The Alabaster Sock

We Will Fight the Threat with Fighting

Posts Tagged ‘Marvel Comecks’

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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Thoughts on a Thing

Posted by Matt on January 18, 2011

What, I’m still allowed to make some fun posts every once in a while.

An expansion on this old piece of shit.

I still happen to think that the Green Goblin is a super-silly villain (so, pretty much on par with 95% of the Spider-Man rogues gallery) who was somewhat arbitrarily chosen to be a ‘Big Bad’. Norman Osborn makes sense as a major bad guy for Spider-Man, but there’s no real connection between his psychosis and dressing up as a Halloween-themed criminal, unless you are to consider that the norm in the world of Spider-Man. So basically you have a cognitive dissonance situation where the evil mastermind who is your best friend’s dad and threw your first girlfriend off a bridge is also a guy who dresses up in a D&D costume, carries a purse, and flies around on a bat-shaped flying wakeboard throwing jack-o-lantern-shaped explosives. I can accept this idea, but it just means I have a hard time taking anyone’s argument that Green Goblin as a major villain seriously.

But that was then. Let’s talk about now. I think GG/NO’s status as a major part of an influential story has hurt the character in the long run. Technically, there shouldn’t even be a long run for the character…he died at the end of ‘The Night Gwen Stacy Died’, impaled on his own glider. And he stayed dead for a good long while, at least 25 years. From that, we got some interesting character development for Harry Osborn, leading to the semi-obvious conclusion of him donning the goofy Halloween gear himself. And then he died too, and that should have been the end of that. Hobgoblin and Jack-o-Lantern essentially stole all the Green Goblin’s gimmicks, so there was really no goblin-shaped void left in the Spider-Man mythos, either.

But then the Clone Saga happened. Most comics fans know all about that, but for those out of the loop, this is here for you to gain all you need to know about it, and lots you don’t need to know. In brief, it was an infamous overextended storyline that many think irrevocably damaged Spider-Man comics for years and years to come. One of the things the storyline did, basically as a way to finally kill it after the writers, artists, and editors got fucking sick of it, was to bring Norman Osborn back to life as the mastermind behind the events of the previous years of stories. They saw it as thematically sensible, but it started a downward spiral for the Osborn/Goblin duo that goes on to this day.

Norman Osborn works as a Spider-Man villain because he was Peter Parker’s best friend’s weird dad. If I’m remember the characterization of him in the first Spider-Man movie correctly, then that is what I imagine he works best at: sometimes he fills the father figure role in Peter’s life, sometimes he’s just a plain old jerk. But in the end, he’s a good villain BECAUSE of that personal connection; the Green Goblin is just a standard early-era Spider-Man villain with a twist, but that’s perfectly okay.

But once you start turning Norman Osborn into a conspiratorial puppet master, it takes what should be a somewhat smaller-scale character battle and makes it ridiculous. It gets worse: after his revival and into the modern Marvel era, Norman goes even further, becoming an insane evil genius who manipulates his way into a top position and then starts wrecking the entire Marvel universe. It just completely warps the character beyond any level of recognition. I thought he was just an unscrupulous businessman with a weird pastime; now he’s off-brand Lex Luthor? What’s the point?

Well, I think the point was that ‘Hey! He was the bad guy behind that important story! He should be central to the Marvel Universe in general, even when it doesn’t make sense!’ It’s a weird fanboy mentality that tries to translate the meta-importance and memorability of a character into importance and memorability within the fiction, regardless of what that actually means within the text. It’s the same point brought up by the recent Red Letter Media review of Star Wars: Episode III about Darth Vader: just because he’s an important villain to us as an audience doesn’t mean you need to turn him into the central figure of the story’s mythology. They were trying to do the same thing with Obsorn, essentially making him Marvel’s Lex Luthor AND Joker at the same time, which many of the creative minds behind it probably think is essential to such an IMPORTANT character.

Here’s the thing: it makes sense for Lex Luthor to have the level of importance he does. Not only is he the archenemy of the most famous superhero in the world, but his characterization from day one made it a possibility, whether he’s the golden age mad scientist or the modern corporate overlord. You could probably argue that the Joker has been overblown in much the same way as Osborn, but even so, he could still make sense within the wider context of DC’s superhero line. Osborn/Green Goblin, on the other hand, are so essentially tied to Spider-Man as a character, that it just doesn’t feel right to have him battle the Avengers. And it doesn’t even make sense for them to, either; Green Goblin would barely register as a second-string member of the Masters of Evil in terms of the kind of threat he would pose someone like Thor or Iron Man.

Now that Siege is long over (digression: I find it hilarious how quickly that supposedly back-to-the-basics approach represented by the ‘Heroic Age’ has been replaced by another dark crossover story) and Osborn is no longer the head of the most powerful agency in Marvel’s comics, I hope the creative forces at Marvel recognize some of these issues and can fix some of them. Of course, they’re probably not going to kill him again, so the central issue will remain.

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Posted by Matt on April 27, 2010

I know a lot of comics blogs probably have at least one post where they describe what they would do if they were in charge of Marvel and/or DC, and I’m likely the least-informed out of the lot of them. Even so, I have ideas, and I can post whatever I want, so fuck off.

So, here’s the pitch:

Marvel and DC stop publication of all monthly comics. All of them.

