ratcreature: RatCreature is buried in comics, with the text: There's no such thing as too many comics.  (comics)
I liked Scott McCloud's Making Comics a lot better than the previous Reinventing Comics. I didn't find it as cool as I did Understanding Comics way back in the mid-90s, though that's probably also because I hadn't read a lot of other comic meta yet, and also the format was really unusual then.

Anyway, I didn't learn anything really great or new about comics, but I did have several of those moments were you find yourself nodding along, and things become a bit clearer while you read something laid out in a certain way. While I don't quite agree with him completely on a number of points, I mostly liked his practical illustrations of certain techniques. Overall he's more of a manga fan than I am, and sees manga influence in Western comics differently, not just the adoption of a really manga-like style, but how for example he credits a number of general narrative techniques (e.g. slow and wordless scene setting by showing details of the surroundings in close-up in favor of an establishing shot) and their proliferation in comics mainly to manga popularity even when the comics in question aren't much like manga in the end, whereas I'm pretty sure I've read a bunch of comics whose artists weren't influenced by Japanese stuff, but for example by movies, and in the end used similar kinds of panel transitions, if not in exactly the same style.

I mean, obviously it's hard to tell where exactly influences are coming from unless you know through artists interviews or whatever, and I don't doubt that manga influences are present in some comics that don't look like manga, but seriously, if you imitate a camera and start in a closeup, roam silently over your location before zooming out you may end up with establishing sequences like that without having ever opened any manga doing the same kind of thing.

Overall the comic was a good read. Even in the chapters where he mostly summarizes from other sources and I was already familiar with those, like in the section on facial expressions that heavily relies on Gary Faigin's book The Artist's Complete Guide to Facial Expression (which I talked about here), I still wasn't bored. I also liked his idea of exercise suggestion at the end of the chapters and I may do some of them, since several seem like they could be fun.

As in the previous books I found the more "philosophical" parts about his views on artists' motivations and comic community rather more boring than the analysis of comics and how to make them, but there was a lot more of the latter than the former, so I didn't mind much.

If you've already read a lot about comics, most will seem familiar to you in one way or another, but I really liked how he played his examples through to show the effects of graphic storytelling choices in a kind of variable by variable way. For example in the section of what he calls "clarity vs. intensity" of graphic choices (with "intensity" being graphic effects like extreme perspectives and depth cues, breaking of panel borders and unusual panel shapes, lots of diagonals in composition, exaggerated poses and facial expressions, etc.) he shows varying degrees of these added dramatic choices for the same page, and how it affects the narrative, its readability, emotional impact and such.

Throughout the book I found several good ideas that I hadn't seen quite like this, like for example to add typical gestures, expression and body language to your model sheets for a character not just different perspectives. I liked his section on character design in general, though again I had several seen several suggestions before, because I've read the books he refers to, like for example Eisner's. I mean, I know from experience how difficult it is to make your characters look recognizable and different from each other, but too often, especially in some superhero comics, artists don't even bother to try and you end up with Oracle looking like Black Canary only with a different hair color and in a wheelchair. It certainly couldn't hurt for example Greg Land any to do some character design and expression/body language exercises. I'm just saying.

I also thought the section on body language was useful. It made me understand stances and how you can vary them a lot better, because it broke aspects down into several variable factors, and again showed the effects. Like similar stances, but one symmetrical one asymmetrical and how that changes things, open and closed stances, distances and gestures etc. and he illustration these principles with an example narration of adding gestures and body language to a conversation.

Other parts were a bit of repetition from what I remember from Understanding Comics, though from a more practical viewpoint. For example in the first chapter Writing with Pictures he revisits his classification of different kinds of panel to panel transitions and in the third chapter The Power of Words his categories of word/picture combinations, but you don't have to have read the former to follow his storytelling examples.

Overall I think it's well worth reading.

