Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Farewell To Doctor Strange, Hello To This Month's Q!

Q #321 is out today. Read your way through Dorian Lynskey's timely piece on snob-fans, Charles Shaw Murray's recollections of Bowie, a cartoon map of Ziggy Stardust's London, and a host of other features, and you'll later or sooner bump into Q Comics. There your blogger has the pleasure of reviewing Gillen and McKelvie's Young Avengers, Will Morris's The Silver Darlings, Waid and Samnee's Rocketeer: Cargo Of Doom, Tobin and Coover's Bandette, and Niles and Mitten's Criminal Macabre: Final Night. Oh, and Red Hood & The Outlaws, but that doesn't detain proceedings for long, I promise.

And the final post in the series about Steve Ditko and Stan Lee's Doctor Strange has been posted at Sequart. (Try here.) In it, I get the chance to discuss the fact that Strange and the Ancient One often behave as if they were the rightful rulers of the world. It's all very thrilling watching them brainwash everyday mortals into forgetting that magic even exists, and there's much to admire about the way in which the two of them manipulate extra-dimensional politics. Yet underneath that is a worrying sense that typical women and men can't be trusted with the knowledge and power that Earth's sorcerers take for granted. For all that Strange and his mentor are fascinating characters, there is something rather unsettling about their attitude to the likes of you and I.

Next week, I'll start posting sections of chapters at Sequart which may, or perhaps may not, be heading for Shameless!, the book about Mark Millar's superhero comics which I seem to have been working on forever. I'll be very grateful if you'd consider popping over to Sequart and letting me know exactly what I've got wrong.

Finally, should anyone still be reading this most minor of posts, and should they fancy nominating a title from tomorrow's releases that they think I ought to pay attention to, I'd consider it a most welcome nudge.


  1. I'm definitely looking forward to those excerpts--and the book itself! When the book is done and sent to press, will you start on your five year endeavor to make a graphic novel of your own?

    In terms of nominations: I'm sure you already have your eye on it, but Batman Inc. #8! Batman Inc. #8!

    1. Hello Vik:- You're an egg to say so. Thank you.

      The ludicrous graphic novel project does rumble on. Whether it's that or a historical novel that I absurdly embrace after Shameless is up in the air. As in, they're both entirely daft ideas and I shouldn't be doing either. Whichever one seems the most entirely impossible will probably get the vote.

      Batman Inc #8? Argh, I was thinking of avoiding it. It looks like a minefield of intra-blogospheric snakepittery. But you have got your vote in early :)

    2. Ah, I'm certainly not the only one with that sentiment regarding your book. I only became a regular reader of this blog last year; there are people who have been waiting years to read some of it! :)

      Mm, I'm sure it'll be fine (your endeavor and the result of it). I don't think either is /too/ out of reach, but I've never attempted either myself.

      To be honest, my first vote was for a different book, as I assumed others would vote for Batman Inc. #8. I actually had Betty and Veronica Double Digest #210 in mind. The Betty and Veronica books are the most popular of the Archie offerings saleswise, and you have given your take on children/young teen comics in the past, and the only "Archie" tag on the right bar is Mr. Goodwin--so why not? I come across the Riverdale Gang's Double Digests often and would've loved to hear what you thought of them--I actually enjoy their half-timeless, half-anachronistic quality that lasts until someone mentions the year or a modern technology. I held back because I think Archie and his friends are uncommon on U.K. shelves--

      --and I was so frustrated by the fact that I had to bring you closer to a headache by voting for Batman Inc. Or something. Please allow me to recast my vote if my first choice is available in your area.

    3. Hello Vik:- Yes, that Millar book really had better be written, hadn't it? I've just spent several hours trying to write more, but all I've managed to do is remove about 300 words from what was there. Pah.

      I did review Life With Archie in Q last year, and featured it, for whatever it's worth, in the lists I made of comics which make today a Golden Age for new comics here at TooBusy. Archie very much isn't a feature of the UK's cultural history, but I'm a big admirer of how they've approached matters cultural and storytelling in the past few years.

