- Exposition at the beginning of the film is made completely redundant by flashbacks during the movie which repeat the entirety of the exposition. This might be poor editing, so that the creators thought the flashbacks were not clear enough, so they added the exposition at the beginning, when they should have just trusted the audience.
- Numerous scenes, especially in the first half, of the hero walking or riding away from a burning/exploding building.
- Voice over by the main character.
- Only one female character in the whole film.
Friday, July 30, 2010
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Monday, July 26, 2010
"MacBeth with Mummies" then turns into a "runner" plot, with Will trying to stay ahead of every Mummy from fiction or legend I can find, all of whom are closing in on him as he writes his expose of the entire magical plot, a play named "MacBeth." But, in the end, the best he is able to do is barter for his own life. He will be allowed to live, and James will indeed become his patron, securing both Will and his family's future for a generation to come, but his play is to be destroyed. The truth cannot be allowed to be revealed. But, since Will has already told Henslowe and others that a "MacBeth" play is coming, one will be written for him and put on its place, one which is more flattering to James, and which does not reveal the hidden truth, and which is safe and harmless. And this play, the fake MacBeth, has already been written, by James's Master, the Mummy named MacBeth.
It's sort of like a 17th century Anno Dracula.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
CBS reports that Kannenberg has not yet confirmed he is interested in returning to the blogroll. The White House admits it may have rushed to judgment.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Much of the criticism I have been reading on Shakespeare and Comics dwells on the debate over whether Shakespearean comics are "high brow" or "low brow." Does the presence of Shakespeare in a comic elevate the comic into a higher literary quanta, or does it diminish Shakespeare to be rubbing elbows with Superman? Now, the smarter critics don't try to participate in this debate so much as illustrate how the debate is going on within popular culture. That is, rather than try to take a side, they just point to this argument, rub their collective chins, and say, "Isn't that interesting?" And it is. Shakespeare's such a great target for appropriation because if you can take over and do a drive-by Borg assimilation of Shakespeare, well, you've cornered the biggest mark in the playground. Everything else is small fry and falls by implication. I'm convinced that's why Eisner picks Shakespeare to re-write in "Hamlet on a Rooftop." Shakespeare is the Mount Everest of appropriation. Everyone wants to do him.
Since I've been thinking a lot about Moore, I naturally begin to ask myself, "What is Moore doing when he uses Shakespeare?" Is he taking a side in this debate? Is he trying to show his dominance over Shakespeare, ala Eisner? Is he using Shakespeare to elevate his comic into a higher literary sphere, as I think Gaiman is doing? Or is he bringing down Shakespeare, and making him more of a common man, like what we see Mike Baron do in his wonderful single issue of Badger in which a telephone repairman who "always thought he could have made it as an actor," fights off a demonic invasion using nothing other than perfect command of Shakespeare?
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, in all its various incarnations, certainly wallows in its pop-ness. Many of its characters are from "genre fiction" that has never enjoyed the glow of academic respect. Indeed, Moore seems to take pleasure in using these characters (I am thinking at this moment of the rascist caricature airship captain who appears at the end of Black Dossier, but I would need Jess Nevins' invaluable annotations to come up with a complete list of obscure Victorian and pulp characters consigned to the literary dustbin which Moore and O'Neil breathe new life upon, like Aslan with whooping cough) and "refurbishing" them, giving them new life and new direction, often through their interaction with their fellow pastiche-victims.
But, at the same time, there is no shortage of characters in League who are academic and literary mavens. Orlando and Prospero are probably the two most obvious examples. But it seems that the largest share of characters in this "high/low" divide actually come from pop culture characters who, because of their historical pedigree, have achieved some kind of higher status. I'm thinking specifically of people like Mina Harker, Captain Nemo, Quatermain and Griffin, not to mention John Carter, Dr. Moreau and Sherlock Holmes. These were popular literature characters at the time, but time has made them into literary icons. Very few people read Jules Verne anymore, but he's perfectly acceptable in the Academy and the same goes for Wells, Stoker, and Doyle. There are examples of this from Black Dossier and later works too, but there has been less chance for time to work; we revere 1984 as a literary masterpiece, but I don't know where the Bond novels sit on that fence. I expect that, purely because Bond is more of a film hero than a literary one, that he'd still be considered pop culture by most academics.
Moore doesn't seem to really care what is "high art" and what is "low." His view of comics as a unique and uniquely powerful art form means that it is, to him, powerful, and that's more important than high or low. Moore works in comics because it can do things no other art form can do. And he doesn't shy away from big questions or big answers. Like Morrison, he wants to use comics to change the way people think, or at least give the reader an opportunity to change the way he thinks, if he wants to accept the offer. That's "high art," right there, if the difference between "high art" and "low art" is that the former asks deep questions while the latter seeks solely to entertain. If that's your dividing line -- and it seems a pretty bankable one for me at first blush -- then Moore's object seems to be to, in the immortal words of Joey Tribiani, "put your hands together." Which of course makes me think of Prospero's final lines when he asks everyone to free him "though your good hands." Hm, I think I see the final joke of my chapter forming up there.
