Stories are carefully crafted illusions that are supposed to make sense in a way that life does not. Most of the time it’s a simple matter of picking up the book, popping in the DVD, or opening up the comic to start the story. You follow it all the way through to the end, and you’re done (at least until the sequel comes out). However, there are some stories and mediums where the lines are blurred and the entry point for the story is not nearly as obvious. The prime example I can think of is comics.
I’m still pretty new to the world of comics and graphic novels, and they can be really hard to get into. I remember after watching the Marvel film Doctor Strange, I wanted to learn more about the character. But when I went to look up the comics, I immediately faced a major problem: where should I start?
I think a lot of people underestimate the power inherent in children’s cartoons. When they hear the word “cartoon,” they picture something light, fluffy, and utterly vacuous, filled with loud noises and sight gags. Or they might think of the painfully awkward and cheerfully grating tones of newer “edutainment” shows, most of which are not nearly as good as classics like The Magic School Bus or Wishbone. (Or maybe that’s just the nostalgia talking.) Either way, cartoons tend to serve as a kind of temporal placeholder to keep little kids occupied while the grown-ups go do important grown-up-things.
This woefully misrepresents and denies the kind of narrative impact that cartoons can possess. After all, cartoons are a staple of childhood, often giving kids their first real taste of serial storytelling. Obviously different age groups will be drawn to different types of shows; one can’t expect a two-year-old to have the same attention-span as a six-year-old. And to be fair, there is a place for cartoons comprised of stand-alone episodes and humor, both physical and verbal, like Looney Tunes, Rocky & Bullwinkle, or Tom and Jerry. Such cartoons don’t require a viewer to invest a lot of time in order to get the payoff, and with no over-arching plot to worry about, it’s very easy to introduce newcomers to the show. But I do believe that longer forms of story-telling can and should be presented to children at a young age so they can come to appreciate the art in all its forms. Unfortunately, animated story-telling gets ignored because a lot of people still think that anything drawn, and in some cases even CGI, as a “cartoon” and therefore “just for kids.” I have heard people refuse to watch Avatar: The Last Airbender, one of the greatest TV shows ever made (in any style) simply for the sin of being animated. And that’s a real shame. Continue reading “The Power of Children’s Cartoons”→
In light of recent developments in the comic, gamer, and cosplay worlds, I plan to do a series of entries about “fake fans” and how established fandoms treat newcomers, women, and minorities. This first entry is the Comics Edition, wherein I focus on the comic book community.
How do you decide if someone is unworthy to be part of your fandom? How do you label someone a poser, a noob, or a fake? Whom do you invite into a fandom and why? Whom do you reject and why? What are the criteria to go from noob to knowledge-master? How does someone graduate from being a “fake geek girl/boy” or “fake fan” into a “true fan”? Is such a thing even possible?
I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately about how unfriendly the nerd culture can be to newcomers, or even to established members if they start commenting on flaws with the status quo… especially if those members are women. (Yes, #GamerGate, I’m looking at you.) It seems like there are two prevailing extremes: either the fans are portrayed as the most friendly, knowledgeable, welcoming group around, or they are seen as the most close-minded, antagonistic, sexist group alive.
So far, I’ve been fortunate to escape the fake geek label, but a lot of people, especially women, haven’t been so lucky. And I have yet to learn of a standard for judging someone’s relative geekiness. Is it the number of comics you read? The variety? The age? The popularity? Do you have to be super-obsessed with one particular facet of comics or do you have to have the entire history of Marvel and DC, or every plot contrivance of Batman on the tip of your tongue to qualify as a true fan?
I had the creative wind knocked out of my sails this morning by the news that Green Lantern: The Animated Series has been canceled.
I’ll admit, I started sobbing. When the tears faded, rage replaced them. The utter unfairness of it shakes me to the core. If a show is bad and gets no views, it gets canceled. If it’s bad and gets lots of views, it lives. If it’s good and gets lots of views, it gets canceled. If it’s good and gets no views, it gets canceled. Anyone notice the unfair pattern emerging? Why does SpongeBob live and Green Lantern get canned? I would much rather have my kids watch Green Lantern than half the shit that’s put up on television. In fact, after watching the first season (packaged as “Season 1, Part 1”), I actually said that I would have kids, just for the chance to have them grow up watching Green Lantern. (And that’s coming from someone who has said on many occasions that kids are the last thing I want.)
To Warner Brothers and Cartoon Network: I can see no reason why Green Lantern: TAS should be canceled. Both kids and adults love it, the ratings have been high, there is a massive amount of fan support, and it was even nominated for Best General Audience Animated TV Production at the 39th Annie Awards. The characters are wonderful, relateable, and interesting. The plots are engaging, well-written, and tightly knit. It has breath-taking cinematography and a neat visual style. (A lot of people complain about the “cheap-looking” CGI animation. Really? It’s stylized, but not bad, perhaps more reminiscent of a video game animation than traditional, but that doesn’t make the emotion less compelling or the action less cool.) The music is beautiful. And we love it. WHAT MORE COULD YOU POSSIBLY WANT?! WHY ARE YOU CANCELING THIS SHOW?! WHY?! IT MAKES NO SENSE! (There is a horrible kind of sense, but it’s so materialistic and sickening that I refuse to acknowledge it.)
Okay, time for another rant about movies. I know, this is a writing blog and I keep talking about films. But really, if you want to learn how to write tight, self-contained, highly visual stories, then study screen writing. Good screen writing, that is. And there seems to be less and less of that out there these days, at least in the realm of Hollywood.
CAUTION! THIS ENTRY MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK!
I recently had the dubious pleasure of viewing John Carter and Green Lantern. Aside from having a pulp fiction background and a male protagonist sent into space, these two movies might appear to have little in common. But actually, they have a lot in common. They suck. They don’t suck so bad that they are unwatchable, but with such rich source material it’s almost a crime how not-good they turned out. The visuals are excellent (as always, with the benefits of CGI) and the acting wasn’t horrible (although Carter and Dejah Thoris had no chemistry whatsoever, which made their romantic scenes laughable), but the screen plays were unfocused and muddled, like no one could decide exactly what movie they wanted to make. There were actually several similarities between John Carter and Green Lantern that probably contributed to their dramatic failure: