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The Indisputable Matt Maxwell Presents:



To tell you when I’m writing this, everyone is spitting coffee or herbal chai into the monitors right now over the Marvel/Disney news. Here’s a couple quick takes on that before we get on to the main event.

1) People are comparing this to the Disney/Pixar merger, saying that everything will remain as it once was. Only you can’t compare Marvel and Pixar in their relationships to Disney. Pixar was making movies with direct assistance from Disney (ever see what TOY STORY was going to be before the crew went into story conferences with Disney?) for the entirety of its existence, with Disney distributing the movies after production. Yes, there was friction before the merger, but a lot of that was pre-deal posturing. Marvel doesn’t have a relationship like that, not even West Coast Marvel.

2) This is about intellectual properties. Not about comics. Maybe book distribution will get tied into this, but I’m not positive on that. Then again, I didn’t see this coming, so who knows. But Marvel books are being carried by Diamond, right? Who’s Disney being carried by? But I’m sure this’ll all be take care of and Diamond can continue to count on its percentage of Marvel’s 40% of the DM, right? Then again, maybe Disney can figure out a way to get books into the hands of kids.

3) I can’t wait for the AGE OF APOCALPYSE ride. Same with the CIVIL WAR interactive experience.

Okay, now the main event. Which is clearly much more important than any of this business.

I listen to NPR when I’m driving around. And yeah, I’m yelling at the radio about as much as I’m thoughtfully stroking my chin in deep and honest consideration of the day’s events. I can take just about anything that they can dish out. But there’s some things that I simply can’t.

One of them has been a recurring feature called “Guilty Pleasures” where they get authors to talk about books that they read and enjoy but wouldn’t normally be caught dead reading. The mental gymnastics that these people go through in order to justify their reading selections is nothing short of maddening. But then, so’s the very concept of a “guilty pleasure.”

You enjoy the book or you don’t. If you’re enjoying something that doesn’t conform to your image of yourself (or worse, what you want other people to think of you—guys, we left high school a long time ago) then shame or guilt seems to be a pretty wasteful use of emotional energy. But hey, I guess there’s people out there who have to appear Very Important and Erudite and wouldn’t survive reading Danielle Steele.

Or ESSENTIAL GODZILLA from Marvel. I’ll stand before you, brothers and sisters, to tell you that I love this book. And there’s no guilt, no shame, no black stain on my soul for having said so. I won’t lie and say that it’s my favorite ESSENTIAL collection (that honor still goes to HOWARD THE DUCK), or that it’s even my second favorite (DR. STRANGE), or my third (DEFENDERS or MAN-THING depending on my mood). But it’s certainly up there.

I’m not going to lie and say, “This is good, pulpy, fun.” “Pulp” is a word that’s managed to claw its way into something akin to respectability, when in the past, it was unrelentingly, unapologetically, lowest-common-denominator (though often executed with precision and panache, particularly by practitioners like Hammett and Chandler who’ve been bestowed a mantle of near-literariness by the magnanimous critical establishment of today). Pulp didn’t want to be respectable. It wanted to entertain. It wanted to pay the rent. It titillated and packed in action. It was not literature, what’s more, it was going to sock you in the mouth for even suggesting such a thing, ya big palooka.

So stop pretending that stuff it literature. It isn’t. You’re reading junk, the printed equivalent of Twinkies doused in sweet and sour sauce after being deep-fried in lard and battered in Wonder Bread. Embrace it. Love it. Don’t be a coward and let everyone tell you “Oh, that’s greasy kid’s stuff. You really should be reading this other book that ever so deep and meaningful.

Okay, so ESSENTIAL GODZILLA, which came out of Marvel’s GODZILLA series of the late seventies, that’s what brought me here. I keep my copy close at hand, for the times that I’m feeling down and need a little lift. Right there, on the bookshelf behind me. I don’t know who at Marvel thought it was a good idea to take the Titan of Toho and drop him smack dab in the middle of the Marvel Universe, but sometimes a good idea turns out to be a great idea. Rendered with pitch-perfect Bronze Age seriousness, Godzilla tramples his way through the United States, fights a twisted menagerie of monstrosities that would have been budget busters in the recessionized seventies, gets in a monster throw-down on the surface of the moon, evades SHIELD (featuring Dum Dum Dugan and Jimmy Woo pre-AGENTS OF ATLAS).

Did I mention the cowboys? GODZILLA VS. COWBOYS. Godzilla gets shrunk to the size of a rat (and at seven feet tall fights for his life in the mean streets of New York, scaring the world’s unluckiest muggers). Godzilla turns the Grand Canyon into the world’s larges monster coliseum, fights sharks (this is the seventies after all). And there’s the giant robot, Red Ronin, and the kid who’s got an inexplicable mental connection with the green guy, and and and… I can’t cover it all. There’s too much. There’s too much entertainment between these two covers for you to handle.

Again, let me say, Godzilla, world’s mightiest monster, interacting with everyone from the Champions to the Fantastic Four and the goddamned Devil Dinosaur, the Avengers and even the staff of the Daily Bugle. All of this served up by Doug Moench and Herb Trimpe (with a cast of journeyman Marvel inkers, including, get this, Klaus Janson). I cannot do this book justice. I can only tell you to read it and enjoy it, knowing full well that most of you are far too cultured to actually do so.

Though really, they didn’t manage to fit in a Godzilla vs. Fin Fang Foom? That’s about the only negative thing I have to say about this book. And really, I’m an ungrateful bastard for even thinking it. But it does guest star Howard Hughes as the pilot of SHIELD’s new Godzilla-busting Helicarrier.

Good enough for me.

In other news STRANGEWAYS: THE THIRSTY will be starting back up at its home at Robot6/CBR next week. I’ll be running recaps this week to get people caught up on the first three chapters then it’ll be back to cowboys and vampires, STRANGEWAYS style.

I’m sad to say that I spent Jack Kirby’s birthday working on pitches for other people’s property, and did not properly honor his contributions to comics. Of course, the irony of creators trying to honor Kirby by doing their takes of his creations or aping his style is not lost on me. Nor is the irony that Kirby didn’t get an ownership stake in much of what he created. I’ll promise to stick to my own work this week, once I get this deadline done, King. Promise.

Matt Maxwell

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