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Random Comic Thoughts: Its a Saturday Night, I’m In My Sexual Prime!

And I want to talk about comics and video games. Which could be why I’m letting that whole sexual prime thing go to waste.

Paul Dini’s writing the new Batman video game. Of all the superhero icons, Batman may have the dodgiest history in video game translations. This one sounds like it could break the trend of Bat-mediocrity at best on that front. It helps that this is a stand alone story and not a tie in to that movie everyone has seen but me, actually, because they don’t have to adhere to the movie’s schedule and just shove the thing out the door. So, you know, good news for fellow comic book fanboys of the Super Mario Generation, potentially. I’m getting tired of movie adaptations of comics anyway; I want them to clog up the basepaths in the future dominant medium of entertainment already! Also, it will be nice if any of the future Batman games can be on the Wii, so I can coercively interogate the Joker more interactively, and my mom, dog, and my inbred, periodically violent third cousin, too. It’s for the whole family! I want to at least throw a batarang with a Wiimote.

Obligatory gushing reference to Baldy McTrippypants, LSDeity of this blog; how cool would it be if Morrison wrote this? Or any video game, really? How about an Animal Man game where Morrison is the last boss and you have to listen to his monologue about how he’s still a hack who couldn’t figure out an ending for the story! Or at least a Sebastian O. first person shooter! You could mow down fops and dandies in the Victorian Matrix! A we3 co-op game? That would be more adorable than even Little Big Planet! A Seaguy Bejwelled rip off people can be inexplicably confused by? There’s a lot of potential there, I think.

Moving on to print comics, I finished reading a couple of GNs recently that I want to talk about a little. First up is Matt Fraction and Steven Sanders Five Fists of Science, one of the many Image trades I picked up from the comic and skateboards store that very quickly became just a skateboard store this summer. The fact that their trade selection was 90% Image comics may have been one of the reasons they made that switch so quickly, but it worked out for me, and for anyone who actually likes reading me (whoever they are), because I’m systematically reviewing them all.

Five Fists is one of Fraction’s pre-Marvel stradom GNs, although it only predates his first published work for them by a few months (if I have all this straight in my head; margin of error +/-1,000 there). It’s a fun addition to the “gonzo action adventure mucking about with real historical figures” genre, of which Image has published my two favorite examples.

This comic doesn’t have Abe Lincoln dragon punching anyone, but it does have Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla hatching a scheme to force world peace upon… the world which involves a steam powered mecha, so it’s a toss up on which one has the bigger trump card there. Throw in Lovecraftian elements and outright slander of J.P. Morgan and Andrew Carnegie (the two are intertwined, actually), and you have a good time with historical fiction on your hands. Exactly what you’d expect when the guy who writes Casanova tries his hand at this material. If nothing else, even fictional reprsentations of Twain are more entertaining than most writers even approach being.

As I have mentioned before, I really, really don’t care for the Richard Isanove-esque digital inking style that Sanders employs here. It just looks blurry and damn near bush league to me. That said, underneath the technique I care not at all for, he does a good job with the material. His facial expressions are very good, and he has fun with big action set pieces. Just a shame they’re buried under a digital crayon veneer.

Aside: If Five Fists of Science were the title of an Eros comic, it would have been completely different. I really, really had to say that.

I also finished off Kyle Baker’s Why I Hate Saturn recently. It’s an interesting book, especially when compared to the currently running (after a lengthy hiatus, mind you) Special Forces. Where SF is a down and dirty, Frank Miller parody/topical satire, Saturn is basically Ghost World if it featured adults, and they were sisters, and one of them was crazy. But otherwise; just like that notable Clowes comic I use as a tenuous frame of reference whenever there’s a female lead who isn’t in kicking things in their underwear.

So, if you liked Ghost World but thought “Man, I sure wish Enid and Rebecca had all of the traits of the character traits Brad just mentioned, and also a bazooka was used at some point”, then this definitely the comic for you. Or, you know, if you just want an engagingly written piece of humorous fiction that, while dated (the copyright on the beaten copy I snagged is 1990), still sings where it counts, then go ahead an seek this out. Just don’t expect a comic.

