Ten Things: MIND THE GAP

Abhay Khosla

I took requests a couple reviews back, and that may not have been my best idea– BUT THAT MEANS 10 THINGS about MIND THE GAP, issues number  one and two, by Jim McCann, Rodin Esquejo, Sonia Oback, Dave Lanphear, Damien Lucchese, Heidi Ryder, Michael Lapinski, with variant covers by Adrian Alphona, Christina Strain, and Francesco Francavilla.

However, both issues feature a credit saying “MIND THE GAP created by Jim McCann“, so Messrs. Esquejo, Oback, Lanphear, Lucchese, Ryder, Lapinski, Alphona, Strain and Francavilla can fuck the fuck off, I guess.  (McCann is similarly listed as the sole copyright owner.)

There are details below for MIND THE GAP.  You are therefore now receiving a CAVEAT about the HIGH POTENTIAL of having your ENJOYMENT DIMINISHED by knowing events in a story further along the point of the story you have to date experienced!  (Spoiler Warning: I figure out a a shorter way of saying all of that!).

MIND THE GAP is a mystery comic about a drawing of a woman, who gets beaten into a coma on a subway platform, then ends up trying to solve the Mystery of the Subway-Beating while out of her own body, from the astral plane.  (HIGH CONCEPT!)  While occupying the astral plane, the main character has amnesia, so she doesn’t remember what happened to her.  Also, she forgets to have a personality, apparently– the Mystery of Who Cares?? looks like it’s going to go unsolved.  We also watch the other dull people in her life, and come to learn that there’s a nefarious conspiracy afoot, the kind of conspiracy featured in television shows, the dull, 10pm-on-a-Saturday washed-up-actress television show this comic is pitching.

Should this comic be adapted for the USA Network, TNT, or a television station for Bored Dads to be named later???  Let’s all find out together!  P.S. you can tell it’s a nefarious conspiracy because one of its members is wearing a hoodie.  Congratulations, semiotics majors.

From an interview with USA Today: “The concept for Mind the Gap originally came from a TV pilot idea McCann had been kicking around, since he loved long-form mysteries and had wanted to do a Twin Peaks or X-Files kind of show.  However, it struck him that this was a story he could tell first as a comic and release it quickly. ‘And if a TV show or movie comes calling, I won’t say no!’ he says with a laugh.

Hahaha, oh we are laughing!

I would say I’m definitely, definitely, definitely not the audience for this comic.  I believe that the artist and poet Kreayshawn has already best described the audience for this comic as “basic bitches.”  I suppose someone very new to comics or reading in general might find some pleasure here, in that the comic is extremely unchallenging.  In style, character, dialogue, it most closely resembles a daytime soap opera (though not a good one like PASSIONS)(What?).  The Rich Mom is a bit of a frigid dragon-lady!  The female detective is a lesbian!  The “sophisticated” British character is a guy wearing a vest who calls the main character “luv.”  Characters walk around with names like “Ellis ‘Elle’ Peterssen” and “Bobby Plangman.”

All-pipe, no-pleasure dialogue?  You decide:  “Shit, meet fan.”  “Life goes on and it is of importance that we move with it.”  “Have you met me?”  “She’s probably inside like any sane person would be on a wet-ass President’s Day!”  “You haven’t begun to see over-stepping, Hammond.”  “That’s one word for it.”  “Yeah, he deserves it, but come on, man!  You’re better than that.”  “Life’s a bitch and so is this place.  Great.”

This is all combined with a “don’t use any of the tools of comics because then the stupidest member of the audience might not be able to understand what you’ve created, and that should always be your target audience” approach to the page that McCann doesn’t deserve undue criticism for– it’s become the dominant style of writing comics at the mainstream comic companies. This is just our world now.

Wikipedia confirms McCann is a former soap writer; former PR person for Marvel.  (McCann is also listed as a multi-Eisner nominee for an Archaia book called RETURN OF THE DAPPER MEN– though nominated the same year Archaia’s book-trade consultant was a jury member). (Oh and he wrote a Hawkeye comic I said some negative things about, but under stunt-y and unfair and somewhat-douchebag-y circumstances).

According to the credits, Rodin Esquejo and Sonia Oback didn’t create this comic, so it’s unfair to speak too ill of their work.  Comicbookdb confirms Esquejo is a relatively young creator, and so the mistakes I’m about to go through aren’t really those of cynical veterans, but young creators making classic young creator mistakes.  For artists, comics are a physical performance that lasts years, so I don’t really enjoy talking smack re: the art much.

That having been said:

Compositions are consistently undramatic– if they know the Rule of Thirds, they ain’t following it.  Foreground-midground-background compositions?  Problematic.  An overreliance on “widescreen panels”?  Yep. No variation in line weight.  Character designs that don’t particularly distinguish the main characters.  Some 180-degree rule issues (smart people disagree how much that matters with comics, though, to be fair).  Trying to hide undramatic drawings with Photoshop blur filters (really?  REALLY?).

