Wednesday, July 9, 2008

July Morning Rambly-dambling

I feel like I’m on the edge of something lately. Possibly a killing spree, but even that’s something, you know?

There’s a lot of stuff bubbling around the brainpan lately, but nothing really coalescing into something solid, something I can build a plan of action around. At the moment, I’m resisting the urge to write a spec comedy pilot about an incompetent terrorist cell that keeps trying to blow itself and surrounding locations up and failing miserably. Something tells me it’d be a hard sell. Then again, BREAKING BAD got made…WEEDS I can understand, but I’m still trying to wrap my head around Breaking…

It’s almost certainly an illusion (or delusion), but I’ve been feeling like I’m more likely to catch the elusive Big Break in Hollywood rather than comics. Maybe that’s just the scenario I’d prefer to be in, as a big break in Hollywood would actually involve money, while a big break in comics would likely involve getting screwed over by a publisher looking for their big break in Hollywood.

While I wait for the Muse (or a deadline) to strike, I’ve been doing what I normally do during these down periods--shoving as much junk into my brain as possible and hoping for the weird alchemy of creation to take place. And working on a screenplay that ought to be easy to write but which is instead driving me crazy.

Been thinking a lot about superheroes, for no other reason than that they’re hard to avoid right now. In a bout of synchronicity, I ended up watching HANCOCK the same week Austin Grossman’s SOON I WILL BE INVINCIBLE showed up in my reservation slot at the library. The Law of Expectations was in full force with both--expecting little from Hancock, I was pleasantly surprised (mostly by Jason Bateman, who’s the real heart of the film); I don’t know how I got it into my head that Invincible was supposed to be a fantastic book, but I came out of it thinking it was…OK, though I don’t really see the point.

Like HEROES, both focus on skewed versions of what most people think of when they think of comic book superheroes. And, other than a really silly twist to the backstory for a near-extinct race of demigods in Hancock, neither manage to bring anything to the genre that will be particularly novel to anyone who’s even moderately aware of what’s been going on in mainstream North American comics for the last decade. Hell, the best word I can come up with to describe Invincible is “quaint”.

This stuff, along with Katherine Farmar’s tips for new comics publishers and the continuing efforts of my friend George Singley to get his Chimaera Comics (including the TITUS: HEROIC FAILURE book we wrote and, quite possibly, my and Tiina’s NORTHERN LIGHTS) largely superhero-based publishing line off the ground, has me again thinking about capes and tights. Of ideas that could work in the genre, and, in a more abstract way, why, as a reader, the genre doesn’t generally excite me that much anymore (occasional collections of JACK STAFF notwithstanding.)

And the answer I keep circling back to is, they aren’t supposed to excite me that much anymore, at least not the Big Two superheroes. The current target audience of 20 to 40-something males is an aberration, and ill-thought out business strategy that’s going to kill the genre stone dead if books like Mike Kunkel’s SHAZAM series aren’t successful. Which isn’t to say that I think Kunkel’s SHAZAM is the proper model for comics--though it might be, I haven’t read it.

At the end of the day, it’s not the characters that are important, or even the creators. It’s the stories. And that’s the advantage HANCOCK and SOON I WILL BE INVINCIBLE have over mainstream superhero comics--they are stories, designed with a beginning, middle, and end. We’ve got YEAR ONE, THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, and decades of stuff that theoretically happened between them, but new Batman stories will continue being churned out long after I’m dead. Some superheroes Never End, nor should they. But in never ending, they should be outgrown by a good portion of the readership, and replaced by a new generation. Shouldn’t they?

OK, enough rambling. Time to get to work.


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