Tagged: Animal Man

Marc Alan Fishman: Missed Opportunities

Final CrisisBarely a week ago, WWE World Champion Seth Rollins turned his knee into goo after botching a routine move. The Internet Wrestling Community was set on fire with speculation to the immediate future of the flagship of professional wrestling. And a few days later, the fire was doused with the reality of predictable corporate future endeavors. A tournament to crown the new king of the ring was announced (no, not the King of the Ring™… I’m being poetic, damnit), and the brackets were filled to the brim with rehashed match-ups.

To any savvy fan, the winner is already clear-cut. Worse than that, the obvious feuds they were building to were pre-populated into the tourney. It was the worst possible outcome following the worst possible injury to happen to the roster at the worst time.

What sucks the most though is what brings me here to my personal rant this week: the missed opportunities.

Too often, we fans of Geek Culture can’t see the forest for the trees. It’s inherent in our very nature to forget to enjoy the journey, not simply skip to – and then quickly judge – the outcome. Typically, I would have reached that catharsis after lambasting you, my cherished fans, with several iterations on that theme. Like This American Life, but less maudlin. To take a bit of my own medicine though, I’m going to play devil’s advocate; I’ll argue in favor of screwing the well-worn journey in lieu of an unguessable ending. Someone cue some lighting or something.

I listened to Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast this week, wherein he was able to confront Lorne Michaels as to why he didn’t get hired on at SNL back in 1996. Rather than dance around the subject for an hour or so and reach the eventual bittersweet climax as I’d anticipated, Maron flipped his own typical script to change the predictable outcome. Within seconds Maron let slip his big finale, and covered his missed opportunity so many years ago. The answer, predictable perhaps more to his audience to then himself, was a complicated mélange of half-explanations. Somewhere between network notes, the right stuff, or the right timing, Maron simply wasn’t the proper fit. Michaels danced around it a few times more throughout their nearly two-hour talk, but the larger arc to their conversation held true. With the predictable ending out of the way, the two men connected on a much deeper level. As a listener, I wasn’t on the edge of my seat awaiting the answer. Instead, I was relaxed as they were, and I thoroughly enjoyed their banter in the moment. For the first time in listening to his podcast (which I’ve been a fan of for about four years now), I truly felt the connection brewing between Maron and his guest. It was riveting.

So it was disappointing to come home to Vince McMahon’s machine, chugging to the same destination it was headed in, when the universe handed him the ability to remove the predictability his product has been plagued with for the last five years – save only for the time when Seth Rollins himself turned heel. Missing the opportunity to even fill a tournament bracket with a few honest-to-Rao underdogs could have been the shot to the arm the wrestling community has sought after since the conception of Stone Cold Steve Austin. It’s been over nearly two decades since we’ve heard “Austin 3:16 just whipped your ass!” and we’ve not seen a better moment since.

And don’t think I’ve forgotten our dearly beloved comic books, my friends. You see, part of my longstanding feud with purchasing weekly books has been inherently tied to the continual delivery of the same beats over and over. The missed opportunities for originality. When Swamp Thing crossed over with its sister title Animal Man, we got yet-another-epic where nothing-would-be-the-same-again, when in fact it’d been beat-for-beat the same crap I’d read in a million other books.

To make it worse, it forced extra issues into my subscription box, under the auspices of being a completest. Call me – like so many others in our brood – a completest. Fearing forever that the one issue we’ll miss will end up being Wonder Woman #219. Don’t get the reference? Google it.

Suffice to say that in the information age it’s hard to put one over on an audience. When BitTorrents, Wikipedia, and a DVR exist, fast-forwarding to the end is easier than ever. The only way to fight it then, is to stop taking us from point A to B. Start instead at C, backtrack to A, and end somewhere on Q. So long as it makes sense for the characters to have ended up where they needed to be in a believable way – under whatever accepted rules exist in their respective universe – then everyone wins in the end. If not? Well, you’ll end up like so many Matrix sequels, and back issues of Countdown to Final Crisis.

At the bottom of the discount bin, along side an unending ocean of missed opportunity.

Martha Thomases: Comics That Mean Something

Glenn and Mike gave me two issues of Strong Female Protagonist to read. Since they are the bosses of this particular sandbox, the ones who pay me the big bucks to do my thing here, I interpreted this action to be a strong suggestion, not a gift.

The series, available on the web at the link above (and in print) has a lot of elements that I like. Here’s the description from the website:

“SFP follows the adventures of a young middle-class American with super-strength, invincibility and a crippling sense of social injustice.”

Super-powers and social justice? I am so there.

