Ruby Nation

Ruby Nation
Ruby Nation: The Webcomic

Monday, May 28, 2012

Ruby Nation: Chapter 2 Talkback!

We're at the Chapter 2 point, Ruby Nation has hit the big revelation I've been leading towards since August of 2011. This is the point where I want to open a talkback friend for everyone who's been reading sso far. If you've been following my comic, please take a second to answer these questions. And be honest, because thoughtful feedback is necessary for improvement.

1.) How do you feel about Ruby Nation thus far?

2.) How do you feel about the ending of Chapter 2?

3.) How do you feel about the existence of the Ruby Nation Wiki/About Page?

4.) Do you have a favorite character so far? Why?

5.) Do you have a least favorite character? Why?

6.) What would you like to see in the coming strips?

Thank you in advance. You can email me any further comments and questions, as well.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Grant Morrison, Supergods, and Super-Obama; WTF

A friend of mine (Omar Karindu, as he goes by on Comics Should Be Good and Alvaro's Comicboards) suggested that Action Comics #9, the filler issue with President Calvin Ellis (a.k.a. President Superman, a.k.a the Super-Obama from that Alex Ross shirt brought into canon), was filled with subtext about how companies screw comic creators. Upon re-reading the comic, it's pretty obvious, and quite troubling.

In the comic, Super-Obama faces a corrupted Superman tupla (Tibetan for Solid Thought, a living idea). This was created by the Clark Kent, Jimmy Olsen, and Lois Lane of another world, who created the living idea to embody all that is great in humanity. But they needed a lot of money to bring the Super-Idea into existence, so they went to an amoral corporation who took their Super-Idea and warped it into their Super-Brand. Hence, that trio's world became an Orwellian police state ruled by a faceless, violent Super-Brand, which was colonizing other universes and killing their super-men. To quote their Clark's dying last words;

" He becomes anything you want him to be....our world wanted THAT..."

This is an interesting interpretation of the creator's rights debate that has particularly been on the forefront of the industry discussion in recent months. It also comes across as hypocritical coming from Grant Morrison. Not only has Morrison built his career largely on the characters of others (Superman in particular, but also Batman, the Justice League, and to a lesser extent the X-Men), but his interpretation of Superman transcends any writers or artists-- even Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who he characterizes more as agents of the collective unconscious rather than actual creators of the character.

In Supergods, Morrison's history text/critical essay collection/autobiography/metaphysical ramble (which I've held off on reviewing due to its extremely frustrating and rambling nature), the Scottish writer basically dismisses the problems of Siegel and Shuster. He says that he started "believing" that DC swindled these two young men out of what was rightfully theirs, but later realized that it was business as usual, and both Siegel and Shuster legitimately sold Superman to DC while expecting to keep creating other heroes. Since Morrison is one of DC's highest-profile creators, it makes sense that he wouldn't speak badly about the company that made him a star. But Supergods talks about how Superman is an idea of greatness beyond the men and woman who created him, so Siegel and Shuster end up just a footnote to their own creation. Never mind the fact that both men fought hard battles for the character that DC made billions off of, or that they struggled to make end's meet while their creation made the rich even richer. They're just sacrifices to the cause.

Matt Seneca provides a good argument against Morrison's dismissal, albeit with harsher language against the man than I would use. I love Morrison's work, though I can't and won't speak to his quality as an actual human being. But his creed, the idea that fictional characters are ultimately more important than real people, isn't just New Age bollocks. It's also the kind of idea that creates the same problem Super-Obama must face, where a faceless brand is placed above the welfare of flesh-and-blood humans. And that comic doesn't even give it a good resolution, because it's Super-Obama who defeats the Super-Brand, not the Clark, Jimmy, and Lois who rightfully own it. Lois calls Super-Obama "Superman done right", but she's just crediting him as a good example of The Brand, not praising his virtues as an individual.

Is Morrison making a hypocritical argument with Action Comics #9, arguing against the ideas that he celebrates as one of DC's golden boys? Is he making a subversives attack against the company through his comics, the kind of statement he can't make directly? Does it even matter? Not really, because Super-Obama was the star of a filler issue. Next issue, we'll go back to the young, "hip", white, marketable "Ultimate Superman" we've seen in the New 52 reboot. And it won't matter that Super-Obama was an example of how to use the brand for good, to empower the downtrodden and reclaim power from the oppressors, because the brand is more important than the sum of its parts. In the end, Superman exists to sell Superman. The great stories told with the character are the result of the individual writers and artists putting in the creative effort to animate him, but in the end, there is no inherent value to Superman. Morrison tries to present Superman as a religion, but like any religion, it can be used as a tool of oppression.

