Saturday, June 07, 2008

JLA Movie question

Yurgh. I'm looking over my last few posts, and if the tone is any indication, The League needs a jobby job. How seriously am I really supposed to ask you Leaguers to take this business? And yet I ramble on for 10,000 words.

That's a sure way to keep a readership. Sweet Christmas.

Anyhow, I asked for some blog topics the other day, and a few folks stepped up. Steanso sent me some ideas that, if put into place, would end in an arrest. My favorite, though, was taking Lucy to various places and see where she could get in. I would have started, of course, with the State Capitol.

Simon asked how I felt about the now-shelved George Miller directed Justice League movie. Well, Simon, I'll tell you...

That movie was going to be all kinds of terrible. And the universe can do without a terrible JLA movie. I'm not sure what sort of alternate universe much of Hollywood works in, because it just doesn't seem like it should be too hard to "get" the JLA, but everything I'd read leading up to the cancellation notice was the same sort of cockamamie nonsense I'd read regarding Superman revivals before Singer got ahold of the property (ex: Ashton Kutcher as a Superman who has a destiny to fulfill on the planet Krypton. Which, btw, has NOT exploded.).

The idea of the Miller movie was, I believe, to drop the viewer in on the JLA after the JLA was already formed, thereby consciously avoiding what could be a fascinating origin story, wrought with drama and what-have-you. Instead, we'd see an internal split within the JLA. A team which we just met... so why we were supposed to care that they were having issues, I do not know.

This inter-office politicking would, no doubt, have led to "the unnecessary super-hero fight". The super-hero fight is the fight people always THINK they want to see between superheroes, but, really, you're usually so painfully aware of the fact that its a perfunctory fight before the heroes come to terms and go after the actual threat that the whole thing always feels like a waste of pages in comics.

The Original Seven of the JLA

It should be noted that WB was not planning to use the pre-cast Bale and Routh in their respective roles as Batman and Superman for the JLA flick. Which seems it would, at best, dilute the brand WB should be promoting for their own product. And, essentially, tell the audience "we don't take any of this seriously enough to bother to cast the same actors, so don't you worry too much about it, either."

And, of course, one of my chief complaints was that it seemed a CW or reality-show casting producer had gotten ahold of the movie and was going for the Tiger Beat sort of actors. Pouty-faced young Hollywood, intended to draw in the girls, 10-17, I guess.

If Iron Man and Batman have taught us anything, its that one not only doesn't need to cast young CW network-types, but that fans react much better to adults in these roles (depending on the role. We can go young on, say... Wally West.). A little age can lend superheroes a bit of gravitas that, a show like Smallville has never been able to muster.

I don't have a particular JLA origin story in mind I want to see, but I DO KNOW that for WB to launch a franchise, they need to give the audience a starting point from which to work. And that means an origin story. Not a JLA dysfunctional-family story.


By the way, the rumor (and evidence from the stinger at the end of Iron Man bears this out) is that Marvel is putting out an Avengers movie in a few years. After they've established several characters in their own feature films, starting with Iron Man and continuing on with a Cap movie, etc.... The common thread seems to be Nick Fury meeting with the characters in each of these movies as they're rolled out.

I can't tell you how smart this seems. WB's plan was to put out a JLA movie, and then do spin-off's of various characters. But... if the JLA movie wasn't any good (and it didn't look like it would be) wouldn't that manage to hurt seven potential properties?

Not only does Marvel's formula give each property a chance to get in their unique origin story and set up the characters, the audience will have a built-in affinity for the characters which will make the Avengers movie a near guaranteed financial success. Narratively, the movie also won't have to waste the time necessary to introduce characters, give them some special plotline, etc...


Just think of those Rock and Roll Hall of Fame jam sessions where you see all those guys rocking out, and even some of them you don't know... and even if they're playing some song you don't like all that much, its still cool to see Elvis Costello, Sting, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen and all sorts of other folks all sharing a stage. You know each of them individually pretty well, and even if you don't love, say, Tom Petty... you can maybe respect him a bit more just because he's sharing the stage with these other guys you DO like.

And, man, I think Marvel knows how to do this pretty well from their comics, so the chances of a decent movie are already pretty darn good, if they produce through the newly established Marvel Studios.

