Doing it For the Art: Breaking the Mundane

It's been said by many that comic books are steadily declining in quality of their stories and everything surrounding them, and like a lot of people - I'm inclined to agree with them knowing all the negatives surrounding the comic book industry: despite that, it's not only comic books that are dropping in quality, but every form of media today, from music, to literature, to TV shows, and everything in between.

From comic books to music, from video games to TV shows, everything is steadily declining in quality yet increasing in revenue (most of it is at the least). Let me give you an example, take any popular cartoon of today – Adventure Time, and then compare it to cartoons like Looney Tunes, Ed, Edd, n’ Eddy. Any person with sense and foreknowledge of how you went about making a cartoon like these would be able to tell you exactly where these cartoons differ and it’s not in characters, nor is it in their storylines (or better yet their lack of a true story.) The differences between Adventure Time, and so many other cartoons is that today the process of making a cartoon is so much easier with things like flash animation, photo shop, and other similar programs the cartoons consist of mostly copy and paste frames where they are then changed and altered to simulate things like a character talking.

Yet back in the days of Ed, Edd, n’ Eddy and Looney Tunes, cartoons were hand-drawn where upon completion of production they had an ebb and flow that is lacking from today’s cartoons. Not to mention the fact that those cartoons were 30 minutes long, unlike the 15 minute clips people are putting out today. Is it the creators of Adventure Time’s fault that they live in a time period where it’s a lot easier to accomplish things like making a cartoon are so much easier than ever before? Of course, not, but that brings me to my next point.

Doing it For the Art

What do I mean when I say, “Doing it for the art”? Well first in order to properly explain, it would require me to explain in general what art is. Art isn’t something like a painting, a painting is a form of artwork, but art in general is anything that requires your imagination to complete. When you have to think outside of a normal mindset, that in turn is essentially art. So doing it for the art is anytime an artist will go those extra miles to ensure that their artwork will be as great as one could possibly make it. Take for example, Boichi, the author of the manga Sun-Ken Rock. In the story he’s always willing to go as far as possible to ensure his story is as accurate as possible. In a world where so many things are made easier by technology, going through the trouble of fine tuning any details is the epitome Doing it for the art.

The story takes place in Korea, but he’s Japanese so in order to ensure he has the landscape correct, he visits Korea constantly. Take for example a car chase that happens in his story, to ensure accuracy he had his staff ride down Yeong Deungpo-Gu and as they drive down he had them capture the streets and the sights. Or trying to capture a beer can exploding for the sake of a fight scene, note this is only for a single scene out of the hundreds in the 14 volume story.

Even in the video game Mass Effect, the same diligence is found in the lore and background of the universe of the story. The lore itself can fill out an entire novel, and to think this is found in a video game where most people are more concerned with beating the game than they are about learning about the story. Even though they know this, Bioware went through the trouble to still make all this detailed lore. This is what I mean by, doing it for the art.

It’s the little things that we see that make us realize that the creators of the artwork really do care about what they created. In a sense, “Doing it for the art” doesn’t affect things like a story it effects the quality of its effect upon us. When a person creates something for the sake of art, it’s not because he wants to make money off of us, or wants us to call him the greatest artist ever, it’s because he wants to add all these little details that may seem mundane and a lot of unnecessary work for the sake of doing it, nothing else.

Even though there is a lot of bad in the comic book industry—there are still people who truly care about the art and as a reader, I believe it is important to give these people the credit they deserve. This list won’t be long, just two people I believe deserve this recognition, but there are so many writers and artist who do care and for anyone out there reading comics who are thinking that these companies don’t care, worry not—there are people inside the industry that do care.

#1 – Alan Moore:

I remember a couple months ago when I was talking with a friend about comic book writers, I asked him if he ever heard of Alan Moore. When he said he wasn’t sure, I showed him a picture of Mr. Moore, and my friend said:

I’ve never seen him before, but he looks like he is the man.

I smiled, because Alan Moore is most certainly—“The Man”: With over 30 contributions to comic books as a medium under his belt, not even including his runs on some of DC’s most popular series like Batman, Superman, and many others. Alan Moore was the person that declared the comics of his time to engrossed in a single mind set, stuck in a lack of creativity that should be explored within the medium. So while most companies were releasing ordinary stories, Alan Moore was writing Watchmen, and The Killing Joke, so that the medium could expand and so writers could begin writing outside of the mold set before them.

And when he felt that the industry and the people at the top weren’t trying to evolve—he left. That’s what writing for the sake of art is in a microcosm, and it’s things like this that has made Alan More a man among men within the history of comic books.

#2 – Peter David:

I’ll say this, I am no expert on Peter David, nor have I read most of his works and I’m mostly basing this opinion on what I have seen in his X-Factor series, the only mainstream comic I read now-a-days. Before I start, I would like to say that doing it for the art is usually found throughout an artist’s career, so if one can find signs of it in one piece of work, it is safe to assume that it can be found in the majority of a person’s work.In an industry where all comics seem to blend together and counteract, X-Factor may be of a dying breed. X-Factor takes place within the same universe as Wolverine, The Avengers, the X-Men, and so many others yet X-Factor seems to take place within itself. It doesn’t interact much with other comic characters or books, and outside of its major characters – Layla Miller, Jammie Madrox, Siryn, M, Strong Guy, and Rictor – there are rarely many guest appearances. The story of X-Factor is so driven by its characters, who have been so amazingly developed by Peter David, just taking away one of these major characters would completely alter the entire makeup of series.

X-Factor is so well developed and thought out that most of it's readers don’t even realize this until we reread the series a couple of times. Take for example the scene in X-Factor #17 where on a off handed mention, the subject of the flavor of Ice Cream is brought up. This is relatively minor and goes without mention afterwards, at least until X-Factor 225 where after the events of issue 224, Raine is in pain and to ease her depression she goes and eats all the ice cream that was there since issue 17. X-Factor 17 came out May 1, 2007, issue 225 came out This year. That’s 4 years where the subject of this ice cream was sat upon, and to me that told me that Peter David has had this story and the events to unfold within it so thoroughly developed that he could make mention of little things like this where they serve no real importance but to develop characters 58 issues later.

