For the Love of the Game, Part 1 – "Maybe Next Year"

In case you haven’t noticed, I love baseball.  I talk about it on the podcast, on Twitter and in as many conversations as I can manage in my entire life.  It even sneaks into my content on the site whenever I can manage it.  Baseball is a big part of my life, and while I’ve had my ups and downs with it, it’s been a lifelong relationship.  In this series, I’ll be looking at my relationship with the sport through my relationships with other media it intersects with.  Pop culture, like my life, is full of baseball, and I’ll be talking about why that means so much to me.

Part 1: “Maybe Next Year”

I can’t remember how long I’ve loved baseball.  It’s the first sport I ever remember learning how to play; one year, my Easter basket was a kid-sized glove with chocolate eggs in it and I spent years gleefully tossing a ball around with my dad and my friends.  My first sports memory isn’t, in fact, hockey-related, despite my upbringing that can only be described as “fairly Canadian.”  No, my first sports memories are of Game 6 in the 1992 and 1993 World Series, when the Toronto Blue Jays won back-to-back titles.  In 1993, my father was away and my mother let me stay up late as we watched Joe Carter’s walk-off championship home run and cheered in the dark.

I don’t have this relationship with hockey.  Don’t get me wrong, I love that sport, too.  Edmonton is a hockey city and I have been to my share of hockey games.  For a brief period during junior high, I religiously sketched pictures of my favourite goalies and read hockey books.  But my deepest relationship with sports is with baseball, even if I only realized it recently.

It is hard to explain my love of the game of baseball, though I’ve certainly been trying the patience of friends and family with my efforts on a consistent basis since March.  No matter what happens with it, there is a purity to the game that can never be taken away from me.  I can’t come up with any other word than “purity,” despite having read books from ballplayers’ perspectives, having watched a documentary on the game including its troubled history of racism and sexism, the cheating 1919 Chicago White Sox – dubbed the Black Sox forevermore – the unfair treatment of Pete Rose and the ongoing struggle with performance enhancing drugs.

I’ve only recently been able to articulate how much of an impact the steroid fiscos during my lifetime have caused.  For a few years when I was a kid, I had one of my family’s old TVs in my bedroom, and the Summer of 1998 stands out in my mind.  Every night or morning, right before I went to sleep or after I woke up, I watched the sports highlights, which featured not just the standard strikeouts, catches and home runs, but the home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.  That summer, I lived for two things: road hockey and the home run race.  I followed the escalating counts with relish.  I fell in love with the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field, loves which have persisted to this day.  Until this year, 1998 was perhaps the baseball peak of my life.

However, in the decade and a half since, that era of the game – and that season itself – have been embroiled in controversy.  Sosa and McGwire both tested positive for banned substances and McGwire admitted not only to using them, but doing it in the 1998 season!

My season!

The men I admired let me down.  Not only that, but they cheated me.  I gave them my love and adoration as a child, and in return they were supposed to be honest champions.  They were supposed to show me what was possible if you worked hard and dedicated your life to something.  They let me down and it shook my love of a game that I’ve treasured since I was seven years old sitting in the dark with my mum.  I am still angry, to this day.

For all the other reasons I fell away from the game for a while – it was too “slow,” it was too “boring,” it wasn’t hockey – this is what it came down to, I’ve realized.  The realization that steroids weren’t just a caricature on an episode of Dinosaurs, that they were insidious things that flawed men used to thrill fans and then disappoint them, haunted a decade of my life and it is only recently that I have come back from my time in the desert in full.  Even when I resented the game, I still watched the playoffs.  It was something I couldn’t entirely stay away from, as hurt as I felt.

My return to the game and inability to shut up about it are due to my maturing, or at least as much as someone who makes penis jokes about Batman online every week can claim to be.  I understand the mechanics and strategy of the game on a more adult level, but I also have an adult’s view of the sport.  I understand that these men, like all men, could disappoint me at any given time, that the history of the sport is as fraught as that of the country which created it.  I can love baseball with all my heart even if Ty Cobb was a son of a bitch, and I can love it if Mark McGwire was, too.

Ultimately, this is a defense mechanism as much as it is maturity, meant to nestle and protect something I’ve spent a long time rebuilding and realizing: my childlike enthusiasm for the game.  When the Oakland Athletics got home runs in three consecutive at bats in extra innings versus the hated New York Yankees on Saturday, I literally stood up and kicked the air a few times as I exulted.  When I play the game, there isn’t a thing I don’t love about it; I love the smell of the leather, the glow of the infield in the sun and the line where it meets the outfield grass, the sound of a ball hitting a glove and the way you can feel the ball depress against an ash bat all the way down to your hands when you make a really good hit.  It has taken me this long, but I’m finally ready to say again that I love the game wholeheartedly, from playing the game to absorbing the media and mythos around it.

Take a bow, Humberto.
Among this media, I’m not sure anything describes my love of baseball – and my childhood relationship with it – better than Peter Parker: Spider-Man #33, a story called “Maybe Next Year” by Paul Jenkins, Mark Buckingham and Wayne Faucher.  It was a gift from Brandon this year, and it is maybe perfect in how it captures the game. I’ve loved Spider-Man for as long as I’ve loved baseball, and this is the perfect combination of the two: a comic where Peter reflects on all the times Uncle Ben took him to New York Mets games when he was a kid.

A short aside – how perfect is it that Peter Parker, the superhero who can never quite catch a break, loves the Mets, the New York team who own a similar reputation?  They both even started in the same year!  In the issue, he explains it simply: “I guess I could always identify with the Mets, you know?  A bunch of lovable losers who hit the occasional home run by accident.  Just like me.”  Perfect.  This is not only a big reason why I grew up with a soft spot for the Mets (earlier this week I ordered my first ever MLB jersey, a Mets home jersey emblazoned with R.A. Dickey’s name and number 43), but why I haven’t quite trusted the Marvel Universe Ultimate Spider-Man comic series since the fourth issue was set at a Yankees game with Peter as an enthusiastic fan.  I mean, some things just aren’t forgivable, and near the top of that list is Yankee sympathy.

Anyway, the issue is set around, as a truly impressive number of Spider-Man stories are, around Uncle Ben’s death.  A recent issue of Avenging Spider-Man (#11) revisited the topic through Peter’s guilt and relationship with Aunt May, and found a vein of pathos that’s not explored that frequently, but for my money, Peter Parker: Spider-Man #33 is the best Uncle Ben story – if not one of the best Spider-Man single issues of the last few decades.  Best of all, it does so through the filter of baseball, and how Peter’s life and relationship with his Uncle have been shaped by it.

Uncle Ben was the person who introduced Peter to baseball, who taught him to appreciate and love it, even to take life lessons from it.  Every year, they would attend a Mets game and almost every year, they would lose.  It didn’t matter to him that much: “All of three seconds… that’s how long it took me to fall under baseball’s spell.”  Like with Peter and Uncle Ben, my grandpa is one of the big reasons I love baseball as much as I do.  When the Edmonton Trappers, my city’s then-active AAA team, opened their shiny new ballpark and signed a new affiliate deal with the Oakland Athletics, my grandpa bought a row of season tickets along the first base line, close enough to see the action but high enough to be above it without having to do much walking.  These weren’t my first baseball games – my dad took me to a game in the old stadium the season before it was demolished – they feel like it in my mind.  I still remember the ritual of hopping into the family vehicle, waiting in line to park, walking to the field and climbing the stairs.  I remember the snacks we were allowed to have – peanuts, pretzels, pop and hot chocolate if it was cold – and the inventive sales pitches the guy selling beer would shout out (“Beer!  Get your moderately-priced, lukewarm beer here!”).  These were the summers when I really learned to love the sport, and when it stopped being something I grew up around and started being something I grew up with.

More than that, it was something I did with my family.  My grandpa was the reason I went to games, and I spent a lot of hot summer afternoons and nights sitting in between him and my dad.  Those were the years my dad taught me to keep a box score as we sat on the patio under the dim lights, listening to games on the radio.  I spent so many evenings together with those men and the sport that I can’t even begin to remember or count them all.  That was just my childhood.

My grandpa died four years ago, right before baseball season started.  His passing was written up by a local newspaper, because even though he’d never talk about it, he was a genuine war hero, who flew intelligence and counter-intelligence missions, meaning he piloted a bomber emptied out of almost all its munitions over Axis territory at night without any kind of escort.  The article talks about a notable mission when he saved the lives of his crew, and about his life afterward, but it leaves out the most important part to me: he shared something he loved with me and taught me to love it myself.  I miss my grandpa a lot, but never more than from April to September, on those summer nights when I see the bright white lights out above the stands, calling me home.  Like Peter says, “Years may come and go. Time may heal all wounds.  But not this one.”

Reading this comic brings all that back to me.  The memories and the smells, and the regret that I never got to say goodbye to my grandpa, or even realize until he was gone how much of my life every year, from April to September and October if we’re lucky, is something I owe to him and to my father.

That’s what makes “Maybe Next Year” so moving: the ritual of Peter’s love and memory.  Every year, he’d go to a Mets game with Uncle Ben.  Even though Ben is gone now, Peter still goes every year to remember his uncle and what he taught him.  It’s a truly fantastic issue, blending heavy emotion with the ever-increasing spectacle of the Mets losses, including a game where the owner is ejected from the game for charging the field all the way from his luxury box and how Peter is knocked unconscious by a fly ball and passes out again when he stares at the existential horror that is an off-brand Mr. Met.  It tells an old story in a new way, celebrates a legacy and even provides a new lesson along the way.  Uncle Ben may be known for his famous words, “With great power comes great responsibility,” but in “Maybe Next Year” he gives Peter some other words about baseball and life:

“Look, Petey… it’s okay – really, it is.  You can’t get upset over one game.  If the players got upset after every loss, they’d have to retire and work on horse farms or something.  You can’t always win – that’s the way life works.  Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how hard you try, you lose anyway.  Listen, killer: life is a very long season.  Some you win, some you lose… and it’s good to lose once in a while.  It makes winning all the sweeter.  Maybe next year, okay?”

I remember being that kid like Peter, who got so dejected and angry about losing that he’d cry after his team lost a soccer or hockey game (made all the worse by the season when we didn’t win a single game).  I remember being frustrated with the universe that things, even as trivial as a Trappers game, didn’t go the way I wanted.  My parents helped me realize a message like Uncle Ben’s in time, and so did coming back to baseball.  A current Major League Baseball season is 162 games, not even counting the playoffs.  It’s so unlikely that a team will go undefeated, it’s practically impossible.  A team could have the best season on record (the 1906 Chicago Cubs won 116 games and lost 36, with a winning percentage of .763) and they’d still lose about as much as a football team would if they lost every game for two straight seasons.  If you are going to play baseball, you are going to lose.  That’s just a fact.

That’s impacted my whole belief in the sport.  Ever since those games with my grandpa, the Oakland Athletics have been my favourite team, and that same decade taught me to love the Cubs and nurture a soft spot for the Mets.  I don’t cheer for what you would call “winning teams” – the Cubbies haven’t won a championship since 1908! – but it doesn’t matter.  I just love the sport, and I love the struggle to be better.  That’s why I love characters like Spider-Man so much, and why I distrust any fandom like that of the Yankees, any one that’s so bored by the number of World Series rings it has that it starts to believe winning titles is its natural state.  That’s not baseball  to me.  To me, baseball is the teams that fight for every shot they get and probably still los it anyway.  Baseball is being surprised by the first A’s winning season in six years or by a losing team producing its first pitcher to win 20 games in a season in over twenty, a pitcher who everybody wrote off and fought his way back from a personal life teetering on collapse to one that’s rewarding and fulfilling whether or not he wins.  It’s like Peter says when he’s remembering his uncle: “To me, it’s never been about winning.  Baseball’s far bigger than just a good result.  Mind you, being a Mets fan, I would say that.”

Baseball, like life, is often a struggle.  But it’s also sitting with my grandpa in the stands or with my dad in the back yard.  You know, I don’t even remember if the Trappers won any of those seasons when I watched them?  I could look it up, but I don’t.  It doesn’t even matter.  What I remember is how my family taught me to love the sport and learn from it, to become a more patient man than I might have been otherwise.  It’s about remembering my Grandpa every year, and continuing the legacy of the love he shared.

Baseball resists pessimism and brooding.  In Nunzio DeFilippis, Christina Weir and Jackie Lewis’ all-ages graphic novel Play Ball earlier this year, a father tells his daughter that same lesson that Uncle Ben told Peter, that my grandpa and my dad told me:

“Daddy, why did the man in the movie say there was no crying in baseball?”

“Because, Sweetie, there’s no need to cry.  If you miss the pitch, there will be another.  If they get you out, you’ll get another at-bat.  If you lose the game, there’s always tomorrow.  And if your season is over, there’s always next year.  You can’t cry, you have to be ready for the next big moment.”

