Archive for March, 2011


What better purchase at Wondercon than The Comic Book Guide to the Mission?

March 31st, 2011 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

None, that’s what. 

The Comic Book Guide to the Mission was edited by my friend, Lauren Davis.  I saw her go from the idea stage (at a Wondercon Past) through various stressful editing stages, and finally emerge as a hollow-eyed, exhausted, yet gracious zombie at her very-well-attended book party.  She will be tabling at Wondercon – her coordinates are D18, and I know I’ll be heading over there regularly.

Now, to the book.  It’s a lot of little stories from artists about their experiences in the Mission district of San Francisco.  The district is named for its oldest building – guess what that is – and has since evolved to a neighborhood, an art center, a hipster hang-out, a culinary mecca, a thrift store shopper’s twisted paradise, and the warmest spot in San Francisco.  The best way to describe the book is as showing how different time periods in the Mission correspond with different time periods in people’s lives.  A self-conscious suburbanite at the SF Dyke March, a kid’s view of the homeless population, an artist reminiscing about ‘darker’ times in the Mission and a lawyer finding a way to feel welcome among the area’s notorious hipster population, even just a series of iconic unconnected Mission snapshots – it’s all there.

My father, a man of particular taste, who I don’t believe has read a graphic novel since Asterix in the late seventies, cracked The Comic Book Guide to the Mission, and not only liked it enough to finish it, but spent a half an hour on the phone with me talking about how the title was selling it short.  He believed that that many stories and stills, by that many artists, on such diverse subject matter was more a wider commentary on life than just a ‘guide to the Mission’ and said approvingly that the book was a ‘bargain’ considering all the wonderful little stories within.

I love the book as well, but for more practical reasons.  (We can’t all have a poetic soul.)  Although the book isn’t technically a ‘guide’, it does benefit greatly from being drawn by San Franciscans.  I don’t live far from the Mission as the crow flies, but unlike the crow I have to walk over quite a few giant hills to get there.  As a result, I haven’t spent as much time in the Mission as I’d like.  The Guide isn’t strictly a ‘guide’, but it does have maps to the thrift stores, addresses of the best tacquerias (and an official recommendation for Best Carne Asada Taco in the Mission), recs for cheap eats from sushi to thai, and maps to all the Mission murals put up by artists over the years.  Considering the neighborhood is readily accessible from Wondercon (with no pesky hills in the way), this may be the best way to get your money’s worth out of the Con.  Sure, you’ll have to put down a quick $15.00, but you’ll get a local’s guide to the best ice cream, the best street art, and the Pornarmory.

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The Cipher 03/30/11: “we haven’t even gotten to the part where it’s a joke”

March 30th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

i’ve been noticing the fact

created: Wondercon’s this weekend. Anybody going?

Rafael Albuquerque improved by leaps and bounds since his days on Blue Beetle.

-See that last comment in there? Dude that’s like “Sounds like someone didn’t do all their homework before pretending to be an expert.”? He asks me if I read Albuquerque’s Superman/Batman work when I call out both his covers right there. Why would you want to be that guy? The “Oh, sorry, let me correct you” guy?

that nothing glorious can happen anymore

consumed: I felt like talking about movies, I guess.

Donate to the Red Cross and check out some Ron Wimberly sketches.

Help fund Jay Potts’s World of Hurt hardcover.

-Buy Lauren Davis’s The Comic Book Guide to the Mission (when it comes back in stock).

“Oh my God–we hit a little girl.” I hadn’t read this before, and that magazine cover is amazing.

-Here’s an interview with Ann Nocenti about working in Haiti, post-quake.

-I saw two movies this weekend: 13 Assassins and Sucker Punch.

-The worst thing about Sucker Punch isn’t that it’s sexist or misogynist. It’s that it’s awful. It’s inept on almost every level, save for Jena Malone, the stop snitching scene, and… well, that’s probably it. Even the colors sucked.

