Monday, March 30, 2009
First: this blog will be on hiatus for the time being. I'm not erasing it or anything like that; I'm just moving my dialogue to my personal blog: http://valeriedorazio.blogspot.com/
Second, thank you to everyone who has purchased a copy of "Memoirs of an Occasional Superheroine"!
All orders up to the time of this posting have been fulfilled.
Please note: if you are reading the book on Google Viewer, it will only run for 100 pages, then stop; because Google Viewer has a 100-page limit. To read the entire book, you need to open the PDF & read it separately.
To order the book, please follow the link below (you can pay through PayPal or credit card).
How the eBook delivery works: I will email you the book within three days of purchase, if not sooner.
I am currently working on the most affordable (for both me and the purchaser) option for a hardcopy edition of this book.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
I think my blog writing block started after I saw the "The Watchmen." I had several rather strong opinions on the subject, and realized that none were really fit for print. Not the usual topics -- sexism, violence, blah blah. No, just topics...the danger and folly of the industry putting their hopes on one particular comic book movie to save them (especially when the movie was R-rated and featured characters that were not part of the collective mass consciousness), Rorschach the hip anti-hero who is also the embodiment of everything his fans probably profess to hate, Zack Snyder's blatant 9/11 references sprinkled throughout and what they might mean, and, finally, Alan Moore's ultimate prophecy embodied in the nerd with the ketchup stain on his shirt on the last page of the graphic novel.
Lots of topics there to have fun with. Just couldn't do it. This wasn't the forum. I mean, just the statement that I don't think the Watchmen are a part of the collective mass consciousness alone could spark the sort of angry debate that takes up an inordinate amount of my time and again fulfills Moore's prophecy.
There were other things. I had hired a career coach to look at my various projects objectively and give me some advice. I explained to her everything about the "Occasional Superheroine" blog -- how it started, about "Goodbye To Comics," everything about the blog up to this point. And she said what I had already figured out myself. That the blog was so tied into this strong, adversarial, tumultuous energy that even if I wrote about harmless topics, it would still attract some people who wanted more anger, more tumult. So I could write about daisies and there would be some brilliant individual who would react angrily with: "Daisies?! What do you have against petunias?!" And so on and so on. Because they're addicted to the drama. I get it.
I get told every once in a while by well-meaning people that this sort of tumult and schadenfreude is just the warp and weft of the Internet community, and not a big deal at all. Within that point of view, I often feel as if I'm the one singled out as doing the worst behavior of all -- being real and saying how I actually feel at any one given time. I'm told not to act like a martyr, and then instead to just sit and not say anything. Which is sort of like...being a martyr. I guess it's better to be a quiet pious-eyed martyr, of the old Christian variety, than an annoying loud-mouthed spouter of opinions. That's what I got from those conversations.
My career coach said to me that that I wasn't a muckraker or a ball-breaker, but I was a truth-teller. Or, at any rate, that's how I should be. The difference was in how I presented that truth. A big stumbling-block for me has been my perception that ultimately, society hates the truth and truth-tellers. That if somebody went through the trouble of burying that truth, it's probably because society wanted it *gone*, dead, away. Is there even any market in the truth these days? Can we make a CW show out of it? Or maybe truth is okay, as long as it's gory and full of that familiar schadenfreude. Jade Goody dying of cancer = acceptable truth. Because of all the gory details. They can film that shit, package it, put it on the cover of OK magazine. But being sit down and told in detail why your economy is fucked? Before the crisis? Nobody wants to hear that. That's like stuff you see on public television.
This blog jumped the shark for me several times. By "jumping the shark," I mean that my desire to continue it and my mission were severely shaken. They were not the times you might think. No, they were really subtle. Hearing the "he's just a big lovable grumpy guy" about the man who sexually harassed me -- from somebody who had originally convinced me to sue DC Comics for the harassment -- was one such instance. In one sense, it was harmless. It was a harmless comment. But it just sat with me. It knocked my equilibrium off. I still remember where I was when I read this as a text message. I remember the patterns the varnish made on the wood of the library desk when I read this message.
There were things at DC that happened years after I left that shook, for me, the mission of this blog. On one hand, I think they validated things I already said. On the other hand, they were so real, so really messed up, so beyond the pale, that to write about them in a flip manner had become completely inappropriate. It explained everything and yet couldn't really be talked about. I just wanted to go back and write about daisies and call it a day.
People have been asking me about that whole "Scans Daily" fiasco, and the only thing I have to say about it is that I followed the recent controversy and it further helped to shake my mission. I read the X-Factor issue in question, by the way, because my BF had purchased it and said "you must read this!" and I did and I loved it. That's how I expanded my current reading list and tried new things. There was a purchase involved.
