Hey, everyone! This is the creator of Little Girls Are Better At Designing Superheroes Than You, here with a post I thought you all might like. Writer Ted Anderson and I have made a pitch for a superhero comic!
The comic is about nine-year-old Lucia Marquez-Miller, who loves engineering, and uses her telekinetic powers to build and take things apart with her mind. She calls this power her spark!
As Spark, the world’s youngest superhero, she’s a junior member of a superhero team while also trying to live a normal life. Can Lucia juggle her friends and family while also saving the world from supervillains?
We’re posting a 15-page standalone comic here on tumblr to give readers an idea of what the book would be like.
Click “read more” below to continue reading the comic!
I just imagined the psycho-blast it would cause to amber to see Danny cheat her with Ethan, of all persons, and you have an history of making events blow in the faces of your characters, Mister. The "Damn you, Willis!" doesn't come out of nowhere.
Danny was literally jumped on for casual supersex by Billie and he turned it down because he had feelings for Amazi-Girl even if he didn’t know they were reciprocated yet. Hell, he was a jerk to Amber because he was afraid of the possibility of temptation of cheating on her with Amazi-Girl.
I’m a little upset that you think I will ignore Danny’s primary character trait now that one of the people he’s now physically attracted to is a dude.
The other week I lost my temper and said some stuff about Marvel’s announcements of Captain America and Thor, who are replacing White Captain America and Dude Thor. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, mulling it over, because it’s been pretty inescapable.
I like Marvel’s characters. I think that…
All this is so true.
And, for me, it brings me back to what I was saying the other day about James Rhodes.
I’ve been rereading 80s Avengers comics, and… well, here’s the thing.
This is Tony Stark in Avengers #228 (February 1983). He’s pushing himself to the limit, and feeling horrible about himself, and… well, drinking. Yeah, over in his own comic, this is that storyline. The one people always bring up when they’re discussing the pre-Downey Iron Man.
But here, all you know is he’s running himself ragged in issue #228.
This is issue #231, and the next time Iron Man’s been seen in the pages of the Avengers.
That’s James Rhodes.
But if you didn’t read Iron Man, you wouldn’t know that. It would be months longer before Captain America, Thor and the Wasp would learn that Tony Stark had given up the armor, and months past that before anyone would learn Iron Man was a black man. And even that happened in West Coast Avengers, not this comic.
No press releases. No massive campaign trumpeting that Iron Man had been replaced with a black man. And sure, the armor covered him head to toe, but then — that’s part of the point, too. If you were a casual reader — someone who picked up Avengers but didn’t pick up Iron Man or the like, and you saw Shellhead up in panel 1 of the second graphic… well, you’d assume he was a white man.
And Rhodey didn’t get the job as stunt casting, either. He’d been established for years as one of Stark’s best friends — a guy who’d helped him escape from Vietnam when he first made the armor. And he was a soldier and combat pilot. Exactly the right kind of person to take over flying the Iron Man suit.
I said on twitter a few days ago that I was glad for the new Thor and Captain America. And I am. I honestly am. I’m not complaining.
But for my money, the Marvel Comics of 1983 got it way closer to right than the Marvel of 2014, because they didn’t make a black man Iron Man to pop a rating. They made James Rhodes Iron Man because they were telling a story.
A few days ago, I asked a question on Twitter. Essentially, I asked if Marvel had any actual superintelligent characters who were decent, well adjusted, and stable, because setting aside Amadeus Cho (who gets an age exemption) I couldn’t think of any.
Note that by superintellect, I don’t mean ‘ubertech-engineer.’ Tony Stark doesn’t make this particular cut, for example. He’s brilliant, but he’s following a different character archetype.
There were some good points raised as it was batted back and forth, but then then almost simultaneously Jonathan Lennox and Ben Hutchins raised the same question.
What about Reed Richards?
Oh. I have opinions about Reed Richards.
The following is how it played out in real time, collected by Heather Meadows. My old friend Chris Meadows also did a Storify at almost the same time. His version includes all the wild, anarchic discussion that comes up in these things, and folks may prefer that. I kind of do myself — it was…
Yes, I ranted (and looked up facts desperately in other windows). And people jumped in, and brought stuff up, and… yeah.
“Are you REALLY a Legion fan? What are your favorite stories and characters? We’re just making sure that you’re joining the right group since sometimes we get requests from people who don’t even know who the LSH are! Thanks!”
— —an honest to Christ IM I got when I clicked on a link for a Legion of Superheroes discussion group on Facebook.
In honor of the 450th anniversary of what we assume was Shakespeare’s birthday, I give you this to look forward to, culturally speaking.
In just 350 years or so — a drop in the bucket, temporally speaking — there will be a monumental debate among intellectuals, critics, historians, and lay people. Movies will be made on the topic. Plays will be written. Whatever new media we can’t imagine now will devote itself to what to so many will be self-evident.
