Tag: Alan Moore


I watched Life of Pi tonight.

At one point, I turned to my wife and said, "In the formula, that's what's know as the All Is Lost Moment. Guess that means we're in Act 3 now."

I read an article recently called Save the Movie!, by Peter Suderman of Slate. It's about Save the Cat!, the 2005 screenwriting book by Blake Snyder which defined the formula that seemingly every successful American film since has followed, on down to explaining why Joker and Khan both have such a penchant for gloating at their captors from jail cells.

I really enjoyed Life of Pi. I think it's a great film. But it came with plenty of déjà vu. Hell, it wasn't even the only 2013 film that featured an orphan, a storm, lifeboats, a confrontation with terrifying beasts, and magical realism, and received Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Director, and Adapted Screenplay.

But formula's not bad, not inherently. Particularly in a story like Life of Pi which is itself about storytelling.

I don't have any problem with Joseph Campbell, either. Well, I mean, his writing gets pretty didactic, but he was a man who loved stories and loved taking them apart and seeing what made them tick and what the great ones had in common.

I do hate the extent to which his work was taken as an instruction manual instead of simple academic deconstruction, though. Which is pretty much how I feel about Watchmen (and how, not for nothin', Alan Moore himself feels about Watchmen) -- a perfectly good, interesting, insightful work that far too many people decided was a mathematical formula.

Which I suppose leads into some sort of irritating movie reviewer's wordplay about Pi. Fill that in for yourself, I guess.

Occupy Comics

While I was partial to the DeMatteis/Cavallaro piece in #1, the piece of the Occupy Comics anthology that everybody seems to be talking about is Alan Moore's (prose) history of the American comics industry. And that's plenty understandable. Moore's Dry British Wit is at its best here, with his faux-fair-and-balanced choice of words (where he repeatedly points out that original DC publisher Harry Donenfeld was merely an alleged mobster).

A lot of this is ground that's been tread many a time before, notably but not exclusively in Men of Tomorrow by Gerard Jones and The Ten-Cent Plague by David Hajdu (Amazon wishes me to note that those are affiliate links and I get a kickback from them, whereas I wish Amazon to note that Gerard Jones's name is not actually Gerald). But Moore brings his own entertaining little flourishes:

The Comics Code itself, a long standards and practice document, is interesting mainly for the eccentricity of its demands (the living dead and treating divorce humorously are both seen as equally offensive, with this stipulation aimed presumably at titles such as Zombie Alimony Funnies, which I've just invented so please don't write in), and for the curious specificity of language in which those demands are framed. For instance, in the Code's insistence that no comic book should have the words 'Horror' or 'Terror' as a prominent part of its title, it is difficult not to suspect that this is legislation which has been designed expressly to put E.C. publications out of business. The one way in which the Code could have accomplished this more blatantly is if they'd added words like 'Vault' or 'Mad' to the above forbidden list.

It's a good story, and it's well-told. And it leaves me curious as to whether and when Moore will collect it in book form.

Best/Worst of Times, etc.

Yesterday I talked about Karen Berger's imminent departure from Vertigo, the disappointment I feel as a Vertigo fan, and the excitement I feel wondering what she'll do next.

And you know, that's kind of the perfect metaphor for what it feels like to be a comics fan in general right now. There's just so much bullshit -- but there's so much gold, too.

Since the 1940's, the American comics industry has gone through a regular, 20-year boom-bust cycle. We're in an odd-numbered decade, so if the pattern continues that means we've got another bust coming. And while I think Marvel and especially DC are full-speed-ahead on stupid management decisions to cause the next one, this one's not going to be like the others -- it's going to be smaller, it's going to be confined to those two major publishers, and it's going to happen even as their characters and brands increase in popularity.

Now, both companies seem dead-set on repeating most of the worst excesses of the 1990's -- variant covers, new #1's, big summer crossovers, increasingly muddled continuity reboots, Jim Lee -- and don't seem to get the idea that this is going to go much like it did in the '90's, with a brief boost to sales followed by a crash as everybody gets sick of this crap. DC, in particular, is currently being run by bean counters at Warner who think their best shot at relevance is pushing the Reset button on their universe again and putting out prequels to Watchmen.

