Thursday, August 11, 2005 The League presents: Suggestions for Further Reading
Okay... So, today a comics-related rant. Go about your business if this sounds dull. I understand.
Erik Larsen is the creator of The Savage Dragon and a co-founder of Image Comics. Today, Eric STILL works on Savage Dragon after years and years in the game.
In addition, he's recently become the publisher at Image Comics.
He's now got a column going at ComicBookResources.com called "One Fan's Opinion". I read a lot of comic-based columns, but I gotta say, today Mr. Larsen's column really rang true with me.
The basic idea was:
One of the oddities of the comic fan world (I hesitate to use community in reference to what is essentially a solitary act) is that comic fans are complete jerks to each other.
I assume that the behavior comes from the fact that comic collectors are most comfortable plowing through a pile of comics all by their lonesome, or somehow organizing or cataloguing their collection. Neither of these are particularly social activities and not terribly conducive to building social skills.
That said, how, exactly, can collectors be jerks?
As Larsen points out, there are jerks right at the front line. The very guys who are supposed to be selling you the product you are holding in one hand (with money in the other hand), will tell you the product you're about to buy isn't worth reading. Now, The League spent a glorious year-and-a-half working at a mall record store and is all too familiar with the temptation to shout at customers buying idiotic product. But you know what? Despite the fact I was making $5.25, I managed to rein it in. Sure, occasionally I'd be forced into a position where I had to tell a customer why I hadn't bought the latest Yanni album, but I was usually pretty polite.
The comic shop owners, one would assume, would be more careful about keeping a loyal customer base. I guess being the owners, they are entitled to do whatever they want in their store, but it's astounding how many owners and staff will give you lip as you're handing them money. And, honestly, I don't really try to drum up conversations with comic shop owners, but after a while, it does make you want to consider doing all of your shopping online.
Just as curious is the fellow comic shop patron who takes a look at what you're picking up and makes a snide comment about your selection. Invariably, you look to see what this person is holding and it's a stack of books you wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole. But that's why it's a free market. That's why there's a selection of titles out there for folks to choose from. Making comments that your copy of "Near Naked Warrior Vixen" is somehow superior to my copy of "Old Fashioned Hero Guy" is a pyrrhic victory at best.
I think it's worth noting that the internet has damaged the comic market in three ways:
1) eBay has pretty much meant you can't find good back issues at your local retailer and that if you want something, you're competing with every jerk with a modem on the face of the planet 2) Only now are comic companies realizing that you shouldn't tell every detail of a comic which hasn't been released in order to sell it. Sometimes less is more 3) Message boards are filled with semi-literate, apparently unemployed goons hellbent on name-calling and making wild claims about comics they haven't even read
The comics-related internet is awash in a sea of trolls, each trying to claim that some specific moment in Captain America in 1978 was the pinnacle of the comic story-telling format. Or that Batman hasn't been worth reading since Neal Adams quit penciling the series. It's not just that these guys really liked a specific artist or creator, it's that every other comic before or since is crap, and the creators should somehow be punished.
The groundswell is dissipating now, but two to three years ago, it was decided that superhero comics should all be replaced at Marvel and DC with black and white indie comics, or European comics, and anyone who didn't agree was clearly a moron. That one was fun.
There's a constant argument about why people don't read comics anymore, and it usually centers on "how do we bring in teen-age girls?", a question which answered itself about two years ago with the Manga explosion (which Barnes & Noble and Borders have very successfully capitalized on, I might add). It's usually pointed out that comics used to have all kinds of genres, even from the big two publishers, and the finger of blame is pointed at the publishers that they gave up on romance and cowboy comics. Never once is it mentioned that maybe they quit printing those comics due to low sales. It's also forbidden to suggest that sales may be a bit low because you have to go to a comic shop to buy comics, and most comic shops are like entering a serial-killer's basement. When I see the look of fear on the face of mothers, I know something has gone horribly wrong.
Post-teen Manga readers sort of remind me of Mac Users circa 1997. To use a PC was to be a corporate whore. Anything a PC did, A Mac could do better and faster. Windows machines crash, Macs are rock solid. But at the end of the day, I was comfortable with my PC, it worked fine and it seemed like a good deal. And, of course, Manga fans are in the habit of insisting you broaden your mind and read manga, but shrug off any suggestions that American comics could hold any appeal.
