Monday, July 14, 2014

Spin the Spy Bottle

So, the latest loser in DC's 'spin-the-spy-bottle' game is Dick Grayson.

Pardon my cynicism, but nothing says "we longer know what to do to make this character work" than recasting someone in the spy-thriller genre. Um... except recasting them in the barbarian-lost world genre.  But that's another story.

DC tried to do this with both Hawkman and Aquaman.  Hawkman used to fight CAW (The Criminal Alliance of the World) and Aquaman used to fight OGRE (The Organization for General Revenge and Enslavement).  CAW had high-tech weapons out the whazoo (including anti-grav guns, acid-bubble bazookas, explosive particlizers, and protonic amplifiers), so naturally they were beaten senseless by the shirtless guy with the mace.  They did, at least have the decency to choose a hawk-themed acronym, so that Hawkman could fight them with less embarrassment.

Stupid CIA.  I bet it's full of GIRLS.

Unlike Hawkman, Aquaman didn't even pretend to need the CIA's help to fight his evil organization of choice, the broadly named Organization for General Revenge and Enslavement. OGRE's fussy about who they work for: "I wish to hire you to revenge myself on those who usurped my father's throne with a democratic movement, and then enslave our hated neighboring country of Backyardistan". "Oh, I'm sorry-- OGRE only does general revenge and enslavement, not specific requests. But we'll send you links to some other evil organizations that do targeted mercenary work."  

But OGRE wasn't fussy about who it hired, including losers like Fire-Haired Karla and the fat perv, The Invisible Un-Thing. (don't ask).  

Now, it's a little less ridiculous to have Dick Grayson as a spy, since he doesn't have Aquaman's superpowers or Hawkman's, um.... wingedness.  But putting him in SPYRAL-- a spy organization that has the word SPY right there in its name, so no one thinks otherwise--has pretty much doomed it to campy stupidity right from the get-go.  Of course, that will be offset by angst of "Robin's got a gun! Will he kill?!"

Let's see. Dick Grayson is the presumptive heir to the Wayne fortune, can do anything (he was the Boy Wonder, after all), and has been an independent operator, a team leader, and the partner to the most revered crimefighter on his planet.  "I'm going to join a morally questionable international spy organization!" is perhaps the least credible decision DC could have him make.  

I tell....the DCU is smelling more and more like it's headed to its next reboot next year.


Anonymous said...

There really is no logic to Dick joining Spyral, is there? The point of it is to dope out what Spyral knows about Batman's secret identity, which kind of makes Dick the worst possible choice to infiltrate them, since he's one of the few people they could actually get that information from if they don't have it already.

Then there is the small matter of a former Robin being publicly revealed as Bruce Wayne's ward, and Lex Luthor is apparently the only person who can follow the complex trail of clues to discover that Batman Inc's benefactor happens to be Batman. If Batman is the world's greatest detective, it must be because everyone else is so terrible at it.

That said ... did you read the first issue of "Grayson"? I don't know how long the illogic of Dick's joining Spyral can hold up, but in the meantime, Dick himself is in top form. That bit with the gun, where he uses it like a batarang ... a thing of beauty.

They could have fixed this, I think, if Spyral were an organization loosely affiliated with Batman, and Bruce needed Dick to make sure they conducted their missions "the right way". And as for the world knowing Dick's secret identity, all he would have to do is come out of hiding at some point and say, "I don't know why those Crime Syndicate guys thought I was Nightwing, but as soon as I saw my name on the news (and a guy who looked a lot like me), I went into hiding".

John said...

Probably the best idea I've heard for Grayson was (from a friend of mine, sadly passed) to make him the new Blue Beetle after Ted Kord's death. Much as I enjoyed Jaime's series, it would've established the Beetle legacy as comparable to the Batman Family and would've given Dick a solid identity that wouldn't have needed to grow up to be a cop, a spy, a cowboy, an astronaut, whatever else kids think are exciting but only are when you're doing it wrong.

