Tag Archives: superman

FGC #265 Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure

MajesticWithout whipping out the chart, there’s a clear geek hierarchy out there. Sure, I play a lot of videogames, but at least I’m not one of those nerds playing MMORPGs and letting their lives be dictated by party raids and random character nerfs. Ha ha! Those nerds! They’d never have time to write about three separate videogames a week and then do a yearlong Let’s Play of a decade old videogame franchise nobody likes! Losers! Everybody hold up, I have to go put the finishing touches on my Allen Ridgley cosplay.

Things get even weirder when you examine the nerd hierarchy in the comic book world, though (or, maybe, as a videogame nerd, I just think it’s weirder because it’s not my specific fandom). Batman, for instance, is always going to be popular. Superman, too, for that matter. Then you get into some of the lesser heroes, but, good news, many of them have movies coming up. Get ready for Aquaman aquaing around Aqua Town! … But real nerds don’t like those movies, because they’re too serious, or not serious enough, or Oedipal complexes are too complex, or whatever. No, the real place you want to see your heroes is… on the CW? No, that can’t be right… though I did once encounter a perfectly normal woman at the DMV excitedly telling her friend, “Oh my gosh, Flash is a new episode tonight! That’s awesome!” Yes, I suppose there are literally thousands more (popular) people that could identify Felicity Smoak than Oracle. But then you get into the animated nerds, that learned everything they need to know about Batman from Batman The Animated Series, Justice League Unlimited, or maybe Teen Titans Go. Hey, Dr. Light appeared in 66% of those productions, so they’re all valid ways to learn about superheroes and superteens randomly yelling. But then, there at the bottom, the nerdiest of the nerdy, are the geeks that actually, ya know, read comic books. Can you imagine? You have to use your hands! Like a baby!

Also… obviously… I’m one of those nerds.

WhoopsBut I know it’s crazy! I’ve discussed it before, but following “comics continuity” is basically a never ending trap. Here’s how it goes down: You’ve got A-Man, champion of the letter A. A decent writer and artist combine in some mystical fashion, and write one good comic series for A-Man. Everyone, yourself included, is talking about A-Man, and check out this great run, and A-Man is doing what A-Man has never done before; and it all gets bolstered by the fact that A-Man comics drop once a month, so this “one story” gets magnified by half a year of speculation and discussion. By the time the inevitably disappointing A-Man #6 hits the stands and finally ends the arc, everyone is disappointed, but that anticipation of “what’s gonna happen next” lingers, so, naturally, you pick up A-Man #7 with a brand new creative team. Here’s your Goggle Bob sports metaphor for the year: If a soccer team wins the World Series, and then everyone involved quits or gets reassigned to other teams, do you expect the “new creative team” to score enough touchdowns to win that Stanley Cup again? No, that would be silly, but comic book fans follow that “same” A-Man over and over again, until, finally, A-Man’s reputation is so terrible, “he” is selling about two issues a year. So then it’s time for a reboot! Toss out everything that doesn’t work (which is usually something like a decade’s worth of stories), start all over again, and maybe get someone half decent on the writing staff. Hire Alex Ross for a cover, and we’re back in business. A-Man is reborn (in an issue likely literally called “A-Man Reborn”), and we’re right back at the start of the cycle.

This is fun and all, but it can create some… hiccups. For instance, with the exception of the titans of the industry (not the Teen Titans, to be clear), it’s very difficult for a superhero to hold on to a supporting cast. Let’s use CW’s comics shows as an example here: can you imagine The Flash without Cisco? How about Legends of Tomorrow without Gideon? That disembodied voice is an integral part of the cast! Meanwhile, most comic books identify this “we need a supporting cast” problem, fill the hole, make some of the supporting characters I am the nightmore interesting than the boring hero who has to save the day every week, and then… well, sorry, there was a reboot, so that character doesn’t exist anymore. Oh, she was your favorite? Sorry, time to move on. Heck, Powergirl can barely hold on to her cat (and people love cats!), so I wouldn’t get too attached to her superhero understudy with the rock powers that gal palled around with her for like ten issues.

