Friday, January 13, 2012

Action Comics


This comment got me into full honking mode:
srp has left a new comment on your post "Regarding What Has Gone Before and a Modest Propos...":

With regard to the earlier discussion of writing and decompression (much of which I agree with), I would like to emphasize a particular pet peeve about modern superhero comics: Lousy action sequences.
To me, action sequences in a superhero comic are like musical numbers in a musical or fight scenes in a martial arts movie. They are not disposable interludes that can be kissed off to advance the story. You'd think, in a decompressed environment dominated by fanboy aesthetics, that the action sequences in modern comic books would be awesome. But they aren't, in what I consider a lamentable lack of craftsmanship.
Typical fight scenes now lack clear spatial relations, identifiable figures, logical and continuous flow across panels, and any semblance of consistency in who wins and why. All the characters are superimposed on each other in melee fashion with no sense of perspective. Mutant comics seem to be the worst offenders these days, but it's a pervasive problem. (Something similar has happened in the movies, with many action films using quick-cut close-ups during fight scenes that make it difficult to tell what's going on, but it doesn't always happen.)
Lack of attention to superhero action scenes undermines sales to both the youth/new-user market and the established older market, since what is cool about superheroes, especially of the Silver Age type, is their distinctive visual and kinetic properties. I don't mind the later "realistic" style that stressed winning with the first blow and mostly portrayed mismatches (e.g. Ellis and Moore) because a) there's a certain logic to those choices, since even super people wouldn't tend to pick fights they might not win and b) they usually depicted these swift battles in a clear and compelling visual manner. But if you're decompressing, a long, high-quality set of battle scenes seems like a legitimate mode of storytelling because one thing superheroes are ABOUT is the skillful exercise of their powers under stress.
I suspect that modern creators take a somewhat "adolescent" attitude toward action sequences--they don't want to be seen as "childish" by playing up the fantasy aspect of the characters, preferring to dwell on various extrinsic shock stimuli to seem more "adult." But getting to see Iron Man use his resourcefulness to figure out and defeat the Raiders for an issue (to take a typical mediocre example rather than a classic) was a lot more entertaining and satisfying than much of what gets printed now.

Posted by srp to Jim Shooter at January 11, 2012 7:44 PM 

I absolutely agree. Too many writers leave the action scenes entirely up to the artist. The scene description often is two words: "They fight." The writer takes a few pages off, the artist draws, generally what he or she likes to draw, often the easiest thing to draw, and with relentless consistency, what you end up with is two people punching. No choreography, no innovative use of powers.  No use of powers at all, often, except strength and durability.

I always write the action scenes carefully. I try to think it through. If a character can fly and strike from a distance, is he or she really going to get into a bare knuckle fistfight on the ground? I think about how the characters would use their powers to best advantage, and whether there’s some new, logical application of power that I can show. I try to work out each move and make sure the characters’ positions make sense, that the in-betweens are easily imaginable, and that the movements flow realistically.

Then the artist ignores what I wrote and draws nonsense. Or butchers it. Or otherwise screws it up. Every once in a while, they actually do what I ask. Once in a long time, an artist will actually add a thought, an insight or two.

Here's a bad example of really bad action storytelling. Sorry, Sanford Greene:


Here’s the script:

PAGE FIVE:

(…)

Panel 6:

Scene: Full figure on INVISIBLE KID, though only the top half of his figure can be seen—i.e., he’s becoming visible. Make it very clear that he’s on the Central Temple Terrace, but no need to show Ikilles, Light Lass, et al. IK’s facing them, and our POV is facing IK—i.e., Ikilles, Light Lass et al are behind the camera. FYI, IK’s about 40 feet away from Ikilles, here. Some Ikonns may be seen in the background, but none too close to IK, please. It should be clear that no one is in position to clock IK on the back of the head and take him down.

IMPORTANT: Invisible Kid has, in his non-Flight Ring-hand, the PIECE OF BARK that was described in Panel 2 of Page Nine of last issue and picked up by IK in Panel 4 on the same page. The Piece of Bark has a Magsteel Vine looped around it. Too hard to describe. Here’s a sketch:
The Magsteel Vine extends off panel to either side of IK (and is securely tied to the Fallen Statues—see Panel 3 of Page Sixteen).

CAPTION
(near Invisible Kid)

Invisible Kid
Homeworld: Earth
Invisibility and imperceptibility

INVISIBLE KID

Hold it!

INVISIBLE KID

Ikilles! Surrender now…or I’ll kick your scut first and your crew’s next.

(…)

Panel 3:

Scene: Cut to Velmar V. Long shot of the Terrace of the Central Temple to establish the huge, FALLEN STATUES to either side of the Terrace, as described in Panel 1 of Page Six of #43:
“IMPORTANT: There are two huge, toppled statues on street level very close to the Central Temple’s Terrace, one on either side. We’ll be using them as props later. Make them especially massive.”
It’s okay to crop the Statues, as long as it’s clear what they are. Also establish the tableau—Invisible Kid is calling out Ikilles.  Remember, IK isn’t close to Ikilles (or any other Ikonn) at this juncture.  Remember also all the stuff on the Terrace—bound prisoners, various wreckage, Ikonns, Slaves, party stuff and, of course, the Central Temple. You don’t have to draw all of that, but remember that it’s there, and include whatever would logically be seen in the shot you choose. In my scribble of this, I shot from just below Terrace level—that is, you can’t see the floor of the terrace, but you can see people standing on it sticking up—with one Fallen Statue close, cropped, in the foreground and the other partially visible at the far end of the Terrace. The advantage of that was that, with one Fallen Statue close to the POV, I could clearly show that the Magsteel Vine was securely wrapped around it several times and tied. But whatever. Please do it your way. Be brilliant. As usual.

(NOTE: The ends of the Magsteel Vine Invisible Kid swiped before are securely fastened around the huge Fallen Statues to either side of the Terrace. What we’re setting up here is this: IK intends for Ikilles to get close to him, and therefore into position roughly between the Fallen Statues, whereupon IK will fly upwards and let the amazing vector-gravity power of his Flight Ring pull the Statues up into the air with him. Once the Statues are high enough to clear the edge of the Terrace, they’ll CLAP TOGETHER and smash Ikilles. The thick, strong, metallic Piece of Bark is to protect IK’s hand from the Magsteel Vine. If the Vine was against IK’s bare hand, it would simply rip through his flesh and bone rather than raise the huge Statues.)

CAPTION

Velmar V.

INVISIBLE KID

Well, Ikilles…? Are you going to fight me…? Or are you a chickamouse?

Panel 4:

Scene: Focus on Ikilles, talking sotto voce with Sadistic Ikonn, established in Panel 6 of Page Three. Other Ikonns might be seen in the background. This is a somewhat tense situation, even though it’s just Invisible Kid confronting them, so any Ikonns seen are tense and poised to act, waiting for orders. Ikilles, however, looks calm, almost amused. Sadistic Ikonn looks eager for blood. 

SADISTIC IKONN
(quietly)

Another Legionnaire?

IKILLES
(quietly)

Yeah. He’s called Invisible Kid. He must have some stupid trick planned. Get your gunners ready.

IKILLES (3rd)
(quietly)

I’ll play along till they’re in position. He’ll probably turn invisible, so when I give the signal, pattern-blast the whole area.

Panel 5:

Scene: Ikilles has strolled toward Invisible Kid—but has paused several meters away, being cautious but looking casual. IK is tense, ready. He’s not stupid. He can guess that snipers are getting into position—and if you can give a hint of that, terrific.

IMPORTANT: IK has placed the Piece of Bark with the Magsteel Vine wrapped around it on his Flight Ring hand so the ring is pressed firmly against the inside of the Bark.

INVISIBLE KID

That’s close enough.

IKILLES

Why? Are you a chickamouse?

INVISIBLE KID (2nd)

Nah, you’re just…close enough.

Panel 6:

Scene: Action shot. And a little complicated. What else is new?  : ) Invisible Kid is soaring straight up into the air, his ring hand held out in front of him rather than directly above him, to keep the Magsteel Vine away from his body. The Magsteel Vine is still slack, at this point, draped out toward the Statues, but will soon go taut. Ikilles is yelling “Fire,” and a bunch of Ikonn gunners are firing at the general area where IK had been a fraction of a second ago, so that anything in that general vicinity (including above where IK was standing) would have been hit. IK, at this point is just above the highest of the ray blasts; i.e., they just miss him, or possibly just graze his foot—harmlessly, thanks to good ol’ Carmine. Make it seem that if he’d waited a split second longer to act, he would be a cinder.

IKILLES

Fire!


PAGE SEVENTEEN:

Panel 1:

Scene: IK reaches the right altitude. The right altitude would be just a few meters more than half the width of the Terrace (and therefore, half the distance between the two Fallen Statues). The immense Fallen Statues have been drawn into the air above the floor-level of the Terrace and just starting to swing, each one toward the center like two pendulums attached to the same pivot. Ikilles is realizing, too late, what’s about to happen. Make it clear!

IKILLES

Oh, florg.

Panel 2:

Scene: The massive, ruined, Fallen Statues CLAP TOGETHER on Ikilles with tremendous force. These things are huge. So we probably can’t see much of Ikilles here. Maybe just a hand sticking out, to indicate that he’s being mashed between them? Whatever. Again, make it clearclearclear what is happening. E-mail me a sketch? 

SFX

KLLNNGG

Panel 3:

Scene: The Fallen Statues would rebound a little, one would assume, so thoroughly-busted-up, unconscious, ain’t getting’-around-much-for-a-while Ikilles is visible lying on the Terrace between them, his body a bleeding skin-bag full of mashed flesh and bone shards. Okay, maybe not quite that bad, but you get my drift.  : ) Please shoot this from above Invisible Kid, looking down past him to see the aftermath of what just happened, including bunged-up Ikilles. Any Ikonns seen should be momentarily in shock, stupefied by this turn of events. IK has unwrapped the Magsteel Vine from around the Piece of Bark and has dropped the Vine, which is cascading down toward Ikilles. IMPORTANT: IK is keeping the Piece of Bark (because, FYI, it has a message from Karate Kid scrawled on it).

NOTE: Oh, by the way, all mashed-flesh-bone-shard kidding aside, Ikilles will be back someday. Very peeved.

INVISIBLE KID

I love the laws of pendular motion.

Panel 4:

Scene: Cut to where Light Lass is bound. Cropped figures, medium close on LLass’s guard, Gunner 1, and seen past him or her, LLass. We should have a good look at their faces. The very thorough flattening …heh…of Ikilles has distracted Gunner 1, who is looking up agape at Invisible Kid, above and off panel, and has stupidly allowed his or her nasty-looking weapon’s muzzle to drift slightly away from LLass for a second—that is, it’s no longer stuck into LLass’s ribs or neck, and isn’t quite pointed at her. She’s looking at Gunner 1 with an angry, fierce, determined expression one wouldn’t expect from a drop-down-dead beautiful girl, which goes with what she’s thinking—now that the gun isn’t on her, this is her chanceSnarrrllll…. 

