted by Artw at 9:26 AM on October 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Indeed. I like that Alex Ross exists, in that he adds a nice contrast to the overall tapestry that is comics art, but the only thing of his I can actually sit down and read is Marvels.

I thought that Ross' "World's Greatest Super-Heroes" series (co-written with Paul Dini) was pretty great too, although once again those qualify more as lavishly illustrated storybooks than as true "comics."
posted by Strange Interlude at 9:30 AM on October 3, 2012


Has anyone read Ross's Earth X stuff? I believe he's gone for more of an inked linework approach there, which might negate the illustrated storybook effect. On the other hand, then you are without the lush painting.
posted by Artw at 9:37 AM on October 3, 2012


The problem is, though, that Tank Girl is none of these things, and, what’s more, is almost entirely unreadable. It’s lazily written, poorly composed, and appeals constantly to the lowest possible common denominator.

Seems to have missed the point of Punk somewhat.

However, the criticism of the post-Hewlett Tank Girls (and even some of the later Hewlett ones) is pretty much bang on- shittier art, diminishing-returns humor, and increasing self-importance. Actually, maybe he didn't miss the point of Punk.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:42 AM on October 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Rorschach is a perfect example of the principle that you can't simply exaggerate the tough-guy sociopath action hero and reach a point, no matter how far you go, where fans of that archetype will recognize it as critique.

Then Lobo showed that parody doesn't work either.


I read your first paragraph, and nearly snapped my keyboard in half in my rush to type LOBO in all caps.

It wasn't until years after my first exposure to Lobo that I found out he was supposed to be a parody, as I started reading comics in the mid-90s, when he was well established as DCU's resident Ultimate Edgy Badass.

I always used to joke about how laughably bad Lobo was with a friend of mine; ever since this issue, we could reliably make each other laugh by seriously informing the other that we had something very important to tell them, then solemnly turning around, pointing a thumb at our backs, and screeching "LOBO'S BACK!"
posted by Greg Nog at 9:46 AM on October 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Butler's takedown of V for Vendetta is quite articulate and he makes a good argument.

I dunno; after being such a Snide Sam about HU, I thought it'd only be fair to actually read some entries, including the V review. While that book is definitely flawed, the criticism displays a common failing in these pieces, the reviewer's inability to imagine that the creator was aware of what they were doing; in this case, it's pretty clear that V isn't a 'good guy' and that Moore wrote him as a often-vile nut. It seems that in a lot of cases the critics can't or won't consider the possibility that authors are aiming for ambiguity, because it would make it much more difficult to 'win' their critical argument.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:54 AM on October 3, 2012


True story: I was in a small comic store in southeast London this last weekend, and Mrs. Example and I were having a very pleasant conversation with the owner (who was curious about what two Americans were doing there) which was interrupted by a customer wanting to check out. Fair enough; the man had business to do, and we wandered off to browse.

When I glanced over, though, the customer, who was visibly older than I am (I'm in my forties) was buying stack after stack of back issues of Lobo and Lobo-related books.

We left. I don't want to be that close to a guy my age who's still that into Lobo.

Uh oh. I said it too much. Now it just sounds like nonsense. Lobo. Lobo Lobo Lobo. Lobo.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 9:58 AM on October 3, 2012


it's pretty clear that V isn't a 'good guy' and that Moore wrote him as a often-vile nut.

I don't think it's all that clear. I know that's what Moore intended, but I think it's pretty hard not to see V as the hero fighting against fascism. I know it's supposed to be showing both sides as wrong and going too far...but I feel like in practice it doesn't come out that way.
posted by Sangermaine at 10:01 AM on October 3, 2012


However, the criticism of the post-Hewlett Tank Girls (and even some of the later Hewlett ones) is pretty much bang on- shittier art, diminishing-returns humor, and increasing self-importance

I'm kind of biased because I run into him from time to time ( and also would live to get him to draw something of mine) but I rather liked the Rufus Dayglo ones. He does a good Hewlett while remaining himself.

Alan Martin's writing remains Alan Martin's writing.
posted by Artw at 10:03 AM on October 3, 2012


A common stereotype of superhero fans is that they love the comics they read as children. Apparently, superhero comics were so much better during the Golden/Silver/Bronze/Iron/Tin Age. But rosy nostalgia is difficult if you grew up reading superhero comics in the 1990′s. With a tiny number of exceptions, those comics were terrible.

