Friday, February 29, 2008

Heavy Metal



Why, yes, I am a comics nerd, why do you ask? Heavy metal is (unfortunately), all over this trailer, just as it was in the teaser, but what really impressed me was the preview's sense of humor: like Tim Burton with Batman, Jon Favreau might be one of those "hmmm" choices that turns out to be inspired, especially if he's channeling the not-nearly-as-smooth-as-they-think manchildren of his first feature, Swingers, who have a lot in common with the character of Tony Stark. It's still a bit hard to get a bead on the narrative, which seems to be coming at us in bits and pieces, like the various parts of Iron Man's armor; still, the cast looks fabulous, Downey is perfect and the special effects appear top-notch. All in all, much better-looking than Catwoman.

9 comments:

Bob Westal said...

I just read part one of your "Iron Man" trilogy. Wow. Can't wait to read the rest. (I stopped reading comics between 1977 or so and 1985 or so and never really caught up on what happened in btween. Not that I read them often now.)

But is Denny O'Neil really the Stephen Sondheim of comics? Does that make Will Eisner George & Ira Gershwin?

Brian Doan said...

Hey Bob!
Thanks for reading the piece! Glad you enjoyed it, and hope you enjoy the rest. The Sondheim comparison was a bit of a rhetorical exaggeration, I'll admit-- it's hard to be as brilliant as Sondheim, but I do think, in terms of their interests in reworking the forms and subject matter of their respective arts in the 1970s and 80s, you could make a stylistic comparison. I love the idea of Eisner as the Gershwin of comics, although I'd actually make the comparison to Rodgers and Hammerstein-- the guy(s) who takes the form and really pushes its boundaries in a way that opens up the form for everyone who follows.

Which comics did you read, when you did read them?

Jonathan Lapper said...

When are you going to do your Richie Rich post? Or Little Lotta? Come on where's the love for these, the greatest of all comics?

Bob Westal said...

I see what you mean as far as "pushing the form" but I was thinking more of songwriting than dramaturgy. I'd go on and express my seriously mixed feelings on R&H, but it would turn into a term paper comparing various tin pan ally era songwriters and fifties and sixties librettists, and no one wants that (well, except us).

This is the point where I wonder how many people there are who into both geek culture and musicals. We are a rarified subspecies.

As for the comics I've read -- well, pretty much everything superheroish from both Marvel and DC that came pretty 1973 and 1976, with plenty of older issues purchased during the same time period, including lots of Denny O'Neil Batman, etc. (Since I grew up near the ocean, this left me with a gigantic but unsaleable collection of somewhat yellowed silver age comics in my parent's garage.) I did discover The Spirit during this time as well, thanks to the guy who ran my comics shop.

Then there's a long dry spell between "Superman vs. Muhammad Ali" which prompted to fling it across the room and decided I'd had enough. (Yet I now understand that people think this comic is actually ok.)

I got back in the during the mid-eighties revival and was basically drawn in by the same four comics that got everyone else ("The Dark Knight Returns", "Watchmen," "Elektra Assassin," and "Maus".) I dug "Sandman" alot, pretty much stayed completely away from Marvel and read my share of alternative comics like 8-Ball, Hate, American Splendor, etc.

Actually, though, probably the comics that moved the most post 1990 or so were two WWII-inspired manga -- the autobiographical/historical "Barefoot Gen" (I don't remember the author's name right now) and Osama Tezuka's historical thriller "Adolph."

Lately, I've been reading some of the Buffy comics (sadly and oddly, kind of disappointed me)...The last long comic book I read not by a friend that I really enjoyed was "The Road to Perdition" (much, much better than the movie).

I'm obviously leaving a fair amount of stuff out here....

Jonathan Lapper said...

I'm obviously leaving a fair amount of stuff out here....

Like Richie Rich for instance.

Brian Doan said...

Hey Bob,
Yeah, I think I can see your implied point on R&H-- I don't love every show they did, and sometimes miss the lyrical sparkle of Rodgers and Hart (which I guess makes Stan Lee the Lorenz Hart of comics)-- but even when you can see them straining, I really admire how much they achieved and opened up for others (and Carousel remains breathtaking). In that sense, I don't love all of O'Neill, either, but his work-- as heavy-handed as it sometimes is-- really opened a lot of narrative doors for people (like Frank Miller, for instance, whose Dark Knight was edited by O'Neill). I have to admit I've never been into manga that much, and I am also generally disappointed by the buffy comics, although I think they are getting better the last five issues or so. I must say I'm perversely jealous that you've actually read the Ali-Superman book. (:

Brian Doan said...

Jonathan,
You should look for my upcoming analysis: "I Wanna Be Rich: The Semiotics of Childhood Wealth in the Comical Works of the Golden Age," in the upcoming issue of BLAAGH: A THEORY JOURNAL FOR BLOGGERS.

Bob Westal said...

I think my main problem with Rodgers & Hammerstein is that Rodger's music evolved into to a far more European-based type of music that comes from a light opera tradition that I don't really care for. (My parents really like that stuff, which probably has something to do with my dislike of it. I'm a very selective rebel, I guess.)

Strangely enough, "Carousel" is the one Rodgers & Hammerstein show that I've never seen on stage or on film.

Brian Doan said...

Bob,
Like you, I grew up with the R&H stuff, and eventually developed a dislike of it, preferring the witty urbanity of Hart's lyrics (which are just so good), as well as those of Cole Porter, Ira Gershwin, and other Tin Pan Alley greats. It took me awhile to get back into R&H, and I think it was doing reseach on musicals, esp. Sondheim's, in grad school. He's just so articulate about form, and Hammerstein's contributions to it, that it really caused me to reevaluate their contributions. And then, reading Ethan Mordden's book on them, as well as his multi-part theater history, gave me a much better sense of how the narrative, musical and lyrical pieces fit. I think, in the end, I like the stand-alone pop song more than the overarching play, but there's a lot of beautiful stuff in the R&H catalogue (and Rodgers' sense of melody-- with both H's-- is really amazing).