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Why I Quit Reading Mainstream Comics

February 10, 2013 Leave a comment

When I originally started to do work on the predecessor to this current blog, I started with comics. Reviewing them and talking about them. The medium is one I love for what it can do. While I got more and more involved with comics themselves, I realized I was developing a strained relationship with a major component of the medium. Specifically, I have multiple issues with the major two companies (as well as, to a lesser extent, smaller companies), Marvel and DC. In the world of comics readers, there is a visible tension of preference between the two, and while certain points of the arguments are valid, most are moot as the companies are virtually the same. I’ve touched on this before, so if you want to see what I’ve to say about that, you can check it out here.

Since then, my apathy and general lack of care for these companies has grown. So much so, that I didn’t just quit reading titles from these companies, but I just didn’t think about them. Recently, I’ve tried to be reflexive on why I made this decision, and so I decided to share it. These are the reasons I ‘quit’ reading mainstream comics:

1) The Staleness of the IPs:

Out of all the reasons for me to stop reading comics, this one comes most from being a fan of the medium. In recent years, both Marvel and DC have tried to ‘reinvent’ themselves in new images. The biggest reason is that they needed to create new audiences. The recent successes of comic book film adaptations have also put pressure on the print publications of the titles. In this pseudo-progression of the images, both companies have attempted to try new things. However, what mostly comes out is a regurgitation of existing narratives and tropes. The existing IPs are running out of stories to tell and they need to totally overhauled in a way the industry may not be ready for.

2) Drowning in Cross-Over Events

I’ll be honest, I hate cross-over events. They’re pointless and only attempt to give a temporary change to the status quo, to only revert back to it in a later event. Marvel is especially guilty of this. The point being, regardless of the company, these events deter from the main narratives of existing characters and primarily exist to sell more comics. I believe, comic titles used to be stronger when they were at an individual level and other characters would have cameo appearances. While I appreciate the world-building components of the film franchises, where I think this type of story type has been working, in print it’s just awful, and at best, boring.

Another cross-over event? Don’t expect to see any quality writing for another year.

3) Creator’s Rights

Seriously, authors should own what they make. I’m not sure how to expand on this one really, because I think it’s clear. Characters and stories belong to individuals, not companies.

4) Depictions of Marginalized Groups

If I had to give one reason for giving up mainstream comics, this would be it. I’m completely aware that this is my own opinion, but, I feel like the mainstream comics of today are just as racist, sexist, homophobic, and discriminatory as they’ve been in the past. I’ve written before on the trend of capitalizing on LBGT movements in comics. That post contained a specific case study on my reasoning, but the general tone of it can be applied to most marginalized groups depicted in comics. For every Women in Refrigerators critique being made, there’s a case of it being done. Printed oppression in mainstream comics is cyclical. At the very best, we see progression, not because the publishers are seeking to be agents of change, but because they can capitalize upon social change movements being visible in the larger society.

 

Those are my core reasons for quitting mainstream comics. I understand there are deviations from these companies based on what I listed. For example, I think the death of Ultimate universe Peter Parker was for the better, as we can see a well-written biracial character in Miles Morales in Ultimate Comics Spider-Man. While I say I gave up on these publishers, I do still think there’s a place for their older works (as long as there’s acknowledgement of their own issues). There’s also some interesting work in the imprints (such as Vertigo), where creator rights have some presence.

But really, all of these issues are less present (but not absent) in the ‘more independent’ publishers. The characters and stories there are just as good, if not better, than what’s going on with Marvel and DC. I’m glad I moved on.

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Quick Thoughts: The Wii U Experience

September 7, 2012 1 comment

Last night, I got the chance to go event with loud music, a fair amount of people, free food, and Nintendo consoles on the horizon. The event was hosted by Nintendo for their new Wii U coming out ‘sometime this Holiday season.’ I went, as a guest, with a friend to test the gamepad, launch titles, and what else there was to see of the console. In the past, I’ve been skeptical towards to Nintendo products, particularly the DS and the Wii. Over time my skepticism has largely been undone. The DS is one of my favorite video game consoles, boasting, with what I think, one of the greatest game libraries ever. And the Wii really proving its innovations with games such as The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. This time around, I decided to give Nintendo a chance with the Wii U.

