Game Tape

There comes a time in a man’s life when he looks back wistfully and reviews the choices that he has made. For me that time happens most Thursday. This is the Game Tape; let’s review shall we?

First up is a look at the best issue of any book that I’ve read in a long time. Goon #39 points out every gimmicky things that Powell sees as being wrong with big company comics today, and for my money he’s not wrong. From reboots and seeming pointless costume changes to poor story craft and jab at a certain rainbow corps, this issue lampoons with a sharp wit.

Next up was an enjoyable done-in-one issue of FF. Without going into detail, this is Peter Parker and Johnny Storm being Peter and Johnny. One’s frustrated, and one is oblivious. I won’t spoil it, but the last two pages are the funniest I’ve seen in a Marvel book since Ego the Living Planet fell in love with Earth. The last page is so great and weird that I’m probably going to use it as my facebook profile pic.

Secret Avengers #26 was fairly meh. It had potential and great art, but it wasted an inordinate amount of time throwing Thor and some b-listers at the Phoenix Force.

All-Star Western #8’s minimal use of the simpering Dr. Arkham was a pleasant read. It’s hampered a little by plot exposition, but it was a decent read.

I also found a copy of Supreme #63. It was as enjoyable as I remembered earlier issues to be. That’s certainly a pleasant surprise, as I’ve recently been burned on things I’ve reread early last decade.

Before Watchmen, The End of My Relationship With DC Comics

Wednesday morning DC Comics announced the long-awaited (and long-reported by Rich Johnston) news that they would be “building” on Watchmen by releasing a series of “Before Watchmen” mini-series. Featuring each of the major characters in the original series plus a Minutemen series, the new series will build on the mythology of the Watchmen universe and finally turn those characters into a fully-formed brand to be marketed and exploited.

I spoke about this on our Twitter account a couple months ago when Bleeding Cool started running leaked concept art by creators we now know are attached to the project, but since 140 characters bursts doesn’t allow for much depth of thought, it seems like the opportune time to elaborate.

It’s long been the conventional wisdom that for Marvel and DC, comics don’t pay the bills, it is the licensing of characters that brings in the real money.  And especially recently, with line-wide relaunches, monster trucks, and twitter accounts hyping mass media appearances more than comics, it feels like more than just the conventional wisdom.  Comic books may be dying out, but through licensing the characters can live on in perpetuity.  Therefore, with every financial reason to do it and no creative impetus behind it**, Before Watchmen isn’t an artistic endeavor, it’s a blank check for DC to enhance the brand and keep the licensing money coming.

Let’s be honest, most of the major comic book characters you know and love are 40-60 years old now.  Other than
Watchmen, which is one of the best selling graphic novels ever, how many comic book characters can you name  were created in the last 25 years and are household names?  Spawn, probably.  Deadpool, maybe. The list is pretty thin.  The Watchmen characters are well-known, popular, and just sitting in the DC vaults unused.  Perhaps it’s inevitable that Watchmen gets dragged hurming and scheming into the 21st century, but without the unanimous blessing of their creators I can’t put my support behind it.

Kudos to DC for getting Dave Gibbons’ approval on the new works, but that’s only half the solution.  In order to get me on-board for this (and I want to be, truly I do) Alan Moore has to sign off on it as well.  Can you imagine Steve Dillon spinning off Preacher without Garth Ennis, Eduardo Risso continuing 100 Bullets without Brian Azzarello (one of the Before Watchmen creators!), or Darick Robertson doing more Transmetropolitan without Warren Ellis*?

Of course not.  Those books were made by creative TEAMS, and the artist and writer are both critical to their success.  Before Watchmen is an event by committee, not an artistic vision at work.  But the main reason those spinoffs wouldn’t work?  All of the books I mentioned are creator-owned titles.  Watchmen had the misfortune of coming out too soon***.  Had it been published in 1996 instead of 1986 it would have been released as a creator-owned series through the Vertigo imprint!  Had Vertigo existed back then Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons would have owned the series and its characters, never squabbled about DC keeping it in print in perpetuity (therefore preventing the rights from reverting back to Moore and Gibbons) and they probably would have done the prequels they considered TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO!

