Happy Valentine’s Day! And welcome back to Source Material, where I ramble on about what I’m reading, watching and generally enjoying. All the stuff that won’t fit into a real article, basically.
I loved the JLA: Rebirth issue that came out from DC last week, and it got me wanting to dig into JLA-style comics that came before. After a bit of Wikipedia-ing I landed on the Justice League International series from 1987, by Keith Giffen and J. M. DeMatteis, with art by Kevin Maguire. I’ve heard loads about it being a really fun book that walks a strong line between melodrama and out-and-out comedy, and for a spiritual predecessor to the new JLA it seemed like a good choice.
As is always the case with me though, I like to make sure I read, well, if not ‘everything’ then certainly as much as I can in the lead up to a book to make sure that I get the context and where it sits in the grand scheme of things. Of course, this can lead to problems. In something that feels like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole, sometimes I don’t get to the thing I actually want to enjoy, because I’m too busy getting lost in supplementary material or extra reading, hence why I’ve read the Batman mini-events Cataclysm, Aftershock and Road to No-Man’s Land, but not actually No-Man’s Land itself, which was the thing I started out wanting to read.
Despite my history with such foolishness, I took a look at what led to JLI back in 1987 and discovered that it spun out of the DC Event series Legends. For once this obsessive gamble that I always take has paid off, because Legends is a pretty great event in and of itself, and feels like a great thing to read as a sort of jumping on point for that time in DC Comics, as it not only leads to the JLI series, but it spins off directly to John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad, another run that’s been on my list for a while. Not only that but (again, according to your friend and mine, Wikipedia) Legends also led to a brand new Flash #1 with Wally West in the titular role, which is yet another book I’ve wanted to read for the longest time – well, the Mark Waid run on that series anyway, which admittedly starts at #62 but still.
Legends also feels like a strangely relevant series for the current political climate. If you’ve not heard about it before, it concerns Darkseid attempting to prove that to truly defeat the heroes of Earth you have to defeat the legend of the superhero, sending Glorious Godfrey to our planet as a sort of evangelical political figure, inciting hatred and violence against the Justice League et al for all the damage and destruction they both cause and attract. Interestingly enough for a book with the sort of gritty, ‘what if this were the real world though’ premise that feels exactly at odds with the kind of thing I usually enjoy about comics, writers Ostrander and Len Wein take the story down a very natural path that doesn’t feel anywhere near as forced as the more modern takes on the concept like Marvel’s Civil War. Instead it takes an inciting incident or two and plays off teh political climate of the time to take things to their natural conclusion.
I’m about half way through it so far but I’m digging it. Contextually it’s interesting too, as it’s DC’s first big Event since Crisis on Infinite Earths the year before, and seeing as that Event was my last attempt to dive into DC Comics continuity it felt like an appropriate continuation for me. Whether I actually get around to reading Justice League International, AKA The Book I Came Here For is anyone’s guess but I’ll keep you posted either way.
I’m obsessed with the McElroy’s at the moment. I feel like I’ve come to this family of podcasters, writers and comedians a little late, but having recently been put on to (and subsequently loving) their show My Brother, My Brother and Me, then finding their D&D cast The Adventure Zone and loving both equally, I’ve then found the Youtube video series Monster Factory and if you’ve not seen any of the episodes, nothing I say here can prepare you for how funny this series is.
Hosted by two of the three McElroy brothers Griffin and Justin, this Polygon series follows their hilarious attempts to use the character creation screens of various computer games to craft the weirdest, most absurd beings imaginable. Sometimes this leads to bizarre adventures. Sometimes to crazy cheat-mode manipulation. Sometimes it even goes so far as to break the code of the game itself, all in the pursuit of inventing the wildest creations they can.
It’s such a simple premise but it’s stunningly brilliant, not just because of the often horrific monsters they create but because both Justin and Griffin are constantly in hysterics about what they’ve done, and most often it’s their reactions that I love the most. It also doesn’t hurt that these guys are seriously funny dudes. It probably explains why I’ve watched most of these videos multiple times in the last few weeks. I cannot recommend these videos enough.
Riverdale, The Good Place
So this is a weird show, huh? Not sure if I have anything else to say than that, but I genuinely wasn’t expecting to watch a gritty, teen Twin Peaks take on the Archie universe and actually enjoy it, but I have to say it was a lot of fun. I’ve only watched episode 1 so far, but it’s crazy what they’ve decided to take from the comics world and what they’ve injected into it to make it feel fresh. Part of me wanted to laugh but another part of me was just flat out impressed that it’s even watchable, let alone being good. I’ll definitely be back for more.
Another show I’m loving is The Good Place, the new sitcom starring Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. I started watching it after Graeme Macmillan mentioned it on the latest Wait, What podcast. I’m two episodes from the end at the moment so I’m not going to say too much more, especially seeing as the main reason I started watching was because Graeme talked about how much he loved the ending, but I will say that it takes a lot for me to enjoy a new sitcom, so the fact that I’m only ten 21-minute episodes in and I’m already invested in the characters says a lot about it.
I really want to build on these regular blog posts, and one of the ways I’ve thought about doing that is by having a read-through of a particular comic series, each time I write a blog I include a recap/review of the next issue in the series. It’s a fun idea, but I’m struggling to find a series I want to focus on. I don’t want it to be a particularly long run because it could take me forever, but at the same time it’s got to be a series I don’t mind reading at a slow pace and not race through it all in one go. I’ve been tempted by Jack Kirby’s Fourth World issues. Not the series of the same name from the late 90’s, but the family of titles from the 1970’s that make up Kirby’s original saga. I’ve got the first omnibus in my collection but only read it the once when I bought it a few years ago.
I am, however, open to suggestions! If you’ve got an idea for a series you’d like to see me recap and review, or if you want to get in touch about anything else, shoot me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter, where I’m @MattLune.