Sunday, March 18, 2007

Shagadelic, baby

Here, Amanda Connor describes a scene from the upcoming Terra miniseries:

Connor related a story about a scene in the beginning of the second issue of the mini-series. “Terra is running around ‘clothes-free’ and she’s in Doctor Midnite’s lab, not knowing how she got there. I had to be very ‘Austin Powers,’ trying to strategically hide things here and there.”

It's been a long time since I saw Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, but my recollection is that during the scene in question scene both Mike Myers and Elizabeth Hurley are meant to be naked and both are the subject of sight gags concealing their nudity. It was an equal opportunity joke -- a joke on censorship and filmic conventions and audience expectations, not especially prurient.

But DC just doesn't roll that way. Once again, it's as if their first priority was figuring out how quickly they could get the female character naked. At least Michael Turner isn't drawing it...but it's a shame Amanda Connor has to do stuff like this.

On a related note, I think Ami Angelwings is some kind of genius. I'd like to set her loose in the DC offices to bash some heads in.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Kirby ink

I thought I was a big Jack Kirby fan. I'm not sure I'm qualified to call myself that anymore. Not after seeing this.

Now that's a Kirby fan.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Last night

So this happened about two blocks away from my front door last night.

Someone who heard the shots said at first they sounded like gunshots...but then there were so many of them that it seemed absurd, over the top, like something out of a movie, so it couldn't really be gunshots. You get a lot of weird sounds in this neighborhood. A truck exhaust backfiring, or firecrackers -- I remember one gas main eruption on the street that sounded exactly like a machine gun. So you filter it out. That may be why I didn't hear the shots, or at least consciously register them: it was just more random street noise. And then the police cars showed up in force to close off the street. And the helicopters, shining lights into apartment windows all over the neighborhood.

The helicopters were upsetting. I'm not sure what they were meant to provide, other than an overwhelming show of police presence at a crime scene. As it turns out, the lone assailant was killed before the copters could have arrived. But this week has been a bad one for police in the city, and a bad one for tensions between police and the public, and my immediate reaction -- fairly or unfairly -- was that the copters were here to demonstrate that the police were not going to take any shit from us. People outside their homes when the police arrived weren't being allowed to go inside, so I was glad to be indoors just then.

(I went through that once when my dad was still alive, arriving home one evening to find the house cordoned off and surrounded by police because a totally spurious bomb threat had been phoned in for the building next door. Standing behind the barricade, I tried explaining calmly and respectfully to an officer that I was the primary caregiver for a paralyzed seventy-year-old man, and if there was a credible bomb threat and the building needed to be evacuated, my presence would be required to move him. It wasn't so much that he was unsympathetic but that the words glided right past him, as if I was trying to explain quantum physics to him in Urdu. So I stood there and waited for half an hour -- pretty sure that the whole bomb threat thing was bogus, but still having no idea if they would go ahead and order the area evacuated anyway. Ultimately they didn't. That wasn't the only ridiculous bomb scare we had that year either.)

So this time I'm inside, and staying inside as the streets as being closed off, and not especially keen to go up on the roof either as there's no way to tell what's going on, or what the cops think is going on. New York's 24 hour cable news channel has nothing, the local broadcast channels have nothing, the radio has nothing. It's all happening right that moment, and there hasn't been enough time to report anything. You could get live updates on Anna Nicole's death or O.J.'s high speed chase as they happened, people all around the world saw the Twin Towers fall at the same time I did, but good luck trying to find out what's happening two blocks away. And then different local websites starting picking up the Associated Press feed and running it verbatim...but the story was changing every five minutes. There was a shootout at the Lion's Den bar. A bartender was killed and a group of gunmen had fled out the back, and were now on the streets. No, it was another bar. No, wait, it wasn't a bar but a pizzeria. No, it was a different pizzeria, no it was an italian restaurant and the bartender got shot, there were three shooters, there was one, one auxiliary policeman was shot and another injured by broken glass, the gunmen were shooting out windows, no they weren't...

When eleven o'clock arrived and the local news channels picked up the story, they all had interviews with the same two eyewitnesses and still didn't have an accurate description of what had actually happened. And now the police helicopters were joined by news choppers so that we could see our street cordoned off. Why? We didn't know. Just that something bad had happened and we had to wait until the smoke of police reaction and bad reporting cleared to find out what.

