Comics and Beer
and Dogs and Visuals and Social Media and Food and …

Feb
10

This week I’m reading Hellboy, Invincible, Ozma of Oz, Sweet Tooth, and the best-titled book in comics, Sir Edward Grey: Witchfinder.

Invincible #77 (Image, $2.99, pull): Invincible lately has been mostly punching, blood, and team-ups, which isn’t entirely unreasonable considering we’re in deep in The Viltrumite War event. We get kind of a breather here. After the Viltrumites vanished last issue, presumably to Earth, the team is headed after them with all manner of dark thoughts about what might have happened. This turns out to be license for more of the blood, entrails, and colorful forms of dismemberment that have been characteristic of Invincible for a while now (but with a twist! kind of!).

The book wraps with a jumping-off point for a whole new chapter to the narrative, and it’s an interesting wrinkle. Truth told, though, the overall turn Invincible has taken is starting to wear on me a bit. I know these are hyper-powerful beings, slugging it out for the fate of the universe, and there’s definitely still characterization going on here, but … well, sometimes it’s a little weird that a book called The Walking Dead is the more tasteful and restrained of Kirkman’s top two.

Ozma of Oz #4 (Marvel, $3.99, shelf): No real review necessary. The art continues to be impressive (although all the mouths tend to be a little shouty), but it’s still mostly for fans. One issue with the Oz books is that, while they have objectives, they’re a little narrative-lite; they’re more like strings of events, really, not with a resolution so much as an end of those events. But if you like the books, etc.

Sweet Tooth #18 (Vertigo, $2.99, shelf): What a great issue! Sweet Tooth has always been engaging and inventive, but the main story is an often grueling picture of unkindness with only brief moments to take a breath. This time, Jeff Lemire gives us an entire issue of near-solace before the next big push. It’s welcome.

In addition, the form of this issue is an interesting shift. The layout is turned sideways and is a hybrid of comic book and storybook style, complete with a narrator telling us the thoughts and actions of “The Boy” (Gus) and “The Big Man” (Jepperd). For a long time, this book has felt of a piece with Unwritten for reasons I couldn’t quite explain, and this issue definitely evoked Unwritten’s choose-your-own-adventure book from a few months back. It’s great to see creators  showing some faith in their audiences by taking these kinds of risks.

Hellboy: The Sleeping and the Dead #2 (Dark Horse, $3.50, pull): This issue is the wrap-up of another standalone story from Hellboy’s past. Last time left off with Hellboy facing the scary monster child; this issue sees him getting the crap kicked out of him by the kid. Standard fare. Good straightforward Hellboy story, with bonus points awarded for us getting to see a little bit more into the minds and actions of the BPRD agents sent to (unsuccessfully) back him up. Also, just so it’s clear that I’m not TOTALLY against decapitations, this story gets it right with a good one.

Sir Edward Grey: Witchfinder: Lost and Gone Forever #1 (Dark Horse, $2.99, shelf): That is the longest damn title I’ve ever written, but (more relevantly) the “Lost and Gone Forever” of this series is a nice reference to the content, which sees our Witchfinder sent to America. Way out West, Sir Edward is looking for a man in a town full of men (fellers?) who don’t take kindly to men who are looking for men. After some kerfuffle at the local tavern, Sir Edward and a stranger head out to seek some answers. The book has a great final page, and it’s drawn by 88-year-old comics art legend John Severin – judging from the detail in this issue, the man deserves his reputation.

Feb
02

This weekend, I read about a lost gem from the Marvel vaults: ARRGH! (via comics blogger The Magic Whistle). I wasn’t familiar with the title, but according to the page-one masthead, this issue is from May 1975 (volume 1, number 3). The story itself, “Beauty and the Bigfoot!” looks and reads like a full-length Mad magazine story.

