continuity

You Made a Mistake

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Obviously, before putting out a book, a writer will do everything within his or her power to make sure the product is as flawless as possible. That’s why its always a little embarrassing to be told that someone found an error in your book.

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However embarrassing it is, I find myself grateful to those who bother to let me know. Honestly, constructive criticism and being told how you can make your book better is far more useful than praise . As a writer, I want to put out the best book I can. But as a human, I’m prone to mistakes, and when it comes to my own writing, I can often be blind to it. So when something is pointed out to me that should be fixed, be it a typo, a factual error regarding the city layout, or a suggestion regarding possible stylistic improvements, I try to fix it as soon as I’m able. And what is amazing about digital and print on demand is that these errors can be fixed almost instantaneously.

Every writer wants to improve, but we can’t learn from our mistakes if we aren’t aware of them. Slight embarrassment is a small price to pay to put out a better book.

My Favorite Comics (Part 2): Batman Edition

Continuing from my previous post, I will be looking at my favorite Batman comics, in preparation for Batman 5 Superman.

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Batman: Year One
A classic origin tale. Yes, it’s a story you already know (unless you’re my wife, who thought Batman was raised by bats), but it’s still a Batman must-read. There was an animated movie of the same name made, which was a shot-for-shot recreation of the comic.

Batman: The Long Halloween and Dark Victory
Two great mystery stories that are best read together, and pick up on threads from Batman: Year One, as well as including the origin of Two-Face and Robin.

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Batman: Under the Red Hood
A great story about the return of an old Batman character  though it’s much better to read this after reading Batman: A Death in the Family, as it builds directly off that. There’s also a PG-13 animated movie version that’s arguably better than the comic, and incorporates the relevant parts of Death in the Family.

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Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
A classic Batman story set in the future with Bruce as an old man. This redefined Batman, making him dark and serous at a time he was associated with campiness. There’s a PG-13 animated movie of the same name that is basically a shot for recreation of the comic, and runs at over two hours long. The Dark Knight Returns and Batman 5 Superman also seem to be based loosely on this comic.

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Paul Dini’s Batman

Paul Dini was a writer for the brilliant Batman: The Animated Series. He wrote a number of amazing issues of Detective Comics, with most of the stories being really enjoyable one-and-done stories that can easily be enjoyed by first time readers and fans alike. His short stories are collected in Batman: Detective,Batman: Death and the City, and Batman: Private Casebook. He also wrote the fantastic Batman: Mad Love, Batman: Harley Quinn, and Batman: Harley and Ivy. A number of his stories (although not even close to half) have been adapted into episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, often with the adaptations being just as good, if not better.

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Grant Morrison’s Batman

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This is the most confusing comic on the list. You’ve got to have intimate knowledge of the DC Universe to enjoy this one, and it’ll require lots of flipping back to earlier stories as his entire 7-year story. It introduces a new Robin, two new Batmen (including one of my favorite), and draws from every era of Batman. The story starts off in ‘Batman and Son’ and continues into ‘Batman: The Black Glove’ (both of which are included together in Batman and Son: New Edition for a significantly cheaper price) Then there’s Batman RIP, the admittedly very confusing Final Crisis, Batman and Robin Volume 1 and Volume 2, Time and the Batman, Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne, Batman and Robin Volume 3Batman Inc. volume 1, then another volume 1 (confusing, isn’t it?) and finally volume 2, to finish off the story. Some of this story have been adapted into various animated movies, but they range from awful to merely mediocre. Stick to the comics for this one.

This is far from a completed list, but it’s enough for now. Do you have any favorite Batman or Superman comics?

My Favorite Comics (Part One): Superman Edition

In honor of Batman 5 Superman coming out this month (which, if Man of Steel is any indication, will be awful), I’ve decided to share my favorite Batman and Superman comics with you. This list will cover my favorite Superman comics, with my favorite Batman comics coming in another post.

