Thursday, March 13, 2008

The week in links

—The phenomenally talented artist Dave Stevens, best known for creating The Rocketeer has passed away. As usual, Tom Spurgeon has one of the better obituaries, as well as a collection of other remembrances and tributes.

—For lighter Comics Reporter reading this week, I highly recommend Spurgeon’s hilarious take on Superman Confidential #8-#9. Don’t expect to see this blurbed on the back of any future trade collections of the highly maligned third Superman monthly…

“Confidential to Superman: your comics made me sad.”

—Tom Spurgeon,

—Spurgeon has also noted more than once in the past week that while prose publishing has seen so many fake memoir scandals of late, it’s kind of odd that there hasn’t been a comics-related one, considering how popular the autobio comics genre has gotten.

It is a shame that so many prose memoirists have been able to trick their way into book deals lately. It must be frustrating be a publisher, thinking you’ve got some great story, only to learn later you’ve been had.

I’m sympathetic to their plight. And, in fact, I’d like to help. Any publishers in the reading audience who’d like to take a look at my manuscript From White Horse to the White House on the Back of a White Horse With a Single Horn, shoot me an email. It’s the touching—and 100% true!—story of how I overcame my heroine addiction one day when I went to shoot up, and accidentally injected my vein with the horn of a unicorn, which then carried me on its back to then President George H.W. Bush, who nursed me back to health and helped me overcome my addiction, which is how I became the first comics blogger/astronaut.

—I was pretty disappointed to see Heidi MacDonald, Publisher Weekly’s comics blogger (who is both one of the few professional comics bloggers and, according to Entertainment Weekly, the source of one of Internet’s greatest websites) report the PR on Marvel EIC Joe Quesada’s MySpace availability and then follow it up with an unsourced and, as far as I know, untrue rumor.

She wrote: “Cup o’ Joe was long a regular feature at Newsarama, but word on the street has it that Marvel and the comics news giant had a falling out over a broken embargo.”

As is pointed out in her comments section, although it goes uncorrected, “Cup o’ Joe” isn’t the regular feature at Newsarama in which Quesada took and answered questions; that feature was called “Joe Fridays;” “Cup o’ Joe” is what his convention panels usually go by.

“Word on the street” isn’t a terribly solid source, and it’s disappointing coming from MacDonald, since it would take about five minutes of her time to shoot Newsarama and Marvel’s PR folks a couple of emails asking about it, and then reporting what they said, even if it ended up just being “Newsarama declined to comment, and Marvel said the decision to start the feature on MySpace had nothing to do with previous features at Newsarama or anywhere else” or whatever they come up with.

Without the bare minimum effort, what good does the rumor relaying do? None I can think of, particularly when, on its face, it seems so wildly unlikely to be true. After all, “Joe Fridays” hasn’t been on Newsarama for a good six months now, and it was originally discontinued because Quesada was busy drawing “One More Day” on top of his usual duties (for several weeks, other editors filled in for Quesada, until the feature petered off completely).

What harm does reporting untrue, unsourced rumors do? Well, a lot of people read The Beat, so when MacDonald makes a mistake, a lot of people are subjected to it, whether its something small like a misspelling or mixing up a centaur and a Cyclops, or something like relaying a rumor.

For example, MacDonald posted the bit asserting a connection between Quesada on MySpace and Quesada on Newsarama on Tuesday morning, and it was then cited elsewhere.

Johanna Draper Carlson also posted the Marvel PR on the new MySpace feature, and, after having some fun at the wording of the original release, she repeats and links back to what MacDonald said, with the words, “Heidi has the rumor that ‘Marvel and the comics news giant had a falling out over a broken embargo.’” So there’s the rumor reported twice; this time it’s third hand, and still unsourced (and, like I said, untrue; if the two entites had a falling out, you can’t tell by looking at their coverage; a few hours before Carlson’s post, Tom Brevoort was on Newsarama talking about Civil War).

She follows her rumor repetition with both an astute observation (“Newsarama preaches to the converted, but MySpace provides the not-yet-customers who might be convinced to start buying those hip comic things”) and a bizarre statement she doesn’t support, and I don’t think can be supported (Newsarama is “no longer the big kid on the online block.”)

