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CSBG Archive

The 75 Most Memorable Moments in DC Comics History – Day 12

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!

65. Sue Dibny is killed (Identity Crisis #1)

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Brad Meltzer and Rags Morales opened their popular mini-series, Identity Crisis, with the death of Sue Dibny, wife of the longtime Justice Leaguer, Elongated Man.

66. Batman strikes a pose (Batman #251)

From the pages of one of the most famous Denny O’Neil/Neal Adams issues of Batman, the Joker’s Five-Way Revenge, we get this full page splash of Batman racing across the beach to catch the Joker. This picture was so memorable that it was turned into a cover just a few years later for a Treasury Edition. John Cassaday later homaged it in his Planetary/Batman crossover – it’s THAT recognizable of a shot that just drawing Batman in that pose will make people realize what Adams drawing you’re talking about.

67. The “slow walk” (New Frontier #6)

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The “slow walk” is a classic in movie-making, but never was it so well translated into comics as it was in the finale of Darwyn Cooke’s classic mini-series, New Frontier.

68. Batman takes down Superman (Batman: The Dark Knight #4)

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The beginning of this fight (courtesy of Frank Miller) is also quite memorable, where Batman punches Superman, but the ending is the most memorable part of the fight.

69. Superman wrestles an angel (JLA #7)

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I think Flash says it best in the pages above (the issue, written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Howard Porter, features an evil angel coming to Earth to keep another angel from spilling his plans to attack Heaven).

70. Sue Dibny is raped (Identity Crisis #2)

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Brad Meltzer (along with artist Rags Morales) felt that they needed to have something awfully bad happen to compel the Justice League to actually mess with a supervillain’s mind. What he came up with was having Doctor Light rape Sue Dibny years ago when Elongated Man was a member of the “satellite era” of the Justice League of America.

97 Comments

I love the pose of Ralph from Identity Crisis, especially him “melting” as if he were his own tears.

Is this really a rankedl lis, because I wonder why certain moments from the same story come so close to one another.

I’m sure the Identity Crisis moments will take a beating in the comments, and in my opinion it will be well deserved. The rape scene in particular is just horrendous. I happen to like “grim and gritty” comics, but this isn’t it. This is gratuitous.

And today’s entry reminds us that memorable is not the same as good. Thanks Meltzer, that’s what I always hated about superhero comics, not enough senseless rape.

And I mean senseless from a storytelling perspective.

Christ, Identity Crisis wasn’t very kind to Sue, was it?

Some of these moments so far are just depressing. I mean, 75 years of greatness, and these are the most memorable moments? Rape, murder and gratuitous murder? I wonder what this list would have looked like 10 years ago. Probably less gut wrenching.

Slow walks — especially slow walks from explosions — should be banned from all forms of media for the next 35 years or so.

Is this really a rankedl lis, because I wonder why certain moments from the same story come so close to one another.

No, it is not ranked. I sometimes put similar moments next to each other just for the sake of economy. To wit, why have TWO days worth of people reacting to Identity Crisis (or Killing Joke) when I can just get it all in in one installment.

Oops, meant to say rape, murder and gratuitous violence.

Man, did you need to give us two Identity Crisis ones in the same day?

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

July 27, 2010 at 12:30 pm

It’s funny how everyone — me included — remembers that Batman utterly thrashes Superman himself in DKR. It’s since become conventional wisdom for fans and creators that Batman With Prep Always Wins.

Going back and rereading the buildup and the fight, it’s clear that this is something Batman barely manages to do after literally years of preparation, with Green Arrow thereto deliver the Kryptonite, with Robin there in a tank, and even then it’s a squeaker at several points. Bruce takes a severe beating himself, and he does it to give Superman a moment of humility, after which Bruce fakes his death. (And Superman, well, lets him.)

It works in DKR because Batman earns the hell out of the moment; it doesn’t work elsewhere because it’s treated as an (unearned) given.

Amen Omar. At this point Superman is even treated almost like an underdog in matchups with Batman. The pendulum has swung so far to the opposite direction it’s become ridiculous.

I remember being shocked when I read the Sue Dibny rape scene. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. It certainly illicited a response from me. Looking at it now, for the first time in years, it really is truly disgusting, exploitative and wrong-headed in every way imaginable.

I’ve kept my copies of this series over the years, not so much because I liked it all that much (although there were good moments, and Morales’ art was great), but for the historical value. I’m going to sell them now. This is everything that is wrong with modern superhero comics.

Omar I’d take it a step further. I’ve been saying for years that Batman does NOT defeat Superman in DKR. Superman is clearly letting Batman win. Batman is beating away at him and what does Superman do? He worries about Batman’s heart.

You can tell the Identity Crisis stuff is the most memorable because the comments you get are all focusing on it.
That Neal Adams pose is iconic, and yet all the comments revolve around the Meltzer stuff…
I’m sure if ya threw a druggie beating the homeless with a dead cat you would get more recognition than if all the other moments were All-Star Superman…

Personally, I thought Identity Crisis was very well done. Rape’s used in movies and novels, why should comics be exempt?

Sorry, didn’t mean to just post a dot. I just wanted to say I totally agree with Omar and the rest of the commentors about the fact that nowadays Batman is written as infallible. It can be a cool take on the character (especially as perpetuated by Morrison), but after a while it gets a little old.

I sometimes put similar moments next to each other just for the sake of economy.

I assume this means we’ll get to see Bane breaking the Bat and the Death of Superman on the same day?

It’s weird; there’s only one death in today’s moments, and yet the two panels are enough to make this one of the more depressing days of the countdown. Yesterday had three deaths and a chewed off hand, and yet it was a lot more enjoyable.

I’m one of, I guess, the few people who thought Identity Crisis was a great series (great may be the wrong word considering the circumstances of the story but you get what I mean). At that point I was just reading trades when something sounded intriguing to me but that’s the series that got me reading weekly again. It’s an unpleasant series but it was well done and powerful imo.

Identity Crisis is memorable in that I have heard the most people cite it as the reason they gave up on comics.

I remember being puzzled why people were so excited about Meltzer writing a comic book. (Oooo, a novelist!) Have you ever read one of his novels? They pretty much suck.

And IC was just as bad. It really made no sense at all. Oh no! They mind-wiped Batman! C’mon. Superman had been using his super-hypnosis to do the same thing for years. Even to Lois!

Marcus was right: Sue’s rape was senseless from a storytelling perspective. But it’s worse than that: Almost everything about the story — not just the rape, but also the mind wipe, not to mention additional red herrings like Boomerang’s son — none of it had anything to do with the murder. Meltzer claims to be a student of Agatha Christie, but she would have never thrown that many bogus plot threads into the mix. If his ending had wrapped up all those elements, then what happened to Sue (and the revelations about the League) would’ve been tragic but it would’ve meant something, story-wise. Instead we got a psycho ex-wife inexplicably traipsing around with a flamethrower … !

“Senseless” isn’t remotely strong enough to describe the horrible choices Meltzer and DC made.

