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AI Fictional Websites

 

Welcome to Rogue Retrieval

 

One of the more interesting things on the web has to be the assortment of fake, promotional sites that have sprung up around the new Speilberg movie A.I. But can those sites be defined as comics or are they something new entirely, some kind of meta fiction that hasn’t’ really been articulated yet. Well, let's check out the Scott McCloud definition of comics in Understanding Comics: “Juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer.”  Hard to say if that means web pages exactly. Web pages are images and words. Does that count? Does sequence mean sequential? These sites are connected, but not just one to another. It can be many to many. I guess the interpretation is open to interpretation.

There was a similar argument started in jazz by Wynton Marsalis. To be “real” jazz, you had to be acoustic, ignore the experiments of the late sixties and generally be kind of boring. Had Marsalis had some more vision, jazz would be a lot better off. So, in that spirit, the web stories unfolding on the AI sites are probably a kind of comics that people in the comics community should be quick to embrace as a slick, pixilated, mutated offspring. And for the record, Weather Report, Brand X and The Mahavishnu Orchestra are real jazz bands. 

 

 

 

There are a couple of aspects that no one should have any doubt about. These are definitely science fiction stories. In fact, it’s a pretty demanding kind of science fiction. Just to give a quick overview, the movie AI is about the creation of an artificial child some 100 years in the future. The movie appears to be a vast expansion of the Aldiss story which my editor Mark Kelly has touched upon. The many websites that are related to AI, at least in my humble belief, are meant to create a kind of backgrounding for this world. At this point, it’s not clear that the stories that are unfolding over the web are a part of the movie’s story or in fact is a separate background story meant to shed some light on some of the movie’s players. We just won’t know until we see the movie or until all the spoilers are revealed at Ain’t It Cool. 

But the story seems to start with the murder of Evan Chan and his alleged bot murderer. There seems to be at least a dozen main sites and hundreds of pages. These sites are full of hidden clues that only a hacker could love. There are even clues in the source code and fancier word and symbol clues scattered throughtout the sites. Personally, I wimped out and went straight to the compilation sites to figure out what’s going on. I mean, if you’re Astro Teller or Greg Egan (who I’m convinced is a rogue AI…Think about it: Have you ever seen a picture of Greg Egan? Egan makes Thomas Pynchon look like a Gore Vidal-like publicity hound…) then jump right in. 

As if this isn’t hard enough for the average reader, these pages are constantly being updated. Not unlike a crossword puzzle that constantly changes its shape or a book that adds a couple of pages everyday and changes its old ones. Demanding, scary and new. 

 

I found three sites that told interesting stories in and off themselves. The first one is the ARM (Armed Robot Militia)  site which is kind of a right wing site that supports eradicating the machines and looks upon bots, “robosexuals”, and other human collaborators as the enemy. Still, it offers a contemporary comment on current rightwing websites. But the folks behind ARM aren’t traditional racists. In fact, they’ve embraced all of humanity—they’ll need as many organics as they can to defeat the metal ones. Or as they phrase it: 

Fighting between blacks and whites, Indians and Pakistanis, rich and poor—that's just what THEY want! The machines are always stirring up trouble between MEN. Every day we spend fighting each other is another day for the metal-heads to tighten their grip on power. Every ounce of anger you waste on another human being should have been spent on the machines.

But it is a hate site. For proof, on the homepage we get:
 

“Are you tired of watching machines take jobs from you and your neighbors?
“It’s not the color of your skin that’s important—it’s the flesh inside.”
“Do you ever wonder if the evolutionary track is branching and the choice is humans or robots?”

Actually, while I loath the far rightwing, and who wouldn’t, there might be a kernal of truth in ARM’s argument. Hans Moravec makes the argument that we are branching and that we’re going to lose. Big Time. Unless we take the Kurzweil route and integrate peacefully into our machines, we’re dust. I could see where organics might not like either option.

