Posts Tagged ‘hush’


Wearing a Duck

February 7, 2011

Remember that great scene in My Favorite Year: Benny Stone, freshman writer on King Kaiser’s Comedy Cavalcade finally has a date with the girl of his dreams. She regrets that she is the one person working at the show who isn’t funny. He says anybody can be funny. He’ll teach her a joke. “A guy walks into a psychiatrist’s office with a duck on his head. The psychiatrist says, ‘Can I help you?’ And the duck says, ‘Yeah, can you get this guy off my ass.’” She laughs, he prompts her to tell it back to him. She straightens her dress a little in an endearing ‘here we go’ maneuver and begins: “A man walks into a doctor’s office wearing a duck.”
Homaged here in Studio 60

…Sorkin goes on to explain the phenomenon:
You can’t tell a joke. Like a young child, you hear it, get it, and then can’t reconstruct the moving parts.

This is what we’re facing in mainstream comics. A real writer comes along, say Jeph Loeb. He crafts a cunning mystery, putting the long-neglected theme rogues front and center, and weaves in a heartbreaking tragedy of Bruce’s inability to trust following the structure best suited to the purpose: Aristotelian tragedy. Since a good mystery requires a good red herring, he constructs one tailor-made to grab the fanboy’s attention and keep it rived on the ball in my RIGHT hand. He teased the one thing that all sane comic readers knew would never happen, he teased breaking one of the 3 commandments, he teased Jason Todd was still alive. He then revealed the image they were all waiting for – if Jason were alive today, what would he look like – in a full page at the very end of the issue, giving them a full month to fizz and and enjoy themselves. Then he went on with his story… that’s what storytellers do.

Here’s what comics writers do: not understanding how any of the moving parts worked, they latched onto things at random: it was the character of Hush himself, not the mystery that made it such a success. And the return of Jason Todd! Like Pacific Islanders lining an improvised runway with torches and sitting a guy on the end with coconuts strapped to his head like headphones, thinking it will make planes land filled with supplies – you know, the way it did during the war. It looks just like it used to, why don’t the planes come?

Last week’s blog, I quoted the late John Barry bemoaning modern composers who are “just playing with notes.” Yesterday I posted a quote of Aaron Sorkin about those demonizing education and intellect. We have a PROBLEM here: people allowed to write, edit and manage major comic titles who have not learned the basics of their own craft – and who scoff at the idea it is necessary. Not only have they been allowed to ruin something that was once a pleasure for thousands of ex-readers, they have taken up a slot that could have been filled by competent and talented writers who would appreciate it.

Chris Dee


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 week in… Screw it. A love letter to Jim Lee

April 12, 2010

Two insanely busy weeks down, one to go. Yet despite a lot of real life demands, it was a gratifyingly productive week for Cat-Tales – for everything except the actual writing, that is. Construction is finished on the TBA, edits completed on several chapters of War of the Poses, and a number of those pesky support services that keep the web extras operating have all been attended to. As for the writing, well, officially, that resumes next week. My friend and client’s book release is Friday, so on paper at least, these next five days are on stand-by for him… That’s not to say writing does not occur. I don’t know how it is for other people, but the characters in my head tend to start without me sometimes. They have in this case. While I didn’t technically do any writing this past week, they did. It isn’t written down, but they have several story developments all arranged to their liking. We’ll just have to see if it’s workable or if it’s another one of Joker’s “Rainy Sunday Fun! All the hamsters out of the microwave” ideas.

In other news, not Cat-Tales specific but, well let’s call it Cat-Tales adjacent, Jim Lee got one of the first iPad off the assembly line. And just look at one of the first things he drew with it:

iPad quick sketches by *jimlee00 on deviantART
Yes, okay, I know, goggles. But hey, this is Jim Lee, as in the man behind the Hush rooftop clinch, the image immortalized in CT 28: Awkward Pauses, the image about which Selina, glorying in her Post doppleganger’s purple tint, stated “It’s not real, it’s Photoshop. That means if it’s purple, that’s because somebody made it purple.” Jim is the man who made it purple, and for that he will always have my love. Here,of course, it’s more than a vague “are my eyes deceiving me” tint. So, y’know, progress. That said, Jim, I love you. I love how you clearly love Selina. It comes out when you draw her. You can’t hide it. What I say now comes from that place of artist love: Lose the goggles. As Selina has also stated, it’s not just how they look, it’s what they mean. You make those awful things based on a goddamn cartoon DOG look as good as they can, but even you cannot make them look feline rather than bee-like. And even you, you wonderful man, cannot change what they represent.

That said, thank you for the purple, then and now.

Chris Dee

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