Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Anatomy of a bad comic book - Superman/Batman: Public Enemies

We try, here at the blog, to highlight the good in comics (hence the name). However, sometimes it's necessary to examine the bad, not to be snotty or snarky, but to understand why something is bad, not just that it is bad. Therefore, we can understand better why something is good. See how it all works? So, I want to take a look at the first six issues of Superman/Batman, conveniently collected in a trade paperback, and explain why it's not very good.

Some readers would say, "Well, it's written by Jeph Loeb, so of course it must be bad." But that's just like saying, "Frank Miller's Batman is a meanie, so that comic is bad." It's not good enough. Loeb isn't a great writer by any means, but he's not the worst writer in the world, either. He can certainly put a story together. But he falters a lot, too.

The trade begins with a two-page vignette that showed up in Superman/Batman Secret Files. I'm not going to discuss it, because it's too silly and relies too much on coincidence, even in a comic-book universe, which often relies on coincidence. The actual issues of Superman/Batman begin with four pages recapping our heroes' origins. I read it and got a bit of a sinking feeling. If you are reading this comic, you are a fanboy geek. You know every tiny detail about both these characters, and do not need their origins retold for the billionth time. Loeb is trying to set up the dichotomy between them and the fact that they share an unlikely friendship, but this is a place where comic book writers can rely on continuity and shorthand - anyone reading the book knows all of this already, and there's no point in wasting our time. It's kind of like doing character development in JLA - one of the reasons Morrison's run was so fun was because he didn't care about character development, as it was being done in the characters' core books. When Superman and Batman team up, character development is largely unnecessary beyond what occurs in the flow of the narrative, because we can turn to their own books if we want it.

So. Not a good start. The entire first issue and a good deal of the second is devoted to a MacGuffin - namely, Metallo and whether or not he had anything to do with the Waynes' murders. Superman fights him in Metropolis, he shows up in Gotham, Superman and Batman team up to beat on him a while, he shoots Superman with a Kryptonite bullet, the heroes flee to the Batcave, where Bruce fixes Clark up nice. This entire sequence is very tangential to the main plot, yet Loeb allows us to think it's much more important than it is. There's nothing wrong with misdirection, but a 20-some pages devoted to it gets annoying. He ties it in at the end, but it feels tacked on and remains inconsequential. The only reason for it, as far as I can tell, is to get Superman and Batman to hook up in Gotham so that when Luthor declares Superman Public Enemy #1, he can team up with Batman. There had to be a better way to get them together than the long, ultimately dead-end plot with Metallo. I don't mind the use of Metallo, just the quasi-importance placed upon him and the length of the plot. Yes, it's all about writing for the trade, and this story had to be six issues long, so the Metallo plot, which could have taken up half of the first issue, was stretched to an issue and change.

The main plot involves a Kryptonite asteroid headed for Earth that will destroy all life on the planet. This is when Loeb starts to strain our suspension of disbelief even more. I can handle the fact that an asteroid made of Superman's planet happens to be heading directly for the planet on which he landed, although the odds are so overwhelmingly against it that my head spins. Like I said, it's a comic book, and coincidences are what make comics fun. However, President Luthor goes on television and offers a billion-dollar reward for anyone bringing Superman into custody. Why? Because, he says, the asteroid is heading to Earth because of Superman. He offers no proof of this. He doesn't say that Superman pushed the asteroid toward the Earth. He doesn't even say that the asteroid is somehow sentient and is coming to kill Superman. He is saying that if you live in Florida and a hurricane is heading your way, we need to arrest you because you're responsible for all the death it's going to cause.

