The iFanboy Letter Column – 08.13.2010 (All Conor Edition!)

Friday means many things to many people. For some, Friday means movie night. For others, Friday means pure unbridled hedonism. For some, it’s both. For others, neither.

At iFanboy, Friday means it’s letter column time.

You write. We answer. Very simple.

As always, if you want to have your e-mail read on the any of our shows or answered here, keep them coming — contact@ifanboy.com


Josh is at a wedding and Ron is traveling so I could either throw a raging party here at iFanboy HQ and invite all you good people. Or I could answer a bunch of e-mails.

Decisions… decisions…

Conor Kilpatrick


My Dad’s birthday is coming up and I wanted to get him a book for the occasion. My father introduced me to Batman and Green Lantern at the young age of 10 and let me rummage through all his old comics. 13 years later, I’d like to get him something I know he’ll enjoy reading. The detective/crime stuff always seemed to be his preference. Any suggestions guys?

Cole

Right off the bat (zing!) I’d recommend getting your pops one of those nice Gotham Central hardcovers. If he likes crime stuff and he liked Batman, that’s right there in the sweet spot. If he’s a big fan of crime and doesn’t mind not reading about super heroes you can’t go wrong with Parker: The Hunter. Finally, and this one strays a bit, but staying in the Darwyn Cooke vein — if your dad liked Batman and Green Lantern I’d give DC: The New Frontier a try. It features both heroes prominently and it’s a really nice, timeless story.

After finishing up Blackest Night I hear people yappin’ about Crisis on Infinite Earths, Zero Hour, Identity Crisis, etc. but no one seems to remember what I consider the best “crisis” DC had ever produced…

American Gothic. It kicked off in Saga of the Swap Thing #37 and concluded with the ultimate battle of good vs. evil. Highlights included the introduction of John Constantine, the death of Zatara (Zatanna’s father) and also a panel where The Spectre squares off against ultimate evil. I HIGHLY recommend this series, if you can find it (it doesn’t seem to be collected) as it’s Alan Moore at the TOP of his game. There are several stand alone stories that are some of the best DC has ever produced. And the end is awesome with the entire DC magic community coming together to stop pure blackness. No JLA/JSA etc… just characters like Dr. Occult, John, Deadman, Fate, Stranger, Etrigan and those types.

Yeah, this was an important crisis well before the Crisis on Infinite Earths thing. I think it may have been the germ for the idea of event books like Crisis on Infinite Earths etc. It definitely helped launch Vertigo. You guys have any thoughts on this? Just curious.

JMG

There’s a reason why you don’t hear Saga of the Swamp Thing #37 mentioned among the pantheon of DC crises. Well, two reasons. Number one, it’s not a “crisis” (this is putting aside the fact that Crisis on Infinite Earths hadn’t happened yet, so there was no basis for comparison). A “crisis” is a company wide-event with company-wide consequences. This is not that. It sounds like a badass story that features the entire occult community of the DCU, though. The second reason people don’t talk about: most modern readers haven’t read it. I haven’t. But I will: Saga of the Swamp Thing, Vol. 2 and 3 are sitting on my stack and that story is in Vol. 3. I’m looking forward to it more now, though.

I would tend to doubt that this particular story was the germ that lead to events like Crisis on Infinite Earths. Big stories featuring lots of characters had definitely happened in comic before. It wasn’t the first time that had happened. Possible? Yes. Probable? No. But maybe I’ll change my mind after I read it.

You’ve stated here and there on iFanboy that you think that the term ‘noir’ is overused. Can you give me some examples and non-examples (stuff that may seem like noir, but isn’t) of what exactly you think noir is?

Vernon O.

I definitely think that the term “noir” is overused. In the last couple of years it seems to get applied to every crime story (or in this case, comic book), when in fact “noir” is a sub genre of crime stories.

It’s somewhat difficult to pin down an exact definition of noir. You ask three people and they will tell you three different things. If you look up the definition of noir (or crime noir) you’ll see things like: unsentimental portrayals of sex and violence; sexual relationships used as plot points; tough, self destructive lead characters; heavy doses of cynicism. Things like that. And that’s besides the writing style which is usually lean and mean.

I tend to look at noir like pornography, it can be hard to definitively define but you know it when you see it. Lots of people classify Stumptown as noir and I think that’s completely wrong. It’s way too lighthearted. Greg Rucka himself has said it’s modeled after The Rockford Files and no one would ever in a million years classify that as noir. This is a example of people classifying any crime story as noir. What is noir? DC’s Vertigo Crime OGN line is noir. Almost all of the things listed above are present in all of the stories. Sex, violence, self-destructive heroes and cynicism are prevalent in those books.

