web stats

Comic Book Dictionary Archives | Comics Should Be Good @ CBR

Comic Book Dictionary – Retcon

Comic Book Dictionary is an occasional feature where I either introduce a term or explain how I use a term that is not always consistently applied.

Today we look at “retcon.”
Continue Reading »

What should we call this age of comics?

I doubt if anyone is nominating the “Golden Age”!
Continue Reading »

Comic Book Dictionary – Underscorigins

This week’s first issue of Venom: Dark Origin brings up something that I call “underscorigins.”

Read on if you don’t mind being spoiled about the first issue of Venom: Dark Origin! Continue Reading »

Comic Book Dictionary – Exit/Return Quality Quotient

How odd – comments were off for some reason. Strange. I re-enabled comments! Sorry about that. – BC

Two recent illogical returns of comic book characters made me think about this one, which states that the the quality quotient of a character’s return in the eyes of fans seems to be based upon the dividend of the lameness of the character’s exit/death and the divisor of the lameness of the character’s return.

So long as the lameness of the character’s exit is greater than the lameness of the character’s return, it seems like fans are pleased.

Read on for two recent (spoiler-filled) examples of this quotient at work! Continue Reading »

Comic Book Dictionary – Hang a Lampshade

Steven Padnick let me know about this term, which is not really a comic book term, per se, but more just a literature term that also applies to comic book writing as well as it applies to any other literary medium (Stephen actually used the alternate term, “hang a lantern”).

It refers to the practice in stories of addressing reader’s questions about the story yourself IN the story. Like if the reader is thinking, “Why didn’t they just do ____?,” have a character say why they didn’t do ____. Or if a reader is thinking, “Boy, that is implausible,” have the character remark, “Man, if I didn’t see that for myself, I doubt I’d believe it actually happened!” Or if a reader is thinking, “This is just like that one time on ____,” have a character remark, “Wow, this is just like that one time on _____.” Essentially, address the person’s “arguments” before they make them.

Probably the most notable example of hanging a lampshade is when characters acknowledge that what is happening to them seems like something that would happen in a TV show/movie/comic, and that’s where the story is actually happening.

It differs in my mind from a “Cousin Larry trick” because hanging a lampshade is an intentional admittance of reader concerns, while a Cousin Larry trick is an after-the-fact attempt to deflect legitimate concern.

Comic Book Dictionary – 90s Good

Commenter Todd Lawrence reminded me of this concept when he was discussing Karl Kesel’s Daredevil run in an entry last week. Lawrence brings up a strong point – during the 1990s, there was a number of good comic books. However, there was also a special subset of comics that were what I am now defining as “90s Good.” There was such a high supply of awful comic books during the 1990s (I think the highest percentage of bad comics came from this time period) that some comics of the time, while not really being good comics on their own, are considered good comics when viewed through the context of the times.

To wit, anyone re-read James Robinson’s WildC.A.T.s run recently? It is not bad, but nor is it anything amazing. And it certainly pales dramatically to his Starman work (heck, even to his Firearm work). Yet his short run on WildC.A.T.s is remembered so fondly that it even gets a special mention in his Wikipedia entry – “Robinson also wrote a brief but very well remembered run on Wildcats.” It IS well remembered, but it is funny that they used that term, as I think that is a great way of looking at it, it is well REMEMBERED, but that is because it came out in a sea of utter crap, so Robinson’s pretty good run on WildC.A.T.s stands out so much that when we think back to that time, his run stands out as quite good.

So yeah, for those comics from the 90s that were pretty good but are remembered as better because they came out during the 90s I am going to refer to as “90s Good.”

Comic Book Dictionary – Pygmalion Characters

Earlier this year, I asked for help naming a particular term, and thanks to poster Kid Kyoto, I have my name for it – Pygmalion Characters.

Pygmalion characters are those characters where, while not a proxy for their author/creator, the writer still goes out of his/her way to make their creation “the best at what they do.” I think we can all agree that it is, generally speaking, pretty tacky when a brand new character created by a book’s writer is suddenly beating up established characters, with the presumed intent of making the creation of the writer look better. They are basically just pet characters.

Remember how annoying it was when Batman was turning to Tarantula for help during War Crimes? Stuff like that – it’s silly and poor writing.

