athelind: (WARNING: TV Tropes)
The Everlasting Gobstopper* is Your Obedient Serpent's own rhyming slang for a "Neverending Doorstopper", the most egregious metastasis of Trilogy Creep.

To qualify as an Everlasting Gobstopper, a work must have most or all of the following traits:

  • Each volume in the series will run around a thousand pages, putting each individual installment firmly into Doorstopper territory.

  • There is no clear end to the progression of installments: while the saga appears to be telling a story, there is rarely a hint of actual resolution. It is, in short, Neverending.

  • The characters rarely manage to accomplish anything of significance. They are tossed around from event to event, becoming increasingly mired in events outside their control.

    • Corollary 1: The more sympathetic they are, the less they manage to accomplish.

    • Corollary 2: Any minor "victories" will happen early on in the series. As it progresses, the characters become increasingly less effective, as the author finds it easier to play on readers' sympathies tormenting characters rather than advancing the story.

  • Readers often develop Stockholm Syndrome. After investing so much time and energy into a work, they are not going to walk away and leave it unfinished, no matter how much of a slog it has become or how little they care about the characters anymore.

  • As the work continues to expand, it becomes increasingly likely that the author will walk away and leave it unfinished.


While these symptoms are most commonly found in Fantasy Literature, the contagion has spread to other genres and media as well. HBO's Game of Thrones, of course, is the most obvious example, being a direct adaptation of one of the quintessential Everlasting Gobstoppers.

An example native to television might be Supernatural: after the resolution of its original story arc and the departure of the creators, the series has continued without actually progressing, to the point where one can tune into any random episode from Seasons 6-10 without being able to determine if it is, in fact, a rerun.

In the world of comics, Hickman's multi-year run on the Avengers titles spiraled into a Gobstopper. Hicman managed the rather impressive feat of making the defeat of a vast alien armada seem ultimately meaningless. Geoff Johns' tenure on Green Lantern and its spin-offs deserves a mention, as well: it even outlasted the original author (though Mr. Johns is, thankfully, still with us); after his departure from the books, those who followed him kept spinning out the plot threads he set in motion, stretching them ever-finer and more tenuous.

Note that an author can crank out novel after novel about the same characters for decades, but if the characters resolve the issue at hand in each installment, it's not a Everlasting Gobstopper. The continuing adventures of Philip Marlowe, of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, or even those of Harry Dresden do not qualify as Gobstoppers. Yes, Harry's saga has an ultimate over-arching story arc, but each volume is largely self-contained; he and his friends resolve the most immediate of threats and dangers, and even multi-volume plot threads are resolved every few books. Butcher lets his characters win now and then, and that big looming metaplot actually progresses as we learn more about it.

I am ... not a fan of Everlasting Gobstoppers, and I try to avoid them. I get sucked in on occasion, of course; the Agent Pendergast series seemed like a tidy batch of fairly self-contained superhantural thrillers until it swallowed its own tail diving into the protagonist's dysfunctional family background; ultimately, I walked away from that one and haven't looked back. More recently, after thoroughly enjoying the tidy trilogies and done-in-one works of the preposterously prolific Brandon Sanderson, I picked up The Way of Kings ... and discovered, as I was immersed in the second volume, that Sanderson intends to run that series for at least ten full doorstoppers.

Coyote help me, I am looking forward to them all.


*The phrase, of course, is borrowed from Roald Dahl's masterpiece, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
athelind: (Beware My Power)
I am home sick today, my third round with a stomach bug in a four-week span, so let's talk Superhero Movies.

Recently, Time Warner announced that they were ramping up their slate of DC Comics-based movies in a desperate attempt to play catch-up to Disney’s unprecedented success with the Marvel Cinematic Universe:

  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
  • Suicide Squad (2016)
  • Wonder Woman (2017)
  • Justice League Part One (2017)
  • The Flash (2018)
  • Aquaman (2018)
  • Shazam (2019)
  • Justice League Part Two (2019)
  • Cyborg (2020)
  • Green Lantern (2020)


Needless to say, this prompted some discussion ‘mongst my social circle … and some eye-rolling that followed the last entry on that four-year, ten-movie extravaganza: Green Lantern.

