I’ve never used my blog in a traditional sense. With a focus on articles and reviews, I was never sure if self-indulgent ramblings about my ‘real’ life had any place at The Pure Mood. But the thing is, I always wanted to do a weekly catch-up post. In fact, my favourite elements of the blogs I enjoy most are the ones that are the most personal, where I feel I’m really getting an insight into how another human being (and, odds are, fellow geek) live their life. Also, considering how many different places you can find me on the net in a given week, I thought it might prove helpful to whatever crazy people bother reading my comics or reviews. I bring you the first addition of THE TRIPLE W, a weekly catch up in the life of Erik Robinson, in which I’ll begin with general ramblings, move on to some linkage, offer a few quick thoughts on comics, movies, and music, and close up with a look at the week ahead.
WHERE I’M AT
On a second read, I enjoyed Snyder and Lee’s SUPERMAN UNCHAINED even more. I still can’t fathom why they didn’t name it MAN OF STEEL, but regardless, it really is a very well constructed first issue, something that is rare to find in superhero comics these days (something we learned ad nauseum at the start of The New 52). Consider FANTASTIC FOUR #1 from the Marvel NOW! relaunch, in which the F4 took twenty pages to…go into space, which is sort of their whole thing. In contrast, UNCHAINED sees Superman save somebody (a moment lacking in the film) in outer space (I never tire of seeing Superman in space, just as I never tire of multiple bracket use in one sentence), confront a confident and bored Lex Luthor, hang out with Jimmy Olsen as Clark Kent, and flirt with/ruffle feathers of Lois Lane. I can’t get over how well suited Snyder is to Lois’ character, something I wouldn’t have expected.
That being said, the poster is a joke, and the five dollar price tag is still unjustifiable to me. I wasn’t much of a fan of Azzarello’s run on the character, but even I had to admit that Lee’s art made it a sight to behold. I’d say Lee’s work looks even better here, and is far more suited to the book’s tone. Lee seems to be the only one confident in how to represent the New 52 Superman, a younger, rowdier Kryptonian hero. I think UNCHAINED may wind up being my favourite of the current Superman books, not counting the digital first out-of-continuity ADVENTURES.
The newest chapter, from Matt Kindt and Stephen Segovia, was fantastic. Told in a dual-parallel narrative – Superman preparing his day and stopping a threat in space at the top of the page, Lois out to breakfast with Lex Luthor at the bottom – Kindt perfectly characterizes the three most important characters of the mythos. An opening scene detailing Superman’s struggle with constantly hearing all of the world’s problems, having to ignore the threats that seem likelier to solve themselves, seems obvious, but was executed in a very sad and moving way.
I’ve been watching SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, after having a blast reading the tie-in comic. I don’t think I could say with confidence I’ve ever watched every episode before, though I’ve certainly always enjoyed the show. Sitting down and watching it more closely, I’d say it’s good not great – it doesn’t quite do what BATMAN: TAS did for the caped crusader, namely streamline the many elements of his mythos into one serialized story, free of the constraints of traditional narrative. It doesn’t quite redefine the look or feel of Superman’s world in the way BTAS did, either.
However, it really is a great cartoon – Timm and his team have said they tried to make Metropolis look the way we thought the future was going to look in the 1950’s, and the whole series really does capture unbridled idealism. A sort of foolish optimism that the best is yet to come, that we haven’t even come close to tapping our true potential, and that (obviously) suits a Superman series just fine. I think Jimmy is either misused or underutilized, I think characters like Toyman are updated in a sort of ridiculous way, but Luthor and Lois are just perfect, expertly cast and wonderfully realized. And the representation of Clark is charming and endearing, but never in too sugary of a way. It’s a fun show!
All of my weekly webcomics have been updated – if you want to find them all in one place, you can go here – in BEKKO, our hero wanders the streets for his lost love and gets himself into some mighty big trouble, while Dwin and Caia go treasure hunting, Meager Man reveals the hiding place of his magical helmet, in the RP our boys meet a hobo and travel underground , and more lunacy in GAP FEER. I talked about four comics at MARVEL DISASSEMBLED this week – WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN #31 was the worst comic I’ve read all year, while I was vexed at how the same writer could have given us as something as fantastic as THOR: GOD OF THUNDER #9, while Cornell/Davis tell what I consider to be one of the greatest of the characters stories in WOLVERINE #4, and finally, Brian Wood’s ULTIMATE COMICS X-MEN reaches a breathless, intense climax.
