This is the first sketch of Joe from my novel, Souls Triumphant, back when it was just a short story in my creative writing class at Illinois State University. This sketch is from the 1998 journal I used in the class to flesh out ideas.
Ex Machina is one of those titles that should never work in the comic book medium. Former and short-lived superhero abandons his super-persona to become mayor of New York. And that happens before the start of the series. Let’s be honest, if anyone but writer Vaughan and Harris were involved, this series simply wouldn’t have worked.
Ex Machina: Power Down is a return to greatness for the creative duo. The storyline deals with Mayor Hundred struggling against a city-wide power outage just as a mysterious visitor takes his mother hostage in order to deliver Hundred an important message. That message has fascinated me and worked expertly as a bit of foreshadowing. In addition, as always, we are given flashbacks to Hundred’s involvement with 9/11 as well as some back-story during his training days.
The Ex Machina series started with a bang, utterly captivating me with every panel. However, the last storyline in particular focused a little too much on Hundred’s mayoral duties and not quite enough on the more fantastic elements of the series. Power Down is back to what makes Ex Machina work best—an equal blend of the realistic world of politics and the surreal world of super heroics.
Furthermore, let’s not forget about the art! Harris’ artwork is extraordinary and this series simply wouldn’t be as enjoyable as it is without him. He gets better with every issue he draws, and he was excellent to begin with! Moreover, Mettler, the often-ignored colorist, is truly responsible for giving this book in particular much of its flavor. The colors demand your attention in such an unassuming yet powerful manner; it’s astounding.
Finally, Power Down also offers a “special features” section in the back of the book with some background information given by both Vaughan and Harris. Very fun stuff if you’re into the production aspect of the book.
Ex Machina is a must-read series for all lovers of literature.
I’m not a zombie guy—no interest in them whatsoever. I’ve watched the zombie craze in pop culture, observing from afar, and simply didn’t get it. So when a hardcover came out a while back featuring a storyline about zombies overrunning the world, I quickly dismissed it.
Last week, my friend told me about an incredible book called World War Z. I said, “Isn’t that a zombie book?” He said yes, but then quickly fought to overcome my bias with reasons why I would love it.
After just mere minutes of describing the book, he had me soundly invested. I got my own copy the next day and had World War Z finished inside of a week (remember I work full time and write on the side, so a book in a week is pretty fast for me).
World War Z completely won me over because it was written as though it belonged to the nonfiction genre. The author presents a narrator who conducts a series of interviews years after a pandemic global outbreak of a zombie virus that nearly drove humanity into extinction. The interviews are typically only a few pages long and focus on military leaders, doctors, scientist, and regular citizens literally from all over the world. The reader then has the pleasure of piecing all these interviews together in order to get a broader sense of an epic story.
The sheer imagination of the author, Max Brooks, is staggering. He truly considered every possibility with World War Z. The ideas he presented as fact were absolutely plausible, and at times you forget you’re reading fiction. I caught myself thinking, “Okay, what would I do if I were in this situation?”
Furthermore, the zombies were almost secondary in the book. Brooks focused more on the human reaction to possible extinction, and the power of fear that can overcome us all. But he also emphasized the human will to survive, and the motivation to triumph in any sort of adversity. And while I wouldn’t call this a political book, I believe Brooks made a few statements about our current geopolitical climate if you read between the lines.
It’s not all roses, though. I loved the book, and I literally could not put it down, but I must admit it was probably about fifty pages too long. Near the end, things started getting a little repetitive. Not enough to quail my enthusiasm for World War Z, but it could have stood a little trimming up.
To sum up, Brooks’ imagination and style have won him a loyal reader. Remember, I’ve been telling everyone I know to read this book about zombies, and I hate zombies!
Superman is a conundrum for me. What I love about his character is also what I hate about his character. When I look at him, I see an icon of truth and justice. I see a symbol of fair play and selflessness. I know that in his world, in his stories, he will never turn his back on the innocent; he will forever strive to save you, me, and the world.
And, because he’s Superman, he will prove victorious.
Which is also why I hate him. From a characterization standpoint, what can you do with him? The man is invulnerable. He is among the most powerful entities on Earth and in most of the universe (depending). And, beyond the anatomical augmentations, he is also a good man with a good heart who always wants to do the right thing.