The Internet, predictably, exploded.  And there have been some good rebuttals to the outrage.  J. Michael Straczynski, who will be working on the Nite Owl and Dr. Manhattan books, told Comic Book Resources:
“A lot of folks feel that these characters shouldn’t be touched by anyone other than Alan, and while that’s absolutely understandable on an emotional level, it’s deeply flawed on a logical level. Based on durability and recognition, one could make the argument that Superman is the greatest comics character ever created. But neither Alan nor anyone else has ever suggested that no one other than Shuster and Siegel should ever be allowed to write Superman. Alan didn’t pass on being brought on to write Swamp Thing, a seminal comics character created by Len Wein, and he did a terrific job. He didn’t say “No, no, I can’t, that’s Len’s character.” Nor should he have.”

That’s an excellent point.  Here’s the thing: Siegel and Shuster never intended to be the only ones ever telling Superman stories, or that it would never continue past a certain point.  Hell, Superman was originally a newspaper strip, a serial if ever there was one.  Their only beef was that they didn’t get adequate payment for all DC exploited Superman. The same goes for Kirby.  Truth be told, the same goes for Alan Moore when he worked on Batman, Vigilante, and Green Lantern.  Moore doesn’t WANT the money, he wants DC to leave it alone (well, that and let him get the rights back).

JMS goes on later to say:
“Again: on an emotional level, I get it. But by the same token, Alan has spent most of the last decade writing some very, very good stories about characters created by other writers, including Alice (from Wonderland), Dorothy (from Oz), Wendy (from Peter Pan), as well as Captain Nemo, the Invisible Man, Jekyll and Hyde and Professor Moriarty. I think one loses a little of the moral high ground to say, “I can write characters created by Jules Verne, HG Wells, Robert  Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle and Frank Baum, but it’s wrong for anyone else to write my characters.””

Again, there is a bit of a difference here.  Presumably Moore has no problem with others using his work 70 years after his death, when it would enter the public domain.  He’s a smart man, and understands public domain (which kept Lost Girls from being published in the UK for a while, until the Peter Pan rights expired) and the concept of transformative works.  Now I do feel from time to time like Moore is a crotchety, hypersensitive guy who won’t rest until he can find fault in everything, like someone’s grandmother, but in these instances I feel he’s got a solid basis for his feelings.


With the New 52 relaunch, the over-reliance on events (and making them bigger and more inflammatory each time), and now this, DC is making it quite clear that they are more concerned with getting our money and the perpetuation of brands rather than integrity.  And not necessarily the artistic kind, just good ethics.  And I just can’t support that any more.  With Watchmen 2 happening, I am officially done with DC Comics and all it’s associated creators.  At the moment
that includes:

  • Seriously, I would LOVE to read this. But I can't.

    Brian Azzarello

  • Lee Bermejo
  • Amanda Conner
  • Darwyn Cooke
  • Adam Hughes
  • J.G. Jones
  • Andy Kubert
  • Joe Kubert
  • Jae Lee
  • J. Michael Straczynski
  • Len Wein

Not that I was buying any JMS titles anyway, but we’ve been always told that we vote with our wallet.  Well, my three dollars (let’s face it, they weren’t getting $4 from me anyway) isn’t going to support this system or those who enable it.

Most support I’ve seen so far has come in the form of how DC is a company whose goal is to make money, so they can do what they want with characters they own.  Or that the new titles sound great.  And those statements are ALL true.  These are DC’s characters, and maybe it IS stupid of them to have these characters and not capitalize on them.  I think an Azzarello/Bermejo Rorschach series would be AMAZING.  But I can’t support it, not without the approval of both Moore and Gibbons.

And may God have mercy on our souls if we ever see a Dr. Manhattan monster truck.

