Sunday, April 29, 2012

(links)

I recently stumbled across the AlphaBeasts! art blog, and was excited enough about it that I wanted to share it with ComicsAlliance readers. And, of course, you. When you have some time, check out AlphaBeasts!, find a favorite contributor and read their alphabet of beasts. I particularly enjoyed Joey Weiser's all-kaiju gallery, and Ben Towle's all-Dungeons & Dragons gallery. The above image is Sam Wolk's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. His gallery includes monsters from unlikely pop culture sources, like South Park, for example.

If you like AlphaBeasts!, be warned that AlphaBooks! is coming soon.

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I’ve always rather liked Nicola Scott’s art work, but can she, in fact, draw circles around her boss Jim Lee…?

This image she’s penciled for Earth 2 featuring Parademons attacking, a subject that Lee himself devoted many, many pages to during his first six-issues on the new Justice League book, has me thinking that yes, yes Nicola Scott can indeed draw circles around her boss Jim Lee.

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Speaking of Jim Lee: What?

He wishes writer Chris Roberson would have talked to him about Roberson’s concerns with the ethical component of DC and Warner Bros’ decision-making processes, particularly regarding Before Watchmen and the protracted legal battle between the publisher and the families of the guys who created Superman for them?

Is Lee really saying that the only reason they are doing Before Watchmen is that no one (except, of course, for Alan Moore) ever asked them not to? And that the only reason they’re in court with the Siegels and Shusters is because none of the freelance creators Lee’s company solicits work from ever sat him down and told him that DC should probably settle generously out of court, instead of fighting the kids of the guys they screwed over to found the publishing empire he now draws his checks from…?

I find that hard to believe, myself. Lee’s co-publisher Dan DiDio sounds a lot more gruff and blunt, but at least he doesn’t also sound like he’s lying.

Also, Lee’s never met Roberson? DC’s co-publisher never ever met the guy who was writing Superman for him? That strikes me as pretty weird. I'm not saying I don't believe him, I'm just saying it seems strange that the publisher wouldn't have dealt personally with Roberson at any point, given the fact that he was called in rather last minute to salvage the high-profile disaster of J. Michael Straczynski abandoning his heavily-promoted run on Superman when JMS lost interest. And given the fact that DC just launched 52 new series—they didn't ask Roberson to pitch them one? He was one of the relatively few newer voices DC has—er, had—working for them at the time, and given how well fans took to the work of Jeff Lemire and Scott Snyder, Vertigo writers interested in superhero work should have been a promising looking source for new voices.

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I don’t know much about nor care much for sports, so I many not be following DiDio’s reasoning here, but is he saying that Rorschach, Doctor Manhattan and the gang are some of DC’s best characters…?

You know, I’m beginning to think that DiDio may not actually know DC Comics all that well…

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Heidi MacDonald responded to those very same links on The Beat here. The comments thread beneath the post is full of smart commentary from Kurt Busiek, and other prose like Ed Brubaker and Matthew Southworth show up as well. But if someone were to be made The Boss of Comic Books, and that someone couldn’t be a little stuffed bull, I’d nominate Kurt Busiek.

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“Hey Marvel and DC—it sure would be great to enjoy your products without feeling like an asshole.”

Rob Bricken, Topless Robot

That’s a hell of a quote, really. Is reading superhero comics in 2012 an antisocial activity? Like, is it an act of active nihilistic, misanthropy to give Corporation A or Corporation B the price of a comic book or movie ticket while the surviving old men who created those now-valuable “IPs” are forced to rely on charity to meet medical bills, and their family have to go to court to see any of the money their dads should have earned?

I honestly worry that the fact that reading superhero comics now makes me feel like a bad person so often that it’s souring the experience for me, and it may someday pus me out of comics—or at least those comics—altogether. Maybe once I’ve read all the Showcases and Essentials…? (Because I’m working my way through Showcase Presents: All-Star Squadron Vol. 1, and it is a blast).

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NPR interviewed Mo Willems at some length on the occasion of the release of his new pigeon book, The Duckling Gets a Cookie?! (I just read it at work last week, and it’s pretty good).

Willems talks a bit about where the pigeon came from, his philosophy of gearing stories towards kids and adults and the most existential of his Elephant & Piggie books, We Are in a Book!, which Slate wrote about a while back.

