« Home | DC says they're going to review violence in their ... » | Bryan Hitch says Marvel a shut store » | ASM 700 changes Spidey from superior to inferior » | Captain Carrot corrupted » | Why did Disney want to go after Elaine Lee and Mic... » | Comics Buyer's Guide is fine with Alan Scott being... » | Mercenary Arcade becomes more vicious in Avengers ... » | Thank heavens if this crossover story is never rep... » | Gail Simone was ejected from helming Batgirl series » | Diane Nelson was responsible for rebooting DC's co... » 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 

Ron Marz and Mark Millar's encounters with the cyber-nutcases

A few months ago, Ron Marz wrote on CBR about one of the more positive things he and Mark Millar did, which was to put a stop to a cyberbully who was harrassing a couple of female writers on Twitter. He also spoke of an early meeting he had with a would-be Green Lantern fan who claimed he didn't like what he'd done with Hal Jordan in Emerald Twilight but revealed something very jaw-dropping at a convention the former was attending as well as the latter:
A numbers of years ago, when the flap over "Emerald Twilight" -- Hal Jordan out, Kyle Rayner in -- was still hot to the touch, there was a guy who would write letters to DC Comics, demanding that I be fired, that editor Kevin Dooley be fired, and that the "Green Lantern" title go back to the way he wanted it to be. Actually, there was more than one guy writing letters demanding such things, but this was one guy in particular.

This was in the early days of the internet. Twitter didn't exist, of course. Interactions with fans were limited to message boards, and once in a while, chat sessions. My attention was directed to message boards -- I honestly don't remember which ones -- where the same guy would rant on about me, calling me "misogynist" and "hack" and a laundry list of other names. He pontificated that I must have had a horrible relationship with my mother, and that I obviously hated women (which was news to my wife). And so it went. [...]

A few years later, I was a guest at a convention in Portland. At the show, a gentleman was pointed out to me, maybe 50 years-old, a little pudgy, glasses, wavy white hair, smile on his face. "That's the guy," I was told. "That's the guy who was writing letters to get you fired, and posting all that stuff on message boards."

He looked harmless. He looked... jovial. That guy? Really? I wondered if he'd actually come over and vent at me, or if he'd just steer clear.

An hour or two later, I looked up from my table to find him standing in front of me. Interacting with somebody at a con has a built-in awkward factor, because the creator is usually seated behind the table, while the person on the other side of the table is standing. You're constantly looking up at the other person (unless you're a big fan of staring at belly buttons). The guy glared down at me, and finally said, "I didn't like what you did to Hal Jordan." I said, "Well, I'm sorry to hear you're not happy, but the decision was made to take the book in a different direction." He did not seem placated.

"I have something for you," he said, and started digging in his pocket while he kept a stack of comics clamped under his other arm. Uh-oh. When he pulled his hand out of his pocket, he was holding a laminated card. He handed it to me, and told me it was my membership card for H.E.A.T., which stood for Hal's Emerald Attack Team. It had an Alex Ross image of Hal Jordan on the front. On the back, there was a list of H.E.A.T.'s goals; prominent among those goals was getting me fired from the writing duties on "Green Lantern."

Smiling, he explained I was now an honorary member of H.E.A.T. "We have almost 50 members!" he enthused. I said I wasn't real excited about being a member of an organization that wanted to make me unemployed. He said I didn't have to pay the membership fee. "Uh, okay, thanks," I said. (I threw out the card when I got back to the hotel room.)

There was an awkward silence. He fixed me with his gaze... and then held out his stack of comics toward me, each issue protected in snug mylar. "Would you sign my books please?" he asked. It was a stack of "Green Lantern" issues I'd written. Yes, the same issues that had so outraged him that he wanted me out of a job, and branded me a misogynist and inveterate hack.

