Pádraig Ó Méalóid's interview with Alan Moore has unsurprisingly produced some backlash. Here's commentary by Marc Singer, Marc-Oliver Frisch.
Julia Wertz on how her alcoholism informed her autobiographical webcomic The Fart Party.
Orion Martin racebends the X-Men, and links to one of my posts.
Chris Sims weighs in on the controversial legacy of Stan Lee.
Bully takes a look at the fantastical technology drawn by Jack Kirby.
Dave Girard on the rise and fall of QuarkXPress. Will Adobe make the same mistakes with InDesign?
Joe Mullin remembers the history of the Sony Betamax on the 30th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case Sony Corp. v. Universal Studios, which dramatically expanded the right to fair use.
|Occupy Comics Black Flag|
The title is obviously taken from Brad Werner's presentation at the American Geophyiscal Union conference in San Francisco: "Is Earth F**ked? Dynamical Futility of Global Environmental Management and Possibilities for Sustainability via Direct Action Activism". Coming from a group of scientists and academics, this is an uncharacteristic call to arms against the status quo. And with that, we count down to the end of the world as told by believers in the Mayan calendar.
Speaking of activism, here is Alan Moore’s Essay for the Occupy Comics Anthology.
Watch the anime-inspired Greenpeace video for their Detox our Future campaign.
Climate change deniers are hard to convince. What else is new.
In one of the odder moves to jump on the 2012 bandwagon, Australian prime minister Julia Gillard issued her own tongue-in-cheek announcement.
The second season of Doomsday Preppers recently began airing on Nat Geo Asia. I wander about the tenuous grasp on reality exhibited by some of the people in the first two episodes. Here's my review of season one.
Alex Kane notes the sillier side of this December 21st hullabaloo.
Watch Decay, a zombie movie filmed by physics PhD students at CERN's Large Hadron Collider facility. I can't even begin to imagine how cool that must have been to film.
Know what? If the doomsayers are right, my fat ass will be among the first to fall to the starving cannibal horde.
Here are Hollywood's dumbest apocalypses put on film.
In case you're not frightened enough, here are the ways technology can run amuck and kill us all.
The Chinese government is treating 2012 believers as serious threats.
Watch this lovely video based on Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot.
Annalee Newitz gives school survival tips to young geeks. I wish someone had given me this advice when I was younger. It could have helped.
I missed the memo stating that geek dads are the new MILFs.
Batman is superhumanly tough. How else could he still be fighting crime, despite enduring a long injury-prone career.
Is Superman Boring? No more than most superheroes who've been around for decades.
Obligatory warning: Major spoilers ahead:
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century: 2009 marks the completion of a narrative arc that began with Black Dossier. But it also works (whether or not the LOEG actually continues from here) as a fitting conclusion for the series as a whole. Having brought the Victorian-era cast right up to an apocalyptic Twenty-First Century, there isn't much left to do but to give them a fond sendoff. That is, if they can survive the rampage of Oliver Haddo's antichrist.
Admittedly, I was less engaged with the de rigueur tangle of cultural references found in this book. Partly, this might be due to the contemporaneous nature of what was being referenced. And the heavy Anglo-centric focus didn't really help, as it's something of a personal blind spot. So I'm pretty sure I missed about 99% of them on my first reading. While I picked-up on some of the James Bond allusions, I had already lost interest in that franchise even before Roger Moore left the role. But given the overall mood, I'm not sure it matters. In my review of Century: 1969, I noted an oppressive undercurrent just beneath a surface of gaudy colors and sexual liberation. Forty years later, things have become far worse. The year 2009 apparently discloses an exhausted world just waiting for an inevitable end.
Lest there be any doubt where everything is heading, LOEG's satire is far more blunt than in 1969. As the glorious monuments from previous adventures crumble, nuclear war is an ever imminent threat, British bobbies look and act like Imperial Stormtroopers, and popular entertainment as a whole is crude and apathetic. It's vaguely reminiscent of the Cold War ennui of Watchmen. The comic attacks the essentially bourgeois nature of pop culture, specifically through its biggest target: J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. As principal characters Mina Murray and Orlando stand on the ruins of Hogwarts, the former comments "This whole environment seems artificial, as if it's been constructed out of reassuring imagery from the 1940s…" Just one of a continuous string of zingers castigating the mega-popular franchise. And yet nothing is quite as reactionary as Mina's own indictment of the new millennium: "People were desperately poor in 1910, but at least they felt things had a purpose. How did culture fall apart in barely a hundred years?" To which Orlando replies "By becoming irrelevant, same as always…"
Eh, whatever. But Mina was trapped in a madhouse for forty of those hundred years. So I can cut her some slack. Isn't her distress part of the point? Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill are most effective when capturing the inner turmoil of the cast. In 1969, they were grappling with the consequences of immortality. In 2009, they're dealing with an overwhelming sense of crushing defeat. Allan Quatermain in particular cuts a truly pathetic figure driven to the depths of despair by Mina's disappearance in 1969, yet manages to perform one last act of heroism before being killed by the antichrist's magical piss. I know that sounds ironic, but it's actually quite touching when read. Given how anachronistic a figure the "Great White Hunter" has become, it's as fitting a way as any to end Allan's life of adventuring. And after being put through the ringer, all of these vintage (but cleverly re-imagined) characters are just about ready to call it a century, and a career.
