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’tisn’t easy bein’ green, tee tee tee tee tee

Brian Hibbs

I’ve never been a massive fan of St. Patrick’s Day — it is one of those days where I want to get the hell off the streets before the sun goes down to avoid “Amateur Night”, where all of the people who really don’t know how to drink large amounts of alcohol get to, in fact, prove that.

I do like how Ben’s school does it though. In Kindergarten and First Grade (at least) they have the kids build and design “leprechaun traps”, which is a fun project that really exercises both the kid’s creativity as well as their engineering skills. Ben built an awesome “bank” for the “Leps” to “rob”, with ladders to climb, and a collapsing rug over this neat net trap. He covered it in shiny paper and chocolate coins and (ha ha!) Lucky Charms cereal. It probably isn’t very culturally sensitive (though the Irish-as-in-actually-FROM-Ireland parents in the class thought it was a hoot), but these little 6 and 7 year olds really went all out in coming up with non-lethal ways to catch the Leps. Mechanically, some of them were really cleverly designed.

In Kinder, I did most of the construction for Ben (he didn’t have the manual dexterity then), but I left it mostly to him this year — about the only thing *I* did was show him how to to cut a hole in the “rug” so it would “collapse” into the actual trap area, but not show the trap (I cut an “x” in the center of the rug) — and his trap was the most popular one with the kids, which made me deathly proud.

Anyway, yesterday afternoon the kids carefully set their traps up all over the room (they called them “L.T.s”, in case any of the Leps were listening in [Sneaky bastards!]), and went home.

This morning they came in, and the classroom was totally wrecked! Desks turned sideways, chairs thrown around, “Lep dust” on everything… and all of their traps wrecked, in a giant pile, with parts tacked up to the wall, whatever. There was even a clear line of “Lep dust” that lead out a window, that some of the clever little detective girls found. It was chaos, it was madness, and it was an enjoyable of a morning as I’ve ever spent in class as the kids all screamed (in joy!) at the disaster the Leps left.

The Lep even left a note, and a sack of potatoes (!) for the kids. Apparently, they’re going to do a science lesson today with turning those solids into liquids (soup)

This has nothing to do with comics, I know, but I was entertained…

What I wasn’t really at all entertained by was last weeks JUSTICE LEAGUE RISE AND FALL SPECIAL and this week’s GREEN ARROW #31…

…which both made me think of other things I had read on the net this week. One of those was this interview with Steve Englehart on Newsarama, where Steve says, in response to “do you want to do more comics?”:

The last stuff I did for Marvel and DC had way too much editorial back-and-forth.  Once upon a time, editorial said, “These are your books, do whatever you want to do.”  The story I’ve told a zillion times is that Roy Thomas said, “We’re giving you Captain America – if you can make it sell, we’ll keep you on, if not, we’ll fire you and we’ll get somebody who can.”

That was the sum total of the editorial influence!  What I did and what Steve Gerber and those other guys did came from that.  Now, editorial says “Here’s what we’re going to do with the line and the major books, and we’ll just get people to fill in the blanks.”

The other thing I read that I flashed on was Buddy Saunder’s letter to CBG that Stephen Bissette reprinted in his excellent ongoing series about the rise of comics labeling in the 80s.

Then, as now, I disagreed with a number of Buddy’s points — especially with his seeming insistence that comics are, would continue to be, and should be anything other than a juvenile medium for juveniles (that’s a dramatic oversimplification of his point)

Now, despite the perhaps foolish nature of some of his complaints, a tremendous amount of what he said ended up coming reasonably true — “mainstream” superhero comics are really unacceptable for kids these days; I literally can’t have my son look at this week’s new books until I fully vet them first, and that’s a pretty drastic sea change from 1980-something, and probably not one for the better.

I’ve been thinking of this all this week anyway, as I decided Ben was probably old enough for James Bond films. He saw the box for Live and Let Die at the library, and wanted to know what was up with the skull-faced guy. So we borrowed that, and quickly went through The Man With the Golden Gun and The Spy Who Loved Me, and since they didn’t have Moonraker in stock, we went backwards to Goldfinger, and we’ll do the rest of the Connery pictures soon.

These are, of course, violent films, and there’s a smattering of salty language (“Daddy, he said the ‘s’ word!”) — but the violence is generally cartoony. When Bond mows down a line of Faceless Minions with a machine gun, they all just kind of fall over, bloodlessly, y’know? The character Jaws is scary to Ben, but it isn’t gross or anything, even when he bites people.

But Ben also saw Goldeneye and wanted to see that one, and I hesitated, because my memory says that by the Dalton era the violence starts getting ramped up with blood flying around, and that I am less than cool with. I don’t know, maybe I’m being silly, but I want Ben to be able to enjoy things I enjoyed when I was his age-ish, but we hit a point culturally where violence is portrayed harshly, and I don’t trust his instincts that those things aren’t “Cool!”, and maybe desensitizing him.

