Thursday, 26 May 2011

"The Silliperation Of Moon Knight":- Six Introductions In Search Of An Essay


Being fair to "Moon Knight" # 1 isn't a problem. It's a conspicuously thin, often poorly-crafted, and largely empty-headed comic book, and I'm absolutely confident that that's a reasonable judgment of its worth. No, the problem is that it's so poor a piece of work that it's hard to want to do anything other than savage it, because, after all, Mr Bendis and Mr Maleev are outstanding professionals and they really shouldn't be peddling exploitative piffle such as this at $3.99 a hit.

But a blogger that's little but constantly crabby is of no use to anyone at all, least of all himself. Even the entertainment value of watching a grown man spluttering and steaming up his glasses about the travails of reading superhero comics quickly palls, as I'm sure you'd agree. Invective isn't analysis, and a sneer and a spit and a "how could they do this to the children?" spirit of outrage doesn't help make sense of  "Moon Knight" # 1 in any productive way at all.  Of course, I know this. And so, I've spent the past week trying to write about Mr Bendis and Mr Maleev's tale in a series of ways which might involve more than self-righteous carping and a know-nothing amateur's misappropriation of his old notes from Comics 101.

          
I've failed. I've started six different essays at six more-or-less different starting points and each one has ground to a halt. Some of them were complete except for the need for one last pass, and some stalled after four or five paragraphs. For the truth is, there's no compromising with "Moon Knight" # 1, there's no apparent point in trying to engage in a debate with it. It's a comic which defeats any attempt to open up a dialogue, because it's only concerned with the narrowest of audiences and the most parochial of standards. As a text, as a comic book, "Moon Knight" seems to shrug its shoulders when approached with even the least invasive of questions, self-satisfied and safe in the knowledge that it'll be book of the week and first choice on the podcast menu for a great swathe of the comics blogosphere. Speaking to no-one who isn't already a committed soldier-consumer in the hardcore audience, ambitious for nothing beyond delivering more of the same with a tiny little twist of ersatz-difference, "Moon Knight" provokes negativity in the uncommitted because it doesn't seek to speak to anyone other than its mates. It simply doesn't care what anyone thinks beyond the ranks of those who are already pre-programmed to applaud it. Because of that, the most positive response that anyone not sold on the typical Marvel Comics product of 2011 can generate is apathy.

           
For "Moon Knight" # 1 is the exact opposite to a comic book seeking a broader audience. Indeed, it's a comic book that effectively, and very efficiently, tells everyone beyond the adept that they're not welcome here, that they can either applaud or get lost, and that's a very strange attitude to be taking when launching a new book in an industry marked by an ever-decreasing audience for its monthly product.

Below are six introductory sections from my six different stillborn reviews of "Moon Knight" # 1. This isn't, as I'm sure you'll realise, a tribute to the fractured consciousness of Marc Spector and his incredibly suspect super-power of mental illness, but it is a marker of how so much of the modern-era superhero product defeats the will to engage with it. Fans will put up with just about anything, of course, or at least they will right up until saturation point arrives and they just walk away, but there's a far, far greater audience out there who might just want to read a superhero book or two if they were given equal time with the elect. If only folks could just find a trace more evidence of comics which speak inclusively to them rather than exclusively to the hive mentality of the entirely-habituated superhero devotee.


             
1The One In Which The Blogger Tries To Talk About Social Representations

It seems that nobody at Marvel Comics was remembering to think about anyone other than white blokes on the morning that "Moon Knight" # 1 got the go-ahead. And no-one, it appears, has thought anything more about the whole business of who does and who doesn't get invited to appear in the pages of "Moon Knight" over the past year and more that Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev have working on this series. And so, regardless of why it is that such things keep happening in the product shipped by Marvel and DC, that fact is that the only person of colour in the whole of "Moon Knight" # 1 is a black actor shown playing a corrupt mercenary, who, having fulfilled his role of protagonist-maiming bad guy, disappears in a helicopter by the third panel of page 3. Thup-thup-thup-thup-thup-thup goes the sound effect as the only non-white figure in the book escapes from admittedly-playful stereotype into invisibility, and there's nothing but Caucasian folks for the 30 pages from then onwards.


         

Given the chance to completely revamp a superhero book, it might be imagined that Marvel would have taken the opportunity to think about more than just elbowing the likes of Logan and Peter Parker into one more monthly comic. But, no, faced with an almost blank canvas, Mr Bendis and Mr Maleev have decided to present everything - including the super-heroics - in as whitebread and malestream a fashion as can be imagined. Perhaps this is a situation which will change with issue 2, or issue 6, or whenever, but, taken in isolation, just as it was bought and read in isolation, "Moon Knight" # 1 is a book which just doesn't seem to care about being seen to care where race and gender is concerned. And so, even the three costumed identities which have been given to Marc Spector as part of his comic-book madness are as white as they can be. Did no-one consider that Luke Cage or T'Challa might have been chosen as one of the triumvirate of disordered alters, was no-one feeling a touch more ambitious when it came to the matter of who was given panel-time in this book? Well, if they were, they weren't listened to, or perhaps their imput will only register in the months to come. But for now, it's Cap and Spidey and Wolvy and Moony, and the all-white line-up in the forefront of the book is mirrored by the all-white supporting roles and the all-white walk-ons in the background too. For people of colour don't even get walk-on parts in "Moon Knight" # 1. Of the twenty distinct women and men at Marc Spector's party, for example, as you can see below, not a single one is anything but conspicuously white. 


       

Women, however, do have a substantial presence in "Moon Knight" # 1. In fact, there's lots of women featured at the afore-mentioned elite gathering on pages 6 and 7. That they're all white and sylphlike and beautiful and largely hanging onto the arms of status-saturated men, that they're representative of no-one but media-lovely white models and actresses, is something of a drawback where any claim to being socially inclusive is concerned. But, at least there's not just a single stereotypical white woman in the entire book. No, there's lots of stereotypical white women, silent and pretty and nought more than window dressing.

Regrettably, those people-who-aren't-blokes swiftly disappear from "Moon Knight" # 1, never to be seen again, after the end of page 7. Having added that apparently vital element of traditional glamour to the gathering, and with no other narrative function for them to fulfill, they snap out of existence. After that, it's 26 pages of the white fellas.

          
Did nobody notice? Did nobody care enough to notice? Did Mr Bendis and Mr Maleev, who have of course produced a significant body of work that's clearly socially inclusive, not think to ask themselves what "Moon Knight" # 1 could seem to be saying about who does, and who doesn't, get to appear in today's superhero books? Was there no one making sure that the wrong impression, that an entirely-unintended impression, wasn't created, especially given how similarly careless so much of today's comics product can be where race and gender are concerned? Was there really no way to tell the story of Moon Knight - to indeed launch a new series of Moon Knight - without being so apparently unconcerned about anyone but the white boys?

No, it's nothing to do with Political Correctness and the dreaded quotas and the freedom-devouring Thought Police, and everything to do with kindness and respect. Not the kindness we show when we're conspiciously expressing our dearly-held convictions, or the respect that marks our behaviour when we're determined to make a point, but the conscious lack of carelessness which we work to constantly maintain when it comes to the matter of remembering that everyone deserves to be at every party, and that everyone always ought to be invited. 
                

2.: The One In Which The Blogger Tries To Be Funny And Fails 

My Business Studies Homework, by Brian Michael Bendis (aged 43)

"Describe how you might create a demand for a commercially unsuccessful superhero." (10 marks)
  • Super-hero fans only buy franchise books.
  • The Avengers are Marvel's biggest franchise.
  • Moon Knight is a sort-of Avenger whose solo books don't sell.
  • Moon Knight is a solo character with a loyal if small fanbase.
  • Moon Knight's solo book might sell if it was a clearly-branded Avengers title which also appealed to his fans.
  • Moon Knight is a mentally ill superhero with comic-book schizophrenia and many different personalities.
  • Being mad is a Unique Selling Point (USP). Very few books have totally insane leads who can look moody and threatening too.
  • Moon Knight could be rebooted as a mentally-ill superhero who imagines himself surrounded by The Avengers when he's actually on his own. He could even imagine that he is several other superheroes at different times. Moon-Knight could be his own team-up book!
  • This Moon Knight's book would be an Avengers comic and a solo book, attracting two different groups of fans simultaneously. There can be lots of scenes of Wolverine and Spider-Man and Captain America, but no-one can moan that the book isn't about Moon Knight. 
  • So, Moon Knight can be different and exciting and surprising and funny too, because mentally ill superheroes are different, and can be exciting, surprising and fun too.
  • Yes, Wolverine and Spider-Man and Captain America would be in Moon Knight all the time, shifting units while adding variety to the Marvel Comics line. (239 words.)

