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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #470

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Welcome to the four hundred and seventieth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous four hundred and sixty-nine. This week, did we nearly get a Spider-Man version of Batman: Arkham Asylum?! Did a comic artist produce the very first black doll? And what would have happened to Barry Allen if Crisis on Infinite Earths had never occurred?

Let’s begin!

NOTE: The column is on three pages, a page for each legend. There’s a little “next” button on the top of the page and the bottom of the page to take you to the next page (and you can navigate between each page by just clicking on the little 1, 2 and 3 on the top and the bottom, as well).

COMIC LEGEND: Grant Morrison almost did a Spider-Man version of Batman: Arkham Asylum

STATUS: True

One of the most surprising hit comics of all-time has got to be Grant Morrison and Dave McKean’s original graphic novel, Batman: Arkham Asylum, from 1989. The dark examination of the minds of Batman’s villains had pretty much the most perfect timing you could ever expect for a comic. It was a high end book produced right at the height of the mania associated with Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman film, and thus even though the comic was very different from the film, it sold an insane amount of copies. Just ridiculous numbers.

arkhamasylum

With something so popular, you would expect there to be a follow-up and there almost was…just not at DC Comics!

Morrison was in the early stages of following up Batman: Arkham Asylum with an original graphic novel starring Spider-Man, with artwork by Simon Bisley. Morrison described the story as: “It’s not Spider-Man in Arkham Asylum or anything – it’s action all the way with things blowing up from page one but it still won’t be a great deal like the Spider-Man that everyone is used to”

The comic would involve an attack by Mysterio that would end up with Spider-Man ending up in a parallel world where Aunt May died and Spider-Man never got married. Morrison further described it years later in 1999 as :

The Spider-Man of that world is a creepy, skinny Ditko guy, who lives on his own and is shunned by the neighbors.” said Morrison, “He only comes alive when he’s out on the rooftops leaping about and squirting jets of white stuff over everything. Freud would have loved the story as the creepy but ultimately decent Spider-Man meets his counterpart from a place where Peter married a supermodel and made lots of money. The story was based around that tension and the ultimate redemption of the creepy Ditko character. I’d do something different now.

As it turned out, when he got the chance to work for Marvel on a regular basis at around that time (1999), Morrison never actually DID do a Spider-Man project. In fact, he’s never done one during his career, which is odd, as he’s done work for pretty much every other major character out there.

Talk about a missed opportunity!

Here’s a Simon Bisley Spider-Man drawing from 1995 just to give you an idea of what it could have looked like…

spider_manvsvenom1995

Thanks so much to Ben Hansom and his awesome Morrison website Deep Space Tranmissions, for the information and the quotes!

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Check out the latest Movie Legends Revealed at Spinoff Online: Did Universal seriously sue Nintendo over Donkey Kong infringing on King Kong’s trademark…even though Universal didn’t HAVE a trademark on King Kong?
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On the next page, did an African-American cartoonist create the first “black doll”?

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59 Comments

ookerdookers

May 9, 2014 at 9:54 am

The 1921 advertisement for the second legend isn’t showing up, Brian.

thank you Brian! It was an honor getting to interview Cary Bates. He was so generous with amazing details and really went beyond the questions. Big thrill for me as a fan!

Brian Cronin

May 9, 2014 at 9:59 am

Oh? How odd. I reposted the image. Hopefully it shows up now!

Still not seeing the ad, here, Brian.

Your site is mobile now! Thank goodness!!

Maybe I am not understanding the pitch but I am not sure how this is a version of Arkham Asylum for Spider-Man. To me it’s a different projectthat never took place and by coincidence was pitched after the release of the Batman story. Nothing more.

If you’re not seeing the ad on the second page, try disabling your adblocker and reloading the page.

That Flash story woulda been cool, wouldn’t it?

Anything that would have shortened the trial would have been cool. But this does explain why it took so very long.

Is the page from the Flash legend the final pre-Crisis meeting between Barry Allen and Hal Jordan? Would give a little extra tragedy to their goodbye where they swore to meet again and never did.

Maybe I am not understanding the pitch but I am not sure how this is a version of Arkham Asylum for Spider-Man. To me it’s a different projectthat never took place and by coincidence was pitched after the release of the Batman story. Nothing more.