Finally, a recent post I did regarding Friends of Lulu was like the cherry on top of the shark jumping, but in an ultimately positive way. Being yelled at and told "there's no need for Friends of Lulu!" only convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt that there absolutely needs to be a Friends of Lulu. Being told that there was no need for women to support each other only convinced me that there absolutely was a need for women to support each other. And so I turned my attention to just that. I took the type of work I was doing for my clients -- blog consultation, the strategic utilization of content, and the development of social media outreach -- and decided to apply it to Friends of Lulu. Which takes a lot of time to do. But I felt it went back to what my coach said. "How do you tell that truth?" Am I a muckraker or a truth-teller? How am I going to make a difference?
I do think there will be an end-point to this blog very soon, and I will carry the conversation onto another blog under my name. I will certainly talk about comics, pop-culture, my life, etc, but it will be done from a new forum. A lot of the passion I put in my posts...maybe it's time to put them in my comic book writing. I need to do this. I'm not the same person I was when I started this blog. I'm not better or worse, I'm just different. My goals are different. My perception is different. It's been almost three years this April since the accident that helped inspire my writing of "Goodbye To Comics," and I've changed a lot. What really needs to happen is to compose the final sentence on this blog, thank everyone who supported it, and write "The End." And start anew. And let the fun begin.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Okay, here is the evolution of a Smallville fandom kick:
1. Watch show sporadically.
2. Hook on to some obscure element of show -- in my case, the "Doomsday" storyline. To refresh your memory, that's the storyline that revisions Doomsday as a cute EMT with great hair.
3. Watch show regularly.
4. Watch DVR'ed recording of show and skip through all the parts that aren't about Doomsday.
5. Go on YouTube and look for fan videos.
6. Search Google for fan-fiction.
7. Buy copy of Smallville official magazine with variant "Doomsday" cover.
8. Search Google for fan wallpaper.
9. Go back on YouTube and look for new fan videos.
10. In deep embarrassment, sign onto Chloe/Davis shipper fan forum under assumed name.
11. Nearly poop myself over last week's episode, recapping for BF only the Doomsday bits. ("And then Jimmy got addicted to morphine!")
12. Go back on YouTube and look at official CW promo vids of Doomsday; sit through excruciating CW reporter's tired banter (in order to get to the good stuff!).
13. Consider pros and cons of "friending" David Bloom on Facebook. Pro: great profile pic. Con: will show up on my newsfeed and will look like dork in front of 400+ Facebook friends.
14. Considers writing fan-fiction about next episode because the wait is too long for next episode. Wonders if sort of illegal.
15. Fights overwhelming feeling that resolution to storyline will be ultimately disappointing and leave niche of Chlavis/Chloom shippers in paroxysms of fan-rage. "DIAF! You always hated Davis! You bastards!"
16. Realizes that I'm turning into Mel from Flight of the Conchords.
17. Reflects on how cute Jemaine from Conchords is.
18. Go back on YouTube and look for Jemaine clips.
19. Contemplates Smallville/Flight of the Conchords crossover fic where Jemaine is third Kryptonian baby who landed on Earth.
20. The circle is now complete.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Reading about how long-term Thunderbolts character Songbird is going to be in the upcoming Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 game, I wondered if she was being positioned as the next "breakout" Marvel superheroine.
Things in her favor:
* unique hair
* it seems like they're totally building up a storyline where she redeems herself and ends up on the Avengers or some other team like that, which would put her in the spotlight
* unique hair
I personally like Songbird a lot, and think she has a rich characterization that has been carefully developed over time. Has she earned a place yet with Elektra, Ms. Marvel, Emma Frost, and others? Well, I think she is certainly a contender.
Plus, never underestimate the power of unique hair.
Here is an interview on the official Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 site with some of the developers where they extensively talk about Songbird's involvement with the game.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
What I like about this Olivier Coipel cover is that it combines the "two Wolverines" that usually show up in depictions of the character -- the handsome one and the sort of trollish one. He's certainly not a pretty boy in this piece of art. He's not Hugh Jackman-handsome. But he's also sort of hot in his own way.
I know -- pretty deep commentary! :-D
Cover is a Wolverine: Weapon X #1 variant, btw
Saturday, March 14, 2009
As you can see, Chapel would need to be over 8 feet tall, and our President would have to stand on a box.
Who could benefit from the Liefeld style of creative cropping:
Watchmen scribe David Hayter recently posted an open letter to fans, urging them to get out and watch the movie again. How does he convince the skeptical that Watchmen indeed is the film of the decade, the one they were "waiting for?"
"All this time, you’ve been waiting for a director who was going to hit you in the face with this story. To just crack you in the jaw, and then bend you over the pool table with this story. With its utterly raw view of the darkest sides of human nature, expressed through its masks of action and beauty and twisted good intentions. Like a fry-basket full of hot grease in the face. Like the Comedian on the Grassy Knoll. I know, I know...
You say you don't like it. You say you've got issues. I get it.
And yet... You'll be thinking about this film, down the road. It'll nag at you. How it was rough and beautiful. How it went where it wanted to go, and you just hung on. How it was thoughtful and hateful and bleak and hilarious. And for Jackie Earle Haley.
Trust me. You'll come back, eventually. Just like Sally."
