Friday, January 07, 2005

Can a Comic be TOO Au Courant? - The Intimates

Joe Casey's The Intimates is a very modern comic book.

The question that arises from that statement, though, is this - is being a modern comic necessarily a GOOD thing?

The title is about a group of teenagers training to be superheroes.

The group is, as follows,

Punchy - The wiseass of the group, Punchy has an alien puppet as his "power" (wacky, eh?)

Duke - The good natured jock of the group. I think his powers are just the traditional big and strong

Destra - When she bites off and spits her fingernails, they explode. She's very emotionally distant.

Empty Vee - She is invisible, and can turn visible. She is really fat. That's about her personality. She's fat. She's a fat superhero.

Sykes - He has some sort of shield-like forcefield. He doesn't speak.

Kefong - He's an international student. He likes Dean Martin. I'm sure we'll learn more later.

In any event, what makes the book "different" is that it is stacked with content. STACKED. Every page has these little scrolls on the bottom like pop-up video that gives us information about the characters and the situations. Really good stuff.

In addition, there are quick cuts and flashbacks in the book to flesh out the characters' pasts. Like a quick panel to show a summer romance that Destra had.

Stuff like that.

It's a good idea, and in that sense, the modern approach of Kelly really works.

Some spoilers here...

The plot of #1 was basically all introduction.

The plot of #2 was better. Punchy wants to sneak into Mr. Majestic's headquarters, and wants Duke to go with him, except Duke is having conspitation.

It was a fun issue with a lot of good character interaction.

#3...I wasn't as impressed. The basic gist is thatEmpty Vee and Punchy meet for a blind date, and Punchy treats her like total garbage.

Here is where I have some issues with the series. Casey wants a "modern" style of characters, without the typical type of character. However, I think that is a mistake, because I think there is a REASON why characters in fiction are generally likeable, or have personalities we can get into.

He has cited Curb Your Enthusiasm in the past as an example of what kids are "really like," and he's right.

But you it is really hard to be able to pull stuff like Curb Your Enthusiasm off. Hell, Larry David HIMSELF couldn't pull it off with the film Sour Grapes.

And here, I think Casey comes up short.

The characters just aren't engaging enough, and when you're asking readers to invest a LOT of time into every issue, the characters better be DAMN interesting.

Here, they just aren't.

At least not yet.

In addition, depth is a great thing...but it is better when there is a degree of intelligence behind the depth.

In Intimates, the depth of the book is almost like a "background noise," in that it's just there. It's just "extra information." While that's fun, in and of itself, it's not as good as it could be.

For instance, Casey has been here before with the title he did with Ashley Wood for Wildstorm, Automatic Kafka. I really loved that book.

And the two books are quite similar.

The two big differences between the books, though, is that:

1. Giuseppe Camuncoli is no Ashley Wood. I mean, Camuncoli is GOOD...but he's not Ashley Wood good.

2. Kafka and Intimates share a depth, but Kafka had intelligence behind its depth. For instance, there was an issue where Casey was doing a take on the Peanuts gang, and in the background, there was a sheet of music. Now how many people are going to be able to read sheet music? I know I certainly cannot. My girlfriend DOES, though, and when she saw that, she pointed out to me that it was, in fact, the sheet music for "Linus and Lucy." (or some other Peanuts song, I forget). Now THAT'S impressive depth.

In addition, Jim Lee just isn't a really good character designer. When's the last time you were impressed by a Jim Lee character design?


Blogger alex said...

I have to disagree about using the sheet music as "imprssive depth". Marginally clever at best.
If the word balloons had formed the note sequence, or something like that... I dunno. I'm not a smart guy. But I know that that isn't an example of depth in writing. Just more gimmicky Casey crap.

Automatic Kafka was one of the more pretentious, faux-convoluted, lame things I've ever tried to read.

I'm very disappointed in you, Cronin.

Seeing you defend these things hurts my heart like a knife. Your new name is "Fredo".


1/07/2005 10:10:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

I don't get Automatic Kafka as pretentious.

I think Casey was being totally upfront with the whole book.

No hiding, etc.

The book wasn't dressed up with any ostentatious stuff.

The book didn't demand to be respected.

It was a goofy superhero title that made fun of stuff.

I dug it.

And come on, you don't like Ashley Wood's art?

If you wanted to argue that the idea of Intimates is a bit pretentious...the whole idea of saying, "Look, this a MODERN comic!" then, yeah, I could see that.

I definitely could see an argument of pretension with Wildcats 3.0(which I did like, but the book definitely had an air of pretension around it).

1/08/2005 02:39:00 AM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

And how is it gimmicky to have sheet music in the background of an issue be to music that goes along with the characters?

