A Brief History
I was born in the early 70’s but as far I’m concerned I grew up in the 80’s. However, I have a poor concept of linear time, so sometimes something I though came from the early 80’s was actually from the late 70’s. However, there are things I thought came from the early 90’s that are actually from the late 80’s, so it all balances out. 🙂 At any rate, TV, especially Saturday morning cartoons, and comics were a major part of my entertainment. Being one of those kids who got picked on a lot in school, they were also a way to put the real world aside, to imagine a world where heroes were heroes and villains were put in their place. Minor bullies turned good, major bullies got what was coming to them (the level of which was based on their “crime” or the writer’s need to keep something around to either keep the hero humble or more like “us”), and all was well with the world, even a fictional one.
Occasionally, the hero would have some trouble that the bad guy would intentionally or unknowingly exploit (most bad guys don’t know what goes on in a hero’s personal life, especially the ones with a secret identity), and the hero would have to overcome it to stop the final phase of the villain’s scheme and save the day. And save the day he did, whether or not the locals appreciated it. Of course, mostly they did. Even if the villain won the battle, you know the hero would win the war, because that’s how it’s supposed to work. Like that song went, “the reason that she loved him was the reason I loved him too/he never wondered what was right or wrong/he just knew”.
Like many kids, perhaps some of you, I got into making my own comics. Following the example of some other classmates, I would take a few sheets of paper, fold them in half, and make a comic book. (Others, I’ve learned, would simply staple them together at full length, which has it’s merits as well, I guess.) At first I would do parodies or variations of other heroes and shows, but eventually I started coming up with my own characters and concepts. I also decided I needed a name for my comics. And that’s where the title of my blog comes in.
So where does “BW” come from?
I tried a few different names for my fake company. I’m not sure where “Earthly” came from, but “Troy A. Presents” is a bit more obvious. A few others also didn’t work for me. Then one day I finally found out what the “BW” marks in the TV Guide stood for–shows in black and white. That might have been more obvious if I had paid more attention or watched more black and white shows outside of old sitcoms, the occasional sci-fi movie, and of course the original Godzilla, but what kid didn’t watch that. Since most of my half-sized comics were made during homeroom and free study hall time in middle school, I didn’t have access to coloring supplies. (I also didn’t pencil in my art first, which really hurt that one Transformers comic I tried to make.) So all of my comics were in black and white. Hence, “BW Comics” was born, and it’s pretty much what I’ve used ever since, even on comics I actually did put the coloring pencils to.
The Dark Years
I worked on my own comics through middle school (our little town wasn’t “cool” enough to have a “junior high”), but stopped after a while during high school because the bullying (thankfully, mostly practical jokes and verbal assaults, although the psychological scars took longer to heal than any physical ones I might have had otherwise) had gotten so bad that I pretty much cut myself off from everything. Even today I struggle with that. So TV and reading, both comics and novels, were my continued escape.
I also struggled to find myself. Not being able to get a job, (and by being able I mean fearful that the only “real job” in our little town that a high schooler could get would be alongside my tormentors, or give them enough access to get me fired because they thought it would be fun) I had no direction and no money. (While I can’t say today if that would have really happened, I can’t discount it, either.) This continued after high school, since now I had no job skills and no money for college, which I didn’t really trust, partly because of the administrators in our school system, partly because of those same kids, and partly because they weren’t going to train me in what I wanted. However, I didn’t really know what I wanted. Sure I made all those comics before, and even restarted making comics after high school, this time in notebook “collections” I called T.D.A.’s Galactic Adventures, but that wasn’t “stable work” and I thought I needed something with a consistent paycheck. I just couldn’t figure out what that job would be, and everything I thought of didn’t hold my attention well enough.
The Lights Come On…at least for me
All this time, however, I’ve been coming up with more stories. I tried making a webcomic, but it fell flat. However, I was part of a “group” comic on the side, which gave me time to hone my skills and now I feel ready to try and do a new one on my own. Or rather, how I should have done the old one. I’ve decided that comics and stories are what I’ve always wanted to do. Helping my decision is the fact that entertainment isn’t as escapist as it used to be.
Like I said, I used comics as a kid to escape the real world. At some point, however, comics and Hollywood have decided to inject as much of the “real world” as possible, and a lot of it negative. Heroes aren’t just imperfect, some are barely heroes. Flaws are considered character, not how they overcome them. The future is usually a dumping ground rather than the bright shiny future we used to know (and if the bright future comes up there’s usually a dark reason for it and the people are all rejects from Up With People). Some superheroes don’t bother with secret identities. Over at Marvel they didn’t always get along, but now the heroes fight each other as much as they do the super villains, and at DC they act like them. The new breed of superheroes don’t wear capes, and on television most don’t even wear costumes.