-How inept is it? Around an hour and forty-five in, Snyder realizes that he has fifteen minutes left and pop pop pop three people drop just like that. Push that story along, baby! On top of that, there’s a huge plot hole in that segment. The girls have to get something. They don’t. They use it anyway to save the day. Really? Who edited this? Who wrote it? There’s a big twist at the end surrounding the least sympathetic character. The music selection is so unbelievably -~POIGNANT~- and -~MEANINGFUL~- that I wanted to leave (no joke) about thirty seconds in, or whenever it was that the line “Some of them want to abuse you” from “Sweet Dreams” synced up to somebody’s abusive father leering at the camera.

-Somebody should revoke Snyder’s music licensing permission. The music wasn’t bad, exactly, but I felt like I was watching a thirteen year old make an anime music video out of his wet dreams. The metaphor isn’t even that deep, man. And the ending is awful.

-I went with some friends because a) it was cheap and b) I hadn’t seen some of them in a while and it seemed like a nice way to kill a Sunday matinee. We laughed, and hard, at the snitching scene. It was absurd, yet another moment of “Really? REALLY?” stacked on top of a million others. This guy next to us was like “Ha ha, real FUCKING funny” in that tone of voice where people go on to lecture you about something you don’t care about. I wonder how it feels to be that guy.

13 Assassins, though.

-It’s the new Takashi Miike, and the story of 13 samurai (well, twelve and another guy) out to kill a dude who is basically Japanese Caligula. He’s the half-brother of the shogun, corrupt, almost cartoonishly evil, and has embraced his nobility to the point that other people aren’t even human.

-He’s played wonderfully by Goro Inagaki, with the perfect amount of distance and just… what, callousness? He isn’t evil, he just doesn’t care. There’s a hole in him somewhere.

-This flick is the most grown mannest, whiskey drinkingest, cigar smokingest, record playingest, old school Caddy drivingest movie I’ve seen in a long time. Honor, sacrifice, horror, and all that stuff Garth Ennis loves is in here, and it’s great.

-There’s a scene with a quadruple amputee (CG, I assume) that was incredibly haunting and led to a tremendous payoff toward the end.

-The last 45 minutes or so of the flick is one running battle, 13 versus 200, and the prize is one man’s head. The pacing of the scene, of the fights, and the moments between the fights is dead-on. It flies by, and by the end of it, you’re not ready for it to be over.

-I liked how the big battle began with what was essentially asymmetrical warfare and exploiting home field advantage. The men are all a little different, and the way they approach living their lives and bushido was all very interesting. One guy’s reaction to his first kill was great, while another scene set in a long alley with several swords was a really well done action scene.

-“Kill any of them that get past me.” I got chills. He was so real.

-I think what I liked most about 13 Assassins was how straightforward it was. No gimmicks, no stupid slomo, and no really masturbatory shots. There are a few comedic bits to break up the tension (much needed), but they don’t break the movie. Even the violence was subdued. Other than a couple of scenes, most of the blood is shed off-screen, and there’s one spot of nudity that doesn’t come off sexual at all. Due to that, the way that the blood eventually covers their swords is striking. It’s straight up chambara, no magic tricks.

-Oh no, I lied–there’s one gigantic gout of blood, but there was a really good reason for it.

-And something impossible happens in the epilogue, but I think I figured it out and I’m okay with it.

-Toward the end of the movie, and you can see this in the trailer, a man wipes the blood off his sword with his sleeve. That scene is fantastic, and didn’t go down like I expected.

-I’m trying to think of my favorite scene, but all of it was enjoyable. I watched it while eating a porterhouse steak and shrimp tortelloni alfredo, drinking cream soda from a bottle, and sitting in the dark. Great experience.

-It’s ten bucks to rent off Amazon (or iTunes, if you’d rather see it in HD). I waffled a bit–ten bucks is a lot to spend for a rental. Then I realized that I’d just spent six whole dollars on Sucker Punch and went ahead and copped it. I got my money’s worth. I’ll buy it on Blu-ray when that drops, too. I’m a fan, borderline stan.