It’s not easy to combine comic book storytelling and a political perspective. Let me amend that: It’s not easy to do unless that is the stated starting point. Underground comics were usually overtly anti-establishment, anti-war and pro-drugs. Wimmen’s Comix also big, big fun. It’s probably no coincidence that both were usually comical comics, not episodic stories.

The gang at World War 3 Illustrated carries on this fine tradition, although their emphasis is less on humor and more on inciting activism.

In superhero comics, the most successful (in my opinion, obviously) is the Denny O’Neil/Neal Adams run on Green Lantern.

There have been overtly political comics created by people first known to American readers (or, at least, me) from superhero comics. The most successful, for me, are from Alan Moore. There’s a reason the Occupy movement appropriated the most powerful image from V for Vendetta, and that, even though it isn’t nearly as good as the book, the movie still sucks me in when I find it on television.

Another great book of his, written with Joyce Brabner, is Brought to Light, a non-fiction book about, among other things, American support for dictatorships and how many people have to bleed out to fill a swimming pool.

Moore’s stories work because, first and foremost, the reader (or me, anyway) cares about the characters. The minute the reader feels the action is out of character, the political position is exposed and therefore weakened. For me, this is most noticeable with Jamie Delano. I love his work on Hellblazer and in his creator-owned books. However, he lost me on his run of Animal Man even as I agreed more and more with what he said.

Strong Female Protagonist wears its heart on its sleeve, as its title character struggles to be part of the people’s struggle, not an isolated hero. It’s an interesting take on one of our modern dilemmas.

Or at least it is for those of us who care about such things.

 

Mindy Newell: It All Gives Me A Headache – Part Three

Newell Art 130916“And in each universe, there’s a copy of you witnessing one or the other outcome, thinking – incorrectly – that your reality is the only reality.”

– Brian Green, The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos.

•     •     •     •     •

Who are you?

Are you sure?

•     •     •     •     •

Are you Buffy Summers, the Slayer, the chosen one of her generation who stands alone against the vampires, monsters, and demons who threaten the world? Or are you Buffy Summers, a schizophrenic patient in a psychiatric hospital battling the unleashed horrors of your own id?

Doctor: Do you know where you are?


Buffy: Sunnydale.


Doctor: No. None of that’s real. None of it. You’re in a mental institution. You’ve been with us now for six years.

Spike: Put a little ice on the back of her neck. She likes that.



Buffy: Some kind of gross, waxy demon-thing poked me.


Xander: And when you say “poke”…?


Buffy: In the arm!



Buffy: They told me that I was sick, I guess crazy, and that Sunnydale and all of this — none of it was real.


Xander: Oh, come on. That’s ridiculous. What? You think this isn’t real just because of all the vampires, and demons, and ex-vengeance demons, and the sister that used to be a big ball of universe-destroying energy…?



Willow: Okay, all in favor of research? Motion passed.



Doctor: In her mind, she’s the central figure in a fantastic world beyond imagination. She’s surrounded herself with friends, most with their own superpowers.



Doctor: Together they face grand, overblown conflicts against an assortment of monsters, both imaginary and rooted in actual myth.



Doctor: Buffy, you used to create these grand villains to battle against. And now what is it? Just ordinary students you went to high school with. No gods or monsters, just three pathetic little men… who like playing with toys.



“Normal Again”

Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Season Six, Episode 17

•     •     •     •     •

Who are you?

Are you sure?

•     •     •     •     •

Are you Buddy Baker, married to Ellen Frazier, father to Cliff and Maxine, and living in San Diego? Or are you a character in a comic book called Animal Man, which was written by Grant Morrison and published by DC Comics?

Newell Art 130916-2

 

(to read this page at full size, double-click on the image)

•     •     •     •     •

Who are you?

Are you sure?

To be continued…

At least, in this universe!

(citations copyrighted by their respective owners)

TUESDAY MORNING: Emily S. Whitten

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis

 

Marc Alan Fishman: A Painful Admission of Indie Guilt

I admit it readers! I done ran outta things to complain about. So, like any amazing editor would, Mike Gold set forth a challenge. A simple one at that. “How about something(s) you really look forward to that aren’t DC or Marvel?” See? Simple! What a great excuse to highlight all those little known indie projects I dive into… like all the time. What better place to pimp the wares and projects that aren’t draped in NOWs or New52s. Where else could I wax poetic about those “next big things” all of you are fretting over!

And here comes the shocking truth. When it came to comics? Nothing came to mind.

Sure, there’s a litany of TV shows, movies, and music all coming out that I’d love to waste time discussing. Hell, I have a few seconds, so why not. I’m loving the last season of The Office. Parks and Recreation continues to be the funniest / sweetest show on TV.  Since House ended though, I’m just out of the drama verve.

