Showing posts with label comics culture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label comics culture. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Avengers: Age of Technical Difficulties



SHIELD Council as non-co-located videoconferencing victims.

Our own PaulT worked on this film recording audio, so if the audio is especially crisp and clear, you know it's PauT's special brand of audio recording magic.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

So, Miller is making it a Dark Knight Trilogy? All righty, then.

What do you even say when you see DC has signed up Frank Miller to create a third installment in the vein of Dark Knight Returns/ Dark Knight Strikes Again?  I think you say "DC needs a hit for the 3rd Quarter or Dan Didio will need a new jobby job."



And that's okay.  I'm a little past the point of hoping that DC Entertainment, a division of Time Warner, Inc., is really all that invested in the artistry of comics in 2015, but it's not like comics haven't recycled ideas before.  These sorts of short term stunts have generally paid off for Didio, and he's certainly running out of his usual bag of tricks now that he's exploited all of his predecessor's successes so many times over that he had to throw bags of gold at Frank Miller (or really pray Sin City 2 would do exactly what it did at the box office) in order to get him back at DC writing comics.

Monday, March 30, 2015

WWKKD? So many many #1's, so many mash-ups and watching the parade go by

San Diego Comic-Con has been ceded to movie and television hoopla, which has meant that big announcements tend to arrive in two forms now - if you're DC or Marvel, you find an actual press outlet like USA Today with which you apparently have a corporate symbiotic relationship and friendly mouthpiece to do your announcing - or you announce at a more comics-centric con like the just completed ECCC.  Here's coverage from The Comics Beat talking about new stuff from Valiant and Dark Horse announced at Emerald City Comic-Con.

We'll raise an eyebrow at the formerly legitimate-ish press carrying comic book news and the downfall of modern society some other time, but for today, let us consider the actual news about new comics about which I should be getting excited.

In a very weird way, all new comic series basically look the same to me.  And The Steam Man #1 solicitation copy is a pretty good example.

The Old West (but not as we know it): Giant robots that run on steam power are created to take down invading Martians and armies of killer albino apes in an all-out brawl. The Steam Man, a giant metal man operated by a team of monster hunters, seems to have the town protected and the West under control, until a crazed and powerful vampire comes to town to bring forth the apocalypse.
So what are we getting in this solicitation copy and that of so many other #1's?

1.  setting that is not here and now
2.  wacky overarching concept that's been done before, often endlessly
3.  with mash-up conflict from another recognizable but previously unrelated familiar thing
4.  extensive mythology in place from issue 1

you would not believe how many images come up when you Google "Robot Abraham Lincoln" to help illustrate your point

So, this comic looks to me to be:

Monday, March 23, 2015

When Little Kids Wear the "S" and do it better than anything in the comics

Today this video made it across my path via social media.  It's a video about a kid in Detroit who has started a charity that provides food, clothing and necessary articles to the people of his city.  He's a kid who puts on a cape and the Superman "S" when he's at work.  The adults (and kids) who are helping him are similarly decked out in Superman gear, an easy and inexpensive get these days.

The video was part of a recent student film festival at the White House.  The video is short and it's worth a view.



Unrelated, these little girls were part of the Science Fair at the White House.



Here's what's on the White House website about why the girls are there.

Emily Bergenroth, Alicia Cutter, Karissa Cheng, Addy Oneal, and Emery Dodson, 6 (Tulsa, OK)After chatting with their school librarian, the “Supergirls” Junior FIRST Lego League Team from Daisy Girl Scouts’ troop 411 discovered that some people have disabilities that make it difficult to turn the pages of a book. They came up with the concept of a battery-powered page turner that could turn pages for people who are paralyzed or have arthritis. The Supergirls sketched out a design concept and culled through motorized Lego components and gears to figure out how to build a working prototype. They discovered that the friction from rubber Lego tires could be used to lift and turn the pages of a book. They honed the device with a second motorized component that forces pages to lay flat after being turned over. The Supergirls’ creation was selected by the statewide FIRST program director to be the only project exhibited at an educational conference for librarians and educators in the region.


These are some amazing kids, and I think it's not a mistake that their parents and families, no doubt a bit insulated from the fact that DC Comics has launched a "New 52" (that even now they're backing away from) wanted to put the capes and the shield on these kids.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Imaginary EIC Hat - Rules I'd Implement for Superhero Comics



If you've read comics for any length of time, there are tricks and tropes and storylines we've all seen, and worst and best practices for superhero comics.

