Monday, December 28, 2009

Review blurbs taken from comic book character autobiographies?

As anyone can read from my full profile, my favourite band (by a long way) is Keane, followed by Coldplay and The Killers and maybe My Chemical Romance or Snow Patrol. So, you can see that my tastes fall firmly within the cluster of musical genres of alternative pop rock / synth rock / modern punk rock.

Occasionally, I’d see a television ad for a band that has been on the periphery of my music radar. Such was the case the other day, when an ad for Muse graced my eyeballs.

Like another periphery band, Kings of Leon, the little I heard sounds promising. However, it is Muse’s review blurbs that have really got me curious, because they read like superhero self-promotional dialogue or excerpts from the autobiographies of comic book characters:

‘The best live band in the world...’

Wow! That’s hyped and not too original. Still, it reminds me of the Hulk saying, “Hulk is the strongest one there is!” Probably untrue, but who cares? Someone said it. It’s out there now and just maybe you’ll gain an extra fan or two as a result of it.

‘If only more bands had this level of ambition...’

If you replaced the word ‘bands’ with the word ‘leaders’, you would have a line from Lex Luthor’s future autobiography, Bald Eagle: How Lex Luthor saved America from Superman (written by Lex Luthor).

Of course, ‘Muse’ didn’t write these blurbs themselves, so I’ll cut them some slack...Besides, they seem to fall into the Alternative Rock + Symphonic Rock subgenres and they like toexperiment with Electronica as well as Classical music.

Still, does anyone remember the time (a decade and a half ago) when a movie studio invented a reviewer/critic? I think he was called ‘Paul Wonder’ or something benign-sounding. Every comedy got a ‘hilarious!’ from Mr. Wonder. Every thriller got an ‘electrifying!’ Every drama got a ‘riveting!’ The best part, as I recall, was the studio head’s reaction to this when the critic’s non-existence was confirmed. The studio boss said something to effect of “Wow...don’t know how that happened,” with the perfect ‘heck if I know...must’ve been an accident’ facial expression and body language.

I’m sure if I looked hard enough, I could find other review blurbs for albums, movies, and books that would remind me of some superheroes and villains. How about you?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Random things I discovered by sifting through deviantArt

Those of you who read this blog (commenters and lurkers alike) know that I’m busy looking for an artist or more realistically artists (as in a penciller, an inker, a colourist and a letterer) for my comic WIP. One of the first and largest venues I’m exploring is deviantArt.

The other day I came across this particular work, namely the back cover of Chris Irving’s The Blue Beetle Companion (2007). It’s sweet since it shows Dan Garret, Ted Kord, and Jamie Reyes in one image. Is it my imagination or is it only Green Lantern and Flash books that get to feature this kind of intergenerational or multi-incarnation images?

Another interesting thing I discovered in the comments section to this artwork is that DC did indeed create a scarab-esque Blue Beetle character called...well...Scarab. He’s the Blue Beetle of Earth-27 and he’s a mass of scarabs that takes on the shape of a man. I came up with a similar yet slightly more heroic and less monstrous version (called Blue Scarab) in my Why I should’ve written Ted Kord: Rebirth post.

On the same thread, I found the account of  who, as the name suggests, has created images of autobots as Green Lanterns. There’s even a Sinestro Corps bot, if I’m not mistaken. As mentioned previously, I have a sort of ‘like-hate’ relationship with the Transformers franchise that can be summarised in timeline form as followed: Various lukewarm (often reboot-centric) animation series; One watchable CGI series called Transformers: Beast Wars, One fantastic CGI series called Transformers: Beast Machines; the first Transformers live action movie scoring an unspectacular yet passable 6 out of 10; a second Transformer live action movie called Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen that was 2 out of 10 awful. So, I liked this idea more from a ‘yeah, I bet the guardians of the universe would’ve given one of these giant robots a ring if they’d encountered them. Hey, if they can make a planet a GL...Also, I’ve always said that Hasbro (the toy company that owns the Transformers property) wishes that Kyle Rayner worked for them (judging from the wicked cool ring constructs that only Kyle can whip up and the freelance concept art he has done in his ‘normal’ life as a graphic designer/illustrator).

Some deviantArt news related to my comic WIP:

I’ve discovered a possible artist for my comic WIP. Well, at least someone who can make the short-list for the job, that is. I have to scout other venues on the Interwebs such as Digital Webbing, Penciljack, Concept Art DOT org, Getafreelancer, and Comics-hookups.

Hint to DeviantArt administrators: DA users should really be able to have sub-categories under “comic artist” category (e.g. anime, fantasy, cartoon, science fiction, and superheroes). It would also help if there was some demarcation between published comic pros (who I assume are way out of my price range) and up-and-comers as well as between pin-up artists and artists who can also do comic page panel-art. That would make my search much easier.

I’ve also discovered that a user on deviantArt has created a fanfic character with the same name as an organisation in my WIP. It’s a coincidence, but still it’s a little jarring. Perhaps, both of us are auditory namers (a term I just made up (but could already exist in science), meaning people who choose names for creations / children / places / days / whatever based on how it sounds to them).

Some non-deviantArt news related to my comic WIP:

I’ve discovered that DC has an obscure villain with nearly identical powers* to a hero I’ve created for my WIP. This is also the one character that I haven’t decided on a look for yet. So, I’ll do a Google and Google Image search for their character to make sure we don’t come up with identical looks.

* Note: I say nearly identical, because both my hero and their villain have two powers that should IMHO give rise to a third power that my creation possesses, but theirs doesn’t.

My writing for my WIP has ground to a halt for various reasons, including some festive season distractions, reworking the story length, editing and rewriting the pages already written, and most of all writing a Superhero team short story that was inspired by a current non-superhero horror anthology submission guidelines as well as a long expired set of non-superhero fantasy antho submission guidelines. I chose the short story format, because it’s much quicker for me to write and that’s the best thing to do when a story idea is dominating your thinking ahead of more important writing ‘assignments.’

Some non-deviantArt, non-comic-WIP news:

If you haven’t yet done so, go see Avatar. It’s one of the best Science Fiction movies I’ve seen (this year and possibly ever) and scores and 9 out of 10 on my opinion-meter. It blends Science Fiction with Fantasy in such a perfect mixture that the movie studio should be banned from making a sequel or a remake in 30 years time. I’ve always been more of fan of Science Fiction than of Fantasy, but have always had to admit that Fantasy’s world-building is often more instantly immersive and that is exactly what Avatar is. The 2 hours and change fly by (pun intended) and I was left marvelling at James Cameron’s ability to tell a science fiction on two levels. On a deeper level, you can appreciate the obvious themes in all their relevance (without being hit over the head with it ala District 9). On another level, Avatar has drama, characterization, awe-inspiring scenery, and lots of jaw-dropping fantasy and Science Fiction-style action. It also reminded me of the risks of what social science calls ‘participant observer’ research, media calls ‘embedded journalism’, and elements of what law enforcement calls ‘undercover assignments’...Mister Cameron*, take a bow. Also, Sam Worthington (Terminator: Salvation) and Zoe Saldana (Star Trek) are starting to reach my This-sci-fi-movie-can’t-be-bad-if-this-actor-is-in-it list. Miss Saldana said something very cute in an interview when asked whether she had preference for Science Fiction roles, where she answered, “Jane Austin is good, but Jane Austen in space would be great...”

* Note: James Cameron has a great talent for science fiction as director or creator-director (The first two Terminator movies, Aliens, Dark Angel) and I wish that he pursued projects in that genre exclusively. Unlike a lot of filmmakers, Cameron never includes 15-minute-long superfluous scenes where the audience is left thinking: That was 15 minutes of my life I’ll never get back...Way to break the momentum and tension...What the fudge was that about?

That’s all I have for you all. If I don’t post here anytime soon, happy holidays!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Holy eveningwear, Batman!

Last Saturday, Gotham City...

The boy wonder has been sitting in the batcave for over an hour, staring at the screen. So much so that he almost doesn’t sense that he is no longer alone.

Before his assailant can strike, Robin launches into a summersault, snaps his fighting stick to its full extension, and without looking takes a hard swipe at his would-be attacker.