Really, what CAN'T Warner Bros. and DC learn from this?

Each of these guys could probably carry two or three movies on their own

DC would do well to begin introducing the Original 7, or at least several of the Original 7 in their own movies FIRST. They don't necessarily need a through-line like Nick Fury to pull them together. But why water down the concepts by forcing them into a JLA movie for their first appearance, and muck up what could be a pretty good feature film for that property before its ever seen the light of day?

There's a rumored Green Lantern movie in the works. Its only at the script stage, but its got pretty decent writing talent attached with Marc Guggenheim (who does movies, TV and comics). Its supposed to be a Hal Jordan origin story, which is a good sign. Supposedly they're also talking about a Green Arrow movie, but that's rumored to be based on the formerly abortive script called "SuperMax" which was about a super-villain prison. And didn't touch on GA's origin at all.

And... there have been rumors of casting for another Superman movie (for some love interest, I believe).

So... get these movies out there. Give the DCU some time to breathe. Unlike Marvel, who has seen success with Spidey and other non-Avengers, the DCU has the advantage that their big guns are now (or have at some point) been in the JLA. Whatever they build on now with their movies COULD build right into a JLA movie.

We'll see.

Two last things:

1) The failure of a single JLA movie translates to potentially killing 20 movies or so. If 3 movies could be made for each member of the JLA, plus, say, 3 JLA movies... that's a lot of movies which one failed JLA movie could potentially screw up.

Now, I live in a life pretty muddied with delusion, but I do think that we're talking about at least ten other, non-JLA movies. A few Supermans, Batmans, GL's alone come out to 9 movies. Surely a WW movie is possible. So... you do your own math.

2) If the producers are worrying about the budget for a JLA movie, they're missing the point of the JLA. The JLA is huge. But, mostly, they need to pick up some Morrison-era JLA comics to see what epic storytelling in the JLA can really mean. Or, possibly, something like Ross's "Justice", or "JLA: Liberty and Justice".

Don't think Superfriends, think "The Right Stuff". Think "Superman: The Movie" times 7.

I'm just saying.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Accessibility in Comics

I just want to make sure you guys understand that the column below is an opinion. I sincerely believe a lot of what I say below. I don't think this is controversial, but in the comics-blogosphere, there are certain elements of "common wisdom" about comics that people accept as fact.

One of these issues is the inaccessibility of comics.

The slippery slope here is that there just isn't much in the way of fact and statistics to hang onto when expressing an opinion or making a point about comics fandom, etc... So this post was actually a bit hard for me to put together with little in the way of data to pull from.

Anyway, its an opinion. And its not based on any particular evidence, other than a trend I've been seeing at Newsarama and other trafficked websites.

Since I have no data, I'd really like to hear your opinions in the comments section. If I'm way off base, I'm way off base. But I'd at least like to challenge this particular notion of "accessibility".

Comics, as an industry, are not in a great financial position. Top selling comics usually sell around 100,000 copies. I'm at a loss for what the "mean" might be for comic sales, but comics from the Big 2 (Marvel and DC) start facing cancellation in the 20K range and lower. To put it in perspective, some of the lowest rated TV shows on network TV (NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox and CW) are pulling in around 2 million viewers (Example: The Pussycat Dolls present: Girlicious). Or, roughly, 100 times the number of people buying that issue of Blue Beetle, which is only movinga round 20K per month.

The Problem

After the 1940's and 50's, when titles sold in the millions annually, the common wisdom surrounding why comics go mostly unread these days is that comics are "inaccessible". It should be noted that this inaccessibility is believed to exist despite the $100 million opening weekends for movies like Iron Man (whose comic of the same name sold 38,000 copies in April 2008).

The definition of "accessibility" in comic blogging parlance is (I guess): the complication a reader may experience while attempting to become engaged in a superhero comic narrative. This complication may be due to the intricate nature of a storyline and character(s) who have amassed considerable back story, which the reader may feel they need to know before engaging the current story in its full capacity.

So the problem may be seen as: Comic superhero narratives extend over years, and, in many cases, decades. So that if Sally Newreader picks up an issue of, say Iron Man, the world she would encounter with a single issue's read would be SO MINDBOGGLING that she would give up on Iron Man, and (perhaps) comics forever.

Narrative Complexity

The truth is that comics DO have ongoing narratives. Picking up any single issue of a series might drop you mid-stream into a story, and there's no guarantee the reader will feel they have adequately caught up by the end of the issue. Add in the idea that any single issue of Iron Man is but a peek into a character who has been around since the early 60's, which has been a part of a larger universe since that same time, with dozens of comics released each month defining that universe... and all the characters that have appeared in that series, and all of the storylines which have appeared... And, technically.... yes. It could be seen as a bit daunting to jump into a comic on the strength of one issue.

Just who is reading these things?

I think its important to understand who comprises the comic audience. DC and Marvel don't really go out of their way to hype their marketing research, but a few stats I've seen suggest that the audience is HUGELY male, and in their 20's or older. One report stating the audience was 90% male, and respondents were an average age of 29 (29!). Johanna had some words of wisdom on the issue about a year ago.

This is in sharp contrast to the audience which was believed to consume comics from the 1930's - 1970's and the rise of the comic fan movement (if you'll pardon the expression) which began the change in demographics.

Today's superhero reader is most likely a male, much older than the school children of years past. My guess is that they have been reading comics for many years, and that they have specific characters and titles which they follow. Although, increasingly, readers will move from title to title to follow a writer and/ or artists.

Where can I get these funnybooks?

Its also, I believe, key to understanding the accessibility of comics to understand where comics are available and the cost of a single issue of a comic. Comics are now available in the traditional format (20 pieces of paper folded and stapled together) almost exclusively in specialty retail shops. These comics now cost around $3.00 a pop. To make my point, the spinner racks in the magazine aisle are now long gone. Comics are no longer distributed through the same channel as magazines. Instead, a single distribution company holds a monopoly, and they work almost exclusively with the small retailers of comic shops (there are no big, nationwide chains of comic stores.).

In short, the point of physical access for readers and comics has all but evaporated. When Marvel and DC decided to quit competing for space on the newsstand, they made a decision to become a product for boutique retailers. This decision was either consciously, or unconsciously made to keep kids out of the equation. But...

Kids = new readers

new readers = growth (or at least a sustainable business model)

A trip down memory lane...

Returning to the idea that comics are inaccessible, I have only my own recollections, and the anecdotes of a few other folks to go by.

My first issue of Uncanny X-Men (a series of which I have 172 issues) was issue 210. It occurred between two well known storylines, the conclusion of the Rachel Summers/ Phoenix/ Selene storyline and was one issue before the Mutant Massacre. I had no idea what a mutant was, who this "Rachel" person was, what battle occurred that everyone was so worried about, or what was going on. But I was hooked. And I think 172 issues speaks pretty well for how devoted I became until the post-Claremont flailing.

I also started reading Batman comics right before the notorious "Dial in and kill Robin" stunt. I really didn't understand who this second Robin was, what his background might be, how he related to Batman, or what the past 45 years of Batman comics were like. But I was similarly fascinated.

So what...?

Question #1: The question, then, is: Do adult readers, coming to a shop for a specific purchase and more entrenched feelings regarding brand loyalty, etc... truly find new comics inaccessible, or do they simply not find new concepts and comics worth exploring?

Question #2: Are kids and their natural sense of exploration a more apt audience for the endless mythologies of mainstream comic superheroes?

My opinion is that it's not a clear cut answer. New series rise and fall, just as they once did on the newstands. But the audience is just so much smaller with comics unavailable to the general public.

The argument I would make is that the narrative of comics is not what is keeping NEW READERS away. The barrier seems more likely to be the limited availability of comics due to the boutique nature of comic shops. Add in the price point, which many may find a bit steep, and its a tough sell.

Won't someone think of the children...?

And, geez... You're going to need those kids. Find a way to reach them. And, for the love of Wertham, make sure the content isn't going to sink the industry. Johnny DC is a GREAT start (seriously, I love the Johnny DC titles). But also get the other stuff out there, too.

But unless those comics end up in the candy aisle or in the toy section at Target, I have no idea how kids are going to find them. Moms aren't taking their 8-year-old to the comic shop, and it seems like there's a market here.*

For those sad, unsatisfied fanboys...

I have no answer. I have my suspicions. I don't think adult readers, already invested in a number of titles are likely to be willing to expend either money or energy to uncover the mysteries of, say, Iron Man in the way they might have done at age 11 when first getting into superhero comics.

