The Walking Dead

The striking thing that I noticed about The Walking Dead's first episode, 'Days Gone By' is the stark, minimal feel to a post-Zombie world. There's no music, just the footsteps, birdcalls and buzzing of flies that hang in the air as the action moves forward. The TV show, which has thus far broken all viewer records for the host channel AMC, seemed like an almost guaranteed hit for the channel. The reasons for the success extend beyond the inclusion of zombies, but because the show is something that resonates with a modern audience.

Zombies have been on the rise in recent years: major film productions have been popular, such as 28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead, (And of course, the George Romero films that have come out) in addition to books such as Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker, World War Z (And The Zombie Survival Guide, both by Max Brooks) John Joseph Adam's Zombie anthologies, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Seth Grahame-Smith (and Jane Austin), with The Walking Dead remaining popular in print form, and now jumping mediums to the small screen, where it seems like it’s well suited for television.

As an adaptation goes, The Walking Dead is off to a decent start. Rather than giving into the impulse to make a show that was high on action and rapid pacing, the show’s creators have gone in the opposite direction: Days Gone By, much like the comic, is paced slowly, and the end result is a fairly slow episode: in any other context, I would have found the show fairly boring – there’s plenty of suspense, but one major element (the whereabouts and wellbeing of Grime’s family) is revealed fairly early on. The first major encounter with a mass of the undead doesn’t happen until the end of the episode, in a particularly frightening scene as Grimes and his horse are surrounded.

As it stands, The Walking Dead is possibly one of the better takes on the zombie genre thus far: the message and point of the show isn’t about the undead themselves, but the world around the survivors. Zombies stories have been rife with allegory, and both print and motion picture versions do exactly that.

A standout moment in Sunday’s episode saw some discussion as to how people hadn’t prepared for the events that transpired. Given the political climate present in the country at the moment, it’s not a hard leap to imagine. Zombie fiction tends to lend itself well to a libertarian dream of a more down to earth rule of law, without the worries of infrastructure and government, living on one’s own wits and instructs. Then there’s the guns.

The decline of the U.S. economy is something that has been at the forefront of political and economic news for almost two years, and I can’t help but wonder if shows such as Jericho (cancelled after a season and revived, only to be cancelled again) would have better succeeded if it had aired just a couple of years later. Other shows that have reflected the political feelings of the day have done well critically, such as SyFy’s Battlestar Galactica, HBO’s True Blood or Fox’s 24. While this isn’t a singular contributing factor, relevancy is something that a public audience will relate and respond to.

Here, amongst the shambling zombies, there’s a good set of themes that the series seems to have picked up on and incorporated into its storylines. In addition to the rise in popularity of the zombies themselves, The Walking Dead has an exceptionally bright future. Indeed, it’s already been renewed for a second season to follow up the first six episodes that compose the first season.

While the zombie bandwagon has been an easy thing to jump on - the popularity is only going to peak from this point on - The Walking Dead is a good example of both an adaptation and of the use of zombies. The original comic book seems to have translated very well, with creators understanding the overall picture and changes needed for the small screen. Like any bandwagon, there have been a number of stories, films and comics that have included zombies to some extent, with widely varying levels of quality. The focus, for some of the best stories, it seems, should be not on the zombies themselves, but on the people that they effect. While I've tried to avoid fanboying the craze, the show offers a quality story, rather than gimmicks to help it succeed.

Beyond the successes of a zombie show (the first that I’m aware of), the introduction of a well executed and received genre show is a very good thing, especially in the middle of a television season that has been lacking. The Walking Dead is looking to be a compelling and interesting drama. Thus far, it looks like it’s lining up to do just that.

Kirby Krackle and Nerd Rock

There is a growing music scene that I've been hearing more from lately, Nerd Rock. There's been several artists that I've really liked: 'Weird' Al Yankovich, They Might Be Giants, Jonathan Coulton, Paul and Storm, John Anealio, The Decemberists, amongst others. A new find of mine, Seattle-based duo Kirby Krackle, joins this genre with their two albums, their self-titled debut disc (Kirby Krackle, 2009) and their latest release, E for Everyone (2010).

