Pop Between Realities, Home in Time for Tea 73: Final Crisis

(52 comments)

Andrew Hickey writes on Final Crisis. His book on fifty years of Doctor Who, Fifty Stories for Fifty Years, is available from AmazonAmazon UK, and, for print editions, Lulu. You'll also probably enjoy the interview he just did with me for Mindless Ones.

Narrative Collapse

“There was a cosmic war. And the powers of evil won. And I know how this sounds, but they’re here among us now. I was kinda hoping you might be able to help me put some kind of team together.”
Grant Morrison, at the time Final Crisis was being released, said (in a now-deleted blog post, so I can’t quote it directly) that Final Crisis was clearly tapping into the same zeitgeist as Doctor Who, because of the number of superficial similarities between his story and The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End. He may even have believed it. But Final Crisis rather conclusively missed the zeitgeist at least as far as its intended audience were concerned.

Both Final Crisis and The Stolen Earth were inspired by the comic-book tradition of the crossover, where you get characters from many different series, all of which ostensibly take place in the same fictional universe, to come together to face a threat too big for any one of them. In fact both were inspired specifically by one such crossover, the crossover by which all other crossovers in comics are judged, 1985’s Crisis On Infinite Earths, by Marv Wolfman, George Perez, Len Wein, Jerry Ordway and others.

That story was designed to clear up a DC multiverse which, according to geeks, had become “too complicated”, because of a plethora of different universes containing different versions of DC’s characters. The fact that this could be comprehended in seconds by any eight-year-old child reading the comics – “Oh, Old Superman and Flash With A Hat are from Earth-2, and Proper Superman and Proper Flash are from Earth-1, OK” – didn’t stop it from being an incessant source of worry for any reader who thought that Marvel’s self-consistent universe (a result of all Marvel’s main characters being the creation of three men – Stan Lee, Steve Ditko and, especially, Jack Kirby) was something that their main rivals should emulate.

And so, over the course of a year, came a comic which, however misguided its aim, was truly huge in scope. Its story involved a threat that destroyed a literally infinite number of earths, and saw the remaining five earths merged into one, and the whole of their history rewritten, so that where there had been an infinite multiverse there had now only ever been one universe. It also saw the deaths of beloved characters like Supergirl and The Flash (both of them got better). 

It was a war in time, sparked initially by the actions of the oldest race of beings in the universe, the immortal godlike beings who claim the authority to police the universe, and who live at the centre of it. But it soon turned into a war between an absolute evil and a corrupted, broken, good, that ended with the whole of history being rewritte, and only a handful remembering that it had ever been different.
Crisis On Infinite Earths had been meant to be the final cleanup that would lead to a totally consistent DC Comics universe, with a fresh start for every character, but right from the start problems crept in. The new history of the Legion of Super-Heroes didn’t match that of Superman. Hawkman seemed to have two incompatible pasts. There was no way to make the Teen Titans make sense with anything much. The cracks were showing within months.

So in 1995 there was another huge rewrite of the whole history of the DC universe – Zero Hour: Crisis In Time – which involved all the characters going back to the Big Bang to once again reboot the universe’s history and wipe out these errors, and ended with new “#0 issues” for every comic, establishing the new history. Unfortunately, it ended up making the origin of Hawkman not make sense with anything else, Supergirl’s existence was a paradox, and it actually created more problems than it solved.

A few years later, Grant Morrison’s idea of Hypertime, which says that all stories are true, that multiple timelines can coexist, and that having a ridiculous attention to consistency at the expense of all else is less important than telling the current story, was brought in in a DC Comics story. This was considered far too silly, and promptly ignored by everyone.

So in 2005 there was another huge rewrite of the whole history of the DC Universe – Infinite Crisis. This was followed by 52, which ran from 2006 to 2007 and ended in a huge rewrite of the history of the DC Universe.

At which point, there began the Countdown To Final Crisis, which led to Final Crisis.
Final Crisis didn’t end with a huge rewrite of the whole history of the DC Universe, and this, among many other things, upset and disappointed the comics fans who were reading it. But they needn’t have worried. 2011 saw the release of Flashpoint, a series which saw a huge rewrite of the whole history of the DC Universe, after which every DC Comic started again with a new number one issue.

Crisis On Infinite Earths was part of a general sense of renewal at DC Comics, and came out at roughly the same time as Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns, regarded as the two foundational works of modern superhero comics. In the few years around Crisis On Infinite Earths, DC put out such works as Grant Morrison’s Animal Man and Doom Patrol, Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. These titles are all regarded as being, if not masterpieces, then at the very least ambitious works which try to do something different with the medium.

In the two years since Flashpoint, DC Comics has put out many comics by sexual harasser Scott Lobdell, and a bunch of prequels to Watchmen written and drawn by people who don’t have enough reading comprehension to understand the original.

Context Is For The Weekly

It’s fair to say that Final Crisis, the 2008 DC Comics crossover by Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones (plus various other artists towards the end, as the monthly schedule required Jones to have assistance), is not the most well-received of comics crossovers. That’s partly because of the context in which it came.
Straight after the success of 52, a weekly comic which had run for a year, and told a story spanning the whole DC Universe, DC Comics decided to release a second 52-week comic, Countdown, which would be counting down to…something.

This was a bit of a problem. 52 had been far more popular than anyone had expected, but that was largely because the comic involved four of DC’s most popular writers, all with very different writing styles and abilities, working together to come up with a single coherent story that had the best aspects of all four writers’ work, and which in particular had a structure mirroring that of Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers – a massive work which Morrison was finishing up just as he was starting on 52. Readers started 52 with fairly low expectations, but it soon became a reason to make sure you got to the comic shop every day, and it inspired a flowering of discussion, analysis, and fanfiction (including Al Ewing’s truly wonderful Diary Of Ralph Dibny at http://dibnydiary.blogspot.com , a truly hilarious look at the events of that comic through the eyes of a minor character).

Countdown, on the other hand, involved a bunch of C-list writers and artists doing a story that was driven more by editorial fiat than by the writers having any ideas. Expectations started high, and fell quickly.

It was also my entry into comic blogging. I’d seen how much fun people were having with weekly updates about 52, and thought I might try to do the same with Countdown.
I lasted ten issues. My last blog entry on the subject said, in part: 
The most entertaining thing in this comic, by a long way, is the pull-out ad for hot dogs. At least that has some Sergio Aragones artwork. Unless you have a burning desire to see incompetent drawings of the scantily-clad bottom of a teenage girl, there is no possible reason for wishing to read this.
Countdown may well be the biggest mistake DC have made in ten years or more. Because they’re turning Countdown into a brand, but what that brand says to me is ’steer clear’.
I may pick up some of DC’s new titles, but it will be cautiously, and I will not be inclined to take a chance, or give any comic from them the benefit of the doubt. DC have consistently mis-solicited these comics (Keith Giffen is still not working on the title, despite having been solicited as breakdown artist on every issue). They have lied in the promotional interviews (saying the title would be self-contained, when it’s anything but). And they have insulted those of us who gave them the benefit of the doubt but pointed out the flaws in the comic (saying we don’t understand how it’s being paced).
Everyone involved in the production of this series should be ashamed of themselves for producing such meretricious drivel. But not as ashamed as I am for supporting them.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me every week for ten weeks straight…well, there’s no word for how foolish that makes me, and how ashamed I should be. But even someone as stupid as me eventually learns. 
This would not have been a problem, except that shortly thereafter it was announced what Countdown was counting down to, and the title was renamed Countdown To Final Crisis.

