Sunday, June 10, 2007

Even ... a woman!


For those of who weren't really in the game before the original Crisis, Superboy
explains the Multiverse to you.


Note the progression of Bizarre Multiversal Translations:

A criminal.

An ape-like creature.


"Even a woman!"

If this panel appeared in a comic book today, entire websites to condemn it and What It Says About The Industry As A Whole would spring up like mushrooms overnight.

Labels: ,


Comments:
That explanation is so confusing! New readers will *never* be able to understand a multiverse!
 
Heh.

Yep. Modern readers are that much stupider than the 7 year olds who used to read Superboy.
 
I'm pretty confused, all right. I mean, I understand that a normal white guy could be a criminal or an ape-man in this Multiverse thing, but a woman? C'mon. If his plumbing turned inside out like that, wouldn't it be like Matter touching Anti-Matter?

Would we not have a Multiversal Catastrophe?

I shudder to contemplate what might follow in its wake. Socialism, probably.
 
Just tell me Chief Parker could never be a female ape-like creature, or I won't be able to sleep at night...
 
Couldn't they just reprint this single panel instead of giving us a lengthy 'History of the Multiverse' in the pages of Countdown?

I'm not complaining, though. Anything that takes pages away from Karate Kid is fine by me!
 
Chief Parker, Mugsy Parker, Prr'krr and Miss Chief will all be appearing soon in JSA.
 
Why do I think that if Superman ever gave the same explanation to Jimmy, it would make him just SO happy......?

Ah, Jimmy. Comics' most prominent crossdresser. If Countdown EVER shows Jimmy in a dress, I'm totally marrying Dini.
 
"Yep. Modern readers are that much stupider than the 7 year olds who used to read Superboy."

Well, Marv Wolfman, anyway.

What's unbelievable to me is that DC's executives weren't able to figure out what the company's problem was: they were producing crap and readers wanted better. It's like if Kraft were to discover that their macaroni and cheese sales were in the dumper, and felt that the problem was that the Kraft logo needs updating ... no, the problem is most likely that people are dissatisfied with what's in the box.
 
That's what is boggling my mind.

DC obviously felt that the Silver Age was a problem that needed to be fixed. Now, after crisis after crisis after crisis, they are plunging headfirst back into the Silver Age.

What was the point of all the crisisessesisies then?
 
"If this panel appeared in a comic book today, entire websites to condemn it and What It Says About The Industry As A Whole would spring up like mushrooms overnight."

Indeed they would, and rightly so. Sure it's funny, but then the joke's not at my expense.

Thanks for the post.
 
My first exposure to the idea of the multiverse was when I was a young child. It was an Atom backup story in Action or Superman.. just the first part. But somehow it explained that the Atom of Earth 1 lost his power to the atom of Earth 2. I was REALLY young, probably 8 or 7.... and you know what? I just said 'Oh, okay. I get it. Cool.' What's so confusing about it all?

But you know, I have friends in their 20s who are confused as hell by the idea. What's happened?
 
My guess is that the multiverse is like technology--if it existed when you were born it made complete sense to you and represented the natural order of things, but if it was introduced to you as an adult you're far more likely to be confused by it and less able to cope with the paradigm shift it has created. Maybe folks are perplexed by the multiverse for the same reason so many intelligent seeming adults were incapable of programing their VCRs--not because it is actually confusing, but because they're intimidated by it and just too damn stubborn to spend any time figuring it out.

In my case the multiverse was nearing its end when I started reading comics as a kid, but I was still exposed to enough of it that it seems completely organic and natural to me.

Plus, unlike a lot of fanboys, I actually have an imagination, so that helps.
 
"That's what is boggling my mind.

"DC obviously felt that the Silver Age was a problem that needed to be fixed. Now, after crisis after crisis after crisis, they are plunging headfirst back into the Silver Age.

"What was the point of all the crisisessesisies then?"

See, DC completely misdiagnosed the why they were losing out to Marvel. The initial problem with DC was that, even as late as 1984, it was still largely stuck in 1959 storytelling sensibilities. What do I mean by that? Well, a few examples:

- I still remember Superman stories in the early 1980s where Superman would visit the White House -- but they were so shy about grounding their stories in the real world that they always showed the President's face in shadow, as if they were afraid that even identifying the current President would be too controversial.

