Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Titans Rant

From Titans #4:

Page One: Our heroes stand around with facial expressions that range from empty to worried to confused.

Beast Boy: I gotta say...I really didn't see this coming! Did you guys see this coming?

Donna Troy: No.

Flash: I don't think any of us did.

Three pages later, faced with the rampaging villains running towards them, our heroes repeat the same dazed, empty, confused looks. Beast Boy still drags out the "uh, so it's not just me, right? you see them too? dude?"

And they just stand there as one of the bad guys makes a move, knocking them all down like bowling pins.

Four issues into Titans, I'm still not impressed. This makes the Wonder Dog stuff in Teen Titans seem like Watchmen. It's just not good comics, folks. This is like some bad 90s flashback, stuff you'd find in some random Image comic starring some character named DeathBlud.

The majority of the comments on Newsarama about the 3-page preview -- at least as of the third page of comments -- overwhelmingly hated this preview. Even DC/Teen Titans fans.

"I loved Winick's writing on Outsiders & elsewhere...but it just leaves me cold here on the Titans. He just doesn't seem to have a handle on the characters. After reading the first 3 issues I figured it was going to be yet another shortly ended series."

"I don't mind Winick's writing - but this story just stinks and like mentioned above, Wolfman did it better."

"why did DC put such a bad creative team on a book that could have been so good?"

" Judd Winnick, the anti Grant Morrison....."

"Bad writing, horrible art, juvenile character development, recycled plot ideas. Just the whole wretched package."

"The art ain't so bad, but the dialog! In the face of what's about to happen, what's falling out of these characters mouths is unbelievable! This reads like a rejected script from Aaron Sorkin and Thommy Schlamme! Or even worse; the last season of M.A.S.H.! Even with my LCS discount, why am I reading this book?"

"I'm so glad I dropped this after #2. The writing and art just don't seem to sync up with these characters one bit. I was so looking forward to this and so wildly disappointed. When a new writer and artist come on, I'll probably give it another look."

"Like a lot of you, evidently, I dropped this book with the second issue. The only time that I have EVER dropped a Titans related book from clear back to the original Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad issue of Brave & Bold, but this is just horrendous."

" Wow. That is some awesomely bad dialogue -- puerile and clunky at the same time."

"I called this one, so did many others: Judd Winick = Bad Title. But I can't agree on the art. Joe Benitez is an excellent artist. He just can't deliver when the story dosn't compliment his talents. No artist could."

I could go on and on, but you can read the rest of the comments for yourself.

Why is this book still going on like this? Who's in charge of the ship? How bad do things have to be before someone puts the hammer of god down and says: enough?

In every other medium and industry, when something's not good -- especially in this economy -- it gets pulled. Even stuff that's sorta good, or has a small niche audience, but is not pulling in the numbers. Why is this the only industry where a series like Countdown can go on for a whole year and a book with the quality of Titans can move past issue three?

I think there are a few reasons:

1. Time Warner sees DC mostly as a R&D wing of their entertainment unit, and judges them on their intellectual property more than the actual content of their books. There's no magnifying glass on either the sales or the quality.

2. I don't know -- is DCU Editorial a meritocracy?

Definition of meritocracy (via Wikipedia): system of a government or another organization wherein appointments are made and responsibilities are given based on demonstrated talent and ability (merit), rather than by wealth (plutocracy), family connections (nepotism), class privilege (oligarchy), cronyism, the will of the people (as in democracy) or other historical determinants of social position and political power. In a meritocracy, society rewards (by wealth, position, and social status) those who demonstrated talent and competence, demonstrated through past actions or by competition.

I have no answer to that, I'm just throwing out the question. I can think of only one strategic appointment of an editor to that department over the last several years that fits the sort of purposeful cultivation of talent that, at the very minimum, a company needs in order to compete.

The problem is -- I think there is no sense of competition. DC has Batman & Watchmen as properties, and hence has won the comic book lottery. They slap the names "Grant Morrison" and "Alex Ross" on their books and call it a day. And if anybody questions them, they go "Dark Knight Dark Knight blah blah blah Dark Knight." It's like they have Tourettes syndrome: "Dark Knight! Dark Knight!"