Even still, DC's still managing to put out some great books. Dial H is fantastic, Demon Knights is a joy, and Animal Man and Frankenstein were both pretty great until they muddled into an unnecessary crossover. I really don't think it's a coincidence that the best books coming out of DC are the ones that are subject to the least corporate interference and are the least subject to the whims of shared-universe continuity.

And that's just DC proper. Take the the industry as a whole and there's a stunning variety of wild, beautiful, original books -- Saga, Chew, Manhattan Projects, The Massive, to name just a few. There are even some wonderful licensed books -- Adventure Time, Popeye, Godzilla: The Half-Century War. Prophet shows that even a 1990's Liefeld property can turn into a brilliant, offbeat science fiction series worthy of classic Heavy Metal. Dark Horse Presents demonstrates the depth and breadth of modern comics at its greatest, at 80 pages for $8 a month.

And that's just the new stuff. As far as classic comics, there's an embarrassment of riches. When I gave my cousin a copy of The Completely Mad Don Martin -- a collection of the cartoonist's entire Mad output, in two oversized hardcover books in a slipcase, weighing in at about 25 pounds -- my uncle looked at it and said "Did you ever think you'd see anything like this?" The mere idea that, in two generations, Mad has gone from being dismissed as trash to being given reverential treatment.

There's so much in print -- Floyd Gottfredson's Mickey Mouse, Carl Barks's Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge, exhaustive collections of Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes, Bloom County, Terry and the Pirates, Dick Tracy, Prince Valiant, Mary Perkins On Stage, Pogo, Tintin. You can get the complete Bone in a single black-and-white volume or a dozen color trades from Scholastic. Love and Rockets is collected in paperbacks or hardcovers, pick your Poison River. The other day I was at the library and saw a huge hardback collection of Walter Simonson's entire Thor run (only the worthy may lift it). There are glorious hardcover collections highlighting the work of Kirby, Ditko, Wood, Davis, Kurtzman, Wolverton, Eisner -- the choices are staggering.

And that's just the stuff that's in print.

You wanna talk about digital? You can buy the entirety of Quantum and Woody right the fuck now (and there's a rumor of two finished-but-never-published issues on the way too). Sure, digital comics has its issues -- DRM and the inevitable platform fragmentation and compatibility problems that DRM causes -- but it's still early days and that stuff'll get ironed out.

And that's just the stuff you have to pay for. Head on over to a site like Digital Comic Museum and you can gaze upon thousands of public-domain comics, completely free of charge.

And that's just the stuff that's available legally.

You want a comic that, for various rights reasons, will never be reprinted? Jack Kirby's 2001? Moore, Bissette, Veitch, et al's 1963? The infamous Air Pirates Funnies? Can't stop the signal; they're easier to find now than they were when they were in print.

So, all in all? It's plenty easy to get frustrated with the direction DC and Marvel are going in. It's easy to foresee their readership tanking and bringing on another crash and panic. But Avengers and Dark Knight Rises are still Hollywood blockbusters; their publishers aren't going away -- and even if they vanished overnight, there would be so much good stuff left to fill the vacuum that I, for one, wouldn't miss them...much.

Truth is, for all the bullshit, I don't think there's ever been a better time to be a comics fan -- not even the 1940's.

And I shouldn't have to say this, but just to be perfectly clear: I am absolutely not advocating illegally downloading comics that are commercially available. Support publishers you like. Support creators you like. Support your local comic shop.

And if you download a work that's out-of-print, or otherwise acquire a book that doesn't benefit the creators or their families, it's a good idea to buy something that does. You like 2001 (or, for that matter, any of Kirby's Marvel work)? Buy Kirby: Genesis and send some money his family's way. Like 1963? Pick up some Swamp Thing trades, and keep an eye out for Bissette's Tales of the Uncanny.

Or whatever it is you're into. Bottom line? Find something you love, support the people who make it happen, and tell your friends.


Vertigo isn't what it was.

Have they had a big hit since Y? I can't think of one. Fables is still ongoing (along with spinoff Fairest), and they put out a new edition of Sandman every two years (with a new miniseries coming!), but I can't think of a new series becoming a real barn burner since 2002.

