Monday, June 30, 2008

A Long Week

I'm away on vacation this week, hiding out in the last place that anyone would ever think to look for me.


Anyway, the Absorbascon must go on, so I sought for inspiration as to what advance posts I could set up.

Which of the industry's powerful questions should I devote an entire week to?
  • DC and Marvel's comparative successes at building big-budget movie-making around their properties and its long-term implications for the parent industry of comic books?
  • Vertigo's need to find its next must-read series?
  • Joey Q's strange treatment of the Ultimates Universe?
  • The possibility, given the grudging success of the BND Spider-Man, that other Marvel characters may begin to cast off their continuity-shackles for a fresh "everything old is new again" approach?
  • The return of Barry Allen, and how it's part of that exact trend at DC?

Hm... no.

Whaddaya think this is, Newsarama? Besides, despite the urgency of those topics, they are but emphemera, only pebbles on the sands of time at the big Comic Book Beach by the Sea of Lore.

Instead, I want us to address something of eternal concern to all decent people, not just comic book readers (although how one can be a decent person without reading comics, I've never quite understood; I know I can't). Something that affects not just the individual, but society as a whole. Something that all media have addressed, but upon which comic books can give us their own unique perspective.

Thus, this week the Absorbascon will be discussing:

Friday, June 27, 2008

Things That Made Me Happy

in my comics this week.

  • I'll say this for Robinson; he's got a good handle on how a dog thinks.
  • Nice use of panels on the Rising Sun segment!
  • The snood of Atlas.
  • Reverse-time bullets are exactly the sort of thing the Flash should be dealing with.
  • "Run!"
  • Every single page -- nearly every panel -- in the DC 100-page Super Spectacular Love Stories.
  • So that's what Turpin is there for. I wouldn't have guessed that!
  • As wonderful as Batman is, it was nice to see him get totally pwned.
  • Now that is a Bloody Mary.
  • "Mrs. Kent"; is that not a dead giveaway?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

We All Screen for I Screen

My newest project is making video CDs for Big Monkey. They play like DVDs do, and we'll be showing them on the big flat screen. You can add audio to them, but I prefer them to be silent; otherwise, they would start to drive the staff crazy, like the old "Welcome to Our World of Toys" jingle that used to play non-stop at FAO Schwartz. Gods, I hated that song.

Each disc is to have six "chapters". Each chapter is essentially a slide show between 11 to 15 minutes longer (at the rate of change and with the transition modes I'm using, that's between 30 to 55 slides).

I want to make many of them (at least eight, to start with), so that the same disc isn't playing every hour of every day. Here are some examples of the slide shows I've already composed.

Character Precis
Designed to familiarize neophytes with various characters. There's two slides for each character: one that's a picture or wallpaper shot with a sentence of two about the character, and another that shows various titles and books in which the characters appears. And which you should buy. A lot of.

Hulk Gallery
Pictures of the Hulk, unannotated, doing Hulk-y things.

History of the Golden Age of Comics
Basically, the "Golden Age for Dummies", presented chronologically.

Memorial to a Martian
Lots of (mostly wacky) pictures of the late Martian Manhunter, unannotated.

The Art of Neal Adams
A picture or two of the artist himself, then lots of examples of his work.

The History of the Black Canary
Kind of like the Character Precis, but focusing on one character, showing and explaining the stages of their evolution.

Lots of panels of stretchy guys doing stretchy things. You know; Mister Fantastic, Elongated Man, Elastic Lad, Madame Rouge.

Romance Comics Covers
Talk about automatic entertainment!

The Senate versus Comic Books
Explaining the Senate hearings, the Comics Code Authority, and how the "Wertham Era" was the transition between the Golden Age and the Silver Age. Lot of work to make, but very educational.

The goal is for the six chapters on any disc to be of different types, for variety's sake. Some light character and content overviews, some deep character profiles, some broad industry history, some creator profiles/galleries, some simple themed galleries of pics. You know; like a mix tape for a party.

Already, I can perceive some "standard" slideshow formats:

The Artist Portfolio
I've already done Gil Kane and Neal Adams. There's plenty more!

