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In Defense of George Lucas Haters

My friend Eric wrote a really insightful and pointed critique for Moviefone about George Lucas. First of all, I highly recommend that you read it and follow anything he writes because he's a damn good author and his opinions on pop culture are always interesting.
And now I would humbly offer a rebuttal.

In Defense of George Lucas Haters;
or, the Fine Art of Marketing
Let me begin by saying that I don't hate George Lucas. No matter what he has done recently or what he may do in the future the man made Star Wars. It's a gift to the world and he deserves nothing but admiration and gratitude for it. However, this does not make him infallible. The fact that so many people thought it did is one of the reason I think the Prequels were such a colossal train wreck. And I take great issue when someone makes a statement like "But George Lucas didn't betray you; in fact, he didn't do anything wrong. The problem is not George Lucas, the real problem is you." I think that George has done a couple things that can absolutely be seen as wrong and a betrayal. I will try to outline them below as eloquently as Eric laid out his argument.

His New Movies Aren't As Good as His Old Movies!
Well, they're not. That's a separate issue entirely though. I can't help but notice Eric doesn't try to defend his new movies, he just gets upset that people don't like them. It's a poor excuse to say that just because someone gets old their work suffers. There have been many artists, writers, and directors who not only maintain the quality of their work but improve it through a lifetime of accumulated lessons and experience. Look at Alfred Hitchcock, Robert Altman, and Clint Eastwood for just a few examples of directors who have aged like fine wine. I think it's more reasonable to say that some people as they grow older become more comfortable with telling one kind of story or they lapse more easily into their old tried and true techniques which to the audience seem stale and blase. Sometimes the style that made a creator great becomes their one-trick-pony and eventually we don't care to see that trick any more. And some people do legitimately get bad as they get older. However, this is not a hard and fast rule and I don't think that's the only element at work with Lucas. While I believe his faults as a director are more apparent now and things like his wipe transitions seemed charming in the original and distracting in the Prequels it's not just that Lucas has aged. And this is not the reason people hate him.
Let's go back to one of the first points that is made in Eric's article. It is far too briefly touched upon and bears repeating: "The problem lies with the fans and the amount of faith they foolishly placed in one man." That's at the heart of the issue, in my opinion. The original Star Wars was Lucas' baby and without his unrelenting pursuit of it the entire genre may very well have still been laying dead next to Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. George deserves credit for making the world see that the space adventure film was a film worth seeing. He combined elements from the works of many other creators and incorporated things that were subtly familiar with a science fiction atmosphere that made them fresh and unique. Looking at classic elements of the hero's journey and the fairy tale through the lens of space was brilliant on his part and he won't hesitate to tell you that.
But at the same time there were hundreds of artists who contributed to Star Wars and made it what it was. Not just the fresh-faced and energetic young actors who he cast as the leads or the brilliant older thespians who brought all their gravitas and charm to the project but also unsung heroes. The world they lived in, the places and creatures and ships they saw were the vision of Ralph McQuarrie. He was the production artist. He did these:
Think Star Wars would be different without him? You bet your Lightsabers it would! Ben Burtt the sound designer is another major Star Wars creator. He deserves much more credit than he's given. He's the one who thought of Darth Vader's breathing noise, he made R2-D2's electric chirping whistles (now we all know what a droid sounds like) and he designed the sounds of a lightsaber as it clashes with another and when it swooshes through the air.

