There are things about the comic industry that really bother me these days.
In an excellent post at Big Hollywood, comic writer Bill Willingham decries the current state of superhero comics saying that they are, in fact, "superhero decadence" (using a term coined by Dirk Deppey). I couldn't agree with Willingham more and I have frequently been not only disgusted by the tone of some of today's superhero comics, but downright incensed by them. To quote Willingham:
"The ’super’ is still there, more so than ever, but there seems to be a slow leak in the ‘hero’ part."
The post is here and I recommend everyone read it.
Now, this state of affairs is certainly bad enough. We have characters whose definition of hero seems to be "hitting someone before they hit me". But I have a gnawing suspicion that things behind the scenes at comic companies are far worse.
There is an atmosphere of fear at these companies. They've become places where individuals are afraid to express their own opinions or, even worse, ones that oppose the Managerial dictates. It all has to do with job security and the reins of power being tightly held in the grips of a very small amount of people. People who, it seems, have no problem exercising that power and being very small, petty individuals.
This saddens me. Not only because it is wrong and goes against so MANY of those ideals that America is supposed to uphold (just like superheroes) but because no one should be afraid of losing their livliehood because they speak their mind. This is the problem with the power being centralized to so few people. It is closely resembling a dictatorship, one that I am surprised has not brought about pictures of Didio or Quesada as Hitler or Mussolini. Except that most people who produce political imagery don't usually depend on the targets of their criticism for their jobs.
Willingham suggests that creators refuse to produce work of "superhero decadence" anymore. Which is good assuming he can get wide-spread support of such a ban. After all, if there is one thing that the comic book industry is notorious for it's that there's always another wave of fresh-faced kids willing to do whatever it takes to write or draw Spider-Man or Batman. For the rest of us, I'd suggest we just stop buying this stuff. These are characters with DECADES of rich publishing history behind them. Go buy some back issues and pass up the next "Crisis of Secret Final R.I.P." garbage.
You know, I bet that there's people in the comic industry who miss the "good old days" when all they had to do was make and publish comic books. Now editors, writers and artists spend a lot of their time giving interviews, answering questions for comic book magazines & websites, not to mention dealing with fans and critics on the endless blogs and message boards. Fans are more involved in their comics than ever before and yet it seems that the heads of the companies listen to those fans less and less despite what they claim at conventions.
Still, I can't think of any other media (except maybe music) where so much time is spent on PR and talking about the work rather than doing it. Maybe that's why FINAL CRISIS is so late all the time.
In discussing the ending of SECRET INVASION with a few comic friends, I was stunned at the heated venom one of them expressed. To him, the appointment of Norman Osborne as head of HAMMER (is that what it's called?) and the resultant "Dark Reign" storyline was the "dumbest" thing Marvel could have done.
I understand his ire. After all, if I'm not mistaken, this is still the same Norman Osborne who was revealed to be the Green Goblin by a Daily Bugle expose (unless that's been reversed, I can't remember these things anymore). So putting ol' Normie in charge of this organization would be like putting Illinois Governor Blagojavich in charge of the National Treasury. Not to mention that the 'inner circle' that Normie puts together consists of two characters who are currently supposed to be 'good'. Unless that's the wrestling definition of 'good guy' in which case it doesn't really count. Last I knew, Namor and Emma Frost were in the 'good guy' camp although Namor is drawn looking as if he just staggered out of a bar at 2 in the morning. And including Doom in any group is a mistake cuz Doom doesn't play well with others.
So I agree that it doesn't make a whole lotta sense but neither does doing another blockbuster crossover right after another. Something DC is learning the hard way. But I have to disagree on one thing. It's not the dumbest thing Marvel has done because I still reserve that distinction for the "One More Day" storyline. That did more to turn me off to Marvel comics than anything before. Even the revival of Normie and the revelation that Gwen Stacy had borne "lil Green Goblins" due to an affair with Normie didn't sour me on Marvel's entire output like "OMD" did. I still find myself looking at Marvel comics with the same distaste as I do Dean Koontz novels.
And, do you know how hard it is to find images of Normie on the internet that AREN'T of him in supervillain garb? Pretty darn hard, lemme tell you.
So the final issue of Marvel's SECRET INVASION series came out last week and I finally got a chance to sit down and read it this past weekend.
And I'm wondering what the point is.
This was Marvel's BIG event for the year, the one they'd been working on and counting down to. I admit that I was intrigued by the idea at the start. Skrulls have infiltrated the Earth and are orchestrating an invasion. Not bad. It set up a lot of possibilities for characters to return or, at the very least, to clear up a lot of confusion about why some characters have behaved as they did before. Then a Skrull ship crashes in the Savage Land, releasing all of the people who had been 'replaced' by Skrulls. Except they weren't. All of those people were Skrulls too. Then everyone runs back to New York for a final confrontation with the Skrulls.
