Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Update on the Whole Meltzer Rape Thing I Am Always Yammering On About

Just got around to reading some of the coverage of the New York Comic-Con, and I came across this piece on Meltzer and Identity Crisis, and the more I read Brad Meltzer talk about Identity Crisis, the more I think he should just take the fifth. "I am invoking my Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate myself" should be what he tells anyone who asks about Identity Crisis, because Meltzer is just really, really bad at discussing it. How bad? Let's see!

First, we get this choice bit about how Meltzer was given the chance to kill of the Atom or the Martian Manhunter, but chose not to, because “it would have been a cheap ploy,” says the same man who revealed Sue Dibney's pregnancy as she is murdered.

However, that is just nit-picking/taking the piss. The point I really want to refer to is the later bit where he discusses everyone's favorite topic, the rape scene in Identity Crisis. Here's the previous bit I did on it, "Rape as a Plot Device...or 'Brad Meltzer is a Big Fat Liar'"

Well, here is Meltzer on the scene now -
“The [reaction to the] rape scene surprised me more than anything. I didn’t expect the venom,” said Meltzer.

But he thought that the response was the result of a very vocal minority, not indicative of the views of most of the book’s readers as a whole. He wishes that rape didn’t exist, obviously, but it does, and comics should reflect that and deal with real issues.
HOLY CRAP!! MY MIND - IT IS BLOWN!!

Rape exists?!?

This changes EVERYthing!!

Anyhow, the best part about it is that he continues with this (apparently) self-delusional routine where he thinks that he "dealt with real issues." As pointed out in my previous bit, the point that stuck out to me was how Meltzer categorically did NOT "deal" with the rape. It happened in the second issue so as to give the heroes a reason to mind-wipe Doctor Light, and that's the last reference to it in the series (there MAY have been a reference to an "assault on Sue" later...I am not sure. But if so, it was just the one mention, and didn't say anything about rape)!!!!

Finally, "deal with real issues"?! The rape scene is followed by a MAGIC MIND WIPE!!!

Man, you don't get grittier and more realistic than that! I think I saw that on an episode of Oz once. It was pretty rough.

Anyhow, I'm telling you, Mr. Meltzer, you have the legal background, so take notice - in the future, take the Fifth.

Read More

48 Comments:

Blogger T. said...

I agree with everything you say, but this also raises a companion point I've been thinking about: why are some people who are so disgusted by the cheap shock ploy of the rape so mum on the excess murder, maiming and overall carnage of the rest of the DC comic books? Is rape really worse than murder? I mean, the rape offends me, but I'm also offended by Blue Beetle's brain splatter, Geoff Johns' use of multiple decapitations and Risk getting is arm ripped off.

This is not directed to the CSBG crowd, since you guys have discussed the violence issue too. It's just a general question for the people out there who get offended by the rape but gloss over everything else. Is there a reason rape is so much more mortifying?

3/07/2006 03:02:00 PM  
Blogger --Greg Hatcher said...

Is there a reason rape is so much more mortifying?

The real answer is that generally people are more freaked out by sex than violence; not just in comics, but TV, movies, everything.

Is it hypocritical? Sure. Is it stupid? Absolutely. But thast's how you get stuff like the IC flap or the recent Rawhide Kid brouhaha.

As for your point about how all the kids who are upset by sexual content but think decapitation is kewl, I have no answer other than just generally fearing for the future. It completely creeps me out. When I bring it up to those people, I'm told it's because I'm an old fuddy-duddy and just don't get it, it's time for comics to "grow up." So I quit arguing with them.

But it's nice to know that at least I'm not the only fuddy-duddy out there.

3/07/2006 03:16:00 PM  
Blogger Dean Trippe said...

i was going to comment on meltzer's unintended hilariousness, but the above comments are bugging me more.

3/07/2006 04:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...

Is there a reason rape is so much more mortifying?

Wow. Is this really so tricky to understand? Within the context of comic books, death isn't real at all. Even Bucky comes back from the dead, even Aquaman gets his hand back eventually. You can't undo a rape.

