27 March 2011

Happy Birthday Richard Dawkins!

Here are some great clips to watch as you tip a glass of something to the great explainer of evolutionary ideas.


21 March 2011

The New Narrative Structure of the Modern Comic Book Series, or How the Trade Paperback is Killing Pace.

I think the comic book industry has a problem, well at least one, and the only one that currently bothers me enough to comment on. The problem is pacing. The problem with pace is a product of the trade paperback. A trade paperback of comic book, for those of you not in the know, is simply several issues, now generally six, collected in a single volume. Its really a great way to collect and read comic book stories, takes up less space, and consolidates stories into an easy to access pacakage. It posses a huge problem though for a monthly book when it seems you are required to tell a story in six issue arcs.

Most comic books in the two big houses DC and Marvel seem more or less locked into the six issue story structure. For the tradepaperback crowd this has one benefit and one benefit only. It allows them to buy a book that has an ending, and a self contained story. Trying to force stories into the structure, though, is generally a failure. It encourages filler material, that is unnecessary to the story, and that reveals nothing important. That alone should be reason enough to abhor the practice. But the insertion of filler also detracts from pace and excitement more often than it does not. Now we have industry awash in books that take forever to get where they are going. Its not that I mind a long story. I am just bothered by having my time and money wasted on bullshit. I think a good, if vague, rule of thumb is that the story should dictate the number of issues it needs. A two issue story shouldn't be forced into a six issue format. It just looks thin however good the writing and the art is in the individual issues. I think the story quality would improve dramatically if story-tellers and editors would attempt to return to more organic processes. If you have come up with a story that takes two issues to tell, tell it in two issues. If you are writing Claremont style, with long character arcs set against the backdrop of other adventures, trials, etc then accept that, and try not to be bound by artificial punctuations of six. If your story is good, then people will buy the next trade even if it is open-ended, or if they have to go get back issues to be filled in. In short, just tell the damn story.

Let me just say that both houses are doing great work, and that in many cases they are figuring out how to tell some of their shorter stories without artificially stretching them out. Both DC and Marvel have been producing wonderful extra long one-shots, and short double features in other books, or short-series. So the good work continues, but certain series seem to be laboring under this six issue structure, and I think it is completely unnecessary. The latest Superman and Wonder Woman
story arcs, sort of written by J. Michael Straczynski, and featuring the excellent pencils of Eddy Barrows and Don Kramer respectively, are regrettably textbook examples of this unnecessary stretching of story to fit an unsuitable format. Jeff Loeb and Brian Michael Bendis seems to be masters at this sort of contentless storytelling. However let me hip you to some books that don't fit that forumla.

DC Comics

Power Girl: Fun, well paced stories not bound (too often) by the arbitrary six issue story arc. I would recommend beginning with Amanda Conner's run on the book, which luckily begins way back with issue 1.

Zatanna: The latest of DC's women to get her own book. Not quite as action packed as Power Girl and her incantations are a bit hokey (isn't any incantation hokey?) but she is a unique character. She is an accomplished stage illusionist ala Penn and Teller, but can do actual magic too, though never for personal gain. She inhabits DC's magical realms and has yet to feature a bad artist on the book. Even if the stories don't knock your socks off, they are good and always fun to look at.

Supergirl This book just continues to get better and better. Every issue engages in substative character development against the back drop of fantastic Kryptonian daring-do.

Those are probably pretty good to get you started. I cannot really think of a Marvel book not hemmed up in the six issue prison. Sometimes it works fine. Often times is seems stretched and oh so slow.

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18 March 2011

ALCOHOL, a biologist examines the only interesting thing about St Pat's

It is a day late, but..screw it. Enjoy.


10 March 2011

My contribution to Women's History Month: Kathryn Bigelow + Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman. Amazon Warrior. Superhero. And of course Woman. She is a DC Comics icon, something of an American icon too. In fact she forms one part of DC's nearly holy Trinity (the other two parts formed by the equally iconic Batman and Superman). Warner Bros and DC have produced some good adaptations of the D.C. material of late(Superman I, II, and of course , and Batman: The Dark Knight.. DC/Warner Brothers even tried to return to Kryptonian waters, walking in director Richard Donner's foot steps, with the game but too homagey Superman Returns. This summer DC and Warner Brothers are taking a huge chance on what is easily the most dangerous property they have, The Green Lantern.
To see precisely why the Green Lantern is such a potential goldmine of unintended laughs, and camp go here.

