Thursday, November 12, 2009

Alan Moore on Blackest Night and the reusing of ideas in comics

[My friend Brad called Geoff Johns on Blackest Night "the Michael Bay of comics." Then Scott sends me this. I always thought Blackest Night had to join Planetary, New X-Men and Event Horizon on a chart of great ideas badly executed. Now I see that Blackest Night was not even Johns' idea. I make a brief comment below.]

The following is a quote from Alan Moore that’s been circulating online regarding Blackest Night:

I was noticing that DC seems to have based one of its latest crossovers [Blackest Night] in Green Lantern based on a couple of eight-page stories that I did 25 or 30 years ago. I would have thought that would seem kind of desperate and humiliating, When I have said in interviews that it doesn't look like the American comic book industry has had an idea of its own in the past 20 or 30 years, I was just being mean. I didn't expect the companies concerned to more or less say, "Yeah, he's right. Let's see if we can find another one of his stories from 30 years ago to turn into some spectacular saga." It's tragic. The comics that I read as a kid that inspired me were full of ideas. They didn't need some upstart from England to come over there and tell them how to do comics. They'd got plenty of ideas of their own. But these days, I increasingly get a sense of the comics industry going through my trashcan like raccoons in the dead of the night.


(the story in question is ‘Tygers’ and can be found in both the DC Universe Stories of Alan Moore and a Blackest Night tie-in collection)


I thought I would throw this out to the blog and see what you guys thought and if any of you had been keeping up with the Blackest Night crossover. Also, Moore seems to be bemoaning the idea of building upon old story ideas but, isn’t that what superhero comics have always done? Geoff and I have discussed before that one of the fun things about comics was their often convoluted mythologies and how there are all these stories and characters bouncing around out there for different creators to play with. In fact, Morrison, a favorite among us here on the blog, does this ALL THE TIME. Where would his Batman run be without the far out silver-age tales that he drew from to create his ‘black casebook’ (there’s even a collection of these stories available now under the title of ‘The Black Casebook’), the results there were mixed, but he has done the same thing in many of his other works from Animal Man to All Star Superman to Final Crisis; he takes old, long forgotten plot points and builds on them and, while the results can sometimes be mixed, they always seem to be an original twist on an old idea. So, where does Geoff Johns fail where Morrison Succeeds? Is it that Johns’ reusing of these old plot points is too ‘straight’? I’ve often commented that Johns’ work seems like glorified fan-fiction (I’ve also stated that, in a fan driven medium like comics, I’m not sure that’s really such a bad thing) so, it seems to me, that, while Morrison tries to take these old ideas and build them into interesting concept, sometimes turning them on their ear to reveal something that we hadn’t previously thought of before regarding the character or their world, Johns seems to play them more for the (melo?)drama and, of course, the action. As in most of his work, he isn’t seeking to reveal something new about the characters so much as reinforce their most obvious traits (at least that’s what I’ve gotten out of the stuff that I’ve read from his JSA, GL and Flash stuff). Anyway, just throwing it out there, what do you guys think? Discuss.

[Morrison put Scott with the White Queen in a serious and effective way and (for however long it lasts) someone else as Batman (yeah it's not good, but at least he is trying to move things forward). Johns just keeps rolling back to the "classics" -- Hal Jordan as Green Lantern AGAIN, Barry Alan as the Flash AGAIN.]

107 comments:

deepfix said...

I worship Alan Moore as a snake god in my toilet but, well, he loses me with stupid sentences like : "They didn't need some upstart from England to come over there and tell them how to do comics."

I think the history of comic books puts lie to this sentence.

Geoff Johns: I have to admit that I'm not the biggest DC fan but, it seems to me that Geoff is DC's Roy Thomas and if that means Roy Thoms is selling comics well, I'm game.

Patrick said...

Couldn't you make the same critique of virtually any Alan Moore story? He wrote Watchmen based on some Charlton comic published twenty years earlier, or Lost Girls is just slashfic based on books published a hundred years ago. Because it's high culture stuff Moore's generally riffing on, he gets away with it, but I see a ton of similarities between Johns endlessly referencing the stuff he likes in the DCU in his books and Moore endlessly referencing whatever he likes in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

I love Moore's stuff, but I find the message of his work, that stories inspire us and become part of the cultural subconscious in such stark contrast to his anger at the big two for mishandling his concepts, and his desire to 'own' his work. Sure, he got a raw deal in the past, but if anyone should know how absurd it is to want to 'own' a story, it's Moore. All interviews along these lines read to me like I did this specific line of superheroics so well in the 80s, why should anyone even try to do it now?

deepfix said...

I'm willing to go a step further and say that Alan Moore's weakest material are the ones that don't have a clear antecedent behind them.

deepfix said...

Alan Moore is the god of fan fiction.

deepfix said...

And if Stephen Knight hadn't presented his work as non-fiction, Moore would be paying Knight out of the ass for what is, arguably his best work.

Marc Burkhardt said...

I would suggest reading the entirety of the interview, which goes into a bit more depth than Blackest Night.

He points out - just as our good friend plok did on this very blog - that comic writers used to be seasoned pros who drew on diverse sources for their tales - such as classic authors like Robert Louis Stevenson, films, life experiences and even fairy tales.

At one point, late in the Silver Age to be exact, the power shifted to fans and over the decades the mataerial became more and more fannish: stories drawn upon older comics time and time again until pop has literally eaten itself.

Or as Comic Book Guy once said on the Simpsons, fans took what used to be a mass media and turned it into a subculture.