After all, there’s no possible reason why anyone could believe that Aaron Sorkin actually wrote those plays, movies and television shows. I mean, look at the facts of his life. Could that man have convincingly written about working for the president? He never worked for the president! He never worked for a sports channel! He was just a failed actor — one with a B.F.A. instead of a B.A.! A B.F.A. in Musical Theater for God’s sake!
Musical theater! Open your eyes, man!
And some people will claim that clearly all those projects were really written by David Mamet, who didn’t want to look like he was slumming on television or in Rob Reiner films. And some will claim he was really the public face of Josh Molina, which is why he kept getting ‘cast’ in those projects. And others will claim he was really Dee Dee Myers, or Keith Olbermann, or Bill Clinton.
And when people will point to the mountain of evidence that clearly indicate Sorkin wrote the things with his name on him, that evidence will either be ignored or dismissed, while the most tenuous of connections will be used to validate the Sorkinite theory of the day. “Actual footage of Sorkin writing? Phaw! You’re forgetting that in 1983 Aaron Sorkin met Joyce Dewitt!”
And absolutely none of it will have any bearing on much of anything, so long as people keep staging productions of A Few Good Men. Albeit updated for modern sensibilities, which undoubtedly means Jessup will be vindicated.
One of the things I remember most clearly about the ‘webcomics community’ in the mid-2000s was how passionate everyone was, about… well, everything. Drama was a constant. There was no detail so small that it wasn’t worth an argument. There was no achievement so petty that it didn’t deserve celebration. The most precious coin of the realm was sincerity — you could be an jerk. People were fine with that. Just don’t be a milquetoast or hypocrite.
Well, Joey Manley was no hypocrite. And Joey Manley was no milquetoast. He went toe to toe on the subject of comics with anyone. And sometimes, people called him a jerk. Sometimes loudly. And generally they used language that was less ‘PG’ than ‘jerk.’
But that was okay with Joey, because comics mattered to Joey. Art mattered to Joey. And if that meant he was going to be the one man standing up in the middle of remarkable peer pressure and move in a different direction, well, that’s what it would mean.
Which is where we got Modern Tales from. And Girlamatic, Serializer, Graphic Smash and all the rest of the ‘Manley’ sites (which he always referred to as the ‘Modern Tales family.’)
But I’m getting ahead of my tale. More after the break.
Every so often, you have to dust the old blog off. In one sense, the most significant new comics-media development in years happened this past week: the launch of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC.
Yeah, most significant. As in, more significant than The Avengers, Iron Man II and III, and The Dark Knight Rises (my arbitrary cutoff would be after Iron Man and The Dark Knight for these purposes, but in one sense this could compete with those luminaries as well).
Why do I say this? Because we have a weekly television series set in the Marvel (Cinematic) Universe on one of the Big Four networks, and its premiere had absolutely absurdly good numbers. Shockingly good numbers. Numbers that roughly tripled Smallville’s best viewerships and exceeded Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman’s best season average. And don’t kid yourself — it was a lot easier to get sixteen million viewers in 1993 than it is today. The demographics for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. were insane — skewing heavily to adults with six figure incomes and adults in the prime advertising demos. (They’re trumpeting the male viewership, because I don’t know — penises or something, but the ratio was roughly 55%-45% male/female, which is to say “don’t claim this is a guy’s show — everybody watched this.”)
This wasn’t a show about superheroes. Arguably, this wasn’t even a show about ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ since only three members of the primary cast have “Agent” in their job title. This was a show about non paranormals in the Marvel Universe, and it absolutely killed.
That’s a game changer, popular culture wise. There’s a reason the Fox network essentially announced the pre-Batman Jim Gordon Gotham series on the heels of this show. And if they sustain even decent numbers, we’re going to see a ton of superhero/superspy shows next year on the big four. The post-Heroes superhero fad will look ridiculously tame in comparison. No one in television loves anything so much as a successful show they can copy.
(What do I want to see? I want to see a show about and starring Lex Luthor. Preferably one with some Breaking Bad in its DNA. No, I don’t mean Bryan Cranston, though I wouldn’t be sad if he were in it. But I digress.)
So, let’s talk about it — after a break, so spoilers aren’t a thing — because there will be spoilers for the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe here and there, as well as the show. (And maybe a few other movies while we’re at it.) Warning done.
In today’s Interviewing Treyinstallment, I introduced a significant character — one who’s a straight shooter, and answers a number of Chapman’s questions without overt hostility or obvious agenda. She was, in my head and in the text, described as mature, with an eye to making her older and thereby giving her a bit of gravitas, so that her words would be received by the reader a certain way. It’s, you know, what we do when we write. We try to create something that will convey the impression we’re striving for.
It just occurred to me that if I sat down and crunched the numbers… this character would be within two or three years of my own age.
How would you feel if they made a Trinity film that focused mainly on Wonder Woman, instead of a solo Wonder Woman (in the way they called the animated film Superman/Batman: Apocalypse even though it was really about Supergirl, just to cater to a demographic)?