There is an obvious question lurking in this blog...Where is the ass-kicking Wonder Woman movie? Seriously now. A Wonder Woman movie seems like something of a no-brainer.
Consider that she easily one of the most complex characters of the DC comics Universe. She is a diplomat, and a warrior (though disdainful of violence). She is an Amazon raised in a very particular culture isolated from men (I can even see some X-Men style parables here, specifically addressing issues in the LGBT community). Physically she is as powerful as Superman, skilled in hand to hand combat as Batman, and happier, generally than both. And while her costume would probably need a revamp, I suspect that the rest of her character would need little to make it appealing across a diverse audience. Her back story is a goldmine, that can also, draw on a nearly limitless treasure trove of Greek mythology thanks to the Amazon connection. And I think there is a potential to engage in some progressive romance too, because lets face it, Wonder Woman will not have a sexuality that anyone would be able to describe as conventional (think of her genetics, and culture and you have a sure prescription for interesting storytelling directions). Clearly a Wonder Woman film could be anything, in the right hands, except boring. And I think I know what some of the right hands should be.

With any filmmaking endeavor I think the question has to be what is there that we don't like, and do those "don't likes" loom larger than the "likes." I say Wonder Woman is a no brainer for DC/Warner, because, on paper, at least, the "don't likes" are surprisingly few, whereas the cup containing all the "likes" is, quite simply, overflowing. In an effort to get this wonderful ball of Wonder Woman rolling, allow me a few suggestions movie industry excutive types.

Any great comic book film, (indeed any great film) has to start with a great vision and leadership. DC/Warner have wisely put Christopher Nolan in the producer role for the next Superman movie. They should do whatever it takes to get him to do the same thing with any Wonder Woman project. It makes good business sense from their point of view. A good comic book film will produce at least two more successful ventures almost regardless of the quality if the sequels. Think X-Men 3. It did slightly better box office than X-Men 2 and it was not a good movie. Any DC movie needs quality control, because DC, more than Marvel, risks camp and sillyness with almost every hero in their pantheon. If DC/Warner could they should also give Nolan and his script writing partner anything they want to pen a Wonder Woman script. Give them movie deals to make the next three whatever they want to films, give them prostitutes, tickets to TED conferences, seriously make the Nolan team write the script I don't know if it is crucial, but given the dramatic and conceptual weight Nolan has imparted (with the help of decades of comic book writers of course) to the Dark Knight of Gotham City, it sure couldn't hurt.

Kathryn Bigelow must direct this movie. Someone reading this may be tempted to suggest someone else. The following the following films are all the rebuttal I need. Near Dark, Point Break, Strange Days, and The Hurt Locker Bigelow. For. The. Win.

Jeff Imada should probably choregraph all the non-CGI action. I know that poor guy is over worked since the Jason Bourne Trilogy but tough luck, that is the price of success damn it. I would also need to see some quality grappling as the Amazons would be well versed in such things given their origin. So throw Yasuhiro Yamashita and Randy Couture into the fight choreography team for added zest.

Line in the sand. No invisible jet. Nope, ah-ah-ah, stop, no buts, shh. No jet. Hey, I said zip it.

What follows are some loose suggestions for the core cast.

Jessica Biel as Wonder Woman/Diana
Rosario Dawson as Artemis
Sigourny Weaver as Hippolyta, or and I like this oodles more, Angela Basset as Hippolyta.
Paul Bettany as Achilles
It isn't necessarily a given that any WW movie would incorporate this character. Gail Simone did so in her most recent run on Wonder Woman, and to great effect.
Guy Pierce as Ares (Show me someone who says that doesn't sound supercool, and I will show you a liar).

Alright that is all I have. What would you like to see in a Wonder Woman movie? The conversation is open to non-comic geeks too!

Brunch Notes: All art by Adam Hughes.
Also if you are interested in seeing more of his work, and really why wouldn't you be, here is what you need.
Cover Run: The DC Comics Art of Adam Hughes This is beautiful stuff and features more than just Wonder Woman.

Fun times can be had at Hughes official website, JustsayAH.

Also in honor of Women's History month, its good to remember that DC publishes a ton more titles featuring women as the main protagonists.

(Can you name them all?)

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