Saturday, January 12, 2013

On the possible end to a very long story.

I was announced late on Friday (so late that few of the comics websites have addressed it yet) that DC and  Warner Brothers retains control of Superman as a result of the latest ruling in the protracted case between the Jerry Siegel estate and DC/Warners
Thank God.
I'm no fool, I know this isn't over.  There will be endless appeals and retrials, if for no reason other than increasingly tarnished lawyer Marc Tobleroff won't see a penny unless he wins the case.  And it's clear (to me, anyway) that he's more keen on his payday then the heirs.
Let me make a few points first off:
Nobody knew exactly how big Superman would get when Jerry and Joe took that check - That's something you can do to get a contract invalidated.  If a company gets a secret deal to re-sell your invention for an outrageous profit BEFORE you sign it away, and they don't tell you about it, and low-ball you, you can challenge that contract on those grounds.  But the folks at National could not have DREAMED what a property they had bought.  And neither could Jerry and Joe.  If either party, or better, both, had gone into those negotiations with definitive evidence of the billions of dollars  the property would eventually generate, suffice to say the outcome would have been different.
Now, this is not the same as the deal as when Jerry came up with the idea for Superboy, DC said "no", and then when Jerry came back from the war, DC was doing Superboy comics, but claiming "No, this was OUR idea".  That was (and is) an entirely different set of suits, and likewise another story.
That doesn't make National/DC/Time Warner any less a pack of dicks. Once everybody DID know how well the character was doing, Jerry and Joe had to SUE for more money. Numerous times. And National did not take this well.  The pair had been given a ten-year contract to produce Superman material at the time they signed over the characters, a contract that did earn them a good living for the time.  That relationship stopped dead when lawyers became involved.  The stories about how National treated Jerry and Joe are legendary, culminating in the "delivery boy" incident, which Rick Veitch adapted in his "tribute" to comics The Maximortal.  I'll tell the story some time if you don't know it, or can't look it up.
Now here's the thing - National had NO legal obligation to pay the pair any more money than what their contracts specified.  They made the best deal since the sale of Manhattan.  There's an absolutely staggering scene from The Spanish Prisoner that applies here (and to comics in general) that I love to bring up:

