Monday, March 23, 2009

Blue Beetle: Too early to survive into the future?


With newspapers swiftly giving up the ghost and book publishers heading down the same road, ereaders can't really get here soon enough. Really, they ought to be giving them away because, while few people are willing to plunk down the money, those who have them seem to love them.

I believe that within a decade ereaders will be in most serious readers' hands. And I also believe that this will, over all, be good for content. And I also believe that, while good for print, it will be even better for comics.

Piggybacking on what Ben said last month, comics may in fact save comics. I'm thinking specifically of Blue Beetle.

Blue Beetle

Ben's been lending me his BB trades and really, even ignoring the fact that the writing and art and story are all good (really good), this book should be a homerun.

Check it out: The hero's a teenage boy. It's mostly about him and his friends. And occasionally Batman. He's got cool powers but normal kid problems too.

Blue Beetle is the modern equivalent to Spider-Man. Teenage kid falls into superpowers and must adapt.

Traditional superhero comics' main target audience is still adolescents, right? Blue Beetle is one of their own and hella cool. He's got a strong girl friend (note the space) so girl comics readers should be into it too.

In other words, this book is the perfect comic book. Commercially, it's covered in kevlar.

But it's been canceled.


I assume it's because the cost of comics is just too dang high.

And moving comics into an ereader? You can cut the price as low as you want, really, and still make a profit. You can, as Ben said, increase the total amount of comics sold severalfold.

And this is just a DC project I'm talking about.

I'm the indie guy here so let's pause for a minute and think what widely available ecomics can do for traditional print (ie, nonweb) guys. With e-ink and the nearpaper experience offered by new ereaders, the huge expenses involved in getting work in print will dramatically fall and more indie artists will have a shot at making a living. Or something close to a living.

This is a boon. And as popularity increases, we'll see color arrive and the future will be here.

I just hope Jaime makes it that long....

Monday, March 16, 2009

Who Watches The Sex Scene? If You Did, I Bet You Feel Ashamed of Yourself

Okay, I broke down and saw it. And... and...

Let's do the flaws in bullet points:

• Excessive violence was silly. Sawing through the guy's arms?
• Silk Spectre sucked. Suuuuuuucked. So damn awful. She may have been window dressing in the comic, but at least she was interesting window dressing.
• Her mom suuuuuucked too.
• There was a lot of dialogue tacked onto the straight comic dialogue that was truly awful. More examples as I think of them.


• Rorschach. Truly a transformation. Not coincidentally, he is about as much in love with violence as Zac Snyder, and he is the character who gets completely nailed.
• The opening credits and a lot of other moments where the alternate history plus superheroes made a really cool transition to screen.
• There were a few additions that actually worked. "Where's my FACE?" and the little addition to Rorschach's death.

But mostly...

When you strip away the metacommentary, the intertwining stories of the Black Freighter and the people on the street as a counter to the heroes, and even the depth of Silk Spectre's story as a repressed memory instead of a magic remembery... it's just not Watchmen.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Wolverine Secret

Wolverine is in the X-Men. Their new headquarters is San Francisco.

Wolverine is also in the Avengers. Their headquarters is in New York.

Many fans have wondered about the logic of this.

Wolverine, in both books, is typically seen wandering around, grumpy, with a cigar, looking in the fridge for a beer. Every once in while he gets really grumpy because they are out of beer. So, clearly, when they run out of beer in San Francisco, he hops in a handy Quinjet or Blackbird or Fantasticar and heads over to New York for their beer.

This way, though he spends a lot on gas, he never has to pay for beer.

No-Prize awarded!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Yes, I have seen the Watchmen movie, thank you very much


And it was good. I thought the opening sequence was excellent. I thought it was a shame that all the nonsuperhero stories got axed, but that was expected. Except for the Mars dialogue, I thought the acting was pretty good. The casting was generally excellent. The hyperviolence was awful but served a point and the sex was, ah, pretty realistic. Allelujah.

And I know it's heretical to say it, but I think the ending of the movie may well have been better than the original.

You may now commence the hating.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

News From the Imaginary Blogger

Oh yeah, I post here, don't I?

I've been a bit swamped by what I refer to lovingly as "Thesis-Ma-Geddon" and also trying to get a story ready for this quarter's Writers of the Future contest. Though I do have a new article in a spanking new issue of the Intergalactic Medicine Show. There are pictures in it so you should read it.

And, much like my bowels, things will be looking more regular without the stress of school come June.

In the meantime, though, here's some thoughts on a couple of X-Men stories.