At ‘The Wii U Experience’ there were two things I really wanted to see regarding the system; the games and the gamepad:

Games:

Yet again, I’m not thrilled by Nintendo’s launch titles for the console. There wasn’t anything shown at the event that was horrible, but nothing really stood out. There wasn’t anything that made me want to rush out and get the console just so I can play one particular game. This is a problem that the launch of the 3DS suffered (and still does to an extent). Like the 3DS, I hope developers warm up to console soon. The issue is less on Nintendo to make great games (which is somewhat inevitable) and for the developers to do so.

Gamepad:

The gamepad was my main curiosity for the system. It’s the distinctive innovation for the console. And when I finally got to test it out I had no issues with it. It’s not heavy, is easy to hold, easy to reach all the buttons, and motion sensitive when needed. What I did notice with the games they had available was a lack of specific focus on the gamepad. It was something you could use in many cases. Only games like ZombiUNintendo Land, and Game & Wario seemed to have a specific focus on it. When used it felt like a nice mix of the touchscreen tech of the DS with good multiplayer activity (as in the case of Nintendo Land). The gamepad felt like it could be used for both interactivity, with the screen and others, or just as a controller. Nintendo was also highlighting the Wii U Pro controller, which worked essentially the same as the Classic Controller, currently available for the Wii. On that note too is the great use of being able to use prior console peripheral without any big investment. For those just updating to the Wii U, it means you don’t have to swap out all those controllers simply to upgrade. It’s great.

In the end, the Wii U appears to be a strong console. It builds off the Wii greatly, in the form of controllers, which is actually a positive. I would want to see greater innovation with the gamepad. The launch titles leave something to be desired, but I have hope it’ll come through in the end. I can honestly say I’ll probably pick up a Wii U ‘sometime this Holiday season.’

NARG: The Fuzzy Pickle Diaries #2

September 7, 2012 Leave a comment

Last time I posted, I discussed the idea of the journey sensed by the player in Earthbound. This time I wanted to be a little direct with my experience with the game. Again, here’s some Earthbound music while you read:

On the surface, the gameplay of Earthbound is nothing out of this world. The battle system feels standard for an RPG of the mid-90s, but at the same time it stands apart. While playing I had to reconstruct my methods of playing games so that I could be success within the game. This extends far beyond the ‘retro factor’ of Earthbound, but largely into the game itself and the ways it deliberately makes itself different from other RPGs.

It’s hard to stay mad at this guy.

In many ways, its easy to be frustrated with the gameplay of Earthbound if you’re not familiar with the style of games from 20 years ago. There is no quick guide to explaining how everything works, where to go, what to do, etc (well, there is if you bought it new). It’s very open-ended and challenged me to reconstruct how I needed to play the game. I very well understand that this is a turn-off for modern gamers playing retro games, but it’s a skill useful in accessing many games, retro or not.

It took me a while to reconstruct myself while playing the game. I continued on, streamlining my progression, missing the second ‘Sanctuary’ boss of the game-only discovering I had done so when I was well on my way to defeating the third ‘Sanctuary boss. What was my grand punishment for this mistake? Nothing. I repeat, nothing. In an era where games are driven by accomplishing goals before moving onto the next obstacle (or sometimes defying to have any or little goals whatsoever), all of which I am used to now, I had to change. This little mistake, of no major consequence, was a realization I had to play differently. With this experience it soon became easy to jump in.

