Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Tearoom of Despair

A while back I realized it was much, much harder to write about something you really love than it was to write about something you really hated.

That’s why I write this blog.

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If there is one thing I can say with absolute certainty, it’s that I fucking love comic books.

I love everything about them. I love reading them and collecting them and getting rid of them. I still love novels and movies and music, but comics are my medium of choice. There is just something about the way the words and pictures combine that always thrills, always entertains, always satisfies, more than anything else in entertainment.

And while the medium is oddly tied up with superheroes to a degree that is often alarming, there is still such a wide variety of comics. There is always something new and interesting. I favour big, mental superheroes and stories with a distinct metaphysical edge, but I’ll read anything.

I love Bacchus and Nemesis The Warlock and Marc Silvestri’s X-Men and Luba and Global Frequency and John Severin’s jagged little line and Bob Fingerman and Jason’s impeccable comic timing and Mark Millar and John Wagner’s Judge Dredd and Cerebus the Aardvark #112/113 and the way Peter Bagge’s characters sometime spazz the fuck out and Evan Dorkin’s plan to be King of the Monkeys & Dwarves and Ian Gibson’s female figure and Brubaker/Phillip’s Criminal and the fact that Franklin Richards will never be 10 and big old black & white Australian reprints of Mike Grell Legion of Super Heroes and the way The Invisibles made me feel at 4am and The Big Book Of Conspiracies and the Super-Sons and Smax The Barbarian and Grendel Prime and pre-Crisis Batman and post-Crisis Batman and Ted Rall and the last lines in the Doll’s House story in Sandman and old Cor!!! annuals and Terry & The Gunrunners and Garth Ennis Punisher and Art Adams and Lewis Trondheim’s little nothings and Adrian Tomine before he got too far stuck up his own arse and Brendan McCarthy and Brian Bolland and Carlos Ezquerra and John Ridgeway’s Doctor Who and Bryan Talbot’s eternal optimism and Ray D and Frank Miller’s balls and The Cowboy Wally show and Joe Kubert’s war comic covers and those last few apocalyptic New Universe comics and the New Adventures of Hitler and Adam Hughes and Dracula Lives! and Curt Swan’s rigid backbone and Hicksville and it just goes on and on and on.

Sometimes it feels like all this love sometimes get lost in worthless snark, and you need to remind yourself of the good things in the medium. Nobody reads comic books because they hate reading comic books, those people are off reading mass-market novels and cereal packets.

We read them because we love them. No matter how much we sneer at the stupid and foolish, there is always something good out there to discover and devour. We should talk about this stuff more often.

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While snark has no currency and is avoided as much as possible on this blog, it’s not all sweetness and light – there are still plenty of things about modern comic books that bug that hell out of me.

But it all comes from love for the medium and the artform. We are constantly shown exactly what comics are capable of, with brilliant comics showing up on the shelves every week. To see the biggest comic companies cruise along on nasty mediocrity is painful, and can not be ignored. There are always artistic and commercial mis-steps that should be noted, because something that doesn’t work shouldn’t be mistakenly praised.

I will always try my best to avoid the kind of vague generalizations that often accompany negative reviews, and try to drill down into the disappointment as much as possible. I’ll always try to explain that dissatisfaction, rather than just offer up a lame, uninteresting and dull “this sucks!”. Shouldn’t we all?

So when I have some scathing things to say about Mark Millar’s latest Ultimates efforts in a few days time, it’s coming from somebody who genuinely loved his collaboration with Bryan Hitch, and who has tried to nail down the exact reasons behind my disappointment in the current series.

* * *

One of the best bits in the latest series of Doctor Who – and there were a lot – was the moment where Vincent Van Gogh hears somebody from the future tell him that he might just have been the greatest painter who ever lived.

It should be an extraordinary cheesy moment. After all, it was written by the guy who did Love Actually and is a big old hoary sci-fi cliché. But it works, thanks to a magnificent little turn by master thespian Mr Bill Nighy, and because - goddamn it – it’s somebody talking with absolute passion about something they love more than anything.

I try so hard to reach moments like that, where I can talk with passion and eloquence about something I truly love, something that has made the world just a little bit brighter. I’m trying every week, and I hope I’m getting there.

* * *

I quite like large portions of Love Actually. Much of that is again due to the sterling efforts of that man Nighy, but 3/5ths of that film is stunning.

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Because I’m really all about the love.

The name of this blog is supposed to be ironic. There might be plenty of despair in the current comics scene, but there is no reason to dwell on it. There is so much good stuff out there, comics that thrill and entertain and provoke and enlighten. There is so much good art, so many different styles and methods, a wide mix of idiosyncratic brilliance and absolute professionalism.

They might be more expensive than ever before, and the brilliant stuff does often get buried beneath that mountain of mediocrity, but the good stuff is good. Comics have never been better and here about the Tearoom of Despair, we’re all about sitting about and talking about this brilliant fact.

Have a scone.

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