Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Superhero Comics Motif: The Bad-ass Group Shot

There's something that, more often than not, gets my comic-loving heart a buzzin': the bad-ass group shot (BAGS). You've undoubtedly seen it countless times before, from Crises to group books and even sometimes in an individual character's book. It's a shot of superheroes or cast members gathered together and grinning right at the reader with a look in their eyes that says, "You are all so %$^@ed."

The most recent example has come from Trinity #15, which featured the Titans (both Teen and Winickmess), the Outsiders (sans Batgirl for some reason), the JSA, and he JLA all gathered together and ready to kick serious ass.

But not every BAGS works quite right. For example, let's compare two such occurrences in the Titans books. Now, what got me into comics was the Devin Grayson Titans series. As I began to collect back issues of the series, I came upon this BAGS from Titans #4, wherein the Titans travel to hell itself in order to rescue Starfire and thousands of kids:

Look at that. Just look at it! The sheer bad-assness just radiates off the page and makes you want to pump your fist into the air in delight. Now, Geoff Johns' Teen Titans had quite a few of these, especially when it came to calling in the entire Titans roster from past groups to go to war. The best example is from their confrontation with Dr. Light, however let's take a look at one from the tail end of his run, right when Adam Beechen takes over during the Titans East storyline. Raven and Cyborg have gone off to find help to fight Deathstroke's team of Titans. And who do they bring back? The original Wolfman/Perez era group (sans Wally West, since he was in another dimension and Bart Allen had been aged due to events in Infinite Crisis).

I mean look at it. It's just UGLY. First of all, the angle of the shot is tilted as if we're seeing a scene from Battlefield Earth and the facial expressions are a bunch of heavy-lined sneers. Donna Troy has her fist in the air... for some reason, which is even weirder since most of her arm is obscured by Nightwing. I mean look at the two examples above and then compare it to this one, in particular the one of Devin Grayson's Titans - sure, characters have their fists in the air, but we can see most of their arms plus we get energy radiating from the fists as a means of intimidation to the bad guys. Beast Boy in particular has got it bad. It doesn't even look like him! It looks like some kind of monkey cross-bred with Leonard Nimoy.

Plus grabbing this particular group of people makes no sense at all. Using their communicators, Raven and Cyborg could've easily made a call to EVERY Titan to bring them to the fight, but instead we get this select group.

Now I think what's going on here is that DC wanted to get some early promotion for the fact that they were reassembling the Wolfman/Perez era Titans for a new series under Judd Winick and Ian Churchill (Don't worry, I'll get to that nightmare of a series when I release the Atop the Fourth Wall book), but otherwise dramatically their appearance here makes no real sense. As such, I now present the five basic rules to follow when making a Bad-Ass Group Shot:

1. A BAGS should consist of AT LEAST five characters.

2. If the BAGS does not consist mostly (about 75%) of characters who are either regulars to the series or part of the team, there must be at least 10 characters present.

3. The shot should be facing directly towards the reader, so as to resemble the perspective of the person(s)/villain(s) who's seeing the BAGS
-COROLLARY: A side shot is acceptable if you're attempting a DOUBLE BAGS, which features two groups of characters facing off against one another.
EXAMPLE (From Titans/JLA: Technis Imperative #2):

4. While not needing a one-liner, having something bad-ass to say increases the awesome factor by 28%.

5. Dramatic build-up to the point of the BAGS is essential. The appearance of the BAGS should be a surprise, but one that makes perfect sense for the story.
For example, the BAGS in Trinity was built up both within the single issue and the previous ones based on Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman bringing more heroes into their investigation. The example used in the previous corollary to rule 2 featured an argument between the Titans and the JLA about rescuing Victor Stone or trying to shut him down when he went nuts and tried to steal the moon. The set-up lines were simple but brilliant:

BEAST BOY: If you try to hurt Vic, I'll stop you.
ORION: I believe the earth saying goes, "You and what army?"

And thus appeared the DOUBLE BAGS. In the example of a bad BAGS, the only hint of it coming was an appearance by Nightwing in the first part of the story from a few issues back, and it was a pretty superfluous appearance beyond welcoming back Jericho, who had returned from the dead. ‎


Anonymous said...

Ah, the BAGS. One of the things that only truly works well in comics.

Still, not sure why Argent is the only one facing the firey armies of hell ASS-FIRST in that Titans shot...

Maybe that's just how she rolls.

Great blog, by the way. Got here from your post on The ISB. I'm stickin' round!


Lewis Lovhaug said...

Or Mark Buckingham was feeling like he needed a little T&A to draw, but the bad-assness cancels out ass-first shots, IMHO.

Thanks for sticking around! Posts are kind of sporadic, ala Dave Campbell, but I do try to post anything something of interest occurs to me.