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The sort of change in an adaptation that frustrates most is one that seems to work better in a superficial viewing but that falls apart upon consideration—when dealing with a work that has withstood so much analysis as Watchmen has, a film, no matter how different from the text, can pay the greatest strength to the original by being a film which rewards re-viewings, that pays off further dividends and only seems deeper under a harder critical eye. That Watchmen stands as, if anything, a middle-of-the-road mediocre film, hurts the hardest. The only exception to this rule, of course, has been stated in perhaps a hundred reviews.

The audience at my viewing of the film laughed harder at the appearance of Andy Warhol in the opening sequence than anything else in the film—perhaps appropriate, as the figure who so blatantly walked the line between style and substance. The two have always, unfortunately, been linked in the minds of superhero audiences, as the legitimization of their genre. Well, of course, the whole plot has already gone to fuck as you can see right there. My job was to develop a semantic the general public and the book trade could understand. Bryan Singer and Ang Lee, for their part, attempted to instill their films with the traits of superhero stories high and low that make them special, but neither of them could quite stick their landings, as strong as their work was in general though Singer took one failed X-Men film to get there.

But the last two decades are otherwise littered in superhero corpses, from B-grade embarrassments like the ones that Patton Oswalt was quick to list to the merely-mediocre The Incredible Hulk , which flirts with camp and a peculiar reverence to the TV show that preceded it while never committing to its higher ideals. So then, we must take the film on its own and see what it has to say. I confess I have a hard time with it. Much has been made of his slow-fast action cinematography, but more jarring are the lighting choices, which seem to point the way for a half-asleep audience Look!

They lash the broken film to their backs and try to carry it across two hours and forty minutes, enduring whatever obstacles are put before them, and the strength of their performances almost save the film from itself. However, Akerman as Silk Spectre arguably the most important character in the story , gave flat readings that wrenched the heart out of scenes that desperately needed them. In the end, the film will be forgotten. That reactions have been so mixed, but rarely so emphatic as for even The Dark Knight , all but assures its fate.

While anticipation fueled sales, I have a hard time picturing the film as driving people unfamiliar with the book to the stores to learn more. This is where I am at a loss. It is dreary and quiet, more open in its condemnation, more exhausted with its own action, and ultimately more pleading. Watchmen , the text, changed comics in positive and negative ways, incontrovertibly, regardless of how one views the text itself. Watchmen , the film, is going to change very little, regardless of how one views the film on its own. That, perhaps, is the biggest change between the two that will result from this long and arduous adaptation process.

Someone option Promethea yet? NEXT: I try to write another column within three months. Should I open the floor to suggestions? The inside covers of the books are marked with a pair of maps, essentially bookending history with cartography. X XIII. Jordan Mechner, creator of the long-lived Prince of Persia video game franchise, released a graphic novel inspired by his games earlier this year through First Second books. A publisher swiftly becoming known for high-quality literary works, First Second usually releases imported works from beloved European cartoonists like Lewis Trondheim and Joann Sfar, as well as prestige projects from already-known talents like Eddie Campbell or Jessica Abel—the idea of a video game adaptation coming from their publishing house, even a particularly well-marketed book like Prince of Persia celebrating a major new game release , seemed something of an anomaly.

However, unlike most adaptations of a video game into any other particular media—cinema having notably had trouble with the product so far—this book turned out to be surprisingly well thought-out and often gentle in its storytelling. What makes the book work is not, strictly speaking, Iranian writer A.

For an adaptation, there is a distinctly notable tailoring of the story to the strengths of the comic narrative. Prince of Persia , the game series, has two primary elements to its story: first, that there is and has been more than one prince, each of whose story repeats throughout history an element it shares on some level with the best-selling Zelda franchise and second, that time is an integral element.

At first, that time played out as a time limit that the player had to race; later, it took the form of a time-travel mechanic that allowed the player to rewind moves and gaffes mid-play. From thematic elements concerning the impact of history on the present at one point, one Prince must battle history itself, in the form of the dead rising , to the mechanics of how the story itself is told, the interplay of moments in time is kept at the forefront.

By telling two stories in tandem, vacillating back and forth, the most obvious method of playing with time and history is the juxtaposition of two moments in subsequent panels. This is a technique that was taken to perhaps its narrative limit in the two Dr. We view moments out of order and simultaneously on the comic page, a taste of how Manhattan looks at all of time. As Dr. Manhattan says:.

