JimShooter.com

Writer. Creator. Large mammal.

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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

ANSWER:

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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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?

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Wonder Woman #1 – 4, More

Later, on the beach, the Amazons burn their dead, or the first batch, anyway. It’s night. Many surviving Amazons look on. So does Zola. Hermes. Wonder Woman.

And Strife!

Strife?!

She’s human size now—she was gigantic, before, during the massacre—and she’s hangin’ out with the crowd to watch the funeral pyres burn.
What?!
She caused all these deaths!

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WONDER WOMAN #1 – 4

Here I sit, drinking seltzer and grapefruit juice out of my classic Wonder Woman Toon Tumbler. How perfect.

An Interesting Analysis 

This comment came in, thank you, Ms. Carol A. Strickland.  She has interesting things to say. I recommend checking out her views on the New 52 WonderWoman.

Carol A. Strickland has left a new comment on your post “WONDER WOMAN #4 – A Review“:

I didn’t look at the book as an individual work. I’ve been following Wonder Woman for about as long as I can remember. I’ve been looking for her since issue #600, but she hasn’t shown her face except in a 90s RetroActive issue.

This is not Wonder Woman; nor is it an engaging story. From what I’ve been able to gather, DC is publishing “(Xena and) THE NEW OLYMPIANS.” Certainly in the past couple years DC has done its darnedest to strip any of the specialness from its number-one heroine, the lady whose licensing makes them so much money.

I discussed the reboot on my blog: http://carolastrickland.blogspot.com/2012/01/illusory-wonder-woman.html

Posted by Carol A. Strickland to Jim Shooter at January 19, 2012 11:37 AM

I did not read her analysis until after I completed my own.




Start at the Beginning

WONDER WOMAN #4 – A Review

My Review Procedure

First, I read the issue like anyone who buys it off the rack. I don’t make any notes, I don’t try to analyze on the fly. I just try to read it. Easier said than done, often. Some comic books these days are unreadable.
Some are such infuriating garbage that after a few pages I throw them in the trash to lie in disgrace amid the crumpled junk mail and wads of cat hair scraped off of the lint brush.
Some are so abstruse, incoherent or unfathomable that I bog down partway through. I check my e-mail. I heed the siren call of Solitaire. Checking the Weather Channel seems like fun. I never quite get through them. My attention drifts away and never comes back.
Assuming that my first attempt to read the issue in question succeeds and I make it to the end of the story, then I give it an editor’s reading, slowly and carefully. I do this several times, and do a lot of flipping back and forth, analyzing, comparing things, making notes and diagramming the story.

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RE: Action Comics

Questions

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

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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

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The Web of the Snyder – Part 1

First This
Sorry it’s been so long between posts. Harsh reality sometimes asserts and fun has to wait.
 
 
Now This
In an answer to a comment regarding “What Has Gone Before and a Modest Proposal” I said this:

In any other medium besides comics, the person who has and reasonably develops the original idea is the creator. Usually the writer. Ask 1,000 people who created Star Wars. George Lucas, not the army of designers, artists, even re-writers who participated. Ask 1,000 people who created Jurassic Park. Michael Crichton, not the designers and filmmakers who developed the visuals, or even David Koepp who wrote the shooting script for the film. In comics, however, even a work-for-hire artist following a design made by the writer, a description given by the writer or instructions from the editor is given co-credit as creator. Does anyone else think this is unusual?

That sparked some debate, people weighing in on who deserves creator credit and under what conditions. And that’s fine. It’s an interesting topic. However, I suspect that some people thought I was asserting that the writer should get credit as creator. Nope. I said:

Note, everyone, that I’m not offering a position, here, I’m just asking questions.

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Merry Christmas!

January 7th is Russian Christmas.  May your days be merry and bright, and let nothing you dismay.
 
A Gift From Fatale
This is a gift I received way back in 1995 from Fatale actress Traci Adell:
Perhaps she noticed my abiding interest in photogenic women. It’s a terrific book, by the way. One of the photogenic stars featured is Julie Newmar:

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Traci Adell, the WWF, Fatale on TV, and the Web of the Snyder – Part 2

First This

 
When Fatale is brought up, occasionally I am accused of ripping off the concept of Chris Claremont’s power-stealing character Rogue, created in 1981. For anyone out there who subscribes to this nonsense, I would like to point out that I created the first (as far as I know) power-stealing character, the Parasite 15 years earlier in 1966. If I ripped off anyone, it was “my own, personal self,” as a former boss of mine used to say.

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