Monday, September 17, 2007

How I Got Tricked Into Buying A "Countdown" Special With Two Colons In The Title

See this face?

This is not the face of a happy girl.

I could have SWORN that the solicits copy said Jamal Igle was drawing "Countdown: The Search For Ray Palmer: Wildstorm."

But, as I found out on the train, this was not the case.

Luckily for me, the book ended up being a great value anyway. Because I got not just one but FOUR inkers on this book!

To go over in detail the merits or failures of this issue is, as Dr. Evil might say, in-con-se-squen-tial.

A few points, however:

1) Every time I look at Jason Todd, I think of Superboy punching a f**king hole in time. Which, in my mind, means that Todd doesn't deserve to live, because he came back to life in a stupid stupid way. Does that sound too harsh, too "Nancy Grace" an opinion?

2) Green Lantern "crab mask" -- agh!

3) I really don't think DC would have messed with putting "Wildstorm" characters in this series if they didn't plan to reabsorb them into the regular DC continuity. I really think it's part of the "plan."

4) This book might yield some bits of trashy fun for the fan who gets off on this crossover stuff (which is me SOMETIMES). But it's not a great book. It looks and reads very very very very rushed.

5) "Mr. Majestic" was a damn fine comic. Leave the character alone! He looks like Mr. Crappy McCrapmeister here.

Well, time to cleanse my palette:


  1. You know, after reading your blog since you posted your "Countdown to Change" article (or as I like to call it "I intend to KILL Dan DiDio's career; By Any Means Necessary!") I have to ask two questions.

    1) Why does someone who obviously does not like the superhero genre persist in reading it? I understand your frustration most of the time; I too am getting too old for the genre. Which is ok by me, I understand that the genre is not written with my age group in mind and it allows me to spend my money on the titles that still interest me.

    But to read you bemoaning Jason Todd's "existence" is a bit silly. When it comes to comic book logic, Superboy Prime "punching" Todd back into existance is no more far fetched than a newborn travelling through space, through galaxies to Earth, as the last survivor of his planet. As far fetched as a billionaire playboy breaking his body to fight crime, while still maintaining a multi-billion dollar global corporation. It just seems a bit arbitrary to pick out this lapse of reason. Or does it? Which leads me to question #2!

    2) What, exactly, did DiDio do to you during your tenure at DC? I haven't seen such character assassination since Peter David left the Hulk. Your rants just seem to be too personal, smacking of 'disgruntled employee' more than 'disgruntled reader.' Seriously, Countdown is not THAT bad. (I enjoy it most of the time, but more to the point, I understand that the story is leading somewhere and I want to be along for the ride.) The current wave of Crises doesn't smack of desperation, or of milking the name: I understood that Infinite Crisis was Act Two of a larger story. Somewhat surprised that a professional in the field could not figure that out.

    Sorry, that last comment was probably uncalled for. But really, OS, whats your deal with DiDio? I've been enjoying his tenure (as much as I can enjoy an artform that offers a revolving door where death, stories and characters are concerned; I am nearing 40 after all.) Personally, I don't want the mainstream DCU books to cater to me; I want them to cater to my 5 year old so that he will fall in love with it as I did. (Vertigo, on the other hand? That BETTER cater to my consumer ass.) Just saying, you might be looking at the issue through glasses it was not meant to be seen with.

    Dan B.

  2. Dan,

    I don't think you'll find too many people working under DiDio to be gruntled.

    This may tell you all you need to know.

    From my perspective as a reader and long time DC fan, the DiDio era has been distinguished by stories that lack any cohesion or completion, continuity porn past even MY tolerance, and I'm one of those people who thought the multiverse was not broken and did not need to be fixed back when the first Crisis came out.

    Furthermore, I have watch all my female comic buddies move on to Marvel or to Manga simply because the portrayal and treatment of women at DC is just too too.

    And when Marvel's treatment of women looks like a step up, you are in TROUBLE.

    I think that OS is angry, sure, and I think she is entitled to express that anger in her own forum. She does it with eloquence and wit.

    To address the Superboy punching space problem, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that the reason most everybody finds it offensive is not the mechanism, but how clearly post-facto it was.

