Posted by: Abhay Khosla on January 9, 2012
Dear Savage Critic readers,
I’m very sorry to bother, but an extremely minor and insignificant question about mainstream comics occurred to me the other day, one that’s been nagging at me, that I thought I’d put to you and request your assistance with. Extremely minor; extremely insignificant.
I probably haven’t been paying as close attention to mainstream comics as some of you, and so some of you may be more knowledgeable on this topic than I am. (Indeed, those less knowledgeable should be warned that there may be spoilers for comics you may want to read someday below).
I’m sure this is a question that’s already been asked elsewhere, already discussed at great length by my betters, so I apologize that this is likely well-trod ground. I’m a bit behind. Just a simple question for the more knowledgeable among you.
I was spending my free-time the other day the same way I imagine most you spend your free-time: idly day-dreaming about how awesome THE FLASH is right now, and how THE FLASH is better than all of the other comics, and how anyone who disagrees with that can SUCK IT. You know: normal thoughts for an adult person to be thinking with their brains. (I just happen to be particularly enjoying THE FLASH at the moment, in a way that probably far exceeds any of that comic book’s actual merits.)
And so, as I’m reflecting upon THE FLASH— basking in its glory, some might say– my thoughts turned to what the book was like for me before the relaunch: Not Good.
After the relaunch, DC let the book’s art team, Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, handle the writing. Neither gentleman being professional comic writers by trade, the two instead naively decided to tell a story about how (1) The Flash is a decent guy, (2) The Flash has the coolest powers, (3) The Flash has to face-down gnarly bad guys, and (4) making THE FLASH comics lets them draw/color super-cool things. Mainstream comics usually aren’t about any of those four things because some writer’s busy showing off that they know things about, like, politics or whatever, instead; e.g., 2011 was the year where Captain America, Iron Man and Superman all had opinions about THE ECONOMY.
But that wasn’t what the comic was like before the relaunch. No, before the relaunch, The Flash employed a comic writer and the couple issues I checked out in anticipation of our Roundtable discussion on FLASHPOINT, they weren’t as focused on those four things.
Instead, the comic writer was building towards his epic crossover, FLASHPOINT, built on the premise that “EVERYTHING YOU KNEW ABOUT THE FLASH’S MOM WAS WRONG.”
The FLASHPOINT crossover included a BATMAN spin-off called BATMAN: KNIGHT OF VENGEANCE. The premise of that comic was “EVERYTHING YOU KNEW ABOUT BATMAN’S MOM WAS WRONG.”
Both comics were published contemporaneously with Marvel’s FEAR ITSELF crossover, which was about how “EVERYTHING YOU KNEW ABOUT THOR’S DAD WAS WRONG.” (Uh: and also something about “escape”, apparently).
Which … and here’s where I show my ignorance, and mention comics I haven’t read…but this was published around the same time as the relaunch of ULTIMATE SPIDERMAN. Which I’ve been told began with stories about how “EVERYTHING SPIDERMAN KNOWS ABOUT HIS DAD AND UNCLE IS WRONG.”
And published within the vicinity of a series called S*H*I*E*L*D*, which again I’ve been told is about how “EVERYTHING YOU KNOW ABOUT MISTER FANTASTIC’S DAD AND IRON MAN’S DADS IS WRONG.”
And in spitting distance of the highly publicized BATMAN R.I.P., which teased readers with the prospect that “EVERYTHING BATMAN KNOWS ABOUT HIS DAD IS WRONG.”
And spitting distance of the mystery of the Red Hulk– another comic I didn’t read, but the resolution of which was apparently that “EVERYTHING YOU KNOW ABOUT THE HULK’S WIFE’S DAD IS WRONG.”
I mean, I know this isn’t the most unusual theme in fiction. It’s been done before. I have half a memory of a stretch of either John Byrne or Jerry Ordway’s SUPERMAN that concerned the mystery of whether Lex Luthor or Perry White had impregnated Perry White’s wife. The way I remember it, Lex Luthor mistakenly thought you could get a girl pregnant from the mouth. They were trying to make a point how Lex Luthor post-Crisis wasn’t a scientific genius anymore, but Jesus, that was a pretty extreme way of going about it, if you ask me. My memories are pretty fuzzy, though, so I may be off on some of the minor details there.
That comic RUNAWAYS was well-liked– I suppose that was built on the same basic foundation of Parent Secrets. Or I want to say that I heard YOUNG AVENGERS might have had similar ideas in it somewhere…?
So my questions:
1. Am I misremembering details of comics I’ve never read that I only half-heard about, or are mainstream comics especially fixated on this theme lately?
2. If the latter, were comics equally fascinated with this theme in earlier periods?
My loose, under-educated and malnourished understanding of mainstream comics history bros is that, basically, you had the Obscure WW2-Era Bros whose themes were that evil can go fuck itself and that dudes be getting stabbed in the eyes; the 60’s Bros who cared a lot about people who were different being treated equally; the Acid-Stoner Bros, who cared about acid and skulls and just contemplating the concept of motherfucking infinity; the Punk Bros (followed by the Acid House Bros, though they arguably did their best work out of the mainstream, with obvious exceptions); the Crosshatch Bros, and then, the Movie Brat Bros, right? None of whom really struck me as being especially parent-oriented, thinking back on them.
Granted, in WATCHMEN, “EVERYTHING LAURIE JUPITER KNEW ABOUT HER MOM AND DAD WAS WRONG.” They didn’t shy away from those themes. But I don’t know that I’d especially call it a dominant feature of 80’s British Invasion superhero comics, either.
Did we shift into the Parent Bro Era of Comics at some point and I just didn’t notice?
3. Is this a theme that’s meaningful to… anybody? If I found out everything I knew about my parents was wrong, I’d be pretty bummed about it, I guess, but at the end of the day, I’d still have to make rent. So. I suppose it’s a powerful theme for little kids…?
4. Also: are comics outside of the mainstream, from Image, Vertigo, Oni, Boom, D&Q, Fantagraphics,etc., are those comics fixated on this theme too right now?
In one of the Appendixes of PAYING FOR IT, Chester Brown did theorize about a world where “EVERYTHING YOU KNEW ABOUT A GIRL YOU PAY FOR SEX’S MOM IS WRONG” (spoiler: you can also pay the mom for sex), but that doesn’t seem like the same thing.
Those are my questions. I apologize for those of you bored by these questions, as this has probably been discussed ad nauseam elsewhere. Thank you in advance for your assistance, and Happy New Year.