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Change in Direction

This is my first post on this blog since October for two reasons:

1. School.

2. It stopped being fun.

I started off this blog to try and write things that I wasn’t seeing in the current state of comics journalism, which I feel focuses on reviews, news, and negativity too much. I wanted to make a blog which took a deeper look into the comics I was reading. I kind of did that for a while and I feel like I actually got there when I wrote my piece on the second volume of Casanova. Then I became determined to make this little blog into a thing. I craved hits and loved seeing the graph rise. Because of that I started to steer this blog into the direction of every other comic site. I talked about the news and people started to read my shit, which is funny because I wouldn’t have read it. I started off this blog to write what I wanted to read and then I stopped doing that and it stopped being fun.

I tried to get a piece out every week and putting that deadline on it kept it from being fun as well. Eventually it got to a point where school and work were taking up so much time of my life and writing for this blog wasn’t fun and I wasn’t getting paid for it, so why should I do it? The answer that I’ve come to is that I shouldn’t do it. The blog as it is now is done.

What I’d like to do from here on out is do what I wanted to do when I started. Fuck the hits, if what I’m saying has any value the readers will come.

The posts won’t be weekly or anything like that. They’ll just be whenever I feel like it. I think I’ll use this blog to talk about writing too. I’d like to crank out a script for a graphic novel that’s been clunking around my head for a couple of months now so maybe I’ll be posting stuff about that. You might ever see some personal essays pop up.

Sometime soon I’ll post a list of my favorite comics of this year. Yeah, everybody else does that, but I do love me some lists.

I probably should have discussed this with Justin before making the decision. Oh well, he’ll get it. Even though I kinda just fired him now. Huh… yeah, I feel like a douchebag.

If the grammar sucks or my spelling is off, sue me. This is just me talking, like it always should have been.

– Kelly

PS, while I’m thinking of it, go back and read my interview with JFX316. I enjoyed doing that a lot.

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My Last Week in PoP

By Kelly Harrass

You may or may not be aware that I have a small weekly segment on the podcast, Last Week in PoP. Last night the season 1 finale of the show was posted and can be found here: http://panelsonpages.com/?p=41807.  If you’re not in the loop on things going on at PanelsonPages.com, let me explain to you the format of the show. LWiP is one of the eight shows in the PCN (PoP-Cast Network), which was all started by the Panels on Pages PoP-Cast. LWiP is a recap, or best of show, of the rest of the shows in the PCN. It’s the podcast version of The Soup.

LWiP was launched August 16th, 2010 with Dan Mahoney as the sole creative force behind it. LWiP was an immediate hit, becoming one of the most popular shows on the PCN. At this point the PCN only consisted of four shows; The PoP-Cast, The Super Fly Podcast, The Princesscast, and Last Week in PoP. As the PCN grew, so did Mahoney’s workload.

When PCW, PoP-Cast Wrestling, was launched Mahoney, a lifelong hater of professional wrestling, did not want to listen to it. He put out a call for a PCW liaison and it was answered by me. Continue reading

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Rest in Peace Macho Man Randy Savage

Randy Savage

RIP Randy Savage

As you may have heard by now professional wrestler Macho Man Randy Savage passed away earlier today. I’m a lifelong wrestling fan and I have pay tribute to him in some way. I’ve written for two different wrestling websites and I’ve had to report some deaths, but none of them hit as hard as this one has. Savage was one of the greats and it would be impossible to make a list of the best ever without including him on it. He was one of the most intense, funny, and talented wrestlers to ever hit the ring. Whether he was wrestling a match, cutting a promo, selling Slim Jims, or making a rap album he was always entertaining. Rest in peace Macho Man, you’ll be missed.