This is the case of any business, but the comics industry in particular.  Companies make amazing amounts of money off the works of their characters, but it's only been in recent history have the original creators gotten much if any respect, let alone fat paychecks.  And in a lot of those cases, they come not from the comic companies, but the MOVIE companies, who seem more aware that it makes more sense to write a "thank you" check for a (more sizable) fraction of the total profits than to take the "adversarial position" as mentioned in the clip above.
Paul Levitz, when he was head of DC, did everything he could to keep the relationship with Jerry Siegel amenable.  Even after Jerry started ANOTHER suit with the company, Paul insisted the company's payments to Jerry continue, regardless of the fact that their last agreement specified that they would cease if Jerry chose to enact further action.  
DC was eventually pressured into making nice with the pair in the seventies, tied to the release of the film, and with the help of some big name creators i the industry like Neal Adams.  And yet, while the amount paid the pair was better than they were getting, and not an unsizable amount for the seventies, it was still paltry in comparison to the profits made.  And when requests were made for increases, and the eventual agreement made that was deemed binding in this case, DC/Warners seemed to take to the negotiations as if they were being asked for a dollar by a panhandler.
The heirs made their biggest mistake (IMHO) here when Tobleroff came along and told them they should go for the whole pie.  If they had gone for a few more million, enough to put them in clover in perpetuity, Warner may well have gone for it yet again, especially since they were still trying to get a successful Superman film off the ground.  But by going for the whole pie (Or at least Jerry's half, with Joe's half to follow if the plan came together), Warner was forced to take the path of digging in and giving nothing.
They made the right PR move as well - they never said a negative thing about the heirs, but made Tobleroff the bad guy.  They brought up evidence (questionably obtained, yes) that showed that he had come to an agreement with the Siegel and Shuster families that would make himself the manager for the Superman property, and effectively give HIM controlling interest in the character, not the families.  
This whole mess has been, in short, a rats' nest that could very well have been solved years, even DECADES ago if both sides had negotiated in good faith and tried to come up with a deal that would allow both to benefit.  But that's VERY rarely how companies work in America, and that is a tragedy and a shame.  
People have been railing and wailing about the faults of the work-for-hire system in comics for decades, pretty much as a result of Jerry and Joe's situation.  And there are absolutely points in favor of this argument.  But it all comes down to the point that the system only comes into question when staggering success is involved.  For every case of a creation in comics becoming a juggernaut, there's dozens of ones that came and went.  J&J created many characters that went nowhere - Jerry's family isn't trying to get the rights back to Slam Bradley, or even The Spectre.
So, why am I glad this situation is ended?
While the families were not assailed by DC, some of their statements didn't quite ring true with me.  They went on in interviews about wanting to be sure that Jerry and Joe got "proper credit" for their creation.  But they HAVE proper credit - their names have been legally required to appear in all works featuring Superman since the agreement in the Seventies.  They just want the money.
Now there's nothing WRONG with that, as I've stated.  But the situation that would have resulted if this case had gone the other way, with the Siegel family having to approve every move made with Superman, is too rife for...well let's not call it virtual extortion, but certainly a way to put the brakes on any deal if one side decides the other isn't treating them fairly, or one side decides they need more money, or just if they were insulted by something the other side said at dinner last Christmas, and wants to be pissy.  Especially after a relationship like this, I could easily see a divorce-like "money as punishment" scenario. 
Of course when DC was in danger of losing a portion of the rights to Superboy, they didn't start negotiations to get permission to use him, they just stopped.  They re-wrote history so that version of Superboy never existed.  They owned the trademarks to the name, so tehy just created a new version that Jerry had no hand in.  Only after that decision was overturned did they go back and re-un-create him again.  A scenario where two parties controlled the rights and had to cooperate in all things would not go smoothly for wrong.  Totally one of those "each of us will hold half the map" deals.
The best deal for everyone would have been a sizable "silent partnership" for the families, where they receive a larger royalty and participation percentage, but no direct say in the use of the character, save perhaps for some specific ability to voice a complaint if they feel the property isn't being used in the most beneficial way.  They'd have to keep a very close eye on DC and make sure they get checks for everything (just ask Tony Isabella), but it'd be the best way for everyone to benefit.
But now they're going to get nothing.  Maybe, MAYBE, if the families jettison Tobleroff and start anew with more modest goals, might they get something.  Because believe me, there's nothing Warner would like more than a brand new, unquestionably binding agreement with them.  But I'll lay odds that if they do, Tobleroff will find a way to sue the families, accusing them of dealing behind HIS back or something. 
To Be Continued, I'm sure.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

On not knowing when you've gone too far, save for the sound of the screaming

Comic and "pop culture" website Newsarama, used to have informative articles, well thought out histories of characters, and, yes, I'm going there, one of the most vibrant and witty bulletin boards in the hobby.

There's none of that left. Literally the only thing left of quality are the interviews. Zach Smith and Vaneta Rogers still do great work, as do most of your new folks. But the rest is disappointing to say the least.
The 10 worst comic performances piece was the last straw. Unfunny, hipster-wannabe snarkery that thinks it's witty.

I'll save you time.  The ten they chose, counting from bottom-up, are:
  • January Jones - Emma Frost
  • Christopher Reeve/Brandon Routh - Superman/Clark Kent
  • Tobey Maguire - Spider-Man/Peter Parker
  • Seth Rogen - The Green Hornet
  • Julian Mcmahon - Doctor Doom
  • Nicolas Cage - Ghost Rider
  • Matthew Goode - Ozymandias
  • Billy Zane - The Phantom
  • Halle Berry - Storm, Catwoman
  • Most Everyone And Anyone In Joel Schumacher's Batman Movies
I agree with Nick Cage.  When he's bad, he's awful.  Mcmahon was trapped in a film that didn't know what it was doing; his performance was hobbled by a horrid version of the character. Goode...OK, I got nothing.

