Archive for the 'Comic Books' Category
As a two-reporter family, almost certainly screwed, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s where. You think tenure counts for something? Alas, it does not. Lois might get to keep her job, for a time at least, but Clark? Clark Kent? The guy who disappears as soon as anything interesting starts to happen? Sure, he types fast, and his copy is clean, but editors will have to make choices, hard choices, and Perry White will be looking for any excuse he can find. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be counting on Clark, the affable dope, to make this easy on everyone. Maybe heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll offer him a spot on the copy desk. But that wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t workÃ¢â‚¬â€copy editors have to be at their desks all the time, and besides, theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re weirdos. Real weirdos, worse than the Toyman. No, Clark will take the buyout.
ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s better than the other famous superhero-cum-journalist will do, since freelancers just get dropped on their asses. But at least Peter Parker is young and has science to fall back on. Clark is an old superdog, and as Krypto will verify, that makes it hard to learn new tricks. Anyway, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s got ink his blood (permanent ink that gives transfusion recipients superpowers). Once that severance runs out, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be left with one option.
Some links for your pleasure:
1. The Virginia Pilot publishedsome brilliant photojournalism recently.
2. This graphic novel predicts where citizen journalism will be in a few years. Oh, and apparently Dan Rather will still be alive and kicking then.
3. If you’re a newspaper sports writer who is worried about recent job cuts within the industry, there may be a lifeboat for you within ESPN. Quite a few journalists have jumped ship. (via Romenesko )
4. A really cute girl sings a song about Digg.com.
5. At the risk of being accused of hyperbole, if you were to describe these tactics to convict AP photojournalist Bilal Hussein to someone without mentioning the name of the government engaging in said tactics, that person would likely predict that the government in question was a dictatorship.
On that note, have a Merry godless Christmas!
I was as astonished as anyone that the movie 300 managed to make $70 million in its opening weekend. I mean, I knew the movie had some hype to it, but I thought it was mostly within the comic and film geek world.
It turns out that the small comic book company Dark Horse Comics, wasn’t very prepared for the onslaught of book sales following the movie’s success. Which is kind of silly really since this wasn’t the first time they’ve had a comic book of theirs turned into a movie.
On the heels of my musings about 300Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s Ã¢â‚¬Å“gatewayÃ¢â‚¬Â potential, and its record-breaking weekend at the box office, ICv2 is reporting that Diamond, the bookÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s exclusive distributor to both the direct and mainstream markets, was out of stock of the $30 hardcover as of last Thursday, March 8th. In this case, though, the finger of blame doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t point at the much-maligned monopoly, but rather at the publisher, Dark Horse, who once again has a hit movie tie-in (Hellboy, Sin City) but is faced with a shortage of books to fully take advantage of it.
The company quickly sold out of its 15,000-copy print run, and their next shipment will barely cover the back orders. If they don’t act quickly, they might lose out on a lot of the 300 craze and lose a lot of potential profits as well.
H is a co-author with his buddy Mag of the Comic Treadmill, which started in October 2003 as an entertainment blog focusing almost exclusively on comics. The blog actually started after Mag was amused by a series of H’s e-mails commenting on his Marvel Comics collection as H indexed it after years of filing neglect. Mag suggested that the two of them start a web site expanding the discussion and thus the Treadmill was born.
H is a 43-year-old reformed lawyer who works from home as a consultant and spends lots of time with his one cat, two kids, one wife, and still unknown number of comics, more or less in that order.
He may gripe about some comics, but H doesn’t still read the things because he likes to complain. He reads them because after nearly four decades of reading comics he still enjoys both the old and new and enjoys blogging about the fun he finds in them Ã¢â‚¬â€œ even if the creation of the Treadmill has slowed down the indexing pace to the point where it seems unlikely H will ever finish it absent an encounter with a comet that grants him immortality.
Simon Owens: With a lot of comic book fans, the collection of old and rare comics sometimes trumps the actual enjoyment of the comic books themselves, the fan actually becomes more consumed in his search for certain comics that the entire point of them–to entertain–is lost on him or her. Do you ever feel that this is true for you?
H: Not at all. I classify myself as a comics reader, not a collector. Which isn’t to say I don’t bag and board all my comics. I do. When I kick the bucket I hope my kids sell them for a nice chunk of change. But I pursue the books for the stories.
In my younger days when I tracked down complete runs of titles I liked, the entertainment value of reading the stories was the thrill of the chase. I have fond memories of discovering the history of the Avengers, X-Men and Spider-Man through the back issue bins in local shops in the late 1970′s and early 1980′s. The thrill was in getting to read the stories and knowing the complete story of each title, not in the act of acquisition.
