All-New Marvel… Does it mean what we think it means?

So, recently Marvel has been touting something called “All-New Marvel.”  And I say recently but I actually mean a couple weeks ago when I was paying more attention.

In other words, I started this blog post in answer to an article over on Newsarama, and it took me two weeks to actually finish it and get around to posting it.  And, to be perfectly frank, I haven’t even read it all to see if it makes sense when all tied together.  But since this is just my headspace and no one else even looks at this blog (save for some phishing sites), I’m going to throw this at the page anyways.  Because why not?

So, here as follows is my reasons why Marvel should and why they shouldn’t reboot their whole bloody universe.  It’s a lot of ranting, some colorful swearing, and mostly just me avoiding doing any actual work.  Good luck with getting to the end of it.

Why They Should #1

DC HAS DONE IT

About three years ago now, DC relaunched their entire line of books. 52 titles, all with a brand new number one!

Batman! Superman! Wonder Woman! Aquaman! Voodoo..?

There was an air of excitement when it was announced that, coming out of the reality-altering event Flashpoint, DC’s entire universe was going to be rebooted, starting over from scratch essentially. The new universe (called The New 52, a callback to an older DC series and also the number of titles they planned to launch with) was going to give us a new take on Superman. Younger, more of a man of the people than the Big Blue Cheese he’d been for the decades before. We’d also finally see the true integration of the Wildstorm Universe, Jim Lee’s previous comic universe at his old company (launched through Image Comics originally as Homage) into the DC Universe. WildCATs could team up with the Justice League as contemporaries, not just as multiversal crossovers.

DC did something almost unheard of as they unleashed these new books into the local comic shops: They advertised them. On TV. In trailers at the movies. In commercials between cartoons. For once, the comic industry decided to tell the mundanes in the rest of the world that it existed. And that hype actually meant people who either had never walked into a comic store in their life, or ones who had abandoned collecting them years ago, they came back, super-charged for what would be a new jumping-on point!

And Marvel benefited from it too. All comics did. Because, believe it or not, if you get new eyes in a store, even if they come in looking for one specific thing, they might actually find something else there they like as well. The comics industry had been heading into a steep decline (again), and this seemed to turn things around. People wanted to buy every single number one, from known titles like Action Comics and Green Lantern, to newer concepts like Demon Knights and I, Vampire. And with hot names like Jim Lee and Geoff Johns helming the Justice League, or Grant Morrison and Rags Morales taking on Action, these were sure to be some of the best selling titles of the months ahead.

Kids who’d heard of Teen Titans from the cartoons could walk into a store and not have to go through the 30+ years of continuity to understand what was going on. They could start right from Issue #1 and read about Starfire and Beast Boy and Raven and Cyborg…

Oh. Wait…

Why They Shouldn’t #1

DC JUST KEEPS ON DOING IT

The funny thing about DC rebooting their entire universe in 2011? They’ve actually done it before.

And before that.

And, yes, before that.

They do it a lot. Like, honestly, practically all the time.

See, the funny thing about your business being based around characters that are celebrating 75th anniversaries is that you can’t actually let those characters be 75 (or 100, assume they were in their mid-twenties in those first books). The idea of letting things change and alter and grow means that a kid might be reading a Superman comic book (like that ever happens) but have no idea who Clark Kent or Lois Lane are because they would’ve probably died/moved off planet by now. The new Superman might be a grandson or some random person from Krypton who’d been trapped in the Phantom Zone for 50 years and has Superman like qualities.

Or, you know. You just ignore the idea of people getting older. Growing up. Changing. And you pretend like everything started five years ago. But, if you do that, in 5 years time, you’re going to want to do it again. And then again. Because while Captain America can certainly be born into the World War II era and then be frozen to wake up in the modern day, you can’t have Tony Stark getting blown up by shrapnel in the Viet Nam war if he was born in 70s, or the 80s (or teen Tony who was born in a really terrible idea in the 90s).

You also don’t want a Green Lantern/Hal Jordan referencing how he used to call his good buddy Pieface (no matter how much you try to sugar coat why).

Times change. Kids want superheroes they can relate to. Peter Parker can’t sit at home moping about how none of the girls want to be seen talking to him down at the malt shop. And Batman can’t be a dude in his 50s because, you know, gross! He’s just a guy in his late twenties who hangs out with a group of young boys that all look alike and get progressively younger as he dresses them up in matching red outfits… Totally not gross.

So DC modernized their original Golden Age superheroes by introducing the Silver Age versions. But that allowed characters like Jay Garrick and Barry Allen to actually co-exist in a weird way and eventually meet up. Which was cool. For a while. But then all the Silver Agers got older and more uncool, so instead of making the next generation, they just wiped the whole lot out, gave them a good polishing, and told everyone, “Hey. All that stuff you read and bought for the last 30 years? Yeah, about that…”

Truth to tell, they did it in a grandiose, well-thought out and superbly executed way in Crisis on Infinite Earths. A thing of beauty, really, with amazing art by George Perez. Sold well. The relaunched titles sold well too (for the most part). A new take on Superman by John Byrne. A whole new kind of Justice League book by Giffen, Dematteis and Maguire. A Flash for a new age.

Poor, dead Supergirl.

You know the funny thing about doing something that succeeds really well? Someone comes along and says, “Hey. We should do that thing again. The one with all the money.”

And they did. We got a Zero Hour. And it… Well, it was something else. A little. It fixed some of the wonky things that had happened post-Crisis, like the Legion of Superheroes no longer being inspired by a Superboy who never existed. And gave us something called Primal Force. All the kids were collecting Primal Force back in the day.

But who thought Zero Hour would last, right? So then we got more Crisis. Infinite. It was… Well, it happened.

So maybe rebooting your comics line is like potato chips, in that you can’t have just one, and that its full of Olestra and will give you anal leakage. Another great idea of the 90s.

Point is, once you do it once, you tend to think it’ll be okay to do it again. But maybe you shouldn’t. Three years into the New 52, a good number of people are basically begging DC to bring back the old continuity. They’re not even saying which one, just Any Old Continuity.

