Comics Bimonthly #1 – May, June 2021

My first try with the Monthly Reads series has been a success. People have in fact read it contrary to expectations, and I discovered that it allows me a couple of things: mainly of hinting at elements of a story which I found notable but not so big as to justify an entire post, and of spreading the name of contemporary counterculture writers whom I like, without posting a simple advertisement to this or that Kickstarter campaign (a thing I have nothing against, but that I want to avoid on the basis that people just look at those posts distractedly).

Now we do the same thing with comics, though once every two months because I read less comics than prose fiction.

Mark Pellegrini, Timothy Lim – Kamen America Vol. 2

It’s a shame that I start to talk about Kamen America from the second volume, given how much deserving this comic is (and its crowd-funding success speaks for it). A sapient mixing of America and Japan, the story follows the steps of Carly Vanders, as she experiences an incident that turns her into a powerful weapon. Carly will soon put her newly found powers in service for good (that is, fighting giant monsters) as Kamen America, but soon we find her struggling with the mass media system which has made an industry out of the monsters that started appearing following the same incident that gave Carly her powers.

Much of the second volume revolves around the intent of an agent to catch the public’s attention away from Carly. We already know him from Vol. 1 – he was at first Carly’s agent – and we know he is doing all he can to stop her from getting recognized as a hero. This time he comes up with a shameless clone: Kamen UN, who, for worse, is no less than an old acquantaince of Carly.

It is a funny, light-hearted comic that becomes very wholesome when things get serious, and as serious things I don’t mean vapid philosophy, but daily-life moral questions, faced with simplicity and tact. In no way the comic is preaching at you but it is rather telling a moral story so rooted in good sense that no moralizing is needed. The story talks for itself. There is very good manga-like action, both in battle scenes and gags, and the colors are one of the rare cases where digital art shines out.

I think you can either find it on Iconic Comics or by keeping an eye on Lim’s Kickstarter profile. You’ll be able to get all the episodes once another campaing starts for the following episode (Vol. 4 at the time I’m writing). Or just follow Lim and Pellegrini on Twitter.

Jesse White, Crown of Iron Part 1

As many people are starting to get acquainted with Jesse after the successful crowfunding of Deus Vult, I thought it useful to talk about this other project of his. Jesse has got his own Patreon where he monthly releases instances of two of his on-going series, in single-page format. His stories are old-school pulps in both aesthetic, structure and theme.

To my understanding, Crown of Iron is a comic rendition of the script written by John Millius (sequel to Conan the Barbarian) which never got on film. On this basis is a really interesting project but I, who was ignorant of the existence of this script, find the comic enjoyable on its own.

As stated in the title we are still on Part 1, where the story is set up. Conan meets the Frost Giant’s Daughter, who exchanges with him two promises, one about her love and the other about the son that will be conceived.

Jesse’s classical illustration style always catches the eye, with his smooth lines and the masterful craft he shows in drawing anatomy. But praiseworthy as well are his inking, that confers a dramatic feature to the comic and underlines both motion and emotion (they are an essential part of the narration), and the pacing. Both because of the single-page structure and the adherence to old-school Marvel storytelling, the comic does not waste time and space in unnecessary detail, or trying to be something it is not (another point of strength: Jesse is taking inspiration from a movie script but knows he is not making a movie), and shoots all his bullets in merciless, and enthusiastic, succession.

You can find the story on Jesse’s Patreon.

Moebius, La Citadelle Aveugle

Someone should have told Moebius that he was only good as an artist, and as regards writing a story he was less clever than he thought.

This is a collection of very short comics (variable length), written and drawn by the man himself. It spaces from traditional fantasy to science fiction to more realistic stories, from fables to erotic tales (I wasn’t aware of that, mom) to (poor) social commentary. What keeps this salad together is its least palatable characteristic: they usually end abruptly and in useless tragedy.

I love Moebius as an artist, and I reasonably knew he was not near my alley philosophically, but far from being good stories by a very different mind, the works in this collection are the epitome of hippie Boomerism in art. The most promising stories have no point, their tragic endings have no meaning. The social commentary is full of nauseating hippie takes which were frankly stupid in the ’60s already and are tasteless now to all people smart enough to have their own thought. The erotic tale featuring a teenage girl is the most forgiveable thing and that should tell you something.

Avoid this at all costs. I hope that at least L’Incal, what should be his most famous work, is way better than this.

Also I do not seem able to find an English edition for this, so you just have to trust me.

That’s it for now. This month I should be able to increase my output of posts, so stay tuned!

Quicksand Entertainment

These days, we drown in media. Pick any existing form of mainstream communication and entertainment, and you’ll find a saturated market, full of infinite crap ready to be thrown at you.

We are constantly stormed by product of bad quality and malicious intent. Turn on your TV, and wait for something that is relatively interesting, something which picks your genuine attention and not your demand of gossip (that is, no news, no reality TV, etc.). Personally, if I did this, I’d wait for hours, at least until after dinner, to have a chance at finding a good show. And, who’d have guessed, it would generally be old movies.

