READER REQUEST FRIDAY (PART TWO)
This week's batch wound up talking about the broad subjects of comic theory, specific comics, and me. That's right; there's one last question all about me down at the bottom.
COMICS IN THEORY
"Lately I've been thinking a lot about issues of piracy (software, media, etc.). In fact I'm currently writing a paper on mp3 piracy.
"In the midst of all this, a question occurred to me: why AREN'T comic books pirated? The technology is there; all you need is a scanner and simple graphics program. With so many comic fans on the internet, it seems like bootlegged comic scans ought to be (proportionately) just as common as mp3s. But to my knowledge this is almost nonexistent. Why..."
He's got a point, folks. We spend all this time ripping MP3s from CDs and downloading new ones from Napster… You could probably do the same with a comic book for about the same space as a longer song. What's holding things up?
Well, I think first and foremost comes the fact that it's just not easy. With a CD, you just throw it in the drive on your computer and push the button. Depending on which program you're using, you don't even have to type in the artist's name and song title. The program does that all for you. Wait while the song plays and you've got a compact little MP3 recording of your favorite song.
With a comic book, it gets a bit trickier. Scanning is a long pain in the ass process. And you'd have to do it 22 times in order to get a comic scanned in. Even if you flattened out the book and had a scanner large enough to do two pages at a time, you're still talking a long while for a decent quality scan. I don't think the file size would truly be an issue. They've done wonderful things with compression technologies these days, and bandwidth is ever growing.
I don't even think it's a matter of readability. True, most people would rather read paper than their monitors. I can understand that and I sympathize with it. But the thought of being able to read comics for free might mitigate against that.
I don't think it's that we're all a more enlightened, copyright-respecting bunch. Take a look at the fan web sites, for example, with collections of cover scans and splash pages free for the downloading. It's just that for now it's a bigger pain than it is worth to copy these things. If comics were issued on CD-ROM, however, look out!
Yannick Belzil wants to know:
"Do you plan to feature online comics?"
If I ever read one that excites me enough, yes. I've discussed a couple here and there in previous columns. Scott McCloud's chess comic was reviewed favorably a while ago, as was J. Torres' Alison Dare. I do try to keep up with ASTOUNDING SPACE THRILLS and BUZZBOY, also. I enjoy those.
Quite honestly, I haven't seen much else to excite me. I've seen a lot of crap and a lot of well-intentioned but unexciting stuff, including the stuff at Reactor.
Yannick finishes, "So, I hope it was a good question, and if not, check out Reactor-mag!"
I do. Every day. I write for them. Check out the DVD commentary on Mondays in "On A Silver Platter." =)
Alamode writes in to ask about Pipeline review guidelines:
"We've seen a lot of reviews from you of late, but I'd be curious to see a column about the standards you use to evaluate a comic, specifically in a checklist type format and with commentary regarding how your standards change given the format (single issue, gn, trade paperback) and type of material involved (horror, sci-fi, superhero, black & white indie). Also of interest would be a description of what you feel would be a perfect comic."
To answer the last point first: Something entertaining. That's all I look for. Different books offer it up in different doses. Some are just pure goofball fun. Others are paragons of virtue for the graphic narrative and sequential art. Others are just well done classic style super-hero slugfests. Others are new and daring. But if I get a charge out of it, I'll like it.
Really, that's all the guidelines I have. My personal preferences lean towards hand lettering over computer lettering and brightly colored books rather than darkly colored ones. Aside from that, it's open season. (Sure, I also prefer smoother linework and stories completed in one issue, but that isn't a necessity.)
I love Carl Barks' Duck work because it's a wonderfully done blend of story and storytelling. His art is amazing; his storytelling is rigid and strong. His stories are often whimsical, often humorous, sometime adventurous and exciting. Too many comics today forget about one or more of those feelings.
I love THUNDERBOLTS for being the best put-together package on the market today. The writers, both Busiek and Nicieza, have been able to maintain suspense, intrigue, curiosities, and mystery through the book's entire run. Mark Bagley's art has actually improved with age, and the coloring is wonderful. It's standard super-hero stuff done with a wink and a nod towards purposefully withheld knowledge.