I'm not joking. I wish I were. Now, by the end of the book Loeb has pretty much established that Luthor has gone completely 'round the bend. Fine. However, nobody challenges him on this. Amanda Waller doesn't challenge him on this. The Waller I remember didn't necessarily like superheroes, but she wasn't the sniveling little sycophant who stands there and doesn't object when Luthor kisses her on the mouth instead of bashing his head in. Captain Atom and the rest of the superheroes Luthor sends after Superman don't object. Lois Lane objects, but she does so rather timidly. The general public doesn't object. Surprisingly, the general public is completely absent from this book. There's the government, the villains who try to stop Superman and collect a billion dollars, Superman and Batman, and the press (Lois). There's no page of various talking heads (the standard cliché in comics to show "the man on the street") expressing their opinions about Luthor's declaration. This is a bit surprising, because in The Challengers of the Unknown, a comic I strongly recommend, Loeb goes out of his way to show how a smear campaign against the Challengers plays to the general public. I can't imagine anyone in the United States buying Luthor's statement. Most people in the U.S. are distrustful of a) government; b) big business. Luthor represents both those camps. Perhaps Loeb is making a subtle statement on the press and the public's attitude toward President Bush in the lead-up to the Iraq war, and how no one questioned the intelligence. Maybe. If he is, he needs to stay out of social commentary, especially on this book, which is not the place for it. Anyway, not challenging the president on the war, with its many different viewpoints and murky gray areas, is a lot different than the president coming on television and saying America's greatest hero is a going to kill us all. Even Barry Bonds, who by all accounts is a huge jerk and may be a huge cheater, has a great number of fans and defenders. Superman, who has very publicly saved the world more times than people can count, would gain huge public support, and unless Luthor came up with some iron-clad proof of his claims (he never does), his scheme would be stillborn.

So Superman and Batman have a plan to stop the asteroid. Yay! Captain Atom leads a bunch of second-rate heroes to bring them to justice, and Supes and Bats steal Power Girl and Katana away to help them implement their plan. Fine and dandy. We never figure out, however, how they convinced them to switch sides. Katana, at least, says she's loyal to Japan and wants to save it, but that's kind of weak. These two just go with our heroes and trust them, even though a few minutes earlier they were fighting them and trying to arrest them. All of the other government heroes, Major Force excepted (and he's a jerk anyway), eventually kind of back down. This is poorly done because there's no reason for them to fight Superman and Batman in the first place, except that Luthor ordered them to. If they're heroes, they're going to be more inclined to help Superman and Batman, especially because one would think they've been privy to Luthor's evil-doing in the past, and just because he's president doesn't mean he's not still evil. Again, logic is thrown out the window for short-term drama, but there is no drama because we can't believe these heroes would try to arrest Supes and Bats. When they do switch, it makes more sense from the viewpoint of that's what their characters would do, but it doesn't make sense from a story point of view, because Loeb doesn't have any of them say, "Hey, wait a minute - this is Superman and Batman! Why aren't we helping them?" Then the JSA gets involved, with tortured logic that Luthor will turn against all the superheroes if they don't help bring in Superman and Batman. Yeah, that's a good reason to turn against them. Sigh. Captain Marvel and Hawkman "supposedly" bring in Superman and Batman, but there is a lot of table-turning, and it shakes out that Supes and Bats impersonate Marvel and Hawkman to get into the White House. Superman confronts Luthor, and this pushes the president over the edge to the point where he decides to put on his funky green-and-purple armor and kick some Kryptonian ass on his own! Whoo-hoo!

The final issue is the fight between Superman and Luthor and the final fate of the asteroid. Earlier on, a future Superman arrived in the Batcave and tried to convince the heroes that the course of action they would take would be wrong. Now, again, you could argue that this Superman, who because of what he did saw the entire world die (he failed somehow to stop the asteroid), is a bit unhinged. So he simply tries to kill Superman and Batman instead of explaining himself. Maybe. But the fact that he attacks them instead of saying "Hey, wait a minute - I just want to tell Superman that he can't fly the rocket!" (we'll get to the rocket) is just dumb, but it's necessary for Loeb to keep the dramatic tension afloat. But he's keeping it afloat artificially, and that's no good. Later, Captain Atom gets transported into the future, where he has a chat with Superman. They have a reasonable conversation, which allows Captain Atom to understand what needs to be done. No fisticuffs! If the future Superman had been so reasonable earlier, the whole story would have fallen apart. Again, illogical.

