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Old 06-08-2010, 04:03 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ender View Post
Well yeah, I didn't think "Identity Crisis" was "dark" in a 90s sort of way (which is to say, a stupid way), but it was clearly much more grim and pathos-filled than a normal JLA story.



With different characters, I might have thought IC was a pretty decent story (although I would probably still think the reveal of the culprit was dumb. Sorry, I really can't get over that). But as a JLA story, it felt really inappropriate.

Now, I'm not one of those protectionists who sits around and gripes about how they've "ruined" my favorite characters and wants to turn the clock back to the 70s. Quite the opposite, I'm always in favor of shaking up the status quo in a long-running series. I'm one of those guy who actually liked Bucky as Cap more than Steve Rogers and thought Hal Jordan should have stayed dead (although even I have to admit that since he came back the book has seriously kicked ass).

Even so, there's a right way and a wrong way to do it. Putting characters like the Atom and Ralph Dibny in a story like "Identity Crisis" is like putting Luke Skywalker in "The Matrix".
Few things about this. I, for one, LOVE D and F list characters, love them. I think some of the best work in comics comes from books featuring D and F list characters. I loved "Formerly known as the Justice League" and "I can't believe its not the justice league", when Keith Giffen decided recently to do a new Justice League book with the remants of that old Giffen era league, I was all for it. To me, a Justice league with Fire, Ice, Booster Gold and Captain Atom as the only four people in the world who know Maxwell Lord is an evil sum-bitch, and who have to team up to A) convince the rest of the world, and B) stop Max, is very, very interesting in a way that only Giffen could bring it.

I also love Gail Simone's Birds of Prey and Secret Six, and I think that Green Lantern Corps is an excellent team book. I will agree that context matters, and that sometimes, characters are shoe-horned into a book/movie/whatever based on editorial fiat, and not on whether or not them fit in with the plot. That was my problem with the Ang Lee Hulk movie, and with various other movie projects over the years. I'm not sure Identity Crisis fits in with this. I mean, its one thing to say that a big story should have big characters. You seemed to like 52, and that was a book staring people who most people who don't read comics have probably never heard of.

Therefore, I am curious to know exactly how you felt the characters didn't fit the story.




Quote:
Originally Posted by Ender View Post
Like I said, I give Meltzer credit for being daring and provocative. But I honestly don't think that at the end of "Identity Crisis" that the state of affairs in DC Comics was better than when it started, and worse, I wasn't even all that entertained by the trip to get there.
That's an interesting way to look at it, did something make the state of affairs in DC comics worse. By that metric, something like "War Games" which was the absolutely worst cluster-fuck of a crossover I have ever read, or "Final Crisis" (which proves Grant Morrison is but human) which was an equally big mess, should never have been done (they shouldn't have). Now, by state of affairs, its a little unclear what you mean, did you mean the DCU (in which case, making things worse is part of the writer's job) as a fictional universe, or did you mean DC publishing, as a corporate entity (whose job it is to sell books)?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ender View Post
This is a bit like the gripes people have about Marvel's "Civil War", except that I thought "Civil War" was at least an entertaining read. Less daring and less nuanced than "Identity Crisis", but at least "Civil War" really felt like an Avengers story.
I thought Civil War was mediocre, so I guess it takes all types to make the world. In fact, one thing I would say is that DC does crossovers, and event books, way better than Marvel does. The only Marvel crossover stuff that I dug was annihilation (the space based one), I thought that was very cool. I thought "Planet Hulk" was a terrific story, one of the best things I've read, but that "World War Hulk" (the ensuing mega-crossover) was a total mess.

I will say this for Civil War, though, some of the plot lines that happened were interesting. The idea of the super-hero registration act, Peter Parker and what happened with him, very interesting stuff. Civil War, to me, was a book that had a great idea, a terrific premise, but which faltered in its execution of that premise. The history of comics is a testament that execution trumps premise every single time. The greatest books have both, but if you have to pick one, go with execution. Civil War just didn't have it, maybe it was because the book was chronically late, but the pacing of it just felt out of whack for me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ender View Post
It is a deeply confusing sentiment, isn't it?

