Friday, February 23, 2007

Controversies of Character

What are the 10 most controversial stories DC has ever published, and why?

It's a difficult question (though I'm certain you are up to the challenge). I'm asking it because of something I saw during my Saturday morning cartoons: The Legion of Substitute Heroes.

To many people, they are happy remnants of the wacky Silver Age. They surely are that, but they are much more as well. Why, Night Girl alone is an existential paradox. To me, the Legion of Substitute Heroes are the ultimate symbol of comic book controversy.

Older fans will remember the one-shot Subs story that Keith Giffen did in 1985. They took on and defeated Pulsar Stargrave (quite the big baddie in his day). I was in college at the time and not so focused on comics, but I did read the issue; it was a light-hearted romp of exactly the sort you'd expect from letting Giffen write the Subs.

Today this story would be an amusing lark, like the recent Legion cartoon episode that had the Subs in it. But in 1985, it was the biggest controversy I'd ever experienced in comics.

The mid '80s were not a light-hearted time and Legion fans -- well, what comic book fans are to regular people, Legion fans are to comic book fans. How dare this Giffen fellow make fun of the Subs? In my memory at least, Legion fans took to the skyways armed with atomic pitchforks and lugging plasti-tar and space-roc feathers, ready to destroy Giffen and the editors who permitted the desecration of the beloved second-stringers.

That's real "comic book controversy", not social issue stories and stories where Really Really Bad Things Happen to Nice Characters.Those are stories that people talk about as being controversial, such as the Speedy the Drug Addict storyline.
By the way, it wasn't a storyline, really, just a story. In a Bronze Age tale from the pre-decompression era, Speedy was revealed as a heroin addict and cured of it in one single issue, using orange juice and chocolate bars or something.
Kyle Rayner's girlfriend Alex, killed and stuffed in a refrigerator, and the retcon-rape of Sue Dibny have certainly caused controversy. Sometimes controversy in comics is about real issues: drugs, violence, sexual abuse. But I think the really serious flaming controversies are not about such solid topics; they're about characterization.

The Speedy the Junkie story--yes, that was controversial in the sense that the press would cover it, but was it really that controversial among comics fans? I don't know; I think they'd stopped caring about GA and Speedy and that point. Alex in the fridge? Yes, it sparked much cogent discussion of violence and victimization, but people barely, if at all, discussed Alex herself or her victimizer, Major Force. Why? Because, the incident, memorably horrible though it was, wasn't out of character for any of the players involved. Rightly or wrongly, fans most savage denunciations are reserved for what they perceive as mis-writing of their favorite characters.

Like the Subs.

Outrage at "what they did to Alex"? No, outrage is what you have at "what they did to Cassandra". Alex was a comic book staple: friend/relative/beloved of a hero, killed as part of the narrative to give the hero a Tragic But Inspiring Loss, and I hope she now sitteth at the right hands of Thomas & Martha Wayne. But Cassandra Cain wasn't killed; her characterization was violated, and that, to a comic fan, is a fate worse than death.

We may argue occasionally over whether Batman/Superman is a Republican/Democrat, but it's mostly airy abstraction; tooth and claw don't come out until some fool suggests that Batman should kill the Joker or that Superman probably uses X-ray to look at women naked.

At this kind of controversy, Marvel has DC beat hands down with Civil War, which to Marvel fans is a veritable smörgåsbord of mischaracterization. Let's try to catch up!

So, with this in mind, what are DC's top 10 controversial stories (based on mischaracterization)?

Some of the ones that comes to mind are Superman Executing the Phantom Zone Criminals, Max Lord the Murderer, and (of course) the Giffen Subs. What say you?

50 comments:

Paul said...

I remember being pretty shocked that the Flash would kill Professor Zoom, even though it was to save Iris.

NecroVMX said...

the identity of monarch

Oh and making green lantern a villian....

tadwilliams said...

I was just glancing at that cover and thought it said "Legion of SENSITIVE Heroes", and now I can't stop thinking about that.

I want to write that story.

Fortress Keeper said...

Supergirl as a hard-partying, self-hating anorexic who's programmed to kill her cousin and sprouts crystal thingies in times of stress.

Silver-Age Kara was a genuinely nice, self-sacrificing character, something modern writers have difficulty portraying without a slightly mocking tone (Miss Martian, post-COIE Mary Marvel).

