Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

June 2, 2011

Dawn of the Bacon Age

Filed under: geekery,the interweb she provides — lexifab @ 11:53 pm

I hereby resume my regular post-parental blogging with a shotgun-blast of unrelated topics cherry-picked from random corners of the new media. I’ll start with yesterday’s brush with internet superstardom.

The Bacon Age of Comics is here!

So I kind of said something that seems to have gained a little traction, thanks to my saying it to someone famous (well, someone more famous than merely internet-famous, at any rate). One of the comic writers I follow is Gail Simone, the tremendously talented and funny writer of Birds of Prey and the current incarnation of the Secret Six (amongst many others, including an apparent metric shit-tonne of Deadpool, about whom I know next to nothing…).

During the week it was announced that, as a result of reality-bending time-travel shenanigans (or something like that), the entire DC comics universe is going to be completely rebooted in September. There will be entirely new versions of all their iconic characters (this is the Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green lantern school of comics, not the Iron Man, Spider-Man, Captain America et al universe. You follow?) in slightly modified costumes, with 52 new titles launching in the space of a month. This was pretty big news [1] so of course everyone and his dog leapt immediately to Twitter to voice their outrage or whatever.

Into the swirling maelstrom stepped Gail Simone, who pointed out that there have been several “ages” of comics before now – the Silver Age (roughly from the mid-fifties to the early seventies), preceded by a Golden Age and followed by a Bronze Age and probably several other ages – all distinctive and recognisable  periods in the development of the mainstream comics industry and the superhero genre. Gail made the sensible observation that this was a little bit like that, and instead of doing work like I was supposed to be doing, I flippantly made the suggestion that this should be dubbed The Bacon Age of Comics. Being a discerning genius who knows a really stupid idea when she sees it, Simone ran with it and for some reason it seems to have taken off.[2] Simone herself described it thus: “Guys, it’s the Bacon Age of Comics. It’s terrible for you but it’s a thousand times more delicious. It will kill you, yes, but happily.” Heh.

That’s my ten seconds of fame, right there. I must say it was far more successful than my now-abandoned goal to inculcate the word ‘lexifabricography’ in the common vernacular. For reasons which are, I concede, obvious. What’s really strange is that, despite being kind of cool on reading monthly comics for the better part of the last decade, I must admit I am kind of interested to see what’s included in the (ridiculous) 50+ titles launching in September. I’ll almost certainly read whatever Gail Simon is writing, for one thing.[3]

Internet patronage

There’s a new trend emerging (or at least a new version of an old trend which has only recently caught my attention) for new creative projects to get upfront funding through pledges at sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. A project is proposed, and backing for some quantity of funding is sought – if a funding target is reached before a deadline, the pledged funds are leased and the project goes ahead. It can be used to fund everything from kid’s playgrounds to malaria treatment programs in the third world to independent films – but it’s caught my attention recently through some spectacular successes in roleplaying games – the kickstarter for Daniel Solis’ game Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple achieved its goal six times over – and fiction – podcaster-author Mur Lafferty’s quest to get the bucks together to publish her Afterlife series of novellas pulled in nearly ten times her original target.

The model of gauging interest through sorta-quasi-preorder-donations is a compelling one: if you’ve done your maths right, such that your target will actually fully fund your project in at least its basic form, then this patronage approach gives you a clear picture of whether there is an audience for your artistic work, before you commit to (expensive) production. It’s not quite that simple, of course – it’s quite apparent to me that these and other such success stories owe their big numbers at least in part to the effort that the creators have put into self-marketing. I don’t mean that in a negative sense, but rather to suggest that establishing a good reputation is an important first step in building the sort of support base that will lend this sort of business model its initial momentum.

On my radar earlier this week was Graham Walmsley’s Stealing Cthulhu, a preorder for a book of advice on designing roleplaying stories in the Lovecraftian style. The preorder has closed (another one that surpassed expectations by a considerable margin) or I would recommend it unreservedly (inclusion of margin notes from other authors is a stroke of genius). The other one I am looking at right now is Technoir, a cyberpunk game that seems like it might actually produce something resembling a William Gibson novel.

Western wire-fu

Another thing I’ve been following for a while now is Gareth-Michael Skarka’s incremental development of his Wild West/Wuxia/steampunk mashup setting, Far West. At one point it was going to be an RPG setting, then a series of novels, and now it’s evolving into a transmedia property, which is a creative approach that seems to mean different things depending on who is talking, but Skarka at least appears to have a clear picture in his head of what he wants to do with it, judging by his first design blog entry. It looks like an interesting setting to me, but regardless of that I commend it to your attention because they intend to release the Far West roleplaying game for free. At one point a while ago I was keen to pay for it, so obviously this is an approach that works for me. I’ll be interested to see how well it succeeds as a promotional tool though – and, for that matter, what exactly it will be promoting.