E for Everyone is possibly one of the best examples of Nerd Rock, with a great alternative – rock sound that sounds incredibly polished and energetic, with songs about superheroes, comic books, video games and geek life. Within minutes of finding the band’s name on twitter, I was able to listen to a couple of their songs off of their website, and within minutes, I had both of their albums off of iTunes. Of all of the bands that I’ve listened to, they’re one of the more exciting, with a great sound and some fantastic lyrics.

The album starts off with Vault 101, about the video game Fallout 3, with a good kick, but the really good start comes with On and On, a song about Wolverine from X-Men, and his own struggle with immortality, thanks to his rapid healing. The rest of the album is a fairly diverse grouping of songs that is much better than their first album. Secret Identity is as it sounds (about a guy with a secret identity – it’s not specific to any one superhero), Roll Over feels like a party song that references just about every 1980s cartoon that I can think of, while Henchman follows a character trying to be a henchman for a super villain – asking some good questions: what are their hours, and what can they offer for health insurance? – Ring Capacity opens with a bright sound and looks to Green Lantern for inspiration. Can I Watch You? Is a funky song about Uatu and Take it from Me is about Mega Man. The last three songs on the album, Great Lakes Avengers, Dusty Cartridges and Long Boxes and Going Home are some of the best songs on the album, if not Nerd Rock in general. Great Lakes Avengers is plain fun: a character tries to join the X-Men, Justice League, Fantastic Four, Green Lantern Corps, (amongst others), while trying to avoid the eye of the Great Lakes Avengers, who are apparently a disaster, being some of the worst superheroes of all time. The album turns from lighthearted fun to more serious fair with the light ballad Dusty Cartridges and Long Boxes, a sweet story of a geek in love with a geeky girl. Going Home ends E for Everyone on a great note about the joy of attending a convention, describing it in the best way that I’ve heard: “We're on the road, we're going home/To the place where wild nerds roam/With pretty girls and dudes in capes/Going to cons is our escape.” The sound is chalk-full of energy and feels perfect for blasting over the speakers as one drives over to any given convention. For all of those thinking of attending the upcoming Celebration V or Dragon*Con, this will be a good one to start off with.


Nerd Rock is something that I’ve been looking for, and as I’ve looked, there’s a good variety of material out there. The internet is a good medium for aspiring artists, and in a number of cases, there’s a lot of material that wouldn’t normally work its way through the music industry: as people are able to make music on their own, there seems to be a greater variety of music, which bodes well for the larger geek-community. Artists such as John Anealio and Jonathan Coulton both have had success with their own music, self-released, about various subjects in the speculative fiction genres. Kirby Krackle doesn’t seem to have the same exposure to the fan community, but has gone with their own route, essentially self-publishing their music and selling it through iTunes and their own website, gaining fame in their own circles.

The album succeeds on its own because it’s not a gimmick. Singer-songwriters in general are at their best when they’ve put together a song that they and their audience can get behind and relate to: that’s exactly what Kirby Krackle seems to have done with their two releases, and E for Everyone feels like a refinement over their first album. They’ve found exactly what they want to sing about, and people who will listen to, and they’ve taken off from there. This album exudes confidence, skill and some very good songwriting behind the sound.  The duo, Kyle Stevens and Jim Demonakos, have some serious geek credit with them: Demonakos founded Emerald City ComicCon and has penned a graphic novel and founded a chain of comic book shops in Washington, while Stevens has released six albums with other groups. More importantly though, it sounds like they’re having a good time on stage.

This sub-genre of Nerd Rock is a positive thing for fandom: music is a fantastic venue for telling stories on its own (and Kirby Krackle does this with a couple of songs: Henchmen, Great Lakes Avengers, Dusty Cartridges and Long Boxes and Going Home) but is also a good venue for humor, reflection, and something in the music world for fandom to relate to. The inclusion of science fiction and fantasy elements in songs isn’t a new thing: just look at some of Iron Maiden’s songs for music about Dune, Lord of the Rings, D-Day and quite a bit more, but new artists bring fresh air to fans. I’ve gotten a kick out of a number of songs about some of my favorite things, and a new venue for speculative fiction is a very good thing, because music tells stories differently than prose or video.

The bottom line is: Kirby Krackle is on a roll with E for Everyone, and they’re a band that I hope to hear a lot more from in the coming years. In the meantime, they’ve left me with a fantastic album to listen to over and over.