Creators seeking to use their copyrighted characters would pitch their story ideas to the company. Those stories would published as complete graphic novels, or would be released as a serial story via either a monthly anthology magazine which could contain those stories, excerpts from already-published graphic novels, reprints, and original short comics; or, periodically online on either the company’s website or through devices like the iPad. In both cases, the collected edition would be published a short time after the serial story is completed. This way, characters can be kept in circulation, creators who desire to do so will still get a chance to work with those characters, and comic shops will still have things they can sell.

Rewrite the publishing polices to allow for the publishing of more creator-owned series. While they may not be able to control or financially benefit from those properties, the chance of getting a wider variety of stories published would allow them to pursue new demographics and venues, increasing their reach.

Of course, the chance of any ideas like these being pursued any time soon is slim. For both companies, comics publishing is just something they do on the side. Both have licensing to bring in the money, and now both have large corporations backing them. Despite the ruckus they might raise whenever a new big direction in their comics is coming up, they don’t seem to be that interested in how many people actually read them.

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More not reading

Posted by Matt on April 21, 2010

Still not done important stuff. Still, I’m almost done. And then this happens.

So let’s talk about that for a minute.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Comix, Gamezzzzz, Nobody Cares | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Posted by Matt on February 5, 2010

Who the hell is this kind of thing trying to surprise? “Oh my God, these characters who have hardly ever NOT been Avengers are going to be members of the Avengers!” Next big reveal: Vision, Black Widow, and Wonder Man are going to be Avengers!

You know, this ‘Heroic Age’ thing really doesn’t convince me at all. Aside from the fact that this is simple pandering and another attempt at getting mainstream attention, what exactly does turning this into a ‘direction’ really do for the comics? Are they going to force the notorious peddlers of morose to lighten up? I don’t see the point. And what exactly is their idea of going back to the good ol’ days?

You know what I think would produce the same effects without the same issues? Stop putting forward so many fucking editorial mandates and BIG EVENTS and just let the creative teams do what they want. Sure, there would likely still be knuckleheads putting out GRIM N GRITTY comics, but I’m sure the freedom given to the more talented ones, who are also more likely to make lighter stories, would easily balance it out.

But that’s just too much to ask, I guess.

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Posted by Matt on February 2, 2010

Now time for nerd stuff.

I found this site today. I knew about this game a while ago, but now they have stuff explaining it in-depth. It has some of the same guys behind it that were behind my precious VS Series before it folded a few years ago. They were awful nice to us nosy, ungrateful fanboys on the Internet, so I do wish them luck in their endeavors.

Anyway, the game seems like a streamlining of many of the ideas they had in VS. The teams with their characteristic gimmicks, the resources, and the terms used are very reminiscent of the earlier game. The idea of the ‘leader’ character I know is something they were thinking about during VS, as I’m pretty sure they had implemented a similar idea in their World of Warcraft CCG (which I really don’t know much about). It was also an idea that had plenty of player support back then, because they thought VS didn’t do a good enough job making the most prominent characters…well, prominent (although, unlike VS, it seems Marvel Superstars will have to go on without a certain spider man). The leader mechanic, as it is, seems like a decent variation on the tropes that have been around since Magic began, especially since they get stronger as the game goes on, adding a real sense of risk/reward with them.

Speaking of Magic, the battle system abandons most of the innovations VS had and goes back to being pretty much exactly like Magic. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing: the leader mechanic actually mixes things up in that regard quite a bit. The also went for a Magic-style resource system (albeit much simpler due to lack of colors), but had the ingenious idea to give the player some resources to start with, as to (for the most part) avoid mana screw-ing players. This also plays off the leader mechanic quite well. See? One good idea in a game like this makes everything else interesting.

As for the aesthetic…very clean for the most part, logos are clear and easy to understand. I can’t help but find the use of live action movie stills a bit gaudy (and they remind me of failed games of the past, many of which went for the same look), but that’s no shot at the designers. Personal quibbles aside, the cards look perfectly okay. The fact that they are slanted horizontal instead of vertical is different. I’m curious to see what a game board looks like.

The major point for distribution is the fact that they are going to try to tie in releases to Marvel movies, which is a perfectly decent idea. Basically, you get as much out of the current films (from the looks of things, they have the rights to everything Fox and Marvel themselves produce, although they also have Ghost Rider, which is Columbia, but no sign of Spider-Man, which is owned by the same studio) as you can in a few basic sets, and then release new releases alongside the new movies (like they are for Iron Man 2), so as long as Marvel and the remaining licensees pump out new films for the next few years (like it looks like they will), then you have plenty of material for releases. I’m not entirely sure if they’ll be able to do the three-sets-a-year thing like they do for other games, but who says they have to be so traditional?

So, in summary, the game looks pretty good. It seems like the designs are still on the ball. And again, I wish them luck with their new game and the new community they hope to build.

Posted in Bored Games, Nobody Cares | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Posted by Matt on January 9, 2010

So, let me get this straight:

The storyline for the newest Marvel crossover is that, in a last-ditch effort to stay in power, the police state superheroes (who are really supervillains) manufacture a war…against the Norse gods. And they manipulate the media to get people on their side of the war…with the Norse gods.

This idea would be brilliant if I didn’t already know it will be free of irony and fun.

I really, really hope the bizarre murmurings that they are using this to integrate Marvelman into their universe are true, just so this will be the biggest clusterfuck it can be.

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