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Dance of the Puppets

Like a bat on a hot tin roof since August 2005

Friday, July 21, 2006

Dooooooom!! Dooooooom!!

I know I can do cynical as well as anyone, and there are specific creators who do set the cynicism pumping through my veins at the mere prospect of them approaching any of the characters I like. Someone asked me yesterday if I was going to read The Ultimates when Jeph Loeb takes over and my initial response was surprise - why would I pick up a comic I hardly read in order to see what a writer I don't like does to it? But then I had a moment of Schadenfreude and thought "yes, I'll be interested to see just how appalling it is, and then I can gloat at the wailing and teeth-gnashing coming from Marvel fandom.

I do not believe that Marvel hired him for his writing skill. I think they hired him because his name on a comic sells a lot of copies. Presumably they were aware of his work at DC and knew he was likely to screw around with continuity and established characterisation, but that was less important than the dollars. They deserve to be taunted for it.

But I do try to keep my cynicism down to those that deserve it. You can't help second guessing upcoming events that have been trailed, but unless I have good reason to fear the worst (like it's written by Jeph Loeb or Frank Miller*) I try to wait until the comic arrives before passing an opinion stronger than "I'm looking forward to it" or "I'm not looking forward to it". The only times I've addressed Batwoman was to comment on the behaviour of the media to the announcement, and I haven't said anything about the news that Jodi Picoult will be writing Wonder Woman because I haven't read any of her previous work and have no idea what kind of job she will do. It's good in theory that a woman should write the title, but what that will mean in practice I have no idea. So I'll just wait and see.

One of the things that got people a bit exercised recently was Joe Kelly saying that the only reason he agreed to write Supergirl was that everyone else turned it down. This has led to a lot of speculation that the horrible mishandling of the big relaunch of the Girl of Steel has turned her from Hot Property into Unwanted in a very short space of time.

I see shadowy figures walking the streets of the internets yelling "Doooooooom!! Dooooom!!" but in fact it's another case of Brainiac's enlargement ray and a hill of moles. I first got suspicious when I saw a post from Gail Simone saying she would have been interested but she hadn't been offered the title. Now I know I'm biased, but if I was DC editor in charge of matters Supergirl, Gail would be high on my shortlist of writers to approach.

So then I looked up the source. The quote is from an interview last month at Wizard. What it actually says is:

With Rucka departing after one issue, Kelly claims he got the gig because of his helpful nature.

"Everybody else said no," Kelly joked.


The "Kelly joked" bit seems to be forgotten. At the very least it suggests that he is exaggerating when he says "everybody". In fact it could just mean that the first couple of choices for writer turned down the gig because they are everyone's first choices to write their comic and they already had a full schedule. The impression given by the interview is that they were in a bit of a rush because Greg Rucka was leaving earlier than expected (for unspecified reasons) and they needed someone at short notice to keep it on schedule. Hence Kelly helping out. There is no suggestion that the comic is any less popular, it was just a joke that got taken way too seriously.

*My response to hearing that Miller will be working on the upcoming Spirit movie was "If he turns Sand Serif into a ninja I will not be responsible for my actions."

19 Comments:

Blogger Emperor Nerd said...

You mean the goddamn Sand Serif, don't you? She'll be a deadly ninja/prostitute.

2:22 pm  
Blogger Sleestak said...

A deadly pre-teen ninja/prostitute.

3:20 pm  
Blogger Marionette said...

I don't think you are quite getting the joke there, guys.

See, Frank's first writing credit was for an issue of Daredevil with a story that was a blatant steal from a Spirit story called "Bring in Sand Serif". The character Frank created to fill the Sand Serif role in his version was called Elektra.

11:48 pm  
Anonymous David M said...

Of course Marvel fandom deserves to be taunted for the hiring of Jeff Loeb as, of course, everything Stan Lee said was the truth, and they are the real editors of that line. When Joe rang me I considered my stock options and voted "yes". All those "Superman/ Batman" fans will pay for my holidays.
Re Miller/Spirit- does anyone else think it was odd that Miller did not take part in the creation of new Spirit stories when Moore, Gibbons, Busiek, Gaiman, etc all did?

12:42 pm  
Anonymous Starman Matt Morrison said...

Okay. I may stand alone on this, but bad as his last Superman/Batman arc was, Loeb is still golden with me because...

1) His son died, people. That's bound to mess with your head and give you bigger priorities than making deadlines.

