Friday, June 12, 2009

The difference between a rip off and a homage in comics/ Henry VI (part 2) Act IV, scene II

[Just think of this as a generalized rant on the rip off accusation that comes up in comics so very often.]

It's the principle of the thing that gets me

You have name rip offs, then you have character homages. I'll start with the Golden Age, cause that's where my fan boy reader interests are focused these days. Am I the only one still pissed that the original Captain Marvel's comics have to be labeled Shazam? Basically Stan Lee or whoever at Marvel, ripped off the name for a character that has nothing much in common with The real Captain Marvel. It is of coursed not lost on me that Fawcett had to go out of business thanks in large part to a DC lawsuit saying the real Captain Marvel was a Superman rip off. The man of tomorrow was a alien, the big red cheese was a boy who could say a magic word to transform. [Marvel's Captain Marvel did a homage to that trading places, with the power bands. ] The types of stories went in completely different directions, based on that 'super strong guy who can fly' concept. For a while there back in the Golden Age if a character was super strong and jumped/flew through the air, here comes National/DC's legion of soulless lawyers to shut'em down. Marvel has pulled the same trick any number of times much more recently. Fighting American couldn't throw his shield, which is a little ironic since I think Timely got into some trademark trouble over Cap's triangle shield? Stan Lee also did the same thing with his version of Nick Fury agent of S.H.I.E.L.D, which looks and acts a lot like Captain Battle right down to the Eye patch. Get rid of the cape and side kick, add in a government team (but keep all the high tech toy's) -it's sue proof!!! I don't personally have a problem with a Captain Battle look a like, or another hero throwing their shield. Thanks to public domain Stan got away with it, Awesome entertainment didn't. If one is a uncreative rip off they both are, if one's a homage to the past -they both are. In the 90's, Plasm from Defiant became 'Warriors of' thanks to a failed lawsuit from Marvel over a character called Plasmer. I know theirs a difference between trade mark and copyright. I also know about public domain characters. Captain Marvel can be Captain Marvel DC just can't title a book that. You had Stan Lee create Daredevil the blind hero, but he ripped the name off from the real Daredevil a Golden age hero from Lev Gleason. So you get the Shazam situation all over again with Death-Defying Devil and the like. No one on God's creation will ever convince me Stan the Man came up with the Daredevil name on his own, that he didn't realized some other character was named that. It's public domain though so copyright that title you ripped off to keep the rightful character from using it again. The creators of the Punisher were inspired by the Black Terror's costume. Lucky for them BT is PD, otherwise the flock of vultures that legal eagles truly are would have been circling. Never mind the fact their is no way in hell any rational 6 year old could ever confuse them. Lawyers ain't got that much damn common sense. The real Captain Marvel vs. Marvel's Captain Marvel, or the real Daredevil vs. Marvel's Daredevil. The last examples don't even share similar costumes. I think the idea of a company being allowed to copyright the action of throwing a shield, or the wide ranging arch type of 'super strong guy who can fly' is legalistic ignorance. I think the idea of playing snatch and grab with old comic titles is a damn unfunny joke. Shakespeare called it right years ago, and he didn't mean it as a compliment.

Secret Serum Madness/ I was a Golden Age dope fiend

Look at all the superheroes who got their powers from drinking a special concoction back in the Golden Age. Mark Gruenwald and Ron Lim dealt with this in the excellent Captain America's Streets of Poison arc. Captain America (might have been the first), then you had Black Terror (it's amazing how incestuous and cannibalistic the place where people get their ideas from are;) ), and Stan Lee's Destroyer. Same basic secret formula origin, but look at all the different directions these characters went in back in the day. Their also must be any number of other characters that got their 'powers' the same way.

