Saturday, May 19, 2007

Things That Annoyed Me...

in JLA this week.

  • Page 1, panel 1. The JLA justs leave holograms up and running all the time, apparently. Do they leave the TV on all the time, too?
  • Page1, panel 2. Is it just me or is the dialog here nonsensical?
  • Page 1, panel 3. "Reddy's been a bit withdrawn". As Dorothy Parker said when Calvin Coolidge died, "How can you tell?"
  • Page 1, panel 4. Mr. Terrific isn't sneaky and manipulative. He's also not as obsessed with Red Tornado as Brad Meltzer is.
  • Page 2, panel 1. Okay; I guess they do leave the TV on.
  • Page 2, panel 2. So, neither Batman nor Mr. Terrific noticed the detachable lighting rods? Uh-huh.
  • Page 2, panel 3. "If you need to sleep, I can have Sandman ..." What? Gas her? Jeez, Doc, no wonder you lost your license. Just give her a couch and a pillow.
  • Page 3, panel 5. Of course life is sometimes random; that's part of the point. That's how you know that what happened to the Legionnaires was planned. Why is Batman spouting inaccurate aphorisms? Is Alfred feeding him fortune cookies?
  • Page 4, panel 1. When did the JLA teleporter, which requires a receiving device, become a Star Trek transporter that doesn't?
  • Page4, panel 3. I don't suppose she could have just answered the question politely. When did everyone in the JLA become a snitty Marvel character?
  • Page 4, panel 4. If you want to see Gorilla City's "architectural advances" look at the skyline depicted by Carmine Infantino in the recent Flash Showcase Edition. All Benes chose to show us was a granite staircase, which, you know, I see a lot of here in Washington.
  • Page 4, panel 6. Ooo. Vixen and the gorillas are SO much more civilized than Batman and Superman!
  • Page 5, panel 1. Apparently Wildkitty grew up under a rock and never heard of Gorilla Grodd. Yeah, kid; you grew up in the DCU-- should a talking gorilla really surprise you that much, particularly when you're in Gorilla City?
  • Page 5, panel 3. "The power of the full pride"? Gorilla are social animals, not pack animals; only predators are pack animals.
  • Page 6, panel 1. Did Vixen not two pages ago insist that her powers aren't based on proximity? Then why is proximity to Gorilla City affecting her?
  • Page 7, panel 2. When did Wildkitty Who Avoids Fights become Wildkitty Who's Spoiling For A Fight?
  • Page 7, panels 6-8. The maximum speed of a Cheetah is 60, maybe 70, miles an hour, which is fast enough not to get hit on the highway but not fast enough to search Gorilla City with the Flash in half a second.
  • Pages 8 - 9. See previous comments about "packs of gorillas". I'll just ignore the domesticated dinosaurs thing.
  • Page 9-10, panel 1. Opposable toe; yeah, Brad, we get it; they're apes. They know that, and so do we, let's not belabor it.
  • Page 9-10, panel 6. Brin Londo is surrounded by "people who were cut from his exact same cloth"? Gregarious herbivores are like a lone predator how, exactly? This is really just an excuse for the writer to visit Gorilla City, isn't it?
  • Page 9-10, panel 8. It's a spaceship. I should hope the air is always regulated and that helmets are not necessary for take-off. If not, the JLA needs to start shopping at a new dealership.
  • Page 11, panels 1-2. Metatextual commentary about what is really a Marvel phenomenon ,not a DC one? Annoying. Such metatextual commentary from Red Arrow? Extremely annoying.
  • Page 11, panels 3-4. I think these are for perverts who own stereopticons.
  • Pages 12-13. This story is accomplishing the nearly-impossible; it's making Hawkgirl unlikeable and making Red Arrow even more unlikeable. I don't really want heroes I'd be embarrassed to know personally.
  • Page 14-15, panel 1. I could have happily lived the rest of my life without experiencing Power Girl talking about the size of anyone's testicles. Apparently, Power Girl's not just a 'broad', she's a sailor ... who collects rare first edition books with the money she earned as a software entrepreneur.
  • Page 14-15, panel 5. So, Power Girl, known for wanting to spend time forming family relationship in the JSA on Earth, has spent the last six months on Thanagar helping to rebuild? Well ... isn't that both wildly out of character, inconsistent with recent continuity, and really convenient for creating an instant romance backstory!
  • Page 16. Okay, even I, decapitation fan that I am, think it's odd for three villains to stand around staring at a brainless corpse, which is basically the equivalent of staring at the Ultra-Humanite's dirty laundry.
  • Page 18, panels 1-2. I assume you don't need me to tell you that no one would mistake a girl squatting in front of a statue for a girl with wings, unless, you know, everyone is drawn. I mean, I Ching wouldn't make that mistake.
  • Page 18, panel 13. Yeah, Power Girl; her wings aren't real. Gosh, no wonder they elected you chairperson!
  • Page 20, panel 1 "Bruce, it's Dinah. Bruce, are you there? He's not answering?" Try calling him "Batman" and maybe he'll answer you. While you're at it, stop speaking in color-coded word-boxes that match your outfits; not even I'm gay enough to think that's a good idea.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Things That Made Me Happy...

in my comics this week.

