stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Saturday we all went to see the Lego Batman movie, mostly because Maksim wanted to see it, and partly to get out of the house on a Saturday evening.

Batman and the Joker are facing off in a self-aware Lego universe.  The Joker is upset that Batman refuses to acknowledge him as his #1 enemy, and so embarks on a master plan to destroy Lego Gotham and force Batman to admit the Joker is indeed his arch-enemy.  Meanwhile, Batman is also dealing with the ramifications of spending his life alone.

First and foremost, it's a silly movie.  They go for jokes first, and if that's what you're in the mood for, it's very funny.  The animation is great, though some scenes are a little too frenetic to follow what's happening--so much is going on in a single frame, you just can't follow it, and the movie seems more designed for home viewing on a DVD player with a really good frame-by-frame pause button.  The movie seems to have a hard time mixing both heart and action--the plot moves along at a good clip, then comes to a dead halt while the characters emote at each other.  After a while, you're able to predict the next emotional beat.  It overall lacked the punch of the first Lego movie.

But the comedy is fast and furious, with many references to Batman from the 1940s comics, to the 1960s TV show (lots and lots of those), to the Tim Burton Batman movie, to the Dark Knight.  The Justice League and Super Friends make cameos, including Zan and Jayna and Gleek (remember them?).

Maksim enjoyed it very much and wants to see it again.  Aran liked a great many one-liners, but wasn't enthralled.  Darwin and I felt . . . meh.

In all, it was a fast, light, silly movie for the kids or the "gotta see 'em all" Batman fan.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
I watched the first episode of LUKE CAGE.  I found it . . . intriguing.  But slow.  Very slow.

DAREDEVIL and JESSICA JONES hit the ground sprinting.  CAGE's first episode starts with a long, loooooong conversation in a barber shop, and another conversation in a club, and another conversation in a laundry room, and . . .

You get the idea.

I was about ready to dump it when things finally started heating up.  The heating up started with a new trope that's already worn thin: the scene of unimaginable violence set to inappropriately cheery music.  However, the story started to come together by this point and I kept watching to the end.

My thoughts:

There were no white faces in the first half of the show, and when we did see white faces later, they were background characters.  The entire cast is black, Hispanic, or Asian.  The show doesn't shy away from minority issues, either, like whether or not the N word is acceptable within the black community, and minority-on-minority violence.

We have some interesting music choices, from Harlem jazz to disco-esque to soft porn percussion, all of them influenced by black movie music of the 70s, when the Power Man (Nicholas Cage) comic book first came out.

The episode spends most of its time exploring Harlem and setting up character arcs.

Overall, it was slower than I would have liked, but I'm willing to watch a little more to see if it gets better.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
A while ago, I bought a collection of the updated, new Archie Comics written by Mark Waid.  I like Waid's writing, and I was curious to see what he was doing with this new version of Archie.

The digest contained the first six issues.  I found I liked it very much.  It reminded me a little of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, in that it was a story about mostly realistic teenagers with a hefty dose of comedy.

Archie is the everyboy resident of Riverdale, and he's been best friends--and recently more--with Betty, the literal girl next door, since childhood.  At the beginning of the story, we learn they had a bad falling out over "the lipstick incident," and now they're barely speaking to each other.  Meanwhile, a new girl has moved into town--rich, former reality show star Veronica Lodge.  Archie is smitten, and he gets a job at the construction site where the new Lodge mansion is being built. What with one thing and another, Archie accidentally destroys the framework of the house, but only Veronica knows about it.  She uses this knowledge to sort-of blackmail Archie into being her semi slave, but the smitten Archie doesn't mind, much to the dismay of Jughead, Kevin, and the others.  (Jughead has an interesting backstory of his own.)  Add the smarmy, conniving Reggie into the mix, and we have the makings of a long-term story.

The characters turned out more fun than I thought they could be.  Archie himself is bright and likeable and funny.  HIs relationship with Betty works very well, and Jughead (who we'll later learn is asexual) is interesting enough to carry his own book.  I would have liked to see more of Kevin, Moose, and Midge, but it's early days yet, and I'm assuming we'll get up to speed on them eventually.

