Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Where's yer head at, man?

My writing production has gone way down since I started this out, and it is not so much the result of bad writing, as it is poor subject matter.

When it comes to comics, I almost exclusively read DC. I suppose there might be a long posting embedded here about the difference between DC and Marvel when it comes to story-telling, but let's just start with my tastes right now. And about a year ago, DC was going great guns--Infinite Crisis was coming to a fairly satisfying conclusion and 52 was making big promises. And in the regular titles, "One Year Later" was going to do some rebooting. But what have we ended up with a year later? Superman has been uneven, first telling how Superman got his powers back, then the global invasion by a giant snake oil salesman, and finally Arion's predictions of the dire consequences of there being a Superman at all. Only the last arc has any long-lasting repercussions with the possibility of an ongoing conflict with the only character that regularly gives Superman troubles, Superman himself. Action has been a throwback to the 80s and 90s, with its event-based storytelling (look at us have a co-writer who has never written a comic in his life! but you will recognize the name!). I've already remarked on my feelings about the whole 3-D glasses schtick, but even that has been delayed as the creative teams have fallen behind schedule. In fact, the title is being forced to go to unprecedented places by breaking up a five- or six-part story with filler issues while things get caught up. And those schedule problems don't come close to what has plagued Wonder Woman, that got so far behind that the first arc will have to be finished in a special issue while a whole new creative team takes over and plots a company-wide event.

Of the "big three," only Batman has really succeeded creatively. Morrison's inspired storytelling in Batman carries that title to some places we've not seen in a long while. Having Bruce Wayne as a character is a joy, and Morrison is nailing the jet-setter characterization that has been missing for decades. Whatever Bruce did to get rid of his demons in 52 seems to have worked, and other than the regrettable all-prose Joker story, Batman is a joy. Even so, it does not hold a candle to Paul Dini's work on Detective, making Batman a real detective again. Dini is delivering single-issue stories that develop both Batman and his supporting cast, making it quite possibly the best title DC has going right now.

Outside the big three, Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, and Teen Titans have really come through. Gl and Teen Titans have the advantage of Geoff Johns' guiding hand, and his record as the deliverer of big stories is substantial. However, Johns is not so good at the small stories, which has long been a part of the Titans' history. Perhaps the new writer there can continue to deliver the big thrills while developing the characters. More stories like the solo Kid/Red Devil, please! And while Green Lantern has been fun, it has been fairly predictable. Green Lantern Corps has indeed been a surprise with its strong story-telling, even though the art has been horribly uneven. I would add Uncle Sam, Justice Society, and the Dr. Thirteen back-up story in Tales of the Unexpected as highlights of the past year. But Justice League? What could have been a great story was drawn out by more scheduling issues, and the energy built-up with the promise a new Justice League has petered out in the weeks between the issues.

I could go on, appearig to bash what is going on at DC, but let me just say that I'm buying more comics now than ever before. I look forward to Wednesdays a great deal. My point is this--I've set myself some standards for writing reviews and one of those is that I don't want to review the same titles every month. But spread these titles over the weeks in a month and I'm left with perhaps one good title and a bunch of mediocre ones to talk about here. And I'm just not up for talking about mediocrity yet. So no blogging in those weeks.

So, I'm going to make a deal with you--if I don't blog reviews for a week's comics, I will still write a blog entry on the state of things.

As for books, well, I'm having a real struggle at the moment. When I was in college and grad school, I made a real effort to buy all the Hugo- and Nebula-winning novels. I felt it was a great way to get a sense of the history of the genres I love as well as visiting the canon of great books. And, if you are a book-lover, you know the joy of going to used bookstores and finding that one book you've been looking for. And I've read some wonderful stuff on that quest--Babel-17, for example. Mars Plus still excites me and I read it more often than I read some Heinlein. But grad school got tough and I had to bear down on getting my degree while working five jobs, and whn the pressure got too much, I had to start a career as a tech writer. So I was poor and couldn't do the book-hunt thing so much.

But recently I was inspired to go back and close the gap, catching up on the award-winning novels. And while I recognize that tastes change, especially mine, I'm discovering the best books of the past few decade and a half are generally nowhere near as good as the classics of the 50s and 60s. The book I've been working on for the past month is a fine example. While it purports to be speculative fiction, I'm finding that there is next to no fantastic in it to sustain my interest, acting more as a romantic peroid piece as we follow a young woman in 18th century France. I've finally reached the halfway point of this 450-page novel, and we have been introduced to exactly one fantastic element--a mermaid. And so far, where the novel is going is ruthlessly predictable and I find myself wondering what else was out the year this won a Nebula that had to suck so poorly. But then, I am only halfway through the book, so maybe it'll pick up so that amazing things happen and I'll find myself healthily eating crow, but right now, calling it a struggle is an understatement, as I put in about five to ten pages in bed before going to sleep. And it is no help that the book is helping to put me to sleep. Even less help is the electronic promise from the British arm of Amazon that a book I've been looking forward to for a year is on a tramp steamer crossing the Atlantic on its way to my doorstep.

I feel a big entry coming up about the weakness of recent books, but I don't want to start it based on my opinion of my current reading material, when I've not finished that book. But I wanted to let my readers know I'm still here, struggling with my sources. I'll write more about those struggles if they continue.

Hey, new comics tomorrow! May my pull-list be filled with instant classics!

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