Cronin Theory of Comics
I’m totally cool with the idea of Writer X coming on to a book and deciding that she/he wants to change the characterization of a character. I mean, if I think the change is a poor one it’ll irritate me, but at least it’ll be a case where I get it – the writer has to have the freedom to change things up, whether I like their decision is a whole other story.
Now here’s my issue, though – I think that if you DO do that, you should at least “have” to explain the change, and here’s why…
Continue Reading »
Yes, this is a general thing, too, it is not just about comic book blogging, but about any sort of blogging or message board posting, as well.
You don’t HAVE to argue every silly point out there.
Lord knows that I don’t.
If I don’t think a point is worth dignifying with a response, I don’t. I just leave it at that.
I know there is this feeling that if someone says something and it isn’t responded to, then it somehow, like, gains validity – like, “No one told Poster X his point was idiotic – therefore, if we are not there to say it is NOT true then it must BE true!” It doesn’t work like that. A dumb argument is a dumb argument, whether you respond to it or not.
That is not to say that you should not engage people with whom you disagree. Of course you should. If you disagree with someone on a point, go right ahead – argue the point. But only if you think the other person’s position is worth arguing. Otherwise, there’s nothing to be really gained. One of the hallmarks of this blog (I hope, at least) is to further intelligent discussion – if you’re dealing with someone who you don’t think is furthering the discussion, then do not bother with him/her. And especially don’t pull the ol’ “I’m responding just to tell you that I’m not responding to you” – no, don’t – just don’t respond period. I know it will make you feel like they’re “getting away” with something by not having their delusional rantings challenged, but they’re not – their point is just as stupid, so what do they get out of it? They’re the ones with the dumb point- there is no “victory” there.
Likewise, I’m totally cool if you think someone says something offensive and you want to respond. That’s totally different than making a ridiculous argument, that’s actually saying something rude or cruel or whatever. Feel free to take issue with that (like that guy we had awhile back who was calling gay people an insulting term).
But if it’s just someone making a dumb point, trust me, it will not give their silly position validity by not responding to them.
So I don’t think you should bother.
The other day, someone linked to a blog post Tom Brevoort did awhile back, and in it, Tom makes a comment that I completely agree with, and I’ve been meaning to post about for awhile.
To set up the quote, Tom was talking about a “Year One” Hulk Annual by John Byrne that had some changes to the Hulk’s origin, including effectively changing an earlier Hulk story by Peter David.
Months later, once John had left HULK, Peter David asked to do a scene in an early issue of CAPTAIN MARVEL, a series in which Rick Jones was the co-star. In the sequence, Rick is reading a copy of this Annual and laughing his head off at how wrong they’d gotten all the facts. There was a certain satisfaction to letting Peter do that, but that was a bad call as well. There’s a place and a time for such criticism, but within the stories themselves isn’t it.
I absolutely agree, and I was struck by how concisely Tom put it.
I don’t have a problem with creators speaking their minds about comics and other comic creators. But when they begin to take their issues with other creators into the comics themselves, I think that’s crossing a line into pettiness, which is not a good thing. If a change to a character/story is so offensive, then fine, reverse the change if you think it is important enough. Just don’t use your story to take shots at another creator/creators.
There’s plenty of places where you can get your views across (blogs, message boards, interviews) that there should be no need for it to appear in the comics themselves.
Another “problem” I have had looking at writers to feature for the Month of Writing Stars is that there are a number of writers that I like a lot who have somewhat of a spotty reputation because they worked on terrible projects. However, the artists who worked on those projects tend to escape unscathed in the critical opinion, because it seems that it is a lot easier for a good artist to transcend a terrible project than it is a good writer.
It seems to me that the mainstream writers who are on the lower tier than the (let’s say Jason Aaron because I used him for the last one – do note, though, that these things are always changing – the hot writer of today was usually the “I’ll take anything you have!” writer of yesterday) Jason Aarons of the world, they have to take pretty much any assignment given to them, so they end up pulling some awful assignments that end up being bad because the material is so weak. And they end up being knocked for not “saving” the project while the artist is just that artist who drew that awful comic by that writer.
So just keep that in mind if I happen to pick some writers this month who have some pretty bad comics on their resumes.
Comic book writers appear to have more of a presence on the internet than comic book artists. Now, of course, there are very popular artists who are on the same level as the most popular writers – guys like Jim Lee, John Byrne, Todd McFarlane, George Perez, Walt Simonson, Frank Miller, etc.
However, the second tier writers appear to be on a different level than the second tier artist – on the internet, at least.
To wit, Jason Aaron is basically a household name on the blogosphere while R.M. Guera is much less so.
