The Roundtable: One Hiatus Later (Part Two)

KEVIN: Oh my God, I just read like 14 days of Roundtable at once….

OPINION OVERLOAD! Aaaaaaaaah!

Getting serious though:

A) I think Batgirl’s OYL development is way too much too soon. Could I see Cass killing a huge portion of the League of Assassins in dribs and drabs over the year? Yes. Could I see her as a double agent there? Uh-huh. Could she ever be politically savvy enough to overthrow the thing? Nope. So that bugs the bejeesus out of me until it’s explained that’s she’s been mind-controlled by someone much smarter. I’d rather have the Red Hood in charge; it’d be more believable.

B) I think the deification of Superboy is a good idea, but NOT for 52. I could see it OYL, if the DCU got much darker in contrast, especially considering that Superman was MIA for that period. But like a month later he’s a godhead and the head priestess is the chick he banged once? Nope. Not interested, except if it ties into Ralph’s case.

C) I liked X3. I think it didn’t have the momentum of either of its predecessors, but it was a smart script with no hugely flawed performances. For the record, I think Grammer makes a great Beast PROVIDED he doesn’t do the action scenes. I want more Colossus if there is an X4, he didn’t get enough spotlight. I talked to a bunch of non-comics people who hated it due to its serious look at the um physical consequences of battles and revolutions. I think if comics fans told the movie fans that usually the good heroes are reborn, the mass reaction would’ve been better.

D) I DO work in a big movie theatre (third biggest in our chain on the East Coast) and we DID police the snotnoses last weekend. Every sold out show got the safety/or else lecture (and NOBODY sat on the steps or floor or whatnot, we booted a few folks). The only real problem happened in a non X3 theatre; some kids dumped some salad dressing on a lady that wouldn’t buy them tickets for the R-rated horror movie du jour. I got to deal with the aftermath of that, and bodyguard the lady as she waited for the subway. Not all theatres suck at security/crowd control.

E) Sting once bought out an entire theatre to watch Fahrenheit 9/11 by himself in our building. He just put the 200 or so seats on his credit card. It was a matinee so figure $7.25 x 200 = $1450.00. That’s chump change for a rock star.

Huzzah for the Roundtable!

IAIN: All hail King Kevin, keeper of the multiplex peace!

Also, that Magneto prequel movie that’s getting made? Seems like Ian McKellen is going to be in it after all, using the same de-aging technique as seen in the X3 flashback scene.

Groovy.

JEFF: My thanks, Kevin, for policing your moviehouse properly. Now if you can do something about the fools in St. Louis, Hell, I’ll make ya Deputy Mayor! I know most of the politicos around here are less qualified than you.

And I agree, who does Colossus have to crush before he gets some screen time? Other than lugging a big screen TV around campus, he was in very few memorable scenes. I realize the actors were all pretty much on three year deals, but the X-Men mythos is so huge they could easily make a new trilogy without any of the ex-X-men having to be resurrected. I think a couple of the ones that got written out this time wee oddly cast anyway. And I’m leaving that deliberately vague so as to not spoil it for the three people on this site who haven’t seen it yet. You know who you are!

IAIN: A few more news bits…

Avi Arad kinda resigns from Marvel Studios

JEFF: The thing about producers is this: what the Hell do they do? Tons, I’m sure, but it’s all so mysterious and nebulous and other difficult words. Directors, writers, their jobs are obvious. But I never knew what he was doing before, so it don’t much matter to me what he does now, as long as he doesn’t try his hand at writing a comic: Wolverine – Origins 3 by Avi Arad and Rob Liefeld.

PAUL: Looks like Avi is still going to be a producer even though he won’t be completely running the show any more. A former toy designer for Toy Biz, Arad really was one of the most unlikely success stories in Hollywood.

IAIN: Details on the Justice Society of America, due to start in October

JEFF: I really don’t get this. At all. They’re relaunching JLA and JSA with the long-ass drawn out names? Why? To launch a new team on each book? Again, why? They’ve been playing musical rosters for years anyway. JLA and JSA are a lot easier to say – and type – and don’t take up a third of the cover where you can entice people to give the issues a look. And don’t think for a second that people don’t judge books, even comics, by their covers. I’d be disinclined to even look at something that has a John Byrne cover. As for bringing in the Kingdom Come Starman, I don’t know how I feel about that. I rather miss Jack.

PAUL: When you have Blue Beetle III and The Creeper on the same team how can you not win?

