This time, Stunt Casting hooked up with somebody who has read a comic or too. Which, of course, means sometimes we talked about the latest issue of Maintenance, but mostly we got off track and focused on cartoons, cursing, Squadron Supreme and, for some awful reason, the Larry Stroman X-Factor.
TFO: First off, let's get a little background on your comics experience.
Brown: I started reading comics when I was in the 6th grade. Me and my best friend, on a whim, went a picked up a couple issues of the X-Men and I became an avid collector until I was a freshman in high school. I probably have a good four of those...not longboxes, I never got that. But I have four packing boxes full of comics at my dad's house. Then I completely fell out of it until the X-Men movie came out. I picked up a couple of X-Men comics, tried to get back into it. Failed. Then I picked up that Barnes & Noble edition of Ultimate Spider-Man. That got me back. Fast and furious. Since then, I haven't collected any weekly shit, but I've...actually, I bought all seven issues of Identity Crisis. Which either makes me look awesome or retarded. [Laughs] Other than that, it's just been trade paperback stuff, off and on, for the last four years.
TFO: Super-hero stuff? Vertigo?
Brown: Super-hero stuff, and non-super-hero stuff. 100 Bullets was huge. Ultimate Spider-Man. I dabbled in all of the Ultimate series, like Ultimate X-Men. What else? A lot of Bendis, which is really hit or miss. Did the Grant Morrison run on the X-Men and hated it...did a lot of Alan Moore. Did all the Powers, which I dug. Tried to hit all the big stuff, but I also fell in and out of it.
TFO: Any of the Acme Novelty, Daniel Clowes, anything like that?
Brown: No. I read Jimmy Corrigan when it first came out, I have the hardback edition--which is awesome. I didn't love it, but it's sort of one of those things that's impossible to love? You know, like...Douglas Wouk talks about Chris Ware--Chris Ware, right?
Brown: Ware's...awe-inspiring, but also frustratingly impenetrable. Bleak. But then he'll do these page spreads that are intricate, amazing. I didn't love Jimmy Corrigan, but I like owning it. [Laughs] Zing!
TFO: What, if anything, are you keeping up with right now?
Brown: The shit that I buy regularly is 100 Bullets, whenever a new trade paperback comes out. That, to me, is one of the best. I read a lot of pulp noir...I like mystery, that's probably my favorite "genre." To me, that's one of the best written noirs, ever. Easy. So I'm really excited to see how that wraps up. Do we know for sure that it's ending on issue 100? Is that just speculation?
TFO: I don't know. I didn't hear that until recently, or with more fervency I guess. I don't know. I think it's possible. I hope that's not true. [Editors Note: Sadly, this is true.]
Brown: I've sought out other Azzarello stuff. I liked all of it, except his Superman: For Tomorrow. I just didn't understand it. At all. [Laughs]
TFO: I liked how completely, in that one instance when it ends, I just said "What?" I did like taking the priest and turning him into a cybernetic monster. That was kind of the greatest thing ever. Anywhere.
How Maintenance Ended Up Being The Focus
Brown: That's true. Well, it was between Maintenance and DMZ. DMZ was something I was vaguely familiar with, because I've seen posters for it and shit. I was intrigued by that, I've read about it. Maintenance I didn't know anything about. The cover immediately got me--well, it's cartoony. One of the characters is a shark.
TFO: Holding a gun.
Brown: Right, a shark with a gun. I don't know--it definitely stood out against the other comics of the week. Although, it keeps popping up in these Stunt Castings: the characters on the cover are not in the story as much as the other characters.
TFO: Covers are lies.
Brown: Were they always lies?
They Go Way Off Track And Talk About Squadron Supreme
Brown: You know what I always loved when I was a kid? When there were covers that were a homage to old covers. I fucking loved that shit. My favorites where the ones when it was two teams, facing off against each other. I forget what the original was...it was just two super-teams, facing off against a white background. They always do it patterned off the original comic...it's all very obvious. I think the last issue of Squadron Supreme was that kind of cover. The Gruenwald, the original. Fucking loved Squadron Supreme.
TFO: The original is pretty great.
