Saturday, July 23, 2005

The Tyranny of Modern Day "Superiority"

Here is Brad Meltzer talking about Identity Crisis, and specifically, the whole Justice League mindwiping thing..."We are reclaiming the Silver Age. All those stories people thought were stupid. We'll pull them all back."

I was already irked by that statement, for the whole weird attitude of feeling like he had to apologize for the Silver Age, as those stories really needed no apologies, for they were great stories.

However, recently, I saw a bit by Dorian at postmodernbarney that really jogged my memory a bit, and made me remember something that I had overlooked.

The whole "mind-wiping" event that Meltzer references in Identity Crisis?

It happened in 1979!!!

So the whole statement of "reclaiming the past" by Meltzer is basically founded upon the premise that comics today are more sophisticated now, so that he will present a sophisticated approach to the mind-wiping plot.

And that is so silly, because, by 1979, comics were pretty much just as "sophisticated" as they are now.

One of the standard aspects of Fantastic Four letter columns of the time were discussions of Sue Richards and feminism.

There were letter columns complaining about the gratuitous cleavage in Zatanna's costume.

It was years since Steve Englehart had Captain America become so disillusioned by the United States that he gave up being Captain America all together!

Can you imagine that happening in the pages of Captain America now?

Ed Brubaker gets outrage when he has Captain America say nice things about France.

Can you imagine the reaction if he quit becoming Captain America because he did not like the state that the United States was in?

No change in Identity Crisis or Infinite Crisis is going to be any bolder than Mike Sekowsky's Diana Prince storyline in Wonder Woman.

No Superman relaunch is going to be any riskier than Julie Schwartz's mid-70s Superman revamp.

Can you imagine the reaction today if the Teen Titans dropped their costumes and began wearing grey uniforms while working for a millionaire d0-gooder?

No Infinite Crisis change is going to be any more drastic than that.

Therefore, while you could make a decent argument that in 1961, when a writer would have a hero mindwipe a villain, he was probably just trying to wrap a story up in the space allotted, and perhaps not trying to be "serious" could not make that same claim in 1979.

The writers of 1979 approached comics the same way that writers approach them today, so to hear any talk that superhero comics today are somehow more sophisticated or more mature is, to me, just foolish.

The language may be a bit looser, and you may be able to show a little more gore and toss in some sketchy "shocking" events like rape, but the basic tenets of comic writing have not changed in the past 30 years.

Well, except perhaps for the slight difference that comic writers in 1979 probably did not think that their work was "reclaiming" the work of their forebears.

And even if they DID, they at least had the courtesy not to crow about it...

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Blogger Bill Reed said...

Yes, I do think Meltzer is full of crap, but that might just be me. His novels are nice an all, but the majority of them are just pretty darn bad.

And he killed off Sue Dibny. So, for that, I shan't forgive him. *evil grin*

7/23/2005 09:00:00 PM  
Blogger MarkAndrew said...

I agree. But we all knew that, right?

Mainstream comics pretty much peaked in intelligence, scope, and sheer ballsiness with the Kirby (at DC) and Gerber and Engelhart (at Marvel) trifecta circa 1972-ish.

7/23/2005 10:44:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

I was just shocked, Mark, by how RECENT the whole mind-wiping incident was.

I mean, it was almost the 80s!!

7/24/2005 03:06:00 AM  
Anonymous red_ricky said...

Brian, I think you are mistaken.

The story that inspired identity crisis is from JLA #122.

An ill conceived story by fill in writer Martin Pasko. Now granted, I read that story about a year ago (just as IC came out), but if I remember correctly that story was weak and silly; and centered around the fact that Dr. Light had been previously defeated by the JLA when Batman & Superman (and maybe some others) decided to switch costumes (i.e. Identities) thus creating some confusion and causing Dr Light to lose his concentration during the climatic fight scene.