And it's in really bad taste to call attention to the problem at the same time you're profiting from its perpetuation.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I Can Has New Comix: Poet Kitties!

An attempt to subvert the pidgin English of LOLCats and give cats the kind of language they feel they deserve, Poet Kitties will update with new strips at least twice a week, on Mondays and Tuesdays. You
can see the site HERE.

 And for fans of Ruby Nation; well, all three of you should be happy to know that this side project won't impede that story's progress.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Avengers Movie Review: A Thoughtful Fangasm (SPOILERS)

When I saw the Avengers movie yesterday, I thought there were two film's competing for the (hypothetical) audience's attention, and while I enjoyed one, I could've done without the other. The first film is a thoughtful character piece which takes a look at the costs of military expansion and the theory of deterrence's validity. It's immediately established that Fury would never have unleashed Loki and his Chitau'ri allies on Earth were he not fiddling with the Tesseract as a means to make weapons. He claims that he was looking at a source of clean energy, but as is so often the case with the military industrial complex, the beneficial uses of the new technology just end up as the agreeable wrapping paper trying to hide the jingoistic core. He assembles the Avengers to clean up the mess he effectively caused, and when they find out what he's really been up to, he justifies it by blaming them for bringing superhuman menaces to Earth and claiming a need for self-defense. Self-defense is perfectly valid, but it's hard to believe that Fury and SHIELD would just stop at deterrence. This is an organization wire-tapping every electronic device around the globe, confiscating/stockpiling the weapons of the worst criminals in history, and sending their highly skilled agents to capture or kill people at will. If anything, it confirms Loki's idea that people want to be ruled-- that they would rather feel safe with Big Brother watching over them, than know any true freedom. Which works up to the point when it doesn't, when you end up with neither due to an invasion. The best review I've found of the Avengers is Something Awful's, which eloquently (if critically) expresses this problem. However, I disagree with the author's belief that the Avengers is a justification of the US brand of imperialism. If anything, it's advocating the ability of individuals over byzantine political systems. The Avengers are all unique, skilled, yet damaged individuals. They may have been collected by Fury, but when they form a team, they do so on their own terms. And after they defeat the enemies, they go their separate ways, but will still come together if needed for another crisis. The Avengers don't represent America or any other nation; they represent people who can and will save lives. The only will they follow is the will of Coulson, after he proved too good for our sinful planet. The other film, on the other hand, is exactly what I feared the Avengers would be; a sensationalistic fangasm, a film that exists with no purpose beyond putting a bunch of big stars in the same room. For the most part, the Avengers avoids this due to mixing thoughtful and sympathetic character scenes with the big set pieces. However, we all know which one gets asses in seats. So unfortunately, the latter half of the movie is one long, repetitive fight. Which would be fine if it were shorter, but when you keep the action at that high level for so long, it stops being so intense. The Chitau'ri have no personality beyond being Mooks for the Avengers to slaughter (I assume they don't have families, right?), and their design doesn't even go beyond most CG aliens. When the Chitau'ri ship appeared, the big metal snake reminded me of Shockwave's craft in Transformers 3. Any time I'm comparing something to a Michael Bay movie, that's not a good sign, though at least this movie has substance beyond the prolonged final battle and at least keeps its goddamned camera steady. My fear was that this would be the end of the super hero movie's unique qualities; once they get to the crossovers, they become the same recycled garbage that so often characterizes the comics. The superhero is no longer special, but a face in a crowd of hundreds of others, with the act of putting on a costume being just another profession in that universe (albeit one that looks ridiculous to most in our universe). The Avengers doesn't go that far, as it thankfully keeps to a smaller cast and features a well-written story on top of all the requisite explosions. Still, can the next Avengers movies keep that self-contained? Or will we inevitably see "Avengers V: Secret Infinity Siege " and " Avengers VI: Coulson Reborn"? My general perspective with Marvel media (or any big franchise divorced from its original creators, for that matter) is to assume it's going to be bad and be surprised when it isn't. But with the Avengers, at least, I was surprised. Highly Recommended.