In news that isn’t exclusively about myself, it was E3 this week, obviously. I bubbled over with joy due to the news of Megaman appearing in SUPER SMASH BROS., and the POKEMON X and Y news was also of intriguing, particularly the more in-depth exploration of how exactly the multi-player will work. The DC SCRIBBLENAUTS was a delightful surprise. I do fear that SCRIBBLENAUTS may go the way of the LEGO franchise of games – something that seemed so endearing, original and unpretentious at first, then slowly devolved into an endless franchise, producing more and more entries with only slight and superficial variations on the original product – but I have to admit, I won’t be able to resist it. I have no interest in either Sony or Microsoft’s new consoles, so I don’t have much to say on that.
More Superman goodies as Tom Spurgeon talks TALES OF THE BIZARRO WORLD, Michael Allan Leonard explores Superman’s Silver Age, (I love that ‘collecting tears’ gag that appeared in SO MANY SA stories. Such a strange and unforgettable idea, and so frequently used!) Paul O’ Connor talks about the world’s first superheroes three most important and influential re-imaginings – John Bryne’s post-Crisis relaunch, Alan Moore’s Silver Age send-off, and Morrison and Quitley’s loving tribute ALL STAR SUPERMAN, and just in case you somehow missed it, Mark Waid’s review of MAN OF STEEL. Meanwhile, this Peter Bagge interview is essential reading for fellow fans of ‘the last real cartoonist’ as John K. put it, Jeff Parker’s new pulp crossover sounds like a lot of fun, and Carla Hoffman mourns the cancellation of one of my favourite Marvel ongoings (which you can read my thoughts on here).
WHAT I’M INTO
I think AYAKO may be my favourite of all Tezuka’s works. The Comics Journal claims it could only hope to impress someone with a lack of appreciation for literature, and though I personally resent that sort of caustic remark, my love for the story could very well come from a place of naivete. That being said, AYAKO is a brilliant comic to me – a very fascinating exploration of our evolving concept of morality. Tezuka often explored how technology shapes our appreciation for human life, and there’s a lot of that in AYAKO – as is often the case with Tezuka, uneducated manual labourers (‘farm folk’ is the sort of phrase I’m reaching for) are derided, with the concept of tradition violently questioned.
The Tenges are a family who have great pride for their land, but not for those living on it – blackmailing each other, giving your father a night with your wife as a trade for a spot in the will, it’s a pretty brutal world. Ayako is the only one spared, lavishly spoiled by her father (and grandfather, who are, in fact, one in the same) until even this sheltering takes a sinister turn. AYAKO begins with the return of the oldest male Tenge, a sophisticated city dweller who we originally assume will be our voice of reason. Even his morals are quickly shattered when he’s hired to kill a man. Tezuka fools us again, when the murder catches up with the family and Ayako is forced to live in a cellar in hiding, her only companion her wise 12 year old brother Shiro.
However, soon Shiro is taking advantage of Ayako as well when the two begin an incestuous romantic relationship. If all of this sounds like pretty crazy stuff, it is, but Tezuka has a point in this 700 page plus comic. It’s Tezuka’s grimmest work, and his most complex – he seems to be questioning the general optimism present in most of his art, and his wonderful loose cartoon art contrats really wonderfully with a story about people who lie to themselves and the ones they love, struggling to grow up in any real way. I may do a full review in the future, because AYAKO is a complicated and beautiful book.
BLACK LUNG is a beautiful and perfectly realized debut, and if those just sound like hack throw-away critic words, I’m sorry that I struggle to find the way to describe such a unique and perfect comic. A thrilling venture into the darkness of human experience and our incessentant need to believe in something better being ahead of us. BLACK LUNG is about the captain of a pirate ship filled with heartless sadists, a captain who seeks death so that he’ll be reunited with his wife in hell. Kidnapping and forcing on board a sensitive intellectual, Chris Wright explores longing and misery in a way that’s never pompous or self-obsessed. Beautiful art work, unbelievably mature characterization, and quite possibly the sharpest dialogue I’ve ever read in the comic form.
BLACK PATHS isn’t David B.’s most well known work, (in fact, I struggled to find many reviews or discussion about it online) but I have to say, I enjoyed it far more than EPILEPTIC. Focusing on the Italian poet Gabriele d’Annunzio’s attempt at creating an artistic/intellectual utopia in in the port of Fiume, David B.’s surrealist art work beautifully portrays the mad fragility of art attempting to rule a world it doesn’t understand, and is ill equipped to be a part of. Focusing on a young soldier and world-weary torch singer’s young romance, BLACK PATHS is about the never ending trauma of war, war for our country, our love, and our selves, and the desperation of using art to express these sort of inexpiable feelings. David B. may be known for his dream-like free-floating stylings, but the simple image of a man made out of poetry waiting alone at a dinner table that closes the comic is the one that moved me the most.
