Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Three long items (not an off-color joke)

-I went to go see 300 yesterday instead of writing a post. I didn't like it, no sir. Rather than explaining the ways in which I didn't like it, let me link to my good friend throughsilver's review (which has the added benefit of comparisons to the original comic, which I have never read). I'm in pretty much total agreement.

Oh, I saw the trailer for Grindhouse, and I'm kind of surprised that the Rodriguez half looks much, much dumber than the Tarrantino half. Which, in turn, is probably ripping off some movie from the 70s for which I might have owned the poster at one time. I used to work at a movie theater which was part of a mostly defunct chain. For whatever reason, they stored a bunch of posters accumulated over 20-30 years behind one of the screens. I was fortunate enough to be working there when the manager decided to clear all this out, and so my college apartment was covered in various exploitation posters (stuff like a Jim Jones exploitation flick, Viva Knievel, a bunch of sleazy "coed roomates" kind of things, at least one movie about a sex change operation gone wrong, Inframan, etc.). Then I decided to grow up and gave them all away, a decision which I actually don't regret at all. My brother still has the poster for Mad Monster Party, though. In fact, he's had it framed.

-New internet pastime: Greg Rucka watch. His interview with CBR a few months got some attention here for his comments about fellow 52 writers. CBR also features a wrap-up of the Emerald City Con with this little witticism:

"Quote of the con, by Greg Rucka - Questioned on how he felt about the comics industry when he started vs. how he feels about the comic industry now that he's worked in it awhile, Rucka said, 'Comics are like sausages - you don't want to know how they're made.'"

Tom Spurgeon linked to his gripes about lettering yesterday, leading me to discover his Live Journal. Which is worth the effort of reading, since Rucka is certainly the kind of guy who speaks his mind:

"Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of people, y'know, UNDERSTANDING THE RULES OF PUNCTUATION AND GRAMMAR. In fact, I think those writers out there who show flagrant disregard for the same (and they know who they are) reveal incredible disrespect for their craft and their peers by proudly displaying their ignorance.

But I'm working on the first pass pages right now, and I've got to tell you, the copy editor on this manuscript read Ms. Truss a little too much, because she's inserting commas fucking everywhere.

I'm particular about commas. I use them with precision, or so I should like to believe. As Ms. Truss has made loads of money explaining, altering their placement without due consideration changes the meaning of the sentence."

[I like commas because, as Nabokov said, I like privacy.-DH]

Rucka also addresses the controversy over the CBR interview mentioned above:

"But that's only part of it. The other part of it is that I've broken an Unwritten Law, one that stretches all the way back to my first writing classes. I've offered criticism, and even if it was constructive and mild, it opens me up for the same.

Which is bullshit. The paradox of writing for a living is that people are going to read what you write, and some of them (maybe a lot of them) Are Not Going To Like It.

You have to learn to deal with it, and the key word here is 'learn' and not 'deal.' It's an ongoing process, and I don't know a single writer who isn't stung by criticism of their work, no matter how minor, infantile, or incompetent the source. It may not be a major sting, it may not last, but I continue to find it amazing that some Net Troll who offers his unsolicited and uneducated 'review' of my work can bother me almost as much as a bad review from, say, Kirkus. "

Rucka also hints at his frustrations with DC:

"Back at Powell's today. Just completed the detailed breakdowns for Checkmate 14 and Outsiders 48 based on yesterday's conversation with Judd. Still excited about the project, and looking forward to starting the writing on the next two issues this Friday.

But this is tempered by more comic industry bullshit, and no, I'm not talking about this, or this, or even this.

It's the 'Nooo!' that gets me, there.

No, this is something entirely different, and it's illustrating to me (pardon the pun) one of the conflicts I'm going to have to resolve for myself if I'm going to continue doing this. Namely, how much of the curtain do I pull back on the business versus on the process. Fact is, I'm more interested in talking about the work itself, the writing, than I am in dishing dirt about the industry in general, or DC in particular. No, I'll leave that to people far better suited to the task than I.

The thing is, the two are inextricably linked at this point. There are projects I simply cannot talk about yet, much as I might like to. And when my involvement in the Can't-Talk-About-It project looks to be in jeopardy for fairly complicated reasons...well, there's frustration."