GUNNER 1
(totally shocked)

He…felled Ikilles…!



And another one. This one is a fistfight. Atom Girl had been established by Mark Waid and others as being bothered by her small stature and compensating by being over-aggressive and feisty:


Panel 2:

Scene: Cut to inside the Flagship. Establish the FLAGSHIP BRIDGE. The Flagship Bridge would be larger and more spacious than the other command decks we’ve seen. I see it as about the same size as the bridge of the Enterprise on Star Trek. There are five people on the Flagship Bridge: the COMMODORE, the FIRST OFFICER, the HELMSMAN, the NAVIGATOR and the COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER. The Commodore is female and human. She’s a 30-something, 5’ 11”, athletic, strong-looking, handsome woman. She’s attractive in her robust-figured way. She’s not quite the over-the-top specimen that Cazhmir (Big Barda, She-Hulk) is, but she’s imposing. I see her as something like Laila Ali, (who’s 5’ 10”) though the Commodore is Caucasian, of Ukrainian descent, as we’ll find out later. We’ll be seeing her again, so please make her groovy:



The Navigator is a female, humanoid alien. The rest are human, all male. Only the Commodore is a continuing character.

NOTE: The First Officer, ala Mr. Spock, can be standing. The Navigator and Communications Officer should be seated at stations that look appropriate to their functions. The Helmsman should be sitting at a station, centrally located, that clearly is the “driver’s seat.” Here are a couple of pictures of submarine helms that may be useful:

The Commodore is railing at the First Officer, who is looking futilely at some instruments, unable to determine where the shots that downed their Sky-Cycle escorts came from (because, FYI, Atom Girl blew them apart from the inside). He’s doing one of those helpless, “beats me” kind of shrugs.

The Navigator is chiming in with a suggestion. The Communications Officer is paging through a copy of the holo-book entitled GUIDE TO THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES, first established in Panel 4 of Page Eleven of issue #3. Angle this shot so that the Communications Officer is close enough to the camera, and therefore the holo-book is close enough to the camera, so we can see the book’s title.

CAPTION

Inside the Science Police Flagship.

COMMODORE
(to the First Officer)

…well, something shot down our escort cycles! Find it!

NAVIGATOR

Commodore, isn’t there an Invisible Boy in the Legion? Maybe….

COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER
(studying the holo-book)

That’s Invisible Kid. Intel says he’s not here. I think our bogey is Atom Girl. She shrinks

BOOK TITLE

GUIDE TO THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES

Panel 3:

Scene: Focus on the First Officer as Atom Girl grows to full size in front of him, using her growth to help propel a heel-of-the-hand strike to his jaw (use her standard size-changing-blur technique, please). It’s like getting clocked by Bruce Lee, clearly a knockout blow. Please remember that at full size, Atom Girl is 5’2”! Everyone on the bridge is six inches or more taller than she is! Also remember that AG is petite, trim, wiry, solid, strong, small-busted and narrow-waisted, with curvy hips and curvy buns of steel. She has a figure skater’s build.

COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER
(reading)

…member of the Legion Espionage Squad…can sub-microscopically penetrate any enclosure….

ATOM GIRL

Ki-ai!

SFX

KRRKK

Panel 4:

Scene: Chaos on the Command Deck. The First Officer has fallen (or is falling) in a heap, knocked out. Atom Girl is shrinking down to doll-size (blur technique, please) as she evasively zips (flying) between the Navigator and Communications Officer who, as they futilely try to hit or grab her, are slamming into each other! Yes, it’s Three Stooges time. Make sure their collision looks head-to-head/bad/painful enough to put them both out of the fight for a few minutes. At the end of AG’s blur-trail she’s slamming feet first into the Helmsman’s face (she’s still doll-sized!), clearly hard enough to knock him out.

NOTE: Position the Helmsman so that he will fall backwards onto the helm controls! 

COMMODORE

Get her!

NAVIGATOR

Ooph!

COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER

Awwff!

HELMSMAN

Ukk!

Panel 5:

Scene: The Helmsman is slumped unconscious on the controls (and, FYI, is causing the vessel to move and turn!). I’d put him in the foreground, as sort of a “framing” element, but whatever. Give some indication that the Navigator, First Officer and Communications Officer are also down, and if not unconscious, hurting enough to be out of the fight for a while. No need to show full figures—a limp hand or other cropped bits might be indication enough.

The focus of this panel is on the Commodore and Atom Girl squaring off as if to fist fight. Atom Girl is growing (blur technique) to her full 5’ 2” as she zips into fighting position facing the Commodore. The Commodore is seething with anger, fists clenched, ready to pound this little batwitch’s face into hamburger. Remember, the Commodore is 9” taller than AG, and tough-looking.

COMMODORE

You’re nothing without your size trick. Come on, you little batwitch!

ATOM GIRL

Little? I hate that word.

ATOM GIRL (2nd)

And I love it when big foobs like you think they can take me.


PAGE ELEVEN:

(…)

Panel 3:

Scene: Cut to a Sky-Cycle with a Sidecar that’s flying well above the Flagship. CYCLIST 5 is looking down at the Flagship, noticing that it’s slowly flying in big, aimless circles—obviously, something’s wrong. He speaks with his SIDECAR GUNNER, who’s hailing the Flagship on his futuristic communicator.

NOTE: Show some of the Tower in this shot. What’s going to happen is that the Flagship is ultimately going to slow-crash into the Tower several stories down from the top—each circle it makes takes it closer—so try to set that up here.

CYCLIST 5

What the zork’s going on with the Flagship…?!  It’s drifting in circles!

SIDECAR GUNNER

Flagship, this is Sky-Cycle Kono-22. Acknowledge, please.

Panel 4:

Scene: Cut to inside the Flagship, to the Flagship Bridge. Atom Girl and the Commodore are in the midst of a brutal fight. Action depth on them, please. Both the Commodore and Atom Girl are on the floor, here, and the Commodore is on top! It isn’t over yet—but it should look like the Commodore is well on her way to winning this fight! Both the Commodore and Atom Girl are substantially mussed up. Both have disheveled hair and bleeding knuckles. The Commodore’s uniform is disarranged and torn, revealing some skin and military undies—wicked sexy but not over the top, please. Atom Girl’s uniform cannot be torn, but should be disarranged. Each of them has sustained some damage—the Commodore has a bloody nose, Atom Girl has a split and bleeding lip, and both have scuff-marks and a small cut or two on their faces. 

Fighting is ugly. Without being too horrific about it, I want to get that point across. 

Atom Girl was holding the Commodore’s wrists to stop her rain of blows, and is trying to squirm out from under the Commodore, here—but the Commodore has yanked one fisted hand free of AG’s grasp! Uh-oh.

If any of the other Flagship Bridge personnel are seen, they’re still down. Angle this to include the Communications Officer’s Station. From a futuristic speaker there comes the Sidecar Gunner’s voice.

SIDECAR GUNNER
(“radio” balloon) 

Come on, Flagship! Acknowledge! What’s going on there?

COMMODORE

Let go…!

ATOM GIRL

Ungh!

Panel 5:

Scene: Atom Girl makes a vain attempt to block, but the Commodore hits her hardhardhard right in the eye! This is a fight-ending punch, it seems. Close, intense, dramatic, here, I think. AG loses her grip on the Commodore’s other fisted hand here.

ATOM GIRL

AAAUH!

SFX

KRKKK


PAGE TWELVE

Panel 1:
Scene: Sensing victory, the Commodore rears back to embark on a really cruel face-pounding. Atom Girl is a Legionnaire, though, and she just doesn’t have any give-up in her. Though she now has a cut under her eye and her eye’s already beginning to swell shut, AG has her left raised in an attempt to block (probably in vain again) and her right cocked and ready to further smash the Commodore’s nose—this with one eye closing, tears blinding the other, a dazed, semi-conscious brain and pain aplenty. It should look like there’s a one-in-twenty chance that AG will pull out the win—partially because, in her premature flush of victory and her haste to administer a really vicious, vengeful beating, the Commodore is leaving herself open. Both of them have that grimacing look of intense insanity on their faces that people in desperate fights get.

(NOTE TO FRANCIS: I know what you’re thinking:

“Why can’t this Shooter lunatic just write ‘…and they fight’ instead of all this complicated crap? Why is he calling for all this subtlety? IT’S A FIGHT! Why, oh, why didn’t I get myself hooked up with a normal writer?” 

I’m sorry. But, I do think that if we pull off the subtlety—even in a fight scene—it’ll pay off. Please bear with me, or at least humor me. I believe in what we’re doing with all my heart and soul and wallet. And, by the way, this intense little fight sequence is the beginning of a sea change in Atom Girl’s personality. Very important!) 

COMMODORE

Florging midget…!

ATOM GIRL

aaaaaa…!

Panel 2:

Scene: Suddenly, there is a TREMENDOUS JOLT! (FYI, the Flagship has slammed into the Tower!) Everything inside the Flagship goes flying—most notably the Commodore, who is thrown headfirst into something solid—say, a console or a wall. She’s damaged enough by this so she’s knocked out and not going to be up and around soon. Atom Girl is buffeted, too, but having been UNDER the Commodore isn’t flung as far and suffers no more major damage. 

SFX

BBBDDMMM

Panel 3:

Scene: Cut to outside. Clearly show that the Flagship has hit the Tower—lots of angles would work—pick a good one. I figure it’s not a total direct hit—the Flagship has sort of sideswiped the Tower, but hard. Both the Tower and Flagship are plenty damaged by this tremendous impact.

(no copy)

Panel 4:

Scene: Cut to inside the Tower. The walls and ceiling around Saturn Girl, the unconscious Colossal Boy and wounded, still Parabolic-Energy-Mirrored Chameleon are collapsing. They’re going to be buried. Saturn Girl reacts. Her body language should suggest that she’s trying to protect helpless Colossal Boy from the falling debris. Fat chance.

SATURN GIRL

Oh, no…!

Panel 5:

Scene: Cut back to inside the Flagship, which is listing a little. Reset. Atom Girl is unsteadily on her feet, leaning heavily on some item of Bridge equipment, looking at the fallen, unconscious Commodore. AG is hurting bigtime, one hand over her painful, battered eye. She’s a mess, dripping blood. The Flagship Bridge is a mess, too, from the fight and from the collision with the Tower. The lights went off when the collision happened—only emergency lights provide illumination—and there’s some smoke in the air. This vessel, BTW, is going down, albeit slowly. The other Flagship Bridge personnel, to the extent they’re seen, are still out cold. They, too, were flung around by the crash, and even if they had been starting to come to, they would have been battered unconscious again.

ATOM GIRL

Hortch…! Florg…!

ATOM GIRL

Oww….


