The iFanboy Letter Column – 09.30.2011

Friday means many things to many people. For some, Friday is all about time to finally garden. For others, it’s all about not thinking anything about gardening. For others still, they have their mom do their laundry.

At iFanboy, Friday means it’s letter column time.

You write. We answer. Very simple.

As always, if you want to have your e-mail read on the any of our shows or answered here, keep them coming – contact@ifanboy.com


DC hasn’t been releasing as many movies as Marvel but they do better in cartoons. Most recently Young Justice has been made to get kids to buy the comics. Which of the new DC comics would have the best chance of being made into an animated series?

Desaun

'Young Justice'

The best chance of being an animated series? The Justice League, Superman, Batman, and Green Lantern (currently in production). But that’s easy. The big guns will always have the best chance. They’re the most popular and thus the least likely to cost a development exec their job should they fail.

(Also, Young Justice wasn’t made to get kids to buy comics. It was made to get kids, and their parents, to watch commercials and buy DVD sets.)

So let’s consider a different question. Setting aside the DC characters that have had, or currently have, an animated series (like Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Static Shock, the Justice League, and the Teen Titans), what books books/concepts from the New 52 would I like to see as animated series. Just to make it easier on myself I’ll pick one per week.

Week 1 – Stormwatch - This one is a little out of the box but the more I think about it the more I like it. The idea of a secret band of superheroes who exist out of the spotlight (or in The Bleed) could be really fun and interesting. Plus you’ve got an interesting grouping of characters with fun and sometimes unusual powers (especially Jack Hawksmoor).

Week 2 – Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. - While looking over the list of week two books this one stood out like a giant pulsating neon sign. A team of monster hunters made up of monsters and led by one of the most famous monsters of all time? It seems like so much of a no-brainer that I would be shocked if it’s not already in development.

Week 3 – Birds of Prey - Let’s put aside the live action show. The less said about that the better. The concept of an all-female superhero team is solid, enduring, and just begging to be done the right way outside of comics. I see this one has high action, globetrotting adventure featuring lots of bad dudes getting kicked in the face.

Week 4 – The Flash - Enough with the team books! Let’s give a solo character the animated treatment and I say that it’s time for the Scarlet Speedster to get his due. Barry Allen is ripe for the solo cartoon treatment. There would be a ton of fun things that you could do with speed effects in animation that might look silly in live action. Plus, The Flash has a fantastic rogue’s gallery second only to Batman’s. Add in Kid Flash and occasional appearances by Jay Garrick and there’s your show right there.

Conor Kilpatrick

 


I’ve noticed a common criticism of yours is that some comics are too “wordy”. I find that interesting since writers don’t give us near the dialogue that we used to get. It seems many comics can be read in 5 minutes and story arcs are strung out further than they should be. Now I get that we don’t need the occasional wasted dialogue and pointless exposition but is this dislike for wordy comics due to new preferences from this generation of readers? Also is the lack of dialogue and stretched out story arcs an economic decision of the publishers or a creativity problem with the writers (or neither).

Keith

This page has too much lettering.

To me, it’s not about the amount of the words as much as the value of those words. If you’ve got a page full of word balloons and captions, but they’re not adding to your enjoyment of the story as much as filling space and letting the writer impress him or herself with how clever they can be. It could be that the team doesn’t feel confident enough in the final pages that they have to explain everything you’re seeing, or worse, it could be that the comic just isn’t very good, and narration and exposition are the only ways to explain where the art failed. Basically, more words do not equal more value. More words usually means that you’re wasting more time.

There’s also the question of aesthetics and pacing. It has to be consistent. A page littered with letters isn’t attractive, and jams up the flow you had established. Pages should be balanced. When you’re reading a story smoothly and you jam up against a block of text, it doesn’t feel right. That’s just a matter of craft, and guiding a reader through the story smoothly.

This brings up the question of “the time it takes to read a comic” vs. “what I paid for this.” If that’s your only barometer on how good a comic book is, then I don’t think you’re getting the full experience from the conflation of art and story. I am more impressed with the skill and nuance of a silent page than I ever will be with a lot of words. Aaron Sorkin is my favorite TV and film writer, but he would make a shitty comic book. Because that’s not the point.