And even when it happens, comic book death often packs less than a visceral punch. Barry Allen vanishing into the speed force while he runs superfast to blow up the Anti-Monitor's super-cannon? Yeeeaah, that's "bad," but you don't exactly connect to the reality of that at all, do you? It's a bright, glossy four-color death. But rape? Rape isn't done with a space ray or mind-powers or anything else so improbable that we can comfortably will it out of our real world experience. There's a grim physicality to rape, in the same way there was a grim physicality to seeing Blue Beetle getting his brains sprayed over a wall - it jerks you out of the genre because it's just not something you expect in stories that for the most part involve flying men from the planet Krypton and superintelligent gorilla villains. Rape is rape, even if the rapist is wearing a fin on his head, whereas death lacks some of its punch if it can come in the form of vanishing into thin air after getting zapped with a purple death ray.

3/07/2006 04:54:00 PM  
Anonymous James said...

If it was just a mind wipe I might agree. But it was a complete personality change.

It's the superhero equivilent of chemical castration. So in a way it did deal wih the consequences of the rape, just on a superhero scale.

3/07/2006 05:51:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Hensel said...

"You can't undo a rape"

The heroes kinda DID undo the rape by mindwiping Dr Light and the rape having no consequences from when it supposedly "happened" in the 70s until 2006, but I completely see your point in rape being a psychological weapon far more damaging than a ravaged Metropolis that's fixed in next week's Superman book.

Rape as a means of jerking you out of a superhero story? I'd agree with that, but to comic book buyers not reading discernedly, the real world implication of rape suddenly does bring relevancy to the book and excites them, feeling comics books are more respectable because of that topic's inclusion, although I haven't read/witnessed that many reactions to Infinite Crisis, so I can't say for sure. For many it brings superheroes down to the real world, involving them in real problems, less than jerking the genre out of reach even further, but those are the reactions of late 70's-80's comics readers, who experianced Spiderman fighting corrupt college deans and Speedy doing heroine instead of Superman crushing planets. Generational reading gap thing, and msot comic readers react to it differently, although it had the same effect on me and it will on most readers of this blog. Just my two cents, and its mostly armchair psychology.

3/07/2006 06:02:00 PM  
Blogger DCUBoy said...

Meltzer was completely right about everything he said. I am so sick of this crap about comic books becoming too dark. Let's face it, sex and violence are part of our world and to tell a good story they should be included. This has been true throughout history. COMIC BOOKS ARE NOT FOR KIDS, so why does everyone care so much about this stuff. It was sad that Sue Dibny was raped and it makes you really hate Dr. Light more, isn't that a good enough reason to be included in the story.

3/07/2006 06:33:00 PM  
Anonymous thekamisama said...

I shouldn't stir the pot, but sometimes I wonder if the real issue was not the physical rape protrayed in a fictional story.
I often think perhaps the fandom that was so angered by this is actually deflecting the anger for the protrayal of classic Silver Age actions like "memory wipes". In the olden days this was a silly litte cure all, now it is seems creepy and vile. How can we trust all the classic sotries knowing how many times Superman, Bat-Man, Doctor Strange, or Professor X used similar techniques on friends and villians?
So was Doctor Light's "psychological rape" less a rape?
Is the fabled "Justice League" as just a super powerful version of Abu Graid security?
It seems more an issue of people getting made at the tarnishing of golden images of DC Comics icons than really replying to rape. I can recall many classic comics that include usages of rape as a story device in comics. Watchmen, Miracleman:Apocrypha, Bratpack, and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen come right to the front of my memory. I myself own the infamous 1954 issue of Shock Suspenstories that revolves around a rape. Are we now taking Wertham's side?
The thing that makes these examples classics as opposed to Identity Crisis? (well besides the one is that Metzer is no Alan Moore or Rick Veitch)
Maybe it is the fact that none of them had famous and popular superheroes in them?

3/07/2006 06:36:00 PM  
Anonymous sigma7 said...

I can't read Meltzer's commentary without thinking of Mamet's response to "Schindler's List," calling it "emotional pornography" -- I won't debate its applicability to "Schindler's," but it's still a great term, I think, and very appropriate when applied to "Identity Crisis."

