Other Nexus Graphica Columns
For more information, you can try the following:
Online iZombie prequel
Rabbi Harvey vs. the Wisdom Kid
Youtube video on the creation of Forget Sorrow
The Escapist on more things Hit Girl
Recent Books of Interest
iZombie #1 by Chris Roberson (words) and Michael Allred (art) (Vertigo)
Gwen lives in Eugene, Oregon, a young single woman with a lively social circle, despite
working as a grave digger. "Lively," however, might be the wrong word, inasmuch as her circle
is comprised of ghosts, werewolves, vampires, and other night creatures who may or may not care
that they're living in the shadow of Nike shows, old growth logging, and Ken Kesey's legacy. This
is your new, post-Twilight Oregonians, and indeed, Roberson seems ready to set us up for a
broad satire not only of things cultural, but of the "branding" and marketing of monsters, as
well. Did I mention that Gwen is a zombie, by the way? She needs to eat a brain of month to
retain an outward sheen of "normalcy," but the only problem is, she's left with that new brain's
memories. And thus driven to settle scores with old, well, ghosts. Though I mean that
metaphorically, the second time around. Sort of. In any case, it's lots of fun -- perhaps
just in time for summer -- and Apple has not sued for the small "i" in front of the title yet,
either, so grab your soon-to-be-collectible copy now, before they do!
Rabbi Harvey vs. the Wisdom Kid by Steve Sheinkin (Jewish Lights)
What better time to write a Rabbi Harvey review than after coming home from Shabbat
services? (Hmm... should be computer even be on!?) Sheinkin's affectionate take on Talmudic and
other Jewish folk tales, reworked and re-set in the 19th century Rockies, is practically
an "alternate history," with predominantly Jewish enclaves among the mining towns of the gold,
silver, and fur-boom eras. And here disputes are settled not with Colts or Winchesters, but with
parables and reason! At least, they are while Rabbi Harvey is dispensing advice, Lucy van Pelt-style,
until he is challenged by a young upstart Rebbe, who is a little too glib, and -- yes! -- is part
of a plan engineered by his mother, the "Bad Bubbe." What would Philip Roth make of that? For
the first time, Sheinkin gives us a book-length tale -- with the reworked parables and folk
tales in service of a larger plot, rather than the other way 'round. And with his still Sepia-esque,
still woodcut-influenced style (makes sense when the setting is high timber!) the ride -- on a
horse, even! -- is every bit as enjoyable in this third volume as it was last time out.
Forget Sorrow: An Ancestral Tale by Belle Yang (Norton)
At first glance, this volume wouldn't appear to represent any particularly new turf for the
graphic novel, representing as it does the crossover of a renowned children's artist into comic
panel territory, in order to tackle a memoir. But just as traditional book publishing did -- and
does -- sustain a model for many different kinds of non-fiction remembrances and witnessing, so too
in graphic novel land is there always room for any engaging retelling of histories, human sorrows
and consequence, etc. Here, the Carmel-based Yang uses her own story -- a young daughter phased by
college and even more by a psychotic, stalking Ex -- retreats to her family home where her
parents -- her father especially -- regard with some scorn for the mired state of her life. It's
in getting her father to open up about his travails -- born in China, his escape and eventual
arrival in America, and more importantly, the operatic (and in one case, King Lear-like)
stories of his family (and hers) heading into the 20th century, and its numerous upheavals. Coming,
as it does, so many years after the not dissimilar Maus (or Persepolis) the type of story may not
be a surprise in comics form, but it is certainly engaging and large-hearted enough to make you
look forward to Yang's next project.
Time of the Hit Girl
So we're following up -- expanding upon? -- the last column's thoughts about Kick-Ass, both the movie,
and -- to a certain extent -- the comic. The first question might be: do I mean my last column, a month ago,
or Mr. Klaw's?, and the answer might be both.
Copyright © 2010 Mark London Williams
Mine was more specific, then Rick took the reins to survey the live action superhero comic in the modern
film-and-digital era. Which kind of brings me back to Kick-Ass. I know -- three NG's in a row on movies;
it must almost be summer, right? Well, I promise a more eldritch topic -- pre-dating the whole Edison/Muybridge
moving pictures thing --next time out.
