These are three posts from my Marvel blog of long ago, each of them a response to my attempt to determine the worst Marvel comic book ever published. Since they were all so closely linked, I decided to collect all three posts here for ease of reading. And the earlier posts have the name of the writer concealed–I don’t even know who it was after all of this time.
September 3, 2008 | 1:00 AM | By Tom_Brevoort | In General Received the following letter from an uberfan who asks that his name be withheld in response to yesterday’s post:
>Well, I think you’re being a bit disingenuous in ignoring the fact that Loeb is a favorite of the top artists in the industry, mainly because he, as I’m given to understand, defers to their interests more often than not. I’m not buying Hulk, but I have read friends’ copies, and I find it terribly written, yes. Issue #5 really sticks in the craw. Why? Not because Rulk beats Thor so easily; rather, it’s done in a way that makes Thor look very stupid. It’s hard not to read into this Loeb flipping the bird to Joe Straczynski over the latter’s complaints that Heroes was stealing his ideas. I find it pretty disheartening that it sells, even with a powerhouse like McGuinness drawing. It’s very condescending as well. The reveal that the Abomination was shot is presented as a huge reveal- “Since when does the HULK use a GUN?” I’m sure Loeb would defend this as “Being true” to the character as ‘ol Stan and Jack, but, uh, last time we saw the Hulk, he was using starships, axes, swords, lasers, and a ******* army!
And then there’s Wolverine: Evolution, which contains an origin and setup for Wolverine so bizarre, so convoluted, so… half-formed, that even Daniel Way seems to be wanting to ignore it aside from the Romulus character, even though he’s writing a book called Wolverine Origins.
But it’s still at the top of the sales charts. Ultimates isn’t as bad, mainly because, well, it’s so very much out of control that there’s got to be some twist in issue #5 or Ultimatum that explains it. You’re also missing the fact that Madureira has been missed by fans for seven years. Or as I said at the Marvel Your Universe panel in Philly, “If Joe took a dump in a bag, and drew it, it would sell; that’s how much people want to see his art.” < br>
I’d like to think people are buying these just for the art. If not, then… I don’t know what to tell you, Tom.
I also wouldn’t put Amazing #545 on any worst list. I don’t LOVE it, but I don’t totally dislike it, either. It’s not even the worst Spider-Man book in the past few years; that’s kind of a three way tie between “Back in BLack”, “The Other”, and “Sins Past”. In fact, I feel that if OMD “destroys” any character like fans have been claiming, it’s IRON MAN, for reasons I don’t think need going into.
I think Bendis’ run on New Avengers, since the second arc (“Breakout” remains pretty awesome), has been largely horrible, filled with cliffhangers to nowhere that either set up secret invasion or other series. In fact, I’m rather annoyed with the fact that now with SI I’m supposed to forgive all those stories since it was all a payoff for SI, which has become a magical plot hole plugger. That said, the Mighty Avengers issues since Koi Pham took over have been very sharp and amusing.
If I had to pick a “Worst Marvel Comic Tom Brevoort Ever Edited” it would probably be “The Collective”, though. An entire issue of this storyline is Maria Hill being incompetent and the President chewing her out, interespersed with shots of her ass (seriously, it’s getting impossible not to read Bendis’ gender issues into his work, and his obsession with showing strong women in positions of power as being secretly incompetent, unbearably bitchy, or needing to be saved by men, or all three). The final chapter of the storyline was so incomprehensible Joe Quesada had to spend time explaining it in New Joe Fridays. And if he needed to do that, then you and Bendis weren’t doing your job.
Sometimes I feel Bendis intentionally half-asses it, because of the abuse he’s taken from fans in the wake of disassembled. Which he doesn’t deserve. But does it inform his work? Could his stories have been better if he wasn’t thinking “This will REALLY piss them off!” You tell me.
But Bendis sells. As bad as his stories get, the books sell. And it’s not like I think he’s a bad writer (as opposed to Loeb), since USM is still consistently good after eight years (!) I just wish he would try a little harder to make his stories consistent and interesting.
But why do that when you can have Stan the Man sneer “Change is GOOD” and be done with it?
As for Geoff Johns, the hatred he’s getting lately I think has less to do with the quality of his books, as awful as GL: Secret Origins is (Seriously, who CARES if Hal and Carol ran past each other when they were kids?), Action Comics is still pretty decent, but the fact that the entirety of DC seems to be imitating him, and thus the readership is turning on him. I, personally, think Geoff should spend a year in therapy before being allowed to write another superhero comic, but there is a good writer in him.
What, however, is the one comic I think is the worst Marvel ever published?
Amazing Spider-Man #430. “Oh,” you’re thinking, “A Howard Mackie comic. How typical” Yes. BUT. this person says it better than I ever could:
Bad comics are one thing; THOSE kind of bad comics are unforgivable.
There are a couple of points here I’d take issue with, and a couple of biases that I think you’re showing–but unfortunately, I don’t have time tonight to compose a response, so it’s going to have to wait until tomorrow.
From a couple of days ago, I wanted to respond to a couple of points in our mystery uberfan’s e-mail about the Worst books and some of the issues that came up during our voting on that topic.
First off, Uber, you’re obviously entitled to feel however you feel about any book that anybody puts out, and I’m not looking to change your mind about any of this per se. But there were a couple of interesting elements to how you expressed yourself that I’d like to dissect a little bit:
>Well, I think you’re being a bit disingenuous in ignoring the fact that Loeb is a favorite of the top artists in the industry, mainly because he, as I’m given to understand, defers to their interests more often than not.>
I’m not sure I understand how this is a practice to be condemned. It’s certainly true that there are any number of popular artists who really enjoy working with Jeph, because Jeph makes them a real partner in the stories and the work. But this isn’t some sort of slight-of-hand trick, he’s not fooling anybody into working with him or anything—so I don’t see how you can really count his ability to interact with and enthuse artists as a strike against him; in actual fact, it’s one of the real plusses he brings to any assignment he works on.
