Tag: Batman

On Advertisements

Dear DC,

Here is a list of DC Comics I would have purchased today if they had not contained obnoxious half-page Twix ads:

  • Batman Beyond #1
  • Bat-Mite #1
  • Bizarro #1

Here is a list of DC comics I purchased today:

DC, I do not have a fancy marketing degree. However, I can offer you a marketing suggestion for free: if one team of marketers suggests making money by releasing new comics that appeal to a different audience from the core DC line (albeit, granted, still pretty much just made up of spinoffs of Batman and Superman comics), and another team of marketers suggests making money through finding a really irritating and distracting way of putting advertisements in your comics, perhaps you might consider rolling out those two ideas separately instead of simultaneously. This is what is known as "isolating the variables".

I would also suggest that, if I were one of the writers, artists, editors, or marketers who had gone to considerable effort to create and market a new and different comic book to a nontraditional audience, I would be pretty unhappy right now with the people in management who had made a decision that actively sabotaged the appeal of that comic book.

I do not wish to be negative or ungrateful here. I greatly appreciate your decision to convince me to keep the nine dollars I would have spent on those three comic books. I went nextdoor and spent that money on beer instead. I had a Four Peaks Kiltlifter and a New Belgium Slow Ride. They were very good beers, and at no point in my drinking experience did they interrupt me and try to convince me to buy Twix.

Kisses,

Thad

Excellent Games with Lazy, Halfassed Interface Design

So Arkham City was on sale on Steam last weekend. Between that and the recent removal of GFWL and SecuROM, and my Xbox (and my copy of the game) being recently stolen, I went ahead and bought it.

Compared to the Xbox version of the game, well, it's got all the same benefits and drawbacks as every PC game does compared to the console version.

Including controller support.

It recognized my outdated Cordless Rumblepad 2 just fine -- I'm not sure if that's internal to the game itself or due to the compatibility layer Steam's added in Big Picture -- but either way, well, it recognized the controller but didn't actually work right with it.

All the button pairs were switched. A and B, X and Y, the bumpers and the triggers.

All of which I suppose I could have eventually reprogrammed my muscle memory to work around (hell, the Xbox's button layout is already backwards for a kid who grew up with a SNES). But the fact that the Y-axis was backwards on the left stick? Not so much. Try playing a game where up is literally down and see how far it gets you.

And here's my gripe:

There's no menu to reconfigure your controller in the game.

There could have been. There's a menu option to look at the controls. You just can't modify them in any way. (Well, you can invert the axes on camera and flight, I suppose. But not on regular movement, the thing where I actually needed to invert an axis. And no button remapping whatsoever.)

There's a configuration utility -- outside the game -- which lets you remap controls...for keyboard and mouse. If there's a way to change the button layout on a gamepad, I sure didn't see it.

Now, the good news about this being 2013 is I could type "arkham city" inverted controls into a search engine and find a trivial fix -- as it turns out, there's a config file in BmGame\Config\DefaultInput.ini that has straightforward, cleartext entries with names like XboxTypeS_LeftY and XboxTypeS_A. Simply swap the names of the axes and buttons, and that's all it takes.

Which is great!

But the bad news about this being 2013 is I can't help asking why the fuck I had to look this up on the Internet and edit a fucking text file instead of just configuring my controls from a menu.

The last time I had a problem like this, with The Walking Dead, I found a forum post by a Telltale staffer who had this to say:

Unfortunately we do not have access to all the various versions of controllers that logitech and other companies make.

Which sounds perfectly sensible, and also completely misses the fucking point.

Now, in Batman's case, there are a couple simple reasons that's a bad argument: first, this issue occurs with the authentic Xbox controllers that the game is specifically designed for. Second, this is not a new bug -- see the link to the fix a few paragraphs up? Take a closer look at the URL -- it's for Arkham Asylum, not City. This is a bug from the original game that was not fixed in the sequel.

But even leaving aside those two points (which is only fair, of course, given that I'm quoting a guy from a different company talking about a completely different game), the central issue remains: this is the twenty-first goddamn century and people are making games -- PC games! -- where they don't give you the option to remap your buttons.

