#1  
Old 05-18-2010, 12:47 AM
Are superheroes good for anything?

Stop me if you've heard this one:

-Crazy Evil Guy escapes from prison (again) and goes on a rampage (again). Dozens/hundreds (depending on the villain) die.

-Hero arrives on the scene, and after a few issues of punching it out, Hero hauls Crazy Evil Guy off to prison (again).

-Six months pass, and Crazy Evil Guy escapes. Rinse, repeat.

Does it seem like most mainstream comic book superheroes don't accomplish much of anything? I mean, technically, if they didn't intervene, whatever horrible events are happening would be much worse and last much longer, but even so, it's hard to look at the path of carnage that most villains routinely cut through the population and say "Wow, that Captain Hero Guy sure is doing a great job keeping us safe."

No matter what the hero does, any punishment he inflicts on the bad guy will be fleeting and temporary. Imprisonment will probably only last a few months before that top-notch high tech security at Arkham/The Raft/Phantom Zone/Triskelion mysteriously fails again. Even on the rare occasion that the villain dies, well, this is comics, he'll be back with three years. The best most heroes can do is grant the public a brief reprieve between homicidal rampages.

This isn't the hero's fault of course, it's the nature of the beast. Status quo must be maintained, the villain is too valuable a property to do away with permanently, and editorial mandate overrides all. "Joker Immunity" exists for a reason.

Even so, the end result is that the characters can start to look vaguely useless, and the civilian and government authorities appear flatout incompetent (you ever read "Ultimate Spider-Man" and wonder how the hell SHIELD even keeps their funding? They couldn't keep a fucking gerbil in its cage).

As a reader, this can get really annoying. There are some villains that I just plain hate and want to see horrible things happen to, but am completely certain that will never occur. The Red Skull really is never going to answer for all those war crimes. The Joker is just going to keep going around and gassing people. Superboy/Man Prime will continue to fly around vaporizing alternate earths (I know he's supposedly stopped that now, but I bet it won't last). We've reached the point with these characters where the heroes appear just plain useless for not stepping in to do something about it permanently.

But it's not their fault. They can't do anything to hurt sales.

I guess this is one reason why big world-saving "events" and cliched "A bomb is about to go off!" finishes are so common (although of course the primary reason is, as usual sales). If the heroes didn't stop an enormous pending disaster on a regular basis, it might look like they're not doing much of anything at all.

That works better for some people than for others though. Spider-Man and Batman always just seem out of place in these big cosmic universe-shattering events, and you kind of always wonder why they were even brought along. But I guess they've gotta do something.
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  #2  
Old 05-18-2010, 01:23 AM
Or better yet, why should super villains even be afraid of Batman/Superman when they know they won't even get killed. Sure Batman is gonna rough you up maybe even break a few bones but he won't kill you. Seems like if I was a super villain it would take the fun out of being evil.

And the reverse of that is... the bad guys never win (in the end)! How much of a threat can all these villains be if they just get caught again every 6 months.

It's definitely a weakness in the medium. The fact that these series have been going on for decades. With a book, even a 10 book series, you have a definitive ending. Movies, television etc they all have endings. Comics books just don't. How much new material can there really be with the same old villains and the same old heroes?
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  #3  
Old 05-18-2010, 02:22 AM
Hey, even when the hero does kill you (or when you get killed off by another villain, or some ironic death by circumstances), you'll probably be back. You're too much an intrinsic part of the series.

Hell, some characters even seem to be aware of this. Superman Prime (I hate that character so much I don't even like typing his name...) makes light of this in "Countdown", assuring himself "I'll survive, I always survive!" when taking seemingly suicidal actions. Spoiler Alert: He's right.
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  #4  
Old 05-27-2010, 07:56 PM
One of the most interesting topics I've seen on this forum. Every genre has its cliches, I guess, is the obvious answer. To me, the art of comics is not in what you describe, ender, what you describe is what a dud writer/artist will always come up with because, technically speaking, its the path of least resistance and we're on a deadline. There are so many people who write comics who reduce it to the formuliac. There is a formula, for sure, but the best writers are the ones who can turn the formula, who can give us something new and something cool within the confines of the never ending battle. That's the reason why I read comics, anyway.

Example: about a year ago, I heard that Grant Morrison was going to bring son of the demon back into continuity. I was steadfastly opposed. Morrison has always been hit or miss, for me. I didn't care for his x-men run, or his JLA run, but his seven soldiers was awesome and so was all-star superman. Batman and Robin is the classic superhero tandem, and sort of resorts to the cliches, but the interplay between characters and how Morrison uses those cliches is very interesting. We know, in the end, how the story will end up, how it has to end up, Bruce Wayne was the subject of a movie that made $525 million dollars two years ago, he'll be back, no doubt there whatsoever. However, seeing how we get to that part, seeing how Dick Grayson has to deal with Damian and keep him in line, and the interplay between those characters and their motives, has made for a very interesting year in comics.

You know Steve Rodgers won't stay dead, you know Bruce Wayne will be back. That's the cliche. However, what's interesting is seeing how the marvel and DC universe function in the absense of those two huge personalities. I read a captain america book for nearly two years without captain america in it, and it was great because the way brubaker played with the personalities of the falcon, bucky, the red skull, Dr. Doom, sin, crossbones, etc. was pure genius. You knew the entire time that Steve Rodgers was going to be back, you knew the entire time there was going to be a panel in reborn #6 where Rodgers socks the red skull in the face. That was a little disappointing, to be honest, but how the characters got to that point was nothing short of interesting. Comics have rules and cliches, like any medium, some can be bent, others can be broken, and a great writer is one who understands where and how to stretch the medium. When the Hulk gets shot off into space, you know he's coming back (he always comes back) but after planet hulk, that panel with the Hulk coming down to bring a world of hurt on Reed Richards and Tony Stark was very, very cool. Execution is the name of the game.
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  #5  
Old 06-02-2010, 01:53 AM
Yeah, I too often reflected on the weird irony of how much better of a series "Captain America" was once it killed off the hero (although it was damn good even to start with).

But doesn't it seem a little grim when you stop and consider that all these heroes are, in effect, doomed to fail no matter what they do? They'll NEVER really defeat their nemeses, or even do much to permanently harm them. It's hard to have a morally satisfying story of good versus evil when good is rendered effectively powerless by genre conventions.

You brought up "World War Hulk", which is an interesting example in that our "heroes", Reed Richards, Iron Man, et al. are actually the ones villified in most people's eyes, whereas the Hulk, though technically the antagonist in the arch, is who everyone was really rooting for. But I had trouble caring about the story much because, come on, ya know he's not going to do anything really bad to any of them. Marvel can't very well kill off Iron Man. If they did it wouldn't last. Karma is never really going to catch up to him.

These writers have a limited bag of tricks they can use in situations like this, so the tropes that are supposed to be dramatic high points get very tired very fast.I've seen comic characters "Beaten within an inch of their lives!" so often that it doesn't have any real impact anymore. I remember a period as a kid when it seemed like half the Marvel universe was in various stages of a coma, since that was the closest to death that characters could get without actually dying. There's even a joke about it in an old issue of "X-Men" where Beast mutters "If I had a nickel for every comatose body around here...".

Superhero comics, at their most basic level, are straightforward, black and white morality tales. Good and evil are stark and easily recognizable, their conflict is straightforward, and the outcome is karmically satisfying (this formula is subverted or done away with to one degree or another by any number of writers, but it still remains the formula nonetheless). Only that's not how it really happens. Good never vanquishes evil. Evil is just...temporarily inconvenienced. As a result, after years or even decades of this, the hero looks ineffectual and the story never really resolves.
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  #6  
Old 06-03-2010, 12:43 AM
MAGNIFICENT TOPIC. Let me throw in my two cents by first countering with the argument that while, yes, the super villians "get away with murder" on a regular basis, its the smaller victories that matter. Spider Man, for instance, has been fighting the same rogues for decades. Every now and then, Doc Oc or Venom or somebody will come back (under a new writer off course) with a plan or plot that makes them "deadlier than ever", and of course the fight/arrest/contain/break out/repeat scenario occurs. BUT along the way, sprinkled all through out, are instances where Spidey stops a mugger or a rapist or something. I can't definitely say that there's never been the same petty thief (I actually kind of enjoyed it being the same thief in the TMNT flick that Raph stops while talking to Casey), but I'm certain that most of them have figured, at one point or another, "Fuck, if I can't steal a purse without getting caught by fucking Spider Man, maybe I suck at this whole crime thing", or something to that effect. You have to figure, for every henchman that doesn't have powers to fight back with or even shield themselves from a superhero's punch, its more likely that they'll call it quits. And isn't that what life is all about anyway? A couple of big hurdles that pop up every now and then with a bunch of small victories along the way? I think this situation actually feeds into the fame of characters like Spider Man and Batman, both of whom actually fight the "world threats", but take time out to also put a fist to the jaw of the little guy on the wrong side of the law.

The funny thing is that I pose this question to just about anybody that professes their love for Superman. He's a character that over the years has, due to writers that couldn't come up with anything better, become virtually unstoppable. Sure he's allergic to kryptonite, but how many of his rogues have been able to obtain kryptonite, let alone a regular everyday mugger? He's so pointless, his archenemy was voted fucking president. If that doesn't scream "fuck off", I don't know what does.
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  #7  
Old 06-03-2010, 01:51 AM
Well, yeah, it's no secret that Superman's level of power makes it hard to have any real drama in his book. Although "All-Star Superman" actually makes him even more ridiculously powerful than the mainstream version, but STILL managed to have more dramatic tension.

And yet he can't ever really defeat Lex Luthor. Luthor goes to jail, fakes his own death, gets banished to another dimension etc pretty frequently, but it never lasts. He's got to be there because he's part of the ingrained identity of the series. Even worse, as times goes by he has to get progressively more and MORE evil in order to avoid becoming redundant.

Take "52" for example, an AWESOME series that I really loved. Luthor looks like a particularly big scumbag in it. But when he gets his comeupance, I really didn't care, despite having waited nearly fifty issues to see it happen, because it's not like there's any real consequences for him.
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  #8  
Old 06-03-2010, 07:30 AM
This topic is like looking at two people doing the same dance and saying "What is the point of this dance?"

It's not about the dance itself, but the method and skill.

The appeal of the comics, the core appeal of comics, have always been about the battle of good and evil, yin and yang, the balance and order of things in fiction where the good fight the bad with occasional shades of gray and whatnot.

Sure it's become hilariously cliche now, but that's just the dance, it's the way we want it and see it. Watching Superman and Lex Luthor trying to find ways to outdo one another is just part of the story.

I continue loving comics because I adore stories about good and evil, right and wrong, and the good guys pummeling the bad guys.
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  #9  
Old 06-04-2010, 11:06 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ender View Post

These writers have a limited bag of tricks they can use in situations like this, so the tropes that are supposed to be dramatic high points get very tired very fast.I've seen comic characters "Beaten within an inch of their lives!" so often that it doesn't have any real impact anymore. I remember a period as a kid when it seemed like half the Marvel universe was in various stages of a coma, since that was the closest to death that characters could get without actually dying. There's even a joke about it in an old issue of "X-Men" where Beast mutters "If I had a nickel for every comatose body around here...".

Superhero comics, at their most basic level, are straightforward, black and white morality tales. Good and evil are stark and easily recognizable, their conflict is straightforward, and the outcome is karmically satisfying (this formula is subverted or done away with to one degree or another by any number of writers, but it still remains the formula nonetheless). Only that's not how it really happens. Good never vanquishes evil. Evil is just...temporarily inconvenienced. As a result, after years or even decades of this, the hero looks ineffectual and the story never really resolves.
Have you checked out this:



I've preached, forever, that there's nothing wrong with comics that good writing can't solve. Every comic that comes out these days says its going to "change the universe forever", but this is one book that actually did. Brad Metzer took things in a direction that nobody, and I mean nobody, had ever seen before. I've been a fan a long time, and I have never seen anything like "namtab tegrof", those two words form the basis for stuff that's being discussed, even here on Joblo.com to this very day. While the history of memory tampering is a cliche in comics, that has a very old tradition, the way it was done, and fallout from this book made for a story where you, the reader, very much did not know how it was all going to end.

That, to me, is what separates the best writers from Fred. Comics, as medium, is full of guys at editorial looking around them and saying "we need someone to write a batman book, ummmm, let's get Fred to do it." Fred doesn't want the assigment, and he's doing it because he's been told to. When a writer wants to write a book, and an artist wants to draw it, that's when you get the best books. I think its unfair to mix in the stuff that's truly cutting edge with every other book.

Now, even great writers are bound by the cliches of their genre, to move the subject to film, remember the scene in the dark knight where Joker has Harvey and Rachel in two separate places and a bomb rigged to go off? That's a classic, classic comic book type scene, that's been in comics since the founding. Gwen Stacy was probably the most famous book version of it. The point is, in that scene, in comics, the super-hero always, and I mean always saves both people, that's why he's a super-hero. In the Dark Knight, you can make the argument that not only does Batman not save either one, he would have been better off if he hadn't done anything at all. That's the kind of variation on theme, the kind of subtle change that makes the scene exciting and cool.

Not all of it is Marve's x-men. Marvel, for the longest time (since Brubaker took over the book a while back) has struggled to put a good creative team on x-men. The writer you see today is the same guy who wrote dark phoenix back in the 70s (yes, Claremont is very old). There hasn't been a new infusion of good talent into the x-men in thirty years. What do bad writers do, to make their issues seem important? "Okay, ummm, who can we kill off this month?" There's a reason why x-men books coined the phrase "I got better", even someone like Joss Wheddon, whose Astonishing X-men was the best x-men stuff I've read since Claremont/Byrness resorted to that, in a twisted sort of way, when he brought colassus back.

Now, in the context that Wheddon's Astonishing x-men kicked all kinds of ass, I'll forgive him his sloppy writing. Sometimes, that can even be turned into a positive, as it was clear the whole time that was either not colassus, or something was very wrong with Peter.
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  #10  
Old 06-05-2010, 02:19 AM
Oh yeah, I read "Identity Crisis", I thought it was TERRIBLE, although for totally different reasons than are the subject of this thread. Meltzer, in the TPB notes, mentioned his endearing love of superheroes and the Silver Age and how he wanted to write a story that bolstered those conventions against what he perceived to be unfair attacks on them. Which is ironic, since a lot of critics think that "Identity Crisis" did more to crap all over those characters and the legacy of the Silver Age than anything else in the last twenty years of comics.

IC was a really ugly little story, and in my opinion it wasn't really worth the damage it did to the product overall, and that, I think, is the problem with it. "Identity Crisis" subtracts something from the DC formula, something really quite intrinsic, but it promises to give back something more valuable, presumably a more mature, complex, nuanced style of story-telling. Except that it didn't really deliver, as far as I'm concerned anyway. The series is a bad bargain. Maybe "IC" was more mature than your standard DC crossover, but not in any way that makes for a good read.