Doing it for the art is how we as readers, come to know that our favorite writers actually enjoy what they do. As you all know, the two people I’ve listed are obviously not the only ones, there are so many out there that it’s nearly impossible for one person to truly and fully list them out. Do you have anyone that you believe are in the comic book industry for the sake of comic books? Feel free to say who they are and include an explanation why..

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Passion: The Fall of Great Heroes

  The comic book world contains many great heroes, from Superman, Captain Marvel, Batman, Thor, Wonder Woman, and so many others.   So what is it that makes a hero, great?   Well, one could sit down and spend an entire day just listing traits that could, and possibly couldn’t apply to certain heroes, but here, I’ll just simplify it.   A great hero, has great Self-discipline.  

  What does self-discipline have to do with anything?   Well, for one, when you have the powers of Superman, it requires a finite control over every aspect of your powers just to prevent yourself from accidentally ripping off your wife’s arm just from holding her hand.   As an extension of that, great self-discipline prevents a person like Batman, from sitting the Joker down, and choking him in the pedestal he sits on so smugly.  

  So if self-discipline makes great heroes, then lack of discipline makes a bad hero.   In other words, if a hero can’t even control something as basic as their emotions, they put themselves into a position of misjudgment and irrationality. In other words, if a hero is passionate, they are prone to mistakes and self-destruction.    

  Why is passion so bad?   Well, to answer such a question, we must first understand what Passion is.   As defined by Dictionary.com, this is Passion:

Passion

noun / ˈpaSH ən/ 
passions, plural

    1. Strong and barely controllable emotion
  • - a man of impetuous passion
    1. A state or outburst of such emotion
  • - oratory in which he gradually works himself up into a passion

  The first definition of Passion is self-explanatory.   Passion is a strong emotion, but it’s near impossible to control.   When coupled with the second definition, it’s evident as to why passion is bad when it comes to things like saving the lives while, at the same time, not falling down to the level of the common villain.   When a hero allows their emotions to control them, they lose the ability to reason logically to solve a solution.

  Most comic book heroes are granted extraordinary abilities, whether that be a super power of some sort, or some kind of extravagant martial arts ability, and in order to use these abilities properly, it requires some form of discipline.   The reason why passion for any hero is bad is because, once fueled by their emotions they are heading down a path of self-destruction.  In Evangelion, characters like Asuka Langlyey Soryu and Mari Illustrious Makinami are passionate, and it's this passion that leads to their fall from grace. 


  We saw this with Anakin Skywalker.   His strong emotions and his desire to prevent those he cared for from dying eventually drove him to the dark side, coupled with the loss of most of his limbs, he destroyed himself and the one’s he loved with that very passion.   This even happened to Sinestro.  

  What is it that separates the Batman family, from the Green Arrow family?   I tell you one thing, it’s not the different array of equipment that both families use.   What separates the two families is that the Batman family runs on Self-Discipline, while the Green Arrow family runs on Passion.

  There has yet to be a story where any member of the Batman family resort to letting their anger fuel them, and ending up killing a person because of it.   People may die because of a villain they couldn’t stop at a specific time, but never have they resorted to killing.   They’ve disciplined themselves so that they never allow emotions to cloud their judgment of what is correct.

  While the Green Arrow family have their moments of self-discipline, but with them it’s often shown that they are unable to control their emotions.   Ollie always ends up killing someone because of a negative thing happening to someone he loves, Roy is the same, and Mia is just as bad as the two of them.   Every major member of the Green Arrow family, Ollie, Roy, and Mia, have all killed someone.   All from passion.

  Heck, when Bruce almost killed a man, he took a complete break from being a hero to reevaluate himself and his actions, yet when Ollie kills a man, he goes back out and continues fighting as if nothing had happened.

  The thing about passion is that passion breeds great villains.   Black Adam is passionate.   Lex Luthor is passionate.   But in order to fight passionate villains like them,

 heroes must be self-disciplined.   Passion opens the doorway to making a hero into a villain.

  This is why Passion is the bane of great heroes.  

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Super-Heroes, the Modern Myth: The Call to Adventure

  I've recently started reading a collection of books on mythology by Joseph Campbell.  The current one I’m reading is The Hero With a Thousand Faces.   This book is about the adventure of a hero, from the beginning and to it’s end, and in the book it relates this to many tales told throughout the ages.   From the Persian tale The Tale of Prince Kamar al Zaman and Princess Budur, to Grimms’ Fairytales:   The Frog King, and so many others.  

  As a whole, it’s a very insightful read, and while I was reading this I was able to see many connections between the heroes of our mainstream comics and it intrigued me.   Mythology is made up of traits in everything.   There is a commonality to all stories from times past, and though every character is never the same as a next, there is always common traits shared between each of them, and so I decided to write this blog to help forge those connections and explain them to the best of my ability.  

  The Call to Adventure:

  Joseph Campbell says that in order for a heroic story to truly begin, there has to be a “Call to Adventure”.   The Call to Adventure is, obviously, what will start the adventure of our stories heroes, or in this case, it’ll be the start of a Superheroes crime fighting career.   There are many possibilities to start the call to adventure, but the result is always the same.   The Call will always end up associating the hero with a world that is “not rightly understood.”

  The first type of Call that Joseph Campbell describes is, a Call via a blunder.   In the case of the book he uses the Princess in the Frog King, and how her blunder of ignoring the promise she made with the Frog as the start of her adventure, but because I’m talking about superheroes, I’ll do one better.   In the case of Barry Allen, he became the fastest man alive via the blunder he made one night in his lab, and getting struck with lightning.   Through this blunder, he was given supernatural powers to move faster than the human eye.

  Let’s take a gander at Bruce Wayne, in the case of Batman, his “Call to Adventure” is in the loss of his parents to a criminal.   It’s from this loss that Bruce devotes his life to

 being able to fight crime and prevent the very tragedy that occurred to him, from happening to another child who may lose his the very parents they love to some petty criminal looking to make a quick mugging.  

