Sunday, January 28, 2007

Save me from Tom!

Baa! I've joined MySpace. Baa!

You can find me at

Be my friend!

Update: Thank you, uh, Warren Ellis. You're too kind. Gail, Will, the gauntlet's thrown. Was' up, now?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Great Responsibility

It's the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. In honor of my sister, the most fervent defender of a woman's right to control her own biological destiny I know, I feel obligated to post something to explain my own views on such a simple but divisive issue. But then I read Ragnell:

As an adult, I can't be anything other than pro-choice, because adults make decisions. And adults don't make other's decisions for them.
And I realized I didn't really have anything else to say.

Yeah, I know that linking to Written World is something like spitting in the ocean, but if you are somehow reading me and NOT already reading one of the smartest, funniest comics critics on the net, you really must. Because for every insightful, deep reading of the text like the one above, she throws in one like this to remind us why women REALLY read comics.

Friday, January 19, 2007

7 Down

(Oh, wow, this is NOT FUNNY unless you go here. And even then...)

Temptation Blocker

From Comic Book Resources: STUDIO TOURS: Mark Waid, while others were concerned with what inspired Mark Waid, this is what caught my eye:

Programs used on a regular basis: Microsoft Word, Firefox, Adobe Photoshop, Windows Media Player, and Temptation Blocker, a freeware program that locks me out of selected applications for a pre-set amount of time so my online porn addiction doesn't get in the way of my deadlines. As much.
Not that Mark Waid has a porn addiction (after all, The Internet is for Porn), but that he can shut it out for pre-set amounts of time. As a would-be comic book writer (but then, heh, aren't we all), a program that allows me to use my computer and check my e-mail but NOT read other peoples blogs or download funny Google videos (for Porn).

So thank you, Mark Waid, for giving me a way of keeping my new years resolution of writing that novel or two.

Oh, and for that thing in 52 yesterday. That was swell too.

(hmm... I can't seem to actually download it though, as the web-site Google points me to is down, and I'm not sure it's available for the Mac. So I'm not sure how helpful this will actually be, unless someone helps me out...)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Dear 52

I just wanted to say thanks.

You didn't have to do that, but you did anyway, and it was great. So, you know, I appreciate that.

And, and that other thing you did? Thanks for that too.



Tuesday, January 16, 2007

JOHN OSTRANDER: Marketing Genius

NRAMA: Finally – again, it’s a little ways off, but big picture - what will this miniseries encompass?

JO: So – how did Rick Flag survive being at ground zero when that nuke went off in Jotunheim? I’ll tell you a little secret – I knew when I wrote it. How’s that for a tease.

Well played, Ostrander, well played. Now just tell me Johnny Karaoke is on the Squad and I'll buy four copies.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Week after Week after Week...

From a superhero comics industry point of view, the story of 2006 is 52.

It's a huge hit, and it flies in the face of most of the trends of superheroes, In age where only name hero books sell, massive production delays, and "waiting for the trade," DC managed to put out a comic book, without missing a single ship date, starring third and fourth string characters, that managed to get over 100,000 fans to go into the shop EVERY WEEK to pick up the new issues as they come out. It's even managed to get some big outside attention for introducing new characters, bringing, hopefully, maybe a few new people into the comics shops.

But is it an aberration, a blip in the face of an adverse tide, or could it be a sign of things to come? That is, could the success of 52 be duplicated? I'm split:

No, it cannot:

1. 52 is a novelty act. A lot of the early attention to it was they fact that it was new. "FOUR all-star writers!" "Rotating artists!" "Real-time storytelling!" "A new issue, EVERY WEEK!" "Never before attempted! Can we do it? or will we CRASH AND BURN?" Well, now we know it CAN be done, and done reasonably well, so the morbid curiosity has worn off.

2. 52 is a limited series. Over 100,000 readers are willing to commit an extra $2.50 a month to watch the experiment in action, but I doubt they are willing to commit it indefinitely. But once enough people had invested in 16 or so issues (the standard 3 month trial period), people could justify sticking it out until the end. An ongoing would suffer a lot more reader attrition.

3. 52 has "importance." Coming directly out of Infinite Crisis and the One Year Later launch, 52 "lays the groundwork" for the "new" DC Universe. Any and every DC Comics fan feels a need to read 52 just to know what the future of their favorite sandbox is going to look like.

Yes, it can:

1. First off, 52 proved a weekly series CAN be done at all. Now that we know that it can be done, publishers can try refining the process down, actually improving it and taking full advantage of the new pacing possibilities allowed.