I know I'm in the minority, but I got what they were going for in Green Hornet, and while it was TOTALLY not the film I was hoping for, I think they nailed what they set out to do.  And if you got the VERY subtle historical reference at the center of the fight between Britt and Kato, that might have been the point where you had to look at the film with respect.

And Billy Zane, I'm sorry, was really good in Phantom.  If they'd gone with listing Treat Williams instead, I'd have been right there with them.

They went for easy targets.  The ones they thought they could get laughs from.  Where's Brooke Shields in Brenda Starr?  Lea Thompson in Howard the Duck?  Ron Ely from Doc Savage?  The ones that EVERYBODY has to admit were tripe?

 The last one isn't even a person, it's just a shotgun blast at the films in toto. It's not they couldn't choose a last one, they just plain got tired.
But Christopher Reeve?  Really?  REALLY?

Needless to say, this choice has made Newsarama the internet's new Special Friend.  Creators and fans alike, left and right, are taking to the web, even at this late hour, to share their distaste for this move.  Mark Waid has flatly told them to lose his phone number.

It's the latest in a series of puff pieces on the site that they've been posting instead of more in-depth and informative pieces. The "list-format" article format is getting increasingly prevalent, but the 'rama has taken to them like nobody other.  

It'll be interesting to see if they choose to respond to the almost universal negative reaction to the piece.  It's credited to the "Newsarama staff", and unlike other lists they've posted, the individual entries bear no individual credits.  I've got a pretty good guess who wrote it, but no proof, so I'll keep that guess to myself.  

Seriously, guys, take your thumb out.  There's time to turn this around.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

On the importance of jumping only to the right conclusions

A bit of a change in theme today - this is a film review, in association with The Wife's "The Best Hitchcock Films Hitchcock Never made" Blogathon, hosted by The Wife's blog, Tales of the Easily Distracted, and Classic Becky's Brain Food.  There's about fifty people writing about films that mimic, honor, flagrantly ransack and are just plain inspired by the work of The Master of Suspence.

Of all the things Hitchcock did well, the finest is how he could place average people in unique situations, and let their paranoia run amok.  Until the moment that his main character seized control of the situation and turned it on his pursuers, they'd be running blind, not knowing who to trust.  Sometimes the audience would have more information than the character did, which served only to increased their shared sense of worry - the character would be having a casual conversation, unaware there was a bomb in the room, set to go off in seconds..

In 1997, much-lauded playwright David Mamet wrote and directed The Spanish Prisoner, a drum tight con-job movie that keeps its main character, repressed genius Joe Ross (Campbell Scott) off-balance almost from the start, for all the wrong reasons.  He's guided happily down, off, and back on the proverbial primrose path throughout the film, and you with him.  Only until the climax of the film are you provided with the traditional bit of extra info that puts you in the lead of Joe, and only for a few minutes.

Joe works for Mr. Klein (Ben Gazzara, a good actor), CEO of a company of no solid description.  Joe has developed a "process" for the company - we never learn more about it, other that it is complicated, promises impossible profit, and must be guarded scrupulously.  In other words, a perfect Hitchcockian McGuffin, or "The thing that everybody wants but nobody knows what it is, and it doesn't matter".  Joe has been brought to a private island in the Caribbean to present the process to Klein's investors, with the assistance of his friend George Lang (magician Ricky Jay) and secretary/assistant Susan Ricci (singer Rebecca Pidgeon, now AKA Mrs David Mamet).  Joe and Susan do not know each other, but they hit it off as Joe allows himself to relax after giving his presentation.  Taking photos of each other on the beach, Joe is approached by a man named Jimmy Dell (Steve Martin in a dead serious and truly astounding role) who was accidentally captured in a photo, and offers Joe $1,000 for the camera.  Instead, Joe hands the camera to Jimmy, no strings attached, a move which moves, and somewhat embarrasses Jimmy.  He and Joe begin chatting - Jimmy is on the island with a princess of a country no longer on the map; Joe remains quiet about why he's there.  After a pleasant evening of drinks, Jimmy asks Joe to "perform a service" for him - he has a small package he'd like Joe to deliver to his sister in New York, and Joe agrees.