In fact, it's almost the complete oppsosite of a gimmick!

A gimmick is something that tricks you and brings you INTO the comic (some gimmicks CAN be good, though...just most are bad...I like the whole gimmick behind the last issue of Promethea also being able to be a poster).

Knowing that the sheet music actually going along to a Peanuts song is something that is absolutely unnecessary to enjoying the comic, but if you read sheet music, you get a whole added feel to the comic, as you can see that the artist is putting detail into the creation.

Although, I do know, Alex, that you have issues with Casey's writing. You should use this opportunity to detail your problems with him for everybody. I am sure it will be interesting to hear.

1/08/2005 02:45:00 AM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

In addition, if you note, I'm KNOCKING the book in my entry! I am saying that the characters are not interesting enough to sustain the sheer weight of words in the book!

That's a BAD thing!

1/08/2005 02:46:00 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

I would call the sheet music thing a Reward For Paying Attention. Neither a gimmick nor very deep, just a fun Easter Egg thrown in for people who use their brains when they read.

This is the excuse I go to whenever something doesn't make sense, but perhaps Casey is using the "pop-up video" style of character development to make fun of the "Easy absorption/low analysis" style of entertainment that's so popular these days? Sort of giving the public what they want, while also pointing out it's not good for them. Just a thought.

1/08/2005 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger Ali Choudhury said...

Vasey has interesting ideas but unfortunately isn't so when it comes to crafting likeable, interesting characters or engaging stories.

1/08/2005 05:51:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

When it comes to Intimates, I would definitely have to agree with you, M.Ali, about the characters not being interesting/likable enough.

But you don't like the characters in Wildcats?

1/08/2005 06:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agreed on Jim Lee's lack of costume designing skills.

Maybe it's a throwback to George Perezs lame costume designs on New Teen Titans?

1/09/2005 12:40:00 AM  
Blogger Brad Curran said...

I like the stories on a sitcom kind of level. They're self contained, I get laughs out of them, and I like the characters enough to come back for more. I also really appreciate the density of the commentary stuff. I'm not a huge Casey fan; I never jumped on to WildCATs 3.0 and find most of the other stuff I've read of his all right to horrible (I hated Batman: Tenses, and I don't hate much), but I'm enjoying this so far.

1/11/2005 03:48:00 AM  
Blogger FGJ said...

For 9 solid months Automatic Kafka was the greatest comic out there.
Automatic Kafka was pure rock and roll.
No it was better than that.
Automatic Kafka was the comic book equivilant of taking an E.
It was bold, it was everywhere, and it made you feel like a God.
not everything made sense and there was lots of swearing, but in it's own way it worked.
You also couldn't stop thinking of sex when you read it.
This was Joe Casey's opus.

The biggest problem this book faced was that most people found the first issue too confusing to get into, and so dismissed it as a pretty show case for wood's art.
Thing was, if you were man enough to pop that pill, I mean comic, a second time you'd find out that yes, it had it's own rhythms and logic, but dammit, it did make sense, and it was cool.
There were refernces to chaykin and micheline throughout, a comic within a comic (10 Gallon Rat), and a former male superhero dreaming of being a porn star -yet it was all done well, and in no way derrivitive or exploitive.

Just like E though, the perfection only lasted while you were on it, and everything seemed bland and dull in comparison.
And the utopia it gave was way too short lived.

The only book on the stands in which the author promised was completly planned out, while also stating he made up each page as he wrote it.
And you believed him.

RIP Automatic Kafka, I miss you.

1/23/2005 03:32:00 AM  
Blogger adam said...

Well, the thing i didn't like about AK was the way all the female characters were either topless (in the issues I saw - the first three before giving up on the book) or we got a pantyshot every third panel or so. I mean, the only woman on the $trangers team has a power that's some kind of magic fucking ability? I find it odd that you didn't pick up on that, brian, when recent entries on this blog are about objectification of women in Birds of Prey... The frenetic pace and the metatextuality was all fine, not confusing, in fact maybe a little bit trying too hard to be cool...

But in terms of the intimates, two things:

1) Destra's summer holiday was also her origin story - see she's holding the alien dude's hand (or he asks her to hold hands, can't remember)? That's how she gets the splodey fingernails.

2) There's more to Vee's character than just being fat. She's been given a good amound of dialogue, and even got to suck face with someonein #4, so there's a little bit of complexity there (eg, she can bounce back from Puncy's rejection pretty quick, which speaks of a better self-image than perhaps you'd expect (or maybe a worse one??? - either way it's depth of character)

That said, it does feel a little slow and if I'm not blown away by #5, that'll be it for me.

Casey seems like a good ideas man not so good with the execution.

3/03/2005 08:28:00 PM  

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