December 14th, 2008

Christmas

2 IN 1 SHOWCASE EPISODE 97: THE SPIRIT OF WILL EISNER


 

Episode 97: The Spirit of Will Eisner
by Chase Bouzigard and Blake Petit

On Christmas day, movie theaters will burst open with Frank Miller's big-screen adaptation of The Spirit. This week, Blake and Chase talk about the character's history in comics, his current status in DC comics, and how the legendary Will Eisner turned a guy in a blue three-piece suit into one of the most innovative superheroes ever created. In the picks this week, Blake recommends Archer and Armstrong: First Impressions, and Chase is still loving the new Flash Gordon series. Don't forget to send us your votes for our Best of 2008 episode! You can find the categories and nominees in Episode 95! E-mail us with your votes, as well as comments, "Ask Chase Anything" questions, or anything else at Showcase@comixtreme.com!

Music provided by the Podshow Podsafe Music Network

Episode 97: The Spirit of Will Eisner

(left-click to listen, right-click to download)


Episode 97: 2 in 1 Checklist




PLUS: In Week in Geek #3, Blake picks up the microphone to discuss the recently-announced Fables TV show. How does he feel about his favorite comic book being made into a weekly TV series? And then, he gives a quick review of the new DVD release of a childhood favorite, Jim Henson's The Christmas Toy.

Week in Geek #3: Fables TV and The Christmas Toy

Like the show? Review the show! 2 in 1 Showcase wants your reviews at iTunes, Podcast Alley, and Podcast Pickle. The guys promise they won't bite.
Looking for previous episodes? Check out the 2 in 1 Showcase Archive Page!
Christmas

Classic EBI #16: Perceptive Problems



It's time for another blast from the past, gang. Originally appearing on June 25, 2003...

Perceptive Problems

Before our brief tangent to rant about Mark Waid being bumped from Fantastic Four, a move so blindingly foolish that even General Custer is looking on from the great beyond saying, “Man, what are they thinking?”, we were in the midst of a discussion about the shape of the comic book industry, what’s wrong with it, and what needs to be changed. Well, we’re still in the midst of that discussion, friends. We’ve talked about comic stores. We’ve talked about the shapes different stories take. This week we’re moving on to the different kinds of stories that are told. It’s time to talk content.

In a way, I’m almost glad that Waid debacle bumped this column back a week, because it gives me a chance to use a fully-informed parallel to something else in the world of entertainment that is doing what comic books should be doing. You see, this Saturday I (along with few million other people) locked myself in a room and read all 870 pages of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix cover-to-cover, barely coming up for air before the last page was turned and the last snitch was caught.

I am absolutely flabbergasted by the Harry Potter phenomenon, mostly because of the universality of it. Age, race, gender, class, occupation, education -- none of these seem to be a barrier to a person’s enjoyment of the Harry Potter books, and the reason for that is because in the five volumes thus far, J.K. Rowling has genuinely crafted something for everyone. Fantasy, yes, first and foremost, but also mystery, humor, horror, action and hints of romance, all twisted into a coming-of-age story wrapped in a political satire spliced with a war epic and tied together with genuinely appealing characters and believable development that can appeal to virtually anybody.

And as I read that book, two things occurred to me.

1) She won’t kill that character... she can’t kill that character, I refuse to believe it, it’s not gonna happen, I -- ARGH! SHE DID IT!

2) There is no individual element in here that you can’t find done in at least one comic book series, and done well, so why is every other kid on the planet reading this under the covers with a flashlight tonight and yet ignoring stuff like Bone and Leave it to Chance?

It all comes down to perception. Rowling has practically been canonized -- and rightly so -- by teachers and librarians for creating something that makes kids want to pick up a book and read it. The comic book industry is making headway with these two important groups as well, with things like graphic novel sections in libraries and CrossGen’s brilliant “Bridges” program.

The perception is that Harry Potter is a genre-spanning, all-ages story, which is why it sold a million copies two months before they even started printing them. The perception of comic books is that they’re all full of stories about guys in spandex and women with severe glandular disorders, which we all know is an unfair stereotype (not that some comic creators haven’t tried their hardest to earn that scarlet letter).

