Monday, June 27, 2011
Friday, June 24, 2011
Super-Gorilla Grodd is one of those characters who, like the Hobgoblin, deserves better than what he gets. Every so often, he'll get a big push (Gorilla Warfare, Grodd of War) but it's always a weak sister sort of thing.
Grodd is to Lex Luthor as the Wingless Wizard is to Doctor Doom. He's different enough to be recognizable, but too similar to be anything other than second-rate. And a megalomaniac ape with telepathy and genius-level intelligence shouldn't be second rate.
The thing writers often forget about Grodd is that he's not just smart-he's smart. He works through catspaws and hired guns to accomplish his goals, which are, for the most part, opaque to his enemies and allies alike. No one knows what Grodd wants, except Grodd.
That's where writers stumble, unfortunately. Grodd's driving ambition is domination...but of what? The world? Gorilla City? It tends to change depending on the creative team. Sometimes he wants to turn everyone into gorillas, other times he wants political power. Thing is, none of these are short-term goals...they're all master plans. And they're all just generally sort of megalomaniacal. Luthor, Doom, Darkseid, Thanos...all the great plotters have a set end game. The reason they resonate so strongly is because we know what they want and we know that everything they're doing is directed at accomplishing that one goal. So why not Grodd?
Of course, that means you have to come up with said goal-for Grodd, I'd say stick with Gorilla City. Grodd wants nothing more (or less) than to assure the safety and supremacy of his people. He's a patriot (or terrorist), and he's at war with everyone who isn't a citizen of Gorilla City. Grodd should be the Magneto of the DC Universe, defending a small minority against a hostile (to his eyes anyway) majority.
Grodd should be using his telepathy to hide his involvement in his schemes and meeting with the UN as Gorilla City's official representative, where he'll sow discord and reap the benefits. He'll hire super-villains to attack him, in order to appear the victim of anti-gorilla discrimination. He'll assassinate his own people if they stand in his way, and kill humans without a thought. He'll fund terrorist groups and rebel organizations in the Congo, Nigeria, etc. in order to strengthen Gorilla City's position on the African continent. He'll work with the Cheetah to retrieve ancient Gorilla artifacts from private collectors and unleash the Giggling Plague on Lagos. He'll hire an assassin to strike out at King Arthur of Atlantis and then foil the attempt in order to further the possibility of an alliance.
And he'll do it all for the good of his people. Whether they appreciate it or not.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
...Or something like that. So, why did issue 712 of Superman get the ax? Well, reasons vary from a sequence involving the rescue of a kitten up a tree to a team-up with a Muslim super-hero. For my money, I think Sims at Comics Alliance gets it right...DC hasn't had the best couple of months in terms of mainstream media attention. First the Muslim Batman thing and then Superman renouncing his American citizenship and then the reboot and now...what?
See, the problem with a reaction like this is, while it makes sense from a corporate perspective (i.e. the 'no man, no problem' rule, known in South Carolina as the 'shoot first and go to Applebee's' rule), it makes absolutely no sense from any other perspective. Dig this...the solicits for this issue have been sitting quietly in full view of the public for some time now. The guard-dogs of Murrikan values apparently only get to slavering when the meat is plopped in front of them. They're too lazy to go digging for it. And DC (or their handlers at WB) have figured that little fun-fact out.
Comics ain't news, no matter how Warner Bros or Disney try and spin it. They're slow-news day or Sunday edition filler at best. Which means that DC actually made a bigger mess out of pulling issue 712 than it would have been had it been plopped down on the racks on Wednesday whenever. And even then, only those of us who read the 'trade journals' care.
But because DC/Warner is courting a fairly ambivalent media, they can't risk doing something that'll offend the 0.1% of the population who don't read comics yet still feel as if they have the option to decry what goes on in said comics. Issue 712 is, in a sense, a sacrifice to a minority whose vocal aggressiveness far outstrips its potential as a consumer of the offending material. They ain't gonna buy it now, they weren't buying before and thus, logically, they ain't no loss. Oh, granted, there'll be a few folks who feel put-upon by the presence of a [insert disparaged social/cultural/economic scapegoat] in their funny-books, and they'll drop it like it was hot, but let's be honest...that happens with any popular medium. It's like the fluctuation of the tides.