It's almost comical, in retrospect, how the events unfold retroactively. OMG she's dead! OMG she was pregnant! OMG she was raped by Dr. Light! OMG the Justice League lobotomized him! These are only presented after she's dead, so there's absolutely no "dealing" with the issues it raises. Sue, as a character, never changed as a result of it, nor did anyone's interactions with her. Light's essentially raping a corpse, for all intents and purposes, and that's not a "real issue," it's just obscene.

There are no ramifications, no consequences. It's just a pile of added indignities to a character that seemed to deserve a lot better.

(Seriously...Superboy's punches can reboot the Doom Patrol, but can't he spare a swing for Sue Dibny?)

3/07/2006 07:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...

So was Doctor Light's "psychological rape" less a rape?

Yes, because the kind of "mind rapes" that the Justice League did don't actually exist, while the kind of "rape rape" that Dr. Light did actually do exist. There's actual resonance when you see a rape depicted, because you know what it is and you know of them in the real world, while a drawing of Zatanna talking backwards and making funny hand movements doesn't do all that much.

3/07/2006 07:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Let's face it, sex and violence are part of our world and to tell a good story they should be included. "

So are ass pimples. Are you demanding graphic examination of Green Lantern's ass pimple issues?

3/07/2006 07:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Jesse said...

I can recall many classic comics that include usages of rape as a story device in comics. Watchmen, Miracleman:Apocrypha, Bratpack, and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen come right to the front of my memory.... The thing that makes these examples classics as opposed to Identity Crisis? .... Maybe it is the fact that none of them had famous and popular superheroes in them?

Well, exactly - but that hardly excuses Identity Crisis. The comics you mention aren't superhero comics; they're "superhero" comics, intended at least in part as commentary on the superhero genre and its conventions (though Alan Moore's too good a writer for his work to be just that). But when you use Superman and the rest, you're sending a message to your readers that this is a "real" superhero story. As others have pointed out, if Meltzer had used non-pre-existing superheroes to tell his tale - even if they were just thinly disguised, differently named versions of the ones we know and love - a lot of the offensiveness would have been removed.

Also, most likely, a lot of the sales: Meltzer is, as you pointed out, no Alan Moore, whose name "sold" The Watchmen even though it featured unknown superheroes. (Though inspired by Charlton characters, they were radically altered, and I don't think anyone bought Watchmen as a kind of Charlton roman a clef. Had Moore used the actual Charlton characters, I bet many Charlton fans - admittedly far fewer than DC fans - would have been offended by some of what was being done to "their" characters.)

But even if Meltzer had used "original" superheroes, the criticisms of the in-story problems people have pointed out - such as depicting a rape without considering its consequences for the victim - would presumably still stand. (I myself stopped reading IC after the first few issues, since I felt pretty disgusted with it, though I did glance at the (disgusting) ending.)

3/07/2006 08:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Kelson said...

I don't think it's a matter of being about "real" superheroes so much as they're shared super-heroes. These are characters with a history and characters who could have had a future, rather than characters created specifically for this story.

Killing, traumatizing, or radically altering a character as part of a stand-alone story -- a novel, a movie, an anthology TV show -- carries a different weight than doing the same to a character in a serial. In the former, the character and the story are inextricably tied together. If the story requires a character being killed, raped, etc., you write it. But in a shared universe, there's always the possibility that another writer, artist or director could have done something with the character that is no longer possible.

When you write in a shared universe, you aren't just the author, you're a custodian of those characters. Different writers and editors take that with different degrees of seriousness. Even the same writers will act differently when circumstances change. Consider Geoff Johns' work on Flash or Hawkman vs. Infinite Crisis -- the approach is drastically different.

Actually, now that I think of it, I'm considerably more upset by Sue's death than her rape. Sure, it's a murder mystery, and murder mysteries require a victim, and sure, anyone you kill is going to be someone's favorite, but I can't think of another pair of characters remotely like Ralph and Sue.

3/07/2006 10:28:00 PM  
Blogger Eliot Johnson said...

I never read Identity Crisis, and as such I've never commented on the issue.

However, I have taken the role of a spectator. Never have I been moved to say anything until now.