Not to say there aren't series that deserve it. Northlanders, Scalped, DMZ, American Vampire, iZombie, and my personal favorites, Sweet Tooth and The Unwritten -- they've all been critical successes, and they've all stuck around awhile (the shortest run of the lot was iZombie's 28 issues). But for a long time I've gotten the impression that the bean counters aren't happy with the results.

From what I understand, Vertigo's contracts are a lot more restrictive than they used to be -- "creator-owned" in a technical sense but giving a whole lot of the rights over to DC.

And lately, they've been shutting down popular Vertigo series to reintegrate popular characters back into the DC universe -- Swamp Thing and John Constantine are the two biggest examples.

So when I read yesterday that Karen Berger was stepping down as EiC of Vertigo, it came as a blow but not a surprise.

It's not an exaggeration to say that Karen Berger changed the American comics industry. She put Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, Rick Veitch, and John Totleben on Swamp Thing; she brought Moore and David Lloyd's work on V for Vendetta into the DC fold and gave them the opportunity to finish it. And then she put Neil Gaiman on Sandman.

That would have been one hell of a résumé all by itself. But then: Vertigo. Sandman wasn't just an amazing and unique book -- it led to an entire imprint based on the premise of amazing and unique books. It reminded comics fans -- and showed new fans, perhaps for the first time -- that comics can be anything. And that "mature" can actually mean "mature" instead of being a euphemism for "blood and guts and cursing and maybe titties".

It's been just shy of twenty years, and Vertigo's influence -- and Karen Berger's -- can't be overstated. It changed the way people looked at comics and consistently produced some of the best comics on the stands and in the bookstores.

But I get the distinct impression that current DC management doesn't care. And I'm not talking about Didio, Johns, Lee -- I think they all like Vertigo just fine. But DC is, increasingly, not a company run by comics creators, or people who know or care about comics. Warner's in charge. Warner doesn't want critically-acclaimed books with mediocre sales, it wants crossovers and prequels and sequels and reboots and corporate synergy and brand leveraging.

So Berger's out. And on the one hand, it's a shame to see her go -- I really think the writing's on the wall for the entire Vertigo line at this point. Fables will keep going because it's a moneymaker; it won't change much except that it might get a DC logo on its cover instead of the Vertigo one. But every other Vertigo book? Well, I'm nervous as a reader and I'd be more nervous still if I were a creator.

On the other hand, Berger's already changed the face of American comics, and even if DC is no longer a place where she can innovate, there are plenty of other publishers that I'm sure would be thrilled to have her.

And not just publishers -- there's a very long list of comics creators who refuse to work with DC anymore but who have nothing but nice things to say about Karen. And I'm betting they'll call her before she calls them.


Updated Favorite Searches. If there are two essential truths you should always remember, they are these: alan moore still complaining and popeye bad ass. Words to live by, my friends. Words to live by.

Playing: Oh God, you'd think I have ADD or something. Recently I have played Crackdown, Last Story, Xenoblade, Sonic 2 Delta, and Mottzilla's patch for BS Zelda. One of these days I'll probably even share some thoughts on each of them.

Reading: Rule 34 by Charles Stross.

On Alan Moore

Arguments on the Internet are waged through cliché.

Before Watchmen is out today. Alan Moore isn't too happy about it, and has made it abundantly clear that he did not approve it.

Bring this subject up, and sooner or later somebody -- perhaps even an ordinarily intelligent person -- is going to introduce the false-equivalence argument, "Did JM Barrie approve Lost Girls? Did Bram Stoker approve League of Extraordinary Gentlemen?"

I shouldn't have to explain why that is a stupid comparison, but let me just get it out of the way:

JM Barrie did not approve Lost Girls and Bram Stoker did not approve League because JM Barrie and Bram Stoker are fucking dead.

Alan Moore: Not dead. Still alive. Vocally complaining about the use of his characters and concepts.
JM Barrie and Bram Stoker: Dead. Not still alive. They do not have an opinion about Alan Moore.

Not remotely the same thing.