How good is this critique of that new Wonder Woman show by Adam Warren? All to the good, that’s how good. I don’t really care one way or another about the show (Zealot > Wonder Woman), but his points are on point.

-There’s a remake of Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira coming, directed by the Hughes brothers and set in a Neo-Manhattan, after the Japanese swooped in on an economically vulnerable America and bought up the place, last I heard. The script’s probably changed since. A lot has been made about them casting white actors in the lead roles.

-I think they have a point, but at the same time: Yojimbo vs Fistful of Dollars.

-The situation isn’t exactly comparable, but I can’t imagine we’ll possibly get an American Akira with some white dude going by “Kaneda.” That’s stupid to anyone with half a brain. But my point, rendered as best I can while writing on the fly before I leave for work: I don’t think a not-Japanese Akira is a bad thing, in and of itself. There’s nothing wrong with remakes that put a film into a new context.

Yojimbo vs Fistful is a good example of that. Both are classics, and I can’t tell which one I love more. Probably Yojimbo, because I watched it more recently.

-I think the biggest problem with a white Akira is the setting. Akira is fueled by a lot of things: the cost of power, science gone wild, nuclear fears, a certain type of street gang, and probably half a dozen more specifically ’80s, and probably Japanese, fears.

-It’s 2011. We don’t care about half that stuff any more. It’s like rappers still rhyming about pushing crack. It’s old. We have new fears, new things that will tilt the world off its axis and send us spinning off into space. The Akira remake needs to reflect that, and I’m not talking about Kenyan Manchurian Candidate Islamofascists hiding behind couches.

-If you’re gonna remake something, remake it. Don’t just try to translate it. That’s boring. Let Me In was pretty cool, and my understanding is that it took some liberties with the source material. If you’re going to adapt something to a new context, use the original as a base and then work within the confines of that context. Direct remakes are boring.

-If they do the work, I think an American Akira could be great. But honestly? The only faith I have in that movie lies with the Hughes. I don’t even know if I think it’ll ever actually get made.

-No way can they top the books, anyway. I wrote about it here and here. I own a couple color guides from it, too:

akira color guides

-So, y’know, as a huge fan of Akira, and a dude who is probably about to irresponsibly drop some dough on the colorized Japanese editions of volumes 2-5–maybe the Akira remake won’t be that baaaaahahahahahahahaha

we’ve run the gamut of our filth

David: I quit trying to save comics when I realized that comics wouldn’t save me
Esther: Action Comics 899
Gavin: Green Lantern Emerald Warriors 8, Incorruptible 16, 5 Ronin 5, Avengers 11, Captain America 616, Deadpool Team-Up 883, Incredible Hulks 625, Punisher In The Blood 5, Secret Avengers 11

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4 Elements: Persona 3 Portable

March 29th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable is published by Atlus for Sony’s PSP. Shigenori Soejima designed the characters for P3P, and also the characters for Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 and Catherine. His style is sharp and clean, fit for animation but just as attractive in the form of still images. He has a nice sense of fashion, and seems to be fond of shirts that ruffle, dark jackets, and black slacks. Shoji Meguro, composer of Persona 4‘s soundtrack, also did a solid job here. The score never interferes with the gameplay, instead enhancing the mood as needed. I like P3P quite a bit, though I’m maybe halfway through it thus far. I keep flirting with writing about it, though, and you know what? Enough pussyfooting. Four things about Persona 3 Portable that I enjoy:

Persona 3 Portable is about personal growth. The central metaphor for the Persona series, at least as far as I’m concerned, is growth as an individual. The characters must embrace their hidden talents or, as in Persona 4, come to terms with themselves before they can be turned into something radiant. In Persona 3, the cast is privy to a secret that most of society does not know. To make it through this horror, they have to depend on and learn to trust each other in battle. They form a group, Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad or SEES, that go out at night to try and make the world better.

The high school simulation puts the interpersonal growth of your character under your control, and that growth directly affects your performance in battle. You are in charge of making friends, and that involves what is essentially a dating game. You can hang out with people, you personally choose answers to their questions that reflect a number of different personality choices, and you can even date people. The role-playing aspect is interesting–if I choose an option I don’t necessarily believe, I get a slight pang of guilt. That doesn’t fit the character I’m choosing to play. These (fictional) characters are granting me a large measure of trust, and betraying that feels wrong.