Why They Should #2

THIS WAY, YOU GET TO START FRESH

You ever seen dirty linoleum. Like really dirty? The kind where, you scrub and scrub, down on your hands and knees for hours, with bleach and chemicals and something green that smells like the Devil’s urine? But those tiles just never shine like new? So you one day, when you have the budget (to pay someone else to do it because, god, my back is killing me, there’s no way I’m getting back down there again), you have someone rip the whole mess up and install brand new stuff.

That may be old man speak. How about this? You ever format your hard drive because Windows was completely borked? Shut up. I know you have a Mac, and they’re precious and perfect and never have a single problem ever. Liar.

What I’m saying is, sometimes you’re looking at a big old mess and you just kind of want to set fire to the whole thing so you can start over again. Nuke it from orbit; it’s the only way to be sure.

Well, there is something very liberating of taking Spider-Man and saying, he’s been around since the 60s. He’s been married. He’s had (actually had stolen) a child. He’s died. He had a deal made with the devil on his behalf.

What if we could just wipe all that off the board and start over again. Square one. Peter gets bit by a spider. Gets powers. The purest, truest form of Spider-Man. Where it leads is up to you now, the possibilities are endless and open.

Compelling isn’t it? And that’s just one guy. What if we threw Tony Stark into that? Remember when Tony was a drunk? Not anymore! Remember when he started a war between all the superheroes, having them expose their secret identities and getting some of his friends killed? Wait, you mean he wasn’t drunk when he did that? Were they? Were the writers? Were the readers?

If you could do it all over again, if you were standing with Stan and Jack and Steve and the rest of the guys in the mythical Marvel Bullpin and you could just stand up and say, “This has been all well and good guys, but I think it should go a little something like THIS…”

Wouldn’t you? Especially with the power of hindsight. You could pick and choose the very best stories that happened. Ignore the dreck. Rewrite around the plot holes with foresight. If you knew at some point down the road that the Green Goblin was going to wind up killing Peter’s girlfriend Gwen in a horrific manner, wouldn’t you build the suspense and give ever bit of dialog gravitas and weight that would make it pay off so much more when it happened?

It’s such a good idea, you’d have to ask, why hasn’t Marvel done this before?

Well, they did. It’s called the Ultimate Universe. Today. Probably for a couple months left to go. But it’s had a good little run, so let’s not dwell.

One of the biggest controversies concerning Spider-Man over the last few years (and there’s been plenty, believe-you-me) was over how Marvel used a demon to annul Peter and Mary Jane’s marriage. This was something that the powers that be at Marvel had been mulling over for a while, because a married Peter Parker was, therefore, an old Peter Parker. To kids at least. And people who read about Peter and identify with him because he’s a bit of an inept geek whose life never seems to go right… there was some concern that wasn’t coming across in this guy who was married to an ex-supermodel. But, to get rid of that whole thing with a divorce, that would age the guy even more, and also darken some readers’ opinions of Peter.

So they had him and his wife make a deal with the devil. No murky morality quandaries there, right?

But before taking this tact, Marvel had already created a new Peter Parker. One who was never married. Heck, one that had never graduated High School. This clean slate Parker was in a fresh new universe as well. This place had never witnessed Galactus, or the Beyonder, or the Beyonder’s Jheri curl. It was brand-spanking-new and Peter was our first eyes into it. And, considering that it was telling us stories that, yes, we’d sort’ve seen all happen before, it did amazingly well. It sold to people who already were reading Spider-Man proper, sure. But it also sold to a whole lot of people that weren’t. It gave that foot-in-the-door to kids and adults and, frankly, collectors that had never picked up a Spidey book because it was just a god-awful mess of continuity. And because they’d heard about something called The Clone Saga and fuck that noise.

It wasn’t long before Marvel threw some X-Men into that world. And then some Fantastic Four. And then some Avengers who refused to call themselves The Avengers. And Jeph Loeb. And that’s when things went dark.

 

Why They Shouldn’t #2

MAKING THE SAME MESS OVER AGAIN

As already stated with DC, a while after rebuilding their New Earth post-Crisis on Infinite Earths, things started to fall apart again. Some of the stuff was right away, such as the Legion, the origin of Power Girl (once Earth 2’s equivalent of Supergirl), or Donna Troy (don’t even get me started). Other stuff was just the general mire of publishing so many books in a shared universe month after month, year after year. Even the best editors and creators are going to slip up and have conflicting accounts of how things went down.

And that’s par for the course, isn’t it? Whether you reboot or not, sometimes things just don’t add up for the bean counters. And if you’ve ever been ambushed by a hardcore, continuity-driven fan at a convention or your local comic shop or a Star Trek signing, you know… We likes our beans all accounted for.

Let’s look at the Ultimate Universe for a second (no one else is any more, amiright?). After a good year’s start, the universe was chugging along pretty well. Spider-Man had been a big hit. Ultimate X-Men, far more notably different from the source material than it seemed Spidey was doing, was firmly popular.

The Ultimate U was still in its infancy though, and people were wondering, hey, where is the Hulk of this world? The FF? Stilt-Man? Are we ever gonna see these guys? And Brian Michael Bendis, already giving us everything we could hope for and more in his Ultimate Spidey, said, “Sure! I can tell you all about everything. I am the master of my domain… er… alternate universe! I will Ultimatize ALL THE THINGS!” Many people don’t commonly realize that Bendis himself is a living Meme.

So we got Ultimate Marvel Team-Up. And it was good! But… it wasn’t exactly great. And the versions of the characters in it didn’t exactly feel so much Ultimatized as they did Normalized. Oh sure, when Spidey and Wolverine teamed up in the first issue, it was the crazy cool and hip (these are terms you kids use today, right?) version of Logan, the one Mark Millar was already giving us in Ultimate X-Men. But the Hulk, the Fantastic Four (sadly, no Stilt-Man), Iron Man, none of them seemed all that different from their 616 counterparts. And, in a couple years time, we’d see the new, no-this-time-we-mean-it versions of these characters in Ultimates and UFF and so on. We’d also get Ultimate Hawk-Owl and Woody, which no one gave a good goddamn about ever.

Did the walls crash down upon the whole Ultimate Universe simply because we’d seen two different versions of some of these characters running around within its undriven snow-like pristineness? No. No one flipped. Maybe they were waiting for Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk to finish before they got into it, but, by then, the whole Ultimate Universe was no longer recognizable or, frankly, compelling.

