Tuesday, March 31, 2009
The fictionopolis is one of our favorite concepts here, and a powerful element in our Dynastic Centerpiece Model. It was once a standard in DC comics, faded under the pernicious influence of Marvel-style "realism" *snort*, and has reasserted itself strongly in recent years.
Its chief modern apostle is James Robinson, of Starman fame. There's a lot about Robinson's Starman I didn't like (weak plots, mostly), but his achievement over seven years (1994-2001) in creating an entire fictionopolis (Opal City) and making it unique impressed and delighted me to no end. His success led the charge back toward the fictionopolis as the setting of choice for the modern DC hero: really, if you don't have a fictionopolis of your own, you're just not top drawer. Oh, and for Wonder Woman's purposes, Washington D.C. counts as a fictionopolis; honestly, I think it counts as one for me.
I credit Robinson's work on Opal City with inspiring the "new Gotham City", suddenly an island and now with a map all its own, as debuted in No Man's Land (1999), and the B13 revamping (2000) of Metropolis (also with a new look and layout of its own).
The B13 changes were de-vamped, of course, but the desire to give Metropolis its own character as the home of the Man of Tomorrow didn't go away. Kurt Busiek's certainly been striving toward it, and under his pen Metropolis has become the place where you might encounter, on any given day, Kryptococcus the Omni-Germ on the Avenue of Tomorrow.
The new creative team is building (quite literary) on Busiek's beginning vision of the city. Yeah, sure, it's "Deco", but most of DCU cities are, to some degree. That's a natural function of DC's roots in the late 1930s. But, within the Deco vernacular, Metropolis is clearly being defined as having its own characteristic style; vertical, bright but not shiny, glass as an accent but white stone for structure, soft rather than hard, powerful but not harsh.
The Tomorrow Diner, evocative of 'the city of tomorrow' Note that at every level the architecture favors curved edges over sharp ones. The building is a series of many strong, upward elements. Spacially the building is stout. But the repeated, thin, upward pointing elements make it seem tall and thin. The effect is almost cathedral-like.
The characteristics we noted in the Tomorrow Diner are here in the Ace O'Clubs (and throughout Metropolis). Favoring curved edges over sharp ones. The 'Metropolis' deco font. Structures as a series of strong straight vertical strokes. Note the angle of view adding to Metropolis's characteristic 'up, up and away' look. Note also the elevated causeways and rail-lines. This has been an element in previous visions of the city and it's becoming a Metropolis sine qua non (like the gargoyles of Gotham City).
The 'pylon pile-on' effect. This is the essence of Metropolis's new design. Cleverly, the team has chosen a look that can clearly indicate to the view that they are in Metropolis, even when only one otherwise unidentified building is visible. Note the look is both reminiscent of and in contrast to the 'crystal cathedral' look of the Fortress of Solitude. Both are composed of repeated strong vertical straight lines. But the Kryptonian style favors 45 degree angles and pointed tips, whereas the Metropolitan styles favors perpendicularlity and rounded tips.
Compared the previous buildings, the Steelworks and its environs are stocky, down to earth. This solidity helps send the message "factory/warehouse district". Still, most of the Metrotecture elements remain evident (note the cathedral style windows, for example), even if they no longer dominate. The decorative ironworks are a very nice touch as is the symbolic wall carving in the window casing; very WPA.
A broader view allows you to see all the characteristics of Metrotecture on a grander scale. Note that not only do the buildings themselves have the pylon pile-on effect, but the invidual buildings become pylons replicating the effect at a grander scale across the cityscape. Very fractal, in a non-organic way. And because the buildings, individually and collectively, taper as they reach skyward, you don't get the effect same narrow-canyon effect you get in, say, New York City. Metropolis needs to be a city where it's easy to look up in the sky.
Put it all together and you get
Sunday, March 29, 2009
"So, there I was at the Skylight Spa-- you know, the one with all the statuary?-- getting my monthly mud-treatment, with the help of Edgar -- poor, deformed, otherwise unemployable Edgar. Such a sweet old man; he reminds me of my seventh grade shop teacher.