It was specifically “Hey, do what you did with Batman: Arkham Asylum for us, only with Spider-Man.” Just not literally Arkham Asylum because, well, obviously that could not have happened.

Michael Howey

May 9, 2014 at 11:15 am

I loved some of Bates 80s stuff. His Captain Atom was particularly good (with the brilliant Gregg Weismann) until they pulled it apart over the last 10 issues or so. I think the big two call that “standard procedure”.

Bates’ Captain Atom was a great twist on super-heroics. Didn’t care for it after John Ostrander took over.

Is Hal trying to tickle Barry’s palm in that handshake?

Never knew of that Morrison project. Another one for the list of dream comics that will never be produced.

And isn’t it amazing to see black characters in a 1930s-1940s comics draw like human beings. I supposed it would have killed Beck, Eisner and others to have peeked at it and took inspiration in it when they decided to debut their own black characters.

re GreenLuthor: I disabled my AdBlocker, and the ad showed up. Thanks!

Bates’ Captain Atom was a great twist on super-heroics. Didn’t care for it after John Ostrander took over.

Ostrander really didn’t take it over so much as write the last four issues to wrap up the series.

Wow, up until now I knew absolutely nothing about Jackie Ormes. Thanks for the post and all the excellent information!

re renenarciso; looking at the art and strips, I’d love to see a high-quality collection. But as for Beck and Eisner and others, these strips appeared in primarily African-American publications and as such, wouldn’t have had much exposure outside of the African-American community.

Beck, Eisner and most white artists of the time were using well-established comedic stereotypes that existed at the time; the were used in film, cartoons, radio, ads, comic strips, etc. and these stereotypes literally saturated all media, no matter what it was. And worse, if you wanted to distribute in the American South at the time, you couldn’t even have a sympathetic black character unless they were in some “subservient” role (butler, maid, minstrel or some such).

Eisner obviously struggled with this with his Ebony White character, especially after the War. Even though Ebony’s dialect and appearance didn’t change, everything else changed. Stories involving him braving a hail of bullets to save a guy, or being pivotal to solving a case would appear. He even left for a time (he was sent to an African-American school for awhile, and the impact that had on The Spirit), though I think he did return eventually.

But ultimately, positive examples of strong, independent, non-stereotypical black characters would have been extremely rare outside the African-American community, and the white artists at the time would not have been exposed to it much back then.

I’ve never seen Jackie Ormes work before, but those three big panels in the middle of the article really caught my eye. That’s some really good stuff there.

Jeff Nettleton

May 9, 2014 at 12:47 pm

I like Simon Bisley’s art, within certain contexts (Slaine is a perfect example); but, his Spider-Man is too muscular. Venom’s one thing, Spidey’s another.

Add my voice to the praise of Cary Bates on Captain Atom. That was a very refreshing book, at the time of its debut. I also enjoyed his story for Flash #300, though the printing on that book was atrocious. Poor Carmine’s art looked so muddied. Bates and Elliott S! Maggin were two of my favorite Bronze Age Superman writers; ones who went beyond just simple gimmick stories (especially Maggin, with his depictions of Luthor, particularly in the Superman novels).

It’s a shame that Jackie Ormes’ work isn’t available in a nice reprint, ala the Fantagraphics Prince Valiant and Peanuts collects. Maurice Horn’s World Encyclopedia of Comics (1999 edition) has a nice entry for her and her work, comparing it favorably to Dale Messick’s Brenda Starr. It notes that it predates Brenda and dealt with far more realistic situations, rather than pure soap opera. It was also noted to be more mature in the way it depicted adult relationships. A work of that caliber deserves to be seen again, particularly given its cultural importance.

Thanks for the shout out Brian :)

You’re right on the money with your comment on the relationship between Arkham Asylum and the aborted Spider-Man project. It was planned as a high end (i.e. expensive) fully painted hardcover that Marvel presumably hoped would sell outside the direct market in Arkham-esque numbers. The timing’s about right that they were probably looking for it to come out about the same time as the similarly aborted James Cameron Spider-Man movie.

