Saturday Waffling: August 17th, 2013
Work continues apace. I’ve got Last War in Albion up and running, and it’ll roll out again on Thursday with the start of Chapter 2. I’m going straight into working on Chapter 3 so there will be less of a gap there. I’ve tinkered the format in a few subtle ways that I hope will boost readability without sacrificing what I’m trying to achieve with the structure of the project. This one has narrative theory, the pulps, superheroes, and the remainder of Grant Morrison’s early work. Only one more chapter after that before we get to things anyone has ever heard of!
I’ve also got a few more of the extra essays for the books. Baker is still one off from done, though I might get him finished off this weekend, but Hartnell had two and will get a third. Three is a little slow for a week on those, but again, Last War in Albion was added in here. Next week… no Torchwood, actually.
Meanwhile, the Storybundle offer heads into its final few days. To recap, for a price of your own choosing you get four nonfiction books on Doctor Who, including TARDIS Eruditorum Volume 2: Patrick Troughton. If you pay more than $10, you get two more books, one of which is The Best of TARDIS Eruditorum, which features some of my favorite posts from the history of the blog along with a few paragraphs of introductions about them. It’s a slender little thing, but it was fun to knock together, and while I may recycle it into something else, it won’t be available again in 2013.
If I can put a small plea in, I’m still doing adjuncting on the side to bring in a little bit of extra money, and at the last second one of my courses was pulled and given to a full time faculty member whose class had gotten cancelled for lack of enrollment, which means my pay for the rest of the year just took a five thousand dollar hit. It’s seriously not a big deal – we’ve got the Kickstarter money as a nice cushion if there’s any sort of crisis, and have a comfortable living wage, but it’s still just a little stressful to suddenly lose a bunch of money you’d been budgeting on.
Which is to say that I do make money off the Storybundle deal, and if you don’t mind having the tip jar shaken, this is my job and this is a chance to support my work and get some neat bonuses along with. (And I’ve got We talked last week about Dalek I Love You and Dining with the Doctor, leaving Barry Letts’s memoir Who and Me and Earl Green’s Vworp!
The latter of these is a pretty straightforward reference manual. It’s got a good account of the plot of every story up through The Doctor, The Widow, and the Wardrobe, a reasonable selection of facts, and reviews no more idiosyncratic than anyone else’s, mine included. It’s information that can be found elsewhere, but this is certainly a handy version, and if you’re not one of those people who knows every story in history off the top of their head then it’s probably quite helpful. Better than either Wikipedia or TARDIS Index File for casual readers, for my money, and probably a solid resource if TARDIS Eruditorum entries for stories you’ve not seen ever get a bit rough going. If you’re the sort who reads About Time and the like, this one’s not that useful, but for the non-hardcore this is well done.
The former is a memoir focused on the first chunk of Barry Letts’s time on Doctor Who, extending up to the end of Season Eight with The Daemons. (There is, tragically, no second volume, as the book was released posthumously) It’s an odd duck – tremendously detailed on the one hand, but also based on limited memories and with demonstrable inaccuracies. (Its final chapter ends with the claim that the Daleks hadn’t appeared in five years prior to Day of the Daleks because producers were tired of them and they were falling out of favor, which is simply not true.) Still, for Pertwee fans it’s a treasure trove, as he basically explains his continual efforts to make Doctor Who into a Buddhist parable.
And those are the books. It is, I think, quite a nice haul. There’s something for just about anybody in there, and a few things worth trying out at the price. I hope you will check it out. Sorry to so blatantly push the tip jar out; I’m afraid it’s not the last one that’ll go out this week either.
None of this is remotely a weekend discussion topic though, is it? Here – since Last War in Albion’s on the mind this week, let’s ask this: what topics that are within the scope of that are you most looking forward to? I’ve already said the focus will broaden beyond Moore and Morrison (indeed, Gaiman enters the picture at the same time that Morrison returns, and there’s no way I’ll ignore Milligan. And eventually Warren Ellis turns up too…), so what things are you hoping will get judged as part of the War?
August 17, 2013 @ 1:15 am
I wouldn't exactly say it's something I'm hoping for as much — I'm not a huge fan (though not a particularly passionate detractor either) — but will Garth Ennis be showing up in any way, shape or form?
