Fanboy News Network Episode 8

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Fanboy News Network Episode 8

In this episode:

Mike Marts jumps ship from DC to Marvel

Disney announces a live action Chip N Dale movie.

The Superman/Batman movie gets it’s Lex Luthor and a new executive producer.

A look at the season finale of American Horror Story: Coven.

DC Comics’ War on Marriage


Back in 1980, I was struck by what (at the time) was an outrageous idea.

Why can’t Superman marry Lois Lane?

The heart of the idea was that I was getting old enough to realize that the status quo in comics was stifling, and that not letting the characters advance in any way kept the stories from being anything more than kids’ stuff. Sure you were beginning to see books with better story telling come out, like the Chris Claremont run on X-Men, and the Wolfman/Perez relaunch of the Teen Titans.  But, overall, the really big name comic characters seemed stuck in a story stasis that seemed to be permanent.

Of course this wasn’t an absolute. DC had characters like The Flash, the Atom, and the Elongated Man who all eventually got married. This also did not count characters like Hawkman and Hawkgirl, who started out married.

Also if you look at Marvel you had Reed Richards and Sue Storm who got married early in the run of the Fantastic Four, as well as Ant Man and the Wasp.  But, like DC, it seemed that some characters( like Spider-Man) were destined for bachelorhood.

Then 1985 happened. With the release of The Dark Knight returns and Watchmen, comics suddenly became a venue for serious writing.  You also had Crisis on Infinite Earths, which tore down the old DC continuity and relaunched the entire line. It took characters (like Superman) and, even though it restarted them, allowed for stories that advanced and felt like they really could grow dynamically.

From the time of the relaunch, you saw Clark Kent and Lois Lane go through all the stages of their relationship – from dating, to his revealing his identity to her, engagement, and eventually they did get married. Over all, it felt organic and was some very good story telling. It also opened up some fantastic storytelling, with the marriage being treated like one you see in real life if one of the partners is a fireman, or solider. But not all was peaches and cream; from the beginning of the relationship, there were detractors. Some were fans who did not like the break from the status quo. They wanted the Superman who appeared in the cartoons, or the Donner movies, and could not accept a more humanized version of the characters. Others were writers who chafed at having to write about a Superman who was in a healthy relationship, as they felt it constrained them.

In spite of this, for over a decade, you had Clark Kent and Lois Lane as a happily married couple, and they were not the only ones. Wally West (Barry Allen’s successor as the Flash) married his girlfriend Linda Park. Over at Marvel you even had Spider-Man get married.

This was also paired with the growing idea of the legacy character. You had Wally West pick up the mantle of the Flash after the death of Barry Allen. You even had Dick Grayson become Batman after the apparent death of Bruce Wayne. So you had comic characters growing and their stories progressing. It was a great time to be a comic book reader.

We should have known it wouldn’t last.

The first signs of this problem were over at Marvel, when it was decided to retcon away Spider-Man’s marriage. I’ve written about the specifics of that in the past, so I won’t rehash here. The basics however were that Editor-In-Chief, Joe Quesada, wanted Spider-Man reset to how he was written during his own youth.

Sure it annoyed fans, but it was nothing compared to what was going to happen over at DC.

The first sign of trouble was Emerald Dawn, which saw the return of Hal Jordan as Green Lantern. This was written by Geoff Johns, one of DC’s best writers. The problem wasn’t apparent at first, as Johns did not discard Kyle Rayner, Hal’s successor, but instead made all of the Green Lanterns a team.

The real signs of trouble came with Flash: Rebirth, which was the story that brought Barry Allen back to life, again written by Johns. While not stripping Wally West of his status as the Flash, he was quietly moved to the background.

DC was rolling back the status of its Universe to the Silver Age status quo.

There was another troubling factor going on at the time; there were writers complaining that writing for a married Superman, or even Flash was too hard.

This brings us to Flashpoint and the launch of the New 52.

I’ve written a lot about what a mess this entire relaunch was, but one of the biggest factors contributing to this was the loss of all the character progress that had occurred. I may not have minded so much if it had been a clean and total reboot, but the half assed way it was handled (with not really rebooting Batman and Green Lantern) made it more glaring that characters like Superman and the Flash lost all their development from all of those previous stories.

And, of course, a large part of this was that not only were Superman and The Flash not married any more, but that their wives (Lois and Iris) were not even their love interests. In fact, the writers went out of their way to make it clear that they were in no way romantically linked.

The part that really annoyed me was when DC Co-Publisher Jim Lee said that, once they got rid of Superman’s marriage, the stories just flowed. This implies that the marriage was the problem, and not his lack of skill as a writer.

But at least the DC Universe had some married couples, like Animal Man and Aquaman. Or so we thought.

This all came to a boil during what is now known here as the DC PR Meltdown; the week when DC could not keep their foot out of their mouth.