You mean ignore that 51% of the movies goers in this country are women?
You mean ignore that 44% of the audience for Superman were women?
You mean ignore that films with female leads can do well (Hello Hunger Games!) but Hollywood continues to cater to the precious male demographic because apprently the money women spend at the box office is someone how less attractive.
Fuck that noise. Hollywood needs to stop catering to the kind of small minded wrong head bullshit that brings two movies that have the White House being invaded to the screens within months of each of other and express SHOCK when a female lead film opening the same weekend beats the pants off it.
They need to stop pouring money into pieces of shit like the Lone Ranger and after they had a bomb like John Carter but then limit the films that have female leads.
They are in self perpetuating cycle of expressing shock each and anytime their male led movies fail and a film with a women or POC succeeds.
They need stop being paralyzed about how Wonder Woman must be done right when they freely reboot Superman when he fails. Or the Hulk. Or any other male led superhero movie. I wouldn’t be a bit suprised if there’s a new GL movie before Wonder Women.
I’m pragmatic but I’m also tired and frustrated with this constant catering to the idea that male movie goers are fricking special snowflakes who will break out in a sweat or die if they see a female led movie.
Did they go see Aliens? Yeah, they did.
Did they go see Tomb Raider? Yeah they did
Did they go see Hunger Games? Yeah they did (39% of the opening was male).
Did those movies make money? Yeah, they did.
I’m sorry Hollywood is just filled with dudes who believe the world revolves around them.
When writing fiction with any sense of awareness of self or culture, one has to deal with cultural imperatives as well as dramatic ones.
Okay, ‘has’ is strong. Plenty of people don’t. Plenty of people don’t even think about it. I know. I was one of them. But….
Well, that has to change, and that means it has to change for me as well. Which brings me to today’s Interviewing Trey chapter.
The stuff I’m going to discuss is spoiler ridden, so it goes behind a break. You know, if you care about being spoiled for the story. If not, or if you read it (and thank you if you did), feel free to continue.
@kelli217 and I have been having a conversation in regards to Man of Steel, which I’m electing not to see based on the reviews by Mark Waid and others. I’ll try to be spoiler-free.
The aforementioned kelli217 asked a good questions as part of this — what about the rookie argument? (IE — what if Superman’s being so new to this means he makes choices we don’t care for.) My response, informed by Waid’s on similar responses, was they could have made a Superboy movie but didn’t. If you make a Superman movie, you don’t get graded on a curve.
The response to that was “What if Superman is not YET worthy of the name, doesn’t realize his potential to realize ideals?”
It’s a good question. The answer requires Myth Criticism.
In Mythological Literary Critical Theory, fiction in all media follows certain archetypical paths, which can be decoded in many ways. One of the hallmarks of these archetypes are failed attempts to reach the archetype. In Greek Myth, where this is most famous, the archetypical Greek hero is Perseus: Perseus strives with Gods but never places himself above them. He succeeds with his strength and heart but never succumbs to foolishness or hubris. And, he is rewarded without punishment, and he and his fellows eventually enter the stars themselves.
Failed attempts to get to the archetypes are ectypes. Ectypes have elements of the archetypical, but fail to achieve that zenith. Examples include Theseus (who abandoned Ariadne, forgot to change the sail of his ship, and ultimately was imprisoned in Hades, his memory stripped, for daring to try and kidnap Persephone), Jason (who betrayed Medea, who killed their children in revenge, and had the favor Hera showed him rescinded, leaving him to be crushed to death by the rotting prow of the Argo alone and unloved), and Bellerophon (whose hubris grew so great he attempted to fly Pegasus to Olympus itself, causing Zeus to either strike him with a thunderbolt or to have a gad-fly sting Pegasus, throwing Bellerophon to death far below).
Likewise, Superman is an archetype. He is, in the end, the hero who gets it right. He makes hard choices, and finds another way. He inspires us not because of his great power, but because his great power is not what makes him a hero.
If he fails at this? He fails at the archetype. He is an ectype instead. If he acts as Superman but is unable to be Superman, he cannot become Superman. He can still be a hero, of course, but he cannot achieve the archetype.
I wasn’t being flippant in my first answer. Superboy can fail at this ideal. He is, as stated, a rookie. He’s new, learning his way and learning his power. The entire 10 season run of Smallville was about Clark Kent learning all he needed to know and becoming all he needed to be before he could actually be Superman. Had they elected to make (in Waid’s words) Boy of Steel, the crux issues wouldn’t be issues. They might be controversial, but they wouldn’t reflect a core failure of the character.
Once the mantle of Superman is assumed, the character is not becoming, he has become, and at that point the burden is on the writers — he is the figure who finds the other way, who makes the right choice. Barring intentional deconstructions or subversions of the character (Elseworlds, Injustice: Gods Among Us, the Justice Lords on Justice League, and so forth) in the end he will succeed.