Now, I acknowledge that the series did dare to be unconventional, but you'll notice that it does that not by altering the formula but just by how altering we perceive it, by casting the shadow of doubt over the characters and their modus operandi. And really, does the hero genre really need another "Dark and edgy" turn? Was there a lack of that going around? Was anyone really asking for more?

"Identity Crisis" doesn't feel like a superhero story to me. There's little heroism to speak of, and the tone and structure of the plot seem totally at odds with the cast. This felt like a Jeph Loeb Batman story with the entire Justice League just crowbarred into it, and it's about as awkward of a fit as can be imagined. The reveal of the villain struck me as pretty ridiculous, and the resolution was annoying ambiguous (though I can see how that's hard to avoid in this case). The best thing about "Identity Crisis", I would say, is that it opened doors for some much better stories later in "52".

Several people here have cited that the formula in hero comics is just the natural form of the medium and that it's the execution that really matters. And I agree. However, I still think there's a point to be made, namely that, as stories like "Identity Crisis" show, modern comics aren't necessarily suited for that formula.

It's a story structure that's now eighty years old and was created back when comics were meant to be one-dimensional filler that pandered to grade schoolers. Modern hero comics want to try to tell more complex, intelligent stories, but they're still married to the rules of a latter age, and that disconnect spells trouble for the genre. Just saying "That's the nature of the beast" I don't think is a way to really address the problem, because the nature of the beast is the problem. When you try to pair the complex moral ramifications of an adult-oriented story with the easily repeatable formulae of a children's story, the results aren't really palatable.

Last edited by Ender; 06-05-2010 at 02:23 AM..
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  #11  
Old 06-05-2010, 01:37 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ender View Post
Oh yeah, I read "Identity Crisis", I thought it was TERRIBLE, although for totally different reasons than are the subject of this thread. Meltzer, in the TPB notes, mentioned his endearing love of superheroes and the Silver Age and how he wanted to write a story that bolstered those conventions against what he perceived to be unfair attacks on them. Which is ironic, since a lot of critics think that "Identity Crisis" did more to crap all over those characters and the legacy of the Silver Age than anything else in the last twenty years of comics.

IC was a really ugly little story, and in my opinion it wasn't really worth the damage it did to the product overall, and that, I think, is the problem with it. "Identity Crisis" subtracts something from the DC formula, something really quite intrinsic, but it promises to give back something more valuable, presumably a more mature, complex, nuanced style of story-telling. Except that it didn't really deliver, as far as I'm concerned anyway. The series is a bad bargain. Maybe "IC" was more mature than your standard DC crossover, but not in any way that makes for a good read.

Now, I acknowledge that the series did dare to be unconventional, but you'll notice that it does that not by altering the formula but just by how altering we perceive it, by casting the shadow of doubt over the characters and their modus operandi. And really, does the hero genre really need another "Dark and edgy" turn? Was there a lack of that going around? Was anyone really asking for more?

"Identity Crisis" doesn't feel like a superhero story to me. There's little heroism to speak of, and the tone and structure of the plot seem totally at odds with the cast. This felt like a Jeph Loeb Batman story with the entire Justice League just crowbarred into it, and it's about as awkward of a fit as can be imagined. The reveal of the villain struck me as pretty ridiculous, and the resolution was annoying ambiguous (though I can see how that's hard to avoid in this case). The best thing about "Identity Crisis", I would say, is that it opened doors for some much better stories later in "52".

Several people here have cited that the formula in hero comics is just the natural form of the medium and that it's the execution that really matters. And I agree. However, I still think there's a point to be made, namely that, as stories like "Identity Crisis" show, modern comics aren't necessarily suited for that formula.

It's a story structure that's now eighty years old and was created back when comics were meant to be one-dimensional filler that pandered to grade schoolers. Modern hero comics want to try to tell more complex, intelligent stories, but they're still married to the rules of a latter age, and that disconnect spells trouble for the genre. Just saying "That's the nature of the beast" I don't think is a way to really address the problem, because the nature of the beast is the problem. When you try to pair the complex moral ramifications of an adult-oriented story with the easily repeatable formulae of a children's story, the results aren't really palatable.
Very, very interesting post. A reply:

For what's its worth, I dropped IC after the first issue. I felt like the "big reveal" was a waste. However, to DC's credit, they've done a lot in the years that have passed to bring up Sue Digby. Then, I hopped back on IC with issue #4 (an issue which has, for me, the greatest comic book cover of all time) A bit after, I read the other two issues that I missed. I will agree with you on several things about IC, but there are several points of disagreement:

-I actually wouldn't call IC "Dark and edgey", anyone who read comics in the era from the mid eighties, to the late nineties, can point you in the direction of stuff that is very "dark and edgey". Comics tried that, and it didn't really work out very well. That was the era when everyone was trying to be the dark knight returns and watchmen. I actually wasn't holding up Metzer's work as a paragon of great comics, I enjoyed IC myself, and I think Metzer is a pretty good writer. What I was really trying to drive at is that what happened in IC #6 is something that delivered on the promise to "change the universe forever" in a very real way. Whether or not you agree with the decision to break up a classic friendship, or not (a LOT of people didn't like it for that very reason) it was a change. Now, while change for the sake of change is never a good reason for change (that too happens all too often, when sales sink) I felt like this change, in many ways, made sense. It drove the story forward.

Here's what I will agree with you on, If Metzer loves the Silver Age, and wants to refute some of the unfair attacks on it, he does have a funny way of showing it. The Silver Age, IMHO, is unpallatable in comics, these days. I love it, with a burning passion, as a fan, but I'm not going to say that its going to sell any books in this day and age. Nobody wants to see a return to the Joker-mobile, to cite but one example. So, if that's what you want, you're going to have to go back to that era to get stuff from it. What you see a lot of today are writers and artists who were children during the silver age, as well as vet writers and artists who worked during it. These people understand that you can't just flip a switch and go back there. What they've been trying to do (and Geoff Johns is the best at this, IMHO) is give you a new interpretation on a silver age concept. Its not something that fans who grew up reading Silver Age comics generally care for (or at least, not those on the internet), but that's true of every generation. The big difference today, is that these are silver age concepts that are being re-invented (and, for people like you, crapped on) so there's more of a hurt factor. I understand, when I was a kid, I loved the TV show "The Dukes of Hazzard", and when I saw the movie, I felt they crapped on my childhood.

In my opinion, the critics of the silver age also have a point, no one whose past the age of 10 would ever read those comics, and that's the audience they were designed for. I personally love the bat snow-mobile and the phantom zone arrow, but that's just me. I do think there's a huge difference between what I cited above, and what happened to the "Dukes of Hazzard" and what happened with IC. There's is plenty of what happened with the Dukes going around in comics (**cough** War Games **cough, **cough** scare-beast **cough**) so I don't feel the need to cite that. There will always be people in this world who are bad at their jobs, and who shouldn't be writing comics. I personally wouldn't put Metzer in that class, but I would put guys like Judd Winnick and AJ Lieberman, and Chuck Austen, I won't touch anything by Liebermann. My Comic Book Store guy has a vested hatred of Tom DeFalco, and won't hear of anything positive about him.

You know what I would compare modern hero comics to? I get the wants to be more intelligent but still wedded to the children's stories angle. There's no doubt that Silver Age Comics were meant for children, after the collapse of the industry in the late fifties, after the congressional witch hunt, and the rise of the comics code authority. The Dark and edgy comics of the fifties, and the early fifties in particular, which saw an explosion of styles, was out.

However, to me, comics reminds me most of what was going on in ancient greece. Each year, during the city dionysuius, (named after the God of wine, man, those ancients knew how to party) playwrites would present plays that are very much like a modern comic book. The mythology of ancient Greece is something that we still recite to this day, and the plays were generally stories taken out of the mythological folklore, and the intent was to give a new twist on it. Everyone in the audience knew how the story went, and knew where things would end up, the cool part came from how well executed that play was. These stories, to the ancients, were things that they'd been exposed to all their lives, from the time they were young, to the end of life.

There is this growing of the stock mythology that these play spoke to, and I think comics speaks to the same need. Its been around forever, and I doubt its going anywhere. Its one of the reasons why I have problems with the idea of the rights to Superman reverting to the estate of Seigel and Schuster. They created the character, back in the day, and they deserve credit for that (and money), but the character from Action Comics #1 is unrecognizable today. So many people over the decades have contributed to the Superman mythology, so many people have told stories and built it up, changed it, tweeked it, give it a direction, or a spin. Where are those people's rights?
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  #12  
Old 06-05-2010, 08:11 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by soda View Post
However, to me, comics reminds me most of what was going on in ancient greece. Each year, during the city dionysuius, (named after the God of wine, man, those ancients knew how to party) playwrites would present plays that are very much like a modern comic book. The mythology of ancient Greece is something that we still recite to this day, and the plays were generally stories taken out of the mythological folklore, and the intent was to give a new twist on it. Everyone in the audience knew how the story went, and knew where things would end up, the cool part came from how well executed that play was. These stories, to the ancients, were things that they'd been exposed to all their lives, from the time they were young, to the end of life.
EXACTLY! The trip is the biggest part, not the destination.
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  #13  
Old 06-07-2010, 01:42 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by soda View Post


-I actually wouldn't call IC "Dark and edgey", anyone who read comics in the era from the mid eighties, to the late nineties, can point you in the direction of stuff that is very "dark and edgey".
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.

Quote:
Originally Posted by soda
I actually wasn't holding up Metzer's work as a paragon of great comics, I enjoyed IC myself, and I think Metzer is a pretty good writer.
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".

Quote:
Originally Posted by soda
What I was really trying to drive at is that what happened in IC #6 is something that delivered on the promise to "change the universe forever" in a very real way. Whether or not you agree with the decision to break up a classic friendship, or not (a LOT of people didn't like it for that very reason) it was a change. Now, while change for the sake of change is never a good reason for change (that too happens all too often, when sales sink) I felt like this change, in many ways, made sense. It drove the story forward.
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.

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.

Quote:
Originally Posted by soda
Here's what I will agree with you on, If Metzer loves the Silver Age, and wants to refute some of the unfair attacks on it, he does have a funny way of showing it.
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.

Quote:
Originally Posted by soda
These people understand that you can't just flip a switch and go back there. What they've been trying to do (and Geoff Johns is the best at this, IMHO) is give you a new interpretation on a silver age concept.
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.

Quote:
Originally Posted by soda
In my opinion, the critics of the silver age also have a point, no one whose past the age of 10 would ever read those comics, and that's the audience they were designed for.
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.

Quote:
Originally Posted by soda
However, to me, comics reminds me most of what was going on in ancient greece. Each year, during the city dionysuius, (named after the God of wine, man, those ancients knew how to party) playwrites would present plays that are very much like a modern comic book. The mythology of ancient Greece is something that we still recite to this day, and the plays were generally stories taken out of the mythological folklore, and the intent was to give a new twist on it. Everyone in the audience knew how the story went, and knew where things would end up, the cool part came from how well executed that play was. These stories, to the ancients, were things that they'd been exposed to all their lives, from the time they were young, to the end of life.
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.

Quote:
Originally Posted by soda
Its one of the reasons why I have problems with the idea of the rights to Superman reverting to the estate of Seigel and Schuster. They created the character, back in the day, and they deserve credit for that (and money), but the character from Action Comics #1 is unrecognizable today. So many people over the decades have contributed to the Superman mythology, so many people have told stories and built it up, changed it, tweeked it, give it a direction, or a spin. Where are those people's rights?
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.
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  #14  
Old 06-08-2010, 04:03 PM
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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.




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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)?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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  #15  
Old 06-09-2010, 01:06 AM
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Originally Posted by soda View Post
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.
No, no, that's not what I was saying at all. I like the emphasis on "Second string" characters over the last five or ten years too, I'm honestly a bigger fan of the Question or Steel than of Batman or Superman. And "Identity Crisis" does have plenty of "big" characters in it anyway.

What I meant was that the characters that they used just didn't seem appropriate with the tone of the story. Like I said, it's like if Luke Skywalker was in "The Matrix" or Indiana Jones was in "Saving Private Ryan". Nothing wrong with those characters or those movies individually, but try to mix them together and it's a trainwreck.

"Identity Crisis" just wasn't a story that I felt like should have happened to the Flash and Green Arrow, or even to Batman. It felt like the wrong environment, a story where the things that make those characters really shine weren't present and where they seemed almost like an anachronism against the backdrop of this really grim, traumatic story (which is of course the opposite of what the writer intended).

When I said "Identity Crisis" made things worse for DC comics, what I meant was that Meltzer's efforts to cast a shadow over the stories of the Silver Age and invite us to examine them with a more mature eye from the perspective of the modern age was successful, but that that wasn't really a good thing. Rather than create something new and engaging, they just detracted from something old and endearing. If "Identity Crisis" had been a better story, I might not have minded it undermining the Silver Age, but since it wasn't, then that just makes it all the worse.

I honestly think may DC agree with me, since they took some effort in "Infinite Crisis" to try to distance the characters from that storyline and put the emphasis on making a new beginning.

Quote:
Originally Posted by soda
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.
Oh yeah, "Planet Hulk" was fucking awesome. The only bad thing I can say about that is that it dragged out a little longer than it should, but I guess who can blame them?

The problem with "World War Hulk" (okay, there was more than one, but the chief problem, as far as I'm concerned) is what I cited waaaaay back in my original point, that you can't have a really satisfying conclusion to that story because maintaining the status quo is too important.

Quote:
Originally Posted by soda
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.
I suspect the pacing problems might have been due to the umpteen number of tigh-ins, which I didn't bother to read (although a few of them were apparently pretty good).

I thought "Civil War" was decent but unspectacular overall, although what you've cited here sounds like my verbatim assessment of "Secret Invasion", which was a great idea with a fantastic set-up that then just went flaccid almost immediately.

Quote:
Originally Posted by soda
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.
Wow, I'll admit I hadn't even actually thought about that. That just makes it...all the more mystifying, actually.

Quote:
Originally Posted by soda
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.
Well, you can say that about "One More Day" too, but that's hardly a recommendation, now is it.

Alright, so "Identity Crisis" isn't quite as bad as "One More Day"...but it's down there.

