Comic Fodder

The Signal Watch - Week 03/18/2009

My Eyes are Drying Out from Watching Watchmen

The great fanboy albatross of the Watchmen movie has finally been released. Special thanks to Travis for his phenomenal columns on the subject. Seriously, its been a treat. My column on the topic was so unnecessary.

I wrote myself out on that one. Not sure if anyone read that particular column, but its pretty much what I had to say on the movie, and Travis discussed the business side and ramifications so well, as well as audience reaction, etc.... Its been fun.

But I'm sort of ready for Watchmen to be done and for us superhero fans to have another Iron Man or a Green Lantern film to begin opining over with a lot less at stake for comics, comic-to-movie adaptations and comic fans.

DC Animated

I strongly enjoyed the recent release of the animated Wonder Woman movie to DVD. And here I have to apologize to Nick Marino of AudioShocker.com, who comments here upon occasion. I was trying to make a point about viewer perspectives at Robot 6 in the comments, and came off as a condescending jerk. I wrote and posted before I edited my comment for intention and word choice.

Noah Berlatsky live blogged his viewing of the Wonder Woman movie, which I think is kind of a bad idea. Going MST3K on any movie is pretty easy and gets you in the mode of "what can I make fun of" rather than any actual critical analysis of the darn thing. And in your riffing, you can wind up saying really stupid things about how people from the South must hate Abraham Lincoln.

After live blogging, he did post a fairly strong rebuttal to the movie, which i found far more readable, even if I don't necessarily agree. But he DOES offer up a thoughtful sort of challenge to the filmmakers as per how they could have handled some of the sequences. I'm not sure he noted that the film was actually directed by, voice directed by (and had input from Simone)... all women. That's not to say women can't fall into the same traps as male directors, but it does make one pause when considering some of the accusations lobbed the way of the movie.

At any rate, I do recommend the new Wonder Woman movie. And it looks like we have both a Green Lantern film and a Superman/ Batman team up film based upon the "Public Enemies" storyline from the Superman/ Batman series to look forward to.

I'm glad to see DCU animated is back to the same, trustworthy self I fell in love with back in the day. The movies are highly enjoyable slices of the DCU, and I'm still very much on board with "Batman: Brave and the Bold" as their TV series weekly offering.

Joker Inspired Crime

As someone who was of age when Tipper Gore was putting together the PMRC, I've long been an opponent of the idea that media has any direct effect on people. For example, even an impressionable kid can play Grand Theft Auto and not walk out their door, steal a car, ignore traffic rules and pick up hookers.

However, I may need to rethink all of this as a matter of degrees. With the recent success of The Dark Knight, it appears Heath Ledger's performance and the Nolan's script may have put some funny ideas in people's heads.

Val D'orazio is tracking the reports of Joker inspired crimes, the most recent a categorically violent crime in which the perpetrator seems to have found a Harley Quinn.

I still stick with my rule that there's little you can do to predict the actions of crazy and/ or stupid people. Or that the remote possibility that a performance in a movie might inspire someone to repeat your actions should cause studios to censor. After all, while these folks dressed up as the Joker and did some bad things, it's not as if the millions who watched Friday the 13th put on hockey masks and headed out to terrorize sexy teens (or are they just waiting...?).

Its a fascinating question as to why the Joker inspired these people, but I'd guess its the seductive appeal of the Nolans' approach to Joker's organized anarchy/ agent of chaos and how it could appeal to the megalomaniacal. Just a thought, and its playing armchair psychologist, but its a way for those folks to express their belief that they're smarter/ better than other people and have the same effect upon their environment that they believed Joker had on Gotham in the film.

Anyway, stick with D'Orazio as events unfold.

Mike Sterling Turns 40

Comic Fodder is not part of the elite comic blogging wing that was involved in wishing Mike Sterling a happy 40th birthday this last week. We're late to the party, but as we also are huge fans of his site, we wanted to also wish Sterling a happy belated birthday. We also wanted to point you to the links at Mike's site where several of his internet pals roasted him.

With friends like these...

Why I Quit Ordering My Monthly Comics Online and went back to the Comic Shop

For years, I've said that the Direct Market is terrible for comics. For every store like Austin Books that does the job correctly, there are four or five that put making their own jobs easy first rather than trying to meet the needs of their customer base.

Circa 2002 I had moved out of Austin and was seeking a comic shop. I bypassed the Atomic Comics in Chandler not just because it wasn't terribly convenient to get to (I'd have to go to the mall each week, which wasn't as convenient as it sounds), but because unlike the shop I did wind up at was easy to reach AND they offered a good discount if I subscribed to certain titles.

Back in Austin, I initially used a different shop due to proximity to my house and that they also offered a discount for subscriptions. What I would realize about once every seven or eight months was that I wasn't interested any more in several ongoings that were on my pull list.

In the long run, whatever I was saving with that discount was getting wiped out by the comics I was obligated to buy, as removing the titles could take several months and $9 or more in unwanted comics per title by the time I'd canceled out my orders and they quit sticking those titles in my pull (and I noticed, too).

When I found myself a little less than employed last year, I said "Ah ha! i will buy my comics online and know what I'm getting, and this will solve my problem!" In theory, I'd have a good idea of what I was spending per month, and that would keep me in line. Plus, no more slip ups between me and my shop and unwanted copies of series I was done with.

In reality, that's not what happened. The nature of the aforementioned Direct Market is to get retailers to order proper numbers in advance. In order for them to ensure a greater profit margin, they order as close to exactly what they can sell as possible, rather than creating inventory issues and overbuying on comics that won't sell. If they under order, no problem for them. They may have lost a sale, but they also didn't wind up with product they can't move. AND, their pal Diamond will help them re-order and get it in within a few weeks if they call. In theory, everyone's happy. Except the customer who didn't get their comic.