THE BANE OF MY EXISTENCE

Of course, this isn’t the first RPG I’ve played of the SNES era. Chrono Trigger is one of my favorite games, and I’ve put my time in Final Fantasy IV and VI. The games that served as the epitome for the console’s line of RPGs. Still, I was initially frustrated by Earthbound‘s gameplay. Battle system-wise was all familiar to other turn based RPGs of the era. The item inventory and menu system, while not identical, was still fairly reminiscent of other similar games. But what really got to me was the way that status ailments and item usage worked. Both of these are staples of the genre, but they played out so differently. When Ness got paralyzed or possessed for the first time I thought, “Hey, I’ll just heal him or use this item and–” Much to my dismay this did not work. Unlike other RPGs, in Earthbound it is far more difficult to treat status ailments in the game’s beginning. It requires a trip to hospital, as much as it would in reality, or very specific items (that aren’t given as freely as other RPGs). While this eases later on, it’s something you need to prepare for and rethink your strategy.

In this regard, Earthbound was a wake-up at how I play games. Well, it may simplistic by today’s ‘complex and superior’ gameplay, the style is something that must be accepted. It works splendidly in the own rules it sets for itself. It simply is what it is.

Am I missing a topic on Earthbound that you want to hear about? Let me know in the comment section or shoot me an e-mail at ‘nalvicreviews@gmail.com’

A Tale of Two Irelands: Differentiating Rural and Urban Ireland From Their Stereotypes

July 14, 2012 Leave a comment

When one thinks of Ireland the first thing that comes to mind is a people with red hair that enjoy their drink. They live in a land of immense green landscapes, shamrocks, and foggy mountains. Or at least that’s how its viewed. Ireland is perceived in popular imagination as a romanticized rural country, and that the red-headed-drinking-Irish dwell there. While there is a definite rural component to Ireland today, this popular conception of Ireland ignores the urban aspect of the country. In popular visions of Irish cities such as Dublin, Belfast, Derry, Cork, Limerick, or Galway are seen in a separate world from Ireland itself. Most of these cities when mentioned dismissed as being too influenced by foreign cultures, primarily the English, to be considered truly Irish.

When these two visions are put together there are two Irelands, that of the romantic agrarian society and anglicized and foreign urban centers. But when a closer look is given one can see that there is a blur between the two in their ‘Irish-ness.’ Irish film, literature, and history all suggest this pan-Irish culture in both rural and urban centers of Ireland. In this paper six Irish films and two plays will be looked at for their depictions of rural and urban Ireland to understand the stereotypes and the real sense of place in the two communities. Information regarding the social-historical connotations will also be looked at as a means of defining the communities from their stereotypes.

Rural and urban Ireland are both assigned stereotypes that only depict the two at the surface level. Often times these visions are derived from outside perspectives on Ireland, and other times it’s the Irish themselves that are responsible for their creation. Both are defined by their stereotyping from external perspectives, but when looked at with an Irish viewpoint there is a different presentation. The two communities are both unified by their collective history and growth and unique in the sense of how they present themselves.

Only watch ‘The Wind That Shakes the Barley’ with a box of tissues nearby

The cinema of Ireland in the past twenty years has done much to show the dichotomy between rural and urban Ireland, but at the same time similar trends exist between the two. The two heritage films The Wind That Shakes the Barley and Michael Collins both tell stories of the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War. The former is a fictitious story primarily set in rural County Cork, while the latter is biographic story of IRA head Michael Collins, which is set primarily in Dublin. Both contain situations depicting the Irish perspective of the conflict through their portrayals of the English and the uniformity of Irish opinion to each. In the two films rural Ireland is depicted as being a hotbed for anti-English attitudes. The Wind That Shakes the Barley depicts this through the setting and the later juxtaposition of the Anti-Treaty forces located primarily in the country, while the Pro-Treaty groups are located in the city. The film suggest that a sense of anglophobia was more prevalent in the country, a possible derivation of nineteenth-century land issues, while the city was anglicized resulting in a more favorable view of the treaty.

