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Monday, October 07, 2013 

Readers don't win with DC's villain's month

The Indiana Gazette goes all gushy over DC's "villains month", beginning with:
The villains have won at DC Comics. But will the readers?
Not the sensible ones, that's for sure. If we spend money on this, we only further an obsession the editors hold with bad storytelling.
...to top it off, DC has published a certain percentage of each title with “lenticular” covers. These are five-layer holograms that give the impression of movement when held at different angles. DC is only charging an extra dollar for the books with the special covers, which is unlikely to cover costs. According to cnet.com, DC had to buy a whole month’s worth of plastic from a factory in China.
So much money wasted over variant covers coming with plastic? And all to please the speculator crowd, far more than the readers will be.
I should mention that older fans will recognize the Crime Syndicate. Ultraman, Superwoman, Owlman, Power Ring and Johnny Quick — evil versions of Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Green Lantern and Flash — were introduced way back in (gulp) 1964. They haven’t been used very much in ensuing years, but superstar writer Grant Morrison and artist Frank Quitely revisited the concept to good effect in a 2000 graphic novel named “JLA: Earth 2.”
"Superstar"? Oh, that sure carries a lot of weight. Morrison's pretensions aside, how does the Crime Syndicate alone make this worth reading for older fans? That's not a very objective reference there, and as an older reader, I don't find them very recognizable at all. On the contrary, they look awfully new and different from their Silver/Bronze Age counterparts, especially Owlman. In any case, why must the villains matter to me? It's the heroes and their co-stars I care about.
What’s the result? Well, maybe you’d expect this about a month ruled by the bad guys, but there have been some glitches.

“Unfortunately, DC didn’t print enough of the lenticular covers to meet demand,” posted The Beguiling Books & Art on its website (beguilingbooksandart.com), mirroring complaints across the retail spectrum. “They really, really screwed this up. As a result, we are only getting between 30 percent and 90 percent of our orders on these books.”

And, of course, not all of these villains are interesting enough to carry a book, or to give us anything new. The “Batman” issue starring Penguin, for example, trod such familiar ground that it felt like a reprint.

But I think, overall, “Villains Month” was a successful effort.
In that case, it's clear they aren't being objective if they consider a crossover on this scale a "success". And the villains aren't what make the book interesting; it's the quality of writing that does. Similarly, it's the quality of the writing effort that makes the villains interesting, and Geoff Johns doesn't have that. All he does is build up a lot of the villains at the heroes' expense.
For one thing, we don’t really know the backstory of even well-known villains anymore — not since DC relaunched all its titles two years ago. For example, “Bizarro” (well, technically “Superman” No. 23.1) reintroduces the character, who hadn’t yet existed in the post-2011 reality.
Oh, that's very funny. All the New 52's been done for is to render a lot of the cast unrecognizable, much like Dr. Light was turned unrecognizable and revolting in Identity Crisis.
...I’ve never been a big fan of Scarecrow, for example, but his issue (“Batman” No. 23.3) was a delight. The plot was simple; just the character wandering a lawless Gotham City recruiting each of Batman’s major foes for the Secret Society being formed by the Crime Syndicate. What made it fascinating was Scarecrow — psychiatrist Jonathan Crane in real life — manipulating all the characters he meets with a variety of psychological tricks, from flattery to empathy. Now that’s a superpower!
"Real life?" Scarecrow is not a real person, and while we could say Jonathan Crane is his real name, you can't call it real life since he doesn't exist anywhere but the pages of fiction in the DCU. And as for Crane's manipulations of other villains, that might have been brilliantly done at one time, but not today with all the hack writers they're employing running the show.

Johns himself has said that:
“The great thing about villains is that they cross the line all the time,” said Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns in a press release. “They don’t know where the line even is. They’re unpredictable. You’re not sure which way they’ll turn, which makes writing them always compelling and motivating.”
I may have said this before, and I'll say it again: there's something very unpleasant in what he says, hinting he thinks it's great that some of them are willing to stoop to horrific acts. Simultaneously, he draws no distinction between villains with honor and without. Many costumed villains used to have honorable MOs in the past (they wouldn't hurt innocent women and children), and thanks to rock bottom writers like Johns, they have less, if at all. This is exactly what led to the tarnishing of villains like Dr. Light. Oddly, that's exactly why, after a revolting dialect written for him in 2005 (I think it was in Green Arrow) where he gloated over raping Sue Dibny, he was largely shoved into the background for the next 3 years, before being wiped out altogether in another crossover (and yet his corpse resurfaced in Blackest Night). Theoretically, the editors might have concluded they'd damaged his image enough and had to downplay his appearances, though the Blackest Night appearance could contradict that.

Johns may have even once defended his MO by arguing "it's the villains who are doing it". As though that makes it A-Okay to wallow in senseless violence and even to portray them out-of-character sans their honorable side.
And that is certainly true. For one thing, you’d be surprised how many of DC’s villains have decided — for entirely practical, plausible reasons — that they need to take up arms against the Crime Syndicate. It’s not all that surprising, I guess, if you take into account that supervillains aren’t generally joiners.
And this is nothing more than a justification for moral relativism. This is nothing more than one set of villains taking on another like two rival mafia clans, or even Iran/Iraq.
And that is the final arbiter of the success or failure of “Villains Month.” Only the reader can determine whether the bad guys wasted your time or stole your heart. And this is one reader who has enjoyed being bad — for a month, anyway.
It's not the baddies who're wasting our time. It's the writers, editors and publishers who are, along with media propagandists like the one writing this drivel. If he thinks only bad guys are what make a superhero comic enjoyable, and being bad is great, then he sure needs help. Where's Sigmund Freud when we need him?

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How can you take issue with Grant Morrison being called a superstar? He clearly is. Arkham Asylum. All-Star Superman. New X-Men. Of all the nits you pick, stuff like that makes you look even smaller.

Only comic I personally like by him is his JLA run from the late 1990s. Other than that, I haven't been impressed. New X-Men was awful, Arkham Asylum was disgusting. Never read All-Star Superman. Animal Man is overrated and so is Doom Patrol.

Even the most popular writer or artist in the comic book medium is unknown to the general public. "Big fish in a small pond" is more accurate than "superstar."

But this is the Four Color Media Monitor. It talks ABOUT comics. In comics, Grant Morrison is a superstar.

Oh, well. Avi is still a terrible blogger. We can agree on that.

Anonymous #2: Actually, troll, we can't agree on that. He's a much better writer than you'll ever be. And yes, that's what you are, because you're commenting on something you disagree with just to be an a-hole. If you don't like what he's written, don't comment, it's really that simple. He expressed his opinion on Morrison, which he is entitled to, just as you are entitled to yours, but don't resort to trolling.

Anonymous #1: Right on. The general public doesn't know (and probably doesn't care) about who the most popular writer/artist is. "Big fish in a small pond" is an accurate description.

The original blog post was about an article or column in the Indiana Gazette, which is presumably a mainstream newspaper, so I stand by "big fish in a small pond." Maybe "superstar" would be fitting for an article in a magazine or blog specifically aimed at comics fans. And I don't have an objection to posting dissenting comments, but if Avi is such "a terrible blogger," maybe his critics should go find a "progressive" site that they will like better. There are plenty of them.

Exactly. There are plenty of progressive blogs the troll could go to, where people would agree with him. I reiterate: if the troll doesn't like what Avi or other conservative bloggers have written, he should ignore it. I don't troll around progressive blogs and sites, for example. I'm better than that.

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