Quote:
Originally Posted by soda
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).
Not just one, DC has been wrestling with "continuity problems" for over twenty years now, to the point that I suspect they're probably the only ones who care anymore. Although those big continuity stories have paved the way for much better ones in their wake, but that's probably more of a happy accident.
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  #16  
Old 06-10-2010, 05:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Ender View Post

When I said "Identity Crisis" made things worse for DC comics, what I meant was that Meltzer's efforts to cast a shadow over the stories of the Silver Age and invite us to examine them with a more mature eye from the perspective of the modern age was successful, but that that wasn't really a good thing. Rather than create something new and engaging, they just detracted from something old and endearing. If "Identity Crisis" had been a better story, I might not have minded it undermining the Silver Age, but since it wasn't, then that just makes it all the worse.
Okay, I get what you're saying, thanks for the clarification. Looking back, I can see that a murder mystery might not be the best setting for a JLA story. However, I find I'm having difficulty understanding what you're trying to get at in the last paragraph. If the stated purpose of the story had been something different, would that have made the story better or worse?

I understand what it was that you were trying to say in your intial post in this topic, and one of the things I was trying to use IC to argue is that there have, in fact, been plenty of changes in a character's Status Quo. The core basics are very much the same, but over time, characters change. The characters from the Golden and Silver Age are unrecognizable to people who read comics today. I will grant that IC has a funny way of showing its "love" for the Silver age, and that it has a major plot problem (which I outlined, its supposed to be a defense of the need for heroes to protect their identity from outsiders, but the murderer is an insider. That's a major problem, it undermines the story)



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Originally Posted by Ender View Post

The problem with "World War Hulk" (okay, there was more than one, but the chief problem, as far as I'm concerned) is what I cited waaaaay back in my original point, that you can't have a really satisfying conclusion to that story because maintaining the status quo is too important.
I actually thought the problem with WWH was quite different. Reading Planet Hulk, I got the sense that this was a story that Greg Pak wanted to do, and that he cared about. Reading WWH, I got the sense that this was a story that Pak was told to do, and that he could have left alone entirely. The pacing, the tension, the drama of Planet Hulk were just totally not there in WWH, a story that I felt was lifeless from beginning to end. I don't think that lifelessness was the result of the need to get back to a status quo, I felt like that lifelessness was the result someone doing something they had no interest in.


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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
Well, you can say that about "One More Day" too, but that's hardly a recommendation, now is it.

Alright, so "Identity Crisis" isn't quite as bad as "One More Day"...but it's down there.
There's a hole with no bottom! In the last few years of comics, there are few stories I can remember that have been more controversial (controversial = most readers didn't like the idea) than "one more day". For me, personally, I thought the spidey "compromise" of years ago (that he would be older, and married, in 616 and that he would be a teenager in the ultimate books) worked just fine. I saw no need to bring this about, as I think it limits the choices for people who want to read "their" Spiderman. I do think its a brave thing to do, but, in one sense, not original. "One more day" is not a step in a new direction, its a step backwards to a direction that's already been tried and true. In a sense, its the ultimate return to the status quo, the status quo of a younger Peter Parker.

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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
Not just one, DC has been wrestling with "continuity problems" for over twenty years now, to the point that I suspect they're probably the only ones who care anymore. Although those big continuity stories have paved the way for much better ones in their wake, but that's probably more of a happy accident.
I think DC's issues with its own continuity are interesting, in that I like the fact that they've made the best out of a tangled situation: use their own continuity confusion to tell interesting stories pretending as if their continuity made sense. Its a better approach, IMHO, than Marvel's jedi mind-trick approach to continuity (I'm reading two x-men books, published at the same time, one in which Jean is dead and Beast is alive, and the other in which beast is dead and jean is alive. "These are not the dead mutants you are looking for" **Waves hand**)

For someone who talks about a book trampling over the silver age, you have a funny view towards history. I like the fact that, in the DCU, those stories count (kinda) and I like the fact that elements of those stories are still effecting the DCU to this day. It gives the universe a sense of tying in with the past. Other people don't care for that so much, and what they want is self contained stories with more jumping off points. I can see the case for both.
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  #17  
Old 06-14-2010, 01:11 AM
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Originally Posted by soda View Post
Okay, I get what you're saying, thanks for the clarification. Looking back, I can see that a murder mystery might not be the best setting for a JLA story. However, I find I'm having difficulty understanding what you're trying to get at in the last paragraph. If the stated purpose of the story had been something different, would that have made the story better or worse?
I think we might be unnecessarily complicating the issue here.

The reason a lot of people disliked "Identity Crisis" is simply that it made the characters look bad. Not only like bad people, doing a lot of morally questionable, decidedly unheroic things, but it also makes them look inept, like with all their power and resources they couldn't solve a two-bit crime of passion murder that was right under their nose the whole time, and they were jerked around and easily manipulated by a character who was clearly so loony by that time that she it's amazing she could tie her own shoelaces. Worse, they tripped over each other with in-fighting and recriminations, to the degree that that was really the main point of the story.

In the end, the series left a bad taste in most people's mouths. My point is that the writer's statements explaining the decisions he made with the plot and characters all work toward a certain goal, but that he just didn't achieve that goal. Maybe a great story with a strong payoff might have been worth that bad taste in your mouth after you read it, but putting up with all that for a weak story with a questionable payoff makes the material that much more unpalatable than it is even from just an objective point of view. It takes something that was already bad and makes it that much worse.

Quote:
Originally Posted by soda
I understand what it was that you were trying to say in your intial post in this topic, and one of the things I was trying to use IC to argue is that there have, in fact, been plenty of changes in a character's Status Quo. The core basics are very much the same, but over time, characters change. The characters from the Golden and Silver Age are unrecognizable to people who read comics today.
Yeah, I get what you're saying here, and in fact that was the whole idea behind "Infinite Crisis" (the Golden Age Superman stuff in that series was really well done. Sadly, I felt like the rest of it was kind of boilerplate "crisis" material and the story would have worked better with just Supes, but that's another kettle of fish). But like I said before, it seems the only way that writers can safely upset the status quo is not by altering the formula but by altering how we perceive it.

I mean, if we wanted to, we could break it down something like this:

Silver Age Story:

-Villain has an nefarious plan.

-Hero arrives on the scene to thwart said plan.

-After a certain number of issues, said plan is thwarted. Villain is punished, but in such a way that leaves the door open for him to return in the future.

Contrast that with:

Modern Age Story:

-Villain has a nefarious plan.

-Hero arrives on the scene to thwart said plan.

-After a certain number of issue, said plan is thwarted, but we the reader are left with many troubling and lingering questions about the methodology the hero used and whether these ends justify the means, what the hero's mental and emotional state is, what impact this will have on his home life, and whether he can really escape the ghosts of his past. Villain is punished, but in such a way that leave sthe door open for him to return in the future.

See what I mean? Sure, a lot of things change, but some things never do. So in a sense, the status quo can be altered, but in another sense it's a case of the more things change the more they stay the same. And way back in my original point I asked whether the preservation of that status quo doesn't hinder the reader's satisfaction when completing the story.

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Originally Posted by soda
I actually thought the problem with WWH was quite different. Reading Planet Hulk, I got the sense that this was a story that Greg Pak wanted to do, and that he cared about. Reading WWH, I got the sense that this was a story that Pak was told to do, and that he could have left alone entirely. The pacing, the tension, the drama of Planet Hulk were just totally not there in WWH, a story that I felt was lifeless from beginning to end. I don't think that lifelessness was the result of the need to get back to a status quo, I felt like that lifelessness was the result someone doing something they had no interest in.
Agreed, but I think "World War Hulk" might have been a better story if, for example, there was even a shred of suspense that the Hulk might actually do something terrible and permanent to the people who wronged him, which as it stands there wasn't.

Quote:
Originally Posted by soda
There's a hole with no bottom! In the last few years of comics, there are few stories I can remember that have been more controversial (controversial = most readers didn't like the idea) than "one more day". For me, personally, I thought the spidey "compromise" of years ago (that he would be older, and married, in 616 and that he would be a teenager in the ultimate books) worked just fine. I saw no need to bring this about, as I think it limits the choices for people who want to read "their" Spiderman. I do think its a brave thing to do, but, in one sense, not original. "One more day" is not a step in a new direction, its a step backwards to a direction that's already been tried and true. In a sense, its the ultimate return to the status quo, the status quo of a younger Peter Parker.
Yeah, I probably shouldn't even have brought that one up. :P

I wonder if the success of "Ultimate Spider-Man" relative to the mainstream book didn't actually exacerbate the situation, convincing the editors even further that the younger version of the character was the most marketable and well-received. And it's true, even when Ultimate Spidey itself started hitting speed bumps and suffering a dip in quality over the years it was still better recieved than "The Amazing Spider-Man". But of course, that has little to do with either version of the character and more to do with how flat out terrible the mainstream series has been for years.

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Originally Posted by soda
For someone who talks about a book trampling over the silver age, you have a funny view towards history. I like the fact that, in the DCU, those stories count (kinda) and I like the fact that elements of those stories are still effecting the DCU to this day. It gives the universe a sense of tying in with the past. Other people don't care for that so much, and what they want is self contained stories with more jumping off points. I can see the case for both.
Well, I don't really care so much about consistency and "continuity". DC's obsession with making everything match up and fit (or, as you've pointed out, instead exploiting the ways that it doesn't) are just a distraction if you ask me. As far as I'm concerned, give me a good story and I don't really care if it's "In canon" with something written in 1988.

What bothers me is when someone tries to put this sort of editorial slant on those old stories and make them into something they really weren't meant to be (ie, "Identity Crisis" keeps coming up here, but "Sins Past" is probably the worst offender).

Last edited by Ender; 06-14-2010 at 01:21 AM..
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  #18  
Old 06-15-2010, 04:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
I think we might be unnecessarily complicating the issue here.

The reason a lot of people disliked "Identity Crisis" is simply that it made the characters look bad. Not only like bad people, doing a lot of morally questionable, decidedly unheroic things, but it also makes them look inept, like with all their power and resources they couldn't solve a two-bit crime of passion murder that was right under their nose the whole time, and they were jerked around and easily manipulated by a character who was clearly so loony by that time that she it's amazing she could tie her own shoelaces. Worse, they tripped over each other with in-fighting and recriminations, to the degree that that was really the main point of the story.

In the end, the series left a bad taste in most people's mouths. My point is that the writer's statements explaining the decisions he made with the plot and characters all work toward a certain goal, but that he just didn't achieve that goal. Maybe a great story with a strong payoff might have been worth that bad taste in your mouth after you read it, but putting up with all that for a weak story with a questionable payoff makes the material that much more unpalatable than it is even from just an objective point of view. It takes something that was already bad and makes it that much worse.
Few thoughts on this very interesting observation.

It is a dictum of bad writing, in both comics and other mediums, that the easiest way to create drama is to ruin a character's life. If a character isn't messed up enough already, see how low you can go with it. It works more often than not, but the best writers are the ones who don't go for it. If you've been reading Green Lantern since Johns took over, the drama is in the struggle of Hal Jordan, but Johns doesn't just ruin his life for the sake of drama. The worst thing that ever happened to Hal (as Johns has said time and again in the book) was the destruction of coast city. Johns never tries to one up that on the "ruin the heroes life" scale, and yet Green Lantern is the best book DC puts out.

I will agree with you on this, as far as IC goes. One of the critism of it at the time, was pretty much what you said in the second paragraph. This was Metzer trying to create drama by sullying the image of the characters, sullying what they represented. The question everyone asked when IC #6 came out was "If they could do that to Batman, who couldn't they do that to?" Was it morally reprehensible? I thought so, (I also thought that Diana killing Maxwell Lord was reprehensible, but at least that was part of a better story) but the mind struggles to find another way to rectify that situation as it was presented. I think that was what Metzer was getting at. We're dealing with comics, and with a world of fiction in which some very odd things happen. At the moment Z was going to do her thing, its comics, so Metron could have shown up and altered the timeline so that Batman never saw what happened to Dr. Light.

Something very much like that happened when Judd Winnick, who is as untalented a writer as there is in the industry, did his "red hood" story. I felt like in having Jason actually be there in the climatic scene of HUSH, and not having it be just Clayface, Winnick ruined not just one, but two very good Batman stories. He ruined both Death in the Family, and he ruined HUSH. The climax of HUSH was just fine the way it was, with Clayface impersonating Jason, there was no need whatsoever to make it more complicated than that. A five year old could have told you that was a bad idea, yet Winnick went with it.

I feel like Metzer's writing does suffer a bit for this. He's not perfect, but he's also no Judd Winnick.

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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
Yeah, I get what you're saying here, and in fact that was the whole idea behind "Infinite Crisis" (the Golden Age Superman stuff in that series was really well done. Sadly, I felt like the rest of it was kind of boilerplate "crisis" material and the story would have worked better with just Supes, but that's another kettle of fish). But like I said before, it seems the only way that writers can safely upset the status quo is not by altering the formula but by altering how we perceive it.

I mean, if we wanted to, we could break it down something like this:

Silver Age Story:

-Villain has an nefarious plan.

-Hero arrives on the scene to thwart said plan.

-After a certain number of issues, said plan is thwarted. Villain is punished, but in such a way that leaves the door open for him to return in the future.

Contrast that with:

Modern Age Story:

-Villain has a nefarious plan.

-Hero arrives on the scene to thwart said plan.

-After a certain number of issue, said plan is thwarted, but we the reader are left with many troubling and lingering questions about the methodology the hero used and whether these ends justify the means, what the hero's mental and emotional state is, what impact this will have on his home life, and whether he can really escape the ghosts of his past. Villain is punished, but in such a way that leave sthe door open for him to return in the future.

See what I mean? Sure, a lot of things change, but some things never do. So in a sense, the status quo can be altered, but in another sense it's a case of the more things change the more they stay the same. And way back in my original point I asked whether the preservation of that status quo doesn't hinder the reader's satisfaction when completing the story.
So, which one is it? Here's the thing, about IC, say what you want about it, it did alter the status quo, in a way that pushed forward a new story. I may have had problems with the execution of the story too (remember, I said I dropped the book, at the time, after issue #1 and picked it back up at #4, so I thought it was far from perfect) You look at the classic modern age story that you described, and IC doesn't end that way at all. Yes, the murder mystery is solved in issue #7, but that was never really the point of IC. (that, in and of itself, is a structural weakness of the book: its not really about what it says its supposed to be about).

What IC is about is laying the foundation for Brother-I, OMACS and the stuff that happened in infinite crisis. I do get what you're saying, about how modern comics are the simple plot lines of older comics with a bit more window dressing. I think this is true, sometimes, and is especially true with writers who don't know how to write, and artists who don't know how to work in sequential art (ie, bad writers and bad artists). You read a story like Kingdome Come, and that's a story that doesn't confine to any of your points.

