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Nexus Graphica
by Mark London Williams

Other Nexus Graphica Columns
For more information, you can try the following:
Rohan at the Louvre
Six Preview Pages of The Massive
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
DC Makes It Official
The Outhouse Has Preview Pages of the X-Men Wedding
Warming gas levels hit 'troubling milestone'
A new article in Wired on the whole "Danger Boy" thing
Recent Books of Interest
Insufferable by Mark Waid (writer) and Peter Krause (art) (Thrillbent)
Insufferable The main thing to note here is that "Thrillbent" isn't an "imprint," in the paper sense, but rather, a website launched by Waid to explore the possibilities of digital comics. A couple of Comic-Cons ago, Waid interviewed French digital comics theorist Yves Bigerel, showing some of the cutting edge work Bigerel was doing with the way panels can "reveal" themselves with each click of the forward button, presenting more opportunities for surprise than traditional comics have -- which, due to your peripheral vision -- is really only at the top left of a page, after you turn the sheet. In the three installments of Insufferable -- as Waid continues to plow his way through the "I" section of the dictionary -- a "Batman"-ish character is saddened that his "Robin" (or "Bucky" or "Speedy," et al.) has grown up, left, and become, in the words of the comic's intro, a "douchebag." Seemingly in it for the glory and money, with a callous attitude toward everyone else. The plot is just taking off, though there's a lot of wistfulness and loss built into the thing already. Waid is still feeling his way through the use of digital reveals, and they don't always make sense: Why are these panels appearing one-at-a-time, and why are those three shown all once? But when it works, it works pretty well, and definitely shows promise in this incipient form of the medium. I'd be curious to hear your feedback on it, once you click over to the link above.

Rohan at the Louvre by Hirohiko Araki (NBM)
Rohan at the Louvre Another entry in NBM's intriguing Louvre series, where they take graphic novels commissioned by the great museum itself, and offer them in English translation. (An earlier entry, On the Odd Hours, was a Nexus Graphica "top ten" a short while back). What stands out is the willingness of the Louvre to let itself be portrayed as a sometimes disturbing, if not dangerous place (especially given the power of all that art that's kept away from the public, but used in the plotting of these tales). Araki, himself a known mangaka, here gives us a manga about just such a figure who meets a mysterious woman when a young struggling artist, who tells him of a Japanese painting made with the blackest ink known to humankind. The problem, of course, is that if you're looking at the page and it's merely printed in actual "black ink," you're left just imagining how additionally transcendent darkest-ever black must be. In any case, the young mangaka becomes famous, dresses like a rock star, and tracks down the painting to the Louvre. Where very Twilight Zone-y, or actually, in this case, Night Gallery-esque, consequences occur. The plotting won't necessarily be a surprise to fans of spooky stories-with-twists, but the story makes a powerful case for the power of images in our lives, to convey loss, sorrow, and even release. Which is a pretty good case for someplace like the Louvre to make.

The Massive #1 by Brian Wood (words) and Kristian Donaldson (art) (Dark Horse)
The Massive #1 What if the world's eco-systems were falling apart all at once, and the good folks at The Sea Shepherd got their own comic? Well, the former is becoming truer by the week, and the latter has kinda happened in Brian Wood's new series, The Massive. Except that the twist is that here, the Sea Shepherd and Greenpeace-like folk who have taken to the seas in boats to try and save what they can of the biosphere, have had to watch environmental collapse come and go. Massive ice floes have calved, underwater earthquakes have shaken and most of the world's port cities are now partially submerged. So what happens to a group of marauding environmentalists who are proven exactly right -- and have nowhere to go, because of it? That's the premise here, and even though everyone is impossibly good-looking for a crew on the aquatic lam and running out of food, the "upheaval" part of the book is all too plausible. I'm looking forward to subsequent issues, as Dark Horse maintains its eco-cred, post-Concrete. After all, someone has to have eco-cred; certainly none of our so-called "leaders" do.

Giant Sized Annuals

This month's column is like a Giant-Sized Annual! The kind that used to be a whopping twenty-five cents in the days when regular comics were twelve cents. Yes, this dates me.

Now, of course, there are simply various "prestige" formats for five or six bucks a pop, but the sale of those "Giant" omnibuses weren't designed to be extended stories (usually), but instead they were collections of new stories. Like getting two-and-a-half comics at once.

You may have noticed that at the top of this month, you have double the amount of Nexus Graphica than you usually do. And while some might say it was techno-gremlins that delayed the arrival of new material on this website, I prefer to think of this as our Summer Annual! offering you more reviews and column width than ever before!

