Two guys talking about comic books, sports, movies, TV shows and the numerous other pastimes that make us Gentlemen of Leisure.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Thoughts on DC Comics' Recent Big Announcement


For those of you that haven't heard, DC Comics (publisher of comics starring Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern, amongst others) recently announced that in September, they would be canceling all of their existing comics (including, presumably, Action Comics and Detective Comics, two series which have been in continuous publication since the 1930s) and replacing them with fifty-two new comics starting with issue #1, some to be re-launches of existing titles while others will be entirely brand new. Additionally, the new comics will feature DCs existing stable of characters in new or altered costumes designed by superstar artist Jim Lee and feature "updated" origins, and Lee would be providing the regular art for the re-launched Justice League, featuring all of DC's "big guns". Also, it was announced that with the debut of the new comics, DC will launch a new digital comics policy, which will enable readers to download issues of the comics on the same day the print issues hit stands.


It was an announcement that, pardon the cliche, shook the comic book community as questions flew left and right regarding the extent of the re-launch and the details of the digital downloads. Since then, as DC has slowly released more and more information (to date we know the titles and creative teams involved with almost all of the fifty-two titles), all corners of the internet have been buzzing about DC's announcement. For the most part, I intended to stay quiet and let other, better writers discuss the situation (here is an exceptionally good piece on the subject, and I encourage anyone slightly intrigued by this post to read that one) but recognized that, surprisingly (and humbly), some of our readers look to this blog for the bulk of their comic book-related information, so I figured some kind of rundown and reaction was in order.

To me, this chunk of news breaks down into two significant pieces: the "re-launching" of titles and the digital piece (Jim Lee's costume designs are pretty hit or miss, but I have no doubt they'll be replaced with classic looks should this whole thing bomb, and his involvement as the regular artist of one of the re-launched books is a non-story for me; if anyone expects him to turn out more than six issues of a comic on a regular basis, I have some magic beans to sell). With that in mind, let's discuss them one by one, starting with the comics themselves.


This isn't the first time DC has tried something like this. Most notably, in 1986's Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline, DCs sprawling "multiverse" of alternate earths (like Earth-1, where the present day Superman and Batman played, or Earth-2, where time had passed since the debut of Superman and Batman in the late 30s and their children and heirs were now grown heroes) was condensed into one singular Earth, resulting in slightly different origins and backgrounds for certain characters. In the wake of Crisis, DC relaunched a number of their titles with new #1 issues (though numerous titles, including Action and Detective, remained in print and simply began to reflect the new post-Crisis setting).


The changes post-Crisis weren't universal however, and while some characters truly started over fresh (such as Wonder Woman or Superman) other characters remained largely unchanged (Batman was more or less left alone). As a result, there were stories in one comic featuring a neophyte Superman while stories in other comics required the character to come off as more seasoned. Over the course of the next several decades, DC tried to clean-up their line-wide continuity several more times (humorously, in some cases to fix the continuity problems brought on by Crisis itself), but like Crisis, none of those stories went far enough, and continuity remained a slightly muddled hodgepodge of new and old character histories and origins (all of which, of course, got further muddled with each subsequent attempt at "clean-up").


So my first thought after hearing DC's September plans was, "will this be an honest-to-God reboot of continuity, or another half-ass attempt that accomplishes very little of what the re-launch is intended to do?" As more and more details have come out since the initial announcement, it seems clear that this is, at most, yet another half-asss attempt at cleaning up continuity. While DC will invariably use this opportunity to change things they currently don't like about certain characters (or which they believe inhibits the marketability of a character) or restore the childhood status quo of a character one of their writers loves (for example, it looks like the long-paralyzed Barbara Gordon will once again be walking as Batgirl), the event seems to be more of a marketing one than a story-driven one. DC is clearly trying to generate buzz and use this cornucopia of #1 issues to attract new readers (especially the people that turn out in droves for comic book movies but never pick up a comic book).


While there is a part of me that is glad DC isn't rebooting their entire fictional history from scratch (one of the things I enjoy the most about DC's characters is the sense of legacy they have, of one hero passing on his mantle to another, which goes away the instant things start over from the beginning; also, how many times do we need to see Batman and Superman meet "for the first time" before it becomes tedious and boring? Answer: we're long past that point), any story that is primarily driven by marketing concerns rather than creative ones is dubious. Ultimately, we've seen DC try this same thing before (attract new readers by "streamlining" continuity and launching a bunch of new comics without entirely starting over from scratch) and there's nothing here to suggest it will work any better this time.


There is also a downside to re-launching books with a new #1 issue. It provides a great jumping on point for new readers, but it also provides a great jumping off point for existing readers. As anyone who reads this blog regularly knows, I read and buy a shit ton of comics, but over the last several years, I, like many in the comic book community, have begun buying less and less single issues and more trades/graphic novels (that is, bound collections of multiple single issues). More and more stories these days are "written for the trade", and shelling out upwards of $3.99 a month over six months to get a complete story is less attractive than waiting for those issues to be collected (usually within a month or two of the story's completion, sometimes less) and sold for around twenty bucks (or even less via online sources or used bookstores).


