Friday, July 26, 2013

Some thoughts while trying to read CYBERFORCE...

As with all Image comics, there were various iterations of the series (Image liked #1 issues) but apparently the longest running stretch went to about number 32.

Image was founded by fan favorite artists who felt they had not been treated well by management at Marvel and/or DC.   These artists' major gripes were the following:

* They were given no shares or ownership in characters they felt they had created or contributed significantly to the creation of, and which were very profitable and successful.   The most well known examples of this were Rob Liefeld with Cable, and Todd McFarlane with Venom, but it was a common grievance among the Image founders, and those who joined them quickly thereafter.

* The writer was illogically and unreasonably glorified ahead of the artist.  Comics are a visual medium and as a general rule, more fans would buy comics because they liked the art than would buy comics because they liked the script.  The Image founders were sick to death of some stupid writer's name coming before theirs in the credits.  Also, they were sick to death of some stupid writer who did not care about vital issues like exactly how much a page of original art would be worth, dictating what they would draw each issue.

So, they wanted ownership and control of the characters they created, and they wanted to be able to dictate exactly what went on each page of artwork they drew, so that they could make sure that each page of artwork would sell for maximum rate.

So what ended up happening with Image Comics was, the artists 'created' the characters -- this is in quotes because very few Image characters showed even the slightest hint of creativity, much less originality -- and controlled the characters and retained all rights to the characters.  They also drew all the comics before any 'scripter' or 'writer' ever had any kind of input into the creative process at all, guaranteeing themselves absolute control over the resale value of each original page.

Some of them didn't mind making up the words that went into the little boxes and balloons themselves.  Others found that too tedious and grabbed some buddy they'd gone to school with, or whoever was sweeping up the building that night, and had them do it for them.    But the page content was dictated, not by characterization or the needs of the story or anything like that, but simply by how much eye candy could be shoved into every panel.  The formula for top selling pages is, lots of people in costume, lots of violence, and at least a few scantily clad hotties here and there.   That's what idiot fans would pay top dollar for.   That's what Image gave them.

So, if you were one of these poor schmucks who got tapped to 'write' an Image comic in the early days, what you got handed to you was twenty or so pages of hugely veined and corded men with a few strippers thrown in, all wearing ridiculously poorly designed costumes, all punching, kicking, swording, shooting, and/or blasting each other.  Sometimes the artist may or may not have drawn in some sequences where an inventive author could insert some expository dialogue explaining WHY all this violence was going on, but more often, it was just, as The Mad Maple once memorably put it, Two Mutants Beating The Tar Out Of Each Other, except, you know, at Image it was generally Seventeen or Eighteen Mutants With Cybernetic Implants And Half Alien DNA Beating The Tar Out of Each Other, endlessly, on and on, world without end, amen, amen.

Which is not to say there wasn't some semblance of a plot in many Image comics, at least, to the extent that Rob Liefeld defines such... " there’s a story going along, and the characters are wrapped up in it, battle one large villain character, and it was resolved.”  But what stories were told were... well, to use phrases like 'cliche' and 'trite' and 'unoriginal' is to insult decades of cliche, trite, unoriginal stories done to at least professional standards of quality on books like MARVEL TEAM UP.  These were stories created by artists who did not understand characterization, or storytelling (visual or otherwise) or pacing, or plot, or atmosphere, or nuance.  Artists who not only did not understand these things, but who bitterly resented the idea that such things existed or that anyone out there with money in their pockets might ever remotely give a shit about them.

CYBERFORCE is, I will admit, better than anything Rob Liefeld ever published, and it's about as good as anything Todd McFarlane ever published.    But these comics are not what I would call 'written'.  They are drawn by idiots who do not know how to write and who do not think that knowing how to write is at all important to producing, not so much 'good' comics, as comics that will sell well and generate a ton of money for them at every market penetration point.

Now, I will note, Todd McFarlane's character, SPAWN, was probably, out of every Image character, the one that came closest to being creative, original, or even 'good'.  Spawn's powers are, essentially, that he can do anything Todd McFarlane wants to draw him doing at any given time, and his origin is a hopeless morass of Image's typical brain dead 90s military fetishism with a lot of Satanic occult crap thrown in to the mix, but still... Todd McFarlane can DRAW.   This is probably why SPAWN, out of all those horrible awful characters, is reasonably well remembered and I think still has an ongoing comic to this day.

