Week 1: Keep the water clean

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Alec starts a podcast. Listen.

Postcards and gang signs

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Celebrated Summer | Charles Forsman

"I think we should drop two each," the first line reads. Mike and Wolf, the stars of this teenage dystopia, hash out their coming acid afternoon in this instance, and that bit of dialogue lands laced with the coming high and inevitable drop from a ball-breaking burst of reality. "Cue us up," it should say, rather. Because this story unfolds only one way.

Celebrated Summer, the latest comic book from cartoonist Charles Forsman, throws its nod to Husker Du early. Etched into the background of its first page, sagging right below a poster stuck to a bedroom wall, the band name exists as this crusty ink stamp made in ether. It’s like a wink of the author’s eye, and we’re shown who or what is resonate in this crafted reality soon to be read. Which matters. Because for Forsman the band is key to setting a mood. “I sort of did that with myself when drawing it,” he says. “I’d just blast their records and chug through it. It put me at this point that I wanted to be at when making the book.”

This “point” is a mental state where drudging up teenage angst and the fear of age is easy, but apart from bare tone or title there’s a case to be made for Celebrated Summer's aesthetic relation to its namesake song, which is an appropriate connection. Because the book shouldn't be confused for some sort of adaptation or homage nor strive to be such a thing. That'd be cheap - a way to crutch one's self on top of something else. But we're not looking at such a thing. It's very much a singular item made by an artist with his own intentions, but like any piece of good work it draws upon proceeding examples, pursuing discourse with an elder. 

The End of the Fucking World, Forsman’s previous book, established his ability  to display two things at once. The purposeful Charles Schultz influence in those drawings lent an inherent innocence while subject matter like satanic cults, abuse and oblivion converted such bliss into a sinister inevitability. For both the amusement and disturbance of the reader, those stray elements were allowed to flirt visibly on the page for result of unsettling juxtaposition and hints of inward trauma.

That technique is on display, too, in Celebrated Summer - though toned down a notch. It’s a test run for what eventually will become TEOTFW (though released after, Celebrated Summer was produced before Forsman’s major debut, The End of the Fucking World), but past general practice or some reoccurring tic committed by an author the thing manifests a, maybe distant but still apparent, connection to the song in question. A song where opposing forces and thoughts are at odds, trying to make sense of something beyond themselves.

By this, I mean that hectic shift, so transparent in the track, from blistering power chords to acoustic plucks right when the bridge arrives. AJ Ramirez writes in a PopMatters piece that it features a “definite tempo lag” and forces the band to ”regain its momentum,” and while PopMatters usually sits sucked into its own importance for no clear reason, he’s right. Or at least, sort of. The lag is present, but it’s not without a seamless sense of disarray supporting the moment. That fucking flick of a storm in those seconds reveals what the song is after, and Bob Mould’s penchant for adventure in the face of concrete fact lay before us in a question. Was this your celebrated summer? Though it wouldn’t ring so sharply without the vocalized clash fixed behind it, hanging high like some set of unmatched colors. 

Forsman’s Celebrated Summer captures this audacity with the instances placed on the page, but it doesn’t take full shape without the reader’s judgement. When Mike and Wolf hit the beach midway way through the book, no matter what grand illusion the acid may cause them to see, there’s little wonder or magic, from our perspective, in what would typically be a momentous moment - the arrival of a road trip destination. Wolf insists that “shit, this is so awesome.” And Mike responds with a complimentary “yeah,” but it’s hard to ignore the storm-like conditions harboring the background. Forsman cross-hatches the sky closed with a pound or two of black smudge. It’s not a beach scene set with sun, and we’re never shown the horizon wafting out past the shoreline. Instead, Mike and Wolf’s plain, pretending reactions conquer the panels, and the focus aims inward on these characters rather than externalize in some hyper-active set of images.  

In fact, most of the drawings feel retracted, never really capitalizing on their potential majesty. Towards the comic’s end, as Wolf spaces out into full-on hallucination, the fractal images on the page, black and white as they are, read muted. Whatever Wolf is seeing extends only so far, chained, instead, to a non-existent color palette.. The lyric “then the sun disintegrates between a wall of clouds fits here. It’s a similar image of limitation and rivalry where fluid line work and funky shapes lay covered in a lack of color. 

