Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Strangely Silent: The End of the Year

I haven’t been blogging much in the past couple of months, and I thought I would offer some rationale for the remarkable silence.

First, Mrs. Speculator and I haven’t really seen many movies of late. All the ones we’ve seen, I’ve blogged about. Stuff would come and go, and we might be mildly interested in some of it, but not enough to make a really concerted effort to get out to them. We both regret that, but given the cost of movies and the proportional discourtesy among other movie-goers, we just don’t try really hard. There are a number of holiday movies we are interested in, and maybe some good stuff will come out in the new year, so there may be more movie posts. But I also gave Mrs. Speculator a 40-inch LCD TV for Christmas (thanks for the help Jeff!) and we are really rediscovering the joy of the good movies on our own in-home big screen. This past week we watched some of the best movies of last year, including V for Vendetta, Children of Men, and The Prestige, with the ability to rewind and pause and no one more rude than our cats walking between us and the screen. There is still much to be said about seeing movies on the really big screen, and I know we both want to get to more movies.

Second, there’s not been much on TV to be excited about. About four episodes into Heroes we decided that when the arc was done, we were done with the show. Perhaps I can expand that decision into a blog, but ultimately, I’m not sure the show is intended for people who already read and enjoy comics, but acts more as a lure to get people into the comic form. The show distills the tropes and clichés of the last forty years of comics so that it is very predictable and yet, somehow, ridiculously slow-moving. And, already being fans, Mrs. Speculator and I weren’t being excited by the stories (I especially despise the ridiculous use of Hiro’s time-travelling powers) and the characters just weren’t grabbing us. So we gave up. We watched the pilot of Bionic Woman and we usually try to give a show three episodes, but we couldn’t find a reason to really pay attention to this one for more than the first hour of the pilot.

One of the shows we really do like is Chuck. We really enjoy the goofy lead character and his best friend, Morgan (Organ). And while the individual shows are a little predictable, the arcs are not; and we really like the smart dialog and the geek moments. I about busted a gut after three episodes when I finally realized that the secondary antagonist was named Harry Tang. How they are getting away with some of the wordplay and scenes is beyond me, but we really look forward to every Monday. But now, with the writer’s strike, we have no idea when new episodes will be coming out. Fortunately, we have Lost to look forward to in the spring, but even its season may well be cut short due to the strike. As it is, we are down to about six shows a week, not counting college football….

Third, I made a really bad book decision. I was reading a novel that was getting huge reviews and I was tremendously excited about it. I tried for two months to read the book and ultimately gave up, less than halfway through it. I wonder if that would make a good blog entry, but I’m not comfortable giving a bad review to a book I couldn’t finish. Who knows—maybe that last two hundred pages were brilliant. So I started reading other things, but work has been insane. The last couple of weeks of the year, I was either pulling 11-hour days or coming home emotionally exhausted from the wear and tear of ridiculous corporate processes. I generally ended up being mindless: playing a computer game or just catching up on comics.

The good news is that my own book got finished up in that time as well. Eric did an awesome job with the layouts: I think Mark’s brilliant art was an inspiration for us both. I am actually terribly excited about the book’s impending release, just because I think everyone did a really bang-up job putting it together. My biggest hope is that people who already know Mark and his work will get a deeper appreciation for it, and that people who don’t know him will want to after reading the book. There’s a bit of irony, though; in all the material about the book on the Web, either at Amazon or on the publisher’s web site, my name has been left off the book. The cover being used in the online listings is not the final art. So, even if I link to the book (like this:, I can still retain something of Internet anonymity until you actually buy the book….

Finally, there’s comics. I read an interesting article on Absorbascon about the differences between Marvel and DC, especially how Marvel appeals to the part of us that likes serialized stories, while DC has relied on variations of the detective story. The article ends up by pointing out that the recent year-long crossover stuff from DC is more like Marvel than historical DC. Reading this brought clarity to my own misgivings about what DC was doing with their characters and universe(s?). Then I read an article on Lying in the Gutters about the bad feelings running rampant in the DC offices about the direction things are going in, and I realized that if the writers aren’t happy, the faithful readers weren’t likely to be either. Frankly, DC’s current direction relies on tight continuity between titles, which worked pretty well during the year-long 52 event. But Countdown has been a disaster. Stories are planned out and then have to be finished in annuals when the deadlines go unmet. Gaffes between the individual titles have been numerous, the most visible being the appearance of the old Aquaman in Justice League when he is dead in his own title. I felt like the return of the multiverse would have opened up the possibilities for story-telling in DC, but nothing is using that potential except Booster Gold, which remains a fun ride. The result is a convoluted impossible mess, which I am enjoying in tiny segments but the overall view just depresses me. I’ve been dropping titles a great deal recently and holding out hope that it gets turned around. I’ve never been an apologist for the current editorial staff for DC, but I also never lambasted them as I have seen on other sites. But now I just have to wonder if there really is a plan.

I think I may have made it clear that I favor DC far above Marvel. Even so, I was buying some Marvel titles for the writers and characters. But World War Hulk ended with the Hulk being moved to another title and not being written by Greg Pak any more. I picked up Incredible Hulk just for his work, and I dropped it as soon as he was gone; I’ll not read anything written by Jeph Loeb if I can help it. I was reading X-Factor because Peter David was writing it, and I loved his original run on the series. But his story-telling has become lost in the continual crossovers that detract from what he was doing, and then I found out that the cast was undergoing a wholesale change, so I dropped that one too. As for the other non-Ultimate titles I was picking up, I dropped almost all of them when the Skrull stuff started. I mean, if I cared about the Marvel universe, I might have an interest in finding out which members were really Skrull spies and which weren’t, but I don’t know the universe and so don’t care. I’ll probably look for updates as to who is Skrully in the next year, but I don’t care enough to spend my money there.

So, yeah, I’m still here. Circumstances have just gotten away with me and I’m not writing as much as I once did or as much as I might like. I’m going to see what I can do about fixing that in the new year. Speaking of which, happy holidays to those who come by. Things will pick up, you have my word.

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