I love the single issue comic book (or "floppy") and will continue to buy the monthly issue of Uncanny X-Men for as long as Marvel publishes it, but lately I've taken any opportunity I can to switch from reading a title via the floppy to reading it via the more economical trade. Canceling a title and restarting it is a great opportunity for me to make that switch. That way, I have a complete run of the title in single issues up to its cancellation, then can start my collection fresh with the first trade of the re-launched title, rather than the first issue of it, and the anal-retentive geek in me is happy (and let's be honest, there's a lot of anal-retentive geek in me). Is the number of existing fans who jump ship as a result of this re-launch greater than the number of new fans who are sucked in by the allure of a fresh start? Probably not. But it's another variable in the equation.


Holy crap. I rambled on about that much longer than I intended to (and longer than anybody likely wanted to read). So let's call that good for now, and look at the other part of this announcement (the digital part) in another post.

27 comments:

Dr. Bitz said...

If I were still collecting and reading comics, overall a renumbering wouldn't bother me. But when you have Action Comics and Detective Comics whose numbers are at or around 900, renumbering them is like cutting down a 200-year-old oak tree. It's just kind of sad.

Although, what are the odds that they go back to the original numbering (at least temporarily) once the comic reaches 1,000 issues? We'll all have to buy a copy too because in a few years it'll be worth a fortune!

Teebore said...

@Dr. Bitz: when you have Action Comics and Detective Comics whose numbers are at or around 900, renumbering them is like cutting down a 200-year-old oak tree. It's just kind of sad.

Indeed. Ultimately, what really matters is that the story inside the comic is good, not what number is on the cover, but it's still kinda sad to see these comics with 900+ issues that have been around since the 30s cut down.

(Plus, there's the fact that I have little confidence the contents of the new Detective Comics #4 will be noticeably better than what would have appeared in Detective Comics #904, but whatever...).

Although, what are the odds that they go back to the original numbering (at least temporarily) once the comic reaches 1,000 issues?

Very, very good. Marvel already does it all the time, and I'm sure DC will eventually as well. The better this re-launch goes, the longer they'll wait to restore the original numbering, but I'm sure they'll be there by issue #1000.

All of which means, of course, that unless Marvel screws it up, very soon Uncanny X-Men will be the highest continuously-numbered comic in print (meaning, its run has never been interrupted by a "relaunch with #1/restore original numbering including the relaunch issues" scenario).

Which, as an X-Men fan, is kinda cool...

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

huh. i don't really know what to think about this. If it really is just another half-assery, then there's really no point wondering about it. Also, i haven't read a DC comic in a good 8 years so my opinion doesn't even count.
I'm off to read that link.

Phantomas said...

So I suppose regarding the Uncanny X-men being the highest numbered comic currently running I shouldn't show you this than? (Sorry, I am no good at making links look pretty.)

http://www.bleedingcool.com/2011/06/09/marvel-cancels-uncanny-x-men-comic/

Yeah I agree with the two of you about most of it. I will say though that it has me interested in maybe getting a few DC titles and I haven't bought any DC super hero stuff in several years.

Grant Morrison being on Superman looks to be pretty good. Especially after All Star Superman. A few others looked alright as well but I forget which ones already in the flood of information about it all.

The renumbering is kind of a shame like has been mentioned. However regardless of if they keep the new continuity or go back to the old one I am sure that at some point the original numbering will return.

I have lots of thoughts on the digital aspect of this, which I feel is the more important part of the whole thing, but will hold my tongue for now.

Teebore said...

@Sarah: If it really is just another half-assery, then there's really no point wondering about it.

Yeah, it seems silly, because it's just a number, but the re-numbering of the titles is what's caught my attention the most, simply because it's the only part of this that seems entirely new, in that every title is getting re-launched.

Every thing else, so far at least, seems like yet another iteration of something we've seen before.

@Phantomas: So I suppose regarding the Uncanny X-men being the highest numbered comic currently running I shouldn't show you this than?

Rassle frassle, stupid Marvel, grumble grumble...

*Sigh*

Well, that's that, I suppose. I guess now I know exactly how many issues my complete run of Uncanny will be someday. Now the question is whether I switch to trades for the new titles they spin out of the cancellation or not...

Thanks for the heads up about that, incidentally. Clearly, I am terrible about staying on top of comic book news these days.

I will say though that it has me interested in maybe getting a few DC titles and I haven't bought any DC super hero stuff in several years.

Yeah, there's definitely some new titles I'll be checking out. Morrison's Superman for sure, and Blue Beetle. Maybe even Batgirl (even though I hate the idea of Babs not being Oracle anymore) simply because I enjoy the character so much. Heck, I'll even read Johns' and Lee's Justice League for the three or four issues they manage to last on it, simply because I'm a Justice League aficionado, but in all cases, I'll probably be checking them out via trade (and/or digitally, depending on how that pans out) rather than via floppies, simply because with new #1s I no longer feel compelled to maintain the continuity of the single issue runs.

