Monday, September 11, 2006

Descenting Opinion



DC Comics, I'm a-calling yew out.

Devon, from over at our cousin blog "Seven Hells", went to the convention in Baltimore last weekend, where, as one of the comics cognoscenti, he hung out with The Big Names. He brought back many bits of gossip, but none I liked better than this...

His friend writer Jimmy Palmiotti (Hex, Hawkman, etc.) told him there's a story he wants to tell in Jonah Hex about a childless couple who seek Jonah's help. They are in urgent need of a heir, but that's something the husband can't produce. So they hire discreet Jonah to sire one for them surreptitiously. Jonah, as always, does his duty.

This is a story I desperately want told. Jonah Hex is DC's western Bringer-of-Death; I want to enjoy the irony of someone hiring him to bring life. And the opportunity to make "gun for hire" jokes.

DC won't let Palmiotti tell the story. I don't know why, but it may be because certain readers and bloggers who shall remain nameless have made DC self-conscious about the use of prostitution, rape, and similar sexual story elements. Maybe they just don't want Jonah to be viewed as a prostitute, but I certainly don't see it that way; this is clearly a case of "studding", not prostitution.

Besides, (as I have said before) there another reason this story must be told:

The family's name is Dent.

Please join me in publicly asking DC Comics to let Palmiotti & Gray tell this Jonah Hex story.

63 comments:

William said...

"bloggers who shall remain nameless have made DC self-conscious about the use of prostitution, rape, and similar sexual story elements"

I can't WAIT to see the reaction that line gets. I love it, but I'm fearing a linkblogging flamewar over the horizon.

Scipio said...

Don't you mean ...
"overreaction"?

As Popeye said, "I stood all I can stands; I can stands no more!"

Matthew E said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Matthew E said...

Well, if DC thinks that the only way this story can be told is offensively, they're wrong. And if they don't think this, but are still scared of bloggers' reactions, then they're being wimps.

And the only thing about this post that is controversial is the gleeful anticipation of controversy in the comments preceding mine.

If I was in need of an emergency sperm donor, no matter which half of the couple I was, I'd probably be able to think of a lot of candidates before I got to the name 'Jonah Hex'.

Steven said...

Reading Devon's account, it strikes me that DC's objection might not be to Jonah Hex providing his "sevices" but instead to making him Dent's great great grand pappy (ironically the very twist that makes you demand the story) because they don't want to "use too many DC Universe characters" in their stand alone western.

And, to tell the truth, I kind of agree with DC Editorial in this case. Having Hex DNA in Harvey Dent's blood lends the origin of Two-Face a feeling of genetic predestination, ("with a forefather like that, OF COURSE he was going to become a scarred killer") in contradiction to the themes of chance and chaos that the coin-flipping villain tends to represent.

The Fortress Keeper said...

I'd be surprised if DC killed the story over fear of what bloggers may say. Remember, Dan Didio thinks dollars - not sense.

jamawalk said...

that's stupid.

everyone knows that Harvey Dent's great grandfather was The Haunted Tank.

duh.

but in all seriousness, its that kind of cutesy coincidentall nonsense that can really hurt a continuity. lookit star wars, lookit marvel's 1602...nah, on second thought, don't.

totaltoyz said...

What I don't understand is why the couple would go to a morally bankrupt killer-for-hire like Hex with this problem. Surely there would be other choices?

Scipio said...

Jonah Hex is not morally bankrupt, Dale; have you read his stories?

Cole Moore Odell said...

Genetic predisposition? Toward getting half your face melted off? I didn't realize that happened at fertilization. This idea is too cutesy by at least half, and beyond the twist ending gag of coincidence (already spoiled by this post) it gains the characters nothing. It's the kind of Roy Thomas dot-connecting (You say Robin has the same last name as Robotman's assistant? I smell a nephew!) that makes the world and its inhabitants seem smaller and more contrived.

totaltoyz said...

Jonah Hex is not morally bankrupt, Dale; have you read his stories?

Most of the early ones, yes. Perhaps I applied the term a bit too freely. But I hardly think he'd be first choice for a surrogate father, or even in the top ten, especially 100 years ago.

totaltoyz said...

It's the kind of Roy Thomas dot-connecting that makes the world and its inhabitants seem smaller and more contrived.

