Have a drink. It might help that mortis attitude of yours.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Doing It Write: There Are No Crappy Characters (Well Maybe A Few)

Working in a comic shop I hear a lot of complaining. It seems that the thing that makes we readers the happiest also makes us the most frustrated. I’m married I should know.

One of the things I hear the most gripes about is character. This character does not work on this team. This character does not deserve his or her own book. This character is stupid and awful while that character is awesome and amazing. I have heard about it for every character from Superman to Wolverine to Painkiller Jane. I have no problem with this; I do it all the time. I was baffled when they brought Pete Wisdom back for a MAX title. I am still flabbergasted that Terror, Inc. has hit shelves again. So I say, complain away.

My problem is that somewhere in all the negative noise it becomes apparent that the criticizer believes that the character is without worth: that the character is terrible no matter who is writing them. Most recently I have heard this about Geo-Force.

I have beef with this belief that there are irredeemable characters . How many of you thought that Blue Beetle was a jokey goof until Johns, Rucka and Winnick wrote him dying heroically? How many of you thought that Iron Fist was just a ridiculous dude in green and yellow pajamas with a popped collar until Brubaker and Fraction made him seriously awesome? Comicdom is awash with examples of revitalized characters: Black Canary, Bucky (Winter Soldier), Moon Knight, and Catman.

In the hands of a competent writer any character can take on complexities and traits that make them interesting to see in and out of comics. Wisdom was a great read, with a tragic ending that brilliantly rolled back into the Marvel mythos. Not bad for a comic centered on a character that had his first appearance in the pages of Excalibur.

That is why it’s frustrating when people blame the Justice League's recent failure on the lineup. There is nothing implicitly wrong with the roster; it could have worked. It just was not written in a way that ended up working. Hopefully, I'll have a post about that up shortly. Say what you will about Vixen, Black Lightning and even Geo-Force but in some cleverer hands the team could have be given the opportunity to come together. It just did not happen, but it is not Roy Harper’ s fault.

This is not say there aren’t characters that are easier to work with than others. It obviously takes less skill to write a good Batman story over a good Sportsmaster story because Batman is a better character. This post is not about ease; this post is about capacity. Every character has the potential to be awesome.

Of course there is a pitfall somewhere in this potential. Sometimes in an effort to make a character interesting the writer makes too many changes and the original character is lost. Instead you have a hero or villain with the same name with similar powers but not really the same character. I point to Dr. Light, the mean one, and the revamped Catman. These characters are definitely not the characters they were before their on panel jumpstart. However, the border between “further developing a character” and “might as well be creating an entirely new person” is blurry with much land disputes. Ultimately, I say if there is a precedent and it works within the context of the tale being told then it is o.k.

So, the next time you are complaining that this character is stupid or that character is dumb remember in a decade, when a different writer is making them the coolest cat around, you might be eating those words.


Blogger Julian Lytle said...

That's a good post. You know I don't think that there are bad characters, just ones that I don't like. I don't have a problem with the JLoA line-up. I may not care for Geo-Force but he served his role. Hell I hope Vixen stays on so I can read McDuffie writing her, albeit a different version than the one on the cartoon, that's the first verson of her I know and now I find that charater interesting.

7:45 AM


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