Josh said...

[jacob t. levy]What Vertigo Visions did to Dr Thirteen and the Phantom Stranger![/jacob t. levy]

Anonymous said...

Jericho is the Wildebeest.

Turning Cyborg into a braindead automaton.

Actually most of Titans Hunt now that I thin about it. (Except killing Danny Chase. That was cool and long overdue.)

Anonymous said...

Hal Jordan killing all his best friends because a city full of people he didn't really know got destroyed.

I win.

Harvey Jerkwater said...

Though I didn't read it, I heard a lot of fuming at the recent Superman storyline, the one illustrated by Jim Lee. Superman as a whining fleeb? What? That's not right. First of all, he's Superman, the most go-get-em of heroes, the one least likely to give in to The Mope. Second of all, Ma and Pa Kent wouldn't stand for such nonsense, and they raised their fictional son better than that, dadgumit!

The frequent recasting of Plastic Man as a goofball. As Scip himself pointed out, old-school Plas was the sane man in his insane world. Sure, he had a sense of humor, but he wasn't loopy or a goofass. (Full disclosure: I insist that the old Jack Cole Plastic Man comics from the olden days were beyond great, and among the very best comics to befoul newsprint. I'm biased on the subject.)

Wasn't Katar Hol retconned as a murderous junkie in the immediate post-Crisis period? The old Hawkworld mini?

Nightwing as a whiny dork?

Vincent J. Murphy said...

Martian Manhunter ignoring the Blue Beetle in Countdown to IC.

Nightwing ever since the Judas Contract.

David C said...

"Hal Jordan killing all his best friends because a city full of people he didn't really know got destroyed."

Yeah, obviously this is the big one. I also think that, for a long time, DC didn't quite "get" what upset fans so much, with all the attempts to "redeem" Hal Jordan. To fans, it was a case of "It doesn't matter whether he gets redeemed or becomes the Spectre or not, the point is he never would have done this in the first place!"

Matthew E said...

I didn't have a problem with the Subs Special, because I had already seen them portrayed that way in the DC Comics Presents issue where Superman takes Ambush Bug to the 30th century. Anyway, Giffen himself showed the kick-ass competent side of the Subs in the 5YL Legion stories, a while later, so it's not like the characters were ruined for good.

Siskoid said...

Excellent topic, Scip! I never had a problem with the Subs special because my first exposure to them was DCP #59 where they were already ridiculous. And Superman killing the phantom zone villains in the pocket universe? That was fine since the consequences were dealt with well and the circumstances warranted it.

I think the recent DC universe has a lot more to answer for, what with the evil Batgirl, everything surrounding Identity Crisis (DC's own "Civil War"), Superboy-Prime in Infinite Crisis, etc.

From before that, yes, indeed, the whole Hal Jordan thing needs to be in the top 10 (are you posting the definitive list later?). Not only was it a terrible piece of characterization, but it led to such tragedies as the death of the GL Corps (including the beloved Kilowog) and the rise of Kyle as GL ('nuff said).

I've no problem with second-stringers being messed with. Some might say that Giffen's dark Legion from the mid-90s denatured the characters, but since a lot of them were cyphers, it just made them more interesting than they ever had been. Of course, there were excesses. The sex change episode comes to mind. The Proty Lightning Lad does too.

No, what's more disturbing is when an icon is messed with, in particular when what makes them iconic (i.e. what everyone at large knows about them, what's part of their very concept) is destroyed. No one will ever accept Batman with a gun, or a Superman who kills, or a Flash who gets to a date on time. That's just the way it is.

The Electric Superman storyline was a no-starter, for example. Azbats is fine, because you're not messing with Batman per se, but had Bruce Wayne gone mental, you'd have had a revolution on your hands. That's why Supergirl doesn't work. That's why Hal Jordan going nuts doesn't work. Why Wonder Woman needs Steve Trevor as her lynchpin. And over on Earth 616, why Captain America can't quit, why Iron Man can't be a fascist, why Spider-Man can't lose his secret identity, etc.

That said, let me also nominate Hawk as Monarch as a big fat controversy.

Anonymous said...

"I also think that, for a long time, DC didn't quite 'get' what upset fans so much, with all the attempts to 'redeem' Hal Jordan. To fans, it was a case of 'It doesn't matter whether he gets redeemed or becomes the Spectre or not, the point is he never would have done this in the first place!'"

