Fan Classifications

June 16th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

When you ask a certain type of person what kind of comics they like; well, first they’ll correct you.  They will say ‘graphic novels.’  And then they will tell you that they don’t have one specific interest, they just like high-quality graphic novels.

While I can admire a search for the best quality products of a medium that you like, I’ve always felt a certain contemptuous pity for those people.  Really?  Just ‘high-quality’?  Just ‘good’?  Just ‘insightful’?  These people are either liars, or are the stunted, gnarled, embittered kind of jerks who will tell you that they only listen to classical music and NPR.  Sure, their taste is unquestionable and their likes and dislikes as pure as the driven snow, but – really?  They have no guilty pleasures?  No specific areas of interest?  No morbid curiosity?  No nostalgic favorites or fannish loves or goofy objects of affection?  It just seems so flavorless and bland.

And I can say this because I without a doubt know that those people, when I tell them I like the Batsquad and the Arrows and have an irrational prejudice against Marvel, pity me just as much.

As well they might.  I’m a character-based-fan.  That?  Is like attending a Rolling Stones concert, making it backstage, and spending the whole time talking about your favorite member of the Monkees.

There are many humiliations to being a character-based-fan.  Start out with the fact that, prestige-wise, you are the lowest rung of the ladder (and considering you’re already into comics, that’s a really low ladder to begin with).  Add to that that artist-based-fans can flit to one book or another, ignoring all plot and dialogue and rhapsodizing about a page layout, and writer-based-fans can camp out for a story-arc or two before moving on.  A character-based fan is pretty much stuck in a book forever.  We’re like those frogs who get put in cold water, and then don’t jump out when it’s heated up, boiling ourselves to death.  But at least the frogs go quietly.  Character-based-fans are the ones at Cons, arguing with a panel of uncomfortable comics-professionals about how our character would never do that, while the audience hisses at us.

We’re the idiots who get into ‘who would win in a fight’ arguments and talk about the logistics of what Batman can carry around in his utility belt, and complain about how terrible a comic is while they’re buying it.

Still better than yakking about the artistic merits of Lost Girls, though.

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Fourcast! 03: One time at band camp, I made out with a ghost!

June 15th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Number three is a little shorter than numbers one and two due to unavoidable technical difficulties (Thanks, Garageband!). However, we hit the ground running with couple of interesting conversations.

-We talk about the honor and nobility, or lack thereof, of certain types of supervillains. This leads to a conversation about why certain acts by villains cause fans to get worked up.
-What’s the secret connection between Megan Fox and Chuck Dixon? What does Wonder Woman have to do with torture? I don’t know, but I sure do make an amazingly ill-advised comparison between two of these!
-We get down to the nitty-gritty after (not much of a) smooth segue that and discuss the sex lives of two heroes: Connor Hawke and Wolverine.
-Having sex in front of your mom– cool or uncool?
-Guess which one hooked up with a ghost. Guess which one has a big ol’ pile of dead girlfriends.

As ever, you can listen or download to the podcast here on 4l!, subscribe to the podcast-specific RSS feed, or even subscribe on iTunes. If you dig us, review us!

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This Trope Has Got To Stop

March 24th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

I just saw the preview for Justice League 31 on the IGN website, and something in it really bothered me.  This something has been bothering me for a while in comics.

Dinah decks Ollie, her husband, because he embarrassed her.  It isn’t playful roughhousing, or a light smack on the shoulder, or even a slap.  She punches him, and he gets up and says that he deserved it.  Then Hal Jordan, Ollie’s friend, says that he deserved a lot more than that.  Then they go on with the discussion.




No, no, no, no, no.

Let’s run that the other way.  Ollie comes up to Dinah and punches her in the face hard enough that she’s knocked to the ground.  When she gets up, he tells her that he punched her because she’s his wife and she embarrassed him.  Do you think there is a chance in hell that she’d agree?  Or that her friends would also agree and the discussion would go on?  No.  Ollie would go the way of Hank Pym.  He’d get thrown out, beaten up, and his character would be marked as a disgrace for the foreseeable future.

This isn’t Batman and Catwoman fighting because they’re on different sides of the law.  It isn’t the friendly wrestling matches, or even the full-on fights that we see between vigilantes when things get heated.  This is one spouse, in this case the more highly trained martial artist, beating another spouse for not toeing the line.  This has happened before with Ollie and Dinah.  This is not okay.  This needs to stop.

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I Second That Emotion

March 14th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

In the latest issues of Green Arrow, Ollie has a bushier mustache, a longer, curlier beard, and a darker attitude.  None of these new directions please me, but I’m a die-hard Ollie fan, so I forbear.