Think about how iconic those sounds are and how different Star Wars would be without them. While you're remembering what these movies sound like let's take a moment to praise John Williams. Try and think of another film or series of films with a soundtrack that is as recognizable and emotionally evocative as Star Wars'. I bet you can't and I'd further bet that if you did that the soundtrack was probably also done by Williams. Not only are these musical pieces awesome when looked at individually but Williams also achieved what one music historian referred to as "the finest realization of the Wagnerian ideal and the best use of leitmotif in history". This is not even mentioning the modeling crew, the costume designer, and many, many more talented people who contributed to the dream. And as a young and unproven director Lucas needed all these people. He also needed the budgetary constraints that were imposed on him because sometimes imagination completely unfettered by technical and monetary limitations isn't a good thing.
And this is where one aspect of Lucas' fall from grace and harkens back to Eric's point "The problem lies with the fans and the amount of faith they foolishly placed in one man." However, in this case it is not the fans but rather everyone in Hollywood and around Lucas. They all assumed that the fans would swallow whatever Lucas fed them with a smile. Somehow his ability to make money made people think that he was a good director. Hollywood is good at confusing these things: making money and being a quality film maker. And George Lucas is SO good at making money. He built a marketing empire off of movies that were 20 years old. And this ability to make money clouded the minds of Producers and they gave him carte blanche on the prequels. No one questioned the man. He didn't get rewrites on the scripts and he could strike down anything without question. Moreover George himself was corrupted by this power. He was infamous for dismissing people who questioned him from the Prequels. He took on the role of the sole man responsible for them and now he must live with the consequences. My point here is that there are undoubtably things about the original trilogy that you love that Lucas had nothing to do with. He may have even fought against them (he did want Han to be a weird Lizard-man kinda like the Gorn).
Gorn Solo letting Greedo shoot first in a moment of lizard solidarity
And so I agree with Eric in that I think Lucas is given too much credit and unfairly put on a very high pedestal when the originals were much more collaborative than the Prequels. It's wrong to give him sole credit for all the good Star Wars. He did however make himself solely responsible for the horrid CGI upchuck that were the Prequels by removing anyone who questioned him and taking charge of nearly every aspect of production.
But this is not an article condemning the Prequels (the internet doesn't need my help with that) but rather defending those who are offended and feel betrayed by Lucas.

He's Just a Sellout!
Eric rails against people who complain about Star Wars merchandising while still buying it. It is hypocritical and frustrating and I'm as guilty of it as anyone (he typed, his R2-D2 Droid phone chirping with a text). But here is another aspect of Lucas falling from Grace. You see, the original Star Wars created iconic and beloved characters and images. They lent themselves well to merchandising (which we all saw) but they weren't designed to be cups and shoes and mobile phones. They were just designed to be memorable and original things: X-Wings and Darth Vader and the R2-D2 were just plain cool in their own right. And I've got no beef with people getting paid for being creative. Mozart and DaVinci both worked for money and not just for the love of it. Money is a necessary element. But between Empire and Jedi George made a fateful decision. He decided to change the movie in order to have things sell better.
That's right, cute little teddy bears would sell better than big scary Wookies.
Wicket W Wa$$ick
Besides, kids already owned a Wookie toy. The ending of Jedi would have made a lot more sense if giant wookies who are known to tear the arms off people and were led by an already established character (this would have given Chewbacca a pretty awesome story-arc) took to ambushing and savaging Imperial forces rather than the Care Bears. George put Boba Fett in the movie so he could keep selling Fett merch and consequently Boba Fett got killed like a total dweeb. There were a few more choice compromises that George made for the sake of merchandising and I'm sure there are more still that I don't know about. Changing your art, your vision, your dream for toy sales is SELLING OUT! And it wasn't the evil Hollywood moguls who did this, it was George himself because he was the one who makes money off toy sales. Now, isn't that a betrayal of the fans? Isn't it greedy to take advantage of the fact that people like your movies and will support them beyond just buying tickets? And this decision only effected RotJ in a minor way. The full effect of making films to sell things wouldn't be seen until Episodes I, II, and III. These movies were made almost entirely to be a showcase for toys. And I don't care what he uses the money for, it's still money made off fans who were nothing but loyal and enthusiastic. This is where we get to the feelings of hurt and betrayal. "Art" for the sake of sales and not for the sake of art is insulting. It not only discredits the fans but also the original work. The proof is in the pudding (or rather, the R2-D2 phone). I didn't buy this because R2 has rockets in the Prequels. I bought it because he was an endearing character. George didn't need to design things to sell he just needed keep doing what he was doing: making awesome movies. And he didn't. He decided to pander and to shill. That's a decision that lacks integrity and shows a lack of respect by the creator for the original work.

He Doesn't Give the Fans What They Want!
Well, I think people's issue is that he's spent so much time tampering with the originals and not even put out a nice, restored version of the originals. It's a gripe but a minor one. I am the proud owner of the originals unrestored and unedited on DVD and they are more than enough for me. I've never asked for more and I never will. He gave this fan what he wanted in this case. However, it is a shocking irony that for a man so devoted to selling he won't just give in and make a bajillion dollars on digitally restoring the originals and getting the nerds who are all clamoring for it yet another Star Wars DVD set to buy.