*Cully Hamner did some Red prequels without Ellis, but since we never heard complaints from him, we have to assume they were sanctioned.
** So far, what we’ve heard is Dan DiDio approaching creators to work on the project, which means it’s coming down from an editorial/managerial level.  And while I imagine the creative process behind these books is an honest one, it’s not the same as, say, Geoff Johns coming up with Green Lantern: Rebirth.
***Ditto Sandman, but DC has been very careful not to alienate DC by using his characters without his okay.  Their relationship with Neil Gaiman may very well be the result of lessons learned working with Alan Moore.

Over the course of our lives, Matt’s heard me talk a lot of craziness, make a load of overreaching declarations, and talked me down off many a ledge.  So these were his thoughts when we discussed the news.

So then…

Where does this idea come from that Alan Moore is the only one to touch Watchmen?

Who’s out there clamoring for more? It’s a fairly complete story with few or no holes. If nothing else, didn’t we learn our lesson as fans with The Dark Knight Strikes Again?

Before Watchmen
, so what? When rumblings of this started way back, I had no interest in seeing prequels or sequels. That view has not changed. I don’t get the idea that people are so attached to the unlikeable, shallow, impotent, and petty caricatures that Alan Moore used to tell his story. Anything I ever wondered about them is given to me in the pages of the original 12 issues. So if I want a good Rorschach prequel story, I’ll read The Question, and the same goes for Moore’s other “creations” and their Charlton counterparts. I can’t make myself care about it because it isn’t affecting how I feel about the original story. Just because DC’s doing it doesn’t mean I have to read it.

It’s funny that Watchmen is the third rail of comics. Why does this story get people so up in arms?

In terms of the outcry and insistence that it have Moore’s blessing, I find myself agreeing with… God help me… JMS. It’s DC’s property. Again, whatever is done now by whomever will not change the original story, its significance, or my own feelings about the story.

Maybe the stories will be good. Maybe they’ll be forgotten not unlike DC’s Kingdom. At the end of the day, the only problem I have is that I always find blatant pandering insulting.  It bothers me that DC feels that it can dangle new Watchmen stories and we’ll automatically open our wallets and fork over four or five dollars a pop.


All great points.  JMS continued his excellent point-making this morning, after drawing comparisons to his work Babylon 5.  Namely, the company owns the property and it would suck, but they have the right to do what they wish with the characters.  And I agree, they certainly do have the right, I just wish they wouldn’t exercise it. 

The rights for Watchmen were always supposed to revert to Moore and Gibbons once the book went out of print, which it never has.  The was never supposed to be an issue, a book had never stayed continuously in print before.  Watchmen is a victim of its own success.  So I’d say that’s why Moore is the chosen one in this case. 

While several creators have tried getting the rights to their creations back, namely Kirby, Siegel, and Shuster, but as recently as Marv Wolfman, but Steve Gerber was notoriously against other creators working on characters he created, notably Howard the Duck and Omega the Unknown.

This Week’s Comics

An interesting batch of books this week, and a healthy mix. Here’s this week’s noteworthy titles.

 

  • COMP ALAN MOORE FUTURE SHOCKS TP – Interested in Alan Moore’s as-yet uncollected 2000AD work?  If you’re like me, you’ve got Halo Jones and DR and Quinch, but aren’t quite willing to track down the short, random pieces of Moore’s work.  And now you don’t have to.
  • DAREDEVIL #6
  • FF #12 – Even though I’ve been finding some issues of FF here and there, this has been the biggest misstep of my pull list experiment. I haven’t had the chance to read any of it since #1 is so hard to find.  And yet, based on Hickman’s Fantastic Four, I have no regrets. I’ll fill in those holes eventually.
  • HERC #10
  • SPACEMAN #2 (OF 9) – Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s return to Vertigo.  Though I could probably cheat and call this a Vertigo title, I’m going to throw this on the pull list and do it right.
  • TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES ONGOING #4
  • THUNDERBOLTS #166
  • WOLVERINE #19 – I’ve read the first arc and a half of Jason Aaron’s Wolverine title, and it’s been stellar.  However, I’ve been a bit behind due to missing a couple issues here and there. Fortunately for me, Friend of the Blog Andrew put issues 17 and 18 in my hands and insisted I read them.  And I’m SO glad he did.  When I reviewed Aaron’s Wolvie mini “Manifest Destiny” a few months ago, I loved it but was a bit disappointed that Logan as the ruler of Chinatown would be one of those plots that would wind up just forgotten to the ages.  And yet here we are 3 years later and Aaron is picking it back up again.  It’s everything you could wish for and more, and features Ken Hale, the Agents of Atlas’ Gorilla Man.  And if that isn’t enough to get you to pick up this book, I don’t know what possibly could.  Highest recommendation!