Which itself wouldn’t have been a problem, except that nobody had told either Morrison or Jones (both of whom had already done a great deal of work on Final Crisis itself) that this was happening, and nor had the people working on Countdown been given more than the most cursory idea of what Final Crisis involved. So where the big shock in the first issue of Final Crisis was that one of the New Gods (a collection of immortal characters created by Jack Kirby) had been killed, throughout Countdown New Gods had been being killed off left, right, and centre, and there’d even been a Countdown spinoff series entitled Death Of The New Gods, in which all the New Gods had already been killed.

This led to a lot of anger from comics readers, who realised that they had bought fifty-two or more terrible comics, at a few dollars apiece, on the promise that they would lead into a story which manifestly had no connection with them. And they decided to blame the new comic for not fitting in with the previous ones.

This problem was compounded by the fact that Final Crisis itself really doesn’t work like a standard superhero crossover. It doesn’t really tell a linear story at all, as such, but rather acts almost as a collage, fragments of story colliding and implying something vaster that is never clearly displayed. That’s not to say that it’s a particularly difficult story, in any way – at its heart is a very simple story of goodies and baddies, with Superman and Batman defeating Darkseid and Mandrakk The Dark Monitor. It’s not particularly subtle – it’s bombastic and Wagnerian, and all told in primary colours – it just requires a very slightly different set of reading tools to those required by other superhero comics, and many of the audience weren’t expecting that.

Ultimately, Final Crisis’ failure is a failure of marketing far more than of the work itself. Fillet steak may be nice, but if the customer thinks they’re ordering a hamburger, they may well still be disappointed, especially if you punch them in the mouth for fifty-two weeks in a row first.
But no matter the reason, it was still, ultimately, a failure. But it’s one I love.

So Many Times Faster Than The Speed Of Sound That Our Words Couldn’t Catch Up

While Final Crisis was promoted as one of DC Comics’ endless series of Crises, and as a sequel to those other stories (and it made a nod at that with its fifty-two Monitors, a multiplicity replacing the singular Monitor of Crisis On Infinite Earths ), it really had very little to do with those earlier comics.
Rather, it’s part of a story that Grant Morrison has been telling since he first started working for DC Comics in the late 1980s. It builds on threads from Morrison’s run on Batman, which had started a couple of years later and would continue for another five years, but also on his Seven Soldiers maxi-series, which in turn built on elements from his JLA series of the mid-1990s.

Most of the elements that he uses in Final Crisis come originally from the work of Jack Kirby. Kirby is one of the most important creative figures in comics history, and created or co-created, amongst others, Captain America, the Challengers of the Unknown, the Avengers, Thor, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, the Silver Surfer, the X-Men, and far too many more to name. It’s not even a slight exaggeration to say that Kirby’s imagination was worth many billions of dollars – sadly almost none going to Kirby himself.

After spending the 1960s pretty much single-handedly creating everything that everyone liked about Marvel comics, the early 70s saw Kirby move to DC after a falling out with his editor and co-writer Stan Lee. Once at DC, he began what was to be his greatest work, the Fourth World saga.
The Fourth World was an epic story that took place over four separate comics, all written and drawn by Kirby; New Gods, The Forever People, Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, and Mister Miracle. Each of these titles could be read independently, but when taken together they told a story of a war between the Gods that had left them destroyed, and replaced with new Gods – those on New Genesis, such as Highfather and Lightray, and those on the desolate hellhole of Apokolips, like DeSaad, Verner Von Vunderbar, and their leader, Darkseid.

The Fourth World series didn’t sell as well as was hoped, and they were all cancelled midway through Kirby’s planned story, but the characters and ideas had a much wider appeal. George Lucas clearly based Darth Vader at least in part on Darkseid (the other parts were based on Doctor Doom, another Kirby creation), and the idea that Luke Skywalker was secretly Vader’s son, raised by his enemies, seems to have been inspired by The Pact, in which it is revealed that Highfather and Darkseid swapped sons.

Darkseid became, in fact, so popular that he was hugely overexposed in the 1980s in comics by talents that were almost unimaginably less than Kirby’s. It got so bad that in Keith Giffen’s parody series Ambush Bug, every issue ended with a “shock reveal” of Darkseid as the cliffhanger, so overused was this among the supposedly serious titles DC were publishing.

One of the things that Grant Morrison did so well in his 1990s run on JLA was to get to the core of the concepts Kirby had created for the Fourth World, and to blow away decades worth of accumulated cruft, revealing their true brilliance. In particular, he saw the core of Darkseid, and his quest for the Anti-Life Equation which would let him subjugate the whole universe to his will: 
 I will remake the entire universe in the image of my soul, Desaad… and when at last I turn to look upon the eternal desolation I have wrought… I will see Darkseid, as in a mirror… and know what fear is. 
Most villains in genre fiction from the 1940s through about 1980 were thinly-disguised Nazis, but Kirby, who was a Jewish liberal who had served in World War II, had a real horror of Nazis that went far beyond creating mere jackbooted thugs – his art combined a Wagnerian feel for the epic and mythical with a Manichean sense of good and evil, and the result was probably best described by Marc Singer: 
 Thanos lays bare its psychosexual death drive, and brilliantly, but Darkseid is a more mature, more psychologically stable, and therefore far more threatening figure: imagine a Hitler who’s both physically intimidating and not the slightest bit insane. Darkseid is what Hitler wanted to be, the visions he sold to himself in his sleep made real. A walking dream, or nightmare, of total control. 
Morrison returned Darkseid to that character in his JLA run, after decades of Darkseid being a character who would turn up to be beaten up by Superman. He took the setting of Apokolips and made it feel genuinely apocalyptic, and gave Kirby’s creations a power they had lacked since Kirby’s original run on the titles had come to its abrupt end.