Like with most popular music, there’s lyrics and sound, and typically we ignore one for the other. Comic books work like this, too. Pictures and words come together for this advanced reading experience, but a reader usually tunes into only one half of the equation. You need both to see Celebrated Summer as the conflicted piece it is. Forsman’s drawings are the instrumentation bouncing against the lyrical content of Mike and Wolf’s plot, and each end offers a different tone. Take the plot as an outline, and it becomes a traditional Dazed and Confused outing, glazed in wasted time and greasy hair. But enter the dismal grey of the illustrations, and it’s clear this acid trip isn’t all it seems. Like the structure of the song, where before the bridge all seems wondrous, loud and anticipatory, Forsman comes through with his own sullen, downtrodden acoustic lick to unsettle everything and beg his reader to question.

Of course, when I ask Forsman about this he admits to not pursuing any of these elements “in great detail.” The particulars I’ve written about - the nods I see to the song - weren’t conscious concerns on part of the cartoonist. He chased a general mood yet nothing else. But clearly I see them there, and I wonder whether or not it was a matter of Forsman’s subconscious directing Celebrated Summer in this direction, or if this goes beyond artistic choice. Maybe it has little to do with a purposeful discourse between two works, but rather two works tapping the same idea and coming at it in separately tied ways. 

What ever it be, both the song and comic book want us to part ways with those classic textile images of summer fun and look inward where snowflakes may be caking in high piles. It’s a matter of playing hope against doubt, undercutting romance for some idea of what’s really occurring and mashing two mindsets into one. Mould said it best with the line “I summer where I winter at, and no one is allowed there.” Forsman drew an afternoon on acid and made it small.  

We’re running out of forks, and I’m broken.

Slimming this band to a three piece reveals the fabric. The moving parts show a tighter sync, yet you can separate them, knowing exactly who’s cranking what, because of the trim roster. It’s a perfected line up, finally found after two confused solo-singer records and an album bent on attacking the past.

Cloud Nothings’ need to move ahead and against has never sounded so in progress. Beneath all that Steve Albini production on the last record, the drummer, Jason Gerycz, was just sitting there, driving this thing along. He didn’t need those special microphones or a Dave Grohl tint. The balance and power was already there, and this song stripped of all fancy mic techniques relays exactly how he propels this mechanism. There’s a slight jazz sound in it, and everything from the guitar and bass sounds like a reaction.  

"I’m Not Part of Me" is indeed another power rock seducer with a great hook, and Dylan Baldi’s insistent urge to fill a void surely attracts anyone susceptible to angst. But it’s the song’s instrumental-like structure and fast, ferocious approach that throws this thing ahead of others. It’s arguably, yes, one of - if not - their best songs, and that’s insane to me. Because this is the group who gave us "Wasted Days", and I was sure as fuck it didn’t get any better than that.

God, I can’t wait for the tour. This album will be my summer.   

Trash the lights

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Even with the CMJ badge, the bouncer wanted his $5 for the door, and my ID, this West Virginia rectangle, knew criticism unlike others. This is after the prior, mistaken stop at Glasslands, and Kansas City Chad, the biology major, telling me he was “looking to find some chicks.” It’s after the Tuesday night, drunk on gin, I thought of throwing myself in front of a subway train, tired off all the college outcasts fucking their way to the big time. It’s the night, a Thursday in October, I saw Speedy Ortiz play 285 Kent, and I remembered there was a chance. 

——

If you read the article linked above or search at all on Twitter, it’s clear 285 Kent, a venue in Williamsburg, meant something to someone. 

I’ve thought of it as a chance backdrop for a realization once made with one, mere experience there, but it appears others saw it higher - like an institution, of some sort. Which is interesting - that this random series of anecdotes just happened to revolve around this hallmark I knew nothing about. 

——

The night began bored at a Bored Nothing show, and the bartender, after handing me a beer, asked if I were with the band. “Yeah,” I told him, and the beer was free til I left. 

