web stats

CSBG Archive

The 75 Most Memorable Moments in DC Comics History – Day 3

Okay, in case you didn’t see the introduction, the concept is that each day up to and including the 31st of July, I’ll be posting six of the most memorable moments from DC Comics’ 75-year history. On the 31st, you folks will get a chance to pick your Top 10 out of the 100 choices. I’ll tabulate the votes and I’ll debut the Top 75 Most Memorable Moments in DC Comics History starting on August 8th. In the meantime, feel free to post suggestions for moments you think should be featured either at our Twitter account (twitter.com/csbg), our Facebook page (facebook.com/comicsshouldbegood) or just e-mail me (bcronin@comicbookresources.com)!

Here’s the next six moments! And click here for the master list of all the moments posted so far!

NOTE: Each day of moments will almost certainly contain some spoilers for past comic books, plus each day might include content that originally appeared in “Mature Readers Only” comics, so be forewarned!

11. Joker gets in one last joke (Batman: The Dark Knight #3)

In Frank Miller’s dark tale of Batman in the future, Batman has captured the Joker, but the Joker decides to get one last piece of revenge by framing Batman for his murder. Frank Miller captures the darkness of this madness beautifully.

12. Dick Grayson becomes Nightwing (Tales of the Teen Titans #44)

(click on the images to enlarge)

No offense to Jericho, but man, that sort of puts a damper on Dick’s moment, no? Anyhow, in this penultimate chapter of the Judas Contract, Marv Wolfman and George Perez debut the new costumed identity for Dick Grayson. This was pretty much the first time a character THIS big got a new identity (other than characters taking up new names for a storyline, like Cap becoming Nomad).

13. John Stewart dooms an entire planet (Cosmic Odyssey #2)

(click on the images to enlarge)

In the pages right before this (which were written and drawn, just the pages above, by Jim Starlin and Mike Mignola), John Stewart was bragging about how his Green Lantern ring could pretty much do anything. The planet of Xanshi was destroyed because he was wrong. Pretty much THE defining plot point for John Stewart in the comics ever since.

14. Superman meets the cousin he didn’t know he had – Supergirl! (Action Comics #252)

Otto Binder and Al Plastino give the world a brand-new superhero, and one of the most popular female superheroes ever! Doesn’t Plastino do a fantastic job on her facial expressions?

15. Batman discovers the Hyperclan’s secret (JLA #3)

(click on the images to enlarge)

This issue was pretty much the introduction of Grant Morrison’s “Bat-God” take on Batman. This JLA run had already gotten off to a great start, but this scene took it to the next level. Howard Porter was the artist.

16. Ozymandias’ plan goes into effect (Watchmen #11)

(click on the images to enlarge)

Forget Watchmen, the “thirty-five minutes ago” line is one of the most famous lines from comics PERIOD.

Beautiful work by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.

28 Comments

Well, Jericho does manage to make Nightwing’s costume look relatively calm and sane by comparison, which might make up for stepping on his moment.

Who looks at that clown getup and calls it a “uniform”?

And… man, a full page of thought balloons. I know this was one of the great comics of the era, but it’s kind of painful.

I was never a big fan of Cosmic Odyssey, but I have to admit, that John Stewart/Martian Manhunter chapter is really good – especially the scene featured here, where John realizes he f-ed up big time…

Rollo Tomassi

July 18, 2010 at 5:23 am

Heh. Jericho was like the Kanye West of his day.

The Nightwing sequence today: all the word balloons would be replaced by caption boxes, that one page would be spread over 6 pages ending with Nightwing in a 2 page spread followed by Jericho in another 2 page spread.

The Batman sequence from JLA still rocks out loud. “Fire” he says as he smiles. Batman smiles? Oh crap, someone’s butt is about to be handled to them.

The Joker kills himself to get one last joke on The Batman…that is messed up.

Watchmen: cool moment, agreed; but the pages are backward.

Sheesh. Only three days worth so far, and I can tell that voting for only ten of this series is NOT going to be easy.

Thanks, Dave! When the pages get small, it’s hard for me to notice a mistake like that right away. It’s fixed now! Thanks again.

I can’t fault the choices so far; I’ve read all 16 you’ve posted- and have the originals on 12 of them. It’s going to be HARD choosing if this is what we’re looking at….

I think you meant to say, “A full page of thought balloons? I know this comic was one of the greats of its day, but until I saw all those thought balloons I never realized just how awesome it truly was.”