This is appropriate for comics, as, in their ability to display moments in time simultaneously, they resemble nothing so much as maps of time as opposed to place. While there is a certain degree of biting satire in portraying God as a superhero, a blatantly Superman-looking one at that, and then making that man a pathetic failure, the actual humor of it has no air to breathe because every other character in his works are similarly empty and broken.

His best-selling Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Boy in the World was based in part on his real life confrontation with his father; his other major works feature the same tropes. Ware has two techniques that have gained some deserved praise, however, with regards to the portrayal of history. The second technique Ware uses, though, is more unique. Late in Jimmy Corrigan , Ware has a two-page diagram follow the bloodline of one of the supporting characters back in time, using a series of snapshots, cutaways of a yearbook, the appearance of a pressed flower in a Bible, and a complicated series of arrows and trails in order to tie her to another supporting character who, as in Prince of Persia , exists in a simultaneous narrative taking place earlier in history.


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  4. Comics Column #2: Poetry and New Languages (A Disease of Language, Kabuki) - Slant Magazine!
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  6. Ware and many of his peers—Ivan Brunetti, Adrian Tomine, Seth, and others—have ascended to certain rarefied stratum amongst comic professionals. They are viewed as the forefront of the medium by The New York Times , manage to pick up awards previously available only to prose fiction, and are otherwise held as proof that the comic medium has evolved past the material that wider audiences had for so long considered the only potential of comics at all. The other side of it, however, is that very frequently they find themselves considered the exception that proves the rule.

    Unfortunately, there are no used bookstores, third-run theaters, or DVD rentals to provide late discoveries of work that slipped past the initial radar. The comic book as a unit is the stuff of old pulps. To stray too far into genre territory, other than as an ironic metaphor, is to obfuscate your message and resign yourself to obscurity. But above all, there can be only one creator, not a union of writer and artist, for only a single creator can achieve their full vision. As a writer, he manages often quite eloquently to capture a moment, a feeling, and to bring these together to show us life that feels very true, and often is quite literally.

    But should there not be a higher standard of artistic storytelling, to find your work on a wall? Where is David Mack here? Is the main requirement of comic literary greatness solely the ability to capture malaise and emotional torpor? Is the sole genre the capturing of a wasteland of desperate isolation? And why is it so frequently autobiographical? Often, their comics read like a protracted suicide note. Ware, for all his faults, has done more for the language of visual storytelling in his work than many of his peers.

    The irony being, of course, that it so frequently crosses paths with the work McCloud is disseminating in the online community. Many of the other groundbreaking cartoonists working today have been experimenting with similar explorations into how time is handled in comics—how the map is drawn—including those who deserve a higher profile.

    Really, though, the movement has as its father the work of New Zealand cartoonist Dylan Horrocks, creator of the acclaimed Hicksville. The fascination that Horrocks has with cartography is nowhere clearer than in his best-known work. Throughout his travels, Batts is guided by a series of mysteriously-appearing fragments of a comic about Captain Cook and a cartographer, which discuss the nature of maps and what they mean to culture as a whole.

    Some seek to represent the location of things in space. That is the first kind—the geography of space. But others represent the location of things in time—or perhaps their progression through time. These maps tell stories, which is to say they are the geography of time. The proximity of bodies. Time is simply what interferes with that, yes? It becomes clear here, however, that while the story of Captain Cook in the interwoven narrative of Hicksville is partly a love letter to New Zealand as a whole, and in particular this town where comics are the natural lifeblood, and where the lighthouse contains a library of every great comic never written, the story is also about comics itself, maps that can be communication with something beyond oneself.

    In fascist Cornucopia, maps were outlawed among other things in order to keep the populace confused and docile, and only war hero Emil Kopen was able to disseminate maps to the people through his newspaper comic strip. In the case of Horrocks, however, the map of that world and its history is inherent to the form in which the story is told. This idea was also utilized by Nick Bertozzi for his Xeric Grant-winning minicomic Boswash , about a Civil War-era surveyor and cartographer. McCloud, for his part, in the writing of Reinventing Comics , made the transition of focus to web-based comics and their potential for experimentation.

    Curses , his one hardcover collection, is focused on wanting children and losing them, and despite the pain inherent in the story is at times very funny, very moving, and even occasionally creepy. Rather than feeling trapped by it, Ganges feels the purity of the moment as eternal, and thus recurring—which means other moments are full of potential as well. In the responses to my second installment here at The House , commenter Bruce Reid drew my attention to artist Warren Craghead.