3. The One In Which The Blogger Tries To Find A Way To Talk About Dysfunctional Behaviour
                        
It’s hard to say whether the defining characteristic of Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s new “Moon Knight” book is silliness or desperation. Perhaps a comicbook which is so marked by an excess of both qualities demands the invention of a new term to describe such a manically futile situation. Might I suggest;

Silliperation (noun) - the condition of behaving in an unconsciously silly and desperate manner in order to survive in a hopelessly incestuous and collapsing marketplace.

Extreme circumstances create remarkable and previously unimaginable adaptions. The fantastic ecosystems clustered around deep sea hydrothermal vents. The arsenic-DNA of the bacteria which thrives in Mono Lake, its waters three times more salty than the ocean. The quality of silliperation which marks the work of many superhero comic creators, who toil in the most inbred and demanding of  economic circumstances, tasked with selling more of the same to a profoundly conservative audience already saturated with largely interchangeable product. (see: Moon Knight # 1)

This is a full-page shot of Moon Knight falling into the ocean hoping to avoid being incinerated in an explosion while carrying the severed head of a robot. Note the playful absence of any context at all, such as that which might help the reader get a sense of place, jeopardy, narrative or character.

4. The One In Which The Blogger Tub-Thumps About Slack & Poor & Empty Storytelling

Is it possible that "Moon Knight" # 1 is at least in part meant as some great ironic comment on the current state of superhero books? Or could it even be a precisely-framed metaphor for creative and commercial entropy, given that any publishing endeavour which requires this degree of effort and ingenuity in order to sell comics is already expending far more energy than it can ever possibly hope to generate. "Moon Knight" # 1 is, I would suggest, definitive evidence of the heat-death of the superhero comic's current status quo. 

A double page spread of a man resting his left elbow on his left knee, bereft of foreground or background beyond the top of a big sign.

But whatever it might be that "Moon Knight" was intended as a metaphor for, it surely isn't a very good comic book in itself.. A depressingly thin tale when stretched out unnecessarily across 33 pages, it has none of the depth and detail which made Mr Bendis and Mr Maalev's "Scarlet" such a worthwhile, if rather deliberately cold-hearted, read. In truth, all that "Moon Knight" # 1 seems to be is a race to the last-minute reveal that the title character has been imagining the presence of the Avengers he's apparently been talking too. Page after page of basically contentless, unremarkable, poorly-designed fight scenes and chit-chat follow one after the other, and in the best/worst traditions of Marvel's recent years, the book is packed out with redundant full page and double-page splashes. For example, I've placed a scan above of a two-page shot of Moon Knight in which the superhero is shown leaning his left elbow on his left knee. And that really is all that that particular one-sixteenth or so of the comic is showing us; a big bloke dressed in a white costume leaning on his knee. There's no text beyond the three words "You're not alone.", which will, it's true, pay off 20 pages down the line.. But that's a tiny amount of content for a double-page spread which could and should have been used in a way that respected the readers more. (Surely a compact, intense and effective 17 page story is better than 33 pages of relative waffle every


time?) Perhaps we're being shown Moon Knight rising to the responsibility of patrolling Los Angeles, spurred on by the imaginary Captain America's words. But if we are, why are we given nothing of L.A. beyond parts of four of the letters of the Hollywood sign? And why has Moon Knight been shown in such a way that we can gain no sense of character, or of Spector's relationship to his new stomping grounds, beyond the fact that he's so big that the artist had to cut him off so awkwardly at thigh and calf? With no hint of scale or meaning or plot, with no foreground or background of any substance, this is a quite literally empty dollop of spectacle.  It's art which could've been used to show Moon Knight in any situation at all; simply snip out the insubstantial sections of the Hollywood sign and insert a hint of any other tourist trap and - voila! - instant superhero eye-candy! Yet remove these two pages and the story in "Moon Knight" # 1 suffers not a whit as long as the key three words - "You're not alone" - are placed somewhere else, somewhere appropriate in the text..Can there be any more telling example of narrative indiscipline than a double-page indulgence which contributes so little to a tale that it could be removed and no-one could ever suspect it had existed in the first place?

Here we can see the next step into the abyss which superhero books have been stumbling towards for more than half-a-decade at least, namely the creation of the comicbook which in large part doesn't even numbly rehash old forms and conventions, but instead rather vaguely and limply simply refers to them. Remember, this book seems to say, all the things you liked about Moon Knight and superheroes in general? Well, we liked them too, and if you wouldn't mind using your own experience to flesh out what's before you, we think you'll have a really good time. And so, this really isn't a well-wrought tale of Moon Knight. Rather, it's the  comic-book equivalent of a faded reminder on a post-it sticker reading, in tiny handwriting; 

"Please add your own memories to flesh out what little is before you, and hang on until the big reveal, because that'll give you something to chat about afterwards."

2 pages delivering just 2 plot points: bad guy kills men, Moon Knight attacks bad guy. When CBR declared MK # 1 would be double-sized & that 'Bendis & Maleev's story will fill the space between the covers", I never thought that could be meant so literally. Technically, the pages really have been filled.

5. In Which The Blogger Attempts A Snide Little Swipe At The Absence Of Characterisation In "Moon Knight"# 1 

It's far too easy to moan on about the absence of emotion and characterisation in Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev's  "Moon Knight" # 1. Anyone noting how empty of human, rather than superhuman, experience the tale is might make the mistake of rushing over one of the great character-establishing lines in modern-era comics. Now, although I don't think that the combination of these 5 words and the book's final reveal was quite worth $3.99 of this consumer's hardly-disposable income, it is worth noting here the following statement of intent from this issue's bad guy;

"I will liquefy your head!"


       

Now don't tell me that that's not great satire, as well as being the closest to characterisation that the nameless supervillain of the piece receives in the 11 pages he appears in. However, that doesn't mean that he's not given any other markers of individuality. at all.  Oh, no. He has a lovely little short cape, as if his shirt's shrunk to the point where it's just a shoulder-wrap, and he says "Aagh!" and "Rraaggh!" too. 

Obviously, there wasn't time or space in those 11 pages to establish anything other than a grunting, intimidating, by-the-numbers tough guy. Even giving the reader his name would've obviously got in the way of whatever it was that it would've got in the way of.


          

6In Which The Blogger Wonders About Superhero Fun And Psychological Disorders

The accounts of the Marvel press conference thrown to publicise "Moon Knight" # 1 are far more of a hoot than the comic itself. I was particularly amused by how several pieces placed Mr Bendis's fear that (1) some readers might be offended by Moon Knight's madness next to (2) the writer's concern that folks would object to his removal of the occult aspects of the character's set up. That the issue of showing disrespect to the mentally disordered might not be one to bracket with a matter of magical continuity seems to have escaped quite a few folks struggling to grapple with the big and lil'issues at play here. Still, a significant number of bloggers, podcasters and forum devotees did indeed pick up on the pertinent issues concerned with representations of mental disorder being used to sell superhero comics. Not that many of them were concerned with the social justice of it all, but a good few were somewhat irate that Moon Knight's current cognitive problems aren't consistent with his previously-shown psychological issues. Let no-one say that many fans aren't interested in the key issues where the arcana of the sub-genre is concerned.

        

In truth, there's very little of the matter of mental disorder on show in "Moon Knight" # 1, and it should be said that, so far, nobody could mistake the title character's cognitive problems for anything other than a disadvantage. He's obviously a man who's isolated by his condition, but the problem is, what condition is it? The press have referred to Moon Knight having Multiple Personality Disorder, but it's notable that BMB is never quoted using that term, What Mr Bendis is quoted as saying is that he's "studied it over the years", so he's evidently aware that MPD is an anachronistic term once used for what's now known as Dissociative Identity Disorder. Strangely enough, the appearance and disappearance of the illusionary-Avengers in "Moon Knight" doesn't seem to match any reports I've come across of D.I.D., but then, I only had to study the condtion in order to teach it. There's a very great deal of material I've never read, let alone studied, concerning D.I.D., and given that Mr Bendis has declared that any use of mental disorder in comics has to be "based in reality, even (in) the silliest of stories", I look forward to learning more and more about D.I.D. as "Moon Knight" continues.