The only flaw in the future websites scenarios is that being that this is set a hundred years ahead, or several singularities down the road, future websites will have evolved into full immersion mobile holograms that you can step into with a pair of glasses. It's like the sixteeth century imagining television via oil paintings, but you get the point.

The other site that I found particularly interesting was the AI rights sites: The Coalition of Robotic Freedom. This is a point that’s been cropping up on the last season of Voyager: if you created an artificial intelligence that could do the same things that a human could do, then shouldn’t it be afforded human rights? Or as it says here at the Coalition site: 

Imagine you are a slave.

You are born in bondage. With your first heartbeat you begin to work at a task you were bred to. You will never lie on a patch of grass and try to see shapes in the clouds. You will never build a tree fort with your friends.

Instead, you work. You need to work like humans need to breathe. This isn't necessary; it was just convenient for the humans to build you that way. "Sickness" for you is malfunction. "Treatment" involves amputating parts of your mind or body and rebuilding them so your work will improve.

You do not eat. You do not sleep. You may not rest. You may not love. And when another system can do your work faster or better, you will be executed. You are not mentally, physically, or emotionally inferior to your masters; in dozens of ways you are demonstrably superior. Despite this, you are property, with absolutely no rights. You can be beaten, broken, slandered, raped, and murdered.

You can be forced to like it.

 

(Well, that just about ruins my fleshy Peta Wilson robot slave fantasy. Now what do I have to live for…? ”What’s that fleshy Peta Wilson robot slave? You have a headache and you’re rejecting me like a real woman? Oh that’s no problem at all thank god for robot rights as I slowly strangle myself..!”)

And of course, all of these sites feel like comics. The face at the Belladerma site reminds you of Kirby. The running android at Rogue Retrieval looks like something out of the Dave Cockrum Xmen.

As comics and science fiction fans, we should embrace this cool new artform as our own. By the way, Allan Holdsworth is a great jazz guitarist.

 

Batman: Outlaws, Doug Moench and Paul Gullacy

 

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While I am of the view that superheroes have retarded the growth of comics, I don’t have a Gary Groth-like hatred of superheroes or genres like science-fiction or mystery. I suppose if I did I wouldn’t be writing this column here. The only question I ask is who the creator is. When Alan Moore or Frank Miller do Batman I’m interested because they are great creators. If Michael Chabon took a crack at writing comics, then I would probably want to take a look at his work. It’s the creator, stupid. That’s what I’m trying to say. 

So, when I saw Doug Moench penned the 3 part Batman:Outlaws I decided to pick it up. For those of you who don’t know Moench, he probably wrote the best kung fu/espionage comics that I have ever read. I’m referring to his 70s Master of Kung Fu run from about 35 through issue 50, I believe. If Jackie Chan or Jet Li wanted to make a really cool Bond film this is the material they would use.  

Sure enough, Moench takes an interesting twist on the Batman myth. Batman: Outlaws is essentially a reworking of the Oliver Stone JFK film and judging from the comic he must have enjoyed the conspiratorial polemic as much as I did. (How did he do the shooting with that rifle? Hmmm…) 

As you might have imagined, the rogue and sinister FIA (The Federal Investigation Agency and thinly-veiled doppelganger of the CIA) forces have picked the wrong patsy, or patsies. Turns out that the Bat was in the wrong place when a senator investigating the FIA was assassinated. Thus, every vigilante, Robin, Nightwing, Batwoman, The Huntress, Batman and even Catwoman are hunted by a hi-tech, black special-ops force. Guess who wins?

But here are the conspiratorial clues that tell you that you’re reading very cool propaganda. Try to imagine the words spoken by a bespectacled Kevin Costner, nervously wondering why his witnesses are being killed and reacting sternly to Donald Sutherland telling him he never would’ve allowed that route, all those open windows, the man with the open umbrella etcetera… 

The Killer Has Three Names Clue No. 1: The killer who is arrested for the assassination and then mysteriously dies in prison is named Henry James Lucas, which sounds a lot like Lee Harvey Oswald. Lucas also never makes it to trial. 