Hayter then posts a clarification:
"First off, let me apologize for my metaphor. I am certainly not advocating violence against women of any kind. My sole intent was to reference one of the most complex, controversial and interesting issues in the story imho -- The nature of the relationship between Sally and the Comedian, and likening that complexity to some people's reaction to the film. It was meant more in the spirit of speaking to those who are truly entwined with the heart of the story -- A horrific act, that ends in a love story. I sincerely apologize for any offense."
So I should relate to this movie the way a woman relates to a love-hate relationship with an attempted rapist?
That's exactly what I'm looking for in a movie. One that "hits me in the face, cracks me in the jaw, and bends me over a pool table."
"You say you don't like it. You say you've got issues. I get it."
Fuck you. Seriously.
I was pretty forgiving about possible issues of misogyny in the film up to the point I read this pathetic plea to fans. The whole open letter makes nauseous, actually:
"You have to understand, everyone is watching to see how the film will do in its second week. If you care about movies that have a brain, or balls, (and this film's got both, literally), or true adaptations -- And if you're thinking of seeing it again anyway, please go back this weekend, Friday or Saturday night. Demonstrate the power of the fans, because it'll help let the people who pay for these movies know what we'd like to see. Because if it drops off the radar after the first weekend, they will never allow a film like this to be made again."
Remember, Watchmen screenwriter David Hayter doesn't believe in "raping your childhood," folks. Because you really "want it." Just like Sally Jupiter did.
This guy couldn't carry Alan Moore's jockstrap.
Comments off, because of the "Hayters."
Friday, March 13, 2009
That's it. Good night!
Thursday, March 12, 2009
I was having lunch with the BF when he told me about this Youngblood variant cover depicting President Obama holding a gun. I actually choked on the nacho I was eating.
"A gun? Really? What type of gun?"
"A big gun."
"But I mean what, a rifle?"
"A Liefeld gun."
This isn't unprecedented. I mean, there was Reagan's Raiders:
But what do you think? Is this cover appropriate? Is this an image that you think Obama would personally approve of?
I just finished reading a looooong comment thread on a conservative movie critic's website regarding her review of Watchmen. The reviewer, Debbie Schlussel, starts off by saying if you are going to see "Watchmen," "...you're also probably a moron and a vapid, indecent human being." She says that the movie was marketed to kids, and goes on to list, in detail, every gory scene in the movie.
As you can imagine, the response was swift and severe.
Personally, I don't believe Watchmen was marketed to children. I also don't agree with her assessment that if you watch the film, you are an indecent human being.
Here is a sample of the responses to her post:
"IT'S NOT SUPPOSED TO BE A WHOLESOME FAMILY FRIENDLY MOVIE YOU DUMB BITCH. DON'T COMPLAIN ABOUT THE SEX SCENES JUST BECAUSE NOBODY WANTS TO DO IT WITH YOU."
"I am a 17 year old female and I freaking love Watchmen I am a comic book nerd and I am not twisted I have always watched cartoons Yes voilent ones and read oh you guessed it voilent comics too I am not messed up for life I get high grades at school and I have normal friends but you know what I'm stuck with stupid self loving bitches like you telling me that what I like is wrong."
"this is one of the rare times i wish i lived in communist china where cunts like you got aborted with a coat hanger."
"hey fuck you you dumb cunt! if you can say what you want about the greatest movie of all time i can tell you that you are i dumb fuck who doesnt know shit about comic books! they didnt make this movie for people like you or little kids! they made it for comic book nerds like myself who enjoy graphic violence and swearing and rough sex scenes! so shove it up your dick hole! fuck you!"
"Someone needs to call the nice men in white coats on this bitch."
"I DIDN'T EVEN KNOW THIS TWAT EXISTED UNTIL I HEARD ABOUT THIS REVIEW. I'LL CANCEL MY ACCOUNT NOW AND REMOVE HER FROM MY WORLD. JUST NEEDED TO LET HER KNOW WHAT A VILE CUNT SHE WAS."
"I'M SURPRISED THAT A CUNT AS BIG AS YOU WOULD BE SO OFFENDED BY A BIG BLUE COCK"
"Do the world a favor and sterilize yourself you dumb, mouth-breathing cunt."
"But seriously, you need to get punched."
"STOP BANNING ME BECAUSE I DISAGREE WITH YOU, YOU STUPID FUCKING CUNT."
and so on.
This reminds me of the opening of another Watchmen review by a female critic:
"Hey, fanboys. Yeah, you guys, the ones who flooded my inbox with e-mails after I trashed Zack Snyder's "300," wishing birth defects on my unborn children and suggesting that perhaps my husband isn't _ ahem _ keeping me satisfied."
If you go on the film site Rotten Tomatoes, there is usually a thread attacking every negative review of Watchmen:
"The plot made little sense to you becuase your stupid and old. It was not made for you. It was made for my generation full of intelligent young people."
"It's obvious that some of you cant handle the greatness of this film (or refuse to enjoy it for no apparent reason)"
"Stupid people have a hard time following the film "Watchmen." Certainly anyone who found this film too "talky" falls into that category. I'm gratified that not everything (including action/fantasy genre) is being made just for RETARDS any more. Let the lowest common denominator go to stupid, cheap, ****ty movies. Let the budgets go to nifty fare like this"
"You sir are a fool with the intelligence of a pile of excrement."
