Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

What I bought, read, or otherwise consumed – September 2020

There was nothing to do but wait for the next sunset, when the sky would ring like bronze. (Don DeLillo, from White Noise)

September was a tough month for me, not because of anything dire happening in my life, but because I worked a bit more than I had in previous months, and my wife was working hard as usual, so I had to do a bit more with my daughter. I also didn’t sleep particularly well (this has been a fact of life since I moved to the desert lo those many years ago, unfortunately), which seemed worse in September (the monsoon? the slightly “colder” temperatures?), and combined with more work, meant I was really exhausted when I had some time. So I didn’t get the chance to really review the comics I bought in September. Black Widow was fine, and I’ll probably get the trade. Gutter Magic is a pretty good comic, and it would be nice if we could get more mini-series (this is the second one). I’ve always said that Dan Jurgens is the tapioca pudding of comics – he’s bland but inoffensive – but he created Booster Gold, so these two volumes of that book have been like tapioca pudding with cinnamon sprinkled on top – the same as most Jurgens comics, but with the tiniest bit of spice. Breathless is a cool story about pharmaceutical companies doing dastardly things that unfortunately slides a bit too much into a monster story, but it’s still quite good and the art is very nice. The Flash is a nice collection – Guice does more of the art, and his art is good, while Baron is an oddball writer who’s actually not that good, but he comes up with some interesting ideas. Making Wally a HUGE douchebag is one of them, and having him win the lottery is another. Post-Crisis DC writers were really obsessed with how their dudes would make money (Booster Gold, both in his own book and Justice League – with Blue Beetle, of course; Animal, Wally West, and even Green Arrow), and this is an interesting take. Still, I am here for DOUCHEBAG WALLY WEST!!!!! The Immortal Hulk continues to mosey along, with a bizarre tale of Xemnu hypnotizing the planet and a nifty Samuel Sterns story. A Basketful of Heads is fairly predictable once you get past the fact the hero is carrying around a basketful of heads, but it trucks along nicely and Leomacs’s art is terrific. Nobody Is In Control is a conspiracy story, but it’s oddly kind of dull, while Survival Fetish, which is by the same writer, is a book set in slightly in the future in a Honolulu that is divided by gangs and through which a dude runs to make his living as a messenger. You certainly can’t accuse Patrick Kindlon, who wrote both of them, of being in a rut, and while Survival Fetish is a bit better than Nobody Is In Control, it’s also fairly predictable. Garth Ennis and Keith Burns reunite for Out of the Blue, which is a typical Ennis war story, in that it’s quite good although it’s also a bit predictable. Ennis’s predictability is usually better than most’s, though, so it’s fine, and Burns’s art is wonderful as usual. In Catwoman #25, we get three nice stories – the first is gorgeously illustrated by Fernando Blanco, and it’s fine, although why the crooks in Gotham keep looping Selina into their schemes when they know she’ll screw them over is beyond me; the second features beautiful John Paul Leon art and takes Selina back to the neighborhood in which she grew up; and the third also has wonderful art, as Juan Ferreyra draws a story about a cat who doesn’t trust the new cat-like woman in town, Ram V writes all three stories. Detective #1027 is annoying because every story is Batman-centric, even the one about the rookie cop who doesn’t want to take a bribe. I was hoping for a Slam Bradley or Jason Bard story, but sadly, no. There’s a fun Morrison/Burnham story in there, though, and Walt Simonson draws a tale, and it’s definitely not a bad issue, but I wish DC would realize that there have been other detectives in Detective Comics. A fleeting hope, I know. Little Bird features gorgeous Ian Bertram art in service of a fairly bland anti-religion story that features characters who somehow never die despite the multitude of ridiculous wounds they sustain. Bertram’s art makes it worth a look, but the story is just kind of there. Then we get Sweet Heart, which is about weird monsters who pick a person in a small town and simply wait for them to be off-guard, when they eat them. The people know this and take precautions, but one girl decides to stop them once and for all. It’s not bad, although it seems to end too … easily, I guess? Moving on, you can simply never go wrong buying a Steve Mannion-drawn book in which people punch Nazis, and when one of them is Hellboy, it’s a bonus (Mignola draws a couple of pages, but it’s mostly Mannion). Meanwhile, DC dusts off John Constantine for another go, and while Simon Spurrier is a good writer and gives us some creepy and some fun stuff, he twists himself into some knots trying to explain why John is still young even though he’s almost 70, and it’s just a good reason to remember why pegging characters to a certain birthdate or past events is difficult when you never let them go. I’ll probably get the second trade, just because I trust Spurrier, but this was a mixed bag. Curt Pires gives us Olympia, another take on the “fictional person enters the real world,” and while it’s fine, the best part of it is when Pires shows, through his main character’s creator, how comics can break your heart. Yes, they really can. Finally, Bill Williams and Matthew Weldon continue to knock it out of the park with Punchline, which is probably the best superhero book being published right now. The binding on my trade wasn’t great, which is too bad, but that’s really the only bad thing I can say about the comic.