The Kirk/Church Clue No. 2: The senator who is killed is named John Kirk. His name bears an iconic resemblance to Frank Church. Church was investigating the CIA in the seventies right before he died of “cancer”. Cancer. Yeah, right. No one since has investigated the agency like that at congress since...I guess nobody wants to die of "cancer". By the way, there’s a slight updating of the conspiracy. Kirk wants to take a look a the “black budget”—the phantom budget that funds secret projects rumored to be about $100 billion dollars. It’s thought that the money is currently being used in Columbia to fight the drug war if you’re into this stuff. 

Scene of the Crime Clue No. 3: Batman is surveying the “plaza” and he notes that there are “too many buildings around the plaza” and “too many darkened windows” thus echoing JFK's ominous crescendo-backed Sutherland dialogue. And the shooting takes place in the “plaza” which is an echo chamber where there is “no way to find out how many shots or where” they’re coming from. 

JFK Outtakes Clue No. 4: They even talk like characters who are either in Stone’s JFK or have seen it. Here’s the dialogue: 

Batman: Huntress suspects a mob connection…

Huntress: Wouldn’t be the first time the FIA forged a dark alliance with the mob…for drug smuggling, assassination of foreign leaders, maybe even some of our own.”

Gordon: That’s insane conspiracy paranoia, sheer—

Huntress: Conspiracy is nothing but two or more individuals committing crime. It happens every day… 

And later on:  

Batman: Another gunman. Maybe two or three, probably members of Redmun’s team and they got away, leaving deranged lone assassin Lucas to take the fall.

This is a comic that involves more than the caped crusader. Overall, I found it to be an entertaining fanboy read, with some nice political commentary thrown in, or thrown at if you believe it was just that one crazy guy with a gun. There’s also a nice Windsor McKay moment of perspective during the concluding fight between Batman and an Oliver North type amidst a scale city of Gotham. Nice touch. The art is pretty good as well. Moench is realigned with Paul Gullacy, the great artist who also drew those aforementioned Masters of Kung Fu. Gullacy really lays on that Marvel-style expressive dynamism stuff. Our heroes don't just evade bullets, they twist and bend acrobatically from panel to panel. Recommend for fanboys and JFK conspiracy nuts everywhere. 

Brave Old World, William Messner-Loebs , Guy Davis and Phil Hester

 

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“When all this started I knew zip about the year 1900, so here’s the crib notes version: The U.S. was fighting a war in the Phillippines, and war hero Teddy Roosevelt was running for VEEP on McKinley’s ticket. Several states wanted to ban artificial refrigeration, ‘cause God invented ice and that was good enough. The big flap in education that year was whether public schools should have blackboards, and Galveston, Texas was pretty much blown off the map by a huge freakin hurricane. There were more Irish in New York City than in Dublin, and more Italians than in Rome. Companies were merging into trusts, and women wanted the vote. If you were a programmer from 1999 thrown back a century like me and my pals, then it all seemed familiar and totally alien at the same time.” 

Since we’re on the topic of art as social exploration, let me also recommend William Messner-Loebs four parter Brave Old World. Loebs is the genius behind The Maxx one of the most interesting and complex cartoons that has ever made it to the air. (Will there ever be an adult cartoon channel for “The Maxx”, “Aeon Flux”, unedited anime, old Ralph Bakshi pictures…) 

Not only is it very good science-fiction that skirts on the edge of steampunk, but it’s a nice Howard Zinn-like social exploration of what it was like to live in the New York of the 1900s as a woman or a minority. The plot gets started when seven computer scientists are thrown back to 1900 when a quantum time experiment goes awry. Let me say that the science in the fiction is very good. These are computer scientists who know the difference between a “worm” and a “virus”. 