So, okay, point that out and whoever brought it up might concede that point, but then next on the list is "But Watchmen is based on the Charlton Comics characters; it wasn't original in the first place."

Well, you're getting warmer, but still no.

While it's true that the Watchmen cast is deliberately derivative, it is distinct. Rorschach is not the Question, Dr. Manhattan is not Captain Atom, and Nite Owl is not Blue Beetle.

I do think it would have been nice for Moore, Gibbons, DC, or somebody to offer Steve Ditko a check for inspiring their runaway success. (Ditko would likely have refused, because he is Ditko, but it would have been a nice gesture.) But I also think that that's a fundamentally different situation than if, say, the story actually had featured the Question, Captain Atom, and Blue Beetle and Ditko had been asking them not to make it.

Being able to create original characters who are clear analogues to existing characters is a good thing, and the comics industry is built on it. Superman is based on Doc Savage and Batman is based on the Shadow. But they are most certainly not Doc Savage and the Shadow; they're not merely distinct legally, but also morally and artistically. Just as the characters in Watchmen are distinct from their inspirations.

Even in current issues of League, where Moore is clearly using still-living creators' characters with the serial numbers filed off -- most notably Voldemort --, it's still not the same thing. Including a popular, culturally-important character in a minor role or cameo in an ensemble book and never referring to him by name is qualitatively different from making him the main character and sticking him on the cover.

All that said, there are some people who have made a fair point and a rational comparison in this debate: Alan Moore did spend most of the 1980's working on other people's characters. Superman, Batman, Green Lantern -- for someone who now bemoans DC's predatory contracts, he didn't seem too concerned about Jerry and Joe's cut when he wrote Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?

And that is a fair point. You can take this a number of different ways, I suppose -- it could be that Alan Moore was simply young and naive and didn't think about things like that in those days. Or it could be that he, Scott Kurtz-like, knew about the injustices of the past but naively believed that things were All Better Now.

Or, cynically, it could just be that he didn't care about unfair contracts until one affected him, or until after he was already rich enough that he could afford to tell DC off.

Honestly, that's a valid interpretation. I can respect that opinion. It's not flattering, but it's at least logically consistent.

And the other thing is, you know, Alan Moore is kind of a dick.

First, there are the blanket statements he constantly makes about everyone at DC and Marvel being terrible and doing nothing but rehash his ideas from 25 years ago. Now unfortunately, I do believe there's some truth to that -- grim-'n'-gritty stories attempting to duplicate Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns are a blight on the superhero genre -- but to say that there's not one person with a single original or creative idea at either company is just, by Moore's own admission, an insult delivered from a position of ignorance.

There's also a whiff of the paranoid conspiracy theorist to Moore's ranting about DC. I don't really think DC bought WildStorm just to get Moore back. And neither do I think that Steve Moore (friend, no relation)'s novelization of the Watchmen movie was scrapped out of petty revenge against Alan, acted out through coded threats transmitted through an unwitting Dave Gibbons -- I find it far more likely that someone at DC just realized that making a novelization of a movie that tried its hardest to be a shot-for-shot adaptation of an existing comic book they already published was a fucking stupid idea.

But his claim that DC was using Gibbons to send weird coded threats brings us to another problem I have with Moore: he has a pretty spotty history with his co-creators.

I think it's wonderful that he refused his share of royalties from V for Vendetta and Watchmen and insisted that it be given to David Lloyd and Dave Gibbons, respectively. I also think that it's a damn shame that, afterward, he accused them of being ungrateful and refused to speak to them ever again.

And that's something that I think too many people have ignored here: comics is a collaborative medium, Alan Moore didn't make these comics by himself, and unfortunately he doesn't just have a history of falling out with his collaborators, he also has a history of blocking their old work from being reprinted.

Steve Bissette -- who says he still has no idea what he said that made Moore refuse to speak to him anymore -- has spoken at length about his attempts with Rick Veitch to reprint 1963 and Moore's refusal to let it happen, and has noted, sardonically, that as much as he hates work-for-hire, it's his WFH collaborations with Alan that are still in print and earning him royalties, not their creator-owned work.

