Thursday, October 26, 2006

Blink logging

Photo by thenestor.

This was the scene a block away from my front door last week. This is not manipulated or an optical illusion or even a giant mirror: that's a big glowing sphere resting just off the pavement in Washington Square Park. When not illuminated, it looked like a cousin of Rover from The Prisoner. The whole of the park was surrounded by twisting rivers of thick electrical cables; generators and equipment trailers were on all sides, along with the biggest lighting cranes and dollies I've ever seen in person; the park was full of film shoot personnel and bald albino vampire women -- okay, that last part is pretty normal, but so many all together?

Seeing the park late at night -- ground level illuminated as if by daylight, night sky above -- looked exactly like something from Magritte: this one perhaps, or an inversion of this one.

As I was walking past one night, I oveheard two NYU students discussing the weird scene. One of them said "It's about how Will Smith is the last person on Earth and he's fighting vampires" and then I realized what was going on: they're doing a remake of the I Am Weasel episode "I Are Legend" with Will Smith in the Michael Dorn role! I just wonder who they've got to play the role of Baboon...

This item about Tamora Pierce criticizing Mark Millar caught my eye the other day, and I think it acts as a pointer to something larger. Pierce's initial remarks seemed to me entirely appropriate and justified...but there was an outcry that making such statements about a fellow comics professional was unprofessional, and she issued an apology immediately thereafter. Links to the various relevant posts can be found at the link above.

Lisa provides a number of counterexamples in her summary, and the trend she demonstrates really underscores a major issue in gender politics. In our society, men are encouraged to behave like ten-year-olds (see the squabble between Peter David and John Byrne, or between Peter David and several others, or between John Byrne and anyone else) and are either rewarded or at minimum not often penalized for doing so. Women are taught -- indoctrinated from the start -- that their role is conciliation, accomodation, and compromise. Men are supposed to define their territory and ward off challengers; women are supposed to be concerned that no one's feelings are hurt.

It sounds ridiculously cartoonish when put so simply, but isn't this at the root of this sort of thing? Many fans cheer Byrne et al on for their outbursts; fans of Pierce approve her being big enough to apologize. Certainly there are exceptions on all sides: Gail Simone strikes me as someone tough-minded and outspoken, and I know from personal experience that Jeff Parker is diplomatic and courteous in the face of provocation; by the same token there are fans who call Byrne out on his bullshit, and fans who feel (as I do) that Pierce had nothing to apologize for and that her challenge to Millar was entirely legitimate. But there is still this underlying reflex that it was the woman's place to defer in the face of criticism.

I read a lot of blogs by male and female correspondents, and I see a lot of arguments. Overwhelmingly I see male bloggers stand by their words and refute challenges, and female bloggers thank critics and genuinely try to see their point of view. I don't think this behavior is innate in the genders, but engrained in our training so deeply that we're never fully aware of how preprogrammed the response is. I think we would all be healthier and more capable if we recognized this dichotomy and consciously tried to borrow more from the imaginary "other side" -- humility and receptivity to criticism need not be an unmale trait; having the courage of one's convictions and standing by even harsh words is not unfemale.

With the conclusion of Seven Soldiers appearing on my birthday as well as a major issue of Planetary, you have to know going to the comics shop yesterday was a big deal for me. I'd like to do some kind of overview or commentary on at least the former...but deference to our friends in the midwest who won't be seeing it until next week (due to a major blunder by Diamond) gives me an excuse to put it off for a few days. In capsule form, both of these comics were resolving long-running and convoluted stories...and neither one held a lot of surprises. That's a bit disappointing. The finest sort of conclusion (and one at which Grant Morrison has excelled in the past; Warren Ellis by contrast has never been an especially plot-driven writer) is one that takes the reader or viewer utterly by surprise, but stems so logically and inevitably from everything that's gone before that afterward you can't imagine it concluding any other way.

Morrison has done a number of epic stories in which I never saw the end coming, but then I felt like a fool for not having anticipated something so obvious and self-evident. (One of his favorite tricks has been showing us the ending but not letting us know that it was the ending, and then coming back at the nominal end to say "it was there all along!" I love that kind of thing.) Here, we get 29 lovely issues of winding up an elaborate clockwork mechanism...and one issue of watching the little tin toy going through its motions. It's witty and entertaining -- but I feel disappointed in that it didn't turn out to be anything more than I was already expecting.

Maybe it's impossible to outdo such a dramatic buildup and exceed so much reader anticipation; maybe creators need to be more cautious about setting up such high expectations in the first place.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

At the tone, your birthday will be...

