Archive for the '4thletter is…' Category


4thletter is for… dialogue!

March 16th, 2007 Posted by david brothers

I am a complete sucker for good dialogue. The Brians Three (Azzarello, Vaughan, and Bendis) are some of the best guys out at making realistic and natural-sounding dialogue. In fact, I’d say that the big three are Garth Ennis, Azz, and Bendis, in that order.

Ennis has a few themes that he comes back to over and over. “Superheroes suck!” is one. He likes to write about superheroes being awful people, war, and camaraderie. He’s got an incredible ear for dialogue. His people sound like real people. They’re distinct. I wasn’t a huge fan of the overarching story of Preacher, in part because Jesse Custer was kind of a jerk, but the dialogue was so solid that I had to keep reading. Chronicles of Wormwood is one of the most horrible, awful, and offensive comics I’ve ever read. It’s about the Antichrist, Wormwood, only he’s decided to buck his dad’s will and just live out his life without bringing on Armageddon. He’s good friends with JC, another character who has decided to try something different from what his Father wants. He ended up getting brained by a member of the LAPD for his trouble and suffers from brain damage. Wormwood is cheating on his girlfriend with a reborn Joan of Arc, too. It’s pretty despicable, but at the same time… it’s really kind of enjoyable. Ennis’s skill with dialogue turns an interview between a journalist and Wormwood into an insight into the minds and thoughts of both characters. Wormwood isn’t really a bad guy, I mean after all the Antichrist stuff. He genuinely has no interest in furthering his father’s goals and has made it a point to kill anyone who tries to make him do so. He does a bad thing when the journalist gets on his nerves and actually feels bad about it. He goes to break off his relationship with Joan (which ends up backfiring) because of this guilt. Ennis gets characters, is what I’m trying to say. Beyond all the (deformity+face) = Name and potty humor, Ennis writes real people, thanks almost wholly to his dialogue.

Azzarello is the same way. Where Ennis is a more on-the-surface kind of writer, where characters are pretty close to what they say they are, Azz’s characters exist between the lines. What they say is important, yes, but how they say it and what they don’t say is just as important. Look at that up above. Loop, the black guy. What do you get from just those three panels? He’s cocky, rocking a devil-may-care attitude, and he’s clever. Risso’s art helps here quite a bit, too. His body language says almost as much as the dialogue does. Azz’s dialogue has rhythm. People dance around each other’s words and tend to finish each other’s sentences. You have to pay attention to Azz’s dialogue, because it isn’t necessarily plain-spoken. Calling it “layered” would be a start. Words are laced with double and triple meanings. Seemingly offhand bits of dialogue end up being vital. Azz makes you think, and then think again. That’s part of why I love his work so much.

Bendis, for all the played out jokes and catchphrases, is really good at dialogue. He didn’t become one of the top writers at Marvel for nothing. Bendis’s dialogue is stuttery and fairly stacatto. But, who doesn’t talk like that? We start and stop, deliver half-finished thoughts, and talk over each other. Bendis is crazy wordy, but he’s also true to life. His people may sound similar overall, but the stutter-step talky-talk is a great device. One that has possibly been overused, but when used properly, is always excellent.

Let me round this out with one last guy. Personally, I think that Stan Lee brought a lot to comics dialogue. The pre-Marvel books that I’ve read tended toward the bombastic and overwrought. Stan the Man gave characters flaws, and at the same time, gave them voices that stick with you. He’s the man for a reason. To this day, I love the dialogue in those old Marvel books.

I picked this up out of a funny panels thread over at Batman’s Shameful Secret.


We love you, Stan. Don’t ever change.


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4thletter is… dead characters. (Blue Beetle Talk)

December 31st, 2006 Posted by david brothers

Sorry, just a bit of sarcasm there. Seriously guys, I know you love Hawkeye/Beetle/Spoiler/The Aquarian/New Warriors/JLI, but no one actually has a vendetta against these characters. Do you know why companies kill them? They kill them because you love them. They know that every character, from Skin to Ronnie Raymond to Doug Ramsey to Bill Foster, is someone’s favorite, except Wyatt Wingfoot, of course. This is especially true on the internet. Killing a character, or hinting that you will kill one, is a surefire sales and word-of-mouth bump. That’s why they do it. They’ll get a rise out of you each and every time.

