Monthly Archives: October 2013

This is from a response I had to a facebook commenter, who in response to the new Ridley Scott, Cormac McCarthy film said that they didn’t want to feel bad watching movies anymore, and wanted instead to have beauty and majesty in their films(as if there wasn’t that in The Counselor). He said he wanted movies with more heart.

Does a drone strike on a bunch of kids in Pakistan have a heart?  Does crashing the world economy for a higher profit number in that quarter make you feel better about life?  It’s a pile of bullshit that we’ve gotten so soft as a society that we can wage war on the entire world, but all of our art has to make us feel great about our lives.  We seem to want militarized movies that are glossed over affirmations of the goodness of our intentions and the value of the decisions we make to sacrifice the lives of others.

Right now the Counselor has about a 34% aggregate score from Critics(22% from “top critics) on Rottentomatoes.  By comparison that safe-made-up white-hope-fucking-lie of a movie Captain Phillips has 94% approval amongst critics.  It’s a shame The Counselor is getting lambasted by critics, because it’s the kind of movie I would like to see more from Hollywood:  Smart star studded insane fests that actually move the ball intellectually.  I kinda dig Brad Pitt’s pretty face avataring meditations on life and death, and the choices we make in between.  You know no matter what kind of movie you make, if you have certain stars in it, certain directors on it, it will have a platform–I would like to see more glorious audacious messes of movies–but instead everytime a movie like this is made, critics join hands all together to shout it down, audiences abandon them, and the message loudly sent is “sit back down in your chair Ridley, give us ten more gladiator movies, and shut the fuck up.  Which I get the need for those type of movies too.  But take something like the Avengers, which is a safe, take no chances, corporate logo movie wrapped around tried and true methods of never challenging anything…I mean if you’re going to be that kind of movie–why not have action set pieces that are actual works of art and whose planning and architecture challenge what we thought was possible?  Ah yeah, because Team Buffy knows about as much about direction action as a brick of driftwood.  I dunno.  And those are the type of movies that get rewarded by critics.

The last ten best pictures from the Oscars have been: Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, Chicago, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Million Dollar Baby, Million Dollar Baby , Crash The Departed, No Country for Old Men, Slumdog Millionaire, The Hurt Locker, the King’s Speech, The Artist, and fucking Argo(actual title). There is not a single one of these films, which were all critically adored,that have even half of the intelligence of the Counselor or take even a fraction of the chances.  Even though No Country for Old Men was based on Cormac McCarthy–this IS Cormac McCarthy. No Country for Old Men was the safe commodified way that we prefer to deal with genius.  To an extent so was The Road.  Both of those were imitations of work that was built for a different medium.

They were at best approximations of why McCarthy is one of the last truly great American authors of the William Faulkner vintage.  And why something like Blood Meridian is one of the Great American Novels ever written.  The Counselor captures the ugliness, the complexity, and the beauty of McCarthy’s mind more than No Country ever got close to doing.  And against the rest of those films–which I know, isn’t saying much, looks like the best film ever made.

Which isn’t to say it is the best film ever made, or even in the discussion.  But the for real best films ever made aren’t even in the discussion anymore. But that’s not what I’m talking about really.  What I’m talking about is what we want vs. what we need.  And how what we want, and what is given to us–is why you have a country where about 20-25 percent of the country are irredeemably brainwashed idiots of a scale that in a more aware society, would result in the complete re-classification of just what madness actually is.  You know after the big government shutdown standoff show, there were about 12 percent of this country who thought that “Obamacare” had been repealed?  The numbers of people who not only don’t want to think, but increasingly lack the tools TO think are on the up and up.  And it’s not kids.  It’s the establishment adults who rode in on a revolution and once got there, pulled the ladder up after themselves.  The art we have now, like the government we have now, is not about advancement and challenge–it is about holding on to what you have, and the fetishism of entrenched power.  And that filters down.  There is a seperation of words and ideas that exists now–I don’t know when it started.  Was it when Clinton said that he didn’t know what the definition of is, is?  But it followed through to the Bush Administration and the imprisonment of meaning as words became the meaningless sounds we used to distract from actions.  The backlash to a film like the Counselor is emblematic of the way that we have internalized this war on thinking.  We no longer have intellectuals.  We have pundits.