His strike is blocked.

Robin spins around and faces his adversary.

Robin: You?!

Batman: Why so surprised, Robin? This is my cave, after all. Was that another one of those ‘no-look’ strikes you like to use? I keep telling you: Don’t fight blind. You won’t be able to see.

Robin: Sorry, Batman. I was just so engrossed in –

Batman: Engrossed? That’s a big word for...What is that?!

Robin: What’s what?

Batman: The screen.

Robin (sits back down): That’s what’s so engrossing, Batman. It’s the Miss World pageant!

Batman: A beauty pageant?

Robin: Not a. The. And they’ve just announced the seven finalists. Hope you don’t mind me crashing down here. I mean, the cave’s got the biggest screen and it’s HD. Ooh, Miss Canada is soooo cute. Not only that, but she even won the talent competition a few days ago. She’s got a soprano voice like an angel’s...She’ll be on stage in a few moments!

Batman (wants to give a judgemental stare, but his cowl is already stuck that way): Who are those women on screen?

Robin: Oh, they didn’t make to the final round...I think they’re the roommates of the finalists. They’re asking them about their experiences with the finalists. See, there’s Miss Australia. She’s Miss Canada’s roommate and...What the?!

Batman (settling in on the chair next to Robin): Is something wrong?

Robin: Didn’t you hear Miss Australia’s snotty answer to thequestion, ‘Did you get along with Miss Canada?’ And she’s like, “ she’s such a special person.” What the fudge is that supposed to mean? What a b--

Batman: Robin! Calm? Discipline? Fear leads Anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to etcetera? Have I taught you nothing?

Robin: I apologise, Master Sensei Batman. Don’t know what came over me. It’s just that I hate it when someone who lives with someone else constantly salts the game of the first someone. Do you understand?

Batman: I can relate. Believe me, I can relate.

Robin (confused): Can I ask you a question, Batman?

Batman: Of course. I’d love to say ‘shoot’, but I don’t like guns...So, fire away and wonder no more, Boy Wonder.

Robin: Why don’t we get judging gigs at beauty pageants? I mean, Nightwing is always telling me how you and Superman were always at charity events back in the old days...

Batman: Nightwing is from the circus, so he possesses warped circus thinking and memories...So, those charity events never happened. I mean really, why would I, the super-mysterious dark knight show up at public events? And for charity no less! Bah! If I wanted to be charitable, I have any one of the Wayne subsidiaries make a donation...That's if I wanted to, which I don’t...Robin, let me say this once and not twice. As I’m always trying to tell everyone that works with me: Real heroes are above trivialities such as beauty pageants. I’m Batman and I’m both realer and more real than real. As such, I’ll leave the beauty pageant judging to the less real heroes or posers such as Hal Jordan and Oliver Queen. To recap: I’m the real deal. I. Am. The. Night.

Robin: Batman, from what I’ve heard of those two, they would really enjoy judging beauty pageants and being involved in some judging scandals...I still say Miss Australia just totally cost Miss Canada the crown...Just you wait.

Robin says Miss World Canada (Lena Yanbing Ma, a model/soprano from North York, Ontario) is Cute and Talented

Robin says Miss World Australia (who shall remain nameless) is Blond and Evil

Friday, December 11, 2009

Just a link

Hi all,

Here's a link to a post that made my day (so far). If you enjoyed my DC-FF-centic post, you'll see two of the heroes mentioned at their worst.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Why I’m seriously considering leaving any future fortune I may amass to start a “Give a hug to every British child” foundation...

Inspiration props for this go to LissBirds for her comment that mentioned The Question.

In 1983, DC Comics acquired heroes from Charlton Comics (Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, Nightshade, Peacemaker, Peter Cannon, and, of course, The Question). Just so you know, I’ve long been of the opinion that ANY AMOUNT that DC may have paid was a bargain.

Two years later Alan Moore pithced an idea for an end story for these Charlton heroes (including killing at least one of them).

Huh? Why would DC pay good money for these characters (or at least the rights to these characters) just to kill them off?! Jeez! What was Alan Moore on?

I thank the comic book gods that Editor Dick Giordiano had the sense to halt such obvious madness.

As everyone knows Moore went on to create Watchmen (keeping the story and replacing the charlton heroes with derivative, pastiche characters).

But what if DC didn’t stop Mad Moore?

Just look at the character key below and let your mind wander:
Captain Atom = Dr Manhattan
Blue Beetle = Nite Owl
Peacemaker = The Comedian
Thunderbolt (Peter Cannon) = Ozymandias (Adrian Veidt)
The Question = Rorschach

Before Captain Atom, most (if not all) of DC's male heroes (other than Green Lantern) were completely free to do what they wished whenver they wished. Cap is both hero and government super-operative. So, he's almost never has that luxury.

What would the JLI have been without Blue Beetle?

What would have happened if Peacemaker was killed off in DC continuity?

The answers get worse once you compare the characters (in a Charlton vs Watchmen fashion). The Charlton characters are superior hero for hero. For example, Rorschach is easily the most popular of the Watchmen, but The Question is leagues more complex than Rorschach. In typical Moore fashion, he overcooks the Rorschach character by taking the slightly paranoid (in a suspicious way) Question and morphing him into a Paranoid Schizophrenic. Rorschach is just the Punisher in a coat and fedora with a sock pulled over his head. No wait, it could be Judge Dredd in a coat and fedora with a sock pulled over his head, couldn’t it? Didn’t Moore work for the 2000 AD imprint in merry old England? Even at Vic Sage's most 'things are black-and-white', he was never as one-note.

But that’s the problem with the Watchmen characters. They all suffer from the Alan Moore’s premise delusion: What if Superheroes really existed? Okay, if they really existed, they would be either depressed or depraved or cynical or disillusioned. Just plain dark. All of them.

This is simply NOT LOGICAL, because it doesn't allow for REALISTIC individual differences in personality, cognitive resources, and coping skills across INDIVIDUALS.  [It also doesn't help that Moore views characters he didn't create as mere props.]

But Moore isn't alone in this ERROR. Garth Ennis and Warren Ellis also suffer from variations of this view and it could have been avoided if they'd been hugged more often during their formative years.

That's why I’m seriously considering leaving any future fortune I may amass to start a “Give a hug to every British child” foundation.

Short fiction about Superheroes (Part 2)

If you haven’t read it yet, see Part 1 here.

Here’s some advanced news -if you haven’t heard about it already. With Great Power is a Superhero short fiction anthology, edited by Lou Anders and featuring some names in its Table of Contents that you might be familiar with...Peter David, Gail Simone, Mike Carey...Yes, that’s right! Comic book writers!

For further details, here’s a few words from the editor as well as the complete TOC.

Oh, it’s only due out next year (that’s 2010 for the disoriented time travellers out there), but the 2010 release isn't really a problem for time travellers, is it?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

If DC decided to create their own Fantastic Four...

This topic was inspired by the discussion in the Dazzler post’s comments, where a reader called Seafire came out to defend Dazzler as well as Nightwing. It must be jarring to come across a post where people are dissing heroes you like.

Anyway, it got me thinking about heroes who are not necessarily lame, but were either (a) only moderately popular or (b) so polarizing to fans that they either love the character or hate the character. Sometimes I call the latter the Robin Williams category. This, in turn, got me thinking about another idea I had about creating DC’s own Fantastic Four, which contained characters from categories a and b.

To clarify: By Fantastic Four, I’m not referring to a clone version DC could create. No, I mean a team consisting of four pre-existing / established characters that come together to form a team.

I’ve also observed – in both cyberspace and ‘real space’ – that when asked to name a fan choice 4-hero team, fans invariably struggle and cite it’s extremely difficult to limit themselves to four heroes. One True GL, a self-admitted hero slut (meaning someone who knows and likes a ton of heroes) who is referring to himself in the third person at the time of writing this, had to alter his profile as result of similar indecision.

