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Behind the Curtain: An Excuse to Post My Wikipedia-Derived Knowledge

Posted by Matt on August 27, 2011

So, there’s that call for a boycott on Marvel products since the Kirby case ended. In principle, I actually agree with it. But I guess I also have to agree with Tucker Stone in that most sane people shouldn’t be buying Marvel’s shitty product anyway. I know I wasn’t.

Well, that isn’t true. While I don’t read Marvel comics or see Marvel’s movies (the former out of apathy, the latter out of laziness) or buy Marvel-branded trinkets (because I’m an adult), I did buy one Marvel product in the past year or so laden with Jack Kirby characters: Marvel vs Capcom 3. And there’s a new one coming out in a few months. Oh criminy, my love of fighting games clashing against my respect for creator’s rights.

It got me thinking, though: how much influence from beyond the grave does Kirby have on this game? I thought it was nice in the first version when the end credits listed the individual creators of all of Marvel’s characters, albeit not specifying who made who. How much of the game’s roster is from Kirby? Counting the new Ultimate MvC3 characters, let’s see:

(All characters, unless otherwise noted, were co-created with Stan Lee)

Captain America (with Joe Simon)
Dr. Doom
Galactus
Hulk
Iron Man (with Larry Lieber and Don Heck)
Magneto
MODOK
Phoenix (sort of: Jean Grey/Marvel Girl was created by Kirby & Lee, with the Phoenix persona and design created by Chris Claremont and David Cockrum. The Dark Phoenix was created by Claremont & John Byrne)
Sentinel
Super-Skrull
Thor

So, 10 of the 25 Marvel characters (plus the final boss) were co-created by Kirby. Let’s also recognize the creators of the other characters in the game:

Deadpool (Fabian Nicieza & Rob Liefeld, with the character’s modern comedy persona established by Joe Kelly & Ed McGuinness)
Dr. Strange (Lee & Steve Ditko)
Dormammu (Lee & Ditko)
Ghost Rider (Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich, & Mike Ploog)
Hawkeye (Lee & Heck)
Iron Fist (Roy Thomas & Gil Kane)
Nova (Marv Wolfman & Jon Buscema)
Rocket Raccoon (Bill Mantlo & Kieth Giffen)
She-Hulk (Lee & Buscema)
Shuma-Gorath (Steve Englehart & Frank Brunner, with the name/concept first appearing in Conan the Barbarian creator Robert E. Howard’s posthumously-published short story “The Curse of the Golden Skull”)
Spider-Man (Lee & Ditko)
Storm (Len Wein & Dave Cockrum)
Taskmaster (Dave Michelinie & George Perez)
Wolverine (Wein, John Romita, & Herb Trimpe)
X-23 (Craig Kyle & Christopher Yost, who originally created her for the X-Men: Evolution animated series, and then adopted the character for comics a year later)

First thing’s first, I never noticed what a grand pedigree the new UMvC3 characters had until now. Thomas, Mantlo, Giffen, Kane, Wolfman, Englehart, and Ploog are all legends. That’s kind of neat. I also never noticed how prominent an idea man Thomas was at Marvel.

It would’ve been cool to do the same thing with Capcom’s characters. Unfortunately, video games, being more like film than comics, has many more people working on each title, so figuring who really was the brains behind the characters would be pretty difficult. I know the original Street Fighter team was also behind Final Fight (and thus Haggar). Shinji Mikami is the mastermind behind Resident Evil and all the characters you see in the game for the most part, Hideki Kamiya is the main man behind Devil May Cry, Atsushi Inaba the guy to blame for Viewtiful Joe, and all three combined to make Okami. Keiji Inafune was the co-creator of the Mega Man series, but was the main guy for both the X and Legends spin-offs, and thus essentially the man behind Zero and Tron Bonne. Inafune is also the guy who brought us Frank West and Dead Rising. Tokuro Fujiwara was the main programmer behind Ghosts ‘n Goblins, and also had a hand in the original arcade version of Bionic Commando (although Spencer in MvC3 has closer ties to the NES version of the game, and of course the American-developed modern remake). Shu Takumi is originator of the Ace Attorney series. But that’s about all I can say for sure.

But the point is, Kirby’s pencil marks are all over this game, alongside many others. Should I be a terrible person and make up some excuses to get my fix, or should I respect the creators who don’t get a cent from the use of their creations and abstain? Oh man, my morals are going to be put to the test come November.