"you are a turd minus the brown"
"stfu guy. man i hate reviewers who think they need to use rarely spoken words by anyone in an attempt to validate his opinion. freakin jerk offs at the wall street journal"
"Reviews like this are unfair and unjust..
They should be removed when EVERYONE disagrees with them."
This literally goes on for the majority of the negative Watchmen reviews on eleven pages.
I guess it just goes to show that some people passionately love this graphic novel and movie.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
I mean: after Watchmen, what future classics that will stand the test of time has DC Comics produced over the past 5 years?
Here is a couple to start:
- DC: The New Frontier
- All-Star Superman
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
I take this rumor about Christian Bale's "Terminator Salvation" co-star Sam Worthington replacing him in the Batman movies with a grain of salt.* But it *does* bring up an interesting question: is Bale "replaceable" as Batman in the current franchise?
I don't see Bale as inextricably linked to the Batman character as Christopher Reeve was to Superman. In fact, I'd almost argue that Reeve was pretty irreplaceable as Superman, though both Dean Cain & Tom Welling have done really great interpretations of the character.
Now, I can buy Bale being an iconic "Young Bruce Wayne." But as Batman, it's so-so for me. Bale's iconic movie, as far as I'm concerned, is really "American Psycho," though thankfully he hasn't gotten pigeonholed as Patrick Bateman (though one might argue that the actor has played his fair share of psychopathic roles since, and that even Bruce Wayne is a bit unhinged).
Michael Keaton was my favorite Batman, but even then, was he an *iconic* Batman?
At the moment, I think there is still only one true iconic performance of Batman that has stood the test of time:
*EDIT: However, given Bale's recent issues with his temper, plus the fact that he might want to move on and do other things, it's not *that* crazy to think that replacements might be floated around for Batman. But this has happened to Tobey Maguire with Spider-Man as well. So who knows?
Monday, March 09, 2009
Comic books work great to communicate controversial topics to a large audience. Make that comic available on the web for free, and you have the power to reach a bigger audience than you might ever dreamed possible. The following three webcomics address sensitive women's issues with a great frankness and courage, and demonstrate what can be done using this medium for the cause of education & social justice.
Unmasked: The Ariella Dadon Story, by Inbal Freund-Novick and Chari Pere, tells the story of a 28-year-old woman who finally receives a get (a Jewish divorce) from her abusive and violent husband. Pere draws Ariella with a cracked "happy face" mask during her unhappy marriage and unsuccessful attempts to get away from her husband, and it is a haunting and devastating motif. "Unmasked" is offered in both English & Hebrew. As one website put it, this is an "Online Comic Breaking Chains."
The Shake Girl is an online graphic novel created by members of the 2008 Stanford University Graphic Novel Project -- a massive collaborative effort between 15 students and 2 instructors. It is inspired by the life of Tat Marina, a former karaoke performer from Cambodia who had acid thrown in her face as a teenager as the result of a love affair gone bad. "Beware of powerful men who may kill you if you refuse their advances, and beware of their wives who will kill you if you do not." The result is a moving story whose many different artists manage to capture the different seasons in the young protagonist's life.
Hathor the Cow Goddess is a funny and often poignant webcomic about motherhood and pregnancy by Heather Cushman-Dowdee. Cushman-Dowdee tackles such issues as the right to publicly breast feed, the unusually high number of c-sections being performed, and embracing natural methods of child birth and child rearing. In one strip, a doctor who is pushing for a c-section is portrayed as a scalpel; in another, the title character reads a newspaper article with the headline "Woman Refuses C-Section Is Charged With Murder." Cushman-Dowdee also has another pregnancy-related webcomic called Mama Is....
These are but three examples of how women (and, in the case of the Stanford collaborative project, women& men) have used webcomics to help each other and help better the world in which they live in.
It's been quite a learning experience for me. This learning experience is continuing. I haven't even really started the manga yet.
What is the percentage of comics created (in some capacity) by women in Previews in any given month? A rough estimate: about 10%.
Given this, to set out and purchase all the female-created comic books that come out on the stands on Wednesday is no big economic set-back for me. I become so familiar with the comics through the research that once I finally see them on the stands on Wednesday, they are sort of like "old friends." And so I pick them up.
This is not an endorsement of such a method of comics purchasing. This is just what I have consciously decided to do.
I'm doing this research for Friends of Lulu, and a lot of this hard data will be collected and presented, via our newsletter, to FoL members. But here is a list of the female comic book creators who will have books come out, via Diamond, over the next two months.
EDIT: this list does NOT include colorists or letterers. If the coloring & lettering information is not available through the Previews information, I would have to contact each publisher individually and go over every book they have. I do this research on a volunteer basis, as time permits between work. So unless I have volunteers to help gather and collate this information on a bi-monthly basis (we do these lists for two months at a time), it may be unlikely that I can include colorists and letterers at this point. If you feel strongly about this issue and would like to volunteer your time, please email me via the envelope icon on my sidebar
G. Willow Wilson
Barbara Randall Kesel
Compared to the list of male comic creators with work coming out the same time, this is a relatively small group of names. But, to be honest, these are more names than I expected to find.