Baseball keeps teaching this lesson to kids in each generation because it’s inherently optimistic.  Loss is so built into the sport that nobody even talks about never losing; everybody just knows that they’re going to lose a lot and that what’s important is what they do the next day.  There’s always another pitch, another inning, another game and another season.  Life just keeps going, and what’s important is that you keep playing and stopping every once in a while to ask, “Maybe next year, okay?”

Um, Actually… | September 27th, 2012

Welcome to the Como Murder Palace

Um, Actually…

Missives from and to the internet, delivered by a series of tubes.

Welcome, dear readers, to our Thursday feature – a letter column of horrors culled from our inboxes. There will be things that are real and decidedly unreal – but hopefully all content presented here will be entertaining.

That said, WE ARE LOOKING FOR LETTERS! We are hiding in your bushes, metaphorical or otherwise. We crave your sweet correspondence. Contact us by clicking on that handy contact button right above the site banner to save yourself from our sweet lips on your power bills.

Letters might be edited for space, but not for intent.

Thank you, internet.

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Britanie (@britl) asks: You’re on death row. Why are you there and what is your last meal?

James: You know, as much as I love exploring different foods and trying complicated techniques and dishes, at the end of the day, I think I’d have to go with some ideal comfort food: Eastern North Carolina (vinegar-based) pulled pork on some nice rolls with a crisp honey coleslaw, buttermilk biscuits with sausage & gravy and some garlic mashed potatoes with lots of butter and just a dab of turkey gravy on top.  Garlic bread, maybe the world’s most perfect food.  Probably something refreshing, like a watermelon salad, in between some of those just to clean the palate, and then a nice tiramisu for dessert.

Yes, there are two types of gravy in that meal.  I feel like this is a worthwhile expenditure of my final moments.  Of course, there’s always the chance that by the time I hit death row I still won’t have checked off “Eat at The French Laundry” on my bucket list, so maybe I’ll try and make that happen, in strict opposition to my “comfort food” request.

I swear to god, though, if they try and give me non-buttermilk biscuits or wrong pulled pork, they’ll have to kill me twice because the first one won’t be enough to quell my rage.

Oh, and I figure I killed Brandon or something.  Whatevs, he’ll have had it coming.

Brandon: Wait, if you’ve killed me, how are you on death row? The deal is, you kill me, and then Danica kills you. 

Anyway, I’m probably there because of shyster bullshit speculator is trying to tell me the grade of a comic is wrong (when I know how meticulous our grader is) or that they demand (DEMAND!) a discount on product because they come here all the time (they maybe came in once, years ago) and they are buying so much stuff ($5 worth of product) and what do you mean you can’t give me 50% off? Anyway, I’ll get caught dragging a body out into the dumpster. And my last meal would probably be the most decadent steak that I can possibly imagine. Also: mashed potatoes, and homemade apple pie.

———-

Brit continues: What are your three favourite smells?

James: Believe it or not, I have actually spent a surprising amount of time thinking about this question just in case someone, somewhere, asked me it.

1. The ocean – My entire life, I’ve loved the ocean.  As a kid, that was my favourite part of several family vacations.  It might be because I was born and raised in a landlocked province, but the ocean has always seemed almost mystical to me, with its shifting face, seemingly endless scope, beautiful colours and, of course, the smell.  The salty tang of the ocean is one of my favourite smells in the world, and every time I’m close enough to smell it is a good day.  None of that tropical or sub-tropical ocean smell, either; give me the cold, Canadian shorelines any day.

2. Freshly cut grass – Despite the fact that I used to hate mowing the lawn with a passion, the smell when it’s done is marvelous; it practically smells like sunshine.  More specifically, I love freshly cut grass when it’s part of the overall experience of playing baseball, when it mixes with the smells of dust from the infield and the leather of the gloves.  If cut grass smells like sunshine, when it’s with those other smells, that’s the best way to describe the smell of summer overall.

3. This one is actually a little harder than the other two, because it’s invariably the food-related choice, and the problem is just that there are so many smells that are amazing.  Pork (be it of the Boston Butt or bacon variety) as it cooks and renders.  Buttered popcorn.  Raw onions.  However, ultimately, I narrowed it down to two: garlic and baking bread, and while I love everything garlic – a friend and I are going to go to a garlic-themed restaurant called That’s Aroma next week – I think I have to give it to bread.  Garlic is amazing, and it’s one of those miraculous everyday smells, but there’s something so comforting about the smell of bread while it’s baking that is burned onto the deepest parts of my brain, and has been ever since I was a kid.  So sorry garlic, you’ve been bumped.

Brandon: Old books (or books in general), my Granny’s roast beef (and Yorkshire pudding) and the linger scents of a certain someone. I’ll let James and Danica fight amongst themselves.

———-

Ryan (@rocketmunkey) asks: Why are farts so funny?

James: Because the core of comedy is the surprise and subversion, exemplified by a really good punchline, and flatulence – at least when it’s funny – is something that comes out as a surprise.  It interrupts something else and changes the flow of a conversation or situation, and that’s where the humour comes in.  It’s a beat and a rest.  This is the reason why continued farting is a matter of diminishing returns, too: one fart is funny, but six are just rude.  It’s possible for the situation itself to keep multiple farts funny, if it creates the question of, “That’s gotta be the last one, right?”, but ultimately it’s just gonna get less and less funny, like a gag in Family Guy.  Length eventually just becomes boredom.  

Worse, continued farting is just kinda disgusting.  Farts generally have to be heard to be funny – it’s the sound more than anything that brings the humour because it’s the benignly disruptive part.  A silent fart that people only smell is, again, just kinda disgusting because it smells bad.  It’s the downside without any of the good part.

It’s the same reason why people hate that guy that just farts on purpose because it’s funny.  There’s no accident, no surprise.  The guy – let’s just call him Jim Belushi – is doing it to be funny, and there’s no tension or surprise to it.  His consistent appeals that what he’s doing is funny just become grating, and ultimately you’d much rather hang out with his brother anyway.

Brandon: Because the comic shop owner thinks they are funny and a happy boss makes for a stressless Brandon.

———-

Jordan (@thejblackburn) asks: What is your favourite colour?

James: I genuinely can’t pick.  I like forest green.  I like Cubby Blue.  I also really love pink and purple.  Let’s say that dark blue-green of the ocean.

Brandon: Tardis blue.

———-

Jordan continues: What is the wind speed velocity of a swallow?

James: That all depends on what they’re doing.  Swallows usually forage at around 30–40 km/h, which makes sense when you consider that they’re actively looking for something, which necessitates they slow down a bit.  When traveling, however, where the need for speed is greater, although they can reach speeds of between 50–65 km/h.

No, I’m not converting that to Imperial.

Brandon: The swallow always reminds me that birds would straight up die if they ever had to survive in space, because of swallowing and such. Also, because it’s space. Anyway, I want space birds. Can someone get on that for me please?

———-

Other Ryan (@bakpakit) asks: What would you do if we just suddenly stopped asking questions?

James: We’d probably start bickering about whose fault it was.  It would start off joking, but it would gradually get more and more serious, until we were actually saying hurtful things extrapolated from our respective outputs on the internet, culminating in the end of our friendship and the splitting of C!TB down the middle.

Or we’d just make stuff up.

Brandon: It’s more likely that we would start bickering about whose fault it is, but then somewhere in the argument, start blaming ourselves before agreeing that the world would be better off without either of us. Then, it’s time for gun sandwiches!

Don’t ever stop asking us things please.

———-

Ryan continues: peppermint or spearmint? Gel or paste? Crest or Aquafresh? I’m brushing my teeth.

James: First, you know there are other brands, right?  Maybe some of us are down with the Colgate or Arm & Hammer of Sensodyne!  How insensitive of you, something I’m sad to say I expect from a Yankees-loving dog.

Spearmint is, quite simply, a better flavour than peppermint.  Visually, nothing beats the look of the Aquafresh triple stripe, and gel is definitely better than paste because it’s less chalky and leaves less of a weird residue.  However, I actually use Sensodyne with extra Fluoride, as per my dentist’s suggestion, due to my sensitive teeth.

You dick.

Brandon: Hey, did anyone else get packets of fluoride when they were in grade one and two? Did you have to swish it around in your mouth for something like a whole minute before spitting it out? Were the packages labelled “Tutti Frutti” and tasted terrible and sometimes you would end up spitting up a little bit if you were feeling sick? Was this just a Central Alberta thing. Was… was it a drug thing?

———-

Ryan goes on: I’m new to the character of Deadman. If he’s a ghost who can’t touch people, when he “fights” what exactly does he do?

James: I don’t know a lot about the character either, but from what I’ve seen, there are two basic options:

1. He just takes over a body and fights with that one.

2. His spectral self fights on the astral plane.

The first option is also how he has sex, and I’m not lying when I say that’s actually something that came up in the New 52, because of course it did.

Brandon: Oh dear. I guess I didn’t read that far into his story arc. Buh.

———-

Ryan finishes: Which ghost would scare you the most if you met them in real life? Casper, Slimer or the Yoda ghost from ROTJ?

James: First off, Yoda is basically off the table entirely because (a) he’s not really a ghost, he’s a force ghost, just to head off that complaint from Star Wars fans, and (2) he’s completely benevolent.  What’s the worst thing he would do, be cryptically nice to me?

Casper is a little more scary, because he’s the lonely ghost of a boy and that’s something kind of terrifying, but it would mostly just make you existentially sad.  Unless Casper is actually the ghost of one of those creepy kids who pulled wings off flies, he’s not really scary.

That brings us to Slimer.  Of course, first, you have to ignore the version from the animated The Real Ghostbusters off the table because he was a bumbling sidekick and that made him significantly less  impactful than he was in his first appearance in the original Ghostbusters movie.  In that movie, while disgusting, he was also scary.  He didn’t talk, he didn’t really communicate even, and he was basically a gibbering ball of goo with a giant mouth, and as a kid, that was scary as all hell.  Unlike the other two, he wasn’t a friend; he was an enemy.  The cartoon’s fault with handling the character was that they tried to make him into the character Tyler Labine would play over and over again starting almost a decade later, and it diminished what was a surprisingly scary character for a family movie.

Brandon: Casper was my comic book gateway drug, by the way. Swank as hell.

———-

Scott (@scottowilliams) asks: Who do you play as in Mario Kart?

James: That actually depends on the version of the game in question.  Generally, I prefer light or middleweight characters, due to their good acceleration, which means they don’t slow down too much when they go off-road.  Different games have played slightly differently with the customization abilities, which can mediate some of the drivers’ inherent weaknesses; I tend to try and maximize acceleration, drifting and steering, with some attention paid to speed and little to weight.  In Mario Kart 7, which differentiates between Speedy and Lightweight carts, I prefer Lightweight ones because they handle well.

This suits my driving style; I try to use high acceleration to get ahead and use items & evasion to defend myself, making up for my lack of a high top speed by taking turns tightly and well, and if I get knocked out of off-road by a heavier cart – a reality due to my low weight – I can catch up quickly.  As a result, I tend to play characters like Daisy and Peach, who are light enough to get a lot of benefits and who handle and drift very well, but who don’t have the extreme downsides of lighter characters like Yoshi, Toad or Koopa.  

In the odd man out in the series, Double Dash, which requires you to pick two racers, I’ll either pick Daisy & Peach, Koopa & Paratroopa, or a combination of the two – Daisy and Peach are characterized as Medium characters in it, so I might go with the other two because they fit my driving style the best, go with a mix of the two or just pick a cart for Peach and Daisy that gives them some good acceleration, like the Bloom Coach.

I am still trying to figure out my favourite combination of character, kart, wheels & glider in Mario Kart 7.

Brandon: I haven’t really done a lot of Mario Cart – I just barely owned a Super Nintendo (it was given to me right around the time the N64 came out) and I haven’t owned a Nintendo console since then. But I remember playing as Mario a lot? And maybe Donkey Kong? I honestly can’t remember.

———-

Scott continues: Who do you play as in Street Fighter?

James: Since I refuse to play an iteration in the series that isn’t a version of Street Fighter 2, I’m gonna limit my choices to those, partly for simplicity, partly for knowledge and mostly because I don’t want to try and figure out the Alpha series.  I tend to play fighting games the same way that I play Mario Kart games, albeit with much less proficiency: I favour fast characters, which means Chun-Li.  While she can certainly get knocked around quickly if you give an opponent the chance, she’s fast and I always liked frustrating my opponents by unleashing a Lightning Kick when they didn’t expect it.

Brandon: Oh shit, these are all going to be video game questions aren’t they? I don’t… I haven’t really ever played ‘em you guys. So I think when I was 7 or 8 and was at the neighbour’s house, I played as the dude with the long arms, because I was 7 or 8?

———-

Scott finishes the topic: Who do you play as in Smash Bros.?

James: I like playing as my favourite video game character ever, Link, but since he’s also the most popular character to play as, I usually go for someone else.  Plus, despite the fact that I love his character, I’m just not very good with him, and that’s saying something for a series that values chaos above almost everything else.

