Monday, March 27, 2023

Kontemplating Komix: The Maxx (1993–98)

I'm really and truly at a loss as to where to start with this one. Sam Kieth's cult comic is a rabbit hole if ever there was one.

Sam Kieth? Who's Sam Kieth? Well, he co-created Sandman with Neil Gaiman. True story. Look at the illustration credits for the book's first five issues. He voluntarily left the book because he didn't think his work was a good fit—and, frankly, he was right. But the fact stands that Kieth was responsible for Morpheus' visual design. He also did some work for Marvel, turning in some absolutely baller art for the Wolverine stories in Marvel Comics Presents, and did some Detective Comics covers for DC. So when he launched The Maxx in 1993, Kieth wasn't exactly an unknown in the industry.

We also need to acknowledge the contribution of William Messner-Loebs, whose previous credits included popular authorial runs on Wonder Woman and The Flash. Loebs acted more or less as The Maxx's co-writer and Kieth's editor for more than half the book's run.

Let's begin with the cover.

We're at our local comic shop in 1993. We pick The Maxx #1 off the wall. We're conscious of the man behind the counter and feel his gimlet eye on us. As soon as we look at the interior pages, he's going to tell us that his store isn't a library and tell us to buy it or put it back. 

Let's say that we also notice issues #3 and #4 shelved next to it. Maybe they'll gives us a clearer idea as to what The Maxx is about.

Let's say we decide to start at the beginning and pick up issue #1. What sort of comic book do we suppose we're taking home?

Monday, March 13, 2023

The mummery of "You Cannot Walk Here"

The music I want to hear changes with the season, and during the fall and winter months I crave industrial. Since the clocks were set an hour back in November, I've been listening to a lot of Wumpscut in my little alcove in the office. I've enjoyed listening to KMFDM's Nihil all the way through at least once a week. Give me Skinny Puppy, give me SPK and Frontline Assembly and Leæther Strip.

Sometime in early February I started on a Birmingham 6 binge. Maybe we could say they spent their all-too-short career playing second fiddle to KMFDM, but I love them all the same. I kept their 1995 album Assassinate (a mixed-up stateside version of 1994's Mindhallucination) in heavy rotation throughout high school, but it wasn't until the days of file sharing that I came upon their epic sophomore effort Error of Judgement (featuring Front 242's Jean-Luc De Meyer).

A week or two I caught myself singing along to to Error of Judgement's fifth track, "You Cannot Walk Here." And why not? It's a jam. But listening the lyrics coming out of one's own mouth can be jarring, perhaps to the extent that some neurotic mutant might wish to issue an apologia for the track and his enjoyment of it.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Decisions, Update

I appreciated people weighing in on the Substack question, although I still haven't come to a decision.

Blogger is a zombie platform. Few people use it anymore, and Google retires existing features more often than it implements new ones. Substack is fresh, and it has a scene. Maybe I'm kidding myself, but it seems like Substack would be an opportunity to join in and contribute to The Conversation instead of talking to myself here.

Two things give me pause:

(1) I'm a bit of a packrat. I don't like the idea of tossing out over a decade's worth of Content. Although—maybe this would be a good opportunity to sift through it all, pick out anything that's truly worth preserving, and dispose of the dross.

(2) This is a Blog. My intention was never to Build a Personal Brand or focus exclusively on Topic X or Theme Y, but to just spout off whatever was on my mind during a given day or week or month. I feel like if I switched to writing a Substack newsletter, I'd have to make it about something. I might even end up pressuring myself to go topical, which I've never, ever been good at (except maybe when I was making comics about video games years and years ago). Then again, restricting myself to subjects situated within certain parameters could improve my output. Who knows?

I'm not ruling anything out yet, but I should probably make myself choose whether to fish or cut bait sooner than later.

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Kontemplating Komix: Shade, The Changing Man (1990–96)

This has been something I've meant to do for a long time. The images I collected for a Shade, The Changing Man writeup are in a folder that's almost three years old. There just never seemed to be a good time to go ahead and make it happen. Lately I've gotten it into my head that there are a couple of other underappreciated comic books that I'd like to write about, so I figure I might as well do a little series, starting with Shade.

Shade, The Changing Man is the seminal comic serial of author Peter Milligan, who might be better known for his work on mainstream superhero titles like Detective Comics,* X-Force, X-Men, and Justice League Dark. It launched in 1990 and concluded in 1996 after seventy issues.

*As a matter of fact, it was Milligan who came up with the idea of the bat-demon Barbatos, and he was a co-creator of Azrael, the guy who briefly replaced Bruce Wayne as Batman after the Knightfall storyline.

I can't speak to how popular Shade was in its own time, but it's telling that as recently as 2014, the trade paperback collections only went up to issue #25. (Having been introduced to the series through an impulse purchase of the first volume at a bookstore, I can't tell you how crazy this made me.) I can't remember what year it was that I checked again, but it couldn't have been more than a half a decade ago that I browsed the DC Universe digital catalogue and found that it excluded issues #51–70. 

Compared to 1990s Vertigo hits like Sandman, Preacher, and Doom PatrolShade, The Changing Man has been mostly forgotten. I won't venture to guess why that might be—its pervasive weirdness and the unremitting flakiness of its protagonist could have something to do with it—but whatever the reason, Shade's status as an eclipsed also-ran is a damned shame. It's easily as good as any of its Vertigo contemporaries, if not better.