Completing the trifecta of John Ostrander related items suitable for putting under the Christmas tree, today we have the Suicide Squad movie now out on DVD, Blu-Ray, and assorted other platforms that I don’t understand. The movie came out in August and now, just in time for Christmas, it’s out for your home theater.
This may be a trickier recommendation than my previous two because, although the movie did very well in the theaters, not everyone was a fan. In fact, some hated it. Me, I loved it – but I admit to a slight bias.
The version I got was the extended version with the bells and whistles – extended scenes and bonus features (which I’ll get to in a minute). I’m not always crazy about extended scenes or deleted scenes; more often than not I can see why they were cut. Although there was a scene in The Godfather between Don Corleone (Marlon Brando) and his son (Al Pacino) in a hospital corridor set early in the film where Michael angrily tells his father “I will never be like you! Never!” I still can’t believe they cut it.
However, I like the extended scenes in the Squad. I think they filled out the story, added characterization, and explained one or two things. It doesn’t take care of all the flaws. For example, (SPOILER ALERT) after the climax Deadshot rightly asks Amanda Waller, “How come you aren’t dead?” It’s not answered and it’s a fair question; acknowledging a flaw doesn’t correct it.
The plot is a little too “save the world” for my taste; when I wrote it, the Squad didn’t really do that. There are other flaws as well, all of which I admit, but I had a good time every time I watch it and I did again. The good very much outweighs the bad so far as I’m concerned. I love the character interactions and Amanda Waller is so Amanda Waller for me. They had read and knew the source material and made a fine adaptation of it. I’m gratified.
And there’s a bunch a special features and, if you’re a fan of mine, you might be interested that I’m in some of them. I sat down and did a video interview and parts of it were incorporated into the special features. If you’ve read/heard interviews with me in the past, you’ve probably heard the stories I tell here. Not everyone who watches this will have heard them, though. I suppose I should find a new way of telling these stories but it’s practiced and professional the way they are now and, I think, moderately entertaining. So now I have my name not only up on a building in the movie, I’ve told my story in the background feature.
It is odd to watch myself in the video. I always have a disconnect between myself on the screen and my own self-image. Do I really sound/look like that? I guess so. I look presentable and sound reasonable and that’s not always the case, so I’m content.
Should you buy the home version if you were not crazy about the film in the first place just to see me blather? No, absolutely not. If you didn’t like it before, even the addition of extended scenes and (ahem) me will not improve that for you. However, according to Amazon, the Blu-ray is among their best sellers in action/adventure so I guess there are plenty of folks who are enjoying it.
A second Squad movie has been announced as in development but with no release date yet set or any other particulars so far as I know. I’m looking forward to it.
Now, if we can just convince Warners to make a movie of Tom Mandrake’s and my version of The Spectre. Heck, I’d pay to see that one!
In the meantime, Happy Holidays to you all. Whether you buy a John Ostrander related item or not.
As I pointed out last week in this column, there is a plethora of John Ostrander related material out there this month for you to buy. You’d think it was Christmas or something.
In the previous column occupying this space, I talked about the first volume of my Heroes For Hire series put out by Marvel. This week we’ll look at Volume 5 of Suicide Squad from DC that is coming out December 27. This one is titled Apokolips Now and the major story arc in the volume takes the Squad to the home of the nastier set of New Gods, Apokolips.
Lots of stuff happens in this volume. Three members of the team die, some walk away, some long running subplots are put to rest – including the revelation that Barbara Gordon is Oracle. By the end the volume, the Squad’s existence has been exposed and so has Waller’s running of the team… and she winds up in prison. Lots of story is crammed into this one TPB.
I want to focus for the moment on the first story in Volume 5. It’s one of the Personal Files that my late wife and co-writer, Kim Yale, and I would do from time to time. Each Personal File would center on one character and through them we would see other members of the team. There was never a mission in the Personal Files; you could think of it as an “All Sub-Plot” issue but I think they were highly effective and, as I recall, very popular with the readers.