August 17, 2013 @ 4:09 am
-Todd McFarlane V Neil Gaiman
-1996: The Year The Comics Died
-The internet and the culture it spawned
-Kathmandu and that one time Grant met Jesus
-Dan Didio and the end of Batman Inc
August 17, 2013 @ 4:10 am
Oh, and Twilight of the Superheroes.
August 17, 2013 @ 6:24 am
Does Moore get away with using Fu Manchu in LoEG?
Also, Kim Newman's Anno Dracula.
August 17, 2013 @ 6:28 am
Comics-wise Paul Grist's work, particularly Jack Staff and Morlan the Mystic. Will be interesting to see your take on James Robinson's Starman as part of the war. Gillen & Mckelvie's work – Phonogram, Suburban Glamour & (Along with Mike Norton) Young Avengers. Also Steve Gerber, just because he's Steve ****ing Gerber.
Outside of comics, China Mieville, Situationist International, Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast (And possibly the BBC adaptation) Peter Pan, Hawkwind, Mary Poppins & the Olympics opening ceremony.
In Politics/broader social fabric sense the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 & new age travellers with connections through PWEI via the Prodigy.
Anyhoo, I'll leave it there before I just descend into a list of British popular culture & social history of the past 50 years.
August 17, 2013 @ 6:35 am
John Smith as a forgotten casualty of the War?
Only one more chapter after that before we get to things anyone has ever heard of!
Hey, I have two issues of Near Myths! [sadface because I only have two issues of Near Myths…]
August 17, 2013 @ 6:55 am
Pat Mills' retelling of Carrie as a suburban British school story.
The lost episodes of Halo Jones.
J.K.Rowling and the Tammy paradigm.
August 17, 2013 @ 8:14 am
Just a few thoughts for early days of the War, some from my own memories.
Why are there no Americans on the star writer list? I'm not talking about for the purpose of Last War; but particularly back in the 80's, there weren't really any non-British star writers even if you wanted to include them. Frank Miller is probably the closest we had back then, and even there his star was fading by the time Morrison broke out in the US with Animal Man and Doom Patrol.
There wasn't nearly the level of comic book news available in the 80's as there is now. Yes, there were Fanzines in general and Comic Buyer's Guide in particular, but Wizard was years away and the internet even further. So a lot of news was word of mouth, and frequently just plain wrong. I don't recall hearing the details of why Alan Moore left DC for years after it happened, and for a fairly long time we weren't even sure he had. I even remember a rumor going around that this "Grant Morrison" we had never heard of was a pen name for somebody, probably Alan Moore, since it didn't make sense to us that DC would give the high profile Arkham Asylum hardcover to somebody so new.
The very idea of a star writer was rather new back in the 80's in general, for that matter. I remember when I got my first copy of the Overstreet Price Guide back then that Alan Moore was the ONLY writer credited in the comments on issues for why they were broken out in price. (If there were any others I didn't see them, and I poured over that book obsessively learning about comics I had never heard of.)
August 17, 2013 @ 8:34 am
I don't recall hearing the details of why Alan Moore left DC for years after it happened, and for a fairly long time we weren't even sure he had.
This is ridiculous, he gave a THREE-PART, thousands-of-words (, and hugely entertaining) interview to TCJ which included pages and pages about his leaving DC.
(Sienkiewicz painting of Moore on the first, Pogo blow-up and green bg on the second… maybe an Aline issue/cover on the third?)
The very idea of a star writer was rather new back in the 80's in general, for that matter
Gerber, Englehart, McGregor and I guess Wolfman to some degree were all "star writers" in superhero comics in the '70s.
August 17, 2013 @ 8:38 am
This is, I think, mostly revealing about the weird art/mainstream split in the American comics industry that The Comics Journal (and really the Fantagraphics scene as a whole) embodies. Gerber, Englehart, and the like were certainly acclaimed, but that didn't translate into the phenomenon Eric is talking about of Moore-penned issues getting weird spikes in prices (which was going on well into the 90s – I remember the release of Gaiman's Midnight Days collection being notable in a large part because it made his Hellblazer issue affordable for the first time).
Another way to put this is that it was perfectly possible to follow American comics closely and never read a page of TCJ, which catered (and caters) to a particular niche within the industry.