Repeated attempts to put the camera in complicated angle-y places that they don’t have the skills to pull off– why do young artists always want these crane shots?  If you’re just getting the hang of human anatomy at ground level, why are you throwing you putting the camera up three stories and looking down?  How often is a storytelling purpose ever served by shoving your camera way over everybody?  What story value does that point of view possibly add?  Every other panel can’t be the staircase scene from Psycho

To their credit, Esquejo-Oback try to draw backgrounds– the results do not inspire but they’re trying.  They will get better.  The only way for artists to get better is by making pages– they’re making pages; so, they’ll get better. Heck, McCann will get better, too.  I will someday learn to fellate my own genitalia, and this whole charade of “comic criticism” I’ve been playing at will come to its inevitable end;  I am a complete fraud!  We will all evolve past this transient and ephemeral moment in time.

A number of characters have melodramatic conversations, while some random scenes happen to characters we don’t care very much about, and then there’s a full-page splash cliffhanger, but there’s no real structure to the issues qua issues– it’s just a bunch of disconnected scenes that…

…. I just described… let’s see… ALL of the comics.

Fuck, I am bored.  I am bored, man.

If I’m going to write more about “creator owned” comics, even as infrequently as once-in-a-whatever, this won’t be the last comic I end up reading that’s a weaksauce TV/movie pitch.  Image publishes a small mountain of those every year.  “Ooooh, maybe one of these movie pitch writers will be called up to Marvel or DC and be the next muckey-mucks to write the next series of RUNAWAYS or some shit.  Lah-di-dah!”  You want to be the Susan Sarandon for this shit???

What is the point?  How many times have we done this??

The comic’s first panel is…

The comic’s first panel is a drawing of a dreamcatcher with the text of Lionel Richie lyrics superimposed on them.  In panels 2 and 3, we find out that someone’s cell phone is going off and it’s playing Lionel Richie. Page 2 continues this cell phone song motif with the one Cee-Lo song.

A few pages later, the text of a Blind Melon song from about … 1994(?) is placed onto pages, and the main character is introduced wearing a bee costume. Referring to the music video from a song that people liked nearly 20 years ago.

Near the end of the comic…

Near the end of the comic, two of the characters quote Pink Floyd lyrics at each other, prompting one of them to spend 4 panels discussing the song Money, describing it as ….

Near the end of the comic, two of the characters quote Pink Floyd lyrics at each other, prompting one of them to spend 4 panels discussing the song Money, describing it as “A song that no one has been able to recreate in its beautiful complexity.”

I’ve read other comics that have been Hollywood pitches, without the level of disdain I have for MIND THE GAP.  But MIND THE GAP… It’s a book that wants to be television, but who would watch a show with this premise?  It’s blathering on about music, but in the context of fucking cell phone ringtones.  It might as well be a comic for/about/dedicated-to muzak.

Reading MIND THE GAP isn’t just being reminded of pop culture but pop culture at its dreariest, at its most mercenary, at its most base.  Bad network pulp TV, radio Top 40 Clear Channel station music, Carson Daly Total Request Live music videos.  Pop Culture as slop.

I don’t take that stuff well — but I don’t like that I don’t.

What was your reaction when you heard they made a movie from that board game BATTLESHIP?  Or when they announced a movie version of CANDYLAND?  The remake of TOTAL RECALL?  That bullshit new costume that the fake ROBOCOP is going to wear?  When comic companies announce mega-crossovers?  The comic book that is a TV pitch?

Can you just accept those things in a Tony Robbins  “Let’s be grateful that people are spending their time and/or oodles of money just trying to entertain me” spirit?  Or do you just go UGH?

The Tony Robbins answer seems more likely to lead to, you know, a spiritual tranquility– it seems fairly obvious I’d be spiritually better off aiming that-a-ways. “I’m okay, and you’re okay, and that bullshit costume the fake Robocop is wearing is … is… o-o-o-okay.”  (It hurt just to type that).  I mean, Tony Robbins seems like a happy guy, give or take some people getting their feet burnt every so often.

But that’s not where I’m at.  I do the latter.  I go “UGH.”  Which seems to me entirely normally usually, in my daily life, but typing this out, doesn’t seem like something I should like about myself very much, no.

What do I care?  I didn’t read AVENGERS VS XMEN– fuck all those comics and fuck the horse they rode in on, fuck that horse into glue, fuck ‘em into glue using dicks, using Bea Arthur’s dick.  I didn’t go see BATTLESHIP, the TOTAL RECALL remake, and I probably ain’t seeing the ROBOCOP remake. So: what do I care?  To say UGH connotes caring– isn’t that itself a defeat?