See, as Mark Millar and Brian Hitch were finishing up their stellar (if not timely) run on The Ultimates, the question came up of “Who in the whole wide world can we possibly get to replace them that’s going to live up to the excitement and sheer awesomeness of their stories?” And someone said “Jeph Loeb.” Odds are it was probably Jeff Loeb himself, sitting in a corner of the room uninvited.

Now, that’s not exactly fair, because Jeph had some incredibly great Marvel (and DC) work under his belt, including things like Batman: The Long Halloween, Superman For All Seasons, Spider-Man: Blue. He’d also written for Rob Liefeld’s Heroes Reborn Captain America and no one sawed his writing hand off. The point is, Jeph was chosen to introduce Ultimates 3, on which he teamed with Joe Madureira, a once hot artist in the 90s X-Men and Image era who was never late on any comics project ever. [Citation needed. Big time.]

What happened somewhere between Utlimates 3 and Ultimatum is a testament to the idea that Just Because You Have the Ability To Do Anything, It Doesn’t Actually Mean That You Should. Jeph gave us such wise moves as Ultimate Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, still siblings in this universe, having an actually sexual relationship with one another (to be fair, Quicksilver was always kind of skeevy in 616), and the Blob actually eating the Janet Van Dyne Wasp character (later “avenged” by Giant Man Hank Pym eating him right back). And then something-something-Magneto steals Thor’s hammer and drowns New York, yadda-yadda-yadda.

Keep in mind, the Ultimate Universe was introduced to be a Marvel parallel of “What would the Marvel Universe be like if it started today.” And that sold a lot of people on those books. But then it became, “What would we never do in the Marvel Universe because it would be considered by all to be incredibly stupid and short-sighted?”

At best what can be said for the Ultimate Universe some time after Ultimatum is that it gave us Miles Morales, the replacement Spider-Man after the eventual death of Peter Parker. A death no one was really asking for. We liked this Parker, a lot. We liked his youthfulness, his inexperience. We even liked the new status quo of “…and his Amazing Friends” that they’d sort’ve established in the relaunch of the series post Operation: Drowned Like A Cat. But in the 616, there’s no way that they’d get away with killing of Peter Parker for realsies and replacing him long-term with a different character entirely. Maybe just with one of his archnemeses kicking around in his old body for a while.

Sufficed to say, the Ultimate Universe got shit on. A lot of the cool stuff they’d introduced conceptually to it, like Samuel L. Jackson being Nick Fury, made its way over in maybe a heavy-handed way to the 616 Universe. And the Ult. U. ceased to be either relevant or important.

Which brings us to the question: If you can just make this stuff happen in your current universe, why do you need to start it over at all?

Why They Should #3

NEW #1s:  DOLLA-DOLLA BILLS, Y’ALL

Kids, did you know that, back in the 50s, the 60s, the 70s, and even a little bit of the 80s, it was not unusual to buy a comic book that had a complete story inside? Sometimes several complete stories at that?

Now, I’m not talking about completely continuity-free stories. If you bought a Superman comic, odds are it was relying on you to understand that he’d existed for some time before, and you were coming into his life midway of many other adventures. But you could read this issue, where he fought someone attacking him with toy soldiers or when he’d shrink himself and Jimmy Olsen and they’d pop into a bottled city, and you’d know all you needed to to see it through from beginning to end. Bread was also a nickel, TVs were black and white, and we were thankful.

At some point, the ideal of serializing comics got into vogue. You would have to buy an issue, wait a couple weeks for part two, hope your local grocery mart or convenience store ordered that issue too, and then you might get the end, or the dreaded “Concluded Next Issue!” message in the final panel.

The longer a story lasted, the more you, as a fan, had to dedicate yourself to the comics, if you wanted to read something from beginning to end. Who was the X-Traitor that future Gambit told Bishop about before he came back to our time? Well, kid, I hope you got five years and $1000 to find out.

There also came things like Anniversary issues, when a book would reach a milestone mark like Detective Comics #500 or Amazing Spider-Man #400 or Youngblood #2. These books were often oversized, overpriced, and focused on new directions or storylines for the characters. They would eventually, as continuity bogged more and more things down, sport words like “Great Jumping On Point!” signifying that new readers could get this issue and not feel completely lost.

But what really signaled a great jumping on point, as well as setting a speculative collector’s eyes-a-twitching, was the elusive #1.

A brand new series promised you had nothing to worry about. This was the ground floor for everything. You’d get an origin (probably, but those days are long gone now). You’d get the very first adventure (nowadays, you’re lucky if the hero discovers they have powers in the first issue). You’d get a bag and a board and file that sucker away for the next ten years so it can pay for your kids to go to college. If you have kids, and if they don’t spend their teething years chewing on the ends of your precious comics you thought you had locked safely away in the attic.

These days, a new #1 doesn’t really promise any of those things. It’s not uncommon, especially at Marvel, for them to relaunch a title with a new number one even without changing the creative team or direction of the book. But even if it’s all but meaningless, there’s still a tendency for a new Number One to sell better than a Number Anything After One. And sales are always a factor.

Even in smaller setups, a rebranding of titles that ties them all together with a new launch can be successful, if only for a while. Do you remember the Marvel Tsunami line? Odds are, no, you probably don’t, as none of those books are around any more. But that line did give us The Runaways, a book that, even having been canceled for several years, still gets brought up all the time as a favorite title and WHY THE HELL HAVEN’T YOU MADE THIS A MOVIE YET, DISNEY??? In the last couple years, Marvel.Now has been… You know, I’m not sure what the hell its been. What does that even mean, Mavel.Now? Why is there a decimal place in there? The hell..? Either way, as unfathomable as it is to me, the .Now stuff has sold in the first few months. And then it sold the next time they did it. And probably will the next.

Even the words “All New” that they’re using in the promos for what we’re only guessing is Marvel’s reboot is straight off the cover of X-Men #94, the follow-up to Giant Sized X-Men #1, which relaunched the team with new characters, new types of stories and so forth. And this is back before they put Wolverine in EV.RY.THING. They had no idea this guy was going to be the clincher to sales (and, even though he didn’t exist yet technically, I’m not convinced Marvel didn’t sneak Deadpool in there somewhere).

