An extremely on-brand links round-up

Oh, have I mentioned I’m excited about Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown? WELL I AM. Here’s Zen Cho on writing three novels and throwing two of them out.

Eliding the horrors of American slavery.

The development of American English and the new London dialect that’s replacing Cockney.

Literary blind spots from famous authors.

Writing letters to trees.

“I don’t see gender/color/difference” is bullshit, and let’s not ever forget it.

An appreciation of Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye, which recently (sob!) ended its run.

What women write about when we write about the apocalypse.

This article about Auroville is shocking because this lady apparently found a liquor store in Pondy. HOW DID YOU FIND A LIQUOR STORE IN SOUTHEAST INDIA MADAM. Whiskey Jenny and I yearned and yearned to find a liquor store while we were in India but we ALWAYS FAILED.

TERROR BIRDS.

The moral, for movie execs, of this Grantland story about the guy who breaks the superhero news stories is probably “Your coat check girl thinks you’re an asshole.”

Starlee Kine launches an investigation to discover Jake Gyllenhaal’s height, and the resulting podcast may actually be the teleological cause of the internet’s invention.

What cultural osmosis has taught non-Harry-Potter-readers about the Harry Potter books. Oh and since I’m in, the illustrated edition of Harry Potter is going to include this and you should get pumped.

I mentioned Sandra Bland in my last links round-up, and the whole story has been making me sad this whole past fortnight. Jamilah Lemieux and Roxane Gay both wrote about it. And since I drafted this post earlier in the week, Sandra Bland has become last week’s thing, and we’re doing Sam Dubose now, and it just never goddamn ends.

ODY-C, Matt Fraction (vol. 1)

Note: I received an e-book copy from the publisher for review consideration.

ODY-C: What.

And look, I didn’t want to say What in that disparaging, not-really-a-question sort of tone. I wanted to say, Hooray! Matt Fraction! Trying things! So to be clear off the top: I support trying things in this bold manner. When you find yourself confronted with a comic that gender-swaps the whole Odyssey and transposes it to a science-fictional universe in which Zeus (a lady) prevented anyone from ever having sons ever again, you have to pause to admire the attempt.

I will give you a second to do that.

Admire. Admire.

Here is my problem, apart from hating the art (because in comics I do truly prefer the art to have nice clean lines and not all muddy blurriness with blurry faces because I have a hard enough time with faces in real life, let alone drawn ones, let alone blurry drawn ones): For all the boldness of the concept, the execution isn’t bold enough. It really is just the Odyssey, but in space and with ladies. The Circe creature lures them in. The Cyclops creature gobbles them up. The trappings are fresh, but the story is beat-for-beat the old one we already know.

I’ve talked about this before: Homer is Homer. If you are going to give us a new take on Homer, it should make us see Homer differently. Fraction’s trying to be Homer, albeit in a science fiction universe where everybody is female. Once you get past the startling and wonderful weirdness of the premise, there isn’t a whole lot more there except the attempt — which fails, I think — at the sound and feel of the original Odyssey. And it is just no use Matt Fraction’s trying to be Homer. Homer has already got that covered.

No one’s sadder about this than me. Matt Fraction is one of my favorite comics writers, and I wanted to love ODY-C. But so far my feelings to it are mainly an urge to reread my dear, dear Odyssey in my dear, dear Fagles translation.

Please congregate in the comments to tell me why I am wrong about ODY-C and should give it another chance.

Crows ARE that good: A links round-up

Yikes, guys. The State of Alabama is investigating claims of elder abuse against Harper Lee. Hopefully everything is fine…

There are many reasons to feel grateful that I live in the times I live in, but here’s another one. Tom Stoppard has a new play at the National, and although reviews of it have accused it of being all ideas and no feelings, I still want to see it. And because of technology, I can. And that is pretty great.

Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction, that widely-beloved power couple of the comics world, are coming for your televisions. I have just ceased to care about any of the Marvel TV shows, and I’ll be caring about this instead.

In other Matt Fraction-adjacent news, Jeff Lemire and Ramón Pérez are taking over Hawkeye after Fraction and Aja finish their run. Sniffle, sob, but — well okay! Their ideas about the series sound rather cool!

Do y’all know about how crazy I am about family corvidae? In case you are like “what, crows are not that good,” let me go ahead and prove you wrong.

Bahahaha.

You have most likely already forgotten about that dress that was maybe blue and black or maybe white and gold. But cast your mind back to those forgotten days, and then read this piece by Megan Garber about attention policing.

