Tagged: Jean Grey

Joe Corallo: No More Phoenix

Way back in September, it was announced that Marvel was bringing back Jean Grey for the first time in thirteen years. No, not time displaced Jean Grey. No, not the reanimated Jean Grey from Phoenix – Endsong; the real fictional character. I’ve been thinking about this ever since the announcement. I’ve wanted to say something here, but I just wasn’t sure. I’ve talked privately with people whom all more or less agree with me on this to a point, so I’m finally going to say it here in my column.

I hate that they’re bringing Jean Grey back. It’s genuinely a terrible idea.

I feel terrible talking about this because the writer, Matthew Rosenberg, is a great guy writing incredible comics at publishers like Marvel and Black Mask Studios. He deserves all the success in the world. Leinil Yu is a fantastic artist. This has nothing to do with the creative team on this book; it’s about the editorial direction. It’s just plain and simple a terrible idea.

Most glaringly this transparent stunt shows off how Marvel just doesn’t know what to do with the X franchise so they’re just repacking greatest hits collections. In write ups about the move, Marvel makes statements about how it’s interesting because how will the other X-Men react to her suddenly being back? The real question is why would anyone care when we’ve already seen this done before. More than once. More than twice. That’s not an interesting or unique angle.

This also reminds everyone just how needlessly convoluted the continuity is for the X franchise. In the ads for this book they state that this is the return of the adult Jean Grey. Yes, they have to specify which version of Jean Grey is actually coming back. That is a problem. There is no other way to look at this. If you want new readers coming in, this is not how to do it. If you want lapsed readers coming back in, this is a way to remind them why they stopped reading in the first place. I’m a low hanging fruit X-Men fanboy and I will absolutely not be participating in this event. That should be viewed as a bad sign that have no interest in even humoring this concept.

I’d also like to remind everyone that Jean Grey was literally so boring and played up as a damsel in distress to the point where Chris Claremont came in with incredibly talented collaborators like Dave Cockrum and John Byrne and turned her into a space goddess. She remained so uninteresting they had to make her a villain and kill her off.

The first time she was brought back was for X-Factor in which, again, she was the least interesting team member. As characters like Angel and Iceman were fleshed out by Louise and Walter Simonson (in some of the best and lasting ways either of those characters have been portrayed), but even the Simonsons could not elevate Jean Grey to the kind of character Marvel seems to think she should be. Hell, they just started a solo, time displaced Jean Grey comic earlier this year and in the first issue they already started referencing Phoenix. That is how boring this character is, or at least how creatively bankrupt Marvel is regarding the character.

When Grant Morrison took on the X-Men in New X-Men Jean was actually portrayed with a level of depth she’s rarely been given before. She had a complicated emotional story arc that really elevated her and her death resonated. Despite all of that, Marvel has moved so far away from  the incredible work Grant Morrison did with the X-Men, even though the collected editions are constantly in print and available, still solid sellers thirteen years later. These stories have been reprinted in more formats than most other Marvel comics. It’s baffling why Marvel would move so far away from a direction that was working in favor of an over a decades long emo mutant sadness porn.

We need stakes in our stories. Stakes are what keeps the reader engaged. Why should I read this story if ultimately nothing of consequence will happen? Of course there are some exceptions, but not when we’re dealing with the heavily action based superhero genre. The characters are what keeps people coming back to these stories. Can Peter Parker pay Aunt May’s rent and stop the Lizard this month? Will we find out more of Wolverine’s past? Stuff like that.

It’s safe to say that in most situations the highest stakes for a character is that they could die. When those stakes are completely removed, as they are in the superhero genre, it makes it difficult for readers to want to pick up and read them month to month. Why am I going to care about the issue where X character dies when I know they’ll be back anyway? There is no more shock value in that and the ways characters come back from different dimensions and magic and aliens makes it hard for anyone to get too invested anymore. It makes it hard for me to get invested.

Mainstream comics have a problem, and instead of dealing with it they are actually celebrating it. People are championing (adult) Jean Grey coming back after thirteen years as something that was a long time coming that we should celebrate. Finally, she’s back! It’s about time! When I hear that, it sounds like people celebrating that their friend or loved one that’s been sober for thirteen years is finally drinking again. This is not only not the time to be celebrating, it’s also very depressing and leaves you feeling hopeless.

Look, I love Marvel. Really. I adore the characters, the stories, the movies, and the TV shows; I even had a Jean Grey Phoenix action figure growing up. Some of the best characters and comics ever made or that will ever be made are from Marvel. The reason I’m writing this is because I care and so do a lot of other people. The comics industry needs Marvel to succeed. I want Marvel to succeed and, in particular, the X franchise to succeed. Back in April, I wrote this open letter to Marvel regarding the direction I saw ResurrXion going in. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be getting better, but just getting worse and the sales numbers are reflecting that.

Remember a couple of years ago when rumors started swirling that maybe the X-Men would be put in their own mini-universe separate from the rest of the Marvel Universe? Remember how some people were genuinely excited by that idea, and were kind of sad when Axel said that wouldn’t be the case? Instances like these are maybe worth taking more seriously, because I honestly can’t fathom that approach being worse than what’s happening now and you, the reader, probably can’t either.

