Sunday, January 27, 2008

Raging Bullpen

I'm in the midst of the concert performances of Randy Mueller's "Dream King". It seems to be going o.k. I include here the text of a letter I e-mailed to the fine folks at Marvel comics' Spider office. As one who knows me might imagine, it's full of complainy. Enjoy. Or not.

Hiya, Mike McDevitt here.
This is my second letter to a comic. Because of fine writers and artists, an emphasis on sci-fi and comedy, and another factor, Marvel remains a cut above the competition in my view. Don't lose 'em! You see, I'm not sure I can take this lately. Millar's Reed Richards a fascist only McDuffie could redeem? David's writing a She-Hulk without a sense of humor? Strazynski's Spider-Man regressing instead of growing? A Spidey who deals with the devil? HEROES DON'T LET THE DEVIL WIN, GODDAMMIT! The Other & One More Day storylines (brilliantly written tales of love and death), left the bitter taste of Cop-Out which smacks of a DC-style reboot. I don't want another Heroes Reborn, do you?
C'mon! Pete without scars, experiences, and all that pesky True Love holding him back? F@#% THAT S***! I don't want young, single, seventies Spidey! Ultimate Spider-Man is top-notch for the young and young-at-heart. Ditto Marvel Adventures for the younger still. Let the Ultimate Universe be the trophy wife, and let the good ol' Marvel U KEEP GROWING UP! BE BRAVE. Be the first mainstream comic with heroes turning 30...40...50! Tell the titanic tale of Pete Parker's Prostate! Maybe not. But you limit the scope of your medium pandering only to the young and emotionally retarded. JMS tripled sales? But how? My guess is some of us liked the maturing Spidey. Pete had a birthday in one of those issues. It was a gem. It moved me and I faced my own 30th better after it. By behaving like an adult, Spidey helped ME in MY REAL LIFE.
I get it. I do. You hit a dilemma: young's been done and old won't sell. Steve Wacker's "old men in capes with girlfriends and permanent smiles" [I meant the DC superheroes. Mike 2009] are looking more appealing all the time because I'M HEADED THERE MYSELF. Except the far. The moral seems to be if being honest about who you are and having a family is too difficult, you should trade them away. Become a closeted, lawbreaking, layabout mooching off your aunt! That's the opposite of the Peter I want to admire and emulate. Still, Slott convinced me to stop baying for Aunt May's blood by having her working to be heroic. I enjoy it when (as in Hudlin's 'Wild Blue Yonder') May can save the day just by talking. It IS better for May and MJ not to revolve only around Pete. Still, we played "MJ and Pete break up" before and I hate it. Fix it. They should be together. Successful comic marriages are SO DAMN RARE.
Oh, hell, I can't stay mad at you guys! I'm buying anything Slott writes, aren't I? That McNiven draws good, too. And give PAD & JMS & BMB big kisses from me! Eye poke whoever up there thinks your characters shouldn't KEEP GROWING. (Except that 'Franklin Richards: Son of a Genius' which is pleasantly timeless, and that delightful 'Wolverine' who inspires all those shut-ins and nutcases.)
[Probably for good reason, Marvel never published it. But I stand by it still. Mike 2009]

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"One More Day"

