Superhero Hyperbole: If All Are Great, None Are

Just a short little post because, frankly, even I can churn this into a full-blown essay. Just a small observation I have made.

I was doing nothing serious today, just lazily reading a couple of articles and I stumbled upon this “gem” reporting on Mark Hamill’s very reasonable wish for better storytelling in superhero movies. Having just finished railing against Wonder Woman’s lack of history cred, I happen to agree. Until I came tot his little passage by the “reporter”:

Though there have been a lot of pretty great comic book movies this year,

Okay, that’s the second sentence, but that goes to show you the monumental nonsense at work here. To be fair, it is not just the author of this piece, but superhero fandom in general. Have you noticed how every film is the greatest ever? I mean outside of BvS, Suicide Squad, and Fant4stic, but those are the exceptions that proof the rule. Every single time a movie comes out it immediately gets placed on the top 10 list, it’s the new greatest hit, the best example of the genre yet.

And while I thought for a while that it was just an example of the youth of the genre, with five to eight movies every year being superhero-themed and the genre having been the mainstream blockbuster for a good decade and longer, it is time to stop and be more discerning in regards to what we consider good, great, bad, and every other element of the quality spectrum. We have good and bad figured out in regards to superheroes, but now it is time to stop with the hyperbole regarding the quality of these movies. If we want the genre to be taken serious, we need to treat the films in a serious way as well. That means being honest with the quality. Continue reading “Superhero Hyperbole: If All Are Great, None Are”

Wonder Woman: Review – The Historian’s Perspective

Wonder Woman is a great superhero film battling with a terrible disservice to the First World War

I spent a good hour after I came out of Wonder Woman thinking about how I would begin this review. As a history grad student with focus on the first world war and as a fan of comic book superheroes, this is probably the hardest film to process my thoughts on since Captain America: The First Avenger. I wanted to like this film a lot, partially because I didn’t want to waste more money on a mediocre or bad superhero film, and partially because I didn’t want the first serious effort behind a female superhero film to become another bomb. Much was riding on this film. Did they pull it off?

Cautious yes.

In many ways my thoughts mirror those about The First Avenger. But where Captain America faltered to merge superheroes and World War 2, Wonder Woman surpassed my expectations. Yet both are terribly distorted views on their respective world wars. And yet this managed to pull it off.  Continue reading “Wonder Woman: Review – The Historian’s Perspective”

You Wouldn’t Believe How Clickbait Ruins Everything In This Self-Demonstrating Title

Clickbait that’s clickbaity in its clickbaitiness

Got you all in with that title, didn’t I? Good, that will get the views rolling.

My main issue with the internet as is, both journalism and entertainment, is the reliance on click bait to get anywhere these days. Doesn’t matter how high- or low-brow you are in your creative work, if you don’t work well together with search term algorithms you have no point of getting anywhere.

Which makes you wonder: is it really click bait if it’s just a sensationalized summary of what actually happens within the article or video? In regards to journalism, isn’t it useful to have search term-ready headlines, headlines that tell you, summary, what you are about to read? It sure does help me pick and choose what to read and what to skim in the paper every day.

I think the reason clickbait gets my blood boiling so much because it’s almost synonymous now with drama, be it Youtube drama or the latest non-troversy that has happened somewhere where someone’s feelings were hurt. It’s not about meaningful content, it’s only about tricking people into reading something without any real value, that only makes them comment.

Kinda like… oh god, I HAVE BECOME WHAT I HATE! AAAAAAARRRGH!

How Secret Empire Revealed The Darkest Secret Of The Comic Book Industry

We have a problem but it isn’t what you think

At this point everyone and their mother interested in superhero comics must have stumbled upon one article or another railing against writer Nick Spencer and his “sacrilegious” treatment of Captain America aka Captain Hydra for his fans, for Nazi Steve for his friends.

Never mind the fact that a lot of the complaints coming from people who consider “making Captain America a Nazi because Trump” highlights everything that is wrong with the modern identity politics phenomenon, it also highlights a fact within the comic book industry:

The fact that no one seems to actually be reading these books.

Now, this is not a big shocker for anyone. If half the people complaining about certain changes to comic book characters, two thirds of these books wouldn’t be selling as little copies as they are, always teetering at the brink of cancellation.

This leads me to my second point: if I’m wrong and people are actually reading these books before complaining about them, then the education systems all around the world must be worse than they are reported to be, because it implies that everyone failed basic reading comprehension. 

Continue reading “How Secret Empire Revealed The Darkest Secret Of The Comic Book Industry”

My Love/Hate Relationship With Episodic Storytelling

Episodic storytelling Does Not Equal Bad Writing

Episodic storytelling and I have a rocky relationship. It’s like that friend you have that always takes you on great adventures but eventually you realize that there is no progression and you learn the same lessons over and over again so eventually you will just give up and just decide to take him with you when it all ends–

Just me then?

Episodic storytelling is one of the many tools in the arsenal of a creative person. It fundamentally is a different tool from writing something serialized. It always depends on the amount of story you have to tell. It’s a shame then that most shows that use this feature use it so badly.