We weren’t in Brooklyn yet but the Lower East, and Jimmy and John, my pals on this trip, were on cruise control, stunted by their free-fall of booze and handshakes earlier in the week. 

We claimed the couches away from the stage, but this kid with a stuffed backpack, heavy coat and long, tangled brown hair walked toward us. This was Kansas City Chad, and after a slight introduction, he handed us each a white business card stamped with his station’s call letters. It was a common practice that week. We never did call him.    

He had this airy voice, and he mentioned he’d been sent to CMJ, college radio’s only festival, alone. I guess we looked like the guys he’d want to hang with, and I could relate, so we talked.

"So … what’s this band called?"

"Speedy Ortiz."

"Oh, yeah, yeah. I’ve heard they’re good. Someone told me they’re good. You’re going to see them?"

"Yeah. Tonight."

We would have this little exchange a few more times. Nothing seemed to stick with Kansas City Chad - except that he was from Kansas City, a point he made often. Still, there was something about him I liked. Maybe the idea of this random character hopping his way into my story, knowing by the end of the night he’d be an anecdote. Or maybe he was just another weirdo to try to read. I invited him along. 

As per the scenery, I recall nothing particularly memorable about 285. I see the wide space and the cardboard box-like stage, but I cannot remember whether or not I hit the restroom, and the crowd looked like any you’d see in Brooklyn in 2013. 

That simple, heavy door guarding the entrance, though, is a takeaway because it wasn’t marked, and it could have easily been some backdoor into an old apartment building. It lent that “danger” described in the Pitchfork piece, but more so, when it opened and you slid through and the space expanded - and in my situation, the band literally just kicked into their set, like some coming-of-age movie shit - you felt as if you’d made your way into something only set aside for few. 

The denial of the CMJ badge - even though labeled a CMJ show - screamed this. It didn’t matter who you were, name tag or not. You were to fuck off and pay.

That’s a special mood to set for a venue because deep down every show goer seeks it. We all want that night - that night we tell the kids about, the one where exclusivity was ours in the face of a thin line waiting to trip us up. A time when romance was possible, and the cops were at the door. 

Walking in provided some of that, and it seemed to hang as Speedy tore through their performance. They played as a group, thrashing about both self-aware and invested in their actions. There was fun to be had, with nothing to prove, testify or say, and this made them seem capable of leaping off the stage, still playing mid-jump, crushing beer cans on their amps or, shit, having a laugh between songs. 

Bored Nothing was absent.  

——

Tenni walked around in her bubble, and the crew surrounding looked like accessories on-call - wherever they went. She played a key role in radio promotion, and the scene - mostly the college kids desperate for music industry sign-off - beckoned for any bit of her attention. It was this clique based upon nothing but connections, just like the sad, old world that’s inescapable, and it scrubbed away college radio’s texture of anythingness. 

The image came captured on a subway, right when she handed me a pin decorated in her own caricature.

"Wear it," she instructed.

I didn’t. That wasn’t an endorsement I was willing to make. Her eyes fluctuated in response. 

This was the same night I drank the gin. That Tuesday. I remember the rail tracks curving even though they lay spiked to the filth in the tunnels, and I wanted some part of  their stretch. Something about them lead somewhere, even if it was dark and hoarding the city’s rats. It was but one, quick roll over the edge and nothing would be contained. 

Jimmy and John, I think, knew what was in my head, and they were freaked when I didn’t get on the train. They would be distant in the morning.

I sat against the wall before strolling back to the hotel, alone.  

——

Kansas City Chad seeped into the crowd, and I felt bad about that. When my badge was denied, he covered my cover, pushing me in at the nick of time to watch the one band I gave a shit about that week. It was a ditch move on my part, but maybe, deep down, it was a sign of confidence in his ability to wander off and survive. 

Jimmy fell back too, courting some girl from a label. And John … he flew home earlier in the evening as per his plans. I just straddled the front, right by the stage, feeling it out.

They were a tight act, truly working their material as a unit. Mike Falcone, the drummer, had that same stance as Jason Gerycz from Cloud Nothings, like some top-heavy basketball player protecting the box, and Sadie Dupuis, the guitar and vocalist, didn’t care if her voice cracked when singing a line like “freaking the fuck out.” It made sure you knew.

