Process: Paul Pope

In the pretty near future, Paul Pope is releasing a new, colored version of his 1999 book Escapo. To see some more of the uncolored pages, along with a few pages with sample color, and to enter a contest to with a copy of the book, go here

Wednesday's New Things: Here's To New Things

1. Lots of new stuff coming out this week, so I'm going to keep it brief. Among the crop are two minis, both featuring veteran writers, Veil from Greg Rucka and Starlight from Mark Millar, and artists I've never heard of. Working with Rucka is the Serbian born Toni Fezjula, whose art has a wonderful, sacralized stained glass quality. The girl-with-amnesia-doesn't-know what she's-capable-of premise isn't exactly big news (Rachel Rising, anyone? River Tam?), but Rucka is an excellent writer, and I'm sure he'll do something excellent with it. Millar, is, of course, Millar, so your milage may vary. He's working with Goran Parlov, who, coincidentally, is from Croatia. His art reminds me a little of Paul Pope, and a little of Fiona Staples, but the colors, vibrant and not quite flat, are the real attraction. I'm probably going to trade wait both of these, but I'm tempted to buy the issues, if only so these two artists keep getting work. 

2. I'm a young dude, but I've been reading comics for almost a decade, long enough to remember when a new creative team meant a BOLD NEW DIRECTION rather than a new #1. These numbering gimmicks used to bother me, but now I guess I'm inured to it, because I've ceased to care, even though Wolverine and the X-Men ended literally last week. Latour and Asrar have some big shoes to fill, since Jason Aaron and the combination of Chris Bachalo, Nick Bradshaw and others were responsible for one of the most consistent and satisfying superhero comics of the last few years. Every so often, particularly in the early days, the comic even wandered into greatness. I sort of feel like Latour is getting the short end of the stick here, much like he did after taking over Winter Soldier from Ed Brubaker. Readers didn't really stick around for that regime change, even though Latour is a more than capable creator, but maybe Wolverine, Storm, and the students of the Jean Grey School will be a bigger draw. Check out a preview here.

3. Another two new #1 from Marvel this week. Anything from Warren Ellis is welcome, and the idea of Moon Knight as a Fringe agent/Question take off rather than a simple Batman take off is extraordinarily intriguing. Declan Shalvey's art is clean and daring, and the fact Jordie Bellaire does not color Moon Night at all has the effect of making the character appear of the gutter rather than of the panel. It will be interesting to see if and how Ellis takes advantage of that choice. Cullen Bunn's new Magneto series has similar potential; Bunn is a known quality, but not exactly a commodity. Still, Gabriel Walta's art is minimal and marked by interesting compositional choices and the colors (again, Jordie Bellaire, displaying her versatility) are similarly understated. The recent Magneto-as-hero status quo has been ripe for expansion into a solo series, and this one has a significant amount of potential.

4. Although I think of myself as well versed in comics, I'm hardly an expert. I'm simply ignorant of too many things, my complete lack of knowledge of European and Asian comics being the most glaring hole. This is partly because of an antipathy I developed towards manga while I was in high school; I know better now. And I've recently developed an interest in Japan as a creative place. The key to learning about anything is to do it as you go along, and Jiro Taniguchi's newly translated Furari seems like as good a place as any to start; based on the life of a real 19th century figure, Furari's main character is apparently something of a wanderer, and, looking at the preview, the landscapes he wanders in are one of this book's great joys, a result of Taniguchi's thin, easy line. Call it judicious, rather than minimal. 

5. This comic looks deeply, deeply depraved. The preview reminds me of Transmetropolitan, you know, except that Spider Jerusalem was more than just a lost soul, or of Satellite Sam gone off the wall. Not for the faint of heart, I suspect, but perhaps a good way to vicariously live out certain subterranean fantasies. 

Process: Jason

Ramzi Fawaz on the Fantastic Four and American Studies, Part 1.

In my day job, I'm a graduate student in American Studies at the University of Texas. Although I have a continuing interest in comics studies (and am, for example, hoping to present at this year's Comic Arts Forum), I find that the work I do for this blog and the work I do as a graduate student don't cross very often. Sometimes, though, I get lucky, like at the beginning of February, when Ramzi Fawaz, a professor of English at UW-Madison, came to UT to give a talk that's right from the pages of his upcoming book The New Mutants: Comic Book Superheroes and Popular Fantasy in Postwar America. The talk, on queer theory and the Fantastic Four, was excellent, and I got a chance to speak with him both before and after it; the fruits of those conversations are now up on the UT American Studies Blog, AMS :: ATX. Besides comics, Fawaz also discusses the importance of interdiscplinarity in teaching and scholarship, and how American Studies is the study of how people fantasize themselves as being American. I'm going to post one excerpt now, and another later in the week. If you find your interest is piqued, please mosey on over to AMS :: ATX to read the whole thing

JK: I want to switch gears back to the specific project. I’m curious if you have an elevator pitch for the talk that you gave at UT. Could you give it? 
RF: Absolutely. The talk that I gave last week, “Flame On” explores some of the ways in which the Fantastic Four reinvented the American superhero from its previous figuration as a figure of white, masculine vulnerability, to one of intense vulnerability, body transformation and mutation. The way in which the comic book did that was by imagining a kind of fantastic family formation, four characters who appeared to be normative social types, mother and father, two bickering children, or, you might say, the child and the uncle. It imagines what would happen if the normative family was transformed into mutants, their bodies literally absorbing some of the textures and objects of the material world of the 1950s and early 1960s. Part of what I try to do in this talk is to trace the comic book’s investment in presenting these normal bodies as monstrous or mutated, to actually try to imagine what it would mean to take pleasure in those mutations, to want to be out of the ordinary, to want not fit into the nuclear family. And so I argue, essentially, that the comic book is an extended visual meditation on forms of non-normative or queer embodiment in the 1960s. 
Because of that, in the talk, at least, I argue that this allows comic books to be conceived of as a kind of proto- or early form of gay and lesbian literature, even though the comic book, because of the constraints of its historical moment, never actively identifies any of its characters as gay or lesbian. My point is to say that superhero comic books in this moment reject this broader zeitgeist to identify non-normative or non-traditional ways of inhabiting things like family form, gender and sexuality, which ultimately became the purpose of radical gender and sexual movements the 1970s and after. So that’s part of what I’m doing in the talk. I’m also trying to lay bare the way comic books functioned, at this moment, as a really elaborate primary source in the history of sexuality, as an object that actually shaped popular conceptions of sexual cultures as they got articulated to more radical politics, the politics of the New Left, with gay liberation. I don’t know if that does that trick, but that’s my elevator pitch.