Yep, it was funny how DC kept trying to retroactively justify Hal's murder spree -- even to the point of Ganthet occasionally claiming it was all the Guardians' fault for being so hard on Hal. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

I will say, though, that if "Emerald Twilight" hadn't screwed Hal over so badly, Kyle would have been a dud of a character. A huge part of Kyle-appeal is that he was a normal guy just doing his best, but the other superheroes weren't giving him all the respect he deserved. And the reason the other heroes were treating him as a second-class hero is because most writers were sensible enough (or understood readers well enough) to recognize that Kyle got the ring via less than respectable means (though through no fault of his own) -- and fully embracing Kyle meant fully embracing Hal's disgrace. If "Emerald Twilight" had occurred in some fashion where Hal and the other GLs and the Guardians died heroically, Kyle's Justice League experience would have gone like so:

"Who are you?"

"Hi! I'm Kyle! Hal and the other GLs are dead, but I've got the ring now."

"Bummer about Hal, but we're glad to have you aboard! The ring's a big responsibility, but we have faith in you. Wanna see naked pictures of Wonder Woman?"

"Hugs all around!!!"

Jacob said...

Re: Josh at 11:50 above:

er... I don't know quite what to say... I'll pretend that that means I have admirably consistent opinions, and not that I've degenerated into self-pardoy...

-------------

*Everyone* involved in the Trinity-and-Max story from last year acted like buffoons one way or another. One who hasn't been mentioned: the post-Crisis Batman, who has spent years with a chunk of kryptonite so he could kill Superman if he ever became a threat due to mind control or anything similar, throwing an epic hissy fit because Wonder Woman killed the mind-controller himself.

But controversy, meaning the cases that people generally talked about (which would, y'know, disqualify my personal hobby-horses about the Phantom Stranger etc):

Captain Atom's complete character destruction and reversal after his series ended, with Extreme Justice being the worst example of it.

There were tworounds of Hawkman controversy. The post-Crisis Hawkworld was controversial because it made a hash of post-Crisis continuity, and showed a pretty unappealing Katar Hol before he got his act together (but to my mind he did get his act together, and the unappealing stuff was a necessary part of what made him an interesting character). The post-Zero Hour Hawkman was controversial because he became a thuggish, benippled, uninteresting grunt with an absurd "hawk avatar" storyline.

The Golden Age mini was pretty controversial even as an Elseworlds, and even moreso when it was smuggled into continuity during Starman.

Also out of continuity, but messing with the iconic figures enough to be controversial: Dark Knight 2, and "I'm the Goddamned Batman."

And the funny Giffen-era Justice League, while (mostly) not as over the top ridiculous as the Subs, was probably more controversial-- because, after all, it's the Justice League. Everyone's now got nostalgic annoyance at how shabbily the characters have been treated in the past two years, but a lot of people were unhappy that they became comic relief twenty years ago.

Allan said...

I usually tend to bristle a bit when this subject comes up, because as a writer I'm always disturbed by the idea of an audience determining the limits of a character's actions.

I realize that it's slightly different in comics because many of these characters have been around for decades and have been shaped by the imaginations of many different creators, but whenever I read someone say that a character "wouldn't have done that!" my first thought is always of Annie Wilkes from Stephen King's Misery.

Somehow she had determined that she understood and knew more about her favourite literary character than the man who created her and had no problem using violence to ensure that he gave her exactly what she wanted.

Now obviously most comic fans aren't (quite) that psychotic, but I still cannot help but think it a bit arrogant when they insist that Batman would never speak a certain phrase or that Hal Jordan would never be capable of feeling a grief so great that it would cause him to lose his mind.

I think it would be better to argue that these situations were poorly written and/or not enough time was spent providing the proper impetus for the character to believeable undergo their metamoprhasis, rather than to say that they were acts of mischaracterization.

For a continuing work to avoid remaining stagnent its characters have to evolve, just as real people tend to do, especially if their lives are as full of as much drama as any superhero is likely to experience.

And sometimes that means a character does something you don't want them to do. An interesting character is always an imperfect one, which means they are capable of making the same mistakes as anyone else.

As a reader you are perfectly well within your rights to hate these mistakes and stop reading the comics featuring the characters who make them, but I think you do a disservice to the art of creation to suggest that the writers responsible were themselves mistaken to allow these things to happen.