  The reason why a “Call to Adventure” for a superhero is important is because, a hero needs a reason to actually become a hero.   There are characters like Superman who are born with their tremendous powers, but without the call to adventure, there is not a thing that prevents the Earth’s greatest hero, Superman, from becoming Earth’s greatest villain.   In this sense, it’s the call to adventure that makes the hero a hero, and not his powers.

Refusal of the Call:

  What makes a heroes’ Call to Adventure, interesting is that all heroes have the choice to either, answer the call and take the journey that will make them a hero, or they could simply ignore the call and go on with their life.   When someone refuses to answer their personal Call, they, in turn, become, not a hero, but a person who in turns ends up needing to be saved.  

“Refusal of the summons converts the adventure into its negative. Walled in boredom, hard work, or "culture," the subject loses the power of significant affirmative action and becomes a victim to be saved.   His flowering world becomes a wasteland of dry stones and his life feels meaningless—even though, like King Minos, he may through titanic effort succeed in building an empire of renown.   Whatever house he builds, it will be a house of death: a labyrinth of cyclopean walls to hide from him his Minotaur. All he can do is create new problems for himself and await the gradual approach of his disintegration”

  It’s hard to actually describe any heroes who don’t respond to the Call to Adventure, but often times when a hero refuses the call, it is through not accepting it that they are

 confining themselves to a life of mediocrity and abasement.   In fact, it’s often the heroes who refuse the call that in fact become villains.   Sinestro, for example, through his actions is kicked out of the corps, and it’s because of this he becomes the the arch-nemesis of Hal Jordan.   Through his actions, he in turn rejects the corps, and he puts himself in a position of disgrace.

  A hero who refuses the call, becomes no more than a common human living his life, ignorant of the feats they could have accomplished.

  Supernatural Aid:

  As a hero goes about their adventure, there is a need for a person to guide the hero as they carry on.   Aid is only given to those who have not refused the Call, “the first

 encounter of the hero-journey is with a protective figure (often a little old crone or old man) who provides the adventurer with amulets against the dragon forces he is about to pass.”   Take Luke Skywalker, the future Grand Master of the Jedi, and one of the most powerful force users ever.   It’s through Obi-Wan Kenobi where Luke is given his Light-saber, and it’s through Obi-Wan that he is taught the ways of the force.

  Or, in the case of Billy Batson, it’s through the Great Wizard Shazam where he not only receives the powers that allows him to become

 Captain Marvel, it’s through the Wizard where he is also taught in the ways to use his powers.   With Bruce 

Wayne, it’s through Alfred Pennyworth that Bruce is taught to think with his mind, and not his fists.   It’s through this that the foundation for Batman is set, for Batman is a hero who enacts all action with great forethought before anything else.   There’s a reason why he’s considered the “Prep God” and it's because of his ability of forethought, an ability handed down to him from Alfred Pennyworth.

  Without this aid to our heroes, once again, there is really nothing that prevents them from becoming villains.   Without the Wizard Shazam to guide Billy, there is nothing that could keep him from using his great power for evil and becoming a character similar to Black Adam, and we saw that recently with the Dark Marvel Family arc in JSA.   Without guidance, Bruce would be the greatest villain in the world, a man who has contingency plans to take out the entire Justice League is less dangerous when he is working with the League than when he isn’t.

  The Crossing of the First Threshold:

  As so eloquently worded in a documentary I watched a while ago, at some point our heroes must realize that they’re not in their comfort zone.   The Threshold crossing is

 where Dorothy realizes she’s “not in Kansas anymore”.   It’s in this crossing where the danger of inexperience for the hero is costly.

  When Superman made his first appearance as a hero, he wasn’t loved, people feared him which a stark contrast to his home in Smallville, Kansas where his parents loved him despite his alien nature.   It’s the crossing of this threshold where Batman realizes that fighting crime is dangerous despite all his preparation. It’s through crossing this threshold where Tim Drake gains the fortitude to be the Robin that Bruce needs, and it’s through this crossing where a hero gains the mental strength to become the hero that the world needs.  

  The Belly of the Whale:

  It’s “through the belly of the whale” where our hero goes through rebirth.   Our hero crosses the first threshold, and instead of conquering it, they are absorbed and are seemingly dying.   The passage through the well is a journey of self-annihilation, where through overcoming the adversity presented, the hero is made anew.

 

  This is best exemplified with Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow.   By being stranded on that island, he is symbolically going through The Belly of the Whale, where his only

 choices are to fight to survive, or wither and die.   He chooses to fight, and when he escapes the island, no longer is he the self-righteous playboy he once was, he’s a humble hero who “fights for the little man”.   This transformation does not occur, unless he goes to this island and goes through these trials.   Without his journey through the Whale’s belly, Ollie does not acquire the knowledge that he can, in fact be a hero.


  It takes these five things that I’ve gone over to help shape a hero.   A hero is never greater, than when a hero first realizes that they can become a hero.   The process to becoming a hero is a number of steps, but once each of these steps are completed, it is there where a superheroes' journey can truly begin.

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Four Things I See Wrong With the Comic Book Industry, Today

  As everyone has noticed, the comic industry has been on a steady decline for a very long time.   It’s hard to exactly pin point when, and it’s even harder to describe why it has been so, but the average person would tell you that once people began making comics available via digital downloads, for free, that’s when the comic industry began to steadily decline, and I would agree, who wants to buy a 24 paged magazine (not including ads) when you can get said magazine online for free.   It’s inefficient, especially when the world economy is spiraling downwards at an unbelievable rate.

  It’s hard to deny that kind of logic, when you could go and Google the latest issue of Wolverine, and have it on your computer within about, a minute. But, logically, this can’t be the only reason as to why the comic industry is declining, the music industry is still striving and people can go download every single Rolling Stones song since the 1970’s, all without leaving their computer seats.  

  Now, for me, I’ve pinpointed four things about the comic industry that has turned me away from superhero comics in general.   I still read comics, obviously or I wouldn’t still be on this site, but I don’t read half as much as I used to.   Before I would try and read every single Wolverine comic that came out each month, now I can’t read Marvel in general, nor can I stand DC.