Another voice in the chorus, but I completely agree regarding Superman vs. Batman. People forget that the fight in DK was memorable because it was not treated as a foregone conclusion; Batman’s victory was treated as a near thing, more the product of Superman’s nice guy qualities ( superman is clearly holding back throughout most of the fight) than of Batman’s strategic brilliance.

was hoping to see the dark knight returns fight of supes and bats on this list. Idenity Crisis one could claim the end of the dc universe being light on dark ness. from dr. light raping sue showing that he is one nasty dude one rung higher then the joker. to also showing that some times super heroes could cross a line with the mind wipes. plus the grief when Ralph finds sue’s body and learns she was pregnant. super man fighting a nuts angel shows that nothing is off limits when the big guns are in grants hands. plus the rape scene of sue shows that loved ones of heroes can pay a price also. though it should not have happen to sue.

I hate when people say detractors of Identity Crisis hate the book because they can’t handle realistic topics like rape. Watchmen had a rape scene in it and it is almost universally loved. People don’t hate Id Crisis because it has rape in it, people hate it because it uses the rape in a ham-fisted and exploitative way.

Zor-El of Argo

July 27, 2010 at 4:50 pm

I also think Superman was letting Bruce win. Supes has pulled his punches with people a lot more powerful than Batman and still took far less of a beating, even when Kryptonite was involved. Superman didn’t WANT to take Bruce down, but was ordered to do so by the President. Letting Bruce beat him would have let him off the hook. Not that he would have let Bruce kill him, mind you, but letting Bruce fake his own death settled that issue.

I can buy a prepared Batman giving Superman one Hell of fight. I can even accept Batman beating Superman if he lead him into a carefully laid trap. Under any other circumstance Superman could take Batman down without even getting close enough to be affected by the kryptonite Bruce would have on hand.

What these special features bring out are those who are disgusted with the grim, gritty, gratuitous and real. I’m on your side to some extent; how much “real” stuff can you take in the comics that are supposed to take you away from it all for a little while.

However, I wonder why some of you are still reading! It’s hard to abandon your favorite characters, I know, but for the last 2 decades at leas, people have either been ripped apart, chopped up, or had their face punched off.

It’s too bad that some company didn’t rise out of the ever darkening Big Two and give you some rape-free fare.

Now for something completely different…. that scene with Superman wrestling the angel is so epic. It is also notable for being a fantastic Martian Manhunter moment. I was going to suggest it, but figured it would be dwarfed in significance by the other moments featured so far.

I’m with Rebis: the major problem of both Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis is the amount of sheer exploitative bogus plot situations, to “shock and awe’, when most of them were either irrelevant to the plot, totally out of character or ham-fisted dialogues that sounded like “anybody could have said that”. It’s not by coincidence that nothing remotely related to characterization is remember, but just “shock scenes”.

Thanks, Omar, T. About time someone mentioned it.

Gosh, I so hated DKR.

The Ugly American

July 27, 2010 at 8:11 pm

“rape, murder and gratuitous violence.”

Memorable is remembered.

Memorable is not necessarily “the best”.

The Sue scene will unfortunately be remembered.

Ethan Shuster

July 27, 2010 at 8:17 pm

VichusSmith, some of us HAVE stopped reading. Or at least, have lessened what we read, or stopped reading certain books, writers or just types of stories. I think for some of us, comics — especially a certain genre of stories — just shouldn’t have this stuff in it.

And I am all for adding seriousness to some comics. And I admit some of these types of things are fine in the right comic. But what I especially dislike is there seems to an attempt lately to not only shift the tone of these stories, but also to retroactively remove the fun and innocence of old stories which many of us loved. Sue and Ralph were fun characters, who many of us came to like from the JLE series. One of the main character traits of Ralph and Sue were they were playful, fun loving characters. But Metzger brings us back to a more innocent time and takes light characters and pulls one of those, “everything you knew was a lie” things and tells us that even back then it wasn’t fun and innocent. People were getting their brains tampered with and that happy character you love got raped once. Terrible things happened. Those fun times weren’t really fun. That’s why I guess I mind the death of Blue Beetle less. At least it leaves the past intact.

heh…i read #68 and hear Kevin Conroy’s voice….:-)

Ethan, you’re totally right. To take characters who were once written as characters in funny, light-hearted books and put them in dark situations is a drastic departure. However, weren’t these really funny and absurd stories involving Booster, Blue Beetle, the Dibnys, etc, also a departure from what these characters were before?

For me, the Bwahaha and the Extreme! versions of these characters both work for me, because people flying around in tight clothing punching each other is ridiculous, and it makes sense that wicked criminals (maybe not the ones Mel5tzer picked) would take things too far and a guy with the strength of 1000 men might punch someone’s face off, or a hero might do something unethical if it meant that you could protect your loved ones.

What truly sucks is that both the ‘Superman wrestles an angel’ and the ‘Superman tows the moon back into its orbit’ scenes were ruined by the fact that it was Electra Glide in Blue Superman and not the real deal.

Sucks on a historic level.

‘I hate when people say detractors of Identity Crisis hate the book because they can’t handle realistic topics like rape. Watchmen had a rape scene in it and it is almost universally loved. People don’t hate Id Crisis because it has rape in it, people hate it because it uses the rape in a ham-fisted and exploitative way.’
^ This.

Once again people don’t seem to get the meaning of “gratuitous”.

The murder wasn’t gratuitous. The story is a murder mystery.

The rape wasn’t gratuitous. Some suitably horrific event was needed to scare the superheroes into going to the lengths they went to – which pretty much means rape or murder. Anything less would be the posturing that super-villains do every day.

Personally I found it to be a decent story.

“The rape wasn’t gratuitous.”
I disagree because it ended up having nothing to do with the actual murder. The murder had nothing to do with rape or mindwipe or anything that most of the pages of Identity Crisis were devoted to. It was created to shock.

As far as the murder being gratuitous, I don’t think it was gratuitous but the fact that she was also pregnant at the time was a terrible cliche.

Here is a minority view…

The rape scene was completely necessary for the story.

The fact that she was pregnant when she died was much more gratuitous.

I have to agree with the Mutt re: Superman vs. the Angel. I’ve traditionally not been a Superman fan, but even I can see how truly epic that moment would have been had it been traditional Superman and not Mr. Electric Blue taking on the Angel. Just the thought of the image of Traditional Supes fighting the Angel leaves me in awe (and, again, I’m no Supes fan). Seeing the image above with Electric Blue grappling with the Angel just doesn’t have the iconic impact for me – most casual or non-comic fans wouldn’t even realize that that was Supes in those panels. As great as Grant Morrison is, I think he misplayed that one – he should have kept this storyline in his back pocket until the traditional Superman returned as the status quo.

It’s also interesting to read the comments regarding the “uber-competent” Batman that has evolved and become the standard for that character since this battle with Supes in DKR. Personnally, I think the paradigm shift toward making Batman the favorite in ANY FIGHT has taken away from the appeal of that character for me. What was cool about Batman for me was that he was the non-powered super hero who, through sheer hard work and brilliance, found a way to be competetive in any fight that came his way. The fact that he always stood a very real chance of losing is what made it so compelling to me, and his “wins” always felt “earned” as a result. However, in the era of uber-competent Batman, not only do we lose that compelling element of knowing that Batman very well could lose, but quite franky his stature as the favorite-in-every-confrontation-no-matter-what has gotten a little ridiculous. Batman is non-powered. The idea of him going toe-to-toe with some of the more godlike beings in the DC universe, and doing so effortlessly, without concern, and being the favorite to win every time just defies belief. I love Batman and think that he is the archetype of awesomeness, but that notion just does violence to my suspension of disbelief and just seems like a cheap “gimme” from the writers. They’re basically saying “Batman is awesome because we say so” and over the years they have gotten lazy with the justification.

