Thursday, April 24, 2014 

Reinvention needs to be consistent with past setups

The New Yorker wrote about Amazon's purchase of ComiXology. There's two interesting parts here. First:
American comic books, like the superheroes that fill their pages, must occasionally reinvent themselves.
Yes, but that all has to be consistent with what came before, like characterization. And that's something lacking in today's mainstream, much of which got thrown away in the past decade, more than ever before.

Then, there's this part:
Sales of comic books began to fall in the nineties, with a lot of casual readers losing interest after the deaths of Batman and Superman.
I'm glad they noted that. It was all because crossovers began taking over at the expense of good writing, and no doubt that also led to price hikes. Even padding out stories for the sake of trade collections must've had a bad impact. Even now that a lot of publishers are experimenting with digital platforms, I doubt there'll be much improvement, because these programs and their subscriptions cost money, and chances are the crossovers and stunts will continue even on the internet, so I'm afraid the shift to online content won't change much.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014 

Brevoort says Original Sin is all about giving "information" to readers

Newsarama did one of their predictably sugary interviews with Tom Brevoort, where he says:
...with the ever-changing landscape and the zeitgeist in the Marvel Universe and the publishing world, this seemed like the right time to do Original Sin. Our previous event, Infinity, was very vast and huge in scope, and Original Sin seemed an ideal next event because it was a lot more personal, inward-looking and character focused. It seemed like a good transition.
He sure goes to a lot of trouble trying to tell everybody this is character-focused, but if they really planned that, they wouldn't have written it all as a crossover, where everyone is tied in, and doesn't allow for free stand-alone development. But personal and inward looking are apt descriptions alright: like so many other mainstream products nowadays, it's so "personal" the writers and editors don't even think about anybody else, and inward can be a synonym for insular.
Nrama: The main story of Original Sin doesn’t begin until next month’s #1 ships, but this week’s Original Sin #0 is a prelude to that. Mark Waid, Jim Cheung and Paco Media have put a face to Uatu, as well as giving it context with Nova. What do you think this zero issue adds to the main Original Sin story Jason Aaron and Mike Deodato Jr. are telling?

Brevoort: The whole purpose of Original Sin #0, much like the zero issue of Avengers vs. X-Men, is to give people information on a main character who they might not be all too familiar with; in this case Uatu the Watcher. For some people, he’s just the dude in a toga who shows up once in a while. Original Sin #0 gives them everything they’d need to know about the character for the main Original Sin story; but on top of that, the real gain was for Mark and Jim to tell an affecting story not just about the Watcher but also Nova, Sam Alexander, and prime the pump in such a way that when Uatu meets his demise in Original Sin #1 there’s a greater chance you’ll feel it. We want it to feel like more than just knocking over an action figure, so to speak.

The Watcher has been around, but it’s been awhile since he had a real spotlight put on him. There may be a whole generation of people who know him, but don’t know his story and his history. This #0 issue gives people all of that essential information so they can go into Original Sin #1 on a nice, equal footing. Hopefully Original Sin #0 is more than just a recounting of past events and an info dump and has some humanity and heart to it. That’s what Mark Waid was striving to achieve; to make you involved and invested in both Sam and Uatu in the course of 30 pages. If that’s the case, hopefully it’ll work well just as a satisfying story unto itself even if you don’t read the main Original Sin series.
This is what I find most laughable about his comments. If people don't know enough about the Watcher, why don't they point them to some of the classic Silver Age tales where the Watcher first debuted? There's plenty of those already available in Marvel Masterworks that are much more engaging to read than this new nonsense. I wouldn't count of this being an "info dump" either; more possible it'll be a retcon dump, where they give you details only superficially based on older material that doesn't recount them logically. Brevoort's doing nothing more than trying to get people to waste their money on something that'll only add up to zero, while failing to promote the wealth of older material that does a much better job than a company wide crossover does.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014 

IDW hired Rob Liefeld to draw covers for GI Joe vs Transformers

I can't believe it. IDW, who've made a name for themselves with their successful adaptations of licensed properties, was willing to hire comicdom's most notorious artist to draw some variant covers for their new GI Joe vs Transformers special (via TFW 2005). What possessed them to do that? Ever since Liefeld went to join Image in their early years, that's when he really fumbled and never recovered. Hiring him now, years after he proved himself a hall-of-shame embarrassment does them no favors. It's not even the first time he's worked for them: a short time ago, he even drew a cover for Dark Cybertron.

