I know 2015 is only five days old, but I really think this one’s going to be a contender.
And lest you think that that headline wrote itself, consider The Daily Mail‘s version based on my story.
Because it’s my birthday and I have the God-given right to behave insufferably on it, I’d like to complain about this otherwise excellent list of the top 50 comic book artists that Brian Cronin at Comic Book Resources has put together. Obviously, there are problems with objectively ranking art and what-not, but despite a bit of presentism, the list is mostly solid.
My complaint is with the analysis — or more accurately, the lack thereof. For example, Cronin includes this sequence of panels from Amazing Spider-Man #230:
And says this about them: “Amazing. His character work is different now, but his page designs are the same and they’re still excellent.”
I know Cronin’s capable of more — and again, because I have the right to be insufferable today and demand more — I’m going to provide more. Want to know why this sequence by John Romita Jr. warrants his inclusion in any top 50 list of comic book artists?
Panel 1 is open — that is, without defined borders — and that openness is used to indicate that events depicted within it don’t have a predefined outcome as of yet. This kind of non-panel paneling is often used in splash pages at the beginning of epic tight-filled battles, with hundreds of dozens of characters spilling over each other in a mad rush to do justice.
But here, despite the openness of the panel, Romita Jr. opts for intimacy — not only are Spider-Man and the Juggernaut the only two characters in the open panel, but they’ve been transported into a Beckett play. There literally is no world beyond their struggle and the words they have to say about it.
In Panel 2 — properly bordered as the outcome becomes more clear — the Juggernaut is still the dominant figure, and his defiant words occupy the bottom half of the panel.
But as Spider-Man starts to get the upper hand in Panel 3, the compositional balance shifts. Peter Parker’s thoughts start to crowd the action further down the panel, and no matter how hard the Juggernaut tries to pound him off — as indicated by the little stars dancing around Spider-Man’s head — Parker’s indomitable will is proving to be the decisive element in this fight.
In Panels 4 and 5, Spider-Man’s thoughts about responsibility are allowing him to subdue his much more powerful opponent. The weight of those thoughts is allowing the slight web-slinger to defeat a man who goes by nom de guerre “Juggernaut.”
Romita Jr. is using these first five panels to compose a stunning tribute to the power of will to triumph over brute strength — or it’s just a set-up. Panel 6 is a close-up of the Juggernaut’s gums, which had stopped flapping for a few panels there, indicating that he’s having mobility issues. Given the way the world fell away in Panel 1, the close-up in Panel 6 works like the final beat a comic holds before delivering the punchline — which in this case is that the pair had been fighting in a pond of wet cement.
All those words I wrote about how the weight of Parker’s responsibility overpowered the Juggernaut in Panels 2, 3, 4 and 5 remains true — but now it becomes clear that they were also slowly sinking in wet cement. Not that the reader knows that, because they fought in a Beckettian void of will and word, but even after the punchline’s been delivered, the tension remains. Yes, they were sinking into a sea of cement — but they were also engaged in a struggle which, for Parker, was deeply connected to his ever-present and always-punishing sense of responsibility.
And that, my friends, is why John Romita Jr. is one of the top 50 comic book artists of all time.
SEK’S LESBIAN FRIEND: Crap — just realized I won’t be able to make your birthday party.
SEK: That’s fine. I didn’t want to play any Indigo Girls songs anyway.
SEK’S LESBIAN FRIEND: You were the one who introduced me to the Indigo Girls! Just play your favorite so I can attend in spirit.
SEK: Fine — I’ll play “The Wood Song.”
SEK’S LESBIAN FRIEND: Your favorite Indigo Girl’s song is “The Wood Song”?
SEK’S LESBIAN FRIEND: “THE WOOD SONG”?
SEK: What? It’s gorgeous.
SEK’S LESBIAN FRIEND: “THE WOOD SONG”?
SEK: Fine — “Romeo and Juliet” then.
SEK’S LESBIAN FRIEND: WRITTEN BY A MAN!
SEK: How am I losing this argument?
SEK’S LESBIAN FRIEND: God damn straight people.