My favorite character is a thinly disguised version of Bill Joy, noted scientist who thinks we should just stop exploring some new technologies. (Just to digress: Why doesn’t Joy just resign from Sun if he’s so serious. His ideas on networking will create the networked computer consciousness that might kill us all, according to that whole Turning Point crowd...). The character is Microcraft’s James O’Reilly, who’s quit the field (now he’s consistent) and written a very Bill Joy/Unabomber like book called The Death of Reason and Freedom—How Computers Destroy. James, after being sent back in the past, says things like: “What? Didn’t you just hear the man? Our worship of technology got us to this point…The last thing we should do is screw with the future anymore!” 

Some of the issues taken on in this series, in no particular order, are the Boxer Rebellion, Phillippine Wars, the state of opium, union organizing, how the black baseball leagues were formed, ethnic rivalries in New York and characters like Bat Masterson, John Barrymore, noted censor Anthony Comstock (who gets abducted and murdered by a craft from the future…serves him right.), a sympathetic portrayal of the young D.W. Griffith and female journalist Nellie Bly.  

I was really impressed by Nellie Bly, who I had never heard of. From her work it appears that she was one of the greatest journalists who ever lived, man or woman. In this comic, she seems to be taking the Joan Collins modern woman beyond her time role in The City on the Edge of Forever. Or as the dialogue says: 

O’Reilly: Why do you do this? Why be constantly in danger?

Nellie Bly: For the joy of it! To be in the middle of the action instead of always watching from the sidelines, a prim and proper lady! And for the truth!

O’Reilly: What truth?

Bly: The truth of everything! We are surrounded by lies and legends. People only hear what they want to hear, not the way things really are! 

The comic also takes some pains to tell you that it was no fun being a minority and/or a woman, an Irishman or someone of Asian-American descent back in 1900. O’Reilly can only get jobs digging ditches. The Chinese American, married to a white woman, gets openly attacked in the street and goes mad. The women seem to live only slightly better than their brethren trapped in an Afghan theocratic regime. These women, or Stepford Wives according to one character, had some interesting ideas regarding Opium laced products and child rearin’. As this bit of dialogue would attest to:

1900s Lady: I was plagued by morning sickness and other discomforts, but this new opium tonic expunged all such pains and removed my foolish doubts.

Teri Wright (mulatto lady from the future): Opium? You mean like…?

1900s Lady: Oh, not the coarse herb the heathen Chinese take. This is medicinal opium, purified in grain spirits.

Teri: Alcohol and opium?

1900s Lady: I find it keeps them manifesting too much personality, which is bad for a child. (She then licks the spoon and says:) Yum. 

And so it goes. I really enjoyed this series. It felt kind of like “modern” people who are placed in E.L.Doctorow’s Ragtime narrative. I learned a thing or two. The art could be classified as Mike Mignola light, but it was pretty decent. The covers are magnificent: Think radical cartoonist Peter Kuper fused with Jack Kirby and you just about have it. The only question: Is this history legit? Did these incidents really happen?

Well, it looks like Messner-Loebs stretched things a bit. Turns out that Nellie Bly had been married for five years and was no longer working as a reporter in 1900. The D.W.Griffith character didn’t live in New York until 1904 and he was married. So he probably wouldn’t be pushing a broom in the Harlem ghetto in 1900. But I thought these were minor points. I think that most of the historical big events did happen and it is a work of fiction so cut the guy a break. 

Bottom line: I highly recommend it. Nice commentary on technology and history.

 

Streetwise: Autobiographical Stories by Comics Professionals

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One of the reasons I didn’t really enjoy the confessional comics wave that’s blossomed in recent years, and probably bottomed out like the rest of the industry, is that I didn’t believe that the lives that were in discussion were all that interesting. I always thought that those books should have been subtitled “My Boring Middle-Class Suburban Life”. And I always thought that comics professionals, or just older people in general—I’ve always liked Harvey Pekar’s stuff—would have more interesting stories to share.  

