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Return of the Knave
Drink It Black
Wednesday, 12 October 2005
Oak eh
Just as no plumber would want to read a comic book exclusively about his profession, of course adolescents aren't primed to read only in their age group, or exclusively about characters who are going through the selfsame torments and triumphs.

While there may be room for the coming of age and first love in a comic book story, the younger reader is as likely to be captivated by saucers and sorcerers and so forth. If the comic reader (certainly the comic collector) has aged, then it is also true that publishers did once note the audience drop off as their readers bought their first car or started dating and so, the fact that characters and storylines range across the divide, suggests that this has not been an issue for teen readers. At various times they would have read and enjoyed:

and snuck furtively into big sister or brother's room to peruse their copy of Omaha the Cat Dancer

Posted by berko_wills at 3:38 PM NZT
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Saturday, 8 October 2005
Not fully matured
Was the targetted audience for comics ever teenagers? Wasn't a book called Teen Titans as likely to have been created for sidekicks who were no longer boys and girls rather than as a point of identification? And didn't that whole comics company devoted to teens - Archie Comics - only stumble on the formula by accident?

Was the School for Gifted Youngsters an appeal to youngsters who wish they were so gifted, or is just a good place to start the story of superheroes born with their powers? And were the teens of the future: Legion of Superheroes playmates for Superboy? Or did Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles accurately parody the prevailing trends with teenagers deliberately at the centre of stories?

I have a feeling that if the comics industry is catching the eye of teenagers, it is guys who were teenagers the first time a character called The Angel appeared (only they weren't called teenagers in them days) Today's teenagers have plenty of other distractions, not least video games and other instant media like cheap DVDs and MP3


Posted by berko_wills at 6:32 AM NZT
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Wednesday, 14 September 2005
Refreshments available
Consider this an intermission


Posted by berko_wills at 3:22 PM NZT
Updated: Monday, 3 October 2005 12:35 AM NZT
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Saturday, 27 August 2005
Making a splash
It's not just the large scale battle scenes that are harder to enact on stage. The feature that modern comics share with the modern feature film is the close-up, the changed perspective. Stage whispers denote closeness to the audience in the round and that is a different experience again.

But note this picture. It's just Thor striding through the halls of Asgard





Now the problematic aspect to capturing this scene on stage is not any prohibition against depicting a god, since theatre and, indeed, all the arts have devoted an inordinate amount of energy to depictions of the Divine.

[Stan Lee notes in his 'Origin of Marvel Comics' that his first idea of having 'Super God' in a comic book would offend sensibilities but he could readily take from a dead religion (though he got the mythology wrong as the Thunder God is the one Asgardian who cannot cross the rainbow bridge to Midgard)]

Nor would a deft playwright worry about getting the narrator to intone the purple prose in the caption boxes.

The real difficulty is in capturing the impression we get from that panel. You literally cannot reproduce it on stage since only a percentage of the audience will see this profile. Perhaps there is no sensitivity about audience in the round seeing the back of this god but it changes the experience significantly. The same is true of those theatregoers seated in the balcony, where the actor playing a Norse god is reduced in scale.

Perhaps the narrative is necessary! "The Lord of Lightning is grim-visaged is he dear?" "Well I can't really see past this guy's boof head!"

Posted by berko_wills at 5:15 AM NZT
Updated: Wednesday, 12 October 2005 3:00 PM NZT
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Thursday, 18 August 2005
Prop 36
Would you rather sit in a bus stop reading a seven dollar comic or pay thirty six dollars or more to see the same story played out on stage? Well there is no equivalency. The theatrehas its own delights, its own drawbacks, its own misgivings.

Theatre very often needs a narrator to introduce the storyline and characters and to 'set the scene' between changes in scenery.

A narrator figure who came into his own in the 'What If..?' series is The Watcher, who is forbidden to interfere in the events he witnesses. Unfortunately this device has been downgraded substantially by the hyperbolic drive to have him consider an event so cataclysmic that he does step in (even if only to warn one of the players)

Even in the most elaborate production, you need to minimise the number of location changes and the type of settings you use - a restriction that does not apply in any way to comics.