August 17, 2013 @ 8:41 am
Absolutely. I've not decided how much detail – it might just be Preacher and a summary of his broader work. If I do two Ennis stories, it'll be Preacher and… Adventures of the Rifle Brigade, actually. Ooh, but his Dan Dare stuff is tempting too.
So yes, a good amount, but not as one of the Main Figures who have most of their work covered. (That list is currently Moore, Morrison, Ellis, and Gaiman. I don't think I'll add a fifth, but if I do it'll be Kieron Gillen.)
August 17, 2013 @ 8:41 am
Yours is a list of things I am definitely covering.
August 17, 2013 @ 8:41 am
I hope and assume you'll cover Jamie Delano's under-appreciated Hellblazer run. I'd also like Jamie Hewlett's Tank Girl and Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie's Phonograph.
Basically guys named Jamie (oh, and Jaime too if you include any Americans).
August 17, 2013 @ 8:44 am
Gillen has a good shot at some in-depth coverage, but I've not decided on exactly how much yet. Mieville will probably crop up somewhere. Situationist International and the Olympics are guaranteed. Peter Pan as well. The Travellers are likely via Hellblazer. Ooh, which is another place Ennis fans will be happy, to refer up-thread a bit.
August 17, 2013 @ 8:49 am
The Delano Hellblazer run is a given – I think it's the high point of a series that was largely a steady decline. I'll probably cover all of Hellblazer at some point. There's a point after Watchmen where Moore is going to have to drop out of the narrative again for a bit while I deal with the setup of Vertigo, which is of course a period where he'll loom over everything without actually contributing.
Tank Girl is interesting – I can't imagine how I'd skip it, but I don't know where it'll go yet. (My rough outline for the project currently leaves off with "Fuck, Watchmen's up next." Figuring out how to order the vast number of topics that get ensnared in Watchmen's orbit is… well, I can only imagine what Moore felt like plotting out Watchmen, really.)
Gillen is going to do well for himself in the latter days of the War.
August 17, 2013 @ 8:49 am
James Robinson set to show up at any point? His Starman run is kind of what made me notice "British comics writers" as a thing.
August 17, 2013 @ 8:53 am
One thing back then was just how off-putting the TCJ attitude could be. Some of this is probably unfair, given that I never read it back then; but it had a rep as a book that hated anything from the big two. And I picked that vibe up from a comic store worker who was big on getting me trying new books even beyond the big two.
Phil gets the point I was trying to make about a star writer; Gerber in particular is a favorite and I have an immense fondness for McGregor's Killraven. But I think saying there was a shift from "acclaimed" to "star" (not sure those are the best words, but it's s start) writers around then is correct. (Stan Lee is perhaps a counterexample, but he was always a bit of a special case.)
August 17, 2013 @ 8:55 am
Robinson is one I'm certainly happy to deal with, but haven't found an obvious place to do so, though this is to a great extent because I've not seriously thought about it. He's marvelous, and broadly relevant, but I have to find a place to hook him into a discussion of something else, since he's not a major character in the War itself, so to speak.
But given that I've got Russian structuralism in as a topic related to Starblazer and Blake as a topic related to Near Myths, this does not seem like a hard lift, so to speak.
August 17, 2013 @ 9:44 am
I'll admit that I haven't read much of Robinson — and Starman isn't on the list — but what I have read didn't inspire me to look further. What I read always seemed to have a lack of closure.
With The Golden Age I didn't give him enough of a chance. It was gorgeous, but the editing of where and how large the word balloons and captions were turned me off completely. The look was spoiled.
But I adore Leave It To Chance. Even there, though, there's the sense of dangling plot threads or narrative logic that wasn't thought all the way through.
[And Chance's lack of an ending isn't an issue, I just recall a sense of dissatisfaction with the structure of the stories as a whole. I'll gladly buy more if and when he and Smith are able to make that happen.]