A version of the movie Foxcatcher that I would actually watch.

Y’alllllll, I love Eddie Redmayne, I truly do, but why is he playing a trans lady in The Danish Girl? It’s not that I don’t think he’ll be good. I know he’ll be good; he’s a good actor. But I am so tired of hearing “we cast who was best for the rule” as a defense. You know who else might be good for the role of a trans lady? AN ACTUAL TRANS LADY ACTOR I DUNNO JUST SPITBALLING HERE.

In which Kate Elliott reminds writers not to default to male.

A profession I did not know existed: Recording the dialogue used for crowd scenes in films.

Some of my favorite bloggers are launching the Book Blogger Buddy System, where you can go to acquire a blogging mentor or just ask questions about blogging.

Laura Miller is at Vulture to talk about fanfiction.

Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion are making a short-run show about two guys from a beloved canceled TV show, one of whom becomes Matt Damon famous, and the other of whom spends his life making the rounds at various conventions around the world. They got funded almost immediately because those dudes are the best.

An extremely touching article about finding a fat YA heroine in Eleanor and Park.

Happy Friday!!

Reading the End Bookcast, Ep. 17: Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, and Matt Fraction’s Sex Criminals

Surprise comics podcast for you! Whiskey Jenny wasn’t able to record this week, so Randon and I brought back COMICS PODCAST for your delectation and delight. In this episode we read Kelly Sue DeConnick’s run on Captain Marvel, G. Willow Wilson’s new Ms. Marvel, and Matt Fraction’s deeply weird new comic series with Image Comics, Sex Criminals (hear us out). You can listen to the podcast in the embedded player below or download the file directly here to take with you on the go.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Or if you wish, you can find us on iTunes (and if you enjoy the podcast, give us a good rating! We appreciate it very very much).

Here are the contents of the podcast if you wish to skip around:

Starting at 1:21 – We talk about Captain Marvel, a series of 17 comics in the Marvel Now initiative, written by Kelly Sue DeConnick. Captain Marvel is just how I like my comics: Heavy on bickering, light on prerequisite reading from elsewhere in the Marvel universe, and lots and lots of ladies doing stuff.

Starting at 19:00 – Very briefly we talk about G. Willow Wilson’s new Ms. Marvel, which features Muslim teenager Kamala Khan. There’s only one issue of this so far but we’re excited to see where it goes from here.

Starting at 22:50 – We talk about Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s deeply weird and wonderful new comic, Sex Criminals. The cover of the first issue looks like this.

Sex Criminals

Hear us out! It’s really a very good comic, and we think you should check it out.

35:18 – Closing remarks and outro.

Credits
Producer: Captain Hammer
Photo credit: The Illustrious Annalee
Song is by Jeff MacDougall and comes from here.

Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye is out in trade paperback today!

As requested, I am posting this reminder about the release of Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon. My review of the series is here. The gist of it is that Matt Fraction and David Aja have produced something really cool, stylish, and unique, and you do not need to be in on all of the Marvel backstory to think it’s incredible. Go buy it immediately. Buy it at your local comic book store if possible! Buy several copies for your friends and relations. It’s not fair to this character for everyone to be thinking of him in terms of boring oatmeal Jeremy Renner.

The new Hawkeye comics you maybe haven’t yet realized you want to read but you totally should because they are amazing. Wait, hear me out.

I know! You don’t want to read the new Hawkeye comics because comics are expensive, Hawkeye is boring, and Marvel comics are too mythology-heavy for a newcomer to leap into. But you’re so wrong. Unbeknownst to you, you really do want to read the new Hawkeye comics. Let me explain real quick why your objections to doing so are inadequate.

1. Single-issue comics are an expensive habit. So borrow a friend’s. Or if you can’t borrow a friend’s, just pay the three bucks a month. If you take a year’s subscription through Marvel, it’s still about the same cost as one hardback book. You buy books all the time. Subscribe to a comic this one time. (Or wait for the trade paperback to come out in March of this year.) The covers are stylish, and as I’ll describe in more detail below, the comics are very very very good.

See? Attractive.

2. Hawkeye was the boringest Avenger in the Avengers movie. Yup, he was. That is a correct assessment. Partly that’s the writing — it’s hard to be cool and interesting when you’re (spoiler alert) turned evil within five minutes — and partly it’s that Jeremy Renner (sorry, Hurt Locker fans! I am sure he was great in Hurt Locker but I’ll never know because I’m not watching that movie) is bland like oatmeal and a bad archer. Plus, when everybody else in the movie gets a bunch of opportunities to be awesome and ass-kicky, and one character gets very few and has no superpowers, you obviously end up thinking of that one character as the weakest link.