- Clunky lifeless art.

- Writers who, as far as I can tell, were writing comics because no other medium would have them. For that matter, I'm not even persuaded they were normal human beings, so much as semi-functioning autistics who were doing their best to simulate how they thought average people interact. My favorite example of this is the JLA/JSA team-up where Mr. Terrific was killed by Jay Garrick (possessed by the Spirit King): after Jay/Spiritking fled back to Earth-2, Superman declared that it was a victory and the issue ended in a Superfriends-style joke and way too much laughter. Even at the age of ten, I thought to myself: "Jesus, a friend of theirs was just murdered and another of their friends is probably going to go on a murder spree. What is wrong with these people?"

DC thought that the solution was to Marvelize their comics, which wasn't necessarily the best solution: it's taken a long time to realize it, but DC and Marvel are fundamentally different, and what works for one doesn't work for the other. But more to the point, their method of Marvelization involved Marv Wolfman, whose writing on "New Teen Titans" may have captured imaginations among DC readers who were glad for a breath of fresh air, but the fact of the matter is, his writing was crap. His approach to Superman and Green Lantern both was to turn them into whiny sorts who resented the fact that heroing cut into their work-a-day lives, and "New Teen Titans" was just bad.

Yet, despite the steaming dumps Wolfman was leaving all over the DC universe, the powers-that-be felt he was the man who could fix what was broke. And to be fair, he was a change of pace from the standard broken writer in DC's stable. (He was a different kind of broken.) Jeanette Khan felt that it would help if they Marvelized even more by getting rid of the Multiverse, and they picked Marv Wolfman to take care of that.

But again, all of this was based on misdiagnosing what was wrong with DC. There was nothing wrong with the old Multiverse that couldn't have been fixed with better writers and better editors. If they'd had a Geoff Johns back then -- whose greatest skill is looking at a character or team and saying "What makes this cool?" -- DC would have been revitalized back in the 1970s. But they didn't have Geoff Johns, they had Denny O'Neill.

So, er, have I expounded enough? Oh, one last point: people want the Multiverse back because it's a nice idea. It's just that nobody wants Gerry Conway, Cary Bates, or Marv Wolfman handling the writing chores.
 
I feel terrible that I live in an era when jokes against women would generate websites condemning it. I hate it when victims talk back. Mocking good. Victim of mocking complaining not good.
 
"DC thought that the solution was to Marvelize their comics, which wasn't necessarily the best solution: it's taken a long time to realize it, but DC and Marvel are fundamentally different, and what works for one doesn't work for the other. But more to the point, their method of Marvelization involved Marv Wolfman, whose writing on "New Teen Titans" may have captured imaginations among DC readers who were glad for a breath of fresh air, but the fact of the matter is, his writing was crap"

Hear, hear.

I am continually astonished by how many people do not realize this.
 
"I feel terrible that I live in an era when jokes against women would generate websites condemning it. I hate it when victims talk back. Mocking good. Victim of mocking complaining not good."

Paul, I feel terrible that I live in era where people perceive everything as an affront to themselves whenever possible and as self-righteously as possible, using their intellect to justify their emotional reactions instead of using their intellect to choose their emotional reactions.

As anyone who's ever known any young boys knows, this panel shows great insight into how they think, and they were the target audience of comic books at the time.

The transformations are listed in the order of increasing shock to a young boy.

Change in personality: Is there a world where I'm BAD? Any little boy who plays cops and robbers or something similar has had to play 'the bad guy'. And if they are reading this comic book, then they know that the most basic question to ask about any character is, "Good or evil?"

Change in shape: Is there a world where I'm some strange creature? This is the kind of things little boys fantasize about all the time, being monsters and such.

Change in gender: What if I were a girl? This is not something little boys fantasize (well... most little boys, anyways). Because gender is the most basic aspect of our personality, this is idea is conceptually as distant from a little boy's thinking as is possible. As such, it makes perfect sense that it comes last.

And if you think that 'victimizes' anybody, then you probably don't know any real victims of society, just well-off privileged white people who like to acquire a "Victim" badge as a status symbol akin to a designer brand label, one that they can use to justify their outrage at every perceived slight.
 