I haven’t been able to find much else about ARRGH! but it lasted for all of five issues (you can see the covers here). The clips I looked through aren’t that different from what you might have found in Mad or Cracked during the same time, but the difference is that these were being published by a primarily superhero outfit like Marvel. DC’s Plop! (1973-76) was probably the closest thing to ARRGH!, albeit with a longer lifespan and better pedigree (with a stable including Basil Wolverton, Wally Wood and Sergio Aragones). Its traffic wasn’t in the superhero genre, but it did bring in the horror comic characters Cain, Abel, and Eve, who would later become integral parts of the Sandman universe (part of DC’s Vertigo line).

This stuck with me because humor comics aren’t really something you see with any regularity in comics anymore. When I was a kid, one of my favorite finds was Marvel’s What The–?, heir to the late-1960s Not Brand Ecch. What The–? took the silly, overblown, and cliched elements of comics (mostly Marvel but not exclusively) and created gag-a-minute parodies. The jokes were often juvenile – the Amazing Spider-Ham, for example – but it was PACKED with them, and it was cool to see superheroes get run up the flagpole.

What The–? was probably one of the first comics I read, which was a little like stumbling into Monty Python at that age — you know something funny is happening, but you don’t really understand it. I knew who Spider-man was thanks to my dad’s own fandom, but I think I was actually introduced to Wolverine and the Punisher via What The–? (as Wolverweenie and the Pulverizer), which may be why I have such a hard time taking grim and gritty characters seriously. Well, that and they’re kinda stupid.

There’s not much like that today, with some exceptions. A few years back, Marvel put out a simply drawn bit of strangeness called Wha… Huh? that was packed with cheesy digs on their characters, artists and writers – many of the gags fell flat or were overly in-jokey, but it was nice to see the effort. As recently as 2010, DC’s Larfleeze Christmas special offered a pretty clever riff on the character (and with activity pages!) that could even pass for canon.

Generally, though, comics these days aren’t all that, well, comical. Maybe it’s because so many fanboys treat their comics as SERIOUS BUSINESS, but I’d still expect most fans to have a pretty good sense of humor. On the other hand, we’re willing to play with our heroes in other ways. Marvel’s Strange Tales miniseries is an interesting evolution of the parody comic: A variety of artists get to do their take on Marvel heroes, with results that are weird and funny and beautiful (and anything that gives Kate Beaton a broader audience is a good thing). Books like Astro City and Planetary are non-humor riffs on iconic characters (although Planetary‘s Batman story – reviewed here – is pretty goddamn hilarious).

Maybe we prefer reference to parody today. Both are based in recognition, but reference a la Astro City (or Watchmen, for that matter) feels more like appreciation, less like mockery. I’m not sure how well Strange Tales or the Larfleeze issue sold, but that may be an indicator as well (and Marvel did try out a What The–? series on YouTube in the style of Robot Chicken). We’re in a pretty good time for comics right now (unlike the 80s), so maybe that’s part of it too – in the past decade, the form has really benefited from some fantastic writers and storytellers.

Still, what could those fantastic creators do with a good parody? Books like Strange Tales seem to touch on this question, but they’re pretty rare, and it strikes me that we can always use some deflating. Regardless of quality, there’s a part of me that would love to see a pompous blowhard like Green Lantern get a pie in the face.

Feb
01

Here’s the new QR code for my site. I’m including it as a visual example for my interactive journalism students. Obviously it would be ridiculous to post a QR code for a site on the site itself. I mean, you’re already there. What would be the point?

qrcode

I’m not an idiot. Really.

Jan
28

Nothing actually showed up in the box (or the shelf) this week, but I’ve been working on a motherlode due to my weeks away for the holiday, so there’s quite a bit to poke through. It’s long, so if you want to click around, the list is American Vampire, Billy the Kid, Elephantmen, Ozma of Oz, Sweet Tooth, Transformers, Unwritten, and Walking Dead. Further down, I also talk about some of the fine beers that accompanied me in this reading. Please to enjoy.