Who wants to start a petition to bring back thought balloons? Who’s with me?!

John Trumbull

July 18, 2010 at 9:37 am

The pages on both Cosmic Odyssey and Watchmen are still reversed, Brian.

The Cosmic Odyssey moment never worked for me. The characterization of John Stewart was WAY off. Sure, he was cocky initially, but he was NEVER as foolhardy as Jim Starlin wrote him here. IIRC, Starlin originally wanted to use Guy Gardner as the GL in Cosmic Odyssey. With him, this moment would’ve been both believable and in-character. I HATE it when writers tailor characters to pit their preconceived plot, rather than the other way around.

And that’s STILL the best Supergirl origin ever.

Ha! It seems I forgot to press “save” after making the edit, so it didn’t show up. Now it does. Thanks, John!

John Trumbull

July 18, 2010 at 9:48 am

I think you meant to say, “A full page of thought balloons? I know this comic was one of the greats of its day, but until I saw all those thought balloons I never realized just how awesome it truly was.”

Who wants to start a petition to bring back thought balloons? Who’s with me?!

I absolutely agree, Scott. It boggles my mind that comic books have voluntarily given up one of the storytelling tools that is utterly unique to the medium. I wonder if there any any creators left who could use them effectively, though. We’ve basically been through a generation without them.

I also don’t see much difference between thought balloons and first-person caption narrative.

But Jericho’s costume is truly hideous.

I was actually going to crop the page to cut out Jericho, but Nightwing’s dialogue nixed that idea.

"O" the Humanatee!

July 18, 2010 at 2:08 pm

@Rene:

Here’s an example where a writer might want to use first-person captions and thought balloons together: In the captions, the lead character is remembering, or telling someone else about, an event in his or her past. The balloons show the character’s thoughts _within_ that event. (I just realized that Neal Adams does this in Batman: Odyssey. He just does it very, very badly.)

In general, I would say that first-person narration and thought balloons work differently, have a different flavor. First-person narration often feels like it is “floating” above the action, and can be out of synch with it. Thought balloons are more in the moment. So in one panel you could have one character say something, the other react to it with a thought, and then show the first character saying something further. This is less likely with decompressed storytelling – but as others have said, why throw out a perfectly good storytelling tool? A writer is under no obligation to use it, but it should be an option.

Moreover, writers should have no obligation, if they want to sometimes show a character’s thoughts, to tell the entire story using first-person narration. First-person narration is always from a subjective point of view, while third-person narration can be more objective. If you’re telling a story with first-person narrative, it can make it awkward to show scenes occurring outside the character’s knowledge.

Another problem with using first-person captions instead of thought balloons is that it has led to the travesty of indicating different character’s thoughts with little symbols or different colors on their “narrative” captions. Surely I’m not alone in finding this harder to follow than thought balloons that actually point to the characters thinking them?

On a related note, I recently realized that you practically never see Daredevil’s “radar images” anymore – the panels in which silhouettes are shown with overlaid circles representing DD radar. Those panels really call for some kind of first-person description, whether in captions or thought balloons, but DD is eschewing both those devices, at least under Andy Diggle. I’m not going to look back right now to see what other writers have done, but I’m pretty sure radar images – which are central to DD’s powers – have been out of the picture (literally) for a while now.

John Trumbull

July 18, 2010 at 6:23 pm

Good thoughts on thought balloons above. They shouldn’t neccessarily be used in EVERY comic, but I think a lot of them – superhero comics in particular – could benefit from their use.

Personally, I think the double-whammy of Dark Knight and Watchmen in 1986 is what led to thought balloons falling largely out of favor. Miller choose to use first-person caption boxes that were reminicent of the crime fiction he loved so much, and Moore had done away with them as a device altogether. And it worked for both of those books. But both of those comics were so influential, other writers soon followed suit. And it eventually led to a bunch of books that started to read the same after a while.

I just think it’s a shame that so many folks would rather their books read like second-rate novels or movies than first-rate comic books.

I’m going to have to disagree about thought balloons. That’s not to say that they should be banned – if the writers want them they should use them – but I think that their loss has generally been a good thing.

Are thought balloons really unique to the medium? What’s the difference between thought balloons are writing in prose: “Steve thought to himself, ‘I could really us some food right now’”. First person narration in movies (in certain contexts) could also fit the bill.