If I choose to embrace the chaos in the game, I play as Pikachu and play mostly just to disrupt everyone else with electrical attacks and speed.  However, my favourite characters to actually play as, and the ones I’m probably best at, are Zelda/Sheik and Samus.  I like playing as Samus because she has great ranged attacks and her Morph Ball ability means she’s great at evading.  Zelda/Sheik are easily my very favourite characters, due to their excellent defensive play, be it Sheik’s chain attacks that can neutralize opponents’ projectiles, Zelda’s ability to reflect attacks pr both’s ability to transport themselves elsewhere.  They have some great offensive moves, Sheik is fast as balls and you get two different movesets with the same selection.  Sheik’s speed generally means I play more time as her, but Zelda isn’t a slouch, either.

You might have noticed: I like playing female characters.  It’s hard to articulate exactly why.  It’s not the idea of looking at eye candy – I’m certainly uncomfortable with a lot of representations of women in video games – but much more the fact that I just feel more comfortable playing a female avatar.  There’s an uncomfortably gritty brand of masculinity that is pervasive in video games, and since that couldn’t be farther from my own personality in real life, it’s hard for me to identify with those characters.  I tend to think male characters just look and sound like assholes, and instead empathize with well-made female characters more easily, especially in games where their more traditionally feminine characteristics (which I often share) are balanced with the game’s need to make them more offense-minded and the ability to use them to win, negating any potential damsel-in-distress nature.  They just feel more similar to who I am, and I like them better.

Brandon: I dunno Scott. Someone without AIDS.

———-

Scott goes on: What are your favourite comic-related TV shows or cartoons?

James: For Marvel characters, I’ve always loved the 1966-67 animated Spider-Man series, due to its style, catchy theme and complete and utter insanity.  There have been some good Spidey series since, but that was the first one I saw and, maybe even more than the comics, they formed my idea of the character as a hero with real problems who was also really funny.

However, I think DC characters have generally had the better go of it with TV series.  A big part of this, of course, is Batman 1966, still the greatest live action Batman to this day, with its campiness and fun that was played totally straight-faced.  They also made the DC Animated Universe, starting with Batman: The Animated Series, which is an incredible example of a fictional universe that existed and persisted between many shows, combining a similar visual aesthetic to great writing and a good understanding of what characters work.  Hell, they even managed to make a version of Batman that wasn’t Bruce Wayne with Batman Beyond and still have it be incredible.  Out of all of those, Batman: The Animated Series is probably my favourite, both for being my first introduction to an animated Batman and also for how it was a children’s series that was mature and treated the audience like it; it still works to this day with an adult audience (owning the entire DCAU except for Superman: The Animated Series, I can attest), but the reason I developed my love for it was because it didn’t talk down to me.  It knew I could handle humour, sadness and darkness, and it was all the better for it.

Together, B:TAS and Batman 1966 showcase what is so great about the character of Batman: his flexibility.  He can be a cartoon with serious themes, or he can be campy and ridiculous.  Neither is more valid an interpretation, but together, they’re a testament to the ability of the character to adapt to whatever the need is and, in the end, to the power of imagination and creativity.

Brandon: The two Batman series’ are pretty good – but for pure nostalgia reasons (and not quality reasons), I’m going with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. That was my jam when I was a kid, and I still love those characters to this day.

———-

Scott sputters: Was I late on these?

James: I just assumed you were busy taking your complicated regime of medications for your AIDS.

Brandon: Scott, stay away from teachers with paedophile moustaches. They will give you GR-AIDS.

———-

That’s it for the twenty-seventh installment of Um, Actually!  Check in every Thursday for a new batch of questions.  If you have anything you’d like answered, hit up our Contact page!  If you submit anything via Twitter – to @blogaboutcomics@leask or @soupytoasterson – remember to include the hashtag #UMACTUALLY so that we don’t lose it.  Remember: you can ask us anything.

Not Rory: Doctor Who, Series 7, Episode 4

Because cubes have three sides right

[Ed. Note: After the success of Speed Me Deadly, our weekly Breaking Bad recap series, we're pleased to welcome our friend and colleague Scott "Famous Inker" Williams on-board to talk about Doctor Who.  As always, there are spoilers abound in these articles and you should watch the episode in question before reading beyond the header.  Geronimo etc!]

Doctor Who, Episode 704 – The Power of Three

I think we’ve all been waiting for the “Amy & Rory” episode. Since before the season began, with the Pond Life shorts, there’s been a definite subtle examination of their relationship, and their relationship with the Doctor. It was most overt in “Asylum of the Daleks,” which dealt with their reconciliation. There were much-discussed asides in both “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship ” and “A Town Called Mercy,” about the changing dynamic between the Ponds and the Doctor, but I didn’t discuss them much because I wanted to see where they were headed. The Doctor has managed to hold onto the Ponds longer than Rose, Martha or Donna, and they’ve been the first companions since the reboot who aren’t constantly traveling in the TARDIS. As we know, they now have their own place in Leadworth, where they spend long spans of time between outings with the Doctor. Rory’s still a nurse, and Amy has retired from modelling to write travel articles (she’s certainly qualified.) They find themselves making commitments months in advance for the first time in their lives, and wonder if it’s a sign that their time with the Doctor is nearing its end. Then stuff happens.

Little black cubes appear all over the world, obviously extraterrestrial in origin. Aside from being unsettling, they don’t seem to do anything malicious, but the Doctor just knows there’s something wrong about them. He just can’t seem to figure out what. Personally, I think the cubes are one of the coolest and strangest “threats” or bits of alien technology I’ve seen because they really do just seem wrong, and yet like something you could get used to and eventually forget about. They pose a mystery and the joy of the episode is watching the Doctor in his efforts to observe them. See, they don’t do anything, at all, they appear to just really be cubes, but the Doctor is confident that if they stay patient, and watch long enough, something will happen. Something will change about them. The problem is, that’s just not how the Doctor works. For the Doctor, sitting and keeping watch over a little black cube is just absolutely torturous. The episode has elements of “The Lodger,” the first time we saw this Doctor confront linear time and human life. Here, it serves to highlight the growing rift between the Ponds and the Doctor. “We have jobs,” Rory says when the Doctor balks at the idea they might want to stay, “They’re important to us.”

Eventually, the boredom proves too much to the Doctor, and he leaves the cube-watching in the capable hands of Rory’s dad Brian, who is perfectly happy to sit still tending to a cube, keeping camcorder footage of it while he sleeps. I’m glad we got to see Brian again, he brings a certain level-headedness to the proceedings, and he represents the argument that the sooner Rory and Amy part with the Doctor, the better. “What happened to the others who traveled with you?” he asks. Thinking of Rose, Martha and Donna, you can see the guilt on the Doctor’s face, which is great from Matt Smith since he wasn’t even the Doctor then.

The Doctor himself has a perfect rebuttal, later in the episode, when he tells Amy that he’s not running from anything, he’s running to everything, that the universe is never done, always changing, creating and destroying, and he wants to be there for all of it. It’s such a perfect rebuttal that one wonders if he’s crafted it to convince himself as much as Amy. For what it’s worth, I was sold on it. In any case, this is the perfect crisis to highlight that debate, because it’s not happening on a far off setting, it’s happening in the Ponds’ backyard, and to everyone they care about, and over a very long span of time. It tests everything about the Doctor’s whole relationship with them. Last week opened the question of what the Doctor might be without his companions. This week it flips around, and shows why the companions might keep going along with the Doctor (the answer is not that shocking: the universe of Doctor Who is an amazing place full of awesome, if dangerous, stuff.)

Back to the cubes, whose presence is mainly the backdrop of the episode, which unfolds over a year or while where they’re just there. Aiding the Doctor in this mystery is the new Head of Science for UNIT, who return to the show shifting more toward test tubes and away from guns. This is a rare Earth Invasion story for the Moffat/Eleven years, so it’s good they worked UNIT in, in a way that didn’t obstruct the story too much, and there’s a fairly intriguing new character in Kate Stewart, daughter of the late Brigadier, who is nudging the organization from its paramilitary ways more toward science. It was always kinda  lame when they’d show up, shoot at everything, then get scolded by the Doctor.

The resolution to the cube story is almost an afterthought. Suddenly they all activate, performing a strange variety of actions from shooting fire to taking blood samples to playing the Chicken Dance on a loop. Then at last, they stop the hearts of about 1/3 of the population. It turns out they were designed as a sort of poison pellet by the Shakri, an alien race of exterminators who seek to end the human infestation before it spreads to the stars, and the Doctor has to reverse the effect and send the Shakri away in the last act. I could see people being dissatisfied with the resolution coming very quickly and hurriedly, but the episode goes to fairly great lengths to show it’s not really about the cubes themselves, but what they represent in the life of the Ponds and the Doctor, that growing rift. Truth be told, this is shaping up to be one of the best runs of episodes in the show’s history, each of them offering a sterling example of some different aspect of what the show can be. Here we get a somewhat inventively-told story that reveals a new side to our characters’ lives and world, so if it’s a problem that “the bad guy” gets beaten in like 5 minutes, well, they’re fighting the Weeping Angels next week, you’ll probably like that one better. It looks pretty awesome.

Podcast! The Comics, Episode 39 – Hyper-Sexualized Toddler

We're trouble.

I swear, if you put down the phone and stop dialling the cops, this episode title will make sense soon.  We’re not perverts… well, that kind, at least.

This episode is brought to you by Wizard’s Comics, home of the best deal on comics in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  Check out their website for a list of the week’s new releases and information on upcoming Magic, The Gathering tournaments, and watch their Twitter account for news and announcements about the shop and its wares.

Episode 39 – Hyper-Sexualized Toddler

This week, the boys get right into it by talking about a movie they saw an advance screening of and really enjoyed, Looper.  In fact, they get into it so quickly that James forgets all about mentioning the show’s sponsor.  After talking about Looper – and Brandon’s accidental sexual harassment of a coworker – they get into two new TV series that started this week, Ben & Kate and The Mindy Project.  Finally, they talk about comics they liked and whether or not Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige actually disrespected Jack Kirby in a recent interview.

Hint: people are getting upset at the wrong thing… again.

Download the episode here or subscribe through iTunes.  If you want to subscribe the old-fashioned way, insert the following text into your audio program of choice (in iTunes, click “Advanced,” then click “Subscribe to Podcast”):

http://comicstheblog.libsyn.com/rss

You can also find all the episodes to date on Libsyn’s site here.

As always, check us out on on Twitter at @blogaboutcomics@leask & @soupytoasterson!

You Read These With Your Eyes! | September 26th, 2012

 

Every week, Comics! The Blog goes through the list of new releases and we tell you which comics to plug into your mind hole. Your mileage may vary.

BATMAN INCORPORATED #0 (DC Comics)

Blanket initiatives often beget strange tie-ins, and that is especially true with this issue of Batman Incorporated. While the rest of the DC Zero issues are concerning themselves with untold origins, the beginnings of Batman Inc. Have been diligently chronicled in the series’ first volume. So what does this issue have in store? That’s hard to say, but from what regular series artist Chris Burnham has said in various interviews, he’s co-plotting this issue, and Frazer Irving is handling the art chores as several Incorporated operatives get explored once more.

HAPPY! #1 (Image Comics)

Speaking of strange Grant Morrison books that no one is quite sure about, this weeks sees the first issue of Happy! hit the stands – Grant’s strange tale about a hit-man, a giant blue horse bird, and an evil Satan Claus? Information about this book is woefully (and deliberately) sparse as both Morrison and series artist Darick Robertson have been insisting that the book be read rather than teased in order to achieve the full effect. No matter what, it’s going to be strange.

HIGHER EARTH #5 (Boom! Studios)

The second act of Higher Earth kicks off here with a special origin story by Sam Humphries and special guest artist, Joe Eisma (you know, the guy what draws Morning Glories).

The new issue of Previews will relate to you some distressing news: this book is not long for the world. Everything will be wrapping up with January’s issue 9 – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go out this week and demand your shop get you this issue. It’s a perfect jumping on point, and even if the series has to end, any kind of spike in interest near the end will at least have a positive effect on SHUMPHRIES projects getting picked up in the future. (Seriously, how the hell did you miss out on buying this book?)

MIND THE GAP #5 (Image Comics)

And continuing our brief theme of guest artists, we have quite the doozy on tap for this week’s Mind the Gap. This supernatural attempted murder mystery continues this week with art by Runaways co-creator Adrian Alphona, with a variant cover from Runaways cover artist Jo Chen. That right there should be more than enough to pique your interest. Buuuut, as an added bonus, you’ll also get a great story from Jim McCann, who has been weaving quite a tale in this sudsy book. It’s a bit like The OC meets supernatural comas, which I’ve discovered is a thing that I’ll enjoy. You’ll probably enjoy it too.