This time we focused on Father Richard Craemer who was the spiritual adviser to the Squad. That probably sounds odd but the Squad was secretly headquartered in Belle Reve prison that had an active convict population and Craemer was also prison chaplain. In addition, Craemer was also a qualified psychological therapist and served the Squad that way as well.
Craemer is one of my favorite characters and Kim and I had a very definite agenda in creating and using him. At the time, almost every time you would get a priest or minister or preacher of what have you in comics, they were hypocrites – venal, and frankly rather despicable characters. That simply wasn’t either my nor Kim’s experience. That’s not to say those types aren’t out there and the revelation of pederasts among the clergy is well documented and, frankly, sickening. But not every member of the clergy is like that. It became a cliché, a stereotype.
However, Kim and I both had near relatives who were in the clergy. Kim’s father, the Reverend Richard Yale, was an Episcopal minister, a Navy chaplain and a counselor. My mother’s sister, Sister Mary Craemer, was an administrator at Mundelein College in Chicago and later was very active on behalf of senior citizens. Both were very good people and we wanted a character who would reflect that. And as you may have noticed, we borrowed from the names of them both to create the name of our character.
Father Craemer has a lot of humility and a great sense of humor which he needs in dealing with Waller and the members of the Squad. He listens and he treats everyone with empathy. It’s a known fact of my background that I studied to be a priest (one year, in my freshman year in high school, and my so-called “vocation” came from an overdose of Going My Way). It’s possible that Craemer, to some extent, might be a projection of what I would have hoped I would be as a priest. Not entirely; Kim was a part of his make-up as well.
Craemer has sessions with several members of the Squad and its support staff; the session with Count Vertigo dealing with manic/depression comes to mind and I’ve heard from those in that community that it was a very accurate portrayal.
I so enjoyed Father Craemer that when he left the Squad I brought him over to The Spectre to be the spiritual advisor to the Wrath of God. Craemer never got the easy gigs.
All in all, I think Richard Craemer was a very successful character and there’s a reason for it. We thought the character through. Just don’t write the cliché. If that sounds obvious, well, a lot of basic writing rules are obvious.
So run out and get yourself a copy of the latest Suicide Squad collection. Get several. Give them out as gifts. People will thank you. And if they don’t, well… I do.
My friend Brian Skelley recently e-mailed me a question that gave me some pause: what is the difference between an anti-hero and a villain? Having trafficked in anti-heroes for some time, you’d think I know but I had to parse it out.
As I postulated it to Brian the basic answer was that the anti-hero is the protagonist of a given story; the villain is often the antagonist which makes him a support character. The main purpose of any supporting character is to bring out some side or aspect of the main character, the protagonist. A villain can be the protagonist; I’ve written stories where the Joker is the main character, for example, or with Captain Boomerang, neither of whom could be called a hero in the conventional sense.
The anti-hero doesn’t display the usual heroic attributes such as courage, empathy, decency, integrity and so on. They don’t care about the common good; they care about #1. Some, like John Gaunt (GrimJack) may have their own code but one of the questions I put to myself when I began writing GrimJack was “how do you make a moral choice in an amoral world?” I once had Gaunt shoot a guy in the back and that alienated some readers. My response, then and now, was that Gaunt was never intended to be a role-model.
Whatever the anti-hero’s deficiencies, he or she are usually better than those surrounding him/her. Why are we rooting for the anti-hero to succeed? If we feel nothing for them, what is the point? At the very least, we need to be rooting for them to get away with whatever it is they are doing. We want Danny Ocean’s plan to rip off the casino to work, in part because (in the later movies) he’s played by George Clooney at his most charming.
