***The following is a Public Service Announcement***
This post is near and dear to me. There is a growing problem that is stopping comic fandom from expanding.
First let me backtrack with a little anecdote:
One day I entered a comic book shop, a holy place where supposedly our kind was allowed to gather. I had entered only to be greeted by the steely gaze of the cashier (and owner!). I immediately felt unwelcomed. Undeterred, I walked around and flipped through the dollar comics. Soon, another guy entered and it was clear he was a regular. He was welcomed and given his reserved comics (aka The Pull List for those who are new). The Regular and The Owner began talking about Fantastic Four and 20th Century Fox. At this point I was by the register so I causally chipped in my point of view. I immediately saw a shift in attitude. Suddenly the owner treated me with respect because I was able to form an educated opinion. With my nerdy knowledge, I proved that I was one of them and was suddenly welcomed into the discussion.
And that’s the problem.
I see it all the time. People are turned away from comics because they think it’s reserved for a nerdy subculture. Potential readers are turned off because they aren’t up to speed or in the know. How many times have you heard a person say, “I think Batman is cool…but I just don’t know where to start.” This is why the Big 2 are constantly rebooting. And sometime, people experience that same judgmental look that I did, quietly set down their comic and leave the store.
For some reason, some comic fans act like they’re in this special club. I have no idea where this comes from. Maybe they’re anti-social and don’t want others apart of their passion. Maybe, they’re afraid of ridicule (who cares?). If you have any inkling as to why, please comment below.
If we treat potential new readers like “outsiders,” then the industry, in all of its glory, will wither away. So, I kindly ask that you treat any person as a potential lover of comics. People shrug them off, but I know for a fact that if they come across that perfect story or well-designed cover tailored to them, they’ll be hooked. All it takes is one glance from a curious onlooker, uninhibited by some store owner’s judgmental gaze.
I don’t intend to typecast some comic readers. Many I know are very welcoming. This is just a simple PSA telling some to not be so quick to judge. Do not roll your eyes when someone says Superman is their favorite Marvel Character. Do not scold someone for saying they’re a fan, even if they only watch the movies. If someone asks about comics, don’t write them off, introduce and enthrall them. You’ll be helping the comics cause and you’ll have made a new comic-loving friend.
Don’t be that snooty store owner.
***This has been a Public Service Announcement***
Indie comics are often created from dreams. Every time I read the forward in an indie comic, I always see the same thing. The creator always wanted to make comics and decided one day to finally do it, take a chance. I commend these people, I really do. I’ve been trying to do it myself but I feel I’m constantly in a rut and I struggle to form my story. That’s why I commend Darryl Mansel for taking a chance and following through on his desire to make a story. Darryl managed to raise $4,600 dollars online and execute his goal.
So let me be clear…I respect what Darryl has done.
Doesn’t mean I like his story.
Sadly, Pineville #1 did little to reel me in. The story introduced two plotlines (so far unconnected) and neither were especially grabbing.
“But AJ, that was just the first issue, don’t be so quick to judge!”
Actually, I am allowed to be quick to judge. Comics are a powerful storytelling medium that should suck people in on first sight. I feel more people would read comics if they saw past the “it’s childish” excuse and read the first few pages of a good book.
Speaking of first few pages…Dennis O’Neil argued that when it comes to writing comics, you need to open the story with a hook. Something on the first two pages that immediately intrigues the reader. Without it, you’ll lose the readers perusing the comics rack. This isn’t one man’s opinion, it’s industry common knowledge.
Pineville did not hook me from the get-go. In fact the story opened with a few prison shots and an inmate going through processing. The “hook” eventually comes on page 3, when our protagonist Cooper Fourney makes the bold claim that he’s going to kill every other prisoner. Holy crap, now that’s a hook! The problem is after that bold statement, Darryl completely ignores that intriguing juicy bit. Instead he opts to cram in as many prison story clichés into one issue. The warden is a hardass, these are the prison gangs, here’s a friend of mine that I did time with. The “kill everyone” line was so good, I just wish Darryl stuck with it just a little longer to generate interest. Instead, it just snapped back into an episode of Prison Break.
Our story then takes a sudden abrupt turn. I mean abrupt. One page we see skinheads and mob bosses and the next is some some good ole’ sexy times. Enter protagonist #2, a prostitute in the middle of her shift. That’s one way to hook someone, but not exactly merit worthy. We learn that Cassie is working to pay the bills and help care for her grandfather. So far the two protagonist don’t connect in seemingly any way, but perhaps that will change.