I understand that this is a problem that didn’t happen overnight. It took a long time to get here and it will take a long time to get out. Either way, something has to change soon, because this is not sustainable.

Joe Corallo: Amazing Grace

Okay, let me clear up a couple of things first.

One: This is not about the song “Amazing Grace” by poet John Newton. It’s about comic book professional Sina Grace.

Two: I shamelessly took the concept of this column title from Christmas at Pee Wee’s Playhouse when Globey says that in reference to Grace Jones’ performance of Little Drummer Boy.

Now then, if you aren’t familiar with Sina Grace I’m here to help change that. Especially since Sina has a few new comics hitting the shelves on Wednesday.

He’s someone entirely unique in comics. He’s worn nearly every hat you can in comics as a self-publisher, imprint editor, writer, and artist. His skills have graced most of the comics publishers here in the States that you can name, he’s edited The Walking Dead, put out deeply personal memoir comics, and is most recently taking on Iceman over at Marvel… but more on that later.

I first got into Sina Grace’s work as an artist with The Li’l Depressed Boy, written, colored and lettered by S. Steven Struble. He happened to be in Manhattan signing at Carmine Street Comics in 2014 just after my birthday so I picked up the first two volumes. He was incredibly sweet and welcoming. I even got a sketch of Jem (as in Jem and the Holograms) from him, which he seemed to look up reference for on his phone, but I like to think he could have done from memory. Fun fact about me; I prefer this version of the Jem theme song that basically everyone else hates.

Sorry, I’m getting sidetracked. Anyway, The Li’l Depressed Boy is a surrealist take on unreqited love with an indie film aesthetic filled with music and youth. It’s the kind of comic that checks a lot of boxes for me in terms of what I like, so it both was a comic I enjoyed and something that put Sina on my radar.

That really paid off when Self-Obsessed came out in 2015.

Self-Obsessed is a deeply person memoir. Prior to this, Sina had put out another memoir, Not My Bag, back in 2012. Whereas Not My Bag dealt with Sina’s personal struggles working retail, Self-Obsessed cuts deeper. It’s filled with comics, essays, photos, and interviews. It’s an incredibly blunt, raw, and unapologetic reflection on life. It’s a brave graphic novel and I have a great deal of respect for Sina putting this out. If you like memoir comics and the kind of books you see over at the likes of Top Shelf and First Second and you haven’t checked out Self-Obsessed yet, then you need to add it to your list. Seriously. Do it.

Sina Grace was back in New York for NYCC in 2015 to promote Self-Obsessed. Needless to say, I picked up a copy then and read it on the train home after. Self-Obsessed went on to become a web series starring not only Sina but Amber Benson, Colleen Green and more. It’s currently two seasons in.

I’m stressing how much I enjoy Self-Obsessed not only in the hopes that maybe you’ll go pick it up but because his new graphic memoir, Nothing Lasts Forever, is one of his new books hitting the shelves Wednesday and may turn out to be even more personal than his other memoirs. A lot has happened fairly recently in Sina’s life and he’s gonna lay it all out for us. I’ll be picking it up on Wednesday, and I hope you do the same.

One of the other books with Sina’s name on it coming at us on Wednesday is Iceman #1. This book is part of Marvel’s X-Men ResurrXion reboot. Now, I made my feelings clear the other month based on the first book in the series, X-Men Gold #1. TL:DR, I wasn’t a fan. X-Men Blue #1 was better, but still not quite there for me. And I’ll be honest, I picked Jean Grey #1 off the rack at a shop and skimmed through it only to find that in the first issue they are already talking about the Phoenix force so I’m gonna hard pass that one. No offense to the creative team, really, but the idea of dealing with the Phoenix force again is just too exhausting and a wasted opportunity to make Jean Grey something more. Because of all that, I’m relying on Iceman to restore my excitement in the X franchise.

Seriously though, this book has a lot going for it. Though editor Daniel Ketchum has been let go from Marvel, this is certainly in part his baby. I got to talk to Daniel briefly back at NYCC 2015 about Iceman and my reservations to how the character had been handled in All-New X-Men. Daniel told me to stick it out and see where the character was going. This book is where it was all going. Between Daniel Ketchum editing, Sina Grace writing, and Kevin Wanda doing the cover, we have three queer men of color working on a queer superhero. That’s really huge and means the world to me. Many of you familiar with my column know I bitch about diversity and inclusion here a lot, and Iceman is the kind of book I’ve been demanding over at that big two. Please, if diversity in comics is important to you, or if the X-Men are important to you, pick up this book. We all need Iceman to succeed.

No pressure, Sina!

Finally, Sina also did a pride variant cover for the latest issue of The Walking Dead and it’s gorgeous! Image is doing pride variants for multiple titles, and 100% of the proceeds will go to the Human Rights Campaign. Considering the kind of rollbacks in LGBT rights we see happening all across the country, this is an important stand for a comic company to be making and I applaud Image for taking a stand against bigotry.

