Friday, November 23, 2007

Guess what? It wasn't a joke. (Yes. Wizard again)

I went to the FLCS today, after a week or so of not going, and they had the latest Wizard out. The one with the 300 cover. And, despite what everyone had said on the subject, that it was just a one time thing, that it was a joke that had backfired and so on... well, Wizard is still claiming to be the #1 Pop Entertainment magazine for men.

What I found ironic is that, at least around my country? 300 was a lot more enjoyed by women than by men. Sure, the spartans were manly men who did manly men things, but they still were manly half naked men. Eye candy, you know?

And it doesn't really change anything, except that, well, they sort of lost the right to say it was a joke. Unless they're trying for that 'three times make it funny' idea. And if they are? Sorry to say, I doubt it will work.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Can we lay this particular trope to rest, please?

This is both about movies and comics, so bear with me. We're probably all aware of the Women in Refrigerator's phenomena by now. And we're probably all aware of the most usual complaint about it "But it happens to men too! It's not misogyny!" To which the answer is usually "But it doesn't happen to men as often as it happens to women." And that can't be denied because there's more male characters in comic books than female. And when a fridging happens to a male, more often than not is either a C-list character or a character who happens to be a minority. (To be an actual fridging, by the way, the character in question can't return from the death or the injury. So Batman and Superman do not count.)

Now, I am a fan of crime movies. Detective movies with grizzly crimes and machiavellian serial killers are one of my passion, so as soon as someone mentions the word "detective" in a review, I'm more often than not inspired to see it. So today I was about to watch Along Came a Spider, with Morgan Freeman, and I was quite ready for a good movie after Law and Order SVU.

The beginning of the movie, for those who haven't seen it, follows Alex Cross (Freeman) and his team as they are getting ready to capture a serial killer/rapist with the help of Alex's partner, whose name I forgot, who is working undercover as the serial killer's date. During the bust, the killer discovers that his date is a cop, she tries to arrest him but as he hits the brakes, she accidentally shoots him when she's thrown off her seat (Although she's wearing a seatbelt, so I'm not sure of how does that work) and he loses control of the car, breaking of the bridge dangling just so that he falls to his death, and she's alive for enough time as to let Freeman try and save her and lock eyes with her as she finally plummels to her death.

Which was about the moment when I turned off the tv, went to make iced tea, and then came back to pop the Fracture DVD that I had rented.

Now, I didn't got annoyed because it was yet another female character killed just to create angst for the male character. I got annoyed because right there I knew I was going to suffer through two hours of Alex emoting because he couldn't save his partner, feeling inadequate and then finally getting his act together to catch the bad guy.

As I've seen in dozen of other cop, action, and horror films, as well in a thousand comic books. It's called Dead Sidekick in tv tropes, it's called WiR when it's a woman, and it's been around more or less since Achilles decided to reenter the war after Patroclus was killed.

Honestly? Enough is enough. Let's find someway else to motivate our main characters, someway else to make them angst for an hour before kicking ass in the second act. Dead sidekicks, girlfriends, boyfriends, gay neighbours are way, way overdone. Hell, they parody that on the Simpsons already! And in Naked Gun. I guess that by the time a particular trope becomes a joke, is well past the time it can't be used seriously in an argument, at least not in its most straightforward way.

In my mind, I ended up reminding another movie that starts with a huge catastrophe for the main hero, who ends up angsting to the point of attempting suicide for the rest of the movie. The Bone Collector, which leaves Denzel Washington's character paralytic from the neck down. And that's different because the catastrophe happens to the character directly, so one can understand how it affects him (And not in a 'you touched my stuff' way) and not think "Hell, get over it. Cops die. It's sad, but it happens." every time the dead sidekick is brought up.

