Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Busman's Holiday

(Author's Note: This was going to be a Witless Dictionary post at first, then got too big for that--Ideally Witless Dictionary stuff is supposed to be short pithy and punchy, but this is, of course, utterly malleable--then seemed like it might work, then didn't, and then I decided I was just being wishy-washy and I should write the damned thing already and stop being wishy-washy. So here we go.)

First, some words from wiser men than I:

". . .why has Toro been brought back, and why is the Torch being brought back? What is the reason for this story? Why are these characters important or compelling or necessary? These questions should have been asked before this was commissioned, and if they were, the answers aren’t apparent."

Now, I come to you today with a modest proposal: It's time to put Hank Pym and the Scarlet Witch on the bus.

Yes, forever.

I don't mean kill them off, or turn them evil or any stupid stuff like that (this inevitably leads to books that end in ":Rebirth") I mean put them on the shelf and leave them where they are for as many years as possible.

One of the terrible aftershocks of the fan-as-creator movement has been an obsession with and desire to keep active the minutiae of the past around, long after they are interesting, viable, or in any way necessary in a storytelling sense. They possess no further story potential or room for further character development, they're just . . .kinda . . .there.

And it's been around forever. Roy Thomas was bloody notorious for it, peppering books like All-Star Squadron and Invaders with characters who did frighteningly little except strut about as if to say, "I certainly am from the 1940s!" And for period stories that took place in an at-the-time long past milieu, that was more or less OK--if you liked that sort of thing, it was there for you, if you didn't it, don't go in the sandbox and you won't get sand on anything.

The problem comes in (to return to the estimable Mr. Kennedys quote above) when you do things like bring the original Human Torch and Toro back into present day continuity for no other reason than, since they're the first Marvel superheroes (more or less) obviously they should be viable characters 70 years after their creation, after all, Sub-Mariner is, right?

Sub-Mariner remains viable (barely, at times) because he's an engaging character with multiple storytelling opportunities. Want to do gonzo fantasy stuff? Keep him in Atlantis and have him punch out oddly dressed blue people. Want to do tweener superhero stuff? Have him him team up with Dr. Doom and fight the Fantastic Four for His Own Reasons. Want to do something stupid with him? Have him join the X-Men.

The point is, there's enough that can be done with him as a character that when one approach has played out its string, another can be implemented.

Not so with the Torch. Save for one interesting role in the last decade (Heroes for Hire) Torch hasn't done overmuch to justify his existence. Not since he returned in Avengers West Coast --that is, when John Byrne hijacked the book for a stilted, tortured, boring-ass retcon full of gibberish intended to walk back the cat on whether the Vision was the original Human Torch (long after anyone but John Byrne gave a damn one way or another) that ended with the Vision the colour of sour milk, Scarlet Witch going loco, and the Human Torch returned to life for what turned out to be hatefully little reason, as little was done with him once he returned except that Roy Thomas had him gad about in red longjohns and spout 40's references. Shockingly this didn't work.

But why? Because the Torch was a product of the 40's, and had never developed much of a storytelling engine beyond "blunder into crime/Nazis, set criminals/Nazis on fire." And yet, he was brought back because fans of the character grew up to become comic creators, had fond memories of him, and brought him back, based on fond memories, but once they'd done it, there was little else to do with them.

And yet, the fans-as-creators declare (If you like, you can just pretend I dropped the pretense and said "Alex Ross" here) there are so many storytelling possibilities for them and in any case they should be recognised as the building blocks for comics today and . . .yeah, whatever. The argument seems to amount to "they're first, let's keep them around as museum pieces."

Not that being old is necessarily a hurdle. But you'll find if you look over the history of superhero comics the most enduring characters tend to be the ones that can work in a variety of stories with equal plausibility. Batman can work as a gritty noir crimefighter, or a science fictiony hero, or whatever. The X-Men work as slick action vehicle, but also (occasionally ham-handed) symbol for oppressed minorities.

The Torch was . . .one of the first. And that's it.

There are characters in the middle, as it were--those with a set amount of stories, that once run-through leave any arable storyline potential stripped out. The alternatives then become repeating the same few stories over and over again, turning the character evil, killing him off, or simply allowing him to politely exit without a lot of fuss and feathers.

Which brings us back to our bus-riders. Hank Pym was one of Marvel's first Silver Age heroes, an early bridge between the sci-fi/monster comics they'd been doing up to that point and the burgeoning superhero universe that would supplant it. He began his career as Ant-Man, and seem to spend a hell of a lot of time ruining communist's picnics and not getting stomped on, which, you would think would be hella easy to do to an ant-size dude in bright red longjohns.

What worked OK as a one-off riff on The Incredible Shrinking Man didn't work too terribly well as a superhero book, and its obvious from re-reading them that the creators struggled mightily to Make Things Work. Tired of the threat of being stomped on Ant-Man became Giant Man and did some stomping of his own. He got a partner in the Wasp (because in the early days of Marvel rather than jeopardize impressionable young wards, it was much better to jeopardize your girlfriend and make her wear a hat that looked frighteningly like a butt plug) and the he got replaced in his book, zooming over to Avengers wherein he did frighteningly little (save for being Roy Thomas' author surrogate and creating things that ended up trying to kill the Avengers) until . . .

He smacked the Wasp around. If one points to a moment, as when something achieves absolute zero and all molecular motion stops, this was the moment for Hank Pym when all character development (such as there had been) ceased. Because from this moment on Hank Pym would be the wife-beating loser who was always trying to redeem himself for slapping the Wasp around or generally being an underachiever/loser. Damn near every story he was featured in followed this exact same paradigm and it continues to this very day.

Mind you, the original Wasp-swat was more than twenty-five years ago. We have had variations of this story for nearly thirty years now. In the meantime, none of this constant looping around has made Hank Pym any more interesting as a character--in fact, one could argue that by continually rubbing the reader's nose in what a loser/asshole he is actively repels rather than redeems him.

Other than that . . .what? He's been in the Avengers more or less since the start so he should always be in the Avengers? Why? Who really cares? Would you miss him? Is there anything to be done with him? Is there an argument for keeping him around for reasons other than seniority?

If not, put him on the bus. Retire him. Let him sit on the shelf. Don't kill him off--God knows I need an Ant-Man: Rebirth series like I need to be shot in the kneecap. Don't redeem him--that horse's fossilized remains have been beaten longer than most of us have been alive. Just . . .let him go. If someone has a bold new idea for him, he'll be waiting there on the shelf, but until then, keep him on the shelf and for God's sake don't make a big production of it.

But he's not alone, no sir. Speaking of ballast we're better off without, I humbly submit the Scarlet Witch. For all Joe Quesada whined that Doctor Strange is a plot device, then what the hell is she? Let's see . . .nebulous powers that almost explicitly do whatever the plot requires, longtime member of the Avengers, longtime cipher who did little other than get possessed, turn evil, date a robot, or whatever, and none of these things make her in any way, shape or form and interesting character.

Let me ask you--would you read a solo Scarlet Witch book? Can you think of a Crowning Moment of Awesome for the Scarlet Witch? Yeah, me neither. Because she is ultimately a character defined less by what she is and more by who she is associated with. She's Magneto's daughter, Vision's husband, she's been with the Avengers forever and a day, and yet . . .what has she really done in the 40-some years she's been a viable character to justify being enduring?

Well, she was one of the first characters to do a hell-face turn and one of the second-generation Avengers. Well, so what? That's a benchmark, but all that required was being plugged into a role, which is oddly fitting. The characters history is only that of being plugged into various roles over the years, culminating with House of M, wherein she transcended into pure plot device mode by cutting down the number of mutants in the X-Books, for reasons that have become, five years down the road, as nebulous as the character who did it.

Oh, there have been game efforts over the years to make something of her--in fact nearly every story that doesn't subordinate the Scarlet Witch into some attachment for another character is occupied with the business of "making something from her," whether it's explaining her powers (a brutally torturous storyline, usually) or turning her evil and/or subsequently redeeming her.

Neither of which work, because none of them have stuck and we're left with a character who, like Hank Pym, is here because well, they've always been there, with no great explanation beyond that.

Again I ask--would you miss her? Is there anything she adds as a character to the Avengers ensemble, because honestly--I'm willing to entertain arguments on this. Is there a great Scarlet Witch story that has heretofore been untold that isn't the same 40 year old bullshit reheated and served again? If not, then why keep her around? Why not give that slot over to another character who might, if given some face time, add something new to the team dynamic and do something a bit livelier than take up space and wait for their fob watch?

Are there any other characters like this, who have stuck around long past their expiration date and yet won't go the hell away? Explain your answers in the space provided below.


Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

The problem I have with the Bus Approach is that it implies there's something fundamentally broken about the character, something that could never be fixed. It's a claim that's very easy to make, but we have had a functioning version of Wanda as recently as X-Men Evolution - yes, the obvious caveats apply, but it still shows that you can take a character, tweak it a bit and make it work. IMO, the reason this hasn't happened with Hank Pym or Wanda is because they're what I call Fetish Figures: not iconic in the way you'd think of Spider-Man or Wolverine, but significant to a sizeable portion of fanboys who've since started running the asylum. And rather than try and fix/update these characters so they work in a contemporary setting, said "creators" (and I use the term in the loosest sense possible) don't see any need to change things. Ergo, Pym Be Slappin'.

Kazekage said...

The problem with that is . . .well, if she worked in Evolution (which I really didn't think she did, but that's neither here nor there) then why, in the 40+ years since her debut had she never been made to even accidentally work? Probability being what it is, she would have gotten one great story even by random chance, and yet . . .

Needless to say we'll have to agree to differ--I'm often of the opinion that some character can get past their shelf-life and its best just to let them go.

Fetish Figures is a great way to put it, because that's just what it is. Everything must be preserved because to the fan as creator, everything is important, and like the missing pieces of the True Cross, it must always be preserved. So rather than an evolving superhero universe, where succeeding generations add to and layer their own interpretations, we have a small retinue of fans who have locked things into an undeviating, backward-looking stasis.

No wonder Alan Moore bemoans the fact that people seem to be picking through his garbage.

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

I think that to fix a poorly-developed or badly-written character, you have to make a deliberate and concentrated effort. Look at what Peter David's done with Layla Miller: if you'd told me during House of M that she'd end up being one of the most interesting members in the X-books, I would've had you sent to Arkham. But David picked up that character knowing it'd be an uphill battle, and he pulled it off. The same could hold true for Scarlet Witch as well, but you'd need a writer with the awareness needed to recognize a character in need of fixing. And those are in short supply.

Just out of curiosity, what did you find problematic about her Evolution version?

It's just as Al Kennedy said about Barry Allen: contrary to Dan DiDio's beliefs, you really don't need to know about Barry Allen to understand Wally West, on any level. Preserving the past isn't (and shouldn't be) an end unto itself.

Alan Moore's points would be a lot easier to swallow if he weren't so... obnoxious about them. I mean, it's sad to think that all the praise finally got to him, but after "Lost Girls" he doesn't have much leeway to complain about appropriating other people's IPs.

Kazekage said...

The problem with stories like that is that I've read so bloody much of it in my time and they almost never stick from writer to writer so you get 10 stories about How To Fix The Scarlet Witch and damn, they hath wrung from me with such laboursome pretension my last ounce of desire I would have to read one is gone and like the Jehovah's Witness at my door, I just want 'em to bugger off. Forever. :)

To me, she never really stood out, I felt. Mind you, some of that could have been that I found it very hard to keep up with late-era Evolution at times because the influx of new characters just came in buckets, it seemed. She hung around the Brotherhood house and hated her dad a lot and. . .uh, that didn't feel like enough to get invested in.

Man, right? This is really becoming a thing with me. Honestly, I kinda liked the 90's era DC's tendency to really push the "legacy" thing--not because they were good, but because it gave me hope that perennially their concepts could get a new spin--keep the name, but expand or turn the character and concept on its ear and keep things fresh and more in line with the needs of future generations. Y'know, the same thing that touched off DC's silver age in the first place. Naturally, no one seems to have heeded that lesson.

Man, right? It's impossible to take him seriously for lamenting comic's tendencies to strip-mine his body of work when he's doing the same thing to other bodies of work for the past . . .geez, 10-plus years?

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

Well, there's a big difference between attempting to fix a character and succeeding - if there are ten stories on How To Fix The Scarlet Witch, the fact that she still isn't fixed would seem to indicate the flaw's with the story, not the character. :) Although I'm also seeing a connection to the issue of pretentiousness: if it's a matter of fiat, like Bendis and Osborn, it's probably not going to work.

I thought her introduction was spectacular: she single-handedly subdued the Brotherhood, then forced the X-Men into retreat for the first time, simply by turning their powers against them. And of course, her rage at Magneto was an interesting inversion of the usual dynamic where Pietro was the son who hated his father and Wanda was "daddy's girl". It went downhill after they "depowered" her early in S3, but that had more to do with the Sorting Algorithm of Evil (Apocalypse was about to make his debut).

Well, for a while there it did work: Kyle Rayner, Wally West, Jack Knight... all successful executions of the legacy hero. Some of them even had their own successors, ie: Bart Allen to Wally. And then it just started going backwards.

And that's only if you don't accept the admittedly-problematic stance that "Watchmen", being directly inspired by Charlton, falls under the same category, along with Miracleman/Captain Marvel and so on.

Kazekage said...

Well, maybe so, but the problem I have is that they've tried to fix the Scarlet Witch about 15 different ways since the time I started reading comics and in all honestly, not only have the fixes convinced me she's not worth bothering with, but neither has she gotten any interesting stories in that time frame. Seriously. Can't think of one.

I think I need to re-watch that episode--I couldn't quite place having seen it recently (Evolution's only recently started being re-run) Most of the one's I seen recently were from her later episodes, so that could be colouring my judgment.

And it was kind of cool and really differentiated DC from Marvel, too. I liked the idea that every generation might take up the name of older heroes and either follow in their footsteps or do their own thing with it--you have to admit, that's a hell of a good engine for a continuing comic. :)

. . .and that V from V for Vendetta was based on Night Raven and . . .geez, it looks worse the more you poke at it, eh?

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

I can understand that - truth be told, the most interesting Scarlet Witch stories tend to either be set in alternate realities which allow for a broad range of reinterpretations or work via her absence (ie: the idea of Tommy and Billy being Wanda's kids and searching for her is an interesting storyline, but she's not in it).

Most likely: she debuted at the end of season 2 and got "depowered" fairly early in season 3, so the more "hardcore" version of Wanda was only around for a few episodes.

Absolutely! I think it was Robinson who really showcased what kind of potential you can get out of that in "Starman", where Jack not only had to measure up to Ted but also try to figure out his relationship with David, and how he sets himself apart from the legacy of Starman even as he gets tangled up in that history...

I've always been inclined to think of Moore the way people think of Shakespeare: it doesn't matter if the ideas were borrowed, the execution took those ingredients and made them into something more. Which is all well and good... until Moore starts railing about originality just because he's got a bug up his bum with mainstream comics.

Kazekage said...

Which to me, in the second case, presents a problem. When you have a "search" storyline that the completion of which one almost dreads since the destination means less than the journey. That points to a slight flaw in things, but then again that could be my natural antipathy towards Wanda talking.

I'll have to have a run-through of the episode guide and try to record those episodes, then. Right now, the only station running them seems to be favouring the first and late third seasons, so it might take some luck of the draw . . .

And best of all, it indicates a rich history and a larger fictional universe without needing a bloody concordance to get around in it. I'm all for making the reader feel the presence of continuity without everything being slaved to it. Alas, this seems to be lost on most comic writers, lately . . .

Given the vector of his obsessions for most of this decade and before, it seems a little hypocritical for him to complain about people hijacking his ideas, really. Funnily enough, when he's not banging on about comics, I find most of what he has to say rather fascinating.

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

Perhaps. :) I actually think that fixing Wanda is a relatively simple prospect. The most important thing is to define her powers once and for all. Personality-wise, play up her relationships with Magneto and Quicksilver - stress the fact that she's compassionate where Pietro is arrogant and Magneto is outright hateful. Maybe even send her over to the X-Men and explore what kind of dynamic that creates. Everything else can be safely jettisoned.

I think the episode you're looking for is "The Hex Factor", episode 25 of season 2. That's the one where she really made an impression.

I forget who said this, but the ideal approach is something akin to what Carey did during his Xavier-centric arcs on Legacy: invoking continuity with just enough context so the reader understands what's going on, without using the specific historical events as springboards for new stories (which is where writers like Geoff Johns and Brad Meltzer frequently go wrong).

I'm afraid I gave up on him years ago... right around the time I had this realization that he'd likely never write anything that would engage me again. It was a rather sobering thought. :(

Kazekage said...

That sounds do-able. The problem is, that's what everyone's done with her. The example freshest in my mind is Busiek's "chaos magic" explanation for her powers, which gamely tried to define, once and for all, what she could or couldn't do, but made for an intensely boring grinding story that, while it came up with an intriguing explanation, didn't really explain to me why I should care about her as a character.

That said . . .you're on to something, I think, in moving her over to X-Men. Since "Evolution" is just about the only time she made any impression on my as a character . . .well, why not plug her into the X-Men dymanic, especially seeing as how she affected the whole bloody line and all that.

I'll do a search for it and try to record it and have a look.