This is when everyone learned that DC editorial had pulled the carpet out from under the long planned wedding of Batwoman, and her girlfriend Maggie. When accused of shying away from a same-sex marriage, DC Co-Publisher Dan Didio said it was not the same-sex part that they were against, but the marriage part. He said that they did not want any of their characters married, because the level of sacrifice needed to be a hero did not allow for that kind of happy ending. He fundamentally said that no DC hero should be married. So, basically, a ban on marriage. He seems to believe all heroes need to be miserable. I am left to wonder how these clearly hack writers ended up in charge of the DC Universe. Of course, I am sure the answer is politics, but I digress.

Another DC editor was challenged, after these comments were made, to reconcile these comments with a character like Aquaman, who is successfully married to Mera. The editor said Aquaman and Mera were not married. It was pointed out that Aquaman, king of Atlantis, regularly refers to Mera as his queen. The editor countered that just because she is his queen, it does not mean they are married. This came as a surprise to series writer Geoff Johns, who had never been told they were not married.

The only hero allowed to be married was Animal Man, and that is because his marriage (and its slow collapse) was central to the story. Not that it was a happy marriage, which is why I guess it was ok.

So why has DC come out against marriage?

I reject Didio’s argument that heroes don’t get that kind of happy ending. First off, marriage is not an ending, it is a commitment to the most important person in your life. Also, it is not easy and comes with many challenges that can lead to dramatic moments. Superman and Flash writers were able to find those for all the years each characters was married.

I also reject the argument that marriage limits storylines. A good writer would not have that problem. The issue is that a lot of the current writers (and more importantly right now editors) are caught up in their childhood power fantasies, and their heroes being married doesn’t fit into them.

As for the overall all ban, I have a suspicion that it was an attempt to cover a bad decision. I think someone in the editorial chain did not want there to be a same-sex marriage. When the story broke big, I think Didio’s statement against marriage was an attempt to hold off the accusations of being homophobic, chiefly due to how ridiculous the claim that Aquaman and Mera are not married is.

In the end, I think the whole war on marriage that DC has declared is just another sign of how badly there needs to be a change in the editorial structure. Time will tell, I suppose.


Fanboy News Network Episode 1

Fanboy logoThe First Episode of The Fanboy News Network Podcast

Trigger Warning: This episode will discuss a sexual assault at the end.

This episode Jeff goes over recent news in geek culture.

The Casting of Wonder Woman in the Superman/Batman movie.

Subscribers not getting issue #27 of DC Comics.

DC’s success with the TB series Arrow.

The events surrounding the alleged sexual assault at Aki Con in Seattle.

Man of Steel: A comic fan’s perspective

man-of-steel-logoMuch like Dark Knight Rises last year, rather than just review of Man of Steel, I want to look at how it represents the characters in relation to their counterparts in both comic books and pop culture in general.

Fair warning, this article is going to have spoilers for Man of Steel, consider yourself warned.

Since Man of Steel is a reboot of the Superman movie franchise, we find ourselves with yet another telling of Superman’s origin.

The first part of the movie I like because it gives one of the best takes on why Krypton is doomed; the planet’s core was drained to provide energy, and lead to the planet imploding. This is of course topical, but also has a feeling of realism, compared to what is normally just a hand wave.

Of course this part also has some downfalls. The first is that amidst the end of the world, the military decides to stage a coup. I know this was done to provide an introduction for Zod and set up him for later, but it just comes off as odd.

You also have a bit with the genetic codex of Krypton. This I am more forgiving of. It harkens back to the post-crisis relaunch of Superman with Krypton being dependent on clone technology, and gives added motivation for Zod to come after Superman. Other than that, it is basically a McGuffin to drive the plot.

As for the characters, it is an interesting mix.

Or course we have to start with Henry Cavills’ performance as Clark. Right off the bat, you’ll notice that I called him Clark instead of Superman on purpose. While they do call him Superman in the film, it is treated initially as a nickname. The character is treated as a man on a journey to find himself and his place in the world. A lot of people complain that he is not the Superman they grew up with, and that is a fair but incomplete take on the character. This is Clark Kent figuring out who he is and where he fits in the world; so no, he is not the Superman you know, at least not yet. If this film is about anything, it is the events that shape Clark into Superman. He already has the instincts to do the right thing, but is not necessarily sure how to go about it.

Amy Adams as Lois Lane is on a completely different front. This is one of the best representations of Lois outside of the comics ever. She is smart, competent, brave, and a bit of a daredevil. There are two factors that put this Lois above the rest. One is that they show her investigating the mysterious figure that is Clark, and she figures out who he is. I think this is a first in any version of Superman, in which Lois knows Clark’s secret even before the public at large knows about him. The benefit is that there is never a need for her to be played as clueless in not being able to figure out that Clark is Superman. She knows from the onset and is an active partner. This leads to the other factor – Lois is as important to the resolution of the story as Clark. She has information he needs in order to defeat the bad guys. Trusting that she knows what she is doing, he never once tells her to go to safety. And of course Adams’s performance is perhaps the best in the entire film.