For years, I'd maintained that The Adventures Of Cyclops And Phoenix was utterly sublime, four issues that came out of the whole 1990s Cable mess that were actually amazing; beautifully-written meditations on love and unity, with this spooky otherworldly art that seemed both ramshackle and futuristic. Just a gorgeous miniseries, and gosh I sure did love it back in like '96, and hey I should get around to re-reading it one of these days, my goodness, it's so amazing.

So about a month ago I dug them out and re-read them

and now my opinion is pretty much

D:
posted by Greg Nog at 10:04 AM on October 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I dislike Chris Ware's work.

I am occasionally astonished by the formal experimentation he carries out. But for the most part he fills these strange experiments with telling stories across the page with stories of banality and ennui. I feel like while there may be EVENTS in a Ware story, nothing ever really HAPPENS - the characters start the story miserable and alone, are miserable and alone throughout it, and are miserable and alone at the end.

The toying with the printing process? All for that. I'm a couple weeks away from receiving a shipment of books I'm printing with spot gloss used as a storytelling element. There are plenty of other things you can do by playing with the individual plates besides showing the disintegration of hope, but that's all Ware ever seems to be interested in.

I feel like his entire oveure is the worlds longest, most gorgeously produced suicide note.

I don't think I hate it - I'm not sure there are really ANY comics I hate - but I'm sure as hell not buying it.
posted by egypturnash at 10:05 AM on October 3, 2012


Artw > Alan Martin's writing remains Alan Martin's writing.

*snicker*
posted by egypturnash at 10:09 AM on October 3, 2012


We left. I don't want to be that close to a guy my age who's still that into Lobo.

I will say that after laughing about Lobo with my friend for YEARS, I decided the ultimate, most hilarious, culmination of this would be to dress as Lobo for Halloween. This led to me painstakingly poring through Lobo fanpages on the internet, reading Lobo comics, and spending more time squinting at the details of Lobo's various costumes than I care to admit.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:11 AM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Artw > Alan Martin's writing remains Alan Martin's writing.

*snicker*


It's a really in the moment thing that really needs the art to support it, and it's kind if great for that, but it doesn't really change much or go anywhere.
posted by Artw at 10:11 AM on October 3, 2012


My daughter saw Lobo in Superman:The Animated Seroes and instantly latched on to him as the coolest thing ever, so there's that.
posted by Artw at 10:13 AM on October 3, 2012


I feel like while there may be EVENTS in a Ware story, nothing ever really HAPPENS - the characters start the story miserable and alone, are miserable and alone throughout it, and are miserable and alone at the end.

Not sure that's a criticism. There are plenty of amazing and artful movies that can be summed up with this description.
posted by painquale at 10:16 AM on October 3, 2012


I'm glad I still enjoy and am affected by Ware's work.
posted by incessant at 10:21 AM on October 3, 2012


Rorschach was specifically supposed to come across as "fan service to kiddies wanting tough-guy moral fantasies" because Moore explicitly created him as a parody of Steve Ditko's violent Randian characters the Question and Mr. A. Moore discusses this at length in various interviews. Rorschach was supposed to show the absurdity of such a worldview; it's not Moore's fault that other authors thought such childishness was awesome.

(Spoilers for Watchmen)

I don't think Watchmen does a particularly good job of establishing much negative aspects of Rorschach though. The Comedian is constantly given kick the dog moments and is more clearly identified as a fascist tool of suppression. Whereas especially in terms of plot, Rorschach is consistently the "good" guy. He's the one driving the plot in terms of solving the mystery, and by the end he's the only one who doesn't give in to the downer ending outcome (even posthumously). There are some obviously negative aspects of his over the top violence, but the story doesn't really get into any of moral dilemmas of any of it in much depth.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:21 AM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


We left. I don't want to be that close to a guy my age who's still that into Lobo.

Huh. Americans really don't get British humour.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:23 AM on October 3, 2012


Whereas especially in terms of plot, Rorschach is consistently the "good" guy. He's the one driving the plot in terms of solving the mystery, and by the end he's the only one who doesn't give in to the downer ending outcome (even posthumously). There are some obviously negative aspects of his over the top violence, but the story doesn't really get into any of moral dilemmas of any of it in much depth.

