Writer. Creator. Large mammal.

Category: 10 Questions / Answers

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

RE: Action Comics


I received these questions from Twitless:

Twitless has left a new comment on your post “Action Comics“:

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.

Posted by Twitless to Jim Shooter at January 13, 2012 1:42 PM

DC’s First Editorial Standards, Marvel Profanity

Not Who Are These Guys 

Sorry. It’s taking longer than I thought to put the reference together for that post, which is about the essential natures of classic characters.

Coming soon.

Clean Up on Aisle WW

In my review of New 52 Wonder Woman #1-4, I complained about Wonder Woman head butting a centaur. Seemed to me that would hurt her as much as the centaur. Several commenters insisted that the head butt is a legitimate hand-to-hand (head-to-head?) combat tactic.

I suppose that if you slammed the hardest part of your head into the squishier, more breakable parts of someone else’s, the nose and mouth, for instance, they will be hurt worse than you so I concede the point. But, don’t you just hate it when you get those nasty tooth shards stuck in your forehead?

The $10 Million Comic Book

Marc Miyake left comment on “DC’s First Editorial Standards, Marvel Profanity“:

Dear Jim,

Will Wonder Woman be in your upcoming post on the essential natures of classic characters? If she isn’t, that’s okay, because you’ve spent over a week on her.<br/ >I haven’t commented lately because I felt completely lost in Aisle WW. An Azzupermarket isn’t my kind of place to shop. Items arranged in a cryptic — or chaotic? — manner. Signs long on wordplay and short on help. A handful of customers in the store who sneer on simpletons like me who spend an hour looking for juice and leaving empty-handed. Yeah, I really want to go back there again.

Seriously, the last two posts lost me. I thought #1-3 would elucidate #4, but I ended up even more bewildered at Azzmart. I don’t feel too bad since your non-comics friends were in the same boat. I’ve only read one WW comic since John Byrne’s run in the 90s. And that issue didn’t make much sense either.<br/ >What I don’t understand is … DC is part of a mass market entertainment company. Why can’t its comics be as accessible as its movies? What if editors treated the New 52 like 52 movies on paper? Why keep producing niche products for the cognoscenti?

I keep hearing the argument that comics can’t compete with movies, video games, whatever. So how was Shueisha able to sell over 230 million volumes of One Piece manga so far [as of 2010]; volume 61 set a new record for the highest initial print run of any book in Japan in history with 3.8 million copies (the previous record belonging to volume 60 with 3.4 million copies). Volume 60 is the first book to sell over two million copies in its opening week on Japan’s Oricon book rankings. One Piece is currently ranked as the best-selling series of all time in manga history.

It’s not as if the Japanese are lacking in entertainment options. Millions are choosing to read black and white manga without all the full-color bells and whistles that are standard in the US. Why? What are they doing right? Or even wrong, in your opinion?

What impresses me about the Japanese is how they manage to keep on coming up with new properties in new genres that are hard to pigeonhole. Calling One Piece a pirate comic makes one think of Pirates of the Caribbean or EC’s New Trend Piracy. That label doesn’t do One Piece justice. It’s set in its own universe. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Piece#Setting>

I saw DEFIANT and Broadway as being in the Japanese genre-bending tradition. Those lines would have become even more diverse over time. If I had to pick one unreleased property to read, it’d be Spire. I’m listening to Ukrainian music at the moment. Fitting.

Why does diversity in comics work over there but not here? Yes, I know there are lots of nonsuperhero comics. I don’t think comics will ever die because there will always be Alison Bechdels and the like who will express themselves through the medium. But the core of the industry remains a set of decades-old properties. Very different from the Japanese scene where series come and go and end. One Piece was planned to last five years — it’s lasted almost fifteen so far — and “the author states, as of July 2007, that the ending will still be the one he had decided on from the beginning and he is committed to seeing it through to the end, no matter how many years it takes.”

I’ve never read One Piece. But I respect creators who think things through. Who have structure in mind. Who know where they’re going. That makes me want to invest in an epic. I don’t want to deal with improv, with whatever stimuli the creators toss around to distract me while they figure out their next move.

Language and violence are stimuli. They really stir up some part of the audience. Anyone here remember a certain word in the Transformers movie from 1986? Shocking then, nothing now.

As we become accustomed to one level of stimuli, the creators feel they have to amp ’em up. More extreme! Push that button harder! Faster! Brute force is easy. Inspiring thoughts is hard.

But surely somebody among 300 million Americans can do that in comics.
As I read about Wonder Woman #1-4, I kept thinking, is this the best DC can do? Don’t Diana and her audience deserve better?

Posted by Marc Miyake to Jim Shooter <http://www.jimshooter.com/> at January 27, 2012 1:45 PM


I won’t be including Wonder Woman in my post about the essential natures of classic characters because I don’t feel I have any special qualifications regarding her. The Marvel characters, yes, Superman, Superboy and the Legion, yes. Magnus, Solar, Turok and Samson, yes.

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