Michael Shannon as General Zod is another interesting study. I have been a fan of Shannon for a while and was happy to hear he was cast in the movie. I was also happy to hear that he was in no way even going to attempt to copy anything from Terrance Stamp’s performance from Superman II.  The role of Zod in the movie is very consistent with his recent portrayal in comics. He is devoted to Krypton above all else, and if he must destroy Earth to recreate Krypton, so be it. I like the inference in the film that this is a result of how Krypton bred and raised children to fill a specific role in their society, and so Zod had no idea how to do anything else, but it could have been done better if this was made clearer earlier as I mentioned with the issues with the prologue.

My biggest issue with the film is the portrayal of Jonathan Kent. I think this is one of Kevin Costner’s better performances in the last few years, but I do not like how he was written. In the comics, it is Jonathan that instills the values into Clark that will lead him to be Superman. The movie tries to say this is what happened, but it is not what they showed us. Every time we see Jonathan mentor Clark, he is more concerned with keeping the secret than he is with doing what is right.

Russell Crowe as Jor-El is pretty straight forward. He is playing Jor-El just as he has been portrayed in the comics since 1985. Honestly, it is a solid performance and does more to move Clark towards Superman than Jonathan does.

For the rest of the performances, they are generally well done, but brief. Laurence Fishburne as Perry White is good casting, because he provides a shorthand to the character, which is needed as there is not much on the page.

Diane Lane gets about the same as Martha Kent. She doesn’t have much to do in the flashback scenes with Costner, and in the present, she is the tough widow who believes in her son and isn’t going to let an alien invasion phase her.

Real quick I want to call back to an earlier article and talk about the character Jenny, played by Rebecca Buller. It is never made clear if she is supposed to be a female version of Jimmy Olsen, or just a Planet staffer who Perry looks out for. Either way the character is too minor for it to make much difference.

So let’s talk about the scene that has all the fans in an uproar.  Again, spoilers ahead.

After all the destruction that has been visited on Metropolis by the Kryptonian invaders, after said invasion force has been destroyed, after Superman and Zod have had a battle that has caused untold damage, the final show down occurs.

With Zod threatening to just keep killing humans and actively trying to kill a family, Clark breaks his neck, killing him.

This rubs most fans the wrong way as one of Superman’s big rules is that he does not kill.

Except in the comics he has, and it was Zod he killed.

In 1988 John Byrne wrote a story where Superman faced a Zod from another universe. In his universe, Zod had destroyed Earth, even with our Superman trying to save it. Superman defeats Zod, who then claims he will find a way to the main DC universe and destroy that Earth. Superman believes him and finds the only way to make sure this does not happen is to kill him.

But that is not the end of the story. The next years’ worth of stories are based around Superman struggling with that decision and ultimately declaring that he will always find a better way in the future.

In the movie, immediately after killing Zod, Clark is overcome with grief over having done it, and is comforted by Lois. Clearly this was not a light decision and weighs on him. If we do get a sequel, my hope is the writers build on this just as the comics did.

In the end I did enjoy Man of Steel, but I also think it was not a perfect film. I think it made the mistake of being too much of a disaster film to be a completely satisfying superhero film.

Hopefully Warner Bros. can learn from this film and any sequel can be the Superman film that all fans can get behind.


Gender change in a remake


Superman’s New Pal?

It’s geek debate time again.

This debate is brought to us by the upcoming Superman movie Man of Steel. And it is the time-honored debate of how they are altering a character. In this case the alteration appears to be happing to none other than Superman’s pal Jimmy Olsen, and the change looks like a big one. Fans were noting that nowhere in the cast list was there any mention of anyone playing Jimmy. This is surprising as there has never been a live action Superman project that did not include Jimmy. He even appeared in the Supergirl movie. Minor character Emil Hamilton is appearing in the Man of Steel, so where is Jimmy?

Then someone reading the IMDB listing for the movie noticed that there is a character named Jenny Olsen, listed to be played by actress Rebecca Buller. Jimmy and Jenny are similar names. So the speculation has started that Jenny is a gender swapped Jimmy. And of course the moment that fans got wind of the story the debates began.

This is not the first variation on traditional casting that Man of Steel has done. Laurence Fishburne was announced early on as playing Perry White, thus changing the character’s ethnicity.  There was not really any noise about that casting, however this could be due to the fact that Fishburne is an actor well known to geek fans and well respected, so news of his casting was more along the lines of “they got a good actor to play Perry”. Buller on the other hand is a newcomer, having only one other acting credit listed on IMDB.

I think we as a society are at a point where altering ethnicity of a character is not as big of a deal. It happened to Pete Ross on Smallville and no one made any noise about it. Gender swapping tends to get more reaction as it can more significantly alter a character’s interactions with other characters. Also there can be a certain amount of homophobia or misogyny. Fans not dealing well due to identifying with the original character and not dealing well with the change or the old “a girl can’t do that.”