This Wednesday, comic shops will be stocking up on three different projects that Sina Grace has poured his heart into. When you hit up your local comic shop tomorrow, go out and take some of those home with you.

Joe Corallo: Breaking the Iceman

uncanny x-men 600 iceman

I’ve only been writing this column for a month now, and if you’ve been reading you might have guessed that the next opportunity I’d have I’d write about Iceman coming out in Uncanny X-Men #600. Well, congratulations! You were right. I’ll try to be less predictable in the future, but I make no promises.

As you may have heard, last week the present day Iceman came out to his past self, thus confirming that Iceman is gay in both past and present. This move has gotten a great deal of praise, with many highlighting that this now makes him the highest profile gay superhero in comics. Though I’m a big fan of the X-Men in addition to being gay, I honestly did not care much for how Iceman coming out was handled.

Now, before anyone reading this starts either rolling their eyes thinking I’m gearing up for a rant on how Brian Bendis and Axel Alonso must be homophobes or don’t understand diversity for not handling this how I would have liked, or are gearing up to rally with me on that point, I’m going to stop you there. Bendis himself is Jewish, and two of his three daughters are adopted, one African-American and the other Ethiopian. He co-created Miles Morales, the half African-American, half Hispanic Spider-Man that has since become a major hit at Marvel. Axel Alonso himself was editor on Peter Milligan and Mike Allred’s X-Force/X-Statix run that introduced three queer X characters. The issue I have here is not personal and I acknowledge that they have made great decisions regarding diversity in the past. It’s about the handling of Iceman’s coming out and how that affects LGBTQ representation at Marvel. Now let’s get into it.

First off, Jean Grey is here for seemingly little reason as past Iceman has his talk with present Iceman. She was my and many other people’s point of contention when this was first brought up in All New X-Men #40, when she outed him. Some people don’t feel that she outed him, but having read it, that’s the conclusion I came to myself. Telling someone what their sexuality is when they’re questioning it can be damaging. I know when I was a teenager and had people in my life telling me I wasn’t gay, that it did hurt me and took time to get over. When Jean did this, it took away from Iceman’s agency. Rather than a coming out story, we got a “Jean told us we’re gay, so we are now,” story, and that’s significantly less compelling. I wish I had the time to go into how troubling the bi-erasure was in this story as well, but I’ll talk about bi-erasure in mainstream comics next week.

Second, starting with the “You’re going to be a mutant and gay. Wow,” line that present Iceman says to past Iceman, and going into how he put all of his effort into the X-Men over his own happiness, I was just completely taken aback. This made no sense at all.

How can present Iceman talk about putting all his effort into the team when he has never led the X-Men, and he left the team to go to college for a bit, and he had a fairly long relationship with Opal Tanaka that he put his all into, going as far as heading to Japan with Jean Grey (funny, right?) to save her from Cyber Samurai, and he tried to ruin Polaris’ wedding to Havok because he was still into her, and has seen several other X-Men over the years come out around him even as mutant numbers dwindled… and that’s just to name a few things. Not to mention how Cyclops, Storm, Professor X, even Magneto all made time for their own happiness and had a much more important role in the world than Iceman ever did. It would be one thing if this was because present Iceman was being selfish, but he’s making it out like he stayed in the closet because he’s selfless, and that doesn’t quite hold up here.

Building on that point, Iceman being a blonde hair, blue eyed, young, white, attractive, able-bodied, cisgender man with a six-pack complaining about how hard it is to come out was disappointing. Look, everyone has problems and hardships, even young attractive white guys, and I understand and acknowledge that. However, this is a fictional world where Iceman has been on life and death missions, gone through space, time, fought aliens, vampires, deities… and coming out was harder than all of that?

If this was the 80s, I’d totally get that. Even the 90s. It’s 2015, and that coupled with living in such a fantastical world makes this too hard for me to swallow. Not to mention how many of his teammates and fellow mutants are not nearly as privileged as he is. I’d dare even say that Nightcrawler and Beast might have a harder time being straight than Iceman would have being gay.

Finally, on the last page of this scene young Iceman asks present Iceman if he thinks Angel is hot and they agree and have a good time about it. If you’re going to make the next LGBTQ X-Men character a young, attractive, blonde hair, blue eyed, able-bodied, cisgender white man with a six pack, can we at very least have him talk about being attracted to someone who isn’t also all of those things? It just feeds into so many of the negatives in the LGBTQ community that are trying to be addressed. It was a way to wrap up the scene that was clearly intended to be sweet that left me feeling sour.

I’m not trying to be ungrateful about having more representation in mainstream comics. However, we should be holding ourselves to a higher standard and demand more, better, and thoroughly thought out LGBTQ representation.

I do want to end on a positive note. Bendis has updated Iceman in a way that will give future writers something new to explore with the character and I’m thankful to him for that, and despite how I may have come across, I am eager to see what other writers will do with him. Hopefully an LGBTQ creator or an ally like Peter David or Kieron Gillen who handle queer characters respectfully will get to tackle him, and maybe I’ll soon be reading the greatest Iceman story ever told.

