Saturday, 25 April 2015

RANT - Jared Leto's Joker and Just How Done I Am With Fans Right Now

Geek fandom is a realm of asinine inconsistency.

I am currently embroiled in a comment thread on The Nerdist's Facebook page discussing the ups and downs of the new Call of Duty: Black Ops III teaser, something I wouldn't normally give a rat's ass about except that this time they've gone full-cyberpunk, and I think it looks kinda rad.

The folks behind landmark cyberpunk video game series Deus Ex, which itself recently released at stunning new trailer for their upcoming title Mankind Divided, responded with some good-natured ribbing on Twitter.
Which fans proceeded to take way too seriously. Facebook has erupted like a bad rash of whining fanboys convinced that Treyarch "stole" or "ripped off" the Deus Ex setting, which would be a valid argument if we knew anything about the new CoD game beyond the deliberately vague tonality of a teaser trailer. It doesn't have a setting; it has a feeling, a suggestion of ideas, direction, and mood. In other words, it suggests a genre, and like every other piece of genre fiction ever made it is guilty of a tonal resemblance. Nobody shit on Interstellar for ripping off the Star Wars setting because they're both set in space, just like no one got mad at Beethoven for ripping off Bach when he wrote "Symphony No. 9 in D Minor": "Dude, J.S. already wrote his "Double Violin Concerto" in that key, you can't do that, man!"

And as for you schmucks running around the web peddling that lachrymose "lack of originality/it's all been done before" garbage, I have news for you: we've been copying each other's work since one guy drew a buffalo on a wall and the next guy went, "Dude, I should do one like that..." There have never been any arguments for the so-called Death of Creativity that stand up to real scrutiny. You create, or you don't.

Now yesterday, something beautiful happened.
Comics fans have been waiting for months to see what Jared Leto's Joker would look like, teased by rumours leaked from Suicide Squad production that he'd be losing his signature suit, that Leto was bulking up for the role, etc. And then they finally reveal their new, revolutionary, dynamic Mr. J...and everyone loses their minds!

I have seen every inch of the spectrum of opinion spewed across Twitter since that picture came out, and none of it adds up to anything sane. The same people are saying in one tweet that they hate the new design, it's too different, too weird...and following it with a complaint that DC's cinematic universe is too cliche. For crying out loud, which is it??

There's not a lot more to be said on this. It's the way it's always been with the hype machine, and it's not bound to change anytime soon. And, for that matter, I'm not bound to change either; I'm always gonna be the guy sitting off in the corner, staring at my phone behind a pint and quietly foaming at the mouth while I scroll through my Twitter feed. Because it all just pisses me off: the arrogant entitlement of consumers of culture to be spoon-fed exactly what they want by their favourite media, and the vehemence with which they lash out at people who are pouring their heart and soul into a creative vision, for not creating exactly that thing they really wanted. If you want it that badly, get off your ass and make it yourself! You create, or your don't. It's that simple.

What are we really fans of? Fans of the characters, their worlds, and their creators would support that creation, would uphold hard work and innovation and the effort that goes into bringing new design and iterations of these things into being. But we don't that. As a cultural whole we bitch and whine about changes that are made, about things that don't fit what we wanted, the way we thought it should be. More often than not, the way we wanted it was the Old Way, like wanting Jared Leto to be Jack Nicholson's Joker all over again. Hell of a lot of respect you've got for the actor there, folks, asking him to take a couple years out of his life to recreate someone else's performance. Shame on you. We're not fans of comics, or movies, or characters. We're fans of our own bleeding nostalgia, and we'll cheer for whoever most makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside by validating the things we love to consume.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

2015 Eisner Awards...The Superhero Afterlife!

The Superhero Afterlife (Abridged), pg. 1
Starring Dr. Lewis himself
BREAKING NEWS - In the past couple hours the nominations for the 2015 Eisner Awards have been announced, and among them is my friend and colleague, Sacred & Sequential's very own A. David Lewis! His American Comics, Literary Theory, and Religion: The Superhero Afterlife has been nominated for Best Scholarly/Academic Work, and from what I've seen of the book so far it deserves every bit of that accolade. I like to think I got a unique look at this work, from a different perspective than most, when Dave asked me last year if I'd be interested in turning an abridged version of his book into a short comic. That project went up on the Sacred Matters blog as "The Superhero Afterlife (Abridged)". I'm both immensely proud to have been part of Dave's process with this material and ridiculously excited to see the book getting the attention it deserves. Here's hoping it's a win on July 10th!

