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Monday, November 20, 2006


Back From Oblivion

If Mike Allred's Madman can return from the beyond, then so can I. The April '07 launch of a Madman Atomic Comics monthly is a very good development; there was a time when the Dark Horse Madman Comics was pretty much the only comic book I truly looked forward to, a bright light in the darkness of the '90s. I wonder what this means for the proposed Robert Rodriguez movie and mini-series that Allred spoke of frequently over the past few years. (I think Rodriguez' time would have been far better spent on a Madman film than another Sin City movie--does the world really need two of those? Or even one, for that matter?) Whatever the case, it's great to have Frank Einstein, Joe and the rest of the gang back. Admittedly, Allred seemed to lose the thread a bit in the last few issues, using them to tie up less interesting strips like his G-Men from Hell. The subsequent Atomics series, while fun, was a bit too convoluted for its own good. But Allred has clearly learned a lot as an artist in the interim, and I can't wait to see the Allred of X-Statix, etc. on his old characters. Should be ginchy.

In less cheerful comics-related news, Occasional Superheroine has wiped her blog and replaced it with a brutally intimate memoir of the end of her employment at DC. It's not the first account of the cynicism and sexism of the mainstream comics industry--but it's one of the most vivid and frank. If you're looking for something to dislike more than the comic Identity Crisis, try the culture at the company that made it: "The rape pages are in!" Johanna Draper Carlson, in response, gave this description of the superhero publishing world yesterday:
You put a bunch of immature men, many of whom were very sick as children or had absent fathers or both, and all of whom escaped into over-muscled power fantasies as a result, in charge of a publishing subgroup with no prestige and little money. Several of them have never worked anywhere else, or if they have, it was at one of the few similar companies in the same industry that behave the same way. They’re still geeks, mentally, with low self-esteem and no success with women, few of whom they actually know in person, but they’re power brokers within their little world, and there are thousands like them who desperately want to be them… and you wonder why it all ends up so twisted?
Like a terrarium, it's a perfect closed system, with the men on either side of the equation--publishers and purchasers--reinforcing one another, bending the superhero comics sharply back toward their ancestors--not in the newspaper comics but in the violent, soft-porn dime novels. Strange to think that Jack Leibowitz originally saw comic books as a legit safety net if his partner Harry Donenfeld's "Spicy" girlie mags got squeezed out. But everything comes around, I suppose. 70 years later, DC's Dan Didio made the same timeless, obvious decision that Donenfeld made when faced with a lineup of science-fiction rags, feminist tracts and sadistic titty books--push the sadistic titty books. Because they sell...the answer to any argument, the real position behind any denial or sexist intent or rationalization of its presence.

To be honest, the DC comics I read now are markedly less vile than the books of just a couple of years ago. But they're built on the backs of books like Identity Crisis, and they're part of the same long-term marketing strategy by the same crew, another side of the pendulum swing on one big, finely-tuned clock.

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