"Anyway, Edgar had lit the aromatherapy lantern and was giving me the Lazy Susan Special (tm) -- you know, the one with the straps, so you don't go flying?-- when that lunatic in the flag costume -- yes, the one who attacked those protesters down on the Mall -- kicks in the door and starts attacking the statues!
"Before I realized what was happening, he had broken one in half and was using it to pummel the other statues. Oh, but then it got worse: some crazed boy in a makeshift costume he must have cobbled together out of a used clothing bin crashes through the skylight with a maniacal grin on his face! Gladys, it was just horrible and I dashed out of there for my life, shaking off mud as I ran.
"And poor, poor Edgar. The doctors say he may never walk again..."
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Derek Lancaster says, "If you can't love Batman: The Brave and the Bold, you can never truly love me."
- "Is that the caterer or just a Cornell? I can never tell..."
- "No olives in the martinis? I guess that wouldn't leave room for the Princetons."
- "Looks like his wife went to Dartmouth, too. Unless that's his brother."
Anyway, Ivy Leaguers aren't the only group that outsiders think of as a lump who can get snotty with one another (although we do get particularly snotty). The same phenomenon occurs in any group; scientists, outdoorsmen, singers, whatever. And, of course, comic book fans... .
Usually, such in-sniping is all in good fun. But occasionally it bites back; have you ever had this (or the equivalent) happen to you...?
You've met this guy (or whatever) and he's hot and kind of sweet and chatty and into you, and something comic booky comes up and you're hesitant to 'come out' of the comic book closet, but then he's all, "Oh I love comics, too!"
At first, you think, "OMG; excellent! My future husband." UNTIL...
- "Isn't Geo-Force the best?"
- "Aquaman's such a loser!"
- "Storm is my idol!"
Yes, they let loose with some comic book opinion so absurd, so benighted, that you're dumbfounded and unable to reply. "NO. You did not just say that. Please unsay that. My future happiness is dependent on your not having said that... . "
Because, yes, you can be friends with someone who loves Wolverine. But you can never, never marry them.
In this way, our love for comic books keeps us apart more than it brings us together.
Has something like this ever happened to you?
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
- Rioting, looting, fires burning unchecked, daring breakouts, National Guard enforcing curfews. Ah, Gotham. It's a helluva town.
- And Diamondrock's right. It is so so so very wrong that her eyes are blue.
- Even the Phantom Stranger's poppet does whatever it wants.
- "Belay that talk, Amazon."
- Wow, Superman was beautiful this month; you go, Guedes, Magalhase, and Curiel!
- Ollie's idea of kinky sexy play.
- Jim's nic fit.
- "I'll have you know Gazerbeam and I once fought Mr. Bossy-pants."
- Thank god Bibbo's not being portrayed as a congenital idiot any more.
- Achilles?! Well... that's an interesting choice.
- Oh, yeah; that's Jim Corrigan, the ass-kicking tough guy cop! Who sews.
- That's the last hero I would have expected to go after a piece of tail!
- Fire and ice.
- "Well, hmm. I'm out." ROTFL!
- The Mon-El watch.
- Tong. So good to see Tong again, even if only in passing.
- "He was a kind man." Yes. Thanks for remembering that.
- How Amazons cover their nakedness.
- Oh, nice gambit to make me like Halo. It's not working yet, but it's a nice try.
- Well, if anyone would know about deserving to be hit repeatedly, it would be Hal.
- Nice interpet on Mr. Freeze.
- "You want a side of eggs with that ham?"
- One of my favorite villains made Spider-Man punch himself in the face. BWAHAHAAHA!
- Whoa. Do not &#$(@ with Commissioner Gordon.
- Whoa. Do not make Wonder Woman do something she'll regret.
- Whoa. That's ... Wendy's dad? Whoa. Whoa. Didn't see that coming.
- Huh. The "anti-Luthor". Elegant; simple; a good role for him in a needed niche. I approve.
- I guess I should have known Zatara was from Italy. But it never occurred to me.