I realize that I am probably in the minority on this and that most readers would be perfectly happy to see their favourite characters portrayed as being the exact same people they were 10-20-30-40-50 years ago, but the writer in me cannot help but think of that as an incredible waste of dramatic potential and interesting ideas.

That said, Brad Meltzer must die for forcing my beloved Zantanna to take part in the mind-wiping of all those villains (and Batman)! She would never never never never never never never never never never never do that!

Allan said...

And, of course, when I say "my beloved Zantanna" I meant "my beloved Zatanna".

I'm not so hot on the proof-reading.

Anonymous said...

I came in kinda late to the whole Hal Jordan thing. In fact, the first time I ever purchased a Green Lantern comic was when it crossed over with Superman so I could see the fight with Mongul. I didn't much fall in love with Hal as a character there, nor have I fallen in love with him as a character in his new series. Kyle's always been the better Lantern to me.

What it boils down to though, is that DC is very much a legacy universe. One in which the mantle of a hero is passed on every so often. Most of the time, the mantle is passed on by the death of the previous one. I liked that the Green Lantern mantle passed on because he went crazy. It just meant that at some point, the new Lantern would have to confront the old in a brawl to end it all. And I was looking forward to that. To me, it'd have been symbolic of the new Lantern eclipsing the old. And that really, is one interpretation of what a legacy is all about. Finally getting out of the shadow of the previous person to wear the mantle.

Anonymous said...

"Now obviously most comic fans aren't (quite) that psychotic, but I still cannot help but think it a bit arrogant when they insist that Batman would never speak a certain phrase or that Hal Jordan would never be capable of feeling a grief so great that it would cause him to lose his mind.

I think it would be better to argue that these situations were poorly written and/or not enough time was spent providing the proper impetus for the character to believeable undergo their metamoprhasis, rather than to say that they were acts of mischaracterization."

The whole point of ongoing characters is a degree of consistency. Part of your job is to write the characters in a fashion that youre readers recognize as compatible with previous appearances. If a vast number of your readers cannot buy how your character goes from A to B, then it is entirely fair to say you are "mischaracterizing" him.

Yes, there are big sweeping shades of grey here. But if Robin takes to knocking his enemies unconscious and then pooping on their chests, I am not going to trust that it was basically a good idea that the writer just needed to flesh out a little more.

Jacob said...

I do think there's a big difference between characters in continuing multicreator universe and characters who are the unique creations of one writer. The latter can go wrong, too-- if Samwise suddenly pulls out a machine gun, slaughters Frodo where he stands, and runs off with the Ring to sexually enslave Galadriel then we can say that Tolkien hasn't been true to the characterization, mood, or universe he'd created up until then.

But in the case of a shared multicreator continuity we can come closer to saying that a given characterization is just an error. Indeed, creators say this (explicitly or implictly) about one another's chagnes to established characters with some frequency.

And saying so isn't the same as saying we want no change and characters who acted the same way they did decades ago. It is to say tht psychologically realistic characters have a lot of stability, change gradually, and have some limits beyong which they won't go without something like a pychotic breakdown.

I think an interesting case here is Batman. As Waid said in a pre-IC interview, Batman had become basically unusable in a shared-universe setting-- simultaneously too godlike and too much of an @$$. No matter when we grew up, the Batman of 2003-5, say, isn't the Batman we grew up with.

But-- while we complain about Stupid Plot Tricks like the U.S. seceding from Gotham in NML-- we don't do a ton of complaining about Batman himself acting out of character. The loner, the super-competent guy, the scary guy, and the guy who only trusts his own counsel are elements that have been in Batman, and each of them got built up bit by bit in a more or less plausible way, with each new writer pushing a little ways farther. I didn't like the jerk he became, and didn't much want to read about him, but I didn't have a Hal-Jordan-like objection.

And for Hal: Hal fans have argued for years that there were ways to have him buckle under the weight of too many abuses and failures and catastrophes, or even ways to build up to him breaking under the strain. But in the space of, what, three issues, we went from Hal coming to terms with the loss of Coast City, geting on with his life, and showing every sign of peace and stability, to Psycho the Nutboy. Hal would and could have rebelled against the Guardians. He wouldn't and couldn't have done what he did in Emerald Twilight-- and the yellow retcon (bad as it was) in effect constitutes another creator saying so.

