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Posted on by Scott Delahunt

One of the main features of a superhero is the bright costume. Sure, there are superheroes who work in black or really dark grey, but the vast majority are in primary colours. Often, the costume will look like it was painted on, emphasizing the hero’s physique. Because comics are drawn, liberties can be taken with things like physics, so some costumes may be almost impossible to recreate in real life.

With comics being the popular source of adaptations today, studios have to figure out the almost impossible. Over the past few weeks, Lost in Translation has looked at a number of comic books adapted to a new medium, plus has reviewed others in the past. Josie and the Pussycats and Kingsman: The Secret Service get a pass here. The most unusual item the Pussycats wear are for on stage and is still in the realm of possibility. The wardrobe in Kingsman is based on high priced but still existing apparel found on London’s High Street.

Arrow, though, deserves a look. In the comics, the Green Arrow has worn a variant of a Robin Hood costume through most of his appearances. In the TV series, the goal was to create a costume that star Stephen Amell could wear and move in, going with a hooded cloak over dark green clothes. The costume is close to what the Green Arrow wears in the comics, and the producers are aiming at showing Oliver Queen becoming the hero.

Supergirl, on the other hand, starts with Kara Danvers embracing her Kryptonian heritage and catching a plane. The show is also lighter than Arrow; Kara is adorkable. So, hiding her costume away isn’t going to work. Fortunately for the producers, Supergirl has a number of costumes to choose from. On the show, the costume is a melding of a number of outfits seen in the comics, allowing Kara to have her own look while hinting at being Superman’s cousin. And Supergirl isn’t the only character with a costume from the comics. The Martian Manhunter in his normal guise is accurate to his appearances in the pages of DC Comics.

Both TV series can take advantage in advances in fabric thanks to man-made fibres. Older movies and TV series didn’t have the breakthroughs and it shows. The Batman serials of the mid- to late-Forties, having the added limitation of a low budget, tries to match the costumes from the comics, but between the war effort focusing on the needs of the military of both the US and the Allied Forces, the physique of the actors, and the lack of techniques, the result is “close enough but not really.” The costume looks like Batman’s, but it’s not the skintight version. The 1966 Batman with Adam West does have access to satin and nylon, but its approach to the character – played dead straight by West despite all the camp around him – meant that the more down-to-earth portrayal that Neal Adams and Denny O’Neil had wasn’t going to be seen. Adding to the fun, Cesar Romero didn’t want to shave his trademark mustache, so the Joker’s whiteface was placed on top. Yet, it worked for the series. The costumes did reflect what the characters wore, though.

The 1989 Batman by Tim Burton introduced a new twist – Batman’s costume was an armoured suit. All practical, the rubber suit allowed Michael Keaton to move, but not as acrobatically as in the comics. The change made some sense; Batman deals with people who shoot guns and he doesn’t have a power that will let him bounce bullets off his chest. His movement in the Burton film and subsequent sequels is more restricted. The costume looks right, compared to the Batman in the comics at the time, but the nature of the suit slows the actors down.

When practical effects won’t work, CGI comes into play. Over in the Marvel cinematic universe, characters that would be impossible to portray well have had their own movies. Marvel did try a practical effect for one of their characters in the past; Howard the Duck had many problems, and the appearance of the title character was one of the big ones. His appearance in the post-credits sequence of Guardians of the Galaxy is accurate. Guardians also gave audiences a proper Rocket and a proper Groot, two characters who would either be actors in costumes, puppets, or protrayed by a trained raccoon (in Rocket’s case) and a trained shrub (in Groot’s) before CGI.

Iron Man was the proof of concept. In the comics, Tony Stark has a number of Iron Man suits which he uses depending on mission requirements. The classic suit, the red and gold power armour, appeared in the first film and was as close as possible to being a recreation of the comic book version. Audiences accepted the premise of a comic book on screen. With Thor, the studio could build from the character’s appearance in the comics to present him on screen. Loki, when he appeared in costume, was resplendent in his green and gold. Marvel’s releases of today build from the comic books.

Marvel characters that appeared in films from studios other than Marvel Studios have had mixed success. The X-Men franchise, released via Fox, avoided using costumes, with an exception that will be named below. Instead, the films went with leather suits when the team broke into places. The Spider-Man franchise, even after the reboot, kept the costume best known to the general audience. However, the character’s 1977 TV series, The Amazing Spider-Man had problems; the suit didn’t quite work. Budget may have been the main problem there.

The comic book character who may have had his costume translate the best to film and television is the exception in the X-Men franchise. Deadpool went out of its way to make sure that the costumes were accurate. Colossus, being a CG character, had no problem with the transition. Deadpool’s, though, included having his eye coverings express his thoughts and emotions. Considering that his appearance in X-Men Origins: Wolverine completely missed the mark, the costume in Deadpool is a complete reversal and should be applauded.


Posted on by Steven Savage

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

We’re almost there, my iterative (ha) effort to review the principles behind the Agile Manifesto – for creatives. We’re on the eleventh principle.

The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.

For people not familiar with IT, the only area of this that may seem odd is the word “architecture,” the structure of IT systems and the like. So let’s tweak this just a bit for creatives

The best structures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.

There we go. So what can we learn from this principle?

The idea is basically this: that teams who-self-organize create the best designs, the clearest requirements, and the best way to get stuff done. This sounds great, but I find a few people worry about it; how can people who self-organize get stuff done?

That’d be a great title for a section.  Let’s do that!

How Can People Who Self-Organize Get Stuff Done?

First, the entirety of Agile thinking and Agile methods is about self-organizing. The principles reflect this constantly, from communicating among people to reflecting and analyzing ideas and results. All of this helps cultivate self-organization.

(Also, most teams self-organize anyway, because no one can constantly be there monitoring their every move, though people try.  So it’s more realistic.)

Secondly, I take the word “teams” in the broadest sense – this is everyone involved in the process, from the actual creative to the person requesting the work to the people giving feedback.  I mean everyone involved – we’re all part of the team, even the folks ordering the work or the users testing the software as part of a beta program.

I find this approach helps because when you think of teams as broadly as possible (which you should), there’s more collaboration and communication, more trust, and far less us-versus-them. You get a lot more done as you’re automatically involving more people . . .

. . . and you cultivate self-organization with training, with being a good role model, with pitching Agile methods, and of course by using the principles of Agile and the methods to get your own stuff done.

So Why Does This Work?

OK so your team self-organizes and gets how to work together.  Or they’re close enough that they self-organize anyway.  But why does it actually work?

  1. People use their hands-on knowledge to design, plan, and organize. Like it or not the person up top of the big old command pyramid doesn’t know what’s going on all the time – the people doing the work do. This is doubly true for creative works, that often require intimate knowledge, gut-checks, feedback, and specific knowledge.
  2. People find the structure that works for them. The people doing the work don’t necessarily know what’s going to work at the start – but being self-organizing they’ll find out. Plus this exploration yields insights they can use elsewhere.
  3. People who self-organize communicate. This feedback tells people what’s needed, allows for adaption, and builds relationships to further the work.
  4. People determine needed artifacts. Agile principles and methods aren’t big on giant piles of documentation, but we do need them. When you self-organize you come up with what’s needed to track work, describe it, and record information. This saves time and increases clarity (also saving time).

Just remember, to make this work you have to make sure people are allowed to self-organized, encouraged, and trained or otherwise supported in doing so.

Where Does This Help Creative Work?

I’ve hinted at just how this affects creative work, but let’s get down to it – why does self-organizing support creative work – and how can you support it?

It Avoids Overstructure: Starting a creative effort with lots of unnecessary structures in place will kill creative work which needs a level of freedom and feedback and experiment. Allowing teams to self-organize helps avoid this.

  • What you can do in your creative works is allow for self-organizing and be aware of when you’re over-attached to processes and procedures.

It Allows For Adaption: Creative work is hard to automate, even though many of us have tried (me included), and it needs room for adaption. Allowing for self-organizing teams allows for that adaptability upfront – people can find what works for them.

  • In your creative works, support adaption by helping people (even if it’s just you and your client) change and adapt what works, with your eye on the eventual goal. That focus on value will help keep you from being distracted.

It Allows For Communication: Creative works are communicative work (even if sometimes the goal is to confuse, such as in a challenging game). To support communicative work people have to communicate and thus self-organizing teams support that – but also force it. When there’s no checklist being ordered and people are encouraged to communicate, you get more actual talking.

  • For creative works, encourage communication among people – and communicate yourself. It helps to be supportive, finding what works for them, not forcing your goals of “how it should be done,” but helping people find what must be done.