It doesn’t help that I don’t watch TV until midnight, and barely last until half-past. Having a day job, making comic books at night, and being a freelancer adds up. In movieville… I know I have to catch Wreck-It-Ralph. Flight looked good too. Add in Lincoln and The Hobbit? And my dance card is plenty full. And in music? Robbie Williams just served up a huge slice of BritPop that I can’t get enough of. Seriously, watch the video for “Candy” and try not to get a little wiggle in your tuchas. But I digress.

When it comes to the world of comics, my “have to have it meter” is so very mainstream. This week, I came very close to buying some Image books that had cool covers… but I was lured away by my staples, Green Lantern, Animal Man, Swamp Thing, and the newly NOW’ed Iron Man. I’m not ashamed to admit what a mainstream whore I’ve been lately. But consider this article my wake up call. There’s too much good stuff out there for me to miss. And as an indie creator in the trenches too? It should absolutely be my duty to explore the lesser-knowns.

But where to start? With con season over, my “indie channel” is pretty much cut off until March 2013. This will mean, to me at least, my exploration of the unknown will be largely relegated to the independent rack space of my local comic shop (which is one third a s’mores in Chicagoland, if you get-the-drift). This means my attention will turn towards Dark Horse, Image, Boom!, Dynamite, IDW, and their brethren. And let’s just make it a hard and fast rule – no licensed comics. Sorry to be mean, but frankly every time I’ve tried one, it comes across more as fan-service than an original leap of interest. I know that’s bull-headed, so I welcome your flaming comments below.

I guess somewhere in between these random thoughts lay the issue so many of the smaller publishers and true indie creators are suffering through these days. With CBR, Bleeding Cool, and Newsarama covering the Big Two (and A Half if we count “everything else”), there’s few hubs that I know of online that really explores the other side of the forest. And let us not fool ourselves. Marvel and DC dominate the ‘cape’ market. Boom! had a hit with Irredeemable/Incorruptible, but that ship has sailed. And try as hard as they might, Dynamite’s ‘Let Alex Ross Do Whatever He Wants’ business model burned me one time too many. Hand to Buddha? Image is my last bastion of street cred these days. Doesn’t hurt that Revival is one of the best books being produced today. The key then is to find more like it.

Suffice to say, I’m truly not picky. Prior to picking up Revival because I actually know the creators… I wasn’t one for horror or zombie books. Now? Paint me grey and call me Charlie. The clear ideology of numbers would tell me that the indie scene is rife with genres I’m not presently enjoying. Is there an amazing western, sci-fi, comedy, romance, or mutt of a comic series I can jump into? There’s one place I know instantly to turn to – you.

I throw myself on the mercy of you, the nerd court. I beg of you to pelt me with suggestions of books I’m missing. And then you can follow my thoughts, good or bad, over at Michael Davis World. Shameless cross-promotion? You bet your sweet bippy.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

 

Marc Alan Fishman: The New 52 Report Card

Good morning, DC! Please, have a seat. Why yes, this is a new office. Thank you for noticing. Would you like a mint? Oh go ahead, pocket a few to take home with you. Are you nice and settled in? Excellent.

I wanted to stop today – just a bit shy of your one year anniversary as the “DCnU” – and give you an evaluation. And let’s be honest… this time last year? You were phoning it in something fierce. Anyways… I’ve assembled some thoughts about this leaner-meaner-DC you’ve tried to become. How about we take a little time now to go over my thoughts.

I’d like to start with something positive. Frankly, it took balls to announce to the world you were resetting things. Or rebooting them. But not ret-conning them. However you want to phrase it. To take your entire line back to #1 certainly got you the attention you wanted. Suddenly all the Internet was ablaze with rumors and opinions. You even got TV, newspapers, and traditional magazines interested in you again. I bet you hadn’t seen this kind of love since you killed Superman. For a few months. But not really. How is the Eradicator doing these days anyways? Ha ha ha! But I digress. If nothing else, you like to look like you’re a risk-taker. Frankly, we both know you’re not, but that’s a lengthy discussion we’ll have at another time.

Looking over your line, I can’t help but feel like you couldn’t stop yourself from playing favorites. For every amazing Batman you put out, you matched it on the shelf with less-than-stellar clones like Detective Comics and The Dark Knight. Action Comics got the world talking about Superman again. Superman reminded us why we stopped reading his book somewhere between Electric Blue and New Krypton. And four Green Lantern books? I mean, I know you were trying to suck up to me with giving Kyle Rayner his own book… But did you actually read what you put out?

Justice League was your pride and joy. Justice League International was made with scraps from the bottom of the fridge. And for all the love you gave Animal Man and Swamp Thing, you couldn’t match the complexity and depth in Resurrection Man or the abysmal Suicide Squad. I just kept getting the sense that you unnecessarily spread yourself too thin, DC. You published fewer books per month than you had prior… but in getting leaner, you didn’t realize it would make each effort you put out that much more important.