Walking Dead #80 (Image, $2.99, pull): Last issue: Shit got real. This issue: Shit continues to assert its reality. In this, the first part of the “No Way Out” arc, the group is dealing with the big pack of walkers that just showed up at its gates, something you knew was going to happen eventually. Rick’s crew steps pretty comfortably back into its role of survivalists (and now, protectors), and the community seems happy enough to let this happen. I’ve been liking the gated community story, but I think the big zombic boost comes at just the right time (that is, the worst possible time for our heroes). One minor gripe, and this is nothing new to WD, is that we really jump abruptly between scenes, and the Bendis-grade levels of dialogue threaten to drown out a lot of the book’s beats. Still, it remains one of the last titles I read every month for all the right reasons.

Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities and the Ghastly Fiend of London #4 (Dark Horse, $3.99, shelf grab):This series comes to a close as it began: Weirdly and with a bunch of surprises. It’s a good fit if you’re a fan of Eric Powell’s main book, The Goon, but (as Gary of Gary’s Comics argued), it loses a little goodwill when we’re not getting new issues of The Goon because of it. Still, weird, gory, and pretty fun.

The Unwritten #21 (Vertigo, $2.99, shelf grab): This book is both awful and terrific to be reading single-issue. It’s great because Mike Carey parcels it out in satisfying episodes; it’s a little daunting because the story has gotten so complex, you almost have to re-read the previous issue or so to remind yourself what was happening. Tom’s still learning the rules of Moby Dick alongside a Captain Ahab who may or may not be his father, Lizzie’s trying to contact him with the blood trick, and Richie’s got his possible vampirism under control (for the moment). This is a great issue for getting at the “rules” of fiction, a lousy jumping-on point, and it ends with a nigh-literal cliffhanger. Oh yeah, and there’s Frankenstein.

Sweet Tooth #17 (Vertigo, $2.99, shelf grab): This issue in brief: Everyone collides with everyone else, Jepperds finds out more about his kid, and some dyin’ occurs. Frames aren’t one of the first things you hear about with comics, but this issue they’re key to getting the chaos of the story across while still keeping things straight – even in the madness, the organization does a great job of keeping everything paced and cohesive.

Ozma of Oz #3 (Marvel, $3.99, shelf grab): You’re not following this if you didn’t grow up with the Oz books, but the art is amazing and the dialogue is straight out of those books. I keep telling myself to wait for the trade, because each 8-issue arc is a complete book, but it’s too cool-looking to wait for.

Transformers #15 (IDW, $3.99, shelf grab): The old, movie-inspired art is back, and this book is in danger of losing me again – I know some people like it, but I can’t relate to faces that look like collections of scrap. The storyline that got me hooked – alien robots integrate with the existing struggles on Earth – seems to be at a crossroads now that Megatron is alive again. Will they keep with this new path that gave us cool ideas like the Combaticons working for North Korea, or are we headed back to the same-old, same-old? Only one of these is worth my money.

American Vampire #10 (Vertigo, $3.99, shelf grab): This is still such a cool book, and it somehow avoids suffering from vampire story fatigue (for me, anyway). I like that the American breed is both a lot more wild and a lot more ugly (when vamped out) than its Old World counterparts – they resisted the urge to make the U.S. vampires look cooler, and I respect that. This issue, we find out what happened to Hattie, Pearl’s roommate who also turned (and betrayed Pearl). She gets to live in a locked room as a lab rat in hopes of figuring out how to kill the American bloodsuckers. Things degenerate from there.

And now, the beer!

What I’m drinking: I kicked through these issues in two sessions because the stack was so big, and I enjoyed two big beers in that time. Southern Tier Brewing’s Choklat Imperial Chocolate Stout (22 oz., 11% ABV) is … well, it’s hard to describe without essentially saying “It’s so chocolatey!” but it kind of is. That might seem obvious, considering the name, but often chocolate beers tend more toward the oh-so-genteel “notes” of chocolate. Not so here. The chocolate is what you smell first, and the taste is most definitely a strong dark chocolate; even the texture is more velvety than your typical stout. It’s not a bad stout, either, with a thin brown head and an ABV that makes it a nice winter warmer. I should clarify that we’re not talking chocolate milk levels of flavor – you won’t forget you’re drinking a beer – but the strength might put some off. Me, I liked it.