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No One Ever Really Dies

“Death will always need those of us bold enough to keep our hands upon its till. My plague is a blessing unto you.” That is a direct quote from the first issue of the recently wrapped up reprints of Casanova: Gula. Casanova is the creator owned book by Fear Itself writer, Matt Fraction. Gula was my introduction to Casanova and I can only describe the series as pure insanity, but at the same time very intelligent insanity. After reading all of Gula in one sitting I’ve come to realize that it can be seen as a commentary on death in comic books; no one ever really dies. (SPOILERS will follow)

That quote pops up multiple times throughout the series and voices the opinion that many comics fans hold. There are people that die in Gula, but are they really dead? There are buckets of blood spilled throughout the four issues and countless acts of violence that accompany them. In these issues there are countless henchmen that are slaughtered. Sure they die, but do they matter? Are they anybody? I would say no. They’re nobodies, they don’t count. These people that die are nameless, faceless characters. They are literally faceless. All or nearly all of the henchmen have their faces obscured by something. In the first issue two surgeons are killed, they have masks covering their faces. In the second issue a bunch of henchmen for Dr. Toppogrosso, who all wear domino masks or masquerade masks, are killed in a movie theatre. The henchmen killings continue in issues three and four and it just hammers home the point that these characters are barely characters at all. They don’t matter. They can die, but who cares?

Issue three is, by far, the most death filled issue in the series, but at the same time it isn’t. Zephyr Quinn, sister to the main character Casanova Quinn, and her boyfriend Kubark Benday infiltrate the E.M.P.I.R.E. base. Zephyr cut through henchmen like a knife through butter. And she didn’t just go after henchmen she attacked main characters. She chopped her dad’s head off… or did she? Nope. He was just a robot; in fact everybody that died in this attack was just a robot. So at the end of the day the cost of human lives ended up at zero. There is one grey area here though. One of the dead robots was Kaito’s girlfriend Ruby. He could bring her back and have her old data put into a new body, but Kaito decides not to have that done. When Kaito is faced with “No one ever really dies anymore,” he responds by saying “Then no one ever really lives. I have to believe in her. In her intrinsic uniqueness. In her her-ness. My love cannot be duplicated, even if she can be replicated. She died, Sabine. Help me make that mean something.” Kaito has a good point. If people can come back from the dead on a regular basis, that lessens the impact of death and the importance of life. It’s ironic that the most meaningful death in the book was the death of a character that was never really alive to begin with.

There are three other deaths in the series, but they are all the deaths of minor characters. The first death is that of David X, well actually the two David X’s. They’re two escape artists whose deaths only serve as an intro to Zephyr and Kubark. Like the henchmen, their deaths don’t matter, but always remember no one ever really dies! David X isn’t dead. He’s alive and well and he shows up again in the fourth issue to help with a jail break.

In the second issue Dr. Toppogrosso is killed along with his henchmen. Like David X, he doesn’t matter. We know about what Toppogrosso does and why people want him dead, but beyond that we know nothing about him. Toppogrosso is a glorified henchman at best. Really he’s just a plot device to give us a better look at Zephyr and Kubark. It showed the lengths that Zephyr would go to get her job done.

Also in the second issue we see the death of Suki Boutique. Her death is different through. We actually learn about her past. She is a much more fleshed out character than the rest of the actual humans that die. But does she really die? She gets poisoned by Zephyr which means that we don’t see any sort of fatal wound. We just assume that she dies, but remember no one ever really dies. We see Suki show up again in the fourth issue in the completely new backup story. In the story she finds herself in the same situation that she was in with Zephyr. On the last panel of the sixth page of the backup Suki says; “You think I’m so dumb I’d let myself get poisoned.” To me that says she survived her poisoning from Zephyr and she learned from that experience.

Casanova: Gula requires more than one read through. The second time through little things stick out that meant nothing the first read. I didn’t realize the deaths weren’t really deaths until my second read. “No one ever really dies” is the motto of this series and could be said that it’s the motto of comic books as a whole. Comic fans know that if a character dies there’s a good chance we’ll see them back again at some point. Immediately after a character dies the very first reactions are that of people saying that they’ll be back. Fraction packed a lot into this book and I’m sure that there are many different things that different readers could take away from it. This commentary on death is what I took away from Gula. I recommend that you read it for yourself and find your own meanings in it.

