Comics

Missed Directions Swansong: Sometimes They Shine

Into The Breach: Maybe the idea of poring over Missed Directions has been a Missed Direction itself.

These literary staples, these superheroes and their fictions, sometimes they are Missed Directions and Sometimes They Shine...

There is a saying that “if you don’t know where you’re going any road will take you there.” In that sense, there are no missed directions. Any way one looks there are opportunities for new adventures, dangers, successes and failures.

Things are especially like this in the world of comics. If there’s no experimentation, no boldness there can be no chance at greatness in storytelling.

And with that, also, comes the occasional foible.

I’ve always been a DC man. I probably always will be. I think it’s something that fans lock into fairly early on. In baseball you’re either a National Leaguer or an American Leaguer. Why should comics be any different? Fans of DC and Marvel exist in largely different universes with the occasional crossover aficionado who likes aspects of the two. Both, in fact, celebrate the worlds of wonder readers get to experience through the creations of innovative writers and artists.

Fittingly, this blog has been about the DC Universe--a universe for which I have a great deal of passion. This segment’s title, Missed Directions (also shared by another blog that looks at the Marvel side of things) has aimed exploring what is working and not working within, in this case, the DCU. Oftentimes, when cranking out comics each month it seems like creators take some missteps that can take years to right. But, sometimes they shine. And it’s those moments that readers (and critics) wait for.

I’ve begun to wonder whether or not Missed Directions is itself a Missed Direction. Whether or not spending so much time poring over the missteps, we might not miss the times these books shine.

Most of the time, it’s certainly seemed appropriate. I’ve endeavored to point out when things go wrong as a missed direction and, also, that stopping things when they’re going right would also be a Missed Direction. Now, I think it may be time to take blogging about DCU in an even newer, critical direction. Not so much about what works and what doesn’t--though that’s certainly a part of it--but about the essence of the DCU, its characters, titles, storyarcs and comics in general.

It’s also always important to remember the difference between criticism and cynicism. Like many of you, from time to time I’ve been tempted to abandon titles--most recently Batman--having been greatly dissatisfied with the direction of the multi-titled series--despite the great efforts that go into it. I’ve thought it over back and forth. And, of course, comics titles have an ebb and flow to them with, for instance, the recent quasi-redeeming Batman #700. Ultimately I’ve come to the conclusion that in abandoning a title I might miss something--like that next brilliant high point.

Plus, I’ve fallen in love with Batgirl again. In comics, everything is cyclical.

Until next time, loyal readers, remember there are, ultimately, no Missed Directions only different places along the path. See you there.

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

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Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

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From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

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As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

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Acid house legends 808 State bring a psychedelic vibe to Berlin producer NHOAH's stunning track "Abstellgleis".

Berlin producer NHOAH's "Abstellgleis" is a lean and slinky song from his album West-Berlin in which he reduced his working instruments down to a modular synthesizer system with a few controllers and a computer. "Abstellgleis" works primarily with circular patterns that establish a trancey mood and gently grow and expand as the piece proceeds. It creates a great deal of movement and energy.

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Beechwood offers up a breezy slice of sweet pop in "Heroin Honey" from the upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod.

At just under two minutes, Beechwood's "Heroin Honey" is a breezy slice of sweet pop that recalls the best moments of the Zombies and Beach Boys, adding elements of garage and light tinges of the psychedelic. The song is one of 10 (11 if you count a bonus CD cut) tracks on the group's upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod out 26 January via Alive Natural Sound Records.

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