Journey Into Marvel – Part 63
Extremites, you may not have known that in the Marvel/Atlas comic company all of the creative team, with the exception of those who were to young like Steve Ditko and those who were rated 4-F by the draft board like Stan Lee — served in the military. Knowledge of the military often bled into the creative work of the period. The culture of the military bled in too, and sometimes, that culture was negative. That’s clear in today’s story.
You may or may not have run into a World War II veteran who has trouble discerning cultural differences when it comes to Asian peoples. That is the fault of American and Canadian (for me) propaganda. ‘Yellow-face: a caricature of Oriental Asians is still present, seen recently in Rob Schneider’s character in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. It was very prevalent in the 1940s and the decades after the cultural conscience came to terms with the horrors of that World War. When the Maoists took China this stereotype bled to combine with Communism. General Fang the central villain in this Hulk story is an example of the stereotype. Read the rest of this entry
Decoding DC – Part 17
Extremites, what’s it like to read these articles?
I know sometimes the topics that interest me are pretty abstract. In effort to find an interesting angle on an issue I can go off into the wild blue yonder for inspiration. Today, I reach far into that yonder and ask “does El Diablo exist within the pages of Azarello’s Arc?”
However, I wonder, if in the world of the issue, he exists. Read the rest of this entry
DECODING DC – PART 16
Extremites, what makes a good writer of comics?
In both Decoding DC and Journey Into Marvel ,the search for an answer to this question defines each series. I have found there is no absolute answer. However, one trait is shared by each writer of successful comics. It’s the ability to subvert the reader’s preconceptions. Brian Azzarello shows this ability tenfold in Part III of his El Diablo arc.
Azzarello’s ability to write dialogue astounds me.
I am also astounded by his skill at creating vibrant and full characters, particularly when it comes to Moses Stone. Azzarello has spent the last two issues setting up Stone as a hammer of justice. He’s a reformed bounty hunter turned into a righteous sheriff. But this — “SPOILER” — is all a lie. Stone is the villain. Read the rest of this entry
It wasn’t long after the closing credits for The Avengers had ended that I found myself saying “We need a Justice League movie.” There’s really no excuse for there not being one already. With the success of Marvel’s cross-over films, I had to ask myself, “Why hasn’t DC started doing this?”
Well, now they are. Except they’ve decided to skip character development altogether. Instead of doing things the smart way, giving Batman his own movie, Wonder Woman her own movie (which is long overdue, considering we’ve yet to have a standalone female superhero film), and the others their own movies, they’ve opted for a backdoor Justice League film in place of the Man of Steel sequel. Read the rest of this entry
The Extremis Review welcomes PoiSonPaiNter as a monthly contributor. Take a look at her interests and what she can bring to Extremis.
PoiSonPaiNter tries to work her creativity into written words through blogging about random stuff (including movie/book and concert/festival reviews) on her own Blog or through writing stories like the book she’s co-writing (More information here).
Her early interest in Fairy Tales turned into a fascination for Myths and Legends of all kinds, but also a liking for everything Fantasy-related. A similar path was taken from (Disney) Cartoons and Anime to (Web) Comics and other nerdy things: X-Men, Spiderman, Buffy, and Doctor Who. You name it and Poison has either looked into it or has it already on her list. Oddly enough, while bats are amongst her favourite animals, she doesn’t like Batman; or DC characters. She is more of a Marvel-person.
Poison considers herself to be a Metalhead and therefore belongs to a different kind of Dark Side (without former knowledge of the involved cookies, but ever grateful when they are served), but regardless of all the above still certified to ask: “Have you tried turning it off and on again?”
Decoding DC – Part 11
Shadows West spans 3 issues unlike the last two arcs.
Shadows hits the ground running.
