Howard Chaykin’s American Flagg

So, four years after the initial announcement, the first collection of Howard Chaykin’s American Flagg is out.

The first of Chaykin’s work I ever read may have been the original Star Wars adaptation he did for Marvel. 30 years later it’s hard to be sure, but I can actually remember, for instance, issues in the later series credited to Carmine Infantino.

After that, the next thing I would have seen, strictly speaking, was Heavy Metal, for which he did some design work, but I’m not sure that counts.

No, the next thing I remember is the collection of his The Shadow mini-series, which was beautiful and twisted. I bought that, The Watchmen and the last two issues of The Dark Knight Returns pretty much right off the plane when we moved back from Germany.

In the end, his work on American Flagg wasn’t available to me because we were in Germany when it originally came out, and there were no specialty retailers, just the tiny book store on-base, and by the time I had heard of it, it was over, and I was out of comics anyway. When I got back in my third year in college, it just wasn’t available.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying, “When I saw the collection, I picked it up.”

Maybe it would fare better if I had some nostalgia for it in play, but I have to say that it has not aged well. The layouts are a much less polished than I’m used to with his work–I’m used to his visual storytelling being superlative, but this is really hit or miss. The pacing of the story is absurdly compressed–there’s so much crammed into each page it feels like too much exposition. And, finally, the comedy in the names and situations feels a little too broad.

In the end, it’s not that I think it’s bad, it’s just that, like all too many pioneering works, the people who came later did it better. And one of those was Chaykin himself.

Sent off my application…

…and there’s no reason for me to believe that, after some short amount of time for processing, I won’t be able to stick RYT after my name.

Amusingly–perhaps amazingly, considering the industry I work in and its obsession with credentials–the only other such thing I’ve ever done is my college degree.

Our new yoga room!

So, nearly a year ago, I moved out of my office above the garage–our “bonus room”–and took over the bedroom that had previously been Anne’s office. This fairly torturous process happenned because we were going to make the room over the garage a dedicated yoga space.

Well, after much foot-dragging and slow-moving, it’s done. Thanks to my parents, who (in April) got us over the initial hump of doing something–specifically, taking down the hideous wallpaper.

Thanks to our friends Deb and Toby, who helped us scrape a substantial portion of the hideous, ghastly, wretched textured wallpaper that had been put on the ceiling. When we realized that it was wallpaper, Anne and I both agreed, “It’s got to go.”

And finally, thanks to Al and Enrique, who we finally hired to finish the job. They worked tirelessly (but quickly) and transformed it from the modest-at-best space that you can kind of discern in the first picture into the beautiful, peaceful space that it is now.

Well, that was a bit of a kick in the gut

I saw The Dark Knight. It was well-written, generally well-directed, fairly well-acted (except for Heath Ledger, who was amazing), and I have no immediate desire to see it again.

Let me back up a bit: I liked Batman Begins a lot. A lot. It was one of the finest super-hero movies ever. I think X2 may have been a little better, but I have more affection for the characters. Factor that out, it’s a dead heat.

I don’t mean to be pejorative when I call Batman Begins a super-hero movie. I like super-hero movies. I wait for good ones to come out all the time.

But I contend that, deep down, The Dark Knight is not a super-hero movie–the level of nihilism it displays on all sides far surpasses even its spiritual source material, The Dark Knight Returns. The relentlessness with which the Joker drives forward the story is entirely in line with the implacable onslaught of the creature in Alien. Like the creature there is no respite from the Joker.

Like Alien, when we’re not being asked to imagine the horrors that the creature visits on the crew of the Nostromo–and the movies are similar in that most of the real gore is implied, or happens very, very quickly rather than being lingered over and sensationalized–we’re asked to be fascinated with the creature itself; this is the thing that drives Christopher Nolan to show us the Joker lurching out of the hospital in a nurse’s uniform, the same way Ridley Scott would show us the creature unfolding and unpacking itself from some improbable space, moving with an inhuman quality.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a well-made movie. It affected me viscerally. But I don’t find its horror-movie-in-super-hero-clothing to be something I feel the need to repeat any time soon.

Considering Warren Ellis’ “The Guts Of Dr Horrible”

I don’t know why I’m surprised when Warren Ellis drags out his critical skills. I suppose it’s because his default mode is so often dismissive.

Still, while we do get the admission that “Musical comedy makes [his] balls itch”, he’s more than willing to take on Dr. Horrible on its own terms and makes an interesting point about how hubris often derails inexperienced creators: Everyone wants to write some epic-length piece with tons of Deeper Meaning, and forgets that–to take a recent successful example–the first Harry Potter book was short and self-contained.

So release early, release often can also be a mantra for creators of content, not just software.

In cleaning up various loose odds and ends–

You know: finding the images that need to be re-installed in the blog posts, removing ancient copies of the blog from its days running under Blosxom, so forth and so on–I ran across a .wmv of the song “Shake Your Blood” by Probot.

And I thought to myself, “Why am I keeping around a copy of this video–I know it must be up on YouTube.”  And then I looked at the date, and realized that I had had it since before YouTube existed.

Archives imported, links corrected…

At least, the links for articles on the site. There are still a bunch of image links that I probably need to go back and fix up.

So far I’m kinda liking Movable Type, though I still need to figure out how to setup fastcgi support for it–you don’t notice it when you’re just browsing the site (since it’s published to static HTML) but using regular-old CGI for the interface can be a leetle bit poky.

I am hoping someone could explain to me what the real difference is between “categories”, “tags”, and “keywords”. Seems kinda redundant.

Oh, and the damned rich text editor causes epiphany to go into search mode whenever I type an apostrophe. Oh, well.

Moving over to Movable Type

After years of running my own blogging software, I think I am finally done with that whole business. Too much work, too few features, etc., etc. I’ve installed the Movable Type Open Source package in Debian, and whatever its flaws, it’s going to be more featureful and useful than the various packages I’ve used over the years.

So, Chet, how about you?