I had also picked up a sixer of Erie Brewing Company’s Ol’ Red Cease & Desist (1o.1% ABV) during my last trip up to Erie County, Pa. EBC’s beers are pretty reliable, and I particularly like Mad Anthony’s American Pale Ale. This is another strong beer, a Wee Heavy style, and it’s a nice, malty red. The flavor is assertive, not aggressive, but it’ll definitely warm you. Although I enjoyed this from the bottle, it wasn’t quite as good as the first time I had it on draft at Pittsburgh’s excellent Bocktown Beer & Grill. They’ve surely rotated it off tap by now (another great thing about Bocktown, but if you see it somewhere, give it a try.

Sep
19

Hey, here I am!

When I started this blog, at PodCamp 4 in Pittsburgh back in 2009, I told myself I would never write one of those “Sorry I haven’t been posting” posts that include lots of excuses and promises to do better. And I haven’t done that – okay, once – but I haven’t been posting either. Sorry about that.

Today I’ll be presenting at PodCamp 2010. My 1 p.m. session is called “Tools, Not Toys:
Teaching Practical Social Media Use in Journalism and Beyond.” I’m pretty excited about this. The session is based on my experiences designing and teaching our Blogging and Interactive Journalism course here at WVU. This summer I presented a similar talk at AEJMC in Denver with Jeremy Littau, Carrie Brown-Smith and some others (.doc with the abstract here, if you’re interested), and it went over fairly well, so I’m hoping it’s of use to the Pittsburgh set as well.

Interested but can’t make it? The PodCamp site will be streaming sessions live with Vivo (though I’m not yet sure if my session will be so blessed). I’ll put up an outline too, after the session. I’ll also probably get some Chipotle and visit Phantom of the Attic (are those guys ever gonna update their damn website?), but that doesn’t so much concern you.

Update: Here’s that PodCamp 2010 handout as a PDF (sadly, it lacks my dulcet tones).

Mar
22

I was planning to continue my drink-thru of the Chimay family of trappist ales this week. Since learning that there are only six true trappists being made today, however, I thought I’d go stock up. Off to our surprisingly well-supplied Kroger then. When I got there, however, I saw something unexpected.

Romulan Ale.

If you’re scratching your head, obviously you’re not a golfer (or a Star Trek fan). Romulan Ale is the occasionally illegal alcoholic beverage of choice of the various iterations of the Star Trek universe. It’s a potent brew offered up in the likes of 10 Forward and Federation speakeasies across the universe. It is the object of several online recipes (including this virgin one!) and an energy drink. And there it was, nestled between the Rochefort and the Westfalle.

Some additional background: I actually came late to true appreciation of the Star Trek universe. My dad was a colossal Star Trek fan, so, as perhaps my first act of rebellion, I grew up a colossal Star WARS fan. Thus as I grew up, my Star Trek knowledge came only from what I failed to willfully ignore (notably excepted were the Q episodes, which will blow your MIND, man). It wasn’t until college that I opened my mind to the other “Star”-prefixed franchise, the one more focused on foreheads and protocol than on blasters and mysticism.

Therefore I know all of three things about Romulan Ale: It is made by Romulans, it is (sometimes) illegal, and it is blue.

This Romulan Ale fulfills one of those criteria.

Aside from the fact that it’s called “Romulan Ale,” there’s no information on the Romulan Ale bottle or carton. Unless the decorative Romulish writing provides some information on ABV, there’s no way to tell anything about what it is you’re drinking. The internets reveal that it’s the product of Cerveceria la Contancia in El Salvador (A nation known for its Trekkies; “La Trek,”they call it.), and that it may have been made for The Star Trek Experience in Vegas.

So clearly Romulan Ale has some stellar credentials. It’s in the beer section, but I’ve got no idea if this blue concoction (it comes in clear bottles) is malted grain and hops or merely the dread “flavored malt beverage,” and the color hints at the latter. Obviously I had to buy a sixer.