It’s okay to be upset, but not to the point that you’re throwing out ad hominems and death threats at writers.

Just… be real about it. It’s just comics, dog, it’s not that serious. It sucks, yeah, but that’s life, right? It’s cool to come up with scenarios to bring them back to life or critique why they died, just have some perspective.

Anyway, Blue Beetle.

Like a lot of the DCU, I first encountered Ted Kord in the pages of the Death of Superman. He, along with Booster Gold, were part of the JL(A?) that went up against Doomsday before Superman. I had no idea that those two were the jokey-jokesters that they apparently were in JLI. I thought that they were just two heroes with cool costumes, but that’s possibly because I’ve always thought of goggles as being kind of cool. (Don’t tell anyone I told you that.) Plus, geez, they went up against the guy who killed Superman!

I thought that Blue Beetle was pretty cool, and then promptly forgot about him and the rest of that Justice League until probably about the time that Formerly Known as the Justice League hit. That was good stuff, so I became a mild fan. Countdown hit after a while and bam, Beetle was dead.

And the internet knew the sound of a billion angry keyboards, epithets and incensed forum posts a-typing.

I thought that the Beetle parts of Countdown, save for the bits where Bats and J’onn were jerks to him, did a good job of showing that he was a hero. I particularly liked the bit where Beetle realized that he had a choice between doing wrong and living or remaining a hero and dying.

“My name is Ted Kord. I am the second man to call himself the Blue Beetle. I tell myself there will be a third. And I hope whoever he or she may be, they do better at it than I have.”

He realizes that he can’t stop what’s happening, not even remotely. Lord’s plan is going to take effect, and it’s “Join me or die time.” Beetle’s response?

“Rot in Hell, Max.”

That, lads and ladies, is a true hero. Defiant to the end and ready to spit in a villain’s face.

He was right about there being a new Beetle, too.

The new Beetle is Jaime Reyes. (It’s not Jay-me, by the way. It’s pronounced more like High-may. Sorry, I’m a stickler for Spanish.) He’s the brainchild of Keith Giffen, John Rogers, and Cully Hamner. He’s from El Paso, Texas, and got the Scarab that gave Dan Garret, the first Beetle, his powers.

I really, really like Jaime. He’s quite a believable teenager, thanks in no small part to some smart dialogue from the writers. Jaime was missing for a year thanks to the events of Infinite Crisis, unbeknownst to him. While he was gone, his family came apart. His father was shot, but not killed, and his mother turned into a wreck. When he got back, the very first thing he did was reveal his powers to his understandably freaked-out family.

Yes. That is excellent and it was so nice to see. Jaime is still a teenager, still in high school. He isn’t super smart, or agile, or whatever. Shoot, he doesn’t even know how to fight. But, he understands that family is one of the most important things in a person’s life. He trusts them enough to give them his secret. His best friends, too.

After that, Jaime is almost a traditional Marvel hero. He’s inexperienced, flawed, and honestly, he doesn’t even want to be a hero. He didn’t ask for this, and he definitely didn’t ask for the JLA to take him into space and leave him there. He’s been dealt a raw deal, but he’s going to deal with it as best he can.

I like Jaime. I think that he’s a worthy successor and his book is a lot of fun. It sucks that Ted had to die to make way for him, but that’s comics. You can either embrace the illusion of change and hold onto your favorite characters until they stagnate, or you can embrace actual change and watch your favorite characters grow old, die, retire, or whatever, only to be replaced by new and improved versions or, heaven forbid, actually new characters!

It’s just comics, baby. Love them or leave them. Bad stories are a given in any medium. Whether it’s War Games or Onslaught, something out there is going to rub you the wrong way. Enjoy the good stories, ignore the rest. Just don’t be afraid to try something new.

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4thletter is… drama.

December 21st, 2006 Posted by david brothers

No text or essays for this one. I just really, really like the gif.

Want to know the quickest way to have all your blogging time sucked away? Work retail during Christmas and write about video games during the fourth quarter of the year, a.k.a. “The time every single freaking game in the entire world comes out all at once and you have to play most of them!”

More later, probably! I am currently enjoying a day off. I recently figured out how to access every single post from the original incarnation of 4l, which Gavok and I started back in March, 2005! Let’s see if anyone notices when we celebrate a two year blogiversary (such an awful word) four months after we had our one year! I think I’ll put up one of my earliest posts from the site. I just need a good name for the feature. Something faux old timey.