            

Yet, even with the faith that Mr Bendis has so carefully studied the mental abnormality concerned, and even given his stated determination to ground his representation of it in psychological reality, it is somewhat worrying to read the following, in which he states that Moon Knight; 

"...doesn't have full control over his personalities, which is part of the fun. Just because he wants Spider-Man or Wolverine to take over, doesn't mean that's what's going to happen .... I'm much more interested in his character as a pro-active Avenger than a depressive hero ... "

Finding the "fun" in D.I.D. is indeed something which both those suffering from it and those treating it might find a rather questionable idea. Yet it's hard to deny that Mr Bendis has a high concept to play with when he asks; "Wouldn't it be interesting to have a multiple-personality superhero who loved his personalities?" And there is some literature which suggests that a crowd of alters can learn to live productively with each other, but I've never come across a case study where it's suggested that such a situation is easy to produce and maintain at all. Mr Bendis therefore obviously has a few years worth of rather bleak stories before him explaining how Moon Knight and his alters learn to cope with their shared condition before we get to the "fun". (*1) Certainly, respecting the challenges faced by those diagnosed with D.I.D. would surely involve not turning their exceptionally difficult situations into entertainment just to flog a superhero book or two.

          
Perhaps if Mr Bendis and Mr Maleev had produced a comic book which was clearly cartoony and absurd in its depiction of Moon Knight and his condition, then it might be possible to regard the whole matter of his disorder as a very big fun-generating joke. But "Moon Knight" is anything but a broad and playful confection of a comic. Instead, it's grim'n'gritty, ponderously serious and not-a-little violent. Though future issues obviously can't be prejudged, Mr Bendis is setting himself a ferociously difficult challenge, to take a serious psychological disorder and present it as "fun" in the context of a pseudo-realistic superhero comic. That, I must admit, is the one narrative snare which really does inspire me to return to future issues, namely the matter of how Dissociative Identity Disorder can be presented as both true-to-life and fun, particularly as Mr Bendis doesn't want to represent Moon Knight as a "depressive hero". Ah, the happy-go-lucky, fun-inspiring form of DID is what's before us, cries the cynical centres of the blogger's mind! Yet, given that the content of future books can't be anticipated with reference to the evidence in a single comic and a few reports of a news conference, all I can say is I'm looking forward to what's a-coming with the keen sense of a man hopeful that a potential car-crash might yet be averted.

*1:- Of course, I've also come across literature arguing that D.I.D. is nothing but an iatrogenic condition, but since the issue is a live one, I'd say the best course is respect and restraint where the matter of those concerned is involved.

          
In Which The Blogger Tries To Add A Conclusion To Six Seperate Sections Of Six Different Essays

In the end, the modern-era comics industry always does win any debate that might be picked with it because it refuses to listen to any voices not engaging in applauding the emperor's new clothes. Though there are clearly exceptions to this rule, the sense of an oblivious enterprise operating quite independently of any wider discourse beyond "what's coming next month?" transmits itself from far too much of the Big Two's product. It's as if all that stuff about gender and race and value for money and characterisation and emotion was just a smokescreen being used by vicious and maladjusted folks on the net to disparage a perfectly celestial comic-book business. If you don't like it, runs the message, go away. We don't need you, we don't care.

And that's fair enough, although it's also somewhat rich for a business which is always declaring how it cares for its consumers and wants the very best for them to also seem to be so dismissive. But the market isn't growing, and the sub-genre isn't evolving so much as devolving in places, and there are tens of thousands of us who'd love to spend more of our money on comic books, if only they weren't so often poorly crafted, and socially careless, and concerned with costumes and punch-ups and spectacle at the expense of people and their thoughts and feelings.

If only the comic book industry and the hardcore fan-community clustered loyally around it weren't so impossibly exclusive and self-possessed. If only the very act of challenging the worth of the modern-era's product wasn't immediately considered an act of apostasy rather than the concern and passion of genuine and well-meaning friends.

            
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27 comments:

  1. Hi Colin!

    You know, sometimes you tend to put too much effort for causes which doesn´t merit the effort :-)

    I had a liking for the first Moon Knight, the Moench/Sienkiewicz one, which I bought back then. I had sold the issues and bought the essential Moon Knight. And thought it a terrible bore. Lol. I guess preferences change.

    Still I bought the new Moon Knight. The one by Huston and Finch. I liked the art, but it was such a laughably bad and frankly uninteresting melodrama that I jumped ship immedeatly.

    Moon Knight never worked as a well rounded character, he was always a poor man´s Batman with an overly complicated concept which seemed more to belong to the Pink Panther to be taken seriously - he´s a millionaire, no, he´s a cabbie, no, he´s a mercenary, all within the hour.

    And now they changed the character to be mentally ill.

    I don´t have any problem with the "fun" of mental illness. The idea that " that (1) some readers might be offended by Moon Knight's madness" is laughable and the usual BS Marvel´s writers like to tell. Have they really said this? Half the villians of Marvel are clinically insane, there is Deadpool, Legion and I guess half a dozen other new characters I don´t know. This idea is neither new nor original. And don´t get me started on the "plot" of mental illness. Half of the currrent crimeshows with their innumerable insane serial killers depend on this psychatry babble which is as true as Star Trek´s techno babble.

    Basically the next super-villian would just have to fed Moon Knight some pills and he couldn´t function as a vigilante anymore? Did I get the gist right? No, seems to easy.

    But as long as it is grim´n´gritty and MK breaks enough bones and there can be 5 variant covers and a tradepaperback, maybe this volume will live to see issue 25. But somehow I doubt it :-)

    Of all your approaches, I really liked "The One in which the blogger tries to be funny and fails". I thought it funny.

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  2. Fun post. I didn't like this issue either, finding that it didn't have any substance to it beyond a single idea which only becomes clear at the very end. (And not quite clear enough; I don't think I would have understood the meaning of the last page if I hadn't already read about the comic's premise.)

    But I also disagree with you, in a way that can be summed up by noting that in your second introduction ("The One In Which The Blogger Tries To Be Funny And Fails") each bullet point past the words "multiple personalities" made the theoretical sound more awesome to me. I'm not entirely clear what your objection to the idea is, since your attempt to mock it reads seriously to me. It's like you found your objection so self-evident that you didn't feel the need to write it. How does having a superhero with multiple personalities disrespect real multiple personalities? I just don't see it.

    I was disappointed by this issue because I expected to love it, and there's nothing here to love. As someone who puts a great deal of thought and energy into consciously constructing different modes of behavior for different occasions, I was hoping for Moon Knight (who I have no prior familiarity with) to be a superhero I could identify with. I'll stick with the series because I have faith in Bendis to get to the point eventually -after all, this is the writer whose first issue of Spider-Man didn't have Spider-Man in it!- but I wish it had started with the fun he promised, instead of working its way up to it.

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  3. Hello Andy:- I'm not sure there's such a thing as a topic too small to invest some energy into the consideration of :) No, really. Your comment made me realise that I find the detail of things, the process that goes into creating - for want of a better word - 'art' to be fascinating. And I'm a firm believer that the big picture can often be gained through starting off with the little one too.

    "Of all your approaches, I really liked "The One in which the blogger tries to be funny and fails". I thought it funny."

    Well, I'm glad. I wanted to put up work which I'd tried to make OK, but which I felt I'd failed on. Why? So that I could make it plain that I wasn't passing judgement from an assumption of superiority. It felt like a good time to open myself up to a few justified slaps, and to take such in the spirit they were intended. That you enjoyed that part ... well, one of the pleasures of blogging is how unexpected the responses can be.

    I think BMB is quite sincere in not wanting to cause offense with his use of DID, just as he's determined to follow his judgment on what's appropriate there rather than any PC formulation. My take on all these issues is that a real-world disorder shouldn't ever be used in a modern-era book for cheap effect. I know that sounds worthy, but there's a huge amount of ignorance and prejudice where mental disorder is concerned. The media is a field where this can be countered, if only to a limited degree. So, I've no problem with D.I.D. being used per se, but I do if its used for cheap laughs when it could be being used to explain - in an entertaining and unpreachy way - what folks suffer and how they cope with challenge. The decades of Henry Pym suffering mentally disorder in the MU have never once shown a grasp of how depressed and highly stressed folks learn to live with their challenges. I think that weakens the drama and insults the real-world sufferers. I'm not for relevant comics with a worthy surface; but a good writer can take these situations and make them interesting and entertaining without demeaning the folks out here in the real-world who face real-world problems.

