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Friday, July 23, 2004

"1/2-An-Animal-On-A-Stick..." 

First thoughts on Seaguy 1-3, as originally posted on this Barbelith thread [*SPOILERS*]:

Man did I ever love this series!

I noticed that some folk (not so much on Barbelith as on the internet in general) seem to have found issue's #2 and #3 of Seaguy completely incomprehensible or something. I don't get it -- the whole series seemed pretty straightforward to me (in a completely insane sort of way). It's very tight too -- the way that the ending of issue #3 brings things almost entirely full-circle is chilling! But as Flyboy has already pointed out, everything's not quite how it used to be, and that's important.

The artwork was perfect throughout -- the "comfort zone" that Seaguy and co live in is shiny and fun looking, but is still very evidently sinister, something that Cameron (with no small amount of help from colourist Peter Doherty) always keeps firmly in the foreground. And when we get into the high adventure stuff in issue #2, it looks every bit as thrilling and bizarre as it should, but there are costs to be payed for this sort of adventure, and the more melancholy/creepy elements of these parts of the stories come through brilliantly here as well.
I think that was what I really liked about this series: Seaguy is just a naive guy who wants to go have some sort of adventure, and who can blame him? The world he lives in is a deeply flawed consumer society, but the critique of this world that is made in the comic is all the stronger because Seaguy's dissatisfaction isn't sneery or condescending. He's into his escapist thrills like everyone else -- it's just that his taste in escapism is somewhat more overblown than most folks'. Furthermore, as has been mentioned in discussions of issue #1, Seaguy ends up on this particular adventure against the current world order because of his status as a consumer of Xoo, not in spite of it. As of the end of issue #3, the Xoo-creature is still free, and is currently roaming the world as a "living pirate foodstuff." Dare I suggest that we will see more of this creature in the later volumes? Since in issue #2 the Xoo-creature seemed to recognise and not want to hurt Seaguy and Chubby, I can only hope so!

Another thing I like is the focus on ancient civilizations with weird technology (artificial wasps that can extract oil from pollen, jackal-men who can extract "heavy air" from dung). There's a definite sense of wanting to re-discover all of this crazy stuff, but at the same time these places aren't wholly depicted in a positive light. The Pharaoh in issue #3 may have achieved something wonderfully barmy (the moon is his burial home for fuck's sake!), but he did so out of rediculous vanity, and drained his people dry/blew them the fuck up in the process. Similarly, for all the thrills that he may have achieved while climbing Mount Poseidon, the Wasps of Atlantis still cost Seaguy his best friend's life.

"Xoo is multi-purpose. Xoo is low cost. Xoo makes people happy. And what's so wrong with happy?"

So says the scary suit in issue #2, and while there's certainly nothing wrong with happy, there is something very wrong going on in this world. What about the children that were being carted away in issue #1? And that's just for starters -- there's a whole lot of unhappiness here! This is another of the thematic points that I really like in this series: the idea that in defeating Anti-Dad the heroes had defeated evil seems to me to be analogous with the idea of fighting a sucessful war against terror. Evil cannot be vanquished in a big heroic fight; people will still want to nasty stuff after the dust has settled. This is a part of human nature, and to ignore this fact is folly.

The ending of issue #3 is, I think, the most upsetting and sucessful part of the book so far. The scenes that show Seaguy and Doc Hero being reprogrammed are suitably nasty and inventive, and as for Lucky El Loro... I hate the feathery little bastard, but this is surely the point: he matches the same formula as Chubby (talking animal with a silly name and accent), but somehow completley lacks the charm of that character.

All said, the last page is probably my favourite one -- the Eye Moon and "No Xoo Today"/"Sold Out" signs, as well as the prescence of Lucky, make that little wink Seaguy gives all the more unsettling. He thinks he's playing a game where nothing's at stake, but as we know all too well, he's very, very wrong. Of course, that wink could mean the exact opposite, i.e. that he is perfectly aware of what's going on here and is just hiding it very well, but while I like this hint of ambiguity, I'm afraid to say my gut instinct is that he thinks he's in on the joke when he really isn't.

Good god, this post is getting out of hand. Anyway, suffice it to say that this rocked me more than any Morrison project since... I dunno, either Kill Your Boyfriend or Flex Mentallo, and that I am eager for more. I want to see this world fleshed out more; I want to learn what's going on with Seadog in greater detail; I want to see Seaguy remember Chubby. Mission accomplished, guys -- I'm hooked!

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Tuesday, July 20, 2004

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. 

Jack Fear nails why the idea of Jack Black playing the Green Lantern actually works for me:
 
"Jack Black as Hal Jordan is fucking genius casting. Think on it: the whole thing about Green Lantern is that he's fearless, and his power derives from his iron will. Jack Black's entire comic persona is based around his utter self-confidence, his absolute conviction and focus. The part might've been created with him in mind.
 
The fact that School of Rock was one of the best daft comedies I've seen in the last few years means that I'm feeling very generous towards Black these days, and right now I'm fairly sure that a good Jack Black Green Lantern movie would kick the ass right off of most "serious" superhero movies.

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Saturday, July 17, 2004

Everything Reminds Me Of Something Else 

Hey guys -- howsit going out there?
 
Sorry this place has been so inactive for the last month or so, but I've been trying to cut down my internet time of late.  Not very successfully, mind, but I have been trying, and this place has suffered as a result.
 
Anyway, moving swiftly on, anyone who wants to see quite how bad my grammar and spelling can get should check out my flailing attempts to talk about Grant Morrison and Chris Weston's comic book series The Filth over on this Barbelith thread. It ain't pretty, but I think it is fairly rich in terms of how many good starting points for discussions there are in there. Whenever I finally get around to writing a big piece on The Filth, I'll be sure to consult this thread for ideas.
 
Meanwhile, those of you who find yourselves draw to discussions of Spider-Man 2 could also check out the rambling geek-boy post I just wrote about it over on Cakes & Money 2.0. It's fun, in a gibbering sort of way!
 
In the time between this post and my last one, a copy of Eightball #23 has made its way into my possession, and you can be damn sure that this comic is right at the top of my "comics to give a thorough write-up" pile. 
 
I've always been fascinated by the way that Dan Clowes can build up a story from little fragments.  Ghost World is one of the most cutting and affecting portraits of post high-school friendship that I have ever encountered, and yet it's essentially made up of nothing more than a series of snapshots strung together (something that is, I suppose, true of all narratives, but you know what I mean -- Ghost World is a fairly extreme case). Eightball #22, the Icehaven issue, took this approach even further, running one overarching plot through a series of short comic strips that depicted the lives of various people who inhabitted the small town of the comic's title.
 
Eightball #23, The Death Ray, develops the various narrative techniques Clowes used in both of those comics, but does so in a way that is far darker and stranger than I had expected. I wouldn't instantly have chosen the same language as he did, but Sean Collins is no fool for pointing out that for all its superheroic garb this is a story about a serial killer. As Sean points out, this narrative is very much directed by Andy himself, and the way that so much is pushed off-panel here (dialogue, events, characters, etc) is a telling and disquietening insight into his character that I feel I have yet to fully unravel. Like its predecessor, this is a comic that  will most certainly reward multiple re-readings, and I look forward to this process hugely.
 
More later!

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