Anonymous said...

"For a continuing work to avoid remaining stagnent its characters have to evolve, just as real people tend to do."

You know, the first part of this sentence is probably true. The second part, though, is the one of the most common fallacies found in 'Net comics discussions about character development.

Contantly changing characters just aren't that realistic. Fully-grown adults do not in fact evolve very much. A person's *circumstances* may change, of course--they may change jobs, cities, spouses, etc. And there may be a handful of occasions in a person's adult life when they do undergo fundamental change. But by and large adults have a hard core of personality traits they keep throughout their entire life; change happens mostly around the edges, not in the core.

Finite fiction, like novels or movies, gains its power by concentrating on those very rare moment when a person's character does evolve. Finite fiction says, "You know, people seldom change. Let me show you a case where someone did." It has an impact because deep down we know character change is rare, and important.

Ongoing fiction, like soap operas or modern superhero comics, works very differently. Ongoing fiction demands a constant stream of exciting events to keep the reader interested. In ongoing fiction there are constant changes to characters, and it happens not because it flows naturally from the character's personality but because the format demands that things happen constantly. If Peter Parker finally achieves the perfect balance of family, job, and superheroing, that's great for Peter Parker but lousy for circulation numbers, so the perfect balance must be destroyed.

Because incredibly dramatic things constantly happen to the protagonists in ongoing fiction, they end up having extremely convoluted backstories that make the character less and less coherent as time goes by. Tony Stark is the prime example of this right now: the character has been twisted in so many different ways over the years he no longer makes any sense at all.

When superheroes betray their friends, change their beliefs on a whim, become mass murderers, and so on, nine times out of ten it's *not* because anyone thought it was the logical and inevitable development for the character. It's because in ongoing fiction the Best Must Be Fed. There are comics to sell and multipart crossovers to promote, and an articially contrived character change is often the easiest way to do it.

Allan said...

Constantly changing characters just aren't that realistic.

I must admit that I always think it odd when the word "realistic" is used in a conversation about comic book characters, but then I've never entirely understood why so many people require that their entertainment fantasies be credible in a real world context in order to appreciate them. I've always considered the arts to be the waking representation of our dreams and so have never been bothered if a work fails to convey perfect verisimilitude.

That said I don't think I was advocating that characters should be "constantly changing", but rather that it is possible for an effective writer to create a series of events that credibly allow a character to do something they never would have done just a few years earlier. It is true that not every writer is going to succeed in their attempt, but for the sake of creativity I see no reason not to allow them to try. After all, the nature of the medium is such that if a character is taken too far out of their previous context then it is simply a matter of giving another writer the task of fixing the mistake. I see this as a positive aspect of the medium, while the prevailing view seems to consider it a negative.

And I admit that one reason I tend to be so contrary on the subject (beyond my just being a big old jerkface) is that when anyone uses words like mistake and error, they're suggesting that there are definite rules that must be followed in writing these works, whereas I take the--probably misbegotten--stance that such rules impose unfortunate limits in a medium where the only barrier should be a creator's imagination.

An author has to be aware of what his audience will and will not accept and risks losing them if he/she goes too far past these boundries, but personally I would like to see audiences become a little more open and less rigid in their demands.

And if there were any machine guns in Lord of the Rings I might have finished reading it.

Bystander #3 said...

"I think it would be better to argue that these situations were poorly written and/or not enough time was spent providing the proper impetus for the character to believeable undergo their metamorphosis, rather than to say that they were acts of mischaracterization."

I agree with this statement. In fact, this pretty much describes how I feel about Bart Allen's transformation from Kid Flash into the Flash within the pages of Infinite Crisis and The Fastest Man Alive. I don't deny that Bart could become the person depicted in F:TFMA, but DC skipped from Point A to Point B without depicting any of the transformational process that took place in between. Between Infinite Crisis and One Year Later, Bart aged five years off-panel and we didn't get to see any of it. We witnessed the destination but not the journey.

One other thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth about Bart becoming the Flash. Bart didn't become the Flash because it was the next logical step in his personal story development. Bart became the Flash because it was a necessary event in some one else's story, a larger story that wasn't really about Bart at all.

