Posts Tagged ‘John Byrne

10
Aug
11

Classic EBI #103: Old Dogs, New Tricks

Boom! Studios, the publisher that has been turning out great comics based on various Disney-owned TV shows, cartoons, and movies since 2009, recently confirmed that their production of Disney comics will end in October with their Darkwing Duck/DuckTales crossover. This isn’t really a surprise, and the assumption seems to be that the characters will be folded into Marvel Comics, which Disney purchased about six months after the Boom! deal began. So the questions I ask in today’s Everything But Imaginary are simple: What is Marvel going to do with Disney Comics? And what should Marvel do with Disney Comics?

Everything But Imaginary #410: Marvel’s Mickey Mouse Outfit

In this week’s classic EBI, we’re rolling back to February 23, 2005, when I took a look at the legacy of the Golden Age, both in characters and creators.

Everything But Imaginary #103: Old Dogs, New Tricks

This weekend, I was sitting around reading the latest issue of Comics Buyer’s Guide (which, incidentally, is still the best publication out there about comics), and I was gratified to see an ad from Heroic Publications announcing an upcoming Alter Ego trade paperback. Most of you have never heard of Alter Ego, of course. A few of you may recognize it as being a fanzine published by comic writer and editor supreme Roy Thomas about the Golden and Silver Ages of comics. Three of you, based on our Everything But Imaginary Insta-Poll Technology, seem to think it’s some sort of Greek sandwich.

But it was also a four-issue miniseries written by Thomas and drawn by Ron Harris in the mid-80s, and it’s one of my favorite little-known gems of the comic book world. In this series, published by the now-defunct First Comics, a teenager named Rob Lindsay wound up with a box of Golden Age comics in mint condition, including some he’d never heard of, and with some really bizarre stories (like characters from one publisher showing up in another publisher’s book, which was rare in the 80s and unheard of in the 40s, although these days it happens with such frequency that they’re thinking of adding an inter-company crossover bell, not unlike an ice cream truck).

One of the comics was Alter Ego, a weird tale about a super-powered hero battling an evil tryant, the Crimson Claw. A mask fell out of the comic and, thinking it was a giveaway, Rob put it on, only to be transported to another dimension where World War II was still in high gear and all of the Golden Age characters he’d read about in his grandfather’s old comics were still alive and kicking. And he himself had been transformed to Alter Ego, their leader, and the only hope of saving his world and theirs from nuclear devastation.

I really don’t know how well-received the comic was when it was first published – I discovered it a few years later at a flea market, where I got all four issues for a quarter apiece. It looked interesting, and heck, it was only a buck for the whole miniseries. I’ve read those issues dozens of times over the years. It was one of the best single dollars I’ve ever spent. I even got Thomas to autograph the first issue for me at a convention a few years ago.

One of my favorite things about the title, though, was that Thomas didn’t whip up a bunch of “new” Golden Age heroes to plug into his tale – he secured the rights to several real characters who, not being published by Marvel or DC, had faded into obscurity: Captain Combat, the Holy Terror, Skyboy, Yankee Doodle and Camille the Jungle Queen. He even dug up Lev Gleason Publishing’s Daredevil, although with Marvel using the name these days, he called him Double-Dare in the comic.

At any rate, it was a great comic, and with a trade paperback scheduled for release this month, I’d recommend anyone who digs the Golden Age of comics try to find a copy. You know. Both of you. Which brings me around to where I was going in this column – so much of the time we, as comic fans, are looking for the next big thing. The next great writer, the next great artist, the next smash hit character. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m sure a great many of us hope to someday be the next great writer or the next great artist. But there’s still so much life in those classic creations that people are totally missing out on! Thomas was one of the kings of mining Golden Age material for new stuff – during the same period he published Alter Ego he also was doing great stuff at DC with the All-Star Squadron and Secret Origins, which were both steeped in the Golden Age.

These days, you don’t see a lot done with Golden Age properties, except for characters who were created in the Golden Age and have remained consistently popular, like Superman and Captain America. Marvel made an effort recently with New Invaders, but it fell flat pretty quickly. Really, the only one in comics really doing much with it at all at the moment is Geoff Johns in JSA. He’s using the original incarnations of perpetually popular characters like Green Lantern and the Flash, but he’s also brought back new or updated versions of classic, lesser known heroes like Mr. Terrific, Dr. Mid-Nite, Sand and (bless him for this one) the Red Tornado.