Ah, but James Robinson did some pretty cool things with Roy Thomas' dot-connecting, didn't he? It was Rascally who first decided that Ted and Sandra Knight were cousins.

Cole Moore Odell said...

Robinson's Starman, which seemed so bright at the time, dims for me with the passage of time. Snejberg's fantastic art in later issues obscures the increasing incoherence and uneven pace of the plot (despite a few nice touches here and there toward the end).

Roel said...

Aw, you guys don't need Palmiotti and DC to tell the story. Isn't that what slash fanfic is all about?

"And then Jonah took me into his arms and tongue kissed me through the hole in his face..."

Ian Myles Slater said...

That might make an interesting story. And the choice of a father might not be so improbable. Particularly if you didn't expect him to stay around to take an interest in the child.

Jonah Hex is demonstrably bright (if a bit prone to getting into trouble), obviously healthy (he would be long dead, otherwise!), and would be seen as likely to father bright, healthy, offspring.

A child would have no embarassingly obvious resemblance to a father whose face has been seriously "re-arranged" -- unless the coupled believed in the inheritance of acquired characteristics, not uncommon in the nineteenth century, I have to admit.

And, perhaps equally important, only the most imaginative of local gossips would be likely to suggest Jonah as a likely lover....

As pointed out in a linked earlier posting, "Batman: The Animated Series," already suggested* that Jonah was a physical, as well as a spiritual, ancestor of Bruce Wayne. Harvey may have been another descendant; or a member of a collateral line, from another branch of the Dent family. Either would, for those who count ancestry significant for personality,, make sense in terms of the three intelligent, but driven, even inflexible, characters. (Harvey "breaks" before he adjusts.)

In DC terms, only the incidence of severe facial scarring, and that at an interval of over a century, might be worth committing on....

*Strictly speaking, I think we have in "Showdown" a visualization of Ra's Al Ghul's account of the events -- and he isn't omniscient, even if he sometimes thinks so.

Bully said...

I still don't understand what this has to do with Arthur Dent.

Sleestak said...

That would be the best Jonah Hex ever in the history of everness.

Anonymous said...

"in contradiction to the themes of chance and chaos that the coin-flipping villain tends to represent."

Well, Jonah could flip a coin to decide whether to participate...

ALthough that'd surely be a step too far. The choice of Jonah as donor is surely chaotically random in and of itself.

Steven said...

Hey, I should point out that I don't mind connection the dots. It's the specific genetic linking of Two-Face and Jonah Hex that seems counter-productive.

But if you wanted to be really clever about connecting one to the other, the family's last name should be "Kent."

Ariel said...

Scip, who do we send an email to who could have some sway over this? The current Bat editor?

totaltoyz said...

You know, this certainly isn't the first time DC has unsheathed the ugly sword of censorship. Around 20 years ago, when Rick Veitch sent Swamp Thing tripping through time, he wanted to have Swampy meet Christ. DC nipped that in the bud, pun intended.

Ralph Dibny said...

GASP! Baiting the girls again with daringly controversial statements! Here's my overreaction: YAWN, SNORE, SO BORING, YAWN.

As for the Hex story - I've got to agree with everone else who says this is a rubbish idea. It's basically Hex starring in Confessions Of A Milkman only with a duff continuity reference thrown in.

alex said...

links to two-face aside, i think this could be a really nice, well-told story with less guns than usual. i love this character and i've really enjoyed the new book. i hope this story gets published, and i'm happy to lend some support.

Cole Moore Odell said...

Censorship? So now every story pitch shot down by an editor or publisher is censorship? Come on, totaltoyz, don't dilute the term. Do you have any idea how many stories like this one are nixed by TPTB every day of the week? We can debate whether or not DC is exercising good editorial judgement without accusing them of censorship.

totaltoyz said...

And how do you define censorship?

Rob S. said...

Whatever censorship is, it's certainly not the owner of a property deciding how he wishes the property to be used. Palmiotti doesn't own Hex; DC does. They can publish or not, as they see fit.

Cole Moore Odell said...

While this is arguable, the term censorship typically best applies to state control of speech, either through prior restraint (refusing to allow publication) or banning of speech after publication/broadcast/utterance through legal means. Wikipedia says "Censorship is the authoritarian control of speech and other forms of human expression. In many (but not all) cases, it is exercised by governing bodies."