The voice of reason is Dave Sim

One question in particular, I made a mental note to cover in this column. Someone asked about working for the mainstream companies; something along the lines of 'what if you have a really good Batman story or X-Force story you want to do.' I pointed out that 1963 is the answer to that. Everyone knows who the characters are supposed to be. Just change the way they look and the name. It dates back to Watchmen, actually. As soon as a DC executive told Alan Moore to change the original Charlton characters into new characters (DC already had plans for the Fly, Blue Beetle, etc.) and as soon as DC trademarked and copyrighted those new characters; well hey, that's checkmate on the big board. If you change the way a character looks and his name, you've created a new character.

-Dave Sim, Note from the President Cerebus #173

Actually it dates back to Captain Marvel for being done well, or the original Wonder Man (Marvel strikes again) for being done poorly. A basic concept taken off into a different direction. It also happened with Rob Liefield's Supreme. I could give a damn less about Moore's run on that title -just go back and read the first 5 issues. In these early issues Supreme took the 'super strong guy who can fly' arch type which had been science fiction, fantasy, humor (Superduper man), and turned it into a horror story. The Lois stand in tortured/killed, Newsboy legion stand in's decapitated/ heads hung on a wall, and Jimmy Olsen's body double got ran over by a truck. Superman as a horror story, I was amazed by it. Taking another direction also happened for Doom Patrol of DC vs. X-Men from Marvel. ..I’ve become more and more convinced that [Stan Lee] knowingly stole The X-Men from The Doom Patrol. Over the years I learned that an awful lot of writers and artists were working surreptitiously between [Marvel and DC]. Therefore from when I first brought the idea into [DC editor] Murray Boltinoff’s office, it would’ve been easy for someone to walk over and hear that [I was] working on a story about a bunch of reluctant superheroes who are led by a man in a wheelchair. So over the years I began to feel that Stan had more lead time than I realized. He may well have had four, five or even six months. - Arnold Drake. Unlike with the various titles/costumes, Stan Lee didn't actually steal anything here. I know both these creators took a basic idea (team of 'freaks' led by a man with a amazing brain, but handicapped body), and went in completely different directions. You have adults in Doom Patrol who just want to hide away from the world after their accidents, but the Chief convinces them to help humanity. In X-men you have mutants young people with powers the world mistrusts. They have to earn the trust of humanity, but also fight against the radicalism of other mutants. The themes are different blaming yourself for risky choices, vs. blaming God for your genetic code. Knowing what it's like to be normal as a memory, vs. only having idealized dreams about what its like not to be different. Doom Patrol's biggest character flaw was feeling sorry for themselves, in X-Men it's the creeping idea of we were born superior, not just different. A homage to a generalized concept from Stan Lee maybe, but not a rip off. It follows the model set forth by Dave Sim.

In closing taking a general concept and making it your own -awesome homage. Ripping off the title of a comic book and preventing a character from being sold under it's rightful name -absolute bull shit move.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The three story structures of Zuda/ coincidentally enough all on display in this month's contest

Their are three main types of story structure for Zuda entrant's, all are featured in this months contest.
Cliff Hanger: You have the most common form with this one. Some dramatic (hopefully) event happens which leaves readers wanting to know how things turn out, and the fate of the characters involved.
This months examples:
Fallen Hunter
Sketch me, Deadly
Small Lives
The last Werewolf

The previous best example of which is to go back and re-read the first 8 screens of Dual. Then read the whole comic if you haven't already -it's fantastic.

Done in one: Has a beginning, a middle, and a end. If this comic never lives on you have a complete short story in the Zuda dead comic graveyard.
This month's examples:
The Urban Adventures of Melvin Blank
Scareshow Spookshow

The previous best example of which is to go back and read Terrestrial.

Movie trailer overview: Is one of my favorites, but it's not often done. Basically it's a overview of various characters/events in the storyline, or it does some time jumps to show future/past events.
This month's examples:
The Corpse Carries a Gun

The previous best example of which is to go back and re-read Lifespan.