DCUBoy,

I suppose it's true that comic books aren't for kids these days, but the damn well should be.

3/08/2006 12:43:00 AM  
Blogger Hale of Angelthorne said...

"I suppose it's true that comic books aren't for kids these days, but the damn well should be."

No, no, no, they shouldn't be. There SHOULD be comic books for kids (like Marvel Age and DC Cartoonverse books) but the medium should never be limited to "Hey Kids! Comics!" again. We aging dorks represents the vast majority of the money spent on comics and we should be entitled to comics geared to our level, i.e., a little more grown up.
Having said that, I agree with the comparison between rape and death, in that death (sadly) is NEVER final in comics whereas you can't "undo" a rape. Actually, with goofy comic book plot devices like sticking Extant on an exploding airliner in place of your poor old mother you could, but that would be pretty awful.
This controversy reminds me of a much older one in Iron Man 20+ years ago (during the David Micheline heyday) where a supporting character (I believer her name was Ling) had the beat shit out of her by some thugs and it was shown in pretty graphic detail. The same sort of arguments were raised; was this a cheap plot device? Was it "too dark" or "too realistic"? Anyone else remember that one?

3/08/2006 01:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh man, I can't wait until Infinite Crisis 7 when Superboy Prime's magic punches cause Extant to be substituted for Sue Dibny as the victim of Dr. Light's rape.

3/08/2006 02:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Charlie Anders said...

I couldn't bring myself to read all of IC but my impression is that Sue Dibny is treated as a non-person in that comic. Her rape is a plot device to get the JLA to mind-wipe Dr. Light and the other villains. We never see how it affected her -- all that matters is the effect it had on the male superheroes plus Zatanna. It's very much the old-fashioned view of rape: women are property, so rape is where one man damages another man's property. The rapist is actually committing a crime against the "owner" of the woman, not the woman herself. That's sort of what Identity Crisis seemed to be saying.

3/08/2006 02:08:00 AM  
Blogger paperghost said...

"Oh man, I can't wait until Infinite Crisis 7 when Superboy Prime's magic punches cause Extant to be substituted for Sue Dibny as the victim of Dr. Light's rape."

Thanks, now *I* need a mindwipe!

:P

3/08/2006 03:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Bryan Long said...

I do think Meltzer’s comments serve to underscore one of the biggest problems with Identity Crisis, one that I think a lot of these posts have alluded to. He waves the “realism” flag, but he doesn’t really treat the story in a realistic manner – he introduces “realistic” elements and then fails to take things to their realistic conclusions. That creates huge internal inconsistencies, which most of Meltzer's defenders (all six or seven of them) simply overlook. But it doesn't work that way -- plot is an element of storytelling.

One of the conventions of superhero comics is that we all agree to keep reality at arm’s length. In a “real” world, Superman would solve world hunger, energy problems, etc. In comics, he fights supervillains. And there are reasons for that. Real-world problems don’t lend themselves to superhero stories.

Meltzer fails to realize that you can’t just season with a little bit of reality and stop. Okay, Dr. Light sneaks into the satellite and finds Sue Dibney. So he decides to drop trou and assault her, when at any second a bunch of heroes could return, literally catching him with his pants down? (Which, in fact, happens.) I can accept he might have those proclivities, but wouldn’t he have a bit more sense than to indulge under those circumstances? Or wouldn’t he kidnap Sue? So rape is “realistic,” but failing to take even basic precautions to avoid getting caught (which, y’know, real rapists DO) is somehow not?

If you do inject reality into a comic book universe and follow through, you have a completely different fictional “universe” than the one you started in (see Watchmen, Squadron Supreme, Supreme Power, etc.), with different conventions. Also perfectly valid stories to tell, but you can’t get back to the status quo once you’ve taken that “reality” step. That’s why those stories are all set in other “universes.”

Meltzer tries to revert everything back to the status quo (another convention of serialized superhero comics), but it doesn’t work that way. Once you start down the road of “reality,” you’ve got to keep going. The genie doesn’t fit back into the bottle. And that’s where the vitriol he mentions stems from. He tried to tell a story that simply doesn’t fit in this particular medium, and he did it so very, very badly.