    As a psychology teacher for almost 10 years, I guess I have a keen sense of how misinformed folks are, and of how just a little care with the media can really make a difference. And that's my starting point. That's what I look forward, entertainment and responsibility. And I know that's out of step with a lot of folk's ideas, but that's OK. I'm often out of step :)

    I think your point about psycho-bable as techno-babble is a fine one. And yet, psychology is so useful where writing is concerned. Gail Simone, for example, has spoken of how she used the psychology of criminal thinking when writing Sceret Six, and it shows. The problem is often that writers use media stereotypes of disordered thinking rather than sitting down and reading a primer or two. But when folks do make the effort, boy but it can pay off in their work. Why would anybody reject using such useful guides to how folks who share real-world conditions think and feel and act? Sounds like writerly gold-dust to me?

    I too had a problem with Mr Huston's Moon Knight. Such a shame, because his books are fine examples of popular writing. I wonder whether he was given enough editorial support as a writer new to comics. I don't, but alot of his scripts seemed to lack a clear grasp of how to achieve his aims. Yet I've no doubt that if he'd have persevered, as all apprentices must, he'd have cracked it. He's a fine writer, but each new medium brings its own requirements.

    My best to you, sir. I hope all is well.

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  4. Hello Mory – thank you for the kind words, and I did enjoy thinking about the points you raised here. I’ll get back to them in a moment, but firstly, I thought I’d let you know that I have indeed followed up your recommendation on the Dan Slott Spider-Man issue and have bought a copy for the fearsome price of £2.60. I look forward to reading it.

    “Fun post. I didn't like this issue either, finding that it didn't have any substance to it beyond a single idea which only becomes clear at the very end.”

    It did feel that way, didn’t it? Because there’s was nothing of any emotional weight beforehand, the ending fell flat. Once the surprise was delivered, the rest of the issue seemed as if it was nothing but set-up for the punchline.

    ”But I also disagree with you, in a way that can be summed up by noting that in your second introduction ("The One In Which The Blogger Tries To Be Funny And Fails") each bullet point past the words "multiple personalities" made the theoretical sound more awesome to me. I'm not entirely clear what your objection to the idea is, since your attempt to mock it reads seriously to me. It's like you found your objection so self-evident that you didn't feel the need to write it. How does having a superhero with multiple personalities disrespect real multiple personalities? I just don't see it.”

    Yes, you make a good point. My intention was in that section to point out that there was an awful lot of energy going into the creation of a Moon Knight book, and that it would’ve been nice to see something that wasn’t so entirely directed to the hard-core fan being developed. I think you’re right, and that I didn’t make the point clear enough there, though I hope I developed it later. Of course, I also expressed a worry about the use of mental disorder as a plot-device for a superhero book too, although it can be done in a respectful and informative fashion, such as in Secret Six, which is entertaining but never uses disorder as a cheap prop for callous thrills. On the reason why I feel that, perhaps I might point you towards the reply I put immediately above this one, where I’ve tried to explain that. However, you’re right that there is something that’s really interesting about the basic premise that BMB has designed for this comic; as I said in the penultimate section, the problem is that I’m not sure that such a concept works with a serious approach. But time will tell.

    ”I was disappointed by this issue because I expected to love it, and there's nothing here to love. As someone who puts a great deal of thought and energy into consciously constructing different modes of behavior for different occasions, I was hoping for Moon Knight (who I have no prior familiarity with) to be a superhero I could identify with.”

    I would very much like Moon Knight to reflect those struggles about identity which lots of people have to deal with, and which those with DID have to deal with to an extreme. I am worried that the DID will be used sparingly as a narrative excuse for superhero punch-ups and disagreements, because the issue you mention of ‘constructing different modes of behavior” is the key here. I’m far more concerned with seeing how Moon Knight deals with those challenges that watching him thinking he’s Wolverine. But there’s no saying that BMB won’t go in that direction, though his statements suggest he won’t.. Fingers crossed.

    “I'll stick with the series because I have faith in Bendis to get to the point eventually -after all, this is the writer whose first issue of Spider-Man didn't have Spider-Man in it!- but I wish it had started with the fun he promised, instead of working its way up to it.”

    I do admire your faith – no, I’m not being in any way sarcastic there – as regards your favourite writers. I can’t share the faith, but I do see its uses. But I’m a bloke who’ll walk out of a movie if the first 25 minutes isn’t to my taste, and I suspect I’m a touch too old to change.

    My best to you, Mr M!

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  5. "But I’m a bloke who’ll walk out of a movie if the first 25 minutes isn’t to my taste"

    Wow. You know what, I respect that. To just say, "It doesn't look like this is going to be a good use of my time.", and cut your losses. I've heard of people walking out of movies because they're offended by something or other, but I have never before heard of someone walking out of a movie just because it's not "to his taste". There's definitely something to be said for that kind of aggressive time management. If something is a waste of time, you end it immediately. I like that.

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  6. Hello Mory:- I'm getting old. I'm almost 50. I know I won't get to experience the slightest fraction of the art that I long too, high or low. With luck, I've many more years, and yet, I won't be able to read any more than the tiniest percentage of the books I want to, and that's only the books. So,. although I'm very open to new experiences, and although I am as patient as I can be, if a film hasn't hit its straps by a third of the way through, I'll go find one which will. And if I'm wrong and a friend convinces me otherwise, well, I'll try again, at home with the DVD or whatever. But there's no time for too much faith as time runs out :) Things to do, things to understand!

    If I had time to waste, believe me, I'd waste it. And by that, I mean no judgement on how you experience things, because I understand now that you're approaching your cultural life in a deliberate manner for specific ends. But for me, there's that ticking clock and although it doesn't haunt me, I can still hear it ticking ....

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  7. 'Of course, I've also come across literature arguing that D.I.D. is nothing but an iatrogenic condition, but since the issue is a live one, I'd say the best course is respect and restraint where the matter of those concerned is involved.'

    As someone with an interest in nosology, and in the challenge of combining critical thinking about diagnostic categories with sympathy and sensitivity towards those with impediments of any kind, I think you expressed that very well.

    My one concern while reading this piece of yours (I've yet to read the comic) is that some of your criticisms could be applied to the PREVIOUS Moon Knight #1 - to the series launched by Charlie Huston and David Finch in 2006. And silly though that series was, I quite enjoyed the first volume in trade (subsequent volumes began to get entangled in crossover/big event shenanigans).

    But the mental health issues in that earlier series were treated in sufficiently comic book broad brushstrokes that any offence taken was of the low-level 'Hank Pym's a bit bugnuts' kind (although as you've explored previously, even that shouldn't go unremarked upon). Bendis going one step further by combining that sort of storytelling with claims of verisimilitude seems like a Bad Idea.

    Alex S

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  8. Hello Alex:- I do SO appreciate you approaching the issue in a way that doesn't cleave to either the 'fun' or the 'hyper-hyper-vigilant' approach. The reduction of these debates to either/or positions terrifies me, and in a real sense, because the debate itself becomes lost in amongst the kneejerkisms involved in taking a position. We've all loved cartoons which have involved some very dubious components, for example, which should stop the PC brigade from assuming that human beings are moral idiots who can't be trusted to deal the difference between reality and fiction.

    Yet human beings can't be trusted to question their own commonsense understanding of reality, and the question has to be far more about to what degree is the debate made more informed or closed-off by its representation. It is conceivable that a pseudo-noir Moon Knight with DID could be both fun and still helpful to the wider debate of how we understand disorder in the social sense. But it's a hell of an undertaking, and my worry is that it's an undertaking that no-one will consider taking responsibility for.

    I must admit, I struggled with the Huston/Finch series, but I saw a copy of it in m'local library this very day. I suspect a visit to the bakers tomorrow may well involve a side-stepping into the library. One of the great advantages of blogging, as I know I say too much, is the chance to have the incentive to reconsider potentially poor decisions :) And it'll give me a chance to look at how mental disorder was portrayed there, because, as you are, I am interested in how these disadvantages are discussed.

    Wouldn't it be splendid if BMB proved his approach was evidence of anything but a Bad Idea? I know from all those teaching hours how knowledge and opinion gleamed from the media can profoundly intensify pre-existing beliefs. Wouldn't it be good to have a comic which at the least didn't make things any worse, or even leave them as they are? Grud knows, we need all the compassionate popular entertainment we can get. (Just as long as it's not worthy!)

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  9. The real answer if g) all of the above ;)

    Not having read the comic, so I am only going by what is here and in other reviews/previews, it doesn't sound like DID - there is no change from the core personality, for example. If I had to attempt to put a label on it then it might be something closer to paranoid schizophrenia - he is hallucinating the other superheroes.

