Tuesday, June 29, 2010

You Asked For It...

I spent way too much time on this.

This is why I shouldn't be allowed near coloring books.  Or Photoshop for that matter.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Martian Manhunter: Blank Canvas for Symbols, Too?

Okay, now I really don't need to do yet another post about the Manhunter from Mars.  I keep forgetting to follow through on things like reflections on Watchmen and that whole nostalgia thing.

But anyway...

The issue of J'onn J'onzz symbol (or lack thereof) came up in the comments of a post over at The Idol Head of Diabolu.  Now, J'onn's been through a few symbols that I'm aware of, the two being the "pie" symbol and the "male" symbol, which is actually the astronomical symbol for Mars.  And apparently, there's this elaborate piece of work, which looks like a Klingon compass or something.

In my humble opinion, a symbol needs to easily convey meaning to be effective: it must refer to something with which we are already familiar.  (This is why I think a lot of that Freemason hidden symbol mind control conspiracy theory stuff is hooey, because some of the supposed symbols are so obscure as to have no meaning.  But that's a topic for another post which I'll probably forget to write at a later date.)

Anyway, what's the best symbol for the Martian Manhunter?  I personally suck at coming up with symbols.  The best doodlings in grade school for my own personal signature were just my initials (I have a very literal brain).  So I feel a little deficient in suggesting a symbol.

Though I like pie symbol because it's been around for awhile, I think the "male" symbol could actually make more sense.  Maybe.

The Symbol For Mars

The Mars symbol is tied directly to Roman and Greek mythology.  Because Mars, the god of War, represents masculinity, somewhere along the line it became the symbol for the male gender as well.  (I don't know which came first.)  But anyway, because of mythology, that "male" symbol is associated with a lot of other things: the element iron, war, masculinity, self-assertion, aggressiveness, ego, selfishness, and so on.  None of that really sounds like J'onn J'onzz, does it?  I see him as a passive, humble, selfless, pacifistic, asexual kinda guy.  So that symbol pretty much sucks in representing him.

Or does it?

Well, here's a fun fact I read over at symbols.com:
"In astrology the planet Mars is referred to as the lesser malefic, i.e. an evil planet, whereas Saturn, 1713, is the great malefic."
Hmm.  Malefic.  That got me thinking.  Why does that word ring a bell in relation to the Martian Manhunter?

As has been said on the Idol-Head (and echoed here in the analysis on the noirish elements of the character) that the Martian Manhunter is a character defined by his failures.  What better symbol is there for a character who never wins than to bear the symbol of evil, which happens to be the very symbol for his own planet, which perished because he failed to save it?

Now, I've always seen Mars as kind of an ideal society that had conquered all of the problems that plague humanity.  But there was that one guy, who happened to be J'onn's brother, who messed everything up.  What better way to remind oneself not only of one's failures, but that no matter the source or setting--even your own family in a nearly-utopian setting--evil does exist in the universe and one should never let one's guard down lest evil triumph.  Evil, injustice, darkness, are all there if we look hard enough, and critically enough, and wearing a symbol of evil might just remind us of that fact and force us to never let our guard down.  It would be an anti-symbol in a way: just as Batman fights crime so that his existence will someday cease to be necessary, J'onn J'onzz could fight for a day when the symbol of war meant nothing.

So that's one reason the "male" symbol could work.  But, honestly, since the meaning of the symbol is not known by the general public and most of us think it's a symbol for masculinity, if J'onn went around wearing that, everyone would probably think he's trying to be Austin Powers or something...

But I can dream, can't I?

Betcha you never thought J'onn J'onzz and Austin Powers had something in common, did you?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Flip Side of Reversion

For a light week at work I seem to be very short on time.  I blame the black hole that exists under my bed; not only does it plague me with stealing every other right sock, but the errant chronal energy is a real bear to deal with at times.

Last time I was here I was talking about nostalgia, which is a buzzword that seems to come up often when people talk about the comics industry, and we identified it perhaps not as nostalgia per se, but perhaps a "reversion" to stories that worked for various reasons (storytelling, characters, certains writers, etc.) plus readers' desire to discover a certain era that existed before their time.  Everything about this reversion seems pretty good.  Until you look at perhaps a darker side of it.

I'll steer you to Comics Alliance to read Chris Sims's article entitled "The Racial Politics of Regressive Storytelling."  Then I'll come back tomorrow when I'm more lucid and talk more about what Chris Sims has to say.

Until then, I leave you to ponder a still shot of a deleted scene from Star Wars: The Rodent Menace:

It's all fun and games until Darth Cottontail shows up...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Nostalgia: Good or Bad for the Comics Industry?

One thing I'm learning as I read more about comics and read more from comics fans is this issue of nostalgia.  Apparently, once a writer makes it in the industry, he or she will writer stories featuring characters that they grew up with.  Some readers seem to think this is a bad thing, while others still clamor for the "good old days," whatever that may be.  Those fans in the anti-nostalgia camp seem to think it stagnates the art of comics--perhaps they wonder how can something progress when you're looking back?  While the pro-nostalgia comic fans (and I think I fall more towards this line of thinking...even though I don't see how I can legitimately be nostalgic after eighteen months of comic reading) yearn for storytelling throwbacks of an earlier era.

All of this raises all sorts of issues for both camps.  How do you decide which era is the era which deserves an homage?  How can you expect someone to read a story which isn't original without becoming bored of it?  And so on.  I can't really answer those questions, only raise them.

