Opus 18:

1. Peeves and Plaudits (1/26)

1.  Peeves & Plaudits.  Someone told me that the broadcast television
networks have slipped in another couple minutes of commercials every
hour this season, starting in the fall.  Yeah, well, I can believe
it.  We're awash in these things.  Why?  You'd think that in this day
and age, beset by competitive television on cable, the broadcast
networks would want to woo viewers back by giving them the Best TV
Ever.  Fewer commercials, not more.  But no, we have more
commercials.  It's as if the TV networks just don't care.  Screw the
viewer: load on more commercials.  
     And, of course, that's exactly the attitude that prevails.  Now let
me reveal the reason behind it all.  The networks realize that it's
only a matter of a few more years before cable TV and the Internet
have completely displaced broadcast television.  When that happens,
the Big Three TV networks will be completely out of business.  They
all realize it.  They anticipate it.  So until that dire day arrives,
they're determined to squeeze every possible advertising dollar out
of the market.  They want to squeeze it while it can still be
squeezed.  And in order to do that, they just heap up more
commercials every hour.  Simple, like I said.
     And if this reveals just how scornful the networks are of the
viewing audience ("Those dummies will take anything we dish
out--screw 'em"), that's just as it is.  They are scornful.
     All the more reason to get back to funnybooks.  To wit, a
     In Starman No. 62, drenched stunningly in black shadow by Snejbjerg,
we have a 22-page story by Robinson in which 32 different persons are
named, 16 in the last 7 pages; the plot gets as lost in this kind of
name-dropping extravaganza as it would in the New York phone book.
So who is Sadie Falk, anyhow?  This issue is the first in a new story
arc, by the way, dubbed "Grand Guignol," which, as every comic book
fan knows, invokes a theatrical form popular in Parisian cabarets in
the 19th century that dramatized sadism and violence.  Wot fun, eh?
     If you want to see what one of Bruce Timm's pert li'l cuties looks
like when he really turns up the heat, check Vampirella Monthly No.
20 in which Timm does all the art chores, including painted color, on
a six-page story about Vampi as an artist's model; ho, boy . . . .  
In the same "ho, boy" vein, we have Jim Silk's latest Bettie book,
deliciously rendered--Bettie: Queen of the Nile (or, as we say here
in R&R corner, "queen of denial" because of an lingering
frustration). . . .  Here's Paul Grist's British book, Kane, which I
somehow have managed to miss until No. 26, at hand; a tour de force,
tovarich--masterfully varied page layouts for visual variety and
narrative impact, starkly contrasting black and white, dramatic use
of shadow, exquisite pacing--in short, a minor masterpiece of the
cartoonist's artistry and a nifty cops-and-robbers story, too. . . .     
     Alex Ross does his usual stunning renditions in Batman: War on
Crime, but the format defeats him: every page is half of a
giant-sized double-truck spread, and the binding at the center,
pinching the pages together at the gutter, spoils the effect wherever
the layout crosses the gutter.  Paul Dini produced the story and
script, and I wonder about some of his usages.  Would anyone--even
the melodramatic Batman--actually say, of himself, "I am a grim soul
fighting a relentless war on crime"?  I'm a grim soul?  Doubtful.
And when Dini refers to "ghosts long departed," doesn't he really
mean "ghosts of the long departed"?
     I'm not a regular reader of Wizard, so when I picked up No. 100, I
was baffled to find that you can scarcely tell the advertising pages
from the editorial pages.  That's deliberate, I know: the main idea
is to sell stuff, no matter what other objective might be ostensible.
  But it sure makes it difficult to read the magazine, a difficulty
compounded by the magazine's leap-frog layout--no doubt a desperate
frenetic, scattershot assault on readers afflicted with attention
deficiency syndrome.  The purported alarm among the editorial
hierarchy at discovering that an ad in this issue is touting a porno
Website is another thing that's hard to take.  The stance in these
pages seems to incorporate readily an adolescent fart-lighting,
gross-out sense of humor, of which the following is a typical (albeit
hilarious) example: "What is the sexiest body part, T or A?"  The
answer is T--because, apparently, you'll never "hear a breast fart."
     I bought this issue because of the "celebration" of this century's
70 years of comic books.  Their history is, naturally, as flawed as
their sense of comedy is sub-navel.  The supposed first comic book,
Funnies on Parade (in 1933), could not have reprinted Hal Foster's
Prince Valiant because Prince Valiant didn't start until 1937; ditto
Milton Caniff's Terry and the Pirates, which debuted in late 1934.
And Terry is not a sailor.  And Joe Shuster didn't marry Joanne
Carter, his model for Lois Lane; his partner, Jerry Siegel, did.
(It's true that Joe dated her first, but it was Jerry whom she
married in 1948.)  These mistakes were all on the same page, and
after encountering this many, I almost stopped reading.  I did a few
pages later after bumping up against a few more erroneous
assertions--Batman's villains were not inspired by Chester Gould's in
Dick Tracy (they came along too late for that), Bill Finger didn't
create the Green Lantern (but he burnished Mart Nodell's concept),
and that picture of the Green Arrow is, I think, from the wrong era.
Do they have fact checkers at Wizard?  Or do they just blurt out
their own big bang version of history?  One hopes Wizard never makes
it onto library shelves where innocent bystanders might be inclined
to take its version of history as gospel.
     The Wizard guys shouldn't be too apologetic about the porn ad.  And
Jesse Ventura needn't hang his head in shame over his crack in
Playboy about wanting to be reincarnated as the size of bra a
well-endowed woman might wear.  You gotta realize what's happening in
comic books, aristotle.  On the cover of Animaniacs No. 54, for
example, we have a furry femme proclaiming that she "couldn't do it
without her support hose," and behind her, a shelf of stockings is
going hubba-hubba nutso.  A Jesse gesture if ever there was one.  And
inside, when the Seven Dwarfs encounter Snow White for the first
time, one does a take Tex Avery would applaud, saying, "Holy
Kielbasa, dere--wotta bilt!"  And this comic book is for younger
readers.  Well, youth just ain't what it usta be.  If it ever was.
     Stay 'tooned.

return to top of page

Return to Archive Index
return to archive main page

To find out about Harv's books, click here.

send e-mail to R.C. Harvey
art of the comic book - art of the funnies - reviews - order form - main page