Sometimes the worst practice stuff seems to get followed because things happen in the fog of trying to put a monthly comic out in a timely fashion, sometimes it's because you can tell the new writer hasn't done any homework prior to coming on and the editor appears to have a laissez-faire attitude regarding what their writers are doing, and more often than I care to admit, I look at comments online and am shocked by how many people really like the worst-practice stuff and are willing to say so out-loud.

I've considered a few things I find grating overall, considered their impact, and how often these could be used and still feel like, perhaps familiar ideas after a while, but to help keep them a little fresh or maintain their impact, we've given a rate for how often they can be used.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

In which we consider DC's June post "Convergence" shake-up and new costumes

Sigh.

I kind of want to be out of the business of thinking about DC's moves as a company, because it's equal parts equally unsatisfying and depressing.

In case you missed the interview with Co-Publishers Dan Didio and Jim Lee that was featured at places like Comic Book Resources yesterday, they're basically moving forward by going back to not tying every book in the DC line to superhero mainline continuity.  As comics were up through the 1980's, DC and Marvel surely put out Superman and Spider-Man, but we didn't need to worry how that fit in with Teen-Age Romance Comics or Katy Keene In Love or whatever made up title I just made-up.

And DC is going back to - maybe not putting out Teen-Age Romance Comics - but they are saying "not everything here is in the main DCU, so quit worrying about that".

Jim Lee, who I am pretty sure has no idea what an actual buyer of comics looks like or thinks, was quick to tell his core audience that we're mistaken for wanting continuity to work in an ongoing serial.  And we were also mistaken for expecting both the New 52 to make sense and the five year time jump to hold together after DC said "it all makes sense, we'll show you" and then absolutely did not do so.

Now, all of this is coming on the heels of Convergence, which is a munging of the DC Multiverse, and because it's been a few years, I think we all needed to expect Didio was going to once again reboot the DCU.  They're not saying that, but they are absolutely saying that the characters will have new, unheard of status quos.  So, practically speaking, a rejigger if not a reboot.

So, let's review the images for the solicitation copy, shall we?


Sunday, February 15, 2015

We take on a tough, sensible question from a longtime reader

Horus writes in with a sensible question/ point of order:

Here's what I don't understand about you, League. I completely agree with the basic attitude of the post: any character can be good, just write them well! But then, why stick to Big 2 characters?

As you yourself say:

"And, here's the problem in a shared universe driven by editorial management: is that thing you liked replicable, or does it require the handling of specific creators with a specific vision?"

Why stick with the shared universe, which perhaps necessarily is going to end up being driven by editorial management? Or if you demand shared universe, why not go with something looser and third party (hey, Cerebus and Spawn once had a comic together, you know!).

Just saying, if you want weird, creative characters with great stories and writing, they're out there, just not provided by the folk who view characters entirely in terms of branding and name recognition . . .


Wow. Well, don't pull any punches, man.  Sheesh

But that's fair. If we can't ponder this sort of question, we aren't doing anyone any good.

here's a random picture so we have a picture

There are a lot of factors, and I'd start with the first - that I'm a human who contradicts himself and we get most angry with the faults we see in ourselves.  So, check that off your list.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The problem with vote-based meritocracy and authorship in comics

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, it's no secret I am easily annoyed.

Today's annoyance comes courtesy Comics Alliance.  They are currently running a poll in which they pitch the question Which DC Woman Most Deserves Her Own Solo Book?

To me, the question is non-sensical and highlights a multitude of issues - which I shall complain about below.



Friday, February 6, 2015

DC Diverges from New 52

So, apparently the new plan at DC Comics is "There is no plan".  Which... okay.

Go read this article at IGN and we'll be here when you get back.

I kind of thought something like this was a possibility, but given Didio's prior approach of a deeply editorially controlled and managed DC Universe, my odd's on it were about 10-15%.   I do see this as a bit of a "throw @#$% at the wall and see what sticks" approach, but I also think it makes more sense than trying to make 52 ongoing titles cohesive 12 times a year, plus annuals.  What it does lack is a name brand for the marketing effort - something that I think stuck around about two years too long at DC Comics with the New 52 (nothing is still new three years in), or a single message behind those books.  Which: GOOD.