Luckily for us all, the Hawkeye comics in question are about Hawkeye when he’s not hanging around with the Avengers; i.e., when he’s just being a regular guy trying to do right by the world. The first issue is about him trying to get his shady thug landlord not to raise the rent on all the tenants in his building. The second issue’s about him trying to foil a robbery. The writer, Matt Fraction, has said that his vision of Hawkeye is someone who just can’t help being a good guy — like, he’d help you move your couch even if it was raining outside (says Matt Fraction). What can I say? I’m a sucker for that kind of thing.

Also, he acquires a dog. He renames it but it’ll always be Pizza Dog in my heart.

Ehn is right.

3. All the mythology is too hard to get into. Nope, it isn’t. This one’s my big reason for never reading any Marvel comics — the canon’s too voluminous — but the Hawkeye books are very light on the mythology. The writers aren’t telling a big extended story. They’re telling a bunch of small stories. If you’ve seen a few of the superhero movies in the last few years you’ll be fine.

So okay. That’s your objections resoundingly put paid to. Now that I’ve dealt with the reasons not to not read the Hawkeye comics, here are the reasons to read them:

1. The two main characters are a delight (to each other and to you). The two main characters are Clint Barton (regular Hawkeye) and Kate Bishop (also somehow Hawkeye? I don’t know the mythology on this and you don’t need to either; she shoots like Hawkeye does), and they enjoy and excel at working as a team. I was in for this as soon as Clint 1) talked all about how great and awesome Kate is, as you the reader are watching her be great and awesome; and 2) said he didn’t want to sleep with her. Yay! Not everyone has to constantly want to sleep with everyone else. Kate and Clint get a kick out of each other, and they have each other’s backs. What more could you ask?

2. Everyone wears purple. This isn’t anything. I like purple, that’s all. The palate of the comic is overwhelmingly purple. Yay.

3. The art is really nice. I guess the purple thing could have been subsumed into this, but I love purple so much! It feels wrong to pretend I love purple less than I do. Anyway, the art is really nice as a whole. The action shots are elegant and cool. The quieter, chattier panels do an amazing job of conveying subtext through body language. There are a few panels I kept going back to because the way the characters’ faces were tilted and how their arms went, damn it just said everything. Way to go, artist David Aja.

4. The dialogue is understatedly wonderful. It is all charming all the time. Hawkeye’s inner monologue is extra charming, especially when you consider that inner monologues are basically voiceovers, and voiceovers are hard. These ones are the perfect balance of sincerity and humor and self-deprecation. I know I’ve just two seconds ago praised the dynamic between the two main characters, but I’m going to do it again because this page, where Hawkeye is blown away by how perfect Kate is at her job, blows me away with how perfect everyone who worked on this page is at their jobs.

Perfect.

There is also this joke. It’s maybe not the first time this joke has been made, but it’s made completely charmingly here.

5. The stories have complex, interesting, inventive structures. Y’all know I love a story with a tight structure. I particularly love Hawkeye #3 for this, although all of the issues are good. The unifying theme of #3 is that Hawkeye has made nine really bad decisions that day, and he ticks them off for you one by one and that’s the story. It all has its roots in Hawkeye trying to get some tape to label all his ridiculous trick arrows (this in the vein of Hawkeye being the Avenger who’s just a dude), but as he’s trying to get that task accomplished, he ends up in a big car chase shooting trick arrows pretty much at random. A small inset panel shows a close-up of the arrow with a label (acid arrow, smoke bomb arrow, etc.), and below that is a panel showing the damage being done by each. It is so damn cool.

6. When I finished reading the six issues that existed as of December which is when I read them, I felt real sad. I felt so bummed out that I had reached the end of the comics to be read, I read two of them over again. (The third one and the last one.) Then I gave all six to Mumsy to read (she liked them), and when she gave them back I read them again. And then the first one again. After that I let Legal Sister read them, and after that I returned them to Captain Hammer, whose comics they were. As soon as I got home that evening I regretted giving them up because I wanted to read them all again. This is all in the course of one day. That’s how delightful and readable these comics are. Read them tomorrow.

Aaaaaa, I love this comic so much. When the first volume comes out in March, I will want to buy a copy for everyone I like. It’s just so good. Read it. Read it. Read it. You’ll thank me later.