    DID has been used to create interesting stories in comics but the ones that worked weren't exactly "fun". Crazy Jane in Doom Patrol, for example, and I remember being struck by a story in Man-Thing which I first read in Marvel UK's Savage Action reprint magazine, which coincidentally, is where I first read Moon Knight (a quick Google suggest it was Rampaging Hulk #7 by Steve Gerber naturally but it also had Jim Starlin on art - I must dig the issues out again, might even read the Moon Knight ones, Essential Man-Thing Volume 2 being current out of print).

    I have to say it sounds all concept (with a touch of cynical marketing ; ) ) with no actual story. I like the suggestion over on the site you link to via "suspect":

    "What is stopping Marvel from refashioning Moon Knight as the protagonist of an urban horror series? Offer a writer like Holly Black the chance to dream up some supernatural gumbo with lashings of sex, violence and demons."

    As I suspect I've said before, I think Marvel could do very nicely from expanding their horror line and Moon Knight would fit very nicely in there, plus it sets up a whole slew of stories for the character - after all he was initially set-up as the perfect werewolf hunter. It would also get him away from the whole "it is Batman, just crazier!!" schtick. Hell you could keep some of the more... fractured personality and ruminate on whether he is actually more of a monster than the creatures he hunts, although that might be too easy.

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  10. It is quite a curious start to a new series. The disctinction being made is that Moon Knight having a schizoid break is more relatable than deriving his powers from an Egyptian deity (or even a werewolf bite!), hence the opening parody of the television series.

    I think Moon Knight is unique in that he is a character who has undergone half a dozen reinventions, allowing subsequent writers to play with different layers of perception. This is the character's main appeal for me.

    I found BMB's take quite restrained. Gregg Hurwitz, one of the more recent writers, had a lot of fun with his Moon Knight book. Throughout the 'Whoa MK is krazzeee' trope was touched on, but it was also implied that Khonshu exists, a puck-like sprite inciting Spector to murder. The Hurwitz book was fun, clever and even mocked the common perception of the eponymous hero being 'Marvel's Batman'.

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  11. Hmm, interesting post as always Colin. I loved your comment that "I know I won't get to experience the slightest fraction of the art that I long too, high or low." Being almost 45 I know that feeling well. There was a rather great post on the Savage Critics and I think I mentioned this before, about every book, comic etc being produced today effectively being in competition with everything already produced.

    Based on this premise, for Moon Knight #1 to succeed in being something other than "superhero comfort food", it would theoretically need to
    1/ bring some new perspective or knowledge to the readers,
    or 2/ to the superhero genre
    or 3/ produce a story with a sense of place and time that is clearly of 2011 (and I don't mean simply in the sense of being a Marvel "product" either)
    or 4/ follow the established conventions, but be entertaining.

    It seems to me based upon your review that Moon Knight fails at 3 and 4, and makes some attempt at 1 and 2. In my book, for a 33 page story by BMB this constitutes a big fat fail.

    #3 is what really bugs me about much modern BIG 2 stuff - in very little of it can you see that this is the year 2011 (the 21st century is here!),that the world is an amazing place in its technology, culture, diversity and problems - all things that would surely be grist to the mill for any writer. I would say that never in my lifetime have I had such a sense that the zeitgeist is changing profoundly - yet comic books, which are theoretically the medium most able to react to outside events seem to be ever more oblivious of them. The superhero world seems to becomes more hermetically sealed every month - apropos your post about Marvel superheroes all living in Avengers mansion - and come to think of it I wouldn't exempt 2000AD from this either.

    The quote from you above also makes me wonder why you seem so determined to tilt quixotically at the superhero windmill, so I have to say here that it seems obvious that you get as much pleasure from your writing of highly intelligent, well-informed and wide ranging, essays* as we highly appreciative readers do from reading them.

    From my own POV, I wouldn't bother buying MK#1, let own expending the time, effort and mental energy to analyse it. That said, I do appreciate reading the results of your effort, and mayhap there needs to be someone pointing out that the superhero comic book Emperor has no clothes.

    *I've finally figured why i like your posts so much, and why they are qualitatively different from most other comics blog posts...they're not simple blog posts they're essays - and to return full circle to my own chosen theme of interest as inspired by your post - I suspect that being near 50, you wouldn't accept from yourself writing that was merely the "capsule review, I like it/hate it style of comic book bloggin anyway :-)

    I have often, as long-term reader of comics thought of writing my own comics blog, but the effort required to get my writing to a standard that I would be happy with posting to the ether (ie: somewhere near yours or Jog's) just daunts me. All kudos to you Colin there.

    I sincerely hope that BMB does manage to prove that his approach with MK#1 isn't a Bad Idea (since no writer really sets out to fail), but to me the finding out doesn't really seem worth the expenditure in time, effort or money.

    kiwijohn

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  12. Hello Emperor:- No, it doesn't sound like D.I.D., or at least as I've read about it. That's especially true since we've been told by BMB that the alters will be talking their time in charge of the MS body rather than appearing as apparently distinct characters, meaning that we seem to have DID and other disorders all in the same package. (Or not; I may have missed a bulletin from the DID society.) Of course, it's comic books, BMB can do what he likes. I might not think that's a good idea, for ethical reasons, but there is an argument that the immersive universes have so little logic to them that, well, why care?

    Crazy Jane was very much NOT about 'fun', and I admired how GM wrote stories that were enjoyable which never required CJ to be anything other than an good egg struggling with terrible challenges. I've quite forgotten the Gerber/Starlin story and I'll chase it down. How I used to bless the very paper that Jim Starlin pressed his pencil to; yet everything after LSH # 138 seems to me to have been produced by ANOTHER Jim Starlin. But that run from Iron Man # 55 to the Legion story was SO good. Ah, well ...

    I think one of the problems with MK is that he's been written in so many ways that the roads his character could take always sound far more interesting than the ones he does. Yet a superhero werewolf hunter just sounds more interesting to me, though I suspect that BMB's high concept will sell far more books than that. Having said that, your idea is fascinating. In fact, in the best tradition of 2000 ad, wouldn't it make a good strip of its own. Drop the superhero aspect and keep the high concept - a DID monster hunter - and - voila - it sounds like a gruddly good idea to me!

    Now, what about the crossover between DID monster-hunter and the space archeologists? I've got a GREAT idea ...

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  13. Hello Emmet:- “It is quite a curious start to a new series. The disctinction being made is that Moon Knight having a schizoid break is more relatable than deriving his powers from an Egyptian deity (or even a werewolf bite!), hence the opening parody of the television series.”

    The irony is that for all the continuity re-shuffling and the pseudo-psychological macguffin, MK is now a book about versions of Wolverine, Spider-Man and Cap sharing MK’s body. It’s a superhero playtime book, which, because that’s a thin, continuity-grounded approach at heart, means that it’s hard to care. In the end, it’s the fact that fanboys are obsessed with superheroes that’s the key here. I’d rather read anything else; a schizoid break, an Egyptian deity, a werewolf, any and all of the above, but not more of the same $*!& superheroes in a slightly different bag. I have an awful sense that MK, with his head full of super-heroes, will function as a version of a great big fanboy and fanboy wish-fulfilment. Look, I’m WOLVERINE, Look, I’m TRAGIC, look, I’m Spider-Man …

    “I think Moon Knight is unique in that he is a character who has undergone half a dozen reinventions, allowing subsequent writers to play with different layers of perception. This is the character's main appeal for me.”

    I did enjoy your discussion of this, which is, as I guess is obvious, why I linked to it in the above. I’ve never felt comfortable with MK, never been convinced that all the various components of his backstory had been mixed in the right way. The schizoid personality business always bored the pants off of me, for example, although I will admit that I never read Mr Hurwitz’s take, which, from your discussion seems to have been something I’d really enjoy. I love the idea that “Khonshu exists, a puck-like sprite inciting Spector to murder”, for example. That seems to me to open up a whole range of narrative options, whereas the current situation seems locked into being more of the same; more Avengers, more self-referential fanboy stuff.

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  14. Hello Kiwijohn:- thank you for your generous words, and for the acknowledgement that I’m not the only one thinking NOT of everything which I COULD read, but of the relatively few things that I probably can. The ‘time gentleman’ cry is coming close to being called, and while I've little problem with the fact that closing time is a-coming, I don’t want to forget that the lights will be going out either. It’s easier to enjoy the time that’s left if its being made good use of.

    “It seems to me based upon your review that Moon Knight fails at 3 and 4, and makes some attempt at 1 and 2. In my book, for a 33 page story by BMB this constitutes a big fat fail.”

    I always like a formalist approach to reviewing! It means we can agree on what we’re talking about :)

    Yet perhaps MK really is of 2011, in terms of the comics industry, in that it has no more ambition than to deliver more of the same with the slightest twist to the same old fanboys? I realise that’s not talking about 2011 in any broader sense, but in its silliperation - :) – it does at least speak of today’s industry! Not, of course, a good reason to be buying the book, I must admit.

    ”I would say that never in my lifetime have I had such a sense that the zeitgeist is changing profoundly - yet comic books, which are theoretically the medium most able to react to outside events seem to be ever more oblivious of them. The superhero world seems to becomes more hermetically sealed every month - apropos your post about Marvel superheroes all living in Avengers mansion - and come to think of it I wouldn't exempt 2000AD from this either.”

    You raise a fine point, KJ, and you make me realise that one of the great strengths of the Marvel Revolution of 1961 to 1975 or so was that it appeared to speaking of counter-cultural values as much as those of the mainstream. There’s a terrible conservatism which comes in with Jim Shooter, an end to much that was previously really quite diverse and off the wall. That de-coupling of superhero book and wider culture has, now I think about it, been a terrible shame. Whereas the work of Engelhart and Starlin, Gerber and a host of others was endlessly curious about so much beyond the superhero universe, that’s not a sense that you get from much today. It should be noted that the sense of a wider world is often lacking today, and that the great writers in comics always carry that in their scripts. Mr Moore and Mr Gaiman, for example, always looked beyond comics in order to tell great comics stories.

    ”The quote from you above also makes me wonder why you seem so determined to tilt quixotically at the superhero windmill, so I have to say here that it seems obvious that you get as much pleasure from your writing of highly intelligent, well-informed and wide ranging, essays* as we highly appreciative readers do from reading them.”

    There are several reasons, Mr KJ. I do want to get the book done, and it very much helps to have a blog to maintain a dialogue with folks and keep my name just a tiny bit out-there until there. The blog keeps me constantly thinking about the sub-genre and the medium and the comments – for which I am seriously grateful – are always making me think. Writing about comics without this wider context wouldn’t be, I suspect, nearly as productive a business.

    Of course, the fact is that I do still feel there’s SO much still to learn and discuss. In fact – back to our first theme – there’s no time and so much to learn! And the public practise also make me consider my work in ways which writing privately wouldn’t. Whether its chatting with you about the relationship between the superhero and the zeitgeist or learning about improving the clarity of my work through getting it in the neck after last week’s Flashpoint piece; well, I suspect that I’m undertaking something of my 10 000 hours here.

    cont

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  15. Cont;

    And I do believe that these comics are worth trying to find the skill and approach to discuss! All these little disposable forms are wonderful things worth the cherishing. It’s in the margins that the real worth of so many texts is found, as SOMEONE once said.

    ”From my own POV, I wouldn't bother buying MK#1, let own expending the time, effort and mental energy to analyse it. That said, I do appreciate reading the results of your effort, and mayhap there needs to be someone pointing out that the superhero comic book Emperor has no clothes.”

    I couldn’t disagree, KJ. In fact, this piece was about why it was so hard to want to bother about Moon Knight. I feel I didn’t nail the theme nearly well enough, but I think I’ve got a touch more of a grasp on one small way in which some recent product alienates me so much. It’s a conversation with itself about piffle in the same way as most of post-Engelhart and pre-Moore books were. And again, your comment helped me sharpen my understanding of that. So, there you go. I’m still learning, as I guess must be SO obvious :)

    ”*I've finally figured why i like your posts so much, and why they are qualitatively different from most other comics blog posts...they're not simple blog posts they're essays - and to return full circle to my own chosen theme of interest as inspired by your post - I suspect that being near 50, you wouldn't accept from yourself writing that was merely the "capsule review, I like it/hate it style of comic book bloggin anyway :-) I have often, as long-term reader of comics thought of writing my own comics blog, but the effort required to get my writing to a standard that I would be happy with posting to the ether (ie: somewhere near yours or Jog's) just daunts me. All kudos to you Colin there.”

    Oh, I did SO want to write about comics in a way that was different and yet welcoming. I appreciate your words, but I must admit, even now the old Statcounter is registering hits from sites where folks are cussing me for being pretentious, over-analytical, fun-killing and so on. I don’t mean that I’m of any importance at all, but just that I really have caused a few folks to get annoyed at my approach. Cornell’s law says I’ve got a long way to go :) And that includes mastering those pesky capsule reviews! It’d be nice to pull them off in a way that wasn’t more of the same too. I’m with you, in that there’s no point in just doing anything that doesn’t involve effort anymore. It’s not the prospect of any broader success, because I suspect there’s no such thing in such a narrow field, but the prospect of just … learning to make a well-constructed piece which isn’t like anyone’s elses. That should keep me going until “Time please” is called in one way or another!

    Still, from your comments, a blog from thee would be well worth the reading!

    ”I sincerely hope that BMB does manage to prove that his approach with MK#1 isn't a Bad Idea (since no writer really sets out to fail), but to me the finding out doesn't really seem worth the expenditure in time, effort or money.”

    Ah, I invented a noun for that process; silliperation. What a contribution to modern culture!

    I hope you're being treated kindly by the world, KJ!

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  16. This discussion has made me wonder. Although there's clearly too much interesting stuff out there for anyone to ever read, watch or listen to in its entirety, and so everyone has to be a bit selective, perhaps my greater tolerance for the vagaries of rambling TV shows and decompressed storytelling in comics has something to do with the fact I'm a bit younger than you and Kiwijohn (I'm as old as me gums and a little bit older than me teeth).

    I already filter things drastically according to expense, hence waiting for the trade and availing myself of public libraries just as you do. But perhaps in future I'll find myself filtering more drastically acording to investment of time.

    I'm very glad I stuck with Lost through to the bitter end after a lot of people jumped ship, just as I'm glad I did the same thing with The X-Files a decade earlier (both of them amazing cumulative achievements in serialised TV fiction, in my opinion). But maybe the day will come when I'll have to think twice about making that sort of commitment.

    There was a Hollywood horror movie a couple of years ago that tried to engage with DID a bit seriously, called Shelter. The protagonist is a psychiatrist who's sceptical about some of the more extreme cases of DID that have been reported, and her ultra-competitive father (also a psychiatrist) presents her with a case that seems to defy her scepticism. As she investigates, she uncovers some supernatural goings-on.

    The film made a good fist of using the correct terminology and concepts, but this was undermined by the fact that the protagonist, her father and their colleagues are consistently shown behaving in a completely unethical and unprofessional way with their patients. This went beyond acceptable dramatic license and prevented me from taking the film seriously. Also, I didn't think much of the horror/supernatural elements of the film once they were elaborated upon, so unfortunately that didn't redeem it either. Pity.

    Alex S

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  17. Ah well Colin, if you want to see proof of your theory as regards the 'popular superheroes shove MK out of his own book' notion, I suggest you read Andy Diggle's Shadowland.

    It's an extraordinary book. MK in his Lockley persona infiltrates Daredevil's base, takes out a group of ninjas and as his cover is blown, dons his costume in time to witness his fellow hero become increasingly possessed by a demon.

    A situation which the Khonshu-empowered vigilante might be well suited to combat no doubt, but wait.

    Suddenly the book takes a sharp u-turn and Moon Knight simply vanishes from the text. Instead a crew of popular street level heroes including Spider-Man, Luke Cage, Elektra and Wolverine arrive to infiltrate the base! Well of course Logan is there - he is the Marvel Universe's own Zelig - but this is such a telling example of Moon Knight's irrelevance in that his disappearance is not commented on in any way at all! Maybe he just moseyed right back out of the building once he witnessed the racket his more popular contemporaries were making, so loud they could not hear him shouting 'Guys, I'm right up here, I'm on this! Guys?'

    Sad really.

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  18. Hello Alex:- Thinking about your words, I think I realise that my problem as I age is that I’m alienated by a lack of craft in work I come across. Craft is the quality that I demand before I sit m’self down in the audience. If I can see obvious problems with work, and if that problem is so fundamental that it should never have appeared in the first place, then I just think “Well, if you can’t be bothered, I can’t either.” The lack of establishing shots in Mighty Thor # 1: well, it’s a basic aspect of comicbook storytelling. If there’s nobody on the producer’s table willing to bother, I’m not either. Some of that really is age, but some of it is the knowledge that a person who makes a table should be able to ensure that all four legs reach the ground. Today’s work isn’t just competing with the era’s products, but with all the fine work that’s come before. I think that’s the job, the challenge, of the modern era creator. They have to get themselves to the point where they CAN stand on the shoulders of giants. That requires some climbing.

