Thursday, June 26, 2008


ON THE SUBJECT OF DAN DIDIO: I don’t really have much to say about the will he/won’t he/should he/shouldn’t he go discussion regarding Dan DiDio that’s been such a hot topic on the comics blogoshpere this past week, but I did sigh so hard my soul slipped out of mouth for a few minutes when I read about DiDio at the state of the industry panel at Charlotte, North Carolina’s Heroes Con.

I’ve read this quote a couple of different places at this point, but the first place I read it was here. Apparently DiDio said, “We have the same characters…there’s only so much you can do with them. You’ve seen it all, you’ve heard it all.”

That is absolutely the most depressing thing I’ve ever heard.

ANOTHER DEPRESSING THING DIDIO SAID: In this con report from Comic Book Resources, writer Brian Carlton quotes DiDio saying, “Let’s just say Bruce Wayne goes away. Who should step into Batman’s shoes?”

According to the coverage, fans gave answers, and DiDio prompted others.

For example, should it be Dick “Nightwing” Grayson who temporarily replaces Batman, just like in “Prodigal”? Should it be Jason “The Robin Who Died Twenty Years Ago But is Now Back and Kinda Evil” Todd, which would give us a darker, more hardcore and violent Batman, like when Jean Paul-Valley was Batman in “Knightquest: The Crusade” and “KnightsEnd?” Or should it be Tim “Robin III” Drake, which would give us a teenage Batman, like in cartoon Batman Beyond?

(Note: Oh hey, Chris Sims already pointed much of that out, huh?)

I’m assuming it will be Tim Drake at this point. Mostly because he’s the only character “Batman R.I.P.” writer Grant Morrison has included in his run on Batman so far. Nightwing has a couple lines in the one issue with a guest artist even worse than Tony Daniel, but that’s it; Jason Todd hasn’t appeared at all. So it would be awfully weird for either of them to suddenly show up and start being Batman (Damian’s probably too little to be a candidate; although a little kid Batman might be kind of cute. Maybe he’ll be Tim Drake’s Robin, proving the “Batman and Robin will never die!” opening line of “Batman R.I.P.”)

This also “fits” with things like Chuck Dixon leaving Robin and Batman and The Outsdiers (“Oh geez Chuck; we’re glad you worked ahead six months and all but did we forget to mention that Tim Drake is going to Batman for the next five months? Would you mind, like rewriting all those issues for us?”) and Robin not appearing in this teaser image from this week’s DC Nation column.

Although just because making Tim Drake temporarily Batman seems like the best of the three bad options offered, and the least unoriginal of the three, that doesn’t make it a good idea. If they’re going to temporarily replace Batman again, I’d prefer they go with someone totally out of left field, like, say, John Henry Irons or Aquaman or Anarky or Dr. John Eagle. At least then it would be interesting.

AND SPEAKING OF SIMS: If anyone in the DC Showcase Presents-making department is, like, scouring comics blogs to gauge interest, I’d totally by the hell out of a Showcase Presents: Sugar and Spike.

ON DIRK DEPPEY ON DAN DIDIO Deppey’s was one of the most fun of the DiDio-related posts I’ve read, in part because of the colorful description of DC’s editorial structure (“Unlike Marvel, where power is relatively centralized under a strong editor in chief, DC’s editorial structure is notoriously Balkanized, with multiple fiefdoms competing for attention and funding, all the while attempting to keep other departments from intruding on their turf”) and his likening to all commentary on the inner workings of DC as “Kremlinology” (DC’s Paul Levitz seemed to like it himself, if his latest Blog@Newsarama contribution is anything to go by).

Deppey did say two things I wanted to address, beyond noting how much I like reading Deppey’s writing.

First, there’s this:

The notion that DiDio’s alleged incompetence has hurt DC assumes that DC was competently run and produced top-quality books before he took over. One has to ask how much evidence is there to support this. Aside from the occasional Ed Brubaker Catwoma, were DC’s books really all that great before DiDio’s reign began? Remember, he became executive editor around the same time that Joe Quesada and Bill Jemas had begun turning a notoriously damaged Marvel Comics around earlier in the decade. While superhero fans who decry the loss of quality in DC’s output shouldn’t be ignored — they are the ones buying the damned things, after all — we shouldn’t discount the notion that the recent improvements over at Marvel also serve as significant factors in the current gap between the two companies, either.

As one of the persons who buys the damned things, I feel qualified to answer this: Yes.

