Friday, April 29, 2011

On Alan Moore

So here's the thing about Alan Moore: I think he's an incredibly overrated writer of comics. I know that that opinion is simultaneously unpopular and popular. It's an unpopular opinion among the great multitude of people who think that Watchmen is the best comic ever, that Killing Joke is the best Batman story, and that everything else Alan Moore touches turns to gold.

It's also a popular opinion in that there are inevitably contrarians who will talk badly about the works of Alan Moore solely because the majority of fans and reviewers like what he does.

I don't fit into either of those camps. I don't think Alan Moore is great and nor do I think he's terrible. Watchmen is okay, but it's a bit too pessimistic for my tastes. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (at least what I've read) is excellent, but Moore's Green Lantern and Batman stuff mostly leave me cold.

But the thing we really need to be talking about (based on the events of the past few weeks) is Alan Moore's work on Swamp Thing. No doubt there are those screaming that DC has destroyed Moore's work on the character.

For those of you unfamiliar with Swamp Thing and Who He Is and How He Came To Be, I'll lay out the basic facts. The modern version of Swamp Thing was created by Len Wein and Berni Wrightson in 1972. A scientist named Alec Holland is at work in the swamps of Louisiana when agents of a mysterious figure attempt to murder him with a bomb. He catches on fire and rushes into the swamp. Presumed dead, he is actually transformed into a hideous swamp monster and from thereon out must deal with the loss of his humanity.

It's a concept we've seen before, and one that works well. How does such a being deal with the loss of his humanity? How does he interact with those who will inevitably hate and fear him? We've returned to this concept with Aaron Lopresti's recent Garbage Man story in the Weird Worlds anthology.

But then Alan Moore comes along and completely changes the concept. Alan Moore seems to enjoy doing this; he likes to take things and graft his own ideas onto them without really caring about what may have come before. Alan Moore reinterprets Swamp Thing as a plant elemental who only believes that he's Alec Holland.

Now, admittedly I haven't read Alan Moore's Swamp Thing. But I have a hard time seeing how you could continue with the original concept after that. If he was never a human being then there's really "dealing with the loss of one's humanity." There are a slew of other issues, sure. But we lose the original, key concept of the character of Swamp Thing.

Which brings us back to Brightest Day. As I noted, some people are annoyed that Alan Moore's Swamp Thing has basically been undone. In Brightest Day Alec Holland actually becomes Swamp Thing. While others may disagree, I think this is a good thing. They are basically undoing what I see as a mistake made by Alan Moore.

When you work in a shared super-hero universe it's important to try and respect and stay true to the core concepts of the characters that are shared. Geoff Johns adds a lot of stuff to characters and concepts, but he always builds off the core. Alan Moore never seemed to care about that. Who cares about the writers that come next when you can just change a characters origin completely or shoot her in the spine?

Personally, I'm glad Alan Moore is no longer writing for DC. And I'm also glad that Swamp Thing is back... And back the way he should be.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thursday Night Thinking #184

Welcome to a quick and dirty Thursday Night Thinking! I'm going to be working in my office all night, so I don't have the time to do a real in depth post or explanation.

But then, it's Hawkman. What more do you really need to know?

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Too Much

Holy crap. This week for comics was... Wow. Two anniversary issues (JSA #50 and Action #900), the conclusions to Brightest Day and Generation Lost, the second issue of Xombi, and the final issue of Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom (didn't even know I was reading that, did you?).

Honestly, I can't process it all. Check back in in a day or so. I may have things to say... Like how Alan Moore is the most overrated comic writer in the history of comics.

See you then.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Action #900

Action Comics #900 comes out tomorrow. That's quite the milestone.

In the end, of course, it comes down to Superman and Lex Luthor. We should have figured out long ago that he was the one behind the "Reign of Doomsday." After all, it always seems to come down to the two of them.

It didn't start out that way, of course. Lex Luthor wasn't one of Superman's first villains. And the Luthor we know today bears very little resemblance to the one who first appeared (but then, the same could be said for Superman).

Sometimes things just coalesce in a certain way. As time went on, the Superman story became about pairs of things. Lois and Clark. Earth and Krypton. Luthor and Superman. That last one is the trickiest, of course. It's about two incredibly powerful forces stacked up against each other.

One of them is pure, undiluted human greed, cruelty, and ambition. It's the mind that dreamed the atom bomb and the voice that launched the Holocaust. It's the great gifts of humanity turned in the service of unmitigated evil.

And the other one? That's the mind that cured disease, the voice that called out against oppression. It's everything good in humanity taking a stand against evil. That has never changed, even if the story has. Whether it's a megalomaniacal space-god or a man beating his wife, good will take a stand against its evil. And it will win.

It's a bird, It's a plane... It's Superman.

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Happy Batman Day?

According to some, today may or may not be Batman Day.

The legend goes that perhaps on this day in 1939 Batman might have made his first appearance. Possibly. As such, some are celebrating today as thought it were a holiday of special note.