But this is not a new thesis for us; Spenser does the same thing in Faerie Queene (Gloriana! How could I forget to mention another example of Moore tapping the vein of high culture, before he turns that same Faerie Queene into a hermaphrodite) when he lays out his two goals: to educate and to entertain at the same time, because no one likes to be preached at and when you're busy enjoying a good story sometimes you never notice you're learning something. See Sidney's "Defense of Poetry," where the same idea is laid out. \
So, looking back, it seems that Spenser, Sidney, and Moore are all sort of waving aside this high-low culture debate and saying the best way to achieve the goal of high culture is to couch it in the terms of the low. Recognize the strengths of each approach and put your hands together. Prospero's appearance in Black Dossier is a logos-based virus, a vector that allows Moore to talk about high-brow concepts in a low-brow venue. In fact, when Prospero shows up at the end, it might be Moore tipping his hand. I mean, you can pretend your book isn't high brow when the only people on the page are pulp adventurers who only enjoy literary status because they've outlived all their rivals. But the moment Shakespeare shows up, you're claiming high culture status, right? OK, Baron doesn't. Baron's Shakespeare is clearly a working man's, blue collar, Shakespeare. Same with Flaming Carrot. But Moore's Prospero speaks in free verse, for crying out loud, even as he's got you putting on 3-D glasses to read it easier. (3-D glasses! Talk about pop culture.) I think when Prospero comes on, for his epilogue in which he looks out of the page at us and explains the way the Blazing World works and what it is for, that's Moore pulling back the curtain on his larger methods and goals. That's when he admits that, yes, I'm using "disposable art" to talk about "immortal questions."
Note: There is a value system evident in League, I think. The better characters, the characters from the better books, they get more prominent roles. They get more things to do and they are more inclined to prosper. It is the characters from the "also-rans," from the dustbin of literature, who are condemned to cameos, to defeat, and to one-panel gags so obscure that no one without the patience of Jess Nevins can get them.
Monday, July 19, 2010
I updated by Shakespeare and Comics Bibliography, below, with a few new pieces and I have done a lot more reading than I have had the opportunity to comment on in these pages. So far, what I can say with some authority is that scholarship on Shakespeare and Comics is pretty solid when it comes to a) adaptations of Shakespeare, or b) Neil Gaiman. Discussion of other comics which use Shakespearean characters or themes, or which might be playing creatively with Shakespeare, are almost entirely absent, with a few notable exceptions. There's a wonderful discussion of a Shakespeare story in Mike Baron's old Badger comic, a couple of mentions of The Cowboy Wally Show, and reference to a Peter David Incredible Hulk five-part story called "Tempest Fugit," but generally speaking, if it's not a clear adaptation of a play, and it's not Sandman, then it hasn't really made it onto the academic radar yet. I found precisely one mention of Moore's Prospero, in a footnote on an article on Gaiman.
I'm now focused entirely on this chapter, which is forcing me to sit down and think about what the hell I have to say. At its broadest level, we're starting with uses of the Tempest in comics. I don't want to do a survey, and my hope is to use Tempest as an entrance into a deeper discussion of Moore's Prospero, the Blazing World, and his play fragment Faerie's Fortune's Found. But I think it is worth exploring other touchstones as well, such as Claremont's use of Caliban and Ariel in X-Men, and I think David's story will go here as well. Long ago, when I first considered writing about Shakespeare in comics, my idea was that Prospero embodied the kind of honorable archvillain stereotype: with his magical lair, his complex scheming, his powers, his ugly sidekick, his beautiful daughter. I mean, isn't this Ras Al Ghul all over? Or Dr. Doom? Or Magneto? These are characters that are intended, on one hand, to be powerful menaces for the protagonists to face, but on the other hand they are crafted to be somewhat sympathetic to the reader.
Of course, Moore turns this back around. In Shakespeare, Prospero isn't the villain at all. He's the protagonist, a hero. After many decades of modern comics in which he has been made the villain, sort of by proxy through various villain aliases, Moore returns him to his proper place as a protagonist, as a hero, without losing any of his traits: he's still a schemer, still with his ugly sidekick, and above all -- still possessed of magic! That has got to be important; Moore's Prospero doesn't give up his magic. He keeps it, but pretends to lose it in order to get the public off his trail. His epiloge at the end of the play is made thus into something of a sham. He's not really stuck and desperate for the audience to "release" him; he has his powers and is slipping off to become a super-spy for Queen Gloriana. He's just playing a ruse on the audience. So although he is a hero, a good guy, a protagonist, he is nonetheless still morally ambiguous.