I also found it interesting that Meltzer lists Winick as a mentor. Winick also clumsily and ineffectively attempts to insert “realism” into his superhero comics. I remember an issue of Outsiders in which Arsenal’s daughter is kidnapped by ordinary criminals, and the team has to find her. Now, one of Arsenal’s best friends can move at nearly the speed of light. So this search should’ve taken approximately the same amount of time as a phone call to Wally West. You can’t create credible dramatic tension by juxtaposing superheroes with “reality.” You’re undercutting your own story.

Should comics tell realistic stories? Yes, they should. And many do. But superhero comics, by definition, are not realistic. And therein lies the problem.

Just to offer some small defense of Meltzer, having recently read the IC hardcover at a single sitting, I get the very strong impression there were extensive re-writes and revisions, and the story we got was not the story Meltzer originally told. I don’t know if Meltzer originally told a better story, but I feel the possibility should be acknowledged. However, it’s his name on the book. If he wants to stand behind it as published, then he has to take the heat for it.

3/08/2006 09:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>>>No, no, no, they shouldn't be. There SHOULD be comic books for kids (like Marvel Age and DC Cartoonverse books) but the medium should never be limited to "Hey Kids! Comics!" again. We aging dorks represents the vast majority of the money spent on comics and we should be entitled to comics geared to our level, i.e., a little more grown up.

The medium shouldn't be, but it hasn't been since the "comix" era, at least. I might even say since Walt Kelly. There are so many people out there doing creative 'adult' comics, it's mindboggling. But if we say that superhero comics, and specifically traditional characters from the Big Two have to age with us aging dorks, have to address us on our level, it seems to me that we're kind of petulantly insisting that we're the last generation that is allowed to play with these toys that were passed down to us from generations before. I mean, I have no fear for today's young comic readers, they've always got Tokyopop putting out intelligent stories that address them on their level and don't feature the bizarre revenge fantasies that superhero comics embody. But I don't see what insight even we aging dorks gain from some shocking revelation that Captain Marvel Jr. hurts small animals when no one's looking. I feel like everything happening in DC right now was addressed more succinctly in that one episode of Planetary where they go to the funeral in London.

3/08/2006 09:42:00 AM  
Blogger --Greg Hatcher said...

It seems more an issue of people getting mad at the tarnishing of golden images of DC Comics icons than really replying to rape. I can recall many classic comics that include usages of rape as a story device in comics.

Well, yeah. I don't know about other people, but that's ALWAYS been my complaint. By itself IC is just a lame story. The thing that gave it any power at all was the 'tarnishing' of the Justice League, the way it systematically took all those Silver Age tropes and characters and made them creepy and vile. What's maddening about it is that Meltzer keeps talking about this like it's a good thing, some sort of accomplishment the world was waiting for. And then everyone at DC seemed to agree and made the book into the template for the whole line. That's just so spectacularly wrongheaded that I'm still astonished by it.

I went into this in much more detail in one of the Friday columns that Brian has helpfully archived -- bless you, Brian, my mother will be so happy -- it's the one about the stairsteps. But just to recap it briefly, my feeling has always been that to tell this kind of a superhero story you need some distance, you need to do it with the Watchmen or the Authority or the Bratpack or whoever. Leave the classic heroes alone, they were never meant to be bent into this kind of shape. I don't object to the STORY, the story is just bad, but hell, there have been lots of bad stories. I object to the fact that IC became an in-contiuity template, the character damage the story did and continues to do. It was completely unneccesary. You can comment on the icons without destroying them.

But Meltzer and DC wouldn't have got nearly the splash they did by doing a Watchmen-style analogue. The crass short-term marketing mentality is the real villain here.

3/08/2006 09:46:00 AM  
Blogger Derek B. Haas said...

For whatever it's worth, I know no people who have been murdered, but at least three who have been raped or sexually assaulted. I imagine that most people my age know of at least one friend/relative who's experienced a violation like that.

Explode Copperhead's abdomen, put a bullet through Blue Beetle's head, or whatever you want like that, and I'll just take it as another story element. Rape anyone as a quick path to character development, plot drama, or general angst, and I am very viscerally upset.