    Every fuckup of the last several years was just explained with, "Oh yeah, Superboy punched time." Like it was planned.

    I call, and so should we all, shenanigans.

  3. Whoops. For clarity, don't post two minutes before end of day from work.

    Typos and grammatical errors abound. MY bad. I hope my intent, at least, is clear.

  4. I see plenty of evidence that Val *loves* superheroes, Dan. I don't know where you're getting that from.

    And I'd say that JT's existence is absolutely more far-fetched than the other examples you've described. Superman, Batman -- all their origins are consistent within the DCU reality. They had to reach beyond reality to save Jason's sorry ass. There's a level of difference there, and if you don't see it, I can't explain it. But it's there.

  5. What Ryan said re: the stupidity of punching the universe. I'm not, nor have I ever been a DC employee and I can't stand DiDio's tenure for the reasons Ryan mentioned. And it's obvious that some of the worst changes are editorially mandated, or had its origins in a specific demand that needed an equally stupid rationale to bring forward, yeah, Jason I'm looking at you.

    (You can tell because Jason's return makes equally no sense even in the set-up. Was history changed so the Joker never killed him? No, because he apparently woke up in the coffin. So what exactly did Superboy's punch do? And how come the grave didn't seem disturbed and the coffin looked unoccupied when Bats dug it up? And what kind of motion sensor only detects people breaking in and not breaking out? Why on Earth would you set it that way? But I digress.)

    I just have to add as well, if one is looking for books to appeal to one's 5-year-old... I'm not saying of course that comics turn people sociopathic, but to a 5-year-old, maybe Superboy decapitating people with punches and ripping people's arms off, maybe women being overtly and overly sexualized and treated with violence and disdain, maybe enough continuity porn from the 80s to choke a moose with no real in-story explanation...

    Maybe these stories aren't really for him, either.

  6. OS, I did warn you not to read it...

    Re: Jason Todd. Even aside from offensiveness of the "Superboy punched the universe," the return of JT was terrible because:

    A) It broke a promise to the readers. OK, most of those reading today weren't around back then, but DC promised to abide by the vote. To return JT despite that shows a disrepsect for fans and for DC regimes and creators past. I want my 50¢ back from the 1-900 vote (with interest, of course).
    B) What is the reason for it? Batman has spent how much time anguishing over it? Oh, that's right, he's seemingly forgotten all about it. Sure, your ex-partner has come back to life and become a savage murderer, but don't hunt him down, or find him andc try to help him. Under these circumstances, the fact that the writers couldn't find anything remotely interesting or relevant for him to do in the Bat books is a pretty good indication that there was no real point in resurrecting him.

    Instead, let Superman set up interviews with him for Jimmy Olsen and then have JT traipsing in a pointless quest and ridiculous love triangle!! Yeah, I'm glad there was such a compelling need to bring this character back.
    C) To cover your tracks, lie and pretend that JT is somehow an "anomoly" from "another Earth" to justify his use, when he's not, and the only anomoly is why editors thought it was a good idea to bring him back in the first place.

  7. Also, the argument that "if you'll buy a guy from Krypton you'll buy anything" has often been raised (guilty as charged) but in the end it's a straw man because it's all about context.

    If it was a goofy Silver Age story where rules of physics are routinely circumvented or surreality is the order of the day, it might have been more acceptable. Nobody really looks deep into why Jimmy Olsen becomes Turtle Boy, for example. Now, if someone questions the whys and wherefores of Turtle Boy, responding, "Well, okay, this is the same Jimmy Olsen who dresses up as a girl and makes gangsters smooch monkeys in the dark... whaddya want?" becomes more legitimate.

    However, Jason's resurrection took place in the environment of a ostensibly grim and "realistic" story about the return of the Red Hood and the ultraviolent way he starts to take over the Gotham underworld, and treated with equally grim and "realistic" consequences, so it's out of place. We're supposed to take this story seriously, and it's hard to do so when the very basis of becomes undermined by this blanket, deus ex machina premise (which is only revealed later).

