Monday, June 25, 2007

Shuffle mode

I managed to screw up my back last weekend through overzealous exercise, leading to a couple of days when walking around was excruciatingly painful and merely sitting in front of this keyboard was very uncomfortable indeed. So my renewed burst of regular blogging got conked on the head just as it was getting started. I'm mostly better now, but on Friday I was still concerned enough about not putting extra strain on my back that I cancelled plans for dinner and an outing to Rocketship with Jeff Brady...

...only to have my sister show up unexpectedly with my nephews. They're great kids -- funny, jaded, cheerful, and well-adjusted in all the ways my sister and I certainly never were -- even if they do insist on being far older than they ought to be. I remember seeing each of them the day they were born and now the older one is getting ready to start high school. Surely children must be starting high school at an earlier age these days, that's the only reasonable explanation. I hardly get to see them...but I greeted the visit with mixed emotions, as I'd bailed on those dinner plans specifically to take it easy Friday evening to be sure I was in good shape to attend the MoCCA Art Festival on Saturday. And here I was entertaining two energetic boys and their harried mother instead, trying to think of refreshments and diversions that would make me seem like Cool Uncle instead of Lame Tired Pathetic Uncle. I had what seemed like a brilliant inspiration to take them to Forbidden Planet which is very close to me. Bit of an ulterior motive there, the store has toys and models and video games so surely something would be a hit with them...and I'd get to see what caught their attention and what their sort of kid thinks is cool. But when we got there, my nephews were about as excited as they would have been on a trip to a shoe store. No, I tell a lie: they would have been much more excited by a shoe store. Both kids used to read comics and were at one time very keen on the Spider-Man films as well as anything Harry Potter. My sister had warned me it would be a dud, but I had to see it for myself. These are two completely normal, well-adjusted kids...and completely normal, well-adjusted kids have no interest in anything to do with fantasy or SF or (least interesting of all) comics in any form. There may be some added parental influence there -- my sister has always disapproved of anything to do with SF or comics; her vehemence is very telling indeed, considering that both our parents were avid SF and comics fans -- but my nephews almost certainly don't have any geek friends at school either.

It was a good evening out overall, apart from that one entirely predictable disappointment...but that one bit gave me a vision of my comics writing ambitions leading to a future where at best I'd be writing for an ever shrinking group of sad holdouts, getting on into their fifties and sixties, waxing nostalgic as we wheeze at one another "Remember that one, 52 it was called? Came out every single week! Ah, comics were great in those days, not like today..." And no one else will know what we're talking about. I want someday to write a comic that my counterpart, someone who might be ten or twelve now, would think was cool. But would I even be reading comics at all if I were twelve today? I probably couldn't afford them... I was in a funny state of mind going into MoCCA the next day. Fortunately my mood was considerably lifted by spending time with that paragon of manly ruggedness Timothy Callahan, the shockingly talented and destined for imminent greatness Todd Casey, and the aforementioned pillar of virtue that is Jeff Brady before my back started to ache again and I decided it was time to call it a day. I no longer care if only elderly people will be reading my scribbling, so long as they are fine elderly folks like those people, and the other people I met and chatted with at MoCCA, and of course all the wonderful people reading this blog...

...and at MoCCA was some inkling of what my next big project will most likely be, and if this comes through as planned it will be a corker indeed...

...and with Harriet now deputy leader of the Labour Party, this spares her any need to be locked inside the Cabinet Room with a visiting doctor and his assistant before rising to national prominence. But if I were her, I'd be very careful around Christmastime: that's when people are prone to start asking "Don't you think she looks tired?"

I'm pretty sure I do. So now I'm going to bed.


  1. I am very frightened for being referred to as a "pillar of virtue."

    It's true and all, but it's still frightening.

  2. It's a sad state, really.

    Kids =/= comics

    One time, I tried giving 2 of my nephews (my older brothers sons) some comics.

    They were bagged, in beautiful shape and a very cool assortment.

    Some kid-friendly (Waid & Weiringo's early Fantastic Four, free comic book day stuff too), some were media darlings (Batman animated), some were intro-books (Batman 10cent adventure, Superman 12cent similar), and a few regular "good old comics".

    They looked at the stash as if I had introduced a giant alien lifeform into the room.

    I had never SEEN such looks of confusion.

    "What's this?"

    After my initial shock, I replied... "comics, I love 'em."

    They then seemed to have a glint of recognition on their faces.
    Sort of like; "ahhhh... comics. We have heard tales of such things in Earth's past".

    Then, the best bit happened.

    Not having a CLUE what a comic bag was, they thought that they were PACKAGED or something.. and tore the baggies open.


    I initially tried to stop them, but figured, "heck. It's too damn funny, let them have fun".

    They spent some time reading and asked me a few questions, but I could tell that Harry Potter and video games had them by the brain stem.


    My SISTER's boys, however are VERY familiar with comics heroes, through DC's Justice League animated shows.

    They would frequently ask me about what Green Lanterns power limits are, and how strong "Diana" is (I won't get into how in LOVE they are with "Diana" - young hormones), but when I produced COMIC BOOKS for them, they recognized the characters, but weren't sure what to make of the medium.

    It was at that point that I knew the medium was surely doomed for a massive change of format.

    The ONLY glimmer of hope I can offer is when I used to give away comics for Halloween (the mini-comics and other 50cent bin fodder).

    SO many kids were THRILLED to get their hands of them.
    Oddly though, when given a choice between a Spidey mini-comic or an Archie mini-comic, 90% of boys and girls preferred ARCHIE.

    So, maybe comics themselves aren't doomed...just super-hero comics.


  3. Jeff: only one who has carried that burden knows how thankless and unrewarding it can be.

    thenook: you're right, the ripping of the comic bags is too funny!

    I can never make up my mind on that genre versus medium question. Your example might not indicate anything -- given the choice, I'd probably pick the Archie comic over the Spider-Man comic too.

    The DCU cartoons, and the more all-ages-friendly movies like the FF and Spider-Man films (as opposed to, say, Batman Begins or Superman Returns, neither of which seems like they'd enthrall a young viewer) prove that the superhero can still grab a kid's imagination.

    But actually reading a comic book, grasping how to process the words and pictures simultaneously, is a skill that has to be learned. And that skill doesn't get learned if kids don't have comics readily available. I've shown comic books to adults who never read comics or comic strips as children, adults who were genuinely interested to find out what all the fuss was about, and they looked up at me in bafflement, complaining they literally could not make sense of the page. It was incomprehensible to them.

    This might also be a subset of a larger issue: my nephews (and I'm telling tales out of school here, so please nobody give my sister the URL of this blog) have parents who don't read anything for pleasure. They'll read a book if it's necessary for work, but not for its own sake. That sends a message to the kids as well: reading is a necessity or a chore, something you might be obliged to do before you get to do something fun, not a source of pleasure.

    (RAB shudders)


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