For myself, I like working with anti-heroes more than the conventional heroes. I don’t know what it says about me to say that they seem to resonate more within me. I can more easily find something to identify with in the anti-hero than with the conventional hero. Writing Martian Manhunter was far more difficult for me than writing The Spectre. J’Onn J’Onzz was a far more decent being than Jim Corrigan. No doubt it points to some deficiency in me.
I guess I like my heroes more morally ambiguous. Certainly none of them have been more morally ambiguous than Amanda Waller not to mention the Squad as a concept. However, I’ve never considered Amanda to be an outright villain. Some folks who have written her took that tack, but I think she’s more interesting as an anti-hero. She has a conscience; she knows the difference between right and wrong. It doesn’t stop her from doing the bad things but she knows what she’s doing and does what she does deliberately. She hocks her soul for an ostensible greater good. What she does marks her as a villain; the reason she does it makes her a hero.
And then, of course, there’s Wasteland. Chock full of anti-heroes. We have a father who dissects his son’s biology teacher for traumatizing the boy. (Actually, by the end it’s a heart-warming tale… in a way.) I asked the reader to step inside the mind of a serial killer and, however briefly, identify with him. There have been occasions when I almost told a person, “You don’t want to mess with me. I wrote Wasteland.” That should scare most people.
It was announced this week that Stana Katic, who plays Detective Kate Beckett on the ABC series Castle, was not going to be asked back IF the series is renewed for a ninth season. The reason cited was cost cutting which also accounts for the shortened 13 episode season planned IF the show comes back.
The premise of the show is that mystery writer Richard Castle, played by Nathan Fillion, worms his way onto the NYPD and helps the detectives solve actual murder mysteries rather than the fictional ones he creates. Central to the series has also been his relationship with Beckett; he started by annoying her but, after as many complications and delays that the writers could conceive, they fell in love with each other, acknowledged they were in love, and finally married.
Which makes the loss of Katic/Beckett difficult to understand for me. The show may have been titled Castle, but its core was that relationship between the two leads. Yes, I originally tuned in the show because I had really enjoyed Fillion on Firefly (and the movie that concluded that series, Serenity) but it wasn’t the sometimes predictable mysteries or the often interminable story arcs that made me a big fan of the show. It was the relationships between the characters and central to it all was that relationship between Castle and Beckett. That WAS the show so far as I was concerned and has been since the first episode.
Look, I get the idea that the longer a show is on the more it costs to produce and ways need to be found to cut those costs. I would think that going to a 13 week season would do that but evidently not enough to suit the suits at ABC. However, it’s a big risk.
ABC and Fillion have both expressed confidence that the show can continue without Katic/Beckett but I’m not sure. One thing I have learned in comics over the years is that every time you make a big change in a title you run the risk of alienating the fans. The general reason for the gamble is that, hopefully, you will gain more new readers by making the change than the ones you will most certainly lose by making it. You don’t want to give readers a reason to stop reading.
Some titles seem immune to this for some reason. It almost doesn’t matter which creators are doing Superman, for example. The title is going to be there so long as DC keeps publishing. That’s less true for most comics, however, and even less true for most TV shows.
Could it work? Could ABC drop Katic/Beckett from Castle and hope for it to go on? Conceivably. There will be a curiosity value for some fans, at least for a few episodes. Might that bring in new viewers and/or old viewers who have been away? Conceivably. Much will depend on how they handle it starting with how they explain and then deal with the loss of Beckett. I don’t know how they’ll do it. I’m not privy to their thinking. It seems likely to me, however, that they will kill off the character. I suppose they could put her in an off screen coma but I suspect there will be a desire to close the door.
Given this great love the show has established between Castle and Beckett, Castle would have to grieve her death as part of Season 9. If they have him just go out and start romancing and/or bedding a flock of new ladies, that will be a problem for many viewers, myself included. I personally know what it’s like to lose someone you deeply love and that doesn’t get resolved in an hour minus commercials. That takes time. Castle himself would be changed by Beckett’s loss and, if he isn’t, that just trivializes the love affair that has been at the center of the show for eight seasons. It might even undercut the revenue that the reruns of the show generate on other channels.