LP (Self Published)

Guys and gals, we’re gonna tweak you onto a new, awesome book this week that you’re going to have to do a bit of extra work to find. LP is another one of those Our Love is Real / Sacrifice type experiments, where the creative team just slaps together a book and sends it out to the direct market all by their lonesome. No Diamond, no sales reps… just them, a self published book, and a pocket full of dreams

This one shot by Curt Pires and Ramon Villalobos is a strange beast. It takes themes from Phonogram and marries it with the sensibilities of Hobo with a Shotgun, while maintaining a more mystical, serious tone. The writing is great and the art is remenicent of Rafael Grampá and Geoff Darrow, which is a joy to see. You’ll be able to find it at select stories (including the shop I manage, Wizard’s Comics and Collectibles), or you can hit up Curt himself at his site. You’ll be glad you did.

These are five of the many great books being released this week! You can find the full list of comics being released here. If you have any other recommendations, let us know in the comments below.

How to Make Comics by Someone Who Doesn’t: Marvel’s New 52 (Part Three)

[Part One] | [Part Two]

[Ed. Note: Last week, Brandon began a decent into madness with an attempt to emulate an extensive line-up change at Marvel Comics. This week, guest contributor Devin R. Bruce joins in the madness as a prelude to putting the finalized line together! What follows are his pitches for the new books.]

Hey boss, I know I’m the new guy on the block and it’s been a while since I followed Marvel continuity with religious fervor, but I’ve been brainstorming a lot lately and I’ve come up with a number of pitches and ideas. I want to focus on revitalizing older titles and characters, and establishing new concepts and themes that have been missing from the Marvel Universe over the past ten years or so. I’ll leave most of the creative team suggestions to those with more experience in these matters. I’m concerned more with the broad strokes and making a Marvel Universe that is global and cohesive, as well as tying into and expanding on the films and other properties. (And let’s be fair: a few of my suggestions just float my personal boat, but you’ll know those when I come to them.)

AVENGERS TITLES

AVENGERS - Honestly, I know there was a push to make the Avengers title “all the popular characters plus Luke Cage and Spider-Woman,” but if we want to have a cohesive universe across media, we should just make this the movie team. At least at first. Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Hulk, and tactical support from Maria Hill. A national or global Avengers, with the sanction of SHIELD.

NEW AVENGERS - Here’s where we can play with the roster a bit. Heroes A combination of the “old” New Avengers and some people who have never been Avengers but should be. I think it would be fun to have the teme comprised of Wolverine, Spider-Man, Thing, Iceman, Namora, Daredevil, and a couple more. Basically a New York City Avengers, not SHIELD-sanctioned but still “allowed” to use The Avengers name.

YOUNG AVENGERS - Graduates from Avengers Academy plus some new people. (Amadeus Cho, Power Man.)

UNCANNY AVENGERS - I had a brainstorm for this team: an all-mutant Avengers. Quicksilver & Scarlet Witch should be on it, as they’re the first mutant Avengers. Plus undervalued X-Men that need their place to shine. I would love for Havok to be the leader of the team, butting heads with Quicksilver (who of course thinks he should be the leader), but who else? Maybe Colossus? And a new Captain character, not US Agent but a guy who’s got a shield and a Cap-like suit, but also a gun and some clearly mutant powers. There’s a secret to his identity, nobody knows who he is. That could be the mystery of the new series. (I would LOVE it if it could be Cable or Bishop, but that’s just me being insane again.)

WEST COAST AVENGERS - A title that needs re-imagining. Not Avengers rejects, but a powerful team in its own right. If we have New Avengers in NYC and the rest of the Eastern Seaboard, then I think we need West Coast. But not in Los Angeles. In Seattle. Because that’s a different take. And then what’s the team? My take is for a combination of old and new: War Machine/Iron Man 2.0, Beast, Cloak & Dagger, Patriot, Spider-Woman (Arachne/Arana version), and maybe a couple more popular but underused characters. Plus, I really like the idea of reforming a villain for this team. It’s an Avengers tradition (Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, Wonder Man, Black Knight, etc.). But who could it be? I honestly think it would be awesome to have The Absorbing Man. Set him up as the Thor of the West Coast Avengers, and you KNOW the rest of the Wrecking Crew would hate it. Not to mention Thor. I’ve always liked The Absorbing Man as a character, and turning him from a vicious bully to a hero who has to keep fighting to earn his place, and someone with the potentially unstoppable powers like Crusher Creel? With people like Rhodey and Beast as mentors? Crazy potential there. But that might just be the crazy pills talking.

SECRET AVENGERS - Black Ops Avengers. Under the SHIELD umbrella but with plausible deniability. Every time I come up with characters for this it ends up turning into some weird amalgamation of The Defenders and The Champions and becomes a book that is literally just for me to read. So maybe solicit pitches.

CAPTAIN AMERICA - Embrace the Brubaker feel without being beholden to it. Find someone who’s got an honest to god vision for the character as opposed to work for hire. This guy’s over sixty years old, he deserves someone who has love for him. A thought: he’s still essentially just a guy in armor with a shield. What if his issue is that he’s having trouble keeping up with the new technology? Have Stark or someone make him a few gadgets? Not to make a Cap Armor or anything, but a couple of extra enhancements to help him keep up? Or perhaps set him up with a massive problem that he needs an eye in the sky for? A Brother Eye to Cap’s OMAC, which as we all know was originally a Cap pitch.

IRON MAN, HULK, THOR, BLACK WIDOW, HAWKEYE -  I honestly have very few suggestions other than they obviously need their own series.

WINTER SOLDIER - Could easily be a watered-down version of a Captain America story (similar villains, similar characters on the surface). Find someone who knows what makes him tick, give him the keys to the car, and tell him not to do anything you wouldn’t do.

CAPTAIN MARVEL - Ms. Marvel as Captain Marvel. They’ve already started on it and I love it so far. Keep it exactly as is.

THE INCREDIBLE ANT-MAN - Here’s my actual solo Avenger pitch. Give Hank Pym some love. The movie’s been rumoured to be in development for a while, and it would be good if we had a series with a couple of trades out by the time it hit the theaters. Give him world-spanning science adventures in the style of The All-New Atom but less wacky and more interpersonal and moral struggles. Being a scientist-for-hire/on-call. Hickman-like Future Foundation concepts on a small scale. Would he be available?

Total: 15

X-MEN TITLES

UNCANNY X-MEN, WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN, X-FORCE, DEADPOOL, WOLVERINE – My current X-Men knowledge is limited to “I think Wolverine is a headmaster now and Remender’s Uncanny X-Force is mind-blowingly good.” So I am not the person to give suggestions on these titles.

X-FACTOR - I know it’s a boutique book for Peter David that doesn’t necessarily sell well, but it should stick around.. First of all, It’s too good to cancel. Second of all, if it makes PAD happy to write it then we keep him in the Marvel family and have him write another title or two if we find something he would be good on and he’d have the time for.

NEW MUTANTS – They’re literally the New Mutants, ones who don’t fit in with the X-Men, Uncanny Avengers, Hellfire Club, Brotherhood, or anywhere else. They want to be their own thing. Get someone with a good handle on youth issues and culture, and let them mess around with the Marvel Mutant paints. I personally have been wondering where “the new Runaways” is going to come from, and I honestly think this could be it.

Total: 22

SPIDER-MAN TITLES

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN - It’s Amazing Spider-Man, for Pete’s sake (pun intended). It’s a title that resonates with Marvel and it’s the title of the new movie. Now, the film may have gotten mixed reviews but was generally well-liked by the youth market. If we can keep it on a biweekly schedule then it’s like having two Spider-Man books a month, and with Spidey in New Avengers and in another book coming up, that’s a new Spider-Man book every month. That’s just good business.

Then, your idea was to have three Spider-Man-related books, and here are my ideas for them.

SM1 – Venom is a smart smart book that I would like to keep. A different take on the character and a nice “crack’d mirror” version of Spider-Man. I like the counterpoint.

SM2 – Spider-Woman. I don’t actually like Jessica Drew but I honestly think we need to have a female character at the helm of a Spider-book and she’s the first one to come to mind.

SM3 – Avenging Spider-Man. Honestly, Spider-Man team-up books work well, and with Spidey on the Avengers this is a nice way to tie Spidey a little tighter into the Avengers. I honestly would have wanted to call this Marvel Team-Up, but I won’t (for reasons you’ll see later). Keep the crossovers with his superhero buddies here, and keep ASM for more self-contained stories (with occasional guest stars but limited).

Total: 26

NEW YORK TITLES

FANTASTIC FOUR - Cut it back down to the big four and their two kids. Crazy intergalactic interdimensional adventures, of any storyline length: one-shots, three-parters, six-parters. And find someone who’s not afraid to make changes, not to the team composition, but to the team members. I feel that the Fantastic Four is the best when things happen that actually stick around and last, and if you can find a creative team who gets that you’ll have a flagship book where you least expect it. Fraction has that kind of thinking process, so that would be fun.

FF - Crazy science adventures. It would be fun to have Fraction on this as well, as I like his take on Crazy Science Adventures (Casanova, Five Fists of Science). And then give him someone who can draw zany action and create amazing visuals to go along with the amazing story. Mike Allred? Nah, there’s no way we could get him. But someone like him, maybe.

DAREDEVIL - Pay Mark Waid anything he wants to keep him on this book.

PUNISHER - Ditto but replace “Mark Waid” with “Greg Rucka.”

Total: 30

And now, we tie in my other “Big Concepts” for the new Marvel Universe, in the section that I like to call SWINGING FOR THE FENCES.

1. “ANTHOLOGIES.” We have a lot of characters and a lot of potential, but as much as every character is somebody’s favourite, we can’t give everyone their own title. And I know anthologies haven’t traditionally sold well in the past, but I think these three have good twists.

MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS - The concept for this is: an ongoing that isn’t an ongoing, an anthology that isn’t an anthology. Almost more of an imprint instead of a title. Have a rotating crew of creators and characters. Every month or two there’s a new MCP. Start off with big name creators doing 2-issue series, maybe three but no longer. Then one-shots. Then a four-issue miniseries. A boutique book for the people we want to let their brains go hog-wild on, upcoming talent we want to see work on something big but not quite give over the reins of one of the big titles, or characters we know can’t sell books on their own but might develop interest in a one-shot. This is where we can have Matt Fraction and Paul Pelletier on Marvel Comics Presents: Captain America and The Falcon, or Rafael Grampa on Marvel Comics Presents: The Deadly Fists of Shiang-Chi. Plus, this is an opportunity to invite creators from all across the publishing and art spheres to pitch to us their favourite untold stories about their favourite characters. Guys and girls who can’t commit to an ongoing series but wouldn’t have any problems writing what amounts to an inventory story, and then pushing the SHIT out of it to the general public. Imagine: Stephen King writing Marvel Comics Presents: Man-Thing. Chuck Klosterman writing Marvel Comics Presents: The Fantastic Four. Alice Sebold writing Marvel Comics Presents: Clea and Dr. Strange. Authors who would publicize their first comics work on their own, get the titles some serious placement in bookstores, and use their own social media accounts to push the digital sales. It sounds like a gamble, but with the right editor and talent behind it, it could be a financial and creative gold mine.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE - The Thing is one of the most popular characters in the marvel universe. He’s had his own ongoing series before, but they always fail, and I think that’s because he works better as part of a duo or trio than on his own. And you know what? Marvel Two-In-One went 100 issues back in the day. It could do at least 25 now. Team Ben Grimm up with literally anyone in the Marvel universe you want to. Far more structured than MCP: have a solid-selling creative team on the book for the first 12 issues, but they don’t have to tell an overarching story. The point is one- or two-issue adventure comics. The Thing and Spider-Man against The Frightful Four AND The Sinister Six – THE TERRIFYING TEN!. The Thing and Cloak and Dagger defending Yancey Street against a gang war! The Thing and Ant-Man searching for ancient artifacts in Egypt! The Thing and Hercules kidnapped to participate in a galaxy-spanning arm-wrestling contest! The Thing and…you get the idea.

INVADERS - I am thinking old-school Invaders because it’s just fun, dammit! There are a lot of inventive, interesting WWII stories that we could create for the Marvel Universe, but there are two twists that I think would make it different enough from previous takes and interesting enough to a wide range of characters. First, I want the first year of the book to have no Zemo, no Red Skull, and no Hydra. New villains, new WWII ideas: make this book that is set sixty years ago feel brand new and exciting. Second, it’s not the Invaders as a team, but as individuals or duos. Namor, Cap and Bucky, The Torch, Union Jack, and a couple of new characters that we may be introducing for the first time. A couple of team-ups here and there, but it’s more interesting to do smaller stories about individual fights, and less about BANG SLAM action and more about human stories. They don’t become a team until at least 8-12 issues in. When they have to face a huge threat. Who’s the threat? That’s for the writers to come up with.