Brown: That's probably one of my top five favorite comic books of all time. I bought it for 25 cents in the used shit. Then I collected all of it--with that last battle...I don't know if you...Have we talked about this before?
TFO: I think we have. I think you were the impetus behind me picking up that big trade of Squadron Supreme. I got that based off you talking about it. I believe there was other stuff they did, like they fought the Avengers? I only know that trade and that remake thing.
Brown: They were a classic--you know, like they came about as a joke. They were a riff on Superman, Batman, shit like that and then Gruenwald turned it into this huge metaphor. Which is one of the reasons I don't really like Kingdom Come, because it's such a blatant rip-off on Squadron Supreme.
TFO: Some people argue that [Kingdom Come] is a rip-off of that unpublished Alan Moore Twilight of the Super-Heroes thing. I don't know, I tried to read that Twilight of the Super-Heroes thing online--all the plot synopsis, and it sounds interesting but it also sounds like more of the same.
Brown: That's such a rote thing now is using "Super-heroes as Metaphor." People trying to actually save the world. I don't know. But that last battle in Squadron Supreme? It's easily, I think, the best comic book battle I've ever read. The carnage in that shit? The body-count? It's amazing! The total willingness to kill off major characters? It's incredible. Then there was that time when Marvel was putting out a series of graphic novels, and they put out a Squadron Supreme graphic novel, and they killed even more people! It was awesome. [Laughing]
TFO: I can't remember actually "enjoying" a super-hero battle in a while. Actually, it's funny--I didn't really like that Squadron Supreme remake, Supreme Power--but when...what's the main guys name?
TFO: Hyperion. Hyperion fights some guy in a mall, and the guy is just picking up people and throwing them? It was just grotesque. Normally, when they write that kind of grotesque ass shit, it's not really drawn by somebody who draws classic super-hero caricatures--it's not like a Liefeld/Jim Lee type artist, it's usually some hacky guy. But that was this Gary Frank guy, and that's all he draws--bulging muscles, shit like that. And here is, drawing all this awful shit in a mall. It was gross--gross, over the top--but it was compelling. Compelling in it's grossness. At the same time, there isn't much to say about that remake. It was just ideas from the Authority combined with Gruenwalds' basic theme.
Brown: Andy. My roommate. He tried to get me into that, and he failed. I couldn't make it halfway through the first issue.
TFO: Well, if you've read the Authority, and you've read Squadron Supreme, then there's not a whole lot going on in Supreme Power. Hell, even that Rising Stars, that was the same thing too. Then again, that's how it is with super-hero comics, everything is a retread.
Brown: Right, that is its own archetype now. Was Squadron Supreme one of the first? To do that?
TFO: Oh god, I don't know. It might be-but it seems like every time you try to say that about comics, there's always something else. What's his name--oh, it's like, "Steve Gerber did it first!" You know he's dead?
TFO: Yeah, he died a few weeks ago. He was the Howard The Duck, the original Omega the Unknown guy. Tons of great stuff.
Brown: Right! How did he die?
TFO: Long term fatal illness. He'd been suffering for awhile. [And he's missed.]
They Get On Point After A Dog Attack
Brown: [Talking to the dog] I'll stick my tongue in your ear and see how you like it. Mronk! I'm Going To Eat Your Head.
TFO: So how was Maintenance?
Brown: I really liked it! I felt like, especially for a stand alone read, I got really get into it. It started off with a monkey picking his ear and eating it. And then getting turned invisible. By an alien. So. Starting Strong!
TFO: It wasn't Adrian Tomine's Summer Blonde, is what you're saying. No fucking relationships here!
Brown: Well, it's definitely blatant and goofy. The whole issue is one of those great storytelling archetypes: "Putting together the Super-Team!" Which is awesome. "Introducing...The Major Players!" That's really fun, and when one of the major players is a talking shark, and one of the major players is a cat that's falling apart, and one of them is obsessed with monkeys and just bought a invisibility-making machine....
TFO: Isn't that what they call it?
Brown: It's the "Invisilitron." Or the "Invisilotrox."
TFO: I have a hard time thinking that this is a comic worth three dollars and fifty cents.
Brown: That's true. Well, it's nice paper.
