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Friday, 26 March 2010

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John Emerson

Non-political posts really rankle my ass.

Josh

Yeh, Millar's definitely Women in Refrigerators kind of author: remember what he did to the Engineer in Authority?

NickS

I haven't read Nemisis but that interview is definitely off putting.

Marvel President Dan Buckley sort of paid me a compliment, saying, "This is such a stupidly simple and obvious idea. I can't believe nobody's ever come up with it before. You are the master of the stupidly simple idea." . . . But, yeah. "Nemesis" is a reversal of the Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark archetype. What if this genius billionaire was just this total shit, and the only thing that stood between him and a city was the cops? It's Batman versus Commissioner Gordon, in a weird way. Or maybe a super-villain version of "Se7en." A billionaire anarchist up against ordinary people. The Joker's the best thing in the Batman movies, so this guy is a bit of an amalgamation of all the stuff we like.

First of all, the line about the Joker is sort of infuriating because that debate -- about whether comic book villains are more interesting than the heroes and what that means for the form, is long-running and actually an interesting conversation. But you wouldn't know that from him.

Secondly the "genius billionaire [who is] this total shit" has been done many times before in comics. There is something original, I suppose in making that billionaire a loner villain rather than having him head an organization, but that too seems hardly original.

I confess, it's a little bit trickier to think of examples than I would have thought but Lord Shingen from the Wolverine limited series was a fantastic villain. You could also think about the Captain America story arc in which the Red Skull was using a clone of Steve Rogers' body. I'm sure I'm thinking too hard, there have to be simpler examples -- such as almost every Bond villain ever.

NickS

Yes, I realize, all of the villains that I mentioned fight superheroes, and he makes a big deal in the interview about how Nemisis fights normals but still . . . to claim it as an idea that nobody has had before is not only false, it ignores some of the more interesting elements of existing comic books.

SEK

Josh:

Millar's definitely Women in Refrigerators kind of author: remember what he did to the Engineer in Authority?

No, but only because I deliberately avoided it. I'll read Millar when I know Ellis will come around and smack him down, but not the other way around. Honestly, the only reason I read Nemesis was because it was forced on me by someone who knows how I feel about Millar. He thought, for some reason, that this might change my mind.

Nick:

First of all, the line about the Joker is sort of infuriating because that debate -- about whether comic book villains are more interesting than the heroes and what that means for the form, is long-running and actually an interesting conversation. But you wouldn't know that from him.

Nor does he seem to understand the appeal of anti-heroes, i.e. why Batman and Wolverine will forever be more interesting than Superman and Captain America.

Secondly the "genius billionaire [who is] this total shit" has been done many times before in comics. There is something original, I suppose in making that billionaire a loner villain rather than having him head an organization, but that too seems hardly original.

That's the real kicker: it's not original at all. Off the top of my head—I have to run shortly, but I'll give this more thought and be back later—but I'm guessing that Millar doesn't remember the Wrath. I mean, conceptually, they're identical. More later.

NickS

why Batman and Wolverine will forever be more interesting than Superman and Captain America.

Be careful there. There's also an appeal to the neurotic and inhibited hero. Wolverine may have been my favorite of the X-men (partially because he blatantly got more creative and narrative attention from the writers than any other character) but my second favorite was Cyclops*.

I'm guessing that Millar doesn't remember the Wrath.

Wow, I hadn't heard of the Wrath, but that does seem like the same idea.

Also, and this is bugging me way more than it should, Bruce Wayne isn't a billionaire. If you asked me to estimate the Wayne fortune I'd guess something like $70-80M. I'd believe twice that or half that, but I wouldn't believe 10 times that much and I certainly wouldn't believe 50 times that much. I'll concede, Tony Stark might be a billionaire, depending on which continuity you're thinking of, but Bruce Wayne isn't.

It bugs me partially because it's important to the character. Bruce Wayne gets invited to charity events but they're local. Maybe they're asking him for $10,000 towards a library or at the maximum $1M for a new hospital, but nobody would ask Bruce Wayne if he wanted to invest $10M in a new company.

He has a lot of money but it isn't unlimited. The batcave isn't the Avengers mansion, and it never will be.

But the real reason why it bugs me that Millar would describe a character as a "genius billionaire" is that it suggest someone who just doesn't care about scale in the world. I can only imagine that, for him, a billionaire is just "cooler" than a millionaire.

[Or, perhaps, his sense of scale is just altered by the fact that, as he mentions, Wanted took in $350M. This is not an explanation that would make me feel any more sympathetic.]

NickS

I forgot to include my footnote. I've always thought of the triangle between Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Wolverine as being, in it's way, a re-telling of the King Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot and that part of what makes Cyclops both sympathetic and boring, in his way, is that he always concerned with keeping the collective enterprise functioning rather than being able to pursue his own personal interests.

