Thursday, June 12, 2008

Links, rambling, etc.

—There were some real bombshells in Grant Morrison’s interview with Newsarama about Final Crisis, and he seemed awfully candid about Countdown To Final Crisis being something that was not only unconnected to his Final Crisis, but something he’d apparently prefer his readers ignore.

Of course, DC creators talking shit on Countdown is nothing new. Geoff Johns took umbrage with the portrayal of The Rogues doing drugs on Newsarama, Greg Rucka wasn’t thrilled to see The Question II pop up in its pages, editor Mike Carlin gave weekly “I don’t even want to talk about this shitty comic I’m editing” interviews with ‘rama, and Dan DiDido gave several interviews in which he essentially said “Mistakes were made.”

Morrison’s defensiveness is perhaps understandable, but his ire towards fans and online commentators seems wildly misplaced. It’s not our fault DC decided to do a 51-part weekly prequel to the series they commissioned Morrison to do and then didn’t have them line up properly.

It was a terrible, terrible idea that lead to some of the worst comics DC has ever published and, I believe, severely hurt their direct market standing in general (Countdown, while technically a financial success for the company, was accompanied by a drift downwards across their line, particularly in books tying into Countdown).

Short of unmaking the decision to publish a weekly prequel series to Final Crisis, the only thing DC could have done to correct course was to have Morrison and J.G. Jones rework parts of Final Crisis to match-up with Countdown (Although it’s worth noting some of the confusing bits in FC didn’t even match up to Morrison’s own comics featuring the characters, particularly the bit where Superman talks to the League like they don’t remember when New Gods used to sit next to them at the table).

It probably would have been a better choice than to do nothing, although I imagine irritating Morrison is the last thing anyone at DC wants to do, since the only books they have that are doing well are the ones by Morrison and the ones by Geoff Johns.

Of course, by doing nothing, it hurts both Countdown and Final Crisis, at least for those who read both or (like me) at least paid attention to both.

Morrison’s continuity’s-not-everything argument in the interview seems pretty preposterous given the project he’s working on—a story about DC continuity.

Now, it’s about more than tat as well, but a lot of DC writers, and none more so than Morrison, equate DC’s publishing history with its fictional history; the shared setting of the superhero line with the fictional DC Universe, a universe within our own universe. If it’s not at all important, why has Morrison devoted his comics writing career to exploring the nature of reality and the way fictional realities intersect with “real” reality?

Or, more pertinent to Final Crisis, why are you writing the supposed “third act” to a trilogy of Crisis comics whose raison d’etre was merely to make some sense out of the continuity of Gardner Fox and Roy Thomas comics from decades ago?

What was most depressing about the interview, aside from the sympathetic depression I felt for anyone who blew $152.49 on Countdown to Final Crisis solely because they thought it might be pertinent to Final Crisis, is that Morrison makes it sound like DC editorial forced large portions of the plot of Countdown upon Paul Dini and his fellow writers.

If they weren’t writing about the New Gods and the Monitors, but were allowed to just do whatever they wanted, might Countdown have been different? What if Dini was just given a greenlight to do whatever the fuck he wanted, and we got a weekly about his favorite characters, another year-in-the-life-of-the-DCU series like 52, only with Dini’s favorite characters (Harley, Poison Ivy, Zatanna) and perhaps those that his fellow writers knew best (Hawkman, Jonah Hex, the new Freedom Fighters, the Birds of Prey, the Teen Titans)?

Countdown had other problems, of course, including exceptionally poor editing (even for continuity in the original, film sense of the word; like things looking completely different from page to page, or scenes contracting each other rather than the comic book sense of the word), writers and editors who seemed unfamiliar with the characters they were working on and the attempts to tie in to other just as ill-considered comics (Amazons Attack, the death of the Bart Allen Flash, Salvation Run, etc).

After reading Morrison’s interview, now I’m beginning to wonder if maybe Paul Dini “show-running” a bunch of competent writers might have been a formula for a decent weekly comic series after all, if he himself wasn’t being show-run by un-credited “writers.”

—Did you hear the news about Chuck Dixon? According to a brief post on his message board he is “no longer employed by DC Comics in any capacity.”

Newsarama and Comic Book Resources both tried to cover the (almost-)story (here and here), but since neither DC nor Dixon wanted to talk with either of them about it, there’s nothing to report beyond here’s who Dixon is and what he’s done and is doing for the company; he declined to comment; DC declined to comment as well.

