Thursday, August 30, 2007

Okay, four things

1.) In this week’s Las Vegas Weekly column, I take a look at


I mentioned it yesterday, but if you find the two hundred and fifty words or so about Mice Templar there insufficient, and would like to read 650 more words or so about the comic written by me, I pinch hit a “Best Shots Extra” review of it for Best Shots' fearless leader Troy Brownfield over at earlier this week.

The best of the three is by far Varon’s Robot Dreams. How good is it you ask? So good that if I meet you and you’re like, “Yeah, I never got around to reading Varon’s Robot Dreams book,” I’ll punch you in the face.*

2.) While I’m linking to things, I wanted to point out a couple of neat pieces that Tim O’Neil posted this week. O’Neil’s one of those comics bloggers who pretty much always has something pretty smart to say on the subject of comics, and I was just thinking, “Damn, I wish he posted every single day” after reading a post he did about the difficulties in capturing martial arts in comics form, when up went a very smart piece about the seemingly doomed Spider-Man/Mary Jane marriage.

O’Neil’s comments on it were among the most cogent I’ve encountered on the subject (of course, most of the comments on the Spider-marriage I’ve encountered were on the Newsarama message boards following Joe Quesada’s last 4,057 broachings of the topic there), which Tom “Comics Reporter” Spurgeon rather elegantly framed as Marvel’s necessary process of “letting the character change and then scaling things back to the status quo in a demented cycle of innovation and aphasia.”

I appreciated O’Neil’s argument because it wasn’t really framed as that of a fan—he seemed to like the Spider-marriage and not react to it with the repulsion Quesada seemingly does—but simply as someone who could see Quesada’s argument, maybe a little more clearly than Quesada has been able to articulate. (And Quesada’s been talking about the damn thing since he was finishing up Sword of Azrael, I believe).

Quesada and Marvel are certainly going to face backlash when “One More Day” finally drops. After hinting and hyping it so long (long before the story even had a title, back when it was just a twinkle in Quesada’s eye), the story is either going to do away with the marriage in some sort of magic/cosmic continuity reset of the sort Marvel as always eschewed and DC’s always embraced** (An educated guess? A wizard will literally do it), and people will scrutinize the hell out of the execution, while coming down along the love-it or hate-it line, depending on how they feel about the Spider-marriage now, before the story’s first chapter even ships, OR the story is going to not be about the Spider-marriage at all and MJ and Peter will still be married at the end, and people will be disappointed that Marvel failed to deliver on the subject they’ve been hyping for 24 years or so now (Best guess in this case? Maybe Aunt May finally dies for real this time).

It really seems lose/lose to me at this point, no matter what happens afterwards in Spider-Man’s fictional life.

The point that Quesada either misses or simply has never addressed publicly is that even if every single point he (and O’Neil) have made about the negative aspects of the marriage are true, the many imprints and “continuitiverses” Marvel’s introduced since Quesada ascended to Editor-in-Chief have rendered the point moot.

Marvel has at least three distinct widely read Spider-Mans at the moment: The Marvel Universe one who stars in the Spider-Man books, New Avengers and guest-stars all over the place constantly; the Ultimate Universe Spidey who appears in Ultimate Spider-Man; and the Marvel Adventures Spidey who appears in the kid-friendly Marvel Adventures Spider-Man title and Marvel Adventures Avengers (There’s also the Spideys of Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane and The Amazing Spider-Girl; in both cases, their sales in the direct market are so small as to be negligible, although in the bookstore market they might have a bigger following—at least in the case of SMLMJ, but I’m really just guessing here).

Of those three Spideys, two are single and one is married (and SMLMJ Spidey is single; ASG Spidey is married, but no longer Spider-Man, just Peter Parker). If there is more story potential in the single Spider-Man, well, there are imprints to capitalize on that potential. To make the Marvel Universe one single too simply eliminates whatever potential there is in married Spider-Man stories.

If the argument isn’t simply about creative potential, but instead about a single Spider-Man being more appealing to young and new readers, being an easier archetype to plug into comics stories and their adaptations and merchandise, then I think Quesada is seriously misunderstanding what the gateway Spider-Man comic is these days, and who reads his various books.

Kids aren’t as likely to pick up Amazing Spider-Man as they are the Ultimate or Marvel Adventures version, and they’re less likely to even be able to choose the Marvel Universe Spidey, given those books relative scarcity outside of the direct market.

Put simply, the Ultimate line and the Marvel Adventures line, or at least the collections, are geared for and consumed by a mass market who don’t necessarily buy them in comic shops, or even ever go to comic shops, but buy them online or in big box bookstores. The Marvel Universe Spider-Man books, those featuring “616” Spidey, are bought by people who know what “616” means; that is, direct market consumers.

I don’t see the wisdom in even potentially alienating the shrinking “616” consumers by doing away with one of the few actual changes to have occurred in the life of a character they’ve followed faithfully for years (if not, in many cases, decades) simply to make him more appealing to readers who already have a few other Spider-Men geared specifically toward them.

The people who are most likely to enjoy the adventures of a (slightly) older Spider-Man, and we’re really talking about a Spidey who’s in his late ‘20s or early ‘30s instead of early or mid ‘20s, are the ones who are already reading the married Spider-Man, and have been for years. Most of them are also married themselves, or certainly of the age where they can relate to a married Spider-Man instead of a swinging bachelor one, or a young one experiencing girl troubles. And if and when we want to read about a young, single Spidey, well, nothing’s stopping us from reading books from those other imprints either (As someone who reads Spidey stories spread across the different continuitiverses, I think the Ultimate one has long been the one starring in the highest quality stories, and those are accessible and appealing to cranky old hardcore fans and relative newcomers to Spidey and comics in general).