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Posted by Matt on July 31, 2011

Hey, that gender diversity in comics topic is still pretty hot right now, isn’t it? Better hop on the train while the hoppin’s good.

In short, hiring writers and artists of diverse gender, race, sexuality, and background is not simply that old affirmative action canard. It’s a about getting a wide variety of styles into the mix that could then appeal to a wide variety of people. Plus, it opens up the hiring prospects quite a bit, so not only are you not just getting white guys to make everything, but you’re also not getting THE SAME white guys to make everything. This isn’t some draconian feel-good rainbow concept; this is intelligent business for anyone in a creative industry, one that doesn’t plan on stagnating any time soon.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like that includes the biggest names in the comics industry right now.

Of course, I also buy into the counterargument that while there are quite a few female talents in comics (and there really are), there might not be as many female talents in comics who want to play in some big corporation’s multimillion dollar sandbox, where there every idea will be absorbed and exploited for profit by others, with the only credit they get being a ‘Created by’ sidebar on Wikipedia. It’s not like creator’s rights at the big comics companies hasn’t been in the news lately. Same goes for the black creators, or the gay creators, and all the others. So there’s that to consider, as well.

It’s one of those things in comics. A lot of people, myself included, would like to see Marvel and DC improve their publishing outfit, and that includes hiring more and better talent. However, we also have to recognize that the work-for-hire scenario they offer is pretty rotten, so unless someone is either (a) absolutely in love with Marvel/DC’s universes and characters and doesn’t care about the downside of working for them, (b) like Warren Ellis and Joe Casey, who take on books for mainstream publishers solely as a self-imposed creative challenge, or (c) really like money (but not a substantial amount of money, albeit probably more than the average independent will get on their own), why should we expect said people to WANT to work for them? There’s a hell of a lot more avenues to get your work out there now, so really, why bother? It’s not like being a Spider-Man writer or artist or inker or colorist will be much of an status upgrade; it’s going from a niche to a slightly larger niche.

****

On a related note, here’s another observation culled from an addiction to trolling comment sections.

One of the frequent wrong ideas perpetrated by the masses in the world of fanservice-based fighting games (yes, I’ve seen it used for every. single. one.) is to lay the blame for the lack of diversity in gender/race (not sexual orientation, though. Gamers aren’t demanding proper homosexual representation. What a shock) on the developers of the game. Basically, if the game doesn’t meet some arbitrary quota of female characters, it’s a sausage fest. I mean, it’s clearly just the individual commentators trying to find the game’s character picks guilty of some social injustice so they can justify their whining about whatever characters THEY wanted not getting in, but let’s address another reason why it doesn’t hold up.

You see, the people behind games like Marvel vs Capcom 3, or Super Smash Bros. or Street Fighter x Tekken, are limited in their material. They set out to make a game that uses previously established characters, and like all fighting game developers, try to make the cast as diverse gameplay-wise as possible. Basically, they want to make the game interesting and fun, but can only use other people’s creations. So, that’s what they do: out of those creations, they choose the bunch that would include the greatest variety of gameplay styles, factoring in aesthetics and fanbases as well. This means that, unless they think it fills a particularly important gameplay or aesthetic niche, they will not consider that character’s gender or race or whatever, because that becomes secondary or tertiary when you bring in gameplay and giving the greatest number of different fans what they want. They’re just trying to do what’s best for the game with the material they set out. As some other commentators in the same arenas point out, there is no point in adding a character to these games if it’s just because they’re female.

Besides, the anger is completely misaimed. You want to see more women or black people showing up in these games? Ask the people who make the games these games pull their material from to create more diverse sets of characters. The world would be so much better if more games had a greater variety of protagonists and antagonists, anyway. So not only do the fanservice games get a wider variety of characters to use, but the games themselves would be more interesting. Everybody wins!

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Who is the Worst Gamer Group of All?