But Cyberforce, as originally conceived, were mutants who had been cybernetically enhanced!  Good fucking God.  Alan Moore once wrote a SWAMP THING story with a memorable tag line regarding "the sound of the hammers".     If you were a writer at Image with any respect for the art form, or even yourself, then this tag line could easily be adapted to the entire experience:  "The sound of the writer's head hammering against his desk must never stop."

So if you wonder what that irregular thudding sound you hear coming from the direction of Kentucky over the next few weeks is -- that's me.  Trying to read CYBERFORCE.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

And, for my 700th post... well, I'm doing this, I guess.

I don't even know what to say about this.

I'm a geek. I'm not proud of it, I'm not ashamed of it. I watched the music video, and what struck me was the one girl holding up the sign saying "Get over yourself".

It's good advice for nearly everyone. Especially everyone in that video.

People are dying from shit in our drinking water. People are being beaten on the streets because they are gay. People don't have anything to eat, or homes to live in, or jobs. Right now, somewhere, a few thousand kids are being tortured or molested, most of them by adults they should be able to trust not to do that. 

And now I'm supposed to be all concerned because some of my fellow geeks feel disrespected by others of my fellow geeks on the basis of their gender?

I mean, seriously. Can we all just get over ourselves?

I don't even know what a 'geek' is any more. I am snobby about it to this extent: I still feel that if you don't read for pleasure, if what you are 'geeky' about does not include written material of some sort, then you're not really a geek. Sorry. That's just me being old fashioned. But the printed word requires the use of the imagination in a way that video games, TV shows, movies, and other visual entertainment media do not. And I think that, whatever a geek is, imagination has to be a vital, essential part of it. So if you're a 'geek' because you play video games and love superhero movies and TV shows but you can't get through a page of Tolkien without going to sleep, or putting it down and picking up a remote control... no, sorry. To my mind, you're not a geek. Sorry if that hurts your feelings, but that's where I draw the line.

Having said that, let me say something else: a large part of what validates the geek tag or the geek experience for me is emotional pain. Feelings of social unworthiness, of not being accepted, of not being liked or wanted. A geek, in my experience, is someone who turns to their imagination -- books, roleplaying games, drawing, painting, writing -- because mainstream real life, with all those good looking smooth talking cool folks, have thoroughly and hurtfully rejected them. 

I'm sure this can happen for female human beings as well as for male human beings, but I will say that in my opinion, it happens less often to ATTRACTIVE female human beings than it does to any male human being. And most if not all of the girls in that video were attractive. 

So if I doubt anything about the validity of their geek status/experience, it is in that I doubt that they have been rejected quite as generally, specifically, thoroughly, painfully, and cruelly as most male geeks have. 

But beyond that, I simply question the validity and significance of this as a social issue. Even presuming that 'geek' has somehow become a coveted social status that we homely fat bully magnets must defend at all costs from the incursion of lame wannabe geeks who haven't paid their dues... and maybe it has, when apparently ANYone, literate or not, can claim that status for themselves now... honestly, why do you care?

Now, I personally can name every single member of the JSA, JLA, and Legion of Superheroes, off the top of my head with no research, and all their secret identities, and for most of them, their Significant Others, too. Plus, had I had telekinetic powers my senior year I guarantee you, the site of my high school would be a salted, cindered, cratered vacant lot from which the more psychically sensitive would still be able to hear the screams of the departed victims of my humiliated rage. 

So, yes, I am a geek. I am. No doubt about it. I'm not proud of it, I'm not ashamed of it, but it is absolutely a label and a status that I have earned through pain and toil. 

But if I don't think YOU are really a geek... whoever you are, and I probably don't, if you just play video games and especially if you got dates in high school... then, really, why do you care? Why is this important?

Go make some sandwiches and pass them out to homeless people. Make a music video about THAT. 

And get over yourself.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Issue zero

A rough idea for Issue Zero (hopefully to be published after a few issues of the actual series are out, so we can do clever sly references that the readers will immediately connect to things that have already occurred, but which are yet in the future at the time this is set).  


VISUAL:  The exterior of the Naval Observatory, the residence of the Vice President of the United States.  Word balloons initially come from one of the windows of the building.

CAPTION:  The Naval Observatory, Washington D.C.:  Private office in the residence of the Vice President of the United States:

VP:  Malcolm.  Good to see you again, my friend.

MAL:  Honored as always, sir.  

CAPTION:  John Nance Garner, the 32nd Vice President of the United States, once noted that that the Office of the Vice President was "not worth a bucket of warm piss". 