ABC hasn’t definitively announced one way or the other if Castle is even renewed for that ninth year. My suggestion – don’t. If in order to bring the show back even for a shortened season they have to destroy the central relationship in the show, then don’t do it. Do something else. Let everyone involved go on to other work.
When Tom Mandrake and I were doing The Spectre at DC, we knew about a year ahead of time that the series would be ending due to slowly eroding sales. DC gave us the opportunity to end the book on our own terms and we were able to put a cap on it that made the entire run one story. The ending completed it.
Right now, the ones still watching Castle are the fans. Do the right thing, ABC. Don’t piss all over them. End the show and do it with some style.
Halloween was yesterday (if you’re reading this on Sunday); a time of ghosts and ghouls and little children strong arming adults for candy under the threat of “tricks.” Oh, also when the Great Pumpkin rises from a really sincere pumpkin patch to bring toys and presents to good little children all around the world. Or so I have been told.
And, of course, it’s time for ghost stories and horror stories and tales of things that go bump in the night and I’ve told a few of those myself, notably Wasteland. My most successful foray into the genre, though, probably was the run I did on The Spectre with Tom Mandrake for DC Comics back in the 1990s.
The Spectre was an interesting amalgam of both supernatural and superhero. Created in 1940 by Superman creator Jerry Siegel and artist Bernard Baily, the central character was hardnosed plainclothes detective Jim Corrigan who falls afoul of mobsters and is murdered. He’s sealed into a cement filled oil drum and dumped in the river. His soul, however, is unable to rest and an entity called “The Voice” sends him back as a vengeance-seeking ghost, a.k.a. The Spectre.
As the Spectre, Corrigan has unimaginable powers and abilities. And therein lay the problem. The only being more powerful than the Spectre would be God and only on days when God had been eating his Wheaties. How do you mount a credible threat to someone like that? If there is no risk, there’s no suspense and no story. The bad guy does bad things and the Spectre shows up and dispatches him, usually in a grisly fashion.
The Spectre never lasted long in his own series, although there were several attempts. The common wisdom was that you had to reduce the Spectre’s power to make a story. The problem with that was, in so doing, you lost some of the spectacular visuals that made the Spectre what he was. Why bother?
Tom Mandrake and I had been partners for a while, working on GrimJack and then on The Fury of Firestorm. The latter series was ending and we were looking for something new to do together. Both of us were long time fans of the Ghostly Guardian (as the Spectre was known) and campaigned to get to play with him. DC was leery; a recent attempt at doing a Spectre ongoing had been cancelled only a relatively short time before.
“Give him to us,” Tom and I told DC; “We know how to make him work.”
Editor and friend Dan Raspler took up our cause and got DC to agree based on our past track record together and how we pitched our concept for the relaunch.
It wasn’t the Spectre that we changed so much as it was his human counterpart, Jim Corrigan. Different versions of the story resurrected Corrigan and even set him at odds sometimes with the Spectre persona, which had taken up residence in Corrigan’s body. I felt that Corrigan himself had become something of a wimp. So, first of all, Tom and I declared that Corrigan was dead and had been dead since the 1940s. That was his tragedy. Sometimes, he fooled himself into thinking he was alive but he was, in fact, dead.
Second, Corrigan had been a plainclothes police detective back in the 40s. He was hard-boiled. Go back and watch the police movies from back then; hell, go read the early Dick Tracy strips. Hard, tough, and not afraid to use violence and even death to achieve justice. This, we felt, was why he was given the power of the Spectre and informed how that power was used. The Spectre may have had the power of a god but he had the perspective of a mortal man, a very flawed mortal man.