The best example of this is Battlestar Galactica.  In the original series, one of the main characters was Lt. Starbuck, a dashing rogue who was clearly meant to remind viewers of Han Solo from Star Wars. Starbuck was a ladies man, gambler, and smoked cigars. For the late ‘70s these traits all said lovable rascal. He was the best friend of our designated hero, Captain Apollo. Like Han Solo, Starbuck became the fan favorite character.

Also in the main cast was Lt. Boomer, who was a more level-headed counterpart. He was the intellectual, and more likely to act as a voice of reason.

In the 2003 remake both Starbuck and Boomer were recast as females. Most of the attention when this was announced was focused on the change to Starbuck. As the fan favorite character from the original show, the fans were outraged that such a change was taking place. All through the run of the remake there were some fans who could not get past this, even though once people saw the show it was clear that all the characters were different from their 70s counterparts.

In reality a lot of Starbucks characteristics were retained in the switch. Both were the best pilot in the fleet, both were brash and challenged authority, both gambled, drank, and smoked, and both really liked sex. In fact outside of the gender change, the biggest difference in the characters was that male Starbuck was always well groomed and female Starbuck was always looking rough and tumble, and that change probably has more to do with era difference than gender.  They were both the fans’ favorite character on the show.

In the end, changing Starbuck’s gender opened up storytelling possibilities that the writers took full advantage of.

Honestly, with the number of changes they did with the character of Boomer, the gender change is almost incidental.

Although it does seem that Grace Park, the actress who played Boomer, seems to have a habit of this. On her current show, the remake of Hawaii 5-0, her character is Kono, who was a male character on the original show. In this case the change was clearly an attempt to get a female character in the show where the original was exclusively male.

Another recent example comes from the CBS show Elementary, which is their answer to the British show Sherlock, placing Sherlock Holmes in a modern day setting. On Elementary, Holmes’ partner John Watson has been recast as Joan Watson and is being played by Lucy Liu. In this case, there are several elements of the traditional Holmes story that have been altered, and ultimately the gender change seems more in line with the Hawaii 5-0 one of providing more cast diversity than anything about the character.

So where does that leave us with poor Jenny Olsen? At this point it is hard to tell, since everything we know about this situation is based purely on speculation. Is she just an attempt to put another female on the cast, like Watson or Kono, or is she a way to open up story avenues not available with Jimmy, like Starbuck?

I for one will be interested to find out. Until then I will keep my nerd rage and knee jerk reaction in check.


The history of the replacement superhero


Once again we find ourselves in a place where a classic superhero has been replaced. In this case if you haven’t been following the comic book news, Peter Parker is no longer Spider-Man.  A new Spider-Man has taken his place. According to Marvel this is a permanent change and will be the status quo going forward.

The general consensus amongst fans is that this status quo will last about a year before Parker is returned to his role as the Wall Crawler.

But why do we just assume that this is a temporary situation. Let’s take a look at the history of major characters being replaced in superhero comics.

First I suppose we need to establish that we are talking about characters from the silver age. There was of course the update of most of DC Comic’s characters in the 60s. That was treated as a new launch and not meant to be old characters being replaced.

The first question is why replace the character at all. The answer is naturally to open up new story possibilities. When a character has been in place for so long several of their characteristics are set in stone. If a writer wants to go beyond those a good way is to have someone new in the role.  There is also the idea of character growth.

One of the most successful replacements of a character ever was the Flash. In 1986 during Crisis on Infinite Earths, Barry Allen gave his life to save the universe. At the end of the series his nephew and sidekick Wally West, Kid Flash adopted the Flash identity. Over the next 25 years Wally West was the Flash. The series often examined Wally attempting to live up to the legacy of Barry, and how other heroes and villains who knew Barry reacted to him in the role. Wally went from overcompensating, to insecure, to finally stepping up to the role of one of the leading heroes in the DC universe.  Wally ultimately stood as a member of the Justice League alongside many of other major heroes. Most media projects of the time used the Wally West version of the Flash; most notably the Justice League animated series.  There is an entire generation of comic fans for whom Wally is and has always been the Flash. But the tale of Wally West does ultimately lend itself to why we fans are cynical about the permanency of a replacement hero.

In the 2008 series Final Crisis Barry Allen returned from the dead. The following year saw the release of the Flash Reborn where Barry officially stepped into the role of the Flash again. Wally was still around at this time, but he no longer had his own book, and after a while just faded from the title. With the New 52 relaunch Wally is now not only missing from any title, but is one of the characters that writers are forbidden to use. Again he is the Flash that a lot of fans are familiar with, but since the powers that be at DC want Barry to be unique Wally has been wiped from the universe.

