Friday, February 27, 2009

Marvel Ends Open Submission Policy

Earlier today, it was announced on several comic news sites that Marvel Comics, the leading American comic publisher, closed it's mail boxes to unsolicited submissions. Unsolicited submission is the easiest way to potential success in the writing world, and I would assume in the art world as well. So what does this mean? Well, honestly not that much. 

This change of policy is more of a blow to the artist than it is to the writer. Before now, an artist could send pages to Marvel without any red tape and get a response. A writer was asked to send a query letter (To prove that you had the bonafides) and a document signing away your right to sue if Marvel were to release a product similar to your idea before they'd look at your work. In essence Marvel hasn't had open submissions for writers for a long time now, despite what today's articles suggest. A positive response to a writer's query letter essentially makes their word solicited. 

Marvel has said that they're going to continue their other means of finding talent- which is the nice way of saying "Hope you have friends in high places!" [ I'm looking at you Brian Reed!] and/or "Hope you're already famous!" - Though on the newsarama audio clip it reveals that no talent has been taken from open submissions in over two years. 

Losing open submissions- at least from a company like Marvel- isn't that much of a loss for budding/undiscovered talent but it doesn't make it any less sad. Marvel wasn't going to pick up any writers from open submissions, and an artist not going to conventions to show off their work isn't going to have good enough stuff to get picked up anyway. All Marvel is really saying by getting rid of open submissions is that they don't want to fake it anymore. Hard working semi-known artists and connected writers is all they really wanted to begin with. Still, it was nice to have the dream, wasn't it? 

I hate the thought of any place closing it's doors, not only for myself but for anyone. The success of one nobody is the inspiration of a thousand. The reality is that most who have made it big did it step by painful step. That's great, but it makes it a little harder for everyone else to slog through the mess without the misguided hope of a golden ticket. 

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Comic Review Wednesdays - Mighty Avengers #22

Mighty Avengers #22
Written by Dan Slott
Pencils by Khoi Pham

It can’t be said that the marvel universe has a shortage of characters. In the past seventy years the pages of Marvel comics has seen everything from Big Wheel, a super-villian who commits crimes by riding around in a (Oh, yeah) big wheel to Squirrel girl, the girl who has the ability to control squirrels (And people diss Aquaman! At least he has super-strength). While these outrageous ideas of characters fill Marvel’s history, it’s rare that a comic writer actually uses the character as it’s defined in other, more traditionally literary forms of writing.

What Slott seems to be excelling at is giving his characters room to change and develop. With the death of the Wasp at the end of Secret Invasion, and the subsequent release of Secret Invasion: Requiem a lot of suggestion and idea proposing was done as the status quo of Hank Pym’s relationship with the robot Jocosta (programmed with his deceased wife’s brain patterns). To be honest a romantic relationship between a and his robot (with his dead wife’s brain patterns) sounds like the foundation for a great work of science fiction, albeit twisted work of fiction and thankfully, Slott seems to be pursuing the idea. The nature of the Pym/Jocosta relationship gets even more concerning in this issue with a rather awkward half-page scene. Perhaps Slott is only pursuing this for comedy, but it’s for the best that he isn’t. Pym hasn’t had any new character milage since the seventies with the abuse story, and lesser writers have bringing it back ever since rather than giving Pym a new direction.

Slott’s character work goes beyond Pym. Another often neglected character in comics has been the Scarlet Witch’s brother Quicksilver who was revealed to be playing (bodily) host to the major villain of this story arc at the end of the last issue. In the first few pages of Slott’s second issue, he gives more insight and more direction to Quicksilver than the character has seen in years. Hopefully Slott chooses to keep him around once this particular story is over and work with it.

Curiously, one of the most uncomfortable parts of this issue was another case of characterization. Slott identifies U.S. Agent as a law-enforcing gun-loving man’s man- which isn’t completely inaccurate but what isn’t seen in this issue is the raging temper, and insubordinate attitude that he had been characterized with in years past (At least as I remember him). To make things worse, the character reacts violently when he sees unregistered super-heros. My recollection of the battle lines in Civil War is hazy, but hadn’t Agent been with Cap and the anti-regs? Isn’t that the reason he was in Canada fighting alongside Alpha Flight when Slott picked the character up for this Avenger’s run? Even if that’s not the case the moment was still uncomfortable given the current state of the MU.
The biggest problem plaguing Slott’s first arc is an overwhelming feeling of “Who cares?” - No fan that I know was clamoring for Mordrid’s return as an Avenger’s villain, and he’s entirely interchangeable. Let’s be honest- this first arc is only meant to reestablish the Avengers. The “deaths” in the last issue, and the “around the world” panels in this issue scream retcon. How this story pans is inconsequential, and it makes it hard to stay interested in the events. Lucky for Slott he’s good with his characters.

RATING: 6 out of 10.
It’s more about potential for the future than it is the issue itself. Pick up issues #21 and #22 if you want on the Avengers train. This comic will be going great places in just a couple of months.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The 81st Oscars [A Response]

Hey-- Eight out of nine right isn't so bad, is it? Curiously, I took a look back at an entertainment weekly I received a few weeks ago and my picks were identical to theirs with the exception of their choice of Kate Winslet for the Best Actress win. Congrats, Entertainment Weekly- You got 'um all! 

