Posts Tagged ‘comic book writers’


Fat is Flavor

November 10, 2010

Chef Josh Grinker recently blogged a list of “Things Chefs Don’t Want You To Know.” The explanation for #1 (There is butter in everything) began like this:

In every culinary school in America, they hammer home the same three-word mantra to students day after day, year after year, until it’s like a little voice in your brain that guides virtually every culinary decision you will make for the rest of your career: ‘Fat is Flavor.’

Batman-Catwoman kiss, blog entry: Fat is Flavor

Now, this isn’t a cooking blog, and if there are any nutrition proselytizers out there who want to make the case for their fat-free, salt-free, gluten free, lentil and tofu roulade being just as tasty as a deep dish with pepperoni and sausage from Giordano’s, they can lump it. Because there are two key elements in Grinker’s statement which are the gateway to serial success or—in DC Comics’s case—serial failure.

First of all, the three little words are true. I could spend a day perusing the Good Eats clips on youtube for Mr. Science-style demonstrations explaining that reality molecule-by-molecule, but again, this is not a cooking blog. The point is, regardless of what you say on the convention floor, no matter what you put in the press release or tell the columnist from IGN, and no matter what would be convenient for you personally or professionally, no matter what creates a political pain in the ass for you personally or professionally, the bedrock principle on which you base your decisions has to be TRUE. One example off the top of my head: readers like the theme rogues. You can accept that and build your one year arc around Croc, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Joker, Harley Quinn, Riddler, and Two-Face and be on your way to the hit of the decade, or you can reject it, stage a parade of faceless mobsters and serial killers, and then grouse that grumble that you’re never as popular as that other guy.

Assembling the list of wrong ideas DC has about life, the universe, and everything would be a daunting task, and not necessarily a productive one. Because the second key in Grinker’s statement is that repetition of the founding principle(s) until it becomes an instinct. There are some major figures out there who are so consistently wrong in everything they say and do, they’ve definitely got the instinct mechanism working, it’s just based on faulty base principles.
From “Bruce Wayne is the mask” to the fallacy of Millerism, they have core ideas, those ideas just happen to be wrong. But there are others who have no little voice leading them in any direction. They go from mediocre to pretty good to clinically insane, from really bad to slightly above average to “oh hell, the syphilis got to their brain.” That is the mark of a writer, editor, or manager who is stumbling blind. They have no root principles, so every choice brings them back to square one. They’re a ping pong ball in a wind tunnel, and whatever gusts hit them last will determine where they go next.

Look, things do change in this world. One of the major reasons the Titanic went down is because everything Captain Smith knew was wrong. It was based on based on 30 years of experience, but on that ship on that voyage in those waters: wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. But here’s the catch: other things do NOT change. There is a reason the term is bedrock principles. Some things simply are, they are constants, they do not alter. “You know how you cook a great steak? You slather it in butter, throw it on the grill, paint it with more butter.” Because fat is flavor. The principles of storytelling do not change. Going home. Coming of age. Sin and redemption. The hero. The power of love. They are hardwired into us, just like our taste buds process sweet, sour, bitter, and salt. Can a new voice come up with something startling and creative and unprecedented? Absolutely. Can they invent a fifth taste? No. No, they can’t. Can they make it so we don’t like sweet anymore? No, no they can’t.

Find the true bedrock principles, repeat them until they become a little voice in the back of your mind shaping every decision you make, and you might just rock the world. Insist that fat isn’t flavor… well, enjoy your empty restaurant.

Meanwhile, the Cat-Tales kitchens are bustling these days. Electron 29: Chapter 4 is out. Compilations of Books 1 through 4 are out in ebook formats for Kindle, Sony, Nook, iPhone/iPad/iPod, and pretty much everything as well as new print-ready pdf editions. Individual Tales 1 through 50 are also available, and several have new covers showcased here, here, and here. The last ten tales (through #60) will be out – both individually and as the Book 5 Compilation – in time for Christmas. New installments of both spinoffs: Capes & Bats by Wanders Nowhere and Don’t Fear the Z by Random Equinox are in the pipeline and may actually be out by the time you read this, and an amazing new artist is soon to debut in the Fan Art Gallery. And oh yes, Batcatfever will kill me if I don’t mention that the forums have been quietly devouring the latest snippets from Batman: The Brave and the Bold.