41hajjckawl-_sx311_bo1204203200_Superman: Secret Identity
This is one of my favorite comics ever. It’s a comic anyone can pick up with no knowledge of Superman at all. It’s technically not even about Superman, but rather some guy named Clark Kent living in a world where Superman comics exist, and he’s often mocked for his name. The twist is, he actually has super-powers. This is not a superhero story, however. There’s no villain. It’s simply a story about life and growing up. The story starts with young Clark still in high school, and goes through romance, marriage  kids, and eventually grandkids  Its a beautiful, touching story. If you’ll only read one Superman comic book, this should be it.

“Maybe I had a ‘secret identity,’ but then when you think about it, don’t we all? A part of ourselves very few people ever get to see. The part we think of as ‘me.’ The part that deals with the big stuff. Makes the real choices. The part everything else is a reflection of.” — Clark Kent

51kvincrz9l-_sx325_bo1204203200_Superman: Red Sun
An Elseworlds tale, asking what if Superman had landed in Soviet Russia instead of Kansas. It’s a fun story with an amazingly clever ending. Its interesting to see Superman as the villain, plus Russian Batman is totally awesome. Oh, and commie Superman is STILL a better Superman than Man of Steel’s.

51og2bkd9kkl-_sx301_bo1204203200_Superman: Birthright
My favorite re-telling of the origin of Superman. This is everything Man of Steel should have been. Instead we got a murderous Superman who didn’t care about saving lives, ruined someone’s livelihood for insulting him, and likes to make out with women he just met when human ash is raining down all around him. Idiots.

51aj58tawbl-_sx318_bo1204203200_All-Star Superman
This comic by Grant Morrison is about Superman’s end. It’s something of a possible ending to the pre-Crisis Superman comics (the more outlandish Superman comics that came out pre-1985). It’s a touching story about Superman being tricked by Lex Luthor and succumbing to what’s basically some sort of ‘super-cancer’ and follows the last few months of Superman’s life, and how he lives knowing his end is near. An animated movie of the same name exists as well. It it’s good, but not as good as the comic.

61o7orlbv3l-_sx353_bo1204203200_The Death/Funeral/Return of Superman
These were some of the first comics I read, and its responsible for getting me into comics. While continuity heavy, it’s definitely worth a read. It’s about the time Superman died (as opposed to the time he made us all feel dead inside *coughmanofsteelcough*). An animated version of this movie exists as well, titled Superman: Doomsday. It isn’t as good, but still watchable. About halfway through it goes off in a totally different direction.

51uhk9qemll-_sx323_bo1204203200_Superman/Batman: Volume 1: Public Enemies & Supergirl
A fun couple of stories where Batman and Superman team up, one of which is also the origin of Supergirl. It’s really enjoyable because of the contrast in the two characters personalities. (How they’ll pull off a cross-over in Batman 5 Superman, with both of them being brooding, dark, angst-machines and still make it compelling, I don’t know.) Both Public Enemies and Supergirl have been turned into animated movies, titles Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, and Superman/Batman: Apocalypse. Public Enemies is actually slightly better than the comic it’s adapted from, but Apocalypse pales in comparison.

 

This is far from a completed list, but it’s enough for now. Do you have any favorite Superman comics?

Collaboration

There are many pros to collaboration when it comes to writing, but it is not something everyone can do. Peter David, who is best known for being a comic book writer, said that he found writing prose novels much more fulfilling, as that’s a product that he completes all on his own, as opposed to a comic which is a collaboration with an artist.

Jeph Loeb is another comic book writer (though he’s written other thing as well, and currently heads Marvel’s television decision), and being a comic book writer, his work requires much collaboration. He used to be known as an amazing writer, until his son passed away. His work was never the same again. Some people say it broke him, and he never recovered. I don’t know if that’s true. But something I found interesting about his work, specifically in comics. It became very obvious after a while that he was writing for the artist, often at a disservice to the story. There was no reason for a time traveling Kingdom Come Superman to show up in Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, but the artist wanted to draw him, so he was written in. Batman: Hush, another one of his works, is overly crowded with villains, but most puzzling of all was an appearance by Jason Todd, a former Robin who was dead at the time of it’s publication (don’t worry, he got better. Comic books and all that). It was later revealed that it was Clayface impersonating Jason, but the only reason he was there was because the writer wanted to draw him. And in Loeb’s Supergirl book, he has Supergirl fight the Barbara Gordon version of Batgirl, who was paralyzed at the time and thus no longer Batgirl (don’t worry, she also got better). The only reason that was written was so the artist could draw a character he wanted, even if it didn’t make sense in the concept of the story. (Again, it was revealed to be Clayface in disguise. Boy, Loeb sure relies on that Clayface gimmick a lot.) A successful collaborator should put the story before pleasing his or her partner.

