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

Saturday, April 28, 2007

It Really Brings the Room Together

O.k. so I have a confession to make. I don’t hate the lineup on Meltzer’s Justice League. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that I kind of like the new roster. I like Vixen. I like Black Lightning. I like Arsenal…I mean Red Arrow. By the way Geo-Force, despite his many appearances, has not been asked to join the League. Even if he were, I’d be o.k. with that, too. These are an interesting mix of personalities and powers that could be a great team. It is not the characters’ fault that the team is falling short of feeling like the Justice League. It is something else in the writing. It is something else that I have not been able to put my finger on until a couple days ago.

Let’s go back a few years to the “Obsidian Age.” Without going into too much detail, the arc dealt with the JLA being sucked backwards in time. Just before they disappeared Batman yells out, “Omega Gabriel Alpha.” Suddenly, superheroes all over were being recruited as replacements. Look, at whom Batman chose. Green Arrow, the Atom, and Nightwing are understandable. I can even buy Batman calling on Firestorm and Hawkgirl. But Fade, Jason Blood, and Major Disaster? Come on now. If this is a team that can be called the JLA, then our current roster can bear the same name.

I bought this replacement team for two reasons.

1) These were Batman’s recruits and if Batman says that they are League material, then they are.

2) Because they acted like how the League should act, though not from the start. The first time they sit down at the Big Table they start bickering and acting petty. Then Nightwing comes in and says this.

See Nightwing gets it. Well, Nightwing speaking on behalf of writer Joe Kelly. When you enter the room, when you sit at the table you have to be more than your secret identity, you have to be the damn Justice League of America. In his run, Meltzer has yet to have the characters sit down and act they belong there. The table is so much more than furniture; it is a symbol to the members on how they should act.

See a group of superheroes; living together; working out in a holographic training room; talking about their worries and doubts is not a JLA comic. It is a X-Men comic. That is not meant as a slight. I love the X-Men, heck; through “Executioner’s Song” they were my favorite team. But the X-Men are the X-Men and the tone of their book does not work for the number one team in the DCU.

Sure, I miss Flash and Aquaman in the League but characters do not make the team. It’s a frame of mind, a way of living and of acting. Meltzer's lineup possess the potential fill the bill. Really, I think it is in every character he has chosen. They just need to be written that way. They have to be written at that table.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Crossover Power

So I’m back at it again. Piecing together puzzles, pondering the ponderable – hey that could be a word. Today, I’m turning my eyes to the JLA/JSA crossover that has just started. Not to give too much away but the “Lightning Saga” reveals that five of the Legion of Superheroes have been trapped in the modern DCU. Here’s the rub. These aren’t the current members of the Waid/Kitson Legion. No, these are the original Pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths Legionnaires and they aren’t supposed to exist. However, it should be noted that following Crisis, the LSH existed in a “pocket universe.” It wasn’t until Zero Hour that their continuity ceased. What if they didn't cease though?

Anyway, there are three things I would like to bring up in regards to the crossover.

1) What the Interlac is he saying.

So I’m reading along in JLA # 8, and I get to this panel.

Then it same two words were said in JSA #5 here

And here:

So what is this keyword that triggers everyone back to normal? Well, I don’t know about any of you guys but I don’t speak Interlac. So I hopped on my trusty iBook and found an Interlac alphabet. And the phrase is:


Why would the code name of Garth Ranzz be the thing that snaps the displaced Legion members back to consciousness? Answer: I have no idea. Of course, being called Lightning Saga it kind of makes sense that he would be important. It should also be noted that a diabolical evil was responsible for turning Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl’s son into Validus. Yeah, it was Darkseid. Maybe the ruler of Apokolis is doing a Lightning Lad/Saturn Girl blackmailing.

2) I’m ready for my close-up.

If you think about it, this whole series is really tied up in Pre-Crisis Supeman mythos. The Legionaires, of course, are important but there is something more. Who was the supervillain that Superman ever faced? The Answer: Ultra-Humanite. When his original body was on the verge of death he jumped into the body of a movie actress, the body of Dolores Winters.

Now this panel here makes sense.