    It's like Waid using Hypertime to explain his continuity screw-ups in JLA: Year One. It's certainly convenient, and to a degree it works, but it's cheap and lazy.

  8. I agree with you completely, Terence. it's exactly because it feels cheap and lazy that it offends.

    This is "The Cheap and Lazy" age of comics it seems.

    And I'm torn about it in a way. On the one hand slavish devotion to continuity has been the downfall of the characters and the industry. On the other hand, I admit to loving the richness and complexity of comic book worlds.

    I guess it just really upsets me when the creators show such contempt in their work. The throwaway explanations sting more than just admitting to an error.

  9. I don't know where anyone would get the idea that this blog's assaults on Dan DiDio have somehow been more vicious and/or personal than the general tone of Internet discussion; if anything, this blog has been relatively calm and mellow compared to...well, "Dan DiDio Must Die!" comes to mind. (Heck, I'm a pussycat, and I've said essentially the same things this blog has said about DiDio, and in less polite terms.)

    And Jason Todd is terrible. Not just the manner of him coming back, but the character they've brought him back as. "He's Nightwing, only more proactive! Jason Todd should be on-panel as often as possible, and when not, other characters should stand around saying, 'I miss Jason Todd.'" (And et cetera et cetera on the Simpsons quotes...really, Jason Todd is the Poochie of the DC Universe.)

  10. Green Lantern "crab mask" -- agh!

    I like the crab mask - makes more sense than Hal's mask.

  11. I am positively terrified that Wildstorm will be absorbed in to the mainstream DCU, have been since the end of 52. Because the DC heroes will treat the Wildstorm heroes as villains and try to imprison or reform them. And DC probably wouldn't care about keeping the Wildstorm heroes in character enough for it to end logically (i.e. Midnighter kills everyone).

    Of course, somebody addressed this in the Authority LiveJournal comm. (Life on Earth-50!)

  12. I would have interested in this issue if it was Dick instead of Jason.

    For the record, I like the crab mask.

  13. Ryan, not sure about your assertation that there are few ‘gruntled’ employees under DiDio; some of my favorite modern talents seem to be thriving under his watch. Why is it that Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Brian Azzarello, Geoff Johns, Darwin Cooke, Gail Simone, Andy Diggle etc. etc. are able to put out such quality work under such supposedly horrid conditions? As a middle manager at my job, sometimes it is an ugly job and my responsibility is not to be my employee’s friend. Although, frankly, nothing I have heard about DiDio puts him anywhere near the reputation that Jim Shooter had during his tenure.

    Also, Ryan, I hear and understand your complaints regarding the treatment of women, but I wonder where characters like the Birds of Prey, Mary Marvel, Renee Montoya, Scandal, Stargirl, Vixen, Granny Goodness, Linda Park, etc. etc. fit into your claim? Personally, I agree that women aren’t treated very well in comics, however; a) lets expand that claim to “Women are treated as story telling tools in most forms of entertainment.” One need only to hear the fanboys react to Jodie Foster’s recent interview for an example of the dichotomy facing women in entertainment. b) I wonder if the problem isn’t so much a current one, as a cumulative one? That is to say, after about 60 years of women being tools in this traditionally nebbish boys club, maybe you’ve had enough? There’s nothing wrong with feeling that way and I would certainly agree. However, to me, that’s a sign that perhaps we should be moving on from this form of entertainment.

    Regarding Jason Todd: sorry, not buying it. We’re talking about a character whose death was a marketing gimmick to begin with. Those of you that are upset because you called the 900 number twenty years ago: sorry, but you were took in by a marketing gimmick. On one hand, the story is far from over, it seems to me. There is still more to be said and explained, although, admittedly, Winick is not my favorite writer by far. Tacked on? Maybe so, but if you think back, so was the original Superboy. Given the nature of Superboy Prime’s prison, there are many tales waiting to be extrapolated from the notorious wall punching.

    Also, please keep in mind, I never once felt that OS shouldn’t or couldn’t comment on anything she liked; I just have my opinions in turn.

    “And I'd say that JT's existence is absolutely more far-fetched than the other examples you've described. Superman, Batman -- all their origins are consistent within the DCU reality. They had to reach beyond reality to save Jason's sorry ass.”