It was cool, say 30 years ago, when Steve Englehart used the '50s Cap to point out the differences between what was acceptable in Cold War era society as opposed to the post-Vietnam '70s.

But that was a loooong time ago - a whole different century, in fact - and rather than just bring back MODOK and marvel how he's a mad scientist with a big head or contrive some story about how the poor guy was molested as a youth, why not try to think up something new? Why not break a few rules rather than indulge in nostalgia?

Right now I only see two creators doing that: Morrison (in Seaguy, not All-Star Superman which was a beautiful love-letter to the past, but nothing more or less) and Frank Miller in All-Star Batman & Robin, like it or not.

(I'd count Moore's Promethea too, but that was a while ago).

Instead of attacking Moore, why not instead press the Big Two to try harder?

As for Geoff Johns, he's more like the anti-Roy Thomas. Roy The Boy was always about advancing the Marvel Universe and tying it all together in a neat bow.

Geoff Johns uses much of the same techniques, but prefers to jam a knife into some old characters' gullet than going anyplace new.

Anonymous said...

One of the problems with Moore's criticism of John's appropriation of his past work is that John's wasn't the only architect in the initial plans of Blackest Night. Moore's frequent collaborator, Dave Gibbons, was writer on the Green Lantern Corp alongside Geoff Johns, and it was he who initially suggested revisiting the concepts from Tygers.

But strangely enough, Gibbons never comes in for any criticism here.

plok said...

Yes, I never trusted that Alan Moore! Not as far as I could throw him!

plok said...

I kind of think some of this is not quite right. Is Lost Girls really "just slashfic"? Is Watchmen really described at all well just by saying it's "based on" the Charlton comics? And what's wrong with a work being owned by the person(s) who made it, rather than the company that published it?

Also, didn't Moore do this line of superheroics so well in the Eighties that it sort of looks repetitive to try it on now? Scott says:

"Moore seems to be bemoaning the idea of building upon old story ideas but, isn’t that what superhero comics have always done?"

And I would answer "no" and "no" to that. I don't think Moore is bemoaning the idea of building stories on previous stories, I think he is bemoaning a lack of creativity in contemporary Big Two comics, which strikes me as being a bit of a different claim. As to the "building on the past" thing, I think it's darned arguable -- I don't think Scott would claim the Big Two comics of 1965, 1975, 1985 or even 1995 made nearly so much hay out of nostalgia as their present-day successors do. Heck, in the Nineties there were a ton of HARD reboots at DC, and as for Marvel I think it's fair to say they were all but salting the earth of their past ideas at that time.

I think a comparison of Morrison and Johns would be a really interesting thing to talk about. But I've noticed a whole lot of people on the Internet seem to think Alan Moore's an incredible hypocrite, so I wonder if we will be able to get to the Johns/Morrison thing at all. Personally I think Alan Moore is anything but an incredible hypocrite, I agree with what he said in the interview, and I think Johns definitely suffers by comparison with him...but that isn't Johns' fault, I suffer by comparison with Moore too. However I think Johns also did a dandy job on some Superman comics not long ago, as it happens: and comparisons with Alan Moore can't take that away from him.

But, Blackest Night...no chance I'm buying that. Looks like pure junk.

Anonymous said...

I love that crazy old wizard. Has anyone else seen the documentary 'The Mindscape of Alan Moore'? You can download it on itunes.

-Mitch

Gary said...

I am not reading "Blackest Night" and I have not read "Tygers". But for a brief weigh-in on Johns and Moore, I feel that the first issue of the Johns-penned Infinite Crisis makes it plain that Johns desperately wants to make the kind of moments that Moore did. Why did Mongul even show up? Because "For the Man Who Has Everything" came right before "Crisis on Infinite Earths", that's why. I got the feel that Johns wanted to invoke the power of that "Wonder Woman and Batman are in SO deep" that Moore gave in the original story, and it came off as a pale and lackluster imitation.

Christian said...

I think Moore shouldn't comment on stuff, he hasn't actually read.

That isn't to say that Geoff Johns doesn't write nostalgia-ridden fanfiction, just that Alan Moore isn't really an expert on the current superhero comics on the stand, because, he has said himself, he doesn't read them.


Geoff Johns writes stuff for the melodrama, the action and the quotable quips. Sadly, he's not the best at it. On a purely idea-based level, they seem primarily based in the mindset of a thirteen year old. The idea for the different emotions and the different lantern corps cemented that for me. His stuff is never really "interesting" in the way that Fraction's or Morrison's work is, and craftwise, he's pretty by-the-numbers. Geoff Johns has never ever surprised me, and because so much of his character-work is based on the reader's previous fondness for the characters (when did Johns actually do some honest to God characterbuilding?), a lot of it rings hollow to me.

I had this whole rant prepared in a text document for another discussion on Johns, but I seem to have lost it.

Pallas said...

I think it pretty clear Alan Moore is in an emotional place over the behavior of the big comics publishers. You can't really read it as an objective critique on that particular story.

ScottMcDarmont said...

Plok,

To address one of your points, you're absolutely right about older comics being less about nostalgia, they were more about moving forward... that's what the Crisis on Infinite Earths was all about... and, I think, part of the problem might have been that those ninties reboots were so poorly exectuted/recieved that it sent creators back to the well so to speak... they hit a wall and rather than pushing through it, they turned around and went back to where they were before.

Christian,

The 'thirteen year old' mindset is absolutely right when it comes to Blackest Night, as I've mentioned before, the whole multi-colored ring corps idea was something that I not only would have come up with as a thirteen year old but I actually DID dream it up at the age of twelve (I don't know if I had it quite all figured out what emotion powered each ring but I know I came up with a blue, red, and yellow corps).

