Sunday, November 30, 2008

Tribute Week Begins!

Sorry guys, this is going to be a long haul before I get back to real commentary, but hey, at least you'll get some nifty montages. I'm also going to try very hard to get some of your requests from last month put down before Christmas. However, we are still going to have fun. This week I'm going to talk about all the things I truly love about comics, and I could think of no better place to start then a tribute to the dear departed and much missed Mike Weiringo.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What If we lived in a comicbook Universe? Part 32

OK, due to the fact that I'm going to be on a serious deadline for some work, the next couple of weeks are going to be fun theme weeks focusing on posters over content. This week is going to be "What if we lived in a Comic Book Universe?" Week. So, I hope you enjoy it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Plot Devices that Need to Go Away #8

Yes, you lucky ducks you, you get a double dosage this week of "Plot Devices that Need to Go Away"!

Plot Devices that Need to Go Away #8


Also known as: Analogues, Knock-offs, Homages, etc.

What is it? When you can't use say, a big name hero, but want to use him/her as an easy means of identifying your character's situation, you file the numbers off and call him "Photonus" or "Apollo" if you need Superman, or "Mister Dark" or "Winged Dark" if you need Batman, etc.

Why do Comic Companies do it?
Two reasons: usually it helps as a means of contrasting "your guys" vs. the competition and how different characters operate. The other reason you might do it is because you want to do something with a big name character that because of their 'iconic status' that you couldn't get away with if you had the real deal (i.e., say you wanted to show Batman as a pedophile, or you wanted Spider-Man to go on a six-day drunken bender and hook up with Paris Hilton).
Recent Offenders include but are not limited to:

Half of Wildstorm (this was a huge stock in trade of theirs for a while), Squadron Supreme, The Ultimates (wait, I can explain this one), The Sentry (he keeps popping up on these lists. Funny, huh?), Every character in "The Boys", Half of Image (but only half, they are getting better at it).

Patient Zero
As much as I hate, hate, hate to admit it, the blame goes to Mark Gruenwald's Squadron Supreme Mini-series. This was the first (and perhaps, most successful) attempt at showcasing what you could do with these characters without worrying about the long term implications. However, this has been taken to extremes by all the comic companies.

Why does it have to go away?
OK, turn on your TV, watch an episode of Lost. OK, how would you describe it? Would you say "It's Gilligan's Island except with non-stupid people?" or "It's the Twilight Zone on an island?" No, of course you wouldn't. You aren't stupid. Now, try that with most other TV shows or movies or what have you. Notice the pattern there? See, that's what's called ORIGINALITY. If you have nothing new, you have nothing new to draw in new people, and you have nothing new to say.
Look, this entire device only works because it sends out an entirely false resonance. Yeah, we know that in "true continuity" Captain America wouldn't use a flamethrower to melt down some innocent Vietnamese civilians, but by having a stand-in do that, well, it sort of jogs the perception of "oh yeah, that's what their going for". The Ultimate Marvel Brand (and its incestuous cousin, the JMS-rebooted Squadron Supreme franchise) owes its entire existence to this feature. "Hey, here's Captain America! Except he's much more HARDCORE!!!!" (and again, I have to reiterate - how the hell is it people say Mark Millar's version is more "realistic" when the creator, Jack Kirby,who did several years of work with the character after the war, actually SERVED IN WORLD WAR II?) or "Here's Wolverine and Jean Grey sleeping together, just like you always wanted but we could never have done before!!!!" etc., etc. Now granted, there are facets of all mass medium that produce familiar "comfort food" entertainment, such as the Law & Order Franchise, the CSI franchise, and there's a new "underdog sports hero film" currently starting, let's say. The point remains; these mediums do produce that sort of material, but even then there is some semblance of variety, and it isn't just "OK, let's just make the lead character from this show exactly like the lead character from the other show, but make him just slightly different enough that we can get away with calling it something new", and it certainly doesn't depend on you getting the "larger significance" by contrasting the two leads in such a direct and blatant manner.
Angles for Redemption of the Device. NONE.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Plot Devices that Need to Go Away #7



Also Known As: Marty-Stu, Gary-Stu, etc.

What is it? If you don't know, just go here. It's easier for both of us this way.

Why do Comic Companies Do it?

Lazy Writing.

No, sorry, that's not a worthy answer. Let me try that again.

Really Lazy Writing by bad fanfic authors who pass themselves off as professionals, but have no idea what to do with a character, so they just write a given favorite character as their own mouth piece.

Recent Offenders include but are not limited to:

Geoff Johns (Hal Jordan), Ed Brubaker (Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier/Nu Captain America), Mark Millar (Too many to count, and it requires understanding Millar Logic, so why bother?), Frank Miller (Batman), Brian Michael Bendis (The Hood, Luke Cage, Nick Fury, Jessica Jones, The's a long list here too), Garth Ennis (Any given Ennis Protagonist), Warren Ellis (any Given Ellis Protagonist) and many, many more.

Patient Zero
While this trope has always been common to comics, I'm going to have to (again) point to the Dark Knight Returns as being the point where it went from "occassional but acceptable" to "down right obnoxious and omni-present"

Why does it have to Go Away?
I'll just assume you skipped over that whole "Bad writing" thing I put up above there, just to humor you a bit. Even if you were to ignore that, you are left with the fact that in any artistic medium, sooner or later you have to show and not just tell, and this is true of storytelling. We, the audience, need some compelling reason for the audience to give a crap about a character. If all you do is have your characters talk about how "special" your personal favorite is, and you have them constantly upstaging other characters with no consistent or logical reason for doing so, it's obvious and more than a little insulting to the audience. And that's how we feel about your characters: insulted. Not a great way to keep us coming back, is it?
Angles for the Redemption of the Device?
See that poster of the Sentry up there? yeah, that works for me just fine. How about you?