It Creates Habits and Culture: Self-organizing teams build their own structures and methods – and habits. This means that there’s more than just some org chart – there’s good habits and in long-term efforts, a culture that evolves. People who develop their own structures,, methods, and so on will remember and embody what they’ve learned. In time this leads to even more productivity as this is in the bones.

  • In your creative efforts, support developing a culture by finding what works and noting things that went right. In times the best lessons burrow into peoples habits.

What About Solo Creatives?

But what about solo creatives? How does this apply?

Recall that the “team” is everyone as far as I’m concerned – the client, people giving feedback, your roommate offering unsolicited advice. Even if you’re on there own there’s still “teams.”

What you want to do is:

  1. Find what “teams” there are – you and a client, you and an editor, etc.
  2. Encourage the teams to self-organize. Be open to feedback, listen, communicate, focus on goals.
  3. When possible, cross teams over. Share that client who wanted your art with a writer that you know. Share an editor with someone else. Build a larger culture among individuals to support each other.
  4. Even when it’s just you in the end, listen to yourself and your ideas. You’re a multitude – be your own team.
  5. Self-organize – don’t get too lost in other people’s ideas and advice, even mine.  Learn to rely on your own wisdom.

Always keep the need to adapt and adjust and self-organize.

In Closing

The eleventh agile principles notes that self-organizing makes for the best results. This works because people communicate, determine what works, and create what structures and tools are needed to get those results. You can encourage this with

  • Avoid overstructuring
  • Encourage adaption with feedback.
  • Encourage communication
  • Encourage development of a larger culture – the self-organizing lessons we keep with us.

Self-organizing teams can produce the best results – even if sometime the team is one person.

– Steve


Posted on by Steven Savage

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr)

Now gear up for one of my top Agile Manifesto Principles, the 10th Agile Principle.  Let’s get to it.

Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.

It’s another one of those principles that I can’t really modify or need to tweak to apply to creatives. It’s simple – maximizing work not done is essential to Agile practices. Agile practices are a great way to get work done effectively and sanely. So to deliver things effectively and sanely – maximize work not done.

Of course simple, compact statments like this are the ones where we also need to delve a bit, so let’s just take a look at what the value of simplicity and maximizing work not done means to a creative.

Simplicity Is About Right Value

Simplicity sounds easy to describe – until you actually try to do it. Then I find its a bit hard to phrase it, but you can think about simplicity as not just delivering Value, but the right Value. You focus on what people need delivered – and as little else extraneous as possible. Remember, Agile is a way to deliver Value.

When you focus on delivering the right Value to people, then you avoid distractions, unnecessary work, and the like. You don’t just deliver value – you avoid delivering less valuable and non-valuable work.

Up front this means focusing on simplicity from the start. I find this helps with creative works because, with many options, and at times unclear goals, you have to choose options and clarify them. You may well have to help your client or end user find what they really want – because they may not be too clear.

This also means simplicity is about an investment of time – doing the simple thing might just seem to take more effort up front. As you’ll see, the benefit of this investment pays off.

Simplicity Is About Clear Communication

Focusing on simplicity also means clearer communications for three reasons:

  1. First, you work early to clarify what’s needed (and as noted, you often have to talk this out).  This means that you have to work on and develop clear communications.
  2. Because you’ve worked on simplifying work, you’ve also got less things to discuss to distract you.  Communications are clearer because there’s less to talk about.
  3. You also have less to distract you period.  Simplicity means less chance of error, less rabbit holes to go down.

In creative endeavors, that can mean subtle works, assumptions, and hard-to-communicate idea, this clear communication is valuable indeed.  The efforts that you make earlier (and the work you don’t do) make your life easier.

I find this is a great thing to communicate better with this simple rule; if it’s hard for people to communicate about a project or creative work, if you’re going in circles, it’s time to focus on simplicity.

Simplicity Reduces Waste

Because you’re not doing extra work due to a focus on Simplicity, you’re spending your time better. The work you actually do meets a need – a need you clarified by a focus on simplicity and not complicating things. Everything you do is almost certainly valuable, or at least more likely to be so. Remember the agile emphasis on reducing unnecessary processes and documents?

The focus on simplicity also reduces wasted time.  Simply, you’re doing less and so there’s less chance to do it wrong.

Simplicity Is A Goal

So the benefits of simplicity are clear, but Simplicity doesn’t just happen – it has to be a goal. Your creative works need to focus on the simple, the precise, the effective from the start.

It’s probably easy to get everyone on board with this once they realize the value of simplicity (which is often found by discussing value).  We all want less complexity anyway.

But remember, ultimately simplicity is . .

Maximizing The Amount Of Work Not Done

Yes, your goal is to do less work overall as an Agile Creative.  Lazy?  No.

There’s plenty of work you can be doing, so you focus on doing the right work.  You work on what really matters, in a way you can keep delivering effectively.  There’s all sorts of things you can be doing, focusing on simple, valuable work means you don’t get distracted or do unneded things.

I believe you should celebrate finding something is no longer needed.  When you find something isn’t necessary, when you can ditch parts of a project, when you find something you can cut, good.  I’ve actually complimented people on the job for finding something isn’t needed.

And when it comes to creative projects, remember that creative people love figuring things out.  Turn some of that loose on simplicity . . .

But this all ties to one more thing.

Don’t Just Find Simplicity – Make It

You shouldn’t just seek simplicity – though you should – you should also find ways to make things simpler over time.  Simplicity is something to build in:

  1. Streamline the processes and documents that you use to make them simpler, focusing on value.
  2. Find ways to streamline code that you reuse or templates that you use for art (shades of the 9th Agile Principle)
  3. Improve communications with simplicity, such as combining several meetings into one or having a check-in as opposed to elaborate email conversations.
  4. Drop overcomplicated methods.

Just as you work to deliver value, always be on the lookout to deliver simplicity in how you do things.

This allows you to not just help your client, but to constantly uncomplicate your life and your efforts.  Each time you make things simpler, it pays off now and down the road.

Remember This Is Essential

That “Essential” part of the 10th is a final thing to remember.  Simplicity?  Doing less?  That’s essential to agile and agile practices.  All that clarity, all that focus, all those benefits?  The’re indispensable.

So next time you find things getting complicated, remember simplicity.

Rounding Up

So let’s get simple with simplicity.  Working for simplicity and looking for work not done is essential to agile practice.

To do this:

  • Keep simplicity as a goal and develop it.
  • Focus on value to keep things simple.
  • Focus on clear communication
  • Focus on reducing waste.
  • Maximize work not done.

– Steve


Posted on by Steven Savage

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr)

Now on to the 9th Agile Principle, one of my favorites (it’s hard to pick a favorite), because it makes a great point often forgotten. It also applies to so many situations. Let’s take a look

Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.

Ah just soak that one in. By paying attention to technical excellence and good design, you become even more adaptable, more productive – more Agile. Simple, and elegant, so as you may guess I’m going to analyze the hell out of it. It’s not that it hides any excret complexity – it’s obvious – it’s that there’s a lot of power in this that anyone can use – and Creatives have unique opportunities to take advantage of.

Let’s take this – backwards.

The Goal: Enhancing Agility

Note this Principle spells out that technical excellence and good design are things that one wants to pay attention to – always. That of course seems obvious, because who wouldn’t want to pay attention to doing things right and designing things right? But it states specifically that this enhances agility – that it lets you act, manage, and work agilely.

The benefits of these things aren’t just “hey well done” – they’re that you use Agile methods and apply agile principles better. There’s a benefit beyond the obvious of “doing stuff well.”

So it helps to spell it out. If you want to improve agility, do things right and design them well.

For Creatives, which often deal with unpredictability, ways to enhance agility are always welcome. Creatives are almost always entering unknown territory, have challenges communicating work, and more.  Anything to make work more adaptable, more predictable – more agile – should be welcome. More agility allows you to deliver more value.

So let’s look at just good design and technical excellence help you out – and help you be an agile creative.

Good Design

When you design something well, it’s more than just a “valuable” piece of work. It delivers other benefits that deliver agility. Let’s look at them and how they apply to creative work.

  • Good designs prevents errors since you can get it right the first time. This means you save time since you’ve got less revision – and aspiring to good design focuses you on listening to the client and understanding work so you deliver value. That helps in unpredictable developments, which you probably face a lot.
  • Good designs are repeatable in part or in whole – which saves time in the future. That lets you work faster since you’ve got other things to call on like design templates, reusable code, or helpful checklist. This can help you in creative works because you’ve got some work done already – at least the less predictable or more standard parts.
  • Good design makes your work shareable – because you can communicate it. This makes it easier to review with clients, as well as easier to teach to people. Creative work has its challenges in communication, so good design makes it easier – and good communication means more agility.
  • Good design is just good practice. Making something well-designed in turn helps you just learn to do things better – and that by definition will make work more agile.  Creative work often involves multiple skillsets, so good design helps deal with that.