There are smatterings of respect to the Golden Age across the rest of the DCU. The Justice League keeps the original Crimson Avenger’s uniform on display in the Watchtower, a symbol of the first superhero in their universe. Lady Blackhawk has recently joined the Birds of Prey, and the Blackhawk name is kept alive by a new elite fighter squad. The Guardian will be part of Grant Morrison’s new Seven Soldiers of Victory. There’s even a new Manhunter, at least the fourth such incarnation of the character since the original one in the Golden Age.

Perhaps even more disturbing to me than the lack of screentime Golden Age properties seem to get these days, though, is the lack of respect Golden Age creators get. We’re talking about the guys who not only invented the medium and genres we all love, but most of them got royally screwed by the publishers in the process. So while Jim Lee has gotten richer off his work with Superman and Batman, the guys who created and defined those characters have struggled. I’m not downing Lee, mind you. I’m just sad that Jerry Siegel, Joe Schuster, Bob Kane and Bill Finger (who got the rawest deal of just about anybody in the Golden Age) didn’t get the recognition they deserved while they were with us.

I try to hit a major con every year or two, and I’ve noticed something that really disturbs me. People are willing to stand in line for up to two hours for an autograph by Michael Turner or Mark Silvestri. And that’s fine – they’re both great artists and I enjoy their work. But then I’ll wander on over to the Artist’s Alley section and I’ll see guys like Mart Nodell sitting there alone, with no one coming close to shake his hand and ask for his signature.

Even sadder, I’ll bet at least 75 percent of the people who just read that paragraph don’t even know who Mart Nodell is.

He was the co-creator (with the aforementioned royally screwed Bill Finger) of a fella by the name of Green Lantern. The first one, of course, Alan Scott, but without him there would have been no Hal Jordan, no Guy Gardner, no John Stewart, no Green Lantern Corps, and Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver wouldn’t currently be doing some of the best work of their careers.

If you ever see him at a con, go talk to him. He’s an interesting guy – I’ve met him twice now and I was amazed each time. He’s happy to sign anything you bring him. He even takes copies of Zero Hour #0, which prominently featured ol’ Hal and happened to have a blank white cover, and does a sketch of a Lantern in green ink. Man, how cool is that?

You see it happening to more recent creators that are getting past their prime too. You may hate what Chris Claremont is doing with X-Men these days, but the man at least deserves respect for having taken what was, at the time, a stagnant, b-list Marvel title and making it one of the flagship books of the entire industry. John Byrne’s Doom Patrol may not be your cup of tea, but he did a run on Fantastic Four that was unparalleled in its quality until Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo took over. Don’t get the new stuff if you don’t like it, but give credit where credit is due as well.

Every art form needs to be constantly looking forward, looking ahead, trying to remain interesting, exciting and revolutionary. You’ve got to be ready to make that journey in the future. But every journey needs fuel, and there’s still an awful lot of fuel to be found in the past, if only you know where to look for it.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: February 16, 2005

Damn you, Geoff Johns.

I didn’t want to like Green Lantern: Rebirth. In fact, I was fully prepared to hate it. I felt like the whole series was DC’s way of capitulating to a vocal minority of fans who have spent the past ten years whining about Hal Jordan like babies who had their bottles taken away from them. To be honest, I still feel that way. But the fact is, no matter why this comic was scheduled in the first place, Johns is telling a fantastic story that’s redeeming Hal and tying up decades of continuity into one tight, concise tale that appears well on the road to reestablishing the one thing I have really missed since the revamp: the Green Lantern Corps. Issue 4 of this series was the best yet, showing some great action scenes, a fantastic moment with Green Arrow that I want as a poster, and the best artwork of Ethan Van Sciver’s career. I’m loving this book.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.

27
Feb
11

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 211: Reboots That Didn’t Suck

The Amazing Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, X-Men: First Class… We’re entering yet another era of reboots. And as the fear of any reboot is that it’ll ruin the franchise, today the boys look back at some successful reboots to give us a little hope for the ones ahead. In this week’s picks, Blake digs Twilight Guardian #2 and Kenny goes with Power Girl #20. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 211: Reboots That Didn’t Suck


16
Feb
11

Classic EBI #77: Days of Bile and Venom

It’s that time again, friends. In this week’s Everything But Imaginary, I take the time to discuss a miraculous event in my classroom and how it ties into the world of comics through Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.

