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...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Evidence I wasn’t being EXCESSIVELY paranoid at the time...

In my last post, I mentioned that prior to choosing this blog title, I would’ve bet my lottery winnings that ‘One True Green Lantern’ or 1truegl would’ve been taken by one of the hordes of GL-fan bloggers.

Exhibit A (as lifted from the comments of the Mightygodking post on Major Force):

Ubergeek said:
i]he killed Guy Gardner’s mother for some reason I forget [/i]
Actually, it was GG’s mother’s neighbour, who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the reason was to piss off the One True Green Lantern.

To which DistantFred responded:
Uber Geek: Why would killing Guy Gardner’s mother’s neighbor piss off Alan Scott?

Well played, DistantFred. Well played.

Yes, the mantle of the One-True-Green-Lantern was and still is a source of lively debate.
Some say it’s Hal. Others say it’s Alan. Still others nominate Kyle. Of course, as evidenced by the above, some souls on the interwebs regard Guy Gardner as the Green Lantern most worthy of the title.

To the last group, I’ve got four words to say: “One punch! One punch!”

Monday, November 2, 2009

What this blog was almost called...

The One True GL (OR 1truegl as it is in this blog’s URL) was not my first choice as a blog title. For one thing, I never thought the title or URL would be available...There are a lot of comic readers from the late eighties and early nineties on the net and some of them had to be (and are) Green Lantern fans.

http://em_warrior. (I was afraid people wouldn’t get that it was short for emerald warrior... “Electro-magnetic Warrior? Huh? Does this guy plan to fry all the circuits making up the interwebs?”)

I knew this blog was going to be about superheroes and my random theorizing about comics and superheroes. So, naturally I came up with a few alternative titles:

http://hero_posits. (Since I like to posit hypotheses and sometimes theories about heroes, but it sounded like hero deposits and that sounded strange.)

http://ahero_posits. (It’s singular, right?)

http://hero_positions. (This one lasted for about two seconds before I realised a lot of folks would think I wrote slash fiction.)

http://ringbearer. (Okay, I realised this could lead people to thinking I wanted to find a bride.)