So, in small doses, Superman is a joy! He is everything the ideological hero-worshipper in me wants. However, in long doses, as in any serialized format, Superman quickly becomes boring. He feels stale because there is no real sense of danger surrounding his physical adventures, and, for the most part, his character is squeaky clean, thus reducing the potential for nonviolent interpersonal or psychological conflict.
As I said, what I like about him is also what I hate about him. For example, when they tried to give him a little edge in Superman Returns, it just felt wrong. I had a horrendous time accepting Superman as an illegitimate father and, furthermore, a deadbeat dad.
But, I believe they were sort of on the right track with that. Since we cannot relate to Superman on a physiological level, we could potentially relate to him on a psychological one. For example, we can all relate to notions of guilt. However, most of us have strong opinions on absentee parenting, and so they went wrong with that particular plotline involving Superman’s guilt over his son.
However, I like the idea of Superman struggling with inner conflict. I absolutely do not want to see him as a brooding avenger driven by overwhelming guilt—that is not who he is. I have to admit though, when I (over)think about what it would be like to be Superman, the first idea I have is, “How would I sleep at night?”
I mean, how could I get in my solid eight hours of snooze knowing that somewhere out there someone needed saving? For a man who can traverse the planet in mere heartbeats, he must realize he is constantly needed as a savior. I would love to see a storyline fleshing out this dilemma. I think it would be fascinating to experience Superman rationalizing time spent outside of the Superman identity. Somehow I have a hard time envisioning Superman saying, “Sorry peeps, I needs some me time.”
After all, it’s difficult to imagine how can he hang with the JLA and JSA at Thanksgiving, gobbling up turkey, when a village burns hundreds of miles away with people suffering.
How can he justify staring at a table of photographs debating the merits of potential team members when a wildfire threatens the longevity of an entire civilization?
That is the hardship when thinking too deeply about Superman, because you then begin feeling resentment towards him when he’s having coffee with Lois or working on a news story for Perry. Suddenly, when I think of my niece in danger, and I can’t get to her in time, and Superman is working on a story about possible political corruption, I can’t help but get angry with him. Keep the tights on, dude! We need you 24/7! We have Brian Williams for what you’re doing at the Daily Planet!
Alas, I realize this is a fictional character and I am utterly overanalyzing him, but these are the sorts of issues that would interest me. Of course, I’m not sure how many people want to read a comic book with panel after panel of Superman contemplating his obligations to the world, or watch a movie showing nothing but rescue after rescue after rescue. Most of us want Superman fighting giant monkeys or aliens from outer space, or maybe even other super heroes. Something dynamic and catchy. But we also want a little bit of Clark Kent pretending to be just like us. That way we can sort of relate to him. But don’t give us too much of that. Just a little bit. Otherwise we’d just be reading a comic book or watching a television show about ourselves.
So, for me, that is the ongoing saga of my love/hate relationship with Superman. Everything I love about him is exactly what makes him so boring.
(Did you enjoy this article? Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)
If you follow my reviews, you know that I ardently proclaim Michael Chabon as America’s greatest contemporary writer. Sometimes he demands a bit more effort on my part as a reader, but he’s never outright disappointed me.
I truly hate to say this, but Gentlemen of the Road was utterly incomprehensible and, worst of all, completely dull.
Forgive me, Mr. Chabon, but I do not recommend anyone read this book.
I’m very pleased to announce the arrival of Dr. Nekros, a ghost hunter tracking down the demon who disfigured him, all while trying to ditch his ex-wife! Dr. Nekros will be the lead character in a serialized story that I hope to span a three-year period.
The first year, which I call Volume I, will have six episodes. Volume II and Volume III will also have six episodes per volume.
The idea is that each story can stand alone as an entertaining and provoking experience, but all episodes ultimately work to tell a larger story, an epic story.
But, all travels must begin with a single step, and so I can’t tell you how much I hope you’ll give “Dr. Nekros: The Tragedian” a chance.
Simply follow the link to the following address to meet Dr. Nekros for only $00.49!
Scott William Foley