Yes, I know that hardware inconsistency is the single most difficult thing about PC development. No, I don't expect you to design your game to work with every single controller ever made.

But I do goddamn-well expect you to let me map my fucking buttons however I want.

Mega Man X did that shit twenty years ago. What the fuck is your excuse?

New Simonson Thor and Other Con Announcements

I'm not terribly excited by all the big movie stuff, or really the DC/Marvel comics stuff either, at Comic-Con. But there have been some good announcements about things I do care about. Occasionally-reliable gossip site Bleeding Cool has told tales of new Bone from Jeff Smith, a Stan Sakai adaptation of War of the Worlds set in feudal Japan, and a history of Mad Magazine by Mark Evanier and Sergio Aragonés (Evanier himself responded by saying no that last one is not happening and he never said he was doing anything of the sort).

While I hold out hope that they really are going to announce that the '60's Batman TV series is finally coming out on DVD, here's one thing that has been officially confirmed: Walter Simonson is doing a new Thor comic. (But not a new Thor comic. See the importance of italics, kids?)

It's not for Marvel, and it's not Marvel's Thor. It's a creator-owned book called Ragnarök and it features good ol'-fashioned public-domain Norse mythology. Said Simonson: "Scott Dunbier and I first talked about me working on a creator-owned book involving the Norse gods 15 years ago, but as many of my former editors can tell you, I've always regarded deadlines as useful fiction."

I am so there.

Cartooning

I've posted these bits from Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics before:

Chart of Realistic to Iconic Cartooning

McCloud as Iconic and Realistic

McCloud mentions, in one of his essays in the Zot! collection, that when he was working on Zot! he studied Peanuts and tried to figure out how Schulz managed to convey such a huge range of expression and emotion with such simple drawings -- and that this line of inquiry ultimately led to that chapter in Understanding Comics.

And you know who's got this whole "simple cartooning" thing down?

Sergio Aragonés.

The other week my wife and I took our 2-year-old nephew to the comic store. He made a beeline for a display case full of Batman statues. He looked at all of them, excitedly chanting "Batman! Batman!" But there was one he focused on more than any of the others:

Sergio Aragonés's Batman

He was excited. He was tapping on the glass. He was enthralled.

He's a smart kid.

And I got to thinking, what is it about Aragonés's art that has that kind of appeal? That speaks to a two-year-old, even through two whole shelves' worth of Batman figures?

Just look at it -- the pose, the arms, the fingers, the teeth, the eyes, the nose, the cape, the skinny little legs.

It's expressive. It's funny. It's exciting. And it's exaggerated as hell.

A collection of body parts in a bunch of simple shapes, most of them big and round.

It speaks to us on a fundamental level. A level so simple a two-year-old can see it.

Aragonés is a master. He may be the greatest living cartoonist. I wouldn't argue with someone who suggested he's the greatest of all time.

I was at Phoenix Comicon last month. Most of the artists were approachable. Eastman and Capullo were the only two who had real lines -- and they didn't just have lines, they had three-hour ones.

So my TMNT #50 went unsigned, because there's no damn way I'm waiting in line for 3 hours to meet Kevin Eastman.

I guess that brings up the question of what artist I would stand in line 3 hours to meet.

And I think, maybe, maybe Aragonés. If he ever came to Phoenix, and was just sitting in Artists' Alley signing things instead of spending the entire time doing panels. He'd be the one guy I can really think of who I'd be happy to wait that long to meet. Not Spiegelman, not Clowes, not Crumb, not Los Bros Hernandez -- I love those guys, but I wouldn't wait in line three hours to get their autographs But Aragonés? Yeah, maybe.

And I guess maybe Jaffee, too.

Babysitting

Not much time to write this evening as my wife and I are taking care of our two-year-old nephew. So far we've made it through a Ninja Turtles (2012), a Yo Gabba Gabba (with Weird Al!) and a Batman: The Brave and the Bold.

That's after a trip to the comic shop -- I still haven't finished the comics I bought two weeks ago, but I had to grab the new Astro City.