2. 52 starred non-name characters, and has MADE them important. Which shows the viability of characters that may not be able to support a title on their own, but can be combined to create new and interesting stories (and WITHOUT making them fight crime together on an arbitrarily defined super-team).

3. 52 is not really that much of a crossover. Thanks to the One Year Later launch, it takes place in its own little temporal world. Most of the DC U books have been able to put out nine issues since last March that didn't require ANY knowledge of 52 to understand. And 52 doesn't make you read any other books to understand the story. Any future weekly series could be exactly as isolated from the other books, or it could be even further tied into the larger universe!

I mean, let's face it; 52 is too big a success for DC (and Marvel) NOT to try to replicate its success. So the only real question is how could they improve on it (Ignoring generic suggestions like "better art" and "better writing")? What's the strength of a weekly series, and what production or editing decisions can be made to best take advantage of those strengths? What's the weakness, and how can it be shored up?


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Fixing Civil War

I was enjoying Marvel's Civil War. The basic premises, a conflict between security and individual rights played out as a literal battle between established superheroes, and how honorable people can end up violently disagreeing over important issues, are very strong and the art is very pretty. However, there have been MAJOR problems that have turned me off the whole thing.

And it didn't need to be that way. Here's how I would solve the problems of Civil War. (Nope, no hubris here).

1. The production delays. Yes, these are a problem. And whether by delaying the whole series until the late summer, to give Steve McNiven more time to draw, or calling in a fill-in artist, or simply not delaying other major titles so as not to spoil the shocking, shocking (ultimately, not that shocking) reveals, the delays should have been anticipated and dealt with. Personally, I would have disentangled it from the Marvel universe proper until it was resolved or almost resolved.

2. More to problems in the story itself, I'd make the Superhero Registration Act damned specific. Right now it's a vague mess. And if the debate is security vs. privacy, which it should be, the law should be a strongly enforced anti-vigilantism law, because, honestly, if you're using your mutant powers to bake cupcakes, who cares, but if you're just a regular joe using M-60s to mow down Mafia goombas, I think the police would like a word with you. Then the debate becomes whether superhumans have the right to take the law into their own hands without accountability to the public, and then, if you agree that they need to be watched, well, quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

3. As a corollary, the opening incident needs to be the direct result of the superhero committing a crime in the name of justice, and innocent people dying because of it. As it stands now, the New Warriors, funded by a television company and being documented by their own news crew, failed to stop a bad guy from killing lots of people. It is hard to see how the New Warriors could have been MORE public and MORE accountable, considering most of them died trying to save lives and there is still a major corporation that can be sued for damages, and being restrained by the law would NOT have prevented the explosion.

If I were writing Civil War, the Stamford Incident would have been caused by any of Marvel's monstrous or murderous anti-heroes beating Nitro to death, releasing his explosive energy in a civilian setting. In my dream scenario, it's Ghost Rider, who uses his penance stare to make Nitro go boom, so that only he remains in the burnt out field, charred bodies all around him. (Now he has to lam it on his bike every time the super authorities catch up with him, but can he out run his own guilt? But that's my pitch for a GR ongoing, and I digress...) So instead of heroes dying before they can prevent a mad man from killing, we have an immortal demon chasing vengeance regardless of the human cost... and THAT could get some people talking about new laws and new enforcement.

4. Captain America is the conscience of the Marvel Universe. Once he picked a side, it was all over. So I'd switch Captain America's and Spider-Man's positions, making Spider-Man the anti-reg leader and Cap the conflicted supporter/patsy of Iron Man. Yeah, it's America torn by Civil War, but even with the cliché, it works. It also makes more sense that Tony Stark would court his old friend and long-time ally, the universally beloved World War II hero Steve Rogers, to be the face of his campaign, rather than the publicly reviled Spider-Man, who Tony Stark may have worked with before but barely knows. And I could imagine Cap. America, Iron Man, and Reed Richards (the daddies of MU) making a good case that the kids can't just run around breaking things unsupervised.

It also puts Spider-Man in a more interesting position. More than anyone else (except maybe Matt "Daredevil" Murdock) Spider-Man knows the dangers of having his identity exposed. At the same time, Peter is hardly used to working on a team. What will he do when he has the power and responsibility of leading others into battle? Is openly flaunting a law putting his family in less danger or more? It also opens up class questions (Rich (Iron) Man/Poor (Spider) Man) and age gap issues.

