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Sunday Brunch: 8/30/09

I asked for things more worthy of linkage, and the comics internet responded! Truly, I am King of the Intertubes.

Also, I like this QUESTION OF THE WEEK business, so I’ll try to keep this up. This week’s: Which comic character do you find completely uninteresting, no matter who writes or draws him/her? And (a two-parter!) what would make you change your mind about them?

Links below!

BATTLE ROYALE: Gail Simone versus Rich Johnston, for all the marbles! Sorta. Gail wonders if gossip journalism is necessary in comics. The answer? No, but it’s nice to have someone who occasionally forgets to pull his punches, and who enjoys stoking the flames of fandom. And hey, he uncovers Josh Hoopes’ scams and company’s lack of payments, so that’s nice. We need it more than we need Twitter, I imagine. U-Decide!

Anyway, Rich naturally picked the story up at his site, Bleeding Cool, and it soon spilled over to The Beat, and lots of people got angry and decided to post about it on the internet. Controversy breeds comments.

I don’t think anyone’s particularly wrong here, but I also never understood the persecution of Rich Johnston.

ITEM! Two lovely articles at the Mindless Ones recently. The first is amypoodle’s excellent essay on Ghost World and the spectre of nostalgia:

The past will seduce and then reject us. Ghost world is all about this tension. It recognizes the sweetness of memory – or the idea of memory – in spite of its ready willingness to undermine it. And that’s why it’s a truly romantic work, because nostalgia is always bittersweet.

And the second is a cool Heroic Hype piece on the Batcave by none other than the mighty Zom:

What’s particularly enjoyable is that throughout the years the Batcave has frequently denied rock solid continuity and consequently has a kind of in built narrative potential. Despite the dinosaur and the computer and the lab and the cars, no two Batcaves look the same, and creators are, within reason, always free to add or subtract details as they see fit. … There’s a sense in which their efforts work to deconstruct themselves – new chambers gape open, old ones buried as it’s shape and and form twist to the whims of a capricious earth.

ITEM! David Brothers of 4thletter! takes DC to task over their mishandling of Static and the Milestone characters, as perceived by creator Dwayne McDuffie and his refreshing honesty.

So, what happened here? DC picks up one of the more marketable cartoons in recent memory, and a fondly-remembered and ahead of its time universe, and fumbles the ball. The universe is shuffled off to a brief series of one-shots in Brave & the Bold, Static ends up in a comic no one likes (if you like Teen Titans, you like a bad comic, this is gospel truth), and the guy who is the face of the deal ends up shuffled off a book he was writing with handcuffs, out of the DCU, and off into cartoonland.

ITEM! That dastardly Justin Zyduck (any relation to Psyduck, the Pokemon?) does it again with a post on Superman, explaining why good Superman stories are good, and how to write the character effectively. Of course, I’ve been saying this for years, because I am a genius. But don’t take my word for it:

[Superman]’s the ultimate survivor – he escaped what killed the last planet he lived on, and ever since he’s been almost completely invulnerable. For him, failure doesn’t come with the sweet release of death. He’s going to have to live with it. He’s going to have to see that plane crash, that dead body, that burnt-out Earth. And that’s the sort of thing that would actually hurt Superman, not kryptonite lasers.You can’t pierce his skin because he was born on Krypton, but because he was raised on Earth you can break his heart.

ITEM! In a similarly character-investigating manner, Tim O’Neil looks at how The Thing is the most versatile character in the Marvel Universe. And he’s right. I think it’s because Ben Grimm is simply the most human superhero they’ve got, despite his rough exterior:

Story continues below

[The Thing’s] main character trait is perspective. It’s what he does. He’s the kid from the Lower East Side who became jaded before he even knew how to walk – it makes as much sense for him to fight Galactus for the fate of the planet as to fight some drug pushers down on Yancy Street. He’s seen it all and even if he puts on a good show he never loses his capacity to be surprised for both good and ill.

ITEM! Garth Ennis writes a loving, geeky remembrance of the glory days of 2000AD at Bleeding Cool:

It cost 7p Earth money, it was printed on recycled bog roll, and it made Friday afternoons that little bit better: it was 2000AD, and in those first ten years- before they got desperate and started employing people like me- it was like lightning in a bottle.

