The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal - May 18th, 2005
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Ferrett's Long Box Haul|
To say that I've been "collecting" comics for over fifteen years now is somewhat of a misnomer, as "collecting" implies that I put some sort of care into it. Truth is, I treat my comics like James Brown treats his wife. It would be more accurate to say that I've been buying comics, then stuffing them wherever they fit.
I have about twenty boxes — not longboxes, warehouse boxes — packed so tightly with comics that the covers have worn off. I used to throw them onto the floor when I was done, watching them flutter down in a big newspapery floompf. You'd find comics on the floor of my car. "That's okay," I'd say, waving you into the back seat. "Step on 'em if you have to. As long as I can read the insides."
I like the reading. Anything else is dross.
But there's been a huge problem with the Random Boxes O' Comics, and it's a fairly obvious one; since they're all heaped randomly into whatever box I had handy at the time I was moving, it's hard to read anything in sequence. Oh, sure, I may remember what happened to Captain Atom after this amazing sequence, but I can't lay my eyes on it.
So two days ago, I bought some long boxes and began the long haul to sorting and organizing them. It's quite the journey.
The one goal that I have by the end of all of this is to read the Milestone comics in order. Milestone was a DC imprint that was famed for black superheroes written by black people, and they were astonishingly well done for the first two years or so. You had Static, the nerdy black teenager with electrical powers and a host of problems (a Spider-Man riff to be sure, but an enjoyable one); Icon, the black Kryptonian child who landed on a slave farm in the 1860s, and he's been a little tetchy about heroism ever since; Hardware, the Iron Man rip-off done with actual technology and characterization (and an evil white corporate guy who was always threatening to steal Hardware's patents); and, my favorite, the Blood Syndicate, an assortment of amoral, superpowered gangsters.
The characters seem so transparent when I list them here, but their charm was not in their concept but in their execution. They had good plot twists (barring the obligatory "Icon's female sidekick gets knocked up," which made a virginal character inappropriately punished for teenaged sex) and interesting characters. And that's not even counting the also-rans that were of equal quality, like Shadow Cabinet and the too-weird-to-be-popular Xombi.
But as I wind my way through the Big Box O'Comics, I'm finding snips and drabs of different series, maddeningly close to being in order but not quite. I'm finding the Grant Morrison Doom Patrol run, which is still amazing for its ability to straddle the line between dadaism and sheer terror, and I'm finding the unreprinted late-run Zot! issues, where it suddenly transformed from "a superhero comic" into "a series of character studies on teenagers I feel I know." And then there's the entire New Universe line from Marvel, where they tried to create a "this world given superpowers" concept with about seven different comics, ranging from the downright embarrassing (the mystical Punisher knockoff Justice and the much-mocked Kickers, Inc. — a story about a superhero football team, for Chrissakes) to the unfairly-hated-because-of-the-writer (Star Brand was pretty good, even if everyone despised it because Jim Shooter, evil Marvel chief, wrote it) to the actually really, really enjoyable (I am so waiting to unearth the complete run of D.P.7).
Of course, as I go through, I keep finding these oddball comics and going, "Oh, right, these existed." Badger ran for seventy issues, and yet I barely cared about it… but here's the three issues I picked up because of the guest artist. Oh, and here's The Honeymooners one-shot comic. Why the fuck did I buy the Honeymooners? Was it recommended to me? Was the artist hot at the time? Hell if I know, but for some reason I'm filing it away and not chucking it like any sane person would.
I tell myself I'll weed out the losers when I'm done, but this is a blatant lie. I know this. So does Gini, as she wanders into a living room stacked high with comics and paper dust.
Eventually, I will process these grimy warehouse boxes of shredded paper into neat rows of pristine white cardboard longboxes — sorted by title, if not by issue number — where I can then pull out every last issue of House of Secrets (with my perennial favorite, the blind white-suited Mister E., who fought the man who was both a werewolf and a vampire) and go through them in order, if I wish. And even so, I've found the treasures of Fantastic Four #350 and Spider-Man #250 and the mother of all good comics, The Man With The Head Of Saturn (scroll down, it's worth it).
But until then, my fingers will be stained with ink, and the floor will be covered with bits of paper.
The Comic Tally|
And since I'm going through my comic collection one by one, I think I'll make it interesting and take five classic cover ploys and see how often they come up as I go through infinite boxes.... but I'm not sure which five to choose.
I'm pretty sure I want "[Important character] dies!" covers included (whether they actually die or not), and "End of a Team?" covers (which, for single heroes, may include "Hero gives up superheroing" appearances). I may want to count "Classic character premieres a doofy new outfit" cover (this includes armor and super-suits, which as we all know is never cool), or "Give it up, [old character]... [new and annoying rival] is in town!" And there's always the classic "Kneel before Zod" covers, wherein the hero is on his knees and the supervillain is about to bash him in the head.
Of course, I want to count gorillas, but my collection of sixties comics (when editor Julie Schwartz was convinced that the way to sell a comic was to have a gorilla on the cover) is sadly limited.
So what other cover cliches are there to count? Remember, they have to be fairly simple, and only on the cover; while it's true that there are a lot of comic cliches, I'm not reading all the damn things, so I have to be able to see them at a glance, and there has to be enough of them to count.