Technical Excellence

Good design isn’t necessarily the same as technical excellence.  Good Design may be about laying things out and putting things together well, about organizing and making patterns apparent.  Technical excellence is about attention to detail, about doing things right, and about not overdoing things. Again, it has obvious benefits anyway, but  let’s see how it affects Agile Creativity.

  • Technical excellence just means things are done right and done well.  This ensures not having to redo things so you can move on – good for any form of organization, but in agile . .
  • Technical excellence also means that you’ve learned lessons you can repeat and teach.  Since many Agile methodologies focus on review and improvement, when you do it right once, you can do it again.  This is important in creative work since, with so many options in creative works, having repeatable work is helpful.
  • Technical excellence builds confidence in the people you work with and deliver work to.  When people see you do well, they trust you.  Creative works, which have many options and many variants, require trust.

You want to aspire to technical excellence period – but when you work with Agile methods, the benefits are even more pornounced.

When it involves creative work, it’s essential.

The Ninth Principle

The Ninth Agile Principle really is a great reminder that designing things well and doing them right has more benefits than the obvious – it lets you be better at being Agile.  When you’re a creative it has some specific benefits:

  • Good design helps reduce unpredictability, creates repeatable elements, allows work to be easier shared, and is just good practice.
  • Technical excellence reduces doing things over, teaches you repeatable lessons and inspires confidence.

– Steve


Posted on by Scott Delahunt

Continuing with comic book adaptations, this week’s subject is also a look at how one work can still have influence. While the 1984 Supergirl movie wasn’t the blockbuster the studio hoped for, the movie it was spun off from, the 1978 Superman, is often taken as the definitive version of the title character. As a result, audiences have expectations of what a Superman or Superman-related work involves.

Lost in Translation went through the history of the character of Supergirl in the analysis of the 1984 film. However, there’s more to the character than mentioned there. Yes, Kara Zor-El was Kal El’s cousin and became Supergirl after arriving on Earth after Argo City was destroyed. Kara was the first Supergirl, first appearing in 1959 in Action Comics #252. She wasn’t the only Supergirl.

After Kara dies in the mini-series reboot Crisis on Infinite Earths saving Superman and the multiverse, other Supergirls appeared. The first was Matrix, an artificial life form from an alternate universe, with a different power set. As Supergirl, she spent time with the Teen Titans and as a hero on her own. When Matrix finds a dying Linda Danvers, she merges, becoming an Earth-born angel. This Supergirl has a different set of powers, including wings made of fire. Eventually, this merged Supergirl falls from grace, causing Matrix and Linda to separate. Linda keeps some of the powers, though not at the same level as before, and continues to be Supergirl.

The changes to Supergirl post-Crisis came from DC’s editorial wanting Superman to be the only surviving Kryptonian. When that policy was relaxed, Kara returned, though with her origin rebooted. She’s still Superman’s cousin, but after being launched from Krypton, she loses her memory. Her first meeting with her cousin has her in disbelief; to her, he should still be an infant. In reality, she had lost time while in her lifepod.

That brings us to 2015. The CW has had success with Arrow and The Flash, showing that a broadcast network can have success with a superhero TV adaptation. CBS took the chance on the lastest from Greg Berlanti, Supergirl. With Melissa Benoist as the title character, the first season explored hope, dreams, family, and how the three mix. The analysis that follows focuses on the first season; cinematic universes tend to go in their own direction once started, even when the studio works to keep close to the original work.

The opening voice over explains the background; thirteen year old Kara Zor-El was sent by her mother to keep her cousin, Kal El, safe until he grew up. However, Kara’s pod was knocked off course into the Phantom Zone, where she lingered unaging until somehow she got out. When she reached Earth, her cousin had grown up and become Superman. Instead of her taking care of him, he finds a way to take care of her, bringing her to her foster parents, the Danvers, Jeremiah (Dean Cain) and Eliza (Helen Slater). Kara grows close to her older foster sister, Alex (Chyler Leigh).

Once Kara has graduated college, she started work at CatCo, the media empire owned by Cat Grant (Callista Flockheart), former Daily Planet journalist. The series starts with Kara being Cat’s assistant and gopher, with her name mangled to Kira. Still, Kara keeps her spirits up. She enjoys her job and her co-workers. One, IT whizkid Winslow “Winn” Schott, Jr (Jeremiah Jordan), has a crush on Kara but can’t quite tell her. Starting that day is James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks), who has moved from Metropolis to National City to work for CatCo as the art director. Kara is looking forward to seeing her sister; Alex had been out of town on work. All in all, Kara’s life is normal.

All the normal goes out the window when Kara sees a news report about her sister’s flight in trouble. An engine caught fire and the plane was on a course to crash in the middle of National City. Kara runs out, throwing her jacket aside and, after a few short jumps, flies off. She catches the jet, but because women need to work twice as hard to be considered even half as good as men, she has to dodge a bridge before setting the plane down in the river. Despite the efforts, news anchors criticize her for setting the jet down where rescuers couldn’t get to it immediately. Nevermind that no one died.

Alex realizes who saved her and the other passengers and confronts Kara. However, Kara is just so earnest that Alex breaks down and reveals her big secret – she’s really an agent for the DEO, the Department of Extranormal Operations, whose mandate is to protect the Earth from alien threats. Alex knows Kara isn’t a threat, but her boss, Hank Henshaw (David Harewoood), isn’t so sure, but he trusts Alex enough that he’s willing to accept Kara. The problem that the DEO is facing is that Fort Rozz, the Kryptonian prison in the Phantom Zone, has crashed on Earth, letting the prisoners escape.

Kara can’t keep her excitement at bay. At work, after Cat names the new hero “Supergirl”, Kara needs to share her news with someone. That someone is Winn, who helps Kara with a costume. As Supergirl, Kara does what she can to keep National City safe. Her appearance, though, lets General Non (Chris Vance) and Astra (Laura Benanti), the twin sister to Kara’s mother, Alura, know that there is another Kryptonian on Earth. The plane crash Kara prevented was to kill Alex, set by escapee Vartox (Owain Yeoman) under Non’s orders. Vartox tries to kill Supergirl but fails, committing suicide when she beats him.

As the season plays out, Supergirl makes a few rookie mistakes, but with the help of Winn and James and with Cat giving her a media boost, she improves and becomes the darling of National City while still helping the DEO in its mission. However, as Superman’s cousin, Supergirl is constantly compared to him. This changes after she stops Reactron, a villain Superman couldn’t completely defeat.

Other characters from the comics make appearances through the season, including Dr. T.O. Morrow; his creation, the Red Tornado; the Silver Banshee; Jemm, Son of Saturn; the Toyman; and possibly the greatest danger to National City, Maxwell Lord(Peter Facinelli). There were also some twists on villains from Superman’s Rogues Gallery. Bizarro, who in the comics looks like a twisted copy of Superman, is based on Supergirl thanks to Max Lord and his experiments with Kryptonite to create a counter to the Girl of Steel. Brainiac appears as Braniac 8, though she prefers Indigo (Laura Vandervoot).

Of note is the episode “For the Girl Who Has Everything”, which takes a cue from a Superman comic. The producers realized that the Black Mercy, a creature that traps a victim in an memory recreation of a happier time, would work better with Kara. Superman has little personal experience with Krypton, having arrived on Earth as an infant. Everything he knows about the planet comes second hand. Kara, though, was older when she was sent away. She had family and friends, all of whom perished when the planet exploded. Kara is far more vulnerable to the Black Mercy, and the episode shows how.

Just having the names of characters, though, doesn’t make the series a good adaptation. It’s how the characters are presented. Kara is earnest and adorkable, which does follow from her appearances in the comics. She’s heroic because she wants to help. The Martian Manhunter is protective of the Danvers sisters and shares with Kara the loss of a family and a home. Maxwell Lord does reflect the character in the comics, a mix of helpfulness and dangerous-ness that makes it difficult to pin down if he is a hero or a villain.

The show also gave itself an out with accuracy. “Worlds Finest”, the crossover episode with The Flash, reveals that Supergirl isn’t quite in the same universe as Arrow and The Flash. Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) at one point goes through the differences between the universe he’s from and Kara’s. Cat also gets an interesting line when Kara, Barry, James, and Winn are lingering in her office, “You look like the racially diverse cast of a CW show.” Supergirl moved to the CW with its second season.