So, when I read comics like those Green Arrow ones, I wonder: “who is this really aimed at?” and “why are they doing this?” — on screen graphic murder and dismemberment, with blood spraying everywhere… clearly “Justice League”-branded material is no longer suitable for kids, but I don’t know any adults who are saying that this is what they want or need to see.

I might, maybe, be able to justify it in my mind if it lead to giant sales, or massive interest in Green Arrow — DC seems to be trying to manufacture a “Big Year!” for GA, but after week 1, our sales on JL:R&F are barely a third of JL:CFJ #7, and while, sure, that’s 50% above “normal” GA sales, that’s still that sales level where it is barely profitable for me to even rack the book in the first place, and I suspect all of that “bounce” will be gone by this time next month anyway.

Dubious editorial direction leading to no long term sales benefit, and putting a somewhat viable character in a position that doesn’t appear to have a lot of real long-term storytelling potential… I dunno, this doesn’t seem to me to be a smart plan?

I probably wouldn’t mind as much if there was stunning craft on display, but these comics just simply felt mechanical to me — like the editorial flow chart says this beat must happen here and that one there, so get to it, Mr. Writer Cog. And I know story-logic goes out of the window when you’re talking about superpowers, but I have a hard time believing that the guy with the Magic Wishing Ring (which can find ONE person “without fear” in a population of billions in a split second), or the other guy who can run from here to Africa between heartbeats is going to have ANY problem dealing with a guy and a bow, even IF he’s “hiding in the sewers”.

Plus the less said about Conner renouncing Buddhism, the better.

I don’t know, I found these comics to be mechanical, souless, repellent, and very very AWFUL.

What did YOU think?

-B

11 Responses to “ ’tisn’t easy bein’ green, tee tee tee tee tee ”

  1. [...] comics aim for?”, has been of much discussion (at least, around my house) this week. Brian Hibbs, after telling an adorable story about his son making a Leprechaun Trap, starts things off [...]

  2. I love your stories abt your son; leprechaun traps – priceless.

    As for the justice league stuff, count me out. Unappealing, uninteresting, unimaginative. If I want this kind of stuff (I don’t), I’ll see Mel Gibson movie (I won’t). I want some exciting, colorful super-hero stuff, not violent “edgey” mopey-mope. Dead kids? “Crying?” As you say, if it’s well crafted, maybe, if it’s cookie-cutter paint-by-numbers? Nu-uh (and I spend ~$100 each week, so I’m not exactly picky, but this is where I draw the line).

  3. I think the great irony of the whole idea of editorially-driven comics is that they are poorly suited to the Internet era.

    If editorial dictates the “story beats” to the writer that they think are big and shocking, then that is exactly what is going to break on the ‘net the day the issue drops. The Big Shocking Pages are going to get scanned into all the reviews. The editorial story beats are probably not going to sell one additional issue.

    In fact, to the extent that they feel like the point of the story, you could argue that they are going to depress sales. The stuff that you feel like you can’t miss these days is the subtle, personal story-telling.

  4. Goldeneye is the dawn of the Brosnan era, not Dalton. Though– there are a couple parts of Goldeneye that might be tough on a kid, I suppose– it’s really not the worst of them in that respect, but the character relationships are a little intense, I would wildly guess. From Brosnan, you might want to go with the Halle Berry or the Michelle Yeoh ones– the Michelle Yeoh one’s arguably the best of the Brosnan era, though the villain is terrible. Just terrible. He has this catchphrase like “Delicious” or “Delicioso.” Pryce was great in Glengarry, a couple other things, but he’s not really my guy. Avoid the Christmas Jones one, with Denise Richards and … oh, the guy from Trainspotting. Jonathan Pryce? I think that one gets a little dark at the end, if I remember right.

    Dalton’s are all to be avoided, but I just think that holds true in general. OHMSS is an avoid, though… yeah, that’s a pretty good one.

    Anyways: Connery still left to watch? Connery. *Thunderball*. For a kid, I would guess Thunderball. Just avoid Diamonds are Forever for a while– that one might screw him up.

    I don’t remember any of the Roger Moore’s being too bad but I don’t remember those too well. The one where Alonso Mosley’s the bad guy, with Jane Seymour, in the bayou– that one might be scary, I guess…? Grace Jones in View To Kill’s pretty scary. I’m still a little scared of Grace Jones from Boomerang.

    Also: “Conner renouncing Buddhism”– what?

  5. Well, Bond do some bad stuff in Thunderball, but … I don’t know, it’s really hard to remember those movies from a “was there bad stuff” perspective, I guess. Also, guy in Trainspotting’s name is Robert Carlyle. Whose wikipedia page photo is him looking disgusted with humanity at Comic-con. Comic book connection!

  6. Yay Connery Bond movies! You Only Live Twice is also great.

    With the Brosnan ones, I don’t recall the violence as much as the sexuality. I mean, okay, it’s hard to say that when early movies had Pussy Galore and Plenty O’Toole, but what’s it, Famke Janson’s character tries to have sex with some guy and then snaps his neck between her legs. You know? Were sex and violence ever woven together so well?