Simon Owens: Do you think there’s a definite divide between those who read hero comics and those who read comics that pay a lot more attention to realism, like those of Harvey Pekar? Or is there a lot of cross-over?
H: I do perceive a definite divide. I read both, but hero comics comprise the majority of my comics reading. They are what attracted me to the medium in the first place and the graphic format suits the heroic story-telling genre perfectly.
There are also plenty of good “realistic” stories, but I find no inherent advantage to a graphic versus a text realistic story. Thus, a “realistic” comics story has to compete for my attention with “regular” novels, a disadvantage super hero comics don’t face.
Simon Owens: There’s been a lot of discussion recently about whether or not recent movies like Lord of The Rings and Harry Potter have caused a huge boost to the fantasy genre in general, or if those fans just become isolated within those specific works. The same debate happened with Star Wars, when people questioned if those fans would become life-long science fiction readers. Do you think the recent successes in comic book movies is causing a new fan base in comic books?
H: It does not appear to be creating a new fan base which I do find surprising. Why it hasn’t I’m not sure, but the only advantage the movies seem to have given the comics industry is a greater public awareness of the characters and a greater acceptance of reading comics, both of which are worthwhile gains.
Simon Owens: Are there any famous comic book stores you’d like to visit?
H: I found this question tricky due to the “famous” qualifier. I would argue that there are no famous comic book stores as until I began blogging I could not have named any other than those I’ve physically patronized.
If you accept my definition of “famous” as one that comics blogs readers would be likely to be familiar with, there are two I’d like to visit. The first is Ralph’s Comics Corner in Ventura, California , so I could have a chance to buy some books in person from Mike Sterling of Progressive Ruin. I almost made it out there during a vacation to Southern California in the spring, but it was a bit too far out of the way of the San Diego/L.A. itinerary. The other is Scipio Garling’s store in D.C. I’ve gotten to know them both through being part of the comics blogosphere and they both seem like wacky and likable guys.
There is a third store I’d like to visit and that is Comic Universe owned by Frank Link in Folsom, Pennsylvania. It is the first comic shop I regularly patronized way back in the late 1970′s and I’ve only been back once since I moved out of the area. Frank is a genuine good guy. He also made some outstanding recommendations (such as Nexus and Badger) of series I would otherwise have missed.
Simon Owens: Who’s your favorite comic book writers and artists that are still working today?
H: Again, I could answer this two ways.
My favorite writer still working in comics is Steve Englehart, but I don’t enjoy his current stuff nearly as much as I enjoyed the old stuff. So he’s more of my all-time favorite who just happens to still be writing today. My favorite current writer is Gail Simone for the manner in which she respectfully handles the corporate-owned characters she writes without sacrificing story drama.
My favorite current artist is George Perez, even if his workload has decreased.
Simon Owens: What are the five blogs you’d recommend to supplement the reading of your own?
H: What are the five blogs you’d recommend to supplement the reading of your own?
You’re killing me by limiting it to five. And again I’m going to be difficult about how to define “supplement”. I’m going to do it by listing the five blogs I’d recommend as most similar in substance, tone and topics to the Comic Treadmill. Which, broadly painted, means blogs that wax enthusiastically about comic books, mostly super hero ones by DC Comics, but not limited in scope to just DC super heroes. Another thing all five sites I’ve chosen have in common with the Treadmill is that they are written by people who aim to be funny and interesting without resorting to humor or analysis that insults readers, commenters or creators.
1) The Absorbascon: A witty and insightful look at the DC Universe.
2) Mike Sterling’s Progressive Ruin: Another witty, humor-oriented look at comics old and new, often from the perspective of a retailer full of admiration for the medium.
3) Polite Dissent: This site does for comics medicine what the old The Law Is An Ass column did for comics law.
4) Comics Should Be Good: Brian Cronin is the star of the show here and his Comic Book Urban Legends series is a must read and involves an impressive amount of leg work on Brian’s part.
5) Comics Oughta Be Fun! By Bully, who knows that whether or not a comic was fun to read is the critical question. And his ten of a kind covers feature is inspiring.
(related posts: How to build retractable Wolverine claws)
Mark Fossen writes about the geek culture of comic books and video games on various sites including Focused Totality, Operation Sports, and the brand-new 5WG. Outside of his writing, he is a part-time actor and full-time web developer based in Utah.