Total: 33

2. INTERNATIONAL. One of the things I think has a lot of storytelling and commercial potential is a more international flavour for the new Marvel Universe. It’s a bit of a gamble to be sure, but if you get some established titles and characters tied in with a couple of more far-out concepts, and really put some solid talent behind them, it could really ground the concept of these characters having impact on a “real world.” I don’t want to give every country or continent their own version of The Avengers, though, as we already have a TON of Avengers books, and the main Avengers team could deal with American interests in global threats as well. This just draws some broad strokes across the world, without tying everything up in a neat little bow.

NICK FURY, AGENT OF SHIELD - With Nick Fury, Jr. in the Super-Soldier shirt. We want an espionage book that’s set in the Marvel universe but more straight-ahead spy action, with him teaming up with the “enhanced human” heroes more than the incredible superpowers. And a globe-trotting super-spy ties in with my concept of a Marvel Universe instead of just a Marvel United States of America. Think The Bourne Identity with a nod to the Steranko and Bond roots. Exotic adventures in Europe, Asia, and South America, as well as some domestic terrorism here. Allows for the introduction of new characters in those locations, kind of like Alpha Flight was introduced in Uncanny X-Men back in the day.

BLACK PANTHER - Another character who needs to be a bigger player in the Marvel Universe; his books sell okay and this could definitely be a kind of “boutique” book, but bill it as a thinking man’s super-hero. Put a little bit of businessman into T’Challa: he can no longer say that Wakanda’s never been successfully invaded, and he realizes (as the entire Marvel publishing line will, I hope) that isolation isn’t the deal any more. He’s the ruler by birth but his sister’s the current ruler, so he can go out and do his Black Panther business without affecting Wakanda’s international reputation. He’s got to branch out and create connections. I think he & Storm may be on the outs as of the end of AvX, but if not then that will still work with his character. Have him, Storm, and the Dora Milaje, trotting around the globe, engaging in a variety of activities from corporate espionage to consulting to other superhero teams to setting up Wakandan protectorates and embassies. Black Panther and his traveling gang of Tough Action Women. This covers Africa and a bit of the Middle East (as I think Wakanda would have ties to Saudi Arabia or whatever fake country we’re using as a substitute). Plus, Panther has ties to the Fantastic Four, X-Men, and Avengers, so there are plenty of opportunities for characters from those titles to cross over into this book, either with him visiting North America on SHIELD’s request to help out the Avengers (potential crossover!) or Reed, Sue, and the family coming to visit (potential Fantastic Four crossover! Potential Two-In-One story idea with Ben and Storm!). This title has the potential to ground him in the Marvel Universe but still gives us potential to explore areas we haven’t before.

EXCALIBUR - This is a chance to re-imagine Excalibur. Hell, to re-imagine the entire concept of Great Britain. Have a fairly traditional Excalibur plus MI-13 group (Captain Britain, Meggan, Black Knight, etc.), and in the first issue they go to tackle a seemingly inane problem. Except that it’s not inane. It’s dangerous. INSANELY dangerous. It’s Morgan LeFay, and she kills at least two members of the team in the first issue, and then worms her way into the British Government. By the end of the first story arc, under Morgan LeFay’s influence Britain starts to get more exclusionary and imperial. Old-school isolationist. Not fascist, but slowly and surely more self-interested. And in this climate, Excalibur has kind of become The Authority of Great Britain. Not necessarily bad, but they’re a little more brutal and unwilling to step back from the party line. They’re being overseen by Morgan LeFay, except nobody knows it’s Morgan except for Captain Britain. And that’s when he leaves. And then (big risk) we have TWO books set in Britain. The harsh Excalibur, exacting extreme vengeance on villains who threaten the British Isles, and…

THE SWORD OF CAPTAIN BRITAIN - Spinning out of Excalibur. Captain Britain fighting to protect Britain from threats as well as trying to uncover LeFay’s conspiracy in the British Govenment. Captain Britain and a few other characters, officially Britain’s Most Wanted, fighting to protect everyone and eventually getting a people’s movement behind them. I would LOVE if Pete Wisdom and Spitfire were on Captain Britain’s team, as I think that’s a great triangle of characters to work together (in a similar way that Tina Fey likes the idea of Liz Lemon, Jack Donaghy, and Tracy Jordan as characters that align and oppose each other in endless combinations), but that depends on who survives. And Captain Britain does wield a mystical sword in this series, but is the sword of Captain Britain really Excalibur? Or something else? England’s magical background also ties in nicely with an upcoming concept that I think would make these two titles sleeper hits.

ALPHA FLIGHT - Hey, if I’m swinging for the fences, I’m going to pitch for my all-time favourite Marvel super-hero team. Don’t mess up a good thing by populating half the team with Beta Flight graduates. Go with the classics: Vindicator, Puck, Sasquatch, Shaman, Aurora an Northstar, and Marrina or Snowbird. Have one new character, a Kitty Pryde-type, to help set up the new status quo (“Welcome to Alpha Flight, Screamer – hope you survive the experience!”). And have James MacDonald Hudson as part of the team, but as the tactical support. The behind-the-scenes polititian, the Conservative Party member with the Domestic Defense portfolio. Desperate to go out and fight with the team, but understanding that his new position makes this impossible. Develop the support team into an interesting crew that we want to see more of. The secretary who has a crush on Northstar and just doesn’t get that he plays for the other team. The scientist who’s an old college roommate of Mac and Heather’s from McGill and now works with Box making new equipment and weapons. These are dumb because I’m not a writer but you know what I mean: firmly establish the people that make Department H work behind the scenes. Develop a group of rogues as well, nothing overly Canadian; I don’t want them fighting Tundra and The Living Igloo. And tie it into the greater Marvel Universe without resorting to a team-up with Spider-Man or Wolverine every other issue. But why Canada? Again? Well, with characters Wendigo and Sasquatch and Snowbird, we can establish that there’s a fairly significant mystical presence in the Great White North; not as much as in England, but still fairly significant. (Sensing a theme coming up? Wait for it.)

Total: 38

3. SPACE. We need two or three books that are space-faring and star-spanning. It’s a great part of the Marvel Universe, and it’s a no-brainer with the upcoming film developments.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY - The movie’s coming out and we need our Space Avengers. Put together a team that would mirror The Avengers. My team concept is made up of Starlord (Cap), Beta Ray Bill (Thor), Adam Warlock (Iron Man – I know, but work with me here), Groot (Hulk), Gamora (Black Widow), Drax (Hawkeye), and Cosmo (tactical support a la Maria Hill). Some of these mirrors are a little bit of a stretch, but I think this is a solid team that makes sense and has worked well in the past. As The Avengers are more of a global action force, GOTG are galaxy-spanning. We can’t have them near Earth because that’s just one small speck, but eventually there will be a threat where they have to make their stand to defend our little planet. And that’s where they’ll team up with…

NOVA - While the GOTG are looking at the entire galaxy, Nova wants to specifically protect Earth from interstellar threats. However, have him be the opposite of the 60s and early 70s Silver Surfer: he’s from Earth but can’t return. Get him set up on the moon in the Inhumans old spot. Give him a cool supporting cast: the Worldmind, some kind of cosmic armorer, tech support from Warlock (the New Mutants one), and have guys from SWORD trying to work on why he can’t come back home. if we want we can give him a few of the other Nova corps characters as a training run. The hook is the mystery that runs underneath the whole story: why can’t he return home? Who’s preventing him from doing that? And is it a punishment or is it protection?

RONAN - Ronan The Accuser as the Black Panther/Namor of space? I love his relationship with Crystal, and that’s just a fun thing to play with. With the restart of the Kree intelligence and all that in FF, it would be fun.

Total: 41

4. MAGIC. Surprise! I’ve been thinking about this concept a lot over the past few days. Marvel has had a hard time with their magic characters in the past, and I think that’s because there’s no real unifying concept of how magic works. Now, I’m not saying that we “have to explain it” but maybe if we give it a little more structure and flair then there are a lot of opportunities for stories that have generally been ignored or swept under the carpet.

STRANGE TALES - Dr. Strange and Iron Fist exploring the mystical side of the Marvel Universe. Because I don’t know about you, but to me, kung-fu and mystical energy just may be the greatest combination since chocolate and peanut butter. Not quite The Defenders, but maybe a similar thought: behind the scenes, protecting the Earth from mystical forces that most people don’t even know about. Iron Fist’s powers have gotten much more powerful, and he doesn’t know why, so he goes to Dr. Strange for advice. Strange, meanwhile, has been noticing some odd fluctiations and changes in the mystical firmament. And the two of them are thrown together to explore the changing magical environment in the Marvel Universe. They explore it as the readers do.

GHOST RIDER - Wash the stink of those movies off the character. Hard-traveling hero kind of book. Johnny Blaze riding across America doing the Incredible Hulk/Littlest Hobo thing. Have him investigates odd occurrences all over the place, trying to bind demons, investigate new areas of mystical energy, new magical characters who suddenly gain powers and don’t know how to control them, and so on. Sell it to the Supernatural fans.

JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY - Not just the Asgardian pantheon, but any god, demigod, or divinely-powered character that Marvel has. You can have Hercules, Sif, The Warriors Three, the Immortal Weapons, and so on. Can have rotating main characters but an unified idea for the group: the mystery that is at the heart of the mythological aspect of the Marvel Universe. This and the other two books could tie into a concept I have for an “event” of a different flavour, which I can get into later if you like the idea.

Total: 44

5. THE FRUSTRATING FIVE. Quirky ideas for books that I just can’t get out of my head. They could fit in a number of different categories, but I like just presenting them here and then stepping back from the table with a huge smile on my face and saying “Yeah, that’s right: I dare you to do these books.”

DOOM AND THE MASTERS OF EVIL - Always thought about trying a villain book. I honestly don’t know what the pitch would be for this, but the idea of Dr. Doom having his own ongoing series really gets me excited.

THE BLACK HAND OF ELECTRA - Electra vs. The Hand, across the world. Lots of New York City stories but also stories in Asia as well. A book chock full of ninjas, violence, sex, swords, ninjas, and ninjas. I honestly don’t have much more of an idea than that, but I have been thinking about including interesting female characters in the books, and Electra fits the bill.

THE SUPREME SHE-HULKS - And speaking of female characters, why not team up Betty and Jen? A precision strike force under the employ of SHIELD – or so they think! Mystery! Drama! Punching! Intrigue! Multicoloured ladies in inevitably torn clothes! Fun for everyone!

THUNDERBOLTS - The initial concept for Thunderbolts is kind of gone now. You can’t recapture the idea of the “villains pretending to be heroes” any more, and the Osborn and Luke Cage versions of the team have been fun, but it’s time for a change. What about The Thunderbolts as Red Hulk’s strike force? Thundra, Deadpool, and all the other guys that he teamed up with back in Hulk. And that gives us a new concept for The Thunderbolts: the guys who do what they have to and don’t feel like answering to any authority higher than Thunderbolt Ross. But is Ross really in control? Or is there a new personality creeping in the corners of The Red Hulk?

X-STATIX - Let’s take a title that polarized people and make it even more polarizing. I want Dazzler in it. And Polaris. And few newly created people. But they’re all celebrity heroes: not all mutants, a little of everything. And tie in the rise of and confusion about social media, and celebrity, and the soap opera that made the original X-Statix so great. And because of the title, everyone will expect us to kill everyone at the end of the first issue. So we don’t. And we get to the end of the first main story arc, and we still don’t kill anyone. And then two issues into the next story arc, then we kill everyone except Dazzler and one of the new characters and start all over again. Because X-Statix, is what. Unlike the last X-Statix book, though, make it look like a traditional superhero book, but give the writer free reign to satirize current cultural developments, politics, attitudes, and whatever. Basically make it look like Avengers on one level but feel like a combination of Gore Vidal and Hunter S. Thompson on another level. Don’t know if we could pull it off, but damn if it wouldn’t be fun trying.

Total: 49

Even if you get great pitches from creators for every single one of my suggestions – something that’s highly unlikely – this leaves room for three titles to cover the Ultimate Universe. I have no suggestions for that, because I don’t know or care about the Ultimate Universe. (Sorry to be brutally honest about that, but that’s part of the reason you brought me on the team.)

And there you have it. There are my 52. If you like three of them, I’ll be happy. If you like Alpha Flight, I’ll be ECSTATIC.

C!TB's Best of the Week | September 24th, 2012

Do you like comics?  Wow, what a coincidence!  We like comics!  We hoped you liked these comics too, because they were some of our favourites of last weeek:

COMICS RULE EVERYTHING AROUND ME

TWINS, BASIL… TWINS!

When it first started, I was skeptical of Greg Rucka and JH Williams III‘s new face of Detective ComicsDC‘s namesake series as Kate Kane/Batwoman took it over.  The namesake series without Batman felt off in concept, but it didn’t take long to realize what a phenomenal series it had become.  As the series (and the first Batwoman Zero Issue) gradually introduced readers to Kate Kane and snippets of her past.  When her ongoing series started with the New 52, there was clearly a gap between the end of Rucka‘s arc and the Williams/Blackman run, both chronologically and psychologically, and the series has played around some of those edges.  Until now.