The highlight came when some crowd member called out, “No Below!” A request for the hit single. 

"We’ll play it … don’t worry," Dupuis insisted. "When we’re good and fucking ready." 

Thank God. Not a crowd pleaser. Not another ordinance. 

The show ended, and Kansas City Chad found Jimmy and I on the corner. He liked the show. I watched him shrink through the rear window of a taxi cab as we pulled away, not knowing if I’d ever see Kansas City. 

At this point Jimmy, sober, went hysterical, punching the cab door as he laughed. 

"What the fuck is so funny?"

"Touch my body!"

"What?"

"She was singing … touch my body!"

"What the fuck are you talking about? No she didn’t."

"Touch my body!" … "Touch my body!"

He repeated it over and over. I’m not sure what he really heard, but his laugh still hangs with me now, months later. It was the sound of something wound tight snapping. 

She never left the impound

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Minotaur | Matt Seneca

I, probably like other interested parties, felt his comics were easy to overlook, and so I disregarded them, hoping he’d turn around, instead, to type out another swift essay on color theory. I’m not so sure now. 

Minotaur serves as Matt Seneca’s 7th release, one that Michel Fiffe calls his “best yet.” That’s a good way of putting it.

Because there’s this odd fight of ambition and limitation driving the work, sorting out whatever ends up on the page as a matter of public debate. That’s certainly the case of any comic or work of art, but it’s vocal in Minotaur, sounding all too familiar to someone young and impatient, struggling with what they want to be and the reality. 

And that struggle - though unconsciously - manifests in the violence Seneca portrays. 

——

It’s a comic book ultimately about oblivion, shown by way of a slain gladiator and his executioner, the opposing fighter. That said, the very violence which results in death feels to be the only aspect of existence these characters control - that is theirs, or real.

The cherry red hue used for blood in those scenes is too vibrant and distinct. It’s a clear contrast from the funky, Instagram filter of its preceding scenes, wiping away the haze said gladiators walk around in. It’s when the red shit spills we know something’s present.  

His line, his figures, though … they appear stifled unintentionally in a situation where, for something predominately involving motion/action, the opposite seems necessary. This is where ambition/limitation meet in terms of a pinpoint-able example. Here you see a maker with an idea trying to translate it, yet falling short, somewhat.

It’s possible this is why red, or color in general, is so heavily used in Seneca’s work, as it compensates for the rest. Like a last-ditch attempt at greatness. Or maybe that’s harsh.

But there is something undeniably brutal about Minotaur's centerfold struggle. The combat tactics; the sais through the shoulders. It's conceived well. You know there's a mind with instincts putting that together. Just give it time. 

——

What is approximate is this uncanny sense of fearlessness. Death as life, exploitation, the abyss and gladiators are well covered subjects, but its Seneca’s eager and abrasive tone that makes Minotaur something refreshing. Attribute such a point to bare youth or his self-assumed “bad boy of comics” persona, but I like how this book challenges the norm of “risk-taking” independent work.  

I feel too often too many cartoonists either fear the ethical backlash ready to be driven by the current conversation or have gone too far toward sentiment. 

Seneca doesn’t strike me as that guy. 

——

Matt Seneca was a critic and a good one. He popped up right at the time I became interested in reading comic book criticism, and his age - early 20s - served as a point of interest beyond his keen insights.

There was an edge, there. We could escape the old, busted backroom of R.C. Harvey and see this thing animated. 

Like it can be. 

Tree branch blowin’

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Screentests | Annie Mok

Screentests by Annie Mok is a good comic. Cathartic, considered, interested in transition.

"Pictures of Candy Darling", the title’s first short, cloaks autobio-ness by casting Mok as an investigative journalist, easing, I think, some of the diary or confessional tendencies we’ve seen in work like this before.

She resembles more a character, thriving in a work, than a cartoonist serving a direct line. We have something or someone to watch. 

"Body Language" goes the other direction, though, adopting a stream-of-conscious flare like so many others. A heavy subject commands the monologue, and the bare detail of it does, yes, latch you. The thought of anyone making sense of such a thing is gruesome. 

