Monday, August 16, 2010

Graphic Novels That You Would Like If You Weren't Too Chicken To Read Them - American Flagg!

Far be it from me to believe that I could offer more eloquent praise than Pulitzer-Prize winning author Michael Chabon, let me instead quote from his introduction to the first hardcover volume of Howard Chaykin’s American Flagg!:

“ … in 1982… the idea of a science-fiction comic book set in a dystopian American future was not a new one; and most of the fundamental elements of the world Chaykin depicts – earth abandoned by its corporate rulers in favor of off-world colonies, marauding gangs of armed motorcycle freaks, the city as a kind of vast television or information screen that irradiates or medicates its denizens with psychotropic sitcoms, could be traced back to novels by the writers of the New Wave and their successors… But no one had ever crammed those elements all together before, in quite the way that Chaykin did here: the post-nuclear, post-global-collapse, post-Cold War, corporate-controlled, media-overloaded, sex-driven, space-traveling… freak-o-rama that was to be life in 2031.”

“What Chaykin uniquely intuited [was that]… the comic book was perfectly suited not merely to adapting but in some measure to embodying the hybridized, trashy, garish future of simulacra and ad copy that comics had been hinting at over the past decade… Chaykin played, dazzingly, with the effect you could get from just a handful of dull square sub-panels arranged across a big single-panel page on which, in that one big panel, something violent and wild was taking place.”

“The characteristic Chaykin facial expression is the raised eyebrow – of irony, scepticism, puckishness, a satirist’s rage… It’s a combination of punctuation mark, the line that indicates a flexing muscle, and the kind of ripple or wave that cartoonists use to suggest motion, explosion, velocity, shock. I have never seen a published photo of Chaykin in which he fails to sport one himself.”

“Cynical, pompous, or jaundiced, self-aware, embittered, or corrupted, his heroes remain heroes… American Flagg! stands at the glorious mid-point, at that difficult fulcrum poised between innocence and experience… between the stoned, rangy funkiness of the seventies and the digitized cool of the present day, between a time when outrage was a moral position and a time when it has become a way of life.”

I’ll just add this: the first hardcover volume, which collects the first twelve issues (almost universally considered the best of the series, with Chaykin writing and drawing all of them), is one of the most gorgeous artefacts in my collection. The colour, the design, the weight, the smell, the thin red satin ribbon bookmark … it all started a hardcover graphic novel fetish that has (despite the accompanying enlargement in expenses) proved difficult to let go. Come on, how pretty does it look on my bookshelf (along with its hardcover cousins)?

The last word: if you loved ‘Watchmen’ and you loved ‘Dark Knight Returns’ (the real versions!), then there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll love this.

Friday, August 13, 2010

How Should I Vote?

As any Australian aged 18 or over ought to know, next week is the Australian federal election, and I am once again faced with the choice of who to vote for. At first it would seem that, no matter my political persuasion, I am actually in an electorate where my vote is important. I am currently living in the electorate of Melbourne, which is narrowly held by the ALP, but could potentially go to the Greens. If the election is tight between the ALP and the Coalition, this may potentially be an important seat for the ALP to win, and conversely, important for the Coalition that the ALP not win. It is also important for the Greens as well, not in terms of influencing the overall result of the election, but because they have never held a federal seat in the Lower House.

So it would seem my vote could potentially have historical implications then...? Well, not really. As Andrew Leigh (who happens to be running in this election) once noted, the historical chances of one vote determining the outcome in an electorate is about 1 in 4500. That is, the typical Australian would have to wait 1500 years before their vote actually changed the result in an electorate. So any thoughts I have about which way I should strategically vote in this election are essentially useless.

How then should I vote? My vote may actually have some effect, as minute as it is. Under federal election funding rules a candidate is eligible for election funding if they receive 4 per cent of the formal first prefence votes in the state or territory they contested. This funding is around $2 per eligible vote.

Which leads to me this conclusion: I shouldn't vote with a view to influencing the election result but with a view to which candidate/party I want to see public funding directed to (provided I think that candidate will get at least 4 per cent of the vote). Will this make any tangible difference to my vote in the end? I'll find out next week.