It’s kind of like the opposite of what they did with Spidey in the 90’s and early 2000’s (and even earlier under certain writers – yeah I’m looking at you Wolfman!). One of the traditionally cool things about Spidey was that even though he had a pretty decent power-set, he didn’t win every fight, even in his glory years. However, certain writers took it too far and had Spidey either loosing outright or being fought to a standstill by non-powered beings on a regular basis. It’s like, come on folks! Spidey is no Superman or Thor, but he’s a human-sized arachnic for God’s sake, he should be able to wipe the floor with non-powered folks. I think it did a great disservice to the character to portray him that way and in a strange sense, I think a similar disservice is done to Batman to make him the “favorite” in every fight, irregardless of how powerful his opponent is. Let’s at least give recognition to the fact that we have a completely awesome, but non-powered hero here who finds a way win. That’s more compelling to me than the non-powered hero who we just now assume can win every challenge that comes down the pike through sheer “awesomeness”.

The scene in DKR, however, does not fall into that category I’m complaining about. Miller did a fantastic job with that, and it is evident that this battle is anything but “in the bag” for Bats and the victory is well earned (and more than a little influence by the attitude that Supes brought to the fight).

@Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

It works in DKR because Batman earns the hell out of the moment; it doesn’t work elsewhere because it’s treated as an (unearned) given.

Well said.

@ T.

I hate when people say detractors of Identity Crisis hate the book because they can’t handle realistic topics like rape. Watchmen had a rape scene in it and it is almost universally loved. People don’t hate Id Crisis because it has rape in it, people hate it because it uses the rape in a ham-fisted and exploitative way.

I want to co-sign this.

Rape is a crime. Superheroes are crime-fighters. Unless you are writing to children, it is a topic that is going to come up. However, revealing that Dr. Light had raped Sue in a flashback after she died felt exploitive. I sort wish that Brian had done IDENTITY CRISIS in the same batch as THE KILLING JOKE, since the device is the same. So are the problematic aspects. Meltzer pulls back the protective veil between the private world of superhero and the public one. Some of the violence in the one arena has escaped into the other. That gets Meltzer an effective shock moment, but he is ultimately not interested in the victim.

@ Rusty Priske:

Here is a minority view…

The rape scene was completely necessary for the story.

The fact that she was pregnant when she died was much more gratuitous.

I will go with you this far, IDENTITY CRISIS worked for me until the ending. I read it in collected form and it read briskly. It was like one of those cheap thrillers that you pick up at the airport, but with superheroes. Sue Dibny’s rape was a standard misdirection. The scene was so shocking that it grabbed your attention away the building evidence of who the real killer was.

Fine, except There was no way a reasonable person could piece together the identity of the real killer. The evidence by built does not make any logical sense. The motive is thin at best within the story and a dramatic reversal of prior characterization. There is no real connection between the victims. It would be pretty impossible to figure where the killer got the opportunity ahead of the big reveal.

In other words, there is no practical reason for a misdirection.

Neil Robertson

July 28, 2010 at 7:55 am

It has, of course, become a cliche to say that Batman will win virtually any confrontation with Superman. Anything less than that denies the essence of Batman. Superman defeating Batman in combat not only would be anti-climactic, it would come across as bullying at best. And yet…

I doubt it will be included in the list of 100 here, but just for me, one of the all-time great DC moments (I’m sorry, I can’t find the issue number) was during the Byrne era of Superman. After using a ring made in part of Kryptonite to keep Superman away from him, Lex Luthor finally loses possession of it and Superman takes ownership of the single most deadly-to-himself object in existence. In spite of a history of vast differences in their approaches to justice and crime-fighting, Superman voluntarily hands over the ring to Batman, telling him in the process that, if ever the time should come that Superman, for any reason whatsoever, might go out of control and start hurting people, he wanted the ring in the hands of someone that he could trust would use it wisely. Batman, who couldn’t conceive of EVER handing that kind of control of himself to another living being, was simply left stunned. In my opinion, it was Superman’s greatest victory over Batman, and the completely selfless Kal wasn’t even aware of it.

Neil Robertson

July 28, 2010 at 7:57 am

On further reflection, I believe it may have been the immediate post-Byrne era of Ordway and Jurgens where the scene I described most likely happened. Sorry ’bout that.

Thinking about it further, I realize that my issue is less with the events themselves than the feeling that story-teller is not playing fair. In both THE KILLING JOKE and IDENTITY CRISIS, there is a moment in which I believed that a line had been crossed. The bad guy had finally done something unforgivable and/or the price of being a superhero had gotten too high. This, surely, would change things.

I guess that I should know better.

On the other moments:
66. That Batman image is so cool and iconic. I am reading through the fist Showcase volume of BRAVE & THE BOLD. It is easy to see why Adams caused such a stir in context. He was a radical break from the immediate past.

67. The slow walk is something that you probably should not be able to pull off in comics. It is a small miracle that Cooke does it here. I love how the Flash is turned slightly against the group, like he is walking out of rhythm.

68. The climax of DKR blew my mind when I read it. All these years later, it is a shame that it has become trite. Still, Batman’s line at the end is a great piece of characterization. Despite all his rationalizations, Batman constructed the ambush to prove that he could do it.

69. I think that was said the last time you posted the Superman wrestles an Angel moment, but the order of battle moments in Morrison’s JLA are great. Everyone is a Big Gun, but they all know their internal hierarchy. Still, it is Wally West who sells the moment.

Marvel did the same thing to Wolverine. A hero that had been defined by his never-say-never underdog determination has become a unbeatable spygod that can come back from any wounds instantly.

But people always overstimate the influence of DKR and Watchmen, and underestimate the huge influence of the big action movies that started in the 1980s, that served as a MAJOR influence to the Image guys and later to the whole industry.

Those movies all popularized the concept of the gritty, uber-competent, multi-talented action man. I feel that Batman and Wolverine’s post-1980s incarnations owe a lot to these action movies.

Marvel did the same thing to Wolverine. A hero that had been defined by his never-say-never underdog determination has become a unbeatable spygod that can come back from any wounds instantly.

I agree about how overdone his healing factor has become, but I wouldn’t say he’s become unbeatable except in the hands of a few writers, like in Erik Larsen’s run. Wolverine still gets his ass beat a lot. I don’t think he’s become as unbeatable as Batman by a longshot.

BTW, when I said this list had ‘gratuitous murder’ I wasn’t referring to the murder of Sue Dibny specifically, I was more referrring to the murder of Pantha by Superboy-Prime. Sure, you can make the argument that without killing Pantha, he wouldn’t have turned bad… I think he was already on the path of being a villian before he started murdering people, and that was thrown in as a quick, easy explanation for his fall, and even moreso, as a shocking image of Superboy killing someone.

Anyway, in the context of the specific stories (Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis), arguments could be made that the murders (and rapes and other violence) were not gratuitous, were in fact integral to the story. However, IMHO, within the overarching story of the DC Universe, these murders were gratuitous. They are not necessary to telling good, compelling superhero stories, and in fact counterproductive to the storytelling engine of the DC Universe as a whole.