In making their character Superman, they make the question of whether he’s ready to be Superman academic. In the end, their figure is a failed ectype and not the archetype. And at that point, there is no going back.
Their ‘Superman,’ in the end, isn’t. And as a result, he can’t be.
A ton of people disagree with me on this, for the record, and that’s fine. God knows I’m not the final word on anything. But, that’s (the major reason) why I’m not going to the movie, and that’s why the character fails for me.
You can understand why people consider female superheroes a losing proposition in mass media — I mean, after the failure of key female superhero properties like The Powerpuff Girls and Kim Possible we’ve demonstrated that—
Wait, what was that? Those were both immensely successful television shows? But… how could that be? That would imply that female action oriented figures who were allowed to act like (in the former case) actual little girls and (in the latter case) actual young women would appeal to the female segment of their audience and pull in strong viewership numbers. Now, how can that be?
No, that’s ridiculous. We know from mass market movies that women won’t go to see such things. Just look at the Hunger Games — as soon as you put a woman at the center of such an action oriented….
What was that? Hrm. Okay, bad example.
All right. Look at Tomb Raider. Here’s a prime example of a traditional, male oriented unrealistic heroine in an action environment. No more of these silly ‘female appealing qualities,’ just Angelina Jolie in a tank top hurling herself in slow motion over—
DOUBLED IT’S FREAKING PRODUCTION BUDGET? NOW COME ON! No. No… that’s okay. Look at its sequel. Its sequel clearly… grossed $156 million off a production budget of $95 million before things like DVD sales.
All right! All right! Elektra! Here’s a movie that was devoid of any strong characterization that itself was a sequel of a movie that underperformed at the box office. It was based on a relatively obscure comics property that was, admittedly, beloved of comic book fans. With all of that stacked against it, obviously it was a monumental flop, which proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that female led superhero movies are simply not a viable proposition.
Wait, what was that? Elektra made money? Not a lot — not enough to justify a sequel — but the studio came away with more cash then they paid, on a movie pretty universally known to have been total crap?
Catwoman! A truly terrible movie with a horrible script, terrible CGI, bad acting, a terrible premise, which literally moved away from the comics character of the previous sixty years and created a new one purely so they could get Halle Berry (because Heaven knows putting a black woman in a white woman’s role couldn’t happen) with an execrable plot and absolutely the worst word of mouth any movie has ever received both before and during release failed at the box office and lost money. The Superhero equivalent of Heaven’s Gate failed so utterly that it proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that having a superhero movie with a female lead, regardless of any other factors or any other movie experiences, is entirely nonviable in today’s market.
For folks who haven’t seen this in my personal Tumblr, Twitter, Google Plus or other such things… well, consider this my notice that Banter Latte, my fiction site, has come back for at least a multi-week stay (I can say that with confidence, since that content’s already written).
For those that have already seen this, perhaps multiple times… um… well, I hope you find fifty dollars in the street and have the best cup of coffee you’ve had all month later today.
If you don’t drink coffee, then I’m not sure my blessings and well wishes will be of particular help, but you could always use the fifty dollars to buy some other kind of beverage.
“Now, back to the part about no insurance. I know that the first instinct any time this kind of terrible bad luck hits someone is to try to donate to help them with their medical bills. The thought is appreciated, but please… DO NOT GIVE US DONATIONS. Donations are very unlikely to cover the bill, but they are guaranteed to make Michael ineligible for the existing financial aid options. Instead, if you really want to pitch in, please go to either our Etsy shop or our online store and buy the original Errant Story comic pages. Those purchases will put money into the business, and won’t affect Michael’s eligibility for financial aid. No matter how this turns out in the long run, they’re beautiful pieces and a good investment for you, and the money going into the business will give us options to figure out what on earth we’re going to do when this is over. So that’s the best way to help. Well, unless you’re a comic artist. Then you could maybe give us fan art or fan comics to run on the site for a while. Either Does Not Play Well With Others or Errant Story fan comics would be awesome, and hell, if you’ve got pent up Exploitation Now fandom bubbling away inside you, we’ll gladly run with that, too.”
Well… obviously he didn’t come up with the concept of the 5-team. However… I honestly think Sims’s interpretation is superior to the TVTropes page.
Let’s look at the five:
TVTropes: The Leader vs Chris Sims: The Leader. Um… obviously no change here, so we move on.
TVTropes: The Lancer vs Chris Sims: The Wild Card. This is a significant change. The Lancer, in many ways, is a codified second in command. He or she might be hotheaded vs. a cool headed leader, or it might be the opposite. There might be sarcasm or snark, or taciturn quiet. Lance (duh) from Voltron. Skye, from Power Rangers: SPD.
The Wild Card, on the other hand, is just that. The Wild Card may not be a team player at all. He or she may need active reining in, and will likely foment conflict between one or more of the participants. And there’s little chance the Wild Card will be second in command. In fact, the Wild Card is likely to be on probation at best. Guy Gardner. Gambit. Early Wolverine. Hawkgirl. Harley Freaking Quinn.