No. Really.

Everything But Imaginary #387: For Once, the Witch Hunt Works Out

But in this week’s classic EBI, we’re going back to August 25, 2004, when I got fed up with the juvenile behavior certain fans displayed over the internet and took them to task for it. As the internet is down the pinnacle of class and civility, I was clearly successful.

Everything But Imaginary #77: Days of Bile and Venom

I try not to rant too much in this column, friends. I try to keep my comments constructive. I try to shed light on the good things about comics, because I think ultimately the way to help comic books become a more popular artform is to convince people who don’t read them of all the incredible things comic books are capable of.

But I can’t do that right now. Right now I’ve got to address one of the problems, one of the biggest problems in terms of perception, one that’s been gnawing at me for some time now and that I really can’t keep to myself anymore. I’m talking about some of the bitter, nasty, venomous attitudes a lot of comic book fans — and even a few professionals — seem to have when discussing our favorite medium.

It seems there are an awful lot of people out there — especially since the internet made it so easy to talk to people — who are simply incapable of having a civil discourse with one another. Sometimes they hate a character. Sometimes they hate an idea. Sometimes they hate a creator. Sometimes they just love another character/idea/creator so much that if someone proposes something that contradicts it, they lash out. Whatever the reasons, I don’t care. It’s got to stop.

First there’s the character issue — everybody has their own favorite characters. Everybody has characters they don’t like. That’s just fine. But discuss it in a rational way. I’m sick and tired of people saying “Captain America is so stupid. I hate him.” “Superman is too perfect. I hate him.” “Kyle Rayner is such a n00b. I wish he would die.” (You know what I hate? The “word” n00b and all derivations thereof.)

If you want to talk about what’s wrong with a character, what stories you don’t like, what aspects of that character don’t work for you — fine. But back it up. Don’t just start namecalling and then sit back and order martinis as though you’ve just given an argument that would win the Lincoln-Douglas debates and you need to relax.

The character debate is asinine anyway, since I don’t really believe there are any characters so fundamentally flawed that you can’t tell good stories with him or her if you have a good enough writer. Case in point: Speedball. A second-string Spider-Man guest star whose only power was that he could bounce. Whooptie-freakin’-doo. Then Fabian Nicieza decided to put him in New Warriors and you know what? He got a personality. He got his powers more fully developed. He got interesting. If it can be done for Speedball, it can be done for anyone.

Then there are the fans who are so obsessive about certain characters that they refuse to accept anything they deem to be critical and instead rail against someone who is trying to have a rational discussion. Magneto is a good example here. A complex character, a hotly debated character, and a good villain when used properly. And it’s okay to like him as a villain. But when people start trying to justify a character’s genocidal actions and paint him as some sort of misunderstood hero, and furthermore ignore any arguments or evidence to the contrary and stoop to denigrating the people who are supporting a different position, that’s when it has gone entirely too far.

Also a source of frustration to me is when people pull a passive aggressive maneuver. What makes this particularly irritating is that, when done well, someone can be utterly infantile in a passive aggressive fashion, but if you try to call them on it you are the one who looks childish. Take the tendency of certain fans to insist on referring to Billy Batson, the original Captain Marvel, as Shazam (which is actually the name of the wizard who gave him his powers and use name is usually used as the title of the comic these days). When I asked one person about this, he proudly announced that Marvel Comics’ character with the same name, Genis-Vell had taken the title away from the original forever. So quite simply, this person had managed to say that a beloved character that has been around longer than he’s been alive is inferior and not worthy of the name he originated, and imply just a little that anyone who disagreed was stupid. And yet if someone tried to point this out to him, all he’d have to do is invite the person to “chill” and then the other person would suddenly look foolish.

As bad as it is when people lash out at a character they don’t like, it’s far worse when they lash out at an artist. (And by “artist” I mean anyone involved in the creative process — writer, penciler, colorist, even actor if the discussion comes to movies or TV shows.) CX Pulp, for its part, is much better about policing this sort of venomous behavior than other comic book websites I could name, but even here some attitudes go too far.

There seems to be a lot of heat right now over John Byrne’s reinterpretation of Doom Patrol. Sometimes the argument is that the dialogue is bad. Sometimes they don’t like the characters. Sometimes they don’t like that the book has rebooted the franchise, essentially nullifying previous stories from continuity. These, again, are valid points of discussion.

