Monday, August 13, 2007

Hype fatigue

-It appears that the Marvel/DC hype machine-friendly convention season has drawn to a close. Right? Please? Either way, I have one request for all those who blog these conventions: please, for god's sake, quit posting pictures of people in costume. I know I claim a lot of things depress me, but I really mean it this time. The sight of pimply, surely virginal young-ish men dressed in poorly assembled costumes intended to replicate the appearance of characters which the average American human could not identify if forced to do so at gunpoint--is there anything so viscerally nauseating in all the world of comics? I really can't take any more pictures of pudgy guys dressed like Iron Fist (or, to be more accurate, like an ice sculpture of Iron Fist which is slowly melting in the sun). I mean, I'm not trying to imply that I'm some Adonis, but I know better than to go out in public dressed in a little red skirt like Magnus, Robot Fighter. Actually, I don't think I would do that even if I was some kind of Adonis.

Really though, I find the costumed women even more disheartening. Look, it's bad enough that fictional characters are expected to dress like strippers who dance for a baroquely depraved clientèle. Why on earth are teenage girls doing it? Do we really need to see pictures of them? I'm actually somewhat serious about this last bit of business. The sight of overweight, delusional fanboys gussied up to approximate Blue Devil--that's funny to a broad cross section of the population, I'm guessing. But these young women (some of them, at least) seem to scream "severe self-esteem issues." It's not like any of the male fans are strutting around with half their butt hanging out.* Hell, most of them aren't even wearing spandex, perhaps in an effort to keep secret the precise contours of their genitalia. Here's a possible rule of thumb--if you're not old enough to rent a car, you're not sufficiently mature to determine the wisdom of dressing up like the White Queen in front of a convention center packed with guys who think The Death of Captain Marvel is great literature. And many of these guys have cameras, and will treasure those pictures until the end of time. Others will post them on the internet, so that even more depraved nerds can match their fantasies to actual flesh. And those pictures will be out there until the end of time.

*Not intentionally, at any rate.

-I don't know if it's responsible to think of conventions in terms of wins and losses, but I was really struck by how much more impressed I was by DC's announcements than Marvel's. I'm mainly basing this on the revamping of DC's kid-friendly line, particularly the awesome-looking Tiny Titans. (Actually, that Super Friends series looks pretty fucking bad--that's toy tie-ins for you, I guess). Marvel gets some points for Genndy Tartakovsky's CAGE!, but I like DC's attempt to embrace an original, cartoony aesthetic in its all-ages line.

Other than that, it was more of the usual crap from the Big Two. Tony Daniels replaces Andy Kubert on Batman? Geez, that seems like a lateral move at best. Alex Ross on some portentous Captain America project? Sure to be a hit with the dressed-like-Green-Arrow-in-public crowd. Dustin Nguyen on Detective? Actually, that's a good move. Nguyen's a whole lot better than Don Kramer, whose chief virtue is that his pencils don't force the reader to dwell on them too much. More time to analyze the continuity errors! Countdown: Arena? Yes, that's precisely what this ill-conceived franchise needs: a multiversal Contest of Champions retread spinoff. The Resurrection of Ra's Ahl-Guhl? Sounds like DC learned something from the success of World War Hulk. I say that under the assumption that all those crossover titles won't be necessary reading to get the basic story; that would be a bad thing, Mr. DiDio. Liefeld and Kirkman on Killraven? Once again, it's a cheap laugh at the expense of the "How dare you criticize the 1970s" crowd. More importantly, it once again proves that my upcoming Liefeld retrospective is well-timed. I'm working on Hawk and Dove right now. Millar and Hitch on Fantastic Four? Not really that interested; doesn't seem like a good fit for either talent. I haven't been reading Dwayne McDuffie's run, so I don't feel personally slighted. It's just another comic I won't be reading.

By the way, the news that Millar won't be renewing his exclusive with Marvel might be the best news for DC all week. Seriously, Millar is just the sort of galvanizing figure DC's going to need when Jann Jones inevitably replaces Dan DiDio this time next year.