New Kids Won't Understand Why His Old Movies Are Great!
Some movies don't age. While they may not captivate a generation any more films like the Wizard of Oz and Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and Toy Story and Star Wars are as good and appealing to kids now as they were the day they came out.
Pictured Above: Timelessness
And as far as kids now not getting the original Star Wars I think this too can be at least partially blamed on Lucas. When the original were re-released in the late 90's they did EXTREMELY well. Kids loved them even two generations later. I know I did as did all of my younger brothers. Everyone flocked to the theaters. As predicted they bought the new toys in droves. And this wasn't due to a few crappy CGI effects that George stuck in there. It's because these movies are great and have an appeal that is multi-generational. It's like King Arthur or Romeo and Juliet. There are elements that resonate deeply within our cultural consciousness. Luke is a tremendous embodiment of the Hero with a Thousand Faces. And don't get me started on Han or Leia or Darth-freakin-Vader. I think the reason that kids now aren't connecting as strongly is because they are watching them side-by-side with the prequels and after you amp kids up on so much visual cartoonery and wacky Jar-Jar hijinks and lightsabers everywhere that the originals seem boring. These poor kids are just too over-stimulated to pay attention to the story or the characters. It's like feeding them a bucket of candy and then asking them to eat a really good sandwich. They don't care about the hearty, delicious sandwich with its layers that all compliment one another so wonderfully. They just want the non-filling, tooth-decaying sweet crap. It's an unfair bias. My young cousins love Star Wars and I attribute this to them not having seen the Prequels.
Now, if this is the case, if seeing the new movies helps ruin the old movies, isn't that a very real betrayal not only of the fans but of the artist's own work? Frankly, people wouldn't hate George Lucas nearly as much if Episodes I, II, and III had been called 'Clone Wars: The Phantom Menace", etc and they hadn't revolved around Obi-Wan and Anakin. If Lucas had just made another space opera trilogy without making it Star Wars there wouldn't be this rabid hatred. The undeniable fact is that George banked on the original to sell the new ones. He decided that this story should be told (I believe he did this purely to get rich) and that he would be the only one who would make any real decisions on every aspect of the films. Eric looks at Lucas as if he was a tragic figure who had too many expectations heaped on him by rabid and impossible-to-please fans. I maintain that George Lucas took that role on himself to line his wallet and with zero regard to how this new undertaking would effect his original masterpieces or how the fans would react.
As I've said, people should get paid for being creative and awesome but George made these movies not be good movies but to sell toys and cups and thousands of different Lightsabers. While you can try to blame the fans buying these things at the end of the day these were George's decisions. And as I said before, this was an unnecessary decision. R2 and Boba Fett don't need "help" to sell because they're cool. He didn't need to compromise himself or his product in order to get rich. That is what is so irksome. In Empire Yoda didn't do anything but instruct Luke in a swamp and he sells like hotcakes. He didn't need a highly choreographed lightsaber dance scene with Christopher Lee to sell. The Emperor didn't need a lightsaber. In fact, the things designed specifically to sell are the things that do the poorest in sales.

He's Not Allowed to Change His Old Movies!
Also, as far as Lucas going back and changing things in the original, I agree with Eric to a degree. I think that a creator has that right... but was it the right choice to make in this case? Probably not. It was a great moment for Han when he blasted Greedo. It was an establishing moment for the character. And sure, I know Han shot first but what about people watching for the first time? They lose out on the scoundrel. Also, I think it shows a fundamental lack of understanding in George that he conceived of and executed this change. If ANOTHER DIRECTOR had re-released Star Wars and made Han Solo shoot second do you think the reaction would be any different? Fans would still freak out. It's just a bad decision. The fact that Lucas himself made it is all the more frustrating. As film viewers we should look at things objectively and this was just an unnecessary change that doesn't fit with the character. Also, it makes Greedo no threat whatsoever as he missed a shot that he had readied from three feet away. Han didn't even need to shoot Greedo. He could have just walked away as Greedo shot recklessly into the cantina crowd.
And just because I have a good memory of it doesn't make it ok. I remember the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cartoon as one of the greatest feats of animated story-telling ever and looking at it now it's pretty crappy. I still love the memory but that memory doesn't redeem the original material. It's just something special I have. And while Lucas cannot take that away from people it doesn't make changing the originals for the worse a good decision or even an ok decision.