Anyway, Superman and Batman have drafted the Toyman to help them. I know nothing about this Toyman, who's a teenager, but I will say that the solution to the problem is so unbelievably stupid I almost had a stroke. Apparently, in less than a week (actually, the entire six issues appears to take place in about a day, but I'll be generous and call it a week), Toyman has built a "composite Superman/Batman rocket ship!" It's made of Metallo, the only alloy strong enough to get close to the asteroid, and it has fists, so whoever pilots it will simply ... punch the asteroid. So that it blows up.

Yes, you're reading correctly. Now, ignoring the fact that it's quite possibly the dumbest idea to stop an asteroid since Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck starred in an idiotic movie about an asteroid, the Toyman built this in a week? Using Bruce Wayne's money? When did Batman even have a chance to set it up? As I mentioned, from the way the story is structured, it appears we have been following our heroes the entire way. At no time does Batman say, "Let me call Lucius Fox real quick ..." At least then we could believe he set it up. Loeb hides this from us, but he doesn't even give himself an out, something he could point to and say, "Right here is when they made their plans." The only time, possibly, is between issues #2 and 3, because Luthor makes his statement during the day and Supes and Bats begin their assault on the White House at night. However, Loeb never says, "We made some plans ..." or anything like that. It's just sloppy storytelling. And it appears that their grand plan would take a little longer than an afternoon to pull together.

Captain Atom comes back from the future and pilots the spaceship. He knocks out Clark with Batman's Kryptonite ring and takes his place. The future Superman told him that if he, Superman, piloted the craft, everyone dies, so Captain Atom does the right thing and takes his place. Superman goes and has a nice beat-down with Luthor, who reveals his insanity to the world and loses his presidency in the process. Batman informs Luthor that Bruce Wayne has bought up all his assets, and Luthor has not only lost the presidency, but all his money. Then Luthor disappears. Captain Atom, meanwhile, smashes into the asteroid and destroys it. He has come back to life (if he ever technically "died") but no one makes any mention of his sacrifice. It's weird. Pete Ross becomes president. I'm sure when he was made vice-president some writer explained how he became VP in the first place, but Pete Ross as VP or prez makes no sense. Amanda Waller is imprisoned. I'm not sure why. Luthor shows up at the very end, down in the sewer somewhere, muttering about a "crisis." This is actually a nice touch, and shows again that DC did have this whole Crisis thing brewing for years before unleashing it on us. I don't like it, but I admire their foresight. Unless it's just Loeb fucking with us. Maybe.

It's a shame that this is a bad book. It could be a lively superhero slugfest, but Loeb drops the ball on seemingly simplistic things. The logic is flawed, the characters don't act like they should, and the premise is ultimately stupid. And this is often DC's #1-selling book. What does that say about us, the comic-buying public? I don't know. I just don't know.

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40 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought the implication was that none of the heroes (save Major Force and Captain Atom) were really working for Luthor, but rather playing along to try to find more information.

2/07/2006 01:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Jer said...

It's been a long while since I read this (all in one go in the trade), but I believe that the implication I got was the same as the anonymous one above - the non-government heroes were "playing along" to try to figure out how to help Superman, somehow.

This is a big, dumb action comic. I like how you tie it to Armageddon (the dumb movie about the asteroid) because its the comic book equivalent of that. The characterization is super-shallow, but there's still faux-characterization going on throughout it (like a dumb action movie). The leaps in logic make no sense and serve only to get the next "cool action scene" underway.

None of this is inherently bad, really, just very shallow. This could have been much better with a bit of a buffing of the motivation and an explanation for why Luthor was acting like an idiot (I assume that Alexander Luthor must have been in the background somewhere now, since they're saying that Luthor acts like an idiot whenever he's around). Oh, and if the writer had killed the impulse to model the rocket on the rocket Superman had in the old Superfriends cartoon, that might have helped to.

As it stands, I can't look at this as anything more than a six-issue lead in to the Supergirl storyline. Like Loeb had the idea for the kryptonite meteor shower accompanying her rocket and decided to extend that for six issues. Really, this could have easily been a 3-issue story. And, having it be a punchy 3-issue story followed by a slimmed down, 3-issue version of the Supergirl story would have improved BOTH stories, really.

2/07/2006 02:22:00 PM  
Blogger Iagorune said...

Oddly enough I actually got a real kick out of this one.

