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Vincent S. Moore Presents:








PREAMBLE RAMBLE

Hello, once again, to all my readers. After a long series of personal nightmares, I return to bring you the Omnium Gatherum, my collection of thoughts and opinions and insights.

It’s been a month since I last wrote for CWR. In that time, I’ve dealt with a flood caused by my crazy landlady that put my comics collection into danger. I’ve climbed the latest mountain of work. I’ve helped out with the promotion of Lazarus: Immortal Coils from AAM/Markosia and 10 Worlds Studio. And, as I type this, I’m fighting with a nasty cold that’s playing hob with my systems.

Yet, life goes on.

This time out, I had hoped to finish Are You In It To Win It?, my primer of resources that will be helpful to those who aspire to create comics. Unfortunately, some personal issues made sure I wouldn’t but I couldn’t just leave the idea hanging, so I will give y’all food for thought.

Just like this.

OUR TOP STORY TONIGHT

Are You In It To Win It?

An Interlude

I want to take a break from the main thrust of this series to thinking in public about the nature of the comics game.

In part because this is an important topic.

In part because this column is running late and the next segment looks to be a very long one. I want to stop stressing out my editor and to catch up on some sleep myself.

As Free Comic Book Day 2008 passes into the distance and Iron Man goes gold at the box office, the very idea of comics and their native coolness is on the minds of many Americans, if not peoples around the globe. At the same time, there are those who want a piece of that pie, who want to some of that coolness for themselves.

Yet they may not want to make comics for the same reasons as the hardcore, true blue fanboys and fangirls. They are those with screenplays stacked up in a trunk somewhere or just can’t get a meeting with the right producer or director or actor. Or they are that actor who can’t get the producers to see how cool this idea they’ve had since who knows when would be the next tentpole, popcorn flick.

So they turn to making the comics. As a way to pitch their movie projects or brand names.

And who can blame them?

Well, sometimes, a number of comics fans who wish to follow that much trod path from fandom to professional. Those people can blame them. Especially if they happen to be in the writing trade.

More and more it appears as though you have a better shot getting a writing job in comics if it is essential a case of moonlighting from your TV show staff writing gig.

Is this the new way to win it? It could very well be. Or it could simply be just another path, but not The Way.

Aside from the Tao, there is no single way that leads to success. Unless one were to mean the hard work and leg work and anything else you put into making your comics, your company, et cetera, a success.

For those out there who claim to be on the side of comics for comics’ sake, don’t feel angry or jealous of those coming from Hollywood. They are not carpetbaggers, although they do feel as such. They are merely fans like us who’ve found another way to do the work we’ve all dreamed of.

And if you find you don’t like the overly cinematic/decompressed style of comics being produced these days, well there is a way to win that fight. By making comics that do what comics do best. By playing with colors and panels and time and space and text and everything in-between, above, and below.

By making the best comics that you can, you will stand out as something different than the predictable cinematic styled comics of certain publishers addicted for emulating Hollywood’s formulas.

If you do that, you may find that is your way to be in it to win it.

BOOK(S) OF THE WEEK

And explains why FCBD comes and goes each year while overall comics readership is still shrinking.

I’ve been keeping my reading list short these days for all the reasons hinted at or stated all along this column. However, I found the perfect thing to a quick read that would satisfy. And the good thing about it is I would read it anyway because it features one of my favorite heroes.

Nostalgia Ventures has been doing reprints of the pulp adventures of Doc Savage, the Man of Bronze, as written by Lester Dent under the Street & Smith house name of Kenneth Robeson. But volume 14 is extra special as it features the first two Doc novels, the origin story The Man Of Bronze and the second story The Land Of Terror. All under the original first cover piece by Walter Baumhofer.

What a gem! Pure pulp, straight from the days of pulp, with no chaser. Hard hitting action, death and danger around every corner, and gorgeous dames who may hold love in their hearts for the hero but just as well hold a gat ready to plug any mug who should bother her. These were the perfect reading materials for boys and men back then and are nearly perfect now.

Dent/Robeson’s writing style doesn’t hold up well with the passage of time. But who really cares about that? What any reader of this or any other Doc Savage volume will care about is seeing Doc in all his superhuman glory, watching Ham and Monk mock feud at every turn, and the quirks and qualities of the other members of Doc’s Brain Trust come into play just when needed.

If you are a fan and have these stories already, just splurge and get this volume. If you’re not a fan, this is the place for you to start. To learn why there are still fans of Doc Savage all around the world.

Here’s hoping Nostalgia just goes ahead and reprints all of the Doc Savage novels!

ALBUM(S) OF THE WEEK

And explains why FCBD comes and goes each year while overall comics readership is still shrinking.

This column could not have been written without the support of this classic rock band’s newest studio album. They are here in La-La Land on tour supporting this very album. So it’s fitting that I review it.