So, how is everyone? I hadn’t started this post for weeks, and then, over the weekend, when I did start it, I thought I’d just write a little about what’s going on in the world. I began it on Saturday, when the “president” was in the hospital, and now he’s out, because he’s such a tough guy. I find it very difficult to begin speaking or writing about him, because I fear I won’t ever stop until my head explodes. This is just the latest in a long line of idiotic things he’s done, and I am hoping so hard for a landslide victory for Biden. I don’t want the rejection of the “president” to be in doubt in any way.

As this pandemic stretches into the foreseeable future, I keep thinking about my situation and why I should be more like my obnoxious conservative friends. This thing hasn’t affected me much at all. Neither my wife nor I has been out of work, and even if I had been out of work, I work only part-time and just for some extra money, so we would have been fine. I’ve mentioned before that the mortgage industry – my wife is an underwriter – is booming, so she’s been working ridiculously hard and making gobs of money. We have more money in our savings than we’ve ever had, and we’ve still been able to get our backyard landscaped and to buy new furniture. The kids were home from school in March for good, and their summer stuff was cancelled, and my younger daughter has been doing on-line school while my older daughter went back to in-person school on 31 August, so that’s been a bit strange but not too awful. I don’t write this to rub anyone’s noses in it if they’ve had struggles (I certainly sympathize, as I’ve been in situations like that), but my point is that a lot of my friends on Facebook – many of whom I knew in high school, so it’s not like I have no idea who they are – seemed to weather this storm pretty well, but they’re really obnoxious about the “fakeness” of the virus and they love our “president.” I haven’t been afflicted with this, and no one I see a lot has been, but I know people who have gotten sick. I know the job situation has hit some people hard – Greg Hatcher most notably, for readers of this blog – and while we’re doing well, I know, because I have a brain, that that’s not the case with many, many people. But I see so many people claiming that everything is fine, and when the “president” reinforces that despite clearly not being well, I get mad, but I also wonder about people.

So many people I know “don’t like politics.” As many of them are white and middle-class, that doesn’t surprise me. I always say that it has literally not mattered who was president for pretty much my entire life because I am white and middle-class, so I sail along perfectly fine (I’m a man, too, but plenty of white women “don’t like politics”). With the exception of the Affordable Care Act, which meant people with pre-existing conditions were covered by insurance, which was a nice codicil but which wasn’t as wonderful as you might think because we could always afford stopgap insurance if my wife lost her job, very little that presidents and even Congress has done has affected me either positively or negatively. There have been modifications to the tax code, sure, but not anything crazy. This extends to the current “president” – he’s dismantling the EPA, which is horrible from an existential viewpoint, but unless I live forever as I’m planning to, his policies won’t affect me too much. I would argue he hasn’t done quite as much horrible as some people say because he’s just that incompetent, but whatever he’s done hasn’t really done much for me, either positively or negatively. And that’s fine. A lot of people probably fall into this camp, but the point is that we’re thinking human beings, so looking simply at your stocks and saying “The ‘president’ is good for me!” is willfully ignoring the vast mass of people that are very much affected by the policies of a president or Congress or the Supreme Court. People are inherently selfish, I get that, and it takes an actual effort to give a shit about others not in your immediate family, but, you know, that’s why we’re adults. I look around and think, “How can people vote for this guy?” Even if you “don’t like politics,” what exactly has he done that is so great for you, personally? Because I bet it’s nothing, if you’re white and middle-class. He probably hasn’t done anything bad for you, but probably nothing good, either. So you look for other reasons to vote for him, and the reasons to vote for him always seem to be about hating someone else. It’s depressing.