Hi. J. Michael Strazynski's 'One More Day' storyline caps an excellent run on Spider-Man which, like fabled Ouroboros, eats its own tail. And most of the other snakes that were nearby.
This final coda on a brilliant Spidey tale was (obviously) a well-written, deeply moving, cop-out.
(Contains spoilers)
To sum up: JMS took a separated, depressed Peter Parker complete with secret identity. JMS explored Pete's origins and purpose with a shady mentor. He examined his life as a schoolteacher. He brought long-missing, long suffering MJ back into Pete's life in a lovely, believeable reunion. He exposed Peter's secret identity to Aunt May, (Who, far from dying of shock became an advocate for Spider-Man). He expanded Peter's circle of friends to include the Avengers, especially Iron Man whose benevolent offer of a home for Peter and his family led inexorably to Peter's fateful decision to unmask on live t.v. in support of superhero registration. Though done with his families total support, he regretted the choice immediately. Faced with the increasing fascism of the Avengers, SHIELD, the FF, the government et al, Peter tried to divorce himself from the Pro-Faction and quickly found himself with no support structure and under supervillain attack. An assassin's bullet meant for Peter struck Aunt May.
May has been dying inside a week for Peter and MJ, almost a year for the monthly reader.
Peter has lashed out at the assassin, raged against the hospital system, pled with Dr. Strange, sought every avenue, checked every possibility and it seemed the story was shaping up to Aunt May's death.
Because, honestly, May's been a frail dying old woman for 13 Peter years and 44 reader years.
I was prepared to have this be the realistic end. See Peter face a realistic tragedy.
Learn a little something while I'm entertained.
Instead, the finale gave me a DC-esque reboot that throws about 25 years of baby out with the bathwater.
Peter with MJ's reluctant consent, makes a deal with the literal devil to save May's life at the cost of erasing P & M's entire (approximately 6 comic years?) marriage, and their memory of it. It has the secondary effect of erasing their potential daughter (May 'Spider-Girl' Parker). MJ also makes a side-deal with Mephisto to put Spider-Man back in the closet worldwide in exchange for something Peter and the reader do not learn here.
I thought the story was heading for the inevitability of death and I was prepared. I lost MY Aunt. It hurts. I lashed out, too. Now I would see how a hero dealt with it.
Answer: HE DIDN'T!
He bargained with the devil to avoid a painful truth at the cost of his marriage. With great power comes... irresponsibility. Peter doesn't man up. He doesn't learn from anything or grow. In fact he erases every mature choice he's ever made.
Were I Aunt May I'd be pissed.
I would resent him saving my life at this cost.
Being sorely disappointed in Spider-Man is a new experience for me. I understand the pressure and madness of grief. I sympathize with the choice, but damn!
One word to the devil and this guy's single and drinking with his high school buddies with an aunt to feed and protect him again.
Are you jealous? Wish you could be a hero too, like this jerk? What's next, crawl back into your crib?
Man up!
But of course, Peter doesn't even remember the change. The only thing that can reverse this irresponsibility is MJ's love... but can she still give it?
I love this stuff, I do. Obviously it has me worked up. But the ding-blasted consequences!!!
JMS just erased decades of 'history'!
I like to think that sort of reboot is limited to DC where every ten years Batman is reinvented.
I like to think that Marvel's kooky attempt to keep dragging internally consistent, interlinked, extensive 'histories' down through the decades in their Marvel Universe is most of what makes them so freakin' awesome. Kudos to them, I say!
1940's Batman, 1950's Batman, 1960's Batman, 1970's Batman, 1980's Batman, 1990's Bat-Azreal, 2000's Batman- it's like 7 different guys who wouldn't know each other across the gulf of crisises, zero hours, generalized silent re-maginings, movie retcons.
Peter Parker 2007 is the same as Peter Parker 1962. Impossible as that is temporally speaking. I really, really enjoyed that this was meant to be the same person, passing (albiet incredibly slowly), from high school to college, to job, to marriage. (Even, in a brave parrallel world future that somehow lives on in Spider-Girl, parenthood).
I think that was the comic's greatest strength. Simulated life.
A reboot undermines that, I feel.
I guess I have no choice but to accept temporally choppy, inconsistent, or unpalatable changes as an inherent part of the comics medium. Probably.
Like, Bart Simpson never gets older. Nor does Archie.
Of course, I don't care about them or read their comics.
I read somewhere that comics feature only the illusion of change, but since the examples they gave were from DC comics I actually thought Marvel was capable of being better than the illusion. Of course, how can Batman have been fighting crime for 60 years? Real life is fleeting and simulated comic life would have to be, as well. Maybe four times less fleeting at the outside. But fleeting. I'm concerned that the death infesting Marvel comics is saying something about the content. Captain America has died. (Permanently?) Maybe that's o.k. Maybe a super-patriotic steroid-filled soldier is an icon the twenty-first century can do without. But the zombies? I'm worried this is an indication that Marvel's silver age magic is ending and these fantastic, symbolic characters are all walking dead. Can that be true?
I'm told some Spider-Fans never wanted Pete to marry. Like some dudes figure Clark should never have married Lois.
I'm of the opposite opinion. I want my heroes to show me the way.
I'm afraid of the future, deep down. I love it too, but there is fear. I'm afraid of the terrifying changes that come with growing old, finding love, marrying the right person.
I'm trying to get my first mortgage, my first home with my fiancee.
I couldn't possibly manage it without her help. Face down these supervillains if you dare!
Real-Tor: Falsehoods, Fabrications, Finagling. (twists moustache, chortles: "NYa-ha-ha!")
Dr. Entropy- Gaze into Nothingness and Wonder where your Misspent Youth has GONE!

I need comics at a time like this. O.K., so REALLY what I need is to man up. If my heroes fail then in the words of cartoon superhero Freakazoid's anime examplar Heroboy:

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Bring on the Fun!

