Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Kirk's Soapbox - A Collection of Random Thoughts, Vol 2

Eric's stepping down from the soapbox for the week and, aboring a vaccuum, I quickly jumped up to let my voice be heard.  This edition of A Collection of Random Thoughts touches on the "heroes don't kill" rule, the much talked about Apple Tablet, Achilles's sexual orientation, sales data and more.  Hit the jump to read about these and more.

Heroes Don't Kill (Unless You're an Alien, Robot or Non-Human)

David Brothers over at the 4th Letter! tackled the subject of how heroes don't kill in a series of two posts explaining the reasoning behind no kill policies in the past (Comics Code Authority, simpler times), the escalation of crimes and evil of these villains and why it's getting to the point of absurdity that they haven't killed some of these villains yet. It's a good read that I agree with completely.  You can read the first and second post on the topic here and here.

To mirror David Brothers's thoughts on the topic, I do not believe heroes should kill each and every two bit mugger and thief they come across.  That would be out right murder and vigilante street justice.  But killing someone in the heat of battle, where they are actively trying to kill you, your loved ones or random civilians?  God yes.  Cops shoot to kill in extreme situations.  They don't try to disarm gun toting maniacs.  Super heroes, an extension of police, should not try to disarm super villains, who are doing much the same thing. Police can't stop them, civilians can't stop them, no one can stop them but the super hero.  Hell, the Avengers are government sanctioned and should have the right to kill.

The worst part of this no kill policy is the hypocrisy of it, particularly over at Marvel.  During the Skrull invasion, the heroes literally massacred the Skrulls.  Ms Marvel took one Skrull up to space and watched him die.  She didn't just drop him there and head back down to save people.  She sat there, in space, and watched his head pop with a smile on her face and inner monologue about how much she was enjoying it.  This same person says she won't kill Norman Osborn because she's better than him.  Osborn is clinically proven to be insane.  What's your excuse for the depravity Carol and why is he actually doing a better job at hero than you?

Again, I don't want heroes killing everyone they see.  Spider-Man or Batman shouldn't be snapping necks of random muggers they can take down without  breaking a sweat.  Superman can probably get away without killing anyone ever.  He's just not capable of it.  But most heroes shouldn't have a problem with killing in a battle so long as it's not a consious thought - ie they aren't going in with the intent to kill people.  Invincible is a good example of this for me.  The way he killed Angstrom Levy (he got better) by turning his face into pulp after he attacked his family was perfectly acceptable to me and I could see Spider-Man tearing into Norman Osborn the same way if he ever touched Mary Jane or anyone in his life again.

The Apple Tablet, Comics & You

The Apple Tablet is getting a lot of talk recently and I wanted to touch on it briefly.  To set the record straight, there is no Apple Tablet.  It doesn't exist.  It wasn't announced by Apple, it isn't confirmed by Apple and that image that's floating around is a mockup by some random non-Apple related person that took an iPod Touch and stretched it to a tablet-like size.

While Apple is notorious for staying tight lipped and can even roll out a new product at the drop of a hat without big announcements leading up to it, that doesn't change the fact that this so-called tablet does not exist at this point in time, is not coming out in September (note how it's November now) and should not be hyped up as the comic book revolution it will never be. Want to know why?  Let's go over some numbers:
iPod Touch (from Apple website)

Size: 4.3"x2.4"x0.33"
Capacity: 16GB, 32GB or 64GB
Cost: $199, $299 or $399

Apple Tablet Rumoured Specs (from links compiled at Wired.com)

Size: 10.7" diagonally
Resolution: 720p
Capacity: Unknown
Cost: $700-900
The kicker with the cost for an Apple Tablet is that I can't see it being sold for less than $999.  Why?  An iPod Touch costs more than a PS3.  It's a fraction of the size of a 10.7" tablet.  The tablet would be as large as a small LCD TV, which go for about $300-500 range, has touch screen capabilities, built in wireless and, the kicker, will need several hundred gigabytes of space to store any kind of image based media.

