All I want is . . .

March 16th, 2011 by | Tags:

I was re-listening to the fourcast from two weeks ago, marveling at my own brilliance as usual, and I heard something that brought me up short.  David was explaining the various titles that are going to be released as part of the Flashpoint storyline.  I, after being skeptical due to always hating big events, was drawn in to the idea of Flashpoint.  Not the idea itself; I still don’t know what it is and unless someone can explain it to me in one sentence I will continue to not know what it is, but to all the other titles. 

As much as I hate to admit it, seeing as I’m an angry soulless person who doesn’t want to be happy, DC was pretty much giving me exactly what I always said I wanted.  I always wanted more ‘What if’ or ‘Imaginary Tales’ or ‘Other World’ type stories.  That’s why I love Superman/Batman so much – it had license to jettison canon and just go crazy.  I like fun and funny stories.  I like brief one shots.  From the covers and the small accompanying blurbs, that’s what Flashpoint seems to consist of.  Bruce Wayne owns a casino!  Hal Jordan’s a fighter pilot!  Here!  Have a DCU Aerialists book!  Here’s Lois Lane leading some kind of resistance.

What can I say but “Awesome!” 

And what did I say but, “They’ll screw it up somehow.”  Okay, that was a sarcastic aside at the end of the podcast, just to throw in a sting, but isn’t that what most fans say?  Half the point of being a comics fan is being cynical.  And often those cynical predictions turn out to be correct.

Why?  Well, let’s start with the inherent problems of any major undertaking.  I know, it’s just a comic book, but with an integrated universe with sixty years of history and a multi-media concept that has different versions in movies, TV, dvd, online gaming, books and comics, there is no minor undertaking.  Add to that the basics of trying to juggle art, dialog, story, and the relationships of the characters in 20-22 pages, and it’s a tough struggle to make it all work.

More important, though, I think, is the expectation of the fans.  When people get in to comics, they tend to like a lot.  Everything is new.  Everything is close enough to what they want that they can get something from it.  And if they don’t?  No big deal.  Drop the book.  I certainly wasn’t in a tizzy about Green Arrow continuity when I was first reading books.  I just thought he was a guy in a funny hat.

After a bit, that changes.  People fall in love with certain stories.  They fall in love with certain characters.  And when they fall in love, they do so with that character, and that story.  As far as they’re concerned – that is how the character is.  So if it’s just a momentary trend, or an extreme look at the character, either they are going to have to re-adjust their understanding of the character, or they are going to be chasing a dream forever.  Guess what most people will pick.  Guess how that makes them feel.

Still, though, I think the main problem with a lot of comics is people deceive themselves about how they’re going to feel.  I very much include myself in that statement.  I was talking to a friend who writes, the other day, as well as a friend who draws.  They both take requests.  They almost always regret taking requests.  I’m willing to bet the requester often regrets making the request.  Because no one ever gets what they want.  We can swear up, down, and sideways that we ‘just’ want something – Black Canary and Catman in a fight, Wonder Woman and Oracle going out on the town and having fun, Batman being a great, friendly guy.  We can get down on our knees and swear on our mother’s life that that’s all we want.  We’re lying. 

Most people even believe that one simple thing is ‘all’ they want.  I know I did when all I wanted was Birds of Prey to come back.  But that wasn’t all I wanted.  I wanted a different artist, and I didn’t want Hawk and Dove involved, and I wanted it to be a fun book with people having fun, and I wanted Oracle to get to talk to Zinda a lot because they never really connected.  I had a whole huge concept for the book in my mind without even knowing it.  Don’t get me wrong, I like that Creote and Savant are involved – love it.  And they’re getting a new artist.  And I’ve come around to Hawk and Dove.  I think they’re a good addition to the team.  But I said that “all” I wanted and when it came around I complained because I meant that I wanted the book and I also wanted some other things that seemed oh so obvious to me.

(Clearly the bat symbol should be more orange. Forget this.)

That’s what my friends get all the time.  They get requests, and they fulfill them, and then they get lukewarm thank yous because the character that lived in the person’s head was nothing like the character that these people wrote or drew.  They meant Black Canary in that blue and black swimsuit outfit she wore in the original Birds of Prey.  They meant black-haired Catman from the early Green Arrow series.  They meant Batman being friendly, but not that friendly with Catwoman, doesn’t everyone know that he’s actually all about Talia?  They meant this character with short hair or that character a little more aggressive, or sure they asked for this aspect but they would never have included that one. 

The more you know a character, and like a character, the more specific that character is in your head.  You know what they’d do, and how they’d do it, and how their stories go, and how they rate compared to other characters, and that they’d never do that.  I don’t feel sorry for comics creators.  (I’m too busy envying them.)  And I don’t think that fans should button their lips when they don’t like a story.  (I certainly don’t.)  But I can’t help feeling some sympathy with people who are trying to deliver exactly what the fans want – with characters they themselves love – but can never really do it.  Because everyone knows that Batman or Superman or Wonder Woman would never be in a story like that.

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11 comments to “All I want is . . .”

  1. Well said, Esther!

    Fans are magnets. They’re drawn to that one perfect thing that attracts them. If it’s not just right, it repulses them.

