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mygif

First of all, John, thanks for being the one to constantly bring the SERIOUS nerd-wank here these days. Can I vote for a thread about the rise and fall of James Robinson’s talent to be next?

Second of all… are you saying that Psycho-Pirate being all up in everyones emotional business ISN’T the way its intended to be read? I’ve seen the hypothesis put out before that the meta-reason for most of Infinite Crisis’ flaws is Geoff Johns desire to write his prejudices into DC canon and to prove that he was right and everyone else was wrong, but… I dunno. Johns is capable of pouring such feelings out onto the page but he is a competent writer even when his basic idea is a bad (and when he’s not working with stuff that he loved when he was a teenager he can be downright brilliant; Titan Maximum is hilarious, for example) and I have trouble believing he’d screw up THAT badly.

Psycho-Pirate being the One Behind It All makes sense for all the reasons you describe, as well as additional narrative ones. He was the big secondary villain in Crisis on Infinite Earths, he lived (albeit humbled and imprisoned) after the big bad died, and, in a manner of speaking, he was the only one to make it out alive. That entire arc, combined with the epilogue page of Crisis basically sets it up for him to come back as the main event for Round 2.

I thought Infinite Crisis was maybe overly subtle about what he was doing, but I figured he was all up in Alex’s (and everyone elses) head the whole time. I thought we were supposed to figure that out, that it was a reward for reading closely. I mean, Alex’s whole speech about how he doesn’t NEED Psycho-Pirate? Come on. PP was hitting the button in his brain labeled ‘ego’ like a hamster at the feeder bar that whole time.

Otherwise, as you said, nothing makes sense and the whole thing is just an even bigger train wreck.

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mygif

…and this is why I keep reading Marvel. Because at least there, the surface readings usually make sense.

It makes me sad, because the DC characters have such strong archetypes, but almost none of the stories they’re in are readable to someone who didn’t start in the 60’s. At least, that’s how it feels every time I pick up a book that even lightly brushes on DC continuity.

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Walter Kovacs said on January 29th, 2011 at 3:18 am

Although, it’s hard to argue that a character that only appeared for an extremely short period of time before being confined to a 4 person existence with 3 other people and a view of everyone else having an actual life, wouldn’t end up going a little kooky. Kal-L and Lois had each other at least, but outside of the slashfic speculation, Alex and Prime would likely have the isolation get to them over time.

Yes, it was a bit of a gag for Batman being prepared for everything save his own contigency plans … but it’s not the first time it’s happened. They at least have the whole JLA arc where Ra’s got a hold of Bat’s countermeasures for taking down the entire League in short order as precedent. The out of character part seems to be that Batman built this entire complex satelite system at some point in the past, and just hadn’t bother checking in on it for long enough for it to have been completely repurposed. MAYBE Max Lord had put on whamy on Bat’s mind (Bruce was in the JLI after all) to forget about it? Of course, the whole reason he created the thing was because he SUSPECTED a mind wipe, even if he didn’t actually know about it until much later.

Ultimately though, it was a story that was more focussed on the narrative it wanted to tell than the characters involved. The big three heroes were fighting because the heroes needed to be divided. The villains were together because it needed to further tilt the scales away from the good guys.

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mygif

The more Johns gets control, and the more he became a superstar, the more I realized how much I hate his vision of the DCU. He’s a talented writer, who has produced good work. But, bringing back Hal, the Multiverse, and Barry are pretty much the three worst things DC has done, big picture, in the past decade.

IC feels like the tipping point where I began to hate him.

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dangermouse said on January 29th, 2011 at 8:04 am

This is at least as good as any explanation I’ve heard for why every DC hero turned into an asshole circa 2004.

Doesn’t much explain anything they’ve done for the last seven years but oh well.

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dangermouse said on January 29th, 2011 at 8:05 am

Maybe Psycho Pirate is still alive, maybe he survived his headcrushing and he is like, sneaking around right behind Superman, willing him to walk around America being a douche to random strangers.

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malakim2099 said on January 29th, 2011 at 8:52 am

Well, I think the symptoms for Infinite Crisis really stem from Identity Crisis. That’s really where a lot of the mischaracterization problems began.

(Not defending Infinite Crisis, mind you. But I think a lot of the problems you describe have their roots in Identity Crisis.)