Other times the only argument people seem to have is that it’s not Grant Morrison and therefore, by definition, is an inferior, and that’s not a valid point. And when I tried to convince people to cool down, saying “I DO get really tired of people calling for John Byrne’s head,” I was utterly shocked by one of the responses. Someone whose posts I read frequently, someone whose opinion I usually value, replied, “He can keep his head. I just want his hands so he will stop trying to write comics.”

Oh sure. He put a little smiley face at the end. He meant it as a joke. But it’s not a funny one. Not to me. The guy who said this is better than that, and he knows it.

Then there are the personal assaults against an actor or actress when a comic book film is in the works. One person says he doesn’t like the choice for Sue Storm in the Fantastic Four movie, and someone else replies that she’s better than “that trailer trash Kirsten Dunst.” Dunst, from the Spider-Man movies, has absolutely nothing to do with this conversation, but was apparently injected into the topic just so the poster in question could make himself feel big by slamming someone who isn’t around to speak up in her defense.

Then there are those instances where someone manages to insult both a creator and a fan. On another message board that I read from time to time, I saw one fan say he liked Olivier Coipel’s artwork and was excited he will be doing an upcoming run on Uncanny X-Men. Now if you happen to disagree with this, there are a number of rational responses. “I’m not really a fan of Coipel” would be acceptable. So would “I prefer Alan Davis.” Even “his recent work on Avengers wasn’t up to speed.”

But the actual response was “I believe that all diseases, including this one, can be treated.” Very clever. In one post, this guy managed to insult Coipel’s artwork (which I, for the record, think is pretty good), and state that anyone who likes it is a sick individual. Classy, isn’t it?

And finally, we come down to the personal attacks against someone who doesn’t like a title. A few weeks ago our own Craig Reade came under fire for remarks he made about Peter David’s Fallen Angel title. Craig merely meant he was surprised that the book hadn’t been cancelled, but due to some poor wording, fans of the title took it to mean he was calling for it to be cancelled, and they swarmed on him en masse. Even David himself joined in the debate. Craig, to his credit, went out and read the first several issues of the comic, even devoted a Still on the Shelf column to it, but since his conclusion was that he just didn’t care for the title, people started screaming that he “didn’t get it.”

This infuriates me. I get this almost every month when I review Lucifer in the DC Comics advance reviews. I’m not a fan of the title, and I explain why I’m not a fan of the title – it would be an unfair review if I didn’t explain what I think the problems are. Some can accept my opinion, even if they don’t agree, and I have no quarrel with them. But others conclude that anyone who doesn’t like their favorite book just isn’t smart enough to understand it, and they don’t mind telling you as much. I get it with Lucifer. Craig gets it with Fallen Angel.

So I tried to step to his defense — I said I’d read the first several issues (six, in fact), because I am a fan of Peter David’s work, but this title simply didn’t interest me. David, to my surprise, actually replied with a challenge — read issue #14 and if I didn’t like it, I could send the issue to him and he’d refund my money. I respected that enough to get the book and give it another shot.

And you know what? I still didn’t like it.

The issue consisted mainly of the various characters in the series parading past the lead and updating her on their lives or situations, concluding with a twist. None of that changed the central problem I had with the title, though, which is that I still didn’t connect with or care about any of the characters. Although the offer was made, I don’t think I will try to send the book to David, because I don’t think he owes me anything. All a comic book creator owes any reader is the story he puts on the page, and the buyer beware. Nobody made me read the issue, I chose to. And for those of you who do enjoy the title, that’s perfectly fine with me, and I hope you get to continue to enjoy it for a long time to come.

But now that I’ve said this, I’ve no doubt that somewhere, on some message board, someone will be buzzing that I’m just not smart enough to get it, because that’s what a lot of these anonymous internet trolls do. They hide behind manufactured identities without the guts to use their real name and spit at anyone who dares disagree with them.

Are you mad yet? I kind of hope so, because if you are, that probably means you’ve been guilty of what I’m talking about at some point or another. All of us have. I know I have — I’m not exempt. But I’m riled up now, friends. I don’t want to tolerate this sort of thing anymore. When I see this nonsense I’m going to call people on it, and I hope they do the same to me if I ever cross the line.

And here’s why — I know I’ve given a lot of examples here, but I haven’t explained why it infuriates me so much, and that’s the most important part. It’s because of Comic Book Guy.

You know the character from The Simpsons, the fat, balding loser who runs the comic book store. He’s a funny character, but he perpetuates a stereotype that cripples comic books. Whenever anyone starts any of the crap I’ve mentioned in this thread, I hear Comic Book Guy’s voice in my mind intoning “Worst issue ever.” A lot of people who don’t read comic books honestly do believe that all retailers, fans and creators are like that guy. And when you start spewing nastiness, all you’re doing is reinforcing that idea.

So go ahead and talk about comics. Critique them. Debate them. And for Heaven’s sake — disagree.

But be an adult about it, because no matter how much you complain about comic books being looked down upon as a children’s medium, that is never going to change unless we all grow up.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: August 18 2004

This week’s favorite was a sure thing. Bill Willingham has been doing great stuff with Robin for nearly a year now, but issue #129 was possibly his best yet. Tim Drake has quit, is Robin no more, but when the mob war that’s tearing apart Gotham City comes into his high school, he’s got to remember what it meant to be a hero. This one issue does more to define Tim’s character than some writers can accomplish in years. It’s the best Batman family book on the racks right now, and if you’re skipping it due to the “War Games” crossover, you’re cheating yourself.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast and the weekly audio fiction podcast Blake M. Petit’s Evercast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page, and check out his new experiment in serial fiction at Tales of the Curtain.

15
Sep
10

Classic EBI #65: The Supergirls From Krypton

In this week’s Everything But Imaginary, the characters from the long-defunct Atlas Comics will soon be returning to a comic shop near you! Is this a good idea? Well… it’s not unprescedented, at least.

Everything But Imaginary #367: Back From the Dead-Ish

But in this week’s Classic EBI, we’re headed back to the mysterious days of 2004, when there was no Supergirl, but rumor had it one was about to turn up in the pages of a little comic called Superman/Batman

May 2, 2004

Everything But Imaginary #65: The Supergirls From Krypton

One of the things I like about our little Comixtreme home is how people can ask just about any question about any comic and, chances are, there’ll be somebody around who knows the answer. Where’s a good spot to start reading Aquaman? When did Triathalon quit the Avengers? Is that Lady Gaga’s real hair color?

But one thing that seems to come up over and over, especially since the current arc in Superman/Batman started, is how to reconcile the various incarnations of Supergirl. There have been, after all, several young ladies who’ve used that name, and some of ‘em just don’t jive with each other. So for this week’s course in Comic Book Minutia 101, I’m gonna walk you guys through the Supergirls so that even a new reader can get into the new storyline with little difficulty. Now keep in mind, I’m only talking about characters that were (at one point or another) official DC canon — no Elseworlds (Superman and Batman: Generations), crossovers (Superman/Aliens) or potential futures (DC One Million) will be covered, because nobody likes a migrane headache.

Now everybody knows the first Supergirl was Kara Zor-El, right? Wrong. Ha-ha. I love tricking you guys. Several months prior to Kara’s debut, Jimmy Olsen came into possession of a magic totem that would grant him three wishes. Pal that he was, he decided to use all three to help his buddy Superman, who immediately wished Jimmy had just wished for a cool car or something like a normal teenager, because all of the wishes turned into disasters. One of them was for a “Supergirl” who could be a suitable mate for the ol’ Man of Steel. A girl appeared, clad in a costume similar to Superman’s, and went on to cause lots of well-intentioned trouble before sacrificing herself in a valiant effort to wrap up the story so they could get on to the second wish.

The story proved popular, though, and in Action Comics #252, the new Supergirl debuted. Superman found a spaceship that crashed to Earth containing a girl wearing a variation of his costume (who looked eerily similar to the very woman Jimmy had tried to fix him up with earlier, adding a Freudian aspect to the whole thing) and who claimed to be his cousin. She escaped the destruction of Krypton when her whole city was blown away under a plastic dome. Her father sent her to Earth when a meteor shower killed everyone in Argo City by exposing them to Kryptonite, which makes you wonder why they didn’t try building a few more spaceships all those years they were drifting in the void.

Superman, displaying the sort of foresight that makes airport screenings in America such a rousing success, accepted Kara’s story and helped her build a life for herself by dropping her off at an orphanage. Fulfilling the contractual obligation to introduce one new Superman character with the initials “LL” every five years, she took the human name “Linda Lee,” later “Danvers” when she was adopted. She went on to be a beloved hero and part-time member of the Legion of Super-Heroes, where she had an on-again, off-again romance with Brainiac 5, allowing female fans to swoon over a green-skilled superhero years before males got She-Hulk to satisfy that urge.

