Monday, December 13, 2004

Crisis Made a Hot Girl Ugly

Since Alex started off with his current pet peeve comic, I thought I'd finally type out why exactly I don't like one of my all-time pet peeve comics, especially since a sequel is rumored to be in the works. Now, this blog isn't always going to be negative, but this was something I think I needed to get out of the way. Saying this usually causes shocked silence, loud rage, or a quiet "Yeah, me too." Here goes: I think Crisis on Infinite Earths was an awful, awful comic book. It was awful in regards to its effects, its story, and its art. And if you listen up, I'm going to tell you why.

The DCU used to be like, say, Angelina Jolie: a hot girl . . .crazy, but the fun kind of crazy. Crisis removed those amazing lips, changed her eyes to something smaller and more close-set, added a hundred pounds or so and scarred up her face. It took something that was awesome as it was, and in some weird attempt to "fix" it, turned it into a boring piece of crud. First off, by consolidating all the multiple universes (yeah, it gets real nerdy here) it severely limited storytelling potential. No longer was anyone allowed to tell an "alternate earth" story. No more alternate versions of characters or timelines. The previously established Earths, all gone or combined. In doing this, another complication arose. Earth S had its own tone and feel. So did Earths 1 and 2, X, C, etc. By combining them all, these worlds had to find a common ground of tone. Now the Fawcett characters had to work in the same world, under the same rules as the modern DC, as the Charleton, as the Quality, etc. There was less room for individual voice. This paved the way for grim and gritty Elongated Man stories; when the shared universe became this absolute and this monolithic, there became less and less room for anything different. Mary Marvel gets molested. Sgt. Rock lived in a world of spandex. Uniformity trumped creativity.

On a side note, Crisis also paved the way for the rather lackluster revamping of the DCU. Byrne's boringization of Superman, more and more writers misunderstanding Miller's DKR, the Wonder and Hawk families making zero sense, and Hal Jordan becoming a drunk driving jackass. Now, I don't blame DKR for stuff like this. It's not Miller's fault other writers and readers didn't get the point (Batman being happy in the end). But Crisis was made expressly as a guidepost for the DCU. DKR and Watchmen were one-offs, special projects. Crisis was a company-wide directive.

Secondly, the story was sub-par at the very best. It substituted flash for substance, like a crap summer blockbuster starring Vin Diesel, but without the beautiful homoeroticism (well, with less of it). Anti-climax after anti-climax piled up as the heroes ONCE AGAIN set off after the Anti-Climax, I mean, Anti-Monitor. You can only pull that trick so many times. "The princess is not in this castle." That's why I stopped playing Mario brothers. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, eat shit.

What story was there made little sense. So we've got this multiversal problem, just the biggest thing to ever hit existence. So, let's recruit a team of interdimensional heroes to solve this. OK, first on the list: Blue Beetle. Yeah, Blue Beetle. After him, I want another powerhouse like, say . . .Cyborg. How about Firebrand II? There is nothing wrong with these characters inherently (other than ugly, ugly design for Cyborg). But an all-powerful godlike being picking these guys and freakin' Obsidian as the UNIVERSE SAVING TEAM is a huge case of what I've seen called "Plot-Induced Stupidity." Why were these characters picked? Because Marv Wolfman wanted to write them, or something, I guess.

The third problem I have with the story in Crisis is that, really, the heroes lost. I mean, this is a huge fucking failure. We must save the multiverse! OK, we didn't. But we managed to combine a few of the worlds in a way that makes all of them lamer! Wow, that's great. It's not that the heroes have to win every battle. They completely don't. But this HUGE failure was treated like a great success. Imagine if the JLA was supposed to save the world, but instead managed to take pieces of West Virginia, Latvia, Egypt, and Thailand and smoosh them together. What kind of vitory would that be? That's what happend in Crisis.

Lastly, I'd like to talk about the art. Now, I realize that George Perez has his fans. I may not care for his art, but I do see that. But from what I can tell, his popularity is based on the fact that he draws a lot of details. Take Neal Adams (please!), add a lot more little lines all over the place, remove the distinction between background and foreground, and instill the worst design sense possible and BOOM you've got yourself a Perez. All those lines! Liefeld puts them in too, but it's acceptable to make fun of him on the internet. But George Perez is like unto a god! Have you ever looked at his art in black and white? It looks like a combination of a really hard maze in a coloring book and spaghetti. Very little is distinguishable. I will admit that the best part of Crisis (other than the two emotional punches of Supergirl's and Flash's deaths) is the art. I would add, however, that's akin to saying was the best part of being beaten up by a professional football team was they didn't use their elbows very much.

