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CSBG Archive

Random Thoughts! (October 20, 2009)

Random Thought! As a result of Thanksgiving and illness, no post last week. It’s random thoughts time! Get excited!

Random Thought! The news that Warren Ellis’s Gravel has been optioned for a movie with Ellis doing the first draft of the screenplay (at least) and acting as executive producer is interesting news — if only because I’m trying to figure out which story they would want to actually adapt. I love the comics, but none of the stories themselves seem to be movie material exactly — but I could be wrong. The short nature of each story in the original minis or the serialised nature of the current story makes me think the concept would work better on TV — HBO or Showtime or whatever. Combat magician kicking ass, fucking shit up… I’d watch that. Also, oddly, I could see an adaptation of Strange Kiss or Stranger Kisses working (or being allowed) on TV where it wouldn’t on film. And, come on, Strange Kiss is the perfect way to introduce this concept. Then again, maybe they’ll go the route of an original story that geared to the medium. Or, as Ellis put it in a Bad Signal last week:

The GRAVEL screenplay… there’s a phrase I never expected to type. In one way, it lets me look at the whole ten years of Gravel stories in a whole new light – AS a whole, in fact, that I can pick and choose from to build a new story. On the other hand, there’s a lot of them… and I imagine my favourite, STRANGER KISSES, is a bit hardcore for straight adaptation. As well as short.

So, I guess we’ll see. I am looking forward to it.

Random Thought! Reread reviews are on hold for a little bit as I catch up on other things and gear up for a big idea/project I have planned for November here.

Random Thought! Been thinking about ‘The Kafka Gambit’ and how that little move shows that Joe Casey understands comics more than a lot of other people. Is it selfish to take your characters off the board? Some would say yes, some would say that you don’t own your characters or intellectual property, that once it’s released it ceases to be yours, it belongs to the world, and clinging to it is immature, and short-sighted, and selfish, and just get over yourself, because the rest of us aren’t blessed with creativity, and the ability to actually think up shit ourselves, so we need to take what you did, and then claim that it’s our right, because fuck it it is. But, yeah, you can probably guess how I feel about that. Casey has seen characters appropriated by others who claim that they love them and read everything featuring them before and have waited eversolong to use them and… then, they produce godfuckingawful stories that show, clearly, they did not read those previous stories and, if they did, they did not understand them at all. Sure, they may have understood the words, but there’s this thing called ‘subtext’ and, I know, that’s not everyone’s bag and we shouldn’t all be so concerned with what things mean, we should all just enjoy the ride and why does everything have to have some hidden ‘meaning’ that no one gets… but… fuck it, you’re stupid then. Grant Morrison has the opposite view: he tosses little ideas out into the world all of the time, just waiting for someone to pick them up and how’s that been working for everyone so far? How well did Marvel use Warren Ellis’s Extremis armour upgrade idea for Iron Man? ‘The Kafka Gambit’ should be manditory.

Random Thought! The Splash Page returned yet again this weekend in a discussion that grew out of one of these posts.

Random Thought! Bill asks: “What was the best last issue you ever read? Last, as in, final. As in, there were no more to follow. As in, the opposite of first.” Automatic Kafka #9, Preacher #66, and Transmetroplitan #60 are the three that spring to mind. The Invisibles volume 3 #1 would also be a contender, but more in that ‘honourable mention’ sort of way. I would include some mentions of final issues on runs of titles that continued, but none are coming to mind as anywhere near the ones I’ve mentioned already. That’s a hard three-way tie to break, because each is a favourite for different reasons… I like the ideas in Kafka, the heart in Preacher, and the heart in Transmet, too… Ah, I’ll go Automatic Kafka #9.

Random Thought! I kind of want to be called the Rated R Reviewing Star… it’s a stretch and kind of stupid, but I like it. Finally, Curran has a good idea! (Of course, it’s one that involves ripping someone off, but that’s what he does…) Also, I just went ahead and made that the title of an altered reviewing thing on my blog.

Random Thought! Sometimes, I hate that writing “SHITTY FUCKING COMIC DON’T BUY AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE SHIT SHIT SHIT VERY VERY BAD GODFUCKINGAWFUL” a few dozen times doesn’t count as a ‘professional’ review despite that being the most accurate way to describe certain comics.