Snakes & Arrows by Rush is yet another solid piece of music making in the thirty-four year plus career of this trio of Canadian rockers. In all the years that I’ve been a fan of Rush, I haven’t been disappointed by any album. It may have taken some time to get into some albums versus others. For example, 1996’s Test For Echo and 2002’s Vapor Trails. But I usually fall in love with each new album and renew my ongoing love affair with Rush.

This time, from the opening notes of “Far Cry,” the love started immediately.

As always, Rush has put out an album full of topical songs that rock as well.

If anything, a maturing sadness is on display on Snakes & Arrows. The songs, like “Armor and Sword”, ”The Way The Wind Blows”, and “We Hold On”, don’t completely offer hope as the Rush of old might have. Don’t get me wrong. There is light on this album. It’s just the sort of light that knows it has to fight the darkness and knows it cannot defeat the darkness for it is the twin of light.

I’m not sure if that just reflects the becoming elder statesmen of rock status Rush has or just our times.

Then again, as is usual with Rush, there is “Hope”. In this case, an instrumental piece by Alex Lifeson’s son Lerxst Lifeson.

Go out and give this a shot. It’s a blast.

FEAR AND LOATHING, HOPE AND WONDER ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL 2008

I’ll be very honest with you folks.

I’ve been following the politics the last few weeks but I’m sick and I can’t quite think of anything novel to say at this point. Except that after the next primaries in North Carolina and Indiana, we will . . . have decided nothing definite.

We will still have the Obama and Clinton road show, crisscrossing this great country of ours, bloodying each other.

All while John McCain gathers strength.

Meanwhile, the economy is worsening, the world situation is growing weirder and darker, and all kinds of strange things are happening.

That suggests to me that when November comes, all the dreams talked about now will be forgotten as fear and the need for security take hold of the American mass conk and we will be preparing for the inauguration of President McCain in January.

Right?

COMICS OF THE WEEK

First off, I was working on Free Comic Book Day this past Saturday, which in turn was the first time I had ever participated in the whole event. I don’t want to say it was weird or anything. My boss laid out the small selection of titles on Friday night. That way, I would open up on Saturday ready to go. And go I did.

As a destination store, we don’t get many walk-ins from the neighborhood. The bulk of the customers come to Comics Ink on purpose, looking for comics and/or graphic novels. In years past, there would be a couple of waves of people coming into the store with their lists from the website, looking for free comics. Or so I was told.

I had prepared myself mentally for dealing with my usual Saturday customers plus all of the extra questions/comments from new people.

Some of that did happen but as we were to learn later in the day, the Ink hadn’t been listed on the website as one of the participating comics shops for FCBD. Unlike in the two years previous, where Comics Ink had been listed. Which was why the store had been filled to capacity.

For the most part, FCBD 2008 was fairly mellow. I only had to deal with a couple of “those” conversations from people I had never seen before and would be surprised to see ever again.

I don’t want to fault the idea behind Free Comic Book Day. I think it’s a good thing to promote comics reading to the general public. But the way the game is set up puts the pressure on the retailers, not the publishers or the distributor. And not all retailers are people people, if you catch my drift. Besides, the counter balance to this effort would be some sort of national promotional campaign sponsored by the publishers. Yeah, I know, everyone talks about a “Got Comics?” or “Read Comics?” advertising blitz featuring actors and/or average people. In truth, asking the mom-and-pop types of retailers to be the sole promotional face of the whole comics industry is harsh.

And explains why FCBD comes and goes each year while overall comics readership is still shrinking.

We need to figure out how to get people into the comics shop more than one time each year, seeking out freebies. And it can’t just be whenever the latest superhero flick opens at the box office either.

Now, in terms of an actual comic that came out recently, I picked up a copy of glamourpuss by Dave Sim.

This comic is really more of an artbook, filled with photorealistic art by Sim as well as his lectures on the nature of this particular style, why he was drawn to it, how he does it, and what it is good for. Since I’m not in the Hate Dave Sim camp, I can look at the book more objectively. It is a very pretty book to look at. And I do find the conversation Dave is having with us readers to be interesting. Plus when he demonstrates at how one could create a story simply based on found images, it just shows what a master of the comics form Dave Sim is.

glamourpuss also shows how well drawn any alternative comic could be if the creator had the mind to do so.

I’m curious to see where this all goes.

I recommend at least taking a look at it for yourself and make up your own minds.

MOVIE(S) OF THE WEEK

Last year, an executive with Warner Brothers sparked controversy when he stated that WB would no longer produce films with female leads, particularly action movies. Many young and young-at-heart women took umbrage with the statement. One of the questions that came up constantly when this controversy was hot was, if male actors can make bombs, then why don’t they also lose the opportunity to make action movies. In time, WB backed somewhat away from the statement, but it looks as if those policies are in effect.

One of the movies cited by the executive as an example of a failure was The Brave One.

Starring Jodie Foster, The Brave One promised in trailers to be the long awaited (by whom, I ask) female version of Death Wish. Death Wish stands as a classic action/revenge series of movies, which took Charles Bronson to superstardom. When The Brave One was announced, many fans could wait to see it.