Another example was one we touched on last year when we talked about the old speculation boom and how it went bust, the Death of Superman storyline and specifically the Reign of the Supermen. Here you had the very publicly touted death of comics’ most iconic character.  It was certainly a headline grabber. For all the grief it gets as a sales ploy and the storyline that started the implosion of the speculator market and subsequent shrinking of the industry, it was a well written story. It was broken into four acts, the death, the aftermath, the rise of the replacement supermen, and the return of Superman. Clearly the whole story was planned from the beginning, and savoy comic fans knew this. At shops and comic shows everyone speculated how each stage would be handled. No one expected any of the replacements to permanently take over. Well no one who actually followed the books. As discussed before, speculators assumed this was a permanent change. Just look at the previous article for more on that. The replacements did of course continue on as characters in their own right and Steel and Superboy went on to be important parts of the DCU.

Around the same time you had the Batman books doing a similar idea with Knightfall. Again a new character was brought in as the replacement Batman. This one had less impact on the DCU, with only the new villain Bane having any impact going forward.

In both those cases the fact that new characters were introduced as the replacements was a big clue that it these were only storylines and not lasting changes.

More recently Marvel and DC did some very similar stories that went another route on the replacement angle. Like the Flash these were stories where the former sidekick took over for their fallen mentor.

At Marvel it was Captain America’s sidekick Bucky taking over the role went Cap was killed at the end of the Civil War Story. At DC it was Dick Grayson taking on the role of Batman following Bruce Wayne’s death at the end of Final Crisis.

In both cases some very good writing came out of these stories. Ed Brubaker wrote Captain America at this time and you had a slightly darker Cap with Bucky under the mask and espionage was a bigger part of the story. At DC you had Grant Morrison writing Batman and Robin and knocking it out of the park with a more light-hearted Batman and a darker Robin, who was Bruce’s son Damian.

In both cases about two years later both Steve and Bruce were proven to be alive, their deaths faked by means of time travel. Upon their return both Steve and Bruce left their successors in their roles and the pursued other goals. Eventually both heroes returned to their roles and the sidekicks resumed their previous identities.

When these storylines started fans were already cynical enough about main heroes being replaced that there were betting pools on how soon the originals would return.

These are hardly the only cases I could site on this subject, but the trajectory is basically the same. Eventually the old superhero resumes his role.

As of this writing I can only think of one exception to this, Marvel comics’ cosmic hero Captain Marvel. Marvel’s death occurred in the first ever Marvel graphic novel. Over the years his death has stuck. The problem has been keeping a consistent successor.

Originally the new Captain Marvel was an unrelated heroine with unrelated powers who took up the name. Next up was Marvel’s son taking up his father’s role. Most recently we have the heroine Ms. Marvel, who was connected to the original, taking on the title of Captain. This last is being well received so we will see how it goes.

Which brings us back to Spider-man.

This is actually the second time that Peter has been replaced. In the 90s you had the first attempt to have an unmarried Spider-man thanks to the clone saga, where it was revealed that Peter was just a clone of the original Spidey and the person we thought was the clone, Ben Reilly, was really the original. Peter decided to retire, and Ben took over as Spider-Man.

Fans hated this twist and it was quickly dropped and revealed to all be a plot by the Green Goblin and Peter was the original after all.

Now thanks to a body swap we have Doctor Octopus inhabiting Peter’s body. Doc’s body with
Peter in it has died, so Doc as Peter is the new Spider-Man.

I won’t get into the details, but the first issue of the new Superior Spider-Man on the last page already has the seed of how the original Peter will return. So the question is, how long will it take.

Anyone want to set up a pool.




Saving Lois Lane

Lois Lane.

Everyone recognizes that name.  She is not just a geek icon, she is a cultural icon. You go up to any random person on the street and they recognize her name. Everyone knows she is the plucky reporter that is also Superman’s love interest.  Everyone knows that she and Clark Kent belong together.

Yes in the early days of comics she was often there so that Superman had someone to rescue, but as the medium evolved so did she. In modern lore she is a strong independent woman who is able to meet Clark as an equal and partner. She is also strong enough to give him support when the going got tough, and act as his anchor to humanity.

Well at least she was. All of the above was true until last year when DC Comics relaunched their universe with the New 52.

Now Lois Lane is barely in the books anymore, and her relationship with Clark is not a partnership of any kind. In fact she is not even a reporter anymore, she has been bumped up to a TV Producer at a news network.  And her journalistic ethics, which have always been a core of the character, have been eroded.

As for the romantic front, early issues in the reboot showed that Clark had feelings for her, but that not only did she not return those feelings, she was not aware of them. Also she has a boyfriend. He has only appeared in about five panels but he exists.

As one of the most recognizable characters in comics, and the most recognizable character in the Superman franchise outside of Clark himself it seems odd that she has not appeared on a single comic book cover since the relaunch.

So what is going on? Why is one of the core characters of one of the world’s most famous franchises being pushed aside and minimalized?

A lot of speculation about that has been going on, but the consensus comes down to this; DC wants to push Superman and Wonder Woman as a couple.

I know I went over this back in August when I was going over the news of the Superman/Wonder Woman pairing and how it felt forced. What I have learned since is that this was apparently part of the plan from early on and to help facilitate this, the feeling was that Lois needed to be diminished so that she would not appear to be in the way of this relationship.