HOW FAR AWAY – Alex Bleeker and the Freaks – reviews for an album such as HOW FAR AWAY sort of infuriate me, because there always seems to be a focus on how Bleeker makes no attempt to ‘change the music scene’, ‘reinvent himself’, ‘find a new sound’, etc. etc. etc. It’s interesting, because as a superhero comics fan, I often find that’s the problem – so many writers want to tell THE Batman story, as opposed to just A Batman story that everything becomes a blur of reinvention and spectacle. I understand that much of this comes from the marketing and editorial decisions of Marvel and DC, but my point is that I don’t think HOW FAR AWAY ever set out to do the things I’ve seen it criticzed for not doing. Alex Bleeker and the Freaks are country-rock artists, and superb ones. ‘Don’t Look Down’, ‘All My Songs’, and many other numbers are fantastic tunes on this record. Well worth a listen for fans of the genre.
THIS IS ANOTHER LIFE – Case Studies – I heard Jesse Lortz play the songs from this record at the beginning of the year when he opened for Chelsea Wolfe, and I couldn’t wait to hear the entire thing. Though I think the first Case Studies record was stronger, I did really enjoy THIS IS ANOTHER LIFE. ‘Like the Sea’, ‘Villains’, and the title track are my favourites, and what I think represent Lortz at his best – a sombre, introspective moodiness, yes, but one that begs for attention and love. “I had a dream last night / that you were on your hands and knees / and my fingers were strumming inside of you” Very moving.
POSTHUMOUS RELEASE – Coma Cinema – this is the sort of relentlessly dark album that I find it hard to recommend to others, lest they label me as a self-obsessed nihilist or pompous adolescent poser. That being said, I love this record, and I think it’s a shame people are so quick to deride this kind of material. I mean, yeah, songs begin with lines like ‘Your first boyfriend died’, but I’ll never understand why dark subject matter is brushed aside as juvenile in music, hailed as honesty in stand-up comedy, ridiculed in television, triumphed in movies, disparaged in comics, etc. Ah, well. POSTHUMOUS RELEASE is great.
THE LAST GREAT CHALLENGE IN A DULL WORLD – Peter Jeffries – very tender and singular post-punk, this is a wonderful reissue of a relatively unknown classic. Most chilling and unfrogettable is ‘Domestica’ – considering Jeffries has grown up and, in a way, settled down (teaching music to special needs children no less!), a completely bizarre and unforgettable song of a man singing absent mindedly while doing his dishes, questioning what the future holds for all of his ambitions.
ONCE I WAS AN EAGLE – Laura Marling – One of the greatest records of the year, certainly the best of the genre, a flawless and powerful folk album, ONCE I WAS AN EAGLE is the kind of thing that reminds people the power of long-play albums, a slowly dying art form. Marling connects each song throughout the album in a sort of unexplainable but fascinating way – picking up the chorus of ‘Master Hunter’ and throwing it in the one of the next song ‘Little Love Caster’, but using the same words to make a completely different sort of point. Every song on the album is perfect, complete with wonderful lines and beautiful arrangements, it really is the kind of record that brings out the unashamed fanboy in me.
PERSONAL RECORD – Eleanor Friedberger – if EAGLE is the perfect folk record, this one does the same for pop. Accesible and unviersal in that way only pop can manage, Friedberger’s playful and ironic ode to teenage love is the most fun you’ll have this summer. A perfect summer album in every way, full of breezy songs, delicious hooks, catchy choruses and lines sure to fill you with sugary bubble gum memories.
SURFER BLOOD – Python – I’m really obsessed with this record, but it’s a moral struggle. The man behind Python, John Paul Pitts, was recently arrested for domestic battery, and listening to such a caustic and violent take on love is difficult when you know that it was recorded by a man who did take it to a tangible level. That being said, the songs are moving and dark, the name SURFER BLOOD being completely apt – surfer rock that’s been murdered, with all of the joy drained out. Very moving lyrics, but listeners may be afraid to let themselves get this close the hateful and petty side of relationships.
APOCALYPSE – Thundercat – a captivating funk/electronic hybrid, APOCALYPSE is at turns dark and hilarious. ‘Oh Sheit it’s X’ is a pretty haunting story of drug adled escapades, but you can’t help but laugh listening to the joyous refrain of ‘Oh shit, I’m fucked up.’ If you can’t tell by the prevalence of folk and pop, this isn’t the sort of album I normally go in for, but this is a wonderful collection of great songs.
