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  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. 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.
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.
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.
 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.
 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 🙂
 By the way, consider this a recommendation for her Secret Six  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.
 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.