There are some caveats to this. One, if we added the female creators from independently-distributed comic books and webcomics, the number of women jumps dramatically. Two: like I said, I haven't taken into account female manga creators yet.
But when I'm interviewed, I am almost always asked how many women are working in comics today. I usually have a vague answer, along the lines of "not many," or "not enough."
I don't want to approach this issue in the future as a matter of vague answers. I want data. I want to take this out of the realm of vagueness and get to know names. I want to know names & content. I want the creators and the content to be the focus. I want what has been done to be the focus, not what hasn't.
(this post cross-posted at the Friends of Lulu blog)
Friday, March 06, 2009
According to the January sales charts, WildStorm sales have plummeted almost 30 percent in just one month -- from an average of 10K for each title to around 6,800.
Analysis from Marc-Oliver Frisch:
"The reason for the dramatic decline of WildStorm periodical sales is simple: The imprint currently stands on three pillars, none of which seems able to support its own weight. The traditional WildStorm Universe superhero properties, based on characters created by WildStorm founder Jim Lee, have been waning for years commercially; none of the more recent creator-owned properties have been remotely able to recapture the early success of Astro City or Ex Machina (the one notable exception being The Boys, which was promptly taken elsewhere by its creators due to creative differences with the management); and the vast majority of WildStorm’s licensed titles adapting videogame, television or film properties fail miserably."
But Frisch's analysis, as it applies to WildStorm's video game properties, isn't exactly true. The first issue of Gears of War sold around 450,000 copies. And these video game comics sell like hot cakes via video game shops.
For years I've heard the complaint that video games stole the attention of young people, making them forsake comic books. Doesn't it make sense, then:
- To put the comics where the games are
- To make comics out of the games
- To license out the comics to the games
- Wash, rinse, repeat
Of course, when the vogue eventually becomes downloading the games directly from the vendor, there will be a problem. The video game stores may turn more towards selling game-related merch like t-shirts, toys, and maybe even special edition comic books.
At any rate, I think WildStorm should be considered DC's "go to" studio for all adaptations -- video game, TV, and perhaps even licensed material for kids. Split the rest of the titles (the viable ones, at any rate) up between the DCU and Vertigo. This is not the time to overextend imprints, but to consolidate, and to identify specifically what each one does best.
Thursday, March 05, 2009
One of the initiatives I have taken on as late has been all-ages comic books. I just found myself quietly drifting in that direction. Is it because I am getting older? Is it because, with a very young nephew and my own thoughts about eventually having a child of my own, this topic has suddenly become a lot more relevant to me?
I have made it my business to familiarize myself with the children's comics that are being offered every month. I'm particularly concerned with comic books for ages up to 13. While there is some good product out there, there is, in my opinion, not enough. The new releases for children -- only floppies, mind you -- at one large comic book store I go to fills a single shelf. A single shelf. That's not enough new material.
Then you have another shelf or two of trade-paperbacks and assorted hardcovers. And, course, there is always manga -- but, when you take out the titles meant for children 13 years or older, there is not tons and tons of stuff available (and if you take out the adaptations of card games, there is even less).
I'll admit I'm most concerned about the floppies, or digests with relatively low prices. These should be the things most accessible to kids, things they can easily buy with their allowance. Accessiblity. Accessibilty is really a local candy store, or a local mega-supermarket. Can you get Johnny DC titles at supermarkets?
Archies are racked up at some of the drug stores chains. Impulse buys. Low price-point. For under $3 or $4 you can get a digest packed to the gills with Archie stories for your child. Compare that to a digest priced at $7.99, or $9.99. Does a seven-year-old need fancy card-stock covers?
When I was a very small child (3-7 years old), my parents pulled copies of comics from Archie, Harvey, and Gold Key like they were grapes from the stands and spinner racks. If it had an Archie, Harvey, or Gold Key logo, they bought it. They also bought me Captain Carrot. Howard the Duck was a mistake, however.
Gold Key in particular offered me a great deal of variety. Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck, Woody Woodpecker, Fat Albert...everything I was watching on TV at the time. Some of these stories, unbeknownst to me, had been reprinted and repackaged from decades before. My love for these comics translated to the next step up -- superhero comic books. And so I was hooked.
Gold Key was the "gateway drug" for my hobby. Their offerings were vast, cheap, colorful, and plentiful. We could get them at the supermarket or the comic book store. And, most of all, they had a clear "all-ages" branding that made it easy for my over-worked and harried parents to identify and buy them for me.
My recommendations for all-ages material are:
1) Low price-point
2) Cheaper paper
3) Affordable mass-market digests
4) Larger supermarket, drug store, and candy store distribution
5) Push subscriptions as an option
6) More titles
7) Clearly mark or brand comics as "all-ages"
I'm sure I'm not the first person to recommend these things, but this is just some stuff off the top of my head.