Which is exactly what everyone should do, honestly. There's fantastic article on Bleeding Cool (and how many times do you imagine I'll say that in my life?) wherein Denny O'Neil says, explicitly: "I strongly advise you bards out there to never, never do continuity for its own sake–say, to fill in a blank in a story you read a dozen years ago that’s been gnawing your soul ever since…unless–you can get a good story from the blank-filling, a story that will be satisfying to readers who never heard of the glitch that’s been bothering you and would not care if they did. That is, most of us. Any occasion for a good story is the right occasion. And anything that doesn’t contribute to the quality of the story is a candidate for the dumpster. You don’t want to bore your readers with irrelevancies and you don’t want to distract them from narrative elements that are important." Are there words that are more important than this that should be heeded in comics today?

I find bits of what he has to say intriguing, but the last 2 things I tried to read of his were just unbearably dull and lecturing, I thought. I was more interested in Moore's work when he was using tropes to explore and open up new vistas, rather than a seminar.

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

Probably because, from what I recall, Busiek's exercise was more about defining Wanda's powers than defining her. I blame Stan Lee: ever since she made Mastermind knock over a cup of water people are more concerned about what she can do than who she is. :)

I think it might also be interesting to see her buy into Xavier's dream: even Quicksilver never went that far. It could change the whole relationship between the X-Men and Magneto - how hard would he try to take them out with his own daughter on the team? And then you wonder if the X-Men are just using her as a human shield...

Well, there's a first time for everything re: Bleeding Cool. ;) But yes, O'Neil makes a great point: it's all about recognizing that You The Writer =! You The Reader - don't assume that the people reading your comics are the same people who read comics when you were, if that makes any sense. I wouldn't go so far as to say nobody cares about some continuity glitch from twenty years ago, clearly there's a portion of the readership who are nostalgia junkies... but they shouldn't be pandered to, and they most certainly shouldn't be the target audience.

To be honest, I feel he's put on a somewhat condescending air lately - like he's sitting us down to tell us just how dumb we are and how we should listen to him. I hate to think that he's succumbed to Byrne Syndrome after all these years, but...

Kazekage said...

Well, in fairness, there was never much to her, was there? Sure, she fell in love with Vision, but that seemed more in the name of furthering his character arc. The rest of the time? Well, she seemed to spend a lot of it on honeymoon, knocked up, or getting possessed . . .

That is a damn good idea, actually. We've already seen Quicksilver in the Cyclops role in AoA. This would be a way of playing off that and moving things in an interesting and untried direction. If Magneto's gonna be around forever, bring her in as a counterweight, have her act out of responsibility for M-day or something, I say.

Well, Rich went right back to making an ass of himself soon after, so I think the universe righted itself quickly. And yes, that makes sense to me--I think comics readers who grew up on Wally West as the Flash are as valid as those who grew up on Barry as the Flash, but neither should be pandered to--the mandate should be to aim for those people who don't read Flash and need an incentive, something that speaks to them. After all--even the people who complain will buy the book even if they say they don't, as Morrison said so wisely about X-Men when he took over.

I would go far enough to say that no one cares about continuity glitches. They're quite often pedantic, unexciting affairs that just leave me cold. I'm all for good stories if you can find them in The Secret Origin Of Batman's Underwear, it's just not a very likely outcome.

I've gotten the selfsame impression, and I've noticed that it's taken away substantially from my ability to connect with his work, really. Never have much enjoyed watching people lording over their brilliance on me.

Kazekage said...

Well, in fairness, there was never much to her, was there? Sure, she fell in love with Vision, but that seemed more in the name of furthering his character arc. The rest of the time? Well, she seemed to spend a lot of it on honeymoon, knocked up, or getting possessed . . .

That is a damn good idea, actually. We've already seen Quicksilver in the Cyclops role in AoA. This would be a way of playing off that and moving things in an interesting and untried direction. If Magneto's gonna be around forever, bring her in as a counterweight, have her act out of responsibility for M-day or something, I say.

Well, Rich went right back to making an ass of himself soon after, so I think the universe righted itself quickly. And yes, that makes sense to me--I think comics readers who grew up on Wally West as the Flash are as valid as those who grew up on Barry as the Flash, but neither should be pandered to--the mandate should be to aim for those people who don't read Flash and need an incentive, something that speaks to them. After all--even the people who complain will buy the book even if they say they don't, as Morrison said so wisely about X-Men when he took over.

I would go far enough to say that no one cares about continuity glitches. They're quite often pedantic, unexciting affairs that just leave me cold. I'm all for good stories if you can find them in The Secret Origin Of Batman's Underwear, it's just not a very likely outcome.

I've gotten the selfsame impression, and I've noticed that it's taken away substantially from my ability to connect with his work, really. Never have much enjoyed watching people lording over their brilliance on me.

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

I honestly couldn't tell you, as I was never much of an Avengers fan and that's mostly where they kept her. Part of the problem may be that mutants, in general, tend to do a lot better in some X-Men title or other than in unrelated franchises - for all that Beast apparently spent years as an Avenger, most (if not all) of his best character beats have been in the X-books. And then there's Quicksilver - he started out an Avenger too, but his defining moments only happened whenever he and X-Factor or the X-Men went up against Magneto.

Exactly. They've tried to do that with Polaris, but it doesn't work because of the clumsy retcon (introduced by Chuck Austen of all people) - she really doesn't come off as "Magneto's third daughter" just because they have the same powers. But that kind of dynamic could definitely work with Wanda as an X-Man.

The sad bit is, I do miss the old LITG, at least a bit. He had a way of digging up the occasional gem only for Marvel and DC to cry foul... until it actually happened. :)

I've been having this discussion (with K-Box of all people) and it does seem to me that if we accept the current batch of writers as fans of an earlier time, all we really need to do is wait for the "next generation" of fans to break into the business - these writers and editors will have grown up with Wally West, Kyle Rayner and Mary Jane Parker, and they'll retcon the retcon. Whether or not that constitutes forward movement is another matter, I suppose...

As we've said, though, I think it all depends on how it's used. I mean, Mike Carey going back to Alamogordo? Didn't turn out as bad as it might have with a more nostalgic/pedantic writer.

Especially since he does it so often these days. Like, I would have accepted one work solely written to tout his own brilliance, in recognition of everything he's done in the medium, but when there's a whole bookstore shelf dedicated to Alan Moore's Self-Congratulation... no thanks.

Kazekage said...

Oh I dunno--the Beast had some pretty choice moments in the pre-200 issues of Avengers. He had a real chemistry with some of the team members (especially Wonder Man, who needed all the help he could get in that department) so again, I really think it's a character failing. I mean, Quicksilver is obviously workable, so is Beast . . .why isn't she? Is it because she's an empty leotard? I think so.

Well, when Polaris first debuted she was alleged to be Magneto's daughter, but I think it was pretty obvious it was meant to be a con even by the loosey goosey standards of Silver Age X-Men. Austen being Austen, this unsubtle subtlety was utterly lost on him.

It seemed to be a bit more "complete" than Bleeding Cool is, usually. I also didn't mind his frothing Millar fanboyism so much then. Maybe it was diluted more. I don't know.

That's really all we can do, honestly, and--and we talked about this in another thread--that's also the channel by which female characters may get a fairer shake--when fans who are actually women get their turn at bat. I don't know when any of this will happen, but it has something to do with Alex Ross still getting work, somehow. ;)

Very true. The problem comes in when one weighs the ratio of people who want to do that sort of story vs. those who really can do it. :)

. . .with intermittent breaks for erotic public domain fanfic, of course. ;)

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

But Quicksilver's only workable in a specific context - look at how he's been used since "House of M" and in other media: always in relation to Magneto, as either the defiant son or the suck-up who just can't seem to win Daddy's approval. I don't think it's a failure of the character per se inasmuch as it's the fault of various writers who aren't capitalizing on relationships that, on paper, already exist.

As I recall, the Magneto claiming to be Lorna's father was a robot. So, yeah. :)

And if there's any writer who's even less deserving of fanboyism now than he was five years ago, it's Mark Millar.

I don't think that's enough, though; after all, what use is Gail Simone if all she does is play by the rules? The only female writer I can think of who could've made a difference at the Big Two was Ann Nocenti, in that she was deliberately trying to provide some kind of alternative to the norm, but she was too bloody didactic to catch on. No, if the Big Two want a real female fanbase, they have to change their whole mentality.

And sadly, the scales tilt way, way, way too far in the wrong direction for that one. :)

To quote Raul Julia in "Street Fighter": OF COURSE! :D

Kazekage said...

I dunno--in David's first run on X-Factor he kept him pretty far away from all the Magneto-related nonsense (of course, when he left, that was the first thing they did with him, but hey) That it can be done, but in Wanda's case hasn't succeeded after . . .God, nearly 45 years tells me at some point, it's just gotta be the character.

Yeah, but we know that because we actually read the comic. I'm not sure Austen did. Not "read the comic," I mean "ever really learned to read in general."

And yet he's even more ubiquitous now than he was when he was only mildly tolerable and several orders of magnitude more annoying. It's truisms like this that make me think that God will never let me win.

Well, maybe it's going to have to be a confluence of various factors--more women working in comics, a different approach to how these characters are portrayed and presented to begin the change that will finally grow the audience. I don't really have all the answers, but something needs to be done, and I get the feeling it's a lot of somethings.