Relaunching Marvel Now (I almost can’t not say it at this point)with 60 number ones would definitely get them attention from every kind of media and get people into the stores who aren’t your regular Wednesday fixtures. The only way to make it even bigger is if they spent the months before killing everyone, maybe in about twenty different kinds of event comics.

 

Why They Shouldn’t #3

NO SENSE OF HISTORY OR LEGACY

I mentioned The Clone Saga earlier (although almost anyone that’s tried to read it would prefer I not), and I want to say, there’s probably one or two things about it I actually liked. Not the least of which was Ben Reilly, the clone of Peter (or so we thought) that became the Scarlet Spider. Ben was a pretty neat guy, and his costume, while very 90s with its ripped-up hoodie, was cool and distinct from Spidey but delivered the parts we liked about it. I’d argue it was even cooler than the black costume from Secret Wars that later passed on to Venom. And Ben was a good man who’d lived in the shadows for years, didn’t have all of Peter’s hang-ups, no Aunt May or Mary Jane or Daily Bugle. A veritable blank slate with all these possibilities.

And then they said, “Hey, dumbasses. You know how you’ve been reading Spider-Man all these years? Well, turns out we totally pulled the wool over your eyes. This guy right here in the hoodie that thought he was a clone? He’s the actual Peter Parker! And that guy you’ve read about your whole life? He’s the clone! Don’t you feel like a total piece of shit right now? All that money and time you invested, thinking you were a Spidey fan, but you were WRONG! WRONG, I TELLS YA!” This is an actual quote from Bob Harras, I shit you not.

Now, the entire possibility of getting a new guy who had similar powers to Spider-Man, and a familiar back story/personality, that was bludgeoned with a defective pumpkin bomb because, instead, we’re getting this guy shoved into our faces as New Peter. Like New Coke, nobody wanted it. Many people were perfectly satisfied with the Peter they had. I’m going to forget I just typed that sentence.

One thing that can really tick off a comic fanatic, which is what the word fan stems from, don’t let anyone try to tell you otherwise, is if you just shit all over their fandom. And Marvel effectively broke Spider-Man. Not just broke him, they wrecked the whole world of it. Every single piece, the good, the bad, the Venom, it all fell apart in an instant with a terrible editorial decision. And then they milked it for years.

This changed too much. It changed what people had, which was a connection to the protagonist in this title. Marvel hadn’t given us a new character to learn to love to; they took what we already loved away. And you don’t do that. It’s like improv. It’s about adding. It’s about saying yes. The person who throws up a no, that kills the bit. Also like improv, there was absolutely no thinking about what was going to happen beforehand.

After fixing this, years later in the now infamous storyline “One More Day,” they changed the history of Peter again, taking away his entire relationship with Mary Jane, his wife. Also famously decried by many as a bad move, not simply because they wanted the relationship to stand, but because it meant that people’s comics they had collected and read and memorized and could quote issue numbers related to first appearances related to colorists related to if there was an ad in the back for those awesome and not real X-Ray specs… They were all wrong.

Ouch.

There also wasn’t a “this is what really happened now” to at least fill in the holes. There was story after story where Mary Jane was almost solely Peter’s motivation. How do those make sense? Heck, it also wiped out Peter revealing his secret identity to the whole world in Civil War. That had just happened! How does that story make any semblance of sense now? Fans wanted answers and they were told:

“Eventually. Maybe. We’ll probably get around to it. Sit tight and keep reading, True Believer!”

But there weren’t a lot of True Believers left. The things that people believed in had just been taken away. They were confused and angry and some swore up and down that they’d never read another Spider-Man comic again. Not the first time. Definitely not the last time.

Why They Should #4

THE MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE

If there is one, absolutely surefire reason as to why Marvel should reboot their entire line of comics, it’s the Marvel films.

Obviously, the movies as they’ve been presented so far, all the way up until The Guardians Of The Galaxy, owe more to the Ultimates Universe than anything. Yeah, there are storylines loosely based on stories from the 616, including The Extremis and Winter Soldier. But the entire attitude and encumbered history and origins all scream Ultimate. And Samuel Mutha-Fuckin Jackson, bitches! Unlike Marvel movies, this blog piece doesn’t wimp out at PG-13.

There has been this ridiculous, completely disproved idea that the mainstream audience, when they discover the Marvel characters through the success of the films, will stream into comic stores and buy the comics they originated in. While that hasn’t yet happened, and probably never will, one could argue that, if they did come, what would shop-owners hand them to read? The 40 year heavily continuized Avengers book? Or the succinct, if disappointing in how they’ve petered out Ultimates book? Or, if they’re a little kid, the age-appropriate Marvel Heroes comics.

What? They don’t make those any more? That seems rather short-sighted.

Remember how I talked about how the Ultimate Universe was created to tell stories of the Marvel characters if they came out today? And how that worked really amazingly until somebody decided that it was ripe to be torn to shreds and turned into a place where people can just crap all over the characters and stories and make it all unrecognizable and horrific and dumb? Not in so many words, but I think I got that point across, right?

There’s no “perfect” Marvel now. There’s the Marvel that, yes, has been elevated to a better quality than the Ultimates Universe ever was, really. Some incredible stories are done in the 616 now. And some stuff that I wouldn’t read if it was stapled to my eyeballs and gave specific instructions on how to remove staples from your eyeballs without causing you any more undue pain or permanent damage in between the panels. I’m looking at you Inhumanity. And, by that, I mean I’m not looking at you.

But the 616 is still pretty much impenetrable to someone that hasn’t read Marvel comics their entire lives. I don’t know how comics got that way, really. When I was a kid, any issue I happened to pick up, I could pretty much figure out what was going on pretty quick, see who was good, who was bad, why the people were motivated that way, and just go from there. Was I just smarter than other kids? Well, if you’ve read this far you probably can see that, no. No I was not and am not and never will be. But comics were made in such a way that you didn’t need a map to get what was going on, complete with pie charts and indexes and so on. I mean, we had those. We had The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. That thing was awesome! You don’t know, you there with your Wikipedia.

