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.