I have lots of thoughts on the digital aspect of this.

Excellent! I should have a post up about that side of things later this week (if not tomorrow, then Thursday).

Anne said...

i pretty much don't read DC comics. So the annoucement sounded shocking to me. But then your explanation made me remember why i don't read DC- just too many crazy timelines going on- who the hell can keep track.

do you think writers who had all these upcoming storylines worked out are now pissed that they have to 'start over'?

Matt said...

I've never been much of a DC guy. I like John Byrne's Superman and some of the Dan Jurgens stuff that followed it, and I love Batman comics from the 70's -- but otherwise, I've mostly ignored DC over the years (though someday I'd like to read Wolfman & Perez's Teen Titans and the Giffen/DeMatties/Maguire Justice Leage).

(Strangely, though I barely own any DC comics, I love all the Bruce Timm produced cartoons and have full DVD sets of Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited -- and I watched Super Friends religiously as a child and owned all the Super Powers Collection action figures, and I'm surprised how much I'm enjoying the current Young Justice cartoon. I seem to be a DC fan with regards to their verious media, just not their comics -- but that's neither here nor there.)

Anyway, based on the above caveats, my opinions are:

1. Another linewide DC continuity reboot/"fix"... as an outsider, this does not seem particularly special or unusual to me. They do it about once a decade.

2. Barbara Gordon becoming Batgirl again = good. She was Oracle for far too long.

3. If they are rebooting, why are they keeping the four Robins (or however many it is)? That's stupid.

4. I do not like Grant Morrison and I never have.

5. Re-starting Action Comics and Detective Comics when they're fairly close to #1000 is disgraceful.

That is all. For now.

Teebore said...

@Anne: But then your explanation made me remember why i don't read DC- just too many crazy timelines going on- who the hell can keep track.

To be fair, DC's history isn't that much more complicated to keep track of than Marvel's. If a bad story gets bogged down by continuity, that's the fault of the story (and the writer), not the continuity. As with most things, its not an either/or. You can have good stories and bad stories with a complicated history behind them.

do you think writers who had all these upcoming storylines worked out are now pissed that they have to 'start over'?

Well, that's where things get weird. For some writers, definitely, yeah. But, for example, Grant Morrison is in the midst of his "Batman, Inc." storyline (in which Batman essentially franchises out crimefighting and sets up a bunch of Batman-esque heroes around the world), which is the culmination of his several-year run on Batman.

But despite the fact that this re-launch seems to suggest that storyline will soon come to an end (for example, Dick Grayson, who is currently Batman, will return to his Nightwing identity post-re-launch) DC has announced that in 2012 Morrison will complete his Batman epic with a 12 issue series that wraps up "Batman, Inc.".

So apparently not all existing stories are coming to a complete end, or...???

It's just one more example of how this re-launch seems more like the similar half-ass attempts we've seen before and not a true "starting over from scratch" situation.

Which, like I said, doesn't bother me in and of itself, except for the fact that I'm less than confidant it will result in any better stories than what we're getting now and the whole thing is just a marketing ploy.

Matt said...

...Okay, I followed that link in your article, and it reminded me of a few more thoughts:

6. Same-day digital releases is a huge step forward. In the age of the iPad, I'd go so far as to say it's a necessity. But I really think they should cost less than the print versions! I fully admit I don't understand how business works. At all. But I feel like, if you have the comics digitized anyway from putting them together for publication, and you aren't paying a printer to churn out 50,000 copies on paper or whatever, shouldn't the digital version only cost like 99 cents or so? If it did, I'd probably buy it!

7. I like Jim Lee as an artist, but pretty much all of these new costumes look awful. Though I have to admit, as blasphemous as it may be, I kind of like Superman's new "S" shield better than his old one. At least, it looks like it would be easier to draw.

That is all. For now. Again.

Teebore said...

@Matt: someday I'd like to read Wolfman & Perez's Teen Titans and the Giffen/DeMatties/Maguire Justice Leage

I've read a fair share of DC stuff, old and new (though I've always been primarily a Marvel guy) but somehow I've managed to miss both of those for the most part. I've read the first of the recent trade collection of the Giffen/DeMatties/Maguire Justice League (and enjoyed it even if I didn't love it as much as the rest of the internet does) but would really like to read the Titans stuff sometime soon.

I seem to be a DC fan with regards to their verious media, just not their comics

I think that's probably true of a lot of people. I know the Super Powers figures (and the Super Hero Dictionary) are responsible for introducing me to the DC characters (and comics in general) when I was a kid.

They do it about once a decade.

Heck, they do it twice a decade lately, and that's just counting the line-wide stuff, not even things like the multiple retellings of Superman's origin we've gotten in the last ten years.

2. Barbara Gordon becoming Batgirl again = good. She was Oracle for far too long.

See, I really like her as Oracle, for a variety of reasons, but especially because it contributes to DC's legacy, that she was once Batgirl, got hurt, now is a different hero while someone else is Batgirl.

