jmatonak: (Default)
OK, so... when Jim Shooter came back to Legion of Super-Heroes, I was happy about it, and I posted about it, and ultimately it turned out to be less than great. Now, Paul Levitz, my all-time favorite LSH writer, is doing the book again, and I'm really happy about it, and I hope my happiness continues to be justified by the book this time.

For those of you who don't know, the Legion is a group of Super-Heroes (as we can see by the name) who operate in the 31st century. (It used to be the 30th century, but I think it ticked over when the 20th century ended.) Because readers' conceptions of the future, and particularly the technology of the future, have changed over the course of the book's history, early LSH issues look anachronistic and weird. As Levitz himself puts it:

Be warned that the phenomenon of "chronicler's error" lurks in all Legion tales- because technology changes so much in the next thousand years, it's impossible to neatly fit all the facts together, much less correctly depict all the changing technology (we once believed they used jet packs or flying belts, but in all probability the flight ring was their most important device from close to the team's inception.

In other words, "don't blame us because no one saw the personal computer coming in 1958." It's a fair point. And I don't mind. But I think it should apply to sociology as much as it does to engineering and history.

I think some Legionnaires should be depicted as what we would today call "people of color." It makes no sense to me that the future is as lily-white as it's usually painted. And I think it would be really nice if, without announcing any in-story reason for the change, some Legionnaires (and I don't really care which ones, frankly) were drawn to indicate non-white heritage. Because assuming the vast majority of Legionnaires are white makes just about as much sense as assuming the microchip was never invented. Maybe even less.

I'm not going to lie. I won't boycott the book over this. (Considering I'm boycotting Marvel over plot changes to Spider-Man, I'm not sure I like my priorities.) But I think any LSH artist that doesn't do this is missing a bet.
jmatonak: (Default)
(Those are X-Men characters. If you didn't know that, you may will be better off scrolling past this entry.)

This relationship is often viewed as a grotesque mishandling of both characters. It pees all over one of the sacred romances in comics. IIRC, it happened entirely because of editorial mandate, and in-text divine intervention is the only thing that kept the two of them together.

I love this 'ship to pieces and I will cry big sad fanboy tears if/when it is done away with.

Why? )
jmatonak: (Default)
(When all else fails, try the direct approach. If I could, I would whack Joe Quesada with a rolled up newspaper.)

I like the Fantastic Four. The movie restored a certain amount of affection for Iron Man. I am told I was obsessed with Spider-Man when I was six. Cyclops, c'est moi. Despite all that, I find I can live with my self-imposed boycott of Marvel books with surprising equanimity.

It's because I know that Marvel is/are doing their comics according to the "everything you know is wrong!" playbook. In order to predict Marvel's plot twists, I merely have to think of the least shocking and surprising thing one could do- what's the utterly predictable way to advance a story? That's the Marvel way!

Of course the ending is not an ending. Of course they're going to kill off a good female character. Of course the villains win in the end. If I had never seen a pop-culture product before, I might be surprised by one of these "shocking twists." But I have. I know Spider-Man is deliberately being written as almost a parody of the late seventies version. The company basically put out a press release that said that.

If Marvel wants to get anywhere, eye em oh, they need to act counter-intuitively and produce solid super-hero books. They need stories with a beginning, a middle, and an end, where the readers reach a point of emotional closure. The end result of endlessly stringing the reader along is not a reader perpetually trapped at the edge of his or her seat, it's ennui.

I have given the matter considerable thought, and the biggest reason I look back fondly on Marvel books of the mid-eighties is not the well-known phenomenon that pop culture was at its zenith when you, whoever you are, were twelve. It's that the comics conformed to basic rules of writing you can find in anyone's How to Write A Screenplay book.
jmatonak: (Default)
I really liked Roger Stern's run on Avengers some years ago, and in particular one of the things I liked was the Wasp. I make it a point not to give Marvel money, but I am a little curious about how my favorite characters are getting the shaft. And I heard a rumor...

Did someone kill off the Wasp?
jmatonak: (Default)
So I tried to read this, and I have a few questions.