VISUAL:  We're closer to the window now and we can see VP Robert Shockley through it.  Shockley is very much meant to be a Dick Cheney type of character, and should probably generally resemble him... older, balding, stocky.. but perhaps he is a light skinned black man.  Or unlike Cheney, he may have served at some point in the military (he would certainly have arranged postings for himself that were far from combat, although at the same time, he may well have also arranged for various combat decorations and medals to be awarded to himself over the years.)  So he may be in uniform of some sort.

CAPTION:  Even before he was sworn in as VPOTUS 48, Robert Shockley disagreed with that quote... mostly because he'd always felt that a bucket of warm piss could be extremely useful in the right circumstances.

VP:  Mal, I've been looking at the THINK TANK proposal.  Lookin' hard, Mal.  Lookin' hard.

CAPTION:  Certainly, a gallon sized bucket of warm piss could make an effective bludgeoning weapon.  A trifle clumsy, maybe.  But if you were sneaky about your approach...

MAL:  I... well, Bob, I'm glad to hear that.  I hope...

PANEL 3:  

VISUAL:  We're inside the private office of the VP now.  This is the one in his residence and is probably a little cluttered.  I have no idea what the place looks like, but we can probably find some visual reference for it.   VP Shockley is behind his desk, his visitor, our Mirror Shades guy, is sitting in a chair in front of it.  The desk is covered with files and books and photos, as Shockley is neck deep in covert (highly illegal/immoral) military/intelligence/surveillance ops at all times.   Mirror Shades has a file folder of his own open on his lap.  

CAPTION:  Certainly you could waterboard one of those little Muslim motherf&@kers with a bucket of warm piss.  Or a g*dd@m hippie, for that matter...

VP:  Mal, you know I don't have to tell you, we've pulled a lot of sh%t together.  A LOT of sh%t.   Buried a lot of bodies.  Yes sir.  Yes indeed.

MAL:  Of course, Bob.  And this is no...

VP:  It's different, Mal.  Of course it's different.  This one?  I've got a pretty strong stomach, Mal, but this one... this one makes me queasy.



VISUAL:    More of the same; it will be these same two characters in the same room for the rest of this particular scene.  I leave it to your artistic ingenuity to keep it visually interesting... close ups, pull outs, exterior shots, whatever.  What's important is the dialogue.    

MAL:  Bob... sir.  With all due respect, Mr. Vice President... 

VP:  Due respect.  Yes sir, I am due respect. I run this country, Mal.  Not that glorified Ivy League daddy's boy in the Oval.  I got put on to babysit him, Mal.  You know that.  He cuts ribbons and does the photo ops.  I get the work done.  The hard nasty dirty day to day work of running the most powerful nation in the world. 

MAL:  No one doubts that, Bob.  No one who matters.


VISUAL:  More yak yak yak.  

VP:  Here's what I know, Mal.  I don't know a lot but I know this:  the American voters will put up with nearly any g#dd@m thing in the world as long as they get warm pussy, cold beer, and plenty of NASCAR on TV.  

MAL:  Absolutely, Bob.  And we've been instrumental in...

VP:  Let me finish.  Let me finish.  Mal, they'll put up with nearly anything... but this?  This THINK TANK is an abomination.  One whiff of that in the papers and... Mal, we've trained these people like seals!  That whole 'Vietnam vets came home and were spit on by hippies' thing... never happened!  But they ate it up with a spoon!  They LOVE our boys!  They'll never stand still for... they'll be rioting in the streets, Mal!  And won't the Man-Child whine about that!


VISUAL:  Mal is being reassuring.  

MAL:  Bob... we've thought of that.  We would never hang you out to dry.  I hope you know that, Bob.  

MAL:  My guess is, you were so upset by the specs you never got to the proposed marketing campaign in the back of the file.  Would that be right, Bob?

VP:  Marketing?  Mal, you can't market...


VISUAL:  More of the same.  We can see some kind of map of the United States in the office now, on a wall, on Shockley's desk, somewhere. 

MAL:  Oh, we can, Bob. We can.  We have it all planned out.  By the time we're done, the American public will be so sick of  hearing about military veterans... as sick as they are of  hippies, now.  

MAL:  There may be a little bit of a ruckus we have to get through.  I think you mentioned 'rioting in the streets'... yeah... we'll see some of that.  But we'll make that work for us.

MAL:  Just one thing we need from you, Bob, and your boy... besides your patience with us, I mean, and some cooperation under the table... 


VISUAL:  Close up of Mal's finger on a map.  We can quite clearly see "Sparta City" marked on the map where his finger is resting, although we can't make out quite what state Sparta City is in.  

MAL:  ...we may need to borrow this city for a while.