Scipio,
I hear what you're saying. Everyone wants to see themselves reflected in their literature and this does speak to what little boys feel but comics are presumably playing to both genders of readers not just little boys and just as I would champion the right of a writer to put out this snipet of dialogue I would also welcome the right of people with daughters instead of sons to complain. I wish the only victims I know are well-off privileged white people but my circle is wider than that. I know some white criminals, some white ape-like creatures...even a white women!
 
"I know some white criminals, some white ape-like creatures...even a white women!"

Heh heh! Nice one...
 
I do believe that as much fun as it is to criticize the shortcomings of Bendis, Meltzer, etc, they are still Shakespeare compared to the bulk of 70s mainstream comics writers. Of course the old guys did give us many of the toys that current writers play with, like Ras Al Goul and Power Girl and such.
 
This panel is from a 1964 story written by Jerry Siegel, creator of Superman, most popular comic book character of all time.
 
"I do believe that as much fun as it is to criticize the shortcomings of Bendis, Meltzer, etc, they are still Shakespeare compared to the bulk of 70s mainstream comics writers. Of course the old guys did give us many of the toys that current writers play with, like Ras Al Goul and Power Girl and such."

True, and I'm going to speak well of Denny O'Neill just this once. He really tried to revamp every major DC character, and while most of his revamps didn't work and/or stick, at least he understood the problems with the characters and tried to do something about them. From the top:

- Superman: Denny reduced his strength and removed his vulnerability to kryptonite. But it got changed back to the Silver Age status quo, where Superman could snuff out stars just by blowing on them. (Current Superman status: darn strong, but nowhere near as strong as he used to be. O'Neill was on the right track.)

- Wonder Woman: de-powered her so as to turn her into a woman whose strength wasn't a matter of magic, but determination and will. Unfortunately, she was always written as "damaged goods", and so a reversion to the status quo was in order. (Current Wonder Woman status: writers make a point of exploring Wonder Woman's determination and will, and her various powers are largely secondary. O'Neill was on the right track.)

- Batman: O'Neill gave us the Batman we know and love. Full props to him.

- Green Lantern: Hal had very little personality of his own, so Denny made him a big "questioner". Also introduced John Stewart. (Current status: Hal bears no trace of O'Neill's revamps, but John Stewart is still very much the character O'Neill created.)

- Green Arrow: Turned him into DC's token anti-authoritarian. (Current status: he's mostly still the same character.)

- Black Canary: Set her up for romance with Green Arrow. (Current status: about to get married, I understand.)

- Red Tornado: Moved him to Earth-1; made him a character who can shift between dimensions easily. (Current status: Red Tornado's dimension-hopping was vital to the completion of "52".)

So we can credit O'Neill for a few hits among the misses.
 
I can't say as I see much resemblance between the John Stewart that O'Neill created and the various versions of him that are currently floating around the DCU, other than they have the same name, race, and gender. I would take O'Neill's version over the emotional trainwreck that he was reduced to, but would prefer to see more of the version from the Justice League cartoon.

Gardner Fox gave Red Tornado dimension-hopping abilities right out of the gate. Denny O'Neill took away that aspect of his powers so that he'd have to remain with the JLA instead of returning to Earth-2.

-Mindbender
 
The original comics creators invented gods and monsters; forged universes; played havoc with the forces of reality itself.

Their descendents use what their forebearers made to do a passable imitation of TV serial dramas.

Take your pick.
 
Wow. A blanket dismissal of Wolfman's 'the New Teen Titans' run as crap? And yet I adore it, at least that part of the run which involved his collaberation with Perez. It gave me the Judas Contract, for which I'll always love Wolfman and Perez. Granted, Perez is a huge part of how much I enjoy that collaborative run, but I have to give Wolfman his due.

So how about it.... anyone have a critique about /why/ the writing was bad to help me understand the viewpoint?
 
"Wow. A blanket dismissal of Wolfman's 'the New Teen Titans' run as crap? And yet I adore it, at least that part of the run which involved his collaberation with Perez. It gave me the Judas Contract, for which I'll always love Wolfman and Perez. Granted, Perez is a huge part of how much I enjoy that collaborative run, but I have to give Wolfman his due.

So how about it.... anyone have a critique about /why/ the writing was bad to help me understand the viewpoint?"