Another observation I’ve made is the tendency of any original or fanfic created superhero foursome team to receive the comment, “Too much like Fantastic Four.” That’s even the case when the only similarity is that there are 4 members on the team. I’ve even heard of creators opting to expand their original team ideas to include 6 members to avoid opinions such as the above.

Note to fans, the internet, and creators: Marvel doesn’t own the copyright to the concept or word ‘four’ in any way whatsoever!

Besides, you can get around those concerns if you have a different enough genesis story for the team and if you use characters that are far removed from Reed Richards and the gang.

With that, let’s get back to my team idea, starting with the roster:

Captain Atom

Nate falls in both (a) and (b) categories to varying degrees, depending who you ask. The good captain is both the genesis and leader of this team.

The team’s origin and how Captain Atom is instrumental in it:

Throughout his time at DC Comics, Captain Atom has straddled the line between superhero and super-powered government operative. Sometimes CA has gone toe-to-toe with former team mates and long-time allies at the behest of his government controllers. However, in some crossovers CA has made cameo appearances and usually helped the heroes (by leaking classified information, for example). At times, his motivation for some of those actions is fuzzy but seems to be directed at preventing the government’s aggression toward the heroes of the DCU from escalating.

It’s at this stage that I recalled that I’ve only seen the government send a few fighter planes or super-powered operatives after the heroes. I’ve never seen the government go after them FULL TILT. What would that involve? Does Captain Atom know what the government’s ultimate hero takedown protocol would entail? Is that why Cap is always covertly interfering?

While Captain Atom has succeeded in preventing that scenario from being realised, it may also mean that others have failed in making that scenario come to fruition. What if those persons are part of a shadow organisation within the government that have been banking on the FULL TILT SOLUTION (for which I can’t recall the original name I gave to it)?

The story is moved forward when the aforementioned shadow organisation puts Captain Atom on trial and finds him guilty of treason. Oh yes, forgot to mention, CA is tried in absentia and without his knowledge. In addition, the sentence passed is death.

The shadow organisation gets even sneakier and pulls some strings to get Cap assigned to an all-new, ad hoc assembled Suicide Squad due to depart on a mission within 48 hours. The fact that Amanda Waller isn’t involved raises some red flags in CA’s mind and picks up on a few other clues that everything isn’t 100% with this mission.

In the run-up to the mission, Cap gets a tip-off that the mission is a ruse to allow one of his team mates to eliminate him ‘in action’ on behalf of the shadow organisation. Furthermore, the source reveals that this is somehow related to the FULL TILT SOLUTION.

It is then that Cap decides to do two things: One, fly off to ask Oracle (Barbara Gordon) for a favour. Two, recruit his own team to help him defeat the Suicide Squad and go after the shadow organisation responsible.

He reveals to Barbara exactly how the government’s information on Earth’s heroes is organised: Separate databases for government super-powered operatives, non-powered heroes, super-powered heroes, and super-powered villains – each housed within server farms located hundreds of miles apart. In addition, he explains that the knowledge contained within these databases is much more comprehensive than most suspect. He wants Barbara to temporarily sever the connection between these server farms and a covert installation called Project Gridview.

He has limited time to recruit his team and has to settle for only three heroes. Having had some experience with government shadow organisations, Cap knows how dangerous such groups can be when challenged and decides on some criteria to use:

(i) Recruit outside of his “known associates” circle for the most part. Since he’s the target the bad guys will have special tactics worked up for his closest friends and allies. This criterion carries a 20% weight.

(ii) Recruit loners and aliens, because they tend to have fewer family members and friends for the shadow organisation to target. If recruits have family, make sure that said recruit’s family have kick-ass powers. This criterion carries a 30% weight.

(iii) Recruit mystical heroes, because although databases contain information such as power lists on many heroes, the databases are deficient in terms of how mystical powers work. On the other hand, heroes with Earth science-based, technology-based, and biologically sourced powers are easier to work up special tactics for. This criterion carries a 50% weight.

The rest of the team:


She was originally created as a heroic partner for Captain Atom (back when both characters were owned by Charlton). Notice, I said partner and NOT sidekick. Her selection ignores the criteria somewhat, because of her past work with suicide squad. However, her powers (darkness manipulation, being able to transform into 2D shadows, and teleportation via the land of nightshades) are mystical in nature (iii).


Ragman has always a bit of weird hero as he is at home both among non-powered vigilante types such the bat-family as well as among those who are just as mystically powered (iii) as he is. And if anyone is wondering, I mean weird in a cool way. Drawing upon the physical powers of defeated corrupted souls that have become part of his costume to increase his speed and strength between dozens (or even hundreds) of times is a pretty cool power to have in a pinch. Of course, he can absorb new corrupted souls whenever he defeats enemies. Rory can also do things with his costume that are similar to what Spawn does with his cape (e.g. morphing it into weapons that are still capable of absorbing an evil soul).

Another bit of trivia is the fact that both Ragman and Nightshade were members of Shadowpact, DC’s mystical superteam. Rory had also developed some feelings for Nightshade, which were never fully explored. Another interesting aspect to the team dynamic is the fact that Captain Atom and Nightshade were once romantically involved (during the Charlton days, I think). There’s definitely potential for a love triangle or at least a line between two points and disconnected point adjacent to that line, if you get my drift.

Mister Miracle

DC has underutilised Mr. Miracle over the years. Known associate (i), you say? Well, not so much really. Cap and Scott - Yes, Scott Free and NOT Morrison’s Seven Soldiers (Shilo Norman) version - have both been in the JLI, but have rarely spent any significant amount of time together (i). Scott’s an alien and his wife, Barda, can take care of herself (ii). Have Mega-rod, will blast bad guys. Besides, Cap really needs MM’s techno-savvy mother-box tricks to pull off the mission. Furthermore, Scott Free possesses some other pretty useful powers: Immortality, Superhuman Strength (not Superman-level but enough to get by), Agility, Coordination, and the Alpha effect. He’s also inventive and an expert in martial arts, but most of all he’s the greatest escape artist EVAR (in part by using devices that embody Arthur C. Clarke’s quote: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.) Yes, I’m using quotes, so you know I’m not playing...

Small costume redesign: Change all yellow parts of MM’s costume into a slightly darker shade of gold.

One another level, I can see Scott and Rory (Ragman) becoming good friends and being able to play off each other. The two also represent the balance of mystical and the technological within the team.

Question: Does DC ever look at the heroes’ personalities to see who would make good combinations, friends, team mates? If not, they should. At least sometimes (like with Scott and Rory).

Btw, if you were wondering how Cap convinces Barda to let Scott join, he cites the one-off nature of the team-up. Barda doesn’t buy it and mentions how many one-off team-ups become permanent teams – the world is always in trouble. Cap manages to win Barda over by agreeing that if the team does become permanent, it wouldn’t be like the Justice League (in terms of the time commitment, etcetera). If there’s one thing Captain Atom can write a thesis on, it’s what’s wrong with how (various incarnations of the league) have been run.

With his team and plan in place, Cap heads off to lead the Suicide Squad (not knowing who his would be assassin within the squad is or if there’s more than one within the team). The last minute addition of Major Force to the squad roster makes Cap believe that MF is the assassin tasked with taking him out. However, this was only done to mislead and divert his attention from the true assassin – someone he doesn’t suspect.

Flashback time:

At this time, Cap recalls the previous time a similar scenario had played out when he was the assigned betrayer. It is here that we learn of the purpose of Project Gridview and the fact that Cap had previously witnessed the FULL TILT SOLUTION being used on a much smaller but no less devastating scale. We also see how Cap and Wade Eiling (before he becomes The General) actually agree that, even on a small scale, the FULL TILT SOLUTION is too dangerous to ever implement. Cap had sincere reasons for his protest while Eiling’s objections came from his inability to see a way for him control and benefit from the FULL TILT SOLUTION.

However, the people that ran Project Gridview didn’t work for Eiling and ignored his advice. They just went ahead with testing it during the mission for which they had asked for Cap’s assistance. A fellow super-powered g-man and friend of Cap’s learned that he had three months to live and that his ‘acquired’ power was the cause of his fatal illness. I used the word ‘acquired’, because he got his power in a government experiment. Since the aforementioned revelation, he’d gone on a mad rampage and Gridview bosses volunteered to take him down.

