In the Comic Book world, 2008 was the year of the massive crossover-event, with the big Two companies putting their entire universes in a Crisis or an Invasion. I’ve always been baffled how this happens, how A Bug’s Life and Antz get commissioned and produced and released at the exact same time. So maybe large companies attract spies and creative content warfare, I can understand that, but with all the resources at their disposal, all the writers and timeless characters with guaranteed readers, why can’t DC or Marvel come up with an original idea for their massive project of the year?
And more importantly, why can’t they successfully end the unoriginal ones they do commit to? Brian Michael Bendis’ Secret Invasion #8 (a comic I can’t discuss at any length without wishing to have back all the money spent on getting to that issue) ends the sprawling storyline with the requisite huge battle, shown in hindsight on only 2 pages, a weirdly ineffective death, and the kingdom keys handed to a classic Villain who immediately proceeds to form a cabal of the most despotic or morally gray characters (and the recently accepted and adored Emma Frost for some reason) to reign over the entire Marvel Universe…darkly.
Compare DC’s Final Crisis, which they are (still) stretching out for as long as Saul Tigh can make a hexagonal bottle of Ambrosia last. Darkseid (who is possibly dead?) infects the entire world with the brilliantly named “Anti-Life Equation”, symptoms of which include no free will, infinite rage, a seriously shortened vocabulary, and a silver helmet. Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman are nowhere to be seen (the latter recently “dead” at the hands of the same writer) and any minor characters still fighting back are systematically picked off in various disgusting scenes. And, surprise, once the series finally ends, new ‘events’ such as Faces of Evil and Blackest Night give us a deeper look into the minds and successes of villains. After the destruction and fascination with pure, reasonless evil that epitomized Powers , I assumed Brian Michael Bendis would be the more disappointing and depressing lead writer, but compared to Morrison’s drug-induced grimy nonsense, Bendis seems positively wholesome.
Both Marvel and DC have been hiding poor ideas and weak execution through spectacle. They make a big show of stripping away all we hold dear, and putting those we care for in great peril. But they refuse to save them. “That’s been done.” But delving into the point of view of the bad guy, that’s completely unique.
It kind of reminds me of that sign of Palestinian protesters saying “Jihad, yes we can”. God bless inspiration.
The media’s relentless description of our current world as nigh apocalyptic, inspired by generous liberal ideals, reminds one more of the comic landscape than reality. (I assume Morrison or Bendis would give credit to that by saying something a la Viggo Mortenson telling Charlie Rose that the Eye of Sauron represents Bush. ) From tainted politicians (Blago and Stark) to global warming (only Storm can change the weather, friends) the dangerous and morally wrong elements of both fiction and reality are covered up, ignored, or twisted into something profitable.
Today it has all but officially been declared that Stuart Smalley is the newest Senator of Minnesota. That so bold and obvious an attempt at pure election theft can be perpetrated with so few dissenting voices, and all those gone unheard, rattles me like the snapping of Batman’s spine. How can our democracy be so easily manipulated? Are there truly no heroes at all in America?
Well, there are, but they are mistaken for enemies while the entitled ambitious villains are cast as the heroes. (Does J. Jonah Jameson run The New York Times?) While Obama’s skipping track of “Hope” and “Change” now sounds like “Anti-Life justifies my actions!”, we are stuck staring at his messianic glow, or the masterfully deliberate botching of Blagojevich’s “fall”, while Al Franken whines, cries foul, changes position, lies, steals, and brainwashes to successfully become an actual US Senator, emphasizing their already serious majority. (A majority, as Mark Steyn said, I am completely at peace with as long as it was obtained democratically. )
Much like the impending Obama PR blitz pushing his economic stimulus package distracts from his lack of any comment at all related to Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, a glossy comic book cover appeals to our purest desires, and hides the dysfunction within. As we begin this new year, we will be forced to endure a world where the loudest and most powerful voices belong to Dr. Doom and Ahmadinejad, Obama and Norman Osborn.
Turn on the news, pick up a comic, and the bad guys seem to keep winning.