Sunday, February 24, 2008

Winick: "Brain Dead In Comics Means Nothing"

At WonderCon yesterday Judd Winick made the following telling comments:

Concerning the infamous honeymoon of Black Canary and Green Arrow:

"It was so over the top we thought it was obvious....we brought him back right away."

On the fate of Connor:

"He's not dead, dead - he's just brain dead - in comics, that's nothing."

On Jason Todd's return:

"I'm the schmuck that brought back Jason Todd - he can always come back."

This is all exactly what is wrong with comics today. "It means nothing, it's just comics mumbo-jumbo."

Hey, even if you plan on bringing the character back later -- which, in my opinion, will almost certainly be the case in some of Marvel's changes as of late -- don't totally bust down the wall of illusion and just admit it, admitting that any plot twist you create doesn't mean anything.

It's like you don't care. "It's just comics mumbo-jumbo, this sort of thing happens all the time."

Especially with characters like Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Connor, who have been pre-established with some degree of depth.


  1. Writing comic books IS Mr. Winick's profession, is it not? Then perhaps he should give it his full attention and not act as though he's embarrassed by the whole thing.


  2. There's a flipside to taking status-shaking events too seriously. In the short-lived Anarky series, one story revealed the title character as the son of the Joker. Anarky's writer Alan Grant wrote the story as if it was definately, absolutely, 100 percent certain, but has always maintained that it was to be retconned at a later date - except Anarky got shitcanned after about 9 issues and the reveal was never undone.
    (although reality-punching may have since been claimed to have magically undone this for all I know)

    If GA/BC gets dropped for poor sales, does that mean Connor gets killed off-panel in a Justice League issue or something?
    I think most male writers are uncomfortable writing bisexual characters, as it implies that (as straight men) they're justifying the idea that heterosexuals (or men who have had relationships with women, at any rate) can 'choose' to have gay (sexual) relationships and this maybe makes the writers fear people will assume they are teh sekret ghey or something. It is odd how many bisexual female characters there are in comics in comparison to bisexual men, so it would be a shame to lose Connor.

    On one hand, you've got straight male writers wanting Connor dead, but on the other, maybe he won't die because DC don't have their 'quota' of bisexual male characters in their mainstream line of books?
    It could go either way.

  3. It's not as if he's lying. I agree the uproar over the Wedding was too much. Who really thought Ollie was dead?

    Also one thing I notice is no matter how much people say death should be meaningfull in comics, they are the first to demand the return of their favorate(Bart Allen, Conner Kent, Ted Kord for example).

  4. I think that death SHOULD be meaningful in comics. And that they kill off WAY too many characters way to often for it to be meaningful, which is why we demand our characters to come back. The deaths of Ted Kord, Bart Allen...these two seemed like such non-events (maybe Ted Kord was a bit of a big deal, but the writer took pains to make Blue Beetle look like an idiot in the "superhero community" before he got killed, effectively rendering him meaningless even before he died).

    Comic book resurrections are AWESOME when done well; I was dead-set against Hal Jordan coming back, because I think that these kinds of things ultimately hurt comics in the long run. Luckily, Johns did his continuity porn magic, and found a great way to bring him back that was a super-compelling read. Same goes for how he treated Hawkman.

    Bucky, likewise, I thought would always stay dead, and I never gave it a second thought; then Brubaker came up with a totally amazing, interesting, and, again, compelling way to bring him back. Also, he served that higher purpose of taking over for the *GASP* dead Steve Rogers!

    And you know what? That gasp means something, because it's a HUGE deal that Steve Rogers is dead. However, it's not a gimmick. Sure, it probably drove sales through the roof, and got lots and lots of media attention, but it was handled in such a way as to tell a great story. Captain America is probably one of the best comics coming out right now.

    Also, I used to be the first one to defend Winnick's writing...not anymore. The guy isn't thinking. Bringing Jason Todd back would've been a great idea, if he'd managed to think up a good way to make it work. Since "Superboy Punch" wound up being his story's hinge, I've found that everything else he's written has just...well, pretty much stunk. I like Trials of Shazam, but I think that's working because it's only 12 issues long. If you read through his run on Green Arrow, every other issue had the guy's house get blown up. Now he's just killing each Green Arrow a couple months, it'll be Roy's turn. Then Mia's. Then Arrowette's. Then back to Ollie.

