Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Tuesdays With Batman #1: A Cowardly and Superstitious Blog

Once upon a time, in another life, I decided to read EVERY BATMAN COMIC EVER. I quickly realized that this was pure foolishness, not just because of the vast amount of material out there (there has been at least one Batman story published every month for nearly 70 years, and in the last decade, more than one every week), but because of the dubious quality of most of them. But that's part and parcel of the vast amount of Batman stories out there. Likewise, the sheer numbers dictate that there are also more GREAT stories starring Batman than any other comics character (except maybe Jughead Jones).
I don't really have any grand game plan for what I'm going to do with these Tuesdays with Batman entries, but I figured I could use some sort of deadline structure and a project.

First up, something very recent: Batman Confidential #7 (July 7, 2007)

Written by Michael Green, from the tv show Heroes, and drawn by longtime comics vet Denys Cowan, this issue begins a new storyline retelling the first meeting between Batman and the Joker. It's a pretty oft-told tale, with Alan Moore and Brian Bolland's 20-years-old Killing Joke still standing as the quote-unquote definitive version, much in the same way that Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli's Batman: Year One stands as the Batman origin. Ed Brubuaker and Doug Mahnke's recent The Man Who Laughs was pretty okay.

I've never been a big Joker fan, despite having been at that perfect pre-pubescent age to absorb the Joker stories of the 1980s, like Killing Joke and A Death in the Family, that supposedly cemented the Joker as Batman's most dangerous and brutal foe. I guess I just wasn't goth enough as a kid to believe that a dude in pancake makeup and lipstick could or should be scary.
I'm also kinda against these constant retelling of origin stories. While I understand the importance and appeal of Creation Myths, I also don't care to read the same story again and again, with some new novel and edgy twist. But retelling origins has been something of a fetish for DC Comics since the breakout success of Batman: Year One in the 80s.
Since I'm airing all of my prejudices against this comic upfront, I should probably mention that I don't like Heroes either. And the whole Hollywood writers slum in four-colourland gimmick has produced very few positives. In fact, only one comes to mind: Christos Gage, once of the Law & Order franchise, who does pretty good, no b.s., action/crime stuff.
So, with all that out of the way, I'm actually recommending Batman Confidential #7. First and foremost, because Denys Cowan is awesome. In 1989 he did a memorable 3-issue run on Detective Comics (with '89 Batflick screenwriter Sam Hamm), and he drew the mind-blowing Denny O'Neil written The Question series. His style is sinewy and gritty and full of energy. Bad qualities for roast chicken, good qualities for comics art.
There are a couple of narrative threads established, and if you're at all familiar with comic book conventions (not Comic Cons like the one next weekend in San Diego, but the conventions of comic books) and the Batman myths, you know where it's all headed. But what's really impressed me is the theme Green has set up with Batman and his crimefighting techniques set up to stand in for the ideals of Reason, while the Joker will inevitably be the anarchic firecracker in Batman's rational cigar. Not surprisingly, considering my recent awestruckdom over books like Thank You For Arguing by Jay Heinrichs and How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World by Francis Wheen, I'm really looking forward to seeing how Green plays that out in future issues.

MP3: "Batman" by Jan & Dean

Monday, July 16, 2007

Me and What Army?

It was a very exciting weekend. Not as exciting as the forever unchronicled Canada Day Long Weekend, but whatev. The big thing is that Nicole came back from Saskatchewan on Sunday, putting an end to my eight-day-long diet of ketchup chips & Pilsner.
But what might be more exciting to you, dear readers, is that between Friday afternoon and Sunday night I got a bunch of new music.
On Friday, I went downtown to the big Human Meat Vacuum to use a birthday giftcard. As mentioned in previous post, I spent a lot of my solo time just listening to music that I hadn't listened to in a while, and over the course of the week, I got WAY into Luna, thanks to a promo copy of 2004's Rendezvous.
So I was looking for The Best of Luna, hoping for the Beggars' edition, which comes with a bonus disc of cover tracks. I found it, but couldn't tell which edition it was. But it had an "Import" sticker on, so I figured I was in luck. I wasn't. But there was a flyer inside the package pointing me to Lunafied, which is where the covers are at. At 99 cents a pop. SIGH.

