Monday, March 30, 2009


On Sunday the Juno awards were held in Vancouver celebrating Canadian music and music sales. I'm normally not interested in crappy awards shows - I love a lot of Canadian bands but I'm no fan of mainstream radio fodder. What, you may be asking yourself, does this have to do with comics?

Simple. The woman who won best new artist (Lights) has a back tattoo of Wonder Woman fighting Giganta. I'm sure the amount of internet offers of marriage she gets has increased about 5000 times because of this.

Personally, I like anything that shows geek stuff as slightly less geeky but not quite redundantly mainstream. Anyway, cool stuff.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Classic Seth

I’ve recently finished Seth’s It’s a Good Life if You Don’t Weaken. It was a weird experience as I only read it in little chunks of time here and there while the rest of my world had some kind of a fit. Me and my wife started house hunting but then her place of business just announced impending large cuts (she’ll be safe though so that’s okay), and I get to interview for my own job. So reading about a slightly misanthropic and depressed protagonist searching for some kind of meaning that may never exist wasn’t exactly my idea of escapism I usually seek in comics.

I did enjoy it though for what it is and it is a book I’ll certainly recommend to others looking for a certain type of read. I have to say that Seth’s quest for a past that somehow feels more honest and real hits close to home these days. He’s looking for something that exists in the creations around him – buildings, clothes, literature – but I’m just looking for a time when our current Prime Minister wasn’t in charge of anything.

At the moment I’m seeing a lot of Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation in things I read because of another project, and really It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken is a perfect example of searching for a more truthful and honest past that never exists. That what current life is simulating may never have existed in the first place. That can be a very powerful and depressing idea or it can free you to simply enjoy what is there now. It’s a frustrating story to read on quite a few levels, from Seth’s search for John Kalloway to his interactions with people and constant self-reflection. You both love the character and get frustrated by him which makes the character appear all the more real and human. He can’t be distilled down to a core idea or element (well, maybe the idea of moving forward while watching the road through a rear-view mirror – see Marshall McLuhan for more on that).

I love Seth’s lingue Claire artwork that feels as much like an anachronistic detail as the buildings and clothes surrounding the protagonist. It’s equal parts comic books and newspaper comics (as well as the New Yorker cartooning), that is somehow more expressive and clean than you feel it should be. It shouldn’t be able to portray the content because it is a style meant for gags and single panel cartoons but it is precisely the freedom of the style that allows for a beautiful world to be created. I’d say the art style hits at the core of the word decadence – something overly beautiful with something decaying at the core or as the subject in this case. Beautifully rendered buildings that are falling apart and the like.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Kate Beaton - wow

Okay, I'm late to the party, I know, but I just discovered Kate Beaton's website Hark, A Vagrant and it is fantastic. Everywhere I turn I'm reading more about this wonderful talent and I understand why. She's producing material that is just north of the New Yorker and just absurdist enough to match her endearing style.

Go. Look.

Monday, March 09, 2009

I Viewed the Watchmen Movie

Yeah yeah, we're all tired of the "watching the watchmen" puns online, on tv and in newspapers. I went to see it on Friday and the quick review - I really liked what they did.

Things I think were actually better than the comic:

The world creation during the opening credits. Hot damn, that was probably one of the best opening credit sequences I've ever seen. From the song choice to the visuals working with the name credits (I admit, I didn't really pay attention to the actors' names, I was busy watching the scenes) the opening credits set up the world of The Watchmen in a matter of minutes. So anyone new to the movie knows what fans of the comic learned in the text pieces, the role playing game, obsessively looking up Watchmen articles online, etc. I think it really played to the strengths of the medium of film, and was so successful because it actually added to the core text in a positive way.

The repulsiveness of the violence. Okay, in a few years it may look hokey when this is being played on Spike TV, but in the theatre it was enough of a turn-off to get that point across what with the broken limbs and blood splatter.

Things I found slightly distracting:

They kept referring to themselves as The Watchmen. Yes, it's nit-picky, and I completely understand why it was done but I think I have more faith in the audience. It sounds like some exec was wondering why they kept talking about The Minutemen as a failed super-group, wasn't this movie called The Watchmen? They should call themselves The Watchmen.

Rorschach's narration at the very end. I liked the more ambiguous ending of the comic where his journal is left in a stack of other cranks. The ending narration implies it is read but it could have been added just to make sure the point is driven home that it's Rorschach's journal.

The narration in general except Dr. Manhattan's. This is the constant problem of adapting written fiction to film. The way the narration was handled in the comic is all on written materials (except Dr. Manhattan's) which simply can't be adapted onto film except as someone reading from the journal, etc. The narration in the comics works much better in regards to the narrative because these objects exist within the world of the Watchmen as actual objects, not dramatic readings. It helps sell the "realistic" nature of the Watchmen world because the audience is only allowed to see into the characters' minds via additional media except for Dr. Manhattan whose thoughts are in blue boxes (and thus the closest to the traditional thought balloon). This kind of reinforces his connection to classic superheroes as well as emphasising how far from humanity he has drifted. His relation to the world is different from the other characters because he doesn't need a separate medium to communicate directly to the audience. In the movie, all characters have that relationship to the audience because there is no way the director will show you page shots of Rorschach's journal to read while the action happens.

This I wished were included (please ingest your grain of salt from here on in):

Okay, this is just my fanboyishness here so you know, it's subjective. Where was the fate of Hollis Mason? No, I don't really want to see an old man lynched, but it would really have helped sell the idea of this being a time of crisis and heightened paranoia. It could have been included if they reduced the sex scene, no? I'm no prude, but I felt the owl-ship sex scene went on just long enough to be kind of embarassing - we get the point, make the visual joke, move on.

Captain Metropolis. The way the failed meeting was handled was fine, but I kind of miss the connection to history all the old heroes brought to the story. If the opening credits show how vital they were to the world, then having them removed from the plot kind of feels like a missed opportunity.

Final thoughts:

Anyway, I went to see the movie with both geeks and non-nerd-herd people. Everyone enjoyed it but the nerds complained about stuff more - no pirates, my thing about calling themselves The Watchmen, etc. The only slightly negative I heard from the non-nerds was that it seemed like a movie you should watch again to understand more of it. That's something I felt as well, which means it's pretty much how I felt after reading the comic for the first time. In that regard, it was great and all in all, I think the changes made were necessary for the film version and should have been made.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

One of these things is not like the other...

So, today I went to the TSN trade centre website to check out whether or not anything is happening early this morning on the NHL's trade deadline. While there were no updates, I did notice the list of sponsors along the bottom of the site. There are your constant sports sponsors - sports shops, fast food restaurants, beer companies. But near the end was a blood splattered smiley face.

Now, I know that your average sports fan will go see Iron Man or Spider-man or Batman movies, but I'm not so sure there will a lot of love for Watchmen. I'd love to be proven wrong, and I wish I could remember how V for Vendetta did when it was released for a bit of context for this release.

Anyway, I just thought it was a bit odd there. Happy consumerism and post-modern deconstruction of the entire genre of superhero comics and the form of comics itself just doesn't seem to flow for me. I'll still go see the movie at some point because I'm reasonable enough to know it won't affect my love of the book.