Saturday, December 5, 2009

On the use of Presidential Privilege to destroy Christmas

For the record, no, President Obama did not deliberately pre-empt "A Charlie Brown Christmas" as part of a concerted effort to further eliminate religious references from the public media.

But it WAS a spectacularly boneheaded play.

He had an important message to give, he requested the time from the networks, and his media team either didn't realize what he'd be talking over, or they figured it wouldn't be a big deal.


It's exactly the kind of thing that that people LOVE to grab on to and blow up into importance. It's pointless, stupid, distracting, and serves only to elicit an emotional response - perfect for the 24-hour media cycle.

Once again, this is another play in the concerted campaign to prove that President Obama can do NOTHING right, positive or helpful to the American people. Any and everything he does or doesn't do, via action, speech or unspoken thought, is actively intended to destroy America. While I could easily go for the "Big Lie" comparison here, it's just too damn easy (and tends to veer the discussion off the rails) so I'll pull out the Brave New World quote - "62,400 repetitions equals one truth." The theory is, if ENOUGH little unbelievable accusations fly at the same target, more and more people will start to think, "Well if THIS many stories are popping up, surely SOME of them must be true". And that's all you need, the suspicion.

The President tends to ignore these stories, or has his lackies address them. His lackies do not have much patience, and it takes very little to make them sound shrill and insistent. And shrill and insistent people tend not to sound believable. Just listen to the people who call in to Talk Radio. They talk progressively louder and faster, as if trying to get in their point before they're cut off.

No, Obama should not address each of these issues personally, it does tend to give them more credence. But once in a blue moon, in inverse ratio to the importance and plausability of the charge, he ought to come out against one with such withering sarcasm that it makes anyone who tried to put the accusation forth look like a damn fool.

I'd love to see him at a press conference, answering the Charlie Brown Christmas accusation by clearing his throat and saying "Mwah-wah WAH wahwahwah waaahhh."

But again, since he's under the Everything He Does Is Wrong attack, even THAT would somehow mean he's demeaning those who love the special. Humor has become a casualty of the political process. Half the time, the opponent of a politician can not grasp that an opponent can be telling a joke, and the rest of the time it's just them trying to convince YOU that he can't be telling a joke.

ABC is doing the EXACT right move in the wake of Charlie-gate- taking shameless advantage of the mini-frenzy and re-running the special TWICE - once on December 8th, and again a week later, both at 8PM, and both on the real ABC, not pawned off on ABC Family or something. And I'll lay odds it'll get better ratings than any time it was broadcast in the last five years. It's AMAZING the reaction people have when you take away something they haven't looked at in years, but simply expect to be there. If it's not called "New Coke Syndrome", it should be.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

On the Spectacular Return of the Homeless Shopping Spree

I'm a big fan of Opie and Anthony, the morning radio guys appearing on XM/Sirius Satellite radio on channel 202, known as "The Virus". As Howard Stern's closing time on regular radio descended into talking more about himself (I always compare it to the end of Lenny Bruce's career where he would read the transcripts of his court appearances, neglecting to make them funny), O&A filled the hole with rampant funny. With Jim Norton's savage and unfiltered wit as part of the mix, the show is a guaranteed laugh for me, with equal parts news commentary, strong interviews, and the sage knowledge that a well-placed joke about bodily fluids will ALWAYS be funny.

Aside from the ever-mentioned bit that got them thrown off WNEW back in the day (look it up yourself; that bus has left the depot and they've been thrown under it enough), one of their classic recurring bits has been the Homeless Shopping Spree. The concept is simple - gather up a number of homeless people, give them a sizable amount of money each, bus them to the most upscale mall the show can find, and set them loose. Stores would lose their fudge as these unkempt forgotten men tottered towards the Ralph Lauren polo shirts. Some would pull their gates down, keeping other people from shopping, not to mention trapping people inside, rather than let these indigent inebriates sully their cookware. Bear in mind, these men were being chaperoned at all times, not only by staff of the radio show but often scores of fans and Friends Of The Show (who would usually contribute to the homeless shoppers' billfolds), so there was no chance of anything really unpleasant happening. But inevitably, security would arrive, and these propertied gentlemen, some sporting HUNDREDS of dollars to spend, would be ushered out of the establishment in a blaze of hypocrisy.

They'd be accused of exploiting the homeless, exposing them to ridicule, and endless other claims. But these well-meaning busybodies never grasped that no one was laughing at the homeless. Like Borat and Bruno, it's "candid camera comedy" - the humor is not in the homeless people, but in the reaction of those around them. The comedy was not in these homeless guys getting enough money to buy warm coats and clothing for the wonter but in the reaction of the shop-workers who would stop short of lighting firebreaks to keep them out of their stores.

It's a gag you're heard before - some smart-ass invites ACTUAL homeless people to a buffet benefit for the homeless, and the partygoers all act frightened and uptight. The Homeless are a group that most people want to help, but not actually interact with, preferably not see at all. The stores and people at those malls likely donate sizable sums to help the poor, they just assumed that the money would be spent...elsewhere. Some "elsewhere" far from their golf courses and Neiman-Marcus locations.

In protecting their wares, these stores make themselves look like rich, entitled Sissy-headed Ninny-hammers. And that "Not in my Back Yard" mindset is then broadcast nationally. A smart store would find out the event was happening, and (after making sure that indeed the event was being well controlled; that's only fair) offer the stars of the day sizable discounts in their establishment. Instead, like the targets of Michael Moore's ambush interviews, they come off looking like the villains. Which is, of course, what makes the whole thing hilarious.

The Homeless Shopping Spree is returning this year. Considering the level of skittishness XM (and the entire radio industry) has right now, it's possible there will be a great deal more "advance notice" given to the mall in question. Indeed, it'll likely be just as entertaining to hear about the malls who decline to participate - I hope those phone calls are recorded and played on air as part of the build-up.

Althought this year, considering the ever-mentioned "state of the economy", more stores might come to the realization that it doesn't matter how smelly the person who has the money is, as long as their money is going in the store's coffers. The whole thing might just backfire into another form of comedy, as malls and Big Box Stores actually jockey for the right to have a busload of homeless spend money in their establishments.

Merry Fuckin' Christmas.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

On the challenge of waiting a week for comics

As you may know, December 30 will be The Day Of No Comics in the US. Given the fact that Christmas falls in an odd position of the week, resulting in delays across the board for UPS (from whom most dealers get their books), Diamond Comics Distributors has decided that it will make for less headaches all around to ship NO books that week.

That's got the potential to be bad news for stores. It means that there's no new items that week to spend Christmas money on, and most people will just go find something ELSE to spend it on, rather than wait a week. To be fair, a lot of people are away, not at work (where they usually get their books at lunch or after work) so the shops may be slow already, and a week without books might be a chance to take a vacation.

But enough stores have groused, and enough publishers have seen opportunities to make a bigger noise in a quieter week, that alternatives have popped up. Many small publishers ave created Indy Comic Book Week - a number of books that WILL be available the week of the 30th, in the hopes that regular buyers itching to buy SOMEthing will try their books out.

Some of those books will be available from smaller distributors who aren't taking the week off. This is also a great idea, as most shops buy from Diamond and no one else. When Diamond raised its minimum order limits recently, a number of books dropped out of Previews, which meant that to a lot of stores, they vanished off the face of the Earth. An event like this can help remind stores there are other sources for those books, sources they might keep in mind moving forward.
Other books will be shipped a week early from Diamond, and be embargoed with a street date. This includes the highly anticipated Blackest Night #6. DC has decided to make the book available on the "week off" to help give readers a reason to hit their stores that week, giving the stores a chance to get some extra sales.

Now, just about every other industry has street dates. CDs, movies, books, videogames, all are shipped varying amounts ahead of time to ensure that the stores have them first thing on the date of release. This allows stores to do midnight release parties or any other events they like, as long as they don't sell the item early. The street dates are carefully enforced, both by the publishers as well as by the stores. Some stores will gleefully snitch on their competitors, while others will follow the "Well, if HE's selling it early, I have to or I'll lose sales" mindset, usually resulting in BOTH getting in trouble. Penalties for breaking street date vary, from fines, to losing the ability to get advence shipments for a period of time. And for items like this, not having the items The Very Moment it comes out means you've lost those sales. So the system works, or at least works often enough to call it a success.

According to Bleeding Cool, DC will be asking/making comic stores sign an online affadavit verifying that they agree not to sell BN#6 before its street date of 12/30. Those who break street date could lose their early-ship preveleges if they have them. Also, if Diamond receives no complaints about a store, they'll get a limited edition copy of BN#1 as a thank you/reward.

Now, a lot of stores have already said they'll sell the book(s) as soon they get them, and hang the free book. The argument is that the fans will not wait a week for the book, and will find the one guy who sells it early, and that's sales lost. There's a lot of validity to that argument. But it doesn't mean that ship dates can't work, since they work perfectly well with all the other aforementioned indudtries.

This may turn into a very useful experiment.

If we can get street dates to stick in the comics industry, it opens a great deal of doors for new distribution methods. The most obvious is the potential for books to be shipped a day early (maybe even more) for ALL dealers. Folks who get their books a day early have the luxury of putting the books out at night after close, and having them available minute one on New Comic Day. Yes, it means you have to stay after and put them out, paying more to your employees or just using up more of your time, but ask a dealer how much of a pain it is to put the out in the middle of the day, either shooing the customers out of the store or trying to keep them away from the shelves as they get filled. Just about every other store stocks the shelves when the customers aren't there - it's just more efficient.