But while I was in the L section, I noticed the Lightning Dust album, Lightning Dust. Starring Amber Webber and Joshua Wells of Black Mountain, Lightning Dust is dark and moody folk-type (I dunno, maybe it's that "New Weird America" stuff I keep reading about in Arthur magazine) stuff, though "Wind Me Up" is pretty delightfully upbeat. "Heaven" ends with a nice melodica bit, and Amber Webber's voice is archly great. Oddly, I ended up hanging out with Josh most of Friday night. We are both Royal Trux fans.
MP3: "Listened On" by Lightning Dust

Anyway, not satisfied with a mere greatest-hits package from Luna, I also grabbed the latest alb from former Luna folks, Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips, aka Dean and Britta. Very much a contempo-take on the Lee & Nancy dynamic, but also as breathy and luxurious as the last few Luna albums. Last week, talking about my rekindled fondness for Luna to Cam, I said that they make me wish I had a high-performance car so that I could put Luna on the stereo and drive along the coast late at night. There's the thrill of going fast without the fear of losing control. Their latest album, the one I got, is called Back Numbers, and it's everything I hoped it would be.
MP3: "Our Love Will Still Be There" by Dean & Britta

Not that long ago, I realized the Parkas have a new record. As soon as I realized it, I ordered it. Thing was, since I'm a little moron, I somehow had it sent to my parents' house in Regina, rather than my house in Vancrunker. Luckily, Nicole was in Regina last week, and stopped by to hang out with my darling mother and brought me back some sweet Parka action! I'm still getting to know Put Your Head in the Lion's Mouth, but the early impression is that it's an impressive continuation of the toughening up of the Parkas that started with The Scars To Prove It EP. Here's a really excellent track that kinda makes plain the difference between the Now This Is Fighting Parkas and the Put Your Head in the Lion's Mouth edition, since it's a remake of Fighting's "The Heart Is Only A Muscle".
MP3: "A Change of Heart" by Parkas

Sunday, July 08, 2007

A Tempting Song

It's the summer and it's hot, and a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of summer tunes.
I'm sitting on my back porch in a Tricky Woo t-shirt with a drink. I've got a Dan Fesperman novel that I'm reading by the light coming through the kitchen window. The dishes are done and there's a cool breeze. Somewhere down the block, someone's having a backyard party with what sounds like dancing.
I can see mountaintops dimly outlined in the night sky. Not like at Jesse's place, where I was earlier tonight. We ate hamburgers and played Rummy-O. From his balcony, you can see most of the North Shore and all of the mountains.
There's something magical about having nothing to do. You end up pulling out albums you haven't listened to forever and wondering if you're still the same person who bought it.
I bought The Perfect Little Door because it has Ken Vandermark on it, but I'm listening to it tonight mainly for the Portastatic.

The neighbours' motion sensor lights turn on. A raccoon is moving up their yard. He climbs the fence and looks at me, his eyes eerie and glowing. I meet the raccoon's stare.

MP3: "Late Night Wait Around" by Portastatic featuring Ken Vandermark and Tim Mulvenna

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Take These Pearls, See What They're Worth In Another Place

I was sitting around the house thinking about John Millard and Happy Day. I've been making a lot of mix CDs for work lately, and thinking about relationships between songs and music and trying to reconcile them. But what do you with Happy Day? It kinda doesn't work. The closest thing I could think of to put it next to, to put it in the same room with, is the Hylozoists, if only for the sake of vibes--literal vibes, that is.
But the vibes aren't half the story. There's Millard himself, with his lofty baritone that borders on dorkiness and fantastic lyrics that are sometimes literate and puerile at the same time. And then there's the troubadour banjo style, and then the sort of Andrews Sisters style back-up vocals (so, what, maybe the Pipettes???). John Millard & Happy Day is so wholly singular, that, what the hell, screw a mix CD, just play the whole record.

MP3: "Far Away" - John Millard & Happy Day

BONUS MP3: "Straight Is the Gate" - the Hylozoists

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


The Parkas have a new album, Put Your Head in the Lion's Mouth, and NO ONE TOLD ME ABOUT IT. This is the Internet's revenge for my denouncing MySpace and Facebook. Or is it because I shaved my rhetorical moustache?
I will try to get an MP3 soon, but in the meantime, here's an awesome video for a song from their 2006 EP, The Scars to Prove It. The song is called "Darling, The Wolves".

Ask Me About My Weekend

It was awesome.