I do think I understand what you're saying, and you are correct that with billions of dollars on the line with the major superheroes, (my comic book store guy on Bruce Wayne: "he has eight books, he'll be back") a dramatic change in the status quo is unlikely. However, sometimes, it does happen. Example: right now, the folks on the good ship internet are trying to figure out how the return of bruce wayne ends (ie, what Morrison has in store for us). Captain America Reborn was good, but it was formuliac (ie, its a good example of what you're talking about, it fit the pattern, which was unusual because I've come to expect more from Brubaker). People are hoping for more from the return of bruce wayne. There are so many theories out there on the net right now, and nobody knows how this will end, or in what way. My comic book guy had the most out there theory I've heard: that in order to preserve Batman (this would tie in nicely with what "past" Robin told the Joker in batman #700) Bruce will have to kill his own mom and dad. That would qualify as a MAJOR change to status quo, and its the type of thing someone like Morrison might attempt.

That's part of the joy of comics, sure, they can be predictable, but just as often, they surprise us by doing something in a way that I never would have thought of (which isn't formuliac, or is, but is a very clever variation on the formula). A great writer can give you a story with a super-cool ending, and make all your theories/discussions moot with a "well, the way Johns actually did it was MUCH cooler than anything I've heard, or thought of". That, and the discussion, the theorizing, that comes along with monthly comics, and having to wait a month for the next issue, is where the joy comes from, for me anyway. I know this is probably what keeps you reading as well, so my answer to your topic "are superheroes good for anything?" would be yes, but not all the time, and only in the hands of a creative team that knows what they're doing.

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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
Agreed, but I think "World War Hulk" might have been a better story if, for example, there was even a shred of suspense that the Hulk might actually do something terrible and permanent to the people who wronged him, which as it stands there wasn't.
See, that's the classic thing. You want the Hulk doing something permanant and terrible to the people that wronged him? Take a look at Alan Moore having the Joker shoot Barbara Gordon in the back, and putting her in a wheelchair for life. There's a big purple healing ray in the JLA watchtower, and whenever Batman gets banged up, he can use it, but poor old babs can't. Another example, take a look at the Joker blowing up the daily planet, and killing Lios Lane and everyone else in it, in Kingdome Come, or take a look at the Joker beating Jason Todd to death with a crowbar and blowing him up in death in the family. Or take a look at what the Joker did to Tim Drake in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. That's what makes Mr. J the greatest of the great, so often, he finds a way to actually HURT batman, and those Batman cares about. I agree it would be nice if the Hulk could seriously hurt those who did him wrong, but part and parcel of that is that I don't think Greg Pak had the conviction to write WWH, and I don't think Marvel gave him the editorial leverage to make drastic change.

You know what else? I don't like change for its own sake. I think if the Hulk was going to beat someone up, it should have story purpose. I remember when Bendis was doing Avengers Disassembled, and he went to Marvel and asked "who will you let me kill?" and marvel gave him a list, and Bendis couldn't believe that Thor was on that list. To many books these days have a death in them for shock value, to make the book more important. I'd prefer a well written book that didn't rely on such tricks to one that does.


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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
Well, I don't really care so much about consistency and "continuity". DC's obsession with making everything match up and fit (or, as you've pointed out, instead exploiting the ways that it doesn't) are just a distraction if you ask me. As far as I'm concerned, give me a good story and I don't really care if it's "In canon" with something written in 1988.

What bothers me is when someone tries to put this sort of editorial slant on those old stories and make them into something they really weren't meant to be (ie, "Identity Crisis" keeps coming up here, but "Sins Past" is probably the worst offender).
I think this is a situation where we differ. I like jumping off points, but I also don't want a comic book that ignores its own history. One of the reasons why DC has crisises from time to time is to wipe the slate clean. Crisis on Infinite Earths was supposed to do that, they relaunched the entire line in 86 to get out from under the weight of their own continuity, but ever since Power Girl was allowed to slip through the cracks, DC has been going back to the silver age well. I personally like the fact that Johns brought a lot of that stuff back into continuity with Infinite Crisis. Talking about changes in Status Quo, when Grant Morrison announced that an old Batman Story, son of the demon, would be brought back into continuity (that does represent a big status quo change) I kicked and screamed against it, but that has turned out to be a really good thing. I do agree with you, I do wish they'd break continuity and try something radical more often. After all, its funny books, and even if you're with DC, and continuity matters, you can just mind-wipe everything in the next issue, if its sucks. If its good, keep it. That's how superhero comics have evolved over the last eighty years.
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  #19  
Old 07-04-2010, 01:12 AM
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Originally Posted by soda View Post
It is a dictum of bad writing, in both comics and other mediums, that the easiest way to create drama is to ruin a character's life. If a character isn't messed up enough already, see how low you can go with it.
You know, I remember at one point they'd done this to Daredevil so frequently that they ran a cover showing a completely ridiculous scene along with a caption box saying "We just wanted to show yo something funny before we messed up DD's life again." I didn't buy it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by soda
Was it morally reprehensible? I thought so, (I also thought that Diana killing Maxwell Lord was reprehensible, but at least that was part of a better story) but the mind struggles to find another way to rectify that situation as it was presented.
I dunno, I thought offing Lord was more justifiable. Probably still not the right thing to do, but much easier to understand in context.

I'm not sure I agree that there weren't other ways to rectify the problem. Unless you mean the initial erasing of Light's memory (I hate the term "mindwipe". When did we adopt that shorthand?), that was pretty understandable and I don't think it was ever actually the conflict to begin with. But their effort to "clean up" his personality wasn't just non-compulsory, it was pretty ill conceived to begin with. It's not even really clear what they were trying to do, which I guess means it's not surprising that they failed.

The real bombshell with Batman seemed to me at the time to be a cynical attempt at sensationalism. This smacks of a writer who was sitting there saying "Hmm, I thought this other plot point would create a big stir, but no one seems to care. I'd better drum up something as shocking as I can quick before people lose interest." Granted, I don't know that that's what happened, but that's how it came across. We've seen writers do stuff like that before, it usually feels just like this.

Quote:
Originally Posted by soda
Something very much like that happened when Judd Winnick, who is as untalented a writer as there is in the industry, did his "red hood" story. I felt like in having Jason actually be there in the climatic scene of HUSH, and not having it be just Clayface, Winnick ruined not just one, but two very good Batman stories. He ruined both Death in the Family, and he ruined HUSH. The climax of HUSH was just fine the way it was, with Clayface impersonating Jason, there was no need whatsoever to make it more complicated than that. A five year old could have told you that was a bad idea, yet Winnick went with it.
Well I thought "Hush" was a bad story in its own right, but you're correct, it was made all the worse by the truly ridiculous extra twist that they added later. Really, is there anyone who wouldn't prefer to just go back to the time when Jason Todd was dead?

Quote:
Originally Posted by soda
So, which one is it?
Like I said, it's both. The depictions of the characters change, but the plot remains the same. This, to me, is not a good thing, because that plotline hinges on some basic assumptions about the nature of these stories and characters that now usually aren't so.

"Evil is never truly vanquished, but good will always carry the day!" is a satisfying, if simplistic, resolution, but "Evil is never truly vanquished, but morally questionable and ethically challenged lesser evils working toward a theoretically just end but utilizing sometimes objectionable tactics while struggling with the ambiguity of their actions and their basic role in the world will carry the day, maybe!" is usually not.

Quote:
Originally Posted by soda
You read a story like Kingdome Come, and that's a story that doesn't confine to any of your points.
Yes, but that's an "Elseworld" story where writers don't have to worry about preserving the status quo and don't risk fan backlash over a controversial depiction of a character (usually anyway). Alternate timelines and non-standard canons have become something of a crutch in superhero books over the last couple of decades simply because they afford those freedoms that mainstream titles usually deny.

Quote:
Originally Posted by soda
I do think I understand what you're saying, and you are correct that with billions of dollars on the line with the major superheroes, (my comic book store guy on Bruce Wayne: "he has eight books, he'll be back") a dramatic change in the status quo is unlikely. However, sometimes, it does happen.
True, but those changes are often fleeting and usually more trouble than their worth. Fifteen years ago Green Lantern had about as all-encompassing an upheaval as possible, and the status quo stayed altered for a good long time. But it didn't last forever, and if you had skipped those fifteen years worth of books you might not have a clue that anything had ever been different (although you'd probably be confused as hell over what a Black Lantern is). And remember how bloody (and maybe justifiably) pissed people were about that story when it went down in the first place.

Quote:
Originally Posted by soda
Example: right now, the folks on the good ship internet are trying to figure out how the return of bruce wayne ends (ie, what Morrison has in store for us). Captain America Reborn was good, but it was formuliac (ie, its a good example of what you're talking about, it fit the pattern, which was unusual because I've come to expect more from Brubaker). People are hoping for more from the return of bruce wayne.
Well, no matter how he does it, it's STILL a return to formula. Leaving Wayne dead would be the only really unconventional thing to do, but of course that'll never happen. As rote as Captain America's return was, they did at least rock the boat a little by giving us the surprise of him not, in fact, taking up the shield again, though if anyone thinks that's gonna last forever then I've got a bridge to sell you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by soda
There are so many theories out there on the net right now, and nobody knows how this will end, or in what way. My comic book guy had the most out there theory I've heard: that in order to preserve Batman (this would tie in nicely with what "past" Robin told the Joker in batman #700) Bruce will have to kill his own mom and dad. That would qualify as a MAJOR change to status quo, and its the type of thing someone like Morrison might attempt.
Well, isn't this just more of the "Identity Crisis" style storytelling we've been talking about? The plot is still exactly the same, just now we have some weird, distinctly negative stigma added to the character, which may end up making him look bad, but even it doesn't it's really not going to alter the underlying formula any.

Quote:
Originally Posted by soda
I know this is probably what keeps you reading as well, so my answer to your topic "are superheroes good for anything?" would be yes, but not all the time, and only in the hands of a creative team that knows what they're doing.
Well, I agree with what you're saying, but remember my original question was sort of an in-universe inquiry about whether superheroes ever actually do much quantifiable good when vanquishing villains. The fact that sad bad guys must ALWAYS return, and must ALWAYS commit even more gruesome and horrifying acts in the future to continue seeming like a plausible threat, makes the heroes look like glorified janitors mopping up after various massacres rather than a really proactive force.

Quote:
Originally Posted by soda
See, that's the classic thing. You want the Hulk doing something permanant and terrible to the people that wronged him? Take a look at Alan Moore having the Joker shoot Barbara Gordon in the back, and putting her in a wheelchair for life. There's a big purple healing ray in the JLA watchtower, and whenever Batman gets banged up, he can use it, but poor old babs can't.
Alright, I'll give you that one, that's a change that's lasted (for now anyway).

Quote:
Originally Posted by soda
Another example, take a look at the Joker blowing up the daily planet, and killing Lios Lane and everyone else in it, in Kingdome Come,
Again, Elseworld story, status quo is a non-issue.

Quote:
Originally Posted by soda
or take a look at the Joker beating Jason Todd to death with a crowbar and blowing him up in death in the family.
Didn't last. You'll notice also that when permanent changes are made, it's almost always when something horrible occurs (see your previous point about ruining a character's life). Heroes rarely affect much permanent good in any similar fashion, say, by actually neutralizing the Joker as a threat once and for all. Because that would harm the sales of the book.

Quote:
Originally Posted by soda
You know what else? I don't like change for its own sake. I think if the Hulk was going to beat someone up, it should have story purpose. I remember when Bendis was doing Avengers Disassembled, and he went to Marvel and asked "who will you let me kill?" and marvel gave him a list, and Bendis couldn't believe that Thor was on that list. To many books these days have a death in them for shock value, to make the book more important. I'd prefer a well written book that didn't rely on such tricks to one that does.
Agreed, especially since such tricks just perpetuate the "revolving door afterlife" syndrome, since it won't be long before another writer says "Well that was a dumb idea, let's just bring that character back as fast as possible since it was so stupid to kill him/her in the first place."

Quote:
Originally Posted by soda
I do agree with you, I do wish they'd break continuity and try something radical more often. After all, its funny books, and even if you're with DC, and continuity matters, you can just mind-wipe everything in the next issue, if its sucks. If its good, keep it. That's how superhero comics have evolved over the last eighty years.
I would just like to be able to read the damn book without having to worry about all of this archaic nonsense, what is and is not in continuity, obscure references to stories from twenty years ago that might never have happened anymore or now are being brought back after not counting for decades, who has the time to keep it all straight, and does anyone REALLY care that much? I wish half of this energy were devoted toward telling new stories rather than micromanaging old ones.
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  #20  
Old 07-06-2010, 03:21 PM
First off, let me say how much I'm enjoying this discussion! Its so nice to talk to someone who really does understand comics. Thank you. With that said, let's get to it:

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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
You know, I remember at one point they'd done this to Daredevil so frequently that they ran a cover showing a completely ridiculous scene along with a caption box saying "We just wanted to show yo something funny before we messed up DD's life again." I didn't buy it.
I remember that issue, but, that was as they say, then, the Brubaker run on the book is as good as comics get, for me. I really dug "the Devil his due", "the devil in cell block D", and "the return of the king". Great arcs, of a book that was one of the top books in comics for a long time. I haven't been keeping up with the Diggle run, but I hear its solid.



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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
I dunno, I thought offing Lord was more justifiable. Probably still not the right thing to do, but much easier to understand in context.
Quick thought about this. It was the controversy of the day, in its time, and I remember the internet being split about 60/40 between people who thought what Diana did was right, versus those who didn't think it was right. The context of her actions was what mattered most, and to a lot of people, Diana made a calculated decision. Not a human decision. Not a superheroic decision. A calculated one. There were many reasons for Diana to do what she did. Anyone who read "Countdown" and who saw Ted Kord Stand up in front of Maxwell Lord and tell him to go to hell and who knew how hard Diana took Ted's death had to know that she had an emotional motive for wanting Max dead. However, revenge does not become a superhero. Diana did what she did for one reason: because the worst thing imaginable is a rogue Superman. Lord's control over Clark had to be put to an end, and there was only one way to do it. So, Diana did it. Then, she took the heat for it, too.

The worst part of it, for me, is that when she stood trial for her actions, she couldn't reveal to the world why she did it. The outside world must not know that Superman had come under Lord's influence, because that was just what Max wanted, and it would undermine people's faith in a symbol of good. Diana could not allow that to happen, so she fell on her sword. I do find all of that honorable. I'm not a big fan of what she did, but, in her conduct then and afterwards, Diana acted like a hero. That, to me, is a classic version of an ages old moral connudrum. The idea that champions, or great heroes, are acting for what they think is the best interest of humanity, by keeping a secret evil secret.

