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Fans First Podcast #2: Gold Digging

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In the second episode of the podcast, it’s just Rhys and Chris, but they bring the hits and the funny, as they talk about Star Wars Rebels, DC T-shirts, and Generation X.

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Gotham: The Waynes… And Those Other Guys.

gothamAs of this week, I have watched two episodes of Gotham, DC’s latest attempt at opening the wallets of non-comic consumers and attracting some of that sweet, sweet casual fan money. And, to be fair, the TV strategy has worked well for them. Smallville was huge. Arrow has gained some real ground. It makes sense that they would throw some weight behind Batman, especially with the popularity of the Nolan bat-films.

I understand Gotham. I like Gotham. I’m just not quite sure what I think about Gotham.

If you listened to last week’s inaugural Fans First nerdcast, you know that my wife and I both thoroughly enjoyed the pilot. And I certainly enjoyed the second episode. The show is dark and moody, and Gotham City just looks like it should. The Nolan influences are strong in this series, but that’s a good thing. The dark, gritty atmosphere works very well with the story they’re telling, and because of this, Gotham City almost becomes a character within the show, which is exactly as it should be.

The characters themselves are all fairy well done. Donal Logue kills it as Harvey Bullock, providing as much humor as you can in light of this recent no-jokes DC era. Earlier this week, Barry and I were talking about how much Jada Pinkett-Smith’s Fish Mooney character brings to the show with her dark humor and ice-cold demeanor. And Ben McKenzie does a great job as Jim Gordon, though I currently find him to be kind of boring, something I assume will change as we move closer to the impending “war” that Penguin predicted in the pilot. Gordon’s already grown slightly more interesting by the second episode, as he tries to pretend he’s dirty, so he can clean up the city from the inside. That seems like a very Jim Gordon thing to do.

Even the side-characters, the cameos, feel right within the show. It makes sense to me that Edward Nigma would work as a forensic anthropologist, sort of like Dexter, before becoming the Riddler. I can buy that. Same with a 14-year-old street thief named Selina Kyle and a low-level thug named Oswald Cobblepot. These all make sense.

On paper, Gotham gets everything right, and as I’ve said, I am enjoying the series. Something is still nagging at the back of my mind, though. And I think what’s nagging me is what the show actually says about how little Warner Bros. and DC understands about how to successfully use their comic properties in non-comic media.

The biggest issue is that the show can’t seem to figure out its audience. I think it’s fair to say that people know Batman and most of his villains. DC, and maybe Warner Bros., however, don’t seem to believe that. I don’t know if they think the audience is stupid, or if they’re easily scared off. But, they seem to want to spell everything out for the audience. It’s why they changed the name of Pamela Isley to Ivy Pepper, so they can call her “Ivy” as she takes care of a houseplant. It’s why Bullock says the word “riddle” fifty-million times the first time we see Edward Nigma. For some reason, those involved with the show seem to feel like some of their audience members may not know who these characters are, and the writers bring the show down a bit by preaching to those few watchers on that level exclusively. That’s why we get Selina Kyle insisting she be called “Cat” in what can only be the most awkward conversation ever held by a police detective and a street thief. You can almost see the show producers in the background shouting, “SEE? SEE? DO YOU SEE? SHE’S CATWOMAN!”

The biggest offender, and the one I’m going to talk about today, is the opening death of Thomas and Martha Wayne. As with every almost every other on-screen depiction of Batman, Gotham opens with the brutal murder of the Wayne family right in front of a young Bruce Wayne’s eyes. Of course, Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock are the responding detectives, and it appears that the major story-arc of at least the first season is the hunt for the Wayne’s killer. My issue with this is that it all seems really pointless to include this scene. I’m not the first to make this criticism of origin stories, but people, I think we all know how Batman became Batman. Do we really need to see this story again?! DC and Warner Bros. appear to think we do.

Compare this to a Marvel movie, like Guardians of the Galaxy, in which only one character receives an on-screen origin story, and even that’s brief and it doesn’t really explain much. Rocket Raccoon has one of the more emotional origin stories in the movie, and it’s pretty much told through a drunken rant after a barfight. Eventually, people, even non-comic fans, are going to get tired of seeing the Wayne parents killed in Crime Alley, and unfortunately, one of the more emotional turning points in comic book history will start to bore its audiences. You would think that by 2014, DC and Warner Bros. may have figured this out, but Gotham still opens with that familiar scene. It’s like they’re so scared of losing their potential non-comic audience that they feel the need to keep the series firmly rooted in familiar territory, and in doing so, they kind of talk down to the audience.