Now I grant you that I can't argue with a single point you made about the complete lack of logic, continuity or common sense in the damm thing but at the same time, the 8 year old boy in me really had a good time with it.

And I really liked the new Toyman, let alone his big toy.

- rick

2/07/2006 02:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Dan Coyle said...

You know, I get the feeling that Loeb isn't incompetent, like Ron Marz. He just can't be bothered to be respectful for his audience's intelligence. Like most screenwriters. That's not the only thing wrong with him, but that's a big part.

It depresses me. And another thing: considering how well his books sell, and how much Wizard sucks up to him, why doesn't he try more creator owned stuff? Why does he have only one creator owned project in print?

2/07/2006 02:29:00 PM  
Blogger gorjus said...

Dan made a good point, as did this (fantastic) post: why make us out to be stupid?

See, I don't have superpowers. I am the "guy on the street." So if the president declared war on my favorite hero--or ANY hero--I am going to view that with the UTMOST suspicion.

And if I've fought alongside him before and actually revere him? Yeah. Not happening.

I hate it when they make the "public" stupid, and the other heroes. This is a lame-ass Silver Age plot that should be left in the 60's.

2/07/2006 02:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Miles said...

One think you forgot to mention about future Superman is that he's dressed like Kingdom Come Superman, plus has the grey temples.

After the first issue, I was going to drop the book, but I flipped through the second issue and thought I saw KC Supes, so I decided to stick around to see how the book was going to tie into KC.

Of course, it turns out not to be KC Supes, so I felt kind of cheated. I didn't care for the book much, but they suckered me in. Why did they have to use a familar costume for future Superman that throws off the reader?

2/07/2006 02:52:00 PM  
Blogger markus said...

With all due respect to you and the site, I found the critique rather unsatisfying.
As jer said, this is a big dumb action comic, it isn't trying to be particularly coherent or logical. Now of course errors on the scale you mentioned deserve ridicule, but it's simply not that important over all, if a creative product fails in one of its minor objectives, as long as it delivers on the core objectives. Unfortunately, they critique doesn't say a lot about these main objectives, and thus leaves me wanting as an "anatomy of a bad comic book".

2/07/2006 03:13:00 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

"Perhaps Loeb is making a subtle statement on the press and the public's attitude toward President Bush in the lead-up to the Iraq war, and how no one questioned the intelligence."

Given that this was probably written in early 2002, back when everyone really *believed* Iraq had WMDs, I doubt it.

Markus: Maggie Thompson says that there are three things a critic should concern himself with: what a work is trying to do, whether it succeeds, and whether or not it was worth doing in the first place. I think the crux of Greg's argument is that Public Enemies doesn't meet criterion three.

Or, in less high-falutin' terms, the fact that it doesn't try to be particularly coherent or logical is in itself a failing.

2/07/2006 03:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Dan Coyle said...

I can give you an example of a far better "Big dumb action comic" (which in the post-WEF era is a term that has uncomfortable amounts of self-loathing in it IMO)- Robert Kirkman's Marvel Team-Up. Ridiculous shit happens in that book yet I never feel my intelligence is insulted. I don't feel that Kirkman, while obviously a big Marvel fanboy, isn't using old characters as a crutch, like Loeb did with the "KC" Superman.

2/07/2006 03:27:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

I love big dumb action comics. This is trying to be one, and on a certain level, it succeeds. However, it's TOO dumb. I can buy illogic in my comics - this is a world in which a man can fly, after all - but the big illogical things are part of what you accept when you read superhero books. The little things are what make anything work, and that's where Loeb drops the ball. The main objective, as Jer points out, seems to be to get Supergirl to Earth. I doubt if we needed six issues to do that.

And I didn't get that the other superheroes were pretending to work with Luthor until they could figure it out. That makes a whole lot of sense, especially when Power Girl mentions how slimy she felt when she was in the room with Luthor, but I bet a lot of people who work with Bush or worked with Clinton found them unctuous and did it anyway. If Loeb wants to say they were simply biding their time, that's fine - but I didn't get that from the text.

2/07/2006 03:58:00 PM  
Blogger Cheeseburger said...