SAVAGE DRAGON makes no apologies for what it is. It's in your face storytelling with a sense of humor and character. Erik Larsen pulls no punches and isn't afraid to try new stuff, throw old stuff out with reckless abandon and create truly weird situations and characters.
BATMAN ADVENTURES is a throwback towards strong storytelling with superheroes that have morals, and with stories (by Jonathan Peterson) that leave things up to the reader to draw his own conclusions or feelings. Tim Levins' artwork is bold and daring, stark in its simplicity, but exciting in its action.
And I enjoyed FORTUNE AND GLORY as an autobiographical and hilarious look at the workings of Hollyweird.
These books are about as diverse as they come. Production values range from slick paper to plain paper, from black and white to color. But I like them all. I can't categorize anything. I can't develop a scale. I take each book on its own merits.
COMICS IN SPECIFICITY
"1. Frank Miller's return to DARK KNIGHT. Are you excited as hell or could you care less?"
I'm cautiously optimistic. I'm looking forward to it, though, for sure.
And grammatical nit-pick time: It's "couldn't care less." I'm sorry; I've restrained myself lately on this stuff. I'm sure my own columns are riddled with grammatical stupidities, but this is a saying that's fast being bastardized out of its meaning. If one could care less, it would mean that they cared in the first place. By saying you "couldn't care less," that means you don't care at all. That's the meaning you're looking for there.
The scary thing is that I've seen it pop up in comics lately, including THUNDERBOLTS on more than one occasion.
"2. Paul Levitz destroying the first run of LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN #5 because of the "Marvel Douche-bag" (or something) "ad". "
I think it's an over-reaction. Heck, I don't think many people even look at those faked ads in the back. I'm sure I'll get a bunch of mail from people who do now, but I just don't think it's that big a deal. But, hey, at this point it's fairly obvious that DC parents Warner Bros. own some sort of stake in a pre-IPO paper-shredding company. So they keep filling them with stock to be shredded.
The funny thing is that there's an 80 page America's Best Comics special coming out later this year. Included in there are stories from Alan Moore, one of which is being drawn by Kyle Baker. That just screams, "shredder fodder" to me.
In the meantime, check out the latest edition of Rich's Ramblings for some other interesting bits about this whole shredding business.
Ben Herman wants to know about the state of homages in comics today. (He must be ill. Usually, he writes in to complain that villains don't get electrocuted. ;-)
"What are your thoughts on creators such as Alan Moore and Warren Ellis using parodies of the classic DC and Marvel characters in some of their stories? Brilliant, derivative, or somewhere in between the two? "
It doesn't bother me as long as it's not a crutch they come to rely on. They can make some brilliant points with these cheap knockoffs. More power to them. If all the series becomes is an attempt to satire every established comics character they can get their hands on, then it dilutes the point.
I'm also reminded of an editorial Dave Sim wrote a long time ago, which states basically this: You wanna write Batman as you see him, and not the goody two-shoes that DC sees him as? Then create your own cheap knockoff. You get to own him, you can do with him what you want, and you can show your creativity. Why aspire to write a character that you won't be able to control as you wish?
In the instrumental category, John Williams, James Horner, and Franz Liszt get big points from me. Liszt is my favorite classical composer. I love the hard piano sound. Grab yourself a copy of "Totentanz" to see what I mean.
For what it's worth, I rarely listen to anything while writing these columns. I've never been able to write while listening to lyrical music. I can do classical a little better, but sometimes my mind starts to wander and I start paying more attention to the music than the writing. Isn't that counter-productive?!?
NEXT WEEK FOR PIPELINE
I wish I could say I have it all planned out. As usual, I don't. Pipeline Commentary and Review: It's comics at the improv. See if I shine or fall flat on my face again next Tuesday and Friday! (If that isn't award-winning hype, I don't know what is! ;-)