Also, consider trade paperbacks and hardcovers. Right now, they're shipped along with the regular books. They're shipped one or two-day rate. That's expensive. If a valid street date system was in place, the heavy and expensive TPBs and HCs could go out a week ahead of time, ground rate, and get to the stores before the street date at a tidy savings. That's money right back in the store's pocket, making those books that much more profitable.

Enforcement is always an issue for things like this, but in most cases an honor system with teeth would likely work fine. If store A puts out its books early, Store B would likely be happy to file a complaint against them. In larger cities, odds are something akin to those secret shopper services could potentially be set up - a rep for Diamond would visit stores, see if the books are out early, and let them know they've broken the agreement. I know of at least one store in my area that I'd LOVE to help catch if they were doing that.

As for the punishment, there's a couple of possibilities. If a store has a complaint registered against it, they might warrant a warning, or at least a notification of the complaint. It's certainly possible rival stores might turn each other in out of malice, so it's not a perfect way of finding out. If a store is proven to be breaking street date (a rep showing up, photos, whatever) they might lose a "preferred customer" status. That status might include that prevelege of getting the books a day early, and perhaps even a better discount. Maybe only a percent or two, but that can mount up but fast. The key is to make the penalty harsh enough to make the average store think twice if the benefits are worth it.

If you write the rules for the 90 percent (to make up a number) of people who'll follow them, the 10% who don't won't make too big a dent against the 90% who are. Again, similar rules are in place for industries FAR larger than comics, and they pretty much work. It doesn't seem that big a hardship asking the comics industry to behave as well as other retail sectors do, considering the potential benefits.

Just sayin'.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

On the Annotated Animated All-Stars

Click to pudseyfy your own image!Children in Need is a stellar charity from Great Britain dedicated to helping disadvantaged kids in the UK. It's been going for over 20 years now, spearheaded by British chat showlegend Terry Wogan it's raised hundreds of millions of pounds, over 20 million this year alone.
Their annual appeal is the big push - the BBC hands seven hours of programming time over for a telethon, and most other shows in britain have special Children in Need episodes, so it's practically an all-day event. Performers will sing and dance, many shows will do special mini-episodes (Doctor Who did one as a teaser to the upcoming "The End Of Time" and even David Suchet put back on the waxed moustache to play Poirot (I have GOT to see that one). All told, it's a star-studded piece of work.

British stand-up star Peter Kay (best known to Americans as The Absorbaloff in the Doctor Who episode "Love and Monsters") has done a great deal to raise money for equally notable British charity Comic Relief (sporting a more globally oriented take than CiN) by producing music videos featuring dozens of comedy and film stars. This year, he set his eyes towards Helping Children in Need. Everyone expected another entertaining celebrity jam video. That's what he delivered, but he surprised everybody with WHO he jammed with.

Children In Need - Peter Kay's Animated All Star Band from factory transmedia on Vimeo.

Having made friends with a lot of animators by doing voices for kids' show Roary the Racing Car, he got a jam together featuring over 100 animated characters from over 60 years of British and American animation. It's a breathtaking piece of work that took over 8 months to produce. The majority of the shows are now controlled by HiT Entertainment, which certainly must have streamlined the negotions, but when you consider all the animators, voice talent etc who donated their time, this is no less impressive than any fundraising jam.
I spent most of the weekend researching and freeze-framing, and I present for you entertainment a second by second rundown of the characters who appear in the video. I've pretty much stuck with the first appearance of each character, with weblinks for the shows where appropriate.
There's only a couple I've missed, and I'd appreciate help in tying up the last few missing folks.
-EDIT- Well that didn't take long, got most of the holes filled in already by the commenters - ta, mateys!

With that said, the management humbly presents:
A Guide to the animated All-Stars
00;01 Big Chris (voiced by Kay) and Rusty the Caravan from
Roary the Racing Car
(RRC). Chris is asking after Chippy Minton from "Camberwick Green".

00:17 Thomas the Tank Engine (TTE) heads from the isle of Sodor to the studio.

00:19 Bob the Builder (BB) and Scoop(BB) make their way to the show

00:20 Postman Pat (PP) heads from Greendale to the studio in the SDS mini-van

00:22 Fifi Forget-Me-Not from Fifi and the Flowertots (FF), riding in Mo the Lawnmower, head in

00:27 The eponymous Teletubbies meet Upsy-Daisy from In the Night Garden(ING).

00:29 Big Christine (Chris' Mum,RRC) tackles Postman Pat, while Buttercup & Daisy(FF) get an autograph from Engie Benjy (EB)

00:32 Flash (RRC), Penny from Fireman Sam (FS) and Bumble (FF) pose for a picture, but Stingo (FF) gets in the shot

00:37 The Teletubbies jam with Willy and Jenny Woodentop from Watch with Mother (WWM)

00:42 Andy Pandy (WWM) looks on as Bob the Builder and Postman Pat do a take

00:45 It's gonna get crowded from here, on - welcome to Bagpuss, Pingu, Sir Topham Hatt AKA The Fat Controller(TTE) Ted Glenn and Mrs Goggins(PP)

00:50 00:50 Ben 10 via satellite, with Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men (WWM)

00:52 Fireman Sam (FS) belts out a line or two

00:56 The cast of In the Night Garden - The Tombliboos, Upsy-Daisy, Makka Pakka and Igglepiggle

00:57 Frank and Buster, the Koala Brothers

01:01 Marsha (RRC) and Wendy (BB) do a duet With Big Chris moonwalking by, and IgglePiggle wanders into shot.

01:10 The gang from In the Night Garden are upstaged by Pingu.

01:11 Paolo and Mavis from Fluffy Gardens appear via stellite

01:12 The Teletubbies do a backup chorus (Singing, of course "Eh-ohhhhh!")

01:13 Zippy and George from Rainbow fiddle with the keyboards

01:14 Andy Pandy, Teddy and Looby Loo (WWM) are entertained by Big Chris as Sir Topham Hatt looks on and Pingu covers up in safety

01:16 Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward and FAB1 from Thunderbirds (TB) are swarmed by paparazzi but are quickly upstaged by...

01:21 Paddington Bear, axe in hand, arrives for the show

01:24 Tubb and Terence from the Rubbadubbers (RBD) watch Bill and Ben play with the drums as...

01:25 Norville "Shaggy" Rogers and Scooby Doo appear via satellite on a monitor Big Chris wheels in.

01:33 The Koala Brothers sing a few lines, as Andy Pandy tunes in Muffin the Mule (WWM) on a monitor

01:36 A quartet by Officer Steele (FS), Farmer Green (RRC), Ted Glenn(PP) and Mr. Carbuettor (RRC)

01:39 The Wombles re-unite for a good cause

01:41 Lady Penelope's driver Parker (TB) shows he can't sing

01:47 Peppa Pig appears via satellite
(Running gag explained The monitors during the video are all staticy and need adjusting. Here, Big Chris is reading the copy of the flyer about the recent digital switchover Britain did, as America recently did, converting from analog to digital TV broadcasts.)

01:50 Stretchy, Tiny and Sporty from
Little Robots (LR) appear with Sweep, Sooty and Soo from The Sooty Show (TSS)

01:55 Pudsey Bear, mascot of Children in Need gets a guitar solo

01:58 Spud the Scarecrow (BB) plays the maracas

02:13 Roary (RRC) and Thomas (TTE) duet as Bob's cat Pilchard (BB) is chased by Jollop the Dog (EB)

02:20 Roary and Thomas again, as Pilchard, Jollop and Jess(PP) race by

02:24 Tubb, Terence and Finbar (RBD)

02:27 Ajay and Nisha Bains from Postman Pat fittingly lead the ladies (Marsha, Fifi and Primrose, Big Christine and Wendy) in a performance of "Jai Ho" as the gents (Elvis Cridlington, Postman Pat, Officer Steele, Fireman Sam, Big Chris, Bob, Mr. Carbuettor) look on.

02:57 Ajay joins the gents, along with Virgil Tracy, Parker and Brains (TB) in a chorus of Tubthumping As they all jump, the members of International Rescue all follow the song, "get knocked down and get up again"

03:25 Roobarb and Custard appear via satellite with Tiny's help

03:35 Pingu makes his way down the beach for the finale

03:44 All appear again, with new arrivals Splashy (RBD) and a couple folks from Camberwick Green.

03:54 The Night Garden gang fly overhead in the Pinky Ponk

04:00 Angelina Ballerina appears on Big Chris' cell phone screen

04:08 Spongebob Squarepants appears on Big Chris' cell phone screen

04:18 Slugsy (FF) appears behind Stingo

04:33 The first shall be last - Chippy Minton arrives just in time for the end of the song.
The video is available for purchase (profits to CiN) via several online websites, tho alas the Itunes link (which features a six-minute version of the clip) is not available in the US. Visit the Children in Need website for more information on donating, as well as more info on the work they've done to help the children of the UK.
Personally, I think it's a shame that nothing has been done in similar fashion and scope here in the US. We had Bob "Thank God I knew Andy Kaufman" Zmuda's American version of Comic Relief which fizzled years ago, but really the only remnant we have of this type of thing is the legendary Jerry Lewis MDA telethon. And I fear that when Jerry passes on, we won't even have that.
EDIT - Two more great reference works have popped up - The Sun has a guide to the Sgt. Pepper-like album cover, and Wikipedia has a list of all the characters who appear in the medley.

Friday, November 13, 2009

On the increaing potential of contracting H1N1 in comparison to increasing chances of hitting the Powerball


OK, listen...

Unless you're in one of the high-contact groups like health care workers, the odds of getting H1N1 are just not that high. And if you DO get it, again, unless you're in a high-risk group like the very young, the very old, or the very frail, the odds of it turning into anything other a really bad case of the flu are equally small.