ITEM! The Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer dudes are holding a fun contest to win original art and signed copies of the upcoming, sure-to-be-awesome graphic novel– all you have to do is tell the best lie. So Bill Clinton probably has a good shot at this.

ITEM! This week’s Terminus might be my new favorite.

EVER-LOVIN’ ITEM! Friday would have been Jack Kirby’s 92nd birthday, and the internet’s favorite stuffed bull, Bully, did a 24 posts in 24 hours tribute to the King. Check it out.

ITEM! Mike Sterling’s End of Civilization reveals that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle “party van” toy is being re-released. Awesome. I’ve still got this one somewhere in the basement, however; but if they put the Turtle Blimp back on the shelves, I will be sorely tempted to own the toy I desperately wanted when I was five.

SPOON! Benito Cereno will be writing a new Tick series. This is what we in the business call “awesome news.”

GOOD EVENING, YOU ELECTRICAL SEX OCELOTS OF THE INTERNET: And more phrases, now available automatically at Talk Like Warren Ellis.

ITEM! Lane Brown and Frank Stockton produced this really neat comic for New York Magazine  about Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig’s new Broadway team-up. It is neat. And really:

Hugh n Danny

HEY, IT’S NEW TO ME: Okay, so the pictures are from last year, but, c’mon. A “RoboCop on a unicorn” meme? Was this taken from my dreams?


RoboCop is a many splendored thing.

NOT COMICS DEPT: Patton Oswalt interviews are usually brilliant, and this week’s AV Club one is no exception. My favorite quote:

I think everyone in the future is going to be allowed to be obscure for 15 minutes. You’ll have 15 minutes where no one is watching you, and then you’ll be shoved back onto your reality show. I think Andy Warhol got it wrong.

And lo, another week bites the dust.


Can anyone explain where to start on collected editions of 2000AD?

So does that mean Murphy was a replicant?

Okay, my answer to your question of the week.

Ms. Marvel has been completely uninteresting to me throughout the course of her history as a character; except for the brief time in which she wasn’t Ms. Marvel but became Binary, when Claremont wrote her into UXM for a while. It’s not as though any of my favorite writers have written her recently, so who knows, maybe somebody could do something decent with her, but I just find her completely uninteresting. What’s she about? There’s nothing TO her, she just has a costume that’s too bold for her character and a code-name that’s too big for her. Busiek came closest to interesting me in the character but couldn’t quite do it. Maybe it’s because she was already a soldier/agent, so there’s no contrast between her “secret identity” and her super-powered alter-ego? I dunno…

What would change my mind about the character? Hmm…. maybe give her a story arc where, in order to save a child or something, she’s got to really get down & dirty and take some serious risks and stop giving a shit about the world thinks about her. Something like that, I dunno, just guessing.

Or… actually this is a better idea… gimme a grand initiation story where she gets completely in over her head precisely because the superhero identity she’s taken on is too big for her… and then graft some actual meaning into the name “Ms. Marvel,” so that her mission is directly tied into the life of the Marvel Universe itself.

But I’m grasping at straws here man, I don’t know how to make Ms. Marvel interesting.

Thor just bores the crap out of me. I admit that I’m not big on the epic warrior fantasy stuff in general, but the character, himself, has got, like, zero personality.

I don’t really know how to make him more interesting to me without making him a totally different character. Maybe give him some character traits besides nobility and perseverance?

I’ve no idea what the availability is like in the US, but over here we have collections of the (as far as I can tell) full runs of Nemesis the Warlock, Strontium Dog, ABC Warriors, Ro-Busters and a couple of other strips. There’s also several collections of Slaine, Rogue Trooper, Judge Dredd, and Future Shocks, as well as more modern stuff like Nikolai Dante.

All in all, pretty extensive.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

August 30, 2009 at 10:39 am

Both Walter Simonson and Peter David, in very different ways, gave Thor some interesting traits relating to the fact that he’s an immortal god of myth against the increasingly soap-operatic and technological backdrop of the Marvel Universe.

Simonson had him taking his romance with Sif and “worthiness” to hold Mjolnir for granted to the extent that ha lost both of them when someone more driven came along; he also kept throwing Thor into situations where the complacency that underlies his “nobility and perseverence” was challenged, whether it was Odin seemingly dying or Thor himself being love-potioned or turned into a frog.