But the other half - that half of you outside the visceral - knows you’ve known this kind of presentation or analyzed look at life before. The slips in thought, the measurement of certain images … it’s a style used often. Mok seems in charge of it, technically, but I came away feeling “Body Language” had rehearsed itself. It missed something kinetic. It took a search for something and arrived at a formula.

The blue smudge of her artwork works it up a bit, though. I liked that. Gave it some blur. 

Again, a good comic. Settled in with some others. 

There’s a ransom note over there

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Derek Coward closes the show with the same, stock line every time. It’s a tag, delivered with as much improv as you yourself may muster raw in conversation, clamoring for your one moment of poetic justice.

"I’m just a guy out here makin’ a lot of noise … ," he’ll crack. A single breathe performs the ellipsis, and he finishes the thought: " … a lot of Comic Book Noise." It’s the podcast’s title, snuck in, shifting something extensional into something deployed.  

You’ll hear it and wonder whether or not he’s earned such a moment, but to pause at all, judging that, probably misses the point. 

——

Comic Book Noise, a comic book podcast, is 330 episodes into its voyage, and I still find it as abrupt as I did 5 years ago, at 16 years old.

It’s one I only check every so often, admittedly (blame my unfaithful ears), yet whenever I do Coward’s cadence and demeanor come across unaltered. 

The experience provides something familiar, sure, but it’s the singularity of it which pulls CBN beyond soapbox diplomacy. Because it sounds not like someone doing it because they can, but more so because they do. 

There’s a recent episode - the most recent, #330 - that puts Coward in a position to defend his manner of “reviewing comic books.” He says his reviews are his. Nothing else.

Take that as maybe another statement hard boiled in the age of ego. Maybe we’re all stuck there. But Coward’s point doesn’t seem to be about that. 

He sounds assured, rather.

——

There was a long string of comic book podcasts, at one time. 2010 was probably the end of it. Some hang on, yeah, but the wave has long come and crashed, just as all the territory and hubris went claimed. 

It was moment for a certain group to connect over a certain interest, but more importantly an instance when those usually ignored found the opportunity to stand tall. 

I know. I listened to dozens. Even hosted my own. 

It’s a scene I still look back on - fostered by programs like 11 O’Clock Comics and Comic Geek Speak - and thank by some stray chance I was involved with. It brought me outside my little bubble as well as found for me the idea to speak. But there was also something of it corrupted by the human need for importance, power and influence.

Those attributes I do not miss, fueled by underdogs finally on the cusp of social leadership. 

Though something else strikes me of that era - the podcast itself. This fresh, brazen little delivery mechanism, unshaped, mobile and intimate, it took me off guard and opened something. It wasn’t radio. It wasn’t manipulated. It sounded present. 

Derek knew that sound. Knows it now. 

The rest, the upstarts, mostly, saw syndication, in a sense.

Their reviews came from a platform. 

——

The lone man with an opinion is as easy to categorize and overlook as the guy with an acoustic guitar. Adjectives like “controversial,” “honest” and “sentimental” cover the bases, and they soften with each pass of the microphone.

Though it’s nice to believe in that sort of thing. Just for the idea of assurance. 

That’s what blew me open at 16. Coward was my Dylan, that way. I didn’t know you could do that. Just hit record and talk, and the audio would harmonize. 

Which is where Teenage Wasteland, my split, schizophrenic journey of a podcast, came from. Coward hosted it on his bill, whether or not it meant anything. Whether or not I aped his presence. 

——

A friend of mine - his sister’s commencement speaker was Ira Glass. He told me that after the ceremony, Glass hung around, yet as people approached him, glad to trade words with the This American Life host, he only came across as awkward, shy and out of place. 

This made think, because on mic Glass is so sharp, well-paced and even. In a position others would falter, he excels. The microphone is something familiar to him, like a canvas is to any painter.

Coward portrays himself as similar in that new episode. He admits that in person he’s shy and uninvolved, but as a podcaster he’s heightened.

Maybe that’s out of comfort, I’m not sure. But I’d like to think it’s due to some sense of harmony between Coward and his canvas.  

In #330, Coward says: “I draw, but I’m not an artist.”

He’s wrong.  