__________________________________________________
I tried to find an example of good action storytelling. I flipped through a bunch of my recent comics—The Legion of Super-Heroes and the recent Dark Horse/Gold Key books.

I could not find a single example of an artist adding to or improving an action scene. I could find very few examples of an artist even satisfactorily executing what I asked of him and making an action scene as clear as it ought to have been. Mostly, I saw hard-to-understand, poor storytelling. Lots of panels and sequences that you can stare at all day and still have no idea what’s going on.

During the course of my career, I’ve had the privilege of working with many artists who gave me all I asked for and then some. Long ago, Curt Swan, Wally Wood, Gil Kane, Steve Ditko and other greats, more recently, Don Perlin, David Lapham, a few others. I could show you some of the action scenes they did with me, but I don’t have the scripts for comparison. You know their work anyway. 

There are good and capable artists around. Not enough. Good storytelling in comics in general is becoming a rarity, and especially in action scenes. As you put it so well, srp, there’s a lamentable lack of craftsmanship.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program….


Ugly Death

As briefly described yesterday, in late 1996, Broadway Video sold its Broadway Video Entertainment division to Golden Books Family Entertainment. Broadway Comics, my 50/50 venture with BVE, was included in the deal along with BVE’s film library and various properties such as Lassie and the Lone Ranger.

Broadway Video was working on the deal to sell BVE, including us, for a long time before they let me know.

I never signed a contract with BVE. A handshake with Eric Ellenbogen, then BVE boss, is better than a contract, anyway.

We actually negotiated the deal, had a meeting with our lawyers present….

That was funny. Eric and I explained our mutual understanding to the lawyers. BVE’s lawyers immediately started trying to add in terms favorable to BVE. My lawyers immediately started trying to wangle advantages for me. Both Eric and I reigned in our respective lawyers and insisted that they stick to what we had agreed upon—which we both remembered exactly the same way. It was weird, Eric fighting with his lawyers to preserve what he’d offered me, me fighting with my lawyers to honor my obligations to Eric and BVE. That’s how it ought to be.

Anyway, we never got around to finishing and signing the contract. It didn’t really matter.

When Eric’s bosses decided to sell BVE, and Eric with it, by the way, they did it the evil way. They kept me in the dark. Eric knew, but couldn’t say anything.

When the news was sprung upon me, Eric’s bosses perpetrated a “cramdown.” Even though there was no signed contract with me, they feared I might trot out the lawyers and delay the deal, possibly even torpedo it, or threaten to do so and try to extract some money from them for cooperating.

Cramdown, as in “cram it down your throat,” is a Wall Street term. Party “A” wants party “B” to do something, or not do something, doesn’t want any complications or interference, so they use every possible means to force their will upon party “B.” They try to eliminate every way forward but their way. Tactics vary. Haranguing and verbal beat-downs are popular. Various legal and financial threats are common.

Using people I care about as hostages has always worked against me. The ol’ “do what we f***ing tell you or this very day, all your employees, your pals JayJay, Debbie, Joe—all your little buddies—will be fired, out on the street, no severance, no nothing.”

New York is an employment-at-will state….

So Broadway Video honchos, not Eric, mind you, threatened my friends and I signed their damned documents.

Golden Books Family Entertainment bought BVE for $95 million. What portion of that, if any at all, was for our little comic book company (or more likely, our intellectual property assets) I do not know.

MEANWHILE….

When I saw which way things were headed, I called Bill Bevins, CEO of whichever Perelman entity controlled Marvel Comics and asked for a meeting. Marvel was failing spectacularly at that point, on the brink of bankruptcy.

I met with Bill. Told him I thought I could turn things around in the comics publishing area, given control of comic book creative and business operations. He seemed interested. We agreed to talk more.

BACK TO BROADWAY….

Once Broadway Comics was part of GBFE, they soon pulled the plug and closed us down. Early 1997, as I recall. As I said yesterday, Dick Snyder, CEO and Chairman of GBFE apparently had no interest in publishing comics.

Broadway Comics was actually on the verge of making money, I think. I actually considered trying to raise the capital to buy Broadway Comics out of GBFE and try to make a go of it on our own. But, the comic book market was very bad—in fact, it still hasn’t recovered from the collapse that began in 1994—and raising significant money in that business environment would have been hard.

I let it go.

GBFE was fairly nice about outplacement services, modest severance and the like. Not that outplacement services were much good for comic book people. In this little industry, there are only so many doors to knock on.

The outplacement counselor wanted to help me write a resume. I told her, first of all, people in this business and pretty much all related businesses know who I am. Second, if an allegedly creative person writes a resume, and it’s one of those Microsoft template deals, then they aren’t very creative, are they? I asked her, in the patently absurd circumstance of Robin Williams having to write a resume, what kind of resume would he write? If it wasn’t funny, people would think it wasn’t the real Robin Williams. I’m not comparing myself to Robin Williams, but you know what I mean.

So we were all cut loose. 

GBFE was actually already plummeting toward bankruptcy even when they were buying BVE. Eric Ellenbogen, who was, I believe, named President of GBFE at first, left not too long after we Broadway Comics types were shown the door.

I had friends on the board at Marvel. My former partner, Winston Fowlkes, my former boss at Disney, Michael Lynton. I thought I had good chances there.

Eric set up a meeting with for me with Scott Sassa, Chairman and CEO of Marvel.

In the meeting in which he told me he’d arranged for me to meet Sassa, Eric praised my creative capabilities but criticized me for not being able to make Broadway Comics successful (in a lousy market, under strenuous conditions, with none of the help he had promised—movie, TV and licensing deals—materializing. Hmph).

He thought I was a good Editor in Chief candidate, but not a businessman.

I met with Sassa in the bar at the Carlyle Hotel. I tried to make a good impression.

Sassa left Marvel not too long thereafter.

Then Eric became Marvel Comics’ CEO!

Eric was not able to make Marvel Comics successful (in a lousy market, under strenuous conditions, with none of the help they theoretically had pending—financial and otherwise—materializing).

Nyah, nyah.

Marvel went bankrupt.

Not a good time to do a staff shakeup….

Then, Carl Icahn and his bondholder group ousted stockholder Perelman and all his troops.

I still had friends in high places there. Still had a shot, I thought.

Nah. Icahn and his brain trust honchos never returned my calls, never answered my letters.

Oh, well.

Anyway….

My friends at investment banking firm McFarland, Dewey & Co. helped assemble an acquisition team consisting of Chuck Rozanski, two ex-Cap-Cities/ABC top execs and me. We were promised debt financing by my friends at Chase and equity investment by Perry Capital. We made a run at it.

We spent days in the Marvel document room at their lawyers’ offices in Newark? Jersey City? I forget. I read all the executive contracts. My God, they were paying lightweights like Bob Harras a lot of money! Plus perks like 24/7 car service, retirement/estate planning services….  Lord, God Jeezus.

I read all of their major contracts.

The problem was that Marvel and Toy Biz were hopelessly intertwined and suing each other like crazy.  The only clean way to buy Marvel was to buy Toy Biz too. The Cap Cities guys looked at me and asked, “Can you run a toy company?” They couldn’t. Me neither, though I know a good bit about the industry. I suggested we bring in a toy company partner. Mattel.

I called Jill Barad. She sent her V.P. of business affairs to look into the deal. Seymour something, or something Seymour. His take was “let it collapse and pick up the pieces.” I told him no way the bankruptcy trustee would “let it collapse.” Nitwit.

I was right. The trustee merged Marvel and Toy Biz, the new company reorganized, and that’s where we are today, with Toy Biz boss Ike Perlmutter in charge.

God help us.

Anyway…. 

I’ve had my ups and downs since all of that. Many of us Broadway Comics folks have struggled along the way, and some of us are still struggling.

GBFE eventually went bankrupt. Up until then, Dick Snyder didn’t exactly tighten his belt. Limos, private flights, big money, perks better than Bob Harras’s.

No $15,000 umbrella stands that I know of….

As someone still receiving royalties for the books I’d written for Western Publishing /GBFE, I was a creditor and I received mountains of bankruptcy documents. I know the gory details.

GBFE died an ugly death.


NEXT:  Not Sure Yet.  So Many Choices….

117 comments:

Timothy said...

Jim, this is GREAT! Up with full honking mode!

Stu West said...

I happened to read this post right after finishing a Daredevil comic - specifically issue #4, by Mark Waid and Marcos Martin (it came out a few months ago, I'm a little behind). It's terrifically drawn, particularly the action scenes. The sort of thing that will restore your faith in comics. Everyone should check it out.

Sean Kiley said...

Jim, do you still have contacts at Disney? With their purchase of Marvel, maybe we could get you in there to get them back to telling good stories again. I have my doubts that Disney is going to put up with the shenanigans that have infested Marvel since your departure,(which, amazingly, was almost 25 years ago. I suddenly feel very old.) so you might not have to deal with as much BS. Or is that something that is totally out of the realm of possibility?

Anonymous said...

'Not Sure Yet. So Many Choices…'

Can I humbly suggest more comic book reviews? I highly appreciate them. And more Valiant stories, please! I want to know more about indie publishers. I think Valiant, Eclipse, First, Epic and others did a superb work. What went wrong?

cease ill said...

Perfect day to see an action sequence script! I'm finishing touches for one. I would be very picky about how "they fight" is played out...there's so much characterization available in a well-planned fight. It's still a scenario of dramatic interaction! Why shouldn't it continue character development? The sense of spatial relationship does a lot to enhance the reality interpreted by the reader. Carefully imagining the space and its possibilities draws the observer further into participating in a three-dimensional interpretation and opens the tableau to different angles and a deeper sense of place.

J said...

That's why I always loved Norm Breyfogle. Dude could put together a fight scene:

http://img6.imageshack.us/img6/7403/35130526.jpg

Glenn Greenberg said...

Jim,

Some of your chronology is off. Ellenbogen didn't join Marvel until after I left, and I left in October 1998. Marvel went into bankruptcy proceedings in 1996. Marvel and Toy Biz merged in the summer of 1998. Icahn and his people were gone by then.

But I do remember hearing the rumblings that you were coming into the offices and doing due diligence. That would have been late 1996, early-to-mid 1997. I remember the projects I was working on at the time, and the freelancers with whom I was working, who had also heard about your possible return, and they called me to discuss it (not without some concern, I might add!).

Anonymous said...

I've had to recreate myself/start from scratch three times in my life. I know the stress involved; it's a very painful process. I hope things are going well.

Neil

El doc. said...

Some weeks ago you criticized a comic written by Ed Brubaker. Although I agreed with most of your critics, I believe that Bru is one of the best writers in comics these days. Here is a fighting sequence by Brubaker and Steve Epting that I believe to be perfect, since dialogue and sequences fit and make sense (as opposed to Bendis’ fighting sequences where art and dialogue has nothing to do):

http://comicastle.com/foro/showpost.php?p=548527&postcount=106

Blade X said...

