Hawkeye Disney+ Show

This is my review from 2019 of the Hawkeye graphic novel, that seems to have heavily inspired the new show (which as of this post I have not seen). My Life as a Weapon and the following releases, Little Hits, Rio Bravo, and LA Woman seem an unlikely inspiration for a television series starring the marksman Avenger. His career as Ronin (briefly hinted at in Avengers: Endgame) would have been bad-ass. Flashbacks to his life as a super villain in the comics would have been neat. But, Clint Barton apartment complex owner who gets a dog, a girl-sidekick, and deals with the likes of the TrackSuit Mafia, gets the shit kicked out of him, and battles the villain known as (Spoiler) is a great choice for plot line to bring to the small screen. It’s exactly what I would have picked.Matt Fraction’s run on Hawkeye is amazing and different from any superhero comic you will ever read.

Volume 60: Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon (2013)

“What’s his name?”
“He’s not my dog. What’s his collar say?”
“Collar says it’s ‘Arrow’”.
“I’ll come up with something better.”

I thought this would be an ordinary story about a team superhero member on a solo adventure. Typically these solo missions involve their backstory, maybe a love interest, they might confront the person who trained them, and so on. You know, superhero stuff that expands the character but probably won’t come up again in the context of a team book. 

Wrong.

Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon features Clint Barton, a powerless, but not helpless Avenger. Clint’s meager apartment building is about to be sold and its residents evicted by a Russian slumlord aka Tracksuit Dracula. Clint offers to buy the building but the offer is rejected causing him to suspect something larger and more sinister is going on.  

Enter Kate Bishop, Clint’s young replacement during his recent absence. Together they journey to Madripoor to attend high stakes a high stakes auction of a videotape showing an assassination that the government and SHIELD and the Avengers would rather not be seen by the world. Everyone who is everyone is there to bid on the tape, including The Kingpin, Hydra, the Hand, and Madame Masque. 

This new (from 6 years ago) direction for Hawkeye is fun and the writing and art are perfect. Fraction uses some bold storytelling techniques including shifts in time without warning, something your creative writing teacher would say, “…is jarring” but it works, and what does she know anyway?

My only complaint is the disparity in Hawkeye’s combat readiness. Early-on he gets into fights with untrained thugs and the sheer number of opponents combined with the danger of combat and he is taken out. More than once. You might think, “Okay, it’s gonna be one of those kinds of stories where the hero gets his ass beat,” but later Hawkeye takes on trained and armed ninjas and beats them like they were cub scouts. What does this mean? I don’t know. Otherwise, Hawkeye, written by Fraction makes me happy.  

by Matt Fraction (Writer), David Aja (Artist, #1-3) Javier Pulido (Artist, #4-5) Matt Hollingsworth (Color Artist), Annie Wu (Illustrator) Chris Eliopoulos (Letterer), Alan Davis (Penciler), Francesco Francavilla (Illustrator)

Check out my other reviews on my Facebook Page http://www.facebook.com/janivesthewriter

Best Laid Plans…

Confessions…Quickie Edition

I read the book 20 Books to 100K. The premise for this (and the similarly named Facebook group) is that if you write twenty books, you’ll have enough algorithm recognition from Amazon that you’ll make, well, 100 thousand dollars. I’m not sure if that means per year or overall, but I like the idea either way.

Another premise put forth by the author Michelle Kulp is to write “Quick Reads” and put out a book of 100-pages or less per month every month. Her focus, and the focus of the other books that push the same idea seems to be based on list-based non-fiction I.e. instructional books like 23 Ways to Organize Your Life. I disregarded the non-fiction angle and ran with applying this to my current work, a sexy vampire novel. I  had also just started writing a superhero novel based on my own graphic novel that would be perfect for the fast reads category.

What an inspiration! “But won’t you sacrifice quality for quantity?” you might ask. “Great hypothetical question!” I would reply. That’s an obvious thought for anyone, but imagine this- consider making a dozen tiny meals versus the planning and execution of a single  banquet. The answer is, that both are unique and require their own difficulties, but to be able to focus on smaller portions frees the mind from the daunting task of planning, writing, editing and releasing an entire 300ish page novel. You have a faster turnaround from idea to release, and one might imagine there is a market of readers not looking to invest the time and money in reading long books. 