Re-wen-geh Of The Sith|
We've got tickets for tonight with some good friends. Gini's all bouncy; I myself am remaining carefully neutral on the topic. Because I alone see the problem with the Revenge trailers.
Even I must admit they look good, as they always do; I remember how the trailers for Attack of the Clones and Phantom Menace also caused my heart to seize up. They look exciting, and thrilling, and full of cool lightsaber fights. But there is one thing that the trailers do not have, which is what killed the other two movies....
We get sweeping music, and catchphrases, but if Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones had stuck to nothing but exciting battle sequences stitched together by two-minute transitions, a la Raiders, they probably would have been good films. But Lucas seems to have an uncommon amount of faith in both his dialogue and his actors, so there are these tedious sequences where you watch incompetent actors reciting awful words. It's not as bad when you have, say, Sam Jackson and Ewan McGregor on screen, but when you have a whiner-than-Luke Hayden Christiansen (which is an accomplishment) having a talk with wants-to-be-a-real-boy Natalie Portman that goes like "No... Annie... I cannot... love you... this is why... I wore... a backless leather fuck-me dress.... to come here and tell you.... it's over...." the entire movie makes baby Jesus cry.
If we're in luck - and mind you, I don't want to know from them's that seen it* - then it's low on dialogue. If we're in for what I expect, we get lots of talk explaining why these characters suck.
* - Note to the staff of Wizards of the Coast: I hate you. Sincerely, me.
Two More Star Wars Thoughts From A Lunch Conversation|
1) I love watching 1940s movies because nobody freakin' acts.
Back in the 40s, every movie starring Humphrey Bogart had Humphrey Bogart as its lead character. Sure, the guy had a different name, but it was Bogie as a detective, Bogie as a treasure-hunter, Bogie as a former freedom fighter.
And that's the way we liked it.
You never saw Bogie trying to masquerade as a retarded but lovable janitor. He was goddamn Bogie; that's why you went to see him. Aside from the fact that the movie Bogie had better dialogue, there was no difference between the screen-Bogie and the actor-Bogie.
Same with Hepburn, Tracy, Stewart - all the good stars. The screenwriting mostly consisted of writing clever dialogue, without much in the way of deep characterization - and you cast the actor because their core personality was what you wanted to show. You want an gutsy woman? Hey, Katharine! Want a nice, if somewhat hesitant, guy? Call Jimmy Stewart! And hey, it turns out that Bogie was a bit of grumpy jerk in real life!
The dialogue in these films are ridiculous, but they work because the actors have such vibrant personalities that their essence bleeds through these contrived words. We don't believe that Bing Crosby's a smooth character because of what he says, but rather what he is.
That's what George Lucas wants to do in Star Wars, and it worked in the first few movies because hey, Carrie Fisher's a sardonic spitfire, and Harrison really was a cocksure guy, and Mark Hamill was self-effacing. He let the actors transcend their lines. But unfortunately, now we have these nice-but-unremarkable people like Natalie Portman and Hayden Christiansen, trying to act when really, it should all be dependent on who they are.
Natalie's nice, but unremarkable. Same for Hayden. We needed character actors, not actor actors.
2) Fun fact: I never, ever want to like Star Wars when I watch it. I always want to like Phantom Menace.
I never want to like Star Wars because people have been telling me for years that it's a dumb kids' movie, I'm just coasting on good memories. So when I sit down to watch it, I go in with a critical eye. "All right. I'm gonna see the truth about it this time, just like I did with all of those old Doctor Who shows I loved to death as a kid. I'll appreciate it for the charge it gives me, but objectively I'll see it's not that good."
Except it fucking is. Sure, it's a slow starter, but by the time Luke looks out over the two suns of Tattooine I'm sold all over again, and the whole battle for the Death Star is the most exciting half-hour of cinema, bar none.
Every time I see it, I start out wanting to hate it, and it brings me in on its own merits.
Phantom Menace, on the other hand, I want to like because maybe it's not quite as painful as I remember it. But you know what really burns my bacon about Phantom Menace?
The end of Star Wars is about skill and bravery. Sure, Luke has some luck thanks to the Force, but he's a good pilot and makes the end run in the face of almost certain death. Just when he's overwhelmed, Han saves him - and why? Because Luke was right about him. And then the Force guides that last, lucky shot. It's about what the characters do.
The end of The Phantom Menace, however, is about pure luck doofing its way through the picture. Anakin winds up destroying the capital ship not because of his pod-racing skills, but because whoops he's in a ship and hey! What's this button? Jar Jar survives thanks to idiocy and goofy physical humor. Even Darth Maul dies because he's too stupid to do anything but watch Obi-Wan as he sails overhead, wondering, "Hey, where's the on switch on this lightsaber?"
The first Star Wars is about heroes. Phantom Menace is about morons lucking into a win they don't deserve.
When My Business And LiveJournal Lives Clash|
From the unofficial Saviors of Kamigawa spoiler list for the next Magic expansion:
Creature - Spirit
When Yuki-Onna comes into play, destroy target artifact.
Whenever you play a Spirit or Arcane spell, you may return Yuki-Onna to its owner's hand.
Dammit, Wizards, when do we get TheFerrett? It's a card name that's just bursting with flavor and ideas! (And no, Frazzled Editor doesn't count.)
P.S. - If you can't use TheFerrett, I hear tell "Watchtower of Destruction" would be one bad-ass land name. Just sayin'.