Happy New Year, everyone. Stuff’s going to be changing gears on my end Monday as I step into the MSJ program at Northwestern’s Medill School for 2011, but just because I’m not freelancing full-time, it doesn’t mean that the gears are going to come to a complete stop pay-work-wise (thank goodness!). Anyway, here’s what’s been up in Internetlandia the last few weeks:
• My friend and colleague Kiel Phegley showed up at a state-of-things interview for The Comics Reporter, and his candid perspective on shifts and evolutions is worth your time.
• I don’t know how high the Winklevoss twins in “The Social Network” ranked on your list of favorite on-screen effects at the movies in 2010, but this little feature that Sony Pictures posted is fascinating:
• This Los Angeles Times photo feature about homeless people living along the L.A. River has kept me coming back whenever I think about it.
• Whatever you thought about “Tron: Legacy,” it inspired great things at Three Frames.
Of the big three pamphlet comics publishers who launched their own comiXology apps in 2010, Image Comics came the closest to achieving the storefront and selection that I would like to see as a reader and iPad owner. $1.99 is pretty much the ceiling for what I’m willing to pay for a 24-page digital edition of a comic right now, but if the production values, concept and story are genuinely inspired, as is the case with Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma’s “Morning Glories,” they’ll get my money every issue. I like the Image app because of the overall variety of genres and general value (i.e., relationship between a higher degree of surprising, engaging story quality and the standard lower price points), and the first three issues of “Morning Glories” seem to embody that sense of satisfaction for me.
Spencer’s story here is something that readers with a fondness for wacky and/or horror high school-genre manga will enjoy, as should comics followers nostalgic for early “Generation-X” and “Gen13″ stories, but it follows a distinctly more Joss Whedon-esque path along the lines of “Dollhouse” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” in humanizing its characters and trimming away superpowers elements. Within the first three issues, it’ll have you contemplating institutional education, torture, and parenting, and most of that is just sight-seeing alongside the core stories of the kids trying to figure out what’s happened to them, and who’s responsible. I wouldn’t mind seeing one or two of the characters brought more to the forefront and fleshed out even more, but at the same time, the momentum in here really comes from the secrecy, the defamiliarization that’s constantly going on, and the spheres of the unknown that the students have been stuffed into.
In a year where “Walking Dead” broke through as a mainstream cultural name, I’m all too happy to see Image putting out new books like this, which don’t cater explicitly to hero book readers, but also cater to more general audiences. It’s a book that I hope to see even more great new things from in 2011.
I’m sure that if William S. Burroughs had ever been given the opportunity to direct a Ziegfield Follies segment featuring a thousand performers playing Tintin and Rosebud from “Citizen Kane,” audience members would have walked away with approximately the same sensation that reading Charles Burns’ graphic novel “X’ed Out” from Pantheon leaves on the mind. Its layouts and artwork are manically sharp, and Burns’ attention to transitions and the intermingling of narrative with lumberingly suspenseful builds toward twists has never been more pronounced. It’s a story about a human being’s struggle between iconic representations of memories and the reality beneath the surface of those memories, and wherever you presume the truth to lie at the end of this book, you should still be able to appreciate the carnival ride of the human psyche that he’s produced.
I don’t think you need to be familiar with Tintin to get into “X’ed Out,” but if you already are, it’s bound to make some places in your brain itch while you wander around on its pages. As with other Burns comics, the relentlessly clean compositions and shapes repeatedly capture horrifying abstract concepts. The story challenges readers to piece together the material history behind what’s going on amid the chaos and revelations, but if you enjoy tales that float around in that kind of space, you’ll probably dig this book.