    Many of his illustrations and comic work follows the pattern of Ware and McCloud in their diagrammatical form. Some of his work, in fact, quite literally depicts places and the paths between them. Somewhat similarly, Douglas Wolk in Making Comics drew connections between comics as cartography and the use of poetry when discussing the work of Hope Larson. Wolk writes:. The relationship between photographs and experience in Gray Horses serves not only to blur that boundary further, but also implies, as Prince of Persia attempted to state outright, that history, memory, experience, and dreams are all aspects of time, and in comics can frequently become interchangeable.

    Alan Moore, more than any other, has used comics to disseminate his particular view on magic, and that magic is frequently tied as much to geography as to comics. While a study of comic technique in Promethea could fill a sixteen-week course, the idea of cartography and language plays a specific part—the Kabbalah, after all, is a cosmological map itself. Williams III wander around the station. And just moments before, the map of time has been up-ended; Promethea is trapped wandering a road in the shape of a Mobius strip, and she sees herself coming and going along the path just as the reader can see each simultaneous depiction of her on the comic page.

    These conceptual tricks reach their apex in the final issue, in which the characters in the story have attained a certain amount of enlightenment, and Promethea speaks directly to the reader in a complicated fold-out poster of an issue that takes the idea that Boswash suggested and cranks it up. In attempting to convey his unique view of magic and the nature of the universe, Moore has completely rewired the natural cartography of reading comics.

    Madden created ninety-nine variations of the same single-page comic script, attempting to show the variety of possibilities the comics medium had available to it in the telling of a simple tale. In addition to camera angle challenges that would fit in a similar experiment in cinema all close-shot, all low-shot, etc.

    One particular selection had the story told not with a series of panels or dialog balloons, but rather with a full-page map. They are, after all, the same maps that guided many of the cartoonists, publishers and readers who built that industry. And while the market forces at work today make those divisions so pronounced that many brilliant creators are going largely unheard, they can also be used as landmarks on a map for exploring comics as a whole, even while finding the similarities from territory to territory.

    This is what you get when your lizard compulsion to jerk off over superheroes overrides your forebrain. Fuck all of you.

    Games News! 13/07/15

    To this day, full-screen versions of many films are offered separately because some people are more comfortable with an image that fills their television. Joe —but Ellis is largely known for his cult of personality. And the relationship between the work and the fans drives comics perhaps more than it does any other media. Braid is one of a number of recent games that has prompted a lot of discussion with regards to how narrative works in video games and what succeeds artistically. Blow himself recently gave a lecture on the subject that has provoked further discussion.

    This idea is what has led to so much writing and discussion. In these media, unlike in film, the narrative must be somewhat tempered with other elements in order to provide the full issue—a more complicated arrangement than simple pacing. In games, narrative is oftentimes used between moments of play as a reward for success or, alternatively, an obstacle to get past rather than part of the overall experience. In comics, the motion and change between two panels are elided in order to not only maintain the proper pace, but to enable the reader to engage with the work.

    In defending a post on another site , Krpata noted:. I say this as a vigorous defender of Michael Bay, clearly the most skillful filmmaker of his type working today. When I was younger, for instance, Kubrick escaped me, John Ford bored me, and David Lynch would have been too much for me. Mike Musgrove at the Washington Post introduced Pulitzer-winning columnist Michael Dirda to the highly-rated objectivist shooter game BioShock —a game set to be a film by Gore Verbinski in —as a sort of experiment. Would Dirda get into the game, appreciate the narrative, view the game as art?

    He was unable to apply a health pack to his injured character, let alone traverse the giant underwater city in which the game is set. The basic tropes and very construction of games are taken for granted within the gaming community—creator and audience both—and leave the medium inaccessible to outsiders. A better analogy is learning to push the A button to make your character jump. Or that jumping on an enemy will kill it. The more you think about it, the more you start to notice all of the ingrained assumptions we have as gamers.

    Every aspect of the game through to its conclusion is something of a lead weight in the throat. Less a poem than a single stanza, you follow an Atari-style sprite character across the width of your screen as he lives out his entire life in metaphor. You can try to collect a high score, but the treasures are useless to the game.

    Nobody wants to go it alone, all we have are each other. Some of the names are familiar to non-comics readers. Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman are not especially obscure pop culture names. Warren Ellis and Grant Morrison are well-enough known counterculture figures, as well, who occasionally cause a blip on the radar of magazines like Wired , Rolling Stone , or Entertainment Weekly.