Each Supergirl episode plays like an issue of a comic. There’s character development; every character has a story arc. There’s heroics. If there’s a villain, Supergirl has a setback that helps her discover what she needs to defeat the miscreant. There’s even a end-of-episode cliffhanger, a hint on what will happen next week. Episodes have both stand-alone elements and still contribute to the the season’s main arc.

Supergirl, being the latest in Superman TV adaptations, also winks at the audience. Kara’s foster parents are played by leads in previous works. Helen Slater was Supergirl in the 1984 movie while Dean Cain was Clark Kent in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. Cain’s co-star Teri Hatcher, who played Lois Lane, appears in season 2 as Rhea. Laura Vandervoot (Indigo) portrayed Kara on Smallville.

The series has the potential to be the definitive version of Supergirl to the general audience, much like the Richard Donner Superman. The chemistry amongst the cast and Melissa Benoist’s portrayal of Kara will leave a long lasting impression that will be hard to top.


Posted on by Steven Savage

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr)

Now on to the 9th Agile Principle, one of my favorites (it’s hard to pick a favorite), because it makes a great point often forgotten. It also applies to so many situations. Let’s take a look

Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.

Ah just soak that one in. By paying attention to technical excellence and good design, you become even more adaptable, more productive – more Agile. Simple, and elegant, so as you may guess I’m going to analyze the hell out of it. It’s not that it hides any excret complexity – it’s obvious – it’s that there’s a lot of power in this that anyone can use – and Creatives have unique opportunities to take advantage of.

Let’s take this – backwards.

The Goal: Enhancing Agility

Note this Principle spells out that technical excellence and good design are things that one wants to pay attention to – always. That of course seems obvious, because who wouldn’t want to pay attention to doing things right and designing things right? But it states specifically that this enhances agility – that it lets you act, manage, and work agilely.

The benefits of these things aren’t just “hey well done” – they’re that you use Agile methods and apply agile principles better. There’s a benefit beyond the obvious of “doing stuff well.”

So it helps to spell it out. If you want to improve agility, do things right and design them well.

For Creatives, which often deal with unpredictability, ways to enhance agility are always welcome. Creatives are almost always entering unknown territory, have challenges communicating work, and more.  Anything to make work more adaptable, more predictable – more agile – should be welcome. More agility allows you to deliver more value.

So let’s look at just good design and technical excellence help you out – and help you be an agile creative.

Good Design

When you design something well, it’s more than just a “valuable” piece of work. It delivers other benefits that deliver agility. Let’s look at them and how they apply to creative work.

  • Good designs prevents errors since you can get it right the first time. This means you save time since you’ve got less revision – and aspiring to good design focuses you on listening to the client and understanding work so you deliver value. That helps in unpredictable developments, which you probably face a lot.
  • Good designs are repeatable in part or in whole – which saves time in the future. That lets you work faster since you’ve got other things to call on like design templates, reusable code, or helpful checklist. This can help you in creative works because you’ve got some work done already – at least the less predictable or more standard parts.
  • Good design makes your work shareable – because you can communicate it. This makes it easier to review with clients, as well as easier to teach to people. Creative work has its challenges in communication, so good design makes it easier – and good communication means more agility.
  • Good design is just good practice. Making something well-designed in turn helps you just learn to do things better – and that by definition will make work more agile.  Creative work often involves multiple skillsets, so good design helps deal with that.

Technical Excellence

Good design isn’t necessarily the same as technical excellence.  Good Design may be about laying things out and putting things together well, about organizing and making patterns apparent.  Technical excellence is about attention to detail, about doing things right, and about not overdoing things. Again, it has obvious benefits anyway, but  let’s see how it affects Agile Creativity.

  • Technical excellence just means things are done right and done well.  This ensures not having to redo things so you can move on – good for any form of organization, but in agile . .
  • Technical excellence also means that you’ve learned lessons you can repeat and teach.  Since many Agile methodologies focus on review and improvement, when you do it right once, you can do it again.  This is important in creative work since, with so many options in creative works, having repeatable work is helpful.
  • Technical excellence builds confidence in the people you work with and deliver work to.  When people see you do well, they trust you.  Creative works, which have many options and many variants, require trust.

You want to aspire to technical excellence period – but when you work with Agile methods, the benefits are even more pornounced.

When it involves creative work, it’s essential.

The Ninth Principle

The Ninth Agile Principle really is a great reminder that designing things well and doing them right has more benefits than the obvious – it lets you be better at being Agile.  When you’re a creative it has some specific benefits:

  • Good design helps reduce unpredictability, creates repeatable elements, allows work to be easier shared, and is just good practice.
  • Technical excellence reduces doing things over, teaches you repeatable lessons and inspires confidence.

– Steve


Posted on by Scott Delahunt

Comic book adaptations are still an ongoing concern. Many have already been renewed for the 2018-2019 TV season. The CW has been doing well with DC’s TV universe, with Supergirl, The Flash, Black Lightning, and Legends of Tomorrow. Today, a look at the first season of the first superhero series on the CW, Arrow, the story of how Oliver Queen becomes the Green Arrow.

The Green Arrow first appeared in the pages of More Fun Comics #73 in November 1941, fighting crime with his sidekick, Roy Harper, aka Speedy. Instead of superpowers, the pair used archery, though Queen’s wealth allowed for a variety of gadget arrows. Creator Mort Weisinger and designer George Papp were inspired by the serial The Green Archer, based on the books by Edgar Wallace. They modified the idea to be more superheroic, pulling in ideas from Batman such as the Arrow-Cave and the Arrowcar. Despite the influences, Weisinger kept with a Robin Hood approach, which Papp emphasized with the costume.

The first origin story was published in More Fun Comics #89. However, Jack Kirby updated the origin in Adventure Comics #250, having Queen get shipwrecked on a desert island. Andy Diggle added to the origin with Green Arrow: Year One, adding in smugglers trying to protect a slave-labour operation. Neal Adams gave Oliver his Van Dyke in The Brave and the Bold #85. Mike Grell aged Oliver for his mini-series, Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters, showing a maturation and a move away from the gimmick arrows. The Green Arrow was also one of the first to deal with the effects of drugs, despite the Comic Code’s blanket ban. In Green Lantern #85-86, Roy was revealed to be a heroin addict, needing help to break the hold.

Through the years, the Green Arrow’s focus became social justice. However, the character was never one of DC’s A-listers, having been relegated to backup stories in various titles when his own were cancelled because of lack of readership. Still, the Green Arrow has enough of a hook for television without the massive public expectation that Batman or Superman have.

Arrow first aired in 2012, with Stephen Amell starring as Oliver Queen. The idea behind the series was to show Oliver becoming the Green Arrow while further exploring what happened when he was shipwrecked. Greg Berlanti is using Green Arrow: Year One as a launching point. The series starts with Oliver returning home after being missing on the island for five years after the family yacht, Queen’s Gambit was lost at sea. While the family reunion looks happy, there is a current of unrest beneath the surface. Oliver’s father, who killed himself so that Oliver could live after the shipwreck, left him a list of names, people who have failed Starling City, and a mission. To hide who is he is, Oliver creates a costume, one that includes a hood that hides his face in shadow and a painted green mask.

After Oliver kills a corrupt millionaire on his father’s list, the police get involved. Detective Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne) becomes the lead investigator trying to find the vigilante known as The Hood. Complicating things, Det. Lance is the father of both Laurel (Katie Cassidy), Oliver’s ex-girlfriend, and Sara (Jacqueline MacInnes Wood), who was on the Queen’s Gambit when it was lost and the reason why Lauren is an ex. Adding to the complications, Oliver’s mother, Moira (Susanna Thompson) insists that he have a bodyguard, John Diggle (David Ramsey).

As the season progresses, Oliver realizes that he can’t handle his mission alone and recruits some help. Diggle joins, reluctantly at first, and acts as a humanizing element for Oliver. Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) gets pulled in because she realizes that some of the odd requests Oliver gave her just don’t make sense and starts asking awkward questions. As a team, they figure out that there is a plot against Starling City, one that would destroy the Glades, the city’s version of Gotham’s Crime Alley.

Oliver isn’t the only Queen getting into trouble. His little sister, Thea (Willa Holland), who Oliver calls “Speedy” is acting out and getting into trouble. After she crashes her car two days before her eighteenth birthday with drugs in her system, Thea is sentenced to community service, helping Laurel at her legal office. While working there, she meets Roy Harper (Colton Haynes), a young small-time thief. Roy at one point is kidnapped by another vigilante who is going after people who let the Glades become what it is. After the Hood rescues him, Roy wants to meet the him, and does what he can to find him.