Mindy Newell: Superman, Wonder Woman, and Mythic Complications

Newell Art 140127

So my fellow ComicMix columnist Marc Alan Fishman doesn’t have a problem with the idea of Wonder Woman being a descendant of Kryptonian colonists in the next installment of the Superman cinematic universe. Yes, I know that this may be just one of those wild Internet rumors, but I gotta tell ya, ever since The National Enquirer broke the story of Al Gore, Rielle Hunter and their love child, I don’t easily dismiss stories that are far off the media mainstream path. And besides, Warner Bros. has, to quote another ComicMix correspondent (Vinnie Bartilucci) “gone on record how ‘complicated’ a story Wonder Woman has.”

Complicated?

Wonder Woman’s origin is based on the myths of the Hellenic culture, the same culture that gave The Iliad and The Odyssey, the two Homeric mythic sagas that are considered epics of the imagination and central to modern Western literature. Not to mention that during the Hellenic period Athens was the center of philosophy, or that the Library of Alexandra is believed to have contained over 700,000 volumes before it was burned by Julius Caesar’s troops, or that the Isle of Rhodes harbored universities that taught politics and diplomacy. Not to mention brilliant thinkers whose names escape me – oh, now I remember: Plato and Socrates and Pythagoras and Socrates and Aristotle and Euclides.

The Percy Jackson series is based on the Hellenic myths. The BBC is currently airing Atlantis, based on the Hellenic myths. Battlestar: Galactica (both series), Xena: Warrior Princess, the video game God of War – all based on Hellenic mythology. I even read that Moulin Rouge!, which starred Nicole Kidman and Ewan Macgregor, was based on the Orpheus myth. You know, the story about that guy with the lute who attempted to rescue his beloved wife Eurydice from Hades.

I think that when Warner Bros. uses the word “complicated” in describing Wonder Woman’s story they are really saying that they believe the American audience is ignorant and dumb.

I think they are looking in the mirror.

•     •     •     •     •

While I’m on the subject of the Amazon Princess, many of my sister writers who are involved in comics either as authors or critics are dismayed that Wonder Woman has been relegated to “Superman’s Girlfriend”; hell, I ain’t so that happy about it. But I’ve recently fulfilled one ambition for 2014 and have read the four issues of Superman / Wonder Woman that are available on www.Comixology.com – in fact, I subscribed to the ‘zine. In all honesty, I don’t think it’s badly written at all; I especially like the relationship between Diana and Hessia.

I do have two major complaints, though. The first (and most important, since this is a book that is about the relationship of two people) is that so far the heart-to-heart conversations are not taking place between the two lovers, who seem to be struggling to get past their (understandable) physical desire for each other in establishing a real relationship. The honesty and heart-to-hearts are not between Kal-El/Clark and Diana, but between two other couples: Diana and Hessia, and Superman and Batman.

My second complaint is that, for right now at least (after all, the series is only four chapters in), the book seems to be a Justice League of America / The Brave and The Bold hybrid. It seems more like a team-up book than one exploring the dynamics of the relationship between these two great DC icons, with all the “guest appearances” of other heroes.

What I’d like to see writer Charles Soule do is “borrow” from Marvel’s great superhero romances – Jean Grey and Scott Summers, especially. I hope he has the “writer’s balls” to do this. If he does, he’ll be on track to writing a really great comic, imho, of course. But if the book’s pairing becomes simply a veneer of a relationship, it will just disappear into the great void that has swallowed too many comics with great promise, but which ended in boredom and cancellation.

TUESDAY MORNING: Jen Krueger

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold

 

Win a Blu-ray Copy of The Wolverine

BD comboWhat does it take to get a woman’s attention? The answer, gentlemen: Iron Claws. Logan, played by Hugh Jackman in The Wolverine, knows exactly what we mean. Jackman returns as The Wolverine and faces his ultimate nemesis in an action-packed, life-or-death battle that takes him to modern-day Japan. Vulnerable for the first time and pushed to his limits, Wolverine confronts not only lethal samurai steel but also his inner struggle against his own immortality; an epic fight that will leave him forever changed. Through all of this, Logan has no problem attracting women, some trying to save him and others trying to kill him. To prepare you for the film’s release on to DVD and Blu-ray today, we’ve compiled a list of The Wolverine’s leading ladies who can’t seem to take their paws off of his claws!

1.   Yukio: The Body Guard

The-Wolverine-Rila-Fukushima-Yukio2Yukio always remained in the “Friend Zone” with Logan, and it’s probably for the best. Thanks to her, Wolverine was able to dodge death several times. She is a badass sidekick!

2.     Viper: Toxin Immune “Doctor”

ViperViper and The Wolverine have so much in common. Both are mutants, both have claws; both are pretty much immortal. While Viper wasn’t exactly fighting for Logan’s love and affection, she couldn’t’ seem to stay away. Even after Logan survives Viper’s murder attempt via a bot she put on his heart both he and she kept coming back for more!

3. Jean Grey: The Ex

Jean GreyWhile her appearance in the film is short and sweet, we find out that it didn’t end that way between the ex lovers. The Wolverine was forced to kill Jean, but it’s okay because she still loves him.  No hard feelings!

