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Author Topic: What's so friggin' GREAT about World War II, anyway?  (Read 29341 times)
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Permanus
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« Reply #32 on: November 21, 2005, 10:27:51 PM »

Quote from: "Kurt Busiek"
As Donald Trump has been known to say, that's why they have menus in restaurants...

So THAT's how you become a multimillionaire! And you just told everybody!
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #33 on: November 22, 2005, 11:28:20 AM »

I think the definition of a superhero can be broader than just a bullet point checklist of characteristics like secret identity, kid sidekick, wonder dog helper, headquarters in the Amazon Rain Forest, evil scientist archnemesis, and so on.

Warren Ellis gave a very thoughtless sentiment in one of his articles: "having comics be all about superheroes is like going into a bookstore and finding all the books are about nurses." While it is true that it would be great to see a broader diversity of comics on the stands (Rick Veitch's GREYSHIRT: INDIGO SUNSET miniseries reminded me how much I'd love to read a decent crime comic), however, Mr. Ellis's comparison is specious and inapplicable. Superheroes are NOTHING like an ultra-specialized subset of the romance novel genre; there is so much diversity in the kinds of stories that a superhero story can take, that if the stands were filled with nothing but superheroes it would feel just as diverse as if it had varied books. Superheroes are WONDERFUL, and It would be interesting to see such potential explored.

(As an aside, I always found it interesting that whenever certain writers like Ellis or Scott McCloud who write a great deal about the superhero genre's hold on comics, when listing other kinds of comics they'd rather see, they always mention the repeated litany of "science fiction, romance, westerns..." Like clockwork, they always bring up Westerns. I always found this hilarious, because it shows how embarassingly out of touch this perspective is with not just the reality of the comics industry, but from the reality of pop culture as well: name me one Western flick in the past TEN YEARS that's made anything resembling money, Kevin Costner vanity pieces aside. It's a once-universal genre cast into irrelevancy by the hold of disaster films and science fiction on big-budget movies, and by the hold of crime, tech and spy thrillers on the publishing world.)

Quote from: "Kurt Busiek"
And sure, there are exceptions to all the above superhero tropes -- characters who are considered superheroes who don't have that aspect (Batman has no powers, Doc Savage has no codename, the Hulk has no idealistic mission and on and on), but very few who don't have any of them.


It is true that some characteristics define superheroes, just like some plot elements define science fiction: space travel, alien life, invaders from Mars, and so forth. However, if a story does not feature invaders from Mars or aliens, but only space travel, that does not make it any less within the confines of science fiction.

The characteristics of a superhero listed are defined by the context of how the DC and Marvel universes work. These are not immutable characteristics of the story type, but parameters that can be changed. And ARE changed in many wonderful innovative stories.

The more time goes by, the more I appreciate what an ambitious experiment the Shooter New Universe was. Ditto for Alan Moore's MIRACLEMAN, which looked at superheroes from a variant perspective based on science fiction.

There was a social scientist whose name escapes me at the moment that defined creativity scientifically. Basically, every situation has a bunch of dials on it. Reverse one dial, and you're being creative. The more dials you turn, the more creative you're being. It is possible to write what is essentially a superhero story that has so many dials turned that it achieves "escape velocity" and is no longer considered a superhero story. The best example of this may be Kirby's post-Lee works.

Kirby himself did a lot of wonderful work with superheroes that do not fill out their superhero characteristic checklists. One wonderful concept that Kirby had was the idea that superheroes might be routinized and incorporated into the worldbuilding (as was the original OMAC), or used as an aspect of worldbuilding (such as with his "god" comics).

For this reason, it is unfortunate but unsurprising that Kirby's work has the hardest time being incorporated into the DC and Marvel universes; the worst example may be the mistreatment of his OMAC and KAMANDI at DC, and the sloppy insertion of the ETERNALS into the Marvel Universe. Roy Thomas's work with the Eternals was good and well intentioned, but was the writing equivalent of getting a hammer to force a square peg into a round hole.

Quote from: "Kurt Busiek"
The people he works with and fights are not unusual -- they're a normal part of his world, one that's been around over a millennium.


The presumption that opponents for superheroes have to be in some way atypical comes from the fact that as the Marvel and DC universes are supposed to be exactly like ours except with fantasy elements, the appearance of said fantasy elements makes these characters unusual in our otherwise "real" world. Just because that's how things work in the Marvel and DC Universe, however, does not mean that this is the sole way that superheroes can work.

