Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Is 2008's Batgirl #1 the worst comic ever?

It's definitely a contender. Here are three consecutive pages from the comic, which was written by Adam Beechen, pencilled by J. Calafiore and inked by Mark McKenna (and I hope they're all ashamed of themselves):

I suppose it's technically possible for those pages to be worse. Beechen could have spelled half of those 1,500 words wrong, for example, or Califiore could have drawn the characters without necks, or perhaps even less symmetrically than he already did or something, but man, the "creative" team would really have to put some effort into making worse comics pages than these. Because that? That's about as wrong as you can possibly get a comic book.

If you read through all that dialogue—and I wouldn't recommend it—you'll see the characters aren't even really communicating throughout the second and third pages, they're merely summarizing the events of other comic books in which Batgirl appeared over the course of the last two years, occasionally adding details that happened off-panel by way of explaining the many inconsistencies between those comics and the Batgirl appearances that preceded them. It's the type of information you'd find in an Official Guide to the Marvel Universe entry, or perhaps a very thorough Wikipedia page, only put in dialogue bubbles.

That isn't comics, it's Adam Beechen trying to explain and apologize for a bunch of other shitty comic books, many of which he himself also wrote. It cost $17.94 as part of a six-month payment plan, or $19.99 to get it all at once.

18 comments:

Esteban138 said...

Hands, who thinks Cassandra got a worse deal than Barbara?

David said...

I do.

Even more insulting is that Beechen spent six issues saying "I WAS PERFECTLY FINE WRITING A CHARACTER I'D NEVER READ BEFORE." instead of doing the proper thing and saying his appearances of Cassandra were the Earth 3 version.

Jeremy H said...

That is pretty dreadful. It's clear that everyone in the room is already familiar with all of these events but they just...keep...TALKING!

Is Beechen always this bad?

Pallas said...

This is exactly what critically acclaimed writer Ed Brubaker did in Captain: America Rebirth #1. (Well, ok, maybe it was a guy summarizing to someone who doesn't know what happened, but I think its just as bad. Sit down, buddy of mine, and listen while I read the Wikipedia entry on two years of comics! is still pretty poor writing)

First (and only) comic I've read by him. The fans love it. It references all the older books they bought, by all the other writers!

Actually, its bizarre that you think this is so egregiously bad. This is basically "How to write comics the dc/marvel way 101." It may be that its usually done through Spider-man narrating "What a wacky previous year its been, allow me to to summarize, dear reader!" but this is really no worse. At least the characters are sort of expressing some sort of emotion to each other...

So Batgirl was raised by some villian who only creates teenage girl assasins through brainwashing? Pretty kinky, right? Have any of the characters been like, "that Slade guy sure was one kinky bastard!"

J. L. Bell said...

It looks like this miniseries was an attempt to get the Batgirl character a bigger audience, to bring sales of her stories back to the level they were about five years before, when the Batgirl magazine was outselling Robin.

To do that would require introducing her backstory to readers who'd seen only her most recent appearances. It would also require justifying the second 180° turn in her behavior in recent years.

Sometimes a scripter can catch up readers through an internal monologue, as in Pallas's Spider-Man example. But Cass Cain here is (a) suffering from memory problems, and (b) interesting because she doesn't use language as easily as others. So that method would seem just as out of character as the three guys telling each other what they already know through clenched teeth.

I agree that these three pages are a ham-handed solution to the storytelling challenge. I wonder, however, if three pages was all the scripter had to work with. What other three-page recap would have worked better? Maybe forgoing the attempt to recap within the story, bringing back a third-person narrator, and showing us flashes of the past.

Steven R. Stahl said...

I agree that the dialogue is pretty forced and leaden -- an excellent example of why writers shouldn't refuse to use narration. There was also an excess of details. However, the overall awfulness of the issue depends on its importance in the scheme of things.

I'd argue that SECRET INVASION #8 could be the worst comic ever because nothing in the issue works, from a writing/editing standpoint. The storyline's vonclusion is a case of a crime fiction writer who's managed to cheat and fake his way through seven issues realizing that he has to end the storyline, and has no idea how to do it. Brevoort obviously didn't help matters any.

SRS

Greg said...

Not surprisingly, when Beechen does his own stuff (Hench and Dugout from AiT/Planet Lar come to mind), he's much better at writing.

jason quinones said...

don't blame mark mckenna.

he's just a tracer.

