Saturday, December 09, 2006

You Can Never Have Enough Free Webspace

Oh, and as long as I'm posting -- I have been asssimilated. Everybody else has one and the layout is not obnoxious yet. Not sure what I'll do with it, except place links to my other sites and gauge my popularity.

Maybe I can do political cartoons with dreadful art or something like that.

White Tiger #2

Better than the first issue. I still hate the art, but the writing's much smoother.

Another villain displays sexism, but its seems like there's more of a point to it. It's setting up a personality, specifically a leadership style, and makes more sense.

Less Spanglish, too. Though isn't "puta" a bit profane for an all ages book? I could be wrong about the meaning, it's been a while since I lived in Texas.

Same sort of stuff slipped by editorial in the Gorgon storyline in Wonder Woman. Weird how TV and radio are getting more restricted, but comics are getting more slack right now.

(And the sad thing is that this isn't even the most trivial thing I've ever criticized. I'd say that the most trivial thing I've ever posted was the rant about Captain Comet's name, but I'm sure there's something more miniscule in my archives that I'm forgetting about.)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Let's Keep This Simple

In honor of this, my five hundredth post on this blog, I have prepared a very special treat for all of you.

Present behind the cut.

From the pages of Green Lantern #50,

in its very first appearance,

Kyle Rayner's butt.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Green Lantern: The Other Series #8

Lest you think I hated all of the Green Lantern books last week, I wanted to do an in-depth review Green Lantern Lite (mysteriously marketed as Ion for 8 issues now). Instead, I read the archives of the Invincible Super-Blog all night. You only get a short summary.

Surprisingly, despite some definite openings for feminist critique and a looming refrigeration unit on the horizon (you'll hear about it if it does indeed manifest, because I really like the threatened character), I was really happy with this issue. The story was cheerful, entertaining, and full of action that kept moving. I'm already very fond of Kyle. So yes, Ron Marz the only Lantern-writer not to piss me off last week.

I think it's mostly the art this time. There were two fill-in pencillers (Paco Diaz and Yvel Guichet, not sure who did which set of pages) which pleased me greatly. For various reasons I despise the regular artist and I shovel steaming mounds of criticism onto his work whenever possible.

I was pleasantly surprised by the art, and the writing was enjoyable.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Almost Carnival Time!

Final Call for Eighth Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans is up at Dance of the Puppets. Nominations/Submissions due December 7th.

From Greek Gods to Guy Gardner and G'nort

I was planning to post on the flaws of George Perez's Wonder Woman reboot, but instead I'm just going to touch on one flaw and how it relates to Green Lantern. Well, more specifically, Guy Gardner: Collateral Damage #1 which could have been called Green Lantern: Collateral Damage (Just like Ion is really only Green Lantern: Now With Less Angst!). In it, Howard Chaykin's Guy Gardner really reminded me of George Perez's Greek Pantheon.

With Perez, it was painful to read his Olympus and Hermes scenes because it seemed like he'd never read up on the gods. I got the distinct impression that he got a fact sheet and a few pages summarizing the notable stories and he went from there because while the structure and framework of the Pantheon was there, the life and the spirit was nowhere to be found.

I'm convinced that's what happened with Howard Chaykin and Beau Smith's Warrior run. Someone must have given Chaykin a list of plot elements and summaries, because the framework of Warrior is there but the spirit sure as hell isn't. I'm willing to accept the narrative condemnation of Guy because its first-person narrative from G'Nort's POV (I mean, since when is G'nort considered "perceptive"?) but even taking that into account doesn't improve on the overall mood of the book. I'm largely unimpressed with this comic and that is really saying something because I had very low expectations to begin with.

Also, that new Rannian Lantern puts the series out of continuity with GLC, which grates on my nerves because GLC has managed to keep with the spirit of Warrior even though it threw the trappings of the series to curb.

On the bright side, there was a G'nort butt-shot.

(Annoyingly, that was the only full tailview of G'nort and every other Lantern was turned to the side or the front every panel. Even the female character. The man knows nothing about Green Lantern. Butts, not breasts, dammit!)

Also on the bright side, I spent twenty minutes laughing at the first two pages in which we see "Dark G'nort." That was golden unintentional comedy, funnier than any other G'nort appearance I've ever seen. The scrunched up little face, the badass attitude, the known history, and the fact that this is Dark fucking G'nort combined to save the entire issue for me. I think he should stay this way, it is hilarious.

Those two pages aside, don't waste the six bucks. Buy a few Warrior back issues instead.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

I know I've covered this before.

I just can't get over how "Fanboy" carries the expectation of extremely pretentious criticism, and "Fangirl" carries the expectation of starstruck gushing silliness.