 

[1] The actual big news about this announcement is that all of the new titles will be released simultaneously in dead tree and e-readable formats , which represents a stunning shift in the prevailing attitudes of the big publishing houses and a genuinely transformational moment for the industry – but never mind the real-world implications when we can have a good old-fashioned meltdown about whether Superman looks a bit dorky with that collar on his costume.

[2] Following all those links will give you a pretty good cross section of mostly-sane responses to the announcement, but for my money the best one is the one by the Good vs Evil podcast writers, which cleaves pretty closely to my mildly-informed opinions on the matter. Hence they get two incoming links instead of the usual one 🙂

[3] By the way, consider this a recommendation for her Secret Six [4] title. I’m catching up on the series in trade paperbacks now. It seems to draw from the same well as John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad from the early nineties, down to the presence of one of my favourite villains, the depressive assassin Floyd ‘Deadshot’ Lawton. Secret Six achieves the remarkable – nay, astounding feat of making DC Comics D-list villain Catman into a well-rounded character.

[4] The downside of the reboot of the DCU is that titles featuring marginal characters like Catman and Deadshot and for-gods-sake Ragdoll are – no matter how well-written or fondly-regarded they may be – wholly unlikely to be early inclusions to the Bacon Age titles. On the upside (for me) it should be relatively easy for me to assemble a complete collection in trade paperbacks very soon. At least, I hope it will.

11 Comments »

  1. First, congratulations on your ten seconds of fame – it was well deserved. It certainly is a lot catchier than the Pewter Age or whatever other title that might have been coined by reader that took himself more seriously. Its the BACON Age. That just sounds salivatingly good, and it puts the best possible spin on a major change – and we all know how much a very vocal minority HATES change to their comic books.

    Second, an apology. I incorrectly credited Gail Simone with coming up with “the Bacon Age” as I had only seen her comment on it. I’ll add a correction in the comments on http://www.gve-podcast.com so everyone knows your genius.

    And last, thanks for the links and the comments about Good vs. Evil. Much appreciated, thank you.

    – Ben “the Evil Parfait Hating Guy” West

    Comment by EvilGuy — June 3, 2011 @ 12:28 am

  2. Hi Ben – thank you, but no apology necessary – Twitter doesn’t exactly enhance clarity around these things. it was very much a throwaway comment, so Gail really does deserve the credit for making something of it. I am more than happy to cede her the lion’s share of the blame 🙂

    It really is much better than Pewter Age, though, no doubt about it.

    (Looking forward to giving GVE a listen now that I know about it. My podcast feed has a sad poverty of comics material at the moment, and it sounds like a great time to be watching events unfold from the sidelines).

    Dave

    Comment by lexifab — June 3, 2011 @ 3:37 pm

  3. Congratulations Lexifab! I am here to bask in your ten seconds of reflected glory. Though as a vegetarian-of-sorts I cannot support bacon in any form… and as a one-time blinkered “Marvel! Marvel! Marvel! Oi! Oi! Oi!” fanboy, I can’t be seen to be paying *any* attention to what DC does… still, I salute your brief interwebzy moment of superstardom!

    Comment by The Once and Future Dr Clam — June 3, 2011 @ 4:58 pm

  4. I stopped reading Legion of Superheroes after they rebooted the universe four times in ten years. It was just so annoying.

    Comment by Andrea — June 3, 2011 @ 6:45 pm

  5. Clam – You know, I’ve never really partaken of the DC-Marvel dichotomy. I mean, my favourite superhero is, was and always shall be Spidey, but DC have Batman, who is deeply, fundamentally awesome. I mean, Bats is a more meaningful mythological figure to me than lame jerks like Perseus and, I dunno, that dumbarse Icarus. There are certainly lamewads on either side of the divide (I can’t pretend that I think Aquaman is cool, and I’ve never been all that fond of the Fantastic Four) but mostly all I care about is whether a cool story is being told. I mean, I collected Hulk for about five years because Peter David made him into an interesting character.

    As for the Ascent of Bacon, Her Simoneness has authorised the substitution of a tofu-based substitute, or basically anything else, as long as it’s delicious and not really that good for you 🙂

    Andrea – When I did collect a lot of different comics monthly, I tried so hard to love the Legion – but it just seemed to keep getting mired in its own continuity and I eventually failed to give a red hot damn.

    Unwanted rambling lecture time: I think continuity reboots are kind of DC’s achilles heel, actually. When they did the original Crisis on Infinite Earths back in the late 80’s, they set themselves on a path they’ve never managed to break. The idea was supposed to be that they would reset the ridiculously over-complex cosmoslogy that had developed in the DC unverse over the decades, and create a fresh start (this may start sounding familiar any time now). The trouble was that they wimped out and only did a partial reset. Fast forward a couple of years and all the old detritus was firmly back in place. I don’t know if this is the formal name, but I think calling it the ‘Streaky the Super-Cat’ syndrome captures it perfectly. There is no fucking reason whatsoever for a character that stupid to exist, unless you feel beholden to the continuity that you have supposedly excised. So when she showed up again, it just made a joke of the whole thing.

