4th Street, Listens, and Reads.

4TH STREET FANTASY. I know I promised a write-up, but there’s still too much stuff in my brain for me to dump here in a reasonably coherent manner. Seriously, I look at my notes and my brain goes into the exact same fog it was in at that point on Sunday where I had to stop taking notes. Suffice it to say it was just as good a time as last year’s, minus “That Thing” that happened last year. Bonus part was that the last conversation at the con was on whether I’d like to be on a panel next year (which, yeah).

LISTENING TO. Because no backlog is big enough to keep me from distracting myself with shiny things, namely 2 episodes of PRI’s STUDIO 360.

First, an interview with underground comics icon Aline Kominsky-Crumb. It doesn’t get too far in before her husband Robert Crumb gets mentioned, but so does Alison Bechdel, Marjane Satrapi, Phoebe Gloeckner, Spain Rodriguez, S. Clay Wilson, et al. I found Kominsky’s narrative about her attitude of general rebellion to oddly resonate with me. Note to self: pick up a copy of the expanded/reissued LOVE THAT BUNCH.

Second was a piece on the “FRONT International Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art”. Yes, I’m biased, and I know there’s so much Rust Belt ruin porn fascination combined with can-do-no-wrong boosterism. But there’s still something that tickles me about the idea of a “‘Second City’ emergence of really creative productivity” happening there.

I’m listing these here so I can find them later…

SHOULD’VE BEEN LISTENING TO. You people are supposed to tell me when rock deities release live albums. And you failed. 😉


  • AIRSHIPS by Barry Hannah. Because it’s odd to imagine stories of fucked-up places less fucked up than today’s world.
  • BLOOD, BONES & BUTTER by Gabrielle Hamilton. I’ve been reading this for awhile now, but feel an urge to finish because after Bourdain, I feel like we need to appreciate chefs who can write.
  • ANALOG (JUL/AUG 2018). Because I know someone in it.
  • F&SF (JUL/AUG 2018). Also, because I know someone in it.
  • BENEATH CEASELESS SKIES #256. Again, because I know someone in it.


Spoilers ahead, minor and major — YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

Suffice it to say, the movie appealed to my inner six year old.  This is a good thing.  It’s also a bad thing.

That aside, I still have to say that AofU didn’t thrill me like the first Avengers film.  It didn’t bore me, though.  There were certainly enough comic book “Fuck yeah!” moments.  But I suspect part of that was my brain trying to keep up with the plot, and not stumble over the holes where things were obviously cut out.  In fact, yes, I felt like I was watching an edited version on FX, “compressed for time”.   On the plus side, though, there was the particular way this film hit my comic book geek spots.

Because if you’re really going to hit all the highlights of Marvel Comics history on film, then fuck it — go for broke, from the creation of the synthozoid Vision, down to creating an “All New, All Different” B-team at the end of it all, just like in the comics.

This past Free Comic Book Day, I found this: a fresh copy of MARVEL SUPER-HEROES Vol. 1, No. 80, one of the first comic books I ever remember reading as a child.  The cover date is 1979, so I was 5 or 6 years old.  (The issue itself is a reprint of THE INCREDIBLE HULK Vol. 1, No. 128 from 1970.)

The Avengers roster started changing in the comics after the second issue.  Characters like General “Thunderbolt” Ross were already missing the classic line-up…

Okay, even as a kid maybe I knew this team seemed a little wanting, just like the team introduced at the end of AofU seems to be.  But six year old me still thought this image was bad ass!  (Don’t worry, Wanda gets her licks in by the end of the issue.)

Just like people have “My Doctor” (i.e. the one they imprinted on as a kid), I have my Avengers.  And my Avengers will always have Goliath, The Vision, The Beast, Yellowjacket, and Wonder Man in the turtleneck and the red pimp safari jacket, because they were the ones in the comics I read after this one.
For me, that’s the joy of AofU.  I enjoyed this retelling of Avengers history!  Very well done, “A” for effort!  I want to see what Captain America, Black Widow, War Machine, Falcon, Scarlet Witch, and The Vision do in the next go-round!
And yet, although I judiciously avoided all spoilers, I knew I’d seen this — well, read this — all before.  Which begs the question of who exactly AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON was written for — six year old boy comic book geek me, or for over-forty dude comic book geek me?  I’m fairly sure much of the praise or scorn heaped upon this movie is based on the answer to that question.
Six year old me might’ve interpreted that scene between Black Widow and Bruce Banner a little more generously than most (if you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about) and might’ve thought Widow’s MCU history reveal probably means something different to the character than it does to people watching the film.  Part of over-forty me believes that.  But the rest of over-forty me knows a reveal like that doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and it’s a shame, too.  A revelation that might’ve offered some additional depth (“My soul is as dark as Banner’s, but I have the same heroic potential.”) is doomed from almost the very start of the movie and it’s “lullaby” scene, and frames things in a way that makes the snarky “cleaning up after you boys” quip a mere one step above that one line in the last movie.