I think the scales busted some time ago, sadly. When people are actually rooting for Disney, of all people, to corporatize and right Marvel's ship, something has gone mightily amiss.

"The day when Alan Moore made Peter Pan and the Lost Boys gangbang Wendy was the most important day of her life. For Alan Moore it was. . .Tuesday." ;)

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

Alas, we'll have to agree to disagree on that one. :)

I'm reasonably sure he read "Judy's Huge Date", if only because so many of his storylines ended up like novels with Fabio on the cover...

You mean I'm not the only one who's noticed him going from Poor Man's Bart Simpson to Baby Sinclair? :)

I think it would require more women in two specific departments: marketing and editing. Honestly, some of Marvel's recent attempts to court female readers have been so embarrassing, and there'd probably be a lot less misogyny - intentional or not - getting through to publication.

Quite right. I mean, I think I've said this before, but if Disney were taking over any other company I'd be treating it like a creative apocalypse... but they certainly can't do much worse than the current batch of twits.

Bra-vo, good sir. Bra-vo. :)

Kazekage said...

Maybe it's just me. George Perez loves her . . .and not in all entirely healthy ways, either (there's a reason one of his Avengers covers was called "Wandage," after all . . .)

Diana, if you're telling me that Fabio's last name is "Ghazikanian," well that actually explains a whole hell of a lot, when you get right down to it . . .

Nope! My hope is that with the advent of Nemesis, as with Grunthos the Flatulent, his large intestine will leap up through his neck and strangle his brain in a last-ditch effort to save civilisation. You heard me, I'm saying it now--Mark Millar=Vogon Poetry.

That's actually spot-on--as most of the turning around of this kind of embarrassing stuff is as much presentation and training to new perceptions, yes, a few ladies in the marketing department would be a great idea, because there has seldom been a more face-palming launch than "Girl Comics" or "HERoes" or whatever the hell it is.

Yeah, and it should be very much like the criminals in "Dark Knight" turning to the Joker to take care of Batman (ask Power Rangers fans how they feel about Disney and watch the blood fill their eyes with sweet sweet rage) and yet when I look at the possible outcomes--neutered comics that return to a time when they made pretensions to accesibility, a slightly reined in creative direction, or no comics at all . . .I'm fine with that.

*Takes a bow* :)

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

Yes, well, we'll just have to call that a rite of passage - she can join the ranks of Every Female Superhero Ever. :(

I'm pretty sure there's a typo there, but it'd take a braver soul than me to checkthe proper spelling...

I regret to inform you that the entire Vogon race is currently filing 850 million complaint forms due to your insulting comparison to Mark "Crazy Harry" Millar. ;)

And that was just over the last three months. Marvel's got so much Fail in that particular department that their server overfloweth. :)

Of course, from what I've heard about Power Rangers, it's not like they had far to fall... By that same token, I have a hard time imagining Marvel getting any worse, so bring on the Mouse, eh?

Kazekage said...

Superhero comics can be so musty and hurtful sometimes. :)

I hope there is, honestly. I'd hate to think that I can recall how to spell Austen's wife's Mary Sue's name perfectly after years of trying hard to forget it.

You're right. I should have aimed for Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings. She can't possibly sue. ;)

It's like they couldn't find a woman to ask "Hey, are we trying too hard or something" before they did anything, but that was far too obvious and sensible to do that, I suppose.

Well . . .around 97-2000 they were really trying to make it something more than what it's known for, but it's pretty much on life support now. I'll be very surprised if the "remastered" first season isn't the last. I figure after 18 years, it's probably gone as far as it can.

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

Or, in the case of Jim Balent, sticky and uncomfortable. :)

As emoprincess76 once said, some scars never fade. ;)

Well, she could, but she'd be hard-pressed to find a judge and jury capable of listening to her for more than sixty seconds...

Seriously. How Mrs. Quesada doesn't smack him upside the head with a frying pan, I'll never know. "Oh, you think marriage ages you? *BLAM*"

18 years?! That's... rather impressive, warts and all.

Kazekage said...

. . .and often all four things at once. Jim Balent, one day we will understand what makes you you and do all we can to make sure it does not happen again. ;)

I feel like writing bad poetry now for some reason. ;)

And obviously, that's physically impossible without causing mass murder, so I have a feeling that's a safe bet.

He's right in one sense, though--the Marvel/Quesada marriage sure has aged me right the hell out of comics. Right now my pull list is Star Wars Legacy. And that's all.

18 years, and most of the last seven have been spent trying to kill it dead. How 'bout that!

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

I'm reminded of Professor Arturo from the golden days of "Sliders": "If we survive, I promise you this: I will dedicate my life to isolating the gene that makes you so obnoxious. And I will destroy it." :)

You'll be in good company. ;)

I'm down to "Fables", "Jack of Fables", "Irredeemable" and 2000AD (only for Nikolai Dante - they're not publishing anything else at the moment that's even remotely interesting). And two X-books - "X-Factor" and "X-Men: Legacy", though I'm really just waiting for the next jumping-off point before letting those go.

Who's trying to kill it off, Disney? Intentionally? How so? Are these the shadows of the things that will be, or the shadows of things that may be, only? ;)

Kazekage said...

Oh John Rhys-Davies, you big hot tranny mess of awesome. :)

That's a application of "good" I'd never considered before . . .

God, the last 2 comics I've got are . . .two issues of "Legacy." Yes, that's all. :)

"The avalanche has started it is too late for the pebbles to vote." Well Disney started shunting PR all around the schedule, cut all airings of its episodes past and present off every channel they own except ABC on Saturday mornings where it's frequently pre-empted and never really bothered to promote it so . . .yeah. sounds like "planned demolition" to me.

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

Quite! :) I think my favorite role of his was as the narrator of "Quest For Glory IV", because Sierra never missed an opportunity to insult you when you did something stupid and it just sounds so much better with Rhys-Davies' accent. :)

What surprises me is how quickly it happened: my pull list was double its current size not two years ago. And I didn't even notice I was dropping titles left and right for all sorts of reasons (Brubaker leaving DD, the post-Vaughan "Runaways" clusterfuck, Iron Fist ending) until my husband sees me come in one day with the week's catch and says "What, that's it?" And... well, that's exactly right, isn't it? "That's it."

That or executive incompetence of Quesadian proportions... which would explain a lot about the forthcoming Marvel acquisition...

Kazekage said...

And he was the voice of Thor on the FF cartoon. Between that and being Macbeth on Gargoyles the 90's were pretty good for him.

Man, the whole Runaways thing amazed me. They did everything they could to deliberately kill any momentum that book had . . .by accident.

Well, I have seen the new Avengers cartoon . . .which in the tradition of the one they did ten years ago, is sure to warn people off doing them again for another decade . . .that's gotta be a sign. :)

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

Of course, now he's been immortalized in pop culture as a pseudo-Scot Designated Comedy Dwarf. Not quite sure whether that's a step up or down for him. :)

What's odd about that, though, is that on paper it probably should've worked. Granted, no one was ever going to write them as well as Vaughan did, but if you line up Joss Whedon, Terry Moore and Kathryn Immonen, you'd think something would work out. And it really, really didn't.

The Avengers rarely fare well in animation - I vaguely recall an attempt to get a series going at Fox around the time the X-Men and Spider-Man shows were taking off. Didn't even make it a full season, if I'm remembering right. And there was that child-proofed, horribly bland adaptation of Millar's first Ultimates run... "Ugh" would about cover it. :)

Kazekage said...

Hmm . . .compared to some of the roles I've seen him settle for, really trading on Gimli for the rest of his life, he's probably considering it a net gain.

The fact that it barely came out didn't help matters, either. Lord knows, the best way to get people to buy stuff is not to provide it. C'mon guys--that's only ever worked a few times.

I have seen that cartoon, and holy buckets it is awful in ways too difficult for me to express. I mean, ant man and wasp had power armour for Christ's sake and that wasn't even the most godawful thing about it

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

Indeed. Anaconda 3 and 4? For shame, Professor.

The sad thing is, I attribute that failure to the same basic factor that knocked out the "Marvel Next" imprint and "Young Avengers": no matter how well-written the stories are, no matter how engaging the protagonists, Marvel readers just aren't ready to make the jump to the next generation of superheroes. And Marvel editors, in turn, have absolutely no idea how to push characters who are less than thirty years old.

And Hawkeye had that God-awful purple-black getup that made him look like a cosplayer... and Thor never made a single appearance despite being in the title credits! :)

Kazekage said...

If only they'd release the 1990's "Untouchables" series on DVD, he'd have a few more residuals to live off of and wouldn't be reduced to that kinda thing. :)

Well, I feel like it's not impossible that both could co-exist--if readers didn't like one thing, they could go to another. Of course, Marvel and DC seem hell-bent on making sure you have a raft of the same choice many times over instead of something with more variety.