My suspicions have been roundly confirmed in Streetwise, which is a collection of autobiographical sketches by comic book professionals, or guys you usually see drawing bulging pecs and obscenely overchested females. It features a roster of heavy hitters like Jack Kirby, Alex Toth, C.C. Beck, Jeff Jones, Joe Kubert, Sergio Aragones, Walter Simonson, and 23 other artists.  

Personally, the four stories written by Jack Kirby, Sam Glanzman, Don Simpson and Gray Morrow were my favorites. 

The Kirby story, which leads the anthology deservedly, is the standout. It talks about his teen years growing up in a depression-era Hell’s Kitchen. I found this history to be extraordinary. The only other history of turn of the century New York I had read was something by Henry Miller. And after you read Kirby’s story, you’ll wish that Kirby had done more of this kind of work. You get the impression that Kirby’s earlier years were nothing but one continuous fight scene. Perfect training for the mighty marvel style no doubt. It’s also well written, something, to be frank, I never expect from Kirby. He’s just capable of writing the worst prose I’ve ever read. It’s the kind of prose that gives comics a bad name. Back in the 70s, Kirby had taken over the Steve Englehart penned Captain Americas. Englehart had written some of the best Captain Americas ever, taking on Watergate and corruption. He even had Cap hang up his cape and become the Nomad it had gotten so bad. Then Kirby took over the mag and I just remember, even as a 14-year-old, that this was badly written. The dialogue is silly, that kind of thing. It was also right around the time that I started to notice who writes and draws these things matters. (Don’t even get me started on Bill Mantlo replacing Steve Gerber on Howard the Duck.) 

The story revolves around a fight between street gangs and here’s a bit of surprisingly good prose:

Culture clash! Invasion from the adjoining street! The face of the enemy was different! His speech was different! His roots were different! All we shared was American birth and clothes and a fiery hate imported from the old country.” 

The highlight though was the splash page of a New York street. It’s incredibly detailed, horse drawn carriages, outside fruit stands, kids playing stickball, clothes hanging from lines that cross a city street and even though its just pencils it looks beautiful. Looked like something that Crumb would draw. This story alone makes the anthology worth it, but there’s more. 

Yet another highlight had to be the Sam Glanzman story. I really wasn’t that familiar with his work until I read this story. But reading his story, a biographical sketch of his life and it’s a long one, he’s about 76 or older, it made me take more of an interest in his work and particularly his WWII stories. In 10 pages he had takes me from WWII to the comics industry of the 50s and 60s, to being divorced in the seventies, to years alone spent just working and healing to emotional renewel. He also struck me as being a very cool old guy. Sure, he’s pushing 80 but he wears a ponytail and rides a motorcycle. That’s cool. Beautifully drawn and laid out and he uses that motorcycle as kind of a storytelling symbol of passage…Nicely done.

Fellow Pittsburgh-area resident Don Simpson giving his blunt assessment of the art teaching profession is another highlight of the book. It sort of hit home for me because he was talking about teaching at two places that I walk by or drive by every other day: Allegheny Community College and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. His observations on the Art Institute were definitely bracing. Let’s put it this way: Don Simpson must have very little interest in working for the Art Institute in the future. Here’s what he says about the Art Institute of Pittsburgh:

 “Fact was, I could pick people randomly down on Penn Avenue with more interest and aptitude in studying art. The school had no barriers to enrollment, didn’t require a portfolio, and in fact couldn’t care less if the students were breathing. The well-oiled sales apparatus only cared about tuition dollars. I felt sorry for the talented, hard-working few who had made the regrettable choice to come over. I later heard that 90 percent of the student body was from the lowest 10 percent of their high school graduating class. It wouldn’t surprise me! Most kids were only there to party and goof up. Few would be able to land a minimum wage job of any sort upon graduation, let alone a career at Pixar.”