  2. May I suggest Fraction and Alllred's FF #4? It'll have incredibly pretty art even if you don't like the writing.

    And may I say how much I've enjoyed your essays on the Ditko/Lee Doctor Strange? So much so that I bought a new copy to re-read those classics with your commentary in mind. I look forward to reading the final chapter.

    1. Hello Carey:- I have been enjoying the FF. You're quite right that it's lovely art, and I've been enjoying MF's stories far more there than in the other 4 title. I had forgotten it was out this week, for Marvel's publishing schedule has me rather confused. But I shall order a copy and I appreciate the nudge.

      Thank you for being so kind re: the Strange pieces. It's very much appreciated, and of course, the more of us who buy the collections of those issues, the more they'll stay in print for the next generation. I myself went through a Masterwork and an Essential writing these posts. Still, there's something endearing about a VERY well-read book, even as there's something depressing about the cost of replacing it :)

  3. Colin, I've just finished reading your Dr. Strange posts; really enjoyed them, and won't bother sharing all of the thoughts that popped into my head as it would make this post too lengthy. Besides, mostly I found myself agreeing with your views, esp. with reference to the Ancient One, and his unique (for Marvel at the time) relationship with his protege. Actually, what I really need to do is re-read the Lee/Ditko run on Strange and then re-read your posts - but when will I find the time to do that any time soon?
    Anyway, although I know you have tons of other things on your plate, I'm a bit sorry it's all over...

    1. Hello Edo:- Thank you for saying that :) Of course, I wouldn't want or expect you to agree with most, or indeed any, of what I said. But I do appreciate you taking a look at the pieces, and if I can be of the slightest encouragement for anyone to read those tales again, then I'm a little chuffed and I can't deny it.

      I really am grateful that Sequart was willing to host those pieces. I learned so much from taking a run at such a longer piece. Certain things just seemed to arrive out of the blue after weeks without my ever suspecting they existed; the "foreign policy" of Strange and the Ancient One, as they maintained the balance of power rather than serving any democratic ideals, was one of those. So was the realisation that there was a basic distrust of folks' ability to process dangerous, threatening ideals in those stories.

      In short; the Ditko/Lee Doctor Strange is an endlessly fascinating business, and I believe that even more now.

    2. Hi, Colin, Edo, fully agree about the "endlessly fascinating business" of Ditko/Lee's Dr. Strange, which along with the Ditko/Lee Spider-Man and Kirby/Lee FF & Thor & regard as the best of Marvel's mid-60s output. The story I found most interesting in their run was when Doc was prevented from making any magical gestures or uttering any spells at all but had to rely entirely on his wits and physical ability, which was only that of a reasonably fit middle-age man with some martial arts training. Many later chroniclers of Strange's tales made him far too powerful, but Ditko noticably limited him to a few specific spells with particular visual effects. Rarely did Ditko's Strange appear to be shooting powerbursts from his hands as depicted by so many other artists.
      Also amusing that Ditko's Strange was willing to sacrifice himself for a humanity he often seemed to have contempt for, but even Peter Parker appeared to be going in that direction during Ditko's last year on that title. I'm sure both reflect Ditko's Objectivist mindset, although to be honest people of any political orientation may love people in the abstract while disdaining the behavior or beliefs of the masses.
      At any rate, there's plenty of magic in Ditko's maginificent art, but that took training and constant practice, along with a heavy dollop of imagination, rather than reliance on supernatural forces.

    3. Hello Fred:- The scene of Strange's body - minus its astral self - floating in a water tower in the story of Mordo's three lieutenants is just one of a number of remarkable images in the tale you refer to. It's a claustrophobic and still-disturbing story, and as you rightfully say, it's part of a process of limiting Strange's powers. Since then, there's been the problem you refer to, which is that the character can do SO much. Ditko and Lee tended to work to undermine his power, either through limiting his options or putting him against the likes of Dormammu and Eternity.