The next day, Spurgeon briefly mentions “some superhero board chatter” regarding Quesada moving the feature from Newsarama to MySpcace. Of course, he does so with healthy skepticism:

Marvel doesn't have a history of making strong distinctions between types of press, so I don't automatically see this as some sort of dismissal of hardcore comics culture, as much as it's probably just a feature that interested its new home whereas other potential features didn't. There are also rumors that Newsarama and Marvel are semi-feuding and that this new venue for Quesada is a result of that frostier than usual relationship. That could be true—for all anyone tells me anything these two entities could be wearing straw hats and overalls and firing buckshot at one another in convention parking lots —but in this case it seems to me that this is the kind of move that might have been done no matter what the relationship is like right now.

But he still links back to Carlson.

So, to recap, MacDonald posts a rumor. Carlson posts a link to MacDonald’s post about a rumor. And then, even while striking a suspicious note, Spurgeon posts a link to Carlson’s link to MacDonald’s rumor.

So how many posts does it need before it becomes Internet conventional wisdom, if it isn’t already?

(Disclaimer: Yes, I do contribute reviews to partner column “Best Shots @ So take the above with the appropriate grain of salt. But I don’t get paid for my contributions to ‘rama, so that grain of salt should be a pretty small one).

— columnist and fellow Ohioan Steve Bennett has a piece about the rumor of DC insisting on speedier pencillers (as originally relayed by Rich Johnston’s column).

In Bennett’s story, he mentions the manga studio system, in which a single manga-ka usually gets credit for their often weekly work, despite the fact that they have plenty of assistants.

Which got me thinking: Why does the studio system seem to work so much better in Japan on manga than in the U.S. in mainstream comics? No matter how many folks work on a manga, it always looks like the work of one artists. But take a U.S. comic like, say, Countdown, in which multiple pencillers and inkers work, and there’s little to no consistency from artist to artist, and no attempt to disguise the fact. (So as not to pick on Countdown, I should note that any time there are multiple artists, even just inkers, on an American super-comic, the transition from creator to creator is often quite obvious; take that recent issue of Wonder Woman, the one Johnston cited as one of the post-New Rule books, in which Ron Randall split the work with the Dodsons).

Are all Japanese manga artists just better than all American super-comics writers? Or do American editors simply not insist on the sorts of visual consistency you see in manga franchises, or…what, exactly?

—Not too long ago, Panel-ist and Columbusite Tony Goins posted something on the group’s group blog about his comics collection (sorry, I can’t find the link right now), and he illustrated the post with this image:

I love that image, for a couple reasons. Not least of which, is that it reminds me of my favorite Justice League cover:

(The elephant has a flail...that it's holding with its trunk! I can't wait for this issue to get Showcase-ed. Between posting, I'm pacing around my apartment, looking at my watch, waiting for it to get Showcase-ed)

And then there’s the whole, you know, animals in body armor fighting thing. I’ve never heard of this Brute Force series, but it looks awesome. (Here’s what Scott Shaw has to say about one-fourth of the series).

Just based on the covers, it looks a little like We3 meets Captain Planet. Hmm…hey, Marvel Max editors, I just got a great idea for a new series!

—There’s just no making a live-action Hulk look good, is there? The casting and the acting in the trailer for The Incredible Hulk film look decent, but man, The Abomination and Hulk just look awful. I’m still looking forward to it though. I didn’t mind the original much, although I think it could have used another 45 minutes to end in a way that made sense, but I’m assuming this one will have a great deal more smashing, hopefully more liberally spread out throughout the run time.

I woulda preferred The Leader over The Abomination, but I realize I may be the only person in the whole world with that preference. Wendigo would be nice too, if only because some shaggy fur would better hide how rubbery the big muscle-bound CGI flesh of your Hulks and Abomination types looks. But maybe they’re saving him for a Hulk/Wolverine crossover movie.

—Speaking of trailers, I can’t believe it took this long to make a Jet Li/Jackie Chan movie. I do hope it’s better than the last, oh, couple dozen Jackie Chan movies…

—It’s time again for Marc-Oliver Frisch’s reporting of the numbers for DC sales at The Beat.