By now, you’re probably wondering, “So what?” Well, unfortunately, in this case, I think talking down to the audience actually does damage to the ethos of the series. Before its debut, Gotham was advertised as a prequel story for all the characters in the Batman mythos, especially Jim Gordon. We knew that Bruce Wayne was going to be a character in it, but we were led to believe the spotlight would definitely shine on the other characters, such as PenguinRiddler, and Catwoman. It was fresh and original, and I was excited for it. A Batman story without Batman. I was skeptical, of course. I wondered if the show could carry its weight without the caped crusader. Well, now, I’m not so sure it has to.

By opening the series with the murder of the Waynes, and making sure that at least the first season arc is about solving that crime, the showrunners are making an active choice to make this a series about how Bruce Wayne becomes the man that can become Batman. It’s like they don’t trust the audience to make certain connections, so they spell things out. And the real victims are the Waynes, who are shot over and over again with each new media property. And, unfortunately, this decision leaks out into other areas of the show. We lose out on a lot of time that could have been used to develop those side characters through literary devices other than clumsy dialogue. The great and wonderful cast of Gotham is reduced to occasional on-screen cameos, while the writers shine the spotlight on Master Wayne. We’re stuck in familiar territory, while right over the fence, a wonderful lush land of awesome and unique stories waits.

I get why they do it. They believe that by not focusing on Bruce Wayne, audience members won’t get the show. As I said earlier, they don’t understand their audience — and possibly TV audiences in general. After all, shows like Breaking Bad and Scandal are immensely popular, despite the fact that their characters were not familiar to audiences before the story started. Gotham actually has a leg up on those other shows, because people know most of these characters from the other Batman shows. Gotham could get away with a slow, methodical journey into this mythos, but the producers refuse to, and I think that decision hurts the show in the long run.

I will continue to watch Gotham, because I am enjoying it. I like the characters and the atmosphere, and I thought the second episode of the series was much better than the first. It felt more natural and organic, and it seemed like the characters were really starting to develop some chemistry together. I’m excited to see where it all goes from here. Hopefully, now that a lot of the introductions are done, the characters will have a chance to develop into something more than just cameos. Because those are the stories I want to see.

You’ve given me a great city, Gotham, a city that breaks people. Now, show me all of the ways it does.

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On Ducks and Batman

HowIGotInI am old enough to remember reading Superman in the newspaper. I’m old enough to have seen the Super Friends on television. I grew up with re-runs of Lou Ferrigno’s Incredible Hulk and Linda Carter’s Wonder Woman. And yet, I owe my passion for comics to a man who drew ducks.

It was the middle 1980’s, and I was a lower middle-class white kid in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We didn’t have cable TV, and we didn’t have a VCR; however, every afternoon after school, I had Ducktales. Somewhere in the place where UHF met VHF, and before or after Heathcliff and Inspector Gadget, I had the chance to tune into the adventures of Scrooge McDuck and his great-nephews. It was the perfect stuff for a preteen—action, adventure, magic, mythology–all wrapped up into tasty half-hour segments with decent voice acting.

Flash-forward a couple of years, and me and my family had left the Big City and the South behind, moving into the semi-rural high plains of Scotts Bluff County, Nebraska. Here we had three channels, and none of them showed Ducktales. I was distraught. So, imagine my elation when, walking through the local supermarket, I spied, amongst all the other magazines, a comic book of Uncle Scrooge Adventures. It was the same ducks that I had grown to love in the same crazy hijinks. Now what 10-year-old me didn’t understand was that these weren’t new things designed to cash in on some new, fancy TV show, but rather, they were actually reprints of old Carl Barks comics from way-back-when—long before I was born. Carl Barks was the guy that CREATED Scrooge McDuck, and Flintheart Glomgold, and the Junior Woodchucks, and all things that made Ducktales amazing – and almost 50 years before by I’d ever heard of them. Well, that is what got me to the ‘Rack’, and it was not long before my childhood memories of superheroes sparked curiosity within me.

The first superhero comic I bought was Now Comics’ Green Hornet, volume 1 issue 13. The action, the gadgets, and the sense of history and legacy hooked me, and I’ll bet I read it 12 times that first week. It was a couple of weeks later that I picked up issue 3 of Dave Gibbons World’s Finest prestige format miniseries, and it blew me away. Heck, I even liked Jimmy Olsen in that one! Now, I was 11 or 12, and money was hard to come by, so it wasn’t until the next February (about 2 months later) that I bought my first monthly Batman comic, #459, with a story by Alan Grant highlighted by the emotive shadows of Norm Breyfogle. The story took place on the anniversary of Bruce Wayne’s parents’ death, as Zorro once again played in Gotham. In the closer, Commissioner Gordon had a heart attack on the last page, and it was like a gateway drug. I had to know what happened next. Then, while waiting for the next issue, I saw there was a new robin. My mind was blown, and I was in comics for the long haul.

