Sunday, August 21, 2005

Cmon, c'mon...just get on with it

Suddenly, Vandal Savage attacked Tom, killing the time traveler instantly and without mercy.

"I have waited in front of this edifice for months in my quest to identify the origin of the time disruption. If not for this fool talking to himself, he may very well have passed by with me being none the wiser!" He said, to no one in particular. "I, the immortal Vandal Savage, must not..nay...will not allow any threats to my immortal existence! So I seek out and destroy all who have mastered the secret of travel through time! Though I wait forever, what matters cooling his heels to the immortal Vandal Savage?"

Now that's a twist ending.

When I re-read this story from Strange Adventures #94 a few weeks ago I noticed the man on the sidewalk staring at Tom. This is the first time I can recall that a character not a part of the story took notice of exposition. His resemblance to a certain long-lived bad-guy was uncanny.

From the bearded fellow's expression I imagine it's how one would react to something similar occurring in real life.

"My day was filled with adventures in Human Resources and correctly filling out Form I-9's for new employees. I wonder...tonight, will there be meatloaf?"

Don't make any sudden moves and maybe he will keep on walking.

Comic book characters talk to an unseen audience constantly, as a device to keep a reader up-dated with what is happening. Back in the newsstand days when faithfully following a book was harder due to the sporadic availability, it was much more necessary. I recall missing titles regularly because some other kid got to them before I did. When coming in on the 3rd chapter after missing the 2nd part anyone would need an update. With the comic stores, trades and direct market I don't see how it is as much of a requirement. In reading a trade I don't want to see the character's origin, name and back-story readdressed every chapter. Just get on with the story, comics cost too much to waste precious space.

While the market hopes to reel in the casual reader, the decompressed pacing of books today do not require the unnecessary expositon. I'm getting of the opinion monthlies are considered loss-leaders and are strictly for the benefit of advertising a TPB and to keep the copyright alive for the licensing division.

Unnecessary exposition has become a common schtick for comedic relief over the last few years. It was dead-on parodied most recently in the animated feature The Incredibles, but has been routinely lampooned in the Marvel comic title She-Hulk for several years. I can recall a few other instances when that story device was poked at also. In Strikeforce Morituri, the enhanced soldiers comment on the ridiculousness of the propaganda comic made in their images. In an issue of Fantastic Four, the team is falling into an abyss and Reed Richards fills the panel with observations. The Thing's reply: "Sheesh, only guy I know who can talk while falling on yer noggin'."

Sometimes comic books still have a roll-call of the cast on the splash page, but it still doesn't stop the creative team from having the characters talking like idiots.

"Look at that, Specter, who is the Spirit of Vengeance, Timmy has fallen off a cliff and needs insulin!"

"Yes, Dr. Mid-Nite, but we both know that you as a doctor, though blind, are the best one qualified to help Timmy, the orphan who we adopted as the official super-hero clubhouse mascot. So says THE SPECTER!"

I mean, if you don't know who the character is, look at the splash page. There is a usually a floating head with a name under it.

Mostly this kind of device fading from fiction, but it depends on the skill of the creators and the requirements of keeping the audience informed. I get a little annoyed when I see it in films, television and other media. If the audience can't keep up, that's too bad as far as I am concerned. It isn't necessary to remind a viewer that Cylons are out to manipulate humanity after each commercial break.

1 comment:

  1. It isn't necessary for them to constantly remind you of whatever upcoming program they are selling either, but that doesn't stop them running the same ad for it during every commercial break, running a banner across the bottom of the screen about it, having a reminder in the logo at the top of the screen, and telling you all about it in a voiceover during the end credits at the same time as squishing up the credits to make room for another ad for it that's interrupting the voiceover.


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