So I almost landed an interview with Kirk Cameron about why he thought his new film was the lowest rated movie on IMDB, but I heard back from his people and apparently he found something I wrote yesterday “terribly disappointing” and called it off — which I found weird given that I didn’t work yesterday.*
But in case you’re wondering what it’s like to be vetted by Kirk Cameron’s people, it goes something like this:
SEK is being interviewed by Kirk Cameron’s Handler (KCH) for a potential article.
KCH: Kirk wants to know if you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, Christ the Savior.
SEK: I attended CCD for a few years and studied Latin in college. I translated a lot of the Church Fathers — Augustine, Aquinas, and the like.
KCH: That’s really interesting, really. So you know about sin?
SEK: I know more than anyone cares to about the danger stealing pears from your neighbor can pose for your soul.
KCH: So you were raised Catholic?
SEK: Catholic and Jewish.
KCH: You know Hebrew?
KCH: Kirk’s a big fan of Hebrew, big fan.
SEK: It’s the only dead language to be revived.
KCH: I didn’t know that, did not know. That’s really interesting. Are you gay?
SEK: I am not.
KCH: Good, good, just need to dot those “t”s. Have you ever been gay?
SEK: I have not, but I’m not sure how that’s relevant to my ability to discuss film. Did you read the links I sent?
KCH: I did, and they were great, great. Loved them, loved. But some of the language was not quite Christ-like.
SEK: I can adapt to my audience — we’ve been talking for twenty minutes and I haven’t cussed once.
KCH: That’s true, true. Good. What are your feelings about “gotcha” interviews?
SEK: They get you one good moment, but burn your reputation for being fair-minded to people you disagree with.
KCH: So you don’t like them? Hate them?
SEK: I can’t do my job if people don’t trust me to treat them fairly.
KCH: That sounds fair, really fair. How do you think this is going?
SEK: Pretty good.
KCH: I think so too. I think we can make this work. I like you.
SEK: Thanks. I like to be likable.
KCH: Which is why I’m worried about the state of your soul, but we can talk about that later.
SEK: Do I need to be saved to do the interview?
KCH: Kirk would definitely be more comfortable, definitely.
KCH: Let me pass this on to Kirk, and I’ll let you know.
*I did however write this on Facebook and I suppose he could’ve found that offensive.
Her hatred apparently extends to Dutch bassoonists, about which I don’t even know what to say.
I understand everyone’s shit’s emotional right now. But I’ve got a three point plan that’s going to fix everything. Number 1: Women are people and men’s right movement types are the Taliban and ISIS…
I spent two glorious hours on Graphic Policy Radio last night ostensibly talking about NBC’s Constantine, but as the title of this post indicates, we got a little digressive. You can listen to the entire podcast below:
The “church branding agency” probably should’ve went with Chick fil A — what with the in-built demographic crossover — but I can see “the McMass project” working out just as well.
Not quite, Spike — I just wrote an Internet Film School column about the Thanksgiving episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer for the AV Club.
Thanksgiving is a holiday that allows filmmakers to get back to the medium’s theatrical roots. No elaborate sets are required — just a table and some people who know each other so well they decided to come together once a year rather than interact regularly. It is a chance for film to scale back its visual ambitions and look like a play without stumbling into the stodgy stage direction of an old episode of Masterpiece Theatre. Only unlike those film adaptations of dramatic works, there is a natural quality to the limitations placed upon a film that happens on Thanksgiving. Everyone looks like they’re in the same place not because the theater couldn’t afford better sets, but because everyone is trapped in the same confined spaces by strained familial bonds. Because if ever there were a time and a place for families to fall apart, it’s Thanksgiving.
Families fall apart all the time — I consider “families falling apart” to be a genre, and Noah Baumbach the current king of it — but never as spectacularly as they do during Thanksgiving. Perhaps as alluded to above, it is because of the artificially pressurized atmosphere the holiday creates. People who don’t particularly like each other are yet again forced to make extended displays of false joviality in order to please the one family member who actually cares about everyone. Sometimes that character is a doting mother, sometimes a dying father, or in the case of the “Pangs” episode of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, an empty-nested Chosen One whose surrogate family is on the brink of collapse…
Kluwe began by noting that it was strange that Baldwin, a critic of journalistic ethics, requested that the interview be conducted on Twitter, which is not conventional journalistic procedure — but that he understood the desire to work in a format in which ideological opponents would not be able to manipulate your words.