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Sunday Quick Bites: 8/1/10

A few quick odds and ends from the week that was in rapid-fire fashion.

SAN DIEGO POST-GAME:

  • Todd VanDerWerff of the AV Club writes a melancholy article about Artist’s Alley:

But the experience of Artists’ Alley also requires seeing people who are just here because they’re hanging on to a dream that will likely never come true, a piece of themselves that is dedicated to something that will always exist outside of themselves, no matter how hard they might race after it. You can almost see the difference in their eyes, a kind of quiet panic, a brain firing synapses that keep saying, “This isn’t right, this isn’t right, this isn’t right.” They were supposed to be famous by now. They were supposed to be something other than this, something other than people trying to get a flood of fellow humans headed toward Bumblebee to stop for a second and notice them and say, “Hey, you’re the best artist ever.” But the flood rushes past, not even having the dignity to sweep them along with it.

If you have a passion, you have a Mecca. For an Elvis fan like my mother, Mecca is the jumpsuit-ladened halls of Graceland. For a Muslim, Mecca is a city called Mecca in Saudi Arabia where the Prophet Muhammad was born in AD 570. And for nerds, Mecca is San Diego Comic-Con. Over the years, this show has morphed from its original incarnation as a gathering place for grand debates on which character would win in a fight, Hulk or She-Ra, to today’s Hollywood showcase, where producers can unveil who has been cast in the US$300-million Hulk vs. She-Ra movie.

ITEM! Benito Cereno writes a Metamorpho script as a birthday present:

SPLASH PANEL!
Holy crap, dudes, I think Metamorpho is for real dead this time, because he is smooth pinned to the ground by a grip of harpoons and has a big, gaping hole in his chest. His face shows him to be in agony, and he is reaching his hands out, as if towards us, the readers! His body also seems to be falling apart at the seams. Behind him gloats Black Manta, that guy from Aquaman, holding his harpoon gun up in the air and shaking his fist in victory.

Also! Behind him floats the deadly Negamorpho, evil twin of Metamorpho! He has a totally black head with a nose, eyebrows, not a harelip, and other features that Metamorpho sometimes has when artists draw him off model. His shirt part is blue and yellow where Metamorpho’s is orange and purple, respectively. His legs are, uh, the opposite of mud? and metal? And his belt buckle has an “N” on it instead of an “M.” (It stands for “Negamorpho.”) Anyway, Negamorpho is like a gaseous cloud of evil, swirling about a panicking Sapphire Stagg, who cannot escape his clutches.

METAMORPHO says: S-s-sufferin’ Sapphire! I never thought I’d go out like this, baby!

Then METAMORPHO says: 86’d by my evil twin and–>choke!<–that guy from Aquaman!

ITEM! Colin Smith’s got a two-parter up about superheroes and fascism:

We love to watch those who violate and/or betray liberal-democratic values being dealt with, but not because we believe that a fascist state would be better than a democratic one. In fact, the superhero is a figure who serves to return, in narrative form, democracy to its ideals, where everyone is society is protected from the power wielded by those who care not a whit for fairness at all. For brought up as many of us in the West, and particularly in America, have been, quite consistently marinated in the popular tenants of democracy, we long to live in a world where the reality of our civil society and the claims made for it coincide more closely. And the superhero, rather than being a symbol of how the audience should turn to authoritarian government, draws its power from our knowledge of how democracy often doesn’t work while desperately wishing that it did.

ITEM! Zyduck the Honorable writes about Spider-Man as an aspirational figure, and three Bronze Age moments of Peter Parker displaying individual characteristics:

Spider-Man’s got it harder, though, because he’s got to be an aspirational figure for everybody. He can’t even be a character type like Tony Stark or the Human Torch because Peter Parker has to be all things to all comics fans. He’s the part in all of us that screws up, feels alienated, feels alone and always on the outside of things. He represents youth, and if we’re not still as young as he’s supposed to be, we can at least remember when we were. Because he’s so universal, he’s got to be extremely broad, and indeed, as is often pointed out, because of the full face mask you can very easily imagine your own face under there.

ITEM! Sims the Obligatory reads the worst Batman comic, like, ever:

“Widening Gyre” is the most compelling argument I’ve seen for the distinction between fan-fiction and “legitimate” comics writing being purely monetary, because there is no qualitative distinction whatsoever between what Smith’s doing here and what JokerScarz666 puts up on his LiveJournal. Smith’s writing on Batman is marked by nothing so much as a pervasive immaturity. He writes like a 13-year-old in every possible way.