This mass idiocy, and the embrace of mediocre luke warm academy-bait is part and parcel a condemnation of the critical apparatuses that exist within the upper levels of our culture. The role of the critic is to reward advancement and punish stagnation.  Not to chase web hits by how extreme you can make your opinion when it is safe to do so.  There is no risk for a critic in this groupthink atmosphere to lambast a movie like the Counselor.  Just like there wasn’t risk when critics piled on Blade Runner in the 80s.  But in neither instance was it the correct thing to do.  And if that sounds like I’m saying you aren’t entitled to your opinion, I think there is a difference between having an opinion, and as a critic expressing a view which is destructive toward the advancement of art and the taking of chances.  There is a difference between an honest critical opinion, and the notion that you can impose the rubric of a set of rules that the film doesn’t even adhere to, and then fail it based upon that false library.  I’ve seen Counselor called boring, a thriller with few thrills, so on and so forth.  Which is a lazy opinion.  Oh shit, the Counselor isn’t Zero Dark Thirty?  Does it ask to be?  Is there anything within the film that says “we want this film to be primarily about you being thrilled”?.  Because I would argue there is not.  In fact, the film goes out of its way to make this extremely clear.  In another film Michael Fassbender can go all Liam Neeson and save the day–but that is never an option that is on the table.  It is never beyond the shadow of a doubt that these guys will be caught, and they will experience horror.  The film is about you seeing an elaborate choreographed escape.  It’s about now.  It’s about how in America we are so beyond fucked, that the reality we live in now, is about accepting the fucked-edness of our situation.  There were choices made 50 years ago, and this is where we are now.  There are repercussions and consequences to decisions.  Realities construct themselves around the decisions that are made, and you don’t get to skip around those realities just because you decided you can not accept that reality.  The Counselor is fucking about us, you idiots.  Who do you think the Counselor is for?  Fucking Michael Fassbender?  It’s for you, you idiots.  It’s for us.  It is about accepting and understanding the horror we have created and the fall which we are parading through.


The steaming pile of “meh” that is Pacific Rim has a higher average critic score than this movie.  The bulk of film critics operating today are establishment bloggers who perpetuate a system of safe dumb movies that get worse every year.  Who would rather participate in a culture of fanboyism than act like for real adults that have sincere thoughts upon the questions art actually raises.

Critics would rather drool over Cuaron and James Cameron’s gizmos than they would actually really have something to say.  America doesn’t want to think anymore.  We think criticism is when you write an episode recap to the Breaking Bad series finale.  We(both critics and audiences) don’t want to be made to feel anything but better about ourselves, because we are in denial about the core evils that our luxury and privilege perpetuate upon the world around us.

I mean oh shit, a movie made you feel bad.  Or it just spent its time talking about shit, rather than blowing it up.  Because I mean, it’s not like we should be pumping our breaks culturally right now and talking anymore.  Team Explosion Fuck yeah.  We’re spying on everyone, don’t talk about it though, full speed ahead.  But yeah.  Go try and stick to happy fun time movies, as if that’s EVEN what is beautiful.  Fake manufactured happiness is not beauty.  That’s like saying plastic surgery is beauty just because that new nose looks perfect and you don’t have to think about the way flesh and bone have been broken and mutilated to get there.  Beauty is sublime.  In its truest state it is a kind of fear.  It’s said when you are in the presence of real beauty you get weak in the knees.  That is a kind of terror.  Beauty is not a US Vogue cover of an airbrushed celebrity trying to sell you beauty products.  That is the affectation of beauty.  The nostalgia for beauty.  It is not beauty itself.  They couldn’t put real beauty on a magazine cover at the checkout stand where you buy your groceries.  If you saw real beauty there, you would drop your groceries and run screaming into the night never to be heard from again.

To see beauty is to see all of the ways in which we are hopelessly adrift from it.  Beauty is a kind of contrast.  Beauty comes from our lack of it.  Beauty is about the fleeting moment that is already past you as soon as you perceive it, and how we will all die.  The notion that you could ever have beauty without misery is completely delusional.  Beauty comes from misery.  It comes from darkness.  It comes from the nature of life to be relentless in its pursuit to fucking kill you.  If you feel better about yourself or the world after you’ve seen beauty–you haven’t seen beauty.

Do you know what hell is?  Do you know why hell is?  The central core horror of hell is that one has been removed from the divine and will never again behold the perfection that they have already seen.  There is no angel that understands the nature of God and the divine, and what beauty is than Lucifer.  Hell is the mind pealing prison of the after affects of that conception.  Lucifer beheld beauty so closely that he became it for a split second, and then thought to replace it with his singular ego–and the fall and hell, are the ramifications of that loss.  That is the primordial archetype within our culture on which the conception of beauty rests.  The truth of all of our words and ideas at their purest state would terrify you.

