Crabcake Confidential: The Cape Online Graphic Novel
I’ve made no secret on this site that I admire NBC’s uber-cheesy superhero TV show, The Cape… even though I know that it’s a pretty bad show by most measures of quality. Why? I think the AV Club’s Todd VanDerWerff summarized it best:
The Cape is awful. It just might be the worst TV series you see all year, and the year is only nine days old. It’s bad enough that you can watch it, proclaim it that, then feel fairly confident in saying so, even with the other 356 days to go. And yet something about it is so watchably terrible that I can’t wholly pan it. I can see why some critics I really respect kind of liked it, almost in spite of themselves. Somewhere, buried deep within itself where it’s almost afraid to even admit it exists, The Cape rather knows that it’s this bad, and it’s having fun with the fact that it exists and made it to network television at all.
That’s about right. The cheesiness is what makes it special. I love the silliness of the main character’s powers. I like the awful one liners. I like the colorful Carnival of Crime, the Merry Men to The Cape’s Robin Hood who are led by the sonorously voiced Keith David. I especially love the villains, who have names like Chess, Scales, The Lich, Dice, and Goggles and Hicks. They have silly Dick Tracy-like gimmicks and are, for the most part, surprisingly well acted.
Also, Summer Glau.
Unfortunately, I’m probably only one of a very infinitesimal group of The Cape fans out there. The show hasn’t been doing spectacular in the ratings. It’s original season has been cut from 13 episodes to 10. The very last episode may air next week… if the networks even allows for that small shred of dignity. Thus, right now is perhaps the last time in history fans can revel in all things The Cape.
One of those things you can skip, though, is The Cape online graphic novel. I’d heard about this project when browsing through the Wikipedia entry for The Cape. In fact, the article called it a “webcomic.” “Hooray!” I thought. “What a very convenient opening for me to go off on a related tangent for the sole purpose of discussing my love of The Cape on my webcomic-related blog!” It turns out, though, that Wikipedia has, once again, lied to me. This is not the panel-by-panel webcomic that we all know and love. Hell, it doesn’t even live up to its official categorization as a “graphic novel.”
Instead, it’s the dreaded “motion comic.”
Why are most motion comics a vile pestilence spewed upon the public from the mouth of Satan himself? First of all, they really are just badly animated cartoons. Secondly, they remove one element that we value in comics but don’t realize we need it until it’s gone: our ability to control the time, and how, at any given point, we can usually see the past, present, and future of any sequence.
Finally, it’s just gimmicky. Why, for example, didn’t NBC just release these panels in regular comic form? It’s probably easier to produce, cheaper since you don’t have to hire the guy to do the fancy special effects, and, for the reader, easier to read. Regular old comics, though, aren’t the format that the wags tell everyone is the Future of Comics, though. They’re not sparkly. There’s probably something about the totally geeky stigma still attached to regular old print comics, too. (And I’m not talking about “geekiness is mainstream” sort of geekery, now. That and true geekiness are totally different things.)
Personally, I think a static online comic would’ve fit the theme incredibly well. The Cape, a.k.a. Vince Faraday, based his superhero identity on a comic book he used to read to his son at bedtime. It was a regular print comic book, not an animated Quicktime video he pulled up online. So go with that format! You’ve got a built-in excuse! Do it do it do it!
The folks behind The Cape somehow managed to rope Alexs Ross and Maleev to do the “covers,” i.e. the first image that flashes during the video. Look dudes, I know comic guys are always looking for ways to make money, and NBC probably dishes out some good pay, but … you two sort of got stellar reputations, you know? Is it really worth it having your names associated with such a shoddy product?
Trevor Pooley (writer) and Michael Gaydos (artist) handle the interior duties. The story doesn’t actually revolve around the Vince Faraday The Cape, the star of the TV show. Instead, it’s about The Cape that he based his identity off of… the one in the bedtime comic book. We follow the adventures of the comic-book-within-the-TV-show The Cape as he fights villains and deals with the garden-variety tragic backstory… which, frankly, smacks of Spawn.
And … it’s nothing to write 1,000 words about. The stories are too dour, and the artwork is too grounded in realism. Really, The Cape deserves a Silver Age DC Comics treatment. You know, when all the plots revolved around Flash getting enormously fat or Superman fighting a gorilla with hypnotizing rays or something. I mean, it’s a show where a scaly-skinned cockney villain (played by Vinny Jones! The Juggernaut, bitch!) actually says things like, “I’m a firm believer in the separation of Church and Crime”! Lighten up! Both chapters, instead, are joyless procedurals that look as stiff and personality-free as those IDW CSI comics.
I have a feeling that this wasn’t totally the fault of the creators. I think that The Cape was originally pitched as a grim Dark Knight style series, which later morphed into something more surreal and campy. Pooley and Gaydos probably took that premise and ran with it, imagining that The Cape would be closer to Heroes than the 1960’s Batman series.
My biggest disappointment is that there seemed to be zero creativity involved in anything… even the motion aspect. There are some motion comics I actually like. I thought AMC’s The Prisoner actually did a creative job with their motion comic tie-in despite the thudding dullness of the source material. There was come creative effects using layers that gave everything a nice 3D feel. But The Cape? Everything is zoom in, zoom out, and pan. It’s like you’re reading a comic book and someone’s behind you, whipping your head around. There is absolutely nothing novel to the execution. Well, beyond the awful theme music to The Cape, but I’d rather have the kazoo orchestra playing in my imagination than in actuality.
Even Summer Glau is hiding from this one