This isn't a judgement call on the virtues of Manga, Leaguers. It's an observation of the conversations one sees online and the evangelical spirit of some Manga readers.
Just FYI: On the obnoxious cale, Manga fans are like a 2 out of 10. The ongoing war between Marvel Zombies and DC Fanboys is @#$%ing ludicrous.
Look, I understand brand loyalty, but even as I push DC comics here, I genuinely do have an affection for a lot of Marvel comics. I read Spidey, some FF, some Cap, Daredevil, The Pulse...
But the war spilled over from the fans grousing at each other to Marvel and DC playing hard-ball with each other. And then, weirdly, it got into the comics themselves. It's now an odd favorite of the competing companies to come up with painful analogs of familiar characters and try to insert them into their own comics. (Actually, Gruenwald probably started all of that with Squadron Supreme). As a reader, for twentyu years I enjoyed the "friendly rivalry" between Marvel and DC, but at the end of the day you knew these guys were going to grab a beer together. Now, well, it's gotten ugly. And who the hell cares about this diva nonsense? It's comic books. Shut up and write a decent story and don't use the analogs unless there's a darn good point to be made.
The fact is, nobody... I mean, NOBODY in the real world knows the damn difference between DC and Marvel. Some people sort of know the Marvel name thanks to the well-placed logo on the Spider-Man movies, but when my co-workers are trying to get hip with their resident comic geek, I get a lot of "So, Marvel's putting out a new Superman movie."
Yes, the companies have different universes and they have different house styles, etc... But it's 2 degrees of separation. It's still people in tights solving problems by clobbering each other.
The most recent surge in unpleasantness has centered around the large events being orchestrated by the Big 2. Marvel has House of M, DC has Infinite Crisis. And a lot of people are just furious about the whole thing. Especially people who haven't picked up a comic by one company or the other in a decade. The argument goes something like "I haven't read a DC Comic since (insert late-80's/ early 90's event), so I checked out (insert Infinite Crisis comic), and it wasn't exactly what I expected and wasn't exactly like the comics in 1987, so (insert expletive here) DC."
Look, your opinion counts, and you obviously didn't like the comic, but... If you haven't ever read a Superman comic since 1939, you vocally hate the character, and then you find the Superman comic you do read to not be what you expected, you don't get to say "Superman was acting out of character." It's that simple.
I think a lot of the desire to place strictures on what can and can't be in comics comes from the fact that comic readers are comic readers because they latched onto some aspect of some comic in their youth, and they're in a constant, uphill battle to reclaim that moment. And rather than accept that comics go on with or without them, finding something new and different can create an uncomfortable level of cognitive dissonance.
The bottom line for The League is that the comics world is a consumer's market. If you don't like something, don't buy it. Vote with your wallets and your feet. Nobody is forcing you to buy something you don't like. There are hundreds of comics published every month from dozens of companies. DC and Marvel may have a stranglehold on Wolverine and Batman, but you're always free to explore both old and new comics you may never have read.
Whether you like it or not, comics are always going to be published that you may not find appealing. You don't stand in line at the grocery store telling someone that Chip a Hoys suck and that you're an Oreo man. Or at least I hope not.
The internet may be a huge pain in the ass in some ways, but it's also given us the comic blogs, news sites and online previews. Sites like "Dave's Long Box", "Return to Comics" and "The Comic Treadmill" (which I need to add to my blog roll) all give me hope and make me know it can be about friendly discussion and a lot of fun. It's not all about name-calling and anonymous posturing.
The League is a firm believer that, within reason, you can do whatever the hell you want to do and enjoy whatever you want to enjoy. If you want to put on a tie and work in an office, groovy. If you want to run away and join Up with People, that's your decision. It doesn't effect me one way or another. And so it should be with your selection of reading materials.
Comics can and should be the same way, especially with as small of an audience that comics really have. Reading comics is and can be fun. And it doesn't need to be all about sitting in your hidey hole bagging and boarding your run on Ambush Bug. It's nice to have a fun discussion every once in a while.
It's an uncivilized world to begin with, the least comic fans can try to do is show a little courtesy to one another.
I really liked Players. Sure, everything there was deepfried, even the soda cups, but the food was palatable, and selecting it as a destination was a surefire way to get Shoemaker to agree to have lunch with you.
11:59 PM |
So I haven't been online in a while. Sorry about that.
Monday night I was sick and in bed by 8:00pm. I have no idea what was wrong with me. It may be something is going around the office, but I'm not sure. Anyway, no blogging when I'm asleep.