The Character History
Particularly useful for focusing people on whose books could use some pumping.

The Themed Gallery
Some simple, like pics of one particular character. Some more topical like "Heroes Getting Hit With Pies". Some combos, like "Hal Jordan Getting Hit in the Head".

Industry History
Having done the Golden Age and the Wertham Era, how can I not do the other ages (Silver, Bronze, Iron, and Platinum)?

Comics Explained
It's so easy to take what we know about comics for granted. Having some of it explained simply would help a lot of newcomers: "Comic Book Terminology"; "The Creator Roles"; "The Anatomy of a Comic Book".

The Character Precis
I think this sort of on-going in-house "Who's Who" project is essential for helping mainstream comics make sense to people.

Genres Explored
All About Western/Sci Fi/Horror/Etc. Comics. A little history but focused toward relationship with other media and What You Can Be Buying Now.

The Quiz
Like they play at the cinema before the film begins.

I have some ideas that particularly tickle me, like the Comics Code Illustrated, clause by clause. "Gallery of Sound Effects". "Villains Screaming". "The Comic Book Family Photo Album".

But I could always use more ideas. If this were at your store, what would you like on the screen? What do you think would be good to edu-tain newcomers to comics?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Questioning the Hulk

Last night I went to see
the Incredible Hulk with a friend.

It wasn't bad. But I'm hard-pressed to say it was good. As my friend put it,
"Why was the Hulk himself the most believable thing in the movie?"

Honestly, I loved the Ang Lee version; very artsy, perfect capturing of the feel of reading a comic book. It just needed 50 to 70 percent less Nick Nolte blathering and 50 to 70 percent more Naked Eric Bana. But I always watch it again if I happen upon it on the television. I'm not sure I'd be as interested in seeing this new version a second time.

This new version just raised too many questions... .

  • So. Mr. Blue just kinda ... never mentioned what he was so excitedly planning?
  • Was Stan Lee's cameo designed with my wish fulfillment in mind, or is that just happy coincidence?
  • Has there ever been a cheaper short-cut to "this guy's an asshole" than tranqing the dog?
  • Isn't "We don't have any condoms and the world's not ready for Skaar: The Movie" a better reason than "Our lovemaking would undoubtedly be so athletically rigorous that it would push my heart rate above 95% of maximum?"
  • Doesn't anyone notice that Betty Ross has been kidnapped and replaced by Natasha from the Bullwinkle Show?
  • Do they really think generals get drunk at public bars in uniform rather than changing or were they just afraid we wouldn't be able to recognize him without it?
  • Could Tim Roth have been more wrong for his role? Couldn't they hire someone more appropriate like, say, Alan Cummings, Paul Reubens, or Tim Curry?
  • Did you too wonder what the exact sequence of events was that took us from Point A (Hulk carrying Betty off out flaming debris in the middle of college campus while surrounded by the military) to Point B (cave, wet, rainy, night)?
  • So, did they loan Blonsky a U.S. uniform 'cuz his British one was, I dunno, at the cleaners?
  • Wait... so that guy's only function in the whole movie is to call General Ross a liar?
  • Are Manhattanites -- even Marvel ones -- that stupid that they don't just get out of the way?
  • Bruce, forget about the Hulk problem; don't you think you should see a cardiologist immediately, given your inappropriate heart rates?
  • Could Ross be any less effective at keeping his soldiers -- to say nothing of his daughter -- out of harm's way?
  • Do you think there's a lot of blood in South American soda?
  • Does the Hulk not know the difference between "smash" and "choke"?
  • And she had a camera with her why, exactly?
  • Is it legal for William Hurt to continue receive an actor salary, even though he's clearly dead?
  • Does Betty Ross have that same disease everybody gets in The Happening?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Central City, the Musical

"Central City" is sung to the tune of "Oklahoma"... 

Great big place!
Great big place, gonna take up space! Gonna give you towers, turrets and skyscrapers, sidewalk fer the battle, villains to pull capers! Towers on the prairie where the Flash bugs Zoom, Plen'y of air and plen'y of room, Plen'y of room to string a dope! Plen'y of depth and plen'y of scope.