3/08/2006 09:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Beta Ray Steve said...

The problem I see, is that once you introduce rape, the story becomes about rape and dealing with its consequences. Meltzer introduced rape, but just as a MacGuffin to get the JLA to make a "bad decision".
But really, what should they have done? Treat it like any other crime, throw him in jail and say "Don't do that again"? It makes the anti-mindwipe JLA members look like idiots, when their reaction should have been "I admire your restraint".

3/08/2006 10:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But really, what should they have done? Treat it like any other crime, throw him in jail and say "Don't do that again"? It makes the anti-mindwipe JLA members look like idiots, when their reaction should have been "I admire your restraint"."

And that brings us back to the problem of half-assed realism. If the story had been TRULY realistic, odds are we would have seen one of the Leaguers kill Dr. Light and then ask, "Anyone have a problem with this?" And the rest of them would in turn say, "Nope."

3/08/2006 11:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These kinds of stories won't work in this medium for awhile. Even death needed a few years to be treated realistically in comics. It isn't anymore, but time was the main character who was affected by the death would spend an amazing amount of time getting over it. Think your Gwen Stacys, your Jean Greys, your Elektras. Realistic, gradual, growth and change from characters (and a medium) who lost some of their innocence.
The rape in IC was NOT handled realistically. I don't even need to mention that it has nothing to do with the murder mystery or even the plot (though much of what I've read in the comic itself also fails to touch on Meltzer's claim of what the theme was supposed to be). The Justice League mindwipe reminds me of that scene in the otherwise great Superman:the motion picture, where instead of dealing with Lois' death Supes just turns back time and fixes everything. It's just another problem for our nigh-omnipotent heroes to solve.
It can be done, it has been done in better comics before, and it will be again. Saying rape should not exist in mainstream comics at all is, to my mind, ignoring the problem, something the IC comic itself has shown is not a good thing.
Credit Metzler this, though: at least he showed the victim could go on to live happily with someone who genuinely cares for her for YEARS after the rape happened. That was probably the only good thing he did with Sue, but at least it's something.

3/08/2006 01:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Credit Metzler this, though: at least he showed the victim could go on to live happily with someone who genuinely cares for her for YEARS after the rape happened. That was probably the only good thing he did with Sue, but at least it's something."

No he didn't. We barely saw Sue Dibny in the issue in which she was killed and we certainly saw none of her dealing with the aftermath of the rape. So, Meltzer gets credit for nothing besides using rape as a cheapjack shock tactic and for setting a nasty, ugly tone for the DC Universe which Dan DiDio has gleefully spread -- and I use the word deliberately -- over the entire DCU line.

3/08/2006 02:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Jeremy Tobin said...

I just think its strange that Meltzer keeps on telling us how much he loves the Satellite Era JLA but to show us how much he loves them he turns them into a bunch of mind raping, in fighting, take any chance to put each other down, bastards. And does it seem to anyone else that DC is going to far too much trouble to 'make comics fun again' all because of Meltzers mistakes in Identity Crisis?

3/08/2006 02:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Dan Coyle said...

Tobin: Well, this is Meltzer's twisted form of love- he loves them so much he's embarassed and wants to make them "better", wants to make the Silver age "relevant", wants to "fix" things by giving our heroes feet of clay. So he won't be embarassed about being a functioning (well, allegdely) adult and liking that stuff. It's a very post-WEF way of thinking that's permeated superhero writing. The shame grips, it suffocates, it refuses to let the story breathe.

3/08/2006 02:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Charlie Anders said...

One more point that occurred to me this morning: it's not just women who are raped "in real life." Men rape other men all the time, even though our culture has a hard time talking about it. So if comics were really determined to be "realistic," they'd show a supervillain raping Batman the next time he gets captured.

3/08/2006 03:38:00 PM  
Anonymous E. Grant said...

I haven't read IC*, and if the writer pulled the old "female character isn't valuable enough for her death to matter, so let's make her secretly pregnant" trope, that tells me plenty, but ...

