It's not just any headache. It's a very rare and particular kind of headache. The kind that you can get only from reading certain comics. I have a Bridwell Migraine.
Most of you, I assume, have no idea who E. Nelson Bridwell was. He was, by all accounts, a nice man. And he worked for Mort Weisinger and anyone who worked for Mort Weisinger -- the J.Jonah Jameson of Earth-Prime-- deserves your love and understanding.
He did some pretty neat things. He worked on the Batman Anthology and those wonderful DC 100 Page Super Spectaculars that gathered up lots of classic old stories. and exposed an entire generation of readers like me to the glories and terror of Golden Age comics. He created the Inferior Five, one of the earliest superhero parodies and wrote for Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew, a later parody. He co-created Angel & The Ape and the Secret Six. Biggest contemporary keeper of the Superman mythos, he's the guy who sat down and actually made the Kryptonian language follow some sort of pattern rather than just being randomized squiggles. For you fans of the Justice League International, he's the co-creator of Fire and Ice (or, as they were originally known, Green Flame and Ice Maiden). Heck, he wrote the initial run of the Super-Friends comic book, which reintroduced the Awesome Human Flying Fish; that ALONE qualifies you for comic book sainthood.
|Even if you look like a Bond villain.|
these great accomplishments are rooted in the same Bridwellian ability that also makes him a name of dread and terror: E. Nelson Bridwell was the original Continuity Cop. He loved comics, cared enormously about ironing out apparently inconsistencies in stories, and was obsessed with having disparate and distinct DC own IPs interact with one another. Also, he couldn't write his way out of paper bag.
The ancients, you know, didn't really think in terms of people being 'good' or 'evil'. Rather, they thought of people as 'ordinary' and 'great', with great people being capable of both great good and great evil. In this sense, E. Nelson Bridwell was clearly a great person, for, while he responsible for some wonderful DC products, he was a guilty of great 'artistic evils'. Here's a small example:
|The person responsible for this perverted doggerel should be deprived by civilization of access to |
fire, word, and any writing implements for life.
|You'd almost have to be a serial killer to have written these.|
When Bridwell writes a story, it's like someone emptied a box of Heroclix on the table and said, "Use all of these." In this case, they include Flash and Jay Garrick, Blockbuster, Batman, Earth-2 Robin, Bulletman and Bulletgirl, Superman, The Shade, Mr. Scarlet & Pinky, ibac, Green Lantern and Alan Scott, Ibis the Invincible.Wonder Woman, Dr. Light, The Penguin, Hawkman and Hawkgirl , Johnny Thunder, The Weeper, Green Arrow, Spy-Smasher, the Joker, King Kull, King of the Beast-Men, Queen Clea, Mr. Atom, Brainiac, the God Mercury, the Wizard Shazam and Captain Marvel.
|Yes, that's Blockbuster, Queen Clea, The Penguin, and Ibac, palling around like the cast of "Friends".|
Only E. Nelson Bridwell would do such a thing.
|Yes, Mercury in swimming trunks, riding the Batmobile through space, with Jay Garrick in the backseat.|
Or,as Bridwell called it, "Tuesday".
I remember reading this story when it came out in 1971. Even as a little kid I knew it was disturbed and way too full of STUFF (although I got a kick of meeting characters new to me, like The Weeper). As kid you are used to things not making a lot of sense to you, but trying to read this multi-issue as an adult gives me a Bridwell Migraine.
It's one of those stories typical of giant crossover-casts, where there is a Big Bad who secretly arranges for subsets of mix heroes to sequentially fight subsets of mixed villains in various locations. The heroes keep beating the villains at these seemingly random encounters and say 'yay, we have won!", then you cut away to the Big Bad going, "Ha, they think they have won, but little do they realize this is but one part of MY plan to win!" This then happen 8 to 80 times in a row. You know the drill.
|That's Pinky beside Inappropriately Condescending Robin. |
You may not recognize him because his hair has been turned into diamond. It's hard to explain.
I would ask Batman to explain, but he can't talk, because his jaw has been turned into steel.
Let's put Bridwell aside for a moment, because I could pick on him and this story all day. Bridwell is an early and bright red example of a phenomenon that would come to take over comics: the continuity-obsessed fanboy author.
Such authors aren't as interested in telling new stories as they are connecting or reaffirming old ones. They aren't trying to expand the literary universe, they are trying to fill in what they perceive as gaps. They are less creators than they are repairmen of continuity cracks, apologists for the dumb aspects of the stories they treasured as children, colorists intent on re-tinting the candy-color characters of our youth into an adult-friendly sepia-verse. They idolize their heroes too much; they revere them too much to handle them directly, and prefer to leave them in the original packaging.
You know their names as well as I do. They are more to be pitied then censured; most of us placed in the same position would naturally do that same thing. But it's helped contribute to polarization in writing styles at DC. You have the Fanboys, who are too afraid to play with the toys and can't write for anyone who doesn't already know and love the characters, and the Man-Boys, who don't know how to play with the toys without breaking them, can't put them back in the box and can't write for anyone who does already know and love the characters. But they are a subject for another day.
The point is DC editorial is CAUGHT between these, the Scylla and Charybdis of Continuity, and Convergence is the result. And just like Scylla and Charybdis... we'll have to see what survives and comes out on the other side.