Web comics are serials of course, so cliff hanger is the default story structure. It can work well, want to know what happens next??? vote for me!!! If a creator wants a Zuda comic to pass the 8 screen test, your probably better off going with a done-in-one. If your trying to tell a story that can stand alone, a creator would hopefully be less apt to leave useful details in the synopsis. I love the movie trailer overview, because that shows me the promise of a strip. What kind of world the characters are living in, and possible directions the story could be going in. I also love the synopsis, so that should be a hint I -in no way- represent the masses.

Zuda reviews finished, now what?

Do to computer problems last month delaying me I decided to finish this months Zuda reviews in record time -for me. Wouldn't you know it, my last review still got delayed thanks to -you guessed it- computer/connection issues. I have a upcoming post on rip-off's vs. homages in the comic book industry. I say bad things (for me) about Stan lee and Marvel, and good things about Dave Sim. I also have a post on one of my all time favorite creators Charles Biro coming up, because I am a Lev Gleason/The Real Daredevil devotee. I few other posts I intend to make I haven't forgotten about, I just haven't got around to doing yet. Imagine that. ;) Now though, I have the time and then some even with real life considerations. My computer could still be a problem??? As always you got a project you want me to review/preview let me know and I'll give it a look. Plus any comments/crit's about the blog's look let me know that too. You may have noticed 'now with pictures' thanks to the Pigs ombudsman (you know who you are) helpful hints to make my blog better. My e-mail addie is hither and yorn across the net, or just leave a comment here. :)

Thanks for reading, following, and commenting.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Zuda review Scarecrow Spookshow/ A sentimental favorite

Scarecrow Spookshow is another June Zuda comic done by Aidan Casserly. It got a favorite from me for the subject matter, and being pretty funny. Here is the synopsis: Barron DeMonte is a strange old man and former host of Screech-O-Rama Creature Feature, a low-budget horror movie show. After twenty-seven years of ghosts and monsters and shouting, "Boogah boogah!", Barron is finally forced to retire and leave the spook show behind. However, adjusting to life on the outside world isn't easy for someone whose mind is back in Transylvania.
Living with Barron in his lonely old home is Jiselle, a Goth girl with no passion for horror and zero tolerance for being embarrassed by her crazy old grandpa. Jiselle thinks Barron may just be certifiably insane, until strange events begin to occur. Is Barron really crazy? Are all those old monsters and late, late show demons for real? Is the old house haunted? Will everyone end up completely nuts?
Going mad may just be the best spook show of all!

The lead reminded me of Sivad

Video 1 is the original opening. Video 2 is the original opening plus some corny jokes. Video 3 is even more corny jokes as well as a overview of the 1964 TV line up on WHBQ-Memphis. Sivad was the first thing I thought of when I saw the retired 'vampire host' character. Imagine a man dressed up like Bela Lugosi, dressed up like Dracula, with a completely obvious mid-south accent. At the time people like Sivad inspired terror in kids across the country, in retrospect it's more humorous than anything else -corny jokes with bad punch lines and all. My parents got their chills and scares from watching Fantastic Features way back when. That show beget my fathers interest in horror films, which beget my interest in horror films. Horror being my number one go-to genre of choice. Sivad (Watson Davis) did special appearances at drive-in's across the mid-south. My folks even have a autographed picture of him. So of course I latched on to this story immediately. The strip Scarecrow Spookshow has more connection to real reality then one might think at first. Local TV 'stars' who got sacked by the passage of time, and changing public moods.

