Friday, November 11, 2005

If I ran the zoo!

"Welcome to my first press conference as Absolute Overlord of DC Comics. It's pretty awesome, I have to tell you - yesterday I ordered Johns, Rucka, Winnick, and Willingham to orally service DiDio, and there was nothing they could do about it! They want my approbation just that much!

"So, what's going on here in the new DC? I'm glad you asked. In this press conference I will set down the guidelines by which I will take this - let's face it - somewhat moribund company and into the next century. Yes, I know the next century is 95 years away. Don't question your Absolute Overlord! I can smite you quicker than Bendis can waste six pages with meaningless dialogue!

"First, we're in the middle of some big Crisis thing, as I understand. Beats the hell out of me - that's DiDio's baby, and he will soon be overseeing yellow dye production in Uzbekistan. Oops, did I let that slip? Anyway, the flaks before me have been promising 'big changes' at DC. Yeah, I know they're usually full of shit, but I'm going to take that talk and make it reality. Don't believe me? Check it out:

"Okay, the DC Universe, such as it is. Who else is sick of this crap? Who else can't believe that people would waste so much ink and creative juices over worrying about where Power Girl came from and what Olde Superman has been doing? Listen: I'm a fan. I read Crisis on Infinite Earths. I haven't given Olde Superman a thought since he and Olde Lois fell into that big hole, or whatever the hell happened to them. But apparently, some people want everything back the way it was when they were kids. They want to sit around and read comics where Batman is married to Kathy Kane and their daughter is the Huntress and the Justice Society is still young and they want to do this while watching DVDs of The Land of the Lost while wondering how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop and contemplating who would win in a fight, Erin Gray as Wilma Deering or Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman, and hoping it will turn into a rip-the-clothes-off-fall-into-pudding kind of fight as they tried to convince Mary Sue from down the street that just because they idolized Jean Grey and played Intellivision a lot, they're not weird. Well, fuck that. If DiDio promised changes, changes you shall get. If you want a 'return to the good old days,' you're in the wrong place.

"First, time. Who else finds it absolutely idiotic that superheroes don't age? Who else reads Batman comics from 1939 and gets pissed off that Bruce Wayne in that comic is supposed to be the same one who has apparently mastered every computer known to man? Well, even if you're not mad about that, I am, and I'm the Absolute Overlord, after all. So, starting in 2005, we are going to age our characters. That means we are going to establish how old they are. Bruce Wayne is, hell, I don't know, 32. Dick Grayson is 21. Tim Drake is 15. Wally West is, what the hell, 26. Kyle Rayner is 24. That's just the way it is. That means in ten years, Bruce Wayne will be 42 and feeling his age. Yes, we're going to age the characters. That doesn't mean that each comic book will cover a month in the lives of these characters. If you want to write a story about the Flash that takes place entirely between the time a drop of water leaves a faucet and hits the bottom of the sink and spread it over four issues, knock yourself out. But time will pass. Maybe we'll have to jump a few months, but what the hell.

"What does this do, you say? Won't Batman die? He's not going to be 50 years old running around the rooftops of Gotham City! Well, no he's not, but that's part of the point. Bruce will have to decide if he's ready to quit. He's going to have to decide if he wants to pass the mantle on to Dick or Tim. He's going to have to see Diana stay the same age, and possibly Clark as well. We will see if Clark ages the same way as Lois does. Will he leave her to hook up with Diana? Will Bruce remain stubborn and die in an alley somewhere because he just can't keep up anymore? We're taking these stories out of Elseworlds, people, and putting them in the regular DC Universe.

"Why am I doing this? Change is good, people. Remember when the comics had some relevance? Remember when Flash Thompson went to the Vietnam War and how interesting it was that Lee worked it into the story and actually commented on it? Remember when the fact that Magneto was a Holocaust survivor actually had an impact on the stories? You can barely reference that story anymore! We're going to allow our writers to comment on the world around them. If Bruce Wayne wants to raise money for John McCain and his presidential run in 2008, fine. When people 100 years from now read those stories, they'll be able to place it in its proper historical context. If Tim Drake wants to go to a Christina Aguilera concert, he can. If Roy Harper wants to join the army to go fight in Iraq, we'll explore that. Real historical and public figures are fair game. Our comics need to get out of this pseudo-world they inhabit.

