Friday, June 12, 2009

Witless Dictionary #20--Hive-Mind Fallacy

Once again I bring to you another continuing installment of . . .you know what? Yes, while sometimes these are attempts to define the not easily definable idiosyncracies of comics fandom, sometimes it's just a way for me to articulate certain behaviour patterns that I'm bored with, tired of, and pissed at.

Try to guess which one this is, kids!

Hive-Mind Fallacy--Term given to a certain passive-aggressive twitch common among comics fans. It goes a little something like this:

"Comics fans, you disappoint me, Captain Britain and M-13 was absolutely brilliant and you ASSHOLES didn't buy it and now they're canceling it for . . .I don't know, another Wolverine book maybe, and it's All Your Fault. Well done, Team Comics. Well done."

That this fallacy pivots on the idea that 1) everyone who reads comics thinks exactly the same (which would be true if we were all, say, Cybermen) 2) People will buy comics they may not necessarily like because It's Good For Comics (in the age of $4 for one comic this is the kind of profligacy that probably only makes sense if snorting rails of coke off a hooker's crack with a rolled up $50 bill is "making your money work for you") and 3) One ignores what Steven Grant articulated two weeks back, that Captain Britain has historically been rather naff.

To wit:

"Here's a character created as a marketing gimmick (by two Americans; Chris Claremont may have been born in England, but wasn't there long enough for much besides anglophilia to rub off) to give some local color to Marvel reprints in the U.K. It's hard to imagine hundreds of thousands of nationalist British comics fans (are there hundreds of thousands of British comics fans?) warming up to the character, who, among other things, has been saddled with a convoluted back story (like the vast majority of lower tier Marvel characters now) and (sorry, Alan) horrific costumes. (If you want an iconic Brit hero, Marvel, Union Jack has a far superior look.) He has never had a consistent or very interesting personality (for a long time he was generally stuck in the role of being the token male dullard in the company of what amounted to supremely capable warrior-goddesses, and being set alongside the likes of Pete Wisdom and Blade didn't help highlight his interesting side) and, like most characters in CB&MI13, he's been kicked from here to there across the Marvel Universe so much that pretty much all readers have come to think of him as filler."

So . . .yeah. Kids, say no to peer pressure. Especially if it involved Pete Wisdom. Because really, fuck that guy.


Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

It's an unfortunate truth that comics, moreso than any other medium, are suspectible to Imperial Nudity: I read some of Cornell's work, it was about average, didn't blow me away and I didn't particularly care that it was cancelled.

Now, the book's certainly entitled to their fans and they have every right to protest the cancellation, but guilt-tripping people who don't care for Pete "Warren Ellis" Wisdom? Come on, now.

It's true that MI-13 isn't like other Marvel books at the moment, in that for the most part it's been side-stepping the total drudgery of the current MU... but is that really reason enough to save it?

Kazekage said...

Well, even ranking Dr. Who writers on a good day he comes in about third--god, but nothing worth making an appointment to take in.

Yeah, I mean, to my mind, all right-thinking people should treat Pete Wisdom with roughly the same reverence as a particularly awful Liefeld character, because there's characters worth rehabbing and characters you shouldn't bother with at all, and Wisdom is, obviously, the latter.

It wasn't for me--there's plenty of good and different books out there to support, just at marvel alone. HOWEVER, with $4 a book the new norm and stuff like food and gas costing more as a priority, well . . .that's gonna have to take a backseat to me being a patron of the superhero arts.

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

Cornell has decent storytelling skills, but his weakness is characterization - none of his cast members are all that appealing, even when he wants them to be.

Yes, I think Wisdom is the exception that proves the rule about all characters having the potential for redemption. You can fix Bucky, you can fix Layla Miller, but if there's a DNR list for this sort of thing, Pete Wisdom's on it.

You know, this just might be the moment we've been waiting for: when price hikes finally force readers into exercising some discretion in what they buy. Market willing, we'll have 50% less Wolverine this time next year. :)

Kazekage said...

