ComicsGeek, LiteraryGeek

History: Unwritten(Work in Progress)

Ambition is a good thing. Only by tackling new challenges can we truly discover where our limits truly lie.

Recently I decided to dive into a new project. My own attempt at a Web Comic.

The entire thing is daunting. Written by me. Drawn by me. Entirely produced by me. Everything lays at my feet.

I am both excited by this endeavour and utterly terrified. One moment I am invigorated by the art and concepts I am bringing to life. The next I worry that I am about to do a tremendous faceplant for all the world to see.

The idea came from a picture I found on social media. The text was simple:

‘What if the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs was an UFO…

And we were the Aliens?’

I will be honest one of the big draws for me is the best chance I will ever have to draw a cowboy dinosaur riding a mastodon. But there is more.

It may be my one chance to create my very own comic. My opportunity to display my own work to all the world.

I am still working out the details on how many installments this story will be told over. My initial thought is using single pieces of art to tell the story of each chapter. That may change. For now I simply have the beginning…

History: Unwritten

‘History, they say, is written by the victors…

History lies.’

 

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#WhoSpeaksForTheGingers

Comic Books are a unique form of art. They are the best of sequential storytelling. In novels a writer paints a picture, in comics artists fill in the blanks. They show you what this character or that looks like. Those depictions matter. In novels you have more wiggle room.

In recent years there has been an effort to create more character diversity in the world of comics. In years past that was not always the case. Diversity got a token response from the industry. Now there is a concentrated effort to do better. With varying success.

The upcoming Iron Fist TV series has opened another can of worms in this conversation. There are those who have complained about the actor who was chosen to portray Danny Rand/the Iron Fist. Let us ignore the fact that he seems to fit nicely in the way that Iron Fist has been portrayed since his arrival in May of 1974. For over forty years Danny Rand has been the Iron Fist, in those years he has always been portrayed as a blond-haired, Caucasian man. Apparently that is not good enough for some. These individuals feel he should be portrayed by an actor of Asian decent(ignoring the simple fact that this would go against the entire premise of the character). I am sure those that feel this way have rational reasoning for this and frankly…I do not care.

This column is not about Iron Fist. This is about the thought that you create diversity by changing the race or gender or sexual preference of characters that have been around forty, fifty years.

It does not work that way. Anyone who thinks it does has the horse around backwards.

‘Who Speaks For The Gingers?’

Gingers? I know…what the hell is he talking about now? I mention Gingers because several characters that have had their race changed have been Gingers-Wally West and Jimmy Olsen(at least the TV version of Olsen) also it seems sad that one of the greatest minorities(Gingers may not be around a century from now-red hair is a recessive gene) may soon be eliminated from our comic books. Soon we may be down to only Guy Gardner. So whenever the issue of race-bending comes up I ask: Who speaks for the Gingers?

In my mind’s eye changing long-standing characters races does not create diversity. It steals the memory from fans of these characters. It changes history. And frankly in my opinion some of these characters you are changing do more for diversity than their pale shadows ever will. Wally West certainly did. Under the pen of Mark Waid, Wally as the Flash had one of the most ethnically and progressive casts in comics. Wally was middle America and his friends and family were anything but.

Diversity is important but diversity for the sake of diversity is not the way to go. There is a better way. Create new characters. Simple. New. Characters.

Write what you know and who you know. Expand the horizons of our comics by expanding the cast, not by changing those we have. It can be done. Look at Ms Marvel, look at Miles Morales.

I have heard the arguments before. It is difficult to create lasting new characters. Some creators do not want to give their best to Marvel and DC if they cannot keep some ownership.

Both are valid. Wanting to keep your own characters is understandable. Someday perhaps DC and Marvel will do a better job compensating creators for their work…we are not there yet.

As far as it being hard. That is weak sauce. Anything worthwhile is hard. Do the work. Put your heart and soul into it. Do not cower and hide because it is difficult.

And if it is important to you it will be good and people will respond.

 

 

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ComicsGeek, LiteraryGeek

We Are Legion

Another day and another conversation. And it leads me back to this column from way back when.

So this column came from a conversation I had with some friends over twitter. Actually it began after I read an interview with Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis.

Interview: Giffen and DeMatteis, another LEAGUE and LARFLEEZE

What prompted me to read the interview you ask? It was Giffen and DeMatteis…seriously you need more. They are bloody brilliant. Even if they did not give us an absolutely inspired take on Justice League and bring Blue and Gold together for the first time-Keith Giffen has long been connected to the Legion of SuperHeroes. That was more than enough for me.

