Monday, September 29, 2014 

LA Times article on Batman's 75th anniversary

The LA Times wrote about the conference on Batman's 75th anniversary at Long Beach's comicon. One part of note here is their commentary on what they plan for Barbara Gordon:
Babs Tarr, the new artist on the redesigned “Batgirl,” which begins with the Oct. 8 release of No. 35, said she’d been warned by her writer collaborator Cameron Stewart to prepare for the worst when the more buoyant, less grim look and direction of Barbara Gordon was revealed to fans months ago.

But rather than howls of protest, the changes were met with, as Tarr put it, “an outpouring of love and support.”
On the surface, that's something to be glad about. But this being a company still run behind the scenes by Dan DiDio, it could all be a smokescreen for the opposite, and for all we know, there could be something very PC taking place that ruins everything.

They also bring up the new lesbian Batwoman:
“Batwoman” writer Marc Andreyko, who took over that title after J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman left last year, has also changed his heroine’s circumstances. Notably, as he acknowledged, Kate has split from her partner Maggie (whom the previous creative team had planned she would marry) – “things change – nothing lasts forever,” Andreyko said. But he’s also worked on integrating her more into the DC Universe.

[...] “The book’s getting really, really weird,” he said. Next month’s “Issue 35 – spoiler alert – takes place in outer space,” he added, and noted that it is the series debut of artist Georges Jeanty (“Serenity: Leaves on the Wind”).
I wonder why they won't bring up DC's bewildering announcement they don't want their cast to be married, not even same-sex, nor why they don't want them leading happy lives? I assume the moratorium on heterosexual weddings satisfies them enough to let it slide? And why must Batwoman be sent into space? I thought it had been decided long ago that didn't jibe well with the Bat-cast on their own?

One good thing worthy of attention they do bring up here is the original death of Jason Todd and what Marv Wolfman thinks of that part:
Marv Wolfman, whose desire to keep the original Robin, Dick Grayson, in his “Teen Titans” series in the 1980s prompted DC to design a new one, Jason Todd, co-created the popular Tim Drake to replace Todd after fans elected to kill off the latter in an infamous phone vote.

The writer said Todd’s fate shouldn’t have been decided like that, but that, given the chance to create a new Robin while writing “Batman” in the late ’80s, he decided to try out a different concept: “I wanted him to have a normal upbringing” – and who wanted to be Robin. So Tim Drake got a normal, still-living family – though he did have the trauma of being a child at the circus the night his predecessor Dick Grayson’s aerialist parents were killed during a performance (key to his subsequent deduction as a child of who Batman and Robin are under the masks). Wolfman credited Chuck Dixon and subsequent writers for Drake’s popularity.
It's good they brought that up, because Jason's fate shouldn't have been decided through a whole lot of strangers calling in over the phone. It's corrupting, giving certain segments of society the impression it's fun to try and kill off an imaginary character who never roughed them up in real life. The real fault lies in the hands of the writers/editors who failed to characterize Jason better, nor did they take responsibility by explaining to the audience that they the writers are the guilty party for any bad personality traits coming from Jason. And even then, some of those audience members blaming Jason literally have to be faulted to boot, because, following any and all poor characterization, they crossed a giant X over him, declaring him a pariah figure over something that was no fault of his own till the end of time, and decreed no writer may make improvements. This may have been the case with Danny Chase in the New Titans too: although Wolfman tried to make improvements, a certain segment of readers refused to accept that character no matter what, and Wolfman finally caved in and killed him off. He didn't even try quietly dropping Chase from the cast into limbo, which might have to count as another mistake.

Killing off Jason wasn't necessarily bad in itself, but if it had to be done, it should all be up to the writing staff to decide, and readers shouldn't be enticed into engaging in something near perverse. Some of the history articles I read about the phone stunt said it wasn't a large number of callers en toto and there were multiple votes by the same people, proving plenty of those who did vote more than once in favor of Jason's death thought it was a lot of fun. But it's not. At worst, it panders to low denominators.

On the positive side, yes, 3rd Robin Tim Drake fared better in characterization, but they didn't have to resort to publicity stunts just to get there.