NickS

One other footnote about Cyclops (and sincere apologies for babbling on about my own pet theories) has their been any other character who's relationship to their own powers feels as direct a metaphor for one aspect of pubescent male sexuality. I mean his power is that something dangerous shoots out of his body all the time, and he has to be constantly vigilant about not letting it out of his control.

I remember thinking that the scene in the Dark Phoenix saga in which Jean Grey takes off his sunglasses was an admirably direct erotic gesture both metaphorically and not.

(and, again, I realize that this is all off topic. But perhaps it isn't since my recollection of the Ultimate X-Men is that Jean Grey just slept with Wolverine and Cyclops was mostly out of the picture. Which struck me as an unfortunate and ham handed re-writing of one of the inter-personal dynamics that I had found interesting the X-Men.)

James T
First of all, the line about the Joker is sort of infuriating because that debate -- about whether comic book villains are more interesting than the heroes and what that means for the form, is long-running and actually an interesting conversation. But you wouldn't know that from him.

Remember when he was peddling "Wanted" as "Watchmen for supervillains"? *retch*

Dan

Millar likes heroes because they have cooler costumes and villains because they viciously murder people, so he finds excuses to combine the two.

Saying Millar likes WWII because of the moral simplicity sounds way off; Wanted alone should prove Millar doesn't much care about moral anything.

Prodigal

Ever since I got to the end of Wanted, I began suspecting that the single motivating factor in everything Millar writes in comics is contempt for comic books and anybody who reads them.

SEK

My reply to these (and future) comments will come in the form a post either tonight or tomorrow. I didn't want to leave the impression that I was ignoring this thread, I just need to re-read a few things before responding.

Gary Farber

Bruce Wayne has been a billionaire in more continuitities than I can begin to count.

"Bruce Wayne gets invited to charity events but they're local. Maybe they're asking him for $10,000 towards a library or at the maximum $1M for a new hospital, but nobody would ask Bruce Wayne if he wanted to invest $10M in a new company."

This may describe the Bruce Wayne in Nicks' head, but it doesn't describe the Bruce Wayne who has been shown in in so many stories to have worldwide financial clout of billions of dollars to dispose of. Brother Eye, or zillions of other Wayne expenditures, weren't paid for with a few tens of millions of dollars.

NickS

This may describe the Bruce Wayne in Nicks' head, but it doesn't describe the Bruce Wayne who has been shown in in so many stories to have worldwide financial clout of billions of dollars to dispose of.

I am never glad to be wrong, but I am happy to be corrected. I am sure that Gary Farber is right and that, in this case, my criticism of Mark Millar was unfounded.

It also reminds me that my knowledge of DC characters is even more dated than my overall comics knowledge. Which makes me curious, who was the financial backer for the JLA? If my memory serves me, didn't they have a space station at some point?

Gary Farber

"If my memory serves me, didn't they have a space station at some point?"

Yes, which Bruce Wayne paid for.

It's fair to say that if one were judging Batman by the Sixties version that one could fairly conclude what Nicks did, which is that Bruce was just a multi-millionaire. Of course, that's all he was stated to be in those days.

But times change, and by the Seventies and Eighties, Wayne Enterprises and all those Wayne Corporations, had grown to billion-dollar industries. It made for bigger stories, and more scope for Batman to operate in.

And, hey, it's not like it cost anyone anything to give him the bigger bux. :-)

Some relevant links: http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/Brother_Eye

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justice_League_Satellite#Second_satellite

NickS

Batman and Wolverine will forever be more interesting than Superman and Captain America.

I just wanted to revisit that comment again. Since this is a mostly-dead thread, I will take the opportunity to make a mildly embarrassing confession -- Captain America is one of the very few comics to which I ever had a subscription.

In retrospect I'm not entirely sure why I subscribed to it; you'd have to say that Captain America was a solidly mid-quality title. It wasn't terrible, but it was never that good either. But there was something about the character that appealed to me.

Thinking about it in the context of this conversation I would say that Captain America is one of the few comic book characters who is fundamentally an adult, rather than an overgrown adolescent (and that isn't a complaint, I think that one of the things that comics do very well is to reflect adolescent emotional experiences). He's a character who, at his best, is emotionally present without tending to emotional extremes.

I'm sure he's a tough character to write well. To often he just ended up standing around saying things that were essentially platitudes -- particularly in older issues of the Avengers. He's supposed to be emotionally grounded, a brilliant tactician, and leader and frequently those qualities are displayed through the not so effective technique of "tell don't show."

But there were some stories in which you did get a sense of him as one of the genuine adults in the marvel universe. I remember the period when Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau) was preparing to take over leadership of the Avengers, feeling very nervous about it, and leaned heavily on Captain America for support and it didn't feel heavy-handed. He seemed believably like a character who, for whatever he lacked in superpowers, was very good to have around.

I was thinking about this now because I just read the first volume of Alias (at the recommendation of the sidebar), and I was thinking about what it was that seemed off to me in that (brief) appearance by Captain America.

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