Sex and Science Fiction

The other day, while I was checking up on science fiction news sites, I came across an article that SciFiWire posted: "Fringe's Anna Torv As You've Never Seen Her Before: Topless (NSFW)", with a couple of photographs that weren't actually revealing or anything too distasteful - no shirt, but she was definitely covered, and on the whole of things, pretty light fare compared to other websites out there - just take a look at some of the late night titles that io9 will post up every now and then.
What really got me was reading the comments in the article. A number of posters were pretty annoyed by this article: "I'm getting really tired of this site displaying low level porn on it. You must've recently hired some juvenile male to run the site.", "Yeah, it's fun, and it probably increases web traffic significantly, but it's really annoying to us ''real' science fiction fans, and that's why we came here: science fiction." There's a bunch of others as well, but that is the basic flow of some of the comments, although there were some good comments that went the other way as well. While some of the commenters were complaining more about the site's propensity to post up related Science Fiction and Fantasy news, there were certainly a number of comments relating to the actual content of the article.
Sex has long been a part of science fiction, either as a ploy to get young, male readers to part with their money in the early 20th century and incidentally, read magazines and novels, or as a direct plot point, science fiction is hardly a genre that is as innocent as a lot of people seem to think that it is, along with horror and comic books. Going back to the American Depression in the 1930s, Science Fiction magazines, under Charles Gernsback and Mort Weisinger, often featured and objectified women and men alike on the covers of magazines and novels, as well as in their content. (Gerard Jones, Men of Tomorrow, 132-133). As major comics such as Superman moved into the markets, much of the same moved with it. Looking at Superman, the relationship between Lois Lane and Superman/Clark Kent is a good example of this objectification, on both sides: Lois rejects Clark because he isn't perceived as man enough, especially compared to Superman. It's an ironic twist that holds a number of lessons in identify and judgment, but it also holds up a standard when it comes to gender roles: the strong, not the weak are desirable, while women are attracted to the image of a person, not necessarily their character behind it. (Jones, 143) Women and men are both heavily objectified in comics: just look at some of the art work when it comes to the Marvel and DC comics - characters are exaggerated in their proportions to the extreme.
This says nothing of the deeper roots of the genre, which science fiction historian and author Adam Roberts asserts, comes from the tradition of Gothic literature that far predates the materials cheaply available to wide-eyed boys in the Great Depression. "Gothic fiction is a popular category of academic pedagogy and research: a usefully delimited subgenre of fantastic literature... typically, a gothic novel includes mysterious and sinister goings-on, usually involving supernatural agency such as ghosts or devils ... located in distant, wild places, castles or monasteries in inaccessible portions of central Europe, where innocent young women are terrified, men have commerce with the devil and there is much to do with graveyards, ruins and madness, all flavored by a distinctive atmosphere of eroticized suspense, shock and horror." (Adam Roberts, The History of Science Fiction, 82) Look no further than Bram Stoker's Dracula for a good example of this sort of eroticized atmosphere, something that has carried into the modern day with similar elements of the genre, such as True Blood or Twilight.
This is why I find the shock and appalled nature of a number of a lot of people so ridiculous, simply because it represents a sort of high-minded elitism, either from somebody looking down on the collective genre of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror as something insignificant and childish, or from within, with people taking the highbrowed route that scrubs the genre clean by removing anything mildly offensive to the common viewer/reader to fit their needs. Both approaches do the genre a disservice, either by rejecting it or by selectively looking back on it for an inaccurate look. It's even more ridiculous in the internet era, where advocates of free choice insist that everybody must be protected from everything offensive.
The point in all of this is that sex and science fiction have never been all that far apart, no matter what shocked and appalled commentators believe to be the case. Used either for selling extra copies or for story content, there is a reliance on character types that have prevailed throughout literary history to become fairly resilient staples in our books, movies and television shows. If there is anything really worth getting offended over, or at least looking more closely into, is gender objectification, as well as our own outrage over seeing what is usually heavily implied.

Balancing Act

As I finish up my final seminar of class work with Norwich University's Military History program, I have begun to mentally shift gears towards the subject matter of my final paper, where I'm going to be examining the role in which warfare helped to influence the comic book industry around the time of the Second World War, a subject that has long fascinated me. While looking around for materials, I have been thinking a lot about comic books and their subject matter in a more abstract sense - the dual role of the hero and villain in society, and as such, I believe that comic books tell some of the most elemental stories, which helps, I think, to account for their appeal to a wide range of readers around the world.