Long-time readers will recall that GL was once Your Obedient Serpent’s very favorite superhero, but even he will admit that the last attempt at translating the Emerald Gladiator to the big screen was, to be generous ... unimpressive. Nevertheless, while its descent into mediocrity was the end result of bad creative choices, one should not fall into the trap of assuming that the first of those bad choices was "let's make a Green Lantern movie!"

The first and biggest Bad Choice was to cram far too many elements into the first movie, all from different periods of the comic, without really giving any of it a proper build-up.

The second Bad Choice was Hal Jordan.

Okay, let me rephrase that. No, I am not Happy Hal's biggest fan; of all the different characters who've worn the ring and claimed the title, I'd have to say that there were three or four ... thousand ... I like more than Hal Jordan. And if the movie had actually given us Hal Jordan instead of Stock Character #438, I'd have been middlin' pleased.

Look, here's the Secret Magic Ingredient that Marvel Studios stumbled across that turned their movies into both critical and box-office successes: superhero movies need distinctive characters and strong character arcs.

The character arc in the Green Lantern movie? "Look, the slacker screwing up his life gets a magic ring, straightens out, and turns his life around, proving that he's not such a screw-up after all." No surprises there: that's about as trite and unimaginative as Hollywood gets these days.

It's also not Hal Jordan.1

Please note that I am not saying "oh, they aren't faithful to the character, so this movie sucks." I'm also aware that they've been trying to shoehorn "reckless maverick who's always in trouble" into Hal's backstory since they did Emerald Dawn back in '89, but that's never really clicked.

I AM saying that Hal Jordan's character arc in the comics is a lot more compelling and unusual than the story of Yet Another Man-Child Growing Up.

When we first meet Hal in 1959, he's got it all. He's a test-pilot, competent, confident and successful in a career that demands highly-honed skills and steady nerves. He's fearless, not reckless: having him on the Ferris Aircraft payroll is an asset. He's a jet-setting ladies' man who has his sights set on the woman who runs the company, and lives a life of martinis and tuxedos that James Bond would envy.

The magic ring that falls from the sky doesn't straighten out his screwed-up life; quite the contrary. It gives him amazing power and opens the entire Cosmos up to him ... but little by little, it sends his personal and professional lives into a tailspin. The responsibilities of protecting Sector 2814 as a member of both the Corps and the Justice League take more and more of his time from his life on Earth. By the mid-'70s, he's gone from a high-prestige test pilot to someone who can't hold a steady job, his resume including such gems as travelling salesman for a toy company.

He spent a good chunk of the mid-'80s having resigned from the Corps, trying to figure out what had happened to his life, wandering around as a drifter trying to figure out just who Hal Jordan was apart from being Green Lantern.

And yet he keeps going back.2

Now, that's a character arc that we haven't really seen on the big screen. In the Spider-Man movies, Peter Parker can't hold a steady job because because of his extracurricular activities, but it hasn't really dragged him down -- at worst, it's held him back. In the Iron Man series, we watched Tony Stark go from a reckless genius billionaire playboy asshole who didn't give a damn about anything to ... um ... a reckless genius billionaire playboy asshole who really does want to do the right thing, mostly. By the end of Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, Bruce Wayne is a battered, broken semi-invalid, but really, he was always a broken man: his body just caught up with his soul.

So far, we haven't had a superhero movie where the "Guy Who Has It All" finds his true calling ... and loses "it all" because of it.

As much as I can see the potential of a good Hal Jordon movie, though, I think they could get a lot more mileage out of John Stewart. Really, as much as it pains the Silver Age Stagnation Squad to see it, John is familiar to a lot more people than Hal, thanks to his headlining role in three brilliant seasons of Justice League and Justice League Unlimited.

I would love to see a movie that really took advantage of John's two primary background elements: he's a Marine Sniper who became an Architect. Seems like writers who eagerly adopt the Marine backstory (first introduced in the above-mentioned animated series) completely ignore the Architect (the vocation he's pursued in the comics almost since the beginning), but that dissonance between Warrior and Builder has a LOT of untapped potential.

John was the protagonist of Green Lantern: MOSAIC, a brilliant, surreal early '90s series by Gerard Jones that DC shows no interest in reprinting or even acknowledging. At one point, Jones scripts him a scene -- almost a soliloquy -- that manages to reconcile Warrior and Builder as two aspects of the same principle:

"What I do," John says, "is redistribute violence."