Mr. Shooter's past history with Disney and Marvel is why I think that he (a) would be the perfect person to run Marvel's publishing division and (b) MIGHT eventually be rehired to run the publishing division.

Despite cost cutting and the BS spin put forth by Marvel, the publishing division is not doing as well as they would have people (and their owner, Disney) believe.

Anonymous said...

brilliant, honest stuff, as usual

oh, if you had been put back in charge at Marvel in the late 90's... we can only dream

-Keil

Anonymous said...

i'd love to believe in this possibility also. But don't underestimate the obstinate vitriol that many still at marvel will manifest at Jim

-Keil

Anonymous said...

a saying about a "stopped clock" comes to mind

The truth is, if you compare comics of today with comics from the 70's - you will see a glaring poverty of decent or even competent action sequences today. Whereas, there was a time when nearly any comic that you picked up would have meaningful action sequences that made intelligent use of each character's powers. The difference is in the numbers. Nowadays you'd have to dig through 100 comics to find 1 or 2 good examples. Whereas in the 70's you might find 1 or 2 inept sequences versus 98 thoughtful ones

PC said...

Something along the lines of "head for the hills"?

Which guys from Jim's time were still there? Macchio, DeFalco?

Blok 4 Prez said...

Randomly, I was thinking about how bad the action scenes in modern comics are the other day (or rather than "Randomly," I should say, "Nerdily".) I'm sure there are exceptions but I was thinking of the Avengers books by Bendis and some of the top artists in the industry. The plots are okay (much stronger when he started his run), the dialogue and characterization top notch always, but the action scenes tend to involve so many characters at once that there's very little room for choreography of the fights (like the whole team vs. the Hand, or the Hood's dozens of villains.) It makes for some splash pages or pin-up style panels, but are not so fun to read as a whole. And certainly not memorable.

I remember John Byrne's story when he was on Fantastic Four when the F.F., the Avengers, and Dr. Strange all took on Galactus. It's been almost 30 years but I can remember the details of the fight because it was all so thought out and original. Granted maybe I was also the right age to have my mind blown by that kind of thing being an impressionable kid, but there was a focus on what the actual fight would entail, that made it stand out. And that seems to be missing today for the most part.

I wonder if artist's knowing they can sell original artwork for more if they are splash pages or pin-up style panels, has made the situation worse?

Anonymous said...

... and it's not just comics. Look at the shaky-cam, unintelligible action sequences in today's movies (Transformers). And people gladly consume this garbage

Twitless said...

Jim, I love your thoughts on the comics industry as well as the history. I have learned so much that I feel like your blog is akin to an academic class.

A couple of minor questions though:

1) The impression I got from Gail Simone at a convention I attended was that DC comics ran things in more of a full script than Marvel did, which in my mind would make your Legion script more par for the course. Is there more to it than that? What are your thoughts about full script versus more general story working. I'd imagine your style would fit the former and discourage the latter.

2) I am interested in knowing more about why these two examples you offer in the blog entry are poor storytelling. I see where the artist deviated from your script (and conversely, where it was followed, more or less), but I would like to learn more about why these particular sequences are failures.

Anonymous said...

"the dialog and characterization are top notch"

whoops! Gotta call foul on that one.

Here is some Bendis dialog from the latest Avengers:

Spider-Woman: You're agents of HYDRA, right?!

Hawkeye: Of -- of HAMMER.

SW: Please!! What difference does it make? I recognize the pants.

then,

SW: Kill Hawkeye! But if you touch one $%&# hair on my head she will flay you. Try me. Because what she's going to cut off on you... ...two more ain't growing back in its place.


Seems like it should be "growing back in their place" - but that's nitpicking.

I don't even know how to take this scene. Is it supposed to be fun and funny. He goes from childishly humorous in one panel, to using deleted expletives and making testicle references.



Here is another recent gem from Bendis. Madame Hydra has an octopus attached to her head - like a big hat

Norman Osborne: Madame Hydra?

Madame Hydra: Yes, Norman

NO: What is going on here?

MH: With my head?

NO: Is that on purpose?

MH: Yes

NO: Rally?

MH: You don't like it?

NO: Do you?

MH: Not really

NO: Does it hurt? It looks like it hurts



Characterization? Norma Osborne and Madame Hydra being snarky, talking like a couple of sarcastic teenage twits

Will Collier said...

Jim,

The mention a few posts back of Rogue reminded me of something that just bugged me to death back when she was first created: the awful phonetic accent Claremont stuck the poor girl with. It "sounded" like Chris had boned up on Southern English by watching the first half hour of "Gone With The Wind," followed up by a couple of episodes of "The Dukes of Hazzard" and winging it from there (speaking as an actual Southerner, trust me, he'd have done much better to mimic a re-run of "Hee-Haw"). It was really, really bad, and indicated a writer who had only tenuous familiarity with (and no particular interest in) the culture and/or dialect he was writing about.

Let me put this another way, for those of you who aren't familiar with those issues: it was as if Power Man or Black Panther were written like the two guys in "Airplane!" who only spoke Jive. Except Claremont wasn't playing it for laughs.

Anyway, it occurred to me to ask you what you thought of all that (if anything) as an editor and a writer. My own take: A couple of "y'all"s, a couple of "ain't"s, a "fixing to" or so, and readers would get the general idea. Claremont's endless "Ah'm"s and decades-out-of-date hokey similes in Rogue's speech were like the proverbial fingernails on a chalkboard, even if I couldn't actually hear them. I often wondered why somebody at Marvel didn't sit him down and say, "Chris, this wretched phony dialogue of yours would annoy a saint. Knock it off."

Thanks, end of rant...

jimshooter said...

RE: "Jim, do you still have contacts at Disney? With their purchase of Marvel, maybe we could get you in there to get them back to telling good stories again. I have my doubts that Disney is going to put up with the shenanigans that have infested Marvel since your departure,(which, amazingly, was almost 25 years ago. I suddenly feel very old.) so you might not have to deal with as much BS. Or is that something that is totally out of the realm of possibility?"

I was, for a while,amazed that Disney hadn't exerted more control over Marvel. Lately, however, I've come to understand the internal power structure better and how entrenched Perlmutter's control over Marvel is. Even if Disney took more command of Marvel, however, I doubt that they'd have any interest in me. Yes, I know people there, but it's not as though I'm hanging out with Bob Iger at Club 33 after work. But I would. Hey, Bob, give me a call.

Anonymous said...

I can't resist here, I am reminded of the children's classic "Go Dog. Go":

Girl dog: Hello

Boy Dog: Hello

Girl Dog: Do you like my hat?

Boy Dog: No I do not like your hat.

Kevin Kobasic said...

My favorite pet peeve in modern comics is the oft-repeated bit where the hero leaps into a crowd of well-armed bad guys, and the next frame is just a big image of him standing there throwing fists while the baddies magically fly in all directions. No fight choreography, no nothing. You can't even identify where the fists and feet are allegedly connecting, the bad guys are just floating away through space all at once. Boy, for a second there I thought the hero was in for the fight of his life, but now I guess not. Problem solved!

bmcmolo said...

This always irritated me about Claremont's dialogue, as well. Glad to see it brought up.

jimshooter said...

RE: "The mention a few posts back of Rogue reminded me of something that just bugged me to death back when she was first created: the awful phonetic accent Claremont stuck the poor girl with. It "sounded" like Chris had boned up on Southern English by watching the first half hour of "Gone With The Wind," followed up by a couple of episodes of "The Dukes of Hazzard" and winging it from there (speaking as an actual Southerner, trust me, he'd have done much better to mimic a re-run of "Hee-Haw"). It was really, really bad, and indicated a writer who had only tenuous familiarity with (and no particular interest in) the culture and/or dialect he was writing about.

Let me put this another way, for those of you who aren't familiar with those issues: it was as if Power Man or Black Panther were written like the two guys in "Airplane!" who only spoke Jive. Except Claremont wasn't playing it for laughs.

Anyway, it occurred to me to ask you what you thought of all that (if anything) as an editor and a writer. My own take: A couple of "y'all"s, a couple of "ain't"s, a "fixing to" or so, and readers would get the general idea. Claremont's endless "Ah'm"s and decades-out-of-date hokey similes in Rogue's speech were like the proverbial fingernails on a chalkboard, even if I couldn't actually hear them. I often wondered why somebody at Marvel didn't sit him down and say, "Chris, this wretched phony dialogue of yours would annoy a saint. Knock it off."

Thanks, end of rant... "

First, remember that I wrote Chris's Hall of Fame introduction and I meant every word of it.

That said, as a writer, Chris had his foibles. I'm sure he would cheerfully point out any he thinks I have, so no worries here about pointing out some of his.

I did sit Chris and his editor down and lecture them more than once about his overuse of phoenetic dialogue. I pointed out that the overuse of that technique begged the question, why wasn't everyone's dialogue presented that way, with every um, er, pause, grammatical slip, usage slip, run on sentence, etc. endemic to spoken English. I pointed out that in Huckleberry Finn, Twain did very little phoenetic dialogue. He confined it to the extreme cases, Jim the runaway and to a lesser extent, Huck. Instead, Twain used constructions and word choices to give his characters the proper characterization.

The corollary complaint I had was that if you took Chris's dialogue and bleached out the phonetics, the characters all talked about the same. Every character had issues with others, but every character would spring to the defense of any other impugned or threatened by someone outside the "family." All equally brave, all equally loyal, all equally conflicted. Sigh.

Every character should say some things that no one else would say as well as the things we all say. Like real people. Make them different at the core, construct and make word choices with sensitivity to their character and background and phonetics matter less, or not at all, y'all. If you have a good ear and do it right, people hear the phonetics in their mind's ear. No need to spell it out.

Defiant1 said...

I was a little tired of the phonetics and hyphenated words that Chris used in X-Men. It didn't stop me from reading the stories, but it was a distraction from the meat of what was being told. Perhaps it was a mask for his characters all having the same personality. You really have to dip into some South Georgia farmland to find women that talk with a Southern Belle accent. When the accent is included in TV dramas, it's usually so over-the-top extreme that it makes me sick at my stomach. It's simply not realistic. I did like the voice of Rogue on the X-Men cartoon. I thought she had a pretty sexy voice. The Rogue I remember from the comics looked like a butch middle aged woman. Not a character that I imagined as being sexy.

Anonymous said...

"If you have a good ear and do it right, people hear the phonetics in their mind's ear. No need to spell it out."

[MikeAnon:] Agreed. There's an utterly fantastic book called "Two Over Ten" that I almost passed on because the lead female is a Scot, and the writer constantly had her saying "yuir" instead of "your." [--MikeAnon]

Onion3000 said...

"...Seems like it should be "growing back in their place" - but that's nitpicking."

That's because you assumed the cutting off of testicles, though I personally thought of a singular appendage residing in the same, um, ball-park.

