Monday, June 30, 2008

Does anyone really care about Star Trek anymore?

I realize it was most likely a rhetorical question, but my answer is still a qualified "yes". Those qualifications are: I used to love Star Trek and still have an inordinate fondness for the franchise, and would dearly love to see a new, well-done and cool iteration of the series. Stranger things have happened. If you went back in time ten years and told me that a revamped and recharged Dr. Who would be not merely popular, but extraordinarily successful, I would have thought you were nuts. But, importantly, the Powers That Be at the BBC let Who lay fallow for fifteen years - a steady trickle of fans-only ancillary product and one regrettable American TV movie notwithstanding. By the time Who came back a few years ago, there was enough water under the bridge that the general public could come to it fresh, but not enough time had passed that the hardcore fans had begun to, well, die off.

Contrariwise, there was a new Trek series on the air every year from 1987 to 2005, and half-a-dozen movies in theaters as well. In the years 1994-95 alone, Next Generation ended, Deep Space Nine continued, Voyager began and Generations saw theatrical release. That's an incredible amount of material in a relatively short amount of time: say what you will about George Lucas, but there is something to be said for keeping a tight control on the reins of your fictional universe. The general malaise which met the release of Enterprise signified more than merely dissatisfaction with the show itself (although that was a part of it), but a marked decline in the franchise's general appeal. The fanbase had dwindled, the writing and production had grown stale to a general audience, the well had gone dry. I watched consistently for most of the 90s but my attention wandered after Deep Space Nine ended: Voyager just wasn't anywhere near as good, a few standout episodes aside. I stopped watching at some point. I didn't bother with the last couple Next Generation films, and I don't think I ever saw a whole episode of Enterprise. (Although I have heard a few good things about the series in the ensuing years, by people who said that towards the end they gave up on trying to follow the Next Generation formula and just went crazy.)

So if you're working on Star Trek, your challenge is two-pronged: one, you have to win back old-school fans like me who may have strayed from the franchise, and are at the very least skeptical about any new material. But two, and more importantly, you have to be able to wipe the slate clean for the casual viewer. If you're going to sink $75-100 million on a Star Trek film you have to make it palatable to the general public who will decide whether or not the movie opens with a triumphant $50-60 million weekend or a Fanboy-FUBU $20 million.

My first bit of advice? Well, it's a bit moot now, but it bears repeating: whatever you do, don't reboot. It's one thing to reboot Batman. People are used to seeing different actors as Batman - just as they're used to seeing different people as Superman, James Bond and - presumably one day - Spider-Man. These characters all originated in other media besides film, so there is no one actor who carries a monopoly on how Bruce Wayne could or should act or look. But Captain Kirk? One of the most iconic characters in television history, and - for better or for worse - absolutely, inextricably identified with the performance of William Shatner. Shatner doesn't get a lot of credit for being a good actor - he's not, really - but in Captain Kirk he found a character that matched his temperament and performance instincts so well that the idea of Shatner playing another character besides Kirk - to say nothing of another actor ever trying to play Kirk - seems like simple folly. Leonard Nimoy was a much better actor than Shatner, and therefore it's probably a more significant shame that he became as typecasted as he did, but the same concept applies.

The original Trek remains eternally popular, and even managed to emerge from the Trek-overload of the 1990s relatively unscathed. (To that end Paramount's decision, whether intentional or incidental, to keep the "Next Gen" and "Classic" brands separate and distinct probably saved the long-term viability of the franchise. Conversely, Lucas' insistence on marketing all of Star Wars under a singular banner might have precipitated significant fandom erosion, considering the toxic reaction to the prequel trilogy in fan circles and the common belief that the later films negatively impacted perception of the earlier films.) Kirk and Spock still retain significant cultural cache. Even people who know nothing about science fiction have seen the original Star Trek. Going back to Kirk and Spock seems problematic at best. It's not like Battlestar: Galactica, where few know and fewer care whoever the fuck played Starbuck back in 1979. People still remember the original Star Trek.