"This will also allow us to move forward. We can't be backward-looking, people. The age of canceling a title because it falls below two million copies sold is over. We have to understand that one golden age of comics is over, and we can't recapture it. Deal with it. If the body is sick, you cut out the cancer! Kids aren't reading comics because they simply don't care about characters that their parents are interested in. That's the way it is. Listen, I love the fans. I love the people who snatch up both covers of Infinite Crisis #2, because they're, well, suckers. I could publish a comic book with Superman sodomizing the pope and they'd buy it, board it, bag it, and argue endlessly about whether or not that gleam in Superman's eye means he's really digging it or whether it's a commentary on America's Middle East policy. I love those people who have bought every issue of The Brave and the Bold and scream because in issue #74 Green Arrow said "I have hemorrhoids" but in Infinity Crisis #5 he explicitly states he has never had hemorrhoids, just the clap. Let's face it, though - those people will die off, and they certainly won't breed, so we need to move on. If we age these characters and force our writers to come up with new ones - ones that have ties to the past, to be sure, because I'm not a complete tool - then the kids will be curious. We make comics relevant again. We make them stories kids want to read. The old-timers - hell, they're entrenched. We can't pry them away with a crowbar. All those H.E.A.T. members were probably still buying Green Lantern after we made Hal kooky!

"I hear some of you muttering. Shut up. We have manga, we have Vertigo, we have Wildstorm - I get it. Let those people go nuts with this. We want our superheroes to remain static. Well, shut up. Again. Heroes are all about overcoming odds and doing heroic things. Let's see them overcome the greatest odds of all - getting old! Everyone keeps bitching about heroes not acting like heroes anymore. Apparently, this Crisis thing is supposed to address that. Well, we know Batman is never going to die, so there is no tension in his stories. That's all over, because if the heroes can get old, they can die.

"That's right, death. I'm as sick of it as you are of the random deaths in our comics. Yes, these are fictional characters, so who really cares, but some people out there must have a scantily-clad poster of Phantom Lady on their bedroom wall, right, and are now standing on a bridge somewhere wondering if life is worth living? However, death is a part of life, and since we are making these characters slightly less iconic and, I would argue, more heroic in the process, death will be ever-present. If Bruce Wayne can age, he can die. If "Batman" becomes an ideal rather than the alter ego of one man, then a random gunshot can easily end Bruce's little crusade. Maybe Dick doesn't become Batman. Maybe ... the title actually ends. Maybe it doesn't. We're not bound to it, though. Are you telling me someone won't make a Batman movie just because we're not publishing the comic book? So characters will die. And because I'm completely unsentimental, they won't come back. I know Joey Q promised this a while back, but he's obviously full of shit (Colossus? Psylocke? Hawkeye, possibly? Fuck you, Joey Q) and you must beat him with a sock full of pennies if you ever see him roaming the back alleys of Manhattan. I am not full of shit. I am your Absolute Overlord. No one - no one - is safe! But because no one is safe, they will consider the consequences of their actions. Maybe someone - Buddy Baker? - doesn't rescue a cat from a burning building because he worries that no one will support his family if he dies. Is he still a hero? We'll explore that. Maybe the U.S. government takes out Aquaman because they're sick of his meddling with the surface dwellers. It's all up in the air!

"You may think I'm crazy. You may think I'm going to kill comics. You may think you are never going to read a Green Arrow book without Oliver Queen. I say you will. I say this will liberate our writers to explore these characters more three-dimensionally, and if that means sending Ollie to Seattle with Dinah to be florists (I loved that idea, but whiny fans kept wanting him to return to stupid Star City, and Fatboy Smith gave it to them), then more power to them. If that means Roy Harper arguing with Connor Hawke about who will take up the mantle of Green Arrow, so be it. If that means there are two Green Arrows running around, watch out! We have good writers, people. Rucka wrote Whiteout. Winnick wrote Pedro And Me. Johns wrote ... well, I'm sure he wrote something good - it'll come to me, don't tell me ... Willingham wrote Elementals. These guys aren't hacks. I am setting them free.

"That's Phase One. Wait until you see what's next. The New DC - there's no stopping us now! Oh, wait a minute - someone already used that one? Oh. Oh, and we're paying Alan Moore. Partly to shut him up, and partly because we wouldn't exist as a company without him. Leave us alone now, Alan. Write another impenetrable novel. That should keep you out of circulation for a while.

