Tagged: Mark Bagley

Marc Alan Fishman: Shameless Promotion

Marc Alan Fishman: Shameless Promotion


For those playing at home, DC Comics is looking for new talent to join their team. Artists had their shot last month, and now writers are able to apply until the end of this month. One of the requirements asks of the would-be employee: “[Provide] a short composition no longer than the space provided, which is equivalent to about a page, double-spaced and in size 12 font, or 2000 characters (with spaces). It should tell us why you want to be a DC comic book writer and how your background will add a unique perspective to our publishing portfolio.” Over the last week or so, I’ve noted a handful of my indie comic compatriots seeking advice on how to complete that request.

My advice? Feh! They wanted a quick and shameful ego boost. I’m not kidding, kiddos… I saw over a half dozen posts all resembling the following:

“DC wants to know why I want to write for them… and why I’d be good at it. Wah! Wah! I’ve never been good at promoting myself. So, please, tell me why you think I would be good at it.”

Underneath their cry for help came the long comment threads that promote stomach churning. Oh you’ve always been amazeballs dude! one cousin would chime in with. I love your stuff. Just tell them about your thousands of fans! a probable co-worker retorts. They should be so lucky to have you sweetie! would prattle from the keyboard of their parents in Arizona. And then, across those threads the original poster – people who I consider at least professional friends – replies to all: Oh, thank you everyone! I’ve always hated this kind of stuff!

Gag me with a spoon.

I read over DC’s submission guidelines like every other would-be hopeful. To be clear: I don’t mock anyone for applying. Lest we forget Mark Bagley broke into comics via a submission contest not much different than this one. But I certainly cry foul – a flagrant foul – against any writer who coyly dismisses their ability to self-assess. Same as I would for any visual artist, musician, filmmaker, photographer, or graphic designer. Because like any job offer we eventually compete for, self-promotion is an absolute requisite skill. And seeking peer review never includes panhandling for praise amongst those who can’t offer constructive feedback.

Shameless self-promotion is one of the first and most potent tools in the bag of a budding writer. In my own life, long before I walked the walk, it took a bit of talking the talk to act as means to an end. Had I not convinced the first publisher to take a chance on Unshaven Comics’ abilities, we may still be sitting around wondering when someone would give us a chance (and in that alternate reality, we don’t come to the realization we should be doing it on our own anyways). We never lied about what we could do. But we certainly took no shame in being able to #humblebrag our way through the first interview.

But more to the point, I reread what DC is asking for. Not unlike those silly first questions on a job interview, the powers that be want to know what their prospects consider to be their best quality. And they only want 2000 characters worth of said self-aggrandizing.

For those who need a reference as to how much actual content that is, re-read this very article to the middle of my paragraph citing Mark Bagley. Yeah. That’s a heap of personal praise, is it not? Thank god for our Facebook fans, lest we ever figure out what makes us tick!

I can’t shake the simple truth of it all. I think on literally any writer worth their salt, and I know there exists a bit of inner id that allows them to be the cock of the walk. I’m not saying writers need to outwardly exist as blurting blowhards. Heck, being in the presence of a living legend here on ComicMix, John Ostrander, belies a man who would be barely audible if he was plugged into a Marshall stack. But you better bet your left nut or ovary that John knows his worth, and as long as I’ve known him I’ve never seen a single appeal for acclaim from his admirers. But I digress.

Admittedly, like my bashful blatherskites, I did take a step back when it came time to fill out that particular question. To distill my personal brand in the eye of a major publisher, is to place my neck as far out as possible… and be willing to defend my position with my professional life.

And after brief consideration, I closed the form and went back to writing The Samurnauts. Ironic as it may be for some to read it, I freely admit I am not ready to write for DC. Or Marvel. Or Boom!, IDW, Avatar, Image, or Dark Horse. Because the truth of the matter is not resting on my talent, no. It’s just that I have far more to capture on the page on my own, then under the thumb of corporate masters.

And I came to that conclusion without having to ask a single person on Facebook.

Marc Alan Fishman’s Snarky Synopsis: Hulk Vs. Iron Man 2014

Hulk vs Iron-ManWritten by Mark Waid and Kieron Gillen. Art by Mark Bagley, Andrew Hennessey, and Jason Kieth

After last week’s insane rant, I came onto a book like Original Sin: Hulk Vs. Iron Man with both arms up. Let’s face facts: Hulk and Iron Man seem to fight once a year. If not in the 616, then in the Ultimate Universe, or any other iteration of the Marvel U. It’s like they’re a match made in pugilistic heaven. One man, the unstoppable juggernaut… the other a walking arsenal. It’s short range versus long range. It’s rage versus hubris. And really… it’s beating a dead horse by now, isn’t it? Each time they fight, Tony unloads a continent-stopping amount of tech and boom-boom-booms on the emerald giant, who is phased long enough to get pissed, and then we cue epic punching. Tony flies and flails, maybe has a little inner-caption angst party, and then we repeat the cycle. Maybe Steve Rogers or Maria Hill jump in after a while to stop the fracas. Suffice to say, Hulk and Iron Man have been done just about as much as Batman and the G-D-Joker.