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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
I'm not sure I agree that there weren't other ways to rectify the problem. Unless you mean the initial erasing of Light's memory (I hate the term "mindwipe". When did we adopt that shorthand?), that was pretty understandable and I don't think it was ever actually the conflict to begin with. But their effort to "clean up" his personality wasn't just non-compulsory, it was pretty ill conceived to begin with. It's not even really clear what they were trying to do, which I guess means it's not surprising that they failed.
I appreciate your choice of words. I was being a bit sarcastic with the "there weren't other ways to rectify the problem" comment. I did say that this was comics, and a solution to every problem can be put in the phrase "metron showed up, and altered the timeline". In other words, there are other solutions to the problem. Comics has magic (the path the heroes choose) but it also has the phantom zone, a place of inescapable torment, which, ironically, is escaped about twice a week. There's also the antimatter universe of Qward, and the science cells on OA. In other words, if a terestrial prison doesn't work, there are other options.

Now, all of these qualify as a prison. In comics, for bad guys, death is like a prison, in that they almost always come back. I can also see your point that all prisons, in comics, are escapable, and often are. What the heroes did to Dr. Light is another cliche, in the sense that there are always consequences in comics for that type of action. Its like shooting the Hulk off into outer space. He'll come back. They always do. I didn't go for the personality alteration angle of Dr. Light in that issue. I agree with you that it was ill thought out, and poorly executed. I'm not trying to say that IC was perfect. My point was, and continues to be, that despite its faults, IC was a book that brought about change.

Now, you can argue that this was change of character and not change of inherent plot. Meaning, it wasn't a change of structural status quo. That, however, is different from what I was trying to say in the following manner. I think that what you want is for comic stories to be about different things, and done in different ways. What I meant was that IC was a change to the characters status quo, but it didn't change the way comics were written structurally, that's been around for thousands of years.

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The real bombshell with Batman seemed to me at the time to be a cynical attempt at sensationalism. This smacks of a writer who was sitting there saying "Hmm, I thought this other plot point would create a big stir, but no one seems to care. I'd better drum up something as shocking as I can quick before people lose interest." Granted, I don't know that that's what happened, but that's how it came across. We've seen writers do stuff like that before, it usually feels just like this.
I can respect that, and a lot of people felt that way at the time. You are correct that writers do that all the time to drum up something shocking as quick as they can to generate interest. Its an unfortunate commentary on the medium. There are, however, distinctitions to be made. A good, shocking splash page is something that I love about the medium. However, there's good shocking cliffhanger splash page that fits with the story, and doesn't seem at all forced. Then there's the opposite, one done just for show.

I still remember the worst Batman story I've ever read, "War Games" and the big splash reveal at the end was the death of Stephanie Brown. She was one of my favorite characters at the time, and still is, as the new Batgirl. However, I felt Steph's death was so mismanaged and so bungled that the actual reveal felt like it was tossed onto the end of the story, tacked on, and wasn't something that was natural. Its like, what you said about IC, that the writers of "War Games" decided, its the end of a big crossover, we have to kill someone off or it won't be important, and they picked Steph. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being totally tacked on in a "War Games" style fashion, and 10 being totally in sync with the story, I'd give IC's mind-wipe of Batman a 6.5. That's the difference, its one of scale.

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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
Well I thought "Hush" was a bad story in its own right, but you're correct, it was made all the worse by the truly ridiculous extra twist that they added later. Really, is there anyone who wouldn't prefer to just go back to the time when Jason Todd was dead?
I really dug HUSH. Wasn't everyone's cup of tea, that I'll say, but HUSH re-generated interest in Batman at the time. I still remember everyone was going crazy trying to figure out who Hush was, and what it was all about. I also liked the way the story was told, and the Nightwing issue and the Joker issue remain personal faves. It also had the pretty pictures of Jim Lee.

Now, Jeph Loeb, the man who wrote Hush, is not universally loved. Part of the problem is his stories are, what they call in the movie biz, "Popcorn entertainment". He's very good at that, but his tales have no depth and little purpose. I'm a fan of his, and I admit that. There is a certain amount of snobbery to that, of course. Me? I'll say this, for me, I like comics as a place where the mysteries of the universe can be pondered ("there isn't a question that has crossed the mind of man, that stan lee and silver age marvel comics haven't already answered") but I also like big guns, amazon babes and cool shit blowing up. I think there's a place for both, Jeph Loeb excels at writing the later, and I'll enjoy him for what he is. If you don't dig that kind of thing, great, don't buy his work. For the record, I don't touch Loeb's marvel stuff, because ever since he went to the house of ideas, the joy, the childlike sense of wonder and whimsy, the "popcorn entertainment" value of his work has been missing.

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  #21  
Old 07-06-2010, 04:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
Like I said, it's both. The depictions of the characters change, but the plot remains the same. This, to me, is not a good thing, because that plotline hinges on some basic assumptions about the nature of these stories and characters that now usually aren't so.

"Evil is never truly vanquished, but good will always carry the day!" is a satisfying, if simplistic, resolution, but "Evil is never truly vanquished, but morally questionable and ethically challenged lesser evils working toward a theoretically just end but utilizing sometimes objectionable tactics while struggling with the ambiguity of their actions and their basic role in the world will carry the day, maybe!" is usually not.
For the last couple of weeks, I've been reading a book on mythology around the world. I'm currently on the chapter on Nordic myth, and I've finished ancient mesopotamia, ancient India, ancient China, Japan, Africa, the Americas, England and Europe and the pacific Islands. Great stuff, the chapters on Ancient Greece and Rome I still have to get to, but that's the stuff I know best anyway. I consider myself a student of ancient mythology, not just my own, but from many other cultures. The paradims you describe above are as old as human civilization, especially the first one, which forms the basis of stories from every corner of the world, and throughout time.

What makes the difference, what makes the story compelling, is how well executed the variations and how well executed the characterizations are within that story. In other words, character differences, and the second point you made. If I had to rank the great epics of the ancient world, the Iliad of Homer is #1 for me. That one everyone has read. However, #2 for me is the Mahabarata, and the Ramayana, from ancient India. That, nobody in the west has read, but its absolutely amazing. After that, are works like the Epic of Gilgamesh, La 'morte de Arthur, the Odyysey and the Aenid (which I don't have a good opinion of, read it once, bored me stiff). What these works have in common is the basic plot, what makes them all-time all timers is the variation of character. From that point of view, even the Bible falls into that camp.

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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
Yes, but that's an "Elseworld" story where writers don't have to worry about preserving the status quo and don't risk fan backlash over a controversial depiction of a character (usually anyway). Alternate timelines and non-standard canons have become something of a crutch in superhero books over the last couple of decades simply because they afford those freedoms that mainstream titles usually deny.
Not really. Post-IC, "Kingdome Come" is earth-22, its in DC continuity, and Kingdome Come Superman joined the earth-1 JSA for the better part of two years. Also, pretty much all of DC's editorial decisions regarding the DCU's "future" is geared towards the idea that Kingdome Come is DC's idea of what the future of its universe will look like.

We can argue about that till we're blue in the face, but I understand what you're saying, that elseworld's is where a writer can take that creative risk with character depiction. I did think that Grant Morrison's decision to make Damian Wayne Robin in the normal, in continuity universe fell under the heading as "bold", and that's a decision that has a very good chance to stick (Tim and Dick aren't going to go back to being Robin when Bruce gets back). You can call it "oh, that's just another Robin", but Damian isn't like the other people who have worn that mask.

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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
True, but those changes are often fleeting and usually more trouble than their worth. Fifteen years ago Green Lantern had about as all-encompassing an upheaval as possible, and the status quo stayed altered for a good long time. But it didn't last forever, and if you had skipped those fifteen years worth of books you might not have a clue that anything had ever been different (although you'd probably be confused as hell over what a Black Lantern is). And remember how bloody (and maybe justifiably) pissed people were about that story when it went down in the first place.
I would say remove the "maybe" in front of "maybe justifiable". My comic book store guy is a HUGE GL fan, and he was very, very pissed at what happened to GL before Johns took over the book. What happened? DC put crap talent on GL, like Winnick, who wrote the book for years. I don't think that what people were offended by was the change in direction, I think what people were offended by was that the change in direction sucked, and that DC didn't follow through with another change, fast enough (15 years is long time to perpetuate a bad idea). Sometimes, the original story/concept is good enough and should be left alone (there was no need to gerrymander Power Girl's origin post COIE) and sometimes, the original concept makes little sense, and should be shifted.

Hawkman may be the best example. Back in the day, tieing something into Ancient Egypt was very cool, so that's what hawkman was. This was back in the time after the discovery of King Tut's Tomb, and when Egyptian exhibits were posh at museums, so there was a global fascination. Later on, Hawkman became a Thanagarian Space cop, and I always felt that was a better backstory than the Eypgtian story, which strained suspension of disbelief. After all, there's a whole race of beings out there that look just like you and have your powers and equitment and you're not related to them? I felt like Johns making Hawkman ancient Eygptian was a mistake, and that he should have just gone with the Thanagarian angle and left it at that.

I felt like this was the thing with GL. I think the whole GL mythos, the Oans, the power rings, all it, is great reading, and that we don't need Kyle's girlfriend, or whoever, cut up into pieces and put into the fridge (a very bizarre take on a very old cliche, read "Jason and Medea").

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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
Well, no matter how he does it, it's STILL a return to formula. Leaving Wayne dead would be the only really unconventional thing to do, but of course that'll never happen. As rote as Captain America's return was, they did at least rock the boat a little by giving us the surprise of him not, in fact, taking up the shield again, though if anyone thinks that's gonna last forever then I've got a bridge to sell you.
Do I think a return to Steve Rodgers as Cap is going to happen? Yep. With the new movie coming out next year, it will happen, probably soon. However, that's editorial driving story, and not the other way around. I would be happy with Bucky as Cap for the forseeable future, as the book has never been better. That has more to do with Brubaker writing it, than anything else, and I do agree its a problem.

With Bruce Wayne, he'll be back. The thing is that I think the Return of Bruce Wayne is a solid comic book that has generated interest in the Bruce Wayne side of Batman. The ending to the last issue, which set up a Bruce Wayne versus Jonah Hex book was very cool, so I know I'll be buying #4.

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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
Well, isn't this just more of the "Identity Crisis" style storytelling we've been talking about? The plot is still exactly the same, just now we have some weird, distinctly negative stigma added to the character, which may end up making him look bad, but even it doesn't it's really not going to alter the underlying formula any.
Reminds of something I heard my comic book store guy say: "People like Grant Morrison should not be allowed to play with timestreams." It was my comic book store guy's theory, not my own. Nobody knows what Morrison will do, and the joy of it is in swapping theories and speculating on what will happen. Have you ever watched the cartoon show, back on Cartoon Network, Samuria Jack? As formuliac a show as there ever was, but sheer genius in its execution of that formula. Morrison has already "thought outside the box" with his version of Batman, in making Damian into Robin. The formuliac way would have been for Dick to just dig up another good kid and make that kid Robin. I suppose the troubled child who becomes the hero is another cliche, but at least Morrison isn't predictable with which cliche he'll use.

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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
Well, I agree with what you're saying, but remember my original question was sort of an in-universe inquiry about whether superheroes ever actually do much quantifiable good when vanquishing villains. The fact that sad bad guys must ALWAYS return, and must ALWAYS commit even more gruesome and horrifying acts in the future to continue seeming like a plausible threat, makes the heroes look like glorified janitors mopping up after various massacres rather than a really proactive force.
I guess it goes back to the fact that comics, as written, don't end. There's no finality, only the next issue, and that the medium has been going on for eighty years that way. Ancient Myths have endings, where the gods, or heroes triumph over the evil. Comics would too, except that there needs to be a next issue. Its a problem with the medium itself, and not the story-tellers.

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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
Alright, I'll give you that one, that's a change that's lasted (for now anyway).
There's a bitter irony to babs. Her first appearance was on the old 60's Batman TV show starring Adam West, and was a crazy idea the shows writers pulled out of their arse to stir up lagging ratings. The comics saw the idea and incorporated it, and the Barbara Gordon Batgirl became one of the mediums most beloved characters. Alan Moore shot her in the back because he thought people didn't care about her. He was wrong, as DC re-invented Barbara as Oracle, and now, she kicks ass in a whole different way, and she's as popular and beloved as she has ever been. Alan Moore didn't set out to change Barbara for the better, he thought shooting her in the back would get rid of her once and for all, but Barbara beat Alan Moore at that game, and became, if anything, more popular as Oracle than she was at Batgirl.

It both does and it doesn't play into your point. Barbara was a lasting change that happened unintentionally. Alan Moore's intention wasn't to elevate Barbara, or to give her a new role. It just sort of happened. That's the way comics works sometimes.


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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
Didn't last. You'll notice also that when permanent changes are made, it's almost always when something horrible occurs (see your previous point about ruining a character's life). Heroes rarely affect much permanent good in any similar fashion, say, by actually neutralizing the Joker as a threat once and for all. Because that would harm the sales of the book.
I think bringing Jason back was a horrible, horrible move. There's death in comics, which is a contradiction in terms, but then, there's Jason's death. He was beaten to death, blown up, and had batman hold the body and say "he's dead". The intention of Denny O'neil at the time was that Jason would never, ever come back, and yet, he came back in the worst way: continuity ripples caused by Superboy prime punching the wall of his paradise dimension. Judd Winnick is one of the worst of the worst writers, bringing Jason back should have never, never, never happened. Bringing Jason back would be like Bringing back Uncle Ben, should have never even been considered.

One other thing, I understand what you're saying about lasting good, but conflict is what sells books, and the Joker is the best. I would never want to read the last Joker story, because I find the Joker to be an entertaining character. If you want to read about reformed villians, and heroes making a difference, read a Catwoman or a Riddler story.

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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
Agreed, especially since such tricks just perpetuate the "revolving door afterlife" syndrome, since it won't be long before another writer says "Well that was a dumb idea, let's just bring that character back as fast as possible since it was so stupid to kill him/her in the first place."
I think I said it before, but I'll say it again. I hate the idea that every big event book has to have a death to make it "important". I have nothing against people bringing characters back from the grave, I'd just like it to be more judicious. If I had been a writer post-war games, the first thing I would have done is retcon the death of Stephanie Brown, because that was a death that never should have happened. In funny books, you have the power to rectify bad story mistakes, and that's a power I'd like to see used. I would like to see death be more permanant and for some characters to not come back.

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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
I would just like to be able to read the damn book without having to worry about all of this archaic nonsense, what is and is not in continuity, obscure references to stories from twenty years ago that might never have happened anymore or now are being brought back after not counting for decades, who has the time to keep it all straight, and does anyone REALLY care that much? I wish half of this energy were devoted toward telling new stories rather than micromanaging old ones.
I actually do like the continuity, as long as its not over-bearing. You read someone like Johns, and he has a talent for using the past to tell a good story, but you read Morrison, and he has to chock in so much past stuff that it gets confusing, overbearing and hard to keep up with. That's why Morrison is hit or miss, for me.
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  #22  
Old 07-16-2010, 03:32 AM
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Originally Posted by soda View Post
First off, let me say how much I'm enjoying this discussion! Its so nice to talk to someone who really does understand comics.
Ditto. Sorry for not being very speedy with my replies lately, but you know how it goes, only so many hours in the day.