So, in order to avenge his silly defeat, Dr. Light decides to mind wipe the Heroes super-heroic identities and set traps for them. Here’s the silly part. For some unexplained reason, Dr. Light already knows that Superman is Clark Kent and Batman is Bruce Wayne and Green Arrow is Oliver Queen; and so on. You’d think that finding out Batman’s secret identity would be a major plot point, but no. The whole story revolved around the fact that Light zapped the heroes when they were in their civil identities and left them caught in some sort of death trap. Because the heroes didn’t remember who they were (or maybe thought they were some other hero) they were unable to escape.

The plan failed because of Aquaman. I don’t remember the details but it was either because Aquaman didn’t have a secret ID, or Dr. Light didn’t know he had a secret ID (which is stupid considering that Clark Kent being Superman isn’t common knowledge either). At the end of the story, Dr. Light ends up getting zapped with his own ray (either by his hand or the heroes, I can’t say that I remember correctly, but I’m inclined to say he thought the ray wasn’t working properly and tested it on himself), whatever.

Stupid comic, from an innocent era.

The comic book that was indeed published in 1979, was the JLA vs. the Secret Society body switch (JLA #166-168). Now, before we get there, I want to say that I have every JLA comic from JLA #106 onward and that was the first time that I know of, were such a body switch occurred. The notion that such a thing was a common place occurrence during the early days of the JLA (as perpetuated by Waid’s Silver Age mini-series) is a myth as far as I’m concerned.

Okay, if you go back to that SSoSV story you’ll notice that the Villains could hardly care less about the heroes secret identities. In fact, there’s no attempt from the Villains to find out who the heroes are, nor is there any mind wipe done to them. For starters, 3 out of the 5 heroes involved wear no masks. The ones who do end up wearing masks, couldn’t care less about the heroes identities. I mean, in theory Dr. Zoom should already know who Green Lantern was (the same way he knows who Barry Allen was). And Blockbuster, as Batman… well, not only did he not speak much, but he looked like he wasn’t happy with his new body, and he looked like he didn’t want to be touched. It wouldn’t have surprised me if he threw a fit if somebody tried to unmask him (ala ‘There’s something about Mary’).

So there’s that.

As far as I’m concerned, Meltzer needed to explain those stories as much as Frank Miller needs to explain Batman’s pink rainbow costume from the Bob Kane era. And the absurd part was that he was using non-continuity to explain bad continuity. I mean for starters, neither Superman, nor Batman, nor Wonder Woman ever belonged to the Satellite JLA era. At least not according to post crisis history; so what’s the point in trying to explain that crap if it didn’t happen. And if you are going to use those stories anyway, shouldn’t he had gone through the trouble of getting his facts straight? I mean for God’s sake, why or how Capt. Boomerang got involved in that third or fourth revision of DC history is beyond me. He had nothing to do with those villains or that story, period. It doesn't matter from what timeline you’re looking at it, Meltzer just sucks! The way he wrote it, Alfred could’ve been a more likely culprit than what’s her name.

7/25/2005 03:12:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

You are absolutely correct, red_rickey, that the initial story they are referring to was in #122 (I think it was even CALLED Identity Crisis).

I should have mentioned that, especially seeing as how I have read that issue, I definitely should have mentioned it!!!

However, I still think the later 1979 issues were in Meltzer's mind, in addition to the story you mentioned, when he mentioned reclaiming the early stories.

Otherwise, in regards to the rest of your points, I totally agree.

7/25/2005 07:07:00 PM  
Blogger Robby Reed said...

Exactly how does raping and killing characters "reclaim the Silver Age"? Guess what? The SILVER AGE does not NEED to be "reclaimed"!

It's the MODERN AGE that needs to be "de-darkened" and freed of such trash as "ID Crisis" sick rape scenes and "Countdown's" vile bullet to the head.

Coming soon: Superman rapes Lois and beheads her! Fun for kids of all ages! Not.

..... ....

7/26/2005 11:17:00 AM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Well, Robby, I think the Abhay review of Countdown that you reposted on your site gives a lot of insight into possible motivations for Countdown, Identity Crisis, et. al.

7/26/2005 03:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Dan Coyle said...

One thing Countdown taught me is that way too many creators lurked on the WEF and took the long lesson from it.

The Silver Age doesn't need to be "taken back". It needs to be let go.

7/27/2005 12:37:00 AM  

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