  • The return of the real Supergirl...?
  • The Ultra-Humanite's new Carpool Buddies ... of EVIL!
  • Dawnstar's Thanagarian squeeze.
  • The Legion's mission, revealed.
  • I love that everyone in JLA walks around with their own logo; gotta get one of those.
  • Vixen thinking that stairs are "architectural advances"; I laughed for nearly 3 minutes.
  • Lightning rods. Shoulda seen that coming. You win this round, Brad.
  • The severed head of Dolores Winter. Three different views!
  • Superman using his greatest powers to defeat Redemption; Fabian Nicienza gets a big thumbs up from me.
  • The "NO" sign in Arkham. I have got to get myself one of those!
  • Superman's unique point of view in Countdown.
  • The Joker's remorse. Sometimes, you just gotta love the Joker, and this week was one of them.
  • Abra Kadabra's new look. VERY sexy.
  • The cameo by the Rolling Head of Detective Lenihan.

Thing that made me happy in Aquaman this week:

  • Cal Durham, Action Mayor!
  • Lorena's first little horror story.
  • "Blacklantis".
  • The Malrey Trap; now that's comics!
  • Olive with two pimentos? Heh. Heh heh.
  • Kyesha's kitchen decor.
  • Manta sucker-punches AJ.
  • Topo uses Smoke Cloud.
  • "KILL THEM ALL!"
  • Lorena's second little horror story.
  • Black Manta's new suit.
  • Decompression is not one of Tad Williams' problems!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Groovy Chick Month 8: Enrichetta Negrini

The Search for Ray Palmer? Forget about Ray Palmer; start searching for his assistant!


She was an Italian knockout and an outstanding scientist. A cutting edge physicist and a shiny-haired beauty. As at home in the Eternal City as in the Eternal Laws, she was Gina Lolabrigitta and Lise Meitner combined.

The one, the only:
Enrichetta Negrini!


Enrichetta Negrini was an Italian graduate student of Ray Palmer's at Ivy University. She was actually named for her countryman and fellow physicist, Enrico Fermi, which despite being really "comic-booky" is still pretty darned cool.

"Why didn't I bring a flamethrower, just in case?"
Jean is asking herself.



Enrichetta possesses the power of introposition, which is always groovy. And cute when done with an Italian accent!

Enrichetta didn't need go-go boots or love beads to be groovy. She rocked her simple, sleek dresses, pouty lips, massively arched eyebrows, and the warrior helmet hairdo that protected her enormously powerful and valuable brain.

How smart was Enrichetta? Smart enough to keep up with Ray Palmer; that's scary smart!

"We'll see how smart you are when I step on that big brain of yours with my tiny boots!"
Jean thought.



Unlike Ray Palmer, who never seemed to even think of using his amazing discoveries to advance society rather than just play hero, Enrichetta sees the world-changing possibilities of technology.


At one point, she could even turn things into gold with her mind (and the Philosopher's Stone); but that's another story entirely.

"Enrichetta's amazing, honey! Today she invented a hyper-space prober!" Ray said.
"Oh, and, um... what did you do today, Jean?"


What became of Enrichetta Negrini, the beautiful and brilliant pioneer of hyper-space? If only someone, say, perhaps the writer on the Atom, would bring back Enrichetta Negrini, who was one groovy chick!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The War Against The True Enemy of Comic Books

I've had skirmishes before. But today? Today, I declare war. War against the greatest enemy comics have ever known. Greater than Frederic Wertham. Greater than surrealism. Greater than Joe Quesada.

Today, I declare war ... on decompression.

Comic books aren't storyboards for films. The filmic viewpoint has infected the art of comic book making. I have nothing against movies. I like movies. Some of my best friends are movies. But comic books, sir, are no movies. I'm not saying that filmic devices and techniques can't be used in comic books. They can; but you can also brush your teeth with a mop.

Control over time is essential to the art of film-making. Unlike a book, where the reader has the choice of how quickly they experience the events of the story, a film decides not only what you will see but the rate at which you will see it. Comic books don't have that luxury. Oh, sure, they can fill a page with static panels to denote, say, an awkward pause in a conversation. But we don't feel that the way we feel in on screen; the mind just skips over the inactive panels and goes to the next word balloon.