"Any questions?"

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32 Comments:

Anonymous Viking Bastard said...

I'd buy a comic where Superman sodomises the pope.

Heck, I'd buy many copies and give it to my friends.

11/11/2005 07:15:00 PM  
Anonymous RAB said...

Thanks for giving away the big plot twist in All-Star Superman, Viking Bastard. Thanks a LOT. I was hoping to be surprised!

11/11/2005 07:38:00 PM  
Anonymous The "No 'There' There" Alex Freakin' W. said...

"But Mom I don't want to buy Green Arrow! Ollie Queen isn't in it and it sucks!"
"Shush now Jimmy, our Absolute Overlord says we must, and you know we have to blindly obey his every utterance. He is so benevolent and generous to us all.

But I'll never forgive him for making Wonder Woman a lesbian."

- - -

Or rather, it sounds like some sort of totalitarian Zen Fascism. For comic books. Where do I sign up?

11/11/2005 07:49:00 PM  
Blogger T. said...

I dunno, I strongly disagree with most of what you say in this article. Aging and change works better in media where you have a singular vision, or at least a small, set committe. But in superhero comic books that last for decades, having significant change with so many creators involved is a recipe for disaster and ends up leading to future writers doing stories dedicated to reversing dumb mistakes.

If you have a series with one creator and a definite conclusion, change to your hearts content. Even worse is when you have hotshot creators who only stay on for one storyline or maybe 12 issues. If you give these hotshots free reign carte blanche over changing the status quo, but they aren't obligated to stick around and deal with the consequences, you get situations like Born Again by Frank Miller, where a hotshot creator changes and wrecks everything, gets kudos for the daring progressive "changes," and then leaves a mess for the next 10 years of creators to sort out.

An occasional Elseworlds tale or slight change is cool, but constant change doesn't work in open-ended continuity with hundreds of contributors. But what do I know? I'm the guy that thinks the Death of Gwen Stacy irrevocably ruined Spider-Man to this day.

11/11/2005 08:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Jesse said...

Waitasec, I thought real-time progression was gonna be the outcome of this whole Infinite Crisis thing. My sneaking suspicion is that "All-Star Superman" will be the sole Supes title post-"One Year Later" etc.

11/11/2005 08:39:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Now, T., you're a nice fellow and all that, but you're not Absolute Overlord! There is one vision in the new DC - mine. And I say you'll buy our new comics as much as our old ones, because they will be stories, not static paeans to long-dead icons. And if you don't - bah, that's not even an issue! You will!

I know you like bringing up "Born Again" as a reason why changing the status quo sucks. Well, let me tell you, ever since "Born Again," Daredevil has been interesting in ways that prior writers never thought to make him. Miller challenged Nocenti to follow up his arc, and her run was excellent, as was the first part of Chichester's, because they had to deal with the revamped status quo and make their stories work within that. Bendis has been doing the same thing - he hasn't had the balls to go as far as he should, but he's still examining what happens with this new reality. That's a good thing. In the new DC, we will have several writers, so there won't be one vision (I CAN be benevolent, after all), but in general, everything will be moving forward. I will make it so!

And Jason, I'll believe it when I see it. I know they're promising all sorts of changes after IC, but in a few years, I'm sure it will all sort itself out and we'll be back to the same old crap. This is why I have taken over! I will deliver on all their promises! Trust me!

Superman sodomizes the pope, by Warren Ellis and Sean Phillips. Look for it in early 2006.

11/11/2005 11:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best part about this? Someone actually had the stones to dis Alan Moore. (Yes, he's brilliant. Yes, he's written some seminal works. No, he doesn't shit gold, no matter what his legion of sychophants may say...)

11/12/2005 12:46:00 AM  
Blogger T. said...

"I know you like bringing up "Born Again" as a reason why changing the status quo sucks. Well, let me tell you, ever since "Born Again," Daredevil has been interesting in ways that prior writers never thought to make him. Miller challenged Nocenti to follow up his arc, and her run was excellent, as was the first part of Chichester's, because they had to deal with the revamped status quo and make their stories work within that. Bendis has been doing the same thing - he hasn't had the balls to go as far as he should, but he's still examining what happens with this new reality."

