Updike it ain’t

On one of my blogs—one of the recent ones—I planned on tossing out story ideas. It was probably Summing Up, which I’m toying with archiving as an eBook just because there’s so much content there from late summer 2016 to whenever in early 2017 reality got too depressing for me.

So if anyone actually wants to take the following idea and run with it, you’re more than welcome. Unless you suck. So I guess… ask?

There was that Australian show (and American remake) “The Slap” about a guy slapping a kid and the repercussions in the community. At least I think it’s about a guy slapping a kid and the community’s reaction. Doesn’t matter. My idea is called “Dick Pic.” It’s about a guy who accidentally sends another guy a dick pic because he’s sending a picture of his new robot vacuum and in the reflection there’s peen.

You can guess how I got the idea for the inciting incident (no, it didn’t actually happen but damn the Eufy is reflective).

Don’t really have any ideas about what happens after, just it’d be a funny inciting incident. A very sadly modern one. If I were a painter, I’d do the whole scene like a Caravaggio or something. Call it “Don’t Forget Your Pants.” Sadly, I cannot paint. I also have no interest in writing sadly modern short pieces involving accident dick pics.

I don’t have much interest in writing any sadly modern pieces right now. I’ll occasionally have an idea, sometimes get it far enough I’m at least taking notes (I did not take notes on the above), but then I lose interest for one reason or another. Maybe because it’s clutter. It’s 2019. If something’s going to be something, it shouldn’t be clutter. There’s way too much good old stuff out there and the real world, built on the fantasizes of that old stuff—while a shit show, deserves to be taken seriously and not like a Hallmark movie.

I’ve never seen Hallmark movies, however, so maybe they’re exceptionally serious and address inequity and suffering but I doubt it.

A Cyndi Lauper reference seems inapt: Venable and Crenshaw’s Eighth Kiss

kissno8

Kiss Number 8 is a really long read. Just around 300 pages, without any natural or artificial breaks. I kept waiting for a good point to put it down, after this development or that development, but writer Colleen AF Venable doesn’t ever slow down. Not even when protagonist Amanda will have an incredibly stressful evening and fall asleep, it’s not like there’s a pause before the next day. Venable and artist Ellen T. Crenshaw work up a great momentum.

Amanda is narrating the story, which is about the circumstances of her eighth kiss (presumably kissing partner; it’s heavily implied she never had second kisses with her previous kissers). 8 is set in what seems like Ohio, but only if people in Ohio talk shit about people in Pennsylvania for being a nothing state? But it’s definitely set in 2004, which occasionally seems anachronistic. Amanda finds some really, really sincerely woke people in its not-at-all-big-city locations. Or maybe the guy was shit talking Pennsylvania and it takes place in Pennsylvania (because there’s a real Meadville, Pennsylvania). Does it matter? A bit. The time period setting feels a little pointless, like it almost makes the bigot characters more acceptable? But not exactly, because dealing with the repercussions of bigots’ actions are one of the places 8 goes but doesn’t want to investigate.

Venable’s got a very set path she’s taking the protagonist on. No stepping off to explore, no taking a break, just forward on the path.

See, Amanda’s got a very big half year or however long the present action takes. She finds out a family secret, which boils down to obscene amounts of mental cruelty and abuse (not on Amanda, but on another family member), and sets her on a path of self-discovery, which has some major consequences too, but only because the comic starts out being about Amanda and her friends living in this development—which never gets visually explored, which is weird until you think about how close Venable’s keeping the narrative distance. Crenshaw’s art is always good, but she never explores anything. It’s a little too accessible.

Of course, it’s targeting teen readers, which might be why the story stops when it does, just as things seem like they’re going to start getting really interesting for Amanda in terms of actual character development. The problem with her self-discovery arc is Venable keeps too much self-perception a mystery; it doesn’t seem right Amanda’s narration would skip over her most important decisions. It’s weird.

It’s one of those “it’s heart is in the right place” but its ambitions are truncated.

Maybe it’s just one of the genre specific pitfalls—YA graphic novels are, more than anything before, real “graphic novels.” Kiss Number 8 is all right, but given how front-loaded it ends up being… it seems even if YA graphic novels are their own medium, they’re still enough comics to desperately need the right editor.

Robocop LOL (List of Links)

This list contains links to all the Robocop posts I’ve written over the years, as well as a podcast.

Just to get it out of the way early… the only Robocop movie I’d recommended is the original and the only Robocop comic I’d recommend is Robocop: Last Stand. Everything else is pretty bad.