There is a basic appeal to superheroes - the abilities especially - when I was a young child in Elementary School, I idolized the X-Men, because I loved what they were able to do, whether it was super strength, claws, flight, plasma beams, and so forth, and much of the deeper meanings behind some of the stories were lost on me until much later. The central meaning behind each story, I think, is of the hero, whom we are meant to emulate, but what I have come to be more interested in lately is the complicated nature of the hero and villain, and how one is inseparable from the other.

This thinking comes at an interesting time. Over the past couple of months, I have been reading about a rise in costumed vigilantism across the United States, dedicated civilians who are attempting to right wrongs that they come across. These individuals, most likely heavily influenced by repeated viewings of the recent Batman films and other comic book fare, take to the streets, their faces covered, to take on crime. I have to admit, I see the appeal in this sort of thing, and I've often wondered, if I was in somewhat better shape, how I would go about this sort of thing. Fortunately, Vermont is not awash in crime, overrun by gangs and drugs, so my services will likely remain dormant for now.

Interestingly, and unsurprisingly, the rise of this fad seems to prove a point about the existence of heroes - with their rise come their counterpart, the villain. Utilizing YouTube and Craigslist, an anti-heroes group, R.O.A.C.H., has formed, offering a ten dollar bounty for the identity of one of the heroes operating out of Ohio.

With a hero, or a force for authoritative good, there must be an equal, counterpart entity that represents the opposite side of the coin. The recent installment in the Batman franchise is possibly one of the best examples of this, which helped to make the film stand out - hanging upside down by his feet, Heath Ledger's Joker cackled at Batman:

"You won't kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness. And I won't kill you because you're just too much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever."

Essentially, the point that the Joker makes in the film is that where Batman is the force for a form of justice and order, he exists as a sort of counterpart, a ying and yang sort of effect. The same idea is applied to the character of Harvey Dent, who epitomizes the theme of duality.

DC comics see this sort of theme between heroes as well, especially when one considers the personalities of Batman and Superman. While both are arguably forces for good, they represent two very different thought processes. Batman is a vigilante, whereas Superman seems to adhere to a far more strict ethical code. Essentially, one represents chaos and righteousness - the damaged man who has no powers to speak of - and the other represents law and order - the man who is invulnerable, godlike. While we are on the subject of Superman, we once again turn to the iconic villains, and Lex Luthor is arguably one of the main counterparts in his life. Where Superman often relies on feats of strength, righting wrongs in a purely physical manner, Luthor is much the opposite - he has no powers, but is able to counter Superman through his intellect alone. Here, major themes such as obedience and curiosity come against one another, and the realm of comic books are opened to a far greater realm.

Duality is an enduring human condition, one that is completely ingrained with much of our belief system, especially the Holy Bible. I do admit, I'm not wholly familiar with the book, but there is one story that has particularly stuck with me, and that is the role between good and evil, of God and his angel, Lucifer. Lucifer was struck down to Hell because he went against God, against authority, and by all accounts, good. In a way, I have always seen this as a larger theme, where good is associated with an adherence to authority, of obedience to law, where evil is often associated with everything that is the opposite - of stepping out of the lines, to question. I don't necessarily believe that there is any sort of natural right and wrong in nature, but I see these two elements - obedience vs. disobedience, predetermination vs. free will, black and white vs. shades of grey, as a permanent quandary that cannot, and will not ever be decided by any number of philosophers. As the Joker proves, one cannot exist without the other. As I learned in an ethics class in high school, one cannot know good without knowledge of evil.

This is a strong theme throughout the history of science fiction, from Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy to Michael J. Straczynski's Babylon 5, both stories that contained this as a dominant part of its mythos. Within Foundation, there was the effort to save society, where the Mule sought to undermine all that. MJS's Babylon 5 looked to the duel nature between the Shadows and the Vorlons as the same arguments between good and bad, dark and light, order vs. chaos, as the two extremes of reality. But these are extremes to each side of the coin, as society is eager to jump to, it would seem. One of my favorite television shows, Life On Mars, demonstrates much of the same storytelling qualities, with Gene Hunt and Sam Tyler being much the polar opposites of one another, which is why their partnership works so well for the story. (The UK version, at least. The US version employed this to a far more limited extent.)