If we want comics to be inviting to new readership, they need that one open door. You can label a book with a number one, but that won’t do it. Especially if issue two leads into a crossover with thirty other titles. Smaller stories help, but to sustain the business as companies like Marvel and DC have built it, the event comics are just inevitable at this point. But if everything started over at square one, then at least people would be able to start reading today’s comics as opposed to the ones that came out in the 60s. They could see the Avengers discover Captain America’s frozen form today, with modern art and modern storytelling and modern colors and modern cover price (plus an extra couple bucks because, hey! It’s a double-sized number one issue!).

And we could make sure that the Avengers look like they do in the movies and in the new cartoon series, with the room to grow and introduce the other existing Marvel Universe characters that, hopefully, will then inspire the next casting choices for the films yet to come. And maybe we can reflect some of the diversity that just wasn’t able to happen in the 50s and 60s so that it’s not such a shock to some people when Johnny Storm and Kingpin aren’t while (and Falcon still isn’t). Maybe we can treat Carol Danvers as the original Captain Marvel from the “new” beginning) instead of a legacy character that people say, “But-but-but… what about Mar-Vell? Why can’t Carol just be Ms. Marvel? I’m so confused, I can’t comprehend that a woman can be called Captain because that’s a boy-thing!” And we can forget about that whole stupid Spider-Totem thing once and for all! Not to mention Gwen and Norman. Grossburgers.

The streamlined Marvel of the films can finally be treated like an entry-point into the comics and vice-versa. The two universes can actually compliment one another. When Netflix lands their Defenders series, we can see that happen in the comics too, with Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, a suspicious absence of anal sex, Iron Fist… That’s a bad transition. Ignore it.

And the films are already taking existing storylines from the comics in name only, completely changing them to new takes. The Winter Soldier story in the Cap sequel, so far, was greatly different from the original one in the books. It’s unlikely Avengers II’s Age of Ultron will have a time traveling component, let alone feature Logan and Sue Storm attempting to assassinate Hank Pym. With nothing to go on yet, Civil War has got to be fairly different from the Millar event book. And I’m sure Marvel is just dying to give us a film version of Identity Disc. In most of these cases, we’ve yet to see if the movies do it as well or better than the comics that did them first, but it would certainly make more sense for the uninitiated fan who buys a comic with the same name as the film they just watched to see at least some similarities between them.

 

Why They Shouldn’t #4

The Conceipt

Here’s the big stamp on why relaunching is a bad idea:

You, sir, are no Jack Kirby.

You’re not Stan, or Steve Ditko, or John Romita Sr. Which is not to say that you’re not talented, surely. But those guys created the whole frickin’ thing. They made it all, they made it matter. They built the very foundation of stories for generations to come to be built on top of. And they were followed by people like Gerber and Clairemont and Byrne and Miller. On and on.

Trying to take all of the greatness, and a good wealth of lameness too, and do it all over again… It’s not just intimidating; it’s out-and-out ballsy.

Keeping in mind how great Bendis and Bagley did with Ultimate Spider-Man (the Peter Parker one), they were essentially retelling stories. In a great way, mind you. They distilled it down to the very essence of the characters, made it feel like a whole new book, but it still was evoking a classic story that people were familiar with and already loved. Then they did that one with Geldof. That story blew. Hard.

And Ultimate Spidey, as we’ve already established, was the shining light in an otherwise very uneven take on the Marvel Universe. But say you get the very best creators, and they take a great amount of care to do it all right. There’s still the very real concern that, doing it all over again, it just wouldn’t work.

I again refer you to DC’s New 52. A lot of talented sorts were involved with that relaunch. Now, you can argue that some were better than others (and I’d agree). And you could argue that there didn’t seem to be enough planning involved to make it actually execute well (and, again, I’d personally agree). But there was fundamentally something at play that was stacked against them no matter how hard they worked and how magical the creative teams were.

DC’s Universe (and Marvel’s) is built upon over 50 years of continuity. It’s been rebooted, rewritten, tooled with, mucked with, and so on. But people have a mind that Batman existed long enough to have Dick Grayson to have once been his partner, Robin. But then Dick grew up, went away to the Titans and became Nightwing. So Bruce met this kid named Jason Todd and made him Robin. But the Joker got all crazy with a crowbar, and Jason-go-boom. So then Tim Drake. And then Stephanie Brown (shut-up, DC! It happened!). And then Damien Wayne, Bruce’s own illegitimate son, was finally Robin.

When you stop and think about it too hard, no, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, this ever-thirty-something guy has had all these kids grow up around him and be his kid partner and so on. But the beauty of stories that happened over 20 to 30 to 40 years is that you’re not looking at it with a timeline. You’re just looking at the events. You were 12 years old with Tim Drake put on the cape, so when you’re in your 20s and Damien’s there, it doesn’t feel like it’s happening too fast.

But when DC says, “Superheroes have existed in this world for 5 years,” and then you still have four strapping young lads that have been Robin in that amount of time, that sets off bells of disbelievability. And during that time, Batman also died for a while and came back to life. And some other stories, a lot of them, happened. Or did they? It’s really hard to say because the more you look at it, the harder it is to buy into it.

The other option, and this one is the scariest, is you legitimately start at square one. Now, this can be choosing your new focal point of the beginning of your universe. For DC, it would probably be Superman’s debut. For Marvel, it’s either the Fantastic Four’s premier, or, because of the way the films are, it’s more likely the formation of the Avengers. Taking into account that all the characters had stories beforehand, obviously, but your first comic put out should be that Avengers story, where they pull Cap out of the ice. Because it sings. It paints the perfect doorway into this world.

You could definitely start some books together. While introducing Superman in what I’d presume would be Action Comics #1, you could also tell the first Batman story in Detective Comics #1, and Wonder Woman in Sensational Comics #1. At most, you could play off that they don’t all happen at the same time, but close to one another, and get us up to the day and date when they meet in our new Justice League. For Marvel, same idea, you get your Iron Man, your Thor, and so on. This is what the movies did. That’s how they got us there. And it worked.

But the comic companies can’t work on 4-6 titles alone coming out in the first year. DC had to put out 52 separate titles for their relaunch (maybe not “had to,” but that’s the number they wanted). Some of those books were multiple takes of the same character, like Superman. And that is why Superman took the worst of the reboot with the New 52.