With last week’s Batwoman #0, the admittedly confusing second zero issue for the series in a year and a half, readers get the clearest look into Kate Kane’s psychology that they’ve gotten so far.  To date, the character has frequently been a bit of an enigma, with her emotions evident but the reasons behind them frequently obscured.  This has very much been by design – Kate Kane stories have played with fractured storytelling and only windows into moments of Kate’s past before, painting a picture of her life but seldom crafting a linear narrative.  Artistically wonderful, but easy to understand why new readers might not twig to the fact that they’re not supposed to everything and feel confused.  After a few years of this kind of storytelling, a linear tale of Kate’s life – fitting in between the cracks of what readers already know – from her own perspective isn’t just a refreshing change of pace, but a useful one.

Batwoman #0 provides a mainline into Kate’s emotions; it’s been easy to understand why she was so frustrated and betrayed by her father’s dishonesty when she realized it at the end of “Elegy,” but Issue #0 makes it clearer than ever just how deep the cuts runs, why it was so damaging.  It’s a nice trick of Williams and W. Haden Blackman to have the issue not spend little time repeating what viewers have already seen.  They use those past scenes’ art styles to evoke their memory, but the vast bulk of the issue is new, meaning it’s useful for both old and new readers.  It’s emotional, beautiful and a great issue by itself; moving into the series’ second year, it’s nice to get a view of where Kate has been without it being a retread, and provide newer readers with something they can latch onto.  In honour of the comic’s creative team and the characters of Kate and Beth, I’m pleased to award the issue the Wonder Twins Award. (J)

IT TAKES TWO TO MAKE A THING GO RIGHT

Do you guys remember Kid n’ Play? That really has nothing to do with anything – I just think of them every time I hear “It Takes Two”. Rob Base if probably rolling in his grave. Right where I buried him.

We were pretty much conditioned to think that Spider-Men would be nothing more than a popcorn series – something light and fun, easily digested and tasty, but ultimately just empty calories. Touted as a big crossover and promoted purely on the strengths of the regular Marvel universe’s Peter Parker visiting the Ultimate universe for a short stay. Over the years, we’ve been conditioned to turn our brains off when something like this comes along, to expect big set pieces and pithy lines before a climatic battle wherein everything changes forever. Strangely enough, this series managed to transcend expectations and become something quite a bit more than what we were promised.

To be fair, the expectation of popcorn was a failure on our part. Yes, on the surface, the crossover just seems like a fun idea, designed to pull in eyes, but if you really think about what the crossover meant, you would be able to see what was lurking below the sparkling exterior, waiting to pounce. In the Ultimate universe, Peter Parker died. Imagine travelling to a new world yourself, only to discover what life would be like if you ceased to be. What would happen when you ran across friends? Family? What would they think of you? What would you think of them? Now imagine you’re a guy like Peter Parker. You’re Spider-Man, and you save people and in this world, you’re dead… and this kid, this younger-than-you-were-when-you-started kid has taken up your cause. You’d probably have a few words for this youngster wouldn’t you? After all, could you deal with someone so young putting themselves in danger following your example? The emotional stakes of this book were there right from the opening pitch, and for the most part, we all chose to ignore how rich this book would get. In fact, I would probably go so far to say that if it had been just a tights-and-fights book, we would have all been pleased enough with the results. That we got such an emotionally satisfying read was beyond expectation and yet perfectly in line with what we should have been getting. And hot damn, did we get something amazing.

In this concluding issue, after last month’s emotional Aunt May confrontation, our assembled heroes face the villain of the piece and… well, look, it’s a superhero book starring two versions of Marvel’s most popular character. It’s safe to say that the day is won, in a fashion. But again, that’s not the part of the book that hits the hardest. The biggest punches are served near the end, when Pete and Miles have their say with one another before things return to a relative calm. Its an great scene that somehow manages to straddle the line between “hilarious” and “heartfelt” with aplomb, all while providing a satisfying end for both parties. And I should say, the quality of Brian Michael Bendis’ script is matched pound for pound by the rest of the creative team present. Sara Pichelli’s art is dynamic and stunning as always, providing fluid movement and great acting when called upon. Justin Ponsor makes the fight with the story’s villain as etherial as Mysterio himself, with the appropriate tones and fogs, never getting in the way of Pichelli’s lines. And finally, Cory Petit does a wonderful job of lettering, even going so far as to change styles a bit to denote which universe the action is taking place in. Very nice work. This book and its creative team is more than deserving of our Best of Both Worlds Award. (B)

Better than alllll the rest

A year into its run, Daredevil isn’t slowing down.  Consistently one of the best series produced any and every week it’s released, the series has reached a new high point with Mark WaidChris Samnee‘s recent issues, including last week’s Issue #18.

Not really a Crip-friendly comic.

It’s truly impressive how this series, and this issue especially, juggle the different elements that Waid and his artists have been building since last year, and how it ties into Matt Murdock’s history overall.  One of the things I loved about the beginning of this series was how elegantly it threaded the needle of acknowledging Matt Murdock’s fraught past but without having him weighed down by it.  Quite to the contrary, in fact; the Matt Murdock in this series has been explicitly steering away from that darkness, consciously deciding to be positive and swashbuckling to avoid being dragged down by his past.  In general, it’s worked – and helped bring readers to the series – though early cracks have turned into gaping chasms as Matt’s life is once more torn apart by his past.

In recent issues, Matt’s friend and partner Foggy Nelson discovered the remains of Matt’s father – earlier disrupted and presumed lost by the Mole Man – in Matt’s desk drawer.  Believing it to either be a sign of Matt’s simple dishonesty or deeper psychological problems, the series has been exploring that relationship ever since.  Further, it’s started to sow its own doubts about Matt’s mental state, and never moreso than in Issue #18, when Matt’s insane ex-wife appears in his apartment, having apparently escaped from the mental hospital where she was receiving treatment.

Before, the doubts of Matt were primarily Foggy’s.  Gradually, the series has built up these doubts into something that went beyond Foggy, but Matt was always sure of his own well-being.  This issue is the first time that Matt starts to doubt himself, when the cracks spread too far for him to laugh aside, and we see him more desperate than he’s been in this volume.

All this happens by balancing several elements:

(a) The series’ past before this volume, in the form of Matt’s ex-wife;

(2) The series’ high concept: the happy, swashbuckling Matt Murdock;

(%) Early developments in the series’ plot and the initial disruptions from the status quo;

(/) Ongoing individual plot elements from arcs, from Matt’s father to his recent exploits in Latveria.

Together, this has created a series that honours the series’ legacy, welcomed new readers and built an engrossing ongoing plot that both has enough room to explore new directions but has been remarkably tightly-plotted.  Coming to a head with Issue #18, it’s hard not to recognize Daredevil for what it is under Waid and Samnee: quite probably Marvel’s best ongoing series.

This is Comics! The Blog. We now commence our broadcast week.

How to Make Comics by Someone Who Doesn't: Marvel's New 52 (Part Two)

Editing Marvel’s New 52 (Part Two):

Pitching

[Part One] | [Part Two]

You have the greatest idea for an Iron Fist book. Nobody knows who you are, but it’s a thing of beauty. You’ve been carrying it in your back pocket for years, smoothing the pitch in the comic shop, talking with buddies, throwing back beers at a pub, working through all the knots and the road blocks. You’ve somehow managed to have some face time with an editor, and he seems interested enough. They ask you what you’ve done before. You have nothing to your name. So they smile politely, and thank you for your idea, but they can’t work with it. They can’t work with you, not without proof that you can deliver on your ideas. Some people can pitch the hell out of a concept, but if there’s no follow through, if there’y no craft, it’s going to crash and burn before it ever has a chance to go. You have to make something first, and then maybe – just maybe – they’ll consider working with you on something.

Years go by. You sell work your ass off. You self publish a nice, short, high concept comic. You’re getting a bit of buzz from the internet. People are talking about you, and you have something. Maybe you sell a book to Image. It does okay. It doesn’t allow you to eat, but it’s getting your name out there, and people seem to dig what you’re doing. You think that now would be a good time to try and get your name in at one of the bigger companies. After all, you can hand them something, and they can actually see your craft in their hands. You send copies of your work to editors. You see them at a convention and ask, “Hey, my name is so-and-so, and I wrote these things” and they smile surreptitiously and say that they’ve heard of your work, but they haven’t had a chance to read any of it yet. You smile politely, and offer them a copy, which they take with them. As they go to pack, they stuff your book in with all the others they’ve received this week, all vying for their attention. What’s more: if they take everything with them, they won’t be able to fit it all in their suitcases. Some things will just have to stay behind. If you’re lucky, and you’ve made an impression, yours might be one that they keep. Even so, they might not get a chance to look at your work for months or years. Things get lost in shuffles and at the end of the day, there are always deadlines to be met, crushing ones that eat up free time like its candy. And when work is done, more often than not, an editor doesn’t want to go through and read more comics. They just spent their entire workday (plus overtime) dealing with the minutiae of it all, and they need a break. Besides, that baseball sure as hell isn’t going to watch itself, and hey, that new movie looks nice too – maybe they’ll watch it when they have some time?

Finally, someone stumbles across your work, and thinks you deserve a shot writing something in their line up. They’re going to come to you with a character, and an idea that they would like you to pitch for. Probably a short inventory bit they can tuck at the back of an anniversary issue to test your skills and pad the book a little. Or maybe something in an anthology, or a one shot or a mini series of some sort. They’re going to come at you with a story or a character that might not quite jive with your sensibilities, but hey, they thought of you, didn’t they? That must mean that someone thinks you can get something good out of the character or the story, right? So you work out a pitch. You work harder on this pitch more than anything you’ve ever worked on before, because you want this. You need this. And if you get it exactly right, that will probably lead to more jobs. And maybe you can pitch that Iron Fist book you’ve had in your back pocket? But there are still a million things that can go wrong. Budget cuts might come down and the pages allotted for your story or the concept might be cut from the schedule. Or the editor you’re working with might have gotten fired. Or your pitch doesn’t resonate, or someone else just pitched something better for the character, or oops, at the latest retreat, ha ha, that character we were going to have you write, well, they are heading for the scrap head for the moment, just for a little while, to add a bit of spark to the end of an event or a story and so they’re removed from the board for a while, sorry about that.

Or.

Or maybe your pitch gets accepted. Maybe you’re sanctioned to script some pages. You turn them in. They come back. There needs to be re-writes. Extensive re-writes. And could you get it done by tomorrow please? There’s an artist waiting on pages, and they can’t work from the script you’ve given because there are a few things that aren’t quite clear.

So you stay up all night and you work on fixing things that aren’t working. You’ve just worked a full day, and you have to be up early to get to work tomorrow (you still have a full time job so that you can pay rent and eat… sometimes), so you’re tired and it’s frustrating, and things aren’t working properly, but you have to do this, you absolutely have to get this ready for the next day and hit your deadline because if you don’t, well… that could be it, right? First job ruined by a missed deadline, and you will forever have that hanging over your head. Or so you believe. You get the script done. It’s not your best, but it’s workable. The editor is okay with it, at the very least, so it is sent off to get drawn.

When you get it back, it looks nothing like you originally envisioned it. You didn’t really have a chance to talk with the artist. Or you did, and English wasn’t his first language so he had to infer the meanings of a few things. Regardless, something was misinterpreted, and the scene doesn’t play out the way you wanted. And the words they’re saying don’t really fit with the action. You’re rewriting, and it’s due yesterday, and its done. It’s not what you liked, not what you wanted, but it’s done, and everyone reads it and… and they like it? Kind of. Or they don’t. Or they do, but won’t admit it. Or they just resent its very existence in the back of that one anniversary issue because now the book costs and extra dollar, and that’s horseshit dammit, HORSESHIT.

Or hey, you know what? That thing that you just wrote – that got you a fan. A few fans in fact. They’d like to read more from you. Your independent work sees a slight bump, which is good. And hey, you really came through for that editor in a pinch. You delivered under extreme pressure. He wants to know if you would like some more work. Some more lucrative work. You still have to write towards some of their pitches though – they have some ideas for books that they think you’ll be good for, and when you talk them out, you are. All the while, that Iron Fist book burns in the back of your brain.

Years pass, and you’re getting there. You’re trusted. There’s talk of maybe even getting you to be part of the next big writer’s summit. Your work is selling quite well and you’re afforded the opportunity to write up your own pitches. You at least know someone will take them seriously. But maybe Iron Fist already has a book running at the moment. Maybe it’s selling quite well, and Marvel doesn’t want to pull the writer off the book. Or alternatively, maybe it’s doing poorly, in which case it’ll soon be off the schedule, and out of the line until such a time that the Iron Fist name will be able to stumble upon fresh and eager eyes. The fact remains, you’ll have to wait.

And you do. You wait through a period where he’s being used in such a way that won’t jive with what you want to do. You wait through over exposure, and under exposure. At one point in time, you think that the moment might be right to pitch for the book, and you do. But the people in charge don’t feel as though there’s enough teeth to it. Or some folks in the room poke holes in the concept, and you need to go back to the drawing board. Or someone else managed to time their pitch a little better, or even just pitched their idea better, and you’re still not writing Iron Fist.