So yeah…fuck everybody.



A page from Pretty Deadly #2, pencils and inks by the incomparable Emma Ríos (@emmartian)

Like it?  Tell your retailer, please!

The texture of Emma Ríos’ inks are on what I’m really into right now.  Like how she did the eye for the Pretty Deadly lady.  and then the chopped up grime of that dude’s pant leg and boot.

I’ve also been thinking that because of how powerful her inks are, and because of how she composes her pages, I think there’s less modulation of her art when someone else colors it than other artists.  Almost no matter what crazy thing a colorist does on her pages, her vision is going to come through.  I noticed this in that Diall 911 or whatever DC comic she did a page in, how moreso than most of the artists in that book, her art looked very her own.  Even in terms of color, even though she didn’t color that page.

I’m trying to think why this is.  I think that black line of bushes in the middle of the page is a part of the answer.  There’s very little undisturbed white space.  But unlike say a younger Paul Pope style, which also retains its point of view in color because of its inking, the way she modulates space with her inks—so like in the four panels of this page, notice how much cleaner they are than the rest of the page.  It sets up just with the inks a kind of distinction between layers of the page—which is half the job of good coloring.  So maybe some of it is as well that her work always has distinct depth to it, so even if a colorist runs up on it with muddied colors, the depth which also controls the composition remains in tact.

And I’m not saying that great color on her pages won’t look great, and bad coloring won’t look bad.  Just that I’ve seen a lot of artists, who because of their style are putting a lot of control in the hands of their colorists, who they may or may not even really know.  Just because of how they are both composing their pages and how they are inking them.

Talking out of my butt.  Just some things I’ve thought about.

(Sprmtt via Kelly Sue DeConnick)

So I asked Daryll Ayo about Cosplay today or whatever–I did so because I’ve read some of his thoughts on cosplay in the past–particularly in terms of indie “alt” comics or whatever that is(you know what it is)–and because whenever I want thoughts provoked about comics stuff, Daryll Ayo is the dude I go to.  Anyways, I want to highlight a thing he re-said, talk about it, and then segue to talk about Kelly Sue Deconnick and the Carol Corps.  Road maps in writing, this is like…almost an essay already.


So Daryll said:
“Cosplaying is for the fans. It’s part of how fans can express their emotional involvement with the work. Yet it stands separate and apart from the work itself. I always say that “alternative” or artcomics festivals need more cosplay. “

This is a pretty complex thing to unwind, and my perspective here isn’t a cosplayer, but as a comic maker, and I dunno…social media critic.  But let’s start with Cosplaying is for the fans.  Someone pointed out in response to this that there are of course a lot of creators who have cosplayed–so that’s not reaaally what’s meant here.  It’s more that it’s an act of fandom.  That a creator would cosplay is like a rapper that does graffiti, or a DJ who is also a b-boy or b-girl.  So what’s being said here isn’t that only fans are cosplayers–it’s that cosplaying is an act of fandom.  Now what does that mean.   As Ayo says here, it means expressing a deep emotional involvement with the work.  Bordering on a religious or cult-like obsession.  Everyone can be an audience for a work.  But not everyone who is an audience for a work is a fan of the work.  You can even like a work a great deal, and not be a fan.  One of my favorite movies is Cries and Whispers(Dir. Ingmar Bergman), but I wouldn’t describe myself as a fan of that movie.  The way I interact with the art is not what it means to be a fan of something.


So what are we talking about in terms of fan.  I think it means, to have an emotional ownership of someone else’s art, or the things depicted in that art.  So like, you caring about Walter White to the extent that you think how Breaking Bad ended was good or bad, based upon what you felt the character, that isn’t yours, was, and whether what he did or didn’t do matched up with what you felt was true.  To be a fan, is to create a version of the art within yourself, that is beholden almost entirely to your perspective, and then measure the art as it progresses based upon how it stands up to the version of the work that you’ve created within you.  There’s a tiny Batman sitting inside you next to tiny Jesus or tiny Buddha or tiny gaping void(my void is classy and moonlights at a well-respected Japanese Jazz bar)).  