TVTropes: The Smart Guy vs. Chris Sims: The Brain. Let’s set aside the fact that it is “the Smart Guy,” IE — can’t be a girl. It’s significant and wrong, but let’s set it aside. The Smart Guy is intelligent, often nerdy — “played for comic relief.” Generally physically unimposing. Pidge, from Voltron. Billy, from MMPR. The geek, the dork. Not the hero except in very special episodes.
The Brain, on the other hand? Is BATMAN. Intelligent, wise, tactical. Uses intellect to not just level the playing field but stack the deck against the villains. Brainiac 5. Batman. Oracle. Amanda Waller. Far from being the comic relief or the nerd, the Brain is what makes the superteam something other than a pack of jocks beating up muggers.
TVTropes: The Big Guy vs Chris Sims: The Muscle. The Big Guy (again — guy) is just that. Big. Strong. A little goofy, generally. Maybe dumb. Hunk, from Voltron. Ryū/Tiny/Hooty from Gatchaman. There’s little more to say about him.
The Muscle is the sheer power a superhero team can bring to bear, be that physical or some other kind. This power may be overwhelming or even uncontrolled, or may be tightly reined in. Superman or Wonder Woman, depending on if one is the leader. The Hulk or She-Hulk. Thor. Carol Danvers. John Stewart. Starfire.
TVTropes: The Chick vs Chris Sims: The Heart: Well, on the one side we have—
You know what? No. This one’s just flat out a ‘no.’ The Chick is just that. In the Five-Man Band trope there’s one girl — maybe two. And that girl is perhaps a touch sassy but is also the kind, mediating influence who everyone’s a little in love with and no one ever bangs. And yeah, I love Voltron too, but Princess Allura — at least in the original run — is there to be slightly incompetent, beloved and in distress. Princess/Jun from Gatchaman isn’t nearly so professionally helpless, but still. This is not something for a modern western superhero comic to emulate.
The Heart is a necessary component for a team comic. Someone who binds the team together, who exemplifies the reasons they fight, who smooths over the conflicts, especially between the Wild Card and everyone else. Someone to inspire everyone when things are at their darkest. You know who the Heart of the Avengers was during the Roger Stern era? (For my money, the best of the 80’s and one of the best of all time?) Captain America. While Janet Van Dyne and Monica Rambeau were leading the team, Captain America was the glue that held it together. Cosmic Boy or Element Lad of the Legion, depending on the era. Kitty Pryde or Cyclops, once upon a time before… well, before. J’onn J’onzz.
Look, I’m not knocking the TVTropes entry. It’s an accurate entry, describing a recurring trope in several media. But it’s not a blueprint for what a successful superhero team comic needs. Superteams need a balance that gives each character a reason to be in the comic, without making them too cardboard or, worse, indistinguishable. There needs to be something that makes the team work while also building intra-team conflict. The Five-Man Band doesn’t try to do any of that.
In other words, it’s the difference between a formula, and a well thought out cast.
Five Man Bands still exist and still work. Heck, I just saw a well composed one launch on Power Rangers: Megaforce. (The Yu-Gi-Oh rangers! Collect all the power cards!) But part of the reason they work is because they’re traveling well worn paths. There are no surprises to be had, there. And all too often, the stories they tell are simplistic.
Not always, by any means. But all too often.
Chris Sims may have been inspired by the Five Man Band, but what he laid out in his article was more subtle, less stereotype. That makes the conversation very different, and for my money a lot more interesting.
“Assuming that we’re not just going to go with a bunch of characters that I like — which would really just be Batwoman, Batgirl, Huntress, Oracle and… oh, you know, what’s her name, that blonde kid who was Robin for a hot minute — I think there’s a pretty easy formula you can use to slap together a team of super-heroes. You really just need to fill five roles: the Leader, the Brain, the Muscle, the Heart and the Wild Card.”
— Chris Sims breaks down superteams, Super Sentai and everything in between in one short paragraph. (via websnark)
Having reblogged that (it’s from his “who would I pick for an all female Justice League or Avengers” article), I find myself pondering JL lineups, if we ignore market or brand management concerns.
And yes, the Justice League is generally more than five members. I’m going to ignore that for the moment — we can always assume there are other folks floating around in the background. What we’re looking for are the essential elements of the team. Anyone else will lose screen time. Anyone who isn’t one of these five is officially “and the Rest.” Which, as anyone who watched the black and white season of Gilligan’s Island can tell you, are those members you figure aren’t significant enough to get credited in the opening credits.
Another reason I want to skip the ‘and the rest’ part of the Justice League for now? All too often, ‘the rest’ includes ‘the chick we need to put in because we have to,’ or ‘the black guy.’ As far as I’m concerned, if I fail the diversity test in these main five, then I’ve failed the diversity test, period.