I wouldn't mind if this comic got hit by the Cerebus Syndrome

Letters are easy to read, the colors on this comic are very impressive. The scripted jokes are very well complimented by sight gags carried off by the art. I liked the yell on the last panel of screen 1. The excellent color job on this comic takes it beyond your expected gag-a-day strip. Everything in a comic matters because it all adds or subtracts from the read. The switch out to gray tones in panel 3 on screen 2, really stood out to me, and helped reinforce our leads mood. It also showed this could go beyond just a gag strip. Then the closing hand puppet gag, and Jiselle's expression -great work. There is more going on here than the 'wacky old man' doing 'zany' things. You get this character doing humor, but you also see real sadness in the character over his life's work being thrown away. You see this in particular on screen 3. Which is especially hurtful considering the Nelsons are run by a bunch of corrupt, inept, lying bastards in real life, and the comic version of them is probably worse. Barron DeMonte's rant on screen 4 is particular well done dialogue. Corny jokes/screen 5 true to life and a great fit. Screen 6 shows Adian's skills at art and screen composition. I loved the faded out pterodactyl in panel 2. A new character named Krog in introduced on screen 7. It could be a real monster, but that looks like a zipper on it's belly in panel 2. If it's a real monster, or a guy who just thinks he's a monster it has amazing potential for equal parts comedy and tragedy. Screen 8 is even more nice character interaction, with more corn ball humor. Jokes so bad their funny best sums it up. This comic has a lot of promise, a number of directions it could go in, plus a very professional look. I don't know that Zuda would ever be the best home for it, but I'm glad I got the chance to read it in the contest.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Zuda review Quick/ So who killed Satan in your last comic?

Quick is a June Zuda comic done by Zuda vet Thane. It was a very fun read, had all the right beats of a story, and got a favorite from me as well. here is the synopsis: Following the successful test-run, Quick and the Clock Smith begin their journey down the King’s Road to Castle Bramwell. Many travelers, most bearing some invention or another, fill the roadway. The following day all across the country the entire kingdom will celebrate the King’s birthday. But the biggest festival will be at Castle Bramwell. There, skilled craftsmen from all corners of the country will have the opportunity to present the fruit of their labors before King Philip himself. Along the way, Quick and the Clock Smith are ambushed by bandits and taken captive. The bandits, a motley crew of savage thugs known as the Black Forest Bandits, are uncharacteristically well organized and efficient. This appears to be the direct result of new leadership. The bandits have been taken over by Firius, a disfigured half-man, half-dragon monstrosity who claims to be the first-born, bastard son of the old king and the rightful heir to the throne. Firius intends to violently usurp the throne and claim his inheritance, even if it means slaughtering every man, woman, and child in the kingdom. And he wants to use Quick to do it.

"The throat must be mine," said the count. "I claim it as my privilege." "It should be mine," muttered August. "I am the eldest and it is long since I fed. Yet I am content to have the breast." "The legs are mine," croaked the third monster. "Legs are always full of rich red blood."

-Frederick Cowles, "The Vampire of Kaldenstein"

The story opens with some nice Vampire of Kaldenstein style tribute dialogue, and just gets better from there. I loved the opening, and the well written monster dialogue really entertained me as a reader. We got monsters, a fair maiden, and a clockwork knight! I enjoyed Thane's last comic, and I enjoy this second outing. Thane has an enjoyable art style, which makes good use of screen layouts which aid the narrative. After reading the first screen I said to myself "self: unless this story somehow ends up completely in the shiter it's getting a favorite from me" -well it got a favorite, and is in my top three. The sequential panels using Quick's P.O.V. draw the readers in, monster designs are appropriately horrific. The letters are fantastic, and I love the way they're used for the different characters. I also liked how the lead monsters word balloon placement was used to guide readers eyes along the panels on screen 2. The black borders gives the comic a ' Quick seeing through his visor' effect which made for nice panel framing in all of the P.O.V. shots. Screen 3 was a nice full screen shot that didn't skimp on the blood spray. Someone gets a body part cut off, I expect to see the gore flying to a minimum degree -Thane doesn't disappoint. If you read comics in the early 90's the monster's will remind you of the Violator. The visor effect makes for some deep blacks which make this brightly colored world stand out. The colors are excellent. With the early action and dialogue a reader easily grasps what kind of fictional universe these characters are operating in. As much as I love it, the synopsis wasn't needed in this case.
[I can't believe I just typed that ;)]

