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.