Which is all to say that I don't know if the spy game is necessarily the hallmark of abandoned hope, but throwing the characters into a completely different genre without a transition certainly is.

However, the big difference between the likes of OGRE/CAW and today is that it used to be a standard trope. You couldn't swing an exploded pen without hitting a Slavic man in a tuxedo representing some unlikely initialism. So, you might go along with it, even where it was out of place.

Today, though? It just doesn't fly. Checkmate never really went anywhere, and TV's "Chuck" was basically a long-form sitcom. SHIELD only hangs on as a wrapper around everything else that constantly needs to justify its presence.

SallyP said...

I'm actually hoping for another reboot! It couldn't possibly be worse...could it?

Bryan L said...

I'm with Sally. The bar is set so abysmally low at this point that I can't believe things could get worse.

I'm probably wrong, though. Just because I can't envision things deteriorating further doesn't mean that the DC brain trust couldn't pull it off.

Anonymous said...

The grass is always greener on the other side of the retcon. They reboot things and they're still going to be giving writing gigs to Nocenti and Lobdell, Didio's still going to insist on trying his hand at writing, and deMatteis and Giffen will do their level best to remind us that no, they were never really all that funny.

On the other hand, this reboot did give us an Aquaman that actually works, a Wonder Woman better than I've ever seen, Barry Allen likewise in good shape, and Zero Year. I'd be very sorry to see those things go.

What we need is Superboy Prime to show up, hold his head in disbelief as he says "What the hell have they done this time?" and fly from title to title, Superboy Punching things until each title is in good repair again. Flash: Wally is "back" (i.e. old enough to be a Flash in his own right) and Bart Allen is back to classic Impulse form. Teen Titans and Superboy: Lobdell never happened. Superman: all traces of Lobdell are gone. Green Lantern: no changes except that somebody superglues googly eyes onto Rot Lop Fan. Batman: extend Batman's career back so it is long enough to encompass all the Robins, otherwise leave it as is.

Nathan Hall said...

They could treat him like Venom - make him a secret agent, and then send him into space with a galactic team.

SallyP said...

Bryan, that actually sounds pretty fabulous.

Mr. Preece said...

Barry Allen SUCKS right now. He's an EMPTY SHELL of a character. DC could have put ANY name on this current version and it wouldn't matter...why? Because it is clearly someone OTHER than "Barry Allen" who was the Silver Age Flash. Nothing but a coincidence of the name, like two people from a phone book.

Mr. Preece said...

As for Dick Grayson, I think the character has been directionless since he became Nightwing. He was okay in that role as leader of the New Teen Titans, but when he went off to Bludhaven (a simple Xerox of Gotham) I felt DC was simply putting him somewhere out of the way. He certainly lost the prominence he had as Robin (who went on adventures with Superman, etc.).

This current choice is godawful lame. Spy books in a superhero universe? The ONLY reason I can imagine doing this is sinister... Apparently Nightwing was always going to sell too well to justify cancelling. So how to get rid of that character (as Didio is on record wishing to happen)?

Turn him into something USELLABLE in this industry.

Mr. Preece said...

UNSELLABLE. (not usellable)

Anonymous said...

Off topic, but I want to share. If we're talking Dick Grayson comics, the comic I would love to see is a DC / Marvel crossover between Dick Grayson and Ben Grimm. Each of them encapsulates what is best about their universe, and could be considered their companies' respective "hearts". And I think they'd click. (This sounds like a Mark Waid project BTW.)

Issue 1: the Thing and Nightwing in their current status quo (in Nightwing's case we might need to go back a couple months).

Issue 2: very early Robin and very early Thing. Big misunderstanding involving a "monster" threatening some Yancy Street kids, followed by Robin apologizing and helping the Thing rescue Alicia Masters or whatever.

Issue 3: some pivotal point in Ben Grimm's life coinciding with some pivotal point in Dick Grayson's life.

Issue 4: one of Ben Grimm's famous card games, a few years from now, with Dick Grayson as a guest. They muse on the past, what their lives have meant, what has happened to their colleagues over the years.