Monday, May 08, 2006

Suggested Reading:

TST has given me her permission to re-direct you to her site. She recently completed the 95th day of a 95 day eating disorder recovery program.

Her comments are honest and enlightening, and I highly recommend her blog as reading to all Leaguers.

Read here.

Melbotis Mailbag

Hey, ya'll... We have two very different letters sent in to the Melbotis Mailbag as well as a question from the Mellie Noms. I will still be digging back through the Mellies Noms to answer all of your questions.

Steven submitted this with his Nominations:

In the future, The League should not ________
Use vaguely Biblical and/or archaic, beautiful language to describe infertility or other personal ailments. It has had a searing effect upon my mind:
"Now, it's more or less public knowledge that Jamie's insides are a rocky place where my seed can find no purchase."

This sentence is both beautiful, cruel, and sad; it has etched itself into my mind.

I wish I could take credit for this one, Steven, but I can't. While somewhat accurate to describe our personal childless status, I lifted this from the opening of the Coen Bros. classic, "Raising Arizona" as H.I. McDonough realizes that his beautiful wife, Ed, is barren. Nobody has a talent for dialogue like the Coens. I believe the exact line was "At first we could not understand why this woman, who looked as fertile as the Tennessee valley, could not bear children. But the doctor explained that Ed's insides were a rocky place where my seed could find no purchase."

I apologize for any discomfort.

As Steanso or CBG could tell you, "Raising Arizona" is just about one of my favorite movies of all time. If you haven't seen it in a while, I think you should watch it as soon as possible.

Doug writes:

Dear Melbotis,

Why doesn't the League have an ATOM feed? My other friends' blogspot blogs all have them. Is it a preference you have to enable? RSS and ATOM feeds are neat.



Well, Doug, Mel has no idea what you're talking about, but he does ask "Am I a good boy?" The answer is, "Yes, you are a good boy!" to Mel's question. The answer to your question is more complicated.

I looked into an RSS feed a long time ago with the help of Steve G. Harms. It turns out Really Simple Symdication is a @#$%ing lie. The tools I looked at kept spitting me code that didn't seem to do anything. I would plug it in here, I would plug it in there, and nothing happened. Nothing. I couldn't figure out what was up, so I quit.

Also, I'm not really clear on what the point is of RSS. I sit in front of a computer all day for a living and I work in an online media environment, and I'm still a bit confused as to what RSS is supposed to be doing for me in general, let alone in relation to a blog. It seems a little bit self-important for The League to be blasting you guys to come read our latest navel-gazing hoo-hah.

Jim D. writes in with a comic related question.

Are really good stories that are told prior to a continuity reboot somehow tainted because they are no longer in the continuity?

What Jim is talking about is some serious comic-nerdy stuff, so I'll try to explain.

You can refer to my prior post on Continuity here for a primer on continuity in comics.

Every once in a while a comic will get stale, an idea worn thin, or become implausible or goofy as time marches on and the comic reading and writing populace becomes more sophisticated. (I use the word "sophisticated" with no small amount of reservation.)

Thusly, a company may decide to "reboot" a character. The most famous instances of such a reboot actually belong to the Big 3 at DC: Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. In 1986, after a company wide event known as Crisis on Infinite Earths, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman were each assigned to top-shelf comic creators who were asked to re-tell their origin with a modern sensibility.

I'll stick with the Superman reboot as it probably had the most long-standing changes to the origin and character.

John Byrne re-told the story of Superman's origin in "Man of Steel", a 6-issue limited series that was then followed up with the appropriate changes in Superman, Adventures of Superman and Action Comics. Prior to Man of Steel, Superman had been a Super-powered youngster in Smallville who took on the name "Superboy", fought crime and natural disasters and generally had some nice adventures as a teen-ager in an idyllic Kansas small town. Whenever he felt like it, Superboy would join up with a gang of teen-age Superheroes in the 30th Century known as The Legion of Superheroes.

Also, the motivation for Lex Luthor's anti-Superman-scheming ways could be found in Superboy. Apparently Lex and Superboy had been pals, with Lex helping Superboy out as a child-genius scientist. Lex had a fire in his lab, and Superboy blew it out, spraying chemicals on Lex's head which caused her hair to fall out. Being a vain little goon, Lex decided Superboy was jealous of him and had caused the entire scenario to humiliate him.