I feel like I’m being a bit harsh on you. Here… stop crying for a second. You did good things too. I mean, let’s talk about Batman, Action Comics, Animal Man, and Swamp Thing, OK? Here you were able to really play with people’s expectations. Your gamble paid off in spades. Grant Morrison proved (well, I should say is continually proving) that he can marry his love of the golden/silver age while still spinning modern yarn for the lynchpin of your universe. Scott Snyder’s pair of books were decidedly different, and elegant in separate ways. In Batman he was able to prove his deft hand at writing a plausible difference between Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, when under the cowl. And while I didn’t have the patience or wallet to enjoy the entirety of “The Court Of Owls,” just keeping to the main Bat-Book proved all the epicness I needed to thoroughly enjoy the event. And over in the “The Dark”? Well, all I can say is you’re finding the perfect way to release Vertigo books with a different logo on them. And I mean that in the best way.

See… Don’t you feel better? And hey, also keep in mind that for the first time Aquaman was really selling well. And the core Green Lantern title has never been sharper. Now, of course we both know you slapped a #1 on it, but it never really “reset” after flashpoint. Very smart of you. Well, it doesn’t hurt that Geoff Johns is the one writing it, so he didn’t have to apply his whole “make the universe over” rule to his own book. When you have that many letters in your title, I guess the rules don’t apply. Say, how did OMAC sell, anyways? Cough, cough! Excuse me. Nervous tic.

As I sat to prepare your report card, it became increasingly taxing to determine a final grade. I mean, if I were to be harsh about it? I would just give you a D, and call it a day. The greatness achieved from the top talent you employed just can’t hold up those who only tread water. For all the interest you garnered from the mainstream media, you never figured out a way to hold on to their attention, lest you revert back to the old days of just throwing anything out there in hopes of someone paying attention.

Who did you decide to make gay this week? Whose backstory did you change, just to get the message boards flustered? And don’t even get me started about your “girls should wear pants” fiasco. The continual desire to turn amazing artists into mediocre writers, and your desire to employ Rob Liefeld even after his one book was basically universally jeered. And of course, your commitment to force needless crossovers throughout the line, to bump up sales. All of these things pull your GPA (Geek Projected Approval) down into the gutters.

I could go on, but I see you’ve stopped paying attention to me, DC. I know you want to focus on the future – by raping the past. Batman is about to enter “Nightfall.” There’s all that “Before Watchman” stuff you keep cramming down our throats. Oh, and I’m pretty certain I heard you muttering something about more Justice League teams and the resurrection of WildCATS. I can only hope you learn from your mistakes, in going forward. So for now, I’m ready to give you a final grade for your first year, you get an Incomplete.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

 

Marc Alan Fishman: In Defense of Modern Comics, Part 2

Welcome back to the ranting and raving, kiddos. Be forewarned, some time has passed since my last article – one week to be exact – but I’m still angry as all get-out. For those just joining us: Tim Marchman’s review of “Leaping Tall Buildings” in the Wall Street Journal was an incendiary piece of trash. The review meant to blame the lack of universal love (and sales) of comic books due (in part) to the “clumsily drawn” and “poorly written” books themselves. Last week, I argued on the side of the artists. This week, I mean to tackle this asshat’s jab at the scribes of our pulpy tomes.

To say that, on the whole, modern comics are “poorly written” is just about the silliest opinion I’ve heard since my buddy told me “Ranch dressing tastes bad on chicken.” First off, ranch is delicious on chicken. More to the point, modern comics are writing rings around previous generations. We’re in a renaissance of story structure, characterization, and depth. Writing, much like art, is largely subjective when it comes to collective opinion. That being said, certainly anyone with minimal brain power might be able to tell good writing from bad. Easy enough for us all to agree that the Avengers was better written than the Twilight movies. OK, maybe that’s a bit unfair. Axe Cop is better written than Twilight… and it’s penned by a six year old. Either way, I’d like to think we the people (of Comic Landia) might defend the quality of today’s comics as being leaps and bounds better than books of yesteryear.

I know this might be daring (and insane) of me to say… but for those old farts and fogies that proclaim comics “aren’t what they used ta’ be!” – and imply the scripts are worse now than they were in the 60s or 70s – should go back to the nursing home, and yell at the TV until dinner. Call it a sweeping declaration. Call it mean-spirited. But I call it as I see it: Modern books are simply written better. Today’s comics – when they are good – embrace pacing, motif, and intelligent payoffs by and large far more than ever previously. I assume Marchman, while researching for his article, was only reading Jeph Loeb books. And if that’s the case? He’s probably right. But I digress.