    Turns out they're all probably Skrulls....phew. That solves everything.

  5. I think Winick's run on GA has been strongly established as bantery, cliff-hangery, & fun. I, myself, like it, & I tend to agree with him & kwaku-- who REALLY thought ollie was dead? I just sort of got this vibe of manufactured outrage. It was so clearly an over-the-top "LOST" style cliff-hanger. Frankly, I thought it hearkened back to the days of over-the-top silly comics without going too far.

    Also, I think Jason Todd coming back was a bad idea. Has it been retconned out of ever having happening? I don't read Countdown. At least Mary Marvel is back to normal. Phew. (Though that costume was hot. There. I said it. I think Dante said I'm supposed to go to the...third circle now?)

  6. I dunno. Why not just admit to it though? Most comic fans are quite cynical anyway.

    When Brubaker killed Cap, folks were adamant Cap was going to be back in an issue or two. Even if Brubaker gave plenty of interviews saying "No, no. This is going to take awhile". A year later and still no Cap in the book. Yet people are still saying, "Next issue, he'll be back".

    You got aliens, magic, super crisis', nega bands, astro-forces, hypertimes and all other kinds of fantasy bits in comics- it would just be naive to try and maintain some aire that every death in comics is set in stone.

    What matters to me is how a particular character's death impacts a story in the here & now. I can not judge a story or plot twist that has yet to be written.

    Should Winick or anyone else decide to bring back Connor at some later point, then we'll talk about it. If it is done well, great! If done poorly, we should call it as such.

  7. can't DC just dump that guy off on the Real world/road rules challenge or something?

  8. I'm shocked, shocked! After almost seventy years of superheroes, a creator admits to using clich├ęs, and our audience is surprised there are such things? And it disrupts their suspension of disbelief?

    Now I need to go take a shower. No, seriously, I have to go to work in a couple of hours.

  9. Yeah, but Patrick, if I'm handed a storyline about a character who has apparently been mortally wounded, and as you're handing the story to me you say: "don't worry, the character is really not dead at all," it destroys even that little window of suspension of disbelief I had. It's like the cliffhanger in Dallas where JR gets shot -- yeah, we're pretty sure JR is going to pull through, but if you had a caption on that scene that said "he's going to pull through," it would just suck.

  10. But if you read Variety at the time and learned that Larry Hagman's contract was renewed, you'd know JR was coming back anyway.

    I think that's more similar to what happened here than putting a caption in the story -- Winick is definitely sabotaging his own story, but there's a difference between doing it within the story and doing it in a forum where people want to hear you talk about the story. And it seems to me he's just naming the elephant in the room ("He's brain-dead? That can be fixed."), rather than walking the elephant through the door. We all knew it was there already.

    And with that, I am out of analogies. (Bows, exit stage left)

  11. Rob S. totally on the mark here, It's one thing to put a caption within the story. Another thing entirely to discuss the mechanics outside the story.

  12. With Rob & Juan on this: it ISN'T a caption, it is remarks made at a Con. That hardly counts as intrusive, bubble-bursting meta-text.

  13. "Brain Dead in Comics Means Nothing" pretty much sums up the majority of Winick's work lately, in my opinion.

  14. Is it really that big a deal that Winick just admitted he's a crappy writer? His comics *are* brain dead and ultimately mean nothing. If anything, I think he deserves cudos for making such a meta-textual statement about his own writing!

  15. Winick as "Everything Wrong in Comics" about sums it up for me.

  16. It's not as if he's lying. I agree the uproar over the Wedding was too much. Who really thought Ollie was dead?

    Judd Winick is a liar. Or rather, he will take liberties with the trust to make a better interview- he claimed at one point that he voted on the original Jason Todd phone poll, only to recently retract that statement in a discussion with Denny O'Neil; also, in the immediate aftermath of the GA/BC wedding he would state very emphatically to all and sundry that Ollie was dead, Dead, DEAD! only, after the reveal, go, 'yeah, I was lying.'