An occassional tragic event, like the death of say Jason Todd, whether well done or not, can be a useful tool for long-term character development and storytelling (that death shaped Batman stories and his overall character for a decade or more). But nowadays, writers throw in death and mayhem so often, and just as quickly reverse it, that nothing has any lasting impact. The best they can hope for is short term shock and awe.

It is an obvious problem that permeates ever superhero comic nowadays, especially in the DC Universe, hence half-assed solutions like Blackest Night (you wouldn’t have to have a mega-event supposedly designed to prevent the easy resurrection of characters if characters weren’t being murdered and maimed month in and month out) . For this very reason, I count many of the recent deaths and maimings as gratuitous, i.e. unnecessary, without cause, and unjustified.

Some exceptions would be the death of Jason Todd (surely this will be featured as a memorable moment) and the death of Barry Allen, which affected the development of some characters deeply, such as Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, Tim Drake and Wally West, but also had lasting ramifications throughout the DC Universe that resonated for a decade or more, setting up the idea of legacy characters (both Wally and Tim), but also making Barry into a martyr-figure that others aspired to be like.

A similiar argument can also be made about the Killing Joke and the crippling of Barbara Gordon – although Alan Moore didn’t seem to give her a second thought or any consideration, at least DC as a whole managed to transform her into Oracle, one of the most interesting and important characters in the DCU today.

The rape and murder of Sue Dibny just denegrated and casted off a long standing character for no gains outside of the context of telling an otherwise relatively forgettable story that damaged rather than helped the larger DC Universe. To a lesser degree, so did changing Superboy-Prime into a murderous whiny fanboy proxy. I don’t see either of these as serving the larger DC Universe well as tools for either character development or generating compelling plots. Hence, gratuitious.

That being said, I want to make it clear that I don’t disagree with Brian for selecting these as memorable moments. They most certainly are memorable. I just find them depressing.

Yeah, the evolution of Wolverine’s characteristics have likewise stretched my “suspension of disbelief” beyond the breaking point as well, but Wolvie has not been granted the free pass on ass-whoopins that Batman has. In fact, Wolverine absorbs more ass-whoopins now than he ever has. Since the 90’s, he’s been fed an ever increasing diet of ass-whoopins. He’s just not allowed to die from them or anything.

In fact, it’s gotten to be kind of sick game amongst the writers – how severe of an ass-whoopin can be administered to Wolverine w/o killing him? That’s Wolverine’s main superpower anymore – his ability to survive ass whoopins..

“I disagree because it ended up having nothing to do with the actual murder. The murder had nothing to do with rape or mindwipe or anything that most of the pages of Identity Crisis were devoted to.”

It had nothing to do with the murder. But it had everything to do with the themes that IC dealt with. There is a lot of subtlely in the story that gets overlooked because people want to sit on their high horse, pretend they have sophisticated taste, and act appalled by the rape.

There are less crass and more thoughtful ways to unpack IC, but:: the entire superhero community was effectively sodomized when Sue was murder, because it represented a fundmental vunerability to all of them that they took for granted.

The rape in IC is no more exploitative than the rape in Wathcmen. The only difference is comics readers develop irrationally strong bonds to chracters they’ve known for long years, a no such attachment is allowed before the rape is encountered in Watchmen because characters have only just been introduced to the reader by the time the rape occurs.

The rape in IC is no more exploitative than the rape in Wathcmen.

The rape in Watchmen is actually DEALT with later, including stuff involving the victim. Sue, however, NEVER deals with her rape – EVER. It is not even brought up the rest of the story.

So yeah, the IC rape is a heck of a lot more exploitative than the Watchmen rape.

Why does the story need to deal with Sue’s rape more than it does? The sense of violation, helplessness, vunerability it evokes permeates every panel of IC, which the narrative constantly tries to deal with and reconcile.

Hardly exploitative.

Ed and T. –

Did you guys read the Mark Millar Wolverine?

But maybe I’m being unfair. Millar loves to make all his characters into ridiculously overpowered bad-asses. Wolverine is no exception.

I’m not sure I agree with anything on today’s list as being top memorable moments.

There is a very distinct lack of JSA stuff here, which had some pretty awesome moments, especially my favorite, Wildcat picking his teeth with Blackbriar Thorn.

I would also have to have mined “52” for awesome moments. Or Batman/Superman.

Batman: No Man’s Land had a great scene right at the end in the confrontation between Essen and Joker that would be on my list.

Justice League of America #102 has the scene where everyone realizes that Red Tornado left to sacrifice himself. Even the scene before it where the league fights over who should go on the dangerous mission is 100% awesome.

JLA, the Scene where Big Barda is wearing her new dress, and then asks where Plastic Man is. Wow, that scene is one of my favorites.

That’s really just off the top of my head.

More space is not devoted to Sue taking action and reflecting because she is strictly a supporting character and IC is not her story. Yes, Meltzer does a textbook example of something very bad happening to a woman to impact on other characters who are the real protagonists of the story.

I dislike that most females in comics are supporting characters, and maybe THAT is a sign of deep-rooted mysoginy. But the rape and violence (and the lack of later character development in Sue) themselves aren’t signals that Meltzer hates women or is a sadist or is interested in causing tittilation with risque scenes, any more than he hates fathers because he killed Robin’s Dad.

I too wish comic fans stopped throwing these accusations around.

Ed and T. –

Did you guys read the Mark Millar Wolverine?

But maybe I’m being unfair. Millar loves to make all his characters into ridiculously overpowered bad-asses. Wolverine is no exception.

I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. That’s why I said “except in the hands of a few writers.” I just don’t think it’s as universal and as widespread as Batman. If anything writers seem to go out of their way to have him get beat down relentlessly in order to showcase his outrageously upgraded healing factor.

are they going just cover DC or are Covering Quailty , Fox , Charlton too?

Not to hop on the bandwagon, but boy, Identity Crisis is stupid!

That Neal Adams pose and the Slow Walk thing, on the other hand? FULL OF AWESOME!

POWER CREEP IN COMICS:

Say what you will about Jim Shooter, but he understands the reality of power differentials. For example, take a look at the scene in SECRET WARS where Spider-Man casually takes out Wolverine; unlike practically every current writer, Shooter understands that Spider-Man (superhumanly fast and capable of lifting, at the time of the story, ten tons) is vastly more powerful than Wolverine.

Wolverine in the 1980s could heal somewhat faster than a human and take more punishment, and had enhanced senses, but his other physical attributes were not superhuman.

There is a sort of rule of cool going on. Whoever is cooler gets to win fights. Then you see Batman beating everyone, and Punisher and Hitman beating everyone, etc. It’s like the supreme power in comics is STREETSMARTS. Whoever has it, never loses.

Rene“I dislike that most females in comics are supporting characters, and maybe THAT is a sign of deep-rooted mysoginy. But the rape and violence (and the lack of later character development in Sue) themselves aren’t signals that Meltzer hates women or is a sadist or is interested in causing tittilation with risque scenes, any more than he hates fathers because he killed Robin’s Dad.”

Y’know, I WANT to agree.

But the whole thing with Jean Loring – Who was originally the strongest, and most independent of superhero girlfriends. The competent, professional. The anti-Lois Lane who had the Atom following HER around like a love-sick puppy while she wanted to concentrate on her career.