Now, nearly 3 decades later, Jason's been resurrected, yet this time, they don't know what to do with him except portray him as some kind of mindless rogue.

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Sunday, September 28, 2014 

The speculator's syndrome in a screencap

Here's a screenshot of a retweet by Greg Pak of a picture from somebody who bought eleven issues of the same 2nd issue of a Storm miniseries he wrote:
I'll give the guy credit for not being coy to admit he's a collector at all costs, but that's as far as I can go. Just look at that, ten with the same cover illustration, and one more with a variant. If each copy costs 4 dollars, that would amount to as many as forty-four dollars spent in total. Doesn't this guy have anything better to spend his money on, like a Marvel Masterworks collection of the first 10 or so issues of the 1975 revival for X-Men, where Storm first debuted? I own a paperback copy of that myself, and one copy is all I need, because I'm in this for the story merit, not the alleged fortune stemming from the speculator market.

Cover prices aside, Pak just retweeted this without any misgivings on the speculator's buying 11 issues and not leaving anything for anyone else to buy and read. Honestly, should he be this accepting of somebody who thinks this is one day going to net a fortune when the market is losing value every year? Some older pamphlets may rise in value when a movie based on their tale premieres in theaters, but it goes down again the year after. And I don't see these Storm miniseries copies gaining much lasting value either.

The lesson we can take from this is that the industry doesn't just suffer from speculators spending a lot of money all on the same products. It also suffers from the complacency of writers and artists who don't argue against this mentality that's turning comicdom into a joke. How do they expect to find many newcomers or keep the remaining audience for long if anybody thinks those still around comprise little more than just obsessive collectors?

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Saturday, September 27, 2014 

"But that doesn't mean a crossover was needed to launch it"

Ed Brubaker recently tweeted how Gotham Central mostly grew out of a Batman crossover, Officer Down:


But does that mean the crossover in itself was actually required in order to launch the series? I'd say not, and Chuck Dixon once set a better example by starting Birds of Prey as a handful of miniseries and one-shots. If Brubaker and Rucka wanted to, I'm sure they could've lobbied to have their pitch begun as a miniseries for testing and then prepared to launch an ongoing. Yet they went the easy route, which is like putting training wheels on a bicycle.

Kurt Busiek told him how Thunderbolts and the 3rd Avengers volume grew out of an event. Yes, in a manner of speaking, the former stemmed from the 1996 Onslaught "event" that saw the Earth's Mightiest Heroes and Fantastic Four shunted into a pocket universe, from which they came back a year later in another 4 part miniseries. Busiek admits he doesn't like crossovers, but does like what they lead to. But, that still misses the point: was a crossover really necessary to launch the Thunderbolts? The simple answer is "no". If the Avengers and FF needed to be out of the picture momentarily to pull it off, what Marvel could've actually done was craft a tale where the Avengers were abducted into another galaxy, or even a parallel world - maybe the Negative Zone - but in a setup where they're actually aware of what's happening, not one where they suffer from amnesia as seen in Heroes Reborn. The same idea I'm suggesting could also have served to reverse the embarrassment of the Teen Tony Stark mess.

And I'll even make one more point to this effect: Dixon once mentioned how he got Blockbuster to use as a Nightwing adversary through Underworld Unleashed. But was even that crossover needed to turn Blockbuster into a giant mastermind? Did they really have to knock off Blue Devil co-star Marla Bloom and turn the hero into a real devil in the process? Of course not. Blockbuster's transformation could've been done through a self-contained story, in a Batbook or even the briefly revived Showcase anthology at the time; they didn't have to go to all that trouble pushing the tale into so many books, interrupting the story flow, freedom of so many writers and escapism of so many readers. Nor did Blockbuster have to get his smarts from Neron; it could all have come via an accident in a technology center, or the machinations of a crooked scientist, not unlike what post-Crisis Metallo went through. That's what a lot of these professional writers are missing. There are alternatives, and even Secret Wars and Crisis on Infinite Earths weren't needed to achieve a lot of these goals.