Still, that’s not to say that there shouldn’t be any words, and there’s no place for dialog, because there certainly is. It just has to be good dialog, and purposeful captions and narration. I get why it happens. People think they’re getting short changed, and they worry that they’re not getting enough information, because a lot of people don’t have any patience for more nuanced storytelling, so the publishers and writers overcompensate and explain everything right away, especially in a first issue. It’s one of the reasons that this month has burnt me out on first issues.

The simple fact is that comics used to be written for a younger audience, with a lot of turnover, and now they’re mostly written for an older audience, and I don’t want to read the comics with training wheels. I want to read comics written up to my level. That isn’t to say that I don’t think there should be other kinds of comics (there should) but they’re not for me, and that’s the only way I can judge them.

Basically, they need to make the words count. Words are precious. Also, you should judge your comics by enjoyment, rather than the clock. But buy accordingly with your own tastes.

Josh Flanagan

 


*** SPOILER WARNING – Avoid if you HAVEN’T read X-Men: Schism #4  *** 

So, I’ve been ruminating about this for the last week, trying to decide whether or not I liked X-Men: Schism #4. Obviously, its not all I’ve spent my time thinking about, but it bothered me enough that its occupied more of my brain space than it probably should have.

I have been and X-Men fan for the last 20 years or so. I grew up reading them, they have always been my favorite. Now, the reason X-Men: Schism #4 bothered me so much was that it just didn’t make sense. As I got further into it, I found myself wanting to love it, but I just couldn’t. The reason for this is the fact that the character fighting Cyclops was utterly unrecognizable. That was no Wolverine I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a lot of Wolverine. Never before has there been any indication that Wolverine feels that it is the X-Men’s duty to shield the children in their care from danger, especially when it is a fight for their right to exist. And to take it to the point of blowing up the island if he didn’t get his way? Seriously, nothing I have ever read would indicate that Logan would act this way. In fact, all indications are that he would act in exactly the opposite fashion. Even as recently as the final arc of Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men, Logan has taken one of the X-kids under his wing (Armor) and basically told the rest of the team that she was an X-Man and shouldn’t be treated any differently than the rest of them. Now I know that in the recent X-Force book Logan did try to steer X-23 away from having to kill more, and in the last Wolverine arc he was duped into murdering his own illegitimate children, but these events are never referenced as a reason for his sudden shift in character, and that is something I would never expect from such a talented writer as Jason Aaron.

I really wanted to get behind this event because the X-Men are my favorite and their books have been hitting much more than missing lately, but this is something I haven’t been able to reconcile. Maybe you guys could provide some insight into how this is actually all in character for Logan and not a total break from what came before.

Nick from Minneapolis, MN

X-Men Schism 4 Wolverine Vs Cyclops

Cyclops vs. Wolverine in X-Men: Schism #4

Well Nick, I have to say that I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy X-Men Schism #4 as much as I did, but I’m afraid I have to disagree with you on your reasons why.  While the position and behavior of Wolverine was indeed surprising, it wasn’t that surprising in light of recent events that have happened to the character, as you laid out.  Now, you do have a point about Wolverine’s previous actions when it involved younger X-Men, most notably teenage girls (no way to say that without sounding creepy).  He’s absolutely taken Kitty Pryde, Jubilee, Armor and now Idie under his wing.  But in each of those cases, while he was wholly supportive of them as X-Men, there were also moments where he showed an ultra protective side.  The difference between what his position with Armor (treat her like an X-Man) and the position with Idie and the other kids on Utopia is that thin line between right and wrong, between killing enemies and not.  Armor was never put in a position where she needed to kill other people.  As long as we’ve known Wolverine, we’ve known that he’s “The best at what he does, and what he does isn’t pretty.”  The X-Men have had a long standing rule of “no killing.”  It’s what separates them as heroes from the people they fight.  Except, that is, for Wolverine.  Wolverine has always taken the responsibility of the dirty work, mainly so others wouldn’t have to.  After the recent events in the pages of X-Force and then his own personal traumas in Wolverine, it’s clear that it’s beginning to take its toll, as you would expect it to.  Wolverine may have amazing powers and determination, but he’s still a man.  So the crux of the issue between Cyclops and Wolverine isn’t that far out of character, rather an evolution and growth of the character, which is a bold move by Jason Aaron, growing a character that’s remained pretty stagnant over the past 20 years. It’s not that he doesn’t support killing when you need to, it’s that he doesn’t want to subject the younger X-Men if it can be avoided. He’s being a martyr and taking the responsibility, so that they don’t have to.