I know what fangirls are like. They are exactly like fanboys when they get disappointed. I know what fanboys are like, just a goofy as fangirls when they get starstruck. Its just an inescapable connotation.

We need a gender-neutral word, dammit, and "Fan" is just a tad too dignified.

On Harsh Criticism

(Note: Please excuse the following really pretentious post. Using long words in a self-important tone is a defense mechanism common to the net-dwelling fannis comicus. It serves to discourage disagreement by maximizing the risk of humiliation and minimizing the gains of friendship. And a post explaining the fannish need to nitpick and complain would not be the same without using the proper "fanboy voice" in the writing.)

It may surprise recent readers to learn this, but I have been in a beautiful, blissful mood since November 30th. I had been running ragged for several months at that point. Spreading myself a little too thin had caused me, for the most part, to burn out on blogging. I was very close to just stopping abruptly and disappearing from fandom. I've done this once or twice before, it's not hard to pick up again. Instead, I signed up to do even more writing, and immersed myself up to the bridge of my nose in the venture.

It worked beautifully! Sure, it has probably affected my writing in the most negative way possible (I'm sure in a few weeks this annoying tendency to milk my writing for the highest possible wordcount to the detriment of theme, mood, grammatical accuracy, and actual communication, will fade away) Once the month was over, I suddenly found myself well-rested and brimming with ideas. I am attempting to write fiction. I am writing more on my blog. I am completely caught up with my blog-reading. I am smiling and laughing as I walk through the hallways at work. I am accepting of myself and unashamed of my origins. My heart is filled with good will for everyone I meet. I love comics, comics fandom, the blogosphere, and the internet again. I love everything, almost.

All of this good will seems to be stopping short at the feet of the people who work and slave to deliver quality entertainment to an ungrateful fandom. It seems that my sensibilities are set to hypersensitive. While I harbor no personal resentment towards the individual creators, the very small little details that grate on my exposed nerves, the ones which, prior to NaNoWriMo, I had tried so very hard to forgive and keep reading past, are suddenly to such an extent that I can not ignore them, even for the sake of a story which is ninety-five percent pure awesome. I must complain, in detail, and in harsh language, about these little problems.

In short, ladies and gentlemen of the internet, I am in full "Fanboy" mode, and have been rampaging accordingly since the month began. I'm sure when its over I will awaken from my fannish stupor, still hugging my three-quarter drunken bottle of liquid rage, dazed, confused, and completely unaware of what happened in the preceding posts. I will then collect my things, look back on the negativity contained on this blog with great embarrassment, take a shower and attempt to return to polite society. Most of fandom should understand, we are comic book fans after all and this is normal behavior. Most of you will give me a wide berth until you're certain I won't bite anymore. Everyone will politely ignore my previous comments, and new fans will have no clue as to my prior rampages with the exception of a slight blush whenever there is cause to praise the comics work of Tamora Pierce.

I very much doubt the creators themselves will remember or even care to remember my rantings. In comics, creators are a part of fandom, they get this from every quarter, I am just another nutbag fan, and I am hardly the harshest critic on the block. There is absolutely no point in pretending to be perfectly happy when perfect happiness is hardly my natural response, especially when feigning niceness might lead to stress, exhaustion, and the need to write another thirty-day novel to relax. Besides, having plopped down my three dollars to cover their royalties I am entitled to get whatever enjoyment is possible out of the comic book and as many of you know, ranting and raving on the internet is immensely enjoyable.

Complaining about comics is a joy in itself, and a form of socialization on the internet. It is one of three possible compensations for a disappointing read, the other two being mockery and potential increase in value. It allows a fan to show off their own verbal and analytical skills to the detriment of the creator, and even display a greater imagination by offering alternative stories. Complaining in a witty and entertaining manner, commonly referred to as "“snarking", is beneficial to the health and self-esteem of your common fan, and it serves to blow off the frustration that builds from watching a character that you grew up with take a direction that is deeply distressing for personal reasons.

Now, while most of my readers are members of the superhero fandom, and are already positive acquainted with the positive benefits of griping, there are still some people reading who find quite a bit of harm in these complaints. Most notably among this minority is She For Whom the Calender Trembles, Maker of the Tuna Casserole, Roaster of the Roast Beast, Scourge of the Parent-Teacher Association, Infamous for the "My Daughter Does Not Need to be in That Program" Altercation Which Resulted in the Transformation of Three Board Members from Flesh to Stone. Her full name has been known to cause spontaneous combustion in the faint of heart, so you may refer to her as "Mama" the Foul. To avoid being turned into a lovely statuette, offerings must be made on three seperate annual occasions, a pilgrimage must be undertaken each winter, regular verbal correspondence must occur and the request that I "be nicer to the other kids" must be periodically honored.