You'd think there'd be a better way to handle this sort of thing, wouldn't you?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

It stems from the waves of the mind


This has been in the works for a long time, but it's good to have these details come out. Especially the introduction by Grant.

At the very least, I take it as a good sign that DC's using a currently popular writer for the introduction, rather than an artist -- Kirby's visual strengths have never been questioned, unless you're Art Spiegelman, in which case you're a miserable bastard and I don't want to know you -- or someone who'll damn him with faint praise as an "idea man" who needed a collaborator to crush all the life out of his work. You know the drill: great characters, shame about the writing, what we need here is a steady workman like Gerry Conway to hammer it into shape because Orion needs an insignia on his chest to be a proper superhero...

I've been waiting a long time for Jack Kirby to be fully appreciated as a writer by other comics writers -- while watching folks I otherwise respect, such as Steve Englehart or Gail Simone, utterly trash him for not being sufficiently "naturalistic" for their unaccountably narrow tastes -- so far Peter Gillis is one of the few writers to step up to the bat and get what Kirby's writing is all about. But by all indications, Grant gets it too. It'll be interesting to see what he says.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The read balloon

I'm starting work on a new script, which invariably means "seeing a thousand other things more interesting than working on a script and spending all my time finding excuses to avoid working on the script." Actually, when I get into the groove of a script there's really nothing else I'd rather do, and I definitely enjoy the work...but there's always those first few days when I struggle with getting started. One useful trick for getting into the proper mindset is reading other people's scripts and thinking about their techniques. I'm definitely what's called a process junkie and absorb all the behind-the-scene info and discussion I can find. This isn't a search for ideas to swipe -- though occasionally that happens as well -- but instead, a way of triggering my brain to loosen up and start spewing words.

In the course of that search, I just came across a terrific comment by Eddie Campbell from a few months back:

The 'thought' bubble (or balloon) is one of the few inventions truly indigenous to the twentieth century comic strip and it would be sad to reject it in order to make comics more like movies (see comments on this theme under 'Things' two days back), or because it is somehow pictorially unseemly for a tough heroic figure to have fluffy clouds around his head. When you tell an anecdote orally it's commonplace to say 'I thought' and 'she thought' etc., and perfectly logical to codify that on paper in a thought bubble. And if it makes your character less heroic, try taking the pole out of his ass.

I've always liked Eddie Campbell's comics work well enough...but I absolutely love him as a comics historian and theoretician. And this point in particular is something comics writers argue about a lot. I think Campbell's got it exactly right.

Panel 1. RAB sits at his computer, frowning in thought, his chin resting in one hand.

RAB (thought): Maybe the chronic inferiority complex of comics creators is to blame for this.

RAB (thought) 2: It's like a child trying to look adult by eliminating anything that seems childish.

Panel 2. Looking up from street level as the anarchist character V leaps from a rooftop in a scene from V FOR VENDETTA as drawn by David Lloyd. Something like this image.

CAPTION: Alan Moore and Frank Miller made comics look "cool" and "adult" by not using thought balloons. Or sound effects.

CAPTION 2: They made comics look like movies -- like "grown-up" entertainment.

Panel 3. A shot of the Marvel S/M fetish character PENANCE with his fists clenched in a moment of supreme angst.

CAPTION: It worked for them as individuals...but in general, what could be more childish than trying to look all "serious" and "adult"?

CAPTION 2: You just end up looking silly.

Panel 4. RAB gets up from his desk, leaving the computer behind.

RAB (thought): Most old people would give anything to be young again.

RAB (thought) 2: Real maturity goes beyond that, to an appreciation of good things from both childhood and adulthood.

Panel 5. RAB sitting in the living room, in front of a television set. In one hand, he has a remote control pointed at the screen to turn the tv on.

RAB (thought): Comic books don't have motion, they don't have music, they don't have the sound of human voices. They're not movies or television.

SFX: *click!*

Panel 6. On the tv screen, we see KIM POSSIBLE talking into her Kimmunicator.