Simon Owens: I’ve noticed several articles recently claiming that there are no famous video game critics out there today, and the articles theorize this is because video games take up a lot of time to complete and it’s economically infeasible for a magazine to pay a critic to invest that much time into one project. Do you think blogging is one place that can pick up the slack where the major magazines are lacking, because blogs are mostly run by those playing video games for the love, thereby giving them much more time on their hands?
Mark Fossen: I’m not sure the “takes a lot of time” argument holds water. It is based on a view of gaming as a narrative form, like books or movies, and that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The primary topic of discussion when reviewing a game should be the gameplay itself, and seeing the final credits sequence won’t tell a reviewer much that he couldn’t have extracted from the first few hours of play. Obviously, it takes more time than a movie or music review. However, major magazines seem to be able to pay book critics to read the latest thousand page Thomas Pynchon novel. If that’s economically feasible, I expect game criticism is, too.
I do think the blogosphere can pick up the slack primarily because they are usually gamers who happen to write, and not the other way around. They understand the language of gaming, its trends and tropes and history. Only that kind of knowledge will generate the next level of gaming criticism. It’s not that different from comics: too often, mainstream writing on comics reveals a writer completely unfamiliar with the medium, leading with the same old “Hey! Comics aren’t for kids anymore!” tagline. In gaming, we get “Hey! Gaming isn’t just Pac-Man anymore!”. How far along would film criticism be if every review started with “Hey! Movies aren’t silent anymore!”?
I expect that we’ll see mainstream gaming criticism develop slowly but surely, as a generation that accepts the PS2 and Xbox as an intrinsic part of the day-to-day comes of age. They’ll be gamers first and foremost, and then they’ll learn how to think about it and write about it.
Simon Owens: Recent reports show that comic book sales are on the uprise, probably because of the recent success of comic book movies. Do you feel that their quality is on the uprise as well, or are comic book companies trying to mold themselves around their hero-loving incoming audience?
Mark Fossen: What’s amazing right now isn’t that there are good comic books, because there have been books of quality at least as far back as Will Eisner’s work on The Spirit in the 40s. There have always been one or two visionaries producing work that easily stood alongside the best that pop culture had to offer.
What’s remarkable right now is that there are so many quality comic books, in so many different flavors. While the capes-n-tights is still the tail that wags the dog, it’s increasingly just one segment of a medium that’s exploding into many new fields. Just like television or movies, there’s more to comics than one particular genre. There’s been a huge surge in straight-up action books devoid of superpowers, crime books that read more like noir than “Bif! Bam! Pow!”, autobiography, horror, and even non-fiction like the wonderful Action Philosophers. There’s a depth of excellence right now that’s exciting, and I think it will continue to grow as people begin to realize that comics aren’t limited to superheroes anymore than television is limited to cop shows.
Simon Owens: How did you come to be a part of so many different online writing projects?
Mark Fossen: Happy accidents, and an inability to say “no”. Though I have a background in theatrical criticism, I hadn’t really considered writing until after being on the technical staff at Operation Sports for some time. I eventually decided I’d like to give reviewing a try and built from there. Sports games is a pretty limited field, however, and I began to feel the need to flex my writing muscles a bit with more frequent and varied reviews. Like most things, the way to get better at writing is to do it, and do it frequently. I was just coming back to comic books after a long time away, and decided to open Focused Totality to work on daily writing about an artform that that can support the reflective writing that I hoped to do more of. When the Managing Editor of Operation Sports, Shawn Drotar, mentioned opening a new gaming site that could focus on more in-depth writing, I went along for the ride and helped launch 5WG.
Not a day passes where I don’t think I’m overbooked, but I try to just start writing and put off the decision for another day.
Simon Owens: In your comic book reviews, you like to guess at what might be influencing a particular comic book. For instance, you claim that one of the comic books you reviewed was heavily influenced by the show Lost. Are comics heavily influenced by other forms of media?
Mark Fossen: More and more, comics are swimming in the pop culture pool. There’s a lot of cross-pollination, especially with television. Bablyon 5′s J. Michael Straczynski, Buffy’s Joss Whedon, and Lost’s Damon Lindelof’ are only a few of the more prominent names that have crossed from television to comics and back again. Comics are starting to be seen as a fertile ground for new properties, and it’s not just about the superheroes. There’s a Hollywood Option Gold Rush right now, and people are eager to cash in. Unfortunately, I read more and more comics lately that seem written specifically for the option money.
Simon Owens: What are the five blogs you’d recommend to supplement the reading of your own?