Sentinel robots are exotic to we readers, but they're part of the day to day reality for mutants in the Marvel Universe.
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"Wait, folks...in a startling new development, Black Goliath has ripped Stilt-Man's leg off, and appears to be beating him with it!"
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Kurt Busiek
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« Reply #34 on: November 22, 2005, 06:34:17 PM »

Quote from: "JulianPerez"
I think the definition of a superhero can be broader than just a bullet point checklist of characteristics like secret identity, kid sidekick, wonder dog helper, headquarters in the Amazon Rain Forest, evil scientist archnemesis, and so on.


I would certainly hope it would be broader than that list, yes, but then, I haven't seen anyone suggest such a thing.

Quote
As an aside, I always found it interesting that whenever certain writers like Ellis or Scott McCloud who write a great deal about the superhero genre's hold on comics, when listing other kinds of comics they'd rather see, they always mention the repeated litany of "science fiction, romance, westerns..." Like clockwork, they always bring up Westerns. I always found this hilarious, because it shows how embarassingly out of touch this perspective is with not just the reality of the comics industry, but from the reality of pop culture as well: name me one Western flick in the past TEN YEARS that's made anything resembling money, Kevin Costner vanity pieces aside. It's a once-universal genre cast into irrelevancy by the hold of disaster films and science fiction on big-budget movies, and by the hold of crime, tech and spy thrillers on the publishing world.)


They're simply listing variety, not intending to make claims that all the genres they mention are the most popular, or even that comics should only aspire to genres that make money as movies.  I know Scott would like to see plenty of stuff in comics that wouldn't make money in Hollywood.  So it seems odd to laugh that they'd mention a genre that hasn't been topping the charts in Hollywood (and Costner's last Western was over ten years ago, as it happens) when they weren't making any claim as to popularity, just to variety.

That said, westerns are still a profitable prose genre, though they sell far better outside urban areas than in them.  There aren't really any "star" Western writers any more, beyond McMurtry, but the genre mill keeps rolling.  And the genre's not fully gone from movies, either.

Quote
It is true that some characteristics define superheroes, just like some plot elements define science fiction: space travel, alien life, invaders from Mars, and so forth. However, if a story does not feature invaders from Mars or aliens, but only space travel, that does not make it any less within the confines of science fiction.


You seem to be arguing against something nobody's said.  I've repeatedly said that not all the hallmarks of the superhero need to be present, merely that enough of them do -- though "enough" is a subjective point.

But LORD OF THE RINGS, for instance, has secret identities, super powers, an idealistic mission of good against evil and more, and yet would not be considered a superhero story by any useful definition.

Quote
The presumption that opponents for superheroes have to be in some way atypical comes from the fact that as the Marvel and DC universes are supposed to be exactly like ours except with fantasy elements, the appearance of said fantasy elements makes these characters unusual in our otherwise "real" world.


The presumption is your own, not mine.  Bank robbers and muggers are not atypical, but are fair opponents for superheroes.

Quote
Sentinel robots are exotic to we readers, but they're part of the day to day reality for mutants in the Marvel Universe.


Not really, no.  They're unusual events that date back ten years or less and have appeared only intermittently in that time; hardly a parallel to the magical elements of Arrowsmith's world.

But I'm not sure how far it's worth taking this -- you keep pointing out that there are exceptions to any rule, which is something I pointed out up front, so it's not as if we're disagreeing on that score.  But I'd also argue that just because any individual superhero trope is not required, that doesn't mean that the absence of those tropes is irrelevant, merely not all-important.

And I'd continue to argue that ARROWSMITH isn't a superhero story, because virtually all of its tropes come from fantasy.  And while fantasy tropes can easily be present in a superhero story, it still needs to have something that marks it out as a superhero story.

kdb
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #35 on: November 22, 2005, 08:34:36 PM »

Quote from: "Kurt Busiek"
They're simply listing variety, not intending to make claims that all the genres they mention are the most popular, or even that comics should only aspire to genres that make money as movies.  I know Scott would like to see plenty of stuff in comics that wouldn't make money in Hollywood.  So it seems odd to laugh that they'd mention a genre that hasn't been topping the charts in Hollywood (and Costner's last Western was over ten years ago, as it happens) when they weren't making any claim as to popularity, just to variety.


Actually, Kevin Coster's last western was OPEN RANGE, released in 2003, two years ago, where he played a younger ranch hand to a wise Robert Duvall.

I'm all in favor of comics' diversifying their product: I've still got my dogeared issues of SCALPHUNTER and HOUSE OF SECRETS. Some recent, non-superhero work has been absolutely extraordinary: Rick Veitch's GREYSHIRT miniseries was mentioned earlier as being excellent, as was Morrison's VIMANARAMA (which was colorful, charming science fiction that really, really was designed for the visual medium), and your ARROWSMITH series was very enjoyable and fantastic - and pretty too, thanks to Carlos Pacheco.