It's a deal! Since you know your NTT inside and out, I won't even need to explain my examples below:

1) Cliche after cliche after cliche. Example: "Hey, when you hired me to spy on Starfire, I thought it was just another job, but I can't bring myself to keep spying on her." BANG! "I'll make you pay!"

2) Ham-fisted angst all over the place. Example: "I thought my feelings for Raven were sincere, but she was just manipulating me. What am I to do?????"

3) Starting as early as Starfire's first appearance -- which I guess was page three of issue one -- it was pretty clear that Wolfman and Perez were typing and drawing with only one hand. As a horny 12-year-old boy, even I thought they were being inexcusably pervish. In case you've forgotten: Starfire was a half-naked alien princess who was sold into sex slavery to massive lizard aliens, who learns languages through kissing and gained her powers through essentially an experiment in BDSM.

4) Terry Long. Example: every scene he was ever in. Again, even as a 12-year-old who had no experience with women, I knew he was just plain disturbing -- yet Marv always wrote him as someone who's supposed to be sympathetic.

5) Characters who were pretty nuance-free. Not that DC was in the habit of nuance, but crap is crap whether the guy in the next cubicle is generating it too.

Let me offer a treat to you: find a copy of the X-Men / NTT crossover, by Claremont and Simonson. In that, you will see an example of what NTT could have been if Wolfman had even a fraction of the talent of, say, Claremont. Not only do the X-Men come alive under his writing (which is only to be expected, they've got the home court advantage), but the Titans are fleshed out better than ever before too. In that comic you will find the first (and possibly only) instance in comics where Starfire's "learn languages through kissing" power doesn't skeeve the hell out of the reader.
 
"I can't say as I see much resemblance between the John Stewart that O'Neill created and the various versions of him that are currently floating around the DCU, other than they have the same name, race, and gender. I would take O'Neill's version over the emotional trainwreck that he was reduced to, but would prefer to see more of the version from the Justice League cartoon."

He hasn't been an emotional trainwreck in some time. Katma and Xanshi have been pretty much forgotten, and when John shows up, he's a quiet, thoughtful, yet independent-minded guy. That's pretty close to where O'Neill originally positioned him, I think.
 
That's the problem with you gay people, the only reason why you like men is taht you hate women is

Nah, I'm just pulling your chain man
 
Scipio, would you ever consider spending a week or so on Bronze age DC comics that are actually good. I think you've done a good job of helping me avoid Wolfman, Barr and associates, but it would be handy to have some recommendations. I know Phantom Stranger and the Levitz Legion are on the list. What else?


-alex p
 
Oh, I've read the crossover. I do wish the second one, with the Hellfire Club and Brother Blood had been made. Buut hey, it could still happen, right.... RIGHT????

Good critiques, all. And not really ones I can argue with. In fact, it can probably be said that part of my enjoyment of NTT is an enjoyment of those examples /because/ of their ham-handedness, not despite them. Hey, what can I say? My favorite Marvel mutant is the Dazzler. And you omitted my favorite example of excess.... Slade Wilson..... Deathstroke: The Terminator. Really? He's so awesome he deserves THREE names? Are you sure about that?

I do want to point out that Starfire is my #1 example of The Superheroine As Drag Queen, Any time I want to argue that point that many superheroines from the 70-90s aren't actually portrayed as /women/ per se, I use her as my prime example. I believe she is not MEANT to be a 'Realistic Woman', but a male view/fantasy of Complete-Over-The-Top-Pseudo 'Femininity'. So, because of that, I accept her excesses, as excess is part and parcel of many drag personae. And really, if you look at her like that, she becomes FABULOUS. But, yeh, the NTT had the kink going on. Hardlya new element in comics, of course, they just chose to make it blatent.

Still, the NTT onviously had something going right, as the most successful version in decades was done by Geoff Johns, using the Wolfman template of characters. Hell, have you even noticed how the new characters in the post OYL Teen Titans echo the missing Wolfman/Perez cast members? The naive alien girl? The younger boy who first appeared as a sidekick/mascot in another title? The girl who was trained as a tool of Deathstroke? Sound familiar?

What can I say? Maybe the reasons so many hate Wolfman are reasons I love him. But I do have to say, that Terra was set up so well to be seen by the reader as the cliche lost girl who finds redemption in the end, BUT that she turned out to be rotten to the last. And that, to me, is awesome, and has made me love her forever (ignoring the Jiminez pretender, of course).
 