Online is exact numbers, and that's great for them. But I ran into the same problem I'd run into before. I was making decisions about what I should spend months in advance, and making decisions on purchasing comics based on the notoriously useless Previews months before I knew whether or not I wanted to try a new comic or not. Let alone, say I wanted to drop Captain Amazing after issue #5, I had usually already pre-ordered somewhere between issues 7 and 8 and was in for another 3 comics I didn't want, discount or not.

Crazy as it sounds, I prefer the model in my current shop, Austin Books. Austin Books offers an interactive Pull List each week of THAT WEEK'S COMICS. I know each week what I'm getting pulled without pre-ordering. I still come in to browse on Wednesday as they have a stellar trades offering (I've not seen it matched in Texas) and I might change my mind on the last few months offerings which they also keep available.

For the aforementioned reasons, I'm not missing my "discount" on subscription pulls. In the end, I was losing money AND I was winding up with piles of comics I just wasn't interested in. Treating shopping for comics like shopping for any other good instead of trying to get ahead of a treasure hunt of some sort is a very welcome change.

If this sounds like a rather lengthy plug for Austin Books, so be it. But its also a cry in the wilderness against the madness of the current Direct Market model and how its made buying comics somewhat maddening.

For my dear, patient wife who tolerates all this comics business, and who occasionally tries to pick me up something online for birthdays or holidays, its been very frustrating. While she may not be a perfect representative non-comic-fan shopper, she still doesn't grok the whole Solicitations thing, or why she has to order a comic months in advance or, god forbid, some DC Direct item seven or more months in advance.

Its an insane way to build or sustain an industry.

I consider myself lucky to have a shop that's easy for me to visit that actually has enough stock each week. While I understand the collector's nature of comic buying has turned the solicitations/ Previews deal into a monthly game, I'm sort of at a point in my comic reading and buying that I'm just not on board anymore with me doing the work for my store.


Questions? Comments? Hate mail?

Come on, I can take it.

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Ryan is an Op/Ed columnist for Comic Fodder. He keeps his comics and himself in Austin, Texas where he manages the long running blog League of Melbotis.

He likes Superman.

You can reach Ryan (aka: The League) at theleague.cf@gmail.com

Ryan, you write, "I've long been an opponent of the idea that media has any direct effect on people."

I agree that media generally cannot control people directly, but if it is true that art can inspire people to do great things then the opposite is almost certainly true as well, that art can inspire people to do terrible things.

It doesn't seem reasonable to expect art to have a strictly positive effect on people -- to expect it to be morally beneficial or neutral, but never detrimental. (Else, artists would be, as a group, more moral than other people.) It seems to me that the entertainment industries take precisely this position: at the award shows they tell us art inspires us to greatness, but before Congress they assure us that it has no negative effects on people.

To be sure, I believe that trying to control art or speech isn't an option: it's tyrannical and the unintended consequences would be far worse than the negative consequences of freedom of expression.

But I don't think we can deny that there are negative consequences.

-- Posted by: Bubba at March 19, 2009 2:39 PM

Bubba, I actually completely agree with the idea that art has an indirect effect upon people. We can see that in everything from the roars of the crowd at a baseball game after sining the national anthem to the enduring examinations of Leni Riefenstahl's "Triumph of the Will".

Media producers must toe a tough line. If you lived through the 1980's, then you remember the parents groups insisting that it was a Judas Priest album and only a Judas Priest album that drove their children to suicide. And, of course, after Columbine, the press was complicit in finding ways to blame The Matrix, Marilyn Manson and anyone they could think of for the acts rather than actually investigating the home and public lives of the gunmen, especially in the first week or two while they were hunting down their story.

While I think its fair to look at art as contributing factor (or suggesting the manner in which crimes are ultimately carried out), its rarely a direct catalyst or the sole catalyst as what is frequently pitched (usually as a quick fix for scared parents. "Don't let your kid listen to Band X and they won't take a gun to school", etc...).

What's fascinating is that these criminals took on the face of a horrendous criminal and perpetrated acts obviously intended to replicate the sorts of crimes portrayed in the movie and comics. There's little in the way of moral ambiguity in the film when it comes to The Joker, provided you value the lives of others at even the most basic level. Even when the Joker is romanticizing and rationalizing the actions in his own mind, there's never any questions the Joker is The Bad Guy.

You rarely see other incidents of mimickry of a character or art (outside of a comic) carried out to such a degree. Villians who do horrible things are absolutely nothing new in film, books, comics or other narrative forms of art. So why the Joker?

We can hardly blame Jerry Robinson for unleashing the Joker on the world or DC for using the character. But as all we know comes from the articles in the news, it's framed as if the perpetrators watched "Dark Knight", freaked out and became masked villains. That's where I am and always will be skeptical.

But does art effect people? I sincerely believe that it does, and more so for some than others. I guess the question becomes, how do we know what is going to appeal to or set off some already skewed personality types? And do artists self-censor in fear of what some lone lunatic might do if inspired by the villain of their work?

-- Posted by: Ryan at March 19, 2009 3:49 PM

Ryan, thx for saying. i TOTALLY disagree with you... but i respect your opinion on it. and, man... i can't even remember how many times i've written a comment somewhere and had the "whoops!" wording thing happen when i reread it later...

-- Posted by: Nick Marino at March 23, 2009 10:43 AM

And, hey, I appreciate (a) you accepting my apology and (b) where you're coming from on the movie.

Let us all continue pn this path of gentlemanliness!

-- Posted by: Ryan at March 23, 2009 1:40 PM