Johns owes me royalties....

Patrick said...

Is Lost Girls really "just slashfic"? Is Watchmen really described at all well just by saying it's "based on" the Charlton comics?

It's not just that, there's other issues in there, but those works are as much based on the existing works that Moore drew on as Johns's Green Lantern stuff is on the comics that Moore wrote. I think it gets down to the difference between high and low culture, that if you copy a foreign film, it's an homage, if you copy a current film, it's stealing. People have different attitudes towards different pieces of culture, so Moore drawing on the power of cultural icons in Lost Girls is treated differently than Johns doing the same in Blackest Night because Peter Pan has a different cultural position than Green Lantern does.

But, looking at where pop culture is now, you could argue that Moore's riffing on obscure Victorian characters is much more insider-y and self indulgent than Johns doing similar things with DC's big characters. Who do more people know, Batman or Allan Quatermain? That's not to say that Johns comics are necessarily more accessible, and by no means better than League, but it's to say that conceptually I think he and Moore are doing the same thing. There's nothing wrong with doing that thing, but it's hypocritical to criticize Johns for doing it when he gets so excited about referencing all these obscure works in League.

And, I don't have any problem with creators owning their work, I think that's the way it should be. But, I find it strange that Moore seems so obsessive about the fact that he doesn't own Watchmen, and then writes comics about the fact that all stories exist in the collective subconscious and are free for anyone to use.

Ultimately, I think the reason there's less innovation in superhero comics now is because of the rise of creator owned comics and the highly publicized battles between Kirby and others over getting proper compensation for their work. When you see someone like Chris Claremont getting no money for the X-Men film, even though it wouldn't exist without him, people are going to think twice about devoting their best ideas to corporate superhero comics. So, it becomes about riffing on what's in the past and telling stories that could only be told in the universe, rather than bringing in new elements.

Morrison can still bring in a wild array of new elements because he's just got so many ideas, but most people save their best ideas for their original work and wind up just riffing on classic stories in their corporate work, think of Whedon's work on Astonishing X-Men.

Christian said...

Just an addendum:

Johns has all the subtlety of a steampowered-sledgehammer. In a lot of ways, he's actually the Mark Millar of DC. Big, boombastic event stuff, lacking in subtlety, both greatly indulging in their nostalgia of the Big Two, but doing it with fairly different philosophies backing them up.

Elliot said...

I am reminded of Moore's dismissal of his own THE KILLING JOKE: that it was perfectly technically acccomplished but it wasn't really about anything except Batman and the Joker, and he was therefore obliged to count it a failure and something of an embarassment. That, to me, is also completely true of Geoff Johns's deeply unambitious and incestuous body of work.

Also, I would add that I don't think, from reading interviews with him, that Moore's problem re: WATCHMEN et al is that he doesn't own it, but that he feels, perhaps with some justification, that he was swindled out of it by beady-eyed corporate shysters who have gone out of their way to make his life difficult.

Elliot said...

I am reminded of Moore's dismissal of his own THE KILLING JOKE: that it was perfectly technically acccomplished but it wasn't really about anything except Batman and the Joker, and he was therefore obliged to count it a failure and something of an embarassment. That, to me, is also completely true of Geoff Johns's deeply unambitious and incestuous body of work.

Also, I would add that I don't think, from reading interviews with him, that Moore's problem re: WATCHMEN et al is that he doesn't own it, but that he feels, perhaps with some justification, that he was swindled out of it by beady-eyed corporate shysters who have gone out of their way to make his life difficult.

Kenney said...

Johns' comics are like warm milk and cookies on a cold day. I don't see anything wrong with that. Sometimes I feel a little out of step with the readers of this blog, because you all really seem to crave the dynamic, interesting, and experimental comics. I think that's cool, and I enjoy them too, but I also don't eschew just straight forward superhero books either. Maybe I'm just a lazy reader, but I don't feel the need to be challenged every time I read. Sometimes I just want to see what's happening with Superman.

Johns gives me those kinds of comics. Pretty damn good ones, at that. They're melodramatic in a more refined Claremont-fashion, and fan-fic-ish, but that's just what I need sometimes.

I do think Johns fails at bringing forth any big ideas, like Moore, Morrison, Miller, or the complexity of an Azzarello, Ennis, or Ellis, but I think he's really great at what he does do -- delivering the pure essence of characters in fun stories.

Gene Phillips said...

Geoff (I think) said:

"he isn’t seeking to reveal something new about the characters so much as reinforce their most obvious traits"

I think that's a fair summation of Johns, but with a caveat: I don't think the "something new" has to be some major deconstructive revelation a la Alan Moore.

I like the Roger Stern/John Byrne "Wanda and Pietro's Baby Daddy" sequence in AVENGERS not because it deconstructs anything about the superhero genre or Marvel Comics, but just because it tied together lots of goofy loose ends in an inventive way that gave rise to new story-ideas.

Not that every continuity-fest is so blessed.

I'm still scratching my head over the INVADERS ANNUAL where Roy Thomas felt he just had to provide a reason as to why the Sub-Mariner occasionally wore black trunks. Uh, gee, Roy, you think it coulda been-- A COLORING MISTAKE!!??

ScottMcDarmont said...

Kenney,

"Johns' comics are like warm milk and cookies on a cold day. I don't see anything wrong with that."

