Friends of The Vestrymen are funnier than you!

Want to write a vestrymen post about comic book feminism?
9:36 AM
Cabel Schoen
Melissa Trent
will you write one of my finals?
Melissa

9:37 AM
perhpas
Is it about Batman?
9:38 AM
Cabel Schoen
Melissa Trent
yes!
I’m taking Gotham City Administrative Law
Melissa

9:39 AM
Sounds awesome
is rule one that due process is for chumps?
10:12 AM
Cabel Schoen
Melissa Trent
yup
always
my other class is “First Amendment and the Joker: what you need to know”
Melissa

10:13 AM
is murder covered by free speech now?
10:14 AM
Cabel Schoen
Melissa Trent
I think that it’s more of a “the first amendment let’s you say that…but you might not want to around the joker”
Melissa

10:15 AM
I thought it might be more “is the Joker performance art”
10:15 AM
Cabel Schoen
Melissa Trent
ooh that’s better
Melissa

10:15 AM
Does putting Mr. Freeze in jail for trying to save his wife create a ….
wait for it
….
“chilling effect” for future medical research?
10:16 AM
Cabel Schoen
That joke was so bad it drove you out of your email
10:43 AM
Cabel Schoen
Melissa Trent
hahaha
it made me have a “I am clearly talking to people online” face in class
Melissa

10:43 AM
Can I post this conversation to TheVestrymen?

Skype Log: Cabel And Lee get political!

[12:48:21 AM] Leland Webb: It is time
[12:55:09 AM] Cabel Schoen: what time?
[12:55:20 AM] Leland Webb: Time for books?
[12:55:21 AM] Cabel Schoen: http://gawker.com/freejahar-when-conspiracy-theorists-and-one-direction-478152664
[12:55:26 AM] Cabel Schoen: I like books
[12:56:19 AM] Leland Webb: well fuck me
[12:56:26 AM] Leland Webb: never send me links again
[12:56:36 AM] Cabel Schoen: 🙂
[12:56:49 AM] Cabel Schoen: the world is a slightly worse place that you could ever have imagined
[12:58:15 AM] Cabel Schoen: http://i.crackedcdn.com/phpimages/quickfix/7/3/5/190735_v1.jpg
[12:59:26 AM] Leland Webb: I need to do more drugs
[12:59:37 AM] Cabel Schoen: 1000% more drugs
[12:59:54 AM] Leland Webb: Seriously, I can’t live in this world anymore without more drugs

A hot mess

My favorite comics blog calls the current age of comics the Platinum Age. Scipio is not wrong, not but I think it is clear that there is more going in the current age of comics than he has accounted for. It is fair to note that it has been four years since he wrote the linked piece and the landscape has changed significantly. Who wants to be fair really?. I’d rather 328936-118779-justice-league-of-am_superwrite about where the industry is today.

The New 52, Marvel Now, and The Avengers move have all come out since 2009, proving Scripo’s analysis of the superhero genre is on the nose.  Superhero comics are currently in something that would fairly be called “The Platinum Age.”

Something interesting is happening around the edges, though. Comic books have broadened themselves out again. The comics code authority’s rise in the mid 50s ended horror, noir crime and any sexually explicit comics. Starting in the 80s we saw some of these genres returning to publication, but to me, looking back, many of those works feel juvenile; like a 15-year-old trying so hard to prove they could be an adult. At their worst The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen feel like shock media, though never for long, and 250px-Youngblood_01_covernever in the same way The Youngbloods do.

I just interrupted my reading of Ed Bubaker and Sean Phillips moody Fatale to write this. We read and loved Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth Stumptown recently. Though neither Leland or I love Multiple Warheads or Saga as much as the zeitgeist seems to they are works of substance and value. Fantasy comics, which have always had a slow, reliable market seem to be bursting out of their corner with Mice Templar and Amethyst. Soft and hard sci-fi comics litter the shelves, from a surprisingly good Star Wars title to the delightfuly whimsical Lost Vegas. Valliant comics is insuring that the Dark Age is forgotten, publishing a grip of well reviewed anti-heroes.

Though Scripo’s analysis is shiny, it is important to include the revitalization of neglected and abandoned genres that is a part of today’s landscape. Today’s creators throwing together the gold, silver, bronze, iron, platinum, and the metals forgotten between the ages, churning them together, distilling their mistakes, their creative brilliance, and their pure joy to create something new. The current age of comics is pushing at the edges of what you expect, forcing us to consider what is possible, what it means to be a creator, a reader, a fan, or an admirer. It is an exciting time to be a part of the comic book industry, even only as a fan and commenter in the Age of Alloys.

“I didn’t know rap was for that!”

A friend of mine is having a absolutely heartbreaking family health crisis. To help her cope I sent her Tnmmd of Almost Home by Masai. In the midst of her parents both being simultaneously hospitalized, for different reasons, a song from a genre she is fairly unfamiliar with made her cry cathartic, soul cleaning tears. The next time I talked to her she said to me “I didn’t know rap was for that!”

