I see over on the Baron's Original Sin thread, people are yet again pondering why yet another Marvel crossover has characters we used to love, and who used to work well together, snarling at each other and having pissing competitions regarding who is tougher instead of dealing with each other and the situation at hand as human beings would.

Right now,  in his Sub-Mariner discussion, Philip Portelli ponders why a character we are presumably expected to have sympathy and empathy for in future storylines is shown as a war criminal committing genocide.

I just about couldn't read Avengers Vs X-Men because of that mode of writing.  Instead I gathered the thrust of the narrative from reading Keiron Gillen's Uncanny X-Men tie-ins and the Avengers Academy tie-in.  There we got an impression of what a modern Marvel crossover would be like if relatable human feelings and some kind of empathy were the hallmarks of a superhero.  (Although Gillen largely just revelled in the moral laxity of much of his cast.  But we're talking Magneto and Mr Sinister here, rather than Captain America and Cyclops.)

I've said before that there is no point in bewailing the absence of traits that the writers simply aren't interested in putting into their books.  The books aren't aiming to give us recognisable human situations and reactions. 

As on Philip's thread, I'd identify the values of Badass and Awesome as being the prime values that these comics express and appeal to.  So long as 'heroes' seem to be acting and talking really tough all the time, and being prepared to be 'pragmatic' to the nth degree to 'get the job done', even when such behaviour strikes any reader as being out of character or off-puttingly 'unrealistic', then any action or interaction from the 'hero' is justified.

Obviously a certain section of the readership lap this up, but I'd worry myself that it is really alienating a wider audience, and it's certainly interfering with my own enjoyment of these comics.  However, it's not enough just to identify the values of 'Badass and Awesome' as the reason many of us aren't enjoying huge swathes of mainstream comics these days.  There's also the question of how writers that have gained praise elsewhere for clever, literate, humane work should slip into this mode when writing Big Two comics.

I think I've discovered a pointer as to how Marvel's otherwise intelligent and somewhat cultured writers find themselves at the point where this is the kind of book they are producing.

I've been meaning to post the following link for ages. It's an interview I discovered that Matt Fraction and Kelly Sue DeConnick gave while at a writer's festival here in my home town of Brisbane, Australia.  It was meant for very mainstream broadcast here in Australia, as it was aired as an interview with a very popular interviewer whose programme goes out on weekday mornings.  Perhaps for this reason, the writers give away a little more, and display a wider frame of reference than we usually get in the more sycophantic marketing-conscious industry interviews.

Here's the interview.  I think anyone interested in modern mainstream American comics would find it interesting.  For the most part Fraction and DeConnick come across as a charming and engaging young couple.

 

Conversations with Richard Fidler

 

The revealing point for me occurs around 31:30 where they discuss the limits of what you can do with a superhero story.  Fraction goes straight to Alan Moore (of course).  Fraction rightly praises Moore's Swamp Thing, but goes on to paraphrase Moore as saying regarding his final thoughts on that series:

"I wanted to write stories about the environment, but the Muck Monster kept getting in the way." 

I can definitely see Alan Moore's wry point about the limits he found imposed on his lofty literary and social awareness ambitions. 

However, it looks like Fraction is using Moore's point to excuse himself and many of his current cronies at Marvel from even trying to do anything meaningful with the superhero subgenre.  He goes on to talk about how the environment or the recession can't really be covered unless either could be transformed into something that Thor could hit with his hammer!

Perhaps there might seem to be a bit of a leap between not being able to write about the environment or the Recession and having to produce stories where supposedly ‘heroic’ characters, when presented with a problem that demands co-operation and mutual understanding, can only assert their toughness and resort to violence at the first opportunity.  Still, to me, Fraction seems to be saying that superhero stories should only be about superheroes doing superheroic things, and those actions against, or in the presence of, other super-powered beings. 

This largely does preclude modern Marvel superhero comics from dealing in any meaningful way with topics like the Recession or the environment.  Sadly, it also seems to preclude the presence of many ordinary folk in modern superhero stories, like the great supporting casts we had in for example Roger Stern and John Byrne’s Captain America run, or those in Steve Gerber’s 1970s Defenders stories. 