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Originally Posted by soda
I remember the internet being split about 60/40 between people who thought what Diana did was right, versus those who didn't think it was right. The context of her actions was what mattered most, and to a lot of people, Diana made a calculated decision. Not a human decision. Not a superheroic decision. A calculated one.
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.

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Originally Posted by soda
Diana did what she did for one reason: because the worst thing imaginable is a rogue Superman. Lord's control over Clark had to be put to an end, and there was only one way to do it. So, Diana did it. Then, she took the heat for it, too.
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.

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Originally Posted by soda
I'm not a big fan of what she did, but, in her conduct then and afterwards, Diana acted like a hero. That, to me, is a classic version of an ages old moral connudrum. The idea that champions, or great heroes, are acting for what they think is the best interest of humanity, by keeping a secret evil secret.
Cue Gary Oldman's closing monologue from "The Dark Knight".

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Originally Posted by soda
Now, you can argue that this was change of character and not change of inherent plot. Meaning, it wasn't a change of structural status quo. That, however, is different from what I was trying to say in the following manner. I think that what you want is for comic stories to be about different things, and done in different ways. What I meant was that IC was a change to the characters status quo, but it didn't change the way comics were written structurally, that's been around for thousands of years.
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.

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Originally Posted by soda
I really dug HUSH. Wasn't everyone's cup of tea, that I'll say, but HUSH re-generated interest in Batman at the time. I still remember everyone was going crazy trying to figure out who Hush was, and what it was all about. I also liked the way the story was told, and the Nightwing issue and the Joker issue remain personal faves. It also had the pretty pictures of Jim Lee.
Individual issues of "Hush" were generally very good. I particularly liked the Poison Ivy/Superman thing. But as a cohesive story I didn't think it worked at all, it felt more like a series of vignettes and one-shots than an actual overarching plot.

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Originally Posted by soda
Now, Jeph Loeb, the man who wrote Hush, is not universally loved. Part of the problem is his stories are, what they call in the movie biz, "Popcorn entertainment". He's very good at that, but his tales have no depth and little purpose.
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. It's hard to be sure what Loeb was even trying to do in that story. The "mystery" of Hush's identity was so blindingly obvious that I would have assumed it wasn't supposed to be a mystery at all if not for all the ridiculous red herrings they scattered around the story. Here I'm going to use spoiler tags even though it's nigh impossible to think that anyone except we two is reading this:

Spoiler:
Is there really anyone who didn't immediately clue into the fact that Hush was Tommy Eliot? There's not even a pretense of trying to disguise it, not even to the degree of making him so obvious we'll assume he's a red herring.

And then the other red herrings start popping up: "Oh, I guess it's really Two-Face. No, wait, it's Jason Todd back from the dead! No, it's Clayface posing as Jason Todd! Oh, no, wait, it's the same guy I knew it was all along. Duh."

On the other hand, when the "big reveal" of his motive comes along, it's probably not what you expected, but it is remarkably stupid and makes little sense. And then the REAL swerve comes along and you discover the true mastermind behind everything, and yeah, I'll admit this was unpredictable, but, seriously, the Riddler? Don't get me wrong, I like the Riddler and I wouldn't mind someone writing him as an effectual villain again, but this was just ridiculous and came so far out of left field that it probably qualifies as being out of character for him. The fact that his role in the whole thing was swifty retconned away tells me I'm not the only one who thought so.

I also found confusing Loeb's depiction of the Riddler, especially his bitter insistence that "I used to be somebody in this town." Odd, since those two earlier Loeb Bat stories I cited depicted him as a two-bit snitch who gets pushed around by heroes and villains alike. Seems Loeb is sticking up for a character he himself has belittled. While I'm at it, the various references to "The Long Halloween", be it Two Face (or I guess I should say "Harvey Dent"; Loeb has such a hard on for that character I feel like I should tell them to get a room) confronting the Joker or Poison Ivy's repeated "No man can resist me," line that she used in "Halloween", got on my nerves. Not that there's anything wrong with them in themselves, but the fact that Loeb takes on the mainstream Batman series for the firsttime and can't seem to reference anything but his own work struck me as a little lazy.


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Originally Posted by soda View Post

After that, are works like the Epic of Gilgamesh, La 'morte de Arthur, the Odyysey and the Aenid (which I don't have a good opinion of, read it once, bored me stiff). What these works have in common is the basic plot, what makes them all-time all timers is the variation of character. From that point of view, even the Bible falls into that camp.
I was initially unimpressed with the Aeneid until I clued in to what Virgil was doing with his plot structure; basically retelling Homer backwards. I real Gilgamesh and was really blown away by how nuanced and modern the story seemed, which then made me instantly suspicious of the translation.

Now, I agree that you can tell a single story a hundred different ways and all of them be unique experiences with varying degrees of value. That said, if each of these variations has the same dissatisfying ending, I'm going to be equally displeased at the end. And if said ending is actually requisite to the cycle of storytelling being able to continue, then I start to feel downright hopeless about the situation.

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Originally Posted by soda
Not really. Post-IC, "Kingdom Come" is earth-22, its in DC continuity, and Kingdome Come Superman joined the earth-1 JSA for the better part of two years. Also, pretty much all of DC's editorial decisions regarding the DCU's "future" is geared towards the idea that Kingdome Come is DC's idea of what the future of its universe will look like.
Sentences like that are the reason I hate DC continuity.

Even if "Kingdom Come" is the canonical future of these characters, it's a future that's always going to remain distant and unfulfilled. We'll never reach a point in the main plot where KC is the present, so for all intents and purposes it's still a "What If?" tale. Although I guess having an actual, tangible resolution is kind of nice.

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Originally Posted by soda
I did think that Grant Morrison's decision to make Damian Wayne Robin in the normal, in continuity universe fell under the heading as "bold", and that's a decision that has a very good chance to stick (Tim and Dick aren't going to go back to being Robin when Bruce gets back). You can call it "oh, that's just another Robin", but Damian isn't like the other people who have worn that mask.
You might all this nitpicking, but at this point we've changed Robins so many times that the value of it is starting to wear off. Of course, what that means is that the original decision to have Dick Grayson stop being Robin was actually the really bold writing decision, but that was some time past.

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Originally Posted by soda
I don't think that what people were offended by was the change in direction, I think what people were offended by was that the change in direction sucked, and that DC didn't follow through with another change, fast enough (15 years is long time to perpetuate a bad idea). Sometimes, the original story/concept is good enough and should be left alone (there was no need to gerrymander Power Girl's origin post COIE) and sometimes, the original concept makes little sense, and should be shifted.
Right, but the point is that there's no shakeup so all-encompassing that it can't be undone later. Killing off virtually EVERY character in the series including, ya know, the main character and doing away with almost the entire central concept of the series (ie, space cop, corps of galactic defenders, etc) is about as sweeping and dramatic a change as you can make in a comic series. And it was all reversed later. Granted, in this case that turned out to be a very, very good call, but even so, I think the point stands.

Look at Barbara Gordon; don't you think that somewhere out there there's a writer or editor who is saying "You know what, I miss when Barbara was Batgirl instead of Oracle, let's just give her her legs back, or have the Spectre erase some of the Joker's crimes from history as part of his punishment or something like that." You don't think it could happen? I do. In fact, I'd be shocked if it didn't.

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Originally Posted by soda
Do I think a return to Steve Rogers as Cap is going to happen? Yep. With the new movie coming out next year, it will happen, probably soon. However, that's editorial driving story, and not the other way around. I would be happy with Bucky as Cap for the forseeable future, as the book has never been better. That has more to do with Brubaker writing it, than anything else, and I do agree its a problem.
Shit, I didn't even think about the movie. With that in mind we'll probably be lucky if they don't force Ed to have the Cosmic Cube turn Bucky back into a teenager or something.

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Originally Posted by soda

I guess it goes back to the fact that comics, as written, don't end. There's no finality, only the next issue, and that the medium has been going on for eighty years that way. Ancient Myths have endings, where the gods, or heroes triumph over the evil. Comics would too, except that there needs to be a next issue. Its a problem with the medium itself, and not the story-tellers.
Exactly. We've gotten to the point now where writers have to be good writers in spite of the medium they're working in rather than because of it. There are all these obstacles between you and the story you want to tell, all of these things you can't do and all these things you must do and you can never really have much in the way of finality or resolution (and if you try it won't take).

While it's all the more impressive what people are able to do under such circumstances, I wonder how much better each of these series would be if it could be it's own story. And then I wonder about some of my favorite comics of the past and how "The Sandman" might have turned out if Neil Gaiman had had to leave the story open-ended and let some other writer take over when he was ready to move on.

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Originally Posted by soda
I think bringing Jason back was a horrible, horrible move. There's death in comics, which is a contradiction in terms, but then, there's Jason's death. He was beaten to death, blown up, and had batman hold the body and say "he's dead". The intention of Denny O'neil at the time was that Jason would never, ever come back, and yet, he came back in the worst way.
When I say that dying was the most significant thing that Todd ever did as a character, I'm not being a smartass, it's true. That story, controversial though it was, cemented him a place in the series that no other character quite ever filled. It's a shame that was wasted.

Even that I could forgive if Jason at least was the hub of some great storytelling after his unlikely, ill-conceived resurrection, as with Bucky Barnes. But, well, you know how that goes...

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Originally Posted by soda
One other thing, I understand what you're saying about lasting good, but conflict is what sells books, and the Joker is the best. I would never want to read the last Joker story, because I find the Joker to be an entertaining character. If you want to read about reformed villians, and heroes making a difference, read a Catwoman or a Riddler story.
But isn't there a point at which just not just Batman but almost every other character look not just ineffectual but themselves borderline insane for not only not being able to effectively punish or defeat these repeat bad guys but to not even be able to put a significant impediment in their way?

I mean, just imagine for a second if the Joker were a real person who really had committed all the crimes we've seen over the past 80 or so years and had really escaped from incarceration on all those occasions. The authorities and heroes tasked with protecting society from him would not only look like the lowest grade of fool, their incompetence would itself be a criminal act.

It's like I always say, "Superman can do anything...except defeat Lex Luthor." At some point it becomes too much to take seriously anymore.

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Originally Posted by soda
I have nothing against people bringing characters back from the grave, I'd just like it to be more judicious. If I had been a writer post-war games, the first thing I would have done is retcon the death of Stephanie Brown, because that was a death that never should have happened. In funny books, you have the power to rectify bad story mistakes, and that's a power I'd like to see used. I would like to see death be more permanant and for some characters to not come back.
The problem is that every death is "A bad death," to someone, and someone somewhere is always going to wish they had X character of Y character still around to write about. I don't think you can have it both ways here, it's got to be either "Everyone stays dead, period," or, what we have now, which is basically that no one stays dead ever, which to me isn't conducive to very good storytelling. Although I guess it did give us "Blackest Night".
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  #23  
Old 07-20-2010, 04:31 PM
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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.

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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 façade, 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 façade 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”.

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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.




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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.



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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 05:03 PM..
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  #24  
Old 07-20-2010, 04:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
I was initially unimpressed with the Aeneid until I clued in to what Virgil was doing with his plot structure; basically retelling Homer backwards. I real Gilgamesh and was really blown away by how nuanced and modern the story seemed, which then made me instantly suspicious of the translation.

Now, I agree that you can tell a single story a hundred different ways and all of them be unique experiences with varying degrees of value. That said, if each of these variations has the same dissatisfying ending, I'm going to be equally displeased at the end. And if said ending is actually requisite to the cycle of storytelling being able to continue, then I start to feel downright hopeless about the situation.
My problem with the Aenid is that it doesn’t have the beat, and the rthymn of the other great classics of the world. It’s a pacing problem. You read something like the Mahabarata, or the Illiad, and its obvious these things, in their original language, were songs and poems, meant to be sung aloud. The beat, the rythmn and the pacing follow through, even in translation. You read the works of Leo Tolstoy, or the comedies or PG Wodehouse and Mark Twain, and there’s a life to them, an energy that permeates the pages. You read the Aenid, and it feels like the Roman Empire that produced it: lifeless, tired, monolithic, and overflung.

As someone one said of Wodehouse: “It is impossible to read Wodehouse and not be happy, and I’ve tried.” Books, poems and songs were originally a form of entertainment, until our modern age when they’ve lost ground to TV and the internet, they were meant to make people feel happy, or sad, to cry and to laugh. When it’s a dark and stormy night, I grab my complete works of Sherlock Holmes, and read one of the mysteries, and I feel something. When I’m feeling sad, I read The code of the Woosters, in which Bertie has to travel to the dreaded Toletiegh Towers, to pinch a cow creamer, and it makes me laugh. I don’t feel anything when I read the Aenid.

Maybe other people are different. When I read Gilgamesh, and I watch the hero travel to try to find a way to not die, I can relate to that, and it resonates with me on a very personal level. When I read about courtly love, knights, dragons, betrayal, and magic in Arthur, it means something to me. When I read about life, reconciliation, war, human weakness, and rules of personal conduct and society in the Mahabarata, it makes an impact. I don’t feel the same things with Virgil. I read the divine comedy of Dante, in which the poet Virgil is a character, and that had an impact for me, it was very moving to see Dante try to make sense of his world, and to sub-divide and classify the afterlife, it made a weird degree of sense, and it was a very human reaction, given the time in which Dante was writing. I didn’t get anything out of the Aenid. That just might be me being overly critical though 



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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
You might all this nitpicking, but at this point we've changed Robins so many times that the value of it is starting to wear off. Of course, what that means is that the original decision to have Dick Grayson stop being Robin was actually the really bold writing decision, but that was some time past.
I would agree that the decision to have Dick Grayson stop being Robin was a very bold writing step. However, you look at Jason Todd and Tim Drake, and while one is a trouble maker and one is a detective, they’re both of a type character that fits the mold for a sidekick. In other words, not very inventive. Damian is a very different kind of character. The kid is the biological son of Bruce Wayne, and the biological Grandson of Ra’s Al Ghul, right there, kid never had a chance. It took the mad science of Grant Morrison to bring Damian in as Robin, and it took the writing of Morrison to make people like it. This was a very controversial move, one that most writers wouldn’t have touched (for exactly the reasons you’ve outlined, it was too risky. )

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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
Right, but the point is that there's no shakeup so all-encompassing that it can't be undone later. Killing off virtually EVERY character in the series including, ya know, the main character and doing away with almost the entire central concept of the series (ie, space cop, corps of galactic defenders, etc) is about as sweeping and dramatic a change as you can make in a comic series. And it was all reversed later. Granted, in this case that turned out to be a very, very good call, but even so, I think the point stands.