Now he’s been sick, and of course he’s the only one in the world to beat it so easily. One of my friends on Facebook went to Walter Reed last weekend to join the rally, and he posted several photos and short videos of himself hanging out, waving at the “president” as he drove by for his unnecessary ego boost. He, naturally, wasn’t wearing a mask. Is it wrong to hope he gets the virus? My second cousin got married a few weeks ago, and her mom posted pictures on Facebook. It was a decent-sized wedding party – eight people, I think – and none of them were wearing masks. That doesn’t matter, because they were wedding pictures and they might have taken them off quickly, but my mom’s cousin is very much a fan of the “president” and her kids like her posts a lot, so I assume they are too, and I can’t believe they were wearing masks at the ceremony. I want them to get infected, too, because it appears that no matter how close this thing comes to some people, they will only take it seriously if they themselves get it. And, as the “president” shows, maybe not even then. This total lack of empathy depresses me. According to my parents, they lack empathy, but they also understand that there are people in this world who are far less fortunate than they are for no fault of their own. I thought that this pandemic might bring that to light for some of the more heinous conservatives I know, the ones who insist they never had any help getting where they are and anyone who isn’t as fortunate as they are is somehow defective. When so many people lost their jobs and insurance for no good reason, I thought it might get through to some people. Alas.

Anyway, the weather is finally changing just slightly here (it’s still hovering around 100 during the hottest parts of the day, but the mornings are glorious and the evenings aren’t too bad), and we can eat outside and actually enjoy it. We haven’t gotten our ballots yet, but I’m planning on voting as soon as I get mine and probably take it to a polling place instead of mailing it. Arizona has had mail-in ballots for years, and there’s never been a problem with it, but I imagine the influx of people voting by mail might strain the system a bit, so I’ll probably just drop it off. I know people are trying to be neutral and just encouraging people to vote, but honestly, if you like the “president,” I’d appreciate it if you didn’t vote. Is Biden the best candidate? Eh, probably not. But he’s certainly light-years ahead of the incompetent, racist, sexist bully we have now. So I really hope he wins in a landslide, because we really need to repudiate this person who tells us the worst parts of ourselves are just fine. No, they’re not.

I’ll try to be back next month with actual reviews. By then the entire atmosphere might be on fire, so who the hell knows? In the meantime, here’s Eddie van Halen doing his thing:


  1. tomfitz1

    Gutter Magic is this the one drawn by Tony Harris? (or was that Chin Music?)

    Breathe, Mr. Burgas, breathe. Too much info in each paragraphs. lol

    I’m not completely sold on the fact that the potus got infected for 2 reasons:

    1) If he’s faking it – it’s a ploy for sympathy votes and publicity stunt;
    2) If he’s positive – he’s being dangerously careless about infecting others around just so he can get sympathy votes and publicity stunt.

    Doesn’t matter what you believe – he’s no longer safe for the American people.
    Vote blue for Biden.

    I’ll say a prayer for you all if the potus wins again. 🙁

    EVH – RIP

    1. Greg Burgas

      Tom: No, Harris doesn’t draw this. You are indeed thinking of Chin Music.

      He doesn’t look or sound well since he’s come out of the hospital, so I’m leaning toward him not faking it. And if he is faking it, it seems to have backfired, and it seems like sympathy for him is not materializing.

      I fear that if he wins, there will be riots, especially if it’s clear he stole the election. Sigh.

      1. Edo Bosnar

        A pretty obvious indication that he’s faking it is that he’s using a steroid. I actually did a double take when I saw that he’s taking dexamethasone, with which I’m familiar because often when our cats or dog get itchy ears due to infections, the vet will prescribe dexamethosone drops for *external* application. It’s a really potent steroid, and it’s no wonder that he may be feeling euphoric at the moment.

        1. Greg Burgas

          Edo: The sad thing is that I certainly wouldn’t put it past him. The other sad thing is that we might never know, as this administration has been more secretive than others, and about a lot dumber stuff.

          1. Edo Bosnar

            Actually, I see I wasn’t making myself clear, or rather, forgot to add a line in my response: I don’t think he’s faking his illness, but I think he’s faking his super-fast and nigh miraculous ‘recovery.’ Hence my point about the steroids.

  2. Trump could have milked his hospital stay for sympathy, but that would require him to look weak, and he’d sooner die. Plus it would require him to do things like not expose his bodyguards to the virus and he’s too big a jackass.
    I’m not surprised by the lack of empathy. I’ve read several accounts over the years of right-to-lifers coming into clinics for abortions and making it clear they’re not sluts like all the other women there that day. Their abortion is totally justified! To give one example.
    Having spent most of my life in the Florida Panhandle (very, very red) I have lots of friends who are devout Trumpites. I’ve unfollowed a number of them so I don’t have to read their political posts and blocked a few as they slide into QAnon or rampant anti-semitism (George Soros controls BLM! The Rothschilds are behind the deep state!).
    The speed with which the anti-semitism has risen to the surface (not just them but in general) really surprised me. Claims Soros is one of the blood-drinking pedophiles in the QAnon mythology are the blood libel updated for 2020.