What jumps out at me? Well, DC had only a single title selling at 90K plus, and that’s JLoA, sales of which I expect to see shrink significantly more over the next few months, as there’s one or two more Salvation Run tie-ins left to go before the title’s “writer” Dwany McDuffie gets all 22 pages back to himself.

The next highest selling book was Countdown, which has fallen all the way down to 68,099, meaning it’s not only selling less than 52, but its now down to selling 2/3 of the worst issues of 52.

All in all, it seems like a bunch of bad news for DC, but for me? The worst news is that Shadowpact is getting cancelled, with its last charted issue moving 16,014. I actually won’t miss Shadowpact (I tried it for a half-dozen issue, and did not care for it), but if it’s being cancelled at that level, how long for this world is Blue Beetle, which charted at 14,961 (and which is losing its writer).

Oliver Infinity Inc. is at 13,951 already (that’s only the fifth issue on the chart), and All-New Atom, which also recently lost its original writer, is at 13,861.

I was pleased to see Amy Wolfram, Karl Kerschl and company’s Teen Titans: Year One mini doing not much worse than the inferior Teen Titans parent book (43, 057 vs. TT’s 55, 376; that’s dynamite for an origin story set in the Silver Age by a pretty much unknown writer, isn’t it?)

Oh, and Judd Winick’s bizarre Captain Marvel revamp, which changes just about every single aspect of the franchise in unusual and, to my tastes, unpleasant ways, has dropped from the 50,621 it debuted with all the way down to 24,606. For comparison’s sake, Jeff Smith’s revamp, which stayed truer to the spirit of the original Golden Age concept while making some still sizable alterations, sold 37,970 and only dropped to 28,712 by number four. And I think it’s fairly safe to say the Smith trade will outsell the hell out of the Winick one.

—While Tim O’Neil has an interesting take on the Watchmen movie adaptation (“It's not enough to say that Hollywood is missing the point, because they always miss the point, it's their job to miss the point. They don't make money if they don't miss the point.”), The Comics Journal’s Dirk Deppey tried to talk sense to all of us who have complained about them (including yours truly):

Can I just point out one thing to everyone? With the possible exception of Rorschach, the original costumes from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen would look really fucking stupid on grown adults projected onto a big screen — you know, the way the Daredevil costume looked really fucking stupid on Ben Affleck? Of course they’re being modified for the film version. They need to be modified. Calm down.

I don’t disagree that they may need some modification (I fully expect Dr. Manhattan’s modesty to be covered, for example), and
I like the theory that maybe, just maybe the film version is meant to comment on the film medium as applied to superheroes in the same way that the comic version is meant to comment on the comic medium as applied to the superhero genre, but I need to take exception to the Daredevil example Deppey used.

The costume Affleck wore was not the one from the comics; it was a deep maroon combination between a Batman movie-like costume, biker gear, and a couch my grandparents threw away in 1979. It was substantially different than the tight red body stocking of the comics.

In fact, now that I think about it, comic book movies almost always vastly redesign superhero costumes when they put them on the screen, don’t they. Other than the original Superman movie cycle, I’m having trouble thinking of a film costume that resembles the comic book one closely. Maybe The Punisher or Ghost Rider…?

—Wow, Valerie D’Orzaio is mean. A recent multi-topic blog entry mentioning in passing longtime Justice Leaguer Beatriz “Fire” Da Costa and two-year (our time) Justice Leaguer Faith as a wrong and a right way to portray Latina women in the DCU (I didn’t even know Faith was Latina) leads to one of those epic Occasional Superheroine comments threads with lots of fighting.

In the comments, a poster asks D’Orazio, "Are you capable of responding to an argument without a personal insult?"

She responds:

If you come on my blog with a pissy complaining attitude, with nothing positive to say, then expect to reap what you sow. You are not a not a "darling" to be coddled and apologized to when you come on here doing the equivalent of wiping your muddy feet on my floor. Got that? You don't like what I write? Don't come on here and whine about it like a 13-year-old. Go read another f**king blog. See if they tolerate your negativity. I owe you NO respect when you disrespect this blog. It isn't a democracy, where you can come in here and bitch and insult me and my intelligence and I'm going to bend over backwards to make sure your rights as a debater are preserved. Got that? And if you don't like it, please please please take you and your self-righteous whiny comments elsewhere. I won't feel hurt. You can even blog about how unfair I am. I mean, I won't link to you to give you more exposure, but you are free to do it. So please go, and f**k you. Really, I had enough of s**ts like you and the negativity you drag into this realm like a stinking sack of crap. Take it to the other boards.