So while I still think Moore and Gibbons should own Watchmen, I acknowledge the very real possibility that if they did, Moore might still have declared Gibbons to be persona non grata and might very well have forced Watchmen out of print. We'll never know.

To the matter of the Watchmen contract: I don't think anyone was attempting to hoodwink Moore and Gibbons with the reversion clause; neither they nor DC had any expectation that the book would stay in print and never revert.

To that end, I can see DC's point that it tried, for decades, to reach an agreement with Moore that would be favorable to all parties, up to and including offering him the rights back if he'd write the prequels himself, and that he was intractable. And I can see Moore's point that DC was moving the goalposts and offering him what it had already agreed to give him, in exchange for more in return from him.

In that sense, it can be viewed as simply a dilemma, as two parties unable to reach an agreement (with Gibbons trapped in the middle) and both sympathetic to a certain extent.

On the other hand, there were cases where DC clearly took advantage of Moore and Gibbons, most notably in the case of the Watchmen buttons it sold as "promos" so that it wouldn't have to pay them their cut for merchandising.

And Moore has recently claimed that his contract actually stipulated that if he ever refused to agree to anything DC proposed to do with the property, they could hire their own lawyer to sign in his stead. And if that's true, then yeah, I think the contract was predatory.

Which does, of course, mean that Moore should have had a lawyer go over his contract in the first place -- I don't think anyone, including Moore himself, disagrees with that.

But what I don't quite get is the frequent line of reasoning, "He signed a contract, therefore he deserves anything that happens as a result of that." Well, legally, sure, but ethically that's far too callous a worldview for my tastes. The notion that it's Moore's fault for allowing DC to take advantage of him -- well, certainly he deserves some share of the blame, but what I don't get is how that absolves DC of any blame for actually taking advantage of him.

JM Straczynski's "Did Alan Moore get a crummy contract? Yes. So has everyone at this table. Worse was Segal [sic] and Shuster, worse was a lot of people" dismissal is particularly galling.

But JMS inadvertently brings up another point -- by being, himself, a perfect example of a famously difficult person to work with, a guy known for publicly criticizing the people who sign his checks, who DC puts up with anyway because he brings in good money.

Moore may seem intractable, but DC hasn't gone to much trouble to keep him happy. As Heidi MacDonald recently noted, he was willing to collaborate with them on a Watchmen retrospective back in 2000 -- but after that, DC pulled one of his stories, almost didn't publish Black Dossier, and never did publish it in the format Moore and O'Neill wanted.

Hell, Moore was even consulted for the V for Vendetta movie up until he read a script written by Americans who didn't even have a working idea of how British people talked or the basic structure of the British government.

Moore may be a crank, but MacDonald's point is sound: DC is making the same mistake it's been making since 1939. It's focusing on the characters as its treasure trove instead of their creators.

Way I see it, Before Watchmen will sell well at first and be largely forgotten in a year or two. It's another example, like the New 52, of short-term gimmick thinking -- it'll be a blip on the radar, rather than something that brings in new long-term readers and fans.

You know what could have brought in new readers and fans? New material by Alan Moore.

DC is so singularly focused on wringing every last penny out of Watchmen that it hasn't even stopped to consider what made the book great. It wasn't Ozymandias and the Comedian. It was Moore, Gibbons, and colorist John Higgins.

And maybe Moore was always going to get pissed off and take his ball and go home. Maybe nothing DC could have done would have been enough to get him to stay. Or maybe, if they'd gone to more trouble to keep their biggest-name creator happy, he'd still be around churning out new bestselling books for them -- we'll never know.

Course, there's also the point that Before Watchmen is a terrible idea in the first place, and it would still be a terrible idea even if Moore gave it his blessing -- even if Moore wrote it himself. (And yes, he was planning on it at one point.)

Watchmen is a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end. It stands alone, and should continue to do so. I love Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Conner (and I've enjoyed some stuff by JMS and Azzarello), but I'd much rather see them working on something new.

Discuss this in the Watchmen thread at Brontoforumus!

Form and Function

A few weeks back, I rented Hellboy: Sword of Storms. It was a neat little movie, and adhered pretty well to the the comics' folklore vibe. The highlight was a sequence adapting Heads.