We are using Masai’s music on our podcast these days because we like it, of course. There is another reason too though. His music shares one of our favorite traits; it transcends it’s perceived genre limitations.  Rap doesn’t help you deal with grief, comic books are for kids, and classical music is boring and hard to understand.

Like so much of how we interact with each other, perceive one another, and how we engage the world, our beliefs about what a specific kind of art should and can be are shaped by cultural biases. Even the creators who are aware of the prejudice and who attempt to live free from it are aware of the assumptions that drive mainstream understanding of whatever part of the world is being lensed by social norms. Some would say that the weight of these assumptions is even heavier on them.

The Vestrymen tend to love art that works to transcend its genre e expectations. The Sentry reminded us that superhero comics can deal with addiction, loss, pain, and alienation in staggeringly honest and difficult metaphors. Blankets reminds us that faith, sexuality, and intimacy can be addressed through panels and speech. Almost Home lets us know that race, grief, and humor are not the anthemia of spoken word set to beat.  The Absorbascon’s and The Astroboys humor and warmth reminds us that not all comic book bloggers and podcasters can be a positive way to talk about and promote the medium that we all love.

As artists transcend the expectations they force us to transcend ourselves. The surprise and pleasant elation that we feel when we are confronted with something better than expected mirrors the surprise that Huck Finn feels as Jim constantly upends his racial expectations.

I know artists struggle with the belief that in order to be successful they must make the art that is expected of them. I don’t think that Almost Home or The Sentry will ever sell as well as Detective Comics #18 or Who Let the Dogs Out. I can only hope that making the world a slightly better place is enough of a consolation prize for Masai and Paul Jenkins.

Birthdays from the Future! Jonathan Hickman

Whether you loved The Nightly News or you’re more of a Fantastic Four and FF reader, it’s easy to be a Jonathan Hickman fan. Personally, I’ve been enamored of Hickman’s ability to walk the line between cosmic gravitas and human interactions, and while I’m loving Matt Fraction’s current work with Reed Richards and his clan, well, it’s time to stow that shit because this is Jonathan Hickman’s birthday post, dammit! If you haven’t read Hickman’s Fantastic Four, read it. If you have read that thing already, Jonathan Hickman is working with Steve Epting on New Avengers RIGHT NOW!

Fraction Vs. Fraction

FantasticFour_4_TheGroup-000VSFF_4_TheGroup-000

Two ongoing Fantastic Four titles enter and well… looking at the readership of our blog, and the sales numbers of these books it is likely that both continue living…however “ONLY ONE BOOK LEAVES”, sounds much better don’t you think?

So I’ve been thinking, as I do sometimes, about the Fantastic Four and its related properties. I started to think of how much more I am enjoying Matt Fraction and Michael Allred’s FF than I am enjoying Matt Fraction and Mark Bagley’s Fantastic Four.

The big problem for me though, as an aspiring comic book critic, is that I cannot put my finger on why I enjoy FF more than Fantastic Four. I do have some theories, so if you are willing to sit with me while I theorize perhaps we can find the truth together.

It is possible that I am just sick of the Richard’s family. I think I’ve read the entirety of Waid’s run, I know I’ve read the entirety of Hickman’s run, and the very first Fantastic Four story I read still sticks with me, so perhaps I am just tired of the trials and tribulations of Mr. Fantastic and his clan. This proposal has a problem though, since this image still captures my inner twelve-year-old in a way that perhaps only Jonathan Hickman can.

It is possible that Fraction himself actually cares more about the FF book than its “daddy” comic. If the author is putting more effort into one of his “children” than the other then it is not surprising they they are turning into a better “person.” I would kill to write the characters that started Stan Lee’s career though, and I imagine that most modern comic fans and writers would as well. The FF is undoubtedly full of fun characters but none of them created the Silver Age of comics. I can’t really imagine giving Sue Richards anything less than my full faith and effort.

Ockham’s razor suggests a simpler solution . There is one irreducible difference between the two books. After some careful Googling I’ve decided that Michael Allred and Mark Bagley are NOT the same person. You share my shock, I am sure. To be sure Mr. Bagley’s team are doing a great job, but our failure to connect with the emotional journey in Fantastic Four #4 could be, perhaps, fairly placed at the art teams feet. Bagley’s team is doing a very passable job, but I think it is very possible that the team doesn’t have the ability to convey enough emotional range to keep up with Mr. Fraction’s scripts. It is also true that Allred’s team is cheating there, with their abstraction and sillyness, but it works, so yeah.

I believe, although I am still not sure, that the art team on FF may better match for Mr. Fraction’s writing than the art team on Fantastic Four. I have no strong convictions here, however. What do you think gentle reader? Which of these two books do you like more, and why?