This had continued with Seven Soldiers, Morrison’s series of seven interconnected titles, each of which could be read separately, but which built up to a greater whole. One title there, Mister Miracle, had seemed to be almost disconnected from the rest of the titles, as if it was dealing with something even bigger, lurking in the background while the rest of the story was taking place. That title, of course, was the one that dealt most directly with Kirby’s creations (though two other Seven Soldiers miniseries, Klarion and The Manhattan Guardian, were also based on Kirby characters), and it introduced a radically new version of the New Gods that still fit thematically with everything that had gone before.
The hints at a bigger context, present throughout Mister Miracle, which had been published between November 2005 and May 2006, finally paid off in Final Crisis, which is the story of what happens after the New Gods have gone to war and destroyed themselves, and of how some of them come back, and of the true context behind the War in Heaven.

It’ll Prove I’m Absolutely Right About Absolutely Everything

So what’s it about? 

Well, it starts with an immortal time-traveller, one who quests for knowledge and has a strange morality barely comprehensible to humans, bringing fire to the first humans and so giving one faction a technological advantage against its enemies.

It ends with the survivor of a war over the nature of reality itself, plummeting back through time and arriving alone and lost.

The story takes place in the aftershock of a war which has altered the very shape of reality, a war which was over before we become aware of it, and is about the fight with the evil that survived it; a fascistic, controlling, malevolent evil with no redeeming features whatsoever.

“There’s no such thing as infallibility in this universe, Malet Dasim: I’d have noticed.”

It’s about control, and about the way ideas control us.

It’s about the Omega offensive and black holes.

It’s about how life is all about change, and growth, and the fire of the new, and how the opposite of life is authoritarianism, despair, depression, suicide.

“Have you any idea how easy it is for a God to hollow out a living mind and hide in the bleeding shell?”

It’s about that evil taking over everyone on Earth, turning every single human being into an extension of himself, with one mind and one will.

It’s about how life is pain, but it’s the pain that comes with freedom, and the solution to that pain is nonexistence or blind obedience, which causes a numbness which is worse than the pain.
It’s about how ideas matter.

“The horrific potential of a single stray thought to completely alter reality”

It’s about how ageing brings a corruption of the physical body.

It’s about entropy, and how decay is inevitable, but that very decay is what gives us freedom.

“What happens in a world where good has lost its perpetual struggle with evil? ”

It’s about two humanoid talking tigers having a huge fight.

It’s about how the drudgery of factory work feels like selling your soul.

“Stop!  You must be supercool to proceed! ”

It’s about bringing the Flash back from the dead to fulfill DC’s editorial mandate.

It’s about putting information needed to understand what’s going on in a 3D spinoff comic rather than the main story.

“When have any of these young wasters ever faced a monster bent on turning Tokyo into a radioactive toilet? ”

It’s about tying up twenty years of Grant Morrison’s unfinished plot threads in a neat bow.

It’s about superhero comics as commentary on other superhero comics.

“Splintered like light through a prism in an infinite number of deaths”

It’s about how the choices we make determine whole multiverses.

But it’s also about trying to push the boundaries of the superhero event comic just a little further than it had previously gone. It requires a certain amount of intelligence from the reader. That damned sadist Morrison is trying to make his readers think. Not a lot – I don’t want to give the impression that this is the comics equivalent of Finnegans Wake. It’s just a story that assumes that the reader is an active, rather than a passive, one; one with basic inferential skills, who can pick up contextual clues so that not every tedious punch has to be shown on-panel. 

It’s an experiment in telling an information-dense story by relying on the readers’ knowledge of the characters and situations – Morrison and the artists working with him can show Mirror Master or Talky Tawny or Black Canary in one or two panels and assume that the reader knows what sorts of things they’ll be getting up to the rest of the time. 

But unfortunately, even this small amount of variation from the established norms of superheroic storytelling caused a massive amount of confusion. Googling “Final Crisis incomprehensible” gets 129,000 results. TVTropes says “Reading it in its original form was confusing at best, incomprehensible at worst.” 

In the few years immediately before Final Crisis DC had made a lot of mistakes, but they’d also produced a surprisingly large number of genuinely interesting comics. Slowly but surely, over the next few years, everything interesting in DC’s line has been weeded out and replaced with identical dull tortured heroes doing nothing. Final Crisis seems to have been the point at which DC editorial decided that experimentation and creator-driven stories were a bad idea, and at which they started to put together the plan for “the New 52”, the production line of editorially-driven crossover fodder that today masquerades as a comic line. It seems to have been the point at which they decided that their audience really weren’t readers, but purely consumers.

It’s the point at which Darkseid won.

New 52 = Loneliness + Alienation + Fear + Despair + Self-Worth / Mockery / Condemnation / Misunderstanding

All is one in DC Comics.

Dan Didio is. 

Comments

Marionette 3 years, 6 months ago

Supergirl didn't get better, she stayed dead. Ten years later someone else took the name, and it wasn't until 2005 (iirc) that they retconned the character and completely started over.

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Marionette 3 years, 6 months ago

Oh, and there was no Supergirl at the time of Zero Hour. You're thinking of Power Girl.

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Eric Martin 3 years, 6 months ago

It's hard to imagine what DC would have done differently if Zor and Darkseid had won within the narrative. The systematic demolition of the toys GM and friends had been playing with is the most maddening bit of editorial malice in my (admittedly short) comics-reading life. It's like they looked at 'Civil War' and thought that was a good idea for a permanent status-quo.

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Deep Space Transmissions 3 years, 6 months ago

There was another Supergirl introduced shortly after John Byrne's Superman run just a couple of years after Crisis on Infinite Earths. She came from the Time Trapper's pocket universe, also home to a 'fake' Superboy who inspired the post-Crisis Legion of Super Heroes. Zero Hour wiped out the pocket universe (and the entirety of the Legion's continuity) but Supergirl remained. She was (mostly) the character that featured in the Peter David Supergirl series from the late 90's.

The Power Girl thing in Zero Hour was atrocious though. "What this character needs is for her backstory to be inexplicably wound up in Arion, Lord of Atlantis continuity", said no-one, ever.

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Alan 3 years, 6 months ago

The biggest problem with the original Crisis is that they didn't have the guts to go all the way. Wonder Woman got a total reboot that through out the previous 50 years of continuity. Superman got a soft reboot with a series of mini-series that were set "a few years ago" but still largely kept Superman's place as the preeminent superhero, though a lot of his prior continuity was shot and his power was diminished from its previous godlike levels. Batman continued on completely unaffected by the Crisis. The JSA was preserved even though most of its cast should have died of old age by then. They got around that with some nonsense about the JSA going to Valhalla to fight Hitler and the Spear of Destiny (I think, it's been a while). Hawkman, Power Girl and the Legion, as you said, were a disaster and still are 25 years later. If they were sweeping away the old continuity, they should have scrapped it all and done a company-wide reboot. But Batman was still selling well (the only thing that was) and they didn't want to give that up.