Well, not in the sense that there are word balloons. There are panels, but the dialogue is never set in them. It’s almost like an illustrated novel, really. Well, not really, because the pictures tell the story, and the dialogue is nearly incidental at times (if almost always witty and funny, and ocasionally profound, especially when the main chracter, Anne, meets a bum runs in to a homeless George Carlin, more or less). But, you know, it’s not laid out like your average comic. That leads to one visually exciting yet challenging splash I’m too lazy to scan but is worth the price of admission, whatever that may be. Unless that price is $16.25. Specifically. It knows why.

My greasy dipshit language aside, if you’re more of a philistine than I am and haven’t checked this book out, you probably better get on that soon. Even if it can be boiled down in to a high concept of “Ghost World meets Sex in the City and then turns in to Thelma and Louise at the end”, doing that would be a disservice to everyone involved. Anyone who does that should be banned from the internet.

24 Comments

Not excited for the Lego Batman game?

Of all the superhero icons, Batman may have the dodgiest history in video game translations.

Nah. Batman has been in legitimately good video games (the first NES game or Batman Returns for the SNES.) And while there have been bad Batman games, the only game starring Batman that has a close to realistic claim for worst video game ever is Justice League Task Force. Compare Superman, who’s best known video game is the completely unplayable Superman 64.

Was it just me, or was anybody else thinking of 5FoS while watching The Venture Bros. last week? “ORB” had Twain/Clemens in it, and I think Tesla was in there. I don’t think the writers were ripping off Fraction, but they might have been inspired just a little bit (I say “little” because they’re weird enough to come up with turn-of-the-century historical figures as pseudo-heroes on their own).

Batman Returns wasn’t too bad, from what I remember. The rumoured Dark Knight game sounds awful though (generic GTA / Spiderman / all the other ones clone). Seems like all movie to game conversions (especially superhero ones) end up like that – free roaming city + random “missions” + complete lack of anything interesting. Just once, I wish a game dev would have the balls to make a movie to game conversion based on a superhero where they just give you a limited amount of missions, each one based on a specific part of the film, instead of ye olde GTA clone. Yes, an amazingly retro game idea that nobody does anymore, but imagine the C64 Batman game design in the hands of a modern day console developer. It would be freaking awesome.

And now that I’ve got that out of the way, time to make grown men weep with a picture of my gaming setup. Biff! Bam! Pow!

Yeah, I’d say Superman has it worse. Batman has been in one or two decent (but not wonderful) games, but I don’t think Superman has been in any! The last one, Superman Returns, regularly pops up on ‘worst game’ lists, with good reason.

“The last one, Superman Returns, regularly pops up on ‘worst game’ lists, with good reason.”

The sensation of flying, speed and just plain out being cool floating in the clouds is amazing….until you realise there’s little else to do. GTA clone-itus with its free roaming badly rendered empty cities strikes again!

I hate game developers.

For me, the problem with Superman Returns wasn’t the free roaming parts. I would have been up for some free roaming, but I got sick of the Warworld level and set the game aside before then.

Wow, Paperghost, your gaming set-up really did bring a jealous tear to my eye. I read how you got it that clean, and I still can’t believe it. Nice.

“Wow, Paperghost, your gaming set-up really did bring a jealous tear to my eye. I read how you got it that clean, and I still can’t believe it. Nice.”

Haha, thanks. I still have nightmares about wires and plugs though :)

“but I got sick of the Warworld level”

….oh my, i forgot about that. awful stuff. mind you, there’s a fight against someone later in the game that multiplies himself (can’t remember who) and winning it seems entirely down to pure chance.

I thought the best part of the game was the final boss, but most people seem to hate that bit. i thought it was genuinely exciting and wished they’d done more of the game like that (i won’t spoil it, in case anyone out there doesn’t know and wants to play it for some insane reason).

Well, what makes for a good comic probably doesn’t exactly make for a good video game. XIII comes to mind. Of course, a good video game designer can probably translate a comic into a well-executed video game, but I think one doesn’t necessarily flow from the other. Effective writing in the one medium almost seems it runs counter to the other. Good video game writing relies on creating the illusion that the player has real control over the story’s proceedings, while a good comic book narrative is partially about giving the impression that the writer has complete control over the story’s direction.