One can make a case for self-censorship or implicit censorship, as with the Comics Code Authority, a "governing body" that came into existence as an attempt to mollify the government and convince it not to implement actual state censorship. But the path of the suggested Jonah Hex story is none of those things. Whatever we think of creators' rights, Hex is a property owned outright by DC Comics. They have the right to decide how their property is portrayed. P&G are hired to writer stories featuring DC's character. DC editors are well within their rights (in fact it is their jobs) to evaluate story ideas, and approve or reject them based on any number of criteria. If you pitched Super Turtle joining the JLA, and DC said no, have they censored you? It's ridiculous on its face.

Given the subject matter in many DC and Vertigo titles over the last 15 years or so, it's hard to imagine that DC is passing on this Hex plot based on government pressure or aversion to the sexual neture of the subject matter. They probably just think it's lame, or they can't coordinate with the Batman editorial offices who have other plans for Two-Face, or something equally pedestrian.

I admit that the line between editorial discretion and censorship can be fine, as when TV networks allow or disallow advertisements on obviously political/ideological grounds; or when self-styled censors try to get a Huck Finn or Harry Potter booted from a school library. But I really don't think that DC's supposed stance here crosses that line. It's their character, their book, their call.

totaltoyz said...

In your first response to my post, you implied that I considered "every story pitch shot down by an editor or publisher" to be censorship. That is, at the very least, an outrageous exaggeration. I cited a single example, Rick Veitch's Swamp Thing-meets-Christ story; and I alluded to the Jonah Hex story currently under discussion. Two stories hardly qualifies as "every story pitch".

I considered these decisions "censorship" because they seem to have been made solely to avoid the possibility of offending anyone. As you define it, perhaps "censorship" is not applicable to this situation. "Cowardice" would perhaps be better.

Cole Moore Odell said...

Whatever you want to call it, at this point it's your own imagination deciding why DC passed on the story. So far, all we have is Scipio's admission that "I don't know why" followed by mere speculation that the dreaded scourge of Political Correctness is to blame, laid at the feet of unnamed (but clearly feminist, When Fangirls Attack-school) bloggers who apparently hide under Scipio's bed, negative voids who abort good comics in the womb and likely leech out our male essence when we're sleeping. We have nothing on the matter from DC, other than Palmiotti's admission that DC doesn't want him uing too many DC characters in Hex.

Even the infamous Swamp Thing story I have a hard time labelling as outright censorship. Cowardice, absolutely. Obviously, DC showed very, very bad form in having Veitch actually produce the story before killing it at the last minute, and they were clearly paranoid (or if you prefer, chickenshit) about feeding into the controversy surrounding the film version of The Last Temptation of Christ--but it was still their character and their (lame) decision.

The Wikipedia entry actually gets into those who consider PC as a form of censorship. I'm unconvinced, but you have lots of company.

Cole Moore Odell said...

And to be clear, I'm all for women leeching out my male essence. I do prefer to be awake.

totaltoyz said...

I was the first to admit that I have no proof that DC's decision not to run these stories was a fear of offending anyone. Please reread my post and notice the verb "seem to". But if anyone does have a more plausible reason I'm willing to listen to it.
And, of course, the fact that DC is willing to run stories of rape but not of a loving couple seeking alternate means of progeneration is disturbingly incongruous.

Cole Moore Odell said...

I can't find the post you reference above.

Among the plausible alternative reasons already offered:

1) the Hex editor can't get the Bat-office to play along
2) DC doesn't agree with P&G that Hex would get involved with such an arrangement, based on their conception of the character
3) DC simply thinks the idea is weak
4) DC doesn't want to involve the Hex title too closely with DC Universe books--this could be an attempt to create a firewall between the mature readersf Hex and all-audiences DCU titles, or a sense that too many DCU connections would damage the tone of a gritty western

I find *all* of the above more plausible than the idea that DC has been cowed by terror of offending feminists (Scipio's phantom straw-woman) or possibly right-wing religious types who might object to the sexual morality of a 19th century sperm donor.

Cole Moore Odell said...

And it strikes me, WB wasn't afraid to make effing *Superman* a sperm donor in a $250 million movie, but they're somehow terrified to put sex in a Jonah Hex comic because of a handful of bloggers? Explain to me how that adds up.