Regardless of the reasons why -- this book is sorta a dog.


  1. Anonymous3:08 PM

    Such a shame. Rich history. Characters I love. Oh well. Have to wait for the next writing team.

    Or maybe the original Titans team had their turn in the sun. Maybe it's time to move on.

    Thing is, I mostly like Winick's writing, but I also know that I wouldn't like him on this title. It isn't his style.

    I've only read his run on Outsiders, which was hot and cold. He seemed to like introducing conflict between characters where none existed before.

  2. Haven't Marvel and DC been "loss leaders", at least when it comes to making money off actual comic books, for years? I thought both companies made more money off licensing than selling comic books.

  3. Good Lord, the art is hideous. What's going on with Starfires face? In fact, all of their faces, for that matter. They remind me of the runny eggs in a Dali painting.

  4. Is it considered bad form to rewrite the pages of a preview of a book, and the rewrite seems to be more enjoyable than what is posted?

    You would think that with DC having almost 2 months to finish this issue it would be better than this.

  5. Hmm ... I'd have thought DC would be more likely to point out that they've got Geoff Johns on the team than Morrison. After all, Johns' work on JSA and Superman has been pretty well-received, no?

    As far as St. Elmo's Titans here, who do you think would make a good team for the nigh-inevitable reboot next year?

  6. Why is this book still going on like this? Who's in charge of the ship? How bad do things have to be before someone puts the hammer of god down and says: enough?

    Keep in mind it's only been four issues. By the time issue 1 comes out, they're already working on issue 4, so that can't be helped. But, by the time issue 4 comes out, they should already have a new creative team lined up. (If the system works, that is.) If that's the case, we can probably expect three or four more issues under this team.

    Just think happy thoughts until then: Action Comics... Green Lantern... Manhunter... Secret Six... JSA...

  7. DC has precious few characters that can pass as human these days, and thanks to one big event after another and no breathing-room in terms of what he can do with legacy characters (which is most of the Titans),
    Winick doesn't really have much he can do with editorially-mandated fixer-uppers, so he gets the flak for what is really a failure on the part of editorial to allow the writer to do anything other than fill the blanks between one predetermined event after another.
    Even dismissive comments along the lines of "another piece of crap from Winick" betray the implicit understanding that Winick isn't the problem - given the right material, he'll deliver, but what can be done with Titans at this stage? It's time to ditch the legacy angle and start anew - get some of that inter-company juju on the boil and get a new Titans line-up supported by a cartoon show, rather than lamenting that the boat was so obviously missed with the last iteration of the franchise.

  8. what are the sales figures on the book? As I recall, Countdown was moving something like 60-65 thousand an issue. which these days is not bad.

    While it may be drek(sp?), it could be it's popular drek?

  9. Kakistocracy is my favorite, except when applied to my country.

    I was never a big fan of the Titans line, so I won't comment on the title.

  10. What's really sad is how this was a book that continues to fail. The Teen Titans all grown up, and they stay as the same team. People want to see these characters (check 1st issue sales) but it always turns this way. Eh, maybe the will get a writer that will turn the book around a bit, then promptly cancel it. Thats the status quo. It seems Judd Winick had no real pitch, they offered him a book, forced him to pitch and rushed it into production. So far that Titans Special has meant NADA to this story. Of course Marvel has this problem with every single X Book created since 1991 (and some before it) But no one wants to rant on X-Men, but why? the Big 2 will always have books that are awful and stay around because of the characters. that's life, and if you don't like it, don't buy it. A book like Blue Beetle or Manhunter (i.e. excellent books) are ignored no matter how much press they get for being low sellers, because no one remembers the characters. I don't know, I'm ranting for no reason here.

  11. as someone who really does have Tourettes, I have to point out that we don't constantly repeat a stock phrase tangently related to what we are being asked. That's "hollywood" tourettes. Heck, I don't even say anything, I just have a mild physical tic and a psychological disassociation from my body. Personally, I think DC would be highly improved by tourettes. It'd be much more like the silver age, very random and awesome.

    (I'm not offended or anything, I'm just bored at work)

  12. According to the sales analysis at The Beat, this atrocious Titans book is one of DC's most successful new launches of the last few years.

