Blog comic book fiction

I love you, (Bat)man

My love for the Batman is deep and abiding. That is why, while rewatching the three Christopher Nolan Batmen, I came up with my own Batman storyline.

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san diego comic-con in pictures

More to come in writing, but here is a visual log of my five days in San Diego. As it was my first time as exhibitor, I took some pictures of the booths without the huge crowds surrounding them. It is an unadvertised treat to be able to wander the convention hall with only my fellow exhibitors around.

For a minute-by-minute recap of Comic-Con, I highly recommend reading my Twitter feed, as well as those of my friends and neighbors Reid Psaltis, Jeff Schuetze, Victoria Ying, Mike Yamada, Tammy Stellanova, Chet Phillips, and Dave Kellett.


the allure of the roof

carygWhat’s on a roof?  Sometimes Cary Grant.  Usually, though, not a whole lot.  A swamp cooler.  Dead birds.  Lost footballs, baseballs, soccer balls.  Leaves.  Junk that doesn’t fit in the basement.  Why, then, are we so fascinated with roofs of all kinds?

When the Beatles decided to play their final concert, they considered many venues.  They considered legendary places befitting the biggest and best rock band of all time.  The Parthenon or the Colosseum, perhaps; structures that are indelible marks of human progress.  Or maybe a big ship, where the Beatles could literally sail off into the sunset.  These grand ideas were ultimately rejected and the Beatles simply walked upstairs to the roof of their office building to play one last show:

In a story, being on the roof is significant.  Batman meets with Commissioner Gordon on a roof.  Tom Hanks meets with Meg Ryan at the top of the Empire State Building.  The roof is not for sissies; when you’re on the roof, you mean business.

A roof is a public place and yet it is private.  Not just anyone is allowed on the roof; there is a certain privilege in being atop a building.  Helicopters land on roofs.  Pigeons hang out on roofs.  From a roof, you can look down on the city around you and get the lay of the land.  You are king on the roof.  You are a god on Mount Olympus.

I am not an architect, but if I were I’d design a building that was all roof.  That way, everyone could feel the power of living on top of it all. new7+tcatPDVD_007

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to the writers of Community on NBC

It has recently been brought to my attention that I am an awesome writer. In the April 9, 2010 edition of Entertainment Weekly (a magazine I read cover-to-cover as soon as it arrives in the mail), the following quotation was printed in the “SoundBites” feature: entertainment-weekly-community

I’m specifically referring to the Community quote, although I kept the Parks and Recreation quote in because that is a great show that you should all be watching.

We all know that vampires are “in” right now. We’ve got Mormon vampires, cable TV vampires, and of course my favorite: Batman as a vampire. So it comes as no shock that TV comedy writers would be looting that vampire pot o’ gold for their non-vampire shows.

What does strike me as odd is that I used a nearly identical line in Falling Rock less than 3 months ago:2010-01-18-falling-rock-national-park

Plagiarism is the most sincere form of flattery, and I am truly flattered. Honestly, these little coincidences happen all the time. Instead of becoming angry and running to my local Pot o’ Gold Attorney to sue, I would like to make a proposition to the good people at Community. Hire me.

You know I’m good. You’re already using my funny jokes. Hire me to write for your show. I promise to bring donuts in on Fridays. In exchange you can pay me and put my name in tiny credits at the end of the show. It will be super awesome, I promise.

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batman vs superman

It is ironic that the battles comic book aficionados want to see most are between friends. Batman hates the Joker: this is a given. Superman hates Nazis: duh. But what would happen if Batman fought Superman? What would be the outcome of this nerdy battle royale?

I’m not interested. What does interest me is how differently these superheroes approach their gigs. Although they have the same mission (fightin’ evil), that is where the similarity ends.

It is well known that Batman and Superman are, at best, frenemies. Batman thinks Superman is a lousy showoff (think: Kanye West), and Superman thinks of Batman as an outlaw (think: Jesse James). They also have the exact opposite taste in fashion. Superman prefers loud, bright colors while Batman steps out into the Gotham night in muted blues and grays. It’s perhaps inevitable, then, that when these titans meet, there will be blood.