Monday, November 17, 2008

So, What do YOU want?

So, what are you looking for in this blog o'mine? More Posters? Of whom? More "Week in the Life of?" (Which seems to be a pretty popular feature, judging from the responses). How about more "Plot Devices that need to go away" (There's more coming, trust me)? Do you want theme weeks of some sort? I can tell that reviews aren't a big priority amongst you guys, and I'm cool with that: I'm not one of the great reviewing sites, and what I read probably wouldn't be of much interest. But the point remains....WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SEE?

Throw down with the commentary!

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Typical Week in the Life of...Iron Man

MONDAY: Repeat to myself in the mirror: "The Initiative is a roaring success" for 15 minutes. SHIELD meeting. Dugan has agressive old man smell. Maria Hill looks at me like she's going to shank me between the ribs. Invent five new technologies. Bring a Playboy cover girl to bed.

TUESDAY: Repeat to myself in the mirror "I was right, Steve was wrong" for 20 minutes. Redesign armor. There's a memo on my desk: something about Atlanteans infiltrating the country, but hey, that can wait. Bring a supermodel to bed.

WEDNESDAY: Repeat to myself "I made the right decision." for 30 minutes. Avengers Meeting. Am thankful for new AI and sound dampening so I don't have to hear anything the Sentry or Ms. Marvel talks about. Take a TV actress to bed.

THURSDAY: Repeat to myself "Norman Osborn can be trusted" for an hour. National Security Meeting. Fight a villain from my rogues gallery. Wonder why that doesn't seem to happen as much anymore. Take two supermodels to bed. Hey, I deserve it.
FRIDAY: Repeat to myself "I can trust me, why can't anyone else?" with a straight face for two hours. Business meeting to roll out new product I developed on Monday. Fight with an unregistered former friend who sees me as an authoritarian prick, but I let him go. Wonder why that seems to happen more often now. Take a movie star to bed.

Saturday: Repeat to myself "I am not transferring my need for self-control onto others" for two hours. AA meeting. See Carol and wave, but god who wants to talk to her? Take Carol to bed.
Sunday: Repeat to myself "I'm still the good guy, right?" for six hours. Meeting with the President. Stop the people who have perverted the technologies I created on Monday for nefarious purposes. Feel guilty about it and tell myself that only I should have control over my actions. Take a future villainess to bed.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Review: Soon I Will Be Invincible

Tonight we'll be reviewing Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman. I suppose I'm the last one to the party on this one. After all, when it came out a while back, every comic blogger and their uncle was talking about this one, and how it spawned the current generation of new superhero prose and...


I mean, really?


OK, perhaps that's a bit too harsh. This novel is a technical marvel and the storytelling is particularly strong. I just wish the plot and the characters had a little more vitality to them.

The novel focuses on the intertwining of two narratives: Evil supergenius Doctor Impossible, currently in prison and striving for something greater, and amnesiac cyborg Fatale, trying to make ends meet. They are both drawn into the plot by the disappearance of the world's greatest and most powerful hero. During the course of events, the history of our two main protagonists, as well as that of Earth's greatest superteam, is unearthed and we find out there's a large cost to the costumed lifestyle, for the good guys and the bad.

Does that sound familiar? If so, congratulations! You own at least one issue of Kurt Busiek's Astro City, or any of a dozen other comics, novels, essays or movies. Now, you could say that, hey, anything that can be compared to Astro City is pretty goddamn good, especially for a first time author. And that's a fine opinion to have, but to say that it is revolutionary in any way is an overstatement at best, and pure crap at worst.

Now, that said, the writing is GOOD. The technique is polished, smart, and the pacing is even and rapid. There's a real sense of weight and action and even personality, at least in Fatale and Impossible. The problem is that everyone else comes off as a complete cipher at best, or at worst, the author presumes you'll do the mental mapping of "Just like character X from a major comic company but with this slight tweaking!" and I don't know about you, but I'm long past sick and tired of analogues of famous superheroes and stand-ins being used over and over again.

Soon I Will Be Invincible is a well-told tale, and it has its charm. The problem is that it depends too heavily on what has come before, and offers very little new to the genre it is in.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Today is Rememberance Day (or Memorial Day in the US). No posting. See you tomorrow

Monday, November 10, 2008

Futurama reviews!

Recently watched both The Beast with a Billion Backs and Bender's Game. While both DVDs do an excellent job of continuing the Futurama franchise, it's the extras and commentaries where these DVDs falter, however slightly.

The Beast is the weaker of the two films, and suffers for coming in the aftermath of Bender's Big Score. The main plot really doesn't start until about halfway through the feature, instead focusing on doing a lot of character building for a few of the show mainstays. While that's not a bad thing, it does lack a sense of strong narrative direction. That said, there is a lot of different stories packed into this one; interesting takes on bizarre sci-fi romance, monster attacks, religion and social and class status all get served up in this one. The extras are pretty weak, the usual animatics and deleted scenes and a commentary that is frankly more annoying than anything else. It's still technically excellent, and hey, it's always funny, but it feels more like a collection of separate eps than a singular whole.

A problem "Bender's Game" does not share, and as such, is a massive improvement. Where "Beast" takes on sci-fi tropes, "Bender's Game" goes head to head on current issues; Fuel costs, the environment, and animals. And of course, when all this is lumped together, it can only spell one thing: MOM. Ah, the arch-nemesis of the Futurama pack finally makes an appearance, after a rather odd and telling absence. And in this one, she's definitely the show-stealer, dripping with greed and contempt. Yeah, this is the good stuff. So go and enjoy it.