Really? It seemed like every single person who interacted with Rorschach was openly repelled by his violence and lunacy, and the 'heroes' who worked with him did so in spite of this, not because of it. They remembered his past as a more tempered person before his breaking point, and that nostalgia for the 'good ol days' allows them to not think too hard about how vile he had become. His actions were framed as 'progress' as far as his own internal narrative goes, but in the end all he does is find out how little it all actually matters.. the plan he discovered continues despite his efforts, completely unhindered. And faced with the truth that his "moral" inflexibility cannot possibly accomodate what was actually accomplished by Ozymandius, he commits 'suicide by Jon' so as to not have to go on with a life that contains such horrifying shades of grey.

Rorschach was a principal actor in the plot, to be sure, and not an antagonist, but most definitely NOT a 'good guy'. Of course, one of the core points of Watchmen is true moral ambiguity rather than the cheap 'maturity' of anti-heroics, so internalizing that is a vital part of interpreting the work as a whole.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:35 AM on October 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think it's pretty hard not to see V as the hero fighting against fascism. I know it's supposed to be showing both sides as wrong and going too far...but I feel like in practice it doesn't come out that way.

I'll have to go back and give V a solid read; it'd probably be a good idea to give Miracleman another go at the same time. I remember being gobsmacked when I finally twigged that Swamp Thing & Dr. Manhattan were two sides of the same power/humanity coin (MM too). Adding V and its authoritarian themes to the mix would probably be interesting.

Huh. Americans really don't get British humour.

Meh, by the time Lobo got his own 50+ issue series he was well and truly infected with Marshal Law syndrome.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:39 AM on October 3, 2012


I don't think Watchmen does a particularly good job of establishing much negative aspects of Rorschach though.

He's viscerally disgusting, living on stolen beans eaten straight from the can (raunch, raunch). He lives in a squalid apartment because he's incapable of thinking of a life beyond crime fighting. He's disturbingly messed up about sex. His paranoia and monomania make him friendless, and his unmet need for companionship is pitiful.

Even if you're cool with the fact that he casually tortures people, I don't see how he can be considered appealing.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:50 AM on October 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is the index to the 5th anniversary Hooded Utilitarian roundtable...organized in order by contributors’ names...

Well that's useless. Here's the index people actually want:

Bakuman by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata
Batman/Grendel II by Matt Wagner
Berlin by Jason Lutes
Betty and Veronica
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight
the collector mentality
the Color trilogy by Kim Dong Hwa
Dragonlance
EC Comics, Part 1 and Part 2
Every Autobiographical Comic Ever (possibly NSFW)
The Extended Laces or, Drusilla’s Fatal Brochure (I think this is a genre criticism, I don't really know)
Fatal Rendezvous by Milo Manara (Not Safe for Work, rape triggers)
Gandhi: A Manga Biography
Gangsta Rap Posse by Benjamin Marra
Green Lantern by Geoff Johns
Habibi by Craig Thompson; also some stuff about Osamu Tezuka
Kingdom Come by Alex Ross
Jack Kirby
Maus by Art Spiegelman
Midnight Nation by J. Michael Straczynski
Thomas Nast
New Yorker Cartoons
the Onslaught Saga
Peter Pan by Régis Loisel
Johnny Ryan (or possibly Johnny Ryan parodyists?)
Tank Girl
Spirou and Fantasio
Stitches by David Small
V For Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd
Chris Ware
Watchmen by Alan Moore

Miscellaneous bad comics
Miscellaneous bad comics

[It's more useful for my purposes, anyway. Subjects of essays may have been completely misinterpreted. Your mileage may vary.]
posted by themanwho at 10:55 AM on October 3, 2012 [9 favorites]


Jack Kirby

You're shitting me. I ain't even looking.
posted by Artw at 10:56 AM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the issue with Rorschach is he's given so many dramatic moments, it's easy to kinda pump your fist at them. ("In not in here with you.. you're here with me," for example)

Like, talkin' bout Ware, he constantly frames Jimmy Corrigan as the ultimate schlub, focusing on his awkward posture and quavering eyes and general marshmallowyness; one never gets the sense that dude is anything other than pitiable or repugnant. But Rorschach embodies pretty much every action-movie trope when he's in action; I honestly just think Moore wrote him a little poorly, given what he wanted to do with him.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:57 AM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Artw: Jack Kirby

You're shitting me. I ain't even looking.