“But readers love trilogies and they love to sink their teeth into a, or curl up with, a thick book!” Sure. That’s true. But in this short attention span world, I can see readers who like to finish a book in a single sitting and move onto the next. At less than 100 pages, the quick read isn’t quite a short story and it’s not as big as a novella. “It’s just right,” said a little girl, settling down in a bed that’s not hers.

I was psyched as I browsed books (and sales numbers) in Amazon’s short reads category. I emailed their customer service and asked to have my graphic novel put in that category, thinking that it would be possible to promote my book at a lower price point and achieve the coveted “Best Seller” status, even for a week. The reply to my request was, “You don’t decide to be in this category. We decide to put you in the category.” Shit! And this from a company that lets obvious erotica that is not super heroic be placed in the “super hero” category by publishers seeking an easier best seller title.

Sigh.

That isn’t going to stop me. I’ll still release my short novel and start on the next one to see what happens. Hopefully I’ll be invited into the short reads category, but at least I’ll be able to get to the goal of 20 books more quickly.

I wonder what I’ll do with my 100k…

Confessions: October 5th

Write drunk. Edit sober.

I drink therefore I am!

I think I will become a wino.

Great advice?

Many of the great writers have been alcoholics. Or drug users. Or both. I have often joked about becoming an alcoholic to fuel my writing. But I can never find the right booze. If I’m out at a bar, I’m moving around and interacting with others; I don’t yawn and yearn for my bed. But if I’m home, a beer or two and I can’t concentrate on writing.

Beer makes me bloated. Scotch and whiskey and vodka are too hardcore while alone at home. What about wine? Red wine? Like a teenager experimenting, I pour a big glass. The kind that comes in a box with a plastic bladder inside. I power through the yawnsies, as I call them, and soon I’m in the sweet spot. Happy and invigorated. 

I have reason to celebrate. I signed a contract with an audio professional for my book Twenty-One Octobers. He’s good. When I read aloud, I feel the emotions of the powerful scenes but I really felt them when I heard them from a trained actor. He hits words and really pulls the joy and rage and bitterness of the characters in the audition, in ways I hadn’t expected. I coach him on the subtext like a movie director and he understands me. I’m excited to hear him while reading the full script. 

Confessions of a Failed Writer part 3

September 17, 11:02 A.M.

I’m putting off listening to the auditions for my audiobook. I have a dozen or so and it’s a short scene the professionals have read. Why am I procrastinating? Self-doubt. Wondering if I’ll make the wrong decision on who will read my deeply personal work. I could do it myself, but I don’t have a great voice. I know all the inflections and how I want it read, but I’d prefer to leave that to the professionals with the experience and equipment to create a high quality finished product.

The second question is do I come up with the money to pay a voice actor or do I do a profit split? I’ve read the author’s laments who regret doing the split. But the upfront costs of paying a good producer can be a grand or more. Do I bet on myself for future earnings? Or do I take the safe route and save the upfront costs? I’ve only sold 9 copies of my book, so how many audio copies will I sell?

I will put that off until tonight. I’ll have my partner Anya listen with me for a second opinion. For today, I have daily goal of 2000 words. That’s an easy goal, maybe the word “achievable” is better than easy. Especially since I’m dividing the daily goal among three novels: Legacy of the Maelstrom, Mind the Shadows and sVck. I figure the three books should total about 225,000 words, so if I achieve my daily goal, I’ll be done the first draft of three books in four months. The trick is to write. Some writers do what is called “sprinting” where they close the doors and type until the allotted time is up. Usually an hour. Others write to be perfect. Each word is carefully chosen to not require much polishing in a second draft. My process is somewhere in the middle. I’m mostly writing dialogue with a few descriptors. Here’s an example of what I wrote last night.

                                                           sVck

“How was your dinner date?”