"And you omitted my favorite example of excess.... Slade Wilson..... Deathstroke: The Terminator. Really? He's so awesome he deserves THREE names? Are you sure about that?"

He wasn't originally called Deathstroke, was he? If I remember correctly, he was originally known simply as "The Terminator", and then a certain movie came out a few years later, necessitating a new name.

"Still, the NTT onviously had something going right, as the most successful version in decades was done by Geoff Johns, using the Wolfman template of characters. Hell, have you even noticed how the new characters in the post OYL Teen Titans echo the missing Wolfman/Perez cast members? The naive alien girl? The younger boy who first appeared as a sidekick/mascot in another title? The girl who was trained as a tool of Deathstroke? Sound familiar?"

Uh ... Johns's naive alien girl wasn't wank material (or if she was it wasn't so obvious), the sidekickiness was the entire point of the TT as of day one (which was back in the 1960s), and the more recent girl trained by Deathstroke wasn't sleeping with him. Sweet fancy Moses, how is it that anyone can not be absolutely creeped out by Terra and the Judas Contract? Okay, the story pulled a big switcheroo or two, but for me there is no escaping the realization that Wolfman and Perez said: "You know what would make this even better? If Slade were sleeping with an underage girl". If the choice is between that or a super-naive Superboy who thinks that girls are more incomprehensible than ape-like creatures, give me dumb old Silver Age any day.
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
Yes, the Slade/Deathstroke thing is creepy. Really, really, really, REALLY creepy. *shrugs* It's supposed to be.

I like Golden Age, Silver Age, Bronze Age..... I like 90's ones and current ones and foreign ones and..... Well. I like /comics/.
 
Alex: good question. I'll have to think about that; it's not an easy assignment!

Christa: Yes, Starfire is totally a drag queen.

And I'm fascinated by your analysis of the current TT line-up as Wolfmanesque. Because I see it the opposite way. When I look at it, I think, "Thank goodness they've actually returned the Teen Titans to teen versions of their Big Icons rather than Wolfman's ersatz Titans."

Interestingly, I think both our viewpoints are correct, which suggests that Titans are poised for success with many fans.
 
NTT captured young imaginations because it was exciting, with some of the best super-hero art I've ever seen. I discovered the series in my teens, as a local comic book shop sold ten issue bundles of copies in barely-held-together-by-the-staples condition for $5 each. Every week, I'd get the next ten issues.

Wolfman's dialogue histrionics were regrettable, and Starfire' & Raven's origins were dire, but the whole was greater than the parts. And that art! Looking at other DC books from the early '80s, no other DC comic had the flash of Byrne's X-Men. Wolfman didn't "get" real teens anymore than any other comic book writer, but he got the sense of drama that appealed to teens.

'60s vs. Now: Ultimately, O'Neil & co. made super-heroes in the DCU less fanciful. Ultimately, sales in the '70s dropped. The '80s upswing had to do with sensationalistic art and Claremont-style drama, with increases in violence, capturing the teen boy (and teen boy-like) reader.

Now, we have comics that are supposed to be "adult," (for $3 a pop!)many written on the Bendis & Ellis models, and sales are not so good.
 
Mike said:

Wolfman didn't "get" real teens anymore than any other comic book writer, but he got the sense of drama that appealed to teens.

That's it in a nutshell. The NTT hit just as I was entering my teens, and it knocked me upside the head. Only the Levitz Legion grabbed me more.
 
Starfire as drag queen? Brilliant, and now I actually have something to enjoy from Countdown to Infinite Crisis -- certain of Blue Beetle's first-person captions now amuse the hell out of me.

And, is it even possible that that was intended?

God, I hope so...
 
Ooooh? I can't find my copy offhand. Which captions?
 
It's when he calls in all his superhero buddies to look through trash cans, and no one finds anything, and he looks like a tool...but he spends some time gushing in his head over how beautiful Starfire is, how no one can take their eyes off her, how (if I remember right) her skin is like "soft gold" or something...
 
I mean, every other superheroine in town is right there, you know? But none of them have such riveting skin...
 
She is hot.... :P
 
Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link



<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?