If one looks to any sort of politics in the world today, you will see that there is a division between left and right politics, because of the seating positions of an older government. In the United States, these divisions fall much along the same lines - the right is often a force for order, for adherence to principles, often along with religious support and faith, where the left is often represented by scientific reasoning and knowledge. Strictly speaking, this is a broad generalization, but you get my point.

One of my favorite short videos that I've come across recently is 'Nemisis' a Norwegian (I think) short film that demonstrates this split nature between a hero and a villain. The protagonist, Arne, desires to be a hero, but alone, by himself, he is unable to become one without the antagonist, the Nemesis, as they find towards the end of the short film. Like many other stories, the heroes are often defined by what they are not, and oftentimes, villains are placed into the story with just these qualities, which will often boil down to these two extremes.

This, I think, is why the comic books, and their stories, are so enduring in society, much like the Bible has remained for the thousands of years that Christianity has been around. The duel nature of good and bad, right and left, heads or tails, is a fundamental part of how we see the world, and the comic book format tells these stories in one of the most fundamental methods, a hero that represents one side, where the villain, who is just over the top enough to match the hero in this instance, represents the other.

There is one movie that I can think of that does this in an even better fashion than the Dark Knight, in the same sort of genre, Unbreakable. The dominant theme here is once again, that of duality, and it incorporates the long history of comic books into this story, with the two characters as polar opposites. Where one was strong, the other was weak, and so on. One carried out crimes, where the other one sought to prevent them, a never-ending loop, a sort of natural balancing act that will continue to be examined, not only through the political, philosophical and religious realms, but also through that of the brightly colored panels of a comic book.

I highly doubt that I will explore this sort of thing in my capstone paper, but there are elements of the Second World War that certainly applies, with the absolute evil that is represented by the Nazis that took over Europe, countered by the just cause of the Allied forces that took it back. I think that this balance is best represented by the introduction of Captain America in the late 1930s, with a dramatic punch to Hitler’s jaw on the cover of a comic book. In a way, without a presence such as Hitler, the very heroes that inspire and motivate us would have no reason to exist. Much is the same in today’s society with a group of costumed heroes. Without crime, they would have no reason to exist, however amusing their methods are. Heroes will always be balanced by a villain who represents everything that they are not, for good or for bad.

The Dark Knight

I saw a screening last night with a couple of 501st friends, and all I can say is that I was completely blown away by the movie. It held such an intensity, darkness and brilliance that I'm not at all reluctant to say that it's possibly my favorite comic book movie to date. As a friend of mine mentioned, nobody is going to care about a drunk in a tin-can after this one.

Plot details are everywhere, so I don't think that I will have to say what the film is about. What really makes the story here is it's intense plot that is very twisted and packed with subplots and characters. It's a little overwhelming, and I think that it's the one drawback to the film, because point A at the beginning is nearly forgotten from point q way at the end. That being said, it's an amazing ride between those points, and it's nice to see a film that doesn't pander down to an audience, but takes them along for a wild ride.

Everyone is singing the late Heath Ledger's performance as nothing short of brilliant, and I'm inclined to agree. Ledger's Joker is a far cry from Nicholson's performance, fitting the style of the new franchise - dark, gritty and completely without social inhibitions of right and wrong. He is, essentially, the perfect counterpoint to Bale's Batman. One is a source of justice, the other is one of chaos and anarchy. As Alfred, played by the great Sir. Michael Cane says, some men just want to see the world burn, and that is what Ledger's joker is all about.

The usual suspects, Bale, Caine, Freeman and Oldman are in top form as they were in Batman Begins, and are joined by Maggie Gyllenhaal, who makes a far better Rachel Dawes, and Aaron Eckhart, who plays Harvey Dent, who pulls out a brilliant performance as Gotham's new DA and later as the villian Two Face. There's even a short appearance from Cillian Murphy as the Scarecrow, which was a nice touch, and Heroes' Eric Roberts as a crime lord was also a cool appearance. I also spotted William Fichtner from Prison Break in the beginning, which was cool.

What the Dark Knight shows the world is that comic book films are not necessarily something solely for a younger audience. This film is dark and bloody, intelligent and borders on something like a horror film at times. It's a far cry from other batman movies such as Batman and Robin or the Fantastic Four. Like Iron Man, which came out earlier this summer, it wraps real world relevance with the fantastic.

