Casanova is one of my favorite things ever. It is, for my money, one of the best projects of the last 2 decades. It does a lot of things very, very right, and almost nothing wrong. It's filled with big ideas culled from every corner of pop culture and transformed into something new, and beautiful and weird. It's astonishingly dense, no doubt in part because of the impeccable cartooning skills of Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba, who managed to pack impossible amounts of information into even the smallest crevices. It is never lost in the flood of big ideas; those set pieces are always there to serve the characters, and the story (which is there to serve the characters). It's astonishingly raw, and honest, and heartfelt, and you can see Matt Fraction bleeding on every page, and you can see Moon/Ba spattering their brains on those same pages like a grey-matter Pollock painting.
Perhaps most notable is that it indulges Matt Fraction's obsession with, and exploration of, format. There aren't many writers working in comics today who are so interested in this aspect of the craft, of effect. Matt Fraction himself seems to reserve this impetus for special projects with special artists, no doubt understanding that most artists aren't interested in (or maybe capable of) the kinds of formal diversions and experimentation that he is. You can see it in his blog, as he takes apart the work of masters like Miller to see how they accomplished what they accomplished. You can see this process study coming out in works like Fraction's Hawkeye with David Aja. Less so on projects like Invincible Iron Man or Fear Itself or whatever else.
But more than anywhere it's in Casanova. Perhaps in the future I'll dissect some of my favorite tricks and issues, but just generally speaking he plays with a lot of different mechanisms - first person narrator, 3rd person omniscient narrator, digressions, info-panels that come from nowhere and aren't explained, speculations, timelines juggling...It's an impressive testbed for Fraction's craft, I think.
That, by the way, was a digression because on today's "My Favorite Things" I won't be showing you an example of that kind of craft. I'm not sure I could, without a long analysis and reproducing whole issues to give one a sense of how it all works today. Instead, I'm going to put up one of Fraction's beautiful Big Ideas.
The scene needs no intro; Fraction delivers everytyhing you could possibly need to know in the space of a page or two, and then leads into it.Without further ado, I present
Casanova Quinn vs God by Matt Fraction, Gabriel Ba and Sean Konot
For those of you in the states, I hope you had a good labor day. For those elsewhere, a good monday!
This week we have the start of a new feature I call "Billy and Tawny". The elevator pitch (detestable phrase) might be "Shazam by way of Calvin and Hobbes". It consists of a number of short strips, generally 2-5 panels in number, written by me and drawn by generous, fantastic artists of all styles and backgrounds. They will feature Billy Batson and his alter ego Shazam, and often a character from out of his whimsical past, Tawky Tawny the Anthropomorphic Tiger with impeccable style. Like Calvin and Hobbes the strips will (hopefully) range from funny to heartwarming to philosophical.
My hope is that we'll manage a weekly schedule, though of course that depends on the schedules of the fine ladies and gentlemen who have offered their time to draw them. If you're an artist and would be interested in collaborating on one (or writing/drawing it completely!) please let me know!
I have had an inordinate amount of fun writing these, and watching fantastic artists bring them to life. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I've enjoyed writing them!
For the final part of our Kirby celebration, I aim to honor the man in the way I think he would have wanted most; by creating new characters, new situations, new worlds that are relevant and compelling.
Here is a design for the protagonist of my project with co-creator Juha Halme. Juha did the artwork, naturally, and killed it. You'll see more soon.
Jack Kirby was all about new ideas, sometimes in the form of new spins on old characters, sometimes in the form of new characters completely. Continuing our celebration of Jack Kirby's Birthday, I thought I'd post up a fan pitch I wrote just after Final Crisis for a "Seven Soldiers" ongoing team. It's a bit stupid and a bit fun to engage in these sorts of things, so I hope you'll indulge me.
For an ongoing I felt you had to abandon the nature of Grant Morrison's reformulation of the concept of a post-modern super team - literally deconstructed, as they never meet - for something a little bit more classic. As a high concept Morrison's Seven Soldiers is, of course, brilliant and reinforces a worldview that I personally subscribe to, but in practice it severely limits the potential of character dynamics and demands increasingly outrageous plot contrivance to make it work.
That said, I wanted to keep the aesthetic, gritty and weird and full of magic, super science and wonder, not quite Vertigo but not quite superheroes, either. Straddling that line. SHADE was my personal favorite super-organization in the DCU, and was introduced in Seven Soldiers, so it seemed appropriate to use them as a corralling agency and driving force. Of course, years later Jeff Lemire used an identical mechanism and even a near-identical title for his "Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE" ongoing in a pure case of synchronicity (and, as a result, i was quite excited for that one, though he went in a direction that didn't work for me)
With the SHADE mechanism in place certain characters from the original, I thought, didn't or wouldn't fit that grouping. Klarion was an explorer, not a defender, and with what could he possibly be bribed or cajoled? He cared for nothing but himself, Teekle, and new experiences. Zatanna was firmly grounded in the superhero universe; she was just too big, and too bright, for this(hypothetical) kind of book, which would have a kind of early-Vertigo Doom Patrol feel to it. Manhattan Guardian, like Zatanna, was too bright and vibrant and straightforward for it. Plus, I didn't see it as plausible that he would be particularly desired, nor that he'd want to leave his prestigious job - a job which had given him back his confidence - to do it. The whole point of Bulleteer was that she would NOT become a superhero (even if fate was conspiring against her there), so she was out. I wanted the team to be gender diverse, so I chose The Bride instead of Frankenstein. From there I started to pick characters I personally enjoyed, I created one, and then picked a few that were somehow related to Seven Soldiers or Grant Morrison to fill out the cast.
The pitch is heavily grounded in DC continuity at the time, as you'll see, most of which is now totally defunct. Speaking of defunct, at least two of the characters cannot be used as they were created with an eye towards creator participation (as it should be!). The pitch, then, is completely nonviable, but hopefully not without it's charm.
If you're reading this blog, I shouldn't have to tell you about Jack Kirby. His impact on the medium is unparalleled and inarguable. The majority of what we're reading, and watching, today is built on the back of the ideas that sprung forth from his brow, fully formed, crackling with kirby dots and pathos.
From the depths of his imagination he plucked gods and monsters, newsboys and patriots, flying cities and living worlds, the dispossessed and creatures who were possessed. There was no limit to the variety of characters and places he could imagine, no limit to his ability to ignite the imaginations of generations to come like some living, eternal torch.
What is sometimes lost in the warmth and the praise is the affirmation that this brilliance spread to the execution of his writing, too. Nowhere was this more clear than in his Fourth World Saga at DC. In typical Kirby fashion, each issue was packed with content, but more than that each story was packed with meaning, with depth and nuance that was not only unheard of in its day, it remains a supreme rarity in the entire medium. With a surprisingly few exceptions, none have fulfilled the intellectual and emotional promise of Kirby's work in this moment, with deeply personal stories writ large on a backdrop bigger than a universe.
Kirby, it's rumored, had a soft spot for 'Himon' as his favorite issue of the saga, but for me it has always been "The Pact". I see something new every time I read it; to this day, I have to sit in awe when I see what this guy with little formal education could put on the page, and in my mind. I've reproduced part of the issue below, for your perusal.
Today is Jack Kirby's birthday. He would have been 97.