I''m going to pick up more digests as they become available.  If you read Archie when you were a kid, these are way worth reading for the new interpretation.  If you never read Archie, they're still worth reading for the fast, funny stories and interesting characters.  Highly recommended.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Marvel has done it again.  Spider-Man is half Hispanic, half African-American.  Thor is a woman.  Ms. Marvel is a Muslim teenager.  And now the Incredible Hulk is an Asian teenager.

The right wingers are going 'splody head.  I'm eating popcorn and thinking this is pretty cool.  I've seen some sample pages, and the new character looks interesting.

Why are they doing all this?  Two reasons:

First, the original characters are over fifty years old.  Fifty!  That's over 600 issues of stories, not counting cross-overs, annuals, special releases, and other extras.  (Not only that, Spider-Man has three different comics all to himself, tripling the amount of writing.)  After fifty years of this, you start to run out of stuff to do.  The trouble with a comic book super-hero is that you can't change the character every issue, or even every year.  If you do, you and your successors have to live with those changes forever.  If Spider-Man's strength increases to the point where he can lift a tank, three issues later, you can't show him trapped beneath a mere car.  Readers are also quick to point out repeated stories ("You did clones four years ago!  Why are you doing it again?"), so no sneaking repeated stuff!  What do you write about when you've already done it all?

Handing the character over to a new person gives the writer someone new to explore.  Amadeus Cho's Hulk isn't Bruce Banner's Hulk, and now we have a lot more to do.  Who is Amadeus?  How did he get his powers?  What can he do that the original Hulk couldn't, and vice-versa?  What villains will he face?  What personal demons?  Lots to check out.

Second, Marvel is trying to be more inclusive.  For decades, heroes have been straight, white, and mostly male.  This left out African-American, Hispanic, Asian, female, and LGBT readers.  Sure, you can still enjoy a story about a straight white dude if you're a gay Asian kid or a Muslim girl, but you do long for some stories about people who look like you or who have a life similar to yours.  I can tell you I really wished for some gay super-heroes when I was a kid and teenager and would have climbed over my own grandmother to get them.  And naturally, if a black kid can enjoy stories about a white super-hero, a white kid can enjoy stories about a black one!

The right-wing nutjobs always (ALWAYS) whine, "Why don't the comic book companies just create a NEW superhero instead of re-doing an old one?"

And the answer is simple: Nubia.

Remember Nubia?  Of course you don't.  No one does.  Nubia was created in 1973 to be a black version of Wonder Woman.  DC tried to promote her and use her, but no one cared.  Everyone wanted to read about Wonder Woman, and Nubia faded away.  In the 80s, DC renamed her Nu'Bia and tried again, but it still didn't work.  No one was interested.  New characters don't have the heft.

Thor, Hulk, Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, and other such characters have built up a long history and a long, solid readership.  Introducing a new character into readers' already busy reading lists is next to impossible, and such characters don't get any media attention.

Retooling an existing character, however, gets LOTS of media attention.  And current fans of the character are far more likely to accept the shift and keep reading.  After Jane Smith picked up Mjolnir, sales of THOR soared.  MS. MARVEL, featuring a teenaged Muslim, is the third-best selling comic at Marvel right now.  Clearly readers are happy to go along with all this.

Now we have an Asian Hulk.  Go Marvel!

DC, what are you doing to catch up?
stevenpiziks: (Hypnotoad)
Look, I like superhero movies and TV shows.  I'm willing to go along with a lot of impossible stuff and write it off as comic book "science" or just fun.  But you can only take so much.

You can have an impossible universe, but you still need to follow a FEW rules, and your smart people can't. Be. Idiots.

I've been following THE FLASH, but I'm probably going to drop it soon. Why?  Idiot plots.  An idiot plot is a story that depends on the main characters acting like idiots, and the whole thing falls apart if anyone acts with basic intelligence. Yes, everyone does stupid or foolish things now and then, but to qualify as an idiot plot, the people need to do stuff that doesn't even qualify as the "what was I thinking?" kind of idiocy.