    I’m a magnet for Beast… but not this NEW Beast, what’s he doing looking like that, it’s NOT RIGHT. *repulsed*

  2. I understand this but somehow don’t view comics with that strict of lens.
    Probably due to grow up more with tv and film versions of most characters than any particular run.
    A lot of superhero ( less so comic) fans are similar to the point where “event” is just a word used as hyperbole on a cheap party flyer and “crossover” is the answer to Allen Iverson in a game of word association.
    If DC thought about that in such a way, even just playing devils advocate, the might satisfy more consistant readers as well as have a chance to revive the ghost of the new reader.

    The Flashpoint minis do scream out “Else- worlds” more so than tie in.
    Atleast the titles do. The names attached smacked people with the reality of them being apart of an event.
    A hive of current of former editors with a double dose of DNA thrown in.
    Not to mention the extremely suspect Grood one shot that David has pointed out. My fam’s from Ghana with me being born and raised in the States sottys fact that a comic company decide that it would be good idea to have a blood thirsty gorilla attempting to conquer not one of the 53 soon to be 54 countries in Africa but the whole of Africa didn’t move me much. I myself will probably only checkout the Lois, Aquaman, and Batman minis. But i’d imagine that DC has a tougher sell with other readers than me.

  3. Interestingly, while I’m normally more of a Marvel guy, I’m probably not going to be taking look at Fear Itself at all due to being burned out on how the non-cosmic crossovers have ended, yet I keep finding myself thinking I’ll probably at least buy the main Flashpoint titles because of the whole alternate reality thing.

  4. @Yusaku777: Yes, this is the sad thing about many fans. I, personally, like the fact that one of the longest-running threads on the DC message boards is whether Batman should have a grey bat on his chest or a yellow oval around a black bat.

    @Apollokid9000: Yeah, the Grodd idea. We’ll see how they do that. What’s the big upset for me is that I want it at all. I usually hate all big books in favor of self-contained stories. I guess this has the promise of being both a big event and a bunch of little stories.

    @Space Jawa: Ahhhh, burn out. I didn’t mention that, but it’s also a big part of fan repulsion in comics. I think if people really care about characters there are only so many years they’re willing to watch a character get turned upside down and inside out.

  5. It’s true. Most fans of characters or certain series or concepts have a platonic ideal in their head of what it/they should be like. And it’s usually a mish-mash of cherry-picking from canon and personal fanon that never really existed except for in the reader’s mind.

    But I can’t help feeling some sympathy with people who are trying to deliver exactly what the fans want – with characters they themselves love – but can never really do it.

    I kinda want to say that the creators in question shouldn’t try so hard to please fans, because maybe what happens is that they lose sight of their own vision for the characters and stories, or because they never understood what the fans wanted in the first place. But at the same time, not listening to or dismissing any feedback or criticism can also be pretty sketchy.

  6. I am the worst fan in this regard. I’m still holding a grudge from 1994 (dammit, Marvel!)

    I know it’s ridiculous and if I had read the issues in the proper order when I was a kid, I wouldn’t even see things the way I do. Maybe I’m braindamaged by comics!

  7. @Maddy: I feel like the creators pulling an, “I don’t care what anyone wants here’s what you’ll get,” could either be wonderful or end up with every character except the creators’ favorite dead.

    @darrylayo: Now I’m wondering who I can get to beat 1994. Any takers? Anyone still angry from the 80s?

  8. @Esther Inglis-Arkell: That is probably true.

  9. @Esther Inglis-Arkell: I wouldn’t say that in my case it’s related to any one character, but I think that yeah, that’s still the basic jist of it. I first started reading comics about the time Civil War was coming out, and while I’ll admit that the environment that came out of it was interesting and one of the comics that resulted (Avengers: The Initiative) was one of my favorites for a while, I couldn’t help but feel a ‘meh’ about how the event ended.

    Likewise, while I picked up the main books for World War Hulk, Secret Invasion, and Siege, I couldn’t help but notice that every single time, I felt like the way the crossover came to an end felt poorly written in one way or another that left the whole event on a low note as it came to a close. I probably should have stopped buying them sooner, but at least I was able to stop in time to avoid Shadowland (especially since I heard it wasn’t very good either). Thus, since I don’t have a high opinion of their record on major crossovers thus far, it doesn’t give me much reason to believe that Fear Itself will turn out any differently. It’s kind of a ‘disappoint me once, shame on you, disappoint me four times over, shame on me’ kind of thing.

    But maybe if Fear Itself manages to open and close on a high note of some kind and give me reason to believe that someone over there can actually do a major crossover book that doesn’t totally drop the ball in the final issue, maybe I’ll reconsider sitting out Marvels big events when the next one comes around.

    But yeah, I don’t know what to expect from Flashpoint one way or the other, but since I’m a sucker for alternate reality stuff, it gives me reason to at least check it out.

    I just hope DC doesn’t drop the ball and disappoint me the same way Marvel has.

  10. @Space Jawa:

    “open and close on a high note of some kind and give me reason to believe that someone over there can actually do a major crossover book that doesn’t totally drop the ball in the final issue, ”


  11. @LurkerWithout: Yeah, that is a good point, and something that was actually on my mind. Probably should have said something in that regard, especially considering how much I just LOVED Thanos Imperative, but it managed to slip through. So thank you to you for catching that for me.

    But as it is, at present I’ve mostly put a kind barrier between 616 Marvel Earth and 616 Marvel Cosmic, given the way that Cosmic has been so heavily looked over by mostly just those two while Earth has been all the other writers at Marvel.