Your character is the only one in the game that can create and utilize multiple Personas, while other players are stuck with Personas that are a reflection of their own personality in some way. Your character being able to possess several Personas is a nod to the fact that you, the player, are one of several billion possible people. So, since you can’t possibly have one specific personality, you’re given a selection.

Building relationships in the simulation portion of the game gives you greater power when it comes time to dungeon crawl. The stronger your relationships, the stronger your Personas are. It’s a fitting simulacrum of real life. The better your friendships, the better your mental health, and the more self-actualized you can afford to be. It’s like having a safety net. You know that you have help if you need it, and that lets you push forward.

To summon their Personas, the characters place a gun, called an Evoker, to their heads and pull the trigger. Rather than a spray of blood, what looks like broken glass erupts out of their skull and the Persona appears. Aside from being a cool visual, I think this represents something more. To really open yourself up, to share that light that’s inside you, you have to put yourself at the whim of others. You risk being ostracized, embarrassment, and most of all, failure. The gun represents a tool to engineer the death of yourself, of your ego, and that allows your Persona to appear fully formed. Maybe you like to sing at karaoke, but it takes six shots of tequila to get you there. Those shots are your Evoker. The gun is the equivalent of pausing, taking a deep breath, and stepping forward.

Going to high school requires making friends. You can’t make friends without opening up and genuinely building a relationship. Making friends makes you stronger, and more reliable in times of danger. Being stronger allows you to protect those friends. The act of protection forces you to open up and embrace your skill. And so we return to begin again. Everything is related, and all of it is more easily mapped to growing as a human being, than growing as a fighter or magician or whatever.

P3P is a PSP adaptation of a PS2 game, and required a bit of adjustment to fit the smaller screen and new context. P3P‘s story is told by way of a visual novel, which is an interesting way to do this type of game. Animation is kept at a minimum, and dialogue is still spoken, but the visuals are near-static images, and events are explained via stage direction. Rather than seeing someone slam a door, you hear the sound and you read the little caption box.

More than anything else, P3P reminds me of radio plays. Everything hinges on the actors involved and your own imagination. While comic books give you most of an image and let you fill in the blanks, P3P works more like an illustrated novel. Physical action is left entirely up to your imagination, while the look and personalities of the characters is given to you.

Strangely, this makes it even easier to be drawn into the game. The tradeoff between the specificity of animation and the freedom of imagination means that you have much more invested in the story. You create significant portions of the game as you play, and what you create fits into what is already created like a lost puzzle piece. Aigis, a robot girl, breaking into a character’s room is paced according to your own thoughts. While listening to a conversation that’s set around a table, you choose the table setting and the location of where the voices are coming from.

This is largely done unconsciously and entirely on the fly, but it helps make your playthrough yours, rather than something you watch. It’s the equal and opposite brother of Hideo Kojima’s cinematic heavy Metal Gear Solid franchise, where you aren’t so much a part of the story at hand as along for the ride. In P3P, you are the ride. The characters move and think as you want them to. The only time you don’t have a significant amount of control over them is when you’re dungeon crawling.

P3P is full of things to do. I don’t really dedicate a lot of time to playing games any more, and ones that require huge time investments to be enjoyed tend to get sold asap. In P3P, you can pick it up and go out and work on your friendships. Maybe you want to finally hit a certain rank with the Gourmet King, or begin dating Yuko. You can check and see when they’re free and then pursue them. You can get short interactions with them or longer, more involved conversations.

Or you can run through a few floors of the dungeon. The floors tend to be short, maybe five minutes long on average, and are randomly generated, so while they are same-y, they aren’t identical. Each set of floors is themed, enemies vary from floor to floor, and there are lost souls or treasures to be found in each section.