EDIT: I wrote this on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, I went out on an interview with a potential client for an editing/blogging/PR consulting job.
I start this, another edition of my look at the world's current economic woes (and how it intersects with things of particular interest to the comic book industry, like "digital vs. paper"), with a personal view.
All the places I used to meet up with my friends back in the old days are being closed.
Take Virgin Megastore in NYC. Gonna be closed by the Summer. Now, I'm not saying that Virgin Megastore was the most awesome store in the entire universe, or that it didn't put a lot of its smaller neighbors out of business. But this was the place that me and my friends would meet up at before going someplace else. A place to browse. A landmark. A touchstone.
Now, here are some of the other places me and my buds used to use as meet-up locations:
* Coliseum Books, RIP
* Tower Records, RIP (except online)
* Barnes and Noble on Astor Place, RIP
* Barnes and Noble on Sixth Avenue, RIP
* Toys R' Us on Union Square, RIP
* Toys R' Us on Herald Square, RIP
* Circuit City on Union Square, soon-to-be-RIP
* KB Toys, RIP (they even let the fricking url go)
I should probably switch to meeting at subway stations.
Now for another installment of...BUYING COMICS ON A BUDGET!
I consulted the list of this week's comic books and decided to apply the BF's "three comic maximum" to myself. Speaking from experience, there are many comic books that I would buy on whims that I would flat-out not consider for purchase when I am trying to budget. For example, I like to pick out odd-ball comics to review. Harder to take that leap -- even in the interest of Comic Book Scholarship -- when one is budgeting.
I become far more choosy. I consider at that ad for the latest issue of The Goon, for instance, and ask skeptically: is this in current continuity? I look at that intriguing hardcover edition and immediately decide to not only wait to get it on Amazon, but to wait at least two months until the price drops. And my experimentation with manga? Unless it's Deathnote, it'll probably be on hold. Cuz three regular comix iz wurth one manga. Onlee...not really. And I can buy two of the higher-end cans of cat food for the price I pay for one comic. This is how the logic starts to go.
But one thing I've learned...it can all turn on a dime. Either way. Dangerously, I have an appointment with a potential new client on the same day as when the new comics come in. If I wait until after the appointment to buy the comics...and I get the gig...yikes. I might go overbudget, making an excuse in my mind that I "earned" this little spending holiday. Will I be strong?
This article, about the crisis in Newspaper Land, brings up some interesting basic points that might (might!) be applied to the comic book industry. The first point is that it is important to separate out the "end is nigh" hysteria from the actual situation. Some newspapers, for example, are facing "certain death" scenarios, while others (while certainly hit by the crisis) are not. The writer makes the following distinction:
- Debt-ridden: Debt-ridden companies are behaving as if their very survival is at stake; in many cases, this is true and understandable. Newspapers owned by debt-ridden companies are under enormous pressure to throw off cash and produce profit margins that are unthinkable in this kind of economic downturn. A local publisher of one such company in the United States told me they had to get rid of their plants because they had no money to water them! For debt-ridden companies, there is little long-term thinking; it's all harvesting.
- Recession-ridden: The recession-ridden companies are in pain. The pain is greater than the other two global recessions, combined, from the past 20 years. Yet the pain is scalable. There will be the inevitable balance between cost-cutting and development.
- Where to cut: The best ones are right-sizing their editorial and production operations relative to the size of revenues they can generate. The worst ones are cutting across-the-board, depriving managements of the ability to market, sell, understand customers in changing times, and evolve toward digital.
- Transformation: The best ones are turning danger to opportunity by accelerating transformation strategies. The worst ones are sticking their heads in the sand, and hoping the storm will pass.
- Treating employees: The best ones are treating their surviving employees as if they'll be with them for the long-run. The worst ones are treating surviving employees as if they're lucky to have what they have.
- Long-term investment vs. short term investment -- of stories, storylines, talent, etc.
- Embracement of new technologies
- Maintaining a sense of morale
And places close down all the time, that's part of life. That bombed-out old candy store across my street that was a front for drugs? Now it's an elegant French restaurant. Of course, if that restaurant closes and becomes a 99 cent store...well...I'll probably save a lot more money.
EDIT: After the interview, which I aced, I went straight to Forbidden Planet and spent 45 dollars. To be fair, a few of those books were for my BF. But I bought a lot of books, including a $15.99 copy of the Boom Studios "Seekers Into The Mystery" collected edition. I was very tempted to get the Fantagraphics Bible book with the Basil Wolverton illustrations, but this was not the time to go completely insane. I might "Amazon" that one.
One more footnote to this long post. I've been learning to be a lot choosier with clients. The client I talked to yesterday wanted to promote a product and a positive philosophy about life that totally uplifted me and that I deeply agreed with and believed in. It might sound idealistic to wait for these sorts of clients. But it always pays off for me. You have to love what you do.