To be fair, I realize that it was to be expected even IDW could make mistakes, and aren't immune to the obsession with variant covers. But this still doesn't bode well in a time when companies who want to prove they're serious would do better to avoid making people think they're desperate for making quick bucks with stunts aimed at speculators.

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Jason Aaron's "Scalped" is going to be adapted to TV

Fox 4 in Kansas City reported that Aaron's graphic novel will be adapted for the WGN channel. But their take on the audience doesn't paint a clear picture of the tastes everyone who reads comics has:
Aaron’s popular series centers around Dashiell Bad Horse, a Native American who returns to his South Dakota reservation after many years away. The novels are often violent, harsh and gritty. That’s why fans of the genre say they love the books.

“It’s not just about the level of nudity or bloodshed,” Aaron explained. “It’s about not pulling punches story-wise and character-wise. It’s a very gritty story.”
But all the mayhem in the series is exactly why it's called a gritty story, isn't it? And what bothers me aside from that is their ambiguous take on "genre" - which I assume means the comics medium - implying that fans of comics love his books. To be more specific, not all readers find that kind of tale appealing. Some even think it's just what's brought down the medium, with far too many of these gritty stories flooding the market at the expense of more family-friendly products.

If the series is adapted to TV, so be it, but shame on the reporters for suggesting the audience for Scalped speaks for everybody, and too bad they won't argue what's gone wrong with the medium as a whole.

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Monday, April 21, 2014 

The Atlantic gushes over Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol

The Atlantic gushed about Morrison's run on The Doom Patrol, which featured some of the most ghastly creature-feature-worthy ideas around:
Cliff Steele, Robotman, the one holdover from the old team, had always been portrayed as a freak, but Morrison went further and linked his plight directly to that of the disabled. In the first issue of Morrison's run (Doom Patrol #19) Cliff is shown as a full-body amputee; he talks about having not just phantom limbs, but phantom bowels, and at one point starts bashing his head against a wall in a futile effort to feel pain again. Another team member, Rebis, is a hermaphrodite or androgyne fusion of a white man and a black woman; s/he is both queer and biracial. Crazy Jane was abused as a child and has 64 different personalities, each with its own separate power. Dorothy, a young psychic, has Simian features that make her strikingly ugly. And Josh, or Tempest, is black, but the team is diverse enough that he gets presented as the bastion of normality and a father figure for Dorothy—not roles that African-American heroes often get to play in the still embarrassingly white world of mainstream superhero comics.
If Josh was depicted more normally than most of the other cast, he'd be the lucky character in the whole quagmire. Some of these ideas are enough to run screaming from the room.
Saving the squares, though, becomes less and less the focus as the series goes on. Instead, the Doom Patrol ends up fighting Mr. Jones, a family man who lives in the suburbs where he stabs his wife in the eyes and summons demons to attack Danny the Street, a sentient teleporting transvestite thoroughfare. Danny subsequently joins the Doom Patrol and helps them against a fascistic conspiracy based in the catacombs under the Pentagon.

The bad guys are by this point clearly identified with the establishment and, specifically, with policing sexual identity and norms. Moreover, those bad-guy establishment figures are every bit as weird as the weirdos they want to police; as just one iconic example, the conspirators beneath the Pentagon dye their pubic hair green. Marginality and normality, chaos and order, are shown as arbitrary distinctions. All of which raises the question, why is the Doom Patrol fighting "bad guys" anyway?
A better question would be: why was this revulsion greenlighted for publication anyway?
[...] In the final arc of the series, the Chief is revealed as the ultimate supervillain, who plans to use nanorobots to create a worldwide catastrophe in an effort to get everyone to evolve to the next (presumably weirder) level. He tells Cliff that his earlier experiments led him to arrange the car crash that destroyed Cliff's body, turning him from a self-centered, misogynist blowhard into an empathetic hero. "If you'd met me before my accident, I wouldn't have given you a second glance," Cliff tells Jane; his own trauma has made him identify with the marginalized and with those who need help.