1. What the hell is this crap?
2. I know Jim Starlin is regarded as a great comics writer/artist. Why?
jmatonak: (Default)
The Morrison/Case Doom Patrol felt fresh and exciting and just a bit confusing and not like anything else that was going on in comics at the time. It had a quality I have since come to realize I like in my entertainment- it rewarded thought put into it. I sum up this particular set of qualities as "trippy."

Morrison and Porter's Justice League of America had a little bit of that trippy factor too. The Key recognizing and exploiting the fact that super-heroes always beat the trap. White Martians disguised as an alien super-team. And Mageddon, a super-weapon of the Old Gods that required making everyone a super-hero for a day in order to beat it. (Oh, and the guys from a million months in the future. They were good too.)

Old Gods is in contrast to New Gods, of course. And the New Gods, the original Kirby books, had some of that trippy factor too. It's just harder to recognize it because Darkseid's been around every corner in DC comics for like twenty years. Let's not forget, though: Jack Kirby made me want to read Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen. The man had, as they used to say, some game.

I can see the appeal of putting New Gods in a little box and declaring a moratorium on Darkseid, Orion, Lightray, and even Big Barda and Mister Miracle. (The original and still the greatest!) No more Darkseid being around every corner, even if the Omega Effect is "the ultimate wipe-out." What I don't see the point of is publishing books in which these characters explode messily. What I really don't see the point of is making new characters with the same names, and then declaring that your creation is "the real one"- because we know it isn't, sir. We know you're taking Kirby characters, hollowing them out and throwing the good stuff over your shoulder.

To judge by the little hints and things that have snuck out in projects like Seven Soldiers, the Morrison Newer Gods aren't really going to reward thought. If I turn out to be wrong about this, I'll retract what I'm saying, happily. But it seems like we're about to get a(nother) five-finger exercise written by the numbers, mechanically, so valuable franchises can lurch from A to B.

(Digression: Instead of screwing over Mary Marvel and the New Gods, why not make some original characters? I used to think that people held back their original characters to do them in a creator-owned venue instead of handing them over to a corporate behemoth. And some of that may go on, because Invincible is awesome. But where are all the other original characters?)

So assume Mr. Morrison wants to play with DC's toys. No big- Astro City is filled with obvious swipes of- I mean, homages to comics characters. Kurt Busiek uses them to tell me a story, most often one I haven't seen before. That's a little trippy in and of itself, because I've read a lot of comics. A lot a lot. These Newer Gods make me want to look at some Personification of DC and ask, "So, that's all you got?"

I no longer trust Grant Morrison to make me think- in contrast to Jack Kirby, who truly was the King of trippy comics. What's been teased so far about Final Crisis, the stuff meant to whet my appetite, makes me yawn.

Yawn.

I do believe this here Grant Morrison has gone stale, so I am throwing him out.
jmatonak: (Default)
Why is it that the Martian Manhunter, a Martian, always looks the same shade of green, but Vixen, a black woman, is starting to look very, very white? And why is it that the same fans who would hit the roof if the Manhunter (who can change his shape) were a light teal color feel compelled to make excuses about lighting and how comics are "never consistent"?

Also: prior restraint is bad. Censorship is bad. But I have the right not to buy or support stories that, not to put too fine a point on it, suck ass. It would be disingenuous to pretend I don't think something is horrible when I do, also. I like Wonder Woman's butt quite a bit and more than some, but there is more to a superhero comic than porn. Or there ought to be.

Sheesh.
jmatonak: (Default)
Yeah. I read the beginning of Brand New Day. It's a well-written Spider-Man comic, which makes for a nice break after the crapfest of the last few issues. But... They can tag it with the word "new" as much as they like, but I'm pretty sure I read this back in 1979. Also, the letters page makes me want to kill... it's a rancid imitation of Stan Lee being carried out by someone who doesn't understand the difference between "break new ground like Stan did" and "do what Stan Lee did."

There is *not one panel* of Amazing Spider-Man #546 that would have to be any different if the main character were married. A couple of throwaway dialogue boxes about how MJ is in another city for work, and you're done. Young married couples socialize, look for housing, and argue with their employers. I've seen it. They even spend large chunks of their days out of each other's presence. Not one panel needed to be different, just slightly different word balloons.

You can have women flirt with Peter. It happens to young marrieds. Even if he's single, I already know the flirtation won't go anywhere. You know how I know? I read this in 1979!