Anonymous said...

"Two more"????

I'll let you figure the rest out on your own

And 2 of anything would be their, not its

Excelsior!

Guillermo said...

A nice link about Comic Books Cover:
http://johnsoncoverhi-lo.blogspot.com/

Guillermo

Shawn James said...

As a writer with over 20 years of experience I can tell you the action sequences here are both weak. I'll break down why.

In the first scene in the series of panels there is no payoff. The writer spends a lot of time setting up the sequence, (in a weak manner) but we don't really see a strong payoff. The story in pictures just shows Invisible Kid with a rope tied to two statues in the faraway shot, he flies, the two statuea slam into the guy and then we get a shot of the guy getting smashed, followed by some dialogue "He felled Ikilles..." Not a big enough payoff for the reader. Sure he established that Invisible Kid is resourceful, but the scene is underdeveloped. The action is SMALL and INSIGNIFICANT. It's not strong enough to grab the reader and draw them into a story. Comic books are BIG ACTION.

The second scene is weak for two reasons. First because the sequence has no-build up. We really need to see Atom Girl from wherever she is watching waiting for just the right moment to strike. Build some tension.

A panel of her watching in between this tough chick trash talking and making a comment about how she'd like to shut her up would be awesome. It'd make it personal. As it stands in this fight, stuff just happens. A good storyteller builds into a fight with pictures.

The second reason the scene doesn't work because there isn't enough dialogue to get Atom Girl's character across. If she's short and feisty, she needs to SPEAK fiesty. "YAH! and "LITTLE I HATE THAT WORD" is all she says. WEAK. A fiesty character is known for having a lot of mouth so where are the smart-aleck comments, a barb or a quip? where's the trash talk? Good writers express characters through action and dialoguer and that isn't seen here.

Shawn James said...

Jim you pretty much showed why these fight scenes were weak. If I had four dollars in my pocket what was shown here wouldn't sell me on buying the issue or the series.

A lot of readers today haven't really seen a good fight sequence in a comic. A big high energy sequence where the panels have visual impact that grab the reader and involve them into the story.

A great series of action panels was in Avengers Vol1. #164-166. The battle between the Avengers and Count Nefaria was BIG. The Lethal Legion was a setup to the Count Nefaria pay-off. The panels in those three issues were epic battle scenes and Nefaria came across as a dangerous threat that no one hero could beat on their own. Those three issues showed why the Avengers had to work as a team to beat him. I recommend those issues to any aspiring comic writer, because that's the kind of action that grabs readers and gets them involved in a story. Moreover, that's the kind of action that keeps people buying comics.

Another example of great sequencing I recommend is X-men vol 1. #112-113 the second fight between Magneto and the New (then) X-men. It feels big and emotional. Of course both stories were drawn by John Byrne, but Those were fights that I still remember 35 or so years later.

A lot of comic book writers and artists today are used to getting away with weak action sequences because editors don't press them. They don't push them to think outside of the box. They just go ok villian's beaten. But they don't demand BIG. Tension, emotion, sacrifice. Big is not panels, it's imagination and creativity within those panels.

That's the kind of payoff comics need to sell readers on buying the next issue. A fight has to have strategy, but it also has to be creative and exciting.

Comic books are BIG. The action needs to be BIG. LARGER THAN LIFE.

When I write action sequences for fantasy my novels like Isis and The Temptation of John Haynes I think big. Larger than life and out of the box. People should be going WOW! and DID HE ACTUALLY DO THAT? and I would have never thought he could have pulled that off! Sometimes to get inspired I watch action movies like T2, Empire Strikes Back WWE wrestling for ideas. Other times I read comics like the Bride of Ultron storyline, Korvac Saga or Count Nefaria. Sometimes I read my old Claremont Byrne X-men. Fight scenes are supposed to be filled with suspense, tension,and emotion. The reader is supposed to be at the edge of their seat anticipating the next move. When I write I want the setups to build with emotion so the payoff comes at the climax strong enough to satisfy the reader so they ask for more.


In the two examples you showed. there was none of that. Stuff just happens. No tension, no emotion, no sense of danger. It felt phoned in.

ja said...

Jim,

I offer something up for you to review, if you see fit:

http://www.wormworldsaga.com/index.php

The Wormworld Saga. It's an online graphic novel, of which the first two chapters are complete. I believe it's got a nice bit of charm, some decent storytelling (though I wish Daniel Lieske would opt for less back to back to back medium shots), and the digital painted panels are consistently beautiful to behold.

For me, even with my few storytelling composition critiques, I find this to be more engaging than the standard Marvel/DC fare.

I wonder what your thoughts on this are...?

Aaron Scott Johnson said...

I was a fan of this sequence:

http://titanmagazines.com/t/clint/features/announcements/nemesis-continues-issue-3-clint/

I also liked the sequence in the first run of the Ultimates where Captain America and Hank get into a fight after Cap finds out Hank hit Janet. I think Millar (generally) puts together good, kinetic action sequences. But I might be alone there.

Onion3000 said...

Mantra of Hydra = Cut down one, two more will take his place.
I'll let you figure the rest out on your own :)

Anonymous said...

The fighting in the Cap stuff was okay but I have to say I don't see Steve talking that way. It sounded "off".

t.k.

Anonymous said...

I have to say the art from the Legion comic put in the blog does nothing for me. I don't care for that cartoony look it has.

t.k.

Dusty. said...

Jim, Marvel recently did something they've stubbornly avoided for YEARS because they refuse to get over themselves enough to realize there are more qualified people to have working on their comics than their drinking buddies. Walt Simonson is coming home and drawing the last 6 part arc of Avengers before Bendis leaves. They had closed the doors to just about all longtime creators besides a nostalgia project here and there. Bringing Walt back to draw something that actually matters to them is a huge step. Any chance of you striking while the iron (and your bog) is hot, and pitching something to Marvel?

Aaron Scott Johnson said...

Bendis has always championed working with longtime creators and seems to have been using his clout at Marvel to get artists on his Avengers projects that he's always admired: Alan Davis on Avengers Prime, JR JR, Chaykin, and now Simonson on his Avengers run.

Also, I think the condescending and assuming tone of this comment is pretty silly. Just throwing that out there.

Anonymous said...

Written dialect affectations come across as different to everyone anyway.

I'm Australian, so to me when *some* Americans say 'mate' it sounds like 'meet' to me. And when I say 'mate' it will sound like 'mite' to some Americans.

But as the phonetics I've used above will read differently to different people, they serve no real purpose in the first place.

-Pete Marco

Anonymous said...

Heh - citing Millar as a good action sequence writer will not get you far. The guy writes comics specifically to try to get them made into movies. So, by default, he is not even trying to craft a good comic story - he is trying to write a movie script treatment with pretty pictures.

Let's stick to people who care about the craft of comic books.

Anonymous said...

Bendis never championed anything. JR Jr has been a tried-and-true marvel guy forever. Davis has been doing various work for Marvel for the last decade.

Bendis uses his clout to write as many books per month as possible and to churn out atrocious events yearly.

If anything, Joe Q has always said he keeps the door open to old Marvel guys (whether that's ingenuous or not is another matter)

Will Collier said...

Thanks very much. Obviously, I agree.

And I ought to add that despite Rogue's "accent," if it weren't for Chris Claremont's writing in the late 70's and early 80's, I probably wouldn't have kept reading comics for anywhere near as long as I have. He's a legitimate giant of the era, but as Jim notes, even giants have feet of clay.

Stuart Moore said...

As a friend of Mark's and someone who has worked with him, I can tell you this is absolutely, categorically false. You may not care for his work; that's absolutely cool. But I don't know anyone who loves comics more than Mark.

Defiant1 said...

Sanford complained about the size of Jim's script. He called it a phone book. He smiled when telling me he ignored some of Jim's instructions in the script. I think he should be drawing cartoons and nothing more serious.

Unfortunately, Jim's name as a writer on a series is not an assurance that you are getting a Jim Shooter story. A comic is only as good as the weakest element just as a chain is only as strong as it's weakest link.

Anonymous said...

I assume you're defending his love of comics - and not denying that Nemesis and Kick Ass 2 were written specifically as movie pitches

The guy was citing an action scene from Nemesis - that comic was nothing more than a Hollywood film on paper

And yes, I'd assert that treating the medium as nothing more than a pitch tool for an action movie devalues the craft

jimshooter said...

RE: The Wormworld Saga: I've seen this before. JayJay pointed me at it, I think. Nice art. I don't mind the back-to-back medium shots. Kirby would do pages of consecutive medium shots if that's what was best for the story. Spielberg, too, as many such shots (or any other kind) as necessary.

jimshooter said...

RE: "Any chance of you striking while the iron (and your bog) is hot, and pitching something to Marvel?"

They know how to get in touch with me if they care to.

Stuart Moore said...

I haven't discussed those projects with Mark, and obviously I don't speak for him. But I think "written specifically as movie pitches" is too dismissive. "Written to work in both media," definitely. Does the scene in question work as a comic? If so, great. If not, then yeah, that's a problem.

Anonymous said...

[MikeAnon:] Not sure if you're interested in revisiting past properties, but ever since Warren Ellis' computer fried and lost his scripts for NEWUNIVERSAL, it doesn't look like Marvel has been hot and heavy to continue the series. Maybe if they knew you were interested -- assuming that were the case -- they'd let you take it on? I don't think any other writer's taking on that book would generate an ounce of buzz, but if you, who originally oversaw the properties, were to take them back, starting from what Ellis & others laid out, that might get some buzz. [--MikeAnon]

El doc. said...

Dear T.K.

None of those characters sound as Steve, since none of them are Steve. One is Bucky (the"new" Captain), while the other is a false Steve Rogers.

ja said...

The back to back to back medium shots are not at all a dealbreaker with me. I really enjoyed the story, and I'll continue to keep reading.

I've come to enjoy pushing things a bit more, in terms of depth. There's a shot of the kid in the back seat of the car, eating a sandwich while kids in another car in the background are making goofy faces at him. I would have wanted the foreground kid to be closer to the camera to fill the space better (in my opinion), creating an even better sense of depth.

But that's just me. I always crab about such things, even when thoroughly enjoying something, like with The Wormworld Saga.

Which I did. =D

Aaron Scott Johnson said...

I think it's a little assuming to pretend you understand another person's motivations, especially when likely never having met the person in question.

That being said, I put the link there because I think it works as a good action sequence in a comic. If you disagree, feel free to criticize the work; criticizing someone's imagined motivations is an exercise in futility.

Will Collier said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Will Collier said...

I am from way deep South Alabama farmland, and I have never heard any human being (this is not counting somebody on a movie screen or television faking it) who talks like Claremont's Rogue.

Defiant1 said...

I've never read anything of Mark Millar's that interested me at all. I don't think anything he's written works for comics or movies.

Defiant1 said...