Mark Fossen: Double Articulation: Remember that commercial with Tiger Woods juggling the golf ball with his club? That’s like Jim Roeg with a comic. Using hardcore literary theory, he bounces it around and makes it sing and dance. he doesn’t post enough for my taste, but when he does, it is dazzling.
Jog The Blog: Consistently the best comics reviews available, and he churns them out daily. When I grow up, I want to be Jog.
Blog@Newsarama: I didn’t expect that a groupblog attached to the 800 lb. gorrilla of comics news sites would amount to much. I’m often wrong. If you only read one comic blog, this would be it. It has a lot of voices, and they’re all intelligent … and that’s a good combination.
Joystiq: If your one comic blog is Blog@Newsarama, then Joystiq is your one gaming blog. Another groupblog, it is notable for its breadth of coverage, and the ability to walk the line between disseminating news while still injecting some personality.
Penny Arcade: Maybe it’s not officially a blog, but the news posts attached to each webcomic contain some of the best writing about gaming that you’ll find anywhere. Come for the funny comic, but stay for the hyper-intelligent criticism of gaming and the industry around it.
Guy LeCharles Gonzalez is a Mets fan from the Bronx, and has a beautiful wife and two amazing kids. What seems like a lifetime ago, he won some poetry slams, founded a reading series, and co-authored a book of poetry. He still writes when the mood hits him and he has the time, but of course, there’s never enough time.
In a previous life, after some youthful misdaventures in South Beach, he served in the Army (regular and National Guard), as a HMMWV mechanic (aka HumVee, aka Hummer), a job that qualified him to reenlist or work at Jiffy Lube. He went into publishing instead, and is currently paying some of the bills in sales & marketing for a B-to-B publisher in NYC.
Check him out at his Myspace.
Simon Owens: You’re someone who has dabbled in a lot of different writing mediums–ranging from writing for your high school newspaper, to your own short stories, to your blog criticism. What kind of writing do you like the most? How have the different mediums you’ve written for helped your writing style?
Guy LeCharles Gonzalez: I most enjoy any writing that I actually finish, which is why I think I took to poetry and blogging so vigorously! Seriously, there’s nothing like a completed piece of writing, whether a poem, short story, article or just a thorough blog post. The sense of accomplishment that comes from it makes the next bit of writing a little easier. I most prefer fiction writing, though, and still hold on to my dream of completing a novel…one of these days.
Having written in different mediums and genres has been extremely helpful in learning my strengths and limitations. For example, I’m pretty good at research and pulling together the various threads of a story, but I’m not so good with the funny. Snark, yes, at times, but any monkey with a Blogger account can do snark. Genuine humor, though, is difficult and I greatly respect those who can pull it off.
Of all the mediums I’ve written in, poetry has probably been the most influential in developing my style. Poetry requires brevity, concision and a knack for describing things without always being literal (aka metaphor), and learning those skills helped strengthen my writing overall.
Simon Owens: I read that you were once a “full-time Jehovah’s Witness.” Can you tell us a little about the religious crisis you went through afterwards and how that changed your theological outlook?
Guy LeCharles Gonzalez: Long story short, it was just after High School and my grandparents had been Witnesses from the time I was 5 years old or so, and I had been knocking on doors off and on since then. I had passed on a scholarship to SVA (School of Visual Arts) to be a Pioneer — what they call a full-time Witness, basically — and a few months after I’d graduated, I started having second thoughts; not so much about the religion itself but my own involvement with it. I felt like a hypocrite knocking on doors preaching about a god I wasn’t sure I believed in any more.
While housesitting for a family friend one weekend, I ended up watching It’s A Wonderful Life three times and it literally changed the direction of my life. The “happy” ending didn’t sit well with me; instead, I took a more cynical message from it, that George Bailey had been abandoned by his god, and that the best way to live one’s life was to look out for number one. I’ve been an agnostic ever since, with no use for organized religion of any kind. The question of God’s existence is purely a philosophical one for me, and I try to live my life balancing looking out for myself and my loved ones while (mostly) embracing the golden rule, “do unto others…”
Simon Owens: As a poet, what do you think of the contemporary poetry scene? Is it hard these days for a poet to get real recognition?
Guy LeCharles Gonzalez: The poetry scene is really no different from any other creative scene, for better and worse, except that it’s probably the least lucrative medium one could choose to express themselves in! As a result, though, it’s probably the most accessible and least restrictive, too.