Savanah hung her head. Humphrey eyed her with a snarky smile. “I checked your window at 12:30 and you still weren’t home. And your 9:00 o’clock came out of your hall looking unsatisfied. What happened?”

“Things got out of hand, Humph. We fucked.”

Humphrey spit out his coffee. “You what?! You fucked a vampire!?”

“Would you keep it down, for christ’s sake?!”

“What do you mean, you fucked?”

“We did it. It was awesome. I’ve never been with a woman before. She did stuff to me. I came so fucking hard.”

“That’s awesome, Savvy. You needed to nut. Seriously. You’ve been doing a lot of blowing with no payback. What else happened?”

“I asked her about vampire life. I told her about my alternative food source. She showed me her thralls. Four guys. They ate raw meat and she fed on one while I watched. I, uh, showed her my method.”

“You blew one of her guys?”

“While she watched.”

“Hot.”

“He keeled over. Dead.”

“What?”

“I don’t understand what happened. Maybe he was so weak that…”

“…you sucked him to death?”

“Yeah.”

“Dammnnnnnn.”

In my next draft I’ll go through and add descriptions. Spice it up. Sometimes I leave the dialogue when I feel the reader knows who is who without the need to write “he said” and “she said.” It creates a better back and forth. 

What’s your process?

Confessions of a Failed Writer 9/16/2021

09/16/2021

The life of a writer is easy.

8:00 Wake up. Take dog out. Make breakfast.

9:00 Partner’s sleeping. Sit in office and look at Facebook. Watch hilarious Norm McDonald video

9:30 bust out laptop. Continue thinking of super powers I haven’t used for scene in new book

The life of a writer is difficult.

Many writers have deadlines and bosses and reasons to feel pressure from the outside world. I know a writer, who in addition to writing her own book series, ghost writes for others. I can imagine that’s difficult to be creative and never get the credit. She’s much younger and has written over 100 books. I’m sure the promise of a paycheck is an incentive.

What’s the incentive of the writer who hasn’t started to generate a profit. It’s a challenge to stay motivated without a proverbial stick or carrot to incentivize him or her. “Glue your ass to the seat and write,” is the advise famous writers like to give. That’s true. Some shut themselves off in a writer’s retreat in their home or in another location to prevent the distractions of life from interfering with their process. I’m more of an amalgam. I like being able to reward myself with a break to look up something online while also being “glued” to my writer’s spot. I don’t think I would have the concentration to write for 8+ hours a day.

Some writers plot out what they plan to write. Perhaps chapter by chapter, or scene by scene, the disciplined writer knows all the beats of his story. My writing style matches my other styles. I’m known as a “seat of the pants” writer. I start without knowing where the story will take me. I let the characters and ideas flow naturally. In a sense, the story is writing itself. In my novel, Twenty-One Octobers, I knew how it would end, or so I thought. I knew it ended with the death of the main character’s father, but I didn’t know what the MC would do in the end. Would he kill his father’s murderer or would he show forgiveness? I didn’t know, but the story knew. The characters knew.

I’m sitting in my office watching my dog sleep in his bed. My partner is setting up her home office after we zoomed out to get some shelves someone was giving away. I’m about to take my cat to the groomer. But I’ll be back to continue working on some sequels and a new story. I’m not sure where the day or my stories will take me, but that’s the fun of being a writer. 

Even for a failure.

Archie: Volume One

Archie: Volume One

I’ve never read an Archie comic, nor have I seen Riverdale, but I get the premise. Archie goes to high school. His best friend likes hamburgers. Archie is torn between two girls. The end. But, like I said, I’ve never read one, so maybe there’s more to it. I mean, a non-superhero comic character who has been published continuously since 1942 has to have something interesting.

Cut to, an Archie reboot by famed superhero writer Mark Waid (Kingdom Come, Fantastic Four, Daredevil, et al). This is a reboot that doesn’t deviate front the source material too much (I think). The art is wonderful with big, colorful panels and cartoony characters with a modern style. Jughead loves cheeseburgers (but he’s rich). Archie has just broken up with Betty because of “the lipstick incident” and Veronica, a rich snob, moves to town and steals his attention. Archie is a loveable clutz. Moose is a dumb football player.  Nothing revolutionary, but familiar for new and old readers.

