Sunday, October 10, 2010

Crossgen Returns?!?!


You now know as much as I do.  The sigil is different than it was six or seven years ago.  Disney owns the CG material, but there may be trademark issues involved there.  Who knows?

Will we ever get an end to Negation War, that's my question!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

John Seavey is Wrong...

...and I intend to prove it.

John Seavey writes a wonderful blog called "Fraggmented" right here on good ol' Blogger.  But he's blaming all sorts of stuff on the Batman 1960's TV show, and I disagree with him.  So we're going back and forth in his comments.

The conversation can be found here.

Please join in, all two of you.

Monday, October 4, 2010

No Ordinary Family: Missed Opportunity

When Julie Benz's character, Overworked Workingmom, runs fast out of her office building, the flags on the tops of the fifty-foot tall poles wave in the wind her passing creates.  This woman's powers are shown pretty clearly to be a danger to everyone around her.  But when she moves fast enough through her office that no one "sees" her (despite the huge amount of wind she creates that scatters papers in every cubicle), nothing really breaks, no one is injured.

When Michael Chiklis' character, Mr. Momdad, first jumps off a building (he can't fly) and lands twenty stories below, he breaks an ten-foot diameter circle of pavement into rubble.  But once he starts carelessly bounding (with non-fatal aim, I might add) around the city, he just kind of skids to a halt, causing no property damage.  When he, with his 5.5 ton lift (press) super-strength, throws a man into wrought-iron bars, the man is not killed.

When the daughter reads minds, she does not have a breakdown from hearing the honest thoughts of those around her.  When the son finally gets his super power, and it's... math... he's not disappointed.

Look, TV makers:  If we wanted to read about or see characters with super powers that make no sense, we'd read comic books.  In fact, we do.  We could also watch The Incredibles again.  It's better and more fun.  Instead, you have a chance to make super powers genuinely interesting by creating a drama where they really are as much of a curse as they are a blessing.  You could make a show where it takes more than twenty minutes of training with one's DA/comic-fan friend to master one's powers.

Instead, we get the exact same jokes we've seen a million times: 
  • Wow!  I'm strong!  Whoops!  I broke something of no importance as a gag!  What a country!
  • Wow!  I'm strong!  Whoops!  I hugged you just a little too hard, but caused no permanent damage!  What a country!
  • Wow!  I'm fast!  No one can see me moving at 300 mph!  Because things moving that fast turn INVISIBLE.
  • Hey!  I'm a teenage girl, and I can read minds!  But I don't want to at first.
Other reviewers (mostly paid reviewers) will take the time to point out the show's dramatic failings; they're obvious to anyone who enjoys quality television.  I just wanted to point out the missed opportunity of this show, one that Heroes also forgot to exploit:  powers like this would have their decidedly sucky parts, too, and it wouldn't be the super-villains hunting your family (although that would suck, too).

Trust, for example, is really an act of faith.  No one can ultimately know what someone else is thinking.  Well, our teenaged heroine can, and guess what?  That would mess with your head.  Can you imagine the temptation of being able to fact-check your friends at ANY time?  Imagine going to a Presidential speech where all you had to do was look at the President's eyes and find out what he's really thinking.  Imagine finding out what your parents really think of you, deep down.  Is that something you want to know?  Imagine if someone heard the wrong thought of yours at the wrong time.  What would they think of you?  Now, barring some enlightening experience in the future, imagine trying to have faith when there's no need for it:  you can have the answers you want at anytime, except from those who know about your power, because they will never look you in the eye again.  Trust is no longer a word in your vocabulary.  Your life as you knew it is gone forever.

That would be interesting.  Instead, we've got a guy with 1938 Superman's powers hurling himself through satellite-surveilled, heavily-populated urban airspace.  And NO ONE sees him.

How can I accept this show as something to be taken even a little bit seriously?  Sigh.  Maybe next time.

Monday, September 27, 2010

SM:MIA - Cup O'M.I.T. Part 1

Spider-Man: Missing In Action

Okay, Spider-Fans (all two of you who still read), Quesada has started releasing an interview with CBR regarding the full nature of One More Day, Brand New Day, and One Moment In Time, and he has demonstrated more clearly than ever that he really does not get it.  The full interview (part one) can be found here:  CBR: Cup O'M.I.T.

Some responses:

Joe Quesada:  The original methodology that was pitched in the writer's room at that time by JMS, the methodology we'd all agreed to, was... one small thing was going to happen in Peter Parker and Mary Jane around the day or days of their wedding causing them to never get hitched ...  The one thing we as a group discussed at length, and didn’t want to do, was to have decades of stories that didn’t happen. That to me would have been disastrous.