Superboy had his own comics, appeared in Adventure Comics for years, and also was part of the cast of the fan-favorite Legion of Superheroes.

Byrne wished to look to the original version of Superman who had not, in 1938, spent time as Superboy, and struck Superboy from the record. Needless to say, Byrne removed the Lex hair removal bit from Superman's history. Lex was now a corporate tycoon who despised Superman for exposing some of his criminal activity and humiliating him (ie: arresting him) in public. Lex also went bald the year Superman appeared in Metropolis. I think the suggestion was that the stress got to him.

This decision to rework the Superman mythos forced the cancellation of Superboy comics as well as Legion of Superheroes. Legion would need to be rebooted as Superboy was no longer part of their lore. Further, Krypto was struck from existence as Krypto had been Superboy's pet pup on Krypton, and had appeared mainly in Silver-Age Superboy comics.

Are the stories from the first 50 years of DC/ National's history "tainted" by the decisions in 1986? I can't see how you can they aren't. After all, those stories no longer "exist" in the minds of the Superheroes wandering the DCU. Or, at least, they didn't until Infinite Crisis #4. So, God knows what the next 20 years will look like.

It's my opinion that the Crisis events were a small bit of genius on the part of the DC editorial staff. Continuity could continue, characters could advance, and it didn't necessarily throw the baby out with the bathwater in retelling the story of the DCU. But you also didn't need to worry about reading every issue of "Superman's Pal: Jimmy Olsen". In a way, in the DCU, it's ALL continuity. It just depends on which aspect of the universe you're looking at, be it the 1939 version of Superman or some version of him from the animated series.

I guess the question then is: Are the pre-reboot stories still enjoyable?

Again, this is my opinion, but: Yeah. I like reading the stories from the 1950's and 60's and being allowed to know that they're a product of their time and place. The stories can serve as a relic of a bygone era and still be strip-mined by today's creators for the best parts. Sure, the format is simple, and the stories geared at kids, but there's a bit of raw energy there and a puzzle-solving nuance that's all but gone from comics these days. (You couldn't show Superman beating the tar out of people in the 1950's thanks to threats from parents' groups, so he HAD to do something).

The fusion of past and present is exactly what's making Grant Morrison's "All-Star Superman" such an amazing comic read.

In the meantime, other comics such as re-boots of the Superboy concept and Legion of Superheroes have struggled endlessly since they were written out of existence. Something happened there that took the wind out of the sails of both concepts, and it's left both franchises gasping.

The Smallville TV show mixes the heroics of the Superboy comics with the costumeless alien coming to terms with a destiny that Byrne described. Legion of Superheroes has had, I believe, three separate launches since 1986. Most likely because Paul Levitz, who once wrote "definitive" Legion stories is now running DC. It will be interesting to see if folks regain interest in the Legion again with "Superboy and the Legion" coming to TV this fall on Cartoon Network.

In the end, you have to answer the question for yourself. How do you, as a reader, feel about these decades of pre-1986 DC comics? You can mine them for comics history or dismiss them as the past.

I do think the reason DC appeals more to an older readership than the teen-ager audience (who seem to enter comics invariably through Wolverine and Spidey) is due to an adult's sense of perspective and understanding of the importance of history. Marvel is getting there. In the past two or three years they've really learned to take a look at their roots and have made some hand-waving about their own "golden age".

I guess, as a rule, reboots do need to be kept to a minimum. It is difficult to keep up with character change after character change, as well as plot alterations, etc... The rules of continuity still apply. Editors need to show the greatest amount of foresight possible when re-writing the histories of their characters or you stand to lose your long-standing leadership all together.

Again to the Superman case: Superman's fan base was expected to grow with the reboot, but in the intervening years, that's not really happened. A lot of folks were put off by the drastic changes Byrne brought to the character. Despite Berganza's shaky record as an editor, he was willing to reintroduce elements of the Silver-Age of Krypton. I'll be curious to learn Superman's new status-quo in the upcoming year as Infinite Crisis once-again provides opportunities to alter the character's past to reset and look to the future.

On a personal note: I do buy collections of older comics. I do enjoy the stories. I highly recommend readers pick up what they can afford of the old stuff. Most of it doesn't show the same cinematic quality of modern comics, but the comics are also usually a lot denser in plot and generally a fun read.

That's it for today's Melbotis Mailbag. Don't forget to keep sending in those questions.

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