Of Comic Books, Capitalism, And Culture War Crackpots, Or : What A Bisexual Superman Means — And What It Doesn’t, Part Three Of Three

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Show of hands — who remembers that time when Superman died?

Okay, that looks like everybody. Now, how about when he was replaced by a handful of impostors after he died? Or when he rose from the dead like another favorite fictional character?

A few less hands, but still most of you. Let’s go a bit deeper : how about the time he got electrical powers and turned blue and adopted a new costume to go with his new look an abilities? Or when he broke into two separate beings, the other one red, when the whole “electric blue” thing started to run out of gas? How about when he became an evil cyborg? Or when he lost his memory? Or when he left Earth “forever”? Or when he quit being a hero to live a normal life?

The point here being, if you hadn’t guessed already, that while…

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Of Comic Books, Capitalism, And Culture War Crackpots, Or : What A Bisexual Superman Means — And What It Doesn’t, Part Two Of Three

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

“Bisexual Superman in a kids’ comic? They are literally trying to destroy this county!” screeched one Josh Mandel from his twitter account, underneath a picture of the Jon Kent iteration of Superman kissing his purported new love interest, Jay Nakamura, taken from the forthcoming Superman : Son Of Kal-El #5.

A quick perusal of Mandel’s timeline shows that these kinds of histrionics are basically the guy’s stock in trade, with gems including “Christopher Columbus was a great American” (uhhhh — dude, don’t know how to break it to you but he wasn’t any kind of American), “You can’t spell panDEMic without DEM — is this a coincidence?,” “The Bible and the Constitution aren’t supposed to be separate, ” or the one that probably made me laugh the loudest, a poll where he asked “Of the various types of illegals flooding across the border, will more crimes be committed by Muslim…

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Of Comic Books, Capitalism, And Culture War Crackpots, Or : What A Bisexual Superman Means — And What It Doesn’t, Part One Of Three

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

I’m loathe to start things off on a “housekeeping” note, but in this case I think it’s in order — when I re-tooled my approach to this site about a month back with an eye toward broadening out its scope beyond small press and self-published comics, I figured I might occasionally look in on what the “Big Two” were up to — but I honestly never imagined that just a few weeks on from writing a multi-part series on Captain America By Ta-Nehisi Coates Vol. 1 that I’d be embarking on yet another long-form essay/rant on the funnybook mainstream. And if you’d told the me of a month or so back that my second foray into critically less-familiar waters would be to talk about a comic I had almost no intention of reading and certainly no intention of buying, I’d have asked for your dealer’s number because for 50-year-olds like…

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The Good Guys Get No Respect : Bryce Martin’s “The Onaut”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Any way you slice it, saving the world has got to be a raw deal. I mean, let’s say you’ve got super-powers and can do that sort of thing — is there really any way you’re ever gonna get the thanks you deserve?

The Ditko-esque figure of the brave hero who saves a person/city/planet only to silently watch, powerless, as his own life either gets no better or in some way becomes appreciably worse is, of course, a shop-worn trope by now, but it remains an alluring one for cartoonists to deploy. I mean, pathos doesn’t get much simpler or more unsubtle — or more effective. Consider the ultimate example, Spider-Man : after Ditko’s departure, when the character of Peter Parker became a much more standard-issue “good guy” who saved the day, got the girls, and exuded so much confidence it was tempting to think he’d forgotten all about his…

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Deep In The Heart Of “Texas Tracts”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

There’s no polite way to say this, and perhaps as an outsider I’m not even terribly qualified to opine on the matter anyway, but rest assured the following sentiment is shared by millions : the state of Texas appears to be a very troubled — and, in many respects, troubling — place.

I say this fully cognizant of the fact that my own home state of Minnesota has come in for its fair share of negative headlines over the past year-plus, but when a “perfect storm” of lax safety and building regulations, a laughably substandard power grid, and hollowed-out social services budgets did more damage to the people of the Lone Star State than the natural storm that literally hit it earlier this year did, the rest of the nation — and even the rest of the world — became acutely aware of the reality that something was seriously…

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More Of The Same, But Different : Gerald Jablonski’s “Cryptic Wit” #4

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

For a guy who prides himself on being “in the know” about all things small press and self-published, sometimes it’s downright frightening to discover how much can still pass by my notice. I mean, I’m not arrogant enough to assume that everyone making anything worthwhile automatically knows they should send their wares in my direction, but most days my mailbox is full enough that it certainly feels as if that might be the case.