Now, I’ve heard the same argument you’ve made about Cyclops. That long time fans don’t recognize Cyclops. That he’d never endanger children or call for killing. But again, similar to Wolverine, his character is evolving and reacting to the world around him, which is a polarizing thing to do, but I believe an interesting angle to take, as you can only read the same stories about the same characters over and over again so many times.

Ultimately, the crux of the issue of X-Men: Schism, as I’ve taken it, isn’t about Wolverine being mad at Cyclops for making Idie kill men or that he’s putting children in danger.  Rather that Wolverine doesn’t agree that defending Utopia, at such a dramatic risk, is worth it. To Wolverine, it’s just a place to crash, they can find another place to set up camp.  But to Cyclops, it represents the dream of mutants living in peace, and he’s willing to defend it at any cost.  I have to give Jason Aaron credit, it’s a very interesting quandary to present, and to be honest, I’m not sure what side I’m on, even after X-Men: Schism #4.

I hope that helps to shed some light on Wolverine’s characterization and helps you enjoy X-Men Schism a little more.  If not, don’t worry, it’ll be over after another issue and you can move on.

Ron Richards

 

Comments

  1. diebenny diebenny says:

    The words definitely need to count. Everyone who has been reading comics for a while has read that comic where the word balloons didn’t matter and, you know what, that makes trying to read them FUCKING BORING. I’d rather they not be there at all at that point.

    And Wolverine’s characterization made a ton of sense to me. I saw it coming from a mile away early into Schism, and it’s such a big part of ol’ Wolvie that I’m surprised this is a story that hasn’t been told yet. I know the dude referenced X-Force and X-23. Remember how pissed Wolverine was when Scott forced him to have X-23 on the team? That’s basically a prelude to what we’re seeing today, and that story coulda happened then. Fuck, that shit was YEARS ago wasn’t it? I’m getting too old…

  2. Parri Parri (@pazzatron) says:

    “Aaron Sorkin is my favorite TV and film writer, but he would make a shitty comic book. Because that’s not the point.” Nail on the head.

    Also, I would watch the shit out of an Agents of S.H.A.D.E. animated series.

  3. RobotZombie RobotZombie says:

    Well thought out response Ron.

    I like that when you look at the big picture of Schism an arguement can be made that Cyclops has become Magneto to Wolverine’s Xavier. Cyclops is clearly more focused on defending the idea of mutants by any means necessary while Wolverine, as seen in the teasers, has taken on the role of educator and guardian. While I don’t expect Cyclops to sink and Russian Subs and Wolverine will hardly be sitting in a room preaching peaceful coexistance, I love how Jason Aaron has taken one of the basic elements of the X-Men mythology and turned into something fresh and exciting.

  4. Also with words in comics is the issue of over use of 1st person narration and the boxes taking up lots of space. I’ve found sometimes they lend confusion to who’s talking especially with all the color coding and such. I took a film class back in college where the professor was adamant that while their are exceptions, that type of narration is a crutch for poor writers to info dump instead of reveal it naturally through plot and dialogue. I wonder if thats the case in comics?

    seems like an extreme example, but it feels like just about every comic book i pick up these days has 1st person narration in it.

    • diebenny diebenny says:

      I remember giving Robinson’s Justice League stuff a shot, after Cry For Justice (ugh, best not to remember). What you’ve detailed was the exact problem with that book. Every character had first person narration boxes with different colors and symbols. It would have been at least a little better without all that nonsense.

