Thursday, June 30, 2011

Google+ Likes Comics

I managed to score a Google+ account last night (thanks, Keidra!) and have been trying to poke around and figure out how it works and compares to Facebook. It seems like some of the features are radical improvements over Facebook, but I've only really had a chance to look at it for an hour or two, so I hesitate to make any snap judgments.

But, one of thing that strikes me as a significant improvement over Facebook is this notion of "Sparks." It's basically a subject aggregator that works off Google's inherent news search capabilities. (As near as I can guestimate right now.) Which means that you're not hooking into a specific RSS feed or anything, you're just asking to see cool stuff on a particular subject.

Now, the reason why I'm bringing it up here on my blog is because Google starts that section by showcasing ten subjects to start you off...
Comics featured right there on the first page, right out of the gate!

A lot of the articles are ones I might've seen elsewhere -- offhand, I'm seeing articles from The Beat, Newsarama, CBR, etc. -- but there's also some articles I could well have missed otherwise. Pieces from Kickstarter, Vimeo and The Seattle Times are showing up in the feed as I type this. And these all seem to be actual comic book articles, not superhero articles that briefly mention a character first appeared in comics.

I'll see how well this actually works over the coming days and weeks, but I just thought it was a cool little surprise to see Comics given a fairly high prominence.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Lancelot Links

  • In the UK between July 5-8? If so, check out the Joint International Conference of Graphic Novels, Bandes dessinées and Comics featuring lectures by, among others, Melinda Gebbie, Edmond Baudoin and Bart Beaty.
  • Rob Steibel has some guest posts lined up on HiLoBrow looking at the Lee/Kirby debate. In particular, he's focusing close attention on Fantastic Four #63.
  • TwoMorrows has a preview copy (PDF) of Back Issue #50 examining Batman from the 1970s and 80s (with lots of love directed towards Jim Aparo). This issue will also be in full color and will be available at the end of next month.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Which Are The Best Phantom Stories?

I want to like The Phantom. I really do. I've read various versions of the character, ranging from some of Lee Falk's original strips to the contemporary one to the Charlton comic books to the DC ones to Moonstone ones. I've watched several of the cartoons and the Billy Zane movie. And I just haven't found any of the versions that interesting or compelling.

But I still WANT to like the character.

I mean, it sounds like a great concept. You've got this guy who fights injustice where it's needed, using whatever natural skills and training he can bring to the table. Plus, he passes down his mantle from generation to generation so there's a continuity across hundreds of years. He's got a pretty decent costume and he lives in the jungle. Not to mention that there have been some really great artists to work on the character, including the current strip illustrator Paul Ryan, whose work I've enjoyed for years.

But I just haven't been able to really enjoy the character.

So let me ask if anyone out there has any particularly favorite Phantom stories or creators that the could recommend. Any Phantom fans that can direct me to which stories will really sell it to me?

Monday, June 27, 2011

I Had A Blog Post Mostly Written...

... but I thought better of it before hitting the "Publish" button; I don't particularly feel like burning any bridges today. So you, gentle readers, get a mash-up of today's Garfield with today's...
Marketoonist

Fallen Justice

Part of the original Marketoonist gag was that the billboard was blank, so I added some of the Garfield art from today, to make the dialogue a little more poignant. I'm also rather amused that that keeping the original ending word balloon in Fallen Justice still works with the replacement Garfield text.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Binding Your Comics

I was at the local Half-Price Books, browsing through their graphic novel section (I love that they have a graphic novel section now) and saw this...
My first thought was that it was some book related to the Avengers television show that had Patrick McNee in it, but I quickly noted that "Operation Galactic Storm" was very much a Marvel event back in the 1990s. But I didn't recall a hardbound edition ever coming out, and it didn't seem to have any Marvel branding on it.

I pulled one of the book down to find that it was a bound collection of actual comics. I'd heard of this being done before but never seen one in person. Someone had taken a stack of regular monthly comic books, and had them professionally bound into a single volume. They even added a custom cover page...
The comics were left as intact as possible. The staples obviously would have to be removed, and it looks like they trimmed maybe 1/8" or 1/4" off every side so all of the edges were flush with one another. But other than that, the book read through exactly the same as if you were reading the floppies. (Though it does appears as if pages which had ads on both sides -- like the back cover -- had been removed.)
A quick search online found several places that do this type of work specifically for comics, and the prices I'm seeing look quite reasonable, often starting in the $20 range. Not sure if it's something I'm going to be doing myself any time soon, but it makes for an interesting idea for binding those stories that haven't and/or aren't likely to receive their own printed collection from the publishers. I'm particularly thinking of things like Rom, the Space Knight or Doc Savage where the rights-holders are decidedly different than the original publishers. Obviously, that doesn't mean they'll never be collected (after all, many of the 1970s Star Wars and Conan books that were originally published by Marvel have since been collected and re-released by Dark Horse) but the legal hurdles are higher than when Marvel wants to reprint, say, any Spider-Man story they've ever done.

Anyway, comic book binding. Clever idea, and one that's evidently become MUCH cheaper than the last time I looked into it a decade or so ago.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

On Metropolis

No, not the Metropolis everybody in comicdom thinks of with that Superman chap, I'm talking about Fritz Lang's 1927 film Metropolis. It's one of my favorite movies of all time, probably coming in a close second or third to Star Wars.

I'm in the middle of reading the original novel by Thea von Harbou; the version I've got pictured at the left with illustrations by Mike Kaluta. It, not surprisingly, goes into a lot more detail and has a few minor plot points that are omitted from the film entirely. Josaphat's escape from the Thin Man (or "Slim" as he's called here) and Fredersen's relationship with his mother, for examples. I also just re-watched the movie earlier this evening.

Here's what I don't get: why is it one of my favorite movies? It's a decent enough story but the characters aren't particularly compelling. And the “The Mediator between the Head and Hands must be the Heart!” theme is fairly trite. The acting is good for a 1920's silent movie, but wildly over-acted by contemporary standards.

The movie also doesn't hold a nostalgia factor for me in the way, say, Star Wars does. I didn't see Metropolis until about half-way through college.

So what is it about the movie captivates me every time I see it?

Is it just the visuals? Some of the special effects are very impressive, even by today's standards. Is the style? The expressionist movement with touches of art deco? Is it just the genre? A sci-fi movie from before sci-fi was really a genre?

