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Thursday, April 20, 2006


Speechless in Stars Hollow

One of the best plotted, written and acted shows on TV over the past six years, Gilmore Girls will be back next year for one last season on the new CW network, but now, officially, its creators won't. Dave and Hilary got me into this show a couple of years ago, and I loved it so much I bought every season on DVD. Frankly, it's hard to imagine the show not sucking without the people who invented it. (Although some feel it started sucking this year.)

Gilmore Girls is all about tone--a tone unique to Amy Sherman-Palladino--and anyone else trying for the same pop culture obsessed, million-words-a-minute is just faking. Some of the writers fake it better than others, but none of them ever really capture that voice.

Sherman-Palladino always said she had a plan for the end of the series, and that the final scene was already worked out. I wonder how closely the new show runner (Dave Rosenthal, a writer and producer on the series, will take over, according to reports) will stick to that plan, if at all.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Brad Meltzer Comics Make Baby Jesus Cry

Brad Meltzer: writing as Michael Turner: drawing, so I guess continuing to pair them on projects makes sense.

With the announcement of Meltzer's JLA #0 on the July schedule, the Identity Crisis debates are bound to start up again. The new book's promo copy says that "Meltzer broke the JLA down in the top-selling, critically acclaimed Identity Crisis - and now he puts all the pieces back together again!" So I don't expect any--or at least not much--fin-headed satellite super-rape at 23,000 miles above sea level this go-around. But this is still Meltzer, who has shown himself to be a godawful superhero writer whose instincts with these characters, supposedly born of sincere love of the JLA of his 1970's childhood, have been wrong at almost every turn. And whose comics--Identity Crisis and a boring, underdeveloped arc of Green Arrow--fail to rise above the overheated melodrama and contrivances of the worst fan fiction.

Of course, overheated melodrama is what superhero comics are all about, since at least 'This Man, This Monster" in Fantastic Four #51. But Meltzer manages the odd trick of leeching all of the early Claremontian pleasure out of the soap operatics, leaving readers with something merely ugly and unpleasant. A Superman who "only hears what he wants to hear." A suicidal Elongated Man. And every female character dragged through the mud, driven crazy or killed.

Identity Crisis sold a ton of copies, but I think that's more a condemnation of the audience than a validation of the book. I suppose I really don't have a leg to stand on, considering that Dan Didio and DC gave Meltzer the keys to the family car and have looked on lovingly as he tore up the front lawn doing donuts then ran over the dog. This is what they wanted. In retrospect, it all looks like a single tactic in a long-term plan to overturn their line of books, writing their major properties distinctly out of character, placing them in stomach-turning situations as a set-up for the reset button of the current Infinite Crisis. Superhero books are only as good as they are this month, and so far Busiek's Superman seems to carry none of the scars of his terrible mishandling over the past few years. Still, based on his output to date I have no faith in Meltzer as a writer, no matter what his plans for the new JLA. His claim to fame is success as a prose mystery writer, yet the central mystery of his big comic simply didn't work on any level--the mystery twist itself was a cheat and the various characters had to be totally bent out of any recognizable shape to fit the contours of the plot twists.

After Identity Crisis wrapped, Meltzer gave interviews that played like Bush press conferences on days when Helen Thomas is sick. Numerous fans and even some pros had made specific, repeated criticisms of apparent sexism at the core of the book (Sue Dibny raped, killed and set on fire; a literally man-crazy killer Jean Loring) and all we got were Matt Brady "boy, there sure is a lot of controversy" softballs, easily swatted aside by Meltzer with PR 101 answers of the "you can't please everybody" and "controversy means people are interested" variety. I never saw any indication that Meltzer addressed (or even saw) the concerns of people who were seriously troubled by the book's treatment of women.

As Chris Arndt commented over at the Comic Treadmill, "Meltzer read and loved the exact same comics that I did when we were children but when he tries retroactive continuity for that period we get Silver Age characters that are literally raped." One wonders how Meltzer got from point A to point B: "Man, I really loved those Dick Dillin and Gerry Conway stories when I was a kid. Like the one where the JLA gets put in a zoo by the animals! That ruled! If I ever get the chance to write JLA I think I'll have Dr Light break into the satellite, savagely beat Sue Dibny, bend her over and rape her from behind. Then I'll have the Atom's ex-wife kill her and light her corpse up with a flamethrower in a demented attempt to get the Atom to love her again. I'll write all my favorite characters so that they're unrecognizable, nothing like any other portrayal of the past 30 years. That'll show everybody how much I love that old comic." Basically, I imagine a more perverse, pessimistic Bob Haney with no sense of the absurd.

For me, the worst thing about Meltzer is the pretension to seriousness, to real-world dilemmas and ethical concerns. The DC hype for Identity Crisis was all about its unflinching exploration of the "real" consequences of superheroism--how putting on the cape would put your loved ones at serious risk of violence. But again, it was all a con. The only DC characters at any risk are those without valuable Warner Brothers licensing opportunities. Sue Dibny can die, not because of anything her husband the Elongated Man may or may not do, but simply because Sue Dibny will never be a cartoon star, and will never be used to sell peanut butter or bike horns. Lois Lane isn't going anywhere, even if Superman told every villain in the world he loved her and handed out directions to her apartment. Therefore all the talk of "realism", of clear-eyed looks at superheroes like they're cops or firefighters, is really just a baldfaced lie--a lie Meltzer and Didio eagerly told in order to sell comics to a segment of aging fans who like the idea of their superheroes "growing up" but who apparently don't understand the extratextual reasons why they never really can. Years ago, in his blather.net interview, Alan Moore said of his Batman: The Killing Joke, "...I don't think it's a very good book. It's not saying anything very interesting...at the end of the day, Watchmen was something to do with power, V for Vendetta was about fascism and anarchy, The Killing Joke was just about Batman and the Joker - and Batman and the Joker are not really symbols of anything that are real, in the real world, they're just two comic book characters." Meltzer's embarrassingly fannish comics are the antithesis of that insight. That's why, unless he's reinvented himself, I have no faith in the new JLA. That's why baby Jesus weeps.

Besides, how can you trust a guy who doesn't like the Martian Manhunter?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Gentlemen, it wasn't torn...

This is canibalism!

Dr. Octagon returns from the future, unnecessarily violent medical procedures to follow.

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