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CSBG Archive

Sunday Brunch: 6/20/10

We’re light on links this week, but there are some intriguing things to think about in today’s post, as well as a bit of a rant, a bit of a ramble, and a bit of a review. Onwards!

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What comic series or topic is the internet ignoring? What needs to be reviewed? What needs to be discussed?

ITEM! David Brothers on DC vs. Diversity:

The problem is the trend. Jason Rusch gives way to Ronnie Raymond. Kyle Rayner and John Stewart give way to Hal Jordan. Wally West and his multiracial family is replaced by Barry Allen and Iris West, a good ol’ down home American couple. Ryan Choi is replaced with his equally unlikely to support an ongoing series predecessor. Milestone is publicly courted and wakes up to find money on the dresser, with a note saying “Lose my number.” Despite the fact that white people are a global minority today, the official future of the DC Universe is about as lily white as it can get and most of the aliens are white people. In what world does that make sense?

RANDOM THOUGHT! Speaking of diversity– you know, I don’t mind the introduction of a new, uh… African-Atlantean-American (?) Aqualad, but how many times has Aquaman’s supporting cast been expanded like this before? We’ve already got three extraneous Aqua-sidekicks floating around at the moment, like Koryak (Arthur’s half-Inuit son), Aquagirl (Arthur’s hispanic Sub Diego sidekick), and Arthur Joseph Curry (Arthur’s white, Sword of Atlantis protege). Is adding another one really such a great idea?

SLIGHTLY LESS RANDOM THOUGHT! And that leads me into another point– these “lesser” characters, the B-List and beyond, their “worlds” never really congeal for an extended period of time. With Superman, we all know Metropolis, Daily Planet, Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, etc. The same things appear in each incarnation. Same goes for Batman, Spider-Man, all the big names. But then, even Wonder Woman can barely hold a status quo in her various incarnations– heck, the TV show had two separate ones! Aquaman and Martian Manhunter suffer the same fate, in that every time DC gives them a go, they get a complete overhaul of environment, supporting cast, and general direction. Green Lantern and the Flash, despite changing who’s under the costume ever 10 to 20 years, don’t suffer the same fate; the usual tropes stay in place with them.

Naturally, this kind of thing occurs with the less popular characters due to each new take attempting to finally bottle that lightning, find a take that works, that becomes popular for decades to come. But as more and more approaches are taken, the detritus of previous incarnations piles up, due to the Big Two’s over-reliance on continuity for continuity’s sake. Look at Aquaman: since 1994 alone, he’s lost his hand, replaced it with a hook, grown a beard, had his origin retconned, ruled as king, lost the throne, got a metal hand, got a water hand, shaved the beard, had a handful of different sidekicks, goals, settings, and supporting cast members, turned into a squid man, died, was replaced by a younger, hipper version, been zombified, and then resurrected, rebooted to the “classical” Aquaman. And that’s just in 16 or so years! Hell, most of that was in the last, what, seven years? He’s gone through twice the change Superman or Batman have, and they default to their factory settings much, much quicker than characters whose series continually get canceled out from under them. Aquaman, meanwhile, has accrued a lot of driftwood, and just adding more and more to the pile– when, surely, his next series won’t fare much better, no matter how much I’d like to write it and sell a million copies. The same thing, one may posit, has happened to the Legion of Super-Heroes– it could’ve been DC’s X-Men, but instead, it flounders in a vicious cycle. Each further rehaul seems to lessen the chances of popularity and success, by completely destroying any sense of conceptual stability.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

ITEM! Brothers follows up that earlier post with this one:

There should be a reason for everything. If you decide to make a white character, you should know why you made him white and how that affects his characterization. If you make a black heroine, you should know why she’s black. Arbitrary decisions, or decisions made according to numbers, serve no one. People who think about their choices and create accordingly, those are the people who make a difference. Those are the people who make stories that matter.

ITEM! Dave Ferraro at Comics and More picks out 30 Overlooked Comics. I love hidden gems. Who doesn’t?

ITEM! With his output, Colin Smith could publish his own comics literary journal, entirely written by him, every month. This week, we’ve got “Nexus, Zot!, The Rocketeer, American Flagg & Mr Monster Too! : The Third Way Of The Superhero In The Somewhat Radical 1980s.” And it’s good, naturally.

ITEM! Axe Cop is having a guest comics week/span-of-time. Check it out.

OBLIGATORY CHRIS SIMS DEPT: This week at ComicsAlliance, Sims reviews/analyzes the new Batman porn, and waxes philosophical on the comic booky implications of the iPad. I still won’t ever buy an iPad, dammit:

For me, though, there are benefits that far, far outweigh the drawbacks. For one, there’s the simple matter of space. Comics take up a lot of room, and as someone whose job requires him to be able to grab issues for research, I’m kind of stuck with them and lately, it’s been getting a little claustrophobic around here. The iPad, though, is roughly the size of a Marble Composition Book, and, if I’m figuring up the average filesize right, can hold about 2,500 comics — the equivalent of a little over eight long boxes — and still have room for Netflix.