ETA: Does anyone else keep loosing icon and tag choices after doing a spellcheck and/or preview in the LJ update editor? This is annoying.
ratcreature: Like a spork between the eyes. (spork)
...i.e. reading Frank Cho's chapter on how to draw effective covers from Wizard's "How To Draw: Advanced Techniques". To quote one of the many great pearls of wisdom (emphasis not mine, btw):
You also can't use the same pose for guys and women--and women are much harder to draw covers for. With guys you just have to convey power to make the figure work, while with women, you have to emphasize their, y'know, curvaceous nature. It's almost like a swimsuit-issue pose--you have to emphasize their curves, yet at the same time reflect their power as well.
Drawing a cover is mostly just trying to come up with a strong pose and trying to build upon it. It's kinda hard when you're drawing girls, because you're trying to come up with a strong, dominant pose, yet at the same time make it very sensual and sexy. I was just playing around with various poses, and for whatever reason none of 'em were sexy enough for me."

I don't have the pages scanned right now, but looking at the sketches illustrating that last bit I'm really wondering why anyone would consider sitting with spread legs and a "flirty" look towards the reader to be a "strong, dominant pose" for women. BTW, the solution for why the first ones weren't "sexy enough" becomes apparent when you look at the sketches, since the first ones are not showing the woman sitting with her legs spread. You'd think the cover example for "dominant + sexy" would show something like that Wonder Woman cover where her boot grinds down on Batman's head, but apparently not....
ratcreature: Say no to creatures (& women) in refrigerators. (refrigerator)
[livejournal.com profile] brown_betty asked for examples "to illustrate the exactly how and why female comic characters are illustrated differently than the male." And I thought, really, what's better to illustrate these things than the books teaching the style in the first place?

A while ago I posted some scans from Wizard How To Draw series on drawing female superheroes (here and here), and I thought I'd post a bunch more from the first book of the series on "How To Draw: Heroic Anatomy".

There's 19 large page scans behind the cut... )
ratcreature: grumpy (grumpy)
A while back I posted about women characters in the Wizard How To Draw: Character Creation, however what I didn't really notice at the time (and that says a lot about my own blind spots), but which leapt out to me today when I happened to leaf through it, is that once again there are no non-white characters in the whole thing. Okay, that is not quite true, there is one black guy in Gene Ha's chapter on "Brutes", and in Scott McDaniel's chapter on "Costumed Vigilantes" a bunch of gang members could conceivably be non-white, though with McDaniel's stylized drawings it's hard to tell for sure without coloring. But otherwise, nothing.

Seriously, wtf? I mean, as I have noted in an earlier rant it's not that unusual to find drawing books that show only white people, but most of the "classics" have at least the excuse that they're reprints from some time between 1920 and 1960, this book has been published in 2006. And worse, it's not just about anatomy, but about character creation for comics, and not even mainstream comics are that bad. I suspect that unlike with the women characters (see my post linked above), they might have been reluctant to include the most cringe-worthy cliches and thus ended up with sticking just with white characters, but I think even an Asian ninja guy would have been better than this.
ratcreature: RatCreature is thinking: hmm...? (hmm...?)
I vaguely remember hearing from several people in comic discussions that they didn't really know how to talk about graphic storytelling or how to pin down what elements have which effects and why, when trying to analyze comics, or do comic meta.

I love reading comic meta that goes into detail, but I'm far too lazy to do anything like that myself. However, since I've been interested in comics for as long as I can remember, I have over time read/listened to/participated in a whole bunch of books/talks/lectures/workshops on comics and graphic storytelling, anything from the often quite convoluted academic analyzes of comic pages to how-tos for aspiring artists, and occasionally acquire books on that subject. For example, most recently I have picked up the Wizard How To Draw volume on Storytelling when I got my comics today. As is usual for this series there's lots of examples with little text, in particular of course focused on superhero comics, and paging through it, some seems quite interesting.

Now I'm wondering whether anybody of those who feel they're lacking the vocabulary or whatever to analyze comics would be interested in scans from books about it, like for example from that Wizard volume. Also, if you are thinking it might be useful, I'm obviously curious what you'd find particularly interesting to know about.

Like for example the chapters in that Wizard book (each only about 2-5 pages and by different authors) on the graphical aspect of storytelling are: fundamentals of page design, panel sequence, laying out a page, panel layout, advanced layout, splash pages, evolution of a page, pacing a scene, pacing an issue, dramatic tension, emotional impact, tension & pacing, settings, settings at work, backgrounds, background details, group shots, group dynamics, shadows, silhouettes, negative space, sound effects, master storytelling, and then there's the last part with example scripts and the authors and artists talking bout a particular aspect of the realization, though they didn't reprint the actual comic pages which makes it a bit harder to imagine, unless you own them, in particular Bendis, Bagley and Finch talk about Drama & Action with the example of an Ultimate Spider-Man issue, Kirkman and Ottley about Fight Scenes with an Invincible issue and Brubaker, Epting and Lark about Flashbacks with a Captain America issue.