IAIN: Dan Slott’s Thing has been pulled… to death!

PAUL: Wotta Revoltin’ Development… mah favorite new book got canned. Guess it is true that nice books finish last in today’s market place. If only Slott had included a scene of The Thing gruesomely ripping people in half spurting blood to jack up sales.

JEFF: Market saturation, pure and simple. There’s no room for multiple titles with the same character in this day and age, especially if they’re not core, iconic, flagship characters. There is NO reason to have FF, MK4, Ult. FF and a Thing book at the same time. The Fantastic Four isn’t strong enough to carry that many books. Frankly, I don’t believe Superman is either. I don’t think anyone should have more than two monthly solo titles. Batman and Detective, Superman and Action, Amazing Spider-man and whichever other Spider-book you want. If these solo characters happen to be in a team book, fine, but there’s no reason to have so damn many titles for one single character. Other than money, of course. Because that’s what it all comes down to. They could make 8 Superman books, 8 Batman books, 8 Spider-man books, and even more X-Men books, and there are those who will buy them all. They know there’s a certain sizable following for the big guns, and the Big Two will milk those people dry. For the Thing, which I don’t think quite found it stride yet but was on the way, I believe Marvel overestimated the market size for that character, and possibly exceeded their expectations that the people who love Slott’s She-Hulk would automatically buy The Thing. Personally, I will always give Slott an honest try, even if his next book was Impossible Man or Ultraman or Puck. Best of luck on your next endeavour, Dan!

IAIN: Well they’ve cancelled the Marvel Knights FF book too, so now they’re down to just the regular title and the Ultimate version, which is a far more sensible level for the team. Oh, and the Marvel Adventures one, if it counts. I agree with Jeff about the sheer number of solo books spun off for no particular reason other than getting yet another Batman/Superman/Spider-Man/whoever title on the market, but we all know that’s never going to change anytime soon. What is really annoying is when they make no effort at all to come up with a different theme for all these books. Even when they do, it never seems to last. Marvel Knights Spider-Man was meant to be the ‘gritty’ one (and let’s not even touch on the idea of a ‘gritty’ Spidey book) but it just wound up becoming Sensational instead… which has little difference from Friendly Neighbourhood… or from the old Spectacular… or Peter Parker before that… buh.

This may mean that I actually agree with the logic behind Wolverine: Origins, but I still don’t want to be happy about it. Enter: Complaint.

JEFF: Iain, I always felt the Batman books were the only ones that came close to maintaining a decent variety of approaches within the spectrum of their offerings. Detective was the sleuth book, lots of interaction with Gordon, Montoya, Bullock (I miss that fat bastard) and so on. Batman was the superhero book–fighting the nut jobs in big flashy sequences. Gotham Nights or Shadow of the Bat or whatever the revolving odd books were tended to delve more into the Wayne psyche – psychoanalysis and introspection of the man behind the myth. And Legends of the Dark Knight is the terrific tool for going “Elseworlds” within continuity without screwing up continuity or trying to get people to buy tons of mini-series. Not that they don’t do that anyway. I am surprised, quite frankly, that they don’t utilize LotDK more in terms of prefacing a larger story. I don’t know where Hush began – what title I mean – but they could have used the LotDK format to shoehorn the character into continuity and make it seem natural that he would re-emerge as a threat in the regular titles when the Hush storyline came around.

I think more big books could benefit from doing an on-going “Tales of…” series. The Brubaker’s X-Men: Deadly Genesis was in some ways a flashback book. It took a page from Paul Jenkins original Sentry and worked some new folks into old continuity. I’d buy an “Avengers Case Files” comic featuring any of the old line-ups. Thor, Beast, Wonder Man, Jocasta, Namor, even the Sandman and Rage line-up. And even though somebody – let’s say Brubaker just to have a name – is playing around within continuity, they could still do highly entertaining stories that could feature entirely new characters, characters that could “resurface’ in a future arc of Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-man, whatever! Make it so, Joe Q!

PAUL: For the record… Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four is easily the strongest FF book on the market just because of the Awesomeness that is “Doom Where’s
My Car.”

JEFF: Say, did you see that “Batwoman” is coming back? As a lesbian?

DC even had the nerve to claim it as part of their on-going commitment to diversity!

“This is not just about having a gay character,” DiDio said. “We’re trying for overall diversity in the DC universe. We have strong African-American, Hispanic and Asian characters. We’re trying to get a better cross-section of our readership and the world.”