David, in a brief guest spot in his Captain Marvel series, portrayed Thor as fallible but unwiling to admit it, stagnant but unwilling to acknowledge it. Aftert several thousand years and coutnless battles, he’s shown forgetting the name of a heroic Viking he promised to remember with an immortal’s memory; later, he lies to the man’s spirit about this lapse. And Thor is subtly suggested to envy humans’ capacity to change, even if the price of that ability is death. Not that Thor allows himself to consciously grasp that, but smarter characters keep pointing it out the whole time.

Those suggest ways of buildign from what the character is towards something else, by playing with the idea that he doesn’t change and doesn’t have a lot of dimension. It becomes a flaw of his, in that he either chooses not to or is prevented from changing by his very nature.

I’m gonna go with Red Tornado as far as this question of the week business goes. My brain nearly shut down from boredom when I realized there’s a six-issue mini of him coming out this week.

The Vision’s pretty much cornered the market on “Ach! Humanity! How it eludes me!” pathos, leaving Red Tornado a goofier version of the same thing. And writers keep insisting on portraying him this way, from Peter David’s “heartwrenching” Kramer vs. Kramer subplot in the pages of Young Justice (Ach! My Memory! So full of useless information!) to Brad Metzler’s creepy11-issue love letter to him in Justice League of America (Ach! My time! So wasted!).

He can’t even have a decent secret identity: he’s a bald guy with absolutely no features named John Smith and we’re supposed to buy that. It’d be brilliant if his android-ness showed through his skin costume especially when he had to talk. That flat, digitized voice would come out of this big, bulky, personality-less weirdo that wasn’t fooling anyone. Red Tornado could make for some good comedy.

It would really only take one thing to pique my interest in Red Tornado: make him a robot. That’s it. He’s just a robot that makes tornados, and he likes it that way. A less-comedic (or more comedic, considering my above take on his secret identity) version of Warren Ellis’ Machine Man.

I have never been able to forgive Ms.Marvels for hurting one of the most lovable charecters in the Marvel Universe. She seriously injured LOCKJAW. Name the most evil villians in the entire MU none of them have done that.

Red Tornado, hands down, but Danny D. just wrote about him. I’ll go with Geo-Force. He’s boring and annoying. Like Danny, I’d make him a comedy character.

I have a 4 1/2 year-old son who likes the Penguins of Madagascar cartoon. One of the characters, King Julius, is an ineffectual imperious lemur with delusions of grandeur and a long-suffering assistant. I’d make Geo-Force like that. In his own mind, he’s the greatest hero, one the others shouyld fall down and worship. In reality, he’s a clod who makes situations worse just by opening his mouth. any action he takes leads to disaster. Everyone else looks on with exasperation and has to clean up his messes. He’s on the Justice League because no one can kick him out- even Batman can’t get through to him. Either Giffen, DeMatteis, & Maguire or Evanier & Aragones would do the comic.

Apodaca, Fraction’s Thor one-shots from last year could cure that. Thor as impetuous badass super-powerpowerful youth, who thunders his way through every scene. Great stuff.

Yeah, Fraction described his Thor work as “fantasy for people who hate Tolkien.”

Mike Loughlin: Imagine a Justice League comic featuring mad robot Red Tornado and pompous, regal Geo-Force. And throw in annoyed, regal Aquaman for extra tension. I’d buy that one WITHOUT waiting for the trades.

Anonymous / Rod
There’s also two zarjazz (sorry!) hardcovers, ‘Thrill Power Overload’ -which is the history of 2000 AD and the ‘Greatest Hits’ which covers a lot of bases, so is a fantastic taster, if you like!

Of all the major superheroes, I could never really get into The Hulk. Oh, I read plenty of Hulk comics, but only because of other characters appearing in them, and the stories were good sometimes as well. But the Hulk himself, as a character? Never appealed much to me. Maybe it’s because he’s too basic- he embodies anger and loneliness. Ok, got it, so what? Lots of other characters do it as well, and better. The closest I came to like him was when David was writing him, and that was mostly because of the *huge* changes he did- in effect, he was an entirely new character. And even then I didn’t find him THAT interesting.

