October 2005

Karin L. Kross


Goodbye, and Hello

It hasn't really been that long a trip, I suppose, and not terribly strange either, but it's been a good one.

As you may have heard on the Bookslut blog, this piece will be my last Comicbookslut column for the foreseeable future. There were a number of possibilities for what this last column might be, but in the end, I decided to keep it simple, and use this time to tie up a few loose ends that I left hanging over the last three years.

Loose End #1: Grant Morrison's The Filth.
Way back when, I said I'd revisit it at the completion of the series, and somehow I must have gotten distracted. It's interesting to consider The Filth now, in light of the work that Morrison has done since then: the widely-praised We3, the Seven Soldiers series, and his forthcoming take on Superman. The Filth reads almost as the last word on the metaphysical themes that made their first, splashiest appearance when Buddy Baker met his maker—Grant Morrison himself—at the end of Animal Man #26. Between then and the conclusion of The Filth, Morrison attacked the boundary between reality and fiction from a number of angles: to name a couple, you have Crazy Jane's traumatic spell in the monochromatic "real world" in Morrison's last Doom Patrol, and the gnostic view of the universe as the creation of a flawed god in The Invisibles.

The Filth can be seen as the apotheosis of all these ideas. Through all thirteen issues, it remained a dizzying, sometimes nauseating work, involving—among other things—deadly giant sperm (grown from that of a superpowered porn star, no less), a ship the size of a small city that falls into anarchy, comic book superheroes who have found their way into the three-dimensional world, nanomachine life, and an underworld that may include the pen in the hand of God. Quite simply, if you know to begin with that Grant Morrison's madder flights of fancy put you off, you probably will end up writing off The Filth as a "jar of Tang" story with psychedelic trappings and a lot of seriously sordid characters. But there's also a lot of sly satire and oddly compelling storytelling throughout, and readers with a taste for the experimental may find a lot to occupy them here.

Loose End #2: In June 2003, I promised "a highly opinionated overview of the Vertigo line's high and low points".
But then the Fantagraphics financial crisis cropped up in late June-early July, and that column idea got stowed. Time has marched on, and new Vertigo titles have come and gone, but most of my opinions on the matter have remained fairly consistent. I wrote then that "the Vertigo imprint has been at its best with the works that don't fit into the Sandman/Swamp Thing/Dreaming/Books of Magic "Vertigo Universe", and sure enough, one of the biggest Vertigo hits of recent years has been Brian K. Vaughan's Y: The Last Man.

The truth is, the other thing that sank that column idea was the realization that I'd already sunk most of my ideas for it into the June 2003 bit. I'll just sign off on this subject by saying that while there have been some disappointments, like Trigger, you're pretty safe checking out the horror and the SF in the Vertigo line. There's been some good stuff.

Loose End #3: Earlier this year, I solicited reader recommendations for comics you'd give to a non-comics reader. The response was not exactly overwhelming, but it was interesting nonetheless.

One reader said she'd "turned several girl hipsters and hipster mamas on to comics" with Hopeless Savages and Scott Pilgrim. Another offered Jeff Smith's Bone, which made me smack my forehead at having not thought of it myself. A third came back with a question of his own: "what would you get for a 30-something movie reviewer in a national newspaper who keeps disparaging and belittling the form in his movie reviews?" (To which all I can say is, make him watch Ghost World and American Splendor back to back, and then throw the comics at his head.)

Another asked why I hadn't enthusiastically recommended Watchmen for a first-time reader, as that had been his own entrée into the comics world. The best answer I can give, I suppose, is that in many cases of comics-phobes or newbies, it would be like handing Citizen Kane to someone who didn't really like movies. The point of my exercise was to consider the audience's existing audience, and tailor their "entry drug" accordingly. A non-comics-reading friend with the manga-loving teenage kid might find the books left lying around the living room mildly silly, and maybe the Batman movies have put her off superheroes. But maybe she's an Elvis fan. So I'll slip her a copy of The King and see where that takes us.

And…I think that covers it. Apart from some reviews that I still owe Jessa, that is. I'm not retiring from Bookslut entirely, you see; I'll still be around to write reviews and features as I can. So this isn't really "goodbye". Still, before I shut down this column, I want to acknowledge a few people who made writing this column especially enjoyable.

And of course, thank you, readers, for allowing me to take a bit of time out of your day, for linking to the stuff you liked (or didn't for that matter), and for sending the mail. I hope you enjoyed it.

And, well. That's it, really. I'll see you around, on these pages and elsewhere. And, of course, in the comics shop.