When I was a kid, the gold standard by which we shall believe everything should be measured, there were a wide array of titles and comics from DC and Marvel.  'Mazing Man sat on the spinner rack next to Swamp Thing next to Batman and The Outsiders.*  I didn't pick everything up, but it made comics feel like a medium rather than a bunch of books about adults working out issues by punching things.

In the press release, it sounds like DC has realized the audience has changed and grown in the past few years and they need to serve that audience.

I can't say I'm overly thrilled with any of the announced titles in and of themselves (even I think a Bizarro book, even if great, is going to be gone by 2016), but I am pleased to see DC seems to be bringing back writers instead of just assuming characters will carry a title.  There was always a balance to be found between editorial mandate and letting writers go crazy in their corner o the DCU.

I am disappointed that there's really nothing here for me, no Superman Classic or Earth-0 book (and just seeing a book celebrating the too-many-Robins problem makes me weep a little inside), and the ongoing issues at DC in regards to refusing to provide a baseline DCU that these books are all a reaction to is a longterm issue, but that's been the story of comics and me the past few years.



*DC - making Halo a thing again is probably a good idea.  Just think of the merchandising!


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Pondering Convergence and Events at DC

This Spring, DC Comics is scheduled to move from New York to Los Angeles.  It's a pretty remarkable move  considering the company's offices have been in Manhattan since the mid 1930's, but given the attachment of DC Entertainment to Warner Bros. and the close ties to the West Coast Warner Bros. machine, and the fact that publishing can really be managed from anywhere these days, I guess it makes logical sense.  Even if it's not terribly romantic.

A long while back, DC mentioned they were going on a bit of a hiatus in the comics for two months while the company moved, and not ones to give up money for two months, they cooked up an event.  Known as Convergence, the event is a new sort of Crisis for the DCU where - I think - various versions of the DCU will be trapped in time by a now multi-verse spanning Brainiac and, because it's superhero comics, probably have to fight each other.

Because if Dan Didio likes to try something and watch it fail, he likes to do it even better a second time.

I feel like I'm the only person who remembers this
Arena wasn't all that long ago by my comic reading standards, but it was a lifetime ago for people who got into DC with the New 52.   And even longer ago, another omnipotent despot also kidnapped heroes and made them do battle...

Monday, February 2, 2015

Artist Norm Breyfogle recovering from stroke

If you're anywhere near my age and you read comics in the 1980's, then you know the work of artist Norm Breyfogle.  Norm Breyfogle and Jim Aparo were some of the definitive 1980's Bat-artists - Aparo leaning more to the Neal Adams illustrative mold and Breyfogle's work more impressionistic and visceral.



Breyfogle's lines in Batman evoked energy and action, something he also brought to page layout and panel management.  He has a keen sense of design that even the better illustrative artists couldn't always bring to the page.  It's something a lot of artists could stand to study a bit.

a pretty awesome 2-page spread



Monday, January 26, 2015

Answering Questions - The Picky Girl asks Where One Should Start When it Comes to Comics

Picky Girl placed the following in the comment box

Ok, I have a question. So I was not a comics girl growing up. I read a ton - and a lot of stuff that was probably way above my head - but the only comics I ever came in contact with were Archie and Veronica at my grandmother's house (in the bathroom...).

In college, a prof handed me Watchmen, and I loved it. I read some graphic novels and did a lot of reading about comics and the superhero, but when it came to comics, I never knew where to begin. There are so many iterations that I don't know where to begin. Any suggestions?

I'll go ahead and ask my fellow comics dorks to weigh in down in the comment section.  I know you've got your opinions, and my suggestions are just that.  They're just some suggestions by me.  So, chime in, buddies.

First of all, I think if you get down to it, a lot of people had their first and often their last exposure to comics through Archie Comics.  There's a reason everyone over a certain age recognizes Archie and Jughead, and enough people are aware of the Archie-Veronica-Betty love triangle so that you can use it as cultural shorthand.

I'm one of those kids, too.  I have a warm spot in my heart for Archie, even if I can't imagine how one remains a lifelong reader, but people do that, and that's kind of cool.

yeah.  every high school guy has two girlfriends who are cool with this situation.