Or, at least, DC was producing more top-quality books, or the quality across the line was generally higher.

This is, of course, merely an opinion, but the quality on almost all of the franchises seems to have plummeted the last few years, whether that’s DiDio’s fault or not.

It was Morrison’s JLA run that got me into the Justice League, but since then I’ve been able to read any Justice League book out of a back issue bin and find something to like in it. Even the valleys between the peaks of the Giffen/DeMatteis and Morrison-followed-by-Waid era always had something to offer (Dan Jurgens’ art, weird-ass characters like Maya, Lionheart, El Diablo, Blue Devil and The Yazz, whatever) and were, at the very least, readable.

I can’t even force myself to read JLoA now. The art isn’t even competent anymore; it’s like you’re a teacher and a kid hands in hand-written homework with penmanship so illegible you can’t make even figure out what he’s trying to say.

DC has always had shitty, line-wide crossovers. But, again, I can pick up even the most maligned of these—Millennium, the New Blood annuals—and find them legible, consistent and at least somewhat limited in scope, so that if even if I’m not enjoying it, I know it will be over soon.

For example, if the The Joker’s Last Laugh or Our Worlds At War sucked (I think they both had their moments, actually), at least they only sucked for a few months, and any damage they did to the line was limited to those months. Countdown sucked for an entire year, and dragged many books down with it—it’s over and it continues to cause massive story damage (and thus, indirectly, sales damage) to books.

The biggest thing that seems to have changed, however, is my confidence with DCU products. I used to believe that someone, somewhere at the company knew enough about the characters and their history that I did; that the things that happened to them made at least a superhero comics amount of sense.

If an always heroic hero were to suddenly turn into a villain, it would be given an in-story explanation I could believe because I wanted to believe it, not just occur at random in an event contrary to everything everyone knew about the character (Compare Hank Hall or Hal Jordan’s turns to the dark side vs. those of Max Lord, Dr. Leslie Thompkins, Captain Atom or Batgirl).

If a dead hero were going to come back to life, it would have to happen within the bounds of what’s been established as semi-plausible in the context of the setting, again keeping in mind that the audience is more than willing to meet you half way as long as you give us something (Compare Oliver Queen and Hal Jordan’s resurrections to that of Jason Todd).

These are just individual, too-specific examples, however; probably waaaayyyy to specific for ayone who doesn’t buy the damned things. Let me put it this way instead. DC no longer seems to have any sort of plan, and it shows in a way that, if they have always been flying by the seat of their pants, I didn’t really start noticing until around the time of Infinite Crisis. And here the examples are legion, and seemingly occurring more and more frequently.

Take the death of Spoiler, killed at the hands of Dr. Leslie Thompkins. And then the story about how she never really died because, come on, Thompkins killing someone? That’s stupid, we’d never do that.

Or Supergirl, a title that changes creative teams every few months.

Or the bizarre relaunch, de-launch, relaunch of The Flash franchise.

Or altering Wonder Woman’s fictional history for a story arc that never really panned out, and the, what, half-dozen writers on her title since it was relaunched?

Or what exactly happened to the Multiverse in Infinite Crisis being changed between the time the seventh issue shipped and the time the series was collected in a trade (and its contents altered).

Or Adam Beechen being announced as the new Teen Titans writer, writing a whole one issue solo, and then surrendering the title to Sean McKeever.

Or Sean McKeever bein announced as the new Birds of Prey writer, doing a whole story arc, and then surrendering the title to Tony Bedard, whose prior “fill-in” run was as long as McKeever’s “ongoing” run.

Or Tony Bedard setting up a run on Batman and the Outsiders, only to be replaced by Chuck Dixon (after Peter Tomasi was announced) who is leaving after his first story arc to be replaced by Frank Tieri.

Seriously, one need only read the comics—or the solicitation copy for them—to realize things are a lot more chaotic than they were one, three or five years ago.

It’s clear that too few writers, artists and editors have been paying attention to what’s been going on in the recent past, but that no one’s particularly paying attention to what’s going on more than a few months away, either, and that disconnect from fictional history (if “continuity” is a bad word) and inability to make any status quo at least feel somewhat semi-permanent is deadly to a shared fictional universe.

And then there’s this from Deppey: “The last DC golden age that I remember was in the mid-to-late 1980s, and a proposed ratings system ended that one by chased the talent away. Have DC’s mainline titles ever really shined since then?”