For extra credit, show how these same bloggers were secretly behind 9/11.

totaltoyz said...

Well, of the ideas you list, (4) seems plausible to me. I don't buy (1) because, "play along" with what? Implying a distant genetic connection between Hex and Two-Face (not stating same, merely implying)? Are the folks who hold the Bat-reins that hardassed that one can't even use the same last name as one of their characters? It's a wonder any Eclipso stories (featuring Bruce Gordon) ever got published. And (2) and (3)don't hold water for me because DC has certainly shown no reluctance to publish stories that go against established characterization, or are just plain bad.

Brack said...

From my personal experience of dealing with various limbs of the Home Entertainment side of Warner, they are a slow moving mess of a company who have contradictory messages moving through various sections.

The fact that one part of the film making arm thinks along totally different lines as the comics arm is of no surprise unfortunately.

It's dissappointing really, as if they got their act together they have the means to make commercially successful multimedia projects that compliment one another nicely.

Dwayne "the canoe guy" said...

Okay, did anybody read Jonah Hex #10 where he beds the woman that has been trying to avenge the death of her child????

I consider the kibosh was put on this because it was a bad idea, a cute, clever, wow-kinda-moment, but an overall bad idea.

Rob S. said...

And (2) and (3)don't hold water for me because DC has certainly shown no reluctance to publish stories that go against established characterization, or are just plain bad.

Oh, come on.

For one thing, you're just judging by what they've published -- not what they've rejected. You don't know what their standards, whatever they may be, have kept from us.

But whatever the case, both of these points are in the eye of the beholder, and just because you think certain stories are bad, or out of character, doesn't meant that DC knowingly intended them to be so when they were published.

You see that, right?

William said...

WTF is up with some of you people? Fine, maybe it doesn't fit your definition of "censorship", but you don't know the framwork from which totaltoyz is operating. Agree to disagree. But the patronizing has GOT to go.

No, Scipio is not implying the feminists are hiding under his bed, but if you made the rounds of the comic blogs, you'd see that there is a VERY vocal audience who, just like you, are trying to find evidence to support their left-field ideas. And a particular group of these "fans", see rape and misogyny hiding behind every Gotham tree. A post like this, is bound to incur wrath from them. You may not see this, nor may you understand it, but please acknowledge that there are other viewpoints that your own. Because there's nothing worse than a know-it-all, condescending, belligerent fanboy.

Cole Moore Odell said...

William, maybe it's bound to incur wrath from "certain readers and bloggers" because it's actively baiting them, by speciously attributing DC's desicion to their complaints, on no evidence?

I think the rest of your complaints about patronizing, condescending fanboys are misplaced and veer into "all opinions are equally valid" territory which negates discussion--and of course, if you bother to back up/think through your opinion, you're a "know-it-all" anyway. Totaltoyz asked for my definition of censorship. I gave it to him. He asked for alternate possibilities. I listed some. I don't think rob s., dwayne or I have been out of line or some kind of Fanboy Rampage cariactures. (Well, my extra credit question was kind of mean.) If you don't like how I write, what can I say? Don't come to my birthday party.

Rob S. said...

Oh, and as for the original story idea? It sounds pretty cool, but I think Steven's right when he (way up there... keep scrolling...) said that it undermines Two-Face's theme of random chance with the insinuation of predestiny.

Nimbus said...

If you pitched Super Turtle joining the JLA

I would totally buy that comic. Though only if it was written by Grant "The God" Morrison.

And I find it funny that the biggest reaction over this blog entry is about censorship and not the line highlighted in the first post.

Ah, bloggers. You've gotta love 'em.

Mike Loughlin said...

Regarding bloggers and the weight of their opinions:

Judd Winick still writes Outsiders, Nightwing is still a mess, JMS still writes Spider-Man, etc.

Bloggers (and those who post on blogs) may be well-informed, exceptional writers, but I think
DC and Marvel do not regard their opinions as indicators of what stories they should publish. Sales charts seem to be the deciding factor, and some of the most maligned stories of the last few years have sold the most.

Starting a campaign to see the Hex story published, however: that is using one's blog to incite action, rather than review or complain. Cool.