Tuesday night I was preoccupied, and that brings us to tonight.
Well, not so much preoccupied tonight, and I feel fine (for a guy who ate McDonald's for dinner). I am a bit down, however. My PC at work got the blue screen of death and it's deader than a doornail. Luckily I backed all my docs up to DVDs last week in an unrelated incident. I'm supposed to be getting a new Latitude PC, but it's going to take a while, so in the meantime I'm stuck using a computer which isn't mine. It just happens to be that the laptop I'm using doesn't have a DVD drive. Which means, you guessed it, I can't use my files.
Ugh. It's really depressing.
Watched part of the Peter Jennings 2-hour, commercial-free tribute on ABC tonight, and part of me was wondering when, exactly, ABC started producing this thing. Jennings just died over the weekend. I've worked in video production. Even with several people working simultaneously, I find it enormously surprising that the special wasn't pre-produced to some extent. It's a morbid thought, but one is forced to consider the idea that ABC started working on this documentary the minute Jennings announced he had cancer.
This morning, for various reasons, I didn't go into work until almost 11:00. This meant that I was at home watching Headline News while eating my Cheerios during normal working hours. Now, after the re-vamp of Headline News back around 2000, I sort of quit taking Headline News seriously. I miss the format of Lynne Russell staring into the camera for hours on end and reading AP releases.
So, I can't tell you how irritated and disillusioned I've become with the NEW Headline News. The primetime hours during which I used to watch are now filled with two shows (shows? On Headline News?) One show is Showbiz news, officially throwing CNN in with E! network and Entertainment Tonight and lowering the collective IQ of the country. The other show is Nancy Grace, and the less said about that lunatic, the better.
One wonders what they would do if we had a war on. Wait....
This leaves about 18 hours a day for news. News which is about 30% entertainment news, and mostly reported by spokesmodels with very nice hair.
And this is where I get back to Peter Jennings and why I shall miss him.
This morning Headline News was covering President Bush's signing of the new transportation bill (a bill which I have no opinion of, and could honestly care less), and part of the story centered around a lot of pork added to the bill as riders benefitting local rep's districts, etc... Of course, it was mentioned that there were "critics of the bill", but no party affiliation or names were named. However, it WAS mentioned that "critics of the bill" felt that there was a lot of pork on the bill.
At the conclusion of the story, CNN News Bunny Kathleen Kennedy rolls her eyes and says "there's always critics". And not in a "ha ha, there's always someone out there who doesn't like something" sort of way. It was pretty clear that Ms. Kennedy is just sick and tired of all these people who keep bugging the President.
Dear Kathleen Kennedy:
Your job is to read the teleprompter, look grave when discussing death and smile as we go to commercial. Try not to @#$% it up.
The reason we call journalists "The 4th Estate" isn't because it sounds awesome (because it sort of does), it's because in a world of shady bastards posing as electable do-gooders, we're lucky enough to live in a country where the press got it's groove on by taking pot shots at the shadier dealings of the elected shady bastards. It has long been expected that political decision makers are kept in check not just by the 3 branches of government, but by our belief that citizens (journalists) can peer into a transparent government and question decision making.
I'm a firm believer that journalists are supposed to be making waves and looking for corruption and vice. Despite party affiliations, journalists should be responsible for covering a story in its entirety, including voices of dissent. And they should be able to try to reporty upon the facts without editorial comment. If the facts of what they're trying to report on aren't enough, then the story doesn't stand on it's own.
I'm not sure I mourn just Peter Jennings, but the Edward R. Murrow school of journalism. It's not enough that the major networks are going to continue to slash the budgets of their news agencies in the face of the 24-hour news channel. But the big three knew they weren't just serving one political side of the fence or the other, they made an effort to stick to straight-forward reporting for the entire country.
All journalists are guilty of selecting stories which slant to their point of view. But that shouldn't change the fundamental nature of the journalist's job. Having a point of view is human nature, but it's also why we have editors and editorial boards. And it's also why journalists should try to be twice as hard on politicians with whom they feel they can support.
We're now getting our news from talking heads whose greatest aspiration was NOT to be a journalist, but to be a face on television. With the same pie of money cut into a million slices, journalistic ethics and standards are a liability in the battle for audience share. After all, news and anchors that match and reinforce preconceived notions rather than challenge the common wisdom turn out to be a big draw. Especially when they paint opinion and spin as unvarnished truth.