Something you also see is when people become a fan of what they percieve as a certain creator.  So a Grant Morrison fan for instance has a version of Grant Morrison that they have built up inside them, and they judge his work based upon how it measures up with that version.  And moreoever the judge this man they’ve met, based upon these expectations.  I went through this recently when Ales Kot, who I have the complicated situation of both being a fan of, and being a friend to, went to work for Marvel after writing a strongly worded essay telling customers and artists to boycott buying from and working for Marvel because of their stance on SOPA.  The problem was because of that, and just sort of wishful thinking I had created a version of Ales in my head, such that his individual choices, contextual only to his own personal experience, might somehow be able to be judged by me, in terms of how they measured up to that.  I was projecting on to him my idea of who he was, instead of allowing him to simply be who he is.  President Obama has gone through this as well–and frankly, he was elected because of his ability to allow himself to be projected upon in place of creating true concrete stances that meant things.  This is all the cult of personality, and while it is productive in terms of a person gaining a following and from that power, it is destructive in terms of the life it forces them to live.  That shit will drive you crazy(see the withered husk of a man that Obama has turned into over the course of his presidency).


So that’s what fandom is.  And I think social media and the way that people now process artists and art–is conducive to creating fan culture across all spectrums of the arts.

One of the people who is I think playing with these elements in some of the most interesting ways right now is Kelly Sue Deconnick.  I follow her on tumblr, not because I like…am reading Captain Marvel(I will be reading Pretty Deadly–I already have a lot of the early issues pre-ordered, ha)–but because she has really interesting perspectives on comics, herself in comics, and the role of fandom within comics.  And beyond thoughts, actual actions.  She has this thing called the Carol Corps which she begins her explanation by saying:


“Fan of Marvel’s Carol Danvers — particularly in her new role as Captain Marvel?  Welcome to the Carol Corps!

I am not Captain Marvel, Captain Marvel is not me and I do not presume to speak for the Carol Corps. However, as the book’s current writer, I get frequent ASKS about Captain Marvel merch — particularly the Captain Marvel hoodie everybody loves, so I’ve started keeping this list, which I’d eventually like to break down into Stuff to Buy, Stuff to Make and Stuff to Look At.  

If you have links you think belong here, feel free to send them to me at my gmail address. Put CAROL CORPS in the subject line.”

There are a lot of interesting things with this.  So first off let’s just address that something like the “Carol Corps” is an idea that’s always been around in comics, or used to be anyways, in terms of fanclubs that kids signed up for, and interacted with to build community through.  That particular element of this isn’t what really interests me–beyond that I’ll say, it is not something I’ve seen in awhile, and the primary audience here isn’t kids really.  The side of that that’s interesting is that this is ostensibly fanclub 2.0.  Fanclub in real time.  So on and so forth.  But the internet has been around too long to still be talking about that stuff.


No, what I dig is this second paragraph “I am not Captain Marvel, Captain Marvel is not me and I do not presume to speak for the Carol Corps. However, as the book’s current writer”–the front part of that speaks directly to the weird thing in comics where the writer of a comic is in some way seen by fans as wearing the skin of that character, and being a touchable medium for that interaction with favorite character.  And this is explicit about that relationship linguistically.  I am not God, I do not speak for God, but as his Priest you can tell me, and I’ll tell him–type of relationship.  And I also dig the “book’s “current” writer” of that, because it is almost like vodoun in that “for now, you can speak through me, and then it will be someone else”.  It speaks to an ownership of this kind of relationship, that many creators run away from.  See maybe Rick Remender during the debacle of “I don’t want to be called a mutant”.  Kelly Sue is running directly into the predominant audience culture in comics right now.


And what’s interesting to me from a marketing standpoint is that even though she is coming from the side of a corporately owned character that she has little personal financial interest in, she recognizes an ability to short circuit the relationship between fan and corporation, through her role as writer-priest.  People don’t send the Marvel tumblr their Captain Marvel cosplay pictures, they send them to Kelly Sue, and she posts them up for the larger community to interact with.  Not only is she a vessell for the fan’s feelings toward their favored character, she is the conduit holding together the community around the character–such that when fans are cosplaying Captain Marvel and sending them through Kelly Sue to the larger Carol Corps community, their relationship as a cosplayer is not only to the character, not only to the community that Kelly Sue is spider webbed into self-awareness–but their relationship is to Kelly Sue herself.  Which on the one hand is a lot of pressure for someone to take on, but on the other hand you wonder if that makes them more likely to carry over into her other non-Captain Marvel work.  In a way that is more tangible than say when Paul Pope drew Batman hoping kids would follow it back to THB etc.  