5. I wouldn't put all the assholes on one side. The pro-registration side could have a very strong case, if they were not also so into throwing their friends into concentration camps, hiring mass murderers to hunt down people who have broken no laws but disagree with them, and play Odin by trying to clone gods. Not that superheroes can't make mistakes or be wrong, but shouldn't both sides be guilty of doing terrible things? Wouldn't it make more sense for the side without public and government support to be doing the more desperate, ethically questionable things? (so far, the worst thing they've done is let the Punisher save Spider-Man's life).

6. And less "shocks". The conflict is strong enough to carry seven issues without reveals like Thor, Clone of Thunder, the all new Suicide Squad Thunderbolts, and Dark Speedball. All that does is distract from the main idea, the underlying moral conflict. I know it's the major crossover, tying into tons of books and launching more than a few series, but the story would be better served by paring down the "moments" and leaving more space for character work and emotional beats.

So, to re-cap,

1. Cut it off from the rest of superhero books, for now.

2. Clarify that the debate is over vigilantism, and who watches whom.

3. Have the catalyst explosion be caused by over-zealous, not incompetent, super "heroes."

4. Put the moral center of the universe in the center of the conflict.

5. Morally compromise both sides, especially the less powerful side.

6. Get rid of the stupid stuff.

Oh, wait, that's Kingdom Come.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Hirin' and Firin'

Hey Gail, if you're still reading, I have serious questions about Ivy University's tenure policy.

Specifically, WHAT, exactly, would Professor Doris Zuel have to do to get fired? You'd think that going on naked rampage through the town would at least get one put on probation, let alone swallowing a fellow member of the faculty whole, but there she is the next day, teaching class and putting the moves on The All-New Atom. I'm surprised she was hired in the first place, considering she's a known (and, in the pages of Wonder Woman, still wanted) criminal and she isn't doing much to hide her identity.

Yes, yes, I know she was "under the influence of a cancer god" (and haven't we all used THAT excuse before) and the Dean himself isn't exactly on the up-and-up, but you'd think the board of directors or the alumni association would throw a stink about such a dangerous individual influencing the minds of a new generation. I mean, it's not like they've got Prof. Morrow teaching computer programming or Solomon Grundy lecturing on interpretations of Seven Soldiers ("Grundy wants explication of text, too!")

... or DO they? Is that the point? Based on the increased yield following Ray Palmer's tenure, is Ivy actively recruiting the all stars of the meta-science world? Is that in the brochure? "Come to Ivy University and see the laws of physics rewritten regularly!" The Flash leading a seminar on special relativity. The Phantom Stranger and Dr. Thirteen hosting a special class on "Faith vs. Doubt". And when you run out of heroes, who might have better things to do, you move on to the reformed (and almost reformed) villains?

Y'know, this could actually be cool. They could have academic rivalries with the inmates of The Haven and free-thinkers on Oolong Island. Ethics classes would have some real debate, since there would suddenly be people actually pro-disintegration. And if Ivy's University mascot was the Kawaii M'Nagalah, I don't think I'd have a problem with that.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Opposite Man

After reading this interview with Chuck Dixon (which is very good considering it could have been nothing more than a puff piece but instead gets into some real issues) I am a lot more impressed with the man as a writer than I was before. Not for his stance against writing sexual superheroes (a prudish and limiting attitude towards superhero stories that he himself has broken in order to write about teenage pregnancy), but for his ability to NOT inject his own politics into the story he needs to write.

Specifically, he states that he's pro-death penalty, which surprised me, because Joker: The Devil's Advocate is one of the best arguments against the death penalty I have ever read.

Now, I've made no secret of the fact that I'm a Dixon fan but Devil's Advocate is a cut above. Not only does it feature some of Graham Nolan's best art ever, as well as a Joker that is intelligent, vicious, crazy, and actually funny, it presents the ultimate test case for the death penalty: The Joker.

The Joker is guilty; he's irredeemable; he offers nothing to society (which Lex Luthor arguably does or could); and he's a credible future threat. In short, if ANYONE deserves execution, it's the Joker.

And yet... and yet the punchline of the book is that the Joker is actually innocent (of these murders, if not all the other ones) and that executing him would be a mistake! And therefore executing anyone, even the Joker, when you are not 100% certain he did it, would be a mistake as well.

I've used this book as an argument against the death penalty, and to find out its author is actually PRO-death penalty is... surprising, to say the least.

It gives me some hope for the Grifter/Midnighter series, that Dixon can convincingly write a character whose motivations and causes are so different and antithetical to his own. Perhaps more writers should do the same, just to prove that they can.

Maybe they'd learn something.

Quick Question

Anyone else read the news that The O.C. was cancelled and think, "Oh, good. Maybe Wonder Woman #5 will actually publish in 2007"?