I think Morrison pitched it again in the mid-90’s (probably around the time Skrull Kill Krew came out), this time with art by his Gothic collaborator Klaus Janson, but the combination of Marvel’s bankruptcy and Morrison getting the JLA gig put paid to it that time around. And by the time he went back to Marvel in 2001 Morrison seemed to have cooled significantly on the whole idea of doing a Spider-Man comic, citing Lee, Ditko and Buscema’s work on the early years as pretty much impossible to top, so why bother to try?

Alex Barfield

May 9, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Brian- I read somewhere a long time back (maybe in Wizard or an old letter column or something) that the interminable nature of the Trial arc is what led to the idea that Flash should die in Crisis. Basically, DC said “he has to die” because the Trial resulted in the character being viewed as damaged goods by the readers (and, by extension, DC). Maybe it’s a Legend for another Friday, but, in light of the notion that Bates knew well in advance about DC’s plans for Flash and the extended nature of the Trial story was the effect of and not the cause of the decision to shovel dirt on the character, has anyone at DC ever articulated the thinking behind the decision? I remember, even as a 7-8 year old kid, thinking that Flash comics seemed pretty grim and rudderless (not that I could have articulated it that way at the time) even before Barry offed Zoom. So it may just be that the Company thought that he didn’t synch well with modern comic publishing trends. Or maybe Wolfman or somebody in editorial liked the symmetry of bookending the Silver/Bronze age with the “birth” and death of the same character. But I’d be interested to read a Legends piece about the decision-making process if anybody at DC has ever elaborated on it.

@ Jeff: There is this book, which reprints about 130 pages of her stuff (some in color):

http://www.jackieormes.com

I really think that DC Comics and Titan Comics should publish a Flash / Doctor Who crossover where Barry Allen meets the Sixth Doctor, and the two of them are put on trial together by a kangaroo court, and the proceedings go on and on, with all sorts of ridiculous, contrived, unlikely twists occuring along the way. It could drag on for 14 long issues, and at the end the readers will be throughly confused & disgusted.

Jeff Nettleton

May 9, 2014 at 2:01 pm

@mrclam

Thanks for the link, though, as a former bookseller, I wish it had a bigger distribution.

Fermin Reyes

May 9, 2014 at 2:42 pm

‘It was specifically “Hey, do what you did with Batman: Arkham Asylum for us, only with Spider-Man.” Just not literally Arkham Asylum because, well, obviously that could not have happened.’

Oh, OK. I was expecting something like more like ‘Fearful Symmetry’ and ‘Going Sane’ with DeMatteis, but I get it now.

Funny, I just read a big article on the Trial of the Flash in Back Issue Magazine from a few years back. It’s odd, because DC basically just let Cary Bates do what he wanted on the title even though sales had plummeted; you’d sure never see that today. I think those comics are better then their reputation, and Bates is one of comics’ truly underrated talents. Now to go read that interview.

@Ben Herman: Don’t forget to include minor dialog in the first few episodes that will become important in episode #14. (You mean the planet Ravalox is actually Earth? Wait, when did the characters go to Ravalox?)

Then again, isn’t this what happened in every other issue of X-Men: the main story would end with a page left over and that page would introduce a plot line or character that wouldn’t show up for a few more years.

I’ve wanted to read something like that Morrison pitch for some time now. Oh well.

Andy E. Nystrom

May 9, 2014 at 7:02 pm

It’s worth noting that there was a Showcase volume devoted to the Trial of the Flash. Ironically the story’s so long that even in Showcase format a couple chapters got cut, but it does read better as a collection than it did as a two-year-long adventure.

Thanks for the history lesson on Jackie Ormes. That was interesting. It seems self-evident now, but I had no idea that there were separate African-American newspapers. I knew that were Yiddish and Jewish papers were common; it should have been obvious that there were papers published for black people too.

In the Flash Doctor Who cross over, would Fiona Webb end up bald and dead, with the final chapter revealing that she had lived and married Big Sir?

Morrison’s Spider-Man ‘Arkham’ might be a good read. Fantastic Four or Doctor Strange would be the more ‘natural’ Morrison books, but I am interested in how he would handle Spider-Man’s ongoing now.