August 17, 2013 @ 9:55 am
I'm particularly interested in your take on Moore's tendency to not actually create anything of his own, mostly, instead recreate others' work: Swamp Thing, Marvelman, Watchmen, LoEG – all are reimaginings; Tome Strong, Superior, 1963 are pastiche. From Hell is historical. There are tons more, of course. The only two of his major, populist works that spring to mind are V for Vendetta and Promethia, and Promethia could be argued into being version of Wonder Woman. I'm sure there are others that are all him and his collaborators, of course there are, but among his biggest, most important works, he is recrafting older material. I'm just interested in where you are going to take your examination of him in this regard, and Morrison's counter position where he is far more willing to both actually create from scratch (as much as one can create from scratch) and play somewhat nicely in the work for hire sandbox, certainly far more than Moore is willing to do.
August 17, 2013 @ 9:56 am
Yes. This will be a huge topic.
August 17, 2013 @ 10:46 am
Crisis and Deadline – and that great experiment to have edgy British comics sold as mass market magazines in newsagents.
August 17, 2013 @ 11:23 am
I'd be interested in your thoughts on the post-Moore Swamp Thing – particularly the Rick Veitch issues, and how DC backed down on the last part of his original storyline…
August 17, 2013 @ 12:54 pm
Philip, I'm curious as to what you'll say about Peter Milligan. He's certainly turned in his share of for-the-money dross, but I've long maintained that when he's on there's no one more interesting in the medium. Of course from the POV of your project the key fact may be that he's profoundly influenced by Moore, he's a personal friend of Morrison's.
August 17, 2013 @ 1:25 pm
I'll probably start from Shade the Changing Man as part of that initial wave of Vertigo stuff, and figure out what other stuff to pull in from there. But yes, he's definitely going to get a sizable focus.
August 17, 2013 @ 4:10 pm
Even V for Vendetta was consciously inspired by Night Raven. Halo Jones might qualify as an original major work, though.
August 17, 2013 @ 5:25 pm
This is, I think, mostly revealing about the weird art/mainstream split in the American comics industry that The Comics Journal (and really the Fantagraphics scene as a whole) embodies. Gerber, Englehart, and the like were certainly acclaimed, but that didn't translate into the phenomenon Eric is talking about of Moore-penned issues getting weird spikes in prices
Spikes in prices isn't something that would occur to me, and I don't know that I ought to have inferred it from his citing Frank Miller as the only example – he did a lot of covers to help goose orders in the 80s, but the decade isn't really heavy on him dropping in to do a single guest issue of something, like Moore on Vigilante (okay, that was two).
And I wouldn't count him as a star writer in any instance – he's far more (and faaaaar moreso than Moore or Morrison) a cartoonist who sometimes liked to collaborate (and "star" aside, only did two great comics as a writer-not-artist); the distinction stopped me from including the likes of Byrne or Simonson in my list.
But if you're not applying Overstreet's after-the-facts as the sole distinctor, I think those names very much count as "star writers" in the market context of the time – it's all before my birth and out of my taste, but their runs are historically associated with them specifically, they were the creative drivers of the books – unusually for Marvel – and lettercolumn samples indicate an audience association with them as the core creator whose work is being followed.
[Eric's suggestion of "acclaimed" is harder to square with the even-smaller comics press of the 1970s – by whom, if not the buying audience? And those dudes all got given more and more personally-driven work to do on the strength of their successes…]
(which was going on well into the 90s – I remember the release of Gaiman's Midnight Days collection being notable in a large part because it made his Hellblazer issue affordable for the first time).
My #27 still has a A$2 sticker from a second-hand bookshop above a porn store. What a thrill. (The price, not the proximity.)
Another way to put this is that it was perfectly possible to follow American comics closely and never read a page of TCJ, which catered (and caters) to a particular niche within the industry.
Niche is a pointless digression* – I believe the audience focus has changed notably under different eras and different editors over the last 37 years, but almost always the very widest topical remit of any North American comics publication, as opposed to the micromaniacal niche interest of the cited Wizard —
— but the fact is that Moore's leaving of DC was thoroughly reported and extensively discussed in the magazine, so the information was very much available. To not read a page in this instance is the lapse of the reader, not of the magazine or its editors of the time.
*watch me now
EG: given that I never read it back then
August 17, 2013 @ 5:39 pm
(Delurking.) I'd like to see your take on Morrison vs the Wachowskis. My recollection is that Morrison himself promoted the idea that The Matrix was plagiarized from The Invisibles, which seemed odd in light of his claims that he was trying to magically change the culture through that work. So was The Matrix plagiarized, an example of the material change effected by Morrison's alchemy, both, or neither?
I don't know if you were around for any of the Invisibles-centered discussion centers, especially the big mailing list and the Barbelith message boards. If you were, it would be great to see your impression of those.
Also, I very much look forward to seeing what you do with Arkham Asylum.
August 17, 2013 @ 6:30 pm
I agree about the Delano Hellblazer. I continued to read the book for years, and often enjoyed it, but those first 50 issues are the best (including of course both Gaiman and Morrison's contributions).
I threw the Jaime bit in there as a joke, but I really think some American context would be great. Moore, Morrison, Gaiman etc. were miles ahead of anything else at the big two at the time (well, aside from Miller, but that's a different can of worms really). But that doesn't mean there wasn't amazing work being done by Americans like The Hernandez Brothers, Matt Wagner, Mike Baron, Paul Chadwick, Dave Sim (Canadian, but close enough), and others. They just weren't doing it for Marvel or DC.
August 17, 2013 @ 6:32 pm
So, obviously 2000 AD is coming soon, and I'm really looking forward to that, having been introduced to it, and British comics in general, through the Eagle Comics reprints in the US in the early '80s. I wonder, then, if Judge Dredd will get a mention? I don't know of either Moore or Morrison ever writing Dredd (though obviously my knowledge is incomplete), but it seems that the character is quite the flagship of UK comics. I'd love to know if and how he ties into the War.
And even if there's no Dredd, I still hope to get some deep background on 2000 AD the publication. I've always been fascinated by it, but don't know a whole lot about it.
Otherwise, I'm game for whatever you throw in. Just looking forward to reading it again.
August 17, 2013 @ 7:43 pm
I've been following comics for the last 40 years and I've never knowingly laid eyes on an issue of TCJ.
August 17, 2013 @ 8:06 pm
The original Fu Manchu books are a puzzle. They're so easy to read against the grain that it makes me wonder what the grain really is. Fu Manchu's diabolical oriental plot seems to be mainly protecting Asia from western imperialism; and he often (not always) treats his adversaries with honour. And while the books are filled with racist invective against the heathen Chinee, nearly all the invective comes from Nayland Smith (the Sherlock Holmes character and nominal hero); and although the narrator (Dr. Petrie, the Watson character) never explicitly dissents from it, he never endorses it either — and he expresses sympathy for Asian characters where N.S. expresses only contempt. It would be painfully easy to make a movie that followed the books very closely while at the same time making Fu Manchu the hero.
August 17, 2013 @ 11:25 pm
A few more guesses:
-Robert Holdstock's Mythago Wood cycle.
-Abnett, Lanning & Erskine's Knights of Pendragon series for Marvel UK. (also the rest of Overkill)
-Bryan Talbot's recent work – Alice In Sunderland & the Grandville series.
August 18, 2013 @ 2:26 am
I'm always eager to learn more about Moore & magic. Do you think Moore's tendency to recreate others' work is something like a process of drawing out threads of an idea – universal functions and god-patterns? Recurring themes in culture – Thoth, Hermes, Odin, Coyote, Nyarlathotep and so on. I'm also curious what the next big thing in occultism is after chaos magic. I've heard bits and pieces about Luciferian magic, Wicca, Paganism, and I've seen connections drawn between neuroscience and magical practice.
The other big thing is Moore's relationship with sex. I've just read Promethea and Moore's Neonomicon and some of it just didn't sit right with me – the sex addict FBI agent from the Neonomicon and issue #10 of Promethea in particular.
August 18, 2013 @ 4:59 am
I'm reminded that I once wrote a huge screed on the basis that if someone had a moral objection (as opposed to a creative one) to Before Watchmen, they must also feel that Moore shouldn't have reinvented Swamp Thing without specific permission from Len Wein.
Just before posting it to my LJ, I checked who the DC editor who hired Moore on Swamp Thing was. Oops…
August 18, 2013 @ 6:07 am
That… Actually sounds awesome. Way awesomer than the interpretation of Fu Manchu I've been running with where it's the other half of "It's so racist that–" jokes (Such as "Those political ads with the chinese professor in the future telling a class of laughing chinese students how the US stopped being a superpower is so racist I'm amazed they didn't get Christopher Lee in yellowface to play the professor," or "The Trade Alliance in Star Wars are so racist that Darth Tyrannus said 'Isn't that a bit over the top?'")
