Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wicked Dreams

I'm in a bad mood today.

It's just been one of those days were everything has been off kilter and piling on new levels of crankiness. Being at work just adds a whole new dimension to it. For those of you who don't know, I'm an accountant at a small private school which, when all is said and done, is a job that should only be held by those cranky goblins from the Harry Potter movies.

Which reminds me that this is not the job I'd like to be doing and certainly not the job I thought I'd be doing 20 years ago. All of which leads me to think about dreams and how they can really screw you up.

A few days ago, Valerie D'Orazio posted a message in her always excellent blog, Occasional Superheroine, which was basically a response to some messages artist Colleen Doran posted in her blog about a particularly odious fellow who'd been stalking her and her family for quite a few years. Val's post didn't excuse the guy's bad behavior but gave some more details about who he was and what his life was like. Apparently he's a guy who's been hanging on the fringe of the comic business for a lotta years, hoping for his big break and dreaming of making it in comics.

And that made me think.

I certainly don't condone his stalking and consider it inexcusable but there was something in Val's description that hit a bell with me. So I started to wonder. How many people are out there, yearning for a career in comics and making that basically the entire focus of their lives? These are people who forgo opportunities in life because they might interfere with that possible comic career. They hang onto the outskirts of the industry, trying desperately to break in but forever hopeful because comics is their "first, best destiny". Such people pass up chances for life, love and happiness because that's not what they were born to do. They were put on this earth to make comics, if only someone would give them the chance to do so.

These are the types of people (generally male) who end up alone in apartments full of their collections that are often fire hazards but which they cannot part with. In many cases, these people are getting older now and that comic career hasn't happened and probably will NEVER happen. How many people break into comics when they're middle-aged? It's a youth market, now more than ever. To be older than 30 in comics is to have that black crystal from LOGAN'S RUN blinking in your palm. But they hold onto the dream. Partly because they've invested too much in it already to back off but also because they're afraid of what it would mean to abandon that dream.

For the most part, these will be people who will end up being unemployable except in the most limited sense because they didn't get the skills or training or a diploma to do anything other than working in comics. They have little to no savings. Health insurance will be virtually nonexistent.

We have, in effect, created a new sociological group: The Forgotten Comicists. It's one that never existed before but their numbers have been growing since about the mid 1970's. Before that time, we didn't have the hundreds of people who grew up wanting only to make comics and, if they couldn't do that then they wouldn't do anything. Back in the 1950's and 60's, if you wanted to do that and couldn't (for whatever reason), you went and did something else because you still had to feed and clothe yourself. Not today. We are now seeing an alarming amount of people who refuse to do anything else because this is their dream and who are we to tell them that they can't live their dream? Soon, I expect the American Psychiatric Association to declare this a legitimate mental disorder.

Funny thing is that this isn't all that unusual for creative people and their obsessions. How many times do we hear of actors and actresses who keep trying to land that elusive part that will make their career while they're waiting tables or parking cars? Or that painter who does his 'real' work at night in his studio waiting for that downtown gallery to realize he's a genius and give him that one-man show he deserves? Or the writer chipping away at that Great American Novel because that's his purpose in life even though no one wants to read it?

Truth is that it's not as easy to be a creative person in this world anymore and JUST be creative. There are no more patrons and grants are drying up faster than an ice cold Pepsi in the Sahara. And here's the really hard, painful truth for all of us... there isn't much need for so many creative people. There will always be really successful creative people at the top end. Those actors/writers/painters who make lots of money and live the life. But most of us are going to end up in that middle ground. The one filled with people who might be really good, but just aren't good enough. The place where no matter how hard you work or how many networking connections you make, that role, that gallery show, that book tour, that big time comic assignment, isn't going to happen.

Maturity, I think, lies in the ability to reach that point of understanding. To objectively look at your work and determine if it should remain the sole focus of your life. No one is saying you should abandon it completely; just the dream of that being your livelihood.

Americans love to say, "Never give up on your dreams." Funny, it's always the ones who succeed that say that. It's not the ones who have failed for the umpteenth time and they don't have the money for rent and the car needs repairs and there's no food in the house. The universe only needs and creates so many Walt Disneys or Henry Fords or even Stan Lees. Most of us will end up being Vince Colletta or, even worse, Ed Wood Jr.

We come to comics or acting or dance or music or writing or art because we love it, because it inspires us to be creative. But, in the end, only so many will go to the show. The rest of us will play out our days in the farm teams of A, AA or (if we're very good) AAA ball. And we'll be let go to try and make our ways the best we can because there's a shiny new crop of youngsters coming off the bus all the time, endlessly feeding the machine.

"No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, almost ridiculous--
Almost, at times, The Fool."
"Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." T.S. Eliot

Sorry I wasn't more entertaining today. I'll try better tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Inter-Fan Convention

Here's the latest flyer for a great convention that I wish I could go to! Run by great people with fun guests. What MORE could you ask for?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Teflon Dan Strikes Again!

Dan Didio truly amazes me.