But let’s get back to what the mini-full tilt solution is, what the FULL TILT SOLUTION would look like and Cap’s objections with regards to it:

At the core of the FULL TILT and mini-full tilt solutions is a free-floating, mirror-like, energy ‘portal’ similar to the stargates featured in Stargate (the movie and subsequent tv series), except without the metal chevron-coordinate locking metal structure around it. In addition, you cannot step into it. However, ‘stuff’ can come through it into our world - notably doppelgangers.

This was where things got weird for Captain Atom: The Gridview brass ‘simply knew’ how to create a doppelganger of Cap’s friend. The method they used didn’t seem scientifically rational for people that only studied the strange energy portal for a day - they download Cap’s friend’s file from one of the previously mentioned databases and displayed it in front of the portal. After half a minute, a doppelganger stepped through and without instruction went after CA’s real friend (with Cap in tow). What was even more bizarre to CA was that Gridview didn’t research or create or discover the portal. It just appeared and they brought it inside their gates.

Cap suspected that there was some form of intelligence inside the portal and that it was ‘psionically influencing’ Gridview’s leadership. So, he called in help that didn’t arrive before Cap faced both his friend and the doppelganger in three-way battle...

His friend perished in the battle and then the doppelganger simply flew back into the portal, despite Cap’s attempts to capture it.

When the higher-ups eventually contained the situation, the Gridview brass were detained and sent away for psychological and psionic evaluation. However, the higher-ups then decided that the portal has too much strategic importance to destroy. So, they allowed it to be monitored at Gridview within a psi-shielded room and limited access to scenarios where they would need to activate the FULL TILT SOLUTION (which means downloading all their hero database files to the Gridview servers, displaying these files en masse, and creating an army of doppelgangers who naturally [or supernaturally] want to kill the originals).

Back in the present:

Cap knows that the FULL TILT SOLUTION must be avoided at all cost, but he also knows that there must be an agenda beyond it...If you want to know what happens next, petition DC to publish this comic. I’m just joking. The truth is that I’ve forgotten some of the specifics of what happens in the rest of this story.

What do you call DC’s FF?
I can’t recall what I called the team, which isn’t such a great sign and probably means the name was forgettable. So, I’ve thought up some new possible names.

Gridbusters? There have been Hulkbusters and League Busters in comics. So, there’s a historical precedent for using the word Busters in team names.

Gridbreakers? Gridstorm?

Maybe it should be named something with the word ‘four’ in it?

I’m also partial to having a name that includes the word Equinox, because the team consists of two heroes with science-based / technological powers (symbolized by the light of day) and two heroes with mystical powers (symbolized by the darkness/mystery of night). So, how about Equinox Four (too much like Fantasic...never mind) OR Equinox Guard OR Strike Force Equinox OR Task Force Equinox (Okay, there’s JLTF and the Suicide Squad’s real name is Task Force X, but who cares?) OR Equinox Watch OR Equinox Vigil (being alert and keeping watch and acting only when necessary would be the later MO of this team)? I'm partail to Equinox Vigil at the moment.

Which team name is the best (in your opinion) and why? Any other team name suggestions?

Do you have another FF-like DC team you’d like to see? It doesn’t matter if you only have the names of four heroes and you don’t have the genesis / reason for their team-up or a name for the team. Just fire away!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Bendissed, Spindled, and Morrisonated (a.k.a. My OPINION concerning “great” and/or “hot right now”, contemporary comic writers: An OPINION piece detailing my OPINION from a suitably OPINIONated perspective, not be mistaken with your OPINION, which is yours and also an OPINION...)

I know many peeps are going to disagree with many things I say and they’re going to say so via private messages or links to this post, but what I have to say has to be said...Okay, I’m way too much fun repeating the same word in run-on sentences. :)


Alan Moore:
Is he good? Yes, he’s not hate-worthy, but...Is he great? Alan Moore likes to deconstruct the superhero. Someone once said – I think it was in reference to Watchmen – that ‘to deconstruct’ actually means ‘to take way too seriously’ and I think that person hit the nail on the head concerning Moore’s pre-occupation with deconstructing subject matter that needs at least a thin veneer of escapist fun. Personally, I find Moore’s writing (especially his dialogue) pretty wordy. It’s almost a universal writing rule: To write well, write tightly. Say as much as you with as few words as you can. In some of Moore’s comics, he uses 26 words where 16 would have done the job and better word choice would have imparted more meaning trough those fewer words. Another gripe I have Moore’s writing is illustrated in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, where I’m sure I’m wasn’t alone in asking: Why do we need this character? Yes, I’m looking at you, Alan Quatermaine. However, as troublesome as those tendencies are, Moore really lets rip when he gets a run on comic he didn’t create. If you love a comic, Moore will warp it. Not just a different direction, but near-reboot level changes. Unfortunately, he is not alone in this compulsion (see below). Moore earns 5.25 out 10 on my opinion-meter.

Warren Ellis:
Mister Ellis can be a real douchebag at times (e.g. doing a parody of a celebrity death), but sometimes he can be right on the money (when blogging). Okay, on to his writing. Like some of the other Brits on this list, Ellis loves to take established comics into unexplored territory. Unfortunately, like his countrymen, he transforms a comic for the sake of making an impact or leaving his mark or as a friend of mine put it ‘marking his territory.’ I like some of his work – Planetary comes to mind. On the other hand, he once killed a favourite comic of mine to create his own comic and not only did kill my sweetheart, but he did it with an inter-company cross-over one-shot! I wonder how Spiderman fans would feel if Batman killed Spiderman in a cross-over and Spidey was really dead after the crossover ended. On the third hand, I seem to have some random things in common with Ellis and I find it impossible to totally hate anyone who likes the same stuff that I do, because that would be like hating myself and I’m adorable. Still, Ellis isn’t my cup of tea. Ellis earns 5.75 out of 10 on my opinion-meter.

Grant Morrison:
Turning the DCU into the Morrison-verse is an impressive feat, indeed. Other writers at DC seem to ask him if he thinks an idea is cool before they start writing. This can never be good. Is he good? Yes, at times. One of my main problems with the Scotsman is that he can give you something really cool and then pair it with something so HOKEY that instantly causes the story to lose all of its immersive quality (for me). Another problem is that eventually every comic will be Morrisonated (read: mutilated Morrison-style or marinated in Morrison crazy juice), then he’ll lose interest, and finally the downward spiral will occur. On occasion, he’s also shown only a scant knowledge of the comic he was writing (in terms of history and previous arcs created). Final Crisis – that’s all I’m going to cite if Morrison Die Hard fans start singing his praises. Final Crisis was the most disjointed events s that I have ever come across and there have been some doozies over the years. Really, it was like every character or group whose name popped into Morrison’s head got put into the script at the exact second he was thinking about them. Some of the characters that play microscopic parts in the entire series actually dominate the final issue. Actually, I could also mention his runs on JLA and X-men as well. In JLA, Grant roped in every flavour of the month DC hero that he was involved with to become a member or guest star. In addition, Batman villains became JLA villains and ditto for Superman villains. Now, as a writer, if you don’t knock it out of the park with JLA, it is rather easily fixed by the next writer. He or she can change the cast of heroes quite easily. With X-men, however, his successor was pretty much stuck with what Morrison had done for a spell and what Grant created there was just awful. Another Morrison trait seems to be that he gets progressively worse the longer his run on a comic is and this usually occurs when the particular run is longer than 6 to 8 months. A final observation/query concerning Morrison: Is this dude spread too thin at times? Morrison earns 4 out of 10 on my opinion-meter.