"Just finished a phone call with Judd to break down the last four issues of the Checkmate/Outsiders crossover, and I'm feeling something about the writing and the story I haven't felt for what seems like a very long time.

I'm actually excited about writing this. I'm actually enthusiastic about it."

"This is my secret shame of the last several years -- I've all-but forgotten how to read for pleasure, and reading 'in genre,' for lack of a better phrase, has been excruciatingly difficult. I've been working since the first of the year on relearning the art, on attempting to rediscover the joy of reading for the sake of reading, for the pleasure of the story.

The problem is that most of what I read, I can't stand. Seriously. It's like the line about the sausages; some things it's better off not knowing how they make 'em. Books. Comics. Sausages."

Greg Rucka, if you're reading this (which is entirely possible, since you seem like the type who compulsively Googles his own name), please sign an exclusive with Marvel, then start dishing the dirt, under a pseudonym or via Rich Johnston, if necessary. Thanks.

-Last word (barring some unexpected flare up) on McDonald vs. Deppey: Mr. Deppey's argument about the success of Naruto vs. the more modest success of Spider-Man in bookstores is that the latter would sell better if casual comics consumers (aka, unfortunately, "civilians") could pick up a coherent, uninterrupted work by a single author. Today he suggests that Ultimate Spider-Man could be such an item, if it were not for the veritable sea of collected Spider-Man publications available on bookstore shelves.

I've been thinking about this debate, and I've come to the conclusion that the issue (at least re: Spider-Man GN sales) is not quality so much as quantity. Kids who loved the Spider-Man movies just don't know where to begin. With Naruto, there's a clear starting point: Naruto volume one. There's no Essential Naruto, Ultimate Naruto, Web of Naruto, Naruto: Reign, Naruto: Blue, Naruto: Kraven's Last Hunt, etc. Spider-Man, on the other hand, has to drag the weight of 40+ years of publication history, and there's an army of obsessive fanboys making sure the tether never breaks because WE CAN NEVER, EVER FORGET our precious continuity, lifeblood of the kind of deliberately mediocre comics which, tragically, the industry depends upon.

So there's my answer: continuity sucks. And don't go telling me that you were smart enough to figure it out when you were 8 years old. So was I, but back then there were only two Spider-Man comics on the drug store spinner rack (and it was pretty clear that Amazing was the one that mattered, since it was in the 200s while Peter Parker was in the 100s). Some kid in Barnes & Noble will see at least a couple dozen, maybe more depending on the quality of the GN section at the store in question.


Dan Coyle said...

"It may not be a major sting, it may not last, but I continue to find it amazing that some Net Troll who offers his unsolicited and uneducated 'review' of my work can bother me almost as much as a bad review from, say, Kirkus. ""

It amazes me that whatever book he's writing, he can shove the same alcoholic self-hating lesbian character down our throats and not think he's repeating himself or boring the shit out of us.

The reason it bothers him because on some level he knows his comic work is half-assed.

Christ, remember when Rucka was actually good? Like, six years ago?

Dave said...

You're actually surprised that Rodriguez's half of Grindhouse looks dumber than Tarantino's? Half of Rodriguez's career has consisted of being a dumber, less-talented version of Tarantino. (The other half has been making horrible children's movies.)

The more I watch of the trailers for Grindhouse, the less excited I get about it. Rodriguez's half looks like it's entirely missing the point of being a crude exploitation movie and instead just being ridiculously overblown and full of action setpieces, and Tarantino's foot fetish is getting kind of ridiculous at this point. Eli Roth's trailer for Thanksgiving was fucking brilliant, though.

Anonymous said...

Why would Marvel want to sign Rucka up? The guy's books are tanking all over the place....the guy's a proven loose cannon...so why again would they pay for him to jump ship?

I've seen Rucka at a few Cons, and the guy's a big ol' stick in the mud in public. A real kill-joy...which tells me he's not much the "company man" type, no matter what company he's working for.

Maybe it's time for Rucka to hang up the superhero tights and go back to writing mystery books...or wherever it was they dug him up from.