My friend and I are planning to buy some comics from milehighcomics.com and I wanted to recommend to him some nice story, for he is not a comic collector, but he enjoys that stuff. He is also a huge fan of noir. To get to the point — I have seen something in one of your podcasts, that he might find interesting but I don`t remember the name of the book — story probably takes place in Gotham City, and the very characteristic thing about it was its unusual format — it was published in a very similar manner to 300, I do remember that because one of you was complaining on it, that it is hard to fit it on the shelf. At the beginning I thought it was Gotham Noir, but its size doesn’t match. I tried to look for it in your podcasts but you made a lot of them so I figured it would be easier to ask directly.

BTW — I was wondering:

1) What do you think of European comics (like Rork or Incal, what do you think of Moebius at all? Do you know these comics?)
2) Why you never did an episode on 100 Bullets — it is the best series I`ve read in years!
2.5) Is Scalped really better than 100 Bullets? I read #1 and it was fantastic indeed.
3) When you did your manga show, you did not mention Akira — How the F**K is that possible?

Marcin from Poland

The sideways book is Batman: Nine Lives. It was featured in iFanboy #57: “Larry King”. It’s printed sideways and is an Elseworlds book where Dick Grayson is a private eye. Written by Dean Motter, with pencils by Michael Lark and inks by Sean Phillips, Nine Lives is very good, I like it a lot.

On to your other questions!

1) I don’t have as much knowledge of European comics as I would like to. I have read and enjoyed a bunch of Tin-Tin and I have seen Moebius’ work (he did some Marvel comics when I was a kid), which I like a lot. I don’t know Rork or The Incal, unfortunately.
2) We haven’t done an episode about 100 Bullets because none of us read all of it. Josh dropped out about half way through the series (I think) and I never made it past the second trade.
2.5) I would say so based solely on the fact that Josh and I are still reading and loving Scalped.
3) The manga show wasn’t about all manga or even the best manga or most famous manga. We had the people here at iFanboy.com vote on which manga we should read and the top three vote getters were the ones we read and talked about. It was a very specific show with a very specific focus.

Conor Kilpatrick

Comments

  1. New Frontier seems like a really solid suggestion for Cole.  My Dad really enjoyed it.

    I wasn’t aware of American Gothic.  I’ll check it out.  I generally enjoy Swamp Thing. 

  2. The specificity of noir is really tough to pin down cause its more of a mode or mood stories, rather than a genre. And yea, it is rather bleh that every crime story is patented as noir, especially in comics.

    Best study of noir I have read, which I highly recomend to anyone interested figuring out the whole noir deal, is James Naremores More Than Night: http://books.google.com/books?id=rhMU8xVGG5sC&printsec=frontcover&dq=MORE+THAN+NIGHT&source=bl&ots=F10OgfFR-9&sig=HprvoiXWkXiMGYXi_YKTtHah3ZI&hl=en&ei=doJlTLvlGsSJnQet_qnMDA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CBoQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q&f=false

     Check it out.

  3. Crisis vs. American Gothic:

    I wish I was sitting at home with my comics, but I feel like JMG has his/her facts muddled.  I agree that the Alan Moore run of Swamp Thing is a must-read.  It’s almost certainly the reason I continued to read comics beyond my youth and it seemed to be the precursor of the a now much wider genre of adult-themed comics.  And the Moore Swamp Things did do an awesome job of digging up some of DC’s less prevalent (at the time, at least), super-natural-themed characters.  But I don’t remember it as an on-going, multi-character story arc.  And, as Conor points out, it’s not really a "crisis" if it doesn’t tie into other titles and pull most of the DC universe along with it.  Most of the great characters that showed up in Swamp Thing were under-utilized characters that didn’t have their own titles at the time, so it hardly qualified on that front.

    BUT, and this were I’m getting confused and wishing my comics were in easy reach,  some of the things JMG talks about do not predate Crisis, I don’t think.  If memory serves, there was at least one Swamp Thing tie-in with the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, and it was in Swamp Thing’s Crisis tie-in that Zatara dies.  In fact, I think one of the things the title Swamp Thing did for Crisis was add in a lot of those minor, somewhat mystical characters and give them some role in the Crisis.  I think perhaps what JMG is remembering as a separate story-line is actually part of the original Crisis on Infinite Earths.

