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Author Topic: Astro City is to blame for all of Marvel's recent bad ideas!  (Read 3539 times)
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JulianPerez
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« on: March 06, 2006, 01:05:21 PM »

Don't get me wrong, I love ASTRO CITY to death and in its bright moments it is the best comic being published now. Busiek deserves praise for his charm and innovation and real emotions. This book deserved its Eisner, and I've never said that about any other book that won an Eisner except Don Rosa's LIFE OF UNCLE SCROOGE. Some may not see it this way, but I give ASTRO CITY the greatest praise I can possibly think of for a superhero book: it is something that Englehart would do in his prime.

However, the influence of ASTRO CITY on Marvel, the "House of Ideas," has been absolutely destructive. This is very, very hard for me to type because I began as a comics reader as a Marvel Zombie and the growing unrecognizeability of the Marvel Universe is a source of great distress to me.

I wager anything that ten to fifteen years from now, Busiek will do what Frank Miller and Alan Moore are doing now: apologize for their terrible imitators and penitent about the unfortunate trend they unwittingly created, and consequently write works with intent to reverse said trend.

To answer the question why ASTRO CITY is responsible for Marvel's current problems, we must first look at Alan Moore. Many consider the beginning of the current age of comics to be Alan Moore's MIRACLEMAN, a book that had a very intriguing perspective: 1) consider the superhero more like a science fiction story, with an emphasis on plausibility, and 2) add a dose of reality to create poignancy. Moore said the inspiration for considering superheroes realistically is Kurtzman's MAD magazine, which added realism to a superhero story for the purposes of comedy. So, Moore thought, why not add realism to the superhero, not for the purpose of getting laughs, but for the purpose of getting tears, to create something tragic?

Moore's imitators, and to a lesser extent, those of Frank Miller's as well, however, only duplicated MIRACLEMAN and WATCHMEN's dark themes and moral compromises instead of the perspective that made Alan Moore's work great. Thus, began an age that we're only coming out of now.

At the same time, what is, at the moment, fundamentally the problem with Marvel comics now?

The compromising of the Marvel Universe's unique identity to incorporate many so-called DC elements: the introduction of the (controversial, to say the least) character of the Sentry, intended to be the Marvel Universe's analogue to Superman. There is also Bendis's NEW AVENGERS, which featured the death of the beloved and idiosyncratic Hawkeye and the use of the Justice League model of teaming up all the big heroes of the universe into a single team - in other words, making the Avengers the League, despite the fact the Avengers have their own unique identity that isn't based on having "popular members." And then, there is the existence of the Young Avengers, a clear analogue to DC's Teen Titans.

In other words, the Marvel Universe has become more like the DC Universe. JLA/AVENGERS was based on the idea that the Marvel Universe and DC Universe are very different; the worlds have different perspectives, different themes...heck, the two worlds are even different sizes! Giving Marvel a Superman and a Teen Titans group makes the Marvel Universe less original instead of more.

In the words of Kurt Busiek, "if the Avengers don't work, Marvel doesn't work."

Why is all of this ASTRO CITY's "fault," though?

The unique perspective of ASTRO CITY is that it attempts to channel familiar superhero character types and tell different kinds of stories with them. Kurt Busiek does not do stories about big fights (in fact, except for the Steeljack/Guerrero fight there are no fights in their entirety at all), he does not do the usual hero vs. villain stories, he does not write about alien invasions or time travel. He does stories from the perspective of sidekicks and from guys on the street. Sure, he has World War II era heroes just like every other big superhero world seems to, but because he wants to tell stories using that type of imagery, and Busiek's stories are never straight-up Nazi-bashes. If the ASTRO CITY world was very different from the DC/Marvel superhero world, the stories would not work, because it is all about a new way of looking at these stories for the emotions and feelings behind the scenes when the fights and time travel are over.

