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Ok, when last I left this, I was on this massive derail about art.  But the plot itself is what I want to concentrate on here.  It’s not that bad.  I’m not feeling all “whoazen this is awesome”, but neither am I gagging.  It’s just that kind of night.

The last panel I excerpted was a weird femme-fatale taking the seat next to RM on a plane he boarded.  She soon turns out to be some demon-thing, there to collect his soul.

 

 

Mitch – that’s RM – is “out of time.  This comes into play later in the issue, as another bounty hunter attempts to catch and de-soul him.  The plane crashes after demon-thing #1 and Mitch battle in the sky, and he has yet more blood on his hands.

Remember the “looks like a different comic” thing from last RM post?  Of course you don’t, but bear with me.  After Mitch melts away post-crash (his new power apparently being that of embodying grief), we cut back to the morgue he work up in initially.  Two costumed women are holding up the morgue, interrogating the workers, looking for “John Doe” – guess who.

Annnnnd then we’re back to the forest to see Mitch pursued by another bounty-hunter, this time disguised as a firefighter.

 

Note the freaky eyes and blood-drop mark on the cheek.  Also, note the “basement office” being interested.  HA!  GET IT?  BASEMENT OFFICE!  HELLZ, YO!

I’m cranky tonight, so I’m just going to break it down plainly:  character has ability to reincarnate, is pursued by demons, there’s lots of fallout.  If I was in a better mood, I’m sure I’d be more interested.  It’s the first issue – maybe they just needed the time/space to do groundwork.  I’m just not terribly invested at the moment.  Which could very well be me more than anything.  But there you have it – a kind of “meh” reading from the new reader.

Any literature is a hightly subjective experience, with the author(s) and all of their ideas, influences, and references talking to the ideas, memories, influences, etc. in the readers’ heads.  There’s so much chatter that sometimes the text* itself may get lost in the shuffle.  Therefore, sometimes one has to toss a text aside, or reread it at a later date.  One could always just plod along and keep an open mind, as I will be doing when I look at issue 2.

 

*”text” – whoa, see what I did there?  I just laid some lit-major speak on you!

Elusive, indeed.

Yes, yes, the “I’m sorry I haven’t posted” post.  I hate these, swore I’d never do one, but here I am, AGAIN!

I’ve not forgotten my little blog here, I’d just been really, really wrapped up with life stuff.  So I’m firing up the comics viewer again and see what I can judge.

Bewbs

This is one of my pet peeves.  The human breast is not a mysterious organ, it does not have a strange shape, and it is not complicated to reproduce in visual arts.  Even when you take into account the myriad variations in human anatomy.

So why, WHY have *centuries* of artists given us gravity-defying, physics-mocking, unfleshly apparatus?

This is nothing new, and certainly nothing unique to comics.  For instance, see this 15th century painting of the Madonna del Latte (as in the Breastfeeding Madonna – there’s a whole tradition of religious art centered around this act) by Jean Fouquet

A lot of the anatomy is weird there, and none of the figures look particularly real, but what the hell is going on with the Madonna’s bosoms?!  A bizarre flaw in an otherwise cool picture.

Maybe it’s discomfort with sexuality, or flesh, or humanity itself – Catholicism has never fully come to terms with the reality of bodies.  And yet, look at those lush colors, the folds of the Madonna’s cloak and the baby Christ’s blanket – and those pearls on the throne!  Clearly, someone loves life here! But this all goes pear shaped at the Madonna’s breasts.  Or rather, orange-shaped.

If we can go back even farther for some chestacular weirdness, I give you the Venus of Willendorf!

This figure dates to about 22-24,000 BCE.  You’ve probably seen it or versions of it.  Now that I look at it again, the Venus’ breasts aren’t that odd. They are closer to a certain variety of human breast.  The weirdness – for a modern viewer – comes from their prominence.  I’m not an archaeologist, so I can’t conjecture professionally why the figure has the proportions it does.  One of my favorite theories comes from Timothy Taylor’s The Prehistory of Sex, if memory serves.  He thought that possibly a woman sculpted our Venus, and other similar ones, because in those days before mirrors, one could only see one’s own body by looking down.  And, if a woman looks down, she can’t see her own head, but she will see her bosom, her belly (if it’s prominent, maybe the tops of her thighs, or mons, and way down there her feet, which will look very little compared to whatever is closest to her eyes.  I like this theory, as the vast swath of art history has long groaned under the mistaken presumption that most art was made by men.  The fact is that women have been making art all along, it just wasn’t recognized.  So why not have paleolithic women sculptors?

So there’s two perspectives on breasts in visual representation.  Now let’s look at fashion, the art and history we put on each day.  Tuppence Ha’penny’s blog has a wonderful history of undergarments and their oscillation between concealing and emphasizing human breasts.  When you scroll really fast, it makes it look like human beings are awfully uncomfortable about breasts.  First they need to be concealed, then revealed, then revealed with support, or only if you possess a certain shape and body type…class, sex, race, everything is played out on womens’ chests!