Look at Barbara Gordon; don't you think that somewhere out there there's a writer or editor who is saying "You know what, I miss when Barbara was Batgirl instead of Oracle, let's just give her her legs back, or have the Spectre erase some of the Joker's crimes from history as part of his punishment or something like that." You don't think it could happen? I do. In fact, I'd be shocked if it didn't.
Babs is a perfect example. Alan Moore shot her in the back because he didn’t think anyone would care, but because he knew he couldn’t kill her, it was Moore’s way of getting rid of her. Didn’t work. Oracle is, if anything, far more popular than Batgirl was, but there are a lot of people, and I mean a lot of people, who still won’t accept anyone as Batgirl other than Babs. A big part of it was the utter failure that Cassandra Cain was in the role. Babs had charm, charisma and a likeability as batgirl that Cass never matched. Cass always came across as cold, brutal and efficient, and for whatever reason, that just wasn’t what people were looking for. I do agree that there’s always the threat that Babs will be Batgirl again, but I don’t see it happeneing in continuity. Ie, if she does become Batgirl, it will be an elseworld, which “doesn’t count” (you can’t have it both ways, you can’t wave your hand and say it doesn’t count, when it supports your point) A big part of the reason for that is that Oracle is so popular as a character, that its hard to see someone changing that status quo. Lord knows that Gail Simone has given us plenty of “false starts” on that in her time on Birds of Prey.

In the end, I think the test is quality, as you said, the whole Hawkman/GL thing was reversed later, and nobody is complaining about that, because it was the right move.



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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
Exactly. We've gotten to the point now where writers have to be good writers in spite of the medium they're working in rather than because of it. There are all these obstacles between you and the story you want to tell, all of these things you can't do and all these things you must do and you can never really have much in the way of finality or resolution (and if you try it won't take).

While it's all the more impressive what people are able to do under such circumstances, I wonder how much better each of these series would be if it could be it's own story. And then I wonder about some of my favorite comics of the past and how "The Sandman" might have turned out if Neil Gaiman had had to leave the story open-ended and let some other writer take over when he was ready to move on.
You know what though? The restrictions of a medium, and working within them, are tantamount everywhere and in anything you create. Take converting comics to movies, and other medium, for example. What a lot of people don’t understand is that you can’t just do whatever you want, when you pick the subject matter. When I was a kid, I loved the TV show the Dukes of Hazzard, because it was great, 80s popcorn entertainment. When they made the movie a few years back, I was insulted, because I knew what they were going to do: just make whatever movie they wanted, and slap the name “dukes of hazard” on it. That’s what the Catwoman trainwreck was. You want to know the point at which I knew that Christopher Nolan “got it”? Early in the movie Batman Begins, when Ra’s Al Ghul and Bruce Wayne have the sword fight sequence. Every fan knows that if you do Batman and Ra’s Al Ghul, you have to have the obligatory Sword fight sequence. Its in the contract, and to change it would have been folly. That’s a restriction on the medium. Rather than buck that, and say “no, my story is not going to be restricted by the conventions of the comics” Nolan embraced it, and by embracing it, and using the conventions of the medium, he succeeded brilliantly. I think it takes a better writer to make something spectacular when you have clichés that must be respected. .


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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
The problem is that every death is "A bad death," to someone, and someone somewhere is always going to wish they had X character of Y character still around to write about. I don't think you can have it both ways here, it's got to be either "Everyone stays dead, period," or, what we have now, which is basically that no one stays dead ever, which to me isn't conducive to very good storytelling. Although I guess it did give us "Blackest Night".
Okay, this last point is very interesting, because I didn’t clarify what I thought the ground rules were for a “bad death”. I agree that, to a large extent, its relative, you’re correct that every death is a “bad death” to someone. Here is what I would say, I would say that death, as a story-telling tool, is used in comics today as a way to not use a character for a prolonged period of time, to quell the fans of that character, and to bring back a character that’s been “over-exposed”. Its not really death, in the traditional sense that we know it. In other words, there is no need for 99% of the characters who “die” to “die”, you could just lock them up in the Phantom Zone for the next year, and, at every panel at con, instead of a million fans asking “hey, when are you bringing back Stephanie Brown?” They would ask “hey, when is Stephanie Brown getting out of the Phantom Zone?”

See the difference? In terms of plot, the two are exactly the same. The only reason death is used is because its more primordial and has a bigger impact, everyone knows someone whose died, everyones been to a funeral, everyone can relate. Not all of us have had someone we know locked up in the Phantom Zone. At the end of COIE, Marv Wolfman created the paradise dimension for the earth-2 Lois Lane, Kal-L, Superboy Prime, and Alexander Luthor, in just this way, he could have killed them off, but he locked them away in a box, instead, and twenty years passed until Geoff Johns unlocked that box. My personal pet theory is that the earth-2 Robin and Huntress survived COIE (you never see them “die”, just encased in a crystal dome while shadow demons penetrate it, but no body).

In that sense, if I worked for DC, and I wanted to do an earth-2 Robin and Huntress story, I could, arguing that they were never “really dead”. Writing stories that will be changed, altered and ret-conned in the future, and not straining the credibility of those future writers, is an art. There are some deaths that just, plain qualify as “bad”. Steph’s death at the end of war games is my favorite example of a death that was silly. It was tacked on to the end of an awful story (probably the worst I have ever read) to give a bad story some “meaning”. That’s one that never should have happened. On the other end, there are deaths like Phoenix’s in “Dark Phoenix” where the death is relevant to the plot, and in which the death has power and emotional resonance. Most comic book deaths fall somewhere in-between, and yes, I would prefer they use “locked up in the phantom zone” more often
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  #25  
Old 07-21-2010, 04:33 AM
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Originally Posted by soda View Post

However, getting to your larger point, the idea that there are only so many ways to non-lethally defeat someone.
Well, just to clarify what I was trying to say there (I had to edit cuz I was running out of room), I often find it strange that, for example, a character might be able to blast someone with thousands of volts as a power, and yet that character rarely seems to kill anyone with said power, despite thousands of volts generally being fatal in most circumstances.

Someone zapped by said power will inevitably only be stunned or at worst knocked unconscious, and though they may appear to be at death's door at the end of the fight by next issue they will usually be up and running again with only a cursory reference to their injury. This, to me, is deeply strange, and I guess if it was only one character or only on occasion it would be excusable as one of the little quirks of the material, but as its the norm almost without exception it comes off as very odd.

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Originally Posted by soda
At DC, at least they try to offer you an explanation, at Marvel, they rely on the Jedi Mind trick. The basics of it is that Colossus just walks in the room and he “got better”.
Sometimes I think I prefer it that way. Sure, it doesn't make sense, but then again, neither do the various "explanations." Something like the above is almost a writer's way of saying "I know this is stupid, but it's something we have to do, so we're not going to insult you're intelligence by pretending its reasonable or logical." It's not good writing, but it's admitting that what's happening is just a necessary evil.

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Originally Posted by soda
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”.
Right, but ya know, I feel like Cap has been shot at so many times that it's weird that only this once did the bullets actually hit him. Similarly, Jason Todd must have been smacked around plenty of times in ways that would be lethal to a real human being, but only that once did it take. Now I'm also thinking of when the Human Torch was hospitalized in "Civil War". Here's a guy routinely gets smacked around by Dr. Doom and blasted with otherworldly weaponry and is only stunned for a panel or two, and what puts him in the ER? A coke bottle.

One thing about the Captain America example, though, is that that's the rare series where I think the violence really is depicted in that perfect median and where I really can take it seriously. I mean, practically the first thing we saw in issue one was Cap getting dressed down for using excessive force against some bad guys and him defending his actions. It's still unrealistic, to be sure, but there's a lot of gray areas in there. Normally when a guy gets "knocked out" in comics we're to assume he'll be fine later, but I sometimes wonder if when Cap hits some AIM agents with his shield that they don't all end up with compound skull fractures.

The tone of the series is just right so that I don't feel like anything is being sugarcoated but at the same time it's not a ridiculous bloodbath and the main character doesn't look like a sociopath.

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Originally Posted by soda
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.
Well alright, but that's one movie. If Chris Nolan put out a Batman movie per month every month and they all ended that way he would wear out his audience's good faith a lot faster. There's also a line of criticism that says the movie is good in spite of that ending, not because of it.

There's also kind of a sliding scale at work here. "Batman Begins" might have cheesed a bit when you compare it to "The Dark Knight", but if you evaluate it by the standards of a Schumaker movie it looks like freaking "Ful Metal Jacket".

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Originally Posted by soda
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.
But that's a completely different kind of animal, "Fables" is entirely a creator work, it's Pullman's baby from start to finish, not like Batman or X-Men, which is a franchise owned by the company and has gone through more editors over the years than the Bible. And as a Vertigo book it almost by deifintion has a lot more leeway.

You're correct in that sales are what ultimately decide the fate of a series, but in the case of something like "Fables" poor sales probably wouldn't mean replacing the writer or forcing an editorial mandate on it like with a mainstream hero book, most likely it would just mean canning the title.

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Originally Posted by soda
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.
Well, what I think we have today is a formula where it's guaranteed the bad guy will get punched in the face, but it's also guaranteed not to matter much in the long run.

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Originally Posted by soda
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.
You know, "Ultimatum" is almost worth reading for the sheer horrific grandeur of how terrible it is. Almost.

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Originally Posted by soda
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.
I felt like that's what "Hush" wanted to be. Each issue felt like it should be its own story, and in that format I could see it having been a good run. "Here's one issue where Batman foils Killer Croc's kidnapping plot, here's one where Poison Ivy mind controls Superman", etc etc. But by trying to link those episodes together and make it (unconvincingly) seem like all part of a larger conspiracy, it sort of took the shine off of it.

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Originally Posted by soda
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..
That was not a wise investment.

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Originally Posted by soda
When I read about life, reconciliation, war, human weakness, and rules of personal conduct and society in the Mahabarata, it makes an impact. I don’t feel the same things with Virgil. I read the divine comedy of Dante, in which the poet Virgil is a character, and that had an impact for me, it was very moving to see Dante try to make sense of his world, and to sub-divide and classify the afterlife, it made a weird degree of sense, and it was a very human reaction, given the time in which Dante was writing. I didn’t get anything out of the Aenid. That just might be me being overly critical though.
I think what Virgil was trying to do might have been something bigger than that. He was trying to forge a link between the world he knew and the world of antiquity that his society had planted itself on top of. It was about national identity, about taking a story and appropriating it and saying "This is who we are, this is our proud tradition, we embody these ideals."

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Originally Posted by soda
Damian is a very different kind of character. The kid is the biological son of Bruce Wayne, and the biological Grandson of Ra’s Al Ghul, right there, kid never had a chance. It took the mad science of Grant Morrison to bring Damian in as Robin, and it took the writing of Morrison to make people like it. This was a very controversial move, one that most writers wouldn’t have touched (for exactly the reasons you’ve outlined, it was too risky. )
Well, maybe I'm a cynic, but I see this as a way of trying to cover up for a copout. "Yeah, okay, so we're bringing Bruce back just like you knew we would all along and we didn't even really try to fool you for a second, but look, there's a new Robin, and it's kind of a crazy idea this time, so you see we're really shaking things up after all, right? Right?" Perhaps I'm being too hard on them, but this whole stunt has rubbed me the wrong way.

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Originally Posted by soda
I do agree that there’s always the threat that Babs will be Batgirl again, but I don’t see it happeneing in continuity. Ie, if she does become Batgirl, it will be an elseworld, which “doesn’t count” (you can’t have it both ways, you can’t wave your hand and say it doesn’t count, when it supports your point) A big part of the reason for that is that Oracle is so popular as a character, that its hard to see someone changing that status quo.
Well here's where we differ, because I think Barbara really could end up as Batgirl again, and not just in some Elseworld story. I can foresee this happening a few ways:

1. Someone just plain thinks it's a good idea and is nostalgic for the old days, possibly not even liking the Oracle character. Remember, it doesn't matter if the fans agree, if what the fans thought was a good idea was what determined how comics are written a lot of the last 20 years would never have happened, it just takes one writer and one editor thinking something is a bright idea to make it happen. More implausible ideas have been pushed through in the past. Recently.

2. It happens almost by accident when the Powers that Be decide they want a new identity for Batgirl for whatever reason and everyone brainstorms ideas. Failing to come up with any good ideas, someone finally states the obvious: "Well, there's one person we know is good in the role..."

3. Someone along the lines decides it's time to "Shake up" the Oracle character the way they routinely think needs to be done with various heroes. And since comic writers and editors seem to be fond of the phase "What's old is new again," there's one very obvious way they could to this.

You may say this is all just speculation, but the thing is, it's really not, because this is the way that such things have happened in the past. It's very possible.

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Originally Posted by soda
Every fan knows that if you do Batman and Ra’s Al Ghul, you have to have the obligatory Sword fight sequence. Its in the contract, and to change it would have been folly. That’s a restriction on the medium. Rather than buck that, and say “no, my story is not going to be restricted by the conventions of the comics” Nolan embraced it, and by embracing it, and using the conventions of the medium, he succeeded brilliantly. I think it takes a better writer to make something spectacular when you have clichés that must be respected.
Alright, but you're the first person to praise that movie for having the swordfight, whereas there have been a thousand fanboys before who have criticized it for not having the Lazarus chamber or virtually anything else we associate with the character Ras Al Ghul. But even most of those fanboys admitted to liking the movie in spite of that simply because it was a good movie. Nolan took some huge liberties with the material and really he only used the tropes that he liked or that worked to his advantage, but he got away with it because, well, he's Chris Nolan.

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Originally Posted by soda
Here is what I would say, I would say that death, as a story-telling tool, is used in comics today as a way to not use a character for a prolonged period of time, to quell the fans of that character, and to bring back a character that’s been “over-exposed”. Its not really death, in the traditional sense that we know it.
That's an interesting point, I hadn't considered that. I tend to look at it as the desire to have a big dramatic moment in your earth-shattering crossover so you off somebody, but you know perfectly well you're never going to get away with depriving the company of such a valuable property, so you have to undo it later.

It's a different issue, but sometimes I'm as irritated by the weird rezzes as by the ill-conceived deaths in the first place. Great example being Barry Allen; I'm still not convinced this character needed to come back. Granted, I'll give them style points for how it happened (having him actually outrun death. Okay, it doesn't make a lick of fucking sense, but still, awesome), but in so doing they're erasing one of the rare character deaths that really was well done, invalidating one of the most dramatic moments in comics history, stepping all over another character who has been wearing the mantle for over two decades now, and really sort of cluttering things up (Wally makes the joke in "Blackest Night" that there's no Flash Corps, but they're actually not far from it at this point).