And it occurred to me, you know, the best Hellboy stories are 8-page adaptations of folk tales, in which Hellboy himself plays only a minor role. Similarly, wouldn't it be great to see some 10-minute Hellboy animated shorts?

It's a real pity that both 8-page comic stories and 10-minute animated shorts have fallen by the wayside. DC, at least, seems interested in bringing them back: they've been doing 8-page "secondary features" in some of their popular titles, and next week's animated Crisis on Two Earths will also include a 10-minute Spectre short. Which is the perfect length for a Spectre story.

And of course all this has me thinking, Why 22 pages? Why 22 minutes? Why 6-issue arcs? Stories should take all the time they need; no more and no less.

Which isn't to say that rigid parameters can't foster creativity. The BioWare Writing Contest I participated in a few years back had some very tight guidelines -- only so many characters, only one location allowed, and that location has to be a pretty tiny square. But in a way, that stimulated creativity. Sometimes, you need parameters.

Douglas Adams is a favorite example. His best Hitchhiker's Guide work was written for radio, with a rigid three-act structure and length requirement for each episode, with the requisite pacing those things entail. Those episodes were adapted as the first two books of the Trilogy. The third, Life, the Universe and Everything, was adapted from an unused Doctor Who pitch, so it was conceived around a predefined structure as well. The last two books, where Adams took a more freestyle approach, tended to flail a bit; they were adapted by Dirk Maggs for radio a few years back and, for my money, worked much better with his judicious editing.

(The awesomeness of The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul does not fit my narrative as, to the best of my knowledge, it wasn't adapted from a radio or TV format. The first Dirk book was, though.)

There are plenty of writers who could benefit from tighter restrictions. Will Eisner put as much plot in a 7-page Spirit story as Brian Michael Bendis does in a 132-page Avengers arc. Sometimes I like longer, decompressed stories that spend more time on the scenery and the atmosphere. But there should still be a place for those weird little Hellboy stories.

I recently read Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall. Its pacing and form were noticeably different from the typical Fables books, because of its format: it was written as a graphic novel, rather than simply collecting 6 issues of a serial comic.

(A tangent on nomenclature: I absolutely despise the term graphic novel as it is commonly used, ie as a synonym for "comic book" used by people who think they're too cool for Spider-Man. However, it is a useful term when used in its original sense, ie a comic written in long form instead of being serialized in stapled, 22-page, monthly increments.)

Of course, 1001 Nights isn't a graphic novel so much as a graphic short story collection -- far from being a longform Fables story that takes its time, it's a series of stories which are shorter and tighter than a typical issue of Fables. So actually, it's more along the lines of those 8-page Hellboy stories I've been yammering about.

More in the "paced like a novel" vein would be DC's upcoming Earth One books. While it is obvious that these stories need to be published, as nobody has retold Superman's origin story in over three weeks, it's going to be interesting seeing them told with a little more breathing room, without the overwhelming, breakneck pace of Superman: Secret Origin.

I kid, but you know, the nice thing about constantly retelling Superman's origin is that now the Siegel heirs get a cut.

At any rate, once the rehashes are done, it would be quite nice to see DC tell some new stories with these characters in this format -- stories as long or as short as they need to be, at whatever pace suits the piece, without having to speed toward a cliffhanger every 22 pages.

V for Vendetta is actually a decent example -- yes, it was serialized, but its chapters don't fit into a consistent, forced length or pace. And while some of the chapters were climactic action sequences of V stabbing people a lot, others had him simply soliloquizing about anarchy.

(And funnily enough, the guy writing Earth One: Superman is J Michael Straczynski, the same guy whose The Brave and the Bold is currently the best 22-page superhero book that actually tells 22-page stories -- but whose run on Thor was decompressed, organic, and even meandering. Which is not a criticism, as I loved his Thor; it's just a statement that the man can write very well in different formats.)

If the world is a just and beautiful place, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is a template for the future of television. It manages the rather neat trick of adhering to a rigid structure that also just happens to be noticeably different from the traditional structure of a TV show: three 13-minute acts, each itself featuring a beginning, a middle, an end, and four songs. It's similar to, but distinct from, the standard three-act structure and 44-minute length of an American TV show.