    There were just as many artists that crossed the pond at this time, but I highlight the authors because it was their influence that impacted mainstream comics so significantly. Many titles, particularly from Moore and Morrison, also featured themes related to real belief in magic. Most of these writers now vacillate between creator-owned work frequently still at Vertigo and runs on mainstream superhero titles, but their initial breakout titles— Sandman , Swamp Thing , The Invisibles , etc. The late 80s were considered a renaissance in comics on par with the 70s in cinema—these were our maverick auteurs, our Coppolas and Altmans.

    So, too, for every Transmetropolitan or Planetary , Ellis has a pile of short works that never particularly stick. Or perhaps a better analogy would be the science-fiction author in prose, who produces books of various quality, but only draws attention when he throws in with a pop culture series: a Star Wars novel, or a role-playing game book.

    Eating of caribou eyes and cloned human bodies will be normal—but as drive-thru fast food. This through-line, and the conflation with the persona Ellis puts on as an Internet fixture, is a significant factor in the popularity of his various online communities. However, the audience for superhero comics are similarly uncomfortable in their feelings for the genre that they obsess over, which speaks to larger concerns.

    Someone points out amidst the shouting and circular reasoning that this happens every week over some book or another, and that bears out. While some were willing to reason, many were downright vile in their responses. I should, however, be more specific in my statements, as they were a little reactionary during a heated period. So my informal census may be skewed; but I see people of varied ages and both genders reading graphic novels on L trains, I see the staff at the downtown bookstore chain talking and recommending comics from America and Japan in equal quantities … at a former job working at a call center, a co-worker, a middle-aged African-American mother of three, tried out and laughed uproariously at my copy of the hipster masterpiece Scott Pilgrim , which will shortly be on movie screens attached to the Michael Cera famewave.

    Graphic novels are winning literature awards, appearing on gallery walls, are the subject of hip magazine coverage and insightful critical review. So I roll my eyes at the comic fandom cries of oppression, of lack of respect. Comics Not For Kids?! So superheroes are not of interest, not even when major blockbuster motion pictures put their characters up in front of millions upon millions. But that knowledge only empowers them on one socially awkward level.

    But why is the superhero genre so contentious? Indeed, why so serious at all? And why are comics in general so often unapproachable to non-readers? This moral choice has been the impetus for a great deal of acclaim—forcing the player to choose between a reprehensible act that will aid them in fighting a greater evil, and taking a moral high road. Unfortunately, what works in theory does not work in practice: the choice is fundamentally broken. What is lauded as a complex moral problem and an elevation of a derided genre is really an ethics discussion question, with the deck stacked so that nobody really has to think about it at all.

    Superhero stories share low expectations in common with first-person shooter video games. The illusion of complexity is usually enough. What a curious outsider found, upon flipping through the comics in question, was a disastrous mess. Spider-Man was wearing armor, living in a mansion, and revealed his identity to the press. All very shocking, and frequently out of character. Marvel has since made it plain in subsequent comic stories that many of the events were caused or escalated by shape-shifting aliens.

    The larger question, however, was one of accessibility. Not only were familiar characters acting strangely—a conceit which, if skillfully played, could speak to how rational people can be changed by horrific events—but whole sequences hinged upon obscure characters or prior plot developments that are never appropriately explained. One subplot that takes up a disproportionate amount of pagetime in Civil War is the story of Speedball. Speedball was a goofy, wisecracking teen superhero with bouncing powers; one of the last superhero creations of Steve Ditko, the artist who designed Spider-Man.

    During the events of Civil War , this obscure character blames himself for the massacre of school children that sets off the plot, and henceforth wears an iron maiden-like suit which constantly cuts him. Wanton cruelty towards female characters is not a new phenomenon, to be sure. And when it comes to violence, DC Comics is the expert. The sadist Joker as played by Heath Ledger is emblematic as much as it is imitated.

    DC, on the other hand, recently released an action figure of the Joker in the specific outfit he wears when he performs the act. The villain later regains his memory and goes on a murderous rampage. Similar to BioShock , the moral question is handicapped by how the rest of the narrative plays out. The casual cruel act had little import to the books currently being published, and there was no chance to deal with consequences of the act because she was also killed off in the same story.

    These elements get in the way of any statements that they are trying to make: the books are largely impenetrable. As in the earlier criticism of more literate games, the argument is hamstrung right out of the gate. Superhero titles have, if not contempt, then certainly ambivalence towards their audience. Readers followed characters—grabbing books based on Wolverine appearances—rather than creative teams.