I tend to liken it to the return of Norman Osborne, although that might not be fair, since thus far Allen hasn't featured in any story that's half as abhorrent as the ones Osborne has been at the center of since the 90s.
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  #26  
Old 07-22-2010, 06:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
Well, just to clarify what I was trying to say there (I had to edit cuz I was running out of room), I often find it strange that, for example, a character might be able to blast someone with thousands of volts as a power, and yet that character rarely seems to kill anyone with said power, despite thousands of volts generally being fatal in most circumstances.

Someone zapped by said power will inevitably only be stunned or at worst knocked unconscious, and though they may appear to be at death's door at the end of the fight by next issue they will usually be up and running again with only a cursory reference to their injury. This, to me, is deeply strange, and I guess if it was only one character or only on occasion it would be excusable as one of the little quirks of the material, but as its the norm almost without exception it comes off as very odd.
You know, back in the day (Silver Age) it used to be the posh thing that Batman would never get hit by a bullet, he was so quick, he could dodge them. Then someone pointed out how incredibly unrealistic that was, that a human with no superpowers could dodge bullets. These days, the posh thing is to show the blood and guts when a character gets shot, to show the gore. Wolverine, for example, gets dismembered, or has a missle shot through him, about twice a week. Its cool with Wolvie, because he has the mutant healing factor.

So, I would say this: superhero comics have never been about realistic. In Sin City, hookers wear $10,000 designer clothes because Frank Miller says they do and for no other reason. (I realize Sin City isn’t “Superhero comics” per say, but you get the idea). You look back at the Silver Age, and there was a lot of stuff that just plain didn’t make sense, like Batman being able to dodge bullets. Would I like to see someone getting zapped by thousands of volts of power at least be out for a little while? Sure. I think that’s a realistic thing. If comics in the last ten years or so have shown us anything, its shown us that a book can be very cool without the title character of the book in it. Just these last few years, we’ve gotten a Captain America book without Cap (Steve Rodgers was dead, and Bucky was filling in), We’ve gotten a Superman book without Superman (Superman was off on new Krypton, and Mon-el was subbing for him) and a Batman book without Batman (Bruce was “Omegaed”) and, for the most part, all of these books have been well received (in terms of sales and popularity, at least). So, I definitely think the depth of characters in the universes of the big two is there to be able to have, for lack of a better phrase, a “superhero 60 day disabled list”.

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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
Sometimes I think I prefer it that way. Sure, it doesn't make sense, but then again, neither do the various "explanations." Something like the above is almost a writer's way of saying "I know this is stupid, but it's something we have to do, so we're not going to insult you're intelligence by pretending its reasonable or logical." It's not good writing, but it's admitting that what's happening is just a necessary evil.
See, I wouldn’t mind so much if that’s what it was: the writer admitting it’s a necessary evil. I don’t see that as the case. I think when you try to “jedi mind trick” the audience, what you’re trying to do is save page space, and, essentially, dumb it down for the audience. I find bad writing, in any way shape or form, an insult to the reader. I paid three to five dollars (depending on what it was) for this book, and “I got better” is the best you can do? The industry, these days, is very competitive, and there are more good books (in general) then there are dollars to go around. If you want to bring someone back from the dead, then I think its reasonable that you should be given the burden of at least thinking of a halfway decent way to make it happen. If you can’t, that’s a clue that the story you had wasn’t as compelling as you once thought, and that said dead character should stay dead.

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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
One thing about the Captain America example, though, is that that's the rare series where I think the violence really is depicted in that perfect median and where I really can take it seriously. I mean, practically the first thing we saw in issue one was Cap getting dressed down for using excessive force against some bad guys and him defending his actions. It's still unrealistic, to be sure, but there's a lot of gray areas in there. Normally when a guy gets "knocked out" in comics we're to assume he'll be fine later, but I sometimes wonder if when Cap hits some AIM agents with his shield that they don't all end up with compound skull fractures.

The tone of the series is just right so that I don't feel like anything is being sugarcoated but at the same time it's not a ridiculous bloodbath and the main character doesn't look like a sociopath.
It is a fine line, isn’t it? That’s one of the things that makes Brubaker one of the very best in the industry right now, he’s an amazing writer, who is clearly a cut (or two, or three) above his competition.

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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
Well alright, but that's one movie. If Chris Nolan put out a Batman movie per month every month and they all ended that way he would wear out his audience's good faith a lot faster. There's also a line of criticism that says the movie is good in spite of that ending, not because of it.

There's also kind of a sliding scale at work here. "Batman Begins" might have cheesed a bit when you compare it to "The Dark Knight", but if you evaluate it by the standards of a Schumaker movie it looks like freaking "Ful Metal Jacket".
In hindsight, I don’t think one should ever not just trust Christopher Nolan, but those were different days. One of my biggest critiques of the movie industry is that every movie that comes out tries to be all things to all people (which is what you’re really getting at when you point out the harsh realism of modern comics, but the cheesy ending in which the bad guy doesn’t really pay, its not the same thing, but it’s a variation of the same problem) in an effort to boost sales. There has been a divide, historically, between art and what makes money, and there are very, very few things that do both. The Dark Knight was one of the few things that did, and, in hindsight, that’s why Nolan should have been allowed to do whatever he wanted with Begins. I do feel like the ending compromised the movie, to an extent, (don’t get me wrong, it was still a terrific film, which I really enjoyed) but I really attribute that to the need for a classic type ending to boost sales, and not to Nolan’s own editorial fiat.

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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
But that's a completely different kind of animal, "Fables" is entirely a creator work, it's Pullman's baby from start to finish, not like Batman or X-Men, which is a franchise owned by the company and has gone through more editors over the years than the Bible. And as a Vertigo book it almost by deifintion has a lot more leeway.

You're correct in that sales are what ultimately decide the fate of a series, but in the case of something like "Fables" poor sales probably wouldn't mean replacing the writer or forcing an editorial mandate on it like with a mainstream hero book, most likely it would just mean canning the title.
You are correct that one of the problems with the superhero comic genre is that it goes through more writers, and editors than the Bible (which in itself is a funny story, did you know “The Bible” wasn’t settled on, and fully edited, until over 300 years after the time of Christ? True story, America hasn’t been a country for 300 years yet.) With something like Fables, though, the following is there, and despite the fact that two of the last three stories were very sub-par (witches and crossover were awful), Fables has such a devoted fanbase that cancellation is not in the question. Willingham cheeses it for a while, then, he comes out with an arc like “rose red” and all sins are forgiven. Most comics can’t do that, only really established titles can, and Fables is that. Mainstream superhero titles can also get the axe if sales are low (Marvel way, way more than DC. DC tends to have a much lower sales target that a series has to hit, and DC also responds more to fan mail and fandome. DC is much more likely than marvel to keep a popular series with low sales but a devoted fan base.) Don’t confuse a title having a following with a title quality and sales. Sales are the big thing, but books that suck can still sell. Marvel has the X-zombies, that will buy a Chuck Austen x-men book, and keep buying it for ten years, no matter how awful it is.



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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
I felt like that's what "Hush" wanted to be. Each issue felt like it should be its own story, and in that format I could see it having been a good run. "Here's one issue where Batman foils Killer Croc's kidnapping plot, here's one where Poison Ivy mind controls Superman", etc etc. But by trying to link those episodes together and make it (unconvincingly) seem like all part of a larger conspiracy, it sort of took the shine off of it.
I can see what you’re saying about HUSH, I did like the episodic nature of it. In hindsight, the big reveal was obvious, but at the time, there were so many red herrings, that people were pulling out their hair trying to figure it out. For someone like you, you might have known it was Elliot all along, if you did, more power to you, but to those of us who were reading it, issue by issue, for a year, it was quite mysterious, at the time. There was a whole legion of people who thought Hush was two-face, because in a Loeb story, its always two-face. In any case, HUSH revitalized Batman, and DC comics in general, from the doldrums of the 90s. It was DC’s first big hit since Kingdome Come.


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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
I think what Virgil was trying to do might have been something bigger than that. He was trying to forge a link between the world he knew and the world of antiquity that his society had planted itself on top of. It was about national identity, about taking a story and appropriating it and saying "This is who we are, this is our proud tradition, we embody these ideals."
Maybe I’ll read the Aenid again sometime soon, maybe with a more mature eye, I’ll be able to get more out of it. The last time, and only time, I read it was in college, and that was over ten years ago.

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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
Well, maybe I'm a cynic, but I see this as a way of trying to cover up for a copout. "Yeah, okay, so we're bringing Bruce back just like you knew we would all along and we didn't even really try to fool you for a second, but look, there's a new Robin, and it's kind of a crazy idea this time, so you see we're really shaking things up after all, right? Right?" Perhaps I'm being too hard on them, but this whole stunt has rubbed me the wrong way.
I think you are reading it the wrong way. Initially, I was very much against bringing Damian into continuity, because I remember reading Son of the Demon, and I remember it wasn’t a very good story. I think you can be cynical if you really want to be, but I don’t think that what Morrison is doing with Damian should be mixed together with the decision to Omega Bruce Wayne. What Morrison has done with Damian is nothing short of brilliant, and is a tremendous display of what good writing can do to a situation that people are very much against. I think the way it rubs you wrong is, to be kind, a stretch.

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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
Well here's where we differ, because I think Barbara really could end up as Batgirl again, and not just in some Elseworld story. I can foresee this happening a few ways:
Okay, I do think its possible that Barbara ends up as Batgirl again. I kinda cringe when I say that, because I’ve been reading the current Batgirl, and I think that Miller has done an excellent job with it. I also think that Barbara should stay in her current role, as Oracle. She’s way more popular as Oracle than she was as Batgirl, partly because, to a lot of comic book fans, the thought of a super-smart girl in a wheelchair who can still kick your ass is very appealing. To each his own.



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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
Alright, but you're the first person to praise that movie for having the swordfight, whereas there have been a thousand fanboys before who have criticized it for not having the Lazarus chamber or virtually anything else we associate with the character Ras Al Ghul. But even most of those fanboys admitted to liking the movie in spite of that simply because it was a good movie. Nolan took some huge liberties with the material and really he only used the tropes that he liked or that worked to his advantage, but he got away with it because, well, he's Chris Nolan.
To be fair, everytime I watch that movie, and I hear the named pronounced “Ros Al Ghul” instead of “Ray-che Al Ghul” (ie the phonetic as opposed to the way its actually pronounced in Arabic) I cringe. I mean, I cringe, that pronounciation really bugs me. They’ve gone with Ray-che in cartoons for kids, and you’re telling me that was too complex for a movie going audience? I do think Nolan was aware of this, as, in the birthday party scene, he has that woman give yet a third pronounciation (“Rass Al Ghul”). I’m thinking this was a “dumb it down” decision by the suits. In any case, the Lazurus pit didn’t really bother me, like it did a lot of fans. Here’s my thing, you look at the Tim Burton movies, and you see a Batman that was very different from the comics, you look at the Schumacher films and you see something that was completely different from the comics (“Barbara Pennyworth?” That makes me cringe, Bane makes me cringe, but let’s not talk of such things) You look at the Nolan movies, and you see stuff that, as much as Nolan likes to assert his independence, was heavily influnced by the comics, and in which that influence shows on screen. That’s what’s important. As a fan, I want something different done in a new, cool way with characters I know and love. Nolan could have easily stuck in a Lazurus pit, or Talia, or a million other things, but what did he actually give us? Remember the speech Ra’s makes in Wayne Manor as its burning? That’s what Ra’s is, as a character, that’s the way he thinks, and that’s the core of his being. That’s what’s most important to me.

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Originally Posted by Ender View Post
That's an interesting point, I hadn't considered that. I tend to look at it as the desire to have a big dramatic moment in your earth-shattering crossover so you off somebody, but you know perfectly well you're never going to get away with depriving the company of such a valuable property, so you have to undo it later.

It's a different issue, but sometimes I'm as irritated by the weird rezzes as by the ill-conceived deaths in the first place. Great example being Barry Allen; I'm still not convinced this character needed to come back. Granted, I'll give them style points for how it happened (having him actually outrun death. Okay, it doesn't make a lick of fucking sense, but still, awesome), but in so doing they're erasing one of the rare character deaths that really was well done, invalidating one of the most dramatic moments in comics history, stepping all over another character who has been wearing the mantle for over two decades now, and really sort of cluttering things up (Wally makes the joke in "Blackest Night" that there's no Flash Corps, but they're actually not far from it at this point).

I tend to liken it to the return of Norman Osborne, although that might not be fair, since thus far Allen hasn't featured in any story that's half as abhorrent as the ones Osborne has been at the center of since the 90s.
I do think your first point has merit, but at comic con panels, Dan Didio has said, more than once, when a person asked him when favorite character X was coming back, that the character was over-exposed, and was, therefore, only in the process of getting better, at this time. (a deliberate dig at Marvel, no doubt). The point remains, DC and Marvel have both killed off characters that they thought were over-exposed, for that reason, to give them some time off, so that when the character is re-introduced, fans will buy the book. Its what happened to Thor. The book used to be good, but it was just one guy who was buying every issue, and he was swapping it with his friends. They killed off Thor in Disassembled, and when he came back, with his own book, written by JMS, it sold very well. Absence makes the heart grow fonder is definitely part of it. Although, your point is also valid, it is also the need for a big, important death to punctuate an event. Its both, really.

The decision to bring back Norman Osbourne was one of the most ill-thought out, and frankly, stupid decisions in the history of comics. If Norman could be in Europe the entire time, and he just got back, to me that’s the apex of lazy story-telling. Nothing he’s done since he got back has in any way justified the decision to bring him back. They might as well bring back Thomas and Martha Wayne, and Uncle Ben, and Jor-el, and have done with it. Norman Osbourne’s death is for Harry Osbourne what Uncle Ben’s death was for Peter Parker, it makes no sense to bring back the former for the same reason it makes no sense to bring back the later. Marvel blew it.

As for Barry Allen, I do think that Wally was a better Flash, and should have stayed the part. I do agree that Barry’s death had real meaning, and I don’t like the idea to bring him back either. I think that its not as aggregious a call as bringing back Norman Osbourne, but its up there. Mainly because John’s work on the Wally West Flash book was excellent, but his work with Barry Allen has only been so-so to date. Maybe Johns has something big in mind that would justify the decision. I haven’t seen it yet, but knowing Johns, I’m not yet prepared to rule it out.
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  #27  
Old 07-30-2010, 10:02 AM
Oh, my god!!! Two guys wrote epic story here, that I don't want to read all, (lazy, bored). Can you said in 2-3 sentences?
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  #28  
Old 07-30-2010, 04:08 PM
Read about 2/3rds of what is written here. Will read the rest when I get home from work. I am interested what you two think of the superhero tales that are owned by non Marvel/Dc companies. Do you see the same sense of a useless hero when you read something like Invincible or Ex Machina(haven't read it yet but I have always wanted to so it might not apply) as opposed to JLA?
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