Brian Michael Bendis:
Turning the Marvel Universe into the Bendis-verse is even more impressive. Bendis is in many ways the ‘Anti-Morrison’ of comics and for that he should be applauded: He doesn’t feel the need to warp everything beyond the point of recognition. It seems as if Bendis understands that when working on an established title he is the custodian or steward of shared history and present experience. Even in his Ultimate universe, you’ll recognise Spiderman. Sure, he’s been modified, but he’s still recognizable.* He does really good dialogue (if slightly wordy at times) and if Marvel had any sense they’d get him to do Captain America or write a ‘Dialogue guideline for writers writing Cap’ so that character’s awful way of speaking can be tweaked/improved to a less annoying level. The name Brian Michael Bendis may sound like Chad Michael Murray, but unlike a ‘teen dream’ actor he’ll outlast a lot of his red hot peers. The seeds of greatness are here, both within his attitude and his craft. Bendis earns 6.5 out of 10 on my opinion-meter.

[*Another difference between DC and Marvel: DC reboots, retcons, and rebirths characters and concepts in and out of continuity while the red team will create parallel universes for such ideas to see which (the original or the modified) is more popular.]


Frank Miller:
Frank Miller is perhaps the most technically proficient guy on this list (in terms of pencilling and writing). Heck, Frank Miller comic scripts are often used as teaching aids, because Frank uses most (if not all) scripting techniques known to comic writers. Miller reminds me of the sports expression: form is temporary, while class is permanent. Just to clarify, in this context ‘class’ refers to how good your game is. Professional athletes and comic pros who possess great technique come out of slumps in form a lot faster than those with weaker techniques. Yet, being technically proficient does not a genius make. You have to bring it all together. Sometimes, Miller does. Sometimes, Miller overdoes the grittiness of his stories so that he has the opportunity to do dynamic panel art – Daredevil, anyone? Miller earns 6 out of 10 on my opinion-meter.

Alan Davis:
Alan Davis is the ONLY genius on this list. There, I said it. Mister Davis is a writer who embodies the following axioms of comic writing: One, know every rule/convention before you break said rules/conventions. Two, know the comic and its characters before you start to write. See JLA: The Nail to see someone who is a great writer who knows all the tiers of characters connected to a comic as steeped in history as the JLA and can write an alternate history tale at the same. The latter is rarely done well in superhero comic writing, because it requires an in-depth knowledge of characters and their actual histories. His Clandestine series (now collected as a trade) is awesome and again shows how Mister Davis rolls with characters (and indeed teams) with baggage. And how does he roll? Better than anyone else. When comparing his writing to his art, it’s really difficult to tell which is better and that, my friends, is saying a lot. Davis earns 8.5 out of 10 on my opinion-meter.

Some general observations:

Only two or three of the pros – Davis, Bendis, and Miller – mentioned above get solid to great passing grades from me and there seem to some similarities between the ones did not.

1] They seem to lack an internal editor* (at different levels). Quite literally, Moore doesn’t have a dialogue editor in his head who can pare down dialogue to a more efficient number of words per balloon. Morrison seems to go with his first idea for every story he writes and predictably...unique...stuff is created.

* Note: Having an internal editor, does NOT mean self-moderating or self-editing the creativity out of your ideas. No, having one goes hand in hand with being able to switch your internal editor on and off.

2] Maybe it’s predominantly a UK comic writer thing, but Moore, Morrison, and Ellis are all guilty of this: Only being able to write an established title by totally changing (read: revamping or redesigning or hacking or warping) the hero as well as the supporting cast and/or the feel of the book.

Here’s a hint, guvnahs: It is possible to write NEW STORIES for a comic WITHOUT REINVENTING the CHARACTERS.

That’s just my opinion. As always, your mileage may vary.

Taken from the ‘Heroes need love and understanding’ forum...

TOPIC / THREAD: Changing perceptions after the fact

Here’s my problem. I only date other heroes, because normals just wouldn’t understand my crazy life or why I’m always in my stage outfit even on my day off. A long time ago I did some morally frowned upon stuff and it’s since resurfaced in the present. Now it seems that every guy I meet already has a tainted perception of me. I used to have a kind of fun, harmless life of the party image, but now...How do I change their minds without REALLY changing their minds?

I had a similar experience, although I’m not really in the dating scene. I’m still trying to make up for it and make the one who matters understand that I was only motivated by love.

I’ve always been considered a bit of a bitch in professional circles. I was the other woman and to make matters worse my powers are similar to his then wife and she’s (almost universally beloved). So, people like to compare her ‘saintly’ use of her powers to my perceived ‘borderline ethically questionable’ use of my powers.

Thanks guys. Is there anything more specific I can do?

Anna_taz: I don’t know you and lack enough details about your situation, but here’s my two cents. There are a lot worse deeds than posing for a playboy spread.

Pale_majesty: I don’t know you either, but judging from your username (majesty?) you have a HUGE opinion of yourself. So, my advice to you is simple: Get over yourself. Yeah, you’re borderline alright...

Magic_redhead: You, I do know. It’s my life’s greatest regret that I never caught on to how unquestionably batshit crazy you were and possibly still are!

Cap_amorous (moderator):
To Flying_quiver: Son, the user who owned that moniker died once and never renewed his membership. I don’t know who you are, but you’re NOT him. I’m going to lock your IP address out of this forum permanently. God bless America.

'...died once and never renewed his membership.'  Huh?
Cap_amorous, I don’t think that death isn’t quite the impediment to forum participation you think it is. Trust me.

Lime_cupid: Actually, Cap should know you’re right as well, considering what’s gone on with him...

Anna_taz: As someone who has also done more than his share good intentioned misdeeds, I can tell you that Magic_redhead (hi) is right. Btw, are you new here? I haven’t seen on this forum before and I’m always trawling for topics. I’d never judge you. Can I send you a private message to set up a coffee date? I know this cafĂ© in Paris with the best espresso. Maybe we can fly there for a cup...together?

Anna_taz, don’t be so mysterious. Give us more detail. Please be as specific as you can about everything. Use this as ‘practice run’ for when you tell your next partner your side of the story. That’s the only way to change perceptions about you. Say what you are thinking. I always try to do this in my relationships.

I_Malone, do I know you?

Raving_bAD, does Anna_taz really need to know you? You sound like a capitalist tyrant who thinks that you can buy everyone. Grab a clue card: You can't! Trawling, indeed.

I_Malone, you’re scaring everyone on this forum with your thinly veiled fascist interrogation tactics.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Random Comic Book Research Question # 2

Question 1: What is it with the American comic book reader population and super-powered apes?

Happily skipping along, gun in hand and brain tucked under arm...That's how I like to think of Monsieur Mallah!

Seriously, you have Gorilla Grodd, Monsieur Mallah, Detective Chimp, Bat-Ape (no, not Nightwing), and Beppo, and a host of ape versions of Marvel’s heroes residing in The Marvel Ape Universe.

Interesting Finding: Marvel has most of their apes in a pocket universe, while DC has them running loose in DCU proper. Huh?

Furthermore, it seems that shapeshifters like Changeling are most popular when they morph into chimps, gorillas, monkeys, etc. Hey JJ (J'onn to those not hip to my new starting a trend initiative), want to be more popular than Supes and Bats put together? Just morph into a chimp or a gorilla every few issues.

And it’s not limited to comics, either. In television, there’s Mojo Jojo  from The Powerpuff Girls and the gorilla-themed Optimus Primal from Transformers Beast Wars and Transformers Beast Machines television series from the 1990s.

There also seems to a boatload of fannish websites and blogs with the words ‘monkey’, ‘gorilla’, ‘chimp’, and ‘ape’ in their URLs.

Of course, the vast majority of the DC primates are products of early Silver Age insanity, but that leads me to my next question (marked Question 2 for your convenience :).

Question 2: Why are the super-powered apes still popular with readers and some writers?

I couldn't resist this rather apt image...

Perhaps I should scrap my work in progress and write an ape script instead...

This is scary Zoetrope-like stuff in the manga world...

Previously, I spoken about my exposure to how things work in Speculative short fiction market and have referred to a rather prestigious publication called Zoetrope All-story, the brainchild of Francis Ford Copolla, who is a pretty famous movie director and mogul. I’ve mentioned Zoetrope All-story because of their protocol of acquiring All Rights for the stories they publish.