- What terrifies Phobia.
- Gorbul Mammit; now that is a Flash fact!
- Is it my imagination or is the deco architecture of Metropolis vaguely reminiscent of the crystalline structures of Krypton?
- Now that is decapitation with drama! Thanks, Kevin Vanhook!
- You know, if he had hit her, so-called feminists would be up in arms about it. Whose double-standard is it...?
- "Foolish ornament"? Ouch, that hurts!
- Is the Phantom Stranger wearing a sweater-vest? Just never know what he'll do.
- Okay, I've always hated her. But now she's dissing Detroit. This means war.
- John Kent's new job.
- Homoerotic tension humor!
- Zolpidem? Wow, they are desperate.
- Ooo, I didn't think Genocide would go there. She really does know how to cut deep. But my money's still on Etta.
- Do yourself a favor; don't miss the debut of the Incredibles comic this week. It made me happy.
- So, even McDuffie knows his run hasn't accomplished anything? Brilliantly self-aware redux, part of his ingenious grand plan, or just unintentional irony?
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Sunday, March 22, 2009
"I'm so lucky; me, a half-naked jungle savage on a date with Fantomah! She looks just like a supermodel...
While we're here at the Jungle Theater, waiting for the show to start, I'll get her something at the concessions stand. I wonder what's good...?
Delicious! Roast Blonde cooked over a Sergeant Boyle brand "War!" grill (model no. 00XX!!#!). No Jungle Woman can resist it! Let me catch the attendant's eye...
What th--?! Flag-costumed American interlopers!? Let my date go, you carrot-topped moppet! Ohh... reeling from-- Yankee underarm smell. Damn you, imperialist pigs! Must -- get help...
Security! Shoot him in the head, quickly! NO! NO, NOT ME, YOU IMBECILE, NOT M--"
Saturday, March 21, 2009
I don't mind paying more, if I'm getting more.
Now, if "more" meant just drawing out stories longer in the modern 'tradition' of decompression, I would mind very much. More happens in one episode of Batman: Brave & the Bold than in a year's worth of some comic book series.
But more is actually going to mean more, and different stories. Certain comics will have the regular 22 page main story plus a "co-feature" (what I would call a back-up story) or 8 to 10 pages. Score! I've long said we need the return of anthology comics and back-up features. Not all characters can sustain their own title, and these forms of comic books accept that fact.
There are supposed to be seven cofeatured books, with five of them being:
Booster Gold/Blue Beetle
Doom Patrol/Metal Men
Detective Comics/The Question
Streets of Gotham/Manhunter
Now, I could surely do without Ravager the One-Eyed Stabby Precog. I can't think of anything the world needs less than an X-23 for "Deathstroke the Terminator". But the others are exactly the kind of characters who thrive as back-up features. In my dreams, one of the other books is Aquaman with a Sea Devils co-feature, because that would be my Deep Blue Sea Heaven.
What comics do I remember unflaggingly from my childhood? Why, the 100 page giants, of course!
Bigger is better.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
My own comic books.
My driver took me to Children's Hospital, Walter Reed Veteran's Hospital, the Whitman Walker AIDS clinic, and Howard University Hospital, where we donated them for the entertainment of the infirm.
I don't regret giving them away at all, nor do I regret buying them in the first place. I'm not a collector. When people ask, "Oh, so then, you collect comics?", I always give the same answer, "No, I don't collect comics; I read them."
I have every bit of respect for the medium as a literary art form. I believe in their cultural importance as the Greek myths of today. I'm committed to wringing the most entertainment and wisdom out of them as possible. But I still think of the comics themselves as ephemeral pleasures, often to be passed on to others who might enjoy them, not as butterflies to be pinned in boards and bags.
I value them collectively, not as collectibles. I've watched other readers -- collectors, really -- nearly faint when they find out I bend back the covers, throw comics on the floor, or read them in the bathtub. "You! Of ALL people!?" Yes, me, of all people. The comic book, like any book, is just an object. It's the story the object carries that matters, not the object itself. Maybe that attitude shows my focus on the writing of a comic, rather than its art (which is, in fact, the object itself).