    Ever since then, it seems like they’ve just kept doing partial reboots with their big summer cross-universe events, changing up timelines to reverse this or that Big Thing (for example, Barry Allen’s great heroic sacrifice at the end of the Crisis was eventually discarded in favour of the cynical decision to bring back a character that guaranteed sales from old fans). Arguably this decision to wipe the slate clean completely will be a bit gutsier – although I’ll wait to see how it actually turns out.

    Comment by lexifab — June 3, 2011 @ 10:33 pm

  6. I totally forgot to add that Marvel are just as bad. While they don’t tinker (as much) with reality-bending continuity-based apocalyptica, they still cleave relentlessly to the model of huge summer cross-over events that impact on every monthly title no matter how little sense it makes. Like a couple of years ago when it turned out that just about every third character in the Marvel Universe was actually a skrull (green, shape-shifting aliens with an inexplicable penchant for taking over the planet where Reed Richards lives). I’ve no idea what came of that, but it has an editorial air of “shoehorn this irrelevant bullshit into your gritty street crime drama or go work for Dark Horse” about it.

    I can only assume this Big Event things they do generate sales. But I can’t help thinking that maybe they might generate more sales by telling good stories about interesting characters. And having Wolvie cuss out some guy while he’s stabbing him.

    Comment by lexifab — June 3, 2011 @ 10:45 pm

  7. Your description of recent events in the Marvel universe is a bit disturbing, in that it could have been written in 1987 or so when I stopped paying much attention… what is wrong with our civilisation? My impression of the *general* arc of artistic output of our culture in my lifetime is that it has become more backward-looking and self-referential and less, well, good. (This impression is especially strong this morning ’cause of watching a Joan Baez concert from 1965 last night.)

    The Fantastic Four were always my favourites. ‘Four’ in the title makes keeping track of the group members easy; ‘hero scientist saves the world’ is a narrative dear to my heart; and what kid doesn’t want to grow up to be Galactus? Or, leaving aside the horribly-disfigured bit, Dr. Doom?

    Anyways, Onward into the Glorious Tofu-Deep-Fried-in-Peanut-Oil Age!

    Comment by The Former Dr Clam — June 4, 2011 @ 10:16 am

  8. I’ve only been dipping my toe in every so often for the last ten years – mainly because every time I do, there seems to be some spectacular and incoherent universe-wide event underway. The last one I paid any attention at all to was the Civil War a couple of years ago, which divided everyone in the setting into being on Captain America’s side or Iron man’s side (I forget exactly what the bone of contention was all about – superheroes being registered and publically named, I think). Spider-man did a press conference where he admitted he was Peter Parker, which was interesting for a couple of months, until Spidey needed to do a reality-altering deal with a demon to save his Aunt May, so that everyone forgot he was Parker and he never married Mary Jane.

    It was…kind of a cop-out, really.

    Hero scientist is a good life’s ambition, I agree. I always aspired to be ‘funny guy who can swing from building to building’. Still a work in progress, I fear.

    (Also, I gather that there aren’t Four of them any more. One of them died. Dunno how, though I imagine Wikipedia can supply the relevant details).

    Comment by lexifab — June 6, 2011 @ 12:14 am

  9. I gather that there aren’t Four of them any more. One of them died.

    I expect a universe re-boot will take care of that sooner or later… 😉

    Hey, have your read ‘Roadside Picnic’ yet? Or ‘The Lives of Christopher Chant’? Huh? Huh?

    Comment by The Once and Future Dr Clam — June 6, 2011 @ 11:25 am

  10. Yes to Picnic, no to Chant. One of the reasons I am thinking seriously about getting a Kindle is so that I can start putting together a library of hard to find but “essential” stories that I always (or should have always) wanted to read but never got around to. There’s an awful lot of classic science fiction and fantasy that would fit that description.

    ‘Roadside Picnic’ was magnificent. I cannot recall another story where the background events achieved such exquisite (and unresolved) tension. Even thinking about what was being hinted at in that story is tying my stomach in knots right now. Thank you so much for letting me know it existed.

    Comment by lexifab — June 7, 2011 @ 12:17 am

  11. Yay! 🙂 Soon as I get home I am reading it again. My first test of a new university library is to go to ‘S’ in the the Russian language section- a good one will have something under ‘Strugatsky’.

    The first 2/3 of any book by Diana Wynne Jones will do, really (since I don’t think she ever finished a book properly). She is an essential part of the Fantasy canon and ‘Homeward Bounders’ was/is Spouse-of-Clam’s favourite book of all.

    Comment by The Once and Future Dr Clam — June 7, 2011 @ 10:53 am

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