    Uh…no. Particularly since this is hardly a precedent. Anyone care to explain how Green Arrow is alive and kicking? How is this not offensive in the same way? I agree that it is deus ex machina, but the industry is founded on that notion.

    For those that have used the term, I have NO IDEA what continuity porn is meant to be, other than following the current fashionable trend of attaching the word ‘porn’ to another word in an attempt to make a sociological claim. War porn, torture porn, now continuity porn. Just another way to dismiss ideas that one has cognitive dissonance with. No dice.

    Terrence, I had no problem whatsoever with sharing Infinite Crisis with my son. None. Given the context, the violence made sense and was really no more brutal than most of the television shows, video games, and films of today. I thought it was thematically powerful for Superboy Prime to accidentally knock off Pantha’s head. Here we have a boy who desperately wants to be taken as a man, and the more he tries the more obvious it is that he is not a man. Maybe it reminded me of my early years, but it certainly resonated with me. (For the record, no, I have never punched anyone’s head off. Actually never been involved with decapitation of any kind.) Further, perhaps you should leave the parenting of my son to me, as I seem to have a better idea of who he is and what is appropriate for him, ok? Ok!

    This is "The Cheap and Lazy" age of comics it seems.

    Listen, one of the reasons I love 100 Bullets is because it can take a seemingly throw away line of dialogue have meaning literally 5 years later in the book. That is extraordinary, not the norm. By and large, comics have traditionally been what you are considering ‘cheap and lazy’ (I call it writing in concert with tens of other writers and editors.) Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Which brings me back to my main point of the original post.

    We are examining this genre in a light it was never meant to be looked at. This was never meant to be a sophisticated medium, and the works that ARE in fact sophisticated literature tend to be the exception, not the rule. Given the proper scrutiny, it all falls apart. I don’t doubt that OS has love for the genre, as do we all (we wouldn’t be at this site otherwise.) however, I am saying that perhaps the current cognitive dissonance some of us feel is a call to move on. To make a quick example, in my teens I had loved the Nightmare on Elm St. franchise. Watching it today makes me groan. Why do you think that is?

    Pardon my long winded post, but I think it is obvious that I am equally passionate about the genre and further, it is something that has been gestating in my mind for some time now. Cheers.

    PS...nothing wrong with the 'crab' mask.

  14. Honestly, I've got no clear idea on why Green Arrow is alive today. (Didn't GL/Parallax clone him or something?) But if it involved reshaping reality as a lucky coincidence of a tantrum of someone he never even met, I'm agin' it.

  15. (I *do* think the statute of limitations on the 900 number is up, though -- at this point DC can do as they'd like with the character. I just wish they'd have done it better, and every time I see him it reminds me that they couldn't be bothered to.)

  16. Mr Bizzle:

    In contrast to everything I've personally observed in the "Didio Era," and everything I have heard from others regarding working in this particular era, I have only wrote on this blog one-fifth of what I could write.

    The fact that I DON'T write everything else, the fact that I go out of my way to BUY DC Comics with my own money to review, and the fact that I went on this blog and publically decried what I thought was an excessive attack on Mr. Didio ("Dan Didio Must Die") is a testament to the fact that as much as you feel I am rabidly anti-DC and anti-Didio, relatively speaking, it ain't necessarily so.

    Didio is a successful Hollywood developer who did not have the requisite raw, hands-on experience in the comic industry, and tried to apply his know-how from film & cartoons to reorganizing an entire comic book editorial department.

    He had good intentions but ultimately his strategy for DC was, on one hand, an extreme sales-oriented bottom line mentality, and, on the other, an intense singleminded view on how the DC Universe "should be" (most likely informed by nostalgia for the books he read in his youth.).

    This initially yielded an exciting, if somewhat sensationalistic, new era for the company, and greater sales.

    But the "Countdown" era was and is a quagmire.

    This particular "Countdown" issue was BAD. To go into detail about it would only sound excessively cruel.

    Having Superboy punch a hole in time to have Jason Todd "fall out" would have been cute in another era. It would, as you have said, been a "fun" plot element.

