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Author Topic: Is there such a thing as a fool proof character?  (Read 8079 times)
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Super Monkey
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« on: January 06, 2007, 08:23:34 PM »

I say no.

Just take some of the greatest comic book ideas ever created, they have all had low points and just plain bad runs. Is that the character's fault? No, it's the talent's fault, the writers and the artists working on the book, not the character itself.

Superman is loved by everyone here, but in truth that is because of the amazing writers and artists that have worked on the book. When we had bad writers and artists on the books, Superman was unreadable, LOL!

Same thing with Captain Marvel, why was he so great during the Golden Age yet DC has never been able to really recreate that magic? Because, the people who were choosen to work on his comics were not as good as Otto, C.C, and Kurt.

The Fantastic Four by Kirby and Lee was an amazing run, they (FF) were not quite as good since.

Marvel Man was nothing but a boring Captain Marvel clone until Alan Moore came along.

So when people complain that Batman's comics have been unreadable what they really mean is that those writers are not as good as Bill Finger, Dennis O'Neil and Steve Englehart! Not that somehow Batman as a character isn't any good anymore.

I can not think of a single character who is always great no matter who is writing the book.

Therefore, we are all really fans of writers and artists rather than Characters, more so than we might be willing to admit.

What do you all think?
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« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2007, 04:26:08 AM »

I don't suppose there is. But you had better define what you mean by "character".

No, it's the talent's fault, the writers and the artists working on the book, not the character itself.

How can you separate the character from the creative team? We were talking about Green Lantern recently. If Mr. Nodell had drawn up his plans for Green Lantern, written out a list of his attributes, described his personality, created a costume, etc., is that the character? No. The character is more. The character is Alan Scott, Green Lantern, the train wreck, how the man acted in his first story, what he said and where he went. And he's redefined again in the next month's comic, and so on. The initial sketch by the creator is left far behind, and rather quickly.

If that's what you mean by character, I think you're right.

But there's still more to it.

Same thing with Captain Marvel, why was he so great during the Golden Age yet DC has never been able to really recreate that magic? Because, the people who were choosen to work on his comics were not as good as Otto, C.C, and Kurt.

You can't separate a big success from its time and place, and give all the credit to the drawings on the paper. There's also the audience to take into account; or, put another way, the market of the time (and place). Captain Marvel was such a success because of these things. Otto Binder, for all his personal trumpet-blowing, was not the be-all and end-all of Captain Marvel's success. And as for C C Beck: how good an artist was he really? Perfect for the time, and perfect for the character at that time. But didn't the likes of Bob Oksner work on the Marvel Family in later years? Oksner is a fantastic artist, and far superior to Beck. Something of the readers of that time responded whole-heartedly to Beck's concepts (noted for their simplicity), also of that time.

Therefore, we are all really fans of writers and artists rather than Characters, more so than we might be willing to admit.

Not "rather than". It's inclusive, I think. The character is what the creative team of the moment, in communion with the reader and the marketplace, says he is. It's how he's portrayed, and how he's received.

You can't say to me, "the character of Batman". I would have to ask, "Which character out of a hundred different Batmans?"

If you asked me to write a description and make some sketches about who and what Batman is, I'd be a mess. WHAT do I leave out, and WHAT do I put in? So no "character" is foolproof.
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« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2007, 07:21:11 AM »

When Jerry and Joe made Superman, they created the formula for Coca-Cola. Only by messing with it can you get something TRULY awful.

Mark Evanier told an annoying, name-dropping anecdote, as he is wont to do, about a meeting between Curt Swan and Jack Kirby, who was then working for DC. Curt shook his head and said "Man, I just had to draw a really bad Superman story."

And Jolly Jack perked up and said, "It's possible to tell a bad Superman story?"

True, Superman has had some unimpressive talent, but the worst I can really say about Gerry Conway's Superman tales is that sometimes they made no sense or were unbelievably derivative. But they were still, for the most part, readable, and there were a couple good ideas in there: Whirlicane was cornball cool, and Superman being a proactive environmentalist because of Krypton's demise was an interesting and gutsy insight. And Superman vs. Dinosaurs NEVER gets old.

Even the Marv Wolfman stuff in the late eighties, with businessman Vandal Savage, or the forgettable Dennis O'Neil occasional fill-ins, are at worst, readable. Doesn't set my world on fire the way Bates-Maggin-Wein did, but still, I didn't feel like I had wasted my money.

(I will shoot myself in the foot here somewhat by mentioning the Gil Kane Superman Specials - the only time I've ever felt cheated reading Superman. Even the most forgettable WORLD'S FINEST issue ("WHO IS QUANTUM...AND WHY DOES HE WANT TO KILL SUPERMAN AND BATMAN?") looks like WATCHMEN in comparison to that. Holy Christ.)

Gil Kane notwithstanding, Superman's two worst periods are: the 1950s, and the 1990s, and for the EXACT SAME REASON: Superman's identity is ignored. What does Superman giving powers to a sargeant in the army for some insane labyrinthine reason have anything to do with what Superman comics are supposed to be about? What is this page-vaporizing crap about Jimmy Olsen's screwy hijinks with a magic wish totem staff? What about Superman...y'know, fighting evil, or doing incredible deeds that don't involve teaching Jimmy a valuable lesson?