Just for some background, for short stories you can sell First North American Rights, Reprint Rights, Anthology Rights, First British Rights, First European Rights, First Australian Rights, and First Electronic Rights, One-time Rights, Archival Rights, Excerpt Rights, Translation Rights, and Audio Rights to the same story to a publication at different times depending on the contracts used.*

Alternatively, you can sell (grant) First World English Rights, Reprint Rights, Anthology Rights, and First Electronic Rights, One-time Rights, Archival Rights, Excerpt Rights, Translation Rights, and Audio Rights to the same story to different publications at different times depending on the contracts a used.* [Here, selling First World English Rights implies that you cannot sell First North American Rights, First British Rights, First European Rights, or First Australian Rights.]

*Many of these rights may be granted on an exclusive or non-exclusive basis. Exclusive means that you guarantee that your story will not appear anywhere else while the publication that bought the exclusive rights are exercising their right to the story. Non-exclusive means that your story may appear elsewhere at the same time (or something like that).

In the example above, you could theoretically sell between nine and twelve different rights to the same story and I don’t think I covered all of the possible rights. Of course, some publications ask for more than one sort of right...But still, there is more than one sale/ rights licensing opportunity [read: pay day] for the writer.

Another option is to sell All Rights, which means that it no longer belongs to you. You can NEVER sell it EVER AGAIN. You will NEVER be paid any money for the work EVER AGAIN. The only thing you can do after selling All Rights is say that you’re the author. But what if Mister Copolla decides to make a movie out of your story? Too bad! You’ll have to buy a movie ticket or the dvd and sob quietly as it rakes in the box office gold. Okay, that’s the worst case scenario, but it could happen. So, I would never encourage anyone to sell All Rights.

An even worse abomination is the Work-for-hire contract. It’s like selling All Rights, except that you are not even considered the author. So, you lose your copyright to the story. Cue the same movie, only you have no right to cry. This is understandable when you are working on an established,  company-owned characters and you're not the creator of a property. But when you create  something? No way. Don't do it.

Rant ended.

What does this have to do with comics and Manga?

Well, as mentioned in other posts, I’m researching possible independent publishers for my comic book limited series. So I decided on a whim to do a search on Google, like so:

Google: “bad experiences” AND “independent comic publisher”

This is what Google delivered.

I think the contract referred to in the link should be reworded as a Work-for-hire or an All Rights contract to remove all confusion/ambiguity. Who came up with the language used in the contract? It comes off as a “if we could take it all from you, we would...You're welcome!” contract.

Just makes me determined to learn how comic book publishing contracts work and be wary of small print or friendly(?) legal double-speak.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Green Lanterns are unique...

There are two mirrored lines at the end of DC versus Marvel cross-over referring to Batman and Captain America that go something like this:

He became one among many, but remained forever unique...

To me, this more accurately describes every Green Lantern. The concept of GL and the GL Corps exemplifies the notion that the powers don’t make the hero.

There’s many ways of proving this, but I’d like to limit this post to a look at how some of the more prominent emerald warriors view sacrifice and self-sacrifice.

Kyle Rayner is the Buddhist guru of self-sacrifice. On more than one occasion, he has volunteered to make the ultimate sacrifice – most recently during Blackest Night. Kyle doesn’t hesitate to make such decisions, because he’s content with no longer living as long as his friends survive (to fight another day).  He wasn't Ion for nothing.

Hal Jordan views self-sacrifice as part of his duty. Only after Kyle was able to reason with Hal (as Parallax) during Final Night* and appeal to his sense of heroic duty, did Hal help defeat the sun-eater.

John Stewart sees self-sacrifice as a form of redemption and as making a difference. With his Darkstar exo-suit torn to shreds and being essentially powerless, John took on Grayven (Darkseid’s kid) to help Kyle. This sacrifice left him paralyzed for quite a while.

Guy Gardner views self-sacrifice as a way to validate the sacrifices of others. Guy loves his friends and comrades – he really couldn’t stand it if the sacrifice of a friend turned out to be in vain. To Guy, sacrifice has to mean something and may use it as a ‘karmic comeuppance’ for any villain who disrupts his life, which has been disrupted many times before. Guy's self-sacrificial streak can be surprising to those who only known as the once obnoxious GL.

Alan Scott isn’t a member of the corps and in this distinction we find his take on sacrifice. Unlike Hal, he doesn’t see sacrifice as part of his (formal) duty, but as an example to be set. Alan realizes that any sacrifice he makes can (and will) inspire other heroes to do the same during our darkest hour. I guess it’s a golden age heroic ethic.

The powers don’t make the Emerald Warrior...

* Blackest Night? Final Night? What is it with DC and darkness?

Monday, November 23, 2009

True origin of Dazzler?

A comment from SallyP with regard to my last post mentioned Dazzler as let’s say a ‘questionable’ superhero. This made me think about the character.

I have to agree with Sally and just about anyone who nominates Dazzler for inclusion on such ‘lists of honour.’ However, I don’t want to get into the merits of the character, because ‘disco queen as mutant’ speaks for itself and Scipio has already done a wonderful job here, here and perhaps most tellingly here.

I do want to hypothesize about Dazzler’s genesis as character. In other words, what led Dazzler’s creation? What inspired such a memorable character?

As a mildly creative person myself, I often wonder how comic creators come up with characters and concepts. I am constantly entertained by the answers I find. For example, it was interesting to discover that the X-men were not named after Xavier, their founder and patriarch, but for the eXtra bit of power they possessed. Huh? What now?

I think I may be able to pinpoint the exact trigger for the temporary insanity that afflicted the minds of Tom Defalco and John Romita Jr. (and others*) when they created the mutant dancer in the late 70s (1979 or so).

*Jim Shooter, Louise Simonson, and Roger Stern [who came up with the name] may also deserve some of the ‘credit’ for Dazzler – creation via Marvel committee. See how everyone is trying to spread the credit around on this one? Initially, no one wanted any part in Dazzler’s creation. How could anyone NOT want to be part something as high concept as Dazzler?

To fair, Dazzler was supposed to be a HUGE media tie-in character with a Graphic Novel, possible Movie, and definately a real-life singer styled after her. Things didn't go as planned - there were a lot of reworkings of the character. Today I really want to talk about the second or third reworking (out of a possible baker's dozen reworkings Marvel have approved over the years).

When a character isn't working after reconceptualizing, what do you do? You say, "Damn the torpedoes. Full steam ahead!"

Is it just me or is Dazzler starting to do 'the robot' here? That unique sparking thing really gives the dance the freshness it needs. Dazzler, you're a true artist.

Dazzler at her disco best!
Here’s what I suspect happened:

The year was 1981. Defalco and Romita (or whoever the creative team were at the time) were hanging out at the Marvel Bullpen, wondering how they were going to rework the character whose original power was a voice with the same effect as Wonder Woman’s lasso (Bad guy: “I’ll tell you the truth. Just stop singing!”). I kid you not.

They decided to turn the radio on for some inspiration. Their favourite segment was on - the one where they play the song that was number one two years earlier to the day. The Bee Gees were singing a song called “Tragedy” (released in1979). That’s the instant when they came up with Dazzler’s mutant power getting in the way of her singing career, because that’s a tragedy.

Here are a few lyric excerpts from the song in question:

When you lose control
And you got no soul...

[That little bit sounds like Dazzler in a nutshell, doesn’t it?]

When the feeling’s gone
And you can’t go on
It’s tragedy...

[Apparently, she quit the whole hero gig at one stage. It was interfering with her vocal, musical, acting, and modelling ambitions. Our loss, I guess...]

And this little gem of an excerpt is kind of prophetic of fan reaction to Dazzler:

It’s hard to bear
With no one to love you,
You’re going nowhere...

Poor Dazzler. Her career as a superhero is the stuff of tragedy. [Cue the Bee Gees track. Then let the track fade out just as the spotlight fades on Dazzler.]

Friday, November 20, 2009

Serious Superhero Team Webcomics

I’m always on the look-out for serious, action-packed, superhero team webcomics. By ‘serious’ I mean NOT a parody. Comics can have a Blue Beetle character or a Guy Gardner character. That’s fine. As long the stakes in each story are serious. Okay, they have titles like that in print form, but I should be able to get part of my fix online, right?