I actually love Bendis' changing of the status quo, even tho I hated Miller's changes. Why? Because Bendis made a major change and then stuck with the consequences and rode it out. This subconsciously made him rein it in, because he knew whatever changes he made had to be workable since he was the one that'd have to deal with the fallout. It's the same thing that makes developments in books with a singular vision good: the writer of, say, Naruto or One Piece or Akira knows that if he writes a development that has good short-term shocks but sucky long-term potential, he's the writer that has to deal with it. No passing of the baton. Miller knew he wasn't staying long-term on Daredevil or even past his storyline, so he did a crazy, extreme story that worked short-term but wasn't really workable long-term. So I just add this: I somewhat support your decree about change, as long as writers who institute these changes exhibit some long-range plan and deal with whatever fallout comes from these storylines.

11/12/2005 12:57:00 AM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

I know it's considered inappropriate to say this, but I've always thought that these characters (especially Batman) should age.

You simply change that one tiny rule, and suddenly there are so many stories to tell, and that's what this medium is about isn't it? Telling stories?

Superman tackling Luthor for the upteenth time doesn't interest me a jot. Superman dealing with Lois growing old and dying while he just carries on sounds great.

11/12/2005 04:31:00 AM  
Blogger ninjawookie said...

I do read about middle aged-to old farts wearign superhero comics.

they're called alex ross drawn comics.

frankly it disgusts me, have you seen the toyline, who wants to be saved by an old fart who hasn't had an erection in 30 years>>?

granted they look great, but shit! his models have aged!

if anything, batman should move on to international crime, gotham city has become too small for him. whose going to care about batman even if he did die...shit it'd be the death of superman all over again, except no one would care, because they wouldn;t fall for the same trick twice...or would they?

I feel sorry for kyle rayner though, who wants to work on new characters if you get death threats all the time?

I wouldn;t want Bruce wayne to not be batman, if he remained 28 years old forever i wouldn't care, i'd just want him to branch out more and learn shit as he went along and build on that.

11/12/2005 10:15:00 AM  
Blogger ninjawookie said...

change superhero comics to costumes above. i am not at this time

11/12/2005 10:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...

I'm torn on this because on the whole I prefer comics to come from, as T. puts it, a "singular vision," where something like aging can be handled gracefully. Yes, the main reason why these characters never age is the economic reason - the companies want to milk them for as long as they can - but the creative/editorial reason is there too: since nobody working on these characters now has created them or worked on a definitive run, nobody has the balls to sign their death certificates. As a reader I'd also be pretty nervous at the notion of handing the deaths of major characters over to serious hacks who got the gig through odd hits of the editorial bong: Bill Willingham snuffing Superman, Chuck Austen dusting Bruce Wayne - not pretty.

The "major change" I'd like to see would be in the opposite direction: multiple ongoing comics with their own separate continuity and tone. If you want a light-hearted, Silver Age-style Batman with Bat-Mites and pink aliens, go for it. Right next to it I'll have my gritty Robinless urban street detective, and right next to that is the crazy Millerian Bat-tank-driving borderline pedophile. Something for everyone! Plus, if any of the writers on those titles wants to kill off the main characters, they're free to do so. Like the man said, they're all imaginary stories.

Somewhat off-topic: when did it start being established that Superman is supposed to be immortal? We've obviously never seen this in the comics precisely because the characters never age. Was the idea of a Superman who never ages (or ages very slowly) first floated in Dark Knight, or what?

11/12/2005 10:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...

Also, I'll take this opportunity to endorse Tim O'Neil's alternate editorial plan.

11/12/2005 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger CalvinPitt said...

It sounds very impressive, but what happens when the Absolute Overlord ages and dies? Will he have a successor in place to maintain his vision, or will the writers at that time (little Geoff Johns *shudder*) simply reset it?

I can't say I've got a problem with this, as the few DC characters I truly care about are all pretty young (How old is the Ray in this scenario? Is he older than Kyle?), and it would be interesting to see how it changes over time, though I think the Superman's aging versus Lois' has already been covered by Infinite Crisis (she's bedridden, he's still zooming around sodomizing popes and being a pompus ass).

I do have three requests of our great and powerful Absolute Overlord. One, please bring back Spoiler before instituting the aging and dead means dead policy. Two, don't let Barbra Gordon take the Batgirl title away from Cassandra. Three, please take over Marvel as well, and humble us with your wisdom there as well.