If they are rebooting, why are they keeping the four Robins (or however many it is)? That's stupid.

Yeah, that's where the half-assedness comes into it, because they're magically healing Batgirl and making Dick Nightwing again, but apparently Damian is sticking around and the Green Lantern books are continuing more or less unchanged.

What seems to boil down to, as Siskoid points out here is the regard DC has for various creators. No one's about to tell Morrison what he can and can't do, so Damian sticks around, but Gail Simone doesn't have the same clout so she loses Secret Six and Oracle becomes Batgirl.

To me, it seems no different than after Crisis when DC wasn't about to reboot their top selling book in Teen Titans even though it starred the sidekicks of characters who were starting over from scratch without a sidekick (resulting in Wonder Girl becoming a mess of a character pretty much to this day).

Teebore said...

cont.

I do not like Grant Morrison and I never have.

I run hot and cold on him. I find Final Crisis and his Batman stuff to be largely impentrable, and have more or less avoided his Doom Patrol and Invisibles because I've been led to believe that, frankly, they involve more effort to enjoy than I'm willing to put into a comic book story.

But I enjoyed most of his X-Men stuff (with a few exceptions, some of which weren't entirely his doing) as well as All Star Superman, and I adore his JLA which remains the gold standard for Justice League comics in my esteem, and a perfect example of how I like Morrison (big ideas reigned in by traditional superhero antics).

Bottom line, I certainly don't worship the ground he walks on, like so much of the internet.

Re-starting Action Comics and Detective Comics when they're fairly close to #1000 is disgraceful.

Agreed.

But I really think they should cost less than the print versions!

I agree entirely. I'll get into that in the next post on the subject.

I like Jim Lee as an artist, but pretty much all of these new costumes look awful.

I too more or less enjoy Lee's work, but I've never been terribly impressed with his costume designs (even some of his X-Men stuff; just because they became the looks used in all the multimedia X-Men stuff in the 90s doesn't mean they should have been) and these don't fill me with a lot of confidence.

I don't mind the revised "S" logo but I really don't like the removal of the red trunks. It seems like the kind of thing that was done simply because DC felt new readers wouldn't buy a Superman comic as long as crappy stand-up comedians could make cracks about Superman wearing his underwear on the outside.

Matt said...

Now that you mention it, Teebore, I did read that first Giffen/et al JLI trade also. I liked it well enough, but even though that was a few years ago, it didn't really pique my interest to pick up the next one. I also read both of their re-visits from 2005 (?) or so -- Formerly Known as the Justice League and whatever the other one was called.

And it totally slipped my mind when I posted earlier, but I just remembered that I have the recently solicited New Teen Titans Omnibus on pre-order, so I'll get to read some of that material soon enough, I suppose.

On the subject of Grant Morrison, I don't know that anyone will ever change my mind on him. Years ago, a friend loaned me about the first 25 or so issues of his JLA, and while I thought it was enjoyable to an extent, I also found it kind of confusing -- especially that "Rock of Ages" storyline. More recently, "Batman Inc." sounds like one of the stupidest ideas I've seen one of the Big Two publishers approve in a long time. And I couldn't stand his work on the X-Men. I actually dropped the book while he was writing it, for the first time in ten years, though I still kept up with it by reading a friend's copies. I really took a strange sort of perverse pleasure in the fact that Marvel undid or ret-conned nearly everything he came up with very shortly after he left.

I don't want to keep going off topic here, but I'll just state that right from Morrison's first issue of New X-Men, I could tell he wasn't for me -- there's a scene where the X-Men put on their new leather clothes, and Wolverine says something to the effect of, "Finally! I never understood why we wore costumes all these years" -- that's a paraphrase, but you get the gist. As soon as I read that line, my thought was, "Really? If Wolverine is so anti-costume, why has he worn one pretty much all the time for the past two decades, even when he's off having solo adventures in his own book?" It just felt like an instance of the writer inserting his own sensibilities into the character's mouth and I didn't like it. Wolverine wears a costume because in the Marvel Universe it is not unusual for someone with superpowers to do so. That should be all there is to it -- there's no need to badmouth the costume in-story.

... Sorry, that line sets me off. Anyway, on the topic of costumes, I agree about Superman's (and Batman's) trunks. They should wear them because they've always worn them and that's all there is to it. I get irritated by writers and artists working on comics who seem so embarassed by certain aspects of them that they need to change them. The same statement I made about the X-Men applies here -- in the DC Universe, Superman and Batman "wear their underwear on the outside" because it is not unusual for a superhero to do so! There's no need to think it over any further than that. DC should just embrace this and throw it in our faces in comics, movies, action figures, etc., till we have no choice but to accept it.

