If you don’t know about Don Markstein’s Toonopedia, you should go to there. How else are you supposed to know that Dagwood was born into a wealthy family and shunned because he loved and married the working-class Blondie Boopadoop? How else are you supposed to know she’s Blondie nee Boopadoop? Or that Thurston Howell voiced Dagwood’s boss in the ’60s? Go there. Go there now.
As you might recall, I really liked the social justice superheroics of Action Comics #1. Last night, I finally got around to reading Superman #1, Batman #1, and The Flash #1 and wanted to share my thoughts.
Superman #1: Very ambitious. We have the struggles of new vs. old media, the problems with media conglomerates in general, Superman as guardian of the past, Clark Kent rejecting a sweet cable news deal because 1) he despises cable news and 2) millions of people would see his face every day, like, forever, a Perry White full of vim and vigor, saying “let’s show them the hard-hitting analysis that only print can deliver!” A lot of things like that, which I eat. right. up. The conflict between Supes and the actually “villain” of the arc wasn’t as interesting to me, but I do like the fact that the book serves as a one-shot while giving us the seeds of some classic arcs. Clark loves Lois like Dobie Gillis loved Tuesday Weld. And there’s even a young (much nicer) Warren Beatty type between them.
Unfortunately, the content of Clark’s exclusive story about Superman and the big incident, which we get in caption boxes, doesn’t feel like the front-page work of a great reporter. I’m eager to give George Perez the BOD on this because 1) I’m a writer, and yeah, it’s freaking hard, and 2) he’s George Perez. Maybe Clark’s unpolished style is part of his cover? There’s also a very strange crossover page from Stormwatch that makes Ben 10 look like Beowulf.
Overall, a good read with a lot of interesting things to say in the first half about history, time, urban renewal, economic decay. I want to give it a 7 out of 10, but Action was so good, Superman feels more like a 6.5. I’m conflicted. I’ll go 7. That seems high on a ten-point scale, but not as good when you think about it as a percentage and covert that to an an academic grade. (This is why I blog).
Batman #1: The best of the bunch. Bruce’s new contact lens tech is great, the Batcave looks great, and the internal monologue that stitches most of the story together is top-notch. Bruce’s love for Gotham, and his investment in its future, could be a template for the philosophies of hope surrounding some very pressing real-world reclamation projects. He exudes a strong ethos, suggesting that forward-thinking and risk-taking for the common good are moral virtues. I’m not saying this was a civics lessons disguised as a comic book, but it was uplifting and hopeful. Not something you tend to expect from a Bat-book. And did you notice that I keep saying “Bruce”? That’s an effect of good writing and successful character development in a matter of pages. This still isn’t a book for kids, as a crime scene near the end (central to the hook for issue 2) reminds us. If you’re looking for a Batman title for younger readers, The Brave and The Bold is good if you don’t mind mostly slap-stick violence.
Flash #1: There’s a very special place in my heart for the Flash. But my Flash is and always will be Wally West. Jay Garrick is my second favorite. That’s not a comment on my feelings about Baby Boomers in general…Wally is the Flash I grew up with, an imperfect hero struggling with all kinds of emotional issues and mentored by an icon from the Golden Age. What’s not to love? I totally get that Wally’s favorite Flash is his uncle, original mentor, and former partner, Barry Allen. I totally understand the overwhelming sense of loss that pervades Wally’s Flashness, especially in the 90s, is what makes his character so compelling. I also love that he’s a screw up. I’m not 100 percent sure where he’ll shake out in the new DCU, but I hope there’s a prominent place for him. I hope he’s not de-aged like all the Robins, but I suppose he has to be if Barry and Iris aren’t married yet.
Onto the Barry-centric book at hand. Loved the splash page. Captured the Silver Age feel that brought us Barry in the first place. The story moved quickly (ha) and ended on a cliff-hanger that has me interested. It felt like a younger read, something akin to those titles from DC’s early-90’s Impact line. (The Fly was my favorite). Since Impact was meant to introduce new, mostly younger readers to old characters at an accessible level and the reboot is meant to do the same, mission accomplished. The Flash has always been one of the most kid-friendly of the major DC heroes (emotional issues that we adults love aside), and I think that will continue.
It was a fun read, which is the point of a Barry book. I don’t like the new suit. Too panel-y.
Flavorwire has a list of the 30 Harshest Author-on-Author Insults inHistory up today.
Two of the first three don’t feel like insults at all:
Wouldn’t you love to be called a “large shaggy dog just unchained scouring the beaches of the world and baying at the moon” by RLS? I for sure would.
Nietzsche’s aphorism about Dante is hysterical even if you think he’s wrong. It’s also brilliant. And now, aren’t you thinking about how awesome it would be to write poetry on tombs? I for sure am. With the transcendent, absurd, holy, trippy joy through which I assume hyenas experience the world? Yes, please!