The introduction of a new face behind the mask of the Flash is a symbolic event in the over-arching story of the DC Universe. It indicates the dawning of a new age, ...which is exactly what Infinite Crisis and One Year later set out to accomplish. Silver Age replaces Golden Age, Bronze Age replaces Silver Age, et cetera, et cetera... Plus, the introduction of a new Flash may draw new readers to try out the Flash book, boosting sales.

Bart's transformation into the Flash was not motivated by the needs of Bart as a character, but rather by the greater symbolic/financial needs of the Flash franchise and the DC Universe as a whole.

The Mutt said...

It's hard to compare comic controversies from the pre-internet and post-internet eras.
Ten, huh?

1: Spider-Clone
2: Hal Jordan's heel turn
3: Cerebus moves away from sword and sorcery
4: Emma Peel Wonder Woman
5: Killing Robin
6: The first Avengers line-up change
7: Jean Grey/Phoenix dies
8: Spider-Man unmasks
9a: Superman gets married
9b: Spider-Man gets married
10: Superman kills

The Mutt said...

And now to give you what you actually asked for(in random order):

Hal Jordan's heel turn
Emma Peel Wonder Woman
Batgirl's heel turn
Max Lord's heel turn
Superman kills
The Goddam Batman
Superman gets married
Guy Gardner: Lovable Doofus
Barry Allen kills
Leslie Thompkins lets Spoiler die

Anonymous said...

1. Dick Grayson becoming Nightwing, because it caused a real mess that's still continuing. Dick Grayson being a wimp, Jason Todd being killed off because the fans didn't like him, Spoiler's death, Barbara Gordon being removed as Batgirl and being replaced unsuccessfully, etc...

2. Superman getting powered down post-Crisis.

3. The Legion post-Crisis.

4. The existence of the Vertigo imprint and segregating characters like Swamp Thing, Shade the Changing Man, and Doom Patrol from
the regular DCU (at least temporarily).

5. The Green Lantern Corps getting wiped out. I don't think Hal being removed and replaced was an irrecoverably bad decision, but eliminating the Corps neutered some of the charm of the Green Lantern "concept".

James Meeley said...

There's really only ONE controversy here: Fan entitlement vs. Publisher's rights.

Every story that's been mentioned here all boils down to that one. And that is the only one that's matters.

Christopher said...

Writers and their companies have done all sorts of things to reinvigorate--poke and prod their characters to make the books sell. As Erik Larsen has said though, the fundamental appeal of certain characters must always remain however many parameters are varied.

That being said, here's some LSH stuff that was all quite controversial at the time...


1. the death of Karate Kid in Legion of Super Heroes

2. Legionnaires vs. Legion of Super Hero....clones?

3. Shvaughn Erin...is a GUY?

4. Why is Braniac a fat guy with a beard???

5. OMIGOD they killed Blok!

6. Why is Shrinking Violet walking around naked with Lightning Lass?

7.huh. bouncing boy actually has USEFUL powers.

8.huh...Matter-eater lad actually has USEFUL powers.

9. Why does the LSH look like its being drawn by Jose Munoz?

10. So, wait..superboy helped to found the LSH, then he didn't, then there was a pocket universe, and then there wasn't?

Bill Meisel said...

This won't mean much to most of you -- and certainly not to Scipio -- but I questioned the Forever People mini-series that implied that Mark Moonrider, the "leader" of the Forever People would essentially become evil. That mini-series stuck in my craw for many years (particularly since I liked other parts of it -- Donny as an adult writer who has never written the book he wanted to write about the FP and "the dark" in general as a villain) because of that mischaracterization. I am not sure exactly what JACK was trying to channel with the FP, but it spoke to me in a quite deep way (despite the sometimes awful dialogue) when I was a teen.

Oh, and I refuse to believe that Superman doesn't use his x-ray vision to look at girls naked. Who Wouldn't?

Scipio said...

Superman wouldn't, Bill! That's what makes him Superman.

Mutt: great synoptic list, thank you.

I'm going to amend your list for my own version. I'm going to replace three.

Hal Jordan's heel turn
Emma Peel Wonder Woman
Batgirl's heel turn
Max Lord's heel turn
Superman kills
The Goddamn Batman
The Giffen Legion
Crabby Aquaman
Leslie Thompkins lets Spoiler die
Evil Skeets

David C said...

