Delayed Update / Review of Man vs. Rocks

Hi Everyone,

Phew! It’s been a busy couple of weeks! The orders have been rolling in thanks to everybody’s kind support, and I have been busy packing up the books. It turns out that packing, labeling and sending books takes a lot more time than I had expected, but it’s been happy work :)

DSC00566(some packages getting ready to be sent out)

In addition, two weeks ago I was out in San Fransisco for the 2013 Alternative Press Expo (APE). I managed to get a table at the last minute, which was awesome, considering that I already had tickets to be in the city that weekend.

DSC00572(getting the table ready, it was much prettier when we were finished,
but once the show started I was too busy to take photos)

 The convention was a great time, and I was so excited to meet so many people who were so passionate about both their projects and mine. Brian Soriano, a local artist who does beautiful work, was across the aisle from me. I was lucky enough to stumble over this entirely too cool sketch that he did of the Oracle. Check out his Tumblr page here: wrathcomics.tumblr.com. We also got a great shout out from Clifton Thammavongsa who was working the booth at Rise and Wreck Comics.

There were too many cool people to name them all here (but special shout outs to Trista Musco, Kai Stewart, and BuyIndieComics.com, and Comic Book of the Month Podcast crews), but I did want to bring special attention to one project I stumbled onto at the convention:

Man vs. Rock

Man vs. Rock Cover_103013Story/Writers: Victor DeTroy & Kevin Bieber
Art: Jared Lamp

 I was lucky enough to meet some of the team behind this comic at the pre-expo party/badge sign in, and the exchange went a little something like this:

Me: So what are you guys here promoting.

Victor/Troy: Our new comic, Man vs. Rocks!

Me: Oh, sweet! What’s it about?

Victor/Troy: It’s about man… vs. rocks… You know? Like, F**K ROCKS!

Me: Uh huh…

Victor/Troy: F**K ROCKS!

So, needless to say I wasn’t entirely impressed with the sales pitch. Oh how little I understood! Later that night, over some beers with Miles and Luke (some total homies who helped me out that weekend), I brought up this bizarre project in an… unflattering light. This meant that when he had some free time the next day, Miles made a bee-line for the Man vs. Rock booth, and promptly bought me a copy so I could enjoy it.

I opened the pages, ready to start laughing (not in a friendly way), when the real scope and point of the project struck me. And now, I somewhat reluctantly admit, I think it’s pretty brilliant.

It is crude, juvenile, silly, one-dimensional, repetitive and gratuitous. The first page opens up on a pair of cavemen having sex, and the next two pages are dominated by a naked caveman (his improbable erection hidden behind a black bar) holding a rock aloft while screaming profanity. And yet, what this absurdity hides is that the underlying premise is a brilliant, absurd commentary on humanity.

The plot summary from the website reads as follows: Rocks are plotting to annihilate the human race. If we don’t act soon, those filthy rocks will kill us all during their surprise attack! Only one man has the rocks to stand up to these villains: Buck Stone. Join Buck in his quest to save us from the evils of those granite goblins!

What this plot summary doesn’t reveal is that the whole set up is a satire. At no point in the story are rocks conscious, or active, or actually doing anything. Instead they exist entirely as an outlet for human blame and aggression. While I’m not sure how long the concept will hold up (Volume 1 covers most of human history, but very little of the main story), it proved to be amazingly entertaining for one issue. I don’t want to give away too many of the jokes, especially since they rely largely on shock value and absurdity to land their punches, but I really think that anyone with a stomach for gratuitous nudity and profanity, and an interest in absurdist commentary will really enjoy this.

Man vs. Rock Volume 1 is currently available for free download on their website.

The Laziest Scene In Comics… and Movies, TV Shows, etc…

There is one scene in all of comics that is more pervasive than any other scene. It is repetitive, it is boring, and it takes up precious space in a medium that strains at the limits of its panels. As it happens, it is also the most common scene in crappy television and movies.

What scene, you ask?

Picture this: Two people (usually men) are hitting each other (usually in the face).

Does this scene sound familiar? A little too familiar, perhaps? Almost as if you’ve seen it in almost every comic book? That’s because you have.

Let me be clear. I’m not against violence in comics. All artistic mediums are, in the end, reflections of life. And whether we wish it were otherwise or not, violence is inherent in life. The thing is, while violence may be a part of life, it is not the only part of life, and for the majority of comic readers, it is not the main part of life.

Why then, is violence so omnipresent in comics?

While there are a number of reasons (reader preference, graphic advantage of the medium, emotional venting… we will address these issues at a later date), the main reason seems to be laziness.

There is no scene so easy to write, so basically engaging to readers, as a fight scene. It is the ultimate filler. It is exactly as long or as short as you need it to be, with no required explanation. Where debate is too tedious, where real story is too much of a chore, enter the fist.

Again, let me be clear, I am not against violence in general, nor against fight scenes. I am simply against them being used in the place of real story. Violence does occur in real life. But in the vast majority of cases it occurs as the result of overwhelming emotion. Too often writers try to use backwards implication: people are being violent, so the stakes must be high. This is just a cheap way of justifying both motivations (if a character is willing to fight over something, it must be important), and future violence (if violence has been engaged in once, then it is regarded as the only future means of solution). This bypasses the main duty of storytelling, which is to impart upon the reader the weight and importance of the conflict at hand. When this is done well, small acts of violence can carry great weight. A punch can end a dream. A harsh word can end a relationship.

When this is done badly, the end of the world is meant to make us care about both characters and causes that are otherwise unjustified.

It has long been my rule of thumb that the less violence in a story, the better. This is not to exclude excellent works where violence in necessary (Maus, I Kill Giants, 3 Shadows, etc.), but to say that when looking for good storytelling, avoiding violence is probably the best place to start. Comics are such an amazing medium to use for storytelling. Emotions, backdrops and actions suddenly fall from the verbiage. Story is reduced to dialogue and images. Worlds of interpretation are opened up.

And yet, when watching someone punch someone else in the face, what is there to think, but: “He punched him very hard.”