(Oh, to forestall something in the comments — as I’ve said before… yes, there’s a diversity test. There’s always a diversity test. Any time you don’t have as close to 50% women and appropriate breakdowns of people of color on your superhero team, you’ve failed the diversity test. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t matter to you. It matters. And as I’ve said before — the compositions of these teams are editorial decisions, period. No one loses a job because they’re not put on a fictional superhero team. End of minirant.)
Here’s a few, in order of team role, after the read-more:
“Assuming that we’re not just going to go with a bunch of characters that I like — which would really just be Batwoman, Batgirl, Huntress, Oracle and… oh, you know, what’s her name, that blonde kid who was Robin for a hot minute — I think there’s a pretty easy formula you can use to slap together a team of super-heroes. You really just need to fill five roles: the Leader, the Brain, the Muscle, the Heart and the Wild Card.”—Chris Sims breaks down superteams, Super Sentai and everything in between in one short paragraph.
This perhaps isn’t a shock given the existence of this blog in the first place. I play roleplayings. Occasionally, I write for roleplaying games. I’ve got two roleplaying games fleshed out and ready for a creation that may never happen. When given Doctors’ diagnoses, I mentally argue why I deserve a saving throw.
This, naturally, extends to the online arena. I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time playing MMOs. While I’d tried Everquest back in the day, it wasn’t until City of Heroes — now so painfully gone — that the form sunk its hooks into me. Since then, CoH, along with Champions Online, Star Trek Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic have all grabbed my cerebral cortex and refused to let go. Among others, of course, but that’s not important right now.
However, there has often been a question… are these really roleplaying games? Do they truly constitute the assumption of a role, the playing within the context of that role, and the resolution of that role’s activity. Given the lack of a proper gamemaster responding to your actions, is there really a role being played, or is there just a well constructed avatar? And doesn’t everyone more or less just admit this isn’t any kind of RPG? They used to be called MMORPGs — Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games. Now… they’re MMOs. It’s still ‘massively multiplayer,’ with thousands or tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands or millions of players, but the ‘role playing game’ is left off.
It’s actually a more complicated question to answer than you might think.
On coding, writing, structure and cottage-cheese hating Ninjas
The start of the school year — or “f’ing September,” as we tend to call it — is a brutal thing. Nothing not school related happens, and it has gotten worse over the years. This year, we had an exceptionally tough summer with some heavy infrastructural upgrades and network expansions/changes/reformulations, and none of it is known to work until you have a full student body using it.
As a side note — so far it’s going very well indeed. But I digress.
Needless to say, my already pitifully small number of posts became “no posts at all,” and that’s the way it was. Honestly, I’m in no position to pick back up (in part because I have a rather ambitious plan for online doings — no, it does not involve a Kickstarter — that will shape what my online life for 2013 and beyond will look like, and so this is not the time to redevote my scrivenorial efforts to essay-writing) anytime soon.
But I just had a discussion with a coworker that I absolutely needed to pass along to you, the folks who I like passing stuff along to.
The discussion was on a technique he used for commenting code, and through it composing and documenting code. And it’s brilliant.
And it would work for almost any form of writing, cartooning, or creative endeavor just as well.
More after the break. I’m Terry Gross, and this is Fresh Aire.
Man, it's been a while since I burbled for half of forever about crit theory.
Sometimes, even at this late date, people ask me why I’m so fast to disregard Authorial Intent in a work.
It’s a fair question. After all — all creative people feel inexorably bound to their creations, for good or ill. It feels like a tiny chunk of you has been wrapped up in descriptive text, imagery, lyrics, melody or what have you. And for many (not all) people, there is generally something you’re going for. Something you want to say, whether directly or indirectly. Something you want to imply. Some meaning behind your words. That meaning may be prosaic — sometimes a running gun battle is just a running gun battle — or obscure. (Sometimes a running gun battle is a metaphor for the individual finding himself opposed by his own dark reflection while the world of conformity around him is shattered in collateral damage which rains down upon the innocent and guilty alike. Also there are doves. Just accept that part, okay?)
Readercon’s Convention Committee, after taking the time to carefully examine the decision of their Board of Directors and the firestorm of controversy that followed that decision, has issued a statement detailing their response to the situation. In brief: they have admitted culpability, apologized in detail and depth, overturned the decision of the board, applied the Zero Tolerance policy in full to “Bob” (yes, I know I’m the only guy left on the internet who doesn’t name the parties involved. Allow me my indulgences), and accepted the resignations of all the board members. They have also committed to updating and improving their policies — hopefully taking out the Zero Tolerance bits while developing a means of response that protects the safety of the convention — and papering the next Readercon with notices and guides for avoiding harassment and reporting it when and if it happens. They have also offered refunds to anyone who prepaid for Readercon and doesn’t feel they can attend regardless of this response.
Go ahead and click the link above. It’s worth the read.