    Oh yeah, the current editorially-mandated JL stuff is repulsive, not just because of what happens, but how lifelessly it happens. This is the shlock I think most people were expecting to come out of Identity Crisis, which had unsettling elements and made little sense in the end, but at least was crafted pretty well.

  7. I wonder if things can’t help but be lifeless on these big books / properties when everything is rendered via writer’s summits and retreats.

    “I think it was soandso who shouted out ‘what if event x happened?’ and then we were all like, ‘whoa.’”

    I think a lot of these writers are good but unless you’re Grant Morrison – or others who can insist on a singular vision – you are beholden and subjected to the worst kinds of soul draining “collaboration.”

  8. Wow, lots of points on this post. Let’s see here:

    Abhay has a great read on Bond films. I’m a Bond fan myself and I’d second that all but Diamonds on the Connerys should be watchable for younger viewers, all of the Moores should be good too. Society did in fact take a weird turn in the late 80s where gratuitous violence became far more acceptable. Brosnan’s films are definitely a mixed bag and World is not Enough is the worst of the bunch. Goldeneye is excellent but too violent and sexy for young eyes – Michelle Yeoh makes Tomorrow worth watching.

    Editorially driven comics, for the most part, suck. Its an assembly-line mentality thats finally made its way to our little corner in the media kingdom. Most of my faves have been things like Power Girl, Fantastic Four, The Dark Tower, Criminal – things that get left alone. The few times a “line-wide” story has worked for me (Batman RIP, Final Crisis, Blackest Night) its been spearheaded by a writer who did the heavy-lifting themselves.

    On violence – if its well done I don’t have an issue with it. But its better suited for some properties and ill suited for others. I don’t mind a violent Batman story but I have zero interest in a dark Superman or Justice League tale. And it better be necessary. This Cry for Justice bullshit reeks of “we want this character to be different and we hear dark is cool so you, hired writer are going to hit these story beats to get them there”. It feels forced, unnecessary, and a substitute for good character development.

    Random thoughts – over.

  9. “I wonder if things can’t help but be lifeless on these big books / properties when everything is rendered via writer’s summits and retreats.

    “I think it was soandso who shouted out ‘what if event x happened?’ and then we were all like, ‘whoa.’””

    See 52. From what the writers related, their gatherings went exactly like that, and I don’t think anyone would say 52 was lifeless.

    Although I don’t think there was a strong editorial interference in that series. I mean, the writers themselves chose to move away from what editorial originally stated the series would be about (the missing year).

  10. I could be all wet, but I always thought this is what Dirk meant when he coined the phrase “superhero decadence.” Green Arrow was created to be a guy with goofy arrows. Denny O’Neil & Neal Adams and Mike Grell told “mature” stories with him, but Grell took him out of the mainline superhero universe (I think) and O’Neil & Adams mostly took him out (I think). Plus, all 3 of those guys had the talent to tell good stories where the sex and violence weren’t gratuitous. Nowadays, we get Green Arrow and Green Lantern discussing which superheroines they’ve slept with and Green Arrow running around killing people and to what end? The sex and violence is just gratuitous at this point and are the comics continue to sell worse than during the O’Neil/ Adams and Grell eras.

  11. I thought that was a great segue from the wonderful leprechaun trap story to why you can’t let your kids read mainstream comics anymore. In the context of your post, in a way, this had everything to do with comics. I remember a while back I was in my LCS, and a woman came in with her son, who was maybe 10, and asked where the comics for children were kept. And the store owner pointed out the spinner racks that housed the DC Kids & Marvel Adventures for them. I remarked how strange it was now, where you have one small “safe” section, and the owner didn’t really get my point: comics used to be mostly kid friendly, and now they were almost completely non kid-friendly, and you housed the kid-safe comics in the same way you used to house your adults-only comics: in one small ghetto of the store. Useless Anecdote #2: A while back, I was visiting some friends of mine in Jersey, who have a 5 year old son. They live about 15 minutes from Kevin Smith’s comic store, which I wanted to check out. I didn’t want to bring comics into the house without buying something for little Colin, but damned if I couldn’t find a single thing there that I really felt comfortable giving to someone else’s kid.
    As for Bond: I think all the Connery is cool, besides Diamonds Are Forever, like other comments have mentioned. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service would probably be the best Bond if Connery were in it, but I think there’s not so much a greater level of violence as there is an intensity to it, like they’re playing for keeps, that might be too much for younger viewers. The Roger Moores are if anything more cartoony, but avoid A View To a Kill, just cause it’s crap. I’m one of the rare folks who was OK with Timothy Dalton, & I really liked The Living Daylights and can’t remember anything objectionable, but stay away from License to Kill. I think that’s where the violence got more real and bloody, & that carried on to the Brosnans & particularly the current series, which of course should be avoided.

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