    If I were less cynical, I'd cling to the hope that retailers order 3 months in advance and there will be a huge drop-off for this issue.

    But I'm 37 and bitter and I won't hold my breath. People had an idea months ago what this would be like based on the Titans East special.

    It sames that there is a rather large fan base that will buy a book that features well known characters having the sex no matter how bad it is.

    Meanwhile, a brilliant book like "True Story, Swear To God" is not making Image any money. It's not fair...

  13. I, too, dropped this after issue #2. I can't believe I'd ever drop a Titans book, but I did with this. I have never cared for Benitez's art, and Winick's writing is beyond horrendous.

    Why is this still going? I believe that Dan Didio is the actual editor of the two Titans titles. It might be a good idea to ask him. I mean, if he's the editor and he's been giving it his ok, he *must* think it's good, right?

  14. I couldn't tell much about Judd Winick's writing from those pages. Just a typical comic book fight scene set-up.

    But the art?

    Shocking in its amateurishness. Really boring panel content with the static close-ups (Where are they? What are they doing? Why do some look sleepy and others look like they're getting nut-slapped?) alternating with the current trend of wide-angle pages and Japanese-inspired speedlines.

    Not an ounce of originality or verve, just a puking up of style traits served by better, more competent artists.

    You're so right that it looks like 90s Image, maybe the mid-decade period when they had an influx of junior "talent" ripping off the company founders. One of their second or third tier books. Cross-hatching borrowed from Travis Charest's early work matched with cartoony J. Scott Campbell figures but without the charisma or facility of either.

    And what's with the black contour lines holding the figures but then washed out shadows inside? That works for people like Adam Hughes who use the black outline to contain "realistic" color modeling a la Drew Struzan and Richard Amsel. The linear outline contrasting with the modeling makes a strong graphic statement in those cases.

    Here, it just competes with the similar line weights and styles within the figures and confuses things. I'd suggest the artist first learn why it doesn't work for this kind of drawing before attempting something so sophisticated but beyond his reach.

    Looks like a marginally talented high school kid did it. One you want to tell, "Hey, why don't you look at some anatomy books and check out some other kinds of artists before you lock yourself so deeply into this flawed methodology you can't get out and stunt your artistic growth forever."

    Or to paraphrase a John Kricfalusi critique, "You don't have a style, you have a collection of mistakes."

    If the job of an online preview is to cause you to buy the book, it's a failure. If it's meant as a warning or a tombstone marking the death of mainstream superhero comics... mission accomplished and congratulations and condolences all around!

    This is absolutely the worst crap I've seen since... well, since Amazons Attack.

  15. Also... they're being charged by three evil demons and they just stand there, vogueing like it's 1990 while talking about it?

    That stretches any ability I'd have for suspension of disbelief even by superhero comic book standards. Pretty stupid storytelling.

    Okay, I swear I'm finished. It's just it's soooo easy. And soooo fun!

  16. What makes me so sad about this is that the adult Titans team CAN work and it's worked before, but you need a competent team to make it work. My dream team would be Devin Grayson and Mark Buckingham, since that's always been my favorite Titans team, but if they weren't available, how about Straczynski and, well, ANYBODY but Benitez?

    Seriously, the whole "Friends as Superheroes" concept was a horrifying idea to begin with and I can't believe this book was greenlit. The concept of a group of children of Trigon is actually a decent story idea, but this is just SAD.

  17. This scene actually makes a lot of sense if you assume that the Titans had just shared a joint.

  18. This book is little more than porn. I am at times surprised he wrote Trials of Shazam.

  19. oh GOD Lewis... ANYONE but Devin Grayson.

    Seriously... I'd rather my 5th Grade Social Studies teacher writing TITANS before Devin Grayson.

    Yes, the book is basically a mess... on the scale that it might take one of the BIG guns like Geoff Johns or Gail Simone to pull it up from the deep.

    Although I have to say... and this is honestly how I feel... it reads to me like a Marvel book.

    Really. Totally reminds me of those books that came out a few years ago like MARVILLE and ULTIMATE ADVENTURES.

  20. Here's how I would have written that scene: