Tagged: small

Jen Krueger: Binge Reading Comics

A friend of mine has multiple subscriptions at multiple comic book shops. He gets excited for every new issue, and has been consuming comics this way for most of his life. Try as I might, I just can’t understand this, though not because this fervor for comics is foreign to me. It’s the issue by issue thing that I’ve never been able to come around on.

Maybe some of this stems from the way I was introduced to comics. Years ago, I saw Neil Gaiman do a reading of short story and poetry material at the Printer’s Row Book Fair, and the first booth I stopped at afterwards had the The Sandman graphic novels for sale. It was the first time I’d seen the name of an author I knew on a graphic novel, and having been so entertained by that author only minutes before, I figured I’d give this foreign format of storytelling a shot. I read it in one sitting and couldn’t get my hands on the next trade fast enough. By the end of the month, I’d devoured the whole series and become interested in finding other comics I’d enjoy even half as much as I had loved The Sandman.

But even as a comic book convert actively looking for more to read, I just couldn’t bring myself to start with anything short of a trade or graphic novel because single issues of comics have always struck me as unfulfilling, just bite-sized bits of big stories. (more…)

The Law Is A Ass # 314: J. Jonah Jameson—Menace Or Menace?

Okay, a promise is a promise. And I promised to lay off the Superior Spider-Man this week. Lucky for me there’s still an Amazing Spider-Man.

I know you think there aren’t any new Amazing Spider-Man stories right now, but I assure you there are. Where? Well, in the words of the philosopher, “See you in the funny papers.”

In the Amazing Spider-Man newspaper strip – where J. Jonah Jameson is still the editor/publisher of The Daily Bugle, not mayor; Peter Parker is still Spider-Man, not Doctor Octopus; and Peter and Mary Jane still have at least one more day of marital bliss – they’re running a story in which JJJ is trying to unmask Spider-Man. (JJJ? Lois Lane? What is it about alliterative initials and secret identities?)


Mike Gold: Hipsters, Inkwell Divers, and Misfits at MoCCA!

Last weekend I was with my fellow ComicMixers Glenn Hauman, Adriane Nash and Martha Thomases at the annual MoCCA independent comics convention. And by “independent,” I mean web comics, self-published comics, small press comics, and what Ms. Nash refers to as “I’d rather be hand-stapled” comics. It’s one of my favorite shows for one simple reason: the enthusiasm in the room is tremendous.

Gold Art 140409

I’d say that the average age of the creators who weren’t paying for one of the few corporate booths (Fantagraphics, Yoe Books, Abrams, etc.) was about 25 years old. Which means there was a lot of dyed hair and hipster hats in Manhattan’s Beaux-Arts 69th Regiment Armory. These are folks who, by and large, couldn’t care less about capes and masks and thought Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a fun movie but not necessarily a justification for one’s choice of vocation. They probably aren’t making a living off of their comics work, and they might very well be losing money. They are in the medium for the love of the medium, and they are taking the medium down roads undreamt by the folks at Disney and Time Warner.

The Armory was built in 1904 and is a grand place. It was built to house and train the 69th Regiment, which traces its roots back to America’s Civil War. I’m sure the idea of filling the space with many thousand young inkwell divers underneath a gigantic helium-filled Charlie Brown balloon eluded architect Richard Howland Hunt (1862 – 1931). Then again, Hunt probably couldn’t conceive his masterwork would also house the first Roller Derby television broadcasts or the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.

I truly love the contradiction.

The prestigious Society of Illustrators acquired MoCCA several years ago, and we-all were worried they’d try to make it all frou-frou. And maybe they did try to appeal to their artsy-fartsy crowd a bit. Nope. No way that was going to work. These kids have their own artsy-fartsy crowd, thank you, and they’re very, very comfortable doing the types of stories they want to tell, in the manner they want to tell them.

To my ancient and besotted brain, this is wonderful. It was wonderful back when it started, attracting the likes of then-newbies such as Jessica Abel, Alison Bechdel and Dean Haspiel. These days, Jessica, Alison and Dean are getting comparatively ancient, but they remain lot less ancienter than I am. I’m sure their work inspired many of the young folks at this weekend’s show. Being a mentor is fun, but becoming an icon can be painful.