On the whole, this was the best response they could have had. It clearly accepts responsibility for what happened, takes steps to vindicate those who spoke up, restores the penalties as they were listed — heck, give me a second and I’ll reproduce the penalties section:
The concom has voted to overturn the board’s decision in the matter of harassment committed by [Bob], and to permanently ban him from attending or participating in Readercon in any way. He may not purchase or otherwise acquire a membership; he may not participate in the program; he may not be or work for a dealer in the bookroom; he may not join any Readercon committee; he may not volunteer. We have informed [Bob] of this ban and he has not contested it.
I am a big, big fan of unambiguous statements, and this is a doozy. It makes it clear that this is a real ban, not one that can be worked around. (I can’t imagine Bob intended to try and work around the restrictions anyway.)
Of particular note is their acceptance of responsibility and their apology. They didn’t try to mitigate their responsibility or deflect any of the blame. They simply stated their culpability and their commitment to resolving the situation.
My post on the subject was largely about how the original ruling by the Board had caused a lot more damage to everyone involved than simply banning Bob in the first place had done. So, the question now is — how does the response mitigate that damage? Is Readercon out of the woods? Are the victims? For that matter, does this allow Bob to express contrition and move on as well?
I don’t know.
I think it was the best response they could have — in part because it feels sincere, instead of feeling like damage control. (Whether or not it was sincere is beyond my capability to report, in as much as I lack clairvoyance, telepathy or magic.) However, there was a lot of reporting and damage done, and it took long enough (thanks to the realities of a ConCom’s deliberations even in the Information Age) that there was plenty of time for the poison to spread in Readercon’s well. Will their numbers be down next year? I wouldn’t be surprised.
Further, the review and redevelopment of their Harassment policies is all to the good. Lacking nuance can only lead to pain, as we’ve learned. I hope what will emerge is a policy that outlines a series of potential penalties, up to and including a permanent ban. What may work better — which is to say, erring on the side of safety and affirmation of the victim’s experience while eschewing absolutism — is to ban the perpetrator for the foreseeable future, and then list at what point the perpetrator can petition for reinstatement, as well as the criteria that will need to be shown. That puts the burden on the perpetrator to show proper contrition through action as well as words, and gives the Convention cover should they elect not to reinstate him or her. That’s just one potential way to improve the current policy, of course.
As for the victim and her supporters — the sense of vindication and justice would have to be profound. There is something to be said for the glaring spotlight of indignation being shone on the subject of Con Harassment. While Readercon is (and must) reviewing their policy and will be under a microscope during the process, this situation should be a wake-up call for every fan-run convention: no one wants this to happen again, either to an attendee or to a convention itself. With luck, there will be a lot of different reviews going on.
(An interconvention committee might be a good idea — letting experienced con-runners debate and discuss the issues openly, to help put together a model antiharassment policy for individual conventions to adopt or adapt as needed. Many eyes make for fewer bugs, et al. Of course, herding cats would be easier than fans blah blah blah aphorism.)
Finally, what does this mean for Bob?
Bob’s going to have a rough time of it. There isn’t a convention or fan gathering he can attend without having at least some attention focused on him for this. And I can’t say this breaks my heart — my sympathies remain with the victim. Still, what should have been specific to a single convention (though public enough to give warning to others to watch his behavior) has become fan-wide, and I don’t see Bob recovering from that anytime soon. Internet justice is the justice of chainsaw and grenade, which is why it’s a bad idea to fall back on the internet community’s response for corrective behavior.
Still, all this is resolved, in terms of this specific incident. The discussion is ongoing and will be for some time. With luck and work, this will lead to conventions having clearer, better put together policies against harassment and much greater transparency in their execution of those policies.
Nothing’s going to make this a winning situation for Bob, Carol or Readercon. Nothing could. But maybe — just maybe — this can turn into a win for fandom and fan organizations in general.
I missed this last year. It’s freaking great — beautifully drawn (and in an idiosyncratic style most mainstream comics lack right now) with characters and situations that remind us how rich the DC Universe was before the New 52. I don’t mean to suggest the New 52 lacks richness now, but it’s not the same.
Honestly, I don’t know why DC doesn’t have selected Pre52 titles as online comics right now, but it’s something I’d like to see. I’d heartily encourage fans to keep up a Fannish Pre52 universe (even form an alliance to do so, maybe even on the old ‘Webring’ model which now just makes me sound old), but given the huge effort such a thing would take for, essentially, no money? I’ll just enjoy things like this when they come up.
Still, if itswallie wanted to continue the adventures of Pre52 Wally West, I sure as Hell wouldn’t say no….
A simple, honest statement about Young Justice, Bill Mantlo, and the New 52.
The latest run of Young Justice is called “Invasion,” and while it is not in any way the same, it draws certain elements off a late 80’s comics crossover called “Invasion,” in particular focusing on the discovery and exploitation of the Metagene and ways to eliminate powers, control metahumanity and the like, as well as the use of shapeshiftes (Durlans in the original).