The fact that SHE – in particular – ended up a crazy murderess (of her own volition)

Not dead or turned into a harpy like evil superhero girlfriends –

The fact that Jean Loring is the one that went all crazy and kill-happy – Well, that says something to me. It could just be the writer’s don’t know there history, it could just be random chance. But, yeah, I do think it might speak to AT LEAST creators being nervous around a superhero relationship where the girl has the power.

POWER CREEP IN COMICS:

Say what you will about Jim Shooter, but he understands the reality of power differentials. For example, take a look at the scene in SECRET WARS where Spider-Man casually takes out Wolverine; unlike practically every current writer, Shooter understands that Spider-Man (superhumanly fast and capable of lifting, at the time of the story, ten tons) is vastly more powerful than Wolverine.

Now this I agree with. Wolverine isn’t currently written as unbeatable but he definitely is a prime example of too much “power creep.” (“Power Creep” sounds like a superpowered stalker)

Wolverine in the 1980s could heal somewhat faster than a human and take more punishment, and had enhanced senses, but his other physical attributes were not superhuman.

There is a sort of rule of cool going on. Whoever is cooler gets to win fights. Then you see Batman beating everyone, and Punisher and Hitman beating everyone, etc. It’s like the supreme power in comics is STREETSMARTS. Whoever has it, never loses.

Yeah, these are dumb. I had to roll my eyes when I saw Marvel is releasing yet another of those Punisher destroys the Marvel Universe one-shots.

One thing about Wolverine…in his very first appearance he was holding his own against Wendigo and the Hulk, so it can be argued that his power level has been pretty inconsistent from the get-go.

You may be right, Mark.

Jean Loring’s motive can make one wince.

I just dislike calling a writer a hater of women based on one of his stories. It’s a very personal accusation. Perhaps analyzing the whole body of work of a writer, we can say whether they’re uncomfortable with women.

I prefer to attribute that to more innocent factors. For instance, Dark Phoenix’s influence in superhero fiction is bigger than people usually credit it. Everyone concentrates so hard on Watchmen’s influence that they overlook the impact of the Dark Phoenix and Elektra in the dawn of the 1980s.

Avengers Disassembled owes a lot to Dark Phoenix in my oppinion. Identity Crisis not so much, but the story of a female character going crazy/corrupt… it’s because the writer is a women-hater, or just because he can’t be arsed to be original and is always aping the themes of some very influential earlier comics?

@T –

I’ve read somewhere that Len Wein originally envisioned Wolverine as having strength and agility on par with Spider-Man’s (plus, he had no healing factor, no animal senses, no metal skeleton, and his claws were just a function of his special gloves).

And that is why he could go toe-to-toe with the Hulk.

After the 3 or 4 Len Wein-written Wolvie appearances, Chris Claremont came and pretty much redesigned Wolverine into the the character we’re more familiar with. Or, at least, into the character we knew for most of the 1970s and 1980s, with a pretty established power set.

Len Wein’s Wolverine:

It’s been a while since I last read Wolverine’s initial appearance in the HULK, but I don’t recall him doing anything very superhuman (Bearing in mind, of course, that non-superhumanly powerful types like Batman, Shang-Chi, Nick Fury, etc. do things that we would qualify as suprhuman in the real world). Furthermore, looking over the Wein scripted X-Men issues, I don’t see any real evidence of superhuman strength.

@Raza –

There was a sort of X-Men Handbook published in the 1980s, with tons of in-depth interviews.

I think I’ve read there that Len Wein’s Wolverine was supposed to have Spider-Man like strength and agility. I seem to remember another interesting tidbit is that Wolverine was supposed to be a teenager under his mask. True, there is no overt evidence of either of those things in the comics themselves. He keeps his mask on all times, and his powers are never openly discussed.

I remember Wein saying also that his Nightcrawler was supposed to be a lot more depressed, and Ororo was timeless, perhaps unaging, much more of a “goddess” in truth. Colossus would be the big star of the series. Wolverine was an impulsive teenager with a short temper, but never a killer, etc.

Yes, Wolverine has held his own against many powerful adversaries, but that doesn’t mean that his power level is inconsistent. He’s an excellent fighter and if he can’t get the upper hand, he has the adamantium skeleton to allow him to survive a bought with someone like the Hulk.

If anything, what I see as inconsistent is all the people who get pounded by the most physically powerful beings in the MU and don’t die.

Rene:

Are you referring to FantaCo’s X-MEN CHRONICLES?

‘Sue, however, NEVER deals with her rape – EVER. It is not even brought up the rest of the story.’
Why exactly did you want the rape of Sue to be dealt with in Identity Crisis?

david-

Do you ever get sick of ridiculing other people’s quotes instead of offering your own opinion? Did Sue’s rape have to be dealt with in the pages of Identity Crisis? no, but where else would it have been addressed? It’s not like Elongated Man was carrying his own title.

I’m a huge Identity Crisis fan, but I do feel the series’ biggest weakness is it leaves too many issues unresolved/scenes left unseen. It would have greatly benefitted by being a few issues longer, or having every issue be double-sized.

If a story is written well then rape shouldn’t be an issue. No one complains about “Watchmen” because the possible rape helped the outcome of parts of the stories plot. IDC wasn’t helped at all by that rape.

Why exactly did you want the rape of Sue to be dealt with in Identity Crisis?

The whole “exploitative” thing. Did you read the comment you replied to before replying?

That Len Wein originally envisioned Wolverine’s power levels to be somewhat on par with Spider-Man’s still doesn’t say much about Wolverine’s power levels. While Wein wasn’t as bad as Wolfman or some of the later writers in this regard, he was also guilty of making Spider-Man look like a chump against non-powered beings on a fairly consistent basis. Hell, I think civilian shop owner who happened to know some karate put Spider-Man on his ass once when Wein was writing ASM.

I don’t know -with the number of different characters being handled by different writers over the course of many years, it’s natural to have some inconsistencies in how a character’s power level is portrayed from time to time. I just hate those obvious examples where the portrayal is so out-of-line with their history and so unbelievable as to be a discredit to both the character and the reader (you know, those WTF moments).

Oh, Lord – ‘Identity Crisis’. Seldom has a comic-book aroused so many conflicting emotions. On the one hand, I really admired the idea of a retcon that DIDN’T involve collapsing universes, but would have an even more profound impact of the history of DC’s characters (I’d read a lot of the old JLA stories, but wasn’t wedded enough to them to feel my childhood was being shredded). HOWEVER, why Meltzer felt the need to resolve his mummy/daddy/ex-wife issues during the course if it, I’ll never understand. Despite one great moment (the fight with Deathstroke), it ultimately comes across as a tortuously slow whodunnit with distinctly misogynist undertones, and it created far more problems than it solved (ie, ‘Infinite Crisis’)

The Deathstroke fight was not great. Actually it was downright awful.

Deathstroke stabbing the Flash so easily. Green Lantern trying to punch Deathstroke head on, and getting his finger broken (isn’t that aura around GL supposed to be physical protection?) The horrible narration captions with such gems like “The Justice League…TEACHES YOU HOW TO FIGHT!!” preceded by scenes of the JLA fighting like utterly incompetent amateurs and followed by scenes of the JLA proceeding to dogpile Deathstroke while biting, grabbing and clawing at him like some desperate schoolgirls. Yeah, way to illustrate how great the JLA is at teaching you how to fight Meltzer.