They are talking about the Ultra-Humanite inside Winter’s body. Now, the Ultra-Humanite has advanced mental capabilities. He could absolutely erase memories, put Legionnaires in stasis, drive them insance. Hell, he blinded Guy Gardner and Jamie Reyes (you should be reading Blue Beetle) using only his thoughts. Also, there are two sets of feet. Lightning Lad? Saturn Girl?

3) Absolute Power

My favorite panel in the whole thing so far is this one.

What do these three do when they grow up? Well, if you are Jeph Loeb and you're writing Superman/Batman, you say they jump back in time and raise Superman and Batman into planet controlling despots.

Hmm. Alternate worlds? Hmm. Time hopping members of the Legion of Superheroes? Sounds a bit too far fetched for me. Right?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A Thank You and a Theme

First off, I want to thank Blog@Newsarama for linking to the request for “Chick with Hat” drawings. I appreciate it greatly. Also, thanks to those people who have already sent pictures. They’re awesome. My fiancé is totally going to love them.

Now, the Absorbascon has been putting up a bunch of Heroclix theme teams. A couple weeks back it was the Crying for Canary team, you know characters who have slept with and then been rejected by Dinah Lance. Well, in response I’m putting up “Manwhores of Comics.” One from each universe, who will battle it out to see just who has the bigger…um…libido.

DC (446 pts)

Veteran Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner) (167 pts)
Veteran Green Arrow (50 pts) + Trick Shot (25 pts)
Veteran Arsenal (62 Pts)
Experienced Nightwing (53 Pts) + Pounce (15 pts)
Veteran Wildcat (74 pts)

Marvel (450 pts)

Unique Iron Man (Supernova) (160 pts)
Veteran Cage (109 pts)
Veteran Cyclops (Universe) (78 pts)
Experienced Hawkeye (Fantastic Forces) (71 pts)
Experienced Multiple Man (32 pts) – Don’t believe this one? Read X-Factor

It’s interesting to note that, aside for the exception of Luke Cage and Wildcat, the lotharios of comics are mostly ranged attackers: they keep both their enemies and their lovers at a safe distance.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Something New

So I've decided that I need to spend so more time on Marvel. Thus, I am introducing MARVEL MONDAYS! From now on we will start the week with posts oriented towards the company headed by Joe Quesada.

I am fan of simple beginnings, so I'll start off this with one page.

Some days it is so fun reading comics. Not as much fun as Jeff Parker probably had writing this.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Reaching Your Limit: Retcon

Now, one of my jobs is working at a comic store. I enjoy my job; it gives me the chance to hear others’ complaints and praises for a medium I hold so dear. Not to mention the conversations. For instance, over the last few weeks there has been much talk about if the new Penance is the most “emo” superhero ever created. Seriously. Although, after World War III, I think Martian Manhunter may take the prize.

This past Wednesday, the subject of Jefferson Pierce, Black Lightning, came up. Seems some people are not happy with all the recent changes to the character’s history. Why create an unmentioned niece just to get her killed? More importantly, when did he get a daughter? And not just a daughter, but one old enough to graduate from college. It changes the character, ages him, and so on. I’ve heard similar complaints about Hush. Suddenly, Bruce Wayne’s closest childhood friend, who had never been mentioned in over half a century worth of comics, shows up and he’s a bad guy.

How are these changes possible? Retroactive Continuity. A writer sees some flexibility in a character’s history and, with a tweak and a wink, bam – Green Arrow knew the whole time about Conner. Bam – Parralax was an evil fear entity. Bam – Aunt May knew the whole time that Peter Parker was Spider-man. Let’s a take a look at some of it’s classical uses.

Retcon and Beginnings

When Dan Garret was bouncing around as Blue Beetle during the Fox/Charleton years, the Scarab was simply a mystical artifact found during a dig in Egypt. When Ted Kord was flying around as Blue Beetle, the Scarab was merely a memento left to him by his uncle. Well, weren’t we all in for a surprise when it turned out to be an alien artifact left on Earth. Now, a certain level of global technology reached, the Scarab has revealed powers that neither the two previous owners, nor their writers, could have possibly imagined.