I’ve got a ComicSpace. Add a brothers, will you?

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4l is for… David (and Cassandra) Cain

December 1st, 2006 Posted by david brothers

That’s a pretty fair summary of Bruce Wayne: Murderer, innit?

Anyway, I’m a pretty big fan of Cassandra Cain, former Batgirl, and by extension, her father David. He’s one of the many, many people who trained Bruce Wayne in the way of the Bat and father of Cassandra. He’s the hitman people go to when they want it done right and without the tights. Deathstroke? Sure, fine, he’s the bomb. But, he’s loud, obnoxious, and all of his children are completely crazy. Deadshot? His deathwish makes him take unnecessary risks, and who respects a hitman in a tophat?

I think I’m rambling. Time to ramble in a more productive direction!

Cassandra Cain turned bad OYL. I like the heel turn myself, but a lot of other people don’t. There are a couple of reasons why, but one I’ve heard is that she would never turn evil because she hates her father. That’s one thing I cannot agree with.

I think that both David and Cass love each other. it is definitely a father/daughter-type of love. David definitely loves his daughter. After Batman beats him to a bloody pulp, the only thing he cares about is keeping his tapes of her training in his possession. At one point, he gets involved in a high speed chase away from government agents while carrying those tapes. He watches his “home movies” while drinking in the dark and reminiscing about the old days. At another time, he refuses to kill her when he is hired to. Later, he breaks out of jail to give her a gift. Let’s not even mention the cockamamie insanity that was Bruce Wayne: Murderer.

David Cain is that guy who would look his daughter’s first date in the eye, smile, and inform him that he can put a bullet through a butterfly’s eyeball at twelve hundred yards with one eye closed. Then, he would slide back a secret panel beside the fireplace, revealing the poor kid’s entire family, kidnapped, bound, and gagged.

David: Bring my daughter back by 2200 hours, untouched, or I will feed your father your fingers.
Boy: Uh, yessir
Cassandra: Oh, Dad! :rolleyes:
*canned laughter*

(I would read this comic.)

If anything, I’d say that he has a very genuine, if opportunistic, love for his daughter. She is his biological offpsring who he raised from birth. I think that he originally intended to raise a weapon, but instead, he raised a daughter. A particularly lethal and skilled daughter, but a daughter no less.

I think that Cass loves her father, too. She allows him to escape capture more than once, up until recently, and I think that the fact that he is her father is the only reason why. The problem is, she doesn’t like him very much. She killed a man at eight years old and saw exactly what happens when someone dies. She saw the fear, the hate, and the terror that comes when someone is killed and it wrecked her.

I think it’s important to realize that she wasn’t raised with any sense of right and wrong, beyond “landing punches is right, missing punches is wrong.” She saw death firsthand and was shocked into right and wrong. She realized the upbringing her father gave her was completely, utterly, and if I may be so punny, fatally wrong. So, she left. At, uh, eight years old.

My point is that Cassandra loves her father and he loves her. He raised her for half her life, and it’s kind of clear in early flashbacks that she loved to impress him. She liked having his support and admiration. He liked seeing her turn into the greatest martial artist on the planet.

That was a loving, but abusive, relationship. It’s comic booky, and kind of out there, but it is definitely physical child abuse. Cass knows it and David knows it and it strains their relationship. She doesn’t know if she can forgive him for turning her into a murderer and I feel like he’s feeling pretty guilty about using her.

It’s interesting that when Cass finally gives in to being the ultimate warrior her father raised her to be, her first action is to try to remove him from the field of play. She acts out of spite and hate, but it seems like she’s also playing the role of spurned child. Being Batgirl was taking the high road. It was antithetical to her father’s way of life. It was her way of atoning for her sins. She was Batgirl out of guilt. The new Cass, OYL? Well, the hard way turned out to be too hard for her. She wants revenge.

Deep down, though, I don’t think she actually hates him. She’s lashing out and being selfish, just like a kid would act. She’s Bruce Wayne screaming “I hate you!” at his parents before they died.