@Ed –

Agree with you. One of the reasons why I dislike Spidey’s 1970s stories. Gerry Conway was the third member of the Unholy Trinity. I think it was Conway who made Spider-Man lose to Tarantula (another non-powered dude whose only weapon were poisoned pointy shoes, yeah, big threat).

The straw that broke the camel’s back on Wolverine for me was in his Civil War tie-in. He was blasted to nothing but a skeleton and was back to normal basically within like 3 pages (or even less, it’s been a while). It also really bothers me that he doesn’t even TRY to avoid getting shot or zapped or whatever anymore. It’s like they are going for a terminator feel or something, just one foot in front of the other until he guts you.

@ T.:

I am with you on the Deathstroke fight.

My basic rule of super-teams is that they work best when the writer has a clear real world parallel for their structure. The most obvious is X-Men is about a school, but there are others. The Avengers are sort of like an NBA franchise with around five people playing at any given time, a bench of 10 (or so) other folks that come in and out with varying regularity and people constantly coming and going on a semi-permanent basis.

The best two modern runs of the JLA treat it like a workplace. Morrison’s JLA was about hyper-competent professionals that do their jobs as efficiently as possible. Giffen and DeMatties’ JLI was about all the other stuff that happens at work between the moments that force you to look like a hyper-competent professional. Neither featured characters that were really there to learn.

Meltzer never seemed to have a fixed idea of what the JLA was to him beyond a bunch of old comics for which he had a nostalgic attachment. It was a bigger problem in his unreadable run on the JL-of-A proper, but it was already in evidence in IC.

@ Zachary:

Why does the story need to deal with Sue’s rape more than it does?

Look, there are three basic characters in any crime story: the criminal(s), the victim(s) and the detective(s). There are various red herrings and background players, but one of those three needs to be your protagonist. That is the person with whom you are supposed to empathize and whose goals are driving the story.

There are obviously great crime stories with detective protagonists ranging from the heroic Sherlock Holmes to the anti-heroic policemen in James Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet. There are great criminal driven crime stories ranging from the darkness of Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley series to the lightness of heist films, like OCEAN’S ELEVEN. There are also great victim-driven crime stories, like Otto Preminger’s LAURA, or Billy Wilder’s SUNSET BLVD.

So, who is the protagonist in IDENTITY CRISIS?

Well, it is not the criminal. The whodunit structure means that the reader feels effectively no sympathy for Jean Loring’s objectives. I suppose that you could argue that it is the JLA as a whole, but Meltzer really never bothers to define the JLA as an organization. There is not a fixed membership, since people that are not members get a lot of panel time (i.e. Tim Drake, Owen Mercer). No group of people that is so poorly defined can really be a protagonist.

Really, the only candidate is Sue Dibny. The protagonist does not have to be the focal character. The two most memorable scenes create a lot of sympathy for both Dibnys, but they are really about Sue. Wanting to have your murder solved and your killer brought to justice is a motivation with which the reader can empathize.

Except, Meltzer is not really interested in Sue. He does not want to tell her story. He just wants to use her murder as an inciting incident. So, we do not see how any of this effects her. She is raped, but we don’t know her reaction. Her husband has her rapist mind-wiped and we do not know how she feels about that. Her relationship with Jean Loring is something that might have a bearing on the story, but we don’t see it. Instead, there is a bunch of stuff that is inessential to the core mystery story without being especially well done on its own.

On the whole, it feels like a first draft of a better book. In theory, a good editor would pare away at the inessential stuff and encourage Meltzer to develop the important stuff better. However, that would limit its usefulness as a springboard for all the shared universe stuff that was supposed to spin out of it.

-I hate Sue Dibney’s murder as much as anybody (it can be considered the metafictional murder of DC Comic’s more innocent days) but sadly yeah, this IS one of the most memorable DC moments. :(
-Batman’s pose: Ehh, I dunno. Sure, nice, but classic enough to be in the top 75? I’ve seen much more iconic Batman images.
-Same thing for the slow walk scene from JLA: Frontier. Surely there are more awesome moments in it?
-Batman beating Superman was more of a fanwanking moment from Miller than anything else. But yeah, deserves to be in the top 75.
– The “Superman wrestles an Angel” moment WOULD count if a) Superman had superstrength at the time (I believe he didn’t) and b) he’d at least LOOKED like he usually does instead of some ultraslick new hero. So no.
-The rape of Sue: Even if we accept that it was a necessary part of the story, DID WE NEED TO SEE IT SEMI-GRAPHIC DETAIL? With no cover warning either? Is this what people REALLY expect to see in their superhero comics? Still, sadly I must agree it is hard to forget. -_-

You know, for a list that celebrates the best of DC Comics in the past 75 years, this list contains a lot of disturbing material. You’d think the universe with THE most iconic, idealistic heroes of all time would have much more inspiring moments to list. Come on, Brian, you can do better than this!

I never read Titans in the 80s, so I’m not really familiar with the initial portrayal of Deathstroke’s power levels, but he seems like he may be another character that falls into the “Power Creep” category, where his “coolness” gives writers leave to make him more and more formidable, to the point where Meltzer has him taking on the entire JLA.

It is kinda funny to me that a comic that is supposed to be “realistic” (and therefore given “permission” so to speak to incorporate real-world themes/crimes like rape, murder, betrayal, etc), is so unrealistic in its portrayals of established characters’ personalities, power levels, competency, etc. In a lot of ways, Identity Crisis is completely “unrealistic”.

I think Dean’s take on the structure of various super-teams is pretty cool.

X-Men = School
Avengers = Sports Franchise
JLA = Workplace

I guess the other obvious one would be Fantastic Four = Family. What would some of the more obscure ones be, like the Defenders, the Outsiders, the LoSH, the Guardians of the Galaxy, etc?

Speaking of Wolverine and “Power Creep” – did I dream this, or is their a relatively recent comic (within the past 5 years or so) that features an “untold tale” of Wolverine being at Hiroshima and surviving the bomb? I stopped reading Wolverine comics in 1996, but my buddy when I was in the army is a huge Wolverine fan, and I could have sworn that he showed me a comic with Wolverine being at, and surviving, Hiroshima.

Rene – I laughed out loud at the idea of Wein, Wolfman and Conway as the “Unholy Trinity” of Spider-Man writers.

In fairness to Wolfman, he seems to love writing losing protagonists in general. It’s just his thing, unless it’s a character he specifically created, like Deathstroke or Starfire, who tend to fare better. He even jobbed out Batman in a post-Crisis story to boot (against one of his own creations, Deathstroke of course). So at least you can say he’s consistent and not just doing it to Spider-Man!