The real hook comes on the very last page. It turns out Cassie is also a cop! Cop by day and hooker by night certainly makes a great “what if” story.
So Darryl has the right idea, he just didn’t execute to perfection. He’s created two intriguing concepts: a hooker-cop and a (maybe) serial killer prisoner. It’s just unfortunate that the hook had to come from page 3 panel 5 (if you haven’t caught on, I’m pointing out how little the whole “kill everyone” thing was mentioned), and the last page.
In the coming issues I’d like to see…less prison story clichés and nude scenes. I’m not being a prude, I’m saying Darryl wrote 3 pages of a sex scene and then a random (totally unnecessary) shower scene. Instead of devoting a whole page to her morning routine, maybe use those pages to contribute to the story or hint that she’s a cop.
I would also like to see more into the psychosis of Cooper. Is he crazy or a man with a plan?
The fact that I’m asking these question means that I’m at least intrigued. He’s introduced some interesting premises worth reading. Although if I paid for the first issue I would be salty since a whole lot of nothing happened. I certainly hope in the coming issues Mansel gets to the point faster instead of filling up pages with boobs and prison gangs. Generate tension and suspense, or else the reader is lost.
The art is super squeaky clean. The characters and setting is pretty sound. Very minimalist background. My one criticism is that Jordi Perez took almost no risk with inking. Hardly any crosshatching or shading. Pineville strikes me as sequential line art with various line weights. Because the line art is so black and white, it isn’t very dynamic. No depth has been created, hardly any texture. The prison looks pristine, not at all gritty. Because of the minimalist line art of Perez, it doesn’t make for a very interesting visual. I would have liked to seen color or at least an intricate grayscale (which I feel is necessary if you don’t color).
In conclusion…Darryl Mansel’s Pineville presents some interesting premises and hooks but fumbles on delivery. The strengths of the story were overshadowed by prison clichés and sex scenes. The art is technically flawless but is pretty boring; Perez took no risks. The minimalist art paired with choice story telling doesn’t bode well for the book’s future. The story’s only hope of keeping readers hooked is to capitalize its strengths (killer prisoner, hooker cop) in Issue #2.
If you’re willing to see past a slow start, keep your eyes peeled for Pineville #2, which will be available on Comixology soon. If you can’t wait to read Pineville, check out Darryl’s Twitter Page and shoot him a DM. He’s a nice guy and might help you out.
All images are used with permission from the author, Darryl Mansel. (c) 2017.
Pineville. (c) 2017 written by Darryl Mansel and art by Jordi Perez. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction permitted. Any use of material contained within must be with the approval of copyright holder and/or publisher. For more information on Pineville visit https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/pineville-comics#/ .
[Warning: Spoilers for Rogue One]
Finally, after a hectic holiday season, family in town and a start at a new job I was able to settle down and watch Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Now you might think that this is a Rogue One review but it’s not. I’ll give my quick take on the movie but then I’m going to talk about something that is far more important to me.
Now having watched Rogue One, I feel that I can safely say that Star Wars is neglecting its greatest asset.
First let me ask you this. What scene was revered as the best scene in Rogue One?
The Darth Vader scene at the end when he boarded the rebel ship.
What character was the most exciting to watch in action?
Chirrut Imwe, the force sensitive monk.
What makes fans literally piss their pants whenever it appears on screen?
Are you tracking with me here?
The one of the greatest thing about the Star Wars franchise is the Jedi and anything Jedi related.
Lightsaber battles, moving objects with the force, the unlimited potential power of the Jedi/Sith. These story elements is without a doubt the coolest things about the franchise. What do kids dress up as for Halloween? Jedi and Sith. Name the best scene from Episode I. How about the Darth Maul “Duel of Fates” Scene. What saved Episodes II and III from being unbearable? The damn Lightsaber battles.
Now of course I know that in no way can a Jedi appear in Rogue One, I get that. But the movie just came out so I’m riding the train of Star Wars related blog posts.
Sidebar: I was extremely curious, however, as to what happened to Ashoka Tano, Anakin’s Padawan. How cool would it be if she appeared in Rogue One? Or even better Episodes VII/VIII/IX? Of course this is a fools dream, but one can only hope.