It should be noted that, at the time, there were two DC Universes – Earth-1, which was the home of every character we read about regularly, and Earth-2, which was the home of the Golden Age versions of the characters. (Why didn’t the original characters get to be from Earth-1? Because no one at DC could count.) Anyway, someone decided that since Superman of Earth-1 had a cousin, so should his Earth-2 counterpart. Kara Zor-El’s origin was more or less duplicated on Earth-2, but for some reason she decided to call herself Power Girl instead of Supergirl, showing that she was definitely already more liberated and independent than her Earth-1 doppleganger.

All joking aside, this Supergirl is the one most fans remember, love, and rabidly salivate over in bizarre fan fiction that has no place on a family website like this. Interestingly though, like Tasha Yar in Star Trek: The Next Generation, it took her death to make people appreciate her. Kara gave her life to save the universe in Crisis on Infinite Earths #7, creating the most parodied comic book cover since Action Comics #1 and the biggest shocker of the series right up until the next issue when Barry Allen, the second Flash, died.

The big change of Crisis, of course, was merging Earths 1 and 2 and eliminating redundant characters. But with Supergirl dead, what was to become of Power Girl? Well, someone at DC decided to say that, rather than Kryptonian, she was Atlantean, which makes perfect sense when you think of all the times we’ve seen Aquaman flying around using his heat vision. That origin was also later abandoned, and currently Power Girl’s origin is so screwed up that even Power Girl doesn’t know what it is, and the only hope we have of straightening it out is for Geoff Johns to step in, so let’s stop discussing it before I get a migrane.

After the Crisis was over, John Byrne revamped Superman’s history from the ground up, wiping away his years as Superboy and making him, in fact, the sole survivor of Krypton — which meant that Kara, in the new universe, never existed, except for a cameo in a great Deadman Christmas story a few years later.

Not long into the new continuity, though, Byrne introduced a new Supergirl. With Superboy gone, Byrne explained the fact that the Legion of Super-Heroes in the 30th Century modeled themselves after him by saying a Superboy existed in a “pocket universe” created by their old foe, the Time Trapper. In that universe, a heroic scientist named Lex Luthor created a synthetic being with shapeshifting powers to fight a trio of Kryptonian villains that were destryoing the world. Christening her Supergirl, he sent her to our universe to bring Superman to help. When the smoke cleared, the new Supergirl was the only survivor of her world. Superman brought her back to his Earth where she roamed, got hooked up with Lex Luthor II (actually Lex in a cloned body), joined the Titans and was generally ignored until Peter David said, “Let me have a crack.”

In his new Supergirl series, Supergirl saved the life of a hopeless reprobate named — wait for it — Linda Danvers. In David’s theology, though, when a being of pure good sacrifices her life to save someone beyond redemption, the two souls are merged into one “Earth Born Angel.” He told some great comics about this new merged Supergirl until, fighting some demons, they were separated. Supergirl went missing and Linda was left with a fraction of her powers. She put on a wig and a costume based on the Supergirl of the Superman cartoon (which we’re not talking about since that’s an alternate continuity, blast it!) and set off to find her. Eventually she rescued Supergirl and set her spirit free with the help of Mary Marvel and a mysterious angelic being named — wait for it — Kara.

Unfortunately, no one could save the book from cancellation. David’s last storyline involved Linda finding the old Pre-Crisis Kara Zor-El transported to our dimension. David has said that, if he’d been allowed to continue the series Linda would have become a new Superwoman, Kara would have remained Supergirl and Power Girl would have joined the cast, making the book a Superman-family equivalent of the popular Birds of Prey. Unfortunately, the book was cancelled, Kara was sent back in time to die in the Crisis and Linda, consumed with guilt, left Superman a note asking him not to look for her and vanished, prompting many fans to speculate she is the mysterious protagonist of David’s new Fallen Angel series. (2010 note: She was not.)