  Problem #1 – The Comic Publishers are to Concerned with Money:

  This is true for any and everything thing retail wise.   Theres the saying “Money talks”, and anyone who has money understands this well.   A rich, famous man can get into the hottest restaurant without even waiting in line, while working class people have to wait two hours just to get into Red Lobster.   It’s true, money talks, you can’t deny that, but in the words of Richard Armour, “That money talks, I'll not deny, I heard it once:   It said, "Goodbye."

  Money doesn’t last, which is why big name publishers, DC and Marvel specifically, keep grabbing and grabbing for all the money they can possibly get.   Why is it that every 3 months, Marvel has some new big event that’ll “Change the entire workings of the Universe”?   It’s because they understand that these events attract curious people who read this line and think, “Oh my, if I read this, I could possibly reading history in the making” and they are, they’re reading this history that has been continuing for 3 to 4 decades now, it’s the history of these big name companies sacrificing quality over quantity, and to this day, it still goes on.

  This is why characters like Batman and Wolverine get about 8 series per year, because they sell, and they sell unbelievably well.   With how much they sell, you’d think that these characters were actually real and we could go and meet them down in California. What’s sad about this is that by over saturating these characters like the way they are, they’ll soon turn away the fan base these characters had created, and when that time comes, they’ll sooner kill off these characters instead of trying to get the fan base back, and it’s sad.

  These big name publishing companies don’t understand that if they focus on writing great stories, the money itself will come in turn, and it’s this stubborn-mindedness that turns away many readers today.   Instead of mindlessly pumping out events each and every years for the sake of making money, they should focus on the quality of their stories instead of the number of characters they can throw in our faces.

  Problem #2 – Comics Today Lack a Singular Vision for the Future:

  Why is it that Japanese comics completely out sell and destroy the comic industry in retail value and in sell ability?   It’s because with a manga, I never have to worry about some no-name writer coming out of nowhere to ruin the characters I love.   On the covers of manga there’s usually one name, and one alone.   On One Piece the name on the cover is Eichiro Oda, the author, and artist on the series.   But on Green Arrow #12, there was four names on the cover, J.T. Krul, Diogenes Neves, Vincente Cifuentes, and Oclair Albert.   Worst yet, in the very next issue most of those people aren’t even on the cover, heck, on the wiki for Green Arrow #12, there are 12 people given credit for this issue, and not a single one of them own the copyright to any of the characters that appeared in the issue.

  In February of this year, Green Lantern was the highest selling comic out that month, selling over 71,500 copies of the issue.   In Japan however, this May the 62 volume

 of One Piece sold over 1,788,455 copies in 6 days, May 2 to May 8.   Why is that, especially since that very volume is online for free?   It’s because, since 1997 One Piece has been under the regulation of a single author who has control over all the events and has a sound plan for the future of the story.   When I read One Piece, I never have to worry about any of my favorite characters being portrayed incorrectly, yet whenever I read a comic where Captain Marvel appears in, there always seems to be some incorrect portrayal of him that makes me stop reading the issue all together.

  If the comics industry was to just let singular writers take control of a series for a prolonged period of time, let’s say 3 years, and if they do unbelievable at it, I can say with much confidence that for those 3 years, they would have a lot more happy readers.  

  Problem #3 – Comics Simply, aren’t Fun Anymore:

  It’s true, when I read a comic, there’s always some unneeded drama, and some pointless killings for the sake of making a story awesome, which, unfortunately, it isn’t.   Heck, Alan Moore himself even said that:

“If I were, god forbid, still doing superhero comics today, just like my ABC work from a couple of years ago, they’d be very very different from the Watchmen or Marvelman template. They’d be much more about having fun—whether that be intellectual fun or just plain fun—much more about that than doing any revisions.”

 

  And that’s the thing, there’s just nothing fun about comics anymore.   The last comic I read that actually made the act of reading the comic itself fun was Formerly Known as the Justice League.   The whole series itself was great to read, from the silly interactions of the naïve Mary Marvel with the other characters, to the funny back and forth between Ted Kord and Booster Gold.   What wasn’t to like about that, but despite how good it was, you don’t see many of these types of stories anymore.   Why is that?  

  Well, let’s put it into terms of art for a second.   David Finch himself said that, when you draw a person smiling it’s a lot harder than drawing

 someone angry.   With an angry person all you have to do is draw an upwards arc for a mouth, furrow the brows, and add some lines on the forehead, boom angry.   With a person grinning though, you have to draw the cheeks puffed out, you have to thin out the upper and lower lips, you have to make the eyes smaller, and then you have to draw the teeth.   It’s a lot more work to draw someone who is happy than it is to draw someone who is angry, and in terms of comics, it’s basically like this:

  It’s a lot harder to write a fun story that is still well written and doesn’t make little of its intelligent readers, than it is to write a story about angry characters with wrathful things in it.   Because a story focused on angry characters seems much more serious than one about happier things, and it’s this thought of mind that puts comics way behind manga.  

  But the thing is, making a fun story that is still well thought out and developed isn’t impossible, just look at One Piece.   Even though some of the things in the story are just silly, I mean, the main character Monkey D. Luffy is a rubber man, and he fights with an array of attacks taking advantage of that rubber-ness, but still, the story is great.   At

 one point, when Kizaru is about to attack someone with his light powers he says “Light is… weight.”   And if you don’t have any understanding of Einstein’s theory of Relativity, you’d have no idea what he is talking about, but that’s what we call fun on an intellectual level.   Even while reading that, you don’t have to understand what he is talking about, to still enjoy reading it.  Heck, even the TvTropes Page talks about this, they call it Fridge Brilliance, and One Piece has a lot of it.

 

  When I was reading the Skypedia arc of One Piece, at the end when Luffy achieves the dreams of all the lands people by getting the bell to ring for the first time in 400 years, there was nothing that ever put such a wider smile on my face than that one scene, and even after reading it over and over for an unbelievable amount of time, I still have yet to not smile at that same scene, and that’s what comics need.   They need to make people smile again, comics should be about heroic characters doing heroic things, not dark characters doing dark things, because the world is horrible enough.   Every day hundreds to thousands of people die and me and you won’t even know, because it happens so much it becomes common place.   Comics should be a place to turn to when the world is giving you so much crap, you need a break.  