The Flash. All of them. I will never be able to care. It’s a ridiculously generic power amped to god-like levels to the point where nothing should pose a challenge to them. It’s like the problem some people have with Superman, except with none of the interesting backstory or character traits that actually make Superman noteworthy. Every time I have to read something about the Flash in something like Morrison’s JLA or Final Crisis, my eyes just immediately start to glaze over.

As to how to fix the character, I guess my take would be turn him into Quicksilver. The Quicksilver segment of X-Factor #87 is still one of my favorite pieces of character writing in Superhero comics.

I agree with Sijo. The Hulk is the character that just bores me senseless and his take on Peter David is also correct. Reading Hulk over a long period of time you get the sense that the writers themselves have no idea what to do with him so they have to come up with increasingly strange gimmicks in order to find a story to tell, and then most of those stories aren’t about Hulk, they’re just about the gimmick with the Hulk thrown into it. He’s Red, he’s in space, he’s a bouncer, he’s a genius, he’s, I dunno, President or whatever. Blah.

I would make Hulk more interesting by drastically reducing his face time. Cancel all his comics. Make him a very rare guest star. Since he’s little more than a sounding board in his own comic for other ideas to bounce off of, make him into this full-time — an anti-hero that pops up occasionally at the worst times to threaten other heroes or villains. He works fine as an antagonist driving the plot for other, more interesting characters, so lets treat him as such.

For me it’s Superman. I’ve always found the character uninteresting, and even when hes being written by a writer a really like, such as Kurt Busiek, I just can’t get that interested in him. Powering him down a lot and giving him some decent villains would maybe help.

Man … I had hoped enough time had passed that everyone would forget that there was a Pokemon called “Psyduck.” As usual, I have been proven AGGRESSIVELY WRONG.

And since I, too, enjoy this Question of the Week business: This may be heresey, but I’ve never been interested in Ra’s Al Ghul. I understand his place in Bat-history and what he represents, and I even think he should theoretically be interesting, but I’ve just always found the character grating. A lot of it is things that have been picked up by other writers and have been made cliched through overuse — the “villain who believes he’s in the right but uses extreme measures to accomplish his goals,” the “villain with a gentlemanly respect for his adversary,” “villain who knows hero’s secret identity but will never let on.” Vandal Savage has always been a more interesting application of the “immortal villain” trope simply because he’s older (if you’re going to use a gimmick, you might as well go all out) and because he’s just plain nasty.

How to fix Ra’s Al Ghul? Maybe getting rid of Talia would help; I always feel there’s an oppressive amount of baggage to the Batman-Ra’s-Talia triangle. Don’t kill her, though, just sever her ties to Ra’s and see if her character has a purpose beyond her relationships to Ra’s and Batman. Also, I’d maybe try him out as a Superman villain for a bit; anything to avoid another barechested swordfight in the desert. Keep him in the background, maybe make him the “shadowy manipulator” type.

Omar’s description of Thor is definitely interesting, but I’m not really enticed to read about that character. It does show me that more work has been done with Thor than I realized, though.

Fraction’s Thor stuff looks completely boring to me. I’m not into the shit-kickin’-hardass-TOTALLY METAL-type stuff.

Dave stole my answer. I’ve been reading comics since the early sixties and have never gotten into the Flash,. Any of them. By rights, every single issue of the Flash should have been over after the first page.

This is a guy who can react to a bullet touching the back of his head and can evacuate a city in less than the time it takes a nuke to blow.

Yet his Rouges gallery is a bunch of bank robbers with ray guns.

Puh leese!

Apodaca – I’m not into the shit-kickin’ stuff either so much, for what it’s worth. Fraction’s Thor stories are lovely mythological tales with beautiful, often poetic narration and classical storytelling, especially the first one. It reads more like The Sandman than, for example, Garth Ennis’s Thor. The stories aren’t “TOTALLY METAL” – although Thor himself kinda is, and it’s a very striking characterization, quite different from the austerity ascribed to him by many of Marvel’s writers.

I’m still waiting for someone to wow me with a Flash story. Waid and Morrison are so into him I figure there must be SOMEthing really cool about him and I just can’t quite figure out what it is yet… but I’m open.