We decided that “The Voice” was short for The Voice of God and the Spectre himself became the Wrath of God. In a way, he was an aspect of God, specifically of Jehovah – and a very Old Testament Jehovah at that. The Spectre had been the Angel of Death that had culled the first born of Egypt. At one point, the Spectre entity rebelled against mercy and so it was decreed it that it had to be united with a human soul in order to walk the Earth, the theory being that the human could temper the Wrath of God. However, when you had a human as liable to rage and outrage as Jim Corrigan, that wasn’t always true.
This enabled us to keep the spectacular visuals and outrageous stunts, the iconography that gave readers a reason to come to the Spectre in the first place and still allow us to construct stories. The Spectre wasn’t vulnerable but Corrigan was.
Corrigan was also weary; since the 1940s he had tried to eradicate evil and the world had only gotten darker. He was very near despair and facing an existential crisis. That also gave us a platform for our stories; we asked questions on the nature of punishment, despair, and redemption. We posed ethical and theological questions. I was less interested in giving answers to those questions, which I felt the readers could and should provide for themselves.
This is all very cerebral. I know. What really made the book sing was Tom’s artwork. This is the character that Tom Mandrake was born to draw and over and over again I looked for situations that played to his myriad strengths. Hey, as they said in The Producers, “When you got it, flaunt it, baby, flaunt it!”
What added to the run were the covers; each issue had a different artist and each artist presented their own interpretation of the character, often telling their own story in one image. Likewise, the letter page (helmed by Peter Tomasi who started as the assistant editor on the book and later became the book’s editor) also delved into the topics raised by the story, creating an interesting discussion between Pete and the reader. All in all, it was quite a package.
We went on for five years and we learned that our run was nearing an end. We were given a year’s notice and permission to wind up the story our way. This is really rare. Corrigan had grown during the run of issues we did and, in our last issue, he gave up being the Spectre to go on to his final reward. That’s also unusual. With that ending, we were able to tie up our entire series and make it all one story. It completed what Tom and I were doing in a way that one rarely gets to do.
Tom and I are playing with the horror genre again as we work on Kros: Hallowed Ground. We’re both very excited by it; this is the first time we’ve played with the horror genre together since The Spectre. Expectations may be high; The Spectre was one of the high-water marks in both our careers. We feel confident but not cocky. The Spectre was very much of its time and where we were in our careers but I think it also stands up today. Two TPBs have been issued from DC gathering some of the early issues; I hope they go on to collect the others as well.
What? No I didn’t promise that I wouldn’t write about Batman Eternal this week, I promised I’d try. Also I’m not really writing about the year-long Batman story that is certainly living up to its name, so chillax. (Chillax. How is that even a word? Sounds like a murder weapon in Alaska.) This week I’m writing about what came after Batman Eternal #29. With a little of what came after Batman Eternal #34 thrown in. Which means what I’m writing about is Arkham Manor #1.
In Batman Eternal #29, Arkham Asylum – the hospital for the criminally insane located on the outskirts of Gotham City that houses Joker, Two-Face, Mister Zsasz, and most of the rest of Batman’s rogue gallery – blew up. Although how and why isn’t really important what the hell, I’ve got some time to kill. To put it succinctly, Deacon Blackfire, a magically delicious villain was using his magic in a fight with Jim Corrigan in the tunnels below Arkham Asylum. Blackfire was attempting to pull the Spectre, the ghostly spirit of God’s vengeance that lives inside of Corrigan’s body, out of Corrigan’s body. But Blackfire wasn’t adept enough for this kind of magic and in Batman Eternal # 29, his attempts resulted in …
Usually, this is where I’d warn you I’m going to tell you how Batman Eternal #29 ended. This time I’m not. Arkham Manor #1 came out about a month before Batman Eternal # 29, even though it takes place after that story, and it gave away the ending to Batman Eternal #29. If DC didn’t mind spoiling its own story, why should I?
… an explosion. An explosion which caused Arkham Asylum to collapse in on itself in Batman Eternal #30.