  I’m not saying get rid of all things dark, because that’s unnecessary.   We need characters like Batman and Wolverine to serve as foil to characters like Billy Batson and Peter Parker, but when every, single character seems to be dark and angsty, that’s when things are getting out of hand.

  Problem #4 – Comic Books Lack Variety as a Genre:

  If I were to ask the average superhero comic reader, “What type of genre are there in superhero comics?”  And they’ll say, superhero comics are a genre, there’s no other type of genre in superhero comics beside superhero comics.   Okay, that makes sense right?   When you go to read a book, libraries have them separated into differing genres, giving readers a wide array of books to choose from, so even if you don’t like science fiction, you could go and read historical fiction and etcetera, but with Superhero comics, not only are they a genre in themselves, they take up the vast majority of all comics that are out there today, and honestly not all readers want to read about angst.

  In manga’s though, you have an entire industry based on telling a wide array of stories.   You have 4-Koma (Comedy Manga), you have Seinen (Young Adult), you have Shounen (Young Boys), and even Shoujo (Young Girl), and then the sub genres within these sects of manga.   With comics everyone associates superhero comics as the only form of comics out there, and even though it’s not true, superhero comics make up about 75, maybe 80% of the entire comic book industry.

  The comic book industry as a whole has so many things it’s lacking.   There’s a reason why, here on the Vine, people like me, TurokofStone, Silkcuts, and so many others constantly view the comic book industry as a whole in such a negative light.   It’s because the heads of these companies just don’t understand what they’re doing.   Turok will tell you that that pushing away the older audience who’s been reading for ages, for a younger audience that is virtually non-existent is a moronic thing to do.   Silk will tell you how trying to destroy creator owned imprints like Vertigo for the sake of making money is an even more moronic thing to do.   And it’s all true.

  The industry has so many problems right now, to many to address.   Though, for me, these 4 problems are some of the things that keep turning me away from comics as a whole.     

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Children in Comics

  It’s a process of life, you start out as a baby, you develop into a child, you grow into a teenager, you mature into an adult, and then you age into an elder person.   Simple process.   With comics, we associate adults with a sense of security and strength.   Both men and women are idolized in strong forms, they have fantastic powers and enormous strength.

  Adult’s are strength.

  While with older characters, they symbolize wisdom and experience and that applies to life and to comics.   It’s the lessons and the mistakes of the previous generation that end up proving the most insightful.   If you take a novel like “The Lord of the Rings” the oldest, and the wisest person in the entire series is Gandalf the wizard.   It is the lessons of Gandalf that helps push Frodo to grow and it is his sacrifices that let’s Frodo realize he has internalized those very lessons.   In fact, him being a wizard is reflective of his wise status.

  Wizards are an archetype, an archetype established by the character Merlin from, Geoffrey of Monmouth's “ Historia Regum Britanniae”.   A wizard is the one who passes lessons from a previous generation to the protagonist, the wizard helps the character grow and he teaches them.   Characters like Obi-Wan Kenobi are wizards.

  With all this, it’s easy to describe teenagers as the epitome of immaturity.   Psychologically, the phase between childhood and adulthood is where most people begin to develop their self-worth and their own personality.   Teenagers are the ones who think they’re grown up, but have no idea of the workings of the world and so they are always making mistakes and they are always learning, and this is just from life so it’s logical to assume that this applies to any form of literature, not just comic books.

  So then, what does a child mean?

  In Shintoism, Women are considered to be more important than men, the most powerful of God’s in the Shinto religion is Amaterasu-omikami, the Goddess of the Sun, and she is a woman.   Though, this isn’t why women are placed on a higher pedestal than men in Shintoism, the main reason is because women give birth and because of that they are the givers of life.   By this definition a child represents life, and this applies implicitly to comic books in general.

Generation Hope #2

  Children represent life, and because they represent life they also represent hope.   Did you catch something?   I’d hope you would, in X-Men, for the past few years we had been getting stories based on the Mutant Messiah¸ who conveniently starts out as a child and she is named Hope.   Coincidence?   I think not.   In fact, in the novel Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, when Catherine Earnshaw dies from giving birth, she names her daughter Cathy, and her birth represents the break from the tragic nature of the story, and when she and Harenton Earnshaw plan their marriage, they arrange the date to be on New Year’s Day:  The very start of a new year, or in terms of the story, a new age of hope.   Children represent hope, but with this hope there also comes a new beginning.

  When a child character is introduced into a comic, there is always a purpose for this.   Whether it be in Batman, in the Flash, or even Green Arrow.   There’s always a reason.   Whenever there is a child character, it often means that the age of our favorite hero is going to end implicitly soon.   When Damian Wayne was introduced Grant Morrison had continuously said that in the future, Damian will be the new Batman, and a couple of months after Batman and Son, Bruce “dies”.   Coincidence?   Of course not.

  But let’s go a little further back, when Connor Hawke was first introduced, he was a teenager, but in terms of creation he was a child and a couple of issues later Oliver Queen dies in Green Arrow V2 issue 101, and Connor becomes the new Green Arrow, and if we take the numbering in a different approach than it being #101, and just ignore the 100, Green Arrow V2 101 becomes issue 1 of Connor Hawke as Green Arrow, and if we look at it even deeper, 100 years is the average length of a specific age in mankind, so Connor becoming Green Arrow in issue 101 implicitly means he is the beginning of a new age for the mantle of Green Arrow.

  Even with the Flash, the symbol of children representing a new age is innately apparent.   When Barry was the flash, he had a side kick named Kid Flash.   Why is he a Kid, despite the fact that Wally West was a teenager and a part of a team known as the Teen Titans, he was still referred to as Kid Flash.   The Kid in the name didn’t just mean that he wasn’t the Flash, it also meant that over the course of time, Wally would be the one to replace Barry as the Flash.  

