Wednesday, August 1, 2007

On Mayors who speak without thinking ahead

As about eighteen million websites and blogs have already mentioned today, Mayor of San Diego Jerry Sanders let loose on a local morning radio program with the following quote about the just finished San Diego Comic-Con, and the just about to start American Idol auditions...

“We’ve put up with the superheroes and now we’re on to the people with actual talent.”
I dropped a note to the Mayor's website alerting him to the short-sightedness of the comment, but I decided that wasn't...quite...enough.

I called the mayor's communication office and asked if an official statement had been prepared about the comment, explaining I was preparing a story on the incident.

I called the Convention Office Liason, and found out that the AI Auditions had about 30,000 attendees, counting friends and family. That's compared the approximately 140,000 SDCC attendees.

I mentioned I was getting the info for an article on the "superheroes" quote. He said he'd have someone get back to me.

The Mayor's Deputy Press Secretary called me back in under an hour. His initial comments on the phone were off the cuff and all of the variety of he was kidding, he loves you guys, etc. But I maintained a calm demeanor, and asked again if that was an official statement. I played the role of journalist, not offended geek.

About an hour or two later, I got the following official response...

Anybody who thinks that Jerry Sanders doesn’t really love Comic-Con doesn’t know about his history with this convention. When he was chief of police he helped make this one of the most secure and fun conventions to attend in the world. Since being elected mayor, Jerry has gone to opening day for each of the past two years.

In his first year as mayor, Jerry joined Comic-Con president John Rodgers to help unveil the DC Comics Super Heroes stamps, saying to a packed house of more than 3,000 in attendance:

“Comic book Superheroes continue to capture the imagination of people young and old, and the Superheroes of DC Comics are some of the mostly widely recognized icons in the world. I can’t think of a more fitting subject to be memorialized in a U.S. Postage Stamp Series, and I couldn’t be prouder that these stamps are having their exclusive First Day Stamp Issue here in San Diego.

You can’t help but get caught up in the energy and buzz that takes over San Diego each year when more than 100,000 participants flock to Comic Con. This is truly the one convention that everyone talks about each year, and I’m so pleased that Comic Con continues to call San Diego home. I hope you continue to come back for many years to come.”

Then just last week, as he kicked off the Yu-Gi-Oh! World’s Fair and International Championship Tournament sponsored by Upper Deck and KONAMI, the mayor said:

“We also appreciate how Yu-Gi-Oh and all its players add to our local economy and to our status as one of the world’s leading creative communities. I’m proud to say that in addition to everything else Upper Deck and the KONAMI Corporation bring to San Diego, they also bring jobs.

That’s a great local business connection and just a small example of how important creative games and creative companies like Upper Deck and KOMAMI are to cities like San Diego.”

The mayor went so far as to declare opening day at Comic-Con “Yu-Gi-Oh! Day” in the City of San Diego and gave Upper Deck’s John Sepenuk a special resolution commemorating that declaration.

The mayor gets it, the mayor likes it, the mayor has a good time, and like everyone else who attends, he enjoys the excitement, the energy, and, yes * all the costumes and hoopla that are such a big part of what Comic-Con has become.

The mayor in no way meant to disparage the talent and attention to detail shown by anyone attending Comic-Con. He loves you guys and looks forward to seeing you next year, and is sorry for the misunderstanding.

George N. Biagi III
Deputy Press Secretary
Mayor Jerry Sanders
City of San Diego

This is a real good example of how well the Internet works at spreading news. He makes a comment like that and it's spread country-wide in under a day. When they saw they were getting a call from Pennsylvania asking about the quote, they knew they had to move, and fast.

How great is it that one person (me) can make one phone call and get this much done in only a couple hours? This had to be drafted from scratch, and fast. I feel almost...important.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

On myself - Who I am and how I came to be

My father died when I was 6. Of the few clear memories I have of him, a preponderence of them are comics related:

-Sitting in his lap in our living room, he reading me "The Origin of the Atom" from Secret Origins. That story is closely connected to my heart for this, and helped get me through high school. I've told that story, and I'll tell it again if the need arises.

-In the same chair, reading me the cover of an issue of Brave and the Bold.
Superman (blinded): Batman! Help me! I can't SEE!!
Lizard like aliens (walking to the rear, off camera right): And now the Earth is OURS!
He really hammed it up, and I loved it. Many months later, as his illness was advancing, I asked him to read it again. He couldn't get to that level of drama again. It upset me slightly.

-On a cruise to Italy, buying me a small stack of Italian-tanslated comics, including Quino's Mafalda and a copy of Green Lantern's (Lanterna Verde) first meeting with Tomar Re.

So comics have been there in my life pretty much all along. They were 20 cents each when I started readong them in earnest.

I became a mid-range letterhack in the early 90's and started my own APA, THWACK! I also started The Internatinal Norbert Conspiracy, currently over 250 members strong. After an interview with Jim Shooter about the new upstart company Valiant, we got somewhat friendly. When I told him I was working on a timeline of the Unity Crossover as an experiment on how to use this new "Hypertext" thing, he asked if I'd write it for him instead. Some short time later he gave my wife a job at his new (and short-lived) company, Defiant.