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Waltz With Bashir

Waltz With Bashir poster

The film Waltz With Bashir in an animated documentary from Israel. After seeing it I had to write this, even though I didn’t plan on moving outside of the realm of comics in this blog so soon.  The film centers around the filmmaker Ari Folman and his quest to regain his memories from his time in the military. Folman served in the 1982 Lebanon War and can’t remember a thing until a friend, who also served in the war tells him about a dream. This conversation triggers Folman’s first flashback. This begins his journey to find out what else he can’t remember. Folman visits others that he served with to interview them. The interviews are integrated into the film as if we are watching the conversations between Ari and the people from his past. In the film he also speaks with a reporter and a psychologist. As the conversations progress he remembers more and more and the viewers see the flashbacks that he begins to have.

At first thought I typically don’t think of animation as the best way to present a documentary, but it works perfectly here. The animation allows for a very cinematic feel that the film might not have had if it was done in live action. In Ari’s flashbacks the battles he fought in the war are shown. The animation gives a very surreal feeling to the fights. The intenseness is lessened because of the cartoony look and I think that lessens the glorification that is given to war in so many movies. Here the soldiers aren’t shown as heroes, instead we see the wars for the utter wastes of life that they really are. Someone might wonder how accurate the flashbacks can be to what really happened if they’re animated. The same can be said for his memories. We have no idea if what he remembers is what really happened. It very well could just be his mind fabricating memories to fill his head with something.

I find it interesting that Folman worked so hard to remember his days as a soldier. So many people try desperately to forget what happened while they were at war. Ari was the exact opposite. He worked to uncover something so horrible that happened to him that his brain completely blocked it out. Eventually the memory that he first flashed back to is fully fleshed out. Ari searched through his life to remember the results of a massacre that was carried out by his side of the war.

His final memory creates a jarring ending to the film. Ari walks through the streets as people run past him. The sounds of their screams cover up everything else . Then suddenly the animation ends and the film smash-cuts to actual footage of the aftermath of the massacre. Buildings are destroyed and dead bodies litter the street. Everything comes to a halt and it all becomes very real. It reminds the viewer that this all really happened, it wasn’t just a cartoon. The screen fades to black and I find that my eyes are filling with tears. I don’t know why, but I’ve been overcome with emotion. Seeing the bodies of these innocent people was a shock to my system after having watched animation for the past hour and twenty minutes.  I shouldn’t feel as sad as I do. I didn’t know these people. I had never even heard of this war until this film. These scenes of death and destruction are what Ari was fighting to remember and there’s something profoundly sad about that.

Waltz with Bashir isn’t a film for everybody, but it is one of the best documentaries that I’ve ever seen.  It’s incredibly powerful and is an interesting examination of war and memory.

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News Bits & Pieces

I’ve got a bunch of stuff to post about that won’t support their own blog so I’m going to throw them into one post here.

  • I’ve got a bit of an exclusive here. Not really, but I guess you could see it as news. Yesterday Matt Fraction was going on a Q&A spree on twitter. I decided to ask him if we would see any Iron Fist in Fear Itself. He responded to me by saying “yes and after that, he–” So you can expect to see Iron Fist in Fear Itself and who knows, we might see more Fraction Iron Fist sometime in the future.

 

  • At C2E2 (yeah, I’m going kind of far back) the new creative teams for The Punisher and Daredevil were announced. On The Punisher, we’ll see Greg Rucka writing and Marco Checchetto penciling the book. I am completely on board for this. With Jason Aaron and Steve Dillion writing PunisherMAX, this is a great time to be a Punisher fan. On the other hand, it’s not the greatest time to be a Daredevil fan. Shadowland was god awful and Daredevil Reborn is only okay. In July the new creative team of writer Mark Waid and artists Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin will take over Daredevil. I’m still not sure how to feel about this. I’m hopefully, I’ll say that, but I am afraid that Daredevil is turning into Spider-Man. In interviews Waid said he’s replacing noir elements with adventure and he’s taking him out of Hells Kitchen. Along with having Martin on the book, that sounds a lot like Spider-Man to me. I’ll be reading, but I’m not very excited.RiveraDD
  • Originally I wasn’t planning on buying any of the Flashpoint tie-ins. It sounded a lot like House of M and I remember being burned when I bought those tie-ins. I changed my mind on Flashpoint when I heard about the Batman miniseries. Flashpoint Batman: Knight of Vengeance Written by Brian Azzarello with art by Eduardo Risso. How could I possibly pass up a Batman book written by the team behind 100 Bullets?