@ Joemac:

Thanks. I am not sure if it is my entirely original thinking, since I half remember Grant Morrison drawing real world analogies to super teams in some interview. My favorite part of the framework is that the weaker (or more limited) analogies tend to map to the less successful super-teams. Here are my takes:

X-Men = High School
Avengers = Sports Franchise (as an aside, wouldn’t Steve Rogers make a great Point Guard?)
JLA = Corporate Workplace
Fantastic Four = A Family
Doom Patrol = A 12-Step group
Teen Titans = A college group, like a Freshman section or a Fraternity.
JSA = An Elks lodge, or a bowling league.
The Defenders = A Rock Band. They weren’t part of the popular crowd in High School, so they form a group that makes their outsider status cool. Of course, they don’t get along very well.
Birds of Prey = A set of female friends.
The Outsiders = Ummmm …. They started as a kind of vocational school for superheroing, but then their “teacher” quit. I am really not sure.

re: team structures…

the outsiders would be a rock band (batman = frontman), and the legion of super-heroes would be a fraternity/sorority combination (everyone gets to college having come from a different place, and then if you go greek, you’re suddenly thrown into a large group of people that you potentially have nothing in common with besides membership). the defenders would probably be an olympic and/or all-star sports team, where the collection of talent is enormous, but the team play is sub-par because it’s a group of people that aren’t used to interacting with each other on a regular basis.

re: identity crisis protagonist…

why does identity crisis have to have a protagonist? some of the greatest movies ever didn’t have protagonists, or had “hidden” protagonists (ie: psycho & the godfather, where you’re meant to believe the protagonist is one person, but then that person dies midway through and you realize the story was really about someone else). but look at movies like nashville or magnolia… either they have no protagonist, or every character is the protagonist, but there certainly isn’t a character the audience is meant to identify with over any other. or you could look at identity crisis like lord of the rings: the protagonist in both is not a character, but a happening (sue gets murdered, bilbo gives up his ring), and then each story follows a large cast of characters that interact with that happening and its results until the story reaches a conclusion. the best example might be dazed and confused, which is really about the way an entire senior class reacts to graduation night. so i suppose the protagonist there would simply be the senior class, just as the protagonist in identity crisis could be called the hero class.

i guess my point is that just because a story doesn’t follow a traditional structure of “hey, here’s the protagonist!” doesn’t mean the story is inherently structurally flawed.

but then, i loved identity crisis.

@ third man:

On team structures, I like your calls on the LoSH and BATO. I went Greek in College and there is always a parallel fraternity/sorority. It becomes one large mixed-gender group with two different decision structures and very complicated inter-relationships. Also, it is a good call on Batman as the frontman for the Outsiders.

Now, I need to re-think my take on the Teen Titans and Defenders.

On Identity Crisis, there are certainly wonderful ensemble dramas. There are also great stories in which the protagonist is not the focal character, or there is a major reversal. However, neither are really appropriate for IDENTITY CRISIS.

First, crime stories almost all hinge on the protagonist having partial knowledge. The reader (or viewer) fills in the blanks with them. That is what is exciting and why people hate stories that they figure out ahead of the protagonist. If you have too much information, then you become uninvolved emotionally. By contrast, ensemble dramas give the audience total information. The fun comes from watching people act in ignorance of the total picture. The effect is distancing, so it is a good way to examine a theme. For example, MAGNOLIA wants you to think about fate.

IC tries to have it both ways. Meltzer wants you to think you are getting 100% of the picture while with-holding some of it. That is why Jean Loring’s motivations are so … improbable. If what she was doing made any sense, then the mystery is too easy to solve.

Second, doing a reversal worked great in PSYCHO, but that is not something Meltzer attempted here.

You know what I like about IDENTITY CRISIS?

At least it is not a typical superhero event story. With billions of characters fighting each other for overly abstract reasons, and that only a hardcore superhero fan would care about.

I like it that IDENTITY CRISIS is a sort of quieter story, even with the rapes and mindwipes and Meltzer crapping on a lot of previous characterizations. It is more readable to people who aren’t hardcore fans.

Having said that, I agree with Dean too. Meltzer has no clear sight of what the JLA is, and his run was horrible. It was like IDENTITY CRISIS, only boring instead of controversial.

Dean –

Ensemble dramas give the audience all the information? Ever heard of something called LOST? ;)

@ Rene:

I know that you are being waggish, but Jack is the protagonist on LOST. His eye opening starts the series and his eye closing ends it. In sideways world, the entire cast is literally standing in the next room waiting for Dr. Jack to work things out with his Dad. The focal point moves from episode-to-episode, but the it is really Jack’s story. It is a good example of a story with a large cast of well-drawn characters that still has a clear-cut protagonist.

Also, I liked the same stuff about IDENTITY CRISIS that you did. It was basically a good idea to do a murder mystery using old superhero stories as a backdrop. That is why it is such a shame that it fell apart over really fixable stuff.

Oh boy. We’re going to end the Lost talk here, right? I watched the whole series, but even I don’t want to revisit it in this way.

“The whole “exploitative” thing. Did you read the comment you replied to before replying?”

Yes I did. I explicitly replied explain exactly why her death was not exploitative in the least. Did YOU read the comment you just replied to before replying?

“Look, there are three basic characters in any crime story: the criminal(s), the victim(s) and the detective(s). There are various red herrings and background players, but one of those three needs to be your protagonist. That is the person with whom you are supposed to empathize and whose goals are driving the story.

There are obviously great crime stories with detective protagonists ranging from the heroic Sherlock Holmes to the anti-heroic policemen in James Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet. There are great criminal driven crime stories ranging from the darkness of Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley series to the lightness of heist films, like OCEAN’S ELEVEN. There are also great victim-driven crime stories, like Otto Preminger’s LAURA, or Billy Wilder’s SUNSET BLVD.

So, who is the protagonist in IDENTITY CRISIS?”

I wish I could have stopped to right here, because your premise is so ridiculously arbitrary. Yes,analyzing the bulk of popular detective fiction will result in finding many shared tropes, stock characters, and plot structures. You either forget, or are completely unaware of, the fact that none of that is a rule.

Even if any of it was a rule, you’re still assuming that Idenity Crisis even aspires to be a crime or detective novel in that tradition. Just because there happens to be a murder mystery in the plot doesn’t mean it needs to follow any of the rules you think such novels ought to follow.

As for the rest of your post. The fact of the matter is that Identity Crisis is not a character study of Sue Dibny, nor is she the protagonist. Third is quite correct in saying the “protagonist” is most appropriately ascribe to the entire ensemble. Its about a community of Superheros feeling paralyzed after their assumptions of privacy, security, and their ability to protect themselves and their loved ones are shaken to their core. I’m with anyone else who thinks its a damn shame, given such a delightful history of her character, that Sue was, as a consequence, victimized so horribly. That doesn’t mean the absense of much exploration of her character after the rape incident is indicative of poor plotting or bad writing. . .or god forbid exploitation.

@ Zachary:

wish I could have stopped to right here, because your premise is so ridiculously arbitrary. Yes,analyzing the bulk of popular detective fiction will result in finding many shared tropes, stock characters, and plot structures. You either forget, or are completely unaware of, the fact that none of that is a rule.

I am not being arbitrary just logical. These are essential roles:
– The Criminal needs to exist in a crime story, or there is no crime. They can has a large role or a small one, but they need to exist.
– The Viciim also needs to exist. Their role can vary from even more widely than the Criminal, but they need to be there.
– The Detective does not actually have to be a member of the police. They just have to be someone with little or no knowledge seeking more.

The roles can be combined, divided between multiple people and/or disguised into a vast array of combinations. However, all three types need to be there and one of them has to be the Protagonist.