I, like many folks, hopped on this bandwagon when it first started. My recollection is that I liked it the same way that I would with a big action movie. You turn your brain off and watch the show. You walk away not with a sense of satisfaction or with any emotional resonance, but ONLY with the thought that "That was kind of neat to see." Like anything however, such a story should be taken in moderation and over indulgence can lead to dependance on such filler, making you think there really isn't anything else out there.

Anyways, I had enough of Loeb's empty, and often ridiculous, stories and got out with that ludicrous time travel arc where Bruce and Clark were raised by villains.

I'm really annoyed that Loeb is taking over The Ultimates because he's going to turn it into Superman/Batman with a bunch of meaningless stories with nothing really interesting.

2/07/2006 04:01:00 PM  
Blogger Harvey Jerkwater said...

I enjoyed the first issue or two of the series as Big Dumb Fun. After a while, I just lost track of what was happening and why, since, as Greg pointed out, people were acting either way out of character or reeeeally stupid. I didn't finish the arc because I just didn't care.

Big Dumb Fun has to be coherent to be fun for more than an issue or two, consarn it.

2/07/2006 05:41:00 PM  
Blogger Apodaca said...

If you were starving for a cliffhanger to your DC comic, but you didn't want to commit yourself to anything, wouldn't it be easy and safe to toss in a "crisis..." somewhere and leave it at that?

Just saying.

2/07/2006 05:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice review ( altough I liked the series but have still not gotten past the SUPERGIRL story ) but there are some things I want to mention.

1. If you read the Supergirl story you learn that, yes, the meteor is INDEED coming to earth because of Superman.

2. Now there are two possibilities. Either Lex Luthor knows this and wants to kill Superman because of it or he does not know and just uses any excues to kill Superman. Both are not out of character.

3. Katana and Powergirl are CLEARLY undercover. And is it sooo unbelievable that some heroes would work for the President of the United States ? Not every hero knows that Luthor is evil since it never was proven. And they just try to arrest him - not have him executed.

4. It was Lex Luthor who chose Pete Ross as VP to get more votes. Pete Ross has a past as a politician so I´m not quite sure what your beef is.

2/07/2006 06:54:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

I don't have a beef with Ross being VP, I just wondered about how it happened since I don't read Superman. He seems a bit young, too. Don't you have to be 35 to be VP? Is my Constitutional knowledge out of whack?

2/07/2006 07:05:00 PM  
Blogger markus said...

@Greg & Michael
I get that the plot holes and poor characterisation stand in the way of it being a big dumb but fun actioner.
Or rather, I take your word on it, because the critique does not really argue the case. It does not tell me why in this particular instance, the plot holes get in the way of dumb, fun action. Rather, from my point of view, it seems too concerned with establishing the plot holes at the expense of telling me, why these particular plot holes matter.

((I'm nitpicky about this because I believe Greg could have writen a very solid critique at the end of which it's virtually impossible for anyone to argue that S/B: PE is a good comic. Enjoying it or not is yet another matter. But as it stands, it seems too easy to deflect the points Greg brings up by saying "It's a dumb actioner, it doesn't matter if there are some inconsistencies.")

2/07/2006 07:16:00 PM  
Blogger Gary said...

Well, on a very basic level it doesn't matter what inconsistencies there are with the plot-it's basically irrelevant. The more important question is "does it make money?"

The answer, obviously, is "yes." A Batman/Superman team up comic is an obvious money maker. Both characters have high recognition and a solid following. On a marketing objective checklist the whole trade scores pretty high. Are there recognizable guest stars? Yes. Scenes that call for vivid, dramatic artwork? Yes. Cliffhangers that encourage the reader to pick up the next issue? Yes. A big revelation about a major DC character? Lots of teases, but yes, definitely in regards to Supergirl's eventual appearance.

In terms of writing craft however, a lot of criticisms could be made. Dialogue is clumsy. Coincidence is taken to absurd levels. Story logic is non-existent. Whether this matters or not depends on how you look at things.

As a marketing strategy Superman/Batman is absolute genius. As writing it's mediocre at best.

So whether or not Superman/Batman is a bad comic pretty much depends on what you want it to be. From a business standpoint Superman/Batman is a crazy moneymaker and therefore the great comic that all titles should be measured by. That's too bad.

