Sunday, March 27, 2005

Am I now Larry Young's bitch?

A few weeks ago, there was a bit of a tempest in a tea cup between comics reviewers and comics creators. Guy started it when he gave Demo a bad review. Larry Young got a bit snippy on his site about it. Then I said I didn't get Planet of the Capes. Larry was a little nicer to me, and suggested I check out some people who did get it. I still didn't get it, and wrote so on my own blog. Larry nicely offered to send me, gratis, copies of Proof of Concept and Astronauts in Trouble. And now I've finished them both.

Before I get to them, I want to say I think the comics blogiverse is a cool place, because of the fact that creators show up occasionally and make comments. I like that Gail Simone shows up here sometimes. I like that Warren Ellis and Kurt Busiek make comments on Fanboy Rampage. I like that Peter David and Larry Young and Will Pfeifer have their own blogs (other creators do too, but let's move on). We need to realize a couple of things, however: comics readers are going to be vocal about what they think is good and what they think sucks, and comics creators need to live with that, and comics creators are going to defend their hard work against people they see as ignorant, and comics reviewers need to live with that. I hate when emotion gets into the process. If I don't like something, that doesn't mean I think the person who wrote it should be castrated. It's just a comic book!

So: Proof of Concept and Astronauts in Trouble. Are these comics any good? Should you buy them? Well, I'd say "yes" for the latter, and "maybe" for the former. Let's start with Proof. It's a neat idea for a comic book - Larry Young himself, talking to a movie producer, about several "high-concept" ideas he has. He introduces them but doesn't finish them. It's all about the pitch. The ideas are excellent - in the distant future, vampire hunters go out one last time to kill their enemy; some kids find a wormhole and throw in a video camera; a bunch of army guys (led by Bruce Willis - these are movie pitches, ultimately) go out into the desert to kill zombie dinosaurs; the captain of a space ship gets trapped in time and goes insane; in the future, everyone's a clone of Abraham Lincoln (?); and the rise and fall of an invisible actress. The art, by a variety of people, ranges from very good ("Zombie Dinosaur" by Steven Sanders with Jeff Johns and "For the Time Being" by Jeff Johns) to merely adequate ("The Camera" by Paul Tucker). The problem with the book, obviously, is that none of them are complete stories. That's the point, of course, but it's frustrating. The cool thing about it (and about Larry's whole venture) is that he asks for e-mails telling him what stories you'd want to see as complete graphic novels (by the way, Larry - all of them except "The Bod"). He wants the fans' input, and you get the feeling he'd listen, as opposed to the faceless overlords at DC and Marvel. It's a nice book, but I'm not sure it's worth the money (yes, I know I didn't pay for it, but it's still 13 dollars).

Moving on to Astronauts in Trouble, which is the first place I heard of AiT/Planet Lar, we get a really amazing comic book. The copy I got is a nice hardcover edition with all three mini-series collected, and I recommend this book to anyone who likes comics or sci-fi or good old-fashioned adventure. The three stories showcase a variety of styles, from the high-flying adventure and space operatics of "Live From the Moon" to the spy/superhero tale of "Space: 1959" to the "Clerks"-type bullshitting of "One Shot, One Beer." Young shows himself to be adept at all these disparate styles, and he throws in some fun stuff too - Ismael Hayes, the millionaire wannabe astronaut in the first story, is obviously referring to Young as well when he says he never let anyone stand in the way of what he wants; and the way Jimmy survives the destruction of the moon base in the third story is, well, nasty (but very funny). All the stories are interrelated, but you don't need to read all of them to enjoy one of them. Matt Smith starts on art, and it's okay, but the art really takes off when Charlie Adlard comes on board. There's really a lot going on in these series - the abuse of power; the struggle of free enterprise and governmental interference; the uses of the media; the paranoia about Russian dominance of space - lots of good subtext as well as an intriguing and fast-paced surface story. But damnit, I want to know what happened to Colonel Lloyd MacAdam!

Astronauts in Trouble is a good comic. If you don't believe me, you can arm wrestle Warren Ellis to see if it's any good! But now I wonder if I'm Larry Young's bitch. He sends me free swag and I think it's good - can I dislike something that he publishes now? Despite the feelings he seems to engender in some people, I really admire what he's doing in the comics world, and my hope is that more people will do it. Everything he puts out might not be gold, but it's refreshing to know that the way Marvel and DC do things isn't the only way.