MoCCA got its start in 2002 and I attended the second show at the urging of Ms. Thomases. That enthusiasm I talked about was there back in 2003, and it revitalized my desire to work in the medium once again. One quick walk through the room and it was clear to me that the American comics medium had a future, one that was far beyond the traditional publishers, the traditional comics shops, and the traditional ways of thinking.

I am glad to say this enthusiasm has grown in the ensuing 12 years. When the Society of Illustrators picked up the show, I was afraid it was going to go on the legit.

Silly, silly me. Comics will never be truly legitimate. There are way too many gifted weirdoes slaving away at their drawing boards and kitchen tables. Some might be trustafarians, some might be downright freaks, and some might not be able to communicate in any other manner. More power to them.

As long as the comics art medium has a large pool of industrious misfits, we will have a wonderful future.

Oculus Rift, Facebook, and Sharing With Crowdfunding Backers

OculusIt’s amazing how money changes things.  Norm McDonald once did a bit about buying a friend a lottery ticket for a Christmas gift – “You don’t actually want it to win…”

Oculus Rift, the latest uber-cool project amongst video game mavens, just hit the jackpot, and a lot of people are annoyed about it.  The VR-goggle system, designed primarily for videogame use, but bursting with potential other uses, got its initial funding via crowdfunding site Kickstarter, much to everyone’s joy.  But this week, the company made news when it was sold for a staggering two billion dollars.

Sounds like good news, right?  A rags to riches, Local Boy Makes Good story, yeah?

It was bought by Facebook.

You can actually hear the Internet’s face fall. (more…)

The Point Radio: Creating Creatures With Henson

Brian Henson and the company formed by his late father, Jim, are taking their talents to a new reality based competition show on SyFy. Brian talks about why he’s doing the CREATURE SHOP CHALLENGE and what his toughest creations have been on the big and small screens. Plus DOCTOR WHO comic fans get some freebies and Fox stakes some claims in the box office.

THE POINT covers it 24/7! Take us ANYWHERE on ANY mobile device (Apple or Android). Just  get the free app, iNet Radio in The  iTunes App store – and it’s FREE!  The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE  – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

Marc Alan Fishman: How To Lose Your (Convention) Virginity

On a recent jaunt into the social media interwebs, an old foosball buddy of mine asked that I help him discover the creepy, crazy, wacky world of comic book conventions. By proxy, I assume he also means sci-fi cons, pop culture cons, and possibly the auto show. In any event? Todd Burrows, I got your wonderfully tattoo’ed back. Consider this your introduction and survival guide all rolled up into one easy to read article. Forgive me though, this ain’t Buzzfeed, so don’t expect 10 glorious animated gifs for scrolling.

Let us assume you’re not a comic guy, but this whole comic thing is mildly intriguing to you. Perhaps a person you used to know back in high school is now a small indie publisher, and you think it’d be neat to see him again. Perhaps that publisher from time to time uses his or her friends in model reference shots, and you think that maybe you’d like to see yourself as a superhero or nefarious villain. And maybe, just maybe, you think dipping your toe into the waters of these new-fangled cons would be a good way to know if all your intrigue is just a waste of your time. I know, that’s a lot of supposition. But I digress. The question is simple: Why Go To A Comic Con?

It’s inclusive.

Since the first time I’ve stepped onto a convention floor, I’ve never once felt on the ‘outside’ of the industry. Once your badge is flung around your neck – be you a complete noob or a working professional – you’ll find most every con filled with folks in the exact same situation. In the pair of decades I have considered myself a fan, I’ve not once found a fellow con-goer not willing to lend an opinion, give a bit of backstory, or make an education recommendation on a good read. It can be daunting, no doubt, to jump in head-first to a world you think you don’t know. But lucky for you? Comics have permeated TV, movies, and pop-culture now for so long, there’s little to no chance you haven’t been introduced already without even knowing it. (more…)

REVIEW: The Book Thief

the-book-thief-blu-ray-releaseThe Coming of Age book has become fodder for dystopian science fiction and fantasy while some of the toughest Worldbuilding is done right here, on the planet Earth. Things don’t get more dystopian than growing up in Nazi Germany during World War II. As captured by Austrian author Markus Zusak, The Book Thief is a harrowing, sorrowful tale about life during wartime. The 2005 novel is amusingly narrated by Death and tells of his fascination with Liesel Meminger (Sophie Nélisse), who comes to his attention when collecting her brother.