Speaking of Nietzsche, have you experienced Nietzsche Family Circus? It takes a random Family Circus panel and pairs it with a random Nietzsche quote. When you get results like the one below, you start to question if the whole thing isn’t rigged:
And then you keep clicking, only to watch Billy whispering into Jeffy’s ear that eventually the abyss will stare back into him (this while they’re watching their mother, Thel, playing with baby PJ) or telling Thel that God is dead. Dolly’s “why” for living is a pair of giant sunglasses. Jeffy levels some pretty hard charges against the Keane regime, and then this, which cracks me up:
It turns out that Family Circus + Nietzsche = Calvin and Hobbes.
If you’re here to read about the DC Comics reboot, you probably already know the news that’s come out since my last Titans post:
Bart Allen is Kid Flash (good).
Red Robin’s feather-cape lets him glide (okay, but from what does he propel?)
Red Robin has a jet-pack (oh, that’s right. So it’s not like the old Spidey cartoons where Spidey is just shooting up webs in the middle of fields and spiriting away after IceMan and Firestar).
The girl with the Feral hair is being called Bug Girl in promotional convos by the creators, but I don’t think that’s her real name. Now, your Daily Cocca thinks all the hatred going Bug’s way is pretty strong tea, but I’d be lying if I said my first impression of this character wasn’t “1993 called, in bad way.”
Now for the newish image, which you may have already seen elsewhere but I completely missed:
S-boy’s gloves are an intentional homage to the character’s 1990s origin. I guess that’s cool, even if it’s superfluous. The modern Superboy didn’t really come into his own until the last decade and the fashion sensibilities that came with it. Note to DC: Black t-shirts and blue jeans will probably always be cool. I’m not sure about the muscle shirt here. I want to commit to hating it.
Red Robin joins Bart in the shoulder-insignia club. Maybe Tim’s does something.
From June 4, 2011. I don’t think Project: Rooftop updates very often, but with the Aquaman movie coming out soon, this post is picking up some steam.
I recently concluded my MFA studies at The New School. Apart from doing a creative thesis, I had one personal goal during my time at TNS, and that was to meet Tim Gunn or Heidi Klum. I’m sorry to say that I failed in that endeavor. I’m even sorrier to say I didn’t really try. But I did see Chris March and Michael Musto on my first day in the City. March walked past me in Chelsea, and Musto was riding a bike in Midtown. Some of my friends from the program have Michael Khors stories from the nights I didn’t go to Cafe Loupe. Alas.
Yes, I watch Project Runway with my wife, and yes, I’m an even bigger fan of On The Road With Austin and Santino than she is. You also know that I’m a comic book nerd and a nut for sports uniform minutiae. Put all of these things together to understand my love of Project: Rooftop. Warning: If you’re like me (that is, if you’re even still reading this post) you could easily sink a few hours into this site. The premise is sublime: brilliant artists enter contests to redesign famous characters, and we all get to see the fruits of their labors and hope someone in editorial at Marvel or DC draft some of these folks for some serious work.
I said yesterday that the animated Batman: The Brave and The Bold version of Aquaman is my favorite incarnation of the character. No doubt. Second place is the nineties version. But check out this redesign by Otoniel Oliveira:
Nevermind that this is exactly what I expect to look like when all the ice caps melt, this is just a pretty awesome-looking dude. Aquaman can be cool. Fine, fine, it’s mostly the hair and beard I’m digging. You get the point.
I also wanted to share this next picture of Aquaman as a hipster by Yasmin Liang:
The reboot in question is 2011’s New 52. A lot has changed since then, but a lot of this still holds up. From 2011:
I’m just going to go ahead and be a nerd here for a few minutes. DC Comics is renumbering three-quarters of their titles with 52 new Issue #1’s staggered weekly beginning August 31. That’s essentially a reboot, right? DC honchos are calling it a new point of entry for a new generation of readers, which makes sense given the massive platforms offered by the popularity of superhero movies and merchandising.
Fine. Actually, more than fine. I think it’s a great idea. A lot of fanboys think it’s long overdue after the almost-reboots of the last few years, but I think the timing is perfect. I think it’s great and I look forward to it. It might get me to start subscribing to a few regular titles again, which would be a lot of fun (especially since I have a vintage grocery store comics rack that I can’t fit my bagged and boarded 90’s books in). What I’m not so sure about is the new Justice League roster (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern Hal Jordan, Aquaman, and … Cyborg?)
I’m always of the opinion that the Justice League should be Superman, Batman, The Flash, Wonder Woman, a Green Lantern, and Aquaman. I left out Green Arrow. Maybe I shouldn’t have. Is he iconic? Green Arrow is on the bubble, like the letter y. He’s a legacy character with classic runs in the 70s, and he’s the team’s resident dissident/progressive. He’s the League’s only bow-and-arrow guy, so there’s that. But he’s not an archetype like the Big Three, and he doesn’t stand in for great elemental and cosmic forces (Aquaman, Flash, Green Lantern). The same’s true for Cyborg, and so I’m conflicted. Nothing against Vic, but neither his history nor his skill-set seem to bring something essential, or quintessential, to the team.