Will,

I've heard a few strong Southern Belle accents, but they are rare. When I ask the women where they are from they'll name some small town in South Georgia. A far more common accent is what I'd call "redneck". A guy claiming to be a dialect expert said I had a slight Tennessee accent which is plausible. My point was that fake Southern Belle accents outweigh real ones and they are never accurate. They are always over-the-top.

Anonymous said...

Art speaks for itself - you don't have to know the very depths of the author's intentions. If you are incapable or unwilling to judge a piece of art for what it is, that's your own deal.

There may be rare cases where an author's intentions are completely misjudged - but generally, the practiced eye can see what a writer is going for

Anonymous said...

The reason it doesn't work, is the very thing I was talking about. It is a collections of big, cinematic - OMG, kewl! - moments. It's like watching a Michael Bay film, instead of like reading a comic

Comic storytelling is a unique medium in itself. Aping moviemaking techniques almost never translates to good COMIC storytelling

Anonymous said...

"I've never read anything of Mark Millar's that interested me at all. I don't think anything he's written works for comics or movies."

[MikeAnon:] I'm not huge on Millar, but I'm not a hater, either. He's one of those writers who's work I regularly consider buying based on his past successes. I think his WOLVERINE series "Enemy of the State" was epic in scale and yet deeply personal. His first couple arcs of "Ultimates" were good. "Kick-Ass" actually made a better movie than a comics series. I put him a little below Warren Ellis -- I don't like everything he does, but he's wowed me on occasion, and hearing his name attached to a book is enough to make me wonder if I should buy it. [--MikeAnon]

"Art speaks for itself - you don't have to know the very depths of the author's intentions."

[MikeAnon:] In the comic book world, only the really good artists pull that off consistently. Most of the time, sadly, the writer has to convey a lot of information on top of the art, or else the story just doesn't make sense. And let's face it: sometimes the art simply can't convey the author's intent. For example, a recent DC comic had Deadman riding a rollercoaster while talking about stuff with some mysterious figure. What were they talking about? No way to know from the art. Nor should the art necessarily be responsible for conveying that info. Comics are a mix of words and art -- both serve a purpose, and both can make or break a comic. [--MikeAnon]

Anonymous said...

[MikeAnon:] NOTE TO WEBMASTER: I'm getting a bug with the "Recent Comments" column to the side. Using IE8 I just clicked on a comment under "Recent Comments" that took me to a reply in the middle of the column, but then I was kicked down to the last comment in the chain. Wondering if this is a bug related to the new "Reply" functionality (that I wish would go away). [--MikeAnon]

Anonymous said...

Mike - I was talking about art as in any art form (movies, novels, music, comics) - not the art (ie drawing) in comic books

jimshooter said...

I checked it out. I see your point. Lots of things could benefit from a tweak here and there.

jimshooter said...

RE: "Art speaks for itself - you don't have to know the very depths of the author's intentions. If you are incapable or unwilling to judge a piece of art for what it is, that's your own deal.

There may be rare cases where an author's intentions are completely misjudged - but generally, the practiced eye can see what a writer is going for"

Baloney.

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Jim,

Hasn't Steve Ditko said that his work should speak for itself? I would say that if art fails to communicate the creator's intentions without crutches (e.g., interviews and commentary), then it's not very effective.

Anonymous said...

"I do not wish to comment on my work; if it does not speak for itself, it is a failure"

-George Orwell

I'm sure George was not the only one to express this. Picasso was another

Anonymous said...

[MikeAnon:] Come on, you did say, "...the practiced eye can see what a writer is going for." That sounds like comic book talk to me. And to that I still answer, "Not if the artist completely botches things." Artists aren't dictation machines, but artists still need to correctly convey the message the writer intends the reader to receive.

As for art in general, some art -- Jackson Pollock's drizzle-drawings come to mind -- are like Rosetta Stones without a linking language: you get the idea that it wants to say something, but who the hell knows what? I suspect whoever "gets" Pollack and artists like him constitute a pretty small audience. I'm not saying there isn't a message in his art, but I know I would need an interpreter to help me find it. Whereas comic book art shouldn't need an interpreter, as comic book art is supposed to BE the interpretation of the writer's script. The art can have layers above that script-meaning, but if the art doesn't at least convey the script-meaning, the art fails. [--MikeAnon]

Will Collier said...

With that I agree completely. I once tried to watch the movie of "Steel Magnolias" because my mom loved the original play. Couldn't do it; every accent (except, oddly enough, Shirley McClaine's) was just... so... bad. Even Julia Roberts, who's from the town I'm sitting in right now (Smyrna, GA) and so has no excuse, was beyond awful in faking a "belle" accent.

Anonymous said...

well, choosing Pollack as an example is choosing about the furthest extreme possible.

Abstract art is probably up to interpretation. But narrative storytelling, whether comics, novels, TV shows, or movies - should be coherent enough to convey meaning without "knowing the writer personally" and without that author expressly confessing their intentions

I can watch a summer action flick and see when they put in the scene that is designed to end up being a ride at Universal Studios. Millar is doing just that with Nemesis and Kick Ass 2

Anonymous said...

"Millar is doing just that with Nemesis and Kick Ass 2."

[MikeAnon:] I'll have to watch for that when the trades come out. One writer who does do this (at least in my opinion) is Andrew Cosby, author of "X Isle" and "Damn Nation". Those two books are screenplays-as-comics if I ever saw one. Doesn't make them bad, though. The artists on both were competent at telling the story.

If Millar's guilty of anything it's adhering to the rule, "Don't use just a panel when a splash page or two-page spread will do." See ULTIMATE AVENGERS #1 for an example. (Maybe Mr. Shooter would like to critique it.) [--MikeAnon]

Phil Bloom said...

I also find the new comments system horrible. Please JayJay, by all that is holy, go back to the way it was. Otherwise, I'm afraid the comments will become closer to a modern comic: unreadable.

Anonymous said...

Oh okay. It wasn't clear from the example there and I haven't read the actual story.

t.k.

Anonymous said...

I tried to find an example of good action storytelling. I flipped through a bunch of my recent comics—The Legion of Super-Heroes and the recent Dark Horse/Gold Key books.

I could not find a single example of an artist adding to or improving an action scene. I could find very few examples of an artist even satisfactorily executing what I asked of him and making an action scene as clear as it ought to have been. Mostly, I saw hard-to-understand, poor storytelling. Lots of panels and sequences that you can stare at all day and still have no idea what’s going on.

-------
Jim,
Does the list of "guilty" artists include Pat Oliffe? I always thought of him as an old school artist in that he tells a story clearly and eschews the "kewl" but confusing imagery? I've always liked his work and I liked it on Samson too.

Aaron Scott Johnson said...

@Anonymous

Here's a sequence that I think works well on the page that didn't work at all on film:

http://iat.ubalt.edu/moulthrop/hypertexts/wm/images/vsprdFul.jpg

I wonder what your take on this is. I think Watchmen made great use of a lot of comic book conventions that simply didn't translate to film.

Anonymous said...

@Aaron - great stuff. The different "scenes" in each panel convey the movement of the action in a way film could not.

I wish I could think of more examples like the one you just cited. Distinct storytelling style that makes comics unique

Some of Steve Dillon's art in both Preacher and his first Punisher series qualify. He combines humor, violence, and even reality in a way that could never be successfully captured with real actors.

This is what makes comics a great and rich medium

Anonymous said...

"I think Watchmen made great use of a lot of comic book conventions that simply didn't translate to film."

[MikeAnon:] It was a long period between the last time I read WATCHMEN and seeing the movie, so I came to the movie fairly fresh, and I didn't recall seeing anything in the movie that didn't "work" in the sense of conveying the story. I think the film suffered some from the loss of story elements that had to be compressed or cut due to time constraints, but aside from the Nixonesque makeup on the President that looked kind of goofy, I think most of the film "worked" insofaras it conveyed the general story presented in WATCHMEN. Considering how good WATCHMEN and V FOR VENDETTA turned out to be as movies, it's a shame Alan Moore refused to be credited for them. [--MikeAnon]

Anonymous said...

Changing the ending, using hot actors to play supposedly-aging heroes, omitting the Black Freighter, and the use of cliche, slow-motion action set to popular songs were just a few of the things wrong with the Watchmen film. Moore was smart to distance himself from that film

Matt Adler said...

"lightweights like Bob Harras"

Hmm, lightweight in what sense?

Regarding Eric Ellenbogen, I only remember him from this item reported by Rich Johnston at the time of Harras' firing:

***** Ike [Perlmutter] told Bob he should be "ashamed and embarrassed" for having written a memo a year ago in support of keeping the coffee maker for the employees. Bob said, "Eric Ellenbogen (president at the time) asked me to write that to explain why we needed it." At this point, Ike got hopping mad and said, "THAT guy! I hate Eric Ellenbogen! If your children turn out like him (gay, presumably,) you should KILL them!"

So Bob says "I don't have to take this," and walks away. They don't speak again until Ike fires Bob today. *****

Anonymous said...

"Changing the ending, using hot actors to play supposedly-aging heroes, omitting the Black Freighter, and the use of cliche, slow-motion action set to popular songs were just a few of the things wrong with the Watchmen film."

[MikeAnon:] I don't want to get into too deep a discussion for fear of spoiling plot details for someone who hasn't seen the movie yet, but:

1) Nothing in the ending was significantly changed. The status quo at the end of the movie is essentially no different from the status quo at the end of the comic series.

2) The only "hot" replacement was really that of Nite Owl. Neither Silk Spectre nor Ozymandias came across as particularly old to me in the comics. And while having a chubbier Nite Owl might have lent some verisimilitude, it wouldn't have necessarily made for a better viewing experience.

3) The Black Freighter piece was entirely tangential to the main story. Its only purpose was to serve as a window into a particular character's psychology -- and even the comic readers weren't privy to the Black Freighter's meaning until the end of the story in such a fashion that readers could look back and say, "Ohhhh, NOW I get it." The movie was long enough as it was and couldn't afford that tangent.

4) I don't care for slow-motion action either, but that's a stylistic choice I can respect. Not all superhero movies are going to play out like THE DARK KNIGHT. My memory's vague on the music choices, but I think Dylan's "The Times, They Are A-Changing" was perfectly apropos for the opening sequence, as it was basically a history of superheroism over the decades.

5) Alan Moore's free to do what he wants, but I think it's a shame he couldn't grace these movies with his name considering how closely they stuck to his original creations. His basically disowning these adaptations cast on them a negative aspersion they didn't deserve. [--MikeAnon]

Anonymous said...

Simon and Garfunkle's The Sounds of Silence at the funeral was particularly cringe-worthy

The Black Freighter was tangential - you could not be more wrong

Silk Spectre was a hot, thin chick who did a topless scene. It flies in the face of the fact Dr Manhattan was leaving her because she was getting old

There are many other things wrong with the film. But it appears you liked all aspects of it

Aaron Scott Johnson said...

