Archive for October, 2008

Oct 12 2008

Alaska Ethics Commission Reports: Palin Fired Matt Parkman!

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

The New York Times confirms that the Alaskan state trooper in “Troopergate” is actually Matt Parkman, a former police officer best known for his psychic abilities and contributing to the rampant power inflation in the second season of Heroes.  She probably had him fired after he tried to give her some of the African crazy-beans that he’s been gorging on for the last two episodes.  “They’ll let you see the future!”  Riiiiight.

One response so far

Oct 11 2008

Comic Book Covers: Samples from War Heroes

War Heroes held a contest where fans could pick the cover they’d end up using.  Many of the submissions were quite good.

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4 responses so far

Oct 10 2008

Sizing a Comic Book Page

We’ve slapped together a mock page to help show about how much text a comic book can fit in a frame full of important scenery.

We could have squeezed maybe another three lines into the opening paragraph.  In all, I think 50-60 words for a large frame is pushing it.

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Oct 09 2008

“Yet Another Comics Blog” argues against origin stories

Yet Another Comics Blog argues that origin stories are mostly a distraction from the real action.

The origin is not the interesting story; it’s background information. If the information in the origin is important to the story you’re telling, then you can go back later and fill in for the reader. But don’t start with an issues-long origin…

Think of all the good genre movies you’ve ever seen. How many begin with a long origin sequence? Did Raiders of the Lost Ark start with 45 minutes of young Indiana Jones getting his PhD in archaeology? Did Star Wars begin with the origin of Darth Vader?

I disagree.  A character is usually the most human and relatable during his origin story.  Additionally, for most superheroes they also provide an irreplaceable opportunity to introduce the audience to the character.  For example, an author couldn’t explain who Spiderman is without showing why his uncle died.

Also, Star Wars did not begin with the origin of Darth Vader, but it did explain Luke’s origin at length.  Over the course of three movies we saw a farmboy grow into the savior of the universe.  It worked quite effectively.  I’d also venture that the first Matrix movie benefitted from Neo’s origin story.  If it had started with Neo after he had been released from the Matrix, it would have been horribly confusing.

The author praises Batman but criticizes Spiderman and Superman for spending too much time on origin.  But these are exceptional cases.  Usually, the audience is completely new to the backstory.  If so, then explaining the character’s origin is probably essential to introducing the audience to the world and/or the character.

14 responses so far

Oct 09 2008

Classical Music Isn’t Punishment!

The Associated Press reports that a judge in Ohio offered to cut a fine for blaring rap music if the defendant listened to 20 hours of classical music. The defendant lasted 15 minutes.

One response so far

Oct 09 2008

Improving a Weak Quote

I found this Halo quote on TV Tropes.

Cortana: Just one question: what if you miss?

Master Chief:  I won’t.

The dialogue needs more flair.  If I wrote a similar conversation between two Superhero Nation characters, it might look something like this.

2 responses so far

Oct 08 2008

Our projected pay has doubled… but minimum wage is still far away

Published by under Comedy,Navel-Gazing,TWPL

We did some calculations on the back of a napkin and concluded that the author of Things White People Like received an advance of 2.33 cents per hit.  Assuming that our advance earned us the same amount of money per hit, our projected pay per hour of website work has doubled to $1.75 over the past three months.   At this rate, we might reach minimum wage by the time I have my degree.  [JACOB ADDS:  Barely.  Won’t your parents be so proud?]

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Oct 08 2008

Invented words are painful

(Courtesy of xkcd).

Please don’t invent words when an immediate English translation is available.

3 responses so far

Oct 07 2008

How can one movie’s music succeed and fail so epically?

Published by under Comic Books

1989 Batman.  Except for X-Men 2’s White House scene, I’ve never been so pumped up by a movie’s opening.

It could only have gone downhill from there, but even so… a song by Prince in a Batman movie?  Really?

No responses yet

Oct 07 2008

Getting close to 100,000 pageviews

Published by under Navel-Gazing

In the next 2-3 weeks, we’ll clear 100,000 pageviews for the year and should clear 125,000 before the year is over.  When we set our New Year’s Resolution, we were hoping for 50,000.  Thanks for your traffic.

No responses yet

Oct 07 2008

Killer Squirrel Poster

Now that is a revolution in military affairs.  Picture courtesy of fugly.com.

4 responses so far

Oct 06 2008

A comic that looks interesting and well-written: ODD Squad

The Odd Squad is a witty take on paranormal agencies like the Men in Black.  Here’s the synopsis:

“As the new head of the Office of Dimensional Defense (O.D.D.), Charlotte Becker fails to get her first pick among the department’s new recruits. When the best she can get turns out to be a geeky blogger, a flaky psychic, and her air-headed sister, she faces some stiff odds—namely a competing agency who doesn’t want the truth exposed.”

I love the competing agency angle, but the synopsis is not as smoothly written as the comic.  Here’s a sample page for ODD Squad.

The FBI agent is remarkably engaging even though he says very little.  He has great chemistry with the paranormal researcher.  But I have two concerns.  First, the lettering’s not easy to read.  Second, the story’s main character (the researcher) has none of the laugh-lines and doesn’t seem well-written.  Her  jokes, like the quip about her boyfriend, completely fizzled.  I suspect the story will suffer when the FBI agent is absent.

One response so far

Oct 05 2008

Damn It Feels Good to be a Banker

Published by under Comedy

This is one of the most effective novel-advertisements I’ve ever seen.

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Oct 05 2008

This year, we will throttle Seattle

Published by under NaNoWriMo

In terms of productivity, Seattle’s authors have dominated the National Novel Writing Month for two years in a row.  But this year the furious scibblers of northern Indiana will strike fear into their hearts!