I know without Vic, the team is all-white, and I don’t think that’s acceptable. Who’s the most iconic of all the non-white characters in the DCU? John Stewart as the Green Lantern? Absolutely. He was the best character on the the animated Justice League series not named Batman (sorry, John, but Bats will always be my favorite), and, truth be told, he carried the show and the team. Justice League established him in popular media as a quintessential character to the JL mythos, and it wasn’t because of his green ring. It was because of how awesome, conflicted, and noble he was. What does Hal Jordan really bring to the table? I know, I know, he’s the Silver Age original, but while he was away, John Stewart became the definitive Green Lantern for me, even as Wally West became the Flash. Sorry, but that’s just how I see it. Somewhere, someone is saying “what about Kyle Rayner?” Exactly. Loved him. Haven’t thought about him in years.
I’d bump Hal and Cyborg and sign John up in a heartbeat, if he’d take the job. If DC is also hoping to skew younger with the Cyborg character (he’s historically been cast as younger than the DCU’s banner heroes), what about Static? Isn’t his full inclusion in the top narratives of the DCU long overdue? Wouldn’t putting Static in the JLA add some much-needed youth and also be a more-than-fitting tribute to the late Dwayne McDuffie? No one else pictured above has Static’s elemental kind of powers. There’s a fast guy, a strong girl, a strong guy, a dark avenger guy, a mystical space military guy, a water guy. Where’s the electric guy? Static to the Justice League the second I’m in the door at Editorial. (Also, Pete Rose to the Hall of Fame).
All of this still leaves us with a relatively undiverse grouping, but it’s a step in the right direction. Where’s Martian Manhunter, by the way? I know he’s dead in current continuity, and I’m guessing that he’ll appear later in the series like he did way back when in the original. Speaking of which, I know that Supes and Batman weren’t part of the old league back in the day, but whatever. I’m writing about comic books so I get to say that.
On to my second issue. It has to do with costumes. Wonder Woman’s change is long overdue, but they should have kept some yellow. Black threads on a color palette that doesn’t historically have them are gimmicky in baseball and gimmicky in comics. Aquaman looks great, which is sometimes hard for Aquaman to do. This look honors his history even as the military collar recalls his finest hours as my harpoon-handed beard-twin. (His current incarnation on Batman: The Brave and The Bold is brilliant and my undeniable favorite). The Flash has those weird piping lines on his cowl, which is to be expected with these kind of reboots. If you look closely, Batman probably has them, too, and his gauntlets are more modular and armor-like. Fine, though I like a cleaner cowl for Batman. Flash’s chin thing is meant to make his ensemble look younger, hipper. Fine.
But sweet Siegel and Shuster, where on Krypton are Superman’s red briefs? What’s with the bishop/general collar? I only just now noticed the blue on blue gauntlet piping and red sleeve trim. Is that a red belt? I can only imagine what his boots look like. This feels a lot like the future version of Superman that Connor Kent/Superboy became a while back in Teen Titans. I thought then that the evolution of this look might work over time, but this seems so sudden, so…drastic. This is Superman we’re talking about. I know he’s been changed in varying degrees over the years, but the late Golden Age and Silver Age look has been kept largely intact until now. The lack of briefs is shocking, but the collar bugs me most. It looks way too Zod for Kal. And now that I’ve lost most of my regular readers, I bid you a fond “till next time!”
A few months into any Golden Age comic book archive, you’ll come across the origin story of the title’s featured character. Blogging, really, should be no different. Comics emerged from the frenetic, sensationalist media of the early 1900s, and blogs emerged from the frenetic, media-saturated lives of people living on the other side of a century that saw the best and worst communications innovations in human history.
Chriscocca.com started as christophercocca.wordpress.com in January of 2007. I used the Hemingway theme, and the goal was very simple: I wanted a place to share my publishing news. I was submitting to online and print journals for the first time and had some very early success at those venues (Geez, Brevity, and elimae being the most notable). Eventually I started blogging about craft, which really means I blogged about instinct. One thing I knew for certain was that there were still way too many people using way too many adverbs. To wit, a post from November, 2007, currently in the classified archives:
I hate adverbs. I loved them as a clever little kid, but that was before (insert your own defining literary experience here). Except joyfully, and only when used in reference to the way Uncle Feather flew around Fudge’s house and pissed off Fudge’s family.