  It worked both ways, and if we apply this very logic to characters like Superboy and Wonder Girl, we can see it the same way.   They’re named in such a way because they are meant to replace their older counterparts.

 

  In comics, children symbolize everything from life, to hope, to a new age.   So whenever a child character is introduced into any story, they,

 more often than not, are there for a reason and with a literary medium like comic books, it is important to consider these things.

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Characters Who Transcend Time

  It's amazing how a character you read about can pass through the ages, forever young and never aging.  Living on forever in the hearts, and in the minds of the people who have read of the character.  LIterature transcends time and as an offset of that, the characters in those very literary works transcend time as well.  Take The Importance of Being Earnest, a play by Oscar Wilde that was made in the 1800's, just yesterday I saw a movie about that very play made in 2002.  That's nearly two millenniums after it's initial creation.  It's inherent in our society, the desire to learn, and to idolize, and to recreate. 
 
  Stories are passed down and given new meaning as they are retold throughout the ages.  The folk tale of the Big Bad Wolf and the Three Little Pigs still incites fear in some kids today, as they lay in their beds tucked in tightly underneath their bed covers.  Listening intently to the tale the mom would spin to them as she retold the very story her mom told her in what seems like so long ago.  She remembers the same scene and even though she hasn't read the story in such a long time, to this day, thanks to the words of her mother, she is still able to recite the story with the utmost care and the most incredible attention to detail — as if she, herself, was sitting down reading the very book of folk tales she recalls so easily. 
 
  Stories are creations of utmost care and importance, no matter the day or the time none of that changes.  Aspiring writers today, still sit down at their desks with a blank sheet of paper simply wondering, how to make their characters shine brighter than any other.  To recreate the legacy passed down many millennia ago by authors of the same kind, as they create the basis for characters we may never actually think of.  In a world of such literary merit, anything that can conceivably be created has already been created.  It's just a matter of how you describe it  — whether it be a character, a plot, or a setting; it's all been done before, and each of us are aware of that. 
 
  The stories of today, will only lead to a everlasting legacy that will pas down forever.  While High School English students are forced to read Hamlet, Frankenstein, A Farewell to Arms, The Giver, The Pride and the Prejudice, Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath, and Homers' Odyssey, the very students that will sit in those very desks decades into the future will end up being forced to read Harry Potter, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Twilight, The Da Vinci Code, The Lord of the Rings, and things of that nature.  And just like how we went to our friends, spouting complaints about how those very novels we read sucked, those future students will end up doing the same.  And in those words, that stories legacy is reflected. 
 
  Characters are universal and one character made by another person will always inspire a different character from another author.  Like the wizard Merlin, from the Arthurian Legend defines the trope of a wise teacher.  A man of calm personality as he guides his student to a successful future and positive growth.  And his creation and legacy in turn, inspired the creation of many characters we now know of today, characters like Gandalf the White, and Albus Dumbledore.  And those very characters, in turn, inspire characters of the same nature in future reiterations.  Those reiterations all lead back to Merlin, and his legacy grows. 
 
  Comic books are the same.  The characters transcend time, and even if Stan Lee were to die, Spiderman would still move forward into the future, carrying forth the ideas of his creator, and the morals we all look up to.  Many characters are older than we are, and yet, despite many years passing never seem to lose a step, nor do they fade away.  It's their legacy.  Superman and Batman will always transcend the very time we are forced to follow.  And even if I had never read a single Comic Book in all my life, I would still, to this day, be able to tell you all of Superman's powers, and all of Batman's vehicles.   
 
  It's a testament to them, and the creative aspect of their loving creators. 
 
  Grandparents, to this day, still sit down on their knee the grandchildren they had dreamed of, and they recite the stories of characters that they remember their very Grandparents doing the same.  Stories of Captain Marvel, the Flash, Hal Jordan, Green Arrow, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and so many more.  Through the words they voice, they pass down the legacy and the love they feel for the characters to a new generation, and that generation will only do the same at a later date. 
 
  And though, we are destined to die, we can still live on, in the legacy of characters we read of so many times.  From the Greek Gods of Ancient Greece, to the haunting tales of Witches and Ghouls of the early 14th century to the late 18th century.  Though we may die, the characters do not. 
 
  The heroes we idolize, from our childhood to the day we die, we love them and we idolize them, and in turn, we end up reliving them and their legacy. 
 
  A legacy that transcends time.

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Comic Books: A Little More Than Pretty Pictures

   If you're on this website, you more than likely read a form of comic books.  Whether that be manga, American Comics, European Comics, and things of that nature  — they are all a part of the same medium, just of differing cultures.  The big question though is:  What exactly is a comic book?   Is it a book?   Well from the way it looks and the amount of pages it has, it’s more of a magazine than anything else.   Are they supposed to be funny?   Since the word comic itself derives from the Greek kōmikos.   When taken at face value, they aren’t really comic books, more of Drawing Magazines with Stories. Sucky name?  Meh, not much I can do about that. 

  More importantly, Comic Books themselves are more like magazines, but what exactly is it that separates the magazine and the comic?  (Besides the obvious). They both are a form of literature and a form of art.  Magazines in the sense of creative writing in the terms of the written articles and freelance photography.  Comics in the stories they tell and the artistic values they exude.  If you're an artist, then you know that no matter what the form of art, a person's feelings for the artwork is always apparent.  And in comic books, that's what separates it from other forms of literature. 
  
  Now I am, by no means, saying that on your next English assignment when you are forced to write that literary criticism, I'm not saying you should write that 3 page essay on your favorite comic book.  Your English teacher would absolutely murder you.  What I am saying to you though, is that Comic Books bring forth, as a medium, the same things a novel like The Picture of Dorian Gray, or The Pride and the Prejudice does, they bring to the forefront the very ideals an author has and his/ her view of the world.
 
  With any comic book, it's easy to see how an author and an artist feels about the characters they are using in the comic issue.   It's psychological, and anyone who has taken a Psychology class should, at least, be able to tell that this is true.
 
  Take for example, Alex Ross to Joshua Middleton.   
 