    1. Greg Burgas

      Fraser: The rapidity with which people were okay with being openly racist again (not they ever stopped being racist, but for years many tried to hide it because of the “politically correct” atmosphere that said hey, maybe stop calling black people monkeys?) is perhaps the most depressing thing of this era.

      1. I’m often reminded of a cop’s statement on a talk show that 10 percent of cops are incorruptible, 10 percent are criminals and the other 80 percent will go with the flow: if they’re partnered with a crook or they see the crooks pay no penalties, they’ll follow suit.
        Trump has reassured the bottom 10 percent that they can let their bigot flag fly and a lot of the 80 percent are following along.

  3. Der

    I think like FraserHerman, Trump doesn’t want to look weak ever(heck, didn’t they try to say that he is not obese? I mean, come on) . I hope that Biden wins in a landslide and then abolishes the electoral college because that part of your elections is just bonkers to me.

    I lived for most of my life in a place similar to where you live, with very high and dry temperatures and then very chilly winters(thankfully no snow) and I moved to a very temperate zone like six seven years ago, completely recommend it if you can do it move to someone colder(but not cold cold, obviously)

    Anyways, Thanks Mr Burgas and all of you, your posts and replies brighten my day, I just hope that the thing you have as president loses and accepts that loss.

    (I got a lot of Conan comics this month yey! Maybe I’ll comment about that other time)

    1. Abolishing the electoral college would take a constitutional amendment and Republican legislatures won’t go for it. Unless of course Kamala Harris wins the White House with a minority of the popular vote in 2024. That’ll make it a slam dunk.
      No argument from me that it should go, though.

    2. Greg Burgas

      Der: As Fraser says, the Electoral College probably isn’t going away. There are plenty of ways to reform it or make it irrelevant that don’t require a constitutional amendment (if you’re unfamiliar with the way that works, 3/4 of the states have to agree to it), so let’s hope the Democrats, if they win, do something like that. Adding Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico (assuming they want to) as states would help, and there’s other things they can do.

      I’ve lived in Pennsylvania (which has nice seasons) and Oregon (which isn’t as cold as Pennsylvania in the winter nor as hot in the summer), and I liked them both. I don’t hate the desert as much as I used to, and sadly, Phoenix might the most tolerable cheap place in the country to live (the Deep South is probably cheaper, but no way in hell am I living there for far too many reasons to list). So we’re probably stuck here, but at least the (too-short) winters are decent! 🙂

      1. Edo Bosnar

        Yep, Der, as Fraser and Greg noted, the Electoral College ain’t going anywhere, unfortunately. And yep, it is bonkers, to put it mildly. That’s one of those things non-Americans understandably find absolutely shocking about the US election system. I remember back in 2000 people here in Croatia approaching me and making remarks like ‘You guys have a system that lets the loser of the election become president, but you have the temerity to send monitors to oversee our elections for irregularities?!’

  4. Eric van Schaik

    From your list I only bought Fearless Dawn/Hellboy (Mignola cover) too bad he only drew a few pages.
    Because of your shelfporn a few months ago I have been looking for the first Conan Omnibus wit BWS art, and I finally found it a week ago, although with the John Cassedy cover.
    After more than a year (14 months) David Lapham finished Stray Bullets.
    The 3rd HC of Umbrella Academy arrived right on time. Yeah!!
    I also bought some european comics last month. The second HC collecting the blue edition Willy and Wanda books. I don’t know if you are fimiliar with them. I read these a lot when I was a kid.

    The new Ayreon album arrived: Transitus. You should give it a try. It’s narrated by the best Dr Who IMO : Tom Baker.
    It came with a comic book drawn by Felix Vega. A nice gimmick, and I think this is a first. Some pages match the songs (after the first few setting up the story).

    I missed Punchline, so I hope that there will be a possibility to get the first TPB when they publish the second one.

    Very sad about the death of Eddie. I’ll miss my countryman.

    In Holland the numbers are going up way too fast which makes me very concerned.
    It doesn’t help that we dutch are stubborn people by nature. In the first period of the pandemic almost everybody followed the rules, but now a lot of people are way to careless. Pubs have to close at 22.00 houres and they go straight to the supermarket to buy beer, which is logical because beer is more important then the pandemic… sigh.
    Even some pastors are disobedient because they want to preach for more than 200 people although our goverment advise against it. The way things are going there is the possibility of a curfew. I hope it can be avoided.