Archie: Volume One contains light, suitable-for-all-ages stories with a modern twist for a 78-year-old character.   

Collects issues 1-6 by Mark Waid and Fiona Staples

Wonder Woman 84

Spoiler- This is a discussion about a movie. If you want to see that move, maybe wait to read this “review.”

Full-Disclosure- I’m a Marvel guy. I prefer Marvel characters to DC characters and Marvel movies to DC movies. However, the first Wonder Woman movie was amazing and the best DC movie by far and as good as any Marvel movie. My goal is to tell you what I thought and perhaps have a discussion about super-heroes. If you liked it, that’s great. I’m happy you enjoyed it. I was very excited about seeing the Wonder Woman sequel. So excited that I subscribed to HBO Max. I suspect many will be dumping that subscription. Not me. At least not until I finish Friends.

Scene One- A young Diana participates and wins a tournament that looks like American Ninja Warrior on steroids. But she took a shortcut and was disqualified even though she was about to win. What’s the point of this scene except that, even at a young age, she’s physically superior to the best of the best on the island? She should have been disqualified for being a creation of Zeus (see the first movie). The missed opportunity was the chance to feature a lesson or even a test of morality. Maybe she spares an enemy and suffers because of it. We see Diana is a just and merciful superhero later in the movie, and it would have been an essential scene if we saw those early lessons first-hand. Or better yet, the opening scene could have shown us the origin of the wish-stone that drives the movie’s story later on.

Love Story- It’s been forty years since Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) died saving lives. Wonder Woman (Gadot) still loves him, but this seems a tad overdone. She didn’t know him for very long in the war, and she’s been pining (no pun intended) over him for four decades? 

The Antagonists- I won’t say they’re bad-guys or villains. The movie goes out of its way to show the two primary opponents as people with backstories and hopes and dreams and not just people to fight. However, we don’t see Cheetah (Kristen Wiig) become the full-Cheetah until the movie’s last few minutes. Maxwell Lord is a failed businessman played by Pedro Pascal. Instead of wishing for infinite wishes, he wishes to become the wishing stone, which I guess is a surprise and somewhat clever assuming he knows what kind of power he’s dealing with.

The Eighties- I grew up in the eighties. Like every decade, it has its plusses and minuses.  When this decade is depicted in the movies and television, it’s done to exaggerate the fashion and culture until the show is even more eighties than the actual eighties. Everyone didn’t wear parachute pants and have Flock of Seagulls’ haircuts. The missed opportunity here was not having a fantastic 80s soundtrack. 

Superpowers- Wonder Woman is as strong as Superman and has a magic lasso and bullet-deflecting bracelets, she’s the best combatant in the Justice League, and she can fly! The final scene in the first movie implies that she is flying away and not jumping. Maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps she didn’t fly. But in forty years, she doesn’t figure out how to fly? Because she does in the movie, but not until the end. Up until then, she jumps around and uses her lasso to swing like Spider-Man. Also, there’s a cute joke involves a reference to the original invisible jet from the show. They need to avoid detection in a stolen jet, and Diana busts out this new ability to make stuff invisible, i.e., the plane. Isn’t that funny and clever?

Humanity and Heroism- WW84 does something other superhero movies fail to do. Diana shows mercy and restraint to her enemies, specifically the non-powered ones. Hulk must have killed hundreds or thousands of people with his rage, but we don’t see people dying onscreen. Batman blows up cop cars, and it looks cool, but I say to myself, “Best case scenario, that cop in that car flying into a brick wall never walks again.” Hellboy punches a cab and flips it into the air onto its roof. Captain America beats the hell out of people doing their job. No one talks about not hurting the people who are shooting at them, but Diana does. Even when she’s at half-power, she’s a real hero.

I didn’t like this movie. I didn’t hate it. But I didn’t enjoy it. Maybe you did. I’m not trying to convince you to dislike it. I wanted it to be as good as the first, but it wasn’t even close. I’ll see the next movie, but I hope it takes place in the modern world and features villains worthy of a super-heroine of Wonder Woman’s power and star level. 