Eric:  So in what way was OMD not disastrous?  Seriously, name one.  Peter and MJ make a deal with the devil.  Check.  Their marriage is eliminated in the most cowardly and overly-complicated ways ever.  Check.  Peter is relegated to a status as eternal child, eternal college student, eternal loser.  Oh, great.  I realize these are comics characters, but one thing that Quesada and company just do NOT seem to get is that they have played outside the bounds of the story to make this change, and that as long as this change stays in place, there is NO hope whatsoever of a Spider-Man story that matters.  But moving on...

Joe Quesada:  [On the problems with JMS's version of OMD] To put it bluntly, the ideas that were pitched at the summit and the parameters that we had all agreed to, was not what was in the script. Instead of a story that took us back to the wedding day and why it didn’t happen, what we were looking at was a story in which 37 years of Spider-Man continuity never happened and every issue since "Amazing Spider-Man" #98 no longer counted  ...  In this new version, Peter heroically manages to get Harry into rehab. Because of this, Harry and MJ never break up. That meant she and Peter didn’t start dating as originally happened and Norman would not become the Goblin, thus never killing Gwen Stacy. This was also a problem because we had also come to the decision a while before all of this that Gwen was going to stay dead. In defense of JMS, he did at one point pitch a version of this story at the summit, but it had been shot down by the room because of all the history it would wipe out, not just with Spider-Man, but across the entirety of the Marvel U.

Eric:  For what it's worth, with all the stuff I disagree with Quesada about, I completely agree with him here, that any option that rewrites that much history is a major problem.  I'm honestly surprised that JMS would pull this kind of thing, and I look forward to the almost inevitable response from the creator of Babylon 5.

Joe Quesada:  But, as E-i-C I’m confronted with decisions like this all the time, some bigger than others, but when I’m left between 37 years of continuity disappearing or leaving a story open ended to revisit on another day, I feel I made the absolute right decision.  

Eric:  So how is it that 20 years of marriage are just wiped out to suit editorial whim?  How is it that a room full of pros (all of whom have produced some stunningly awesome work over the years) can't deal with the idea of divorce or death?  How is it that these people think so little of a marriage that they'd rather make it so that it had never happened than deal with it in-story?  This is something of a false dilemma:  "our way or JMS's way."  Why were the other alternatives axed?  In no way was this a "right decision."

Joe Quesada:  Eventually the answers started to come to me as we patched it all together but there was still one nagging question that I couldn’t seem to come to terms with, what did MJ whisper in Mephisto’s ear?

Eric: Let's make one thing very, very, very clear here:  When you make a deal with the devil, no details change the fact of what you did.  Whatever MJ whispers, she (and SPIDER-MAN) are making a deal with the devil.  There's a reason why such deals never turn out well for the characters involved (unless, I suppose, Dan'l Webster's around to be your deus ex machina).  It sounds to me that Quesada was looking for an excuse to make this story happen, and MJ's whisper provides that excuse in his mind.  But it's a deal with the devil.

Joe Quesada: It was at that point that I realized that what MJ whispered to Mephisto wasn’t Earth shattering, in fact it couldn’t be. It just had to be heroic, heartfelt and keeping with her character. What MJ eventually whispers, while seemingly not all that important, makes her the hero of the story and in effect is Earth shattering in its simplicity.
Kiel Phegley: Okay, wait, how so?
Joe Quesada: Remember the twist I mentioned at the beginning of this conversation, this is what I was talking about. MJ unknowingly beat Mephisto at his own game. By agreeing to MJ’s terms, Mephisto has actually wiped himself from ever having been involved in their lives. In fact, looking at it linearly, those four issues never happened. Along with the wedding, "One More Day" and Mephisto have been wiped out of continuity and Peter and MJ never made that bargain.Ooooooh, me hears something breaking.

Eric:  And here, ladies and gentlemen, we see a true master of characterization at work.  Mephisto, the devil, prince of lies, schemer of schemers, is outwitted by Mary Jane Watson.  Whoopsy!  I guess the devil should have proof-read his contract!

Give. Me. A. Break.  That MJ wants the devil to "leave Peter alone forever" is touching, but in NO way does it erase what happened.  In no way does it wipe OMD from continuity.  Quesada makes such a huge point of telling us how "nothing really changed" except that Spider-Man has made a deal with the devil, but if that's true, then Peter and MJ are enough "the same" that they're the type of people who would do it again.  And while Mary Jane Watson might very well be someone who would be that weak, Spider-Man is NOT.  Spider-Man, one of the most morally-centered heroes in the Marvel Universe (and this was apparently made canon several years ago in Infinity War or some such nonsense, for whatever that's worth), does NOT make deals with the devil.  It does not happen.

And FWIW, the devil doesn't make mistakes in his contracts.  Not really.  And he certainly wouldn't be suckered by such an obvious "trick."  Find even a halfway decent lawyer and try this kind of thing on him.  See where it gets you.