Well, I just saw it. I could have waited a long, long time before I did. By the time the movie was over, I could see exactly why that WB exec could say what he said and could feel justified.

The Brave One tells the story of Erica Bain, an NPR type radio personality, who finds her life turned completely upside down and inside out when she and her fiancé Dr. David Kirmani (played ever so briefly by Naveen Andrews of Lost fame) are brutally attacked by a trio of hooligans in Central Park. Waking from a coma and finding her beloved dead and buried, Bain begins falling apart, hiding in her apartment, and struggling to pick up the pieces. Her life takes a sharp turn when she first buys an illegal firearm and then uses it to kill a man who just killed his wife in the neighborhood liquor store.

Now, if this were truly an action movie, the pace and violence in the film would start ramping up towards the climax, watching our heroine get more and more off on the power she wields. If this were truly an action movie, that would have happened. But The Brave One isn’t an action movie; it’s a drama, where the primary focus is watching Erica Bain sink deeper and deeper into a dark corner of her mind. And that’s where the movie fails the audience.

Revenge movies are about the claiming of power by the powerless. It’s a wish fulfillment power fantasy, where the victim is transformed into the hero (at least nominally so). For The Brave One, Foster’s Bain begins as the victim and doesn’t do anything but become more and more the victim as the bad people--okay, let’s be honest, the bad men--she kills are set up in such a way that they made her kill them. That the violence Bain creates isn’t entirely her responsibility. That is the complete opposite of standard revenge flick motifs. One defies the “rules” of a genre at their own risk. With The Brave One, Foster and WB gambled and lost.

This means the bulk of the movie spends its time inside of Bain’s head, with her monologuing one way or the other about being the victim and about being disabused of the feelings of security one has in the modern world. All given with the most gravelly, darkest, deep voice Foster could summon, playing on the drive of many a feminist to be heard by the world by any means necessary.

So this bleak flick drags on and on until it reaches its end, for which I was very thankful.

On a side note, I can’t help but comment on the quiet acts of racism this film engages in along the way to telling this tale of female revenge fantasy empowerment.

As stated, Naveen Andrews stars as the love interest/motivating factor and that’s a given in this genre. What disturbed me as a man of color is how director Neil Jordan felt comfortable intercutting a scene of Andrews making love to Foster (read that however you like) as the two characters are being worked over in the hospital emergency room. To me, it almost screamed out that the price a man of color pays for loving a white woman is death. But I could just be overly sensitive. After all, there are plenty of films out there with people of color being shown in loving relationships, right?

And the other man of color in the film is Terrance Howard, playing the police detective in charge of investigating the vigilante killings. Like the rest of the male actors in the cast, Howard falls into the fallacy of assuming the killer is male (another one of the ways Foster gets to avoid responsibility for her actions for so long; no one is looking for a woman, because women don’t do such things) before finally figuring out what’s going on. Then, just as you figure he will either do his duty or get embroiled in a shoot-out with Foster, Howard performs the most perfect act of Magical Negroism I’ve ever seen on screen by being willing to turn his back on what Foster has done, by letting her get away, and even allowing her to wound him, just so to set up his story better for the cops. When this happened, I simply could not believe it. Thankfully, I had already turned my attentions to the Lakers game on the radio by this time. That, and I already have so little faith in how Hollywood treats its actors of color that I wasn’t all that surprised. Part of me actually was waiting to see in what way Howard would be the Magical Negro and he didn’t disappoint.

So, for all those feminists who bitched and moaned and started burning WB execs in effigy online, where were y’all for all the men that were killed to empower Foster’s Bain? Where were you for demanding that Foster shouldn’t have played such a fucking wimp? Where? At home, washing your tights?

If you feel like torturing yourself or you’re a Jodie Foster fan, by all means rent The Brave One. Otherwise, there are too many good options on your favorite website or at your neighborhood rental store to choose from.

THE TEMPEST IN A TEAPOT THIS TIME

If there’s any bit of silliness out there I have to pimp smack it’s the ongoing argument between race and gender in the current political campaign. As if one factor of the other makes one a greater victim of The Man.

Now, obviously as a black man, you would figure I’d say race naturally and call it a day. But it isn’t that simple. Plus I am of the mind that if you are smart enough as a woman or a black person, that you will have figured out ways to transcend those limitations. Maybe you’ve denied them or submerged them. Maybe you’ve just chosen not to interpret your not fitting the WASP male ‘default’ viewpoint as being a detriment at all.

Who knows?

However, I would say, quite blatantly stealing from Steven Barnes, if you really wanted to know which was more of a detriment, you should ask a black woman.

So, sistas, if y’all are out there, give me a holler. Which has caused you more trouble, being black or being female?

I’m waiting for your replies.

GOOD DAY, GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK

And running late as seems usual for this feature, I don’t have much else to say but good morning, good evening, and good day, folks.

See ya in a couple weeks.

Namaste.

Vincent S. Moore



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