Central City, where the Flash comes sweepin' down the lane And gorillas greet on every street When the wind comes right behind the rain.
Central City, Ev'ry month Kid Flash is gonna try 
Some how to talk to some man-hawk,

fightin' giant insects in the sky. 

The town we belong to is grand And you know that we long to expand! And when we say "Yeeow! Hey, Scipio is gay!" 

We're only sayin' You're mighty large, Central City! Central City, I'll say! 

Central City, where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain And a wavin' arm can sure do harm When the wind comes right behind the rain. Central City, 
ev'ry month its citizens and I 
Stand on a sidewalk 
and point and gawk
at the fallin' airplanes in the sky. We know that our streets can't be spanned And our city's too large to be scanned! And when we say Yeeow! Agoraphobi-ay! 

We're only sayin' 
You're really large, Central City! Central City, I'll say. 

 We know we've consumed the Heartland because all of our growth is unplanned! And when we say Yeeow! Ain't Vandal Savage fey?! We're only sayin' You're growin' large, Central City! Central City I'll say, Hell - of- an - M. -S.- A. Central City! Yeeow!

Things That Made Me Happy...

in my comics this week.

  • God Squad collectible cards.
  • Are there really women who'd rather kick your ass then talk things out, and, if so, aren't they terribly, terribly popular?
  • "Inertia". Tom Peyer is a very clever man and you should read his comics.
  • Kids; they grow up so fast, don't they, Wally?
  • C'mon, Batman; even I knew you were about to get throttled!
  • "Define 'okay'." If you're not reading SuperFriends, you're missing some of the best characterization on the stands.
  • B-black Canary... being a.. a leader? In two different books?! I almost fainted!
  • I can't believe a read a comic where the villain is Ding Dong Daddy; and I loved it.
  • "Did she use kryptonite?" God he's such a moron.
  • When Batman tells you to clean your cave, you do it.
  • Superman baking a loaf a bread... the size of a factory.
  • Firestorm pulls a Jordan.
  • Kirby is a good name for a dog.
  • Don't knock her up? I can't believe I read that. I can't believe he said that. Not even him.
  • So, from whom do you think Vixen borrowed the ability to make her ariolae disappear? Hawkgirl, maybe?
  • Wow; don't **** with Catwoman. Will Pfeiffer is a very clever man and you should read his comics.
  • "Who in their right mind would build a remote-controlled pie?"
  • Red Tornado = peeping tom.
  • Aqualad gets some advice.
  • So, are Deadman and Green Arrow the most perfect pair, or what?
  • Poor, sweet, Donna!
  • Not to be mean, but it really is refreshing to see Superman knocked out in one punch.
  • "No! Don't open the plastic!" I think I laughed for a solid minute when I read that.
  • Superman and Hal Jordan giving relationship advice, in their own specials ways.
  • "How long have we worked together?" Um, maybe six issues or so?
  • Cho = Hylas. Brilliant. FredVan Lente is a very clever man and you should read his comics.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Comic Book Positioning Systems

Like virtually all guys, I love maps. Except for some Gleason work and some of my own abstracts, all the art in my house is maps. Many are of DC, which, as an artificial city, is all about the map.

But, for the most part, the maps I would treasure most ... simply don't exist. Specifically, the maps of the cities of the DCU.

As mentioned many times, I'm a big fan of the fictionopolis. I believe that it;s the most important supporting character any hero can have. Ever read Terminal City? I loved that book, because, really, the city itself isn't just a character, it's the character; all the human characters are part of its details.

Does DC think its readers don't care? Seems impossible. People love to "geek out" on the fullness of their fictional universes. While I wouldn't want a DC version of Marvel's ridiculously detailed tech manuals, I don't think asking for maps of cities we've been reading about for decades is asking too much. For pity's sake, the closest thing I've even seen to an actual map (rather than just a drawing) of Metropolis was this map from the Superman Returns movie.
And that map look, ahem, a bit too familiar. Why, I think I could more readily sketch of map of old Krypton than of Metropolis!