There's been under 5 thousand deaths from the H1N1 in America. FIVE. THOUSAND. It's five thousand too many, but compared to, say, the REGULAR Flu, it's a crepitation in a cyclone. I can't even do the math on how small a percentage of the US population that is because my calculator doesn't have that many decimal places.

So why are we all terrified to the point that we're expecting Randall Flagg to show up any minute?

Because it's been driven into us every day by the news, to the point that we're convinced that a dose of the Swine Flu comes with every purchase greater than ten dollars at the mall. The news chronicles almost Every Single CASE of the thing that gets contracted. It couldn't possibly be doing that if there were an appreciably large number of them. So naturally, if all one hears is that Yet Another Person has got it, it sounds like far greater a pattern (and problem) than it is.

Nothing is an issue, problem or occurrance anymore – it all jumps straight to CRISIS. People become convinced that every single threat seen on television will affect them...usually because the tease before the commercial usually sounds like "The new threat, and how it could affect you". The goal is not to inform, the goal is to keep you watching, preferably through the commercials.

Plus, people fall back on the old chestnut "Well, it doesn't hurt to play it safe". Well yes, it can hurt if the amount of preparatives outweighs the good they serve. It's the same reason we need four forms of ID to withdraw our own money from the bank (since apparently every fifth person born is an identity thief), we can't bring a half-pint bottle of water onto a plane, or take photos of our own kids at a local park.

Think about it, how many times did you turn into a candy bar, regardless of the number of times your mother warned you what would happen if you kept eating them?

Friday, October 2, 2009

On a return to the Home of Happiness and an attack on the cult of personality

My opinion of reality TV is at best, tepid. I've gone on about it before, and often marveled at the fact that we've lowered the bar for what defines "fame". For too many people are "famous for being famous", having done nothing to achieve fame but simply being on TV, something that used to require BEING famous before they let you do.

Reality TV has been skewered many times in film. The Truman Show seemed outrageous in its predictions, for about six months. A sadly little-seen film called Series 7: The Contenders played with the idea of what will be required to entertain the populace next, something played with years before by The Running Man. One of the earliest assaults in the yet-to-be genre was Albert Brooks' eerily prescient Real Life. But none had as much fun with the idea of how completely reality and television would merge that Richard O'Brien's followup to Rocky Horror, Shock Treatment.

Ernie Kovacs said it over 50 years ago; the major strategy of Hollywood is "Beat it to death if it succeeds". The Rocky Horror Picture Show was a massive cult hit, albeit years after its initial release. So 20th Century Fox decided to do what comes naturally; a sequel.

Only a handful of actors returned for the second film, and that handful did not include the three leads; Curry, Bostwick and Sarandon. Charles Gray (also seen as Blofeld in Diamonds are Forever) returned in what is debatedly the same role, now named Judge Oliver Wright. The only other actor to return as the same character is the barely seen Jeremy Newson as Ralph Hapschatt. "Little" Nell Campbell (Columbia) plans Nurse Ansalong, and Patricia Quinn (Meganta) plays Nation McKinley. Of all the cast, the single most important person to come back was Richard O'Brien as Cosmo McKinley. Amazingly, Fox actually realized that O'Brien's script and songs were the core of the first film, and gave him the chance to catch lightning in a bottle again. Rather than go for a true sequel to Rocky, with the return of the Transylvanians and all, Richard explored new ground, and wrote something that really was what the PR flacks at Fox claimed; not a sequel or prequel, but an equal to Rocky.

The film takes us back to Denton, A Period Of Time after the events of The Denton Affair, and in the interim, the Home of Happiness has gone through more than a few changes. Denton is now the home of DTV, a national television network helmed by the mysterious and reclusive fast food magnate Farley Flavors (Cliff DeYoung in a dual role). The film starts with the population of Denton entering the cavernous studio and taking their seats, which they do not leave for the remainder of the film, even sleeping there overnight as the station is off the air (Yes, years ago, before infomercials, stations actually went off the air when they assumed all sane people were sleeping.)

The film takes place entirely inside the DTV broadcast complex. Time passes as shows air, and the setting changes from before the cameras to backstage, to an assortment of meeting rooms. The events transpire over only two days. The frenetic and compressed timeline magnifies the craziness of the events. Television shows are referred to almost as if they are physical places and actual objects. Much like the comedy of The Firesign Theatre, the lines between reality and the fiction of the shows merge. Game show winners don't win vacations in sunny climes, they win "trips" to appear in television shows. The shows are examples of reality television before they had a name.

Brad and Janet Majors (played by Cliff DeYoung (FX) and Jessica Harper (Suspiria, Phantom of the Paradise) respectively) have been having marriage trouble, and visit the broadcast in an attempt to do something together. Apparently the lessons taught by the Transylvanians were short-lived; Brad is back to being a clumsy nebbish, and Janet can't believe she's married him.

The first main song of the film (not counting the instumental credit sequence overture) is "Denton USA", and it sets the tone for the film. It's sung at the beginning of the broadcast day, in lieu of the National Anthem. It's a song that seems written by the town's Chamber of Commerce; it touts the the advantages of the town as a good old-fashioned suburban paradise ("Happy hearts and smiling faces; and tolerance for the ethnic races"), an image that is soundly trounced by the end of the film.

The rest of the main cast are introduced in rapid succession. Betty Hapschatt, nee Munroe (The world famous in England Ruby Wax) hosts the Breakfast Show, and she interviews Judge Wright (Gray) about the anthem, and morals in general. Betty's estranged husband Ralph (Newson) is anchor of the news, along with his partner and current squeeze Macy Struthers (Wendy Raebeck).

Once the Breakfast show is over, it's on to Marriage Maze, the popular gameshow where couples in trouble work out their issues on the air under the blind eye and sharp tongue of Bert Schnick (Barry Humphries, AKA Dame Edna Everidge). Brad and Janet are picked for the show, and while Janet is charming and pleasant, Brad makes a boob of himself, with Bert calling him "an emotional cripple". Just as most Americans expect their problems to be solved by picking up the latest new appliance or toy, the couple sing the song "Bitchin' in the Kitchen", where they literally ask a steady stream of lovely parting gifts how to solve their emotional issues.

From his control room high above the studio, the enigmatic Farley Flavors is smitten by Janet. Bert recommends Brad visit the popular hospital series "Dentonvale". While Brad and Janet are wheeled off to Dentonvale, Janet's parents appear on Marriage Maze to discuss their son-in-Law.

Things start to happen fast from here on. Brad is heavily sedated and Janet is introduced (via a TV monitor) to Farley Flavors. Janet is quickly groomed to be a TV superstar. The DTV audience takes to her, just as they are told. By the end of the film Janet awakens from her fame and drug-addled haze, Brad reveals Flavors to be his long-lost twin brother, and in short...the bad guys win. The population/audience are commited to Dentonvale, and Brad, Janet, Betty and Judge Wright escape with the clothes in their back in a stolen late-model car.

Just about everything about this film is bigger and (arguably) better in this film. The sets are brighter, the cast is larger, and the songs are more creative and complex. "Little Black Dress" is an unabashed paen to cross-dressing (ironically co-sung by famous drag performer Humphries), "Lullaby" is the most erotic night-night song you'll ever hear, with delightful lines like "with your everything akimbo, slip into the Sandman's Limbo". The titular song is a powerful number that'll have you spinning in your chair. The performances are by far superior to those of Rocky as well. Jessica Harper has a lush throaty voice that I must admit I adore, both here and in her ealier role in Phantom of the Paradise. Cliff De Young, Nell Campbell and even O'Brien really sing in this film - much of the performances in Rocky were closer to screaming in key.

The sound design is brilliant. There's almost always a second soundtrack running, whether it's coming from a TV that's on in the background, or from the stage as people talk amongst each other in the audience or off camera. They often work together perfectly, two halves of a single joke.

There's a lot of very literary jokes in the script. Judge Wright mentions the beginnings of a conspiracy: "Remember Lt. Orpheus? He diappeared into that 'Underworld' show and NEVER came back!" Later in the film, Betty Hapschatt starts to read "Rime of the Ancient Mariner", and at the end a security guard comes up with a dead albatross, asking, "Does this bird belong to you?"

This was the first time they tried to make a film specifically for the new "Midnight Circuit". Unlike Rocky Horror, Shock Treatment premiered at the midnight theaters. The film tries to purposely place spots for the audience to yell comments. When Janet is asked if she's watched Dentonvale, she hesitates and says "Yes, I've caught it a couple of times"'s plainly obvious you're supposed to yell something to the effect of "Have you ever had VD?".

Rocky fans felt like the film was crammed down their throats, and resistance was widespread. The film never really got a fair shake as a result. But looking back, Richard O'Brien created a satiric film that has only shown itself to be more and more prescient. It's a brtilliant and savage satire about American television culture, the fleeting nature of fame and the ease that TV watchers can be educated and led.

For those who hated, or simply didn't "get" Rocky Horror, it does not mean you'll hate Shock Treatment. Shock was forced upon the audience, as opposed to Rocky, which was found. Also, its themes of TV taking over reality may simply have been too ahead of its time, as opposed to the bohemian "Give yourself over to absolute pleasure" themes

Thursday, September 17, 2009

On a weird way to pay tribute to the Firesign Theatre

Ever since Alan Moore "revealed" (by which I mean "Made up") that Swamp Thing was not Alec Holland at all, a popular method of reinvigorating a character has been the Everything You Know Is Wrong play. As opposed to the standard reboot where everything is rewritten from day one or simply started over, this maintains that all of the past adventures of the character had happened, but a basic fact or series of facts about the character was not known or misunderstood, one that puts the adventures in a different light.