    “I already filter things drastically according to expense, hence waiting for the trade and availing myself of public libraries just as you do. But perhaps in future I'll find myself filtering more drastically acording to investment of time.”

    Time does come into play, although one of the glories of youth is a great deal of wasted time is immensely enjoyable!

    ”I'm very glad I stuck with Lost through to the bitter end after a lot of people jumped ship, just as I'm glad I did the same thing with The X-Files a decade earlier (both of them amazing cumulative achievements in serialised TV fiction, in my opinion). But maybe the day will come when I'll have to think twice about making that sort of commitment.”

    X-Files is an interesting case in point. I jumped ship when I realised that the arc shows were just being made up as the show went alone. There was a show in the fifth or sixth series when the whole mystery of Mulder’s sister’s abduction because a new age occult-o-babble nightmare. It neither made sense in its own terms nor linked up with what had gone before. It was simply another apparently good idea after a long series of good ideas. Such a collapse of craft simply alienated me! It’s inconceivable to me that CC couldn’t have noticed a series in that he’d need a road map and created one. It’s the same with Lost and BSG. If I can see when the writers are making it up rather than playing it out, then I’m off. That’s their job. I’m not supposed to be lending them tolerance or support. If they’re producing pap, then I can watch ‘I Cladius’, or the West Wing, or The Wire. Strangely enough, I don’t think The X-Files is a cumulative achievement. By the time I got to the finale, I couldn’t even make it past the first 25 minutes. By which I mean, the cumulative weaknesses of craft ended up at a place where the challenges of watching the series outweighed the pleasures of consuming it as one long narrative.

    cont;

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  19. BUT! The X-Files is one of my favourite shows. It’s just that I have to edit out a whole swathe of shows in order to create a show which doesn’t destroy the fun of experiencing it. When it was good, it was just excellent. When it was poor, and it was more and more so as the years passed, it didn’t just produce poor episodes, it also ate away at the property as a whole.

    Please! I do mean for “I think, but I know I’m probably wrong” to be placed before every one of the sentences above. I’ve just woken up after a nap designed to try and catch up on a sleepless night. I fear my mind is too stiff and my words too stubborn for what I only mean to be a discussion of the points you raise.

    ”There was a Hollywood horror movie a couple of years ago that tried to engage with DID a bit seriously, called Shelter …Also, I didn't think much of the horror/supernatural elements of the film once they were elaborated upon, so unfortunately that didn't redeem it either. Pity.”

    I’m tempted to track down the movie just to experience the flaws eating away at the promise which you describe! It certainly reinforces my belief that these subjects must be approached with a serious intent and a great deal of skill. Let’s hope MK displays that.

    My best to you, Mr A. I hope the above doesn’t sound antagonistic. That certainly would be the opposite of my intent.

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  20. Hello Emmet:- I caught a CGS podcast about Shadowland and I can’t say that I was motivated to check the series out. It seemed to me that the plots that were being discussed were very different things in terms of their logic and internal consistency – as described, of course – to those in The Losers, for example. I had a sense – perhaps massively misguided – that this was a book driven by editorial mandate, and although that’s always true to a greater or lesser degree, this seemed an extreme. In the end, I just thought that I’d rather some work by Mr Diggle in the superhero mainstream that was less contentious first.

    “It's an extraordinary book. MK in his Lockley persona infiltrates Daredevil's base, takes out a group of ninjas and as his cover is blown, dons his costume in time to witness his fellow hero become increasingly possessed by a demon! …Well of course Logan is there - he is the Marvel Universe's own Zelig - but this is such a telling example of Moon Knight's irrelevance in that his disappearance is not commented on in any way at all! Maybe he just moseyed right back out of the building once he witnessed the racket his more popular contemporaries were making, so loud they could not hear him shouting 'Guys, I'm right up here, I'm on this! Guys?' Sad really.”

    And everything I hear raises problems with the book. I mean, you’re one of the fairest reviewers I know, and if you’re identifying such a fundamental flaw, then I know its very much there on the page. (That’s not always true for every reviewer!) But the question just ricochets across the mind; why? With such an opportunity and such a responsibility, why simply forget MK is there? I assume that someone was taken aside and asked politely to keep their eye on the game in future.

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  21. I gather that this time around, Moon Knight is intended to be a funny book. It adds up: Marc Spector executive produces a television show about...himself? "I will liquify your head?" The multiple-personality superhero now imagines himself to be other superheroes? The ad tagline: "All the Avengers You'll Ever Need?" It all sounds like an attempt at making a humorous book. Which, to go by everyone's reactions here, does not succeed.

    To make MK a funny book, you couldn't hedge your bets; you'd have to go bananas with it. That said, I'd be surprised if Marvel would be willing to go that far or if the remaining fanbase, which is so enamored of self-serious comics, would take to it. Let's see where it goes.

    MK would be a bear of an assignment to take on. His original popularity sprung in part from his more "adult" flavor (sex-n-violence, of course) only he could have, due to being the first direct-market-only Marvel comic, and from Bill Sienkiewicz's amazing art. With Bill S. long gone and "adult" flavor pretty much the only flavor left in the shop, what's left for the Man in White?

    They've tried Going Egyptian (Fist of Khonshu), Going Full-on Batman (Marc Spector: Moon Knight, Going Full Violent Psycho (the Charlie Huston version), and probably a few other "goings" I don't know about. All of them worked just enough to keep him tantalizingly close to success. Like Hawkman or Aquaman, he seems a dude who's one good twist away from breaking through. (And once he's broken through with a concept the fans like, he's movie-ready...)

    It sounds to me like Bendis et al. came up with The Lone Gag Hook and figured what the hell, why not trot out the perennial C-lister and see what happens. Which, if comics were $0.60 apiece, would be fine, but at $3.99 per, is madness. That single hook is not worth three or four bucks per issue, and it can't be sustained. That conceit will wear itself out in under two years. Seriously, you can't keep that crap up.

    Why do creators keep thinking the multiple personality angle is worthwhile? It's different, sure, but that doesn't make it good, or even memorable. "MK is a super-violent nutbar, unlike other superheroes" per Huston, is actually a better hook. Stories a'plenty suggest themselves there. (I didn't like Huston's run, but it's not a terrible idea.) But "Moon Knight is so damn crazy he thinks he's Captain America sometimes?" Come the hell on. If that's what you're gonna do, damn well commit to it and make the book outrageous. It sounds like #1 failed in that regard.

    What it needs to work? POP. Yes, it does.

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  22. Hello Harvey:- "If that's what you're gonna do, damn well commit to it and make the book outrageous."

    Absolutely! One of my introductions (!)led to a discussion of how crazy this take might need to be to be successful, although it lacked the brevity and force of your sentiments :) Because there's the daftest problem at the heart of the book, namely that it looks & reads like just like Daredevil under BMB and AM, but the premise cries out to be attacked in the way that O'Neil and Mills assaulted the targets of Marshal Law.As it is, it's terribly, terribly conservative, appallingly safe. (It's a book that so in love with the superhero status quo that it even thinks mad versions of them are laudable.) And you put your finger on the fact that it surely needs to be OUTRAGEOUS, both to avoid being a crass literal use of DID & in order to bring something new to the MU'S game. AM is a artist with his own style and it isn't one which expresses 'fun' very well. So, adapt the style or don't put him on such a book, but instead we get this comic-noir and a bleakly-grim'n'gritty script and the most idly silly of high concepts.

    You're right. The reader just wants to shout BE DARING! This isn't daring, it's .. er ... a product of silliperation, which sadly doesn't produce anything that actually silly enough to be endearing. At the least, a Kurtzman/Wood update for 2011 would be worth turning up for. (Though not, for the 1000th time, a direct homage.)

    "Like Hawkman or Aquaman, he seems a dude who's one good twist away from breaking through"

    Probably because he's got so many components of a good story associated with him. He's a post-modern stew, all disparate parts slung together because someone thought they'd surely fit together because they're all good ideas. I think the idea of the "super-violent nutbar" is the most interesting default setting, but then, that's practically the Punisher's job. If you place the Punisher's role into a costume, you get a pathetic character who's not even a contrast to the superhero.

    "To make MK a funny book, you couldn't hedge your bets; you'd have to go bananas with it."