Bill WIlliams said...

Well, it is lacking an, "As you all know..." type of preface to one of those Bendis-embarassingly long statements. Just how is Norman Osborn not added to chew some scenery?

John Foley said...

This feels like a gag. I think the 4th Letter guys made this up and sent it to you as a goof.

Caleb said...

Is Beechen always this bad?

His DC work is usually pretty bad (nothings this bad. I've heard his creator-owned stuff is pretty good, but haven't read any.


It looks like this miniseries was an attempt to get the Batgirl character a bigger audience, to bring sales of her stories back to the level they were about five years before, when the Batgirl magazine was outselling Robin.

If so, they picked probably the worst conceivable creative team to do so.


Sometimes a scripter can catch up readers through an internal monologue, as in Pallas's Spider-Man example. But Cass Cain here is (a) suffering from memory problems, and (b) interesting because she doesn't use language as easily as others. So that method would seem just as out of character as the three guys telling each other what they already know through clenched teeth.

Well, what's weird is Beechen does use Cassandra's narration as well. And it did seem out of character for a while, but during the explain-a-thon a character mentions that Cassandra has been attending ESOL classes and being tutored by Alfred, apparently to explain her ability to narrate.


I wonder, however, if three pages was all the scripter had to work with. What other three-page recap would have worked better?

Well, Beechen had six, 22-page books, so he had a full...132 pages to work with, most of which was devoted to a standard, completely generic story (and which seems at odds with the new Batgirl ongoing, so maybe we'll need another of these things in the future).

It's weird that a lot of the information summarized in the above scene doesn't really come into play in that series at all anyway.


I'd argue that SECRET INVASION #8 could be the worst comic ever because nothing in the issue works, from a writing/editing standpoint.

SI sure had its problems, but at least Bendis wrote it as comics. I thought the worst thing about it was that it was such a whimper after Bendis spent some five years building up to it, and he left so many conflicts unresolved/untouched upon.

Norman said...

God, yes, that issue was dreadful. Never bothered to read the issues afterwards, but apparently the whole mini was very poorly received, and I'm not surprised.

It just baffles me how Beechen managed to mess up every single defining aspect of the character, both in this and his run on Robin. He had Cassandra Cain, who had been explicitly established as being almost entirely unable to read or write, casually send around coded messages in the Navajo language. You have to actively try to screw up that badly.

And Paul O'Brien actually liked this comic. Sometimes I worry about that man...

Nathan said...

Isn't the Eddie Campbell rule of avoiding talking head (not the band) hell, you should have to draw feet at least once a page? Because these three pages violate the Campbell rule so egregiously the man should take the plane overseas and beat the living hell out of these people. And then give them a good master class in composition.

Jeremy H said...

I love that Nightwing and Robin go "We don't know the whole story!" and then proceed to tell the whole story.

Maddy said...

Yes. This.

What boggles my mind is that Beechen has written some awesome episodes of DC-related cartoons. Batman: the Brave and the Bold's "Invasion of the Secret Santas", for example.

And yet any DC comics I've read by him just make my head hurt. In the past year he also wrote a Brave and the Bold (as in the comic) issue that featured Blue Beetle, and he managed to make a 22-page comic feel horrendously long and boring, and he didn't get the hang of Jaime as a character either.

Alistair Kennedy said...

His run on the JLU comic was golden, and most of his Robin run (that wasn't dealing with Cain) was pretty good too. He seems kind of variable.

Torsten Adair said...

http://joeljohnson.com/archives/2006/08/wally_woods_22.html

I avoided most of this character the first time...

I read the recent #1, thought they did a decent job of working in the various aspects, and I didn't need to know the backstory.

So... how do you fix this? Would smaller panels work better, break up the strings of word balloons? Show a recap of each scene that's being talked about, with caption boxes? Or just create one of those classic DC text pages which appeared in the back of anniversary issues? Or write a miniseries just dealing with the craziness?

Comics Omnibus said...

Take a look at Models, Inc #1 - it re-defines "worst comic ever", sets the bar much lower. But yes, Batgirl #1 sucked indeed. However, if forced to choose at gunpoint, I'd re-read it 10 times rather than re-read the first 10 pages of Models, Inc. Just sayin'.