Chris Dee


The Fallacy of Fridging

October 18, 2010

This is dedicated to the ones who scream “Fridge” if anything bad befalls any female character in any context…

The Overthinking It Flowchart of Female Characters

Fridging, for the happily unenlightened, is taken from the title of the list “Women in Refrigerators” which notes the number female characters who are killed, raped, or otherwise brutalized… but mostly killed and decapitated so their heads can be left in the hero’s refrigerator.  One of the creators, Gail Simone, has explained the original point simply enough: if you want women & girls to read comics, maybe killing off all the characters they like isn’t such a hot idea.  The original list, however, has been used as the foundation for any number of essays, deconstructions, and blogs who, in the words of whatever Kennedy said it, seem to want the luxury of having opinions without the bother of having thoughts.  The complaint–and it’s a fair one up to a point–is that the women and their deaths are just plot devices.  It’s not the story of their deaths, it’s the effect their deaths have on the hero.

Of course the same can be said of Duncan or Hamlet’s father, but nobody ever bemoans king-snuffing.

Look, I know these Fridge-Screamers are good people, most of them, and they’re honestly trying to help, but the fact is, they are the problem, not the writers. These well-meaning souls seem to think they are educating the rest of us by dissecting women’s roles in fiction in the ways shown here. In their minds, it’s writers putting women in these categories that keep them from being full and equal human beings alongside the men. We who might actually enjoy these outings are like savages worshipping a radioactive idol, not realizing that the glow we find so fascinating is bad for us.

Well, sorry, fact is, the Fridge-Screamers are the ones who have a faulty understanding. Because the thing that keeps these women from being full and equal human beings is that THEY’RE NOT. They’re not real! They are CHARACTERS. Characters in stories are going to repeat certain patterns and fit into certain roles. You accept that in order to experience the story in the same way you buy a ticket to a movie. It is literally the price you pay to get in on the experience. We could play this same stupid game with the men, because they too have a role to play in any story. But we don’t dissect them for 180 kinds of imaginary subtext simply because they have testicles—and that is the only thing that is keeping them on a higher shelf than the women. The women aren’t as real because of these analysis matrices taking everything they say, do, or wear out of the context of the story and run through the defensive paranoia filters of every silly blogger out there who read the syllabus for a women’s studies course one time and imagines she has amazing new insights.

Look, there are misogynist trolls out there masquerading as writers, as editors, as movie directors. They are not hard to identify. That seems to be the problem, actually. Sally Sophomore doesn’t feel like an enlightened intellectual pointing to the sky and saying “It’s blue.” On the contrary, there is a predisposition to reject the obvious simply because everyone can see it. “All you people, the peasants, you think the sky is blue because that’s what your eyes tell you. You’re not as wise and wonderful as me. I am one of the elite who can appreciate the particular un-blueness that so eludes your simpleton mentality.” While Sally is harmless (annoying as hell, but harmless), she does contribute an awful lot to the noise pollution that keeps real issues from being discussed. That’s a pity, but hey, that’s the Internet.

It is Monday, so a brief CT update is order. I really don’t know where to begin at this point, which probably explains the diatribe on Sally. I guess Electron 29: Chapter 3 would be a good start. That’s out! I don’t usually release stuff over the weekend, and I know how it slips by a few readers when I veer off schedule that way, but the way things are going, I can’t be that choosey about when things get done. Anyone who misses an update, hey, there’s the newsletter, the forums, Twitter, ffnet author alerts, and this paragraph. If all that escapes ‘em, DOUBLE CHAPTERS NEXT TIME! Woohoo! They can have a Cat-Tales readathon.

Anyway, one of the main reasons for the big time crunch is the ebook conversion. The Book 1 compilation as well as all the individual B1 tales are done, and Book2 is so far along that it will probably be up on the website by the time you’re reading this. That brings us up to the present, but things don’t line up for the future by themselves: writing on chapter 4, conversions of Book 3, prepping the fan art gallery for a new artist, all these things are in the pipeline, along with one other treat I’m trying to arrange by Christmas… *stops and takes a deep breath* …which is why I can’t afford much blog time to shout out to all the Purple Catwomen at New York Comic Con…

The forum’s own “Glitch2” as Eddie in this one

…Let alone recap “Why men like boobs” for the new crop of terminally confused whackadoodles. I’d like to, along with a few other issues that cropped up over the summer, but the Tales come first, and the commentary on non-tales matters comes second. Today we got Overthinking It out of the way. It’s a start…

That said, Kitty can really use an extra set of hands. So… I’m thinking it might be time to get an intern again. Since we now have a virtual visitor center in Second Life, I’d prefer an SL resident. If you’re interested, stop by the Cat-Tales Visitor Center in Second Life and send me a notecard. If you’re not in SL, you can send me a PM through the forum, but I’m giving preference to SL people on this one.