Open a book today. You’ll see things that previous generations simply failed to execute properly. A modern comic is unafraid to let the art speak for itself. Not every panel needs an explanatory caption box anymore. Gone are lengthy thought balloons that explain away every ounce of subtlety. Writers allow their characters time to emotionally deal with their actions, and end books on a down note when needed. And as much as terrible crime against nature it is, modern writers are even willing to ret-con, reboot, or reexamine the past of a character to better flesh out their drive or motive. It’s been done before, I know, but never as good as it’s being done now.

Comic writers today (again, “by and large”) embrace risk like no other generation before them. Guys like Kurt Busiek and Robert Kirkman channel their love and admiration of tropes and stereotypes, and drill down to new and unique concepts that spin old ideas into fresh ones. Dudes like Grant Morrison and Jonathan Hickman layer super-psuedo science and lofty concepts within their stories to transform the truly implausible to the sublimely believable… a metamorphosis of story that a Stan Lee would not have ever delivered to the true believers. And what of our own ComicMix brethren, whose bibliographies aren’t complete… Would John Ostrander or Dennis O’Neil say that the scripts they write today aren’t leaps and bounds better than their earlier work? As artists (be it with brush or word), we always strive to evolve. That equates to the present always being better than the past.

Simply put, Marchman’s postulation that the scripting of current comics is to blame for the lack of sales in comparison to alternative media (like movies or TV) is hilariously wrong. While he’s quick to back his point with the cop-out “continuity” argument, he lacks the niche-knowledge necessary to know how idiotic he sounds. With the advent of Wikipedia, friendly comic ship owners, digital publication of archive materials, as well as countless other online resources… the barrier to entry for someone truly interested in buying a comic is the commitment to seek out the backstory. To blame the lack of sales on an arbitrary assessment of the quality of the stories, was made without considering the avalanche of amazing material being published today.

If I can use a trope from the bag of Seth MacFarlane, I’d like to end on hyperbole. You see, Mr. Marchman, if you want me to believe that comics today are poorly written? I’d like you to read current issues of Action Comics, Batman, Animal Man, Swamp Thing, Invincible Iron Man, Fantastic Four, The Boys, Dial H, Saga, Irredeemable, Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi, Justice League, Green Lantern, Powers, Monocyte, The New Deadwardians, Batman Incorporated, Courtney Crumrin, Saucer County, Fatale, and Batwoman. Then get back to me. Until that time? Suck-a-duck.

SUNDAY: The Aforementioned Geriatric John Ostrander

Marc Alan Fishman: Help! I’m A Marvel Zombie!

Seriously, it happened so slowly, I never saw it coming. It’s long been a fact: Marc Alan Fishman is a card carrying member of the DC Nation. But then, something changed. Flashpoint was one epic-crossover-super-event-that-changed-everything too many. With the New 52, I’d made a steadfast rule: In order to conserve money and my sanity, any book that delivered two issues in a row that left me bored or was just terrible I would remove from my pull list.

Like every red-blooded nerd worth his salt, when a book is dropped from my box, I can’t help but seek to replace it with something new. And now that I look across the board, Marvel is now on equal footing, book-for-book with my pull list for DC.

More important, every Marvel book on that list is one that when I see it on the shelf, I get truly excited. Truth be told, I get Blue Beetle, Batgirl, Justice League Dark, Green Lantern Corps, and Resurrection Man – and they are good comics, but none of them excite me anymore. I’m slowly coming to terms with it; New 52 be damned… Make Mine Marvel.

Simply put, right now Marvel is putting out better books than DC. I welcome the flame war and argument from the interwebs. Based solely on the Marvel books I’ve read in the last three-four months, DC pales in comparison in story depth, quality, scope, and clarity. A few examples, you ask?

Take the Fantastic Four. Jonathan Hickman’s run on the title has been compared to Kirby and Lee’s initial run; and said with sincerity. His “War of the Four Cities” multi-year arc was as epic as any DC “Crisis” without the multitude of mini-series. While it did spawn a second book, FF, the grandeur has been well contained. Even better, FF brings the ideology of the family and creates an excuse to explore more of the Baxter Building collective without over-saturation. It’s a riff, not a rip-off. Compare this to the four Green Lantern titles being pumped out at DC and you can see how a little consolidation can really tighten up a title’s overall quality.

How about the newly relaunched Defenders? Matt Fraction’s “vacation” title is a glorious send up to an old and mostly forgotten secondary team… dusted off, polished up, and presented wonderfully in the modern age. While only five issues in, I’ve been nothing but impressed up until now. In fact, Defenders #4 easily tops my list of best comics I’ve read for the year. The year is early, yes, but amongst dozens and dozens of issues, I’ve little doubt it won’t falter from my top ten by years end. It’s a comic not afraid to be written with a smirk… that knows when to be deadly serious, or just go for the nut shot. Something Justice League International tried to do, and fell on its face for attempting.

For those following my reviews on Michael Davis World, you’ll no doubt also note my recent jaunt into Spider-Land with the Amazing Spider-Man title. With the promise of the “Ends of the Earth” storyline being a good jumping on point for new readers, I dove into a title and character I’ve always wanted to read, but never did because of the bad mojo that came with the book. Ask anyone about Spider-Man’s most recent bullet points and I doubt you’ll see a face light up when discussing One More Day, the Other, or even Spider-Island. That being said, the series thus far has been a joyous romp. A Saturday morning cartoon concept with a hidden maturity, that has a perfect balance of comic-book-quirk with well thought out plot development.

And over in Invincible Iron Man? Well, Matt Fraction is proving what a truly potent writer he is by shaking off the grime of the horrendous Fear Itself crossover crud and taking his baby book back to form. His long-winding plot of Mandarin’s careful and calculated destruction of Tony Stark has been a slow burn that’s been a long time coming. And when everything recently came to a head, we got a moment in comics I’ve dreamed of reading since I finished The Watchmen – an arc where the hero loses because he’s been out-matched. It was bold, ballsy, and has me chomping at the bit for more.

All this, and I’ve not even mentioned Daredevil or Ultimate Spider-Man. I’d love to, but well… I’ve not read them yet. But they are high on the list for me to catch up on, the second the next DC book takes a dive in my box. Resurrection Man? I’m looking at you.

Now, of course, Marvel isn’t perfect. Just a few weeks back on my podcast, a lifelong X-Men fan told me he’d literally given on comics all together because of the terrible decline of his favorite mutants. And let’s give credit where credit is due: Fraction and Hickman’s bold pacing is very much in-step with Geoff Johns and Grant Morrison’s work on Green Lantern and Batman over the last 60 or so issues. Anyone who read “Batman R.I.P.” can see what “The War of the Four Cities” or most of the run on Invincible Iron Man is being inspired by (not directly mind you… but certainly in conceptual scope). And DC is not without its own amazing titles. Action Comics, Batman, Animal Man, Swamp Thing, and Green Lantern always float to the top of my reading pile when I pick them up.

This of course leads me to ask the bigger questions. Was the New 52 not powerful enough overall to keep me from being lured away? Is Marvel just in a great rhythm right now? Will X-Men vs. Avengers cause some major crisis to interrupt all the goodness coming out in their top titles? Or with the second wave of new books (Dial H and JSA are both looking mighty fine to me…) hitting shelves soon, will DC reclaim me?

Don’t worry, I’ll let you know.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander Feeds The Chickens

 

MARC ALAN FISHMAN: Why I Don’t Like The New 52

For those following along with all of the columnists here at ComicMix, no doubt you checked out Michael Davis’ article “Why I Like The New 52”and Michael made some great points. DC’s reboot of their entire line of superhero comic books was, as he so eloquently put it, ballsy. Oh, but the self-proclaimed Master of the Universe sadly is mistaken. To have completely rebooted 60+ years of continuity would take serious juevos. The fact is, DC hasn’t done anything close to that. It’s a point I’ve been jumping up and down on now for months… and who am I to disregard my own nerd rage over the issue. Let me get my soapbox, megaphone, and crazy pants. It’s rant-time, kiddos.

DC didn’t reboot much. In fact, they merely slapped #1’s on all their issues, and placed a gigantic asterisk besides nearly every single one. To call this the “New 52” is akin to calling Gus Van Sant’s Psycho completely original. You see, DC may have changed the numbering, but they haven’t reset their backstories. That is to say, they did – to a point.

Nearly every book they’ve put out has carefully chosen to pick events, mannerisms, and relationships established over the last half a century… and take us into their continuity mid-stream. You know David Copperfield didn’t actually make the Statue of Liberty disappear, he used a sly game of bait and switch. DC did the same thing. Whenever the fans asked the powers-that-be if a major event from continuity occurred in this new DCU or not… they waved their hands, misdirected us, and said “just keep reading.”

As Michael said, that takes serious balls.

Break it down. The New 52 reset a handful of the major players. Superman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman were all spit-shined and given a thorough makeover. And their books are better for it. Superman’s series had been crushed under event after event. From his “death” to the his “electric blue and red” days, to the rise of New Krypton to its eventual fall, casual fans could hardly hit the shelf and feel like they could relate. Wonder Woman’s title was bounced from several amazing writers, who all tried in their own ways to add depth, class, and angst to Diana’s stories. But aside from murdering Maxwell Lord, what kid on the street could tell you what she did since?