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Above the garage, holding

Everything trickles through King-Cat, whether it’s some rendered angle on the universe or Comics plural, and the letter page this issue, #74, speaks of its place in the continuum as a constant outpost, no matter how far you’ve moved along.

Johnny —

Still don’t know what the fuck, and it’s tiring. I’m tired of it. Maybe some day, huh?

Zak Sally - Minneapolis, Minn.

The brevity of Sally’s note is both humorous and endearing, and you read it as not some standard letter page line, asking bogus questions or submitting easy feedback, but as a postcard dropped off with the U.S. mail from some truck stop, just to tell your buddy about the road. The relationship’s apparent in the candid admittance; the language (‘still’) implies an ongoing dialogue, stretched.

And then Kevin Huizenga pops in, starting with “I chased a groundhog out of our neighbor’s garden the other day,” and the idea repeats itself, though this time the message reads like a treatment, almost, for a Porcellino short, possibly already in the works.

As noted over and over, all art carries a conversation, yet Porcellino’s registers with this particular companionship and invitation, and when coupled with the context of the series’ 25-year run - one concurrent with its founder’s life - the comic expands into more so a correspondence-memoir than another auto-bio bubble, and you’re involved, just by coming across these baffled zines whatever way you do.

With issue #74, it’s unclear how the conversation has progressed. The same mix of ups, downs, anxieties, assurances, questions and meditations populate Porcellino’s attention just as ever, and really, they’ll probably never recede, no matter if he does “wait” like ‘Wind Through the House’ may imply.  But considering King-Cat's rate of release (roughly an issue per year), the subjects almost don't need to change because the participants engaged with them do, will and have at the whim of aging.

Each installment has you recall the last time you read new King-Cat, forcing all sorts of recognition of what’s occurred in-between. For myself, that’s a dorm room, an afternoon in Greenwich Village and now, suddenly, the post-college void. Meanwhile, all the usual stresses / questions stick. Just like the comic.  The future didn’t deliver everything.

"The passing of time is the saddest and eeriest thing in the world," writes Porcellino in his opening address.

The sentiment nails a beat we all undoubtedly know, yet with the transition answers aren’t supplied. Like Sally wrote, “maybe one day?,” though it’s likely not.

Instead, we hold onto to our constants - our pains and astonishments. Making some sort of way. Just luckily, there’s an outpost to report back to.

A constant to know.

Originally published here

Color-coded knapsack

Just as there’s something romantic of the lone cartoonist hacking away, chasing a high, there’s something fruitful of the collaborative writer/artist pair achieving unison.

Joe Casey, in his last interview with Tim Callahan, calls it “true alchemy,” while Chris Claremont, for a forward of he and Frank Miller’s Wolverine, describes it as “what all of us in comics strive for  … to create a whole which is much, much greater than the sum of the parts.”

In essence, it’s what Doug Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz found in Moon Knight, their 1980 Marvel Comics collaboration.  Though it basically took 23 issues of growth to get there. Sienkiewicz had to work through his Neal Adams phase, as Moench recalls in this interview with Charlie Huston, and Moench, though I can’t prove this necessarily, seemed to write, at first, like any other scribe in the Bullpen - throwing text over the visuals, overcompensating, ignorant of the visual caliber at hand.

Though those early issues still zing in a particular way. The stories are tight and colorful enough to propel a reader through the experience (Moon Knight fights a ghost story, for instance), and knowing two makers are up against the Jim Shooter-rhythm of super hero comics, working to achieve Art within those confines, while still performing for and feeding the monthly Marvel fiend, makes the entire Moon Knight run all the more endearing to read. Because it becomes, in hindsight, mind you, this passion project disguised as a job, and it revolves around a d-list villain published by a corporate outlet, where even the editors seemed in support (Ralph Macchio and Marv Wolfman were considered big fans, pushing for more stories of the character).

All of this reaches its peak between issues #23 and #26, where Sienkiewicz gained the confidence and brushed off the Adams impression, no longer giving any fucks as to what traditional super hero readers thought. And as that happened, Moench took notice and wrote his narration to work with rather than over the cartooning. Again, all in the confines of the monthly Marvel Comic, with a caper to solve. Though #26, the classic “Hit It” issue, transgresses against this, a bit, reading more like a modern day art comic, contemplating something.

It’s a famous issue for a certain crowd, and as topical as it is (child abuse), it’s easy to understand why. The book, released in December 1982, came out right in those budding years in which readers yearned for “darker, serious” narratives involving their favorite childhood icons, as if to somehow justify their significance. And “Hit It” ‘s critical success may have even argued a place for more of it.

Yet that’s not why I enjoy the book. If anything, I find the subject matter, at times, overpowers the work, giving off this lecture instead of an observation or thought. I mean, considering Sienkiewicz’s connection to it (he later admitted he’d been abused as a child), there’s something of “Hit It” that feels urgent, but the dialogue tends to burrow the thing back, shifting the comic more towards parable than something we happen to see and make sense of. Lines like “There’s been enough hitting tonight. I won’t add to it.” come to mind.

Though there’s a music metaphor/motif floating through “Hit It” which offers the main idea without being so overt, as well as presenting, in the purest form, the Moench/Sienkiewicz collaborative act.

Moench always intended for the story to have this element (a way to show violence rolling on like a drum beat), but originally, in its 7-page form, it was less apparent, until Sienkiewicz, you know, “went nuts,” taking the thing in his own direction. From it, comes this seamless mesh of dreamed rock ‘n’ roll imagery and depicted plot, sealing both a meditative tone and the marriage of the two makers.

Moench, in that Charlie Huston interview, recounts the making of “Hit It”.

That was supposed to be a seven-page backup story. So I did a plot that would fit in seven pages, and Bill went nuts. He went berserk. He blew up all these giant panels and extended the thing. They had me crammed into this tiny little room with a typewriter. I did it on the fly right there, right out of the typewriter. Thankfully it was a stream of consciousness style. I’d never written anything faster. And they were literally ripping pages out of the typewriter and taking them over to the bullpen to have it lettered right on the spot.”

This account shows how “Hit It’ went between Moench and Sienkiewicz, starting as a question, spurring something complex and forcing the one who asked to respond accordingly. It’s two-way, answering something outside the egos, beyond the figures, and forcing those in the discussion to meld their perspectives in order to find it. Though oddly enough, they come completely around, and show their own finest efforts here, realized after two-dozen issues of Marvel formula. Seinkiewicz in his own style; Moench writing with, not against his compatriot.

The comic’s loose, free-verse narration, which reads more from the POV of the book itself than any particular person or character, creates an entirely different effect. The bits swing with the drawings of Moon Knight rifting across Manhattan rooftops, offering colorful asides and etching further detail into the visual depictions, yet they address Moon Knight, as well. Jabbing him at first (Now, don’t be late, Moon Knight), and later begging him not to attack his attacker, the ravaged victim (“No, Moon Knight. No!”), as the issue concludes.  It echos like the last, desperate plea of a betrayed parent, who at one time believed more was capable of their child.

One could argue Moench as the real culprit of these narrative bits, because let’s be honest, he did write them, and as the character’s co-creator, he could be seen as the protagonist’s “parent.” Though the way in which the narrator bounces with Sienkiewicz, in this eerie unison, as well as sounds - like this lively, omnipresent force - doesn’t support the claim. It spills from its source in real time rather than appear orderly like a prepared statement given by some speaker, and it feels intended as to not give the storytellers any possession of the piece, but the piece possession of itself, as if sentient. Because if they wanted possession, I would think there’d be more authority in the tone, yet instead the narration reads neutered, like the force behind it cannot intercept.

The character’s transgression and split from the text (No, Moon Knight. No!) suggests a certain independence as well as powerlessness at the hands of Sienkiewicz and Moench. Even Sienkiewicz’s drawings only seem to follow and slip between events in the comic’s reality instead of present what he chooses to see.

It all ties back, I think, to the comic’s central theme of nature repeating itself, no matter how desperate you may want to shift the curve another way.

Which sort of says something of comics, right? No matter how much one party may wish to make it about either art or story, it’s ultimately a marriage of the two.

A balance.

It all comes back to fucking balance.

Originally published here.