Let me see: marriage unduly "ages" Spider-Man, but his best friend and college roommate can have three ex-wives? Harry and Peter are the same age, no? So in order to promote reader identification, Peter must remain pure and unsullied by post-marital sex? Too many questions, but I'm flummoxed.

"Girlfriend" is okay, because he can almost-but-not-quite have teh sexxors, but "wife" is the kiss of death to the Spider-Man franchise. I see.

*cue sarcastic clap*
jmatonak: (Default)
Hi, everybody. Happy New Year.

I wrote out a long entry about how very, very disappointed I am with the Spider-Man comics lately. Then I went to some message boards and discovered that I was approximately the 341st person to express these sentiments, so I deleted the entry. I do want to say this.

Mary Jane Watson rules. The MJ from the movies spends a lot of time being mopey and tentative, and the original character is anything but. At a time when super-heroine characters still had moments of simpering wussery, MJ never did. I've seen characters like the Invisible Girl and the Wasp have soliloquies that boiled down to "I'm just a girl!" I can't imagine those words coming from Mary Jane. Yeah, she's not the first kick-ass woman in comics. But she nobly upholds the tradition. :)

Yeah, she can't defend herself physically when some idiot with extra metal arms decides to kidnap her and walk up the side of a building. But you give her a creepy boss making inappropriate suggestions, and she'll destroy him.

Some people, including Marvel Comics' editor-in-chief, have said publicly that having Spider-Man married to MJ drags down the quality of the books. I'm left wondering what their idea of a suitable love interest for their flagship character is. I worry that their idea of a good girlfriend is someone who screams a lot and is completely helpless and useless. We'll soon see, by all appearances. I hope I'm wrong, because if I'm right, that's very sad.
jmatonak: (Default)
Jack Kirby showed me the first Hell that really scared me.

Hell is a place where conformity is rigidly enforced. Hell is a place where everything that is not compulsory is forbidden. When those in authority in Hell hurt you, they are hurting you for your own good, and you should be properly grateful, even when their loving care leaves you writhing and sobbing in pain. In Hell, you hate what you are told to hate, destroy what you are told to destroy, and you never, ever think about what it is you are doing. There is no misuse of power in Hell- what the powerful do is right, because they are the powerful. And all of those who live in Hell must show their gratitude, for being allowed to serve and worship those who rule.

Of course, Kirby also told me the story of a man- a boy, really, a kid like me- who escaped from Hell. He got away scot free. It was a miracle. I liked that story. There was another, related story about a son's battle with his evil, tyrannical father. I liked that one too, for some reason.

DC Comics is killing off all of these Kirby characters now. I wonder why. It might be because no one is in a mood to tell stories where the ultimate Hell is unrestrained, arbitrary authority. I hope that's not it, because that Hell still scares me.
jmatonak: (Default)
This is another response to someone else's blog post. I'm not here to refute anything this time.

[livejournal.com profile] odditycollector hates the Legion of Super-Heroes. It seems to be one of those love-hate things. The part she hates is that everyone is so god-damn white. Those are my words, not hers. Hers are here:

http://odditycollector.insanejournal.com/1908.html

My response )

So, yeah, the future is pretty white. I have faith that it won't stay that way much longer. It will take some time to reach the main cast, but we'll see a rainbow Legion long before we see a rainbow Justice League.

(At Newsarama, someone else criticized the released promo art for the upcoming run for having costumes that show too much skin. I think, as one among many, Phantom Girl's costume is just fine, thankyouverymuch Newsarama person. I also like that there are many Legion females for Phantom Girl to be among.)
jmatonak: (Default)
Holy cow.

It looks really good. (I just typed "really god" and almost left it in.)

This has always been one of my fanboy pipe-dreams. To make this sound better, I should say Shooter was my favorite Legion writer of all time, but he wasn't. That's Paul Levitz. What a fanboy thing to say- "you're my second favorite writer ever on this feature!" I am filled with squee. If it wasn't so late I would shout "goal!" really loud. Jim Shooter was a damn good comics writer the last time I saw him write anything, and he's returning to a feature he helped to found. So, so many classic LSH stories are by Shooter.