I think that the Cass/David relationship could easily hold up to, say, a four issue miniseries. Set it post-Robin, after David gets away from her and the League. Cass goes after her father in a big way. It’ll end with both of them on a burning rooftop, out of ammo, exhausted, and bleeding. So exhausted and broken that they can do nothing but talk. I’m talking serious breakdown-in-tears, heart-to-heart here, but on a burning building in a tropical location.

It ends with the reconciliation that’s been due since Cassandra’s past was first revealed. David Cain and Cassandra Cain finally work through their issues and their past.

Anyway, idle musings.

You know what else would be extraordinarily dope? Cassandra Cain is running the League of Assassins now, right? She offed Nyssa al Ghul?

Well, Talia has a son who may not be too happy that his aunt was killed by the former sidekick of his father.

Damien vs Cassandra. Son of the Bat vs the Greatest Warrior Who Ever Lived? Batboy vs Batgirl? Count me in!

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4thletter is for… Domino!

November 4th, 2006 Posted by david brothers

I realized last night that I’ve been reading comics for nearly twenty years, ever since around 1988/1989. Crazy stuff, man.

Anyway, this character is near and dear to my heart. Domino, Beatriz, Patch Eye, whatever you want to call her. She was a member of Cable’s crack Six Pack mercenary team, she’s crazy good with guns, and her mutant luck power is way better than that jerk Longshot’s. Things just happen to fall into place for her.

The power is kind of hilarious in retrospect, because I remember when it was revealed that the Domino we all came to know and love in X-Force was not the real Dom. She was Copycat, a blue-skinned shapeshifter the whole time! Mind = blown. The real Dom came back pissed and probably should’ve rightly killed Copycat. She eventually lightened up (lie) and joined X-Force.

I also love her design. She’d probably be hideous in real life, but the white skin and black eye-patch just look good on the comics page. It’s a striking bit of visual design. It makes her distinct enough that she doesn’t have to worry about wearing some standard costume to be recognizable.

You know what else is funny? Rob Liefeld created and co-created some great characters when he was at Marvel. I am secure enough in my comics nerddom that I can admit that. Sure, his Image/Extreme/Awesome characters were Bloodskin, Bagobones, Violencebloodstrikedeath and whatever, but Cable, Domino, Deadpool, G.W. Bridge, Kane/Weapon X, and Stryfe? All cool characters.

“Cable?!” you shout. “Stryfe?!” you scream. I like both of them. The mutant twin cloning bit is kind of stupid on an epic level, but the X-Cutioner’s Song turned out to be quite a ride. Stryfe finally just breaking down and wanting love from his biological (sort of) parents, Cable sacrificing himself to save those same parents, that’s good stuff.

People like to say “There are no bad characters, only bad writers.” I wholeheartedly agree. I liked X-Force as a kid. Looking back, a lot of it was dreck, yeah. But, look at these characters now. Fabian Nicieza is helping keep the spark lit for a lot of them, but people like them despite their early ’90s Liefeldian origins.

A good writer can make a “bad” character great.

I just want another Domino series, even if I have to write it myself. She’s too great of a character to relegate to guest-star status.

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4thletter is for… dumb explanations

October 15th, 2006 Posted by david brothers

(I couldn’t fit “that nobody asked for” after “dumb explanations”)

Okay guys, serious question time.

Which one of you out there demanded to know what the deal was with Power Girl’s cleavage window? Stop for a minute and think.

Did we really need an explanation for PG’s window? I quite like Amanda Conner, so the PG arc of JSA Classified was very good, but I could’ve done without knowing why she has a gaping hole in her costume. Before, I’d chalked it up to being yet another side-effect of cheesecake comics. Tying it into the Superman mythos is interesting… but also kind of creepy. I liked it better when it was just “Hey, free cheesecake.” Now it’s like… highbrow cheesecake or something. Expensive cheesecake.

I kid, really.

But seriously fanboys and fangirls, we don’t need everything explained to us. If there’s a minor continuity glitch, write it off as Hypertime. Hypertime was fun, easy, and let all your imaginary stories be real ones. If your hero isn’t acting properly in a team comic, hey, it’s just a bad day! Give it two months and you probably won’t even remember that Clark Kent parted his hair on the left instead of the right or that Power Girl’s boob window is actually due to deep, introspective thought and psychoanalysis rather than, say, a tragic fabric shortage at the warehouse.