It is quite possible that in the case of the The Wind That Shakes the Barley anglophobia was a byproduct of the long standing stereotyping of rural Ireland as anglophobic. Mervyn Horgan has described the difference between rural and urban centers in their stereotypes, “Where the country was egalitarian and communal the city was British and class differentiated” (Horgan 41). Horgan’s statement in an enforcement of traditional stereotypes as separating the two based upon their outlooks on the United Kingdom. The long-standing ideology of anglophobia is problematic when one considers the dependence the Republic of Ireland had on trade with the United Kingdom. As David Huff pointed out in 1979, “Great Britain has remained as the major foreign trade partner for the Republic, and trade in Ireland accounted for roughly forty percent of the total GNP” (Huff 198). In this sense, all of Ireland was dependent on the U.K. for trade up until the Celtic Tiger, when Ireland expanded its trade. Terms of social-cultural aspects that Horgan uses to separate the urban and rural communities is also somewhat invalid considering the widespread Anglicization of the whole island. In the case of The Troubles, both Derry/Londonderry (stereotypically Nationalist) and Belfast (stereotypically Unionist) both urban centers had staunchly different views of the English when viewed on the surface level, but were far more mixed upon closer examination. In contemporary Ireland it’s even harder to distinguish anglophobia based on skewed representation as Diarmaid Ferriter mentions, “…from 1971, for the first time, the majority of the Irish population (52 per cent) was living in urban areas” (Ferriter 703). Considering that Ireland is now an urbane country in terms of its population it becomes difficult to make casual assignments of anglophobia. Also given the strong connection economically since the establishment of the Irish Free State and the colonization prior to that, there has been substantial Anglicization in both rural and urban Ireland.

You will not need tissues for Michael Collins though.

In Michael Collins the rural setting is seen in a similar fashion as The Wind That Shakes the Barley, however, the sense of anti-English attitudes are more diverse and existed in the urban centers as well. It doesn’t constrain the concept of anglophobia strictly to the country, but shows that it was a divisive issue throughout Ireland at the time. One must also consider the production of the films. Michael Collins was directed by Neil Jordan, an Irishman, with United States studio financial backing, while The Wind That Shakes the Barley was directed by Ken Loach, an Englishman, and funded primarily from United Kingdom studios. Many of the social and political aspects of The Wind That Shakes the Barley are fairly traditional black-and-white stereotypes (Irish good guys, English bad guys) for most of the film. In this sense, The Wind That Shakes the Barley is a heritage story haunted by stereotypes, while Michael Collins in comparison, attempts to properly address the divisive attitudes of the period.

Similar to the production of The Wind That Shakes the Barley is that of the more comedic Waking Ned Devine. Like the former film, Waking Ned Devine is an English produced film, but set in rural Ireland. It extolls the idealized charm of the rural country; a small-hard-to-find-village, mostly friendly neighbors, laid back life, etc. The physical landscape of the film makes it also easy to generate nostalgia and familiarity. Maureen Dezell quotes James Carroll on the sense of nostalgia of the Irish landscape, “Those who emigrated began thinking of Ireland as a mythic place, and their children and grand-children learned to think of it as a lost paradise” (Dezell 220). For many Irish-Americans Ireland was a land taken away from them due to the catastrophic loss and way of life caused by the potato famine in the 1840s. Dezell quotes Carroll again on the Irish nostalgia, “The Irish…came to regard the defeated land from which they came as mythic motherland. ‘They remembered a land of extraordinary beauty…the sod [land] had been theirs, and not the landlord’s. They remembered an Ireland blessed with rare human virtues” (Dezell 23). The passage does much to explain the typical view of rural Ireland. One that is largely characterized by Irish-Americans dispossesed out of their homeland and have only thought of it since, as suggested in both passages. It is easy to see this stereotype being depicted in Waking Ned Devine, as it’s just as much a showcase of rural Ireland as it is the events of the plot. In many ways, Waking Ned Devine is a love letter to the rural stereotype of Ireland. Considering the origin of the production it’s easy to see the same potential stereotypes as in The Wind That Shakes the Barley.