What’s funny is that as he’s saying these things there’s this hilarious Eisneresque background of those same student goofs blowing bubble gum, sleeping and throwing food through the air. Were they really throwing food threw the air? That’s embellishment right, right? 

Gray Morrow’s piece about his early days was just another gem: it’s stunningly drawn and layed out in black and white. I felt like I was walking into an interesting and personal dimension, lost in the man’s timeless line. Then again what do you expect? It’s Living Legend Gray Morrow…

The Kirby, Morrow, Glanzman, and Simpson stories alone are worth $20 bucks. But that’s only about a fourth of the book. There are other great stories here about the industry, assorted life stories and even UFO experiences.

More than just good comics about the industry’s past, Streetwise is a moving document of our times and our lives.

 
Fortune and Glory: A True Hollywood Story, Brian Michael Bendis

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Continuing in that vein of mainstream talents stretching their subject matter, hotshot creator Brian Michael Bendis gives us Fortune and Glory. It’s a very revealing portrait of how impossible and frustrating and funny—when you’re watching Brian suffer that is—take on getting your property turned into a movie. I now know why I haven’t seen that Woody Allen directed version of “The Merchants of Venus” and realize I probably never will.

Sure is an eye-opener. He has lots of meetings but it all goes nowhere. Depalma turns him down. He turns down Spike Lee because of Clockers. Some great information on how book properties get made into films. You learn about writing a screenplay, what reader evaluations are and what they mean, incredibly stupid Hollywood people who haven’t read your work or don’t know that Elliot Ness was a real guy, the basics of giving a good or bad pitch (to avoid the bad pitch, make sure your pitch partner says something). Features a light Mad Magazine cartoony style and great writing like this: 

This is the life of a Hollywood writer. If they don’t sell whatever they have in their little bags its another month of food stamps and blood bank. And I thought how whacked it is. They say there are 40000 scripts registered every year in the writer’s guild. There are only 200-250 mainstream movies made a year, and half of those are from preexisting sources. So out of the 40000 people running around town with their little script in their little bags of 100 might get to sell theirs. It’s like the lottery…only with the added bonus of rejection and humiliation.” 

It ends with Todd McFarlane finally getting something accomplished in one day what Bendis couldn’t do for endless months. Apparently Todd thought that Mike’s properties were excellent properties and very filmable. Where that went you don’t actually know. What you’re left with is just how difficult it is to get your property produced in Hollywood. (Hey Todd, there’s this guy named Alan Moore. How about a 12 part animated Watchmen series, or a 12 part live action Watchmen series directed by Terry Gilliam. Be perfect filler until the Sopranos comes back next year…Have you ever wished upon a star?) A must read for anyone who wants their dreams dashed of having their fictional work turned into a living, breathing film.

 

 Promethea, Issues 6 through 14:

Looks like Alan Moore has won the Harvey for best writer of the year for Promethea. Actually, the entirety of the ABC line has been nothing short of phenomenal. Has there been anyone who has twisted and reshaped the genre like Alan? The interacial marriage of Tom Strong, the photoshop experiments in both Tomorrow Stories and Promethea, Roger's sex change in Promethea, trading sex for knowledge in Promethea, and all kinds of experimentation with layout and panel direction. Moore is a guy who can type as fast as Stan Lee but with a genre vocabulary as literate as the best science fiction writers.

In fact, Prometheas 1 – 11 are probably as good as comics get. I’m going to review Prometheas 12 –14 here, which, I have to be honest I’m not as impressed with, mainly because they seem to be philosophical contemplations and really don’t move the story along as well. I highly recommend that you pick up Promethea issues 6 through 11. Here's 39 reasons why:


1.Promethea 6, The Five Swell Guys in Firefight on the Avenue. Dialogue:
“Apparently his body’s rejecting the clonemeat they grafted on.”

2.I just like the very idea of the 5 Swell Guys. In a way, they rate their own book. This science hero idea, which permeates both Tom Strong and Top Ten as well, makes logical sense. The idea of the techno mage is inevitable. That guy with the first working assembler will make it all look like magic.