Don't believe me?  The average comic book scan, at the full resolution people post online, is about a megabyte for each image.  I shrink them down in the Moments of the Week to a hundred kilobytes or so, but they are usually double the resolution (aka big).  A full comic book is 22-pages.  That's 22MB, give or take, per issue.  Take Amazing Spider-Man #600, which was about 100-pages of content.  That's 100MB right there.  Are you telling me you want a $1000 comic book reading tablet that can only hold a fraction of your comic book collection and whose harddrive would fill within a year's worth of reading? No, it's going to require a lot of storage space, which Apple, like Microsoft and the Xbox 360, is notorious for overcharging on.

This doesn't touch on motion comics, video or other high capacity content that Apple would position for a tablet.  You won't get several hundred gigabytes from Apple for $700, so that rumoured price range is a pipe dream or there will be rioting over the iPod Touch being so goddamn overpriced as it is.

This doesn't even touch on how hard it is on the eyes to read comics/books/etc for long stretches of time on the computer.  The Kindle and other eReaders use electronic paper that burns the text into the screen, giving it a paper-like quality that is easy on the eyes and just like reading a book.  It's why they are black and white (for now, might change in the future).  The tablet will use an LCD-like screen that will cause that burning, itching irritation in the eyes after long periods of reading.  Joy.

The question then becomes, how many comic book readers will be buying a $1000 tablet to read comics that are currently selling on iTunes for $2.99 instead of just paying $2.99 or $3.99 for a paper copy?  Anyone?  You in the back?  Oh, just stretching?  Thought so.

October Sales Data

Based on the numbers posted by IGN Comics, DC dominated the charts for the month of October, claiming the top six spots on the chart and nine out of the top fifteen.  That's some impressive work.   The kicker is that five of the top six are all $2.99 comics, Blackest Night #4 being the only $3.99 offering.
1 - Blackest Night #4 - $3.99
2 - Batman and Robin #5 - $2.99
3 - Green Lantern #47 - $2.99
4 - Blackest Night: Batman #3 - $2.99
5 - Green Lantern Corps #41 - $2.99
6 - Blackest Night: Superman #3 - $2.99
Is this a sign that readers are finally voting with their wallets and saying no to the pricier $3.99 offerings that had been dominating the charts or just the Blackest Night Effect propping up sales on these tie-ins?  Even if it is just Blackest Night fever, I would have expected some drop off in sales for these titles, not increases that push them ahead of Dark Avengers and other perennial top ten comics.  Maybe more people are taking chances on the tie-ins due to the lower price and smaller committments (only three issues per miniseries). 

However, the only question I really have about the sales data is what the heck is Web of Spider-Man #1 doing at the number 20 spot?  Marvel must be laughing all the way to the bank on the rebranding of the Amazing Spider-Man Family title. 

The Brian Bendis Twitter Chronicles

Brian Bendis had a Twitter marathon going the other day, doing an impromptu Q&A with his followers that was so frequent he was temporarily frozen from posting by Twitter.  Robot 6 summed up the juicier bits of info on their blog, but there were a few things I wanted to talk about here.

Cosmic Level Avengers Stories New Year
@BrianMBendis - oh yes!! RT @popculturezoo: @BRIANMBENDIS Any chance of some cosmic-level Avengers stories next year?
At first, I was tempted to scream out, "NO! YOU STAY AWAY FROM MY NOVA AND GUARDIANS YOU BASTARD!", but, once I calmed down a bit and realized the potential of this, I realized that Bendis tackling cosmic stories means more people will read cosmic stories.  More people reading them means we have no worries about potential cancellations or other bad things happening to Dan Abnett's & Andy Lanning's little corner of the Marvel Universe.  It also means higher profile and more everything.  That's a good thing.

More Alias
@BrianMBendis - we'll do an alias mini next year if the stars allow RT @ashwinpande: @BrianMBendis also, you and Gaydos teaming up again anytime soon?

Alias is arguably some of Brian Bendis's best work and eventually led to Jessica Jones and Luke Cage getting together, joining the Avengers and all that fun stuff.  I would be thrilled if we see more of it, but I'm hoping it goes back to its MAX roots.