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mygif

Mal has a point about the start of things going back to Identity Crisis, but I did not have as much a problem with that series as I had with the latter series. At least Identity Crisis was trying to be a little different and it brought up some interesting points, like Doctor Light’s dramatic character shift from the guy who was trying to kill A-list DC heroes to whiny punk, or how villains seem to never uncover the heroes’ secret identities (unless you are a Batman villain; seems like half of Batman’s enemies know he is Bruce and don’t tell because…Well, just because.). I am not saying it was a perfect series, just that there were aspects of it I enjoyed.

Infinite Crisis was the last big crossover event comic I purchased mainly because I found it to be such a huge mess and it soured me forever more on the whole concept of “event” books (as well as Geoff Johns’ writing. I used to enjoy his JSA and Hawkman. What happened to you, Geoff?). 52 came after and I purchased the first issue, and while I found it intriguing I realized I had no desire to blow money on fifty one more issues of it (and after the WW III debacle-caused by editors being unable to keep control of the writers, it turns out I was right). Then came Countdown, then Infinite Crisis. Each time I was assured that the DC universe landscape would be changed forever.

Uh huh.

I think I better stop here before I start ranting again. Anyway, good article as usual.

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mygif

My problem with Batman creating Brother Eye is that it’s a fundamental misreading of the character. Not because Batman is too nice and decent and good to do something like that, but because it’s just not his style. Batman doesn’t watch every potential criminal’s every move in hopes of catching them doing something wrong; he makes the criminals so paranoid about the potential for a Batman appearance that they don’t commit crimes.

Batman wouldn’t build a giant satellite to keep an eye on Zatanna; he’d show up in her room in the middle of the night one night, paralyze her vocal cords with a throat spray, and explain to her that he knows what she did and that if she does it again, she will regret it. For Batman, the threat of violence is far more effective than any actual monitoring could be.

(This is actually also my argument against the JLA arc Walter Kovacs mentioned; it’s not that I don’t think Batman would have contingency plans against the rest of the team, it’s that I don’t think he’d have ones that elaborate and convoluted. He doesn’t need specially-designed nanites that convert the Martian Manhunter’s skin into magnesium; he took out five White Martians with a can of kerosene and a match.)

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mygif

I find it a little odd how John frequently creates his own canon for bad stories, instead of just acknowledging they’re bad and moving on.

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mygif

I completely agree, John. This makes a lot of sense.

However, it reminds me of when my friend and I were discussing what was happening mid-way through the third series of HEROES. We were talking about how none of it made any fucking sense and how Sylar and Elle were written in such a way it seriously made us wonder if each scene was written by a different writing team in a manner analogous to when you were kids and you took a piece of paper, folded it into three, one person drew the head, then another drew a body without looking at the head, and then finally one person drew the legs without looking at the head or body, then you unfolded the paper to all gaze on the grotesque abomination of nature you had created.

While we were discussing the show, at that time, we still had some faint hope that maybe, just maybe, it would all make sense, but the only conclusion we could come to was that all the characters had to have as-of-yet unrevealed mental disorders.

While I agree your Psycho-Pirate ideas makes sense and works, that’s how it reads to me.

This is not a criticism of you, nor a “please stop”. I like it. I just wanted you to know that I share the nerd-rage with you. :)

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mygif

@John Seavey:

“it’s not that I don’t think Batman would have contingency plans against the rest of the team, it’s that I don’t think he’d have ones that elaborate and convoluted.”

Exactly. Devin Grayson wrote some thing where it was revealed that Batman had “protocols” for every superhero he had ever known. There was a Green Arrow “protocol”, for crying out loud. How much pre-planning would Batman really need to take out Green Arrow? If his plan was more complicated than “break his arm so he can’t use his bow” or “spike his chili with sedatives”, the Caped Crusader was seriously overthinking it.

We’re supposed to think it’s awesome that Batman has stuff like that for the rest of the JLA, but what it really does is make him just as bad as some of the supervillains they fought back in the Silver Age. How do you continue thinking of him as a good guy after he came up with pretty messed up ways to torture and possibly kill Martian Manhunter and Aquaman?