Actually, I agree, as I said above there's nothing wrong with giving fans what they want and, if that means just having fun, so be it. I guess, as you mention above, I want my Superhero comics to do a bit more... on the other hand, when it comes to other things I'm more than willing to lower my standards and just have some fun. The Star Wars Prequels and The Clone Wars animated series come to mind-the first season DVD is great by the way-, as does the last Indiana Jones movie. Sure, it would be great if there was more there, but sometimes you just want to see Lightsaber fights and really cool space battles... and that's kind of what Johns is doing with a lot of Blackest Night.

Gene,

[actually, the commentary accompanying the quote is me not Geoff... sorry for the confusion]

But it's funny that you should mention the Namor's trunks and Wanda and Pietro's Baby Daddy bits as ways of tying up loose ends (or more aptly, sewing up plot holes) because Moore's "Tygers" story was, in part, a way to explain why it was that Abin Sur was flying a spaceship to begin with in the Green Lantern Origin story.

Johns definitely isn't without his strengths, and, I've definitely thought a few things he's come up with have been quite clever, like, how at the end of the Sinestro Corps War I caught an issue where a Sinestro Corps member had crashed landed and Mongul comes along and murders and takes the ring from him in an inversion of the Hal Jordan origin story and I also thought his reworking of the Zoom/Reverse Flash during his Flash run was pretty ingenius, not in terms of character, but the fact that his Reverse Flash LITERALLY had powers that were the reverse of the Flash (The Flash can move FASTER than everyone else; his Reverse Flash moved through time faster than everyone else, thus, everyone else moved SLOWER than him)
And if I may quote myself:

"Morrison tries to take these old ideas and build them into interesting concept, sometimes turning them on their ear to reveal something that we hadn’t previously thought of before regarding the character"

I just thought of a great example of this, at one point during his JLA run Morrison revealed that Aquaman had limited telepathic control over human beings since, having control over sea animals and all people evolved from sea animals, there were certain similiarities in brain patterns or something like that. But its a great bit of Morrisonian storytelling, taking something we all know (Aquaman's Telepathy with sea creatures) but utilizing it in a way we'd never thought of before.

plok said...

Peter Pan's "high culture" now?

Is Winnie The Pooh high culture as well, then?

I think if you want to compare Batman and Allen Quatermain, you should also compare Dr. Jekyll with, say, Hector Hammond...just to keep the scales balanced. But more to the point, I don't think it's enough to say Johns and Moore are doing the same thing in mining old cultural seams for their own purposes, without at least nodding to what those purposes are...how much is Geoff Johns really repurposing what he references? Moore looks at the sublimation of sexuality in children's stories, Johns has Green Lantern fight Sinestro again...I don't think it's crazy to call that a difference of kind, and not degree.

Also, I would just like to point out that Moore is VERY BIG on creators getting paid for their work.

Marc Burkhardt said...

I'd also like to add that Moore doesn't specifically name Johns in the interview, just criticizes the continual revisiting and revisionism of old super-hero stories without really adding anything new of consequence.

If I may throw in a quote from the actual interview:

"We deserve art that is of our time. We don’t deserve this endless recycling of a particularly nice beat or sound effect of the 1960s. Yes, the past is there to plunder. A lot of the ideas of the past were discarded before they should have been. They’ve still got an awful lot of life left in them. But, don’t make that an exercise in retrospection. Pick up those ideas and do something new with them. Make them shine again."

That's what he was attempting to do with Watchmen, Swamp Thing and his underrated ABC line-up.

That isn't what I see from many others ...

ScottMcDarmont said...

Geoff,

I was also thinking it isn't quite fair to call Geoff Johns the 'Michael Bay' of comics... he isn't that bad... he's more like... I dunno... The Michael Mann of comics... this could start a whole thread of comics creators = directors. Oh, I've got another one Frank Miller = Robert Rodriguez... Neil Gaiman = Tim Burton... I think we should do a post on this...

ScottMcDarmont said...

Oh, and Rob Liefeld is the Michael Bay of comics...

Kenney said...

I think current Jeph Loeb is the Michael Bay of comics. But I don't think that's a bad thing.

mm said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jason said...

Scott, the movie/comics-writers thing was done in the Comments section of Paul O'Brien's blog recently.

It began when someone said this:

"Mark Millar is the Michael Bay of comics."

Which was a pretty good one to start with, I thought.

This led to:

"Would Alan Moore be Kubrick?"

Not bad.

Then:

" I think Chris Claremont would be Spielberg. His best work, way back when, revolutionised the medium in the mainstream, and though his more recent productions have been uneven, they are still appreciated by his more dedicated fans."

Makes sense. A later poster put Claremont with George Lucas, which I can also see. (The two of them even co-wrote some novels.)

More and more followed:

" Bendis could be Mamet ... "
"Neil Gaiman being the Tim Burton of Comics is probably too on the nose, but it kind of fits."
" Grant Morrison is Terry Gilliam "
"Bill Sienkiewicz is probably an illustrator/writer/comics-creator who is a good corollary to David Lynch."
"Jeph Loeb = Ewe Boll."
"Warren Ellis = David Cronenberg"
"Frank Miller = Quentin Tarantino"

"Brubaker or maybe Rucka for Scorsese "

"Will Eisner - Orson Welles:"

"Stan Lee = Frank Capra"

"Steve Ditko = Alfred Htchcock"

"Matt Fraction = Joel and Ethan Coen"

"Peter Milligan = Wes Anderson"

And appropriately, the last comment in the thread:

" Kinda figured Rob Liefeld would be Ed Wood."

123 123 said...