That being said, it’s still inarguably true that a cartoonist has to be “plugged in” to a certain degree to even know who the fuck I am in the first place, and one of the best things about Gerald Jablonski’s comics is how utterly divorced they are not just from the current state of the comics “scene” but from any and all forms of convention in a general sense. The overly-dense page layouts, the way overly-dense…

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The Cosmic Cosmology Of Need : Corinne Halbert’s “Acid Nun” #2

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Corinne Halbert’s work is the sort of stuff that lends itself well to deep and thoughtful metatextual analyses that will or would, I’m fully confident, place it firmly within the now-chic, if ill-defined, body of “sex positive” art, embodying as it does an ethos that not only responds to, but frankly obliterates, such contemporary (and, really, timeless) villains like patriarchy, kink-shaming, modesty, repression, and other shit most people of discernment are bored with. Throw in some noble pro-drug — specifically pro-psychedelic — sentiments, and there’s really no doubt about it : Halbert follows in the rich tradition of those who both preach and practice William Blake’s famous axiom “the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.”

And so it is that I truly hope a dedicated, skilled, and analytical writer will take it upon themselves to situate Halbert’s entire ouevre within a much broader continuum of like-minded aesthetic…

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A Tribe Of One : Jim Blanchard’s “Primitiva”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Running a gamut of garishness and ghoulishness from the grotesque to the giddy, it’s tempting to say that Jim Blanchard’s splendidly-produced mini Primitiva (Noreah/Brownfield, 2019) is something of a “sampler” of the artist’s wares — and while there’s no denying that it is, there’s also more to it than that. And while it’s admittedly not the long-form showcase afforded to the artist by Fantagraphics in books such as Visual Abuse or Meat Warp, that’s not necessarily a strike against it : in fact, the selection of acrylic and ink drawings herein seems hand-selected for its ability to really jump off these slick, glossy, high-production-value pages, which means the aesthetic focus here is —at least somewhat tight?

I realize full well that the beginning and ending of the preceding paragraph contradict each other, but let’s just go with it all the same, because deliriously contradictory (even self-contradictory) imagery has…

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“Please, God – Help Me Be Normal!” Will Make You Glad John Trubee Is Anything But

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

A lot of great art, regardless of medium, comes from a place of deep personal anguish. It only stands to reason, of course — profoundly disturbing imagery, writing, films, etc. are most authentically communicated by profoundly disturbed minds. But does that mean the artist in question can’t be having a good time making it, and that you as a reader or viewer can’t have fun experiencing it?

I ask this because, as the contents of the long-overdue career retrospective Please, God – Help Me Be Normal! (Mucus House Publications, 2021) make abundantly clear, something is up with John Trubee. the very title of his book is a cry for help, and it’s tough to blame the guy for having a constant urge to scream into the abyss. I mean, he sees things in a way that most of us simply don’t — hell, maybe he just sees things that most…

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Love Stinks? Bastien Vives’ “The Butchery”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Crucially, in an extended scene that features a couple playing a game of ping-pong both literally and metaphorically, Bastien Vives fixes his focus solely on the man — not just what he’s doing, but what he’s saying, how he’s reacting, what he’s feeling. The woman, however, is both silent and invisible — and compared to the treatment women receive from the cartoonist in the rest of The Butchery (originally released in its native France in 2017, newly available in an English language edition from Fantagraphics with translation by Jenna Allen), trust me when I say this is a kindness. It’s better not be featured at all than it is to be depicted as, by turns, an unknowable mystery and a frigid, uncommunicative bitch.

Vives drew some heat for the rather “male gaze-y” nature of his recent collaborative graphic novel The Grand Odalisque, but it’s hard to say which…

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