But I wonder if there's something a little deeper than that? Up until a year ago, I held to the belief that it was too rooted in it's time to really be relevant, but I began rethinking that when someone on another blog (can't recall where) pointed out that it's not necessarily about the industrial age and manual labor, but it can be seen in the broader context of class warfare. That undercurrent of class distinctions runs throughout the story. There are a very small number of wealthy people in control of things, a slightly largely group that interacts with them, and hundreds of thousands of peons that are effectively worthless, replaceable drones.

Maybe that's what clicks for me. Maybe I've always sensed that subconsciously, even if it didn't register at a higher level.

I bring it up here because it's something worth thinking about. Not necessarily the relevant themes of a nearly century old movie, but the notion of examining your own interests in media consumption. Why do you read the comics you do? More important, why do you like the comics that are your favorites? I suspect many people haven't really thought about it that deeply before, and I wonder if it's maybe time you start.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Minor Blog Housekeeping

Just a quick note to alert folks of a couple of minor changes on my blog. (Obviously, this is mainly relevant if you're reading this on my actual blog page and not via Facebook or the RSS feed or something.) Anyway, I've updated the list of "Comics I'm Reading" along the right column there -- added several new ones and removed those that have ended. I've also replaced the "Buy My Book" graphic with a "Purchase from Amazon" carousel that features several works that I contributed to in some way. I've actually gotten Comic Book Fanthropology finally listed on Amazon, so I can direct folks to the single location where the most significant of my printed work can be purchased.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

This Man, This Goofy Goings-On

Fantastic Four #51 is often cited as one Stan and Jack's best issues. The story is a rather quiet one, coming right on the heels of the Galactus Trilogy, and is used to make a powerful statement about strength of characters and heroism generally and Ben Grimm's in particular. Not a personal favorite of mine, but I can totally see why so many people like it.

Anyway, here's how Stan wrote the promotional copy for this dramatic, moody piece. It showed up at the end of the letters page of FF #50...
NEXT ISH: Featuring the Thing, more dramatic, more heroic, more exciting than ever before! We hate to keep telling that each ish is better than the last, but honest to Gorgon, we mean it! F.F. #51 has everything! It present Reed's latest nutty, death-defying scientific miracle -- it brings you a new and completely different arch-villain -- it gives you more of the goofy goings-on at Metro College -- but, most important of all, it proves once again that bashful Benjamin is the greatest single comic strip character ever created! (With apologies to Irving Forbush!) So, don't even consider missing FANTASTIC FOUR #51 -- it's what's happening, tiger!
Not surprisingly, there's a lot of Stan's typical hyperbole. What's strange to me, in retrospect, is that he clearly knew what the story was when he wrote this (Some of his next issue blurbs are pretty generic and still don't match what actually happens in the issue!) but he still tries selling it like there's lots of laughs where there clearly aren't. That "nutty death-defying scientific miracle" really does put Reed closer to death than readers had ever seen him before. Very powerful and dramatic scenes. I'm not sure "nutty" would be an appropriate adjective there. I have no idea what "goofy goings-on" he might be referring to either. Wyatt declines an invitation to join the football team, but that's about it.

He could have tried selling the dramatic angle more, and still conveyed that Stan-style bombastic fervor he cultivated. In fact, just eliminating or changing a couple of adjectives, and it would've side-stepped the whole nutty/goofy thing.

This is the type of thing I love about older comics -- just trying to figure out what the hell people were thinking at the time! I mean, really, what was Stan thinking?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wednesday Link-O-Matic

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

How Much Are You Spending On Comics These Days?

When the recession first hit, there was a fair amount of internet chatter about people changing their purchasing habits in comicdom. Did you drop titles or just cancel cable or skip that doctor's visit that you really didn't want to go to anyway? A lot of people lost their jobs, and many have yet to find new ones. Many of those who did are working in positions less desirable (to them at least) than what they had previously. We're still hearing daily news reports about how the super rich control the vast majority of the country's wealth and how being a fry cook at McDonald's is now considered a great opportunity and how the entire country is just about to run up against the debt ceiling and on and on... And even though we've heard the odd reports about a comic shop closing or a creator coming against hard times, I haven't seen/heard anything about you: the comic book fan.

So I'm wondering: how are YOU holding up as a comic book fan? How have your comic buying habits changed over the last 2-3 years? Are you spending less? The same amount, but you've moved over to digital to get more bang for your buck? What is your weekly trip to the comic shop like now compared to 3 years ago? What does the next 6-12 months look like for you in comicdom?

Seriously, I'd like to hear how comic fans are doing these days. Feel free to leave comments anonymously.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Fantastic Four #19 Page 10

For no reason in particular, other than I've always liked the following page. (Click to enlarge and bask in the awesomeness.)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Why I'm Not Drawing Comic Books

When I was a kid, my dad was a busy guy. He held a regular job as a school teacher and did a lot of magic shows during the summer and winter breaks. For a while he also taught graduate classes at a nearby university, and he was program director (I think that was his title) for a "College for Kids" program at the community college. In his free time, he did illustrations for several (20-ish?) magic books and wrote a few books of his own, ranging in topics from early childhood education to writing/using contracts to creating themed magic shows. He's also written articles and columns for about a dozen different magic magazines, and had software review columns in some early Macintosh newsletters. Oh, yeah, and he helped Mom raise my brother and me.

Part of that was that he liked to keep busy. (His uncle-in-law advised him when he retired from teaching that the key to a happy retirement was keeping three "projects" going at all times. Mom laughed and said she wished he could cut back to three!) But part of it was that he wanted to provide for his family by bringing in as much income as he could.

In recent years, I've noticed that I've picked up in Dad's footsteps in many ways by having several projects going on simultaneously. You know all that stuff I talk about here on my blog? All that comic related stuff? That's in addition to a full-time day job. And in just the past couple of days, I've come up with two more project leads that I've done some talking with folks on. Maybe nothing will come of either of them; the lead I got about a week and a half ago looks like it's fizzled out. But that's not the point. The point is that I am, as a rule, always working on several projects simultaneously.

My reasoning is a little different, though, I think. Where Dad was looking to improve the family's security by improving our current finances, I'm a bit more inclined to be improving my security by improving my future finances. That is, I'm not so much concerned about the income I'm generating now (though I do appreciate it!) but I'm more concerned about my continued ability to have an income in the future. I'm doing a decent job working and earning money right now, but what will my situation look like in ten or twenty years? Can I keep doing what I'm doing or, functionally, will that job no longer exist? So I work on developing my skills in as many areas as I can (both mentally and physically) so that I will always have the flexibility to keep working.