Hundreds of people died when Arkham Asylum came tumbling down. But wouldn’t you know it, they were incidental deaths. Collateral damage, as it were. Somehow Joker, Two-Face, Mister Zsasz, and most of the rest of Batman’s rogue gallery survived.
Arkham Asylum’s destruction left Mayor Hady and Gotham City with a big question, where to put “the city’s most dangerous lunatics.” Any time someone suggested a possible new location for all those dangerous lunatics, the citizens of Gotham City basically responded, “Not in my backyard.” Even the ones who lived in brownstones and didn’t have back yards.
Fortunately for Mayor Hady and the city fathers, in Batman Eternal #34 the federal government seized control of Wayne Enterprises and all of its assets. I talked about the how and why of this three weeks ago, so you can go there to read about it, if you don’t already know. (BTW, I really recommend that you go to my old column to read about how and why the Feds took over Wayne Enterprises rather than reading Batman Eternal #34. Not because my new web-based home for the column needs the hits, I just think the experience will be more pleasant.)
Anyway, Bruce Wayne was left largely penniless. (Well, he does have this one giant penny sitting around doing nothing, but I’m not sure it’s negotiable.) Bruce had moved out of Wayne Manor and was living in an apartment in Gotham City. So Gotham City used eminent domain to take over Wayne Manor and make it Arkham Manor, the new home for Gotham’s criminally insane.
Eminent domain, the process by which the government may take private property for public use, is not a new concept. The concept dates back to biblical times, when King Ahab of Israel, offered to purchase the vineyards of one of his subjects, Naboth. Naboth declined Ahab’s offer, so Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, framed Naboth for blasphemy and had him stoned to death. After which Ahab got the vineyards. Since that time, they’ve refined the concept of eminent domain. It’s a little more fair and a little less killy. After the French Revolution, the French formally adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in 1789. Among it’s provisions is the sentence, “Property being an inviolable and sacred right no one can be deprived of it, unless the public necessity plainly demands it, and upon condition of a just and previous indemnity.” The Founding Fathers drafted similar language in the Fifth Amendment of Constitution of the United States, “nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.” Like I said, a little less killy. (Yes, there’s a bit of a history lesson here, but history is important. To paraphrase George Santayana; those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Usually in summer school.)
So Gotham City decided to take Wayne Manor through eminent domain and convert it to Arkham Manor. In order to invoke eminent domain, the government must prove four elements” 1) there’s some private property, that 2) the government plans to take, for 3) a public use, after 4) making just compensation to the owner of the property.
Wayne Manor is clearly the private property of Bruce Wayne. Yes, even though the federal government seized Wayne Enterprises’s assets, Wayne Manor would probably still have been Bruce’s property. Remember, Wayne Enterprises was a corporation. The reason a business incorporates is to protect the property of the owners from lawsuits. After the corporation is created, it becomes a legal entity of it’s own and is solely responsible for its actions. If the corporation is sued, those harmed by the corporation can seize the corporate assets but not the assets of the corporation’s owners, that is to say the shareholders.
When the Wayne family established Wayne Enterprises, none of their lawyers would have allowed the Waynes to transfer ownership of Wayne Manor over to the corporation. Such an act would have completely negated the whole reason behind creating the corporation in the first place, limited liability. An attorney would have to be the Chief O’Hara of lawyers to let a client do something that stupid. So let’s assume, even after the Feds seized Wayne Enterprises, Bruce Wayne still owned Wayne Manor.
The government wanted to take Wayne Manor and convert it into a hospital to house the criminally insane, which would be a public use. The only question left would be the just compensation element.
Usually the just compensation happens this way. The government makes an offer which it considers to be fair market value for the property. Generally it’s a lowball offer, because we all know the government never overpays for anything. The property owner rejects the offer as too low and makes a counter offer of what the owner thinks is fair market value. Generally it’s high. The two parties negotiate over what is a fair market value for the property. If they reach an agreement, that amount is paid and the government takes over the property. If the two parties can’t reach an agreement, then they go to court and there’s a condemnation hearing during which the court will determine fair market value.