Nephew made a beeline for the display case with the Batman figures in it. His favorite was the Aragonés one. He's got good taste.

Paycheck

The other day I was telling my family about my new job.

My wife chimed in, "I haven't heard him complain once. I've never seen him like this."

And I must say I'm enjoying it. It's not perfect but it's pretty good. It's challenging without being high-stress; it's corporate without being pretentious. It's crowded but the people there are people like me -- to my left, a guy with Batman figures on his desk talking about Kevin Smith movies, to my right, a guy with Daleks on his desk talking about Saga.

Got my first paycheck today. More than half of it, straight away, went to my bills. But the other half still made for significantly more money than I made in a week on unemployment.

I dunno if it's the best job I've ever had. But it might very well be the best job I've had since the summer of 2004.

The Big Little Moment in Batgirl #19

Expanded from a Brontoforumus post I wrote yesterday. Spoilers follow.


I haven't been reading Batgirl ('cept one issue a couple months ago). I don't really know Alysia Yeoh. I knew enough to know she was who everybody was figuring would be the trans character.

But y'know, coming into it as a new reader, I think Simone really nailed it. It's the wonderful little moment of "this is a big deal to this character but it doesn't really change anything". It's that peculiar mix of something that really matters and simultaneously doesn't matter at all.

That's Simone's strength: these little human moments.

I've been on the other end of an "I have something to tell you" coming-out moment a handful of times in my life. It's just like that. The moment of "I'm glad you're comfortable telling me, but from where I'm sitting it doesn't change a thing." Or, in some cases, "Well Jesus, dude, I knew that within five minutes of meeting you" or "Yeah, I just assume every woman on the Internet is physiologically male." It's something that's so big and so small, all at once.

And superhero secret identities as a metaphor for the closet is hardly a new idea, but I've rarely seen an actual superhero comic commit to it so fully and unambiguously. Alysia reveals her secret to Barbara, but Barbara doesn't reveal her secret to Alysia -- and indeed, while her brother and her mother know, she hasn't told her own father. Subtle it ain't, but deft and nuanced it is. Simone takes on a great tradition here, what the masks and the cowls really say about people -- and it bears remembering that superheroes are rooted in the American Jewish tradition. Taking on an assumed name, hiding your identity from all but a trusted few -- the experience of the oppressed outsider is deeply encoded in the DNA of the superhero. Simone pays homage to that heritage here, in a way that never distracts and always serves the story.

As for that story, as for the rest of the book -- well, it's more of the "Barbara's brother is a sociopathic serial killer" arc that I don't care much for. I think Gail does a fantastic job with it but it is so very much not my cup of tea.

She's promised things are going to get lighter in the coming months, but next month's cover has a super-creepy new version of the Ventriloquist on it and I'm not holding my breath.

Still, I expect I'll be along for the ride for a little while to come, at least. Even if the big stories don't interest me, the little ones do -- and there are few other writers working in mainstream superhero comics right now who are Gail Simone's equal at those.

Obits

Roger Ebert's going to be getting most of the press today. But some other important folks died these past couple days too.

You know who writes great obits? Mark Evanier writes great obits. I'll start you off with his post on Ebert.

Then there's George Gladir, unsung Archie scribe, co-creator of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and 2007 recipient of the Bill Finger Award, an award that recognizes great comics writers who don't get the attention they deserve.

A comics creator who did get plenty of attention also passed today: Carmine Infantino, one of the most important artists, creators, and editors in the history of the business. He's best known for ushering in the Silver Age between the co-creation of the Barry Allen Flash and the design of the New Look Batman. And he was art director during an era noted for stories written around crazy covers.

And I learned something about one of my coworkers today: when I told him Ebert and Infantino had died, I got a bigger reaction for Infantino. You know, I'm starting to like this place.

Last, but not least -- and I'm going with the New York Times here because Evanier doesn't have an obit for her -- yesterday marked the passing of Jane Henson, Jim's widow and earliest collaborator.

Sad times -- we lost some real talents. But they all had a good run.

Books I'm Dropping

I observed, last month, that while I think Scott Snyder is an immensely talented writer and really gets Batman, his two major arcs up to this point really haven't been for me.