The Jack Kirby article seems to be focused mostly on his story “Himon!” from Mister Miracle #9. I didn't read the essay (so that makes 2 of us), I only looked at the pictures.
posted by themanwho at 11:02 AM on October 3, 2012


I don't understand that essay on Lutes' Berlin at all.
posted by The Whelk at 11:07 AM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Huh, no Grant Morrison? I love the guy, but he seems like a perfect target for this sort of thing. I think I prefer a negative review of something I love to a positive one. I already know why I like stuff.
posted by Lorin at 11:08 AM on October 3, 2012


Mister Miracle is fucking awesome and anyone who says otherwise will be evaporated into a pattern of interlocking dots on a cosmic background.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:08 AM on October 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's interesting that the Betty and Veronica author chose to focus on their personalities as the reason for her disliking them. My sister used to be a huge Archie fan when she was a pre-teen. I remember her room being filled with piles of Archie digests; I'd pick them up for her whenever I saw one anywhere and she loved them.

She eventually stopped reading them, and she told me that it was because as she grew up and started having relationships of her own, it began to really bother her that these two women, no matter how smart or confident, existed solely in relation to Archie. That their every action and basically their entire existence was directed towards him.

This came up when the Married Life stories started, with their visions of two alternate futures where Archie married either Betty or Veronica. My sister said she wished there was a future where Betty and Veronica grew out of their high school crush and went on to make lives for themselves.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:17 AM on October 3, 2012


To be fair to the ignorant youth of today and their terrible movie and awful prequels culture has changed around Watchmen as well - there was a time when characters like The Punisher or Wolverine were considered extreme or edgy, now they're pretty close to the norm and everything is extreme! And edgy! - there's comics where Spider-man tortures Sandman with acid for information, for fucks sake - so a character intended to beyond the pale probably just raises a shrug now.
posted by Artw at 11:20 AM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Really? It seemed like every single person who interacted with Rorschach was openly repelled by his violence and lunacy, and the 'heroes' who worked with him did so in spite of this, not because of it. They remembered his past as a more tempered person before his breaking point, and that nostalgia for the 'good ol days' allows them to not think too hard about how vile he had become.

That was mostly just Nite Owl, and the beyond the pale violent lunatic aspect doesn't really connect with what actually happens in the story. Rorschach is only violent against people who actually do bad things, in almost all cases in self-defense, and pretty much every time he does it solves or attempts to solve a real problem in the plot. There's very few times in the story where the reader is actually rooting against Rorschach or is supposed to view what he's doing as unnecessary or wrong. Things that you would normally expect an insane character to be wrong about (his landlord is a bad person, a big conspiracy caused most of the events of the story, etc.) all end up to be substantially correct.

His actions were framed as 'progress' as far as his own internal narrative goes, but in the end all he does is find out how little it all actually matters.. the plan he discovered continues despite his efforts, completely unhindered. And faced with the truth that his "moral" inflexibility cannot possibly accomodate what was actually accomplished by Ozymandius, he commits 'suicide by Jon' so as to not have to go on with a life that contains such horrifying shades of grey.

The fact that the guy who is trying to save the world can't because it's all rigged doesn't really make a big statement about Rorschach being a negative force in the world. Rorschach and Ozymandius are both shown to be completely helpless when it comes to Doctor Manhattan, and that mostly just plays into the "What if Superman didn't actually care about humans?" theme. There's literally nothing Rorschach can do at that point other than admit defeat or be killed, so it doesn't feel like an indictment on his character that he doesn't just let the bad guy take over the world like the other characters do.

He's viscerally disgusting, living on stolen beans eaten straight from the can (raunch, raunch). He lives in a squalid apartment because he's incapable of thinking of a life beyond crime fighting. He's disturbingly messed up about sex. His paranoia and monomania make him friendless, and his unmet need for companionship is pitiful.

Even if you're cool with the fact that he casually tortures people, I don't see how he can be considered appealing.


Those are all classic antihero traits that you'll see in protagonists of tons of noir and western stories. My point is that Watchmen doesn't really deconstruct the character archetype in the ways it does with a lot of the other characters, it pretty much just shows a normal antihero character doing antihero type things in the context of being the only character that actually tries to resolve the main plot. The antihero archetype always involves negative and antisocial aspects, but that's part of the appeal.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:21 AM on October 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


My sister said she wished there was a future where Betty and Veronica grew out of their high school crush and went on to make lives for themselves.

Oh, they could do better than that...
posted by Artw at 11:23 AM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Man, that takedown of Milo Manara's "Rendeszvous in B-Flat" kinda makes me want to read it. One of my first not-quite-girlfriends loaned me some of her Manara way back when I was like 19, and I found it at once fascinating and repulsive. I think it was some of his De Sade adaptations.