See, in Action Comics, Grant Morrison was writing his version of Superman. In jeans and a t-shirt, it was a very different take from what we were used to. It was said to have taken place five years in the past. But over in Superman’s titled book, George Perez was writing Clark of the present day. There were all the toys he’d expected to play with, like Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, the Daily Planet, and so on. But he wasn’t sure what he could and couldn’t use. He didn’t know what the new status quo was. Grant was still creating it. If there’d been a few years worth of roadmap put out for him, maybe it would’ve worked better. But it didn’t happen that way. Eventually, George realized his task was beyond his means to accomplish, so he left the book. It wasn’t his fault. That’s just how messy something like this is.

Another thing is legacy characters. For instance, every Green Lantern is somebody’s favorite, be it John Stewart or Kyle Raynor or Guy Gardner, or, if you’re Geoff Johns, it’s Hal Jordan. Obviously. We all get it, Geoff, you love Hal more than life itself, he is your world, your everything. Get a room. Hell, get a whole Alternate Earth why don’t you?

The problem becomes, to tell a story that makes sense, you can’t have all these versions of the same heroes jumping around so early. You can’t, and I can not stress this enough, you CAN’T have four Robins at the start of your new continuity! It just doesn’t work. So you have to either cull the wheat from the chaff, pare down the characters to only what’s essential. Or you fake it. You only halfway reboot, but allow for some old, confusing plots to leak through. DC did this, most specifically with Batman and Green Lantern. And by the time that Grant Morrison finished off his Batman Inc book and Geoff Johns ended his run on the Green Lantern titles, it felt like they should’ve just started those books over as well.

If Marvel reboots their universe, opening on page one, we don’t get a She Hulk. We don’t get a Franklin Richards. We don’t get Cable (well, maybe Cable, because time travel is messed up no matter what). We certainly don’t get the current Ms. Marvel, or the Kate version of Hawkeye, or any of the Young Avengers, or have a need for twenty different X-Men teams, or even Uncanny Avengers. Square one is square one, and the journey is truly the best part of getting to where we are. But the journey, in a financial sense, won’t be able to happen again.

At best, we can get a Crisis on Infinite Earths, or a Doctor Strange spell, Galactus farting (I can only assume, as a planet devourer, he gets some terrible IBS), whatever, whereas we get the whole history rewritten, but we come in for the Today, and we have to guess what did and didn’t happen. And that is often worse than not doing it. Because, again, if you don’t have the most stable and solid plan, at some point you’re going to mess something up with the new continuity. And comic fans are going to call you on it like the anal little cherubs we are. And they’re going to compare it to the old version and always point out how that was better than this. And in ten years, when the movies are forced to reboot themselves because the actors have gotten too old or moved on, you’ll be left wondering if you should do it all again. Which, of course, you will, because at this point nothing is sacred any more. You’re not deleting 60 years of history. You’re deleting 10. Freddy Krueger and Robocop were older than that when they got rebooted.

And look how good those remakes were.

And that’s mostly it.  This is all still very speculative at this point.  No one at Marvel has even hinted at the fact that they’re going to reboot/relaunch/retry the Marvel Universe proper.  Which is good.  Because as soon as they do, a bunch of assholes on the internet (oh, hey there little pointy finger, why are you looking at me like that?) will decide why it’s both the best idea and the worst idea in the whole of time and space and french-bread pizza.  So, if they are to actually do it, I hope they just do it.  Get as close as they can to the release dates before saying anything.  So we can’t speculate, we can just watch it happen and judge it by what Marvel actually puts out, not what we assume they will or think they should.

If they do though, I call dibs on Lockheed #1.

Going backwards to go forwards.

I’m still treacherously close to the start of this year’s NaNoWriMo, and I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to write yet.  At all.  Bupkis.

The lack of an entry idea is bad, yes.  But not knowing what I’m going to do once I go in is sort’ve par for the course for me.  In 2012, the year I actually won, I had a story in my mind about an asshole with a bow and arrows.  That was it.  As my story ideas go, it was fairly light, even for me.  But it sounded fun.

I write voices.  Meaning, I write a lot of dialog heavy stuff.  But it gives me the entryway I need into finding out who I’m writing about.  And then I sort’ve pin story to that.  It doesn’t always, or even often, work.  But it’s my process.

I haven’t looked at that story, Fwip!, since roughly the point when NaNo ended and I sent in my word count to get credit for the win.  It was, as I recalled, an ugly mess.  Some of it wasn’t even really writing so much as emails and messages to myself and two of my muses about how stuck I was, where do I need to go, just what the fuck was this whole mess supposed to amount to anyway.  I have carried that with me, even with the thoughts that, you know, I wouldn’t mind doing a sequel to that piece of garbage at some point.  Not because it’s worth it.  Just because I think I have a smidge of an idea and a title for book two.

But that’s all factored on pure ignorance.  Because, if I don’t look at what I wrote, how do I know that there’s even anything there?  Oh, sure, the muses gave me words of encouragement (during).  But that’s how these things work.  Talk him down off the ledge before he actually climbs atop it and decides to jump.  That’s more helpful than you might realize.

Point being, in a drawer (virtual though it might be), a story isn’t a story.  Or maybe it is.  Something, something Schrodinger’s Novel.

Today, for no reason beyond me being lost for what else to do, I opened the drawer.  I jumped partway in because I was taken by my chapter title (and how I guess I decided to do all of them, a mix of two things for each title).  And then I read, again, what was basically dialog.

And I’m maybe a little in love with it now.

That doesn’t mean that there’s really anything else there.  Because it’s a small-ish part of a small-ish chapter of a small-ish incomplete book.

But maybe there’s a small-ish bit of hope that it could be something.  Some day.  If and when I get off my ass.  Of which there’s almost no-ish hope at all.

Anyway, because I like it enough, here’s the bit I read.  It made me smile.  It made me laugh.  It made me think, hmmm…  This seat of my pants thing may work this year too.

Unedited because Fuck It All.

Continue reading Going backwards to go forwards.

Leave me where I am, I’m only sleeping.

If only.