But, importantly, the Chief's actions aren't condoned. Using others in a grand plot to replace the Man just changes the iron corrupt rule of the law-giving Pentagon with the iron corrupt rule of the chaotic nanomachine. Either way, somebody else makes you suffer at their arbitrary whim. The new supervillain is the same as the old superhero, or vice versa.
Whether the Chief's actions were condoned is not the point. It's why a once decent fellow was turned into a supervillain for the sake of it that is. This is one of the earliest examples I can find of its kind where goodies are turned into baddies all for the sake of it, retroactively humiliating their earlier appearances, in violation of Mark Gruenwald's argument against it. Towards the end, they say:
...Comics aren't necessarily about reinforcing the status quo or overturning the status quo, but about opening up a space to imagine somewhere else—a place where even the police get to take LSD trips and the ugly and the weird and the other don't need to be fixed. As the last line of Morrison's run says, "There is another world. There is a better world. Well, there must be."
Yeah, and not in this overrated book. This was obviously one of the early US comics where he injected metaphors for drugs. There may be a market out there for weirdness, but it doesn't have to be the kind Morrison concocted. And I'm not impressed with his retcon of Niles Caulder (Chief) either.

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Sunday, April 20, 2014 

James Robinson is quite a laughingstock

For the WonderCon panels, James Robinson delivered quite a dud of a discussion on what he's doing with the Fantastic Four, and its connections with the Original Sin crossover:
Robinson praised the "Original Sin" concept in its strength in allowing creators a little more freedom to tell stories. "My thanks to Mark Waid because people that know a bit more about me know I was working at DC for many, many years and the day I decided to quit, I didn't know if I was going to drive a taxi the next day," said Robinson. "The day it happened, Mark called me and asked if I wanted to write that Spider-Man book with him."

Robinson's first arc, covering the downfall of the Fantastic Four with The Thing convicted for murder and Johnny Storm losing his powers. "I'm told by many people that it's dark, but if you read it, it isn't that dark. There's still going to be the epic Fantastic Four fighting, they take on an enhanced version of the Wrecking Crew in issue #4. I think Leonard Kirk is doing the best work of his career." The writer said that he tried really hard to incorporate ideas from previous runs in the Fantastic Four's history -- including Matt Fraction, Jonathan Hickman and Waid. Robinson said he wasn't going to give away anything about his "Original Sin" work, but did say that The Thing is at ground zero of the event, and finds out there was a "betrayal done to him by Johnny and by a lesser extent, Reed."

"The other thing I'm proud of about this is that events from 'Original Sin' will feed through right to the end of my run on it," Robinson added.
Sigh. This man is so out of touch with reality. Any creative freedom you could get from a crossover is selective at best. How can you truly have any when it involves so many contrived, forced ideas only for the sake of stunts?

And isn't that just what we need, to have the Thing sent to prison while Human Torch and Mr. Fantastic backstab him (it sounds eerily reminiscent of a storyline published circa Secret Wars in 1985), as the FF becomes the umpteenth superhero group to turn against each other for the sake of modern PC. Sorry, but a clash with the Wrecking Crew won't compensate.

I've long written off Robinson as one of the most overrated writers of modern times, and shake my head at his lethargic attempts to defend his work. He says one thing he writes is not a retcon when it is, now he says his latest story isn't dark, but sending Ben Grimm to prison on such a serious charge and tying it all in with a ludicrous crossover is as dark as it can get. I heard he once tried to do screenwriting, but it's not hard to guess why he didn't get very far in that career. His whole MO is a joke.

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Saturday, April 19, 2014 

New Valiant isn't helping themselves by resorting to crossovers

IGN spoke with writer Matt Kindt about the crossover the revived Valiant is doing called Armor Hunters. Towards the end, they say:
IGN: Is the beginning of this storyline, issue #8, a good place for new readers to start reading Unity for the first time? And for a new reader, what's the main draw of Unity that makes it different from the rest of the Valiant books?