Pitching is a hellish process. It will break your heart and stomp your soul to pieces. Not everything you want to do will happen. But sometimes – just sometimes… things do work. You get the book, it goes on the schedule and then… well, then it’s left to the mercy of the market, and you will soon discover if it will sink or swim, which is another hell to deal with. But more on that later.

The industry is littered with the corpse of pitches, both good and bad. Some come from creators, some come from editors, and others come from other sectors of the business, like marketing or sales or legal. Over the next few days, we’re going to have a few posts digging into pitches. We’re going to put some books together for this hypothetical Marvel line, and we’re going to absolutely destroy a few, all with an eye towards what might happen, should these books be pitched in real life. With any luck, we’ll end up with something that resembles reality, even if it will glimmer with the faintest bits of “if only” and “wouldn’t it be great”. The first round begins tomorrow with a contribution from a special guest contributor. It will continue through Thursday when I’ll set up a few pitches of my own. From there, we’re going to start to put a line together with creators – which will make the whole thing all the more difficult. After all, life abhors a well-planned initiative, and after all the pitching is done, we’re going to add the life problems, deadline habits and various ambitions of roughly 100 freelancers.

Which should be fun.

[Read Part Three here]

How to Make Comics by Someone Who Doesn’t: Marvel’s New 52 (Part Two)

[Part One

You have the greatest idea for an Iron Fist book. Nobody knows who you are, but it’s a thing of beauty. You’ve been carrying it in your back pocket for years, smoothing the pitch in the comic shop, talking with buddies, throwing back beers at a pub, working through all the knots and the road blocks. You’ve somehow managed to have some face time with an editor, and he seems interested enough. They ask you what you’ve done before. You have nothing to your name. So they smile politely, and thank you for your idea, but they can’t work with it. They can’t work with you, not without proof that you can deliver on your ideas. Some people can pitch the hell out of a concept, but if there’s no follow through, if there’y no craft, it’s going to crash and burn before it ever has a chance to go. You have to make something first, and then maybe – just maybe – they’ll consider working with you on something.

Years go by. You sell work your ass off. You self publish a nice, short, high concept comic. You’re getting a bit of buzz from the internet. People are talking about you, and you have something. Maybe you sell a book to Image. It does okay. It doesn’t allow you to eat, but it’s getting your name out there, and people seem to dig what you’re doing. You think that now would be a good time to try and get your name in at one of the bigger companies. After all, you can hand them something, and they can actually see your craft in their hands. You send copies of your work to editors. You see them at a convention and ask, “Hey, my name is so-and-so, and I wrote these things” and they smile surreptitiously and say that they’ve heard of your work, but they haven’t had a chance to read any of it yet. You smile politely, and offer them a copy, which they take with them. As they go to pack, they stuff your book in with all the others they’ve received this week, all vying for their attention. What’s more: if they take everything with them, they won’t be able to fit it all in their suitcases. Some things will just have to stay behind. If you’re lucky, and you’ve made an impression, yours might be one that they keep. Even so, they might not get a chance to look at your work for months or years. Things get lost in shuffles and at the end of the day, there are always deadlines to be met, crushing ones that eat up free time like its candy. And when work is done, more often than not, an editor doesn’t want to go through and read more comics. They just spent their entire workday (plus overtime) dealing with the minutiae of it all, and they need a break. Besides, that baseball sure as hell isn’t going to watch itself, and hey, that new movie looks nice too – maybe they’ll watch it when they have some time?

Finally, someone stumbles across your work, and thinks you deserve a shot writing something in their line up. They’re going to come to you with a character, and an idea that they would like you to pitch for. Probably a short inventory bit they can tuck at the back of an anniversary issue to test your skills and pad the book a little. Or maybe something in an anthology, or a one shot or a mini series of some sort. They’re going to come at you with a story or a character that might not quite jive with your sensibilities, but hey, they thought of you, didn’t they? That must mean that someone thinks you can get something good out of the character or the story, right? So you work out a pitch. You work harder on this pitch more than anything you’ve ever worked on before, because you want this. You need this. And if you get it exactly right, that will probably lead to more jobs. And maybe you can pitch that Iron Fist book you’ve had in your back pocket? But there are still a million things that can go wrong. Budget cuts might come down and the pages allotted for your story or the concept might be cut from the schedule. Or the editor you’re working with might have gotten fired. Or your pitch doesn’t resonate, or someone else just pitched something better for the character, or oops, at the latest retreat, ha ha, that character we were going to have you write, well, they are heading for the scrap head for the moment, just for a little while, to add a bit of spark to the end of an event or a story and so they’re removed from the board for a while, sorry about that.

Or.

Or maybe your pitch gets accepted. Maybe you’re sanctioned to script some pages. You turn them in. They come back. There needs to be re-writes. Extensive re-writes. And could you get it done by tomorrow please? There’s an artist waiting on pages, and they can’t work from the script you’ve given because there are a few things that aren’t quite clear.

So you stay up all night and you work on fixing things that aren’t working. You’ve just worked a full day, and you have to be up early to get to work tomorrow (you still have a full time job so that you can pay rent and eat… sometimes), so you’re tired and it’s frustrating, and things aren’t working properly, but you have to do this, you absolutely have to get this ready for the next day and hit your deadline because if you don’t, well… that could be it, right? First job ruined by a missed deadline, and you will forever have that hanging over your head. Or so you believe. You get the script done. It’s not your best, but it’s workable. The editor is okay with it, at the very least, so it is sent off to get drawn.

When you get it back, it looks nothing like you originally envisioned it. You didn’t really have a chance to talk with the artist. Or you did, and English wasn’t his first language so he had to infer the meanings of a few things. Regardless, something was misinterpreted, and the scene doesn’t play out the way you wanted. And the words they’re saying don’t really fit with the action. You’re rewriting, and it’s due yesterday, and its done. It’s not what you liked, not what you wanted, but it’s done, and everyone reads it and… and they like it? Kind of. Or they don’t. Or they do, but won’t admit it. Or they just resent its very existence in the back of that one anniversary issue because now the book costs and extra dollar, and that’s horseshit dammit, HORSESHIT.

Or hey, you know what? That thing that you just wrote – that got you a fan. A few fans in fact. They’d like to read more from you. Your independent work sees a slight bump, which is good. And hey, you really came through for that editor in a pinch. You delivered under extreme pressure. He wants to know if you would like some more work. Some more lucrative work. You still have to write towards some of their pitches though – they have some ideas for books that they think you’ll be good for, and when you talk them out, you are. All the while, that Iron Fist book burns in the back of your brain.

Years pass, and you’re getting there. You’re trusted. There’s talk of maybe even getting you to be part of the next big writer’s summit. Your work is selling quite well and you’re afforded the opportunity to write up your own pitches. You at least know someone will take them seriously. But maybe Iron Fist already has a book running at the moment. Maybe it’s selling quite well, and Marvel doesn’t want to pull the writer off the book. Or alternatively, maybe it’s doing poorly, in which case it’ll soon be off the schedule, and out of the line until such a time that the Iron Fist name will be able to stumble upon fresh and eager eyes. The fact remains, you’ll have to wait.

And you do. You wait through a period where he’s being used in such a way that won’t jive with what you want to do. You wait through over exposure, and under exposure. At one point in time, you think that the moment might be right to pitch for the book, and you do. But the people in charge don’t feel as though there’s enough teeth to it. Or some folks in the room poke holes in the concept, and you need to go back to the drawing board. Or someone else managed to time their pitch a little better, or even just pitched their idea better, and you’re still not writing Iron Fist.

Pitching is a hellish process. It will break your heart and stomp your soul to pieces. Not everything you want to do will happen. But sometimes – just sometimes… things do work. You get the book, it goes on the schedule and then… well, then it’s left to the mercy of the market, and you will soon discover if it will sink or swim, which is another hell to deal with. But more on that later.

The industry is littered with the corpse of pitches, both good and bad. Some come from creators, some come from editors, and others come from other sectors of the business, like marketing or sales or legal. Over the next few days, we’re going to have a few posts digging into pitches. We’re going to put some books together for this hypothetical Marvel line, and we’re going to absolutely destroy a few, all with an eye towards what might happen, should these books be pitched in real life. With any luck, we’ll end up with something that resembles reality, even if it will glimmer with the faintest bits of “if only” and “wouldn’t it be great”. The first round begins tomorrow with a contribution from a special guest contributor. It will continue through Thursday when I’ll set up a few pitches of my own. From there, we’re going to start to put a line together with creators – which will make the whole thing all the more difficult. After all, life abhors a well-planned initiative, and after all the pitching is done, we’re going to add the life problems, deadline habits and various ambitions of roughly 100 freelancers.

Which should be fun.

[Read Part Three here]

Um, Actually… | September 20th, 2012

Welcome to the Como Murder Palace

Um, Actually…

Missives from and to the internet, delivered by a series of tubes.

Welcome, dear readers, to our Thursday feature – a letter column of horrors culled from our inboxes. There will be things that are real and decidedly unreal – but hopefully all content presented here will be entertaining.

That said, WE ARE LOOKING FOR LETTERS! We are hiding in your bushes, metaphorical or otherwise. We crave your sweet correspondence. Contact us by clicking on that handy contact button right above the site banner to save yourself from our sweet lips on your power bills.

Letters might be edited for space, but not for intent.

Thank you, internet.

———-

Brittnish (@britl) asks: Let’s say I want to meet a whole bunch of new people.  How should I go about doing this?  Any suggestions? [Ed. note: Since asking this question, Brittany has started a project to meet 5000 people in one year, which is literally a nightmare.]

James: Brit, I’ll have you know I resent being used as a marketing ploy in your 5K365 project, which readers can check out on your website, www.5k365.com, or on Twitter by using the hashtag #5K365.  I repeat: I don’t like being used to get people to check out your website, www.5k365.com, or follow your project on Twitter by using the hashtag #5K365.

Wait, what’s this #5K365 tattoo doing on my knuckles?

Anyway, I guess you could go to a concert or a sporting event or something.

Brandon: You could always hang out at a female-friendly comic shop every now and again. Meet a variety of different folks. Specifically, if you have some time, hang out at their Boxing Day Sale and/or Free Comic Book Day!

———-

Josh (@joshbazin) asks: Is it just me, or is Alpha making Peter Parker a terrible person?

James: Josh, I’m pleased to report that you are definitely wrong.  Well, more pleased than usual.

The easiest way to explain that Peter’s apparent new dickish state isn’t anything more than temporary is that the “Alpha” storyline in Amazing Spider-Man isn’t over yet; Peter’s apparent heel turn is just part of the narrative arc, and by the end of it – or the series’ last storyline when it wraps up in Issue #700 at the absolute latest, Peter will be a true hero again.  It’s just part of the arc of a superhero story: punch ‘em down until they’re low, then let their heroism build them back up again.

Of course, with Peter Parker, it’s different because he tends to have different arcs than most superheroes.  As often as not, the low part of his stories comes not because of a villain, but because of himself and his own mistakes.  Peter spends a lot of time fixing his own screw-ups.

It’s been this way ever since his first appearance, too.  When he first gets his spider powers, Peter is a dick.  He sets out to use his powers to get rich and he’s not exactly nice about it:

Uh...

Come to think of it, he’s not exactly a prince before he gets his powers, either:

Seriously, Pete, cool it.

Like, that is downright villainous-sounding.  That’s some Ultimate Reed Richards shit right there if he doesn’t get straightened out.  Luckily, of course, he does get straightened out.  Unfortunately for him, however, it’s through a tragedy that happens because of his own character flaw:

WELP.

Of course, from this, Peter learns that with great power comes great responsibility, and he spends the rest of his life trying to do his very best.  Sometimes, it’s an unqualified success like his victory in Spider Island.  Often, however, it follows a pattern similar to Spider-Man’s origin: Peter tries to succeed, messes up, has to fix it.  Heck, it was used as recently as Ends of the Earth.  The “Alpha” storyline is following that same pattern, but instead of having Peter just make a mistake, writer Dan Slott and his editorial team have had him go a step further: at the end of Issue #793, Peter certainly doesn’t sound like the Spider-Man we know and love, even if he’s trying to do right.  He sounds more like that guy in the first two pictures.

I’m mentioning Peter’s origin story not to be condescending, but to emphasize exactly what “Alpha” is: it’s a 50th anniversary issue and an origin story, one that’s designed to mirror Amazing Fantasy #15 except in a modern setting, with Peter cast in the Uncle Ben role.  He tries to do right by Alpha, to be the man he was raised to be and put as much good into the world as possible.  He’s trying to be a mentor.  But he’s not Uncle Ben, and as much as he tries to emulate the image of the man he has in his brain, he never will be.  In some ways, Peter will always be a little bit of that vindictive, selfish teenager, and that’s what we’re seeing right now.  Fifty years into Spider-Man’s history, he’s still the flawed character he’s always been.  His decision about Alpha is definitely intended to be a part of “With great power comes great responsibility,” but it’s not quite right.  

