Thursday, May 25, 2006

When are MY Avengers Gonna Assemble?

Two years ago, I never saw this post coming. Two years ago, I got the news that Brian Bendis, my favorite funnybook writer[1] was going to take over my all-time favorite funnybook, The Avengers. Mr. Bendis was going to bring his awe-inspiring (yet strangely welcoming) talkiness to spruce up Earth's Mightiest Heroes and make them, well, More Mightily Heroic. While the opening, 'out with the old' Disassembled arc polarized many in the fan community, I thought it was skillfully done and accomplished what he set out to do: he blew up just enough of the status quo (and the inertia of 500+ issues) to force the characters to do the same thing a different way. I was giddy with thoughts of My Favorite Book becoming the Comic World's Favorite Book.

And with his first arc on New Avengers, Bendis took full advantage of his now-cleaner slate to somehow inject Spider-Man and Wolverine (not to mention Luke Cage, Power Man) into the dynamic without seeming forced, through a plot packed full with intense phsyical action (not typically Bendisian) and meaningful personal interaction. For the first time in a long time, I couldn't wait 30 days until my next fix of this comic.

Fast forward to yesterday (?) and I'm now just going through the motions with my partner of 30-plus years. What in the name of Irving Forbush is going on? Where have the Avengers gone?

Bendis somehow found a way to lose all of his momentum, and I suspect this is partly due to what makes him such a smart, creative force in the business: his brain just won't stop working. He's so immersed himself in the characters and their world that he can't help but think of a different, arguably better story to tell than the one he's already gotten to the middle of. Two prime examples: elements of his Disassembled arc led directly to the proposal and creation of the House of M miniseries, which then caused him to delay and otherwise make changes in Avengers mid-stream; the book has suffered since. And when his work on Avengers led directly to a "re-think" on the direction of his Secret War miniseries, that book suffered too.[2]

This isn't to say that the title's no good; it's certainly better than most of the X-Men I've read lately, and favorably comparable to a lot of the capes books on the shelves. I love Bendis' dialogue and the team he's been, uh, assembling, and the situations he sets up are good. But somehow, these pluses just never combine to tell a compelling story.

For me, I need an arc or two to go down in Avengers history, all of Avengers history including this new phase, to ajudge a creator's run positively. (Like Bendis, I've been at this starry-eyed Avengers-fandom-thing since Nixon was President; I think I've earned a little snobbishness in this arena.) So far, while the very first arc of New Avengers was phenomenal, it left too many things dangling that have either been unresolved or resolved unsatisfyingly. He's taken great pains to establish and flesh out the whys and wherefores of Spider-Woman's backstory and dynamic with the team, but he's failed miserably at integrating the Ronin/Echo character (who appeared on covers dating back to issue #1 and didn't show up in an issue for the first whole year), and has struggled to decide how/when to use The Sentry (but at least he's tried to include him and expand on his membership since issue 1). That's tainting my opinion of the first arc now.

Earlier, I mentioned that I was going through the motions with something that's been an enjoyable part of my life for quite a while. I wonder if Bendis is now going through the same thing with New Avengers.
[1] Bendis was certainly my favorite comic writer at the time--I'm leaning more towards Warren Ellis, Geoff Johns, Ed Brubaker, and Mark Millar as my faves these days, along with part-timer Joss Whedon)

[2]Though, to be fair, the glacierly pace of SW artist Gabrielle Del'Otto left plenty of time for Bendis to do his sixteenth version of the last half of the series.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

I Thought He Liked The Scrunchy Face

From Patton Oswalt's blog:

Stop writing in public. On a laptop. Anything you're writing in Starbucks? It's going to suck. The Daniel Powter song you're listening to is bleeding out of your earplugs, and I can't read my fucking comics. Go write like normal people -- alone, in a small dark room. With the door shut. Writing doesn't look cool the way it does in movies. Your lips move, your face scrunches up, and sometimes you zone out when you're writing one of those shitty, cliche passages that you can't ever avoid putting in your stuff. You know, something like, "...but he knows it's hopeless". Jesus, you should look at yourself when you write shit like that. I have. It's not pretty. That needs to happen behind a locked door, in the dark. Think of it this way. You're fucking a cheap whore. Don't do it in public. Thank you.

Which pretty much says it all about writing in public. Well, except for what I'm about to say...

I had an enlightening first night of Writing, Not Planning. I tested Oswalt's thesis, and damned if he isn't basically right. It's tough to write in public, especially in public where you know every single person in the room. While it wasn't blatantly obvious I was typing anything weightier than "What R U up 2?", it was evident that no one was going to give me any time at all to put down much more than that.

I'm not writing on the outside again. Not if I want to get anything done. It's not like I need an excuse to not write.

What R U up 2?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Plan 949 from Inner Space

Planned to write this weekend--felt the ideas tapping at my cerebral cortex and just knew that the original comic series I'd been considering was gonna spill right out. I had time and I was fairly motivated. This was going to happen.

Finally sat down Sunday night, opened up my "notes" file and caught up with my past scribblings. Started typing, and what came out... was more planning. Nothing resembling a character in motion, only extra grams of character and some questions to be answered by the actual story. But no story was coming.

I realize today that the planning is what's been holding me back. I can't prepare the entire tale before I actually start to write it. This confidence-withering prep is like designing and building a jigsaw puzzle--I'm designing pieces that when assembled won't make a story, it'll only make a picture of a finished story.

So, if you're reading this and you're not me, feel free to periodically ask me how the story's coming along. I've been undervaluing shame as a motivator, and that's going to be corrected today.

No more planning. Planning never prevented a shitty piece, nor did it guarantee a great or even good one. So I'm putting that in the corner for awhile, and getting the bad words out of the way for the good ones.

Watch this space.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A Video Is Worth How Many Words?

Looks like none, because this clip renders me speechless. Witness the Deadly Fists of Kung Fu's Shortpacked, as rendered by the obscenely talented Steve Barron:

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Gas Up The Zamboni, Lucifer

Tim has a myspace page.

Someone actually told me last week, "I can't believe you don't have a myspace page." As if something about me screams, "I don't like traditional human gatherings at all," or "I have a great need to show other people how much coolness I've listened to/watched/read/met".

Some things I've noticed in my first few active days:

Apparently, I don't have enough pictures of myself.

I'm actually feeling less comfortable and more insecure the further past 5 or 6 "friends" I go.

It's not a very user-friendly site. I guess it'll take a while to get used to its workings, but why?
[Here's an example: You can't carry on a conversation via the "comments" on someone's myspace page. You can respond to a comment they left on your page, but not on your page. So you're left with a comments section that's exactly one-half of some conversation. I don't think I'll be tossing around too many of those.]

People are not only extremely eager to ask people to be their "friend", but also just as eager to say "yes" to being someone else's.

We'll see how this works out. I've gotta go take about 24 pics of myself now.