There’s also a quest system that’s handled by an otherworldly woman named Elizabeth. She isn’t familiar with our world, so she requests certain items or to go on dates with you to explore the land. These quests give you bonus items or cash, and provide short-term goals in long-term gameplay.

Part of the high school simulation is building your stats. You have Academics, Charm, and Courage to worry about. These can be increased by studying, doing dangerous things, drinking coffee, getting answers right on a test, or any of a dozen things. Having a high Charm means that you can talk to certain girls or get specific prizes. High Academics helps you score higher on tests.

At a certain point in the game, you can walk a dog. While walking the dog, you may be joined by a teammate, and you’ll have a brief characterization-building conversation. There’s nothing particularly deep to it. It’s just another information delivery system.

These choices, and the others I didn’t mention, make for a well-rounded game. The way I’m playing now, I’m not going for 100% completion and maxed out relationships. Forget that–grinding sucks the fun out of everything. Instead, I dabble and try to get a taste of everything. It’s made for an interesting experience, one where I’m okay if things don’t happen like I wanted or if I miss something. I can always do something else, and it takes no time at all.

The art’s really nice. I wasn’t familiar with Shigenori Soejima’s art prior to playing Persona 4, but his work in P3P is crucial. He has to provide a solid foundation for your imagination to fill in the blanks due to the overall lack of animation, and he does it well.

Characters are extremely well designed, and change as events in the game progress. Junpei has peachfuzz on his chin and a habit of wearing tank tops. Your character likes earphones. Everyone has summer, winter, and other special outfits. Mitsuru’s high class nature and faux French affectations come through in her design. Fuuka is stylish, but subdued. Yukari’s pink sweater and heart choker suggests things about her character. Aigis’s limbs give her a creepy flair, like a clockwork teenager. I think my favorite design is Akihiko’s, with his red sweater vest, suggesting a preppy kid, but his ever present bandage and fighting gloves suggest otherwise. There’s real personality in the designs, but working within the constraints of a school uniform.

I like the way Soejima uses colors, too. Yukari’s black uniform is hidden beneath her pink sweater. Ken’s rocking a black and orange color scheme that works surprisingly well. Aigis is mostly white, save for her major joints and weapons. Mitsuru is black, white, and then red. Black, and to a lesser extent, red, is a dominant color in most of these designs, thanks to the school uniform, but the way it plays with the rest of the colors in these designs is interesting. The designs pop, distinct from each other but clearly related. The palette uses soft gradients and bright colors, and the end result is a game that’s really very nice to look at.

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Fourcast! 82: Fourcast! Uncut

March 28th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

-We’re freestyling a show this time.
-No set subject, just talking and seeing where it takes us.
-It is surprisingly coherent, but impossible to describe.
-6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental for the theme music.
-See you, space cowboy!

Subscribe to the Fourcast! via:
Podcast Alley feed!
RSS feed via Feedburner
iTunes Store

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This Week in Panels: Week 79

March 27th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

Good evening or morning or whenever you’re reading this. This week I’m helped out by David Brothers and Space Jawa.

Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine #5
Jason Aaron and Adam Kubert

Batman Incorporated #4
Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham

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Mortal Marathon Part 4: The Essence

March 27th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

Guest article series by Gabriel “TheJoker138″ Coleman who wants to apologize for the iffy VHS quality in the images.

We start today’s adventure in Outworld, where a girl with her shirt half ripped off is being tortured by a Shadow Priest. Now that’s kind of a weird character to choose for your MK series. I hope Mokap shows up next. Anyway, this is easily the most violent thing (save for fantasy stuff like Sub-Zero freezing people) that this show has done yet, but it’s still not the ridiculous somewhat light-hearted violence of the games. He is straight up burning this woman with a red hot branding iron. He’s trying to get information from her about something called the Essence, which Shao Kahn believes his step-daughter, Princess Kitana, has hidden somewhere in Earthrealm.