But at root, the problem is even simpler than that: going back to the beginning just seems half-assed. It doesn't even look like a total stem-to-stern revamp, like the aforementioned Galactica: based on what little we've seen and heard, its Kirk and Spock on the Enterprise. How much future does a franchise legitimately have if it spends all of its time retelling old stories? Admittedly, I may be entirely mistaken: maybe the world desperately needs a new interpretation of Kirk and Spock, and the movie will make a hojillion dollars. (It'll probably make a lot of money anyway, if advance buzz is any indication.) But speaking from the privileged position of a fan, I can honestly say I'm not really interested in seeing it done again when it was done well the first time. Show me something new. That's exactly what they did with Next Generation back in 1987, and - at least for a while - it worked like gangbusters. The success of the original-cast films throughout the 80s prompted the invention of a new series going off in new directions, and those new directions were interesting enough to propel almost twenty years worth of material. Hopefully that kind of a leap forward is a possibility in addition to the film's soft reboot, because I think there's still a lot of potential in the world of Star Trek . . . but I'm skeptical about how much of that potential can be fulfilled by rehashing old ideas.

Tomorrow (or the day after): why Next Generation failed.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Stop the Motherf***ing Presses

Ladies and gentlemen, is there even any need for blogs, or even the Internet, anymore? Isn't this pretty much it? I mean, all we need now is for someone to do a YTMND animation of Spock drawing a pentagram and saying "You're the man now, dog." And then, if that happened, we could say the human race had finally fulfilled its potential.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Root For The Home Team

Logic dictates that rooting for a losing sports team is the height of inefficiency, and yet people do it all the time. By nature, most sports teams are losers at one point or another, no one wins all the time unless they're the Boston Celtics in the 1960s. The most sensible thing to do would be to follow the team with the best record, and to switch allegiances at will as the teams' performance varied. Hence, if the Diamondbacks were doing well this year, you'd root for them, but if they fell into a slump you'd follow whichever team was having a better year. You could limit it to regional affiliation if you insisted: but still, at the end of the day, if you lived in California you could decide whether to root for the Angels, the Dodgers, the Padres, the A's or the Giants, maybe even the Diamondbacks or the Mariners. Perhaps there could be a simple rubric for deciding which team had the potential for the most profitable fan-relationship.

But the dictates of logic have nothing to do with fandom. Cubs fans have had a tough time of it, with the longest championship drought of any team in professional sports history. So, why does anyone support the Cubs? Why do people feel such illogically strong proprietary feelings towards a team that has disappointed so often? In real life, if your spouse of significant other let you down 99 times in a row, you'd probably seriously reconsider whether or not to continue to be with them. And if you bought 99 bad issues of Superman in a row, you'd probably stop buying Superman for good, right?


Brand loyalty gets people into trouble, and it's even worse in the realm of entertainment, where brand loyalty becomes conflated with identity. No one outside of the realm of stationary retail or Wall Street gives a crap whether or not Xerox outsells Canon. Maybe an extremely small percentage of the population, office managers or whatnot, have an opinion about photocopiers, but most of the rest of us could not care less as long as the damn thing works when you go to the library or Kinkos. Maybe a few more people care about Coke versus Pepsi - most people who drink soda probably have a general preference* whether, if offered the choice between the two, they will choose Pepsi or Coca-Cola, but the majority of people probably don't spend too much time thinking about brand loyalty, they just buy what they like**. If Coke stopped making Coke, they'd switch to Pepsi or RC or Shasta (where applicable). Maybe a few more people care about cars - a few people have terrific brand loyalty, especially regarding American cars. You don't see as many "I'd Rather Push A Chevy Than Drive A Ford" bumper stickers as you used to, but they're still out there. Likewise, Honda drivers like Hondas for their longevity and easy maintenance; Subaru drivers like Subarus because of their progressive corporate practices and similar ease of maintenance.

But except for an infinitesimal minority, most people don't really identify with these kinds of economic decisions in the same we they do the decisions they make regarding their entertainment intake, be it sports or TV or comics. People identify with their favorite sports teams, they identify with their favorite TV shows, and they identify with Batman. There is no more wrenching decision for any sports fan than to see their team uprooted to a new city: what do you do? Continue following "your" team when they're halfway across the country or switch allegiances? How long? Do you continue to be a Dodgers fan, and teach your children and their children to be Dodgers fans in the heart of New York long after anyone who ever played for the team's Brooklyn incarnation is long dead?

And what if Batman sucks? If you're a fan, your allegiance to the Batman franchise sidesteps reason. If you want Batman, you have to buy the Batman comics supplied by DC. Maybe you also buy the Iron Man comics, and perhaps Spawn too, but if you like Batman you probably don't acknowledge any of these as appropriate substitutes for Batman - you'd probably be just as pissed if Iron Man sucked, and just as unlikely to buy more Batman in substitution if the situation were reversed.