Cool story as for me. I'd like to read a bit more about this topic.
By the way check the design I've made myself London escort

ScottMcDarmont said...

I actually sent some more of these to Geoff as a possible posting and, not surprisingly, a lot of them were the same:

Moore = Kubrick, Claremont = Spielberg

However, I said Daniel Clowes was Wes Anderson. I like Liefeld as Ed Wood but I'm not really comfortable with Millar as Michael Bay mostly because Millar seems to be completely aware of what he's doing as far as sex and violence goes and Bay just kind of thinks it looks cool.

ScottMcDarmont said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason said...

I've not read Daniel Clowes, so I'll take your word for it there.

Another board where I brought this up suggested switching Alan Moore to Scorcese, and Dave Sim to Kubrick, which is interesting and I can see.

At one point I sort of tongue-in-cheekingly suggested Peter David was John Hughes.

The other day another one occurred to me: Matt Fraction = Steven Soderbergh, which I really really like, actually.

And I think Millar's work is terrible so the Bay thing works perfectly for me. But I am perhaps in the minority on that. I just don't see Millar's appeal at all.

ScottMcDarmont said...

I think I went with Peter David being Robert Zemeckis... possibly Ron Howard... but that might be Bendis.

I like Kubrick better for Moore... I'm honestly not sure who the parralell for Sim is (at first, I thought Woody Allen- starting silly, getting silly and smart, going serious- but I think that really only carries us as far as Jaka's story) Kubrick is apt but, while he certainly had some stuff that was less accessible, I'm not sure if he ever quite completely went off the deep end like Sim did.

Jason said...

I'll have to find the Moore/Scorsese defense; it was quite compelling.

Peter David as Zemeckis does work pretty well.

Did any filmmaker go off the deep end the way Sim did? :) It almost seems like you'd have to cut Sim's career off at Jaka's story or slightly later or not put him in the game at all ...

scottmcdarmont said...

"Did any filmmaker go off the deep end the way Sim did?"

Yeah, that's what I was thinking.

Further, is Garth Ennis Kevin Smith?

Christian said...

I think, while Ennis shares the love of dick and fart jokes with Smith, he's a far too good writer to align to Smith.

And Jeph Loeb as Ewe Boll would be spot on, if Ewe Boll worked with talented actors and cinematographers. Loeb choses artists based on popularity, but a lot of them are good craftsmen and solid talent. Not all though.

ScottMcDarmont said...

Which brings up a good point: should we be talking about artists here or writers or creative teams?

I mean with an artist writer like Frank Miller, it's pretty easy but, really, isn't Jim Lee more accurate parralell for Spielberg than Claremont?

And wouldn't Sam Keith be a more apt Tim Burton than Neil Gaiman?

Jason said...

I don't think it's an exact science -- although matching writer/artist teams with a director would be an intriguing challenge ... or, OH! Writer/artist teams with Director/actor teams!

What is the logic on Jim Lee being Spielberg? Not sure I'm seeing that.

Same with Keith being better for Tim Burton than Gaiman. I mean, they're both good, but the Gaiman/Burton things seems to align perfectly.

deepfix said...

Beyond appealing to the gothic community, how does a Tim Burton/Neil Gaiman match up actually make sense? Or what Tim Burton movies have you seen that I haven't and which Neil Gaiman works have all of you read that didn't seal the deal?

ScottMcDarmont said...

Lee/Spielberg = Both are simply the best mainstream, most crowd pleasing craftsmen in their respective fields (NOTE: this does not mean I think that either Jim Lee or Spielberg are the best, or greatest, or most important overall...we will, of course, discuss this further when we get to Jim Lee's X-men work over on your postings)

Keith/Burton... I guess I was going for more of a certain visual aesthetic... I'm not that married to the idea... Burton/Gaiman does seem to work better... however, Burton does have this really unique visual style that is all his own... where as Gaiman's visual style varies depending on who is drawing his stories...

Maybe we should be pairing artists with cinematographers? Who is the Spielberg of Cinematography?

(but if I can diverge back to artist as director for a sec... Alex Ross = Frank Capra)

deepfix said...

To move away by an increasing "mistaking the map for the thing" comparison that seems to have hijacked this thread:

"Morrison put Scott with the White Queen in a serious and effective way and (for however long it lasts) someone else as Batman (yeah it's not good, but at least he is trying to move things forward). Johns just keeps rolling back to the "classics" -- Hal Jordan as Green Lantern AGAIN, Barry Alan as the Flash AGAIN.]"

Putting a new name to an old face is not really doing something new and restoring an old face to an old name is not really doing something retro.

Green Lantern is always going to be Hal Jordan and The Flash is always going to be Barry Allan. Just because they are not Clark Kent or Bruce Wayne (or Steve Rogers) does not mean they are less important in the dreamscape that is comic books. Other names and other faces exist to allow use to realize and reflect upon the true heroes who bear that name. A mask that hides the identity does not mean the character is interchangable. Sherlock Holmes will always be Sherlock Holmes even though Solar Pons may temporiarily take his place.

Resurrecting dead heroes does not make you derivative. Writing the same stories over and over does. And, though I may strongly disagree with the philosophies hiding behind them, I don't think modern DC and Marvel are rewriting the same ol' stories.

ScottMcDarmont said...

Deepfix,

Burton and Gaiman both deal with subject matter that seems to have a sort of dark fantasy (for lack of a better term) to it, both play around with the idea of scary things being not so scary and 'normal' people tend to be the bad guys. Both, while having a tendency to be seen as very 'dark' can actually produce work that is quite 'cuddly' when it comes down to it...