However, that’s just half the series. The other half is told in flashbacks and covers Oliver’s time on the island. He wasn’t alone after he arrived; he was first found by Yao Fei (Byron Mann), who taught Oliver how to hunt and how to kill. A group of mercenaries hunting for Yao Fei find Oliver but can’t get him to talk. Eventually, the mercenaries do find Yao Fei, but Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett) is also looking at takes in Oliver. The mercenaries’ plan is to shoot down a civilan airliner. Oliver, Wilson, and Yao Fei’s daughter Shado (Celina Jade) work to stop the mercenaries. The climax of the flashback plotline coincided with the climax of the main story, ending Oliver’s first year on the island.

At this point, Oliver Queen isn’t the Green Arrow yet. He’s still more vigilante than hero, but he’s beginning to show the social justice side of the the original character. But that’s the goal of the series, to show Oliver becoming the hero. As such, liberties are being taken. Yet, such is the nature of cinematic universes. Once the base has been set, a story will go in its own direction. Yet, /Arrow/ still is the story of the Green Arrow. It’s not just the trappings, poor adaptations still use the trappings, but present them badly or just wrong. With Arrow, while Oliver isn’t the Emerald Archer seen in comics, he’s heading in that direction. Every hero has a backstory; Arrow is Oliver Queen’s.


Posted on by Scott Delahunt

While adapting from one visual medium to another may seem to be a simple process, both media may rely on shorthand unique to it that can’t translate well. Today, Lost in Translation looks at that process using Mark Millar, Dave Gibbons, and Matthew Vaughan’s Kingsman: The Secret Service.

Image Comics published The Secret Service #1 in 2012. The first issue opens with celebrities having gone missing. A Secret Service mission locates and rescues Mark Hamill from the kidnappers, whose ends don’t include ransom. However, budget cuts and faulty equipment turn a 007-style chase scene tragic.

In a South London housing estate, Gary “Eggsy” Unwin, a chav, is trapped by circumstances into a dead end existence, living with his mother, his younger brother, and his abusive step-father. His life revolves around hanging around with his chav friends, drinking, toking, and joyriding. Eggsy’s driving skills are more than a match for the local police, but a loose dog and Gary’s unwillingness to just run it over ends the chase. Enter Gary’s uncle, Jack. Jack is more than the Fraud Squad computer analyst he pretends to be. Jack is a super spy, one of the Secret Service, and he sees potential in Gary. He arranges for Gary to go to Gosford, the spy school.

A mass wedding in Hawaii becomes the test bed for Dr. James Arnold’s new device, leaving no survivors. Arnold is concerned about global warning and overpopulation. To save the Earth and one billion people, five billion must die. Arnold is hand picking the core of his future society, mostly notable actors and directors from science fiction and fantasy. He has managed to get people in top positions in many organizations, too. It’s how he found his bodyguard, Gazelle, a man with prosthetics below both knees.

Gary’s training progresses. He’s picking and excelling in the physical aspects of being a super spy. None of the other trainees can match him in firearms accuracy. Eggsy outdoes the trainee who stole a drug dealer’s Maserati by nicking Her Majesty’s Rolls Royce. His only problem is social; thanks to growing up in the estates, he doesn’t have the breadth of interaction or knowledge that his fellow trainees do. Frustrated, Gary wants to quit, but Jack manages to convince him to stay, promising an apprenticeship.

When Gary regains consciousness, he’s in a town in Columbia wearing his boxers and a bracelet. Jack has moved up Gary’s final exam. The goal, find his passport and airline tickets back to Britain, with the plane leaving at midnight. Gary’s solution is unorthodox; while he doesn’t make his flight, he does return to Britain in time bringing along a couple of souvenirs, a Columbian drug lord and his private jet, earning a pass and becoming Jack’s apprentice. The apprenticeship doesn’t last long. Jack seduces Arnold’s girlfriend, getting her to explain the nefarious plot. Afterwards, though, Jack is killed by Gazelle.

Gary discovers just how deep the conspiracy goes. Seeing that the top echelons cannot be trusted, he heads to the bottom of the hierarchy, his fellow trainees. They work out where Arnold’s lair is, a hollowed mountain, and come up with an assault plan, with limited time until Dr. Arnold’s cell phone signal . One of the trainees gets to take a hot air balloon up twenty-three miles to shoot down Arnold’s satellite. Two other trainees are tasked with finding the source of Arnold’s killer signal. Gary takes on tracking Arnold for himself. The satellite never appears, but the signal still goes out. The second group of trainees, instead of finding the shutdown switch, reprogrammed the signal. Gary finds Arnold and ensures that doctor cannot try again, ending the six issue story..

Vaughan wanted to make a fun spy movie after having seen a number of grim ones in recent years. He took the story in The Secret Service and adapted it as Kingsman: The Secret Service, released in 2014, becoming the movie’s co-writer and the director. With one of the original creative team on board in two key areas, it’s worth looking at the final outcome.

The film opens in 1997, with a mission in the Middle East to recover information going wrong after Galahad (Colin Firth) missing an explosive on a prisoner. If Lancelot, Eggsy’s father, hadn’t noticed and dove on the prisoner before the explosive detonated, none of the agents would have survived. As it is, Lancelot sacrifices himself. Galahad delivers the deceased agent’s Medal of Honour to the widow, Michelle (Samantha Womack) and young son, pointing out the telephone number on the back. If there is ever a problem, all either have to do is call that number and use the code, “Oxfords, not brogues.”

Seventeen years later, the new Lancelot, who looks a bit like George Lazenby, Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, takes a quick side trip for a rescue mission. The rescue plays out like the one in the comic. The difference is that instead of rescuing Mark Hamill, Lancelot is rescuing Professor James Arnold, played by Mark Hamill. The scene diverges before Lancelot can lead Arnold out of the cabin. Instead, he is taken by surprise by Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) and is cut in half by her, lengthwise. Gazelle covers her mess so that her boss, Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson, playing against type) can enter without being violently ill. Valentine believes in the Gaia Theory, where the Earth is a living organism and global warming is a natural response by the planet to get rid of an infection, and wants Prof. Arnold to help him.

Eggsy isn’t have a good life. He gets kicked out of the housing estate he, his mother, his baby sister, and his abusive stepfather live in so the parents can have alone time. At the pub with his mates, he gets on the wrong side of his stepfather’s cronies. Eggsy decides to let things be and leaves, but only after lifting the keys for one of the gangsters’ new car. The police give chase, only catching up when Eggsy crashes to avoid a dog in the road.

At the gaol, Eggsy refuses to give up his mates and, as a result, is looking at eighteen months behind bars. Eggsy uses his one call to dial the number on the back of his father’s medal. The voice answering the call thanks him for calling the Complaints Department and tells him he has a wrong number, but Eggsy uses the code phrase and gets his complaint registered. He walks out of the gaol, wondering what happened and is met by Galahad, Harry Hart. Hart offers him a chance to turn his life around. Eggsy was doing well in many subjects – school, gymnastics, even Royal Marine training – before dropping out of each. Hart still sees the potential in Gary.

Eggsy is the last to show up at the training facility. He joins eight other candidates to become the next Lancelot. Merlin (Mark Strong), the head of the technical branch and the lead trainer, explains how the training will work; trainees will succeed in tests or wash out. The training differs from the comic; what works as a montage in sequential art doesn’t in a film. Included in the training is the training of a dog from a puppy; Eggsy takes a pug thinking it will become a bulldog.

The cinematic Kingsmen were created after World War I after noble families lost several sons in the trenches. The Kingsmen are an independant intelligence agency, separate from political pressure, and pulled from the scions of nobility. Galahad, though, nominated Gary’s father, someone not from a blue blood line, believing that it is the man, not the family that is important. Eggsy is the outsider in the group of trainees, yet he is one of the final two, the other being Roxy (Sophie Cookson), after Charlie (Edward Holcroft) breaks under pressure in a test of loyalty. Roxy ultimately wins the position of Lancelot after Eggsy is unable to shoot his dog.

Meanwhile, when not training the next Lancelot, Merlin discovers Prof. Arnold walking around on a traffic camera despite having been kidnapped. Galahad heads off to discover why Arnold is free. During the questioning, Arnold’s head explodes. Examination of the video from Galahad’s eyeglasses shows that Arnold had a subcutaneous device on his neck that caused the explosion. Further investigation leads Galahad to Valentine. Valentine is offering a SIM card that will allow people to make calls and use the Internet for no cost. However, nothing comes for free. The SIM card is set to carry a wave that will trigger rage in the device’s owner.

