Welcome To My Nightmare

Three days ’til PITTSBURGH COMICON! Hot damn on a pu-pu platter, I can’t wait! Gonna get me an Andy Lee painting–I’ve no idea what yet but I’m getting something, dammit. Iron Fist? That might be cool. Batgirl–either of them? Maybe, yeah. Plastic Man? Umm…no. I don’t know if Andy’s style would be a good fit for Taskmaster, though if I can find someone there who’ll do me up a nice rendering of “Coolest Marvel Character Ever” I’ll pony up the bucks for it. Maybe I’ll get one with Taskmaster and The Rhino, my favorite villains, back to back. And no I won’t explain why Rhino is one of my favorite villains, because I can’t, he just is and I’ve learned to accept that.

There’s so much to do before Friday. I have to get some sleep clothes since The Dark Overlord and I aren’t trying to be the Midnighter and Apollo of Pittsburgh (he’s Apollo, obviously). I’m gonna try to get some pajamas with the plastic footsies sewn in, and maybe one of those buttoned ass-flaps for when I need to pinch a loaf. Nothing says, “Pittsburgh, The Nightmare has arrived!” like that image does, eh? I need a sketch book, a recorder in case an interview should break out, a bunch of money and some decent CDs as I mentioned a few weeks back, because it’s at least ten hours from St. Louis to Pittsburgh and I can’t deal with Daron’s Robin Thicke fetish for that long. Dark Overlord my ass, his new name shall be “Tickle Me Emo.”

I’ve talked about death in comics in the past, but I want to touch on it again today because Gail Simone has resurrected the deceased Justice Leaguer Ice recently in “Birds of Prey”. I had heard rumors of somebody “coming back” in that title and thought, “Gee, who could it be? It’s “Birds of Prey” after all, so it’s probably a deceased female. Or Ted Kord, but that’s too soon and it was already teased in Manhunter. So…who are some dead ladies in the DCU? Jade? Shiva maybe? Donna Troy…no, I think she’s already back. Huh. I give up. So I get the issue and I read it and as usual I like it and then I get to the last page and it’s, “Oh yeah! Ice was dead! And now she’s not. And do I care?” And that, for me, is the crux of it.

I need to care one way or the other. Captain America getting killed, you bet I care. Captain Marvel getting pulled through time to be the Warden of Tony Stark’s Gulag? Well, it pissed me off (still does) so obviously I must care. But Marvel doesn’t give a Cleveland Steamer about continuity so Captain America isn’t really dead (or they would have cancelled the book–or worse, give it to Millar and Oeming) and Captain Marvel is still really dead (because I said so) and any other Captains in Marvel – Captain Ultra, Captain Universe, that grungy one from NEXTWAVE, etc. – better be on their toes. Being a Marvel captain is the kiss of death. DC, on the other hand is extremely continuity conscious. Like Captain America, I seldom buy into the death of the icon characters. Batman’s broken back, Superman’s slugfest with Doomsday, there was no way these things would be permanent. But Green Lantern or Green Arrow, those struck me a little harder because even though they’re quite popular characters they aren’t completely irreplaceable in the DC Universe. Heck, Hal’s not even my favorite Lantern (none of the Oan Lanterns are, I dig Alan Scott) and Roy has stepped into Ollie’s place in the new Justice League of America.

Now Ted Kord, THAT was a death. Blue Beetle was an everyman. He was a dork. He was an accessible, interesting and likable character. When he got capped by Max I was shocked, saddened and yet smiling because this was the kind of thing that WOULD happen in that scenario. It was the only way it could play out. I know at some point Ted will be back. If they saw fit to bring back Metamorpho, who doesn’t really serve any particular propose and has a horrible character design to boot, the ol’ Beetle will return some day.

So the question I pose to myself is, do I care enough about Ice to be excited for her return? Well, as evidenced by my not even thinking of her when I was ticking off names of deceased female DC characters, probably not. But why not? Maybe I just don’t get. Maybe I should, but something just isn’t clicking. After all, not only was the Web buzzing with speculation, but even some of my fellow comic aficionados here at work were asking me about it. So I thought I’d go to someone who knows more about the DCU than I do and whose opinion and insight I respect.

I reached out Starman. Not Jack Knight, though his series is a masterpiece of consistently entertaining comic fiction. I reached out to our own Matt “Starman” Morrison who writes the Looking To The Stars reviews. The following is our conversation via email.

Hi Matt,

Just wondering, how did Ice die, who wrote her death (and was not happy with it) and do you know if Huntress was on a first name basis with her? Because I was a) disappointed it was Ice, honestly, and b) confused about Helena’s familiarity when she told Babs it was “Tora”.


“I think Ice is a great note in the DC symphony….Ice is a nice reminder that it’s not that way for everyone.” — Gail Simone


I don’t hate the character, I just don’t think she adds much to the DCU. There are plenty of ice powered characters, her costume was just average and doesn’t bringing her back sorta screw up her appeal for those of you that thought her death was tragic in some way? I mean, it’s obvious at Marvel that Captain America isn’t dead. But I’m damn sure Captain Marvel is (or would be if Bendis/Millar would leave him be). His death was the most heartfelt moment in the last 25 years and they pissed on it to make a warden of a super-Guantanamo. Like Sue Dibney, Ice is probably more dramatic and more interesting being dead than alive.

Just my two cents, and thanks for any insight you can share. I knew she was dead, but neither Daron nor I could remember the cause. I was never much a fan of the comedy JLA.