To come back to Thor hitting things with his hammer, the most egregious example of this diminished scope for stories in recent times was the first long arc of Jason Aaron’s Thor: God of Thunder series.  There we had an intriguing set-up whereby Thor was threatened by the ‘Gorr the God Butcher’ in three stages of his long existence.  The story seemed perfectly set-up to compare and contrast impetuous youth, thoughtful maturity and senile old age, but the resolution of the story turned on how hard Thor could bash things and strike people with lightning.  It was very disappointing to me.  It even ran against the logic of the story itself, where the God Butcher had been able to enslave and kill a huge number of beings with GODLIKE powers. Yet he was defeated by just three Gods - only one of whom was in his prime - who did nothing cleverer than hit him with increasingly Badass and Awesome ferocity. 

In the light of Fraction's comments, it looks like the story was restricted in scope by restricting the content to only superheroes doing superheroic things!

I know Marvel itself is producing quite a few comics at the moment that have more heart and humanity, by the means of having normal people and more recognisable situations in them.  I’m not trying to show why all Marvel comics are rubbish these days.  But I think Fraction’s comments do shed light on what is going on in those instances where we find modern comics hollow and unrewarding.

Even though Moore perhaps was ultimately frustrated by the form superhero narratives tend to dictate, he did unquestionably produce great comics that explored our humanity and society from many different angles, even as he struggled against the narrative boundaries of the envelope during his time at DC.

It looks like Fraction and many of his colleagues (DeConnick, for a start, can be sensed nodding beside him in that part of the interview) are using Moore's fruitful struggle against the superhero narrative form, not as inspiration to keep pushing the envelope, but weirdly, as an excuse to tell their stories within quite narrow parameters, and within quite set frameworks.

Rather insultingly for us readers, they seem to believe they have the justification for not even trying!

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Border Mutt said:

John Dunbar said:

So if I may summarize this discussion and similar thoughts posted in other threads, editors at DC are horrible because they say "no" too much, and editors at Marvel are horrible because they don't say "no" often enough.

I wouldn't go there.  I think both companies have lots of cases where they stray from the Goldilocks zone, in both directions.

I was cracking wise, of course, but it amuses me that this is what a lot of complaints on this board about the Big Two seem to boil down to.

If I had to pick an editorial evil, I'd say the big one to me is not ensuring that the creators have a solid, workable plan from the get go.  If they used more foresight at the beginning, they wouldn't need to make last ditch attempts at alterations or throw their hands up in the air and let the creators do whatever they want.

How do we know this doesn't happen?  Because, just to bring this full circle, Hickman is one example of someone who does just that.  Individual readers may not like the outcome - that's their prerogative of course - but that doesn't mean a plan didn't exist.

Richard Willis said:

I think the problem is with upper management. The editors are just employees who want to keep getting their paychecks.

Maybe I'm just naive and ignorant of the processes, but I'd like to think that if the editors had the creators submit a decent long term plan rather than fly by the seat of their pants, upper management would be less likely to interfere quite as often.

Without being there, we really don't know if this is the case or not.  I think upper management is likely to interfere whenever they feel justified to do so, regardless of how well the series is going.  Mark Waid getting firing off Fantastic Four - a decision that was thankfully reversed - comes to mind.

No doubt that's true, but there have been visible exceptions. Matt Fraction was replaced on the "Inhuman" series after months of work, as this interview lays out.

Philip Portelli said:

Once a writer becomes a "name", the editors lose a lot of power over them.



Mark Sullivan (Vertiginous Mod) said:

No doubt that's true, but there have been visible exceptions. Matt Fraction was replaced on the "Inhuman" series after months of work, as this interview lays out.


And it's pretty clear Gail Simone has had to fight pretty hard to make a lot of things happen. She'd been trying to bring Cass Cain back for years. So, apparently, had Scott Snyder, and there's no bigger Bat-name than that right now. 

In a century I'll have to hold a seance to talk to the comic book pros and ask them what really happened.

Amazons Attack was released in 2007.  I'll bet even everyone that worked on it has forgotten it by now, or wants to.

Mark S. Ogilvie said:

Sometimes it's just a mistake that no one will admit is a mistake and they layer more and mores story elements onto it. I think there is a difference between a mistake of character, a mistake of story and a success of sales. Like SpringTime for Hitler everything can be done wrong and it can come out right or successful in a way never intended. How we read the story is not always the way the writer intended for us to read the story.
Though that begs the question how exactly did they want me to read Amazon's Attack?



