Sunday, October 23, 2005

Top Makeover from Crisis?


1. The DC Universe.

Before?

A tidy multiverse, where compatible, complementary characters were groups together in large but clearly separate "drawers", each simply labelled with an alphanumeric in a vast filing system. Most important stuff was filed in the two top drawers (1 and 2) for ready reference, with a few others drawers for less frequently used "files".

Like any good filing system, it was adaptable and expandable. Whenever too much material might accumulate so as to clutter your main drawers, you could take out the older materials from the files, and put them in archive files in another new drawer, and start you main drawers afresh. In this way, all the old materials were still valid, still available for use if necessary, but didn't get in the way of your main, "daily use" files. Anyone who knows how to file his own comics books can figure it out. How tidy.

After?

A big garage with all your stuff in it, unprioritized by order of importance, with whatever you used last lying on the top. Things get easily lost and you can't tell whether what you're looking for still exists or was thrown out at some point. Since the mess merely gets rearranged, and never really put in any permanent order, there's no way to get any sense of forward progress. Worst of all, every month adds more stuff, adding to the confusion. No one, even if they are familiar wih everything there's ever been put in the garage has any hope of making much sense of it.

Well...

some makeovers work out better than others.

16 comments:

Ron said...

Heh. Maybe they should put Merlin "43 Folders" Mann in charge of One Year Later -- or, as I'm starting to think of it, DCU +1...

Ariel said...

I have to play devils advocate here Scip. Unlike what seems to be the prevailing wind in fandom lately, I LIKE that the confusing, reader unfriendly multiverse was condensed into one cohesive universe where Uncle Sam can get it on with Captain Marvel by crossing the street rather than a vibrational wall. I certainly don't agree that the multiverse backdrop was very tidy, and nor do I feel that it was particularly easy to understand or navigate.

I don't understand the argument that 'compatible, complementary characters' should be on seperate earths. I think that that causes a reduction of story possibilites rather than increasing them. Perhaps it's the New Yorker in me, but I see non-compatible, non-complementary characters interact every day, and I rather like it. I like it in my comic books too.

However, I do absolutely agree with you that what happened to the DC Universe Post-COIE was messy and not well thought out at all. It resulted in a DC Universe that was no more reader friendly than the multiverse that preceded it, and perhaps for many longtime readers, myself included, much less fun.

Infinite Crisis has me hopeful on one hand, that the DC Brass has learned from their mistakes and appear to have some sort of plan that at least takes them through at least into the next decade. Yet on the other hand, by all appearances it certainly seems that there is a push to return to the Multiverse backdrop, which has me disappointed.

There is an entire generation of comic book readers who grew up with the multiverse concept and bemoaned its loss after investing no small amount of time in learning the 'language' of that backdrop in the form of its particular continuity, such as it was.

If the shared universe backdrop does indeed go away, well, there will be a generation who invested 20 years in learning THAT particular continuity, such as IT was, including me. It's certainly upsetting to think that I'll have relearn a whole new continuity yet again. Yet, that's not the reason I'm disappointed.

I posit back to you: while DC for the most part squandered the rich possibilities (both financially and creatively) of a shared universe through poor planning; and despite, as you've rightly pointed out this past week, the embarrasing mess that COIE was; the shared universe backdrop was still a terrific idea, put to obviously great financial effect by their neighbors down the street at Marvel (note that I didn't say great creative effect, ugh).

If the multiverse returns, I will be disappointed by the decision by DC brass to go back to a concept that caters to us aging fanboys rather than continuing to look forward, and think of what is going to sustain the comic book industry a hundred years down the road.

Scipio said...

Well said, Ariel!

Unfortunately, I myself am stuck on:
"Uncle Sam can get it on with Captain Marvel."

Oh, I wish you hadn't said that!

kelvingreen said...

Indeed. Bring the brainscrubbers!

Bully said...

It's not so much the longbox versus the garage that I mind.

It's all the rape and murder.

Ariel said...

I know, it's one of those things you can't get out of your head. Uncle Sam and Cap'n Marvel...Missle ridin' with Nambla galore! Although, Billy's supposed to be about 16 now, so he'd be legal in Amsterdam at least!

Captain Infinity said...

I have to agree with Ariel. I love the monoverse. There's no sense of legacy if all the golden age characters are in another universe. Going back to the multiverse would be the comic book eqivalent of the infamous "it was all a dream" period on Dallas.

Sure it's a bit confusing at times, but I never know what's going on in the real world either. At least if the heroes are all in the same universe the team ups don't always feel so contrived.

Marionette said...

I wouldn't care what model they were using if they only made an effort to keep it consistant. For example I now have no clue what Krypton is supposed to look like - Superman's origin has been made over so many times with different looks that I've completely lost track - and he's just the most high profile character DC has.

And I have no faith that this latest rationalisation will set things straight because I do not believe that editors have the power (or maybe the will) to keep it straight. If they can't keep some consistancy going in the lead up to the big event, why should we expect them to have any once it's over?

Mike Loughlin said...

Holy analogy, Scipio!

As someone who grew up with the "monoverses" of DC & Marvel, I have no problem with keeping everything in one continuity, because continuity gaffes don't bother me. If Superman's latest comic contradicts a Superman story from 30, 20, 10 years ago...*shrug* It's all made up anyway.

Still, certain characters (Captain Marvel) and concepts (Hippolyta travels back in time to be Wonder Woman in World War 2 to inspire Donna Troy to be Wonder Girl) just feel out of place in a DCU that tries to include _everything_...