I decided to give him one more shot, that #18 would be make-or-break for me.

Well, the good news is, #18 really is pretty great. It brings back Harper Row, the main character from issue #7, my single favorite issue of the new series. #18 isn't quite as good as that one (among other things it lacks Becky Cloonan -- though Alex Maleev's work is fantastic and obviously Andy Kubert is no slouch), but it's a good solid continuation of Harper's story, and gives us a good street-level view of Batman freaking the fuck out following Damian's death.

There's fan speculation at this point that Harper is going to become the new Robin. That would certainly fit what happens in this story, and I wouldn't mind it -- but I'd much rather she stay Just a Regular Person. I've said before, often, that my favorite superhero stories are the man-on-the-street ones -- Ditko's Just a Guy Named Joe, Harmon and Jones's To Serve and Protect, Busiek and Ross's Marvels, Busiek and Anderson (and Ross)'s Astro City. I love supporting characters in the Bat-verse like Leslie Tompkins, or the guy who fixes up the Batmobile, or the lady who builds the supervillains' lairs. I would love for Harper to stay another one of those -- an ordinary person leading a relatively ordinary life that occasionally and extraordinarily intersects with Batman's. That, for me, is her ideal role.

But if she becomes Robin, I'd be down with that too.

(Course, I also won't rule out Damian coming back. This is comics. And it's not like Morrison's never done the "bring everybody back to life in his last issue" trick before.)

But now for the bad news:

If Batman #18 was the book that convinced me to stick with the Snyder/Capullo run, the news that #21-#31 are going to retell the origin story is probably going to convince me not to.

Origin Stories Forever!
Image via CollegeHumor.
This fucking thing was on the inside cover of every DC comic a few months ago.
Apparently without any intention of irony.

I am not spending forty-four dollars reading Batman's fucking origin story again.

Like every sentient human being in the galaxy, I already know Batman's origin story. I've seen it. I've seen the Finger/Kane/Moldoff version. I've seen the Burton version. I've seen the Timm/Burnett/Gilroy/Derek/Kirkland version. I've seen the Miller/Mazzucchelli version. I've seen the Nolan version. I've seen the Tucker/Jelenic/Vietti/Beechen version. I've seen Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, and various Kuberts take a crack at it. I've seen the Liu/Montgomery adaptation of the Miller/Mazzucchelli version. I haven't seen the Johns/Frank version. And I've got zero damn interest in the Snyder/Capullo version.

Look. I love Batman. And I love his origin story. It's a classic bit of comics history, it's one of the key elements to his story, and it's one of the reasons he's endured as an American icon for lo these 74 years.

But enough is e-goddamn-nough. Give it a rest. Tell some new stories.

Finger, Kane, and Moldoff told Batman's origin in a page and a half. There is no good damn reason to stretch it out to eleven issues at four bucks a pop.

I'm sick of the fucking relaunches, rehashes, reboots, retcons, repetition, and various other words beginning with "re".

I'm the biggest damn Batman fan I know. And I'm sick of this crap.

I'll probably read #19 and #20. And I'll probably stick with Inc as long as Morrison's writing, and maybe Detective as long as Layman's writing. But there's every chance I'll be a non-Batman reader before the year is out.


Also, I think I'm done with Animal Man. I finished the latest issue, did some reflecting, realized I genuinely did not give a fuck about anything that had happened in this issue or any issue since Travel Foreman left the series, shrugged, and decided that's another three bucks a month I could stand to spend on something else instead. Like air conditioning. It's supposed to be 94 degrees today. It is the middle of March.

This is really a pity, as Animal Man was absolutely the best comic out of the New 52. But that Rotworld shit went on way past its shelf life.

And here we hit the central problem, I think, with comics marketing for the past couple of decades: things like crossovers and reboots do sell -- but their popularity is unsustainable. Today's sales through cheap gimmicks come at the expense of tomorrow's sales through loyalty, goodwill, and repeat business.

The good news is, there's so much great shit out there right now from publishers who aren't DC or Marvel.