As for the actual Arkham Asylum book; in a book about Morrison in my school library I read that Brian Bolland was considered for Arkham Asylum (that or the author of the book on Morrison thought he should have been), and I am pretty sure I would have preferred that version. I am also sure some will consider that a bit heretical.

Nu-D:”Thanks for the history lesson on Jackie Ormes. That was interesting. It seems self-evident now, but I had no idea that there were separate African-American newspapers. I knew that were Yiddish and Jewish papers were common; it should have been obvious that there were papers published for black people too.”

There was a huge ethnic/religious press back in the 19th and early 20th centuries. For example, there were lots of German newspapers before the anti-German campaigns of WW1.

I agree Bates is under-rated but having reread that section of his run, I don’t think the Trial of the Flash was a high-point (though it had some individual bits here and there that were quite nice).

The Spider-Man of that world is a creepy, skinny Ditko guy, who lives on his own and is shunned by the neighbors.” said Morrison, “He only comes alive when he’s out on the rooftops leaping about and squirting jets of white stuff over everything. Freud would have loved the story as the creepy but ultimately decent Spider-Man meets his counterpart from a place where Peter married a supermodel and made lots of money. The story was based around that tension and the ultimate redemption of the creepy Ditko character. I’d do something different now.

Why do so many writers believe (1) that these characters need “redeeming” and (2) that they’re the messiahs to do it? The messiah complex many superstar writers have post-Frank Miller Daredevil is a real problem. I recall Morrison saying similar things about how he was going to redeem all these past eras of Batman in his run, and how if he had a shot to write Wonder Woman, he would redeem much of her history. It’s such a weird messiah complex (there is a reason Jesus is called Christ the Redeemer). Brad Meltzer said the same thing about how his Identity Crisis would redeem the Satellite Era JLA.

Just write awesome stories. Stop writing stories about stories and feelings about stories make them about people and feelings about people instead. Morrison is a very talented guy but he writes from the mind and the ego a bit too much for my taste, and it comes off in his interviews. How on earth does Ditko Spider-Man, the best, purest distillation of the character, require redeeming? It’s the gold standard. If anything, everything after Ditko Spider-Man is what requires redeeming. Same for the idea of redeeming 50s and Neal Adams Batman.

@kdu2814

Morrison wanted Bolland, Berni Wrightson or Bill Sienkiewicz for Arkham Asylum, before Dave McKean was put on the book by Karen Berger. It was only Morrison’s third draft of the script (when the page count increased from 80 to 120 pages) that was written with McKean’s more abstract stylings in mind.

Apparently Morrison also wrote Kill Your Boyfriend specifically for Brian Bolland, so they could do something together that “he [Brian] would like to draw.” Obviously that one didn’t quite pan out as planned either :)

Travis Pelkie

May 11, 2014 at 2:40 am

That Jackie Ormes book that mrclam linked to is, I believe, available at my local library, and now I’m going to have to take it out and take a look. Lovely stuff shown here.

Is it possible that the doll she created was the first licensed character black doll? You say it was based on one of her characters and the old ad you show is a generic black doll, so is it possible that her doll was the first black doll intended to be a specific character?

Wow, Andy says the Showcase Trial of the Flash cuts a few chapters? Holy crap, that dragged on, then, because those are 500+ page books! I’ve seen that one but never heard good things about the storyline. Ironic that a book about the Flash dragged its heels with a long storyline, but understandable — obviously they didn’t want to cancel his book before the death in Crisis (spoiler alert, right?), but yeah, why do a whole different thing with him if he’s on the cutting block. At least they let Bates know ahead of time, though.

How did I know that T would comment on that bit in the Morrison legend? ;)

Wow, I’m trying to even conceive of Arkham Asylum by someone else. I could see Bolland based on the Morrison thumbnails printed in the back of the 15th anniversary version, but I’m pondering the other possibilities. wow.

“A parallel world where Aunt May died and Spider-Man never got married.”

Bwahahahaha. Ha.