4. Mariko: The One to Save

Originally, Mariko plays hard to get, she doesn’t think she needs The Wolverine’s help. Well, let’s just say she was wrong. Not only did Logan save Mariko from being killed, she also fell in love with him. I think it’s safe to say he loves her too.

WolverineMarikoAW-620x349In order to enter the contest, tell us which one is his True Love and why. Get us your thoughts by 11:59 p.m., Saturday, December 7. Open to US and Canadian readers only and the judgment of ComicMix‘s judges will be final.

Mindy Newell: The Right Stuff

There is a wonderful thing happening for me and other girls and women who read comics.

A new hero has appeared.

As frequent readers of this column should remember, Kara Zor-el, Supergirl, was the character and hero that rocked my pre-adolescent world. She was smart, brave, and not only did she have the same powers as Superman but she was his secret weapon, which is a powerful message to little girls. And yes, she was pretty, which I don’t think is a sexist thing to say. Everybody wants to be “pretty” when they grow up. Okay, little boys generally don’t want to be pretty when they grow up, but I don’t think they want to look like Quasimodo either.

Not that little girls and women have been without heroes since Kara first popped out of her rocket in Action Comics #252 in May, 1959. Wonder Woman, Princess Diana of Themiscrya, has been with us since All-Star Comics in December 1941.   Jean Grey debuted as Marvel Girl in X-Men #1 in September 1963, and Storm – Ororo Munro – was created in Giant Size X-Men #1 in May 1975. Kitty Pryde – she of the 1,001 names–joined the Uncanny X-Men as Sprite in January 1980. The introduction of the Legion of Super-Heroes in Adventure Comics #242 in April 1958, included Saturn Girl, a.k.a. Imra Ardeen.

And then there was Carol Danvers.

Major Carol Danvers of the United States Air Force first appeared in Marvel Super-Heroes #13 in March 1968. In 1977, Carol was empowered by the fusion of her body with Kree genes, and became Ms. Marvel, appearing in the eponymously titled Ms. Marvel #1 in January 1977. She has also been known as Binary and Warbird.

And then, in July 2012, Carol Danvers accepted the mantle of Captain Marvel

Kelly Sue DeConnick, as writer of the series, has taken the ball and run with it. In fighter jock parlance, DeConnick – and through her, Carol Danvers – is pushing the envelope of what it means to be a woman and a hero. To quote DeConnick from her interview with Corrina Lawson in Lawson’s Geek Mom column for Wired magazine, “My pitch was Carol Danvers as Chuck Yeager.”

As the daughter of P-51 fighter jock, I get it. Completely.

Carol’s not looking for medals. She’s not looking for accolades. Yeah, she’s chasing those demons that live beyond the sound barrier. Yeah, she’s out there every day pushing the envelope, punching holes in the sky. But she’s just doing what she’s gotta do. Doing it ‘cause, well…’cause she’s doing it.

Knocking out Absorbing Man by smothering his air supply with impermeable sash.

Comparing the hurt she’s gonna feel knocking out a gi-normous alien eyeball to the pain of a mascara wand in her own eyeball.

Girls and women get that.

We’re out there every day, not looking for accolades, not looking for medals. Just doing our jobs. Juggling family and work and relationships and life and just doing it.

‘Cause that’s what we do.

‘Cause that’s what Carol Danvers does. And if we said to her, “Man, Carol, you surely are our hero.”?

I think she’d just shrug her shrug her shoulders and say, “Whatever.”

‘Cause that’s what a hero does.

TUESDAY MORNING: Emily S. Whitten Survives New York

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis Survives Paris

 

Marc Alan Fishman: Marvel Now and Later

Sorry for my absence last week, loyal readers. It would seem something had to break in my fragile world, and this was the first thing closest to the exit ramp. Luckily for me you all had more important things to do on a Saturday morning than read my rants and raves. Right? You didn’t? You mean to tell me you’ve been sitting there, at your desk, for a whole week… awaiting my article? Jeez. I’m sorry. Let me make it up to you. Let’s start off with something really inflammatory to get back into the thick of it, shall we?

Marvel Now is what I’d wished DC would have done with their New 52.

Marvel comes right out of the gate with the smartest roll-out plan I’ve seen in a while: A sensible one or two new books out every week, over the course of a few months. DC’s “throw everything at the fan, and watch the sales spike and recede” did exactly that. Marvel Now (boy, that’s gonna get annoying) sidesteps the idea that fans are willing to try everything all at once, in lieu of a doing it a few at a time. I’m a marketing man by trade. This screams of “listening to the target audience” and “lowering the barrier to entry” for those less willing to hop aboard. In human-speak? Someone at Marvel realized fans aren’t made of money. They are more willing to start a new series at #1, and toss it into their weekly rotation a little at a time, rather than dump their entire paychecks out for the opportunity to “catch up” to a continuity that wasn’t quite rebooted, wasn’t quite reset, and wasn’t quite defined in the slightest.