Any opinions?
ratcreature: RatCreature at the drawing board. (drawing)
Remember a while ago back when I posted this scan of a kind of terrifying smiling Wolverine that was an example in the Wizard How to Draw: Heroic Anatomy book? Well, back when I first leafed through the book I was also pissed off at the chapters on drawing women (at some chapters more than others), but I couldn't quite figure out what exactly annoyed me so much, since it wasn't just straightforward sexism bothered me.

Not that that is absent, but it is a Wizard publication, and those chapters are explaining how to draw conventionally "beautiful" and "attractive" women for comic books, so it's not like I expected much in the way of feminist consciousness or anything. The mere fact that there are four chapters in the anatomy section on drawing women that have no equivalent for drawing men in their book is quite telling. The chapters in question are "Women" (by Joe Linsner), "Sultry Women" (by Adam Hughes), "Realistic Women" (by Terry Moore) and "Sex Appeal" (by Michael Turner). And yes, the one on sex appeal doesn't mention men at all. There's another one called "Superheroic Women" but there's also a chapter "Superheroic Men". Since the book is actually not that bad with including women as examples in the other chapters dealing with "regular" anatomy (hand, feet, faces, muscles, etc) compared to some other drawing books I've seen (like I mentioned in an earlier entry), it's unsurprising that the "special" chapters deal with women as sex objects.

I found the presentation somewhat bizarre in places, because clearly a lot of those sections were intended to come across as a bit self-mocking, only, well... I think an example will show what I mean. Here's a page from the chapter "Women" with the subsection for some reason called "The Triple Threat" (threat? wtf?!?), pointing out that main areas of interest in the blunt approach to creating attractiveness (from the heterosexual male POV) would be breasts, ass (they printed "butt" of course *eyeroll*) and legs. Duh. Who would have thought. I mean, that paragraph doesn't even explain anything about drawing any of these, so why include this? Actually Linsner explains at the beginning of the chapter that he's just going to explain what features he finds attractive in women, and is not actually going to talk about, you know, drawing these features. He continues for two more pages in a similar way, pointing out that eyes, hands, lips and hips were also attractive, and at the end I was mostly "whatever", but not all that aggravated.

That changed with the next chapter "Sultry Women", in particular with this page. The point this is trying to make about breast size and that larger breasts won't necessarily look better is fair enough, however it could have been done in a less offensive manner, that doesn't point to the example that fat women also have large breasts and of course "fat=ugly" is assumed as a given. I mean, in his chapter Terry Moore managed to draw examples that exaggerate the same problem (unrealistic breasts) along with some others, like here and here, and show how it doesn't really look good to draw women this way, without being that offensive.

But I realized that what aggravated me so much wasn't just the "fat is obviously ugly" aspect of that picture. While I'm not into the anorexic look and also think that what looks good in terms of weight, build, curves... whatever, depends a lot on the individual woman (or man), I'm not above conventional ideas of attractiveness either. I think what got to me is that she's a) eating and from the litter around her and the fact that it's not like she's sitting down for a meal it seems implied that she does so constantly (going with the cliche that fat people are fat because they have no self-control etc) and b) she's not even enjoying to eat, but looks very much unhappy. Combine that with the image that mocked the fanboy on the earlier page from Linsner's chapter which used "fat" among other things to evoke the impression of "ungroomed" and "unattractive" (though OTOH it also shows definite similarities with the artist, except for the hair-length, so there's the element of irony again), and you get this thread that fat is not just ugly, but comes with undesirable personality traits as well. Meh.