How he can say and do the things he does and still keep his job is an acrobatic act truly worthy of the Flying Wallandas.

Last weekend, at the Fan Expo in Canada, Didio talked about several interesting things including the fact that the reboots of old characters (like Blue Beetle) hadn't really caught on. No surprise there that readers didn't embrace unimaginative rehashes of old concepts.

What caught my eye was a report where Didio talked about the return of Barry Allen to the DCU. In a talk with Comic Book Resources, Didio says how he "loves that Barry Allen is back" and that he "...was a big Barry Allen fan from Day One.”

That's interesting to me because, for years now, Didio has always been the one to say that Barry wasn't coming back, no way, no how. As recently as September 2007 at Baltimore Comic-Con, Didio said, "No Barry Allen plans, he's not coming back. It's the first time I can say that without screwing it up."

So either there were no plans at that time or Didio was simply I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that there were no plans for Barry's return then... but, in the words of my hero, Lewis Black, "I have doubts."

In a 6/9/08 interview with Newsarama, Grant Morrison had this to say about his blockbuster DC series, FINAL CRISIS:

"GM: Well, the way it worked out was that I started writing Final Crisis #1 in early 2006, around the same time as the 52 series was starting to come out, so Final Crisis was more a continuation of plot threads from Seven Soldiers and 52 than anything else. Final Crisis was partly-written and broken down into rough issue-by-issue plots before Countdown was even conceived, let alone written. And J.G. was already working on designs and early layouts by the time Countdown started. There wasn’t really much opportunity, or desire, to modify our content at that stage."

Now, I'm not a math professor or anything. I'm just some dumb nerd that reads comics but, unless I'm mistaken, 2006 was BEFORE 2007! That means that FINAL CRISIS was well under way when Didio said there were no plans to bring Barry back. But bringing Barry back is a MAJOR factor of the plot of FC. So, did no one TELL Didio? Was he left out of the loop so he could have plausible deniability in 2007? Did Morrison have WMD and, if so, when did Didio find out and how much did he know when he found out? What did he know and did he know what he knew when he knew it?

No wonder I have a headache.

Didio is quickly becoming the George W. Bush of comics which means you can't trust a word he says. Unless he "crosses his heart and swears to die" first. Or pinky-swears. That might work.

Monday, August 25, 2008

THAT'S how you do it!

The mark of a really good writer is when they take something that you've known for a long time and add a new twist to it that makes you go, "yeah, that makes perfect sense."

That's the kind of writer Geoff Johns is with the newest Final Crisis tie in, LEGION OF 3 WORLDS.

Current DC Comics overused villain Superboy-Prime is brought into the future by the Legion of Super-Heroes old nemesis, the Time Trapper. Once there, he goes on a rampage of destruction in the Superman museum and, once he learns that the Legion of Super-Villains is being held on the prison planet Takron-Galtos, rushes there to commit a planetary prison break.

When he liberates the key trio of the Legion of Super-VILLAINS (Saturn Queen, Lighting Lord and Cosmic King) they reveal that, just as the Legion of Super-Heroes were inspired by Superboy, the bad guys were inspired by Superboy-PRIME.

It's a great "of course" moment of retconning that works amazingly well.

And that's why Geoff Johns is my favorite comic writer today and why this particular Final Crisis tie-in just might not suck after all.

The stupidity of executives

My brain hurts.

Unless you've been living under a rock, or trying to access the internet from Beijing, you know that BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT is making all kinds of crazy money for Warner Brothers and breaking records. Quite the contrast from the nearly universal indifference which greeted SUPERMAN RETURNS, isn't it?

That difference hasn't gone unnoticed by WB. They announced late last week in an article in the WALL ST. JOURNAL that Superman would be rebooted. The last film would be considered "out of continuity", which pretty much means, "it'd didn't make us a ton of money so forget that it ever existed."

What the brain trust at WB has decided to do with Superman is to try and copy B:TDK. President of Warner Brothers Picture Group puts it this way:

" 'Superman' didn't quite work as a film in the way that we wanted it to," Robinov said of Singer's movie, which made just $215 million domestically. "It didn't position the character the way he needed to be positioned," he continued. "Had 'Superman' worked in 2006, we would have had a movie for Christmas of this year or 2009, but now the plan is just to reintroduce Superman. We're going to try to go dark to the extent that the character allows it."

They're going to try and dark up Superman. This is the stupidest thing I've ever heard since, oh... I don't know, someone said, "Hey! Let's get Joel Schumacher to direct the next Batman movie! He REALLY understands those characters!"

You can't 'dark up' Superman. You just can't because it DOESN'T WORK! The most you can do is maybe darken up the villains but, even then, you're working against type because Superman's villains aren't NEARLY as dark as Batman's. Superman is about hope. He stands for truth, justice and the ever-changing 'American Way'. He's not about 'taking the fight to the streets'. He's about doing the right thing no matter how painful it might be or what it costs you personally.

It's a shame that the President of Warner Brothers Picture Group doesn't understand that about a character his company OWNS. I guess he didn't have the time to read any of the several THOUSAND Superman comics that his company published. I'm sure he has assistants working on that right now and they'll write up a one paragraph synopsis of the character for him to read while he's enjoying 'quiet time' on the toilet.

And even if he doesn't have time to read all of that paragraph, I'm sure Schumacher is available.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Movie Comics!

My mind works in mysterious ways.

I had a dentist appointment this morning which, naturally, made me think of the classic 1996 horror film, THE DENTIST, starring Corbin Bernsen. This wonderful piece of cinema was a story basically about Corbin finding out his wife was cheating on him and then going out and killing a bunch of people. Said killings had a dental theme, natch.

Not that I thought my dentist was going to kill me as I laid in the chair (although there were a few moments that it seemed possible), but it made me think of comic book adaptations. So far as I know, no company made a comic version of THE DENTIST which led me to wonder, “What happened to the movie comics?”

You know the ones I’m talking about. Not the comics that took a movie as inspiration like the TERMINATOR comics but ones that pretty much just plopped down on paper what had been up on the screen. Used to be that pretty much every movie would get the comic book treatment and, if it was a kid’s movie or from Disney, that was pretty much guaranteed.

Dell and Gold Key were big publishers of these comics when I was growing up and I can remember buying adaptations of my favorite movies. Most were fair but some really captured the flavor or magic of their movie.

Then, suddenly, no one made them anymore. Oh, sure, Marvel or DC might do a one shot adaptation of a really big movie (particularly if it was based on their characters) but you didn’t see a TOP GUN comic or a BREAKFAST CLUB comic or even an UNCLE BUCK comic. Why was that? What had happened to wipe out the movie adaptation comic virtually overnight? Was it a dinosaur-killing comet? No, my friends, it was video tape killed the movie comic.

I’m sure that the primary reason was money. After all, if a BLUES BROTHERS comic sold millions of copies, publishers would be fools to ignore that opportunity. They stopped making them because people and kids stopped buying them. But why?

The answer to that lies in the reason that they used to be bought in the first place!

When you bought a comic adaptation of a movie, it was usually because you had liked the movie when you saw it in the theater. You had liked it so much that you wanted to relive that fun or excitement or that great line of dialogue. But, back in those far olden days, you had no WAY to relive it. There were no DVD players. There weren’t even VCRs back then. Cable basically didn’t exist and certainly not the way it does today. You didn’t get 100+ channels on your TV. You were lucky if you got 5 or 6 channels and a couple of those were crappy UHF channels that you could only see if you contorted your antenna to look like some Egyptian hieroglyphics.

My point being that you couldn’t just pop something into a machine every time you had a hankering to watch DIE HARD I, II and/or III. You had to WAIT until it came on TV and, back then, not only could that take a long time but you never knew WHEN it would show up. It could be at 3am on channel 64 and if you missed it, you missed it. No VCRs, remember?

So, if you wanted to relive that great movie, you had to buy the comic (or the novelization which is another dying trend). But once those VCRs starting popping up all over the place and now you could get that great movie on tape and watch it ANY TIME YOU WANTED, there was little need for a plain adaptation. Why READ when you can just sit on the couch and watch the REAL thing?

Before you knew it, movie comics were gone the way of Romance and Western comics, never to return. Which is a shame because some of those comics were quite good.

So let’s all take a minute today and remember our fallen comrade, the movie comic. Let’s say thank you to Dell and Gold Key and even DC and Marvel (Marvel, remember, did the first comic adaptation of STAR WARS) for remembering and reminding us what it was like to be a little kid in a big movie house and how magical it all seemed.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Where are the Olympics comics?

It seems strange to me that no one has cashed in on this market. Imagine a comic all about Michael Phelps or the woman's beach volleyball teams! It would make a ton o' money?

Then again, maybe not. Marvel's comic about the Pope didn't sell very well, IIRC.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Comic Summer

Well, coming as no surprise to most comic fans, this summer has been one comic book movie blockbuster after another. Starting with IRON MAN and then HULK and lastly, BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT, comics have ruled the cinemas.

So why don't I feel happier about that?

B:TDK will most likely become the biggest grossing movie of all time or give that celluoid disaster TITANIC a run for the title. And yet I, a self-professed Batman fan have only seen the movie once.

I saw IRON MAN three times.


I think it's because B:TDK may be many things but it's not fun. It's action packed, dramatic and full of tragedy and sacrifice.

But it's not fun.

In the end, when the credits came up, I simply felt bad. I felt bad for all the characters, bad for the city of Gotham, bad for the future, just bad all around. I felt as if I'd gone through the ringer and came out wet, depressed and flat.

IRON MAN, however, was exhilarating and just flat out superhero fun.

Strange that a company identified with putting their characters through emotional turmoil should produce a movie that was entertaining and uplifting. While the other company, which for many years did optimistic stories until they proved to not sell as well as angst, would make a movie that was so down-beat.