     So, yes, read Swamp Thing.  But, no, it’s not really a "crisis" except for the parts that actually overlapped with the Crisis On Infinite Earths.  It did have a big affect on the DC Universe as a whole because it brought some great characters out of mothballs and gave them new depth and created new characters, but at the time they were not part of some over-arching DC Universe plot.

  4. @Rob3E  Seconded

  5. It’s good to see that emails don’t get lost in the shuffle.  Thanks alot Conor:)  You guys do a terrific job of taking questions and making us ifanboy users feel that our voice has significance. 

  6. @ Rob. I’m pretty sure Zatara gets fried at the table of magicians at the end of Gothic. It also  helped launch Vertigo. Hellblazer, which has had an unbroken run by a minor character for 25 years.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zatara

    I also think that one or two issues tied into Crisis. I rememeber that banner now. I think it was a "red sky" story. 

    Anyway, right or wrong I’m glad I brought it up, as people will read it again. Including me 🙂

  7. I may not have my comics on hand, but I haz the internet.  Someone(s) has painstakingly put into chronological order the Swamp Thing-related events of several years of comics.  This page:

    http://www.swampthingroots.com/timeline_06.html

    deals with the time period that covers both the American Gothic storyline and the Crisis On Infinite Earths.  American Gothic went on for about a year, and it intersected with the Crisis On Infinite Earths.  Events that started in Swamp Thing’s Crisis crossover came to head a few issues later at the end of the American Gothic storyline in Crisis in Heaven. Whether Crisis in Heaven is considered an actual Crisis tie-in or not, it seems to be at least a spin-off, and it certainly can’t be considered a pre-Crisis example of a crisis-style storyline as it come out after or at least concurrently with the Crisis on Infinite Earths.

  8. Dini has GOT yo pick up on this! from the Zatara wiki: "Constantine had previously taken Zatanna to a "tantric studies meeting,"

  9. I havent read much Swamp Thing and I definetly havent read American Gothic or the COIE tie-ins, but reading you guys go back and forth on it really makes me want to!

    And @Conor, thanks for answering some of the unused/back emails directly.  I got answers to questions long asked, emailed to me. Thanks man, means alot! 

  10. Conor forgot Fell for detective/crime books. Also… I notice iFanboy has never since allowed the viewership choose what they read.

  11. @zombox huh? Why would they?  They have to pay for those comics.

  12. Noir is a type of story that requires a visual medium. The noir style was taken from German Expressionist films, a lot of it came from the early movies of Fritz Lang, and the pulp crime and detective stories from the 20s and 30s. It involves a lot of shadows and extreme camera angles. The first example of noir is John Huston’s adaptation of The Maltese Falcon.

  13. @zombox: I didn’t forget FELL, I just didn’t suggest it.

    We’ve only done audience choice twice in five years. Its not like it was a regular feature before the manga show.

    @beatdisciple: That would probably come as a surprise to the many noir novelists.

  14. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Are there prose novelists who call themselves noir novelists? Crime and pulp writer makes sense, but I don’t think I’ve heard anyone describe their written work as noir. Films, certainly. Comics…sure. But prose? Not really applicable. 

  15. @Paul: Noir in prose is referred to as "hardboiled". It’s the same thing.

  16. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    I don’t know. Noir is a look. Hardboiled is a tone. There’s a lot of overlap though, which is why this is such a complicated question. 

  17. The "American Gothic" arc of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing >>>>> Crisis. At least in terms of quality. "American Gothic" was a pretty loose story arc, but it went on for a year and had a definite beginning and an ending. We all know that Crisis on Infinite Earths was hugely influential and pretty innovative, but in terms of quality storytelling and upping the bar for non-super-hero-y comics? The twelve issues of "American Gothic" make the twelve issues of Crisis seem like the muddled ramblings of a boring child. All of that Swamp Thing run is a total masterpiece and, I know this is a matter of taste, but I don’t see how anyone who’s read even one issue of that doesn’t just break down, lock themselves in a room with the whole thing and not come out till they’ve read it all, twice. Best run ever.

    On Moebius: They’re hard to find (not reprinted in a while) but in the ’80s he did a two-issue Silver Surfer mini-series scripted by Stan Lee. It’s one of Stan’s best stories and the artwork is awesome. Moebius rules.

  18. I could see a great video podcast in Akira. It’s definitely in my top five best comics ever list.

  19. The Swamp Thing Annotations website has more trivia and interesting factoids about Moore’s run than you can shake a cypress stick at.

    http://www.tinyurl.com/readswampthing