Valentine’s test location is a hate group, the South Gate Mission Church, instead of the mass wedding. Galahad heads there to see what Valentine has in mind. Instead, he is caught up in the SIM card’s wave and gets involved in the fighting. There is only one survivor, Hart. Valentine, flanked by Gazelle and a couple of mooks, greets Galahad before shooting him in the head.

Eggsy returns to the Kingsman Tailor Shop to speak with the head of the Kingsmen, Arthur (Michael Caine). While talking about Galahad, Eggsy notices a scar on Arthur’s neck, much like the one Prof. Arnold had pre-explosion. Arthur, who had nominated Charlie, is very much a believer in maintaining class distinctions and sees Eggsy as a pretender. He tries to poison Eggsy, but the younger man sees it coming and switches the glasses around. Once Arthur is dead, Eggsy removes the chip in his neck and brings it to Merlin.

Merlin works his magic and determines what the chip does. First, it nullifies the carrier wave Valentine uses to turn people into unthinking, raging beasts. Second, it can get hot enough to superheat the implantees brain, leading to an explosion. With the countdown to the launch fo Valentine’s free cell network, capable of carrying the rage enducing carrier wave, started, there isn’t time to recall Kingsman agents in the field. Merlin has Roxy and Eggsy, the latter not officially an agent, to stop Valentine.

There are two steps to the plan to stop Valentine. The first is to shoot down one of Valentine’s satellites, giving more time to execute the second part, which is shutting down the signal at the source. Roxy is given the first part, going up with the aid of hot air balloons with a missile launcher. Meanwhile, Merlin flies Eggsy to Valentine’s mountain lair to use Arthur’s invitation to infiltrate and access a laptop, giving the technical branch head access to Valentine’s computer network.

Eggsy, now in his bespoke suit, purchased by Hart before dying, easily fits in with the crowd. He wanders through the main lounge and finds the Swedish Prime Minister on a laptop. A quick knockout dart, and Eggsy gets the laptop and Merlin on to the network. Unfortunately, Eggsy is discovered by Charlie, in the lair with the rest of his family. Valentine speeds up the countdown, but Roxy takes out his satellite.

Trying to escape, Eggsy is led back to the plane by Merlin. Unknown to Eggsy, Valentine borrows time from another satellite to re-establish his cell network, and the countdown is on again. The signal is sent through the network, causing mass riots around the world. Eggsy is sent back out, armed appropriately, to get Valentine’s hand off the computer. Back in the main lounge, Eggsy has to fight Gazelle before getting to Valentine and ending the threat once and for all.

For the most part, the movie follows the comic beat for beat, though some beats are moved around. The differences come up due to the differences in media. Comics, being a sequence of still pictures, have their own language. The reader is expected to fill in the gaps between panels. Movies can’t do that; being motion pictures, the film has to fill in those gaps. What can be a two page fight becomes a ten minute scene. Let’s take a look at some of the differences.

First up, characters. James Arnold went from main villain to villain’s henchman, replaced by billionaire philanthropist Richmond Valentine. Valentine, though, keep the motive, saving the Earth and one billion people by culling five billion. The method is the same, causing people to become raging monsters who kill each other. Even the lair remains more or less as seen in the comic. Eggsy is still the same, though his younger brother becomes a baby sister and his mother’s name changes from Sharon to Michelle. Minor change, really, one that doesn’t affect the storyline. Eggsy’s Uncle Jack, though, does change in a major way. Jack becomes Harry Hart, not related to Gary or his mother at all. The change came about because Vaughan saw issues with the My Fair Lady approach the movie plays with. If Jack remained, questions would come up why he didn’t do anything sooner. These questions get answered in the comic, but there isn’t time in the movie.

Time is another factor. The film runs 129 minutes. The same story ran six issues, giving the comic more space to expand ideas. Visual shorthands can make up for time, like letting Eggsy show what he can do instead of just hinting at it. But time in a film is still finite; audiences will only sit for so long before getting restless. Related to time is cast. Budgets can only go so far. The nature of training in the movie eliminated trainees, leaving just Roxy and Eggsy to deal with Valentine. In the comic, Eggsy leads ten trainees in an assault on Arnold’s lair, with another trainee, who isn’t Roxy, off to try to shoot down the satellite. Roxy doesn’t even get named in the comic, though there is a trainee who could pass as her.

Speaking of cast, the comic had artistic renderings of famous people who had been kidnapped by Arnold to restart society after his culling. Cameos, though, get complicated when using real people. The only person who appeared in both the comic and the movie was Mark Hamill, and he played a character other than himself in the film. Hamill’s first scene was much like his cameo in the comic, though his character survived the experience in the movie.

One other problem comes from a cultural difference. Mark Millar, Dave Gibbons, and Matthew Vaughan are all British. The comic and the movie have roots in the different classes in British society. These don’t always translate well to something that North American audiences can understand, though TV series like Doctor Who, Coronation Street, and Eastenders have helped introduce the concepts. Chavs and housing estates have equivalents in American culture, but the matching isn’t one-to-one. The movie had to make sure the concepts in use could be understood by an American audience without dumbing them down too much that the themes get watered down.

The end result, though, is that the movie Kingsman: The Secret Service is very much the comic, despite the differences. The story matches, though scenes differ. The clash of classes, the over-the-top villainous plan, the maturation and the understanding of what makes a gentleman, all of that remains. A Kingsman is a Kingsman, no matter the path taken.


Posted on by Steven Savage

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr)

Let me say up front this is one of my favorite Agile Principles (#10 is up there too.). It’s obvious, thought-provoking, and in-your face.

Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.

Yes, the Agile Principles state outright that you should find and keep a pace that can be maintained indefinitely, and everyone should have that pace. I’d love to phrase this positively, but let’s face it, it’s a principle about not burning out.

Yes, way back in 2001 the Agile gurus were well aware of the potential for burnout, death marches, and more and made it part of their principles.

Agile Processes Promote Sustainable Development.

Agile processes make sure that development is sustainable – that the inputs, velocity, testing, processes, demands, etc. all are aimed so everyone (and I do mean everyone) involved could keep this up forever.  This of course makes sense – once you find a doable pace you’re able to continue, predictably, over time.  When there is deviation, you can adapt as you’ve got a stable pace going.  When it’s sustainable you can keep delivering value.

This flies in the face of so much we’re taught about work, leisure, and so on. We’re taught to expect death marches. We’re taught to expect rushes. We’re taught to idolize being overworked. This Agile Principle outright states ‘bollocks to that’ and says ‘no.’ Or if we want to put it positively, says ‘yes’ to sustainability.

But I’ve seen so many death marches and overtime pushes I like the “no” part.  But let’s get away from negative/positive, let’s talk about why this matters to creatives.

  1. Creatives are often in areas and industries that promote death marches and rushes.
  2. Even if we’re not in #1 we often do it to ourselves.
  3. The unpredictability of creative work may lead us to pace ourselves erratically anyway – and accept it as normal.
  4. Because of these issues we don’t try to find a way to work better.
  5. All this stress outright kills creativity – and the goodwill that’s needed for it.  It’s a testimony to many creatives that they’ve sustained in the face of so many things.

Because it is so important this means . . .

We Need to Consciously Work On Sustainability

You don’t just say “hey, let’s be sustainable” and it happens.  It’s something you work on – this principle reminds us to commit to it, to make sure we find a pace we can all work at, together.

This principle, despite the fact it’s a call to work appropriately, is also a call to work on sustainability.  You need to take the time and effort to make work sustainable.  You need to educate yourself on principles and processes to make things sustainable.  Hopefully this is the collective “you” – all the sponsors, users, and developers in your creative work.

But it might be the lone “you.”  Sorry, you might be the lone voice of sustainability and have to advocate.  Maybe these columns can help, but let me emphasize that if you’re using Agile, keep reading up on it and researching it.  There’s plenty of knowledge out there.

Note that this Principle means everyone in the project.  It could just be you and one client, it could be a giant team and users/audience.  So let’s talk about how the three different groups – sponsors, developers, users – can promote sustainability on a creative project.

Sponsors And Sustainability

Sponsors are the people asking for the work. It would seem their role is obvious – don’t overload people!  Of course it’s not that obvious.  Each of the three groups have different interactions on creative projects.  So how can Sponsors work with the other groups?

Developers:

  • Sponsors need to understand what pace Developers can work at and support it – perhaps even push back on those pressuring them.
  • Sponsors need to work with Developers and be available so they can both assist developers, but also stay aware of their pace and sustainability.
  • Sponsors need to listen to Developers; the developers know what they’re doing. In creative work, this is exceptionally important because of the little intricacies and intimacies.

