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Thursday, September 16, 2021 

Bob Harras never actually read Voodoo when it was in preparation for New 52?

The pretentious Ron Marz was interviewed by Multiversity Comics, giving some history of his part in DC's failed reboot, New 52, a label that was kept in place for a very surprisingly long time (4 or 5 years, IIRC). The main focus is Voodoo, the book he was writing starring a shapeshifter, and a decided problem with the vision was how the star's depicted in shades of too much grey:
RM: So yeah, I was queued up to write “WildCATS,” and then it didn’t happen. But as far as Voodoo, I don’t know that I’ve ever actually written the character other than like, one of that big “Wildstorm Rising” crossover. So, you know, I knew the character but I don’t think I had really written her besides that. And frankly, I said to Brian Cunningham I was like, “Why does this book exist? What do you guys want out of it?” And they didn’t really know, so what I ended up pitching them was what is the book that we ended up with, which was ultimately the book that they didn’t want. The pitch was that she was, you know, it was shades of grey stuff. She was neither the hero nor the villain of her own book, because I felt like in order for this book to have its own place among 52 other titles, it couldn’t just be another superhero book, because there were plenty of those, right? There was an entire DC universe of superhero books. So this needed to be something different than that. So what I pitched was that she’s on the run; it was sort of a take on The Fugitive in some ways, you know pursuing the one armed-man. And I distinctly remember that in the pitch, it said that, if we do our job correctly, half of the audience will think she’s a villain, and half of the audience will think she’s the hero. I wanted to put her right in the middle of those two things. So that depending on your standpoint, you are going to be you would feel like you were rooting for her, or you would feel like you were rooting against her, but she was going to be in between those two ends of the spectrum.
I think that's the problem with it, and the long term failure of New 52 certainly confirms something. When I'm reading a solo book with a hero or heroine, I expect a clear definition of where they stand, specifically on the side of good. And such a divisive approach as the above is hardly a good example of that. Now here's where things get pretty weird:
When did you realize that your vision and DC’s vision were not aligned on this title?

RM: The day that issue one came out.

What happened that day?

RM:I was on a train headed into the city to do a signing at Midtown Comics for “Voodoo” #1, and I got a call from the editor, Brian, and he’s like, “Hey, can you come into the office today?” And I’m like, “Well, no, I can’t because I’m, you know, on my way to the signing.” Previously, I had offered, “hey, do you want me to swing by the office to you know, kick around ideas and stuff. I can, you know, I can hop in earlier train and come in, and then go to the signing?” And they said, “no, we’ve got so much going on, we don’t really have time for that.”

So the day that the book came out, I got a call saying, “can you come into the office?” You know that’s not a good call to get, and now I can’t, because I would miss the signing. I said, “What’s going on?” And so it was relayed to me that [the book] went up the chain, and the Editor-in-chief [Bob Harras] doesn’t know who to root for in the book. And I was like, “Right? That’s exactly it!” And they’re like, “Yeah, but we don’t think that’s a good idea.”

And obviously, I’ve known Bob for years, and I have no no issues with Bob whatsoever. My suspicion is that my actual pitch never made it to Bob’s desk. So my whole intention of “I don’t know whether she’s a hero or a villain” never made it to the E-I-C. So when that book came out, and his reaction was, I don’t know if she’s a hero or a villain, everybody did their job, but the jobs were now suddenly diametrically opposed.

I do not work in comics. Is it surprising that the Editor-in-Chief of the line doesn’t read an issue until it’s on the stands?

RM: Um, no. I mean, when you’re launching 52 books at once, no. There’s a lot of stuff that goes on and the focal point is the Editor-in-Chief, that chair, and there’s a lot that that person has to do. So it’s not surprising that, you know, that the issue wasn’t read until literally the day it came out of boxes and went on the shelves in stores.
Maybe it's not that surprising, but is it good business procedure for the EIC to not examine the finished product before it goes to press? I think the best answer is "no". It certainly doesn't reflect well on Harras, who, while he may have turned out some decent stories as a writer 3 decades ago, was not regarded as the best EIC Marvel ever had, even if he was less an embarrassment than his successor, Joe Quesada. But of course, as became the situation a few years later, DC decided to abandon the reboot and all but return to the prior continuity, though even that still remained in tatters, and by then, much of the audience had been understandably driven away. Here's more he tells, not just about the series that only ran 12 or 13 issues, but also another one where Starfire was put to poor use:
Each of the four editors all had sort of been thrown into this thing at the last minute to try to sort out what it was. So, you know, so they printed four of my issues, the fifth one never got done. And the sixth one, I think I was halfway through writing it, I think, and to their credit, DC actually paid me for the six issue. Obviously, a decision had been made that they wanted somebody else. They wanted a fresh take on the book. And you know, that’s their prerogative. I felt bad just because it was, you know, I was pretty upfront with this is the kind of book I’m thinking we’re doing. “This is what it is.” But ultimately that notion never got to at least the Editor-in-Chief level. So when the book came out, there was surprise there.

