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Sunday, January 17, 2016 

A sugarcoated article about Marvel's reboot runs amok

In this recent puff piece on Arcamax about Marvel's "reboot", the writer allegedly finds a few of the latest books appalling, yet gushes over a few others, and even his supposed disappointment in the one's he was supposedly negative about isn't certain. First, here's the sugary takes on what he says he likes:
-- "Daredevil" #1 continues the renaissance of the Man Without Fear, who once took the grim-n-gritty of the 1980s so far that one wondered why Matt Murdock -- who had been outed as Daredevil, had several girlfriends killed and was disbarred a couple of times -- didn't just go ahead and end it all. Fortunately, fan favorite writer Mark Waid took Daredevil to San Francisco, upped the cheery quotient and reminded Matt (and the reader) just how much fun being DD would be.

Another fan favorite writer, Charles Soule, is taking over with this first issue and immediately put his own stamp on the feature. He's returned Murdock to New York (where he works best), converted him to a prosecutor (more thematically consistent than being a defense attorney), retained the friction between Matt and best friend Foggy Nelson (from "Marvel's Daredevil" on Netflix) and given ol' Hornhead a sidekick of sorts. OK, that last is kinda odd -- sidekicks have been out of fashion since the 1960s -- but let's give Soule time to play out that string.
Yet another fuzzy claim that Waid's a "fan favorite", even though he's said/done enough to put himself at odds with various members of the audience. Even Soule can't exactly be called a "favorite"; hardly anybody qualifies in this day and age. And, what "renaissance" has there been anyway? DD's been exploited already by Waid for politics that dampen the allegedly cheery direction he took Hornhead's tales in. Also notice the slapdash note in parenthesis that Foggy comes from the DD series on Netflix, since Nelson began as a co-star way back in the Silver Age. The claim sidekicks went out of fashion doesn't hold much water either, since, as Chuck Dixon proved when he scripted Timothy Drake as the new Robin in the 1990s, sidekicks could still be managed very well, as co-stars or as stars of their own show.
-- I've never been much of a Hulk fan -- in my youth, "strong and dumb" usually translated to "bully who liked to hit me" -- but Greg Pak might make me a believer. His "Totally Awesome Hulk" #1 features teen genius Amadeus Cho as the Emerald Behemoth's alter ego (somehow) with no Bruce Banner to be seen. That mystery will eventually be resolved, but right now we have a Hulk who is not only smart, but also a teen -- meaning hormone-driven and likely to make bad judgments. This Hulk will still be a menace, but mostly in the way all teenagers are.
Hmm, sounds like we've got somebody hinting he's got a low opinion of the old, and thinks the new is far better in every way. And who forgot that Peter David's renditions in the late 80s to mid 90s offered a Hulk who was smart. Maybe not as smart as Mr. Fantastic, Iron Man and Spider-Man were depicted, but still pretty smart all the same, at the time when Bruce Banner's brainwaves were merged in a way with the Hulk's body. And it worked pretty well. It was also a lot more coherent than the messes we have today in superherodom.
-- "Red Wolf" cannot possibly work. This new title takes a Cheyenne brave from the 1870s who made himself a sheriff in the white man's world and transports him to 2016. That makes Wolf doubly a fish out of water, which is a fascinating premise. But the reason few Native Americans appear in comics any more is because they're too politically charged -- almost every group on every side of Native American politics is going to find something to complain about. But I like Red Wolf, and maybe sheer quality can silence the nay-sayers.
Oh, I'll bet there's "quality" abound. In today's editorially mandated climate, that's not something you can count on any longer. And as for Indian cast members being too "politically charged", that's disputable. They certainly weren't that much decades ago. Dani Moonstar was far from being overly politicized in the 80s when the New Mutants was on the stands.

Then, when he turns to stuff he supposedly doesn't like, and brings up "Batgirlization", he says:
OK, now the not-so-good stuff. Problem No. One: the "Batgirlization" of too many titles.

For those who don't read comics regularly -- and, honestly, shame on you -- DC Comics made a surprise discovery when it experimented with the mediocre-selling "Batgirl" a couple of years ago. They took the character, who was the typical grim-n-gritty vigilante with lots of serious, grown-up problems, and regressed her. They put her in college, had her whip up a home-made costume, inflicted on her young adult problems of the romantic and social sort and surrounded her with friends and lovers of various hues, nationalities and sexualities. That experience, presumably, is more in line with what college is like these days. And the art, to reflect this new tone, was cartooned-up quite a bit.