Not really sure where that is going, or how much I will linger on this "Prospero as Villainous Mastermind" theme when I get to drafting, but for now it helps to get it down on (virtual) paper.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
A Shakespeare and Comics Bibliography
(partial and with an emphasis on Tempest and Prospero)
Abele, Elizabeth, "Whither Shakespop? Taking Stock of Shakespeare in Popular Culture," in College Literature 31:4 (Fall 2004), pp 1-11
Brown, Sarah Annes, "'Shaping Fantasies': Responses to Shakespeare's Magic in Popular Culture," Shakespeare 5:2, pp 162-176
Burt, Richard, "Shakespeare Stripped: The Bard (Un)Bound in Comics," in Shakespeares After Shakespeare, vol 1, Richard Burt, ed., Greenwood Press, 2007
X Castaldo, Annalisa, "No More Yielding Than a Dream": The Construction of Shakespeare in The Sandman," in College Literature 31:4 (Fall 2004). I don't have a copy of this yet.
Friedman, Michael D. "Shakespeare and the Catholic Revenger: V for Vendetta," Literature/Film Quarterly 2010, 38:2, p 117
Gordon, Joan, "Prospero Framed in Neil Gaiman's 'The Wake'" in The Sandman Papers, Joe Sanders ed., pp 79-96, Fantagraphics Books, 2006
Heuman, Josh and Richard Burt, "Suggested for Mature Readers?: Deconstructing Shakespearean Value in Comic Books," Shakespeare After Mass Media, Richard Burt ed., pp. 151-172, Palgrave, 2002.
Jensen, Michael P, "The Comic Book Shakespeare," parts I-III, The Shakespeare Newsletter, vol. 56:3 (Winter 06/07) through vol 57:2 (Fall 07)
--, "Entries Play by Play," in Shakespeares After Shakespeare, Richard Burt, ed., Greenwood Press, 2007, p. 14-73
Lancaster, Kurt, "Neil Gaiman's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream': Shakespeare Integrated into Popular Culture, Journal of American Culture
Lanier, Douglas, Shakespeare and Modern Popular Culture, Oxford University Press, 2002
Luco, Jerry, "Shakespeare in the Sandman: Two Worlds Colliding," Via Panoramica 2 (2009)
Pendergast, John, "Six Characters in Search of Shakespeare: Neil Gaiman's Sandman and Shakespearian Mythos," Mythlore 26:3/4 (Spring/Summer 2008)
Perret, Marion, "Not Just Condensation: How Comic Books Interpret Shakespeare," College Literature, 31:4, Fall 2004, pp. 72-93
--, "And Suit the Action to the Word": How a Comics Panel Can Speak Shakespeare," The Language of Comics: Word and Image, Robin Varnum and Christina A. Gibbons, eds, University Press of Mississippi, 2001.
Sanders, Joe, "Of Stories and Storytellers in Gaiman and Vess' 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'" in The Sandman Papers, Joe Sanders ed., pp. 25-40, Fantagraphics Books, 2006
Westmore, Kevin J., Jr. "'The Amazing Adventures of Superbard': Shakespeare in Comics and Graphic Novels," in Shakespeare and Youth Culture, pp. 171-198, Palgrave, 2006
Obviously there's a lot of Gaiman here, but my emphasis is going to be on Moore's Prospero rather than Gaiman's. So far, I have found only one mention of Moore's work, though for the life of me now I can't remember which article it was in. I know, I know, I need better notes. That's what this blog is for!
"The Comic Book Shakespeare" was published in three parts in the Shakespeare Newsletter, from volume 56:3 (Winter 06/07) to 57:2 (Fall 07). It's a survey of comics which adapt Shakespeare; part one focuses on series which are out of print, part two deals with series which are in print, and part three discusses non-series books. Many of the books discussed are British or Australian, and I expect would be fairly difficult to acquire, but I haven't tried yet. There's just about as many images from these books as you could reasonably expect an article to have, so no complaints there, and indeed much praise, since these images give a pretty solid foothold to those of us who have never read these books and aren't sure if we need to.
Many authors compiling the various "... in comics" lists -- and there are a great many of them -- focus solely on the creation of the list itself. That is, the bibliography. Michael P. Jensen, author of this list, however, shows more willingness to comment and discuss the various titles he catalogues, and I at least am glad. Maybe that's because of the narrowness of his focus; Jensen is not trying to compile a list of "every Shakespeare reference in comics" or anything like that, he's just talking about adaptations. And that means that, in three sections and over half a year, he has time to give us at least a couple of paragraphs about each of the titles he brings up. The series books get discussed largely by series rather than individual books, but it's clear Jensen has read all of them when he occasionally brings up artistic elements particular to, say, the CI version of MacBeth.
This is a great article, easy to find and informative. It gave me leads on several Tempest adaptations I want to read for my chapter, and because Jensen talks about which ones are looser and involve more authorial interpretation, I know which ones might go into the paper, and which ones I can only nod to.