Random Thought! Anyone else looking forward/dreading The Authority: The Lost Year, the continuation/completition of the Grant Morrison run by Keith Giffen? I really, really enjoyed those first two issues (the first issue being one of my favourite superhero comics that year), but Keith Giffen has burned me before. His writing is very hit or miss for me and nothing about it has ever suggested him as a guy to finish a Grant Morrison story. But, I can’t deny that I want to see what the book is like. But, as Vanja pointed out to me once, why not take the chance to bring back Joe Casey and Dustin Nguyen to finish Wildcats Version 3.0 since its sales when it was cancelled were higher than the current sales of Wildstorm titles? Even give it a ‘clever’ title like “Wildcats Version 3.1″ or something. That’s if Casey would want to, of course.

Random Thought! Am I the only one who would find the current Batgirl series more entertaining if it actually continued to present Stephanie Brown as a fuck-up who shouldn’t be a superhero? Sometimes, people suck at stuff and continue on anyway… that’s interesting to me. Besides, it teaches children a valuable lesson: follow your dreams unless you are godawful at fulfilling them and following them results in a shitload of people dying. Then, find a new dream. I’m all for the ‘you can do anything you want’ lesson, but, sometimes, it’s good to point out that not everyone can do everything and it’s irresponsible to think otherwise. Okay, so I shouldn’t write children’s books, I get it. (And I suggest using Stephanie Brown for that story because everything about her fits that story. Nothing to do with her being a woman since I’d support that story with a man, too. I didn’t write the years of comics showing her as a very poor urban vigilante that starts gang wars…)

Random Thought! Horribly wrong thought of the day: Black Lantern Julius Schwartz. Hey, he appeared in some DC comics…

Random Thought! The one thing that could make Blackest Night almost awesome: Black Lantern Darkseid. Except he would continue to just be Darkseid as he’s too powerful to be controlled by jewelry.

Random Thought! Seriously, Dark Wolverine #79… very, very bad.

35 Comments

Just out of curiosity, Chad – which of Joe Casey’s stuff has been followed up by writers who didn’t understand his work?

I’m trying to think, and all I can come up with is Wildcats (…were they in that Captain Atom miniseries or something?) and Uncanny X-Men (and hey, if Grant Morrison immediately gets rewritten by Chuck Austin, I’m pretty sure nobody’s safe).

I’d find the current Batgirl more entertaining if her dad was still around and a regular part of the title. “Girl who dresses up as a superhero in order to regularly stop the schemes of her supervillain father” played in a Pinky and the Brain sit-com sense could be fun. A huge part of the focus would have to be on how inept her dad was though rather than Batgirl herself.

Maybe Black Lantern Julie Schwartz will show up in Ambush Bug #7 of 6.

” How well did Marvel use Warren Ellis’s Extremis armour upgrade idea for Iron Man? ”

Given how Ellis only stayed on the title for six issues that were heavily delayed ( though mostly due to Granov’s art ) and didn’t have a long-term purpose other than to give Tony Stark the Extremis upgrade, I don’t think this is a fair example for corporate-owned comic writers’ ideas being mishandled by their successors. The actual story work with the enhancile was done by other writers, most notably the Knaufs, but also Bendis, Casey, and Fraction.

By the way, Extremis is still being used; though the Skrull virus stripped Tony of the bio-ware that let him control machines remotely, his body remains digitally reformatted. This fact is obscured by the fact that with his brain deletion sequence, Tony is using Extremis to DIMINISH his capabilities, not expand them.

I would love a Black Lantern Franklin Rooseevelt, primarily because magog is his great grandson. Heck, let him get possessed by parallax!

Funny how Joe Casey is doing nothing at all with Morrison’s Super Young Team creation.

I have to remind myself that yes, this is the same guy that writes “Godland”. wtf.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

October 20, 2009 at 3:57 pm

Casey has seen characters appropriated by others who claim that they love them and read everything featuring them before and have waited eversolong to use them and… then, they produce godfuckingawful stories that show, clearly, they did not read those previous stories and, if they did, they did not understand them at all.

Are we talking about people using his character, or that time he wrote Uncanny X-men?

