Catching Up

Some posts of note from the past 30 days:

Two Graphic Novels from Tom King

Supergirl and a troubled man

I dug the Supergirl collection, Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow (2022), written by Tom King and drawn by the Brazilian illustrator Bilquis Evely (suggesting a combination of P. Craig Russell, Kevin O’Neill, and Richard Sala). As a longtime reader of King’s, I was relieved it managed to not fall back on a combination of PTSD and faulty memory. It also had some welcome humor. It pairs Krypton’s most famous daughter with a young girl fueled by revenge for her father’s death. They travel the universe together for different reasons: similar goal, different aims.

We learn a bit about Supergirl along the way, in particular about her power of hearing. I’m always up for someone who’s willing to rewrite the overstated idea that there’s no sound in space. King does it well.

As to why there’s a schooner in space — just read the book.

. . .

I continued my Tom King–athon during my unfortunate if brief (27-hour) Facebook limbo. Facebook had, in its all-thumbs manner, temporarily (and in error) deemed me a troublemaker, so I read a graphic novel about one of comics’ most troubled troublemakers: Rorschach (2021). It’s pretty darn good. 

Having not read any of the other post-Moore Watchmen stuff (I’ve been fairly wary), I don’t know how much of the rest of that material aligns with the TV show, but I dug the touches, like the race history material about the untended graveyard. I was surprised by the role a certain Batman storyteller plays in it, that’s for sure (The Dark Fife Returns, indeed). I took the main bad guy to be a kind of Steve Ditko figure, though perhaps someone else was the intended model. Fascinating how inside-baseball comics have gotten — this book is so knee-deep in self-referentiality, it feels like it limited its audience to a degree, but maybe those characters are fine even without the background knowledge. I loved how pirates are the big-screen superheroes in that world, which is especially funny since Marvel’s having a lot more success than DC is in that regard. The pirate stuff also feels like it changes the context of the meta-comic in the original Watchmen, because it makes pirates feel more mainstream, less retro, but maybe I’m just misremembering the original (and maybe this is a theme in some of the other “expanded Watchmen” material). 

King does what he does well. He mixes up past and present so you don’t often know where you are until you’ve been there a while. The color-coding of time periods drifts into confusion, first on the audience’s part, then on that of the characters themselves. King also works so well with parallel structure, in particular when the three visitors to the ranch are telling their individual stories simultaneously yet separately. That was super duper. (His artist collaborator, Jorge Fornés, is totally up to the task.)

For better or worse, I saw the ending coming from quite a distance. Maybe that just makes this a tragedy. It’s not giving anything away to note that one character’s “hm” was paired with another’s telltale “hurm” several times too often for any actual surprise to have been intended. As a result, the end felt oddly certain whereas the rest of the book was enjoyably unfixed. And of course I greatly appreciated all the stuff about voices secreted in the silences of audio tape.

Scratch Pad: Negativland, AI, Comics

I do this manually each Saturday, usually in the morning over coffee: collating most of the little comments I’ve made on social media (as well as related notes), which I think of as my public scratch pad, during the preceding week. These days that mostly means Sometimes the material pops up earlier or in expanded form.

▰ Oh, cool. The Wire has a new design — and that mention of Negativland on the cover of the issue due out next week is for a new documentary I reviewed, Stand By for Failure, directed by Ryan Worsley.

▰ Best spam comment my blog has received in quite a while (this was on a post simply titled “520 Hz”)

▰ “Traverse the world’s lush soundscapes and record them with defined, dimensional precision.” Season: A Letter to the Future, a new video game in which a young woman collects memories, including audio field recordings, of a world in decline, is available as of today, after a long long wait, on PlayStation and Steam.

▰ Not all AI art looks like it belongs framed on a wall in Beaker’s living room, but if it looks like it belongs framed on a wall in Beaker’s living room then it’s likely AI art.

▰ Maybe 2023 has just melted my brain, but this captcha looks like it was created by an AI:

▰ Me a week ago: I really don’t care about whatever DC’s big new movie/TV changes turn out to be.