And this kind of “hiccup” can really annoy fans. And, to be clear (and I hate that I have to be clear about this), I’m not talking about “fans doxxing every women in the tri-state area”, I’m leaning more toward “unlikely to ever read a new issue pertaining to a previously beloved character ever again”. If you’re reading Blue Beetle because you really like his close family ties and friends that remind you of real friends you have in your life, and then, next month, those friends don’t exist anymore… that gets kind of annoying. And, again, it’s not like a fan is putting their foot down and demanding a boycott (which, of course, does happen), simply that when you enjoy something for a particular trait or cast member, and then that thing you loved is completely dropped, then why read it anymore at all? Reboots are feared by comic nerds because they have taken so much from us!

WetThis winds up being an exclusively comics problem, too, because, unlike other entertainment mediums, comics aren’t allowed to end. Somehow, some way, there must always be the Batman. He’s the hero we deserve. And there’s going to be a Joker, a Robin, and maybe purple gloves somewhere in there. Batman is always going to be “Batman” in the comic book universe. There is no “NuBatman” or “80sBatman” to differentiate, no, Batman is just Batman, because if he’s being identified as a “Batman variant” then that means this story isn’t important, and if the story isn’t important, then why the hell are you reading it? To enjoy it? Bah!

And then something like Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure comes along, and it’s salt in the wound.

Scribblenauts Unmasked contains an incredible DC Comics glossary. You want John Constantine to fight Swamp Thing? Cool, we got that. You want the NU52 Agents of S.H.A.D.E. (featuring Frankenstein and an immortal Asian schoolgirl)? We’ve got that, too. Want every damn Green Lantern concept that Alan Moore sneezed into existence? There’s Green Lantern Groot right there. All of your old friends are here: Wonder Woman (with or without pants), Batman, Superman, and Doctor Midnight. If you can name a DC comics character, they’re likely in here, and possibly with variants.

And it’s a damn shame, because it reminds the player of all the toys available to DC Comics that just aren’t being used. Depending on the week, the entire Justice Society, the heroes that fought in World War 2 and are the “grandpas” to the heroes of today, may or may not exist. And the Justice Society is a great concept! And they’ve got kids! And I like those kids! Mostly just Jade! But, nope, those toys are stuck in the closet, because DC determined it would be more interesting this week if Superman was the first superhero ever, and he’s macking on Wonder Woman for some reason. Oh, wait, no, he’s dead, now there’s the old Superman who loves Lois, and he’s got a kid of his own. Wait… does he remember the Justice Society? Can he bring them back? Please? Oh well, at least I can still pit Alan Scott against Larfleeze in Scribblenauts, a game that has no impact on anything.

ORANGEAnd that’s what really gets my goat about Scribblenauts Unmasked: I want to see these toys be free. Maybe I’m at the bottom of the nerd ladder for this, but I believe that, when you’ve got the potential for unlimited interesting stories, you take that potential and grab it. Don’t limit yourself to one universe, don’t limit yourself to one fandom, and be more like Scribblenauts, and include everything available. You’ve got nearly a century worth of interesting toys to play with, so play with ‘em all.

FGC #265 Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure

  • System: WiiU, 3DS, and Steam. Really? That’s it? I’d expect a greater range here, but I guess the stylus/keyboard part is kind of necessary.
  • Number of players: Just the one. Which is also surprising, as the whole “plot” is basically about dueling scribblenauts, so you’d think they’d find a way to make that more playable.
  • Favorite Adjective: Moist. Moist for days. Mooooooist.
  • Favorite DC Hero: Matter Eater Lad popped out without so much as a suggestion. I mean, ya know, Mon-El had a problem, so I had to summon the luminaries of the Legion of Superheroes, right? Bouncing Boy was my second choice.
  • Con man... get it?Did you know? John Constantine once got a drug-addicted ex-girlfriend hooked on hallucinogenic magical sand that nearly destroyed the entire universe. And here he is in a Nintendo WiiU game about randomly summoning Tomorrow Gal. Go fig.
  • Would I play again: I prefer the less story-driven Scribblenauts games. As much as I love a toy chest containing the entire DC universe, I still like solving problems exclusively through T-Rexes more.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Trevor McFur in the Crescent Galaxy for the Atari Jaguar! That… can’t be good. Please… look forward to it.