After this this startling proclamation, he clarifies: the job of an architect is to balance all the forces acting on a structure, and redirect them to make it stronger instead of tearing it apart.

That's John Stewart, particularly when Jones writes him: he's intelligent. He's erudite. He's philosophical.

John Stewart is the Warrior Poet.

We've had a lot of "smart" superheroes on the big screen ... we haven't really had an intellectual up there.

I will also note that John has another quality that is important for entirely different reasons: he's African-American.

And yes, dammit, that's important. Ask my friend [livejournal.com profile] kolchis, a school teacher who does a lot of substitute work in a lot of different areas, about the black kids who immediately zero in on the Green Lantern keychain the middle-aged white guy carries.

Rest assured it's not because they're Ryan Reynolds fans.

No matter how hard they try to push him as one of their Iconic Characters, Cyborg is the odd man out in that slate of movies. Sure, he's been around for more than thirty years now, but when push comes to shove, he's a Teen Titan. When they try to shoehorn him into the Justice League, it feels like they're desperate to dig up just one character in their roster who isn't Upper/Middle Class White Guy Man.

Do I think they should leave him out? Hell, no! I want to see Victor Stone up there on the screen with John Stewart. I want to see Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson playing Captain Marvel Shazam instead of Black Adam, and Billy Batson played by a kid with an equally-diverse heritage.

Representation and diversity is not tokenism.


1 "It's Kyle Rayner." "YOU SHUT UP. JUST SHUT UP."
2 This is directly related to why I am one of the few people who thought that Emerald Twilight was perfectly in character and was the logical culmination of three decades of storytelling ... but that is a story for another time.
athelind: (hoard potato)

One:

I've finally figured out my utter dis1 for DC's recent business model of resurrecting Silver Age characters who got killed off in the '80s and '90s because they couldn't sustain their own titles.

As I mentioned the other day, I don't like zombies.2

Certainly, remembering, as one example, the long, dragged, out "Trial of the Flash" that closed out Barry Allen's run months before he met his end in Crisis on Infinite Earths is not that far removed from having the fragrance of three-month-old sea lion carcasses waft unbidden through one's amygdala.3

At least when Marvel turns its colorfully-costumed characters into shambling undead mockeries, they're occasionally honest about it.


Two:

DC is releasing a series of prequels to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' classic graphic novel, Watchmen.

I reserve judgment on whether or not this is a bad move; really, I'm finding myself far too tickled by the outrage of the fandom (and Alan Moore) to really have many objections myself (and besides, one of them will have Darwyn Cooke art).

However, something occurred to me the other day:

Watchmen is older than most of the "old comics" it was based on were when it was published.



1disinterest/disappointment/distaste/disdain/disregard/dyspepsia ...
2I wanna shoo-oo-oo-oot the whole trend down!
3I have a dread suspicion that that storyline, which seemed to take forever at the time, might seem a masterpiece of snappy pacing compared to the "decompressed" storytelling of today's "decompressed".

athelind: (Beware My Power)
You know, folks, everything I said the other day the roots of my excitement for this movie also means that you don't have to apologize to me if you aren't excited, if you think it's going to be lousy, or if you don't want to tag along when I hit the theater tonight.

It's okay, really. I am an unapologetic Green Lantern fan, and believe me, over the years, there are a lot of things us GL fans should probably apologize for.

You certainly don't have to explain, above and beyond "I'm just not that into GL"; I have a long-standing principle of Not Listening To Negative Reviews before I go see a movie that I really want to see, because when I do, I keep looking for all the negative things the reviewers pointed out rather than just enjoying or critiquing the movie based on my own, unvarnished reactions.

For the record, I don't think that Green Lantern is going to come anywhere near the high-water mark of superhero movies (which is, IMNSHO, somewhere between Iron Man and The Dark Knight).

If it's just a bad movie, I'm fine with that. I'm an aficionado of bad movies.

I'm pretty sure of two things:

  • This is not going to be as bad as the Worst Superhero Movie I've Ever Seen.
  • This is not going to even come close to being the worst Green Lantern Story I've Ever Seen.


So, all in all, I'm probably going to be a pretty happy nerdboy this e'en.

In part because I've set my sights low. La la laaaaa.


athelind: (Beware My Power)
You know what?