Sometimes the property owner doesn’t want to lose his property. So he might argue that the taking isn’t for public use. Again there’s a condemnation hearing, this time to determine whether the intended use is really a public use. If the judge rules it is a public use, the condemnation goes forward. I’ve never been able to figure out why these are called condemnation proceedings. No one is condemning the property, they’re just putting it to a new and different use.
None of those steps happened in the case of Wayne Manor. Why not? It wasn’t because the story got the law wrong. It was because Bruce Wayne knew he presently didn’t have the assets needed to maintain Wayne Manor or, in all probability, pay its property taxes. Bruce also believed his father, a doctor who advocated for better treatment of the mentally ill, would have given Wayne Manor to the city in the face of this emergency were he still alive. So Bruce voluntarily agreed to the condemnation proceedings and gave up Wayne Manor.
Bruce apparently believed in the old concept of noblesse oblige. And that makes him a better man than I am. Me, I would have held out for some money from Gotham City. Maybe I wouldn’t have soaked them, but if I just lost my personal fortune and was sitting on a house that was easily worth ten or twenty – and more probably thirty or forty – million dollars that the government wanted to buy, I would have wanted a little something something to get myself back on my financial feet.
But Bruce asked for nothing. He let his ancestral home go not for a pittance, not for a song but for nothing. Because he felt it was his duty. With a sense of noblesse oblige that strong, had Bruce lived back in the times of Caesar, he would have been the noblesse Roman of them all.
We distinguish “pop culture” from “High Culture” usually because the main objective of “pop culture” is to entertain while “High Culture” looks into the human condition. It can entertain and should. Tragedy should entertain but in ways that are different from, say, Guardians of the Galaxy. But that is not its primary purpose.
That said, pop culture can also look into the human condition, into the world around us, and “hold a mirror up to nature.” That line is from Shakespeare who is very High Culture now but in his day was disparaged by some as being “too popular.” He appealed to the groundlings – those in the cheap seats – and that is part of the reason, I believe, that he is still so playable today. He knew that to reach someone’s mind and heart you first had to get their attention. The best way was to tell them a story.
That was a lesson that was also taught to me by our own Denny O’Neil. He has been a large-scale influence in my life. I was a fan when he wrote some seminal stories in the Green Lantern/Green Arrow book. The Green Lantern series had low numbers at that point and he was given an opportunity to write it; I once read that he liked the assignment because it was no fail. If he saved the book, that was great. If it got cancelled anyway, management would assume that the book was in a downward spiral and couldn’t be saved. In a way, he couldn’t lose. So he added Green Arrow, got Neal Adams as artist, and took a new path.
That has also influenced my career path; I liked taking on the B list characters. You could play with them, change them, without too much objections by the Higher Ups. You could take chances you might not be able to do with flagship titles. Don’t get me wrong; I would have loved to get a crack at a regular Superman or Batman gig (I did write some stories with the characters but never a regular book) but I found The Spectre to be wide open and Tom Mandrake and I crafted over 60 issues of which I am proud. It’s been one of the highlights of my career.
While ultimately Green Lantern/Green Arrow did get cancelled, Denny set a standard. He taught me that you could write about important subjects, about the issues surrounding that time, and create something that entertained as well as make you think. He addressed racism, drugs, even the environment (among other topics); that wasn’t being done at the time. He showed me what the potential of the medium could be.
He’s never forgotten, however, that the purpose of Pop Culture is to entertain. We were working on a project together with me as writer and he as editor. The purpose of the project was very definitely to make a comment on the subject of guns and gun violence. His direction was very clear. He told me that, in comics, “You can say anything you want but first you have to tell a story.” This wasn’t a pulpit and preaching isn’t narrative. Our first job was to tell a good story. That’s what the reader was paying to get. That was the job. It still is.