    What worries me is that there's no apparent attempt to do this. "Fun" and funny seem to be very different things where BMB's pronouncements are concerned here. And of course 'fun' can be had with the most serious of story-elements. But honestly, the superhero book is already an absurdity. The idea of the DID superhero isn't different enough from the everyday irrationality of the MU to mark MK out as THAT individual a character. Peter David's Hulk worked rather well for a good many years as a DID character, and Crazy Jane occupied the Vertigo-esque ground. In what way is this new MK different, apart from being more tedious, which is hardly a productive USP?

    cont;

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  23. CONT;

    "I will liquify your head?"

    What's astonishing is the panel which accompanies this. (I scanned it in above.) It's the dullest action frame ever. We don't even get to see the nameless bad guy's face as he howls these immortal words. I just don't understand the craft at work here. I can't identify the language that's being used to construct these panels and pages. It's as if the creators are assuming that they are now so able that they need only to turn up in order to produce fine work. Like progressive musicians who've forgotten not to bore us in getting to the chorus, there's an assumption that the audience is on board as an entirely passive and whole-heartedly trusting beast.

    But comics does have its own rules, it's own language. The mainstream book also used to have a clear set of paternalistic responsibilities towards the audience informing its creation too. Don't waste space, don't slum your way through indulgence, don't waffle when folks are paying money for your product.

    I'd happily pay $3.99 for 17 pages of intense, well-worked comic book. I'm not interested at all in 33 pages of waffle. In comics, as in most other areas of life, quantity and quality are very different things.

    As I type this, I see late afternoon is reaching the other side of the pond. I hope the remainder of the day is a splendid one for you, Harvey. Weekend ahoy!

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  24. Colin, you never need to worry about disagreeing with me, you never come across as antagonistic, and you can take the 'I think, but I know I’m probably wrong' caveat as a given in everything I say as well.

    I know EXACTLY the episode of The X-Files you're talking about – it's the gallingly titled 'Closure' in season 7, in which an ill-defined phenomenon known as 'walk-ins' overrides what has been established previously about the fate of Mulder's sister. And boy, is it a test of an X-Phile's faith.

    But it's not the worst. Of the 202 episodes and two feature films that constitute the saga, there are only two (maybe three, there's one I'm undecided about) episodes that I don't think I could bring myself to watch again under any circumstances. The two I never want to see again are also in season 7!

    Muggins here has watched (and survived!) all of Chris Carter's shows Millennium and Harsh Realm as well (I haven't got around to watching the Lone Gunmen spinoff show yet). Rob Shearman, the man who reintroduced the Daleks to nuWho in 2005, has written a book called 'Wanting to Believe' that provides a capsule review of every X-Files, Millennium and Lone Gunmen episode and both X-Files movies. If it's any consolation, he shares your opinion of (the 25 minutes you saw of) the X-Files series finale.

    Inspired by formative experiences with Doctor Who, Twin Peaks, and the Marvel and DC universes, I acquired the habit of establishing whether I like a piece of serial fiction and whether it's worth buying into, and if so then making every effort to ascribe to it the coherence that its creators fail to imbue it with thereafter. It's a tendency I call 'masochistic syncretism', and I'm currently petitioning for its inclusion in DSM-5.

    All of that said, I'm beginning to think you're right about the whole Galactus FLEM (see I can spell too) thing...

    I hope you get a better night's sleep. Remember, it's not the number of hours that counts, it's the number of cycles and whether or not you wake up slap bang in the middle of one (which leaves you more knackered). So that panicky voice in your head making the situation worse as the clock ticks away is WRONG.

    Alex S

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  25. Hello Alex:- "It's a tendency I call 'masochistic syncretism', and I'm currently petitioning for its inclusion in DSM-5."

    There was much laughing at the house of the Splendid Wife when I read the above. Fair cheered up a challenging hour or two. My thanks.

    Taling to Mory elsewhere on this blog has given me a great deal to think about on this topic of the relationship between consumer and product, if you'll forgive those cold-hearted terms. And reading your thoughts on Mr Crater's work provided me with one of those "A-ha!" moments which helps clarify the thinking. For I just don't think that we should have to work so hard - so machochistically - in order to make our pop fantasy.sci-fi make sense. That's THEIR job, and it should be one of the ways that we judge them. ("In-my-opinion-blah-blah") By which I don't mean fan-pickiness, but rather a clear expectation that if they don't make the effort, we're not going to play the game. With TV shows, there's so little of quality that we all put up with studpidities which we wouldn't elsewhere. And of course, nothing can be 100% coherent. BUT BUT BUT. What offends me is the arrogance/ineptness of folks who just don't care to respect their audience. Ships can jump to light-speed in the gravity wells of planets in BSG? Well, how come that doesn't appear until series 3, and could it be that it only arrives them because it looks good and gets the writers out of a hole?

    I only use the example of BSG's pseduo-science there because of Ron Moore's podcast, which were saturated with the philosophy that whatever worked this week was the best option. Well, what a shock that BSG collapsed into plot-confusion and utter illogic.

    I guess it come back to craft again. All it takes is the discipline to say "I can't do that, it's cheap and it's lazy." And though I totally understand why folks do these things, I don't respect those choices? Mulder's sister was kidnapped by new-age angels? Right, I'm out of here ....

    I don't mean this as an example of fan-boy analism. I don't care what the ground rules, character designs and so on are; I just expect craftsfolk to set out their worlds and play by them. Otherwise, I'm committing m'self to a relationship in which the rules change partway through and I'm the one who's supposed to be tolerant. Yet, this is surely the opposite of how the market is supposed to work?

    No, I keep writing and all I'm doing is making myself look inflexible and grumpy. Yet in the other genres and mediums which I most admire, such changes of basic premises wouldn't ever be tolerated. I Cladius doesn't suddenly become a sit-com or a time-travel tale. The Wire remains a slice-of-life state of the nation cop show. And that's the standard work has to hit. To paraphrase Lennon, what counts is the Toppermost Of The Poppermost.

    Ah, the Poppermost!

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  26. "et a superhero werewolf hunter just sounds more interesting to me, though I suspect that BMB's high concept will sell far more books than that."

    Oh well BMB's involvement will help it shift plenty of units but I can't imagine anyone looking back on it as some kind of high point for a character who has yet to really have one ;)

    "Having said that, your idea is fascinating. In fact, in the best tradition of 2000 ad, wouldn't it make a good strip of its own. Drop the superhero aspect and keep the high concept - a DID monster hunter - and - voila - it sounds like a gruddly good idea to me!"

    It does, doesn't it. I actually had an idea for a Steve Irwin-style monster hunter with ideas above his abilities (clearly some kind of delusions of Ulysses Bloodstone-style grandeur) who ended up being shocked and overawed by his discoveries and running away. I even wrote a series of one page stories with him in. I might need to go and look at this concept again and see if I can tweak it.

    "Now, what about the crossover between DID monster-hunter and the space archeologists? I've got a GREAT idea ... "

    I'm not sure if you are pulling my leg, but you know where to contact me ;)

    In other comments:

    "That de-coupling of superhero book and wider culture has, now I think about it, been a terrible shame. Whereas the work of Engelhart and Starlin, Gerber and a host of others was endlessly curious about so much beyond the superhero universe, that’s not a sense that you get from much today. It should be noted that the sense of a wider world is often lacking today, and that the great writers in comics always carry that in their scripts. Mr Moore and Mr Gaiman, for example, always looked beyond comics in order to tell great comics stories."

    This really nails what was really worrying me about this beyond the surface problems - it is incredibly insular and self-referential, where the really great stories are all about dragging in new and wild ideas from outside comics and making you think about things in different ways. As with all great media, you not only got a strong story, but you got a prism to look at the world through (even when they were being post-modern they were looking outwards).

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  27. Hello Emperor:- poor MK, always the bridesmaid, always known for comics which are famous for some other reason than MK himself. Bless him, he's never been a strong enough character, but there's always the sense that if he could just be written better, drawn better, MADE INTO FOUR DIFFERENT AVENGERS AT THE SAME TIME!!!!

    I like your runaway monster hunter. I also like the DID monster hunter too. I've got an idea for him/her connected with Leicester. Oh, yes, Leicester. As for your archeologists, I do find the basic idea very interesting indeed. There's a tremendous loneliness inherent in the very idea that I find beguiling.

    Ah, we're singing from the same hymn re: the wider culture and the way its been locked out of the superhero book. I miss the sense of cultural excitement which marks the superhero up to around 76, and which returns for Alan Moore's books until he leaves DC. Ah, well, when I rule the world, every day will be the first day of spring, and I'll be publisher of DC and Marvel. And everything else too.

    No megalomania, of course. Oh, no.

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