Me this morning: What?! There’s an Authority movie coming?! I am deeply invested in all casting news, especially Jack Hawksmoor.

▰ Sometimes you just need to stop reading that book you’ve been reading and move on (not a book I’ve mentioned here)

▰ Dang, the #HourlyComicsDay2023 hashtag yields exactly one participant from my Mastodon vantage. I recommend looking on Instagram if small-press comics are your thing.

▰ It’s a good day when I spell R. Murray Schafer’s name correctly the first time.

“‘Seeing’ Music from Manga”

Synesthesia thesis

Many years ago, I spent a solid half decade publishing manga, eventually becoming the editor-in-chief of the U.S. edition of the magazine Shonen Jump. It was an amazing experience, one I treasure to this day. However, my work on manga rarely overlapped with my interest in sound.

Traveling to Japan for work over the years did give me the opportunity to attend concerts at Tokyo venues I’d otherwise never have even heard about. Also, there were times while preparing an issue of the magazine when we got to debate how to translate sound effects, or how to effectively help a young reader (this was back from 2004 to 2009, before manga was as mainstream as it became outside Japan) understand things like the vertical ellipses that signify an extended silent pause. Most of the shonen comics I worked on were about fighting (e.g., Naruto, One Piece), the main exception being, as one reader put it, “the one about moving stones around a board.” (The latter was a joke at the expense of Hikaru no Go, which was one of my favorite things we published.)

And so it was with great interest that I read a new academic study from two authors based at National Taiwan University, Taipei: “‘Seeing’ music from manga: visualizing music with embodied mechanisms of musical experience.” The article looks specifically at how music is represented in manga (for the uninitiated, the word is both singular and plural, as is the norm in the Japanese language) that take music as their subject. Iju Hsu and Wen-Yu Chiang, the article’s authors, study such highly recommended series as Nodame Cantabile (about a classical music student ) and Detroit Metal City (the title is self-explanatory), among others.

Are You Experienced?: This diagram from the article maps “how music is transformed into visualized music”

The article, which came out in the recent volume 21 of the journal Visual Communication, explores visual metaphors for sound in various manners, notably the Visual Metaphor Identification Procedure, or VISMIP. Another approach explores “six embodied mechanisms that induce emotion.” In the words of the authors: “this study sheds light on our overall understanding of audio-visual cross-modality, musical experience, metaphor and embodied experience.” It’s dense stuff, and I’m still making my way through it for a second time — and beginning to explore the trove of articles and books cited as references. (Thanks, Gene Kannenberg Jr. and Bart Beaty!)

My One George Booth Story

September 19, 1981

My one George Booth story: The first large outdoor concert I ever attended was the Simon and Garfunkel reunion in Central Park, which occurred on September 19, 1981. It was a Saturday. I remember opening up the New York Times and seeing this huge advertisement for a concert by one of my then favorite groups, who had broken up before I’d even entered kindergarten. A long decade had passed since then. This was now the first semester of 10th grade for me. I called some friends to see if they wanted to go. I lived out on Long Island, an easy train ride into the city — not that, if I remember correctly, I had ever gone into the city without an adult at that point. (Maybe I had?) Only one friend’s parents consented. We took the train in, had an amazing time, and then when the concert was over, everyone heading downtown filled the streets, curb to curb, and the sidewalks, as well. There were too many people, and cars just had to wait as this massive phalanx made its way. A sizable portion of those funneled into Penn Station, and of those a substantial subset ended up on the train that my friend and I took back to Long Island. It was the most packed I’ve ever been on a train, just filled shoulder to shoulder, knee to knee. Everyone clearly had come from the show. Except there was this one older man right next to me, leaning with his back against the door. He looked confused. I struck up a conversation, and this man turned out to be George Booth, who lived even further out on Long Island than I did. (And it occurs to me that I’m just a few months older now than Booth was that day.) We chatted about various things. I was really into comics, and we talked about illustrators a bit. I eventually asked what he was thinking going into the city today of all days. He said he wanted to get some work done and he figured Saturday at the office would be quiet.

RIP, George Booth (1926 – 2022)