I'm not a huge fan of the film, but I don't hate it, either. There were enough elements that I liked (mostly Rorschach stuff) that made me happy to see come alive, but I felt the film really only helped prove Alan Moore (and plenty of Hollywood execs) right that the book was "unfilmable."

Anonymous said...

Maybe you would have preferred a Nickleback song at the funeral.

Anonymous said...

"Dr Manhattan was leaving her because she was getting old...."

[MikeAnon:] I had thought he was leaving her because of his losing touch with his own humanity. [--MikeAnon]

"The Black Freighter was tangential - you could not be more wrong....There are many other things wrong with the film. But it appears you liked all aspects of it."

[MikeAnon:] No, I think there were a few hollow notes, one of which was indeed struck by the removal of the Black Freighter subplot, but I both understand why the changes I noticed in the film were made and condone their having been made. I'm sure they were difficult calls, but in the end they were good calls. The only other option would have been to make a wonderful 4-hour movie that practically no one would have seen (sort of like Kenneth Branagh's "Hamlet"). [--MikeAnon]

Anonymous said...

"I felt the film really only helped prove Alan Moore (and plenty of Hollywood execs) right that the book was 'unfilmable'."

[MikeAnon:] Well, I just didn't get that vibe at all. I'm starting to think that either you have read WATCHMEN so many times you have it memorized, or you read the book right before seeing the movie and were consequently able to pick the movie apart, because what I recall seeing the in theater was a perfectly watchable film that captured about 90% of the essence of the book as I could recall. That success hardly attests to any assertions of "unfilmability" that Mr. Moore or others may have made. [--MikeAnon]

Anonymous said...

No, I would prefer The Watchmen not be a musical or a music videos. Nothing, when reading the source material, said to me, "Let's make this a flashy, slick music video." Yet there were several scenes in the Watchmen movie that were exactly that

Anonymous said...

Heh - now your theory is that anyone who objects to the film must have some mental obsessions. Come on, the movie was not perfect.

Was it an OK film, certainly. Was it an effective adaptation - not even close

jimshooter said...

RE: My statement: "I could not find a single example of an artist adding to or improving an action scene. I could find very few examples of an artist even satisfactorily executing what I asked of him and making an action scene as clear as it ought to have been. Mostly, I saw hard-to-understand, poor storytelling. Lots of panels and sequences that you can stare at all day and still have no idea what’s going on."

This question: "Does the list of "guilty" artists include Pat Oliffe? I always thought of him as an old school artist in that he tells a story clearly and eschews the "kewl" but confusing imagery? I've always liked his work and I liked it on Samson too."

I think very highly of Patrick Olliffe. Patrick put a tremendous amount of work into The Mighty Samson. He did a very good job, I think. He usually did pretty well on the storytelling on first try. There were some places that he didn't nail it right away, but when/if I was given his layouts to review, if I asked him to make storytelling corrections and improvements he did so cheerfully. Some things that could have been made better, for various reasons (not Patrick's fault), weren't. A number of panels made it into print in which what's going on isn't clear at a glance. I can't think, offhand, of an action sequence to which he made an outstanding improvement, but there may be examples that I'm forgetting. Overall, my feeling is that if we'd been able to communicate more and work together more closely we would have had no glitches at all -- and Patrick would have been able to bring more of his own creativity to bear, rather than always being stuck reacting to and trying to interpret my ideas.

jimshooter said...

RE: My remark: "...lightweights like Bob Harras."

Somebody hired Bob Harras as an assistant editor when I was Editor in Chief at Marvel. Macchio? I'm not sure. In my dealings with Bob I found him to be personable and diligent enough, but possessing little acumen and showing no likelihood of acquiring any. A career assistant, at best, I thought. I never had any run-ins or problems with Bob, so do not think that my opinions are colored by some conflict.

Some time after I was gone from Marvel, Bob became Marvel's Editor in Chief, or one of them. I was flabbergasted. Bob? I remember a time at Broadway Comics -- people in the office were laughing hysterically at something in a trade magazine, CBG, maybe. I asked what was up. They showed me an interview given by Bob in which, among other things, he was asked what constituted good inking. His answer was, words to the effect, that he couldn't explain it, but "I know it when I see it." Good grief. He missed his calling. He should have been a Supreme Court Justice in the 1960's. He made similarly idiotic answers to other questions. He had/(has?) no idea about the craft.

Bob was, and is, I suspect, clueless. His major qualification for a position of authority in the comic book biz is that he happened to be the editor when Jim Lee and the new #1/multiple cover gimmick was helping Marvel strip-mine the equity built in preceding decades. He knows how to suck up to stars. That got him EIC status, and that got him where he is today. He's still clueless, I believe, still a lightweight.

jimshooter said...

RE: Watchmen the comic book series v. Watchmen the movie. Has anyone else read Sam Hamm's screenplay for the first try at a Watchmen movie? I thought it was great, captured the essence and perfectly fixed the lame, cliche ending Moore wrote.

Anonymous said...

"Heh - now your theory is that anyone who objects to the film must have some mental obsessions."

[MikeAnon:] No, I'm saying that I do not see at all what you mean when you say "Watchmen" was not an "effective adaptation." Sure, it's been many years since I last read the book -- I think I read it maybe half a dozen times, but it was many years ago -- but I do not remember watching the movie and thinking, "That's not what I read." Instead, I remember watching the movie and thinking, "Yep, that was WATCHMEN, all right." [--MikeAnon]

srp said...

Thanks for explaining so clearly the difficulties a writer now faces in getting action sequences to work. I'd never seen that Legion stuff before but the unclear art is fairly typical of the sort of thing I'm complaining about. As a reader, it's also nice to see that I'm glad to see that I'm not alone in my perception.

BTW, I agree with ASJ above that the Cap-Hank fight in Ultimates was good. The reboot of Starman had some good action scenes amongst the very nice character-driven story lines. I don't want to paint with too broad a brush, especially because I don't read very much of what comes out in the event-driven world of the last several years. But I do think any fair sampling of contemporary superhero comics against the past would show a lot less craftsmanship and verve in the action sequences.

Aaron Scott Johnson said...

@Mike

I'm pretty familiar with the book. It's one I have read and re-read a number of times and can always go back to and find something new in.

My problems with the movie were not quite "why isn't this exactly like it was in the book?" and more a feeling of shallowness regarding the ultimate result on film. Like I mentioned before, I don't hate the film; there were things about it that I thought were great (particularly Rorschach and Dr. Manhattan). But the themes I take from the book just didn't resonate (with me) in the film, so I can't say I see it as an effective adaptation. It was a valiant effort and I see it ultimately as a miss, but I get that you don't see it that way. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

V for Vendetta, we could have another conversation about...

Glenn Greenberg said...

"In my dealings with Bob I found him to be personable and diligent enough, but possessing little acumen and showing no likelihood of acquiring any. A career assistant, at best, I thought."

Jim,

Then why did you promote him to full editor? That happened on your watch, remember?

Anonymous said...

Mike - I hear you. And I never said the Watchmen film was horrible. But the Watchmen book was bleak. It had a drab desperation to it. it was as if Moore was picking up a rock and giving us a close-up view of the things crawling beneath. The movie utterly missed this - it was too slick and clean. If you miss the essence of a work, then it opens the door for many other elements of the film to be off-key

jimshooter said...

RE: My assessment of Bob Harras's editorial acumen: "Then why did you promote him to full editor? That happened on your watch, remember?"

First, let me say that I had a fairly solid "hire-from-within" policy. If -- please note the "if" -- I hired Bob, it was probably because he had been passed over so many times that it was becoming a sore-thumb issue. At some point, you have to give a person a chance to try, even if you're pretty sure they'll fail. It was exactly the same thing with Macchio, by the way -- passed over again and again. Finally, I gave him the chance, expecting failure. I wasn't far wrong. Macchio had to be put on one-month probations several times, and he was constantly hanging by a thread. But, I'm reluctant to fire people so, in his case, I never went through with it. I should have.

Now, about the "if." As I recall, Harras was promoted first to "associate editor' then later to editor. I could be wrong, but I think this happened at the very end of my tenure -- late 1986 or sometime in 1987 -- at which point, I was being circumvented and marginalized by upper management. There were a number of people on "my" staff at the end that I didn't hire. Honestly, there were some I didn't know at all. Didn't even know who they were.

Kev From Atl said...

In terms of the Watchmen movie, I felt that they got much of it right, but the attack on New York and the major cities around the world was a major flaw. I mean, the attack was made to look as if Dr. Manhattan, an American superhero (the only one in the world) was responsible. Even if one or more American cities were destroyed the rest of the world would still blame the US, and rightly so, rather than rallying together. Really, Synder would have been better going with the giant octopus instead.

Kev From Atl said...

Jim-
Having read Watchmen many times I have to say I never found the ending to be cliched. I found it to be the weakest part of the package, yes, but it still worked better than the ending in the movie. What exactly did you find cliched about it?

Anonymous said...

I have to admit - Sam Hamm's ending is damn interesting

Kev From Atl said...

The Sam Hamm script has some interesting elements to it but I think the ending is terrible. Any ending where Rorschach survives doesn't work for me. His stance to "never compromise, not even in the face of armageddon" defines the character for me, and for all he has done throughout the book, in my mind he has always emerged as the most heroic of the team due to his refusal to back down. And I'm a pretty liberal guy, believe me.

Aaron Scott Johnson said...

Just finished the Sam Hamm script; have to agree that the ending is intriguing. The opening sequence was a fun read, too. WOnder if the DC folk who are working on the Watchmen 2 stuff have read this script...

Anonymous said...

I agree. It's ironic (but true to character) that Rorschach is the most heroic character. The other supposedly more heroic characters compromise their principles to go along with the villain. It works so well it would ruin the story to do anything else.

t.k.

Anonymous said...

They did do a tie-in adaption of "The Black Freighter" anyway (it's just separate from the main film).

t.k.

JayJayJackson said...

This something blogger has installed. I went into the settings, but it isn't showing a way to reset it. I'll keep looking into it.

jimshooter said...

Faking an outside threat to bring opposing forces together is a cliche. And it wouldn't work.

Anonymous said...

One thing about the ending in the movie that didn't seem right to me is that there was no reason not to kill Ozymandias. In the comic he's able to bluff them about an investigation, which even then was flimsy. But given the made-up threat in the movie, Doctor Manhattan was perfectly free to kill the guy and should have.

Stephen

Anonymous said...

A DVD extra, that is a cartoon. That, does not respect the impact of the Black Freighter in the comic

Anonymous said...

"Faking an outside threat to bring opposing forces together is a cliche. And it wouldn't work."