Now there’s many different possible reasons for this.
As noted in the last post, writers work on more books, so they have more chances to get their names out there, so while Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera are both big parts of Scalped, Aaron also can do multiple other books to get attention, while Guera has just Scalped.
In addition, writers seem to do more interviews than most artists [EDITED TO ADD: And yes, their main skill - writing - also comes in quite handy in a written medium such as the internet].
Whatever the reason, this directly affects my picks for A Month of Writing Stars. While for the Artist Month I was able to pick guys like Pete Woods and Steve Lieber and actually have people say stuff like “Wow, this guy is good, I will check out his work!”, the comparable writers to those guys would be people like Jason Aaron or Dan Slott, and those writers are clearly too famous to spotlight on something like this (“You folks should really check out this Matt Fraction guy. Did you ever hear of Christos Gage?”)
This was recently brought up in the comments, so I figured it worth an entry.
Okay, so right from the get go, I don’t think you should ever state that a work is bad before it comes out. Nor do I think you should state that a work is bad without first having read/watched it (I think I’ll even extend that to “having seen promos/trailer for the work”).
However, I think “that looks bad” is perfectly reasonable if you, well, think it looks bad. Likewise, I have no problem (heck, I do it myself) with predicting quality of future works based on information you’ve previously acquired from past works, so long as you are only PREDICTING quality rather than making declarations of the quality of the work.
If I pick up a Jason Aaron comic book, before I open it up, I figure that the odds are that it will be well-written, based on his past work leading up to this new issue. On the flip side, if I pick up a comic by (name withheld*), I know the odds are that it will be poorly-written, based on his/her past work leading up to this new issue. So if I wish to say something like, “I am not looking forward to Writer V taking over Book W” or its counter, “I am looking forward to Writer X taking over Book Y,” then I think that is completely acceptable.
A slightly more problematic point is the question of citing the critical consensus. I think it is acceptable, so long as you are pretty clear that that is what you are doing – citing the critical consensus, not stating your stance on the matter. So if a comic is getting totally panned by the critics, I think saying “Apparently, Comic Book Z is not very good” is acceptable, but yeah, probably better to be clearer, just to avoid any possible confusion.
*The name wasn’t really withheld, that was a joke – I didn’t even think of a particular name.
This is one of the more obvious theories, but my pal Dan Larkin said I should write it up, so here it is! In serialized comics, given enough time, comics will eventually regress to the mean. The “mean” in this instance is defined as what the average comic book writer has identified as the classic take on that particular character. Continue Reading »
One of the things that I’ve tried my best to instill in this blog (and I’m quite pleased that I have VERY rarely seen it used by any of the contributors on the blog) is the idea that we will not infer motivation behind someone enjoying or not enjoying a comic book.
If I think someone is wrong about a comic, I’ll say they’re wrong. If they say I’M wrong about a comic, I’ll explain why I think I’m right.
What I won’t do is say “you’re just saying that because ____.”
I’m not going to infer what motivates people’s opinions regarding comics.
And I would appreciate the same courtesy from our readers.
If you find yourself falling back on “groupthink” as an argument, you really don’t have much of an argument. Just explain why you think someone is wrong to like/dislike the comic in question. “Groupthink” is one of the laziest and flimsiest arguments out there, and it is specifically ANTI-discussion, as what is the point of discussing something if you’re asserting that the other party is lying about their opinions?
Everyone mostly likes Watchmen, right? Everyone mostly likes Batman Year One and Born Again, right?
Is that “groupthink”?
You won’t see it argued, because most people AGREE with liking those comics.
“Groupthink” only comes up when a group of people don’t agree with YOUR stance on a particular comic (whether you like it or dislike it). THEN suddenly a large group of people liking/disliking a comic is “groupthinking.”
And that’s bogus.
Don’t drag discussions down into pejorative inferences.
This really isn’t that big of a deal, but you see it happen over and over again – an Editor-in-Chief or an editor or a creator or whoever make some guarantee and odds are the guarantee is not going to hold – so why make the guarantee?
Why not just “we don’t plan on doing that”?
Joe Quesada, after House of M/Decimation (courtesy of Newsarama)-
Editorially, Quesada added, there is now a mandate that no new mutants can be created wholesale – only five or six new mutant-based characters that were already in the pipeline will be seen. And that the ones going away won’t be coming back…
“As long as I’m here as Editor in Chief, they’re not coming back,”
Since that statement, Polaris, Professor X, Magneto and Quicksilver have all regained their powers, through various and sundry methods.
So, “as long as I’m here, only the not so popular mutants will not be coming back”?