11/12/2005 10:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From deep within their bunker at an undiscosed location comes this unsigned dispatch from the Rebel Alliance:

1) This boat has already sailed. We've had non-aging heroes for more than 50 years, and now superheroes are firmly established as being beyond the reach of mere time, just like Blondie or the Simpson. As with brightly colored underwear or really dumb names, it's an established convention of the genre. Nobody wants to see Superman using a walker: just ask James Bond.

2) Funny how whenever some suggests heroes should age "realistically" they always end up saying, "starting now." Nobody ever says, "Of course, Bruce Wayne will be in his late 80s--which is what he'd be if he started being Batman in 39--or maybe in his 50s--which is what he'd be if he started 'ten years ago' in '86."

The attitude seems to be, "Lord, let me grow up--but not yet. I want to be young and foolish a little longer."

If you really think being old is so amazingly interesting, have the courage of your convictions and make the old characters old.

3) The assumption seems to be that aging forces character development. This is not true either in fiction or in real life. In real life there are plenty of old coots who haven't gained an ounce of depth or wisdom since they graduated from high school.

And in fiction there's no reason why characters can't develop without aging. All that's required is that the writers have the characters remember and learn from their experiences. If that isn't already happening with the characters, it's certainly not going to start happening just because editorial policy mandates the heroes gain some wrinkles.

4) If writers want to explore the ramifications of heroes getting older, there's already a way: Elseworlds. The fact that "The Funeral of Lois Lane" or "Flash Breaks a Hip" haven't joined Watchmen or Dark Knight Returns on the list of all-time classics suggests the audience for this sort of story is limited. Aging and adventure fiction just don't make a great cocktail.

5) Speaking of Dark Knight Returns, that story was *supposedly* about Batman getting older. In fact it turned out to be about Batman continuing to be the godamned Batman, and the hell with age. You can expect to see a lot more of this if you force the characters to get older. "Sure, Bruce Wayne is now 104. But he's a *young* 104. And he can kick your ass!" (For that matter, just look at any issue of JSA right now.)

6) Every time I see someone say, "The great thing about DC is that there are plenty of supporting characters who can take the main characters place" I think: "Why are these people reveling in DC's greatest weakness?"

Take Marvel. No one would dream of saying, "OK, we'll have someone else take over for Spider-man, the Thing, and Wolverine." That's because Peter Parker *is* Spider-man, Ben Grimm *is* the Thing, Logan *is* Wolverine. In those cases giving someone else the powers and the costume is not remotely the same thing as continuing the character.

Over at DC, though, the assumption seems to be that all you need to do to continue the legacy is hand the baton to a supporting cast member. Which is a pretty good sign that that the people under the mask aren't that interesting to begin with. Rather than forcing Hawkman to age and pass on the torch to Hawkbaby, I'd suggest devoting your efforts to making whoever's under the Hawkman mask so compelling that everyone wants to hear more stories about him.

11/12/2005 11:38:00 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

It appears that some of you are questioning the Absolute Will of the Absolute Overlord. You're just damned lucky you're out their Internet land - if this were a board meeting I'd go Lucy Liu in Kill Bill Vol. 1 on your asses!

T., as usual, brings up a good point - short runs on titles by creators. In Phase Two, I'll discuss talent, but suffice it to say - no more six- or twelve-issue arcs for a certain creative team! It's long haul time, people!

As for your Absolute Overlord dying, well, I have always planned to live forever (since reading Jitterbug Perfume, I realize that dying is a habit, and I just have to break it) but in the unlikely case that the Rebel Alliance rises up and snuffs me out, I have contingency plans, believe you me! The Vision of the Absolute Overlord will last long after all of us are dust!

Fret not, Calvinpitt - as Absolute Overlord, I can change any wrong-headed idiocy and keep any wrong-headed idiocy I choose, and the whole Spoiler/Leslie Tompkins crap is wrong-headed idiocy of the worst kind. And Barbara Gordon is much more interesting as Oracle, so she stays. And we'll get to Marvel soon enough ...

