Written by: Laura Hong-Tuason, CC2K Comics Editor
CC2K’s Laura Hong shares her adoration of comic creators that work for the Big Two.
The following is a Tumblr post I wrote in 2012. Yes Tumblr, which I started after college as a way to maintain my writing skills. That is, until CC2K found me. I enjoyed writing this particular piece and I’ve been meaning to share it here at CC2K. With the recent creative shakeups going down at DC Comics (e.g., the uproar surrounding Robo Bat-Bunny), I thought it was a good time to revisit my appreciation for comic creators. While part of my 2012 post remains the same, I’ve expanded it to reflect what’s been going on today.
I have great respect for comic book creators. Not just any comic book creators, but the ones that write superhero stories for the big two: DC Comics and Marvel. Now I’m not disregarding those who do creator-owned work because my goodness, they are just as amazing in their own right. But today, I focus on superhero creators.
Superhero stories can get tedious and redundant. Why? Because they’re iconic, copyrighted characters that have existed for decades; they are characters entrenched in mythos and chained down by continuity. Superhero comics follow the same general formula: Evil threatens the world and the hero saves the day, or the hero’s morale is crushed, but he or she triumphs all obstacles anyways. This is the ultimate expectation. This is the only route the superhero can go, unless they get killed off for a few years (e.g., Barry Allen died for 23 years) or become temporarily evil (e.g., Hal Jordan). Whatever the case, they come back stronger and better than ever. And why not? They’re superheroes we all want to root for. Good must always be the victor. To end any other way would be soul crushing.
That’s where my respect for comic creators of the superhero genre comes in. To be able to churn out a monthly comic with a new story arc that engages readers and can span anywhere from 2 to 12+ issues is no easy feat. How does one keep a story fresh when we already know the hero will win? There are certainly high expectations, yet a lot of creators are able to push through the challenges and criticisms, and “wow” us many times.
Everything we thought we knew was a lie!
Take for example, Batman writer Scott Snyder. We know Batman’s story all too well. He’s an intelligent, badass detective, who doesn’t have any meta powers. He will always prevail in a crisis because he is JUST. THAT. AWESOME. But how does a writer transcend the usual “Batman will win” story? Snyder showed us how in his debut story, The Court of Owls (2011). He introduced new villains: the Talons and the Owls who have been lurking and watching over Gotham in the shadows since the beginning, even before Batman’s time. In essence, Snyder has not created new villains, but suggests villains who have been around forever. The idea that Bruce Wayne has always been watched… The idea that Gotham never really belonged to Batman… The idea that Gotham has never really been safe… It creates chills. To top it off, Snyder makes Batman more paranoid, turning this arc into a psychological thriller. But Snyder didn’t do it alone. He had artist Greg Capullo, whose illustrations complemented the ominous tone, instilling fear into Batman, and consequently their readers. If Batman is scared, we’re all scared.
Since we’re already on the subject of Snyder and Capullo, let me now address the uproar surrounding the redesign of Batman in the upcoming Batman #41, which I like to refer to as Robo Bat Bunny.
There, there, Batman. It’ll be alright.
When I first saw the announcement, I was dumbfounded like any other Batman enthusiast. I laughed at the idea, but I wasn’t angry. Surely Snyder and Capullo had something interesting up their sleeves. I would give them the benefit of the doubt. This is because it all goes back to legacy and continuity. People can get awfully defensive about their favorite superheroes. I know I can. But what we have to remember is that superhero creators like Snyder and Capullo have to deal with such fan sensitivity every day. How do they please fans, while trying to be daring and write a game changing Batman story at the same time? The question is do fans want something mediocre, repetitive, and forgettable, or do they want stories that defy the status quo?
I know I’m focusing a lot on Snyder and Capullo (I’m bias), but this only because I knew Snyder before he made his Batman debut. I still remember him telling me how excited he was for his first American Vampire panel at SDCC. When the New 52 was about to roll around, there were big shoes to fill on Batman. Yet Snyder and Capullo knocked everyone off their feet with The Court of Owls and they’ve been unstoppable ever since. Admittedly, the stories that followed weren’t always winners. Rather, a few had a lot of potential, but occasionally fell short. But that’s the thing. They’ve been writing Batman for over two years now. That takes a toll. You know what’s worse than trying to fill big shoes of greats like Frank Miller and Jeph Loeb? Trying to match your own momentum and fan expectations. That’s stressful. Tell me, can you write a character seeped in so much history? If not, I’d give Robo Bat Bunny a chance.
So many lanterns… How to catch ’em all?
You know what team has it worse? Every Green Lantern creative team on every Green Lantern–related title. If you want to talk about legacy, try following the 9-year contribution of Geoff Johns and company. Call me a blasphemous, but I love the Green Lantern Corps more than I love Batman. I’m more critical of what happens to the Corps and I get upset if they seem out of character. But I’m not unreasonable. I am open to creators like Robert Venditti, Van Jensen, Charles Soule, and Justin Jordan being bold. I may not always like their stories, but I sure as hell respect them for attempting them. Even Geoff Johns didn’t have the best stories near the end of his run.
Fans tend to also forget that big and controversial changes aren’t always due to the creative teams in question. Sometimes it comes from higher up, whether it is editorial or upper management. Then there are deadlines and demands that must be factored in that could affect quality. I remember being annoyed when Kyle Rayner and Carol Ferris were made a couple in Green Lantern: New Guardians, but in the end it’s just a story and it kind of grew on me. Artist Brad Walker and I had a fun little chat one time and I discovered that neither him, nor writer Justin Jordan proposed the idea.
The fact of the matter is being a comic book creator for the Big Two comes with baggage and high expectations. I admire all those who are daring enough to try something new and exciting, even if it ultimately fails. Sure there are stories that are frustrating and others that outright make a character terrible. That’s when we start spewing statements like, “They ruined my favorite character!” Look at New 52 Superboy (is he still alive?)! The point is, don’t hate a creator just because you hated a story they wrote or speculate they’re going to write an awful one. By all means, express your dissent toward an arc or an idea, but to directly bash a creator with cruel words, or demand a boycott just because they somehow “ruined” your favorite character with something so trivial as a costume change is uncalled for. Your favorite superheroes and how you remember them will always stay the same. A new story direction doesn’t mean the beloved character you knew is gone. Like comic book deaths, they’re never truly gone.
You’ll be back, Superboy! Some day…
Stories are subjective. Not every one will be a hit, but I still respect creators for trying. Because honestly, writing superhero stories all the time is a challenge. To write something new on a deadline on top of other comics month after month is amazing. The stories they come up with are better than I could ever imagine. So thank you, creators, for the wonderful and not so wonderful stories. You’ll always have one reader who will appreciate your hard work, both the good and the bad.
Author: Laura Hong-Tuason, CC2K Comics Editor
Laura is a writer from the San Francisco Bay Area, but currently resides in Southern California. She drinks too much milk tea, talks too much about Green Lantern, and would marry Barry Allen if he were real.