Ollie’s got a companion on his new, dark path.  It’s a girl who has a crush on him, and is proving her love by murdering his enemies.  She’s new enough that no one knows about her, so suspicion is falling on Ollie.  After a long talk with Dinah, he looks down in shame, and confesses, “Those men in the morgue.  My enemies.  Men who have sought to harm for money or revenge or to quiet the demons that sing to them.  They’ve caused so much damage, not just physically.  Emotionally . . . mentally . . . to this city.  To you.  To our family.  And I can’t help it.  I’m glad they’re dead.”

Dinah’s reaction is  a anguished look.

My reaction – well I had two.  The first reaction was that I have read every issue of Green Arrow since Ollie popped back to life, and quite a few before it, and if a guy named ‘Sling Shot’ caused physical, emotional, OR mental damage, I missed it.  The second reaction was, “Of course you’re glad they’re dead.”

Because, really Ollie?  Really?  You are still the Green Arrow, right?  You didn’t change your name to IsSorryBadPeopleAreDeadman when I wasn’t looking, did you?  GrievesForHisEnemies Avenger?  General Empathy?

Of course you’re glad they’re dead.  I know of people, people I have never met, people who have never done me any harm, that I would be happy to see dead.  I would never kill them.  I would never encourage anyone to kill them.  I would want their murderers, assuming they were murdered and didn’t just choke on their own bile, caught and punished.  But the fact that they were dead would put a spring in my step, and I won’t lie about that.  Call me Captain Schadenfreude if you like.

I would think that a man who has killed a few people himself wouldn’t sweat over understandable feelings of relief that cold-blooded killers wouldn’t be hunting him and his family anymore.  Anyone?

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In Honor Of The Oscars: Casting

February 24th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Any hint of a comic book movie coming out provokes a flurry of posts on all the message boards suggesting actors to fill the role of superheroes.  It’s a fun and frustrating experience, squeezing real-life people into comic book personas.  There are always a few surprises.  (I, after considering the matter, think that someone should cast George Clooney as Batman one more time, but not yet.  Wait ten-ish years and then make him play Batman in Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.  Not only do I think it would work but it would make for a fantastic piece of meta; his work in Batman And Robin approximating the Batman comics of the sixties while he plays a more modern, dark Batman in DKR.)

Keeping in mind that the movies are probably never going to be made, I’m going to give my picks for Wonder Woman and Green Arrow.  Or,  ahem.  Excuse me.  Supermax

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Love The One You’re With

February 12th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Issue number 17 of Green Arrow And Black Canary has me once again wondering what to do with a story that is going in a decent direction, but not going in the direction you want it to.

In the past, when Cassandra Cain became a completely different character, for example, I simply lost interest.  This isn’t quite the same. 

I had hoped that the new Arrow book would yield a group of characters who were like the Bats, but with a sense of fun.  Mia’s life was getting good.  Connor was fairly cheerful for an ex-monk.  Ollie and Dinah seemed to be getting along.  I wanted a big, chaotic, adventure-loving family.  That is not what I got.  Mia and Connor are out of the picture for the foreseeable future.  Ollie is getting darker and ‘on edge.’   Even Dinah seems subdued.

At the same time, the world that Andrew Kreisberg is writing is shaping up very well.  We’ve got two villains who are each obsessed with half of the supercouple.  We’ve got a burgeoning professional relationship between a police lieutenant and Ollie.  Dinah and Ollie, despite occasionally arguing, are getting along well and not falling into that ‘constantly fighting over some damn stupid thing’ trap that fictional couples often settle into as soon as they get married.

It’s not the comic I was hoping for, but it’s a good comic. 

So, the question remains:  What happens when you couldn’t be with the comic you love, but you could love the one you’re with?  Are there any comics that really didn’t turn out the way you were hoping them to, but with which you could reconcile your differences and grow to love?

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Nocking A New Arrow

December 10th, 2008 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Tonight marks the release of the first Green Arrow since 2001 that has not had Judd Winick as an ongoing writer. So naturally, I was curious to see what direction the series would take.

It was interesting. I was hoping that Green Arrow and Black Canary would turn a little lighter and happier. The Arrows seem like the JSA to the Batclan’s JLA; based on the same concept, but allowed to be goofy. It doesn’t look like they will be using that goofiness in the upcoming story, but the writer, Andrew Kreisberg, seems to have a good sense of the characters and fits their natural humor into the story.