FunkyGreenJerusalem

October 20, 2009 at 3:58 pm

Seriously, Dark Wolverine #79… very, very bad.

You red a book called ‘Dark Wolverine’???

You’re lame.

Writing something completely negative without any commentary as to why it’s negative defeats the purpose of writing a review. People might completely disagree with your idea of “good” and “bad,” so some examples or reasons as to why something is so awful will help explain your opinion and actually deter people from buying it.

Yeah, but there are times when someone asks you how you liked a book, and the only thing you can say is, “It sucked, I’d wipe my ass with it but I’m afraid I’d catch something, because the writer obviously has syphilis and it’s started affecting his brain.”

But you can’t say that. There are times where there’s nothing constructive to say about a book because there’s nothing there to build on, and the only thing you can do is put up the road cones and the yellow police tape and do your best to warn oncoming traffic.

• I would pay good money to see a Strange Kiss adaptation. The visuals in that story would translate well into any medium. But, yeah, an origin story is probably a safer bet. More than anything, though, I’m hoping Hollywood resists the urge to Keanu the character up and lets him remain old and British.

• Jeff Holland, I’d include Cable, Mister Majestic, Adventures of Superman, and most recently Youngblood on the list. Christos Gage has been nothing but respectful of Casey’s work on Wildcats, however.

• I’m also looking forward to/dreading Giffen’s interpretation of Morrison’s plots on Authority: The Lost Year. Giffen’s done some great work in the past, of course, but none of it was for Wildstorm. I’ll probably wait for the trade.

• There should be more children’s books that tell kids the truth. Not everyone can or should do everything, and that’s a tough lesson to learn sometimes.

Dark Wolverine? Did you lose a bet? Was Cammo back on art, at least?

The whole Extremis thing was a terrible idea in the first place. I hate it when the technology in comics– those set in worlds mostly resembling ours, such as at Marvel– becomes too advanced and magical. Extremis needed to be undone.

Jeff Holland — Ian A.’s list is pretty good. In certain cases, like Wildcats, I don’t blame people for not using his ideas as strongly since it was cancelled because of low sales. His Mr. Majestic finale was quickly undone, his work on Cable paved the way for a big X-crossover that he didn’t participate in because he left the book after Marvel replaced Ladronn with Rob Liefeld (who lasted on art for all of… what, two issues?). And, I still hate that no one has continued the pacifist Superman characterisation. His Uncanny X-Men run didn’t have enough in it to really call what came after a reversal or anything. It was a run with a few good issues and plenty of bad ones.

Regarding the Extremis — it was an upgrade that took Stark beyond ‘guy in armour,’ more toward what the Engineer is. At the end of Ellis’s arc, he thinks through satellites and the internet to come up with a way to defeat his enemy. I don’t blame the creators for not continuing those ideas as strongly as they should have, I blame the company that okayed the change in the first place with no clear idea on how to continue it.

agent_torpor — I think we’re reading two different books.

Regarding Dark Wolverine — Read the CBR review when it’s posted. Besides, these are random THOUGHTS, not reviews.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

October 20, 2009 at 8:47 pm

You still read it!

AHAHAHA!

Sucks to be you!

The first arc was pretty good, actually. This second one is not.

” The whole Extremis thing was a terrible idea in the first place. I hate it when the technology in comics– those set in worlds mostly resembling ours, such as at Marvel– becomes too advanced and magical. Extremis needed to be undone. ”

Iron Man’s tech is already fantastical. The armor is light and flexible enough to fit in a briefcase, but it’s capable of supersonic flight, force beams that can blow up a tank, force fields that can withstand missile fire, and strength enough to trade punches with the Hulk. I agree with your desire to see the worlds grounded in reality, but Iron Man has always been very far ahead of the tech we have in the real world ( especially when you consider that there hasn’t been any actual iron in the Iron Man in years; IIRC, the Iron Manual described it as an integrated mesh of composite plastics and metals that conducts a super-strong force-field ).

What Extremis was introduced as was an upgraded interface, that eliminated the synaptic gap between Tony Stark and the Iron Man armor. He becomes faster and more versatile, but he doesn’t become a Thor-level power; he’s still based in things that exist in the real world, just taken further than what we actually see in reality. Same as always.