Movies

Original series, Orion Pictures, 1987-93

Remake, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 2014

Spoof, Channel 101, 2014

  • Our RoboCop Remake (2014); posted 26 October 2014
  • Comic books

    Marvel Comics, 1987-92

    Robocop, March 1990 – January 1992

    posted January – March 2010

    1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23

    Dark Horse Comics, 1992-94

    Robocop vs. the Terminator, September – December 1992

    posted February 2010

    1, 2, 3, 4

    Robocop: Prime Suspect, October 1992 – January 1993

    posted February 2010

    1, 2, 3, 4

    Robocop 3, July – November 1993

    posted January 2010

    1, 2, 3

    Robocop: Mortal Coils, September – December 1993

    posted February – March 2010

    1, 2, 3, 4

    Robocop: Roulette, December 1993 – March 1994

    posted March 2010

    1, 2, 3, 4

    Avatar Press, 2003-06

    Frank Miller’s Robocop, July 2003 – January 2006

    posted January 2010

    1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

    Robocop: Killing Machine, August 2004

    1

    Robocop: Wild Child, January 2005

    1

    Dynamite Entertainment, 2010-12

    Robocop, January – August 2006

    posted September 2010

    1

    Boom! Studios, 2013-18

    Robocop: Last Stand, August 2013 – February 2014

    posted August 2013 – February 2014

    1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

    posted March 2019

    1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

    Robocop, 2014 remake tie-in one-shots, February 2014

    posted February 2014

    Hominem Ex Machina , To Live and Die in Detroit, Memento Mori, Beta

    Robocop, July 2014 – June 2015

    posted July 2014 – February 2015

    1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

I can’t believe it’s come to this…

… but I’m on-board for Matt Ryan as Constantine. His whole love story thing on “Legends” finally sold me on the performance, which was occasionally amusing amid the “Legends” chaos but the love story thing… it’s where Ryan finally impressed as Constantine.

So hopefully he gets to be on the new “Swamp Thing” show, which could be godawful, given James Wan is exec-producing it and it’s probably based on the terrible New 52 versions of the character. But one can always hope….

I mean, if it used the Harry Manfredini theme from the 1982 movie I’d have to be on-board to some degree. I’ve been meaning to watch “Doom Patrol” but not with any major enthusiasm. “Titans” I have some morbid curiosity but no interest. “Swamp Thing” is going to be a real challenge since the most successful filmic version was a guy in a painfully obvious rubber suit. Presumably the TV show is going to be a CGI Swamp Thing, which will probably look like shit.

We’ll see. I’ve never seen Crystal Reed (who plays Abby) in anything and Abby’s the most important part of “Swamp Thing.”

Who knows, maybe it’ll work. I’d never have believed Thanos would work and Brolin was phenomenal.

Actor Matt Ryan, who has played paranormal anti-hero John Constantine since 2014, wants to be the one to play the character on DC Universe’s Swamp Thing.

Robocop: Last Stand #8 of 8

Rls8Robocop: Last Stand #8; Boom! Studios; March 2014; $3.99, 32 pgs; available collected.

Robocop: Last Stand #8 screams behind-the-scenes story. It’s got a new writer, on issue eight of an eight issue limited, but it’s also got no mention of Frank Miller. Besides the narrative—which loosely follows the previous seven issues but could also be seen entirely as a follow-up to Robocop 3—and Oztekin’s art, it’s a very different handling than what Steven Grant had done. Ed Brisson’s Robocop Detroit feels very much Judge Dredd-inspired with its gang of marauders. They’ve come to town, which—following the events in issues one to seven and also Robocop 3—has no functioning city government or government services.

Brisson does a rather good job addressing that situation without a lot of exposition, which wouldn’t be appropriate because it’s a shortcoming of issues one to seven and Robocop 3. Even if the enemy gang is a little bit too cartoonish. There’s just not enough time spent developing them. It seems like an editorial issue—Oztekin’s only got so much space and there’s a lot of action; character development—even caricature-y character development—takes a third seat. Back seat is already taken (by humor). There are some decent smiles thanks to Oztekin’s visual pacing.

By the end of the issue, it’s clear Brisson isn’t just end-capping Boom!’s pseudo-Frank Miller Robocop comic, he’s also end-capping the Robocop franchise. But subtly. He’s getting around to answering narrative questions you didn’t bother answering in eighties-born movie franchises. Robocop: Last Stand #8 sets up a fine sequel possibility for Boom!, a good starting point for an ongoing series.

Though none of the subsequent Robocop ongoings have used the Last Stand continuity (or the Last Stand #8 continuity).