It's not that I don't think of comics as valuable; I do. But sitting in box, in a closet, in my study, their value to society, to me even, is pretty low. Their greater value is found on the bedside table of a wounded soldier, a sick child, or a person struggling against life-threatening illness, where they can bring amusement, comfort, and inspiration.
Don't let me fool you; I didn't give everything away. The issues of Uncle Sam and Jonah Hex didn't happen to find their way in the distribution piles (ahem!). But I still feel better for my small effort to help comics bring as much value to others as they have brought to me.
Big Monkey Comics is now serving as a clearinghouse for such efforts. Donate your old comics to us, and we'll distribute them among area hospitals (and perhaps other institutions) where they contribution will be much appreciated.
Monday, March 16, 2009
What kind of sidekick name is "Dusty"? That more like the name you'd give Ragman's sidekick!
The Shield is not a man of imagination. There are so many cool things you could name the Shield's sidekick:
- "Bulwark, the Human Decoy"
- "Screen, the Kid Sieve"
- "Haven the Harbor Boy"
- "Ward, the Boy Aegis"
I bet the Shield didn't even bother to give the kid any superpowers. Maybe "Dusty" was the kid's real name.
Nah; what kind of star-spangled, patriotic hero would drag a non-superpower kid into battle with him and use his real name instead of code name? No one's that stupid or short-sighted.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
But when I read their feature article on the Flash, wherein they describe Bart Allen as Barry Allen's nephew...
I am sure the man who wrote the article and the editors are perfectly nice people. But, I mean, really.
I'm sure Wizard would get the Summers Family Tree perfect...
- Ah, the sins of Daxam come home to roost. That's comic book irony.
- Ollie punks Dinah.
- Mrs. Yat's apology.
- Well, I was tired of listening to Arkillo blab, too.
- Michelle tivos her death.
- Batman and the Riddler really do make a great team.
- Dewey defeats Truman for head of the Sinestro Corps.
- The Arrow-Signal.
- Naked Kyle.
- Two-Face and Penguin portrayed as powerful rival ganglords... without ever being seen.
- Ah ha! So THAT's who Flamebird and Nightwing are... .
- The origin of King Tut. Classic.
- God bless comics for sentences like, "These Red Lanterns vomit plasma."
- I could do without another " second-rate 'mastermind' villain unites the real villains and improbably becomes their boss" storyline, particularly in a Batman comic. BUT... this is the first time the reason they follow him as every been plausible.
- Kryptonian subtitles.
- Goodman. Buono. Brilliant.
- Batman, with guns a-blazing!
- Womb. Dang it, why didn't I guess womb...?!
- Quitely drawing a Batman and Robin comic...?
- Cupid is a great new villain.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
I went with a crew from Big Monkey...
In short, I thought the film did about as good a job as it could adapting the book. On the whole, I agreed with what was left out, changed, or tightened.
I was most interested in what the film revealed about the differences in the mediums. Lines that were deadly serious in the book that earned belly-laughs in the film. Talk-y scenes (like the one at the bar in Vietnam) that are passable on paper, but are very unnatural when you seem them acted. Dr. Manhattan's SFX being cooler on the screen, but his abstract nature being a little less perceptible.
There was nothing "unfilmable" at all about Watchmen. To me, the main issues weren't that the book was too complicated to film, or that it was too rooted in the graphic medium to translate to the screen. The main issue was -- and watching the film with some 20-somethings really brought this home -- that the story is so firmly rooted in its time period. The 20-something have no personal knowledge of the time when "the Doomsday Clock" and things like "Defcon 1" were pervading cultural influences...
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
GOSH, there's a lot of killing in the new Wonder Woman animated film!
Okay, to get it out of the way, yes, it was good, and yes, I liked it. Naturally; it's a Gail Simone story.
But GOSH, there's a lot of killing in it.