So with all this in mind isn't it understandable that people feel betrayed by Lucas. We all still have this image in our head of the shaggy-haired kid in the desert trying against all odds to make the movie he dreamed of. And now his movies lack anything close to heart and soul. He just makes them to sell toys (you know the kid in the desert wasn't thinking about how well the C-3PO doll would sell). And so it's not only the fact that he sucks now that makes people hate him, it's the fact that he was once great. It's a fall from grace. A corruption of character. The tragic irony is that Lucas himself achieves what he couldn't do for Anakin in the Prequels: He took someone we viewed as a hero, one of the greats, someone who inspired and uplifted a generation and he got turned to the dark side and became everything we hate.

Besides, 'A New Hope' wasn't even that good, if we're being totally honest
And as for the last line of your review I am going to assume that was just a wind-up to get people riled. If it was meant with any sincerity I urge you to rewatch the original Star Wars. I'll loan it to you. It will take your breath away, I assure you.


Will there ever be another?

So, I love Google. My heart was warmed when upon searching for Cordyceps (for an unrelated RotUN horror movie post) I saw the Spirit's warm face beaming at me from the masthead. He is wonderful - with a charm and life that can be spotted even in the tiny Google at the top left of the page. And flanking him in letters crafted from the twisted and kinetic skyline of the city was Google, his mask forming the "o"s. The style and the character are inexorably linked: they are the trademarks of Comic Book Da Vinci Will Eisner.And I did not arbitrarily pick Leonardo because he is a famous artist (and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle) but because he was a man of many talents. Will Eisner was both a writer and an artist - And he is one of the best in both fields. If he had been a playwright he would have been one of the best playwrights in the business, on par with Arthur Miller or Tennessee Williams. If he had been an artist he would have been in the realm of Salvador Dali or Andy Warhol. It is because he worked in the less respected field of comics (a medium in which both art and writing are essential) that his cultural presence is not the same as theirs.
His artwork is fine, highly detailed and elaborate. When he draws windows and buildings and the the crafted landscape of the city he can do so with the precision and skill of an architect. But these are no mere blueprints. They sing with life and realism.
His characters were often cartoonish caricatures but their expressive natures are second-to-none. They conveyed life and motion almost as if they were animated. The ability to convey emotion in so few lines is awe-inspiring because you can deeply and easily connect with their over-the-top joy and sorrow. This is coupled with a writing that is brilliant, funny, and absolutely captivating. His stories can be nigh-Grecian in their tales of hubris and his philosophy is profound. It connects to universal themes of overcoming adversity and pondering the meaning of life. But his stories are set in the dirty, chaotic, and humble tenements of Brooklyn. Ordinary men and women in the vein of the Loman family or Harry Hope but with a rhythm and style that is uniquely Eisner. Even his use of puntuation was unique - multiple exclamation points and question marks that convey the frenetic tempo of the Jewish immigrants that Eisner had grown up surrounded by.
He conveyed the drama in the tiny rituals of urban living and with humor and honesty. He offers us the world from the point of view of the most unlikely characters: the ghosts of buildings, a cockroach, a fire hydrant, a mystery man, and the street itself. His connection with New York is like Walt Whitman's and he expresses it with a candor and skill that is to my mind an equal to the great poet's.
The Da Vinci parallel does not end there though. Eisner also lived in a Renaissance of Comics. Imagine being peers with Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Carl Banks, Bill Finger, Harvey Kurtzman and R Crumb. These men made a medium! Comics as a monthly distribution were just starting and a wide range of comics existed including Romance, Western, Crime, and Funny Animal comics. The styles were cruder and more direct. The art was rougher and the stories more simplistic and far from being aimed at a mature or intelligent reader. These men for the sake of art, for the sake of money, or for the sake of the insuppressable creativity that dwelled in them (often for all three) made comics what they are today. They introduced the formats and standards that took comics from kids 5 cent funnies into an artform that is lucrative, culturally relevant, artistically stimulating, and unique from all other forms of media. Putting it in perspective it would be like if Da Vinci and Michelangelo were the first guys to do tapestries and by the time they were done tapestries were as popular as... Well, as tapestries were.
You know how people say "he wrote the book on [comic]" well Will Eisner DID! It's called Comics and Sequential Art and it so instructively and wonderfully illustrates the principals of comics as an art that it is taught.And Eisner has his Mona Lisa too. That masterpiece that defines him. Far from his only achievement, it is that one creation that the cultural memory forever enshrines with the creator. Michelangelo has David. Van Gogh has Starry Knight. The Marx Brothers have Duck Soup (... Or a Night at the Opera) and Will Eisner has...