If I was to nominate some Kirby to hate, it would also be Mr. Miracle. But it would be the last few issues, after the other Fourth World books are cancelled, where the grand operatic vision of the series is lost and the book is pruned down into this sad little by-the-numbers superhero affair with a teen sidekick.
posted by egypturnash at 11:28 AM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm reading the Geoff Johns takedown, which is quite entertaining even though talking about how terrible he is pretty paint-by-numbers at this point (fun game: read Blackest Night, then go back and skim the rest of Johns' run, counting all the times he has a totally irrelevant scene to foreshadow the BN crossover).

And then I got to the picture where Atrocitus HAS EMOTIONS and it is the greatest thing I've ever seen. I've been playing Darksiders all week and it is positively restrained compared to that image.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:07 PM on October 3, 2012


A man who has written Punisher comics should probably not be singling out Fletcher Hanks as an example of undeserved posthumous hipster acclaim.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:10 PM on October 3, 2012


Ah, I just read the Batman/Grendel one, and it's great; pretty much sums up my own general feeling of "what happened, buddy?" in re Matt Wagner.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:18 PM on October 3, 2012


Man, that takedown of Milo Manara's "Rendeszvous in B-Flat" kinda makes me want to read it.

I read it for the draughtmanship.

I think it was some of his De Sade adaptations.

... That's not really pinning it down. I'm not sure if he's done anything that isn't a De Sade adaptation.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:19 PM on October 3, 2012


My people, may I present. the worst comicbook of all time.

Nothing these amateurs complain about even remotely compares.
posted by Artw at 12:26 PM on October 3, 2012


Artw - No, it's worth a read:
Jack Kirby’s superhero stories are Manichean formulaic romps performed by cardboard characters. His drawing style and visual imagery are an emphatic cubo-futurist fascistic glorification and glamorizing of violence, youth and technology.
Of course, he then goes and undermines all of his work by gushing over the positives that Kirby brings to the medium, but still - an interesting perspective from someone who understands the work.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:39 PM on October 3, 2012


I don't think I need to be flipped into RED MIST mode today.
posted by Artw at 12:41 PM on October 3, 2012


Now that I've gone through a bunch: the New Yorker, Betty and Veronica, and Bakuman critiques are on-point and worthwhile. Then there are a few potshots at easy targets, like Geoff Johns's Green Lantern. But many of the other entries are exceedingly dumb.
posted by painquale at 12:43 PM on October 3, 2012


Weirdly people would recommend me Geoff Johns stuff all the time before he was appointed the One True Architect of the DC Nu52 universe, now all of that seems to have stopped.
posted by Artw at 12:47 PM on October 3, 2012


If you're a music geek and enjoy stuff like this, let me recommend Kill Your Idols: A New Generation of Rock Writers Reconsiders the Classics.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:02 PM on October 3, 2012


Mister Miracle is fucking awesome

I love Jack Kirby, but I recently read his Fourth World books from start to finish, and they were terrible. There were some neat drawings and concepts, but less than in Fantastic Four, and most characters were flat and unrelatable and resolved their problems through deus ex machinas. At least half of the Mister Miracle plots can be summarized as "Mister Miracle walks into a ridiculous trap on purpose, escapes, and then holds a little speech about how some previously unmentioned device on his costume allowed him to escape". Also, the Black Racer is probably the stupidest character design ever. But Dan Turpin was pretty cool.
posted by martinrebas at 1:12 PM on October 3, 2012


The guy reviewing V for Vendetta starts out with a 'I went into it thinking it was genre X and it was actually Y, therefore...'

Ugh, this is going to be a long, rage filled read.
posted by Slackermagee at 2:13 PM on October 3, 2012


I decided I hated that one based on a quick glance and stopped reading.

Which, it turns out, is a bit of a theme...
posted by Artw at 2:14 PM on October 3, 2012


I think the Maus review was the dumbest.
posted by painquale at 2:24 PM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


martinrebas > the Black Racer is probably the stupidest character design ever.

Them's fightin' words. The Black Racer is AWESOME. A paralyzed war vet who is sometimes ridden by a deathgod? Who then flies around in a suit of armor, on skis? He is great. He is the single African-American character in all of superhero comics who has "Black" in his name and actually makes it kinda not sound racist. Well at least to my honky ears, actual people of African descent may feel differently. feel free to tell me that no actually it's just as bad as "Black Manta".

No wait actually he is a pretty dumb idea on the surface. But somehow, once youve accepted the gonzo flow of the Fourth World books, it works.

