Friday, April 19, 2013

Bryant Has Issues #31...Pun-Intended Edition

No Stephen King comics this week, folks, but in lieu of material directly inspired by Uncle Stevie, I've got some stuff that comes from people who've worked with King before.

We'll start with Saga, which is the brainchild of Brian K. Vaughan, the scripter of the upcoming Under the Dome television series.  Why am I telling you this, given that you already know it?  Easy: I couldn't think of any other way to begin the post.  Hey, I'm a hack; what can I say?

But, yes, we are going to be focusing on Saga at the outset today, and I may as well tell you right here, right now: you are going to see penises.  Not real ones; they're drawn by Fiona Staples.  But whatever solace the easily-offended amongst you might take from the fact that they are made of ink and paper rather than flesh and blood is likely to be offset by what these particular penises are doing.  I think we can agree that the result is certainly one of the natural functions for those organs; whether the final destination for the material resulting from that function is natural or not ... well, that's where some of you might be jumping ship tonight.

So if you are opposed to homosexual activity, I'll catch ya next time.  Or, if you like, scroll down until you see the cover of an issue of Batman.

It's 'bout to get rainbow-colored up in here.




So, here's what happened: there was, in the days leading up to the release of Saga #12 (Wednesday, April 10, 2013), a controversial happening in which -- due, supposedly, to the graphic depictions of gay oral sex in two panels of the comic -- Apple refused to put the issue for sale on iTunes.  If I understand things correctly, what actually happened was this: comiXology, a company which is the primary vendor for digitally-distributed comic books, decided that Apple would probably not approve the content, and decided to simply not even bother submitting it for approval.  A day or so later, Apple is all like, "Huh?" and comiXology is all like, "Oops, our bad."

Depending on who you listen to, there either is or isn't more to the story than that.  Evidently, some physical comic shops also elected not to sell the issue, based on its content.

Various comics creators -- not the least among them being Vaughan himself -- took to the Internet and had harsh things to say about the various parties involved, in most cases before the facts were all in place.

It was all a big brouhaha, at least within the small circle of comics fandom.

And that is what I know about the controversy.

Let's have a look at the oral sex, shall we?





What's going on in this scene -- which is the very first thing that happens in the issue -- is that we are seeing a flashback to a scene from the life of Prince Robot IV.  He's been wounded in a battle, has passed out, and is -- apparently -- broadcasting a gay bukakke scene on the television monitor that serves as his head.

Why is this happening?  Beats me.  There has been no previous indication that Prince Robot IV is gay; he's married, in fact, and his wife has a child (of some sort) on the way.  She, too, has a television for a head, just in case you were wondering.  There have been occasional scenes in the first twelve issues of this series in which Prince Robot IV suddenly begins showing something on his, uh, face.  At times, it has seemed as if this is subliminal thought on his part; at others, it seems like conscious thought.  Sometimes, it is unclear whether he is aware of it; others, it seems like he may be receiving a message from somebody else via this method.

In other words, the ejaculating penises are custom-designed to make the reader stop and say, "Okay, what?!?"  Ideally, this would have happened minus the controversy, but either way, the result is basically the same.

So...what do we think about this?

Personally, I'm long past the adolescent stage at which I would have been grossed out and horrified by it.  That would assuredly have happened at one point in time.  Let's briefly get Stephen King involved in this by mentioning that there is a scene in Cujo in which one character masturbates onto a pillow; that scene grossed me out when I read the book in high-school, not merely because the guy perpetrating the act was a deviant, but also because of the "ewwwwGROSS, cum!" factor.

Those days are over.

Now, that said, I don't have any particular desire to see three dudes jacking off onto one dude's face.  I don't think that makes me a bigot; like most other liberal Southerners, I stopped going to Chil-fil-A in the wake of the gay-marriage controversy they were involved in...and then started going back a few months later.  No more than once a month, though!  That pack of homophobes at least won't get as much of my money!