Posted by Matt on July 3, 2011

FPS Gamers

Case For: Will yell “Faggot!” at you for fifteen minutes, speaks exclusively in incomprehensible jargon, will either be a rules stickler or a anything-to-win rules breaker, will spawncamp your ass all day

Case Against: Easily defeated by turning your headset off

Fighting Gamers

Case For: Highly elitist, conversations consist of jargon and unfunny in-jokes, obsessive-compulsive about things like controllers, not allowed to have fun, will probably make more money on the tournament circuit than you do actually contributing to society

Case Against: Those Justin Wong combo videos are pretty awesome

JRPG Gamers

Case For: Pretend to be sophisticated despite being functionally illiterate, refuse to play games that are less than 100 hours (where 40 of those hours are spent wandering around, and 50 are spent doing the same thing over and over again), would never pick up a real book in their life, very likely to be an otaku

Case Against: Those 100 hour single-player games means they have very little time to interact with others (and when they do, it’s at cons, which are very easy to avoid)

MMO Gamers

Case For: Addicted to clicking the same buttons over and over again, will spend real money in exchange for game money, make the worst stereotypes of gamers as passive blobs a reality, members of their guilds are probably the closest thing they have to friends, smell bad

Case Against: Same as RPG gamers, except that they don’t even really have cons. Are essentially recluses.

Sonic the Hedgehog Fans

Case For: Either gross furries or colossal man-babies, refuse to recognize that the Genesis games weren’t perfect either, are probably angered that most of the modern games are aimed at (gasp!) children, keep paying attention to the series they apparently love/hate instead of moving on, think the ‘serious’ cartoons/comics should be the model for the games, haven’t figured out that Sonic has always been a marketing-focused character

Case Against: Hm…I think we have a winner here.

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DON’T READ VOLUME 222

Posted by Matt on June 18, 2011

Oh god, what now?

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Top Ten News Items at E3 2011

Posted by Matt on June 8, 2011

10. Game media apparently still excited by video games based on the ‘Star Wars’ film series. Leading expert baffled.

9. New trends in gaming: voiceovers in games that approximate the sounds of idiots playing those games (“Oh god! Oh god!” FUUUUUUUCK!”), primary example being the latest in the Tomb Raider series.

8. Some games are announced, but they don’t really exist yet, so what the hell was the point? (I.E. Bioshock for Vita, New Super Smash Bros.)

7. Sony is very, very sorry guys. It will never happen again, cross our hearts hope to die. For serious.

6. Revealed: the first major title for Nintendo’s new console: “A Bird Doing Things”

5. Modern Warfare 3 reveals latest footage of people doing something, and then not doing something for long stretches of time.

4. Newest Sony portable console has a silly name… once you forget that we’ve been playing on a thing called a ‘Playstation’ for 15 years.

3. Gaming’s biggest franchise set to return with Halo 4: The Search for More Money

2. Nintendo reveals that they are making a tablet. Seems weird, although I hear there might be a game console attached to it as well.

1. Xbox now becomes voice-commanded with Bing search. It’s like we’re in the future, except then you realize that the future involves talking to a little plastic box and you say GO AWAY, FUTURE!

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Posted by Matt on May 19, 2011

You know what kind of bothers me about storytelling in games? When done ‘right’, it robs many of the characters of agency. That, to me, makes the whole thing less interesting.

Maybe I’m alone here, but when I read or watch something, a narrative, I kind of want it to be about people who aren’t me. I like to see creators create a glimpse of people who will experience different things than me, or who experience the same things as me, but react in a different way. It’s a sort of educational or mind-expanding exchange going on there. A testament to the breadth of humanity. You don’t even need to like the characters – if you can understand them, they can still be interesting.

Gaming is an interactive medium, obviously. The point of it is that YOU are in control of the action. One of the most frustrating things about games as a storytelling medium is that most developers seem to forget that that fact, and so the story is basically a side-element, a thing that gets in the way of the interactive stuff. Cut scenes are the main offenders here – they are an outdated method of storytelling in games, and are akin to someone coming into the room and forcing you to pause the game and watch a DVD of scenes that might as be completely unrelated to what you were doing before. Games like Bioshock and pretty much everything by Valve have shown us how to do it right, so hopefully everyone will catch on sooner or later.

(As a sidenote: I’m not against all cut scenes in games. As annoying as they can be, if they’re at least skippable, I don’t really care. It doesn’t bode well if you’re telling a story, but for the games that really aren’t trying to tell a story, it’s acceptable. Same thing goes for text reading in games.)

But therein lies the rub: once the story in the game becomes completely interactive, I find it less interesting. Bioshock and Portal make up for a lack of real character with atmosphere, and great dialog. But the fact remains that once the protagonist loses the ability to make decisions on their own, they cease to be a character in the story and simply become…you. The argument can be made that putting yourself in a different situation and making you think about how you would act under those circumstances. But you know what? I don’t care what I’d do. What do I learn from that? Besides, it’s not really me making those decisions – it’s me with a bunch of additional factors that will likely decide your actions just as much as you will.