I guess I'm good either way.

joncormier said...

I've got a question. What is the comic book equivalent of TV's "Jump the shark?"

I'm thinking of something like reinvigorating the universe or event of the decade. Maybe "beating the shark-themed villain?"

Anyway, I'm thinking there will be an amalgam of the multi-uni-verse concepts. It's not always productive to throw the baby out with the bathwater which seems to be how "big" events get handled in comics. You know, I don't really NEED the characters I like to have life altering events every week. I'd rather have a bit of consistency and a single issue story here and there. Then again I'm the guy who doesn't care if my girlfriend reads comics or not - so what do I know?

Dan Jacobson said...

Perhaps it could be called "The Ben Reilly moment?"

Dan Jacobson said...

But on topic for a second, why not just write the books and let the readers decide what earth they take place on? Some readers will come up with interesting theories and write, discuss, argue, or mudwrestle about them. Some will be inspired to actually make comics that comment on their own ideas about them, and others just won't care. It's something for everybody.

Jeff R. said...

Missing Makeovers (I guess #6 and #7): Wally West and Wildcat. The latter would have been fairly amusing, since she gets to spend panels and panels and panels solliliquizing and lurking and generally seeming like the'll be important somewhere, and then, in the end, her entire contribution to the story's action is kicking Cheshire in the face. One panel.

David J Oakes said...

I think that "The Ben Reilly Moment" is almost perfect. But it makes it sound like an inevitable event, rather than a conscious action that could - and should - have been avoided. Something like:

"Cloning the Spider - Not just an Evil Twin story, but an ongoing attempt to claim that whole chunks of uncomfortable continuity happened to someone else, so as to revert the main character to a blank slate. (See also: 'Arkhaming the Bat'.)"

Not to be confused with "Magneto/Dominus/Parallax/Maxwell Lord/The Mad Maharajah was controlling my mind", which is used to excuse only a single action that was obviously out of character when it occured, rather than trying to rewrite a complete change in personality.

methane said...

The point of multiple Earths wasn't to put Captain Sam on a different Earth than Captain Marvel. The point of multiple Earths is that we have one continutity where we follow the daughter of the Batman of the 40s and 50s, while we can simultaneously follow a continutity where Batman is in his prime. Each continutity is rich and is built on the stories of thousands of comics. You can be reasonably assured that, unless your comic is labelled 'imaginary story', it builds on events that happened in comics you read 5 years ago, and may be referenced in comics you read 5 years from now.

Multiple Earths provide the possibility that ever so often a Bruce Wayne (or a Diana Prince?) can die. We are allowed to see the ending of the character we followed for so long and are allowed to see younger heroes grow and try to live up to their legacy. Meanwhile, we can follow a new version of Batman with a mix of familiar and new traits in a separate continuity. We can be fairly confident that, while we're reading the early adventures of this 'new' Batman, our childeren will be able to one day read him as a 'mature' Batman, 20 years from now. Multiple Earths give the possibility of more realized, truly mythic Earths, because all of your heros (not just everyone who isn't a member of the 'big 3') are allowed to age through time, and eventually be allowed to meet their deaths.

If you only have one Earth we're condemned to an endless string of retcons, because our sole Batman and Superman will never be allowed to get 'too' old or truly die. So we can rest assured that a fair percentage of the comics we read today won't be a part of any creative reality we'll be able to read in the future (some will, but not all). You can read a story that represents a major event in Superman's life, but it's not going to have the same impact if you realize 4 years from now there's a good chance this story will be dropped from the ongoing continuity.

Having a well-structured continuity doesn't mean it has to be inaccessable for people unfamiliar with that continity. If you want to see an apartment on the 30th floor, you don't have to visit each of the 29 floors below you. But those 29 floors below you provide the foundation of a great view, regardless.

You can always have new versions of characters like Captain Marvel and Uncle Sam appear in the newest version of continutity, anyway.

MarkAndrew said...

I'm fairly neutral on the Multi-verse thing, really.

Any competent writer shouldn't force their audience to "learn continuity" to enjoy a story.

Which was one of the big problems with Crisis, to tell you the truth.

Still. I would like to see a return to the more conceptual science fiction based stories of the PC DCU. (1) I'm more of a science fiction bases superhero comic fan than I am a soap opera based superhero comics fan.

And the Crisis seems to serve as a line of demarcation between the Julie Scwartz sci-fi stories and the Marvel style Let's All Talk about our feeeeeeeeeling for 22 pages Wolfman/Claremont/Stan Lee minus funny stories that were damn near all DC put out post-Crisis.

I don't care about Robin's Sex Life or the Flash's money problems or Aquaman's ingrown toenail. (2) Get to the Giant Psychic Space Octopi With Laser Guns Money Shot!!!

So, while I don't need the multiverse to come back, I would like t' see some good conceptual based science fiction again.

Tell you what. I'll make you children of the late-eighties a deal.

We'll split comics down the middle.

The FIRST half of comics can be about
Hawkman's love triangle of the week, but in the last half he has to fight purple three-headed subteranean space gorillas.

Deal?

(1) Who doesn't remember the heady days when "Respects our Proud African American Heritage Lass" and "Proud Homosexual Man" fought the dastardly "White Male Mother#$#%^er."

(2) Nah. I lie. Actually I'd TOTALLY be down with that last one. "My clippers! They...they... rusted! NOOOOO!"