I've actually read quite a lot of Gaiman, both comics and otherwise... and, actually, I can't think of a more ideal candidate to direct The Graveyard Book than Tim Burton.

ScottMcDarmont said...

And wasn't Burton involved with Coraline on some level? I know he didn't direct it, but didn't he produce or something?

deepfix said...

In fact, whilst reading Geoff's book as I read and write this, I think the real issue is that the third age that Geoff was predicting ten years ago did not come to pass the way he (and I) expected and instead Magog's children grew and evolved leaving us to bitch and moan about how bad superhero comics are these days.

deepfix said...

That is all rather superficial, I find Gaiman to have far, far more in common aesthetically with Terry Gilliam crossed with Bruce Robinson. But even that is pushing the envelope.

deepfix said...

And when Tim Burton decides to have even a hint of the subtlety Gaiman uses in some of his best stories, please let me know cause right now he's more Jim Lee coasting on a sea of visuals.

ScottMcDarmont said...

Deepfix,

I disagree, I don't see any reason why Barry Allen and Hal Jordan must always be the Flash and GL anymore than Jay Garrick and Alan Scott must be... granted, in terms of iconography they are the most easily recognizable, I think they are cetainly more expendable as characters than Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent. What was cool about those characters was never the characters themselves but their powers and visual design; the identity was always secondary to that whereas Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne are integral to the Batman/Superman characters. Also, within the Marvel Universe, the character actually takes priority over the powers so the reason you can't replace put anyone in Spider-Man, Daredevil or Iron Man's costumes is because, at the end of the day, it detracts from what is great about those characters. You could give someone the same costume and powers as Peter Parker, but they wouldn't be Peter Parker and, while the webslinging and powers bring people to the table, we stay because we care about the person behind the mask. I can't say the same is true for Barry Allen and Hal Jordan.

Of course, I realize that this could just be the result of slppy writers over the years, however, since these identies (Bruce, Clark, Marvels) were woven into those characters so early on they have become just as much a part of their iconography as the costumes. I think any attempt to do this with Hal and Barry seems forced. To use comic book parlance, It's almost like a kind of retconning, however, whereas most comic book retconning changes events in comics themselves, this requires retconning the memories of the readers, trying to convince us that there was always something special about these characters when there really wasn't.

deepfix said...

"Burton and Gaiman both deal with subject matter that seems to have a sort of dark fantasy (for lack of a better term) to it, both play around with the idea of scary things being not so scary and 'normal' people tend to be the bad guys. Both, while having a tendency to be seen as very 'dark' can actually produce work that is quite 'cuddly' when it comes down to it..."

Terry Gilliam.

deepfix said...

Scott,

I would agree with your statement if the creators hadn't changed the costumes when the replacements came (Wally is an exception, though, in my mind Flash is always Barry Allan, keeping the costume allowed be to accept the change of face involved.)

I'm saying this as a Marvel guy so don't think I gots some kind of loyalty but the Hal Jordan Green Lantern will always be Green Lantern. If Kyle Raynor had kept the same costume, my impulses might have been different.

And using the original Flash and Green Lantern is a slight of hand argument. Those characters had been gone for around ten years and no one cared cause no one really cared about superheroes much.

ScottMcDarmont said...

Deepfix,

You're right about Gaiman, he is much more subtle than Burton now that I think about it, that was just sort of my initial, knee jerk response. I'm not familiar enough with Gilliam to be sure if I agree with that or not.

ScottMcDarmont said...

Deepfix,

I was actually going to ammend my statement to point out the costume change with GL which does seem to impede my argument... however... he's still a guy with a magical ring, so the same basic premise is there.

It is interesting that, in terms of character, I always found both Wally West and Kyle Rayner more interesting than their predecessors.

However, I can see the appeal of going back to Hal and Barry in terms of marketability; in terms of doing the 'movie version' of these characers you can't have an audience know who Wally West is without knowing who Barry Allen is, there is the same problem, to a lesser extent, with Kyle Rayner... both of those versions have origins that are pretty inextricably linked to their predecessors (a problem that Barry and Hal don't really have with theirs). And, I don't think it's any coincidence that the GL movie is in the works as we speak with Hal Jordan as the title character... and I'm pretty sure I've heard the Flash is also on the planning boards somewhere.

Note: I don't watch Smallville but one of the few episodes I did watch was the one where they did their version of The Flash and, at one point, Clark discovers that he is carrying a variety of fake IDs "Jay Garrick, Barry Allen, Wall West... which one of these are you?"

I thought that was cute...

plok said...

I believe the guy who directed Coraline is the same guy who directed The Nightmare Before Christmas...which was produced by Burton. So...we should all probably know what that guy's name is, but I'm ashamed to say I don't...

deepfix said...

I also found that quite adorable.

deepfix said...

Henry Selik.

plok said...

HENRY SELIK.

deepfix said...

Maybe I'm just defined by my age and Hal Jordan and Barry Allan were in Super Friends and Barry Allan sacrificed his life in Crisis when I was 10 but I refuse to believe my belief in them is no worse than a generation of kids who read comics and Kyle Raynor was their Green Lantern.

I believe in an Earth-2 world that mirrors soap operas; people age and the leading lady on the radio show in 1952 is the old grandma on the television show in 2009.

deepfix said...

He also did James And The Giant Peach.

Jason said...

Henry SeliCk. There's a "C" in it.

Jeez, you guys.

deepfix said...

Consider me chagrined, I suppose.

Jason said...

Scott, I agree, that fake-ID bit was pretty good.