I gotta be honest, really--Cornell's work on Dr. Who and Primeval have been good, but nothing out of the ordinarily and nothing that's going to get me to shell out $4 a month for an issue of it.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if that were the case? Unfortunately, they've resurrected him how many times now? He was in Excalibur (wherein he nailed Kitty Pryde--thanks for making such a big deal about that, Warren) then he ended up leading X-Force for a bit, now this. . .man, you just can't get rid of this guy, can you?

Well, the sadder commentary is that they'll probably only keep what sells, so actually all we might have is Wolverine comics.

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

Precisely. I've found myself being much more unwilling to offer second chances these days precisely because of price - it used to be I'd give a writer three or four issues to win me over, now it's one, two tops. Not much point in going further if they can't get it right on the first try.

Oh, Warren. Don't you wish your girlfriend was a freak like Kitty? :) I think Pete Wisdom is one of those STDs Ellis picked up during his self-proclaimed "Year of Whoredom" - a shot of pencillin keeps him away most of the time, but every now and then he turns up just to remind you he's still there.

In that case, abandon ship! All hands to the escape pods! :)

Kazekage said...

I've been, even in the dark days of decompression, one of those people who says "If SOMETHING doesn't grab me in the first issue I try, you don't get bought. I have neither the money, time, or patience to wait until you can get the training wheels off." And that was BEFORE $4 a book made me seem somewhat visionary. :)

Of course, it might occur to the people in charge that "Hm, if we're asking people to pay so much for something so slight, perhaps we should make damn sure it's worth the $4" However, this is a clever and reasonable way to justify economically screwing our customer base, and as such, it ain't likely to happen.

I think Warren just loves to posture like he's shocking, which explains why he's been writing DV8 for the last few years no matter what he's writing. Would that Ellis weren't a rather resistant strain himself and would GO AWAY. He brings Bleeding Cool down SO MUCH with his very presence.

Any landing you can walk away from is $4 in your pocket. :)

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

In Marvel's defense, they used to be much better at justifying decompression; at least during the Jemas years you had a 50-50 shot of getting your money's worth if you stuck through to the end of the story. These days it's more like 80-20 you'll facepalm yourself until you look like Bette Davis' Baby Jane.

Which is precisely why I think a customer revolt is inevitable (though it's certainly taking its sweet time).

The great tragedy with Ellis is that he was shocking once upon a time, but doing the exact same shtick for ten years? Shock does eventually wear off, you know. I wish he'd learn that.

That's a lovely slice of pizza and a bottle of iced tea right there. :)

Kazekage said...

Gotta admit, but for a few exceptions, a LOT of the time I felt like I was getting the back hald of that 50-50. To me, there's no argument for decompression save "how can we wring more money out of the customer?" What they really needed/ was a better sense of pacing, which has not very much to do with compressing or not compressing the plot.

Well Diana, the comics fandom is nothing if not a perpetual slow-motion apocalypse, right? ;)

Maybe at one time. VERY early on. Unfortunately, the shocks he did early on were the same shocks he did later on and he had absolutely nothing else to offer, did he?

It sounds glorious, and sure to be more entertaining than another issue of Wolverine or Darken or X-23 will ever be, yeah?

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

I think compression - used properly - has more to do with characterization and narrative techniques: it's a lot easier to foreshadow and create quiet character moments when the plot's slower. And at least it's preferable to the infodump stylings of the Silver Age, where eighteen pages of utter lunacy would be explained away in two panels of near-solid dialogue. That bit was rarely, if ever, satisfying.

That it is, my dear. That it is. :)

Oh no. If he were a My Little Pony his name would be One Trick.

It'll certainly leave less regrets when you're done with it...

Kazekage said...

I dunno, there's some bit of me that loves having outlandish things explained in a 2 cm column and dropped into the action once again . . .