    Trump…… It’s so hard to determine what is true anymore. I think he was sick because he want’s to appear as a strong leader.
    Has America ever been so divided before? It was mind blowing to see the first debate between the candidates. I thought Trump/Clinton was bad, but this…
    Biden (hopefully) becoming President won’t help the division. Maybe both parties will realise that and come to there senses.

    Ending on a high note : we’ve decided about a wedding date. July 5th ’21 will be the day. Yeah for both of us. 🙂

    1. Republicans can’t come to their senses.
      They’ve known for a decade that their old, WASP, conservative base simply isn’t going to be enough to win elections any more. They could have broadened their appeal — Latinos and Muslims have been predominantly Republican voters in the past — but they’re openly embracing white minority rule instead, backed up by cheating, authoritarian measures and whatever other cards they can play.
      How we deal with this I have no idea.

    2. Greg Burgas

      Eric: I love that 10 o’clock at night is way too early – “Let’s go to the supermarket to get more beer!” Just go to sleep, ya nuts! 🙂

      Speaking of a divided country … well, we did have a Civil War … 🙂

      I think one party (let’s hope it’s the Republicans) have to be so utterly defeated in a few elections in a row before they change their strategy and we can have honest debate again. The Republicans lost big in 2018, and maybe this time they’ll think about pinning all their hopes on old angry white people. I don’t think they will, be maybe?

      Hey, congratulations the engagement!

  5. If Republicans were actually still Republicans I’d probably be one. There’s nothing in the Eisenhower platform I disagree with.

    But they’re not. Now mainstream Democrats are the ones that sound like Eisenhower and Republicans sound like either plantation-owning confederate slaveholders or hillbilly Nazi conspiracy nuts, depending on their income. Actual Democrat types who want sick people to see a doctor without risking homelessness and police to be less homicidal get shrieked at for being socialist radicals.

    Here is something no Democrat has ever been able to sell, and I honestly don’t get it. The American people LIKE socialism. We like public roads. We like being able to call 911 for emergencies and have first responders show up. We like social security, we like Medicare, we like public schools and parks and libraries. These are all socialist ideas. But God forbid anyone say so. “Everyone pays a little, no one pays a lot, we get these things we can all use.” How hard is that? But no one can make it go because rich people have it as literally an article of faith that poor people, on some level, deserve to live hard shitty lives, and in some way that I cannot grasp, they got the poorest and most ignorant segments of the American electorate to buy into that.

    We have been up against it a number of times over the last decade with Julie’s medical stuff and WITHOUT EXCEPTION every insurance and medical professional we’ve dealt with has told us flat out that our system is fucked and socialized medicine is the best way to go. No one ever has a good story about dealing with medical insurance, especially for chronic or long-term ailments. Greg has mentioned they are doing okay but I know he’s had to fight these fights on behalf of his daughter. Because everyone does. It never works out on its own. If a patient doesn’t have an advocate that patient is doomed.

    I was mildly conscious of this when I was young and single. Now I’m a guy married to someone who will always need high end medical care and my day job is transporting Medicare and Medicaid patients to and from the doctor. I see the results of the GOP congressional clown car up close, and so lately, most days, I am at best low-simmer angry. I assure you, watching Republicans in Congress smugly going about the dismantling of everything good about this country makes the guillotine solution look more attractive all the time.

    And that’s just health care. You can make that case with pretty much anything Republicans have been allowed to make the rules for. They’ve proven over and over again that they are incapable of governing and really have no interest in it. They’re just feudal lords looting the joint. Trump is the ultimate expression of that but this has been coming ever since Reagan. Trump’s the symptom, not the cause.

    I’m terrified that somehow they will find a way to steal the election. Because Democrats are really bad at energizing voters and if Trump’s horrible behavior was enough it should have been enough in 2016. The hell of it is, all we have to do is show up. If Dems actually vote it will be a curb-stomping Biden victory. But they’ve got to show up. Even then it’s going to take years just to undo the damage and we are going to have to fight the ignoramus GOP base for every inch.

    I hope we’re up for it.

    Oh, and the hardcover edition of Detective #1000 sounds more like what you want, but it’s almost all reprint. Pity nobody thought to do a version of that with new material.

    1. While stealing is a possibility, Trump’s energizing Democrats just fine. Four years ago people could assume despite Trump’s obvious faults things wouldn’t be too terrible (I certainly didn’t think they’d be as bad as they are); nobody has any illusions now. And Trump’s focused on winning more love from his base, not persuading anyone else — and the base only votes once.
      It may be a good sign that Barr’s announced whatever bullshit report he’s working on about the supposed Russia conspiracy won’t come out until after the election. Sounds like he sees the writing on the wall.

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