Thursday, April 21, 2005

My Hate Could Only Last So Long

Boy, I hated comics two days ago. They were a pile of crap that had wasted years of my life and stunted my creative growth. I wanted to set them all on fire as a sacrifice to some dark, brooding demigod. Teenagelus or something. But guess what? Some beauties came out this week. And I learned to put off all the awful things my shop guy give me as torture/humor until I'd already bathed myself in an orgiastic Great Comic Calvacade.

After finding myself despondently disappointed with Zatanna, Klarion dragged my love of Morrison comics up from the grave to serve as my humble zombie slave. By Croatoan, what a beautiful book! You don't usually see art this pretty outside of top shelf (not Top Shelf) indie work, but let's all be glad that Frazier Irving did this comic. We get a petulant, snotty boy who I actually like (tough one to pull off, point for Morrison). We get encapsulated in one issue an entire limbo society, full of politic and religion. We even get a reason to root for a boy in nail polish (but not in drag). And let me tell you, that Kit Kat felt holy somehow. Great plot, great characterization, beautiful art. Kisses.

I've read complaints about Veitch's prose in the Question. I dunno, it didn't bother me. It felt organic for the character to think that way. It was insight through text. And, hell, at least it had a distinctive voice at all. Most comics sound like they could have been written by anyone at any time. You already know this comic is gorgeous, and if you haven't been buying it, it's too late now, honestly. Just read the next thing these guys do, and hope for a trade. Superheroes, some maturity, and some darkness . . .and actually done with skill and grace. Gasp!

The two most important up-and-coming genre comic writers each had two books this week: Brian Vaughn and Robert Kirkman. There's some backlash against both of these gentlement, but I think it's all for outside reasons and not any fault of their own. Did Ex Machina deserve all those Eisner nods? Honestly, probably not. But it's not as outrageous as Michael Turner being nominated for anything other than therapy. Does some of Kirkman's Marvel work seem to have less vitality than his creator-owned stuff? Of course. And guess what? Morrison's JLA can't hold a candle to the Filth or the Invisibles. What's true is true, and Runaways, Ex Machina, Invincible, and the Walking Dead are strong damn books. They all deal with familiar genre material, but the care put into the characters lift them above the tedium normally found there. One gets a feeling the characters have favorite bands without having said favorite bands explicitly stated. They have consistent characteristics without being one-sided (BATMAN IS MEAN). And even when body parts are flying, they're a damn blast to read. If you like genre or cape comics but want them done as well as they can be, look to these two. Moore and Morrison can only last so much longer before saying "Screw it."

I've said it before and here it is again, take it from someone who doesn't usually like Amerimanga art, "sexy" comics, Marvel superstuff these days, or jargon-y and trendy books, but Livewires is fun stuff well worth your three bucks. Don't complain about a lack of fun if you're not buying this.

In Hate, Buddy's "new look" is so hilarious that I refuse to mention anything else in the issue.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. "It goes against everything the Amazing Spider-man has ever been to live in Avengers tower with MJ and Aunt May." I don't care. You know this won't last forever. As long as it's handled in a fun way and we get some neat moments out of it, I'm fine. And this first issue of it was chock-full of neat little bits. Straczynski's May, MJ, and Peter are so strong and likeable that even art I don't care for can't keep me from enjoying this book. The character interactions feel real and familiar, while staying true to the essence of who these people are. Screw the purists, this is a fun temporary change. (But Mr. Deodato Jr., I could do without the nipple shots on the cover.)

Alex turned me onto Eric Powell and the Goon. And yet his love has waned while mine only grows stronger. Can't you love anything, Alex? Can't you? Billy the Kid's Old Timey Oddities suffers mostly from Not-Being-Drawn-By-Eric-Powell-itis, but so does every book other than The Goon. It's got the same sense of adventure, naughtiness, and humor. It just wears similar influences differently. I'd check it out if I were you and I liked having fun while reading things. And I AM you and I DO like having fun while reading things.

And there was a bunch of other shit that was either good-but-not-good-enough (Fantastic Four and, er, 4), no longer interesting (Young Avengers) or just crappy (everything else). But to hell with all that. Focus on the elite and give elitism a good name.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

7 Rules for Writers

1. I know they say "write what you know." That's fine, as long as you know something other than "being a writer." Here's the thing, nobody gives a shit about the trials and tribulations of a writer. Do not write a story about a writer. It is not fucking interesting. It will be filled with action-packed scenes of TYPING and REVISING and DOUBTING and SELF-LOATHING. That is not interesting to anyone except you and whatever relative put you through college. Also, when you write a story about an actor, a painter, or any other artist, you are fooling no one. We all know it's still about you and your stupid life. Write about real people or amazing people; just don't write about writers.

2. You are less clever than you think. Someone already thought of it. I'm sorry. Your idea isn't new. It's hardly even a twist. That doesn't mean you give up. That means you work on your goddam craft and you make it the best damn derivation of that particular theme or idea you can. Personalize it (as long as you don't make it about writers) as much as you can and run with it. Don't worry about being new. Worry about being you.