The important part (for me at least) was this:

“This way when — because it is ‘when’ — DC will relaunch the Legion of Super Heroes eventually”

That was a direct quote from Keith Giffen and if I trust anyone talking about the Legion it is Mr. Giffen. Of course at the time they were talking about their new project Justice League 3000, but the Legion comment is what mattered to me.

Then came the conversation with @777DAMM and @JanArrah over in the twitterverse, follow them you will thank me.

It ranged over elation over the prospect of the Legion returning and the skepticism over how it would be handled.

More than any other comic book property the Legion seems to regularly suffer from changes that take place in the main universe. The Legion has been rebooted so many times it is difficult to know where a new book would start from, what pieces of the universe would be included and what parts and characters would pass into memory.

The biggest thing I took from the conversation was the realization that we all came at our fandom from different times, different points in the history of the Legion. Starting in different times gives us different perspectives, different things about the Legion that we love in our own ways. If I could see that from a conversation with two other people imagine trying to create a Legion for a hundred or thousands of people.

As fans we often believe these characters, these stories belong to us. We sometimes forget we don’t own them. Everyone does. We may not like the new version of the Legion but is it not better than not having them at all. The task is not easy. There is an abundance of history-but then if you have been around for sixty years and you don’t have history I have to ask: What have you been doing all this time..?

The job of creating a new Legion that will appeal to new and old is a big job and an important one. The Legion has been around since April of 1957 beginning with Adventure Comics #247. Why is that important?

The Legion predates the Avengers, the Justice Leagues, the Teen Titans and yes even the X-Men. Great creators have come from the Legion: Mike Grell, Jim Shooter, Dave Cockrum, Paul Levitz, Giffen, Oliver Coipel, Jim Starlin and even Francis Manapul. Someday soon another creator will step in with his vision for the future.

That vision is the important thing. It’s the future, not some horrifying dystopian future but one of hope. That is what the Legion has always been about hope and family. The belief that when they come together good people can do great things and there will always be a tomorrow.

The Legion is the bedrock for which that future will stand. Until that day…

Long Live the Legion.

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Christopher Reeve is Superman

We now live in a renaissance of super-hero movies, two or more movies a year is common place. This was not always the case. In 1978 the first of the big screen super-hero movies would arrive. Superman: The Movie.

I happened to catch it on TV the other night, it still holds up. Yes, it is a little cheesy but that is ok. It has heart and a sense of hopefulness.

And it has Gene Hackman being a bucket full of awesome as usual. (Love Hackman, just love him.)

Most importantly though it had Christopher Reeve. For many, myself included, Christopher Reeve was Superman. He was the Superman we grew up on and he was the Superman we think of when someone mentions the movies. Yes other actors have played the part. George Reeves, Dean Cain, Brandon Routh, to the current actor Henry Cavill. They each brought something to the role but we keep returning to Reeve.

Christopher Reeve is Superman, emphasis on the ‘man’.

That is where some writers and filmmakers lose me. They get distracted by the incredible power of Superman that they forget about the man-part. Reeve is corny as you can get but it works. You absolutely believe that he was raised in Kansas and you believe that he could fly. If you were an all-American kid from Kansas who could fly you would be a little corny too. There is the gravitas that comes from such powers, but there is also the joy.

It often comes down to nature-versus-nuture. Yes Superman is a Kryptonian with fantastic powers, but he was raised on a farm in Kansas. This is no stranger in a strange land. Kansas is his home not Krypton. He is so human and you see that in Reeve’s portrayal. There is humour, but more important there is humanity.

Watching that first movie I remember what made so many love the character of Superman but more importantly his better half Clark Kent. Kal El is not the super one, it is always Clark.

The powers do not make him a hero but his humanity.

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ComicsGeek

Bruce Wayne is Batman

Bruce Wayne is Batman.
Peter Parker is Spider-Man.
And Clark Kent is Superman.

It really is not that difficult to understand is it? Ask anyone on the street who is Batman or Spider-Man or Superman those are the answers you will get. Yet every so often some writer or editor will think ‘hey I have a great idea let’s put someone else in the Bat-suit. It will be great, everyone will love it.’

No. No they won’t. The majority of us simply wait for Bruce or Peter or Clark to be back. It is not about being resistant to change it is about the hero and the man being one and the same.