The Spirit was a Comic Book written for a magazine. Will took it because he felt the need to do something deeper than what kids books allowed at the time. He wasn't even going to have the character in costume until a last minute call from the editor. He was told that the magazine DID want a super-hero (the new craze) so Eisner famously "just drew on a mask".
The Spirit is one of the great modern heroes. He fights crime because he has the anonymity to do so. Dr. Cobra never asked Denny Colt if he wanted to be experimented on for goodness' sake! He was just a feisty Lois Lane-esque reporter (with hairy-er gams). He got caught by evil mad scientist and supposedly killed. But in reality he was only put into a state of suspended animation and he wakes up in a graveyard. And so, like any red blooded, super villain-fearing American would he decides to don a domino mask and take his two fisted assault right back to the criminal scum of Central City. Like Batman the Spirit has a confidante and friend in the Police Commissioner Dolan. He also has a Superman-Lois-like romance with Commissioner Dolan's vivacious daughter Ellen (Like Lois but she's got gams that would make Betty Grable bust a seam). And it goes without saying that the movie dismally failed to capture any of the SPIRIT of the Spirit. There's a word for that. It rhymes with "shit". The Spirit was very much a part of the city he lived in. Moreso than even Batman or Spider-Man simply because Eisner took the time and effort to tell the stories of Central City. There were stories about normal people living in the city and the Spirit would appear for only a few panels, on his way to this crime or that. He was a minor element in that other resident of Central City's life, just like the overlapping stories of a real city.
One of my first Spirit comics was the confession of an old criminal recounting the story of how he killed his brother years earlier. It was heart-wrenching and sincere in the emotion and the drama of the man's ordeal. Eisner is so amazing at facial expressions that the anguish and fear seem to exude off the pages and into the reader. The Spirit shows up at the end to bust the old crook but finds the man dead. There were lots of these stories of the citizens of Central City inspired by Eisner growing up in the poorest neighborhoods of depression-era Brooklyn. Tales of tenements and poverty that were rife in urban life at the time but were never touched on in comics.
The Spirit was genre-breaking as well. He was something between a pulp detective and a superhero while not really being either. There were stories of straight heroism to be sure but there were also noir detective tales. Horror stories cropped up as well and murder mysteries. Occasionally mysticism was dealt with as well as mob stories. But perhaps my favorite Spirit stories are the funny ones. At the heart of all of these adventures was a strong sense of humanism as embodied by the Spirit.
The Spirit is just an ordinary man. He is easily overwhelmed and more than not he is up against overwhelming odds. Often blind luck saves him from injury and death and by the end of the story he is usually bruised, bloody lipped, and his clothes are ripped and ruffled. This is not because these stories are particularly violent but rather because the Spirit was just a guy in a suit and that's what happens when you get in a fight regardless of whether you wear a mask or not. The Spirit was often confounded and flummoxed by women as well. He thought of himself as a James Bond-like playboy but very often he was being played or the woman in question thought he was a joke. The guy just couldn't catch a break. The public had very mixed views on the Spirit's activities additionally. People went so far as to dump garbage on him or throw bottles all of which he took with a groan and a grumble and a scoff of his foot while he plods back to the graveyard only to go out again and do what he thinks is right despite the adversity.The Spirit is everything you want to be at his best and at his worst you feel legitimate pathos for him because you can empathize with the crap he has to put up with. He dealt with it through humor at times and other times he was just too beaten up and exhausted to complain. We all feel that way sometimes and Will got that! But he kept going back out night after night because it was the right thing to do.
I would just like to point out that all of this was years before Peter Parker who now holds the crown for getting dumped on by life; he got it from the Spirit. The Spirit didn't even have the grief motivation that keeps Spider-Man going when he's at his lowest because for the Spirit there was no Uncle Ben - He was just a guy trying to do right.
And the Spirit had villains too! In my childhood the trope was played out in the guise of the Claw on Inspector Gadget but Octopus was the original shadowy mastermind. The only glimpse we get of him is of his trademark gloves.
Badass, right? That's the most you see of him and he's the primary antagonist of the book! Now, he is hardly the first behind-the-scenes villain but in the visual medium of comics the challenge of the unseen force was met and overcome by Will Eisner with his usual brilliance.