Even if any of it was a rule, you’re still assuming that Idenity Crisis even aspires to be a crime or detective novel in that tradition. Just because there happens to be a murder mystery in the plot doesn’t mean it needs to follow any of the rules you think such novels ought to follow

Well, Meltzer himself has described the plot as being that of a murder mystery in several interviews. That was not his sole intent, but it was clearly one of them. He was trying to do a murder mystery in a superheroic setting while also examining “the cost of being hero”. That is a lot of irons in the fire for seven issues.

I can’t fault Meltzer for his ambition, but transcending a genre requires an airtight delivery of the genre elements. Your defense thus far has been to say that (a) the genre elements are not really necessary and (b) that Meltzer is not necessarily working in that genre anyway. Correct me if I am wrong, but that sounds a lot like a concession that IC does not deliver on the mechanics of a crime story.

If it is a story outside that genre, then what is it? As T. mentioned up-thread, the poorly staged action makes it a hard piece to judge charitably strictly as a superhero story.

As for the rest of your post. The fact of the matter is that Identity Crisis is not a character study of Sue Dibny, nor is she the protagonist. Third is quite correct in saying the “protagonist” is most appropriately ascribe to the entire ensemble. Its about a community of Superheros feeling paralyzed after their assumptions of privacy, security, and their ability to protect themselves and their loved ones are shaken to their core. I’m with anyone else who thinks its a damn shame, given such a delightful history of her character, that Sue was, as a consequence, victimized so horribly. That doesn’t mean the absense of much exploration of her character after the rape incident is indicative of poor plotting or bad writing. . .or god forbid exploitation.

So, the Protagonist is the community of DC superheroes? That is an incredibly large and very amorphous group. It is not just the Satellite era JLA, but their entire supporting cast. That supporting cast includes not just characters (like Sue Dibny) who were there for the Satellite era itself, but also folks (like Tim Drake) who wandered on stage decades later. Also, in at least a couple notable cases, it extends to their bad guys as well.

Considering the one unimpeachable virtue of IDENTITY CRISIS is scaling down the mega cross-over to a human level, Meltzer’s failure to carefully define his cast is a pretty major one. There are six characters who have a major bearing on the key events of IDENTITY CRISIS: Ralph and Sue Dibny, Jean Loring, Ray Palmer, Dr. Light and Zatanna. Everyone else is window dressing. In seven issues, how many character bits do we get with any of them that define their decisions and/or their reactions to the decisions made by the others? Little to none in my recollection.

Instead, we get a lot of scenes that pull in extraneous characters. Seven issues is not a lot of space. Sue Dibny’s murder by Jean Loring and the subsequent revelation that she had been previously raped by Dr. Light are major events. So, why are we wasting space dealing with Captain Boomerang’s son, Tim Drake’s dad, Batman being mind-wiped and all the rest? Why aren’t we dealing with core questions, like why Jean would needs to scare Ray, or why Jean choses Sue as a vehicle to scare Ray, or how Sue felt about the JLA mind-wiping her rapist, or why the JLA thought Light would go after Sue in retaliation and not Zatanna, or how Jean knew about Light being mind-wiped?

In short, it feels like a story badly in need of a good editor.

Dean-

i think your need to define someone as a protagonist is narrow-minded. i maintain that a story can have several protagonists that rotate in and out depending on the scene. look at a movie like david fincher’s zodiac. it’s definitely a detective story, but we barely encounter the victims and the criminal goes mostly undiscovered. further more, there is no singular protagonist, but rather three of them (the downey jr, ruffalo, and gyllenhaal characters), who each take turns carrying, and disappearing from, large parts of the movie. none of those three main actors could be labeled the clear-cut protagonist because they each share to much space with the other two and they each spend too many parts of the movie not helping to guide the plot. really, the protagonist in the movie is the plot–there’s a serial killer out there–and everyone else is just a character that interacts with the plot at various times, but is left unseen when the plot doesn’t need them.

identity crisis does the same thing. it’s a story that casts a wide enough net that there’s no need for one character to drive the story and the motivations of the other characters. rather, the guiding principle of the work is the plot, and characters come and go as the plot calls for them to.

if you feel that identity crisis must, by definition, have a “detective,” then that detective is probably the reader, as we need every effected area of the dcu covered, and so we go to each area to observe the action. that’s certainly more than any singular or group of characters do in the story.

@ Third Man:

Let me be very clear, there does not need to be one singular protagonist, nor does a singular protagonist have to be the character getting the most attention. However, you should be emotionally connected to the motives and objectives of someone.

A large and amorphous group of someones lowers the emotional stakes. Ratcheting the emotional stakes back up by having horrible things happen to minor characters is exploitive. Ratcheting the emotional stakes back up by having horrible sexual things happen to a minor female character in one of two scenes that she is even in ….

Two things about items above: DKR — is it possible (it’s been a while since I read it) that Batman knows he’s going to lose to Superman, and purposely fights in public, so that he can go underground at the end? People above are mentioning that Superman is holding back, maybe Bruce went in as he did knowing the outcome and wanting that outcome. If he could stick it to Clark at least some, all the better. And I know in the more recent, Chip Kidd designed DKR trades, there are pages of the plot outline from the last issue where there’s a different ending (the details of which elude me), but Bruce still goes underground.

ID Crisis: was horrible as a single story. No doubt. Bill Reed had a link a while back to someone on Funnybook Babylon who retold the story from Jean Loring’s POV to point out how nonsensical the main murder mystery was. Meltzer wanted to tell too many stories at once, it appears.

To say the Sue rape was memorable is certain, of course it doesn’t mean it was good. But if anyone watched the first season of Dollhouse, one episode features the FBI agent’s neighbor getting attacked in a manner not unlike the Sue rape. Given that Whedon’s a ID Crisis fan, I wondered if that was staged that way deliberately.

But ID Crisis is certainly where Sue’s rape should have been dealt with — Ralph and Sue might not be the main characters, but they are the characters featured in the BEGINNING AND END of the story! To leave things badly resolved is a disservice to the characters. Who I love because of the Elongated Man 92 mini.

Here’s an idea that would have been interesting to examine, and since it already crapped on the past of these heroes, why not? Have Zatanna also mind wipe Sue, so she doesn’t even remember being raped. There’s something that would make the story even more gratuitous and senseless.

Zor-El of Argo

August 1, 2010 at 7:34 am

Sue’s rape wasn’t the point of IDC, it was background to explain why this particular group of “heroes” went after Dr. Light while everyone else was looking for fire-powered villians. It was the reason for the misdirection. If these were not licensed characters, if this was a completely original novel with never-seen-before characters we would not expect Sue to “deal” with the rape after she was murder. As the rape was background, something that had happened several years ago, we would assumed that she and Ralph had already dealt with it together back then.

@Dean

Sorry, guy, but your whole critique is only “logical” by woefully arbitrary standards. It’s really easy tear down other peoples work by making up rules that their work ought to have followed. Genre elements, indeed. That is the worst failing of amateur criticism. Read a lot more, get your mind OUT of the trap of genre rules, then come back and we’ll talk.

@ Zachary:

You do realize that patronizing, ad hominem insults directed at an anonymous stranger do not actually constitute arguments in favor of your position, right?

Either way, I am done with this thread. If IDENTITY CRISIS had been a prose novel with all new characters that I read on a plane, then I doubt I would either remember it or care what happened. That means I have already spent far too much effort trying to figure out why I find Mr. Meltzer’s work so underwhelming.

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