Marvel also has taken it upon themselves to shake up some major players on major books, after successful long-term runs had been accomplished. Where DC has been quick to play musical chairs before some writers grew their sea-legs for a particular title, the House of Mouse once again played it cool. Let Bendis play in the Avengers sandbox until he’s run out of awesome things to do. Then let Fraction do the same with Iron Man. Then put Waid (who is still rocket hot after relaunching Daredevil back into our hearts) onto a book, The “Insert-Adjective-Here” Hulk, that frankly I’m sure no one has cared about since Jeph Loeb murdered it in the early aughts.

In the art department, fan favorite John Cassaday gets to give The Avengers a nod, which I hope is as good or better than his work on the Astonishing X-Men. The always tried-and-true Mark Bagely will lend his hand at Fantastic Four, which should loosen the book up from its present look and feel. And over in the Four’s sister (or really… daughter?) book, FF, none other than Mike Alred is slated to put pencil to page. The last time I believe he was around MarvelLand, we got X-Statics, which was X-cellent. Sorry, had to go there.

And how about the overall plan? Axel “Not Danny D” Alonso made it pretty clear that the books that are working well now will have no plan for resets. This means fans of Daredevil, the Punisher, X-Factor and the like won’t have to fear an immediate exit strategy and creative retreat from their favorite books. This is of course (to me, at least) a direct wink and a butt slap to the boys with the new oddly shaped logo.

DC was glad to let its entire line of books stink up the joint for the last three months they were around prior to the New 52 debut. Never in my 20+ years reading comics had I felt more books “phoning it in” then at that time. As a 20+ DC book subscriber? It rubbed me the wrong way. Hard. Here, Marvel seems to realize the old adage holds true; if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

Generally we know this is the point where I play devil’s advocate. And I see by the folding chair in your outstretched arms, ready to strike me where I type, I’d better get on with the “Howevers…” or else. Now, Marvel Now is just an on-paper-plan at this point. Even with that said, it’s hard not to notice a few things that reek of desperation. I love Brian Posehn. I do. But does anyone here honestly wish to place a wager on how long his run on Deadpool will last?

And just how many Avengers titles are they releasing? 20? 30? We get it, the movie made a kajillion-billion Disney dollars… but someone somewhere had to wave a white flag. As it stands I still contend that the over saturation of books with the popular characters just clutters up racks with an ultimately less-than-the-best product. All this, and somehow, the X-books still all sound ludicrously horrendous, Bendis or not. The idea that “silver age” X-kids land in the present, and get to play the “Oooh-how-the-world-changed-card” to me is choking hard on the gimmick bone. Be sure to take a shot every time NewOld Jean Grey asks “what’s an iPod?”

See? I’m not just shilling for Marvel, unless they wanna send me a check. In that case, I’ll make myself “AR” compatible in a heartbeat. In the mean time, my opinion stands: Marvel Now appears to be better thought-out, with a smarter release schedule, and an ideology that holds on to the notion that quality beats quantity every single time. Mark my words, kiddos. Marvel Now is gonna pants DC, and in the scramble expect DC to fire back with 17 epic all-title consuming crossovers.

Did you mark that down? Good.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

 

Mike Gold: Bourne, On The Fourth Of July

I’m not the world’s biggest Jason Bourne fan. Not by a long shot. I’ve seen and enjoyed the movies but I haven’t read any of the books. But two days ago, as I was sitting in the theater awaiting The Amazing Spider-Man (for the ComicMix Mixed Review), I saw a trailer for the latest chapter, The Bourne Legacy. It’s a continuation of the series… but without Jason. As I was watching the trailer, I was thinking in the terms of my trade.

 “Reboot! Reboot!”

We can argue if this is a genuine reboot or not, but let’s ride with the concept for a bit. My next thought was “why do the teevee and movie people do successful reboots of major properties, while in comics we butcher it every chance we get?” Which, by the way, is way too frequently.

Recent media reboots have included James Bond, Doctor Who, and Sherlock Holmes – the latter, twice. Other reboots have included Superman, Batman and the aforementioned Spider-Man. Only the former lacked enduring success. The Batboot was stellar, and we’ll have to wait and see about Spidey. So, of the five major characters, only one was a bust.

Allow me some jealous feelings here. To paraphrase Paul Simon (the singer, not the dead politician), after reboot upon reboot, the comics biz is more or less the same. Yes, there’s usually a solid sales bump and maybe it lasts long enough to make a difference, but that’s almost always short-lived. Is the Spider-Man marriage thing resolved? Is Jean Gray forever dead? What about Uncle Ben? Are you sure? Go ask Captain America and Bucky.

Over at DC, they’ve pressed the reboot button more often in the past 37 years than a lab monkey on an crystal meth test. How long should a reboot last before it’s deemed successful? I don’t know; we’ve never had one that lasted more than a couple years. Is the New 52 successful? Well, yes, in the sense that Dan DiDio still has his job. But they’ve only got sales figures in for the first year, and over a third of the titles have either been cancelled or have endured new creative teams. That doesn’t make it a failure, but if simply cancelling some titles and changing the crew on others is all it takes to make a character work for a contemporary audience, then we don’t need reboots.