Even The Daily Show -- God, not a week goes by anymore but one of the interviews goes over. Which is swell, but the way this is handled online is completely boneheaded: if you go to Full Episodes on thedailyshow.com, or view an episode on Hulu, you get the broadcast episode, which shows the truncated interview, followed by an admonition to check out the website, followed by Moment of Zen and credits. I can see this as an unfortunate requirement for broadcast, but guys, Internet videos can be more than 22 minutes. Why in the hell do I have to click through to a different page on the site (or, if I'm watching from Hulu, a different site entirely) to watch the rest of the interview? It's viewer-unfriendly, especially if you use your PC as a media center hooked up to your TV. Cut the full interview into the damn episode. Add an extra commercial in the middle if you have to. (It would be swell if you didn't show the exact same commercial at every single break, but that's a separate presumably-silly-and-useless "rant".)

At least they've wised up a little and started showing just the first part of the interview in the broadcast episode and then showing the rest in the "Full Interview" link on the website. It used to be they'd show a chopped-up version of the interview in the broadcast episode, meaning that instead of the Full Interview link picking up where the show left off, it had five minutes' worth of the same content spread out across it.

You know, it seems like the youngest of the major media is also the one with the least rigid requirements for length. Video games can be anything from a three-second WarioWare microgame to a persistent world that players sink years into. People may grouse a bit that Portal or Arkham Asylum is too short, but it doesn't prevent them from being highly-regarded, bestselling titles.

Which is, of course, not to say that longer games don't have to function under tight restrictions. They're often very high-budget affairs with a hell of a lot of people involved (as Dragon Age tries to forcibly remind you with its absurdly slow credits crawl) -- programmers, writers, artists, and so on. The Mass Effect games have voiced player dialogue and let the player choose Shepard's sex, which means every single one of those lines has to be recorded twice. (And frankly that doesn't seem like enough variety -- I have a Samuel L Jackson lookalike who says "aboot".)

And those restrictions are probably why every dialogue choice in ME is broken up into a predictable paragon/neutral/renegade choice. That kind of very-unsubtle delineation is exactly the sort of thing western RPG developers have been trying to get out of (as in both The Witcher and Dragon Age), but in the context of ME it works quite well -- I've even tried my hand at writing in a three-choices, no-hubs dialogue style and it works very organically. (For the ludicrous amount of dialogue in Dragon Age, there were places I could see the seams showing -- spots where I'd have three dialogue options and, as soon as the NPC spoke, knew that all three led to that exact same response. But that's probably a lot harder to notice if you've never written a dialogue tree yourself, and it's certainly an artform in and of itself, giving a response that works equally well for three different questions. I can only think of one occasion in the dozens of hours of Dragon Age where a writer screwed up and had a question hub that began with an NPC answering a specific question in a way that didn't make any sense if the dialogue looped back.)

And of course it's the medium that allows this kind of longform storytelling. Game length is no longer restricted by the arcade environment. Which is, of course, not to say that short-play games don't get made anymore -- Street Fighter 4 is a high-budget, "hardcore gamer" example, but Nintendo's entire business is built around games a casual player can pick up and play for ten minutes at a time. Ditto every Flash game on the Web, and most games on the iPhone.

And, indeed, Internet delivery is going to liberate other media from their restrictions. Eventually, we're bound to see shows like The Daily Show just run more than 22 minutes if they have to, and, God willing, we'll see more offbeat stuff like Dr. Horrible. The Web's given us comics as diverse as Achewood, Dr. McNinja, Templar, Arizona, and FreakAngels, and cartoons from Adventure Time to Homestar Runner to Charlie the Unicorn to Gotham Girls to the complete version of Turtles Forever. It's also allowed MST3K to continue in the form of the downloadable RiffTrax and the direct-order Cinematic Titanic.

Variety is the spice of life. I love comics -- and yeah, that includes mainstream superhero comics. But I'm sick of all of them having the exact same structure. Fortunately, I think we're on the edge of an age of experimentation.

Or another damn market crash. It is an odd-numbered decade now, after all.