Romulan Ale comes out a surprisingly dark blue – like Dawn dishwashing liquid. It’s not fizzy, which is promising, and it’s got a thin-to-nonexistent head. Take a sniff, and you smell beer. Not hops, not malt … a generic “beer” smell.

The first drink was weird. Ever reach for a class of what you think is pop and get, say, water or orange juice? It was that kind of shock. I guess I was still expecting some Zima derivative, but Romulan Ale is in fact a beer. Just what kind of beer, however, it’s hard to say.

My wife tried a swig. “This tastes kinda like Budweiser,” she said. I’d only had one drink at that point, so I figured that was probably an oversimplified first impression. But as I continued, I had to admit that, well, it didn’t really taste like anything.

As I continued to drink, it became more and more clear that Romulan Ale exists in order for wacky nerds to show up to their nerd parties and say “Hey guys! Guess what I bought!” And that’s cool, because I go to that kind of party. Further, it is definitely beer, but it makes no claims beyond that. It’s not bad beer by any means (although you get that sweet-ish mass pilsener aftertaste), but if you were drinking it in the dark you would not know it from any other serviceable sixpack. This is a novelty beer (not that you needed me to tell you that).

In an example of things coming full circle, my dad was down to visit this weekend. When I came back from the store, I said, “Hey Dad! Guess what I bought!” He loved it. Took two bottles back home with him: One to drink, one to display in his office. Dad’s not much of a drinker either, so he’ll probably leave them both unopened. And that’ll make him happy, because the bottles say “Romulan Ale” and they’re blue. In a way, my dad’s who this beer is for, and I’m glad I found it for him.

Romulan Ale: It tastes kinda like Budweiser.

Mar
17

These next few beer updates are part of a Christmas present that I’m finally getting to: The Chimay variety pack. It comes with all three varieties of this Belgian trappist ale. In addition to their flagship blue label, the pack includes a Chimay Red and a Triple, which has kind of a beige label, but I can understand not wanting to call it Chimay Beige.

Not only that, I get official glassware! Fond as I am of my Snake River Brewing beer mug, each Belgian beer is traditionally supposed to be enjoyed from their distinct drinkware. I am now officially a beer nerd and will start calling french fries pommes frites – I apologize for this.

In addition to beer and swell glassware, you get literature providing details on where this ale comes from. Who doesn’t love literature? Chimay’s a product of Scourmont Trappist abbey in Belgium, meaning it’s brewed by monks (they also make cheese. did you know they make cheese? i didn’t know they make cheese). This makes it a Trappist ale, but what I did not know is that there are only 6 beers in the world brewed in Trappist abbeys (the rest are “trappist-style”). Not only that, I’ve had one: Orval, which I’ve reviewed on this site. The remaining four are Westmalle, Westvleteren, Achel, and Rochefort, which is available at the local Kroger (so I guess I know what’s coming next).

I’m starting this flight with the Blue. It’s Chimay’s signature brew, and although I’ve had it before (at Pittsburgh’s excellent Sharp Edge Brasserie), it’s only been from draft, not the bottle. I’ll move on to the Red and Triple next time.

Uncap the Blue and you immediately get the aroma of yeast. You don’t have to swirl or sniff or really do much of anything – you open, you smell yeast. After this, though, the actual smell is much more complex. It’s thick, like other trappists, with that potent alcohol edge to it if you breathe deeply enough; that’s not surprising when you consider it’s 9% ABV.

Based on that smell, you might expect something heavier in taste. What you get is smooth but not syrupy. It’s got hops, but it’s good and malty, too, which I like. The beer has a dark flavor, but it’s complex rather than overpowering. There’s even a little scotch-like edge to it. There’s some floral taste to it (the Chimay people describe it as “rosaceous,” if that helps you), and while it’s not highly bitter, what bitterness there is hangs out on the back edges of your tongue longer after you swallow. There’s also some sourness, but again, it’s not something you’ll notice until after the drink is done.

After this start, I’m excited to taste the rest of the Chimay rainbow. This is a complex beer, and the rest of the family’s likely to live up to that standard.