[MikeAnon:] I don't see how you can categorically say that. Does a real outside threat *never* bring opposing forces together? Like Stalin and the rest of the Allies in WWII? Or like organized crime families when the cops are bringing the heat? Or like any political party, whose diverse and often opposed constituents are focused most on keeping the other party out of power? If a real outside threat wouldn't work to bring opposing forces together, then, sure, faking one wouldn't work, either. But if the reality would work, then the only obstacle to faking it is making sure the fake-out holds up. And in WATCHMEN the idea was that the villain mastermind had either eliminated all the people who knew about the fake-out or had convinced them to join in the plan. There was essentially no one left (except one) who either could or would reveal the truth. (And who would believe the truth even if it were revealed? Who would want to?)

Actually, the movie did a better job of providing the "enemy threat" than the book. The movie blamed a known quantity whereas the book had to invent a threat whole-cloth. That the threat was known to the public and was possessed of such power and perceived instability made the lie far easier for the public to swallow than the truth (i.e., villainous mastermind organizes huge ruse under everyone's noses). [--MikeAnon]

Kev From Atl said...

MikeAnon-

Actually I agree that external threats can often bring opposing parties together, at least in the short term (notice of course that the US/British/Soviet alliance collapsed as soon as the Nazis were defeated), and since the primary goal was to avert the nuclear war that seemed just around the corner Veidt's plan may have been a good one. Where I disagree is that his plan in the movie works better than his plan in the comics. The outside force in the comics was, to the best of the world's knowledge, a purely external, alien threat-a legitimate third party force. In the movie the threat is one that was, as far as the rest of the world was concerned, manufactured by the US government and used to project US power across the world (as in winning the Vietnam War, for example). Even if it did appear that Dr. Manhattan destroyed 1 or more American cities while he was also destroying Moscow and so many others, I think the world would still hold the US responsible for creating the monster in the first place. Any alliance, if it sprung from those circumstances, would be extremely short-lived at best. I think one formed against a purely external threat, one that no nation had blood on its hands for creating, would work much better.

My other big problem with the movie is that so much of the Rorschach origin issue was left out. Oh, the gist of it was included, sure, but the poetry of it was, for the most part, not. That issue is possibly, in my opinion, the most beautiful issue of any comic ever written. Seldom have such ugly things been expressed with such beautiful words. I guess I wanted it word for word in the movie, which really goes back to Alan Moore's point that Watchmen defied adaptation, or least an adaptation that did it justice.

Ole M. Olsen said...

Re. the "Watchmen" film:

As has been mentioned here, "Tales of the the Black Freighter" was released separately on DVD (and BD) as an animated feature, together with a version of "Under the Hood" (actually a fake documentary ABOUT "Under the Hood").

As for the main film, besides the longer "Director's Cut", which included scenes I missed when I saw the movie at the cinema, there was also an edition released called "The Ultimate Cut", which
has the "Black Freighter" animated film integrated into the main feature (the Director's Cut version) à la the book. 215 minutes. :-)

(The "Ultimate Cut" box set also includes "The Complete Motion Comic". It is a nicely animated version of the comic, but it bugs me a bit that there's ONE guy (Tom Stechschulte) doing ALL the voices. He actually does a quite good job, but they could at least have hired a woman to do the female parts...).

Jim, regarding your comment on your latest blog entry that Moore "gave barely a nod to the initial, serialized presentation, and it didn’t sell all that well. But it has done wonderfully well as a collection in various trade formats."

I'll have to leave it to someone else to figure out how well it originally sold (it's always been my impression that it sold well), but as far as "writing for the trade" is concerned - well, "Watchmen" always was one big story in twelve parts, of course. There's definitely a "chapter break" feeling between each issue/part, whereas lots of books today flow rather seemlessly (in the trade, that is). It probably wouldn't work very well to "jump in" anywhere but at issue #1 of "Watchmen", but in my book that is really not a necessity for a limited series. For an ongoing, yes, absolutely, and it bugs me no end that it's becoming more and more of an impossibility. But for a limited series it's enough to be self-contained within itself, I think.

I think "Watchmen" is one of the greatest pieces of comic book literature ever published. I've loved it since I first read it, and keep reading it every now and then. Unlike many who love the book, I also loved the film. As for the ending, I find both the comic and the movie versions to be somewhat anti-climatic, actually. I haven't looked up the Sam Hamm screenplay yet.

Fabio Graziano said...

Dear Jim -

Yes, Watchmen's ending may be considered as a cliché, but I think that was the writer's point.
In (very) short, while reading the book I have the impression that, as the story goes on, what initially seems like a world where "ordinary" has suppressed the "extraordinary" spark that makes people surpass themeselves, regrows its "magic" as people are allowed again to live and not only dream a superheroic life.
Still, I believe the very final panels of the story imply that the cliché didn't, in fact, work at all as planned. The "extraordinary" way of thinking may work for individuals, but not for the world as a whole. Better than anything, I guess.

Shifting the subject a little bit, didn't Starbrand come out near the same month the first issue of Watchmen did?
I always considered these two books very much alike, as it seems to me whatever happens in both their fictional worlds has to face "real-world-like" consequences instead of "comic-booky" ones, which - please correct me if I'm wrong - is something that wasn't common in superheroic books at the time (actually I see that peculiarity in most of the comics you wrote, especially your later works like Solar or Harbinger).

Thank you and JayJay for doing this awesome blog!

Best,
FG

jimshooter said...

RE: "...didn't Starbrand come out near the same month the first issue of Watchmen did?
I always considered these two books very much alike, as it seems to me whatever happens in both their fictional worlds has to face "real-world-like" consequences instead of "comic-booky" ones, which - please correct me if I'm wrong - is something that wasn't common in superheroic books at the time (actually I see that peculiarity in most of the comics you wrote, especially your later works like Solar or Harbinger)."

I think you are correct, Star Brand and Watchmen came out at about the same time, summer of 1986. I like Watchmen. There is much to be admired there. I agree, Moore put in a lot of gritty human drama with, as you say, "real-world-like consequences." He also included some real world settings and events. But Watchmen is set in a world where non-super people put on costumes, take comic-booky names and fight for truth, justice and whatever. And that seems reasonable to everyone! They even work for the government sometimes. That makes the Watchmen's world seem very surreal to me, very comic-booky. That's okay, some of my favorite worlds are comic-booky. You accept it going in.

Star Brand was meant to be science fiction -- that is, take the real world, introduce one fantastic thing and go from there. That's what I was going for, anyway. I liked that general direction so I used a similar approach at VALIANT. While I was there, all powers were technology-based or powers of the mind (though I didn't always spell it out). No wings (as if that would work), no bizarre physical transformations (like the Human Torch), no magic hammers or magic anything, no unstable molecules, no fake science at all. Exactly one alien race, granted. I once got a fan letter from a nuclear physicist complimenting me on the accuracy of the science presented -- in particular, Solar setting off a nuclear warhead by throwing a stream of neutrons at it.

The Dark Horse books were also an attempt at a more science-based, science fiction world. Strike three, I guess. Maybe someday I'll come to bat again and get it right.

Anonymous said...

"STAR BRAND was meant to be science fiction -- that is, take the real world, introduce one fantastic thing and go from there....I used a similar approach at VALIANT. While I was there, all powers were technology-based or powers of the mind (though I didn't always spell it out). No wings (as if that would work), no bizarre physical transformations (like the Human Torch), no magic hammers or magic anything, no unstable molecules, no fake science at all."

[MikeAnon:] In terms of creating a universe of limited "super-causes", it seems like you did pretty much the same with DEFIANT (wish powers or Plasm science), and Bob Layton did pretty much the same with FUTURE (the Deathmask). But I noticed that one thing I enjoy about going back and reading old Marvel Comics, especially books like FANTASTIC FOUR, is that absolutely anything is possible. Telepathic fish? Check. Shrinking drug? Check. Unstable molecules? Check. Stan Lee could put a man in a goblin suit and make it seem *reasonable* for him to dress like that -- mainly by not even questioning it. Today's comics seem to be all about taking the wild flights of fancy that yesterday's authors took us on and clamping them down with rules and prohibitions, i.e., "That couldn't happen." And the drawback I see to this approach is that comics work on willing suspension of disbelief, and comics that insist on only skirting the edge of disbelief make readers more inclined to lean over that edge, question everything, and inevitably pull away from the story by finding their own "that can't happens" in the stories. I like structure, too, mind you -- the comics I could never get into were mainly the ones like THOR or DOCTOR STRANGE where there simply were no rules governing what the characters could do (although there were a few runs on THOR that I enjoyed). But VALIANT, DEFIANT, and FUTURE struck me as a little flat in tone just because the sources of power were so limited (even if the expressions of power resulting from those sources were varied). Maybe this is one reason X-MEN never appealed to me for long: mutation isn't that exciting a power source, and that's really all the X-titles focused on, whereas in books like SPIDER-MAN, FF, AVENGERS, etc., people got powers from all kinds of sources -- the variety of possibilities kept things jumping, whereas in titles like HULK it was like, "Gamma rays AGAIN?" [--MikeAnon]

jimshooter said...

As I said, some of my favorite worlds are comic-booky. I wrote for DC's absurd, all-over-the-place "universe" for a total of nine or ten years. I ran Marvel's anything-is-possible world for 9+ years. Broadway was science fantasy based. DEFIANT was powers-of-the-id based, but we went far into fantasy. The work I did that hasn't seen the light of day yet for TGS, Inc. and Phobos Entertainment was, respectively, fantasy and science fiction/science fantasy. Give me a Blue Area on the moon and I can run with it. Throw in some repulsor rays and I'm clam-happy.

Onion3000 said...

A page from Journey Into Mystery #75 by Stan and Jack, which predates Watchman a little.

http://s474.photobucket.com/albums/rr109/onion3000/?action=view&current=JIM75.jpg

Onion3000 said...

Sorry, this link should work.

http://i474.photobucket.com/albums/rr109/onion3000/JIM75.jpg

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Onion3000,

Great find! I forgot about Lo-Karr.

Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby did a similar story a few years before that in Strange Tales #2 (March 1959). I suspect that the 1959 story in turn is probably a retelling of some earlier 50s Atlas story.

Matt Adler said...

"No wings (as if that would work), no bizarre physical transformations (like the Human Torch), no magic hammers or magic anything, no unstable molecules, no fake science at all. "

But that takes all the fun out of it!

More seriously, I enjoy fantasy and science fiction on two completely different levels. To me, I read science fiction to get a glimpse of the future, to see things that might really happen someday. As well thought out as many of the New Universe and Valiant concepts were, we still know that the bulk of it could never really happen. Nobody is going to get an alien tattoo or start shooting neutrons out of their hands.

On the other hand, I enjoy fantasy because it liberates us from the chains of reality... the question isn't whether something could actually happen, but how wonderful it would be if it did. So if I'm reading fantasy, I'm not concerned with whether there is a plausible scientific explanation for what I'm seeing-- that's really besides the point.

jimshooter said...

Dear Matt,

Like I said, Matt, I do it/did it every which way. SF or no-holds-barred. You pays yer money an' you takes yer cherce.