T, I can understand that if they’re writing a character who’s been presented as morally flawed (i.e., a douchebag) by a previous writer. Or an era that generally doesn’t get any critical respect like 1950s Batman (though I like that era more than many). But yeah, it’s hard to see how either of those apply to Ditko’s Spidey. Or how he’s creepy–that makes Morrison sound like he’s hanging with Flash Thompson.
And yes, I agree with you that “redeeming” someone does sound arrogant even in the best circumstances, like Byrne’s conviction nobody besides himself has understood the FF, Superman etc. since the original creators left.

Though to be fair, I originally read “creepy Ditko character” as referring to the version in Morrison’s projected story, rather than the original. And that this alt.version is what Morrison’s going to redeem. So maybe we’re being too harsh.

Stephen Conway

May 11, 2014 at 12:19 pm

The Ditko Spidey was a bit introverted and rather arrogant at times, as well as being rather gangly so if you ratchet those qualities up 10-fold you could get a creepy character. From what Morrison says it’s clear that he wouldn’t be using a straight version of the Ditko Spider-Man, but a version of that character taken to the absurd extreme.

T. –

I think you and Fraser are misreading what Morrison meant with the words “creepy” and “redeeming”.

Ditko’s Spider-Man IS creepy. That is part of what makes his Spider-Man so unique and effective. Ditko’s Spidey is skinny, unhip, angry, lonely, slightly paranoid, lived with his old aunt, etc. He is the kind of guy you could perhaps see growing up to become a bitter, weird adult living alone in a small, dirty apartment, shunned by his neighbours.

The Romita version is the version everybody that came later based their takes on. Peter is now a handsome stud with a beautiful smile and lots of dedicated friends, even though he still feels some angst.

The Ditko version is critically well-regarded, sure. In THAT sense, it doesn’t need redeeming and I’m sure Morrison knows it. However, it’s a version that was discarded, in-story. When Morrison talks of redeeming that version of the character, I think that is what he means. Getting back to it and exploring it some more. And an alternate universe is a genius way of doing it, just imagine what would happen if Peter had never mellowed out and never came out of his shell. Contrasted with the married and professionaly successful Peter of “our universe”. It has the seeds of a nice story.

Yes, it’s also post-modern and meta-fictional. That is Morrison’s style when writing superheroes. I’m not always on his side. I remain unconvinced by his take on Magneto. However, some times the guy has good insights.

Take Kirby’s New Gods’s for instance.

I think Morrison is the only one besides Kirby that realizes that the New Gods aren’t just about good vs. evil. They’re also about freedom vs. fascism. New Genesis was sort of like a super-advanced hippie commune, the Forever People were hippie gods, etc. Darkseid and Apokolips were about ultimate control, totalitarianism.

Hrm. I always thought it strange that Spider-Man already had a “hero in an asylum” plot just a few years before “Arkham Asylum” with “Life in the Mad Dog Ward” which ran through Web of Spider-Man #33, Amazing Spider-Man 295, and Peter Parker: Spider-Man #133 (all cover dated Dec 1987).

And the cover artist for the crossover? Bill Sienkiewicz.

Granted, the quality doesn’t compare, but in my mind I’ve always thought of that event as Spider-Man’s “Arkham Asylum.”

http://marvel.wikia.com/Life_in_the_Mad_Dog_Ward

Rene, one of the things I like best about the New Gods mythos is that it’s not good/evil as much as free will/Life vs. total obedience/Anti-Life. But while I liked Morrison’s Mr. Miracle in Seven Soldiers, his use of the New Gods in Final Crisis was still meh, at best.
I don’t see much evidence that the original Peter was creepy. He seems to be a perfectly nice guy, just too shy and awkward to be one of the cool kids. Nobody finds him creepy, just square. But I agree, it is possible he could grow up into a sadder, lonelier, creepier guy than he did in 616/

How did I know that T would comment on that bit in the Morrison legend? ;)

I’m pretty predictable, sadly. :(

And yes, I agree with you that “redeeming” someone does sound arrogant even in the best circumstances, like Byrne’s conviction nobody besides himself has understood the FF, Superman etc. since the original creators left.

