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Comic Book Dictionary Archives | Page 2 of 2 | Comics Should Be Good @ CBR

Karaoke Comics

After doing a little karaoke recently, it made me think about how the concept could be applied to comics (it is quite strange how many things I think about how they could be applied to comics..hehe), and it occured to that there have been a bunch of books out there that I would consider to be “karaoke comics.”

A karaoke comic is a run on a comic that follows a previous run very closely, but as it is a copy, ends up being inferior to the original product.

Some examples: Continue Reading »

Comic Book Dictionary – Idea Repertoire

Idea Repertoire describes the stock amount of ideas certain writers continually fall back upon, no matter what type of comic they’re writing. Continue Reading »

Comic Book Dictionary – Formatitis

Formatitis is when a comic book story suffers from being forced to commit to a specific format.

Notable examples of Formatitis include: Continue Reading »

Comic Dictionary – Easy Writing

Today’s term is “Easy Writing,” (for the pun value, I wanted to go with Easy Writer, but it just didn’t make as much sense as Easy Writing) which is defined as “When a writer has certain events occur in a comic, not because they make sense, but because the writer needs certain things to happen a certain way, and it is just easier to have characters act out of character/illogically than to put in the time to make the scene work logically.

Very often, this occurs during outside writing, but it does not always have to be outside writing. It can sometimes just be when a writer personally wants a story to go a certain way, but usually, it happens in outside writing, when an editor tells a writer that “X” HAS to occur, so the writer will just have X happen, and not spend the time to see if it makes sense or not.

Comic Dictionary – The Progressive X-Men Era

Joe Rice came up with this term recently, and I really liked it, so I am offering it up to you folks here now. Rather than saying “Morrison’s X-Men,” the Progressive X-Men Era is expanded to include all the titles from the X-Line of the time, which marked a specific tendency to try new, progressive ideas.

The era started in May of 2001, with the launch of both Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, but also Peter Milligan and Mike Allred’s X-Force, plus Joe Casey’s Uncanny X-Men and X’s The Brotherhood. Not all of these projects worked out, of course (Casey and X’s projects basically flopped), but this time marked an age when the X-Books were willing to at least TRY new things. Other examples include the X-Factor mini-series and the David Tischman run on Cable.

The era officially ended with Morrison’s last issue of New X-Men in March 2004, but really, it probably ended a few months earlier, in late 2003, with the capitulation of Marvel editorial regarding the Princess Diana storyline in X-Statix. That was a clear statement of a return to conservative thinking on the X-Books.

Ah well, at least we got almost three years of progressive comics!

And, thanks to Joe, we also have a term to refer to it.

Comic Dictionary – The Ron Frenz Rule of Costume Design

I thought I had this up here, but apparently, I only had it posted on Snark Free Waters, so I figured I might as well post it here, too.

The Ron Frenz Rule of Costume Design is a simple one. Don’t design a comic book costume too ornately. With every costume you design, always do so so that, if Ron Frenz were ever to draw it, it would look cool.

This is NOT meant to be a knock on Ron Frenz at ALL. His style is just geared towards simple designs, not ornate ones.

Therefore, if he can make your costume look basically the way you designed it, then you passed the test.

Examples of costumes that FAIL the Ron Frenz rule of costume design include the alien War Machine armor, a lot of Iron Man armors over the years, Metamorpho during Gerry Jones’ JLA run (that’s a slight exception, as it did not look good in JLA EITHER), Jericho’s costume, Namorita’s current look, etc.

Feel free to mention any costumes that you think break the rule!

Comic Dictionary – Mary Sue

I did not come up with this term, but it is such a useful term in comic critiquing, I think that it is worthwhile to post it.

Here is a good definition that I found of “Mary Sue”: MARY SUE (n.): 1. A variety of story, first identified in the fan fiction community, but quickly recognized as occurring elsewhere, in which normal story values are grossly subordinated to inadequately transformed personal wish-fulfillment fantasies, often involving heroic or romantic interactions with the cast of characters of some popular entertainment. 2. A distinctive type of character appearing in these stories who represents an idealized version of the author. 3. A cluster of tendencies and characteristics commonly found in Mary Sue-type stories. 4. A body of literary theory, originally generated by the fanfic community, which has since spread to other fields (f.i., professional SF publishing) because it’s so darn useful. The act of committing Mary Sue-ism is sometimes referred to as “self-insertion.” Warren Ellis is considered to be a prominent user of Mary Sues (Pete Wisdom in Excalibur, for one).

Am I missing any other significant, non-Ellis Mary Sues?

Comic Dictionary – Uncolored

“Uncolored” is a phrase used to distinguish between books that use black & white as an artistic expression and those books that use black & white just because they cannot afford to color the book.

For instance, Kane is a black & white book.

Worldwatch #1 is an uncolored book.

It seems silly to me to refer to both books as using the same style of art, as they clearly are going for different approaches.

Like a Marvel Essential book. Those books are most definitely “uncolored” (as they are literally colored stories printed without colors). So they are going for a totally different approach than a Torso or Jinx.