For the benefit of "Mama" the Foul, I will admit the obvious, that there is little point in throwing personal insults at a creator, criticizing the wrong creator, or criticizing a creator for the wrong things aside from venting pent-up frustrations. But, consider this -- in my normal job, I work in lower middle management. As a blogger, I can't get a writer like Geoff Johns fired (I don'’t think ANYONE could get Geoff Johns fired at this point, his name is etched in stone on the DC writing assignments list only the other titles he writes on change), but as the immediate supervisor of Poor Hapless Bystander I can certainly hurt his chances of surviving the next round of staff cuts if I'm not careful to explain precisely how he is responsible for the continuing daily sunrise in as glowing terms that equal or surpass the glowing terms his rival'’s supervisor uses when she explains how her subordinate is responsible for the continuing daily sunrise (performance reviews suck). This is hard to do when I sit down at my desk and obsess over the one fluorescent yellow thread in an otherwise perfect earth-tone tapestry.

I'’m not the only one who obsesses over the little things, thank heaven for fandom. I'm also not the only person out there in lower middle management who relaxes by obsessing over these things, and then complaining about them.

I am one of very few who gets told by her own mother she should feel guilty about it, and then writes an entire post explaining that she is not sorry, not wrong, but may have been just a tad bit oversensitive and that's okay but there's absolutely nothing personal. (Though if JSA sets me off this week, I may be moving on to personal insults -- in which case I'll need someone to distract Mama the Foul.)

Now, while complaining about everything is a guilty pleasure, it is still an enormous pleasure and a traditional comic book fan pastime. It is, in particular, a traditional superhero comics fan pastime.

So with Mama the Foul placated I was planning to, in the spirit of tradition, saturate this blog in the dubious pleasure of being completely unfair to some poor schmuck who was just trying to bring some joy into the collective heart of fandom and educate the comics blogging community about all of the numerous flaws in George Perez's Wonder Woman reboot. However, I'’ve rambled on long enough for one post, and there really isn'’t enough memory on Blogger to accommodate a detailed explanation of everything that was wrong with George Perez's reboot of Wonder Woman. Still, if tomorrow I find myself in a foul mood towards comic book creators again, this would be a safe rant to expect.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Three Days Left

I've been remiss in not announcing it here, but you sitll have three days left to post and submit. The Submission Deadline for the Eighth Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans is December 7th, so you only have three days left to get those submissions in to Marionette. Announcemenmt and Guidelines here, send submissions to maricarnival [AT] blueyonder [DOT] co [DOT] uk or by using this submission form

Marionette's posting the carnival on December 10th on her blog!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

To the Writer of Green Lantern, Volume Four,

Today for the second time in a year, I reconsidered buying Green Lantern when I saw it in my pile. You must understand that, in addition to being reasonably fond of Kyle Rayner, I have been a huge Hal Jordan fan since I was a teenager. Since "Rebirth," I've been utterly obsessed with this franchise. I buy everything "Green Lantern" that DC puts out. I went through ten of the little mystery box figurines to find the Hal Jordan/Abin Sur statue. I bought every Green Lantern back issue in the Oklahoma City area, and then raided Tulsa. I read every issue that comes out and features a Green Lantern character. I feel more affection for the writers of the two spinoffs than I do for several blood relatives. I should not think twice about buying an issue of the main title. I should not even have to think about buying an issue of the main title. It should be automatic. Like breathing. I should be paying direct deposit to the comic book store, and I should be reading it in the car before I leave the parking lot in order to gain exposure to that sweet, sweet superhero space drama.

Before I get in exactly why, let's look at the character you're writing.

Hal Jordan. He has spent maybe five years (in continuity, maybe one?) as the Spectre. Prior to that, he spent maybe six years (no idea how much that is in continuity right now) as an insane cosmic crossover supervillain. During the 70s and the 80s, he was the Poster Boy for White Liberal Guilt. He has, since conception as a character, been utterly incapable of sustaining a meaningful relationship with a member of the opposite sex. His first serious girlfriend, the love of his life, had her brain taken over by aliens and he was forced to fight her. She is now married to someone else. Another major girlfriend was transported to an alien world along with her entire town because Hal visited there. He is a character who has been shown, in your own series, to believe that being married with children is an ideal existence for his best friend, but engages in an endless series of one night stands; the combination of which indicates emotional instability and denial as opposed to the healthy unfettered expression of sexuality displayed by, say, Queen Hippolyta. His parents are dead, he watched his father die in front of his eyes flying a jet -- the very career field Hal entered. His older brother and his older brother's family are dead. Since you've gotten your hands on him, the insanity became ten years of intense mind control (a convenient way to remove culpability while retaining an emotional illusion of responsibility), his mother's death occurred while she was angry at him, only six people in the Green Lantern Corps trust him, everyone on Earth thinks he is a criminal, and the Guardians are using him as a "how not to behave" example.