Jonah Hex is defending himself in front of a court for shooting down some roustabouts who attacked him for soliciting a whore. After he is found innocent, Jonah is beset by the gun toting relatives of the whore. After a gunfight, he is saved by a diminutive fellow with a huge hat called Long Tom. Long Tom brings Jonah over to an Old West Show headed up by a Buffalo Bill knockoff called Buffalo Will. Jonah joins the show where he meets up with an old Cree friend called Spotted Balls. After some characteristic Hexian repartee, including an allusion to Two Gun Mojo, Jonah finds himself embroiled in another supernatural plot with a squaw who has a half bear/half human child.
This Jonah Hex feels different from the ones who have come before. In Two Gun Mojo, Tim Truman and Joe R. Lansdale’s take on the character was brooding and dark. In Riders of the Worm and Such Jonah became a wise cracking swashbuckler. He was without the burden of Civil War experience that coloured his world view in Two Gun Mojo.
In Shadows, Jonah’s personality has been pulled back and he is almost witty. For the first time Jonah Hex feels three dimensional.
Tim Truman is no longer concerned with the brooding world view that peppered Two Gun and Riders. The dark backgrounds are replaced by whitewashed frames. The character creation is different as well. The faces are rosy and pink. Turman even embraces facial aspects like freckles and dimples instead of scars and scowls
What has changed in Jonah Hex from 1995 to 1999? Why is Jonah’s world brighter?
The tail end of the 90s was a very tough time for comics. The rise of independent companies like Image and Darkhorse were cutting into the popularity of the mainstream lines. Even these startups posted losses when Shadows West premiered. As a result, the mainstream lines focused on simplicity and gimmickry to attract readers. Some critics in this period referred to this new direction as ‘Disneyfication.’ Tim and Joe must have decided to modify their perspective to better resemble the Disneyfication of comics. The brutality of the earlier Vertigo titles is still present but is clearer and crisper.
I have qualms with the new aesthetic. Jonah’s scar and mangled eye are as iconic as Batman’s mask or Superman’s cape. The way Truman has downplayed the scar in this issue just doesn’t seem right. On top of all this, Sam Parson’s colouring of the eye with a vibrant red makes it look bionic. In the night panels, Jonah looks more like a cowboy version of Marvel’s Deathlok than19th century grizzled bounty hunter. These are minor qualms and could be the result of new publishing demands.
Shadows West brings us a brighter, happier, clearer Jonah Hex. This could be the result of tighter publication limits or of a change in the direction for Vertigo. Later articles will investigate this closer.
Until next time, Extremites, I remain: Julian Munds.
Story I Read: “Part One: Long Tom” (Jonah Hex: Shadows West #1 Feb. 1999)
Rating: 3 out of 5
Pros: Finally, a three dimensional Jonah Hex. Some great lines. Crisper story telling. Less meandering. The overall simplicity.
Cons: The art feels more a cartoonish and often I have to remind myself that this is not a DC mainstream comic.
Previous Review: “Chapter Five: Cataclysm in Worm Town” (Jonah Hex: Riders of the Worm and Such #5, Jul. 1995)
Upcoming Review: “Part Two: Gathering Shadows” (Jonah Hex: Shadows West #2 Mar. 1999)
The Extremis Review is proud to welcome Logan Judy to our list of writers. Logan will be joining us as our Batman and Star Wars Contributor. He may also be writing on other DC related topics. Ask him what he wants to say! Here’s what he says about himself.
“There’s not a time I can remember not being into something that would be considered nerdy. I inherited many of my older brother’s Batman action figures at a very young age, and eagerly watched cartoons based on characters like Batman, Spider-Man, the Ninja Turtles, and Sonic the Hedgehog. I played out the Star Wars movies with my friends and even read books from the expanded universe. When I was ten years old, my family took a vacation to Florida and went to Universal Studios. It was there that I got my first comic books. They were the only ones I had for a long time, since there wasn’t a comic shop anywhere around my home, but I loved them dearly. Since going to college I have greatly expanded my collection, as well as my love for all things nerdy. I deal with the excess of my obsessions by writing about them, as you may well have guessed. My chief obsessions are in Batman, Star Wars, Batman, Doctor Who, Batman, and many Marvel comics. Also, I have a small Batman complex.”