FGC #150 Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe

Get ready to rock!Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe is a game about a bunch of guys (and gals) from disparate universes punching each other. When it was even just previewed, everyone with at least a second level geek knowledge complained about this crossover’s premise, because Superman would punch Liu Kang’s head clean off, and what is militantly anti-murder Batman doing in the Fatality-based Mortal Kombat universe? And Baraka? Who wants to see that dork again? These were all valid concerns, and, while the plot creates its own excuses for why the Clown Prince of Crime can evenly battle a cybernetic marine, it… still doesn’t make a lot of sense. Is Kano lobbing magical knives at Flash? Preposterous.

So, let’s be real here, the only way these two franchises are going to get a fair fight is if we take a few steps back and judge them based on other merits. In fact, let’s rank them based on their most interesting criteria. That’s right, folks, it’s time for…

The Silly Off

This is going to get image intensive…

It’s Comical Issues #1

Gotham AcademySo my original plan for this post was to, like my anime post from forever ago, highlight some comic books I’ve been reading recently, do my best to dissect what’s good and bad, and then call it a day with some stray observation about the state of the industry or something. Easy peasy. Emphasize how this site could have been a comics blog from day one, and then knock off for the weekend. So, step one, look over the comics I’ve been reading, separate the heroes from the villains, and then… I didn’t get any further. I skimmed some of the comics I’ve read over the last six months, and I realized something horrifying…

I don’t think I like reading comics.

Which is odd, because I love comics.

Comics are (is?) such a delightful medium. Unlike books (or blogs, ugh), you don’t have to run the startup process on your imagination to see dragons, killer robots, or killer robot dragons battling in front of your eyes. And, unlike video games, movies, or even some animation, it doesn’t cost millions of dollars to create an army of unusual characters. Want to open your story with a seven armed god of war wielding a different assault weapon in each hand? Sure, you can draw up that creature on page one! The imagination of the writer is only confined by the 2nd Dimension, and you’d be surprised what you can fit in there.

And, over the last century or so, writers have done practically everything with comics. From the earnest-but-vaguely-insane Silver Age of “Superman has a lion head this week” to more modern writers like Grant Morrison writing about comics that feature people writing about comics, it seems like the medium can produce most any story possible.

But if I’m being honest? I read the same stupid stories over and over again.

Superhero comics dominate the field, yes, and I am well aware there are alternatives. I have a bookshelf full of comics created by “indie” writers… but, by Welcome to Pleasant Pointand large, those comics don’t come out every week. Those aren’t the comics that remind me, prod me into going back to my dealer every week and seeing what’s new. Heck, part of the reasoning behind this post is that there are fifty (fifty!) comics coming out of DC Comics every month, and I’m reading… two of those.

Two.

For the record, I’m talking about Gotham Academy, the story of precocious Gotham City boarding school students and their various adventures in a city that has a disproportionate number of Killer Crocs, and Batgirl, which shouldn’t need any explanation, but its current status quo might require a closer look.

Batgirl is, as anyone familiar with the character might suspect, the story of Barbara Gordon, daughter of Commissioner Gordon (star of a hit TV show!), a plucky young heroine who dons the mantle of The Bat to fight crime and maybe, one day, acquire her own nemesis that’s half as interesting as someone out of the Batman menagerie. Firefly isn’t cutting it. The wrinkle in the ointment of the most current Batgirl series, though, is that Batgirl has been “subtly” de-aged from the former senator/Oracle/Birds of Prey leader to a more teenage, student “hipster” that is now forced to reference some form of social media every three pages. Ha ha, selfie, back to crime fighting. But when you put aside the “look, youth culture!” trappings of the book, it’s a fun read, not because it’s young and hip and crunk or whatever, but because it’s a familiar character in an unfamiliar (for the Bat characters) setting, and it allows said character some interesting room to grow.