The problem with good decompression is . . .well, I can't really recall reading any. That, coupled with my natural tendency to enjoy pacing that crackles with energy that starts fast and breaks the sound barrier at the climax of the story leaving one simultaneously elated and exhausted . . .well, I'm not naturally disposed to liking it, I suppose.

Nice to have company watching its heat death, innit? :)

Yeah. You can always exercise the slice of pizza off. :) You ever tried giving a Wolverine comic away? Even the Amazonian tribes that have never seen a human being from the outside world have about ten of the damn things.

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

I think that might be why I've never been too fond of the Silver or Golden Age material... on some level, I tend to register that sort of thing as a cop-out. Which, come to think of it, is a lot like summing up a four-year storyline by saying "God Did It", and geez, you'd think I'd be over that by now. :)

Depends on the technique you attach to it, I suppose. I remember Bendis' early years on "Daredevil" used decompression as a way of inserting flashbacks and building suspense: you'd start an arc on a climactic moment and then the next three issues would jump back and give you pieces of the plot through three different perspectives, that sort of thing. Quite effective on a narrative/dramatic level, but very tricky to pull off.

In fact, I'd say Bendis' fall from grace began when he lost his ability to "time" these things properly: you'd end up getting four issues of an extended conversation and a sudden realization that the last issue had to wrap it all up, and it'd result in a rush-job finale that was more often than not disappointing.

It really is. We can get some popcorn, steal a pair of comfortable chairs, and watch it fade to black. :)

Fortunately, the average collector lacks the intelligence of an Amazonian tree, so I figure it'd be an easy giveaway. ;)

Kazekage said...

Well, as Michael Kupperman says, part of he reason the Golden and Silver Age stuff can feel so very primitive (and weird) is that the "grammar" of comics was still being worked out as they went along. That makes even the essential stuff somewhat of a difficult read at times, as it can feel at times more than a bit half-baked and, in Fletcher Hanks' case, batshit insane. And I'm nowhere near over it, either. I'd hate to think lazy BS like that could gain traction and somehow be a viable way of doing things.

The things is, I never read much of Bendis' Daredevil (I've never been inordinately fond of the character to follow him for very long, so I may not have seen the best face of decompression. No, my memory of those days, primarily is a lot of books that just seemed to spin their wheels blithely and without apology, since It'd All Read Bettter In The Trade.

Except Agent X. I rather liked that book. :)

My experience with Bendis is such that I mostly find his dialogue tics annoying and his sense of pacing rather lax. It's easy for me to see what he does well (street-level noir stuff) but that appears to be all be does well, and seeing him try to do Big Adventure Stuff sits as well as Liefeld drawing an issue of American Splendor.

Sounds like a lovely way to spend one's Saturday. :)

Well, so long as you can convince the rubes that they'll be worth money someday (that people still fall for this just kills me) there will always be more suckers at the comic store than the lollipop factory.

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

I don't know if that's the case, per se; it's more like Golden/Silver Age comics had a very specific target audience - ie: kids - so you could get away with the absence of basic narrative structure as long as it looked cool (who'd notice if Scott Summers was an anal retentive moron one month and a heartbroken woobie the next?). And then comics started drifting closer to literature in terms of public perception, and things like consistent characterization, causality and plot twists became the standard.

We're not the only ones: the guy who recapped the series over at TWOP is still seething, by the looks of his recent posts.

As a superhero, I'm not terribly interested in Daredevil either, but the Miller-Bendis-Brubaker runs pretty much changed the genre, and as the protagonist of an urban crime series, he's quite appealing, redheaded Catholic angst and all. :) As for decompression, I suspect that like most individualized tics Marvel encounters, they seized and disseminated it throughout the company, not unlike a computer worm on a binge.