Decoding DC – Part 9
Extremites, sex is a fun thing.
It is also a tough topic to talk about. There’s all sorts of reasons for this. From its political and religious importance— and sometimes derision — to its dark side: rape and exploitation. From a literary perspective, sex is a massive subject to cover.
Up until this issue, in Jonah Hex, sex has been mentioned only through derogatory comments and aspersions. It’s always present but never depicted.
According to American rating systems, sex is more offensive than extreme violence. Despite the possible ratings implications however; Joe R. Lansdale, Sam Glanzman and Tim Truman have seen fit to have Jonah Hex involved in a sexual encounter. This encounter is a wonderful and detailed scene.
In one of my past reviews, I mentioned a women named Brunnhilde that is a member of the Graves culture tribe. I mentioned her poor creation. I stick by that, but I want you to note that my opinion has eased somewhat. It’s clear that she is very important.
In the misogynistic and brutal world of Jonah Hex, women are out of place. In Joe R. Lansdale’s comment that he left on Decoding DC Part 7 he mentioned how he, and the other creatives, were parodying the brutality of the world. That is clear. We can agree on that.
In this brutal world it is important that the transgressors are male. The few female characters are either angry murderous grotesque monsters, that evoke memories of debased freaks in Victorian gothic, or they are the few, what I’ll call, ‘untouched’ women who serve as beacons of a better and brighter world.
Hildy is short, stocky, and looks like Monica Lewinsky. In some other comic she might be relegated to the sidelines, but here she figures as Jonah’s main love interest.
Hildy breaks the mould of traditional female secondary characters. She is smart, of the world, and adept at gunplay. She, however, does become the mould when she, without much provocation, falls into the arms of Hex.
Sex is not an act of love in Jonah’s world. It is an act of release. This viewpoint is solidified in the words of Jonah’s friend: The Kid, as the couple goes off into the moonlight together: “Well, reckon, I’ll go and choke my weasel and make it spit.” Even the Kid needs release.
This simplification of sex is further reiterated, in a far more foul form, by the Autumn Brothers. The brothers are the product of unholy union between the Cthluloid worms (my name for them, not Lansdale’s) and a poor farmer’s wife, making them part worm and part human. The Brothers speak in a monosyllabic and stunted way. They look like a steampunk nightmare and smell of a hillbilly fantasy. When the Brothers venture into the worm underworld, at the behest of the Great Worm: the leader of the race, their stomachs open up and green tentacles rise out to become a mass of slimy awful.
The Autumn Brothers are introduced peeping on Jonah and Hildy having sex in the graveyard.
While marvelling and cracking terrible jokes— which are very right for these two to be cracking — they reminisce about a favourite pig of theirs. This pig is no longer alive because they both had sex with the poor beast and the thing had to be put out of its misery.
While Jonah is having moonlight sex with Hildy, the Autumn Brothers are having a simultaneous discussion of beastiality.
I love this juxtaposition. It is just so twisted.
I must applaud Lansdale and Tim Truman for their fearlessness in treating sex in such a base and human way. It is refreshing and authentic.
What can be said about the sex of Jonah Hex?
It is depraved, without pleasure, without love.
It is just plain dirty.
Just plain dirty like the world it exists in.
Until next time, Extremites, I remain: Julian Munds.
Story I Read: “Chapter 4: Autumns of Our Discontent” (Jonah Hex: Riders of the Worm and Such #4, June 1995)
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Pros: Twisted writing, gripping tension filled ending, neat detail in Truman and Glanzman’s rendering of the worm underworld.
Cons: Slightly sexist writing. (But could be just in the interest of the genre.)
Previous Issue: “Chapter 3: Big Worm” (Jonah Hex: Riders of the Worm and Such #3, May 1995)
Upcoming Issue: “Chapter 5: Cataclysm in Worm Town” (Jonah Hex: Riders of the Worm and Such #4, June 1995)