In the captions, the lead character is remembering, or telling someone else about, an event in his or her past. The balloons show the character’s thoughts _within_ that event.

To me, that’s exactly when I wouldn’t use thought balloons. In that context, I don’t think it’s clear whether the person being told the story knows about the thoughts. If the thoughts are part of the story that’s being told, then they should be in the captions (“and then I thought to myself…”). If it isn’t in the story, then it shouldn’t be part of the comic, as then the comic wouldn’t really be representing the story as it is being told.

The worst part of thought balloons, in my opinion, is how often they were used to tell rather than show. Comics are a visual medium. If a writer and artist are good enough, they should be able to show what a character is thinking through their expression, actions and dialogue. They shouldn’t need to tell the audience. Thought balloons are often a very lazy storytelling technique, one which fails to utilise the full visual potential of comics.

Take the Nightwing page above. Doesn’t it strike you as redundant to have Dick thinking to himself about Bruce and Kory, and then having their pictures appear as well. Nowhere in a comic book should what is drawn become redundant, otherwise you may as well just write prose. But to me, so often thought balloons make the drawings redundant.

How much more powerful would the Nightwing page be if it had no words? Then the reader could actually use their brain and work out what Dick was thinking about, rather than having to be told. Thought balloons (and for that matter many captions) should be discouraged in comics the same way narration is discouraged in film. Comics are a visual medium, let the visuals do some of the work.

O, I agree with you. My comment was more in the vein of “I don’t know why thought balloons are derided in a way narrative captions aren’t.”

Well, there are narrative captions and there are narrative captions.

The sort of first-person narrative captions, where the character is going back and retelling the story, they provide a different, future perspective on the story, and can therefore add something to the comic which thought balloons (which are always immediate) cannot.

The sort of third-person omniscient narrative captions I guess also provide a new perspective on the story, although I have some problems with the idea of a third-person omniscient narrator in general, but I won’t get into that here.

The “travesty of indicating different character’s thoughts with little symbols or different colors on their “narrative” captions” sort of narrative captions are an abomination and should be entirely abandoned. Everything negative I said about thought balloons applies to them as well, along with the fact that they are ugly and hard to read.

I imagine it’s the third kind that you are talking about, and I do definitely think its a case of bad writers who know that thought balloons are bad, but don’t know why, who have reintroduced thought balloons in a worse way to perform the same lazy storytelling that was the problem with thought balloons in the first place. It’s just another example of writers leaning the wrong lessons from Watchmen/DKR.

Just curious… anyone know if Mike Mignola had modeled the guy with the paintbrush on anyone in real life? I think I read that somewhere, but I cannot recall who.

I agree with John Trumbull, the scene would have worked better with Guy Gardner than John Stewart. It’s a pity that Starlin couldn’t use Gardner. Could have led to some interesting development with the character afterward.

Heh – I actually own four from this batch, but I’d have to discount the Teen Titans on the grounds that anything featuring Jericho is automatically rendered not-cool. Batman’s takedown of the Hyperclan is beautiful (I loved all of ‘New World Order’), and the Dark Knight sequence is a suitably disturbing final revenge from the Joker. But c’mon, you know where the prize has got to go – “I did it thirty-five minutes ago”. That line is colder than the snow outside New Karnak…

-Gruesome as it was, I have to agree that the Joker’s suicide is his ultimate moment… though I’m not sure if it’s even humanly possible to do that.
-Dick picking up the Nightwing identity (that was previously used by the Silver Age Superman, though that’s not canon anymore) was a nice touch (though more correctly he should have used the Firebird identity, since it WAS based on Robin’s). So yeah.
-Wait, Steward failed to save Xanshi BECAUSE THE BOMB WAS YELLOW? How is that his fault? Other than not having devised a strategy to deal with that kind of thing beforehand (but then again, neither did most Green Lanterns.) Still important for its later story effects.
-Supergirl’s intro is definitely worth including even if it felt forced like Hell. Oh and then Superman KEEPS HER EXISTENCE SECRET FOR YEARS? What was up with that? Didn’t HE start as a teenager with NO training either?
-Batman pwning the Hyperclan also felt pretty forced. Wasn’t at the time revealed that the Martians’ fire weakness was due to a phobia about the plague that killed their race? Since the White Martians were not wiped out by the plague they shouldn’t have been affected, no? But I guess either Morrison didn’t know or care about it.
-Ozymandias’ plan definitely is worth including, although it was not part of the DC Universe… or is it now?