Given this, it takes a lot to shake this kind of brand loyalty. Look how hard Paramount had to work to erode fan loyalty to the Star Trek brand, one of the most notoriously strong brands in all of entertainment. It isn't even really brand loyalty: if you really, really like Batman - or Star Trek, or Iron Man, or the Cubs - it's not a question of identifying with the Batman brand, it goes deeper than that. It goes to the heart of your identity in small but subtle ways. If you have loyalty to Batman you've probably been loyal to Batman since you were very young, and can't imagine a world where Batman comics didn't exist, and where you didn't buy them at least occasionally.

And by that same token, the fierce loyalty to Batman translates to a strong feeling of entitlement: if you've given a large portion of your life to the character, you have a right to dictate terms, right? You get a say, I mean, other than simply choosing whether or not to by the books? That's a given, right? I mean, if you're already going to spend $3.00+ on Batman every month, you should get some say in what happens between those pages, right? Once you've committed to the purchase, and are presumably committed to the purchase for the foreseeable future, the creators and editors have an obligation to pay attention to you, right? You get a say, right?


* To this effect, I should point out that I am the only person I know who is completely agnostic about cola - I will happily drink either Pepsi or Coke (but not the diet version of either, thank you), and will usually drink Pepsi Max or Coke Zero interchangeably. That is less of a preference than most people have, I'd wager, but most peoples' loyalty to their brand of choice is probably not very deep.

** Diet Coke drinkers are the exception: those people are fanatics.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Such A Great Idea, Someone Already Had It In 1987

In case you don't remember, I put this up a couple months back.

Then just today I was skimming through this:

When I came across this:

Specifically, this:

So now we have proof: there has been a groundswell
of support for Morrissey for over two decades.

It can happen.

It should happen.

(Incidentally, when I concocted the strip above I had no idea that Davros was going to be the big baddie for Season 4, it was really just wishful thinking, and reasonable deduction considering he was the last really big name missing from the old series - Daleks, Cybermen, the Master, the Sontarans - after Davros it's slim pickings, and even the Sontarans were kind of goofy to begin with. I mean, everyone was hoping that the Rani would be in Season 4 but, seriously, do you see the Rani coming back? Ever? About as much chance of that as the Mad Friggin' Monk.)

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Moment of Calm

There is something downright nasty about seeing so many people so fixated on one man losing his job. The comics industry is a strange place, a place where generations of fan entitlement have inculcated a feeling of intimate ownership over what are, ultimately, esoteric business matters. Ever since Stan Lee invited the fans into the chummy clubhouse atmosphere of their (largely fictionalized) Bullpen, comics fans have considered the innermost workings of their favorite companies to be as much their business as baseball fans do for real-life Bullpens.

Although this mindset is absolutely inexplicable to some, life-long comics fans can't really imagine a world without the conflict between Marvel and DC - the dichotomy and competitiveness is, ultimately, far more important to the hobby (for better or, mostly, worse) than any minor quibble about the relative strengths of Superman and the Hulk, and just as vital a catalyst for fan imaginations. But we're not 12 years old anymore, and it's not 1968. Unless you're a shareholder or corporate officer, a coworker or freelancer or retailer, you don't have any stake in whether Dan Didio gets fired. You may be the biggest Nightwing fan in the world, or whatever, but there's the fake world of comics and the real world of the company, and in the real world people losing jobs, careers being curtailed and (the inevitable) layoffs that follow any creative shake-up really aren't funny, and they aren't any of our business. Rooting for one side against the other is really in poor taste when you consider that people who lose jobs in comics often lose their jobs for good. It's easy to get blackballed or simply left behind when there are only a handful of companies in the world that could appreciate an experienced comics industry resume. If you sell comics for a living, or work in comics, well, you are entitled to have an opinion, since the upper management at DC comics directly impacts your bottom line, whether or not you can put food on the table or keep your business profitable. But if you're biggest stake in this controversy is the fact that Countdown sucked, well, why not spend some time getting equally upset about Robert Mugabe? He's someone who legitimately deserves to lose his job - and I feel entirely justified in saying that, because he's killed and tortured thousands of people and driven an entire country to collapse. Have Dan Didio's bad decisions killed anyone? No? Perhaps some perspective is in order.

Do you think Dan Didio deserves to lose his job? Well, there's a big chasm between journalistic or editorial discretion and fanman entitlement. Just remember, any shakeup in a company like DC always brings a fair share of collateral damage - corporate America is a ruthless place. Whether or not Didio or anyone else loses their job, is forced out, or resigns, any chaos is likely to take its toll on people who have no direct stake either way. If you're a corporate officer or upper management at DC, these are heavy decisions to weigh. But if you're not, if you're just another comics fan or uninterested spectator, well, just give a thought to those people whose careers might be harmed by the real-world consequences of these words and pictures on paper, before you get so enthusiastic about something so very unfortunate.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ganges #1
By Kevin Huizenga

I went shopping recently with a friend of mine who had never heard of Kevin Huizenga. I had finally found a copy of Ganges #1, which had sold out instantly at the comic shop I used to frequent, and which I had not come across in the intervening months. “Who is Kevin Huizenga?” my friend asked. She knows a fair amount about comics, at least the bigger names – she knows Chris Ware and Gary Panter and can even spot the difference between Chris Ware and Adrian Tomine (most of the time) – but Huizenga just isn’t anywhere near as big a name, not yet. My split-second reply was that Huizenga was our greatest living cartoonist.

Which is, of course, something of an exaggeration. Except, when I think about it, it’s not really that far off. It’s weird to think about just how new he is, relatively speaking – looking back on the early days of the decade, it seems almost as if he sprang fully-formed from the proverbial godhead. None of that growing-up-in-public stuff we used to see: his work was eerily good from the very moment he caught peoples’ attention. Come to think of it, I think most people who weren’t following his minicomics throughout the 90s caught on at pretty much the exact time, and it was something like an instantaneous paradigm shift: one minute there was no Kevin Huizenga, the next minute there was. If that sounds hyperbolic, well, I haven’t had very many reading experiences that equal the impact of my first exposure to “Jeepers Jacobs”. I can’t even remember if that was the first Huizenga I read or not, but I still remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I read that story in Kramers Ergot #5. And I also remember immediately flipping the pages back and reading the story again: not something I feel the need to do an awful lot these days.

And nothing he’s released or repackaged since then has disappointed. Huizenga's work hews a very canny line between experimentation and emotion, with stories that somehow manage to incorporate the strict formalism of the post-Fort Thunder crowd with a kind of honest sentimentality that only seems rare considering the dearth of melodrama in modern art comics. (Seriously, how many cartoonists out there contemplate humanity with all the empathy of bugs under a magnifying glass? Or, conversely, try for dimensionality and end up in the land of trite precocity? It's really hard to make good characters: just about the hardest thing to do in all of art, really.) Glenn Ganges isn't Kevin Huizenga - he's made that abundantly clear from interviews and other assorted statements. But reading about Ganges it is easy to understand why the temptation to connect him with his creator is so strong: there's an ease of feeling that defies trivialization.

Writing comics about ordinary life is extraordinarily difficult. A lot of people believe that you need to have led an interesting life in order to be able to write an interesting story about your life: just look for any online review of an autobiography for some variation of this tautology. But I've never believed that this is true at all. It's all about perception. Some of the most interesting books I've ever read were autobiographical studies of exceedingly banal events which were told in the most riveting way possible. Chester Brown's classic diptych of The Playboy and I Never Liked You are, simply on the face of their subject matter (adolescent angst over masturbation and girls, respectively), two of the most pedestrian books ever written, and yet they collectively set a high-water-mark for confessional autobiography that has rarely if ever been equaled. (I was going to mention Justin Green's Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary, but on second thought, there actually is a pretty remarkable story just in Green's warped perceptions, whereas the actual facts of Brown's life are pretty remarkable simply for their ordinariness.) Like Justin Green, Huizenga isn't afraid to bend the line between relative (cartoon) naturalism and outright surrealism, and the somewhat liminal nature of Ganges' character - not quite an avatar for Huizenga, not quite entirely fictional - allows for a surpassingly supple manipulation of fictive reality.

To this end, one of Huizenga's favorite tricks is to warp the reality of the comics page in such a way as to allow the characters - and the reader - a sideways glimpse at the mechanical processes undergirding the actual reading process itself. It's not flashy like a Grant Morrison comic - which sometimes can feel a bit like Morrison standing on stage waving a big neon sign saying "Look how clever I am! You're reading a comic! I'll bet you didn't know that!" - but rather, Huizenga uses these little metatextual devices as a way of illuminating the interior life of his characters instead of any kind of large "Gotcha!" moment. It only makes sense, after all, that Glenn Ganges' understanding of time resembles the tiers of panels on a comic book page. What could have, conversely, been a wonky exercise in sequential poesy instead acts as an insightful peak into his character's interior life, a convincing look at the kind of silly, stupid, precious, profound thoughts people really do have when they allow their minds to wander.

