Saturday, March 12, 2005

Karaoke Comics

After doing a little karaoke last night, it made me think about how the concept could be applied to comics (it is quite strange how many things I think about how they could be applied to comics..hehe), and it occured to that there have been a bunch of books out there that I would consider to be "karaoke comics."

A karaoke comic is a run on a comic that follows a previous run very closely, but as it is a copy, ends up being inferior to the original product.

Some examples:

Chris Claremont and Alan Davis on Uncanny X-Men are basically doing a karaoke version of their run on Excalibur. Nightcrawler and Rachel Summers are members of the team, Jamie Braddock is playing a big part and characters like Courtney Ross are being dusted off for the first time in a decade or so. The current run, though, lacks the humor and creativity of their initial run on Excalibur. I mean, a race of Saurons in the Savage Land? That soooo would not make it into the pages of the Cross-Time Caper.

Mark Waid's second run on Flash. A perfect example of someone who just should have left earlier than later (although I freely admit that I admire his dedication to the book). His second run on the book (#142-162) just lacked the inventiveness of his first run on the book, which still stands up as one of the best superhero runs of recent memory (especially #61-100). Here, in the second run, Waid ended up being influenced too much by both his own earlier run and the work of Grant Morrison. Regarding the first, Waid brought us yet ANOTHER storyline where either Wally or Linda was lost in time/space/whatever. This time, however, BOTH of them went missing! In addition, Abra Kadabra ended up being the big bad guy, making this literally the FIFTH time Abra Kadabra was used during Waid's run (the others being in the #70s, in Zero Hour, in Underworld Unleashed, and in the story where Linda was frozen). Regarding the latter, Morrison's big thing during the period was to evoke the Silver Age. Well, Waid definitely evoked the Silver Age, only Waid evoked the stuff from the Silver Age that probably was better left untouched. Barry Allen's Evil Twin Brother? *Groan*

Not to pick on Waid too much (as I like his work), but his run on JLA was also, to me, an example of karaoke comics. His work really struck me as "Grant Morrison-lite," even going so far as to make his first storyline as regular writer be a cast-off idea of Morrison's (the Batman protocols). This irked me because Waid's two previous fill-ins (not counting the ones he wrote with Devin Grayson) were, while still written in a Morrison-esque style, still had enough Waid in them to really stand out. His later issues, in my view, did not. Likewise, Joe Kelly also opened up with some karaoke comics, but quickly went away from that style.

Garth Ennis did not appear to really have many more stories in the vein of "Welcome Back, Frank" left in him, but that did not keep him from writing another 28-30 issues of Punisher in the same style. Luckily, I think even Ennis realized he was just singing over the same tune, and relaunched the title, and it is much different now.

Currently, Samm Barnes and Fiona Avery, on their respective attempts at Spider-Man, really read a lot like karaoke versions of JMS' Spider-Man.

Early in his solo Justice League Europe run, after Keith Giffen had left the book, Gerard Jones seemed to try to keep the style in the same humorous tone...but really did not match up with the humor of Giffen at all, so the book was like a bad karaoke performance, until Jones changed directions with the book (at which point it was still bad, but at least it wasn't a bad karaoke performance).

Can anyone think of any others?


Blogger Hisham Zubi said...

Nice observation. I don't know if I would be as down on "karaoke comics", but I can think of some examples.

For Daredevil, I would say there have been a few attempts to recreate the glory days of Frank Miller. Two prominent ones would be D.G Chichester's run which brought back Elektra and made numerous references to "Born Again"; and there's Kevin Smith's take which was very respectfull of Miller's stories.
I would also say that Mark Millar tried to follow Warren Ellis very closely when he took over Authority.
While his art is already similar, I'd say that Phil Jimenez's run on Wonder Woman was a kind of homage to George Perez.
Still, I liked all of those runs, go figure.

3/12/2005 09:40:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

I think, Hisham, that you make a good point by noting that I perhaps should not have used a word like "inferior" which, while I still believe is technically accurate, carries negative connotations.