In the case of Swamp Thing, the results can be spectacular. In other cases, downright embarassing, like when marvel tried to tell us that the Peter Parker we'd been reading about for over a decade was in fact a clone, and the REAL Peter Parker had just returned. Most of the time, as things do, they tend towards the mean, with some people liking the new version and some preferring the original. Rarely do these changes last long-term, as another person will have a new idea a few years later, or someone will decide that the original idea was the stronger one after all, and you end up with alternate characters littering the literary landscape like spent shell casings in the battle against cancellation.

Geoff Johns has been using an array of tricks in his quest to sort out many of the heroes of the DC Universe, including Hawkman, Superman and many of his villains. The most famous character, indeed his magnum opus, is Green Lantern Hal Jordan, who had to be pulled back from a chasm of poor choices that included him going mad, killing off any of his fellow Lanterns and generally renting the entire GL Corps asunder, and then die, solely for the purpose of introducing a new Green Lantern that DC hoped The Kids Would Dig. Well, suffice to say it was a long 15-odd years as DC tried to get readers to love the new boy. Over time they would slowly bring back the GL Corps, more and more of the trapping s that they had initially decided would not be needed, only to have the fans (in both their protest and their silence) tell them that yes they did want them thank you very much.

So Johns used a number of tricks to help Hal recover from this seeming insurmountable blockade. He introduced the idea that Hal was not acting under his own accord, but was under the control of a sentient embodiment of the universe's collective fear, an emotional elemental if you will. He brought back Sinestro, Hal's greatest enemy, he finished the job started in Final Night and Spectre, and brought back Hal Jordan to the land of the living, hale and hearty and a hero again. He then revealed that the characters killed in hi bad period were in fact "only mostly dead", and they were found alive as well, wiping that crime off the record. To say that fandom has welcomed these changes happily is an understatement.

Over the last four years, Johns has been building towards this year's big DC event, Blackest Night, running now in DC books everywhere. He's created seven more corps, six controlled by a color in what he calls the "emotional spectrum" and one created by Death itself. They're now in war against each other, and will eventually (we assume) team up against the Black Lanterns. One of the concepts he introduced in that first Green Lantern Rebirth story is that each of these emotion powers have a living avatar, a "color-mental" if you will. In Yellow's (fear) case, it's Parallax, the being that made Hal do all that nasty (it was of course really a man named Kevin Dooley, but I, as the saying goes, digress). The green avatar is Ion, a concept created dring the Kyle Rayner years. Other avatars have been vaguely mentioned, and same have not yet been revealed. The avatars work best when they are hosted by a living being, as Hal did to Parallax.

In issue three of the Blackest Night mini, it's suggested that the Golden Age character The Spectre is not, in fact, an emissary of God's wrath as he has been described for all these decades, but may be the Red (rage) avatar. I will say that if I'm reading and interpreting that right, I don't care for the idea of retconning the origin of the Spectre. Reducing him from an emissary of the The Presence to an avatar beast of rage is a hell of a drop. It also flies in the face of FAR too many stories where Spectre has directly spoken to or received orders from The Presence.

Also, considering how much work Greg Rucka has done with the character of late, I wonder how he feels about being told that Everything We Know Is Wrong about a character he had just done such a good job of updating. Not to mention the aforementioned exemplary series by J. M. Dematteis where a certain Hal Jordan was the host of the Spectre, in an attempt to atone for the actions of Emerald Twilight. He was able to change the Spectre's mission from vengance to redemption. If all he was doing is channeling an avatar of Rage, how does that help redeem oneself, or anyone?

Now in almost all of these massive retcon moves, there will be stories that patently Do Not Make Sense anymore with the new rules in play. If Blue Beetle's Scarab is in fact NOT a magical artifact but a millenia-old piece of alien technology, then why did the wizard Shazam want to keep it on the Rock of Eternity where many other magical items are kept, for example. And in most cases, depending on how successful the new story is, you have to just accept that those stories don't count anymore, or that they just happened in a slightly dfferent way. The better the story works for you, the less important those discrepancies become. But if you're dead-set against the change, the slightest quibble become hide-bound evidence that said story CAN'T be right, and MUST fall.

If you're going to make changes to the Green Lantern Mythos, it's only fair to assume that any GL character might mold to fit the new shape of things. But pulling in the Spectre seems a bit offsides. He's been around LONGER than Green Lantern (he prevmiered some months before the Golden age GL) and has never been portrayed as anything other than as an emissary of God (under assorted names and euphemisms). Choosing to take a character with that much history who no one has asked for a change to strikes me as over-reaching a bit. It doesn't ALL need fixing.

The same holds true for the Phantom Stranger - that unsettling "He will face the truth about his existence" line worries me that he too will fall under the pen of Johns. One of the lasting allures of the Phantom Stranger is his undefined quantity. Is he the Wandering Jew? Is he some Silver Surfer-like gentleman, trading his life to serve Himself in trade for saving a life? Is he Longinus the Roman guard? The fun is not to know. Like the Joker and the Grinch, any attempt to define the character limits them, makes them less than their potential. So to suggest that Stranger himself is not fully aware of his origins is, IMHO, a reduction of the character.

These are two characters who have been around as long as or longer than Green Lantern, whose stories are almost wholly unconnected to the GL mythos, and changing them to serve the narrative seems akin to breaking up nice furniture to feed the fireplace. Wasteful.

Now it's very possible that I'm mis-reading this. I hope I am. Because if I'm not it could mean reducing one (possibly two) characters from having Godly connections to something much less in comparison. I'm not going to rail and whine about it...much...just make clear that I don't think either character needs much tweaking, and certainly not just to flesh out an event, good though the event is.

The Blackest Night series has been magnificent so far. There's every chance that at its end we'll see the return of several DC heroes who fans felt passed well before their time. For some, maybe even many characters to get returned at the expense of two more might be a price I'd choke on.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

On a series of scientific limericks created to win a prize

They Might Be Giants, Brooklyn's Ambassadors of Love, have just released a new album, Here Comes Science , another of their albums aimed at kids. As a publicity stunt, they're running a little contest at their Facebook page, asking people to create scientific-themed limericks to win one of five free copies of said album.

In a couple flurries of creativity, I've done just under a couple dozen so far. I've included them below. I'll tack any more I come up with before the contest ends.

I'd tell you to visit their page and submit your own...but I wanna win.

Two physicists gaily were chattin'
of a project they knew as Manhattan
hoping for some good luck-a
they'd trot off to Yucca
and clock how many acres they'd flatten

To get taste like the manna from Heaven
make some some gas to allow bread to leaven
baking soda or yeast
CO2 is released
one loaf serves between ten and eleven.

Caterpillars will hardly impress
till cocoons they create and ingress
while deep within those
they metamorphose
and come out looking nattily dressed

An object that no one could shift
met a force irresistably swift
about the result
scientists would consult
for philosophers 'twas quite a gift

To reactions we add catalyst
like to millstones we pour in the grist
we can watch in the cup
the components used up
but the catalyst won't - that's the twist

To carbon add pressure and heat
for reaction exciting and neat
A structure at end
a woman's best friend
an engagement gift nothing can beat

A scientist was fervently wishin'
he could start up some nuclear fission
In his haste he had found
he'd forgotten to round
and wound up with unstable emission

Oxygen makes up pairs with great glee
With more energy, then into three
If not for the ban
of the aerosol can
There'd be far too much sun we would see

Werner's uncertainty principle
can cause outcomes to be quizzical
for as we observe
the results often swerve
so it doesn't come out like we wanted it to

Tycho Brahe, at least so goes the tale
in debates made opponents all quail
At the moment he chose
he'd remove his gold nose
and watch all trains of thought just derail

An astronomer named Galileo
Used a tube to see things far away-o
finding many weird things
like Saturn's great rings
Finding more during night than in day-o

The method we call scientific
is a process exact and specific
watch, deduce, and then move
to attempt to disprove
if you can't, then you publish - terrific!

Archimedes was taking a bath
stumbling onto a standard of math
As the water displaced,
a solution he faced
down the street he then cut quite a swath

DaVinci presented a gift
of a process we now know as lift
with some wood and some string
in the shape of a wing
letting people among the clouds drift

Indigo's such a weak link
in the spectrum of color, I think
To make it reach seven
to connect it to heaven
Newton added it - why not use pink?

physicists love to discuss
the composure of the nucleus
with trons neu and pro
as they come and they go
elements are created as thus

Through complex gravitic attraction
planets fall into orbital action
as they ride an ellipse
sometimes suns they'll eclipse
no collisions or dssatisfactions

Two scientists, Watson and Crick
found a strructure impressive and slick
Knit together like sweaters
using only four letters
the description plan nature did pick

A wee little thing like a virus
can easily sicken, perspire us
without tincture or balm
our system to calm
the bugs can oft quickly retire us

A gal with obsessions to quench
using very small hammer and wrench
with wire and wood nano
made a micro-piano
but she's going blind making the bench

Each day Edison would instill it
into his inventors he'd drill it
As they toiled and persipre-a
in the spinning Maria
He'd say "find a need and then fill it!'

DC current, known as "westinghousing"
was the one Edison was espousing
but Tesla's alternating
left nobody waiting
Sent Tom back to the drawing board browsing

Thursday, September 10, 2009

On The Kid in One Million Words or Less

The Kid started school again this week, in seventh grade. I could swear she was in no later than third back in June.

One of the things that came home with her on her first day was a little survey they wanted us to fill out about her, to give the teachers an idea of what she's like, her cheers and jeers, etc. After a bunch of multiple choice questions (which I believe we got right) there was an essay portion which asked "In a million words or less, tell us why your kid is so fabulous!"

