2011: The Year I Wanted to Strangle Comics to DeathA column article, Z.E.I.T.G.E.I.S.T. by: Danny Djeljosevic
Danny Djeljosevic doesn't stop thinking about comics. All comics: crackling cosmic punches, subdued glances from art-school girls, high-concept pop, intricate European breasts, Japanese speedlined inner monologue, cartoon teenagers eating hamburgers. He loves them all.
He writes them. He draws them. He writes about them. He talks about them.
This is what his brain sounds like.
Were this LiveJournal and were I 19 years old (in other words, the year 2004), I'd have started this one off with some painfully obvious Death Cab for Cutie lyrics. Instead, let's just say this: 2012. The end of the Mayan calendar. The months leading up to the last issue of The Invisibles. That movie where a bunch of insane set pieces lead to John Cusack on a Battlestar Galactica set of humanity-saving ships. A couple years after we made contact. Another excuse to attempt to turn over a new leaf and fail in the process.
The previous year as you'll remember, was kind of shit. Dwayne McDuffie died. The King's Speech won Best Picture over The Social Network. Grown men rose to defend other grown men's rights to fetishize Catwoman's tits. Politics continued to look like the greatest movie Christopher Guest never made. Facebook kept telling me people I know are getting engaged and having babies and it still drives me fucking crazy.
Worst of all, 2011 is the year I seriously thought FUCK COMICS.
It was a comics-intensive year for me, what with all the responsibilities that come with being Co-Managing Editor of this very website (which requires to paying attention to a lot of industry bullshit), a regular weekly pull list at the shop (which means reading a whole lot of comics every week) and then my actual comics writing and drawing, produced with much difficulty whilst on a steady diet of little else but other comics (which means a whole lot of hackery). Sounds whiny and I brought it on myself, but it takes its toll.
Last month, I was in a bad mood for reasons not germane to this column, but then, in my daily reading of the comics internet, came the news that the months of Marvel Comics teasers that I was quietly ignoring were for an X-Men vs. Avengers crossover event.
That, it turns out, would be the straw that broke the camel's back. No disrespect to the Marvel Architects, as I like 'em all and I'm sure the thing will be enjoyably readable, but Jesus Christ, is this what we've come to? Talented writers making LCD-level event comics branded in order to cater to the base level reader? More tie-in issues?
After a couple of months of arguing for change, of championing the cause of comics that don't alienate non-white non-males, promoting all sorts of lovely books to everyone who will listen both online and off, still seeing the business-as-usual -- even something as innocuous as a comic about the X-Men fighting the Avengers -- started to make me feel like I was trying to help a friend who doesn't want to be helped. Nothing's going to change, so what's the point? Maybe a good ol' fashioned ragequit was in order. I can go to the movies on a Saturday morning and pay $6 for a complete story.
But then you sleep on it and realize that's ridiculous and you're in a bad mood. Not to backpedal, but logically there's nothing wrong with a major publisher releasing a book that they think will sell, and I'm sure based on premise alone the thing will do gangbusters, because nerds love to see superheroes duke it out. That's just business, and Marvel exists above all else to make money. But the point of the whole thing is that I've been reading too many comics, miring myself in aforementioned industry bullshit and talking about comics so much that it's started to not mean anything, which runs counter to the very premise of this column, I know. The fact that X-Men vs. Avengers elicited that kind of reaction means there's something seriously wrong with me. Like I said, sometimes you just get rubbed the wrong way and never, ever want to have a conversation about Batman ever again under any circumstance.
In one and only one respect, I now know how Alan Moore feels.
But you sleep on it, and then you remember that there are lots of great comics in the world. This year I realized I know when I come across a great comic because it makes me wonder why I read other things. Casanova always makes me want to cross out everything else on my pull list. Finder: Voice immediately made me a fan of Carla Speed McNeil. I just picked up the last couple issues of Rachel Rising and Terry Moore has only become even more of a master storyteller since the days of Strangers in Paradise. Secret Avengers under Warren Ellis is a masterclass in done-in-one action comics. Even in the dodgy New 52, Animal Man is a glorious exercise in both creepiness and clarity, and O.M.A.C. is fun, bombastic, neon superhero comics sent to us from a much better universe like some Kryptonian rocket. And have you read that "Archie Meets KISS" storyline? Totally gonzo laff riot comics right there.
Either way, this overall sour mood was good timing. A couple weeks later I went on vacation for Christmas, visiting my parents who are still on dialup internet, which is both a blessing and a curse. Did you realize that when you're not reading comics news all day -- especially if technology prohibits -- you have way more time to read books, watch movies and have thoughts that don't involve Dan DiDio?
Which is to say, holy fuck, my mindpool's been growing comics algae and desperately needed some brain chlorine. I need books and movies and podcasts and NPR in my car to give me things to think about other than Hellboy. As someone who makes comics, you don't do anything worthwhile if your only frame of reference is other comic books. You can read the monthlies and kinda tell who's guilty of that.
Did you know that the US Navy saved some Iranian fishermen from Somali pirates? I heard that on the radio in the car the other day.
Consider it a New Year's Resolution, made public so I have to do it or I look like an asshole: Dilute my comics diet. If only they had pills for that like my vegetarian vitamin capsules. I'll have to settle for my stack of unwatched DVDs and untouched novels, just waiting for me to pop them in or open them up.
I also gotta make more comics. Shit gets too easily put off -- especially drawing the damn things -- and I'm not going to get better at them just dipping my toes in once a week if I'm lucky. I can't say for sure how much of my scripting work will surface in the coming months, but I can control how stuff I draw appears. Expect my Tumblr to grow corpulent with comics and works-in-progress as I try to hone my style and try new and exciting things.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to read this novella I bought at the Dollar Store.
Danny Djeljosevic is a comic book creator, award-winning filmmaker (assuming you have absolutely no follow-up questions), film/music critic for Spectrum Culture and Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin. Follow him on Twitter at @djeljosevic or find him somewhere in San Diego, often wearing a hat. Read his comic, "Sgt. Death and his Metachromatic Men," over at Champion City Comics and check out his other comics at his Tumblr, Sequential Fuckery.