Anyway, this got me thinking about how bodies in general are depicted in drawing books, and I think often too little attention is paid to how different bodies look, when bodies are conceptualized in books on drawing humans. I mean, the obvious thing every drawing book will tell you is to study humans, draw from life, carry a sketchbook with you, blablablah, which is of course as true as it is supremely unhelpful. Nobody needs a book to know that to draw and study real people is good practice, OTOH drawing from life has also limitations, which is most likely the reason why you got the drawing book in the first place. Maybe the sketches from RL just won't turn out right and you want to figure out what you're doing wrong, or maybe you're at at a point when you need to "construct" and arrange a bunch of humans without direct reference to get the picture you want with reasonable effort. (Obviously you could try to convince a friend to crouch and jump with a fake sword while you study this or take pictures with a motion sensitive camera from exactly the angle you want, but you probably end up quickly with friends who get suspicious when you invite them over for "dinner".)

Depending on the focus of the drawing book it will more about the first or the second scenario, but in any case they usually break down humans in easier shapes, point out underlying functions, give a general sense of proportions, the usual, and as a part of that a more or less "generic human" tends to figure rather prominently in this. and unsurprisingly that "generic" human is usually a young(ish), white man, though young, white women appear too, and they are usually drawn in a way that is considered "well-proportioned" at the time, which fluctuates a bit, e.g in Georg Bridgeman's books (written in the first half of the 20th century) women are quite likely to have bellies that curve slightly outward, and are generally curvy (they'd probably count as "plump" these days).

Anyway, obviously when you look at this from a critical viewpoint this set-up is problematic to say the least, though considering the publication date of a lot of the "classics" I have in mind it's not surprising, but if you just want to use the book it's not that bothersome as long as your main "construction problem" is to arrage a body in space. A great example for this is Burne Hogarth's Dynamic Figure Drawing, which I own in a German edition (I don't think there are significant differences to the English one, but I'm not certain) and which is basically 170 pages explaining techniques how to arrange this "generic" human (obviously he's nude though not with detailed genitals, still some might consider the scans NWS) in space with the help of geometric constructions/visualizations like this one (it's kind of like virtually moving a ken doll). A couple of times a woman's body makes an appearance (while he has no distinctive face, she doesn't get a head at all in the bunch of drawings explaining how structures with women are different, mostly in the section on reclining poses, some in the sitting poses, none in the action poses...), but it's a negligible number of drawings compared to the male ones.

I actually like Hogarth's book quite a bit, like IMO he explains foreshortening really well, he explains how to draw humans from unusual perspectives, how you can draw human motion, and a bunch of other stuff that causes this book to be so widely recced. What it falls short on is the step to turn the ken doll you arranged in space into an actual human being with a distinct body. To be fair, I don't think it's the topic of the book, and I've never actually read all the text beyond that what was necessary to make sense of the constructions, so I have no idea whether or not he points out the issues of making bodies real.

A lot of drawing books seem to assume that that step, to make the human distinct isn't one that benefits from the same "constructionist" approach as the spatial arrangement, and that just observing enough different humans will work well enough to make the underlying principles clear. However, I found it rather helpful to have the ways in which bodies gain individuality laid out to me, because while that won't cover everybody either, it helps to make sense of the common variations. E.g. I wasn't aware that the area between the shoulderblades was all that noticeable in terms of body fat before reading this page (from Figure Drawing Without a Model by Ron Tiner).

OTOH with that book I frequently ran into the problem that rather dubious (or at least highly controversial) "scientific" classification systems from the 19th/early 20th century were turned into artistic tools without any reflection, for example the craniometry with its cephalic index (I didn't scan the pages applying those). I mean, it didn't bother me to read a chapter explaining about height/width characteristics of the human face and if he wants to use the terms "dolichocephalic", "mesocephalic" and "brachycephalic", okay, whatever, but considering that the book was first published 1992, it bothered me a lot that from just reading those paragraphs you'd think it was it was just an "neutral" anthropological measuring and classification tool, not invented to be central for a multitude of more or less racist theories, which construed skull measurements into all kinds of things. The same goes for the fact that he uses William Sheldon's somatotypes system (that was the basis for his strange anthropometry psychology, with things like predicting criminals from their body types and such) without finding it problematic at all. It's not that I didn't find the examples of body types somewhat useful (like here and here), and while I find it mostly silly to call them "endomorphic mesomorph" and such, I wouldn't care about that and just appreciate it that in this book not all bodies look the same, if there was some brief reflection that these body types weren't created to merely describe bodies, but that the system was created in a much more problematic context.