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When asked if Jack Kirby’s name should appear in the credits of the upcoming The Avengers movie, Stan Lee asked in reply, “In what way would it appear?”

Well, I think “Based on the comic series by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby,” or, alternately, “Based on the comics created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.” Hell, you could even modify the word “comics” with the word “Marvel,” and make them happy, too.

Remember, Kirby wasn’t just the artist on The Avengers comic book series, he also co-created Captain America, The Hulk, Thor, Nick Fury, Iron Man and Loki.

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Later in the week, MacDonald returned to some of the issues regarding creators and their relationships with their corporate-owned publishers, with a much more sharply-written and focused piece discussing the history of Alan Moore’s troubled relationship with DC.

Here’s where I’d differ with MacDonald.

She wrote:

I’ve spoken to quite a few of the people working on the Before Watchmen books. And they are all proud of their work. I’m not going to gainsay their pride. And I’m not going to call them sellouts or other names. I’ve said a few things here and elsewhere but I will no longer question their motives. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

Well, I’ll call ‘em sellouts! I’ll question their motives! Regarding playa hatin’, at least in this particular context (which is a little different than the context form which that terms came from, but whatever), you can’t have a game to hate if its players refused to play it.

I don’t see anything wrong with calling Darwyn Cooke and the other Before Watchmen creators sellouts. They are sellouts. Doing something unsavory, unethical, immoral or otherwise negative with one's time, energy and talent simply in exchange for money is the text book definition of selling out, isn’t it?

DC can only publish Before Watchmen if they have writers willing to write it and artists willing to draw it, and these are the folks that stepped up and said, “Yes, I will take that assignment and the paycheck that accompanies it!”

And yeah (yeah, yeah, yeah) if Darwyn Cooke and Brian Azzarello and Amanda Conner and the rest of these guys said no, then someone else probably would have said yes, but then it would be that someone else complicit in Before Watchmen, and Cooke and company would get a Get Out Of Scorn Free Card, like, I don’t know, Kevin Smith, who apparently turned the project down (Holy shit you guys, Kevin Smith is making you look like greedy douchebag sell-outs!) and Grant Morrison and (I assume) Geoff Johns and the other A-Listers DC must have asked first before getting around to JMS and Len Wein.

I’m vegetarian. When I was still pretty young, I would occasionally have someone (usually a child or teenager) say something along the lines of “The cow is already dead,” or “If you don’t eat that, you know someone else is going to eat it anyway.”

Obviously that kind of argument didn’t persuade me to renounce vegetarianism and resume eating animal flesh again.

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As I said before, a few people involved with Before Watchmen are excused (by me, anyway) from scorn (from me, anyway).

Joe Kubert, by virtue of his longevity, by building up an incredible and successful career decades before Watchmen even came into existence and by simply being someone who also worked on comics during the Golden Age and put up with more than enough shit already, gets a pass.

Joe Kubert deserve a magical skeleton key that allows him to enter the homes of any comics readers and eat whatever he wants out of their kitchens, as far as I’m concerned.

Len Wein is excused for editing the original. I still think it’s funny that Len Wein is one of the guys writing a Watchmen add-on (His previous projects for DC included a weekly adapation of their MMORPG video game that was soooo hard to read it hurt my eyes, and the Legacies miniseries which DC rebooted the instant the final issue saw print). Wein should have excused himself from the project, of course, but he and John Higgins have at least earned their presence there by working on the original, even if they weren’t either of the creators doing the heavy lifting.

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I’m gonna link to The Comics Journal’s interview with Chris Roberson.

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Holy smokes, Frank Quitely is a great artist.

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What’s cool about this Cracked.com article “6 Old Timey Comics Straight Out of a (Bad) Acid Trip" is that you could pick almost any six comics from that era and, more likely than not, the results will be just about as insane.

It does seem a little like cheating to use such a well-vetted insane comic as Fantomah, though…

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This week’s Grumpy Old Fan column from Tom Bondurant wanders in three different directions before bringing it all together, and one of those directions concerns a Justice League of America movie, and how unlikely such a thing might be.