I support the legalization of gay marriage.  Because, like, why not?  Even if I thought homosexuality to be a sin -- and I don't -- I'd support legalizing gay marriage.  Because what business is it of mine?  None.  Gay men have just as much right to become divorced in the future as anyone else does.  Fly them rainbow flags, fellas and gals; I'm with you.

But no, I don't especially want to see men's faces slick with sweat and semen.  Not my cup of tea.  If it's yours, I'm cool with that.  It's just not mine.

Presently in the proper context, though, it doesn't bother me.  And here, I think it's pretty damn funny.  Here's the thing about dicks: they're ridiculous.  They look ridiculous, what they do is ridiculous, and they way dudes act and look while using them for their intended purpose is ridiculous.  Dicks automatically equal comedy.  So do balls, but there are no balls in this issue of Saga.  Note that I said this issue of Saga; we've definitely seen scrote in a previous issue.  Boy, did we.

The juxtaposition of one dude blowing another dude in the midst of a tense dramatic battlefield scene strikes me as pretty damned amusing.  The fact that said blowing is occurring on the "face" of a robot with a television for a head increases the amusement at least twofold.

And that fact that in the very next panel, it is revealed that we're not merely seeing gay sex, but three-on-one gay sex doubles the amusement again.  See?  Dicks are so funny at times that you practically have to get algebra involved to quantify it.

I'd love to ask Brian K. Vaughan what, exactly, his intent was for these two panels.  Is this a story point that will come up later (pardon the pun)?  Or is he merely trying to provoke his audience?  Maybe a bit of both, if I had to guess; but I'd love to find out for sure.

Another thing I'd love to know: will this moment in the comic lose it any readers?  I suspect not.  From the first panel of the first issue, Saga has been unafraid to do and say and show things that many comics -- and stories from any medium -- would generally shy away from.  I hate the phrase "in-your-face" when used adjectivally, but describing Saga as an in-your-face blend of humor, horror, romance, and action would not be at all inappropriate.  My guess is that the people who are likely to be offended by the gay sex in #12 probably found something else to be offended by and jumped ship long ago; or, more likely, have never heard of the series at all.

Which means that Vaughan and Staples here were probably preaching to the choir a bit.  And that's okay by me.  Nearly every issue has had some sort of "eye-widening" WTF moment in which I find myself marveling at the fact that they really, truly went there, wherever "there" is at that moment.  Ejaculating penises still surprise me in a comic book, but they don't distress me in any way, and I feel kinda okay about that.

Now, all that said, a question remains: is the issue (pardon the pun) any good?

Duh.  Of course it is!

The vast majority of it is comprised of a meeting between Prince Robot IV and D. Oswald Heist, the author with whom Alanna seems mildly obsessed.  I won't give away any of the secrets here, except to say that in the course of the scene on Heist's homeworld, Fiona Staples comes up with at least two of her most visually-appealing characters to date.  Which is saying something.

This is the final issue of Saga's second arc, which means that it's going to be a few months before #13 comes out.  Pardon the pun.  Again.  Jeez.




What a tease that cover is!  Who is Bruce Wayne's greatest foe?  Who?!?
  
  

GASP!!!!!

I love gimmicky foldout covers like that.  Covert art in comics in general is a big part of the reason why I am devoted to the idea of buying comics in single-issue format.  That one's a beaut, too; love the shadow of Batman being cast by Bruce.

I won't give away any of this issue's surprises, so I'll restrict myself to saying simply that this is part one of a two-part story, and I think it's a good thing for Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo to do some Batman that is a bit tighter in focus.  I've enjoyed what Snyder has done with the series so far, but all those multi-part stories get oppressive after a while.  There's something to be said for a comic that tells a quick, effective story; I love the epics, but I'd also love to see Snyder do something in a bit more of an anthology format.
  
I probably should have more to say about this issue, but I kinda don't.  It's really good, and I enjoyed it; sometimes, that's all there is to say.




That's a decent cover, but I went with this one instead:




And I made the correct choice.