3. I like Hunter Thompson/Richard Brautigan/Terrence Malick/Grant Morrison, too. But you are not him/them. You are you. Write in your voice, from your life. Sure, Raymond Chandler's going to sneak into your verbiage from time to time. That's fine. And imitation is an interesting and sometimes productive exercise. But write naturally most of the time. You may think that it has no voice, but you also probably think you have no accent. You have an accent, and your writing has a voice. Trust it and don't focus on it.

4. If you're going to play with chronology, have a reason (other than "I liked Pulp Fiction"). If you're going to say "screw the three/five act structure" have a reason. Hell, any writing rule from any source is completely breakable, but you'd damn well better have a good, organic reason for it. (Unless you're just experimenting in a workshop or whatever. In that case, don't force it on the public. Scientists don't show their work until the experiment is over and works, neither should you.

5. Don't talk about writing in public. It's self-absorbed and counter-productive. Have meetings, have discussions, but don't make writing your party topic. Sure, sometimes girls/guys seem interested, but if they're interested in you talking about your writing, they're even more interested in you not talking about your writing. It's a personal process, an almost sacred one, but it's not one you need to be throwing around like a sexbait.

6. Don't worry about what's sellable . . .but don't worry if you sell it, either. Write what's in you and know that it may never make you a cent. Tough shit, that's writing. If you're a real writer you're writing because you have to. To quote Mr. Andy Offett, "I eat; I excrete. I live; I write." If you're going to worry about selling it, then worry if it's sellable. But that leads to more crap than bad burritos. (On the other hand, crap gets made, so . . .)

7. Shut the fuck up and write.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Big Dumb Superhero Comic: Action 826

I like Captain Marvel. I always have. I think the concept is fun, the original work is wonderful and creative, and that it still has a lot of potential. So, because he is a cruel, awful person, Alex gives me the latest issue of Action Comics, wherein the Big Red Cheese starts a guest-appearance story. The story is written by Judd Winick and drawn by Ian Churchill.

I also like my fiancee. But if someone gave me a version of her sculpted from shit, I would not like that very much. Just because a work of art features something I like doesn't mean it's going to be any good, or that I won't find it repulsive.

Metal Helmet Hair ACTION!

Let's look at the cover. Cap and Superman are going down an alley. Cap is flying, having apparently very recently said "SHAZAM" and changed from Billy Batson. You know this because there's an "electrical" outline of Billy in the background. That's not really a very awful idea. Point for Churchill. However, I don't recall Cap ever wearing a black, striped, metallic helmet at any point in time. So that's kind of weird. Superman is busy taking off his clothes. He has floating eyeglasses behind him and a tie so skinny and poorly-tied that it makes me wonder if Clark is both retarded and living in 1981. That's a bad cover.

Next we get some poorly-relayed exposition. It's almost as if this were a DC comic. Oh, right. After a few pages of that, we get to see Captain Marvel standing funny.

Someone doesn't know how to do laundry.

I would stand funny, too, if my clothes fit that poorly. Oh, what the hell, let's throw in some references to Infinite Crisis so that all the fanboys can speculate/finger-their-own-anus.


Gargle gargle hrrrrnf!!!

Superman's eyes roll back into his head. WATCH OUT! SUPERSEIZURES CAN BE DEADLY!

Oh, hey, everyone! It's crosseyed, fashion-stupid Lois Lane!

That outfit is justifiable reason for murder.

And her TITS!

Dear Mr. Churchill, please spend time with real women, thank you.

We get a few panels of that, with a little bonus of Clark's glasses changing in almost every panel.

He's got more glasses than Elton John!

That fashion HOUND! There's nothing he won't try. Considering the disgusting would-never-be-made outfit Lois tries to fit her giant spheres in, I guess he has to make up for her.

Then there's a big bad guy hurting things. He says "I'm waiting for you!"

Then Superman says, "You'll have to wait a lot longer," and hits him. Except that doesn't make any sense at all. He didn't have to wait at all. If you're going to make a dumb action quip, say, "Well, you're wait's over." Or, "I'd hate to keep you waiting." Or maybe even, "I'm really fucking poorly drawn! Jesus Christ, did this guy study under Liefeld? Where did all these lines come from?" Shit, bad action dialogue is easy. DC can't even do THAT? Frickin' Michael Bay can get that done!

Then, of course, a last page cliffhanger that was obvious from the beginning and has been done to death already, anyway. Even with Cap/Superman stories, Eclipso's been done. Zzzzzz.

I just . . .what is the point of this? Me, Mr. Cap Marvel fan, I can't even enjoy this. It's ugly, it's full of silly expository writing, and the plot isn't compelling at all. There's nothing exciting or new here. It's just a string of things that have been done millions of times, and not even done particularly well. People say this is "big, dumb comics" as if that's an excuse. Since when is "dumb" writing defendable? If it is dumb, it is by its very nature ungood. We put up with this shit because we're dying to get some good cape action, but the longer you make excuses for this kind of hackery, the more distant your memories of actual good storytelling will be.

I'm ready to give up on superheroes at this point, but are you?