And Iron Man showed up in the dumbest episode of anything I think I've seen ever. That cartoon hurts my soul to even think about.

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

Given its apparent lack of popularity (maybe contemporary audiences are over that fascination with the Capone era?), I doubt it'd keep him from signing up to Anaconda 5. Unless the damn thing finally ate him in the last one, I wouldn't know. :)

Theoretically, they certainly could co-exist: you only need to look at "Spider-Girl" to see how it'd work - the younger generation are the main protagonists, and every now and then they get in over their heads and the old guard stages a comeback. But to do that you'd have to phase out the iconic characters, and no commercial entity will ever take that much of a financial risk if it doesn't absolutely have to.

Better luck next time, perhaps? Of course, now we have Chris Evans as Captain America to contend with - I was skeptical at first, but the more I think about it, the more I realize both Evans and Cap are like pancakes: delicious and flat. :) Who knows, it just might work.

Kazekage said...

I dunno--I think it coulda got by in terms of quality--in the first season more than the second--it's a really strong show and JRD has a great couple episodes. I don't know if that would prevent him from it either--I just want the DVDs already. ;)

Sadly, no. Hell, they couldn't even let the JSA take an emeritus role every time they tried to have them in a mentor role. The days of something like old-school Spider-Woman, which couldn't have been more different from Spider-Man if she tried and there's only superficial at best associations.

I never thought I would hear anyone refer to Cap as "delicious," ever, and I really thought him and Diamondback really had something. :) It would be nice if the Avengers cartoon made it this time, I have a feeling (enhanced by experience with Avengers Forever) that maybe Avengers mythos doesn't translate all that well to animation . . .

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

Two months ago I would've shrugged and said something comforting, but with "Daria" coming out next month? I say be patient, you never know. ;)

Come to think of it, I don't believe either Jessica Drew or Julia Carpenter had anything to do with Peter Parker. That's rather unusual for the whole "distaff counterpart" routine...

Well, not when Liefeld draws him, certainly. ;) But he's blond, blue-eyed and to paraphrase the Commodores, he's a brick... house.

I tend to side with Paul O'Brien when it comes to the Avengers: the biggest problem there is that the team doesn't have much of a binding premise to explain why they're together. The original was pretty much just a group of Marvel's A-list superheroes banding together by sheer coincidence, and even that didn't make it past issue 4. Any adaptation has to start with the reason these people joined the team, and... well, I can't think of a single version where that reason was even slightly coherent.

Kazekage said...

Oh, all things are possible, no question. If you can get definitive The State (and that took about ten years. or so it seemed) The Head, The Maxx . . .yeah, things are looking up. :)

They did, but it was only a "cup of coffee" thing, really--a real effort was made in both incarnations to keep them out of Spidey's orbit, and given how utterly apeshit Spider-Woman could be, good thing, I imagine.

I'm having Soul Train flashbacks, now with added Captain America, Diana. It's a curious melange. ;)

He's right, though--but then, there's no real stated explicit reason the Justice League got together either, so . . .yeah. It's tricky, as Marvel can more readily get away with having teams with confused mission statements (or, in the case of the Defenders, explicitly eschewing one) more than DC can. That said, when translating it to another medium, it's hard to invent a reason that cuts through the associated continuity.

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

Of course, the downside to making everything available on DVD is that there just isn't enough damn time: to wit, I've got two seasons of "Gargoyles", three seasons of "Mad Men", two seasons of "Designing Women", Matthew Fox's "Haunted", "American Gothic" and four seasons of "Babylon 5" sitting on my desk, and that's on top of TNG and DS9, and my desire to watch "Avatar: The Last Airbender" again. I may have to disappear for a year or two. :)

And then Brian Bendis unleashed his Jessica Drew Boner into the world, and a star was stillborn...

Now that would be a hilarious way of retraining Cap in the ways of modern America. :)

I think the justification for the League is just "The Pantheon" - the six or seven most well-known and powerful superheroes in the DCU. (Obviously, this doesn't extend to the various sub-Leagues in Detroit or whatnot.) Interestingly, you don't really have that dynamic over at Marvel: who would be considered the top six superheroes? Spider-Man may be the Superman analogue in terms of recognition and popularity among readers, but in terms of power? Not even close. It goes back to that basic difference where the DCU's best heroes have the best powers, whereas for Marvel the best heroes are the best people (granted, this tends to fluctuate as the years go by).

Kazekage said...

Man, I think I'm responsible for a goodly portion on that list, come to think (SPOILER: I recommended "Designing Women." It's deep, y'all) That said, "American Gothic" was a damn good show, and I never got a chance to see all of it. I should catch up myself, I think.

Well, before him she was mentor to Mattie Franklin, so even Bendis boner for all women named Jessica was a step up, believe it or not.

It would also explain why his boots have bell-bottoms!

You could make the argument that the Avengers at its best is the connection between various elements of the Marvel Universe--the mythological stuff (Thor) the science heroes (Iron Man) the Golden Age heroes (Captain America) mutants (Scarlet Witch) and so on. Unfortunately it doesn't tie in as neatly as DC's pantheon does, and it's nowhere near as punchy, so . . .yeah. :)

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

Indeed you are. I don't know whether to thank you or hire an assassin. ;)

I've tried to parse Mattie Franklin's history, as I had no idea there'd even been a third Spider-Woman to begin with, but it veers straight into Magical Goblin Cultists land and that's a red zone for me. :)

Seriously, that and the wingtips on his head have got to go, classic design or no classic design.

It would be a valid approach if they were expressly declared as such - or, for that matter, if they consistently dealt with that range of threats - but for that to work as a standalone project you'd have to spend a significant amount of time establishing all those areas that intersect with each other. Which, in a way, is what the recent Marvel films are doing, setting up each mythology in turn before drawing them all together...

Kazekage said...

Probably both. Just cap me in the skull and speak well of me later. ;)

The answer is, basically "Because John Byrne," that's why. Remember when he was gonna "save" the Spider-Man books? Oh my lord, how we laughed, because we could tell it was wrong-headed from the start, and then they fired him and eventually did exactly what he would have done.

That kind of thinking tends to lead to Nazi eagles in place of "A's," so . . .yeah. ;)

. . .and once again we end up with a situation where the ancillary media are doing comics' jobs far better than comics seem to able to. :)

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

I would, but I can't quite pry myself away from "Gargoyles" at the moment. Who knew Marina Sirtis could channel Ax Crazy so effectively?

And now I'm picturing John Byrne punching the air with a self-satisfied grin, crowing "I WAS RIGHT!" That's never a good thing.

Of course, if you go too far in the other direction you get Morrison's New X-Men designs, which only work if they're worn by a cohesive team - I can't quite see the Avengers pulling off a uniform look like that...

I'm convinced the "Avengers" film is going to be the litmus test for this kind of intertextuality - if they can successfully create a shared universe based on films, that's one less unique attribute for comics. Of course, it could easily tank - all you need is one poorly-written, -acted or -directed movie to split the audience between people who want to go for Downey Jr.'s Iron Man and people who won't for, I don't know, the new Thor or some such. We'll see how that goes...

Kazekage said...

It's that episode where she's turned the city to stone and is straight-up murdering people, isn't it? That is raw.

It's a perfectly fine thing to do if the goal is to get me to drink more and continue my lugubrious slide into complete misanthropy. ;)

Well, there was the time they were all wearing bomber jackets with "A's" on them but . . .well, it's best not to think on that one too much, isn't it?

True, but the whole "slow burn to a team-up" thing worked in the DCAU and it was years before they teamed up (and a few years still before they did the Justice League) so it can be done . . .whether they'll do it right we'll just have to see. Selling Thor to the Iron Man audience ought to be downright fascinating.

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

And then some. Seriously, I have a blog post in the making that's all about how a Disney cartoon did an Aesop on guns that actually worked, let characters bleed, acknowledged the words "die" and "murder" as part of the English vocabulary, and did a whole bunch of other things that I never, ever thought they'd have the cojones to do...

I'm pretty sure your liver will protest by popping out through your ribs and going on a murderous rampage. :)

Someone better get mid-'90s Buddy Baker on the line, his wardrobe's been stolen...

Even with the League, though, it wasn't quite that smooth: more than half the cast hadn't been introduced in the DCAU before the pilot and yet, besides Martian Manhunter, everyone knew everyone.

Depends on the angle they're taking with Thor: I imagine they'll lean more towards psuedo-science than Starlin cosmology, if only so their viewers' heads don't explode after twenty minutes.

Kazekage said...

That episode rocked, no least because the episode took pains to show that both of them were in the wrong and played it through the rest of the series (Elisa always--always--locked her gun up after that ep) which is a frankly phenomenal attention to detail.

So long as it hunted the people responsible for driving me to it, I'm fine with that. :) I loved the movie Braindead, after all.

Those damn aliens--always raiding his closet and fiddling with his reality!