Metropolis. This bright Los Angeles of comic book cities plays host to alien Kal-El. By day he pretends to be dorky Clark Kent, newspaper reporter. Also by day he is Superman, the Man of Steel, who saves the city from all manner of villainy.
Superman inflicts countless millions of dollars in property damage in his never-ending battle to rid the universe of evil. Metropolis cannot lure a single pro sports team due to the fear that a giant robot, searching for Superman, will destroy every player on the field. This is more frustrating to Metropolans than having the Cleveland Indians as your home team.

Gotham, a rat-infested hellhole (Phoenix? Detroit?), can’t really be hurt by a man dressing up as a giant bat. Any building Batman enters is condemned or abandoned, so he really can’t do anything to make the value go down. Also, Batman doesn’t attract the kind of world-domination villains Superman does. Batman attracts the psychopaths, the lunatics. Do you want to dress up as the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland and play out your weird sexual fantasies? Go to Gotham. Are you a 500-foot-tall squid monster who eats babies by the truckload? Go to Metropolis.

Batman is Bruce Wayne by day. The millionaire playboy has to be an easy part to play, since Batman runs on about 30 minutes of sleep per night. He literally couldn’t function as a character who required specialized skills or social graces. Bruce Wayne basically shows up at a board meeting, bottle of Jameson in hand, and proceeds to burp his way through the presentation. Then Alfred picks him up so he can make a fool of himself in public (a fancy hotel or a political fundraiser), then back to Wayne Manor. Then the real work can begin.
As a regular human being, Batman stretches himself to the limit. Superman, on the other hand, is an almost indestructible alien who gets his power from the sun. Batman needs to stop and eat at least twice a day.

Superman fights crime for the joy of it. He doesn’t really need to do it, he just feels the moral imperative. Batman, on the other hand, witnessed his parents murdered at gunpoint when he was a child. Batman hates guns and criminals; it’s personal.

Batman has had to learn how to fight so as not to get himself seriously injured. He also has to be a cop, a detective and a scientist to solve crimes. Superman just looks for the fire and flies over to put it out.

No matter what the villain, Superman uses the same tactic to defeat it. Cyborg? Punch it in the face. Squid monster? Punch it in the face. Woman who thinks The Shawshank Redemption is better than Citizen Kane? Punch her in the face. Yes, Superman will hit a girl.
This post will do nothing to put the Batman/Superman debate to rest. What I do hope is that it has shed some light onto why this blogger thinks Batman is, like, a billion times cooler than Superman. Batman, if you’re out there, Falling Rock has your back.

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good-night, opus & the batman betrayal

This is a blog by a cartoonist; you may have already understood that based on the tangential digressions that dominate these here posts. But sometimes I like to talk about comics directly. These two news items, in particular, warrant a little discussion.

First: Opus is going to die! Well, hopefully not die. Like James Bond, who will return (according to the end of every James Bond movie), Opus has been granted a reprieve from the comic character gallows twice before. Every time Berkeley Breathed gets bored of counting his money, he returns to the comic pages. And, honestly, it never fails to make me happy when he does. Bloom County, although I only read it in book form after its run had ended, was a truly hilarious comic strip. Outland, the Sunday-only follow-up to Bloom County, was still funny, better drawn, and even more colorful (har). Lately we’ve had Opus, which is kinda sorta like Outland and Bloom County, but with lots more Bush references. Also, the art improved again.

homesick-for-heaven Now, Mr. Breathed wants to quit Opus before the penguin turns mean. I wasn’t aware of this fact before, but apparently at some point in their lives, penguins become bitter and cling to their guns and religion. Mr. Breathed understandably doesn’t want to be the guy standing next to the angry, resentful penguin.

It isn’t clear whether Opus will return again after Opus ends its run. My personal secret hope is Mr. Breathed will segue into longer comic stories. Not necessarily graphic novel length, but longer than a half-page Sunday strip. This, it should be noted, was also my secret hope for Bill Watterson after he retired Calvin and Hobbes. As of yet that wish has remained unanswered. After a cartoonist has given us ten or so years of brilliance, he or she deserves a little break from the constant deadlines. But, at the same time, there are plenty of formats for comics these days. This all-or-nothing, draw one comic strip per day or else get out mentality should really be re-thunk. We’re losing too many good cartoonists.