Are they afraid having set geography will limit the writers too much? Seems silly. It certainly hasn't held anyone back from writing Batman stories, and Gotham City is rich in maphood, as Chris Roberson has fully noted. Seems to me like having a map of the city in front of you is more likely to inspire stories, than inhibit them.

DC; please do the following.

Break down and hire Eliot R. Brown to design maps of your other major fictionpolises (Coast City, Star City, Metropolis, Central City and Keystone) and even minor and obscure ones (Ivy Town, Calvin City, Circle City, Vanity, Apex City, Opal City, Hub City, Midway, Sub Diego).

Make them unique somehow. The creation of Opal City was James Robertson's real achievement in writing Starman; follow his example, and be certain each city is a character not just a place.

Put them on posters and postcards and sell them to us.

Why on earth-one has this not happened yet?!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Aqualad v. the Monster Machine

It's the incomparable Aqualad, starring in....

(God bless the late George Kashdan!)

It begins one quiet morning when an awesome creature rears up out of the sea and strides up onto a deserted beach!

See? I told you.

By the way, fabulous marauding robot design, huh? That one used to date the Spider-Slayer, I think. Note how its thrashing limbs imitate the form of the dead trees that line the deserted beach, making a mockery of nature, saying, "I, a lifeless machine, am more alive than you, organic lifeform!". Spooky!

So Spooky the Marauding Marinebot starts to throw a hissy and some rocks to go with it.
Leaving in its wake a wide path of destruction!

Or, perhaps just ruining an abandoned cottage on a deserted beach. I think somebody here flunked Prof. Godzilla's class at Marauding Monster U.

Well, a ruined beach cottage may mean little to you or me, but if there's one thing I've learned in my gay life, it's "don't **** with Jack Lingo." Immediately, Lingo gets on the horn and calls the Teen Titans.
What else could explain it? The beach is deserted; who the heck could be alerting the Teen Titans at Big Rock Candy Mountain? I think this kind of thing is where Morrison gets his idea that the DCU itself is sentient: it apparently simply, somehow, informs the requisite heroes to save it whenever its under attack.

Fortunately for this poor, deserted beach, Speedy is hanging out at Big Rocky Candy Mountain, trying to avoid being seen with Green Arrow, and calls the Scooby gang to help.

Want to vote on the meaning of that fourth visi-screen?

1. It's Robin, who almost always ignores calls from Speedy or Aqualad.
2. It's Superboy, after the Siegels got to him.
3. It's the head of Pantha, recently disconnected.
4. Speedy forgot to make the switch to digital tv.
"Speedy-o". Yes, this is Wally, during his "dye my hair black and hang out with beatniks at coffee houses" phase, which followed his "I'll imitate my uncle the science dweeb" phase, and preceded his "Republican A-hole" phase, which itself was followed by his "man-tramp" phase, and his second "I'll imitate my uncle the science dweeb" phase.

Anyway, Speedy issues the call for action.

What, no "JLA Condition Amber"? I'm disappointed. But that's okay; that set of directions more than makes up for it.

So, they rendezvous at, um, Section CBD ("Cartoon Beach, Deserted"), and attack Spooky, the Marauding Marinebot. Naturally, everyone's favorite, Aqualad, leads the charge with an inspiring battle-cry that would strike fear into the CPU of any marauding robot.

"Let me just... hug this vaguely phallic protrusion... until it... submits!" See, this is what happens when you indulge in too much sweet, sweet octopus love: you start humping anything even remotely tentacular. But this ain't gentle Topo, and Spooky the Marauding Marinebot turns out to be more than Aqualad can handle...
Spooky, disgusted with Aqualad's wussiness, deals with him accordingly.

Do you get the sense Aqualad's used to this kind of thing?

"Dude; I was so drunk last night, I don't remember a thing we did!"

Well, at this point Spooky's destroyed an abandoned beach cottage and made a fool out of Aqualad by using him as a frisbee, so he figures it's time to call it a day.