RAB (thought, off-panel): With all these limitations, it's stupid to throw away some of the few tricks we have out of some misplaced desire to look more "grown up"!

KIM (voice from television): So what's the sitch?

Thursday, March 01, 2007


Part 3 of 3

Some brief verbal snapshots of blurred figures in motion to fill out the picture...

Adam Philips, Manager of Marketing Communications at DC Comics, used to be my editor. This was back in the days when Mark Waid was a wide-eyed fanboy looking for an opening to break into the comic book business and Kurt Busiek was best known as writer of the Red Tornado miniseries. I was still reeling from the surprise appearance of Jon Browne (mentioned a couple of posts back) when Adam greeted me by name at the DC pavilion. I'm stunned that I made enough of an impression that Adam remembered me even though we hadn't been in touch for twenty years. But I always remembered Adam as one of the nicest and most all around competent guys I ever knew in comics. Getting caught up with him was surrealistically wonderful.

Redhead Fangirl has already described our encounter with Gail Simone and her husband Scott -- I refer you there for a fuller account plus photos of RF with Gail, RF with her friend PhillyGirl, and RF consorting with lots of other people. No photos of me, however, which is a great comfort.

Simon Pegg lookalike Drew Melbourne signed a copy of the collected edition of Archenemies, his miniseries from Dark Horse, along with penciller Yvel Guichet and letterer Jim Keplinger. This in turn led to meeting Jeffery Stevenson, best known as author of the webcomic Brat-Halla but an old acquaintance of mine from the Writers Forum at Digital Webbing.

The crowding was intense in the upper mezzanine reserved for pros giving autographs and sketches dubbed "Artists' Aerie." I didn't even attempt to visit there on the first day, thereby missing any glimpse of Stephen Colbert. When I did make it up there the following day, I immediately spotted my good friend Richard Howell of Claypool Comics...and the flow of people moving past was so strong I was literally swept away from his table before I could even catch his eye. I had to make an entire circuit of the area, caught in the crowd, until the traffic led me back to the beginning and I could stop to chat with him.

Richard introduced me to the affable and charming Chris Wisnia, creator of the Doris Danger comics which pay snarky tribute/loving parody to Jack Kirby with special emphasis on his 1950s monster and SF comics. I know Kirby's work and I've seen a lot of Kirby homage over the years...and I have to say Chris stands out for capturing aspects of Kirby's style like no one else and combining it with his own offbeat absurdist humor. I read these comics that night and had to come back to his table the following day to rave about how much I enjoyed them. Highly recommended!

Another unexpected win was scoring a pre-release copy of The Art of ReBoot, beautifully produced by Jim Su and lavishly illustrated with original concept art and character designs from Brendan McCarthy. The book is also filled out with behind-the-scenes comments and insights from McCarthy as well as co-creator Gavin Blair and story editor Dan Didio -- the same fellow now at DC Comics -- packing a surprising amount of information into such a slim volume. It was everything I could have hoped a book on ReBoot would be. Surely an acquisition to make Mark jealous of me, if only for a moment.

I'd be remiss if I didn't offer a shout out to Tim Callahan, Legion of Super-Heroes fan of note and all-around swell person, who signed a copy of his book Grant Morrison - The Early Years and then mentioned that he's read this blog. Gosh! (Whatever else I do in life, I may forever be known for that one post.) Our conversation turned to Adam West -- it made sense at the time, but you probably had to be there -- and we never even mentioned the LSH. Next time, maybe?

Oops, almost forgot to mention Friday evening's dinner with Brian and the gang from Comics Should Be Good, held at the surprisingly affordable Hudson Yards Cafe just one short block away from the Javits Center. Given its proximity to the con, I'm surprised Brian was able to reserve it: it would have made a fine location for a con party hosted by some publisher. Good thing Brian -- who is "not a convention person" and didn't even attend the NYCC at all -- was able to get it instead.

Going into the convention, I expected my time would be spent on sober networking and cultivating professional contacts...but it turned out to be an occasion for geeky excitement and fun of a sort that I haven't had at a convention in many years. The folks I've named here and in the preceding posts are all to thank for that. I hope they all enjoyed themselves as much as I did.