Saturday, June 27, 2009

Landmark Comicbook Superhero Run's Part 1

Don't follow too much in the foot steps of your idols. A landmark run in comics are those seminal issues that not only inspire the future stories of a character, but are the standard that all past and future tales will be judged against. In some cases the original creators told everything that needed to be told in their story lines, and everything that came later is a pale imitation, or at best a good read homage. In other cases a creator came along and made the character/title their own, surpassing what had came before, and overshadowing the future. You also have characters that have been around forever, but I don't think any of the stories/artists/writers really get to such a high level. You have veteran creators who try to make their marks on titles, and fail.

Stop trying to leech off your childhood!!!!

I know how it happens. A creator reads a fantastic run on a title and thinks: Someday I'm going to do a story like that, only my way, and maybe better. No your not, because you can't. Frank Miller took a throw away second stringer with a ripped off name in Daredevil, and made his mark on the title forever. All these years later people are still trying to do their spin, on his stories. In this day, and age of TPB collections anyone can buy the real deal, no need for Bendis, Smith, or anyone else's reinterpretations. No I'm not a Brain Bendis fan. Kevin Smith damn near gave Green Arrow the Miller Daredevil treatment, but his 'run' on Daredevil was as much as a copy as Bendis would do. THE Daredevil story was already told back in the 80's no one, not even Miller can do it as good. I know they don't want to 'replace' Miller's run, and their are good Daredevil stories being told since Miller left his run years ago. Once the landmark run has come, and gone no other creator/arc will ever even come close. Ever. I respect creators who have the 'balls' to try to make a character his, or hers. I don't care to read a 6 issue long pre-formatted for collection love letter to what has gone before on a character. If it sells well, I say so did the pet rock. Some people are just on different wave lengths, and all the tin foil hats in the world won't make a difference. Lesser versions of stories I've read before just don't interest me. If a creator wants to do 'their' version of Daredevil they have to keep Kingpin, Bull's-eye, Elektra, out of it for starters. That ground's been tread on two much to have any undiscovered country left that wouldn't turn out to be ret-con'ed bullshit. Sending Daredevil to Marvel's version of hell, to fight Marvel's Satan stand-in, also not a good idea. Do something different, but Daredevil in hell was too cute/too different by half. If you don't remember that time sort of proves my point.

It's the God damned Batman!!!

The creator who did the Landmark run on Batman is -surprise- Frank Miller. With The Dark Knight Returns, and Batman: Year One with David Mazzucchelli. 8 issues total that formed the Alpha and Omega book-ends to Batman's story. it says everything that needs to be said, if not could be said about Batman. He didn't create the character, but he did make the character his. Comic book pro's ever since have been doing cover riff's on the stories he did, or retold. Miller retold Batman's origin and made it better, others have tried to tap into that DNK themes and failed. Including Miller with the Dark Knight sequel, and the All-Star re-re telling of Batman's early days. So the character is so unlike Batman it's really a alternate earth Batman from Frank Miller world in the DCU, are they still going with that story? What about the other's? Bob Kane was a rip off artist in the tracing others since of the word. Bill Finger did awesome work, which took decades for anyone to surpass -but it did happen. Denny O'Neil Batman had this need to be morally superior/righteous which I hated and despised. Killing the Joker wouldn't make you 'no better' than the Joker unless you used his death as a stepping stone to top his body count over the years. Bat Man would also turn tail and disappear if a plot point for a poorly thought out earth quake story demanded it. Pussy Batman strikes fear into no one, and captures few readers. What about Jim Starlin's run on Batman with the highlight being Death in the family? Starlin's almost entire run was really about Robin II (my fav Jason Todd), and side kicks in general. It wasn't about Batman's reaction to Jason's death, it was about the life and legacy of Robin with Bat's in a guest staring role. What about another favorite but not as good as Miller run: Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers, Terry Austin, and Walter Simonson. It wasn't about Batman either. It was about Bruce Wayne getting laid, a incredible Joker story, and my favorite Batman villain of all time: Professor Strange. What about O'Neil with Neal Adams? Great villains, Ra's al Ghul says it all, great art, but not that memorable besides Bat Man met a gal who gives him the Pepe La Pew treatment. I love the writing of Grant Morrison. I have all the TPB's of Invisibles, not to mention all the single issues of 7 soldiers. That being said Arkham Asylum wasn't about Bat Man but the institution. As far as Bat Man R.I.P. goes: in my view not a page of it is fit to wipe my ass with, let along read. Super harsh words from me, that were totally earned. I fully understand the editors in charge could be wanting to re-live the glory days to re-live sales, but the glory day's of Batman were Miller's decades ago.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sin Titulo review/ I have zero percent interest in Lost, so that lessons my enjoyment of this comic

