My Week in Media

Hello!

I’ve been pretty significantly away, having moved across the country to take up a new job and finding a bit of a social life alongside it.

Normal concerns–cataloguing my collections and experiencing them in their given manner (reading, listening, watching, playing)–are also difficult to get around, but a revived digression from social media and the, ahem, milieu it represents has left me hankering to write about things.

Perhaps, too, it’s the largely-unexpected (but hoped for) printing of my letter (chopped down, understandably, from my rambling) in Darth Vader #8. Perhaps it’s the music I’ve been listening to. Most likely, though, I just want to talk about all of these things and don’t know of a better way right now.

For comics, this week was a bit rough: the first half was spent delving into The New Mutants–Claremont and Sal Buscema largely taking the first stabs, with Sienkiewicz appearing alongside Claremont at issue 18 to kick it into overdrive.

It’s been a curious ride, thus far: seeing the origins of characters that are, admittedly, often in the background for me: strong and clear, but rarely in the stories I read. Selene and Amara “Magma” Aquilla, especially were a shock. That the woman I knew best as the (at this point “future”) Black Queen of the Hellfire Club–with some touches on the near-eternal succubus-like nature in a book I can’t place right now–and one of the “core” New Mutants I’ve seen appear here and there (like in X-Men: 198–though I only realized this as I was in the midst of doing something recently I’ll get into soon, and found her staring at me on the first pages. Huh.) were actually part of some hidden chunk of Ancient Rome was just mind-boggling. It’s a cutesy, naïve sort of idea that would have to be taken in entirely different directions in the modern era of writing comics, but that still sort of bled the earnest adventurousness of Claremont’s writing and so made his reputation what it is.

But let’s not kid around here: when Bill Sienkiewicz took over art on the book it transformed. Claremont’s writing seemed to shift around it–maybe Bill was co-plotting, it is often displayed, credits-wise, with that sense of “team effort”–and become something else. The Demon Bear was established, as were the characters, and refined and developed, but they start to really come into their own. Somewhat less grandiosely, I discovered that Sal Buscema does his best work on inks (I also just read something he didn’t pencil but did ink, and he really turned the work of Ron Frenz toward his own–and I was delighted) and his pencils were pretty pedestrian under the inks of original penciler and team co-creator Bob McLeod (who does, admittedly, give Sam “Cannonball” Guthrie his delightfully awkward, lanky look). Or, of course, he just hadn’t developed his style yet (glimmers of it can be seen here and there, but they still seem subdued even with that)

But I paused Wednesday, as I had two weeks (ugh!) of new comics to catch up on (I’d estimate that put me near 50 issues to plow through). One of the things that struck me with the desire to begin writing again was noticing the art, again, in Michael Moreci, Tim Daniel, Colin Lorimer, and Joanna Lafuente’s Burning Fields #6. A lot of the latest issue takes place at night in a largely undeveloped desert area, and it’s deep and dark and black as it would be, while still being discernible. The right angle showed just how utterly coated the paper seemed to be in those darkened hues and it was just fantastically interesting to look at.

Despite the relentless cuteness of Whoofy and much of the art, Kaijumax continues to be, honestly, incredibly unnerving and disturbing. I know Zander Cannon is hoping to counter that (he said as much last issue when things got really dark) and he’s actually handling things far better than I might’ve thought when my stomach turned last issue, but it’s still going to be a pretty deeply unpleasant read to anyone bothered by certain subjects–rather than be too specific, let’s note that this is a mish-mash of daikaiju tropes and concepts with, well, let’s just say Oz. And I mean HBO, not Baum.

Secret Wars continues to fascinate: Gerry Duggan is significantly better than Jonathan Hickman at Thanos (which, even with “significantly” isn’t saying much, and he did lean a bit hard on the “is sickened by pretending to be nice”–even without the varying moralities and motivations of Starlin’s Thanos, I think he’d be at ease with pretense for his own purposes, not internally ill, as his motivations are selfish for pragmatic reasons, not emotional ones), but Hickman’s core story–amusingly nudged by the ad at the end of Howard the Duck #5–is still incredibly strong. There’s a sense of coagulation in some of the Battleworld books, too, as the Maestro begins to be sprinkled throughout, plots against Doom are forming regularly, and bits of cross-pollination begin to sprout.

Musically, this week I caught Chris Farren, Dave Hause, and Rocky Votolato–the first I didn’t recall I knew for any reason (he was the other artist on the split with Tim Kasher from this year’s Record Store Day), the second I stumbled into a few years back entirely by accident (ordering a re-release of his first solo album on a whim), and the last I knew as brother of the Blood Brothers’ Cody Votolato (and his previous bandmate, in the Rocky-led Waxwing). It was another quieter, smaller show that had pretty sincere enthusiasm from each of the men performing.

Hause and I had a lengthy conversation about musical finances after I asked him about ordering that album in a ridiculous bundle–interestingly, he’s one of the first people I’ve said Doomtree to who said, “Oh, yeah! They’ve definitely got the right idea,” clearly recognizing them–and whether it was really beneficial. Conclusion: yes, not in the obvious financial way so much as in helping to push visibility (a la the “please pre-order specifically” DTR themselves tend to harp on). This is clearly a subject he’s really put a lot of thought into, and it definitely increased my respect for the man outside his songwriting.

Farren I’ve fallen for hard in especially my whimsical acquisition of his band Fake Problems’s last album (Real Ghosts Caught on Tape, which does not include the exclamation point I think it demands), which I’ve been rocking pretty hard. He actually also showed me the e-mail he got from Kasher laying out the chords and lyrics to the song he’d shared, which was quite neat. If you’re unfamiliar, the two of them shared only that level of information about a song each of them wrote, then they covered each other alongside their original versions. Neat idea, past the already fun “swap songs” splits around for decades.

Votolato I sighed and went for when he asked if people had questions–my “question” being a request for “Postcard from Kentucky”–which I knew was a dick thing, but considering I’ve never been one to request things, I just felt the urge and went with it. He said he couldn’t remember it (and told me after the show he needs to re-learn it, as it’s requested a lot), but did play “Silver Trees”–inspired, he said, by Shel Silverstein, and filled with word choice that affirmed this–from the same album. I showed him my “infamous” Seattle music web and he said it was really cool and began wandering all over it, seemingly surprised at some of the bands I had in there (and adding that he’d played guitar for Sharks Keep Moving a few times, so I could connect him, and also that Hannah Blilie was certainly more famous and successful via The Gossip than anything else). He said he’d “post it” if I sent it to him, but I tweeted it and got no response. Alas! (I even added a key and both things he mentioned!)

Tomorrow is our weekly–I say that, and it sounds like it’s everyone, but it’s just me and a few music-oriented friends–record listening post-work time. For once, I don’t have an upcoming show to “preview” for folks, so I’m kind of flying free musically, which is neat. Not sure, still, what I plan to bring, actually…

Anyway, that’s where things are for the moment.

Until next time…!

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