One of the things my parents instilled in me was a deep appreciation of learning. Keeping myself open to new ideas and approaches, and being able to take those in and be reflective enough to figure out which would work best. I usually joke that I first got into graphic design because I wanted to do something art-related, and that was the only path for which I didn't come up with a reason for eliminating. There is a semblance of truth to that, but had I not spent time investigating other options using the tools Dad and Mom gave me, I don't know that I would've been able to make that decision. I would've done something stupid like try to become a comic book artist.

(Note: being a comic book artist is NOT a stupid profession. My attempting to be a comic book artist is just a stupid idea.)

So, thanks, Dad, for helping me have the wherewithall to not try to be a comic book artist. I suspect that would've led to a world of hurt, and resulted in me living in your basement.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Green Lantern Credits

I went ahead and saw Green Lantern this afternoon. (Using a leftover free ticket I had for Thor, a twist which amuses me a bit.) I'll skip a review other than to say I didn't think it was very well written.

So then the movie ends and the credits start rolling. They go through the big name folks, do a short (predictable) epilogue and then start scrolling the full cast and crew credits. Now me? I'm the type of guy who actually reads movie credits. Not so much for the names -- obviously, I've never even heard of the vast majority of those people -- but for the titles and roles. Were there more make-up people or CGI animators? Were the set designs done by one person or several? That type of thing. Kind of mini-analysis of how they made the movie.

You know whose names I didn't see in the credits anywhere? Nowhere did they mention Bill Finger and Marty Nodell (who created the original Green Lantern) or John Broome and Gil Kane (who created the Hal Jordan version). Granted, DC never made contractual credit obligations with those guys the same way Bob Kane got out of the company, but it would've been a nice courtesy.

Like the way Steve Ditko got credited in the Spider-Man movies. Or Larry Lieber in Thor.

OK, we all know about how creators got so royally shafted back in the day with regards to creator rights and such. Nothing new or unexpected there, really. But what irked me was that they gave credit for the poster of The Man Who Fell To Earth.

They gave CREDIT for the POSTER of another MOVIE.

I'm presuming this is the poster in question -- I certainly don't recall seeing it at any point. I suppose it was in the background of Jordan's apartment? Maybe in that bar? But this poster gets more billing than the guys who created the characters.

You know, I don't honestly expect DC or Warners to be good, honorable companies who stand up for the little guy, but wow. Talk about a smack in the face to the people who actually made the whole movie possible in the first place!

Marvel's First Webcomics

Marvel actually first experimented with webcomics WAAAAY back in 1996. Dubbed "CyberComics", they were original stories featuring their characters and were presented as mix of limited animation and sound effects -- not unlike the "motion comics" that are seen currently. While Marvel has long since removed them from their own site, writer D.G Chichester has posted a video version of one of his Spider-Man CyberComics...
Not surprisingly, these took a bit of effort to produce, at least relative to one of their pamphlet comics. Marvel ran these monthly for about four years but never was able to find a viable business model for them. They were neat and different than anything any other company was doing at the time, but they were essentially loss leaders.

Interestingly, while these CyberComics COULD have been used to direct readers to buy the printed ones, it was in fact the printed comics that were used more heavily to drive readers to the webcomics! Gambit #12 made direct reference to the the Gambit: The Hunt for the Tomorrow Stone CyberComic, and I recall quite a debate among the Marvel Chronology Project board of directors on how, or even if, we should handle presenting that new twist to continuity.

Towards the end of Marvel's experiment with "CyberComics", they added another approach which, financially at least, seemed to make a little more sense. They added a page to their weekly "Marvel Messenger" newsletter devoted to an original comic story. These were treated more like regular comics -- no animations or sound or anything -- and were used to encourage people to get the PDF newsletter. Which itself was a promotional tool for Marvel's upcoming comics. Unlike the CyberComics, which were posted on Marvel's website, these were only available via the emailed newsletter. Like the CyberComics, though, these were dropped entirely in 2000.

(I might point out, though, that these Messenger comics were definitely NOT in continuity. In the storyline shown here, there were any number of disconnects with established continuity, the most obvious of which was that they changed the name and origin of Dr. Doom's mother -- that's her in the last panel. In retrospect, I think this was deliberately done to show that these stories weren't "real" compared to the ones you had to buy.)

Although I don't think there are many people working at Marvel today who worked on any of these cybercomics, I continue to get the impression that their early not-great experiences there have colored the company's view on webcomics.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Just Do It!

Yesterday, I had to scrap my secret plan. It was a good plan; I was committed to it. Things were going along relatively smoothly. But I had to scrap it because of outside forces. My secret plan was to run the Chicago Marathon later this year.

I got the notion right around the time of the Chicago Marathon last year. A friend of mine was going to run it and I thought, "Hey, that'd be kind of cool to have a marathon checked off my bucket list." Not that I actually have a bucket list, but the idea was that it was a goal that most people don't even consider attempting because it takes a lot of hard work and determination. I don't want to run marathons as a regular thing, but I think it'd be a great experience to run one once.

The concern I initially had was that I was never much of a runner. Certainly not distance running. So I started last year slowly trying to get myself up to a point where I could start marathon training. From what I'd read, that meant being able to run for about a half hour without stopping or slowing down.

The Chicago Marathon this year is on October 9. I found what sounded like a good, formal marathon training schedule for novice runners and backtracked to when I would need to start that. My first day of what I consider formal marathon training was last week Tuesday.

The past week and a half have gone fairly smoothly, training-wise, so I hit the Chicago Marathon site to finally register. Only to find out that it's completely booked. 45,000 people have already signed up for a race that's still about four months away. I was NOT expecting that. A quick look around the internet, too, shows that it's one of the last marathons of the year in the U.S. -- certainly among the places I could realistically get to -- and I wouldn't really have time to properly train for anything sooner.

So my secret marathon plan for 2011 is scrapped. (Though I still plan on training in case, like last year, a friend that has signed up runs into health problems shortly before the race and can't actually run it.)
Just do it!

See, my problem here was that I hesitated. I waited too long. I didn't take command of my own destiny and let someone else make my choices for me. When I wrote my book, it didn't happen because somebody else wanted me to write it; it happened because I made it happen. I chose to sit down and work on it every night. It happened because I stopped fooling around with the idea and just sat down to do it.

For whatever thoughts I have on the execution of DC's reboot, I will give them credit for actually doing something. Things never change if you don't do anything different, so I give them props for that. But for anyone dickering about whether or not they could launch a new comic, or try to get into the business, or whatever, stop whinging on about it and do something.