Best,
Jeff Ritter

From Matt:
Okay. To answer those questions in order…

She was killed by The Overmaster, who was trying to mentally control her, in Justice League Task Force #14.

The writer in question is Mark Waid. His exact comments can be found on Gail Simone’s Women In Refrigerator’s site at: http://www.unheardtaunts.com/wir/c-mwaid.html

Here’s the quote: “I’m responsible for the death of Ice. My call, my worst mistake in comics, my biggest regret. I remember hearing myself ask the editor, “Who’s the JLAer whose death would evoke the most fierce gut reaction from readers?” What a dope. Mea culpa. But I’ve learned my lesson.”

Huntress and Ice were teammates. Huntress was in the Justice League from issues #26 – 35 of the 1987 Justice League of America Series while Ice was on the team. Ice had an open identity so it seems likely that Helena knew her first name was Tora, though given Helena’s secret identity issues at the time is is unlikely that Ice knew Huntress’ real name.

Yes, there are other ice-powered characters in the DCU. But as a certain famous writer is fond of saying – The Powers Are Not The Person. By that logic, Captain Cold and Mister Freeze are the same guy but if you tried making that case to a Flash fan, you’d get laughed out of the park.

As for her costume – well, I kinda like the idea of a woman who has amazing powers and gets a spandex outfit but then wears a t-shirt over it because she’s shy and… well, she manipulates cold and spandex is thin… do the math.

As for Ice being more interesting dead, nothing could be further from the truth. She was actually saved FROM being a statistic death early on purely because of how popular she had become as a member of the JLA. I could give a lot of reasons for this – most of which would be meaningless to you without reading the books – but here’s a quick list.

1. The Fire/Ice relationship – one of the most genuine female friendships in comics history and an interest in contrasts, not just in powers but in personalities. Bold, sensual, wild partygirl vs quiet, shy, innocent waif.

2. The Ice/Guy Gardner relationship – She wound up revealing a whole other side to Guy Gardner – one that showed that underneath the macho exterior there was a basically decent guy. No pun intended.

3. No F-ed Up Origin – 90% of the time, female comic heroines have very messed up events that spur them to action and they tend to angst over that point. Not Ice. Why did she become a hero? She had powers and she felt a need to use them to help people. She just wanted to do the right thing. Period.

4. Positive Attitude – at a time when comics were becoming darker, she really stood out among the darker, grimmer superheroes of the time by being happy and cheerful and *gasp* hopeful.

5. The Gail Simone quote – this came from an interview that Gail Simone did last week on why she liked Ice as a character and wanted to bring her back. I think it sums it up perfectly.

“Here’s the thing, for several years, when some of the more innocent or charming or fun-loving characters were killed at both of the major companies, we’ve always heard that it’s because (and it’s hard to argue this point) of our fondness for them that their misfortune has dramatic impact. If you don’t love the character, then it means nothing if they sacrifice their lives. As much as I love Ted Kord and miss him, his telling Max to go to hell had real agony in it because it wasn’t, you know, some forgotten Global Guardian or somesuch.
I do understand that, but to me, it means the opposite with these characters is also true, that something positive can make you cheer just as something bitter can make you weep… I think Ice is a great note in the DC symphony. She never hit the big time as a solo character, but she’s all about hope and innocence and empathy and man, I just love her. In all these damaged female characters that keep getting created, it seems endlessly more brave to me that Keith brought Ice to life in such an endlessly hopeful way. As comics and the world get slightly more cynical, Ice is a nice reminder that it’s not that way for everyone.”

That’s why a living, breathing Ice is so important. The world could use a little more sweetness and light. Besides, can you just imagine the fun stories we can tell with Guy Gardner once he finds out about this?

Cheers!
Starman

So there ya go. Thanks again, Matt, for your Ice primer. It was a big help for me in terms of answering that aforementioned question: Do I care? In this case, the answer is: No. But that’s only because I stayed away from the Justice League for much of Ice’s tenure. I always like Kevin Maguire’s artwork, but I didn’t care for the humor. I didn’t really read Justice League in any incarnation besides a few issues of Justice League Task Force until Morrison, Porter and Dell relaunched JLA with the heavy hitters. However, just because I don’t care doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate it. Starman Matt’s reasoning and Gail Simone’s quote makes a ton of sense. There’s virtually no optimism at Marvel, and even though I read a lot of DC titles, I have always been a Marvel guy. Spidey and Cap are probably the two most cheerful and/or optimistic characters in the Marvel Universe, and now Pete’s wearing the black togs and Steve’s wearing the shroud. Marvel could se a little more optimism. And so could I. After all, I’m optimistic that Ted Kord will somehow return someday, probably in a time contrivance orchestrated by Booster Gold, sort of along the lines of how Marvel brought back Captain Marvel, which I realize is somewhat hypocritical of me to hope for. Sod off. I’ll give Ice a chance, and I’ll give Gail the benefit of the doubt. With her track record, if she can’t make me care, nobody can.

And with that, I bid you all an optimistically good week and prepare to do battle against the nefarious forces of Daron’s wussy Emo Army. They’re kinda like the KISS Army, but without all the rock & roll, pyrotechnics, demonic makeup, platform boots and screaming sex-starved groupies. As for my groupies, I can’t wait to see you all this weekend, where I’ll say…

Welcome to the PITTSBURGH COMICON!