‘Twas a time when nothing could topple the stranglehold the X-Men had on the comics world. Through the 80s and most of the 90s, the work of Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Jim Lee and a multitude of others married traditional superhero sensibility with a prejudice, hatred and fear of the heroes. X-Men, looking back, was the great predictor for some of the best work ever done in comics, later in the 80s, when Alan Moore and Frank Miller, among others, explored the madness that superheroes would inevitably bring to the world. X-Men was the book every writer mined for ideas.

The big one is the classic “Days of Future Past” by Chris Claremont and John Byrne. Published in Uncanny X-Men #141 and 142, (for a little context, the book has now passed 500 issues) this story was the first story I know of where someone travels back from a dark dystopian future to warn the people in the past that they have to somehow prevent that future from happening. In this case, it was a future overrun with Sentinel robots, who sought to eradicate mutants or keep them in prison camps, a future that had come about because an evil mutant, through a senator’s assassination, set off a wave of hysteria. The X-Men of the present’s storyline was pretty standard—fight the evil mutants, stop the assassination, and get out before anyone throws things at them. In the future, though, things were a different story as a group of mutants attempted to destroy the Sentinel Master Mold and were slaughtered. The classic Byrne-penned image of a Sentinel burning all of Wolverine’s flesh off, leaving only an unmoving metal skeleton, is burned (pun intended) into anyone’s mind who read the story. (Of course, it’s silly now to think Sentinel beam could kill the unstoppable Wolverine who has, in Marvel canon since 1981, survived reentry, been nuked, and regenerated from one drop of blood.)

The dialogue hasn’t aged as gracefully as I’d like it to have for my sentimental reasons, Writer Chris Claremont had a bad habit of having each character review their powers every few pages. “Razor-sharp adamantium claws emerge from Wolverine’s hands, slashing through even the strongest steel.” “Without this ruby quartz visor, beams of force from my eyes would burst out and destroy everything in my path.” But the plot still holds up, not only for the sheer visceral power, but the way in which it predicted so very many stories over the years.

On a totally more obscure note, Exiles: Down the Rabbit Hole is a ton of fun, even for those who haven’t read all the various spinoffs and crossovers and well… every X-Men comic, ever that they tie into. Basically, the Exiles are various characters from different universe incarnations of X-Men who have become “unstuck” in time. They must travel around writing wrongs in different timelines, often variations on our own Marvel Universe, which can be a ton of fun for the longtime fan. But the stories are still accessible to new fans. Some characters, Blink and and Morph are familiar from the “Age of Apocalypse” crossover, an alternate-universe dystopian crossover that channeled “Days of Future Past.” Others are plucked from other various timelines and stories. Thunderbird, a member of the X-Men long dead, is here a bionic horseman of the villain Apocalypse, Nocturne, Nightcrawler’s daughter, hails from a future of the modern X-Men comic.

The writing by Judd Winick (oddly enough, a former star of MTV’s the Real World) is funny and heartbreaking, as they must often face old teammates and deal with their isolation apart from everything they know. The art by Mike McKone is beautifully alive and animated without being cartoony, especially with the treat of seeing Morph turn into something different on nearly every panel. Plus, every few missions they lose a teammate, only to have them replaced by another from a random universe. It's sad!

This is one of the things about spinoffs in a big superhero universe like Marvel. With characters like Cyclops, Wolverine and Storm, who have become iconic figures, there is little that can be done to truly change the characters. But when a good writer gets ahold of some minor characters and actually invests them with depth and power, the story is more memorable than the main titles.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Thoughts on Reading Watchmen for the Second Time

  • I remembered almost nothing from the first time I read it, about six or seven years ago. I remembered Rorschach's secret identity and who the main "villain" was, but not what his big plan was or who Laurie's father was or how the book ended, at all. That vague recollection was ideal, I think, as I remembered enough to pay attention to little details that I probably missed the last time through, but I still enjoyed all the twists and turns in the plot as if experiencing them for the first time.
  • I remember the first time feeling like I should like it more than I did. Perhaps it's a sign of my maturity as a reader--or perhaps just changing taste, without the value judgment implied by "maturity"--that this time I really enjoyed and appreciated the book for the masterpiece it is.
  • I remember being annoyed by the Black Freighter story-within-the-story last time. This time I still found myself anxious to get back to the main story, but I at least followed what was happening with the marooned sailor and could see how it all fit in thematically.
  • I only learned a few weeks ago that Alan Moore had originally intended to use DC's then-recently-acquired Charlton Comics characters, but ended up creating his own analogues instead. It was really interesting to read the story imagining what it would have been like with Blue Beetle and the Question investigating Peacemaker's death, Captain Atom exiling himself from Earth, and Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt, as the man with the plan to save all humanity from the brink of nuclear destruction.
  • I feel adequately prepared now to have a profound, life-changing experience this Friday night when I see the movie. I'm sure I won't be disappointed.