Monday, November 26, 2007

It's really officially cold now

-We still have plenty of pie left, several days after Thanksgiving. I'd offer you a piece if file sharing technology were advanced enough to include foodstuffs. Maybe one day, if the Pillsbury people ever learn that pastries want to be free, man.

And in one other piece of non-comics related news, I think I've moved up from "terrible" to "mediocre" on the drums in Rock Band. Still can't handle those songs with sixteenth note beats (I think) alternating between snare + tom and snare + bass. Those are haaarrrddd.

-Over the holiday, Tim O'Neil posted about a problem in a recent comic (follow-up here). I didn't catch it myself, but I think he's basically right--the writer (Matt Fraction) neglected a pretty central element of the character (spider sense). And no, it's not a terribly obscure point--it's something that anyone who's ever seen any of the Spider-Man movies would know. And after three movies and countless television broadcasts, that's probably about half of the total US population. Okay, I guess that maybe only a quarter of those people were paying enough attention and have a good enough memory to recall "spider sense." And maybe 10% of those people would be on the ball enough to recognize this error. That's still nearly four million people in the US alone. So we're not talking arcane knowledge.

So I started thinking--maybe we should think of these character/continuity errors on a sliding scale. Here's a rough draft of that scale:

Isn't His Costume Supposed to Be Red? Level: An error which is so obvious that even my mother (who, to my knowledge has never read any superhero comic in her life except those she read to me or my brother in our preliterate days) could pick it out. Examples: any comic from before 1990 where the colorist was overworked, underpaid, and/or drunk.

Big Gulp Level: Error contradicts a fact about a character that one would know by reading the brief bio on the side of a "collectible" plastic cup depicting said character. Examples: the spider sense snafu mentioned above.

1965 No Prize Level: Error contradicts a facet of the character established relatively early in the character's history (and thus, presumably, fairly integral to the character). Please note: I'm using 1965 just as an example. If you're more of a Claremont X-Men type, you could call this the 1978 No Prize Level. Examples: Captain America talks about watching Sgt. Bilko or voting for Adlai Stevenson.

If You're Not Using Wikipedia, You're Not Making a Good Faith Effort to Understand This Book Level: Error contradicts something alien to the core concept of the character, possibly from an era largely forgotten by today's readership. However, the error will be obvious to anyone who read comics featuring said character from said era. Examples: the Hulk's brief career working as an enforcer in Las Vegas, the brief existence of a branch of the Justice League headquartered in Detroit, Thor's brief residence in Oklahoma (I'm using my crystal ball here).

Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe Level: Error contradicts some aspect of continuity minute enough that one would need to fact check it against an encyclopedia in order to assure oneself that one's claim was justified. Examples: Cyclops misidentifies his place of birth; Wolverine incorrectly states his weight.

And Yet I Can't Remember My Spouse's Birthday Level: Error contradicts a fact obscure enough that the writers of Who's Who or OHTMU found worthy of omission. Examples: I have no idea.

Late 90s X-Men Continuity Level: Error may or may not contradict some aspect of continuity that is in doubt due to multiple instances of time travel, parallel earths, or clones. Hence, the claim is largely a matter of conjecture, thus making complaints about the hypothetical error even more pointless. Examples: Anything involving DC continuity in the last year or so.

It's a slippery slope, isn't it? I have no sympathy for anyone whose comics-reading experience is ruined by contradiction of obscure facts, like Aunt May's maiden name. Still, at what point do writers get to ignore stories written 20 years ago by burnouts and hacks? Answer: NEVER! Those were the formative years of my comics reading, goddammit! Those stories are sacrosanct, you're raping my childhood, etc, etc.

-If Bill Reed is going to do a series on great inkers, he'd better mention Tom Palmer at some point. I mean it, dude.

-Why did nobody mention that those Fourth World omnibuses look so nice underneath the dust jacket? Or is it only the first volume that looks that way? I'm tempted to just toss out the dust cover.

Other thoughts on the treasure trove of birthday comics I just received:

Phoenix volumes 10 and 11 are probably the wiser investment than MW for those seeking recently-translated Tezuka. The story is much more bizarre, entertaining, and thought provoking; the art is absolutely stunning; and there's still an element of cross dressing for espionage purposes.

New Engineering
is larger than I expected, and very nicely packaged.

I accidentally received an extra copy of Chance in Hell, if anyone needs it and wants to trade for something of similar value. I still have that extra copy of Pyongyang, too.