Oh, and on the topic of Batgirl -- I have no problem with her as Oracle. I just feel like she is the "iconic" Batgirl. Even after two decades of the character being confined to a wheelchair, I suspect that most of the general public, if they are at all familiar with Batgirl, think she's Commissioner Gordon's daughter. I see no reason why she can't be Batgirl, but with Oracle's tech savvy too. That seems like a pretty cool character to me. I'm sure they could find someone else to fill the role of Oracle if they need one -- maybe one of the other Batgirls, even!

P.S.: I have no idea what the Super Hero Dictionary is, but now I want to know. This calls for a quick trip to Google...

ashlie said...

I'm also cautious about the change coming with DC. They've already cancelled my favourite title (Streets of Gotham) and I'm a little annoyed that after following the entire ride of Battle for the Cowl, Batman Reborn, The Return of Bruce Wayne and now Batman Inc., it seems to be all for nought.

Hannah Kincade said...

oooh, I'm kind of excited about this. Remember Crossgen?? I loved those comics and I thought they had great potential, but you have to pay your artists...I guess they learned the hard way. Sad.

Teebore said...

@Matt: Wolverine wears a costume because in the Marvel Universe it is not unusual for someone with superpowers to do so. That should be all there is to it -- there's no need to badmouth the costume in-story.

Oh, yeah, that line bugs the crap out of me too, but I (perhaps unfairly) attribute that to editorial more than Morrison. He came aboard after the first X-Men movie hit big and Joey Q was flush with power, and I always got the impression Morrison was doing his best with an editorial mandate that said, "the public thinks superhero costumes are silly; we'll sell more comics if we dress them like in the movies and things are more real".

I mean, Morrison clearly LOVES Silver Age Superman, and I don't think you can love that and truly think superhero costumes are silly/outdated.

I could very well be rationalizing things in Morrison's favor, but a lot of the things that bug me about his run I chalk up to other influences. The concept of secondary mutations is pretty dumb, but that idea got started because the X-office wouldn't let Morrison use Colossus so he turned Emma into his bruiser and came up with secondary mutations to explain it. I'm also not a huge fan of Cat Beast, but I think that came from Quitely first.

I really liked his whole Xorn-is-Magneto storyline, at least until after the reveal when Magneto went back to being a raving lunatic. That's something I blame entirely on Morrison, and one of those times where I appreciate the almost-immediate retconning away of it.

DC should just embrace this and throw it in our faces in comics, movies, action figures, etc., till we have no choice but to accept it.

Agreed. It's part of their history, both within the genre and from cultural influences outside the genre (circus strongmen, vaudeville performers, etc.). It's something to be embraced, not embarrassed about.

The mention of all the licensed stuff superheroes show up reminded me of another reason this DC re-launch may not pan out: they can (and have) changed Superman's costume all they want, but ultimately, it's going to revert to the norm because Superman is a culturally character that transcends comic books, and there's decades worth of non-comic book material out there showing him in the "classic" costume.

Unless DC is prepared to change all their licensed images moving forward, any altered Superman costume is always going to feel like a temporary aberration.

I have no idea what the Super Hero Dictionary is, but now I want to know. This calls for a quick trip to Google...

Assuming you learned from Google that the Super Hero Dictionary is, quite literally, a dictionary that uses DC characters to help define words, I will add that it was something I forced my parents to read to me as a kid (when I was still learning to read on my own) and in addition to, you know, teaching me words, also introduced me to the vast majority of DC's cast of characters.

I lost my copy somewhere along the way, and was overjoyed to discover a copy at a Half Price Books years ago, so now I can one day read it to my future kids.

Teebore said...

@Ashlie: They've already cancelled my favourite title (Streets of Gotham) and I'm a little annoyed that after following the entire ride of Battle for the Cowl, Batman Reborn, The Return of Bruce Wayne and now Batman Inc., it seems to be all for nought.

Yeah, they cancelled my favorite DC title too (Secret Six). If it makes you feel better, it sounds like Morrison is going to continue (and suitably finish) his Batman stuff next year with a 12 issue series, but I have no idea how that's going to fit into the new "re-launched" universe, or if it's just going to be an "if we hadn't changed the universe in the midst of his story, here's how it would have gone" Elseworlds kinda deal.

@Hannah: Remember Crossgen?? I loved those comics and I thought they had great potential, but you have to pay your artists...I guess they learned the hard way. Sad.

I LOVED Crossgen, and thought they had tons of potential, especially in terms of attracting readers from non-superhero genres.

Then I heard what a dick Mark Alessi was and how poorly they treated their stable of creators, and in the end, he kinda got what he deserved. But I still miss some of those characters, and even though Alessi was a screw-up, some of their ideas about different formats and creative approaches (I loved their monthly anthology collections that enabled me to more or less follow their entire line for a fraction of the cost of the individual issues) ARE worth adopting.

Marvel actually just released new Sigil and Ruse miniseries (Disney ended up buying all the Crossgen properties, and then when they bought Marvel, blammo! Suddenly Marvel had access to all the Crossgen characters). I bought them both even though I usually wait for the trades on miniseries, just because I wanted to help bump the sales in the hopes of getting more Crossgen stuff in the future.

Matt said...