Two more people brought up Starman as something they think was a great outgrowth from a crossover. But, I'd done some reevaluations over the years and decided a series that seems to be noteworthy for all the characters who got bumped off (David Knight and 3 Justice League members, to name but some) is not the classic some think it is. Still, with all the jaw-dropping PC-mania James Robinson increasingly sank into recently, that's why someday, I figure more people will begin to realize that.

IMHO, no company wide crossovers or events are needed to launch certain ideas that could work better conceived on their own. At the very least, the Big Two could've avoided forcing "wheel spokes" joined to a hub miniseries, and just gone with the main mini, rather than interrupting everybody's self-contained entertainment for the sake of ideas that nobody finds appealing when done as part of everything else. Now if only the writers like Brubaker would think about that, and all the problems that could've been avoided, financial and literary, by just keeping most ideas stand-alone, then we might be seeing improvement.

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A Marz tweet against the Tea Party

Marz has taken the opportunity to attack the Tea Party:

I'm wishing I were a Tea Party activist, so I could view this little spew as an honor. He obviously doesn't care whether the news coverage is negative for the Tea Party, nor the possibility the MSM didn't cover the climate march because they wanted to defend them. But then, that's how Marz is.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014 

Why must Supergirl become an adult on TV?

Another comics TV project's been announced, this time a series based on Supergirl. But the puzzler here is the age factor:
[...] The show will focus on a 24-year-old Kara who is ready to stop hiding her powers and become a hero.
I know it's not too old an age to call the heroine a "girl" in the slang meaning "young woman" that's been around for more than a century (and Sheira Saunders was one of the first superheroines to go by that title when she became Hawkgirl in the Golden Age), but I still don't see why the Maid of Might has to be an adult instead of a teenager this time, nor why the premise is that she's kept her powers mostly concealed until her adulthood. But that's probably not the main concern. No, what is galling is the discovery that this is the umpteenth comics project Geoff Johns will be involved with:
[...] DC's Geoff Johns is also expected to have a role in the Supergirl project, which is in the early stages of development and expected to be taken out to networks soon. Johns exec produces Arrow and The Flash.
I'm not surprised he's got a production credit on Arrow. Makes me glad I haven't bothered with it since I learned it had leftist leanings.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014 

Wired's pretentious Batbook recommendations

Prior to the airing of a new TV series based on Batman's city, Wired has again made recommendations that aren't worth the bother. The only one I figure is good here would be Frank Miller's Batman: Year One story. But the rest include newer items like Earth One, Gotham Central, Gordon of Gotham, and, oddly enough, the 52 maxi-series:
This one might seem like more of an outlier than the others, but the year-long weekly series that teamed superstar writers Greg Rucka, Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, and Mark Waid and attempted to redefine the wider DC Universe of the time has a legitimate connection to the Fox show in Renee Montoya, and specifically her relationship with a socialite ex—in 52, Kate Kane, in Gotham, Barbara Kean. We’re not saying that Gotham plans to go the full distance and turn Renee and Barbara into quasi-costumed crime-fighters (Kate becomes Batwoman in 52, which would be a nice way for the show to have a bat-themed superhero without rushing to Batman), but it’s not entirely outside the realm of possibility.
We'd all be better off without 52, because the worst part isn't the transformation of Kathy Kane into a lesbian. No, it's the followup Waid wrote to Identity Crisis with Elongated Man transformed into a humorless shadow of himself. But then, even the new Batwoman stories as seen in this series aren't worth paying nearly 4 dollars for. And the "multiverse" turning up in this was eventually done away with, proving they had no idea what to do with a parallel dimension.

Some so-called experts sure know how to recommend the easiest of products when it'd be more challenging to encourage people to read the older classics instead. I'd recommend some of the archives featuring Ra's al Ghul, for example. And we can only wonder why Wired doesn't.

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Monday, September 22, 2014 

A slapdash take on Superman's reporter history

The Bend Bulletin of central Oregon published a fluff-coated article 2 weeks ago about Clark Kent's history as a reporter past and present. At the start, it's said:
Now, make no mistake: Superman writers have always meant for readers to consider Clark Kent a top-flight reporter, mild manners notwithstanding. Superman stories, going back to the character’s inception in 1938, have invariably referred to Kent as an “ace” or “star” reporter, one whose byline is synonymous with “honesty and integrity” (“Superman” No. 98, 1955).