That was the good cartoonist news. Now for the bad cartoonist news.

According to The Comics Journal message board and this blog, Bob Kane was a total hack. I haven’t been able to parse the truth from the, ahem, exaggerations, but it seems Kane was a mediocre (at best) artist who used connections to secure him a sweet deal, thus ensuring his lasting fame. He was one of the very, very few cartoonists in comic’s early days to own his character. Because that character happened to be Batman, Mr. Kane was pretty well-off for the remainder of his days.

Kane’s crimes, in the minds of Comics Journal commentors, include being a pretty spotty artist and possibly overstating his role in the creation of the Batman character. Had we been talking about a superhero nobody remembers, there wouldn’t even be a discussion (or at least a fairly muted one). Because we’re talking about THE Batman, there is a feeling that we’d better get straight who did what. It’s kind of like giving Neil Armstrong credit for stepping on the moon first. Had Neil Armstrong been the first human to step foot on the new mall downtown, nobody would care. Since the stakes are high, the credit matters more.

Also, Kane probably stole his signature from Milton Caniff:caniff_kaneI’m not sure what to make of the argument. On the one hand, I’m all for cartoonists’ rights. Lord knows cartoonists have historically been trod upon by newspapers, publishers, and distributors (Clout & Money). For a cartoonist of his time to not only create but own one of the most enduring comic characters of all time is a feat worthy of praise. But if it’s true Kane took credit for other people’s good ideas, that would make him, well, typical. The jury’s still out on this one, dear readers.

Blog fiction history

The Batman

chicago-bridges A dark city cries for help.

Gotham needs Batman.
Long before there was a Batman to protect us, a band of terrorist criminals kept the fair city of Gotham under a near-constant state of panic.These criminals include:
The Joker George W. Bush
The Riddlerrumsfeld
…and their hired thugs.

This band of terrorist criminals ravaged Gotham until there was nothing left to burn, blow up, or steal. Many wondered: can Gotham rise like a mighty Phoenix to become great again? Some of us threatened to “move to Metropolis,” where at least the sun comes out sometimes and the newspaper is better.

Alas, most do not have the luxury of pulling up their roots and restarting in a new city. Other citizens claimed that we would live to see Gotham as the urban utopia it once was. But how?chicago-hyde-parkEnter: The Dark Knight.

Batman seemed to rise from the darkness itself, striking back at those who had tarnished our once-beautiful Gotham. He is now doing what Gotham’s corrupt police and crooked politicians never dared try. He fights the good fight. He bleeds for our sins. Though many of us will never see the Batman in person, we must rally around his symbol of hope.

Fly, Batman, fly. Into the light of the dark black night.

This post sponsored by OBAMA/CARTER ’08

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My new mantra

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to speak with Ted Rall, the features editor at United Media. He looked over my work and told me in the kindest possible terms that he was totally uninterested in publishing it. He did give me some pointers as to what I should be working on, which is good, because I’ve grown tired of “work on the art” line I’ve gotten more than a few times.

One of the more interesting things he said was that I should have a mantra. Not a mantra in the sense that I should repeat it under my breath throughout the day, but one that relates to my comic strip. I should have a single phrase written on a 3X5 index card that sums up what I want to do with my comic strip. You know, get to the heart of the strip so that every single episode I draw is cohesive to the whole.

The comics business is a serious place, folks. It kind of makes sense, though. They don’t want just any schlub off the street drawing funny pictures for a living. It’s tough! Competitive! It’s like Wall Street, a funeral, and CSPAN all wrapped into one!

I haven’t figured out a mantra yet, but I now have a temporary one:
“Don’t Piss Off Batman.”
It’s kind of like What Would Jesus Do, except more relevant for an agnostic Jew like me.

I think that will do for now. Do you have a suggestion? Let me know!