-On a related note, Rich Johnston reports that Mike Allred blames DiDio for failing to release his Teen Titans special and a Metal Men collaboration with Evan Dorkin. Now I don't care so much about the latter (I've become less and less into Dorkin as the years have passed), but Allred's Teen Titans story in his issue of Solo was really great, whimsical Silver Age pastiche. That's harder to pull off than one might think (not that it's stopped people from trying). It's wrong of DiDio withhold this from us. Here's hoping Jones really does replace him! Assuming, of course, that she does the sensible thing and releases said Teen Titans special.

-RIP Mike Wieringo. I always thought he was one of the few contemporary superhero artists who cared about the craft of cartooning, let alone excelled at it. The mainstream comics world will be poorer for his loss.


Dan Coyle said...

Allred's Teen Titans special was also the final project of the late Bob Haney, and the fact that it hasn't seen the light of day is kind of shameful at this point.

Dick Hyacinth said...

That really does make it far, far worse. It's time to start pressuring DC to release this thing. said...

"I'm guessing. But these young women (some of them, at least) seem to scream "severe self-esteem issues."

See, that's exactly it, but maybe not in the way you're thinking.

See, what we're dealing with here with the teens and twenty-somethings in costume is a generation of kids who've been marinading in self-esteem pap since pre-school. A short-hand way of thinking about it might be the "everybody gets a trophy" generation. It's a world where there are no bad ideas, no losers, no disappointments and everyone's matter how mundane or incompetent...still earn a hearty "good for you"!

That may be at least part of the reason you see so many utterly shameless people in costumes they have no business wearing in public. In their minds, they're Winners, cuz they made an effort...and that's good enough for us.

At least that's what the propaganda would have you believe.

Matt Brady said...

Sorry, I'm a photo-posting offender. It was my first time at a con though, and I mostly took pictures to show my wife and family, so they could see what kind of wacky goings-on I was witness to.

Joe Rice said...

The costumes have ensured that I never go to a convention again. I remember the last one I attended . . .I was kind of excited about getting a sketch from some artists or meeting Frank Quitely. Then I look around and see an entire fat family, including fat toddlers, dressed as Thor. My fucking heart sank. I literally did not purchase anything from that point on. I was too depressed.

Lisa said...

You think the costumes are bad. They're nothing compared to the IDIOTIC questions that get asked in all of the panels, even the Batman Dark Knight panel/peak. It's embarrassing to be in the same room when people ask some of these lame questions. Like, "Can you make an Omnibus with newspaper instead of shiny paper so it looks like the original stuff?" Or, "What did you use to color issue #542 of Amazing Spider-Man?" Or, "Can you give Maggie Gyllenhaal my number?"

Matt Brady said...

Are costumes really that terrible? I mean, some of them are embarrassing, but the person is doing something they like and enjoying themselves, and if they look ridiculous, they probably know it, and they're good for a laugh. I don't know what exactly is so depressing about it, other than the fact that it's a confirmation that nerdy people enjoy your hobby. If that's a problem for you, you should probably avoid Marvel and DC comics anyway and stick to news from Mocca or SPX.

I can sort of understand Dick's problem with scantily clad women, but that just reminds me of all the news reports I saw last fall about how Halloween costumes these days were too sexy, the horrors! It's not like ten-year-old girls are dressing up as Witchblade here; these women are just that: adult women. If wearing a Poison Ivy or Black Canary costume is a reprehensible activity, they should damn well not go to the beach.

Sorry, I don't mean to be a jerk or anything, but I just don't understand what's so fucking depressing about people doing something they enjoy just because you yourself wouldn't do it. If a family dressed as Thor is so horrifying to witness, you should probably public parks so you don't accidentally witness people making fools of themselves doing a sack hop or three-legged race.

Dick Hyacinth said...

