John Ostrander: No Man’s Land Redux
One of the interesting developments in the past few years in comics, for me, is that stuff you’ve done earlier in your career gets bundled together and re-packaged. That can be especially nice if you have some sort of royalty arrangement (or incentive or participation or whatever they’re calling it now) because you know that means that at some point the company will issue you a check. That’s like found money; any writing you did was done long ago and you were paid for it already.
That’s not to say the money is unearned. In my view, if the company is getting a second bite of that apple, so should the creators who did the work. Seems fair to me, although the companies have a history of not being fair. And they also usually give a copy or two or three of the volume for your own library. That’s good because I rarely can find my original copies of the work.
Recently, I got copies of the last two volumes of the gathered Batman epic No Man’s Land. Our resident legend here at ComicMix, Denny O’Neil, was editor on the books at that time and asked me to do the Catwoman issues tying into the saga. I really enjoyed working with the character and would’ve enjoyed playing with her more but the book was cancelled at the end of that series. Catwoman, however, has more than nine lives and has gotten her own title back at least twice since then.
I have to admit, however, that I wasn’t too crazy about the whole No Man’s Land concept at the time. The main idea was that Gotham City, following an earthquake and a virus outbreak just seemed in general to be too toxic to reclaim so the federal government declared it a … wait for it … No Man’s Land. The citizens were ordered to get out and those who chose to stay (or were unable to leave) were kept in when the bridges and tunnels to the city were blown up. Any attempt to escape (or get in, as I recall) was prohibited and that was enforced by the Army. Very Escape From New York (a really fun movie, by the way; is Batman the comics’ Snake Plisken?).
At the time I found the premise too far fetched for my tastes. Okay, the main character dresses up like a bat to run around to strike terror into villainous and cowardly criminals but, yes, I found the central premise of No Man’s Land a little over the top for me. Gotham City was a major city in DCU’s USA. No federal government, in my opinion, would just abandon it like that; there would be howls of outrage throughout the country. Every city, every state, would fear that the same would happen to them. It simply wouldn’t be allowed. No U.S. government would be that cruel. It wasn’t politically feasible in my view (and I come from Chicago and, believe me, I’ve seen lots of outlandish governmental behavior that turned out to be very politically feasible.).
And what’s happened since No Man’s Land first came out? Let’s start with Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans and poor people stuck in the city and the horror stories of living in the Superbowl and a federal government’s response that was inept and way too slow in responding. There were people then who argued that New Orleans should be abandoned. The devastation was too great and, besides, it was a wicked, sinful city and the hurricane was God’s punishment yadda yadda yadda. New Orleans still struggles in the aftermath.
Let’s look at Hurricane Sandy. Better federal response this time but, again, the devastation was so widespread and so pervasive that it will take years for the area to recover fully, if it ever does.
Let’s look at Washington, D.C. right now. A fiscal cliff looms, one that was created by government, and one that government should be able to solve. As I write this, the two sides have gotten entrenched in their respective positions and each side is waiting to see who blinks first. A quicker resolution would help the Christmas buying season and, oh, might also keep the U.S. credit rating from being lowered again, but I’m not betting they’re going to get it done by the January 1st deadline.
No Man’s Land no longer seems that farfetched to me. I may still have a quibble or two with certain plot elements but the central premise? No, that’s become all too believable Maestro O’Neil, I tender my apologies. “I was wrong and you was right,” as usual. I should never doubt you or underestimate just how perverse reality can get.
My, this crow is tasty!
MONDAY: Mindy Newell