I don’t really know where I want games to go, then. I know they should embrace the interactivity, which is the one unique thing they have. On the other hand, to fully implement that interactivity, they have to remove one of the most important part of storytelling. Can someone strike a balance? I don’t know. I hope someone can, because I’d really hate to not be part of a new wave of good stories. But right now…my issue remains.

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Posted by Matt on May 18, 2011

Some time ago, Cameron Stewart mentioned on his Twitter feed that he would like to see a show like Marc Maron’s WTF podcast for comics creators. You know, something that goes a little deeper, engaging them on a more personal level, whether talking about their work or their lives, rather than simply go on about the comics culture or what have you. I would agree that this is a good idea. A very good idea, in fact. I love hearing or reading that kind of stuff – the real why of what they do. Not just that, I like to hear about their interests, too, and small talk, and anecdotes. It’s really just great to have real, solid evidence that the names I see on the covers of my books are people. This is why I listen to Maron’s show, as depressing as it can be (seriously, the recent episode with Dave Foley is a downer).

I will always welcome more interesting, thought-out takes on any subject, really. It really helps a medium evolve, and mature, when someone is out there willing to actually discuss it on some kind of an intellectual level. One of things I think is holding back video game discussion, art or not, is that there isn’t really much of an ‘alternative’ sector that is willing to tackle games on anything other than a simple consumer level. There are a few, for sure (on a related note, I discovered the Extra Credits video series on The Escapist, and it is exactly what I’m talking about here. Check it out, gang); unfortunately, due to the short period of time in which games have existed, and the more ‘democratic’ world of information sharing that it lucked into, serious game discussion (and when I say ‘serious discussion’, I don’t mean dry, psuedo-intellectual, philosophical wankfests, but just any sort of thought about what the games are and our relationship to them) is going to have some difficulty becoming as much a viable channel as its equivalents in other arts circles (like movies and music) or non-arts circles (professional sports. Yes, professional sports can be discussed in a non-idiotic fashion). The seeds have been planted, though, so it is really only a matter of time before these channels are more common/gain some legitimacy.

To be fair, it isn’t just games. Comics have a good critical establishment among seasoned professionals and fans, with varied and interesting reporting coming from publications like the Comics Journal, or from individuals like Tim O’Neil, Sean Witzke, David Brothers, and so many more. However, I think comics criticism has trouble becoming a natural component of the form, rather than a tiny, antagonistic niche within another niche. There will always be some level of antagonism between the critical establishment and the peanut-munching crowd; but movie, music, and literary critics, even if they are often treated with disdain, are still not outcasts whose sole purpose is to tell the rest of the people how stupid they are. The issue might be that critics of the other mediums deal mainly with the apathetic, while the comics critics have to deal with the much more frustrating obsessive fanboy set. There are not many casual comics readers, or at least not many that don’t simply occupy another micro-niche (manga, webcomics, indies, etc.) that rarely interacts with the others. So who do the comics critics talk to? Either themselves, or the people who will buy every X-Men branded pamphlet that month. It’s a battle of extremes, a symptom of how small the comics crowd is right now, and that is a limiting agent for comics discussion. Good work is still being done, however, so it’s not that tragic a situation.

So how did we get from interesting interviews to the state of criticism? Well…I don’t really know. In my mind, at least, both those candid interviews Stewart suggested and Maron embodies and the critical culture in various mediums are related. They are both about digging into works, or the people behind them, to find points of interest. For people like me, it’s those points of interest, no matter how deep or trivial they may be, are what keeps us hooked on these things. I like learning things about these things; I like seeing them interpreted in different ways. Whether it’s from the talents themselves or other readers, I just think all culture deserves a little prodding, and I will always be in favour of whatever provides that analysis.

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odsennds

Posted by Matt on May 16, 2011

-Late to the game, what with the TCAFness and all, but yes I know I was wrong about this. Well, at least the part where I wasn’t expecting a new Nintendo console. Well, it’s happening. Cool. I guess we’ll have something to look forward to at E3 this year. And with playable demos? A year before the thing is supposed to come out? Interesting.

-Look on that bar-type thing. You know, the one on the side. It has a ton of new links, because I just keep adding things to my Google Reader, and I want you to do it too!

