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Author Topic: Ideas by Elliot S! Maggin that weren't that great  (Read 17811 times)
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JulianPerez
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« on: March 10, 2006, 05:53:16 AM »

As much as I love Elliot S! Maggin, as well as he understood who Superman was, as streetwise and funny as he could be, as well as he could write...

...if you are paid, for 15 years, to write about a character, no matter how talented you are, the law of averages states that eventually you'll hit a real stinker of an idea. Heck, the only reason that Stan and Jack seemed to bat a thousand with FANTASTIC FOUR was because they quit while they were ahead.

People ask me why it was Cary Bates that was my favorite of the Schwartz Superman writers, despite his flaws (like FORGETTING a Legionnaire's powers one time) - so, here's why. Don't get me wrong, I love Maggin to death, but not everything he did was pure gold.

It's also very amusing to note that every single time Maggin throws out the off curveball theory, nobody except him ever talked or mentioned it again; everyone else just ignores it. It was like Bates, Wein, and Nelson Bridwell all made a blood pact never to mention the Kryp-Tonn story again. The only other time I've ever seen that idea brought up again was in MAGGIN'S OWN SUPERMAN NOVELS, and in a 1980s Nelson Bridwell miniseries as a throwaway line that could be interpreted as either confirming it, or laughing along with the audience at the ludicrousness of the idea. Even Mark Waid, an avowed Maggin disciple that got S! to write the KINGDOM COME novelization, wouldn't touch this theory with a ten-foot pole when he redid Krypton in BIRTHRIGHT.


Superman as the Qwizatz Haderach

According to some Maggin stories, Superman was produced over time by the Guardians of the Universe in order to become a superbeing.

Okay, yeah, it brings the Guardians into the origin of Superman, sure, making the DC Universe "tighter" and more interconnected in a Roy Thomas sort of way. But the thing is, Superman is great, noble, and pure because of his choices, not because he's the Qwizatz Haderach. Plus, the whole "Guardians breeding project to produce the perfect being" is such a direct crib off of Smith's LENSMAN that it is actually offensive.


Krypton Was Settled by Space Explorers: Answering a Question that Nobody Asked

This is the big enchilada right here: the worst idea Maggin ever had.

The idea that Krypton was settled by space explorers.

This makes no sense in light of what we know about Krypton; for one thing, if they're not from Krypton, why would they have powers at all because of the planet? Other beings from Krypton get powers too: dogs, gorillas, and flame dragons, all presumably native. Second, Krypton's history included periods of savagery, which are not consistent with a history that begins with something as high-tech as a space colony. And further, it doesn't account for where Kryptonians came from in the beginning. Was it Daxam, perhaps? Then why no weakness to lead? Instead of "explaining" the origin of Krypton, all it did was muddy it up, all for the purpose of answering a question that no one asked.

This sort of thing has a name: "Peter Davidism." Taking a concept that previously was straightforward (Superman gets his powers from being a Kryptonian, a people from Krypton who get their powers from their planet) and giving it a backstory that makes the previously straightforward idea all unclear and confusing.

And the whole "Kryp!" and "Tonn!" thing, in the Schwartz era of space opera, was absolutely inane. Wasn't this a Jack Handey gag? "Mankind is very mysterious. Why? Let us look at the words 'Mank' and 'ind.' What do these words mean? I do not know. That is why mankind is so mysterious."


The Sword of Superman

For one thing...since freaking when has Superman ever needed or used a sword? Does Wonder Woman carry a katana? Does Batman carry a gun (well...yes, but that's a long story)?

Also: it was a piece of unformed matter from the Big Bang. So, essentially, what Maggin's telling us here is that the universe was created by someone putting a firecracker in a dumpster.

For one thing, it violates a very basic rule of High School physics: all matter that came out of the Big Bang was hydrogen. Heavier elements formed inside of stars. There's no way the Big Bang would produce a chunk of solid metal, not to mention the absurdity of one that was perfectly sword-shaped with an "s" symbol at the handle. Also, the Sword of Superman's powers were virtually limitless - not because it was, but because its powers were so poorly defined.

Also...since when does Superman know so much about swordsmanship, anyway? In a Dennis O'Neil story, Batman was in trouble because he didn't know how to fly a World War I era biplane - many superheroes don't have mastery of archaic skills. There isn't even a swordfighting robot partner in the Fortress of Solitude.


King Kosmos

I've said this before, and I'll keep on saying it: Kosmos was such a transparent Kang clone that one wonders if Maggin was trying to see if he could smootch the right behind to get work at the House of Ideas (which wasn't successful; wasn't the last thing he did in comics, the AD&D comic for DC?)


Any story involving Superman meeting God

I loved LAST SON OF KRYPTON, but this subplot needed to have hit the cutting room floor.

Though I will admit, once God became a Superman supporting character, it took Marv Wolfman to figure out that Brainiac would probably want to find and replace him.
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Dylan Clearbrook
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« Reply #1 on: March 10, 2006, 06:18:51 AM »

Quote from: "JulianPerez"

...if you are paid, for 15 years, to write about a character, no matter how talented you are, the law of averages states that eventually you'll hit a real stinker of an idea.


Of Course....even Heinlein had some not so great notions....Glory Road comes to mind.