2/07/2006 07:38:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Just wanted to give a shout-out to Greg for this...

"We try, here at the blog, to highlight the good in comics (hence the name). However, sometimes it's necessary to examine the bad, not to be snotty or snarky, but to understand why something is bad, not just that it is bad. Therefore, we can understand better why something is good. See how it all works?"

That is an excellent summarization of the point of the blog. Thanks, Greg.

2/07/2006 07:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Tyler said...

I've read all three of the Superman/Batman trades and I have to say, despite its flaws, "Public Enemies" is without doubt the best one. By this I mean it not only is the most entertaining, but it also has the best plotting and characterization. Yikes, I know. It also has some nice and energetic art by McGuiness, so it definitely isn't all bad.

As I mentioned, "Supergirl" and "Absolute Power" have even worse story logic and characterization, but they also lack the basic requirement of being entertaining. "Power" has some neat ideas (Like Uncle Sam using the Green Latern ring and the Justice League of Zombies)but overall it feels like a very sloppy mishmash of half-formed story parts. "Supergirl" is just terrible. From the Turner art to the ridiculous scenes on Apokolips and those with Darkseid, it's total rubbish.

To Miles: The worst part about the fake Kingdom Come Superman is that at the end of "Absolute Power," it's revealed he's actually "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" Superman! The fact that Superman lost his powers in that story is apparently irrelevant to Loeb.

2/07/2006 11:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Aaron Kashtan said...

Why did Luthor become broke after Bruce purchased all his assets? Didn't he still have the money that Bruce paid him in exchange for his assets?

2/07/2006 11:43:00 PM  
Blogger Marionette said...

Loeb has a creator owned project? What is it? I wasn't aware that he had created anything original.

And what's not to like about Public Enemies? I mean, it features a guest appearance by Cir-El.

2/08/2006 03:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Jer said...

Now, wait a minute tyler, that's not quite right. I agree with you that Public Enemies is the best of the three trades so far (sadly enough), and I agree that the Supergirl story was rubbish (like I said - it could have been knocked down to 3 issues easily and combined with half of Public Enemies). And I agree with you that the writing in Absoulte Power was abysmal - like what you might find in bad fanfiction.

But, even with Loeb's bad writing in that book, its absolutely clear that while the Superman in the book may have originally been the one from "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow", he has become the Superman from "Kingdom Come" due to manipulations of the timestream.

The point of the ending is that the changes to the timestream have caused his future to become the Kingdom Come future instead of the future of Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow. When Batman and Superman fix the timestream, his future is fixed and he is returned to his de-powered "Whatever happened" version. And the big white-out at the end of that sequence indicates that even his future is wiped out by the end of the book.

Admittedly, this isn't how the time-hopping works in the rest of the book, but its clear that's what Loeb is saying - that Superman's happy ending was destroyed to set up this bleak future and in the end its fixed so he gets his happy ending back.

2/08/2006 09:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Dan Coyle said...

Mari: The Witching Hour, a 1998 Vertigo mini with Chris Bachalo. Despite ripping off Ann Rice for the title, it is a creator owned work.

I think he also owns a piece of the stuff he co-created at Awesome, as well. Like Kaboom.

2/08/2006 09:58:00 AM  
Blogger Timo said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2/08/2006 12:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Tyler said...

You make a good point, Jer. I admit that it's clear at the ending that the "Whatever Happened" version became the KC Superman due to the timestream manipulations. I guess my main problem with it is I think the use those versions of the character was trite. Using those particular versions didn't add any extra dimension to the tale and, as you pointed out, actually contradicts the time travel physics established earlier in the story. They only served as eye candy for fanboys (like myself), who were supposed to look at the book and marvel, "Wow, Darkseid has Etrigan on a harness like in 'Cosmic Oddssey'! Hey, Kamandi!" without noticing that the plot was entirely incoherent. It's a real shame too, because that story could have been as fun as "Public Enemies."

2/08/2006 12:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike Loughlin said...