I mean, I like Tiner's book, it has a bunch of insightful observations and useful stuff, but as it was, my reaction was WTF? a lot as well, only over more complicated issues than say in the Wizard How To book. Clearly drawing books are bound to be aggravating in one way or another.
ratcreature: reading RatCreature (reading)
I was thinking about getting Writers On Comics Scriptwriting (Volume 2), a book collecting interviews with Bendis, Rucka, Johns, Brubaker, Vaughan and other comic writers, many whose writing I quite enjoy. However, just then I saw [livejournal.com profile] coffee_and_ink review the first volume of interviews, and not very favorably, saying for example that "the focus of the interviews was repetitive and frankly boring." So now I'm hesitant whether it's really worth buying the second volume.

Has anyone on my f-list read the second volume and could tell me whether it is interesting for a fan of those writers to read? I haven't read many interviews with comic writers, on a technical or meta level I'm more into the art side, therefore so far I've mostly read interviews with comic artist about comic art (though sometimes especially with European creators they write their comics too, and talk about that), both in magazines and in books, and those interviews I usually enjoy quite a lot (well, unless the artist is a jerk, and turns out to be really aggravating while talking, despite being great with drawings *snerk*). I thought it might be interesting to read more of a writing perspective too, and I did enjoy Alan Moore's booklet about comics writing too for example as well as comic talk in general, but obviously I don't want to buy something boring.

So any thoughts on that book? Has anyone read it?
ratcreature: RatCreature as Superman (superman)
That Jeph Loeb is fond of the Silver Age isn't exactly news. For example, IIRC it was him who brought back Krypto in 2001. Which always reminds me of Morrison's meta-run on Animal Man, where Buddy is at that place where comic characters that are written out go until they come back, and it's said that the animals have really bad chances of returning -- apparently not quite that bad, at the current rate I wouldn't bet anything important on that we'll never see Super-Turtle as part of any Silver Age revival, or that the Legion of Super-Pets is really gone for good.

And it's not just Krypto, Loeb did these stories about Krypton that from what I've seen draw from the Silver Age Krypton a lot, he obviously likes the World's Finest team-up, which is why we now are back to Superman and Batman being fairly close, if not quite like pre-Crisis, as of Superman/Batman #6 Lex Luthor seems to be back to his "mad scientist" persona, and now in Superman/Batman #8 we get Kara back, though it's not quite clear yet whether she's truly a Kryptonian relative like the pre-Crisis version. Not to mention that in Superman/Batman# 8 we also get Batman picking up Red Kryptonite, and when exactly did that come back into the comics?? I wonder how long it'll be until the gold, white and blue kryptonites come back. In the end it doesn't even matter all that much whether this Kara Zor-El is truly from Krypton (it's not as if there weren't enough Supergirls and Power Girls with confusing origins already), for this overall trend to chip away at the Superman reboot from 1986.

It's not that I don't find a lot of this Silver Age stuff charming and all, but well-- while I'm not the greatest fan of Byrne's Man of Steel mini series, I think it was a good thing to get away from all the Kryptonian super clutter. It's simply more powerful when Superman is truly the last and only survivor.

Thus I'm kind of torn about the Superman/Batman series, especially with Loeb once again writing Superman soon. I love the double POV and the whole take on the World's Finest Team and their relationship, and while I wasn't that fond of Ed McGuinness cartoony style, I think Michael Turner's art is gorgeous. I'd have bought #8 for the Gotham skyline in the splash page alone, but I don't think we really needed another Supergirl. I guess I'll be okay as long as she doesn't get a horse with a cape. Or hangs out with Streaky the Super-Cat.
ratcreature: RatCreature as Batman (batman)
I was feeling grumpy and depressed, because I'm home alone with my cold (yeah, still *grumble*), and wasn't feeling up to going out, but then I decided that lying in bed, zapping through 24 hours news channels who intercut terror alert news (*) with New Year's celebration pictures wasn't the way to go for New Year's Eve, and I should really start New Year on a more positive note.

So I thought about what I could do to improve my mood, and I decided to take a look back on one of the most fun things for me in 2003, which was getting into Batverse fandom. It's my newest main fandom, and I'm still feeling the squee a lot.

I'm still feeling very much as a newbie too, but I've learned a lot about the universe, the characters, and DCU continuity, though I was (and still am) puzzled and confused a lot. So I present you A Newbie's Journey into Batverse Comic Fandom, and hope it conveys a bit of the fun I had this year with discovering this cool fandom.