We’re already supposed to ignore all the felonies Batman commits on a regular basis (seriously, other superheroes should be trying to bring him to justice after all the crap he’s pulled over the past thirteen years or so) and the fact that his primary method of fighting crime is still beating the crap out of people when he could just use nonlethal nanobite weapons or some other wacky gadget instead in most cases.

But once you’ve figured out a way to murder Aquaman “just in case”, you’re a supervillain. I don’t care how the fans and creators rationalize it.

Speaking of supervillainy…

“My problem with Batman creating Brother Eye is that it’s a fundamental misreading of the character. Not because Batman is too nice and decent and good to do something like that, but because it’s just not his style.”

Exactly.

I have about a dozen issues with the whole Brother Eye concept, but the one that still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth is that it’s exactly the sort of thing a supervillain would have done back in the Eighties.

I could see him trying to blackmail Zatanna and whoever else he was being paranoid about. That fits with the whole “Sure, he’s a law breaking douchebag, but he’s our law breaking douchebag” thing they’ve had going on at DC since the Nineties. But an illegal spy satellite? That’s about one step away from creating the next incarnation of the Royal Flush Gang or teaming up with Vandal Savage to try to conquer the world.

Good guys don’t act like Ozymandias from Watchmen.

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mygif

Err… Instead of “nanobite”, that should read “nanite” or nanotech or whatever term we should prefer.

Additionally, I think Murc is giving Johns far, far too much credit. Johns is about as subtle as Lady Gaga. If he had meant people to interpret the presence of Psycho-Pirate that way, it would have been in the text at least twice to make sure nobody missed that detail.

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mygif

The simple fact is that both DC and Marvel want to create holistic “shared worlds” but neither company’s leadership is willing to restrict any of their writers with a setting and character “bible” that gives some limits as to how far you can twist a given character to meet your needs. Thus you end up with DCs wildly OOC actions for even major characters, and Marvel’s refusal to actually write down the Superhuman Registration Act because they wanted everyone to be able to interpret it as they wished. *headdesk*

It’s not going to get any better until all the writers and artists in charge grow the fuck up and realize that you can’t have it both ways, either you get to play in the sandbox that is a long running shared creation universe, but you have restrictions on what you can and can’t do with the characters, or you create your own setting and write whatever you want in it. For the record I think it’s very possible to write good stories while staying true to the personalities of established characters, it just takes more work then the writers at the big two are willing to do.

I’ve read a lot of the big two’s output in trades gotten from the library, but I haven’t been impressed in the slightest by either one’s output in quite some time. The only trades I actually buy are a few independent settings where the writers are telling the stories they want to without pissing all over any of the long established characters.

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Jason Barnett said on January 29th, 2011 at 4:24 pm

personally I liked it. Using Psycho Pirate to tone down the villains makes sense. Of course it’s also possible that the guy generally tried to keep the conflicting personalities away from each other as much as possible.

There’s a major Wonder Woman fan over at Scans Daily named Bluefall who’s posts suggest Diana’s pretty much completely in character. Basically Diana doesn’t go for the whole “What Measure Is a Non-human” TVtropes thing. She’s willing to kill monsters whatever they look like.

As for Superboy-Prime and Alexander, I figure time in the pocket dimension moved in real world time. So they’d spent twenty years watching things suck in the DCU, including the grim and gritty nineties. Also, they didn’t want to bring back the multiverse. They wanted to overwrite the current DCU with a superior universe.

Plus these guys were able to count themselves as winners after an incalculable number of people died in the CoIE because six billion survived.

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mygif

Infinite Crisis is a mess and although somebody mentioned it above, Johns isn’t exactly Thomas Pynchon when it comes to subtle writing. I mean, he created Superboy Prime for crying out loud, whose entire schtick is, “I’m going to make fun of overly obsessive comic book geeks and I’m going to make sure they know it.”