And the weird thing about the whole experience? Batman BeyondI feel guilty every time I read the book, because, in order to read about this Barbara Gordon, they had to dump the “old” Barbara Gordon, the older, disabled version, the one that would likely treat The Batgirl of Burnside as some misfit protégé. I feel guilty because I liked the old Barbara Gordon, I liked reading her story, and it seems wrong that she had to be lost.

The Killing Joke, the birth of “that” Barbara Gordon was in 1988. Oracle appeared in 1989. That means that, basically, there were 25 years of that Barbara Gordon.

That’s a pretty good run.

I’m not the first to point this out, but “continuity” is simultaneously the pride and shame of comics fans. Everyone balks when DC “reboots” its stories for the fifteenth time… but Marvel is getting to the point where it’s going to be a requirement. Hell, I suppose they already tried it with The Ultimate Universe, and that collapsed under the weight of its own continuity within ten years (and had a comical, what, six apocalypses?). But we’re still looking at a Peter Parker that is lamenting the death of Gwen Stacy… and that happened in 1973. Captain America feels guilty about Bucky’s “death”, but he’s been back and alive for eleven years. And never mind the parade of villains in Marvel’s stable that were pushing up daisies until the very moment they weren’t oh wait yes he’s dead again. It gets… a tweak absurd.

Patsy Walker HellcatBut then again, I suppose the reboot route is even worse. Batgirl works because it’s actually doing something new with its character, but the typical reboot? Never. For about six issues, there’s something new, or at least something that hasn’t been done within the last fifteen years (which is what qualifies as “new” in comics). Then the parade of “firsts” starts. First time mysterious villain is encountered. First time “gimmick” villain is defeated by finding gimmick’s weakness. First time sidekick appears. First time mentor objects because hero is “going too far”. It’s all the same beats, all over again, and five years later, those ‘firsts” have all been exhausted… so how about a reboot?

So why do I still read comics at all? Simple answer: it’s the same reason I compulsively check my Facebook feed.

Oh? Batman? I wonder what he’s up to? He’s dead? He’s traveling through time? He’s Robin? He’s got old gloves? He’s a bunny robot now? That’s neat. I don’t have to enjoy the story, I don’t even have to understand it, all that matters is that that aggravating part of my brain that tracks my video game Sinestrobacklog and how many exs aren’t talking to me right now also has to know exactly what Spider-Man is doing right now, and God help us all if I don’t have a succinct reason for why Peter Parker is suddenly Tony Stark. And Tony Stark is seeing Mary Jane? Oh, that’s gonna need some ‘splainin’.

So you know what? I don’t like comic books. I don’t like feeling like I need to read something. Comics are dumb, and the format has only gotten worse in the age where I can have three billion hours of entertainment beamed into my brain at any moment. The average comic book equates to about the same span of time you’d see between commercial breaks in a television show (and this became really obvious in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics series). Wow, can you just imagine a network today, when you can stream the entirety of Breaking Bad with a few clicks, launching a serialized, ten minute series that delivers a new episode every month (assuming the producer isn’t “running behind”)? It would be the biggest failure since Cop Rock. But that’s exactly how Big Comics delivers its content, and they wonder every quarter why Deadpool the comic doesn’t pull an eighth of the revenue of cinematic Deadpool the Green Lantern.

But I will keep buying trade paperbacks. I will keep buying complete stories that entertain me, and don’t require months of mentally sorting plotlines. I will keep buying entire bookshelves to house a growing collection of carefully cultivated tales. I worship at the altar of Morrison and Gaiman and Snyder… but maybe I can leave the Johns behind.

I think… I hope I can be okay with not knowing what Superman is doing right now.

Wait, is he having problems with red kryptonite?

Well, maybe I’ll check out this issue, you know, just to see what’s up.

X-Men