And don't get me started on everything Carlin and his bonehead buddies did wrong in the grunge and Crystal Pepsi decade.

Superman (any any other character for that matter) is only really bad when you ignore what he's supposed to be about. This is why it never ceases to amaze me when people wonder just why it is that Elseworlds and suck go together like stink on a monkey. Gee, no spit!

Here's my point, in a nutshell: I think there are some characters that, as long as you stick fairly closely to the concept, it's downright impossible to mess everything up...even if you've got less than stellar talent attached to it.

Off the top of my head here, the best example of a character that is impossible to really "ruin" is Danny Rand, Iron Fist. If you think about it, none of Iron Fist's many series, even the Byrne/Claremont one, were really, technically, any "good." But nonetheless, because of the book's cheesy, funky, cool charm, while there's certainly been some "bad" Iron Fist stories, even the worst are readable and entertaining.

Elongated Man is another character whose stories and concept are so likeable, that as long as the writer sticks to it, it's not possible to truly tell a BAD E-man tale. Even the "potboiler" stories that Gardner Fox and E. Nelson Bridwell wrote as backups in DETECTIVE COMICS that were clearly just those two guys cashing a check, are nonetheless cute and fun.

Here's the inverse of this question: is it possible there are some characters that are the reverse of foolproof, that even if you place talent on them, they STILL aren't any good no matter what?

The one that comes right to mind is Luke Cage, Power Man. I've never read a single story with Power Man that I really like, and it's not for want of good talent - even Stainless himself was put on Power Man, and if he couldn't bring life to Cage, nobody can.

Then you have the always troubled Martian Manhunter, who is the trust fund kid of DC comics: he keeps on flunking out and changing majors every semester, but Daddy's money keeps him coming back. Bottom line: if it was possible to tell a good Martian Manhunter story, I think somebody would have done it by now.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2007, 07:30:19 AM by JulianPerez » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2007, 07:35:56 AM »

Quote from: Aldous
I don't suppose there is. But you had better define what you mean by "character".

Is that you, Bill Clinton?
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« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2007, 04:31:15 PM »

Gil Kane notwithstanding, Superman's two worst periods are: the 1950s, and the 1990s, and for the EXACT SAME REASON: Superman's identity is ignored.

I disagree with the 1950's, since it was in fact one of the best!

Proof:
http://superman.nu/tales/1950s.php
http://superman.nu/tales/1950s-2.php



Truth be told, the 60's and 70's Superman was pretty far removed for the 40's Superman, yet most people consider those versions better. In fact, I find the Golden Age Superman... well.. rather boring. If people were forced to keep to that formula, Superman wouldn't had made it past the 1940's.





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JulianPerez
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« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2007, 09:27:30 PM »

Of course, I was overgeneralizing for the purpose of making my point – there are some great fifties stories just as there are some great nineties stories too (nearly all by Roger Stern).

A lot of them are posted on the website. However, looking at that page, I’m struck by one thing about a lot of the stories on this site: I’ve read them somewhere before. Seriously, is there a single fifties collection that doesn’t have “Super-Key to Fort Superman?”

(Incidentally, is the “Richard Levins” that donated “Superman Duels the Futuremen” to this site the SAME Richard Levins that was the AVENGERS WEST COAST artist during “Operation: Galactic Storm?” Because WOW. He’s one of my favorite underrated Marvel artists along with Amanda Conner and Brett Blevins. I always heard he was a classic Superman fan.)

But for the most part, almost all of the best Superman stories of the Silver Age would have to wait for the 1960s and for that genius, Ed Hamilton, to hit his stride.

There was one story in my SUPERMAN SHOWCASE that I did indeed like very, very much, and that was the story where Superman discovers he has a lion head. I loved that one, because of how emotional and heart-tearing sad it was, with Superman living life as a freak, not wanting Lois Lane to see him...yet nonetheless trying to make the best of a bad situation. It also had Lois as heroic as well: she likes Superman no matter what he looks like. I love that it didn’t go the easy way out and have Lois’s kiss restore him to normal – the failure there was absolutely tragic.

The Lion-Head story was interesting because it was driven by Superman’s emotions instead of by a plot that sweeps the character up in it. A story that was ahead of its time.

The SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN stories...I suppose they’re exempt from criticism because I’m not the target audience they wanted. Though I am always pleasantly surprised by SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND LOIS LANE because of how canny Lois was, how clever she was in solving her problems.
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« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2007, 03:48:47 AM »

I'm pretty sure I could write a pretty bad Iron Fist comic.  I can see it now: Iron Fist gets a mullet, loses the ability to use martial arts/his iron fist, starts wearing a studded leather jacket and starts using a machine gun to hunt down criminals.  Or something.

On the other hand, I think Hercules was a pretty "fool proof" character for centuries until Marvel comics got ahold of him...
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« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2007, 05:07:17 AM »

Is there such a thing as a fool proof character?

Yes.

Sherlock Holmes

Sure, there have been bad stories written with him, but he always comes back in one form or another.

Zorro seems to be another that gets away with being fool proof.  Zorro the Gay Blade? That movie was so removed from normal Zorro and yet it worked.
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