"They didn't get OFF the seaplane; they came from the
DIRECTION of the sea plane"
On the plane, Susan, a chatty little ball of enthusiasm, begins to blather on about how people are often not what they appear.  Case in point, Mr. Jimmy Dell.  Susan rambles on about how they don't know anything about the man, he could be anyone.  Joe smiles and nods through her meanderings; it's only when she begins to mention "Drug mules", people who get asked to carry packages for strangers that Joe's ears and nerves prick up.

He tears open the package in the lavatory, only to discover it contains a vintage book on tennis, along with a note to Jimmy's sister, suggesting she get to know the gentleman bearing the gift.  Unfortunately, in his zeal, Joe has damaged the cover.  When they land in New York, he purchases another copy of the book, swaps it in the packaging, and drops it off at the woman's apartment house, too embarrassed to deliver it in person.

Now at this point, Joe's suspicions about Jimmy subside, but the too-smart-for-the-movie audience will suspect that the McGuffin will turn out not to be the process, but the damaged book that Joe innocently exchanged with a copy.  I shall save you time - it's not. 

Joe and Jimmy meet up again in New York, and a friendship grows quickly.  Joe begins to open up about his job, and while not revealing the details of his process, lets slip that he's afraid that he may not be fairly remunerated for his hard work.  Jimmy offers to assist - he suggests they discuss things with a lawyer versed in contract and copyright law. 

But when Joe stops by the apartment house of Jimmy's sister, only to find out that he HAS no sister, Joe begins to realize that he may be blundering into something that could get into great trouble.  He contacts the FBI, and sure enough, they've been after the guy for years.  Joe agrees to help them sting Jimmy.

And believe it or not, THAT'S when things go pear-shaped.

The twist at the halfway point of the movie is sublime in its elegance; the twist near the end is perfectly shocking, especially if you remain naive and don't try to "guess the ending".  I SO want to discuss them in great detail, but since it's a film not many have seen, I'm loath to spoil it for you. 

 As I mentioned before, Hitchcock would often let the audience in on information that the hero does not have - by doing so, he lets you know that a situation is far more dangerous than the hero is aware, so instead of wondering what will happen next, you know damn WELL what will happen next, and are screaming at the screen for him to get outta Dodge. They don't do that at all in this film, save for at the very end, when you realize exactly how long Joe's been getting played. He catches up quickly however, though unlike the usual Hitchcockian hero, he never quite gets the chance to turn the tables to his advantage.  The last moment where we're supposed to hear the whole plot from the villain's lips is a hilarious to a similar expository scene in North by Northwest - in both cases, it points to the fact that the details are, in reality, immaterial.  It doesn't matter that the diamonds are in the badman's left or right shoe, only that he's going to be caught, eventually.

There's one thing I must address, even though it may serve to spoil a surprise to a degree. The eponymous con of the title is never actually pulled in the film. "The Spanish Prisoner" is a classic con, currently being used by endless Nigerian bankers. In it, a person claims to be a refugee dignitary of a foreign country, who was unable to escape with his riches. If you (the mark) can assist him with only a small advance of funds, he will gladly share the riches with you when they are liberated. Sometimes they even have a lovely sister who will be pleased to marry you. With all the window dressing pulled away, Joe falls for a simple slight-of-hand swap known as The Murphy, which I think you'll agree, is not as good a title. Ironically, The Spanish Prisoner is the main con used in one of Steve Martin's OTHER films, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.  Michael Caine is the main con artist in that film, making a good living off of playing an exiled prince, bumming chips off of naive housewives in Monte Carlo.  Steve Martin's the apprentice in that one, and they both end up combating a third con-man, known only as "The Jackal".  But that, as they say, is another story.