Comics do appear to have absorbed a larger influence from the world of stage plays than that of the printed word in the way they employ larger than life characters with iconic names.




For a curtain call



Posted by berko_wills at 4:15 PM NZT
Updated: Thursday, 18 August 2005 4:33 PM NZT
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Sunday, 7 August 2005
'Twas a dark and stormy nightcap
Drama is yet another in a long line of types that is not as easily definable as first made out. Decried in the platform of soap opera mocked for its earnest attention to serial implausibility.

Or placed on the pedestal of Greek thought. One extreme to the other. Like the other genres and features of comic book art, drama is underpinned by considerations of what went before and
pinned down by the expectations of the audience, the critics and the press.

It is more than counting - or identifying - the dramatic moments in Terry and the Pirates and still short of the momentum that can carry To Kill A Mockingbird or Twelve Angry Men.
There are some things better left to other media.

That said Stan Lee (and Don Heck?) knew what he was doing when he created an armour-encased hero called the Invincible Iron Man, whose very strength is interlinked with his greatest weakness; an injured heart kept beating by the same technology as the suit.

You could go as far as saying that the Marvel empire was built on drama. Every other feature was already present in some degree. But you can see the DC characters gaining a personality as the decade rolls on.

Posted by berko_wills at 8:08 PM NZT
Updated: Sunday, 7 August 2005 8:13 PM NZT
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Wednesday, 20 July 2005
Love potion
I don't know about you but I've had enough of death, espionage and the body politic, so why don't we shift the mood a little to, say, romance.

Not as blokey a subject as the others but subject its own particular quirks. When I studied cultural forms, an interesting fact came to light. Nobody would dream of skipping to the last page of a thriller to see how it turns out but readers of romance novels do.

For protagonists in more action-oriented tales the love interest has been de rigeur (with a few exceptions)but romance has taken centre stage for some periods in comic book history. It hasn't dominated in the way that affairs of the heart do the song, but romance has had its day in the sun. Whether one needs visual accompaniment to show dating*, weddings,or marriage, possibly informs the dearth of same in current publishing (apart from appearing within the pages of books devoted to other pursuits). The same could be said for heartbreak and divorce.

[*this is very funny 'rating the dating of supertypes' but, being a blog, you have to scroll down past the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis to get to it]

Posted by berko_wills at 4:54 PM NZT
Updated: Friday, 29 July 2005 12:19 AM NZT
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Sunday, 17 July 2005
Which bank?

It matters not whether the author of Little Lulu had a political agenda or was just trying to entertain. Nor does it matter whether a semiological significance in Johnny Quick was picked up by the reader or not.

On the face of it, comics that can be read as apolitical are few indeed.




Posted by berko_wills at 6:13 AM NZT
Updated: Sunday, 17 July 2005 9:15 PM NZT
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Monday, 27 June 2005
Official seal
As much as the world of comic books might want to see itself as escapist, it can no more escape politics than any other media.

There are
Friday, 24 June 2005
Vat
You might have thought this blog doesn't do politics any more but when we compare spooks (the wiretapping kind) with crooks we quickly see that it is not so much the action but the directive that determines which is which. This is, in fact, the whole bone of contention with anarchists. What makes one group a terrorist organisation, another 'freedom fighters'?

Sanction by the government, that's what.

It seems inconceivable that people would vote for a government that uses torture and rendering as part of its method for extracting information or exacting revenge, and yet that's exactly what has happened. A pretty hollow freedom to defend, one would think.

Any old act of persecution has to be examined in the light of whether it's a government agency doing it or some arbitrary psychopath. It's pretty desperate when it depends whether we give the authority for bullying and intimidation; these acts are intrinsically ones of bastardry and cynical expediency and should be viewed as such.

The other side of the coin is that killing some dude walking to get the morning paper is straight out murder but kill a senator or congressman - especially at the podium, making a speech - and it's
assassination


Posted by berko_wills at 3:57 PM NZT
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