Jones, one of the Jones boys said...

Happy (belated, I assume) birthday. Me, I dug MW. Of course Phoenix is better, but Phoenix is better than pretty much any other comic (except the ten on my "best of 2007" list, which beat all comers).

Just to complicate your scale: there's a more subtle form of continuity that fans whine about but which isn't on your list. It's what we might call trait-continuity. As in: "Oh, Forbush Man would never let the Punisher go like that. It's totally out of character."

This sort of thing gets right up the nose of a lot of people invested in continuing properties. But it's not because the stories contradict any explicit facts from previous stories, they just violate expectations formed on the basis of previous stories.

And then there's visual continuity. The sort of thing that led to Curt Swan redrawing Kirby's Superman so he would look "right".

By and large, spandex fans don't care as much about visual continuity any more (and that's a good thing). But you'll still hear people griping that Wolverine should be drawn shorter, for instance. Again, that's not a clear case of contradicting previously established facts.

LurkerWithout said...

Your sarcastic use of the phrase "raping my childhood" is raping my childhood! Raping it of its

-Sincerly, Dr. Rape McRapey Light O'Rape

Matthew J. Brady said...

I don't know if the "man on the street" would really know that much about the spider-sense, at least not from the movies. There was a little bit in the first one, but I don't think they even mentioned it in the other two. I guess it was just supposed to be understood. But couldn't they have had him say "My spider-sense is tingling!" at some point? God, I'm a nerd.

I think I remember some people mentioning the nice under-jacket covers on the Kirby Omnibuses, but it definitely wasn't talked about too much. They sure look nice, don't they? I really need to pick up the second and third volumes...

Oh, and I have Chance in Hell, and I've read Pyongyang, but they're both really good, so I recommend people get Dick to send them to you. Challenge him to a drum-off or something, if you have to.

Oh, and I'll go ahead and be a douche and try to direct traffic to my blog, since I'm doing a contest to try to get people to design a header for me. You know, like the cool one up at the top of the page there. Sorry, Dick.

Anonymous said...

How about a trade for Pyongyang?
I have vols. 1 of Cromartie High School (really liked),
Drifting Classroom (really liked), Planetes (meh), and Nausicca, Valley of the wind (meh).

I'll pass on Chance in Hell, I'm one of the few that can't get into Los Bros Hernandez (and I've been trying a long time).

Gary Esposito

Dick Hyacinth said...

Thanks for the sentiment, Jones.

I think John Byrne recently stated something about how modern (superhero) comics art suffers from not being "on model" enough. Given the nature of his message board, that probably means that there are a few dozen zealots who say this very same thing on various other fora across the internet. You definitely see people complaining about Kelly Jones' Batman even to this day.

The question of expectations seems more related to the issue of fan ownership. Which, needless to say, is the sort of weltanshauung that's going to lead to nothing but disappointment. What's funny is when you see someone whose ideal characterization is best represented by some long-forgotten writer from the 80s or 90s. That last editorial simulation that Brevoort ran had a good example of that--one of the participants chose some dude I'd never heard of to write X-Men (Robert Weinberg, it turns out). That cracks me up every time I think about it.

And somebody design a banner for Matt! He's offering a reward, for chrissakes.

Dick Hyacinth said...

I own or am not interested in any of that manga, unfortunately. I would highly recommend Cromartie High School to anyone else looking to trade, though.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if 'Aunt May's maiden name' is a really obscure fact. I'm nowhere near an obsessive, but when i read that error in Amazing Spider-Man, I was IMMEDIATELY taken out of the story. This was due to Ben Reilly, who for all Marvel's re-writing of history, was one of the huge figures in Spider-lore. And he took a combination of Ben and Aunt May for his names.

Oh, crap...have I just proved your point?

The Estate of Tim O'Neil said...

I think the Hulk's Las Vegas period is a bad example - there was a reason why the Hulk was in Vegas, and the jarring change in setting was both well-conceived and temporary by design. It was a nice indicator of how things were being shaken-up - and considering how boring the Hulk had been for quite a while, something like that had been long overdue. I'm sure for some fans it was as dramatic a change as Thor becoming a giant yellow space horse. The difference is that the Justice League Detroit and Thorklahoma were / are just flailing about, obviously poor ideas that were / are just waiting for subsequent writers to undo them.