Now we'd already had a meeting with the teachers, as we do every year so they can get an idea of what to expect from her (with her Asperger's and all) and what they can expect from us (making sure they realize we're not the kind of parents who demand the world change its shape to fit The Kid). It went well, and they found out quick that we're a fairly wacky clan.

I figured it'd be nice to drive that home a bit with the requested essy. Here's what I came up with...

(The Kid) has Asperger’s Syndrome, which causes her to behave in a more introverted way, not as in shy, but as in if she’s alone in an elevator, and will, if not reminded, do the kind of things people do if all alone -- talk to herself, dance about entertaining herself, etc. She also has ADHD, which means she does these things at great speed. She’s very high-functioning, can be quite gregarious and charming, but will close off quickly when her bank of conversation questions is depleted.

She’s allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, and sesame, but luckily she’s also a picky eater, so she always asks what things contain, and then doesn’t eat it anyway because it’s not pizza or a hot dog. We try to encourage her to try new foods, but we don’t make a big thing of it because that way lies eating disorders, and nobody really wants to go on Dr. Phil.

Her avowed one true love is Sonic the Hedgehog, who she plans to marry as soon as she reaches legal age. As long as he can provide for her in the style to which we’d like her to become accustomed, and the kids are raised Catholic, we’ve chosen not to keep them apart.

Her musical tastes tend more to trance, including the work of Cascada and Paul van Dyk, with a good bit of Webb Wilder and the theme songs from the Japanese Sentai shows, the ones they use to make Power Rangers. We’re all cartoon fans in our house, so her TV watching tends more towards animated fare from various decades.

She can and does sit through entire films and TV shows, but left to her own devices (said devices being the remote) will tend to pop about to her favorite scenes, re-running them endlessly, wearing a hole in the DVD and then who’s going to buy a new copy I ask you not me missy.

She has made the jump in recent months from random non-sequiturs spouted at inopportune moments to the correctly chosen cultural reference. She’s slowly finding the way to make her crazy affectations work to her benefit, and we enjoy watching it happen.

She is well aware of what rules are and that they apply to her, but sees no need not to try to get around them when not under scrutiny. She comes from this honestly, being her father’s child. She’s not made of sugar, and can withstand discipline, tho we are letting the spots at the back of her knees heal a bit, because those scars can be hell to clean.

It was well received.

Monday, September 7, 2009

On the argument in favor of Superboy-Prime

Superboy-Prime is about the most polarizing character DC has right now. People either love him or despise him. Geoff Johns has pulled him from retirement and used him as a living satire on impossible-to-please fanboys since his return in Infinite Crisis.

And I'm telling you right here...played right, he could be turned around into a great hero.

Hear me out.

First introcuced about eighteen minutes before Crisis on Infinite Earths started, he gets a handful of panels over the course of the series and eventually gets shuffled off into the Magic Crystal Retirement Home with the Superman and Lois Lane of Earth-2 and Alexander Luthor, the son of the pre-Crisis Earth-Three's only hero, Lex Luthor. and there he sat, alone unmourned and unloved for nigh on twenty years.

Geoff Johns decided to take those characters and use them as the central focus of his opus Infinite Crisis. The base idea was that these heroes were looking out of Crystal Acres, seeing what had become of the DCU upon their exit, and found it lacking. Filled with dour heroes who were barely better than the villains, acts of horror and atrocity that would never have stood in their day. And they make the decision "It's all got to go".

But what people don't really notice is that the REAL villain of IC is Alexander Luthor.

Kal-L of Earth-Two if despondent over the illness of his wife Lois Lane. And Superboy Prime, aside from looking out and seeing what the DCU has become, has been a teenager for twenty years. Two people very easily shaped by the right person at the right time.

In the Villains United series, we discover that Luthor had been sneaking out of the Magic Crystal Dimension for quite some time, masquerading as (our) Lex Luthor, and generally stirring things up a great deal. He also spends a great deal of time pouring poison in Superboy Prime's ear.

In a very literary way, Superboy-Prime is a Shakesperean tragedy hero.

I'll explain. Shakespere's three greatest classic tragedies are (in order) Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and Hamlet. They show his growth as a writer and his further experimentation of the Tragedy as a narrative tool. Romeo and Juliet are teenagers, literally out of control of their lives, torn apart by their families. Their actions are the immature reactions of children, indeed,the SAME immature reactions we see from teenagers today - run away from your probles and/or kill themselves. They are "tragic" in the "it's a shame this happened TO them" sense. Hamlet, contrariwise, is wholly in control of his fate. He makes his choices, follows through with gusto, and at the end it's wholly clear that he deserves what he gets, no matter the motivation. Macbeth, which came in the middle chronologically, also falls in the middle character-wise. Macbeth is basically goaded into his actions by his wife, and the three witches all but plot his moves for him. He makes the choice to take the path himself, but it's as close to a forced choice as you can get. Once he goes down the path he does it with verve, but the initial choice was not wholly his.

THAT's what I mean when I compare Superboy Prime to Macbeth. He's a villain, but he's not 100% whole-hog behind the choice. If he had spent more time talking to someone else other than Luthor, things might have gone very differently. And it's that little flaw, that small exception, that makes me say he could still get a face-turn and end up a good guy, or at the very least properly redeemed before he dies.

You want a comparison closer to home? Darth Vader. Like Prime, he's a petulant child who's goaded into his turn by Palpatine. And since he didn't start evil, it was narratively acceptable for him to be redeemed, and instanly forgiven for all the deaths that he was personally responsible for.

When Superman said that he wanted to try to redeem S-Prime in Legion of Three Worlds, I was one of the few cheering at the idea. Because of that flaw, that sense that his choice wasn't completely his own, it left open the door to redemption, and still does. There's really only one thing that really queers the case for Superboy Prime's redemption. And it's the same thing that makes S-Prime seem overused to the point of annoyance.

F&%^ing Countdown.

Look only at the Geoff Johns helmed appearances of Superboy Prime. He shows up in IC, doesn't reappear for nigh on two years in Sinestro Corps War, and by then, he's been out of the public eye enough to be kept special. Again, Johns doesn't use him again until Legion of Three Worlds, another almost two-year gap of use. And if Lo3W had shipped on time, it would have again been just over a year before we saw him again in Blackest Night.

But Countdown had to come and piss in the soup.

Countdown, as I have gone on about before, was a textbook example of a company deciding they just couldn't wait to use a bunch of characters and plots, all which were supposed to be used as part of Final Crisis a year later. The story flatly contradicted events in FC (and other minis running at the same time, like Death of the New Gods), and generally gave the upcoming event a sense of having just seen these characters a couple WEEKS ago, thus reducing its feeling of import. Johns had certainly not been afraid to play S-Prime as a killer - he amasses quite a list in IC, and adds to that in SCW and Lo3W. Indeed, by the time of the Legion story, he's graduated to indiscriminate killing of innocents who got in his way. But in Countdown, he's genocidal, Terra-cidal, if you will. He's responsible for destroying an entire Earth, and then an entire UNIVERSE. Many make the valid argument that that's just too far to come back from. Johns played him like a petulant child (which he is), Countdown played him as a mouth-frothing maniac. That, plus the fact that his year-long appearance (plus the extended/delayed) release scheule of L03w) gave the impression that he has been around non-stop for almost two years. This gives his upcoming appearance in Adventure as part of Blackest Night a sense of "Oh No Not Again"; one it doesn't deserve.

But I have to come back to the fact that Countdown is slowly but inexorably being "ignored to death". More and more of the stuff that transpired there has dropped off the timeline - Jimmy Olsen had not once talked about having shacked up with a six-foot tall insect (not to mention one that dumped him), and events in Captain Atom's life as described in Superman sound like they picked up from the events of the Bludhaven mini and skipped CD entirely. So I'm almost willing to argue that S-Prime's actions in CD can be similarly described as "having not happened". That still leaves Prime with a great deal of blood on his hands, but no more than Vader, or, say, Hal Jordan and Black Adam, two characters Johns has successfully brought back as viable characters. So I still maintain the chance is there.

Geoff has been playing the long game here, with storylines started as far back as Green Lantern Rebirth coming to a head in Blackest Night. He's been using Superboy Prime in each of those staories as well, and I maintain that's not by accident. Each one of the characters he's used in that story has gone through a great odyssey of adventure and growth. I find it hard to believe that Prime alone will remain a two-dimensional cipher.

His story might concievably carry through to the Superman event in 2010, but I have a feeling it'll end with Blackest Night. The just-revealed cover to Adventure Comics #5 certinaly makes it seem like it'll end there, but I've learned that covers very rarely portray the contents of the books correctly any more. Whatever we're gonna get and whenever we get it, I'm pretty damn sure your opinion of Superboy Prime will change by the time his story is over.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

On the Mouse buying the Spider

I'm not so pompous as to believe that this blog is the first thing you look at each morning, so odds are you've already heard that Disney is buying Marvel Comics for about 4 billion dollars. To say that this has caused some talk in the comics industry and the electric-type internet is an understatement.

Comic fans are doing what they do best; assuming the worst. There are endless doomsday scenarios being posed left and right, most involving Marvel's storylines being castrated and niceified to the point of insulin shock. Endless jokes about Disney/Marvel mashups and crossovers have been told, and generally, it's gotten everyone talking.

So why shouldn't I?

There are exactly 2 areas that I can see that could be problems for Marvel. Bear in mind, these areas are rather large and the amount of which the issues present themselves is impossible to know.