I ran a convention in Phildelphia, Comicfest '93, which I'm flattered to say was still getting talked about nostalgically when I visited Wizard World Philly a few weeks back.

After a financially-based gafiation from comics at around the time of DC's Underworld Unleashed maximegacrossover, I jumped back in with both feet at about the time of Blue Beetle getting headshotted just before Infinite Crisis. I'm back to old habits; reading way more than I really have time for, sharing my opinions with everyone who'll listen, and generally caring more about the hobby than a grown man really ought.

Now with the miracle of the electric-type internet, I can share my opinions without any filter or editing. The cybernetic equivalent of Open Mike Night at the local comedy club. For a loudmouth like that, it's a dream come true.

So rather than spray my comments willy-nilly all over Newsarama, my comics bulletin board of choice, I'll try and collect the longest of said essays here. We'll see how long that lasts.

On Countdown and the importance of doing what you promise

I call it the "Jellybean Moment".
A story has a moment that just CAN'T happen, a plot jump or event so out of left field that it can't possibly make sense.
Say...a freedom fighter suddenly gets jellybeans on an alien world, and uses them to bring down a government. Or another freedom fighter fedexes masks, hats and capes to everyone in London.
Now if the story is really engaging, you don't NOTICE how crazy the plot point was until way later, and then, if the story has done its job, you decide you don't mind. But if the story is not doing its job, that error lays there like a fish in the sun, just taking you out of the narrative, and it really ANNOYS you.
I am not hating Countdown. I am yet finding it entertaining enough that I am continuing to get it. My complaints mirror those of the others here. DC made a BIG point of how this title was going to:
a) be in real time (month to month, not week to week)
b) be the "Spine" of the DCU, that you could read it and keep track of the other events in other books.
On these jobs they have done less than admirably. I consider it perfectly reasonable to call DC on the carpet if they are not delivering what they promised.

In his latest interview on Newsarama, Carlin recanted the "real time" claim of Countdown. That's a GOOD thing, as far as I'm concerned. It was one of the most annoying parts of CD so far, and the one that everyone (myself included, if not at the forefront) was the most suspicious on how they could carry off. Events that should have taken place over a couple days were getting mentioned over a series of issues that would have been taking place over a month or more. But now that we're told that the book is NOT in real time, those extended mentions are no longer an issue. So that problem's off the table now, and good riddance. As long as Didio doesn't try to explain it back in a later interview, I see no need to pick at that scab.

The leaves the idea of trying to reoncile when the assorted events take place, timeline wise. Carlin makes an on-record comment about when he believes the events in Flash #13 and JLA #10 take place, compared to the funeral in CD. Two weeks later he is proven mistaken, not by another throwaway comment in someone else's interview, but a preview of an issue. I won't go past "sloppy" in my criticism. Goes back to my original comment - more communication is needed between the "spine" and the rest of the body to make this work properly.
Events in comics don't all happen at once. A six-issue mini-series can take place over a single day. It's quite easy to decide that this book takes place before or after this book, and most of the time the exact order is immaterial. Unless a character breaks his arm, or dies or some other major event that should be referenced, I see no problem with the characters "resetting" bewteen adventures, not unlike how characters in a cartoon are healed of injury between scenes.

By referencing them in issues of the title, Countdown has been suggesting that these events were taking place CONCURRENTLY, and that causes major problems. That's when you get the questions of how Batman could be in the batcave and standing at Wally's side at the same time. Amazons Attack seems to be the biggest problem. That's a major event, more so than Lightning Saga. It would make far more sense to say that it took place after Lightning Saga, and the reason Flash isn't in it is he's trying to sort out his own life after coming back from the wherever. Done. Now, that's just one symptom of Wonder Woman's facacta timeline, but since they don't directly affect CD, we'll not discuss them here

But now that the "real-time" issue is out of the picture, perhaps we're looking too hard. Maybe we're not looking at things that are all happening at once at all. Perhaps Karate Kid's attempted exit in the latest issue happened in the past, and we're just seeing it now. OK, that's fine, but it's not made clear.

Paul Dini has been quoted as saying that he's bringing more TV plotting into CD. I'm assuming they are referring to the way TV shows can hop between plotlines fluidly. That's a great idea, but they'd already been doing that in 52, and quite expertly. Plus, TV shows don't fluidly hop between time periods without comment and explanation, they make it clear they're doing so, with a caption, or a change in camera style (black and white, soft focus, something) to make it more clear that we are not right now looking at the present. Countdown is not doing that. So unless it's being done for some important narrative reason (which I doubt) it's just more sloppiness.

Again, the stories happening in Countdown (and the DCU in general) are entertaining enough to me to keep me buying the book. But since I'm not getting everything I was promised, it's completely within the rules of decorum for me to mention that. So, here I am...mentioning it.

See what you can do, guys.