First up is Alpha Gods (previously known as Young Gods*), which isn’t really a webcomic. It’s a digital comic. Scroll down to read Part One and Two for free.

The second offering is a webcomic and is up to several episodes. It’s called Magellan (think Legion with a smaller cast meets New Mutants)

*Blame Master Artist Barry Windsor Smith who apparently holds the copyright over something called Young Gods, which is a pity ‘cause this creator was inspired by an obscure song either called or containing the words ‘young gods.’ Just love those kind of behind-the-scenes creative stories.

Some evergreen laughter-inducing stuff

Whenever I need a pick-me-up for the soul, I head to interwebs to explore the comics blogosphere for some laughs. Sometimes I find new hilarity, but other times I visit some older fare. The following is such evergreen scholarship and, considering my current superhero project, it might be required refresher course reading...

I present 2005's The top ten lamest superherheroes of all time and its sequel.

More recent is this: The crappiest comic superhero.

I don't agree with every hero on the list, though. For example, Vibe (as noted on the Absorbascon) is NOT lame and doesn't belong on any such list.

I could do a list of my own, but it would mirror my “Why I should write a single issue of Legion” post that I’ll refrain from ever posting. Hint: Bouncing Boy and Matter Eater lad DIE on page one.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

True origin of Hal Jordan?

There must be other comic scholars who have posed this question, but...Did they create the characters of Hal Jordan and Captain James T. Kirk from Star Trek from the same mould?

You know, the charismatic hero who traverses the spaceways, has relations with many a human and alien female, doesn’t believe in no-win situations, and gets away with breaking various rules and directives while still being regarded as a great?

There are a pretty staggering number of similarities between the two... For example, I seem to recall Kirk also having to resort to the old “a-space-parasite-made-me-do-it” defence at some time.

Exhibit A: Both seem to share the same stylist.

Exhibit B: Both wear ridiculously tight uniforms (without benefit of a cape to divert the attention gawkers away

Exhibit C: Both men have been called “a man among men and a hero for the ages.” Again, wearing ridiculously tight outfits will create such impressions.

Exhibit D: Hal Jordan has Barry Allen and Oliver Queen as both best friends and colleagues. Barry and Ollie have had many arguments (read: thinly veiled attempts to trump each other for Hal’s favour) over the years, which Barry could easily win/end in two seconds, but he admires Ollie’s passion for Hal too much.

Question: How does it feel to work with your best friend?

Answer: Much like working with your other best friend...

James Kirk has Spock and Doctor Leonard McCoy as best friends and colleagues. Spock and McCoy have had many arguments (read: thinly veiled attempts to trump each other for Kirk’s favour) over the years, which Spock could easily win/end in two seconds, but he admires McCoy’s passion for Kirk too much.

Seriously, Spock could end it like so...

...or like so...

...or even like so...
...but that's when he often sees McCoy's passion...

Exhibit E: Both Hal (Green Lantern: Rebirth and beyond) and Kirk (in Star Trek: Generations) were ‘reborn’ and fought alongside their successors.

Exhibit F: A river runs through it. Not only is this the name of a movie in which Brad Pitt looks disturbingly like the love-child of his director, Robert Redford, but also another compelling ‘coincidence’ shared between a particular Green Lantern and a Starfleet Captain. Allow me to elucidate...Hal’s surname is Jordan, the name of a river. Captain James T. Kirk’s middle name is Tiberius, which means ‘of the Tiber’, which is also the name of a river.

This is disturbing and off topic...

Exhibit G: Both work or have worked for people who’ve taken style tips from French Cardinal Richelieu.

One of the Guardians

A Starfleet Admiral wearing an outfit that makes his personality pop!

Cardinal Richelieu as style icon

Exhibit H: Both are prone to an unnaturally high incidence of grappling or wrestling with opponents and friends... Hal has the most powerful weapon in the universe on his finger and Captain Kirk’s phaser is set to stun anyway. So, there really no need to get physical. I could have shown a few images here to illustrate, but let’s keep this workplace-safe.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Random comic book research questions

Question 1: How much do comic readers miss letters columns? [This fanboy misses those columns a lot. There was always an interesting comment or question from a reader.]

Question 2: Have some of the letterhacks (peeps who wrote to letters columns) migrated to having comic blogs? If so, to what degree has this happened?

Question 3: What became of those letterhacks who did not make the trek to the comics blogosphere? Did they buy fewer comics becuase of this turn of events?

I ask these questions, because I remember that some folks enjoyed the columns more than the comics themselves (at times). The wholesale elimination of these columns always struck me as the equivalent of a blogger who becomes a published author and then decides to shut down his blog. Damn the marketing and fan interaction opportunities.

I also recall that some editors and assistant editors actually gained quite a following because of their witty responses contained within these columns.

Friday, November 13, 2009

How someone else should tie it all together...

As long as I can remember, speculative short fiction has been in trouble. Okay, that’s not really accurate. It’s short fiction’s print magazines that have (for the better part of last decade or so) been in trouble. Much of this is a reflection of the aging of their consumers and their inability to attract new (and younger) audiences.

A few years ago, when I was still worried about the survival of speculative short fiction, I came up with this idea. I use the past tense since I no longer equate survival of short specfic magazines with the survival of the form. No, I think themed anthologies are the lifeblood of the speculative short form.

Sorry about the rant. Back to the idea, which I can outline, because to pull it off would require lots of capital and it borrows from some of what’s currently being done. But...but...but...if you succeeded in making the numbers work , you’d actually attract new readers to the form (as a sort of a cross-pollination of forms...more on this later).

Let’s say, you focused on the genres of Military SF, Sword and Sorcery, and Supernatural Horror and were interested in minmalist short stories between 2000 and 4000 words. I chose these genres and sub-genres (off the top of my head) because they normally have a lot of visual punch, but you could use others as well.

You could produce online ezine, a print magazine / antho, a podcast series, a comic book antho, and a manga antho from the same stories by asking for a combination of exclusive first print, electronic, audio rights, translation rights, archival rights as well as rights to produce derivative works. Heck, we could go the route of Francis Ford Copolla’s Zoetrope All-story and request all rights, but as a sympathizer with all writers I’d never advise any writer (or publisher) to go this route. I mean, imagine they make a movie based on your work and you find yourself out in the cold.

The key would be that a print story = podcast story = audiobook = online / downloadable story, while comic book + manga would differ by 30 to 35% from the original short story (and from each w.r.t.  visual communication and amount of dialogue used) in terms of say the ending. This is where the derivative rights would come in. The Comic and Manga versions would already differ (in a legal sense) just because the forms are so different. Again, I'm not a lawyer and am only really familiar with rights usually granted with prose short fiction, so I could have omitted other necessary rights.

Back to the cross-pollination aspect:  If a person buys the comic book, they could receive the podcast or audiobook (which is 30 to 35% different) for free. This could be applied to various other buy-one-form-get-one-free combinations.

Since a Pro rate for a short story comes in at 6 cents a word (last I checked) and taking into account all the rights the writer would be granting, a fair payment might be US$360 (max 4000 @ 8 cents a word) upfront PLUS some % on the back end. Again this depends on the capital available.

Of course, the real cost would come from labour: slush readers, editors, webmasters, digital artists, mangaka (or rather pencillers who can draw manga style since mangaka are usually one-person acts), comic pencillers*, inkers, letterers, colourists. The comic dudes above would work on a work-for-hire to simplify copyright issues, etcetera. You could add comic writers to alter the story for comic form, but some consultation between editors and artists should take care of that.

*An important requirement for pencillers is to be able to draw from a short story instead of a full comic script. It occurs to me that doing this is closer to Marvel Style than Full Script.

General comic script formats (at least, the ones I’ve heard of):

1. Full Script
This is the format for writer-control-freaks, which is why I opted to learn this format! Basically, this is a page-by-page, panel-by-panel, break-down of what the writer wants to see. It involves panel descriptions (what must appear in each panel, including setting, action, captions and dialogue). The artist uses this as a guide to pencil the story.