Additionally, the movie delves much more into superhero mythos than most films or comics that I've read, really exploring the nature to which good and evil interact, as well as the intentions and consequenses of those actions. The Joker is a force for anarchy, but to what extent has be been brought into being by the mere existance of Gotham's Dark Knight? Caine's character tells Bruce Wayne that this is somewhat the result of his existance:

Bruce Wayne: I knew the mob wouldn't go down without a fight. But this is different. They crossed the line. Alfred Pennyworth: You crossed the line first, sir. You hammered them. And in their desperation they turned to a man they didn't fully understand.

This is mirrored (no pun intended) by the introduction of Harvey 'Two Face' Dent in the form of Aaron Eckhart. The DA of Gotham is a force for good, but essentially becomes enamored of the idea that there is two sides to everything, and this is shown a lot in the movie, especially after half of his face is burned off. It goes to show that the best of the best can have two sides, and that the good can become the worst type of evil. The Joker is essentially a catalyst, and knows it - he tells Batman that he's out there to give Gotham a better class of criminal. Two Face represents a more organized, type of evil, and I wonder if this, as well as the villification of Batman at the end, foreshadows some of what might come up in the next Batman film, which would be interesting.

The film is downright brilliant, and hopefully, I'll be able to catch it in theaters again at some point.

My love for Comics

I posted up a while ago about a book that I just read called Men of Tomorrow. I've been reflecting over the past week about why I like them so much, and how I came to read them. This was in part to my having to pull them out and seperating them out to dry after leaving them under an open window during a heavy rainstorm the other day. (Very fortunently, very little water actually reached the box, but it gave me a real panic for a couple minutes.) Men of Tomorrow proved to be a very thoughtful book, charting the rises and falls of the comic industry, and in fandom in general. This summer, comics exploded at camp among the staff. I brought my box of comics up with me, so that I could keep things in order and to continue to read them during my down time. Turns out that a bunch of other people were also closet fans, and soon read pretty much everything I had. Since then, they've been in touch with me and have been buying comics like crazy since this summer.

I first got involved with comic books when I was really little. Actually, I got involved with the collectors cards for the X-Men comics, featuring a number of characters. I still have them, and I remember how crazy we all were in the third grade. I remember having a couple of the comic books, but I can't for the life of me remember where they ended up. I took a job with a Star Wars website,, and I began to review the Star Wars Republic run of comics, which featured the clone wars. I read a lot of those, but I'd always been interested, if almost completely unaware of Spiderman, Fantastic Four and Iron Man. I put off buying new issues because I was never sure of where to begin. Where do you begin with a line of comics that's been in publication since the 1960s, or in the case of Superman, the 1930s? I found that I just had to start buying, and figure out where to go from there. Since then (This was last summer) I got oriented with and started picking up the following comics: Spiderman, Fantastic Four, Ironman, Daredevil, Captain America, Astonishing X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, X-Men, The Eternals, the New Avengers, B.P.R.D., Hellboy, The Escapists, Sin City and several others. It's always a pain when I miss a week or have a week when there's a number of these coming out at the same time. My collection has grown in the past year substancially. I sit down and look at the two boxes that have suddenly appeared and think about it. Why have I become such a junkie for these short books and really count down the days when the next releases hit the stores? Hell, I'm on a first name basis with some of the store employees.
Thinking about it, comics are very basic, but at the same time, incredibly complex. Books with pictures and words have been around for a long time, but it wasn't until the pulp era during the 1930s when they really exploded and began to tell fantastic stories, dipping into noir, science fiction and horror as subject matter. Comic stories are complex, with characters that will hold up, somewhat, to novel characters. Look at Peter Parker, Tony Stark or Matt Murdock. (Their alter egos are Spiderman, Iron Man and Daredevil) I think that to some extent, comic characters are a part of us that allows us to relate to their struggles, and how they solve them in a way that we wish that we could.

Comics seem to be much more mainstream these days. We've got large, big budget movies coming out every couple of months/years, and a book about comics, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, won a Pulitzer Prize for author Michael Chabon. It's a fantastic book, a bit comicish in and of itself.
But even simpler, and probably because of the extensive history behind the comic industry, there's just a feeling that you get holding a paper release, rather than the trade paperbacks that are so much more profitable nowadays. I guess it's one of those very geek things. Right up there with antique game consoles.