And yet . . .it more or less ended up working, didn't it? To the point where you could have episodes that didn't need one of the Seven anchoring them . . .

Of all the things that wouldn't translate from comics, Starlin anything is right at the top of the list. Much as I love Starlin's Marvel stuff . . .maaaaan . . .you ain't getting that on screen any time soon.

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

They were very good with continuity: I loved that every Gargoyle had a "nemesis" that sprang out of their first encounters - the Pack used Lexington, and whenever they turned up afterwards he'd be the first to react. Likewise with Brooklyn and Demona. The writers did an excellent job of keeping things consistent.

Was that the one with the reverse-birth at the end?

Good thing he's got those E-Meters on loan from Tom Cruise. :)

Actually, that's why I dropped JLU almost immediately after the relaunch; they'd spent two seasons building up these seven characters, and suddenly you had thirty Leaguers running around, thrown into done-in-one episodes without any introduction or character development. You can get away with that if you're doing Green Arrow or Zatanna, not so much Bwana Beast.

Indeed. I mean, I'm trying to picture someone pitching Infinity Gauntlet to Avi Arad in ten words or less. In a way that doesn't sound like the opening to a Moby song...

Kazekage said...

And their adversaries changed, too--eventually the Pack falls apart with the axe-crazy ones going their own way and others going straight, Xanatos graduating from "nemesis" to uneasy ally . . .the character development in the show was just amazing.

Yep. I keep wondering if I should inflict that movie or Meet the Feebles on people who love the Lord of the Rings movies? The resultant head a-splode would be quite a thing.

I wonder who's harder on a couch--Tom Cruise or Rick James?

Well, some episodes with the big sevel were just daibolical (the first season of Ultimited has a terrible hit-to-miss ratio) but ultimately they cultivated enough b-listers that could support an episode (Huntress, Black Canary, GA, Question) Also, I submit the episodes featuring the Suicide Squad, the end of the Cadmus Arc, and the finale are just tremendous episodes. So cherry-pick your way through 'em sometime. Might be good.

Oh, the pitch is easy enough: "Thanos wants to kill off half the universe and no one may be able to stop him." It's when you try to explain it in finer detail the wheels come off the wagon. That said, the scene with Captain America defying Thanos would make an awesome cap to a trailer, wouldn't it?

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

The best part, though, was that the new villains were just as effective and compelling as their predecessors: sure, Macbeth gives up, Xanatos makes peace with them, Demona and Thailog disappear... and just when you think the fighting's over, Oberon and the Canmore Hunters make their debuts, and they're every bit as interesting. :)

Well, if you're going for flat-out trauma, I'd say "King Kong". Unless the theme is "Sweatin' to the Oldies" in which case I'd go with "Meet the Feebles". Muppets getting raped? You'll be scraping brain matter off the ceiling for weeks!

Definitely Rick James; I think old Father Hubbard has commandments forbidding dirty boots on couch cushions. :)

What'd be missing, at least for me, would be the character development - which is really the thing that kept me coming back to the DCAU, because I'm not inherently a fan of the Big Seven, but when they did that Thanagarian finale that was all about Hawkgirl? Even though they'd never even mentioned Hawkgirl's backstory before? It worked. I think part of the problem's also that they cut the episode length down from forty to twenty minutes; realistically speaking, there's little you could do with a cast of dozens in that time frame...

Sure, but what would they do for Adam Warlock? :) Also, now that Tony Jay's gone, I can't think of anyone who could do Thanos justice. :(

Kazekage said...

Well, Thailog was apparently always supposed to come back and cause trouble, and there were the now-three Coldstone robots . . .so yeah. Inevitably they managed to spawn other enemies. The notion that actions had some consequences really was a grown-up notion, I thought.

Well, "King Kong" usually inspired boredom in me, but oh lordy Feebles is like a fever dream, isn't it? Cannibalism, drug use, mass murder, rape, and someone drives a car through someone else's digestive tract. :)

You dice with death when you leave a "unity" shaped bruise in someone's head. ;)

True, and I kinda felt bad that the fallout from "Starcrossed" didn't get more time for explanation, but that was one of the tradeoffs you make, I suppose. However . . .when they get it right, they get it right.

Hmm . . .I don't know. It's a tricky proposition especially when you consider that the solution to the whole Gauntlet thing requires a lot of convoluted jiggery pokery that doesn't necessarily jibe with a Big Action Climax. So it may not be all that workable at all.

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

Even knowing that, though, I think I prefer the notion that Demona kills Thailog at the end of "The Reckoning" - he threatened her daughter, after all.

And now I want you to imagine Peter Jackson remaking "Fraggle Rock". I'll wait until the body-wracking shudders pass. :)

Sure, but it's not like Cruise has to worry about brain damage - who knows, a few punches to the cranium might sort him out!

Maybe. It was just too much of a sea change for me. Still, I've got fond memories of BTAS and JL, and those few episodes of the Superman series that broke convention - anything involving Darkseid, really, especially that time he kills a police officer in front of Superman and the entire city, and gets away with it. Very brave.

Which is really the problem with any Starlin story, isn't it? He tends to rely on plot beats and resolutions that only make sense in a "cosmic" context - it just barely translates into the superhero genre, forget about a 120-minute film.

Kazekage said...

Considering where he ended up, and not being very satisfied with the SLG comics that followed . . .maybe it was for the best all 'round.

Hmm . . .Peter Jackson unleashing his madness on Jim Henson's version of Das Kapital? I might actually be up for that . . .

Y'know, I knew he'd find a way to piss away the goodwill he got from with with Tropic Thunder I just knew. ;)

And the end of that series, wherien Superman goes bad and nearly kills Darkseid . . .that was pretty . . .unusual for that show.

Well, his earlier stories were a bit more personal and philosophical and didn't revolve around so much comic hoo-ha until the climax of the story (I will do a write-up about how Adam Warlock prevented himself from turning evil in the past by killing himself in the future just as soon as I can think about it without my brain exploding)and were pretty self-contained, but . . .a movie of it? When movie people decided that Galactus would work better as a big cloud?

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

That's something I ended up saying quite often towards the tail end of the series - not the best ending these characters could've had, but if I had to choose between that and something vastly inferior, I'd be okay with the former.

Well, there's a live-action Smurfs movie coming up, I imagine that'll test your resolve. :)

Supposedly he's in talks to do a movie featuring that character. This is probably a better fit for him...

The best part was that they carried it into "Justice League" afterwards - the second Darkseid turns up at the Watchtower, Superman goes berserk and attacks him. Points for consistency. :)

Good point: even if the source material could be rewritten into a reasonably entertaining two-hour story, who could possibly be trusted to do it justice? Not the creators of the "Jonah Hex" or "Ghost Rider" films, that's for sure...

Kazekage said...

Yeah, there is wisdom sometimes in quitting while you're mostly ahead, I think.

If they do the "purple Smurf" episode and it turns into tiny, blue Dawn of the Dead, I might actually be up for that, too. :)

I admit it--I lol'd. Making fun of Tom Cruise never gets old.

Yeah, it's amazing just how long the show was willing to pull on continuity threads like that, wasn't it?

I don't know--it'd have to be someone on the right wavelength, because it's really kinda art-film territory with all the weird business that comprises the Adam Warlock thing. Never mind you can't really make it open-ended because the poignancy of the story comes from there being a set "end point."

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

Well, that's the cautionary tale behind Seasonal Rot and Jumping the Shark, isn't it? Although, come to think of it, I suppose the trend shift towards Myth Arcs was an attempt to prevent that - if you're really only telling one story with a clear beginning, middle and end, there's less margin for error. Of course, that strategy only works if a) you know the ending, b) you know how to get to the ending, and c) you don't let fandom derail the plot.

Seeing as how Hank Azaria's Gargamel looks like the stuff of George Romero's nightmares, that might actually happen. :)

Isn't that odd, though? The couch incident happened five years ago, you'd think it would've run its course by now. But no, still funny. :)

It was probably a lot easier for them since it was largely the same creative team moving from series to series; I honestly can't think of any other "cluster" of related series that maintained that level of creative consistency. And, to their credit, they never got so wrapped up in their own continuity that they repeated the mistakes of the original stories: no Crisis needed, thank you very much!

I'm having a hard time imagining Marvel trying to market an Adam Warlock movie. If Spider-Man can only sell about 50K comics a month, how many readers could the modern-day cosmic genre have?

Kazekage said...

Yeah, and there's no 100% good way to dodge all those things--even in the most durable perpetual story engine people are going to get tired of the same old same old, but they may not also stick around all the way through the Myth Arc so . . .yeah.

Man. Don't even get me started on the advisability of a Smurfs movie in two thousand goddamned ten. Seriously--it makes as much sense as remaking something like V. OH WAIT . . .

Every few years or so, you can count on Tom Cruise to do something stupid to keep us joke-tellers in business. He's been slowly imploding like this for nigh on twenty years now in ways large and small. :)

Very true! And they never lost sign of the main goal of the show--superheroes, doing cool shit. And yet the people who make the comics are unable or unwilling to attempt this . . .

