Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Giving Comic Books a Bad Name

I would like to detail, briefly, some things that have happened in the last 10 or so years in comics which have greatly cheapened them to me.

1 - Grant Morrison's run on X-Men. This is the man responsible for making Beast look like a housecat. He is also the man I blame for (more on this later) annihilating any semblance of logic regarding Magneto, the X-Men's greatest villain for roughly forty years of publishing. And Morrison created Cassandra Nova too. Who's Cassandra Nova? She's a bald chick who's Professor X's unborn evil twin who he murdered in the womb but then lived in a sewer grate as psychic energy for 50 years or something while plotting her revenge. I wish I was making that up. Somebody did make that up and got paid for making it up. And his name is Grant Morrison. (I sometimes think his homepage jpg was created especially for me.) All I can think of is that Grant must've gotten into some bad peyote while he was writing this (as his prior run on JLA was pretty good). The big villain of his X-Men story arc, by the way - mold. Like as in, "dust, mold, and mildew." Asthmatics everywhere shivered as they wheezed.

2 - The creation of the Ultimate universe, which I guess I should blame Brian Michael Bendis for. It's basically establishing a continuous "What If" continuity as a way to recycle old stories with "a twist." For those of you who are not familiar with the works of M. Night Shamaylan - "twist" is a codeword for "something that sucks, and has the subtlety of a flaming chainsaw shovel." Something like "Cable is evil, only he's not, but he's Wolverine, I think." Stuff like that. Don't get me wrong, there have been cool moments in the Ultimate books, not to mention that I'll read a grocery list if it's written by Jeph Loeb (see Onslaught Reborn, discussed later on). Too, as real X-Men continuity got so thrashed by Morrison, it's fun to believe there's some universe where the X-Men aren't completely lame (which I guess is what Astonishing is for, but space is boring). And Ultimate did the right thing in terms of that they didn't UNDO the real continuity to tell these alternative stories, thank god. (Hear that, DC??) Nonetheless, the Ultimate universe has taken away creative talent from "real" books. You know, books that will still exist in five years and not be an anachronism. (Remember Nth Man, or Slapstick? How about SuperPro? Yup, I didn't think you would.)

3) Re-establishing universes in general. DC's Infinite Crisis, while employing a number of well-respected scribes working in tandem, to me is unjustifiable. When COIE hit in the 80s, the DC universe wasn't streamlined enough for new readers (even many established readers) to remember what happened in which reality - so they made ONE cohesive reality. Now we've gone from having one reality which worked for something like 20-25 years to 52ish realities. Batman has a son, for Christ's sake (who's a dick no less). Who's writing it you ask? Why it's our old friend - Grant Morrison. The one positive thing of Infinite Crisis is that DC has exclusive Morrison rights now, so he can't mess up any Marvel stuff in the foreseeable future. The one negative thing of Infinite Crisis is that Morrison has now screwed up the 1 title I care about for each company. I hope Denny O'Neil hits you in the head with a frying pan Morrison. And I hope Chris Claremont is holding you still while he does it.

4) Peter Parker sucks now more than ever. Spider-Man, the posterboy for the doubting inner-monologue in all of us (and therefore the grandfather of emo), had one thing going for him. Through all his incessant doubt and whining and his undeservingly having an incredibly hot girlfriend despite his constantly making poor decisions in general, (once he's done being indecisive) he had one phrase that kept him vaguely relevant. "With great power, comes great responsibility." He just sold his soul to Mephisto (comics' devil), which wrenches the last 20 years of continuity, in order to save Aunt May's life at the cost of his relationship with Mary Jane and/or their unborn child. Somehow or other at least one of the real Green Goblins are alive again, and the book comes out weekly now. Does selling your soul to the devil seem like a responsible decision? No. A human one, maybe, but not a responsible one. Thus, Spider-Man is now completely a nutsack. No, calling him a nutsack is too complimentary. The suckiest balls are like 'no way man, I'm cooler than Spider-Man.' JMS wrote this one, but not really. It was Joe Quesada's call.

5) Joe Quesada. As a guy I'd probably like Joe. As an artist I usually like Joe. Probably as a businessman I bet I'd like Joe. As the trustee of the few remaining remnants of the pop culture of my childhood which have not already been ruined by the uninformed profiteers of the modern media, I don't like Joe. Shy of DC's newest Crises, I'm pretty sure that everything I've discussed here has either been greenlit by, or at least not vetoed by, Joe. Remember the re-do of Age of Apocalypse, which sucked? On Joe's watch. Remember Onslaught Reborn? On Joe's watch. Remember Astonishing X-Men which takes place half in and half out of continuity? On Joe's watch. Remember Eternals? No? Good for you! (It was also on Joe's watch, featuring the 'everything has angles' artwork of John Romita Jr.) But all the Marvel movies have been on Joe's watch, and since I think Marvel views comics as monthly $3 ads for their films (which is where they make their real money) he's probably getting a thumbs up from everybody at corporate. I'm sure he cares about this stuff and has reasons for what he does. I just feel like a lot of it hasn't panned out. And how many fantastic artists have signed to DC during his tenure: Ian Churchill, the Kubert brothers, etc. That may not have any relation to anything listed above - but it does still suck.

I'm not incredibly rigid. There are changes I approve of. Skrulls all up in everything - cool. Hulk being an aboriginal guy turned space warrior, okay. Iron Man and Reed Richards being on the wrong side of a boring battle and generally being dickish - well that's just a given really. Speedball becoming some spiky-armor evil-looking guy who you might see at an S+M club on Halloween in Ybor at a Voldo look-alike contest - no problem. Wolverine being a turn-of-the-century pansy kid, which involved changing his name from Logan to James, and being the offspring of his mother's second (at least) illicit affair with the alcoholic help - why not? Captain America dying was stupid, but I have no specific problem with it as ultimately he succumbed to the outdatedness of his own ideals. (Sad.) Even Banshee dying was pointless, but at least he's a character that is kind of a C- at best. Storm marrying the Black Panther doesn't provoke my interest in the least but I'll let it slide. I'm just saying that if writers want to get "creative" in a wacky way (see "twist" above), go do it with Booster Gold, go do it with Ant-Man (or The Atom), go do it with Werewolf by Night or something, Darkhawk, Spider-Ham or somebody for chrissakes. Not the established flagship characters whose faces and logos are synonymous with your company.

Deconstruction might be all the rage right now, but sometimes a spaceship is better than the Lego pieces you put one together with.

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