2) Long Halloween? Dark Victory? Spider-Man: Blue? He has done some GREAT stories in the past.

That said, given all the people Marvel could have been trying to steal away from DC... I have to laugh that the best they've managed to get is Jeph Loeb.

Hell, I'm sure Joe Kelly would come back cheap.

4:53 pm  
Blogger Marionette said...

No.

Sorry, but you are not pulling the "dead son" card on my blog. My criticism of Jeph Loeb goes back at least as far as Hush, and I've done detailed reviews of all that is wrong with something like the first 12 issues of Superman/Batman and his run on Supergirl, all of which were written long before his son died.

Any comments I make regarding the work he is likely to produce at Marvel is entirely based on the problems I have with the work he has done in the past. I cannot excuse any future shortcomings with his work if they are the same shortcomings I've seen in his previous five years.

Yes, the death of his son is tragic and traumatic, but it's no excuse for him being a crap writer a year before it happened and it doesn't excuse him being the same crap writer in the future.

I can have sympathy for his personal situation without liking his work.

8:39 pm  
Anonymous Matthew Craig said...

And Spider-Man: Blue was the worst kind of self-indulgent "cover version" comic. Ironically, the only thing worth enjoying about it was the covers!

I suspect The Ultimates, like The Authority, are about to barrel past their Sell By date. The next step in superhero evolution won't be published by Marvel (or DC).

Word Verification: aqfgzgMJ, which was pretty much the only thing Loeb's Peter Parker said to his wife between crying over Gwen Stacy and trying on her dresses.

//\Oo/\\

9:38 pm  
Anonymous Starman Matt Morrison said...

Marionette:

Fair enough.

95% of the time I hear anyone say anything negative about the quality of Jeph Loeb's writing, those are usually followed by some complaints about his books ALWAYS being late. The only book that's been consitently true of has been Superman/Batman and between him and Michael Turner (who I'm not a big fan of, but I'll give him props for overcoming an illness), I've got little paitence for complaints of that nature.

But since, near as I can see, you've never made complaints of that nature, I apologize for my presumption.

Personally, I liked Hush in spite of the fact that it did play fast and loose with Batman continuity at the time since it read more like what I think a Batman story SHOULD be than most of what was being done with the character by Rucka, Dixon and company at the time.

Thank you for respecting my opinions on Loeb's earlier work, though.

Matthew Craig: The Ultimates passed their "sell by" date along time ago. And I hate to break this to you, but repackaging JLA with a gay Batman and Robin and a nude metallic Wonder Woman isn't edgy and never was.

11:06 pm  
Anonymous Matthew Craig said...

The Engineer wasn't Wonder Woman. She was "Iron Man," if anything - well, actually, she was a recycling of Steel Rain, from 2099 UNLIMITED. But swings, roundabouts, etc.

The thing which made The Authority the state of the art in fin/commence de siecle superheroes wasn't the slash fiction frisson of seeing Midnighter kiss Apollo, but rather a combination of the "widescreen" art - the cinematic staging, the Bruckheimer/Bay-esque action - and the pared-down characterisation.

Ellis' Authority - Millar's too, in a way - was an upping of the ante set by Morrison's JLA, not a repackaging, as well as a rejection (consciously or otherwise) of the character-driven team book epitomised by Kurt Busiek's AVENGERS (as well as the Silver Age of comics in general? Maybe, maybe not).

The need for the series to top itself with each successive story gave it both freshness and vitality, and saddled it with a terribly short shelf life. No bad thing.

The Ultimates is on a throughline from JLA and Authority - it'd probably have to be, given the people involved - pushing the action hard, but adding a bit more depth (yes, depth, yes, Millar) in the way of characterisation.

I don't think it's quite outlived its relevance - not in the way that Planetary (unavoidably) and The Authority ($£$£$) have - but the creators have been so strong on the series that it's hard to see how a traditionalist like Loeb and a stylist like Madureiea (or even a Kirbyist like McGuinness) can follow them without overwriting everything that made the comic work.

I suspect that Millar would like us to believe that CIVIL WAR is the next stage in the evolution of the superhero.

I hope beyond all reason that people don't take him at his word.

//\Oo/\\

12:13 am  
Blogger Marionette said...

Yes, it was a real shame about The Authority. It was great, once. But Matthew is right; it wasn't so much about the characters (who were not hugely original in design) but the epic stories they were thrust into.

