Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Other people talking

Whilst I'm preoccupied, some other blogs have interesting stuff:

Plok has been comparing the underlying philosophies and worldviews of Steve Englehart and Steve Gerber. These two mean as much to me as they do to him, and I admire him for putting it into words.

Ragnell has a great take on Wonder Woman and religion and inspires some really inspired comments.

Apparently there was a party at a good-looking comics shop attended by good-looking comics fans. And you wonder why I feel old. Just remember, I did my time in the trenches before comics were "cool" and "hip" -- my generation of fans all wore anoraks indoors and didn't bathe, and the comic shops all had stacks of porn instead of cappucino dispensers. Though of course I was buying them at newsstands long before comic shops were invented; even the grubbiest comic shop would have been paradise back then. To this day when I buy comics I still think someone is waiting outside the shop to beat me up. When you see me at the convention just remember I went through all that so you young people could live in a better world, so be kind to me.

(Link via Mark, who also has the blurry photo of scowling beard thing going on.)

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Fan spotting guide

Next weekend, I'm planning to be at the New York Comic-Con at the Jacob Javits Convention Center -- a venue I've come to know and loathe all too well from attending too many Macworld Expos there. Since I'm hoping to meet up with various people who've never met me in real life and know me only by my online persona, I decided to take a cue from the Redhead Fangirl and post a picture of myself here, so as to give people an idea of what to look for.

In order for this picture to be an accurate representation, you'll need to follow some preliminary instructions. First, down at least six stiff drinks: that should provide the suitably blurred vision. I myself would choose vodka, but feel free to substitute gin or scotch if such is your preference. As a side benefit, you drinking heavily will make me seem more entertaining than I actually am, so we both win.

Second, walk/stagger/shamble up to me and loudly say something guaranteed to make me scowl angrily. Your best bets are "Jack Kirby couldn't write for crap, Stan Lee was a thousand times better!" or "Superman is a boring prick, I prefer Batman because he's a total psychopath!" or "Hey, isn't that Christopher Priest over there?" Any of these conversational gambits is sure to evoke the expression seen here!

And no, my head has not been photographically distorted in this photo. It really is that long and thin. This is why I feel more comfortable as Ron Stoppable.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

And she can beat up your mom, too

True story:

I was just talking with my mom, who had recently heard about Frank Miller's upcoming Batman Versus Al Qaeda comic and wanted to know what I thought about it. As it happens, I just posted a comment at The Brill Building about same, so I repeated what I said there.

"The original Star Trek didn't necessarily do it well, but that's the right idea," I said. "If you want to make a comment about the Civil Rights movement, you don't make it about Black versus White, because your audience won't have any distance to understand the problem from outside their personal experience. You make it about green people, or Andorians, or..."

"...or Frank Gorshin with his face painted half black and half white," she replied.

"Well, that's a bad example,, should I be proud or ashamed that you remembered that was Frank Gorshin?"

I was kidding, of course. She took me to my first Trek convention. Yeah, my mom is a Trekkie. You got a problem with that?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

You give me such nachas

Israeli group announces anti-Semitic cartoons contest!

Eyal Zusman (30), actor and writer, and Amitai Sandy (29), graphic artist and publisher of Dimona Comix Publishing, both from Tel-Aviv, Israel, have followed the unfolding of the "Muhammad cartoon-gate" events in amazement, until finally Zusman came up with the right answer to all this insanity - and so they announced today the launch of a new anti-Semitic cartoons contest - this time drawn by Jews themselves!

"We'll show the world we can do the best, sharpest, most offensive Jew hating cartoons ever published!" said Zusman, and Sandy added: "No Iranian will beat us on our home turf!"

The contest has been announced today on the website, and the initiators accept submissions of cartoons, caricatures and short comic strips from people all over the world. The deadline is Sunday March 5, and the best works will be displayed in an Exhibition in Tel-Aviv, Israel.

Sandy and Zusman are now in the process of arranging sponsorships of large organizations, and promise lucrative prizes for the winners, including of course the famous Matzo-bread baked with the blood of Christian children.

I sent an e-mail to Amitai Sandy saying that as a Jewish comic book writer who has hated himself for many years, this contest and the sentiments behind it honestly make me proud. In return, I got an invitation from Amitai to submit an entry, which makes me even prouder.

Seriously, I was hoping someone would do this. I was amused by the thought of the Iranian competition for cartoons making fun of the Holocaust, but I don't hold out much hope for the results. Nothing should be off-limits as a potential subject for humor...but the Holocaust has defied our finest minds, even Mel Brooks, for generations now. The catch is, it has to be funny -- just making an anti-Semitic remark and saying "ha ha ha" doesn't make it a good joke.