Byrne is one of those rare people where even when I’m agreeing with him, he leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Ditko’s Spider-Man IS creepy. That is part of what makes his Spider-Man so unique and effective. Ditko’s Spidey is skinny, unhip, angry, lonely, slightly paranoid, lived with his old aunt, etc. He is the kind of guy you could perhaps see growing up to become a bitter, weird adult living alone in a small, dirty apartment, shunned by his neighbours.

I’m not denying Ditko’s Spider-Man is creepy. For sure he is. Although I couldn’t see him being a bitter, weird adult living alone in a small, dirty apartment shunned by his neighbors simply because he was co-written by Stan Lee, whose dialogue always too a lot of the edge off of Ditko’s intent with the writing. That balance between what Ditko was aiming for and what Stan was aiming leads to a character that I can’t see going as far as you describe, but if Ditko had his way more and exerted more influence than I definitely could see that. Perhaps Morrison meant he wanted to create such a character, a pure Ditko Spider-Man as he would be without Stan Lee softening the edges. While that would be interesting, I still think there is an emotional detachment that comes about from using your stories as commentary on other stories more than as commentary on people, emotions, and the human condition. I like the idea of a story USING the Ditko Spider-Man and exploring his humanity, but not a story using the Ditko Spider-Man as a commentary ABOUT the Ditko Spider-Man. It all becomes a bit masturbatory.

The Ditko version is critically well-regarded, sure. In THAT sense, it doesn’t need redeeming and I’m sure Morrison knows it. However, it’s a version that was discarded, in-story. When Morrison talks of redeeming that version of the character, I think that is what he means. Getting back to it and exploring it some more.

Maybe, but combined with past experience with Morrison’s stories and interviews, the word “redeem” makes me imagine his story would have been a vehicle to showcase how smart Morrison is at analyzing the character rather than a story about the character as a person.

I agree with you, FINAL CRISIS was very anti-climatic, even though it was still better than a lot of “events”, but that is daming with faint praise, since diarrhea is better than most comic book “events”.

I still think the best use Morrison made of the New Gods was in his older JLA run.

“Creepy” is a very subjective descriptor, and it’s possible for someone to be a nice guy, despite being a bit creepy. In fact, that is often the case. But yes, Peter Parker was not too creepy by himself, but Spider-Man certainly was. It’s easy to forget that, because we all identify with Spider-Man, the stories were crafted that way.

He certainly IS creepy as compared to the more clean-cut he’d become under Romita.

I get the impression that Morrison’s take on Spider-man would be one that diverges from the initial story in Amazing Fantasy #15 and gains none of the things that (as T. above so eloquently puts it) Stan added to soften and round the character.

This Peter Parker never had the great idea to sell pictures of himself as Spider-man to the Bugle and consequently never met Betty Brant and never got the nerve to break the ice with another member of the opposite sex.

This is a Spider-man who, instead of being extroverted and chatty when in costume became even more withdrawn, guilt-ridden and introverted.

This is a Spider-man strip that started in an anthology book about monsters and stayed in a book about monsters.

T. –

Strange, your comments take a while to become visible.

Morrison writes a lot of stories about stories, doesn’t he? He is a poster boy for post-modernism in comics. And he is emotionaly detached, most of the time. And he dwells a lot on his own cleverness (not that it makes him less of a genius). I think his one “weak spot” is for animals, his most heartfelt stories are WE3 and the first part of ANIMAL MAN, in my opinion.

I also like THE INVISIBLES, though that may be because I share Morrison’s interest in magic and conspiracy theories. That is one more thing that explains him, he likes magic so much perhaps because even reality itself is just discourse for him? Crazy. But, you know, good crazy.

I agree with you, it’s like Morrison is ignoring the humanizing angle that Stan Lee bought to Spidey. BTW, that is another Morrison touch when working with Marvel heroes. In both NEW X-MEN and FF: 1234 he starts the stories with a lot of emotional coldness and only by the end of the storylines he brings out the heroes’ good sides.

Funny, he usually don’t go there with the DC heroes. It’s like the “bickering” nature of the Marvel heroes translates to people with a lot of issues being defensive and slow to open up, when Morrison writes them.