There have been countless changes to a character’s origins, each trying to be the “origin” that everyone else will use. Power Girl and Hawkman are great examples of the ever-changing background. There are so many reasons behind these changes and usually, since they deal with the character’s very foundations, they are accepted without too much complaint.

Retcon And Death

I remember when Moon Knight died. Now, I wasn’t reading the comic then but I remember the top ten list that Wizard put out that month; the top ten thing overheard at Moon Knight’s funeral. Number Two was, “Oh my god! They killed Space Ghost. I can’t…Moon Knight? Who the heck is Moon Knight?” Remember, when Wizard used to be funny. However, Charlie Huston and David Finch say the Moon Knight never bought it saving the world from Seth. Instead, he wound up crippled from a fight with Bushwacker.

In some ways the retconning of death has become the most acceptable usage. Jean Grey’s body got shunted into Jamaica Bay. Hal Jordan recreated Oliver Queen’s body. This goes on and on. In some ways the ability to change a character’s final reckoning has made death, which should be so permanent, just another plot point.

Retcon and Everything In-Between

There is a lot of off panel time during a hero or villain’s career. It is this space, after the first time a character put on a cape and cowl but before the ion bomb disintegrated them, that some of the most controversial retcons occur. For instance, the above mentioned creation of Anissa Pierce falls into this category but there are other great family history changes. Barbara Gordon, the Pre-Crisis- daughter of Commissioner James Gordon. After the little jump it turns out that he never had a daughter, rather son. So where does Barbara come in? Oh, well the future Batgirl/Oracle is actually his niece, whom he adopted after her parents died. The son lives in Chicago with his mother, the Commissioner and his wife having divorced. Wait there is more. Turns out that Barbara may in fact be James’ daughter because of suddenly revealed, a.k.a retconned, affair with his brother’s wife. She’s had more parental changes than a Maurie Povitch episode.

Relationships can spring up left and right. Storm, the weather-controlling mutant, and Black Panther, the ruler of the nation of Wakanda, have been around for a while, 1975 and 1966 respectively. Now, in those many decades there have been two hints that two had a mutual past. Once in 1980’s Marvel Team-Up #100 and then twenty years later in Priest’s run on Black Panther. However, no where ever was it suggested that the two were actually childhood sweethearts whose love for each other had never died. I think Forge especially might have something to say on that subject. Still, Marvel wanted a 2005 wedding and so it was written. Lost love is a great motivation and so Elektra gets thrown into Matt Murdock’s college years.

So this bears the question: when does retcon stop working? When does it hit that point where a reader cannot accept it anymore? I think it’s a question of plausibility and precedent, and if either are broken then a retcon does not work. One of the most basic requirement of comics is a suspension of disbelief. We have to say, “Sure that person can ride clouds.” We are already in the mindset to believe things simply by opening the cover. So when it turns out that Validus is the son of Saturn Girl sent into the past, it might not be our favorite storyline but we are o.k. with the retcon.

Changes made to a character outside of the superhero world, such as could Jefferson Pierce have an off-comic daughter, are less plausible for us to just accept. We expect our heroes and villains to act like people, just people with powers. Jefferson Pierce, as he was written for a long, is not written like a man who has a child. Therefore, the creation of a daughter requires us to suspend our beliefs on in how he is as a person. After all, to buy him being married with a daughter, just once we would need to see him mention a family. Something he never does.

This brings me to precedence. There are traits and actions that lead us to accept certain revisions to a character’s history. Connor Hawke is a great example. Oliver Queen was established as a promiscuous man and one who could obviously have an illegitimate son. So when Connor shows up, I see no problems with this. When Brad Meltzer, during his “Archer’s Quest” arc, changed it so Ollie was thee for Connor’s birth, it was also believable. There has to be something in a character’s past, whether it’s actions or simply a single panel that establishes a change in a character’s continuity.

Retconning is kind of a great tool for the writer. It allows them to throw in story elements that they’ve always wanted to be there, to tell stories they’ve always wanted to tell. However, it is such a thin tightrope that it is easy to slip and fall. A writer has to be careful because, let me tell you, readers do not readily accept these changes. Lord knows I've heard about it.