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
New Avengers: The Reunion -- outside of the usual intrigue, gadgets, derring-do, A.I.M. agents getting kicked in the head, and so forth -- is about a woman dealing with the aftermath of trauma. Certainly, trauma in the Marvel Universe may more often-than-not involve being tricked and blasted into space, kidnapped by the Beyonder, or snatched by Skrulls and impersonated by an enemy agent. The last scenario is the fate suffered by Bobbi Morse (or is that Morse-Barton?) -- also known as Mockingbird.
On the first page of New Avengers: The Reunion #1 -- actually, the "our story so far" text page cleverly disguised as a memo -- Doc Samson states that Mockingbird has post-traumatic stress disorder as the result of being abducted by Skrulls for such a long period of time. PTSD is a pretty real-world sort of thing to inject into a comic book, and I guess the question here is -- is that condition accurately portrayed, or at least portrayed with some semblance of reality? Making things more delicate, Mockingbird's trauma -- at least to me -- seems "coded" to mean any number of traumas that women might have to face. Again, that may or may not be the point of the actual story: but that's what I, "individual reader," am bringing to it.
I feel that Bobbi's PTSD was pretty accurately done. In one scene, while on an undercover mission, she suddenly gets a flashback to her Skrull abduction. Time stops. Her face goes blank. She is in another world, if only for a second. Later, during a battle, she blanks out again, getting a flash to previous trauma. I've observed this in others who have suffered from PTSD, and I have experienced this myself. It's not fun. It makes you feel vulnerable. There is a palpable sense of Mockingbird's own sense of vulnerability in this story. It is at times uncomfortable, not because it is poorly done, but by how well it is done -- by how real it feels.
Not to give too much away, but the key question of this first issue is: is Mockingbird's extreme display of preparedness and caution (and we are talking Batman-level caution and defense measures here -- like when he was in the JLA and keeping files and secret weapons) the result of PTSD-induced paranoia, or is it justified by an actual threat of that magnitude? If I had to guess, I would say "yes" to both. It's a gray area. Whatever paranoia Bobbi might have, it sure as hell isn't helped by the fact that she "woke up" after an extended sojourn in Skrullville to find out that psycho Norman Osborn is the head of S.H.I.E.L.D..
Lastly, there is the issue of Mockingbird's relationship with both Clint Barton (Ronin) and her other fellow teammates. It's very much what Spider-Woman was dealing with in New Avengers #50. Even though it is not their fault that they were impersonated by Skrulls, those closest to them can't help but be a little wary. And maybe that is a little bit of PTSD that *they* are going to have to deal with and get over as well.
The art in New Avengers: The Reunion, by David and Álvaro López (who you might remember from Catwoman), is excellent, by the way. To pull off the type of emotional complexity that writer Jim McCann is aiming for in the script, you really need artists like them to get the facial expressions down, to capture feelings. This is a book that would have been damaged by artists who didn't have this sort of delicacy.
New Avengers: The Reunion #1 hits shelves tomorrow.
Recently, Chicago Sun-Times movie reviewer Roger Ebert reviewed the movie "Fanboys," and sparked controversy with the following statement:
"Extreme fandom may serve as a security blanket for the socially inept, who use its extreme structure as a substitute for social skills. If you are Luke Skywalker and she is Princess Leia, you already know what to say to each other, which is so much safer than having to ad-lib it. Your fannish obsession is your beard. If you know absolutely all the trivia about your cubbyhole of pop culture, it saves you from having to know anything about anything else. That's why it's excruciatingly boring to talk to such people: They're always asking you questions they know the answer to."
Response, as you can imagine on teh Internets, was swift. From one letter-writer, "Jimmy Mac":
"Now… when I read the words "Idiotic Lifestyle," my heart sunk. I actually felt personally offended. I've never felt such emotion before while reading a review. I felt like you were calling out my lifestyle as Idiotic. Why the hate??? Where does THAT come from. It was an ignorant and close-minded put-down that needs to be addressed. Remember when Chuck Woolery said the 501st (Star Wars costuming group) were guys who need to get a life at the Rose Bowl parade??? He realized afterwards that it was a ridiculous remark and he apologized. I think this situation is just as bad times 10!
An idiotic lifestyle? Tell that to the members of the 501st and the Rebel Legion who sacrifice their spare time to visit children hospitals all over the world just to bring a little joy into a sick kid's heart. Doing it for no money…Only the payment of a child's smile. Receiving hugs while dressed as Star Wars characters – tears streaming down their checks underneath their stormtrooper helmets."
In response to Jimmy Mac's letter, "Ed" had this to say:
"It may be true that 501st and the Rebel Legion sacrifice their time to bring joy to sick children. God bless 'em. It may also be true, however, that such selfless compassion on their part does not accurately reflect the majority of "fanboys." My sister was a volunteer nurse at a hospital and I gotta say, she never came home and told me the one about a group of Stormtroopers visiting the leukemia ward. You bring up a few stories to cynically tug on the heartstrings, as if THOSE were the reasons you like to play dress-up. The fact that you have to bring up a few exceptions to the rule just reveals how deep you have to dig to find respectability in what amounts to grown men who, when asked to state their religion on a government form, fill out "Jedi" on the "other" line"
Of course, the movie "Fanboys" has been stirring up controversy in the fan community for some time now...Flying Monkeys Comics summarizes the whole thing for you quite nicely (in webcomic form, natch!) EDIT: this site seems to be down. So check out this Wikipedia entry for the backstory on the movie & its troubled history.