Again: Wow.

Anyway, the result is that she’ll be moderating comments in the future, which sure seems like an awful lot of work as compared to, say, just ignoring comments she doesn’t like (and deleting any that seem crazy-offensive). But I suppose if it spares her readers from future “I owe you NO respect when you disrespect this blog” lectures, than it’s a good thing.

(UPDATE: On the downside, she can now call former fellow "Best Shots @" contributor and former prolific Newsarama poster Kevin Huxford a crazy person she fears will attack her at cons, and he can't respond, nor can anyone who wants to say that's not cool.)

—Some more on Gygax:

This strip is hilarious; by pulling that move on Death, you could essentially earn your self eternal life, with the downside being you have to play Dungeons & Dragons the rest of your life.

I’m not one to laught out loud when reading the Internet alone in my apartment, but the final bit of The Onion’s “American Voices” response to Gygax's death sure got me.

Finally, a rather thought-provoking piece from Slate about the moral underpinnings of the D&D experience points system, which promotes greed and violence as the only ways to advance in the fictional world. It’s been so long since I’ve played, I can’t personally recall, but that does sound right. I spent more time playing Palladium games than TSR ones during my role-playing years, and I thought in that system the game master awarded points based on things like how well players adhered to their alignments…?

Heh. I haven’t used the word “alignment” to refer to anything other than my car in years

—The image on the left horrifies me:

It’s even scarier when you’re walking through a grocery story and you turn a corner and BAM! He’s all up in your grill in his rabbit snout costume. Where are his ears? Who dresses up as a rabbit from the eyes down? What the hell Pillsbury?


Tracer Bullet said...

I dunno. The movie Punisher was basically a guy in a sleeveless black t-shirt. He didn't even wear the skull for more of the movie. The first Batman costume didn't get the colors right, but it wasn't too bad overall. Spider-Man was probably the most accurate, though it's a costume I never liked (blasphemy!).

Unknown said... much stuff, I don't even know where to start. Thanks for noticing that whole "Val can rant about me but not allow me any chance to respond" bit. I think I've helped to drive her into her crazy place by constantly pointing out where she makes no sense, ever since she made me persona non grata at her blog.

I didn't even know about what Heidi is reporting. Broke embargo? Please. Matt's never broke embargo. If people only knew how damn professional Brady is, they'd know that it has to be a less controversial, more rational reason behind the change than that. But I'd guess that people KNOW that the truth is much less juicy than the fiction, so they choose to go with the fiction.

Anonymous said...

As for why manga-ka can work in studios and American comic artists can't, I suspect that most manga studios are all in Tokyo, while American comic artists are likely to be more distributed.

Anonymous said...

You guys I stand by my rumor -- and the emails I got afterwards provided even more substantiation. However since everyone seems SO interested in this it should be a fertile ground for follow-up.

JohnF said...

Val is like Captain Kirk- she doesn't like to lose. Not that any of us like to lose, but she takes it to the extreme. She will control the discussion as much as she can in order to ensure victory. If that means shouting you down, that's what she will do. If that means simply not answering a commenter who makes good points, then that's what she will do. And if it means calling someone a dick and then closing the comments section, well that's just what she will do.
Amazingly enough, this is what passes for grown-up behavior.
And now "moderated" comments? I wonder why some people even have blogs, when they are so hostile to the idea of being argued with. I will agree that there is no place for vicious name-calling, but surely there should be room for reasoned debate and dissent.
Seems to me that more and more blogs are falling into this pattern. They throw bombs and make baseless claims. People disagree and show where the claims might be illogical. There is much cursing and the blogger exhorts any dissenters to "go write your own blog." Then the comments get moderated. Then people get their accounts banned. And so on. It's a silly power trip for people who realize, deep down, that all we're arguing about are a bunch of funny books.

Unknown said...