I should say about word here about Uncle Feather. When I was 10 or so, my dad helped me write a book report about Superfudge, and we had a good laugh describing UF’s manic flight around the Hatcher kitchen with the world joyfully. First of all, joyfully is a pretty funny word, not because joy is funny, but because it’s kind of one of those words you save for big, important experiences. The thought that a myna bird would do anything joyfully cracked me up. Also, visualizing a myna bird joyfully flying around a room while exasperated keepers try in vain to bring him down, well, I don’t care how old you are, that’s a) hilarious and b) extremely gratifying.
I was writing a lot of terse, evocative microfiction in 2007, and my blogging style from those days reflects that. Eventually, I developed a fuller style, but it was still a very at-arm’s length approach. I don’t think I blogged for fun, even when I was blogging a lot about things that were important to me. But I suppose I thought writing wasn’t supposed to be much fun, either. I mean, this is serious business, after all, and I didn’t want people thinking I was some lamebrain goofball blogging about episodes of LOST and He-Man. My, how things have changed.
My love/hate relationship with blogging in this space went on and on and on. Last year I took a big long break to focus solely on my fiction, and I think was a good move for a few reasons: 1) It gave me time for fiction and 2) it separated me from the constant head-checking I was doing before every click of the WordPress publish button. I needed to get out of my head and into my gut, and I needed to say what I needed to say in ways that weren’t so tied up in my own personal narrative. There were great discussions happening on the blog by then, but all of the sudden I knew that if I was going to dedicate the kind of time and mental energy that a book would require, I was no longer going to be blogging about the ontological grounding of being (okay, okay, it’s God) for a while.
This year, I lightened up. I don’t know exactly why or how, but I have a few guesses. One thing I know for sure is that I started blogging more as soon as I finally designed a banner I really, really liked. When I started playing with the images and thinking of what to call this new welling up of whimsy, The Daily Cocca popped up from the suppressed creative places I’d been trying to cram other projects into. Simple as it sounds, a new banner and new layout energized me to have fun with content, to get out on the WordPress ecosystem and to make connections. Specifically, the picture of me as kid really makes me happy. Look at that smile. That kid is happy, fun-loving, and full of a million crazy ideas. That’s the kid who had the messiest effing desk you’ve ever seen, sloppy handwriting, poor time-management and every other awesome thing no one should really have to worry about as long as they’re young enough to wear a clip-on tie. Seriously, what was the deal with the clean desk obsession? If my desk could close, it’s none of your business. If it can’t close, give me a minute. No, no, I left that book at home. You should be happy…it’s not cluttering up my desk.
Side note: One time in elementary school the teacher was going on and on about something, and I started drawing awesome totem-pole-like doodles up and down the margins of my notebook. This was in a pretty early grade. We passed the books in and I didn’t think anything of it. A few days later, the teacher called me in from recess to talk to me about my doodles. I thought she was going to say how cool they were. Instead, she made me stay inside and erase every single one. I didn’t realize then what I stifling act of idiocy this was. I knew she was being stupid, but I didn’t relate it to this whole idea of feeling like you have to parse your creative side and intellectual side until recently. So let the 31 year-old speak now for the 8-year old who only wanted to draw comic books or play baseball for a living: hey, any grown-up who cares more about order than innovation, more about clean lines and desks than creativity, compassion, nurturing, sustainability and raising up kids into whole people: not cool.
Yeah, so the messy desk thing is sort of mantra for me in this sense: it means be who you are in each of the ways that matter. Write your fiction and your poetry as starkly (adverb!) or as richly (stop it!) as you want, and do your blog whichever way feels right. People are complicated, people have different interests, different modes, different ways of communicating in different circumstances and for different reasons. Why should you or I be any different?
Yesterday, I linked to a post on BookMunch about Stuart Murdoch’s new book of blogs. Will Fitzpatrick says that while Murdoch’s art is “existentialism through fiction, allowing his characters to project his worries and fears that maybe this life isn’t all we want it to be…. his blogs, on the other hand, are much more confident. Murdoch still tells stories, of course, varying from taking pictures for Belle & Sebastian album sleeves to his opinions on the Olympics. But this time, he’s the focal point. And he turns out to be much funnier and more confident than you might have imagined. That’s not to say that he’s arrogant; he’s still self-deprecating at times, but it comes from a man much more comfortable with his own sense of self than his lyrics would suggest.” Despite being a big fan of Stuart’s music, I’ve never read his blog. But it sounds perfect, doesn’t it? Since about the beginning of the year I have had this new, strange confidence in my voice as a blogger, separate and distinguishable from my voice as a writer of fiction or literary nonfiction. The realization that we’re allowed to speak in many voices compels us, I think, to start.
I’ve never had this much fun blogging, and I’ve never been this productive at it. I owe much of this to my teachers and peers in my MFA program, to the kid in the picture, to my messy desk, and to everyone who reads The Daily Cocca, everyone who comments, Jay and future guest posters/contributors, and all of you folks on WordPress I continue to connect with. Thank you!