My feelings on the Bat-porn? I think it’s a fun, silly idea that looks put together with a true love of 60s Batman and a wonderful authenticity you don’t see in porn these days. I’m not as happy, however, that they’re using it as a gateway for 800 other comic-based pornos. You can capture lightning in a vagina once. How many times can they expect to do it again?

DOCTOR WHO DEPT: “The Pandorica Opens” Written by Steven Moffat

Who Penultimate

That was very Indiana Jones, wasn’t it?

With my ‘reviews’ for Doctor Who, I usually try to avoid spoilers. After all, I talk about them before they’ve aired in America, and getting too spoilery about anything is just mean. If I mention anything about this episode at all, though, it’ll be a giant spoiler. So I’m going to try to talk about it without talking about it, if that makes sense.

So, cliffhangers. “Classic” Doctor Who had a new cliffhanger every episode; being a heavily serialized show, with three to five cliffhangers a story, Old Who presented itself as an old-timey movie serial, leaving the primary cast in trouble at the tail end of each week. With the new series, the show has brought these back for the two-parters, and with each passing season, the writers and producers try to top the previous year. We’ve had the return of old enemies, worlds in danger, all of reality threatened, and all sorts of stuff. This episode? What a wallop! There’s at least a three-way cliffhanger on this one, and I have no idea how the next episode is going to resolve ‘em. I love this feeling– Moffat’s brought a heavy amount of unpredictability to this episode. I’m still trying to process everything– I really have no idea what I thought about it, because so much happens. Moffat has carefully been setting his dominoes up over the course of the season, and in this episode, he adds some more– and then flicks the one on the end. I love the way Moffat plays with audience expectations– he sets things up so that you think you’re supposed to think things are going to play out a certain way, so you thereby expect something different, instead; but then, he subverts both lines of thinking, picking a third option. His plot mechanics are incredibly deft.

I had heavily– and also warily– anticipated this rejuvenated season, and now it’s almost over, which is sad. Matt Smith has been a helluva discovery, and I think I’m in love with Karen Gillan. Roll on next week.

16 Comments

Comic that’s coming out at the moment that no one really seems to be talking about much: Punisher Max. I know it gets reviewed really well, but no one really seems to talk about it and the last issue with 3 plot stands all building up tension together was one of the best single issues I’ve read in ages (especially one that’s part of a longer arc, not a one shot story)

Brilliant ignored comic from the last year: Daredevil: Redemption by David Hine and Michael Gaydos. As good as Bendis and Brubaker’s runs on DD

“What comic series or topic is the internet ignoring? What needs to be reviewed? What needs to be discussed?”

Supergirl by Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle.

Tom Fitzpatrick

June 20, 2010 at 12:38 pm

” … and I think I’m in love with Karen Gillan.”

Who isn’t? (Pun intended) ;-)

>>What comic series or topic is the internet ignoring? What needs to be reviewed? <<

The Tick New Series.

::innocent whistle::

herbert_quain

June 20, 2010 at 1:42 pm

>>What comic series or topic is the internet ignoring? What needs to be reviewed? <<

The Tank Girl Projects by Martin & Dayglo. Unique, well drawn and totally over the top.
Just like a good comic should be…

And that leads me into another point– these “lesser” characters, the B-List and beyond, their “worlds” never really congeal for an extended period of time.

I think time is the big issue with any status quo shift or “legacy character”.

Look at the major changes that have wound up being (more or less) permanent. UNCANNY X-MEN had only 93 issues on the books when they switched to the New X-Men and 26 of those were re-prints. By the time Paul Smith was pencilling, most of the X-Men comics were written by Chris Claremont staring Wolverine and friends.

Let’s say fifty percent of the properties appearances is the threshold. Wally West fell just short of that mark counting only the comics. Well, how long is it going to take a certain-to-C-lister like the new Aqualad to match old Garth in his public profile? Even if DC aggressively promotes him in the exactly the way in which they appear to be primed, how long would it take for him to become the “real” Aqualad? Ten years? Twenty?

During that time, the animated version of YOUNG JUSTICE is almost certain to go off the air and become an object of nostalgia for a very small niche audience. Likewise, some of the folks at DC are bound to move on to other things in their career. There will be yet another hot young writer planning yet another mega cross-over that promises to change everything. What are the odds that DC stays the course for a couple decades? I would say basically zero.