Has anybody seen this movie? Is it any good?
Monday, March 02, 2009
I've started a "Comics For Kids Out This Week" segment for both Comic Book Junction and the Friends of Lulu blog (cross-post), but I need some help determining whether some comics would be appropriate for children (and if so, what age bracket). I'm focusing mostly on children up to their early teens.
Here's the list:
- DC Comics Classics Library: The Legion of Super-Heroes: The Life and Death of Ferro Lad (reprinting those old '60s stories)
- Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil TP (Jeff Smith)
- Danger Unlimited TP (John Byrne)
- Turok: Son Of Stone Archives
- Any of the IDW Transformers comics
- IDW's Classic GI Joe
Thanks for your help, and feel free to suggest!
Overheard on Twitter:
"GI Joe movie: Black body armor suits are the fanny packs of comic book/cartoon movies. They look ridiculous and are not fun."
What do you think?
"G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra - Conspiracy Meta-Theory Rosetta Stone"
"Black Leather Sci-Fi Chicks"
"Snake Eyes From The GI Joe Movie Pics"
Robert Smith of The Cure recently had choice words regarding the "Radiohead" model of user-determined value of media. Just to remind you, Radiohead released an album in 2007, "In Rainbows," that was available for a theoretically "free" download; it was up to the user's discretion how much money they would pay/donate for the music. It was estimated that 62 percent of users downloaded "In Rainbows" without paying one cent, something Radiohead denied. Nevertheless, after three months the band abruptly ended the experiment, returning to a more traditional sales model.
Smith has said that he "disagreed violently" with Radiohead for allowing the fans to only pay as much as they wanted for "In Rainbows."
"You can't allow other people to put a price on what you do, otherwise you don't consider what you do to have any value at all and that's nonsense.
If I put a value on my music and no one's prepared to pay that, then more fool me, but the idea that the value is created by the consumer is an idiot plan, it can't work."
Reaction to Smith's words on the website Stereogum was largely negative, accusing the singer of being out-of-touch, greedy, and irrelevant. Smith then issued this statement, entitled "Free Music For All," on his official site:
"SO IT SEEMS A FEW PROFESSIONAL APOLOGISTS (YOU HAVE TOLOVE THEM!) OUT THERE DISAGREE WITH MY "EVERY ARTIST SHOULD VALUE THEIRART" MUSING
AND THINK ITS OK FOR ART - MUSIC IN PARTICULAR - TO BEMADE AVAILABLE FREE FOR ALL...
NO I AM NOT CONFUSING 'ARTISTIC VALUE' WITH'COMMERCIAL VALUE'
MERELY QUESTIONING THE DUMB ACCEPTANCE OF THE 'FREEART IS THE 'NEW' PARADIGM - THATS JUST THE WAY IT IS' MANTRA
IN THE WAY OF OUR BRIGHT AND BRAVE NEW WIRED WORLD
THESE IDIOT CRITICS HAVE TRIED VERY HARD TO TURN MYGENERAL POINT - A POINT I MADE USING RADIOHEAD'S 'IN RAINBOWS: PAY WHAT YOUWANT' MARKETING RUSE AS IT IS THE MOST WIDELY KNOWN EXAMPLE - INTO A MOCK SHOCKHORROR "HOW DARE ANYONE QUESTION THE FAMOUSLY INDEPENDENT ANDANTI-CAPITALIST RADIOHEAD, THEY SELL MORE 'PRODUCT' THAN THE CURE SO THEIRSTRATEGY OBVIOUSLY 'WORKED' (HUH?!!)... AND ANYWAY, ROBERT SMITH IS WAY TOO OLDTO COMMENT ON CONTEMPORARY CULTURE" MOMENT...
MY POINT IS NEITHER PARTICULARLY NEW NOR ORIGINAL
NOR EXCLUSIVELY ABOUT RADIOHEADS 'IN RAINBOWS'
BUT IT IS I FEEL STILL COMPELLING
ANY FAMOUS ARTIST WITH A HUGE AND DEVOTED FAN BASE(OFTEN ARRIVED AT WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM A WEALTHY AND POWERFUL 'PATRON' ORTWO?) CAN AFFORD TO DO WHAT HE, SHE OR IT WANTS...
INCLUDING GIVING THEIR ART AWAY AS SOME KIND OF 'LOSSLEADER' TO HELP 'BUILD THE BRAND'
ALL WELL AND GOOD...
IF THIS 'ART FOR FREE' IDEA BECOMES THE CULTURAL NORMTHEN HOW DO ARTISTS EARN THEIR LIVING?"
What do you think? Do you think the "pay-what-you-want" model works for music? And obviously, the next question is -- would it work for comic books as a whole?