Due to the holiday I haven’t dived into last week’s books yet, but expect more reviews next week.  Other than that my running pull list has been updated.  What looks good to you?

Random Links For Your Weekend

I’ve been saving this batch up for a while.  Enjoy.


That’s it for this week.  Have a good weekend, everyone.

Dream Team: An imaginary story

It’s not unreasonable to say that as much as Jesse loves Batman, I am devoted to Superman. It’s hard being a Superman fan because lately the quality stories and arcs are few and far between. Why? It takes work, imagination, and courage to find a readable challenge for a character who is so…super. It’s so much easier to write a story where he’s punching things. The thing is that most people forget that along with being super strong and super fast, Kal-El is also super smart. Many of his arch-nemeses are too. Instead of truly clever, bizarre, and intelligent threats, Brainiac and Luthor usually send woefully ill-equipped and unoriginal robots or bruisers to deal with/ distract the Man of Steel. At this point, we know he can punch things into submission.

For my money, the last time any one truly understood Superman and what the flagship Superman titles should look like was the Silver Age. I know what you’re thinking: no I’m not really one of those nostalgia pornographers like Geoff Johns. We don’t need Krypto or Kandor or multicolored Kryptonite back just for the sake of having them around. I’m also not saying that Superman should be quite as silly as as he was in the hands of men like Otto Binder and Mort Weisinger. What I am advocating is a return to the wholly ape-shit weirdness: the bigger than life stories and logic defying threats. Binder and Weisinger knew that Superman had to be super in all respects. He needed threats that annoy, hinder, and push the Last Son of Krypton to bring his A-game. Where are the mind bending stories of Superman saving Earth from evil living suns? Where are the distant planets where Luthor is a science hero? Where’s the time and dimension travel? Where’s my damn flying car?

Grant Morrison knows this. He exhibited these ideas in All Star Superman. He proved that Superman can be about the crazy of the Silver Age without being silly. Alan Moore knows this too. If the original Squadron Supreme is the greatest JLA story ever written, Alan Moore’s Supreme is one of the best Superman stories. Both Morrison and Moore understand that these stories need to be out of the box. Superman should attract strange in the same way that it flies to the Fantastic Four.

So in an ideal world, who’s writing Superman and Action Comics? I’m going to call Moore and Morrison on plot with Morrison handling the script. Here’s where I rein them in though. Both writers can get pretty crazy on their own. They need a strong editor to help guide them and keep them within the bounds that’ll keep the book from losing it’s grounding. Weisinger was quite the taskmaster, but Moore would walk. Let’s pull in someone who knows story in his own right. Kurt Busiek would be perfect.

Art chores? I like Kevin Maguire. He knows how to draw muscular as beefy. He also has a great penchant for facial expression. Can you imagine the mischief in Mxyzptlk? The gleeful malice in Luthor? I’d bring in Ed Mcguinness to handle chores when Kevin Maguire needed someone to do fill in issues.Mcguinness’s stout characters scream power. He’s just cartoony enough to keep things light and weird.

Just thinking about how awesome the granddaddy of all superheroes could/ should be makes my bags and boards itch.

Random Links For Your Weekend