How amazing is it then that Mark Waid and Kieron Gillen play a little retcon-history gambit and come out unscathed! This issue, spending most of its running time setting the scene, is a shining example of being able to use common tropes in all the right ways. Here is an issue that truly is made better by the sum of its parts, than it is when you deconstruct it. And what an amazing segue that was. Let’s cut this sumbitch’ open then, aye?

So, the skinny is simple: The Watcher was murdered. A mort came out and declared he was the dude who done did it. He didn’t. But he was able to attack a ton of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes with a psychic bob-omb. And with that attack, each hero – or pair of heroes in this case – get a big ole’ chunk of Watcher-vision in their brainpans. Specific to this book, Tony and Bruce Banner share their memories chained to the fateful detonation of a gamma bomb. And the SPOILER retcon of it all: Tony tinkered with Bruce’s bomb. Yup, while both Mr. Stark and Banner were science bros at one time in their youth… at a pivotal time when they were truly working to hone their identities, they ended up on either side of a potent fence. Bruce, the pacifist. Tony, the war monger. And one pithy, snarky barb begat another, and soon thereafter, Tony (in his alcoholic days, mind you) took Bruce to task for potentially inhibiting his gamma bomb. Throw in Thunderbolt Ross, and presto! Revisionist Marvel history that bleeds into why this book should matter.

And matter it does. As I’d noted before, there’s little to no need now to show another green goliath versus the tin can man bout. But, like Vince McMahon, Mark Waid and Kieron Gillen know that with the right story even the umpteenth fight can matter a whole lot. By introducing this snag into the history of the Hulk, and layering it over the current storyline in Waid’s Hulk-ongoing – where Bruce himself is now laced with Extremis in his cerebral cortex – we end up with a fight that is built on far more than another silly misunderstanding. And because the Extemis in Hulk’s brain now brings Banner to the forefront of his angrier half, there’s a level of threat raised here to an all-out extreme. An angry Hulk is still handicapped by his less-than-stellar thought capacity. But a smart Hulk is indeed a scary thing. Especially true when the whole “the angrier he gets the stronger he gets” card is played.

I’d noted above how this was a book of tropes. And let it be stated for the record: this is. Waid and Gillen’s plot is so by-the-numbers, it nearly stings. Or maybe it just stinks. Having to use revisionist history to create conflict is such a comic-book thing to do, I’m left again wondering if that is the modus operandi of Gillen – who I called out for doing as such in his recent stint on Iron Man. I’m all about playing to the cheap seats mind you (I do love pro-wrestling… I mean… sports entertainment after all). But when the rest of the script is really just getting us from point A to point B, there’s little to celebrate specifically about the delivery. There’s really just the employment of typical flashback – flash forward presentation after an action-packed cold-open. Maybe I’m still grumpy over Future’s End, but when I see Waid’s name on a cover these days, I expect greatness.

Artistically, you can’t get more straight-line-bombastic than Mark Bagley. He’s kinetic, epic, and clean in his storytelling. He doesn’t try to bend the rules… he doesn’t need to. It’s akin to Ocean’s Eleven as recreated by Soderbergh – this is a master playing a riff on common themes. As we all know Bagley’s ability to whip out acceptably modern comic book pages, you’re getting exactly what you’d expect from this book. And as a bonus Scooby snack… we also get a few attempts to stretch the common style. Andrew Hennessey’s inks, and Jason Kieth’s colors render an even slicker Bagley page than one is used to. Specifically Kieth’s bold choice of colors, and smart use of glows and knockouts elevate the final product to the epic-crossover level one can appreciate. Knowing that this is Marvel’s flagship blockbuster for the summer, here the art team does their job swimmingly, in giving us visuals that play to the strengths of the script.

Original Sin: Hulk Vs. Iron Man is the kind of popcorn-comic I can get behind. While it’s a bit of a copout to need to introduce new history in order to carry a story, here things move so briskly we hardly have time to savor it. And because of that smart pacing, we’re left with an inaugural chapter amidst the ever-winding checklist within the event that gives us real foot holes to anchor ourselves in for the next chapter. While I’m still not at all interested in who killed the Watcher, I can hang my hat on Hulk’s deserved rage. And therein lies the real point to why I’ll celebrate this book one week and trash DC’s attempt just seven days prior. Original Sin pays attention to the story and reasoning behind it, rather than merely announce “it’s time for punching and new team affiliations!” While the underlying structure may not be all that different, at the end of the day it’s the technique and execution that elevated Mickey’s efforts far more than the Brothers Warners has in a good long while.