And do you want to talk about Femme Fatales? The Spirit had them like none other! There was P'Gell, Sand Saref, Silken Floss, and many many more. They were as much a challenge for the Spirit as any male rogues as the Spirit was constantly being seduced, tricked, distracted, and otherwise bewildering him. And as always, they dripped with sensuality and sex appeal courtesy of Eisner's art. The Spirit's awkward attempts to deal with them resonate because (especially for comic book reading men) women can be confusing, frustrating, and irrational. And we can go "Yeah, man. I hear that!" when he gets clobbered over the head just when he least expects it by some minx.
Of course all of that is icing on the cake that is the Spirit. As a character he was noble, he was tough, he was charming, he was overwhelmed, and above all the Spirit was a person. That always shone through because unlike Superman or Spider-Man the Spirit has all the same vulnerabilities and limitations that you and I do and that made him a character who was understandable, compelling, and real.
Now, I could go on and on about the Spirit, but it isn't the Spirit's birthday. It's Will's. And as I said, the Spirit is far from his only creation and he isn't even my favorite. My favorite Will Eisner creation is not an individual but a neighborhood: Dropsie Ave.
Will saw the city in a way that only someone who was born and raised there could.
To Will Eisner New York was like a prism of potential. It was a collection of stories - Every man woman and child you saw on any given street at any given moment was in the middle of a passionate love story or a comedic romp or a heart-breaking tragedy and the city in all its might and majesty was the setting for it all. More than that, the city was a story in and of itself. One of my favorite Eisner sequences is a series of pages depicting the elements of the city as they exist in our lives. Most of these tales are only a page or two long but each perfectly captures the part that those things play in the life of the city and the lives of the people in it. Taken all together they are like a biography of New York from the point of view of the most overlooked but essential "residents": The stoop, the subway, the street lamp, the fire hydrant, the mailbox, the windows, the sound of construction, the rush of traffic.
Signal, for example.
But Eisner's real joy and the thing that he was best at was telling about people. Dropsie Ave is the stories of people living in New York. The dramas they live. The hardships they endure and the loves they have and the misfortunes and blessings that life inevitably brings. In one book he traces the history of the Neighborhood from an 1870 farm to a sprawling suburb through urbanization, immigration, racial desegregation. All through the interweaving sagas of the people who lived there, were born there, grew up, moved in, moved out, and died there. Generations of overlapping natives and newcomers in the swirling symphony of the city as told through words and pictures.
Eisner also deals with the meaning of life. He and his characters examine God as a debate between faith and reason that all of us either internally or externally struggle with. In a Life Force he deals with people trying to live and struggling with the all important question of "Why?"
My favorite sequence involves Jacob, one of the central characters and resident of Dropsie Ave. "Izzy the Cockroach fell to the floor of the alley from two flights up!" and lands next to Jacob who just suffered a heart attack."So?? Mister Cockroach. What are YOU struggling for?? To maybe stay alive a few days more?"
Jacob then realizes that he too is just trying to stay alive and for what? He thinks about the possibilities of Man creating God and of God creating Man and how either way the reason for living is a great unknown. "So in either case both man and cockroach are in serious trouble! Because staying alive seems to be the ONLY thing on which EVERYBODY agrees!" He then nearly gets beaten up for stopping a man from stepping on the cockroach. He proudly declares as the passer-by threatens to hit him "Go ahead! Hit me! ... So at least I'll die for a reason! That at least I can understand!"
The very first Graphic Novel (a term Eisner coined to try and covey what the content of his work was) was also set in the Neighborhood. A Contract with God is an amazing meditation on the highs and lows of life, the intimacy and power of faith, and on a man's personal struggle with the concept of God. It is too nuanced a story to go into in this blog because it would only do the story a disservice (although maybe I'll do a full review of it one day) but I will say that it is one of the best comics I have ever read and I would encourage everyone (comic fan or not) to read it.
All of this is only scratching the surface, as I said. I didn't even get into A Life in Pictures (Will's graphic auto-biography), The Plot (where he debunks Zionist conspiracy theories), and many, many more. Not to mention the shelves of work that he did which I have not yet had the pleasure of reading.
So?? Will there ever be another?
Will Eisner was a master in every sense of the word and while I do think there will be others who enrich and evolve the medium as much as he did, there are usually generations between geniuses of his caliber.
3.6.1917 - 1.3.2005