Like so many films with a con-job at its core, it's a film that must be watched twice.  Enjoy the first run through with innocent eyes - don't start looking for the tells.  On the second run through, you'll see how expertly not only Joe is set up, but the audience.  The first shot in the film is called back for the final twist, and an offhand comment by Susan while in the tropics serves to put you at ease about something that, again, when you re-watch it, you'll be amazed you missed.  I almost want to write a second essay expressly to be read after watching the film, so as to freely discuss the twists and surprises.

The script, as should be obvious by now, is expert.  The directing is very indicative of Mamet - When we first meet many of the characters, they speak in a very clipped, almost formal tone, in rather short sentences.  They open up and relax a bit as they grow more friendly with each other, but it's an interesting thing to see the change.  Ricky Jay's role is short, but memorable - he passes through the film like a three-piece suited Confucius, dropping pearls of wisdom like "Beware of any enterprise which requires the purchase of new clothes".  As mentioned before, Steve Martin is stellar as Jimmy Dell - a perfectly straight performance, without so much as a double-take.  He was so good, I'd sorely love to see him in another film with no laughs.

Sgt. Bilko doesn't count.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

On the Danger of Feeding the Trolls

As you may know, a lot of episodes of the early days of television are lost, presumably forever.  Partially as a cost-saving measure, and partially because they literally never imagined people would want to re-watch TV shows, a lot of video tape was erased and re-used, and a lot of film was thrown away or burned.  Even Doctor Who, considered one of the best Sci-Fi shows ever made, has tragic gaps in its collection.  As a rule, anyone who has episodes of the show have been asked to come forward, and the BBC will only ask to make a copy of the episodes; no questions asked, you keep your original.  It's always a joy to hear that an episode or two have been found, sometimes from TV Station archives, sometimes from private collectors.

So, a few months back, I ran a review of Julie Newmar's series, My Living Doll, which was just released on DVD.  It's listed as "Volume 1", not because a second volume is planned, but because only 11 episodes of the 26-episode series are known to exist, and they wanted to make it clear that it wasn't the complete series.  They even listed one of those episodes as Bonus material, as they didn't think the quality was good enough to charge money for. 

They actually had the whole run, but fifteen episodes were lost in the Northridge Quake of 1994.  They spent six years trying to find as much of the series as they could.  Believe me, eleven episodes is a TRIUMPH - for the years I've been a fan of the show, I only knew of four. So they played as fair as they could, and I was more then happy to get what we got.

The reviews on Amazon were pretty positive, save for one fellow who really took them to task for "only" releasing 11 episodes.  He seemed to think that this was a multi-volume dodge, as opposed to it being all they had.  So he slapped two stars on it and left a short, nasty review.

Which all the OTHER fans of the show began to...oh let's go with "rebut with extreme prejudice".  Classic "I can say anything I want I am anonymous" stuff - insults, references to farm animals, the usual.

But here's the thing.  Then the guy says that he has two additional episodes of the show in his film collection.  This was met with suspicion by the commenters, but the producers of the DVD tracked the guy down, and started negotiations to get the copies.

The comment thread, being on the Internet, turned uglier, and the epithets blew thick and fast.  Some of the comments got deleted, and I can only imagine what kind of line they crossed to earn that. After a conversation that referenced the rude comments on Amazon (over which which nobody involved had any control), The fellow stopped taking the calls of the producers.  He popped back up announce that because the Internet had hurt his feelings, not only does he have no plans to offer the episodes to the producers, he plans to burn them.