I agree with your picks, they all strike me exactly as what I would think of as karaoke comics, in that in each case, even if they were good comics on their own, they were not as good as the originals.

For instance, I liked Mark Millar's Authority, but I do not think it was as good as Warren Ellis' original.

I liked Phil Jiminez' Wonder Woman well enough, but I do not think it was as good as George Perez' Wonder Woman.

Now I can't say I was as much of a fan as Chichester or Smith...hehe.

3/12/2005 10:12:00 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

I liked Waid's JLA run, but I definitely felt the "out-Morrisoning Morrison" vibe, particularly on Terror Incognita. I love Waid, but he's at his best when he's being Waid.

Karaoke comics I have known: The "Raven Rising" arc of Teen Titans definitely felt like Geoff Johns trying to karaoke Marv Wolfman. Fortunately, he got the hell away from that as quickly as possible.

Pretty much every attempt at Swamp Thing following Alan Moore's run has been flagrant karaoke. Ditto the interminable list of "Sandman Presents" series (with the notable exception of Lucifer).

Probably 95% of all 90's X-Men related comics were a karaoke version of Claremont's run.

The early Image books weren't just karaoke, they were drunken retard karaoke. (I apologize to drunken retards offended by this opinion.)

3/12/2005 11:21:00 PM  
Blogger Lex said...

I'd say that's a good assesment of Waid's second Flash run and his ongoing JLA run (I, too, really enjoyed his four issue fill-ins with Adam Strange and that probability engine). While there were some good moments in that Hypertime story in Flash, a lot of it was repeating his previous Flash work. But, I think Waid was a Silver Age junkie LONG before he met Morrison.

I still think calling him "Morrison-lite" is unfair. Is there a Morrison influence in Waid's writing? Sure, but I think people are making more out of it than is actually there. I don't know about you, but I'm constantly influenced by the people I know. And, from what I hear, one conversation with Morrison will leave you with a different outlook on existance.

3/13/2005 12:29:00 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

On the Daredevil note, Joe Quesada attempted to recreate earlier success on Daredevil with the Father series, but, it faltered, which is evident in the fact that Father is not so much a series as a single issue.

3/13/2005 02:13:00 AM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Lex, I don't get it...did you mean to say it was a good assessment of the Flash run, but not the JLA run?

In any event...

Yes, Mark Waid has ALWAYS been a huge Silver Age fan. Always.

But I did not see anything remotely resembling the level of Silver Age-style stuff like in his second Flash run (and the Silver Age 5th week event) until after Morrison started doing Silver Age-esque stories.

So while I certainly would never accuse Waid of taking the love of the Silver Age from Morrison, I do think that Morrison's success with that style of story inspired Waid to use it more in his second run on Flash (and the Silver Age 5th Week Event).

As for "Morrison-lite," I think Waid's ongoing run on JLA read extremely similar to Morrison's run. With that being said, "Morrison-lite" is perhaps too harsh of a term. In that case, I apologize if the term came off as too insulting.

3/13/2005 03:35:00 AM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

"On the Daredevil note, Joe Quesada attempted to recreate earlier success on Daredevil with the Father series, but, it faltered, which is evident in the fact that Father is not so much a series as a single issue."

I dunno, Jim...I think a guy can return to a comic without is necesarilly being a karaoke thing.

For instance, I don't think anyone would ever accuse Born Again as being a karaoke comic...hehe.

I did not like Daredevil: Father, but I did not get the sense that Quesada was repeating any earlier themes. It just seemed to be a big pin-up book with little to no story.

3/13/2005 03:37:00 AM  
Anonymous The Eyeball Kid said...

How about whatshername's Vertigo run on "Doom Patrol" for another example of post-Morrison karaoke. She tried for groovy and metaphysical, but all you got was ugly and unpleasant.

3/13/2005 08:37:00 AM  
Blogger Christopher Burton said...

I think John Byrne karaokes himself on just about everything he does to such an extent, in fact, that he's still writing 1980s-style dialogue and perhaps is incapable of doing so without a dialogue coach. Thus, he needs Will Pfeiffer's assistance on the Demon book.