Mar
16

If you’re a comic book fan, you’re probably following Bleeding Cool (you’re not? what the hell is wrong with you?). If so, you might be aware of The Great Amazon $14.99 Graphic Novel Sell-Off of 2010. You’re also probably aware that it was a glitch, and that very few (if any – accounts vary) graphic novels actually made it out the door before the Big A put the kibosh on the free-for-all. For the social media student, it’s an interesting picture of how the rules (or at least the how these rules get made up on the fly) look today.

Here’s a snapshot of my experience with the glitch. Because I have an infant daughter, I was awake fairly early on Sunday, March 7. Logging on to Twitter, I saw the following tweet from Bleeding Cool:

In a nutshell, the story was that a shocking array of Marvel, IDW, and Image hardcover anthologies were going for $8-15. The range itself was impressive: Major Lee and Kirby books; new classics like the Ultimates Omnibus; Kirkman gold like Invincible and Walking Dead; to-be-released joints like The Complete Bloom County vol. 2; even rarities like Tomb of Dracula and Howard the Duck! For reference, these are in most cases lavishly produced hardcovers that typically go for $60-100+, and they were up for a microfraction of that.

After checking out the link, I retweeted the information in my own calm, measured fashion:

I also proceeded to buy something like 20 books, spending an amount you’re better off not knowing (suffice to say I didn’t hit the $500+ some others reported). As the day went on, BC’s reports moved from “Is it a glitch?” to “It’s probably a glitch” to “Yup, it’s a glitch – and it’s being fixed.”

By day’s end, the cancellation letters were rolling out. Initially, the word was that Amazon was only hitting the orders of bulk speculators, knocking orders of multiple copies of a book down to one (thus thwarting would-be speculators who hoped to profit from the 500+ percent markdown on some titles). Later, though, the word came that entire orders were being erased without a word of explanation. I read nervously as others reported their vanishing orders.

And then they came for me.

Amazon toyed with me, letting me hold onto some slim hope. On Tuesday, I received this email:

Logging in, my order now appeared thus:

Two books left! That’s still two fantastic grabs! Success!(?) Was Amazon attempting to make nice by leaving me with some slice of my order?

Well, no. The next day, my order had been fully purged – and with no further email – as though it never was. Soon after, though, I received this email:

What’s interesting about the story is what came of it, both at the micro and macro levels. For me individually, I wound up with $25 essentially for being an early-rising opportunist. If you need a demonstration of the power of social media to link like-minded individuals and bring them to action, this is it. This comics-related example might seem frivolous, but consider: We’re motivated by what we care about, but we can only act on the information we know about. What would have been an easily contained matter several years back (“But what about email?” you ask? Please.) became a phenomenon in just a few short hours. Seeing this many geeks get this motivated on a Sunday morning should be proof alone.

More widely, we’re now seeing an interesting ripple among smaller retailers. Bleeding Cool reported the rise of a new Twitter hashtag, #notaglitch, which is being used by retailers with a physical store to promote their own sales. Further, that movement has led BC (and others?) to promo a “Comics Local” sidebar showing these kinds of sales. Is it realistic for a website to feature such seemingly hyperlocal content? I couldn’t tell you at this point, but it’s an interesting and unexpected development.

Another interesting development was how the glitch caused Amazon’s top sellers list to mutate. Thanks to a screenshot from BC, we know that on Sunday, March 7, the top ten sellers at Amazon were 1) Ultimates Omnibus, 2) Wolverine Omnibus, 3) X-Men Omnibus, 4) Fantastic Four Omnibus, 5) Daredevil Omnibus, vol. 2, 6) Daredevil Omnibus, vol. 1, 7) The Death of Captain America Omnibus, 8 ) Invincible Iron Man Omnibus, 9) Secret Wars Omnibus, 10) Iron Man Omnibus. That’s out of ALL books. Compare that to the top 5 sellers among graphic novels alone on Tuesday, March 9:

It’s sad, really.