Now what I’m about to say next I don’t know for sure, this is pure speculation, but with Supergirl sales on the rise at the time of her cancellation, it seemed to me that DC was just clearing that character out of the way to make a path for the biggest mistake in Supergirl history (and yes, I include Streaky, the Super-Cat in that)…

Cir-El. A mysterious girl appeared in Metropolis claiming to be the daughter of Superman and Lois Lane from the future, or possibly from last month’s X-Men, considering the backstory. She wasn’t. She was a pawn in a scheme of villains called the Futuresmiths and lasted about a year before Superman stopped them, then she either died or lost her powers or joined the circus or something. At that point the story was so messed up I didn’t even care anymore.

Then came Jeph Loeb. Dear, sweet Jeph Loeb, who at this point could generate buzz by writing a fortune cookie. In Superman/Batman #8, the World’s Finest duo found a lifeboat inside a Kryptonite meteor that fell to earth in issue #6 of the same title, and inside that capsule was a blonde girl with all of Superman’s powers. After a brief conversation in Kryptonese Superman, proving that he hasn’t learned anything about checking a passport in the past 50 years, proudly introduced her to Batman as Kara, his cousin from Krypton

The great thing about this story is that we readers have the same scepticism as Batman. Is she really from Krypton? Is she a threat? A Trojan horse? Or is this really a permanant return to the character, bringing us back where we were nearly 20 years ago when she died in the Crisis? Three issues left to find out that answer.

So to come back to the original question, “What’s the deal with Supergirl?” my reply would be, “This is why retcons suck.”

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: May 2, 2004

Speaking of Legion my “Favorite of the Week” trophy goes to the end of the five-year run of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning with the preiminent heroes of the 31st century. In Legion #33, Live Wire, still trapped in the body of the late Element Lad, must save his team from revenge-crazed band of villains seeking retribution for the crimes of the Progenitor (Element Lad after he went crazy) back in the Legion Lost miniseries. For five years, now, this has been a great title, and I hate to see DnA leave. But things are bright — the future holds an arc by Gail Simone, a crossover with Teen Titans (explaining why Superboy is in both books) and a relaunch by Mark Waid and Barry Kitson — so I can smile, secure in the knowledge that the Legion of Super-Heroes is in great hands.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast and the weekly audio fiction podcast Blake M. Petit’s Evercast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.

23
Jun
10

EBI Classic #52: Spandex and Seltzer

In this week’s new column, Everything But Imaginary #356: Where Jonah Hex Went Wrong, I take a look at the latest comic book movie to hit theaters, and one of the biggest flops the industry has ever seen… and just why it was so bad. And here at the ‘Realms it’s time for another classic EBI column. From March 3, 2004…

Spandex and Seltzer

Although this column is about comic books in general (in particular, how to improve them), it’s undeniable that superheroes are the dominant genre in American comics. So let’s think for a moment about those traits that make a good superhero: he should fight evil. Simple enough. He should have a distinctive look — I don’t necessarily mean a “uniform” or a “costume,” but this character should have a consistent appearance and manner of dress while he’s on the job. Oh, yeah, one more thing. He should be funny. Really, really funny.

Okay, stop scratching your heads, I’m going to explain that one. Sure, there are a lot of spandex types that aren’t even remotely funny. The Vision, for instance, is a typically cold, stoic character, and as good as Supreme Power typically is, it’s not a title that will conjure up a lot of laughs.

But superheroes, as much as I love ‘em, are sort of a silly concept to begin with — people who put on tights and capes and run around beating up muggers… this is not the product of a well-balanced mind. So melding superheroes with pure comedy is something that has been tried again and again over the years, frequently with very good results.

You can find examples of comedy superheroes as far back as the Fawcett Comics Captain Marvel series (reprinted as Shazam! in the DC Comics Archive collection). While early adventures of this character attempted to be a bit more serious, in line with contemporaries like Superman, within a few years the writers realized how silly a concept they really had — a small boy who could say a magic word and become a grown-up superhero — and began to have fun with it. They introduced characters like Mr. Tawny, the talking tiger, and goofy villains like Mr. Mind, an alien worm that could crawl in someone’s ear and control their brain. (Kudos to Geoff Johns for resurrecting the concept in the recent JSA/Hawkman crossover, by the way.) You had looney villains like Dr. Sivana, whose every scheme seemed to include capturing Billy Batson and preventing him from saying his magic word until the gag fell away or something, then Captain Marvel would wipe the floor with him. Basically, you had some lighthearted, fun comics that are still a joy to read today.