Verdict System Explained

A few people have noticed we've started using a new rank in our verdict system for reviews recently that I've yet to fully explain.  In fact, I don't think I've ever come out and fully explained what the verdicts mean and I'm going to take a moment to do so here.
Avoid It - Books that you shouldn't bother with for any reason.  A bad book is a bad book. There are no varying degrees of bad.  However, on occasion, a book can be deemed Avoid It for specific reasons, such as being a complete filler issue or cash grab by the publisher that, while has some technical merit, may be labelled Avoid It.  The review will make clear the distinction.

Byrne It - Named after the term coined by John Byrne's condemnation of reading comics in the shop/on the rack, the term Byrne It refers to books that have some merit, but are mostly subpar. May contain a major event or status quo change that is worth seeing, but the quality of the issue is suspect, making it not worth purchasing for those events or changes.  We haven't actually used this one yet as we weren't sure if it was a good fit or not.

Something like Secret Invasion's conclusion would be a good Byrne It candidate as the issue was rather bland, told in flashback, threw out the entire Secret Invasion concept and resorted to fisticuffs in Central Park.  However, it featured the death of the Wasp and Norman Osborn's Cabal origins, so is something you'd want to be kept abreast of, hence Byrne It at the shop, but don't buy it.

As I said, we haven't used this one yet, so it may not get put in the rotation.  I believe Ryan uses a Read With Caution verdict in its place for the time being, though it has slightly different meaning.  

Check It - Good books that are entertaining, but aren't very sharp on their craft. You probably won't be disappointed, but you might not love it. Typically something fans of the book will love, but not something that will sell you on the book. 

Buy It - Books that excel in terms of both enjoyment value and craft, but still have glaring errors. For example the art might blow me away, but the dialogue is very stiff and repetitive. This may also apply to extremely well done books that may only appeal to a niche audience.  In the end, something we feel you should buy, but not a perfect book either.

Must Read - Books with very few flaws of any kind, if any. These are books that generally most readers will really enjoy regardless of genre, creator or any other determining factor.  Books you must read in some way, shape or form.

There you have, our verdict system explained.  Currently, it's a four tiered system with Avoid It, Check It, Buy It and Must Read.  If or when we decide on that Byrne It verdict, we'll adjust it for it.  We've added the Buy It to the verdicts to add diversity and impact to a Must Read verdict again, as many books were claiming that ranking with only the original three tier system.  You'll see less Must Read ratings these days and Buy It's or Check It's replacing it.  When you do see a Must Read, you can be asured it's a must read book.

Wonder Woman's Achilles Is Gay

Apparently, Gail Simone confirmed that Achilles is gay.  No, not the bi-sexual ancient Greek-like gay, but full on, "no women" gay. It seems the only indication of this orientation is through the brief dialogue with Alkyone from Wonder Woman #36 (I believe, couldn't find confirmation) that went as follows:
Alkyone: There will be no physical congress.
Achilles: Of course not. I would NEVER... I don't even....
I have no real opinion on the matter.  It doesn't even phase me to be hoenst, but I was sure there'd be a shitstorm on the internet over DC having a gay character.  I actually can't think of any gay characters from DC of the male variety.  Gail had this to say about the character and his sexual preferences:
It's just part of who he is. DC has a ton of lesbians, but not that many gay heroes or even anti-heroes. He's not meant to be a token, I think he's a pretty cool character on his own and if he gets a chance to shine, I think we'll see that--up til now it's mostly been potential.

Twitter, Comics and Lists Oh My

Twitter recently introduced the concept of Lists for making following people on Twitter easier.  I created a Weekly Crisis List for those interested in an easy to follow list of Ryan, Matt, Eric and my Twitter feeds, but iFanboy has gone one step further and taken their master list of comic book related Twitter links and turned them into a variety of handy Twitter Lists

Comic Book Binding Podcast

The Comic Addiction featured David Banks, the man responsible for my brother's and my addiction to comic book binding and owner of Single Bound Studios,  on a podcast recently and, aside from some interesting bits about comic book binding, he made mention of my brother's recent order.  They even use images of his Flash comics, issues which are not available in trade format, for the banner of the podcast.  For reference, he went with a softcover like binding for these Flash trades, but his past bindings were in hardcover format.

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Ethereal said...

Isn't Obsidian, from JSA, gay? I could have sworn that was somewhere.