Most reactions to ‘Waking Ned Devine’ are like this

Differing from this stereotype is Daniel O’Hara’s short film Yu Ming Is Ainm Dom (My Name Is Yu Ming), which sets up the cliche and breaks it. In the short, a Chinese convenience store clerk decides to move to Ireland and learns Irish Gaelic upon discovering that it is the official language of the country. Once Yu Ming arrives in Dublin the viewer sees the city as a mixture of cultures and which the native Irish can’t understand the language. The film does two important things concerning urban Irish stereotypes. First, it does enforce the idea that urban centers are anglicized in the sense of the dominant presence of the English language in the city. At the same time it doesn’t deny the same for rural Ireland. The viewer finds Yu Ming in a Gaeltacht, an Irish-speaking area, the only place in Ireland where can use the language daily. Secondly, the film suggests the diversity of present-day Dublin. Dublin today is more than simple ‘black-and-white Irish,’ but a mixture of many cultures as many global cities are. It stands out as a byproduct of the economic growth of Ireland from the Celtic Tiger, creating a more cosmopolitan urban Ireland. Yu Ming Is Ainm Dom is proof that there is more to urban Ireland than anglicization as it’s a mixture of many cultures that make up the diverse urban environment.

The last pair of films to be examined are The Commitments and Once. Like Waking Ned Devine and The Wind That Shakes the Barley, The Commitments was also an English produced film. It takes a potential new stereotype of the urban Irish as being working poor. This works for the film’s plot with the forming of a soul band, using the music of African-Americans as analogous to the urban Irish. Other than the unemployed cast of characters there aren’t any other classes seen. But as Ferriter states, “In 1982, an Economic and Social Research Institute paper recorded how deeply implanted class differences were, and predicted: ‘Ireland may enter the twenty-first century with an upper-middle class so securely entrenched as to hearken back to nineteenth-century predecessors” (Ferriter 703). Understanding that urban Ireland was highly divisive in terms of its class structure makes the depiction in The Commitments seem even more out of place. The depiction used can, however, be explained. As Dezell points out when quoting Judge Jerome Frese, “To be Irish was to be defensive, downtrodden, and meant you had to fight for yourself” (Dezell 70). The working poor stereotype of The Commitments can be seen as a byproduct of self-generated stereotyping of the Irish as poor, which can be then seen through the lens of the English creators of The Commitments.

On the other hand, there is the film Once, which was produced Ireland, and also tells the story of a musician. Like the cast of The Commitments he is relatively poor making most of his money from busking in Dublin. It differs though by focusing this element of poverty more with the general financial instability of the character and not because of the deliberate stereotype or an analogy to a similar group. He is simply a musician trying to make some money, and maybe make his own album. Like Yu Ming Is Ainm Dom, Once also showcases the diversity of urban Ireland, as the film is also features a un-blossomed romance between the busking musician and a Czech immigrant. While it isn’t quite the same as someone of Chinese heritage lost in Dublin, it does give the same idea of more than anglicized Irish in the city. It contrasts with The Commitments in the sense that it strays away from the deliberately poor Irish stereotype and focuses on the diversity of Dublin as well.

Turning towards Irish theater, one can see similar trends to the cinema of Ireland. When it comes to the depiction of contemporaneous rural Ireland Conor McPherson’s The Weir stands out as one of the strongest examples. The entirety of the play takes place in a rural Irish pub as the locals welcome a Dubliner to the area and tell each other stories. As Nicholas Grene describes it, “Remote and desolate as the pub may be, its homely atmosphere and relaxed story-telling represent an alternative life to that of the town or the city. The bar-room stands at the edge of the modern world, a last dying vestige of an older community” (Grene 304). Grene’s passage suggests that rural Ireland is a fleeting image. Many times during the play the characters mention, or indirectly suggest, that the current rural way of life is only held up by (through financial means) the tourism of ‘the Germans,’ a further reference to the changing pace there. When considering the romanticization of the country that creates the stereotype of rural Ireland, The Weir far more becomes melancholic in its reminder of the changing world. The stories that the pub-goers tell bridge the gap between the rural and urban communities of Ireland as suggested further by Grene:

“Loneliness, desolation, sexual perversion, mortality are human experiences common to rural and urban life, the past and the present…An implicitly modern urban audience is drawn with Valerie [the Dubliner] into the atmosphere of the pub and encouraged to believe in a scene that is simultaneously quaintly different and familiarly recognizable” (Grene 308).