Marionette said...

Speaking as one of the evil feminists, I've strangely managed to resist making a fuss about Scipio's continued digs.

He might equate rape with a kick in the crotch (in fact I thought that was intended to be a joke in poor taste when I first read it), he might blame a handful of bloggers for DC editorial decisions, but I'm not about to start a flamewar over it. I just find myself reading less and less of what a year ago was my favourite comics blog.

Cole Moore Odell said...

I would totally buy a JLA consisting exclusively of Henry Boltinoff characters: Super Turtle, Cap, Chief Hot Foot, Moolah the Mystic, Charlie Cannonball, Freddie the Frogman, etc.

And for the record, I think Scipio's Aug. 1 essay on Two-Face is one of the smartest, most insightful pop comics analyses I've ever read. Like Rob S., I have trouble squaring the conclusion from that essay, "Two-Face's obsession isn't good vs. evil, it's justice versus random fate," with the kind of biological determinism the Hex story would introduce. Wouldn't that tip the scales between choice and fate, muddying Two-Face's decision (or abdication thereof) to become a monster? Then again, I haven't thought about Two-Face anywhere near as much as Scipio.

Allan said...

But Cole does such a story twist automatically have to imply that Harvey Dent was fated to become Two-Face? Couldn't it just be chocked up to coincidence? Especially since neither character's deformities were the result of biology, but were instead caused by acts of violence committed upon them by others. Let's say I lose my big toe in an accident and then discover that my great-great-grandfather also lost his big toe as well, should I then conclude that I was fated by birth to someday lose my big toe? Or could it best be explained as just one of those weird coincidences that life is full of?

In the end I'm all in favour for DC going ahead with stories like this for the simple reason that it sounds like a lot of fun and though the idea of these kind of links between characters does defy credibility, I would argue that it does so to no more degree than the idea of a wealthy millionaire who spends his days fighting crime while dressed as a big bat.

totaltoyz said...

But whatever the case, both of these points are in the eye of the beholder, and just because you think certain stories are bad, or out of character, doesn't meant that DC knowingly intended them to be so when they were published.

You see that, right?


Not in all cases, no. If a story is published depicting a character acting absolutely opposite to the way that character has been depicted in every story up to that point, that is bad characterization. It's not a matter of opinion, it's the very definition of bad characterization.

By example I cite what was done to Hal Jordan to make room for Kyle Rayner. That was such bad characterization that DC eventually back-pedaled on it and said he was being mind-controlled by Sinestro the entire time; just about the biggest cop-out in memory.

Cole Moore Odell said...

Invoking Emerald Twilight: the comic book version of Godwin's law

alex said...

i don't see using jonah hex as dent's forefather as undermining his chaotic/chance theming: "what are the odds? - well, not good, but that's how the chips fall sometimes. that is kind of beautiful. if two-face really IS about the full embrace of duality, the other side of the chance coin IS that there is an order to things. harvey represents the human who is struggling against the monster (chaos). wether two-face knows about hex or not, i think this is an interesting idea to the reader of two-face stories about the philosophical underpinnings of the character - are things ordered (harvey), are things are what we make them (batman), or that things just happen (the monster).

totaltoyz said...

Invoking Emerald Twilight: the comic book version of Godwin's law

I thought that was the Spider-Clone?

Seriously, there are other examples. A few years ago there was a one-shot "Anthology title" (which I suspect was a bunch of file stories with no other home, but I have no proof of that) that I think was called The Golden Age 80-Page Giant, I may be misremembering the title. Anyway, in this collection there was a JSA story, pretty much the JSA members at a dinner party. Somebody wearing Dr. Mid-Nite's costume was spouting a lot of classist, elitist garbage. It can't have actually been Dr. Mid-Nite because that's 180 degrees in the other direction from Dr. Mid-Nite's established character. (I'm talking about the original Dr. Mid-Nite here.)

Cole Moore Odell said...

I think Howard Chaykin wrote that JSA story. It was odd, to say the least, with the working class JSAers and wealthy professionals eating at different tables, barely associating with each other. There could be something to that idea, but it would have to be played with far more subtlety--more subtlety than a short story could allow.