Users:

  • Sponsors need to understand User expectations – not just what is wanted, but what can be handled. it might sound great to shovel out a ton of stuff (such as game patches), but this may limit feedback and communication. Users can only handle so much.
  • Sponsors should listen to Users and get feedback, finding ways to encourage sustainable development.  This may also mean understanding User perspectives – and what they want and you want may differ.
  • Sometimes the Sponsor is the User – and you’ll need to figure out how you feel in both roles.

In promoting sustainable development, a good Sponsor is realistic, listens, facilitates – and doesn’t overload Developers. I won’t lie – sometimes you become a firewall or a funnel. Be a good one.

Now a few warnings. Where does this usually go wrong in creative works?

  • Sponsors often come to Developers far too late in creative processes – I’ve seen it a number of times. Sponsors should engage Developers in creative works as early as possible and learn their pace.
  • Sponsors overload Developers. This often fails, leads to bad blood, and the “there’s more where that came from” attitude I see a bit too often in creative fields makes enemies.
  • Sponsors don’t pay attention to Users or assume on what they want. They often get it wrong.
  • Sponsors assume they know how the creative process works. Often they’re wrong because even if they are a creative, each creative is different.

With sponsors covered, let’s get to Developers – which, my guess, covers a lot of my readers.

Developers And Sustainability

Developers make the creative work. Also an obvious role, but a Developer’s role is really kind of strange – they’re an expert in making something who often deal with people who aren’t. Thus you’re trying to give people what they want when they don’t know how you do it. Though they probably think they do and it drives you crazy.

Worse, you’re sort of in the middle of the Users and the Sponsors. You spend a lot of time making something for the actual target audience, you do research, so sometimes you end up as a bridge. When the User and Sponsor is the same (say, if you’re doing an art piece for someone directly), they can still seem like two different people and you have to bridge the gaps in someone’s own head.

(Ever have someone argue with themselves about a creative work? Probably.)

Finally, you’re probably the one most aware of any burnout, overload, or unsustainability, and you have to tell people about it. Sometimes those people aren’t happy with you. OK most of the time.

So first up, if you’re a Creative (and you probably are if you’re reading this), get ready to do a lot of psychology for yourself and for others. You do the work others don’t do, see things differently, and are kind of in the middle. However, to make sure your work is sustainable, you have to think about them.

Sponsors:

  • Give Sponsors feedback and information to help them pace themselves and pace working with you. The more pre-emptively you give them an idea of what’s sustainable, the quicker they’ll get it.
  • Help Sponsors reach a sustainable pace – they don’t do the work, they may not know what it is. You might save them from burnout and being overly pressured – or help them find they can do more.
  • Help Sponsors understand your work and what you’re doing so they can work with you sustainably.
  • If needed, bridge the gap between them and the user on what’s sustainable.
  • You’re also probably the one most focused on using Agile methods, so help them understand them – including the Eight Principle.

Users:

  • Understand Users have a limit to what they can process and work with that. Their pace may be slower than yours, so you need to slow down, or faster, and you need to find a reasonable delivery.  That may need to be communicated to Sponsors – and in creative work the pace may vary a lot.
  • Users may not understand their own limits; be aware of the.
  • Remember to work feedback from the Users of your creative work into your plans and pacing. Feedback can consume a lot of time.
  • Learn to understand how the users think and communicate. Help bridge gaps with the Sponsors.
  • Users might not get the creative efforts you put in – find ways to subtly make them aware (it helps set expectations)

A good creative Developer is aware of their process and abilities so they can not only pace themselves, but pace themselves with others, and help others pace themselves. Because you’re where work happens, you’re the most able to understand what’s going on and what can probably be sustained. You just have to make the effort.

Now a few bits of advice for Creative Developers trying to keep a sustainable pace in Creative work.

  • Sustainability also incorporates probable interruptions – vacation, illness, training, etc.
  • Yes, there will always be rushes. Minimize them, adapt, work them into expectations.
  • Don’t assume because you know how the creative process works that you’re superior – don’t get arrogant. That can lead to over-confidence and/or poor communication with Sponsors and Users.
  • Also remember how unpredictable creative work can be – communicate that but also work to minimize it.

Users and Sustainability

It feels weird to even go into this part – this is pitched at Agile Creatives. That definitely covers Developers and may cover Sponsors. But Users? They’re the end consumer of a creative product. They may not be that interested in all this.

I include this however because you, doubtlessly a Creative of some kind, will be communicating with Users (and thus you can figure how they can work with you), and probably are a User at some point (and can work better with others). It’s my small way to bridge the Developer-User gap in Creative work. Whatever side you’re on, you can help the other side work better.

One thing Users forget is that they to have to have a sustainable pace, and it’s easy to think “I can handle anything” delivered to you because you want it. However, getting too much of a good thing is not sustainable – you can’t enjoy it, can’t give feedback, etc. You to, even as a pure consumer, have limits, and pushing those does no favors to the people doing work for you.

Sponsors:

  • I find Users are often very abstract from Sponsors, from idolizing them to being suspicious of them, to ignoring them. Instead, be aware of them and who they are – and their motivations.
  • Understand sponsors have their own limits. Learn to be a responsible User in your demands and interests.
  • Find ways to engage Sponsors realistically – if they actually engage you, be grateful (I find a lot of Sponsors aren’t to great at this).
  • Be aware that the pipeline between Sponsors, Developers, and you has a lot of bumps.

Developers:

  • Respect the Developers time and understand that they are often not only the limitation on delivery, they’e also the ones doing a lot of work.
  • Engage constructively with Developers. In fact, the more you engage with them, the better you understand sustainability, and the more you can help them with feedback.
  • if you’re really engaged with Developers, learn how they work on their creative projects.  It’ll help you appreciate them – and you may learn some things.

I don’t have a lot of other advice for Users promoting Creative Agile to use Sustainability except for this – remember you’re part of the process to.  Working with others means much better stuff on your end.

Moving On- Sustainably

Sustainable development requires everyone’s effort – and commitment.  In a creative project, this is even more of a challenge.  It requires everyone to get on board.

Of course if not everyone is on board, you’ll get to help with that because you’re the one reading this.

So let’s round up what we can learn:

  • Good Agile involves sustainability.
  • This sustainability requires all sides to be involved and committed.
  • Each of those involved in an Agile project – creative or otherwise – has a role to play.
  • Sustainability is more challenging in creative projects due to a variety of factors.

– Steve


Posted on by Scott Delahunt

Archie Comics, the third of the Big Three American comic book publishers, has survived since 1939 on the slice of life, laugh a panel stories of its characters.  Sure, the company has dipped into other genres, like superheroes, but the company’s bread and butter has been the lives of teenagers in Riverdale, a town caught in a perpetual now that has incrementally changed over the years.  Among the cast of characters are Josie and the Pussycats, an all-girl band from the neighbouring town of Midvale.

Josie didn’t start as the lead singer of her own band.  Creator Dan DeCarlo was inspired to create the character after seeing his wife, who he named Josie after, in a cat costume on a cruise.  After shopping the character and her strip around, DeCarlo sold the idea to Archie Comics.  Josie debuted in Archie’s Pals & Gals #23, in 1963, followed by her own title, initially called She’s Josie.  The title became Josie with issue 17.

The initial cast of characters included redhead Josie, who was essentially a gender-flipped Archie Andrews, her friends Melody, a blonde ditz, and Pepper, a dark-haired cynic.  In the supporting cast, Josie had her beatnik boyfriend Albert, Pepper’s brawny boyfriend Sock, Alexander Cabot III who vied for Josie’s affection, and Alexandra Cabot, Alex’s skunk-haired twin sister.  Josie would also appear in Archie titles, and the regular Archie cast would make cameos in hers.

The comic changed its title again in 1969, becoming Josie and the Pussycats.  Josie started a band, becoming the lead singer and lead guitarist with Melody joining as the drummer.  The Pussycats recruited Valerie as both bassist and songwriter.  Alex became the band’s manager.  Alexandra discovers that her cat, Sebastien, is a reincarnation of an ancestor who was executed for witchcraft, giving her some limited magical abilities. With the comic’s new direction, Pepper, Albert, and Sock disappeared.  Alan M. stepped in to fill the role of Josie’s boyfriend, with Alexandra becoming a rival for his affections, and becoming a rival for Alex for Josie’s.  The comic featured stories of the band on tour as well as day-to-day life as teenagers.