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Alan 3 years, 6 months ago

At least it wasn't as bad as what Marvel did to GM after he left New X-Men. First, they replaced him with people who literally did not understand the ending of GM's last story arc (and especially that part pertaining to Cassandra Nova). Then, Brian Michael Bendis ended Avengers Disassembled with Dr. Strange showing up to announce that there was absolutely no such thing as chaos magick. Any guesses who the most prominent real world proponent of chaos magick is?

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Scott 3 years, 6 months ago

Holy crap, that Ralph Dibny blog is one of the funniest things I've read all year.

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Daibhid C 3 years, 6 months ago

That was a brilliant article, and I totally agree with you about Final Crisis.

But I don't totally despise the New 52. Grant Morrison, until recently, was still there, not only being given special dispensation to ignore the reboot as much as possible to finish his Batman saga, but also allowed to reinvent Superman's early years - where he reignites the long forgotten original Seigel and Shuster concept the same way he did Kirby's ideas. Other creators who don't fit DC's cookie-cutter mentality have also been allowed in at the edges - most notably China Mieville's Dial H. And Gail Simone is still there, doing her bit to prevent the entire DC line being horribly sexist. I'm even kind of enjoying the current Great Big Crossover.

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Steven Clubb 3 years, 6 months ago

The biggest problem with Crisis is anyone thought it was necessary at all.

Of course DC was going to back away from the idea of a total reboot, because only a couple of titles "needed" one. In the years leading up to Crisis, DC had managed to put together a handful of hits (notably Teen Titans, but Alan Moore's Swamp Thing shouldn't be ignored), Batman had weathered every storm thrown at it, Legion of Super-Heroes had a dedicated fanbase which enjoyed its long history, nothing wrong with Green Lantern. Flash needed some help, but the sort of help that is generally called good, exciting story telling.

In the end, DC was successfully rebranded with the rebooting of exactly two titles... and, frankly, neither needed any sort of rebooting since no one can really point to anything particularly wrong with either title. The rebooting ended up being a way to attract super-star talent to the titles with the promise of letting them do whatever they wanted, and the success of that decision helped raise the entire DCU as DC made the conscious decision to trust the talent.

Rebooting is this horrible idea which has attached itself to Fan Consciousness, something which few fans seem to have thought through. Rebooting is something to do when you've painted yourself in a corner, when you can no longer simply return to the standard status quo because you've burnt all the bridges between here and there. It's what happens when you find yourself with President Bruce Wayne with an Army of Bat-Soldiers at his command and absolutely everyone just wants him back on the streets of Gotham beating the snot out of The Joker and there's absolutely no way to get back to where he belongs.

And you don't punish the fans of Superman during one of his greatest runs because the writers of Batman turned out to be complete idiots. And that's the sort of thinking which is the problem of the Total Reboot. Teen Titans and Swamp Thing didn't need a reboot in the 80s, Green Lantern didn't need a reboot a few years ago. Forcing any of these titles to throw out the history they've built for what is essentially a marketing stunt is beyond stupid and creates a lot of bad will.

Want to see how bad it can get, look no further than the Legion of Super-Heroes, which have rebooted themselves so many times that their once loyal fanbase are nothing but a distant memory and fans will actively stay away during good runs because they know DC will kill their Continuity at the first hint of sluggish sales, because they've done that three or four times already.

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Jordan Murphy 3 years, 6 months ago

Great article. I enjoyed Final Crisis, and 52 even more. But in retrospect it was like warming myself on the dying embers of the creative fires that revitalized DC in the mid-80s. It may have been unnecessary and a bad precedent, but al least COIE led to a creative flowering at the company that led to such gems as Dark Knight, Year One, Perez' Wonder Woman, and the proto-Vertigo books happening, to name just a few. Heck, even the dreadful Zero Hour in the 90s gave us the sublime Starman.
I also lament that Hypertime never took root. DC would have been much better served by just accepting its contradictions (something Doctor Who generally does quite well, incidentally), then by trying to steamroll them into submission, over and over and over.

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timber-munki 3 years, 6 months ago

This article pretty much sums up my feelings on Final Crisis. It's a flawed masterpiece. Speaking as someone who's triple dipped on it (original floppies, hardback & absolute version) you could say I'm kind of invested in it and the malice that came out toward it when it ended I find baffling.

I've always approached it as a story to create in comic fans the sense of confusion none-comic fans could get if they pick up one of the big two's comics nowadays trying to re-capture their childhood experience. The first few issues I think are akin to Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard's 'spiralling' Joker sections of The Dark Knight soundtrack, that sense of things spinning out of control is captured perfectly.

It's failings are ultimately out of Morrison, Jones or the other artists control and in my opinion should be laid firmly at DC editorial. That the are still there (And some have been elevated within the organisation's structure) and the generally poor quality of the company's current output are I think no coincidence

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 6 months ago

"In the two years since Flashpoint, DC Comics has put out many comics by sexual harasser Scott Lobdell, and a bunch of prequels to Watchmen written and drawn by people who don’t have enough reading comprehension to understand the original."

This is just nasty. To call Darwyn Cooke, Brian Azzarello and J. Michael Straczynski illiterate is unnecessary. Normally I would have been happy to read a guest article. Anyone Doctor Sandifer asks to post on his blog is worth reading. But that comment soured an otherwise nice post.

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Spoilers Below 3 years, 6 months ago

"So, finally, it's not that Morrison overestimated my intelligence - me, specifically, as a reader. It's that he overestimated my ability to care about putting together all the pieces when about half the comic was missing. And I'm not talking about the parts that were in crossovers, I mean the pages that must have fallen out of my issue that told me what the fuck was actually going on. I'm not stupid, but you know, I just don't feel like I want to exercise the same set of muscles on Final Crisis that I do for Absalom, Absalom. If you want to do that, fine, but I just don't want to do that. Some people live to put up long annotations of these comics, and God bless them, I wouldn't have understood Superman Beyond if I hadn't spent a couple hours piecing together the commentary. But, really, why? No more wire hangers, dammit. I'd rather just go read Absalom, Absalom again, instead of reading someone else's doctoral thesis on the metafictional narrative superstructure of DC Comics. Read some Foucault, don't tell me about Teh Day Evilz Won until you've got Discipline and Punish under your belt."

--Tim O'Neil, http://whenwillthehurtingstop.blogspot.com/2009/02/stuff-i-read-final-crisis-7-its-not.html

And that, really, was my problem also. When I finished, I couldn't really see what the point was. Superman didn't save the comic book universe ("The New 52! Wheee!"), he certainly hasn't saved the real world, and he did a much better job being an inspirational, aspirational, and divine figure in All-Star Superman. If I wanted to wallow in the excesses of nihilism and human depravity, I've got copies of 1984, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, The Story of O, and 120 Days of Sodom on my shelf. I don't need stone faced dudes with mind control helmets and magic equations to teach me about Real Evil any more than I need to photoshop cartoon ponies into Warsaw ghetto photography to teach me about empathy.