How long did Nightwing look like THAT is all I want to know.

“-Wait, Steward failed to save Xanshi BECAUSE THE BOMB WAS YELLOW? How is that his fault? Other than not having devised a strategy to deal with that kind of thing beforehand (but then again, neither did most Green Lanterns.) Still important for its later story effects.”

Because he threw his partner — Martian Manhunter — out of the action in a protective bubble, believing he could handle the situation completely himself.

John Trumbull

July 19, 2010 at 4:41 pm

Just curious… anyone know if Mike Mignola had modeled the guy with the paintbrush on anyone in real life? I think I read that somewhere, but I cannot recall who.

I believe it was based on DC editor Andy Helfer, Ben.

John Trumbull

July 19, 2010 at 4:50 pm

Take the Nightwing page above. Doesn’t it strike you as redundant to have Dick thinking to himself about Bruce and Kory, and then having their pictures appear as well. Nowhere in a comic book should what is drawn become redundant, otherwise you may as well just write prose. But to me, so often thought balloons make the drawings redundant.

It doesn’t strike me as redundant at all, Ted. The panels are showing you images of Bruce & Kory, and the thought balloons are telling you exactly how Dick Grayson feels about them both, something that the art could not convey in a single image. It’s a beautiful example of words and pictures working together.

How much more powerful would the Nightwing page be if it had no words?

I would argue “not at all.” In fact the page’s effect would be conisderably lessened.

Then the reader could actually use their brain and work out what Dick was thinking about, rather than having to be told.

That might work if you’ve been reading Batman & Titans comics for 10+ years. But what if this is someone’s first Titans comic, or even their first comic altogether? Comics leaving casual readers behind to focus exclusively on fanboys is why they sell so crappy today.

Thought balloons (and for that matter many captions) should be discouraged in comics the same way narration is discouraged in film. Comics are a visual medium, let the visuals do some of the work.

No, comics are a hybrid of words and pictures working together. If it was a purely visual medium, there would be no dialogue, either. I agree with you that captions, thought balloons and dialogue should not just be regurgitating what the pictures are showing, but that’s not what is happening in the Titans pages above.

"O" the Humanatee!

July 19, 2010 at 6:08 pm

Gruesome as it was, I have to agree that the Joker’s suicide is his ultimate moment… though I’m not sure if it’s even humanly possible to do that.

I doubt that it’s humanly possible, but I think that’s (part of) the point: The Joker may not have superpowers per se, but his madness – his hatred of Batman in particular – makes him transcend normal humanity. Certainly a “doable” thing would’ve been less powerful.

[...] The 75 Most Memorable Moments in DC Comics History – Day 3 – Comic Book Resources [...]

It doesn’t strike me as redundant at all, Ted. The panels are showing you images of Bruce & Kory, and the thought balloons are telling you exactly how Dick Grayson feels about them both, something that the art could not convey in a single image. It’s a beautiful example of words and pictures working together.

I agree that the art couldn’t tell us “exactly how Dick Grayson feels about them both”, but I fail to see what the art adds to the panel. The balloons tell us that Dick is thinking about Bruce & Kory and what he is thinking about them, while the visuals tell us that Dick is thinking about Bruce & Kory. They don’t seem to be working together so much as doing the same thing.

That might work if you’ve been reading Batman & Titans comics for 10+ years. But what if this is someone’s first Titans comic, or even their first comic altogether? Comics leaving casual readers behind to focus exclusively on fanboys is why they sell so crappy today.

I think you exaggerate the prior knowledge needed to make those sorts of inferences. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that Dick is going to be inspired by his parents example. It’s true that you couldn’t necessarily work out exactly what was in these thought balloons if they weren’t there. If I were in the same position I would probably shift some of the thoughts to dialogue. But I don’t know that we’d need to know everything Dick is thinking anyway.

Sure we could guess that he was thinking about how the people in his past influenced him, but we could also guess that he was worrying about whether he could live up to these people’s expectations of him, or wondering whether they would be happy with the change he was making, or that he had that general sense of nostalgia that accompanies any great life change. The great thing about art is that, not only could it have any of those meanings, it could have all of them at the same time. That’s what makes art so powerful. By telling us exactly what Dick thinks, I believe that the comic limits the possibilities of its meaning, and suffers somewhat for it.

Leave a Comment

 

Categories

Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives