Sunday, July 8, 2012

Bracketology: Round Two

Doug:  After a first round of blow-outs, with but a few close calls, the second round promises to make us sweat out a few more decisions.  Some of you have already voiced some prejudices on the potential championship combatants; we shall see...

Doug:  Today's topic of conversation asks a simple question, albeit with a complex answer:

What makes a story/storyline "epic"?



Edo Bosnar said...

Ummmm, it was published in Epic magazine or under the Epic imprint? ;)

I think the simplest answer is a story in which the protagonists face some kind of earth-shattering situation or overwhelming odds (or their own self-doubt) and find a way to deal with it and come out on top by making use of all of their powers, abilities, etc., while retaining their integrity and principles.
Thus, it's not just cosmic stuff, like the Avengers dealing with the Kree & Skrulls, or the FF taking on Galactus, but more "street-level" stuff like Spider-man taking on the Master Planner or dealing with the Green Goblin after the latter kills his girlfriend without become a vengeful killer himself.

humanbelly said...

Doug! Doug! Something's goofy-- pair #'s 12 -16 are coming up as repeats of #'s 1-5!! (At least for me--). Oh golly, this could disrupt the whole karmic integrity. . .


Doug said...

HB --

I've viewed the polls on my PC tablet as well as on my iTouch, and everything seems to be in order. Sixteen different polls are showing.


Karen said...

I didn't see anything wrong either.

humanbelly said...

Yep, I think it was an oddball glitch on my end. I've since left & refreshed, and all looks well. Sorry for the alarm!


Edo Bosnar said...

HB - seems like you've already figured it out, but I just wanted to note that the same thing happened to me in the last round a few times; all you have to do is hit refresh and everything kicks back to normal.

Fred W. Hill said...

I agree with Edo re the street level stories being just as valid for epic status as the more cosmic tales. Of course, the main qualities to me are a great, meaningful story as well as hopefully great art (or at least not so bad as to detract from the story). I had to hard time making a choice among some of the selections this time, ultimately going with whichever I thought was really the best.

humanbelly said...

I think Edo did a nice job of touching on a lot of the very points I would have cited for a loosed definition of "What's Epic?". The use of the word was, of course, so overly-used (even abused) by Marvel for decades with their trademark uber-hyperbolic promotional copy, that it has sadly lost almost all of its proper weight and meaning. EVERY flippin' battle and confrontation was labeled as "epic" almost as a mandatory description. Oh, it was silly.

Something I would add to Edo's description would be an element where the hero or team has to find the means to operate above their own level, as it were, to succeed. This plays very nicely along with the internal struggle/self-doubt aspect. And as Edo suggested, it also accomodates the label being used at many different levels of superherodom.

Kree-Skrull War is just about the perfect example, of course.

So is Spidey's famous bout w/ the Juggernaut.

I would also include the one-issue slug-fest where Spidey defeats Firelord while assuming the entire time that he can't. It's short- but I can't think of anything less than "epic" to describe it.

And I would definitely include the touched-upon Thunder Frog storyline in Thor-- right down there at pond-level.

Power Pack had a truly epic storyline in the mid-20's (issues) of their book, I believe.

It's a good question, though, Doug. 'Cause generally "Epic" would assume an expansive scope of the story itself. . . and I would certainly question that assumption.


Redartz said...

The dictionary defines "epic" as a majestic tale of great deeds, great heroes and often great length. Yet I would agree with the preceding comments that an epic story can be a shorter tale, more limited in scope but far-reaching in heart.

Another example might be Spiderman Annual #1. No cosmos-shaking plot, just a story of revenge with an outnumbered hero overcoming withering odds...

Anonymous said...

I’m gonna disagree with the general will here. I think an epic has to have a big theme and a big subject matter. If it’s very small scale, but just brilliantly written and drawn, then it’s mostly assuredly a great story, maybe a classic comic book, but not an epic one.

I think there is one quality that defines it on 2 levels. That quality is that that it is WRITTEN like an epic. They don’t happen by accident and when the writer is delivering it, it is written in a suitably elevated way. It’s not something that just turned out huge, it was written huge. And the other thing is that it is long but written to be long. It is complex rather than just complicated and the narrative occupies the full length of the story: it is not just something that is set up and then takes a long time to play out with lots of twists or epilogues bolted on. The Korvac saga would be a good example here, where you can see the various issues and themes that have amassed in the previous 10 issues playing out to their inevitable conclusion in Michael’s living room. To back this up, consider the Elektra saga in Daredevil: it’s superb and it’s a sustained narrative, but it’s not epic because it’s not a single story. Watchmen, on the other hand, is. Likewise, although it has epic themes, REALLY epic themes, I wouldn’t put the first Galactus story (FF 48-50) in the running because the story is just not long enough.

I guess Kree/Skrull maybe defeats my argument here, because it feels more like a bunch of different threads sewn together and yet it is, without doubt, THE epic.

Hmmm. Maybe this is not an exact science. What do you reckon?


Fred W. Hill said...

I understand what you're getting at, Richard, although by your definition there would be only a handful of genuine epics from the Bronze Age and it would be questionable of there would be any from the Silver Age. Would the Golden Age 25-issue "Monster Society of Evil" Captain Marvel story qualify? (I've read about it but never actually read any part of it; has anyone else here?). Or how about Ditko's Mordo/Dormammu/ Eternity story that took up much of the latter part of his run on Dr. Strange? There were several side-trips during that yarn but it mostly coheres as a single story. Then there's the Kingpin/Silver-mane/Tablet story in late '60s Spider-Man. Certainly I'd think Starlin's Captain Marvel & Warlock stories qualify, as well as Moench & Gulacy multi-part Fu Manchu story in Master of Kung Fu and McGregor's Panther's Rage.

humanbelly said...

Well heck, Richard, you make a solid enough case to get wishy-washy ol' HB to come around more to your perspective. But of course, you're also correct that it doesn't seem like an exact science. "Epic" for comic books may be a description that is relative, at best, to what the norm has been up to that time. First Galactus trilogy? Had there been any world-at-stake trilogies like that before? Of course, the time-expended-during-the-story element doesn't hold up, regardless. So it may still may not pass muster.

Weren't there, like, endless dimension/space-faring epics (truly) in Journey Into Mystery/Thor back in the day? I seem to remember them wandering around on a viking oarship like Odysseus and his hearty crew. . .


Anonymous said...

Hi Fred – I think you’re right, there are more stories-with-a-touch-of-the-epic-about-them out there than we think. Starlin’s ones are great examples, and they really emphasise what I meant about being written to be epic. We know we’re going on a journey with Thanos, and Warlock even meets himself, a future self so bitter and defeated one can only imagine what he’s going to go through to become that version of himself. Ole Jimbo was clearly not making it up as he went along and we knew we had a long way to go before we got there.

Hi HB – yes, you’re right about Thor. I remember them literally sailing through space in a Viking longboat, being sent off to find Galactus and God knows what else. Something else about Thor: I remember thinking after his 2nd Treasury edition that Thor really lent himself to that format: great big extended stories with heroic themes. Or epics, I think we’d agree.

You also make a very good point about the hero having to raise his game, having to discover previously untapped levels of heroism as he/she is put into a situation beyond anything he/she has had to cope with before. But again there’s a difference of scale, right? I’m sure we all remember the Ditko Spidey where he’s crushed under the machinery and has to raise it up. It was the epitome of heroism, but only a single scene, so not really an epic?


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