From the comments I've seen, it does seem that there's a rush to condemn event comics such as Final Crisis for not sticking to some indefinable simplicity out of a Universe in which many of the commenters have seemingly never before taken interest. I'm not sure how to solve that accessibility gap. In some ways, it seems, someone new to superhero comics would be at an advantage. They would not assume they should have all a priori knowledge, and write off concepts they might not immediately recognize as "inaccessible".

As per most other titles... unless you're talking Morrison's Doom Patrol or Invisibles, accessibility into the worlds of each title isn't a huge issue. Marvel spends a page at the beginning of each issue recapping previous events. DC has a marvelously crafted blurb explaining who each titular character is on the title page.

In my opinion, things seem complicated not because they actually ARE that complicated, but because the readers feel its easier to pass judgment rather than actually checking out the series (as a Superman nut, I'm particularly sensitive to this issue). But could anything be more convoluted than a team-book like X-Men? Or a character like Batman, managed by how many creative teams across how many comics? And still these comics sell okay to the existing fanboy audience.

When I was a kid...

As I mentioned, my first issue of Uncanny X-Men was issue 210. Today, my run begins with issue 169.

My point being: Yes, X-Men had a complicated past, running 209 issues before I tapped into the X-Universe. And in those days, in order to get the back story, I had to talk Karebear into driving me down to Austin Books so I could pillage their back-issue bin. There weren't trades in the 80's. But, even as a kid, I didn't feel that I needed to start from the beginning. Instead, if issue numbers were referenced, I saved my pennies and went looking for the back-issues.

It wasn't "inaccessible", it was something to uncover. And, honestly, its sort of how I feel about Superman comics these days. Nothing like doing a victory dance because you stumbled across a beat up comic featuring the first appearance of Parasite (again, thanks, Austin Books!).

So in conclusion...

I don't buy the "inaccessibility" argument. Maybe for some, limited titles. But I certainly don't buy it for most of the mainstream DCU or Marvel U titles. To me, it sounds like an excuse. After all, the audience got into comics at some point. Often as children. And while I do honestly believe today's superhero comics are more sophisticated than those of the 70's and 80's (and much of the Image-tastic 90's), I don't believe that literate adults really find the 22 page floppies impenetrable.

What I do believe is that the readers simply lack the switch which once turned them on to new ideas, new characters, etc... that aren't part of the superhero comics with which they're already familiar.

In my opinion, making those comics accessible is part of the fun. Good writing in current issues has often made me want to learn more. And, today, its easier to do so than ever with collections, Marvel's Digital Comics, well-timed re-prints, etc... But... I think more often than that, good writers also don't assume readers will know everything and give the readers what they need to know. The problem comes when a assumption is made that the knowledge is there by poor writing.

That said, the comics exist within SHARED UNIVERSES. Event comics do sell well, and are probably good for not just the strength of the companies, but as a reminder to writers that their comics and characters don't exist in a bubble. To suggest that comics referring to the shared universes and their complexity shouldn't exist is asking the the Big 2 to give up on one of the most exciting parts of what makes these universes great.

*Have you stood in the toy aisle at Target? Literally half the folks are NOT shopping for the kid who is with them, but for a present. How easy would it be to sell comics as a cheap substitute for a toy to some kid pouting because he's not getting a Transformer? Especially when your comic ties into the toys on that same aisle...

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

How The League Views the Election...


Anybody have any ideas for topics for posts? Anything I can do here I haven't done of late? I'm feeling a bit tapped out.

The girls at League HQ

...they stick together

Lucy decides to join Jamie for a nap

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

ACL Fest 2008 - seriously ACL Fest?

The ACL Fest has already released their schedule for this year's Festival. And... its looking a little bleak for The League.

Last year there were some conflicts on the schedule. This year, it seems like more than half of the bands I was planning to see are playing at the same time, which means half the money I spent on a ticket is going to waste.

I just saw Austin Super Music Geek Andy Langer on News8 essentially making fun of anybody who would take exception to the schedule, and... well... suck it Andy Langer. Not all of us get paid to go to shows, and some of us have to take days off work to go to this thing.