In fact, this is the error message we get over each reboot. There’s no system upgrade here. We could have provided stability and growth by simply cancelling some titles and incubating those characters within their universes, and by changing creative teams on others – creators who will not restart history, but simply put it on an exciting path out of the woods. This may be the real “success” of the New 52. We’ll see in maybe five years or so.

The fact is, the media people haven’t pissed all over the trust of their audience. Despite public perception, most all of the pre-reboot movies and television shows featuring James Bond, Doctor Who, Superman, and Batman made money (I really can’t say about Sherlock Holmes; he seems to have made PBS a lot of money in the form of enhanced underwriting and public support). Maybe not enough to support the highest-ups’ eight figure salaries, maybe not as great a return on investment to make the stockholders happy, but in an industry where they put tens of millions of dollars on the line with each project – more than enough in each case to support a front-of-the-catalog comic book publisher – a five million dollar profit might not be a desired return on investment, but it’s still five million dollars.

Comics executives and, more important, their corporate masters need to give the four-color medium the same degree of patience and, quite frankly, they need to give their consumers the same amount of respect.

We need a comic book industry with an attention span.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil

MINDY NEWELL: Character

What goes into making a memorable character for a story?

According to Lawrence Block, author of over one hundred novels and recipient of the Grand Master award from the Mystery Writers of America, they must be three things: plausible, sympathetic, and original.

I think that’s a damn good definition of what makes a character real. Except that I think Mr. Block used the wrong word. It’s not “sympathetic,” it’s “empathetic.” Now, sympathy and empathy are kissing cousins, but sympathy, I think, allows the individual to separate from the character just a bit, to feel for the character while still allowing for some separation – six degrees of separation, if you will. Empathy, on the other hand causes the individual to feel with the character– it’s the recognition of self in someone else.

Without that recognition, without that empathy, the character is in danger of falling flat, of eliciting a “who cares?” response. The great characters are empathetic – Scarlett O’Hara of Gone With The Wind, the Joad family (especially Tom and “Ma”) of The Grapes Of Wrath, Vito and Michael Coreleone of The Godfather, Caleb Trask of East Of Eden, Joe and Kirsten Clay of Days Of Wine And Roses, Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, King George VI in The King’s Speech.

In comics there is Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and his sister, Death, the X-Men’s Max Eisenhardt/Erik Lensherr/Magneto and Jean Grey/Phoenix (Dark and “Light”), Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson, Selina Kyle/Catwoman, and Sue Storm/The Invisible Woman. Of course there are more; I just chose those characters that appeared at the top of my head as I write this. You will have your own characters that engender empathy.

Originality is hard.  The history of storytelling begins when our ancestors first sat down around the fire and told tales to ward off the dark night. The history of storytelling is ripe with heroes and villains, love and betrayal, valor and cowardice. Originality, I think, comprises the total picture. As Block says in his book Telling Lies For Fun And Profit, “it’s not the quirks that make an enduring character, but the essential personality which the quirks highlight.” In other words, and like I said, it’s the whole picture, the complete character or individual that makes him or her an original.

Norma Desmond’s quirk is her inability to adjust to age and talkies, to realize and accept that time, and Hollywood, has marched on. Tom Joad’s quirk is his inability to accept injustice, even if it causes him to murder, which he sees as no injustice. Vito Coreleone’s quirk is to see the world as an “us against them” scenario, to nurture the family while attacking the world. Michael Coreleone’s quirk is to talk of love and loyalty to the family while he destroys it.  Swamp Thing’s quirk is that he is a plant trying to be a man. And Death loves life, even as she takes it away.

Plausibility allows the reader to suspend his or her disbelief, to accept that the actions of the character are true and real and acceptable. Now in comics, of course, plausibility is a two-edged sword. Of course we know that nobody can fly; nobody is invulnerable or runs at supersonic speed; no one can turn invisible or survive the explosion of a gamma bomb (except Bruce Banner, of course!) But as readers of superhero comics, we willingly suspend our disbelief, the implausibility of the character, before we even open the book. Why? Well, I think it has something to do with the capturing of our imagination, the “what if?” factor that I wrote about several months ago. But I also think that the other factors mentioned above play a role in our acceptance of Superman or Rogue. Empathy: “I get it. I know what it’s like to be Rogue, to be unable to really touch someone, to really get close to someone.” Or “Yeah, sometimes I feel like Kal-El, a stranger in a strange land.”

I watched Game Change on HBO. The movie is based on Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime, by John Heilemann of New York magazine and Mark Halperin of Time. Both men are seasoned politically analysts, and their book, which was released on January 11, 2010, is an inside look at the Presidential campaign of 2008. The HBO movie focuses on Palin, played by Julianne Moore, from the moment the McCain campaign decides to ask her to be his running mate to Obama’s running mate.

The movie is riveting. Moore buries herself completely into the role, and I’m guaranteeing right now that she wins an Emmy for her performance. Sarah Palin is, without a doubt, love her or hate her, an original. She is empathetic – and sympathetic – as she works to maintain her sense of self and, love them or hate them, her own beliefs against the McCain and Republican political machinery.