Back in the 90's, you got to ride the wave of 1980's envelope-pushing comics and academics for whom bringing in anything on the edge of culture to teach was kind of a novel thing.  Watchmen has sold a lot of copies to kids taking a blow-off course where they could read comics, but it earned its rep as one of the very, very few comics that reads like a sprawling novel and talks to an audience of people who also read Thomas Wolfe.  I cannot stress how rare this is in capes and tights comics.  Less so in other genres of comic.

The 1970's brought in the first writers that wanted to push beyond kiddie-stuff and you wound up with Green Arrow seeing his ward shooting up smack (no lie!), but it still read as a 22-page adventure with only loose tethers to the past and future.  And, 95% of the time when comics think they're writing for adults or to make a point, it's still basically Speedy doing smack.

First it's comics, then you smoke one rock of pot, and then wham-o!  You've riding the white pony and defending Jethro Tull in public.

Almost nothing in capes and tights before or after Watchmen is Watchmen, and I've written extensively about how comics have learned all the wrong lessons from a superhero comic that wrote up to a literate audience.  We can cover that again some other time, and surely will, but that wasn't really your question.  What I'm doing here is: expectation setting.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Up is Down, Black is White: Rocket Raccoon 3rd Best-Selling Comic in 2014

Wow, I've got to check out this crazy new character in a #1 comic... this..  Spider-Man


People, according to ICv2, Rocket Raccoon #1 was the 3rd best selling comic of 2014.

I feel like I'm taking crazy pills.

Back around  January of 1987, a somehow-even-more awkward version of myself was lumbering around Austin Books & Comics and used Christmas money to purchase all four issues of the Rocket Raccoon limited series by Bill Mantlo and Mike Mignola off a spinner rack.  By that evening, we were bona-fide Rocket fans.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Je suis Charlie


There's nothing much to add to the discussion.  Freedom of expression is a hard earned right, and on the long curve of human history - a new one from a species that tends to silence the ones asking questions.

I am sorry for the tragedy, and heartened by the collective response of the free world to such a cowardly, uncivilized affront to our principles.

Monday, January 5, 2015

So, What Have I Been Up To? Me and Comics Since June 2013

I really don't know how to write this post, because, if you've been following me for any length of time - and, in particular, if you've been here because of comics, this is where I disappoint you.

I am no longer a "read 20 comics per week" kind of guy.  I'm more of a "I'll knock through a trade once a week or so" kind of guy.  My comics reading and collecting was changing before this site was frozen in carbonite, and it's continued to mutate.

y'all buckle in, because it's about to get pedantic and ornery up in here

I kind of quit trying to keep up with Marvel as a universe around Secret Invasion, which was several years ago now.  I've tried to keep up here and there with Captain America and a few other titles, but Marvel's insistence on the cross-over stunt has made that exceptionally difficult.  Pair that with the fact I read Marvel in trade collections rather than floppies or digital comics, and their "all new #1's all the time" marketing strategy, and I literally gave up trying to understand what was happening at Marvel as a Universe.  But I will be picking up some of the Star Wars books for a few months and see how I like a Marvelized Star Wars U.

DC and the New 52 kind of sent me screaming.   The quality of DC hasn't really improved much over the past two years, and it was in the basement with the launch of the New 52.  I recently read that by Spring, DC will have canceled 60 titles since the launch of the New 52, which is an indication that I'm not crazy to think they have some problems and maybe they aren't serving their audience very well.

In the past year, it's safe to say my habit of reading comics has greatly reduced.  At least the reading of new comics.  When I do buy floppies, I collect them for a couple months and read a few at a time, unless it's something that's self-contained.  And I'll talk about what I'm buying as floppies, which isn't much.

The other day I mentioned that I've recently also sold off a huge portion of my collection.  Well over half my stuff has been dispensed with since August, something like 15-20 boxes (short and long), something like 4-5000 comics.  I've also sold a huge number of my action figures, graphic novels and other items.

And - you know - I don't miss them.  I have more than a room full of great stuff that I like and feel like showing off from time to time, and it's a lot more focused than it once was.

So What Happened?

Saturday, January 3, 2015

I Just Sold My Last Box of Comics (for a while), Which Was My First Box of Comics

It's fair to say the comic book in particular that set me on my course of really getting into comics was Uncanny X-Men #210, written by Chris Claremont and drawn by John Romita Jr.