Chris Dee


Lost in Cat-Tales

May 24, 2010

The Lost finale was last night, and considering the number of comic book writers who took a turn on the island, I figured it was worth an evening of my time, if only for blogging purposes today. I hadn’t watched for the past few years. The one time I looked in, I saw some kid (who I think might have been the French woman’s son) strapped into the eyelid-propper torture chair from Clockwork Orange. “Yeah, okay…” and I went on my way. For the past few years I have been very nicely holding up the show as an example for non-comic friends to see what most comic writers do: take everything that brought the audience in in the first place and wreck it.

So I went into last night’s viewing in pretty much the same spirit that I went to see the first Iron Man film: not expecting to have a wildly good time. Like the first Iron Man, I was pleasantly surprised. First, ABC did what they learned in that very first season with Lost and Desperate Housewives: shows that had too many secrets, mysteries, and half-told backstories for the average viewer to keep track of, particularly over the mid-season mini-hiatus. As I said back then, it wasn’t a case of thinking the audience was stupid, it was a simple acknowledgement of the fact that this is just a TV show and people have lives. For every person who can identify all the record albums in the hatch, there are 100,000 who have to remember to pick up the dry cleaning. So those recaps were very important, but there was a downside. Every time they necessarily began with the plane crash and the introductions, so every time they necessarily reminded you how good the show was in the beginning, why you came to like it, and that automatically drew attention to how far it had drifted off course.

Last night’s recap had none of that subliminal trouser-dropping. It wisely edited out as much of the dross as it could, so if you didn’t know any better, you’d think the show had never lost its way. One of the execs proudly declared “The mystery of the show is ‘Who are these people?’” as if they’d known it all along. Daniel Dae Kim (the actor who plays Jin) smilingly remembers that Season One was his favorite.

With that recap bringing the rest of us up to speed, so we could enjoy the finale alongside the die-hards who never left, the last chapter of this 6 year story commenced. I found it to be extraordinarily well-written. /spoilers follow/ Little structural touches like the “Sideways” Jack restoring Loche’s legs at the same time Jack is gearing up to kill Loche in the main timeline, that isn’t something we see very often in this arena. I was also impressed by the theme explored. Scratch that – I was impressed by the writing chops they brought to the task. I’m sorry if this offends anyone, but in my experience, comic writers as a breed don’t do too well when they tackle the big meaning of life stuff. As for the theme itself as a resolution for the series, I find it strangely fitting. Yes, we all die, but in the world of Lost there was an actual rule to that effect. Honest to god mandate of the writers room: you could snuff anybody except the dog.

The USA Today commented that the finale “like anything that is earnest and hopeful” will attract mockery in certain quarters. While I don’t feel it deserves it, I would like to submit the following to the Millerites and misanthropes who are currently firing up their 2-cycle weedwacker intellects for the task: We all die—except for the golden lab.

As for Cat-Tales… Okay, briefly: Seriously productive week. Chapter almost done. One possible additional scene I may tag on after the proof and polish run. I figured I’d decide later and sent it out to the betas for some pre-proofing commentary. That’s an unusual practice for me, but schedules (mine and theirs) are like the tides: they wait for no man, and they don’t stop for oil spills. I finished some video capture and cataloging that video for a TBA. Editing is next. Followers of the Dark Knight ARG know that I’m no stranger to simple video and not-so-simple Flash, but that was two laptops ago and, more to the point, there’s a new generation of software to contend with. Kitty is a little intimidated by an interface that looks like the cockpit of a 747 compared to the stuff I was using, but hey, gotta take the leap sometimes, right? We also had a little upheaval with the old forum problem. The All-Seeing Oracle could post regular messages but not create polls, so I had to step in there, just for the week. And it looks like we’ll be on a Wednesday-to-Wednesday schedule for a while with the caption contest. Got some stuff in for one of the summer projects—YAY—and what’s unbelievable is, as much as I was looking forward to seeing what this person came up with, it completely exceeded my expectations. I’ve said it before, it’s going to be a very purple summer. Meow.

Chris Dee

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