Friday, November 16, 2018

Riters! Don't be igdolent.

Please be careful when you are writing characters who are smarter than you are.  And by that I mean, characters who are smarter than you are, not just characters who are smarter than you think you are.

This warning applies not only to obviously not-smart writers (like the recent Aquaman writer who made fun of my criticism of his work on Aquaman, only to get canned quickly after when other readers had the same view I did).  It applies also to writers like, say, James Robinson, whose outstanding work on re-creating Starman for the '90s and whose imaginative use of Opal City as its setting can be credited with reaffirming the utility of DC's fictionopolises, and whose work on that series I read faithfully (even as it degenerated into an incomprehensible plot-bog of evil midgets, because, I suppose, none of us were really safe from the effect of "Twin Peaks" on pop culture).


Miguelito Loveless woulda kicked this guy's ass.

That's the same James Robinson who is currently writing what already feels like a 17-part exposition-fest in Detective about "Two-Face versus Kobra" for no discernible reason, when 'Two-Face versus Kobra" seems like a story that should be told in one page and resolved with Delicious Hostess Fruit Pies.  Props to artist Carmine DiGiandomenico; it LOOKS absolutely gorgeous, so much so that I've actually gone back and 'read' it more than once (without looking at any of the words, of course, because only two issues in I've already reached the point where I expect an evil midget to pop up).


Who knows? That's a big place, there may be an evil midget hiding in there somewhere.

This story is the latest exercise in misunderstanding Two-Face and treating him shallowly under a stupid 'face-pun' title (credit where credit is due: "Deface the Face" is outstandingly stupid). But I'm not here to pick on James Robinson for not understanding Two-Face or even for not understanding how to plot.

I'm here to pick on him for not understanding the words he's using.

Batman has to use an ersatz code-name for Alfred as he chats with him from the field, because Two-Face can hear him (credit where credit is due: it has always been REALLY stupid that Batman just calls Alfred "Alfred" all the time on comms, and the occasional stabs at creating a more usable code-name for him-- like "PennyOne"--have been worse than laughable).  Alfred, who should probably just be glad he's not named Alexa, bridles at his latest stupid codename: "Voice".


By the way, Mr. Dent is not 'in attendance"; it's not a dinner party or a theater show.  
Mr. Dent is "present".  

Alfred refers to it as a 'nom-de-plume'... which it most certainly is NOT.  A 'nom-de-plume' is the name an author writes under (as distinguished from their actual name), such as "George Sand" being the male nom-de-plume of female French writer Amantine Dupin. It literally means "name for the pen"; it's not a synonym for pseudonym, and is used only for pen-names. And Alfred is NOT a writer.


At least now we know who is to blame for the character of Magog and why he's so stupid.

Okay, fine: in CURRENTLY CONTINUITY Alfred is not a writer.  

In this case, it's almost as if Alfred doesn't know the term "nom-de-guerre"... which ALFRED certainly does, even if James Robinson doesn't.


Even wacked-out Elizabeth Kane knows it.

Later on, Robinson has Alfred describe 'Orphan' (speaking of stupid code-names...!) as "an ample opponent":


Resisting the urge to make an obvious Rowland Atkinson joke.


Opponents are not "ample"; superheroes are not "ample".


Okay, fine; MOST superheroes aren't ample.

"Ample" refers to nimiety; it's about the quantity or supply of something.  One can meet 'ample resistance' but not have an 'ample opponent'.  Seems to me as if Robinson is just playing horseshoes with the dictionary and when you are a writer for a living that's unacceptable (especially in English, where you have a LOT of words to work with).  

Robinson's--well, I think I have little choice but to call it "ignorance", despite the large number of English words at my disposal--Robinson's ignorance infects Two-Face's dialogue as well:


It doesn't take a day for a tailor to make a 'Two-Face' suit; would it have killed them to give him a Two-Face suit?! You just know he has an ample supply of them.

Not everyone nowadays knows who or what Pollyanna refers to, but it couldn't be easier to look up.  Robinson here mistakenly has Two-Face use the term to mean 'a goody two-shoes', which is NOT what it means. Pollyanna means someone who is relentlessly positive, cheery, and optimistic regardless of the circumstances.  Honk if you think that's an appropriate description for Batman.

  
Also, in what world would Two-Face NOT choose to use the phrase 'goody TWO shoes" when it's an option?!

I have little choice to conclude that Robinson is a darned lazy writer if he can't be bothered to make sure he knows the meanings of the words he's shoving down the mouths of characters (and which would explain a LOT about how he plots... or fails to). 


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

What Dies With Stan Lee

Stan Lee has died. A great many people are writing about that, about how amazing his life and accomplishments were, his larger-than-life persona, his life-long advocacy for the art-form, his commitment to doing something different with it than what had been done before, his commitment to using the medium to speak on social issues.




Fair enough.

But I'd like to talk about what the death of Stan Lee means to me:

there is now no one associated with comic books...

who grew up without them.


The creators who gave us the Golden Age of Comics (and to a large extent, the Silver Age) weren't comic book fans.  For some, comics didn't even EXIST when they were kids (at least not superhero comics as we now understand them). They brought a world of other literary and business experiences to the table; they had written science fiction, detective pulp, romance, and horror.  They had been businessman, advertisers, soldiers, reporters.  But they were creating comics, not re-creating or merely perpetuating them.  This gave them a freedom that no contemporary author/artist can boast, a long-term power none can aspire to, an innocence none can affect, and a humbleness none can claim.

A humbleness that even Stan Lee -- braggadocious self-promoting bombastic hyperbolic Stan Lee -- embodied.  Unlike many modern creators, he had little pretension about what comics WERE, but never let that limit his perceptions of what they might DO and the affect they might have.  Despite being the central, most visible public face of the comics industry in the last century, he managed to remain always an outsider. Unlike many modern creators, Stan Lee was not a fanboy: he CREATED fanboys.

There are many ramifications to the fact that we now ineluctably inhabit a universe (and inherit comic book universes) made by fanboys for fanboys.  But suffice it to say for now that, with the death of Stan Lee, the previous era where creators made comics for new readers

is over.