Lots of interesting discussion here, but for now I'll just second Captain Atom. Though it's kind of a weird case, as for me, he's only *ever* really been written "in character" by the Cary Bates/Greg Weisman team. Just about every other writer has seemed significantly "off" to me in one way or another.

Anonymous said...

Batman leaving for a cruise in OYL, because let's face Batman is quite frankly Obsessed with fighting crime to the point of Mental illness, but he just decides to ditch Gotham, WTF.

Anonymous said...

Superboy Prime. A bad idea followed by worse writing. He is supposed to be a parallel Kal-EL. In his origin he was raised by good people and had a good life.
I don't recall pre crisis Superboy going psycho when his parents died a horrible death from a disease. Now Superboy Prime is supposed to be DCs Hannibal Lecter. The Kryptonian Franchise has taken a beating the last couple decades.
*Gah*

My second is Hal Jordan. That storyline should have been Sinestro doing all the mass murdering and GL killing him for it in the end. GL was a soldier and him executing Sinestro would have been believable enough.

Oh how I loathed Infinite Crisis.

Jon Hex said...

How is Nightwing responsible for the end of Barbara Gordon Batgirl? They're completely unrelated. And Jason Todd died because the writers made him an ass no one liked.

The only thing about saying this new Supergirl is mischaracterized is the fact that she is a NEW character. This isn't the same Supergirl that killed in COIE or the Golden Age one, so she can't be constrained to what those other Supergirls would do. What to follow DC, you have to follow the Crisis rules.

About Batman, it never seemed to occur to me that a man with a station on Pluto, a robotic Justice League, and the ability to single-handedly defeat Martians should have no problem facing a powerless crimelord like Black Mask. I just accepted it. The only thing that got to me was Batman's distrust of metahumans, since he was one of the first to join the post-Crisis Justice League.

Scipio said...

Batman has a station on Pluto?

Cool.

Still, Johnny, I disagree with your point. How is have a station on Pluto or a megarod or a particle cannon is great if you're fighting a alien spaceship, but quite useless when fighting a Gotham crimelord. What are you going to do, incinerate all crime-infested neighborhoods with your orbiting satellite laser?

Anonymous said...

"Batman has a station on Pluto?"

Future Batman did, in that Issue One Million thing from the late 20th century. Eeesh, I never could wrap my mind around Superman living in the sun for 83000 years.

rob! said...

this wasnt a story, but a controversy in the LETTERS PAGE of Batman and the Outsiders.

when a fan said that in an old issue of B&B, it was revealed that Metamorpho knew Bats' secret identity, therefore nullifying a current plot by Mike Barr, Barr pointed out that that issue was so long ago it was not part of continuity anymore. (plus it was written by Bob Haney, who as we all know played fast and loose with the rules of the DCU)

PEOPLE WENT NUTS, someone even sent Barr a death threat!! it went on in the BATO letters pages for a few issues, people telling Barr he was disgracing the characters, etc.

sheesh.

Mallet said...

Many people felt the scipio character acted out of sorts in a recent storyline. Some even threatening to stop reading. They felt that their Scipio would never have become this "grimmer" version we have now. Although this is clearly a character growth and a statement by the author that this character has his own views wether or not the audiance agrees with them.

Scipio said...

Heh heh. Fan entitlement, indeed.

I've noticed, Mallet, that the characters that do the best

in the long run

are those that are allowed to have a spectrum of interpretations, rather than remain exactly the same all the time.

Jon Hex said...

Yeah, Batman has a base on Pluto, right now and a Bat-saucer to transport him there, courtesy of the Great and Powerful Morrison. See JLA:Classified #1-3. Great story.

And selective use of orbiting satellite lasers are, I think, warranted in special ocassions.

K26dp said...

I think "Evil Skeets" may be making too early of an apperance on the list. The story's not over, and Skeets is, after all, only a robot; the question is who programmed him to be evil?

If the answer is something like "Jay Garrick", then we'll really have something for the list. ;)

I love how the 52 writers purposely wrote Booster Gold out of character early in the story, but no so out of character that a lot of fans wouldn't make the immediate connection that it was a plot point and would meta-read it as a mistake.

When fan entitlement goes wrong!

Jeff Albertson said...

Good post and good comments!

As someone above mentioned, the primary sin is not having the characters change, it's having them change suddenly and without a compelling reason. Or without covering those reasons in the story itself.