   While with Joshua Middleton, as shown in the picture below, shares similar views that Billy Batson and Superman are relatively close to each other in terms of size, and strength and we know this just by how he draws them the same size with neither one edging out the other.
    
    
 
  But with Alex Ross,  it's very apparent how he feels about the characters.  Alex Ross is probably the only artist who draws Captain Marvel bigger than Superman, and psychologically speaking this shows his idolization of the Captain and the respect he has for the character. 
   
 
   Comic Books are a form of literature as well, and literature not only do they tell us stories, they reveal the moral values of the time they lived in.  Like Emily Bronte's novel, Wuthering Heights, and how Emily Bronte criticizes the Victorian Society that destroys the possibility of love between two people because of social status and a person's wealth.  Or, like in The Picture of Dorian Gray where Oscar Wilde criticizes the idolization of the religion that restricts free will and personal thoughts.  The literary representation of a society is always there in the depths of a novel, and those same elements can be found in comic books  — and a little less ambiguous if you ask me. 
 
  Whether these critical views are from Wolverine describing conspiracy's in X-Men:  Xenogenesis or whether it's Green Arrow telling the world of how the fat cats are ruining the world:  the criticizing of society that we see so often in novels of all kings is just as apparent in the many comic books that we enjoy reading. 
 
  There will always be many types of readers.  There are the people who read, and analyzing every little detail one can find in a comic, or the person who just reads the stories and closes the books astonished by the intense plot developments that he never saw coming.  Despite who the reader is, it never changes the fact that underneath the face value of a comic, there is always something more.  It's just a matter of whether one feels like looking for it or not. 
 
  Comic books:  A little more than pretty pictures.
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The Twilight Effect

  I was talking to my friend at school the other day and he brought up the topic of comics, which is weird seeing as he doesn't read comics, he reads mangas.  But he knows I read comics, and he does have some overall awareness of it, but never really started a conversation based on it.  So I was surprised, to say the least.  It was Wednesday, and the Superman Earth One came out and that sparked my friends idea on this.   
 
  "Have you heard of the Twilight Effect?"    

  Of course, I haven't.  But I knew it involved Twilight so I assumed it wasn't going to be very good.  Apparantly, based on the definition my friend made, the Twilight Affect is esssentially the basis that most things story wise (whether it be characters, stories, settings, plot, and anything else that forms the story) has gone under Twilightification.  Any story that has come out after 2005, the year Twilight came out, in order to cater to the masses and the unexplainable popularity of Twilight and it's fans, they form and mold their stories to exemplify traits and characteristics that most of Twilight does. 
 
  Whether that be the long hair, outdated speech, hoodies, emo pressences in storylines, and overall darker themes in otherwise lighter story lines.

Now my friend applied this theory of his to the new Superman:  Earth One.  Mind you, me and him have never really read it, but what he said was: 
 
  "Apparantly, they made a new Superman one-shot and Clark is essentially emo in it.  That's the Twilight Effect for you." 
 
 
Now I can't comment on anything related to the one-shot because I haven't read, and have no intentions of reading it, but what he said made me remember something Xerox-Kitty said in a topic the other day. 
  

@xerox-kitty

said:

"Why do comic companies think that the only way to modernise & make characters realistic is to give them a hoodie?? "

   
  I didn't pay it much thought before and responded with a silly, Hoodies are cool, comment but what my friend said formed a connection in my mind to what Xerox said.  Why are comic companies and writers making new characters wear hoodies?  Why are they doing this and that?  Well I'm making a stretch here, but maybe the Twilight Affect, officially dubbed =], is a part in all this. 
 
  Seriously, take Billy Batson and Freddy Freeman -- 
 
  
   
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  Seriously, what the hell is up with that long hair?  Especially since Billy's hair should be THIS
 
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
And Freddy's THIS:   

  
  What could possibly be the explanation for this, this drastic change in hairstyles?  What could possibly explain Billy's handsome, wavy short hair to spur an unbelieavable growth and gaind 13 inches to form some horrible, unsophisticated hairstyle?  What could possibly make Freddy's short, nicely styled hair to gain 7 inches and to suddenly have the feel of the common rock music player.  And don't even get me started on making Freddy some emo brat >.>.. 
 
  Two words: 
 
  Twilight Effect 
 
  Don't believe me?  Well explain Tim Drake's drastic personality change.  And I don't mean for you to explain in the context of the story, I mean explain within the contexts of publishing and editing.  Starting in 2005, DC starts to kill off each and every one of Tim Drake's supporting characters, starting with his dad all the way to his girlfriend.  Then in Infinite Crisis, Superboy is killed and guess what?  Tim loses his best friend and Casse Sandmark loses the person she loves?  What happens after that?  Emo guilt and anger.  Tim Becomes enraged and on the edge of insanity, neglecting his body and lacking care for his own self and only busying himself with work.  Cassie ends up an angry, self conceitied, and depressed character.  When Tim asks her to join him on his Teen Titans she rejects his offer multiple times, and even goes so far as to accuse Tim of abandoning her and forgeting about Connor.   
 
  Tim spends the better part of a few years just focusing on resurecting, and bringing back everyone he lost back to life. 
 
  And let me remind you, there was no good reason as to why DC did this, they just did. 
 
  Twilight Effect: 
   The sudden change in aspects of stories by adding darker themes, and things of that nature in order to try and cater to a new fanbase, often alienating the old one. 
  Twilight Effect. 
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Just a Thought


  Hypothetical situations.  Nothing serious, nothing important.  Just a thought.  A dream, if you will, that I've been thinking of for a while now.  I like to think more than talk.  I'm a dreamer if you will, but I'm still a realist, and I like comics so I've been wondering about what could be.  You know, like everyone does.  Think about the "If's" because sometimes, it's just fun doing it. 
 
  1.)  What if Fawcett Publications won the lawsuit against them?  Would Superman be the icon that he is today?  Would the S shield on the chest be what it is today?  Would kids go running around yelling "Sha-ZAMin the playground at recess.  Would the golden lighting bolt on the chest be more memorable than the shield?  If Fawcett Publications won the lawsuit, would DC be Fawcett Publications, or would Fawcett Publications take the place of Marvel.  Maybe Fawcett Publications, DC Comics, and Marvel be a part of a comic trinity; instead of the duo we have today. 
   What if Fawcet Publications won the lawsuit against them?
 