"Public Enemies" could have been more fun, but Loeb stretched suspension of disbelief past the breaking point every issue. I think I bought every issue just to see how ridiculous it all became.

I never bought the Vertigo Witching Hour, but:

1) Originally, "The Witching Hour" was a DC horror comic from the '70s (with some covers and between-chapter pages by Alex Toth!)
2) Are the Loeb/ Bachalo creations, or "Sandman" style reimaginings of DC horror characters?

2/08/2006 01:43:00 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

On Ross as VP: He would indeed have to be 35, which is not actually much of a stretch since we were told Clark Kent was 34 at the time of the Death of Superman story. But the real howler here is the idea that any candidate -- even a third-party one like Luthor -- would pick a guy who was in the Senate for about a week and a half, and resigned under a cloud after trying to sneak a weapon into a Congressional hearing in order to kill someone (even though he was under duress, since IIRC Lana had been kidnapped and he was being blackmailed: Kill that guy or we kill Lana).

But even putting the scandalous bits aside, picking Ross for your VP candidate is just plain silly. The closest real-world analogy I can think of would be if Donald Trump had run in 1996, and picked as his VP the guy who was appointed to hold Lloyd Bentsen's seat for a few months after Clinton named Bentsen Secretary of the Treasury. It wouldn't be an example of political savvy or strategery. It would just be dumb.

2/08/2006 02:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Tangential said...

That Witching Hour miniseries: My god, the Bachalo art is pretty as all hell, but the story makes no sense. I don't mean in a Superman/Batman sense, I mean in the sense of, "I'm putting this down now because it's less coherent than a third-grader doing collage, and my head hurts." Complete crap, really.

2/08/2006 03:51:00 PM  
Blogger T. said...

"That Witching Hour miniseries: My god, the Bachalo art is pretty as all hell, but the story makes no sense. I don't mean in a Superman/Batman sense, I mean in the sense of, "I'm putting this down now because it's less coherent than a third-grader doing collage, and my head hurts." Complete crap, really."

How is that different than Superman?Batman?

2/08/2006 07:40:00 PM  
Blogger David C said...

I enjoyed the first few arcs of S/B for the most part, but... man, this is sloppy stuff!

Loeb *is* good at picking out cool ideas or "high concept" things you'd like to see, and that keeps you reading. But one thing that leaps out at me in retrospect is how many of the potentially cool elements ("What's going on here? It'll be interesting to see how this all ties together!") are just giant red herrings that *don't* tie together.

Like "What's Darkseid's connection to Supergirl? Is this whole thing just one of his intricate plots?" And the eventual answer is "Nope. Darkseid's just around, pretty much."

It's lately gone from "dumb action movie" to complete incoherence and unreadability.

And it's a somewhat minor thing, but I absolutely loathe the way Loeb writes Bizarro (this might not have begun with Loeb, though.) Bizarro is an "imperfect duplicate," NOT "Opposite Man!" Yeah, he should do the opposite thing sometimes, but not to the point you have to parse every word he utters to its binary opposite!

2/09/2006 10:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Initially when I bought the monthlies, I overlooked a lot of the stuff you mentioned and was caught up in the artificial drama that Loeb builds up. But then after reading the TPB, I had to scratch my head and give a polite "what the...?" I mean some of the stuff is so out there. It's surprising how this is one of the top series in Loeb's resume. Loeb with all due repect wrote a decent story in Dark Victory but lately he's seriously been off his game, i.e. just look at Hush. He's not the worst out there but he's just trying too hard to get into the same league as Morrison, Gaiman and Moore...which is not gonna happen with these stories. The best he can manage is to be alongside writers like Mark Millar who once in a while writes good stuff (Red Son) but most of the time writes all flash and no substance.

2/15/2006 07:29:00 PM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

Loeb *is* good at picking out cool ideas or "high concept" things you'd like to see, and that keeps you reading. But one thing that leaps out at me in retrospect is how many of the potentially cool elements ("What's going on here? It'll be interesting to see how this all ties together!") are just giant red herrings that *don't* tie together.
And that's the difference between Loeb and Morrison. Both know how to chuck out the big crazy fun concepts, but of the two only Morrison knows how to put them into a satsfying story (most of the time).

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