Is it possible that Metzler's intent was to use the "mind wipe" as an allegory for how communities often react to allegations of rape--that they deny to themselves and others that such a thing could happen?
Maybe he was trying to illustrate that such efforts of forced forgetfulness compound the damage done in the original crime.

If so, it looks like his attempt failed, but it might explain what the heck he's talking about with the "showing the consequences".

* [because it sounded so stupid, boring and offensive in every decription I'd read (positive and negative). However it has been recommended by one person I trust who says its much more readable if you just assume its an Elseworlds story.]

3/08/2006 08:51:00 PM  
Blogger Hale of Angelthorne said...

"But if we say that superhero comics, and specifically traditional characters from the Big Two have to age with us aging dorks, have to address us on our level, it seems to me that we're kind of petulantly insisting that we're the last generation that is allowed to play with these toys that were passed down to us from generations before."

Hell, yes, we're being petulant! Why should the Boomers have all the fun?

" I mean, I have no fear for today's young comic readers, they've always got Tokyopop putting out intelligent stories that address them on their level and don't feature the bizarre revenge fantasies that superhero comics embody."

And they have Marvel Age and the DCU Toonverse books. So why can't we have superhero comics directed at grown-ups? It doesn't have to be a zero-sum game, does it?

" But I don't see what insight even we aging dorks gain from some shocking revelation that Captain Marvel Jr. hurts small animals when no one's looking."

Well, no, because that would be stupid, kind of like the whole Sue Dibny episode. Maybe I should've specified GOOD grown-up comics. Good grown-up stories don't have ultra-violence, nudity and so forth tossed in gratuitously or as a cheap plot devices. I think Watchmen is a perfect example of a good grown-up comic.

3/08/2006 10:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Bryan Long said...

E. Grant, I do think Meltzer is trying to establish a parallel between physical rape and mind-wipe, but I don't see a cause-and-effect relationship. This is pretty much the only thematic element I was able to uncover, so I thought about a lot.

Ideally, he should have show the differences between Dr. Light's actions and the JLA's, or shown the Leaguers realizing the similarities and exhibiting remorse (this would be called character growth, if it appeared).

However, Meltzer simply divides the League into polarized camps and does not attempt to work through the issue at all. None of the "guilty" Leaguers display any remorse. Zatanna does in other titles, but that's outside the scope of this storyline. All Meltzer does is give the heroes the "feet of clay" that Mr. Coyle so eloquently described, and never attempts to show them rise above that. The only character growth shown at all is Firehawk, who gives up being a superhero, but that decision is never explained or examined.

As for it reading better as an Elseworlds story, that's debatable. My biggest problem with the storyline is the enormous plot holes, and I have a lot of trouble getting past those (see my previous post for one example). You can pretty much do a page-by-page breakdown of implausibilities and leaps in logic.

If you add in characters acting out of character, you can start going panel-by-panel. Finally, if you start considering continuity (even DC's unbelievably screwed-up continuity -- which an Elseworlds label would sidestep), there's not much left.

I'm personally not a big continuity freak and try to stay clear of that when discussing comics (to avoid the inevitable accusations of "fanboy!"), but Meltzer opened that door, not me. He sets the story in the larger context of the DC Universe and claims to "improve" it.

One question that perhaps someone can answer: Has anyone seen a coherent "defense" of the story, one that discusses it on literary merits? All I've ever seen is vague claims like "I like it cuz it's kewl" and "You're just mad cuz he's making superheroes realistic." No one ever seems to discuss it in terms of plot, character, theme, etc. Or maybe that question contains its own answer.

3/09/2006 10:27:00 AM  
Anonymous E. Grant said...

Bryan,

Hey. Replying just because I think you might have misunderstood my main idea.

I wasn't claiming that the writer's intent was to equate mind-wipe with rape--I gather that doesn't hold much water--

I was suggesting that "mind-wipe" bore strong similarities to a common and harmful reaction to allegations/revelations of rape: "dealing with it" by _not_ actually dealing with it, or by assuming that the "issue" is over as soon as the perpetrator had been sentenced.

But heck, I haven't read the thing, so maybe that holds less water.