I dunno.

I’m drunk and had too many pills than is normally considered healthy, so the point of my post mayhaps has been lost.

I think I may have had a point though.

“The sensation of flying, speed and just plain out being cool floating in the clouds is amazing….until you realise there’s little else to do. GTA clone-itus with its free roaming badly rendered empty cities strikes again!”

I think that the problem with most GTA clones is that they try and mimic what GTA does but they don’t do it very *well*. GTA IV’s Liberty City feels like a real city, teeming with life. The problem is that most developers see the basic components of a free-roam game – open environments, lots of NPCs, and some scattered missions – and toss that onto their game with none of the heart or style of GTA, leaving the game world feeling shallow and empty. Spider-Man 2 was probably one of the better movie-to-game adaptations, but even this suffers from that quite a bit.

If a developer could translate Rockstar’s design theory to a city as iconic as Gotham, and make the gameplay engaging, varied, and fun to play, I think a free-roam Batman game would be pretty amazing. That said, a well-done level based game would be pretty solid as well.

-M

Technically, Morrison has written at least one videogame already, as he did do the original story for Predator: Concrete Jungle. However, the developers apparently substantially reworked Morrison’s original concepts, by all accounts for the worse.

I’ll agree that the flying scenes in SR are, but yeah, the rest of the game is terrible. Marvel seems to have a better track record with games, to be honest. Ultimate Spider-man and Alliance were really good, as were both of the X-Men Legends games, and Spider-man 2 was good (not so much 3). Their latest ones haven’t been too hot, though – Iron Man and the Hulk one are awful…

Oh, I think the Batman Begins game is a lot better than people give it credit for (though it quickly becomes easy to manipulate the fear meter thing and suck the challenge out of it). It’s also somewhat more of a throwback to “structured levels based loosely on the game but with a definite ending” as opposed the “okay, we made a GTA clone and don’t know what to do with it” school of game making, which gains it some more points from me.

I read Why I Hate Saturn a few years back. It kind of reminded me Daria without the jokes. Baker’s Plastic Man was good though.

I swear, if Paul is going to stick Zatanna or those frickin’ sock monkeys in there, I am SO out of here.

Did the isometric 3d Batman from the 80s (about 1986?) make it to America?

Granted its not much by today’s standards, but at the time is was pretty awesome.

Oh, I think the Batman Begins game is a lot better than people give it credit for

Ugh. No. It was awful. Easily the most linear game I’ve ever played, which is sad enough– everything has to be done exactly the same way every time or you fail immediately, period. Boring and no fun. I want my five dollars back.

Of course, the Aquaman game is much worse. It’s easily the worst video game I have every played (and I’ve played ET for the Atari).

“everything has to be done exactly the same way every time or you fail immediately, period.”

Weird, I remember doing things differently on my various playthroughs and not having such a linear experience. Maybe I was just having too much fun scaring people and punching them out and stuff!

“Did the isometric 3d Batman from the 80s (about 1986?) make it to America?

Granted its not much by today’s standards, but at the time is was pretty awesome.”

Ha, is that the one where you have to piece the Batmobile back together again? I remember that. Also, this one was excellent.

Why I Hate Saturn is a lot of fun. Everyone here should go pick up a copy.

What was the title of the Kyle-Baker-drawn GN about East St. Louis seceding from the U. S.? I read it this past spring and I’m ashamed to say I can’t remember what black author wrote it. Anyway, it’s phenomenal. Everyone should read THAT.

R. J. Sterling: That book is ironically titled Birth Of A Nation. It was co-written by Aaron McGruder (of Boondocks fame) and Reginald Hudlin (House Party movies).

“What was the title of the Kyle-Baker-drawn GN about East St. Louis seceding from the U. S.? I read it this past spring and I’m ashamed to say I can’t remember what black author wrote it. Anyway, it’s phenomenal. Everyone should read THAT.”

Birth of a Nation. Aaron “Boondocks” Macgruder wrote it. (I wasn’t hugely impressed, despite being a big ‘ol fan of both creators 99% of the time.)

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