Oh, hey, sure.  I took the long nap in-between starting this blasted thing and then finally getting around back to it.  But that wasn’t entirely unexpected, was it?  I knew that I was bad at the blogging habits these days as it was, and then I went and allowed myself to reopen my Facebook page (I think I’d shut it down when I started here).

Facebook in a wonderful sort of time suck run by horrible people.  I accept it for what it is, which is mostly a way for me to interact with friends and family that I normally never get to see or talk to any more without it.  But I also recognize that it’s controlled by an entity determined to tell people how they should get their information instead of, you know, giving them anything resembling a choice.  What things posted chronologically?  How about seeing all the posts from something you actually like or are subscribed to?  Nope, we’ll be having none of that (and neither will you).

So, you start a blog (or, let’s face it, a Twitter, a Tumblr, a… heh… an Ello), and you write to the ether instead.  You lose the safety net of Facebook, but you gain… not being on Facebook?

I disabled my account again yesterday.  Disabling is the cop-out.  You’re not shutting things down fully.  Facebook actually asks you why you’re doing it, and a choice is, “I’ll be back later, this s a temporary thing.”  And that’s what I chose, of course.  Again, because of the people.

Love the players, Hate the game.

Speaking of games, that’s why things are disabled once more.  Because November is NaNoWriMo.  And, while I finally made my “win” with National Novel Writing Month two years ago (just shortly after I’d been laid off my job of 12 years), I went from writing 50k to writing exactly nada.

(And now NadaWriMo must become a thing.)

So I’m climbing back on that horse.  But I’m not as interested in finishing this year.  Just in writing.  A little bit every day.  If I hit goals, great.  If I win, wonderful.  But none of that really matters this year.

I just celebrated my 1 year anniversary this month.  I’m on six months into my new job (new career is more like it).  I still spend every Friday with the best friends anyone could ask for.  I get to do a couple webcasts with some newer friends (who are also really great folk).  House is still keeping the wind off us.  Health is reasonable (although I may have sleep apnea, but at least I have insurance so I get to see my doctor this week about it).  And maybe, one day, I’ll get to make another comic.

S’good life.  All things considered.

So all that’s owed to me (all that ever is, really) is what I owe myself.  What I’d like for myself.  And I’d like to write something.

Which is not to say that I have a single clue what I’m doing for NaNo this year.  Every attempt (this is my fourth) seems to get a little worse with that.  The first year I got a little more than halfway in my progress with a story I’d semi-plotted as comic book 10 years before.  The next time, I got about 4k in on a story I’d been wanting to write for even longer (and it was torture the whole way through).  2012 was a newer idea, basically about an archer who was more than a bit of an asshole and, what I originally hoped at least, a story that was supposed to be like an action movie (think “Speed”), but because thematically about truth instead.

This year, nothing.  I have several things I could use, but not a one of them has reached the surface to say, “Pick me!  Pick me!”  Maybe because now, knowing NaNo as I do, I see that giving is something that I care about is just going to kill me when I actively have to break it apart and destroy the idea just to be able to get words down on the page.

As I write this, I’m watching a really gruesome episode of “The Walking Dead.”  Two things at once, that’s how I do it.  But I think NaNoWriMo can be looked at with some comparison.  We have the things and the people we love.  We want them with us, always.  To protect them.  To help them to flourish.  But that’s not NaNo.  You take what you love to NaNo any more than you take those you love to the end of the world.  Because NaNo is ugly.  NaNo is struggle.  NaNo kills the good.

You take what can survive, what can help you keep moving forward.  What you can shrug off losing, and what you can live off the leanest parts when there’s nothing left.  NaNoWriMo is post-apocalyptic writing.  They say, in some writing advice books and columns, to kill your darlings, but no one should bring their darlings to this kind of environment.  You may find something you love in there, by the end of it.  But that’s hindsight.  And hindsight is fine, but foresight is going to break you.

I was supposed to spend my weekend preparing myself.  Cleaning my office up was the big thing.  But, again, I’ve discovered I may have a sleep disorder, as I’ve been waking up choking every night. So I instead found I spent my weekend trudging around, catching cat naps in my chair (being upright helps a bit), fighting headaches and sinuses.  Procrastination is probably also a part of my process.  I abhor homework something fierce.  I write for distraction anyways.

So this next month or so, I’m trading one distraction for another distraction.  Which means, while I’m sitting in front of my computer screens, desperate to hit my two thousand word count every day, I’m probably going to desperately wish I could go play on Facebook instead.

“What Else Is On?” –> Of course he does a podcast…

When I was a kid, after wanting to be a superhero, and then a game show host, I eventually wanted to be a radio DJ.  I probably assumed this would mean I’d get to talk a lot on air, but it more likely would’ve been me working 2am slots with no one listening playing the hard-rocking hits of the 1950s.

Be that as it may, I eventually figured out that what it really is I like to do, it’s talking.  Conversing more than just talking to hear my own voice (although I do seem to enjoy that too).

A few years back, I got introduced to podcasts by one of my best friends who said, “Why aren’t we doing this?”  So we did, and almost every show we’ve done for The d20 has shown exactly why we shouldn’t be doing it.  ;-)

But that hasn’t stopped us so far.  And, if no one else was listening, I still would.  Not just because of narcissism, but more because I love my group of friends, and I feel like I’m my best when I’m with them.  I learn from them, I have the most fun with them.  I was recording our gaming sessions anyways, but we have done a massively irregular show for a while.  It’s hugely inappropriate and offensive, so, know that going in.

Now, about two years ago, I discovered a show on a site called Spreecast hosted by two excellent guys.  It was, at the time, called “What We’re Watching Weekly,” and the title described the it perfectly.  The nice thing about Spreecast was that it was as open as you wanted it to be, so you could have people jump into your show while it was going on, joining the discussion, then jumping off to make way for the next person.  And, on a whim, I wound up on screen, which was a lot of fun.  So I kept coming back, every week, to take part of the show.  Glenn and Dave were incredibly gracious to let me be a part of things.  Over time, Dave had to step back, but Glenn carried on, and people like Gregor, Casey, Mike, Evan, Beatmaster, and more all filled in time here and there.  Gregor and I really sort of took up two of the seats so regularly that, eventually, when Glenn himself was having problems getting online or had scheduling conflicts, we tried to keep the show running for him.