The one thing that bothered me about the issue was the massive seven-page flashback of all of Olliver Queen’s continuity. It is narrated well, sustaining the theme of the storyline; ‘A second can change your life.’ I can see why it was put in. The cover of the issue features the phrase: “A New Era Begins”. The author is essentially acting as if this is the first issue that the reader had picked up.

The trouble is, it isn’t the first issue that any reader has picked up. If you are flipping through Green Arrow and Black Canary #15, the odds are vanishingly small that you are unfamiliar with the characters. Not only that, but the flashbacks have been coming hard and heavy in this series. Green Arrow: Year One wasn’t that long ago. Then there were the flashbacks in the Black Canary mini-series, the flashbacks in and around the wedding, the flashbacks when Ollie was missing, Ollie’s re-hashing of his relationship with Connor when Connor was in a coma. There was even a thorough discussion of the history of Black Canary and Green Arrow in Birds of Prey.

So taking seven pages out of a story to recap it all again feels like being next to a drunk guy at a party who’s telling a fantastic story about a wild night he had with a friend. Trouble is, he’s so drunk that he forgot that you’re the friend. You kind of want to shake him a little and say, “Dude. I know. I was there.”

Despite this, it’s worth picking up for the sting at the end, and the fun family meeting in the middle. We’ll see how it develops next month.

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The Odd Couple

November 28th, 2008 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

The day after the last issue of Batman RIP, I’ve been thinking it over, and you know who would make a great writing team? Judd Winick and Grant Morrison.

No! Wait! Don’t go!

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What’s Your Type?

October 28th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

I was thinking about a few things this weekend, and I realized that I have a superhero Type.

I’m partial to speedsters. I like all the Flashes, though Wally is the best, and I’m cool with Quicksilver. I even like Doc Rocket over in Youngblood and Velocity in Cyberforce.

There’s just something about someone whose power is to run fast that appeals to me. I like running, though I don’t do it often enough, but I don’t think it’s a “I wish I could do that!” sort of thing. I think it’s more that speedsters tend to have cool visual appearances. Of course, pretty much all of them have lightning bolts or red in their design somewheres, but the running always looks graet. Some get afterimages, some get blurs, and the best appear in single panel more than once and carry on conversations that way. The best of the best have smoking shoes.

I was going to say that my other Type was archery-based characters, but that isn’t true at all. I actively dislike Green Arrow, Red Arrow is the dumbest, and Speedy is annoying and terrible. Connor Hawke is interesting, though kind of a cipher. No, the Type I like are marksmen.

Hawkeye, Shaft (from Youngblood), Deadshot, Bullseye, and I’m sure there are others. They’re awesome. Anything in their hands is a deadly weapon, and trick shots are the order of the day. I like seeing the creativity you have to use when writing these guys. It isn’t enough to go “Oh, boxing glove arrow!” nowadays. Everyone’s seen that. What’s next?

I wasn’t a Hawkeye fan until recently. Fabian Nicieza wrote a pretty good (and short-lived) series a few years back, and Bendis started using him in his Avengers titles. Somewhere along the line, though, I must’ve become a fan, because this scene from SI #7 got a rise out of me:

What’s your superhero type? Acrobatic wisecrackers? Brooding vigilantes?

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Where Are The Lightweights?

September 29th, 2008 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

I was pleased to see Kevin Smith returning to the DCU, with Batman: Cacaphony. Smith’s style is wordy, distinct, and irreverent, and I look forward to seeing him injecting a little humor into the Batverse. I’m also happy to see that Onomatopoeia, the Green Arrow villain, will be returning. Onomatopoeia has the right set of characteristics for a comics villain; a superhuman set of skills, a recognizable goal, and a quirky gimmick.

The only thing that bothers me about Onomatopoeia is that he fits too well with the villains we see these days; he’s deadly, he’s more out to get the superheroes than to commit crimes that might benefit him personally, and he’s the best, baddest villain ever. Poison Ivy moved from thief and environmental terrorist to random sadist and mass murderer with the powers of Swamp Thing. Two-Face now knows how to spar and goes on random killing sprees. Even Croc manages to do a lot of damage. Damian kills off villains and beats up Robin. Talia manages a national web of terrorists. And Hush – don’t even get me started on Hush.

There seems to be an unfortunate rate of inflation going on in comics. No more talented bank robbers or minor thugs. Everyone has to be the biggest, baddest, darkest, most formidable opponent Batman has ever encountered. It’s not that I don’t understand that it looks a little silly to have Batman go from a life-altering confrontation with the Black Glove one month to chasing down a safe-cracker the next, but it would be nice to see some variation.

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