The summary: Faith and Spike argue a lot about Angel, who is currently possessed by both Angelus and by Giles.  Also present: the blad dude with the beard whose name I can't remember Alasdair.  Some demons have to be fought, so Faith and Spike go do that, and engage in semi-flirty banter, although it's mostly Spike doing the flirty part, and Faith doing the eye-rolling part.  Later, Spike tries to chat up Giles's unnaturally young aunts, both of whom shoot him down.  There's a ritual, and Giles's soul is extracted from Angel's body, and everything is back to normal with Angel, which seems, frankly, a bit anti-climactic.  Spike fucks Harmony.  And presumably, Giles will soon be returned to life, what with his body regenerating and his soul now safe.

Pretty good issue, really.




The third issue of Vertigo's Django Unchained adaptation is my final new comic for this week, and it's a good one.  Fans of the movie: you will definitely want to pick this series up when it's out in collected form, if not sooner.

This issue focuses on Django's training as a bounty hunter, and that's all great; but the real meat on the bones this time is a beefed-up backstory for Broomhilda.  We learn more about her past, and it's great, sad, shocking stuff.

The issue ends with the first appearance of one of the movie's major characters; I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how the story plays in graphic format from here on out.  I loved the movie, and so far, it's been a great fit in the comics format.

Well, that's it for this time, folks.  Catch you later.

8 comments:

  1. Kind if a slow day inthe comics world.

    Don't know if this helps but here are some interesting reads of note:

    Turns out I came across four interesting reads, three comics and one book. The book is “Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book” by Gerard Jones. It tells the story of the founding of DC Comics, and the births and rise and the three iconic “World’s Greatest” (i.e. Supes, Bats, and Wondi (Fourth Wall guy’s name for her)).

    Jones book is interesting for it’s revelation of both the social and psychological elements that went into making the comic book industry we all know today, in particular the Thirties gangster culture and the Jewish immigrant experience. At the center of the book are two figures, Jerry Siegel (co-creator of Mr. S.) and Jack Donnenfeld, who founded DC.
    The most interesting thing about Jones’ book is the questin it got me asking: Jerry Siegel, secret inspiration for Batman?!

    What got me wondering that was the way Jones detail Siegel’s awkward (pampered, really) social upbringing as a nervous norvus and Sci-Fi offered him an escape from things, especially after his Dad was found dead in his store of a gunshot and the killer was never found or caught.

    I can’t help wondering did Bob Kane maybe observe Siegel (assuming they ever met face to face, I’m not that far into the book, really) and he saw right through him, suppose? At least enough to pick up on a potentially dark undercurrent in the kid that he used as inspiration for the most famous Superhero today?
    The answer is: you got me, all this is just speculation.

    All I know is Kane once said there were two elements that went to make up Batman. One was the romantic, Robin Hood-like figure of Zorro, while the other was a radio superhero –like dectective that preceded any of the big three by at least four years, and had a long running series on radio; The Shadow (the character was later made into the star of a middling Alec Baldwin film, anyone remember that?).

    Jones notes that Siegel was drawn to both Zorro (like Bruce Wayne) as well as The Shadow (in particular the character’s role as “avenger”).
    I don’t know make up your own mind. I had other thoughts from Jones’ book, but maybe later.

    The three comics (graphic novels, really) are the first I’ve read in a long while (like maybe half a decade) and are written by Neil Gaiman, with surreal artwork by Dave Mckean: Violent Cases, Signal to Noise, and Mr. Punch.

    Violent Cases is interesting in I was well into Jones’ book before I picked up the Gaiman/Mckean work, and in a strange way the graphic novel is like a mirror of it in that it is about both memory, and gangsters. So much so, at least, that I’m wondering whether I should make the case that “Cases” (har!) is sort of like an illustration of the “themes” of “Men of Tomorrow”. Maybe I’m reading too much into things.

    Other than that, Signal to Noise deserves comment only for one reason, it’s a about a filmmaker (sort of Terrence Malick crossed with Richard Attenborough) who discover’s he’s dying of cancer and his attempts to finish his final masterpiece about the (almost) end of the world.

    The day after I finished it, I found out about Roger Ebert.