"Sure thing," I said, and signed his books. "This too," he said, and handed me a Parallax action figure, still in the package. I signed it across the plastic with a green Sharpie. He thanked me, I thanked him, and we parted ways.
So this idiot said he found Marz's rendition of Hal Jordan atrocious, yet he continued to buy the material anyway, right down to that loathsome toy action figure? Of all the cheap nerve. Did that pile of comics he carried also include issues 54-55 of the 3rd volume, with the notorious refridgerator scene? Reading what that 50-year-old basket case came off sounding like, I wondered if he was a former anti-war hippie during Vietnam who got high on the substance at Woodstock in 1970. If anything, he was obviously a product of the same comics addiction mentality I find reprehensible, because that's why bad ideas manage to survive for as long as they do.

In contrast to that kook whom Marz met in Oregon, how many issues of the Kyle Rayner run do I own? None! Certainly not today. I do own several back issues from the time Hal Jordan was still the star of the 3rd volume, but anything pertaining to Kyle Rayner I parted ways with years ago, and even then, I only read less then 2 dozen. The last thing I remember owning related to GL featuring Kyle was a "DC 1st special" from 2002, and I must've bought that because of its tale about one of Hal and Alan Scott's first meetings. But after several years, I decided it wasn't what it could've been, and got rid of that too. That said, at the time Emerald Twilight took place - a couple years before me and my family got the internet installed on our PCs - I was neither immediately nor clearly aware of what had happened to Hal. Back at the time, although bookstore chains in Israel like Steimatzky still did sell comics more often than the stateside bookstores did, they were largely limited to flagship series like Superman, Spider-Man, Batman and X-Men and hardly ever sold anything considered second or third tier. There were some specialty stores for periodical magazines that did sell those "lower ranking" series and even used bookstores, but most of the former were too far away from where I lived and not always easy for me to reach in those days, and even then, GL was a hard title to find at times. When I did come upon it though, it was at least 2 years after Twilight took place, and I remember that one of the first issues of the Kyle run I'd read then was issue 79. Back then, I was more neutral and knowing that Wally West had long taken over as Flash from Barry Allen, that's probably one reason why I didn't mind replacing Hal in itself. But while I never disliked Kyle, even at a time when I could've been stupid enough to do that, the stories were tepid at best, and I'm someone who tries not to be an overly demanding type of reader. I tried to like it, but almost always came away feeling underwhelmed.

Anyway, in early 1998, me and my family finally got the internet, and I was able to do some research, and when I realized what Marz and Kevin Dooley had done with Hal, I was so alarmed that I just couldn't go along with it. So, I became discouraged from reading the book. Around the same time, I also found out through the WIR site how they offed Alexandra deWitt and that too left a bad taste in my mouth. Today, any material I've read starring Kyle impresses me even less than it did before, probably because the writing approach was done too easy, and I don't see the point of cobbling together the co-stars using already established characters like Donna Troy and Jade, instead of creating a new girlfriend. All that did was write the book into a corner.

Marz also tells about how he and Mark Millar helped put a stop to a cybertroll who was harrassing several female writers on Twitter, and points to this post on DC Women Kicking Ass, where the blogmistress tells about a creep harrassing her who was apparently the same man they'd been investigating. Having once had problems in the early days of my evening job as a blogger with a cybertroll from Central America (who turned out to be a leftist I'd once known at another website who supported anti-American propaganda, and even had disturbing views about blacks), I can understand how she feels. She lists several nasty messages the troll named JonVee/MisterE2009 wrote, and the one that sticks out as the most revolting has got to be this one:
So what are you going to be reading Sue? Perhaps issue #2 of “blah blah blah, DC is misogynist, blah blah blah”? I remember you saying that was your favorite comic. I’m going to be rereading the rape scene from Identity Crisis. Greatest…Comic….Ever.
Absolutely repugnant and obscene. This is one of the leading reasons why I find DC's notorious screed so offensive besides the misogynist structure of the story: because it's also gone on to be used by by pervs like the two-legged animal Sue had a problem with as a tool for harrassment. I think this is just one more reason why Brad Meltzer, Dan DiDio and even Rags Morales owe an apology for producing an atrocity that not only was offensive to women, but also served as an influence for trolls like the one Marz and Millar were dealing with.