That said, let me throw out there that today I'm going to officially start work on my OTHER secret plan: my second book. (Since I'm evidently not taking my time up with a marathon.) I'll also say that I am not going to hold myself to the crazy-ass deadlines that I set up for my first book -- that about killed me. But, barring any major roadblocks, look for a history of comic book retailing from yours truly sometime in the not-too-distant future. Hopefully by the end of the year, but I think I'll have to do more research than with Comic Book Fanthropology plus, as I said, I'm still going to stick with my marathon training.

My point with all this rambling, though, is that your book is never going to get written if you don't write it. Your career in comics is never going to take off if you don't dive into it. Your webcomic isn't going to make that other one you hate look like the crap that it is unless you start posting it. It's something of a trite slogan any more, but just do it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Time For Wednesday Links

  • Here's a nice piece on Fred Patten, the "world's oldest living otaku." Indeed, he's been otaku since before there was such a thing as otaku! (At least, as we know the term.)
  • Maggie Thompson points out the numerous comic book connections, particularly involving Captain Marvel, in the 1950 film The Good Humor Man. These types of connections always fascinate me.
  • Speaking of the Big Red Cheese, Keith Howell suggests that, since DC is rebooting its whole line anyway, they should revive Roy Thomas' decades-old idea of making Captain Marvel an African-American. I think the character has been removed enough from the height of his popularity that few people will really object; that it's an idea from fanboys Thomas and Jerry Ordway also gives it some legitimacy to the fans.
  • And lastly, here's a trailer for Jim Ottaviani's upcoming book, Feynman, due out in August from First Second.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ithaca, The Next Comics Community?

I was a little surprised when I first heard that Portland, OR had become a sort of west coast haven for comics folks. It makes sense in retrospect, but -- and I mean no disrespect here -- it's not the type of city you'd rattle off along with New York and Chicago. Over the past couple of years, I've been seeing Ithaca, NY as another somewhat surprising hub of comicdom.

I first visited Ithaca in 2009. The Comic Book Club of Ithaca was a welcome surprise and helped kick off a fantastic vacation there. Add in a great local comic shop and you've got plenty to keep a comics fan busy and happy. (Thanks again, Alec! I'm still looking forward to getting back up there sometime!) It was something of a side note for me at the time, but I found out Roger Stern has lived there for years. (Do you really need me to list Stern's credits?)

Towards the tail end of last year, I learned that Steve Ellis was moving to Ithaca. He's been there for a little while now and, at least when I talked with him a month or so back, he and his wife were still quite happy about it. (Steve has a cool book coming out tomorrow, by the way.)

Earlier today, I found out that Ethan Young (who does the Tails webcomic) moved out to Ithaca about a month ago.

Now, Young moved there for his wife's job. Ellis moved there largely for the overall lifestyle which would be a good place to raise his child. I've come to understand there's a few other comic creators that live out there as well.

It's a decidedly liberal town. Young has already noted that his "Spot the Prius" game is no fun any more because they're so prevalent. There's a thriving GLBT community, with an ePodunk Gay Index score of 231. (Trust me when I say that number means something.) In addition to Ithacon (hosted by the CBCI), there's also the Ithaca Festival, the Circus Eccentrithaca and one of the largest annual used book sales in the country. With both Ithaca College and Cornell University in town, there's no shortage of an educated work-force both needed and generated.

In short, Ithaca seems like a small-scale Portland in a lot of ways. Not identical, of course, but I seem a lot of cultural similarities. And it makes me wonder if A) there's something about that that progressive culture -- being a little more green, a little more accepting of others, a little more focused on the arts, etc. -- that attracts creative folks like those who work on comics, and B) Ithaca is getting large enough now to start attracting significant enough numbers of those people to develop a note-worthy comics sub-community.

Keep your eye on this city. I think you'll be hearing more about it in the coming years.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Foreign Comics

When I was a kid, the comics I read were, not surprisingly, primarily those I could get my hands on. Mostly superhero books from DC and Marvel. As I grew into my teens, and my interest in comics became more than a passing interest, I started going to local comic shops and flea markets and such. My parents were quite supportive, and ended up spending far more time than they may have liked helping me sift through long boxes.

After a little while, Dad started seeing that there were more subjects and genres out there than guys in tights beating up other guys in tights. I don't recall precisely when/where, but at some point, I realized that my father had a comic collection that was double the size of mine. (Which isn't saying much. I'm pretty sure this was still several years before I was even able to start working at McDonald's.) At any rate, I started reading his comics as well since I'd already read all of mine several times over.

Looking back, what strikes me is how I was exposed to decidedly different cultural influences without knowing it. Dad had a good collection of Asterix books and a few with Iznogoud (both by René Goscinny) and there was some non-Blueberry Moebius books. It would be years later before I realized those weren't American in origin. I think I figured out Judge Dredd and Rogue Trooper were British considerably sooner, but that realization wasn't immediate by any means.

I suspect the first real instance of understanding I had that some of the comics I was reading came from outside the U.S. was the First Comics version of Lone Wolf and Cub. I believe there was an editor's note or something on the inside of at least one of the books, talking about how the images were all flipped from the original Japanese so they would read "properly" to Westerners. It was so radical a departure from my ego-centric teenage self that I had to take notice. "Heeeeey, these weren't written in America..."

Dramatic pause.

"Heeeeey, I wonder if some of these other comics weren't written in America..."

(I was considered a bright kid, but I was still a teenager and thus thick as a brick.)
At any rate, I started to distinguish out how European comics "felt" different than American ones. And how those "felt" different than Japanese manga. Though I don't recall many other manga that came through the house, Dad's Heavy Metal proved to be quite useful in seeing Euro comics in action. I still have some of Enki Bilal's images and ideas for Nikopol etched into my memory despite never having read more than a chapter or two, and barely understanding that.

But it all slowly sank in.

"Wait. Translated by...?"

I like to think that a lot of my attitude towards the world today -- the idea that people are people regardless of political borders or language or cultural heritage -- stems at least in part from absorbing those other comics BEFORE understanding anything about who wrote them. I liked Asterix because it was fun book. It happened to take place in France, sure, but Julius Caesar wasn't trying to conquer America, so of course it took place over there. That it was written by a Frenchmen was immaterial. What was important was that it was about how insanely hapless these Roman invaders always were against a midget and a dolt; that was hilariously funny in an unabashedly juvenile way.

I wonder if more kids were exposed to not only comics, but comics from all over the world, only to later understand that they were reading French/Brazilian/Japanese/Indian/whatever comics... If more people were to do that, I wonder how much more appreciative we would be of cultural differences. Maybe we'd be less inclined to come up with ugly terms like "towel-heads" and see that maybe there are points of view different than our own.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Why You Should Buy The Influencing Machine

You've heard some praise recently for Brooke Gladstone's and Josh Neufeld's The Influencing Machine, right? Even if you didn't know much about it, that Gladstone won a Peadbody and Neufeld a Xeric should tell you that there's probably some solid talent there. I could go into an actual review of the book here with lots of praise, but there are plenty of other folks doing that. Let's just run with the assumption that it's really good.