"Batgirl" became fun, fresh and sassy -- and readers responded. Other creators started adopting elements of the Dominoed Daredoll to make their own books as popular. Hence, "Batgirlization."
I hate to say this, but sales are anything but spectacular for the current Batgirl rendition. 27,591 copies is nothing compared to what other mediums are making, and as a result, it's hard to say readers are responding as much as they want to say. But, since we're talking about brighter visions, which in itself is welcome (though I wouldn't take the claim these books really are at face value), I think that's incredibly dumb to suggest it's a bad thing. What hinders the books is all the politicized elements being stuffed in, like the notion there has to be transgender weddings (I'm not even sure the part about nationalities is that accurate by contrast). When it all boils down to that, it just dampens the impact by sending a message that this is all the writers truly care about. Some of these politicized elements also turn up in a new series about Patsy Walker, on which he says:
In this case I can accept the cartoony art, the sitcom-style gay best friend (actually two of them) and the chirpy dialogue. It's when that same approach is extended to two more books -- "Starbrand and Nightmask" and "Gwenpool," of which I shall say no more -- that it wears out its welcome.
The whole would-be sitcom idea of a woman having "gay friends" coming around is anything but realistic, and anybody preaching realism with that has only made themselves into more of a laughingstock than any one sitcom. That aside, the writer isn't doing any favors by claiming "too much" chirpiness in itself is unwelcome. To suggest every DC/Marvel title has to be Batman/Daredevil is ludicrous.

Then, he turns to books he really supposedly doesn't like, and says:
-- "Spidey" #1 begins a rewrite of Peter Parker's early days as the wall-crawler, which should theoretically appeal to younger readers who haven't read the originals from the 1960s, and older readers who have. Maybe younger readers will like "Spidey;" I don't know. But I think I speak for all older readers that after "Spider-Man: Chapter One," "Spider-Man: With Great Power," "Untold Tales of Spider-Man" "Webspinners: Tales of Spider-Man" and countless other re-tellings of Spider-Man's early years over the last five decades, I don't think I need any more.
Well in that case, how come he missed a golden opportunity to recommend younger readers try out the older material and most importantly, judge by its own merits? Because the newer material won't be - and judging by sales receipts, hasn't been - appealing to younger readers, nor to old ones, and not even to parents who're likely to frown on how otherwise unsuitable these newer Marvel books are for youngsters. No complaints in this article about the editorial mandate cast upon Mary Jane Watson either, I see. The take on Inhumans and X-Men is no better:
-- For a couple of years now, Marvel has been de-emphasizing its mutants in favor of a lesser-known, less popular group that is very similar called The Inhumans (See: "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." on ABC). The likely reason is that Twentieth Century Fox has the movie rights to all things X-Men. So there are already several Inhumans books filling the publishing schedule where X-books used to be.

That would be well and good, except that there's a reason that the Inhumans -- introduced only two years after the X-Men -- have been less successful than Marvel's merry mutants. The X-books have popular, interesting, well-developed characters like Wolverine, Storm, Cyclops and Magneto, plus a cast of thousands. The Inhumans have ... well, if I named any, you wouldn't know them. So I don't expect "All-New Inhumans," which launched in December, to last very long. It stars a lesser Inhuman named Crystal (hey, she used to date the Human Torch!) and a bunch of forgettable nobodies invented expressly for this first issue.
Wow, that's certainly fudging up everything! Most older stories involving the Inhumans, originally introduced in the pages of the Fantastic Four, were better written in themselves than much of the junk coming out today. That's because they had talented, decent minded writers, artists and editors like Stan Lee, John Buscema and Roy Thomas assigned to work on whatever tales they conceived, and not hacks like today's cynics running the show. That was the reason why any X-Men were popular and interesting in the yesteryear...but not so much today, when said hacks ruined everything, and that's what this article fails to make clear. Once, the X-Men cast had well developed characteristics, courtesy of writers with more talent at one time, like Chris Claremont (although since the mid-90s, he's largely lost whatever talent he had years before, and a lot of the books he put out since have been a dreary affair). But after he left by 1992, the X-books went downhill as crummy writers like Scott Lobdell brought down the quality, and successive writers like Grant Morrison, Mike Carey and Greg Rucka were no improvement. So to say the X-Men casts are more interesting and well developed is just a superficial way of putting everything across, without clearly describing the changes occurring in later times.

And with all the pretentious writers working at Marvel today, that's why one shouldn't count on any of their new Inhumans offerings to be worth the nearly 4 dollar price tags marked on the pamphlets.

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