It’s only this kind of thing for HOURS!

Try radio and go through hours of useless talking, interrupted by a couple minutes of the same shitty five songs big labels want you to listen. Videogames? Most of the “tripul A” industry costantly releases the same game with different skins. And let’s not touch books, or this rant will be too long; go to a bookstore and see for yourself.

I am aware and sure that these industries are either tanking or stagnating, one more than the other. In truth, what I really want to talk about is the fact that a part of the public has been boiling inside that old pot for so much time that is incredibly hard to pull it out of the hot water. Be it the middle-aged lady watching soap-operas all day, or the comic book nerds that just can’t stop simping for Marvel and DC, these guys will continue drowning in the quicksand that is the current entertainment industry.

“Marvel can’t swallow you up if you just stop caring!”

Since I’m more oriented towards books, I ask myself how much new authors in the indie scene should try to make themselves known to such audience, instead of solidifying their readership as an underground, but intellectually active, movement. I don’t mean we should gatekeep towards normies (we need normies to save media, I believe), also because a lot of people trapped in Quicksand Entertainment aren’t normies at all. My point is this: I’m noticing that many people just want to stay inside the mainstream. I don’t know why, but so it is.

These people will never care about all the cool stuff they’d find if they started looking elsewhere and, although it’s true that slow and steady wins the race, you can do only as much to convince them. In the end, it’s only a matter of personal decision. And many have chosen that only Big Brand X is allowed in their lives.

Should creators stop their effort, then? Never. First, because I want more cool books. Second, the movement will grow, and that’s a fact. Corpos can try to stop it however they want, some things can’t just die. What must be acknowledged is that, big as it can become, the NewPub/PulpRev/Superversive scene is going to be an underground phenomenon. The mainstream of the future may follow their steps, but these scenes are destined to be an alternative and a rebellion. A true rebellion, hence spread only up to a certain point.

Be a rebel! Read cool books! #resist

This brings me to face another crucial aspect. A writer who wants to live off his own stories should keep striving for that, but it’s important to keep in mind that you’re doing this as a contribution for a better future. Western culture will eventually recover from its malady, and it will happen thanks to our contribution. Both writers and readers, because as the first must create for the future, the second must preserve those creations and bring them into the future.

And of course, this is true for all art.

Thanks for reading. Stay tuned!

Relatable Characters Are a False Myth

It is a common stance among the highest spheres of the entertainment industry, especially among star-writers of any kind, that your characters must be relatable to the public. Relatable, not likeable, mind you.

I am sure most of you know what I am talking about, but this is a place for anyone, so I am going to explain what that means: I am referring to an aesthetic theory (because it is, although a bad one) consisting in stressing one or more flaws in a character, according to the idea that fictional people must be human and so relatable to those reading, watching or playing your product.

You are free to think that the intent is positive (I do not), but anyone with common sense can see how bad the outcome has been. When not striving to destroy the industry they were working in, corporate writers sought to gain attention by saying “Look, my hero is imperfect! Just like you!” and ended up telling stories of vicious people whom nobody really likes.

When they are not just villains in a hero’s clothing, Relatable Characters™  are like participants to a reality show, ready to be mocked and put down for their own shortcomings, their stories being humiliation rituals designed to provide vulgar satisfaction while saying “You are as bad as them”.

Do you think this makes up a bond between character and person? Do you really believe I can relate with this? The answer is no, of course, if you’re not a fake intellectual feeling a compelling need to show the world his ignorance.

It is a fact that nobody likes bad people. As human beings, we are, of course, fallen, but we tend to be attracted by the good in others; a good of different kinds and degrees, but good nonetheless. We despise disagreeable people, and get angry at our loved ones when they do something we do not deem positive.

Both numbers and common experience make manifest that nobody relates with Relatable Characters: kids and adults alike have run away from comics, leaving just those who have a symbiotic relationship with the medium, for example. And I believe that this is one reason behind the abandonment of high culture, since it seems almost impossible to find a fine artist or poet or composer with good artistic intent.

Do not get me wrong: it is good if your characters make mistakes, or if they are flawed. You got it wrong when flaws become real vices. One could say “We all have our vices and bond with characters that share them”, but these are just malicious words. The reality is that we do not like the sins of others, we just love ours. We hate others’ vices when they are manifest and uncontrolled, as much as we love to underline how much better we are at hiding ours.

If you want people to relate to your characters, let them be positive. Let them have likeable personalities, a positive attitude, and a capacity for good. Maybe at the start losers and neckbeards will dunk on them, but you will witness the love they will get from normal, good people, the ones that, admit it, will give you more than the others.

P.S.: That picture was just too good to be left unused. My intention was not to ascribe Iron Man to this category, I do not know the character well enough.