Of course, by "annual," I might just mean a "one time event," since I'm not sure we're planning for this next year. But at least we're not charging a quarter!

Meanwhile, in compendium fashion, this column is a round-up of stray thoughts and observations from the world of comic-dom:

Astonishing X-Men Comics' Big Gay Month: As you know, being comics cognoscenti, DC has already announced that soon, very soon -- this month! -- one of their previously "straight" superheroes (quite a surprise among gym-toned men moving through the night in tight, form-flattering spandex!) will come out as gay. (While this won't be Supes or Bats, current online rumor-mongering has it as one of the versions of Green Lantern, indeed, the first Green Lantern, Alan Scott).

Not to be outdone, Marvel announced a big gay mutant wedding in mid-June, between out-for-twenty-years X-Men adjunct Northstar, and his companion, Kyle.

What's new about this is not that this is "news" -- or rather, one hopes this is relegated to the newsworthiness of saying "one of our superheroes is a woman! We're announcing there'll be a superhero who isn't white!," etc. (well, okay, we could probably use more of both, especially the latter). But what will be interesting is the reaction/backlash to such ultimately innocuous doin's, in such politically polarized, toxic times.

Predictably, the so-called "Million Moms," a group formed by the right wing (and also so-called) American Family Association, issued a statement saying ""Children desire to be just like superheroes. Children mimic superhero actions and even dress up in costumes to resemble these characters as much as possible. Can you imagine little boys saying, 'I want a boyfriend or husband like X-Men?'"

It's the usual projected fear of the crypto-fascist. In other words, of course a personality in desperate need of being controlled, and told what to do (by preachers, politicians, misinterpreted holy texts, etc.) assumes everyone else is as easily told.

The question then is whether this will blow over in the news cycles of the next few weeks, or whether comics, by wading into a hot button social issue (which, of course, should be neither) will become a lightning rod in a way the industry hasn't since the 1950s. Probably not, since comics are on the side where history is trending. But then, those of us in the "reality-based community" haven't always prevailed in the political and cultural debates of late.

It will also be interesting to see what kind of editorial autonomy comics have, now that the two largest imprints are owned by global entertainment conglomerates. Perhaps it shows how mainstream the entire gay rights "debate" is (there's a debate that citizens should have rights?) that it's equally safe for both labels to tackle the issue at once.

EARTH-2 Cover Since recent science reports calculate the planet may heat up by what is essentially a civilization-ending six degrees by century's end, given how fast we're farting out carbons as a civilization (so fast, the feedback loop of methane release appears to have kicked in in the arctic), could these same comics have superheros trashing oil refineries, or rampaging through corporate boardrooms as the latest round of buying and selling legislators is discussed? (Though one comic reviewed this month admittedly touches on these themes.)

Could the comics take on the idea of superheroes monkeywrenching the increased surveillance powers of even "democratic" governments, in order to retain whatever shrinking freedoms for regular "non-meta" humans still exists?

Well, here and there, some comics can. V for Vendetta was awhile ago, and a large studio made a movie out of it, so who knows?

But it's something I wondered about when watching The Avengers movie: Sure, nobody wants a bunch of angry space aliens invading the planet, and lucky us for having a bunch of good-looking super-powered folk to defend us. But what if, to paraphrase the comic strip Pogo, we have seen the Earth-destroying aliens, and they are us?

What kind of a summer blockbuster can you make about that?

Comic-Con Registration: Well, the big event is almost upon us, and it seemingly gets harder to sign up for it every year. Regular ticket registration was initially glitch-ridden, though the kinks worked out, and the usual instant sell-out ensued. Pro registration was mysteriously delayed until the last possible moment, and the number of passes severely restricted compared to the last, oh 20 years or so, without any announcement in advance. Hmm. Does this mean they're selling more tickets? Working to make Comic-Con less like the Tokyo subway during rush hour? (If only!). We'll see. It becomes harder to get to, and more crowded, all at once.

Not a complaint, so much as an observation. Where is Comic-Con headed? How much more can it grow? When does it cease being fun to go to? Well, this summer should provide an interesting "sneak preview" of some answers.

Copyright © 2012 Mark London Williams

Mark London Williams wrote the Danger Boy time travel series, and is mulling turning the story-within-a-story, the monster-themed "Barnstormers," into its own comic with artist Douglas Potter. But they're working on an illustrated fable first. Meanwhile, mention Danger Boy #1, "Ancient Fire," is back out on eBook, and the sooner you download the free, first one at Amazon and Smashwords, the sooner we can release the fifth installment in the series, "Fortune's Fool." Mark gets Twittery @mlondonwmz.

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