The issue with Issue One

Saturday was Free Comic Book Day. While I was making the rounds, I bought the first three issues of Loki: Agent of Asgard, and the new Amazing Spider-Man issue 1.

In medias… what now?

I’m a lifelong fan of Spider-Man. He was my first super hero; his was the first super hero movie I watched, and his were the first comics I read. But this first issue reminded me of why I had a hard time getting into American comics to begin with. It was the first issue– a bright shiny 001 on the front cover. But when I look into it, I find myself almost entirely lost, thrown in neck-deep into what looks like the middle of a very long and complicated story arc.

Er… sorry, I’ve been busy for the last few years and haven’t been able to keep up. What the heck is going on?

Fortunately, Peter is as confused about a lot of these developments as I am, and I can use his reactions to the situation to gauge how far this is from what he considers normal. The storytelling works in such a way that I can still follow along, but the entire time I feel like I’m missing something, and I won’t be able to feel like I’ve caught up until I’ve read the entirety of the plot arc that precedes this issue– or until I’ve been reading this series long enough that I’m acclimated to this new normal.

The story so far

On the other end of the spectrum is Loki. The first page is a Star Wars-esque page that succinctly explains the situation. A few pages later, he explains the powers he uses, so I clearly understand the rules of the situation. When other plot arcs are referenced, they’re labeled [See the Civil War saga!] which makes looking up what happened about a billion times easier.

(Full disclosure: The fact that the story opens on an attractive dude singing showtunes in the shower didn’t hurt my opinion of the book, either– in a medium that’s often brimming with cleavage, it’s nice to see fanservice aimed in my direction every once in a while.)

Getting to know you

A third approach is that taken by Ms. Marvel: we’re exposed to super-hero-saturated world Kamala Kahn lives in through background details while we’re shown a day in her life. The first few issues of her story have been focused on her origins, so the reader is introduced to the mechanics of her world and her powers at the same time that she does.

 Back to writing

Fictional worlds are often large and complicated, and there’s always going to be a learning curve when it comes to figuring out a fictional character’s life and world. The further removed that they are from the reader’s daily life, the steeper that curve gets. And yes, if that curve gets too steep, some of your readers might fall off entirely.

The approach used in Spider-Man didn’t work that well for me– not because it’s bad, but because it didn’t mesh as well with my style of readership as other styles did. Most readers will have a preference about what kind of opening they like, whether it’s fast-paced and immersive, slow and guided, or something in between. Different approaches will work better with different worlds, with different narrators, and with different conflicts.

If you’re not sure if you’re starting the story the right way, try experimenting. Play around with different narrative styles– throw us in headfirst and only tell us the essential stuff, or give it to us piece by piece. Show it to readers (though preferably not to readers who already know what’s going on) and find what gets the best response. Sometimes you’ll find that you have to cut out a lot of explanations and background details over the course of exploring, but that’s all right. Even if those details are never used in the story, they’ll add even more depth to the world than it had before.

The case for creativity

Next weekend I’ll be going to Chicago to see Team Starkid’s Twisted with my husband.

For those who didn’t know, Starkid Productions started off as a student group in the University of Michigan, who created the Very Potter Musical just to goof off– and now they’re touring nationwide, and the star of their first production is People Magazine‘s #3 Sexiest Man Alive, in part because his part as Harry Potter helped get him a role on Glee.

The same can be said for the crew of Channel Awesome, many of whom began as hobbyists critiquing movies and TV shows and

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Doug Walker (Photo credit: ohnogc)

uploading them on Youtube. The famed “Nostalgia Critic” Doug Walker has since been able to quit his job to become a full-time content producer for Channel Awesome.

Only one road

If you’re anything like me, you’ve grown up being told that creativity is a hobby– but don’t quit your day job.

You’ve been told that there’s only one way to become a singer/actor/model/artist/photographer/writer/film critic/Broadway star, and since every other creative person is rushing down that same road, it’s a one-in-a-million shot. With that comes an unspoken (and sometimes not unspoken) expectation that we’ll eventually burn out because of the pressure, becoming drug addicts or alcoholics.

If you’re a writer like me, you’re told that you need an agent. You’re told you need to impress the Big Four publishing houses– and wow them so much that they give you all the advertising you’ll need to be seen around the world.

That isn’t the case anymore.

A whole new world

Proponents of self-publishing have been beating this drum for a long time, and that drumbeat is growing louder with each passing day. More and more writers are able to make a living off their income– that elusive one-in-a-million shot is suddenly a lot more attainable. An industry that was once famous for its secrecy and murky numbers is becoming more transparent, thanks to the willingness of people like Phoenix Sullivan to publicize their findings, so that other writers can learn from them.

The same goes for actors, comedians, singers, songwriters, artists– everyone with a creative bone in their body.

Thanks to the internet you can now connect with your audience and market directly to them through Facebook, Twitter, DeviantArt, Youtube, GoodReads, BandCamp, and other sites that I haven’t even heard of.

That doesn’t mean success is suddenly instant or guaranteed. It still takes a degree of luck— rather than impressing that one agent/casting director/talent scout, we need to impress thousands of complete strangers. It still takes a lot of work– some would argue that it takes even more work than if you’d just been ‘discovered’ by chance, especially since we can’t trust in a single break-out hit to skyrocket us to fame and fortune.

But we’re no longer confined to what some executive deems is marketable, or what a think tank perceives to be the up-and-coming trend.

We’re in an age where we can make our own trends.

Choose your own adventure

You can still go the traditional route– I’m not here to demonize that road– but when you do, walk that road knowing that it’s the choice you made.

No matter which way you choose to go, or even if you decide to forge your own path, look around the internet. Read blogs, talk to people, and do your research. Learn from other people’s successes, and from their failures.

Work hard and practice until you’re the master of your craft.

Your success depends solely on what you’re willing to put into it.

Bioshock Infinite and Foreshadowing

BioShock Infinite takes place on the steampunk...
BioShock Infinite takes place on the steampunk air-city of Columbia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bioshock Infinite recently came out to a whole slew of accolades– and not just about the gameplay. The characters were remarkable, the story was layered and intricate, and the ending… well, I’m going to talk about the ending, and how it uses really great foreshadowing to present that ending to us.

I’ll avoid saying anything about the ending directly, but since this is about foreshadowing, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to put it together from the pieces. Spoilers abound.

If you haven’t played this game, I recommend you stop what you’re doing and play it. If you aren’t a gamer, play it anyway. Trust me, it’s that good. I’m only a casual gamer at best, and I beat it in three days.  Continue reading “Bioshock Infinite and Foreshadowing”