Remember a while back when the state of comics journalism was a topic of conversation in the comics blogoshpere for a week or two? Well, here’s a nice illustration of how impossible it is to cover certain personnel aspects when neither the company nor the creator is inclined to talk. There are only two sources, and if both say no comment, well, what are you going to do?

It can be frustrating for comics fans because so many of us care so much about things like who’s writing which characters, and there’s no shortage of information about these sorts of things when the companies and creators want to sell the books, but when there’s a chance of someone looking bad, they (understandably) clam up.

And why shouldn’t they? Of what benefit is it to DC to slag off Dixon? Or for Dixon to slag off DC? There are only so many comics companies, and for the types of stories Dixon has made a career writing, DC is about 50% of his possible employers. It doesn’t do him any good to aggravate them in anyway, even if this break is due to something he did to aggravate them. (That is, there are so few bridges in the industry—two, really, if you’re just talking big budget, direct market super-comics—that not only is it easy to see why someone would be careful about burning bridges, but why they wouldn’t even want to carry matches).

Of course, as media consumers, we’re conditioned to think we deserve answers; that we have a right to know. Certainly we do when it comes to government, and if it has to do with celebrities from film, music or sports, there’s enough popular demand to motivate some media to do whatever it takes to satiate the public’s curiosity.

But if this one guy is no longer writing the two comic books that stores in North America were only ordering somewhere around 60K copies of (combined)? It’s not like Newsarama’s going to pay to have someone go through Dixon’s garbage, or CBR’s going to get a mole hired as a cleaning guy at DC HQ to get to the bottom of it.

I’ve gotta say, as a person who was reading both of Chuck Dixon’s current DCU projects (and someone who’s read about eleventy-hundred Dixon-written books in my life), it struck me as bad news. I know I’m often quite dismissive of Dixon’s work in my weekly reviews of it, but if he’s not exactly a great super-comic scripter, he’s not bad either, and rock-solid reliable. I may hardly ever love one of his comics, but I never hate them either.

I’m sure I’ll probably drop both Batman and The Outsiders and Robin in the near future, depending on the creative teams (Joe Kelly and Norm Breyfogle on BATO and John Rogers and Dean Trippe on Robin would get me to stick around, though). I was already on the fence with both, and was probably going to drop the latter now that the Spoiler resurrection arc was over anyway.

I honestly can’t even imagine what could have caused the break though. Was DC so disappointed with Dixon’s inability to sell huge quantities of those books? Because it’s not like they don’t have, like, a decade of sales data to reflect Dixon’s usual performance and the size of his fan base.

Was it a creative disagreement? It’s hard to imagine, as Dixon seems like such a professional, go-with-the-flow guy. He survived all those Bat-crossovers of the ‘90s, he wrote gay characters Midnighter (in Midnighter and Grifter) and Grace and Thunder (in Batman and The Outsiders) after making public his discomfort with gay characters in super-comics (but let’s not get back into that; suffice it to say I disagree with Dixon on that point, and found his statements disappointing and somewhat hypocritical), he did yeoman’s work on Batman and The Outsiders, coming in as the third writer announced before the first issue hit stands and dealing with a tumultuous cast of characters that changed every month depending on what was going on in other books, and he had the somewhat thankless task of trying to un-write that dumb-ass “War Games”/”War Crimes” storyline regarding The Spoiler and Leslie Thompkins in Robin.

So if it was something on Dixon’s end, it’s hard to imagine what it could be—did DC give him an ultimatum to either write a story where Tim Drake gay marries Connor Hawke or lose all his books?

Like everyone else who reads Dixon’s DC books, I’m curious and would really like to know. But I understand that doesn’t mean anyone’s ever actually going to tell me.

Tom Spurgeon had a pretty funny reaction to news that the American Medical Association Alliance is pissed at The Incredible Hulk for having a cigar in General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross’ mouth: “any kid that wants to start smoking because he or she identifies with Thunderbolt Ross in the new Hulk movie has a lot more to worry about than cancer.”

You know, I just walked out of the screening less than 48 hours ago, and I don’t recall William Hurt actually smoking the cigar at any point, although I do remember it being in his mouth. Certainly he didn’t do anything cool with it, like blow smoke rings or posing in front of exploding buildings with it after destroying a giant robot.

Do kids really start smoking cigars because they see characters in movies smoking cigars? Even mustachioed old military men villain characters? Perhaps the AMA has research asserting that they do. I find it hard to believe that there’s really any more danger that impressionable 13-year-olds will start smoking cigars after seeing this than that they’ll grow moustaches or join the army.