Moreover, everyone knows this on some level. They have been burned by the Wally West Flash, and/or the Kyle Rayner Green Lantern, and/or the Ryan Choi Atom, and/or whoever. At some point, it becomes a suckers bet to invest your time, money and emotions into these legacy properties. So, most people are just not going to commit to a new Aqualad anymore than they committed to new Blue Beetle, or the latest iteration of the (Teen) Titans.

If DC wants to create some diversity in their universe (and they should), then they need to create some new stuff.

“Moreover, everyone knows this on some level. They have been burned by the Wally West Flash, and/or the Kyle Rayner Green Lantern, and/or the Ryan Choi Atom, and/or whoever. At some point, it becomes a suckers bet to invest your time, money and emotions into these legacy properties. So, most people are just not going to commit to a new Aqualad anymore than they committed to new Blue Beetle, or the latest iteration of the (Teen) Titans.”

This is a tome; sorry. To be upfront, the following refers specifically to superhero comics in the main two (Marvel and DC):

I tend to agree with this from a broader perspective; the problem with the industry and why I don’t buy weekly anymore is simply because I’ve learned over time that what superhero comics have become is simply re-cycling the same stories and ideas over and over again often to the same end (sometimes insultingly; see Squadron Supreme versus the Justice League storyline where the minds of supervillains were wiped; they even had Nighthawk…er…Batman objecting).

I’ve lost my belief that any “major” change will ever be that. I grew up in the 80’sand 90’s reading comics. Since I started, I’ve read Batman getting his back broken and being replaced; Spiderman having a clone; Superman being dead then red and blue; Aunt May, Green Arrow, Hal Jordan, most of the Green Lantern corps, Captain America, Barry Allen Flash, Impulse Flash, Wonder Woman, Jason Todd, Supergirl, Hawk, Colossus, Jean Grey (too many times to count) and probably a ton others I can’t name off the top of my head die; Gotham get leveled by a virus and earthquake; Spiderman’s parents come back to life; Wolverine have his adamantium ripped out; Magneto reform then become a bad guy again; the rise and cancellation of the Midnight Sons; a new Robin, Flash, GL, Green Arrow, Batman (2x…Azrael and the first Dick Grayson run as Bats); Heroes reborn, Infinity Wars and Crusades, DC fight Marvel, Bloodlines, Genesis, Final Night, foil and hologram covers and tons of #1’s.

All of this was supposed to, on some level, “change everything”. Most of it just changed the balance on my bank account, but that was my choice (and hey, some of it was a decent read).

So when Captain America takes a bullet to the head or Nightcrawler gets a chest full of arm after a teleport, my first thought isn’t “wow. I can’t believe they killed him. I feel sad. Let me buy this as something to remember the event.” My first thought is “When’s he coming back?”

Likewise, team shake ups are handled poorly. In the aforementioned Justice League storyline, Batman, upon finding out his mind had been screwed with, should be done with the league forever, not there front and center for the relaunch and hey, everything’s cool (especially with Barry Allen; they loved to make a big deal about Bruce hating Hal Jordan over what he did, but Barry Allen, the guy who casts the vote for the mindwiping to begin with, gets a pass? Odd plotting). Again, major events happen, and there is no impact.

This is a huge problem for a business that is increasingly relying on major events to sell their comics. If nothing ever really changes, then what’s the incentive to read? If all roads lead back eventually to the status quo, then why should I shell out 3-5 dollars a book? It makes no real sense when you break it down that way.

And while I can hear the argument of “well, it’s how it’s told that matters,” that simply doesn’t do it for me anymore. I’ve been taken back to square one so many times that how I get there doesn’t matter; I’m still there.

So, long post short, it doesn’t matter what ethnicity or gender or whatever they do to the A-list, B-list, or C-list talent; they’ll wind it around to status quo eventually (and a darker notion is to consider that DC originally went international with these characters simply to draw in an audience; that would be more bothersome to me than the fact that they kill these guys off).

Later.

The Tick New Series.

::innocent whistle::

I see what you did there.

*cough*BullyPulpitsequel*cough*

funkygreenjerusalem

June 20, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Despite the fact that white people are a global minority today, the official future of the DC Universe is about as lily white as it can get and most of the aliens are white people. In what world does that make sense?

One where the existing audience seems to buy nostalgia, so after half hearted attempts at diversity with less exciting legacy character the companies decide to revert back to the safety of appealing for that nostalgia?

I really think people with blogs are reaching with this whinging about diversity – it most definitely is lacking, and that’s a shame, but we are crying out about the lack of legacy characters here… Ryan Choi didn’t invent how to get small, he borrowed the white doctors ‘get small’ device.
I’d prefer it if all these opinion pieces were crying out for new characters of mixed races, rather than crying for the legacy characters – is it really that hard to see why the original would be more popular?