And Aquaman? Where do I begin? Water-hand, squid-head, Sub-Diego. I rest my case. Putting a #1 on those books and forgetting the last 10-15 years, isn’t such a bad idea when your parent company starts clamoring for more widespread appeal, is it?

And other books? Still confusingly convoluted beyond reproach. In the Batman corner of the DCnU, there’s Bruce’s bastard son-turned-Boy-Wonder, Nightwing, Tim Drake, a Black Batman, Batman Inc., a Joker with a misplaced face, Batwoman, and Babs “Miracle on 34th Street” Batgirl. You can put all the #1’s you want on those books, but find me a kid who bought them who didn’t immediately take a stroll down Wikipedia lane to make sense of the countless callbacks to continuity which is now unconstructed. In Batgirl alone, all we know for sure is there was an accident, she lost the ability to walk, she got it back. Did the Joker shoot her? Well, all DC says is “keep reading.”

In Green Lantern’s sector, we have no less than four active Earth Men wearing the emerald ring. For those who picked up their shiny #1’s of GL, GL: Corps, and GL: Emerald Knights were treated to the following backstory: At some point there was this thing called Blackest Night… maybe. Hal Jordon killed a Guardian of the Universe, who had a Red, Yellow, Orange, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet power set… maybe. Kyle Rayner was the last GL… at some point? Sinestro now has a Green Ring. Again, these plot points were all in their respective #1’s. If you had no knowledge of these characters before starting these books, how would you approach getting your bearings on all this backstory? Ask DC, and they’ll gladly tell you “keep reading.”

Now, let me be clear and fair here. I read a ton of DC books. I love many of them. Of the New 52, Action Comics, Batman, Batgirl, Green Lantern, Animal Man, and Justice League Dark barely make it home before they’re read with near rabid fervor. As a fan of all of these characters, I have a great understanding of their mannerisms, backstories, and relationships to fill in the gaps that their respective books have yet to cover. Because modern comics are written more cinematically, their creative teams bank on the fact that their fan base isn’t coming into their books completely cold. In the case of newer characters, or transplants from Wildstorm, these books aren’t fairing so well. With 3 issues in, November’s top sellers were Justice League, Batman, Action, and Green Lantern. Blue Beetle, Omac, and Voodoo? 89. 104. 105. Without the allure of “read and see what continuity we kept, and which we threw out with the bathwater…” fans weren’t as kind.

Before the books all came out, we fans debated hotly how much of our continuity would be thrown into this potluck reset. DC cleverly keeps moving the target on the answers. The truth of the matter is this: The allure of a universal restart in comics is a pipe dream at best. At the end of the day, comic books are a business first. The DCnU was a stunt that paid off in spades.

To end 60+ years of backstory, and start all over simply will never happen. The industry thrives on the soap-opera format; keep what works, and forget the rest. If you pay close enough attention you’ll just go mad. I started this out as a rant on Michael Davis’ kudos to the DC’s testicular fortitude, but in looking at the stack of their books, and my dwindling bank account? It tells me Michael was right all along.

DC, you made me madder than hell, and took more of my money than you ever did before… all so I could make a grand sweeping point. And now, after I’m done shouting from the rafters, I realize that’s all you ever wanted me to do in the first place. Good for you. That took serious balls.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

 


MARTHA THOMASES: Overrun By Comic Books!

It’s that time of year when my comics threaten to take over the apartment. As someone with a serious weekly habit (and no basement), there inevitably comes that moment when there is no more available shelf space. Or table space. Or floor space.

Back in the olden days, I didn’t want to get rid of my comics. Well, at least not all of them. When the stacks got high, I’d go through them, taking out the issues I thought I’d want to read again. I put those issues into long boxes (although not with bags and boards), and sent them away to storage. Then I would donate the remaining comics to the block association sidewalk sale. I felt great watching neighborhood kids ravage the boxes, looking for a something that was clutter to me but a treasure to them.

Once the trade paperback made its entry into the marketplace, I no longer felt it necessary to save my back issues. Almost everything I’d want to re-read would be collected at some point. This saved me a lot of time when it the sidewalk sale rolled around.

And then they changed the calendar, and the block association is much less convenient. I had to find another way to get rid of my stacks.

Luckily (<-sarcasm), we’re in the middle of a horrible recession. In my part of the country, there are all sorts of people selling stuff on the sidewalk. This being New York City, the center (but not the entirety) of the publishing industry, a lot of people sell books. Not only is there a market for books, but selling them on the street is protected by the First Amendment.