And then there's the damned Rebel Alliance. Oh, you rogues - I'll find you, I swear it! First: nothing is "established" - if superheroes were still so established their book sales wouldn't be plummeting. Second, I considered having the characters age from their inception, but the shock would be too great for you sheep out there! Bruce Wayne would already be dead. I am a benevolent Absolute Overlord, so I want to give you a time to adjust. If you want me to be Evil Absolute Overlord, fine. Bruce is sitting in a nursing home at 96 years old. Do you want me to be Evil? Do you???? Third, if the characters don't gain any insight through the years, that's still better than what we have now. Some interesting JSA comics (I think, since I don't read them, but I remember it happened somewhere) have the old characters wondering what the hell they're doing still fighting out there. And wasn't it nice to see Ted and Jack Knight's relationship develop and Ted have a noble death? Wasn't it???? Finally, the reason DC's supporting characters aren't interesting is the same reason that the sad Mormon kids in the Fundamentalist Mormon town in northern Arizona have problems: the older men don't let them have the teenagers, because they want them! (That's a true story, by the way, and your Absolute Overlord doesn't mean to be flip about it, because it's a horrible situation.) The supporting characters in the DCU are neutered by the fact that they can neve forge their own identities. Tim Drake will always be a teenager and it doesn't matter how nicely his own book does, he's always going to be a little kid who dresses up like a chirping songbird. This new policy will allow the writers to explore both the main characters are their relationships with the next generation.

Oh, Rebel Alliance - if I ever find you!!!! Oh, the horrors that will be visited upon you! Geoff Johns will read his one-man surrealist play aloud to you!

11/12/2005 12:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...

I also have to raise an objection to the notion that certain stories are automatically going to be awesome. Lois Lane getting old and dying while Superman goes on? Sounds cool! Will it be actually good? Depends, who's going to write it? Alan Moore would proably make it a good story, but Alan Moore made a Rob Liefield character entertaining. Is Geoff Johns writing it? Count me out. Here's a story that sounds great in the abstract: the clone Spiderman fought years ago comes back claiming to be the real deal and throws Peter Parker into a major identity crisis. What an awesome-sounding story! Except we've read it and we know it was shit.

Bigger problem: the Death of Lois story, how long does that take to tell in real life? Let's say Lois is thirty-five right now. She can expect to live a good forty-odd years before we see a real payoff to this aging thing - that is, her death, which is what we're really talking about. Talk about decompression! Do they have a trade big enough to collect that? Hell, even Cerebus didn't take that long to write. In the meantime you're talking about writing the same damn stories that've been done in a lot of Elseworlds and "imaginary stories" - and hoping that Work-For-Hire Goon #852 will do it better than Frank Miller or John Byrne.

In the end this is little more than the peculiarly fanboyish cult of continuity, which maintains that events which "happen" in Batman or Detective Comics are somehow more "real" than events that "happen" in The Dark Knight Returns, which is no sillier than the rival school that wants Bruce Wayne to be in his mid-thirties forever.

11/12/2005 12:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...

Tim Drake will always be a teenager and it doesn't matter how nicely his own book does, he's always going to be a little kid who dresses up like a chirping songbird.

I submit this reveals more a problem with Robin than with the non-aging nature of superhero comics. Robin was never introduced as "the character who will one day take over for Batman when Batman dies." He was introduced as "a little kid who dresses up as a chirping songbird so that little kids reading comic books can identify with him." Today kids don't need sidekicks to identify with superheroes; hell, as early as the sixties Marvel found sidekicks to be pretty much superfluous, which is why you had Peter Parker identifying as Spider-man instead of Spider-boy; kids were ready to make the leap to identifying with the main character.

Ditto to anonymous, especially on his 6th point. All DC does with its legacy characters is dilute its main characters. To hell with the superfluous legion of Superchildren and Bat-understudies.

11/12/2005 12:22:00 PM  
Blogger T. said...

In the Golden Age Batman books there were recurring "imaginary" stories where Dick Grayson becomes the new Batman and Bruce Wayne's red-headed son becomes the new Robin. Grant Morrison even paid tribute to these stories with an arc in JLA where Time Drake became Batman and Batman's red-headed son became the new Robin. So it's been implied early on that Robin would take Batman's place as an adult.

11/12/2005 01:48:00 PM  
Blogger T. said...

"I also have to raise an objection to the notion that certain stories are automatically going to be awesome. Lois Lane getting old and dying while Superman goes on? Sounds cool! Will it be actually good? Depends, who's going to write it? Alan Moore would proably make it a good story, but Alan Moore made a Rob Liefield character entertaining. Is Geoff Johns writing it? Count me out. Here's a story that sounds great in the abstract: the clone Spiderman fought years ago comes back claiming to be the real deal and throws Peter Parker into a major identity crisis. What an awesome-sounding story! Except we've read it and we know it was shit."