As I expect you'll also have heard, the book is "a treatise on the relationship between us and the news media" and "a manifesto on the role of the press in American history". But I think both of those descriptions sell the reason for buying the book short.

The way I figure it, the problem a lot of people have is that they don't really understand media. Any of it. Maybe a vague notion about commercial interests or liberal bias or what-have-you, but little beyond that. I think people, on the whole, don't have any real media literacy. They don't see reporters as storytellers; they don't know how to judge/interpret what they're being told; they don't even understand the language well enough to discern why certain words were chosen for a report.

To some degree, I get it. Reading Marshall McCluhan is a tough slog. Trying to take hilariously obsolete opinions of new-fangled things like "radio" or "television" from their original time periods and relate them to contemporary concerns doesn't generally follow a straight path. The big picture is hard to look at, precisely because it's so big. Not to mention that a lot of people just don't even understand the basics of current technology. (Which is why phishing continues to work.)

But, at the same time... it's the 21st century, people! Regardless of what era you grew up in and how you'd like for the world to continue to operate as it did, that's not how it works now. A hundred years ago, "literacy" meant basic reading, writing and arithmetic. That's not enough any more. You used to go through life quite happily with a sixth grade education, but now it's difficult to just do that if you've got a college degree. "Literacy" has expanded considerably. Here's what Wikipedia has to say...
This idea [literacy in the 21st century] has forever changed the landscape of information access, and is integral in an understanding of Literacy as a practice, in the 21st Century. It is no longer sufficient to consider whether a student can 'read' (decoding text, really) and 'write' (encoding text), and it is necessary to consider more meaningful aspects of literacy in education and in society as a whole, if we are to complete the transition we are in, from a society in which communication was never possible on the level of 'many to many', to one in which it is.
The Influencing Machine is essentially a primer on that notion of literacy today. It doesn't cover nearly everything that you need to become 21st century literate, nor does it strive to, but it does tell you what that literacy is and why it's important. That it happens to also be done so expertly makes it that much more critical that you read this book.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Thor Thinking

I just got back from seeing Thor at the theater for the first time. You've already read all sorts of reviews and such, so I won't bore you with that, but I did have some thoughts circling around the movie.

If you're a regular reader of my blog, you'll know that I'm not a big fan of movies. I generally wait until they've long left the theaters and I'll sometimes pull out the ones that seem to have more lasting cultural impact to watch at home. I think the last time I actually sat down in a movie theater was 2007. But I went to see Thor because, simply, I had a free ticket and a two-hour block of time that wasn't already allocated for one of a dozen other things.

I was bemused by the previews: Green Lantern, Cowboys and Aliens and Captain America. I could feel my teenage self flip out to see trailers for three comic-derived movies before seeing another comic-derived movie. Today, though, I mostly kind of shrugged. I mean, the movies all looked pretty good and I expect they'll all do at least reasonably well, but they all look like ones that I'd be perfectly fine with watching on the small screen at home.

Interestingly, though, after first thinking that, I realized that I have passes to see three other movies for free this summer. Maybe the new X-Men, GL and Cap? Debating that still.

See, part of my attitude here is that these types of movies tend to revolve around the strength of the characters. And that's not to say there aren't some really good characters here, but they're given fairly pedestrian story arcs. Many of the key story beats in Thor seemed entirely predictable in terms of pacing, style and execution. I did rather enjoy the performances of Tom Hiddleston, Josh Dallas and "Uncle Walt" but much of the rest of the movie seemed... well, not bad certainly but not very engaging either. Like it was done as a prequel for the Avengers movie, so Joss Whedon wouldn't have to explain this guy with the cape and the hammer. I will say Thor was written better than I anticipated, but I had low expectations.

Here's the odd thing, too. I'm watching this movie, seeing how Marvel Studios is rolling these different properties together -- to my knowledge, the first time this has really been done this deliberately in movies. Like any old school Marvel fan, I know where this is going. I'm catching the Easter Eggs that are getting thrown in, and the sometimes oblique references. And it's largely featuring IPs that I don't have any great affinity towards (being an FF fan primarily) but I have to admit to some interest in seeing the Marvel Universe evolve on-screen.

And so I'm left debating whether or not I should see if I can be a part of it. As in, actually be IN the Avengers movie. (See Michael Sangiacomo's notice here. Might be kind of a fun footnote to be yet another character crossing over from the comic book version of the MU to the movie version. Not to mention it being really cool for co-workers to get a surprise by seeing me in a comic book movie when they're not expecting it. I'm debating if it'd be worth the effort for a big 'maybe'. (It's a cattle call, after all. Zero guarantee I'd be selected, and zero guarantee that, even if I am selected, I'd wind up being seen in the final cut.)

As I sit here and think about it, though, why would I do that? I'm fairly certain I'd be traveling the two weekends beforehand, so I'm sure I'll have plenty to catch up on around the house. I'd have to take time off work. It'd be in a medium I don't particularly care for, and in a movie that I'm not especially anticipating. Maybe their hype machine is having an impact after all.

Maybe I should just make a SHIELD Agent Kleefeld action figure instead, and return to reading comic books.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Mash-Up Friday

I've had spotty internet all day at work and at home, so I'm just going to throw up a couple mash-ups and call it a day. Text from today's Garfield, art from...
Zahra's Paradise

Vattu

I feel kind of bad using Zahra's for something like this, as I certainly don't want to trivialize the strip's message, but it was one of the few webcomics I could find today that would work with the dialogue. Do me a favor and go read it, so I can at least say I spread the message and sent some traffic their way. Thanks!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Another Thought On Work Scheduling

Back in college, the graphic design program that I was in was set up so that we got most of our general education classes over and done with in our Freshman year. That meant that nearly all of our classes after that were focused on graphic design, and we no longer had final exams in the traditional sense. We just had one large critique of all our projects on the Friday before finals week. What the professors also did was essentially stop holding formal classes for the last week or two, with the intent that the students would be diligently working away on their projects. (This actually expanded considerably by our senior year and we pretty much only had to show up on Day One to get that term's assignment, and then again on the last day for the critique.)

Part of the lesson involved there was responsible time management. We knew what needed to get done and when, and that was the end of it. If you didn't get all your work done by that final critique, you failed. Period.