But sadly, I don't see that happening.

Marz and Millar do deserve some credit for going after that Twitter stalker, and addressing a subject the main people in charge of DC and Marvel have not shown the courage to on their part. In fairness to Marz, he may have realized years ago that he stained his reputation with that notorious fridge scene in GL, something I wonder if he did deliberately to create controversy like plenty of storylines seen today. And I will say that, when he worked at smaller publishers, even the female co-stars in the books he helmed were written much more effectively than any he scripted at Marvel and DC. And, unlike some of the later contributors to the medium, he did at least show the honesty to publicly address the issues involving the GL fridge scene. But he and Millar still have a long way to go, and the poorer steps he and Millar took in their work involving violence shouldn't be overlooked (and one of the commentors at DC Women Kicking Ass signaled she wasn't letting Millar off the hook), and I think there's an important lesson to be learned here: that what turns up in a writer's fictional work can have a very bad influence on people in real life. Why, what if the cybertroll had used the fridge scene from GL or the redo of the Hank Pym-as-abuser story in the Ultimates as a tool for harrassment? If I were in Marz or Millar's shoes, I'd be very embarrassed if I found out that some crud used their storylines to hound protestors of gratuitous violence with. Luckily, such a thing didn't happen so far, but that doesn't mean it couldn't tomorrow, and even if the acts were depicted negatively, it doesn't mean they won't be a bad influence for some lowlifes.

Also, back in 1996, Marz once gave an interview to the now defunct Wizard, where he first said:
I think it’s great that people can be so passionate about this stuff, but I do think there’s a line you cross after a certain point, where you need to take a step back and take a bite of the real world. If you’re real upset about Kyle Rayner being Green Lantern, don’t buy the book anymore. Don’t make yourself crazy on my account, please.
Well, that's certainly making sense. I haven't bothered about GL in years. Not his rendition anyway. But then, Marz said:
But in a lot of respects, I think the controversy that surrounded the book when I took over was great. I would rather have people debating the pros and cons of it and maybe shrieking their protests about something than just ignoring it.
He said this several years before people like Rags Morales, J. Michael Stracynski and even Bill Willingham made similar statements about Identity Crisis, Spider-Man: Sins Past and Batman: War Crimes. For someone so bothered about internet trolling, isn't that almost like a form of trolling too? I don't know if Marz was the first, but he certainly is the earliest writer I know of who implied that it makes no difference to him even if we don't like what he was doing. But would he have said that if this were one of his very own creations like Shinku in focus, or even one of the Top Cow properties he'd written? Somehow, it seems less likely he would've spluttered out such an idiotic statement in a case like that.

I also have to take issue with this paragraph he wrote in a July 27 column for CBR:
Famously (or infamously, depending on your point of view), I wrote a scene in which a woman's dead body was found in a refrigerator by her boyfriend. Most of the actual violence wasn't shown, yet the aftermath certainly will follow the rest of my career. That's not a complaint. I set out to make a character's death effective and memorable, and apparently succeeded. (Though, credit where credit is due, I should once again point out that the scene was inspired by the fate of Charlie McGee's mother in Stephen King's "Firestarter.")
Sigh. I do believe a little memory jog is needed here. What do these 2 panels from issue 54 show? After Major Force breaks into Alex's house and she makes an unsuccessful attempt to defend herself with a kitchen knife that breaks upon his impervious skin, he smacks her, and then grabs her by the throat and strangles her to death. And he didn't even care to see if she'd change her mind about his demand to reveal who the new GL was. That's hardly what I'd call "most" of the grisly effects being kept out of sight. The fridging was just one of the complaints made about the story.

And even if she wasn't dismembered, as some people assumed was the case at the time, let's consider: with the super-strength Clifford Zmeck's got, he could've easily smashed her bones and torso along with the shelves and rear wall after he stuffed her corpse into the refridgerator, which is only slightly less hideous than dismemberment. So it's not like the readers furious about the scene were mad for nothing.