*Side Note: I love his run on Green Lantern. Engaging, comprehensive, fun. It has everything.*

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mygif

This is great an all, but can we find a way to make the following make sense:

Flash: Rebirth

Blackest Night

The Avengers issue where Scott Lang deals with losing custody of his kid (who’s suddenly five years younger) because he’s an Avenger by… Joining the Avengers

The entire run of Green Lantern from Secret Origins on

Brightest Day

How murdering millions of people makes Black Adam an even more viable character

Why that one member of the JSA wasn’t prosecuted for letting him escape, debt of honor or no

TWICE

Why Perry White is berating Clark Kent in the LOSH arc for not having any friends, when in Up Up and Away he had plenty of friends

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mygif

@Dan Coyle: “How murdering millions of people makes Black Adam an even more viable character”

I just want to know why CM thought that changing his magic word to “Sorry” would stop him. (I mean, I realize that he checked the database of the Top Ten Words Black Adam Almost Never Says, and it was right there, next to “Please”, “Thank You”, and “Antiquing”.) But still, there are so many better words that he’ll almost never guess!

“Assmuppet”

“Metrosexual”

“Turgid”

“Supercallifragilisticexpialodocious”

Heck, there’s clearly nothing that says it has to be an actual word; after all, “Shazam” is just a made-up nonsense word, right? He could make the new magic phrase “Mywrplgummitzack”hosinganamalsinformubalix’x’xtic!” (with the ‘ being those Xhosa click sounds, of course) and Black Adam would have to figure it out and say it before he could transform!

Wisdom of Solomon, my sorry ass. :)

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mygif

@ John Seavey

Actually “Chocolate Egg Cream” were the new magic words for Black Adam (at least according to Black Adam: The Dark Age). Which is both genius and idiotic at the same time.

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mygif

Y’know, I hate to come out on the defender side, but I found Infinite Crisis to be a big dumb fun read. Not great, but good in the same way as the first arc on Superman/Batman. Someone got keys to the toychest with all the action figures and damned if they weren’t going to use them all, even if it took a bit of shoehorning.

My level of suspension of belief aside, I also have to question whether we’re able to question Batman’s characterization anymore. If *every* Batman story is in continuity, then that’s shoehorning in a lot of odd behavior on Bruce’s behalf. He’s operated under a lot of influences over the years: Venom, fear gas, Black Glove, Zatanna, etc. I don’t believe that it’s outside of his characterization spectrum to have him build a spy satellite. Nor is it out of his budget, considering the amount of other frippery he’s burned through over the years.

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mygif

Also, I apparently like the word ‘shoehorn’.

shoehornshoehornshoehorn

/shoehorn

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mygif

I love Johns’s run on JSA. By the time he was done, the JSA had the best rogues gallery in the DC Universe. Made it seem like the JLA was just fussing around with the B-threats while the JSA were the ones *really* keeping the world safe.

But I’ve hated just about everything else he’s done.

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mygif

Ben, that is a good point. Batman has been exposed to some pretty exotic toxins over the years. Combined with the likes of Zatanna, Black Glove and others messing with his mind it is a wonder he is not completely insane by now. :)

Urthman, I loved Johns’ fist run on JSA and thought he did a spectacular job fleshing out a large cast. And I have to admit I find the rest of his stuff a bit hard to read. I thought his first Green Lantern issues were good but the moment he started doing that secret origins nonsense, putting his own personal stamp on an already fleshed out GL history, well, he lost me.

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Random Guy said on February 2nd, 2011 at 10:42 am

My response to Brian T. is the following:

I think we’re supposed to just buy it. Batman swoops down upon us, flashes his Bat-Credit Card, and says he can breathe in space.

This seems to be the logic operating with Batman: he can do whatever he wants because he’s Batman. Unless it’s to a badguy.

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mygif

If I’m interpreting your comment correctly, you just explained why I hate Batman now.

It’s bad enough that I’m supposed to buy that Batman is basically a more sadistic and Machiavellian version of Richie Rich. But then they want to have it both ways and still have him struggle against bad guys he could easily defeat with something out of his “sci-fi closet.”

“Oh no! The bad guy is really good at Tae Kwon Do! Batman is so screwed!” doesn’t really work after all the crap Jeph Loeb pulled in Superman/Batman, or Batman defeating Darkseid a couple of times. You really can’t have Batman plausibly struggle against the people he usually fights at this point unless you take away all his weapons and give him brain damage or something.

Now, it’s more like “Why doesn’t he use all those resources to constantly monitor the Joker? Or come up with an easier way to beat guys like David Cain? And isn’t kicking people in the face awfully inefficient? Couldn’t he just use heat seeking batarangs or something instead?”

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