    • KenOchalek KenOchalek says:

      I think the different perspectives on 1st person narration point to the unique nature of comics among other forms of narrative, specifically it’s place somewhere between film and prose fiction. In film, 1st person narration defies the “show, don’t tell” ethos and rarely works. But in prose fiction, 1st person narration can be used to great effect to create unreliable narrators and reveal a character’s inner psychology.

      So does it work in comics? I think it comes down to the skill of the writer. Scott Snyder had some interesting things to say in that recent Talksplode about first person narration in regards to the differences between writing Dick and Bruce as Batman. Scott’s a great writer, and Bruce and Dick are rich characters with very different psychologies, so I enjoy those bits of narration. Tony Daniel’s Detective, however, had some rough spots in it’s narration.

      For my money, first person narration in comics has the ability to be as bad as it can be in film, or as great as it can be in prose. It’s all in the execution.

    • those are some great points…..Whenever i see the a large majority of creators using the same techniques and devices i start to wonder if its a crutch or just the way to do it.

  5. keith7198 keith7198 says:

    @Josh – Thanks for the response. You have a well thought out position and much of what you said puts things under a different (and better) light. I did find the page example you gave to be interesting. It didn’t look like too much lettering but it did look poorly constructed. But maybe that’s because the artist was shackled with too much dialogue resulting in a pretty crappy looking page. Very interesting stuff. Thanks again man.

    • Doughboy says:

      In the example comic page, half of the words could have been left out.

      Panel one: eliminate the second caption.
      Panel three: eliminate the sergeant’s second word balloon.
      Panel four: eliminate Cap’s word balloon and the sergeant’s second balloon.
      Panel five: eliminate the sergeant’s second balloon.
      Panel seven: eliminate the sergeant’s first balloon.

      What’s left reads better and gives each of the sergeant’s statements more of an emotional impact.

    • Josh Flanagan Josh Flanagan (@jaflanagan) says:

      Yeah, but the guy who wrote that page sucks.

    • ChrisB ChrisB says:

      ohh josh. dont be so hard on yourself.

    • Josh Flanagan Josh Flanagan (@jaflanagan) says:

      I can admit that page sucked. Actually I think the next page sucked more. But hey, you have to learn by doing in comics.

    • Doughboy says:

      I didn’t say the writer sucked. Just that the page needed a little editing. :)

      I write for a living and my stuff nearly always benefits from an editor’s critical eye.

    • Matrix Matrix says:

      Really? I thought you were joking Josh! That looked fine to me! I’m probably strange then because I think there’s usually not enough panels or words in most comics! Yeah, I’m not really in favour of decompression.

    • Cronin Cronin says:

      Considering you’re such a Robinson fan, you have surprisingly few words in bold.

  6. stuclach stuclach says:

    I would watch all four of those shows that Conor suggested (and my daughters would love to see a Birds of Prey show.)

    I don’t want dialog unless it is worth having. When I open a “Golden Age” book and see a 1,000 page dissertation summarizing the character’s origin story, I skip that page. The words don’t matter. On the other hand, I can open a Hellboy book, look at a page with one word on it (probably “Crap”), and get more story from the artwork on that one page than many comics provide in a whole issue.

  7. keith7198 keith7198 says:

    And for the sake of clarity, I don’t mean that a book is good just because it takes a long time to read. Take Scott Snyder for example. His books usually feature a lot of dialogue and I love them. They aren’t quick reads but he makes the dialogue meaningful. Those are the books like really stand out to me.

  8. PotatoPope PotatoPope says:

    My problem with “Wordy” comics is when instead of showing us using the art what is happening, they describe it. Comics are a visual medium, and the art should be able to tell the story.

    I’m fine with the “talking heads” stories, but having a character spout off a paragraph without interruption is not believable dialog (unless its a dictator’s speech, which needs to be damn interesting if I’m going to read all that text).

    • keith7198 keith7198 says:

      I don’t completely agree although I see your point. If the writer is putting together a meaningful point, then more dialogue is fine. It just doesn’t need to be wasted. That’s where the creativity comes in.