His comments, in effect, were that he felt like people regarded superhero conventions as a bit silly and unintentionally comedic today, and he wanted to write a story showing why the medium exists in the form it does (which is a good idea, IMHO). Hence, "Identity Crisis" is a story about why those masks and costumes and secret identities really aren't silly Silver Age relics, they're vitally important to what these characters do.

Nice sentiment, but I have two problems with it, one being that the scene that really drives this home becomes a bit of unintentional comedy in itself because the guy talking about the importance of masks is Green Arrow, quite possibly the only person in the WORLD that even Superman could look down on as being poorly disguised (that nose, that chin, that stache and beard combo, and that hair can NOT be adequately concealed with a domino mask that spans about a half inch of flesh around the eyes), and the second one being that while he went above and beyond to defend the conventions of those old stories, he walked all over their spirit.
There is, FWIW, an inherent contradiction at the heart of IC, and that's a big reason why I don't elevate it to the ranks of the best crossover books I've read, and why its a step, or two, behind. The best ones I've read are books like "52" and "Blackest Night" and "Sinestro Corps War". The inherent plot contradiction is that IC was supposed to be a story, like you said, about the mask, and why the mask was needed, but, if you read the entire thing, you'll notice that the murderer, at the end, was someone who was on the inside, thus rendering Green Arrow's point about the mask completely irrelevant. The murderer wasn't Captain Cold, or the Joker, or Lex Luthor, someone for whom the disguise would be a relevant reason.

I, too, thought that the big reveal at the end of issue one was dumb, at the time, which is why I dropped the book for the next two issues, before picking it up again at #4. That, and the point I made above, is the reason why I don't rank IC at the very top of the list, or why I rank Metzer at the very top of the list. Would I rank Metzer as a top ten comic book writer? Probably. Would I rank him in the top five? No. To me, that's "Pretty Good", I thought his twelve issue Justice League Run was better than IC, so there's more than one thing he's written.

The thing with IC that's had fall-out though, from the time it was written, to this one, is what happened in issue #6. The effects of it are still being felt to this day, and at the time, it was very controversial (and is still a by-word for comic book controversy). It did make you look at certain characters in a very different way. I can understand the sentiment that it was walking all over the spirit of the silver age, but I do think part of what Metzer was getting at was not only trying to refute some of the mis-conceptions about that age, but trying to get that age to grow up. Whether he did or not is an open question. I can totally understand your point, the spirit of the silver age is that heroes acted like heroes, and anyone who read IC #6 can tell that there, heroes definitely did not. That's uncomfortable.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ender View Post
I totally agree, I think Johns is an incredible writer who has done a lot of good for the genre. While I was wholly unimpressed with "Reborn" (felt less like a story that should be told as much as a chore that had to be gotten through to open the door for future stories), "Sinestro Corps War" was easily one of the best superhero comics I've ever read. Granted, it was more space opera than superhero, but being able to dip into sci fi is just one of the perks of writing Green Lantern.

And that's just the thing, I'd much rather read "Blackest Night" or "52" than "Identity Crisis". For that matter, I'd even rather read something like "The Death of Captain America", which was light years in tone away from the Cap stories of yore but still managed to do credit and homage to the series' roots while telling a much different, much more grounded, mature, and gripping story. I think Brubaker did what Meltzer wanted to do but couldn't, and at the end of the day, that's what really counts, not what story you're telling but whether you can tell it well.
That's why I love Johns, too. Have you managed to catch "Absolute Justice", the two hour smallville episode he wrote? The best episode of the series, IMHO, nothing short of sheer brilliance. I think if Johns isn't the best writer in the business today, than its Brubaker. I thought him leaving DC for Marvel was a great career move. Brubaker was a good DC writer (Gotham Central, which he co-wrote with Rucka, is amongst my favs) but he's a top two in the entire industry writer with Marvel. His immortal Iron Fist is a great book, Secret Avengers is, I think top of the line, his x-men was above average, and his Daredevil is the best stuff on the character since Miller. However, his top book, is Captain America. The winter soldier, the death of Steve Rodgers, making me spend two years reading a captain america book without Captain America in it, all of that is why I love comics, and why I'm a fan. I thought Reborn was good, but not great. What really makes the run on Cap the stuff of legends, though, is what happens in issues #1 - 42, that's the best 42 issue run. Only John's Green Lantern competes and can be held in the same breath, for me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ender View Post
For the most part that's true, although one of the great things about All-Star Superman is that it shows that even a Silver Age-style story can appeal to a modern, adult audience if it's in the hands of a good enough writer.
I dug All-Star Superman too, Grant Morrison is hit or miss, for me (like I said). I thought Seven Soldiers was fantastic, I loved All-star Superman, loved his work on "52", and I think that his Batman and Robin is a very good book. I'm also digging his Return of Bruce Wayne. However, I didn't like his x-men run, his JLA run, or Final Crisis.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ender View Post
Oh yeah, a huge part of Western literature has just been telling and retelling "The Iliad" until everyone is blue in the face with it.

But I have a totally different take on things, I think that that Ancient Greek style of storytelling is actually what comics used to be about in the Pre-Crisis era. Every month you had a similar (or even the exact same) story with small variations, and stories were designed to be more or less self-contained. I'm not detracting from those old comics, but even something as artsy and experimental as Eisner's "The Spirit" was careful to avoid very many radical changes and to keep each story an island unto itself.

Modern comics, on the other hand, bend over backwards (much too far, if you ask me) to create "continuity". Writers and editors want a continuous, dynamic story that takes place in a shared, narratively consistent universe. This really isn't much like the Ancient Greek style at all; in those days you didn't come back next year to hear a story about what Odysseus did after he finally got back to Ithaca and pay close attention to whether it's consistent and "In continuity" with last year's story about Agamemnon.
This works both ways. For the record, to me, The Iliad is the greatest work of western civilization. In terms of song, it has to rank as the all-time #1 greatest hit. I have a lower opinion of the Odyssey, and would probably rank the Mahabarata in between the two in terms of ancient classics.

I can see what you're saying about continuity. I think its DC that bends over backwards for that more than Marvel. For Marvel, continuity is "I got better", for DC, they did an entire maxi-crossover attempting to explain their own continuity (Infinite Crisis). The Ancients, though, were definitely interested, to a huge degree in "the rest of the story", and in adding onto what the stock mythology was in a way that correlated with the stories already told. A look at the dead sea scrolls (ie, "the books that didn't make it into the Bible") shows this need of the ancients, just like us today, to know more about the story. That was more my point, on a larger level. I would agree that there's nothing in history just like modern comics, but there's also nothing modern that's "just like" the ancient city dionysius.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ender View Post
Well, that's a whole different can of worms. The real value in what Siegel and Schuster created is in making one of the most recognizable and profitable trademarks in American history.

That suit has almost nothing to do with the nuances of storytelling and everything to do with the marketability of that S logo and the countless billions of dollars that can be reaped in merchandising fees for whoever owns it, regardless of whether there's any comics written or not. Which is almost certainly not a good thing, but that's the way it is.
I agree its not a good thing. Seigel and Schuster were the first, and for that, they deserve credit, but Supeman, without the seventy years of stories and additions and subtractions that took place after Seigel and Schuster, are nowhere near as popular as they are today. Without the distribution and the marketing that took place back in the thirties (publishing something back then was VERY different than it is today) Superman is not as successful. Inventing the logo isn't enough. For all the writers, artists, and people who contributed to Superman over the decades, and who made him the second most recognizable character on the planet (behind Mickey Mouse), where's their parade?
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