At the same time, he’s been meek to the point of embarrassment. That doesn’t make a lot of sense — how can you be a great reporter, and be afraid of your own shadow? As it happens, that characterization was dropped from the reporter in the “Adventures of Superman” TV show, where a small F/X budget meant Clark Kent had a lot more screen time than Superman — and had to resolve problems without resorting to his more expensive other self. But in the comics, Kent has been preposterously mousy since Lois Lane started pushing Kent around in 1938.
Oh, for pete's sake. Maybe in the Golden/Silver Age, but since they ended, Clark Kent's been anything but mousy (by which I assume they mean shy), and Lois has been anything but bossy to him since those times too; her characterization grew up when Julius Schwartz was the main editor for the Superman titles in 1971-86. In the John Byrne and Marv Wolfman stories from 1987, Clark acted pretty adult and dignified with Lois, who was irked at the time since he'd sold the Daily Planet a story of his Kryptonian history before she could deliver hers. But, she was still depicted pretty dignified too, even as Byrne put in some questionable attitudes towards women in his stories, like the "Byrne-hold" that Lois, Donna Troy and even Granny Goodness were gripped by in 3 stories by 3 villains, one who'd performed a mind-switch on Superman (in Action Comics #584).
That latter part, however, has changed. In 2011, DC Comics re-launched all their superhero characters, and in Superman’s case, began his story over again with young Clark Kent’s arrival in Metropolis. One major change in this brave new world is that Clark Kent isn’t quite as mild-mannered as he used to be. In fact, he’s an aggressive and idealistic investigative reporter who constantly engages in — as Lois Lane admiringly refers to it — “truth to power-ing.”
Regret to inform, but Superman's background was not relaunched: the Superman-Doomsday battle still exists. Yet there is something here they don't care to tell anybody about: the Clark-Lois marriage has been erased, along with any serious relationship between the two of them. And the editors want it to remain that way.
“In the early days, (Clark’s) newspaper job was more of a front for his crime-fighting activities,” said Steve Korte, librarian/archivist at DC Comics, in an interview. “It was a handy place for him to find out what was going on in the world in terms of crime. He could easily slip into his costume and fly away and do his Superman duties without arousing too much suspicion. And now I think it’s probably gone the other way, to where the journalism is really important to him. He’s much more socially aware, perhaps. He probably values being a journalist more than in the early days.”
Knowing what the current staff are like, it wouldn't surprise me if they're channeling J. Michael Strazcynski's take on Spider-Man, which did no favors for Peter Parker in or out of costume. What was wrong with Superman using his reporter's job as an advantage for crimefighting? Wasn't that the whole point, much like Barry Allen's later career as a police forensics scientist aided him in leaning about crimes he could solve as the Flash?
Especially as compared to, say, the early 1970s, when Kent was — I kid thee not — a TV news anchorman. In those days, his journalism career was more an impediment than an advantage in crime-fighting.

“When Clark was assigned to start doing on-air reports by his boss (Morgan Edge) — which he was not happy about — he figured out that he could fight crime during his three-minute commercial breaks,” Korte said with a laugh. “They would break for commercial, he would zip in his costume and run off and undo some criminal mischief, and then be back in front of the camera three minutes later.”
I don't see how his Bronze Age career as a TV newsman got in the way of crimefighting if he could thwart crimes in just a few minutes. I have at least one of those issues from the mid-70s in my collection, and in defense of Schwartz's direction at the time, it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek comedy relief when Clark did that. Besides, even as he went on to become a TV anchor, he still managed to solve plenty of crimes in costume. Say, how come that matters all of a sudden? I thought they wanted Clark to be more reporter than costumed crimefighter. Guess they can't decide what they want.