The first couple of terms we had to do that, many of us were scrambling towards the end because we hadn't yet gotten a firm grasp on either our own design skills and/or the time necessary to complete a task. I once worked on projects for 40 hours straight to get things done on time, and that was by far not any sort of record, even among my friends. But, by the tail end of Sophomore year, maybe the early part of the year after, I think most of us had things down pretty well.

What I always thought was great about that week or so every term was that my schedule was entirely set by what worked for me. I had plenty of creative work to keep me busy, but nothing to interrupt whatever flow I might have going on until next Friday. I would work on a project until I was done working on it. Maybe I'd hit a creative wall. Maybe I needed a bio break. Maybe I'd finished. It didn't matter what time it was or how long I'd been working; I had the flexibility to switch gears whenever I needed/wanted to. I recall one day getting up around 7:30 and working until I got hungry around 2:00, taking a short break for lunch, and then not really stopping again until around 9:00 that evening. I was just in the zone that day and didn't even really notice the time passing until it started getting hard to see because the sun had set.

I mentioned a couple weeks back how "regular" work schedules are more reflective of freelancers' any more. I presented mostly from a "just getting results" perspective, but what didn't really occur to me until I just now remembered those college days is that also increases our overall efficiency and effectiveness. If we're able to just hit large deadlines and not worry about having to be creative from 8:00 until 5:00 every day, that seems to me a better use of everyone's time. What if you work better on the computer when the sun's not shining outside anyway? Why not do your computer work after it gets dark? Why not take advantage of creative inspiration when it hits, and not try to remember the spark of an idea the next day?

Every freelancer works according to his or her own preferences, of course. But why not everybody else? Whether you're writing comics or editing them or actually printing them, why not work when you're best suited to the task instead of when there's an artificial designation on the timeclock?

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Mid-Week Links

Loads of links this week...
  • Daniel Peretti is writing a book about Superman, and he's using a blog format to collect various thoughts and links as he's working on it. Last week, he posted some thoughts on Smallville which I find interesting as they seem to reflect much of the same thinking I had. That somebody else has similar thoughts doesn't surprise me, but we hit the same point from very different perspectives: he as a big Superman fan who's very familiar with the show, and me as not much of Superman fan and have never seen a single episode of Smallville.
  • Charles Hatfield talks about pirate comics! Well, he couches it in a review of Walker Bean but... PIRATE COMICS!
  • TwoMorrows now has PDF previews online for the upcoming Alter Ego #102 and Back Issue #49. Both are due out in mid-June.
  • After a half-year hiatus, Jim Shelly returns to his Flashback blog. If nothing else, we can appreciate the latest DC news for encouraging him to jump back into the thick of things!
  • Milestone Comics didn't fail, comics failed Milestone. Excellent look at the Milestone legacy.
  • David O'Connell (of Tozo fame) is launching a comic anthology in the fall called ink+PAPER. I'm eager to see what he does with it.
  • Looking backward, Matt Kuhns pulls out his aborted attempt at creating an unofficial epilogue for Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040. I don't know the property other than by reputation, but I think it's an interesting look at developing comics out of passion. Creating something largely for the sake of creating something to satisfy only some personal internal desire. And once that itch is scratched, how a project's impetus can fade.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

The Lanaguage of Flatpacks

My trusty old pressboard bookshelves that have been housing my graphic novel and trade paperback collection have about had it. After 20+ years, a dozen moves and a couple of floods, they're finally getting beyond any semblance of usability. So I bit the bullet and bought a new set of bookshelves from Target. You know the type: a bunch of flat pieces of board and an assortment of screws and dowels that you assemble yourself. A furniture kit packed flat.

As I was putting them together this evening, I got around to thinking about the instructions. (Beyond just the "what do I do next" type of thinking, that is!) I'd never gotten this particular brand of flatpacked furniture before, but the set-up and instructions were familiar. Dowel here, screw there, weird internal bolt thing over there... I really only needed to glance at each step to see which numbered boards I should use. I've put together enough of this type of furniture over the years that I've gotten accustomed to the way they tend to be built and how the instructions are laid out.

Now I'm not about to suggest that these instructions are a form of comics; I think that's a far stretch. But it does remind me of a previous post where I talked about the language of comics. Like comics, these flatpack instructions seem to have a common language that is -- with the exception of Ikea -- relatively easy to learn. Or, at least, it seemed easy to learn for me.

I wonder, then, how easy it might be for people unfamiliar with a more visual language like comics? Conversely, can people use their fluency in "instruction language" to more readily start understanding the language of comics? Are they like French and Spanish, which are both derived from the same Latin origins? Or, are they two wholly unrelated languages that don't have any relation to one another?

I'm just wondering if that might be another bridge comic fans might use to help non-comic-readers pick up a graphic novel for the first time.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Top 10 GNs You Haven't Read

Here's the list of the top ten graphic novels checked out of the Emerson School Library by 5-11 year olds...
  1. Babymouse: Our Hero
  2. Bone #9: Crown of Horns
  3. Babymouse: Rock Star
  4. The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook
  5. Babymouse: The Musical
  6. Bone #8: Treasure Hunters
  7. The Baby-Sitter's Club: Kirsty's Great Idea
  8. Rapunzel's Revenge
  9. Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians
  10. Smile
How many of those have you read? How many have you even heard of?

This is what the kids of today are reading. This is what the kids of today think is cool. If you're not at least passingly familiar with these books, you won't really be able to speak to the future of comics because you won't be aware of what the next generation of comics readers is bringing to the table. I don't think it's any great secret that all the Marvel and DC stuff that so many of us grew up on is NOT as kid-friendly as it was 20/30/40 years ago. But the folks still looking at those books, the ones still enmeshed in the Direct Market system, aren't seeing other great material out there that kids ARE getting. (It should be pointed out that the two titles you're most likely familiar with -- Bone and Smile -- are published by Scholastic outside the DM.)

Ask your librarian what kids are checking out. Read a couple of Babymouse or Lunch Lady volumes. If you want to help comics' future, you ought to know where comics' future comes from.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Happy Birthday, David Gallaher!

He's not at HeroesCon like he wanted to be this weekend, but here's hoping he's having a enjoyable time in Cape Cod nonetheless!
(Sorry, Dave. My boss says you're not allowed getting Scarlett Johansson pictures from me any more. I had a really good Black Widow one picked out, too!)