(Also, I’m mildly amused that whilst everyone is upset with DC Comics for their lack of diversity, they were busy working on screen tests for the Jamie Reyes Blue Beetle – maybe it is the comic fans, not the company, who should be taken to task).

I think I’m in love with Karen Gillan.

Yup.

Supergirl by Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle.

Hells yeah.
That books pretty sweet – even in the dregs of a terrible crossover, it’s still of a high quality.

Personally, I think Secret Six should be getting championed more – for such a good read, it doesn’t seem to be getting half the coverage it should.

Throwing back to my take on diversity issues, I think the topic of ‘why aren’t the big two creating new characters’ needs to be addressed.
Surely people would check out a new character from Bendis, Brubaker, Johns or Morrison, yet the big two’s policies seem to make creators not want to create… at a time when characters getting exploited in other media is big bucks.

Just to sort of echo what Dean and the others were saying… It’s not that either DC or Marvel are unwilling to invest in minority characters (keeping in mind that almost all of the ones mentioned so far have been created within the past 10 years or so). It’s that the mentality of the editors and writers of franchise super-hero titles is to put a “bold new direction” each time a new creative team is introduced. Every member of a new creative team wants to put his own mark on the character, and replacing the title character with a new one or returning to the status quo is just one of the ways that happens.

Add to that the fact that most creative teams rotate off a book every couple of years, and you have a situation where only the characters who are most rooted in other forms of media are stable. I can’t think of any titles from either the DCU or MU that have had one writer for more than four or five years (I’m sure there must be a few, but it’s late). And, since these are corporately owned characters, it tends to lock the representation of the characters into one form. So even when an older character is replaced or has a radical departure in characterization, it tends to return to the previous status quo.

I’m not disputing your point, Wesley, but I just wanted to note that Bendis and Brubaker have been on Avengers and Cap, respectively, for nearly 5 years now and Morrison is near 4 on Batman.

A few months ago I would have said Booster Gold and Hank Pym…but they both are seemingly getting the attention now within their respective companies

Now I think the subjects in need of discussion/attention are the return of Dynamo 5; how superb the third season of Boondocks has been; and of course, the seeming diminishing of the Johnny DC and Marvel Adventures lines… (Great way to attract young readers “Big Two”!)

funkygreenjerusalem

June 21, 2010 at 6:33 am

I’m not disputing your point, Wesley, but I just wanted to note that Bendis and Brubaker have been on Avengers and Cap, respectively, for nearly 5 years now and Morrison is near 4 on Batman.

Johns has been on Green Lantern for five years, and was on JSA for the better part of a decade, with only occasional break. He’s also back on Flash, a book he did for five years previously.
Mike Carey has been on X-Men for four years, Paul Dini on Batman for as long as Morrison, Gail Simone back on Birds Of Prey to follow up her previous four year run, Garth Ennis was on Punisher for the better part of a decade…

@ Brian Cronin, FGJ:

I appreciate Smokescreen and Wesley Smith’s agreements. However, I feel like I need to clarify my original point.

Of course it is true that successful creative teams beget long runs on titles. They should. The challenge with an established property is that even an extremely long and creatively successful run by a creator is going to be a splash in the bucket. Morrison could write Batman for eight solid years and still only have contributed under 15% of the stories on that title alone. Add the longer lived Detective and the various spin-offs, it becomes nearly impossible for a creator to get into the double digits of “percentage of Bat comics written”.

It is only natural that his long-term influence is going to be lesser than someone who came along earlier in the life of the property.

That is Batman, who is in a title which DC is certain to publish every single month. B-listers are scrambling for space in team books are going to be even tougher to influence. A C-list property (like Aqualad) basically is what it is. He will get some run in BRIGHTEST DAY and on the animated YOUNG JUSTICE, but once those series have run their course he will probably go to the shelf.

Unlike Smokescreen, I am not really bemoaning this. A grand corporate narrative is probably never going to progress in any consistent way because corporations do not exist to tell stories. The best that we can hope for is a consistent, progressing story within a given run. If adopted by the publishers, then that attitude would have the benefit of moving the primary story-telling responsibility from editorial to the actual creators.

Comic that not enough people are talking about:

Four Eyes by Joe Kelly & Max Fiumara

Admittedly, this is probably because of its publishing schedule (#4 just came out, almost a year after #3), but this has been one of the better comics on the stands when it comes out. I think when the inevitable TPB comes out of the first 6 issues, it will end up on people’s “Best of” lists.

Comic topic shout out: Sci-Fi (refuse to use the new spelling) had a Phantom mini-series this week (4 hours). Fairly accurate on the story and premise around it, pretty horrible on the costume. No one seems to have acknowledged this mini-series except to complain about the costume, so what the hey.

The question here is if a suit matters more than things like plot and accuracy. Personally, I didn’t think it was a half-bad effort at a harder property to pull off, costume aside.

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