Kindt: For sure. I honestly think the beginning of any Unity arc will be a good jumping on point. We're starting with the familiar core group of characters but bringing in that fourth personality that will be new to everyone sort of puts readers on an equal footing. And I really love having that new personality to mix in to the team because it brings out the personalities in the rest of them -- and adds a facet or shade to them that if you're familiar with the characters will be a little funny and flesh them out -- and if you have no idea who anyone is, it'll serve as a great introduction.

The difference between this and other Valiant books is really just the scope -- we get a wider angle view of the Valiant Universe -- a bigger picture -- instead of focusing on corner of the universe. So in that way, I think it's a great intro to what Valiant's about. And I think what sets it apart from every other team book out there -- from any publisher -- is that the Valiant Universe is still relatively new -- at least to the new generation of readers that may be reading Valiant books for the first time. So it changes the vibe of the book. We're not making in-jokes about characters that have been around for 30 years that you may or may not get. There's not years of continuity that you have to know to get a deeper understanding of the book. These are just good solid stories that happen to have the premise of "team of heroes" -- you get to know them like you would any character in any novel. And the character and story carry the book rather than a reader's built-in nostalgia for something that happened years ago.
The line they're publishing as it stands may be new, but the concept of company wide crossovers is not. It's been around for 30 years now, ever since Secret Wars made its debut. How can it be a good jumping on point if a couple of titles are joined at the hip for a crossover? There are at least 3 ongoings and with that comes a number of specials. And I assume they'll want anyone buying Unity to buy those links to boot (Bloodshot, Harbinger and X-O Manowar). In an age when prices have become too costly (nearly 4 dollars) and some people have to make harder choices, they're not doing a favor - neither for themselves nor the customer - by suggesting they'll have to buy nearly everything connected. For a new company building upon the output of the original in the 1990s, they sure haven't learned from their more major counterparts why it's better to let every title stand on its own. How can the characters and story carry the book when a crossover undermines everything? It's one thing for certain characters to guest star in another's book, and in the Silver/Bronze Age, that was handled well. But shoving them all into a crossover with a wheel hub and spokes has long become ridiculous and unhelpful. That's what Kindt's failed to think about.

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Friday, April 18, 2014 

Newsarama thinks crossover deaths are oh-so important

Newsarama wrote another of their lists of 10 most important incidents in publication history, or what they think amounts to importance. But truly, it's not. This one's about crossovers with character deaths, which they shamelessly call "hallmarks", and one of the examples they cite took place during Civil War - the death of the New Warriors, something I hadn't been fully aware of those 7 years ago:
Civil War is one of the most successful comic book "events" in history, and it started with the New Warriors – at the time stars of their own Marvel Universe reality series – bungling the capture of supervillain and "human bomb" Nitro, leading to a high toll of civilian deaths and the demise of Night Thrasher, Speedball (who actually ended up surviving and becoming tortured Thunderbolt Penance), Namorita and Microbe. [...] Since Civil War lasted for months and the aftermath, "The Initiative" era, lasted even longer, the death of the New Warriors definitely had resonance (and not just with angry fans of the team unhappy with what happened to the characters).
It's not just that the New Warriors were turned into sacrificial lambs that's offensive. It's that they were scapegoated and made out to look bad, and many civilians died in the accident too. That's another of many terrible elements that have long invaded superhero comics - too many obscure civilian deaths for the sake of it. Even innocent bystanders shouldn't have to be turned into cannon fodder, yet this is exactly what's gone wrong with the superhero and adventure genres in modern times.

They blatantly call CW a "success" when it was anything but that; it certainly didn't sell in the millions. And what resonance did it have? Nothing of artistic value, that's for sure. This whole article list they've drawn up is a joke that only furthers the feeling of juvenile insularity that's long been devouring the medium.

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About me

  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I do not know if I'll ever be as good as him, but I do my best.
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