Speak of the devil, here come Shao Kahn himself, and with him is another woman, named Qali, who he accuses of being loyal to Kitana, who she has been friends with since childhood. There’s also the small fact that when he staged his coup to take over Outworld, he had her father beheaded in front of his entire army, which is a decent enough reason to hold a grudge. She insists that no, she is loyal to no one but Kahn, but he’s not convinced. The Shadow Priest on the other hand is convinced that the woman he had been torturing really doesn’t know who took the Essence, or where it is, so Kahn has him slit her throat, as a message to Qali. In the shadows, another cloaked figure has been watching this whole thing.

We’re only through the pre-credits teaser this week and there’s already two things I need to talk about. Let’s start with the good. Shao Kahn is awesome. He looks, and acts, like a complete evil bad ass. Meek has toned down his performance since the first episode, but now instead of over-the-top he has a more hateful, rage-filled, burning to every line he says. His voice is completely different as it is in his dual role of Raiden, as is his posture, and just the way he carries himself. In what has so far been a series that has ranged from mediocre to painful as far as acting goes, Meek is the one truly stand-out performance. Every scene he’s in drips with energy, and he’s fun to watch, regardless of whether he’s playing Raiden or Shao Kahn.

He also looks great too. The Raiden costume hides his physique, but the guy is huge. And despite the fact that instead of going full monster face like in the games he is just wearing a skull mask at all times, it’s still miles ahead of the “incompetent bald guy” portrayal of the character from Annihilation.

He makes this look work.

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The Primal Rage Comic: It’s On Like Blizzard!

March 27th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

To go with the upcoming Mortal Kombat game, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at the more popular clones. There were a lot of derivatives of the Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat games throughout the 90’s, back when they were cheaper and easier to do than now. Many are long forgotten, whether they deserve to be or not (you’re still awesome, Kizuna Encounter!). Yet with the blood-based fighters, there were some who didn’t fall into obscurity without a fight.

Killer Instinct, Primal Rage and Eternal Champions are all interesting in how they almost became big deals. People remember them, but they’re all series that tried to last longer and collapsed before they could for various reasons. You don’t see any modern-day incarnations of those three non-Kombat games despite the way someone my age might light up and say, “Fulgore was the shit!” when the game is namedropped. They all had just enough play in the 90’s to receive their own comic books.

I’ve covered the Killer Instinct comic series before and Eternal Champions will be covered in due time. Today, I’m going to discuss Sirius Comics’ Primal Rage.

Primal Rage is based on the vicious Atari-released fighter from the mid-90’s. The basic premise of the game is King Kong vs. Godzilla as a fighting game. Giant dinosaurs and gorillas created with stop-motion animation duel over their domains. I’ve never been a big fan of the game and despite the excellent animation, you can see why it never truly took off. The game only had seven characters (using five character models and changing the palette on two of them) and no end boss. It seemed a bit barebones.

The story, I’ve discovered, is incredibly metal. A giant meteor crashed into earth, causing a major cataclysm. Tidal waves washed over the Earth. Cities were destroyed. Continents shifted back into one major mass of land. The people who survived lived on in caves, allowing civilization to degrade and turn itself into a series of violent tribes. The cataclysm also caused dormant beasts to awaken and battle, with humans worshipping them. Each one is considered a god of some sort. The God of Good, the God of Evil, the God of Life, the God of Decay, the God of Hunger, the God of Survival and the Goddess of Madness. They would all battle for supremacy until one was left standing.

The miniseries goes for four issues and is written by Christopher Knowles. The first issue, released in 1996, has art by Kevin Rasel. It’s a good-looking comic that’s refreshing in how straightforward it is. Unlike all the other fighting game comics, it actually holds itself down as a fighting game story without losing track of what it’s supposed to be. It starts off in an icy mountain where the side resembles that of a gorilla’s skull. Inside, we see Blizzard, a blue gorilla and God of Good, sitting on a throne in front of his gathered followers and a couple gorillas.

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Falling for the bad guy’s line

March 26th, 2011 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

If you’ve been listening to the podcast, you’ve heard me and David discussing Daken more than a few times.  Both of us have been both amused and bemused by his byzantine schemes that always seem to work out, but never seem to make sense.  In the latest issue his plans have come to a sort of fruition.  But I’m not sure I like them.  And I’m pretty sure that’s the way it’s supposed to be with evil characters.