I wonder if my Minority Reports touched a nerve up in the offices? Nah, that’s probably just my delusions of grandeur kicking in. I should get some medication for that. Still, they recently killed nearly all the black dudes in the Batman books (Det. Allen, Orpheus) and Steel is more or less retired – the suit his niece wears looks ridiculous – so Superman is pretty much devoid of colour. I’d love to know precisely who Didio was thinking of when he made those comments. Strong African-Americans: Cyborg (body always getting wrecked), Black Lightning (decent but wouldn’t call him strong. Might be a good guy to use in the new JLA or JSA books) and John Stewart (guy blew up a planet with his hubris, and now hosts a fake news show on Comedy Central). I can’t think of ANY strong Hispanic or Asian characters in the DCU, and Kyle “Ramirez” Rayner doesn’t count in my opinion.

PAUL: Well I suppose you could make a decent argument that Katana of Outsiders fame is a strong Asian character, but well the problem with her is that her actual list of comic book appearances is extremely in-between the cancellation of the original Outsiders series and the start of the new one.

My biggest problem with Black Lightening also is his lack of exposure over the years. He’s been shuffled into the background at best, and marginalized at worst. He can still be written as a strong character.

As for Kathy Kane, I’m kind up unsure about her future just because I think there’s an excellent chance that 5 years from now DC’s editorial staff will decide she doesn’t fit in with that family of books and cancel her title regardless of sales or just how a good a character she may be. That’s precisely what happened with Cassandra Caine as Batgirl and Linda Danvers as Supergirl.

Oh and for my next WoQW, I might do a Minority Report-esc look back at the somewhat rocky road gay and lesbian characters have had in the history of the medium. Anyone else remember Extraña from New Guardians? *shudder*

COREN: Does Cassandra Cain or Shiva count as a strong Asian character?

Oh, and the Marvel Adventures/DC Toonverse books always seem to be some of the best on the market. I think it has something to do with the writers not trying to pander to their audiences, and instead focus on telling stories. (I take it Marvel Adventures F4 counts as one of the five ongoing F4 books?)

JEFF: By strong, I think they’d have to be in high profile titles. When Steel had an on going book and was often in the Superman titles, he was strong. He’s been pretty neutered for awhile, but the 52 seems to be spotlighting him somewhat. Batgirl, yeah, maybe. Shive, I’d say no. Strong in ability yes, but strong in sales – I’d buy a Shiva title, but I doubt it would go much longer the Thing did.

PAUL: Comics blog “Post Modern Barney” has a funny collection of responses to the new Batwoman from the trolls that frequent Newsarama and the DC boards.

Which reminds me… sometimes I freakin’ hate my fandom. Really the manga kids are much more level-headed…

Also, it appears that Jeff’s column has caused the people at DC to show their true colours. Check out this advertisement on page 399 of the June 2006 Previews Catalogue:

JEFF: Ha!! That’s too funny! And not remotely surprising. 😛 I didn’t notice, was it hooded? Somebody warn Amazing Man…

PAUL: It’s too late to warn Amazing Man… remember, James Robinson wanted to kill off the Crimson Fox in Starman, but his editor told him to wipe out the entire Justice League of Europe…

Anyway Teh_no over on Scans Daily believes this might actually provide insight into the story direction of DC’s 52.

“No, no, see, it’s like this. Steel is posing as a racist to get into the KKK because he needs to do something Very Important. He eventually becomes the Grand Dragon, but then takes his helmet off to show he’s black. And everyone’s head explodes.”

*Hums the Chappelle’s Show theme.*

JAMIE: Look for a follow-up from Marvel with their new line of Luke Cage ‘Black Rage’ shirts.

IAIN: Ed McGuinness signed an exclusive Marvel deal recently. He’s meant to be working on something with Jeph Loeb. Perhaps something about a big blonde dude with a big magic hammer.

By the way, I’m referring to Thor, hope that wasn’t too subtle or anything.

JAMIE: I thought Loeb was going to be working on Ultimates?

And just because it’s fun to say: Spea’ an’ magic HELLLMET….

IAIN: Loeb’s doing Ultimates with that Mad Joey bloke. I have no idea who he is but lots of people seem very excited by his coming.

You know what I’d mark out for? If they called the new book Thor! Hammer Time.