2.)  What if Wolverine wasn't the icon he is today?  Could Marvel be the same without Wolverine as the poster boy for the Anti-heros of today's world?  Could we possibly read a Marvel where there wasn't the short Canadian cutting up his enemies because, "That's what he does best."  Would Marvel be what it is today?  Marvel likes to define their heroes differently from DC in that most of their heroes have no qualms with killing, without that, would there be anything separating DC from Marvel.  Would the two companies be the same in our eyes because of nothing to really define the two outside of years of existance?  Maybe, maybe not. 
  What if Wolverine wasn't the icon he is today? 
 
3.)  What if there were no retcons?  If there were no retcons would it force so many comic characters to actually age?  Without retcons would Golden Age Bruce Wayne pass the mantle onto Dick Grayson who would then take on a Robin of his own?  Without retcons would there be a multiverse in DC comics?  Would Donna Troy's origin be as convoluted and confusing as it is today?  Could such a thing even be possible?  No retcons? 
  What if there were no retcons? 
 
4.)  What if death in comics actually meant death in comics?  Would there always be that apprehension in our minds knowing that if our favorite character were to die, they wouldn't be back?  Could there really be a factor to connect us to our favorite heroes more than the possibility of death?  Would the ocmic universe of the Big Two bring in a subject of realism and a hint of tension to us, the readers, if death in said universes meant just that.  In a world where Clark Kent dies, who would take up the mantle?  Would the DC universe be able to survive without the Man of Steel?  If death was taken more seriously would writers take their jobs more seriously? 
  What if death in comics actually meant death in comics? 
 
5.)  What if comic book writers actually thought out what they wrote?  Could a world possibly exist where comic writers actually take their jobs with pride?  A world where they do their research and they think things out throroughly.  A place where the rehashing of ideas is virtually non-existant and the spurr of imagination runs free?  Where each writer thinks for themself.  A world where the writers cared about the characters they write about and the history they've had.  One could only hope. 
  What if comic book writers actually thought out what they wrote? 
 
  As I said though.  Nothing important.  Just a few thoughts.     
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Legacy Characters, Becuase Some Mantles Shouldn't be Passed Down

  I've been having a few conversations with a few people I know about different superheroes and their Legacy.  Now before I start this possible rant-to-be, because I'm sure it'll end up being a rant, let me explain what exactly is a legacy character to anyone who may not know what one is.

 
   A legacy character is any character that inherits a mantle that was passed down from an earlier generation.  Now every character is not a legacy character, only the ones who take up the mantle of another character fall into the category of "Legacy".  Most of the time a Legacy starts off with the first generation character creating what could be seen as a symbol during his time.  In order to start a legacy, you have to create a symbol.

 
  Take for example, the mantle of Doctor Fate.  The one's who put on the Helm of Nabu are granted the title of the "World's Greatest Magician." These characters themselves are chosen to inherit the title that would in turn make them recognized as the world's greatest magician.

  

Kent Nelson

 

 

Inza Cramer-Nelson

 

Hector Hall

 

Kent V. Nelson

   

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
  
 
  
 
Or, for another example, the Flash:

 

Jay Garrick

Barry Allen

Wally West

Bart allen

 


 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  Those are legacy characters.   But just because characters share the same title it doesn’t make them a part of a legacy.   Take the Earth Green Lanterns.   Hal Jordan.  Guy Gardner.   John Stewart.  Kyle Rayner.   These characters are a part of the Lantern corps, but they are in no way legacy characters themselves.

Now I wanted to make this blog because I feel some companies, specifically DC, are trying to make a Legacy out of characters who themselves shouldn’t be considered a part of a legacy.   Why?   Because it goes completely against the character’s themselves.   Now Batman, the dark knight, he would fall under a legacy.   He even states it himself in Batman 442:

 
   “I created Batman to project an image.  It succeed.  To be effective, the symbol has to be greater than the reality.”   The bat in the night represents one man’s war on crime, and that in itself is the start of a legacy.

 
  Batman, Superman, and even Wonder Woman are themselves legacy characters.   But some characters are never meant to be legacies.

Characters like Captain Marvel are in no shape legacy characters and it’s a crime in itself to even force a legacy where it shouldn’t be.   If you know about the Marvel family, then you know about Freddy Freeman becoming Captain Marvel, something that shouldn’t ever happen.   Reasons why?   Well for one, Billy and Freddy are around the same age.   It’s not like with Batman where Bruce is around 40, and Dick is about 26.   Billy and Freddy are close to each other in age and that in itself should prevent anything close to a legacy being formed for about 30 or so years.

 
  Not only that, but Billy created Captain Marvel.   He created the Marvel family and from that alone he does not promote to another title, i.e. Lord Marvel.   Bill Gates didn’t create Microsoft only to go and work as a CEO for Apple.   It’s redundant and insulting to all that he himself has started.

 
  Some Superheroes are symbols and others are not.   Point is, comic companies now-a-days are trying to create legacies out of characters that aren’t in themselves legacies because the companies and writers are too lazy to actually try and work with what it is they have to use.

 
  Legacies themselves become large and overbearing of the image, and the legacy itself can sometimes ruin a character when they don’t live up to the legacy and what happens when a character doesn’t live up to the legacy one expects.

 
  Well, the companies kill them off.   And you know they aren’t afraid to do it.   After all, they do it all the time.

 
  Shock Factor and all. 
 
  The fact is, often times, legacy characters are formed by companies because of lack of desire to use the characters they have to the fullest.  Take Olliver Queen.  They killed him in Green Arrow #101 and introduced his son as the new Green Arrow.  Green Arrow II.  But Connor wasn't that popular so Ollie was brought back to life.   
 
  When intellectual laziness occurs in the writers we put our faith in to portray our favorite characters correctly, we end up with rehashed idea's that we've seen over, and over, and over again.   
 
 
And that in itself is not only an insult to us, but to the characters themselves.

 
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