Archie had some success with a Filmation cartoon adaptation and a Billboard #1 hit, “Sugar Sugar“.  Hoping to duplicate the success, Hanna-Barbera reached out to Archie Comics to adapt another title, getting Josie and the Pussycats.  The first season of the cartoon saw the band on the road, getting involved in Scooby-Doo-like mysteries, with several characters taking on Scooby roles.  In particular, Alan M. filled in for Fred and Alex, voiced by Casey Kasem, in Kasem’s Scooby role, Shaggy.  The second and final season of the cartoon, Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space sent the band on tour in space.

The comic ended publication in 1982, though the characters continued to appear in other Archie titles and in various Archie digests, including Pals & Gals.  In 2001, Universal released a live action movie adaptation of the comic and characters, with Rachel Leigh Cook as Josie, Rosario Dawson as Valerie, and Tara Reid as Melody.  The film updates the Pussycats to what was current in 2001, giving the band a new sound without losing the core that people would remember from the cartoon.

The movie begins as the boy band, Dujour (Donald Faison, Alexander Martin, Breckin Meyer, and Seth Green), arrives at the airport to perform their latest hit to a screaming mob before getting on their jet to go to Riverdale.  In the air, though, all is not smooth with Dujour as little annoyances have built up.  Their manager and promoter, Wyatt (Alan Cumming), is more their babysitter.  He smooths the rifts over, but the band brings up a concern on the latest remix.  Wyatt’s denial could only fool the very gullible, so Dujour is placated.  However, Wyatt heads to the cockpit to tell the pilot, “take the Chevy to the levee“, and they both bail out.  The plane goes down near Riverdale.

In Riverdale, Josie, Valerie, and Melody are working hard to break into the music industry, working odd jobs so that they can perform anywhere that will let them, including a bowling alley.  The Pussycats want to be rock stars with their own style.  During the down time, Josie hangs around with Alan M. (Gabriel Mann), where both are having a problem getting out how they feel about each other to each other.  Josie and the other Pussycats also try to find out where their manager, Alexander Cabot III, was during their bowling alley gig.  Alex’s twin sister, Alexandra (Missi Pyle), reveals that he was in line for Dujour tickets.  When the news breaks about Dujour’s disappearance, Josie decides that the band has to work harder to gain a following, something that can’t be done by sitting on a couch.  The Pussycats go out to busk in downtown Riverdale, but a confrontation with a store owner forces them to flee.

Wyatt has been busy.  He’s managed to get news of Dujour’s disappearance out, their last hit song out for listeners, and has been given new orders by the owner of Megarecords, Fiona (Parker Posey), to find a new band.  Downtown Riverdale isn’t exactly bursting open with random bands just crossing his path.  Except, he has to hit the brakes to avoid hitting the Pussycats.  He offers the girls a contract and flies them out to New York.  The roses have a few thorns.  Wyatt renames the band to Josie and the Pussycats.  But the thorns are ignorable as the band begins to chart.

Fiona has what she needs, the new band to replace Dujour.  She takes a group of foreign investors on a tour of her underground facilities.  Megarecords, in conjuction with the American government through Agent Kelly, is working on a massivie subliminal message project.  Hit bands under the Megarecords label have had extra tracks laid under the music with suggestions narrated by Russ Leatherman, Mr. Moviefone himself.  Said suggestions include fashion trends, what slang is hot, what colours are in, and what to buy.  Dujour had made this same discovery and were silenced.  But now, Megarecords has Josie and the Pussycats, who are the number one band in America.

Valerie, though, still sees the thorns.  She sees the media focused on just Josie.  She sees how she and Melody are being shifted away.  Most movies in this genre – band climbing to fame – sees the lead singer arguing with her bandmates and letting her ego get away from her.  The live action Jem and the Holograms is a good example of this plot.  However, Josie cares too much about Valerie and Melody to just toss them aside; they’ve worked too hard together to get where they are.  Nothing will get in between them.

Wyatt and Fiona realize how close the Pussycats are, so arrange to turn Josie into a solo act.  First, Valerie and Melody are lured to a fake taping of Total Request Live where the real Carson Daly and a fake Carson Daly (Aries Spears) try to murder them.  With Josie alone, Wyatt passes along a new remix of a new song to Josie to listen to, one with subliminal messaging telling her that she’s far better than Melody and Valerie.  Valerie and Melody manage to escape both Carson Dalys and return, only to be driven away by Josie.

Alone, Josie storms off, still listening to the remix with the subliminal messaging.  She winds up skipping Alan M.’s gig as a solo guitarist, leaving him to the tender mercies of Alexandra.  Josie does break through the brainwashing, though, and realizes what happened.  With help from Alexander and Alexandra, Josie gets the proof she needs that Megarecords, Wyatt, and Fiona are up to no good.  Fiona catches her in the act, though, and forces her to go to the Sega Megarena to perform.

Melody and Valerie catch up at the Megarena.  Josie tries to make up for her bad behavior to them, but the bridges are too badly burnt.  Fiona threatens to kill Valerie and Melody to force Josie to go on stage, to the point of having an MTV news bulletin already created reporting the deaths of the bandmates in a firey explosion.  Josie acquiesces, but still tries one more time to make up with her friends.  All looks lost, until the deus ex puer cohortem arrives, in the form of Dujour.  They had managed to land their private jet.  Unfortunately, they set down outside a Metallica concert and only escaped the fans because of one of Dujour knew “Enter the Sandman“.  Dujour isn’t up for a fight, but they are the distraction Josie needs to try to free her friends.  Too bad the car Valerie and Melody are in are on a turntable, letting Fiona catch Josie in the act.

Josie, though, has had enough and launches herself at Fiona.  With chaos breaking out, Valerie and Melody break free and help out.  Valerie takes on Wyatt leaving Melody to deal with Fiona’s bodyguards.  The latter fight isn’t fair; Melody knows kung fu.  Valerie manages to clothesline Wyatt.  Josie goads Fiona into swinging a guitar at her; the miss destroys the machine controlling the subliminal messages.  Agent Kelly arrives with several other G-Men.  Josie reveals the plot to them, telling them that Fiona and Wyatt were brainwashing teenagers.  Kelly has little choice but to throw Fiona under the bus and takes her away.

The Megarena is still filled with an audience who wants to see Josie and the Pussycats play.  The Pussycats are blown away by the size of the crowd, but still go on with the show, even without the subliminal messages, giving the audience a chance to make its own decision on whether to like the band.  The Pussycats bring down the house.

The movie is a satire of the music industry and consumerism.  Dujour is the boy band of the day.  Product placement is everywhere, obvious and obnoxious, none of it paid placement.  There’s even an Evian ad in a whale tank.  The Pussycats get co-opted to sell everything, even themselves.  There are times when the movie is cynical about the music industry.  At the same time, the movie understands its target audience.  Teenagers are media savvy and know when they’re being pandered to, with some extras for fans of the cartoon.  Fiona’s plot is comically over the top to satisfy a very human need, the need to be accepted.  All from Archie Comics’ film studio, Riverdale Productions.  Josie and the Pussycats isn’t what is expected from the company*.

The characters from the comic are critical to making the movie about the Pussycats instead of any other all-girl band.  Josie is the ambitious one, wanting to become a rock star, the one pushing her bandmates.  Valerie is the rock, the one still anchored to reality that her friends can count on.  Melody is still the ditz, not quite all there and capable of completely missing the obvious.  Josie and Alan M. are trying to be a couple, with Alexandra trying to insert herself into Alan M.’s life.  Alexandra remains true to her comic book incarnation, unpleasant but willing to let herself be dragged along when the going gets tough.  She even keeps her skunk stripe.  The effort is there to keep the characters true to the original.  Again, it helps that the owners of the property are involved; that’s one less separation between the original work and the adaptation.

The movie has had an effect on the characters in the comics.  The names given in the film – Josie McCoy, Melody Valentine – have been accepted as canonical.  Valerie‘s last name was Smith in the comics, though it changes to Brown when Pepper Smith returns.  With the New Riverdale line of comics, with new but still familiar designs for all of the Archie characters, the Pussycats get a look that fits in with the movie, though Melody is less a ditz and more living in her own comic book that just crosses over with Josie and the Pussycats.

The live action Josie and the Pussycats is an evolution for the characters.  They were brought up to date, given a new sound that resonated with the era, and yet remained true to their comic book forms.  While the movie didn’t do well in theatres, it provided satire of an industry while delivering a comic book-style plot that would fit in with the animated adaptation of 1970.

* Then again, the publisher has released such titles as Archie Meets Kiss, Archie Meets the Punisher, and Archie vs Sharknado, so maybe the movie isn’t all that unexpected.


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