Stephane Savoie

October 20, 2009 at 8:55 pm

Black Lantern Julie Swartz? That opens the doors to lots of stuff… most importantly “The Writer”, the Grant Morrison-analog killed back in Suicide Squad.
Black Lantern G-Mozz. Awesome.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

October 20, 2009 at 9:06 pm

I think the general argument against Extremis was that Tony turned his own body and brain into one of his engineered tools; that had already happened with Kaminski and the artificial nervous system, but Kaminski usually gets a pass because Stark was “really” just returning to a normal human level of functioning after an enemy had used similar technology to cripple him. (This is also why the original chest plate pacemaker gets a pass from the same readers.)

A lot of people perceive some critical distinction between a tool that one uses, even depends on, and the more transhumanist idea that the body itself is practically just another tool. It’s one thing to have armor interfaces that you can take off, or an external device that keeps your heart beating, but another to actually be the interface and have non-”ordinary” human capacities. Donna Haraway nothwithstanding, most computer users probably don’t think of themselves and the machine as a holistic unit however much they rely on the gestalt’s capacities.

I’m not sure if Nitz is agreeing or disagreeing with me– some of each, I think. You’re right that Stark’s technology was already fantastical (your word). That’s why I didn’t think it should be advanced so much farther. Since this is super-hero comics we’re talking about, I don’t mind too much when somebody has some ridiculously advanced technology, as long as he only has a few gadgets. But when he has too many magical devices, he no longer fits in with the world where civilians drive regular cars, and use regular home computers, and cancer is fatal, and so much else still seems normal as we know it. And it annoys me when every bad guy and organisation starts having access to this same technology.

Am I the only one who’s been bothered by all the super-advanced equipment Hank Pym suddenly started pulling out of his butt these last few months?

There’s only so long you can talk about how smart these characters are before you need to have them show it.

“Am I the only one who’s been bothered by all the super-advanced equipment Hank Pym suddenly started pulling out of his butt these last few months?”

Good thing he can shrink that stuff.

I wasn’t bothered by Extremis, but I can see how it would be hard to write the character with that much power. I haven’t read Iron Man since the Ellis run, so I don’t know what direction it took, but couldn’t Tony’s disconnect from humanity and the perils of advancing technology without fully understanding it be plot points? You know, in between punching out Whiplash and hitting on Madame Masque.

I agree 100% with your points about Stephanie Brown. She was NEVER portrayed as a really competent vigilante. I see no reason why that would have changed now. Nothing to do with her gender, everything to do with the way the character has always been written.

“Donna Haraway nothwithstanding, most computer users probably don’t think of themselves and the machine as a holistic unit however much they rely on the gestalt’s capacities.”

Dang Omar! Kicking it with some high pomo theory! How’s the dissertation going? You going to MLA this year?

But Spoiler was never shown as being incompetent either, until they wanted to kill her off.

I’m fine with Pym’s magic devices over Tony’s. Tony, despite what people want to say, is not a top scientist. He’s a master engineer.

He didn’t invent transistors..he used them in ways no one had thought of to make a super suit.
Same with all the stuff he does..he doesn’t invent new ideas, he finds ways of making old ideas better. That’s an engineer.

Pym on the other hand is a scientist. He discoverd a way to shunt mass between dimensions. He invented a completely impractical robot/AI .

They’re different skill sets…different mind sets. Comics short cut and just make people omni-scientists, which is annoying.

Christopher Stansfield

October 21, 2009 at 2:21 pm

But you can’t say that. There are times where there’s nothing constructive to say about a book because there’s nothing there to build on, and the only thing you can do is put up the road cones and the yellow police tape and do your best to warn oncoming traffic.

If a comic book critic (or movie critic, or book critic, or…) can’t think of ANYTHING constructive to say about something, then he shouldn’t be in the business of being a critic. Period. Being a critic is more than just having an opinion about something- it’s also being able to articulate that opinion and explain why you hold it. Simply saying, “That was bad,” does nothing but make the people out there who disagree (and there are ALWAYS people out there who disagree- when was the last time you saw a 0 review on Metacritic?) think that you’re insulting them.

