The Fix 10: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Patrick Ehlers

The Fix 10

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

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You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

Harvey Dent, The Dark Knight

Drew: If that quote doesn’t feel like it fits this issue, it’s because it doesn’t. Where The Dark Knight explores the ideas of good, evil, and the moral relativism that exists in between, The Fix is gleefully amoral, concerned less with good and bad as it is with whatever its protagonists can get away with. Which is to say, a quote about heroes and villains doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in the world of The Fix. But I wonder if we strip away the morality from that quote, if we might get something a bit more universal (if still deeply pessimistic): you either die happy, or you live long enough to see yourself become miserable. The ordering of those outcomes betrays a cynical worldview that The Dark Knight (or at least Harvey Dent) shares with The Fix, one that presumes things are inclined to get worse. Of course, while The Dark Knight spun that cynicism into tragedy, The Fix funnels it into dark humor, making any successes Roy or Mac may enjoy are but haughty spirits before the inevitable fall. Continue reading

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Paper Girls 17: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner & Patrick Ehlers

Paper Girls 17

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

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Drew: Brian K. Vaughan series are hard to pin down, generically. I mean, they obviously fall into big capital-G genres like “sci-fi” or “space opera,” but the list of specific influences — which Vaughan often name-checks — can shift from issue to issue. Case in point, Paper Girls has sprinted through dozens of generic touchstones in its 17 issues. And yet, I’ve been holding onto its starting point in the Spielberg/Columbus-style suburbia of the late ’80s as some kind of essential component of its DNA, even as the series hasn’t been in that setting since its very first arc. While some of the girls may still be in that head-space (Mac sure seems to be), they’re traversing worlds that have entirely different points of reference (both for the people who live in those worlds, and the stories we tell about them), which seems to be leaving an impression on them. Continue reading

The Same World, but Two Different Realities in Paper Girls 16

By Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

One of my most vivid memories is a day in first grade when we had a substitute teacher. I opened a little tupperware container full of alphabet flash cards and it fell on the floor, scattering the cards all over. When I started to pick them up, the teacher came over and yelled at me for “crawling around on the floor,” wouldn’t listen to a word of my protest, and sent me to detention. The flash cards remained on the floor for the rest of the day.

When you’re young, it often feels like you and adults live in two different worlds, but that specific scenario was one where I quite literally felt like the teacher and I were seeing and experiencing two very different realities. That rift between generations is illustrated just as literally by Cliff Chiang, Brian K. Vaughan, and Matthew Wilson in Paper Girls 16. Continue reading

Paper Girls 15

Today, Patrick and Ryan M are discussing Paper Girls 15, originally released June 8, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Patrick: I’ve always loved the idiom “snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.” It implies such a rough and determined win against nearly insurmountable odds. Like, think about how much courage it takes to snatch anything out of a pair of motherfucking jaws, never mind that the jaws evidently belong to the personification of “defeat.” It’s dramatic, heroic, hopeful. But it’s seldom something we see in the work of Brian K. Vaughan. Closing out the third story arc, Paper Girls 15 gives us a prime example of the exact opposite — defeat snatched from the jaws of victory. Every act of bravery is punished with increasingly perplexing consequences, until the very nature of the Girls’ time travel is thrown into question.

Continue reading

The Fix 9

Alternating Currents: The Fix 9, Drew and Ryan

Today, Drew and Ryan D. are discussing The Fix 9, originally released May 10th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Previously…

Television, traditional

Drew: In this age of heavily serialized television, the humble pre-cold-open-recap has become a matter of course. It can be darn useful for keeping threads straight, especially as they may feature elements introduced months or even years ago. Of course, that very feature — the inclusion of some long-forgotten detail — can often betray the events of the episode, broadcasting exactly what threads will be addressed. It’s a catch-22 that may be even more pronounced in comics, where a monthly release schedule can equate to more forgotten details between instalments, leading some series to offer virtually comprehensive recaps on their title pages. With The Fix, Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber have developed an in-narrative recap style that manages to avoid the dangers of giving the game away by simply limiting it to the perspective of their characters. Continue reading

Paper Girls 13

Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing Paper Girls 13, originally released April 5, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Spencer: The best sci-fi creators find a way to distill their grand ideas and concepts down to situations and emotions their audience can connect with and relate to. Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang have been wizards at this throughout Paper Girls, using their story to explore themes as weighty as prejudice and generation gaps and as mundane as family and growing up. Issue 13 distills that idea even further, slowing their ongoing story to a crawl and instead using the journey to naturally draw out the cast’s view of themselves, their families, and growing up in general. The result is never anything less than completely engaging. Continue reading

Paper Girls 11

paper-girls-11

Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Paper Girls 11, originally released February 1, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

suck·er punch

noun

1. an unexpected punch or blow.

Patrick: There’s not much that happens in Paper Girls that is expected, so it might be kind of hard to notice when the series is actually delivering unexpected blows. I mean, when you’re tumbling through time and space, what actually counts as “unexpected” anymore? That could be a tension killer, but under the measured eyes of Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang, a constant stream of sucker punches becomes an unsettling canvas. Continue reading

The Fix 7

Alternating Currents: The Fix 7, Drew and Patrick

Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing The Fix 7, originally released December 21st, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

I originally pitched [Breaking Bad] to the studio with one line. I told them: “This is a story about a man who transforms himself from Mr. Chips into Scarface.”

Vince Gilligan

Drew: Vince Gilligan’s elevator pitch for Breaking Bad might be one of the most well-known loglines in modern television — my dad knows it, if that’s any indication. I suspect people are attracted to the simplicity of Gilligan’s analogies; he calls on two films to paint before and after portraits of Walter White. For me, though, the very fact that he used two film characters to chart the endpoints of Walter’s evolution speaks to the differences between television and film — or, rather, the specific narrative capabilities of serialized stories. Where Walter White’s character is fundamentally one in transition between two points, film characters like Mr. Chips and Scarface are better understood as points.

To me, this is simply down to the matter of time. We don’t have enough time with film characters to form strong enough senses of who they are for all but the most obvious changes to even register. Any subtler changes might just be seen as inconsistency while we’re still forming our first impressions. In serialized narratives, though, we have much more time to develop a clear sense of who a character is — what they want, what they fear, what they will or won’t do — so can appreciate smaller, subtler changes. In a series like Breaking Bad, those changes slowly accumulate, building to drastic transformations that somehow never feel drastic at the moment. In a series like The Fix, those changes can provide a much more nuanced portrait when a character is pushed to the limit. Continue reading

The Fix 5

fix-5

Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing The Fix 5, originally released September 14th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Spencer: The stars of The Fix are not good people; Roy, especially, has been portrayed as completely immoral and self-serving. There’s one more aspect of his personality, though, that we shouldn’t forget, one which Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber thoroughly remind us of in The Fix 5: he’s pretty bad at being a criminal, too. Roy’s ability to break the law and get away with it has more to do with the corrupt institution he serves than his own skills, meaning he’ll squander any chance he has to progress as a criminal. For the citizens of The Fix‘s L.A., that’s probably a very good thing. Continue reading

Paper Girls 9

paper-girls-9Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Paper Girls 9, originally released September 7th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Spencer: There’s still much we don’t know about the world of Paper Girls, and despite Clone-Erin’s assurances on the first page, issue 9 doesn’t even begin to answer all our questions; what it does, though, is further dig into the “kids vs. adults” conflict apparently brewing in Clone-Erin’s future. How Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, and Matthew Wilson do so is fascinating; instead of going into a detailed flashback or history of the conflict, they simply recreate it amongst their own cast. Continue reading