Some other stuff I couldn’t fit in:

An impenetrable suit of armor is mentioned, and of course, later, Diana must wear it. 

Maxwell Lord is using his wish power on the President while there’s a presentation about a new satellite that he can use to broadcast his wish power to the whole world. This will be used as an example of lazy writing that in future Screenwriting 101 classes.  

The end credits appearance was misplaced. If they wanted to use Linda Carter, they could have used her earlier to set up the whole wish stone thingee.

365 Days of Review: Day 4

 

Elfquest: The Final Quest

img_3434

I was very excited when I discovered this graphic novel with Skywise, Cutter, and Leetah on the cover. I grew up on classic Elfquest and have read and reread the original graphic novels many times over the years.

A lot has changed since the late ‘80s. For me and for the elves. New elves and tribes have been added to the existing wolfriders including sea elves and another tribe of wolfriders led by Cutter’s daughter Ember. While it was great to see the elves I was familiar with, there were too many divergent plots for my taste. While I understand that there would be unfamiliar characters, relationships, and plotlines, Elfquest: The Final Quest suffers from overcrowding. Like Crisis on Infinite Earths or any superhero battle royale, there are too many characters to focus on the story. In addition to the multiple tribes and all their characters, there are new human villains with technology to focus on. All in all, like Thanksgiving dinner, Final Quest was something I had to do, but I’m glad it’s over.

Look for reviews of the aforementioned classic Elfquests in future posts. I can’t wait.

Elfquest: The Final Quest combines issues 1-6. Art and writing by Richard and Wendi Pini

Star Wars: Shattered Empire (2015)

Shattered Empire picks up just as Return of the Jedi ends, but the heroes of the movie are mostly supporting characters. The main character is rebel-pilot Shara Bey, a woman who has sacrificed much for the rebellion and feels guilty for her desire to settle down with her husband and child. If you were hoping to see Luke and his fellow scoundrels from the films, they’re all there driving the plot and interweaving their stories with hers.                                                         

                           250px-Star_Wars_Shattered_Empire-1_(2015)

Shara Bey accompanies Luke on a stealth mission to rescue a pair of Force Trees from Imperial hands. Princess Leia has an interesting story as she travels to Naboo with Shara Bey and interacts with the planet made famous in Episodes 1-3. What is noteworthy about this storyline is what is unsaid. Naboo is the home of Queen Amidala, Leia’s biological mother, a plot point I hope the comics follow.

              Journey-to-Star-Wars-The-Force-Awakens-Shattered-Empire-Page-17-660x1014


The art and storytelling are excellent, even if I was distracted by the space battles. The whole “Red One” to “Red Leader” type of dialogue works in the movies but falls short in a comic book. Otherwise, the art from paneling to colors, to inks and lettering are well done.

Shattered Empire kicks off a new line of Star Wars comics featuring new and old characters. Is it a must-read? Not really. There aren’t any new plot threads left hanging, nor are there any dramatic moments that make this story stand out. Shara is a competent character with a believable back-story, and the returning characters are fun but aren’t necessary other than to give readers a hook.  

Also, included in the collected edition is issue 1 of Princess Leia and a throwback first-issue of the original comic adaptation of the first movie. Leia is excellent (look for that in a future review) but 1977 Staw Wars is missable if you saw the movie.  

Star Wars: Shattered Empire #1-4 is written by Greg Rucka, and illustrated by Marco Checchetto and Angel Unzueta with Emilio Laiso. It also features Princess Leia #1 and Star Wars (1977) #1. It is published by Marvel/Disney

365 Graphic Novels

My goal for 2019 is to read a graphic novel or comic book trade paperback collection and discuss them each day. I will write about the plot, art, relevance, links to a continuing mythos and/or my personal connection to the book. Think of it as a mini review. Feel free to debate my thoughts. Tell me why I’m wrong and missed the whole point of a revolutionary graphic novel, or how I elevated some piece of shit to undeserved artistic status. Or, <gasp> how you agree with my findings. Let’s discuss.