THIS JUST IN! Jon Adams draws a comic strip about San Francisco comic shops. Praises Sime, disses Hibbs, film at eleven.

BREAKING NEWS! Rich Johnston reveals Thunderstrike revival by DeFalco and Frenz. Bill Reed is only man on internet to be terribly excited about this. No, really. Thunderstrike– Eric Masterson– definitely my favorite Marvel character. I’m mildly concerned about possible retcons, but I think Tom and Rom will handle it with their usual aplomb.

WUX-TRY! WUX-TRY! Axe Cop and Dr. McNinja team up; faces across country rocked so hard they fall off:

CopNinja

What bits of internet reverie got your goat or wet your whistle this week?

26 Comments

Wow, that Todd VanDerWerff piece is the moving thing I’ve read about comics and the business of creating them in quite literally years. It’s damn well-written too. Thank you, Bill, for posting it, and congratulations to Mr V for such a fine essay.

I shall now be worrying for all those exceptionally hard-working & able creators for far longer than I think I want to. Which is a good thing, I guess. Adds a touch of perspective to one’s own ambitions.

Good stuff. Really good stuff.

It’s also balls. Here is artist’s alley. Where’s the desperation?

http://www.bleedingcool.com/2010/07/27/video-artists-alley-at-san-diego-comic-con-part-one/

I was actually gonna mention that myself but you beat me to whoring out your own stuff before I could do it for you, Rich.

I really hope Nate Bellegarde draws that Metamorpho script for Benito’s birthday — or any other occasion. It’s stupendous.

I thought Kevin Smith’s first Batman mini was awful, but it looks like he managed to top himself. Impressive?

Axe Cop/McNinja has been pure awesome, and those two panels might be the best of the crossover so far. The only thing missing? Alt-text.

My impression is that the Artists’ Alley used to take up a sizable portion of the Con. Maybe 15-20%? You could see row after row of artists, many of them well known. The Alley was relatively uncrowded so you could browse and chat with people whose work you’d admired.

Now they’re segregated in one aisle at the far side of the Con. And the crowds are so huge that you can’t linger without feeling you’re clogging the lanes. The result is the melancholy feeling VanDerWerff describes.

The Widening Gyre article had me rolling.

You can take most every criticism of Kevin Smith’s “The Widening Gyre” and it’s just as valid for his Green Arrow story “Quiver.” I mention this mostly because I think I already did, in a piece about big names getting paid to swoop in and do fanfic, but I can’t remember where I did it. But it really is a pernicious trend.

Fanfic is actually the default setting for superhero comics and has been for about a decade now, I think… we live in a world now where you can get an ABSOLUTE REBIRTH. But the comics guys tend to be better at it than the Hollywood guys and the novelists, that’s all. The difference between Mark Waid doing a Superman pastiche in IRREDEEMABLE and what Kevin Smith does is that Waid actually understands what he’s doing.

The real problem is that superhero comics aren’t a mass medium any more. They’re a specialty item, a niche collector thing. So it’s fanfic or nothing. The mass medium-type comics rarely make into comics retailers at all. They’re on the web or in bookstores. I don’t think anyone ever even argues about the truth of this any more, except about whether or not it’s a bad thing.

I read that Artists’ Alley piece while listening to the Cure, and just…God. I wanted to cry.

It was a few years ago, but the last time I was at Comic-Con, Artists’ Alley WAS depressing and desperate. Many people were waiting anxiously for someone to recognize them or discover them, and it created that feeling that I get when I’m the only customer in a store with a salesman who works on commission. It makes me so uncomfortable, I’d rather just avoid it altogether.

The first paragraph is the example Rich Johnston is looking for. Where’s the video interview with Al Weisner?

There isn’t one, because the comics audience at large doesn’t care about him or his comic. And how sad is it that this guy likely found the one thing he loved and wanted to do most, poured a ton of effort into it, and no one really cares?

That’s something every generation of youth has to confront, but when you see it manifested in someone who could be your dad, it’s depressing as hell.

It’s entirely possible that Al Weisner’s comic doesn’t get recognized because:

1. It is not a very good comic.
2. It is filled with anti-Arab prejudice.

Weisner may have set out to put Judaism into comics, there’s not really much in there. It’s just Shaloman beating up Arabs.

The Matt Fraction talk at w00tstock was utterly great. I really liked how he segued from talking about shooting Stilt Man in the taint to his more personal childhood memories of comics and how they shaped him.

Yeah, that Metamorpho thing is cool just from the bit you posted.

My favorite Onion headline this past week was “Lady Gaga kidnaps Commissioner Gordon”. It works so well.

