Review: MediaEntity #6

Over at the comiXology Tumblr, I review a fascinating comic called MediaEntity which uses the digital medium to create elliptical, filmic effects to tell a story that I describe as somewhere between a taught thriller and Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. Take a gander.

My Interview with Darwyn Cooke

Over at the comiXology blog, I interview comics great Darwyn Cooke. We talk about his new book Parker: The Score which is a beautiful adaptation of the classic crime novel by Richard Stark aka Donald Westlake. Have a listen.

Digital Cerebus

One of the guiding lights of my young adulthood was the unrelentingly bizarre self-published comic book Cerebus, a 6,000 page epic chronicling the rise and fall of an anthropomorphic Aardark barbarian in a human fantasy world, with notable supporting characters Groucho Marx, Oscar Wilde, Mick Jaggar and Keith Richards and many, many others. By the end of the 30-year effort, the comic's creator, Dave Sim, had quite literally lost his mind, alienated most of his friends and holed up in his house in Ontario writing misogynist religious screeds.

I never thought we would get a digital version of Cerebus, because Sim has stated repeatedly that he doesn't like digital comics, or technology in general-- the man's a hard-core luddite who refuses to use email and writes on a type writer. And yet here he is with a kickstarter project. Digitize Cerebus, get it on comiXology and other venues (full discloser: comiXology is my employer), with all the backup features and letters pages, covers and back covers (much of which has never been reprinted) and some kind of audio-component as well with Sim himself reading dialog from the comic.

He set the funding goal at $6,000. A day later it's already raised $12,000 and counting. Even his estranged ex-wife contributed to the thing!

I find this all terribly exciting. Not necessarily because I need to read the Cerebus books again once they're made digital (though I probably will). But because an audience who might never have seen it will have a chance to discover it, and be swept away by its odd charm and the complete unwillingness to compromise that allowed Sim to take his book in a direction that a no mainstream publisher would have understood.

And yes, he's crazy now. But even his misogyny and homophobia and Bible-thumping aren't anything like anyone else's versions of the same. Dave Sim believes that the Bible secretly depicts a war between two gods, one male and one female, for control of the human race, and he spent several issues of the comic doing an exegesis on the Torah to explain his theories (helped by a cartoon Woody Allen). Which is to say that his own descent into madness, depicted in vivid detail in the pages of his comic, is one of the most fascinating things I've ever read.

And if we really get all the back matter, we'll get a digital version of his long diatribe criticizing Scott McCloud for being into digital comics back in the day. And won't that be nicely ironic?

On the comiXology Podcast Again

So I'm once again talking about comic books in the comiXology podcast! This time around we talk about Brian K. Vaughan's fantastic new series Saga, America's Got Powers, Batwoman, Secret, Grimjack (one of my old favorites), and Ultimates 1 & 2. Have a listen.

Eric Again on the comiXology Podcast

I've made my third appearance on the comiXology podcast, talking about some wonderfully hallucinogenic comics like Orc Stain and Hats, as well as Wonder Woman, Hotwire, X-Statix and more. Have a listen if you're interested in comic books at all.

Manga, Anime, Sexuality and Japanese Culture

I originally posted a shorter version of this on my writing blog, but I thought I'd cross post it here where there's more readers because I kind of want people's reaction to it. That is, I want people who may have more experience with this stuff to tell me where I'm wrong and where I'm right.

I've been thinking about manga and anime recently. Sex is usually handled so weirdly. It's like, people either seem to have no sexuality at all unless they're creepy perves (Bleach, Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, Cowboy Bebop) despite everyone being highly sexualized in appearance, the sexuality is buried underneath constantly thwarted romantic lines to bubble up suppressed (Maison Ikkoku), the sexuality is amped up beyond reason but the "good" protagonists still feel kind of ashamed and embarrassed about it (Demon King Daimao, FLCL), or it's flat out porn (Hentai) where everyone just wants to have sex all the time (but often still feel ashamed and embarrassed about it, though the treatment of sexuality in Hentai porn could be a whole study in itself, which I'm sure someone must have done). Granted, these are all "light" anime (except for the porn) aimed at teenagers, but even more adult works like 20th Century Boys don't seem to portray healthy sexual relationships between consenting adults (or teens), at least between those who haven't been married for a while already. To be fair, I haven't made a study of it, and this is all anecdotal evidence based on the manga and anime I've been exposed to, but it says something weird to me about Japanese culture.

It also makes me think of the Murakami books I've read where people don't really date. It's like there's only three kinds of relationships in Japanese culture, you're either a one-night stand in a love hotel and it's pure sex, you're in some horribly complicated and constantly thwarted romantic relationship that's never actually acknowledged or consummated, or you're married and have been married for some time. Which is really strange.

Compare, for example, these various anime/manga and the American anime-influenced Avatar: The Last Airbender (the TV series, not the execrable movie which will never be spoken of again). In that show we have a number of stable relationships, chiefly between Sokka and Suki and between Zuko and Mai (broken up only because Zuko has to go off and help the Airbender, and then rekindled at the end), and there's also the ongoing flirtation/will-they-won't-they between Aang and Katara which is never portrayed as shameful, embarrassing and never has the kind of exploitative titillation you see in Anime-- Aang never catches Katara in the shower or leers over her body in a swimsuit, for example.

If there are anime or manga that portray ongoing relationships in this way, I haven't seen them. Though I admit it's entirely possible that I just haven't found the right ones.

Larry Marder Interviewed at NYCC

An interview with Larry Marder, creator of Beanworld and former CEO of Image Comics, talks about a most peculiar comic book experience, 25 years of anthropomorphic beans and making comics vs. running a comics company.

Larry Marder's Website:

I've been a fan of Beanworld since I first discovered it as a kid, and you will not find a stranger, more giddily wonderful comic.

Holy Fuck Marvel Aquires Marvelman!

I think I've been waiting for this day for at least 15 years: Marvelman has been acquired by Marvel Comics.

A little background: Marvelman was a superhero created in England in the 1950's. In the 1980's Alan Moore revamped the character in one of his most beloved stints in comics. He later passed the book off to Neil Gaiman. Marvel Comics (who'd fought for the name Captain Marvel and won years ago, making the 1940's hero have his comics sold under the name "Shazam") sued and forbid the name "Marvelman" from being used in America, so in America the character was known as "Miracleman". But that's just the beginning of the trouble. After moving to several different publishing companies, and following the dissolution of Eclipse Comics in 1994, the ownership of the character came under dispute between Todd McFarlane, who had bought out Eclipse Comics, Neil Gaiman, who Alan Moore had given his share of the character to, and Mick Anglo, who created the character. The bottom line being that for 15 years all of Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman's Miracleman comics were out of print, and only available in rare, expensive copies sold in places like eBay. These stories had disappeared.

So, if this announcement means what it seems to mean, not only can the character go back to being Marvelman, but these books by Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman that no one's been able to read can be brought back into print.

Of course, it's possible that they just acquired the original characters and not the stories from the 80's and 90's. Also in question is whether they'll try to shoehorn the character into the Marvel Universe. Time will tell.

Why You Should Pirate

This is beautiful