So, just as primitive man did before the invention of Ebay, there are tribes of people who look for reading material to sell. I found a lovely man, less than half a mile away, who has a table set up just outside Urban Outfitters (a chain I boycott because the founder donates to Rick Santorum), and he agreed to take my year’s worth of back issues.

I suppose I could just take my old comics down to the trash and let them be part of recycling. However, since I know most of my neighbors, and their kids, I worry that a child might get hold of a comic that is less than appropriate. I’m not a prude about sex, or language, or even necessarily violence, but I don’t want that sweet eight-year old in 5-C to be traumatized by an issue of Animal Man.

It might turn her off comics forever.

Instead, this is a win/win situation. I have a cleaner apartment, and the nice man in front of Urban Outfitters gets fresh merchandise. I feel like one of those job creators that the GOP are always praising.

I wonder what’s actually in my storage boxes. Perhaps, someday, I’ll have the space to unpack them.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

MINDY NEWELL: SuperGod – Thus Spake Zarathustra

I came home from work on Friday to find a package had arrived from Amazon. It was Supergods, by Grant Morrison. I had first heard about the book while reading the Rolling Stone interview with Morrison, which I mentioned last week. Between that interview and all the hoo-hah about Action Comics Vol. 2 #1, both my own reaction and those in the media, I had to read it.

(The debate continues, by the way. Today, Sunday, National Pubic Radio – NPR – devoted a segment of its “Studio 60” program to the reboot, with two interviews: the first with a comic book shop owner in Brooklyn, and the second with Jill Pantozzi, who herself is a redhead and in a wheelchair. Jill wrote an absolutely brilliant and terrific Op-Ed piece for Newsarama about the transformation of Oracle back into Batgirl, entitled Oracle Is Stronger Than Batgirl Will Ever Be. You should check it out.)

Anyway, back to Supergods. The subtitle is “What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, And A Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human.” I’ve only read the introduction, and browsed through it, and already I’m enthralled.

Now granted (no pun intended – or maybe it was), Morrison is not the first to write about the mythology, the übergeist – I think I just made up that one from a combination of Yiddish and German – the collective consciousness of humans creating heroes to reflect themselves, their darkness and their light, their trial and tribulations. If you didn’t have to read it in college, you learned about Joseph Campbell and The Hero With A Thousand Faces from George Lucas through a little thing called Star Wars. But as one of the preeminent contemporary writers of superheroes, I can’t wait to really sit down and read it.

I think about God a lot. When I was a little girl, I had this recurring dream. I was somewhere in the middle of a field. It looked like the field in “Christina’s World” by Andrew Wyeth, complete with the farmhouse at the top of the hill. Of course it was a dream, so it was a totally warped “Christina’s World.” I was standing there, and it was blue skies and sun. All of a sudden the sky was black with clouds. There was an absolutely huuuuge clap of thunder and a lightning bolt, and suddenly God was standing before me. Well, all I could see was the bottom of his long, black Supreme Court Justice robe. I craned my head up and back and up and back and the robe went up and up and up beyond the sky. Then God bent over, and I could see His face, and it wasn’t happy. His long white hair and beard mixed with the grasses of the field, and He looked at me with stern black eyes, and just shook his finger at me as if to say, “You’re a bad, bad girl, Mindy.”

I don’t know why I dreamed that dream. Probably got punished by my mother or my father for something I did that I don’t remember. Talk about Jewish guilt!

God and theology continued to fascinate me as I grew up. I didn’t go to Hebrew school, wasn’t bas-mitzvahed, and I got kicked out of Communion class for asking the rabbi how the Jews could be so sure that Jesus wasn’t the Son of God, and saying that maybe we just screwed it up. (I asked a lot of questions that the rabbi didn’t like, like the time I asked him if Jonathan and David were maybe more than “just friends.”) But I read all the stories from the Old Testament that my brother brought home, and I read bits and pieces of The New Testament. I devoured movies like The Robe and Quo Vadis, and brought the books home from the library. My favorite though was, and still is, Ben-Hur.

There’s a line in Ben-Hur towards the end, when Esther and Judah Ben-Hur are taking his mother and sister from the Valley of Lepers to see Jesus. Judah’s mother is afraid, and Esther says, “No need. The world is more than we know.”

I know it was only a line in a movie, but I think the writer got it right.

Like Grant Morrison’s Animal Man, maybe the world was created by God because he’s a writer, and that’s what writers do, create, and we’re just the four-color two-dimensional characters in his comic book. Like Alan Moore’s Promethea, maybe we create the world out of our collective consciousness. Like Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, the world is nothing but a dream set in motion by Morpheus.

Maybe there’s an obelisk on the Moon, just waiting to be discovered.

TUESDAY: Michael Davis