The issue took place in a period between a big fight with Mutant hunting robot from the future, Nimrod, and issue 211, which would begin the Mutant Massacre saga in the X-books and a few unaffiliated books (Thor and Power Pack, for reasons I do not understand).

Can't tell you how much I miss an era where superheroes smoked
I'll talk a lot more about this in the near future (because, ha ha...  this is The Signal Watch and verbosity is not a problem here), but I released about 2/3rds of my single-issue comics back into the wild in the second half of 2014.

I was not hanging onto this box out of romance or nostalgia.  I planned to sell it on eBay.  Or, rather, Jamie's been selling some of my stuff on eBay, and I was going to sell these issues off in lots of ten, but it just never happened, so...  The good folks at Austin Books and Comics were able to take this off for my hands for in store credit.*

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Official Signal Watch TL; DR "Man of Steel" Discussion

I went to the midnight show of Man of Steel and returned home in the wee hours.  I left kind of a rambling initial reaction here.  I went to work, I came home.  I've seen the movie again (in 3D IMAX with Simon, Angela and Jamie), and I've had time to process the film much, much more.

And, since that first post, I've spent a lot of time thinking about how to approach commentary on the movie.  As this will be one of my final posts going into hiatus, we might as well talk about this movie as the intersection between the two major topics of this blog: film and Superman.



Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Tour of the Signal Watch Fortress of Solitude

I saw online some folks were doing tours of their Superman collections. Well, it seemed like a SUPER idea to participate.

My Fortress is in disarray at the moment as I'm currently consolidating my collection and removing large portions of it.  I'm going to humblebrag and note that what you see here is only part of what I had on display until recently.  I'm really winnowing it down to Superman and Wonder Woman these days.

I started collecting Superman stuff in college, and I don't have much in the way of vintage. So the collection takes you from the late 90's til now, I guess.


your entry from the hallway to the Fortress

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Superman: The Happiest Fella?

Just up here in space, smiling at nobody

There have been a lot of posts (hi, Max!) and articles by longtime Superman fans regarding the to-date seemingly somber tone of the new Superman film, Man of Steel.

Folks are worried about a "grim'n'gritty" Superman versus the cheerful fellow who takes delight in his powers that you've seen since Superman's first appearance in Action Comics #1.  That imagery has been a part of the "discovery" part of the story for Superman in one form or another in all sorts of representations, from Superboy comics, to the animated series, to Superman Returns and Superman: The Movie where we see a young Clark Kent running faster than a freight train and beating Brad and the gang back past the Kent homestead.  And, of course, the absolutely terrific "reveal" sequence when Superman saves Lois and then runs around Metropolis saving the day.

Probably the most joyful you're likely to see Superman is in Superman: The Movie after The Man of Steel first appears and then flies around Metropolis performing super good deeds.

In fact, I've gone on record as saying that the key to my understanding of Superman in many ways is the moment wherein he saves Lois, reminds her of the relative safety of air travel, and then turns around and lets loose with this huge grin before flying away:

"Man, I wish she'd fall out of a helicopter EVERY day!"

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

And then, in 2013, DC Comics discovered hypertext fiction

If there's any doubt that DC Comics has moved to a number crunching behemoth of creative despair, today form Randy I received a link pointing me to a story about DC's latest effort, Multiverse Comics.  Basically, digital choose your own adventure comics.

At this point in the tenure of Diane Nelson, any hope for a creative renaissance at the company should be replaced with more of a visual of someone selling t-shirts outside the Louvre with a picture of Mona Lisa in a bikini top with a knife gripped in her teeth.*

There's a lot of reasons to sort of want to put your head down on the table about this one.

In 1991 or so the first hypertext fiction appeared, which promised branching narratives and the ability to dig further into a narrative - all in standard prose.  If you were going to raves and enjoying smart drinks in 1994, it all sounded like a nifty part of our bright future of this series of tubes called "the interwebs".  Just get yourself a 1600 baud modem and go nuts.

"But, hey The League," you might say.  "It's 2013!  Where can I purchase some of this hypertext fiction that's clearly the wave of the future?"

Tragically, it went the way of the Dippin' Dots and may not have been the ice cream/ preferred narrative construct of the future.