The concept of familiarity of the urban Irish audience to the rural characters of The Weir helps bridge the gap between the two communities. The play serves a means of paying respect to the disappearing rural Ireland, one that is supplanted by a romanticized rural image.

Author Conor McPherson is one of the top Irish playwrights today

For urban Ireland, Sean O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock works on the same level that the films The Wind That Shakes the Barley and Michael Collins do, but pays attention to story of urban Irish during the Irish Civil War. Like The Commitments the family is poor, living in a tenement house, but it seems more authentically ‘Irish’ based on the personalities of the family in traditional Irish roles. Like Michael Collins there is a moral ambiguity within the family itself over the Civil War, with the son an Anti-Treaty supporter, and the mother who rejects the violence altogether. The English character, who dupes the family out of their potential fortune, and thus dooming them to continued poverty, fits the stereotype associated with anglophobia. But in the end the mother and sister turn away from the ‘traditional’ anglophobia, instead prepare to take the steps beyond. By doing this O’Casey is separating traditional stereotypes of Ireland from reality. Like The Weir, Juno and the Paycock disestablishes stereotypes of urban Ireland through the diverse opinions concerning the Irish Civil War and that of anglophobia.

When looking at these source materials and juxtaposing them against the stereotypes of rural and urban Ireland the reality becomes more distinct from stereotypes. Rural Ireland is far more than an agrarian society that is anglophobic, and in the case of The Weir, is often seen as a disappearing lifestyle of Ireland. At the same time urban Ireland doesn’t fit the image of anglicized culture, but rather a variety of peoples, with the historical tradition of being just as connected to Ireland as that of the rural community. While both have their obvious distinctions and idealizations, they are far more than what they picture the other, or when viewed outside of Ireland itself. Ireland is a composite of the two communities, with their own unique traits but share a common Irish identity.

Works Cited

The Commitments. Dir. Alan Parker. DVD. 20th Century Fox, 1999.

Dezell, Maureen. Irish-America: Coming Into Clover. New York: Random House, 2000.

Ferriter, Diarmaid. The Transformation of Ireland. New York: Overlook Press, 2007.

Grene, Nicholas. “Ireland in Two Minds: Martin McDonagh and Conor McPherson.” The Yearbook of English Studies vol. 35 (2005): 298-311.

Horgan, Mervyn. “Anti-Urbanism as a Way of Life: Disdain for Dublin in the Nationalist Imagery.” The Canadian Journal for Irish Studies 30.2 (Fall 2004): 38-47.

Huff, David L. and James M. Lutz. “Ireland’s Urban System.” Economic Geography 55.3 (July 1979): 196-212.

Michael Collins. Dir. Neil Jordan. DVD. Warner Home Video, 1997.

McPherson, Conor. “The Weir.” Modern and Contemporary Irish Drama. Ed. John P. Harrington. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009. 309-351.

O’Casey, Sean. “Juno and the Paycock.” Modern and Contemporary Irish Drama. Ed. John P. Harrington. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009. 197-246.

Once. Dir. John Carney. DVD. 20th Century Fox, 2007.

Waking Ned Devine. Dir. Kirk Jones. 20th Century Fox, 1999.

The Wind That Shakes the Barley. Dir. Ken Loach. IFC, 2007.

Yu Ming Is Ainm Dom. Dir. Daniel O’Hara. Video. Dough Productions.

A Quick Guide to Comic Journalism

June 12, 2012 3 comments

This last weekend, I went out to Fantagraphics Bookstore in the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle to see Joe Sacco discuss journalism in the comic form (and for him to sign my copy of Palestine). Undoubtedly, Sacco is a pioneer of the comics journalism form, something that has existed since the early ’90s with Sacco’s works Palestine and Safe Area Gorzade (about common people suffering from the Bosnian War), but has really begun to take off in the past few years. It’s also something that I’ve been increasingly interested in.