A Newbie's Journey into Batverse Comic Fandom )

Now that I'm in a much better mood, I wish a cheerful: Happy New Year! to all of you.

(*) There was some kind of "intelligence" on a supposed car bomb threat against a military hospital here, which led them to close off the whole parts of the hospital's neighborhood, complete with armed security forces, armored vehicles, car searches and other fun stuff (still ongoing), and now local and federal authorities are squabbling whether that is an overreaction or not, i.e. the federal authorities argue that the reaction now lowered the chance to catch the two people they suspect of planning that attack, whereas the locals argue that they had to react as precaution,...and it doesn't help that they're from different parties either.
ratcreature: RatCreature as Batman (batman)
Did you ever start writing a blog entry, thinking that you had a point or an argument, and then a few paragraphs into it you just sort of lost track, or rather noticed that what you are saying doesn't really lead anywhere, and turned all rambly, but you already spent like an hour an a half on it and don't want to abandon it? Well, this is that kind of blog entry...

So anyway, a few days ago [livejournal.com profile] sanj posted in the [livejournal.com profile] gotham_gazette about how hard it is to "convert" people to Bat-fandom, and what could be done to make it easier. (Somehow I'm not really happy that the fandom vocabulary for this process is either reminiscent of proselytizing some religion or, with the alternative "to pimp," of soliciting seedy sex, but I digress.)

And I'm down with the goal of attracting more fans to the Batverse, I'm just not really sure that a primer would work, that is, I'm not sure people don't get into Batverse comic fandom because there isn't enough info on what happened before, or because they don't know where to start reading, or even because comics are expensive. Don't get me wrong, comics are expensive -- compared to watching tv at least, and having a good primer does help with easing into reading the comics: character bios, recommended reading lists (for main events, for important character moments, etc.), synopses, excerpts, FAQs, etc. all that is very helpful. I mean, after a couple of months I still have to look up things that are confusing and unfamiliar to me.

Still, I think the main "problem" goes deeper, and I put "problem" in quotes here intentionally, because I think while it prevents (some) people from getting into the Batverse comics, it's inherent and not really a "problem" as such, like, say, that comics are expensive is a "problem" -- I think most comic fans would like it if comics still had so large print runs that they were cheaper and the artists and everybody else involved could still make a living. So what is it?

First, it might be self-evident, yet is still worth pointing out in the context of "promoting" Batverse comics to reach new fans: some people just don't like reading comics. Incomprehensible as this is to me as a lifelong comic fan. And I don't mean that some people are sort of "snobby" and don't take the medium seriously as something adults might enjoy. Sure that happens, just like some don't get why one could be interested in tv series or sf, but I haven't really seen that attitude much in the broader (media) fandom. It's just, far more people are familiar with tv as a narrative medium than with comics (reading cartoons now and then really isn't the same), and at the same time that comics became less common, their visual language has developed further, just like in any other media, but fewer people followed those changes or are used to them. Like, I've really noticed that some people have problems to "read" comics, when I showed them some. Not the text or the images, but they just don't get the whole. I imagine it would be much like someone familiar only with very early movies, like from the 1920s, trying to follow a modern movie which uses lots of cuts, or something like that. It's not that there is some insurmountable barrier preventing understanding, but it is unfamiliar and takes time getting used to. Fairly often if you want to convert someone to Batverse comic fandom, you might well have to convince them to give a "new" medium a try, and not just a fandom.

Second, you just have to approach continuity differently than for tv series, and I've noticed in myself that I just have to get over some of the "habits" that I acquired during a few years in tv fandoms, or otherwise I'd see things as "failings" that are also really cool if looked at differently, and in fact also strengths of a source as sprawling and diverse (and as a result also often overwhelming and contradictory) as a long-lived comic universe. Anyway, I've talked about the challenges Batverse canon presents compared to for example the typical tv series canon before. It comes down to that in tv fandoms there is a strong emphasis on knowing all canon, if you are a "real fan." Or at least knowing of all canon if you haven't watched everything. Even in "fanfic-centric" fandoms like TS, where a fair number of people seem to be into the fandom more for the fanfic than for the show, those who haven't seen the eps are most likely aware of what eps there are, and what, at least in general terms, happens in each.

