January 3rd, 2009

talent, pencil

Things that make me wish I read more comics...

Over on the Savage Critics website, I stumbled across a fascinating series of posts by Abhay Khosla about the now defunct comic Blue Beetle. It's really making me wish that I read more comics, because I think Khosla has a lot to say about storytelling, writing about characters of color, and writing a story that's part of a larger continuity, but I don't have the context to fully grok what he's saying.

In particular, I've never actually read Blue Beetle, though I remember chatting about it with some comics-reading friends a while back. From what I've managed to gather, it was DC's attempt to launch a new superhero book that was accessible to younger readers, featuring a teenage protagonist, a coming-of-age plot, and a storyline that wasn't supposed to require a Ph.D. in DC-universe studies to grasp. As a bonus, the protagonist was Mexican-American.

Sounds like a laudable aim, although I'm always a little bit suspicious of entertainment that tries to consciously to appeal to kids. Because real kids are almost always more complicated than adults' mental models of them. Anyway, Blue Beetle didn't make a particular success of it - it struggled through 30-odd issues of declining sales and was cancelled. Though not before attracting a dedicated, though too-small, fan base.

Khosla analyzes some of the comics failings in these essays:
Part 1: Why Do Nerdy Things Work?
Part 2: Abhay Continues to Read Blue Beetle; Episode II (Particularly interesting for its thoughts on race in comics.)
Part 3: Abhay's Third Post About Blue Beetle; Only Ninety-Three More To Go (Largely a musing on the role of larger DC continuity in Blue Beetle, and as such, nearly incomprehensible to me. And yet strangely entertaining.)
Part 4: Speaking of Turkeys, Here's Abhay's FOURTH Blue Beetle Essay

Khosla's pretty harsh on the comic, as you can probably tell from these titles, but I think it's a harshness that is tempered with sympathy for what the comic tries to accomplish.