Now I am going to go read more Will Eisner because 4 hours of working on this post was not nearly enough. In fact, it's just whet my appetite for much more.


My Media for the ULTRA NERD blog

I did two media projects this evening in conjunction with the creation of this blog. The first was the background picture, which I agonized over. I wanted a pastiche of nerdy things but wasn't sure how to go about it.
In the end I decided to go with a literal collage put together from things in my room. A bunch of comics and trades, some DVDs, a mound of action figures, some busts, a phaser, a bunch of dice, miniatures, and Heroclix, as well as other assorted Nerd miscellanea. Including a T-Rex because F!^? it, it's a T-Rex!

The Title Card I did myself as well. The background is a Frank Frazetta painting. A pretty awesome one too. The rest I did.
I wanted to go with just Ultra Nerd but that was taken by some Blogger who did one post in '05. So I decided to go full-on pulp with it and I think I hit it just right.
I am particularly happy with the umbrella of Capes, Dice, and Lightsabers.

I kinda hate Atrocitus...

Atrocitus!Leader of the Five Inversions. New Guardian of the Red Lantern Corps. Rage Incarnate!
Atrocitus is the big, angry, nasty berserker of the ring-slinging team of New Guardians (the Rainbow-clad crew of aliens who've been on all the Green Lantern covers lately). He was one of the five survivors of Sector 666 - A particularly nasty hive of scum and villainy that the Guardians long ago wiped out. As Geoff Johns tells it, the unluckily named Space Sector is full of jerks and so the Guardians of the Universe send their spiffy new Space Police force: the Manhunter Robots. But, robots being robots, they just kill everyone there except for the Five Inversions. OooOoO. Creepy, right? So the Five Inversions form the Empire of Tears: a crazy three galaxy-spanning alliance of vile and reprehensible evil-ness. So the Guardians eventually defeat them all and leave the Inversions crucified of green pins (in a moment of Old Testament badassery) on Ysmault.But wait! Abin Sur (the Lantern who gave Hal Jordan his ring) goes to Ysmault after a crashed ship and he meets them. He is given prophesies that lead him to know fear and year later, this kills him! Wow - Atrocitus (or at least Atrocitus' crew) killed Abin Sur - The first Green Lantern we EVER SEE in Silver Age Green Lantern continuity; remember that we see the dying Abin Sur with the ring and uniform before Hal dons them. Not only that, but later when rookie Hal and Sinestro take Atrocitus back to Ysmault the Inversions give Sinestro a prophesy that Korugar will fall to Civil War and in-fighting. This leads to Sinestro becoming dictatorial and ultimately his downfall as well! So these guys have some clout.
Atrocitus then kills his fellow Inversions and uses their blood to create his Red Central Battery and the Red Rings. And he goes to Earth to help with the Blackest Night and teams up with the other Lanterns to try and kill Nekron and to stop Krona from collecting the emotional Entities.
Atrocitus as he is currently written is a wrath-filled alien who is just pissed off at the Guardians. It's a trope we've all seen before - But that doesn't make it a bad one. The Anti-Hero (or at least sympathetic antagonist) is common in comics. This Atrocitus has a mixture of Rorschach, Darth Vader, Superboy Prime, and Hyperion. He is angry, but hey, his whole world got wiped out. He's kinda justified in being peeved, right? And when Saint Walker looks at him he sees that Atrocitus wishes he could be married and back on Ysmault like he was in the good old days (in a moment that looks like every one of Martian Manhunter's "I wish it were so"-dreams but with red-skinned aliens). And when he was staying in New York with Dex-Starr (evil kitty Red Lantern of sector 2814) he pets the cat and the two of them feel a degree of comfort and remorse in a quiet moment as Atrocitus pets the little acid-blood-spitting killer fur ball."But Paul! All this sounds awesome!" I hear you cry.
"That's true," I sagely relply. "But Geoff isn't the first writer to deal with the Five Inversions. Alan Moore was."