Sin Titulo is a online comic done by comics pro Cameron Stewart. It's done on Comic press and updates every Sunday baring any real world issues. Stewart is a professional comics artist who's dead-tree works I'm familiar with are: The Other Side, and Seven Soldiers: The Manhattan Guardian -which are excellent if you haven't read them yet. It's: A dark, neo-noir semi-autobiographical mystery thriller concerned with dreams, family, and memory. A young man named Alex gets dragged into a conspiracy involving: his dead grandfather, a blond woman, a mysterious beach, and a laughing sadist who repeatedly kicks his ass. The art in ST is amazing, fantastic layouts for the screen. Letters are easy to read, and the black/white/tan color scheme fits the comic very well. Repeated story elements is where I start to get critical. I think Stewart does the Hitchcock shuffle/MacGuffin Mamba a little too much with 'the beach'.

The diminishing returns of repetitive scenes

The beach is almost a character in it's own right, but it's my least favorite. The sick-o perv/goon -who seems to squeeze one out while imaging doing bad things to octogenarians- is more interesting, if considerably less likable. As much as 'the beach' is featured that's a problem. In these 'my life got turned upside down by a cabal' stories the amount of impact the drive-by weirdness has is directly related to how mundane our leads life is shown to be before. In Sin Titulo the weird shit is going down by screen 2. Flashback's aren't used to show Alex's mundane world before everything went wrong. Instead they're used to show Alex was a screw-up from a abusive home, and hints about just how whacked out his now dead Grandpa was. If Alex had been having all these 'crazy' beach dreams for awhile, he seems too surprised when things start going bad for him. The beach is this mysterious place part dream/ part memory that touches Alex's life and others. The more you see/hear something the less of a impact it has, which is what happens with 'the beach'. Think of it this way: at one time "Why did the chicken cross the road?" was probably a pretty funny joke, but by the one trillionth time told; it stops being funny. Even with fantastic artwork and disturbing/curious images, 'Beachie' shows up on too many pages to be all that intriguing. Just when things get rolling, and the scene is tense, -Stewart breaks from that cool narrative to go looking for Gidget, or whatever the mystery really is. If we didn't see it so much, I'd be more curious about what the deal was with that patch of sand. There is even a 'Close encounters of the third kind' make a model style tribute to 'the beach'. Then their's that whole 'Lost' story structure thing...

One of my favorite pieces of serial fiction, and one of the indirect influences on Sin Titulo, is the tv series Lost. One of the things that Lost does exceptionally well, and which I am trying to emulate, is to advance the story while continually opening new narrative avenues, and to end each episode with a really exciting cliffhanger that hopefully keeps the audience hooked. -Cameron Stewart

I was wondering what was off about this read until I read that on page 39. I don't think Lost advances much if anything in their going off in all possible plot point directions. I also don't think they have a clue how it's all really going to end. No road map to the words "THE END". I don't ST is that bad off about direction, but all those new narratives just slow things down. We have: Alex and his beach dreams, Alex and the conspiracy, Flashbacks to Alex's childhood, Alex and his girlfriend, the blond girl beach dreams, the blond girl in real life, blond girl as a wife, the artist who's hung up on trees... 80 updates in, but only baby steps have been taken in most of these directions. Some of the most effective sequences in ST are the silent, or damn near silent action scenes. I love the sound effects they get the story telling a major boost. I've never felt the need to read a whole lot of witty back and forth during a fight scene, or a car crash. The dialogue is actually very good for the characters, but the hook has fizzled out for me. The 8 panel grid, is a good idea -it puts more of a focus on the art in the panels. Too many beach scenes, and all the narrative directions make it a choppy as hell read. Everything is professional, because it's done by a professional, but that doesn't mean a story will grab you -and this one didn't.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Spaghetti Strap Western review/ If your going to do a western you need to be able to draw guns, action scenes, and er... horses