Because some characters have been around for over a half a century, and so many hundreds of stories have been written about them, there's so much to pick from when it comes to finding the "ideal" era to re-create.  And because we all have different tastes, who is to say what's best for a particular character?  The industry can go by numbers, I guess, and see what sold well and what was popular, which is I think are part of the motivation behind Justice League: Generation Lost.  (Or, at least, I suspect it is.)  I'm all about doing things for the love of it and not the money, so all of this revisiting-the-past seems a bit like cashing in.

That is, until I read Booster Gold #33.  Now Booster Gold (both the character and the book) is someone (and something) I like for a variety of reasons, and reading this this made me very, very happy:

I honestly don't know which made me happier: J'onn showing up or the exclamation point speech bubble.  (I love exclamation point speech bubbles.)

So, I think, in small doses (and when done right), a little nostalgia is a good thing.  What I find really weird, though, is that my generation--the current generation of young adults--has suddenly become so nostalgic.  That's something I'll have to look at in a future post.

Oh, and here's more, because stuff like this never gets old in my eyes:

Now you know the real reason why Booster ditched the collar.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Hey Guess What?

I'm tired.  Again.

Exciting, no?

And I got nothin'.  Again.

So here's a really cool drawing of The Phantom Stranger by Chris Samnee.  I think it's pretty and I wish I could draw as beautifully as he does.
That is all I have to say.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

I Am Quite Tired...!

Well, it was a very long, tiring, interesting day for me.  I spent most of it applying makeup that would put RuPaul to shame and twirling around on stage at the local performing arts venue.  It was our studio's end of the year recital, and even though our dance was barely over two minutes, it was a pretty tiring two minutes.  So after a lot of a day of pirouettes and looking all ballet-ish, and no comics in the mail, I don't have much to say.

Well, except this: which DC superhero do you think has some ballet experience?


Cue the spin-off series: Justice League Bolshoi!

And who would stricken our hero with such a rigourous trial as an exhibition of ballet prowess?  Why, our old friend Professor Hugo, of course.  (I'm sure he's quite the balletomane.  You might have to look that word up, guys.)

I don't think there's a name for this particular "intricate dance step" in any ballet syllabus that I'm aware of...

Let me tell you, J'onn.  Ballet is hard and a perfectly acceptable form of torture for any unsuspecting superhero, but it certainly pays off in pretty costumes and great core strength.

Hopefully tomorrow I'll find something more serious to blog about!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

After the Blackest Night....?

Well, I've been a really bad comics blogger lately.  I haven't felt much like writing about comics, nor do I know exactly what to write about comics.  I sit here and scratch my head and try to think of something to write about but nothing's coming to mind.  I'm going to consider this recent lassitude to be all Geoff Johns's fault and call it Post-Blackest Night Ennui.

The end of Blackest Night was, in my opinion, a huge letdown, and killed a lot of my comics enthusiasm.  Add reading Watchmen into the mix, which showed me that yes, comics can be written in a literary way, and I'm finding the current offerings lacking something.  What that something is, I don't know what.

I had very high hopes for Blackest Night.  Thinking back a year ago when it first launched, I was all over it.  I wanted to know how it ended, and I had an idea in my mind of how it was going to end.  Considering all those meta-textual comments the creators kept throwing out ("We're looking at the revolving door of death in comics," etc.), I thought this was going to be a world-changing reboot of the entire DC Universe.  Well, I was wrong, and that's why I'm annoyed.

Much like the ending of Lost (don't get me started), the ending of Blackest Night sucked all the joy-inducing helium out of my Comics Make Me Happy balloon.  Let me tell you something about how I read books, and watch TV shows and movies: I believe certain stories should end a certain way, and if they don't, I consider it breaking a law of storytelling, and I get really pissed.  Mysteries end with answers.  Action movies end with the bad guys getting defeated.  Tragedies end with, well, tragedy.  This is why Lost pissed me off royally, because it didn't answer anything, and when you promote a show as a mystery and promote its final season as the season when "all questions will be answered," then, dammit, you better deliver.  Likewise, if you set out to write a comics crossover which will metatextually examine the revolving door of death in the comics world, then, dammit, you better do just that.  Or I will get angry, and you won't like me when I'm angry.

Blackest Night, I'm discovering, wasn't a metatextual examination of death in comics, nor was it the shiny let's-go-back-to-the-good-ol'-days-everyone's-back-to-being-alive reboot I was hoping for.  I would've been happy with one or the other, but instead I got neither.  Now, I didn't care too much about plot holes or the (some would say) silly rainbow emotion corps like some people do.  That didn't bother me.  It was the promise that wasn't delivered that bothered me.  I expected everyone to come back to life and the DC Universe to be rebooted with some new rules on how death is handled in comics, and I expected a brighter, DC Universe filled with fun, engaging stories.  Instead I got two year-long maxiseries which feature mis-characterization of fan favorites and random soccer moms bashing in their children's heads with Rockband toy guitars.  I have no problem with dark plots or disturbing elements, but just don't put those kinds of things in a comic named Brighest Day!  Find somewhere else for them to go (like the Batman titles where they belong), or, better yet, learn how to tell a mainstream superhero story without shock value mindscrews.  And let's not even mention the fallout on Green Arrow and Arsenal and all that.  Brightest Day?  Yeah, right.  It only taught me that in comics, like in life, promises are rarely delivered on.  I don't know about you, but I read comics to get away from real life.

And even if the premise of Blackest Night couldn't be delivered on, couldn't we at least get a break from year-long crossovers and have some shorter story arcs for a change?  A year is an awful long time to wait for find out how something ends (I devoted six years to Lost so that disappointment was off the charts.)  I'm feeling a bit fatigued looking ahead at the coming year of comics, and that's not how I want to feel when reading a comic book.  I'd rather be happy.

I'm going to go read a Johnny DC title now and pretend that unicorns are real.