Greetings from Ice Station Zebra. For all you people out there who check the spines of your comics to make sure they don’t have creases or whatever it is you are looking for please note that Forbidden Planet is now refrigerated to ensure that your books stay extra fresh. No more rotten book smell! Anyway, about my column this week; I don’t know how many of you have peaked early in life but it is a terrible feeling. I’m pretty sure that last week’s column is as good as this column is ever going to get. I don’t know if you saw it but it was pretty great. There was a whole Choose Your Own Adventure type thing and I made lots of jokes about killing you. I don’t think I can top it and I am coming to terms with that. This is my Godfather III. I am just going through the motions here. But there is a ray of hope in this trainwreck of a column.
Well, that’s not necessarily true. Wednesday January 30th is my birthday. If you are reading this on another day then today is not, in fact, my birthday. But if you are reading this on Wednesday then HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME! Feel free to order yourself a piece of cake at dinner, sing me a song, and then eat it (the cake, not the song). So while I clearly have nothing to talk about in this column I thought, “I have done enough for my readers so far. Maybe too much. It’s time they do something for me.” So that is the theme of this week’s column. Stuff you can get me. A birthday wish list. Just so you know what you are up against, Forbidden Planet’s Tech Wizard/Actual Wizard Tyler got me a self portrait he painted. It’s 10’x10′, based on Botticelli’s “The Birth Of Venus”, and creepy as hell. I am hanging it above my bed so I remember to never sleep. But you should feel free to get me stuff that isn’t nightmare stuff.
MY BIRTHDAY WISH LIST:
For starters I always like cash. Any amount is fine, but if it’s under $10 it’s kind of rude. Feel free to stop by Forbidden Planet and leave cash with any of the register jockeys for me. There is a 50/50 shot I will get it. They aren’t the most trustworthy lot. I would also take Forbidden Planet gift cards. That isn’t going to pay my rent or buy me chocolate milk but it doesn’t hurt. RIYL: Capitalism. Buying stuff. Goods and services.
You know what you could get me? GLOBAL FREQUENCY. Warren Ellis & a team of great artists come together to do single issue standalone sci-fi spy stories. A 21st century reimagining of stuff like Bond or Mission: Impossible, these stories focus more on fast paced and sometimes socially conscious thriller than they do on things like character. Originally released by Wildstorm in 2004, this book is finally back in print now. Ellis is a comic writing genius, but if you have never read his stuff this isn’t where I would start. Luckily for us, I already read Transmetropolitan, The Authority, & Nextwave so feel free to buy me this. RIYL: Queen & Country, Channel Zero, or 80’s and 90’s Bond films.
I don’t think I would be causing much controversy among those paying attention if I pointed out that Matt Fraction & David Aja‘s HAWKEYE is the best book at Marvel right now. Sure Thor, and All New X-Men, and Punisher War Zone, Ultimate Spider-Man, and Daredevil are all putting up a good fight, but it’s sort of hopeless. Hawkguy feels fresh and relevant, smart and fun in a way that most comics don’t begin to approach. It is style AND substance. I hope every single person at Marvel (and DC) is noticing the bar is being raised each month. Issue #7 gives it an extra nudge. With 2 short stories about a massive hurricane hitting the Northeast, Hawkeye #7 manages to be topical while still being a book about everybody’s 6th favorite Avenger. On top of all this, Mr. Fraction is donating his salary from this issue to hurricane Sandy relief efforts. If you don’t know how comics tend to work, his salary is based on royalties from sales. Meaning that each issue you buy helps Sandy victims who are still desperately in need. So yes, by all means go give money to Occupy Sandy, but reward yourself with a copy of this book and keep the charity going. (And while you are at it, reward Mr. Fraction for being a class act by picking up his other series like Casanova or Five Fists Of Science.) And since it’s my birthday go ahead and buy me an issue as well. RIYL: helping people in need, near perfect superhero comics, Immortal Iron Fist, the idea of a Bryan Lee O’Malley and Chris Ware teaming up on an action book.
First an anecdote. At a comic convention last year I bought an issue of TALES DESIGNED TO THRIZZLE from Michael Kupperman and he signed it to me. I later gave the issue to my lovely ladyfriend, Alethea, as a gift. Giving someone else your stuff and acting like you got it for them is considered “not proper gift giving etiquette” by squares, teachers, and cops. Now, Matthew and Alethea contain some of the same letters but she can recognize that they are not the same name. It took her a whole 6+ months to notice that the book was inscribed to me instead of her but when she did… whoo boy was that fun. Anyway, in terms of funny comics going on right now there are not a ton of great options. Even if there were though, TALES DESIGNED TO THRIZZLE Vol. 2 would stand head and shoulders above the competition. Volume 1 of TDTR was among the funniest things I have ever read. I easily put it alongside works like The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy or Calvin & Hobbes in terms of books I can revisit and still completely lose myself in over and over again. Michael Kupperman’s absurdest strips that range from the adventures of historical figures Twain & Einstein, to buddy cop duo Snake N’ Bacon, and the history of sex blimps, all peppered with old timey fake comic ads for odd products are nothing if not bafflingly weird and compelling. If you are at all a fan of the absurd in any form I would urge you to read this book. And since I only have volume 1 you can get me this as a great gift. RIYL: The anything goes spirit of old Mad Magazine, the fast paced boundary pushing humor of stuff like Monty Python, Kids In The Hall, Airplane! or Amazon Women On The Moon.
7 MILES A SECOND. Painter, musician, photographer, filmmaker, writer, and activist, David Wojnarowicz was a key figure in the underground New York City art scene of the 1980’s. Often times having strong homo-erotic subtext, his work pushed cultural boundaries, continues to inspire new generations of artists today, and invoked the wrath of the christian right. After a lengthy court case, Mr. Wojnarawicz earned a hard fought victory against the loathsome Donald Wildmon and the American Family Association who sought to defund the National Endowment for the Arts. This single legal struggle did more for artists and artist rights in this country than most people can comprehend. By 1992 Mr. Wojnarowicz sadly lost his battle with AIDS. 7 Miles A Second was completed by his collaborator on the book, James Romberger, and published by Vertigo posthumously in 1996. Now it is back in print for the first time and is well worth your attention. Wojnarowicz autobiographical tales start you with his life as a child prostitute, onto his teenage years on the street, through his time has an HIV+ man, and onto his inevitable (at the time) conclusion. The stories serve as beautiful and brutal snapshots of a brilliant life lived too hard and extinguished too soon. It is not too much to say that we all owe a great cultural debt to Mr. Wojnarowicz and picking up this book and trying to understanding his life is a good first step toward understanding that debt. RIYL: Maus, American Splendor, or artists having the right and the ability to make a living in this country.
Well, that was a super depressing note to end on. Sorry about that. Anyway, I’m going to go because there are a lot of good books to read this week and you are still freaking out from all that sugar in the birthday cake. Even if you don’t want to buy me these or any other books you can still get me a present; you can go look at the comics on the shelves and promise to try something new.