Let’s face it…  The show was, and always would be, Glenn and Dave’s.  And we treated it with the reverence of a couple fanboys because that’s what we were.  We were fortunate enough that people who watched for the original hosts still would show up when it was just us.  But Spreecast changed their business model, and while Gregor and I had already been talking about starting a second show that was actually ours, we also saw that WWWW was going to kind of lose its home, after it had already lost its original hosts.

As fans, neither Gregor nor I wanted to see the show disappear.  We loved it.  We loved doing it.  We loved it being a tribute to the guys that started it.  But if we took it somewhere else, could we really keep it the same?  And should we?

We talked to Glenn, explained to him what was going on, and what we were thinking.  Glenn, as always, was gracious and gave us his blessing.  We talked about what we wanted to call the new show, again, in tribute to what he’d begun.  We kept the “What,” but integrated the name of the new network we’d already been looking to start: Elsenerds.

And that’s how we ended up with “What Else Is On?”  We kept what we could too.  Starts and Stops, something Mike had originally been in charge of, Gregor had taken over a while back.  Evan and Beatmaster, two of the regulars from the old chat, deservedly became Producers for our new network, helping us build content to talk about on both the shows, and sitting in on the chat during the recordings to keep us on point, or derail us in the best possible way.

We’ve only been doing this for a couple months, so we’re still figuring out what all Elsenerds really might be or do.  Maybe this is it.  A TV/Movie show and a Comic show.  If that’s all we get, I’m still pretty satisfied.  Again, all I was looking for was to be able to have a conversation with some friends.  Even if no one else watches or listens… I do.

We were also really surprised and flattered with Dave (that’s Tasteful Dave actually) invited us to be a sister network to his own Galactic Netcasts, a place with excellent shows about Science Fiction and Aliens.  He’s even invited us to participate on a couple episodes here and there.

And then, every episode, as a tribute to our other Founder, we finish the show with “This has been a ‘Don’t Tell Glenn’ Production.”  Because: respect, yo!

Trick or Drabble (a very old challenge from a very dear friend)

Spade, the Evergnome, sat with his back against the cave wall. The doorway he’d run through was solid enough for the likes of him, a spill of loose rocks and a couple boulders that he’d rigged to fall onto his pursuer if one should ever catch him in the act of cutpurse.

But he’d never expected that something so shiny would be the property of a troll.

The troll beat mightily at the doorway, its heavy club bashing at the stones. It had been nimble enough to avoid their collapse, but not smart enough to leave with its head still intact.

“Trixty!” it cursed at Spade, the grunts getting louder to his ears, the air getting fouler as the troll and he shared breathing space.

As moonlight broke in, enough for the troll to see by, easily, Spade jumped up, in plain view, and dove for a smaller hole in the back of the cave. The troll made a lame grab at him, still getting its bearings in, what was for it, a cramped space. It slid on the damp stone floor, and shoved an elongated arm into the crevice, scraping at the furthest back edges of the hidey-hole for its prize.

Spade squatted quietly at the back, too scared to breathe. He held out hope that he was still out of the beast’s reach.

Then suddenly, the troll caught the edge of Spade’s cloak. It felt a desperate tugging at the end of the cloth, so it pulled harder, crushing the form as it finally got him within its grasp. Spade lay limp in its hand, but as soon as it got him out of the small hole, it pounded his small body, within its fist, against the largest rock nearby, and then, happy that he wouldn’t wriggle on the way down, tossed Spade into his mouth.

“Treat,” it mumbled to itself as it munched on the lifeless form. As it chewed, the troll felt not meat and bone crunching between its rotted teeth, but cloth and hay. The creature tasted no sweet gnome blood, but only something akin to dwarvish silverale, heavy and pungent of distilled alcohol. The troll’s chewing slowed, its mouth agape as it began to spit the gnome out.

Spade shot out of the hole in front of it, a small rod in his hand. The tip glowed a fiery red on his mental command, and he pressed it up directly to the beast’s tongue. Immediately, the combination of the wand’s enchantment, the concentrated alcohol, and dried hay ignited in the troll’s gullet, and its entire giant head went ablaze.

The troll dropped dead instantly in front of Spade, the Evergnome.

“Trick,” is all he offered to the smoldering corpse.
TrickOrDrabbleWeb

It makes sense to start off this blog with this story, not because it’s my oldest piece, or even that it’s particularly good.  But because it ties in several things about my writing and the people that I write for.

This came as a challenge from my bestest of besties, Anne.  Now, Anne is an impeccable writer, and has been as long as I’ve known her.  But we met in a group that was basically fanfiction before it knew it was called that, and we always treated writing as play.  We’d do these wonderous stories with our characters interacting with one another, and it’s some of my favorite stuff to read, but, because it takes place in someone else’s universe, it’s not something we could ever try to publish.  And it’s so full of in-jokes and private moments, no one else would really get it anyway.  The definition of “You had to be there.”

But Anne still likes to play sometimes, so back in October of 2008, she challenged me to something she called a “drabble” (the word was new to me).  Write a story, so many words, and the theme, based off the calendar, was “Trick or Treat.”

Now, this takes me back to the days we met, on the Prodigy BBSes, where I would just have an idea, throw it up in our forums, writing it without planning or thinking, and let it go.  Sometimes the stories would be near masterworks, sometimes they would be horrific failures.  Often, though, they just struck our little group as funny.  I’ve learned that trying to write as a Writer should, I fail near every time.  When I go into it just to make a joke or avoid doing real work and responsibilities, that’s when I do my best.

And, again, I’m not saying this is my best (not that my Best is much better).  But it came from my biggest muse.  And then it went into the hands of one of my other ones.  I don’t know why I sent this to Levi, other than it was something short and it seemed like he might get a kick out of it.  Whatever I was expecting, what I didn’t intend on was him drawing me a wonderful little picture to go with it.  Painting the picture to my words, only much more expertly.  My story got Levi art, and that is about the best thing I could ever hope or want to accomplish.

Spade was just a name for someone I needed to name in the moment.  But this was not the last time I’d see Spade the Evergnome wind up on my page.

But that’s another story…