    • Marceline Marceline says:

      This drives me nuts too. Especially when it’s part of the narration. It can sometimes work in dialogue, but it often doesn’t.

      Talking heads comics should be few and far between. Like a bottle episode of a TV show, giving you character work you might not get in a story with more going on.

  9. Fractal514 says:

    I also have a problem with the characterization in X-Men Schism. I think that the groundwork for Cyclops and Wolverine’s positions has been lain out in other books, I don’t feel like it has been properly dealt with here. How about Wolverine walks up to the beach and sees the young mutants standing there, and has flashes of all of the dead young mutants from over the years. I don’t know, I like it and I hate it at the same time. I just don’t want them turning Scott into a dick totally, they have to leave him grey, same with Wolvie.

    My real question is this, that four part prelude book I bought. WTF was that? When did that take place, and can I get my money back, please?

    • Fractal514 says:

      Ya know, I was just thinking about the whole Logan flashback thing, and I thought, you could have him say “Cyke, it ain’t worth it, we’ll find a new home.” And you could have Cyclops flashback to all of the different homes that have been destroyed, the mansion, genosha, the last place they had in san fran, and he just says, no, this is it, we take a stand.

      Also, just to point out, in the prelude, WOLVERINE AGREED WITH CYKE, that it was time to take a stand.

      WTF?!?

    • RobotZombie RobotZombie says:

      Prelude was a moneygrab pure and simple. Jason Aaron has said he knew nothing about what was going on in it and it had zero to do with his story.

  10. If you can’t tell a story visually, what are you doing in comics? Long conversations are fine, but on the whole, show don’t tell.

  11. I miss thought balloons; sick of tiny gradient boxes.

  12. KillTheG1mp KillTheG1mp says:

    Regarding text… If there’s too much of it in a panel, I just roll my eyes and go, blah blah blah because if I want to read a book I’ll fetch a book and read it but I’m reading a comic book; the art and the text must go along or not at all. An example of it being one of my favorite comic book short story featured in Sin City when for 8 pages or something we just see Marv from panel to panel “doing” what he does and then at the end completely there’s a snippet of dialogue and that’s it. The rest just makes it work by itself and that, to me, is why comics are great.

    Comics are like an in-between with movies and books. Or another example of what makes it “unrealistic” in some ways when there’s too much text was in Teen Titans #1; when Kid Flash enters the burning building and the fireman just calls him an idiot and his answer to that is a huge block of text that would take 30 seconds to say in real life when it clearly happens in a matter of seconds before the explosion hits…*sigh*

  13. cutty cutty says:

    Interesting Schism discussion. While the mini has been fun, I think that it’s more or less been a series of lazy plot devices; for example, a bunch of kids kicking an A-List team of X-Mens’ asses and Scott and Logan’s surface argument. Plus of course the unbeatable Sentinel that always seems to show up when the writer needs it (but hey that’s nothing new in comics/film/whatever so I won’t go overboard).

    On Ron’s point though, while the surface argument over Wolverine defending the kids is somewhat weak, there’s enough subtext there for these two guys to completely split. As RobotZombie said, Cyclops has basically turned into Magneto without the outward aggression. The entire idea of Utopia, and training these kids to be soldiers instead of students who can responsibly use their powers is definately not what Xavier would’ve done.

    Much like other convuluted mini’s like Captain America Reborn or Batman: Battle for the Cowl, I’m just going to give the plot devices an outright pass and look forward to the comics that this bridge is leading to. I’ve been very unhappy overall with x-comics since Utopia came into play, and I am absolutely pumped for the re-boot and new focus on team-centric titles. Plus no Matt Fraction, so that’s a plus.

  14. Slym Slym says:

    I think you might have made a wrong turn in the argument Ron.
    Wolverine protecting the kids from killing and not wanting them to fight their enemies are two different things. Wolverine has always not wanted other characters to kill and to leave that up to him, But he has always trained and wanted them to fight their enemies no matter what age which is shown with Kitty, Jubilee and Armor.