    Other than that, here's the only review I found of a recent offering from the creator of Lock and Key:

    http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/170214-nos4a2-by-joe-hill/

    ChrisC

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    1. Boy, you picked the wrong time to read "Signal to Noise," didn't you? Or, arguably, the exact right time; all a matter of perspective, I guess.

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    2. Men of Tomorrow is a great book. Jones and Jacobs wrote another book, The Comic Book Heroes, which is great reading but filled with inaccuracies. One of those "print the legend" sort of deals, I guess. Nevertheless, it (and Supergods by Grant Morrison) account for half of my collection, I'd say; I must have made a dozen trips to my old shop in Worcester, MA and a thousand eBay auctions based on things I first heard about therein.

      I've got a soft spot for gimmicky fold-out covers, as well.

      You seem to be an ongoing Batman fan... any interest in a Greatest Batman Stories Ever sort of post? Well, I'll assume you have the interest, so I guess what I'm asking is, any plans?

      Alas, unless one has Bruce Wayne-like wealth and Phantom Stranger-like time, a re-read / re-watch of everything Bat-related is impossible, so I guess it'd be more of a "Favorite Batman Stories" rather than "Greatest," but just curious.

      You ever look at any of DC's compilations in such a vein? In the 80s they released a Greatest Batman and Greatest Joker stories, and I loved those things. I think subsequent reprintings, though, omitted some of my faves.

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    3. A Bat-fan? I'd hadn't given it much thought, actually. I've never really considered myself a superhero comic reader, not counting strips like Dilbert etc.

      For some reason, even as kid it was never a priority with me for no discernible reason I can figure out. I do know I saw Warner animated series a hell of a long time ago, and that while it has it's flaws the one element of Burton's Batman that always made sense is the Joker the Bat are the ones who "made each other". It just has a poetic irony too it that seems to fit the characters, if nothing else.

      I think part of the reason I superheroes never caught on with me is my entertainment growing up was the remains of eighties reruns of fifties shows, so I might not have gotten to the superhero genre in time.

      I'm also not a comics scholar, for the record. However, I did once find out that, well, the original Diana isn't Greek, she's Roman. Also Diana isn't her only name, sometimes she, or IT was called Artemis or more often Luna. That's right, she's actually just the freakin' moon, and not only that, because the face of the moon is always clouding over in monthly cycles, ancient mythology paints it as an unstable, insane deity.

      M-O-O-N, that spells....awkward.

      ChrisC

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    4. Oh, my bad, I meant the "Greatest Batman Ever" query to go to Bryant, I should have been more clear.

      That is interesting stuff, though, re: Diana/ Luna et al.

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    5. I am definitely a Batman fan, but to be honest, I'm primarily a fan of Batman movies, not the comics. The only reason I'm buying/reading the current series is because of Scott Snyder.

      Don't get me wrong, though; that's not because I don't WANT to read more Batman comics. I do. It's just...my God, there's something like 12,000 of them published every month, and I wouldn't even know where to begin trying to find the time, money, and energy to keep up with them.

      As for the classics, I've read "The Dark Knight Returns," "The Long Halloween," and "Year One." I'm not very knowledgeable beyond that, sadly. I aim to be one of these days, but that day doesn't seem to be coming any time soon.

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  2. On the subject of gay porn or porn in general, man, I have zero idea what that scene means! I lack the context, for one, and two... uhhhh, what?

    But, my confusion/ distaste doesn't come from any homophobic place. So, this pretty much comes out of left field? i.e. no indication why the guy would be broadcasting gay porn over his helmet? Definitely seems a bit jarring for jarring's sake, but not having read anything about the series except what I read in these posts, I'm not qualified to comment.

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    1. Oh, don't worry; sounds like you've gotten pretty much the only context you need, i.e., no context at all. It seems to have been designed to be a big ole WTF moment; or, in other words, jarring for jarring's sake, just as you say.

      My assumption is that it'll pay off at some point down the road, story-wise. It's a gloriously bizarre series, that's for sure.

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