Case in point is the latest FLASH episode "Out of Time."  Lots of spoilers follow, and I'm assuming you've seen the episode.

Early in, Barry Allen and Joe West are sitting in Joe's car when Mark Madron (who they work very hard not to call the Weather Wizard) pulls up behind them in his truck.  Madron conjures up a thundercloud and destroys Joe's car with a bolt of lightning.  Fortunately, Barry is so fast that he notices the lightning bolt when it's halfway to the car and he spirits both him and Joe to safety nan-seconds before the lightning strikes.  Neither of them is hurt.  And yet it doesn't occur to Barry to sprint after the Madron in his nice, slow truck and grab him?  But if Barry catches Madron now, the episode ends, so Barry has to be an idiot.

Later, Madron, still intent on killing Joe, shows up at the police station.  (Here, the villain is being an idiot for doing this in a roomful of cops, but we'll give him a sort-of pass on the assumption that Madron figures his powers make him immune to anything the police might do to stop him.)  Barry shows up just in time to stop Madron from killing Joe, but the police chief is badly injured.  Barry has to rush the chief to the hospital while Madron just strolls away.  Barry is so fast, he zips the chief to the hospital in a couple seconds, but he can't get back to the station in time to catch up to Madron?  Or, better yet, he can't spend half a second to punch Madron out and THEN rush the chief to the hospital?  Half a second won't make a difference.  But of course, Madron has to get away or the episode will be really short.  Idiot plot.

In both cases above, the writers could have easily have had Barry fight Madron, but given Madron the ability to neutralize Barry's speed.  They showed Madron create a force field out of air--a great way to stop a speedster.  WHAM!  Barry runs into it, and Madron gets away.  They've also shown Madron with the ability to create ice.  Madron creates an ice slick which flummoxes Barry just long enough for Madron to exit.  There!  No one has to be an idiot.

But the writers aren't content with just Barry being an idiot.  Joe has to be an idiot, too.  Joe says he's going after Madron alone, and that Barry can't go with him because Joe doesn't want anyone else to be endangered.  And BARRY AGREES WITH THIS.

Let's look at this again.  Joe, an ordinary guy with no powers, is going to square off with a supervillain . . . by himself . . . and he doesn't want his superhero foster son to come along because he's afraid the SUPERHERO will get hurt?  And the superhero agrees to this?  Now they've passed the idiot event horizon.

The conversation should have gone the other way around.  Barry should have told Joe to stay out of it because Joe has no powers.  Joe, not wanting this young punk of a kid to deal with Joe's own problems and overconfident that he can handle this Madron guy anyway, goes after Madron and gets himself kidnapped.  Joe's idiocy is actually believable.

And then we have the big reveal--Barry is on the beach with Iris and he tells her he's the Flash.  He does this by changing from civvies into his costume in a small tornado.  In public.  With lots of other people walking around them.  You can see them in the background, in fact.  What the heck?  Idiot.

The last part I had trouble with is something the show may have gotten themselves out of.  The police chief, who is gay, is so badly injured in the fight with Madron that he'll probably never walk again.  Whether or not he'll be able to continue as chief is up in the air.  And then Cisco figures out the true identity of Professor Wells, so Wells kills Cisco.

So the show has these two minority characters: a gay man and an Hispanic man.  And in one episode, they cripple the first and kill off the second.  No straight white people were injured or killed in the filming of this episode.  Fuck you, guys.

However, they sent Barry back in time a few days at the very end of the episode, which may mean they intend to undo these problem.  We'll see if the fuck you stands.

And none of this excuses the characters--and the writers--acting like idiots.
stevenpiziks: (Default)
The media went BLIP! when Marvel Comics announced that Northstar, one of the X-Men, would marry his boyfriend in an upcoming issue.  The media went BLIP! again when DC announced that Alan Scott, a Green Lantern who isn't actually part of the mainstream DC comics universe, was being rebooted as gay.  The falsely-named One Million Moms group on Facebook criticized DC and their page was promptly flooded with pro-DC comments.  Their entire Facebook page mysteriously vanished a few hours later.