DC also seems to be getting desperate in their attempts to promote the Superman/ Wonder Woman coupling. In the last few weeks it has been the focus of many polls and features on the DC comics’ blog and Facebook page. It is beginning to have the feel of “You will like this if we have to ram it down your throat.”

This part is just speculation. It is hard to say how long the Superman/Wonder woman relationship was being planned. It still feels like an executive mandate, and in the last few months DC has been known to change plans suddenly requiring rushed updates of issues.

But the diminishing of Lois does appear to be a thing either way.

But how sure are we of this. DC has said nothing explicit on any of this. This is where a bit of good old fashion fanboy detective work comes in.

First we have to look at the comments from the creative staff. The ones that I think back up the point the hardest to this are comments that have been made by Superman group editor Matt Idelson.

Back at San Diego Comic Con in 2011, when the relaunch details were being announced, Idelson referred to Lois as Superman’s “trophy wife” when explaining that the marriage between that two was no longer part of continuity.

Last August he made an even more definite statement on his opinion of Clark and Lois as a couple.

“Clark and Lois are not inevitable, and in fact it isn’t going to happen, at least while I’m on watch duty!”

He later had to walk those comments back; I’m sure due to fan backlash.

“Clark most definitely has feelings for Lois, but he not only sees her as unattainable but also unavailable. I’d much rather see the readers pining for them to couple up, with growing intensity, until we have no choice but make that magic moment happen. And in truth, I engaged in some ill-advised hyperbole there when I said they wouldn’t get together on my watch. I miss them as a couple, I really do, but I also know that good drama comes from complicating the path that leads to the happily forever after ending. My hope is that ultimately, we’ll all look back twenty years from now and see that without Lois in his life, that human representation is something he had to grow towards, and that the absence of Lois in his romantic life held him back.”

Idelson while the highest ranking member of the creative staff to comment, was hardly the only one.

Artist Rags Morales stated that Superman sucked since he got married and he considered it jumping the shark. He also said that Lois worked better as a Damsel in Distress and a pain in the ass.

Publisher Jim Lee had compared the phasing out of Lois as no different than changing the size of Superman’s cape.

Writer Andy Diggle has stated on twitter that he feels Wonder Woman and Superman make a better couple than Lois and Clark.

Also if you look at any promotional material and you will not find any mention of Lois.

And just for comparison let’s take a quick look at another long time supporting character, Jimmy Olsen. Jimmy is still fairly active in the books; in fact right now he and Clark are roommates. I won’t go into details why, but it does allow for some fun keeping the identity secret scenes. So Jimmy is in the books about as much as he used to be.

So it seems clear that reducing her role was always the plan. They couldn’t just make her go away like Wally West or Stephanie Brown, so they did the next best thing and made her a side character.

This brings up an interesting issue for next year. The new Superman movie Man of Steel is coming out. Lois Lane will be featured in it, played by Amy Adams. I assume she will be in her traditional role in this movie. For a company so interested in synergy between its divisions I am curious how Warner Bros will address this and in turn how the comics will deal with it.

In the meantime as a fan I am not pleased with these developments. Lois was a great character because she could be strong and brave in a superhero world even though she did not have superpowers. I feel her downsizing is taking away another role model character and not helping in the perceived boys club mentality of the industry overall. As a fan I want to do what I can to let DC know we do not want to lose her or see her as just a shadow of her former self.

So here is what I purpose. I would like to see a hashtag start making the rounds on twitter and tumblr; #savelois. If it can start trending maybe it will get enough attention that DC will know she has fans that are not happy with her current treatment.

So let’s see what we can do.

DC Comics: More reasons for concern.

Dear DC Comics,

Why is it that when I am planning a nice well thought out article that you must have a week with news I cannot just ignore?

Take for example this week. First there is news that Superman and Wonder Woman are going to be an official couple. That alone would require at least a mention.

But no, you have to follow it up with the news that Rob Liefeld has suddenly left your employ, and in a manner so close to the recent issue with George Perez that I cannot look away.

So here we go again.

First I want to take a look at the Liefeld situation. Rob Liefeld has become something of a joke amongst fans. His art style is off putting to most due to his odd ideas on how human anatomy works and his complete inability to draw feet. His writing style is also often under assault due to a lack of concern to character motivation or internal story continuity.

With that said Rob still gets a lot of work in the industry. From all reports this comes in part from being one of the honestly nicest people in the business. Although the back and forth happening on twitter this week may disprove that last one.

So I’m sure a lot of people were surprised when he announced his leaving DC comics despite being the writer on Hawkman, Grifter, and Deathstroke. His reasoning mirrors the reasons that George Perez gave back in June as to why he left Superman. Rob sites editorial incision, drastic last minute changes, and what he describes as “editor pissing contests” as his reasons for leaving.

This makes Rob the second high profile talent to leave the company for these reasons.

