Wednesday, December 16, 2009

For the last time ...

Power Girl is Kryptonian.

She can casually lift an aircraft carrier.

She is not going to have "back trouble".

Monday, August 31, 2009

Disney Buys Marvel.

That headline again:

Disney. Buys. Marvel.

Tempting as it is to just follow that with "'Nuff said", I have to wonder....
  • How will this affect Marvel Sudios and their ambitious "Avengers Cycle" movie plans?
  • Will Disney cancel the Gemstone Comics license, and start releasing Disney titles using Marvel's production and banner?
  • Conversely, will that matter if both companies continue to ignore newstand and grocery store distribution in favor of the hard-core fandom's boutique market?
  • What does this mean for Kingdom Hearts and Capcom vs. Marvel?
  • Will there be an even more vigorous crackdown on Marvel fanfic and games with "Character Creators" that let you "duplicate Marvel intellectual property", like City of Heroes and Champions Online?
  • Will Howard return to his original character design? Will he turn out to hail from Duckburg? Will he lose his pants?

If this doesn't fall through, it'll bring a symmetry to the comics world: both major comics companies will be owned by massive global media juggernauts.

Strange days indeed.

Initial reaction to this news shows a lot of people are worried about Marvel getting "Disneyfied". Funny, that hadn't really occurred to me.

I'd hate to see the intelligent, thoughtful storytelling of recent years compromised by a company who didn't respect the years of development and history of these characters. I'm not sure the store where I work could survive without merchandise aimed at the mature, sophisticated sensibilities of the modern comics audience.

I know, I know, when people hear "Disney", they still automatically think of the "wholesome" Mouse Factory of fifty years ago, as if the company had no idea how to tell exciting, entertaining action-adventure tales. But, seriously, folks: the modern Disney megalopoly has its tentacles in a lot more than happy, sappy, saccharine kiddie stuff. When I hear "Disney", I don't hear "Cartoon Company" anymore. I hear "Entertainment Powerhouse".

When I mentioned the effect this might have on the Marvel Studios movie series, it was almost entirely wondering if that side of the business would see a cash infusion that would re-accelerate the filming schedule (which has been pushed back a couple of times from the original plan of two big-name superhero pictures a year for three or four years). Word is that Marvel owes its recent barrage of movies to "complex financing", and that this may have something to do with the acquisition deal. Ike Perlmutter's $1.4 billion net from the deal lends some credence to that hypothesis.

A lot of folks, on the other claw, are worried about them somehow compromising the integrity of the properties.

Personally? I think that the megacorp that gave us movies like No Country for Old Men and Miracle at St. Anna won't bat an eye at Tony Stark's antics.

It's a positive-sum game: the architect of Marvel's revival gets filthy rich, and the company gets a measure of financial stability that it honestly hasn't had since New World Cinema (hardly a financial powerhouse) sold it off in the '80s.

It's good for Disney, it's good for Marvel, it's good for Perlmutter. Yay!

On the other claw, is it good for us? One of the worst offenders in the copyright wars has suddenly gained control of yet another chunk of modern folklore, much of which would already be in the public domain if the Mouse hadn't repeated pushed Congress to enact ever-more-damaging Copyright Extensions.

But that's a whole 'nother topic.

Edited and cross-posted from Your Obedient Serpent's LiveJournal. I've incorporated material from some threads that originated there; thanks to my loyal readers for contributing!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

In Brightest Day....

This made me laugh out loud:

I may have to print it out and post it at work.

Speaking as a long-time fan of the Green Lanterns, who's read the book(s) through all the ups and downs since 1970 or so, this multi-year arc that Geoff Johns has been writing is the Best Damned Run Of Green Lantern ever, one of the best things DC has done in the last decade, and Blackest Night is shaping up to be the "Final Crisis" that Final Crisis wasn't.

Honestly, it's a big part of why I still bother with superhero comics.

After, what, five years of non-stop Big Events and Red Skies Crossovers from both major companies, after a year of working in a comic store, and after my Fanfic Epiphany from a couple of years ago, I've come very close to burning out on commercialized adolescent power fantasies.

But Johns is good, and Blackest Night is not so much an Editorially-Mandated MegaCrossover as it is the logical climax of the story he's been telling for the last five years.

Still and nonetheless... "They turned Green Lanterns into Care Bears" is spit-take-worthy.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Boy Wonder and the Last Pulp Hero

The other day, working at the comic shop, I had a conversation with one of my teenaged customers about the early years of Batman. and he reiterated something I've heard for decades. Jules Feiffer groused about it in The Great Comic Book Heroes, insisting that he'd felt this way since childhood, so the complaint's been around pretty much as long as the character.

It's the idea that the introduction of Robin the Boy Wonder was a Bad Idea and Ruined The Whole Batman Concept.

After reading the first few volumes of The Batman Chronicles, however, I think it's just the opposite.

Before Robin, "The Bat-Man" was just another pulp character.

Oh, those early stories are nice, tight little packages of action and suspense, just like the pulps that inspired them -- but there's the key. They were just like the pulps that inspired them; a bit more compressed, perhaps, and with the exotic appeal of the new medium, but the protagonist was interchangeable with any of the lesser mystery men of the Street & Smith line.

Unoriginal, undistinguished; a guy in a bat costume with (eventually) boomerang. He didn't have the intricate network and multifarious identities of The Shadow; he didn't have the small army of geniuses that followed Doc Savage; he didn't even have the exotic Old California setting of Zorro, the character he really most resembled in those early years.

It was only after the introduction of Robin that Batman really started to come into his own, started to develop his own distinctive motif and theme, started to evolve what could rightfully be known as a mythology. Even Miller recognized that, when The Dark Knight Returns has Bruce reminiscing that Dick named The Batmobile -- "a kid's name."

Before Robin, he was just Zorro in New York. Not The Shadow, mind you; despite what the revisionists of the latter day would have you think, the obsessed devotion to the War On Crime wasn't a major part of the character in those pre-Robin days. Bruce Wayne's effete disaffection with everything around him was misdirection, no doubt, but nonetheless, those early stories convey the impression that, on some level, he put on the costume to fight crime because he was bored.1

It's tempting to assume that Robin just happened to be introduced at the same time as the elements that make Batman so distinctly Batman, but I don't think so. I think that the new character dynamic of the duo was a key factor that shaped a truly mythic character.

Before Robin, Bruce had a social life. Bruce had a fiancée. The Batman was something Bruce Wayne did. It wasn't yet who he was... until he took on a partner.

With a confidante, someone who knew both sides of his life, Robinson, Finger and Kane could let Bruce Wayne immerse himself in the role of Batman.

The conventional interpretation is that the introduction of the brightly-clad wise-cracking kid sidekick was a distraction that pulled the Batman away from his Holy Mission. If you really sit down and read the stories, though, the opposite is more the case. The idea that everything Bruce Wayne does is really just to serve the needs and goals of his alter-ego only emerges post-Robin.

The modern Batman, the revisionist Batman, the grim, obsessed avenger, lurking in the shadows, devoting his entire life to his personal War, is intriguing today only because he's an anachronistic example of a once-profligate phylum. In that time, in that place, he would never have stood out enough become the iconic archetype that we know today -- if he had ever really existed in that form back then.

It's not Superman who's the last survivor of a lost race.

1This is not, in itself, an unacceptable motivation for a fictional crimefighter; Sherlock Holmes got a great deal of mileage from it.