Peter G (sinetimore) wrote,
Peter G

The Inifinite Improbability Drive And Comic Books

So, San Diego is underway.  I am currently having lunch, having gotten the newest Comic Buyer's Guide, which is bragging about the return of Solar -- Man Of The Atom, written by Jim Shooter.  This is, obviously, being presented as a good thing.  I suppose, for others, it is.  I'm just...uncertain.

When Valiant launched with Solar -- Man Of The Atom back in the 90's, giving us the comic speculator market and killing a wide swath of the audience, I missed it.  I loved indies, but hearing "Yeah, it's indie, but it's a superhero book," made me pass.  Long time later, when I was talking with Acclaim about writing for them, I went through the ChicagoCon floor and bought every Valiant comic I could.  I wound up with two huge shopping bags full of near mint comics I mined out of quarter boxes and cut deals for.  Grand total cost for nearly every Valiant comic ever made?  $40 cash money.  Some of those books used to go for over $100!  I wanted to get an overview and become versed in this universe I was trying to write for.

My reading of Shooter's stuff on Solar (I didn't have time to read all of them and focused on the most likely candidates to be revived.  Shadowman was recommended by the editor) left me distinctly underwhelmed.  Indie supers at the time were dealing with a heavy British influence courtesy of books like Marvelman (renamed Miracleman in the US because of trademark claims by Marvel Comics).  The Brits raised the stakes in their comic storytelling dramatically.  However, I wasn't as into them because they seemed to sacrifice plot progression for fantastic twists.

One of the reasons I was never a general sci-fi fan was because so much sci-fi seemed to be based more on how fantastic things were, to experience something unimagined, instead of something that made sense.  I was a science nut (still am), so some of the logistics of, say, Fantastic Voyage, I knew flat out could not work that way (likewise, when a miniaturized Dennis Quaid drinks unminiaturized whiskey in InnerSpace).  I know, it's kind of rum to get hung up on, especially given some of the things I will roll with in other movies, but there was some esoteric difference I couldn't put my finger on.  One that said the writers were just throwing stuff out there.

The Marvelman stories have a weird, complicated history, but I recall them being about how the central character found out he was a comic book fantasy from his childhood made real by a government experiment.  Now, this is old hat (and is a plot device I'm experimenting with in a project I'm cooking up), but there's just something...I don't know.  For some reason, that was a major breaking point for me, maybe because it transplanted the fantastic into our mundane universe instead of keeping it in its own.  Solar used a similar convention under Shooter, with the nuclear reactor that gave Solar his powers actually being a dream machine that granted wishes.  Like I said, I can't understand why this particular convention made me roll my eyes (as has been pointed out to me many times, it's only a comic book), but I just couldn't take it seriously and couldn't see how everyone else did.

I understand the need to "bend" rules.  I'm doing it a lot in Sound Waves.  But when I read what I write, it doesn't feel like a cheat or a dodge.  Is it because of my proximity (I mean, I wrote it, so obviously , this makes perfect sense to me), or is it because I'm actually doing something different?

Or, it could be that Sound Waves is fundamentally different from what happens in Solar and Miracleman.  See, Sound Waves is fantastic, but it isn't magical.  The mermaids use their command and control of sound to make things happen, but outright magic does not exist.  The plot twists of Solar and Miracleman, which basically amounts to wishgranting, is magic.  No explannation other than "It's magic" exists.

With all the people clamoring for Shooter's return to comics, I'm guessing he'll be writing in his usual style (Warriors Of Plasm was sort of his nadir in my mind).  And Shooter definitely has good points.  For example, he's less likely to use idealized characters, they have their realistic flaws and imperfections instead of just being self-inserts for the writer's adolescent male power fantasies.  But that not what people talk about, they talk about the wonder of the worlds he creates.

So how much of writing is making something fantastic, and how much is writing something that makes some kind of sense?  After all, the biggest selling book in history is the Bible, and we all know how much sense IT makes....
Tags: art, comic books, comics, sound waves
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