Andy Langer also fails to note that unless you get to the good shows early, you're way in the back, and... bleah. So even when, say, Jenny Lewis starts a little before David Byrne, and, technically you can see both... you're going to miss a good part of David Byrne AND you're going to wind up closer to the beer booths than the stage.

Day 1
Jenny Lewis plays at the same time as David Byrne
And the headliner that night is somebody I've literally never heard of.

Day 2
Black Joe Louis, Robert Earl Keen and Erykah Badu play at the same time
Duffy and Spiritualized play at the same time
But... really... Beck and Robert Plant/ Allison Krause play at the same time. Seriously... wtf?

Day 3
Heartless Bastards, Raconteurs, and Gnarls Barkley at the same time. 3 of the big reasons for me to show up, and... seriously? Does the ACL Fest staff really think there's no conflict for the audience here? When there are so many holes in the schedule for hours at a time?
And the big closing act? The Foo Fighters. A pop band for frat dudes. Well done, ACL Fest. Didn't you guys land Dylan last year?

I am deeply disappointed. There are a few points of minimal conflict in the schedule, such as Gillian Welch and Vampire Weekend playing against nobody else I'd care to see. But, honestly, this is putting a pretty big cloud over the whole thing for me.

I don't really care if it costs more. Next year, I'm not buying tickets until I've seen the line-up and schedule. I've already spent the money for this year, so I'm locked in. But that Raconteurs/ Heartless Bastards/ Gnarls Barkley trifecta is particularly bothersome. As is the lack of big, headlining shows this year (that I care about). And while I'm glad I saw so many new acts last year (and subsequently picked up albums), those were interspersed with bands that I was already happy to see. Less so this year.

I know, I know... I'm old. I may not even be in the right demographic anymore to be who the festival is aimed at. And I don't want to spoil it for Jason before we've even shown up, so I'm going to quit complaining. And I'm not sure I wouldn't have gone to the festival with this info. But I will say I'm not even half as excited about this year's schedule than I was about last year's...

Monday, June 02, 2008

Movie Rewind: Bad Movies

Despite trying to cram in as much fun as possible while in Costa Rica, I did wind up watching the last 3/4's of the first Fantastic Four movie in my hotel room (in English with Spanish subtitles). And its funny, because I remembered being dissatisfied with the movie when it was released, and I believe I grumbled a bit about it here at LoM.

On a second viewing, its worse than I thought. It's typical of the 90's-era takes on superheroes in that the creative team diverted from the formula enough (in this case, primarily with Doom) that it sort of detracts from the whole.

It doesn't help that the movie is really broad and really stupid.

The creative team played the charatcers and situations almost entirely for wackiness and laughs, which would be fine, if the gags were funny. It all sort of feels like someone explained the basics of the FF to a group of amateur night comedians, and let them riff as to the possibilities of each character for slapstick, rather than "what can we do that's new or interesting". And, typical, of 90's era movies, the final act makes no sense what-so-ever.

I place the blame at the feet of director Tim Story, who clearly wanted to exercise his comedic muscles (he directed Barbershop) rather than try to bring the movie up to Spider-Man levels. And, in aiming low, Story achieved his goals.

I also watched Transformers again synched up with Rifftrax (the web-project from the guys who used to do MST3K). And, as displeased as I recall feeling at the time of the initial viewing (I almost walked out), its amazing to see how god-awful the movie is on a second viewing when you aren't sort of dazzled by the gigantic, shiny robots and the promise of Robosaurus. Also, its a bit stunning how terribly Shia LeBouf's character is handled by both Shia and the writers. They seem to be challenging the audience to dislike "Spike" with every scene. All line delivery set to "wacky stammering", and a character who can best be described as a stalker and, worse, eBay re-seller.

Mostly, the script is just dumb. The Transformers take a long, long time to actually appear. There's a complete and unnecessary storyline involving some random Australian girl and Anthony Anderson (never a good sign for your movie when you've involved Anderson). And John Turturro in a career-crippling appearance as some sort of a-hole G-man. Add in the 70's-funktastic (read: black is funny!) stylings of the Autobot known as Jazz, and robots peeing on John Tutturro, and... man.