The self-depiction of Joe Sacco

Essentially, comic journalism is a synthesis of the sequential medium of comics and journalism. It’s actually not surprising to see journalism leap into the sequential form. It can be argued that comic journalism is a descendant of photojournalism. Photojournalism is a visual form of journalism that became credible and the same is happening today with comic journalism. Both forms use a primary visual image to detail their works and have some sort of reliance on narration to accompany the image (comic journalism relies much more on this). In this regard, comic journalism is somewhere between pure written journalism and the almost-purely visual photojournalism. Comic journalism has also become respectable among many reporters, as Sacco claimed, in that many co-journalists don’t find it unusual or less worthy to pursue journalism in a comics form.

Synthesis of image and narration

The medium has its advantages and disadvantages according to Sacco and other panels from comic journalists I’ve seen. There are two clear disadvantages in comic journalism, as mentioned more by Sacco than other creators I’ve met. First, there is a greater spatial constraint in comics journalism than there is with written journalism. It’s essentially impossible to cover the same amount of material in the same amount of pages in comics as it is in written form. Because of this comic journalists are more stressed to convey what they need to in a set number of pages. The second great disadvantage is that sense of respectability from outside sources. While other journalists have respect, most likely stemming from centuries of political and social cartoons, those being interviewed or used as subjects may not have that same respect. Many people look at sequential mediums as an inferior medium (something every comic fan has heard from somebody at least once in their life).

An example of Shannon Wheeler’s from ‘Oil and Water’

But the form has its advantages as well. While respectability may be seen as a disadvantage, it can also be manipulated into an advantage. In the creation of Oil and Water the illustrators mentioned that had far easier access to drawing subjects close-up than they would if they had a camera. The presence of a pencil and sketch pad comes off far less threatening than a camera does. Drawing a subject for a journalistic piece isn’t taken as seriously, but can also yield a greater sense of access than more traditional forms of journalism would normally yield. The second great advantage of comic journalism is the strong presence of visuals in the work. Readers of journalistic works are drawn to visuals as they intake the information. It’s an essential catalyst for digesting information. This is a reason why photojournalism is so popular. But comics have an even greater advantage to photography-the exaggeration of image. A journalist-cartoonist can use bodily proportions, color changes, and other visual changes that differ from reality to coincide with the narrative progress of the piece. Reading Sacco’s Palestine one encounters this on many occasions. Comic journalism is a flexible medium, something becoming more real too as the spread of digital comic journalism is beginning to spread.

The ‘Cartoon Movement’ has been a vital point of spreading the medium digitally

Comic journalism is definitely a medium that has a limited appeal in the comics community. For readers who stick to mainstream superhero or independent pulp comics, they are bound to be not interested or completely miss the medium. But as access and growth of independent comics continues, exposure to the medium grows. As the growth of the medium in the past few years attests to, it’s something people are interested in and will most likely expand and continue.

 

If you’re interested in the subject or the medium here’s a couple of recommendations:

Joe Sacco’s work is a must in this field. Anything from him is a good place to start.

The whole Cartoon Movement is an excellent place to find a wide variety of political cartoons and comics on diverse subjects. Many of these individuals putting work on that site are also good sources (such as Sarah Glidden).

A 2001 interview with Joe Sacco on Footnotes in Gaza and comic journalism.

A comic opinion: the announced DC Universe Reboot

June 1, 2011 1 comment

It was announced today that DC comics was going to relaunch its most popular characters at the end of August. This follows after the company’s current crossover event Flashpoint, as well as a number of other series ending at the same time. Until today it was only speculated what the company had planned, but most suggested the reboot. And that appears to be the case. I wanted to take the time and look at this decision, its reasoning, and the implications of the announcement.