That’s just half the story, though.  We’ve seen Peter be a dick, to step away from who we know he’s capable of being.  Next comes the good part: seeing Peter realize his mistake and rise to the occasion.  He’s done it in countless stories.  Time and time again, Peter messes up and has to fix his mistake, or uses the fact that he has to live with it to encourage himself to be a hero.  We’re still going to see that part, but we’re only halfway through the story.  We don’t judge the hero for who he is in the second act; we judge him for who he becomes in the third.  To rise up again, Peter first has to fall, and the way he does it is one of the most unique ways in superhero comics.  He’s flawed in a way that Captain America, Batman or even Iron Man isn’t.  That doesn’t make him terrible; to the contrary, that’s what makes him great.

Brandon: Yeah, once again, James pretty much got it all. Spider-Man is one of the best heroes out there, even just basic conception, because he is allowed to be human. He makes mistakes, just like everyone, but at the end of the day, he always, always, always learns from them and resolves to be better. First, we identify with him and his life choices (both good and bad) and then he implores us to be better. And that’s rad.

———-

Jay (@jayrunham) asks: Would you rather write about Tim Hortons the superhero or Starbucks the supervillain?

James: Tim Horton was already a superhero, Jay, and the most Canadian kind of one at that: a hockey player.  And I have no interest in writing about a hockey player.  Point to Starbucks.

Brandon: Something something misunderstanding Battlestar Galactica oh no wait punchline

———-

Ryan (@bakpakit) asks: What did you think of Revolution?  Why do you think it would suck to be set even further beyond the event?

James: We’ve mentioned our reaction to Revolution‘s pilot in this week’s podcast episode, but briefly: some interesting characters, nice concept, great twist at the end, and absolutely gorgeous (maybe the most beautiful series pilot since Lost‘s).  It’s not yet a great show, but shows rarely are with their pilot.  I like its chances, though.

As for the second part of your question, an introduction for the other readers: on Twitter yesterday, when we were discussing the show, you mentioned that it would be even cooler if the show was set further past the show universe’s “crash” – I believe you mentioned 300 years – to see how society ends up.  You related it to the Dark Tower series, where nobody remembers what happened.  I’ll trust you on that, because I haven’t read any Stephen King.  What I do feel comfortable talking about, however, is the idea that I believe the show you’re describing would be a lesser one – or at least a completely different one – than the one we have.

To me, the entire purpose of Revolution is to contrast the show’s current world with the one that we and the older characters know and recognize.  This comes right down to the visuals, from sights as benign as an old car being used as a garden planter to monuments like St. Louis’ Gateway Arch, New York skyline and, much more importantly than either, Chicago’s Wrigley Field (home of the Cubs!) damaged and being overtaken by nature.  The characters – and thus the viewer – is constantly inundated by these reminders that things are Very, Very Different.  We’re supposed to see society’s decline, and the most effective way to do so is to place the show at a time when the decline is still very much still occurring.

If the show were instead set 300 years or whatever into the future, this context is lost.  There could still be engaging characters and an engaging world, but it would be disconnected from the context that makes it effective.  It wouldn’t even be a post-apocalyptic story at that point; it would just be a story about people without technology surrounded by stuff that they probably never knew once worked.  

The context plays out with the characters themselves.  A big part of the characters’ reality is that they used to be something different than they are now.  Aaron used to work in technology (hey, I never said the show was subtle), and now he’s basically a farmer.  Tom Neville used to be an insurance adjuster, now he’s a high-ranking member of a militia.  The show’s presumably evil warlord, General Monroe, used to be someone else entirely.  Even Maggie, who’s still a doctor, is forced to live a very different existence than she used to.  Who they are now is defined in part by the shift from who they used to be; if the show were put into the future, you just have a farmer, doctor and militia members.  They’re still potentially interesting, but the contrast at the heart of the show is gone.

The contrast itself is further reinforced by the presence of children in this world, and by their relationship with the adults.  Charlie, Danny and Nate might remember what the old world was like when they were small children, but their lives have been dominated by what it’s been since.  The fact that there are characters who remember the old world and ones who only know the post-crash world is potentially one of the most fundamentally interesting parts of the show, because it gives a specific emotional undercurrent to everything: look at what we have become.  With a show further in the timeline, that’s gone.  You just have kids who hunt and kill, but who the world accepts as needing to do it.  There aren’t any adults who remember what kids used to be to be kind of sad about what they are now.

Without these contexts, it is, at the very least, a different show.  Further along the timeline, the eroded landmarks are more like Planet of the Apes.  The adults are more like The Dark Tower.  The kids are more like The Hunger Games.  These are by no means bad, but they’re so incredibly different that Revolution simply wouldn’t be the same show, and it could potentially seem more generic because you’d basically just have a feudal society that didn’t used to be one.  With the current timeline, with the unique circumstance of the crash and its effects still so fresh, there’s a context that gives the show its shape.  The device Ben gives Aaron (and which the pilot’s twist ending involves) isn’t just anachronistic, it’s a tie to a recent past.  Three hundred years in the future, it’s just a talisman.  A big part of Revolution‘s power is the shock it gives, and a different time setting just wouldn’t have it.

Brandon: Setting it just out of reach in the future gives viewers a touchstone too – a familiar life with terrible changes plied to it. Setting it too far in the future also removes “hope” from the scenario. Do things really stand a chance of changing if it hasn’t so far in the future? I think we can cheer for our heroes a little harder, knowing that things are close enough to the past that whatever impact they make can really have a tangible effect.

———-

Ryan continues: Do you collect Lego mini figures? Why not?!?! What one figure would make you start?

James: Ryan, you’ve been to my apartment.  Don’t you think I’m weird enough?

Brandon: Hmmm, filling all the flat surfaces in the apartment with little tiny figurines. I don’t see any way Danica won’t be for this. Except for the intense dislike of clutter part. But she’ll almost definitely be fine if I buy something like 100 tiny figures on eBay just now right?

———-

Ryan goes on: What’s your number one, go-to meal when cooking dinner for yourself?

James: A lot of that depends on what point in the week it is.  Generally, on a weeknight, I’ll make much simpler food for myself, often something like a stir fry or a pasta dish.  Out of these, my pasta ones are generally my “go-to” recipes.  I have one where, while cooking some short pasta, you saute some garlic in a pan, wilt some spinach, and then add some halved cherry tomatoes.  Afterward, you drain the pasta then toss it with the sauteed ingredients and add some good, hard, salty cheese you’ve grated.  Other times, I’ll make the simplest, most elegant tomato sauce around: halve an onion, put the slices face down in a pot, add half a stick of butter until it melts, then add a can of whole tomatoes (that you’ve crushed) and simmer until it’s deep and red and delicious, at which point you discard the onion halves and add the sauce to whatever pasta you want.

These recipes also give a great excuse to have some garlic bread, which is maybe my favourite food.

 Other times, and usually on the weekend, I’ll look at cooking for myself as a way to try something new and expand my horizons, be they in terms of flavour or technique.  In this situation, I don’t really have a “go-to” meal, but I do like incorporating some familiar elements such as mashed potatoes or roasted vegetables.  Last night, for example, I braised some pork side ribs in a cayenne chili apple jus and served it with some mashed potatoes and blanched broccoli for colour and texture.  I think it turned out pretty well.

Brandon: Back in the day? Steak and potatoes. Or a roast in the slow cooker. This still applies to today, only there are few “cooking dinner for yourself” times, which I am super okay with.

———-

Ryan won’t stop: How does a microwave work? Have you ever actually thought about it? Sooo weird…

James: Basically, microwave radiation gets shot at whatever’s inside the microwave oven, and the radiation heats polarized molecules inside it.  Because of how uniform the radiation is, the cooking process is faster than most others.  A common mistake is the idea that it cooks food from the inside out; this is just a factor of the fact that in many foods, there’s a dry exterior and a wetter interior – since the non-ionized radiation works better on liquids, heat gets transferred to these portions first, wherever they might be.  In fact, in a homogeneous item, the heat distribution will be far more equal.

That didn’t seem very weird.

Brandon: Yesterday, my boss tried to convince me that he has not put his balls in a microwave, and it took five minutes. This was a thing that actually happened. What was your question again?

———-

Ryan finishes: Were either of you ever in the “Pen 15″ Club?

James: Is that a sex thing?  Does Cece know you’re into that, Ryan?

Brandon: Nope. We didn’t have the Pen 15 Club in Central Alberta. But we did have the Meth-for-Math Club, in which the teachers would teach us algebra if we were good little mules and didn’t steal any of they mothahfuckin money, unnastan?

Ahhh, Central Alberta. The learning centre of something.

———-

Scott (@scottowilliams) asks: What now-ended shows can you “always” bring yourself to watch on DVD?

James: In these cases, it tends to be half hour comedies; hour-long dramas are more of a time investment, which is one reason why my Lost rewatch keeps starting and stopping in spurts.  Some particular favourites are Scrubs and Friends.  I love these shows because I grew up with them, but also because they’re impeccably well-crafted; Friends became the model for an entire generation of sitcoms, and Scrubs was relatively innovative not just in how it combined comedy, drama and continuity, but in its actual construction, right down to the fact that it was a hospital show that was actually filmed inside a hospital.  In addition, there are M*A*S*H and The West Wing, which are my two favourite shows in history.  Finally, being someone who grew up during what is accepted to be its heyday, I’m a lifelong fan of The Simpsons and am surprisingly judgmental of people in my age group who haven’t assimilated a decade’s worth of its jokes into their daily life.

However, I actually don’t watch many of these on DVD, instead watching them on television in reruns.  Not only is this easy because they’re all in syndication and on pretty much every day, but this is easier than actually getting up, walking to my TV DVD shelf, picking a series, picking a season and putting it inside the player.  Yes, we have found out exactly how lazy I actually am.

Brandon: The Gilmore Girls and The O.CAnd my seasons of Scrubs, as well.

———-

Scott continues: What are you looking forward to – anything of any kind – in the near future?

James: I’m really looking forward to playing baseball this Sunday.

Brandon: The Hey Ocean! concert tonight.

———-

Scott follows up: Where do you see yourself in five years?

James: Grad school, in a program for clinical psychology, if I ever get my stuff together.  Since the local university doesn’t offer that program, I will not be in Edmonton.

Brandon: Taking the JaymesRobit out of storage and weeping uncontrollably? Also: owner of a comic shop, working less than full time with a bit of money coming in from various freelance endeavours. I would be working less than full time so that I could spend some more time with my beautiful wife by the way.

Yeah, I said it.

———-

Scott coughs: What do you listen to for a long car ride?

James: A lot of this depends on the trip itself.  If I’m traveling for a concert, as I have a couple of times, I’ll listen to the artist or artists I’m going to see.  If it’s a nice day, particularly in the summer, I’ll listen to a lot of stuff like Bruce Springsteen, REM or Pavement.  If it’s darker or cooler, I’ll listen to a lot of stuff like Sigur Ros or the National.  Either way, I will probably end up listening to the Replacements.  If I’m driving with my sister, she generally picks the music.

Brandon: A mix of upbeat music and podcasts, like The Vinyl Cafe and such.

———-

Scott sputters: What comic character or franchise has the best supporting cast?

James: I would go into a longer discussion of this but the truth is that Chris Sims already has, and I’m just not going to do a better job than he did. In short, the answer is Spider-Man, and one of the big reason is that his supporting cast is so tied to his civilian identity more than his costumed one.  One of the things that always attracted to me about Spidey was that he had real problems, and that being Peter was just as important – if not frequently moreso – than being Spider-Man, and as a result of that you get a fantastic cast that drives Peter’s life, and who often has different relationships with him whether he’s Peter or Spider-Man.  Sims even brings up Peanuts as the best non-superhero comic supporting cast, and that’s just a stone cold fact.

The X-Men are disqualified because they are their own supporting cast and are basically impenetrable to newcomers.

Batman still has the best rogue’s gallery, because his villains generally mirror a part of his psychology in a way that others’, like Spidey’s, don’t.  I mean, the Rhino and Electro don’t really tell Peter about himself, you know?

Brandon: Yeah, Spidey takes this. As a back-up, I’ll go with Superman when the rest of his cast is, you know, actually utilized. This doesn’t happen very often.

———-

Scott waxes philosophical as his T-cell count drops: What is life’s great mystery?

James: Where’s the love?

Brandon: Dunno. Probably has to do with a murder on a sex blimp though.

———-

That’s it for the twenty-sixth installment of Um, Actually!  Check in every Thursday for a new batch of questions.  If you have anything you’d like answered, hit up our Contact page!  If you submit anything via Twitter – to @blogaboutcomics@leask or @soupytoasterson – remember to include the hashtag #UMACTUALLY so that we don’t lose it.  Remember: you can ask us anything.