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Deadlands: The Devil's Six Gun Review

I have to admit to a bit of apprehension coming to Deadlands: The Devil's Six Gun. Not only am I unfamiliar with the Deadlands game, I hadn't even heard of it before now! (I've been out of the RPG circle for years!) But I've read enough from David Gallaher and Steve Ellis to give them the benefit of the doubt, and dove in with no preparation. I even skipped the brief overview of the world on the credits page. I'm coming to this with no more knowledge than what you can find on the cover: Wild West with some weird steampunk/mystical elements.

My apprehension, though, was entirely unwarranted. As with all of the Gallaher/Ellis stories I've read, they give the reader everything they need to know. One of the reasons I enjoy reading their books is precisely because of that; even if you're diving into obscure Marvel minutia (the history of the Dire Wraiths, for example) they don't rely on you knowing any of it. But unlike the old comics from the 1970s and '80s where there was often clunky dialogue and flashbacks that was used to catch new readers up to speed, these guys are able to weave in those elements into the story more organically.

Anyway, Devil's Six Gun is the story of Copernicus Blackburne. He's genius-level inventor, up there with Nik Tesla and Tom Edison. Most of the book recounts his life story, and how he spent so much of it work on a gun to kill the Devil, at the behest of wealthy industrialist Samuel Tygian. Ultimately, he does succeed, though at serious cost. I'll leave the specifics for you to find out in the book itself.

There's a lot of interesting things going on in this story. What first struck me was that Gallaher is a lot more verbose than he normally is. He often refrains from adding lots of text, instead preferring to let the artwork tell the story, but he opts here to provide a fair amount of narration. It works well with the story, and provides a sort of an American folk tale feel to the piece. Almost Mark Twainian, but a bit less optimistic.

Ellis, too, turns into some interesting work. As always, he does a superb job in the illustration and basic storytelling. What I find more interesting here, though, is that he weaves in some more subtle visuals in places that provide some nuance to the reader's interpretation of the story.

There's something of a question running through the issue: when Tygian asks Blackburne to create a gun to kill the Devil, is it a literal or figurative request? That raises a host of other questions. Is the Devil really guiding the forces running throughout Blackburne's life? Is Tygian an agent of the Devil or, in fact, the Devil himself? Is the "Ghost Rock" really mystical or is it simply an unusual meteorite fragment? One of the things I really enjoyed about the book was that Gallaher and Ellis walk a very fine line on all of these questions, never providing an outright answer but giving enough suggestions to keep the reader thinking that maybe there's more going on than they're being told.

All in all, I thought it was a great read. It has a lot of the great storytelling that Gallaher and Ellis proved themselves with on High Moon, and even has some of the same tonal qualities, but it's still a much different approach that is just as successful. Deadlands: The Devil's Six Gun is due from Image in stores on the 15th, while Gallaher and Ellis will touring New England doing signings the weekend of the 25th.

Friday, June 03, 2011

On Steve Ditko

I've been reading up on Steve Ditko lately. Like, I suspect, many of you, I'm primarily familiar with his work via Spider-Man and Dr. Strange from the early 1960s. I'd seen a few of his Charlton stories and some later Marvel and DC work from the 1970s and early '80s. But, aside from anecdotes about his reclusive nature and his deep appreciation of (devotion to?) Objectivism, I didn't know much about him or how to reconcile his mainstream work against his more personal pieces. So when I stumbled across Avenging World, which reprints much of his creator-owned material from the 1970s through the early 2000s, I snatched the book up.

The works here range from text essays to full-page illustrations to comic stories. The only constant is that they are entirely and exclusively the work of Ditko. The text pieces seem largely responsive in nature, with Ditko reacting to what seem to be very specific articles or incidents, but they're mostly centered around creativity, art and intellectual property. One piece, for example, goes at length providing his thoughts on the ownership of original comic art and seems to stem almost exclusively from his being asked to sign a petition in the 1980s to get Jack Kirby his original pages of Marvel work back.

The comics primarily revolve around the basic precepts of Objectivism. Some are more fictionalized narratives, while others are decidedly more direct in saying, "Here's what this philosophy is." But they all center around the same ideas.

The first thing I learned about Ditko himself is: he's not a very good writer. Good artistic storyteller, but not a good writer. While there are no real issues with grammar or spelling, his actual writing style is very dry and unengaging. He also tends to get sidetracked with some minutia that isn't particularly germaine to his larger point. Consequently, his longer text pieces took me forever to read because I found myself literally nodding off while wading through them.

Despite that, though, I did get a better sense of where Ditko is coming from, I think. Certainly not a complete understanding, but a better one. Most significantly, I've realized the problem people have with his adopted philosophy.

The issue at hand is usually obscured by the examples. Many of the arguments Ditko presents in his pieces, regardless of the specific topic, focus on a binary solution set. You're either good or evil. You're either for creative expression or against it. Readers see that and try to point out the grey areas in between. What about the good person who inadvertently commits evil acts? What about those people who are so invalid that they simply cannot live without support but are still able to contribute things of benefit? Where exactly does the boundary lie between true creativity and repurposing existing ideas? People on both sides get caught up in these types of arguments, and miss the broader issue: a basic assumption that runs underneath all of the discussions.

Namely, that man is a rational being.

There's a tacit belief than man, because he can think, is rational. The problem is, man is NOT rational. Even the most rational among us behave irrationally. If we were rational beings -- truely rational beings -- we would not respond to art. We would have no need to create art. We create and respond to art on an emotional level; that we have emotions means that we act on those emotions. We can react beter or worse in any given situation, and try to keep things under control, but we are all subject to happiness, fear, hate, love...

So, as long as we have emotions, we'll continue to act irrationally. We're going to make "incorrect" decisions because we have an overwhelming fear of rejection or a burning desire for acceptance or whatever. As long as emotions are part of our makeup, Objectivism in the strictest sense won't be possible.

Which isn't to say that the ideal isn't a valid one anyway. But that ideal is necessarily different from the reality, and Ditko's central basis for most of his arguments glosses over that point. I doubt that it's a deliberate obfuscation of the issue, but it sets up all of his personal comics work (Mr. A and the like) in a reality that's fundamentally unrecognizable, despite a veneer of normalcy that it has over, say, his Dr. Strange stories. It's an odd dichotomy, if you think about it -- Ditko's almost surreal Dr. Strange art is more approachable and understandable than his mundane-looking personal works...
From what I read, I don't think Ditko's not aware of the irrationality of people. I think he understands that emotions DO get in the way of rational thinking. There's just enough in his work to see that. But that he doesn't formally acknowledge or address it, I think, prevents people from understanding what his inherent assumptions and biases are. They don't know how to even meet him half-way because they can't even tell what direction he's coming from, much less where a half-way point might be. That he's so reclusive doesn't help, of course, but I think part of his problem is that he's just not a very good writer and people can't follow along very well.