The devil is not outmaneuvered.  He is not outfoxed.  He is outloved.  He is outworked in the name of virtue.  He can be defeated by anything sufficiently good and pure.  But you don't beat the devil at the lawyering game.  It does not happen.

Also FWIW, there's nothing heroic about going back on "for better or worse."  Nothing.  It happens, and it's not necessarily evil.  Sometimes it has to happen because of abuse or whatever, but any kind of abusive situation has already violated the traditional wedding vows' "to have and to hold, to love and to cherish" provision, so the vows could be considered null and void.  That wasn't the case here.

Make no mistake:  When they were married, Mary Jane and Peter were adults.  They had made an adult decision, they were living with adult consequences.  Divorce and death would have provided the characters with opportunities for growth and change.  Peter dealt with it (and the readers dealt with it) with Gwen.  Obviously, with 20 years of marriage behind them, MJ's leaving or death would have been a bigger deal, but everyone (fans, pros, characters) would have had an actual story.

Instead, the creators who dictate these characters' fates turned them into adolescents.  Peter and MJ are no longer allowed to handle adult situations.  They aren't grown-ups.  They're stranded in the land of children, minors, and invalids by editorial fiat.  You know why my daughter (who's six) can't get married right now?  She is not an adult and cannot accept responsibility for that size of a decision.  Now, according to Marvel, the same is true for their flagship hero.

When Spider-Man was a teenager making grown-up decisions and dealing with grown-up consequences, it enhanced him.  OMD/BND/OMIT diminishes him no matter what anyone whispers.

What relationship can Peter form now that I can care about?  He won't get married.  It won't go anywhere serious.  In the story, Peter has proven that he can't handle it.  Creators' motivations, extra-diegetic motivations, are immaterial in the story.  Spider-Man is a serial handled by different creators.  Retcons, revamps, and a general assumption of eventual reader amnesia are par for the course.  Quesada hates the marriage?  Let him get rid of it the old-fashioned way:  MJ was a Skrull.  Oh, wait.  That sucks like Bobby Ewing showing up in the shower.  Okay.  Deal with it the new-fashioned way:  MJ freaks out after the ID-reveal and leaves Peter.  Part of the secret-ID universe-wide memory wipe that we all knew was coming is that she forgets his secret ID.  Skip forward a couple months and avoid the tedious story of Peter crying over her.  But let them deal with it as characters.

"MJ is a Skrull" is superior to "Spider-Man makes a deal with the devil."  You know why?  Because MJ can be fatally flawed as a character.  Abusive dad, tough childhood, supermodel lifestyle...  MJ is a prime candidate for breaking a relationship.  Many of us are.  She can be that flawed.  Spider-Man... can't be.  He's a hero, and he wouldn't give up in such a cowardly, responsibility-avoiding way.

Choice is the greatest power we have.  Free will makes us what we are.  Bearing the responsibility of those choices is what makes us adults.  Removing responsibility from Spider-Man by deals with the devil and paradox-creating "technicalities" makes him an invalid. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Why Mainstream Super-Hero Comics Suck Now

...or "Why Wonder Woman Was Totally Justified in Killing Max Lord and How That Story Ruined Both Characters"

This whole post is in response to a thread at Maybe it's still there, maybe it's not. Feel free to ask questions. I do still find out about comments on this moldering blog.

This post makes excessive use of the second-person "you." It's not meant as a personal thing against any individual. I just get sick of writing like I'm writing a term paper sometimes.

1. RE: Superman Killing The Phantom Zone Trio Twenty Years Ago: There's always a cure for Gold Kryptonite. Three absolutely confirmed perpetrators of genocide (is there a word bigger than "genocide"? Seriously.) swore they would do whatever it took to get their powers back, making each and every one of them exponentially more powerful than Superman was at that time. Superman believes himself to be one of four living beings in the solar system and sentences them to death. He might regret the decision later, but that's not something I've ever held against him even for a second.

2. Wonder Woman Isn't Bound By Christian Morality. "Heroes" can kill. They just can. Captain America undoubtedly mowed down rows and rows of Nazis, but no one challenges his right to be a "hero." Diana was not raised with a "thou shalt not kill" ethic. She's Themyskrian (or is that with a "c" in the DCU?), for goodness' sake. What, so we can show on-panel decapitations by someone in a Superman costume but we can't have any diversity in our "heroes"' belief systems or ethical systems? I call BS.

3. Max Lord Needed Killin'. He wasn't "defeated." When a guy can command Superman to do ANYTHING at a whim the INSTANT he gets loose, he's only ever "deterred" or "delayed." Max Lord (in that story, and that's all that matters at DC as "continuity" there means "whatever was on the page before") was a master manipulator who had fooled everyone (including Bats, Supes, and WW) for YEARS. Magic Lasso of Truth + Safety trumps almost everything.