And indeed, the day of Batman's first appearance is certainly a worthy milestone. But is it really important to celebrate a specific day? After all, isn't every day a day we think about Batman?

Do we not remember Batman every day in everything we do? Isn't it true that we all try to live our lives as Batman might? To defend the innocent and fight against evil wherever it may lurk?

No, I cannot celebrate one specific day. Batman is ever present in my thoughts. For me, it is always Batman Day.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

He is Risen?

As most of you know, I'm Catholic. Mostly, anyway. Saint Dumas be praised!

Anyway, I'm Catholic, Doctor Polaris only believes in magnetism, and Diamondrock is real private about his beliefs. That leaves me as the only person willing or able to talk much about the fact that today is Easter.

You probably know that Easter is all about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. That, of course, is a pretty big deal. Or at least it was. Sometimes I wonder if the wonder of Easter still matters in our world.

After all, Brightest Day began with a resurrection of the good and the evil. Green Lantern and the Flash returned from the dead. And of course there's Superman... I don't know of anyone else with as much Christian symbolism floating around him.

I guess I'm wondering if Easter is still important in our [DC] Universe. When Green Arrow can come back from the dead what does that mean for something that is hailed as a unique turning point in human history?

I guess in the end it comes down to faith. Even in a world where so many strange and terrible things happen I have to try and hold on to what I believe in. And I still believe in the Easter story, despite everything I've been through. I still believe that there is a seed of something special in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

I can't explain it and I certainly am not going to convince anyone else. But at the very least it gives me comfort. I've done some bad things in my life. And I'd like to think that even a sinner like me can get a second chance.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Read This, Too

I know some of you won't necessarily be able to follow my advice from yesterday. Monies are sometimes in short supply these days, and comic books are expensive. So how about this? An excellent free comic.

Some of you may have read Kate Beaton's Hark! A Vagrant before. I may even have mentioned it before. But I can't recall, and since I can't get enough of her work I thought I'd mention it again.

The most recent comic is especially pertinent as it's about the always complicated relationship between Lois Lane and Superman. Despite what anyone might say, Ms. Beaton understands those characters cold. Go check it out.

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Please Read Zatanna

Okay, this is one of those oh-so-common posts where I desperately entreat my minuscule readership to try a book that is fantastic but has low sales. Today, that book is Zatanna.

Zatanna is such a fun book that I don't really know what else to say about it. I don't know if it's inherent to the character or the little world Paul Dini has built around her or what. All I know is that I love every issue -- even an issue like this week's #12 that was done by a fill-in team.

Despite the fact that it's not being written by regular series writer Paul Dini, Zatanna #12 has all the things that make this book great. It gives us a sense of Zatanna's world (the "Magical City of San Francisco") and shows us some of the interesting things that she can do -- and face -- with her powers.

Zatanna #12 also serves as a really excellent entry point into the series. It comes on the heels of an extended story arc, is completely self-contained, and tells you everything you need to know about Zatanna and her world. Plus, it has a pretty Amanda Connor cover. What more can you want?

So if you haven't been reading Zatanna I urge you to go out and pick up this week's issue. I imagine that your local shop still has some copies. Read it, and if you don't like it you can come here and complain to me about what a jerk I was for suggesting it. But if you do like it then loan the issue to your comic-reading friends. Convince them to give it a try. Then go buy the trade paperback.

I really love this book and I don't want to see it disappear.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thursday Night Thinking #183

After a long absence we return once again to Thursday Night Thinking!

You can't. He's Superman. You're Red Tornado.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Warner Bros. continues to pump out the DC direct-to-DVD films. The next one coming up seems to be Batman: Year One. As much as I generally dislike the work of Frank Miller, Year One remains one of my all time favorite Batman stories.

My other big favorite? The Man Who Laughs. The great things about both of these stories is that they tell of meetings that define the character of Batman. Year One is about Batman meeting James Gordan. It's also about Gotham City meeting Batman.

These are enormously consequential meetings, and they'll make for some stupendous on screen action (assuming they do it properly). The Man Who Laughs is also about an important meeting: it tells the story of when Batman and the world first encounter the Joker. It would also make for a great animated movie.

Unfortunately, it will probably never happen. The DC animated films have to follow certain guidelines it seems, and I can't imagine how they'd allow The Man Who Laughs. The story works so well because it gives us the undiluted horror of the Joker. The body count is high and the carnage exceptional.

And without those things you can't really tell that story about the Joker (there are ways to tell stories about other versions of the Joker, but that's neither here nor there).

Still, Year One is no slouch in the violence department. And rumors are they're gearing up for The Dark Knight Returns as well. So who knows...

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

War Stories

I am sorely displeased with the progress being made on this "War of the Green Lanterns." Wars are meant to be violent, messy things. The grim shadow of death follows war closely, and many are fated to die in tragic ways.

And yet... By all accounts somewhere around seventy-five percent of Earth's Green Lanterns will survive this so-called "war." Consider this "striking" cover for the war's aftermath:

There are a number of things missing from this image. Most pointedly is the conspicuous absence of Hal Jordan head wounds. But of specific note is the lack of one Kyle Rayner.