Also, a week or two before [“Voodoo” #1 came out], [“Red Hood and the Outlaws” #1] came out, and Starfire’s portrayal in that book was seen as sort of sexually exploitative, Frankly, I don’t think I ever read the issue, but enough people objected that I’m sure that criticism was deserved. But the fact that that book came out and quite a bunch of grief for being misogynistic, there was now a lot of focus on “Voodoo,” because of the stripper aspect. Which, again, was the one aspect they said you have to do.

So there was a focus on the book because of that, too. In my pitch, she starts out as a stripper. Because of her alien powers, she could read minds if she’s touching somebody, and the strip club that she was working at was next to a military base. So she was getting military secrets from the dudes who were from the base. And I believe that was the only time we’re going to see the strip club before the Fugitive aspect of the storyline came out. But you know, when there’s a great outcry over Starfire, and then a week or two later, a book comes out in which the main character is a stripper, obviously, that’s going to get a lot of a lot of notice, and probably not a lot of good notice.
So for somebody telling how Harras may not have read Marz's finished issues, he didn't read Red Hood & the Outlaws? Gee, and Marz thinks he's doing any better? Sigh. Let's be clear. There was valid criticism, but it wasn't exactly over sexual exploitation, but rather, that Starfire was depicted robotically, telling Roy Harper when she asks if he'll have sex with her, "love has nothing to do with it." What Scott Lobdell wrote her stating there was insulting to the intellect, making her sound like she wasn't even doing it because she enjoyed lovemaking for her pleasure, but rather, for only the man's pleasure, assuming it was for any pleasure at all. The angle, simply put, was insulting to women as a result.

Unfortunately, as probably to be expected, not only was Alexandra deWitt's refridging at the hands of Major Force in Green Lantern back in 1994 not mentioned, but Marz doesn't seem particularly regretful of the grimy story prepared for shock value either. So why the lamentations of misogyny complaints for Red Hood & the Outlaws if to date, Marz's never shown any remorse for accepting an assignment to replace Hal Jordan in the worst ways possible nearly 3 decades ago?
Looking back on the New 52 as a, as an overall concept, 10 years later, it seems like an idea that was too late to be properly executed by the date it was supposed to debut, and it seems like it was probably an overcorrection in a lot of ways. But well, what are some of your overall impressions of the New 52 looking back on it now?

RM: Anytime you basically stop your line and relaunch 52 new titles, there’s never enough time. Now, DC started late on it, because anything like this is like turning a battleship, trying to get everything aligned. And, when there are a lot of different voices in the room, rather than one person, or one or two people saying, this is what we’re doing, go execute it, when there’s a lot of back and forth. It takes a lot longer to get things moving. So, I mean, overall, I think it was a pretty, you know, obviously, very bold initiative. I think bold initiatives are generally good for comics. And, you know, if nothing else, they sold a shitload of issues that month. When those number ones came out, it was a huge deal. You know, just, just from, from my personal perspective of going into Midtown comics, and signing for a few hours. I mean, there was a line outside the building down the alley, and I signed stacks of “Voodoo” #1. Now, was that because of me, personally? I don’t think so. Is that because of Voodoo, the character? I don’t think so. Is it because DC had a really big initiative that they promoted the hell out of that people were interested in? Absolutely. You know, it fired people’s imaginations. And, and obviously, some really wonderful books came out of that whole experience. Some of that line is where we still are, you know, the seeds that were planted.

So, overall, I think it was a cool idea. Generally, most cool ideas are not always executed as gracefully as you want them to be. But, you know, when you do 52 new titles, you know, some of them are going to be gems, and some of them are going to be stinkers, and a lot of them are going to be somewhere in between on that spectrum.
Oh, does he think it was a "cool" idea for Barry Allen's background to be soiled so forcibly in the Flash? And it was laughable how, shortly after Barry returned, he and Iris West broke up. Most interesting in retrospect was how the same kind of people now clamoring for social justice got rid of an interracial couple, Wally West and Linda Park, for several years, and didn't seem to care, probably because in contrast to a lot of the identity politics driving entertainment today, their relation was built far more organically. None of which seems to mean anything to Marz, of course, who's firmly on the side of people who're mostly out of the business now. There was nothing cool about the New 52 initiative, mainly because Dan DiDio made it impossible through his influence. Nor was there anything "bold" about it, because in the end, it was all driven by political correctness.

At least this gives an idea what went wrong with their editorial a decade ago, lacking oversight in proofreading from the company EIC, which has got to be a serious flaw in its own way. That's one of the reasons why Harras may not be remembered well as an editor, if he didn't do his part properly. Also, the the interviewer does have a point that New 52 as a project came much too late to make any difference, and all these repeated reboots to a universe don't guarantee good storytelling if there's no coherency.

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