Before I talk about these things I wanted to talk about the current continuity. While DC has been around for around 75 years, the current continuity is only 25 years old. In 1985, DC released Crisis on Infinite Earths which served to eliminate confusing continuity, as well the multiverses of DC’s publications. This served two purposes. First, to eliminate the aforementioned issues of their prior continuity from allowing for newer readers. Second, by rebooting their universe and making accessible, DC could more readily compete with Marvel with sales.  It was more of a marketing ploy, which took the front seat, than a storytelling one. With that, the upcoming DC reboot.

The reboot planned after DC’s current crossover event, Flashpoint, has some of same reasoning of that from the Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot. Since 2002 DC comics have been outsold by Marvel comics. The marketing aspect of this reboot decision is evident. To become #1. Along with this reboot DC plans to simultaneously release all their released issues available both in print and digitally (digital comics is totally different subject). Like in the ’80s, DC plans to use younger versions of its characters, without the continuity backlog, in order to attract more readers. In the age when film adaptations of comic books is becoming more successful in the box office, critically accepted, and to an extent, less of a niche to read comics. Of course pairing these new DC stories with the popularity of the film iterations of their characters is a wise marketing decision. But is it wise to undergo this transformation in their main universe?

In 2000, Marvel did something similar to the proposed DC reboot. Sort of. Instead of rebooting their main series Marvel created a separate imprint, the ‘Ultimate’ line, which had younger version of their characters, starting them out from scratch, but also continued the main continuity of their main titles (Marvel has yet to make a total reboot in 50 or so years). While there was some flaws in some of the storytelling (but what comic series is perfect?), there were some absolute gems. Ultimate Spider-Man (one of my favorite superhero comic series) was not only well written, but popular, often outselling the main Amazing Spider-Man series. Even though the main portion of the Ultimate Marvel universe ended with the travesty of Ultimatum the imprint has remained successful. It existed separately from the main Marvel series, but also attracted new readers to the company. In my opinion this is the correct way to go about this. While DC tried this, to an extent, with the All Star line-up (which flopped, despite the general appreciation of All Star Superman) it seems they’re not going to do this in September with the reboot.  But that will have some strong effects on the works produced in their current continuity.

Since Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC has produced what is most likely their strongest works in their time. As you can probably tell by the last section, I tend to favor Marvel, but that’s because that’s what I grew up with and read most. Even still I have great respect with the stronger DC works in their current continuity. I’ve already expressed my strong liking on this blog for the most recent run on the Blue Beetle character, Gotham Central, and Batman: The Long Halloween (there will be another such review later this week). Beyond this are the quintessential Batman: Year One (one of my favorite comics), The Dark Knight Returns, and most notable, Watchmen. All of these fall under the current continuity that DC will potentially make less important with the reboot. All of these works are great, but they won’t be given the same attention (except Watchmen) with a new continuity. While comic book sales are lower than they have been for the longest time, the writing is amazingly strong throughout. These are the works that inspire the popular superhero films. It shouldn’t be vice versa (though the new continuity writers should follow the films if they want more attention).

Not only does a reboot devalue these works, it disenfranchises the current readership. There is a great deal of dedicated readers who enjoy the DC Universe just the way it currently is. Changing up the continuity too much could potentially isolate those who are so dedicated towards the DC Universe. Without this demographic DC wouldn’t even #2 in comic sales. It’s important to respect the readers, who they like to see. Linkara (whose blog is linked at the bottom) recently said that one of the best parts about continuities is discovering the characters at random than simply reading a character from beginning to end. For Linkara that’s one of the great things about superhero comics. While I can see the allure of reading a character’s story in some kind of order I do like the lengthy, sometimes frustratingly confusing, continuity. It’s a part of the culture of superhero comics.

If the announced DC reboot is going to be successful it’ll limit the amount of continuity changes. It will treat both new readers and old readers with equal respect. It would be nice if the prior continuity could be continued in some fashion. If DC ignores these things the new reboot could be a total disaster. Crisis on Infinite Earths managed to reboot their franchise, but do so in the right fashion, but we’ll have to wait until September (or longer) to see if the new reboot does the same.

This has been a comic opinion. Until next.

 

Also, they shouldn’t mess with Batman’s origin story. Seriously.

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