I guess I thought I had adapted to the Xenafication of Wonder Woman. During the period when my concept of Wonder Woman was being formed, Wonder Woman followed the same "code" as Batman and Superman: no killing. Lesser people have to kill. Cops, soldiers, et al.; regular people have to kill to defend themselves. But for superheroes, not killing was always part of the challenge. Killing makes heroing rather easy, particularly when you are a superhero. You just kill anyone who throws a punch at you, and let the Spectre sort out the rest.
It's not a question of "mere" morality. It's a storytelling issue. Heroes who kill are, well, they're cheating. When Superman killed the Phantom Zone villains (before the last few multiversal reboots), I wasn't so much shocked by the deed itself. He gave a kind of plausible excuse for his right to "execute" them according to Kryptonian law. I wasn't disappointed that Superman failed morally, but that he seemed to have given up intellectually. He failed to solve the problem at hand without killing.
You can say I'm showing my time period; that my perception comes from the Innocent Silver/Bronze Ages, that my brain is soaked in the Superfriends for too long.
I also remember that in the 1940s, Wonder Woman kicked all sorts of Axis patootie during WWII. Without killing anyone. It was wartime; she was, in fact, a soldier, and, based on that, had a "right" to kill the enemy. But she didn't. And comics weren't exactly delicate then. Bad guys died like flies in the Golden Age.
But, ever since Xena, it's been (apparently) paramount to show that Wonder Woman is a "warrior" (which, I guess, means really really ready to kill at the slightest opportunity).
William Moulton Marston was definitely a wacko. But he wasn't an idiot. He was trying to use Wonder Woman to show us a better way, to show that love can conquer war (as long as it's strong enough!). Wonder Woman is still good; she's still cool. But somehow Wonder Woman the Killing Machine has lost a certain superiority that I long for in my heroes...
P.S. Don't get me started on the fact that Etta Candy -- the ULTIMATE symbol of female self-reliance and empowerment in comic books -- was portrayed as the symbol of what is worst in the women of "Man's World". Just don't get me started.
Monday, March 09, 2009
Saturday, March 07, 2009
Also in attendance were the 'usual suspects' from the museum's National Council, the Office of Indian Affairs, and Sen. Tom Udall, a big supporter on Native American issues.
Justin and I rocked the party till closing, and my comic book knowledge came rather in handy for the shoptalk; let's just say, if there's ever a Smithsonian exhibit on the history of Black Condor, you'll have me to thank.
The exhibit touches on a lot of topics, including Native American artists in the industry, stereotypical portrayal of American Indians in mainstream comics, use of the art form in indigenous culture, and influences of the medium's artistic conventions on native art. It's interesting and covers a wide variety of topics. In fact, that would be my main criticism; it touches on them. Maybe I'm a little more into Native American stuff and comic books than most people, but to me any one of these topics is subject enough for an entire exhibit. Heck, to me, "Little Sure Shot as a Metaphor of Native Relations" is enough for an exhibit.
Still, if you're in DC, take the time to go see the exhibit and the museum.
Thursday, March 05, 2009
- Cavalier, in two comics in one month? God, I love the New Silver Age!
- Don't let them fool you; all cat-breath is like that.
- Just imagine the Veil on a date with the Phantom Stranger. Blah blah blah blah blah!
- Is that Deadshot's secret motivation? I'm thinking we'll never know.
- The return of Vicki Vale, society reporter sexpot.
- Forget about his powers; God, Superman's got guts! "Your entire societal structure sucks!" It's like in the late '30s, where Superman wasn't The Man, he fought The Man...
- "Eye a fark!" Words to live by.
- Sigh. Why doesn't anyone give me a time-released bottle of champagne?
- Tallulah decides not to wait a second, after all.
- "Well. That was unpleasant."
- Nocturna--? Go figure.
- Even chained and bleeding to death, Cavalier remains a gentleman.
- The Flash Rebirth house ad. I just like looking at it.
- Is that the Monocle, atop the bridge? Didn't he used to be dead?
- What the Artist Guild wears.
- "Come as a stranger, leave as a friend." Or, you know, a corpse.