August 18, 2013 @ 7:09 am
What about Alan Grant? The best British writer that never went Vertigo and instead just wrote the hell out of Batman, probably earning himself a nice living but getting forgotten when talking about the British Invasion, despite perhaps being amongst the most read.
August 18, 2013 @ 8:53 am
I mentioned Frank Miller as somebody we were (briefly) interested in as a writer, based on Year One, Elektra: Assassin, and Born Again. But after than he disappeared for a few years to writer Robocop 2 and by the time he came back there were lots of other writers to follow. I don't think he would have been a good example, other than he's who I actually remember discussing at the comic shop multiple times in that context.
While I have original owner books from as far back as 1978 (when I was 7), I didn't discover a comic shop until 1985. So my reference to Moore as the "first star writer" was, as I said, based on the fact he was the only writer viewed as worth noting in Overstreet back then. Citing Overstreet as a reference makes me feel vaguely dirty now, but back then it was a vital reference source even if you didn't care about prices.
Like I think I said, I didn't read TCJ back then, and I didn't know anybody who did. I presume stores would order it for box customers, but I don't recall seeing it on the shelf. (I still live in the Seattle area, I wonder if part of the antipathy for TCJ was Gary Groth personally annoying some of the shop owners…) I can't read something I don't know about. I will admit that gap in my knowledge seems odd for back then. I know I was aware of the magazine by the early 90's, but that's several years into the war.
I cited Wizard not because I have any liking for the book- and I didn't back then, either- but because it was the first comic news magazine that seemed to get any widespread distribution. I know I never saw CBG or TCJ outside a comic shop or very large bookstore; but Wizard made it out to all sorts of shops.
August 18, 2013 @ 9:52 am
I'm pretty sure neither wrote Dredd directly, but I think Moore wrote some of the Walter the robot spinoff stories, so there's a tangential link there. Halo Jones and Zenith are bound to appear though, and I wonder how deep Phil is going to get into the legal arguments about the latter.
August 18, 2013 @ 7:02 pm
Yes, Halo Jones. I also bought most all of the Titan Books reprints in the mid-late '80s and HJ was my absolute favorite. Can't wait for Sandifer's take on that, and D.R. & Quinch, natch.
August 18, 2013 @ 7:24 pm
Morrison has written at least two (soundly terrible) Dredd arcs, including the Millar collab during the Summer Offensive. I assume their mentor/apprentice -> conquering collaborators -> embittered rivals narrative will be a significant strand of The War.
August 18, 2013 @ 8:13 pm
Millar isn't going to be one who gets every single work covered, but he'll get a solid number of entries focused on him.
August 18, 2013 @ 8:14 pm
I'm not sure how easy it'll be to get back to Talbot. Well, I suppose a lot will depend on how I handle things like Sandman – with enough level of detail, a Talbot digression would be easily justified, but I don't know how arc-by-arc focused I'll be on some things. Though if anything's going to get multiple chapters, Sandman's a contender, which bodes well for Talbot.
August 19, 2013 @ 5:30 am
Plus there's the obvious V for Vendetta / Anarky connection.
August 19, 2013 @ 5:31 am
Well, Lost Girls will clear all your worries up … 8^/
August 19, 2013 @ 5:34 am
Well, you can rewrite your screed to make it about Moore's barely disguised use of the Charlton characters in Watchmen.
August 19, 2013 @ 5:38 am
Ah, Frank Miller, goddamn — what the hell happened to him? I mean, the things that bug me about him now were always there in the earlier work, but they seemed less problematic because they were offset by things like multiple conflicting but sympathetic perspectives. But somewhere along the way he threw out his capacity for nuance.
August 19, 2013 @ 6:34 am
will Garth Ennis be showing up in any way, shape or form?
I think it would be cool if he turned up, not in a way or a form, but in a shape.
August 19, 2013 @ 4:38 pm
A rather different way to redeem the Fu Manchu stories was the comic book Master of Kung Fu, which kept FM a villain but made his son a hero.
I've always had a hard time convincing non-comics readers that two of the best comics of the 70s and 80s were named Swamp Thing and Master of Kung Fu.