The difference in the two relationships may seem subtle, but they are profound. When you read Paul Pope’s Batman as a fan of Batman, you are ostensibly reading it just because it’s the newest batman story–and after it’s done, you will largely keep the circuit with DC, because your relationship was always about Batman, and Pope was just the guy who happened to be giving you your Batman fix for that moment.  With the Carol Corps the relationship is still to Carol Danvers–that is probably why most people started reading the book, and when Kelly Sue leaves they will most likely keep reading the book.  But Kelly Sue has also created a community which is a seperate thing from the Marvel-Owned character.  She has cobbled together people who may or may not have been aware of one another, and who can build relationships with one another based upon their shared associations, through the platform that Kelly Sue gives them as the primary conduit.  Because of that, I would imagine for a large chunk of the rest of her life, she’s going to be able to go to cons and meet people who have an emotional attachment not just to Carol Danvers, but to the relationships they were able to build through the platform of the Carol Corps based upon their shared passion.  Artist/Writer Message boards used to serve this function until they all became basically ghost towns.  The Carol Corp is sort of a spontaneous zone of that phenomena.  


So when we circle back around to what Daryll Ayo originally said:
“I always say that “alternative” or artcomics festivals need more cosplay. “
What we’re talking about here is really about having a real community, that is more than just creators buying other creator’s shit, basically touring cons to flip a dollar.  This is about a passion level.  Moreover, it’s about a level of projection and identification with the art, such that it means something.  I’m not sure how I feel about that personally.  I think before writing this, I was kind of sideways eyeballing it, as something worth doing.  But on the other hand, the community side of it is cool.  And I think there is a cultural side to specifically cosplay that is of merit, when you start talking about how a larger percentage of the cosplayers are women and how a lot of the condescension and scorn of cosplaying is directly tied to that fact.  When we think about comic culture, we are kind of talking about nerd culture in subset, and what we’re talking about there is a kind of obsessive need to participate or know–fundamentally the narrative of nerd culture is that of the outcast finding escape or empowerment through arcane knowledge or code.  When I think of when I was first getting into comics, a lot of it was because of all of the anxieties and depressions I had associated with my body dysphoria that made me distance myself from people, and I sort of sought out a space that could fill that loneliness through fantastic stories with bright bold colors, and secret identities.  


The great thing about cosplay as a cultural element within comics and nerd culture is that it does seem to be a way that disenfranchised demographics within the subculture have found a way to speak and unite and build through.  Somewhat in the same way that b-boys and b-girls have always kind of been more diverse than rappers in hiphop.  Or even graf writers kind of bring a different perspective into hiphop.  I keep going back to hiphop because that’s the culture I grew up the most through, but I think it’s instructive in that each of the different elements that make up hiphop bring in a slightly different perspective, and a slightly wider lens to what hiphop is–and the thing that I liked about hiphop at least in my era was I think mostly because of KRS-One maybe, there was a definite element of respecting all of the elements.  Like you were more hiphop if you could allow a place for Djs, B-boys/B-Girls, writers, and rappers.  There is an inclusiveness implicit in the legitimicy as a person within the culture, that we’ve yet to reaaally see comics embrace despite comics/nerd culture being still in some way a community of outcasts.

So I dunno really.  You figure it out.

So there was this gross profile of the cartoonist Isabelle Greenberg over at Metro News, that kind of is emblematic of the incredible amount of patronizing bullshit that happens when you are a woman in comics, and dealing with any kind of press.  I’ve chosen to excise to the choice bits for your both shock and awe.

Let’s start with something that occurs near the bottom of the profile, and seems to occur in just about every interview of a female creator in comics at some point in an interview:

“I ask if she feels it’s important to encourage the next generation of female graphic novelists.”


Of course you did.  Because you would never ask a male comic creator if they feel it’s important to encourage the next generation of female graphic novelists.  This is a version of the age old: what’s it like being a woman in comics, what do you have to say to other women hoping to get into comics, do you as a woman think comics blah blah blah blah.  Maybe the first time this question was ever asked it was important.  But at this point in time, I feel that it not only excludes the artist from the larger artistic community, it eats up valuable PR/Comics talking real estate, that a male creator would not lose.  That whole section of an interview where this question is asked and the creator responds to it, is a whole like 2-300 words in a small article, that you’ll never get back.  That’s 2-300 words every interview you are spotting your male competition in art.   And moreover it allows your work to be preclassified.  You’re not an artist anymore, you’re a GIRL artist.  And because of that box, some people are only going to judge you against other GIRL artists.  Which in an industry where guys like Dan Didio and others can get up at a con and say patronizing and insulting things about the technical chops of women in comics (“we just hire the best people(and only 1 percent of those are women)”)–is not a good thing.  It perpetuates the notion that a girl drawing a comic is fundamentally somehow different than a man drawing one. And they should be judged differently(less than).