It’s just comics. We all love ’em, but sometimes, ignorance actually is bliss.

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4l is for… dark silhouettes.

October 9th, 2006 Posted by david brothers

No, seriously. This can’t just be me.

I love outlines. I think that they’re an awesome storytelling trick. I am not a huge Superman fan, but one way to get me interested in a scene featuring him is to put him in all black with only his glowing red eyes or chest emblem visible. The chest emblem makes no sense on a lighting level, yes. I know. I was going to go to art school before I realized that I was good at words, not pictures.

But, isn’t it cool?

This spread is from Ed McGuinness, JLA Classified #2, I believe. The JLA are out in our world, the real world, and have been trying to maintain the status quo. They get info from the new Squire that things have gone bad on DC-Earth. What does the JLA do?

They use a boom tube to get back to their universe.

I love it.

I don’t know why Aquaman is back there, though. You can tell that Ed McG had an awesome scene in mind until he realized, “Oh, wait… Aquaman has to be in here, too! :argh:”

I am still crazy-go-nuts swamped with work. I’ll deliver you guys some content by the weekend, I promise. Tomorrow, all things being equal, we’ll have a guest article, or perhaps a guest reprint up from my old buddy Mark Poa. Stay tuned, true believers!

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4thletter is for… D-Man

October 5th, 2006 Posted by david brothers


I’m currently swamped with paying work, which is why Gavok is carrying the site right now, but I’m not too tired to hit you with a copy/paste from Wikipedia!

[S]upercop John Spartan, aka “The Demolition Man”, is paroled from the cryoprison for the purpose of apprehending Phoenix. Spartan’s cryoprison sentence came from the fact that as he tried to apprehend Phoenix, he miscounted Phoenix’s cruelty in killing the passengers of a city bus which had somehow ended up in the area. Since he knew he’d done a thermocheck at the beginning of his mission, Spartan couldn’t figure out why he couldn’t detect the bodyheat of any of the passengers. He never thought at the time that they were dead, and therefore weren’t generating any heat whatsoever.

Hmm… that may not be the right Demolition Man.

Whatever! This one is way better and has an actual nemesis. Simon Phoenix is awesome.

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4thletter is for… David Mack

October 1st, 2006 Posted by david brothers

A quickie!

David Mack, (very informative site here), is one of my most favorite creators. Kabuki: The Alchemy is hands down the best comic Marvel puts out and the second best comic being published after my beloved 100 Bullets. His Echo – Vision Quest arc on Daredevil was a high point for the series and for Wolverine in particular.

What I’m trying to say is that David Mack is the man and you would do well to read his works. If anything, pick up the first few issues of The Alchemy. They’re well worth your time and I guess are “deep” comics if you want your pretentious comic artsnob card.

I prefer to call them “good” comics, myself. Mack has a lot of interesting things to say about life and living. Check it out. Also his first name is awesome and that practically makes us brothers (see what i did there?).

(I kind of feel like I’m doing Mack a disservice by not mentioning the art on Kabuki or Echo, but, crap, man. I don’t think I could do him justice. His stuff just works and it all goes toward servicing the story. There is a reason why Kabuki forms her thoughts as a children’s book in a recent issue, and it isn’t because she’s writing one. It’s because children’s books are meant to teach.)

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4thletter is for… dumb criminals.

September 29th, 2006 Posted by david brothers

So, I’ve been asked certain questions more than once. “What’s your phone number?” is one. “What does ‘4thletter’ mean?” is another. “What’s it stand for?”

It gets kind of embarassing to go “Well, uh, my first name is David, which starts with D, the fourth letter, and I was feeling really uncreative when I need to come up with a gmail account, and then the web address just kind of followed, and I’m a hopeless narcissist who doesn’t want to give Gavok credit for anything, so…” all the time, so here we go!

Explanations! Collect them all, because this is definitely a series.

Fun fact for our readers: we are probably going to come in just 200 megs short of my bandwidth limit tomorrow, despite having less than half a gig of actual files stored on the site! Pretty impressive. Traffic is higher than it’s ever been, as well, so we’ll see how this goes in October.

Good times. Gavok’s got more What If coming for ya, and I’ll hopefully have a review of the recently-concluded The American Way out of Wildstorm. It did some interesting things with race and politics and was overall one of the best minis of the year.

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