I understood the comic just fine. I even reread it when it was over to see if I had missed something. I even bought the hardcover trade when it came out, to see if reading Resist and Superman Beyond enhanced the reading experience. I was disappointed all the more. For all the effort and "Look it...!"s and background magnifying glass application, the overall message of the book was astoundingly hollow. Simply mentioning something in passing is not the same as actually addressing it. Resolving something you introduced two pages ago as though it were an epic struggle isn't really effective storytelling. Smashing your action figures together is not the same as confronting two philosophical systems in a meaningful way that gives the reader a broader understanding of the conflict behind them and the author's feelings on the subject. Disjointed storytelling or complicated structure needs to be worth the effort to decode. It's the reason why, for example, many recommend skipping Beelzebub's Tales of to His Grandson and going straight to Meetings with Remarkable Men, because the intentionally tortured prose and overwrought sentence structure of Tales just isn't worth it, authorial intent or not.

There were a lot of interesting ideas, but the execution was quite poor. More and better editing could have made this an interesting story. Morrison was capable of so much more than this, and his rather negative reaction to the fans who complained about the book didn't do the work any favors. Perpetual climax assumes that the ending is the point, but the ending is never the point. Wasn't that one of the points he was trying to make?

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jsd 3 years, 6 months ago

I have enjoyed precisely 2 things in DC's New 52. Dial H, as you mention, was unbelievably clever and fun. Of course, it was cancelled. J.H Williams III's art on Batwoman was predictably fantastic. Of course, he's no longer on the book due to DC's unwillingness to show a happy lesbian marriage.

Make mine Marvel?

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Anton B 3 years, 6 months ago

Supergirl didn't get better, she stayed dead. Ten years later someone else took the name, and it wasn't until 2005 (iirc) that they retconned the character and completely started over
Oh, and there was no Supergirl at the time of Zero Hour. You're thinking of Power Girl.
There was another Supergirl introduced shortly after John Byrne's Superman run just a couple of years after Crisis on Infinite Earths. She came from the Time Trapper's pocket universe, also home to a 'fake' Superboy who inspired the post-Crisis Legion of Super Heroes. Zero Hour wiped out the pocket universe (and the entirety of the Legion's continuity) but Supergirl remained. She was (mostly) the character that featured in the blah blah blah etc and so on...


Oh dear. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. but the above quotes demonstrate possibly the most depressing examples of replies to a post which completely miss the point of the article I've ever read. Do you think Hickey gives a shit about which Supergirl is canon? Hickey actually and painstakingly took a number of paragraphs to point out that it was exactly this kind of DC continuity porn that Morrison's work on 52 and Final Crisis was trying to tell us didn't mean squat only to have his efforts continually unwritten by DC writers who cared more about sales and demographics than innovation and imagination and fans who didn't want intelligent comics just guys hitting eachother and Superchicks with big boobs sticking their asses out.

Even when Morrison took the other tack with his work on Batman- effectively saying "okay you want continuity? Here, everything that has ever appeared in a Batman comic really happened to this one guy over a period of ten years, including the wacky aliens and bonkers giant props of the Silver Age and the grimngritty detective of the seventies and the insane vigilante of the eighties. It's all the same guy. And this is how." Fandom complained and whined and moaned that you couldn't understand what Morrison was writing. It was simple. Morrison was writing a love poem to comics. DC's response was to write a continuing suicide note.

I was excited to carry on reading about the aftermath of Superman singing the universe better and Batman ricocheting through time leaving clues for his friends to find so they could rescue him. What a shame DC gave us 'The NEW 52' just like the old 52 but worse. Much worse. I haven't bought a DC comic in two years. Hickey has it spot on - Dan Didio is Darkseid and he won.

Not only that but Hickey mirrors the post modern fragmentation of the narrative of Final Crisis in the structure of his article. He assumes,an engagement from the reader and leads us into the spiralling chaos of the DC multiverse and Hypertime only to leave us, via a series of statements, quotes and references, abandoned
and sad in the 'Loneliness + Alienation + Fear + Despair + Self-Worth / Mockery / Condemnation / Misunderstanding of Didio's world of non creativity where all we can do is nit-pick.over which Supergirl is canon. As Ambush Bug would say - Sheesh!

Finally let me ask you to imagine what if...
What if someone came along and did the same to our show, to Doctor Who. Took all the poetry and romance and humour and angst and camp and timey wimey paradoxes and references (Pop Culture and otherwise) and sheer exuberant LOVE of the show of Moffat's reign and said 'Oh yes that's all very good, we like all that and we're going to carry on that story so keep watching...And then replaced it with a Doctor who beats up monsters every week because he's a good guy and is searching for his father or some other half-baked misunderstood Campbellian fake epic nonsense which insults its audience and licensed any number of pieces of metchandise which didn't actually bear any relationship to the show because hey, it's just shit that kids like and no-one really cares do they?

That.

Great post Mr. Hickey.

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Marionette 3 years, 6 months ago

I happen to be very fond of silver age Supergirl, so excuse me if I care that an essay gets its factual information correct on a subject I'm interested in.

The thing is, if I'm reading something and the writer gets things wrong that I know about, how can I trust them getting their facts right on subjects I am less familiar with?

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Anton B 3 years, 6 months ago

Apologies Marionette, I used your comment and Deep Space Transmissions' as a springboard for my rant. I love Silver Age Supergirl too. I also admire Morrison's writing and get annoyed when people (not specifically you) misunderstand what he tries to do.

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Ciaran M 3 years, 6 months ago

Maybe I'm just reading the wrong Morrison, but this very neatly summarises a lot of my experiences with his work, especially: 'Simply mentioning something in passing is not the same as actually addressing it.'

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John Seavey 3 years, 6 months ago

Speaking as an eight-year-old during the period leading up to the original 'Crisis on Infinite Earths': No, it was absolutely necessary, and all the geeks who said that DC continuity was an overcomplicated mess were absolutely right. Every issue of every title they were publishing had gone so far down the rabbit hole of continuity that I didn't even understand what I didn't understand--so many Superman stories relied on Superman interacting with other Kryptonians that a new reader like me, who took it as read that Superman was the Last Son of Krypton, was thoroughly confused. It is no coincidence that I didn't start reading DC titles regularly until after COIE.

And while you might say that Morrison was blamed for the marketing failures of DC and the badness of 'Countdown'...it's not like he said anything about it at the time, did he? He conveniently waited until the money was in DC's pockets before mentioning that, oh, by the way, none of those tie-ins were important or worth buying and why were people getting so upset that his title didn't connect to all of them? He managed to keep his outrage a total silence until it was time to direct it at those goddamn readers who expected him to keep the bargain he'd implicitly signed.