Quote from: "JulianPerez"
Krypton Was Settled by Space Explorers: Answering a Question that Nobody Asked

This is the big enchilada right here: the worst idea Maggin ever had.




The idea that Krypton was settled by space explorers.

This makes no sense in light of what we know about Krypton; for one thing, if they're not from Krypton, why would they have powers at all because of the planet? Other beings from Krypton get powers too: dogs, gorillas, and flame dragons, all presumably native. Second, Krypton's history included periods of savagery, which are not consistent with a history that begins with something as high-tech as a space colony. And further, it doesn't account for where Kryptonians came from in the beginning. Was it Daxam, perhaps? Then why no weakness to lead? Instead of "explaining" the origin of Krypton, all it did was muddy it up, all for the purpose of answering a question that no one asked.

This sort of thing has a name: "Peter Davidism." Taking a concept that previously was straightforward (Superman gets his powers from being a Kryptonian, a people from Krypton who get their powers from their planet) and giving it a backstory that makes the previously straightforward idea all unclear and confusing.

I have to disagree.  In fact, it makes perfect sense and DOES explain the extreme similarities in physiology.  And Daxam makes perfect sense. (or if not daxam, then both planets were settled by same stock)

The question only becomes WHEN the colonization took place and then what occurred afterward.  I was always under the impression that the colonization took place in the deep past and not under the most friendly of circumstances Smiley  Science fiction is full of stories with a similar theme.  Advanced culture colonizes world, tragedy strikes, with no technological base to maintain the current standard....regression takes place (most famous example being Anne McCaffery's Pern Series).  the amount of regression depending on the severity of the tragedy.

As to the lead vs Kryptonite....again, depends on when the colonization took place.  Where the Daxamites alergic to lead at the time?  Or was that something that developed later, after the Split?


As to the others....okay....I'll give you those Smiley

Dylan
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« Reply #2 on: March 10, 2006, 06:51:15 AM »

Quote from: "JulianPerez"
It's also very amusing to note that every single time Maggin throws out the off curveball theory, nobody except him ever talked or mentioned it again; everyone else just ignores it. It was like Bates, Wein, and Nelson Bridwell all made a blood pact never to mention the Kryp-Tonn story again. The only other time I've ever seen that idea brought up again was in MAGGIN'S OWN SUPERMAN NOVELS, and in a 1980s Nelson Bridwell miniseries as a throwaway line that could be interpreted as either confirming it, or laughing along with the audience at the ludicrousness of the idea.
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This is the big enchilada right here: the worst idea Maggin ever had.

Julian, I don't know quite how to break this to you after such an admirable rant - the Kryp and Tonn story was not written by ES!M but was in fact written by your favorite Superman writer...  Cary Bates!

I know what you mean about other writers ignoring Maggin's ideas, though.  Superwoman and Miracle Monday would both serve as examples of what you describe, except that they were good ideas.

I like most everything else that Maggin wrote in the 1980s too - especially Sword of Superman and all the God tie-in stuff that he did.  But to me most of his 1970s stories (with a few incredible exceptions) are pretty forgettable.

S!
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« Reply #3 on: March 10, 2006, 01:07:00 PM »

Quote
Julian, I don't know quite how to break this to you after such an admirable rant - the Kryp and Tonn story was not written by ES!M but was in fact written by your favorite Superman writer... Cary Bates!






Anyway, whoever came up with it, it was a dumb idea. But you gotta love that Gray Morrow art!

Also, I agree the "Sword" bit was pretty awful, and generally any tinkering with the origin is wrong-headed, like the bit with the Guardians manipulating the "El" gene pool, the story where Superbaby's rocket is detoured on the way to Earth and he lives a whole lifetime before resuming his journey, and of course the infamous "Jor-El and Lara are still alive but comatose in a floating coffin somewhere" story (written by Frank Robbins, maybe?).

So I guess this desire to go back and monkey with the origin story goes back a long way, huh?  This is one tale that Jerry Seigel told better than anyone who came after him, but that seems to be a lesson no writer will ever learn.

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« Reply #4 on: March 10, 2006, 02:27:25 PM »

Hmmm...I've never particularly liked the linking of the Guardians with the El family or the Sword of Superman, not because they were terrible stories on their own but that they introduce unnecessary extra mythos...sort of a coincidental "soap opera ization" of the Bronze Age that turned me off...

Weirdly, though I am not a huge Bates fan either, "Kryp and Tonn" could always be treated as a folk myth tale in my mind that could be re-told but ignored at the same time..
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dto
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« Reply #5 on: March 10, 2006, 04:26:15 PM »

Who came up with the idea that Superman can see the "aura" or "soul" of living creatures?  I was never very comfortable with this, and it apparently has led to the current Superman being a vegetarian.
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« Reply #6 on: March 10, 2006, 06:35:37 PM »

Superman had a code against killing so it would figure it had a code against hot dogs. :roll:

But if he can "see the aura of all living things" how the heck can he eat a salad?  Tomatoes are people too y'know. :wink:
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« Reply #7 on: March 10, 2006, 09:22:17 PM »

I think the aura thing first came up in "Miracle Monday" and was brought up again in "Birthright"... Cool
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