John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:

So if I may summarize this discussion and similar thoughts posted in other threads, editors at DC are horrible because they say "no" too much, and editors at Marvel are horrible because they don't say "no" often enough.

Time. It devours without mercy, without conscience, without pity nor malice as it gnaws on the bitter fruits of human history real and fictional alike.



John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:

Amazons Attack was released in 2007.  I'll bet even everyone that worked on it has forgotten it by now, or wants to.

Mark S. Ogilvie said:

Sometimes it's just a mistake that no one will admit is a mistake and they layer more and mores story elements onto it. I think there is a difference between a mistake of character, a mistake of story and a success of sales. Like SpringTime for Hitler everything can be done wrong and it can come out right or successful in a way never intended. How we read the story is not always the way the writer intended for us to read the story.
Though that begs the question how exactly did they want me to read Amazon's Attack?



John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:

So if I may summarize this discussion and similar thoughts posted in other threads, editors at DC are horrible because they say "no" too much, and editors at Marvel are horrible because they don't say "no" often enough.

That's rather poetic, I like it.  However, I would counter that lots of series and runs that are seven years old and older are fondly remembered.  Amazons Attack is not like that - it's deservedly forgotten.

Mark S. Ogilvie said:

Time. It devours without mercy, without conscience, without pity nor malice as it gnaws on the bitter fruits of human history real and fictional alike.



John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:

Amazons Attack was released in 2007.  I'll bet even everyone that worked on it has forgotten it by now, or wants to.

John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:

So if I may summarize this discussion and similar thoughts posted in other threads, editors at DC are horrible because they say "no" too much, and editors at Marvel are horrible because they don't say "no" often enough.

Not quite; as I see it, editors at DC are horrible because they say "no" too often when they should have said "yes", and editors at Marvel are horrible because they said "yes" too often when they should have said "no."

Maybe marvel and DC should trade editors every now and then the way sports teams trade players.



ClarkKent_DC said:

John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:

So if I may summarize this discussion and similar thoughts posted in other threads, editors at DC are horrible because they say "no" too much, and editors at Marvel are horrible because they don't say "no" often enough.

Not quite; as I see it, editors at DC are horrible because they say "no" too often when they should have said "yes", and editors at Marvel are horrible because they said "yes" too often when they should have said "no."

That's the major advantage of a universe retcon, I puzzle over AA these days but I don't hold it against the amazons (though now after Azzarello I don't like them again anyway), same for Zatanna's actions. Far easier that it be erased from time period for me than if the comic book company just decides to ignore it. I've been taught all my life to confront and deal with mistakes, not close my eyes and hope they go away.





John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:

That's rather poetic, I like it.  However, I would counter that lots of series and runs that are seven years old and older are fondly remembered.  Amazons Attack is not like that - it's deservedly forgotten.

Mark S. Ogilvie said:

Time. It devours without mercy, without conscience, without pity nor malice as it gnaws on the bitter fruits of human history real and fictional alike.



John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:

Amazons Attack was released in 2007.  I'll bet even everyone that worked on it has forgotten it by now, or wants to.

Would it make you happier if DC formally apologizes for Amazons Attack?

Because I would like one for Justice League Detroit and for COIE for ruining Earth-Two!

I thought Crisis on Infinite Earths destroyed Earth 2. And at least it did destroy it out right, a far different fate than the amazon's have endured. Azzarello now has them raping and murdering men at sea, a far cry from anything before. It takes away from the original concept to serve the current writer/editors purposes to the detriment of the characters. That can be extreme or that can be mild. I don't like the current Spider-Man cartoon not because it isn't a good cartoon, but because the basic concept of Peter as a SHIELD agent takes away from a lot of what Spider-Man was. In the book and in the previous cartoons (Spider-Man and his amazing friends aside), Peter had a hard life and had to deal with it with very little support. Now he's a agent of SHIELD and has his own team, not the loner that the character originally was. This serves the purpose of the editors and writers in that they can use the cartoon to introduce the rest of the mu to the world, but I think it detracts from the character.
In the current Avengers the story that Hickman is writing is savaging the characters, making two of them out right murderers and the rest in-effective clods. I don't understand why marvel wants to cast their characters as murderers when those same characters will presented as heroes later on just as I didn't understand why DC thought it would be a good idea to have the amazons -formerly an enlightened society- reduced to a stone age (or at best bronze age) group of murderous rapist who trade male children for weapons. I don't want an apology as much as I want to understand why.

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