The guys over 65 (based a small bit of research) and is likely not used to the vituperatives and invective tossed about casually on the Internet.  But threatening to destroy the episodes is an overreaction, and if it's as a result of the commenters, they might have to do some thinking about how they do things.

Now, there's no way to know if the guy was on the up-and-up, or if he was as much of a troll as the folks who insulted him.  But he had been talking to the producers, and progress was being made.  But to lose any bits of classic TV over a couple of comment thread insults would be an absolute shame.

Not everybody on the Internet knows when you're just being witty, or engaging in good-natured ribbing.  Sarcasm does not work well in test, acronyms and emoticons notwithstanding.  There is no way to know how someone is going to take your comment.  A shred of decorum could go a long way to keeping a situation from getting out of hand.  hopefully this will be the worst thing that ever comes of these people's electronic slings and arrows. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

On the need to change without actually improving

The Batman Annual, part of the pretty damn good if I say so Night of the Owls Bat-event features the New 52 origin of Mr. Freeze, who played a fairly big role in the plot of the Court of Owls. 

Yes, there are spoilers. either keep reading, or don't.

Monday, May 21, 2012

On the introduction of a very specific change to a major character

Of all the announcements from this weekend's Kapow! Comic Convention in Britain, the one that has set the most lips flapping is the announcement that DC plans to retcon one of its major characters to be gay.  As opposed to their initial plan to only create new characters to be gay, they've chosen to take an existing one and re-introduce them in the DCnU as gay. They've not said who, they've not said when, just that they plan to do so. Indeed, it's only been inferred that it'll be a character that has not yet been seen in the New 52; the way Dan Didio made it sound, using phrases like "would be" suggested that it'd be a big part of the character from the get-go.

Allow me to make one thing clear from the same get-go - I am totally cool with this. Having more gay characters, more black, Asian, what have you characters only serves to make the DCU more similar to the real world in how many different sorts of people are in it. From a narrative viewpoint, if they'd tried this in the old DCU, any character they wanted to do this to would have had a whole bunch of stories that would likely need tweaking or explaining should they make such a change.  Here in the New 52, there IS no backlog or adventures, or at least not as many.  If you want to re-make a character, this is the time to do it. 

There's any number of characters in the DCU which hasn't gotten a lot of time spent on their private lives. Most of the time is spent in the costume. Even though they have the opportunity to start any character from scratch here, if they choose to use a character who very clearly was heterosexual beforehand, had a lot of male/female relationships, they might get more pushback than if they'd chosen to go with one where it was never really addressed.  If they were to use, say Ralph Dibny the Elongated Man, I'd be disappointed, as his married relationship was a major part of the character.  If they used, I dunno, Aztek or Agent Liberty, characters whose personal life is more of a blank slate, it might be easier to swallow.

DC has done new versions of their characters with new ethnic backgrounds and other major changes of late.  Almost every one of them has been met with...oh, let's call it "reticence" with a facet of the readership, who tend to describe it as ramming an ethnic character down our throats.  And as a rule, that's a shame, because many if not all of said characters have been exemplary.  Batwoman, once they finally got the book off the ground, has been an artistic masterpiece.  I've gone on about how much I adored the new Blue Beetle, though I must admit the New 52 iteration has been a bit too dour for me.  The Renee Montoya Question was another very good character - not as much a chance to get used as many would have liked (myself included) but what there was was cherce.

Considering that homosexuality is much more a hot-button for people than mere ethnicity is, I expect there to quite a hue and cry once said character is announced. The way they're saying it, this won't be a new version of the character, but the same character as in the pre-DCnU, with the big difference that he/she will be gay. And judging from Dan's statements, their being gay will be a bigger part of the character, becoming as he put it, “one of our most prominent gay characters.”

