Archive | May, 2013

Re: proactive versus reactive lead characters

28 May

By Ayo

With regards to the article listed here.

You’ll notice in the piece about “proactive vs reactive” characters that the author is very proscriptive about what makes a good character. I don’t agree. I think that characters having a proactive or a reactive disposition is an equally valid creative choice. The problems arise when authors are not consciously making those decisions and are falling into cliche or unconsciously following trends which might lead them into certain styles of character building.

My primary thought is superhero comic books. The protagonists of all superhero comic books with the possible exception of Mister Fantastic seem to be reactive characters. While the genre is billed as “men of action,” the reality is that these characters generally sit passively until some hostile force prompts them to act. This pattern of character-writing gets a job done. The general idea of a protagonist doing one thing and being interrupter by adventure works toward common cultural values, namely humbleness, selfless activism and generosity. The idea that a person might set aside his or her interests to lend their talents to assist in a sudden emergency.

On the other hand, this use of the passive or “reactive” protagonist is often reflexive: it is usually a construct of convention not intention.

As a reader, I tend to find proactive protagonists more engaging. Failing that, I tend to be excited by side characters or villains, either of whom tend to have more direct and aggressive goals in stories featuring reactive protagonists.

Which seems to lead into the question floated in think-piece essays by every television blogger: “WHY ARE WE SO FASCINATED BY ANTI HEROES??!”

The answer: because they do things.


NSFW: Joe Casey and Piotr Kowalski’s “SEX.”

24 May

By Ayo

Sex, numbers. 1-3
By: Joe Casey & Piotr Kowalski
With: Brad Simpson
Featuring: Rus Wooton
Image Comics, 2013

The comic is audaciously called “Sex.” But it really is just one of those “retired superheroes in a quasi-noir genre” pieces. There’s nothing at all extraordinary about Casey and Kowalski’s “Sex” except for… there’s more sex scenes in it than an average noir comic.
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Riot Act, b/w Eaten From The Inside Out

24 May

By Ayo

“Riot Act”
The Green Team, no. 1
Art Baltazar, Franco, Ig Guara
DC Comics, May 2013

For purely selfish reasons, I’m going to lean in heavily on this comic book. Off-brand DC comic books have a poor success rate in the comic book marketplace and I want this series to live. To “go viral,” pun intended.

I like co-writer Art Baltazar and I’ve enjoyed his work since the mid-1990s when he was exhibiting self-published works in the church-basement show Big Apple Comic-Con. I like superhero comics, especially when I don’t need to keep up with sister series and related tie-ins. I like off-brand series that don’t rely on encyclopedic knowledge of ideas that are older than my lifespan. Heck, I like those type of comics as well but walk with me. What I’m saying is that I like this comic book. The Green Team is light in tone, confident in its own momentum and the entire enterprise is performed with one eyebrow arched.

I’m not saying that Green Team is the best comic. I would understand if you, my reader, were to dismiss it and scoff at my insistence of its attributes. You wouldn’t be wrong for that. There are plenty of comic books–superhero comic books–that are better than Green Team. Some of these came out this very week. But I enjoyed this comic. I was chuckling on the train this morning while all of the other commuters were frowning into their immediate futures of downtown offices. Now I sit in my own miserable downtown office but that’s okay because I had a nice ride.

Baltazar, Franco and Guara put together a fun little comic that has its own Instagram hashtag #GreenTeam

So as I said, I need your help.

I need anybody who is inclined to read a lighthearted, silly comic about rich kid superheroes to lace up their sneakers and go to their comic book store and buy this. Then I need you to talk to me about how much you like it. And don’t get me wrong, I fully intend to make fun of this comic and beat the stuffing out of it. But out of love.


~the record is not over yet~

“Eaten From The Inside Out”
The Movement, no. 1
Gail Simone, Freddie Williams II
DC Comics, May 2013

The Green Team doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Though unrelated, #GreenTeam was marketed with another new comic book called The Movement. Where The Green Team is about super-rich-kids who are buying their way into superheroics, The Movement is about an underground network of vigilantes loosely based on the real world’s Anonymous group. Loosely.

Described in the book as a hacker group, “Channel M” is intimidating on the page. Their method for policing their neighborhood makes for good visuals. My regret as a reader is that there is also a superhero team inside this story that undercuts the creepy kids in masks surrounding crooked cops. See, I like both things: teenage superheroes and vast networks of hacker troublemakers. Twenty pages per month might not be enough space to get too deep into the regular-people-with-smartphones aspect of crime-fighting. We shall see.


I <3 Deadpool

24 May

By Ayo

“Eight Legs To Kick You”
Deadpool, no. 10
Brian Posehn, Gerry Duggan, Mike Hawthorne, Val Staples
Marvel Entertainment, May 2013

The cover of this comic book promises a wacky team up between The Amazing Spider-Man and “The Inferior” Deadpool. Spoiler: the contents of this comic book provide just that! Mission accomplished!!