> Issue #5 really sticks in the craw. Why? Not because Rulk beats Thor so easily; rather, it’s done in a way that makes Thor look very stupid. It’s hard not to read into this Loeb flipping the bird to Joe Straczynski over the latter’s complaints that Heroes was stealing his ideas.>
Here, you ascribe a motive to Jeph’s storytelling choices—a motive that, quite honestly, I know nothing about since I don’t follow the ins and outs of the discussions about HEROES—and then proceed to judge the work assuming that your assumption is stone-cold truth. I don’t know what the relationship between JMS and Jeph is like, whether they’re bosom buddies or bitter enemies. But I can say that there are enough other people involved in putting these books out that I don’t think such a motivation—which would be petty in the extreme as well as completely ineffective at accomplishing anything—can really be in play. If I had to take a guess, I’d posit that a simpler explanation was that Jeph wanted to have the Red Hulk fight Thor to show just how powerful and malevolent the Red Hulk was. I know that any Hulk vs Thor dust-up tends to get the fans of both characters extremely riled up (I’ve lived through two or three of them myself), but I think that turning this story, as good or as bad as it may have been, into nothing more than a nose-thumbing over some imagined slight that may or may not have happened is a bit extreme. Very fannish, but extreme.
> And then there’s Wolverine: Evolution, which contains an origin and setup for Wolverine so bizarre, so convoluted, so… half-formed, that even Daniel Way seems to be wanting to ignore it aside from the Romulus character, even though he’s writing a book called Wolverine Origins.>
Again, you’re making assumptions. Daniel’s been avoiding the issue of Romulus all these months because Jeph has a specific follow-up story that he plans on doing, and so Daniel’s been giving him the space he needs. Doesn’t really speak to the merits or demerits of that WOLVERINE story—I’m just pointing out that you’re using made-up points of view from other creators to bolster your opinions. Not really fair.
>seriously, it’s getting impossible not to read Bendis’ gender issues into his work, and his obsession with showing strong women in positions of power as being secretly incompetent, unbearably bitchy, or needing to be saved by men, or all three>
I guess a pattern is a pattern, but I think again you’re reading some intent into the work that simply isn’t there.
> But why do that when you can have Stan the Man sneer “Change is GOOD” and be done with it?>
I’m not quite sure what specific instance you’re talking about here—but this is just really mean-spirited. Your implication is that Stan is just parroting whatever opinion he’s told to parrot. I find this sort of a pitch insidious, because there’s really no way to win. Is it impossible that Stan actually likes whatever it is he was referring to? Is that so completely unlikely that it’s easier to virtually straight out call him a public liar. I have to tell you, Uber, this is the kind of statement that makes my teeth itch, because it assumes that everybody secretly has the same opinions as the speaker does, but merely lacks the fortitude to say so. It’s moral cowardice—you don’t need to put words or opinions into other peoples’ mouths in order to lend your position weight. It’s just wrong.
>As for Geoff Johns, the hatred he’s getting lately I think has less to do with the quality of his books, as awful as GL: Secret Origins is (Seriously, who CARES if Hal and Carol ran past each other when they were kids?), Action Comics is still pretty decent, but the fact that the entirety of DC seems to be imitating him, and thus the readership is turning on him.>
I can’t say that I agree with this assessment at all; just a glance at the DC line says to me that there probably aren’t enough people taking lessons from what Geoff is doing right. And even if this were true and everybody in the DC camp was doing nothing but churning out bad Geoff Johns knock-off stories, I don’t think that would impact on the reception to Geoff’s work greatly. Assuming that the quality of his books remains consistent, good work is good work.
> I, personally, think Geoff should spend a year in therapy before being allowed to write another superhero comic, but there is a good writer in him.>
You’re entitled to your opinion, I guess, but this too is a pretty mean-spirited sentiment to put forth because you don’t like somebody’s comic books.
It feels to me like you’ve got a lot of baggage of one sort or another that you’re bringing to the table when you read these books by these writers—much of it not really coming from the stories themselves, but from your perceptions of the people behind them.
I’m sure that there’ll be people who’ll categorize this as nothing more than an apologist screed, but I really felt that some of this needed to be said. I don’t mean to single you out especially, Uber—you just happened to be the guy who wrote in to me about this stuff. But these are the sorts of sentiments I see expressed all over the place, every day, and many of them seem to me like mind-traps rather than an honest evaluation of the work.
And I’m not sure that any of it has really gotten us much closer to any deeper understanding of why the books that are the most put-upon by the vocal fans seem to often be the ones that sell the best, and most consistently. But we can pick at these ideas more going into next week.
Received a communication—actually a couple of communications—from the uberfan who wrote the motivation-ascribing response to the Worst Comics poll that I dissected on Friday. He seemed to feel that it wasn’t fair that this was posted with his name attached to it—that it embarrassed him publicly in a way he hadn’t intended.
From my point of view, I’m not sure that I agree. While he couldn’t have known what I might say in response to what he wrote, he wrote it based on my call for comments about the issues we were discussing on the blog, and so to me had to be aware that there was a chance that some or all of what he wrote might be quoted.
That having been said, as I mentioned in my response, I wasn’t looking to hurt him specifically. This was in illustration of larger issues about how fans perceive and react to the creators making the comics and what they do.
And so I’ve gone back into last week’s posts and removed the name of our uberfan from them. But let this be a warning: this is the last time I’m going to do something like this. If you send me a response to a blog entry, it will be considered fair game for the blog.