It seems almost as if no plotline or idea was ever completely scrapped as the movie was assembled. The story of the damn MacGuffin Cube (or whatever its called) is complicated enough. I don't need for Megan Fox to have a backstory (Spike never gets one). Nothing really comes out of the story of the soldiers in Qatar who are moved to the US. And the hackers' storyline ends about 1/3rd of the way into the movie, but they still stick around. Meanwhile, the titular Transformers are given nothing to do.

Its supposed to feel, I think, like an epic disaster movie with all the moving parts coming together in the final reel (think ID4. Wait. Don't do that, either.), but, instead, the mashing of pieces feels like a 2.5 hour trainwreck.

But, worry not, they're filming a sequel. Bumblebee will be back in action soon enough.

I don't often revisit the really bad flicks. I saw them once. That seems to be enough (enough being able to say "yeah, I saw that" when a particularly awful movie is mentioned at work or in a social setting.) But once you begin watching one of these flicks again, its tough not to sit and begin cataloging all of the problems with a movie, and wonder where, exactly, did things go so far off track? How did they decide that Doom, a well defined, Vader-like character, should be redesigned from the ground up into a guy who delivers each line with the bombast of Jerry Seinfeld? Why did they make Jazz the Autobot sort of offensive, and how did that make it to the final cut? Who writes like that? Who, at the studio, green lights something so... dumb?

I also, just FYI, watched part of "Basic Instinct 2", which scored a 7% on Which is still 50% better than I would have guessed, but the polling of top critics does, actually, land it squarely at 3%. The movie seems constructed solely to stroke the ego of Sharon Stone, assuring her that she is good enough, smart enough and sexy enough to get everyone around her to behave in the kowtowing manner of personal assistants and the Hollywood press corps' deferential treatment she somehow still receives despite the fact that nobody really cares about Sharon Stone.

But within the context of the movie, Stone's "mysterious sexiness" is hilarious.

The character of Catherine once again has the personality of a bullying DMV employee mixed with that girl in the dorms who needed attention, so she'd use lots of four-letter words for shock value. And, seriously... Stone just isn't that physically attractive. She sort of falls into that realm of Nicole Kidman, where I just don't get the appeal. It's like going to the mall and hanging out a bit too much around the mannequins.

The movie would probably be laughably bad with the right audience, or if they actually pushed it to the next level with unnecessary nudity and/ or violence. That would be something, at least. Sadly, the proceedings feel plodding and dull, and I didn't see either enough mayhem nor premium-cable worthy nudiness to keep my attention. Characters seem entranced by Catherine Tremmel for no particular reason other than the dictates of the script, and rather than sensibly avoiding someone accused of multiple murders, seem eager to hang out with her. Because, we're told, Sharon Stone is SEXY. and MYSTERIOUS.

Also, the protagonist who falls into Catherine's web-of-deceit is some pale British dude who seems like little more than a walking plot device so Stone can all but twirl a mustache and wring her hands while cackling.

Anyhow, I coudn't finish watching it. Maybe the end vastly improved the whole package?

I like to watch some bad movies. I've seen R.O.T.O.R. twice. But something about big budget, low delivery movies is particularly irksome. It seems with that mush riding on a movie, why not run the scripts and idea past some folks whose careers don't depend on agreeing that Sharon Stone is still red hot, or that jive-talkin' robots (seen in both Transformers and R.O.T.O.R.) aren't full of comedic value. Nor is that "characterization".

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Final Crisis #1

DC Comics' mega-event of 2008 is the Grant Morrison penned "Final Crisis". The first issue hit the stands Thursday, and I picked up the issue Friday.

From what I read, I would never recommend that the issue be taken as an entry-level comic to the DCU. The story is mired in DCU characters and continuity, and asks that readers have been paying attention to recent output from DC, but also picking up key collections as they've been released of late.

None of that is intended as a criticism. At some point, you're either allowed to tell stories for people who have been following along (see: Lost, BSG), or you're stuck in the perpetual cycle of episodic storytelling, where the reader can pop in and it doesn't matter if they're familiar with the concepts and characters before tuning in (see: Law & Order, most police procedurals).

The story actually seems to make events such as the abysmal "Countdown" make some sense, as well as the uncompleted, unnecessary "Salvation Run". It embraces characters from Kirby's 70's run on New Gods, Anthro and Kamandi, while seamlessly embracing recent events in the DCU, such as Johns' introduction of the Alpha Lanterns in Green Lantern. Morrison also plays with some of the toys he created during his mega-series "Seven Soldiers of Victory", and its probably worth returning to your issues or collections of that series to get an idea where he might be headed.

