Meet The Elite Beat Squad: Steven R. Stahl

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WileE Meet The Elite Beat Squad: Steven R. StahlOf all the Elite Beat Squad members, copy editor Steven R. Stahl has the most unusual origin. It started when he would write us letters each day with our most egregious typos and punctuation problems highlighted. (Yes, they were looooong letters.) We’d fix the mistakes when we could but as time went on we had a brainstorm — why not just let Steven copy edit the Beat? Since he started last fall, while you may see our patented hideous typos in the morning, by the time Hawaii is up and running, Steven has smoothed everything into a readable mass. He also helps with scheduling entries and other behind the scenes technical issues too boring to repeat. While the least public of all the EBS, he may be the most important so everyone give him a HUGE round of thanks.

Name: Steven R. Stahl

Residence: Grand Forks, ND

Occupation: Overnight stocker

Elite Beat Squad Codename: Synsidar

Website(s): N/A

The first comic book you ever remember reading: An ARCHIE comic.

Name three of your favorite graphic novels: I haven’t read enough original GNs to give a meaningful answer. I liked Milo Manara’s erotic works, but they’re not “favorites.”

Favorite comics writer: Steve Englehart, based mainly on his AVENGERS, WEST COAST AVENGERS, VISION & SCARLET WITCH, and DR. STRANGE series. His writing features greater attention to details, better treatment of characters, and more similarities to prose fantasy stories than any other comics writer I’m familiar with. Bendis, Brevoort, and the rest of the gang at Marvel owe him more than they can ever pay.

Favorite comics artist: Frank Brunner

Favorite musical act: ABBA

Name a movie that made you cry: SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE

Name a movie that made you laugh: WHAT’S UP, DOC?

In my spare time I like to: Work out. I’m an exercise addict. A health crisis in 1992 forced me to change my attitudes toward exercise. After I began working out regularly, I learned that if I exercised a lot, I could eat a lot Eating a lot of food is fun, and I get a high from endorphins, so everything works out. I also read political and science news and commentaries.

Betty or Veronica? Betty

World of Warcraft or City of Heroes? I don’t play online or PC games. Too sedentary.

Lost or 24? I only watch TV while I’m working out, so the programs I see the most are ESPN First Take, SportsCenter, and CNN’s Reliable Sources.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Personally, a low came when I went to college and discovered that skimming through the textbook for a class, memorizing chunks of text, and regurgitating the text as needed for tests wouldn’t work, that I would have to actually study to do well. That discovery was a terrible shock, resulted in depression and self-doubt, and led to taking a year off. For any person, it would be realizing that you’ve hurt someone badly and permanently. I wouldn’t want to go on with life thinking that I’m a bad person.

Blogging — boon to mankind or a clear and present danger? A boon.

In five years comics will be… Sold in book format and digitally. The “pamphlet” format is becoming economically unsustainable.

Comments

  1. I’ll give Steven kudos for being a Englehart fan – but I’m having a hard time wrapping my mind around ABBA.

    ~

    Coat

  2. michael says:

    i refuse to listen to someone comment on the future of comics when they haven’t even read enough ‘original’ GN’s for some sort of answer…

  3. AaronH says:

    I have always listened to a lot of music, but it wasn’t until my early 20s that I found a band I loved so completely that I felt comfortable calling it was my favorite.

  4. Steven R. Stahl says:

    Re Englehart: He was (in)famous for writing stories that changed characters, and was publicly criticized by some for doing so. But why?

    One can make a case that any change that introduces a new character, creates new relationships, or changes the dynamics between two people only increases the range of story and subplot possibilities. If two people romance each other, and then marry, and they’re both heroic, then the marriage doesn’t diminish story possibilities at all. There can be tensions in the relationship for any number of reasons. Their motivations for fighting evildoers won’t necessarily be altered. The only people, IMO, who see marriage as unacceptable are formula fiction writers who want to do an infinite series of transitory relationships, and readers who think that marriage is boring.

    I saw children routinely criticized because they, supposedly, couldn’t age and would be youngsters forever, but that’s focusing on one artificial aspect of the fictional universe and ignoring others. Refusing to have anyone age is no less artificial; having old characters (e.g., Aunt May) never pass on is no less artificial. If, over the course of years, children gradually turned into teenagers, and then 18- or 19-year-olds, they’d be fully viable characters without, as I see it, any reason for readers to reject them. In any case, the non-aging of characters, as well as Marvel’s sliding ten-year timeline, can be explained by celestial tinkering with the space-time continuum or godly (hard) illusions.

    For decades, Marvel Editorial, IIRC, had an “illusion of change” policy. Quesada certainly said that was the case with Spider-Man subsequent to “One More Day.” However, that policy was generally described in interviews, whether with writers or editors, and wasn’t used as a selling point. I don’t see any way to describe the illusion of change or writing pure formula fiction in a positive way. The reader will be told that, over time, he’ll be buying the same stories with only minor, meaningless variations. In the case of Spider-Man, he’ll be telling the same jokes, having the same concerns about Aunt May, having the same lifestyle, and having the same romantic interests ten years from now that he has today. No plotline will alter the character substantially. Money spent on his stories is, arguably, money just thrown away.

    In PREVIEWS, before events took over, Marvel would regularly describe issues as “jumping-on points,” implying that new readers would have an easier time understanding the character and his stories — but with formula fiction and the illusion of change, there is no need for jumping-on points. Plots will repeat, subplots will repeat, villains will appear again and again. I wonder whether the historically high turnover rate on titles was caused by the refusal of writers to change characters incrementally, when providing readers with evidence that characters would progress might have persuaded them to stay with titles. Now, of course, Marvel is relying on hyped-up events to sell titles, but if there’s an endless series of events, then they become predictable formula fiction and devoid of drama.

    If there is an intellectual/artistic case to be made for requiring writers to do formula fiction and enforcing an “illusion of change” policy, I’ve never seen it. As far as I know, the only justifications offered were keeping a character static for merchandising purposes and for offering to moviemakers and TV producers, who’d want a character to be the same as in the comic. It’s possible that Marvel’s current emphasis on events has rendered objections to formula fiction and the illusion of change policy moot, but one can argue that the massive failure of the overall plotline in “Secret Invasion” rendered the basis for “Dark Reign” nonexistent, and that attempting to do one event after another is eventually self-defeating in any case.

    Note that it’s possible to provide hard rationales for practically every aspect of the Marvel Universe, from the non-aging of characters to the existence of mutant powers to the existence of powers generally, and to make the characters more three-dimensional by providing them with occupations and pastimes that broaden their lives and provide more opportunities for rivalries and conflict, but such moves would seem to require strict editorial control and allowing characters to change.

    SRS

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