My favorite TV type thing is good news/bad news. The Good Guys is ending its summer run Monday night, but it will come back in the fall, back to back in some order with Human Target. So the 2 Fox shows I tape (on a VCR, bitches!) are on the same night. Of course, that night is Friday, so they’ll probably die soon. And Good Guys is sooooo funny. But Sept. 3 starts reruns of the 2 shows, and Sep 24 is new eps. So I hope I can catch the few Human Target eps I missed.

Otherwise, other than an annoying poster on this site (whose first name should be Phil), I’m good. It’s been a good week.

Given that you ARE the only one who cares about Thunderstrike, why is Marvel reviving it? Did DeFalco get some sweet deal with Marvel back in the 90s that means he can push things like this and Spider-Girl that have an audience, just a small one?

And I’m guessing that the Thunderstrike book he does will have a lot of exclamation points at the end of sentences!

Thor movie + Spider-Girl cancellation = slide some money DeFalco/Frenz/Buscema’s way by putting them to work on a Thor-related comic that’ll be sitting on a Barnes & Noble shelf come next May when the movie hits.

Ah, yes, of course. It all makes sense now.

You know, I have an issue or 2 of Thunderstrike, now I have to read it. That, and some of the Thor issues where Eric was Thor.

Damn you Reed!

“It’s entirely possible that Al Weisner’s comic doesn’t get recognized because:

1. It is not a very good comic.
2. It is filled with anti-Arab prejudice.

Weisner may have set out to put Judaism into comics, there’s not really much in there. It’s just Shaloman beating up Arabs.”

That may all be true, but it doesn’t really matter why it’s unsuccessful, for the purposes of this discussion, does it? The question is how representative his kind of unsuccessful comic is of the Artists’ Alley area.

I’m just pointing out that I don’t think it’s terribly sad that no one cares about his comics.

DeFalco and Frenz just don’t get the respect they deserve. I just re-read their ASM run and it was crazy how many good new characters they introduced. Compare to the new villains from Brand New Day. ‘Nuff said.

“I’m just pointing out that I don’t think it’s terribly sad that no one cares about his comics.”

I don’t really mean “sad” in the sense of being unjust or disappointing. I mean, “sad” in the sense of being pathetic or depressing.

And whether you think he deserves to be successful or not, surely you agree that an older man trying desperately to carve a niche in a shrinking market that seems to have made it clear they don’t want him, in a forsaken corner of the convention, is pretty sad.

“It’s also balls. Here is artist’s alley. Where’s the desperation?”

You’re committing the hasty generalization logical fallacy. VanDerWerff discusses his impression of the general mood of AA; you respond with selected videos of a small sample of the people there and claim that because this small selection of people was happy, that indicates that everyone there was happy. You’re basing that generalization on a small sample (and ignoring the fact that that sample was likely chosen for its film-friendly qualities: openness, happiness) and thus claiming that you’ve disproved VanDerWerff’s impression of the event as a whole. Do you see why there are some fairly serious logical problems with the argument you’re trying to make?

funkygreenjerusalem

August 2, 2010 at 2:16 am

You can take most every criticism of Kevin Smith’s “The Widening Gyre” and it’s just as valid for his Green Arrow story “Quiver.”

Except Quiver was fun.

This sounds terrible.

Fanfic is actually the default setting for superhero comics and has been for about a decade now, I think… we live in a world now where you can get an ABSOLUTE REBIRTH.

Rebirth was fine – bloggers seem to hold it in more contempt than it deserves.
I think it offended people who know their continuity, and knew all the references and ret-cons, than those of us who wandered in new to the character.
There’s the continuity cluster-fuck aspect to it, but it also makes it feel like this is a character with a history, and we’re going to use that as fuel for some fun stories.

Yeah, I can’t remember what Quiver was about, even. I know I’ve read it (read the 2 Smith GA trades and Meltzer’s, which was the only decent Meltzer comic ever) (now T is going to come in and beat my ass down. I can picture him — hark, someone said something nice about Meltzer, the planets are out of alignment!).

I just can’t remember the plot of Quiver. He’p me!

What I’ve seen of Rebirth didn’t sound too bad either.

And in other non comics news, Chelsea Clinton had to go and break my heart and marry someone else. Damn!