The Flash. Inherently uninteresting. He can run fast? I can run fast. You don’t see me solving crimes. He can run so fast that he can run through walls? That makes absolutely no sense. If they called me up and offered me that comic tomorrow, I would say “no thanks.”

I have to agree with the others here that Thor is pretty boring, and the Hulk is worse. I’m also very bored by Marvel’s Hercules. This wasn’t my intent here, but looking at the ones I’ve just picked, it’s obvious that the common trait they share is extreme strength. And I’ve always found strength, of Hulk-Thor-Superman levels, to be very boring. I’ve never understood why the muscle-guys are so popular. And why are writers always trying to increase the strength of the heroes they write? If I were in charge of a major comics universe, there would be a strict limit on strength (maybe Thing-level, maximum), and on power in general. We need more weak characters! Who’s with me?

The most boring DC hero is Red Tornado. There is just nothing about the guy that has not been done better somewhere else.

However, Reddy is like four shots of espresso compared to the Punisher. I don’t know that I have never made through an entire comic featuring the Punisher. I have tried Frank Miller, Mike Baron and Garth Ennis multiple times. I have loved the work of those guys on other characters. It is always just the story of some jerk who likes to shoot people that wronged him. I don’t want to talk to the “ninja” who hangs out at the comic shop either.

How to make him more interesting?

Maybe, if he lightened up a little. You know, got some trick guns that shot glue or laughing gas. Maybe he could get a teen sidekick with a gimmick. Sort of bring in a wise-cracking kid that is into something goofy like break-dancing. How about a dog with a skull mask named “vendetta”?

The Sentry. Every time he appears and we’re told that he’s really the bestest, most powerfullest, best friend of all the superheroes everywhere ever, and we the readers just don’t remember, it immediately snaps me out of the story. Because the history of the Marvel Universe resonates strongly with fans because it’s history they’ve experienced; no matter how many times you tell me the Sentry and the Hulk are old friends, I don’t feel it because I never saw it happen. It feels forced, awkward and dull. Maybe if everyone forgot him again, and he had to re-earn that trust and respect…but even then, he’s just a lame Marvelman rip-off. :)

Also, the Winter Soldier. Sorry, but Bucky is lame. Making him into Grim-N-Gritty Cyborg Assassin Bucky makes him no less lame, any more than a fifteen-year-old boy growing a wispy mustache makes him twenty. It just makes him look silly. And having him beat the Red Skull doesn’t make him cool, it just makes the Red Skull lamer because hey, he just got his butt kicked by Bucky. The more Brubaker tries to pump him up, the more it feels like authorial fiat is driving the stories instead of real characterization. I have no idea how you fix this one, to be honest. I’d have left him dead.

Penance. “Dark Speedball” sounds like one of those concepts the 90s rejected because it was too pathetic and obvious an attempt to be “edgy” even for that decade. Make him fun again. If you don’t want to tell stories with an actual fun, light-hearted character with goofy powers, then just put him back in his box until the trend comes around to that kind of story again. But making him an S&M emo painfreak with a troubled past? Yeeeeah. Dan Slott nailed the absurdity of that one perfectly.

I have to agree with the comment about The Thing. He is really such a cool character. He’s the toughest guy out there without hitting everyone over the head with how tough he is (e.g. Wolverine). He’s as heroic as Captain America or Superman without the speeches and the posing. What other guy could pull off a superhero poker game and not have it seem ridiculous?

The question of the week is tough…I can come up with character’s I dislike pretty easily, but I’m not sure that’s the same thing as being uninterested. For instance, I have a long held opinion that the Hal Jordan GL is a d-bag, but I’ll concede you can tell interesting stories with him. Along similar lines, as a big fan of the Flash, particularly the Wally West version, I’d point out that very few of my favorite stories have a whole lot to do with the powers and more to do with the character.

Anyway, that really wasn’t the question. The Sentry is an excellent answer to the first question – I can’t dislike him because I don’t ever consider him except when Marvel (Bendis) shoehorns him into a book. But I couldn’t give you an answer to the second part of the question, so…

I’m gonna have to get back to you.

[…] Thought! Each week in his Sunday Brunch feature, Bill Reed asks a question and, instead of answering it in the comments there, I shall […]

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