So of course Isabel Greenberg says the thing that most women in art put in this position say:

“‘I would rather not be referred to as a “female comic artist” – just a comic artist,’”

Which leads us back up to the verrrry first line of the entire article:

“Isabel Greenberg is the new face of comics. Not just because one look at this petite, pretty blonde confounds the lingering cliché that comics are created by spotty adult males in unwashed Spider-Man T-shirts.”


The hook to this entire article isn’t Greenberg’s artistic merits.  It’s 1) that she’s a woman who is *shock* making a comic and 2) she is small and pretty!  I mean when I read that I almost stopped reading right there.  The levels on which that represents the worst of attitudes towards women in the arts is gobstopping.  And that this article was written by another woman made it even more depressing.  And lest you thought that was the last of this kind of thing…it continues on through the article, where Greenberg’s authority as an artist is continually undercut by patronizing descriptions of her as a woman.


“‘Obviously, when I was younger I read The Beano and Asterix,’ she says, spiralling patterns into her cappuccino froth, ‘but the first comic that made me realise there was something else out there was Alan Moore’s The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen – which I bought because I thought it was a costume drama.”


She can’t even just say what comics she grew up reading, without this crap.  This is one of the more subtler ones in the article, but I think to intercut this particular answer with the frivolity of what she’s doing with her cappuccino paints Greenberg as a sort of distanced unserious interloper–the author has married Greenberg’s dipping of finger into her drink to her approach to comics.  She’s dabbling in her cappuccino, the same way she dabbled her way into comics is what that conjunction says fundementally.


But lest you think I’m pulling that reading out of thin air:


“ This autumn, the sprite-eyed north Londoner has her first lecturing job at Worcester University.”

So Greenberg is a serious enough person that she is going to be lecturing students at a University, however she’s not so serious that she can avoid being compared to a pixie(we get it, because she’s small and pretty, and presumably her comics are made from magic, and not hard work or anything).


And then the capper:


“she lights up, perched on the edge of her seat as if poised to flit around the room like Tinkerbell.”


She is a grown ass woman!  You asshole.

You can find Isabel Greenberg’s work here.

I cannibalized the bulk of this from some tweets I made about McCarthy like an hour ago, which I quickly realized made no sense without some accompanying pictures.  I added some extended thoughts.  So on, and so forth.  I would class McCarthy’s coloring as one of my comic icon things.

What I enjoy with McCarthy is that he draws with color. Not in the sense that someone paints–but in the sense that his colors are of…the same sensibility as his linework

It’s something Druillet did a little bit too. And it’s something I did in my Dysnomia comic quite a bit, particularly with trees


I like that aesthetic. I like how it cuts up the colors on the page and it feels more personal.  It’s like this color noodling thing.  Like you have your art, and now you’re going to draw on top of it.  


Like in some ways some of the best McCarthy pages are more about the spatial orientation of blocks of color, than per se figure


He composes so much with his color, moreso than any other element

There’s a liberation in his usage of color, the sort of knowing nod that it doesn’t reaaaally matter what colors you use, and you can use all of them–there are just certain principles in terms of how color alters the depth of the page, there’s that cool thing on the bottom of the page where he’s both using bright colors to foreground Paradax’s face, even as he is using darker colors from that woman, and the blunt edge of white, to thread her from the background into the foreground.  It makes you dizzy almost to look at.  Particularly when it’s at page size in your hands.


It should also be noted his use of color, isn’t always there for your ease of reading, or even really enjoyment


His 80s work has a sneering punk sensibility and aggression to it’s use of color

Like “I didn’t put these colors here to make you comfortable reading this comic”


Some of the pages in Rogan Josh and Freakwave are almost impenetrably dense because of both color palette, and application

This page from Rogan Josh is kind of amazing to try and look at.  It takes you a second to see that flower dude on the bottom right panel because there’s so many colors and his skin color is blending into the white background.  It’s like a noise band but with color.