I don’t think Warner Brothers needs to do it the way Marvel did their Avengers movie, introducing a handful of characters in a handful of different movies before bringing them all together in a single movie, since the JLA heroes are so universally well-known compared to guys like Hawkeye or even Iron Man.

Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman—everyone knows the basics of each of ‘em. Flash and Aquaman might not be fresh in your mom or dad’s minds, but they are good superheroes in that their names, appearances and powers all sort of relate. How many split-seconds does it really take to “get” The Flash, you know?

The hardest characters to “explain” would probably be Green Lantern, although his movie and merchandising probably served to suggest the basics to most folks, whether they sat through the film or not, and Martian Manhunter, who might not even make it into a movie at this point, given the way DC’s all-but benched him in the post-Identity Crisis DCU.

That said, I do think a Justice League movie is rather unlikely simply because each of the characters are so powerful, and have their own unique, spectacular powers that would require showing-off.

I’m thinking of the Big Seven here, but even if you switch out a few of them for the likes of The Atom or Hawkman or Firestorm or Cyborg or Vixen or whoever, the point remains.

You’ve gotta do a couple of scenes where Superman and Wonder Woman show off super-strengthe, where he shoots eyebeams and she deflects bullets with her bracelets, where The Flash does some super-speed shit, and so on.

I personally found it rather striking that the movie Avengers line-up isn’t terrible super. In fact, Thor and The Hulk are the only real superheroes on the team.

Hawkeye is a regular guy who shoots a bow and arrow, Black Widow and Nick Fury are regular people who shoot guns, Iron Man is a regular guy in a suit, Captain America is a regular guy who throws a shield (Yeah, yeah, I know—super-soldier serum, enhanced strength and reflexes, et cetera. What it boils down to, in cinematic terms, is that he’s a guy who wins all his fistfights, which makes him as superhuman as the lead character in any action movie).

They chose not to use the characters who shrink and grow and/or control insects, or the magic lady or the super-speedster or the android who walks through walls, and I think they did so for a reason beyond realism—the less amazing super-powers on your super-team, the easier it is to make a movie about your super-team.

You could de-super a Justice League line-up, of course, but once you start taking out characters like The Flash or Green Lantern or Wonder Woman and replacing them with Green Arrow and Black Canary and Bronze Tiger, your Justice League isn’t really the Justice League people would want to see a movie about anymore, you know?

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I have a love/hate relationship with Grant Morrison interviews. I often love the things he says in those interviews, but I just as often hate some of the things he says.

David Brothers caught an especially egregious quote where Morrison calls the people who created superheroes “freaks,” which sounds awful.

Brothers segues into something dumb written on IGN, that suggested “sex-starved geeks” created the lovely ladies of comics, and he then goes on to list various creators who are responsible for a lot of those ladies to knock that suggestion down.

“Freaks” is especially offensive—and one should note that Morrison talks about his hatred of the term “geek” in his Supergods book because of its connotations to circus performers—given that the Golden Age comic book field that created superheroes was dominated by people who weren’t white Anglo-Saxons precisely because they were banished from the "respectable" art jobs. The guys who were creating superheroes were there doing so, at least in part, because they were Jewish or black or women or immigrants or whatever.

I think the argument could be made that superheroes were ultimately re-embraced in the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and each decade after by outsiders, misfits and readers who might self-describe as freaks (or be referred to as such by others), but their creators—occasionally in touch with their own troubled inner-adolescent or not—were fairly typical Greatest Generation guys with wives, kids and houses, concerned more with paying the bills that grand artistic statements. They fought in World War II and they tried keeping up with the Jones.

The statements they did make through their work tended to be as mainstream as possible: Nazis and their Axis allies are bad, America is good, good is better than evil, love is preferable to war, with great power comes great responsibility, crime does not pay, etc.

(I don’t want to follow this tangent, but it’s worth noting that there was a point in the late ‘40s and 1950s where there were a lot of folks in mainstream American culture who thought the people who made comic books were freaks; these were the Frederic Werthams of the world though, the bad guys accusing the first generation of professionally comic book-makers of deviance and, I thought we had all long since agreed, they were wrong)

And by the time Grant Morrison was coming of age, people pretty much stopped creating new superheroes, didn’t they? Morrison has created tons of characters, but he's most famous and successful at re-creating other people's superheroes, and most of the heroes he created tend to be in the orbit of other creators' characters, created to reflect or react to them. (Are The Invisibles superheroes? I don't really think of them as superhero characters, or that as as superhero genre book. I guess there's Seaguy, but he's more of a commentary character than a standalone one; that is, he's like an elephant in a political cartoon, meaning something in that context, but you wouldn't read about that elephant's inner life or adventures in a different context, because that elephant is just there to stand in for something else and make the author's point about something).

Brothers goes on to discuss Morrison's view of the superhero as a positive vision of the future to contrast with the typical pop culture view of a negative future, but I just wanted to take a moment to shake my head at something Morrison blurted out in an interview. That guy is one smart dude, but he sure makes me cringe when he talks about the pre-Morrison American comic book industry sometimes.

6 comments:

matthew. said...

I'm not sure if you're interpreting Rob's remarks on Topless Robot correctly. I think he means "asshole" in the sense that he feels guilty for contributing to the system that is effectively cheating creators. He feels like an asshole because he is doing a bad thing but is always aware of that bad thing. It's cognitive dissonance in a nutshell. Rob, and many, feel like shit for being fans of comics, especially when right now in 2012, DC is aggressively pursuing the most unethical business practices that are legally allowed.

Lee's defense of "Alan didn't read his contract" totally misses the point. It's the fact that the contract was CREATED in the first place.

I refuse to buy the Before Watchmen just as I have totally stopped purchasing DC comics. I refuse to give them any more of my money.

In capitalism, the only way for our voice to be heard is how we use our money. Instead of complaining on the Internet but still buying products (asshole behaviour as formulated by Rob), we should be representing our opinion by removing ourselves from the discourse. Stop buying the shit they serve us.

The unfortunate problem about the late capitalist era is that no matter what we buy or where we buy it from, the wealth ultimately ends up in the hands of the few. Time Warner or Disney or whichever giant multinational conglomerate will receive our money whether through comics or the very electricity we use.

It's a losing game.

A Hero said...

On the subject of not needing to setup the Justice League characters the way that Marvel needed to do with Avengers, I definitely agree with you.

The DC big seven have been around a lot longer. I'm forty and grew up on Marvel comics but my father could barely name any Marvel characters prior to the movies despite having a comic nerd son.

On the other hand, my father knows all the big DC characters, even Green Lantern, because he read some DC comics as a kid. Please note, he is not into "nerd culture" at all.

Anthony Strand said...

Why wouldn't Jack Kirby's name be in the credits of The Avengers? He's been given a creator credit in all of the other recent Marvel movies. I imagine the same will hold true here.

Akcoll99 said...

Kyle Higgins? Don't you mean JOHN Higgins worked on the original Watchmen...?

Ben said...

JMS abandoning projects after he loses interest is nothing new. He did with Superman, Thor, Squadron Supreme, and probably others. Usually in the middle of a story. Hell, he walked away from Squadron Supreme in the middle of a fight scene. It's amazing to me that there isn't a bigger outcry every time he pulls this stunt, and that he keeps getting hired.

Caleb said...

Matthew,

Oh, I'm with Rob in that I continue to buy stuff from DC and Marvel—even if it's increasingly less—but I DO feel like an asshole when I do.

I'm not planning on reading Before Wathmen, even in free library trade because I don't want to see it, like, I'm not even morbidly curious, but I do continue to fork money over to DC, so I'm complicit in a lot of their bullshit.


Anthony,

Simon and Kirby weren't credited as creators in the credit sequence of Captain America, the way the authors of a work would generally be credited in the credit sequence of such a film.

I recall their names in the crawling credits at the end of the film though, along with Ed Brubaker's, Mark Millar's and a bunch of other folks.

I can't remember Thor or the Hulk movies, but I don't think I was looking for it then, either.

A.,

Yeah, I meant another Higgins. Thanks for pointing it out. I've corrected it in the post.


Ben,

Yes, in addition to constantly abandoning work, he also doesn't really sell well at all (at least none of his DC stuff sold worth a damn, save for that Superman: Earth one OGN, but that could just have easily been because it was Superman, not JMS. His continued presence on high profile books like Before Watchmen baffles me, but maybe, in that case, he was simply one of the few "name" writers willing to take that assignment...