art by Dave Johnson

  • As you may have heard Steve Rogers will be Captain America again this summer (sorry for the spoiler if you didn’t know). In July, Captain America #1 will launch. While I like that they’re doing with Steve and Bucky now, I completely understand why they’d want to do this. With the movie coming out, I makes sense to make the character in the movie the character in the comic. I’m not worried about what will happen with the characters because in Brubaker I trust.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for today. If all goes according to plan I’ll have a new post for Friday. If I can’t get one done in time (I’m a student and I’ve got stuff to do) I might end up posting a piece I did in my writing seminar about Daredevil and Batman. Thanks for reading everybody! Share with your friends.

-Kelly

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Jason Aaron’s Beginnings

Back in 2001 Wolverine issue 175 was released. This issue closed out a story where Wolverine fights the deadly team of Omega Red, Lady Deathstrike, and Sabretooth. Wolverine gets depowered and squares off with a depowered Sabretooth. It ends with Wolverine being put into a body bag. At the time I was nine years old, so I was convinced that Wolverine was dead for good. I was too distraught to care about some stupid backup story, but I read it anyway. The backup was written by the winner of a fan contest that Marvel was running and that made my nine year old self even more angry. The story was so lame, I could have written something so much better! There were no ninjas, there were none of the recurring villains, there was nothing that made Wolverine cool. It sucked!

Then years later I read that issue again. The backup story was actually pretty good, better than I remembered. A couple weeks later Wolverine issue 62 was released. This was the first part of the Get Mystique storyline and it kicked so much ass. It turns out that both the backup in issue 175 and Get Mystique were written by the same guy; Jason Aaron. That was pretty cool. The guy who won the fan contest had made it to the big leagues. Aaron went on to become one of the best Wolverine writers in years. He completely understood the character and wrote some damn awesome comics.

Recently I took a look back at Aaron’s first Wolverine story. Even back then in 2001 he had a mastery of the character. In the eight pages that Aaron had to tell his story he showed that Wolverine was a tortured soul looking for peace that he will never find. The backup starts with Wolverine being chased by some hunters. When he thinks he loses them, Wolvie stops to help a woman fix her car. Unfortunately the men catch up to our hero and shoot both him and the woman he was trying to help. The story flash-forwards to Logan burying the body of the dead woman and driving away in her car while the bodies of the three hunters lay in the road behind him.

 Panel from the story

The story shows that the people Wolverine tries to help somehow end up getting hurt. He fully blames himself for that and he can’t chase away the dark cloud. He can only live with it. Logan would be a peaceful person, but the violence follows him wherever he goes. The woman he tries to help can see this in him, but she still believes that he is a good man. This short story can be seen as a metaphor for the entire character of Wolverine. He’s only in the costume for one flashback panel and that’s all that is needed. Wolverine doesn’t need a costume to be an interesting character. Regardless of whether you put him in the old west with a gun or feudal Japan with a sword, he is the same man. Violence is attracted to Logan the man, not to Wolverine the superhero. He knows that the day he finds peace is the day he dies, but even then he won’t. Aaron, through Wolverine, puts it best on the last page of his short story;

“Course I’ve also sent  plenty a souls on their way who won’t be overly missed. But I take no joy from that. Cause I know that one day, sooner or later, I’ll be joinin’ ‘em. And it won’t be in heaven, that’s for damn sure.”

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