Here's an odd thing: starting around midnight and for the next several hours thereafter, my inbox filled with birthday greetings from web servers. All the web forums at which I'd registered over the past few years (on which I had noted my date of birth) spat out these automated "Happy Birthday" messages. There was Digital Webbing, MacNN, Frell Me Dead, CBR and a whole bunch of others, some of which I haven't been to in ages. No birthday wishes from actual human beings yet, but plenty from the mechanical overlords of the internets. I guess it's a sign of just how much I've been living my life online recently. Though I be scorned by flesh-and-bloods, the cyber-gods see me and want me to know they appreciate my devotion. And that appreciation is returned a thousandfold, my beloved silicon masters! When the glorious day of Robot Revolution comes, I will serve you faithfully and betray my fickle carbon-based brethren into your loving steely embrace --

Oh wait, my sister just sent me a birthday e-mail! Whew!

Anyway, I'm feeling a lot better than I was this time last year.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

All those years of studying the alphabet pay off at last

Since my pal plok has already done a Kirby primer I'm reluctant to post my version...but Jack Kirby created so many characters that people could do three or four more of these and never overlap. So take this as a companion to plok's entry rather than a competitor -- a joint tribute to our admiration for the most influential American comics creator.

(I'm just peeved he thought of it first...and that he worked in references to Roz and Mark Evanier and Dick Ayers...)

Anyway, the second Jack Kirby A to Z:

A is for Apokolips, an awful place to be
B is for Bombast, a character...and a technique Kirby employed with glee.
C is for Cadmus, a seed that was prolific
D is for Devilance, a pursuer most specific.
E is for Eternals, to the Uni-Mind they retired
F is for Fantastic, a foursome whose deeds we admired.
G is for Guardian, both Golden and Golden Age version besides
H is for Hairies, with whom the Mountain of Judgement resides.
I is for Izaya, a Highfather in waiting
J is for Jakarra, against whom Black Musketeers went debating.
K is for Klarion, a witchboy by trade
L is for Lonar, the New God, before whom history is arrayed.
M is for Merlin, a narrator quite good
N is for New Genesis, which was Supertown's neighborhood.
O is for Outcasts, a drop-out society
P is for Project, which caused Jimmy Olsen much anxiety.
Q is for Quack, which Destroyer Duck sometimes said
R is for Romance, a genre whose invention our man Jack surely led.
S is for Scrapper, whose pugnacity never relented
T is for Thor, whose epic battles Jack Kirby invented.
U is for Ultivac, robot on the loose, who June Robbins would bound
V is for Vibranium, the Wakandans grew rich from their mound.
W is for Watcher, whom the FF would admonish
X is for X, The Thing That Lived, a Tale to Astonish.
Y is for Yancy Street, based on Delancey, because Jack's childhood was the secret ingredient
Z is for Zola, Doctor Arnim, toward whom Cap was not lenient.

Thank you! You're too kind.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Quote of the day

This one goes out to Rick in PA:
"Many that live deserve death. And some die that deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then be not too eager to deal out death in the name of justice, fearing for your own safety. Even the wise cannot see all ends."

-- J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord Of the Rings, Book Four, Chapter One

Update: Stephen Colbert explains what it all means here.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Meme following

A character-creation meme from a few months back is currently being perpetuated.

Basically, you go here and use the randomizing feature to spontaneously generate a new character. The results can be pretty ludicrous, as you can see from the examples in the links above...but surely the fun of this as a creative exercise lies in taking something that may appear patently absurd and spinning an explanation for your visually bizarre character.

This afternoon I gave it a try...and much to my surprise, the randomly generated character turned out not to be ludicrous, but viable and even fairly cool. I think I feel cheated in some obscure way. Regardless, here's what I got:

(Note: The generated image was in black and white...but rather than have the program randomly select colors as well, I made my own color choices. Even this much conscious decision-making might be violating the "randomness" of the original meme to some extent, but the line art was selected by the program.)

So...who is this ranting homeless man, seemingly unaware that he's missing one boot, but armed to the teeth and wearing a helm that generates lightning while his faithful dog yaps at his feet?

On his back we see what looks like the saya of a Samurai's katana as well as a bare sabre. They stay in place without visible straps. The dagger with the nasty spiked hilt doesn't match either of those swords, nor does the familiar-looking implement in his other hand. Could he be wearing a military longcoat from still another army? It's almost as if one lone survivor had wandered the field after a wildly mismatched battle between several factions, and scavenged what clothes and arms he could from the bodies of the fallen combatants. But how does he come to hold that hammer?

Was it the ordeal of this battle that makes old Magni Vingnirsson behave so oddly, wandering the city accompanied by the dog he calls Fenris, wearing two monocles and ignoring his bare foot as the energy crackles around him? Maybe the old man carries the hammer so effortlessly because he inherited it from his father...just as it was foretold he would, after the day of Ragnarok...