I don't care if it's been over-hyped.

I don't care if parts of the previews might look a little iffy.

I don't care if Ryan Reynolds is playing Hal as a flippant jackass; this is, after all, Hal Frakking Jordan.

Deep down inside, all I care about is that the superhero who's been my very favorite since I was six years old had made it to the big screen in a sweeping special-effects epic.

I realized yesterday that, for the first time in more years than I can remember, I am genuinely excited to the point of impatience for a new movie, a new superhero movie.

It doesn't matter if it's good, bad, or indifferent.

Friday night, I'm taking my six-year-old self to see Green Lantern, and it will be awesome.


Cross-Posted to Kirby Dots & Ditko Ribbons.
athelind: (facepalm)
[Error: unknown template qotd]

If you could either have the powers of Spider-man or the Green Lantern, which would you choose, and why?

... somebody's not really trying.

The answers I could read seem to fall into two categories: "Green Lantern, obviously", and "Spider-Man, because I don't know anything about Green Lantern."

Let's assume that "the powers" don't include the quirks of the particular secret identity: if I get Spidey's powers, I don't get Peter Parker's constant parade of personal catastrophes. If a little blue guy hands me a green ring, I don't suddenly become prone to recurrent head injuries or finding loved ones stuffed into household appliances.

It's still no contest.

On the one hand, we have The Proportional Strength of a Spider.

On the other, we have The Most Powerful Weapon Tool In the Universe.

It's a starship on your finger, complete with tractor beams and replicators.

No. Contest.

Addendum:

Yes, since the '90s, the writers keep calling the ring "the most powerful weapon in the universe", but to me, the question isn't "how many asses can I kick with these abilities?"

It's "how many lives will these abilities let me save?"


athelind: (Default)
[Error: unknown template qotd]

Who was your favorite childhood superhero, and why?

Green Lantern.

Why?

  • The Ring That Does Anything You Can Imagine.
  • Being part of an interstellar community dedicated to saving lives, preventing disasters, helping people, and, oh, yes, maybe fighting crime here and there.
  • This:


... oh, and even though Hal was the Main Green Lantern throughout my '60s and '70s childhood, he was never my favorite Lantern. I encountered John Stewart early on, and Alan Scott later, and, of course, all of the myriad alien GLs.

"The one True Green Lantern" so beloved of the fanboys is my least favorite ringslinger.


athelind: (hoard potato)
This made me laugh out loud:


I may have to print it out and post it at work.

Speaking as a long-time fan of the Green Lanterns, who's read the book(s) through all the ups and downs since 1970 or so, this multi-year arc that Geoff Johns has been writing is the Best Damned Run Of Green Lantern ever, one of the best things DC has done in the last decade, and Blackest Night is shaping up to be the "Final Crisis" that Final Crisis wasn't.

Honestly, it's a big part of why I still bother with superhero comics.

After, what, five years of non-stop Big Events and Red Skies Crossovers from both major companies, after a year of working in a comic store, and after my Fanfic Epiphany from a couple of years ago, I've come very close to burning out on commercialized adolescent power fantasies.

But Johns is good, and Blackest Night is not so much an Editorially-Mandated MegaCrossover as it is the logical climax of the story he's been telling for the last five years.

Still and nonetheless... "They turned Green Lanterns into Care Bears" is spit-take-worthy.


athelind: (Default)
This made me laugh out loud:


I may have to print it out and post it at work.

Speaking as a long-time fan of the Green Lanterns, who's read the book(s) through all the ups and downs since 1970 or so, this multi-year arc that Geoff Johns has been writing is the Best Damned Run Of Green Lantern ever, one of the best things DC has done in the last decade, and Blackest Night is shaping up to be the "Final Crisis" that Final Crisis wasn't.

Honestly, it's a big part of why I still bother with superhero comics.

After, what, five years of non-stop Big Events and Red Skies Crossovers from both major companies, after a year of working in a comic store, and after my Fanfic Epiphany from a couple of years ago, I've come very close to burning out on commercialized adolescent power fantasies.

But Johns is good, and Blackest Night is not so much an Editorially-Mandated MegaCrossover as it is the logical climax of the story he's been telling for the last five years.

Still and nonetheless... "They turned Green Lanterns into Care Bears" is spit-take-worthy.


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