    But you have it in the middle of a whole interconnected line of stories that have heavy adult elements in it. It just doesn't mesh for me. I have to go from Superboy ripping off arms to Superboy punching a hole in time.

    Further, Jason Todd's death was significant because it gave Bruce Wayne an added layer or guilt & caution that he carried through his books since that point. To bring him back not only waters down that emotional impact, it is thematically unnecessary. It is a gimmick that wasn't even executed in a decent way.

    If the "Countdown" books & spinoffs reach a level of cohesion & quality that such a company-spanning crossover deserves, I will be the first in line to jump up and down and say how wonderful it is. Deal?

    As for my views on the GL crab-mask and seemingly the opinions of the rest of the comic-loving community -- alas, we will have to agree to disagree. :-(

  17. Wow, Bizzle - defensive much? Of course you have the right to expose your son to whatever you wish, but that doesn't stop me from thinking that it might be inappropriate. Alas, we shall have to disagree on this.

    And I really have no idea what point you're trying to make with the 100 Bullets "throwaway line" thing. I'm not talking about something that is set up years in advance that finally comes to fruition as part of a larger, planned pattern. I'm talking about something random that is used to justify a mistake: namely the use of a deus ex machina to ex post facto justify continuity errors (as in Hypertime). I'm also talking about a magic wand waving something into existence (as in punching the universe) which is out of place in an ostensibly serious and realistic setting.

    And I disagree that we are examining a genre in a light that it was *never* meant to be examined in. The way the Batman comics are written now is quite clear that it's supposed to be a grittier, more grown up universe now than it was in the 1950s or 1960s. For over 20 years people have been trying to say that comics aren't just for kids, that they are tackling sophisticated, adult themes, despite the costumes. Batman is one of those comics, so the addition of such an element like Superboy punching the universe doesn't sit well within that context at all. As I said in my earlier post, context is everything, and to just dismiss this as "Well, it's just the funny books, roll with it" is over simplistic. Nobody's saying that there shouldn't be fantastical elements or that comic book logic doesn't always make sense. It's just that this explanation makes even less sense given the context. We can argue further about the thematic necessity of bringing Jason back.

    If this is indeed the cheap and lazy era of comics, shouldn't we be complaining about it? So we are.

    (By way of answering Rob: Green Arrow's return wasn't just a Parallax waves a magic wand, either. Not that it was a great story, but at least it went into greater depth than a one-liner explanation, having to do with a soulless version of Ollie running around and the soul of Ollie having to come back from the afterlife. But that's a whole other discussion.)

  18. Thanks, Terrence.

    I've actually read the GA story, but it was fairly complicated and quite a few years ago, now -- to the point where what I mostly remember was "he was gone, now he's back, and it's thanks to Green Lantern saving a tiny piece of him or something". Which stretches credulity a bit, but Green Lantern is an established character in the GA mythos, and is pretty much fair game to pin something like his resurrection on.

    Superboy Prime, on the other hand... oy friggin' vey.

  19. Long time reader, first time caller.

    I thought OS's article was entirely fair comment and quite restrained compared to the online comics criticism that reacts to comics as if the writer/artist personally killed a member of the reader's family.

    Countdown has published nearly 20 issues and each storyline has progressed about as much as two normal comics would. The Search for Ray Palmer storyline in particular seemed to just be clocking time until the mini-series.

    And while I did (as a jerky late teen) vote for Jason Todd to die, I'm not demanding my money back. Still I think a Superboy punch is a worse fit into a Batman storyline than even Moon Maid was to the Dick Tracy strip. I think Jason's better left dead, but as others have said, Countdown is a waste of any storytelling potential that could come from his resurrection and transformation into a villain/anti-hero.

    Also, while Mary Marvel's current treatment may be very representative of how DC portrays women, I'm not sure it's a positive example.


  20. As far as #1 goes: not all Nancy Grace of you at all, though now that you've put the idea in my head...
    I would LOVE to see Nancy Grace worked up into a self-righteous lather over a comics continuity issue like this. Someone who does a decent impression of her should put something along these lines up on YouTube.