You see, for me, comics are not about the villains, or the plots, or saving the world. Comics are about the people that do these things. The people that sacrifice–the people that overcome. They are hero’s tales, and it doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, if you’re mighty or weak, if you’re in shape or a little soft about the middle, these very human characters act as inspiration and as water-marks of the dreams we humans shoot for. To see Batman struggle with the memories of his own trauma from loss, to see Commissioner Gordon strive to grasp his second chance, or to see Tim Drake try to become something more than a nerd – that’s why I tuned in then, and that’s why I tune in now.

I have written a little about writing before. My writing starts with a desire to give to everyone out there the thrill and the passion I felt sitting on the floor of the grocery store, or by the spinner-rack in the bookstore in my little town in Western Nebraska – that connection to ideas beyond our place, and maybe even beyond time. Ideas that really meant something to me. I hope they mean something to you as well.

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Fans First Podcast #1: Whovian Fever

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In this inaugural episode of the podcast, the guys discuss Dr. Who, Gotham, and the Keanu Reeves star vehicle, a Boy and His Dog.

Direct Download (You can also find the Podomatic app on both Android and iPhone! Search for Ideal Comics!)

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The Journey Toward Collection

Archie-339I can’t remember my first comic book. Well, that’s not entirely true. I do remember my first comic, but I don’t remember exactly what issue it was. While growing up, comic books were always something out of the corner of my eye, artifacts that hung out in magazine racks and near the checkout lanes of grocery stores. Visually interesting, but not something I ever actively pursued. Of course, as most of us may know, passion usually happens when we least expect it.

The first comic book I ever remember reading was an Archie comic from the late 80s. For the life of me, I have tried to figure out what issue it was exactly, but not even the Internet can help me out on this front. I believe it was Archie #339, but even that is a guesstimate at best. Maybe, someday, Archie Comics will digitize the issues from this era, and I can sit and pore through issue after issue until my memory kickstarts itself. Until then, my first comic book will most likely remain the greatest of my personal mysteries.

Whatever the issue was, I remember I got it from my dad. He had been out of town, and as was his modus operandi, he returned to us, gifts in hand. My gift was this issue of Archie. I remember reading it a few times, chuckling at the jokes, and then tossing it onto my bookshelf. I would return to the comic every now and then, when I needed something silly and mindless to read. There was no continuity within Archie comics. Each story was self-contained to a few pages, and when it was over, it was never referenced again. Had they included more of a continuity from story to story, it might have gripped me. But, at this point, it was more of a novelty than a hobby.

I wasn’t collecting comics, I was just reading them. Continue reading

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New Site Tour!

tour-starts-hereIf you’re here, there’s a chance you’re interested in finding out what this new Ideal Comics site has to offer. Look no further than this post right here. Let’s begin the tour.

If you’ll look above, this post, you’ll find our primary menu. “Home”, as I’m sure you’ve surmised, will take you back to the homepage. “Features” will take you to a page showcasing original article and content by Ideal Comics staff and others. The “Contributors” page focuses on the artist and writers that are making this new Idealcomics.net great. The “Comics” page gives you all sorts of information about the comic stories that we publish here at Ideal Comics. The last page on the menu is the “Extras” page, where you’ll find all of the things that don’t quite fit into other pages, including artwork and background on our universe.

If you move to the bottom of the page, you’ll find important, boring company information, such as company information, staff bios, submissions information, advertising, press releases, and company contact information.

Now, this is a fairly quick tour, and there’s definitely much more to see. And this content will only grow in the coming weeks. We consider Ideal Comics to be everything great about comics, and we’re so happy you’re here for the ride.

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Hey Kids! Comics!

heykidsHello, Internet! And welcome! I figure there are two kinds of folk reading this entry — f­olk who know us and love us, and folk who don’t know us from Adam, and hold us in the commiserate amount of apathy. That being the case, I reckoned it only appropriate to lead off with two introductions. It may or may not work, but there you have it. So, you might be asking, ‘What is Ideal Comics?’ And ‘Why should I care?’ If I can be allowed to address these questions with more gravitas later, I implore you allow the “Cliffs Notes” here. They might even serve as an informative prequel!

IC (as we lovingly call it around the IC offices) is a small press comic book company based out of Scottsbluff, in the picturesque High Plains of Western Nebraska. As a small company, we have a small, unpaid staff who, to a man, long for the day their work will no longer be unpaid. We are normal guys doing normal jobs, following a not so normal dream of making comic books that we would like to read—comics that can live up to the hype of our motto: ‘Everything Great About Comics!’ It may sound like hyperbole, but our staff holds to a dream. And to address that dream, and our story, I will start with my own, called:

‘Hey, Kids! Comics!’ Continue reading

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