Now I gotta admit, I don't know how I feel about the being gay becoming a "big part" of the character.  I think it's going to depend totally on who's writing the character.  Marc Andreyko had a large number of gay characters in his version of Manhunter, and never did the characters feel forced, nor did their predilections get overly mentioned in the narrative.  Rarely, if ever, was their gayness relevant or important to the plot; they were just gay.  And that's EXACTLY how it should be played.  I've gone on about how well the new Doctor Who has integrated gay characters into the stories - some characters are gay, it's mentioned, it's not made the center of the story, and nobody comes away learning an important lesson about tolerance.  There's gay people, and it doesn't mean a hang about their goodness or evilness, they're just there.  Perfect. 

Personally, of all the gay characters DC have had, the one I thought was done the best was Pied Piper early in the Wally west Flash run. He'd gone straight (you should pardon the choice of words, but even HE made the joke) and was working with Wally on many cases. Having a conversation, Wally starts a very guyish "Are any supervillains gay" discussion. Piper admits he isn't aware of any villains who are gay...except himself of course. Wally does a total double take and reacts the way any average guy finds out his friends is gay - he runs off to watch football or box or do something mannish. By the end of the issue, he realizes it doesn't make a damn bit of difference and their relationship goes back to what it was, and it's barely made a Thing of again. Of course, Countdown, that place where oh so many things went wrong, had him played like being gay was the only thing he'd ever done, and all the other Rogues constantly going about it and generally acting very out-of-character towards him. But Countdown is one of those books we wish we could all just forget and ignore, so no need to make a big frooferau about it.

It's neat that DC is trying to create more diverse characters. As long as they get played as fully formed, and not just one-trick ponies, all will be well. How well the general readership accepts them will also hinge on how well they're written, and who's writing them. If you create or introduce a character specifically to BE gay, and that becomes their biggest characteristic, there's a real likelihood they'll stay two-dimensional.  The new Teen Titan, Bunker, got introduced with much fanfare, and all told, his gayness hasn't made too much of a difference, because they've been far too busy fighting for him to go on about how wonderful guys are.  There's been no "can I trust this guy to have my back, as he is gay" plotlines, thank god. 

So not counting the moaners and groaners, the hot topic has been to try and guess who the character is going to be.  It's taken as read it won't be one of the big three (And let's be honest, while Wonder Woman would be a far more obvious choice than many would care to admit, they've already had mention of her dating Steve Trevor, so it's likely it's not her.)  Having it be any of the back-up characters in any of their stables is also a slim chance. Most of them have enough history that such a change would require a fair amount of history fixing.  So it's likely a character we've not yet seen in the DCnU yet, or one whose personal life we've seen very little of.

I think there's a VERY good chance it'll be one of the Earth-2 characters. They're in the process of re-inventing all the Earth-2 versions of the characters in a new timeline.  Making one of them be gay would be an easy move, as they're all effectively new characters,  Also, James Robinson, writer of the Earth-2 book, has had a lot of success writing gay characters, and making them three-dimensional characters who don't exist solely to be a token tip of the hat. 

I'll put my bet on the table - Alan Scott; media mogul, and Earth 2's Green Lantern.  They've said the character would be a major character.  James has already said that his GL would pretty much be the most powerful character on Earth-2.  Alan Scott likely already has a fair amount of notoriety as a head of a major media company; he could easily be in a position to be a positive role model. 

So let the guessing commence - Who's gonna come out of the closet instead of the phonebooth?

Postscript - so far, both MTV Geek and Bleeding Cool have come out in favor of my guess, both reporting various insider information and rumor.  But we know where they heard it, don't we?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

On what happens when you give someone the job they were born to do

The idea of nobody dying in comics was really put in place by the Comics code - Most pre-code superheroes were quite calavier about killing the wicked, or simply not leaping to save them when they backed up off a cliff. After the Code, you couldn't even show a crime, so you'd see rubbers running from a bank which they robbed off camera.