As a franchise, film or comic, Robocop is a disaster zone. Brisson at least makes some attempt to put order to it here. As an epilogue to the previous seven issues, I guess it works fine? It does work fine, but it does some extra credit too and the extra credit is where it’s interesting. Brisson’s got some franchise enthusiasm not seen in the previous issues. There’s an actual surprise cameo.

Robocop: Last Stand is a singular success. It’s a good Robocop comic and a good Robocop sequel. Brisson at least seems to understand its possibilities (and responsibilities) and turns in the right finish. Even if it is too short.

Mad About You – les six premiers

We started watching “Mad About You” a few days ago. Season one, from the beginning, fall 1992. So the world before Jurassic Park after it decided Batman couldn’t be too dark. I watched the show pretty regular starting in season two or three, whenever the bathroom episode aired. So I haven’t seem much of the first season. I didn’t remember the annoying deadbeat WASP friend of Paul’s (played by Tommy Hinkley, who plays it like Richard Jordan slumming but without being Richard Jordan).

What’s most interesting so far—six episodes in—is how casually and seemingly unintentionally but still harshly misogynist it gets. Paul Reiser is a selfish, thoughtless dick. The show acknowledges he’s selfish and thoughtless, but rewards him for it (as Reiser created the show) while going so far as to position Helen Hunt as a dweeb for falling for him. And worse for not putting up with his whining shtick.

It’s very strange to see how even “good” sitcoms have some exceptionally lazy characterizations.

Other weird things? It takes forever to see Reiser’s studio, which also might be the first time he’s given a profession. He’s a documentary filmmaker who couldn’t possibly afford a studio and Helen Hunt’s a PR exec who’s probably paying his rent. Of course, the pilot didn’t even have the dog in it so clearly things were shuffling in these early days. It mentioned the dog, it just didn’t have the actual dog.

We don’t get to see Helen Hunt’s office or workspace. She’s mean to her underlings? Though Hunt’s able to sell the bad writing on it. She’s also way better at comedic timing than Reiser, sometimes having to wait for him to catch up with her, which is probably a metaphor for the show at this point.

It’s like a waiting game for Richard Kind to get better material—some of it’s been good—and for John Pankow to show up.

Though it’s nice to see Art Evans as Paul’s editor who name drops constantly. And Kerri Green is around for a second. Kerri Green from The Goonies, who seems very much like she’s doing a less annoying Jami Gertz in “Mad About You.”

But, six in, lots more cringing than I was expecting. Lots more. Husbands are thoughtless dicks, the show. Woop de doo.

Robocop: Last Stand #7 of 8

Robocop: Last Stand #7 of 8Robocop: Last Stand #7; Boom! Studios; February 2014; $3.99, 32 pgs; available collected.

This issue of Last Stand has me wishing I had been timing how long the comic took to read. It’s an all action issue. There’s Robocop versus Japanese cyborgs, good guys at OCP trying to survive slash beat the “suit” villain (which gives Last Stand’s sidekicks more to do than Robo sidekicks usually get to do). There’s a two page resolution, which features some of the civilian cast but they weren’t important enough to get any page time during the main action.

And how is the main action, since there’s nothing else to the book?

It’s good, sometimes really good. But it also reveals how clunky Robocop comes off in big action sequences. Oztekin doesn’t solve that problem (or even acknowledge it), but the rest of the issue? The all-action comic with a single fight scene determining the end of the story? Oztekin does a fine job. It’s a good fight, with Grant getting in some occasional, effective banter.

Then the issue ends—in those two pages—with such ambiguity it’s hard to imagine what they’ve got in store for the grand finale. Because it doesn’t seem like anyone’s got any idea what they’re going for with tone for the ending. The issue’s been twenty-ish pages of constant conflict; Grant and Oztekin don’t have room to shift gears fast enough. Considering Oztekin doesn’t have room for giant explosions by the end of the issue, the resolution to a Robo subplot—or, more, the nod to a resolution for a Robo subplot—doesn’t figure into the issue’s plotting, which is too bad. Especially since Last Stand #7 is Grant’s last one on the eight issue series, which also makes you wonder where exactly this script came from… did Grant write it back in the Frank Miller’s Robocop (Robocop 2) adaptation? Did Boom! get it with the license?

Regardless, Grant and Oztekin (and their editors) did the incredible—they turned an exceedingly troubled pseudo-cyberpunk action sequel into a successful comic book. Oztekin’s the star, obviously, but whatever Grant contributed—seemingly—was exactly what the book needed.