Anyone else a Bettie Page fan?  Ever notice the shape of her lingere (as if that’s the point…bear with me)?  Anyone remember Madonna’s infamous cone bra?  The bras popular during Page’s heyday (and referenced in Madge’s 90s phase) formed the breast into a pointy, conic shape – called a “bullet bra”.  These things were blessedly replaced by rounder, more natural* shapes in bra design and garment design, generally reflecting the “standard” shape of a human breast.

*”natural” is a dangerous word when discussing body shape – I don’t use it here to indicate that one type of breast is superior to others, but that the garments now resemble the anatomical feature more, instead of an artificial shape.

The reason I have given you a short tour of breasts in art and fashion is to give you an idea of what happened more or less *before* comics.  The timeline isn’t clear cut, but I wanted to ground my complaints in something larger, so it doesn’t seem like I’m picking on the genre or any artists.
I can accept a lot for the sake of an artistic conceit, or a droll joke, or an obscure trope only an art history nerd will get.  And I can only imagine how hard it is to produce the sheer amount of art necessary for a comic, and the speed at which the artistic team must work to get the issues out.

That being said, I still take offense at poor anatomy.  And I’m not talking a small mistake, or a sour note in a really hard piece of anatomy.  As I said at the start of this post, breasts in all their forms are not that hard to figure out.  They obey certain rules of physics as the woman moves her body.  This is not rocket science.  Look at anatomy models, other artists’ nude studies, or, hell, even porn.  There’s no excuse to get something relatively basic this wrong:

That’s not the worst I’ve seen, being familiar with Escher Girls and the like.  But this figure cheesed me off because it could have been so much better.

Also, the reason I have harped on “bewbs” so much is that they are not just another part of the body – they are highly symbolic.  And, you might have heard, somewhat popular.  Not taking the time to observe and replicate how female bodies move in space (tough as that is to do in 2D) reads as sexist.  If there was a long-standing tradition of well-crafted, realistically drawn female/feminine bodies in comics, this wouldn’t be as big a deal.  But as a reader, it telegraphs that a collection of parts is “good” enough – which strikes me as both sexist and disrespectful to hardworking artists.

And you know that I’d be saying the same damn thing if I had been around to see the Fouquet Madonna unveiled :)

The fact is, I’ve been wrapped up with offline stuff, and by the time I get home, I’m beat!  I’m still working on things, don’t you worry!

 

 

 

Resurrection Man

Ok, so new comic, I’m going to try a new format, one that will help me get posts out faster and more regularly.  I’m going to devote one post to one or two major points.  So an issue may be spread out over several posts.  Alternatively, if a comic bores me, I will have to spend less time on it.  Let’s see how this goes, folks!

 

So, Resurrection Man.  The team this time is Dan Abnett, Andy Lenning, and Fernando Dagnino, and company.  The issue is titled “Pronounced Dead”  I havenever heard of the character before, so this will be a treat.  Mr. Elusive New Reader tells me that Resurrection Man (RM hereafter)’s thing is that he can’t die, and comes back with a new and different power each time.  I told Mr. ENR to not spill the beans further, so that’s where he stopped.  So I have some idea of what’s going on, but not much.

The issue opens with RM rebooting in a morgue and stealing an attendant’s clothes/ATM card to catch a plane, not really knowing why he’s on the run.  What captured me first is this, though, this image:

That center panel…I know now it’s a teddy bear,  but my first thought was “wtf fetuses?”   Look really fast…doesn’t it look like a shower of fetii?

Anyway, moving on. I want to know what is going on in this panel.

Ok, ArtPick.  #1, the chronology of the action is unclear.  Usually, you can kind of tell the flow of a scene by the panels and inserts, even if they’re a bit scattered on the page.  The blue rectangle in the upper left – it’s not immediately clear that it’s a previous scene.  Upon re-reviewing, it’s RM as seen from the outside of the plane.  But the main action of the panel is RM checking this woman “Sue” out.

She’s #2.  The hell is going on this with this figure.  Let me break this down:

2a.  Her face.  What is with her face? The expression is unclear, the features don’t recall any natural human face….RM’s heavily stylized too, but he’s about the same size as her in this panel, and he gets a facial expression.  2b: her shoulders aren’t working, unless she is several smaller bodies put together.  Where’s her left arm, on the seatback, coming from?  Even if someone’s really posing, the eye expects to see both joints/sets of limbs.