With writers like Ellis and McCloud, while they are absolutely, inarguably correct that comics should diversify their product, however, it is unfortunate that it manifests in the case of some creators and fans as a passive-aggressive sentiment toward superhero comics. If superheroes are successful, it isn't their fault and it cannot be held against them or the comics buying public. Comic book readers have no obligation but to buy the comics that they want to read. Further, the creativity of the superhero story vein is far from tapped out just because these kinds of comics are everywhere: it's very likely that the greatest superhero stories of all have yet to be told. There was a NINTH ART article a while ago entitled "Destroy All Superheroes" which argued that superheroes have nothing new to say. This is an unfortunate but common sentiment.

Quote from: "Kurt Busiek"
That said, westerns are still a profitable prose genre, though they sell far better outside urban areas than in them.  There aren't really any "star" Western writers any more, beyond McMurtry, but the genre mill keeps rolling.  And the genre's not fully gone from movies, either.


Interesting. I was always struck by disbelief when I heard how well Lite FM records sell, considering I don't know anybody that owns one.

Quote from: "Kurt Busiek"
You seem to be arguing against something nobody's said.  I've repeatedly said that not all the hallmarks of the superhero need to be present, merely that enough of them do -- though "enough" is a subjective point.


My point is this: with the business model in place for comics now, where there are thriving independent publishers that can make whatever the creator wants them to, it would be wonderful to see more innovative kinds of superhero stories. I adore the adventure spirit of Heroic Publishing's FLARE, and they have done many stories that are worthy of commendation, however, the "second generation" hero connected to World War II is one that has been done before.

Rereading SUPREME, it occurs to me that there's an unspoken rule of the entertainment industry that conceptual similarities between two ideas are acceptable as long as the derivative product is really, really, really awesome. If the LION KING hadn't been such an amazing animated movie, the film's similarities to Kimba the White Lion would be more well known and pronounced. Great work get a "free pass" when it comes to similarities to previous work.
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"Wait, folks...in a startling new development, Black Goliath has ripped Stilt-Man's leg off, and appears to be beating him with it!"
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Kurt Busiek
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« Reply #36 on: November 22, 2005, 09:30:04 PM »

Quote from: "JulianPerez"
Actually, Kevin Coster's last western was OPEN RANGE, released in 2003, two years ago, where he played a younger ranch hand to a wise Robert Duvall.


darn, and I checked imdb and everything -- I just missed it.

Quote
With writers like Ellis and McCloud, while they are absolutely, inarguably correct that comics should diversify their product, however, it is unfortunate that it manifests in the case of some creators and fans as a passive-aggressive sentiment toward superhero comics.


I don't think that has anything to do with whether it's silly for them to mention Westerns on the grounds that Westerns aren't big box-office these days.

Quote
I was always struck by disbelief when I heard how well Lite FM records sell, considering I don't know anybody that owns one.


Ah, if we went by what people we know consume, the world would be a strange place indeed.

Quote
My point is this: with the business model in place for comics now, where there are thriving independent publishers that can make whatever the creator wants them to, it would be wonderful to see more innovative kinds of superhero stories.


I'd like to see lots of innovation in multiple genres.  I think you've gotten tangled up in stereotype, though, where you're imagining a call for a narrow interpretation or rigid definition in the argument that ARROWSMITH is a fantasy book, honest.

That said, I don't know how many independent publishers can really be said to be thriving.  

kdb
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Uncle Mxy
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« Reply #37 on: November 26, 2005, 09:11:15 PM »

Quote from: "Permanus"
I suppose another reason why the superhero genre in particular is so tied to WW2 is that the war changed the world in a way few conflicts have, at least in modern times, and gave the world the dubious gift of the atomic weapon. In a way, the superhero is a sort of metaphor for the atom bomb: a very powerful thing that can change the world.

For an aborted Champions campaign well over a decade ago, I had the following vague "world history" laid out, which was inspired by the very metaphor you describe.

A _few_ super heroes and villains had always existed, that most of the popular mythology and religion was due to the supers.  

Some undreamt of person / Illuminati / something I hadn't come up with yet (that players would eventually encounter) was suppressing most of the supers, which explains why most of them tended to not have long super heroic or villainous careers.  

Improvements in communications led to the inability to suppress the birth of supers, and the discovery of supers was how WWII was resolved.  Hiroshima was done by a super-team led by a Superman sort, not a nuke.   Heroes end the war, not the bomb.  

