I’m David: Trusting Your Taste and ‘Love & Rockets’
I’m a simple man with simple tastes. I’m also a critic, and that means that I obsess over my simple tastes in an attempt to both quantify them and convince myself that they aren’t simple. But at the same time… they are simple, and that’s a wonderful thing. I know that I can find something to enjoy in anything that hits a few check boxes. I like stories about crime and violence. I like stories where the gang gets back together for one last job, but one or all of them plans to betray the rest of the team. I like stories where people smoke cigarettes and shoot guns in dark alleys.
I’m David, and I’m easy.Part of my job requires thinking about comics — and by extension, everything else — a lot. Pulling them apart, figuring out who contributed what, learning how to intelligently talk about art as a writer, and generally just figuring out how to translate the language of comics into plain text so you can read it. It’s natural at this point. I use the screenshot function on my iPad like other people use a highlighter when they read. If something catches my eye on a page or in a book, I’ll save it to either study or write about later.
I like knowing why I like things. It can be hard to explain the appeal of something like Akira Toriyama’s Dr. Slump or Inio Asano’s solanin without truly understanding why I like them. (I would start with the buckshot approach to jokes, and the picture-perfect depiction of a quarter-life crisis, respectively.) Figuring out that appeal means interrogating not just the work, but myself. Why do I like Inio Asano’s slice-of-life work, but not Craig Thompson’s? Why am I open to all types of violence and criminal behavior in my books, but not really into romance comics? (Please don’t say it’s because I’m emotionally stunted. I’m sensitive.)
Past a certain point, despite my best effort, there are some things that can be hard to quantify. That’s what happens when you’re too close to a subject, or when it floats your boat in a certain way. I could try and tell you why Frank Miller’s Sin City: The Big Fat Kill is a great — or at least a favorite — comic, but deep inside, I think it’s a great comic because it was my introduction to comics for adults and I read it when I was a teenager. I can intellectualize my interest and talk about Miller’s use of spot blacks, the killer action scenes, and how the narration gives the book a certain pace that works very well for that story, yeah. But I could never tell you why I’ve read it fifty-eleven times since my uncle gave it to me. It just works for me on a level that most things do not, and nostalgia, craft, novelty, my personality, Miller’s personality, and more all add up to this perfect storm where I sit there like a dummy and talk about how “We gotta kill every last rat-bastard one of them” is one of the best payoffs I’ve ever seen in a comic to someone who has clearly stopped listening to me speak.
I’ve learned to roll with it. Having a weird dead zone, a critical blind spot, used to bug me, but I’ve learned that if it’s there, it’s there for a reason, and I shouldn’t be so uptight about wanting to quantify everything I like and crystalize every idea I hold. If I like something, I like it. And now, when I realize that something has flipped that switch? I go for it.
This is a still from the movie Outrage, written and directed by Takeshi Kitano. It’s about explosive drama in a yakuza organization, but it’s also a clip show of gangsters dying in inventive and sometimes cruel ways. People die often, bloody, and ugly. It’s a good movie, but this scene — both the still and the sequence itself — leapt out at me as being one of the highlights of the film. It flipped that switch. Kitano’s passionless expression, the fact that his target is at peace, and the sheer vulgarity of invading a peaceful place with violence scorched itself into my mind.
I could talk about it for ages, but my interest in this scene is something deeper than I could ever properly explain. I can get in the ballpark, but that’s it. But since I like this scene so much, I’m susceptible to things which bring this moment in time to mind. Case in point: this preview image from Michael Lark & Greg Rucka’s Lazarus (longer preview here) I found on Rucka’s tumblr:
There are several obvious differences between the still from Outrage and this clip from Lazarus. I mean, the setting, cast, approach, and everything else is different… but there’s the gun, the position, and the implied cold-bloodedness. There’s something in this that makes my throat tight, my eyes widen, and my brain go, “Yes, please.”
I generally like Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s work, whether they’re working apart or together. I was interested in Lazarus, simply on the strength of the creative team, but that one panel? More than anything else I’ve seen from the upcoming series — with all due respect, of course — that single panel sparked something in me I can’t explain without sounding crazy. Something went click and I was trapped.
It feels weird sometimes, but getting lost? Not being able to explain why I like something to the extent that I do? That can be valuable, too. Don’t turn your brain off for anything. Your brain knows what you like, and can draw connections between things that you wouldn’t necessarily draw consciously. Let it work for you.
sizzlecraft from tumblr asked: What’s the best way to introduce a person to Love and Rockets?
I don’t know! I tried to jump on with Love and Rockets: New Stories #3, which won all types of awards and was widely described as being the best comic of the year it came out, but it was almost impenetrable without having read the prior stories. I could recognize the craft on display, but had a harder time with the story.
I’m planning on reading Love and Rockets eventually. I like the way Los Bros Hernandez draw (With the exception of the weird big boobs thing. What is that about?), and it’s a certified classic, so I should get to it sooner, rather than later. My plan, such as it is, is to start at the beginning and read until I get bored or the series is over. That’ll probably work for you. In lieu of that, Fantagraphics has a suggested reading list.
If you have a question, let me know by leaving a comment or hitting me on Twitter @hermanos. Let’s talk comics, movies, music, video games… anything goes.