I thought it was interesting for the unintentional way it pointed out that consistent character in these books is an illusion. While the companies go to various lengths at various times to impose consistency, characters will ultimately do what their plots require. The ability to withstand widely divergent variations is part of the better characters' strength. While I thought the JSA story failed, I didn't sweat it because it was clear Chaykin was just telling a one-off short in a one-shot anthology. The need for obesiance to continuity was low.

IIRC, that story was also utterly out of continuity in that it had Jim Gordon as a beat cop in WW2 (another pointless coincidence surprise reveal), something that makes no sense for Earth 2, Earth 1 or any other continuity outside this one story.

At any rate, it's inarguable that many, many bad stories--including a bunch that contradict basic, shared assumptions about certain characters--have seen the light of day. This doesn't mean that whomever is running things now isn't making an attempt, based on their understanding of the properties under their control, to ensure that those properties stay on model--whatever that model is this week.

Ariel said...

"it undermines Two-Face's theme of random chance with the insinuation of predestiny."

Yes, but couldn't that be the sad irony of Two Face? That he considers life to be random, when in fact it IS controlled by destiny?

It certainly would support the overarching theme of DC Comics in general about destiny vs. free will, starting from the giant hand at the dawn of time to Destiny of the Endless' speech about when a man looks forward on his life's garden, it is a series of winding paths, when he looks back, it is a straight line.

Nick said...

comment 52. I'm starting to make a habit of this. Maybe I can be the new booster gold.

Rob S. said...

Alex and Ariel -- you raise good points about destiny and Two-Face. In comics, of course, even random chance is an illusion -- it's all written and drawn for one reason or another. The closest thing to random comics ever got was the DC Challenge in the 80s.

And Cole, when you wrote:

This doesn't mean that whomever is running things now isn't making an attempt, based on their understanding of the properties under their control, to ensure that those properties stay on model--whatever that model is this week.

...you completely mirrored the response I was going to write to totaltoyz, so thanks. I think that last clause explains a lot, too -- "It seemed like a good idea at the time" explains a lot of what gets published, and "it seems like a bad idea" can always be followed with an unspoken right now.

Ununnilium said...

"consistent character in these books is an illusion"

I really have to disagree. Actually, it's interesting; just recently, I was reading Showcase Presents: Green Lantern, and marvelling at how Hal Jordan was kind of a jerk and a control freak, even from the beginning. The characterization has essentially followed that same straight line with a few detours right into the present day.

Dwayne "the canoe guy" said...

I figured I had better weigh in on the side of Jonah and explain why I don't like the idea of the Hex-Dent story.

totaltoyz said...

Green Lantern, and marvelling at how Hal Jordan was kind of a jerk and a control freak, even from the beginning. The characterization has essentially followed that same straight line with a few detours right into the present day.

It's a straight line from jerk and control freak to mass murderer?!?

Rob S. said...

Oh, by all means, lets fight about Green Lantern.

Sigh.

I don't really understand the point of your arguement, Total. It seems to me that you're saying that DC should abandon any sort of quality control because they've published bad stories in the past. That doesn't seem wise or justified. If all stories were held to the standard of Emerald Twilight, i don't think I'd be buying comics anymore.

Adam said...

Let's say I lose my big toe in an accident and then discover that my great-great-grandfather also lost his big toe as well, should I then conclude that I was fated by birth to someday lose my big toe?

but this is fiction, and in fiction, events are (more or less) convoluted by design.

totaltoyz said...

It seems to me that you're saying that DC should abandon any sort of quality control because they've published bad stories in the past.

How the heck did you interpret that?! All I said was that I don't buy the possibility that the Hex pitch was axed because of quality or poor characterization because so much worse stuff has made it through, that's all. I guess some people have a talent for hearing what they want to hear.

totaltoyz said...

but this is fiction, and in fiction, events are (more or less) convoluted by design.

And most especially comic book fiction. A certain amount of suspension of belief is prerequisite for our hobby. Most of us don't seem to have a problem believing that a bath in electrified chemicals would bestow super-speed, rather than third-degree burns or blood cancer, not once but twice.

Rob S. said...

Ah, so all your saying is that it's not possible for DC to disagree with you about the quality of this idea because, in your opnion, their standards are so low. Got it.

Rob S. said...

Oops. That oughta be "you're."

Rudolph said...

This cannot have effect in fact, that is what I believe.
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