"I (perhaps unfairly) attribute that to editorial more than Morrison."

Strangely, I never really considered that, but you do have a point. This was around the time when Marvel was unmasking characters left and right, and changing costumes wherever possible to make them less "comic booky".

I do recall that at the San Diego Comic-Con in around 2001 or '02 or whenever he took over, I actually stood up at an X-Men panel and asked what the deal was with the movie inspired costume. Morrison explained something about how they were more based on sanitation workers than anything else. To this day, I'm still not sure what he was talking about. He was probably high.

(That was kind of a funny panel -- Morrison was there along with Casey and Claremont, and maybe an artist or two or editors or something... Anyway, while the majority of the questions went to the two "hot" writers, Claremont just sort of sat at the end of the dais, writing in a notebook and not really paying much attention to the rest of the proceedings.)

(I later saw Claremont on the dealer's room floor, just walking around browsing. I kind of shadowed him for a few minutes to see what he was looking at. I can't remember if it was that year or the next that I found the courage to approach him and ask him to bring Banshee back in X-Treme X-Men since no other writers were handling the character very well at the time.)

But I still have too many issues with New X-Men to really enjoy it. Some of the stories weren't bad, but what good I found was usually outweighed by things like Xavier's "outing" his school, Mutant Town, secondary mutations, cat Beast, the idiotic Weapon Prime ret-con, Xavier killing his evil twin in the womb, insane Magneto, and of course, two of my least favorite characters ever, Beak and Angel Salvadore.

It was just all too... different for me. I like my comics to be relatively tame and homogenous (which is also why I have problems with the later part of Chris Claremont's run as we'll see when you get to those issues) -- I take some sort of comfort in having stuff I enjoyed as a kid be basically the same now that I'm an adult.

So the Super Hero Dictionary is that book with the classic Lex Luthor "...and that's terrible" page, right? I think I may have had that myself as a kid, though I don't remember it very well. But I know I've seen that page floating around the internet and it seems very familiar to me.

Your Superman comic reminds me of yet another John Byrne anecdote... when he started on Superman post-Crisis, he found that his version of the character was restricted pretty much just to comics, and not seen anywhere else. When he asked DC's then-publisher about it, he was told that "you have to understand, there are now two Supermen -- the one you write and draw, and the one we license." I agree that if DC wants these changes to stick, they need to change everything, including the licensing. I'd rather they didn't, of course, and I kind of doubt they will anyway.

Jeff said...

Bob Harras has basically recreated 90s Marvel now. And he got to do Heroes Reborn line-wide. This is starting to sound terrible to me.

Matt said...

"Bob Harras has basically recreated 90s Marvel now."

I will readily admit that I'm a huge Bob Harras apologist (I've said before, though maybe not here, that the last time I truly enjoyed Marvel line-wide was when he was their EiC), but what does this have to do with him? Every indication I've seen is that it came from a level even higher than the co-publishers, much less editorial...

And in all honesty, if they have to do a linewide reboot, Harras is probably the EiC I'd most like to see presiding over it since he was involved in so many over at Marvel. In fact, I recall that when he was first appointed to this position, I told a friend that DC's line-wide crossovers still might not be very good, but I bet they'll be better managed and executed! I'd say the same would hold true for reboots.

(Note: My comment about DC crossovers is based only on hearsay that they were not good -- I haven't actually read any.)

Teebore said...

@Matt: Morrison explained something about how they were more based on sanitation workers than anything else.

I've seen that sort of comment in other places, from other people, too. The idea, I think, is supposed to be that superhero costumes are more like utilitarian uniforms: just like a janitor is going to put on coveralls to do his job, so too are superheroes going to put on some kind of uniform to protect them from the dangers of their job. But that uniform doesn't need to be flashy and colorful to do its job.

In and of itself, it's not a bad idea, but it doesn't really work when you try to graft it onto characters who have 40+ years of history wearing colorful, traditionally super-heroic, costumes.

Claremont just sort of sat at the end of the dais, writing in a notebook and not really paying much attention to the rest of the proceedings.

That is both awesome and sad.

what good I found was usually outweighed by things like Xavier's "outing" his school, Mutant Town, secondary mutations, cat Beast, the idiotic Weapon Prime ret-con, Xavier killing his evil twin in the womb, insane Magneto, and of course, two of my least favorite characters ever, Beak and Angel Salvadore.

Yeah, it seems like for every Morrison I idea I liked, he countered it with one I didn't. I liked the idea of Xavier outing himself and the school, but wasn't crazy about Mutant Town and the growth in mutant population. I liked Cassandra Nova as a villain, but all that business about Xavier killing her in the womb, mummudrais and whatnot, was pretty lame and too Morrison-y for my tastes. I loved Xorn and the special class, and the reveal of Xorn as Magneto was awesome, but then I hated that he restored Magneto to a raving lunatic. I love Scott and Emma being together, but didn't like the Weapon: Prime stuff. I liked Beak and the Cuckoos, but couldn't stand Angel. And so on...