No, what DC is doing here is playing to the 'potential customer' base. It's part of the same strategy that brought us the clean slate of the reboot, only reversed. It's a publicity stunt, designed to show the vocal minority that DC is just like they remember (aside from the decapitations, revealing costumes and genocide), 'Mom and Pop and Apple Pie, why not come on down to the local internet cafe and buy a couple of issues, hey?
The question is...will it work? And if it does, what's next?
EDITED TO ADD: David Brothers, as always, puts it succinctly.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
David Brothers is writing an interesting series of semi-related articles on Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira over at 4thletter!, which is cool, because I dig me some Akira. It's sort of a perfect pre-post-apocalyptic-punk ballad about the shattering of worlds within worlds and all that other crazy jazz.
Akira is one of the few manga that I re-read on a regular basis, because of that-it's just so damn lush. Otomo builds us a whole world over the course of-what?-two or three books and then spends the rest of the time tearing said world down. Construction to deconstruction in ten easy panels. Awesome.
Anyway, go check these out. Here's the links:
Friday, June 17, 2011
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
A nice essay here at the Black Gate Magazine site, on the nature of the serial as it relates to comics (as well as a few other things). Very interesting, at least to me, because I think about things like this a lot.
Monday, June 13, 2011
Hey, remember when I wrote that big long thing about DC's 'Flashboot'? Here's some more discussion on it via The Beat-Steven Niles on what Flashboot means to creators and Brian Hibbs on what it means to retailers.
I think that I'm finding myself more interested in the potential ramifications of this move than in the rebooted books themselves, which could be construed as a bit sad, I suppose. The fact of the matter is that, as others have mentioned, of the fifty-two titles to be released, less than half of them will survive much past the Mayan apocalypse. That's not an assumption on my part...that's fact. And it's a sad one, but there it is. The weak will fall and be replaced by a new version of something terribly similar, likely after the annual mega-crossover of dubious merit.
The thing is, it won't necessarily be the stories themselves that are the let down...it'll be scheduling problems, or late artwork or the fact that only a precious few people will buy more than the first issue of any one of these titles. I mean, I WANT a good Hawkman book. I want a book about a flying Conan hitting people with history. That's just good comics right there.
But I'm a student of history. I know how this song goes, and I know how it ends. So instead of being excited because Sergeant Rock y'all!, I'm instead drawn to the more meta-textual story going on. I know that these titles won't be around long enough to get attached to, but the repercussions of this reboot? Yeah, that's going to make for interesting reading for a long time.
Friday, June 10, 2011
Luckily, the Rook is here to stand in its way! The sixth volume of Barry Reese's dynamic New Pulp series THE ROOK has just been released courtesy of Pro Se Press, and it's available in electronic and print format. Head over to the Pro Se blog to read all about it! It's got some wonderful John Byrne-esque art by Anthony Castrillo and some of them there purty words by my pal Barry, so I encourage you to check it out.
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Doesn't that look awesome? That's Jim Rugg (Afrodisiac) that is. Beautiful. Want to know what's behind that sweet, sweet cover? Well, for starters, my story "Mr. Brass and the Devil's Teeth" wherein steampunk Robocop fights werewolf outlaws in Mexico. You know you want to read that, don't you? Or how about a story where Mr. Hyde (as in Dr. Jekyll and...) punches Mark Twain and tries to kidnap Teddy Roosevelt? Because, for a limited amount of time, you can get both of them. Go check it out.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
So, you ever wonder what would have happened if Spider-Man, in dealing with all them there whatcha call realistic problems in the Sixties, got called up for the Draft? Well, Orc Stain creator James Stokoe did as you can see from this awesome fan-comic. You should definitely check it out, either at Comics Alliance or at Stokoe's site.