Here's the world of "compression", exemplified by one of the great works of literature "The Monster That Loved Aqua-Jimmy" (as I recall, a copy was included in the Voyager payload).

PANEL 1: "You're going on an adventure!"

Superman is the catalyst who takes the protagonist out of his routine.

PANEL 2: "You're now Aquaman for a day!"

This panel establishes the hook of the story, tells you why Aquaman needs a temporary placement, makes it happen, and explains (roughly) why Jimmy is chosen: he's trustworthy.

PANEL 3: "Hey, I'm Aquaman for a day now!"
This panel conveys the information that Jimmy now has Aquaman's powers, enjoys them, and remains an enormous goober.


PANEL 4 "A challenge to my new powers ... from a pretty girl!"
This panel sets up a challenge to Jimmy's new powers, one that isn't life-threatening but challenges Jimmy's imagination, and provides a reason that Jimmy would accept the challenge ("She's pretty; why not?").


Okay, perhaps "The Monster Who Loved Aqua-Jimmy" isn't great literature. But it does not dawdle. Advancing the plot is paramount; comic books are about plot. Character moments are extremely enjoyable but they should be the beautiful scenery viewed from a hot-rod plot; please do not slow down, pullover, or (Schwartz forbid!) take a detour to find a character moment. If you can't find opportunities to reveal character in the natural course of a moving a plot along rapidly, then you should be writing novels, not comic books.

Let's compare "The Monster Who Love Aqua-Jimmy" to a more modern story ....

Justice League of America #1



Justice League of America #2



Justice League of America #3



Justice League of America #4


I'm not sure what the title of issue 4 is, but I always call it "The One Where They Stand Up!"


Now, I am aware that there are other things going on in those issues. I'm familiar with the Levitz model of advancing multiple plots and subplots. But I think you get my point; it seems that more happens in the first four panels of "The Monster Who Loved Aqua-Jimmy" than in the first four issues of the Justice League of America. This is what comes of editors encouraging creators to write novels using comic book characters rather than writing comic book stories.

I don't mean to pick on JLA or its writer, really; many modern comics are like this, since we live in a world where "stories" have been replaced by "storylines". I just wanted to pick one that most of my readers would be familiar with.

And please don't hand me that hokum about the economic necessity of writing for the trade. It shouldn't be an excuse to puff out what should be an action-packed 20 page story into a six-month snail race. If trades were composed of six action-packed stories (perhaps with some underlying theme to justify their compilation) rather than one bloated faux-epic, they would sell better, not worse.

Why do you think the Showcase volumes are so popular... nostalgia? In part, yes. But many people buying them have never read any of those stories before. They're not buying them out of nostalgia, they're buying them because they carry so much bang for the book.

Decompression is unsatisfying. Decompression is a root beer that's 80 percent froth. Decompression is like 4 hours of warm cuddling when you want 15 hot minutes of woo-hoo. If I wanted decompression I'd be reading Victorian horror novels like Frankenstein, with its chapter long digressions on Alpine scenery, not a sprocking comic book.

You know how many panels there are in Justice League of America #1 without any captions or word or thought balloons? Twelve. You know how many such "silent"panels there are in "The Monster Who Loved Aqua-Jimmy"? Zero.

In film, the director controls the passage of time; in comic books, the passage of time is in the hands of reader, who can take the story as slowly or as quickly as he likes. That's why filmic tricks like "silent panels", by the way, backfire. They don't create a sense of pacing and slow down your reading; they speed it up.

Think of those two or three page sequences where the characters silently engage in kick-ass martial arts conflict. Exciting, aren't they? Of course not; no matter how well they are drawn, you naturally blank over them ("Oh; fighting.") and dash forward in your reading to the next written word. In film, such scenes are exciting; but comics, like it or not, are a static medium, and such scenes read like Egyptian wall paintings. Why do you think comic books so often have people talking, thinking, or being narrated during fight scenes? Why do you think fight scenes are spiced with energy blasts, batarang throws, giant props, and needless acrobatics? They are speed bumps.

Slow storytelling means fast reading; fast storytelling means slow reading. The first is boring; the second is exciting.

You can dash through modern decompressed stories in moments because the rate at which you read is determined by how much is happening in the story. Try to dash through a story like "The Monster Who Loved Aqua-Jimmy" that way and you'll get a pounding headache after two pages. Compressed storytelling is exciting literary espresso; decompressed storytelling is boring weak tea you have to drink gallons of to get even a slight buzz.

Compressed storytelling has gotten a bad rep because it's associated with crappy stories. Yes, many of the stories written before the advent of decompression were stupid, but that doesn't mean they were stupid because they weren't decompressed. Sure, un-decompressed stories are challenged to get in the necessary exposition without using bursting word/thought balloons. But, face it, we have to suffer through those in your average Wonder Woman story anyway; wouldn't you rather have them advancing the plot than simply being so much empty badinage?