I probably would've liked Simone's Agent X (and Deadpool before it) if I hadn't read Joe Kelly's run first... it may be an unfair comparison, but no one on that book made me laugh the way Kelly did. The only other person who really made Deadpool funny since then is Some Random Guy. :)

Sounds like your experience was with latter-day Bendis; he used to be a bit better at that sort of thing, because the dialogue would always go somewhere even if it took a while. Once his decline started, though, it'd just be pages and pages of empty words. Mind you, even on his best days he could never do a story that required more than one protagonist.

There's "Dark" on the cover, how hard could it be? :)

Kazekage said...

That kinda lasted to the 90's, if I'm honest, although it was more a art thing, there. Then again, dragging kids into a hobby at young impressionable age worked pretty well for me with anime. And 80's cartoons. And video games. So it's not like it's not a proven strategy or anything. ;)

I don't feel alone anymore. :)

Thing is, I feel a bit ambivalent about how Daredevil changed things in comics, as, like Watchmen, it's been applied so willy-nilly and so badly it colours my appreciation of what positives the original wrought. As to decompression, if all you have is a hammer, I guess everything does look like a nail after all . . .

Well, Agent X doesn't feature Deadpool in it until the end, so it's a bit easier to explain a difference in approach. As to whether Kelly was funnier, well, he was but what I liked about Kelly's Deadpool was, as Al Kennedy said, there was a underlying current of Wade worrying about being a hero or not being a hero. He balanced the comedy/drama coin much better, and that's kinda been lost for the most part (as much as like Cable/Deadpool, Wade's really just Cable's counterpoint and comic foil there) since then.

He's never done a good multiple-protagonist story, has he?

I'll be covering that soon when I tell you of my woeful, disappointing sojourn into the world of the Agents of Atlas ongoing series. :)

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

On the other hand, video games and cartoons are well-suited for the typical impatient 21st-century brat: I just can't see kids waiting a month (and that's being optimistic) for 22 pages of a six-part storyline.

According to Ronald Moore, you're never alone. Magical invisible angels who look like James Callis and Tricia Helfer are watching you shower, making snide comments all the while. :)

I try to separate cause and effect, as it were: it's pretty rare for a latter-day xerox to top the original, and the fact that the wrong lessons were learned doesn't make Daredevil or Watchmen any less enjoyable if you read them on their own merits.

That's another thing I loved about his run: Kelly went to great lengths to make Wade sympathetic without doing the typical redemption story. So he was abusing Blind Al and Weasel, and at the same time he was trying to be a better person for Siryn, etc.

Not once, no. Which is no big surprise, I suppose, given his origins and strengths: when there's only one protagonist, you don't mind the excessive dialogue tics, but when a cast of twenty start talking faux-Yiddish? Oy. :) The bigger problem, though, is that he's gone the way of John Byrne and let his ego dominate his writing. In a standard Bendis story plot events happen because... well, they just do. Because Bendis Says So.

Ah, "Agents of Atlas" - another book that's popular for reasons I don't quite grasp. Competent? Yes. Genuinely interesting? Not really.

Kazekage said...

I don't know--it seemed for a time that even impatient 21st century brats would follow stuff like Dragon Ball Z and Naruto, both of which move fairly deliberately. Maybe it's just the right thing connecting with the right moment.

That reminds me--I must see about that restraining order. :)

That's probably the fair way to do it. Sadly I'm all too eager to put the original on trial for other's later crimes. At east I'm definitively unfair--there's something to that, yes?

It was something that was lost fairly quickly once he left and the only lesson taken away from the Kelly run was "more comedy," though Nicieza tried to do some of that in Cable/Deadpool But by and large now he's Ambush Bug as envisioned by Liefeld and that's as far as it goes, it seems.

And that's why I find his work so intolerable and completely inescapable.Because he's writing half the marvel line it seems and the rest of the time the other half is trying to sound like him and it makes me want to weep bloody tears.

Yeah, as much as I loved the mini, the first 4 issues of the ongoing killed it dead for me, so I'm not really all that despondent about the book being axed.