I do recall one extremely funny Holocaust-related joke: Seth Green's show Robot Chicken on Cartoon Network once envisioned The Diary of Anne Frank remade as a Hollywood vehicle for Hillary Duff. Which is more of a joke on the tastelessness of Hollywood than anything else...but it's the best example I can think of.

Hypocrisy, thy name is Yahoo!

"We are deeply concerned by efforts of governments to restrict and control open access to information and communication."

This statement from Yahoo! came in response, not the demands of the Chinese government, with which they have no problem...but rumblings of new U.S. legislation to prevent Internet companies from setting up servers in nations controlled by repressive regimes.

If Yahoo! and Google and Microsoft had any collective corporate brains, they'd welcome such legislation -- perhaps after making a token effort to resist same for the sake of appearances -- as a way of backing out of these pro-censorship decisions which have become a PR disaster for them. Actually, that might be what they're doing. I can only hope.

Update: wow.

"History demonstrates that only a totalitarian system needs news censorship, out of the delusion that it can keep the public locked in ignorance," the group said in the letter, according to Reuters news agency....Those signing the letter include Chairman Mao's former secretary, Li Rui; the former editor of the Communist party's own mouthpiece, People's Daily, Hu Jiwei; and ex-propaganda boss, Zhu Houze.

Now let's see if Yahoo! and Google and Microsoft can be as brave in opposing Chinese censorship as Chairman Mao's former secretary.

Monday, February 13, 2006

What we talk about when we talk about comics

You may not know this about me...but sometimes I post short comic book scripts on the Writer's Forum at Is it weird for me to do this when my first published comics story was at Marvel Comics mumble-mumble years ago? Well, maybe so, but I had to drop out of the business for a good long time...and now that I'm getting back in, I'm totally back to being a novice. Especially given how radically the industry has changed since my last go-round.

Anyway, I've never been able to just write for practice and stick the results in a drawer. I can only write at all if I'm reasonably sure someone else will read it. And since raw comic book scripts are not really all that entertaining to the general public, the online forums are a great help in that respect.

I posted my latest script on and got a couple of comments about the sparseness of my descriptions, which led me to write the following musings. I share this with you because all the people reading this are comics fans -- and comics fans tend to want to become comics creators -- and this is the stuff we obsess about. It's not all "I've got a great idea for Ultra the Multi-Alien if only DC would let me write it!" It's more about "if I make this page a nine-panel grid instead of a six-panel grid, how does that affect the pacing of the dialog?"

(And by the way: I really, really do have a great idea for Ultra the Multi-Alien.)

A quick note for the younger folks: "Marvel style" refers to a method of comics writing devised by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby when they were inventing Marvel Comics. It consists of a plot outline without any dialog or individual panel descriptions -- it might say "Black Panther sees his foe. The baddie zaps him with a laser beam. Panther's arm gets cut." -- and the panel-by-panel development of this plot is left to the artist. Then the pencilled art is sent back to the writer, who composes dialog and captions to suit the drawings the artist has created. It was unique to Marvel, and now even they have switched to using full scripts.

With that out of the way, we present a comics writer's plaint...

When I first started learning about comics writing, Marvel was still using the "Marvel style" and the sample they gave aspiring writers to emulate was one of Jim Shooter's later issues of THE AVENGERS. Not the best example to give newcomers for a variety of reasons, not least because Shooter was just knocking them out without a second thought at that point. But it illustrated one extreme approach to hypersimplified writing: he covered all the story beats of a 22 page issue in something like 800 words. Lots of stuff like "they fight for a couple of pages" and just leave the details to the artist because I'm too busy being Editor In Chief to break that down any further.

When I tried to do Marvel style, I took 300 words to describe each page. No way was I going to compress things as much as Shooter had.

At the other extreme, there were Alan Moore scripts. I saw a single SWAMP THING script that was literally thicker than the telephone book of the small town where I grew up. There's no point in anyone else trying to emulate that: being longwinded won't make you Alan Moore.

A much bigger influence on the way I think of comic scripts has been reading film scripts and books on Hollywood techniques. I don't have trouble thinking of myself as equivalent to the screenplay author and the artist as the director...except unlike Hollywood, the comics writer can and should expect that his words and situations will be regarded as relatively inviolate and not subject to rewrites by thirteen other writers and improvisation on set.

Now here's the catch: immediately before I started posting here, I had a really talented artist bail out on a project I'd written especially for him. Honestly, I was more upset by that than I was when my ex-fiancee broke off our engagement! One of his complaints -- um, this would be the artist; my former bride-to-be was female -- was that he felt he was just drawing MY story, that I was dictating to him how everything should be drawn, and that he wasn't getting enough freedom to consider it a collaboration. So it's more than likely this bad experience is now causing me to list too far in the opposite direction: maybe I give the artist too little direction. Like, you know, a guy who gets dumped by a girl and then lets the next woman in his life walk all over him just so long as she please won't leave him...