3/09/2006 11:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Bryan Long said...

E. Grant -- Thanks for the reply. I did understand what you meant about the mind-wipe being an allegory for public reaction to rape (which is frankly an elegant theory, and one of the more interesting ones I've seen applied to IC). However, I don't think it matches the storyline (the perpetrator and Batman are wiped, not everyone else), but I'd be interested in seeing what you think when/if you actually read it. Meltzer should definitely take notice -- I think he could sell it as an allegory better than any of the explanations I've seen so far.

I'm the one who's actually saying that Meltzer may be drawing a parallel between rape and the mind-wipe, but does so very poorly, if that is indeed his intention. Again, though, he'd probably have better luck selling my interpretation than his "realism" riff, if he insists on continuing to defend the thing.

He should probably just stop talking about it altogether, which is pretty much how we started this whole discussion.

3/09/2006 01:46:00 PM  
Anonymous FunkyGreenJerusalem said...

DCUBoy,

Comics may not be for kids, which is a shame, but they are meant to be escapist entertainment. Law & Order:SVU doesn't have an episode where they go out and fight Mr. Freeze and stop his plan to turn New York into a glacier, so I'm not too sure why in one story Sue Dibney's solving mystery's with her stretchy husband and Aquaman's talking to fishes, and in the next Sue is getting raped and Aquaman is mind wiping people.

Personally I just wish it hadn't been Sue.
Why do it to the one girlfriend charater who actually had a personality, and really was a nessecary part of Elongated Man's charm?

-Ben.

3/10/2006 04:52:00 PM  
Blogger Mickle said...

"Is there a reason rape is so much more mortifying?"

Um yeah - and it's the same reason that having a black superhero die from hanging or from choking on a watermelon seed would be more "mortifying" than just plain killing them off.

Rape, after all, occurs all the time in the romance novels I read (dude, don't laugh, you read books about a guy called Green Lantern) and readers ding authors all the time for using rape as a cheap plot device or for perpetuating the myth that women can "reform" the men who abuse them. The difference is that the romance industry has been changing (although not enough, considering the "controversy" of explicit romance novels), the authors and readers themselves don't have a reputation for objectifying women, and most importantly, fellow fans aren't quite as likely to say "You're taking this all too seriously!" The latter does happen, but its more of a dull roar than a deafening one.

When rape occurs in a romance novel it's more likely to skew the other way - to be treated melodramaticaly for pages on end rather than pushed aside once it no longer serves the author's immediate purpose. The former can get a bit tedious sometimes, but it's more realistic and feels less exploitative. All authors manipulate our emotions in order to keep us turning the pages - and buying their books. But the manner in which comic books treat rape often has more in common with how advertisers and news shows manipulate our emotions than how novelists (including comic book writers) usually do so. This maakes the whole sub-plot feel cheap and used - an especially troubling problem when one is talking about abuse.

Besides, rape and abuse will always require more time for characters to deal with than death, just as heartache and other corporeal problems do. When a character dies, they're not the one who is affected, as far as the storyline is concerned. They're dead. Comic books do obsess over the death of loved ones though. Spiderman anyone?

3/11/2006 12:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't really have a problem, as such, with rape/death/violence in comic books. What really burns me is the fact that the writers can rarely manage to write the issues of rape (and to a lesser extent, death and violence, etc.) believably. The reason why I rarely read fanfiction that has rape happen to a character is because the fan-writer is too not often not mature enough/not knowledgeable enough about the issues of rape/not a good enough writer to manage to write the consequences of a person's being raped with believability.

Comic book writers have a notorius ability to remind me of 13-year-old FFN fanfic writers when it comes to the rape issue. They such at writing rape with any sort of believability. Sue Dibny's rape is all 'OMG!' but with no real resolution, while Nightwing's rape is completely glossed over as some of heat of the moment thing. What, comics are only willing to show the consequences of drug use?

5/23/2006 01:10:00 AM  
Anonymous jamjar said...

Is there a reason rape is so much more mortifying?

The real answer is that generally people are more freaked out by sex than violence;


What, rape isn't considered violence? Or it just isn't considered violence in comic books?

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