Where the Skrull Queen, who had been impersonating Spider-Woman is killed. By Norman Osborn. With one shot from a gun.
Let's overlook the fact that she was killed by someone who SHOULDN'T BE ALIVE ANYMORE (and was never a Skrull operative) but she was taken out with about as much effort in this issue as it took to turn the page.
So, in the end, what happened in SI? Not very much. Tony Stark got his comeuppance for CIVIL WAR and his company is in ruins (again). SHIELD is no more. Norman Osborn is in charge of everything and is conspiring with other baddies to do something REALLY, REALLY BAD! The Wasp dies and another Skrull ship with the REAL captives lands so everyone is back to normal and the only significant return from the dead is Mockingbird. Mockingbird. Yup, that'll REALLY shake up the Marvel Universe! Steve Rogers missed the ship, I guess.
Well, at least Marvel did one thing that DC couldn't do... they ended the series in the title it was supposed to end in. Guess that's something at least.
I'm reminded of the scene in ANIMAL HOUSE where the pledges are soundly paddled with a wooden board while asking to be paddled again.
Why am I reminded of this?
Because it's been announced that the TRUE ending to BATMAN R.I.P. wasn't in that issue of BATMAN that came out, lo, so many aeons ago. No, the real (honest to Morrison) ending will be in FINAL CRISIS #6... whenever that comes out.
"Please, sir, can you treat me like crap again?" While this does solve some questions, like how Bruce Wayne/Batman could be in FINAL CRISIS when he's supposed to be dying in BATMAN R.I.P., it's a real punk-ass move. Now people who weren't interested in FC (which, apparently, is quite a few) will have to catch up on that series in order to get the actual ending that BATMAN R.I.P. was supposed to provide. Although, to be honest, there isn't that much to catch up on as Batman has been a prisoner of Darkseid for most of the series so far.
Still, it's the principle of the thing that offends most of us. It's like going to a movie you really wanted to see only to be told that the ending for YOUR movie is actually stuck in the middle of another movie you didn't want to see. Even though this cross-pollution hasn't really been a secret, it hasn't really been publicized all that much either. I doubt that any of the media who ran "BATMAN DIES!" headlines when BATMAN #681 came out knew about this little switcheroo.
I get the feeling that Didio got his Editorial Management skills as a Three Card Monty shill on the streets of New York. "Find the Batman, Find the Batman, He's here somewhere."
So the dvd of DARK KNIGHT came out yesterday... and I didn't rush out to buy it.
That's pretty amazing to me because DARK KNIGHT was my must-see movie of 2008. I'd been getting stoked for it since the first previews and clips showed up. I made sure I was there on opening night and I truly did enjoy the movie. I consider DARK KNIGHT to probably be the best comic to movie adaptation yet made. (There's still the possibility that WATCHMEN might beat it next year.) Heath Ledger's performance was stunning but so was Aaron Eckhardt as Harvey Dent. I was thrilled to finally see my favorite Bat-villain (Two-Face) get the serious treatment he deserved. (Tommy Lee Jones version of it made me want to beat myself unconscious so I wouldn't have to watch any more of it.) Exciting. Explosive. Blockbuster.
I didn't buy it yesterday. I probably will at some point but, strangely enough, I'm not in a hurry to do so.
I guess it all boils down to the fact that the DARK KNIGHT is depressing. It could truly be one of the most depressing movies I've ever seen. It's certainly right up there with the movie version of Pink Floyd's THE WALL and OLD YELLER. Dent and Bruce lose everything that's important to them. Batman loses his public image. Gotham loses two heroes in D.A. Dent and Batman. I've never left a superhero movie feeling so down and beaten.
Particularly in these rough economic times, I want to leave the theatre invigorated! And, if it's a superhero movie, I want to feel that desire to become a superhero! That feeling that good can triumph over evil! That power of taking control of one's life and righting wrongs and fighting the bad guys be they crazed super-villains or Illinois Governors. I don't want to feel like the last thing I want to be is a superhero. DARK KNIGHT makes my life look like a Frank Capra movie by comparison.
I certainly don't want a return to the horrible Batman movies of Joel Schumacher which I still cannot watch to this day. But I'd like something a little more uplifting and fun. Something that I don't have to take a Prozac after watching.
I miss Tim Burton's BATMAN. Sure, Nicholson was way too much as the Joker but the movie was fun and enjoyable. Not 2+ hours of sturm & drang.