- The cause of death of Anthony Giancarli... I want a flashback!!!
- The Gotham Gazette gives a good sense of the slow unraveling of Gotham in Batman's absence, rather than just stating it as a fact; I like that.
- Broken and scarred, Jonah Hex is still hella sexy.
- "Moon Supergirl has thwarted our criminal endeavors!"
- Any comic that cold-opens with Phantom Stranger speaking in sententiousness and logo-front is AOK by me!
- Aunt Alura, Super-MILF.
- Strange Adventures does a great job of tying together lots of DC's stray space characters into an interesting read. Besides I got to see more of Rann destroyed, and that's always welcome. Dirty stinkin' Rannies.
- Now that HE's out of the way, can we please put Cavalier back with Killer Moth, where he belongs? Thanks.
- The eloquence of Lena Luthor.
- Is that a super-Corgie? Excellent.
- Tyrone's species bigotry; amen to that, brother!
- Dr. Zimmerman, the Wild West's most avant-garde interior decorator.
- Prince Gavyn's bold deceit.
- I cannot imagine what Bizarro and the Weird are up to together...!?
- Ah... I begin to perceive the Secret Origin of J.E.B. Stuart's ghost...
- I believe in Zod. Almost.
- "There's somethin' bout it that brings a smile ta muh face."
- Disgusting hippies and their disgusting hippy van.
- I will not be satisified until I have the opportunity to leave someone a note that says, "Linger at your own peril." Preferably, a little girl.
- Um... oops. I guess... I guess Killer Moth's available now, too.
- Dan Didio's new line of clothing.
- Hey, once it become clear that Barbara's going to be Batgirl against her breasts got HUGE!
- Kal-El's new guild.
- "Offer ends soon." Supplies are limited!
- And the lesson is... do not make Jonah Hex mad at you.
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Delightful. I would like to state publicly that I would be thrilled to help the new owners of Heroclix in an area where it's always been lacking: the maps. As you can tell, I just loving making Heroclix maps and would love to see some of my designs be part of the new owner's offerings... .
Sorry for the radio silence for the last week or so; we've been hearing some tremendous news and we've been waiting for the time where we could spill some major beans. While we can't say things in plain English yet, we do have some announcements.
#1 HeroClix will be sold, and it will be sold shortly. Both Topps and a newly formed game company have agreed in principle, and are hashing out their final deal.
#2 The game will be sold to a new ownership group that Pinata Games' members have met with and talked with over the past few months. They're nice people and we think they have some solid ideas...some BIG ideas. We've worked together with them on a few little projects tied into their purchase of the brands.
#3 In addition to HeroClix, the new group is buying some other brands from Topps, and other WizKids' fans may be delighted to hear what the new group wants to do with them.
#4 While Pinata Games will not be owners of the properties, we are working on a long-term deal with the new owners to collaborate with them on the relaunch and operation of HeroClix. We officially will announce our partnership with the new group after the purchase of the brands.
#5 Justin Ziran (CEO of Pinata) has been out-of-state talking with the new ownership group for the past few days, and he has nothing but good news to report. We anticipate a formal announcement some time over the next couple of weeks, which may have some other interesting news in it as well.
To reiterate, this is great news, and we'd like to thank all of the HC fans for remaining so resolute during this process.
Monday, March 02, 2009
I guess it's just the Pep Comics' unique brand of action detective adventure.
Usually, Pep covers focus their powerful perspective backwards toward the horizon. But this one is about the "down" of it all. Clearly, we're being given a perspective similar to the Shield's, as he watches the hapless victims doused by the powerful liquid jet he can no longer contain. Ahem.
What I find most interesting about this cover is the depiction of the bystanders, who, instead of just bystanding, are actually helping one another get out of the collapsing tunnel. A realistic scene, yes, but not the kind usually see on a cover: the hero, essential in the rescue but stalemated by the situation, while the civilian have to save themselves. It's a nice touch and demonstrated the can-do, bootstrapping attitude that pulled Americans out of the Depression and through WWII.