My 10:

Shvaugn Erin being insecure and living a lie to be with Element Lad -- Shvaugn was always self-confident in her relationship with E-Lad, and the deception rankled.

Proty being Lightning Lad. Another of the Bierbaum/Giffen Legion ideas that didn't work for me. It just wasn't there in the previous stories, and really destroyed the Ranzz family dynamic.

Wonder Woman killing Max Lord, an ally who had been mind-controlled in the past, because another ally was being mind-controlled. Evidently Rucka's Diana is too dumb to think that keeping Max around for at least a little while longer to make sure he's the bad guy, and to find out the rest of his plans. But hey, he doesn't have his own book, so he must really be evil, unlike the guy who was actually beating the crap out of her. {sigh}

Hal Jordan going nuts and killing his friends to save his other friends.

Superman killing Zod and the others.

All of Smallville being brainwashed Manhunter agents.

Batman locking KGBeast in a sewer to die.

Blue Beetle just giving up and not even making an attempt to fool Max Lord.

Denny O'Neil's Question -- should have been a new character.

and the worst one - Leslie Thompkins killing Spoiler to show Batman that risking Children's lives is wrong . . . What?

totaltoyz said...

To me, one of the biggest controversial stories at DC is one they didn't print.

About 20 years ago, when Rick Veitch was writing Swamp Thing, he did a storyline where Swampy kept getting sent backwards in time, meeting interesting folk along the way; Sgt Rock, Enemy Ace, Tomahawk, etc. Mr. Veitch's plan was to have Swamp Thing eventually meet Jesus Christ himself.

Bye-bye, Rick, don't let the doorknob hit you.

Now, of course I never read the story. I don't know what Mr. Veitch's plans were. I seriously doubt he intended to do anything like say that Christ was a mutant, or anything like that. But I would have appreciated the opportunity to read the story and decide for myself. DC denied me that opportunity.

Anonymous said...

Worst thing EVER...

...DC being reconceived as some kinda lame-ass "legacy" universe.

Piss on that shit. It's awful.

I want ICONS. I don't want costumes and powers that any shmuck can fill at the drop of a hat.

Anonymous said...

Right now, only ALEX ROSS understands the value inherent in the DCU.

Read JUSTICE, and everything else reads like a crappy pastiche.

alain said...

One thing that rankled me was the "Tower of Babel" storyline in JLA. Was it just me or did some of those guy's get a little TOO upset over the fact that Batman kept files on them and devised methods of taking them down if they went rogue? I mean, didn't Hal Jordan JUST get through losing his damn mind? And doesnt Supes get mind controlled every 5 years?

totaltoyz said...

For sheer mischaracterization, though, I cite a one-shot collection of file stories called The Golden Age 80-Page Giant. I think that's what it was called, anyway.

There was a story in that junkyard of the JSA having dinner and talking. Some guy wearing Dr. Mid-Nite's costume was spouting a lot of classist, elitist garbage. It can't have been the real Dr. Mid-Nite because that goes against everything else that was ever written about that character.

Shadow said...

You all speak of heroes suffering. But I rise in defense of a villain who was done the greatest injustice of all...KILLER MOTH!

Here is a man who went from being the mentally stable, confident,and happy Cameron Van Cleer to the pathetic, sobbing, rocking himself to sleep loser Drury Walker, who would sell his soul to the Devil to become a giant bug. I don't think so.

At least Charaxes is dead and a "new" Killer Moth is out and about. That comforting thought alone gets me to sleep some nights.

Cabel said...

I say to thee NAY! Nay I say! If a blog writer can inspire this kind of dialog about high level topic, he(or she, but you know this is a pointed ironic post so we'll just say he...) has a moral obligation to keep posting. His obligation to entertain me, for no thanks but the love of his peers trumps his personal well being. So says me...

Shamus said...

In reference to Speedy's drug addiction you say, "that was controversial in the sense that the press would cover it, but was it really that controversial among comics fans?"

But back then we all read comics, not just 'fans'. Like we all watched TV shows. 'Fans' weren't the main audience for comics once 'upon a time', for better or worse. So yes it was very controversial.

VP19 said...

How about Arnold Drake's decision to kill the original Doom Patrol when DC decided to end the series in 1968? That may not have much impact now, but back then, killing off characters simply wasn't done.