JEFF: As long as they keep Mike the Avon Guy well away from Asgard, I’m good. My personal choice would be to have somebody who can build character like Troy Hickman, or someone like Peter David who can do superhero (Hulk), magic/mysticism/religion (Fallen Angel) and could inject a bit of humour with Volstagg. Art would HAVE to be Greg Land, baby! Either that or send a big ass check to Mike Mignola and just let him have the whole thing. I’d love to see a Hellboy/Thor crossover. The Thunderer and the Devil Who Loves Pancakes versus the forces of Surtur and the Nazis in a WWII flashback. Sigh. I should be a group editor.

IAIN: Batman Confidential by Andy Diggle and Whilce Portacio?

Superman Confidential by Darwyn Cooke and Tim Sale?

MARK THE FUCK OUT!

JEFF: Colour me confused, but isn’t Legends of the Dark Knight already telling the stories of the early days of Batman? I admit I don’t read it now, but I used to and at that time it was “tales of yesteryear” type stories. And in either case, didn’t Zero Hour occur only about 10 years ago? Knowing that comic time moves slower than real time, isn’t it kind of silly to tell stories of the old days when the old days aren’t that old following the Zero Hour reboot?

As for the creative teams, I have no issue with Cooke or Diggle. I think Diggle in particular is on of the best kept secrets in comics. And you won’t hear me complain about Sale either. But then there’s Portacio. I LOVE PORTACIO. In fact, this email you’re reading right now is typed over an original Portacio background piece. Get it? Whilce doesn’t DO backgrounds. And yet somehow he still manages to miss deadlines. He’ll last as long on Batfidential as Ryan Sook did on The Spectre or X-Factor. If it were me, I’d chain him to a desk and make him finish the ever-rumoured Wetworks relaunch–at least 12 issues. And I’ll just assume the entire story takes place in a pitch black cave and nobody brought a torch to illuminate the backgrounds with.

TIM: It sure is, but…well, I can’t think of a good reason for Batman Confidential to coexist with it. Beyond that it allows DC to keep LotDK’s numbering while simultaneously establishing the “Confidential” brand. DC should probably end Legends if they want to do the Confidential thing, but it is a Batman title so who knows…sales for Confidential will probably be strong out of the gate and Legends won’t suffer because of it.

JEFF: Maybe they don’t need to do what I’m about to suggest because of the JLA and JSA “Classified” titles, but what about doing Confidential as a DCU-wide Anthology? Kind of a Legends of the DCU – not just Bats and Supes? I wouldn’t mind seeing early Wonder Woman adventures, or early Teen Titans, or early Ray “The Atom” Palmer. Oh wait…didn’t they do a Legends of the DC Universe title? And didn’t die a pretty quick death?

This just goes along with what we talked about before. The Big Two glut the market with so many books with the same kinds of stories about the same characters. At some point there’s going to be no less than a half-dozen Batman books offered WEEKLY. There is such a thing as “Too much of a good thing.” At this point I’d rather by a new Elongated Man series than another Superman book. Besides, if you want to know about the early days of Superman, you don’t even NEED a comic. Watch Smallville on the WB or pop in Christopher Reeve’s Superman: The Movie. We just had the Superman: Birthright series recently too; how many origin retellings and Super-Wonder Years moments do they think we need? My 2nd biggest problem with Superman is how stuck in the past the character is. Like Batman said, ‘The last time he inspired anybody was when he was dead.” After the shock of his death and rebirth wore off, it was right back to Superman fighting Toyman, Mr. Mxplwhatever and Luthor, with a sprinkling of losers like the new Parasite twins and strangely enough Professor Emil Hamilton. And as usual almost all of his enemies have a small quantity of Kryptonite on their person, supposedly one of the rarest elements on Earth though every villain and quite a few heroes have some stashed somewhere.

Oh well, the money I save by not buying DC’s repetitive offerings can be earmarked for things I’ve missed out on that might actually be interesting: Firestorm and New X-Men Academy. Having said that, watch them both go the way of Manhunter and The Thing by the end of the year…

TIM: I get what you are on about and I’d assume that most of the comic fans on the internet (who tend to be more “serious”) would agree to. I’d much rather have Manhunter over another X, Spider, or Super title (my love of Batman is my cross to bear, thank you very much). Sadly, the fact of the matter is that the internet community is not the whole of comic book readers and there are clearly more of them than there are of us. DC and Marvel know that Bat books, Spider books, etc consistently sell and consistently sell better than less known properties. From a business perspective, why not ring out every last penny from them?