Admittedly, not many. Although, post-Annihilation there seems to be a die-hard core of readers for that stuff . . .

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

One way you could deal with that is the approach Rob Thomas took with "Veronica Mars": there's a season-long mystery, with each episode providing a clue, but every episode also has a self-contained B-plot that was thematically (or not at all) linked to the Myth Arc. It works because your audience becomes invested in the lesser storylines without getting distracted from the slow build to the finale.

There doesn't seem to be much sentient thought behind this whole remaking trend, does there?

Now all we need to do is get him and Robert Pattinson to do a movie together. We'll laugh and laugh and laugh. :)

Well, my take on that is that Timm and Dini had the benefit of hindsight: it's probably a lot easier to avoid mistakes when you have a very long, very ugly and ridiculously complicated precursor to compare to. Which isn't to say they didn't make mistakes at all: I still resent the retcon of Terry McGuinness as a Bruce Wayne clone, if only because the whole point of "Batman Beyond" was that Terry wasn't like Bruce at all. It'd be like making Miguel O'Hara a distant descendant of Peter Parker: the implication is that other people can't become part of the legacy unless it's in the blood, and that's such a fanboy perspective IMO...

I have to admit that the continual presence of a cosmic fanbase surprises me, and yet there they are every month, buying Guardians of the Galaxy and Nova and such. I actually tried Annihilation a while back - didn't speak to me at all. Not my cup of tea, I suppose.

Kazekage said...

That's true--the new Doctor Who uses pretty much the same format for its series (though the last one used it to a much higher degree) and it gives things a nice thematic unity that incidentally makes the DVD sets feel more complete as well.

Only "we can wring some money out of this and don't have to do much," really.

Only if it's a snuff film. ;)

I hate that retcon with the fire of a thousand thousand suns, and for that very reason, actually--Return of the Joker hinges distinctly on the fact that Terry isn't Bruce, for instance. Even worse, the logic behind it is retarded in the extreme. "The world needs a Batman, so we'll clone him and kill his parents and he'll be Batman." DUMB.

I've tried them too and not really found them to be my thing. I think I just preferred it when Starlin did them. On the other hand, they're selling way more than they did when Starlin did them, so maybe I'm just not the target audience anymore.

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

Of course, there's nothing wrong with subverting the Myth Arc without completing it - you spend four years looking for Earth, you finally find it, it's a nuclear wasteland and you don't know what to do next. Fair enough... provided you actually have a new status quo that's as good, or better, than the one you've tossed aside. That's the tricky part, and it's where most writers making a bid to buck the status quo fall short.

Of course, in a fair and just world, they'd be Waterworld-class failures... but somehow they're just profitable enough to keep this ridiculous trend going.

We should be so lucky. :)

I don't know what bothers me more about that retcon: the implication that a superhero's genesis is so formulaic you can actually plan it years in advance, or the fact that the fanboys win out at the end - whatever Terry had been, and could have been, his story ends by literally making him a carbon copy of his predecessor, down to the DNA. It ends up being Bruce Wayne In The Future.

It does seem to have found a very solid fanbase - to be honest, I can see the appeal of entire sagas that take place outside the context of whatever nonsense crossover is going on at any given time on Marvel-Earth...

Kazekage said...

But you have to replace it with something. I'm a big believer in the theory that the writer-reader contract requires the writer to provide some sort of cathartic moment to justify the reader's engagement in the story, so subverted or not, one somehow has to put the period on the end of the sentence. :)

I try not to get all grumpy and cynical with and see these as harbingers of the decline and fall of all that is good but somedays I succeed more than others. :)

It bothers me because if exactly that--one of the reasons I liked Batman Beyond was that they took great pains to recontextualize Batman and put it in a new context that allowed one to go in new directions (and not just do "Two-Face Beyond" or "Catwoman Beyond," etc.) to throw all that out for . . .what? That episode added nothing of consequence (bar one scene, I thought it was generally shit) and really should have been binned.

There you have it, really. It was the one reaction to the standard trend of the Naughties that Marvel didn't immediately pounce on and screw up.

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

Oh, absolutely; even if you're aborting your Myth Arc for a new Myth Arc, you still have to create a definitive moment that says "the past is done and a new story is about to begin". The third season of "Reboot" is a rather effective example - they opened up a secondary Myth Arc without resolving the first, but as soon as #2 ended, the characters were catapulted right back into the first one and picked up those discarded threads again.

The sad thing is, that notion of a contract has become conflated with accusations of "fan entitlement", which is just a convenient way of saying that writers and editors are more concerned with satisfying their own interests in stories than with any particular reactions on the part of the readers. I'm not saying they have to slave themselves to the whims of the audience, but... "Well, Mr. Bendis, very few people share your passion for the Hood. Maybe something a little different now, hmm? No? Well, I had to ask."

I try to maintain the belief that every atrocity has an equal and opposite OMG moment just waiting to happen. Case in point. :)

And they set that up brilliantly from the very beginning: Terry's father is murdered by a billionaire industrialist who runs a major Gotham company and lives a double life - his first archenemy was, for all intents and purposes, a mirror of Bruce Wayne. And when they did dip into the histories, there was always a twist (ie: Talia and Ra's, Superman being controlled by Starro, etc). And, of course, Terry pwns the Joker by laughing at him. :) I understood the desire to give the series a proper finale (even though "Return of the Joker" did the job well enough), but retconning the entire series so that it is, was, and always will be Bruce Wayne as Batman? Total self-sabotage.

Probably because it never made enough money to get on Marvel's radar in the first place - "Annihilation" and its successors seem to be making just enough money to sustain themselves, but not enough that Marvel Marketing Morons latch onto it and pull another Deadpool on it.

Kazekage said...

Yeah. As much as I loathe the never-ending Bendis era of the Avengers, at the very damn least Siege drew a definitive line under Dark Reign and it felt like a stopping point. I didn't think it led anywhere good (Wonder Man turning evil? The Red Hulk and his vanishing 'tache joining the Avengers? Man, I can hardly contain my inability to give a damn) but they get points for concluding, if not actually ending.

True, but it's a bit of the clubhouse mentality--"we're just like you, only better, and you can't come in, so shut your mouth and enjoy what we give you." The only difference between the fanboys creating comics and those consuming them is one pays for the other and vice versa.

This does look intriguing . . .

It's the ROM effect, again--"you stay down here and make your money for us, and so long as you do that, we'll leave you alone and you can do whatever the hell you're doing." :)

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

A good five years overdue, but at least it's over. Mind you, I'm still not sure anything has actually changed, much less changed for the better...

And the outrageous bit is this only works because the consumers let them get away with it. I've said it before, but I honestly can't think of a single business outside comics that openly insults its own customer base on a regular basis.

I'm reminded of the opening credits for "Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children": "To those who loved this world, and knew friendly company therein: this reunion is for you." :)

You'd think that would be more applicable to flagship titles who are already at the top of the sales chart, yet they're usually the ones with editorial fingerprints all over them.

Kazekage said...

Yeah, and thanks to them dragging it out far longer than is endurable, it has all the excitement of a wet fart. And really it hasn't, with the possible exception of the trade dress above the logo.

Well, I think you hit the nail on the head on K-Box's LJ: The only thing's sustaining comics are a combination of exhaustion and inertia. That, plus they're so good at pitting one section of the audience against another in a duel of who is cooler than thou. Or maybe comics fans really are thick, bubbling cauldrons of self-loathing.

Which is sweet of them to say, but those of us who wanted Cloud to be punched into orbit never to be seen again . . .well, our movie will probably never come. ;)

Well, given the fact that the margins have shrunk so much, can you really have a reliable mid-list title anymore? The 80's were like the last golden age for books like that where they were put out and allowed to find their audience. It's what kept Power Man & Iron Fist going for ages . . .

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

I would've been far more inclined to believe the hype about a brighter tomorrow if they hadn't kept the architects of Marvel's Misery Nexus exactly where they've been all this time. Apparently it's okay to fix your mistakes but not take any steps to avoid repeating them.

My guess would be "all of the above" - part of it is definitely social, since there's still a stigma attached to reading superhero comics and it's hard to imagine that doesn't have a cumulative effect over the years. And part of it might be that these readers haven't quite been able to look behind the curtain yet - as far as they're concerned, there really is no difference between Peter David's Hulk and Jeph Loeb's Hulk, it's the same character, so you don't drop the book no matter what because the story's still continuing. And then you have the readers who learned to look at comics as modular narratives; they can pick up or drop books at will because a run, or even a specific arc, constitutes a complete story for them. What came before or after is irrelevant.