For example when I first found TS fandom I had only watched up to the middle of season two, because that's what had been aired here before a hiatus started, and I was looking on the net whether there were more episodes in the US. And soon, even before I figured out how to get tapes, I was aware of all the episodes aired then (it was, iirc, towards the end of season three around the time Crossroads first aired in the US), and read at least summaries. And it was fairly easy to get the gist of what everybody was talking about and feel reasonably certain about events and characters. It helped that TS wasn't a show where I was worried about being spoiled for episodes before having the chance to see them, unlike Buffy for example. I might not have known all canon first hand, but I knew of all canon, was aware what canon there was and knew what I didn't know, so to speak. And it didn't take more than an afternoon of reading episode summaries, reviews and some transcripts.

With Batverse comics even that is impossible. Okay, I guess it is possible in that the totality of all DC comics, and thus all comic canon involving Batman and related to Batman, is a finite set, and with enough resources you could possibly buy them all, and probably there are even indexes out there somewhere giving summaries of everything (though I haven't found one yet), but for practical purposes, there is no way new Batverse fans can orient themselves in the manner new tv series fans are used to. Nor would that approach really make sense for this comic continuity.

A couple of times I have heard someone say that they can only write (or even get into) series with a "closed" canon, i.e. after the series ended. Obviously to those fans the Batverse will be a hard sell, no matter what. I mean, they could choose some fixed time period and decide to be just into Silver Age Batman or something, but I'm not sure that would work for them either. And that might be an extreme example, most fans don't seem to have a problem with series that are in production after all, but I'm just saying that there sometimes people might not "convert" to the Batverse, no matter how appealing characters, stories and themes may be to them. (There might be a better chance with all those fans who are frustrated that their favorite shows are always cancelled prematurely. Even if a comic series get discontinued, chances are that your favorite character will appear elsewhere or at least that you can still spend a lot of time catching up with collecting all past comics the character was in.)

Of course all of this isn't an argument against compiling a "primer" like Sanj proposed, I think primers and such are helpful for the (potential) newbie fan, and I think that excerpts showing key moments cater more to the comics' strength, especially their visual appeal and the art, than continuity overviews, timelines and such things do. Much like vids are more likely to lure new fans to tv shows than "dry" episode guides or transcripts. (As much as I really enjoy all things related to continuity and the organization of information relating to it, it's probably not the most obvious attraction, and accentuating that image of "it's all really complicated" is maybe not the best way to go either.)

Um yes, this is the point where I stop without any conclusion or point, but hey, I put a warning at the beginning. <g>
ratcreature: RatCreature as Batman (batman)
In an earlier entry I already mentioned that I like the current team better than Scott McDaniel's art. And now reading them in contrast brought home the main reason why that is: McDaniel's art is very dynamic, and I like the way he draws some of the action sequences and Nightwing's movements even a bit better than Lenonardi/Delperdang's version of the same sequences, however it really grates on me that he never uses a panel grid, not even in relatively calm sequences. The constant barrage of irregular shapes, splash panels, crossed panel borders etc. blunts the impact of those effects, so that in those moments when they really are supposed to indicate action and fast pacing, I hardly register them anymore.

I mean, the panel grid is such a powerful tool, and even subtle balance variations register, without the reader really being aware of it, yet in McDaniel's art it's as if a sledgehammer is used constantly to bring home the fact that's supposed to be dynamic! full of action! fast! BTW, last year I heard a fascinating talk by Bryan Talbot at a comic con about this subject (it was called The Use of Style and Storytelling Technique), where he explained and illustrated his points with examples from his work, e.g. from Batman, Sandman, The Tale Of One Bad Rat, and various others of his original comics, and really Talbot's range of panel and page design is much broader, understated when it needs to be, and only using special effects when it's called for. For huge stretches in his Nightwing comics McDaniel doesn't seem to have any particular reason for the page designs besides "it looks cool."

The page design of the current Nightwing team isn't especially original or awe inspiring, it lacks the special "punch" (and with that I don't mean necessarily effects, but just ingenious design, which can look very plain too), but at least I can read their work for long stretches without getting a headache.
ratcreature: RatCreature is buried in comics, with the text: There's no such thing as too many comics.  (comics)
[livejournal.com profile] chrismaverick posted this "canonical list of comics" in response to the book canon lists. Now, I have issues with such lists (as anyone who read the previous two entries knows), but I like to rec comics.