As I guessed, Slumdog Millionaire took home the top prize [as well as a slew of others]. I would still really like to see it. As of right now, I'm unsure of where it will fall in the Oscar Pantheon. Some films win best picture because they are absolutely unforgettable [The Godfather, Gone with the Wind]. Some films win only to be over shadowed by fellow competitors in time [How Green is my Valley beat Citizen Kane]. Some films are just memorable, or familiar if you've seen them of not [Chariots of Fire?]. My point is that I'm not sure where Slumdog will fall. My guess is the last category. 

To more interesting things- Who the hell was that woman speaking to Maryl Streep during the Best Actress bit? Obviously they're successful but my God- That woman's accent was so thick a bullet wouldn't go through it. She also seemed to be having one hell of a time just getting the damn words out of her mouth. Oy Vey!

On that same topic, what the hell was with Kate Winslet telling Maryl Streep to suck it up? I'm absolutely in the dark about what Kate was actually saying. Streep has a record of being incredibly humble and more so even being unable to take complements well [perhaps they purposefully chose such a horrible speaker for her!]. Was Winslet saying that Maryl would have to suck up the praise or losing?! She told her to suck it right after completing her on being nominated so many times. It could really be either. How the hell do you tell Maryl Streep to suck is when she's ten feet away? 

As always, Bill Maher can go to hell. Can you imagine the kind of balls it takes to make a statement about God's nonexistence at the Oscars? I'm not religious, but I do have some tact. Apparently Maher doesn't. He also shameless self-promoted his own documentary. What a jackass. 

The biggest problem I saw with the ceremony was the 'In Memoriam'. I remember a few years ago this clip montage moved me to absolute tears but this year I was too busy squinting to read the names to cry! I have mediocre eye sight and a small TV! What the hell happened to the full-screen clips? Either the camera was moving around or the montage itself was horribly done. Whatever the case the only names I actually saw were the 'big' names that I already knew died. When Queen Latifah began to sing I thought for sure I was going to burst out crying when the clips started [shut up! I'm very emotional!] but no, no, the Oscars didn't want me crying. They wanted me horribly Hulk-like angry. Too many important people passed away this year to make such a shitty clip-reel. 

One thing I did really like was all of the flash-back montages of presentations, and that when the five presenters came on stage they played their audio clip. I thought that was really exciting for whatever reason. Hugh Jackman as host? I have no real opinion. I missed the beginning of the ceremony so I can't say much. Overall I enjoyed it. 

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The 81st Oscars [Predictions]

I'm horrible about going out to the movies. I don't have a car, and I'm constantly locked inside writing. The past few years, I've been Oscar illiterate in that I haven't managed to see any of the competing films. This year isn't really all that different, but I do feel like I have a firm grasp on the nominees. With only about seven hours until the awards I'm going to unleash my predictions for the 2009 Oscars. Here we go!

Best Picture- Slumdog Millionaire. People can't stop talking about this movie, and unlike it's competitors it actually pulled in near unanimous positive reviews. Benjamin Button and the Reader certainly can't make that claim- This was one of the reasons I had my fingers crossed for Dark Knight as a nominee but no such luck. 

Best Directing- Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire. This is a difficult category to predict with or without having seen the films. It's something you would expect would mirror best picture but only occasionally does. This is Boyle's first directing nod, and he's certainly not a slouch. Slumdog's taking of the big prize could mean a lock for Boyle. Fincher is someone else to watch- it's also his first nod for director. 

Best Actor- Sean Penn, Milk. I say this in sadness and ignorance- I think it's a shame that Rourke probably won't get recognized for the Wrestler because from what I understand he is probably the most deserving candidate. Penn is an oscar magnet and [let's face it] gay roles are still the new mentally challenged roles- hopefully that culminates with Milk. I love that these films are being made, but the emphasis on how "challenging" they are needs to go away. Challenge comes from complexity of character, not sexuality. 

Best Actress- Meryl Streep, Doubt. To be honest, I actually have no idea about this category. Streep's performance is the one I've heard the most about and for that I'm leaning toward it. I also heard some buzz about Jolie in Changeling. 

Best Supporting Actor- Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight. Is it really that shocking? Once the nominations were made it was apparent who would win. Ledger will bring in a sympathy vote that will push him over the top if he didn't have the win already. The academy will want to praise Ledger this time, if for nothing else than because they didn't give him the award when he was nominated for Brokeback Mountain. 

PS: I actually saw Dark Knight! Whoo

Best Supporting Actress- Penelope Cruz, Vicky Christina Barcelona. For whatever reason, Cruz has got a lot of attention for her role in this film. This category is also well known for not following the beaten path of the best picture noms. If you had told me a year ago I'd be predicting Cruz for any award I'd have called you crazy. 

Animated Film- Wall-E. Bolt was a cute and self-awarely (?) formulaic ("I've seen this a hundred times!") but it's not taking home any prizes. Kung Fu Panda was... something. I couldn't make it all the way through. Wall-E on the other hand was oscar-gold Pixar, and on top of that dealt with pressing contemporary issues. What does the Academy love more than pressing contemporary issues? Cute robots dealing with pressing contemporary issues!

Best Adapted Screenplay- Slumdog Millionaire. If anything does follow suit at the Oscars, it's that the screenplay of the best picture winner is also a winner. In this case it just happens to be adapted. 

Best Original Screenplay- Milk. At this point I might as well throw scraps of paper in the air and catch one. This is a tough category to guess at but because of Milk's other praise I'm sticking with it. Although In Bruges looked amazing- Of all the movies I haven't seen it's damn near the top of the list of "to watch". 

There are my Oscar picks for 2009. We'll see how well I actually do. Maybe next year I'll actually get out and watch a few of these. Now I need to get back to writing (eep!).