(And he wasn't any of them, was he? He was Bart Allen.)

Jason said...

It's Alan Moore's birthday in just a couple of hours!

deepfix said...

Oh yeah, and I'll buy the argument that Comics aren't good because they don't reference "novels" when someone criticizes "novels" for not referencing Comics. Jeebus, the artform has been around for at least a hundred years, can't we be self-referential and still not be called a fanboy hack?

deepfix said...

Oh, and only because we share the day, that birthday isn't until Wednesday.

Jason said...

Consider me chagrined, I suppose.

deepfix said...

Ha!

plok said...

Right, HENRY SELICK.

deepfix said...

"It is interesting that, in terms of character, I always found both Wally West and Kyle Rayner more interesting than their predecessors."

This was bound to happen. These characters were created in a time when, well, strong characters were needed. Can you imagine what Superman would be like if he were created today.

I always found Kyle to be a weak charcter and didn't feel that Grant really gave him much either. In my heart of hearts, I could tell that Hal Jordan would be back.

Once again, though, (costume remaining the same) I bought Wally West (and disliked Grant's portrayal of him)and can be convinced that bringing back Barry was a bad idea.

Hal being brought back was inevitable, especially once they gave him the grey temples.

plok said...

Deepfix, whoever said comics had to reference novels to be good?

But show me the references in superhero comics that use all of that hundred-year history of yours. Where are the Little Nemo and Orphan Annie and Popeye references, eh?

deepfix said...

It turns out to be a round about reference to you:

"He points out - just as our good friend plok did on this very blog - that comic writers used to be seasoned pros who drew on diverse sources for their tales - such as classic authors like Robert Louis Stevenson, films, life experiences and even fairy tales."

to be continued as I think....

ScottMcDarmont said...

Also, Hal Survived longer into a period where characters were important so he had become a bit more defined ... I think my problem was the fact that they turned him into a villain who went around slaughtering people including his former allies (most of which Johns neatly retconned away). I remember throughout that whole Rebirth series when Batman was continually expressing his doubt and unwillingness to forgive Hal of his betrayl, when we were supposed to be empathizing with Hal, I just kept thinking, "I'm kind of with Batman on this one"

In many ways, while his death may be more 'sacred' it's actually easier to bring back Barry; he died a hero so it's no problem for him to comeback and be a hero again (yeah, I know Hal was a hero in his 'final act' but still... like right up til that last second he was a bad guy... and wasn't he undoing something that he had caused himself in that story- final night, right?

deepfix said...

Is Dr. Doom any different than Lil' Nemo? What i meant is that the format has existed for 100 years. It has its own language. It has its own ideas. Perhaps Banner/Hulk can tell us things that Jekell/Hyde couldn't.

And the writer's who were seasoned pros didn't have other comic writers to fall back upon so they fell back upon what was presented as literature to give them something to say.

And, as Geoff quoted in his book, "the form of snobbery which can accept the Literature of Entertainment in the Past, but only the Literature of Enlightenment in the Present." (Chandler)

Geoff Klock said...

I had planned, at Scott's suggestion, to pull the comic book teams / movie counterpart conversation into its own thread, but with 71 comments -- a record I think -- I am loath to separate it out. I will simply direct people here. G

Streebo said...

Interesting discussions going on here.

John Houston has a line in Orson Welles' The Other Side of the Wind that goes; "it's alright to borrow from others - but what we must never do is borrow from ourselves."

deepfix said...

But what does that mean?

Marc Burkhardt said...

I'd say Lil Nemo is a lot different from Dr. Doom, but the comparison does illustrate how narrow our definition of American comics has become: a surreal strip about a boy's dreams is now equated to an armored super-villain who wants to take over the world?

I'd also like to note that the creators of the past not only drew from more diverse elements - with the life experiences of living in a turn-of-the-century metropolis, surviving a depression and enduring two world wars playing just as strong if not a stronger role as lit and films - but also worked in more diverse genres.

Comic-Books weren't just super-heroes, but also horror, westerns, funny animals, romance, war, crime, etc. etc.

Not too much of that anymore, hence a more narrow range of influences to draw upon.

plok said...

DEEPFIX!

Man, I can't have any "roundabout" references to me where I end up being a snob, don't you know them's fightin' words? Don't you know I have that quote of yours embroidered in Latin on a crest over my thirty longboxes of superhero comics?

Jeez, you call out Geoff Johns ONE TIME...!

I don't think I agree with the idea that comics creators of the past were forced to reference literature because they didn't have enough comics to copy, and I'm not sure what you mean when you say Dr. Doom and Little Nemo are "the same", but I think I disagree there as well.

scottmcdarmont said...

In Marvel's next earth shattering event it will be revealed that Dr. Doom is, in fact, little Nemo... Red Hulk is revealed to be Popeye Mary Jane is really little orphan annie all grown up and Kingpin is Daddy Warbucks... oh, and they're all really Skrulls! ... and Zombies!

Geoff Klock said...

I, Geoff Klock, promise that over the weekend I will totally take a look at this tremendous thread and respond to some stuff, but I am just too goddamn busy right now. I miss the old days of grad school! You are all WONDERFUL!

Christian said...

I prefer my superhero stories to, if they have to, reference other genres, regardless of whether they're from the medium of comics or books.

Superhero stories are, with exceptions of course, largely incestious things, and while that can certainly yield some fascinating results, they, more often than not, end up being deformed (in the bad sense of the word) and inbred. Even All-Star Superman, with its callbacks to Morrison's own JLA series, Weisinger's Superman and The Death of Superman was littered with references to Ray Bradbury and Quantum Physics and Greek mythology.