Huizenga builds his stories out of seemingly nothing - the bare outlines of domestic episodes, woolgathering sessions and dime-store epiphanies that somehow add up to convincing snapshots. Unfortunately, Huizenga tries a couple different effects later in the book that don't quite add-up as well. In one instance, he interpolates song lyrics into the story in an attempt to juxtapose familiar, overplayed pop sentiment with more authentic emotion. It doesn't work partly because the song he picks is "She's Leaving Home" by the Beatles. I can see his thought-processes - in wanting to pick a song familiar enough so that as many people as possible would know it - in order to tap into the sort of shared-knowledge collective unconscious experience necessary in order for the emotional pivot of the story to work. But it never quite takes off, because the Beatles' song is so familiar that it makes for a jarring inclusion, and the song itself is, frankly, not one of the Beatles' high points. (Honestly, it's mawkish and silly and considering how much I loved it when I was a kid I don't think I ever need to hear Sgt. Pepper's again: it's a hard album to love considering it's probably the most overexposed cultural artifact of the last fifty years [or, at least, up in the top five with Star Wars, Thriller and Harry Potter]). Trying to dig deep into "She's Leaving Home" to make a genuine emotional statement seems forced - I would not say trite or lazy, because Huizenga makes an honest attempt, but it just didn't work for me. Similarly, an episode with a kid dropping a pocketful of candy wrappers on the ground seems repetitive, almost predictable in the way Glenn Ganges uses the episode as a springboard for daydreaming.

But after a wobbly middle section, the book picks up at the end, when Ganges' stray thoughts lead him straight into affecting territory: anxiety over growing old with his wife. This is where he was trying to build with "She's Leaving Home", the universally evocative image of growing old with your lover. It's a testament to his strengths as a storyteller that even though the middle portions of the book felt strained he was still able to land his proverbial jump with pinpoint accuracy: we are left with Glenn in the dark lying next to Wendy, feeling very much alone and afraid. The video games seen fleetingly throughout the book - and which take center stage in Ganges #2 - present death in an offhand manner, a temporary setback that can be overcome with the help of a reset button, just as time in a comic strip can be rerun merely by turning back the pages and reading again. Time can be a loop or a treadmill, and there is comfort in these repetitious motifs: how many times, exactly, have you seen Charlie Brown try to kick the damn football without success? You know how it ends, but there's comfort in the pageant of familiarity, a familiarity so often denied us in everything but comic strips and overplayed pop songs.

And how exactly does it end? It doesn't, really, it just sort of fades to black as Glenn gradually falls asleep in his darkened bedroom. Just like life.

Monday, June 16, 2008

DC Management Is Apparently Serious
About Editorial Getting Their Act Together

Sunday, June 08, 2008

About How I Feel Right Now, And Not In A Good Way

Extra Bonus:

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Burning the Midnight Oil

A couple weeks back they released a twentieth anniversary edition of Midnight Oil's Diesel and Dust. That made me feel very old: I remember buying Diesel and Dust when it first came out, and I certainly remember the video for "Beds Are Burning" being played ad infinitum on MTV. Strange as it may seem to anyone younger than, say, twenty, there was once a time when a blatantly leftist rock track about restitution and repatriation for Australian Aborigines could become a top-ten hit in America.

It wasn't even their best record, not by far. In 1984 the band released Red Sails In The Sunset, one of the best records of the decade, and one that has gone almost unheralded since it's release. It would be futile to try to describe the band's sound with any accuracy - they're punk, a little bit, certainly in their politics, but they're also hard rock with more than a little bit of surf rock in their genes. Red Sails also has a bit of the then-current synth pop sound, and enough percussive ballast to look forward to the hard industrial sound of Ministry, at least in places.

They didn't let up after the 80s, although they ceased to be a commercial force about the time grunge broke. The group broke up in 2002 so singer Peter Garrett could focus on his political career. He was no political dilettante, however: in 2004 Garrett was elected to the Australian House of Representatives, and in 2007 he was named Minister for Environment, Heritage and Arts by Prime Minister-elect Kevin Rudd. That's something in the neighborhood of Ian MacKaye being named Secretary of Education.

If you've never paid the band any attention - and most people haven't - give them a listen here.

