Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Do you ever catch yourself...

Caught in a repetition? Not so much with how each day unfolds. I understand the basic "Get up, have breakfast, go to work..." blab blah blahsense, I'm speaking more about how we speak and act. The banal stuff. The same jokes we repeat until they're not funny anymore, but occasionally still are so we keep with them. The same greetings, the same little clever responses to the same questions people ask us day in and day out.

"How are you doing?"

- Oh, I'm here.

"What's going on?"

- Oh, y'know. Another day in paradise.

And if someone actually has the gall to say "Sounds like someone has a case of the Mondays" you have my permission to decapitate them with a shovel. But still, you get my meaning right? It's so easy to fall into a routine. Even when you think you're being witty or clever, you're still probably reciting bits that either someone else popularized via the old cathode-tube box or some movie or song, or you have that little piece of you, that little thing you invented all so long ago and that you keep on keeping on with it no matter how little a response it gets anymore because, let's face it, no one is really listening to you anyway after a while because they generally know what to expect by now it's so easy to fall into a bit of complacency.

Have you ever tried to get out?

Easy to fall into, hard to get out. Like a Tiger Pit in a rain storm. It's so easy to become set in your ways, even when you blatantly are trying not to. What you eat, how you dress, little habits like what order you do the morning three S's in and so on, and we're just talking simple every day things like that.

What about what you read, or watch, or listen to? See where I'm going now? I said I wanted this blog to be mostly about media and that didn't I? Weren't you paying attention?

Of course not, no one reads this bloody thing. But the point still remains. Everything becomes a routine at some point. Whether we snap ourselves out of it or not is up to us. And as simple as it sounds it really is a dedicated effort because we humans more than ever tend to get easily distracted. There's just so much stuff out there, it's overwhelming, and thus the idea of falling into a comfort zone becomes much more reliable proposition, and how our eyes, ears, and brains can become much more tuned to stuff a little on the generic side. Sure, sometimes something genuinely original, or most likely unique, will come our way and we'll embrace it, but for the most part is seems these kinds of ideas or creations get passed over for something more familiar. Something safer.

I've always wondered what happens when, how, or if a creator, a writer, a musician whatever realizes they too are in this zone. For I like many am just a common lay person, as uninspiring as the next person as I'm showing right now with such riveting prose, and I wonder how the minds of those that we look to for our entertainment and our catchy phrases. Thing is, like I said it's so hard to be original as is, I've noticed that a lot of these artists tend to just take somewhat familiar archetypes and genres and just perform the shit out of them. There's a lot to be said for something familiar yet FRESH. Execution is always key, though as I'm noticing you can always keep a good sized audience enthralled with just something just plain catchy.

To bring this to comic books, which again is really what I'm trying to talk about here, I think that's how you have an industry in the state that it is. That's how you get certain books selling at obscene quantities definitely not in proportion to the quality therein. But they're safe. They're familiar. We know the characters, we know what to expect. You know what you're getting with a Spider-Man book. Superman. Batman. Not even talking superheroes (though obviously that's where this diatribe is mostly going to make its point) look at something like the top selling Dark Horse book, Buffy. Or even FABLES from Vertigo. Sure, the storytelling might be new and working on a larger scale than we've seen in comics since maybe even the SANDMAN was in print, but it's still a book about characters we grew up reading about, or more apt being read to about as we were tucked in at night.

Why is there an X-FORCE book selling in the Top 20 considering the memories of the 90's it should be invoking? The Top 20 is your basic assortment of Batman, X-Men, Superman, Spider-Man etc titles, some of which may in fact have a quality score justifying its placement sure, but most likely not. "Run of the mill" I think is too strong a term here, but "Complacently average" I think does the trick. Why don't people even know FEAR AGENT exists? Why did a mini-series written by the front man for arguably the most popular band on the planet (THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY and MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE respectively) get outsold by something like 70+ books a month when it was rolling? Sure, you've got your SCOTT PILGRIM catching on like wildfire, but why does a book from the same company like WASTELAND struggle to find new readers?

And it's not like any of those books I just mentioned are terribly original, but they are unique in a medium lopsidedly dominated by one particular genre. But even books wholeheartedly in that genre tend to get overlooked simply because they lack familiarity. THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY doesn't have Spider-Man. THE ORDER didn't have Wolverine. GODLAND doesn't sport the Fantastic Four and so on. Instead of finding books like these, we just instead have a readership that buys what they buy, reads what they read, and bitches about half of all of it, yet continues to support it with their dollar.


I just don't get it, and yet I too tend to fall prey to it. I like teh punk rock. Apparently, I really like teh punk rock because it's a huge percentage of my 5000 songs on my iPod. But I catch myself enough I think to branch out and find new stuff. To find some Folk music Rocky Votolato style. To sample some random Metalcore like Bullet For My Valentine. To hear the odd instrumental sounds of Battles. But is it enough?

Well, is it? How much do you really care about your music? Your movies? Your comics? What do you plan to do about it, because I would genuinely like some new pursuits.

And while I think upon this, I believe it's time for some major Pwnage Warhawk style. Because I am a simple man, with simple needs, and a desire to blow things to fucking Valhalla and back with my trust Tank and Proximity Mines.