Amen, John. That's why I don't just delete even the trolling comments on my blog. If they are at least on topic of the blog, they stay. If they are off-topic, I tell them to take it to the thread that is specifically for people bashing me (yes, I have one).

Heidi, why does it appear that you made absolutely no attempt to contact the involved parties? I'm absolutely certain you know how to get in touch with them. Funny that it ran a few spots down from Butcher's request that people vetting stuff better (and to think he was just talking about reviews, not professionally damning rumors).

Anonymous said...

I think the chief difference between the american and japanese systems is how they organize responsibilities.

Americans split the work up communally. They'll say "Okay, you draw this half, I draw the second half". The japanese its more like a movie, where you have tons of cameramen and cinematographers and ADs, but the director has the last word.

So for instance with an issue of One Piece, Oda will do thumbnails for an entire chapter, then his assistants will draw backgrounds and minor panels, and then the really important panels in the issue Oda will draw himself. Ken Akamatsu does something similar, only with inked over cg backgrounds.

Experience has always been a GM fiat thing. Some award it based on combat, some based on roleplaying, some based on adventure goals...
Also note that the creator of the Palladium system is a legendarily psychotic old codger in the style of John Byrne.

Caleb said...

As for why manga-ka can work in studios and American comic artists can't, I suspect that most manga studios are all in Tokyo, while American comic artists are likely to be more distributed.

That's a great point; I imagine the "studio" process works much, much better when you share an actual studio and don't have to mess with jpegs and faxes and FedEx and whatever.

You guys I stand by my rumor


However since everyone seems SO interested in this it should be a fertile ground for follow-up.


And now "moderated" comments? I wonder why some people even have blogs, when they are so hostile to the idea of being argued with. I will agree that there is no place for vicious name-calling, but surely there should be room for reasoned debate and dissent.

I don't really want to spend too much time on D'Orazio, but, yeah, moderating seems a bad compromise to me. I'd rather someone disallow posts all together, because now reading her comments threads--which are usually pretty big and formerly fun to read--means that, in a sense, she's also writing them. So readers can read what she says, and what people who happen to agree with her said.

I (attempted to) post what I did in my own post above because, while Kevin Huxford may well be a completely insane stalker-type, it seems kind of hypocritical to me that she will ban him for relaying a pretty widely-circulated rumor on her blog (Seriously, Mark Waid used to get convention questions about it), but then she all but implies that he's mentally unwell and she fears he might shiv her at San Diego this year.

I think the chief difference between the american and japanese systems is how they organize responsibilities.

Yeah, that's a good point--something like Countdown just divides whole pages between artists, instead of having a bacground guy, a face guy, a shading guy, and so on. The manga studio system is actually an awful lot like some Golden Age Western shops, come to think of it...

Caleb said...

Oh, and I meant to say that D'Orazio didn't post my comment, because apparently asking, "Hey, is it cool for you to ban this dude for doing this, but then do it to you yourself?" didn't make the cut for re-posting in her comments.

Unknown said...

I know you didn't exactly do it for me or anything, Caleb, but I appreciate your attempt to point that out, nonetheless.

If you check back, she's let a post from a certain "big dumb animal" through that, had I said those things about someone she liked, she would have deleted and warned me about being sued. ;)

Anonymous said...

I (attempted to) post what I did in my own post above because, while Kevin Huxford may well be a completely insane stalker-type, it seems kind of hypocritical to me that she will ban him for relaying a pretty widely-circulated rumor on her blog (Seriously, Mark Waid used to get convention questions about it), but then she all but implies that he's mentally unwell and she fears he might shiv her at San Diego this year.

I did the same thing yesterday, calling her out for not letting Hux defend himself, Slott for being a cyber-stalker with a ridiculous grudge, and Ecks for being a hypocrite. Surprise, surprise, she didn't post my comments either.

-corey henson

Unknown said... seems that she'll let through general questions about the premise of someone like me being a threat, but not anything that sticks up for me directly. If you make the argument that she's wrong a little too strongly, your comment disappears into the ether.

Evie said...

I've just started writing about comics (because there aren't nearly enough comic blogs, obvs), so at this point I would invite anyone to come comment about what an ignorant bitch I am. Just don't leave any unannounced spoilers and you're golden.