It's the second day of a new year and having just endured a week of upper respiratory infection including fever, chills, racking coughs, a vile sore throat, the grim spectre of death reaching it's clammy hand toward my clammy throat, pushing me, pushing, ever nearer the DEADLY PRECIPICE.... dear lord, let death come swift...!
Seriously, this sucked.
And feeling like death from Dec. 26-Jan.1 notwithstanding, worse and longer than I've been sick I think in my life, this was still one of my better Christmases.
Not my favorite holiday.
And, as of now, better by two paragraphs than a year of writer's block.
I may or may not have mentioned that in 2007 I set myself the goal of writing the two novels that are stewing ever cold and moldier in my brainpan.
I failed. Then, for good measure, I failed again.
There is an upside. I wrote two comic books published at Happy Harbor Comics. One soon-to-be published, anyway.
This was good.
This was not my goal.
For whatever reason, best worth considering at length but perhaps not in this forum, I have not written what I wanted to write. I am almost as miserable about that as the airway infection.
And yet I somehow have the gall to finally be inspired to write something again:
Where the hell to do I get off, for gosh sakes!
No really, where do I get off?
Not Peter David's last three issues of She-Hulk comics.
They're a little disappointing.
They're a little boring.
This is my all-time favorite comic character and my all-time favorite comic writer. This should be a no-brainer, kids. Mike will be over the moon. GAH-RON-TEED!.
Mike is scratching his head and fretting the 2.50 a month.
Why is the funniest She-Hulk comic this month Howard the Duck#3 by Templeton and Bobillo?
Where is David's funny? Where is his sexy?
Three months this comic has broken necks, bounty hunting, and barfights. I asked for none of these three 'b's. I'm talking 'bout bellowing guffaws, bon mots, and... well, buns and boobies but the art's just not there for me either, lately.
See, bounty hunters are assholes.
Boba Fett? Asshole.
Doawg? Asshole.
Actually, I'm just talking out mine. Bounty hunters are very cool right? Like Boba Fett. And Dawgg. Or whatever.
But bounty hunters (forgive me) in the only two examples I can think of, are not the brightest and best. She-Hulk is a lawyer. That worked fine since Stan created her. Also, David's first 3 issues are better than Stan's single issue of She-Hulk. Trying to remember, of course, that these men are my freakin' idols and comic book geniuses of the highest order.
Just riddle me this: IS Savage She-Hulk issue #1, Feb. 1980 Stan the Man's best work?
Are She-Hulk #22-24 Peter the Deity's best woik?
Why are my shorts in a bunch? I suppose my expectations were too high. I am a fantastically impatient man-child with little to no sense of my own reality. I like complaining.
All true.
But Mr. David has a Skrull character. I LOVE SKRULLS! Stan's best alien, swears I! Where's the harm? Two green bounty hunter gals hittin' on the bad guys n' drivin' a beat-up truck, taking green-tinted nude showers perchance, *ahem* but I've lost my train of thought... I mean, if you wanted to pair up She-Hulk and a Skrull it'd be Jen Walters and Lyja the Lazerfist, right? I mean, c'mon they've both been in the Fantastic Four. That's the green partner that makes the most sense. The only Skrull Jen has a good excuse to hang out with, really.
Jazinda? Who's Jazinda?
Why are you introducing a new Skrull?
Fine, my ol' pal Kirk reminds me editors make choices too. Maybe none of this is David's fault. Maybe an editor demanded Jen change jobs, cities, attitudes, friends, personality, and start sucking.
No seriously. FLAME ON! I'm calling it like it is! Why is this comic not enjoyable? Dan Slott should not be able to out write Peter David?!
But what was the last David thing I liked?
-Light and Darkness Saga volume one? Very bored
-1602- ending moved me, but to depression. (ie- last panel Watcher looking down unsympathetically on girl drowining alone. Yikes.)
-Last two Knight Life novels? Like, mortar bored.
-Captain Marvel when Captain Marvel kills his own infant son in his crib to prevent the tyke becoming Space Hitler, when in fact a dolt amateur like me thought all C.M. had to do was get his marvel-tubes tied or not bang Songbird or get an early abortion or ANY other not-killing-his-own-son choices? God damn that was a shitty thing to do! When Wonder Woman killed Max Lord I for the life of me still cannot come up with another option. Captain Marvel had tons of options AND IT WAS HIS BABY SON!
See, David did move me. He moved me to anger and discarding most of my Captain Marvels.
See, it turns out DC has a Captain Marvel much purer and you wouldn't write a story like that for him. No sir!
AWWW, Fudge.
I'm so angry, and it's probably mostly at myself.
If my writing idol has an off day, or an off year, how can I justify WRITING ANYTHING AT ALL!? 'cause if somebody so great can disappoint sometimes than how much MORE often am I going to blow serious written stink-balls? Every time? Yeah, probably.
Because David is GOOD. He's really, really good.
Sir Apropo? Good.
Young Justice? Good.
Maddrox? Star Trek? Crusade? B5? Space Cases? Good.
F.N. Spider-Man? Even that Uncle Ben, murderer bit P.D. thinks people hated? Really Good.
Everything ever? The guy is DAMN GOOD.
The Captain's Daughter made me weep. Seriously, I was a big girl's blouse. Well, at 17 I was a very scrawny girl's blouse.
Imzadi was brilliant. He made me care big "C" care, about Riker and Troi who let's face it were mild rip offs of Decker and Ilia (who face facts stanked up the place) and despite fine actors as Riker and Troi had never had writers at that point do their feelings justice.
There are so many more.
I think David's Star Trek annual #1 was the first Star Trek thing I ever read ever.
He is so darn brilliant. Prolific as hell. He seems so unbeatable but this comic...
Maybe it's the lead character herself.
Geoff Johns frakked She-Hulk up, too. The Avengers: Search for She-Hulk graphic novel:
She-Hulk claims for the first time in a twenty year history her transformations to the She-Hulk are based on fear, not rage. I could have throttled the man who would go on to write 'Infinite Crisis', for Odo's sake.
"'I'm Geoff Johns! I'm writing the Avengers! Mah, mah, I'm so great! She-Hulk the closest thing the Marvel Universe has to a respectable, strong female character and I gotta figure out what she's all about... ummm, Yeah, she's a scaredy cat!'"
Then Chuck 'Sucking's My Middle Name' Austen put her in bed with Juggernaut.
People, fellow nerds and dudes of deep feeling everywhere, please. Say it with me.
Hulk is the wild, unsupressed rage of a small boy with deep emotional problems.
She-Hulk is the wild, unsupressed pleasure of a grown woman who kinda likes life.
If Hulk is powered by rage, She-Hulk is not powered by fear but, say it with me : LUST. Lust for life, as perhaps Iggy Pop said.