Having two names on a book is good, if only for marketing purposes, as it would lead fans of one individual author to check out the other author’s solo work. But honestly, I don’t know how two people can write a book together, other than switching off chapters or something.  Plotting though, can be done together with another. I enjoy talking through the story with my wife. Its fun, and we get to bounce ideas off each other. In fact, my favorite part of A Spark Ignites was actually her idea (or taking my idea and pushing it one step farther). Using a collaborator can also help you catch plot holes. There are some people who have to do everything by themselves. I used to be one of them. But even if you want to do all the writing yourself, I’ve found that when it comes to working through a story, two heads are better than one.

Continuity Errors

As a comic book fan, I’m no stranger to continuity errors. It’s something that’s inevitable when a product is made by numerous people, writers and artists alike, over a period of decades.  I accept that. But what really bugs me are continuity errors in books. I’m not talking about plot holes or the like, as those can always be explained away if you’re creative enough. No, I mean “wow, that totally contradicts what you just said” type of errors. Now, people are under the misconception that a book series is always written by one author. More often than not, however, that isn’t the case. Even going back to The Hardy Boys, most long-running book series are ghostwritten. And in such cases, book-to-book continuity errors can be excusable, if they were written by different authors.

In elementary school, Animorphs was one of my favorite book series. I simply couldn’t get enough of it. I even had the videogames. Even at that young age, I noticed continuity errors within the world of the books. It’s no secret that about half of the Animorphs book series was written by various different ghostwriters. However the first twenty-something were written by K.A. Applegate. She introduced a concept in the first book called “thought-speak,” however violated and rewrote the rules several times during the first few books. The last fifty or so books were consistent with one another, but you get the impression reading the first few books that they’re earlier drafts, as though the author herself wasn’t entirely sure of all the concepts yet, or how they worked. From what I heard though, when they rereleased the first few books a few years back, they fixed the continuity errors. So at least they acknowledged their mistake.

It’s one thing to have inconsistencies from book to book, because at least then, if you read only a single book, it will still make sense. The gravest of continuity errors is when same book contradicts itself later on. Years ago, at the recommendation of a friend, I read Pendragon Book One: The Merchant of Death. It was not a very good book. What bugged me the most, however, was when the book contradicted its own rules. At one point in the book, Bobby, the main character, travels to another dimension. The people in that dimension speak a language he cannot understand. While there, he meets “travelers” from yet another dimension, who explain to him that at the moment his brain can only comprehend the language of other travelers, but it will take time for the magic to fully take affect and allow him to understand the natural inhabitants. Later on in the book he confronts the villain, another traveler, who reveals that he was disguised as a natural inhabitant the whole time. Which would be fine, if Bobby hadn’t tried talking to the man earlier in the book and couldn’t understand him, while the other travelers he was with were able to. This wouldn’t be hard to explain away, of course, if the author explained that the villain had killed the original person after Bobby had met him and was impersonated him (he had shapeshifting powers). But now, the villain explicitly said that the original person who he was impersonating had died years ago. If that was the case, Bobby should have understood him right away, as he was a traveler, but he didn’t. (Like the continuity error in Animorphs, this was apparently also fixed later, in the graphic novel adaptation.) Now, perhaps this is a nitpick. Continuity errors often are. But they always take me out of the story.  If you’re going to publish a book, please have someone read it over specifically looking for continuity errors. It’s embarrassing.

Let me know of any book continuity errors you’ve noticed in the comments below. How much did it bother you?