"Invasion," the comics crossover was plotted largely by Keith Giffen, working with scripter Bill Mantlo. Mantlo, known more for his Marvel work, where he created and developed long runs on the Micronauts and Rom, as well as creating properties like Cloak and Dagger, was involved in an automobile hit and run in 1992, which gave him irreparable brain damage. He had some progress getting better, after institutionalization, but his insurance ran out and he ended up in the only care facility his family could afford (and that just barely). The story is heart-rending for anyone to read. For someone who grew up with his comics, it is agony to think about.
DC? Warner? You don’t owe Bill Mantlo anything, legally. He did a job for you, did it well, was paid and you both move on. I don’t mean or want to claim otherwise. (I might have choice words for Marvel in this regard, but not DC). But here you are, drawing elements off work Mantlo did for you for a storyline in a popular cartoon. This is an opportunity. An opportunity for great press. An opportunity to have a public statement — to say “we recognize that we have no financial obligation to Bill Mantlo, but we and all the modern comics industry owes a lot to this man, and as the “Invasion” storyline develops, we want to demonstrate the kind of heroism we have always stood for.”
Please. Subsidize Mantlo’s care. It might be too late to give him the kind of recovery he once could have had, but at the least you can greatly improve his quality of life. At the least what progress could be made could be made.
I don’t have much I can offer as inducement, but here’s what I can offer. I’ve been critical of the New 52. I don’t apologize for that. But if you do this… I’ll buy every issue of every comic in the New 52 produced in its first year. It will take some time — I’m not particularly flush — but as long as they remain available via Comixology I’ll do it. I’ll buy all the good ones I couldn’t get to. I’ll buy all the ones I don’t care for. Hell, I’ll buy all the ones I actively dislike. Red Hood and the Outlaws? I’ll buy every. Stinking. Issue.
Like I said, it’s not much, but it’s what I can offer. It absolutely pales in comparison to what you can offer Bill Mantlo, his family and his legacy.
Upon hearing of the death of Gore Vidal, I had an immediate, almost visceral reaction, which I immortalized in Twitter form. That is the rhetoric of the age — immediate thoughts, put out in a form that was immediately visible for all to see. It was, in its way, the anthesis of Gore Vidal’s writing.
Still, I stand by it the next day, and will cheerfully reproduce it here:
I called the (inevitable) political cartoons of Vidal at the Pearly Gates inappropriate for two reasons: one, because Gore Vidal didn’t believe in Heaven. As with Christopher Reeve (an Atheist) and George Harrison (a Buddhist), there is something vaguely offensive of depicting Gore Vidal’s undergoing Heavenly judgment in an affectionate style. And two, because Vidal claimed Buckley was in Hell, and I have to believe if given the choice, he’d pursue him down there.
But, if there’s a Buckley knife fight. I’ll forgive them. More after the break.
I am not a Christian. I am also not a Conservative. I have opinions which are not held by neither the average Conservative Christian nor the average Christian Conservative. This is my right, even as they have the right to be Christian and Conservative.
However, I am also a writer. Right now, I’m writing a (I believe this is the term) fuck-ton of fiction.
I work very hard, both in terms of necessary research and in building writing skills, in making realistic, sympathetic Christians, Conservatives, Conservative Christians and Christian Conservatives in my stories. I have been dismissive before, and been rightly called on it. And I try to learn from my experiences. And, when I’m writing, I’m trying to reflect the world and nation I live in — in particular, a nation where forty percent describe themselves as conservative or very conservative and (as of 2008) seventy-six percent describe themselves under the very broad rubric of Christian.
I have very little interest in making forty percent of the characters in my stories one dimensional strawmen. I have even less interest in making seventy-six percent of the characters in my book intolerant ideologues. And when I write about those forty or seventy-six percent, I would like to do so accurately.
Why? Well, one seminal Christian principle, which is common to many other religions, is summed up in two verses. Matthew 7:12 (Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets) and Luke 6:31: (And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.) I would like my own philosophy, ethics, beliefs and principles to be represented well in the fiction of others. Further, I would like a character modeled on myself to have nuance and depth, being more than a mouthpiece for an overly simplistic interpretation of what someone on the other side of the aisle thinks about Liberals or Agnostics. The only way I know to encourage that is to live by it.
And if it doesn’t happen? If my ilk are characterized… well, as ideologues of any political or philosophical bent often characterize those different than themselves? Hey, at least one of the two of us will write with the empathy and compassion mandated by Scripture, right?
So. The link above is to a really well done roundup of all the debate surrounding a case of harassment at Readercon 23, held from July 12-15 in Burlington, Massachusetts. I’m not going to rehash it in any depth. In particular, I’m not going to directly name names of the people involved. They’re readily available. The source material in that post above has them. You can find them. But I don’t particularly want to mention the perpetrator’s name and I can’t imagine the victim needs her name brought up again. I’ll go into some basic explanation after the break, but really you should go up to that link and get lots of detail and perspective.