The Five Inversion are from an Alan Moore story from Green Lantern Corps called "Tygers". And when Alan Moore wrote about the Five Inversions in their very first appearance their back story went like this: The Empire of Tears spanned three galaxies and were like evil demon sorcerers. "Deathless and malign essences whose cruelties had grown too sophisticated for mortal form" as Moore put it. So the Guardians went in and wiped 'em out. Then they entombed their disembodied minds on the graveyard world of Ysmault. And when Abin Sur went there it wasn't just the Five Inversions. There were lots of nasty, bizarre creatures that tried to tempt and corrupt him. It's just that Qull of the Five Inversions is the one he listens to (damning himself as a result). They were twisted, evil, disgusting beings of pure evil but the Five Inversions was just one group of many, many evil survivors on Ysmault. Oh, also, the Five Inversions were pictured. I guess Atrocitus is the two-mouthed face-thing on the ground...
Look at those guys! They are the most messed up freaks you've ever seen! And they are hardly the weirdest of Ysmault's residents from Tygers. Atrocitus looks pretty standard humanoid. Sure, his skin isn't exactly clear but he doesn't look like he's the metro-sexual kind of Lantern who would moisturize. Whereas in the original everything was surreal to the point that just being on Ysmault made Abin Sur fearful- And Abin Sur is a highly regarded Lantern. He was the Greatest Green Lantern before Sinestro and then Hal. I mean, a Ysmaulti Red Lantern should have been terrifying not only in manner but also in their twisted visage!The rest of the Red Lanterns all look like pretty conformist - Two arms, two legs, and a torso. Their heads are weird, but so what? That's the same thing as the Green Lantern Corps (the GLs have tons of non-human looking members). I think it would have been awesome if at least their leader was an inhuman, alien monstrosity: His form and features both frightening and foreign.
The change to his appearance aside, Atrocitus should be totally and unrepentently evil! The only reason he should be working with anyone (a concept I already have trouble believing) is to lead them to their dooms. The whole point of Tygers was that even when they appeared helpful they were just like a slow-working poison. Dealing with anything on Ysmault, the Inversions especially, it's like dealing with the Devil: You only THINK you're getting a good deal and in the end you'll wind up in Hell. Also - What the heck happened to the rest of the psychedelic cascade of maleficence that was Alan Moore's Ysmault? I often give Geoff Johns credit for taking disparate or even contradictory pieces of continuity and making them fit but this utter disregard for a piece of the Alan Moore Green Lantern canon is a gross oversight in my opinion. And a glaring red mark on his record.
I feel like he wanted to tie in some cool GL continuity and had this idea for making the Guardians seem less-than-infallible and so he gave it this "secret history" ret-con."Boo!" I say!
If he wanted to bring in the Five Inversions then he should have just given Qull (the leader of the Five Inversions in Moore's story) a Red Ring and had him be a mad, powerful, and malign manipulator who would work with the New Guardians but to further his own ends. It would add a sense of danger to working with the Red Lanterns that seems lacking in the current story. If these being of rage, so mad that they don't have hearts, can abide by a "truce" then how powerful is their rage?
Now, don't get me wrong. I am a HUGE fan of the current run of Green Lantern. It has been phenomenal both as a story and for the character's prestige. Blackest Night was awesome and now unfortunately overshadows the total Yellow Power Ring blast to the face that was the Sinestro Corp War. It's all great stuff. I just feel like Geoff Johns went too far trying to fit this all in. He wanted to get his story to fit in the puzzle of continuity and it seems like it's 95% right, but the last 5% is really badly contradictory and for no good reason.