So back to Kick-Ass. I mentioned last time that I liked it more than I didn't -- it's pretty fun stuff,
but the main reason I liked was because of Hit Girl. (I won't recap the whole story again here directly,
cause most of you already know it...)
But what is it I like about Hit Girl?
Well, Chloe Moretz plays her with a precocious vivaciousness (how's that for a phrase?) only hinted at in
the comic. One wonders how and why Millar originally concocted her for the Marvel series the flick is based on.
I haven't read a lot of Millar, but he strikes me as kind of like the comics version of Quentin
Tarantino -- a highly talented creator who seems to be more informed by his medium than by, say, actual
life or events around him. They aren't the only two, but they share a kind of "I'm such a bad boy!" ethos
in terms of how far they can go (mostly with violence) in that given medium. And the violence, being cartoony
in both instances, allows a certain distance from the consequences, and therefore a hipster proclamation of its coolness.
But within those constraints (which, of course, are imagined as not having constraints -- hence the
exploration of cool new terrains of violence, though you become mandated to try and top yourself each
time) insights are often reached: In Tarantino's case, for example, Inglourious Basterds becomes an
examination of the role of cinema in affecting our "real world" views, and the call-and-response
between the two, whether the director -- who now scores his films with music and cues from other
movies, amping up the artificial movie-ness (gee, maybe all along he has been a Brechtian?)
In Millar's case, one of my favorite works of his is Wanted (yes, I am specifically referring to the comic
series, and decidedly, not the movie), which takes as its premise "what if the super-villains won?" What
would the world be like then? Where it hits a deeper chord that perhaps Millar intended (in most good
art -- whether stories, paintings, performance -- the creator is more usually a conduit for something
larger than she consciously knows) is that the book became a kind of brilliant critique of the Bush/Cheney "aughts."
The bad guys had, in fact, won, or rather, since the comic's premise was that they'd won a long time
ago, but they needed the world to keep shambling along in its agreed upon obliviousness (in exchange
for a high-def TV screen, don't ya unnerstand) so that systems could keep functioning. The book takes
place when the agreements between bad guys fall apart, and the veil starts to be lifted a little.
And so, too, the "aughts." So in spite of the teen boy thrill Millar must've gotten from the last
panel in that series, it was, in its comic icon-y way, thought provoking stuff. And remains one of my
favorite comic superhero works of the last decade or so.
The Rosetta Stone moment for me in Kick-Ass comes in the final installment of the comics version,
when Hit Girl and Kick-Ass have improbably invaded the main mobster's headquarters, and she's
been briefly captured, and is starting to be savagely beaten (an unpleasant thought -- and image). The
boss tells her she must've been crazy all along, because -- and I'm paraphrasing here "kids can't beat
grown-ups; the grown-ups will always win."
Well, that's it right there -- that's the nerve Hit Girl taps into. The same both Thelma, and Louise,
tapped into a female wish fulfillment for a violent response to all the male violence visited on
women, so Hit Girl taps into our nagging suspicion that children are fully entitled -- fully -- to
kick the ass of the so-called "grown up" world.
Consider the track record of those in charge of the world -- i.e., "grown ups" -- and what sort of
future they're leaving: repeated wars, spending on repeated wars (religious wars, nation state
wars, "drug wars" you name it) to the exclusion of spending on, well, schools or any program, really,
that might benefit, educate, or provide nutrition to kids; institutionalized (and when it's not,
all-too-pervasive) molestation of kids, in some quarters; and perhaps the capper -- a biosphere
continually under assault, from the weather, to, well the water.
It's grown-ups busy killing off the Gulf of Mexico for decades to come, as I write this.
Who wouldn't want to kick their asses, entirely, for fucking things up so spectacularly? And all
without a say from the kids!
I believe it was Fritz Perls, founder of Gestalt Therapy, who observed "we are all deteriorated
In the case of Hit Girl, then, she's not going down -- or "up" to adulthood -- without a
fight. And somewhere deep inside, it's probably the same fight our own kid selves wanted to
take to the world that's been left to us.
Mark London Williams writes the Danger Boy time travel series,
which is currently being developed for a screen incarnation.
He wonders when the dominant paradigm is going to get its ass kicked, and gets Twittery @mlondonwmz