    Warren Ellis, in his own way, has adopted the Stan Lee model with his books. Quit it. Work on making comics stores places that adults will go into. Adults are good. Many of them have jobs, and therefore have money to spend. Give them adult works to buy, the equivalent of novels and cinema. You are writing for a forty-five-year-old unmarried man living in a one-room apartment who listens to Madonna and is probably masturbating over your work.

    I want you to hold that image in your head the next time you sit down to create one of these works. Your worst convention-nightmare fan, glopping away as he peers through thick glasses at your drawing of Zoom Woman. Obviously, only a certain audience was interested. They were known as arrogant and elitist; but discourse at many comic sites, often similar to the sort prompted by negative reviews of The Dark Knight , gave some cause for the attitude. On one message board, Ellis banned all discussion of superhero comics entirely, including his own superhero books.

    There were plenty of places to talk capes, he asserted. This place will be for other things. And for a long while, people got each other hooked on smaller, lesser-known works and worked up new ideas together. Ellis has never claimed to be specifically anti -superhero; his problem, which is largely the problem that has twisted perception of comic books in general for years, is two-fold. First, superheroes, as the main product for the two major publishers that dominate specialty retailers, have consistently pushed other books out of the market the more recent prevalence of graphic novels in mainstream chain booksellers has changed this situation, but only to a degree, and usually only for specific, already-known creators.

    As Ellis writes in his manifesto:. The notion that these things dominate an entire genre is absurd. Imagine that. You want a new novel, but you have to wade through three hundred new books about romances in the wards before you can get at any other genre. A medium where the relationship of fiction about nurses outweighs mainstream literary fiction by a ratio of one hundred to one. Superhero comics are like bloody creeping fungus, and they smother everything else. And when it comes to the company-owned properties for which that one is writing or contributing artwork, they have been company-owned for decades and no part of them will ever be yours.

    This is a subject worth its own column, but in the years that Ellis was silencing superhero talk in his personal community, this reason was the most important. The backlash, when it came, was particularly harsh. Many fans felt invalidated, particularly when Ellis worked on superhero books of his own—largely to subsidize his creator-owned work much of which is frustratingly mediocre. Where did Ellis get off? And more importantly, what the Hell was wrong with wanting to get into the comic business just to write or draw Daredevil or Green Lantern or the X-Men?

    At the first sign of exclusion, the diehard superhero-only contingent raised its hackles. But bannable Internet posters tossing invectives are easily forgettable when the community is engaged in more thoughtful pursuits … unfortunately, at about the same time, the blowback started to become financial. Strong books by independent creators passed by without a blip on the sales radar, and creators gave up and worked on Batman titles if they worked at all. Many did not get the joke. His response to the fan blowback and readoption of superheroes as a primary interest was a single-year title that was a creative high point and a discourse low point.

    They were all but world-conquerors themselves. There are many notable exceptions, of course, but conflicts have often been kept to a bare few pages in anything before the early 90s, the sequences tended to have each hero take out a villain, or vice versa, while announcing their name and how their ability worked. While comic books have a luxury that film does not—an inexhaustible effects budget, limited only by the skill of the artist—fight choreography is just as complicated to devise, even if a real life actor will not have to perform the actions.

    Full-length all-out wars and battles were uncommon, and so the initial run of The Authority proved to be somewhat revolutionary when it came to action. Typically, when any medium has a breakthrough, the industry that supports that medium will rush in a flood of inferior copies, usually unclear entirely on what caused the success of the initial work.

    What Ellis tried to do in his ambiguous casting of superhero morality, however, did not readily translate over. The superhero comics to follow in style did not follow in message. Recent superhero books worth attention, from either company, have been very deliberately so. Completely accessible and modern—all of their cross-title continuity and obscure fan service references have been reduced to the slightest of offhand comments and visual clues, choosing instead to use their caped heroes as metaphors and myths—literary tools, rather than pale imitations of cinema.

    All-Star Superman is lyrical. With All-Star Superman , however, he refined his work to a laser-focus. Omega the Unknown was penned by novelist Jonathan Lethem, and is a work of great thematic complexity. These men are not traditional superhero artists, and the book reads more like a biographical, slice-of-life title that happens to feature giant mutant hands, telepathic statuary, and killer robots.