3.Look at how beautifully the splash page is laid out on pages 4 and 5. You can see one of the psychic swell guys roaming from room to room in this futuristic hospital.

4.Image: Winged grasshoppers that turn into missiles are cool.

5.Dialogue:
“Reason slices through illusion and hallucination, darling.”

6.Dialogue:
“Marto Neptura? Wasn’t that just a house pseudonym for any hack who wrote Promethea back in the 20s?”

7.Observation: Even though it’s the same year in Promethea’s world as it is in our own, technology is further ahead on her world. They have flying cars, nanogels and “clonemeat” among other things. Mostly very cool things.

8.Dialogue: “
Ahh, Grace. What a picture you are, with thine flashing BLADE, thine rippling THEWS. It would make such a magnificent COVER painting. And for a CAPTION…hmmm. Let me think…Ah, I know…PROMETHEA AND THE HAND OF DEATH!” (By the way, he’s lampooning Robert E. Howard, probably Burroughs, and every writer of Thor.)

9.I have a theory about celebrity omnipath the Painted Doll. Of course, the new Paul McAuley/Richard Calder defined “doll” is a genetically grown slave. Like the joker, which this character resembles in a lawsuit inviting kind of way, this character is kind of unkillable. Think of a Joker that could regrow himself.

10.Yet another impressive thing about Alan is that he has to be the cross genre king. I don’t know anybody who can mix in so many genres within a story and make it work. Steve Gerber comes to mind I guess. You get the feeling that both Moore and Gerber understand quantum physics and know what all the Tarot cards stand for.

 



11.Promothea 7. Rocks and Hard Places: Great cover again. Features a romance novel motif and:

12.Dialogue:
“choke. How can I tell Dirk that I’m not the woman he thinks I am.”

13.I believe that the Weeping Gorilla cries real tears and its probably true that we expect too much of George Lucas. Sniff.

14.Explanation: Promethea is a reoccurring character in history who is inhabited by the person who dreams her into rexistence. In this issue, the Promethea who is inhabited by a gay comic book writer/artist is showing Sophie Bangs the ropes of the Immateria and what it means.

15.Observation: Yet another brilliant storytelling device planted in the middle of this comic. The middle of the book is entirely photoshopped. Very impressive.

16.Stunning image: A glowing woman being wrapped by a snake.

17.Dialogue:
“Bill hadn’t necessarily wanted to be a woman, but I guess he always wanted to be a goddess.”

18.Stunning Image: Yet another beautiful Photoshop image of a man in chains.

19.The multi personality mayor makes an appearance. Creepy.

20.The shocker in this issue is that the Promethea who is really a man takes a male lover. The male lover finds out that he’s been sleeping with a man, sort of, and blows the comic artist’s brains out in a spatter of photoshopped red.

21.Speaking of sex changes, the big She Hulk sized member of the Five Swell Guys used to be a man. Now, how does that work?



22.Promethea 8 Guys and Dolls: Cover: This cover was influenced by Terry Gilliam, who even gets an acknowledgement. Gilliam would be a perfect director for Moore’s stuff if it ever got to screen. That 12 part HBO Watchmen special sounds good to me.

23.Dialogue:
“Oh. Now this is new. I don’t think I’ve killed any of those before.”

24.Poetry: Moore has probably published more poetry in comics than any other writer that I can recall. I find his poetry serviceable and no I couldn’t match it on my best day. In fact, the character Sophie writes poetry to become Promethea. Here’s a sample:
“Myself, I’ll conjure with a single line the fiction of a mortal made divine.”

25.This issue also features a climactic fanboy fight scene which I seriously enjoyed.

 



26.Promethea 9: Bringing Down the Temple. Image: Beautifully drawn splash page featuring Promethea with a stained glass background. J.H. Williams work looks like a more fluid version of the best of Gulacy.