For those keeping track at home, here's what I own by AiT/Planet Lar:
1000 Steps to World Domination (definitely recommended)
Planet of the Capes (blech)
Proof of Concept (good, but not great)
Astronauts in Trouble (excellent)
Scurvy Dogs (brilliant; did I mention I'm giving it away????)

So - am I Larry Young's bitch?

24 Comments:

Blogger Christopher Burton said...

Naw, I don't think so. Let's use the ol' high school grading scale. Based on your grades, it sounds like Scurvy Dogs gets an A+ and Astronauts in Trouble and 1,000 Steps to World Domination sound like solid As. BUT...Proof of Concept sounds like it might just get a C and Planet of the Capes fails outright apparently. If you average all of this out, sounds like Lar just gets a B or a C. Like Proof of Concept, that's good, but not great.

3/27/2005 06:29:00 PM  
Blogger Brad Curran said...

I think you're only his bitch if you ask the question 3 times. So... hey, bitch! Sorry, I don't make the rules.

Seriously, I agree with you about liking what Young's doing. Sometimes his self promotion gets on my nerves (some posts he made in the days of the WEF really bugged the hell out of me), but I have to respect someone who's passionate about comics and puts their money where their mouth is when it comes to making them.

And really, three question rule aside, I don't think you're his bitch unless you just become a shameless shill for him, which it doesn't sound like you are, given your dislike of Planet of the Capes.

3/27/2005 08:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, Brad, it's not "self" promotion unless you think Warren Ellis, Steven Grant, Jim Krueger, Darick Robertson, Charlie Adlard, Brian Wood, Becky Cloonan, Danielle Henderson, Stuart Moore, Kieron Dwyer, John Heebink, Matt Fraction, Andy Kuhn, Rob Morrison, Mike Brennan, Jeff Nicholson, Alex Ross, Bill Sienkiewicz, Tony Harris, Joe Casey, and I are all the same person.

And as far as being bugged about something I once said five years ago on the WEF, well, I'm sure you're a different guy now than you were back then, too.

L.

3/28/2005 12:06:00 AM  
Blogger Brad Curran said...

"Hey, Brad, it's not "self" promotion unless you think Warren Ellis, Steven Grant, Jim Krueger, Darick Robertson, Charlie Adlard, Brian Wood, Becky Cloonan, Danielle Henderson, Stuart Moore, Kieron Dwyer, John Heebink, Matt Fraction, Andy Kuhn, Rob Morrison, Mike Brennan, Jeff Nicholson, Alex Ross, Bill Sienkiewicz, Tony Harris, Joe Casey, and I are all the same person."

I had suspicisons. I have really never seen all of you in the same room. But yeah, good point.

"And as far as being bugged about something I once said five years ago on the WEF, well, I'm sure you're a different guy now than you were back then, too."

It's closer to 3, but yeah, I sure hope I am. One change on my end is that I can actually appreciate what you're doing as a publisher, even if I don't buy a lot of what you publish. Switchblade Honey's pretty much it, although I plan on rectifying that at some point. But, yeah, sometimes your online persona annoys me. Not a big deal. Sometimes I annoy myself. I get annoyed pretty easily.

3/28/2005 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger Brad Curran said...

Oh, and Larry, one more thing: do you consider Greg your bitch now? I think he needs every opinion he can get before he can answer that question.

3/28/2005 12:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Naw, not at all. I don't consider anyone my bitch. If anything, I think it's a little sad that there seems to be a faction of the blogospheriverse that seems to think that getting review copies in the mail from a publishing house of long-standing seems to equal some sort of bribe on my personal behalf.

Like 'em, don't like 'em; the company doesn't care. If you're getting a review copy of our work, it's because we already respect your opinion or we think we might.

Whether I have an "online persona" or not is something I've sort of tired talking about, but the upshot is this: I have a unique personal cultural background and ability to express myself in written English. This may or may not jibe with an individual audience member's culture or ability to parse meaning from my outreach. Is that a "persona"? Me, I just think people don't always understand each other. Whaddaya gonna do?

L.

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