(And even discounting the tie-ins...you don't title something "FINAL CRISIS" and then give it an ending which has no finality, not without expecting people to get ticked at you. If I title a comic "THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN", and it ends with Superman getting into a tough fight and surviving, I have misled my readers even if DC didn't also sell twenty-seven other comics that were tie-ins to the story. Because, you know, Superman didn't die. "FINAL CRISIS" implies, by its very nature, the last crisis it is possible to have. When that didn't happen, readers got rightfully annoyed. Defend the comprehensibility of the story if you want, decry DC's subsequent output quite fairly, but don't pretend Morrison was somehow utterly innocent of all wrongdoing here.)

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Alan 3 years, 6 months ago

I can see how a reboot was necessary in 1985. IIRC, Superman and Wonder Woman were flailing. Green Lantern was fairly moribund. Flash (the flagship character of the Silver Age) was about to be cancelled. The JLA was in Detroit. Only Batman and Teen Titans were really selling well among mainstream superheroes. (Swamp Thing sold, but it was pretty much off in its own private Moore-verse).

I mean, the reboot could have worked out fine if they'd just planned it a little better. The reboots for Superman, Wonder Woman and Flash all worked well, while Green Lantern and Batman survived mostly unscathed. What undermined it was really all the things they refused to let go of out of nostalgia. Wonder Girl suddenly predates Wonder Woman by about a decade. Supergirl is erased from continuity, but they bizarrely insist on keeping Power Girl (Earth 2 Supergirl). Then, almost immediately, Supergirl comes back, but she's now this weird, shapeshifting artificial lifeform created by the Time Trapper as part of a hideously overcomplicated effort to preserve LSH continuity (which, frankly, was drowning in silliness and probably needed to be completely rebuilt from the ground up). And don't even get me started on Hawkman.

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Iain Coleman 3 years, 6 months ago

Christ, this post makes me glad I'm not a comics fan. Indeed, it makes me wonder why anyone's a comics fan. (And by "comics", of course I mean DC and Marvel comics about people in skintight suits punching each other.)

I mean, all those crises and reboots and reconciliations... I got tired just reading about them. What must it have been like following it issue by issue? And paying for the privilege?

Batman is a guy who dresses up like a bat and punches criminals, right? So why not just tell stories about a guy who dresses up like a bat and punches criminals? Isn't that what Batman fans first fell in love with? Certainly that's what I remember enjoying, when I used to read Batman comics when I was eight. Why does today's story about a guy who dresses up as a bat and punches criminals need to have anything to do with some story published ages ago about a guy who dresses up like a bat and punches criminals?

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Alan 3 years, 6 months ago

In DC's (partial) defense, I just don't think they want to show any sort of happy marriage. They broke up Clark and Lois, as well as the Flash and Iris, and they killed off Ralph and Sue Dibny. I can't think of any major DC characters that are still married. I blame Joe Quesada -- he was the one who showed that readers will accept any sort of nonsensical reboot if the resulting stories are good enough.

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Alan 3 years, 6 months ago

I was never a huge fan of Supergirl (if nothing else, the whole "super horse" thing made it hard to take her seriously). But to kill her off in one of the most powerful moments in DC comics history and then bring her back (conceptually at least) in such an incredibly inept way was just ... stupid. And then, when the revived Supergirl doesn't sell, they do what may be the silliest soft reboot in comics history and announce that, no, she's not a time-traveling, shapeshifting android ... she's an angel!

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Ciaran M 3 years, 6 months ago

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Alan 3 years, 6 months ago

Batman is a guy who dresses up like a bat and punches criminals, right? So why not just tell stories about a guy who dresses up like a bat and punches criminals? Isn't that what Batman fans first fell in love with?

Largely, they do. Batman's continuity has changed the least of any major DC character precisely because the concept is so strong and has had little need of modification to attract new readers. In comparison though, Superman (at the time of COIE) was that guy who had godlike powers but was still struggling against the Prankster and Toyman and who had a flying superdog (and whose cousin, whose people independently discovered the mini-skirt, had a flying superhorse).

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Spoilers Below 3 years, 6 months ago

Because somewhere along the lines some wires got crossed, and complexity and intelligence became synonyms. If a story is difficult to understand, it must therefore be good. And if there were all these old stories that were good, if I reference those, and use all the characters from those stories, it'll make my story good without the effort of having to come up with something original myself. Deadlines and all, and honestly, this paycheck isn't worth my best work anyhow.

And anyways, that's what Joyce was doing with Ulysses, right? Just rewriting some old poem and making it more difficult to read?

It's actually not bad at all if you're following it week to week. It's rather like watching a soap opera (read: exactly the same), in that you get drawn into the world and familiar with all the characters and their relationships and what they are currently up to. It's when you've been absent for a while, or are looking for a good jumping on point that it's tricky.

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Ciaran M 3 years, 6 months ago

This year I attempted to follow two comics monthly.

It is a terrible, terrible experience, and I genuinely can't understand why anyone puts themselves through it.

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Alan 3 years, 6 months ago

One thing about Zero Hour: while the miniseries and most of what sprang from it were dreck, it did give us James Robinson's Starman, IMO the best superhero deconstruction in comics history.

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Iain Coleman 3 years, 6 months ago

Superman (at the time of COIE) was that guy who had godlike powers but was still struggling against the Prankster and Toyman and who had a flying superdog (and whose cousin, whose people independently discovered the mini-skirt, had a flying superhorse).

That sounds like jolly good fun.

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Iain Coleman 3 years, 6 months ago

I can see how a reboot was necessary in 1985. IIRC, Superman and Wonder Woman were flailing. Green Lantern was fairly moribund. Flash (the flagship character of the Silver Age) was about to be cancelled. The JLA was in Detroit. Only Batman and Teen Titans were really selling well among mainstream superheroes. (Swamp Thing sold, but it was pretty much off in its own private Moore-verse).

It's not my fandom, so apologies if I'm missing something obvious, but wouldn't the natural thing to do under these circumstances be to stop making Superman, Wonder Woman and Flash comics, make Batman, Teen Titans and Swamp Thing the flagship lines, and develop some new series to replace the cancelled ones?

(Then, after a few years, if fans are really clamouring for Superman, hire the best writer you can get and have them definitively reinvent Superman for a new era. If successful, repeat with Wonder Woman etc)

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ferret 3 years, 6 months ago

In defence of comics of the DC and Marvel ilk, there is some very good material out there - and for me it's mostly the stuff that manages to stay self-contained or appears to be to the unknowing eye, such as "Planet Hulk" (2006-2007) which saw that mainstream character on a different planet away from any other Marvel concerns. Sometimes it's stuff like "All Star Superman" (2005-2008) that intentionally takes place outside of continuity, and gets to tell a proper beginning-middle-end tale.