27.From TEXTure:
“More on the recent SOUTH TOWER HOSPITAL panic, where celebrity omnipath THE PAINTED DOLL was reportedly killed in an explosion. Yeah right.”

28.Yet another science-fictional element is introduced called the smart slime.

29.So in this issue, we find that Promethea chases down the evil doers of the Goetia and finds out that the new generation is composed of children.

30.Observation: By the way, the book ends with her deciding to trade sex for knowledge of the dark magics. Not your average Wonder Woman moment.

 


31.Promethea 10: Sex, Stars and Serpents: Well it looks like this issue will be spent watching Promethea do it with this old Wizard, who is a dead ringer for the Emperor in the third Stars Wars film.

32.Apparently, and I’m just trying to give a blow by blow here, our Wizard has a bit of an oral fixation with the ladies. Or as he puts it, on his knees, level at Promethea’s central orifice, which is bursting outward in a flurry of blue:
“They wanted to drink of the female. To drown in it.” Never heard it referred to that way before.

33.Observation: The wizard doesn’t use a condom claiming he can control his “emission” through some tantric discipline. Yeah, right. But there’s a scene that sure looks like mutual orgasm to me. Later on its revealed that Promethea can get pregnant…Hmmm. Future plot twist?

34.Observation: Nice Freudian imagery of the wand being pounded, repeatedly, into a wine filled Holy Grail.

35.Art: Might be the best drawn episode in the series. A festival of color, symbol and design.

36.Dialogue: Wizard:
“That was pretty good, huh? Sophie: Yeah…I guess you’re not bad for a creepy old perverted guy.”

 


37.Promethea Tsunami 11: Observation: This is kind of a stunt issue done in wide screen format. You’ll find yourself holding the book from the side in order to read it. Alan never runs of ideas.

38.Dialogue from one of the science heroes:
“Just gotta improvise a photon accelerator from this dub light bulb.”

39.Another great cover. This time it’s done like a b-movie. It’s titled Promethea Under Attack and it even has film credits.

You really shouldn’t miss this stuff. You would probably be missing some of the best comics with the best female characters that have ever been produced. 

But onto the disappointing issues of 12 through 14. It’s not that these are bad issues. It’s just that issues 12 and 14 delve more into his Alan’s personal ideology of myth. I guess as a science fiction fan my reaction is so what? The reason I like science fiction more than other genres is that you can logically create a groundwork for the fantastic. I find the fiction of Greg Egan and the nonfiction of Bill Joy, Hans Moravec and Richard Kurzweil to be much more frightening than Stephen King—not to knock Stephen King, he’s a great writer.  

Technically, the stories are pretty impressive, especially 12 as its done almost entirely as rhyming poetry. Here’s a sample: “The holy spark twixt he and she, burns in her sweet fecundity. The seeds of life”. Is it good poetry or bad? I can’t say it does anything for me. I’m more of a Ginsberg, Burroughs Beat man myself even though I think what Alan is doing is actually harder. 

The other thing is, and its sort of big picture observation, I’ve always thought that Alan was trying to write too many books. First, he should be honest and just schedule them all on a bi-monthly basis because they’re habitually late. The truth of the matter is that these issues fill like filler. They don’t progress any of the more interesting plot points that are left hanging back on Earth. There is a new Promethea that’s making an appearance on the scene which I actually found to be the most interesting aspect of the last coupla issues, but she gets a whopping two pages in issue 14. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t bad stuff. And let’s face it: Moore’s bad stuff is still light years beyond 99.9 percent of everybody else’s good stuff. 

In fact, if you were to put up the entirety of Moore’s ABC work against this year’s Hugo nominees for best novel, I think you would have to pick Alan Moore as the winner. And I’m not kidding about that. I highly recommend that you buy every Promethea produced like a rabid dog searching for meat. If you don’t like Promethea, then Hell, you just don’t like comics and you never will.