What David and I found most hilarious all the way through the Daken series was the endless line-up of victims.  From the first issue, in which he murdered a guy for a nice looking suit, to the issue in which he charmed the Fantastic Four in order to steal some kind of mystery device from Reed, to this last one, in which he assured everyone that he was on their side before betraying the lot – he’s tricked an endless array of characters.  He’s done so while being the ‘hero’ of the book.  That’s not too unusual.  The villain being the protagonist of a story is a trope that’s been around forever.  And yet, those stories aren’t about how evil the villain is.  No matter how much wrongdoing is wrongdone, the readers, or watchers, or listeners, are supposed to be won over to the villain’s side.  There needs to be sympathy.

Usually that sympathy is gained the same way stereotypical ‘anti-heroes’ get sympathy.  Tough guys – and jerks – like Guy Gardner or Wolverine posture and fight and are obnoxious, but when a cute kid, or a gal in trouble, or a bus full of nuns, and they’re on board.  The villains might be a little more mercenary in their good deeds, they might only be in it because by helping out they stand to gain something, but they’re still on the side of the angels.  They’re still doing good. 

The underlying message tends not to be that sometimes they will do good, but that they’ll make an exception.  And if they’ll make an exception, won’t they do it for you, good reader?  A lot of villain-books, and movies, and tv shows, trade on this line of thinking.  They’re not overt about it, but the stories tend to line the villains up against unpopular causes, ideas, or even everyday annoyances.  A villain takes out someone who talks in the movies – oh *we* would never do such a horrible, senseless thing, but since it’s fiction, aren’t we on the villain’s side?  A little?  And if we’re on the villain’s side, then isn’t the villain on ours?

I’m not really against fashion designers, but they haven’t been making good headlines lately, so I don’t mind if a fictional one gets knifed up.  And although I’m aware that the Fantastic Four are heroes, I’m not exactly attached to them.  But Tyger Tyger, this last person to trust Daken, I liked.  I liked that she shot him in the heart the moment he ignored her warning that if he stayed she was going to shoot him in the heart.  I liked that she was a villain, but she was just trying to do her job.  I just generally liked her, so I felt a little put-off, betrayed if you will, when it turned out that Daken just stole her empire out from under her.  Sure he’s a bad guy, but – did he really need to do that?

And this is the bottom line of any real villain book.  The audience is meant to have sympathy for the evil character.  They are meant to like them, and confuse the fact that they just happen to be on the same side in one particular context with the fact that they usually wouldn’t be on the same side.   Maybe they secretly are good.  Or maybe they’re bad, but they can’t possibly find a way for that inherent badness to inconvenience *you*.  And this is exactly how the other characters in a villains’ book are meant to feel.  In the end, though, evil characters in fiction and in life aren’t immoral when they happen to go up against an unpopular character.  They aren’t immoral except when it comes to certain people who they actually like.  That’s not the way immorality or inherent evil work.  They’re just bad, and if you forget that, you’re going to get a rude awakening.

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Supporting the Arts

March 25th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

The Comic Book Guide to the Mission is an anthology of stories edited and curated by my friend Lauren Davis. She enlisted some great writers and artists to tell stories about San Francisco’s the Mission. There’s a wide spectrum of experiences in the book, and it’s a neat trip through an area that I rarely visit for some reason.

-Jay Potts, creator of World of Hurt, has started a Kickstarter campaign to get his webcomic printed in a nice HC. A quote from the page:

The first storyline, entitled “The Thrill-Seekers” finds Pastor in the middle of a search for a missing college student named Alicia Patterson. When Pastor’s missing person case turns into a murder investigation, his relentless quest for justice takes him from the city’s ghetto to a secret club of powerful, high society hedonists.