Often it's the lesser characters that skirt around the edges of the mainstream, such as Daredevil (the Bendis and Brubaker runs 2001-2009), Iron Fist (Brubaker again, 2006 - 2009) and John Constantine in "Hellblazer" (1988-2013) - they seem to stay somewhat immune to the complications of the major titles and crossover events, even if they feature in the crossovers it rarely seems to affect their own title much.

I follow exclusively via Graphic Novels, which means I can wait to see if a complete run gets good word-of-mouth or not, do some research before I buy. Oh goodness, except for The Phantom (Frew Publishing, Australia) but that's a very different beast.

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Ross 3 years, 6 months ago

"Continuity is a big overcomplicated mess" was indeed a problem. But "So let's toss it and start over" is not a very good solution, especially when "Let's just stop worrying about it" will suffice.

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Sean Case 3 years, 6 months ago

The flaw with this scheme is that they can't stop publishing Wonder Woman. If her title goes out of print, the rights revert to the Marston estate.

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Philip Sandifer 3 years, 6 months ago

I have heard this story before. I don't buy it. Her title was out of print for months in the 80s. It ended in March of 1986, had a miniseries that ran from May to August, and then was out of print again until February 1987. I think this is an urban legend cooked up to explain why DC has stuck with the character through several periods of low sales.

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John Seavey 3 years, 6 months ago

I think it's tremendously optimistic of you to believe that DC's writers and editors could be induced to "just stop worrying about it". Roy Thomas was almost done with a 50+ issue magnum opus that tied up every loose end in the Golden Age chronology of Earth-One; he quit DC over the break. Jeph Loeb, Mark Waid and Grant Morrison, arguably three of DC's most influential writers, have spent their entire careers lobbying to undo Crisis (and for all that Morrison is seen as an avant-garde modernist, 'Final Crisis' is resolved with a deus ex machina that's nothing more than a giant nerd shout-out to 60s Legion). Even Geoff Johns, architect of the New 52, spent years bringing back Hawkman and Barry Allen and Hal Jordan. The idea that DC was ever just going to snap out of their love affair with nostalgia and start writing more self-contained stuff just doesn't wash with me. Drastic measures were needed...and frankly, looking back on the decade that immediately followed COIE and the huge creative renaissance on just about every title, drastic measures worked. If DC had had the editorial gumption to stick to its new direction instead of slowly sliding back into Silver Age nostalgia, they might be in better shape today. And Grant "You know what was awesome? Zurr-En-Arrh!" Morrison has always been part of the problem.

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Daru 3 years, 6 months ago

"It ends with the survivor of a war over the nature of reality itself, plummeting back through time and arriving alone and lost.

The story takes place in the aftershock of a war which has altered the very shape of reality, a war which was over before we become aware of it, and is about the fight with the evil that survived it; a fascistic, controlling, malevolent evil with no redeeming features whatsoever."

Great descriptor of New Who for me. Intended?

Wow. First - Thanks Phil for setting up this great post! I have found it exciting reading you Andrew and also reading the comments, especially as I am not an avid main-line comics reader - or for that matter currently any really. So for that reason no particular attachment to the issues raised by some as to whether things are right or wrong, what's brilliant (except - I did think the Watchmen prequels were dire & had no connection as literature to the original). So a total pleasure to read and get absorbed in your text and I really, really enjoyed the overview of a series I will never read.

I used be a big reader when younger (of any DC/Marvel). Then I gravitated to Dark Horse, standalone graphic novels, and especially loved Swamp Thing, Alan Moore, Hellblazer, Yummy Fur, folk like Matt Howarth and random genre breaking experimental art-stuff, etc.

So thanks for such a great article. Your final points were why in the end I gave up buying into the bloated comic book market and long before that, into superhero based tales. I do still love graphic novels no and am just more choosy about which I would buy. As an artist & storyteller, I really do adore the exploration of storytelling & narrative in a visual form mashed up with text.

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Daru 3 years, 6 months ago

@ Spoilers Below - This is why I love this blog! Great to hear Gurdjieff mentioned, especially Beelzebub. That is quite a book, certainly an experience and not only designed to be troublesome prose, but to be near impenetrable for the mind so as to force the reader into potentially experiencing a mind altering inner revelation.

I never finished it.

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Anton B 3 years, 6 months ago

sigh...

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Daru 3 years, 6 months ago

Aye

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Anton B 3 years, 6 months ago

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Anton B 3 years, 6 months ago

'Superman (at the time of COIE) was that guy who had godlike powers but was still struggling against the Prankster and Toyman and who had a flying superdog (and whose cousin, whose people independently discovered the mini-skirt, had a flying superhorse).'

That sounds like jolly good fun.


Brilliant fun. And exactly what Grant Morrison loves about the characters. This is why his All Star Superman is such a joyous creation. Other comics industry writers however disagree and relentlessly plough the 'superhero as Grim and Gritty Vigilante' furrow dug by Frank Miller in his work on Batman for DC and Daredevil for Marvel. This approach may arguably work for Batman (though Morrison's recently concluded revisionist and record breaking continuous run on the character would disprove this) but to apply it to Superman is disastrous and leads to miserable dreck like the movie . It's one of many possible ways of looking at super powered folks but should not be allowed to predominate. This is what Morrison was attempting to show in Final Crisis. The scene of Superman singingeverything better after it seemed all was lost to despair was both ridiculous and uplifting and will live with me forever. but it cannot possibly be understood if one can't enjoy Toyman and Prankster or a mini-skirted Supergirl and her magic horse and would prefer all conflict to be resolved by punching someone through a wall.

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Andrew Hickey 3 years, 6 months ago

I'm afraid I can't take much of an active part in the discussion over this post, because of Christmas stuff, but I just want to say two things.
Firstly "she got better" was by way of being a joke. Yes, she didn't actually rise from the dead, but there is now, and has been for at least eight years, a character called Kara who is Superman's cousin, who has his powers, and who goes by the name of Supergirl.
Second, the reason Superman et al were doing badly is because they had less-than-stellar people working on them. When Alan Moore worked on the pre-Crisis Superman, he did some of the best Superman stories ever. If they'd got good people on those titles, as they largely did post-Crisis, they'd have had good results.

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Andrew Hickey 3 years, 6 months ago

I didn't say they were illiterate, I said they didn't have enough reading comprehension to understand Watchmen.
The couple of issues of those titles I read (but didn't buy) and the interviews I read with the various participants showed that they literally didn't understand the comic they had read.
Frankly, I wouldn't consider it an insult to them to say they *were* illiterate -- some people are, and that's OK. But I also consider those people fair game for insults anyway, because they chose to take part in what was an utterly morally, ethically, and artistically bankrupt project with no redeeming features whatsoever.

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Andrew Hickey 3 years, 6 months ago

And all that is, of course, perfectly fair comment. I happen to disagree, but it's addressing the actual comic (and Tim's stuff is always worth a read -- he's one of the more perceptive people in comics criticism today).

