Posts from May 2013
A Brief History Of Teen Superhero Comics, Part 4
It’s probably the most famous panel in 60s Marvel history. A gag, a cliffhanger, a revolution. A young woman standing in a doorway, smiling, in total amused confidence, at the boggle-eyed kid she’s just been introduced to. “Face it, Tiger… you just hit the JACKPOT!”
It’s Amazing Spider-Man #42, a half-dozen issues into John Romita’s run on art. It’s the debut of Mary-Jane Watson, and a defining moment for the teen superhero comic. For the first three years of Spider-Man – under Steve Ditko – he’s been an awkward, put-upon nerd: teen frustration sometimes pushed into farcical territory. Then Romita replaced Ditko, long-running plot threads were put to rest, and Peter Parker could suddenly get a life. A love life. A complicated love life.
I love Miss America. She’s really fucking angry, she likes punching things and she’ll tolerate a great number of things for barbecued pork belly. She’s also sensible and intuitive and curious and has a fierce not-just-survivalist instinct that enjoys scraping through things but doesn’t want that to be the end achievement. She’s not out for fame and you couldn’t pay her to join the Avengers (according to Vengeance) and she likes dragging small chaos-oriented types around by their feet. She’s great; I love her, indeed, so much it briefly warped my brain into cosplaying her at ComiCon last week.
But she’s not Kate Bishop. And I love-love Kate Bishop. I love Kate Bishop to such a terrifying degree that the idea of attempting to cosplay her makes my palms go sweaty, not just because of the idea of all that lycra in a humid convention centre but because I would be panicking about attempting to both do her justice and convey all of my feelings about Kate Bishop As A Thing. Because I really truly relate to Miss America and I think she is the coolest but Kate is my favourite.
WARNING: There are some BIG SPOILERY SPOILERS in this for Young Avengers volume 1 and volume 2 through to #5.
“Love Can Build A Bridge” has one of the best line-ups of any charity single – three women who have each made, on their day, magnificent pop records. What’s more, Cher and Hynde and Cherry aren’t off-form, phoning it in or smoothing themselves down – their voices blend and contrast in exactly the intriguing ways you might have expected.
And yet this is a tiresome record. It’s a simpering bore, a dose of pop castor oil, a lacklustre plod whose only appeal is the background sense you’re doing some good. What went wrong?
I should say from the outset, I’m unreasonably fond of this record. “Unreasonably” not because it’s a bad song or ‘guilty pleasure’, but because it’s not a record I want to reason with. I like it as a trip into full-bore, bodice-tearing ballad melodrama, and it does this job rather well, probably better for being a movie soundtrack without a movie. I want to hear it every few months, I hear it, I’m done – like the thunderstorms of “Think Twice” are dissipating some sort of emotional ozone buildup.
So it’s not something I’ve ever played repeatedly or carefully considered until now. And the more I do consider it the more awkward a thing it is, a strange hybrid of at least three quite different takes on making a big ballad. You have the “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” angle – Celine building it up to knock it down, chunks of drums and power chords falling around her. I’m always fond of that. You have the more up-to-date approach – the ballad as skeleton for a vocal routine, which of course Dion has the technical chops to carry.
But before both of these you have a third ballad-form – one summoned up by “Think Twice”‘s brooding opening, a drift of soft-synth bewilderment cut through by a lonesome guitar lick, a warning of tears and lamentation to come. This is, frankly, Phil Collins territory – songs whose landscapes crackle with sullen potential before erupting into an almighty sulk. “Think Twice” promises something similar – a more wounded, less resentful “In The Air Tonight”.
I guess there was probably a lot of hand-wringing about his butt. But I probably glazed over during anything that followed the phrase ‘Noh-Varr’s butt.’ Just to get this out of the way: Jamie McKelvie is doing an extremely fine job of supplying some slightly-older-than-young-and-thus-ok-for-your-correspondent-to-goggle-at totty, here. Who knew the whole part-cockroach thing was attractive?
The question that appears to be being raised by the young people is: is Young Avengers cool enough? And indeed, if it is cool enough, is it also geeky enough? Are Billy and Teddy’s hairstyles preventing them being colossal dorks?
I don’t even want to get into the last question of that (although no, no of course they are not; they’re just vaguely dealing with being super greasy teenage boys for goodness’ sakes) but whether Young Avengers is too cool is a good question.
Y’see, Noh-Varr looks pretty cool. He’s a silver-haired alien boy for ladies in their twenties to mentally high-five Kate Bishop over. He’s got a spaceship and nega-bands and he’s been in the grown up Avengers and he’s totally done it, probably several times.
There are some brands which are bulletproof. No matter how many failed and dumb brand extensions there are, the core brand remains unassailable. As long as you don’t mess with actual Coke*, you can make as many Vanilla’s, Cherry’s and Coke Zero’s specifically for Nigel you like. And with this fiveway explosion of Heinz Baked Beans there is a “throw-it-at-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks**” insouciance bred from the knowledge that British people will still buy Baked Beans even if you did an Arsenic Flavour.
Ok, so some of these have been around before, just branded differently. Th old Curried Beans had raisins in it, I’m guessing this is no longer the case. Barbecue beans and even probably even beans with fiery chilli have been around before (though probably will not come close to a liberal hand with the Tabasco). No the two interesting ones are the “Garlic & Herb” variant and the “Cheddar Cheese” one.
And add another one to the “why on Earth didn’t I read this stuff before?” pile – Mike Mignola’s excellent and well-praised Hellboy. I skimmed the first ever miniseries half-heartedly on release, thought “Nazis, monsters, pfft” and that seemed to be that. But the steady drip of praise, and the sheer tenacity of the enterprise, kept nagging at me, and in the end I succumbed.
Glad I did, of course. I’ve not yet got to the parts where Mignola hands over the illustrative jobs, so the stories I’ve been reading are purely him, and while I knew he was a marvellous artist I didn’t appreciate the ways in which he’s marvellous. Among them this: he gives good Cthulhu.
To say at the start, I did eventually enjoy my Saturday afternoon at London’s Brewing and I have definitely been to events more badly organised (Glastonbury 2007 springs immediately to mind), but to my mind some of the criticism has been a bit rabid, I’m not sure what place Trading Standards have in this discussion? I’m not sure why people were expecting to be able to swan up to the bar at a sold out event, and one that they’ve probably only paid £4 to get into (£15 ticket minus 3 pints at £3.80-£4.00) at that.
All that said, the first two hours were a shambles, here’s why:
Apropos >Mark’s earlier post, I must confess to having imbibed some lager and been in proximity to both paper and pens during Europoptimism, which partly resulted in a sign for the door and partly resulted in this.
I don’t really know who east sky/taktophoto is (or are)*: but his/her/their tumblr republishes sets of images gathered from all over the place (always linked to, generally captioned as per the original, never commented on). The images can be hypercoloured, intricate, abstract, surreal, sexy, ridiculous — sometimes strange wtf artworks, sometimes simply startling photos from nature, hard as this very often is to believe at first glance.