A greater concern is character Bruce Banner’s reckless behavior. Not only is he infinitely more likeable than Ross—he’s smart, good-looking, knows martial arts and makes out with Liv Tyler—but he engages in even riskier behavior than cigar-chomping. Dude subjects himself to massive amounts radiation; surely that poses a greater risk of cancer than smoking, doesn’t it?

—The new Punisher movie doesn’t look very good based on that preview, but then, Punisher movies in general always seem redundant to me, since he’s essentially a Marvel Universe version of a movie vigilante.

The only Punisher movie I would really be excited to see would be a panel-for-panel adaptation of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s The Punisher: Welcome Back, Frank.

That, or maybe Punisher 2099, which Mike Sterling recently drew attention to on his site.

—A couple weeks ago, I posted about a Brave and The Bold team-up between Batman and Black Canary, during which Batman admitted to himself that he like-liked Black Canary, and she accused him of being “jealous! Jealous!” of the crooked Earth-1 doppelganger of her dead Earth-2 husband.

I had wondered why two single superheroes with so much in common and such obvious attraction to one another ever hooked up.

Well, it turns out that they did lock lips before, and Dorian Wright of fame has the scans to prove it. He then follows it up with a post detailing the end of their almost-romance.

No wonder Batman didn’t attend their wedding.

—While I’m linking to comics bloggers having fun with old comics featuring our favorite Justice Leaguers, make sure you spend some time at Rachelel Goguen’s Living Between Wednesdays this week. It’s Martian Manhunter week there, and it’s every bit as awesome as it sounds.

—I’ll be doing a themed week here at EDILW starting on Sunday. Although it won’t feature the World’s Greatest Martian Detective; it’ll feature this guy.

—I’m hoping to devote July and August to another round of The Justice League Ice Cream Social, covering everyone who’s ever been a Justice Leaguer (whom I didn’t cover last year).

If you weren’t reading last year, it’s basically a poor daily sketch of a Justice Leaguer eating his or her favorite frozen treat, usually accompanied by some lame attempt of humor or other. I have no idea why I started decided to do it, but people seemed to dig it, and it was fun to do, and hey, I can’t let Bloodwynd, Yazz, Snapper Carr and Aztek go un-included.

If you have any non-Justice League DC heroes you’d especially like to see, let me know; I did the math a while ago, and I think there will be some days of the summer left over after I do all of the official roster.

Then maybe I’ll shoot for an Avengers Ice Cream Social in 2009. Nothing like planning ahead!

—I just read prose book Bears: A Brief History by Bernd Brunner, and it was fantastic. Extremely informative, both wide-ranging and thorough, remarkably short, very well-illustrated, accessible to those of us who know next to nothing about zoology and beautifully designed. If you have any interest at all in bears—or just think that old timey cover of a dude punching a bear looks cool—I’d highly recommend this book. By far the best brief history of bears I’ve ever read.

Yes, it is the only brief history of bears I’ve ever read. But still…!

—Finally, during Sunday’s way-too-long examination of JLA: The Greatest Stories Ever Told, I posted this charming image of a group of Justice Leaguers all joining hands in a circle and agreeing that they should all reveal their secret identities to one another:

On closer examination, I noticed that The Atom apparently abstained:

Not only is he not holding hands with his fellow heroes—and wouldn’t that image have been even more darling with a tiny, little Atom dangling between the hands of two of his full-size fellows?—but he doesn’t say “Agreed!” either. There are only six tails on that bubble, but seven super heroes. Unless Hal Jordan is the one who didn’t say “Agreed!,” since he prompted the response by asking the question…?

At any rate, it was his wife who would go ahead and murder The Elongated Man’s wife in Identity Crisis, proving The Atom was right that perhaps it was better they keep their secret IDs to themselves after all.


Anonymous said...

- The best part of the AMA complaint about the Incredible Hulk? This part here "Shame on 'The Incredible Hulk' for unnecessarily adding smoking to a sequel that would have been just as exciting and believable without it," said Dianne Fenyk, President of the Alliance. Aren't these people doctors?

I believe the stated impetus for your ice cream social series was a terrible Wonder Woman comic featuring Diana getting upset that some theme park had changed the Wonder Woman-flavored milkshake to a Black Canary-flavored milkshake. This sparked a post wondering what the hell either of those could possible taste like, and much pondering over superhero ice cream preferences.

JohnF said...

I wonder...with all of the ridiculous reboots and retcons that we've been subjected to in the past couple years, were mullet-y Orion and Lightray even in the Justice League? Has that been written out? What about Orion and Big Barda in the JLA? That was a Grant Morrison thing, I can't imagine he would have given that up willingly.