Episodic storytelling is often an excuse used so you can tell a random amount of stories to pad out the length of your series. Your run of the mill detective series or Star Trek show knows all bout this. When done well, episodic storytelling can be a powerful and unique way of highlighting and focusing on one element of the universe or the characters you want to explore. The problem in most shows, however, has always been the use of negative continuity and padding.

Take a show that is very episodic in nature, Rick and Morty. While there is mostly no overarching story (which might change, but bear with me), there is no negative continuity. Adventures can be watched standing on their own and they have a beginning, middle, and end, but there is something for long-time viewers to see progress. At the same time it’s very satisfying to have some closure.  Continue reading “My Love/Hate Relationship With Episodic Storytelling”

Why I’m Happier Since I Stopped Binge Watching Netflix

Discussions, if they are meaningful, will be there ready to be had once you are done.

This is going to be a short one, so call me a fraud for this not being a diatribe.

It’s been a few weeks now, probably longer, that I started mentioning to people the kinds of shows I watch at the moment. Shows like Taboo, Girlboss, and a handful of other shows that air weekly like Designated Survivor and American Gods.

Ever since Netflix came into existence with the idea of binging, only enhanced by their original programming, we have had a cultural love-hate relationship with the concept of binge watching a television show. I often thought it would be a good thing, watching a show in a day or two, then being completely caught up and able to converse about it.

As I get older and have more things to do in my life, I started realizing that I didn’t watch the shows for the sake of experiencing a good show or being entertained, I simply did it to get it over with. I didn’t enjoy the stories anymore.

I think the love-hate relationship part comes in when you realize that there are many shows that are designed to be watched as a big serial, usually miniseries, shorter seasons, usually cable shows, and shows that are not designed to be watched like this. The latter are purely episodic shows and those with a myth arc packaged in self-contained stories. A show like Deadwood, The Wire, or Breaking Bad is designed to be binged. They feature shorter seasonal lengths and are often designed as the chapters of a book. A recent show I have been watching that is like this are Taboo and American Gods, two great shows, but I haven’t binged on them yet either. It’s an experiment.

The other concept is that of a more traditional television show with a season arc, something that weaves and weans throughout the season without ever having precedent. Recent shows I’ve been talking about on here that are like it include Girlboss, and Arrow, the notorious Friday night hate and shame hook-up of my existence. While they tell a full story over the course of 13 or 23 episodes, they do also tell stand-alone stories or at least ones that can be watched independently. Continue reading “Why I’m Happier Since I Stopped Binge Watching Netflix”

Arrow Series Retrospective: After 5 Years In Hell

Comic book sacred cows: 1.) that you do not change anything about the source material, except when it’s okay, and 2.) you do not have non-lethal characters suddenly kill people, except when it’s okay.

As of yesterday, the CW series Arrow, based on DC’s Green Arrow line of comics, has finished its fifth season. It marks the end of the show’s five year story line. Maybe now, more than ever, is it time to look back at what the series did right and where it, eventually, started to faulter.

The series started when I was at an interesting point in the autumn of 2012, just as the superhero bubble had reached its peak with the back to back hits of The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers, giving us two very different interpretations of the superhero formula. A lot of people in comic fandom back then, myself included, were riding high on the ultra shiny Avengers bandwagon, grim and gritty was out, we said. It would still be a while until I soured on the whole genre myself, and eventually came to peace with simply liking a good story, regardless of whether or not it was dark or light-hearted.

Arrow’s first season is pretty much all we need to discuss in regards to whether or not people like this series, because much of the backlash against the series hasn’t really changed since. There have been ups and down in storytelling throughout the first five years, with seasons 1 and 2 still marking a personal highlight in superhero television for me, unrivaled by anything on network television and only surpassed by the excellent web material put out by Netflix in sheer size and quality. Season 1, from the very first frames, divided the audience up in people who liked and disliked the series, so much was clear from the internet groups and back chatter I participated back then. It’s easy to see why, the series very much changes up the entire Green Arrow mythology to fit it into a TV series format, cherry picking from a lot of older material from the 80s, inventing new characters, changing motivations, often combined with a main cast that was probably chosen because they fit the CW mold of being young and hot. And let’s get down to where a lot of people immediately called it quit: Green Arrow wasn’t called that and he killed people. Brutally so.

Regardless of whether or not you know comic book fandom, there are some pretty sacred cows, two of which are that you do not change anything about the source material, except when it’s okay, and you do not have non-lethal characters suddenly kill people, except when it’s okay. Another rule of thumb: no comic book character has ever had more old-school die-hard fans until the day his live action series/movie is announced. Far be it from me to say who counts and doesn’t count as a fan, but I needed to get this off my chest, because these little points have been the main points of contention for the first three or so years of the show’s existence before people started to ignore the series. In many ways it follows Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, and DC’s own Gotham in that regard. Maybe it wouldn’t annoy me so much if people didn’t actually ‘get’ what the show was about and how it, slowly, went off the deep end.  Continue reading “Arrow Series Retrospective: After 5 Years In Hell”