It was just all too... different for me. I like my comics to be relatively tame and homogenous (which is also why I have problems with the later part of Chris Claremont's run as we'll see when you get to those issues) -- I take some sort of comfort in having stuff I enjoyed as a kid be basically the same now that I'm an adult.

Ah, I can see that (that's probably also why you're more forgiving of Harras than some: he forced Claremont back into the traditional superhero mode, which for some is a knock against him but a plus in your book).

I think because I read most of the later Claremont stuff as a kid (I started reading shortly after he had left the books, but quickly caught up, on at least the back half of his run, via back issues) I have a greater acceptance for some of the less-traditional elements at the end of his run, and maybe that even extends out to Morrison's run as well. But in general, I too like my superhero comics to be fairly traditional, which is why a lot of Morrison's more outrageous/head-twisting ideas (both on X-Men and elsewhere) don't entice me the same way they do others.

So the Super Hero Dictionary is that book with the classic Lex Luthor "...and that's terrible" page, right?

It is indeed.

I agree that if DC wants these changes to stick, they need to change everything, including the licensing. I'd rather they didn't, of course, and I kind of doubt they will anyway.

Definitely. I just don't think anyone can truly believe a new costume change is going to stick until they change the licensed images. So as long as Classic Supers is still hanging out on Underoos, we can take solace in these latest changes likely not sticking around for too long either.

Teebore said...

@Jeff: Bob Harras has basically recreated 90s Marvel now. And he got to do Heroes Reborn line-wide. This is starting to sound terrible to me.

The whole "Marvel mid-90s" vibe this thing is starting to give off as creative teams are announced is worrying me too, for reason I'll get into in a moment.

@Matt: will readily admit that I'm a huge Bob Harras apologist (I've said before, though maybe not here, that the last time I truly enjoyed Marvel line-wide was when he was their EiC), but what does this have to do with him?

I don't presume to speak for Jeff, but I will say the worrying vibe I'm getting from this has little to do with Bob Harras' involvement (aside from the fact that his name is another link between the DC re-launch and mid-90s Marvel; I don't think his work has much to do with either).

You've got Jim Lee spearheading this whole re-launch artistically, Rob friggin' Liefeld "drawing" one of the books, heavy involvement from Nicieza and Lobdell (two writers for whom I'm a major apologist, but whose involvement still sets off some alarm bells) and all kinds of phrases being thrown around like "reinventing for a modern audience" and "hip and younger". It all combines to create a vibe that reminds me of Marvel circa "Heroes Reborn".

Or, to put it more succinctly: this whole re-launch is starting to sound and look like a lot like Marvel's "Heroes Reborn", and the last thing DC needs is its own "Heroes Reborn".

Combine that with all the restoration of old status quo (Babs as Batgirl, Dick as Nightwing, the rumored unmarried Superman and Lois) and it just sounds like a giant step backwards instead of the step forward it needs to be; even if the creators whose heydays were in the 90s turn out some stellar work (and it's certainly possible; I genuinely DO like some of Nicieza and Lobdell's stuff, and Lee is a fun artist when he manages to get some work done) right now, before that work sees print, it all strikes me as "moving back to move forward", and that doesn't fill me with a lot of confidence.

Matt said...

"...the reveal of Xorn as Magneto was awesome..."

True. I think I got goosebumps when I reached that page, and that hadn't happened to me while reading a comic in a long time!

Maybe I need to go back and give Morrison's stuff a second look. Part of the problem with it was just that it was the X-Men at the time. It was the flagship of the line, and the other titles -- even the splintered X-Treme X-Men -- took their cues from it. Now that I can look back on it and see that it was really only two years, and most of it was done away with as soon as it ended, I might appreciate it more as kind of a stand-alone thing.

And if I'm totally honest, even the stuff I hated about that run would have been much more palatable if the X-Men were just wearing colorful costumes while all this weirdness was going down.

(And while I have nothing against the Cyclops/Emma relationship, I was kind of irritated when I read an interview ith Matt Fraction a couple of years ago where he said something like, "Jean was Scott's childhood sweetheart, but Emma is the love of his life." I'm pretty sure that statement is undebatably incorrect, even when made by the man who was writing the characters at the time.)

"(that's probably also why you're more forgiving of Harras than some: he forced Claremont back into the traditional superhero mode, which for some is a knock against him but a plus in your book)"

I would say that's a fair assessment. I certainly believe Harras has his faults, but not to the extent that others do. It amazes me that even Jim Shooter has a decent number of supporters, but Harras seems to have none, or at least very, very few (I happen to like both of them more than I dislike them).

For the record, I started reading the X-Men regularly with the "X-Cutioner's Song" crossover, and watched the Fox cartoon alongside it. When I got into the back issues, it was through Classic X-Men reprints, and the first (and at that time only) three Uncanny X-Men Masterworks volumes (starting with Giant-Size #1) as an Xmas gift. So the two status quos I was reading at the same time were basically pretty much the same -- colorful costumes, mansion, Xavier in a wheelchair, and while there were some extra characters in the "modern" comics, the core cast was basically the same.

By the time my back issue binge got me up to the post-Mutant Massacre era, everything was so different from either of the status quos that I knew, that it just seemed wrong somehow...

(Which isn't to say I didn't appreciate some of it -- it's just that, like Morrison's work, for me the negatives outweighed the positives.)

Matt said...

"...aside from the fact that [Harras's] name is another link between the DC re-launch and mid-90s Marvel; I don't think his work has much to do with either..."

Yeah, he wasn't even the full EiC when "Heroes Reborn" happened -- and I'm pretty sure the whole concept originated with Marvel's marketing department, anyway.

"...heavy involvement from Nicieza and Lobdell..."

Wow, I didn't know this! I run hot and cold on Lobdell, but I love all of Fabian's major projects from Marvel (New Warriors, X-Men, Thunderbolts, Cable & Deadpool). I may have to look into this further.

I don't know; maybe it's just nostalgia kicking in, but hearing that Bob Harras, Scott Lobdell, and Fabian Nicieza are all working together again puts a smile on my face.

Teebore said...

@Matt: True. I think I got goosebumps when I reached that page, and that hadn't happened to me while reading a comic in a long time!

Ditto.

(And while I have nothing against the Cyclops/Emma relationship, I was kind of irritated when I read an interview ith Matt Fraction a couple of years ago where he said something like, "Jean was Scott's childhood sweetheart, but Emma is the love of his life." I'm pretty sure that statement is undebatably incorrect

Yeah, I love the Scott and Emma pairing, but that statement just fills me with rage for how utterly wrong it is. I really don't think its necessary (or effective) to legitimize Scott and Emma's relationship by de-valuing his relationship with Jean.

I happen to like both of them more than I dislike them.

I tend to be the same way. I love Harras' Avengers run, and while the writer in me might chaff at some of Shooter's interventions into creators' stories, the fan in me can't deny that Marvel under Shooter was well run and loaded with tons of awesome comics, and he definitely had a hand in that.

I'm pretty sure the whole concept originated with Marvel's marketing department, anyway.

Just as now, though Harras is working for DC, it seems more and more like this concept originated from DC's marketing department.

I love all of Fabian's major projects from Marvel (New Warriors, X-Men, Thunderbolts, Cable & Deadpool).

Yeah, I really like his X-Men and Thunderbolts stuff, and generally like his work more than Lobdell's (who is much more hit or miss). I think Nicieza is doing one or two of the re-launched books, but Lobdell is on at least three.

Jeff said...

I greatly prefer Nicieza over Lobdell. I was always a little disappointed Lobdell ended up with control over the X-franchise and would have been interested to see what Fabian could have done with it.

@Matt: I'll back off of Harras a little. You're right, some of those decisions I mentioned were not his fault. And one of the biggest things he gets faulted with, chasing Claremont away, I think was actually the right decision at the time (it just looked bad afterwards because all the Image guys left the X-Titles unexpectedly and Marvel had to rush to cover that.) But I guess his name was the one that got me to realize DC is trying to do 90s Marvel now.

I'll continue saying I think it's a big mistake to revert to the 90s style storytelling and character designs, as I think most people view them less than fondly these days and I'd much rather see artists go in different directions than just do homages to the past. And I don't want to see Liefield draw anything. I just want to see something a little fresher. But I'm sure there are lots of fans of that stuff out there who are overjoyed, so to each their own.

Matt said...

When you put it that way, Jeff, I agree with you. This does look very "Heroes Reborn"-ish. But then again, "Heroes Reborn" is what got me, at age 16 or so, to read Fantastic Four, Avengers, Captain America, and Iron Man for the first time in my life -- and I stuck around for all their (much, much superior) "Heroes Return" incarnations, so who knows what could happen...?

Since you mention it, I also have a theory about the return of the "90's style" -- about ten years ago, the 80's nostalgia train arrived. It was a great time to be a child of the 80's, because G.I. Joe, the Transformers, and He-Man were back, and I had money to spend on them!

Well, a decade later, is this the arrival of the early 90's nostalgia wave? The timing seems about right, after all. The children of the 90's are all grown up with money to burn -- and Marvel did just solicit a deluxe hardcover edition of "X-Cutioner's Song" last month...

We are in total agreement on Rob Liefeld, by the way. I will never understand why he keeps getting work, but I suppose he must sell, somehow.

Teebore said...

@Jeff: I was always a little disappointed Lobdell ended up with control over the X-franchise and would have been interested to see what Fabian could have done with it.

Ditto. I love Lobdell's "quiet issues" but Nicieza is much better at long term plot development. If nothing else, it would have been nice if the two of them could have worked side by side longer.

@Matt: Well, a decade later, is this the arrival of the early 90's nostalgia wave? The timing seems about right, after all.

Yeah, I definitely think we're on the verge of a major 90s nostalgia wave, if we're not in the beginnings of it already.

Soon it'll be Power Rangers and grunge rock all over again! :)