The novel has been justly feted over the years and the inevitable film adaptation arrived in November and is now out on disc from 20th Century Home Entertainment. The film is faithful without fully capturing the novel’s tone, aided by some solid performances, excellent production design and a John Williams score that justly earned an Academy Award nomination without imitating his Schindler’s List, which covered much of the same time.

Liesel winds up handed over to Hans (Geoffrey Rush) and Rosa (Emily Watson) Hubermann for safekeeping and she has to make new friends and form new attachments in an unfamiliar environment. While Hans quickly grows to like Liesel, Rosa is upset that the brother and the money to care for him has vanished and seems to take it out on the ten year old. When it appears she is illiterate, slowly Hans teaches her to read and books become precious to her. She also becomes the object of fascination to the boy next door, Rudy (Nico Liersch).

Life is further upended when Max Vanderburg (Ben Schnetzer) shows up, obligating Hans to pay a debt stretching back to World War I – in this case, honoring Max’s father for saving Hans’ life. The scenes between Max and Liesel are among the book – and film’s – best.

The rest of her life in the small community is a varied bunch and you can’t help but wince to watch the children inducted into the Hitler Youth. This includes the ritual book burning where she rescues The Invisible Man and keeps it, despite the mayor’s wife, Ilsa Hermann (Barbara Auer), knowing her secret. Her bravery is later rewarded when Liesel is tasked by Rosa to bring the Hermann’s laundry to Ilsa, opening a new chapter for her.

The book is nicely condensed and is serviceable for those who haven’t read the book but once more, the richness of voice in print is absent from the film. While Rush and Watson do nicely, they can’t carry the whole film which is at time disjointed and lacking in the Zusak magic.

Overall, the transfer to disc is fine and worth a look. The extras that accompany the Blu-ray include a handful of mostly superfluous Deleted Scenes (6:34) and an assortment of  featurettes on the making of the adaptation,  A Hidden Truth: Bringing The Book Thief to Life (31:05). I appreciate that Zusak is well represented here but overall this is a perfunctory set of short pieces.


Dennis O’Neil: How Long Can You Go Without Faking It?

Story ideas are pretty malleable. I once presided over/rode herd on/sweated out an 1,100+ page continuity that began as a plot for two 15-pagers.  Hemingway is credited with writing a story in only six words.  (Go on. Google it.  I’ll wait.)  I did something a while back, just a bit over 500 words, that, I think, qualifies as a story, though some might disagree, (and because we cherish the First Amendment, if for no other reason, we welcome their dissent.)

Slick magazines, back when my mother was reading them, featured stories complete on one page.

Superman’s origin, which, you might recall, involved an exploding planet – we’re not talking small, here – was originally told on one page and the first Batman story ran a mere six pages, but it was very close to a Shadow novel that must have been in the neighborhood of 45,000 words.

[[[The Great Gatsby]]], often cited as a great novel, is 47,094 words. [[[War and Peace]]], ditto on the great novel label, goes 587,287.

So, is there a point to all this?  Let’s try to find one.

Story ideas, and literary forms, might be malleable, but that doesn’t excuse scriveners from the labor of plotting and structuring. You can’t just plunk yourself down at the keyboard, decide you’ll do an 1,100-pager and begin to perpetrate the opening of this Sahara of a continuity. No, check that: you can begin the aforementioned perpetration, but a prudent person might advise against it. The danger is that, toward the end, you might find a lot of loose ends that defy knotting, or you might have given your characters problems that they can’t solve and still stay true to whatever else you’ve established.  Or you might just run out of plot. Then, you begin to improvise. You fake it. You pad. Are you, by now, boring the reader? Admit the possibility, anyway.