So– then, what?  Is it a class thing?  Am I’m reacting along class lines, with poor MIND THE GAP earning my disdain for being of the entertainment for the lower-class?  “Soap Operas?  How gauche?  We never watch those at the country club, while eating cucumber sandwiches.  We’re too busy watching shows about rich people in the 60′s being exquisitely sad about their infidelities and enormous wealth.

That doesn’t sound right just for no other reason than if I had that sort of class motivation, would I really be able to read any comics at all, ever?  I’d only be allowed to read Chris Ware comics.  And that’s not really what’s going on in my apartment– my apartment isn’t exactly the Hôtel de Rambouillet.  I think I’m free and clear there.

So: what?  My reaction to MIND THE GAP– a certain amount of my negativity is entirely appropriate because it’s a poorly made comic that is unable to execute upon its meager ambitions; but a certain amount of my negativity is basically absurd.

Part of me thinks… Part of me thinks these things hold us in contempt to begin with.  Creative product aimed at the “lowest-common denominator.”  Do you wake up wanting to feel like you’re a proud member of the “lowest-common denominator?”  Do you want to wear that “I’m with Stupid” t-shirt?  And so, part of me thinks having that reaction of “Well, fuck you right back” to the TV pitch comic, to the remake, to when you hear about Professor X getting murdered or whatever the fuck, that reaction seems entirely sane and reasonable, if not honorable and essentially Fuck-Yeah-Let’s-All-Feel-That-Way.

This is probably-maybe an incorrect way to think about these things. It reads an awful lot into motives, incorrect things.   The sad truth is a lot of the people making sad art are trying, just along sad vectors.  Why wouldn’t you want your comic to be a TV Show?  Can’t make real money off independent comics– TV money could help make more comics, so where’s the harm?  Why wouldn’t you want to share your idea with as many people as possible, even your most humdrum ideas?  Raymond Chandler  once wrote “Ideas are poison. The more you reason, the less you create.”  (I guess whatever negative things one might say of MIND THE GAP, at least you can’t accuse its creators of being especially poisoned by ideas.)

So, no, the Comic-That-Is-Actually-and-Obviously-a-Pitch isn’t an indefensible thing.  But gosh, it’s a sad thing.  Remakes, mega-crossovers, board-game movies, pitch comics– if you go UGH, I think it’s not just the mercantile quality of it all, but the waste.  The waste of money.  The waste of time.  The waste of people’s creative lives.  The waste of our opportunity to feel something genuine.  This moment is fleeting and yet here is how meagerly it is being spent.  Soon, everything we have known or loved will be gone and yet here is this thing squandering that time, when it should be it should be it should be– TIME IS RUNNING OUT AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.  What is the point?  How many times have we done this??

Soon, sooner than you’ll believe, it’ll be too late even for me to learn how to fellate myself.

Let the immense tragedy of that envelop you for a second.

In conclusion, here is a panel of a fireplace from MIND THE GAP #2:

16 Responses to “ Ten Things: MIND THE GAP ”

  1. That was intense.

    I read the first issue and stopped there. Can’t say I disagree with your opinion of the comic based on my read of issue 1.

  2. Epic smackdown!

    I only read the first issue, too. It didn’t hold my interest at all.

  3. I had an issue with this column when I first read it, so I spent some time today thinking how to express my issue without being mean, and here goes….

    This sentence, “I took requests a couple reviews back, and that may not have been my best idea– BUT THAT MEANS 10 THINGS about MIND THE GAP…” I looked over the requests from the last thread and the only guy who recommended MIND THE GAP did so because he thought it was an awful comic and he wanted you to go to town on it. My issue is by just saying, “I took requests a couple reviews back, and that may not have been my best idea – ” you’re sorta implying by omission all the requests suck and well, that’s what you get for listening to the peanut gallery. Like, by omitting the fact the guy who recommended MIND THE GAP did so because it sucks kinda paints it like the recommendations were all awful and you should have known better than to ask for suggestions.

    I dunno…perhaps I’m overthinking that, but the title the crowd was asking for was PROPHET, so I don’t know if MIND THE GAP is representative of the pulse of the people.

    Anyway, MIND THE GAP held some initial charm for me because I thought a lot of the ambiguity was on purpose, but later I figured out the people making it were a tiny bit over their heads and moved on. I dunno, I don’t get bothered by TV pitches as comics because why do comics take themselves so seriously where that’s bad?

    I’m intrigued by these being new creators who haven’t had the experience to learn how to do things yet. That makes me want to pick it up again, because now I’m curious to see where they’ll mess up and where they’ll get better, but I also have POPEYE and ADVENTURE TIME to read, so I’ll likely forget.