CADET DAVIS ADDS: Northern Indiana’s secret weapon against Seattle is unemployment.

No responses yet

Oct 05 2008

Does anyone find sitcoms about 30-something failures as annoying as I do?

Published by under TV Review

Just throwing it out there.

No responses yet

Oct 05 2008

Writing Tip of the Day: Avoid This Opening Line. It Sucks.

“Hello, my name is _____.”  An even worse version is “Hello, my name is ______, but you can call me ______.”  If the most interesting thing about your main character is his name, you should probably get back to the drawing board.  Leading with another detail– any other detail– is likelier to interest readers.

2 responses so far

Oct 04 2008

We’ve added a “Recent Comments” widget

Published by under Navel-Gazing

Hello, commenters!  We’ve added a new widget to help you figure out if we’ve responded to your comments yet.  It’s near the top of the sidebar, right below our list of superhero writing articles.

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Oct 04 2008

Superhero Nation’s traffic for the past month

In case you’re interested.  We use this data to help us determine which site-edits are effective.

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Oct 04 2008

Inane accusations and a question for our readers

Today we got an e-mail that asked “who’s paying you to crank this [expletive] out, the CIA?”  Well, no.  As far as I know, the CIA doesn’t offer grants for superhero novels, even kickass ones with accountants and mutant alligators from Homeland Security.  In fact, judging by my ramen account, it looks like no one is paying us to write this novel.

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One response so far

Oct 04 2008

Webcomic #18: That’s One Way to Look at Things…

Published by under Webcomic

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Oct 03 2008

A Random Name Generator

Not sure what to name your superhero’s alternate identity?  This name generator can give you hundreds of suggestions based on US census data.  Also, its names are surprisingly ethnically-diverse.

25 responses so far

Oct 03 2008

Another movie with Lex Luthor? Haven’t we suffered enough already?

The Independent reports that Kevin Spacey will be reprising his role as Lex Luthor in the next Superman movie (Hat-tip to io9).  God, I hope not.  He has none of the competence, charm or combat skills a supervillain needs to shine in a movie.  Lex Luthor can’t have an interesting fight. (And no, Superman limping around because of Kryptonite is not interesting).  So casting Luthor as the villain would pretty much guarantee that the movie has at best mediocre action scenes*.  I like Superman saving planes as much as anyone, but no one reads a comic or watches a movie to see the superhero stop a natural disaster.

Virtually nothing in Superman Returns worked.  At the very least, the next Superman movie needs a new cast, new writers and a new villain.  A different mood might help too.  I don’t think that a “darker” Superman will be much better, but it’s hard to imagine that it could get any worse.

*In the cartoons and the comics, Lex Luthor actually gets superpowers, so his fight scenes are interesting, but that’s probably too campy for a movie.

B. MAC ADDS: I walked out after around an hour of Superman Returns.  I can’t remember the last time I walked out on a movie.  Hell, I made it through Superhero Movie.

No responses yet

Oct 03 2008

Now you can find visual references more easily

On art-sites like DeviantArt, if you do searches for things like “superhero” or “book cover,” more than 90% of the results will be utter garbage or half-past-strange.  If you think that searching for visual references shouldn’t feel like a creepy waste of time, you might like our new DeviantArt wall of favorites. You can use that to check out hundreds of visuals we’ve found impressive.  We have separate folders for superhero stuff, fantasy and sci-fi, depending on what you need your visual for.

You can also see some of the artwork we’ve had commissioned for our novel and webcomic.

No responses yet

Oct 03 2008

TV Tropes Presents: Big Applesauce!

TV Tropes notes the cliche that stories with real-world settings tend to be in New York City. In comic books, that’s overwhelmingly true. (And Gotham/Metropolis aren’t fooling anyone… at the time DC Comics first used those, they were nicknames for New York City). There are a few reasons for this cliched setting.

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Oct 03 2008

How to do super-acronyms like SHIELD or FLAG

B. Mac offers these suggestions for when your supergroup uses an acronym as its name.

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87 responses so far

Oct 03 2008

I love Dr. McNinja

Published by under Comedy

This is one of the pages from Dr. McNinja’s latest series.

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Oct 02 2008

Amusing photograph of the day

Published by under Art,Comedy

Hat-tip to James Valiant.

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Oct 02 2008

Oblivion Society’s trailer was pretty smooth

This trailer sells an unusual premise effectively.  It also makes a skillful pitch to its target audience with reviews that specifically say that geeks will enjoy the book.  I found its comparisons to other works of geek-culture helpful.  However, I thought that its emotional cues were a bit mixed.  The book-cover makes this look like a light-hearted comedy, but but the only clear emotional image in the trailer is her sobbing as mushroom clouds loom in the background.  There isn’t very much in the trailer that suggests the book is actually funny, or what kind of humor it uses.  For example, if this is a dark comedy about the protagonist and her failure friend trying to survive, it might have helped to show us a glimpse of the comedic relationship between the two characters.

The cover-art was very eye-catching, even though it rips off a famous scene from Dr. Strangelove. My main question is that she appears to have wings on the cover, but the trailer doesn’t mention that strange detail at all.  (My guess is that it’s a nuclear mutation).

7 responses so far

Oct 01 2008

Come on, Jeopardy!

Published by under Navel-Gazing

I took the online Jeopardy test tonight.  I think I did well enough to get a call back for auditions.

One response so far

Oct 01 2008

Non sequitur!

Published by under Navel-Gazing

I hate ancient philosophy.  I find it interesting that the only endeavor in which the ancients are generally taught to undergraduates is philosophy.  In 2000 years, I hope that students (to the extent that we have students in 2000 years) learn more about us than the inconsequential quibblings of our philosophers.

No responses yet

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