Like the way in Freakwave you can’t really see that dude in the bottom right corner until you are actually staring right at him, because he’s leaching colors from the focal point of that panel, and the purple and black border around the page.  If you try to read that page that, and then the middle panel are both hard for your eye to focus on, and see, even if in terms of the layout of the page, it’s logical to move through them.  It’s like color wars.  Or how there are hidden panels, there are hidden colors.  It’s hard to see orange and purple next to each other.  Particularly in the shimmery way he’s painted them in.  And I love those red strokes which again, takes some time to even see them.  It’s really disorienting, but I love it.

Another thing I like is the pure color of art behind the actual panels.  Instead of just a blank white page behind the panels, or more lineart–it’s literally pure color and shape.  And the way it interplays with the panels creates this really weird soupy effect of sequence, time, and light.  He does this in a lot of his work, and it’s something I wish I could see more variations on in comics, rather than just static white backgrounds behind the panels.  It seems like a missed opportunity sometimes.  McCarthy is using every square inch of this page.


*these images are all from the Best of Milligan and McCarthy book that Dark Horse put out.  It’s even more amazing to read these comics in that, because I’ve never seen some of these stories at such a large size, and the actual size of the book makes the colors even more disorientating, because your reading distance to the book is such that you can’t see the whole page at once like you can on this blog–so to read a page you have to move your head, which is like a fine art experience–but more than that, it allows you to get lost even more in the strange shapes and colors of McCarthy’s imagination.

“You know it’s real, when you are exactly who you think you are” ~Drake, Pound Cake

“I always feel like I can do anything. That’s the main thing people are controlled by. They’re slowed down by the perception of themselves. I was taught I could do everything. And I’m Kanye West at age 36.” ~Kanye West, 22 Quotes from Kanye’s BBC Interview

Helter Skelter is a comic by Kyoko Okazaki published in English by Vertical Press, and Available Now.

And the message was that Cinderella was a glossed over lie that made you feel better about yourself, and all of the dead princesses hanging out in the background of disappointing Baz Luhrmann musicals, they see you.  You spoiled rich kid.  Here is the main character of Kyoko Okazaki’s Helter Skelter, named: Liliko.  Know that the only thing you see on this page is the distanced projection both from and upon manipulated skin and form.  Know that there is nothing you can see from a woman who is almost naked before you that is real, that is true, that speaks to you about the black blocked hell going on inside her head, between the flickers and flashes of camera and moment. That’s not even her real skin.  Her body is literally on the line.  She exists cropped up.  When that one girl in the last Rick Owens show for Spring 2014 made that face, and you felt “viciousness”–that is this.

You think you are seeing fakeness.  You think that panel at the bottom is that fake fashion cover joy that’s been sold to you.  The wide-eyed masses behind the camera, the audience even farther back from that–we’re zoomed in on Cinderella’s fake joy, and there’s nothing fake here.  It’s real.  It’s the realness of female beauty, the realness of the tik-tok of qualities which are the only thing that makes people look at you, it’s the nakedness of trying to connect through those qualities, failing, and knowing that time is running out, and the fall that’s coming will be like nothing anyone can understand until they do.

The main characters in Helter Skelter are:
Liliko the model– who has had everything but her eyeballs, and her genitals melted down and warped by a surgeons radical treatments, and who is falling apart page by page, thought by thought.  As she fights for every last second, blood on the walls.
“Mama”–the woman who runs the corporation.  The lady who has made Liliko in her own image to project the youth she had.  Who is drawn like Cinderella’s fairy godmother.  To whom Liliko made her deal.
Hada–Liliko’s manager, go-fer, who loves Liliko’s beauty, who wants to be a part of her magic and will do anything for her, even as she betrays her with every weak moment of her existence.
Kozue Yoshikawa: The young model coming to replace Liliko, whose beauty is all natural.  The bored perfection who anxiously awaits the chance to be forgotten and escape from her glass prison–who is always framed, never touched.
Detective Asada: The Agent Cooper fool who sees all.

What we like about beauty from the outside is that it is a sublime experience that transcends reality and shows us the closest thing to fantasy within the context of experience. In some ways, beauty is only meant to be seen once.  There are these shots of Liliko spread through Helter Skelter that show us a different Liliko in a different perfect moment.  We can see that what a model is, is a context of form which is able to show through a series of moments a different side of their perfection.  The tension for a model–which is to say, someone for whom we have defined their value to us as society is as a walking, living, perfection–is that they must always be new–and do that up against the reality of the passage of time and the erosion of life by death.  A model is the lie we tell ourselves that we can live forever, and it’s why when they stop being new, we forget them.

The narrative of the fashion model is intrinsically a primordial tale within the genre of body-horror.  It is our shared complicity in the slow motion mutilation of the human form as we stretch it’s moment out longer and longer until there is nothing left.

The ferocity with which Liliko fights against her Cinderella moment push Helter Skelter into a defiant punk-like space, where we want to see Liliko scratch and claw.  We want her to be horrible to everything in the world.  To us even, because we know from this perspective that we deserve it.  We are guilty, and we know it.  We’re the sniveling rich kid sellouts.  You who have the gall to tell the biggest rock star on the planet  he needs to pipe down. This is life, every scratched out, fought for inch of it.  You who fight for nothing.

We build up empires around this fight.  The cranes keep going, as we watch these people tear themselves apart.  The fairy godmother didn’t grant a wish, she found some poor fat prostitute and cut her up in a back alley, and then made millions off the back end.  The Fairy Godmother looks how she looks, because she’s not playing the beauty-desire game.  She’s playing the “we’re going to shut down your society, because we can” game.  She’s the bored cat with the bloody mouse by its tail.

This isn’t a loving embrace, it’s a monster with it’s prey in it’s clutches:

All of the lies are in the light.

What is this pain?  What is the pain to be beautiful?  I started transitioning from male to female when I was 23.  The pressure I felt from society was to be passable so I could live, and not be treated as a freak.  To hide my history, as Liliko hid hers, behind a pretty new face and body.  I’ve been chemically warping my body ever since that time.  For me it wasn’t even about passability past a certain point.  It was about becoming who I know I was.  Beyond even gender, the pain and the hours in bad light trying to become what I want to as an artist–the bad backs from hunching over in unhealthy ways.  The hand cramps from drawing too long.  The fear of what happens when how I look and how I am finally happens in a way that people can consume–and how short that will last.  What it is to work against every inch of what you’ve been given, using everything at your disposal of what you are–that is the pain.  And the condescending fake sympathy of the doctor/god who knows your pain in the last panel, and doesn’t even register it, can’t even register it–because you’re just meat on the bone.

Look at the way those who had it all to begin with glisten.  That cowish lack of understanding of just what they are what they’ve been given, and how that’s everybody, that’s you, that’s me–we can be given everything, and be bored with.  Get given everything, you want nothing.

Again, everything in the spotlight is the lie you made it tell.  Because you wanted the lie, not the truth.

And you can’t even be bothered to remember the lie for half a second.  Distracted by the flashy fingernails. The perfect smile.  The perfect accessory.  Here is the human form, dissected and splayed out on the table for your enjoyment.  These are crime photos.

Liliko is now the audience to her own horror.  Bored and vacant.  We are looking at her, as she looks at herself in the candles, as we look at her.  The abyss gazes also.  Kyoko Okazaki’s violent flower imagery continues here:

Liliko finding one last perfection to give her audience.  The artist at their most exorbitant before the drugs overtake them.  The moment of final manic hubris, “I Am A God”.  If the early stages of the celebrity, model, artist life are avatars for our clutching at life, this final stage is most certainly the final reveal that it was death all the time.  The denouement, the most perfect horror–and where the true sublime lives.  That sliver of a moment where we are too late to run away, and see that awe inspired glimpse of beautiful flashing death.

Biographical note:
In May of 1996, shortly after the completion of Helter Skelter’s serialization, Kyoko Okazaki, one of the giant forces in adult women’s comics, was hit by a drunk driver.  She was completely paralyzed, and rendered unable to speak.  She has been in rehabilitation ever since, and has not made another comic.  To this point, she was exceptionally prolific.  And later this year, Vertical will be putting out what many consider her masterwork Pink.

Additional note:
Helter Skelter was the song by the Beatles that inspired Charles Manson and his group to commit the Tate/LaBianca murders.  The themes of madness, violence, and societal anarchy portrayed in Helter Skelter interplay with both the lyrics of the song, and the impact of the Tate/LaBianca murders.  As they do Cinderella.  Helter Skelter could adequately be described as a shotgun marriage of Cinderella, Charles Manson, and Twin Peaks.  But I think it is a joke to write like that.  So I just did.