The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal - May 24th, 2005

May 24th, 2005

May 24th, 2005
09:56 am


Thoughts On Sorting Ten Zillion Comics

Now that I'm organizing my sprawling comics collection, I am noting several things:

Cover Stories
They say "you can't judge a book by its cover," which is patently untrue, but it is true that you can't judge a comic book by its cover. What I have discovered, however, is that you can consistent tell how good a comic is by its range of covers. No individual cover will tell you the story, but after you've sorted through twenty issues or so, the gestalt will tell the tale.

Good comics start with a cover look, good or bad, and keep to it fairly consistently: The logo stays the same, as does their overall choice of things they show on the cover. If they're a fan of showing huge, muscular portraits, that stays the same, and if they prefer wide-scale action shots with blurbs ("Is THIS the end of OUR HERO?"), then that also stays the same. Even the overall color palette is reasonably consistent. The artists rotate, of course, but it's clear there's some overall plan.

A bad comic, however, generally realizes it's not working somewhere between issue 7 and issue 20. (Or, in the case of a lot of Vertigo lines that have been popular only because a good writer was on the case, issue x+7 to x+20, where "x" is "the issue the good writer left.") It is then that it begins rapidly cycling through logos, guest artists, cover styles, and - God help us - the painted cover, all in a frantic effort to find its own identity. It begins trying wilder experiments (usually as the writer/artist teams degrade) that are uglier and uglier until it eventually meets a much-deserved death.

In This Issue, A Comic Dies!
So, too, is the fascinating matter of The Last Issue. I've actually begun plucking the last issues of prematurely-cancelled series out of the pile and reading them, since they're usually fascinating.

See, most comics series are designed to run for about thirty-six issues, maybe forty-eight, before they run out of gas. Cancel one before that period, and there will be hanging plot threads that they don't know how to wrap up. There are several approaches:

a) OMGletsfinishthisnow. This is usually done when you have sixteen issues of plot to get through but you got the notification yesterday, and you don't want to let the readers down. Thus, you cram entire issues into a single panel and have gigantic revelations so everything gets tied up. What you get feels like one of those "On Lost" episode summaries that comes just before the real episode starts.

b) Screw you guys, I'm walkin' home. The "death with dignity" approach happens a surprising amount, wherein the creators simply tell the stories they've chosen to tell and changing nothing in the face of their impending doom. Sometimes the only clue that this is, in fact, the last issue is the lack of a "next issue" blurb (or a brief "see ya" in the letters pages).

c) Huh? Some comics are so bad they get cancelled in mid-story. The creators didn't even see it coming, which means that you get a frantic apology on the last page of the book, including a) a shout-out to everyone they worked with, b) a lament over the stories they had in mind, and c) an explanation of why this book failed in the marketplace. Most notably, they never fucking include d) what was going to happen next.

d) Fuck it. Burn the place. This is my favorite; the creators decide if they're getting cancelled, they're going for broke in the five issues they've got. These are always exciting issues, since they no longer have to worry about keeping the place tidy for the next writer who might hop on-board; major characters die in ugly ways, huge and world-shattering things happen, and, yes, dogs and cats living together.

My favorite by far was the end of Swamp Thing, which (I believe) Mark Millar was writing at the time. They got the pink slip and had the vegetal Swamp Thing decide that humanity was the cause of all of Earth's problems, and so he killed everyone on earth, one by one. All that was left were some astronauts on the moon, trying to get in touch with NASA... and turning around to see the Earth had the face of Swamp Thing.

Doesn't get any better than that, folks. Just don't try.

The Classiest Ending
Incidentally, the best ending cover of all time was Dazzler, the Marvel series created because disco was huge in America and Marvel's marketing department determined that we'd all go nuts for a disco-themed superhero. So we got a beautiful mutant rocker who rollerskated and made laser light shows.

No, I'm not kidding.

Someone at Marvel must have had a major hard-on for her, though, since they tried to resuscitate Dazzler every three issues for about forty issues. In a notoriously bad issue, they actually had Galactus fall in love with her.

But everyone still hated her; even other comics despised her. You'd put Dazzler on the rack at night, and in the morning you'd find her issue standing in the middle of an empty space as the other comics had crept away, ashamed to be associated with her. Eventually, they cancelled Dazzler.

However, I have to give Marvel props for their honesty. On the final issue was a large white blurb that said, "BECAUSE YOU DEMANDED IT! THE FINAL ISSUE OF DAZZLER!"

Weirdest Comics
Ya know, you'd think that Archie vs. Punisher would be the oddest crossover in my collection... but it's really not. Yes, I do have the issue where Frank Castle, vigilante of death, goes to Riverdale High and begins slaughtering criminals. But it was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek even then, and was expected to sell as a curiosity.

My strangest comic is actually Spider-Man teaming up with the Not-Ready-for-Prime-Time players from Saturday Night Live. That's right; Spidey teams up with Dan Akroyd, John Belushi, Bill Murray, Laraine Newman, and Gilda Radner to fight the evil of The Silver Samurai, right in NBC's studios.

Don't make me scan the cover.

(67 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

12:28 pm


A Thing You May Not Know

Life is not inspiration.

If you are waiting for the proper mood to arrive before you do The Thing That Will Make Your Life Better, you're fucked. Life put you on this planet, but that's pretty much all it's done. After that, Life becomes single-mindedly devoted to distracting you from everything that matters.

Life will tire you, especially if you have to work for a living. It will stress you, making you want to eat fattening chocolate. It will distract you with new lovers and children. It may even flood your body with depressing chemicals, making you feel blue and unwanted.

If you believe that you should only do the right things when Life has aligned itself properly for you to do them, you'll be working in very short windows of time. Capital-L Life knows your long-term prognosis is death, so all it gives a rat's ass about is next week. If you're alive at the end of the week, that's good enough.

Except it's not good enough for you.  You can burn through seventy or eighty weeks, only to find that you're pretty much in the same place, except older. And then you wonder why you're getting nowhere.

And since Life is engineered to exhaust you, the trick is to fucking do the things you need to, even if you don't feel like it.

Write when you're not inspired. Exercise when you're tired. See friends while you're blue. It's a slow process, but develop the skill of working no matter your mood is - and miraculously, your mood will lighten as you realize you're now in a better place.

Stop burning time on the Internet reading idiots like me. I'm carefully designed to waste your time and leave you no better off than when you began.

Go out and do something, you putz.

(78 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

02:03 pm


The Only Fan-Made Star Wars Film I Want To See
Or, "The Doof Side Of The Force."

"Two Star Wars fans suffered horrific burns in a mock battle with home-made lightsabers filled with petrol...

"Police were studying a video camera found at the scene. It was thought that a third person was taping the 'duel' — who fled in terror when the disaster happened."

(36 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

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