Barry Allen has no personality whatsoever. I know that because he's of his time, but that should mean, we should hold off criticism of the character. Sure, he has potential, but tell me which blank-slate superhero doesn't. Only time I've ever read a Barry Allen story I liked was in Darwyn Cooke's New Frontier, and even there he wasn't the most nuanced of the bunch. He should have stayed dead and buried- He doesn't really fill a role, another character couldn't.


And Hal Jordan is a grade-A Asshole and I was totally with Batman for distrusting a guy who not only murdered his friends and an entire city, but also spent the next fifteen years being a living incarnation of Petty Vengeance.

deepfix said...

Unfortunately, by the time I'd written that bit, I'd had a few too much to drink and am not quite sure WHAT point I was trying to make. I know for a fact I was not intending a true comparison between the two but, alas, what I was intending may remain lost in that "eureka!" moment at the bottom of a glass of Jameson.

I apologize for the truly ignorant appearing statement!

plok said...

Aha, the eureka at the bottom of the glass!

Heck, I lose those all the time, myself.

Mutantville Productions said...

deepfix: I interpret that line from Welles to mean that no matter what an artist does - the critics will always say he is borrowing from someone else.

**Streebo

plok said...

Well, he is always borrowing from someone else...

ScottMcDarmont said...

Keep this thread going guys! I think we can break the 100 mark!

plok said...

Scott, don't jinx it like that!

scottmcdarmont said...

D'oh!

plok said...

You see?

Mutantville Productions said...

plok: Who? Alan Moore or Geoff Johns? Or Orson Welles? Heh.

**Streebo

plok said...

Everybody, of course! There are no lone gunmen in art, are there?

ScottMcDarmont said...

"Every Artist is a Cannibal, Every poet is a thief, all kill their inspiration and sing about their grief..."

Mutantville Productions said...

“Good artists copy, great artists steal." Picasso.

**Streebo

Christian said...

"Never draw what you can copy; never copy what you can trace; never trace what you can photostat and paste down." - Wally Wood

I wish more people, when they stole, were less Rob Liefeld and Greg Land and more Wally Wood and Jack Kirby.

Christian said...

The Picasso quote is interesting, because it's actually more about assimilating what's good about other stuff (stealing as in making it your own property) and less about borrowing it (thus, it not actually belonging to you.)

There, I just got us two posts closer to Congratulatory-Victory-for-the-People.

Mutantville Productions said...

Great Wally Wood quote, Christian. Never heard that before.

**Streebo

ScottMcDarmont said...

Liefeld stole from Kirby quite a bit... only he stole all the wrong parts and did them badly... Who did Kirby steal from though?

plok said...

Science-fiction authors!

ScottMcDarmont said...

Ah, I thought you were talking in terms of artistic style, I mean, I'm sure there was stealing there too but, in terms of comic book art, he was always one of the great innovators.

plok said...

Len Wein and Marv Wolfman said they saw him sit down and just draw a big old FF splash page, starting at the top left-hand corner and moving down across to the bottom right-hand corner. No sketching, no roughing.

As a concept man, though, he was a great troller of the oceans, from the X-Men to Kamandi to the Eternals. The X-Men story's particularly interesting, I've lost the link but apparently Kirby just took an old SF story and ran with it in about the same way he later took Planet of the Apes and Chariots of the Gods.

But it's what you do with it all that defines you, as I seem to keep saying.

Christian said...

Kirby was an innovator, but he did at times use photoreferences, used actual photos in The Fourth World, bits of Mayan architecture and so forth. That's what the stealing refers to. Stealing from other medias and making it your own.

Which Liefeld, clearly, isn't capable of.

plok said...

Sorry, but I cannot look at that "99 Comments" thing for ONE MORE SECOND, it is driving me batty.

Mutantville Productions said...

Hurray! 100 comments! Huzzah!

I have a request for fans of Geoff johns. Please recommend the ONE Johns book that I should read that will convert me to a believer. I've tried to get into his work several times - but he always leaves me a bit cold.

**Streebo

plok said...

I liked "Up, Up, And Away", myself. It's got all the typical Johns faults, but it's pretty winsome for all that.

Patrick said...

I think 52 is the best thing he was involved in, though how much of that was his contribution and how much was others is hard to say.

For me personally, Infinite Crisis is his best solo work. It's definitely got all the bad things that people mention here, an intense insularity, functioning as nothing but a riff on a 25 year old story that was already one of the most insular comics of all time, but if you get past trying to 'understand' all of it, it works great on the level of pure crazy superhero spectacle that's absurd at times, but also a lot of fun.

But, I also like the first book of his Green Lantern run, that's a good starting point if you've already tried and disliked Infinite Crisis.

scottmcdarmont said...

Patrick,

Do you mean Green Lanter: Rebirth or the first arc of the ongoing?

Patrick said...

I'd start with Rebirth, it has to deal with some messy continuity stuff, but does a good job of setting up the characters and world he deals with in the ongoing.

And, if you want a more definitive guide to Johns' work, and some reading suggestions, Tim Callahan did a Johns Top 10 list a month or so ago: http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=23449 Could be worth a look if you're looking for your ideal Johns book.

plok said...

Sorry, I answered out of turn -- that question was for fans of Geoff Johns.

I shouldn't've responded: "Up, Up, And Away" is just about the only thing he's done that I do like.

Anonymous said...

Q: Who did Kirby steal from?
A: Lou Fine.