      Strange's attitude to humanity is paternalistic at best, but it does seem to me that it's that Sorceror's Code which drives him to help rather than any belief in the race's value and rights. It's another one of the contradictions in the series which helps keep it alive. For on the one hand, Strange is our ever-willing defender, and on the other, he doesn't trust us to even know that magic exists.

      So much potential, so often entirely ignored :-(

  4. I cannot speak for others, but I am very much looking forward to Shameless, Colin, as the majority of Millar critique on the web is quite entitled and irrational and seems to stem from his trying to make Robo Hunter or Wolverine more accessible. Like or loathe him, his influence has informed the writing of a generation to the point I was convinced at one stage that Brian K Vaughan was one of his pen-names. I still have my suspicions about that Jason Aaron, too...

    1. Hello Brigonos:- Having just binned the fourth attempt in two days at the opening chapter, Shameless continues to, er, task me. But thank you for saying so. The conversation about Millar has somewhat declined with his absence from either of the Big Two, but it is such a polarised business. Over here, the Millar die-hards who refer to him as "the Boss" on the Millerworld boards, and over there, folks who feel that nothing he's ever written should ever be discussed respectfully because he's a monster. There's not so much between the two at times.

      As you say, his influence has been incredible. Modern comics bear his print more than anyone else since Millar and Moore. (Indeed, it could be said that their influence has involved aspects of their work being taken out of context, whereas Millar's style and content has become standard issue.) The way he adapted Ellis's widescreen approach has become the industry-standard. The New 52 is in many ways an example of the worst of Millar without his remarkable craft.

      I didn't say I'm a huge fan of that post-2000 storytelling method he's developed. At times I am, at times not. But my gawd it's been influential.

    2. I wouldn't worry about the decline in Millar discussion, as he's got Kick Ass 2 coming out, and that should make him a topic of interest again, as well as Supercrooks should it ever appear, and Wanted 2. Plenty of time to get a bit more material in the bag and for interest in the book to rise and wane and rise again - Millar is a good choice of subject in that he's certainly not too long out of the limelight.

    3. Hello Brigonos:- You're right of course. There's also the SF/Superhero book with Frank Quietely, his film role working on the non-Avengers properties and so on. Millar will never be out of the spotlight for long. He likes it there and only an idiot would argue that the things he does deserve at least some of the media coverage. (The articles about him nearly choking to death on bird-seed in Scottish tabloids might not be so easy to justify, mind you.)

    4. I've long been (not-quite-so)patiently awaiting the conclusion to your epic essay on Doctor Strange. Now that the piece is completed, I am excited to take it all in.

      I am quite sure that a fine writer and scholar such as yourself (which I know, as I've read some of your other works) will present even an old Strangeophile such as myself with interesting insights and new nuances to ponder.

    5. Hello P:- That's such a generous thing to say, and coming from the blogger responsible for


      too! Thank you for being such a generous egg to someone who knows far less about the good Doctor than you do. I'm glad the posts were of some little use :)

    6. Well, I FINALLY had a chance to sit down and read all 12 installments.

      OOOohhh, great stuff!

      I printed it out so that I could write annotations and comments in the margins.

      I'll post comments to each section over the weekend.

      You have a Wonderful grasp of such nuanced works!

    7. Hello ~P~ Thank you for casting an eye on the material. I fear its limitations are evident, but at least I'd hope my respect for the material showed through. The source material is so rich that I'd find myself having to try to shift my arguments every week. In fact, the final one of the posts saw me trying to work in a really obvious point that had previously escaped me. But it was really good writing practise, and, more importantly, I came out of the process with an even greater respect for Ditko and Lee's work. Which, when you think how many times I found myself re-reading the material, shows how fascinating it is. As the late and already much-missed Roger Ebert suggested, a masterpiece brings something every time you experience it.