Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Lost Ones

The Lost Ones
by Steve Niles, Dr. Revolt, Modern Breath, Kime Buzelli, Gary Panter, and the marketing department of Microsoft.
Microsoft, 2008.
Available for free download here.

Hillary Brown: Okay, so the idea of a comic book produced by Microsoft to promote its version of the iPod is pretty off-putting, I admit, but it didn't have to be terrible, and it's free (unless you want one of the few limited-edition silkscreen-cover copies) and at least those facts together should keep expectations low. Still... It's fairly disappointing. I haven't read anything else by Steve Niles or even seen the movie of 30 Days of Night--although I want to, being a fan of movies where vampires jump out at people--so I can't say whether he's normally good or bad and whether this was a tossed off job just for money or what, but the problem is that the narrative's a mess. I don't mind the idea of having four different artists work on a book, especially four interesting artists. I'm a big fan of Kime Buzzelli's artwork, to the extent that I actually own a piece of it, so I was at least excited about her participation, but it turns out that comics are hard to do, and just because you like them doesn't mean you can do them. Fine art and narrative art don't intersect nearly as well in book form as they do on the walls of a gallery, and of the four artists (Dr. Revolt, Morning Breath, Buzzelli, and Gary Panter), all of whom have cred of some sort or other, only Panter seems to know what he's doing. I suppose the problems with this are exactly the problems people have with Alex Ross's art: it's just pretty pictures, and some of them aren't even all that pretty. So, I assume you hated it?

Garrett Martin: Yeah, this is awful. Honestly, I don't even know why we're talking about it (oh right - it's the only thing both of us have read this week). The cartoons in the circulars for Building #19 are better written and have more artistic integrity than this ridiculous waste of time*. I'd assume Microsoft paid some intern to script over Niles' three-lines-in-a-text-message plot, but I've read his "real" work and it's honestly not that much better. I feel sorry for the artists. Panter's the only one with any story-telling ability, and thus the only one whose section even begins to approach readability. It's a shame the others were saddled with any sort of narrative, 'cuz they all do varyingly good work when they don't have to worry about splitting the page into four panels of the least interestingly designed characters ever standing around delivering exposition. Microsoft should've just put out an art book instead, but I guess some exec read how "graphic novels" weren't just for kids in the Times that morning and decided that was just the thing to further the increasingly more desperate hipster-marketing of the Zune. Also Buzelli, Panter, and the rest would've been fools to give up the good stuff.

HB: I do think it's kind of nice that Microsoft's managed to give these people some money, and it's not as though the Zune appears anywhere in the book (thankfully), but if it's a marketing push it should perhaps be a more aggressive one. In other words, would it give you any interest in buying their product? Or even warm fuzzy feelings toward the company? It's a pretty bizarre move, and while I'm not opposed to the worlds of fine art, graffiti, music, and comics all coming together, in practice it's more like a party you invited all your friends to, thinking it would be awesome, and instead it turns out to be horribly awkward because none of them know how to talk to each other and you're not circulating and helping them to do just that. Basically, if it were free at a shop near me, I'd probably still pick up a printed copy because I'm a big fan of Panter and Buzzelli, but it would just be for the art, and don't expect truly great things even from that.

GM: Aggressively marketing The Lost Ones would run counter to its purposes. This is pretty clearly an attempt to hit a certain demographic that, for brevity (and for better or worse), we can label "hipsters". I mean, look at the artists they got for this thing; they've all got hipster cachet, to some extent. (Well, I've never heard of Morning Breath, but ooh, they're a graphic design duo! From Brooklyn! And they're opening a Thai BBQ Tandoori pizza parlor, or something. With Ethiopian chicken wings.) Microsoft set up a signing tour with Dr. Revolt and Gary Panter, and the Boston stop was in a shoe store that actively discourages those not in-the-know from shopping there by masquerading as a convenience store. Since day one the Zune has been heavily and primarily marketed to, y'know, "tastemakers", or whatever. So obviously The Lost Ones is trying to be something "underground" and arty, but that's kind of inherently impossible when you're either an ad for the fucking Zune or something written by Steve Niles. And of course this just happens to be both.

*: like these:

1 comment:

Smoggo said...

this is as distasteful as that joy division special edition zune. however..perusing the issue (re: looking but not reading), i enjoyed the artwork of buzelli and panter...this is some of the most clearly illustrated work i have seen of mr. panter. it would have been cool to see some of those issues of jimbo illustrated like this... it's obvious that i'm a fan though because i would love it anyway.