What makes pictures of people in costume so depressing is that it's a moment publicly crystallized in time. Halloween costumes might be photographed, but these photos are private (or at least they used to be, before all the social networking sites sprung up). When you see photos of anonymous people at conventions, it's easy to project all your negative feelings towards the industry onto these people. That pudgy dude dressed like Starfox? He's the reason comics suck today.

I posted the comments about young women dressed in skimpy costumes with no small degree of ambivalence. I don't want to come off as paternalistic or condescending, but I find teenage girls dressed like Emma Frost to be genuinely disturbing. The indelible nature of sharing photos on the internet only exacerbates this situation; that a third party is distributing these photos on a website makes the situation a little worse. As I have mentioned in the past, however, I'm something of a prude.

BTW, I could definitely envision myself asking Bob Wayne or Dan Buckley or whoever whether they'd consider releasing archival material scanned directly from old back issues, complete with yellowed pages and assorted imperfections. Art Out of Time and Jack Cole and Plastic Man are basically exactly what I want reprints to look like.

Caleb said...

I confess to actually kind of liking seeing photos of people in costumes at cons on the Internet. I like seeing things like fat Boba Fetts and little kid Boba Fetts because, well, that's funny.

And I like seeing scantily clad ladies in photos because I feel less weird looking at photos they've posed for then looking at them in person. I feel a little creepy looking at any woman of any age dressed as The White Queen, for example, and would rather feel creepy in the comfort of my own home instead of on a convention floor.

On the subject of unreleased Mike Allred DC material, it's more infuriating every week when you see what DC is releasing instead. For example, if all goes according to plan, there will be a month where Countdown: Arena will be on the shelves, while completed Allredy comics are in drawers.

Matt Brady said...

Looking at my comment above, I should clarify that given the choice between Wizard World and Mocca, I would choose the latter every time. I was just trying to say that at a superhero-focused con, you're going to get superhero news, interviews with superhero comics creators, and pictures of people dressed up at superheroes. That's what those cons are about.

Oh, and I also meant to say "you should probably avoid public parks". Damn, I thought I read that over before I posted it.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Hyacinth, I must vehemently disagree with your comments about the cosplayers. Not the one's about the women, because I really do wonder why some of them would wear costumes designed specifically for the male gaze, but what seems to me like a criticizm of cosplaying in general.

I obviously don't speak for the cosplaying community, not being one myself. However, I would be all too happy to bring them all down on you.

Cosplaying is not just limited to superhero comics, but also to pretty much every other fandom in exsistence, and most of them are doing pretty well. Many cosplayers are not necessarily pimply faced teens eithier (at an anime con I went to, there were a lot of women dressing up as male characters. Of course, most anime male characters are somewhat androgyneous, but I digress).

The people who dress in those costumes I believe really want to show off. There is something cool about dressing up as a fictional character, even if its a bad job (I'd love to wear one of those Organization XIII cloaks from the video game Kingdom Hearts, even though it would barely fit me). They do it because they want to do it.

So please, show some empathy for the cosplayers. Please don't make me alert them to your exsistence. I feel that would just be bad for everyone. XD

Anonymous said...

only in comics land could the pandering of comics be considered far more offensive than the pandering of comic book creator raping cinematic offerings while pushing off non-comic related films on the sly.

Dick Hyacinth said...

"[C]reator raping." Ah yes, nothing reinforces the credibility of an argument like comparing a situation to rape.

Anonymous said...

Call me crazy, but I think the really depressing thing about fangirls dressing up as the characters is that it reinforces just how terrible those costumes are. To me, that says "make the costumes on superheroines less strippertastic in the books, and the rest will follow." Then again, I suppose making sense is only for communists or something.

On an entirely different note, I do notice that J. Bone is connected to that Super Friends title, and I find that J. Bone's name on anything has yet to be a bad thing.

-- Anun

Anonymous said...

Allred's DC Solo was FANTASTIC.

Matt Brady said...

Kudos, Dick, for not kowtowing to the threats of the cosplaying community. They're a dangerous folk.

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