I'll continue to buy comics, for a long time, and for the forseeable future. It's just one of those things that I see worth in the world today that calls for me to set some money aside. I'll have the moments reading them to myself, in my own little world.

Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book

That's the subtitle of a book that I just finished, formally titled Men of Tomorrow by Gerard Jones. Fantastic book. As the title suggests, it's about the birth of the comic book industry.
It starts out during the early 1900s, and the one comic that everyone knows about isn't mentioned until about a hundred pages in. This is where the real history comes in.
Men of Tomorrow isn't just about comics. It's about the social and political culture in which they formed, explaining not only the environment just prior to the first publication of Action Comics #1 in 1938. The book takes us from there on a rollercoaster ride that the two creators, Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel were taken on though the rest of their lives. From Superman, we find the orgins of Batman, then Captain America, followed the troubles and censorship that the comic industry faced, the ups and downs of the market, the creation of DC and later, Marvel Comics, through to the first Superman movie, the rise of geek culture through to today.
It's amazing what that first issue did, and the impact that it's had.

The book is a nice representation of a history that not many people will ever really see. Everyone knows about World War II, World War I, Watergate, Vietnam, the Waco Seige and any other number of political and military events that's shaped our culture. This is the history that I've grown to like, because when I first came to Norwich, I discovered that everyone else is obsessed with military history. Cultural history is one of those things that's really overlooked.
The story of comics is facinating, dark and full of enough squabbles and backstabbing to take on an entity of their own. The two creators of Superman, Joe and Jerry, were ruined by the lawsuits that they brought against DC to get full credit for their work as creators and the compensation that they felt that they needed. It wasn't until the 1980s, almost 50 years, when they were able to do so.
Comics faced huge hurtles from the government and internal functions over content and what should be in comics in the first place. There were times when the government put huge restrictions on the content and when civil groups encouraged stores to return comics because of their content. Then there were market fluctuations. Comics boomed in the 30s and 40s, died off a little during the 50s, came back with Marvel Comics during the 60s through to the 80s, then a bust in the 90s and are currently resurging a bit now. During this time, writers and artists are hired and rehired.
All in all, it's a wonderfully facinating narrative about American culture, and about one of the more facinating parts of the literature world.

Comics to pick up this week...

Gah, seems like everything has the same release date this week:

X-WING: Rogue Leader #1
In the wake of the death of the Emperor and the destruction of the Death Star II, a group of Rebel pilots are looking forward to some well-deserved R & R. Instead, they run into a deadly attack by vengeful Imperials that changes the course of all of their lives.Rev up your engines-it's time for the Rogue Squadron to fly again! Join Luke Skywalker, Wedge Antilles, and the rest of the Rogues on a mission that will define them as heroes not just of the Rebellion, but as heroes for the whole galaxy!

B.P.R.D.: The Black Flame #2 (of 6)
Abe Sapien tries to settle into a desk job as the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense's war against the frog monsters escalates. But while Roger leads the Bureau's military units from victory to victory, the Nazi head of a major U.S. corporation puts his best scientists to work harnessing the power of the frogmen, and preparing for the return of a bizarre villain from the Bureau's secret past-The Black Flame.

The Amazing Spiderman 524 “ACTS OF AGGRESSION”
What horrors do the hordes of Hydra hold in store for the sensational Spider-Man and his teammates? Will the web-head and the New Avengers stop the revitalized Hydra from bringing the United States to its knees…? And if so…at what cost? The pulse-pounding conclusion to the Hydra arc! Part 6 (of 6).

Hot on the heels of last issue’s shocking final page, the FF are faced with a two-pronged attack! Having completed its journey to Earth, the Entity has arrived, warning of an even more terrible threat to come! J. Michael Straczynski continues his red-hot run, challenging Marvel’s First Family like never before in the pages of the World’s Greatest Comic Magazine!

Ultimate Iron Man #4
Science fiction visionary Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead) and superstar artist Andy Kubert (1602, Origin, Ultimate X-Men) continue the origin of Ultimate Iron Man. Tony Stark and Jim “Rhodey” Rhodes have their first adventure! What happens here will change their lives! Plus any back issues that I can find.. I've been looking for this series for a while now... And on top of that, Serenity opens, and the soundtrack is released this week.