Oh, Cloud wasn't so bad in the game itself - it's the memetic mutations afterwards that really got out of hand and turned him into a Linkin Park avatar. Craaaaawling in his skiiiin indeed. :)

Not for any significant length of time - five years ago you only would've heard rumors of cancellation if a book slid under 30K at the absolute least, and series that managed to hover in that range without losing readers over an extended period of time were left alone. But with the increase in prices and the decrease in available talent, it does seem like there's less and less tolerance for new books of any kind that don't crack 100K for the first six months...

Kazekage said...

Yeah. For whatever I thought about the Jemas/Quesada days, they did make good faith efforts to being newer people in (sometimes when it was needed, sometimes not) and they did genuinely give things a different voice. But of course, this is more a cosmetic change than an actual effort to do something new so . . .

Well, as I was telling an older Silver Age fan today, the problem is, in the days when the audience actually turned over, you could get away with doing the same story over and over again because every 5 or 10 years a new audience rotated in and took the place of the people who had enough of that. The problem is now the margins are so small that continuity has become so incestuous that we now have stories about stories that are about correcting other stories that contradicted other stories and oh God I don't know anymore. And because the dwindling audience, the only chance they have is for everything to tie in, somehow, so every book feels pretty much the same no matter what you grab in the whole line. Honestly, there's little reason Nova should be a contender to be the new Man Without Fear, whatever the hell that's supposed to mean.

It wasn't that long ago, but man, FF7 seems to have come out in this more innocent time I can barely recall. I had a Saturn and didn't get a PS1 until the turn of the decade, so I missed the initial FF7 burst.

Well, again, the margin for success is so small. The industry's driven away everyone else except those obsessives who refuse to have a gap in their run for any reason, whether they enjoy it or not. I'm certainly not adding anything to fill the slots on my pull list left by Atlas and Legacy and honestly--I'm not missing it that much and would have told you I was probably one of those die-hards not so very long ago . . .

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

I think their crucial mistake was giving those new voices a bit too much power - carte blanche is all well and good within the your own work, but according to Brevoort, his objections to Bendis' sloppy execution of "Avengers Disassembled" (ie: A Witch Did It) were either overruled or dismissed outright by Quesada. Mind you, I'm not entirely sure I believe his story, but it would explain how we got from there to "Dark Reign"...

Well, he certainly has no fear of the Fashion Police with that awful costume. :) Needless to say, you're absolutely right: at some point (probably when the spectator's market was at its peak) new readers just trickled to a halt - I'm still convinced that's largely because other media have proven just as capable (if not moreso) of telling the same stories; this wasn't always the case, but starting with the FOX and WB cartoons of the early '90s you suddenly had competent alternatives to hunting down single issues or out-of-print TPBs. And the primary characters, from Superman to Spider-Man to the X-Men, have been translated and retranslated to film and TV so many times that by now, much like the comics themselves, you can pick and choose what you want to watch. With all those possibilities, in a medium that's far more dynamic and less prone to author's fiat (because you will never, ever see an animated or live-action Norman Osborn play Hide the Glider with Gwen Stacy), it's no wonder comics are falling to the wayside.

I think FF7, like "Scott Pilgrim", has been gradually poisoned by its own discourse - the fandoms and backlashes have become so intense that the merits of the story get lost in the chaos.

I'm in the same position - it amazes me to look back at some of my older posts bemoaning the cancellation of a series. If "Legacy" went under tomorrow, I'd be sad for a few moments, shrug my shoulders and move on. Even the best books coming out these days are just barely good enough to read, but certainly not enough to get me as invested as I used to be with, say, "Exiles".

Kazekage said...

Then again, editors overruling editors lower on the food chain and shoehorning things in that didn't belong in the books ain't exactly new. Just ask Chris Claremont. :)

Nova: The Human Bucket. And just think--they fridged a herald of Galactus so they could bring him back. Really, you'd think they'd be happy with that--the cartoons actually got the characters into the public consciousness. The ideal thing to do would have been to hold them with comics that were available everywhere and actually spoke to a general audience rather than the specific one. Naturally, this led to X-Men making a lot of cash at the box office and a nation of interested people ended up grabbing issues about the Neo, and much bafflement spread through the land. And there's every chance you could see a live-action "Sin's Past"--how many porn parodies does Vivid have in the pipeline? ;)

I suppose. I never played it. Never played any Final Fantasy game, really, so I probably shouldn't judge. Mathematically you'd figure I'd have played one by accident or something now, wouldn't you?

Yeah, the amount of comics I get now? Primarily back issues, so I can mock them on this here blog. *L* I barely get any new issues.

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

You know, for all that I believe he got exactly what he deserved after foisting "Storm: The Arena" on us? I still feel a slight twinge of sympathy for him. Not enough to read his books, of course, but it can't be easy to work with the current batch of prats in power, given that they fumble storylines even when they're not trying to do so.

Well, Galactus' heralds have always had a rather bizarre relationship with anything that could be remotely considered "fashion" - Terrax had those ridiculous flappy shoulderpads, the Silver Surfer... well, a surfboard? In space? Really? And I have no idea what was going on with the Air Walker. :)

To do that, though, you'd have to repurpose comics as a secondary medium for superhero narratives - ie: placeholder stories until the next TV episode/movie. And that might've worked... but it would have required the humbling of some considerably large egos, and neither of the Big Two have quite reached the Mea Culpa point yet.

As for porn parodies, I'm sure K-Box's shrieks of horror/guilty arousal will be enough of a warning should such an abomination ever see the light of day...

You've probably beaten the statistical average. :) I've been playing them since I was 13, though I'd really only designate a handful as being "required reading" from a storytelling perspective (ie: epic plot, well-rounded characters, etc.) The rest make for nice distractions, but nothing more.

Now that Bob the Harrasser is taking over Vertigo, I just might start looking at possible jumping-off points for "Fables" and "Jack of Fables", and then it'll just be me, Mike Carey and Peter David. And when they're done, to quote Neil Gaiman's Death: "I'll put the chairs on tables, turn out the lights and lock the universe behind me when I leave." :(

Kazekage said...

That's the one with Storm and the hill and all that crap, isn't it? Oh God. Dammit, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, and . . .

Well, Nova was fairly understated by comparison--she was a naked gold chick, and all things being equal, it probably ended up being his most timeless costume design Byrne ever did--he said, damning with faint praise. That said, Air-Walker is the least credible herald of Galactus ever, and that includes stupid, stupid Morg.

I think that's what's happened on one level--hold everything in one kind of stasis and yet they have to pretend the comics still "count" as anything other than test labs for new IPs. So they've actually kinda done it already, but not quite, so we have a middle ground between full-on illusion of change and a kind of maintenance mode.

More shrieks of those would be terrifying to anyone. I'm still recovering from his love of big noses.

I dunno if I'd know where to start at this point--there was always some kind of remove about them for me--I could never get as excited about Final Fantasy as I was about Phantasy Star.

Yeah, there's a lot of paranoia about the future of Vertigo in the air, and I'm not entirely certain it won't weather the storm . . .but the minute they go through another "dead" time when they wait for a big title to break out of the pack, the axe is probably gonna start swinging.

Kazekage said...

That's the one with Storm and the hill and all that crap, isn't it? Oh God. Dammit, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, and . . .

Well, Nova was fairly understated by comparison--she was a naked gold chick, and all things being equal, it probably ended up being his most timeless costume design Byrne ever did--he said, damning with faint praise. That said, Air-Walker is the least credible herald of Galactus ever, and that includes stupid, stupid Morg.

I think that's what's happened on one level--hold everything in one kind of stasis and yet they have to pretend the comics still "count" as anything other than test labs for new IPs. So they've actually kinda done it already, but not quite, so we have a middle ground between full-on illusion of change and a kind of maintenance mode.

More shrieks of those would be terrifying to anyone. I'm still recovering from his love of big noses.

I dunno if I'd know where to start at this point--there was always some kind of remove about them for me--I could never get as excited about Final Fantasy as I was about Phantasy Star.

Yeah, there's a lot of paranoia about the future of Vertigo in the air, and I'm not entirely certain it won't weather the storm . . .but the minute they go through another "dead" time when they wait for a big title to break out of the pack, the axe is probably gonna start swinging.

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

Worse yet, it's the one with Storm and the Japanese arena and Callisto's tentacle arms. They don't make bleaches strong enough to wipe that slate clean.

Of course, that's not the worst of Byrne's offenses when it comes to costume design...

I'm not so sure that's the case, if only because stories like "House of M" and "Civil War" did a rather thorough job of breaking major characters and concepts - not the sort of thing they'd risk if they really saw themselves as beholden to the movies.

Well, they are different creatures: "Phantasy Star" is a saga, so there's a lot of inter-game continuity that builds over time, culminating in PS4. The FF games tend to be self-contained, which makes them much more dense: even the simpler ones like FF4 would take about thirty hours to complete. Of course, this also means a more complex plot and a deeper exploration of the main characters, so it's worth the time. :)

The problem is that they're not pulling in any new talent, just those crime writers who churn out more of the same. And going by recent sales, that tactic clearly isn't working.