Continuity has given way to “whatever I want to tell the story with”. Heroes seem to be fighting to maintain the status quo or balance with evil rather than defeating it. Stories are extremely political, usually to one side (and admittedly not mine), which pisses off potential readers, even ones on that side of the (lack of)”debate”. The “event” crossovers, which ties-in to other comics, has become the rule rather than the exception, cheapening the point of events in the first place. Stories are darker not for the purpose of the story, but just to be darker, grittier, violent, and vulgar. Where comics used to be for everybody you now have the “kids” comics and the “adult” comics, and the latter seems to dominate. Sales are down, and companies seem more interested in pushing licensing based on characters rather than good stories. Character growth is written out because some writers want to write the same characters they read years ago, often not really understanding what made the characters who they are and spitting on what (and who) came before. Villains are even more horrible than they used to be, where even third raters of old are “promoted in rank” though child killing, rape, and numerous other crimes.
THEY’VE TAKEN ALL THE FUN AND ESCAPISM OUT OF COMICS! Hollywood isn’t much better, and comics want to be Hollywood. It’s all about pushing the envelope for no other reason than to break taboos, not to enhance the story. It’s all about a social and political agenda. It’s all about making lots of money with little effort. It’s about going for “shock” rather than story. It’s about playing it safe by recycling the same junk rather than taking a risk on something new and original. It’s all about SUCKING HOPE, IMAGINATION, AND FUN OUT OF OUR LIVES! They can’t believe any more and they want to make sure we join them.
Counterstrike against the darkness
So whenever someone starts a blog or makes entries in their blog complaining about the new direction of comics, TV, movies, video games, and the like, you’ll soon get responses like “if you don’t like it, don’t watch/read it”. And yet these tend to be the same people who think everything should be to their tastes. Barney the dinosaur is evil, properties based on kids shows get an “adult” makeover that tends to run more like glorified fanfic than respecting the property. (We can talk “re-imagining” another time.) In fact, there’s little “nostalgia” in these so-called “remakes” nowadays, is there? Same with video game movies, where the source is all but ignored by the writers and even prop and set designs. “They” (being the producers) just want the name recognition to get our money. And “they” (this time the viewers/readers) don’t seem to care if it means “their” kind of show, and the hell with anyone else. Everything should be about them, and not you or your kids. Don’t like So You Think You’re an Idol? Prank the voting, ruin the show and maybe they’ll air something “good” (good=what “I” want). I’m not into it, either, so I don’t watch/read it! Hypocrites.
The other comment one gets when creating these blogs are “well, if you thinks it sucks so bad, stop complaining and do something about it/make your own”. I say “why not do all of it”? This is where BW Media Spotlight comes in! Yes, I’m going to complain where I think comics, TV, movies, video games, and music are screwing it all up, but I’m also going to spotlight what they’re doing right, and what they did right and wrong in the past. However, I also plan to start creating my own stories, because if “they” won’t tell the stuff I want to see and hear, I’m just going to have to make it myself.
The BW Media Spotlight Mission Statement
The primary purpose of this site, and the final hosting site of my work, is to showcase what I can do, and to practice and improve my work with the (hopefully) honest and helpful criticism (“you suck” is neither, but kissing my butt or stroking my ego hardly helps me improve anything, does it?) of my readers. The blog posts mostly serve to turn the spotlight on what inspire me, both positive and negative, to give potential critics an idea as to what I’m trying to accomplish. Someday I may actually make money at this comic writing thing, either self-publishing or working for someone else.
I’m not above the occasional “dark” story, but I want to make “all ages” mean ALL ages again. Kids can read it and not be exposed to “questionable” content, and adults (alleged or otherwise) can read them without discomfort. (Reality check: the general populace isn’t going to embrace your comics and video games as anything else than not wanting to grow up, and why should you care?) I want to make stories fun again. I want superheroes and super villains in costumes–and yes, even capes! I want to make entertainment an escape from reality again, while still making the fictional multiverse I will create believable, if only to that world. But mostly this is about getting out all the stories I have in my head, as well as a few thought and rants out of my system. Welcome to my cleansing; take a seat and hang out tight! Welcome to…
Couldn’t agree more.