If anyone feels he needs help learning how to be a critic, I suggest he go to Roger Ebert’s site and read some of his blogs and essays on the subject. I don’t agree with Ebert’s opinions all the time, but I think he’s dead on when it comes to describing the role of a critic.

That Johns/Ellis debate was awesome. It was a great conversation that didn’t devolve into juvenile arguing. I wish I could read more articles on the web like that.

If a comic book critic (or movie critic, or book critic, or…) can’t think of ANYTHING constructive to say about something, then he shouldn’t be in the business of being a critic. Period. Being a critic is more than just having an opinion about something- it’s also being able to articulate that opinion and explain why you hold it. Simply saying, “That was bad,” does nothing but make the people out there who disagree (and there are ALWAYS people out there who disagree- when was the last time you saw a 0 review on Metacritic?) think that you’re insulting them.

I agree with you in principle… but you’re pointing out the difference between a critic and a review (I think that was a discussion we had on a CSBG post). Critics analyze a subject, while a reviewers only obligation is to share what he or she thought about it.
But that belabors the point. Like you said, there are ALWAYS going to be those who disagree with your opinion, but that’s a double-edged sword; if you go into too little detail, they may be insulted, but if you go into too much detail about where the writer or artist (or director or whatever) went wrong, then they’re going to call you an elitist snob anyway. So who cares what they think?

Chad said:

“Seriously, Dark Wolverine #79… very, very bad.”

stealthwise said:

“Writing something completely negative without any commentary as to why it’s negative defeats the purpose of writing a review.”

I disagree. ;)

Christopher Stansfield said:

“If a comic book critic (or movie critic, or book critic, or…) can’t think of ANYTHING constructive to say about something, then he shouldn’t be in the business of being a critic.”

Would finding something constructive to say be similar to, “Gee, for a fat guy, you don’t sweat much.”?

Christopher Stansfield

October 21, 2009 at 8:32 pm

So who cares what they think?

The question isn’t who cares what the reader thinks (though a part of me wonders why a writer who doesn’t care what his readers think doesn’t just keep his opinions of things to himself, or in a diary). The question when it comes to a critic/reviewer (not entirely sure I agree with your distinction) is why anyone should care what HE thinks. A reader is implicitly granting authority to a reviewer by reading his opinions- if the reviewer doesn’t provide any support for those opinions, why should anybody give him that authority? In other words, why care what he thinks?

Would finding something constructive to say be similar to, “Gee, for a fat guy, you don’t sweat much.”?

I think you’re confusing “constructive” with “positive.” There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a 100% negative review (or, for that matter, a 100% positive one)- the point is that you should at least be able to give a reason for the negativity if you’re going to be a writer rather than, say, a heckler in an audience..

Christopher Stansfield

October 21, 2009 at 8:34 pm

Dammit, I hate bracket codes.

Christopher Stansfield

October 21, 2009 at 8:36 pm

Second try:

So who cares what they think?

The question isn’t who cares what the reader thinks (though a part of me wonders why a writer who doesn’t care what his readers think doesn’t just keep his opinions of things to himself, or in a diary). The question when it comes to a critic/reviewer (not entirely sure I agree with your distinction) is why anyone should care what HE thinks. A reader is implicitly granting authority to a reviewer by reading his opinions- if the reviewer doesn’t provide any support for those opinions, why should anybody give him that authority? In other words, why care what he thinks?

Would finding something constructive to say be similar to, “Gee, for a fat guy, you don’t sweat much.”?

I think you’re confusing “constructive” with “positive.” There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a 100% negative review (or, for that matter, a 100% positive one)- the point is that you should at least be able to give a reason for the negativity if you’re going to be a writer rather than, say, a heckler in an audience..

P.S. If anyone has the authority to delete the double-posts, go ahead.

Reviewers write to tell people if a work is good/bad in that ‘is it worth spending money on’ sort of way. Critics analyse an entire work for specific ideas and themes, pointing out how it is interesting or ‘worthwhile’ while not necessarily mentioning if it is ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ There’s two different purposes there, but the terms are used interchangeably these days.

Also, as I said before, that statement wasn’t a proper review, it was a random thought. Proper review goes up on CBR whenever my editor decides to post it. Plenty of constructive statements there that I didn’t feel like rewriting here.