I have written before…Superman without Clark is simply not so ‘Super’ there is something missing. Without the man within, with all his all-too human failings, these heroes are not so heroic.

In the name of change, or more recently diversity Marvel and DC seem to want us to accept different characters in long time heroes roles. Miles Morales as Spider-Man, Sam Wilson(Falcon) as Captain America, even Jim Gordon as Batman…these are well-built characters let them have their own identities do not steal someone else’s.

Then you have the practice of flat-out changing a hero’s race or sex in the name of diversity. Yes the new Thor has been written(and drawn) incredibly well but that is the exception. Usually it is heavy-handed and poorly executed. The new mixed race Wally West is the perfect example. You took a wonderful ginger(a minority on its own) who had done more for diversity than most under the skilled writing of Mark Waid and cast him aside. And for what to say that you had a more ethnically diverse superhero cast?

Here is a novel proposal: rather than take heroes that have been around for my lifetime(forty-plus years) and change them…why not create new heroes of every race, sex and all the diverse experiences that populate this planet of ours. Create new characters just do not stand on the bones of the old. Is that too much to ask.

Bruce Wayne is Batman. We will wait. He will be back.

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ComicsGeek, MovingPicturesGeek

The Attack of the 50-foot Trailers

Avengers: Age of Ultron comes out May 1st. It marks the beginning of the blockbuster movie season. Blockbuster movies mean trailers.

I love trailers. I always get to the movies early so I can see each and every trailer. Even if somehow the movie disappoints at least I get to salivate over movies coming soon.

Recently the studios have released the first trailers for both Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.

These releases should be met with excitement and a sense of wonder. Maybe I am simply a glass half-full kind of guy. These little glimpses of what the future holds give me hope for great movies to come. That is not the case for everyone.

I saw people criticizing the trailers. Holding up these trailers as evidence for how these movies will suck, how they will disappoint.

When did we become so cynical as a society?

It seems more and more that supposed fans just want a reason to hate and complain about any new movie, new story.

Some simply fondly remember past versions of these franchises. There is so much joy these franchises have given us. That does not mean the new versions cannot give us great epic stories. We simply need to allow them the chance.

So with the trailers for Star Wars, Batman vs Superman and whatever the next trailer we are treated to I only look to the future. I look to the great possibilities they hold within them.

While we cannot go back to our youth and discover these things again, we can take the blinders off and find the wonder we have lost.

Bring on the Trailers…

 

 

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Guardians of the Galaxy-buncha losers…

A talking raccoon and a tree walk into a bar…

I was sold on this movie from the get go. Not from the first scenes, not even from the first trailers they released. But from the very first I heard that the movie was being made. They had me from the word go.

When it was announced the Guardians of the Galaxy would star a walking tree of few words and a sarcastic raccoon many were beyond skeptical. Me, I thought it was brilliant. Yes I already had some familiarity with the characters, even without that I loved it.

It is fun. That is all. Fun. Too often movies miss out on that element of film-making, the joy.

What brought me in was not that we had another superhero movie, it was that it was a space hero movie. From Star Wars to Star Trek and beyond I love sci-fi and space movies. I cut my teeth on Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers on TV in the early eighties. More recently I found unending joy in Firefly and Farscape (one of the best sci-fi series ever), even if both series ended before their time.

There are no true superhero movies. You just have movies staring superheroes. It is that simple. Whether it is a cop movie or fantasy or action-adventure story, simply add a superhero and you have your superhero movie.

What made this awesome was taking superheroes and putting them in space. All the questions about realism go out the window, because you are already taking a leap of faith setting it in a far corner of the galaxy.

Guardians did a wonderful job of introducing unknown characters(to most of the audience) in short order. Even better it let you care about them. Yes it was heavy on the laughs, even in the face of danger. That is ok too. It is human, even if the characters are not.

Even after we get used to the jokes they managed to turn it around and shine a light on what loss these characters have suffered. Star Lord was taken from his home as a child, Gamora tortured and turned into a weapon by her adoptive father, Drax’s family was slaughtered, Rocket did not ask to be made and remade and experimented on. Groot is the purest of these characters. The best friend of Rocket he only speaks two sentences in the whole movie: “I am Groot” over and over again, and towards the end of the movie “We are Groot”. Groot had found his family. In the end they discover that they are each others family.

We all have been losers at one point or another. As Rocket said, “We all have dead people”. They come together because they are losers, people who have lost.

We could all learn something from these losers.

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