You hit the nail on the head with the Legends of the DCU thing. Yup it did exist and yup, it died. Was it market saturation? Maybe. But that’s based on the assumption that if you cut a Bat book, the person buying it would buy another book in its place rather than just keep the money. For some, that’s true, but for most, I’m not so sure. Remember, correlation does not equal causation. Just because the market is saturated with Super titles does not mean that that is the reason The Thing is not selling well.

As far as the “how many origin stories do we need?” complaint, don’t forget that there are always new fans (less and less it seems, but still) who did not come up in comics at the same time Year One and Man of Steel were released (heck, I wasn’t even reading comics then). Yes, there has been plenty of origin stories for all the landmark heroes and yes, if you’ve been around for a few of them, I do imagine it gets old. But, not everyone who reads comics has been around for all of them. They deserve a Birthright just as much as we deserved a Man of Steel. If it bothers you or seems redundant, no need to buy it. There are some for whom that’s not the case though and why shouldn’t they have a chance to enjoy such stories?

JEFF: All true and fair enough. But why not move the character – I’m referring to Superman here – forward instead of making him jog in place for years at a time? I don’t buy Superman. Ever. I don’t know if there’s anything they can do with him that will make me like him. Tucking the damn undies inside the tights would be a start. Don’t give me any, “He’s a global icon, you can’t change it,” either. I’m not asking for blue energy. Moe or less what he is now, just without the underwear on the outside. Red, blue and yellow is plenty gaudy enough with what’s left. Besides, Spider-man is an icon too and now he’s sporting red and gold armour with three arms sporting form the back. I’m not saying that’s good, I’m just saying it can be done. As for characterization, he loves Lois, he loves his folks, and Luthor hates him. Oversimplified, perhaps, but not by much. Does he like hockey? Does he have an aversion to eating fish? Did he ever fall for ANYONE other than Lana and Lois (not counting Diana until Kingdom Comes arrives)? The closest anyone’s come to making him interesting is in those moments in Superman/Batman where the two juxtapose narration. It’s interesting to see how the light and dark sides of the same coin view different situations and each other. But there’s little if any of that in the Superman books (like I said, I don’t buy them, but I’ve flipped through a few to keep up on things).

I plan on doing a column on this at some point – the myth of the New Reader. Yeah, certainly, there are new readers everyday. There was a day in the early 70s when I was one. But as you said, it’s happening less and less. For all the money X-Men 3 made, and the fortunes of the Spider-man movies, there was nary a bump in readership for the associated comics. I cringe whenever I see the “New Reader Friendly” logo on the cover of a book, because it assumes that either the previous issue or the other books on the shelf are somehow “New Reader Unfriendly”. Kids today have a better time of it than I did as a new reader. My option then was simple: find a back issue. What wasn’t so simple: finding where those back issues were. Today, anyone interested can find trade paperbacks at mass retailers and book stores, they can order stuff from hundreds of Internet sources, and they can even get the 4-1-1 from places like Wikipedia, read up on the character’s timeline and major opponents, Google a fan site or two, and you’re up to speed enough to get into a title. So instead of maintaining the status quo for fear of alienating new readers, the creators should move their stories forward to avoid alienating the current readers, because by and large the new reader friendly stories aren’t bringing in new readers anyway.

Man, I’m long winded. 😉

TIM: Someone besides me being long winded is a pleasant surprise for me, so no worries.

I have to agree with your thoughts on Superman. I think the costume argument is, frankly, weak sauce. Your comments about getting to know him better as person (or character, in this case) rather than an icon are dead on for me however. That’s part of the reason I rarely dip into the Superman side of the pool. He often feels all surface-y inspiration, no hard scrabble depth. And this is a guy who has died and come back and grew up in a farm in the middle of Kansas. The depth is there, so why is no one plumbing it?

As far as new readers go, I await that column with bated breath. I was reading some blog recently and one of the bulleted items was, “Why is it that the only people who care about new readers are the ones who have comics for decades?” So touché on calling me on that. Nonetheless, I maintain my stance. If anyone is new to comics, why not have a book like Birthright. It does not hurt you or me or anyone else for that matter. Just because I’ve seen the story before doesn’t mean the solution is “just find the back issue this first appeared in and stop hijacking my comics.”

JEFF: Yeah, I’ll do that column soon. Probably not this week or next, but soon! 😀

And on that promising note, we shall call it a day.

Until next time, we’ll see you on the forums!