Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Live Fast...

There's not much to say about today's "big news" beyond what Graeme McMillan says at the Savage Critics, but there was one thing I wanted to add. But even I think that talking about the "shocking" events in a comics that came out today deserves a SPOILERS warning and jump cut, so here it is:


Flash: the Fastest Man Alive #13 features the death of Bart Allen, a.k.a. the Flash, a.k.a. Impulse, and it's pretty unenjoyable, for all the reasons Graeme mentions: all the announcements this weekend about fake-out solicitations and relaunching the book made it pretty clear that Bart was not making it to the end of this book, making his death feel inevitable rather than surprising, and ending with his death makes the 12 previous issues seem pretty pointless.

All I wanted to add is that killing Impulse, of all characters, demonstrates that some people at DC just aren't interested in fun. Impulse was one of the more fun characters DC had. Thanks to a couple of accelerated bouts of aging, Bart may have looked like a teenager, but he was actually, roughly, six, and acted like it:

He saw the world in black and white morality, he thought in images not words, he wasn't that interested in girls, he had an incredibly short attention span, but he also truly loved his friends and family, when he wasn't annoying the hell out of them, and wanted to be a hero like his grandfather more than anything.

He could make you laugh, he could make you cry, and, occasionally, he could make you do both and save the universe at the same time. (Seriously, pick up Bart Saves the Universe for one of the cleverest and heart breaking time travel stories ever.)

I thought having him "grow up" in Teen Titans was a mistake that took away Bart's most charming feature, that he actually had difficulty taking superheroing seriously. Artificially aging him (again) into a whiny adult made him even less fun and further unrecognizable, and this made it all the more pointless. I mean, why seemingly kill Bart Allen in issue #4 of Infinite Crisis, only to bring him back in issue #7, if they just kill him again a little more than a year later? Couldn't he have stayed dead the first time?

Instead of just seeing Bart go out like a champ, taking out a monstrously powerful opponent, surrounded by his friends and family, we have to watch all the fun sucked out of him for a year before witnessing yet another member of Young Justice beaten to death for saving the world (Empress better watch her back, all I'm saying).

It's like they* weren't killing Bart Allen but the concept of fun itself: like the point of the story is that superheroes can't be kids pretending to be adults, saving the world with a laugh and occasionally learning lessons. No, superheroes have to be humorless mopes who are afraid of their own powers. And then they die.

*Not that I know who "they" are. I doubt it was issue scribe Mark Guggenheim, who was only recently added to the title. Dan Didio's interviews indicates that DC Editorial had planned on killing Bart Allen for a year now, so whose idea was it back then to have a humorless mini-series ending in Bart's death? Geoff Johns, who aged Bart and made Wally disappear? (apparently not) Mark Waid, who knew he was returning to The Flash, but for some reason didn't want to write Bart Allen, his own creation? or Dan "Enemy of Fun" Didio, who personally wants to ruin your childhood?


Will Staples said...

How utterly depressing.

I keep hearing Didio say that the reason so many JLI and Young Justice alums have bit the dust since he came on board is that they don't sell, that they just don't generate the revenue needed to justify their continued existence or some such BS.

Maybe that's because they have no effing clue what to do with them and keep sticking them in utterly shitty situations for nothing more than shock value.

*sigh* Well, at least there's still at least a one-in-51 chance that there's an Impulse hanging with a Superboy and a cool Robin and Wonder Girl out in the no-longer-so-infinite realms of possibility, but dammit, he's not our Impulse and never will be...

Matter-Eater Lad said...

The reason folks like DiDio hate characters like the JLI alum or Impulse is that those characters' success comes from a very specific, idiosyncratic place in the minds of very particular creators -- Giffen and DeMatteis in the JLI's case, Mark Waid in Impulse's (albeit to a lesser extent than with the JLI).

Most comics writers can write a decent Superman story or Spider-Man story or whatever, and that's great because it turns those characters into franchises that can run forever and launch other properties and concepts: Supergirl, the Legion, Steel, Punisher, Spider-Woman, etc. But something like the JLI drives editorial CRAZY because it relies entirely on a particular creative alchemy that by its nature cannot be bottled and mass-produced. Sure, there were lots of books that launched from the JLI series, but most of them involved Giffen and DeMatteis, and the ones that didn't were generally the least successful, and once G&D left the books they quickly went into a long decline.

It's the same reason NBC hated Seinfeld. Sure, they were glad to have a hit show and loved the ad revenue, but they didn't understand it and they couldn't clone it or make spin-offs or even figure out why the hell people were watching it. CSI's a hit? Make two more. Law & Order's a hit? Make two more. Friends? Make a bunch of shows about 20somethings and hope they stick. Seinfeld? What the hell IS that show?

You can't copy what you don't understand, and you sure as hell can't control it.

In TV, everything ends eventually and networks just ride out popular shows that they hate. But in mainstream superhero comics nothing ever "ends" and fans keep wanting to see characters like the JLI and Impulse long after the original creators have moved on, and then being disappointed when other creators can't capture lightning in a bottle all over again. So if editorial gets sick of this cycle -- especially an editorial department run by a petty buffoon who thinks nihilistic nonsense like Identity Crisis is the perfect model of a modern comics multiverse -- you kill the characters as brutally and stupidly as possible.

Steven said...

Seinfeld? What the hell IS that show?

It's a show about nothing. Everyone knows that one.

I don't think it's that no writer but Waid could write Impulse. Waid only wrote the first 27 issues of Impulse's 89 issue run. (For a comparison, that's two years with Waid as writer followed by seven successful years without, as opposed to seven years with Larry David as head writer on Seinfeld, followed by two years without). Add to that Peter David was the writer on Young Justice and it seems like Impulse was a character lots of writers could write well.

And while I loved him and he was fun, Impulse was hardly original. Let's face it, he was a new version of an old character (Kid Flash) who was himself a new version of old character, who was himself a new version of an old character!

Impulse fans know that there's an out, by the way. Bully's pointing to the key issue, a power Bart has (had) that he didn't like to use much. A power that could reasonably explain how Bart can die and not die at the same time...

Kelson said...

Impulse really had 4 writers: 2 years of Mark Waid, 2 years of William Messner-Loebs, and 3 years of Todd Dezago in his own series, overlapping with ~5 years of Peter David in Young Justice. He was a regular in New Titans for a while, but by this time editorial was throwing ideas at the wall trying to see what would make stick, and I think Marv Wolfman was just tired of the team.

Really, I'd say Waid (no surprise) and David had the best handle on the character. Followed by Dezago, though he had to contend with mandated crossovers and a more serious tone. As much as I liked Messner-Loebs' run on Flash, I never really warmed to his run on Impulse.