A contemporary of the big red cheese, of course, was Jack Cole’s Plastic Man, a stretchy hero with a sense of humor when he fought crime. He paved the way for wisecrackers like Spider-Man, and currently he’s being used in his own series by Kyle Baker, who is doing the best Plastic Man since Cole himself. (Although there was a late-80s miniseries by Phil Foglio and Hilary Barta that never gets enough credit.)

Superheroes then faded, then came back, then got corny, then got “relevant,” then got gritty, and at this point it seemed like people would rip the hair from their skulls at how depressing superhero comics were. Sure, there were a few exceptions like the silver age Legion of Super-Heroes. That was a pretty cutting edge title at the time, with characters actually dying and turning bad or getting kicked off the team, stuff that you didn’t see in other superhero titles, but at the same time there was still room for fun, goofy characters like Bouncing Boy, Matter-Eater Lad and the Legion of Super-Pets.

Then came the 80s and two of the best humor superhero concepts ever. First was Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis’s Justice League. Coupled with artists like Bart Sears and the great Kevin Maguire, these teams lasted for five years on two titles that took our classic DC icons and made them funny as all get-out. They turned second-stringers like Blue Beetle and Booster Gold into Abbott and Costello for the spandex set. They made Guy Gardner a pansy with a blow to the head. They turned the Martian Manhunter into an Oreo fiend. Their ideas got goofier and goofier and worked more and more, and thank goodness they came back last year with the Formerly Known as the Justice League miniseries, because we really needed it.

The other good superhero comedy of the 80s was John Byrne’s take on the formerly “savage” She-Hulk. Originally just a carbon copy of the Hulk with a supermodel figure, Byrne saw the inherent goofiness in a seven-foot green attorney/superhero and went one better. In Byrne’s title, the She-Hulk actually knew she was in a comic book, and would frequently break the fourth wall, talking to the writer, to the reader, and using gags like “Meanwhile” captions to help her travel much faster. It was incredibly funny stuff, and after Byrne’s run on the title ended, other writers tried to copy his style but it was never quite the same. If you can find back issues of either of his two runs on the title, they’re worth picking up, though.

So what have we got these days if you want superhero humor? Aside from the aforementioned Plastic Man, not much. Sure, some books like Spider-Man still crack a lot of jokes, or maybe Mark Waid will give us a particularly funny issue of Fantastic Four, but that’s not the same as a regular humor fix. Doug Miers did a great series a while back called The Generic Comic Book, which starred a Generic Man fighting generic villains and cracking up the reader in the process, but that only lasted 13 issues (although there is the promise of a Generic Mini-Series later this year).

Occasionally you’ll get a comedy miniseries like the anxiously awaited I Can’t Believe It’s Not the Justice League or the fantastic Gus Beezer specials Gail Simone did before she went exclusive to DC. Bongo comics still does occasional issues of Radioactive Man, taking Bart Simpson’s favorite comic book and using it to poke lighthearted fun at all eras and styles of superhero comics, but the ostensibly quarterly series seems to take longer to come out with each issue.

I want more. I want to be able to laugh more at our buddies in tights. I’d like to see the Defenders return as a comedy series (because let’s face it, with a name that generic humor is an obvious ingredient). I’d like to see a sort of “buddy movie” miniseries with famous buds Wonder Man and the Beast (kind of like Roger Stern did a few years ago in his Avengers Two miniseries, but funnier).

Blast it all, I want to see the Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew meets Peter Porker the Spectacular Spider-Ham crossover classic.

So what makes you laugh about guys in spandex? What Are some good superhero comedy titles that I missed? What’s being published right now that I should know about? You know what they say, laughter is the best medicine. And if your general practitioner is Doctor Doom, you want to stay away as long as possible.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: February 25, 2004

Speaking of the Legion of Super-Heroes, Legion #30 easily took my award for best comic last week. The conclusion of the “Foundations” storyline sees the Legion along with a time-tossed Superboy and a brainwashed teenage version of Clark Kent take on Darkseid, who has kidnapped and perverted heroes from the past in his own bid to rule the universe. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have crafted an epic to rival “The Great Darkness Saga” as one of the best Legion stories ever told, and Christ Batista’s pencils have never been better. I’m sorry to see this writing team leaving the book, and whoever is coming in after their five years of stewarding these characters has a very tough act to follow.

I still miss Matter-Eater Lad, though.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast and the weekly audio fiction podcast Blake M. Petit’s Evercast. E-mail him at Blake@comixtreme.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.




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