But what I've always enjoyed about Morrison's stories is that, despite the need for our heroes to win, his set-ups don't tell me how the story will unfold in a neat pattern I can consume with the predictability of a McDonald's meal.

Unlike Marvel's competing event "Secret Invasion", "Final Crisis" isn't telegraphing the ending before the story has started. I am picking up both series, and, honestly, compared to last year's "Civil War", I've been a bit let down with Secret Invasion since sometime last fall when Elektra was revealed as a Skrull in "New Avengers".*

I've already read considerable negative noise in the blogosphere on "Final Crisis", and much of it is a reminder of the grim state of the monthly comic. A lot of it seems to bemoan that the reader isn't able to jump into the story with page 1, which seems a bit unfair. Morrison does what he can to provide exposition without recounting 40 years of DCU history.

As I mentioned, I don't think this would be a great first comic to hand to someone, but I also don't think that asking readers to pick up on contextual clues or have the slightest bit of knowledge of the DCU as a comic reader is that tough of a request.

But to address some particular resurfacing internet complaints:

(a) If you have to ask who Dan Turpin is, well, bone up on your Kirby and New Gods reading, or just check Wikipedia. (b) Maybe if the reader continues to follow the series, s/he will be rewarded with knowledge of who characters are and what is going on.

(League special nerdy snark: If some are confused by "new characters"/ obscure characters (gasp!), you might want to note that DC is telegraphing to readers what MIGHT be important in upcoming storylines by what its including in its re-release of older material.)

The art of the issue, by JG Jones, is phenomenal. He seems to have a tremendous ability to meld the mundane and the fantastic, and portray them side by side without either seeming silly (and did you see his Metron?). The coloring is excellent, the rendering and composition top drawer. I've mostly known Jones as a cover artist, but I'll need to do some research and see what titles he's previously handled. It's not the same hyper-realistic style we'd see out of Ross's watercolors, but there's always room at the table for terribly talented artist.

This issue included a lot of what I've found exciting about the DCU. The New Gods, The Question, Green Lanterns... and a history that extends back to the cavemen with Anthro and Vandal Savage, all the way to the 31st Century and beyond. This issue only plants the seeds of what could be a great series, but the pieces are in place. Fallen Gods, Red Skies... Color me intrigued.

I guess the watchword I'd share on Final Crisis is: Patience. Comic nerds can be such an impatient lot, insisting on instant gratification, plotting and pacing be damned. Just get to the fights, and don't ask the reader to work.

It seems the same lack of patience which has marred many reader's experience during the current, phenomenal run on Morrison's Batman (which is taking the better part of two years to come to a head) may also rain on the parade for Final Crisis.

What readers seem to forget is that super-hero comics are often plagued by writers and story lines that start promisingly, but end with a whimper. Look at virtually any 90's era DC cross-over, from "Final Night" to "The Death of Superman", and you'll see potential squandered as the big ideas come out of the gate first, and its all about the writer trying to scramble once they've got the reader's attention. And, honestly, I kind of felt that way about issues 3-6 of Marvel's Civil War (for this reader, the outcome that seemed most logical won out).

So give Final Crisis some time. Give Morrison's Batman some time. And, for God's sake, give All Star Superman its due. We're getting great comics from the guy, and it feels like we're headed to a point where DC has trimmed the excesses of the post-Infinite Crisis DCU and is finding out what really works.

And I think Final Crisis, given time, will define what that will mean for DC Comics for the next few years.

*Really, the story of Secret Invasion, to anyone who'se ever watched TV, should play out as a big superhero slugfest which will involve super-heroes realizing their teams have been infiltated by spies, go through unease that comrades have been aliens/ bodysnatchers/ commies/ what-have-you, and it will all end in a big fight where the heroes team up and push the enemy out into space. It's all very "They Live". With superheroes instead of Rowdy Roddy Piper.

If anyone is interested

Hey, I think I'm going to the Paramount to see "Laura" and maybe "Out of the Past".

The show starts at 7:00. If you're coming, give me a holler. I plan to get there around 6:30 to see what they have for a pre-show.