See, this is the "singular vision" problem I have when instituting long-term change. Knowing that changes are coming is cool if you know good people are going to be at the helm whenever these changes come. For example, Peter Parker got older and graduated to college and that was all good and exciting under the guiding eye of Stan and Steve. Reed and Sue of the FF got married and had a child and the FF kept improving because the book was in the capable hands of Stan and Jack.

I'd love to see Peter Parker grow, date and marry and have kids as long as it's under the eyes of capable creators like Stan and Steve. Heck, Goku from Dragonball Z started as a tot at the beginning of the series and was a grown married man with two children, one a teenager, by the series end, yet the comic only grew in popularity and ended at its peak. So characters growing isn't necessarily a death knell. However, if I knew a hack like David Michilinie (one of the worst Spider writers ever, and I'm including fanfic) was going to be handling the seminal moments of Peter Parker's growth and maturation, suddenly having change occur in my comics would seem like a bad idea.

For example, the anything-goes, change-heavy world of Ultimates seemed cool under Millar, but now Loeb is taking over for what will be a guaranteed terrible run and I suddenly remember the bad points of a malleable status quo.

11/12/2005 01:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Jesse Hochstadt said...

"In the Golden Age Batman books there were recurring "imaginary" stories where Dick Grayson becomes the new Batman and Bruce Wayne's red-headed son becomes the new Robin."

Yeah, but Iron Lungfish was talking about what Robin was when he was introduced, not as he developed later in the Golden Age. As to the impossibility of aging Tim Drake because once-a-Robin-always-a-Robin: Nightwing? Admittedly, the more sidekicks you've racked up, the older you've got to be when you take on your next one.

"Grant Morrison even paid tribute to these stories with an arc in JLA where Time Drake became Batman and Batman's red-headed son became the new Robin."

Ah, the inter-corporate genius of Grant Morrison: incorporating Time Drake, the Disney equivalent of Marvel's Kang the Conqueror, into a DC universe story!

Am I the only person to have noticed that "Tim Drake" is an anagram for "Dark Mite"?

11/12/2005 02:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...

In the Golden Age Batman books there were recurring "imaginary" stories where Dick Grayson becomes the new Batman and Bruce Wayne's red-headed son becomes the new Robin.

That may have been the point where the "Robin is Batman's successor" meme came from, but Robin wasn't initially introduced as Batman's replacement - he was his kid partner. I would also suggest that the introduction of a "Batman replacement" meme was a mistake, although it wasn't like the creators were treating the books as much like holy writ as current writers do now. The point is that it ultimately makes Batman a costume instead of a character, and means that anybody who inherits the cowl is as much Batman as the guy who had his parents gunned down in Crime Alley.

Frankly, were it up to me I would've ditched Robin altogether after Jason Todd got killed. Training a child to fight criminals in the Golden Age is one thing; recruiting a third child to fight killers and psychopaths after the last one has just gotten beaten to death with a crowbar is insane at best and immoral at worst.

11/12/2005 02:49:00 PM  
Anonymous thekamisama said...

DC can promise the moon, Won't make it happen that way. I hate continuity so thats why this "new" Crisis is a love/hate thing. At least with the oringinal we saw heroes rise to the challenge of defending EVERYTHING. People might have gotten pissed at the deaths, but dammit those deaths defined the heroic ideal to me. Real heroes die. Its a fact, that is why we call them heroes.
Just remember kiddos, twenty years ago they promised after they killed off the old multiverse that there would be no Supergirl, Krypto, or Phantom Zone either.. all those things came back over time. Aging characters will last only as long as editorial whims decree. Frankly I think they are just looking fo an excuse to do a "Ultimate" style relaunch in about 5 years.....

11/12/2005 05:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Eli said...

"Why am I doing this? Change is good, people. Remember when the comics had some relevance? Remember when Flash Thompson went to the Vietnam War and how interesting it was that Lee worked it into the story and actually commented on it? Remember when the fact that Magneto was a Holocaust survivor actually had an impact on the stories? You can barely reference that story anymore! We're going to allow our writers to comment on the world around them."