Somehow, this was not enough misery for you to play with, so you added the POW storyline.

I am certainly not saying that there is no place for such a situation in the entire franchise. I initially, and mistakenly, thought my gut reaction was an objection to all instances of grafting historical horrors into the background of a fictional character as a sign of disrespect for the subject matter. This simply isn't true. I watched Hogan's Heroes for years and laughed my ass off. Maus was fucking brilliant and threw mice into concentration camps. I've watched that movie with Owen Wilson in Bosnia repeatedly. I've roleplayed with this in the character backstory.

No, the problem isn't the idea itself. The problem is in the execution. After five issues this does not strike me as a well-crafted way to weave real-life political themes into the overall theme of a speculative fiction storyline, and use the outer limits of the imagination to comment on the reality of the human situation. It strikes me as a quick and easy way to tug at heartstrings of your audience and create sympathy for a character that should already have the audience's sympathy. It strikes me as a way to use current events as shorthand to the very real anxieties and concerns of the very real people reading the book. You're showing flashbacks and buddies suggesting they get therapy. You quoted John McCain and set it in the real war-torn region Chechnya instead of a fictional DC construct. You used this setting to introduce a damsel in distress and drive the higher plot. It's a way to skip the work of presenting an carefully plotted, well-crafted sympathetic tragedy, the fallout of the tragedy, and the internal and external conflict involved by playing on preset reactions to the trappings of a real-life situation that most of your readers are familiar with. This way, you can introduce the subject with a few flashbacks, quotes, and angsty narrative captions to milk the emotional resonance for all its worth as you complicate the hero's life.

It's basically a cheap shock tactic, the same problem most writers have when using rape. It's dramatic shorthand and not an explorable drama on its own. A throwaway theme. It's all about Angst.

Now let me tell you, as a former teenage Goth I know a thing or two about Angst. From years of experience brooding in the back of the classroom, wearing black, playing Vampire: The Masquerade and writing gawd-awful poetry I can attest that you do not need to flirt with Reality to achieve Angst. This infatuation with real life, realism and Reality that has infected you and your peers is worrying to say the least. I know Reality is attractive, but beneath that sly smile beats the heart of a predator. I would think that anyone who reads comics would know that the true nature of Reality is that of a ravenous beast which devours the creative and idealistic soul. I can't imagine what would entice you to bring such a creature into a comic book. Is it drugs? Do you need some?

As a matter of necessity, I would advise avoiding Reality at all costs. Reality is no good for you. Reality plies you with alcohol. Reality makes you pick up the check. Reality does not pay for gas or the hotel room. Reality does not call back the next morning. Reality is cruel. Reality is vindictive. Reality is jealous and clingy, but expects to be able to run around at all hours of the night with heaven-knows-who. I know, I've flirted with Reality myself (Reality's bisexual, by the way) and it was nothing but too much trouble for not even a quality heartbreak. Surely, there's a better way to achieve Angst than by associating yourself with Reality.

But I digress (all the time, now that I think about it, and no one seems to mind). My point is that there are ways of getting a reaction out of your reader, and they define the quality of your writing. I am not the only reader paying for cheap thrills, an emotional roller-coaster to ride every month. But there are cheap thrills to make a story engaging and fun, and there are cheap shocks to get a quick gut reaction from your audience. Cheap thrills pretend to be nothing other than that. Cheap shocks feign the sort of in-depth literary writing that garners praise for creating emotion reactions when they are actually just playing on emotional reactions that the majority of readers would have. Cheap thrills can be low or high quality writing, and they can be intensely imaginative. Cheap shocks are always low quality writing, and they betray a lack of imagination. The Green Lantern franchise, with a massively long history, and a massively large, weird cosmic background is fertile ground for the imagination. The test of a writer's skill is the same as in all speculative fiction, by how they draw the reader into temporarily believing an outrageous situation. The writer can focus on applying plausibility to the basic personality of the main character, and use that plausibility as anchor to a wonderful, imaginative and insightful story, or they can fake imagination and insight by throwing a few realistic elements on the surface, leading to a regularly mediocre, often infuriating, and sometimes offensive story.

A fan who will be re-reading back issues.