Geez...like none of us know the behind the scenes stuff can get ugly? Anyone who's ever had a job knows about the stupid politics...why should comics be excempt for that, or...more accurately...why would RUCKA expect it to be any different? Did he actually belive all those old Stan's Soapbox columns that convinced us working for a comic company was a non-stop Shriner's convention?

Grow the hell up, Rucka.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

It's a shame seeing Rucka turn into just another bitter hack because he was one of the first writers that appealed to me when I got back into comics back in '03, via Gotham Central, so much so that I devoured a few of his novels and a couple of his indie books.

I suspect he's bothered by the "Net Trolls" because he probably believes (knows?) they're often giving the more honest, informed reviews and that enough of them gathering in one place can force Didio to pick up the phone and make him change a storyline. Coyle's point about his using "the same alcoholic self-hating lesbian character" way too often is a valid one, especially for anyone who's read both his comics and his novels.

I think he'd be well served by taking a break from comics for a couple of years; at least the Big Two stuff.

As for Grindhouse and Rodriguez, while his movies may not be great art, they're generally fun, and he's way better than that one-shot, culture vulture hack Tarantino.

Dan Coyle said...

"Coyle's point about his using "the same alcoholic self-hating lesbian character" way too often is a valid one, especially for anyone who's read both his comics and his novels."

It's not just that, it's that he keeps hitting the same note with that archetype over and over and OVER again. How many times has this exchange occurred in 52?

RANDOM CHARACTER: You must face yourself, Renee.

RENEE: I can't. I'm afraid.

Rucka's characters never LEARN anything. They never change. Tara Chace is still as miserable as she was when Q and C started (actually, I'm pretty sure she would have been sacked at this point).

It's tiresome and boring and PREDICTABLE, and I refused to drop $2.99 a month on it.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

Rucka's characters never LEARN anything. They never change.

In his back-handed defense, this applies to his male characters, too! Three novels in and Atticus Kodiak remained an improbable fuck-up who somehow manages to keep getting both work and the girl.

Dan Coyle said...

Guy: oh yeah, I meant his male characters too. He just seems to be exclusively writing female lead characters these days. Atticus Kodiak was a lot more tolerable but still a screwup, and eventually an unlikable, stupid one at that, by the end of Critical Space.

Kevin Huxford said...

I find it odd that people are complaining about ongoing comic book characters or franchise prose novel characters not seeming to change much. Commercially speaking, if you find a character that sells, you have to find ways to give the illusion of change without screwing up the formula that appealed to the masses. No writer wants to change too much and wind up with the literary version of New Coke.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

Funny that; I've had Critical Space on my Amazon Wish List for almost a year now and haven't been compelled to pick it up, even after devouring his first three or four novels within a two-month period. I think the deeper he sank into the DC muck, the more his writing tics and flaws stood out for me.

Charlie Huston's still good reading, though, and he's keeping comics at arms length so he should remain good reading for a while to come!

Rob Pugh said...

I enjoy the hell outta Rucka's work, most of the time. Personally, Critical Space is probably my favorite work of his. I thought the way Kodiak's character developed in that one was pretty damn far from an "unlikable fuck up." In fact, I kinda see Kodiak as the only really centered guy, despite the fact that sometimes horrible things happen despite the best laid plans.

That being said, Bridget in the books, does seem to fall into the pattern of Chase and Montoya. For me, Shooting at Midnight was the hardest to get through because she was just so damn unlikable. To his credit, she was written that way... but still...

That particular character beat does seem to show up in his work a bit... sometimes handled really well, sometimes not so much. It is a slight bit repetitive.

That being said, I still highly recommend Critical Space, if you enjoyed the previous Kodiak books at all.

It does seem that Rucka's characters never learn anything [sometimes] but I think why that's so frustrating is because in the real world that seems to be the case as well.

Dan Coyle said...

Rob: I actually liked Critical Space, when I first read it years ago but my opinion of it dimished the less enamored I became of Rucka.

It seems that creatively he's put himself in a rut that he just keeps digging and digging to me, and it's massively unappealing. Once, the miserableness of the characters was an aspect of the story; now it's BECOME the story.