When I began to reenter the world of superhero comic books in 2010, Deadpool was one of the titles that I sought out. I’ve loved Deadpool for twenty years, since 1993’s “The Circle Chase,” drawn by X-Men artist Joe Madureira. Deadpool is a fun character by concept and with the right team, the concept will always work.

This isn’t to diminish the specific good work of the current creative team. But these kinds of comics work like television works: you have an editorially decided concept and a group of writers and directors who put the product together according to editorial specifications. When all of the players are in position, you’ve got the makings of a solidly entertaining project.

Specifically, Posehn, Duggan & Hawthorne’s version: what stands out to me is that this iteration is funnier than Daniel Way and Carlo Barberi’s version. Based on just this one issue, I’m seeing more chances taken, higher joke density and a greater visual cohesion between thought and execution. I’m the one person on the internet who enjoyed Way and Barberi on Deadpool but I recognize where the results could have been better, particularly as a work of serialized comedy. The difference between the previous Deadpool series and what I’ve seen of the current one is the difference between smiling and laughing.

Now me, I know a comic book is working when I’m laughing on the train. And with “Eight Legs To Kick You,” I was laughing from first page to last.

Mission accomplished. Job well done.


Eyes spiraling

22 May

By Ayo



“The Prime of Miss Emma Frost”
NEW X MEN, no. 138
May, 2003
Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely
Marvel Entertainment, May 2003

Frank Quitely, the best superhero cartoonist in the world. Ten years ago, he redesigned the X-Men and made drew some brilliant scenes in the series NEW X MEN. Above is the introductory scene from his final issue on the series, “The Prime of Miss Emma Frost.”

Quitely’s panels tend to move in two directions at once: one-point-perspective, pushing our depth view straight back and straight across our field of vision from left-to-right. The result is a dizzying sense of motion and an immersive sense of space and movement.

My favorite panel above is where Beast (blue guy) has rescued the car passengers and turns to see the flaming guy (Hermann) continue to run down the road. There’s so many different things happening in that panel and all of those things are moving or defined by their lack of moving. Beast and the passengers are still but a raising smoke and dust cloud from Hermann who continues to race away gives the right-hand side of the panel some movement. So as the eye travels from left to right, we see a still scene which gives way to a motion scene. All in the same panel. It’s brilliant.

The panel in which Cyclops skids the car in front of the gas station is also brilliant. It gives me the chills, it’s so good. We read from left to right but the car is moving from our right to left, and it’s trail of telltale motion signs (exhaust fumes, tail light distortion) points away from our reading orientation. These competing stimuli make us read that particular panel both backwards and forwards at the same time. It’s magnificent.

“The Prime of Miss Emma Frost” can be found in volume 4 of NEW X MEN, Riot at Xavier’s.


Commit To Your Future

3 May

By Ayo


“It’s All Over!”
by Ben Passmore
self-published minicomic


Immediately after complaining that too many cartoonists simply draw their characters *existing* but not really *doing* which is to say, the cartoonists fail to have their characters engage with the actions that they are supposedly performing, I read DayGloAyHole by Ben Passmore which antidoted that cartooning crisis with finesse.

The characters of DayGloAyHole are very animated and very present in their roles. Whether its walking, running, leaping or whatever, the characters appear to be *really doing* the actions that they are shown to be doing. Rather than characters that appear posed as doing a thing.


Something that really bothered me is that the first protagonist of DayGloAyHole doesn’t have a name. The character drives half of the book (another character named “NO LIMITZ” drives the other half), yet he has nothing to identify him by. That bothers me. I literally read this book forwards, backwards and forward again before giving up hope. This character is literally nobody.

I’ve got a bone to pick with “The Everyman,” “The Unnamed Protagonist,” “The Man With No Name,” and other such nonsense. Commit to something, authors. You have to give things names. This “general” stuff just doesn’t hack it. There is no “everyman,” there is nothing to gain from obscuring basic contextual information. It doesn’t allow me as a reader to project myself onto a character or immerse myself into a character. It just makes me think that something is missing and makes me leave the story to try and see what I may have overlooked. Just name characters. Even Scott has a name. It’s “Scott.” Why does Scott get a name and Protagonist Man remains nobody, going nowhere, doing nothing? I don’t even want to hear that “thematic” stuff, it’s just lazy.

Authors have been pulling this “man with no name” nonsense forever and a day and that has to stop. It’s not about whether the character is named “Jeff” or “Herbert,” it’s about how can I think about this character? What do I even refer to him as? I mean, there’s a character in this book called “NO LIMITZ” because he has “NO LIMITZ” carved into his forehead, presumably with a knife. Any name will do. Just something to hold on to.


There are basically no women in this comic, except for two backup comic strips that exist outside of the main story. Written and drawn by Kate Hanrahan and Erin Wilson, these strips gently play at undermining the hyper-masculinity of Passmore’s story. A fitting close for a book that reveled in maleness for its duration.