Think that a modern balance between quality and compressed storytelling isn't possible? Hogwash. There are many examples, but the easiest thing to do is read some Justice League Unlimited. Small wonder that JLU is popular with longtime readers yet still accessible to new readers and children.

Oh, look:
a panel that contains both necessary, plot-advancing information and
a gratuitous but delicious character moment.

Apparently such things aren't impossible, after all!


Decompression, by the way, makes comic book myth very opaque to new readers; too little information is conveyed about who's who and what's what. Decompression is only possible if you rely on the reader to know a lot of information you aren't willing to stop to explain (What is that purple starfish? Who are Felix Faust, Prof. Ivo, and T.O. Morrow? Who the heck is Trident? Geez, I don't even know who Trident is). Decompression is the enemy of comic books because it's the enemy of new readers.

DC; stop worrying that your writers are going to run out of ideas. Stop worrying that longtime readers will be annoyed if you repeat an explanation of a character or their powers. Stop worrying that your readers are going to get the bends without decompression. Return to the done-in-one, the back-up story, the high-octane elements that employ the medium's strengths rather than its weaknesses, and the kind of storytelling that only comic books can do.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Grovvy Chick Month 7: Batwoman


It would be hard to find a bigger fan of the new Batwoman (Kate Kane) than I. But today I sing the praises of the original Batwoman, Kathy Kane.

Kathy was a wealthy heiress/circus daredevil. Now, that may seem odd to you, if you don't live in the DCU. But attention-seeking media-hound wealthy heiresses are, in fact, not unheard of in our own universe. Kathy Kane was essentially Paris Hilton.

Except Kathy was smart. And attractive. And capable. And devoted to helping others. And clothed. And able to open a door without an instructional manual or a major loss of blood.

Okay, okay; she wasn't like Paris Hilton at all. But Kathy Kane was both glamorous and bold. BOLD! Characters really don't come any bolder than Kathy Kane.

How bold was Kathy Kane?

So bold that she decided to become a crimefighter, without even a scarring childhood loss to motivate her.

So bold that stole Batman's schtick without asking him.

So bold that she said, "Piffel!" when Batman told her to stop.

So bold she once slapped Batman in public.

So bold that she fought crime in a bright red, yellow, and black outfit. To do that you have to be either a total moron or incredibly bold.


Possibly both.

She was not merely bold, but noble. When the opportunity presented itself for her to unmask Batman and get him off her back, she let it pass because to take advantage that way would have been unfair. When the opportunity presented itself for Batman to discover her identity, he did, and promptly blackmailed her out of being Batwoman again. Paternalistic, chauvinistic control-freak.

Oh, and lest anyone forget, without Batwoman we wouldn't have Cat-Man; he was introduced to be her counterpart to Batman's Catwoman!

So while I love our current Batwoman, let's all give some credit to one of comics' original groovy chicks, Kathy Kane. Over time, I've become one of her biggest fans!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

Mother's Day (11 figures at 499 points)

ID Name Points
H039Catwoman
68
oF003Feat Dissent18
J080Circe
80
oF008Feat Compel15
J029Experienced Fury
48
o028Rookie Knockout
70
J058Rookie Lady Shiva
20
DT07Token Linda Park
3
le001Rookie Spoiler
15
le087pPromotional Wonder Woman (Hippolyta)106
le012Veteran Talia
56

Custom Quartet

Remember voting a while ago on the next Heroclix that I should have custom-made?

Here are some of what you voted for!

ARGUS

Don't remember him? Aw, sure ya do! Argus is one of the two or three acceptable leftovers from the Bloodlines crossover. Argus sits on an experienced Azrael dial; I mean, it's not like I'd ever use Azrael! Argus lives in Keystone and will augment my Flash teams (which have very little variety in their abilities!)

CAL DURHAM

Cal Durham is the former Black Manta sidekick who went legit and was part of the extended Aquateam; nowadays, he's the mayor of Sub Diego. Naturally, Cal will help provide more options for my underwater games.


THE SPORTSMASTER

A Classic foe of the Golden Age Green Lantern and, of course, the star of the Greatest Story Ever Told. Sure, he may seem a little goofy, but none who used to fight Alan Scott to a standstill is a lightweight. So, he sits on a Veteran Taskmaster's dial, making him a nasty piece of work and one that could, with a bit a luck, actually take a chunk out of the original GL.


THE RAINBOW RAIDER

Really; what can be said about the Rainbow Raider that hasn't been said already? Besides, the Flash Rogues need some more muscle and he's actually pretty powerful.

Did I have him made because I love Rainbow Raider? No. He sits on a Halo dial. I had him made just because I hate Halo that much.