Now, here's where they get to the direction taken since Clark quit working for the Planet post-New 52, supposedly to do what he considers more serious journalism:
[Morgan] Edge was unimpressed by Kent’s speech, but one Planet staffer ­— gossip/fashion/celebrity writer Cat Grant — was inspired. She also quit, and talked Kent into a joint blog/website to do news the way he wants to. And when CatClarkTropolis.com broke the news that Superman and Wonder Woman are dating — it truly is a brave new world, isn’t it? — the odd couple are doing well, Korte said.

“Cat is pretty business-savvy,” he laughed. “I don’t think Clark is.”
At this point, I'm of the mind they're insulting everyone's intellect and not willing to admit it. At the same time, it's nigh-hilarious. Clark argued with Morgan about lack of serious approach to reporting, and then goes on to advertise his alter ego's editorially mandated relationship with WW? Even in a sci-fi world, that hardly counts as a truly big deal and it already rates as a cliche. It may not even last with DC's silly announcement they don't want their heroes to run happy lives and another crossover coming next year.
In “Men of Tomorrow,” Perry White has cut a deal with Kent, which could result in the not-so-mild-mannered reporter going back to work for the Daily Planet. But will he? And more important, should he?

For one thing, despite what the stories tell us, Clark Kent isn’t exactly the poster boy for journalism ethics. For example, in at least two stories about how Kent got his job at the Daily Planet (there are several), he owes his first big story to an exclusive interview with the Man of Steel ­— who is himself! In those circumstances he’s lying to his editor and his readers, which is certainly unethical, and since it’s a form of fraud, maybe even illegal. And this is an ongoing ethical breach. How can Kent — and the readers ­— justify it?
I guess that means Clark's a criminal by keeping his ID as Superman a secret from Perry and Lois too, huh? This is just so stupid, and I'd argue Clark was only telling a white lie, which may not be great, but is still hardly the most harmful thing you could do. Say, how come Peter Parker doesn't undergo this kind of silly scrutiny when he sells pictures to the Daily Bugle in the Marvel universe and lies about the circumstances under which he got them? Isn't that an ethical breach too? If it's okay for Peter to keep his ID as Spidey a secret for the right reasons, then it's OK for Superman too. And the answers given by two interviewees back up that argument:
“Well,” Korte suggested, after some thought. “You could argue it’s for the greater good.”

Which is a pretty good argument, as it mirrors Kent’s own reasoning, which is that his secret identity keeps the most powerful man on the planet sane (he doesn’t have to be Superman 24/7), it provides the Man of Tomorrow with information to save lives, plus the big one: If the world knew Superman and Clark Kent were one and the same, supervillains and the underworld would target Kent’s friends, family and co-workers.

Those things, said Prof. Hayden, might be worth a lie or two.

“In my view, human life outweighs truth telling,” he said. “If lying prevented the deaths of thousands of people, for example, then, yes, that would be worth it, and almost anyone would agree with that in theory.”
Everyone except the PC lunatics who write up sloppy pieces like this one. The reasons why a superhero keeps a secret ID should've been pretty obvious and criticism was unnecessary.

But if Clark and Cat are going to dabble in news about the former's cliched affair with WW, then that's not exactly reporting news that could help save lives in reporter's guise, is it? It's more like gossip, the kind you find in People, National Enquirer and the UK Daily Star. I certainly don't expect the writers to craft any convincing stories where Clark, in or out of costume, concentrates on issues alluding to real life topics like the terrorism ISIS has inflicted upon Iraq and Syria. And with crossovers constantly around the corner, that'll only guarantee they carry much less impact.

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Sunday, September 21, 2014 

How much does Matthew Sturges value his own words?

A couple days ago, Sturges, a co-writer of Jack of Fables for the Vertigo line, said:

Having read this, I'd like to know if Sturges, as a guy who's written a few books for DC, has any faith in his words. His record includes books like the new diverse Blue Beetle, which featured a few ideas drawing from Identity Crisis, and also Shadowpact, which may have done the same too. I don't know if he actually injected or employed any of those ideas himself, but if he did, then how does he expect his statement to hold water, unless he can prove he's changed?

It's terrible anybody has to experience sexism, but if Sturges really wants to help curb it, then he's got to avoid working on projects that contain it.

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About me

  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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