This is a complete non sequiter. What does any of that have to do with aging the characters, which would be a horrible idea for all the obvious reasons.

11/12/2005 05:53:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Don't be flinging around those fancy Latin terms, Eli - I was reading obscure texts by Alcuin when you were a zygote! It's not a non sequitur, anyway - in the early Marvel stuff, people actually aged - Peter Parker went from high school to college in the first, what, seven or eight years of the title, and it was fascinating to watch the progression as he grew. Then Marvel became as entrenched as DC and current events were never spoken of again. The fact that Flash was in Vietnam made him more interesting. The fact that all those people grew up in front of you made them more interesting. The fact that Magneto was in the Holocaust added so much to his character and made him much more sympathetic. Now? He's a stupid one-note villain. That's right - STUPID ONE-NOTE VILLAIN! If we allow these characters to age, we can start referencing current events again and how these people react to them. Does anyone know Bruce Wayne's political leanings? No. Does anyone know what kind of music Dick Grayson likes? No. Does anyone know how Clark Kent feels about failing to stop September 11? No. We know how Mitchell Hundred feels about it, because Ex Machina is firmly rooted in a time and place. As Absolute Overlord of DC, if Vaughan and Harris ever stop slowly aging the character, I will have them dipped in honey and staked to anthills.

11/12/2005 07:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...

Non-aging really doesn't stop the characters from commenting on current events at all. Batman could be a political character right now if Greg Rucka wanted him to be. Hell, Frank Miller has him as a borderline anarchist sparring with a Reagan clone in The Dark Knight, and the political commentary of that book was entirely independent of the fact that the characters were old. Magneto is still a Holocaust survivor; nobody retconned that away. He didn't become a "stupid one-note villain" because he stopped having a WWII connection; he became a stupid, one-note character because he started being written that way.

Again, it all comes down to writing. You take aging as some magical panacea that's going to make everything better, but really, it would just be a fairly simple, fairly stupid gimmick. The "aging Superman" and "dead Batman" stories done as Elseworlds have all had the advantage of being written by individual creators who could tell single, coherent stories; your plan would have swapped-out sets of committees writing this over a period of decades. It's a recipe for crap. Everything you want done with regards to character development can be done by better writing and more risk-taking when it comes to looser continuity (i.e., stop caring that Peter Parker's been the same age for the last thirty years so "how could he possibly have commented on Vietnam!!!", because it's a damn superhero book).

11/12/2005 08:47:00 PM  
Anonymous thekamisama said...

ahmen lungfish.
can i get a witness?

11/12/2005 09:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Eli said...

Lungfish is absolutely right - there's just no connection between aging characters and giving books political content.

We know Mitchell Hundred's views because his book is firmly rooted in time and place? That's funny, I would have thought that it was because Mitchell Hundred is a mayor. I'm not really sure how he's been subtly aged, as the book has covered all of about one year of his time in office. And it was made clear from the beginning that the entire series would only cover, what, 4 years? Not exactly a luxury we can afford Spider-Man.

I tend to think ham-handed attempts to be politically relevant are usually a sign of bad, manipulative, cheap writing in comics. Maybe you loved Bendis's "OMG 9/11" issue of USM, but I could do without that kind of pandering. When superhero comics choose to incorporate political content and do it well, great - that's been the case with the Ultimates of late and I've loved it. But it's certainly not a good in and of itself, and you don't have to age characters in real time to do it.

11/13/2005 02:35:00 AM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

People might have gotten pissed at the deaths [in Crisis], but dammit those deaths defined the heroic ideal to me. Real heroes die.

And only the male ones get remembered! ;)

11/13/2005 09:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Eli said...

Correction to my earlier comment: Meant ASM and JMS, not USM and Bendis. Goes to show how closely I follow either.

11/13/2005 04:43:00 PM  
Blogger Dean Hacker said...

I am of two minds on the subject.

On the one hand, when I hear that writer x, or artist y, is doing Batman, I pick it up for a specific reason. I want to see their take on the cast I expect.

On the other hand, heroic stories need an ending. The reason folks love stories like 'Dark Knight Returns'. The Bruce Wayne/Batman story is a tragedy. He is human. He will get old. If he doesn't stop, then one day his reactions will be just a step slow. For an athlete, that is the end of his career. For Batman, that means he dies in exactly the same manner as his parents. The end of the story is what makes the middle interesting.

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