1) Disney has a VERY different way of working with creators than Marvel, or any comics company since about 1954 does. Up until recently, Disney did not allow individual artists to sign their work. If you drew something for Disney, it was drawn by no one in particular. While he was alive, it was supposed to be implied that Walt drew all the comics, etc by himself, as his name was the only that appeared on it. Even the legendary Carl Barks worked uncredited for years, only the fans knowing who drew what. Animation god Mike Jittlov famously got around that limitation by sneaking his name right into the work he did for The Mouse, where they couldn't take it out. Most Disney shows that feature animation has a credit to the effect of "We thank the Disney animators who made this all possible." Nowadays most of their TV cartoons features a "created by" credit, so that dictate is changing, but on the whole, the work of Disney is faceless.

More importantly, Disney's contract with its creators basically states that ANYTHING the signatory creates during his employment at Disney belongs to Disney, or at the very least get right of first refusal on it. It's the reason that creators like Keno Don Rosa patently refuse to work directly for Disney - Don works for Egmont, a Dutch company who licenses the rights to produce Disney comics, but without strictures like, as Don loves to describe it, "ownership of your unspoken thoughts". Now, in the last fewish years, Disney's comics in the US have been produced by outside companies like Slave Labor Graphics and currently BOOM! Studios. Those companies don't have those strictures either. But should Disney decide that they wish to produce their own comics in the future, there's the remote possibility they'll try to bring these rules over with them. Disney needs to have it explained to them very clearly that such a contract will NEVER fly in today's comics industry.

2) Marvel will now be owned by a parent company that has made a habit of caving to public complaint. As a rule, no matter what part or subsidiary of Disney decides to release something of questionable moral standing, it's described as being done by Disney itself. Best example in recent memory is Kevin Smith's Dogma. The film dealt with God and religion in a very irreverent (but at the same time, QUITE reverent) way, and the film was lambasted by the Religious Right in the US (sight unseen, of course). The film was being released by Miramax, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Disney with complete say as to what films it could release, including many classic films not intended for family audiences. But when the inflammatory Dogma mailings started to go out, the film was described as coming out from Disney itself, as if the famous castle logo would precede the film. The perception wildly outstripped the facts, and eventually Miramax was forced to drop the film, allowing it to be released by another company. Disney has edited and censored its own films after complaints by special interest groups, including Aladdin and many changes to its upcoming release The Princess and the Frog. And don't get me STARTED on Song of the South.

If Marvel chooses to do a plotline of any controversial nature in their books (say, one where a character makes a deal with the devil to keep their elderly aunt alive, say), there is the chance that the latest iteration of Adults Against Funny Cartoons will take to the streets, clamoring about what "Disney" is putting in "a children's comic book". And for all the explanations that comics aren't just for kids anymore, Marvel is an indepedent company, etc, there's the remote chance that Disney will take the easy route and ask the plotline be ended. I can't imagine it happening often, and I don't think Marvel will have to submit anything for approval (none of Disney's other subsidiares do) but I can forsee and extreme situation with this unpleasant end.

Just about everything else is a potential plus.

For one thing, Disney already owns the rights to the Crossgen universe. While it's generally known that they bought it almost solely for J. M. DeMatties' Abadazad, it's still a large number of characters who had a brief but popular life. And now they have access to a comics company who could get the use of them. To quote Henry Fonda, "I'm just saying it's possible".

To be terribly honest, I don't know how interested Disney is in being in the comic book making business. Like Warner Brothers and DC, I think Disney's far more interested in the money they can make off the licensing and movies than all of the comic sales combined. They tried their own comics company not too recently, and dropped it because the paltry profits didn't compare to what they could be doing with that money, so they went back to contracting it all out.

But if they DO decide they want to get more into comics, I don't see that as a bad thing. Example - people are talking about a Hannah Mantana comic book as if it's the worst idea in the world since labial piercing. But I don't see how. No comic company wants to do one, under the old chestnut that kids (and especially little girls) don't read comics. But if it was made available in the Disney store or in proper bookstores? I have no doubt it'd sell. Same with Wizards of Waverly Place, Zack & Cody and any other series they choose to do.

I'd love to see a return of a bunch of the comics from the beloved Disney Adventures magazine. Dan Brereton was in the middle of a Dr Syn (alias The Scarecrow) comic that woulda knocked your socks off. This was a magazine that was selling a million copies a month, and Disney dropped it because again, it wasn't making enough money for them. Money that would have dwarfed (no pun intended) the sales of any American comic.

And that's the key here. Disney exists so far away from the little pool that is the direct market that's it borders on the embarassing. Disney comics featuring Mickey and (far more so) Donald Duck regularly sell in the millions of copies in Europe. Part of that is because comics are more universally available there, and people still read them regularly and openly. They never had a Wertham come along and so successfully convince them that comics were the purview of the illiterate and socially illiterate that to this day the simplest way to show a bad guy is a flannelhead in a movie is to slap a comic book in his hand. But the point remains, Disney is used to selling MILLIONS of something, not 30,000. And they have the power to bring those books back to the mainstream.

I can see Disney making the legendary deal with Wal-mart and Target to get comics back in the stores. If, and it's a large if, they think it's worth it. They might well be happy with solely making the money on the movies and the t-shirts, and as long as marvel proper isn't actively losing money, will leave it alone.

The sad part? Most comics fans would consider that a happy ending.

Friday, August 28, 2009

On the Biggest Mistakes DC has made in recent history

If I had to simplify my issues with DC over the years, they could be summarized as "putting positive characters who have no place in a depressing or serious story straight damn in the middle of one" and "Editorial revamps with no sense of respect for the fans of what has come before, or of the history of the characters".

At a panel, when I used the word "positive", Dan Didio challenged me to define it. I define it in this context as lighthearted, fun, more smile-inducing than sadness, and generally a character than I prefer to entertain me, rather then emotionally move me.

In no particular order...

Ted Kord - Just for SO many reasons... More than any, Ted's BOOM! Headshot was representative that has happened at DC too often - taking a basically fun, positive(*) character and placing him in a far too Grim-n-Gritty situation. Ted could easily be used in dramatic and emotional moments, as his appearances in BoP showed.

The fact that he's kept making more appearances AFTER his death than before shows (to me, anyway) that DC knew they'd pooped the bed on this one, and kept teasing him to show up again to appeal/take advantage of the Ted fans. The Blue and Gold issues of Booster Gold are a delight, with Ted being back to the way he was, and should be, but I just knew he wasn't back for good.

The Trials of Shazam! is another example of this concept. Captain Marvel is as "positive" a character as there can be in the DCU. What they have done to the character and the Marvel mythos in Trials is just anathema to me. There is simply no NEED to grit-up Captain Marvel. The fact that the events with Mary Marvel wildly diverge from the events and explanations in Trials is VERY promising to me. Especially if the SHAZAM movie moves forward, I am very hopeful that all of the events in Trials will eventually be explained away. It sort of started getting undone in JSA recently, but that got kiboshed fast. Freddy Freeman is appearing in JLA Cry For Justice, and I believe will be appearing in James Robinson's JLA title. That's great, but I don't see how getting rid of Shazam and promotong Billy made that possible.

As many have said, "Everybody is SOMEBODY'S favorite character."

The idea of making you care about a character and then killing them is far from new, and does not just appear in comics. But the issue is, once you kill them, any chance to use that character again for MORE good stories ends. (well, okay, no, but you get my point)

The argument I make is that death is not the only way to further a story, and should not be used as often as it's being used at DC right now.

Consider - Beetle's role in Countdown to IC was to discover the plans of Max Lord and alert his fellow heroes. How did killing Ted make that job go better?

Suppose he'd only been captured and incarcerated. Or actually shot in the head, but survived. Sasha sends the goggles to Batman. It's still proof that Beetle is in dire straits(Joy Division, even...), MAYBE dead. The heroes mobilize, all the same things occur. But at the end, they find Ted (on life support maybe) and save him.

And if you claim that it would be a cheat to not really kill Ted, how is more of a cheat then how they didn't really kill Ollie Queen in the GA/BC wedding special? I could rattle off a LONG list of people who supposedly died in a movie, only to be fine and dandy at the end (Here's two - Centuri in Last Starfighter and Duke in GI Joe the Movie). Why did nobody call those cheats? Hell, why did no one complain when Booster wasn't really dead?

Simple - because people WANTED THOSE CHARACTERS TO SURVIVE. David's Law says it best: If the readers wants a certain event to happen or a certain character to survive, they will forgive ANY damn fool way you do it, because you gave them what they wanted.

As far as I'm concerned, what they did to Booster they could have (and should have, and may yet be) done with Ted. They made Booster interesting and relevant again. They breathed life (literally) into a character that was a footnote and a joke. And now he's got one of the better-selling books DC has, or at least better selling than more well-known characters. It was, in short, a waste.

Ted got bitch-slapped. He got fired one day before his retirement and lost his pension. He waited in line to meet Clayton Moore just as he grew too tired to sign any more autographs. He got HOSED.

And as much as I love the new Beetle, as much as I enjoy the other books DC has done since and will do in the future, that is a move that I respectfully choose to refuse to accept. They dropped the ball, they traded the cow for beans, they had a gold medal and got it bronzed.

Kyle Rayner - The vitriol for today's editorial changes for the sake of change PALES before the acid spewed by comics fans over the out-of-nowhere embaddifying of Hal and handing the Power Ring to a random guy on the street named Kyle Rayner.

Really the first of the slash-and-burn, "we don't care what it affects, we'll worry about it later" moves DC had done in the modern age of comics, the move pretty much disenfranchised an entire generation of readers who were told their character was out, and this new guy was in. Heck, not only was Hal gone, the entire Green Lantern Corps was gone - the Guardians, all of that history, done.

And try as I might, I just couldn't get interested in this new guy. Yes, years later he's grown into a more complete character I could read about, but it wasn't until Hal (and Guy) and the Corps of old was back could I really appreciate a Green Lantern title again.