Okay, look, let's get one thing straight (so to speak)--this is not a big deal.  This is nothing but two companies running to catch up.

If you don't read comics, you probably haven't even heard of Northstar.  He's a speedster who can fly, and he recently joined the X-Men.  He was actually revealed as a gay man in the 90s, and the whole thing made the cover of Time magazine.  You've likely heard of Green Lantern, but you probably didn't know that there was a GL that predated Hal Jordan, the one who appeared in the movies.  His name was Alan Scott, and he's the one DC chose as gay.

You also probably didn't know that DC and Marvel have a number of other gay and lesbian superheroes.  Batwoman is enjoying a fair amount of popularity.  Hulkling and Wiccan (who have the worst super-hero names ever) are two teenage males in a relationship.  DC's Obsidian is another gay hero.  (He's Alan Scott's son, as it happens, and he was rebooted out of existence.)

In other words, DC and Marvel made a big deal out of having two little-known heroes be gay, and some groups got really upset about it.

Really?  Really?  Folks, DC and Marvel are the big guys in comics, it's true.  And they're also the most conservative and careful.  They ain't known for their cutting-edge storytelling.  Both companies lived for decades under the oppressive thumb of the Comics Code Authority, the comics version of the movie ratings board.  Stores refused to carry comics that didn't carry a CCA stamp of approval on the cover, which granted the CCA quite a lot of power in the comics world.

The CCA allowed enormous amounts of violence in comics, but not much in the way of relationships or real-life issues like drug addiction or child abuse.  DC had to fight long and hard to get even a mention of herion in Green Lantern/Green Arrow in the 70s, for example.  Cutting edge, new stories?  Nah.  Even after Alan Moore did The Watchmen in the 80s and showed people what could be done in this art form (with the CCA stamp of approval quietly removed from the cover), DC couldn't quite follow up with more.  Sure, there were a few interesting sparks along the way.  The Teen Titans did a series about Apartheid.  Frank Miller wrote Batman.  But these are exceptions, and they should have been the rule.

Eventually, DC and Marvel realized the comic stores--and the readers--didn't care whether the Comics Code Authority had approved their work or not, and they found the stones to drown the Authority in a barrel of printer's ink. Hooray!  Except both companies found it hard to actually DO anything with their new-found freedom.

Look at how long it took them to do something like this, and how timid they were about it.

We have two little-known super-heroes revealed (or hyped) as gay.  Well, so what?  We've had same-sex couples smooching it up on prime time TV for a few years now.  There's a huge manga library with same-sex relationships in it.  Although gay and lesbian characters are still extremely rare as lead characters, they do show up as supporting cast in Hollywood movies.  DC and Marvel are way, way behind.

If they had done this twenty years ago, or even ten, I would have been impressed.  If they had chosen Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern that more people are familiar with, I would have been impressed.  If they had chosen a more famous character, like the Flash or Robin or the new Superboy, I would have been impressed.  Maybe even called it cutting edge.

But this?  It's just running to catch up.

Here's the cool thing, though.  DC and Marvel are something of a bellwether.  By the time something shows up in super-careful DC and Marvel, it means it's socially acceptable nearly everywhere else.  These two media companies show how far we've come--and how far we have left to go.

So we'll take it as a win.

Now we'll just see if the writing is any good.

stevenpiziks: (Simpson)

Is it too late for me to chime in on DC's New 52?

HAWK AND DOVE was crap. All exposition and dumb "As you know, Bob" dialogue.  Hawk/Hank was so over-the-top, he was all but ripping his hair out as he screamed at his father while they chatted in front of a mirror for no reason other than to give big lumps of exposition to the reader, and all of it just to set up Kestrel's entrance in the last panel, something that could have been done in half the time.  Beyond idiotic.

GREEN ARROW: meh.  No build-up.  Queen lectured the reader about the nature of bad guys, and he never once took a serious hit or seemed to be in danger from the powered-up villains he was fighting, and whenever he had a problem, his Oracle ripoff girlfriend solved it for him.  Snore.

JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL was trying a little too hard, but the book may have potential.  They're handicapped with the usual problem--a huge cast and trying to give everyone a moment in the spotlight while telling a story.  I'll reserve judgement until they get going.

ACTION was surprisingly fun!  Yeah, they've turned Superman into Peter Parker.  But I found I liked it.  It made Superman more down-to-earth
and sympathetic instead of god-like.  I love the grungy "Gimme a break, I'm trying" costume.  I liked Lois and Jimmy.  And they got me with Lex
Luthor.  I wasn't going to like him, but then the final panel made me say, "Okay, you win."


Apr. 23rd, 2010 07:09 pm
stevenpiziks: (WTF?)
Archie Comics introduces its first gay character. Huh.
stevenpiziks: (Default)
This is kind of interesting, a discussion of super-hero costumes with a fashion expert:

stevenpiziks: (Simpson)

stevenpiziks: (Simpson)
I was at a bookstore with my friend Kurt. He pulled an issue of SPIDER-MAN off a rack of comic books, then abruptly pointed out the back cover to me. It had a "Got Milk?" ad on it. This one, to be exact:

"What the hell is this?" he asked.

I looked at it. I didn't see what the big deal was at first. Then I realized what was wrong. The "Got Milk?" model was Christian Bale. In his Batman-the-Dark-Knight costume.

On the back of a Marvel Comic.


We both stared at it quite a lot. I found it fascinating. Technically, it wasn't an ad for DC Comics; it was an ad for milk, but I found it hard to believe that Marvel would authorize putting a flagship image of its biggest competitor on the back of it's own flagship book. It had to be a mistake. Someone in the ad department hadn't been paying attention.

I was suddenly dying to be a fly on the wall in the Marvel boardroom at the moment this little SNAFU came to light.
stevenpiziks: (Default)
A friend and I have been working on a comic book script for THE FANTASTIC FOUR.  It's actually for a mini-series that focuses on some of the
background characters, not for the comic itself.  He writes a piece and sends it to me, I edit, then add to it and send it back, he edits, adds to
it, and sends it to me, and so on.

We finished the first issue over the weekend and now it's sitting for a while, out of sight to mellow so we can give it one more pass-through later.

We have a couple of tentative contacts at Marvel, so we can send it in.  I'm figuring the project will be rejected.  It's my/our first outing in this field, and that's how this sort of thing usually goes.  I'm hoping that the editor will add, ". . . but if you come up with something else I'd like to see it."

Then I hit them with one of my original projects.  See?  It's all planned out!  I'll be rich and famous!
stevenpiziks: (Default)
Now that the Ghost Whisperer book is done until I hear from Ye Eddetor, I've been puttering around with some other stuff.  A friend and I are working on a comic book script for the Fantastic Four, a mini-series.  It would be cool to break into comics, I think, and writing comic scripts goes really, really fast for me.  The story is fun to do, too.
I'm also working on a Celtic fantasy novel, a book about the war goddess Morrigan.  The style I've chosen is slowing me down.  I think I have Morrigan's voice, but I have to think harder when I write about her.  She's very foreign to me, and her words don't come naturally to me yet.  It's a first-person book, too, and I haven't done that in quite a while.  I'm a twenty-first century American man writing from the point of view of a bronze age Irish woman.  Hmmm . . . is it any wonder this is a challenge?
And the book starts with a sex scene, to boot.
Weirdly, I've never actually written a full-blown sex scene.  I've hinted at them, written around them, and drawn the curtain on them, but never actually written one.  Not because I find them embarrassing to write, but because on-stage sex has never moved the story forward in my previous work, and sex takes up a lot of word space.  Morrigan's story, however, =starts= with it.  In the original myths, Morrigan is bathing in a river when she meets a wounded man.  She heals him and seduces him and they forge a powerful relationship as a result.  The sex moves the story along, and it needs to be in there, so I'm writing it and I'm writing well.
In the very first scene.
Boy, when I break new ground, I don't hold back . . .
stevenpiziks: (Default)

I'm enjoying the webcomic GIRLS WITH SLINGSHOTS.  Today's is particularly funny:

Dearie, dearie me . . .


stevenpiziks: (Default)

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