The people I was criticising were those, specifically, who said it was incomprehensible, not those who said it was merely not worth the effort.

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Andrew Hickey 3 years, 6 months ago

Just to say that Deep Space Transmissions, at least, *did* get the point of my post -- he's a friend of mine -- but was just pointing out that I wasn't "thinking of Power Girl".

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 6 months ago

But they told the creative team on Batwoman that Maggie and Kate (Batwoman) could get married. Then they were told that they could get married but no marriage could be depicted. Then they moved the goal post again to no wedding at all. They wanted to keep the creative team on Batwoman because it was one of their consistently excellent books. DC wanted to try and disguise the fact that they have been screwing over creators for the past few years and they are bleeding readers.

The case of Batwoman itself is particularly galling when you add context. When society is moving towards a model of acceptance and inclusiveness, when Marvel can manage to have a gay wedding in an A list book, DC publicly shuts down a gay marriage, kills of Alan Scott's husband right after they reveal he's gay, and say that it's the rules for everyone. When a group is discriminated against, and being a member of said group can get you eaten and killed, stands you take against their rights are significantly worse.

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Anton B 3 years, 6 months ago

I know. Perhaps I jumped to criticise too rapidly but I thought your article was fantastic Andrew and deserved a better response than nit picking over minor details. The irony of course is that I also really do love Silver Age Supergirl and so, I believe, does Morrison and possibly yourself. I know your love of the Silver Age LoSH is well documented. Anyway...Merry Xmas everybody.

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Steven Clubb 3 years, 6 months ago

[quote]I can see how a reboot was necessary in 1985. IIRC, Superman and Wonder Woman were flailing. Green Lantern was fairly moribund. Flash (the flagship character of the Silver Age) was about to be cancelled. The JLA was in Detroit. Only Batman and Teen Titans were really selling well among mainstream superheroes. (Swamp Thing sold, but it was pretty much off in its own private Moore-verse). [/quote]

And yet only two titles were rebooted.

Flash would be a rarity in the post-Crisis Universe in that it freely acknowledged the death of Barry Allen in Crisis as it revamped the title to star the former Kid Flash. The Justice League would just reassemble under a slightly different form and would even use the Detroit years for a proper dramatic pay-off between the Martian Manhunter and one of its members. Green Lantern got a new status quo with several Lanterns coming to Earth. Batman did a bit of a rejiggering of its Continuity with the Year One, Two, & Three series along with the new origin for Jason Todd, but otherwise kept its past intact. The Teen Titans slipped in a new origin for Donna Troi and picked up right where they left off (only years later when they decided her new origin was "too confusing" did the character become too confusing to use). If you get right down to it, the new DC was successful because it experienced a creative renewal, which mostly built upon its previously established Continuity. Superman's reboot was post-dated to keep problems to a minimum (it only really affected the Legion of Super-Heroes, which managed to minimize the damage until, again, DC decided stuff was too confusing and made it too confusing). Wonder Woman's hard reboot was the biggest fly in the ointment since it removed WW from JLA Continuity, but even then this wasn't much of a problem.

Neither was the post-Invasion Hawkman reboot, which, yet again, proved to be easy enough to understand until DC Editorial decided they had to "fix" it because it was too confusing and crafted something so unbelievably confusing that the character was declared radioactive.

And Power Girl... she got a new origin no one read, got put in a popular book, and became more popular than ever.

DC didn't need a reboot in 1985. It just needed some kick-ass creators to go in there and do cool stuff, which is what happened. The two reboots it did get didn't even cause too many problems until it was retroactively decided that they did cause tons of problems which could only be fixed by throwing really confusing explanations at people, which never actually fixed anything and just broke the Continuity of books like Legion of Super-Heroes and Hawkman.

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Alan 3 years, 6 months ago

The Hawkman business was just so stupid. There was a perfectly sensible explanation -- he was from Thanagar. He was ALWAYS from Thanagar. It's just that either Thanagarians live a long time or he spent time in suspended animation or some damn thing like that. His JSA adventures happened exactly as printed except that he was PRETENDING to be an archeologist who just found all his alien gear in an ancient tomb because he wasn't allowed to tell the JSA that he was an alien. But no, we get all that rubbish about white-skinned Egyptian lovers who continually reinarnate so they can find one another again, including that one time they just happened to reincarnate as aliens from a culture that revered hawk imagery. And now, my head hurts again.

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Alan 3 years, 6 months ago

Yeah, speaking as someone who genuinely believes that Wally West and Kyle Raynor are simply better and more interesting characters than Barry Allen and Hal Jordan, the fact that continuity pornographers like Geoff Johns finally won out is somewhat galling.

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Alan 3 years, 6 months ago

It's fun when you're old enough to appreciate the value of nostalgia and can be amused by something like Krypto the Superdog that was created to entertain children in the 1950's. It is less so in the 1980's when you're a teenager and most of your peers already thing comic books are childish and stupid and it's hard enough to defend comics that don't contain elements that you find embarrassing yourself.

In a similar vein, I've often thought that the chief advantage Marvel had over DC wasn't the fact that characters had more realistic personalities but rather the fact that Marvel had a superior grasp of technobabble. In Marvel, characters got powers after Cosmic Rays and Gamma Bombs induced "mutations." In DC, characters got powers because a lightning bolt struck random chemicals, thereby giving you the power to run faster than the speed of light and time travel if you had a special homemade Cosmic Treadmill. The science behind Marvel wasn't any more realistic than DC's, but at least they acknowledged that there should be something resembling science, as opposed to half-literate nonsense. YMMV.

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Steven Clubb 3 years, 6 months ago

You really have to go back to the Hawk avatar nonsense from Zero Hour which tried to "fix" Hawkman by combining every single Hawkman into one. Up until that moment, the JSA Hawkman had always been a completely separate person whose only connection to the Hawkman Continuity Knot was taking the Silver Age Hawkman's place in the JLA prior to Crisis... but, oh noes, there were two post-Crisis stories no one could figure out how to deal with, so they had to mess around some more.

Seriously, two stories. The first was a fevered dream sort of story where Hawkman takes Superman back to the blasted remains of Krypton for what is essentially a dream story where he finds a cure to Kryptonite poisoning only to realize it was just a dream and didn't work. Basically a nothing story which could easily be ignore. The second was turning off a bomb in the Animal Man Invasion cross-over. There was also some bits with Hawkman fighting in Invasion, but seeing as he was lost in a crowd, no one seemed terribly interested in complaining about those... no there was John Byrne and a Grant Morrison story which MUST BE EXPLAINED.

Those two stories brought the entire thing down. That's how utterly ridiculous the whole thing was. Two stories, two totally not important easily ignored stories, and they made Hawkman Continuity radioactive because of it. To make matters even funnier, when they finally got around to fixing Hawkman, neither story was explained so they ended up in pretty much the same place they were at the start.

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