And while it may not seem like much of a segue this leads us to the pairing of Wonder Woman and Superman.

Let’s face it, this just reeks of being an executive “suggestion”

To be honest this is hardly the first time that the idea of a Superman/Wonder Woman pairing has been floated. I can name three different out of continuity stories DC Comics published that explored this idea. Kingdom Come, Justice League: Act of God, and Superman: Distant Fires.  Of course only the first of those was any good.

In continuity the idea was toyed with a couple of times. When John Byrne was writing Superman and George Perez was writing Wonder Woman during the early days of the post Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot you had the Man of Steel attempting to get a date with the Amazon Princess. She was not very receptive to the idea. They ended up on one date and by the end it was clear to Clark that she just wasn’t that in to him.

A couple of decades passed and thanks to actual character development Clark Kent actually had a relationship with Lois Lane that progressed to marriage. However poor Diana discovered that maybe she was a bit more interested then she first let on. Clark being the very role model of good behavior didn’t even consider cheating on Lois, not that Diana was suggesting that, more bemoaning the lost opportunity. Somewhere in there was also the idea that she might be attracted to Bruce Wayne as well. It got a little odd at times.

The point is that at no time was there ever any serious consideration that Superman and Wonder Woman would get together in the main continuity.

Then we had the reboot last year. Due to that, now you have a Lois and Clark that not only are not married, but have never dated and Lois is living with some other guy.  In fact in seems that the reboot was very anti-marriage as they did nearly the same thing to the Flash, even though his marriage was more or less the canon.

Oh and Steve Trevor is in love with Wonder Woman, but it is an unrequited love.

So this leaves the door open to a Clark/Diana hookup.

My problem is that it just doesn’t feel like a natural outgrowth of the storytelling that has been going on. In fact I would go so far as to say it is pure fan service designed to grab headlines.

In the Superman books Clark is clearly in love with Lois, but she is trying to set him up with her sister Lucy. This pairing seems to at least be a possibility, if for rom-com level antics if nothing else.

I’ve dropped the Wonder Woman main title, but when I was reading it there were no romantic plots of any kind being explored.

In the book they both appear in, Justice League, there is a romantic subplot, but it is the one I mentioned earlier involving Diana and Steve Trevor.

So I strongly suspect that this was a mandate from on high to capitalize on the publicity potential with no sight on the actual storytelling.

This is my biggest complaint about the current direction of DC comics. It feels like the bean counters are running the ship and making some really bad story telling decisions based on market analysis.

Time will tell.

Next week it will be one year since the reboot. I’ll be looking at how I feel about the individual titles. See you then.

DC New 52: Troubling signs.

We are 10 months into the relaunch of the DC universe with the New 52. Originally I had not planned on touching on the event again until we reached the 12 month mark. But as a good friend of mine is fond of saying “When man makes plans, the gods laugh”.

Between some stories that broke in the last week I felt it was time a good time to go over how I feel about the direction DC is going with its titles.

The event that set this off was an interview with George Perez on why he stepped down as the writer on Superman. It came down to a frustration due to lack of consistency on what he was being told. Implied in the interview was a high degree of executive meddling over the head of DC publisher Dan DiDio. According to George he was given contradictory instructions on an almost constant basis.

He also did not like that his book was set 5 years after the story in Action Comics, being written by Grant Morrison. Grant was not telling anyone what he was planning meaning George had to limit what he wrote as he was not to contradict anything Grant wrote.

From this we can extract the following points.

  • DC did not go into the relaunch with a coherent plan.
  • The creative staff is not getting a consistent message.
  • Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee are not in complete charge of guiding the stories due to executive meddling.
  • DC is giving way too much leeway to Grant Morrison and I suspect Geoff Johns.

From the start there has been a feel that the whole relaunch was an executive plan to reinvigorate the line and make the properties friendlier to other media. The big concern was that it was a rushed half-baked plan and now that seems to be confirmed at least in part by Perez.

Looking at the books there are some points we can see.

Some books have done well. These include Swamp Thing, Demon Knights, Aquaman, Justice League Dark, and Dial H. The thing about these books is that because of how they are written they would have succeeded just as well without the reboot of the DCU. Other books that have done well are the Batman and Green Lantern books, which have largely ignored the reboot.

But then you have the books that have not done so well. Superman has had problems since September. Action is ok, but both Action and Superman feel disconnected from each other. And as you can tell from Perez’s comments Superman has been a disjointed mess. Another book that is troubling is Green Arrow. It started out ok, but like Superman there was a creative team change and now it is borderline confusing.

Another issue is that there is inconstancy in the continuity. In Justice League International you have Batman as a member of the team and very supportive of team leader Booster Gold. In the main Justice League book Batman is loudly calling for the UN to disband the JLI. Add to this the fact that the members of the Justice League are acting like stuck up pricks in contrast to how most of them act in their own books.

There is another thing that makes me worried about the level of executive meddling at DC, and this one I witnessed with my own eyes.