Final (I wish) comment on Loeb: I hadn't really noticed his books were late, except the Supergirl story that had her fighting Lex Luthor after she'd left for space in Action Comics (and every other IC related comic), but then most of his work I read in reprint.

I didn't mention The Long Halloween or Spider-Man Blue because I haven't read them. I tried several of Loeb's works attempting to find what so many other people seemed to see in them but for me even Superman for all Seasons was seriously flawed. By the time I reached The Long Halloween I had run out of steam and only read the first issue or so.

10:28 am  
Anonymous Starman Matt Morrison said...

Marrionette: Again, fair enough. And last comment from me on the matter - if Loeb isn't your cup of tea after thumpity-thumpity readings, I don't expect you to punish yourself further.

Personally, I like a lot of Loeb's work because it usually gets me to look at characters in a way I never considered them before.

Case in point: Long Halloween basically expands upon one thing brought up in Frank Miller's Batman Year One, but never expanded on. Namely, Gotham had always been a corrupt city in terms of organized crimed but how it slowly became more and more centered around costumed madmen. The story examines the conflict between two different groups of criminals as well as the conflict between the various forces of good (Batman, the cops and the sympathetic lawmen like Harvey Dent and Jim Gordon).

As for Spider-Man: Blue... it was nothing less than a love letter to Gwen Stacy written and drawn by two blokes who remembered a time when nobody much thought about Mary Jane and Peter being perfect for each other. I actually wept during one part of the first issue where we see Peter, in costume, putting roses on the bridge post thinking about how "I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her, never thinking that'd mean she'd spend the rest of her life with me..." Powerful stuff...

But that's just my opinion.

11:19 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>sigh<

I guess I'm in the minority. I still like Year One, Born Again, Elektra, Love and War and Elektra Lives Again. I hope this "crap period" is just a phase.

1:37 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:34 am  
Anonymous Moose N Squirrel said...

See, Frank's first writing credit was for an issue of Daredevil with a story that was a blatant steal from a Spirit story called "Bring in Sand Serif". The character Frank created to fill the Sand Serif role in his version was called Elektra.

But it's really not just Elektra. Miller is just obsessed with the concept of the exotic killer sex object.

4:36 pm  
Blogger Katherine said...

Presumably they were aware of his work at DC and knew he was likely to screw around with continuity and established characterisation

So, the perfect choice for Ultimates, then.

(I'm not joking -- Ultimates, to my mind, is all about screwing with reader expectations based on prior characterization, and I love it for just that reason. That said, I doubt Loeb can achieve Millar's level of fuck-you audacity, and I know Madureira can't make Nazi spaceships look as beautiful Bryan Hitch does, so I'm not likely to buy it...)

2:17 pm  
Blogger Greg said...

Loeb's first comics work was Challengers of the Unknown with Tim Sale, which is quite a good eight issues of comics. If you ever want to realize that Loeb is able to actually do some good work, start there.

8:59 pm  
Blogger Marionette said...

I haven't read his Challengers comics, but after I read this review of the trial in issue #2 it put me off bothering.

5:44 pm  
Blogger Harvey Jerkwater said...

Loeb and Sale's Challengers was okay. It was suffused with sitcommy scriptwriter "cleverness," but it had its moments. Thankfully, the new status quo that they established for the Challs was ignored by everyone. Because it sucked. (The fast-talking, would-be womanizing tabloid reporter "comedy relief" is the channel for Prof to communicate with the team from beyond the grave? Gack. So very gack.)

As far as The Long Halloween, it's exactly the same as "Hush," only with different art. Same gimmicks, same structure, same annoying Bruce Wayne/Selina Kyle banter-romance scenes. If you've read one, you've read both. While I like the "showcase-o-villains" approach, the endings to both were bleh.

I gave up on Superman/Batman after a few issues for the same reason a lot of people did. The Loeb style of "throw in all the action figures from the toybox and have 'em fight! We'll make up a reason later!" is fun for an issue or two, no more. It's like being in a car filled with angry wet cats: sure, there's a lot of fur flying and action, but the car isn't going anywhere, is it? All you get is a bunch of tired, beat-up cats and a parking ticket.

...that was a terrible simile. I apologize.

5:10 pm  
Anonymous MadKalnod said...

The best commentary I've seen on Frank Miller's obsessions:

http://www.shortpacked.com/d/20060207.html

1:40 am  

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