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

I imagine it's to do with frequency rather than pace: even the most decompressed anime will air on a daily or weekly basis. That's still more than 22 pages a month.

God/Whatever won't like that. Although it might turn out that getting a restraining order was all part of his/its Plan anyway.

At least you're honest about it! :)

Mind you, it's not like Marvel's overflowing with genuinely humorous characters these days, so I suppose we should be grateful someone's still capable of cracking a joke.

I guess it depends on your approach: I've enjoyed a Bendis-free reading experience for years now simply by avoiding the Event du jour - I figure if it affects the books I'm already reading in any way, the actual writer will work it out himself. Of course, that rarely happens; to wit, "Secret Invasion" just blew right by me and I still have absolutely no clue what happened there. Not that I'm at all tempted to find out. :)

Kazekage said...

Oh I dunno. I've seen animes that move at such a decompressed pace they make Bendis' Daredevil stories read like Liefeld comics.

"God wouldn't like that . . ." Man, if I had a nickel for every time Goliath told me that . . .

Well, my journey to self-improvement often runs in odd and eccentric angles. :)

Anything to leaven the general humourlessness in the big two. :)

Sometimes morbid curiosity gets the better of me with these things, so I encounter them. Not unlike inadvertently trodding in dog muck. :)

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

Given the anime genre's... questionable grasp of human anatomy, that analogy works on more levels than you might think. ;)

I've learned to be cautious when they're consciously trying to be funny; as with so many other things, they only seem to get humor right by accident these days.

Eww. Laser-guided accuracy, but still: eww. :)

Kazekage said...

You have no idea. :) I have seen the Witchblade anime and dear God . . .it's closer to the spirit of the Top Cow book than you might care to imagine. This is not good news.

They can, although every now and again you get a bit lucky and something like Pet Avengers comes along which is genuinely funny and almost makes you forget the millions of unfunny things they did before. Of course, it helps if you don't read the unfunnies as much as possible . . . ;)

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

I believe "Yikes" is the appropriate reaction there. :)

You only need to look at that "Strange Tales" trilogy to see how utterly random their attempts at humor can be: some of those stories were quite funny, some missed the point entirely, and some landed in another bloody galaxy of unfunny...

Kazekage said...

One episode is all about two people walking by one another on a park bench. I swear to god--you'd never imagine boobs can be that big and things can be that boring.

I'm waiting for the trade on that, really--I've heard the quality is all over the place, but then that's just about every anthology known to man's history, yes?

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

As someone who's sat through several screenings of "Barb Wire", I probably could. :)

That's certainly true of every anthology I've ever read... you'll always find at least one story worth skipping. I remember a particularly gruesome example in a "Tales of the Slayer" anthology - most of the stories had been solid efforts, but the book started out with this absolutely horrid Mary Sue piece set in Sunnydale. Picture every cliche you could possibly find in a tweener's fanfic, and it was there. How that one slipped by the editor, I'll never know.

Kazekage said...

I wonder what's worse--Temura Morrison being in "Barb Wire," or getting a punk death in "Episode II?"

Well, anthologies, I think, work on the circus metaphor--if you hate the clowns, you might like the trapeze artists, or the the human cannonball, etc. So really, not everything will hang together by design. Too many cooks and all that, I suppose.

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

To be fair, both films have mitigating factors: he got to come back about a million times in Episode III, and... hmm. Well, he got to see Pamela Anderson naked, thus making him a member of the exclusive Men Who've Seen Pamela Anderson Naked club (membership: 20,000,000 as of 1998.) :)

Most likely. Come to think of it, even "Endless Nights" felt terribly uneven to me, and those were seven stories all told by the same writer...

Kazekage said...

20,000,001, I'm afraid *raises hand.* Not proud of it. :)

It's always a trade off with anthologies. The best thing to do is try to anchor them with something sufficiently compelling and hope the audience goodwill from the one will leaven the weaknesses of the others.