The Pleasantville authoritarian-ness of the 50s was super-imposed.  The vague idea was that the supers had to do something to get people away from thinking too hard about religion, mythology, and legend really being super-derived.  Positive proof that the non-existence of whatever form of god(s) they thought they worshipped was deemed a bad thing.  

The atomic bomb came afterwards, in the 60s, as a reaction to the supers  to equalize things, and was used in Viet Nam, where a lot of old supers on either side were beating themselves into a pulp.  

But the atomic experiments led to lots of mutants.  By creating the bomb, humans made more of what they were revolting against, though they were less powerful on average than the supers of old.  (There was a vague notion of a "super source" that most of the supers' powers emerged from, so newer supers tended to not be as powerful as the older ones because there were more and the source was vaguely finite.  It also explained how the power-impacting powers worked, which was the real impetus.)  

The 70s were about "When The Earth Stood Still" moments, normalizing alien relations, who were attracted by the nuclear activity of the 60s.  Aliens were responsible for disco.  Smiley

Heh...  writing out all this almost makes me want to start doing serious gaming again, but then I realize I have no time.  Smiley
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ShinDangaioh
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« Reply #38 on: November 27, 2005, 01:18:48 AM »

Quote from: "Kurt Busiek"

I'd like to see lots of innovation in multiple genres.  I think you've gotten tangled up in stereotype, though, where you're imagining a call for a narrow interpretation or rigid definition in the argument that ARROWSMITH is a fantasy book, honest.

That said, I don't know how many independent publishers can really be said to be thriving.  

kdb


Studio Foglio.

Girl Genius, What's New?, &  Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire

That's Phil Foglio and his wife.

Girl Genius is steampunk
What's New? is a humorous look at role-playing games and CCG's
Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire is a comedy space opera.


Phil Foglio has got to be one of the most widly seen artists in this day.  Thank you oh so much Magic: The Gathering and the covers of the various Myth books by Robert Asprin

Kenzer is another indy publisher that is thriving.
Their big comic?  Knights of the Dinner Table.
Kenzer also has serious fantasy comics based on Dungeons and Dragons out.
Since they have that Hackmaster RPG out and the Kingdoms of Kalamar setting  tying in with Dungeons and Dragons, they are doing quite well.
KoDT has to be really irritating for a lot of artisits.  They repeat the same badly drawn panels throughout the entire run of strips(just use some whiteout to obscure the words), and yet it does so well


Those are the only two publishers that come to mind right now.

Well there is one other person:

Pete Abrams  http://www.sluggy.com/
 
I have no idea what Kurt would think of Bun-bun or Torg(Espeically the entire 'That Which Redeems' storyarc)

As to Pete, Sluggy Freelance is how he makes his money and a living.

I have seen more innovative ideas in the web comics than in most paper comics.

For instance, a Miracle of Science
http://www.project-apollo.net/mos/

Of course there's Sluggy Freelance.  Just don't say Shupid around Zo Wink
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Kurt Busiek
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« Reply #39 on: November 27, 2005, 02:37:46 AM »

Quote from: "ShinDangaioh"
Quote from: "Kurt Busiek"

That said, I don't know how many independent publishers can really be said to be thriving.


Studio Foglio.

Girl Genius, What's New?, &  Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire

That's Phil Foglio and his wife.

Girl Genius is steampunk
What's New? is a humorous look at role-playing games and CCG's
Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire is a comedy space opera.


Phil Foglio has got to be one of the most widly seen artists in this day.  Thank you oh so much Magic: The Gathering and the covers of the various Myth books by Robert Asprin

Kenzer is another indy publisher that is thriving.
Their big comic?  Knights of the Dinner Table.
Kenzer also has serious fantasy comics based on Dungeons and Dragons out.
Since they have that Hackmaster RPG out and the Kingdoms of Kalamar setting  tying in with Dungeons and Dragons, they are doing quite well.
KoDT has to be really irritating for a lot of artisits.  They repeat the same badly drawn panels throughout the entire run of strips(just use some whiteout to obscure the words), and yet it does so well


Those are the only two publishers that come to mind right now.

Well there is one other person:

Pete Abrams  http://www.sluggy.com/
 
I have no idea what Kurt would think of Bun-bun or Torg(Espeically the entire 'That Which Redeems' storyarc)

As to Pete, Sluggy Freelance is how he makes his money and a living.

I have seen more innovative ideas in the web comics than in most paper comics.

For instance, a Miracle of Science
http://www.project-apollo.net/mos/

Of course there's Sluggy Freelance.  Just don't say Shupid around Zo Wink


I think you and I have different definitions of "thriving."  Which is not to say I don't like most of the stuff you mention, just that there's a difference between "making a living at it" and "thriving."

kdb
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