-I remind you that this still exists, and is my pride and joy. Go.

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Posted by Matt on April 21, 2011

The new consoles are coming! The new consoles are coming!! Oh, joyous day! Isn’t it a great time to be a gamer?

I don’t think I can possibly understand why so many gamers are so obsessed with a new batch of consoles coming out as soon as possible. I have a pretty good idea why people were flipping out over the rumour of a new Nintendo console being announced at E3, with amazing HD graffix and the like: most gamers are still sore that Nintendo decided to target people other than them, and have tugging it to the idea of an HD Zelda since 2008, really. Maybe I’m just an uninformed armchair analyst, but I just can’t see a conservative company like Nintendo doing a complete 180 on their million-selling strategy, but who knows with them most of the time (another batch of rumours says the thing also has a gigantic touch screen controller, which is kind of neat, and more in line with they’ve been working on since the DS, but on the other hand, doesn’t make much sense financially). But that’s almost a separate issue at this point.

But what about the other two? To me, their output at this point is still capable of quite a bit. But then again, I’m not a developer having to work with them. On the other hand, neither are all of the people on the Internet I see clamoring for them. About the only people in the biz who seems to have hinted at wanting a new generation to come soon is, as far as I know, UbiSoft, and like fuck do I think they know what’s best for anyone. I have yet to hear any actual developers talk about how hard it is to develop games for the PS3 and 360 with all their limitations. I have yet to hear of any tantalizing game ideas we’re missing out on because, dammit, these boxes just don’t have the juice. Most of the people actually pushing these things to their limits are either doing it in a low-key setting (like downloadable games with, let’s say, less than HD quality graphics), or are doing it on the PC. Most console developers seem content to churn out essentially the same games over and over again, and something tells me the people behind Final Fantasy and God of War are having to scale back their creativity because of the lack of console horsepower.

For most gamers, I imagine, it’s just early adopter syndrome (EAS): they get bored with their technology fairly quickly, and always something biggerer and betterer. For me, the problem is…I don’t like to spend money. And I haven’t seen any evidence that we’re missing out on anything (if there are, though, I’d love to read about it!). But even if the latter is fulfilled, I can’t even say for sure I’d be excited about new consoles. Part of it is, as mentioned before, I hate spending money, especially on gadgetry with minimal utility (hell, even shit that I could find invaluable, like one of those portable devices with Internet hook-up and everything, I still would feel guilty about buying, because I’m fucking frugal). But as other things vie for my time (like maintaining this blog, for example!), games have to be finding more and more interesting hooks to keep me coming back. And you know what? High-tech audio/visual stuff just ain’t it for me. Or, at least, not on their own.

Consoles are a different business from the games they play, oddly enough. If they become more or less interchangeable, then what’s the point of there being more than one? Yet, they need to have similar structures and capabilities in order to keep the publishers interested in working on them, as Nintendo has learned. So in the end, most features on future consoles that aren’t simply upgrades to what the current crop already has will often have to err on the side of meaninglessness (multimedia stuff like Netflix and shit like Home), as not to alienate other publishers. There are some directions they could go that would allow for some interesting directions in the future: manufacturing the console for a greater emphasis on downloadable content (increasing the harddrive sizes for example), to the point where you can buy even full, retail games through their service. An even greater on getting as much bang for their buck out of what their console can do would be another good advance (Microsoft is already testing the waters there, apparently, by doing trials with game discs that have had extra space freed up through a console update), so we don’t ‘need’ to go back to the well so early. Certainly, consoles should become more adaptable in the future…you know, like computers.

None of those ideas are particularly revolutionary, though. I don’t know what kind of new console features would really make me go ‘Wow’ at this point. A lot of it, to my untrained ear, just sounds like technobabble, which I have no interest in. This is, of course, why I’m not on the boards who decide such things.

The next couple of years should be interesting.

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A List

Posted by Matt on March 1, 2011

Well, now that that’s over with, back to fun.

You know what’s coming out Sunday? I’ll give you a hint (by which I mean I’ll link to the answer).

To celebrate the incoming POKEYMAN games, Ill do something special. As the games introduce 156 new monsters, I decided that I’ll go through them all and pick the 25 (plus a few extras, as you’ll see) that really stand out. Yep, here are the coolest things to come out a game for 10-year-olds that I will also be buying:

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