TFO: It is nice paper.
Brown: Yeah, it's a black and white comic.
TFO: With a talking shark.
Brown: Well, it's obviously that type of thing where that high price is making it possible to actually be able to publish the next issue.
TFO: Well, it's Oni. I think they're usually that price. Their biggest things are...Queen & Country? Which is done. I don't know much else that they've published. Where they the original Powers people?
Brown: That sounds right. There's a preview of a book in the back of this about dudes who hunt bears and fish.
TFO: With a sword. Which is not really the best way to hunt a bear.
TFO: Which must mean it's a "fantasy" comic. What did you think of the art in this one?
Brown: Uhhh? I liked it. It's...I don't know. It's that whole--remember when, all of a sudden, they re-did X-Force? And it failed? They turned it into this government team, with the Multiple Man? And Guido? Who else. It was...maybe Havok?
Now It's Off Again, This Time About Vague Memories Of X-Factor
Brown: Was it X-Factor?
TFO: The one with Peter David? And they had that guy do the art, his name was Stroman or something?
Brown: Yes. And it was awful. It was the worst comic book art. I feel like Maintenance is a pleasing version of that.
TFO: A cartoonish version of Havok, Polaris, Guido, Rahne & Madrox?
TFO: [Peter David] is writing X-Factor again. It's basically that, but Madrox runs a detective agency. Madrox, Rahne, and Guido. Who still has no personality.
Brown: I sort of secretly loved him.
TFO: [Laughs] He was just big and weird looking!
Brown: Well, wasn't he Dazzler's bodyguard? Or he was Dazzler's friends bodyguard? [Laughing] And then they turned him into a mutant, because he was strong. And his mutant name was "Strong-Man."
TFO: And he had those glasses that was just glass shoved into his face.
TFO: Yeah. I'm not a big X-Factor guy, but I do remember that.
Brown: I had a soft spot for that X-Factor, and I forced myself to read it, even though the art was so horrendous. I remember getting...some "pleasure" out of it.
TFO: Well, you should check it out now. The art is pretty bad. They do have Ryan Sook sometimes.
Brown: They did some sort of story where one of the Multiple Men turned evil.
TFO: They still do that. The trick is now that he sends the Multiples all over the world to "learn stuff." Like how to play piano, and other languages. Then they can come and do stuff against his will. I don't know how many stories you can do with that character.
Brown: You can write "multiple" stories. ZING! Number two! BROWN.
Back To Maintenance For Two Seconds And Then Poorly Remembered Cartoon History
TFO: Okay, back on Maintenance. Doesn't that shark look like that cartoon character? The Hanna-Barbara shark? What's that characters name?
Brown: Oh, man, yeah! I have no idea.
TFO: The whole time I was reading the comic I was imagining the goofy voice of that shark. He shows up with a blanket over himself, and it says "Big Bag Of Laundry?"
TFO: Some of those jokes made me laugh and some of them made me embarrassed that I felt like laughing.
Brown: Yeah, they are your standard issue, if-this-was-in-a-movie it would be unforgivable, but in comic book form it can be "great."
TFO: Because the standard is so much lower. "Look pal, you just have to be better than Darkwing Duck." If you are, then you are GENIUS. "We've expanded the language of graphic literature, because I've enjoyed this more than Johnny Quest."
Brown: Do you remember that period where every year there would be a new Disney based cartoon? It would come out and they would 'bump' the last one?
Brown: It was Gummi Bears, and Ducktales, and then Chip 'N' Dales, and then they started getting desperate. Then it was Darkwing.
TFO: And Gargoyles.
TFO: People still talk about Gargoyles like it was fucking modern art.
Brown: Fuck that.
TFO: I remember thinking that it was ridiculous, all of that shit. It was just fucking cartoons. Well, I do have a soft spot for Ducktales, but maybe just because I like Carl Barks. Ducktales was pretty good. But Chip 'N' Dales? Who fucking cares about chipmunks flying planes? Really? If it was a REAL chipmunk, REALLY flying a plane, then. Maybe.