Like I said above, it’s not a big deal, and I understand that it is totally driven by fan expectations – if you DON’T say something definitive, then they take that as definitive the OTHER way – “If you won’t say that the mutants will not regain their powers, then that means that they definitely WILL regain their powers!” So I am not really blaming editorial for this state of affairs, but it is still pretty silly, and I’d prefer it be avoided if possible.
I’ve been following the coverage of Judd Winick’s relaunch of the Wolfman/Perez-era Titans (CBR just had a piece on Winick and the book here), and it’s really interesting to note that Judd Winick just seems like a really nice fellow.
He did an interview with George Perez for Wizard (which I believe had been archived online here), and Winick was nice and extremely respectful to Perez. It was a real cute interview.
Also, if you’ve ever read Pedro and Me, Winick comes off as a sensitive, kind person. That was basically what he came off as on the Real World as well (only tack on boring there, too).
All of this, though, has no bearing on whether his output as a comic book writer is any good. I think that the majority of his mainstream comic book work has been quite dreadful (which is amusing, as the majority of his NON-mainstream comic book work has been quite good). That seems fair enough, right? He can be a nice guy, but it doesn’t make his comics any good.
That said, the reverse also holds true, and that’s what appears to be harder for readers/fans to believe/concede.
If you think a writer’s work is sexist/homphobic/racist/et al, then that’s different, as that may fairly be considered a reflection upon a writer him/herself.
But otherwise, just because a writer does poor work, just criticize the work, leave the writer alone – after all, they are separate entities from their work.
NOTE: This is different from previous theory “Treat Comic Creators Respectfully.” That’s just straightforward – treat them with respect. This is specifically “Do not pass judgments about creators based on their work.”
The rabbit got me thinking about comic book death, and about some thoughts I have about the appropriateness of it all.
To open, do note that I am really against the basic concept of “Big event? I guess we have to kill somebody.” I think it is generally a ridiculous concept that hurts comics by depriving readers (and future writers) of interesting characters just to add momentary importance to an event. That said, for better or for worse, it works, sales-wise. So we’re going to keep seeing it.
Anyhow, here are some theories of mine on the topic. Continue Reading »
It’s kind of weird, as this sure seems to be self-evident, but apparently it needs to be stated – not liking someone’s comic book is not a reason to be disrespectful to them.
I am aghast at some of the terribly disrespectful things that are being said towards Joe Quesada for his crime of messing around with Spider-Man continuity.
I do not know Joe Quesada personally. Odds are the commenters saying awful, mean things about him do not, either. So while I do not think actually knowing the man would make personal insults appropriate, at least I could understand it a bit. “I met Joe Quesada once, and he punched my mom in the face – that asshole!” That I would understand. “Ooops Another Day thing is yet another cake made of turds delivered on a Fuck You platter by Joey the Q” by the tastefully named commenter “Quesada, Quesadilla, Same Shit Different Name”? That is bad.
The tons of posts I know my pal Sean Whitmore has to delete on the Comic Book Resources Spider-Man forum where people insult Quesada personally?
That is also bad.
Rail against the work all you like, folks – but keep it to the work. Treat the creators themselves respectfully.
Unless they punched your mom in the face, I suppose.
In the film, Office Space, there is a scene where two characters are talking about their names, and how much they dislike them. One character tells the other one, who is frustrated to be named Michael Bolton (the same name as a noted soft rock balladeer), “Well, why don’t you just go by Mike instead of Michael?” to which the Bolton character replies, “No way. Why should I change? He’s the one who sucks!”
That attitude describes the same attitude that I think comic writers ought to have with regards to continuity. Continue Reading »
For whatever reason, I got to thinking about the death of a cool Batman supporting cast member, Sarah Essen, the second wife of Commissioner James Gordon. Introduced in Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One, Essen returned to the books during Alan Grant’s great Batman run (very clever idea on Grant’s part) and ultimately married Gordon. She was then killed by the Joker at the end of No Man’s Land. Her death, as you might imagine, was quite traumatic. However, she basically has now been erased from Batman history, in that the last time I recall her even being mentioned was about four years ago. That got me to thinking of another cool Batman supporting cast member who was killed off – Stephanie “Spoiler” Brown. She, too, has basically been erased from Batman history (although Robin occasionally mentions here). This made me come up with what I call “The Erasure Point of Comic Book Grief.” Continue Reading »
My pal Sean Whitmore referenced Chuck Austen’s Avengers run the other day, and it struck me – Chuck Austen’s comics were a perfect harbinger to the style of comic books that both DC and Marvel produce right now.
Let me explain. Continue Reading »