The thing is, in those 10 or so minutes of Along Came a Spider I perfectly understood the problem with the WiR and dead sidekick situation. I love those type of stories, I have a huge collection of crime movies dvds. And as much as I love Morgan Freeman's acting, I just couldn't bring myself to keep watching it, just because I knew how it was all going to end. When the hero's wife gets killed, we know he'll stop at nothing for a (temporary, at least in comic book world) revenge. When the sidekick gets shot, we know that we're up for a couple of years of angsting until we get a new sidekick. When a family member gets killed in a dark alley, it will get repeated so much that it will end up in a bad joke and a tag line (Anyone remember when the old saying about comic book death was 'All comic book deaths are temporary except for Bucky, Jason Todd and Uncle Ben? Or, more recently, the current batman meme "My parents are dead"?)

When things get to the point where your audience can figure out the ending in ten minutes or three pages of your comic, well, then it surely it is the time to stop killing sidekicks, family members and girlfriends just for a couple of minutes of angst and a shocking splash page, isn't it?

Friday, November 09, 2007

Comic book magazines and the people who read them.

I've been thinking about the whole Wizard situation for all week, but I haven't been able to sit down and write my thoughts on it until now. Maybe it's a bit too late, or whatever, but I wanted to add my two devalued peso cents.

First, a disclaimer. I've bought two Wizards in my whole life. When I honestly cared about getting the news from the industry in a print form, I wasn't exactly swimming in money and for one Wizard I could get three comics so... guess who won? And when I finally got to read one, I found it quite lacking. That was in 2004, and I honestly didn't notice or cared if they had a match the rack feature or not, and I'm not going to go there and look for them to see if they had. What I do know is that there was absolutely nothing in them that would make me want to buy another one.

During all this discussion now, I wasn't thinking about Wizard and their new/old readership. I was thinking about how people on both sides of the debate seems to think that Wizard is dying, and that it needs either to secure its readership or find new one. And then I thought about the situation of information magazines in my own country. Although there's a long tradition of comics in Mexico, going from the fifties, both translating american comics and creating our own (although there's been less of that lately), and of course, manga, there has not been a successful comic book magazine in almost as long time. We've seen imported Spain magazines, and at least three attempts to do a similar magazine to Wizard, of which only one has been somewhat successful of late, called Comic Zone (I am not sure of how well is it doing, but I know it's still on print). On the other hand, manga-only magazines are quite a business, and many editorials have not one, but up to four magazines dedicated only to manga (And that's not counting the Hentai manga magazines), which range from the heavy fan-service images, to the heavy on the shonen ai side of the images and they all sell. Sure, the ones with more fan-service sell better, but even those have a somewhat balanced content for both female and male readers.

And neither Comic Zone, nor it's predecessors like Cuas! Comics y más, were as heavy on pandering with the T&A as Wizard has become of late. I am not a constant buyer of Comic Zone, but there has only been one Wonder Woman cover, as far as I remember, and there are honest articles with critical information. And for some reason, the Wizard in spanish didn't sell as well as it's precedent, and it stopped being shipped for Mexico. I do remember that most of the criticism against it was that it had no information, just hype. Which is, of course, the one criticism even die hard fans have against the original Wizard.

I've heard a lot of stories about why a comic book magazine doesn't work in Mexico, ranging from 'there's no interest', to 'there's no industry to support them'. But on the other hand, manga magazines keep coming out, keep selling, and keep getting new readers.

So maybe, just maybe, Wizard -and any comic book magazine- should take note of that. The manga information magazines aren't lacking in the sexy women department, the fan-service is quite high in them... but they still manage to be all inclusive, adding some fan-service for the women who read the magazine, adding actual information that can be of interest to anyone, not just to a small group.

(BTW, I'm not in any way proposing that Wizard should start including more information about manga. Or a 'match the package' game as the one I've seen somewhere in the discussion. I don't have the answer of what Wizard should add to be more inclusive. I just know that I don't want to read about how Infinitive Secret wars or whatever is going to be the greatest thing ever just because one cover, I want to read exactly what kind of *real* impact would that storyline have in the end. Or maybe, a critique *after* the crossover to see if it really was as good as the publishers promised)