Brown: The thing with me and Chip 'N' Dales was that they used to sell those videos, with three of them on a video, and I got a couple of those, for Christmas or something. One of them was a play on Sherlock Holmes, with The Hound of The Baskervilles. And I was like "ohh, it's a mystery!" [Laughing] I kept watching it, hoping that they would all be mysteries, and I was disappointed every time.
TFO: I think I actually only watched, all the way through...well, quite a few Ducktales, Darkwing Duck I watched when it first started. And I fucking hated it. Rescue Rangers, I don't think I did, and then Gargoyles? I think I was too old.
Brown: I think secretly, I wanted every cartoon I watched to be Scooby Doo. Maybe it's because I never got a full fix of Scooby Doo. I wanted all of the Scooby Doos.
TFO: I watched all those hacky, cheap cartoons they showed on USA. Like Karate Kat. They had something called the Clue Club, which was basically Scooby Doo without a dog. It was just nondescript teenagers in a van. I don't know, that's what I saw. It wasn't really that I wasn't into cartoons, but I grew up in Germany, so it would be whatever was sent to us. Or you'd watch--Voltron I think. Voltron was on over there.
Brown: I didn't know that. I didn't know that about you.
TFO: That was it I think. Karate Kat, Voltron. Goddamn Clue Club.
Brown: Did you have Sesame Street?
TFO: I think so?
Brown: Was Big Bird blue?
TFO: I don't even remember.
Brown: When I was six, my parents took all of...well, it was all. Wait, it was fucking me, I was an only child. All three of us! We went to Europe, and we were in Holland at this bed and breakfast with this woman named Mrs. Gironda, who scarred me with my fear of eggs. She was very excited to show us Sesame Street, because she knew we had it in America and Big Bird was blue, in Holland? And it freaked me the fuck out.
TFO: That would freak anybody out. Even if they didn't know that Big Bird was supposed to be yellow.
Brown: Exactly. Right! A blue bird?
TFO: Of happiness? I saw Fraggle Rock. We're really off-topic.
Back To The Reason For The Interview, For About 1 Minute
TFO: Okay, this was the only piece of information I could find about Maintenance, because I stopped researching after a minute. Did you know that these are maintenance people who work for a terrorist organization? That these guys where Terror Max? They are not terrorists in the sense of Al Queda, because it's all cartoony, but...
Brown: Not at all. You get a sense--well, obviously, the one guy keeps talking about what a villain he is. But you don't get a sense of the context for that. I think one of the reason it's a good stand-alone book is because it makes me want to know what's going to happen, but also want to know what already happened. I started to think about that when I was collecting, those weekly issues: the ones that really got me were the ones that made me want to go back. Instead of just forward. The ones that made me want to dig.
TFO: Which was X-Men?
Brown: Right, the X-Men. I remember towards the end of the time when I was collecting, with the Teen Titans, there was that big storyline with Jericho--the Wildebeest?
TFO: Titans Hunt.
Brown: Yes, that one. That was the first DC book I was ever really interested in. That one made me want to know the mythology. Those are the ones that hooked me. Everything from Marvel came from the X-Men, and everything that came from DC--which wasn't much, because that was near the end of my collecting--that all stemmed from the Teen Titans. And Maintenance made me want to read the first seven issues. Although I can't really imagine what could've happened in the first seven issues. This is issue eight, but I feel like it could be issue two.
TFO: Maybe somebody got raped.
Brown: Yeah. That would definitely put a different twist on the humor. Is it obligatory to mention baby-raping? Do I just do that now?
TFO: It's not obligatory. It is always nice.
Brown: I mine as well just take the bullet on that. With the baby-raping. Baby-raping!
TFO: I like that you look at the tape recorder. "Make sure this goes on there!"
Brown: Because I'm talking to the people who are gonna fucking comment.
TFO: How do you want to close this out?
Brown: Can we talk about why you don't like the Van Halen album?
TFO: No. We just put that there, we set that down.
Brown: Alright. How do I want to close this out. Too much pressure, because I could do this forever. I could be interviewed forever. I think I made that clear. So we should end it with a "to be continued." ZING!
TFO: Number three. Brown!
Brown: Brown Three! Reader?
-Marty Brown writes about music here, sometimes, when he's not busy. What?