Bring the chain back and add to the coolness

Except for the blood spray screen 5 was a let down. Sequential action sure, but not enough was going on. Screen 6 is back to being excellent in the layout, A nice big pool of gore, and some funny 'just how fair a maiden is she' style dialogue between her and Quick. The reveal of Quick's face is a great screen and the real ending of this comic before the denouncement on screen 8. The art is so impressive, and (considering the circumstances) surprisingly expressive. The comic closes with The Clock Smith and William the Investor discussing Quick, and giving insight into his origins. The comic even ends with a pull out establishing shot. The pace is a perfect fit for Zuda with plenty of action and dialogue. Thane did a great job on everything with this comic, and it deserves to be in the top three.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Zuda review Sidewise/ I'm not a Tesla devotee

Sidewise is a June Zuda comic done by Dwight L. MacPherson and Igor Noronha. Another comic that is technically proficient, but failed to grab me as a reader. Here is the synopsis: Teen genius Adam Graham borrows his parents' time device to visit 1902 London, only to find himself in an alternate dystopian past. As a member of Nikola Tesla's band of young freedom fighters known as SteampunX, Adam must wage a war against a myriad of deadly steam-powered robots, mad scientists and a nefarious state police controlled by Queen Victoria's preserved brain to free the oppressed nation, crown a new monarch and return to his world in time for a final exam.

I like Poo (the comic) better than this

What negative criticism can you have when the art/dialogue/colors/letters/ are professional, and even the cliff hanger pace fits zuda? I can say it's soulless, it doesn't seem any of the characters have much heart. Readers need to care if their fictional friends live, or die to have a reason to read further installments. I can say it didn't grab me as a reader because it was a proficiently done, but seemingly typical story. Their have been a lot of alternate world stories, just being decently written and decently drawn isn't enough to stand out. It's possible with more screens something could increase my interest, but you only get these 8 to judge. In a repeat of last month this is another case where one of the creators previous/other web comic grabbed me as a reader, when their Zuda entry didn't. It starts off with text which puts me on my guard, but it is needed the way the story is set up. I don't mind the info dump that much, but the creators didn't give me a reason to care. A alternate time line gone haywire could be a interesting set-up, but it reads like most other stories in the genre. Even Queen Victoria's brain as a baddie just seems like a nod to the Doom Patrol. If you want to grab me as a reader a zuda hopeful needs to have at least one shinning moment in their submission. It goes without saying (but i will anyway) the more cool as hell moments you have, the better a chance of getting my vote. The best thing about this comic was the way the varied panel layouts aided in the telling of the story. The events within the panels came off as standard steam punk without a narrative punch.

being proficient isn't being spectacular

I know some people got a kick out of the Tesla inclusion, but it didn't do anything for me. Talking about a character we never see (Fawkes), was a nice little mini-mystery. Having the kid reminisce about how: it was like watching a steampunk magazine come to life was hitting the readers over the head with the 'too damn obvious' sledge. It ends with a fantastic little cliff hanger blub: If I had known then what I know now, I may have chosen a quick death. The problem is we see no hint of this upcoming bad turn in the 8 screens. A cut away panel showing a portent of that bad future would have increased my enjoyment of this comic. We could have seen a jump ahead in time in the last panel showing Adam beaten and bloody about to be killed. A panel just as ominous to match the ending voice over. The creators could have showed Adam in a tech suit, Adam as a floating head kept alive by SCIENCE, hell Adam with a eye patch would have worked. A really good 8th screen can bring a comic slightly back from the brink of average fare. I also wonder about the story structure should this comic win. Time travel would seem a tailored made concept for playing around with the temporal order of events. It seems this story is going to be told fairly straight forwardly, with a few journal entries for foreshadowing/exposition background purposes. I would like to read a time travel story with a fairly original hook for example: nothing a character does in the past can really change the future. You go back to kill Hitler and do, but some other person steps into that role. Alternatively characters could find out their history books were wrong about any number of things, that has been done before, but not lately. Ending up in a 'days of future past/present tense' world does offer possibilities to be exploited. The problem is so many other people have already been there, you have to show me what makes your dystopian past any 'worse' than the rest.