    Now Arron could be taken a totally new angle with Wolverine here but it makes the story seem forced to just make a artificial argument to creatAe this Schism.

    • RobotZombie RobotZombie says:

      I think that the difference is that Kitty, Jubilee and (to a lesser extent) Armor are all kids who were trained to fight. Wolverine knew or learned where there strengths were and that they could handle it (Hope notwithstanding). The difference is throwing kids into the meat grinder and hoping they come out ok vs. knowing that they can handle themselves as competant fighters.

    • Slym Slym says:

      All those kids were trained to fight my Wolverine and the other trainers on Utopia. Wolverine should know by now know what they can do.

  15. SpiderTitan SpiderTitan says:

    Spot on Ron with that response as I am on the same boat as you. Also good point with the kill or not kill with Wolverine’s “proteges,” since Idie really is the only one to have EVER been subject to that. Hell in Whedon’s run Armor was more like a way for Wolverine to get over Kitty riding the Breakworld Bullet into infinite space, Armor wasn’t an actually protege because she hasn’t had a long standing effect on the X-Men & Wolverine never really had that same relationship that he has had with Kitty & Jubilee. Now does that mean that Idie & Logan may not have a good relationship either, way to soon to tell, but the fact that Logan is starting to subject his somewhat “surrogate” children to things that they do not to do/see, he feels a great sense of responsibility to shield those same children from such atrocities like those that have occurred over the course of Schism. Now that Logan’s literally killed all of his own children, the youngsters are really all that he has left.

  16. Flash’s Rogues Gallery > Batman’s Rogues Gallery

    I would watch the Hell out of a Flash cartoon.

  17. I would also like a Flash cartoon. Honestly I’m having kinda a hard time getting into Batman: The Brave and the Bold.

  18. j206 j206 says:

    Josh, great response to the question on wordiness of comic books. That was perfectly said. This is a topic that I struggle to express well when talking with non-comic reading friends. People who only read prose books who look at comics as being less good because they have less words. Less words in their minds’ means an inferior form of storytelling. To them comics are books for writers who couldn’t handle having to write more. I try to explain how it’s not just about the amount of words, but the value of them in conjunction with the artwork and flow of the book. I’m not sure if you’d be able to sell them either. But you backed up the whole point perfectly.

    Another comment to the reader who posed the question. Like Josh said, old school comics were written with training wheels. Big time. It worked for people reading them back then because that’s what they were used to. And also because they were much younger. But as someone who didn’t start reading comics until later in life, I struggle a good deal when going back and reading a lot of older comics. The amount of exposition and explanation is at times very hard to deal with. Every character thinks out their every thought and action. It really bogs down the pacing. Given that I was more so trained to read comics at a modern pace, the difference is staggering. It’s equal parts a matter of target audience (books are written more so for adults now days) and the time we live in. Movie dialogue is a lot different today than it was 20-40 years ago. Society is trained to enjoy a certain form of narrative. As society changes, old narrative styles go out of practice. And for good reason.

  19. ed209AF ed209AF says:

    I think the idea that Logan would think of Utopia “As a place to crash” is spot on. He’s wolverine, half of his comic history was spent Feral. I’m loving schism and this response was dead on. great job Ron.

  20. lorddowney lorddowney says:

    I think the sign of bad writing in comics is the use of the phrase ” and I can’t believe I am saying this”

  21. cromulent cromulent says:

    I hate word balloons with just “…” in them. Kirkman used to do that a lot in Walking Dead.

  22. RahUniQue RahUniQue says:

    @conor Why isn’t ifanboy doing anymore animated shows ( Young Justice, Avengers, etc..) threads?

  23. jackarandos says:

    Totally agree with Ron on changing charactersations of Cyclops and Wolverine. I’m so glad that the I’ve been fully reading X-men (since Messiah CompleX) is a time where characters who perviously always stayed the same grow and develop. I love that the large editorial and writing team working on x-books since them seem to have colaborated on a consistent direction for the characters to all move in rather than the way that many cocmics characters seem completely different in personality which can be even more confusing when coupled with the differing arts styles.