Note how its thrashing limbs are in exact the same position as when it exited the sea, but there's no trees around anymore. I love Filmation!Okay! Now it's in Aqualad's element! Now it's going to be a different story! Now Spooky's in for a real bruising! Besides, Aqualad's got to compensate for having just been used as a beach frisbee, particularly since that annoying faux hipster, Wally, is always dogging him and giving him that deadpan "I can't believe I'm being seen with a dork like you" look. "Check! We'll follow in the 'copter, so we're close enough to see your inevitable humiliation but still far away enough not to be associated with you!"

Sneer all you want, Maynard G.! Aqualad's in his element now, and going to take advantage of home court to use his aqua-strength and speed, and maybe get some assistance from his piscine allies!
Damned elusive automata! Garth'll show 'em what for!


Hey, Garth; Aquaman called. He's just traded you to Green Lantern for Pieface and a stewardess to be named later.

As Aqualad the Human Frisbee bounces headfirst off coral formations, the Teen Titans try desperately to record his humiliation for later posting on DCU-Tube.

Yeah, where is Aqualad? Probably formulating another plan of attack. Probably rallying the denizens of the sea to his aid. Probably...enjoying sweet, sweet octopus love in the embrace of "Leggy"!

AH! My eyes! It burns!!! Yet I can't look away; do you see the mating tentacle? Where is it? No, never mind; I don't want to know.

Anyway, like most men, Aqualad is off as soon as he's had his fun.
Poor Leggy: "C--call me, Garth!" Sh'yeah, as if. Don't worry, Leggy; there's lot of good fish in the sea.

Besides, Aqualad has a job to do, and with a new tactic in mind, he begins his assault against Spooky, in a daring and ingenious ploy that--


It's kind of cute that Aqualad is stupid enough to be surprised every time he screws up. Oh, and for your trivia buff's, Garth does
have a last name: Fubar.

Fortunately, this all happens underwater. Fortunately, Aqualad's teammates can't witness this repeated humiliation. Fortunately, no one on DCU-Tube will see Garth Fubar screaming like a helpless little girl...


Really, if Venus were merciful, wouldn't she just kill him right then and there? "Aqualad's in trouble"; yeah, there's a real newsflash. Face it, Garth, you're the "Daphne" of the Teen Titans.

Naturally, the rest of Mystery Inc. have to save Aqualad; Speedy provides a tripwire and Kid Flash just pushes the dang robot over. Aqualad, of course, does one of his Maxwell Smart -style recoveries and pretends it was all part of his plan and that he's in charge.

Talk about denial; get some therapy, Garth.

Unfortunately, Aqualad's already been captured by Spooky the Marauding Marinebot so many times that he's suffering from Stockholm syndrome, and can't hide his distress that they've "killed" it and cries out:

Garth; it's pretty bad when you're on a first name basis with your abusive kidnapper. Unless it's Tula.
"You killed Spooky! Damn you, Wally! With your cool lingo, and dyed hair, and blank uncaring eyeslits! I hate you. I curse you. Someday may you be depowered and suffer from asthma, unable to replace your dead mentor, forgotten by readers, and ridiculed by bloggers, while I, on the other hand, have my own title, membership in the JLA, and a wife and two kids!"

By this point, Wonder Girl, the Competent One, is fed up with all this hoo-hah and wants to get back to some real men, like Mer-boy and Bird-boy, so she decides to simply beat the crap out of all the other robots and the ship they rode in on. Meanwhile, useless Aqualad envies her jewelry while Wally, never missing an opportunity to show up Garth, decides that what he really wants to do is direct.

"You read my mind, Kid Flash!" is womenspeak for "Shut yer bloody man-yap, you poseur; I'm an actual warrior who knows what she'd doing!"
"Groovy!" Three guesses who said that.

So, with the danger averted, the Teen Titans pose for a Gap commercial

and Wonder Girl takes her leave of her loser colleagues.

"I wish-- I wish I had a home to head to, instead of a cave that I've littered with various jetsam..."

And Aqualad says good-bye to us all.