THE WACK ALBUM – The Lonely Island – Sure, a lot of the songs get old about twelve seconds in – ‘Hugs’ and ‘I Don’t Give A Honk’ are seriously just lazy – but for the most part, this is very funny parody on the pomposity of hip-hop culture. A lot of the songs focus on wrestling with accepting maturity and new life roles (something we’re used to seeing from aging funny men), but it’s tracks like ‘Dramatic Intro’ and ‘I’m a Hustler (Song?)’ that send-up the genre so perfectly that make the album worth a listen. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of The Lonely Island, but there’s some memorable moments.
DO THE MOVIES HAVE A FUTURE? by David Denby – I’m a big fan of Denby’s film criticism. He’s developed a reputation for being a cinematic chicken little, mourning the impending death of Hollywood since the ’90s, I have a very powerful belief in the power of movies, but it’s hard to deny that things have changed in a big way, and it’s hard not to feel that we’re on the edge of an implosion. Though Denby doesn’t really explore the question in the title – the book is really more a collection of essays and reviews from his work at the New Yorker – but it was a fun read. Denby’s obsession with Joan Crawford is fascinating, whom he mentions in practically every chapter and also devotes an entire article to, and his writing about the director Victor Fleming – the director of the two biggest movies in America in GONE WITH THE WIND and THE WIZARD OF OZ – is an illuminating look at the directors auterist theory left behind, and the admirable concept of journeymen work in a commercial arts business. I’m a big fan of what the Cahiers crew brought to film criticism, but the cult of the director did warp our idea of what these Hollywood movies are. I always enjoy Denby’s writing, but I do wish the book was more about his problems with the current cinematic landscape and what lies ahead for the industry, as the title sort of promises.
THE WHISPERING MUSE by Sjon – I actually read this slim novel the day after I read BLACK LUNG, which seems appropriate. Valdimar Haraldsson , 1940’s author of a 17 volume series dedicated to the belief that there is empirical proof that the superiority of the Nordic race is linked to their steady consumption of fish, has come aboard a merchant ship for a lecture. Unfortunately, the shipmates are much more interested in the tales of Caenus, a 3000-year old second mate who once sailed with Jason and the Argonauts. Placing a rotten chunk of wood from the Argo’s haul, Caenus relives his fantastic and mythical experiences. Sjon’s exploration of where stories come from is as mysterious and beautiful as the subject matter demands, and Sjon’s writing is lyrical and often hilarious.
PALE FLOWER – this is a wonderful movie – Muraki has just come out of prison for the first time in years, and after stopping at a gambling parlor, his life is now tangled up with Saeko, a woman addicted to self-destruction, to that feeling you can only get when you push your life to the edge. Beautifully shot and extremely stylized, more than just an empty exercise in cinematic cool, PALE FLOWER is a really moving story about love between two damaged people.
A FOREIGN AFFAIR – I think this may be my favourite Billy Wilder movie. All of Brackett/Wilder’s movies are essential watching, extremely almost unfairly witty and engrossing scripts. Set in occupied Berlin, a captain finds himself torn between an ex-Nazi torch singer and the prissy U.S. congresswoman investigating her. John Lund does an amazing job in his role – he’s not Clark Gable, but he’s the guy who thinks he’s Clark Gable – and Dietrich seems to be having the most fun of her career, specifically when she gets to give it good to Jean Arthur. It’s shocking just how critical the film is of the US army, with many of the soldiers portrayed as sex hungry pranksters. Modern audiences may find the typical shrewd-girl-finds-love-in-scoundrel insulting, but it’s the sort of story that I actually enjoy, and that I think we’ve lost by putting so much effort into not offending anyone. Arthur’s character is so focused on her career and her country that she’s left her personal life behind, whereas Lund is only interested in cheap thrills. They find something in each other. This is a sort of naive idea I suppose, and I’m not suggesting that, in looking for love, we should look for our opposites. Anyway, it’s a great movie, surprisingly political, hilariously witty and beautifully shot.
WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?
Because we’ve only got each other! Thanks for reading, and let me know if you got any sort of enjoyment from my ramblings about the past week. In the week ahead, be here to see me talk about Simon Spurrier and Jeff Stokely’s SIX GUN GORILLA, a review of the TEEN TITANS in ‘Chronicles of Comics’, a new episode of the Podcast, and a lot more. Meanwhile, new entries in all my webcomics, and more reviews at MARVEL DISASSEMBLED. Lastly, if you’re into video games, my podcast co-host Zane will begin providing daily video game content here on THE PURE MOOD (or so he promises!) so be on the look out for that.
Now, what are you watching/listening to/reading/loving?