The realm of poetry I came out of, performance/slam, has kind of stagnated, I think; the old “revolution becomes the establishment” cycle. I still check out a reading every now and then and it hasn’t really changed much since I left it behind 3-4 years ago. Some of the faces change, but the styles and subject matter pretty much remains the same. It’s a relatively small pond that the big fish rarely escape from because there’s not really anywhere else to go.
Few people read poetry these days; Def Poetry was a drop in the pop culture bucket; and other than Sarah Jones (who some will argue was always an actress posing as a poet) I can’t think of a single poet who has taken their poetry to the next level and has sustained any notable level of success. I think it’s particularly telling that with all of the American Idol ripofffs that have been done, no one’s touched poetry slams yet. Inventors, yes; poets, no.
Simon Owens: Since you’ve taken acting workshops, do you think this helps you when you’ve performed poetry in front of audiences?
Guy LeCharles Gonzalez: Immensely! I’m a relatively shy guy in large groups, but the acting workshops I took helped me feel comfortable on stage and, more importantly, in my own skin. Performing your own poetry to a bar full of strangers is one of the most extreme forms of exhibitionism I can think of, and I still get butterflies whenever I get on stage, but being able to hold a crowd’s attention, pulling them into your world and having them come voluntarily, is an exhilirating feeling.
Simon Owens: Being part of a poetry slam probably adds a competitive edge to your poetry-writing. Do you think this improves your work at all?
Guy LeCharles Gonzalez: Keeping the competitive aspect of a slam in perspective is one of the toughest things to do. It’s very easy to get caught up in the scores, to start tweaking your writing to go for the crowd-pleasing hooks, but in the long run, it’s the wrong road to take. The competition should drive you to constantly improve your writing, to find ways to connect with different audiences while staying true to your own voice.
There’s competition in every kind of writing, though. Every time you submit a piece of work to an editor or publisher, you’re in a competition; every piece of work you have published is competing for readers. Hell, in the earliest stages, you’re usually competing against yourself; fighting your internal editor, or trying to top your last piece of work. Competition is a dirty word for some people, but it’s a simple fact of the writing life, no matter what genre or medium you’re working in.
Simon Owens: How does writing comic book scripts differ from other kinds of writing?
Guy LeCharles Gonzalez: Comic book scripts have their own unique challenges, especially if you’re not also an artist, akin to writing poetry that someone else will perform. You have to be concise, visually oriented, and able to hit emotional beats on a consistent basis. I’ve only written one script, an unpublished 5-page story, and it was some of the toughest writing I’ve ever done. I imagine, though, that upon seeing it realized by a capable artist, it would also be one of the most fulfilling mediums to work in.
Simon Owens: When you’re writing a comic book review, what aspects do you look for in a good comic book?
Guy LeCharles Gonzalez: First and foremost, did it hold my attention? Did the story keep pulling me forward, or was I easily distracted or confused? Did I care about what was happening to the characters, and do I want to see what happens next, or was it purely plot-driven with two-dimensional, interchangeable characters and I’m satisfied with reading a spoiler online?
As a writer, these are the things that jump out at me first. It could feature some of the best art I’ve ever seen, but if the story doesn’t grab me, I couldn’t care less. Comic books are a hybrid form, but it’s still a storytelling medium and I’m a lot more forgiving of average art than I am average writing. Bad art, though, can ruin a good story for me, too.
Simon Owens: What are the five blogs you’d recommend to supplement the reading of your own?
Guy LeCharles Gonzalez: Focused Totality: Mark Fossen is one of the smartest comics bloggers out there, writing about comics because he enjoys them, not because he has some axe to grind or because it’s part of his master plan to break into comics. He also clearly has a life beyond reading comics, which is not always a given in the comics blogiverse.
2 Guys Buying Comics: Like Fossen, these guys write intelligently (and often, quite humorously) about the comics they’re reading. They’re fans, but they’re not fanatics.
Zilla and the Comics Junkies: Like Fossen and 2 Guys, Zilla and company blog about the comics they enjoy; they do it well and are refreshingly agenda-free.
Comics Worth Reading: Johanna Draper Carlson is an elder stateswoman in the comics world, and one of the few whose opinions I genuinely respect, even when I don’t necessarily agree. She’s consistent, prolific, and fair-minded, and if I could only read one comics blog, it’d likely be hers or…
Glyphs Online: Rich Watson provides an invaluable service with his blog, shining the spotlight on black creators and characters in comics, with links to news, interviews and previews of a ton of projects I would have missed out on otherwise.