Friday, September 11, 2009

Catching up...

Missed an entry yesterday. So, my weekly comic buy list, which I KNOW you are all, literally, DYING to read each week, was not published...

So, here we go. Thankfully, I have a light week after the last few very heavy ones. Always nice to get one week where you don't have to shell out quite so much. Only 4 titles.

Red Robin #4

Written by Christopher Yost
Art by Ramon Bachs
Cover by Francis Manapul

This series is kind of the red-headed stepchild of the Batman line. Tim Drake is ousted as Robin, and replaced by Bruce Wayne's illegitimate son, Damian (LONG story), when Dick Grayson (The first Robin) takes up the mantle of The Batman after Bruce Wayne's apparent death. Tim, you see doesn't believe Bruce is really dead. We all know he'll be back sooner or later, as readers, but within the story, Tim's the only one holding out hope. So, he takes on this new identity of Red Robin, and apparently grows into adulthood very quickly, and is scouring the globe looking for clues as to Bruce's location. I think the series stands out like a sore thumb because it's the only place where the characters aren't trying to forge ahead. Dick, Alfred and Damian, representing the core characters for 3 of the 6 Batman-related titles, are trying to find their way without Bruce, and that storyline is strong, and working well. This is the only title where we're being reminded, over and over, this is only a temporary storyline and Bruce will return. Even if Tim never really finds anything concrete to base his beliefs, it's still flying in the face of what's working so very well in the other titles.

I'm still buying, mainly because I like Tim as a character, but it is on the bubble for getting dropped.

Wednesday Comics #10 (of 12)

Various Writers and Artists.

My thoughts on this series are unchanged. You may go back and look at last weeks comments.

Kick-Ass #7

Written by Mark Millar
Art by John Romita JR. and Tom Palmer
Cover by John Romita JR.

So, here we have Mark Millar's latest "I sold it to Hollywood before the first issue hit the shelves" series. Millar, I have to hand it to him, can spin high-concept like nobody's business. The one line description, "normal real-world kid decides to be a super-hero, and gets in over his head," is just the sort of think Hollywood snaps up. The question is always execution, and things get especially foggy when the development of the film is going on as the series is playing out. I have no doubt that Millar and Romita have changed things because they new a "major motion picture" was in the offing. I just don't know how to feel about the series. I do enjoy the issues as I read them, but I can't say I'm chomping at the bit for the next. The fact each issue takes 2-3 months to appear doesn't help. It's not bad, but it is yet another example of Millar's over-hyping and early media sale of his idea making the ultimate product seem...underwhelming. That being said, John Romita Jr's art is, as always, stunning.

Ultimate Comics Avengers #2

Written by Mark Millar
Art by Carlos Pacheco and Danny Miki
Cover by Carlos Pacheco

Ah, More Mark Millar. I have to say, my favorite Millar writing is within Marvel's Ultimate line. I'm still angry about the Ultimatum event, even now it feels like a useless exercise for a line that was always intended to be a easy way in for neophytes. Suddenly, this title and Ultimate Comics Spider-Man are carrying the baggage of a bloody-minded, and relatively failed story that forced them to change the tenor of their stories. I mean, that can be a good thing. Brian Bendis has used it to really change the game with Spidey, but I still resent that such a bad mini-series caused all this. What about this title? I can't remember what's going on, so that may tell you something.

So, what for Friday?

I stumbled across a blog for a Chicago theatre company, who shall remain nameless, in which they put forth, once again, this idea that theatre professionals need to "educate" the audience. That audiences need to understand the work we do in order to appreciate it.

This, my friends, is bullshit. In fact it's not only bullshit, but it the kind of arrogant attitude that is slowly killing our artform. It's proceeding from the idea that if only the poor public could understand what we do, they would love it. It's the kind of stupid, elitist thinking that allows an art form to slowly, forcefully insert it's nose up it's bellybutton and keep on going.

This blog offered several ideas, such as that we ought to strive to make the purveyors of the craft draws in themselves. For example, that a skilled sound designer ought to be able to bring audiences with them. Also that the proliferation of "Computer programs like Word, Garage Band and iMovie have opened up the practices of graphic design, music composition and filmmaking to the public," yet no such "in" exists for theatre. Well, frankly, I think those programs, while, yes allowing some truly skilled individuals to spread their work to the world, have facilitated the ability for people with relatively weak skill sets to feel validated because they can publish sub-par and half-baked ideas on the web.

I mean, seriously...Have you heard my music? Take a listen. I can play guitar, I think. I am a mediocre singer, and my songwriting skills could probably benefit form collaboration. Yet, I can record 2 CDs worth of music. This is not changing the world of music, or improving it, I'd hazard to say it's probably watering it down.

My point is, understanding and having access does not create better art. In fact, I would say in emboldens people who, honestly, lack the skill to do what they are trying to accomplish. Trying and failing is not a crime, but before the digital revolution there was an editorial system in place, publishers, record companies, movie studios, (I know, I know...Corporations, SO EVIL!) that would, generally reserve mass exposure to those with the experience, talent and skill to create the best material. You had to WORK to get a mass audience, not just buy the right equipment.

Enough of that, to the point; what would improve theatre? What would excite audiences and get buts in the seats?

Follow this link. Then come back, I'll be here.

Anthony Neilson is, frankly, my new hero. Why? Because he looks out at the state of theatre, and instead of thinking "what's wrong with the audience?" he asks "what's wrong with us?" The fact is, there is plenty wrong with how we are going about what we do. Theatre has been hijacked by a group of people who have tried to elevate it to "high art."

William Shakespeare did not write "high art." He wrote rabble-rousing plays about sensationalized topics, with lewd jokes and an entertainer's heart. I am firmly convinced that, were he alive today, Shakespeare would be happily working right in the Hollywood system, grinding out films like Armageddon. Shakespeare never lost sight of the basic point of theatre TO ENTERTAIN. Yes, his plays also exposed many, many truths about the human condition, but that was a sideline to giving the groundlings a good show.

Why do we treat our classics like something to be embalmed? Why must Chekhov always seem slow and ponderous? Why can't we take these plays and not just fall back on the old thought process, but make them our own. Make them vital, alive and ENTERTAINING for our audiences today?

That spreads to every facet of our work. Yes, we want to challenge our audiences, but if that challenge comes in the form of two characters debating the culpability of auto dealers in the environmental crisis for 2 hours, the only challenge you're offering is to stay awake. There are so many ways to make a point in drama, why do we always seem to fall back to lecture? Allegory can be such a strong platform, look at District 9, which is one of the strongest films about race relations and the way we treat the lest fortunate and "different," yet is exciting for almost every moment of it's run time. Clearly you couldn't do District 9 on stage, but you could do something like that.

Stop thinking that the problem lies in changing our audience, and change yourself.

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