Sue Dibny - I get it. Adult story - they wanted to show a really repulsive act. And I must admit, it was a great story, and had a lot of effects in the DCU moving forward.

I just wish it hadn't been Sue.

I've said it a lot in the past; I've always had a sort of special affinity to Ralph & Sue, because their witty banter Nick-n-Nora relationship matches my wife's and my relationship (with the exception that she is not wealthy, and I am neither ductile nor a detective), so I always had a soft spot in my heart for them.

As far as I'm concerned, the story also pretty much ruined Dr. Light for me as well. Because to take a page from JoeQ's playbook, the act he did in Identity Crisis is far too "real world" for me, (not for any personal reason, blessedly) and put a level of true repulsiveness on the character for me. Much in the same way when they made Toyman a child-murderer in the 90's (a move blessedly undone by Geoff Johns last year), a move that could easily have made this list. If either were to have shown up in Blue Beetle now, for example, I'd be massively skeeved out.

The Legion of Super-Heroes - Possibly the best object lesson to the cliche "if it's ain't broke, don't fix it". Legion was DC's franchise, neck-and-neck with Teen Titans. They were the first two baxter-format titles.

And then Byrne came along and said there was no Superboy.

Now bear in mind, I LOVED the Byrne re-vamp, and everything that has come from it. He gave the perfect retcon for the issue - The Legion didn't start because of Superboy, they started bacause of the LEGEND of Superman, and all that he did. The past issues didn't vanish out of people's comic-boxes; any time they needed to be referenced in the current book, use Mon-El in his place instead.

But that wasn't ENOUGH for the folks at DC. They felt the need to explain it in continuity. It's like when you accidentally bang a hammer through the wall as you're hanging a picture. First you have to make the hole a bit bigger for the plaster patch to set right, then you have to paint over the spot, then you realize the paint doesn't match the rest of the wall quite right, so you paint the whole wall, and before you know it, you're buying a new house. So it was with Legion. They tried to re-tell those stories, then they insisted on re-vamping Mon-El to make him a bigger character, then they had to fix even MORE stuff, then it got so confusing they made a NEW set of legionnaires they could re-tell the stories with, they they rebooted all over, then they jumped five years into the future and changed everybody so much it might as well have BEEN a reboot, then they DID reboot again, and...well, you see what I mean.

DC had a hide-bound, fiecely loyal readership. But being shackled to continuity was more important than just telling good stories moving forward, and that readership slowly ebbed away, and the stories being presented just weren't as good as what had come before, so new readers didn't return.

Whatever will be done next by Geoff Johns will be viewed as Not Enough by some Legion fans, who have grown so bitter and despondent over the decade and a half-long reaming they've gotten that literally nothing will please them. For them it is too late.

Not following up on Crises - This is a harder point to explain. After CoIE, there was to be one earth, period. We started seeing alternate Earths (under the guise of "parallel dimensions") in under a year in Justice League.

Zero Hour was supposed to fix all the Time-Travel problems (not that anyone noticed any to speak of) in the DCU by severly restricting access to time-travel stories and setting strict rules as to how it would work. They were presented in Time Masters (a person can only use a particular type of Time Travel ONCE, so literally you'd have to use one method to travel one way in time, and another to come back) and were then soundly ignored as soon as someone had a good story to tell.

Day of Vengeance was quite close to a Crisis for magic - it got rid of all the rules on how magic worked in the DCU and would try to set rules for how it would work in the future. The rules are now being set up by each person as they go, with no sense of rhyme or reason. Zatanna'a powers have not changed one jot or tittle, yet according the Trials of Shazam, there are now a completely different set of gods that Freddy Freeman get his powers from. In short, no rules, no sense, nothing. DoV was a good story, don't get me wrong, but it ultimately achieved none of the goals it set out for. Reign in Hell was supposed to be yet another "crisis" for Magic in the DCU, but it sort of stopped being that almost immediately. All of nothing has changed as a result of the book.

I don't see any reason to restrict anyone's storytelling by saying that you can't have Thisguy do that because Thatwoman did that a couple months ago, but if you're going to keep a tight continuity, at least keep track of those discontinuitues, and address them internally. There's such a diverse universe out there that I have no problem believing in a countless number of different schools of magic or endless parallel worlds or variant technologies to allow anything a writer wants to happen. The mindset should not be, "You can't do that because" but, "let's see how you can do that if".

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

On how it's never too early to look ahead to 2010

Everyone (well, everyone that matters) is enjoying the current DC Event, Blackest Night. But fans are already thinking about not only how it will end, but what sort of event will occur in 2010. And why should I be any different?

The current rumors are that Geoff Johns and James Robinson will spearhead the 2010 event. Based on the books they write, it's safe to guess it will heavily feature Superman (Dan D. has said 2010 will be the year of Superman as 2009 is the year of Green Lantern) and the JLA, something corroborated in part by some of Dwayne McDuffie's comments.

So what do we think it's going to be about? There's a lot of time being spent on Blackest Night at the moment, but considering the long game that Johns plays, odds are we're seeing the groundwork getting laid for 2010 as we speak, and just don't know it.

I'm not 100% sure it's going to be the "Earth vs. New Krypton" plot that everyone is guessing, or at least, not the simplistic "Panic in the Sky" type of big-ass fight that people expect. They've been going out of their way to show New Krypton as a planet that DOESN'T want to attack Earth, even making Zod damn near a good guy. If a war were to start, it would be the fault of Gen. Lane and his project 7734, who has been fomenting fear and hatred against NK. Played the right way, Krypton might be placed in a sort of defensive posture, and in that scenario, I could see Superman siding WITH them.

However, such a story doesn't have a logical "in" for the JLA, aside from being part of whatever front Earth puts up against Krypton, and that's not a big enough role. So I think it's going to be something else.

We don't know anything about what James has planned for JLA, so we can't look at that as a clue. We do know that he's working on the Mon-El plotline, something he has said he thinks people "may be surprised where I'm taking this", that will culminate in Superman 700. That sounds like a logical place to kick off an event. So let's make a guess that that's where Event 2010 will begin. Let's consider a bit of timing. Superman #700 comes out in ten months and Blackest Night will end in six (abarring delays in both cases). So there's about a four-month respite in between the two events. I'm betting we won't see the current Marvel method (of one event pouring directly into the next) used here - I think they'll be fairly discrete. BN centers on Green Lantern, and we're assuming Event 2010 will center on Superman and the JLA.

The Legion are still an active player in the Superman books, so there's a very strong chance they'll have a hand in the story as well. Tellus is here in the 20th Century, appearing in both Superman and Adventure, as is (apparently) Element Lad for unknown reasons, and Starman (Thom Kallor) is still here. Superboy-Prime is coming back for BN, that doesn't necessarily mean he won't play a role in Event 2010, but it's up in the air. Rather depends on what happens in BN, I imagine.

Let's spin it around - who AREN'T we seeing right now?

The Cyborg Superman has been conspicuously absent from the solicits and plot of Blackest Night. I find that odd. He became a Green Lantern villain mainly by Geoff Johns' hand, but he's more logically a Superman villain. And considering he also is part Kryptonian, he can easily be linked to the New Krypton story. Johns said at SDCC that "You'll see a lot more Cyborg Superman and Manhunters in 2010", but didn't say it would be in Blackest Night, or even if they'd be seen together.

Lex Luthor has been in Superman, but in a positively submissive role. That can't last. Similarly, they've been using a hybrid of Brainiac and native Sunstone technology to rebuild New Krypton - that CAN'T be 100% safe. Either of those could result in Earth and Krypton teaming up against a common enemy, which would go against expectations in a neat way.

The Marvel Family has been out of sight for a while as well, at least the classic version we know and love. In a fight with a lot of (perhaps) Kryptonians, a guy with magic-based powers would be quite an asset.

Also, by 2010, the New Gods will have been off the table for almost two years. That might be long enough to bring them back, a little closer to a more DC-ish version, as opposed to the Morrisonian creations they became. That's just a guess, and there's no suggestion of that in any plotlines. Just thought I'd toss it in.

Here's a wild idea. The one common thread between Blackest Night and what's going on in the Superman books is the planet Daxam. I've been saying for quite some time now that a fight between yellow-sun-powered Daxamites and New Kryptonians seems a slam-dunk. Perhaps it's Daxam that becomes the bad guy in Event 2010, using their newfound powers to rid the galaxy of the aliens that have desecrated their home.

Who knows?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

On the use of brightly colored plastic objects to attract comics fans

I think it's safe to say that of all the books DC is doing right now, the one experiencing the most hype and success is Green Lantern. Riding a wave of growing popularity since the Rebirth mini-series, kicked into overdrive by the Sinestro Corps War, it's now cashing in all that geek capital with the DC event Blackest Night.

The concept in a nutshell is that as opposed to the Green energy used by the GLs, there are seven OTHER color-coded corps out there, powered by seven other emotions, that have been collecting for as long as there has been sentient thought. Some have been hidden for a long time, some have only just started getting used recently, mainly as a reaction to the other corps appearing. Not an eighth corps has appeared, powered by death itself, which is bringing heroes and loved ones of heroes back to life, and generally spreading chaos everywhere.

This is a storyline which Geoff Johns started laying the base for in the second issue of the Rebirth mini series, almost five years ago now. Geoff Johns plays a VERY long game in his books. He'll set up threads so subtle you won't even notice them, until he pulls on one and they all collect into a big bow.

