Friday, 4 April 2014

The Star Spangled Man with a Plan

Captain America: The Winter Soldier premieres today but I went to the midnight opening at 8:30 last night.  I know.  I was confused as well.  I thought midnight was 12:00 am but I've been wrong about time before, so I just showed up when Cody told me to.
There are a number of reasons why this movie might be my new favourite of the Marvel releases.

First, Captain America is already my favourite of the superheroes.  He isn't angst-y like Wolverine.  He doesn't always have to have the last word.  I can't tell you how pleased I was in the film last night when he did not deliver the obvious smart ass retort to the bad guy he had just had to lay low.  How refreshing.  How un-Tony Stark or 007.  Steve Rogers doesn't speak Elizabethan like Thor.  He's your average guy with above average abilities who believes in doing what's right no matter the personal cost.  Don't get me wrong, I like those other characters, too.  But after a couple of hours they sort become like those friends you have on Facebook who are always emoting all over your feed.  You like them, but they keep trying to convince you that you don't.  Cap is refreshing in a world of egos and dry one-liners.

 Second, Chris Evans.  (Ladies, am I right? amirite? I probably should have mentioned this one first.)

Thirdly, while I still really enjoy the first film Captain America: The First Avenger and more recently, The Avengers, there are just a couple of plot issues that I can't quite ignore upon reviewing.  For example, in Captain America, after Cap goes in to rescue the remaining soldiers of his friend's unit--Tommy Lee Jones and Hayley Atwell stand around camp and say that the aerial reconnaissance has picked up nothing and Steve Rogers is probably dead.  Within about 30 seconds, Steve and a hundred guys march into camp with Hydra tanks.  Maybe they should have had Captain America analyzing the recon--perhaps the war might have ended sooner.  Also, why wasn't there anyone standing guard at the camp? This is in the middle of the war, after all.  Didn't they notice the enemy tanks approaching?   Never mind that. "Let's hear it for Captain America!" Cue the swelling music.  Also, why did he have to force the plane down into the arctic?  Was the bomb about to go off? Why couldn't he land it?  I never quite understood that.  Granted, I didn't really notice it on the first time round, so if you aren't in the habit of watching movies over and over again, you'll probably be fine with it.

My issue with The Avengers film is more with seeing a bit too much of the workings.  The curtain is flaring about and the wizard Joss Whedon can be seeing pulling the levers and pushing the buttons.  His style and sense of humour is very recognizable to those of us familiar with his work.  I still like the film, but I think getting a little more input on the script might have been a good idea because I know that in terms of our Holger Danske comic, it is immensely beneficial to have Cody's input in the story development.  It keeps me from dusting off all of my old chestnuts and putting them in.  I am also generally not a fan of having the same individual who wrote the script direct the movie.  It makes it harder to look at the script objectively about what works and what doesn't.  I think it was a weakness with the Lord of the Rings movies, too. That being said, I still really enjoy The Avengers (and Captain America and The Lord of the Rings).

Captain America: The Winter Soldier doesn't seem to have these same issues.  It is about freedom without being preachy.  It doesn't try and tie in with current politics and potentially alienate viewers. The film also succeeds in winning me over to Scarlett Johansson's version of the Black Widow; something that none of the previous films featuring have accomplished.  She actually seems to have a character who contributes this time around; instead of just looking solemn in leather and repeating the refrain of 'red in her ledger'.  I liked her.  I also enjoyed the introduction of the Falcon and the expansion of Nick Fury's role.   Sure, there may come a time after The Winter Soldier comes out on DVD and I've watched it several times when I feel lonely, that I might begin to notice the enemy tanks approaching the camp, or the wizard manning the smoke and mirrors.  But for now, it is a fun ride.  It is everything you hope for in a superhero movie.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

When 'Good Enough' isn't Good Enough

Struck suddenly the other night with a burst of inspiration (and stomach flu--but never mind about that) I began reworking the opening of Holger Danske: The Graphic Novel.  It seems appropriate that a graphic novel would have a fairly different tone than a series--and, frankly, I think it is one that I am more comfortable with.  A series needs to have built in stopping points. Each issue needs to advance a wider story arc while telling a smaller story within.  I think our story works as a series, but I think it will be better without losing the momentum on the wider story.  Plot driven stories are all about momentum and serialized stories are often lacking in it.  It is the nature of the medium.  A series must follow rabbit trails and tangents while the larger story unfolds in the background in order to carry a smaller story in the immediate.  But there is always a somewhat frustrating sense that the larger story might never be resolved--or, that like that old fable, perhaps the Emperor has no clothes and the plenitudinous build up of a larger conflict is all smoke and no fire.  Television shows often suffer from this fate.  Lots of talk.  Lots of build up.  Lots of talking to the Smoking Man in the shadows--but no satisfying narrative resolution.

And so, despite the inevitable delay, I am pleased to make the changes because I think it will result in a tighter story.  The new opening has a decidedly different approach, in which an intangible whiff of mysticism begins to permeate the reality of Man the Rational Monster.  It feels like digging deeper into the psyche of the story which can only be a good thing for this project--despite the scary places it might take me.  I certainly didn't set out to write horror, but when you find it in the human heart, it is simply no good to pretend it isn't there.   Telling a story is a bit like an archeological dig.  You go deeper and uncover some half buried structure, some truth about human nature.  You brush it out carefully and begin to see how it informs everything and that you wrote it already without even really comprehending it on a conscious level.  It reveals that truth wears a mystical garment--written in your mind and written on the page without intention.

This is the sort of thing that gets me excited about telling stories.  Before I had ever written one, I used to wonder how an author managed to weave so many interesting themes into the narrative.  How did they manage to control each thread to direct it into its place in the tapestry?  How did they keep it from becoming a unintelligible snarl? The answer turns out to be a lot of hard work.  But it is the hard work of delicately brushing out the hidden details that only emerge after many drafts and countless rounds of editing.   That being the case, I suppose I am glad that Holger Danske hasn't been published in some earlier iteration. Sure, the story may have worked--it might even have been pretty good.  But according to someone smart, good is the enemy of great.  So, it's great that our story never went anywhere while it was good.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

*The Word You're Looking For is "Irrespective"*

I'm finally doing it.  I'm working on Holger Danske again after a long hiatus.  (I am not querying either, praise the Lord.  I can only take so much of that and I'm all full up right now.)

I am revamping all the scripts so that instead of a six issue miniseries, we will have one graphic novel instead (current page count 219!)  It won't be that bloated when I am finished with it.

I don't know whether changing the format will solve our pitching problems or not. I have come to the conclusion that it doesn't really matter.  Tailoring your project to fit the current sensibilities of the publishing industry is like target practice with a gun that doesn't shoot straight.   It won't matter how much you line up, the bullet goes off sideways--the target ever illusive.

So that brings us back around to where we started all those years ago with Holger Danske. Creating a story that we like. We do what we want, *irregardless* of what the professionals like or don't like.  The only people we owe a good story to is ourselves.