  4. I was just looking for a gag to start with– I really like podcasts where there’s some opening bit like LOCK THE GATES or obviously Paul Scheer’s openings for How Did This Get Made. (Also I didn’t take the original comment quite the same way: “How about Mind the Gap? Went into it excited by the possibilities and dropped it after reading number one. Curious to hear what you make of that series.” It seemed like it might be a more interesting failure– “possibilities” catches the eye, at least).

    But if it came across as disrespectful to the suggestions, that sucks — sorry. I really enjoyed getting them and want to keep working through them, if anything. (I actually mentioned your comment to some of the people working on the Adventure Time comic a couple months after that, like in a “Oh, that came up as being this awesome book” kind of way…)

    (I’ve only seen one of them, but that Langridge Popeye is pretty, pretty good, I thought).

  5. Abhay,

    Thank you for replying, but it occurred to me after I wrote all that it was kind of scummy of me…in like a, you think you’re tough, tough guy? kind of scummy way.

    Hmmm…maybe I read that original Mind the Gap comment the wrong way, too. Perhaps it was colored by my, “these guys seem like they’re overreaching a bit” opinion of the comic, which wasn’t far off from what you said.

    There are definitely possibilities in Mind the Gap, but you really identified well where they don’t play out well. And hey, you got me to read up on the rule of thirds and the 180-degree rule. All new to me!

    In conclusion, I’m sorry…I misread the joke and got protective of…I dunno what, exactly. You shouldn’t mind me too much – I’m kinda an idiot. But thank you for passing my words on to the Adventure Time team…I like that book a lot. ^_^

  6. [...] Abhay on comics written as TV pitches [...]

  7. Wow, now *that* was Savage. Totally true and fair, but deeply Savage all the same. Damn fine job, Abhay.

    -B

  8. I may have to go and watch that Bull Durham movie now…

    And hey, if Morning Glories can gain a following despite basically being a low budget sci-fi network show on paper, framed in page after page of widescreen panels then why not try and jump on that bandwagon.

    As much as most interviews with Marvel and DC writers about their projects feel like the writer is speaking through gritted teeth and are walking the party line, at least they keep up the pretense that they are writing COMICS and like to be writing COMICS. Its depressing that not only does the writer says this was a tv pitch that was brushed off, but that this is just accepted as something that happens.

  9. I was having issues with the comic store that I had my pull list at for 6 years. They would often miss things, and would just never bother to order or pull anything past the Marvel section of the Previews catalog. I talked to the owner several times, and it never changed so I gave them one last chance.

    The book that was the final straw was Mind The Gap. I was looking forward to it because I really like Rodin Esquejo’s covers for Morning Glories. Well, they didn’t actually pull it for me, they were sold out, I had some nerd rage, and now I buy my comics somewhere else. So, when I finally read issue #1, I was looking forward to it and my God, it was so very, very terrible. The moral here is that this comic store that I frequented for many years lost my business because they did not pull a very terrible comic, and for that, Mind the Gap #1 will always have a special place in my heart.

  10. Return of the Dapper Men featured beautiful artwork, and I’d love to see the artist’s work on another project. The making-of feature was genuinely interesting.

    Jim McCann’s writing, however, was annoyingly twee and overly sentimental. I felt liked I was being condescended to as I read it. I’m not a fan of fairy tales for adults, but I liked Moonshadow way back when. Dapper Men was no Moonshadow.

  11. Okay, Jason’s Mind The Gap story is hilarious.

    Hibbsy, you thought this was rough, huh? I kinda felt Abhay want out of his way to somewhat blame himself for any truly negative feelings. He lets the artists of the hook for being young, and Mr. McCann damns himself. That USA Today quote is top shelf.

    How about the new “Audio+Video” Cerebus, Abhay? Talk about a comic with a complicated relationship with commerce. I haven’t seen my way to, what, watch it? I guess?

    But High Society is so great, how bad could they mess it up?

  12. Shit. I put this on my standing order before it came out – as I liked the artists covers for Morning Glories, and Jim McCann wrote the only good issue of ‘Hulk Smash Avengers’ – but I haven’t read past the first issue, saving a few up to read the first arc in a bunch. I figured it would get better. Shit.

  13. You are my favorite writer right now, Abhay. Since you mention rap semi-often you could write about rap if you want for nojumper.com. I write there and there are some good articles up though it’s been dormant since August. Email me or something.

  14. Also, I was thinking about this the other day–what other entertainment industry considers itself so low rent that they get excited by any television writer? Like, oh he wrote CSI wow! (To be fair I liked that CSI guy’s Wolverine run.) Soap Opera writer? Let’s go! These dudes, as the McCann quote proved, couldn’t get a glass of water in Hollywood, and obviously they can’t write competent novels. Comics hates you because they hate themselves.

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