Tarantula, though, was not a “Mary Sue” of writer/creator Devin Grayson. But she WAS a bad character who fits into a specific reoccurring category of characters written by their creators who suddenly are “the best” and have other characters talk about how good they are (Another good example is Constantine Drakkon in Green Arrow).

So Kid Kyoto suggested Pygmalion, based on the famous Greek myth of the sculptor who fell in love with his own creation. That nails the concept beautifully, doesn’t it?

So pygmalion characters, it is!!

Comic Dictionary – False Epiphany Characters

This one is by T.

False Epiphany Characters are characters that writers have become obsessed with writing the ultimate end-all/ be-all story for. Writers are so attracted with writing breakthrough stories for these characters that they regularly negate the previous writer’s breakthrough for the same character and simply hit the reset button. After seeing how Miller was able to make a legend out of himself by writing the breakthrough maturation of a B-level character like Daredevil or how Morrison made his mark with Animal Man and Doom Patrol, a lot of writers want to do breakthrough stories of their own with well-known, B-level characters in hopes of making legends of themselves also. It’s harder to do a breakthrough with Batman and Spider-Man because they have had so many classic runs, but lower-tier characters give a better chance at this. Continue Reading »

Comic Dictionary – Grace Notes

Over on the Comics Should Be Good forum, everybody’s pal, T, started up a thread about suggestions for the Comic Dictionary. So I figured I’d post a few of the suggestions that I thought were neat. Today I’ll do one by Omar Karindu (this one) and one by T.

Grace Notes are plot points that exist as homages, references, and reenactments of past stories of a character or title that have become iconic for that character or title. When Jean Grey goes Phoenix again, that’s a Grace Note; when Bullseye or the Green Goblin threaten the hero’s girlfriend, that’s a Grace Note; when Batman winds up facing Ra’s Al Ghul in a swordfight in the desert, that’s a Grace Note. When Green Lantern teams with Green Arrow for an issue or two, that’s a Grace Note.

The difference between a Grace Note and a mere homage is that a Grace Note is a plot point; and homage can be a deliberate coincidence of image or a reenactment sequence with no major bearing on the plot. Continue Reading »

Comic Book Dictionary Help!

Okay, so we are all familiar, more or less, with the term “Mary Sue,” right? It basically refers to self-insertion by the author in a story via a proxy character. However, is it really still a “Mary Sue” if the character is not a proxy for the author, but still, the writer goes out of his/her way to make their creation “the best at what they do”? Continue Reading »

Comic Book Dictionary – Women in Refrigerators

As I mentioned when I started this particular series, the point of these entries is to explain to folks what I mean by certain terms that I use often. If people like my particular terms and definitions, then they are certainly welcome to use them as well, of course. I bring this up because today’s entry is about a term that I have seen many people use in many different manners, which makes it difficult for me to use the term, as folks do not know how I am using it. Here I will give my definition, so you at least will know what I mean when I use the term in the future. The term, of course (you can see the title, natch), is “Women in Refrigerators.” Continue Reading »

Comic Book Dictionary – Gimme Idea

A gimme idea is an idea that is so good, a comic would be pretty good just by the existence of the gimme idea. Continue Reading »

Comic Book Dictionary – Colorform Cover

Someone asked me what I meant by this the other month, and since I use the term so often, I figure it is worth doing as a Comic Dictionary entry.

Quoting Wikipedia’s entry for colorforms, the toy colorforms are “paper-thin, die-cut vinyl sheet images and shapes that could be applied to a slick cardboard background board, much like placing paper-dolls against a paper backdrop. The images would stick to the background via static cling and could be repositioned to create new scenes.”

Therefore, when I refer to a colorform comic book cover, I’m talking about a cover where it appears as though the cover artist drew a background (often by copying a photograph of a locale) and then photoshopped other figures s/he drew on to the background, making the figures not exactly appear as though they organically belong on the background, but rather, that they are like colorforms on a background.

Comic Book Dictionary: Venom Discretion Test

In his weekly column, “One Fan’s Opinion,” yesterday, Erik Larsen discussed the idea (which Stan Lee has brought up) that, in the broad sense, readers are the “real editors,” in that they decide, by what they buy, what books are produced. It’s an interesting article, with a whole lot of truth (especially the part about the fickle nature of readers), but I think there’s a certain aspect of the comic industry that Larsen left out of his piece, and that’s what I will call the Venom Discretion Test. Continue Reading »


Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives