Tuesday, January 22, 2008


So there's a petition to save J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter, from being killed in an upcoming crossover.

To say I think this is stupid is probably pretty obvious.

First off, there's the fact that he's a fictional character, and his death will have ZERO consequences in the real world.

Then there's the fact that, even in the DC Universe, his "death" is unlikely to be anything permanent. He's a brand character with forty years of history, a role in the justice league (sage advisor) that just isn't filled by any other character, and a huge fondness with fans and creators alike.

Plus he's an alien, shape-shifting, psychic. Which is three plausible resurrection strategies right there. Add in non-character saves like time-travel and clones, and you're looking at a guy who just won't stay dead.

All of which is besides the point. The point is this is a petition against the possibility of J'onn J'onzz being killed. This isn't trying to bring back a forgotten character, or be given a bigger role. The petition wants J'onn J'onzz to never even appear to be in any real danger of dying.

Well, doesn't that just rob any story about him of any drama? If we know that J'onn can't die, why do we care?

Yes, I wasn't happy when the Bart Allen Flash died, but that was because the solicitations basically said, "In this issue, Bart Allen dies." There was no suspense, just a joyless death march, which made for a terrible story. If this petition were successful, I'd be just as unhappy for the same reason. Without the possibility of death, the possibility of failure, the story is just boring.

Which is, basically, what this petition is. It's a plea to DC not to kill a beloved character, at the cost of drama and plot. "Please, Mr. Didio, don't threaten me with unhappy endings. I just don't know if I can take it."

Look, there's lots of causes regarding superhero comics I fully support. I would love to see new female and minority characters, and better writing for the ones that already exist. I'd like to see more support for less "mainstream" books and self-contained, new reader friendly books (basically, please please please keep Blue Beetle and Manhunter going). I even support the return of characters that were "loaned" to Vertigo fifteen years ago.

But I can't support the preservation of the status quo just so some schmoe can keep his imaginary best friend.

p.s. the other character rumored to be killed along with the Martian Manhunter is Aquaman. Who is already dead right now. And no one cares!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Booster Gold #6

So, in this issue, everything that fans have been asking for since Countdown to Infinite Crisis, um, happens. Time-traveler Booster Gold goes back to save the Blue Beetle from being killed.

Moreover, he does so at minimum personal cost (he gets bruised a bit) and with, he's assured, no repercussions to the timeline (everyone, including Max Lord, will still think Ted Kord was killed, Wonder Woman will still snap his neck, and Infinite Crisis will proceed apace.)

This is, on one hand, highly unsatisfying and, on the other hand, terribly exciting!

You see, if it were just this issue, then the ease with which Booster changes history to his liking would be emotionally hollow. Nothing so boring as unearned reward. Particularly since Booster's greatest wish is just handed to him by "Future" Blue Beetle, a cypher of a character who appears out of nowhere with a Deus Ex Machina, um, machine.

But but but, in context, the ease with which Booster Gold saves his best friend gives a fantastic sense of dread. Because in context, we know there is going to be a price.

Last issue, Rip Hunter painfully demonstrated the futility of trying to change a "solidified" event (and that's going to be another post, about what counts as a "solid" event in shifting comics continuity.) And next issue is a tie-in to Zero Hour: A Crisis in Time, and solicitations for the issue after that show Booster and Beetle facing a world where Max Lord won.

It's reminiscent of JSA #66, the last time Geoff Johns tied a story directly into Zero Hour where heroes from today travel back in time to save a hero just before he dies. Not only does the one hero (android Hourman) have to die to save the other (original flavor Hourman), but it opens a "window" that allowed a time traveling Nazi to take over the world (a Nazi who happened to cameo in issue #5 of Booster Gold, by the way)!

And that's one way the story could proceed ("Future Blue Beetle" will probably turn out to be a villain trying to change time to his liking). But tying it into Zero Hour presents a different route the story could take, and I'm really excited about the next issue.*

For those that don't know, Zero Hour was DC's first sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths, a weekly miniseries with the cute gimmick that it counted down to its final, zero issue. (Why doesn't DC do something like that anymore?) And while the meta-textual purpose of the series was to wipe clean some of the messy character histories, the story itself was about...

... okay, the story itself is the usual crossover mess where a lot of stuff happens but not a lot of it makes sense, and the entire plot occurs in the last issue.

But, in retrospect, Zero Hour is about Hal Jordan's attempt to fix the mistakes of his past, and utter destruction it causes. And the destruction of all time and space weren't unintended side effects of Hal's plan. That was his plan. That was his point.

Which neatly parallels Booster's position. Booster Gold is now capable of fine tuning history exactly to his liking. Not only is he likely to go save his sister, who was tragically killed, but he might also go and save Sue Dibny, or Spoiler. He might go back and, using the tech he had this issue, stop Barbara Gordon from being paralyzed.

But why stop there? He could keep Doomsday from ever "killing" Superman. He could keep Lex Luthor from even being born. Booster is a very fallible character (which is what makes him such a great character). Given unlimited power, what would stop him from using it? What stops Booster, like Hal before him, from playing God?

And that's a story I'd like to read!

*The other reasons I'm excited to read a tie-in issue to a twelve year old crossover are that a) if "all of time" was threatened, then "all of time" is still threatened, um, all of the time and b) it's Geoff Johns first opportunity to write Hal Jordan as Parallax since his reveal that Hal was possessed by a giant yellow space bug, and I'm curious to see how he plays that.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Spider-Man? Me?

I like Spider-Man as a character, but I don't buy his comics. I find them angst-filled affairs too caught up in their own byzantine history to be inviting or appealing, and the recent string of editorial stunts has replaced real storytelling and character growth with cosmetic changes.

So why did I buy The Amazing Spider-Man #546, the first issue of "Brand New Day"?

Dan Slott.

What can I say, I love the way the man writes Spider-Man. Whether it the riotous guest appearance in She-Hulk or the the Free Comic Book Day issue (you know, the one with the Spider-Man-obsessed supervillain, a perfectly healthy Aunt May, and new superhero named Jackpot who calls everyone Tiger?), Slott's Spider-Man is upbeat, resourceful, and actually FUNNY. Screaming about the lemon cake he is missing while being dragged through the streets of New York was one of the best moments in comics last year!

So I figured, what the heck, let's try it out! And the results are...

...okay? Slott's writing is still good. The dialog is clever and the results of Peter's misguided attempt to catch a crook in his plainclothes is a wonderful "wah wah wah" moment, and even the melodramatic cliffhanger seems there only to set up a mind-blowingly awesome splash page next issue. The art's okay. Steve McNiven's photo-realistic style is pretty but lends the affair a serious the writing doesn't back up. A more cartoonish style might have been more appropriate.

But the real problem is the new status-quo, which Dan Slott basically admits, was handed to the entire creative team before any of them (including editor Steve Wacker) was hired. And it's not that I have problem that it is a new status quo (I wasn't terribly invested in the old one), or that the new status quo was created in one of the worst ways possible (that's a complaint for another day...).

The problem is that the new status quo is so relentlessly... old. Peter's back living with Aunt May? Peter still doesn't have a steady job? Harry Osborn's back from the dead? But everyone else in the world has moved on? It's like they stuck a 22 year old in a 30 years old body.

And it doesn't help that Peter actually thinks about how unfunny it is to still be living with his aunt. Usually hanging a lantern on the problem helps the reader acknowledge it and move on, but in this case I just found myself nodding my head and asking what Slott was going to do about it.

The worst part is the return of Harry Osborn, acting for all the world like Michael Rosenbaum on Smallville. Harry being back drives home the point that this IS your father's Spider-Man, exactly as he remembers it.

Harry represents a giant plot hole in the current storyline (if Peter needs a place to stay and Harry wants to help, like his company, AND has a giant apartment, why doesn't Peter move in with Harry?). He also represents a problem with the general plotline. His missing years are a mystery, and trying to explain them reminds readers of One More Day, and no one wants to think about that anymore.*

But I'm going to stick around for the next two issues because a) Dan Slott, and b) I'm hoping by the end of the first storyline, we'll have a new, workable status quo to go forward with. Because I like Spider-Man. I like comics.

It'd be nice if I could like Spider-Man comics.

*I keep typing "One Day More". Guess I got a little Cosette in me.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Stay in Your Bubble

Siskoid has an interesting post on "bubble worlds", the smaller circles of temporal and physical setting superhero characters exist in within the frame work of a larger, company-wide continuity.

It's funny, because "bubble worlds" used to be the norm for superhero stories before the 60s and 70s. Superheroes used to exist in their own stories in their own comics unmolested by outside interference. They stayed in their own fiction-opolises and only teamed up in special "team up" books like Justice League or Teen Titans that had their own continuity, existed in their own bubble.

It was the rise of the Marvel heroes (who all worked in New York and therefore ran into each other all the time in their individual books), Roy Thomas's ret-con fixation ("all heroes are related somehow") and the popularity of crossover events that really created a meta-continuity within companies.

Even so, certain characters have almost always maintained their own bubble. For example, in Detective Comics, Batman rarely, if ever, teamed up with any of his Justice League allies, no matter how dangerous the situation became (plague, earthquake, monstrous plant woman).

Because if Batman called in Superman to help one time, the question would be why he didn't do that every time. And if he did call in Superman every time, then Detective Comics would be just another Superman title, with Batman reduced to the role of Jimmy Olsen.

The easier solution is for everyone (Batman, the villains, and the readers) to forget that Superman even exists, let alone that Batman has him on speed dial, and just tell the story of how Batman, and nobody else, would solve this problem.

The worst violator of this is Judd Winick in Green Arrow (Now Black Canary/Green Arrow). Winick writes some fun action and sets up good situations (the Arrow team is just being out-classed by two world class assassins, or Green Arrow II has been snipered in the middle of the ocean), but then blows it by having a deus ex machina in blue tights fly in to save the day. Twice now.

Now, the logical response for anyone in the DC Universe to horrible circumstances is to shout "Superman, save me!" because, more often than not, he will (Kurt Busiek did a good story about that last year). But in terms of story, nothing sucks out the suspense like knowing the heroes aren't really in any danger because a demigod is waiting in the wings. For story purposes, Black Canary/Green Arrow has to exist in a world without a superman.

Remember, DC isn't telling one story. It's telling and told lots and lots of stories, for over 70 years that we pretend all take place in the same place because it's more fun that way (again, I'm paraphrasing Busiek. Smart man). I think comic book stories are a lot better when they have stronger internal continuity and are worried less about their place in the grand scheme of things, where crossovers and cross-continuity is treated as a special event and not the norm. Basically, I'm advocating for stronger bubbles.

Like that guy from Lilo and Stitch.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Moving Up in the World

That Tor Books/ Seven Seas merger in PW?

Tor has added assistant editor Steven Padnick to its staff to work on Tor/Seven Seas projects.
Yeah, that's me. That's not my title, I'm actually just an editorial assistant, but yeah, I work on comics, now.