So while all (mainstream) superheroes have a personal vow not to kill, Dan Slott has given Spider-Man one better - nobody will DIE on his watch. After a heart-rending adventure where J. Jonah Jameson's wife catches a bullet during a fight (a story about which I have previously kvelled), he vows that nobody will die as a direct result of one of his acts, or the collateral acts of his battles.

Riding the razor's edge between guilt and responibility, Slott has placed a great load on young Mr. Parker's shoulders, but he's also made it more possible for him to achieve said feat.  After nearly fifty years of adventures, Dan has played up on the fact that Peter is a scientific genius.  No longer a news photographer (Or heaven help us, a high school science teacher -- who is he, Fonzie?) he's gotten a job at Horizon, on of the Marvel Universe's biggest (albeit only just now introduced) scientific think tanks.  Now, finally made part of his life, he is using his mind to create inventions that will both help the world, and enhance his fight against crime and/or evil.  Over the last year, Spidey has created a number of specialty suits to fight certain villains and situations.  Like the pods of Thunderbird 2, he grabs the equipment he needs for the fight at hand - a stealth suit, extra- heavy duty armor for the more powerful villains, what have you.  In the hands of anyone else, this would seem like a cheap hotshot for a cover, or an obvious attempt to create something toyetic for the action figure division.  But Dan makes of perfectly logical, and logical from the point of the narrative.  Indeed, it's a throwback to the early days of the strip, when Spidey would tweak his web formula or cobble together a gadget to allow him to defeat a villain. 

By doing so, he's also addressed a point I've also gone on about in the past - the idea that superhero/villain inventions never seem to trickle down to society.  A fraction of the inventions Reed Richards has come up with could change the world, yet the only one he's seemingly passed down to humanity is a skin cream formula.  But in a recent issue, Peter Parker looks around and realizes his choice to work for Horizon has ALREADY changed the world, in small ways.  He realizes that the polymers he invented for his spider-armor has been licensed by the company for a new generation of bike helmets, his stealth tech making new and more efficient headphones, etc.  So not only has his choice to use his genius made being Spider-Man better, it's helped the people he's trying to protect.  In a very real way, Peter Parker is now contributing as much as Spider-Man.  One thing I very much look forward to is Peter's first royalty check, which, considering Horizon seems to be a very above-board company, will be sizable.  Yes, in the hands of a more I Want To Make A Point-obsessed writer, it could be a very SMALL check, leading to a talk about the contract Peter had signed, but that would effectively ruin the fun and positive environment he's working in, and ruin the potential of future stories for the chance to make a point once.  So I don't see that happening.
Dan has done a lot to shift Peter's life for the better, while not making it all sunshine and lollipops.  He's done something never before thought of for Aunt May - he's given her a happy ending.  rather than toss her into a hospital or a grave or some other ham-handed way of writing her off the table, he married her off, and to J. Jonah Jameson's dad, no less.  Seeing that Peter has finally started taking advantage of his gifts, she doesn't feel the need to protect him anymore, starts and cements a relationship with JJJ's pop, and moves to Boston to be with her family.  It removes her from danger and easy plot-device use, adds no more guilt to Peter's platter, and keeps her in the back pocket for the occasional visit.

Indeed, Peter's life, both in and out of the suit, is going SO well, that I fear what Minnesotans call "The Coming of the Other Shoe".  Someday, Dan will leave the book, ("Not for years", I can hear Johnny Ola saying) and I fear the new writer will see a need to bring the character Back To His Roots, which will (to him) mean sad, guilt-ridden, and near poverty.  So I choose to push those fears down deep, until I'm almost standing on them, and enjoy today for the joy it is.

If you have not been buying Spider-Man for a long time, or if you chose to Quit Comics Forever as a result of One more Day, it is time to come back.  Spider-Man is a bright shining star of fun in a still-gloomy universe of trouble and strife, and is well worth the investment.