Monday, June 02, 2008

A Public Service Announcement

Click for big.
Six Thoughts On Final Crisis #1
(Spoilers, I guess, but if you don't know
what happens yet you probably don't care)

1. Everything everybody has already said about the book is true, except for the people who inexplicably liked it. They're wrong.

2. Grant Morrison is reaching, if he hasn't already reached, the end of his shelf-life. Every writer reaches a point where their accumulated stylistic baggage overwhelms that they know about craft and common-sense. Sometimes it is possible for writers to overcome these problems, sometimes it isn't. Stephen King, to use a contemporary example, knows enough about his own weaknesses as a writer that he works around them: some of his books are less polished than others, and he readily admits that he spends more time and more care on something like Lisey's Story or his Dark Tower books than, say, whatever the last thriller he wrote about a haunted car was called. Conversely, Salman Rushdie seems to have reached a similar point, albeit with less awareness of his own faults than King. I tried valiantly to make my way through a new story of Rushdie's that was printed in The New Yorker a couple months back, and it was an arduous task. All the little stylistic ticks that made his earlier books so interesting have calcified into self-interested mush, and the result - at least judging from the samples I've read - is pretty stifling.

Morrison has reached a similar point as well, but the problem is that whereas at his most logorrheic King is still coherent, Morrison at his most Morrisonian simply forgets to give the reader very important information pertaining to the plot. The result, in Final Crisis, is jumpy and borderline unintelligible. His Batman is even worse. (And the legibility of the book is certainly not helped by the poor-to-bad art he's been saddled with. I have to wonder whether or not the book would read better if they dropped the sub-Image art in favor of an old hand like, say, Eduardo Barreto or Graham Nolan - two good Bat-artists who left superhero comics in favor of newspaper strips in recent years.) The reason his All-Star Superman remains as good as it is - good, but not great - is that Morrison seems to be purposely limiting himself to a relatively conservative palette of storytelling tools. A lot of sophisticated effects, true, but it's all still fairly linear. Writing a big plot-heavy super-hero bruhaha like Final Crisis requires keeping on top of the plot at all costs: mood, theme, even character and setting can be sidelined as long as the plot retains a coherent shape. "Rock of Ages" and DC 1,000,000 were incredibly complex and even innovative super-hero stories in terms of how they approached plot; but most importantly in both instances, the plot was still methodically laid out (if perhaps a bit jumbled, requiring a bit more work on the part of the reader). Reading the first issue of Final Crisis seemed more like proofreading Morrison's shorthand summary of plot ideas than an actual full-formed plot.

3. With that said, it was remarkable to me just how predictable said plot actually was. I'm hardly a DC trainspotter, yet every single significant story beat was telegraphed months in advance, either through Morrison's own interviews and public appearances or online speculation. It would be foolish to demand innovation from this kind of big tentpole product-shifting extravaganza, but the sense of familiarity gives the whole proceeding an air not merely of having "been-there, done-that", but of being almost superfluous, less a comic in and of itself but a series of previously determined story beats that are boring to everyone involved but which are already committed, sort of like the stations of the cross - only difference being, Catholics still care about Jesus whereas most people don't really care about the Martian Manhunter.

4. Jeezum Crow, can we have a moratorium on stories where people sit around tables and talk? This seems to be primarily a DC innovation - the last few years have seen a proliferation of stories featuring heroes and villains sitting around conference tables hashing out boring shit. DC Comics: where boring shit happens, just like your work, only most likely your 10:00 AM Monday morning sales meeting doesn't involve people dressed like Batman. If it does, well, you live a more interesting life than I do.

5. For all his elevated talk, Morrison does seem to have absorbed all the cynical, unpleasant ticks readers more readily associate with a crass journeyman craftsperson like Geoff Johns. The Martian Manhunter's death was obviously supposed to be crass and sordid, but jeez, it's kind of hard to satirize crass and sordid by playing at being crass and sordid, you know? People still talk about how effective Supergirl and Barry Allen's deaths were in the first Crisis: for super-hero deaths, they were both extremely effective and affecting. By killing the Manhunter so casually, they are underlining the fact that they already have plans for his speedy resurrection, maybe even later in the pages of this very series. In comics, death is similar to celebrity rehab: you go in after things have been bad for a while, and when you get out everyone pretends that you're better and different for a short period of time before quickly sliding back downhill. Only, replace "hardcore drug use" with "unpopular with nerds".

6. Darkseid and the other New Gods reincarnated as gangsters and hoodlums?

. . .

Really? That's what you're going with? You can take that move back, I'll give you a Mulligan. Please. I'll turn around.