Which is a pity, because there's some interesting ideas worth considering in his work. He winds up asking more questions than he answers and can really make you think, but it's only in something approaching the body of his work that it looks like you can get an appreciation of what Ditko is bringing to the table. And that that requires such a concerted and ongoing effort means that few people are going to do that much digging.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Organic Growth

Showcase #4 introduced a new Flash in 1956. Adventure Comics #247 introduced the Legion of the Super-Heroes in 1958. Wonder Woman #98 re-introduced the title character in 1958. Showcase #22 introduced a new Green Lantern in 1959. Adventure Comics #260 re-introduced Aquaman in 1959. Action Comics #252 introduced Supergirl in 1959. Brave and the Bold #28 introduced the Justice League in 1960. Brave and the Bold #34 introduced a new Hawkman in 1961. Detective Comics #327 introduced the "new look" Batman in 1964.

Where I'm going, if you can't guess, is that the DC Universe that was launched at the start of the Silver Age actually took the better part of a decade to be unveiled. It's easy to say the Silver Age started with the introduction of the Flash in 1956 but, while that's true enough, the DC Universe wasn't just dropped in whole-cloth.

Even though Julius Schwartz, et. al. knew they had to revamp their comics to attract more readers, they were still doing well at the time compared to other comic publishers. They understood they had a lot to lose and, as such, rolled out changes over a period of time, using a strategy that allowed them to gauge what was and wasn't working. Even Marvel, who really had almost nothing to lose by the late 1950s, rolled their new books out over the course of several years, picking the best elements of what was working for them and discarding what wasn't.

Creative people, whether writers or artists or puppeteers or musicians or anything else, aren't mind readers. They can try to tap into whatever the cultural zeitgeist of the moment is when working on their creations, but that is by no means a guarantee of success. There were flag-draped patriotic superheroes before Captain America, for example, but it was the specific interpretation that Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created that really resonated with people enough to develop into a character that remains commercially viable a half-century later.

I could rant in much the same vein as Brian Hibbs did about this week's DC announcements. In fact, my thought process when I first read the announcement was almost precisely Hibbs' points 1, 15, 9, 15, 7, 6 and 15. This whole thing strikes me as a marketing disaster of New Coke level proportions waiting to unfold. But Hibbs, Spurgeon and others have all covered that topic pretty well.

I could also make some commentary about the same-day-digital end of things but, frankly, it just seems relatively inevitable to me. The comic market has been heading in that direction for a few years now anyway, and it was only a matter of time before Marvel and/or DC went all-in. I think the most interesting thing here is that they've tried rolling the announcement up into a full line relaunch to deflect some (also inevitable) criticisms of it.

There's nothing inherently wrong with DC re-envisioning their intellectual properties. Justice League Unlimited was essentially that. But that had been a work-in-progress that began with Batman: The Animated Series over a decade earlier. They took elements that worked and applied them to a Superman cartoon. Which they then applied to Justice League. And then, finally, Justice League Unlimited. That show didn't occur in a vacuum.

The notion of organic growth is bandied about a lot, both in and out of comics. The general idea is that you take where you are, right here and right now, and take a step that's a logical outgrowth of that.

"We have this new superhero called Superman that's popular. Let's do another hero, but just a little different, and call him Batman."

"Say, what if we give this Batman character a sidekick?"

I think there's a two-fold problem happening here. In the first place, people are impatient and want to duplicate results without going through the process of getting to them. I was speaking with someone just the other day about her kids (now in their early 20s) wanting the same level of lifestyle comfort that she herself has now, ignoring the fact that she's worked 30-some years longer to achieve that. Same thing in comics at a creative level. They want to re-create overnight a DC Universe that took years to develop. This has been tried before in comics, you know. Valiant and Atlas spring to mind.

In the second place, entertainment media houses have been abuzz the past few years with "world building" and "transmedia." The idea that an IP is in fact much larger than the presented materials can show, and you're able to utilize multiple media to engage the audience in different ways. What this means is that companies are looking for ways to exploit different avenues simultaneously and, therefore, need multiple storylines fleshed out very quickly.

"How does the comic tie in with the video game with the website with the TV show with the marketing campaign?"

There's nothing wrong with that idea in and of itself, but I think those in charge (i.e. the non-creative types who often control the purse strings) are demanding aspects that aren't necessarily appropriate for the venues. "Is a series of 'viral' videos on YouTube really the best avenue for selling more comics?" But I wonder if creators are forced to generate more of these types of ideas before they've had the chance to think through how that would really make sense. How do newspapers work in the new DC Universe? What are commercial implications of Wayne Industries? What are the politics of Paradise Island and how do they impact the overall geopolitical stage? These are all questions that CAN be addressed, but by asking them before the creators have had time to really think through all the possibilities and implications of them, the solutions are going to sound trite or, worse, forced.

What you're doing, when you're forcing this kind of world building on a project all at once, is you're creating continuity. You are creating a history for all of the characters and the places and the world. And you're binding yourself to that continuity right out of the gate. Which creators will inherently find limiting when they think of a BETTER idea two or three months later. An idea that stemmed from where the story direction or character development went. An idea that was organic, and not manufactured to fit some set mold that somebody thought the public would respond to.

This is exactly why all of DC's comic reboots since the start of the Silver Age have not worked. They've all been deliberately manufactured to fit a set of ideas, and aren't organically grown from some smaller element that was found to be working.

So, yeah. I don't have an axe to grind against DC, but I think that this new effort is not going to go over well from either a creative or marketing perspective.

(Nertz. I really wasn't intending to talk about this whole announcement business.)

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Wednesday Link Post

  • Beginning tomorrow, Campbell River Art Gallery in Canada will be hosting a month-long series of classes on "Illustrating for Comic Books and Storyboards" aimed at students ages 12-17. Peter Davies will be the instructor.
  • At The Brick Theatre in Brooklyn, NY on June 3, 5 and 12: Reporter Girl: The Story of Dale Messick. The play by Laura Rohrman and directed by Erica Gould is about the woman who created Brenda Starr.
  • BusinessWeek thinks comics should embrace iOS subscriptions. No new arguments there, really, but it's interesting that the article is for BusinessWeek.
  • F.O.O.K. Matt Khuns points me to this article citing how some idiot drove his car through the fence of Joe Shuster's family home, causing a few thousand dollars worth of damage.
  • Are we sick of mainstream articles like this one praising Naif Al-Mutawa's The 99? No, we are not.