But is she plausible? The movie shows that, as far as being capable of being “one heartbeat away from the Presidency,” Palin was an implausible candidate. But don’t tell that to the huge – and I mean huge – groundswell of love and support she engendered.

Yesterday afternoon I went to my local comic book store, Vector Comics, to pick up my haul. Joe and Tina, the terrific and wonderful owners of the shop, were busy with other customers, so I browsed through the stacks to see if anything not on my list that caught my interest. (Actually, almost everything piques my appetite, and if I allowed myself to buy everything I want, I couldn’t pay the rent!)

Know what I found? The Sarah Palin comic from Bluewater Comics.

What a character!

TUESDAY: Michael Davis

 

MINDY NEWELL: Who’s Dead As A Doornail?

Death aims only once, but never misses.

(Maxims: Political, Philosophical, and Moral, by Edward Counsel)

Except in comics.

I was doing a search for quotes about death when I found this one, which is so apropos. I never heard of Edward Counsel; did a Google search, but couldn’t find him?? Found a reproduction of his book on Amazon; the original was published before 1923. All I can gather is that he was an Australian who was born before 1900. Anyone who has more info is welcome to let me know in the comments section.

The reason I was looking for a quote about death – of which there seems to be milllllllllions – is because all us comic fans are buzzing about the YouTube video The Death and Return of Superman, by Max Landis (son of John Landis), who stars in The Chronicle. I was going to post it here, but Martha (Thomases) beat me to it three days ago – which amazingly points out that DC actually thought Tim Drake’s/Robin’s new costume was more of a P.R. event than Supe’s kicking of the bucket – so I won’t do that. All I can say is that, if by any chance you haven’t seen it, do so at once. You have my permission to stop reading this column, go watch it (it’s about 16:00 long) and then come back. It is bitingly hilarious, and exceptionally on the mark!!!! (Major kudos to Landis and his fellow actors btw!)

SPOILER ALERT!: Okay, I’m going to assume that you have either already seen the video or have taken the 16:00 to watch it before returning here, because I’m going to give away the ending here.

Landis concludes his short film by stating that Superman’s death and return opened the floodgates for other comic characters to die and then resurrect. In other words, said resurrection cheapened the dramatic impact of said death, and ended the ability of readers to mourn the loss of the character, because the reader knew the character would eventually return. Cynics like me will always point out that the death of a character in the comic book world is always due to (1) marketing; and (2) the dictates of Hollywood – as Martha ably points out in her column concerning Lois And Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.

As a comics writer, a editor, and a reader, the “make-believe” of death in comics really pisses me off.

I’d like to point out that the ability of fiction (any fiction, from comics to television to movies) to help children understand and cope with finality of death is incredibly important. J. M. Barrie understood this, as he has Peter Pan say “To die will be an awfully big adventure.” And of course, J.K. Rowling did not flinch from the meaning of death in the Harry Potter And The novels; it was one of the themes of her “magnus opus” – beginning with the main character. Need I remind you that Harry was an orphan?

Okay, young readers of comics are scarce these days. We all know that. But they are still out there; my eleven-year old niece Isabel being one of them. And children are curious about death. About six months after my husband left me, the family was out to dinner. Right in the middle of the laughter and the eating, Isabel, six years old at the time, said to me, “Is John dead?” (That was a conversation stopper, let me tell you.) Of course her parents had explained what had happened. But obviously Isabel couldn’t grasp the concept of marital separation and divorce, so all she knew was that John was gone, which in her thoughts equaled death… because, as her mom told me later, she had just seen a movie – I don’t remember which one, it might have been one of the Harry Potter’s – in which one of the characters died. And she was trying to wrap her young mind around “death.”

Which I think is good; our society tends to put death into a dark, dusty corner where it molders and mildews and mutates into something unbearably monstrous. Remember the uproar over Terry Schiavo? How about the Republican bullshit of equating Obama’s healthcare bill with death panels? And as a registered nurse in the operating room, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen terminally ill or extremely aged patients subjected to the stress of unneeded or useless surgery or treatment because the family insists on it because they can’t deal with the impending death of their loved one.

Death can be welcomed as an end to unending pain and torment. Death can be aggressively fought against with all the tools of modern medicine. Death can be sudden, or it can be stretched out into nanoseconds.

But death is real.

I’m still reeling from the death of Kara Zor-El – Supergirl – in Crisis On Infinite Earth.  Don’t talk to me about the reboots.

The Very Short List of Comic Book Superheroes Who Have Died And Returned: Alfred Pennyworth, Aquaman, Aunt May, Big Barda, Bucky, Captain America, The Doctor, Elektra, Fahrenheit, The Flash, Firestorm, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, Hawkman, The Human Torch, Jean Grey, Moon Knight, Negative Man, Punisher, Robin, Supergirl, Superman, The Thing, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents (many if not all), Wonder Man, Wonder Woman, Yellowjacket.

TUESDAY: Michael Davis. Sponsored by the Bacon Council.