It happens.  A person far wiser in the ways of Big Media recently confirmed what I’d read somewhere.  Sometimes, writers and producers of television entertainment begin a protracted and complicated storyline with no clear idea of how they’ll get from A to B. They make it up as they go along.  Sometimes they get away with it.  Sometimes.

I know that some Nineteenth Century literary luminaries – Charles Dickens and Fyodor Dostoyevsky to name two – serialized their novels before publishing them in hard covers.  I wonder: did they make it up as they went along?  Did they do outlines?  Plot summaries?

What we did, my comic book colleagues and I, was make pretty detailed outlines, in consultation with our freelancers. We all knew what story we wanted to tell and had a reasonably firm idea of how it should end.  There was a few small disagreements: some of my merry men wanted the outline to be detailed; I wanted to leave wiggle room and preserve the option of someone having a better idea along the way.  But we generally knew where we were going and how to get there.

One more thing: that outline assured us that we had enough plot to justify the number of pages we were planning to occupy.  We could and did permit side plots to run in parallel with our central story, but we wanted none of that padding stuff.

Is here any padding in the preceding 551 words?  Well…

Jen Krueger: Checking in to The Grand Budapest Hotel

Sometimes living in L.A. has great perks, and one of the most recent I’ve enjoyed is the fact that of the four theaters in the U.S. that had The Grand Budapest Hotel on limited release this past weekend, one was just a few blocks from my apartment. I know Wes Anderson isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but as someone who’s been a fan of his films for more than a decade, I find myself increasingly annoyed by the most frequent criticism of his work: he’s making the same movie over and over again. The most common things cited to support this complaint are the look and themes of his films, but I don’t find either of these to be valid arguments. (more…)

Dennis O’Neil: The Evolution of Religion and Mythology

Gotta get this sucker written tonight because tomorrow or the next day I may have to resume watching the snow fall and fall and fall and fall…

So: what some benevolent publisher should do (and surely benevolent publishers do exist) is to put put a book that examines the way mythology/religion have evolved quite similarly.  Both began with stories that were. by our standards, crude, with little characterization and virtually all the meaning carried by the plot.  Then, very gradually, the storytelling forms began to vary, the story content change, the narrative structure mutate…But hey!  Enough.  I’m not going to write the frigging book, at least not here and now.

If such a book were to exist, though, it might include. perhaps as an appendix, a discussion of how a certain kind of movie is evolving much as its source material evolved a half century or so earlier.  I refer, as you astute hooligans have already guessed, to superheroes.

The first superhero stories tended to be short – there were several of them in your 10-cent comic book – and the heroes were…well, they were the good guys.  The ones that beat the bad guys. Characterization, insofar as it existed, tended toward the sketchy.  All the heroes were white and waspy, and the minorities were small in number and often the kind of stereotypes that might make those of us with delicate sensibilities cringe – not because the writers and artists were bigots, but because they didn’t know better.  You could tell which heroes were which mainly by their powers: the Flash could run fast, Green Lantern had a magic ring, Hawkman had wings that enabled him to fly, et cetera, et cetera…Most of them also had double identities, also white and waspy: rich guys with no jobs, or scientists,or journalists – nary a trash collector or milkman in the lot.
The form – comic books –  soldiered on through good times and bad, growing more sophisticated year by year, and gradually those complete-in-one-issue stories were supplanted by elaborate serializations.  Genuine characterization entered those colored pages, and “adult” themes, and one morning I woke up and my benighted profession was being covered by the New York Times and taught in major universities and – ye gods! – I was respectable.

That was comics.

And movies?  I did mention movies, didn’t I?  Somewhere back there?

Well, yes I did.  But that topic might be a bit ungainly to be contained in the small bundle of verbiage remaining in the 500 words (more or less) I promised to deliver each week to Mike Gold back when ComicMix was in its birth throes.  Let’s table movies  until next week.  For now, some of you better get to the ATM because you’ll probably need to buy salt or to pay hardy young men with shovels because the weather people are predicting more of the same.  Then you can lie back, cuddle up with a mug of hot chocolate, gaze through the window at all that glistening splendor, and hope there are no power failures.

Next week: the cinema.