    I'm just saying. He'll bend the truth a little if it suits him.

    ...because DC don't have their 'quota' of bisexual male characters...

    Sssh! Don't tell DC he's bi! Then he'll really be in trouble!

    (Seriously: He's only meant to be subtextually bi, right? Which means that everyone can pretend it didn't happen?)

    As to Winnick's comments... they're rather unprofessional. Shows a remarkable lack of understanding of Kayfabe- I mean, we all *know* its only comics, but you don't just *say* it like that.

  17. Revealed at last, superhero comic plots are facile and obvious! That's why they're so stupid when they're dark and serious, because the stories can't live up to the pretension. It's all still simplistic, child level stuff, but with adult window dressing, Winick is basically just pointing that out.

  18. Just a quick question - is there any comic characters (in any series) that became dead, and stayed dead?


  19. Moviegirl: only supporting characters vital to the core concept of a character.
    Uncle Ben, Batman's parents, Abin Sur...
    I'ld argue that if Cap was still alive, they never would have allowed Bucky to be brought back. Cap's regret over Bucky's death is a milestone of the character, and the character loses too much with a live Bucky. (Of course, since Cap'll be back eventually, it'll be interesting how they deal with the lodd of such a central facet of the character)
    (Unless Bucky just turns out to be a Skrull. Natch.)

  20. *reads comments*

    Alright, I'll concede that Winick’s comments were unprofessional in their tone and setting. Fans of Connor could be annoyed by either the flippancy of the Judd’s response to damage done to Connor or by that idea that the damage was done casually but won’t be reversed soon. Not a smooth move from a marketing standpoint – even if the statements are basically true. I’m afraid I’m too hard-bitten for a few offhand comments or spoilers to change how I’ll experience a story.

    Personally, I’d be happier if Connor woke up sooner rather than later. He’s my GA more than his father is. (Although I’m still agnostic on his orientation. He’s cute, and I wouldn’t be sorry to see him outed, but his lack of a sex life seems more like a reaction to his father’s excesses than a closeted status).

  21. Further on the "any characters who stayed dead" path:

    i could think of a few (Barry Allen springs to mind), but i couldn't even mention them as staying dead without the proviso "for now", which is kind of Winick's point

  22. Gah, I don't know which is annoying me more anymore, Winick's fictional banter, or his real life banter...

    Mordicai: (Though that costume was hot. There. I said it. I think Dante said I'm supposed to go to the...third circle now?)

    Second, technically, and I'm there with you. I call the bean-bag chair.

  23. Judd Winick is a very nice guy...who has been largely horrible in his public approach to his career at DC Comics. The only smart thing that came out of his mouth at the con was that he plans to do more Barry Ween. LOVE that property.

  24. It's okay IMO to admit that your comics are just fun, light entertainment, as long as that attitude is consistent. Personally, a lot of comics are better when they're approached that way. But when the comic is sold as something dire and meaningful and so very important, but really in the writer's mind it's just a soap opera-y, trashy romp; well...i can't say it's horrible, but i'm not gonna be interested in that comic. But i think a comic, esp. from the big 2, is more likely to sell if you pretend it's dire, meaningful and important than if you approach it honestly.

  25. Kevin,

    "Judd Winick is a very nice guy...who has been largely horrible in his public approach to his career at DC Comics. The only smart thing that came out of his mouth at the con was that he plans to do more Barry Ween. LOVE that property.", he's not. He's a *huge* asshole in person.

    Also, Barry Ween sucks. It's just a very poor concept executed horribly.

  26. @stephsavoie:

    Actually, one of the brilliant things about how Brubaker brought back Bucky is that he still works as a motivation for Cap, but even more so. It went from "I got my teenage sidekick killed," to "I got my teenage sidekick turned into a cyborg assassin for the Soviets." Still plenty of guilt there.

  27. "Brain Dead In Comics Means Nothing"?

    I guess.

    It apparently hasn't stopped Winick.