    There is a long line of well-respected deconstructionist works, but many of them crumple quickly under the critical view, relying too much on knowledge of the characters and their world. Earth-X, by Jim Kreuger, Alex Ross, and John Paul Leon, is an epic end-of-days adventure that ties together scraps of abandoned plot from the forties onward, mining the smallest details of the Marvel comic universe for gold nuggets. There is a strong binding thread that asks what it means to be human, and many familiar heroes—Professor X, Iron Man, Captain America—are looked at in a new light, offering fuller understandings of what drive them.

    The story, however, is utterly incomprehensible to anyone not familiar with decades of obscure Marvel history under their belt. Every time a hero is deconstructed, it becomes harder to justify telling more tales with them—with all of their layers peeled back, how do you go back to standard pulp adventuring? When it comes to superhero stories worth their salt, though, these books are the exceptions that prove a rule: that the memorable tales, the classics and the masterpieces, are the origin stories.

    Origin stories carry a very simple and translatable potency, an element that people can largely agree on. Film adaptations of superhero books are rarely adaptations of the actual comics. When a director sticks to the origin story, to the myth, all they need to do is stick to the emotional truth of that myth and provide a consistent viewpoint for the audience to engage with it. The pit stops between origin myth and inevitable deconstruction.

    The film is fully accessible on one level, and on another for fans—which is also to say, it will reward a revisit if the planned sequel manages to execute these ideas properly and Favreau and Downey, Jr. That the mysteries they uncover are based on our modern mythologies means that superheroes are brought up constantly, but usually approached with tweezers. What they find are the remains of the gods—that is to say, the corpses of hideous animals that were the results of atomic testing.

    A giant moth, first, and deeper into the island, an eviscerated, hollow bipedal dinosaur. Godzilla is a story with a palpable power to it, despite how the rubber suit might sometimes look or how various cash-in sequels might dilute the idea. The full-page splash of the humans dwarved by the giant corpse serves as an emblematic image for the series, grandiose and sad. The fluidity of motion and careful definition, especially in a sequence with a giant ant in the American southwest, draws a line evenly between the clean, larger-than-life superheroics of the silver age and the awkward posing of the B-movie posters that the concept draws from.

    These stories are of us and yet beyond us, Ellis is arguing, and the tragedy is how we bury them or toss them aside. Sadists with Nazi ties, they have systematically suppressed the past and present discoveries and parceled minor advances to mankind when it amused them. This argument is reinforced significantly in a chapter where The Four wipe out the existence of characters based on Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern.

    In a spare few pages, Ellis establishes the poetic beauty of each origin story, and then cruelly murders the character before their story has begun. Ellis employs his varying views on superheroes in Planetary to comment on the genre as a whole, on its origins, and on its schizophrenic nature. The morality concerns of the superhero genre are played out in the contrast between the mirror images of Planetary and The Four. Ellis used a trio of cash-out crossover stories as an excuse to pare down the subtlety of the story proper: In the first, Planetary and The Authority come into contact briefly, and Planetary notes how close to evil the overpowered team really skates.

    In the second, an alternate version of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman battle a version of Planetary that has chosen the road of The Four, keeping their discoveries to themselves, mining the DC universe for shallow gain. And in the third, the group comes into contact with over a dozen iterations of Batman—the fascist, the camp icon, the cartoon, the vigilante.

    The rest is interpretation, a snarl overly complicated and obfuscating the only messages that matter. Pick a version that works for you and tell your story. The accessible and easily relatable heart of the Batman mythos—of any superhero—is too easily lost. Spore allows the player to develop a species from a microscopic organism to its evolution into a complex animal, its emergence as a social, intelligent being, to its mastery of the planet and then finally to its ascension into space, where it interacts with alien species across the galaxy.

    Throughout the game, the player's perspective and species change dramatically. The game is broken up into distinct yet consistent, dependent "stages". The outcome of one phase affects the initial conditions and leveling facing the player in the next. Each phase exhibits its own style of play, and has been described by the developers as ten times more complicated than its preceding phase.

    While players are able to spend as much time as they would want in each, it is possible to accelerate or skip phases altogether. Some phases feature optional missions; when the player completes a mission, they are granted a bonus, such as a new ability or money. If all of a player's creations are completely destroyed at some point, the species will be respawned at its nearest colony or at the beginning of the phase. Unlike many other Maxis games, Spore has a primary win condition, which is obtained by reaching a supermassive black hole placed at the center of the galaxy and receiving a "Staff of Life".

    Another major achievement involves defeating or befriending the Grox, a cyborg species with a large empire guarding the core. However, the player may continue to play after any goal has been achieved.