2. Plot Script (a.k.a. Marvel Style a.k.a. Plot First a.k.a. Plot-art-dialogue)
This format involves the writer creating a synopsis of the plot, breaking it down to the page level, supplying action and setting. At this stage, the writer mentions only some of the dialogue (if any). Then the artist pencils the comic and, as a side effect, has the most control over the pacing and panel composition of the comic. Only afterwards, does the writer add the captions and dialogue.

Looking back, a lot of the Marvel’s internal story logic makes sense now... “There’s not enough space for Iron Man to explain his actions fully. Maybe, I can delete this section of dialogue and let reader’s imagination fill in the rest. Of course, this is a trial scene and he’s defending himself by giving a minute-by-minute account of actions, which the reader didn’t see, on the night in question. And there aren’t any witnesses or closed circuit cameras. What’s worse, the next page is splash page Avengers-S.H.I.E.L.D.-Skrull slugfest...Damn you, Bendisverse!”

3. Kurtzman Style
This involves drawing rough thumbnail sketches and scribbling down all the dialogue and captions inside these sketches. Then, the real artist transforms these sketches into real pencilled comic panels.

I only mentioned this tiresome-sounding format, because of Kurzman’s association with EC Comics and their association with horror comics and my idea’s reliance on supernatural horror. I can’t draw, so this format isn’t for me. Best left to writer-artists, maybe?

Anyway, see how a Marvel-style proficient artist would be better for translating short stories to comics or manga?

I even thought of a catchy name B.O.S.S. [Based On Short Stories]. Hopefully, Hugo Boss wouldn’t have problem with the name. This idea requires a lot of money to realise and may be slow to turn a profit, so only millionnaires and media conglomerates need attempt it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sometimes the interwebs surprises you and you're forced to rename a blog post

This is what this post was supposed to be named: Stuff the graphic novels industry lacks or seemingly lacks...

I’m at the very start of writing my comic one-shot / graphic novel script and I’ve started to research some possible publishers for my labour of love.
I knew that my best bet was to check out independent publishers (Not DC, Marvel, Image, or Dark Horse), but I didn’t know where to start. Well, actually, Dark Horse is a pretty good bet.

There are some publisher lists on the net, but these are either devoid of detail or hopelessly out of date, often listing many historical but defunct publishers. In addition, there aren't any live links to active publishers on these lists

This is where my experience as a reader and wannabe writer of short fiction has spoilt me: Speculative short fiction has market databases like Ralan  and Duotrope that are not only updated regularly, but tell you which publisher / publication is interested in which genre or sub-genre at which length. In addition, links to submission guidelines are added to each publication listing.

As far as I know, there aren’t any comparable websites for comics and graphic novels. As far as I know.

In the meantime, I’ve slogged m way through a few outdated lists just to get started and have found some potential publishers. Still, would be nice to do a refined search, such as superhero comics only.

Okay, this is where this post was supposed to stop...until I discovered Caleb Monroe's Submission Help page. It is awesome to have all those links in one place. Thank you, Sir.

EDIT: There's also dragonberry.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Short fiction about Superheroes

This is the second of my posts on short fiction that superhero comic readers would enjoy. The first featured a link to a single online short story that didn’t really feature superheroes, but that would (in my opinion) hit the spot for many a comic reader (ala Hellboy or Buffy or Angel or Wetworks). Today, I’ll focus on print short fiction anthologies that actually feature superheroes.

First, I put forth POW!erful Tales: Super-Powered Stories from Beta City, edited by Michael and Christina Lea (2009). The anthology is 210 pages long and contains 18 stories that explore the lives of the heroes and villains of Beta City, the site of a catastrophic event. For a review of this anthology, read this.

Who Can Save Us Now?: Brand-New Superheroes and Their Amazing (Short) Stories, edited by Owen King and John McNally (2008), is another such anthology of the super-powered variety that contains 22 stories. It runs at eclectic 320 pages and has been reviewed here and here.

Another anthology in this rare short fiction genre is Path of the Bold: An anthology of superhero fiction, edited by James Lowder (2003). This anthology is 208 pages and contains 15 tales set in Empire City. For reviews of this anthology, read this and this.

Of course, there is also its prequel, Path of the Just: An anthology of superhero fiction, also edited by James Lowder (2003). This superhero antho also racks up 208 pages and boasts 15 tales, again set in Empire city. For a review of this anthology, click on this. Both of these anthologies are based on an RPG, which is line with my views stated here.

Please note that I haven't read these anthologies yet - this will change soon, though.

Another good deed for the century completed...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Proof that Darkseid is the baddest villain in comics history

Don't believe me?

Exhibit A: Darkseid’s lackey, Desaad, is none other than the Emperor from Star Wars!

If your lackey rules a galaxy far, far away, then you must be BAD.


Of course the term 'lackey' is harsh...scheming underling?

Understanding Other Solitudes

As some of you might know I’m at the very beginning stage of writing a superhero team one-shot comic or graphic novel (length to be determined). Sometimes I wish that I could draw so that I could draw the panels myself, because most (not all) graphic novel publishers only accept 6 or more completed comic pages.

Don’t get me wrong, I can do the quick stick figure and, if I had a week, I could even do a cartoony version of a superhero ala Batman the animated series. But to do serious superhero pencilling to the standard of Marc Silvestri or Mike Deodato jr. or Adam Kubert or Jim Lee or Pat Lee?

No way. Btw, does anyone know any up and coming artist whose style is comparable to the above pro artists?

No? Then, I’ll continue to surf DeviantART, PencilJack, and Digital Webbing...

But sometimes I allow myself to dream...Then I find myself seeing hero designs like these and thinking, Why didn’t I draw this first?

Elemental Hero Flame Wingman

In case you’re wondering,  Elemental Hero Flame Wingman is a ‘monster’ from the animated television series, Yu Gi Oh! GX (follow-up series to the original Yu Gi Oh!), which all about the adventures of a boy named Jayden Yugi and his friends, all of whom are students of Duel Academy. This fine institution is dedicated to the theory and practice of the game of Duel Monsters, a turn-based card game which is played between two opponents using their respective card decks and arm-worn devices called duelling discs. Many players have themed decks, such as decks containing many machine-themed cards or dinosaur-themed cards, etc.

Each player starts with 4000 life points and the object of the game is to get your opponent’s life points down to zero.

Cards are divided into three primary categories, namely: Monster cards, Spell cards, and Trap cards. Monster cards, which are played face up in either attack or defence mode, bring monsters (with specific attack and defence points) to the field. Spell cards, which are also played face up, create special effects that affect your monsters, your opponent’s monsters, the field, your life points, or your opponent’s life points. Trap cards, which are played face down, are activated by very specific actions of your opponent.

Clearly, I’ve really gotten into the inner workings of this game, which is really the point of this post.

Growing up, I always wondered what people saw in turn-based card games like Magic: The Gathering. At the same time I was watching and reading many fantasy movies and stories. I viewed Magic: The Gathering and RPGs where elves roam as their own solitudes that were just different from the comic reading solitude, the Fantasy short fiction solitude, and the Fantasy movie watching solitude to which I belonged.

I use the word ‘solitudes’ to denote collectives that have protected and developed distinctly different cultures, languages, and institutions within the same inter-medium super-genre (Fantasy). You could use the word ‘fandoms’ or ‘sub-cultures’, if you want, but I think using ‘solitudes’ is more apt.

In a previous post, I bemoaned the small overlap (at least smaller than it should be) between superhero comic readers and Speculative short fiction readers. What I often find incredible is that many comic readers I’ve encountered are more likely to read SF novels than SF short fiction. Beyond consumer preference, it doesn’t really make sense to me.

Well, until I think of how Yu Gi Oh gave me the answer to the question: What do people see in turn-based card games like Magic: The Gathering?

For me, it’s the skill needed and how strategy and tactics come into play. Coincidentally, this also what I love about team sports (soccer, rugby, cricket).

Having the main characters of Yu Gi Oh GX have superhero-themed cards also doesn’t hurt.

Although, it’s unlikely that I’ll start playing Magic: The Gathering, I won’t be wondering what the attraction to it is anymore...