Spaghetti Strap Western is a comic done by Ali Showkati that updates on Wednesdays it is the first of my random azz reviews. It's a western set in the future (in the year 2152...), that still has flesh and blood horses in it. The horses and six-shooters are not terribly well drawn, and the action scenes are beyond lacking. Have you ever read the first few pages of -anything- and thought: this is awesome!!! Then as you endeavor to read on things went more, and more down hill? I have no idea how long SSW is supposed to last, but over 6o screens in, the entertainment level is going down to less than nothing. What was a moody, dark, and enjoyable beginning turned quickly into a predictable story that doesn't even fulfill genre obligations.

An art style reminiscent of King of the Hill doesn't work well for fight scenes

So basically their are two women named Cassandra, one (Cassie) is wanted by the oppressive dystopian wasteland future power structure, the other (Cass) is a literal whore who quite the job a year ago. Is she was still 'working' it would be less cliched, but she quite for mysterious reasons/ future developing plot point. After all these types of stories, it would be a nice change if characters were just what they appeared to be. Do to a case of mistaken identity various bounty hunters go after Cass, who fights them off (more on that later) and takes Cassie under her wing. The title of the comic comes from the lose fitting genre label, and the Cassandra's clingy articles of clothing. Perky cartoon nipple action doesn't do it for me -alas. The comic s is done with Comic press, the site also has character profiles, creator blog, etc; The letters are easy to read, and the colors are negatively affected by someone playing with two many tools in their tool box. Luna brothers might be a influence on Ali's art, but he doesn't pull it off. The dialogue is the worst of all possible worlds. It's not 'hard' enough to be funny in spite of its self. It's not crafted well enough to sound remotely real. It's a lot of philosophizing, and profanity that goes together very poorly. What if Michael Moore, and Garth Ennis were co-writers on a comic strip -but really wanted to do a movie? Reading those word balloons I could just imagine some C level actresses over enunciating that dialogue, as must as Ali over wrote it. 60 screens, a ton of dialogue you'd think their would be more exposition than what you get. Instead it's the two main characters having the same conversation over, and over, and over again. The web is infinite, a reader's patience isn't. It says in the creators bio this is a adapted for comics film concept. That's your problem right there! Comics are not movies even if they share elements of style. A reader can all most hear the mental gears clicking: x number of pages of dialogue -time for a action scene! Rinse. Wash. Repeat.

Cassie: It's human nature to wonder about the future. Cass: But is it human nature to fear it?

Yes, it is.
It goes on and on like that with the painfully overwrought melodrama. The guns in this futuristic western look like something Rob Liefield drew when he was 5. The horses are Alex Katz tribute style colored globs with a head, and legs -kind of. The real down side to this comic comes from the action scenes. With a artist/writer their is no reason not to go with your strong suit. If your art isn't impressive in a area, then don't have a story that's going to draw upon that. In this western -as in any western- their are a number of action scenes. It looks like paper dolls are fighting the figures are so undynamic and awkward. The classic shootout scenes aren't helped by poorly done guns, and the overused/abused star muzzle flash effect. The are occasional good design elements on the page (especially when using a sky line's condition as a transition to a flashback), but not enough to overcome the rest of the work. People get criticized sometimes for a over reliance on fight scenes, but if action packed confrontation is what you do well go for it. If your art doesn't jump off the page, those page count padding fight scenes are going to turn people away. No new twists, or turns in this comic to take it away from boring predictability. Sometimes you can adept a film script to comics form, but this is one comic that should have stayed a spec script.

Monday, June 22, 2009

New feature coming to the blog/ The random azz review

I've started a new feature to my blog -the random azz review. Basically I (or someone else) is just going down lists of online comics and picking a non-stickmen/non-gag-a-day/still live comic to review. If anyone out there in Internetland has a comic, or suggestion for a comic review I'll still be happy to give it a look. This whole 'random' thing was just me spotlighting a comic to praise, or damn depending on how much I like it. It will be a comic that I haven't seen anyone else talking about.
My little sister seeing a list of comic books, has picked a comic by her opinion of the title. My sister's reason for picking the comic for me is: she didn't want me to just review comics I liked. Out of the mouths of children as they say....
Look for the first review later this week.
P.S. I'm also having computer problems again, so here we go...
[As always thanks for your readership, and feel free to e-mail me suggestions for the blog]

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Analogue by Jesse Tise Review

Analogue is a comic on the web done by Jesse Tise. It's updated every Friday, and its creator is working on a Zuda submission. Here is the intro/synopsis: 13-year old Luc Gerard's imagination gets quite out of hand when fantastical gods and monsters from alternate, overlapping dimensions invade and declare war on our plane of reality. Only 19 pages so far, but I am very impressed with it. It also has a little soundtrack of sorts you can listen to as you read. Our lead Luc has a love interest/keeper in the character of Sofia. Their is also in these early screens a fair bit of drive-by weirdness with hallucinations and seeing things that shouldn't be there. As we know from the well written intro, Luc ain't crazy all hell is just about to break lose.

Little Orphan Annie meets Jeeper's Creeper's

The thing that stood out the most to me, is how almost every character's eyes are portrayed as jet black circles, the complete alternate to Little Orphan Annie's depiction. It really reminded of that last scene from the film Jeeper's Creeper's with the blank void look to every one's face. The fantastic creatures we see in this comics opening dream imagery are cool, all the empty ovals for eyeballs staring back at you, is what brings the creepy factor. Intended, or not it's some major league weirdness that doesn't go away: seeing cute child caricatures, and wondering who cut their eyes out of the picture. The rest of the characters faces are very expressive, which helps well written dialogue add up to great characterization. The pace of the story is excellent, by screen 8 your seeing Luc and Sofia's relationship, and know how off a average day really is for Luc. Some of the strongest points of the story is the well written dialogue done for the interactions of Luc and Sofia. The layout of the pages really serves the story: no wasted space, or panels. Letters don't get in the way/ are very legible. The colors aid the art completely, along with the inking style it's all very easy to follow, and easy to appreciate the creator's command of his style. The odd reality gets driven home starting on screen 9 with a floating naked Luc look-a-like covered in those 3 dot/triangle symbols having glowing white eyes. Seeing strange sights then 'waking up' happens more than once, but by screen 12 Luc is wide awake seeing this strange character/invader. The layout on every screen shows Jesse wasn't going for a few cool panels, but kept the whole look of the screen, in mind. The suspense of wanting to know what happens will keep a reader clicking through the screens. I have no idea what the total length intended for this series is, but I did wonder if the creator tried getting any of the dead tree publishers interested. If he did, and they turned it down, could be a reason to why comic sales keep piddling down.

Nifty narrative techniques

You have to admire the sketchy clean style used throughout this comic. That style just doesn't shine through in the pencils/inks of the story though.The way a Jesse makes a teachers words flow together, and right past her students out a window, pretty much sums up my memories of boring lectures from my school days. In the window past Luc we see one of those mysterious 'others' is again stalking him around on rough tops. Using a slide projector as a light source in a darkened classroom, shows off some colorists skills, and welcomed artistic proficiency. Screen 16 was one of the best. The projector light gives it a 'shine a flashlight on your face, telling scary stories' quality that ties into yet another Luc scream. He could be camping in the woods with his friends the way he yells out. Again, the focus is brought back to that 3 circle/ triangle -smiley face with a go-tee symbol. The panel 2 switch to red, and black stood out, and made Luc's freak out more believable/effective. Again we see Sofia's concern as Luc decides to book it out of that school. Screen 19 ends with Luc yelling up at that same stalking figure to show itself, with a ominous shadow falling over him, and a reddish background to up the cliffhanger tension. Think of this comic as another reason to look forward to Friday besides your pay check. The enter page made me think the comic was going to be fairly light hearted, it turned out to have a extra layer of disturbing, and a professional quality. It's creepy cool with me rooting for the kid already, and we haven't even really got to the gods and monsters part of the program yet. Jesse did some amazing work, that according to his stat counter not near enough people are reading.