Artists’ Alley at the NYCon when I went back in 07 was definitely a bummer. I remember a massive line for Steve McNiven and the tables on either side of him completely vacant of fans. I did find it a little sad, and it’s part of the reason I stopped going to cons, but I wonder whether it’s an outsider-looking-in kind of sadness. I have to imagine that simply working in this industry, where DC knocks on Kevin Smith’s door for the next installment of Batman fanfic and where, at the same time, truly talented undiscovereds have their pitches rejected again and again, will numb creators to the kind of disappointment we perceive as being felt at the Con. Maybe guys like Al Weisner are genuinely content to make a couple of new fans and get a little press for themselves out in the world. Johnston’s youtube videos certainly give that impression.

I just can’t remember the plot of Quiver. He’p me!

Well, if by ‘plot’ you mean ‘what happened,’ it was a bizarre roundabout journey wherein Oliver’s reanimated and healed self from the hard-traveling-heroes era was eventually merged with his older Grell-era persona, but I thought it was a meandering mess, borderline slashfic in places, culminating in a look-Ma-I’m-a-DC-expert reveal that the villain was Stanley and his monster. In short, fanfic. But Funky thought it was fun, so I guess mileage varies.

Rebirth was fine – bloggers seem to hold it in more contempt than it deserves.

I find it symptomatic of a larger problem — it is a textbook example of the ‘explanation’ story, the kind of thing that only exists to move characters from point A to point B, after which the actual story will begin. It has annoyed me for years…. it used to irritate me back when Roy Thomas would waste an Invaders Annual explaining why the Sub-Mariner changed his shorts from black to green. (Because, I guess, in the world of superheroes, royalty only gets one pair of swim trunks.)

Over the last few years, this kind of explanatory fanservice thing — which, once upon a time, was the sole province of amateur fanfic zines and such — has moved further and further into the “mainstream,” to the point where now whole miniseries exist solely as explanation and setup. DC, especially, has a terrible habit of teasing readers with the idea that as soon as this is over, a new era begins! and instead it just spins out into another big set-up mini-series. The exposition-and-setup story has become the default position now. Which, once upon a time, was the traditional starting place for fanfic– the scratching of an itch that a general readership doesn’t notice or care about.

There is no mini-series in recent years more emblematic of that than REBIRTH. So yeah, it draws a lot of fire. I gave it to Julie to read when it was coming out just to see if a reader who came to it cold could make sense of it, and she was lost. Worse, she was bored. But again, you enjoyed it and I guess a lot of other people must have… but I still regard it as the poster child for the current fanservice state of superhero comics.

Louis Bright-Raven

August 3, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Rich:

I don’t know if there was a smell of desperation, but if I have to go by the conversations I had with several artists who attended SDCC who also attended Charlotte Comicon last Sunday, there may well have been a smell of indignation and resentment lingering in that section of the convention center.

It’s almost impossible to get noticed in the grand scale that is SDCC today, especially when you have so many megacorps spending money out the wazoo to draw people’s attentions towards them. It’s almost getting to a point where regions of talents are going to have to form coalitions and buy entire islands just so everyone can get space and some equitable space placement and treatment from the organizers. I would not be surprised to see something like that come about in the next five to six years. And I’m not talking like an ‘indie island’, I’m talking regionally located talent who all know one another from doing the smaller regional shows forming groups and coming to SDCC or other megashows in groups of 30-150 artists strong, regardless of who they work for and who’s the most famous or what have you.

It may be the only way to combat the influx of outside media.

Thanks to Greg for the plot of Quiver, which I did remember, I was thinking of the plot of the second Smith GA, whose name and plot I can’t remember. What was THAT one about?

I think from what I’m reading about SDCC and the Artists Alley stuff above, it seems to show that SDCC is no longer a COMIC con, but a nerd movie promo con. But that’s just my take from across the country. Burgas seemed to enjoy his time and did mostly just comics stuff, from what I read of his piece on the show.

There was an article in the NY Times a few weeks before SDCC about how the movie promoters are “preaching to the choir” in pushing movies to audiences (people at the con) that will probably go see them anyway. It’s been long enough ago I can’t remember the conclusion of the article, but my take is that because these promoters push this stuff so much to the mainstream media (Entertainment Weekly and USA Weekend, plus TV coverage), they get a return on their investment while pleasing us nerds some too (hey, comics stuff is ON TV!). Again, just me.

I’d say the smaller cons are where to go, if you want to talk to comics creators. Over the years at Ithacon (NY), I’ve met people like Jim Shooter, Jay Lynch, Roger Stern, Kurt Busiek (although I didn’t talk to him, grr), Tom Hart, and other people that I can’t come up with off the top of my head. But there aren’t lines of people waiting for one person and everyone else is desperate. There are few enough people that EVERYONE’S desperate (I kid, a little).

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