I know the expression “ the ’90s” is a dirty one when talking comics (and with good reason), but whatever the state of DC’s line in aggregate, the decade gave us Grant Morrison’s JLA run, James Robinson and company’s Starman, Garth Ennis and John McCrea’s Hitman, high-quality DCU books like Tom Peyer and Rags Morales’ Hourman, John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake’s The Spectre, hell even Martian Manhunter, Resurrection Man, Chronos and much of Impulse were great comics. It was an exceptional decade for the Vertigo imprint, and even WildStorm still had some genuine hits—creative and commercial—at the time.

Now, I didn’t pay much—okay, any—attention to sales back then, but I know a lot of the DCU books must not have found audiences, based on how long they lasted. But a few of those—JLA and Starman—were somewhat commercially successful.

ON STEVEN GRANT ON DAN DIDIO: This is a really good piece, and likely to be the last one on DiDio for a while. I think/hope.

ON WHY NO ONE WOULD WANT DAN DIDIO'S JOB ANYWAY: In the aforementioned DC Nation column for this week, DiDio has to pretend that he actually likes and is excited about shit like this:
If that isn't the hardest job in the whole history of the world, I don't know what is.

I WAS WRONG AND MARVEL WAS RIGHT: In discussing Marvel’s upcoming “monkey variant” covers on some of their books last week, I kinda made fun of the idea that the company assumed any kind of variant—zombie, Skurll, monkey—would be worthwhile.

Well, let me take my mild derision back. See, no one told me the monkey variants were going to be awesome (There’s a slideshow here, which I heard about here).

I hope these are the normal sort of 50/50 variant rather than one of those order 10-get-1 sorts of variants, as the former sell for cover price at my shop while the latter are usually prohibitively expensive. Because I might really want to get some of these, even from books I don’t normally read (Daredevil, Punisher: War Journal).

Except the Cable one. Man, even turning him into a gorilla can’t make Cable look cool.

I sincerely believe: Bear variants and hobo variants would be even better than monkey, Skrull or zombie variants. And Marvel won’t be able to prove me wrong unless they go ahead and make bear variants and hobo variants. So get cracking, guys.


Jayunderscorezero said...

"If they’re going to temporarily replace Batman again, I’d prefer they go with someone totally out of left field, like, say, John Henry Irons or Aquaman or Anarky or Dr. John Eagle."

Alternatively, why not go with all four being Batman at once, "Reign of the Supermen"-style! I for one would love to see Anarky-as-Batman duke it out with Aquaman-as-Batman.

Also: that ape-variant SMLMJ cover? Coolest. Thing. Ever.

JohnF said...

So you're saying you miss Roy Thomas?
I think Man-of-Bats would make an excellent "regular" Batman. Though he would have a much redder chin.

Anonymous said...

Nothing, I repeat NOTHING is better than monkeys, dude.

Certainly not bears and hobos. And you call yourself a comics reader?? ;)

Lois Lane said...

Sugar and Spike? Yesssssss!

Unknown said...

DC seemed to stumble out of the gates with "One Year Later" and kept stumbling. The releases of collections like the Absolute Sandman, the Starman Omnibus, Giffen/Maguire's JLI and Morrison's JLA seem to scream "See! We can put out quality shit, just not lately."

There are some gems out there - Blue Beetle and JSA keep me coming back regularly, but nothing really comparable to Captain America, Iron Fist, The Intiative, any of the Matt Fraction, Van Liente or Jeff Parker written titles. Ultimate Spider-Man is one of the most dependably entertaining reads going today. And I'm looking forward to the revitalized and relocated X-Men.

It's just too much to hope DC clears the slate after Final Crisis and gets their house in order.

Leigh Walton said...

God, those monkey covers are incredible. I laughed out loud at like four of them.

Unknown said...

Nothing, I repeat NOTHING is better than monkeys, dude.

Monkeys with jetpacks.

Or monkey-ninjas vs monkey-pirates.

Anonymous said...

Michael Holt, aka Mr. Terrific, could step in. They already have so much in common. Like Sasha Bordeaux. And that'd be a nifty way to address their mutual massive man-crush.

Evie said...

Hamster variants. Give me hamster variants. I want to see a hamster Dr. Doom. DO IT.

Phillip said...

I disagree that that "even turning him into a gorilla can’t make Cable look cool". I think it is possible to make a Cable-Gorilla look cool. I think another artist, Arthur Adams maybe, could definitely pull that feat off.

Just not Rob-frickin'-Liefeld.

Anonymous said...

Monkeys with jetpacks.