This Kickstarter project was started out of my desire to raise the funds to self-publish a graphic novel which collects the The Thrill-Seekers storyline. The graphic novel will also feature bonus material, such as production sketches, layouts and an introduction by author and filmmaker, David Walker of The graphic novel will be an 88-page hardcover book with a landscape format of 13″ X 6.5″ to match the original dimensions of the comic strip. Although the interiors will be black & white, the cover will be in full color. Part of the Kickstarter funds will also be used to pay for an artist to paint over my cover pencils to recreate the classic, pulp feel of a Blaxploitation movie poster.

You might remember Jay from this monster interview from last year’s Black History Month series. I’m a pretty smart guy, and I’m smart enough to know that Jay is somebody worth paying attention to. I’m planning to donate to the campaign because, my fetish for digital books aside, this is a book I wouldn’t mind owning in print. World of Hurt is good, man.

-I bought Joell Ortiz’s Free Agent the other day. It leaked late last year on Amazon and was quickly pulled. I forgot about it until recently, and found that it actually came out in February. It’s not bad, maybe a solid B. He uses a little too much hashtag rap (That’s where you kick a punchline and then explain it… Drake.) for my tastes, but Ortiz is an extremely lyrical dude. For every hashtag rap he kicks, he busts out several tongue twisting skyscrapers, so I guess I can’t complain too much. It sticks out like a sore thumb, though. The title is apt–it feels like an album where he’s trying to prove his worth. He raps about himself, rapping, murder, drugs, and women (hip-hop’s favorite subject matter, in order of popularity) and does it well.

The guest features are surprising solid. Joe Crack goes in on his, but the highlight is probably “Put Some Money On It,” where the Lox, especially Styles P, come off real hungry. Jada’s got that old Raekwon slow-flow menace going on, too. “Killing niggas with the flow, H1N1.” “Call Me” makes me hope that Novel and Joell put together a full-length that I can buy some day. They work well together.

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Mortal Marathon Part 3: Immortal Kombat

March 24th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

Guest article series by Gabriel “TheJoker138″ Coleman.

Let’s get right to it this time, shall we? We start off in Outworld, where Not-Jade is sitting around naked. This is the scene they took the shots of her for the opening credits from. She essentially has set up a sauna, and is using flowers as perfume. Shang comes in and implies that she must have whored herself out to get those flowers into the mines, which understandably pisses her off. He touches her hand, which causes it to wither and age, and then turns it back with a wave of his hand, saying that she hasn’t seen anything yet.

It cuts to the temple of the order of light, where Kung is meditating with the other monks. He has brought Taja and Siro with him, and she looks bored, while Siro is asleep and snoring loudly. She throws a pebble at him to wake him up, and then leaves. He follows, followed shortly by Kung. He asks them what’s wrong, and is actually quite understanding that they don’t feel the whole meditation and spiritual thing is for them. They decide to head back to the trading post, despite the fact that there is a heatwave going on, and it’s very, very hot out. Before they leave the head of the order of light, Master Wang, talks to both Kung Lao and them, saying that he’s sorry to see them leaving so soon and wishes them a good journey.

Heh heh… Wang…

Siro and Taja walk off, and Master Wang runs after them, giving them Kung Lao’s water bag to take with them. He’s out of breath from the run, and drinks from it as well. There is a person dressed in all black following him back to the temple. He rejoins Kung and the others in their meditation, but drops dead soon after, and his body decomposes into a shitty looking CGI skeleton and then to dust as Kung and the others watch. They figure it must be sorcery of some type, which causes the person in black earlier to run from the room, Kung giving chase. He catches up to the black clad figure, and pulls off their hood, revealing that it’s Not-Jade. She jumps through a portal back to the mines before he can do anything to her.

Shang is pissed that Kung saw her, and says that he’ll have to deal with the situation himself now. They also go on to explain why Shang doesn’t just use one of his portals to escape, by saying that there are guards and spies in the prison who would report back Shao Kahn if he was one day gone, and that they would track him and punish him wherever he went. I don’t quite buy this, but at least it’s something. Shang steals the soul of one of the other prisoners to make himself more powerful, and heads to Earthrealm despite Not-Jade warning him about the guards and spies.

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