At Emerald City Comic Con I attended two different DCU panels moderated by Batman group editor Michael Marts. In both panels questions were raised about the status of three characters, former Flash Wally West, original Wonder Girl Donna Troy, and most importantly previous Batgirl Stephanie Brown. In both cases there was someone in the audience making a slashing motion across his throat signaling Marts not to answer. In one of the panels where the audience would not let the question go Marts stated that the person making the gesture was a PR guy telling him not to answer.

To recap there was a PR guy in the audience making sure the Batman group editor did not give answers to certain questions.

Now maybe this is not that weird, but for me I have never witnessed anything like that at a convention before.

So what do I hope to see? Personally I am hoping that in another year or so that DC will announce that the new 52 is over and they are fixing the timeline to return to the more familiar continuity with maybe a few hold over changes.

But I’m not holding my breath.

I can’t believe it’s not Superman

With the release of the movie Chronicle I am pleased that a cliché was avoided. Not that the movie is free from them, let’s face it, it is a found footage movie, but there is one I am glad it avoided. (At least I think they did, I haven’t had a chance to go see it yet. I know “Bad Fanboy”)

It’s a movie riffing on superpowers and superheroes where the characters powers are not based on Superman.
Think about it for a minute, name a superhero movie not based on a pre-existing superhero property where the hero’s powers were not basically Superman’s. Seriously the only one that I can name off the top of my head is the Toxic Avenger and I’m not sure he counts.
When I say Superman based I am talking about the following specific powers:
Super strength
Other powers will often be present as well, but those three seem to be universal.
I’ll admit that there are a lot of superheroes in comics have these powers and are not considered rip offs of Superman. Rogue of the X-men, the Martian Manhunter, and Thor spring immediately to mind.
But most of the characters I am talking about are clearly taking their cues from Superman.
Now to be fair Superman is a cultural icon and the first image to enter people’s minds when the term superhero is used.  But all that tells me is that a lot of screenwriters are lazy. (Let’s all pretend to be shocked). So I guess for most people not immersed in geek culture Superman is synonymous with superhero.
And in most cases these portrayals are exploring ideas that you couldn’t with Superman himself. Superman is the paragon of superheroes. He is confident, noble, and humble. Often these pastiches are exploring ideas that would not fit with those qualities.
Most often you find the story to be about an ordinary person leading an ordinary life suddenly finding themselves with superpowers.
In the sixties you had two competing TV comedies, Mr. Terrific and Captain Nice, which had heroes who gained temporary powers based on a secret formula.  While similar ideas both had different execution. Mr. Terrific worked for the government who supplied the super pills that only seemed to work on him. Most episodes had his powers run out at the worst possible time. Captain Nice was a police scientist (no one said forensics back then) who invented a formula that gave him powers. Most episodes were about him needing to get to his formula in order to save the day. The other big difference in these shows was that Mr. Terrific was awkward with his powers, where Captain Nice could handle them, but was stuck with a ridiculous costume his mother made.
Moving on to the eighties and you had the Greatest American Hero, about a school teacher given a superhero costume by aliens that gave him superpowers. Like Mr. Terrific he had poor control over his abilities. The appeal of this show was the buddy cop aspect provided by his FBI friend/partner.
All these shows while having some fun with the everyman superhero idea suffered from the same problem, a problem that all TV shows featuring a super powered hero, be they from a previous license of not, suffered from. Almost none of the antagonists had superpowers. So really none of them ever really had a comic book feel to them, but more of a superhero in the real world vibe.
Movies didn’t always fare much better. You had parodies, like The Return of Captain Invincible. This was a movie where a hero from the 50’s is disgraced and becomes an alcoholic bum. He is found and has to clean up his act in order to save the world from his arch enemy. It was low budget fluff, even if it did have Christopher Lee as the bad guy.
There was a terrible Italian movie called Puma Man. Yes, Puma man.  His powers were Puma based yet somehow they still made him a Superman Pastiche. His powers were even of extraterrestrial origin. If you heard of this one at all it was because Mystery Science Theater 3000 got their hands on it.
In 1993 there was Meteor Man, which sadly really wasn’t more than Greatest American Hero with an all-black cast.
More recently there was Hancock with Will Smith. To the writer’s credit instead of having a movie about an everyman with powers, it went with “What if Superman was a drunken asshole.” What was nice was they did dig a bit into the characters psychology to given him a reason for being that way and made it a redemption tale.
And there are certainly exceptions. The Incredibles for example was more of a riff on the Fantastic Four.
Sometimes Warner Brothers, who owns DC comics, thinks that these shows get a little too close to their copyright for comfort. For example WB sued over the Greatest American Hero. Ultimately lost as the court felt the character wasn’t close enough to Superman to warrant a violation, even with nearly the same powers.
Of course there are the non-powered heroes, but that could be a whole article on Batman pastiches. (And probably will be)
Will we see more Superman pastiches in the future? I don’t see why not.  Until then I think I will get out there and see Chronicle.