A reader is implicitly granting authority to a reviewer by reading his opinions- if the reviewer doesn’t provide any support for those opinions, why should anybody give him that authority? In other words, why care what he thinks?

I would disagree that any reader or viewer gives that much authority to a critic. If Roger Ebert (the critic I tend to agree with most) said My Bloody Valentine was the greatest movie since Lawrence of Arabia, I probably still wouldn’t watch it. I would think that most people watch or read reviews because their entertaining. Regardless of what Ebert says about a movie, I still enjoy reading his reviews because he’s a good writer.

Chad said that a reviewer’s job is to share whether he or she feels a work is “worth it.” I would add that he or she also has to do it in an entertaining way. A reviewer is like any other newspaper (or Internet or whatever) columnist. We have a movie reviewer for one of the weekly papers here in Columbus who is just vicious to any movie that cost more than $50,000 to make or isn’t foreign produced. But he’s a blast to read.

Random Stranger

October 22, 2009 at 5:56 pm

Reviewers write to tell people if a work is good/bad in that ‘is it worth spending money on’ sort of way. Critics analyse an entire work for specific ideas and themes, pointing out how it is interesting or ‘worthwhile’ while not necessarily mentioning if it is ‘good’ or ‘bad.’

I don’t generally disagree (though generally I think attempts to differentiate “reviews” from “criticism” tend to be retroactive, and don’t necessarily reflect any real historical distinction). I just don’t see how the distinction makes any difference with regards to the point I make. If a “review” is a form of consumer protection, as it were, than that is even MORE of a reason why it should have supporting evidence. Again, if someone’s going to tell me whether something is or isn’t worth spending money on, “It sucked” is pretty much a meaningless piece of advice.

Also, as I said before, that statement wasn’t a proper review, it was a random thought. Proper review goes up on CBR whenever my editor decides to post it. Plenty of constructive statements there that I didn’t feel like rewriting here.

Huh? Don’t know if anyone accused you of being a bad reviewer. I certainly didn’t- my response was to Wesley Smith, not your initial post, which was obviously meant to be tongue-in-cheek.

I would disagree that any reader or viewer gives that much authority to a critic. If Roger Ebert (the critic I tend to agree with most) said My Bloody Valentine was the greatest movie since Lawrence of Arabia, I probably still wouldn’t watch it. I would think that most people watch or read reviews because their entertaining. Regardless of what Ebert says about a movie, I still enjoy reading his reviews because he’s a good writer.

No argument there: if a person is generally disinclined to like a type of book, movie, etc, a critic will probably not change that person’s mind. But if someone has no real biases, critics (whether they’re professionals or simply friends with opinions) of course hold enormous sway based on track record and ability to make an argument. I might not see “My Bloody Valentine,” because Ebert liked it, but I’d certainly be more inclined to see it if HE wrote a good review than say, if Ben Lyons did (does Ben Lyons even write? Or was that really just a case of pure nepotism?). I probably wouldn’t have rushed to see “Hoop Dreams” back in the day (hell, I may never have seen it at all), but that’s at least one example of Ebert’s championship that led me to seek out a film.

You’re probably right that, most of the time, most readers don’t give authority to most critics- so I’ll amend my point by saying that, at the very least, the PUBLISHER of a critic is extending that authority to whomever is working for him. And if that’s the case, there are probably plenty of good writers who AREN’T being published who would be justifiably annoyed that someone who doesn’t know how to make an argument is doing a job they could do.

Even “reviews” can be (and should be) constructive. By way of example, here are two possible capsule reviews of “The Phantom Menace” (these aren’t necessarily my opinion- just hypothetical): 1. “New ‘Star Wars’ is an unnecessary prequel to the classic series that is bound to leave anyone but the most hardcore fan disappointed.” 2. “Awkward dialogue and wooden performances hinder this overly talky Star Wars prequel. Kids will probably love the special effects. Adults will be bored.”" Both have the same number of words, both say the movie was bad. But the first one tells a consumer nothing except that the reviewer was disappointed. The latter review conveys that the reviewer didn’t like the movie because he thought the dialogue was bad, the acting was wooden, that there’s too much exposition, that it’s childish, that it is boring, and that it has good special effects.” Which do you think is better?

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