4. I don't think WW looks bad at all next to Superman or Batman. Honestly? Knowing that she doesn't have some weird moral code against killing someone like Max Lord or the Joker makes me want her on my side ten times more than either of the other guys. The Joker is one of the greatest mass-murderers in history. He's a public menace on the same danger level as smallpox. He doesn't need to be murdered, or even killed. He needs to be eradicated. And it's completely ridiculous to believe that a psychopath who has been granted god-like powers at least once in current continuity (well, see "continuity" in #3 above) hasn't been taken out by a wet-works team in the fifteen-odd years that Batman's been active. Come on.

5. And #4 illustrates the key problem of explicit or excessive violence in super-hero comics: You can't have Silver Age, G-Rated Morality in your heroes and R-Rated (or NC-17, at this rate) violence from your villains and have anyone believe it for even two seconds. Nor can you have threats appropriate for a non-R-Rated storyline carry any weight, dramatically. The DCU needs The Authority right now, and it needs it badly, Action 775 be darned!

6. You also can't have God-Batman and God-Joker running around like they do right now. Seriously, who can't Bruce Wayne beat in a one-on-one at this point? Darkseid? Well, it's a tie. They both die. Whoops. Except for Bruce. He's just shunted off into a parallel dimension where he's a caveman. Oookay. Not to say that everything has to be RPG-able, because there is something to be said for dramatic license, but ask yourself this question: Could you GM the current DCU as it stands? Really? I mean, even close? Where Batman has learned enough in his 45 years on the planet that he can defeat the foes he's defeated in the manner he's defeated them? Ugh.

I know this all comes down to personal preference, and I know some folks are just eating up the plates that DiDio is slinging. Eat hearty, then. As for me, I maintain the following basic ideas as my own preferences, and this is why I can barely read DC (or Marvel, for that matter) any more:

A. Every kind of story has its time and place.

B. Sometimes I like "unrated" movies. Variety is good.

C. I don't like evisceration in a mainstream Mickey Mouse cartoon.

D. Mainstream, in-continuity superhero comics should be held to about a PG-13 standard, with some mainline titles sticking to PG so that I can read a story that's "in continuity" and still "family friendly."

E. Violence does not equal good story. Death is not the only way to generate drama. The "real world" extreme doesn't always have to be the "in-story" extreme.

I certainly don't expect everyone to agree with me on this, but here's what I'm not saying: I'm not saying "censor comics!" I'm not saying "censor all superheroes!" I have loved Preacher, Fables, Dark Knight Returns, The Killing Joke, Watchmen, Marvelman, Sandman, etc. But I've also loved JLI, Young Justice, and Waid's Flash, and not for a second do I believe that any of the "dark, mature, gritty" stories are inherently superior to the "bright, family-friendly" stories because of their darkness or grittiness. I want the Joker to be sent to Arkham so he can escape again because I love the character. But I don't believe for a second that not a single person in the world would kill the modern Joker for the things he's done.

I'd like to tell my daughter what I'm reading, occasionally, instead of having to hide the bloody severed limbs from her sight. (She's 6.) I'd like to have a couple of issues of current comics in my classroom at school instead of being afraid I'll get in trouble for bringing such violent material into my classroom when it's not approved by the school board. Yes, that's a possibility in the public school where I work. And finally, I'd like to occasionally read stories that aren't all about decapitations, rape, mind-rape, or genocide. Because I'd like to think there's a place for adults to read that stuff, too.

Kurt Busiek can write that. Mark Waid can write that. Peter David can write that. Tom DeFalco can write that. And when I've read these gentlemen's mainstream work, I've never felt pandered to, or belittled, or infantilized by the lack of gratuitous violence or sex in their work. I've enjoyed getting to know characters, getting involved in plots, wondering about secrets, and enjoying super-hero drama and action. For at least three out of the four, I've also enjoyed their darker, more "mature" work very much, and some of it is at the bottom (best) of my pile when it comes out: Irredeemable, Fallen Angel, etc. But there's a time and a place for ALL types, and the type of super-hero story I want to read isn't being published by either of the Big Two right now (especially now that they've canceled the real Spider-Girl). So I read less than I used to. A lot less. Oh, well.

But some of the debates we're having here in this thread are because of the mismatch of G-rated morality (because having Wonder Woman being a confirmed and avowed killer in certain circumstances "lowers" her somehow) with R-rated crimes doesn't work.

Wow. /Rant, I guess.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Power! Records Presents.... CRAZINESS!

I have thoroughly enjoyed downloading every old Power! Records mp3 I could find this weekend. Listening to old stories like "If Music Be The Food Of Death" just takes me back. If you're an old super-hero fan like me, you owe it to yourself to Google the blogs (which will not be linked here for fear that I will jinx them with takedown notices) that have the files and download to your heart's content.

Thanks to everyone out there who has saved me the considerable trouble of digitizing those files!