That's my take on Crisis. But I want to hear yours. Do you like it? Give me reasons, other than "It's BIG!" That doesn't count. Show me how it makes sense. Show me how it made the DCU more interesting rather than less interesting. Show me how to get away with weird Angelina Jolie metaphors in a blog about comic books. Show me the way.


Blogger Brian Cronin said...

I, too, agree that most people's liking of Crisis is colored by how they remember it, not by how good the actual comic book is.

Please, show the Crisis TPB to anyone who just started reading comics.

I think you would find a lot of "Wow, nice art!" but beyond that, I don't think they would even understand half of the comic.

And that is because Crisis #1-12 DIDN'T TELL A STORY!

Crisis #1-12 was just a facilitator for a crossover. Look at how many pages were used up with panels of "Follow the JLA into JLA #..." or "Follow the Titans into New Titans #..."

It was a mess.

It does not read as a complete story.

And that is a silly idea.

Of course, though, the book tossed in the ever popular method of killing of major characters. That, more than anything, is what people remember about Crisis, and why I think a lot of people look upon it fondly.


Well, yeah, that was a big deal...but "big deals" do not make "good comics."

12/13/2004 06:00:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Now, as to the other problem you have with Crisis, I have to disagree.

I don't think you can rip Crisis for the bad comics post-Crisis.

First off all, Sergeant Rock had ALWAYS shared a universe with the superheroes.

Second of all, yes, the Fawcett heroes had their own universe. often were they showing up in comics in their own universe, Joe?

Once a year?

Twice a year?

They were not showing up because DC was getting people who were bitching about the multiverses. They were using the multiverse less and less.

Hell, outside of Roy Thomas, was ANYone even USING the multiverse when Crisis hit?

DC's most popular title, New Titans, never made a reference to it.

DC's second most popular title, Legion, never made a reference to it.

Batman, JLA, Superman, Swamp Thing, Ambush Bug...were any of these titles actually using the multiverse?

One dude, Roy Thomas, was.

So no, I do not think that this paved the way for crappy stories.

I think crappy stories came out of their own volition.

12/13/2004 06:04:00 PM  
Blogger Joe Rice said...

Perhaps it less paved the way and more mandated them. Sure, no one was using it then. I don't find a lot of good in the comics of the time, anyway. My problem is that they broke all the toys because they didn't want to use them.

Other people can always use toys. Shit, just imagine if Grant Morrison was allowed to really use the multiverse.

You don't like it when characters are killed off; you see it as a waste. Crisis was that times, well, infinity. It destroyed an infinite concept.

12/13/2004 06:12:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Crisis was, what, 1985-1986?

The first Elseworlds was, what, 1989?

I guess I just don't see how Morrison's Doom Patrol or Gaiman's Sandman, and the endless parade of Elseworlds, were really hampered by the Crisis.

I think the really destructive decisions were made post-Crisis.

Like, "No Superboy," Zero Hour, "Hawkworld," "Wonder Woman."

12/13/2004 06:22:00 PM  
Blogger Joe Rice said...

Yes, "Elseworlds" were still there, but, really, how many of them have been good? My point is not that nothing good could ever be written again, it's that Crisis broke a lot of toys and it didn't need to do so. Crisis broke the multiverse toy and then set a groundwork where other creators could brake a lot of other toys, in books you list there.

12/13/2004 06:24:00 PM  
Blogger Tadhg said...

The only good thing about Crisis is that it made Psycho Pirate interesting.

12/19/2004 09:18:00 PM  
Blogger Shawn said...

Stuff happened in Crisis. Which makes it a hell of a lot better than "Secret Wars," which came out at the same time.

8/15/2005 10:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Scott said...

The one unequivocally good thing to come out of Crisis, I think, was that having the JSA and JLA on the same Earth allowed for a new, generational aspect to superhero history that had not really been present before. This theme was a large part of the charm of Robinson's Starman and continues to work reasonably well in the most recent incarnation of the JSA.

Do I think it makes up for all that was lost? No. Could similar stories have been told on a renascent Earth-2, with better treatment of Roy Thomas' yeoman work on All-Star Squadron and a better treatment of Infinity, Inc.? Sure. But I think it does count as one good thing.

8/31/2005 12:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't really see what the big deal about George Perez's art is. I think it's sort of normal except for his first five issues of the deluxe Teen Titans book, which were great!

12/29/2005 07:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh yeah and Millenium has way more "Okay buy all five of our books every week or it won't make any sense." Crisis made sense without crossovers because after it tries to sell them to you it never mentions them except for Marv Wolfman's own book the deluxe New Teen Titans which was constantly advertized.

12/29/2005 07:04:00 PM  
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