As far as the death of characters, villains or otherwise. It usually depends on the writers and the editors. Their depiction of the characters usually lead to wether they should be killing, and how much. I'm curious as to wether some writers still go by the code regardless.

Servando Gomez said...

Wait Kirk about the Superheroes killing. The Authority and The Ultimates had no qualms with killing. Then again, it was Hawkeye that did the killing when his family died. Still, they did attack that nuclear launch site and even if they didn't kill anyone; they're partly responsible for the deaths there after the bombing run.

Overall, i can agree with you about 616 marvel and DC Universe proper superheroes never killing anyone. Btw, can you explain to me how do you go around killing robots if they're not exactly dead?

P.S: One last thing; i'm assuming you means nonfringe titles either like X-force and Deadpool. In remember in Cable and Deadpool that deadpool killed a lot of people. But in his defense; he's a anti-hero.

Anonymous said...

I almost pointed out that Superman did in fact kill that trio of Kryptonnian criminals way back when but then I couldnt for the life of me figure out if that was still in continuity or not...

Chris said...

With the Ms. Marvel example, to me there is a big difference in killing an alien during an all out war and killing another human being, especially one who is technically working for the U.S government. But I do agree with the post for the most part, it is a little weird how they chose to handle killing super villains.

Matt Ampersand said...

Here's something that I haven't seen anyone mention, but think about the law aspect of killing villains. Maybe superheroes don't want to deal with lawyers, who we all know are the true villains anyway. I mean, imagine the civil lawsuits that they could cook up from having a non-licensed (at least before the SHRA) vigilante kill someone else.

Klep said...

Man I'm glad I have eyes of steel or whatever. I can (and have) read comics on my computer for a solid day without ill effects. For some reason I just don't get eyestrain.

Monch said...

@Matt Ampersand: I remember in She Hulk in her lawyer phase, super villians used to put lawsuits against super heroes that used extreme force when capturing them.

Shayera said...

There's a very simple reason, why heroes can't kill. (And villains mostly can't either) You'd have to be ready to move onward, if that were to happen. And that's something that doesn't happen in the comic universes.
Sure. The publishers are able to adapt. Superman now isn't exactly the Superman from the 60s. Spider-man is also still Spider-man. But can you imagine Spider-Man being gone? I mean really gone, not as in "dead for a year" or something? If the heroes would kill the big threats, I'd expect the other side to do the same. There are losses on both sides. While I would appreciate this, being bold enough to move on, to make place for the new and reinvent heroes, concepts and universes, I fear most fans are not ready for this.

Hence ... no killing. And if death ... it transtlates to just a longer downtime for the character. (Exceptions do exist)

Daryll B. said...

@Ethreal: Yes Obsidian was revealed to be gay awhile ago. It has just been glossed over.

About the killing issue: I am of the few who think that heroes should kill if given the situation calls for it. I mean come on the Joker has freaking offed how many people with ties to Batman? I would think Bats should have slaughtered him by now. That being said, I concur with your problems with the inconsistencies depicting this character study.

Bendis is a hoot sometimes but as long as it doesn't interrupt DnA's cosmic plans, Avengers in space is always cool. Maybe they'll be the ones to get Kitty out of the space bullet. (Damn You Wheldon!!!)

I know digital is the future, but comic reading won't be the same man....

Matt Ampersand said...

@Monch: Oh yeah, you are right, I had totally forgotten about that part. I need to re-read that run one of these days.

Josh said...

I've got to say, you're way off on those scan sizes.

Let's just say there's a group of people that scan comic books and put them online for people to download. Amazing Spider-man #600 c2c ('cover to cover,' which means every single page and ad is included in the scan) comes to 58.4MB. Fantastic image quality, too. Issue 610 of the same series, sans ads, is around 15.5MB and of the same quality. Plenty of compression methods available to make files manageable.

Matt Ampersand said...

It depends on the scanner, I have definitely seen some of the size that Kirk is talking about here.

Kirk Warren said...

@Josh - You realize you just proved my point with Amazing Spider-Man #610, right? 22 pages for 15.5MB is a little less than the 1MB per page size I was quoting, but not exactly out of the ballpark or anything. There are definitely compression methods available, but a high quality image is going to still be about that size regardless of what you do.

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