2c: her bust.  It’s apparently important to show that ZOMG SHE’S NOT WEARING A BRA!!1!   OK, fine, whip ‘em out if you must, but pleae look at how actual breasts behave in actual postures.  She’s missing a breast. Props to them if they’re trying to make some sort of post-mastectomy empowerment statement, but the simpler explanation is simply laziness.  This pisses me off.  In fact, I am already planning a separate post about breast-related oddities in art.  I know you all are just anxious for that!

2d: her right hand.  Look at that thumb.  She’s not in the foreground enough to warrant that kind of distortion.  It doesn’t look related to her other hand, which has little, splintery fingers.  Lastly, 2e: someone please tell me where her hips are.  Even in a very slender figure, you will still see hips.  They are undeniable, a fact about human anatomy.  Whither did they go?  And I’m not even taking about *flesh* here, just evidence of bones and musculature that one would normally see on a grown woman.  Look. At. Actual. Women. Please.

Turns out that Sue is some sort of demon-type thing that is trying to collect RM’s soul.  She changes form, which still doesn’t forgive the art.  They do battle, but not before ripping the plane apart and killing everyone.

RM resurrects in the wreckage with the power to turn into water.  There’s another demon-thing after him, in the guise of a firefighter, with the same red tear mark as “Sue” above.  There’s also a pair of ladies that are searching for RM, using the wonderful tactic of taking hostages at the morgue and killing one.

I won’t spend as much time griping about the art (and I do have gripes).  But I will point this out.  The two seem to not be in the same comic:

 

 

Is it me or does the style on both figures look different?  Am I seeing things?

I’ll be back again shortly with not just the Boob Post, but the rest of RM!   And off I go!!!!

 

Do I not have the nicest spam bots in the whole internet?  Awwww!

 

 

I’m only doing 1-5 of the reboot, on account of the fact that I have other things to do, and that I want to get to a lot of these titles.  So let’s dive in.

Artists, I’ve been largely with you so far, but there’s better ways to show a figure leaping into action, from a significant height.  What am I looking at, besides BG’s bits?  Please, please tell me that’s not the whole point of that angle?  I know just enough anatomy to have an idea of how the body moves around, and I can kind of project a bunch of appropriate postures for diving.  All that I project from this angle is a big *KEE-RUNCH* and a horrible death.  I figured you’re trying to compete with the  increasingly exotic camera angles found in cinema, but those seen devolve into self parody.  And they don’t  translate well to a 2-D surface.

Also, would we be seeing a male superhero spread eagled?  (outside of really specific markets, that is)  Ah, I thought not.

I’m going to progress onto something I don’t think I’ve commented on before, the title of the issue.  #5 is “A Candy Full of Spiders”.  Which helps me not.  Perhaps either “candy” or “spiders” will come into play in the next 20 odd pages.

So, in BG’s monologue, she plays off the words “survivor” and “avenger” from the intro page of the Strangely Specific Posture.  We find out the nature of her “miracle”, some sort of procedure:

She’s after a new villain, or rather villains, this time namely the Whittaker mob, who have apparently taken to carjacking/mugging/randomly terrorizing the motorists on the bridge.   For sums of $3.38.  This is some sort of reference from older issues, so I’ll just roll with it for now.

The Whittakers are dispatched, except for the father, who is dangling off the bridge by his ankle.  BG tries to pull him up, and Gretel enters the battle.  Gretel?  I don’t know either!  The cover mentions the name, but after the entire fight/exchange, I’ve got nothing.  They battle, BG gets the crap beat out of her, does the same to Gretel, nothing sticking in my head too much until this:

“A heroin addict”?  That is one of the weirdest descriptions yet.  That’s just odd.  Gretel stops whaling on BG and pulls some sort of blowup doll face, with what I sincerely hope is just condensed breath coming out her mouth.  What the hell’s going in on this panel?

Moving on, I want to point out that amid the weirdness, there’s something really refreshing.  The couple held up by the Whittakers are Muslim:

I have trouble recalling a lot of positive (or even neutral) images of Muslims in pop culture.  Apparently it’s still a big stumbling block for American media.  But let me progress before I go into a late-night rant about the lingering racism of US pop culture and stereotypes.

Weird art persists, since the man looses his face:

Did y’all just get tired of drawing?  You gave the dude bulging thighs in the previous panel, but now he’s just sort of melty?

The Whittaker/338 thing seems to give way to an anti-gentrification message, a critique of urban renewal, if you will.  What tipped me off, you ask?

Ahhh, there, on the broad side of the barn, the subtext!  Soooo, we’re going to be having some sort of theme on gentrification, that most complicated of issues.  Except we’re not, since we interrupt the action for a few pages on BG’s estranged mother and their massively awkward meeting.