In the meantime, if you want to keep an eye on the excellent Dr. A. David Lewis and the work he's doing check out the Broken Frontier comics anthology, and keep a weather eye on Sacred & Sequential's website. There's always crazy stuff going on over there.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Crowdfunding News - Dr. Comics and The Super Villain Handbook

It's been a while since I wrote one of these posts, but this announcement last week was just the thing to pull me out of retirement: my good friend Jason "Dr. Comics" Tondro is Kickstarting The Super Villain Handbook!!

Every table deserves a better class of criminal

Now to be fair, this isn't just the Handbook itself, but a juiced-up, deluxe edition of an already extant resource, enhanced by the power of crowdfunding and a ladder of stretch goals that promises to match your enthusiasm for devastating parties of tabletop superheroes with an arsenal of meticulously crafted villainous archetypes equal to the task.

Now, if you're a Munchkin and you're reading this, I apologize; The Super Villain Handbook might not be your kind of book. Min-maxers of the world, this will do nothing for you. As a far more informed review blog has already stated, this is not a book that will give you villains to use in your games, but rather one that will teach you how to use villains in the stories those games are telling. It's not a monster manual. Jason isn't offering a book full of plug-and-play villains that operate on an XP or party level/challenge rating system; what he's created is a book that challenges you as the GM to come to a better understanding of the story you're writing, the character development you want to prompt in your players' PCs, and then offers you insight as to what sort of antagonist might best help you achieve those goals. Rather than approach villains they way most of us Supers gamers are wont to do, by their power set, Jason has compiled this book based on the narrative role a villain plays: the crime boss trying to rule a city, the proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing that the party doesn't see coming until it's too late, the power-hungry twisted genius...character roles that you'll actually find feeding your story, rather than leaving you scraping the bottom of the barrel for ideas that fit a power you thought was kinda cool.

There are few folk better suited than Dr. Comics to the task of compiling such a volume. He brings to the table what few others can: an intimate and scholarly understanding of the nature of the comic book villain coupled with the passion of an inveterate tabletop gamer. With that experience comes a dedication to the kind of storytelling which is possible only while seated around a dimly-lit table with one's friends, wielding handfuls of dice against the forces of evil.

Possibly the coolest and most buyer-friendly aspect of this campaign is that the book already exists. As soon as I backed the project I received a downloadable PDF of the basic illustrated book (which looks fantastic, by the way). The campaign offers a wealth of incoming new material as stretch goals are reached. Given enough support, Jason will be adding 40 new villain archetypes which will double the size of the book (an impressive undertaking, considering how comprehensive the current volume is) and working up an edition that works with the Supers! RPG; the current edition uses the ICONS system, and I like to think that with enough support for this project we might see Dr. Comics writing similar volumes for Savage Worlds and Mutants & Masterminds in the future. At any rate, I highly encourage you to back this! The campaign is very nearly funded with a little over three weeks left, plenty of time for us to hit those stretch goals. At the very least, pitch a minimum of one dollar toward the thing, get the un-illustrated PDF of the book, and see if this is something you as a GM could make good use of. Remember, your table deserves a better class of criminal.

UPDATE: The campaign has received a swell of support in the last day thanks to you folks, and as a result they've updated their stretch goals ladder!
To celebrate, when we reach our basic funding goal of 3,000, we will fund BOTH the ICONS Assembled and the SUPERS! Revised editions of the basic book. Keeping this in mind, we have restructured the goal chart to include a new 3,200 goal. The Super Villain Handbook will have FATE Core support from Ross Payton, the author of the Base Raiders Rpg! Ross will handle the conversion of the basic book to FATE and should we reach our goal of 5,000, the book will Include the Deluxe Version.
Ladies and gentlemen, the FATE system is coming to the SVH!! I couldn't be more excited.