Now I am no particular fan of Rayner. He and I have tussled on more than one occasion and that art school dropout never once gave me the respect that my multiple degrees in higher scientific disciplines deserve.

But if you lined up the Green Lanterns and allowed me to choose one to kill... Well, Kyle wouldn't be my first choice. Probably not my second either. He's a stupid kid, but at least he seems to know he's stupid. Unlike Jordan.

I'm sure there will be many who weep and gnash their teeth about Kyle Rayner's impending demise. But I am less concerned with the ones they kill than I am with the ones they leave alive.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Forever Changed?

Okay, let's try and get back in the saddle. It's been a while since I engaged in regular posting. This is a combination of my recent trip to Princeton, the approaching end of the semester, and the sudden onset of a really nasty cold.

I'd like to say that all of that is in the past, but it's really not. The end of the semester (and term paper due dates) gets closer with every day and I'm still doped up on cold medicine. That said...

Flashpoint isn't really going to change anything. They say that it will. They've pulled out the same old tired trope: "It will change everything you think you know about the DCU... Forever!"

Now here's the thing: it may in fact change the DCU. In fact, I'm pretty sure that it will. And it might even last for a little while. But if there's anything that recent years have taught us it's that nothing stays changed forever.

Remember when they depowered Superman or did away with Kryptonite? How'd that work out? How about the irrevocable death of Barry Allen? Some of these things may have taken effect for a long time. After all, it took them decades before they brought back Barry Allen. But they did.

Here's why: super-hero comics have a very limited fan base. You know it and I know it. We're a small (and diminishing) audience. Super-hero comic companies have reached the point where they're no longer trying to find a new audience (outside of the occasional film-going crossover). Instead they're just largely fighting over the percentage of the existing audience.

This existing audience is by and large not young. In fact, it's mostly the same age as the people who are writing these comics. It is an industry driven by nostalgia more than anything else. Risk-taking is not encouraged.

But risk-taking does happen, and Flashpoint is in example. If only because it is risk-taking in a completely safe way. When it's an "alternate universe" or "time paradox" the writers are free to do whatever they want. Because at the end of the day it's very easy pull a string and unravel everything back to the way it started.

I'm not entirely sure what Flashpoint is going to be about. I'm actually kind of excited about reading it. But I don't hold out a whole lot of hope that things will be "changed forever."

But then, I'm as super-hero fan. I'm not sure I'd want that even if it did happen...


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

It Lives!

Okay, I'm still here. It's just been a very busy couple of weeks. Things at school have been ridiculous, and I spent last weekend at a workshop in Princeton which I'm still recovering from.

That said, I'll try to get to posting again later in the week. But I can't guarantee that there will be any sort of regular posting in the near future. Every few days is probably all I'm going to be able to find time for. But you never know...

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Monday, April 04, 2011


Back before they brought back Hal Jordan I didn't want him back. I had no real connection to the character. In some sense I still don't. In fact, I was pretty pissed off in the beginning. Now, I'll admit that a lot of that was the snide smugness of a great many Hal Jordan fans.

Time passed and I mostly got over it. The Green Lanterns I liked didn't go away even with Hal headlining the Green Lantern solo book. And admittedly Geoff Johns was doing some interesting -- if weird -- stuff with the character and the book.

Then they talked about bringing Barry Allen back and I wondered again if it was really necessary. After all, Wally West had a great run as the Flash. I haven't counted, but it wouldn't surprise me to find out he's gotten more page time the the "Patron Saint of the DC Universe" ever did.

But they brought Barry back and I learned what a lot of people had said was true: Barry is incredibly boring. But setting that aside I've also grown comfortable with having him as the Flash again.

I may have gotten used to it, but I sometimes wonder if was really necessary. And I've come to realize that it was absolutely necessary.

How many of you have seen this footage for the Green Lantern movie? There's some pretty impressive stuff in there and I'm quite hopeful that it will make an entertaining film. But it could never have happened if they hadn't brought back Hal Jordan.

Could a film have been created featuring Kyle Rayner? How about Wally West? As much as I love those two characters they are defined by the heroes that came before them. Whether you like it or not, Hal Jordan and Barry Allen are iconic as Green Lantern and the Flash. They even have the dubious honor of having replaced their Golden Age counterparts as the quintessential versions of those characters.

It isn't just limited to the movies either. The characters and concepts in comics and other media need to be at their most pure. It's hard to explain who the Flash is by telling people that he's the nephew of the first Flash. But it's easy to say that a scientist was granted amazing super-speed by a bolt of lightning. Or that a pilot was chosen by a dying alien to wield the most powerful weapon in the universe.

In the same way that Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman can never really be replaced it was folly to think that the same thing could be done with Green Lantern and the Flash. Or Aquaman, for that matter. These are characters too powerful -- for good or ill -- to be overwritten. And when I go see the Green Lantern movie in June, I'll know that it was necessary -- and inevitable -- that Hal Jordan have the starring role.

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