Thus, the world of ASTRO CITY is created with character types in mind - there's a Justice League type group, a Superman-type guy, a Fantastic Four hero family, a Teen Titans/X-Men analogue team, and so forth. Busiek and his collaborators built Astro Cty like a superhero ecosystem, but instead of producers, consumers, predators and prey, they have dark vigilantes over here, and creepy dead all powerful magic using guys over here, flying patriotic icons of liberty over here, rebellious teen heroes over here...and so forth.

But what makes ASTRO CITY unique, when judging just by elements it ought to be derivative, is that the ASTRO CITY world is made familiar JUST so they can turn all of it on its head, just so they can do types of stories not seen before.

THIS is why ASTRO CITY has had, overall, a negative impact the Marvel Universe. The Marvel Universe writers, Bendis especially, have picked up on the "ecological niche" method of worldbuilding that Busiek innovated in ASTRO CITY, but just as people duplicated the darkness of Moore instead of the perspective of his that made his work great, people duplicate the model ASTRO CITY took to worldbuilding instead of what makes ASTRO CITY great, namely, telling anthological, non-adventure superhero stories.

Which gives us an Avengers team with Wolverine in it.
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« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2006, 10:18:43 PM »

Great article, Julian. I agree with what you said about Marvel. And if the poin here is to blame Kurt Busiek, a writer I also admire, sometimes I wonder if his JLA/Avengers had any influence in the Dan Didio's Age of Identity Criris, Countdown, Omac Project and Infinite Crisis. The DC Universe was going in the Silver Age direction with full force by the works of Waid, Morrison and Loeb. The JLA/Avengers crossover showed how brighter than the Marvel Universe it was. Then, Didio's Crises, and interviews saying that his purpose was to define the tone of the DC Universe - going even darker than John Byrne's "superman" murderer.
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Kurt Busiek
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« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2006, 03:25:46 AM »

>> I wager anything that ten to fifteen years from now, Busiek will do what Frank Miller and Alan Moore are doing now: apologize for their terrible imitators and penitent about the unfortunate trend they unwittingly created, and consequently write works with intent to reverse said trend.>>

Are Frank and Alan really apologetic?

I never figured their imitators were their fault, any more than Stan could be blamed for Archie's Mighty Comics era.

But as long as I've got fifteen years to wallow in my destructiveness, I figured I'd alert people to this:

http://www.wizkidsgames.com/heroclix/indy/hc_article.asp?cid=40726

WizKids is holding a vote for the next HeroClix Collector's Set, and on the ballot this time is Astro City!

Who needs Metal Men Clix, when you could have Samaritan?

Well, to be honest, I'd love a set of tiny plastic Metal Men.  But strangely, I'd prefer Jack in The Box and Winged Victory...

kdb
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NotSuper
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« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2006, 06:08:11 PM »

Quote from: "Kurt Busiek"
Are Frank and Alan really apologetic?

I don't think they really are, nor do I think they should be. I know that Moore believes (or once believed--I'm not sure what he thinks now) that some of his darker work led to some of the worst parts of the nineties, but I don't think that he's apologetic about it.

Frankly, if a story is bad (which is subjective) then logically the person that wrote it is to blame. Whether or not he ripped off a classic comic story (The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, Sandman, ect) doesn't really matter.
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Uncle Mxy
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« Reply #4 on: May 01, 2006, 01:31:21 AM »

Anyone who apologizes for doing good work deserves a lifetime of No-Prizes.
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SteamTeck
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« Reply #5 on: June 25, 2006, 05:03:12 PM »

Quote from: "Uncle Mxy"
Anyone who apologizes for doing good work deserves a lifetime of No-Prizes.



So You're saying they shouldn't apologize because they wouldn't get no prizes. I think we agree then.
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Genis Vell
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« Reply #6 on: June 26, 2006, 08:39:26 AM »

The biggest difference between the Avengers and the JLA is that the first team is composed by the most popular Marvel heroes in the Marvel Universe.
The second team is composed by the most popular DC heroes... In the real world.

Hawkeye and the Vision are well known and popular among those normal guys who Kurt Busiek often puts in his stories, but I doubt they're known in the real world by guys who aren't fans.
Superman and Batman are loved in the DCU, of course, but they're well known here, too.
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