Now, to be fair, this emotional corps thing is something brand new, and does make some percieved changes in the history of the Corps. It was long assumed that the power that the GL Corps used was just some ambient cosmic energy that the Guardians collected and stored in the central battery, and Willpower was needed to USE and shape the energy. now, it's more that the energy is pure willpower itself, or the energy createdwhen will is used or felt. It's a subtle change, but it's such a good idea that it works. Sure it's gotten its share of jokes - a google image search will reveal any number of photoshopped care bears with Lantern costumes on, but any idea will have its detractors.

Comic crossover events have gone through a great number of transformations since the days of Crisis on Infinite Earths. Back then, damn near EVERY title had a tie in issue or two, and in a lot of cases about the only thing that actually seemed to tie in was in one panel someone would notice that the sky was all red as if there were some major event happenes far FAR away from the place we were reading about. Indeed, the term "Red Sky Crossover" survives today, to refer to a book that is marketed as tying into a major event but in fact has almost nine at all.

For a while they tried the "Annuals plus Bookend" model - a book would come out setting up the plot of the event, the story would run through all the Annuals of the regular titles, ending in a final issue tying it all together. I rather liked that format, as it allowed all the titles to get a piece of the event pie, but by putting it in the annual, didn't result in them having to bollix up any storylines they had runing in the books. Armageddon 2001 was done this was, as was Marvel's Atlantis Attacks, if memory serves.

In recent years, they've started the idea of an event made up of several mini series. Civil War had the Front Line mini running parallel to it, as did WWHulk. It allows them to tell stories with their main characters, but again, not requiring them be shoehorned into the regular run.

Blackest Night is picking from a number of trees for its layout. It's an eight-issue main series, with two sets of three three-issue mini-series running parallel to issues 2-4 and 5-8 of the main series. The minis deal with the actions of specific heroes and teams who are fighting this menace. There's also a number of one shots peppered throughout the run as well. The sum effect is that assuming everything stays on schedule, there's not a week that passes where you won't be able to pick up at least one chapter of the ongoing storyline. That's brilliant scheduling - like trinity and 52 (and like was supposed to happen with countdown) the goal is to create a reason to hit the comic shop EVERY week, not just the weeks your regular titles come out.

As is of course true, no one's requiring anyone to buy every single issue of everything, but comics fans being what they are, many complain all the books they "have" to buy now. It's always fun at conventions when DC's Dan Didio assures fans they don't have to buy every book, and VP of Direct Sales Bob Wayne moans and gets a look on his face like Dan just told Bob's wife where he stashes his porn.

Blackest Night has been underway for two months now, and the latest round of solicitations for November reveal what the back four months of the eight-issue mini will kick off with. First off, the Big Bad of the series has been revealed - Nekron, Lord of the Unliving, EXACTLY who I (and a large number of old-school GL fans) guessed it would be from square one. Also, they've announced a number of tie-in issues to the book. Black Lanterns will show up in such titles as Booster Gold, R.E.B.E.L.S. and Adventure Comics. They're all quite logical connection to the series, and all sound interesting to me.

The news that really has fans vibrating is the news that to help push the tie-ins, DC will release replica rings for EACH of the corps, to go with the Black Lantern Ring they released last month with Blackest Night #1.

Like the growing number of variant covers that are returning to comics shop shelves, the rings will be tied to purchases of the seven tie-in issues - for every twenty-five copies of each they buy, they'll be allowed to buy a bag of fifty rings of whatever color is connected to that issue.

That's not too unreasonable a demand. Considering how well Blackest Night is doing, it's more than reasonable to assume that sales of these tie-in issues will rise, so overpurchasing them is not as risky a move as it might seem. Personally, I think it's a much neater idea than variant covers are. I talked about them in a past post, but basically people who buy multiple covers are paying full price for a cover, something I find bewildering.

The big thing being talked about already is the assorted ways stores will distribute the rings. Some believe they'll be charged for, some think you'll be "forced" to buy the comic, and all sorts of other theories.

DC isn't making ANY requirements, other than tying the right to buy the rings to how many copies of the books you buy. If they didn't, I'm sure there would be speculators buying them in massive numbers for ebay-ification. What the stores do with them is entirely up to them. Some will make them free, period, some will tie it to any purchase, or any BN book, or each with the BN book it was connected to. Some won't bother getting them at all. These will be the same stores who don't participate in Free Comic Book Day either, the type who think owning a Comic Book Shop would be great if it wasn't for all the friggin' customers. The short-sighted store will sell the rings for five bucks a throw, put the rest on ebay, and think they did well. Until next month.

Here's the question - how did your local comic shop handle the Black Rings that came with BN#1? Odds are that's exactly how they'll handle these rings. Great mystery solved.

They are promotional items, designed for DC to get more talk going about their event (mission accomplished) and for the LCS to get more (and maybe even new) customers. How they do that is entirely up to them.

In the last couple year or so, comic shops have had more opportunities for new customers to come through their doors than they've had in many years previous. The death of Captain America, the Obama/Spider-Man issue, events that had MASSIVE mainstream PR attention. Some stores just saw immediate dollar signs, jacked up the prices, and in some cases set up special registers so the new people wouldn't even have to enter the store. Some did everything they could to make the new customers feel welcome, make sure they see the other things that are available, and maybe made a coupon for x% off your next visit. Some stores had a good day, and some are having better sales ever since. As Brian Hibbs and many other store owners will tell you, the key to the success of a promotion is not how many people come into your store the day of the event, but how many come BACK another time and buy something else.

Assuming a store takes full advantage of what they could buy, they'll end up with twice as many rings as they have tie-in issues. Now that sounds like opportunity to me. A lot of ways to make those hunks of plastic work for you.

Yes, you could make up sets of rings and sell them.

You could also, I dunno, donate them to the local children's hospital, along with the stuff clogging up your quarter boxes, and get yourself a nice plug in the local paper as well as a nice tax write-off.

You could do a fundraiser for the Hero Initiative - put together a big care package of books, a set of the rings, and see if a creator or two will donate some original art or signed books. (Almost everybody is available on facebook or twitter - it costs nothing to ask) Raffle it all off and send the proceeds to the Initiative.

I was amazed to hear people DREADING the new customers coming through their doors for the Obama comics. These are the same people who complain when they hear Marvel plans to expand its digital comics business, or that DC will sell more trade paperbacks in mainstream book stores than they will in comic shops. No desire to do any marketing for themselves, no desire to deal with competition.

Well, here you go. A thing you won't be able to download from a link on 4chan, something you won't be able to get at Barnes and Noble. Here's the ball. Run with it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

On the return of the Convention Wars

Chicago, like Philadelphia, is a city that can easily support a good comic con. Indeed, Chicago used to be a tentpole convention before Wizard got ahold of it - it was the first show the entire Image team appeared at, resulting in the legendary Image Tent. But Wizard has, for a couple of years now, scheduled them so badly that they're both nearly dead. Philly went up against, and lost to, Heroes Con two years running (tho it looks like they're gotten a different weekend in 2010), and now Chicago is barely two weeks after San Diego. And even if some of the companies wanted to come, they couldn't, becasue their booths got shipped to wherever they're filming the new Simon Pegg and Nick Frost movie to stand in for SDCC.

Reed Exhibitions (the folks behind the staggeringly successful New York Comic Con) is making their move into Chicago next year, a full season away from Wizard, far enough apart for both to coexist amicably. But Gareb has chosen to fire back, setting a show in Anaheim the same weekend as the Chicago show, likely to draw away media guests who'd rather travel a few miles than a couple time zones. It's a scorched earth tactic that will only serve to leave both combatants damaged.

Gareb/Wizard is taking the tactic Fred Greenberg used in NYC in the 90's - allow no other show to thrive, cooperate with no one, be the only game in town. You'll notice Fred isn't doing shows anymore. His place was taken by Mike Carbonaro, a very nice guy who's been running Big Apple Conventions for years now. He runs the same kind of shows Fred used to run, in most of the same venues - shows on the "large size of small", a nice assortment of artists and dealers, a good local comic con. Recently, through no fault of his, his shows have grown a tad overcrowded for their confines. That's not going to be an issue anymore, as Gareb Shamus bought his company and is using it to compete directly with Reed and the NYCC.

Wizard's New York show is set for this October, in the same timeframe that Reed's NYCC will be in NEXT year. I see this as an unveiled attempt to mislead the casual fan into believing that Wizard's show IS the NYCC, at least once. As of this moment there are exactly TWO comics guests listed for that show - Jim Lee and Joe Quesada. NO exhibitors listed, and only three media guests - not even the same handful of mid-range celebrities that travel from con to con like Greatful Dead fans following the band in their VW MicroBus. I'm actively worried.

On the other hand, the Baltimore Comicon, one week previous to Wizard's NY show, is putting up a STAGGERING guest list. Baltimore is a GREAT little show, and has really made a strong regional convention of itself. There's been no announcement of plans for next year, but since they're the same time as next year's NYCC, I'm hoping they can move far enough away from it that it won't be squeezed out. I'm actually willing to believe that Reed would work with them to make sure that didn't happen (purely conjecture, I hasten to clarify).

I'm in the Lehigh Valley (PA), have been driving down to Baltimore (about a 3-hour run) for four years now, and have been overjoyed with the show every time. I'm hoping it can stay clear of the heavy lumbering feet of both Reed and Wizard, and keep providing a great show for the Mid-Atlantic area.

The comics market is growing again, and considering the major players are only doing two or three shows a year, it seems to me there's MORE than enough room for them to happily co-exist. New York can easily support two major conventions, as can Chicago, provided they're scheduled far enough apart. With only a modicum of courtesy and maybe just a little bit of cooperation, there's a chance to keep a steady stream of shows available for fans across the country, but not so many as to exhaust the publishers and the fans alike. I fear that won't happen, however.