I know there are some who are griping that Amazon cancelled their orders. I’m not. I wouldn’t have minded hanging on to one or two of those books, but I recognize the nature of computer error, and living up to all those glitchy orders would have been a huge sum for any company to eat. I didn’t write to complain because it felt a little bit like exploiting – let’s call it was it was – something that was nobody’s fault. It’s one thing to jump on a deal that seems too good to be true; it’s another to essentially scream “no takebacks!” when you find out that it is. Further, Amazon’s always done well by me, so I don’t have the “let ‘em take it” attitude I might with a less savory company.

The complaint I’ve heard is that $25 is a pale shadow of the amounts many people would have saved with the glitch. And that’s fair. I’d counter, however, that $25 is more Amazon credit than I had before Sunday, March 7. Maybe that makes me a naive Internet user, but I still feel like I came out ahead.

Mar
08

Every year I submit a proposal to The Visual Communication Conference. It’s a great, small affair that’s populated with big names in the field of visual communication. In past years I’ve submitted work on the graphic adaptation of the 9/11 report and on memorialization in Shanksville, Pa., the site of the Flight 93 crash.

This year I am NOT doing a 9/11-related project. Instead, I’m investigating iconic photographs through their re-use in humor. I’m pretty excited about the idea – I’ve been wanting to get my research more into the concept of what’s iconic, and I see this as a way to start in an area that hasn’t been investigated (unless there’s some vein of Internet humor site imagery research that I’m not aware of). Have a look.

Finding the iconic through the comic in Photoshop Phriday

What does it mean for a photograph to be iconic? Previous research has defined iconic photographs as those images that are representative, memorable, and reusable. That reuse, however, need not be related to the original function of the image; in fact, iconic images such as the flag raising at Iwo Jima have thrived into the 21st century because of how they can be pressed into the service of a variety of causes. Great images may depict a specific time, place, and event, but those that become iconic may do so in part by the way they lend themselves to general usage.

This research takes a use-based approach to identifying iconic photography, asking which images are most frequently used in humor and parody. Comedy relies on taking what is known or expected and turning it in unexpected ways; the better known something is, the greater number of people that can potentially recognize its subversion (although we shouldn’t give too much credit). If iconic images are characterized by being recognizable, then highly iconic images should be more frequently used in visual parody than less recognizable images.

To test this proposition, I examine images from humor website Something Awful. Since 2001, the site has run a weekly feature called Photoshop Phriday. Each installment has a theme, and members of the site’s user forums contribute their images in hopes of being included. Some of these draw on Internet gags and memes, trying to be funny by making references to running jokes, and others incorporate recognizable photographic images into the game. Certain images (e.g., Tiananmen Square) seem to appear again and again, while other images deemed iconic (e.g., Migrant Mother) have never made an appearance. Although the site’s mainly teen-to-30s male demographic puts a limitation on what we can generalize from study, observing what is used and how provides us with a new angle on how the photographic record endures and repurposes itself in society.

Mar
01

Hello blog. It’s been a while. It’s been a February, really. Between taking care of an infant and keeping up with my class blog, you’ve fallen by the wayside. I am sorry about this, but things are gonna change.

That other blog? Means nothing to me – YOU’RE my one and only. Well, sure I’ll still post there. I mean, it’s my job, baby. You don’t want me to lose my job, do you?

In all seriousness, February functioned as a sort of mental health month in order for me to adapt to the new duties of, you know, having a kid and teaching a blog class. So essentially I haven’t been blogging because I’ve been blogging. But to get back on track, with the blog and things beyond, here’s what’s going to happen in March:

  • Updates on Monday, Wednesday and Friday (at least)
  • At least one comics and beer post (each) per week
  • Continued (and hopefully more focused) updates in the realms of social media, visual communication, and infant care in the sterling tones you’ve come to expect. Yes, YOU.

I’m also trying to get my physical act back together, so this March I’ll be running at least a mile every day. Which right now means A mile every day, but I was doing pretty well in 2009 so hopefully I don’t take long to bounce back. Finally, I’m undergoing a strict fast food embargo for the month. Why in March? Because it’s not January.

So that’s what I’m hoping to do. Won’t you join me as I fail in full view of the Internet?

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