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Main Event...s

It's that time of year again. With warmth flowing a little more freely in the air, the first of the "summer" blockbusters is bearing down on us, and in comics apparently the Cylons... er, I mean Skulls are invading and someone is having a Crisis of sort. Possibly a mid-life one judging by the creative and editorial staffs involved in all of these things.

I kid because I love... mostly.

So yes, it's "Event" time again. You know, events. Those things that everyone time and time again, no matter how the previous one turns out they always end up coming back for more despite some claims to the contrary? (because, let's face it, with the ungodly amount of hype surrounding each and every one of these things, it's rare you're going to find someone not disappointed on some level). But y'know, as much as I've grown cynical about highly hyped books and kind of stopped caring about Big Two books in general, I understand where the excitement comes from, I really do. The main complaint with your more mainstream comic books, and more to the point your "Franchise" books is that they really for the most part run pretty stagnant. That's kind of how they have to run. These books need to be around for years and you can't really change them and the characters that run them too much. Status quo and all that. But the landscape around them, now that's something that you can fuck with, and it's not much but at least it's a change right?

And that's where I think all the excitement comes from. Sure, at the end of the day, I think most of us would admit that not necessarily much changes from the fallout of a big event. I'm not even being pessimistic here, I'm just being truthful. Short term, sure, you'll have some deaths to reconcile, or maybe you'll get a "Fifty-state Initiative" or something to tide fans over after the wake of something, but the main point of an event to generate excitement in the here and now and lay groundwork for the next one. Keep the fans on their feet and, again, at least try and keep the universe these characters share fresh because, like I said, if anything is going to change, that's really your best bet there.

Breaking down both of the ones we're now confronted with personally, Marvel's "Secret Invasion" and DC's "Final Crisis" I can say that I am filled with both "cautious optimism" for one and complete fucking "meh" for the other. Even though another staple of geek culture in the form of Battlestar Galactica has been running the tried and true "Who can you trust?" type storyline for a couple years now, I can say that I'm more interested in SI than FC by a mile right now. Mainly I think the reasoning for this is that by the very nature of this kind of "Body Snatchers" story, you're invoking a nice base of intrigue with an emphasis on the characters, which is key given when I just said about the status quo earlier. Important characters may not die in these things, but having them not being themselves for several years of storylines now is something that can be done, and occasionally be ballsy even though it is a cheap trick at the end of the day.

As for Teh Final Crisis!... I don't think I could give less of a fuck if I tried. The build up has been, at the least, terrible. There's many other adjectives I could use to describe it, but that one sums it up rather nicely. I may not be the biggest fan of Invasion's main build titles, Brian Michael Bendis' Avengers titles. I think they're both kind of lacking in the plot department, and I think he gets too carried away with his dialogue for his own good these days, but at least he has done very well with developing characters that for the most part have been nothing but B and C listers since their creation. So far the main build book for FC, Countdown to Final Crisis, has... well, let me put it this way: I was only reading it off the shelf, and after seven issues of it, I couldn't even be bothered to do that anymore. That's right, a book so good I couldn't even fucking stomach reading it for free. Between this, the fact that the last Crisis event was a pretty solid blah-fest in the end, and for the most part I would say most (most, not all) of the DCU line is being ravaged by mediocrity as of now, the only reason I'll even read this mini will be just so I know what is happening, and because in Grant I trust. If anyone is going to turn this mess around, I guess it would be him...

So there all that is. Again, I'm not really expecting either of these to be the "be all" but that comes with the territory, because they're not going to be. If anything, I think that's kind of why I tend to get down on events. Sure, I've been burned before on them, but I've rectified that by simply deciding I'm just not actually going to buy them anymore. I'll read 'em yeah, but my money has so many better books to be buying. But that right there is my point.

All the hype, all the hyperbole, all the rampant fanboyism, it just turns me off if I don't actively avoid it. "This is going to be the greatest comic ever!!!" No, no it really probably isn't going to be Jocko. At all. But what it hopefully is going to be, and what I these kinds of books should be aiming for, is the equivalent of those Summer Blockbusters I mentioned way up in the header. Something that will stimulate the part of my brain that seeks just entertainment, that won't insult my intelligence but doesn't try to over-stimulate it, and that occasionally pulls a twist out of its ass that makes me give a kudos and maybe even generally has a ramification of some sort.

One can only hope... but that's it.

These things aren't going to set a new standard for quality and art in comics. They're not going to become "Watchmen's" and re-invent the wheel so to speak. And I'll still be able to point to the FABLES and EX MACHINA's and SCALPED's and CRIMINAL's and FELL's and on and on's of the industry as far superior products from a quality and "art" standpoint (And if anyone out there actually thinks these statements aren't true, well, then please don't ever try and talk to me without wearing some sort of head guard or protective cup) but that still doesn't mean they can't be enjoyable and deep down, I hope that does happen because frankly, I'm sick of shitty comics dominating charts. I really am. And if these are what are going to sell, then by god at least let them have some substance to them.

I guess I'll find out in about 11 hours if this little miracle actually occurs from the first issue in our Dopplegander Menagerie. Let's go Wonder Jew!