Now, I'm not saying this is necessarily a bad thing. I'll give Byrne this -- he's consistent. So when I come to a Byrne book, I know what I'm going to get. This is a good thing if you're in the mood for it.

3/13/2005 09:04:00 AM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Eyeball Kid - Yeah, Rachel Pollak's run is a great example of someone trying to hit the same notes, and falling, well, flat.

Christopher - I think Byrne has a few tricks up his Next Men. That being said, the dialogue is definitely a weird case of copying his old style of dialogue, but making it WORSE (and Byrne did not have great dialogue to begin with!).

3/13/2005 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger Lex said...

"did you mean to say it was a good assessment of the Flash run, but not the JLA run?"

No, I meant both. I just had weird sentence structure there.

As for the Silver Age stuff, I think writers had become afraid to use some of the cool stuff from the Silver Age. But then Morrison opened the door for them with JLA. Now it's gotten to the point where it's odd if you DON'T use Silver Age ideas.

Good ol' Morrison. Always the trend setter.

3/13/2005 05:32:00 PM  
Blogger MarkAndrew said...

Steve Gerber's recent Howard the Duck series.

Now Howard the Duck (original style) is one of my two favorite Marvel comics ever. And I was insanely psyched to see Gerber back writin' Howard. But his MAX take just fell flat on it's face, trying to be super-outrageous with all cussin' and such and failing to replicate the heart of the original... Cynical, bitter, and blackened as the heart may be. :)

3/14/2005 12:13:00 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

I see your point, Brian. For some reason I was mixing the concept of karaoke with my frustration with creators for not finishing what they start. *coughjoemadureiracough*

3/14/2005 02:20:00 AM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Oh yeah, it's totally lame that he the Editor-in-Chief of Marvel cannot even get his own mini-series (MINI-SERIES, PEOPLE!) to ship on time.

3/14/2005 02:57:00 AM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Hehe...good point about Howard the Duck, Mark.

I love the point in the series where Gerber said that gay men like the Backstreet Boys a lot. That was too edgy, Gerber! TOO EDGY! Jay Leno will be LOST with that joke missing from his monologue!

Or that Oprah has a lot of power over people? I canNOT believe he went there!


Is nothing sacred? He even said that the Witchblade comics showed too much skin!

WHERE DOES IT END, GERBER?!?! The world is not safe from your rapier wit!

I kid, Gerber, I kid...he ruled on Defenders and his original Howard stuff rocked so freaking hard.

3/14/2005 03:01:00 AM  
Blogger Hisham Zubi said...

I almost forgot the ultimate "karaoke comic", John Byrne on Spider-man: Chapter One. Why bother to copy the style of Lee & Ditko when you can just tell the exact same stories.

3/14/2005 11:30:00 AM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Yeah, Chapter One really was an odd duck, wasn't it?

3/14/2005 07:18:00 PM  
Blogger Lex said...

I'm ready to declair Geoff Johns' current writing as karaoke writing. While I had a problem with calling Waid "Morrison-lite," I have no problem calling Geoff Johns' recent output as "Brad Meltzer's understudy." I used to love Geoff's writing (ever since Stars & STRIPE), but lately it's been very sub-quality. It's like ever since he met Meltzer, he has been trying to transform all of his books into Identity Crisis part 2 (bare in mind that I enjoyed IC by itself as a stand-alone story).

1.) Each of his books is overflowing with unnecessary guest stars. I love Zatanna, but does she really need to appear in a story about Hal Jordan's return?

2.) No original ideas. It seems like Johns is just following up on previous stories (especially IC) and not writing any original stories of his own. One story like that might be fine, but it's gotten to the point that that is all he writes.

It's like Johns has forgotten how to write good stories. As a fan of his work, it's really disappointing.

I had been really excited about Johns teaming up with the Young Avengers writer for a DC story... until it turned out to be yet another pointless IC tie-in. Gah!

3/14/2005 07:19:00 PM  
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