This is no definite list, not even my definite list. This lists does not claim to prepare you for either European or American comics, it is not a required reading list for Comics 101, it won't enable you to follow every conversation inside a comic shop, it won't give you a historical overview, nor do I have agonized for hours/days weighing titles based on their artistic, historical, financial impact -- but those are not purely my personal favorites either. I love many comics which aren't anywhere on this list, nor are all on this list among my very favorites. If I had already gotten around to actually doing the comic recs page I envisioned when first starting my web site (years ago), I could simply point you there, to compare the the lists. For a few more comics done by women, see also my Wimmin's Comics page (though even that doesn't contain all my favorites, since I'm really bad with updates).

So here's my list, the titles are in the original language (mostly anyway, sometimes I'm not sure about the artists working for French-language publishers, if in doubt I'll go with the French title, because it'll be most likely the easiest to find). It includes only comics which I have read, or in case of series at least have read a substantial number of installments, not ones I've only heard about. Series are listed with my favorite issue/story if I can pick one, often just with the series title. Also I've tried to include examples from different genres, i.e. mystery, SF, horror, fantasy, western, historical settings, as well as non-genre works (sorted alphabetically, articles at the front don't matter):

120, Rue de la Gare, by Jaques Tardi and Leo Malet
Arzach, by Moebius
Asterix, by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo
Back to the Klondike, by Carl Barks (get a copy of the unabridged story, with the 5 pages that were cut out by the Disney company when it was first published in Four Color Comics #456) but really you should read all of the Duck comics Carl Barks did for Disney
Black Hole, Charles Burns
Bone, by Jeff Smith
Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Waterson
Castle Waiting, by Linda Medley
C'était la guerre des tranchées, by Tardi
Les Cités obscures, by François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters
A Contract with God, by Will Eisner
Corto Maltese, by Hugo Pratt
Dirty Plotte, by Julie Doucet
Dropsie Avenue, by Will Eisner
Dykes to Watch Out For, by Alison Bechdel
Feux, by Mattotti
Hate, by Peter Bagge
Idées Noires, by Franquin
L'Incal, by Moebius and Alexandro Jodorowsky
Iznogud, by René Goscinny and Tabary
Jar of Fools, by Jason Lutes
Jonathan Cartland, by Michel Blanc-Dumot
Krazy Kat, by George Herriman
La Marque Jaune, by Edgar Pierre Jacobs
Like A Velvet Glove Cast in Iron, by Daniel Clowes
Life and Times Of Scrooge McDuck, by Don Rosa
Little Nemo, by Windsor McCay
Lucky Luke, by Morris and René Goscinny
Master Race, by Al Feldsteins and Bernie Krigsteins (in Impact #1)
Maus, by Art Spiegelman
Mort Cinder, by Alberto Breccia and Héctor Oesterheld
Naughty Bits, by Roberta Gregory
Objectif Lune and On a marché sur la lune, by Hergé (but really you should read all of Tintin)
L'Origine, by Marc-Antoine Mathieu
Optic Nerve, by Adrian Tomine
Pacush Blues, by Pti'Luc
Partie de Chasse, by Enki Bilal and Pierre Christin
La Quête de l'oiseau du temps, by Régis Loisel and Serge Le Tendre
Quotidiania delirante, by Miguelanxo Prado
Sandman, by Neil Gaiman (and various artists)
Saigon-Hanoi, by Cosey
Les 7 vies de l'Epervier, by André Juillard and Patrick Cothias
Signal To Noise, by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean
The Spirit, by Will Eisner
Strangers in Paradise, by Terry Moore
Swamp Thing, by Bernie Wrightson and Len Wein
The Tale Of One Bad Rat, by Bryan Talbot
Twisted Sisters Anthologies, by various artists
Understanding Comics, by Scott McLoud
Watchmen, by Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore
Weird Science & Weird Fantasy series, published by EC (various artists/writers)
Z comme Zorglub, by Franquin and Greg (but really you should read all of "Les Aventures des Spirou et Fantasio")

So which have you (not) read?

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