Please note that I realize that even the books I refer to as “black & white” often made the decision to GO to black white because of the price factor.

The only difference is that the ones I call “black & white” EMBRACED the format and went with it, rather than just draw the same way they would draw a colored book…just uncolored.

Comic Dictionary – Paternalistic Continuity

Paternalistic continuity is what you call it when a writer/editor gets protective (or paternalistic) of the continuity of a particular character, and goes out of his/her way to control the history of said character.

The first notable example of this that I can think of is when John Byrne decided that Dr. Doom (“his” character, as Byrne was writing Fantastic Four at the time) was written poorly by Chris Claremont during an Uncanny X-Men appearance. So Byrne decided to show us all that that appearance was NOT “in continuity” by having the Doom from that X-Men story revealed to be a Doom-bot.

Another recent example was Jim Starlin in his Infinity Abyss mini-series, where he used an almost exact idea (instead of Doom-Bots, he used clones of Thanos) to explain away recent appearances of Thanos that he, Starlin, felt were out of character for Thanos (including the infamous Thanos/Ka-Zar fight). At least Starlin CREATED Thanos, so I guess paternalism is not that weird for him.

A final recent example is the X-Editors/Chris Claremont (one or the other) deciding that the Magneto in Grant Morrison’s run was NOT the actual Magneto driven mad by Sublime, but a changeling.

Can anyone think of any other examples of paternalistic continuity?

Comic Dictionary – Snowball Idea

A snowball idea is based on the premise of a snowball, rolling down the hill. It starts off as a tiny little snowball, but as it keeps rolling and rolling, it keeps adding more and more snow, until it is one gigantic snowball, and when it hits, it is a big mess.

It applies to comics (and movies and TV and everyday life) in much the same way.

Someone will suggest something, often not even being serious. The idea then is sent down the hill, and if no one cuts it off, it just keeps adding snow and gaining momentum until it is so big that NO one can stop it.

Grant Morrison’s “Batman protocols” (and the Marvel equivalent, the “Xavier protocols”) is a perfect example.

Once Morrison brought the idea up in a Wizard JLA special, you KNEW the idea would be used by SOMEone later on, you just did not know where and by who.

It was a snowball idea.

A current snowball idea is the whole “return of Jason Todd” idea. Once Loeb brought it up in Hush, even if he meant it as something to not be taken seriously, it began its snowball trip. When it will hit and make a big mess is the only question now…

EDITED TO ADD: Note that Jason Todd DID end up returning later that year! I think the current “snowball idea” is Spider-Man and Mary Jane’s marriage ending.

Comic Dictionary – Cousin Larry Trick

If you ever watched the show “Perfect Strangers,” it involved two cousins, one a urban man named Larry, and the other, a foreigner named Balki.

Larry was the kind of guy who was always trying to take the easy way out, to say stuff like “but EVERYbody does it, so it’s okay!” and always trying to take short cuts and never wanting to own up to his mistakes.

Balki, though, was the innocent and he always had to be Cousin Larry’s conscience.

Therefore, when used in reference to discussing comics, a “Cousin Larry trick” is when a creator does something sneaky (I first used underhanded here, but that has too much of a negative connotation), most notably the use of “irony in afterthought.”

The term comes from Mike Nelson’s review of “Wild Things,” and his example of a Cousin Larry trick is the specific example that I personally use most of the time, and that is that the producers of Wild Things set out to make a thriller, and when people mocked it for being a poor thriller, they attempted to claim that it wasn’t a bad thriller, but a good comedy.

That’s a Cousin Larry trick.

And you’ll see it used in comics a lot.

Chuck Austen is currently using a Cousin Larry trick with his independent series, Worldwatch. It is terrible exploitative comics with awful dialogue and characterization, but if you point that out, you’re told “it’s SUPPOSED to be like that!”

Total Cousin Larry trick.

Comic Dictionary – Nepotistic Continuity

This is when a writer uses strong continuity in his or her comics, but frequently when it is in reference to something (a work or a creation) that THAT writer did in the past.

Chuck Dixon was big on this, having minor characters from one of his four Bat-books show up constantly in his other Bat-books.

The funniest point of Dixon’s nepotistic continuity history is when he had the clone of Guy Gardner (that he had introduced during a very short run on Guy Gardner: Warrior) show up in Birds of Prey.

NOTE: I am not saying that this is a BAD thing.

Comic Dictionary – Outside Writing

Outside writing is what you call it when outside influences, like editors, influence the way a story is written, not the natural flow of the story.

For instance, in the Superman titles awhile back.

“Lois and Clark need to break up!”

Then, a few issues later, “No wait, they have to get married tomorrow!”


Silly nonsense like that makes for bad comic books often….but not ALWAYS…

For instance, Morrison’s JLA was big-time outside writing, Morrison really did not have an “inside” story reason why the “Big Seven” should form a team together, but the comic was excellent anyways.

This is not just a comic term, it also applies to other serial medium, like television. “Character X loves Character Y sooo much. But Character X’s contract is up, and is leaving the show. So now Character X hates Character Y.”


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