By the way, do any other writers here have a problem with artists starting out all enthusiastic about a project, calling it brilliant and promising you the moon, only to flake out and not get any work done, then moving on to someone else? Or is it just something I inspire in artists (and girlfriends)? Do I have bad breath? Does this hairstyle make me look fat?

Dick + Wittington = Pussy

Oh, come on -- no one's used that joke yet?

Anyway, the evil cyborg Cheney is a pussy. And not in the good way. He's no hunter, but he loves pretending to be one. That ranch in Texas where Wittington got sprayed with shot? One of those places where they raise quail in pens and feed them by hand, so they're not afraid of people. Then they let the poor stupid birds out dozens or hundreds at a time, not knowing they're supposed to flee hunters. They'd walk right up to you and let you hand feed them if you tried. And a bunch of wimps who think that holding rifles makes them real men -- man, if only Cheney had known that guns equal manhood sooner, maybe he wouldn't have gotten those five deferments from serving in Vietnam -- feel great about killing them up a whole bunch.

I read that Cheney has killed 70 of these utterly tame and defenseless birds in one day. On one of his frequent hunting trips, 400 birds were released and his hunting party killed 317 of them. Gotta love those odds. No wonder he was sure Iraq would go smoothly: after all, Cheney knows what it's like to defend the thin line of civilization against a rampaging horde of murderous tame quail. It's hell in those rushes, and you need a good stiff lite beer afterward to cleanse those psychic scars.

Real hunters don't shoot 70 quail in one day. Shooting more than you can eat is bad form, to say the least.

On the plus side, I understand that the shot pellets in Wittington's colon are in their last throes, and the Vice President's office announced that the Texas lawyer has welcomed Cheney as a liberator.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Why do TV writers hate me?

I just wrote a shorter version of the following in the comments section of Bill Sherman's blog Pop Culture Gadabout and decided to expand it for a wider audience...

Okay, so now Bones starring David Boreanaz has done an episode mocking socially inept comics fans. A while back, Six Feet Under did an episode mocking socially inept geeky comics fans at a funeral. Back in November, a show called Las Vegas -- a series presumably inspired by the "what happens here, stays here" ad campaign -- set an episode in a comic book convention, including every negative cliche about socially inept comics fans you can think of. Apparently we're all teenage boys who are afraid of women and can't tell the difference between comics and real life.

What inspires this venom from tv writers? Is it that they're so humiliated and put upon in their own field they have to find an even more defenseless group to beat up on?

(Yes, I know there are plenty of writers in Hollywood who read comics. One is John Rogers who not only produced a pilot based on the Warren Ellis comic Global Frequency but is also now writing Blue Beetle.)

I gather The O.C. treats comics fandom better -- not surprisingly, given one of the executive producers also writes Young Avengers for Marvel -- but I've never seen that show. Maybe I'm missing something really good. Apart from that, the only decent treatment of comics fans I recall seeing in prime time was a sequence from Roseanne, involving the younger daughter attending conventions and trying to break into the industry.

So the other day, I found an unaired pilot made for Comedy Central called Super Nerds, created by and starring Patton Oswalt and Brian Posehn, two of the greatest stand-up comedians around.

These guys are real hardcore comic geeks, surely they'll outdo Kevin Smith in conferring a little respect and dignity on our much-despised ilk? Nope. The comic shop set is perfect, the topical references are as accurate as one could hope...but the jokes all revolve around these two guys being terrified of women, losing the ability to speak in the presence of a pretty girl, and obsessing over a valuable pair of limited edition Kirk and Picard bookends.

A few years back, a pilot for an animated show based on the comic "Welcome to Eltingville" by cartoonist Evan Dorkin aired on Cartoon Network. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't remotely affectionate. Now we can add this pilot to the roster of self-loathing depictions in other media created by comics fans. Can't we do better than this?

Comments and other examples of mass-media depictions of the hapless comics fan are requested...

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Hello World

Despite all appearances to the contrary, this is actually the inaugural post of this blog. The others have been painstakingly transferred over from my previous blog over at Tribe so that the place would feel a bit more lived in. Some of the external links in the earlier posts may be out of date, but are preserved intact here for the sake of an accurate historical record. I hope you all appreciate the trouble I've taken on your behalf. It's only because I care. I really do.

Standard disclaimer: my blogroll of honor at right is incomplete, and more entries will be added as I think of them. If anyone feels miffed at being excluded, please accept my apologies in advance and please notify me of the omission at once.

Now let the housewarming party begin...