Friday, June 3, 2011
So, for those of you living under a rock (or, like me, writing a book) DC Comics is once again, for the first (seventh?) time, introducing us to its universe in a 52 title wide reboot.
Color me shocked. Shocked I say! I'm perturbed, pedantic and possibly perennially puzzled about the possible pluralities of re-percussions of such a position. Only not really, because I don't actually give two shakes of Tawky Tawny's tail about the 'say hello to the new world/same as the old world (only with Jim Lee!)' thing DC has going on this go-round. I roll trade, son. And I'm a picky fellow. Starving artist, donchaknow? Limited funds. Still, let's rap on it, whatcha say?
On the one hand, taking into consideration the accompanying day-and-date electronic release, it's a fairly interesting approach for the company to take in regards to its assorted volumes of intellectual property. Releasing fifty-two titles, many of them new properties (for a given value of new-Mr. Terrific, in his current incarnation, has been around for-what?-a decade or so? More?), is a gutsy move. It's simultaneously a publicity stunt and an attempt to reinvigorate several dead-on-the-vine properties (*coughWonderWomancoughSupermancough*). Too, the day-and-date electronic release will likely see a boost in issue sales, for obvious reasons.
In the case of the former, I honestly don't think DC is expecting a big boost...they've been on the merry-go-round too long now to expect any new readers from the 'BIFF-BAM-POW! Who Still Knew They Made Comics?' school of journalism that permeates most major American media outlets that aren't the internet. And the internet (at least the bit of it concerned with comics rather than porn, politics or lulz) is more aghast than awestruck at the moment (though that could change). It might nab one or two new readers, but really it's just an exercise in covering bases.
No, for my money, it's the latter that's the really interesting bit here. Bear in mind that this isn't a full reboot in the style of the ad nauseum additions to the Crisis oeuvre. It's a select, sneaky thing. If DC's EiC is to be believed, it only affects low-selling titles (basically everything but Batman and Green Lantern at this point), which is an intriguing gambit. You simultaneously render null-and-void the more panned elements of the recent runs ('See a Man Who Can Fly...Walk.') and create that most holy of grails...the for-real, honest to God "Jumping On Point" for the mythic 'New Reader'.
Whether you believe in the beast or not, 'New Readers' are always preferable to 'Current Readers' for the simple reason that the former exist in vast, growing numbers whereas the latter is an ever-diminishing number with little variation. For DC, this is all about shifting the odds so that that potential number of new readers gets added to the shrinking number of current readers. They want to make the current reader number bigger and more stable, in other words. But to do that, they have to risk losing the current readers they already have.
It's a big gamble, but it has the potential for a lot of success. It also has the potential to blow up in DC's collective face in a variety of interesting ways. The day-and-date electronic release schedule will undercut the direct market in possibly severe ways, theoretically further weakening an already shaky set-up.
Comics retailers will need to adapt and quickly in order to stock up for a proverbial wolf winter as many comics fans go digital. If you're a retailer and you rely on pull-boxes to keep you going, now might be a good time to re-think that strategy. Then again, maybe not...after all, what do I know, right? Still, if the FLCS begins to fade off the scene, likely so too will the casual comic buyer. DC could be counting on the casual internet shopper to fill that void, but only time will tell on that score. Personally, I think that if it comes to it, it'll shake out about even.
The other hurdle is, of course, 'reboot-itis'. Nowadays a re-boot has the potential to drive away just as many readers as it attracts. For everyone who hated Superman's current direction, there's likely an equal (albeit silent) number who enjoyed it. And a reboot will only risk losing their interest. Granted that's likely a small risk as far as DC is concerned, because 'potential customers' always outweigh 'current customers' in corporate decision-making. It's not how much money you make, it's how much you could be making. This isn't a bad thing, but it's also not an especially good one, if you're a fan of bridges and not so much with the burning.
So, to sum up...it looks like on the pro column we have a fresh start and a new market to be exploited. On the con column it appears that we've got the potential collapse of a market that has sustained DC for several decades and the potential loss of customers that come with a reboot of beloved properties.
It'll be interesting to see how it all shakes out, in any event.