I dunno, I love 'em. The writing is lacking, but it's just such a never-ending torrent of KIRBY. I stop caring about the narrative making any more sense than is necessary to get to the next page of giant motorized underground fortresses or crazy lizard-monkey Jimmy Olsen clones or insane spreads of dog soldiers tearing across the barren landscape of Apokalips.

But this is a love that also includes a healthy dose of mockery. Try reading the opening narration of the first issue of "New Gods" out loud, reflecting the type treatment in your voice. You'll end up shouting by the time Orion comes in, and probably laughing, too.

In the unlikely event I am ever drawing something for DC, I will make damn sure to slip the Black Racer in the background of SOMETHING because he is just so deliciously… Words fail me. There's just something about him that captures Kirby at his best and worst at the same time.

I could probably write an essay on Why I Hate New Gods, but it would be one of those "I actually love it but actually my relationship with the work is really complicated" kinds of "hate" pieces.

and oh god now I want to whip out a quick pitch for TALES OF THE BLACK RACER and send it to DC. Every story involves him going to some strange place and, well, doing his reaperly job.

also note that I am not gainsaying your diss of the typical Mr. Miracle plot
posted by egypturnash at 3:35 PM on October 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Kirbyspeak is COSMIC POETRY, rewriting your MIND CIRCUITS so you may comprehend WHAT LIES BEYOND!!
posted by Artw at 3:37 PM on October 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


(it's probably some weird collage thing.)
posted by Artw at 3:46 PM on October 3, 2012


It's like the other New Yorker crowd favorite, Adrain Tomine,

Shortcomings is pretty great. Tomine started very young and has matured a lot as a writer.
posted by Zed at 3:55 PM on October 3, 2012


Thanks themanwho for listing the index by comic reviewed. I agree that the site's index is pretty stupid for new visitors.

I only read the Watchmen one, the V one and the Geoff Johns one so far. Not very encouraging. The Johns one was funny, but I don't think I would find any of them to be legitimate criticism, because each writer seems unable to put her or his remarks into a larger critical context. The 'V' one seemed the most egregious, as the writer's main line of argument seemed to be "Moore's writing doesn't seem to fit into my political ideology." As was pointed out above, the 'V' critic can't seem to fathom that perhaps Moore was trying to deliberately set up complex, rounded characters who a reader might root for in some instances and then be repulsed by in other instances. Kinda like how we relate to each other in real life. Both V and Rorschach are meditations from Moore on what an ideological vigilante might be like, partly because comic books have been dominated by... ideological vigilantes. Batman, Superman, Spider-man, etc. etc. are all vigilantes driven by a particular personal code. Moore is exploring that theme against a more complex political backdrop (the 'V' essayist would probably really benefit from more study of Thatcherite England).

If someone really became a vigilante in real life, they would create all kinds of social chaos. Yes, 'V' is a self-righteous, horrible person. Batman would be a self-righteous, horrible person if he was real, too. I think that was part of what Moore was probing with the book. On the flip side, isn't it an intriguing fantasy to wish that some solitary figure could cut through the mess and corruption of our modern political, economic and social order?

Yes, Rorschach does some 'cool' things in the narrative and the reader might cheer him on. Sometimes flawed or 'broken' people do great things. Lots of people on Metafilter, including myself, have been cheering Bill Clinton on for these last few months, too, and while none of us know the true story, it's doubtful Monica or Hilary came away from their experiences with Bill unscathed.

I think Moore can write some clunky stuff from time to time, but I also think he is sophisticated enough to know that an effective writer creates round characters who present many different sides of the human condition.
posted by Slothrop at 5:04 PM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I recently reread V for Vendetta, I did feel like it contained several fundamental flaws which resulted in its underlying message being contradictory and confused, and I mean that in a broader thematic sense--I'm not gunning for some kind of clear cut "this is right and this is wrong" message in the thing, but I feel like it's structurally unsound. I've been having a difficult time articulating exactly how this is, though, and I don't think the essay on it in HU really reflects my own concerns.

I thought the New Yorker essay was probably the best of these (and there's a somewhat interesting back and forth with a New Yorker cartoonist in its comment section), though I also liked the one about Stitches (a book I've got very little interest in to begin with). And I'm actually kind of grateful for that Geoff Johns takedown, since now I have a vague idea about what all that awful Green Lantern stuff was about and I didn't have to read any of it.
posted by whir at 7:11 AM on October 5, 2012


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