In fact, P.A.D. was the one who clued me into that determination, not in so many words but during his legendary run on Hulk he put an explanation for gamma radiation (the energy source of Hulks everywhere) into the mouth of character shrink Dr. Samson. Samson was giving a lecture on the effects of gamma rays and pointed out that the radiation unleased things people were holding in their heart of hearts. This meant that multiple-personality disorder anger issue boy Bruce Banner became the Hulk, but Samson himself and every other irradiated person manifested differently based on their innermost self. Emil Blonsky, filled with self-loathing became the hideous Abomination. Sam Sterns, desperate to overcome his lack of smarts, became the smartest evil genius around. Samson himself manifested the superhero he wished he was. And, Jen Walters, not mentioned in the presentation, I concluded had repressed her sexual energy and resulted in a very bombastic and debatably dangerously sexually liberated individual.
Not a fearful person. Not a weak person. But a woman who expressed her desires clearly, intelligently, and as much as possible, physically.
That's part of the difference between Jen and Bruce: how long can a regular person stay mad? Not very long. That's why (I surmise) Banner is always reverting to normal. Because even he can't stay perpetually enraged.
But She-Hulk can stay aroused and excited about life practically every hour of every day. She doesn't historically spend much time as her human self because she prefers to be Shulkie.
And that is a very appealing character for me. 'Lust for Life' Thanks, Iggy.

Or, if you prefer here's the 7 Deadly Gamma Ray Sins:
Wrath- The Hulk
Lust- The She-Hulk
Envy- The Leader
Greed- The Abomination
Pride- Doc Samson
Sloth/Gluttony- Hubert St. John (obscure John Byrne Hulk villain brought into play here because I really wasn't sure how to round out the analogy)

Maybe lustiness isn't a heroic emotional trait to most people.
Maybe that's why Johns decided she was powered by Fear.
There's no right or wrong, of course, I'm just entitled to my wacky opinion, but a super-strong sexually liberated woman character in a comic is kinda super-rare. DC's Wonder Woman used to have a sexy side, I'm told, but regular folks maybe prefer a preachy sexless statue.

Sex isn't the whole issue. But it's a factor. I personally recommend the return of Wyatt Wingfoot. He was a cool boyfriend for She-Hulk, but maybe stoic turns to shallow under a bad writer. Or was Wyatt a stereotype? I'm never sure about these things. More critical than a boyfriend for She-Hulk is a funnybone. I know the Civil War and World War Hulk were a bitch, but I don't demand lifelike realism in terms of a period of depression, mourning, some suicidal I wanna be a lone wolf bounty hunter moping or what have you. I wanna get back to fun.

I buy one comic from DC a month. Booster Gold. I stress the word comic. I'm talkin' Funny books. Granted, life, death, Joker crippling girls, yellow-fear armies, it's not quite what I expected either, but I'm lovin' it. It's intense, action-y, it's a little funny, and I hope it gets funnier. Or fun-er.

Same for Shulkie. I buy one Marvel comic a month, and it's the green gal. This is real basic, primary color stuff. In the words of Andrew W.k. WE WANT FUN!

I will learn patience, I swear. What David's got going for him now is I'm a desperate, writer's blocked pissant unworthy to ink David's socks.
That's why I'll still be buying She-Hulk next month, and you should, too.

At least until someone explains why it isn't more fun.