Back to my point…The Jedi Mythos is an essential part of the Star Wars franchise and should not be neglected any longer. The animated show Rebels had the right idea, bringing in Jedi and as a result the show was a hit. I understand that RI and E7 didn’t allow for Jedi elements to come in to play but it is my hope that they really amp it up in the coming episodes. Fans are dying of thirst when it comes to the Jedi/Sith/Force Sensitive. That’s the point I was trying to make earlier. People lost their minds over Imwe and Vader. I want to see some Lightsaber duals!
Now some might argue that Star Wars is not about the Jedi but rather the Rebels. Some argue it’s a franchise about resisting tyranny and good vs. evil. To the people saying that, I disagree. Yes, Rebels and good verses. evil is all well and good, but it can’t be the only thing. Star Wars is so much more. Star Wars is a fascinating world filled with alien creatures, culture clash, mysterious religions and beings of power. I’ve always written that the best stories create a sense of escapism and Star Wars does just that. In addition, the Jedi are so damn fascinating to learn about and to watch.
Just as there is balance in the Force, there needs to be balance in story elements. There needs to be a perfect amount of Rebel resistance and Jedi mythos. The prequels blended Jedi with crappy CGI and space politics. Episode VII pandered to the original Episode IV, copying a lot of its story elements. It was good but it didn’t have a lot of Jedi elements to satisfy my thirst. And of course Rogue One was all about…well the Rogues so no room for Jedi there.
With the coming of Episode VIII the creators finally have a chance to carve away all the bad elements of Star Wars and showcase the good. It’s clear the studio has a good understanding as to how to portray scrappy rebellion facing off against the forces of evil. Now, they just need to infuse the awesome story element that is The Jedi into its storyline. I love the Jedi and I hope to see a freaking Lightsaber in every other scene. If Jedi are truly treated as just ghosts, then I’ll be sorely disappointed.
May the Force be With You.
BONUS: If you’re like me and have been wanting a good Jedi/Sith confrontation, Lightsaber battle and all, I highly recommend this fan made video. It took two years to make and is considered one of the best Star Wars Fan Made films of all time.
A lot has happened to me in the last few weeks. You may have noticed an extreme decline in my posts and tweets. The reason for this is because I got a job. A real bona fide job. I have finally surpassed the internship phase and after dwelling in the “please hire me phase,” I was hired. I am extremely happy about this. It’s a great job at a fantastic company and I’ve never felt more welcomed in the workplace. All that being said, the job also demands a lot of hours. Ever hear of 9 to 5? Well tack on another hour and some weekends. I worked 14 hours one day. As for my decline in online activity, for that I apologize, I simply couldn’t find the time. I know there are people who work 80 hours a week and I’m not saying “whoa is me.” What I am saying is that my nights are shorter and my days are spent at an office.
So my time at home is more precious, I value it more. That’s the takeaway from this spiel.
That’s why when I watched the season finales of all the super hero shows, I was sorely disappointed. The shows felt dull, contrived and unremarkable. I couldn’t tell you a specific criticism because they weren’t at all memorable. It was more of the same, with Mirror Villains, a death or two and minimal character growth. I loved the crossovers because at least it was something different.
When I was unemployed I had free time to watch these shows. Now, if you told me I had to watch the Season Finale of Flash again, I’d bemoan the fact. The truth is that these shows don’t feel worth my time. At least the finales didn’t.
I need the writers to elevate their game. I think that the shows have a solid hook, now they can tap into bigger, deeper concepts. I’m talking Breaking Bad level of writing.
Here’s how the superhero shows can elevate their game.
If you have ideas about making superhero shows better, please comment below.
I’m so tired of these “Saturday Cartoon” storylines. I’m tired of boring characters like the new Team Arrow (they suck). I’m tired of prolonged conflicts that don’t increase tension but never resolve (Malcolm Merlin). I’m tired of superficial friendships and convoluted romances (James Olsen). Superhero shows have become a machine churning out bland stories that make me regret spending an hour on them. Henceforth, I’ll probably read the synopsis and make a judgement call then and there.
I’m sorry if this upsets you. I know a lot of people derive joy from these shows. It’s just that having reevaluated my time, I can’t say I’m looking forward to our TV caped crusaders. I’d much rather watch a highly quality film or read a critically-acclaimed graphic novel. And when I do those things, I promise to share those with you.
I promise to be better about my posting. I’ve settled in nicely at work and I’m reading a few comics that I think will be worth sharing. Hopefully, I can go back to a weekly post.
Happy New Year everyone!