Goooaaaaaallllll!
jmatonak: (Default)
In case you were having trouble turning up one on your own (shyeah), I've discovered an idiot on the internet.

Background )

http://rationalmadman.blogspot.com/2007/08/we-can-keep-sexy-oh-thanks-you-massa-we.html

For someone who calls himself "rational", this fella is really bad at it.

What we get is a festival of entitlement, incoherence and hysteria, wrapped around a straw-woman argument. I especially like the part where men buying what they want is simply them voting with their dollars, whereas women asking for more palatable fare to spend money on are somehow dictating to this man what he must and mustn't read. And that's not even the funniest part.

Damsels in distress can be sexy? Sure. Submissiveness can be a turn-on? Absolutely. But, see, what you're describing are your tastes in pornography, "Rational Madman", and what the rest of us are trying to talk about is mainstream entertainment. You see, many people, when they buy a Wonder Woman comic, aren't looking for porn. The publisher insists it isn't trying to sell porn. And yet, here you are.

If you get a cheap thrill from reading the adventures of Hero Girl, that's great. That's your right as a reader and particularly as an on-line fan. That's also a pleasant byproduct of the work, not its reason for being. If you don't derive sexual satisfaction from the image of a female super-hero being a super-hero, that is absolutely fine. You actually aren't supposed to. What you appear to be doing is complaining that superhero comic books as posited by Digital Femme aren't porny enough for you. Which opens a perfect opportunity for this hackneyed response: go write your own damn porn. It's what the internet is for.
jmatonak: (Default)
The Mad Thinker is a villain from Fantastic Four. He is one of quite a few villains who basically can't stomach the idea that Reed Richards is smarter than they are. (Reed's the smartest man in the world- his real superpower- and he can also stretch because of cosmic rays.) The Thinker is constantly constructing elaborate plans that always fall apart because of some utterly predictable thing that "no one could have predicted"- something like a junior-high girl being slightly boy-crazy. (Not an actual example from the comics- yet- but it has the right flavor.)

The key here, the thing that will be on the test later, is that the Mad Thinker is almost always wrong, but is always convinced that he is absolutely right. Unlike Reed Richards, he has a lot of ego invested in being smarter than everyone, and that makes him foolish.

Ultimate Fantastic Four had a cooler version of the Mad Thinker who was rejected by the Baxter Building think tank because they were rightly worried about her personality profile. (Like all characters in the Ultimate line, she was a teenager.) She became upset, and I can see her point. Her utterly screwed up home life played a part in making her paranoid and psycho, but her paranoia means that she can't leave home and go to a place where she might have peers. So she acted out by smacking around Reed and friends a little bit.

Actually, the more I think about it, the more it seems like the "Ultimate" Mad Thinker would be fun to hang out with. I'm probably not smart enough to show her a good time, though. :P
jmatonak: (Default)
In the early days of Wonder Woman, there is/was a theme of Diana as preacher and the Amazons as a social movement. She spends some time telling other women that they can be Wonder Woman too- they have it in themselves to be powerful and great. Any woman who wants to can be an Amazon.

There's exactly one thing I liked about the horrible mess that was Amazons Attack.

Spoilers )

In most versions, Paradise Island seems pretty cool. It's too bad they have such a problem with inviting boys.
jmatonak: (Default)
I've seen it quite a few times. Every ten years or so, someone decides to "simplify" a long-running comics character by killing off all of their subsidiary characters. This is a bad idea. I can't think of a single time this has ultimately worked to a feature's benefit, although I am open to argument on the subject.

Here's why I think it's a bad idea. Not only does every one of those characters represent someone's way into the story, they represent a different take on the main character they were spun off from. When you prune those away, you lose lots of stories and lots of readers.

Plenty of people were pissed off at losing Batgirl (both of them!) because they identified with her. I understand that, although my identification with either Batgirl was tentative at best. That isn't why I miss characters like Batgirl or the 90s Superboy.

At their best, these subsidiary characters are used to tell stories their "main" heroes just wouldn't fit into. At some level, Batman is motivated by tragedy in his past, which is great, but leads to brooding. While you occasionally see Batman grinning and having fun, it's much more usual for him to be scary and loom. That's more or less what he's for.