This is another thing CrossGen has done great -- they planned from the very beginning to tell every kind of story you could want. Horror? Route 666. Mystery? Ruse. Science Fiction? Sigil. The Negation. Fantasy? Scion, Sojourn, Mystic. Action? Way of the Rat. Drama? The Path. Heck, even though Mark Alessi will never admit it, they even have a superhero book in their stable -- it’s called Crux.

And it isn’t just CrossGen. DC has a cop drama (Gotham Central) political fantasy (Fables), crime drama (100 Bullets) and children’s comedy (Scooby Doo.) Image can give you horror (Midnight Nation), science fantasy (The Clockmaker) and action (G.I. Joe). Over at Dark Horse you’ve got plenty of TV and movie tie-ins -- Buffy and Star Wars being the most notable current examples, plus genre-bending stuff like Lone Wolf 2100 and a new Conan series in the works.

Marvel is not helping this perception much. It’s the biggest comic company, we all know that, and with all of the movies that have come out, it’s also the most visible. Unfortunately, it’s the hardest one to find any real diversity in. Even stuff that isn’t draped in capes and tights usually has links to the superhero books -- Alias, Sentinel, Fury and so on.

But that brings up the two major misconceptions about comic books:

1) All comic books are about superheroes.

2) All superhero books are the same.

Negatory. Go out there and read any given issue of The Punisher, then The Crossovers, then JSA, then tell me all superhero books are the same.

Comic book fans have a self-image problem. We’re like the guy who sat at home on prom night because he was convinced no girl would go with him so he didn’t even ask. The truth is, if we could just get people to try out a few books, more people would get into ‘em. How do we fix that problem?

First off, for the love of God, we have to stop acting like comics reached their creative plateau in 1986!

Last week on another message board I belong to -- a movie fan site that happens to have a section devoted to comics -- one poster said he was not a comic book reader but he wanted to try a few titles and asked for suggestions. I doubt I have to tell you what happened, but I will anyway. The poor guy was deluged with a dozen messages all saying the same thing -- Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns! Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns!

Spare me.

Look, these are both great books, but if we’re going to keep pretending comics as an artform can never top something done 17 years ago, we may as well just shut down the printing presses and go watch “CSI” re-runs. Did they stop producing plays after “Hamlet?” Did they stop writing books after “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?” Did they stop making movies after “Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo?” Heck no!

Watchmen was a work of art, but it’s not a book that would appeal to everyone on the planet. Nobody even tried to figure out what comics this guy on the message board might like, they just started slamming him with the sacred cows, working on the assumption that these two volumes are the salvation of the medium.

I’ve been trying to turn my sister on to comics for years. I know perfectly well she wouldn’t touch Watchmen with a ten-foot pole. You know what she does get into, though? PVP. Liberty Meadows. The Star Trek comics, back when they were still making them. I didn’t just hand Heather the same book people have been trumpeting since she was four years old, I know what she likes, and that’s what I gave her. If she ever takes my advice and reads Meridian, she’s going to be hooked.

So now it’s time, friends, for the next great Everything But Imaginary Assignment. I want you to find a non-comic book reader in your life that trusts you -- and I don’t mean trusts you to change a flat or give them a kidney or something trivial like that. I want people who trust you enough to read something you would recommend to them -- at least a few issues or a graphic novel. This can be anyone -- your mother, wife, girlfriend, co-worker, bookie, guy who de-clawed your cat, I don’t care. I want you to talk to this person and write a list of his or her favorite movies, books and television shows.

Then I want you to come back and either post those lists right here or e-mail them to me (Blake@comixtreme.com). Depending on the response, this could be a column in a few weeks, then your loved one will get the thrill of seeing his or her name in beautiful, electronic, san serif letters, online for the whole world to see, and probably save you from owing a birthday present this year. Together with my crack staff (you guys on the board, and the folks I hang out with at my local comic shop), we’re going to look at each list and use them to conclude a comic book or two that this person may enjoy. (May enjoy. I make no guarantees.)

Then comes the hard part. You’re going to have to get them to read them.

In the meantime, come back next week for the final installment in our series, where I’m going to hitch up my pants and dive into probably the biggest problem we have in making comic books a mass medium. I’m talking about the Gender Gap.

See you then.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People's Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the novel-in-progress ”Summer Love” at Evertime Realms. He’s also the co-host, with the inimitable Chase Bouzigard, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcasts. E-mail him at Blake@comixtreme.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms.