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Old 07-20-2010, 05:31 PM
Originally Posted by Ender View Post
Ditto. Sorry for not being very speedy with my replies lately, but you know how it goes, only so many hours in the day.
I understand, maybe as well as anyone. Busy, busy, busy, but I really do appreciate you taking the time. I love internet forums, but all too often, the discussion isn’t very sophisticated. Its really nice to discuss comics with someone whose obviously a hard-core fan, and who knows their stuff, its these discussions that I love, and its what makes me a fan. Reading comics is great, but talking comics? Even better. Its why I’m such a big backer of the monthly format, as opposed to the trade, with the monthly, you read an issue, then yack about it with your friends online, and in real life. Its more expensive, but the experience? The opportunities for learning? Priceless.

Originally Posted by Ender View Post
To a degree this is less about that particular story as about the bigger issue of whether it's acceptable to depict hero characters as utilizing lethal means. Two camps basically break down to those who point out that in real life suggesting that police or soldiers utilize only non-lethal methods is both impossible and a little absurd (I've heard both Mark Millar and Ed Brubaker argue that it would be impossible for Captain America to have fought in World War 2 without killing anyone), the other contending that since this is fantasy and these characters are supposed to represent a higher ideal then it doesn't matter if it's plausible.

I tend to come down in a weird middleground where it not only depends on the character and on the situation, but also on some bigger plausibility issues. To me, if these characters are so often employing world-shattering power against each other but never inflicting anything that looks like serious injury (how many superheroes have significant scars, or even any real bruising after a fight?) it not only strains credibility but it makes it hard to care about what's going on.

If a supposed knockdown dragout brawl only has fewer lasting effects than your average pillow fight, it's difficult to be invested in such scenes or view them as having any degree of drama. The fact that entire landscapes, cities, or ocassionaly planets are being devestated while at the same time no named character suffers anything more than a split lip just makes it even more comical. This doesn't have much to do with Max Lord I realize, but the point is there are only so many ways to non-lethally defeat someone and we've seen them all wornout by now.
I remember, once, a long time ago, my comic book store guy and I were talking about Batman: Cataclysm, the book where the earthquake hit Gotham, and my CBSG, went on to say that one of the things about modern comics is the progression towards what you’re talking about: disasters are more permanent. After the earthquake struck Gotham, you turned the page, picked up the next issue after that story arc was complete, and it looked like nothing ever happened. Gotham was Gotham, same ol’ same ol’. I remember reading Infinite Crisis, where Kal-L was on earth two, and he saw all the people and places, but everything seemed blank and hollow. You half expected that he would open the door to the Daily Star, and there wouldn’t be a paper office, just a fašade, and a sound stage, like they had in old Hollywood pictures. That’s kinda what Gotham had become, you blow it up, and you just get a new building fašade for next week.

However, these days, when a disaster hits, it is more permanent. Emerald Dawn had the destruction of coast city, a thing that’s still being rebuilt. So, there might be different rules for a place like Gotham and one like Coast City, but still.

However, getting to your larger point, the idea that there are only so many ways to non-lethally defeat someone. At DC, at least they try to offer you an explanation, at Marvel, they rely on the Jedi Mind trick. This is most evident when they’re bringing people back from the dead, the marvel way is:

Kitty: Colossus, there you are! Where have you been? We were all so worried, we had a funeral, buried your body, and everything.

Colossus: Yeah, I was in that other room.

Kitty: What other room? Can we talk about it?

Colossus: No, not right now, we have to save the world, we can talk about it later.

Kitty: But….

Colossus: I said, there’s no time, we can talk about it later.

The basics of it is that Colossus just walks in the room and he “got better”. Similar points can be made with your point about Non-lethal force, you are correct that there are only so many ways to kill a person, and that they’ve kinda run the gamut. Both companies are guilty of this, from Batman “dieing” ( and then it being revealed that he didn’t really die, only traveled in time) by being blasted by Darkseid’s Omega Beams, to how Thor died (a crazy scarlet witch, who used chaos magic), both companies embrace the otherworldly, the unreal. However, just as often, Jason Todd dies by being blown up and beaten with a crowbar, and Captain America dies by a simple gunshot wound. I would argue that its this range of material that is the strength of comics, and I don’t see the need for comics to “make up its mind”.

Originally Posted by Ender View Post
Well, except that this is comics and she could very easily have just incapcitated him through some improbable means and broken the control by, oh, I don't know, channeling part of her soul into him or as you suggested having Metron alter time or something else that doesn't really make sense. You know, the stuff they usually do, and which a lot of people would have preferred had happened, but which probably would have made a weaker finish overall. Here we have another disconnect between Silver Age conventions and modern-style storytelling, you can't have a more gritty, believable, dramatic and emotionally investing story and still constantly fall back on pulp-era conventions to take the edges off. Well, you can, but you risk looking ridiculous. Modern comics seem to want to have it both ways, or maybe more appropriately, they can't decide which way they want it.
Leaving aside that I think this combination, used with consistency is what makes comics great, let’s address the question. Remember Batman Begins? A lot of people who watched that movie made exactly the point you just did: here was a movie that was dead serious the entire time, and how did it end? It had the classic movie train blowing up the city, or vaporizing the drinking water into fear gas, or whatever, type of ending. Begins seemed to want to have it both ways, with an pulp ending to take the edge off a very dark movie. I agree that when these schools of thought are combined into one story, the clash can be problematic, but people in all forms of media make that mistake. I have no problem with the pulpy “otherworldly” aspect of Batman (he knows Jason Blood, for crying out loud) and I have no problem with the joker bent on a real world massacre. I would agree with the need to keep those separate, but I think there’s a place in comics for both.

Looking back on Begins, its obvious why Nolan went the route that he did. The thing with movies is that they answer to the suits, and to the audience, in terms of financial restitution. Batman, at the time, was a property in the gutter, and Nolan had to show people it could be turned around. He needed a hit movie, or the character might not be used again for decades. So, he compromised. In the dark knight, we got a movie that was Nolan, that was his kind of story-telling, through and through, and that didn’t have the compromises of being something for everyone. If you read established comics, where a writer has managed to institutionalize his book, and therefore, has pretty much complete creative freedom, and doesn’t have to worry about sales, you get a much more consistent work. I’m thinking of Fables, by Willingham. That book can be very edgey, but it can also be pulpy and fluffed, just never in the same story, and it can be that way because the book is popular enough to have a devout following, so the sales are consistent.

Originally Posted by Ender View Post
The root of the matter for me is that I'm an old-fashioned kind of guy. I like the bad guy to get his comeuppance in the end and I like for stories to come to more or less morally satisfying outcomes. I don't mean to say that every story must end in such a conventional manner or that a story with a more complex, ambiguous ending is a bad one, but just that I'm a fan of that style of storytelling in general.

Comics would seem to fit that handy, satisfying narrative, except of course that they never actually do. A villain who loses has never really lost, and his punishment, even when it is occasionally death, never lasts. It's hard to find the finale of a story satisfying when you know perfectly well that the bad guy is getting off scott free (regardless of how it may appear at the time) and that he will return in six months, more powerful than ever, and likely kill dozens if not thousands of more people.

In the old days the fluffy, pulp-style storytelling took the edge off of this, but modern stories are much grittier and more grounded and it's harder to sweep that stuff under the rug. And like I said, I'm not saying I'd like EVERY bad guy to get his due or EVERY story to come to a neat and tidy ending, that would get dull pretty fast, but isn't it sort of aggravating that almost by definition such things NEVER happen, and basically never will so long as the series continues?

And the fact that the only lasting change that we can get instead is stuff that plays with the depictions of the characters and generally tarnishes their images for the sake of introducing layers of ambiguity, while not always bad in itself (though frequently bad in execution) just makes things even more, wel, as much as I usually hate to cite TvTropes, the term "crapsack world" comes to mind.
I’m actually pretty old-school myself, but the idea that old-school means satisfying conclusions and the bad guy getting punched in the face is a bit of a misnomer. That is what Silver Age comics were, but if you go back to the Golden Age, specifically, the time period at the start of the fifties, and the end of the second world war, you’ll see an explosion of styles and creative strategies the likes of which comics hasn’t seen since. This is when comics were “newer” so there was a great deal of experimentation going around (especially with the war-time rationing of paper no longer in effect) Comics today are more formulaic, and lord only knows I’m as big a fan of the “morality tale” as a format, as anyone, but I think ambiguity is a good thing. It forces us to think, which is also, I think, a good thing. I would never want the morality tale to die off as a format, and I’d never want to read a book where I was sure the bad guy wouldn’t get punched in the face, but I would also not want to read one where I was sure that was going to happen.

I understand what you mean about permanent penalties and permanment changes, not every change has to have a bad-guy get punished.

Originally Posted by Ender View Post
Actually, I disagree, to a point. Loeb's recent work is abysmal to a degree I can hardly believe. However, at one time he was an incredibly sophisticated writer. "The Long Halloween" is my favorite Batman story, not just because it's a solid, entertaining story but because I consider it incredibly literary and sophisticated.

Loeb does some fascinating things thematically in that story, playing with the basic concepts of gender, alienation, identity, and how we cope when our heroes fail us. Granted, it's rough around the edges (Loeb's...habit of...using all those...strange...ubiquitous...ellipses can really...get on your nerves), but I'm so fascinated by the depth and sophistication of that book and its sequel "Dark Victory" that I actually wrote a rather length academic essay on it that has since just been chilling on my hard drive because, well, what format could I possibly submit it in?

So i think Loeb is a great writer. Or at least, he was fifteen years ago. These days...well, I'm sure you read "Ultimatum", God help you. "Hush" is a strange midway point in his career; not as good as his 90s stuff, but not nearly as bad as the trainwrecks he's put together for Marvel.
I haven’t picked up a single Loeb comic book since he left DC and went to Marvel. Why? Because I remember his marvel work from his first run with the company. I remember Hulk Gray, Spiderman Blue and Daredevil Yellow. The first two were awful, and Daredevil Yellow was only passable. Its obvious that Loeb doesn’t care for, or doesn’t understand, Marvel characters, and until he can demonstrate that he does, I won’t buy his work from that company. So, I missed “Ultimatum”, and thus far, very few people I’ve talked with have anything positive to say about Loeb’s marvel work, so I’ll continue to avoid buying any of it.

His DC work though, showed, I felt, a genuine fondness for the characters that his marvel work just doesn’t show. I thoroughly enjoyed the Long Halloween and Dark Victory, (I agree with you, The long Halloween is as nuanced a book as there is, to the point where, in The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne repeats the cliche of the Long Halloween in the middle of the dinner party, that he “believes in Harvey Dent”. That’s Nolan tipping his hat to a great work, by referencing its obvious influences on the movie) and I thought some of the best popcorn entertainment I’ve ever read was his twenty five issue Superman/Batman run. That was simple story-telling, no grim, no grit, well executed, and satisfying because you knew what it was about.

One other thing, Loeb has admitted, in more than one interview, that the reason he went to Marvel is because they pulled a big dump truck full of money up to his house. I think this illustrates the difference between a guy who writes something because he loves it and writes something because its a job. I think Brubaker is the other way around, his DC stuff was good (way better than Loeb's marvel stuff) but his Marvel stuff is beyond awesome. Loeb never should have left DC, just like Brubaker should never leave Marvel.

Last edited by soda; 07-20-2010 at 06:03 PM..
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