In any event, the role of an anchor shouldn't be to hear a news story and then dismiss part of the story out of hand because they don't find it convenient. Try not to look like you just rolled out of bed, read your teleprompter and go home. Collect a pay-check every two weeks. Your job is pretty simple.
And before everyone comes down on me like a ton of bricks saying that I wouldn't be saying this if I agreed with Kathleen Kennedy, I most assuredly would. It's the same reason I don't get my news from Al Franken, and I try to get my news from wire reports instead of television to begin with.
I know I'm in the minority, but I'd gladly pay extra for a cable news channel which did nothing but go back to Headline News' original format. Give me Lynne Russell and thirty minutes of the same stories in rotation all night long. I'm up for that.
I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it any more.
8:53 PM |
Monday, August 08, 2005
Ah, the studios just can't help themselves.
The trailer is now up for the theatrical release of V for Vendetta.
Peter Jennings was a favorite of mine of the big three. He cemented this standing during his steady coverage of the events of September 11th, 2001.
An excellent newsman. TV news is a poorer place without him.
10:13 PM |
The League Presents: The League taste-tests the new BK Chicken Fries
Chickens. Small barnyard birds we like to consume by the bucketfull.
We grill them, we broil them, we fry them up. McDonalds took the lead in chicken reprocessing with the introduction of the chicken nugget way back in the day. Other fast food chains have tried to keep up, all with middling success.
But Burger King has taken it up a notch. Enjoy french fries? Enjoy chicken? Why not enjoy both in one greasy little package?
Perhaps you've seen the BK adds with the chicken-themed metal band, KoqRoq? Well, I'm a bitch for good advertising, and so off to the BK voyaged The League.
Oh, a forwarning. I do not have mouth herpies. I had a weird zit near my lip today and it shows a lot more in these photos than in natural light.
Here is our meal. You can see 2 drinks, 2 sets of regular french fries, 2 burgers and 1 box of BK Chicken Fries. We're anticipating not liking the chiken fries, but we don't think that means we should go hungry.
Here is a box of chicken fries. On the off-chance they're really, really good, we spent a few extra cents and got 9 fries instead of 6.
Not a good sign. You can pretty clearly see the grease lining the box. The fries are smaller than I expected.
In the spirit of the Pepsi Holiday challenge, we tried to pose Jeff near the chicken fries. Jeff refused to recognize the fries as food. True, he doesn't care much for people food as a rule, but when it's deep fried beyond recognition, Jeff would rather play with the straws on the cups.
Jamie steps up to the plate to model the fries and give you a size comparison.
One must always first smell the new food item to get the taste buds ready for that which you are about to consume. The box does little to mask the odor which has been tailing us since we grabbed the bag at the drive-thru.
Free of the box, the fries' pungent smell assaults the senses. Not as bad as I'd assumed.
Taste. The chicken fries aren't as bad as I'd assumed at first. It's an odd blend of fast-food chicken, french fries and grease. It's tempting to add salt, but I'd be afraid that the chicken fries would dissolve like slugs.
The texture is sort of mushy. Not melt in your mouth mushy like french fries. You certainly do need to chew. Ah, delicious.
The sauce. The name of the sauce is "Buffalo Sauce". Jeff, once again, is completely uninterested.
The color is frightening, as if plucked right from the palettes of hell. The smell isn't anything to get excited about, either.
The smell is really getting to me. Every fiber of my being tells me not to taste this sauce.
My fiber is right. The sauce is inedible. There's some vague sense that it was supposed to be wing sauce, and one is left wondering "why"? The fries have not the taste, texture or feeling of wings, and there's no beer in sight. The buffalo sauce is a false promise made all the more foul by tasting like special sauce with sick in it.
And so endeth my experience with the sauce.
Once again, Jamie steps up to the plate.
Jamie has a very, very different reaction to the fries.
Jamie chooses a different lunch.
Bwah ha ha. the fries are mine and mine alone.
Full disclosure, with a whooper w/ cheese and chicken fries both available, I opted for the whopper. I would think that would tell you something. Also, the fries found their way into the trashcan right behind the sauce. Once the fries cooled down, they just weren't as palatable.
The League votes the chicken fries experience a 3 or 4 out of a 10 on the fast food scale. Oh, and a complete abomination to all of chicken kind.
12:28 PM |