But if anyone has earned the right to be a crank baying at the world, it's Alan Moore. And if anyone has had cause to complain about the uninspired perpetuation of media franchises, it's also him. If he wants an underwhelming Harry Potter to be easily bought down by an equally unimpressed Mary Poppins (And not by the more conventional means of the mythical sword Excalibur), I'd say it's as clever a way as any to depict the fall of Western Civilization. So what comes next?
Comics may not have been the first medium to exploit the crossover, but it's become attached to this storytelling device like no other. Appropriating disparate ideas, forcing them to interact with each other, and essentially re-contextualising them in the process, is pretty much a hallmark of comics geek appeal. So it's no surprise that the protean Alan Moore has become contemporary comics most famous writer. Of his creations from ABC, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen has remained his most ambitious ongoing project. What started out as an attempt to weave together various fictional characters into a Victorian-era superhero team, has come to absorb a ridiculous array of literary and popular influences. With Century: 1969, his cunning appropriation hits a new high, threatening to overwhelm the rest of the story. Panels are crammed with incidental details referring to one thing or another. Characters drop in and out while making cryptic pronouncements. As for the story itself, the book assumes that the reader is aware of the League's previous history, not really bothering to explain the setup or the main characters who are involved. The backstory within LOEG would be daunting to the uninitiated. Imagine trying to read the 4th Harry Potter book without prior knowledge of the Philosopher's Stone, or dementors, or Neville Longbottom.
The League in this case is composed of Wilhelmina (Mina) Murray, Allan Quartermain, and the immortal Orlando, a character synthesized by Moore from several sources, such as Virginia Woolf's novel of the same name. Since Century: 1910, the League has been waging a war of attrition against the cult of the villainous Oliver Haddo, an Aleister Crowley analogue. He's intent on unleashing dark magical forces upon the world. The story jumps forward to London in 1969, after events dealt with in The Black Dossier have rendered Mina and Allan also immortal. This generates an interesting personal crisis. As the prospect of an endless future begins to dawn on Mina, she tries unsuccessfully to cope with the changing times by acting like one of the young and hip. There's pathos to the predicament that could have been explored further. But Moore doesn't dwell on this for long before returning to the larger milieu they occupy. London in 1969 is literally a brighter, more saturated place, ably rendered by colorist Ben Dimagmaliw and Kevin O'Neill. But despite the many nods to contemporaneous popular entertainment, this version of the 60s doesn't conform to the typical image of the era. It still feels a lot like the gloomy 19th century city where Mina and Allan hail from. To begin with, the hidden occult threat they're uncovering imbues the proceedings with an inescapable sense of dread. Moore's ramping-up of the cynicism, violence and sleazy behavior somewhat undercuts the whole "free love" ethos of the period. If anything, the numerous impersonal depictions of sex only seems to subvert the freewheeling counterculture of the 60s. And as with past LOEG stories, there's an important but disturbing scene involving a sexual assault on a major character that sours the overall mood. For all its clever world-building, I'm not exactly sure what the comic says, if anything, about the actual social and political ferment of the decade.
The comic culminates in a fictionalized version of the Rolling Stones Hyde Park tribute concert to Brian Jones, now reinterpreted here as an occult ritual which the League attempts to stop. But Mina accidently drops acid and endures a bad trip. She enters the astral plane and battles the spirit of Haddo. It's at this point that O'Neill cuts loose with his art. The rectangular panel layouts give way to irregular and organic shapes. The psychedelic visions Mina experiences are dazzling in the Peter Max mode, while simultaneously retaining the grotesque caricatures O'Neill has always drawn. It's erotically charged imagery without being remotely attractive or titillating. When the battle concludes, the end result is calamitous for the League, and the contrast between these pages with the coda that follows is gut-wrenching.
So the League leaves the year 1969 far more embittered than when they first entered it. One of the pleasures of reading crossovers is seeing how the writer is able to combine what are otherwise mutually exclusive stories into a convincing narrative. This latest chapter of LOEG certainly demonstrates that Moore is still very capable of fashioning intriguing alternate realities. But somewhere along the way he seems to have lost the desire to humanize, or to a least make his protagonists more comprehensible to readers. Meanwhile, Moore's propensity to shock and perturb only continues to grow. What remains is a certain meanness unleavened by humor. I wonder if hidden in this story of immortal but impotent heroes, Moore is commenting on the continued publication of classic comic book characters whose time has long passed. Or is he just becoming more pessimistic? If he's this cold-blooded with them in 1969, how much worse will things get for Mina, Allan, Orlando, and the world as a whole when the story moves into the next millenium?