I know I keep griping about the art, but I’m starting to wonder what was going on, face-wise.  Recurring characters look pretty different and I’m only 5 issues in.  For instance, this is apparently Batgirl:

BG is staring down her mother, refusing to invite her into the apartment.  Alysia and McKenna also seem to be magically shape shifting beings:

McKenna, issue 1, and again in #5, which I actually see as something of an improvement:

And Alysia in issue 1, vs issue 4:

“I’ve lost a lot of personality from my own face, and I’m fine with that!”

Ok…art is not the easiest of things.  Artists work their tails off more than many people think, especially artists on deadlines, such as comic artists.   I would like to observe, however, that these little twiddles over hair, strange foreshortening, or faces all add up to feel a bit rushed.  I don’t know what these characters were before the reboot, but I’m getting the sense that the whole “movement” was pushed through before it was ready.  I’m only 5 issues in, I didn’t expect to see esthetic issues like this.  Perhaps someone who’s more familiar with the scene can explain some of this to me.

Back to the story:  Occupy hasn’t escaped the writers’ notice:

As a culture, the US is nowhere near being able to provide a calm, historical analysis of Occupy.  We won’t be for a long time, and that’s a good thing.  But we shouldn’t resist the urge to get a little meta now and again.  Ahh, what does “Occupy Gotham” say to me as a reader, other than the foreshadowing to a story arc?

As a relative newbie to all this, I am still struck by representations of “Gotham” in the American fantasy-scape, and it’s real life “equivalent” of NYC.  NYC/Gotham act as a repository for all fears and fantasies about big ol’ east coast cities – crime, seediness, urban blight, whatever nightmares you want to conjure, whatever shadow selves of “heartland” need exorcism, it’s all in here.   In the last few years, the ideas of “real America” and “heartland” have really taken off in US political discourse, so an Northeast coast dweller (a la me!) is left wondering where precisely the country begins and ends….am I living in “real” America?  Is my life, within a stone’s throw of big “scary” cities with hugely diverse populations and busy urban cultures “American” enough?

What about Occupy, that most divisive of movements?  It’s complex enough to someone living near what were main centers of Occupations – what did that all look like to those living in other areas of the country?  Surburban, rural, industrial, or cosseted elite communities?  There’s no monolithic “American” experience, no matter what our media would have you believe.  What happens when you insert the still-jumbled experience of occupy into the dream factory of a comic book?  What, if anything, does that pile of signs mean?  A fist-bump from the authors?  Or will this ultimately end up being a critique of grassroots movements?
Gotham, on page and screen is nothing but a series of sharp dichotomies, a chiaroscuro of wildly wealthy and dismally excluded.  Ok, fine, that’s what makes it “gothic”!  In real life, in the history of NYC alone, that was the norm for ages.  See “the Gilded Age” or “How the Other Half Lives” or similar topics.  I’m certain I’m missing something, but I’m going to go ahead and say that one just doesn’t see a middle class much in Gotham unless they are a temporarily imperiled family.  (Does the Gordon family count?)  Occupy was/is, among other things, about evening the field so we don’t have to have such sharp, dangerous divisions between rich and poor.

This issue dates to March 2012, so it’s far, far too soon for me to get a bead on what the writers/artists may be saying about Occupy.  But it’s a fun line of questions to dither over.  I might follow the rest to see where that thread went, if anywhere.

The idea of Gotham, the collection of symbol and anxiety, is fascinating enough on its own!  Despite not living in an urban environment, I’m fascinated by cities-as-characters, thanks to never fully recovering from reading Calvino. :)

So, enough woolgathering for now…back to the comic.  BG watched a news broadcast covering Occupy Gotham’s displeasure at Bruce Wayne’s project of “urban renewal”, which might explain Gretel (Gretel’s going to need a lot of explanation before I’m interested or happy).  We “cut” to Wayne, who appears to be fastening a tie to his chin:

BG gets a hunch that Wayne’s in peril, and for reasons we still don’t know the number “338″ is involved.  Somehow.  It seems to be some sort of trigger, since Wayne’s driver starts saying it before attempting to beat the crap out of Wayne:

And Wayne does the same before attempting to beat the crap out of BG:

And this Gretel is somehow pulling strings:

All will become clear, I presume, in issue 6.

Final note:   The “new” Batgirl doesn’t seem too shabby, though, but I’ve kept my expectations on neutral for this project.  I will say this, though:  I had to push myself to finish as I went along.  I don’t know how much of that is summer ennui, or how much is plotting/pacing but I am feeling a plod.

Let’s hope the next selection sucks horribly, so I don’t have to be nearly as even tempered next entry!

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Writing 2012

The Atheist Conspiracy

A compendium of evil conspiracies from the Pacific Southwest. Or Northwest, if you're American.

obgothic

Ignite the flame that will help you guide your way through the darkness and return with a story to tell.

The Elusive New Reader

She is out there. Judging you.

Ray Ferrer - Emotion on Canvas

** OFFICIAL Site of Artist Ray Ferrer **

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