Now, let's take Batman and tone that down a lot. Let's make his parents not die, but assume they came close. That still leaves an impression. Especially with his parents around to raise him, Bruce Wayne would still come out pretty responsible and upstanding- he'd still see injustice in the world and, especially as a young man, be motivated to take up arms against it. Bruce would still be athletic and scary smart, but would lack the obsessive edge that led canonical Batman to master everything. And, without a tragedy hanging over him, he'd probably have a lot more fun leaping around rooftops and punching people in the face (if they deserved it.) If his folks were alive, they'd worry- so he might have to keep his dual identity a secret from them.

So we have someone who became a crimefighter because a tragedy was averted. This person's tough and smart, knows a lot but not necessarily everything, and fights crime partly because it's fun as well as because it's something that needs doing. Does that version of Batman seem fun to read?

Why is it any less fun if we make "him" a red-headed woman?

PS- Anyone remember XS or Kinetix? They were fun too.
jmatonak: (Default)
A medical-science type person recently advised me to spend more time talking about fannish, geeky stuff. I made her repeat it, so I can only assume she was serious.

Is anybody else ever tempted to write fic in script form?

I keep thinking it would be fun to write six issues from a nonexistent comics series. Nonconsecutive, of course. The first issue would have to be from the Silver Age. Then a couple from the seventies and/or eighties. Each script would have to be accompanied by meta discussing the issue itself, and other stories from the same period of the nonexistent book.

I ran a super-hero role-playing game for about ten years. I could swipe stuff from that, or make up entirely new stuff. The toughest part would be maintaining the simulated tone and making it look like the issues were written by different people.

I keep talking myself out of doing it, for the usual reason I talk myself out of fics: I have huge trouble finishing anything that I can't complete in one setting, because as soon as I sit back and look at something, it becomes clear to me how much it totally sucks.

I was not fond of issue 5 of the Buffy comic.

I read Fantastic Four comics for the trippy stuff. And I don't mean a guy who can set himself on fire but not get hurt. I mean a guy with a tuning fork hat who eats planets. Ultimate Fantastic Four has a mixed track record in this regard. For everything I like about the book (Sue Storm is a biologist and a genius), there's something that really rubs me the wrong way (Reed is, like, four, but he still knows everything.)

I'm going to have to keep getting the book, though, because I read Fantastic Four comics for the trippy factor.

Spoilery. )

There is a famous statement that the planet Saturn is lighter than water- that it would float if you could find a basin big enough. There's a poster of it doing just that. When I think about how impossibly huge that ocean has to be, it scares the hell out of me. (I'm not kidding.)

To really get the trippy factor out of that situation, though, you'd have to figure out which parts of the physics to deliberately ignore, and which parts to discuss. Like, even if you somehow transported Saturn into a (shudder) really big ocean, it wouldn't stay all nice and planet-shaped unless something would make it do that. Many of the moons aren't light enough to float. So now we have Titan, sinking like the rock that it is, and Io sending out a gush of steam big enough to engulf the Earth as the too-big ocean puts it out like an ember...

If I had a TARDIS, I would totally watch the sun expand, especially if it were going to do it super-quickly.
jmatonak: (Default)
Wonder Woman is a feminist icon, by design.

The "secret origin" of the character is that she comes from Paradise Island, the land of the Amazons, to show us all the way to be.

When an individual reader reads Wonder Woman and says, "a feminist icon shouldn't act that way," what is being discussed is not some peripheral aspect of the character. It's one of the things the character has always been about. That hypothetical reader is doing exactly what he or she is supposed to do.

I want to make this perfectly clear: the character of Wonder Woman was created to "engage with" issues of patriarchy and feminism. Wonder Woman was not somehow appropriated or subverted by a bunch of feminists who had no better right to the character than any other random reader. She is, and has always been, deliberately symbolic.

I mention this because there seems to be, in some quarters, some confusion about this issue.
jmatonak: (Default)
I'm so tired of this. So, so tired.

There's a collectible Mary Jane statuette that just came out. I'd post a link but I'm lazy. [livejournal.com profile] fangirls_attack has millions of them.

I hate it.

It's as subtle as a train wreck. It has nothing to do with any version of the MJ character I have ever seen. And, just in case there were any confusion, I find it anti-erotic. It is a giant bummer.

Read more... )

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