Stupid reboots.

snell said...

Perhaps most frustrating, for me at least, was Grant Morrison's apparent arrognace in the interview. He says he started writing Final Crisis #1 in "in early 2006," and later declares, "Obviously, I would have preferred it if the New Gods hadn’t been spotlighted at all, let alone quite so intensively before I got a chance to bring them back..."

So, he really expected that no one do any New Gods stories for two whole years?!? The whole DC Universe should be on hold for him?

And as to having no ability to change anything, really? He had no clue that a series titled Death of the New Gods might, just might, feature, you know, some deaths amongst the New Gods? The ten months since issue 1 of that series was published, it was completely impossible to alter a word ballon or caption somewhere in Final Crisis #1, or heaven forbid, redraw a panel?

Countdown may have been excrement, and DoNG uninspiring, but Morrison seems awfully cavalier about repsecting the work of others. Anything another writer does is apocryphal, while his scripts are unchangable holy writ? Not a pleasant vibe...

Anonymous said...

I think it's Hal that doesn't say "Agreed." As you can clearly see, Superman is using his little-referenced "Super-Coloring-My-Speech" power to turn the word balloon yellow so that the agreement will be binding on Hal (as his ring didn't protect him from yellow back then).

SallyP said...

Justice League Ice Cream Social...Yay! I LOVED those!

Atom is lucky that all the Justice League guys stand with their legs so far apart, or he'd get squished.

If Batman is still carrying a tiny torch for Black Canary, no WONDER he was so eager to perform the autopsy on Ollie's stiffening corpse.

Anonymous said...

Your post reminded me of the more insidous aspects of Identity Crisis- that all of it never would have happened if Ray Palmer had just liked to Jean Loring about his identity. That Ralph had kept Sue out of the superhero aspects of his life.

That communicating with a woman about your intimate secrets is dangerous.

No fan of Brad Meltzer's work has the right ever to complain about nerdy fans who can't get laid.

Anonymous said...

If you have any non-Justice League DC heroes you’d especially like to see, let me know

The Red Bee! (And not the current female one!)

Thad said...

"anyone who blew $152.49 on Countdown to Final Crisis solely because they thought it might be pertinent to Final Crisis"

Uh, I kind of doubt anyone bought all of Countdown to Final Crisis just because it was a Final Crisis tie-in, given that Countdown was months along before Final Crisis was even announced.

Anyway. I'm still kicking myself for hanging on as far as the halfway point before deciding to dump the damn thing, and I did that because I'd never read a bad Dini story before. (That and the Jimmy Olsen and Trickster/Piper stuff was pretty good, I thought.) I think you're right; he was hamstrung.

Trinity, on the other hand, seems promising so far, but has plenty of time to go off the rails. We'll see.

Anonymous said...

I really liked Morrison's cavalier attitude in that interview, especially as towards the online complainers. It wasn't his fault that Countdown couldn't manage to match up to the beginning of Final Crisis, and DC definitely could have done more to curb the use--no, abuse--of the New Gods in the last couple of years. It's not like he was asking anyone to lay off Superman or anything. Finally, I get the feeling GM might be leaving DC (or at least the DCU) shortly after his current commitments are wrapped up (hopefully only the DCU--I'd love to see him do another Vertigo series).

thoapsl said...

Cheers for drawing attention to the book about Bears – that's got to be one of the greatest non-fiction book covers I've seen in ages. I'm definitely going to have to hunt down a copy.

Also, re: the JLIce Cream Social – seriously, do Bloodwynd. Can we see Maxima, too?

John Cochrane said...

I kept my hopes up when I was getting Countdown. When I decided to throw in the towel, I was so close to the end I thought, "Might as well say I've gotten two years worth of weekly comics."


Dean Trippe said...

Well if it takes me and John Rogers to save Robin, I guess I'll do my part. ;)

I was sad to hear about the DC/Dixon split as well. I want answers.

I don't mind Morrison's candidness about the uselessness of Countdown in the slightest, though. I feel pretty vindicated for skipping that dredge, and I don't mind pretending I never heard about it for the sake of reading a far better storyline.

Anonymous said...

Jules Feiffer rocks. Can't wait to see the next week's postings!

Since I skipped Countdown and all related series, I don't mind Morrison dismissing them. None of it will effect my reading of FINAL CRISIS, which I'll leaning toward reading after it's collected.

Unknown said...

I had that Jules Feiffer book as a kid. I picked up a real love for the Earth 2 heroes from it.

How about Wildcat and Power Girl? Glad to see there's another ice cream social this year!