Picks of the Week

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The picks of the week from around the web.

  • L’affaire Siné. This is a good article on the firing of cartoonist Siné from French bi-weekly Charlie Hebdo, apparently over insulting the son of President Sarkozy, followed by allegations of anti-semitism, and provides some context to us who are puzzled how a magazine known as a bastion of freedom of speech in satire (famously so in the Muhammed cartoon case) suddenly fires one of its mainstays over what must be termed a trifle.
  • The Siegel-Detective Comics correspondence. (Warning: PDF). Unquestionably the find of the week. These documents from the early days of Superman are fascinating for the insight they provide into editorial policy at the time, as well as the concrete issues at stake between the creators of Superman and the company that ripped them off over it. Tom Spurgeon has a succint piece of commentary up, too.
  • Writings on The Dark Knight. The new Batman movie has been the most talked-about movie of the summer, and some people have said interesting and intelligent things, amongst them are Charles Reece and John Barnes. Check them out if you liked the film. UPDATE: David Bordwell has a post up too, of course.
  • Orwell: Bookshop Memories. Great little essay on working in a bookstore by a master of the form.
  • Woodring Ephemera and Simulacra. A cool collection of little-seen work by the great Jim Woodring and an inspired application of his imagination to the real world (or is it the other way round?) Thanks, Flog!
  • Skrull Kill Crew

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    A good deal is being written about the entertaining but rather haphazardly structured and at times unintentionally puzzling summer event from Marvel, Secret Invasion, but I haven’t seen anyone mention the one thing that immediately bothered me about the series: the completely unassuming and natural way in which the superheroes kill the Skrull enemies en masse.

    Isaac Hayes 1942-2008

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    Isaac Hayes is gone. And not to Phoenix, this time. It’s a hard goodbye for this listener. Inspired by the great artists who sampled him — Public Enemy on “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos”, Big Daddy Kane on “Smooth Operator”, The Jungle Brothers’ on “Behind the Bush”, Massive Attack on “One Love”, Compton’s Most Wanted on “The Hood Took Me Under”, The Geto Boys on “Mind’s Playin’ Tricks on Me”, etc. — I started seeking him out sometime in the early 90s, and his music became formative to my appreciation of soul music.

    Hayes was the whole package. A writer of great songs, especially the early sixties when he and co-writer David Porter provided Sam and Dave with their two biggest hits, “Soul Man” and “(Hold on) I’m Coming.” A fine instrumentalist, especially on the keyboard. But first and foremost he was a composer, arranger and producer, notable for taking often relatively banal material and crafting soul masterpieces from it. And then there was his voice. Though never a singer of great nuance, he brought a form of high pathos to his love songs that imbued the emotions expressed with an epic sense, without ever losing that loving feeling.

    Picks of the Week

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    The picks of the week from around the web.

    Lots this week:

  • New York Times: “The Trolls Among Us.” Great article on professional internet trolls. Whither Stewart Brand?
  • KRS-One & DJ Revolution: “The DJ”. Legendary MC Kris Parker is sounding better than he has in a long time on this sequel to his classic track “The MC”, breaking down the characteristics of a real DJ.
  • Watchmen Roundtable. One of the great early interviews with Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons on their masterpiece Watchmen, which originally ran in Fantasy Advertiser #100 (1988). Essential reading for fans of the comic. Also, by all means, do check out this clip of Moore talking about his favourite superhero. UPDATE: Also, check out this fine interview with Moore on the craft of writing comics, originally published in 2002.
  • Love & Rockets! Live audio from the spotlight panels on master cartoonists Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez on this year’s San Diego Comicon.
  • Jeet Heer: “Solzhenitsyn as a Soviet Writer.” A concise critical assessment of the literary achievement of one of the most influential authors of the 20th Century on the occasion of his passing last week.
  • Ludacris “Politics 2008”. In case you missed it, Luda’s rather silly, but funny Obama rap that had the conservative pundits up in arms and got the presumptive nominee’s campaign scrambling to dissociate last week.
  • Vanity Fair: “Believe me, it’s torture.” Christopher Hitchens gets waterboarded.
  • Jack Kamen RIP

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    Classic EC Comics artist Jack Kamen has just passed away at the age of 88. Although always understandably regarded as the weakest of the EC Artists, he was the most subversive in some ways. His wholesome illustrative style, and perennially healthy looking, mannequin-like characters doing nasty things to each other, in themselves act out a scathing satire of the values that would eventually land EC and the comics industry as such in hot water from concerned parents and censorious authorities.

    Plus, those stories are really funny, following as they do the formulaic accelerated three-step logic of shortform pulp plots: “Oh Maureen, I love you”, “I love you too, Brad, but Dick will never give me the divorce”, “Let’s kill him!”. Also, his art was a perfect, subtly disturbing fit for the didactic but still rather interesting strips in the post-Comics Code title Psychoanalysis, not so much for the landscapes of the subconscious, surely influenced by such imagery as Salvador Dalì’s designs for Hitchock’s similarly hammy therapy thriller Spellbound (1945), but rather for their frank straightness. Whiteman on the couch.

    Tom Spurgeon’s obit.

    From Stage to Panels

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    Andy Konky Kru has posted the entirety of Joseph Franz von Goez’ 1783 comic Leonardo und Blandine over on his indispensible site for pre-modern and early modern comics, Bugpowder. And It’s a treat: while by no means great art, its tight sequencing, relying on histrionic moment-to-moment renderings of the characters’ love and grief, is fascinatingly exacting. Telling the tragic, Decameron-inspired story of two star-crossed lovers over 160 panels, it is highly melodramatic and not a little grim.