He only comes alive when he’s out on the rooftops leaping about and squirting jets of white stuff over everything. Freud would have loved the story as the creepy but ultimately decent Spider-Man meets his counterpart

I get the feeling that stories like these would tell Freud a lot more about the author than any character zeitgeist. And his take isn’t really Ditko or anyone else’s Spider-Man, it’s just a what if. Because By being Spider-Man he has the release and joy and responsibility that keeps him from becoming that guy. Spider-Man who never had his Uncle Ben die and maybe became a washed up performer could end up being that guy Morrison would want to write. But not the original Peter Parker, who has characteristics that could have taken him down that trial, but are immediately altered in the first story.

The more intriguing tale to me was something more like Arkham thematically, instead of this interpretation, which was formatting. Morrison taking a look at Spider-Man’s rogue gallery sounds like a better story to me. But none of it came to be, so it doesn’t matter.

I think Morrison’s lack of willingness to explore humanity of characters and only explore them thematically as concepts really hurt New 52 Superman. Supposedly no one knew exactly who New 52 Superman was as a person because they were told Morrison was going to establish that. (According to George Perez). As a result people writing Superman’s sister books kind of had to tread water and kill time and keep watching what Morrison was doing so that they could figure out who Superman was supposed to be. Meanwhile, Morrison just did a bunch of thematic explorations of Neitzsche’s Ubermensch, did some stories to “redeem” the New Deal original Superman, some alternate universe explorations of Superman that served as some kind of metacommentary and forgot to give him anything resembling humanity, personality, or motivation. As a result everyone since has just been writing an underdeveloped and inconsistent character. He’s gotten so used to just doing commentary on established characters that he kept doing it at a time when he was needed to create from the ground up in a sense.

There is one Morrison interview where he says superhero writers can be divided in two kinds: Stans and Jacks. He complains that there are too many Stans in the business. Morrison’s problem is that he is too much a Jack.

Morrison’s problem is that he is too much a Jack.

I need to hear more about this. Because even though Jack Kirby was high concept, i felt his work had a LOT of heart. He seemed really emotionally connected and earnest. I’ll never forget the New Gods story where the old school traditional dad keeps riding the young, idealist son for being a wimp, but when their lives are threatened the old man folds while the son steps up and dies. The dad ends up distraught on various levels, for turning out to be a coward, for losing his son, for treating his son badly and turning out wrong, mixed with pride in how his son actually turned out. Great stuff. I also assume he plotted the “This Man, This Monster” story which was also very emotional and humanized to me.

Kirby was high concept, but his concepts still were about people. Morrison is high concept but still is writing stories about stories at the end of the day. For Kirby, the attractions of the book, besides the action, are the characters and who they are as people. For Morrison, the attraction of the book is not the characters but rather what Morrison thinks about the characters.

“Brad Meltzer said the same thing about how his Identity Crisis would redeem the Satellite Era JLA.”

ERM, what..? I think maybe some of these people don’t understand what redemption means. WTF did the satellite JLA ever do wrong (BEFORE Meltzer got his hands on them, I mean).

I agree both that Morrison is the one guy to really, properly grasp the purpose of the New Gods since Kirby, and also that his work tends to be quite cold a lot of the time.
Maybe he oughtn’t have been the guy to establish Superman. I’ve not read much of the new Action, and none of the new Superman, but I dislike the generally more gritty and abrasive personalities everyone seems to have been given. I dunno, he nailed Supes in All-Star and JLA, but I think, as T says, he is more into exploring his own ideas in his own time. He probably works better on the whole outside continuity (or at least, not as primary architect of a brand-new one on the flagship character).

I recently rad Trial of the Flash for the first time, in the Showcase Presents collection. I had known it all these years as the last Flash story before the Crisis and Barry’s death (I was only 3 when those things happened).
I was surprised, though, that the storyline was long enough to FILL a Showcase volume, and also at the fact that issues had even to be left OUT to fit it in one.
The art did look really beautiful in b+w, though. I understand Infantino’s later-period work is rather devisive, and I can definitely understand it being an acquired taste, but personally I love it.

The Fastest Man Alive being “on the run” doesn’t seem like a concept that would have much tension to it.

All of Morrison’s work has tons of heart as well as a high density of ideas and concepts.

He first and foremost tells great stories about people. I am not sure how you could conclude otherwise.

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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.

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