But enough about Quesda and the Parkers. Back to O'Neil, he follows that post with a brilliant graphic explanation of EDILW favorite Jack Cole's brilliance. Check it all out.

3.) So, hey, did you see the Darwyn Cooke cover for an upcoming issue of The Comics Journal that Dirk Deppey posted at Journalista the other day?

No? Well, here it is, followed by several other cover portraits of Power Girl. All of them were created for DC Comics publications except Cooke’s.


4.) Finally, something related to the EDILW. I’ve been unhappy with the layout of the Wednesday night “Weekly Haul” posts for pretty much the entire time I’ve been doing them, and I switch it up every couple of months in an attempt to improve upon it. Having recently discovered there’s a way to keep text from wrapping around images weirdly in blogger (I’m seriously like a freaking caveman on this here computer thing), for example, I went back to the smaller-images-to-the-right-of-the-text arrangement, but I don’t think I like that any better than the big-pictures-above-each-review arrangement of the last few months.

Anyway, this is just a call for opinions. Do any of you feel strongly about what looks best, or what you’d prefer to read? Should I include the cover images of the books at all? (Since you’re here, you all obviously go to comics shops and spend time online looking up info about comics, so presumably you already know what all the covers look like). Should they be big images above the reviews? Smaller ones embedded into the reviews? To the right, or to the left?

Just curious.

Now, I know most of the comics blogosphere goes into low-content mode on weekends, on account of most comics bloggers having real lives, but that’s not a concern here at EDILW. So I just wanted to give a general heads-up that not only are we going to have new content on Saturday and Sunday, but it’s going to be pretty exciting content. Or, at least, it’s content that I’m really excited about, because it’s two posts I’ve been working on forever and am ecstatic to finally be done working on.

*No, I won’t hit you. Not really. I’ll probably just say, “Oh, you should really check it out; it’s very good.” While I imagine punching you in the face.

**Is it just me, or, over the last few years, does it seem that DC is learning all the wrong lessons from Marvel, embracing negative aspects of the Marvel Universe and its management, while Marvel has been learning all the wrong lessons from DC, and embracing the negative aspects of the DCU and its management?


Steve Flanagan said...

Hi, Caleb. Three quick comments:

a) Don't forget Spider-Man Family - the lead feature seems to bounce around all sorts of points in Spidey's history, which gives a further outlet for bachelor Peter stories.

b) Much as I like the concept of the Cooke PG, there is one big drawback in the execution: he's given her a blandly generic face. If you cropped the Hughes and Ross pictures just below the chin, you'd still have no trouble identifying them as PG. Not so the Cooke.

c) Covers are probably overused by online critics (because they are convenient to get hold of, and were always intended to stand as a single picture, unlike interior panels). They are useful for identification (which is why I post small thumbnail-sized copies), but can be very misleading about the comic's contents, especially if the artist is not the one who's drawn the story. So don't worry about making them prominent.

Unknown said...

I like the covers at the top of the reviews, although they don't necessarily need to be big. Sometimes you comment about the picture, so they should definitely be there in that case.

Michael Strauss said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Strauss said...

I wish that my comments about the Spider-Marriage were half as good as either of these posts.

My money's still on her being a Skrull, though.

(reposting because I can't spell)

BP said...

Definitely include the covers. I don't read a lot of comic news, and I appreciate being able to see them as you discuss them.

I don't have a preference on size/location, though.

Baal said...

I liked the thoughts on the Parker marriage but it got me thinking of this: The baggage of a divorced or widowed Peter only becomes a problem if they MAKE it a problem. Kill MJ in the most horrific and graphic way possible and then refuse to let your writers use it as a story point for a few years. If they don't want it to be baggage, don't write a story about it after it's done. It's not like anyone's holding a gun to these people's heads and making them print things ('cause if thatwere possible I'd be on a red eye to NYC with a list of titles I want published and a gun).

Unknown said...

Don't forget- Amazing Spider-man is now going 3 times monthly, making it even LESS accessible outside the direct market- although I suppose that could mean bi-monthly trades...hmmm...

Alexa D said...

Let's see...

Cooke's PG: Cute, funny, great as a pinup/magazine cover.
Hughes: Eh, 50-50. I mean, she's proportional, but at first glance the cape makes it look like she has a 13-inch waist. She's sultry and sexy, and still looks like she can kick your ass.
Turner: God, somebody get this man laid so he knows what real tits look like, and how they work.
Ross: is God, as usual.

Caleb said...

Thanks for putting in your input, all.

Steve and Lucas,

Hey, yeah, I did forget about Spider-Man Family (like, altogether...I even forgot to buy the ish with the Agents of Atlas in it). That's an interesting book cause it has all sorts of Spider-Men in it, from various points of his relationships.


Regarding Power Girl's face, you're right that she looks like a Cooke girl...Cooke doesn't have a huge variety in his faces, particularly the female heroes and male heroes. I like the one face though, so it doesn't bother me too much. I do appreciate that his was the only one there that said anythign besides "Look, here's Power Girl." I like aspects of all of those (well, except you know who's), but he at least managed to work a statement into his pin-up, whcih I appreciate.

Oh, and Lucas, regaring the thrice-monthly thing, that's what most disappoints me as a reader about the possible Spider-marriage dissolution. I'm reaaaallly looking forward to the the new Spider-Man comic format, but a reset to singlehood would really sour it for me.


Good point. Peter and MJ could get a divorce or something, and then everyone could just not write about it (or at least not devote big huge arcs to Peter angsting). I'm sure people would complain online, but, the fact of the matter is that in these fictional comic book universes, you reall can make problems go away simply by ignoring them.