Marz said that he set out to show everybody what a "sick bastard" Major Force was. Unfortunately, that was exactly the problem with how some supervillains in the early to mid 90s were being depicted - instead of being a challenge in some way or other to the heroes first and foremost, they're a danger to just about everybody and anybody innocent and defenseless, and almost totally devoid of honor. A real writer would've either shown the villain luring the hero out in the open or if he did go after a lady he thought the hero cared for, he'd just take her hostage to force the hero to confront him. Emphasizing the supervillains as little more than sadists just amounts to sensationalism and limp attempts at cooldom. When I read books featuring supervillains, I appreciate that their skills in combat with the superheroes come first. Any vicious mentalities should only come second.

And that's why I think Marz would do well to take a look back and ask himself if he was doing the right thing to begin with by acting like he was greedy for attention and a paycheck and not trying to earn the audience's respect, not to mention whether he's suddenly developed a lack of courage to acknowledge that the story in issue 54 did have some gruesome on-panel elements. A true career writer, IMO, wants everybody to love his/her work, and not repel them. I know the Bill Cosby argument, that you can't try to please everybody, but neither does it pay to turn off fans of a famous creation when you have the chance to delight them on valid grounds. And neither Marz nor Dooley was doing that.

Writers like Marz also need to consider the influence their words and writings could've had on later contributors, and ask if that was right to begin with. And most importantly of all, they need to ponder whether it's time to apologize for any poor steps they took. Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn said a few years ago that they regretted putting an implied attempted rape in Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld back in the mid-80s, even if it was mild compared to the gross situations the medium's come to these days. If they could say they're sorry, maybe Marz (and Dooley) could do the same, for the way he handled both Hal Jordan and Alexandra deWitt and the cynical remarks he made in the Wizard interview? Come to think of it, maybe Millar could too, for remaking the Hank Pym attacks Janet VanDyne scene into one with an army of ants in the Ultimates? (He could also apologize for stuffing too much leftism into some of his works.) Too many contributors to the comics medium these days act like they never have to say they're sorry, and I think they'd do a lot of good to start looking at themselves in the mirror and ask if they should. If they did, I think it could help salvage the industry's image.

Again, Marz and Millar's battle with the cybertroll is something to congratulate them for. But they've still got to make an effort to improve their own writing where it helps, and acknowledge that they're capable of making mistakes. If they did, they'd be doing the comics medium a big favor.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

This comment has been removed by the author.

Hrm. That's odd. I knew the guy who wrote the best-known anti-Emerald Twilight manifestos from that time (he even referenced me in it). It was... intemperate. He was college-age back in the early 1990s.

Guessing someone else took credit for it later.

Since I started blogging last year, I haven't really experienced any problems with trolls. Most of the time I can delete those comments before they're posted, since I read every comment that's made.

I've been on the internet since 1998/1999 as well. Of course, I didn't blog back then... probably wouldn't have been able to, given that like virtually everyone at the time, I had dial-up and it was notoriously slow.

Post a Comment

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.
My profile



  • avigreen2002@yahoo.com
  • Fansites I Created

  • Hawkfan
  • The Greatest Thing on Earth!
  • The Outer Observatory
  • Earth's Mightiest Heroines
  • The Co-Stars Primer
  • Realtime Website Traffic

    Comic book websites (open menu)

    Comic book weblogs (open menu)

    Writers and Artists (open menu)

    Video commentators (open menu)

    Miscellanous links (open menu)

  • W3 Counter stats
  • Bio Link page
  • blog directory Bloggeries Blog Directory View My Stats Blog Directory & Search engine eXTReMe Tracker Locations of visitors to this page  
    Flag Counter

    This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

    make money online blogger templates

Older Posts Newer Posts

The Four Color Media Monitor is powered by Blogspot and Gecko & Fly.
No part of the content or the blog may be reproduced without prior written permission.
Join the Google Adsense program and learn how to make money online.