Comic Book Predictions for 2009

Dec-15-08

Here at “Meanwhile…Comics!”, we’ve spent the past year talking about what we would do differently with the characters and titles found in the Marvel and DC universes. It’s been fun to play editor-after-the-fact. However, if we want to be true editors of a comic book world, we need to learn to plan ahead as well. So, John and I thought this would be a good opportunity to take a peek into the future and see what 2009 may hold for our favorite Marvel and DC characters. I’ll kick off the festivities and then John can comment on my thoughts and add some of his own (you guys know the drill). In 2009, I predict…

1. MODOK will make a comeback. Granted, this freak has been the butt of many jokes in the past year or two, but he used to be leader (many times over) of AIM and one of Captain America’s most visually interesting foes. The way Ed Brubaker is scrolling through the early Cap bad guys…Red Skull, Doctor Faustus, Arnim Zola…he’s bound to get to MODOK sooner than later. And then, we can expect dramatic comebacks from the likes of The Stranger, Solarr, Monster Ape, Yellow Claw, The Tumbler and The Alchemoid. Classics all.

2. DC will go through yet another crisis. And the Internet will weep. And no one will understand what’s going on. And the whole thing will center around an epic battle between Bat-Mite and Streaky the Super Cat. The plot will get leaked to someone’s blog and then Dan DiDio will spend four months rejiggering the whole thing so that Bat-Mite ends up either torn in half or stuffed in a refrigerator (or, in his case, a little Coleman cooler). Tears will fall. Heroes will rise up. No one will notice.

3. Wasp will come back from the dead. And so will Steve Rogers and Bruce Wayne and Martian Manhunter and Orion and everyone else who went down this year. Are you shocked yet? I’m even going to go out on a limb and say that Mockingbird will die again, just so Bendis can mess with Hawkeye a little bit more. Jerk.

4. Some second tier characters will get their own titles. And then get them cancelled. I’m looking at you, Dakota North! Oh, what’s that? You already had a title that no one bothered to read? Never mind then. Now I’m looking at you, Nth Man! What? Really?? Oh. Well, maybe She-Hulk will get her own title again. Fingers crossed.

5. Frank Miller and Rob Liefeld will collaborate. In the crossover, Batman and Shatterstar will carry really big guns, swear a lot, and constantly look like they’re in pain (either through their expressions or the fact that they have teeny, tiny ankles and ginormously huge upper body structure). Oh, and the whole thing will be presented in vivid black & white…because, you know, that never gets old.

That’s five things off the top of my head. I predict that John will inspire more sarcasm in me. What do you predict?

Well, it’s certainly hard to argue with the prediction that the dead in comics will rise again. I’d also go ahead and add Shadowcat to your list, as I’m sure she’ll return from her Joss Whedon-penned demise in short order (at least I’d hope so, as she’s one of the few truly interesting members of the X-Men). It’s also certainly hard to argue with DC having another Crisis. I know this one is called Final Crisis, but who really believes that?

Here are some other predictions:

1. Brian Michael Bendis will suffer fatigue from writing 75% of the titles Marvel produces and his scripts will show it: Oh, I’m sorry, that happened in 2006. I’m supposed to be looking to the future. I do, however, feel that he will continue to be one of the guiding lights behind the Marvel Universe, that his writing will continue to avoid hitting the heights it did back when he wrote only a few fringe books, and that I will continue to avoid purchasing most Marvel titles for this very reason.

2. Mark Millar will unveil his latest brainstorm: Ultimate Midnighter and Ultimate Apollo!: In an attempt to breathe life back into the Ultimate Universe, Mark Millar will introduce Ultimate Midnighter and Apollo into that world. Once there, they will become members of the Ultimates, leading that team to new heights of debauchery and pathetic attempts to incite readers with cheap sensationalistic antics. Ultimate Captain America will prove to be a giant homophobe and will fight with them both, eventually ending when Apollo sodomizes him at which point Cap will see the error of his ways and shack up with Ultimate Colossus.

3. Spider-Girl will be relaunched and then re-cancelled. Twice. Which is a pretty safe bet any year.

4. Dan Didio will make internet fandom arise against him in anger when he decides that the DC Universe needs to kill off Captain Marvel. “He’s really just another Superman, right? I’ve never seen the point of him. He’s redundant.”

5. Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction will launch a new title, “Raging Razorback”, will will become a huge critical darling. “We can make any previously unimportant D list hero relevant and exciting,” Brubaker will say in an interview on Newsarama. The book will indeed, launch to much critical and commercial success, which will last for eight months, when both creators will then leave the book to work on a relaunch of El Aguila. Some poor relative unknown will be tapped to replace them, and Razorback’s title will quickly fade from view. However, I declare 2010 to be the year of El Aguila!

Oh, snap! Those are some good ones. The Bendis point is so true it’s ridiculous. Everyone seems to hint that Bendis will be Quesada’s replacement as Editor-in-Chief eventually. What a horrible day that will be in the Marvel U. Everyone…will…yeah, but…well, you know…we can…we can all start, y’know, start…talking like…um…like, y’know, this? Or…yeah. Yes.

I’m not sure DiDio will get to Captain Marvel in 2009 though. He still has to do long division on the rest of the former Robins, a couple Green Arrows, three Flashes, at least two Atoms and a generous handful of Green Lanterns. Captain Marvel might get pushed to 2010.

I absolutely LOVE the Brubaker/Fraction reference. So true. And, so help me, I’d happily buy every issue of Raging Razorback. Y’know…until the scrub creative team takes over.

That reminds me of a few more things I can predict for 2009…

1. Someone will finally sell an Aquaman pitch. And that lucky devil will be Grant Morrison. The book will be described as “Lovecraft with sex pirates,” the art will be provided by Frank Quitely, and the first issue will come out 22 months after the book is announced. Critics will rejoice. Fans will scurry for their dictionaries. And, somehow, Morrison will win a Nobel Prize for literature. He’ll accept the award in a shiny suit and then disappear from the stage in a puff of smoke.

2. The TV-to-comics writer trend will continue. 2009 will see the debut of three titles that take place in a hospital, four that deal with scientist cops, one that features a law firm and one that has some sort of weird sci-fi vibe but just gets more convoluted and confusing as it progresses. Pretty soon, readers will give up on it all and start turning to the serialized versions of Survivor and The Amazing Race. The Comic Writers Strike of 2009 will come to a head with Deal or No Deal: The Comic Book (which will immediately be optioned by Sony for a three-picture deal).

3. All the superhero tropes will make an appearance. Someone will be resurrected. Someone will lose their memory. A plot will turn out to be a vividly bad dream. Another plot will turn out to have taken place in a different dimension. Time travel will solve someone’s problems. A bad guy will have his “lifeforce’ transferred to another body a split second before his current body is destroyed. Certain characters will die in one title, only to pop up in another as if nothing ever happened and nothing is explained. One hero will secretly wear the costume of another hero. There will be an evil twin…with a goatee and, preferably, an eyepatch. An older sister will turn out to be someone’s mother instead. Someone will cheat on someone else with their brother…and get pregnant! Wow…those last few went into soap opera territory, didn’t they?

4. Wolverine will get three more titles. And, right before his movie debuts, he’ll show up in crossovers with Hulk, Punisher, Spider-Man, Ghost Rider, Iron Man, Moon Knight, Ms. Marvel, Thunderbolts, Captain Britain, Anita Blake, Dark Tower and even the Marvel Illustrated version of The Man in the Iron Mask.

5. DC will slip to #3 in sales. This will happen when Dark Horse signs a licensing deal for a Harry Potter vs. Twilight series. Geeks worldwide will suddenly realize that Dark Horse publishes books featuring Hellboy, Star Wars, Buffy, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Serenity and pretty much every other popular genre-based character and Eliza Dushku role outside the superhero realm. The mainstream media will try to make a story out of the fact that comics exist that aren’t based around male power fantasies. A few people will take note, but aging fanboys will rally against the minimally perked popular interest, decrying these new books as “dumb” and the people who read them as “idiots.” The world will realize what socially repressed assholes the core comic readership is comprised of, the potential excitement will die away and superhero comics will continue to shrink in both quality and reach. Everyone will be happy. Hooray!

Have I mentioned lately how much I enjoy reading comics? Just wanted to reinforce that.

I would so read that Aquaman book.

I can’t wait to read more Wolverine titles. With his three monthlies, plus his appearances in multiple X-Men titles and Avengers affairs, I simply don’t feel that we’re seeing enough of him. With a major motion picture coming out next year, I don’t understand why Marvel doesn’t capitalize on this underused character. Perhaps the launch of Spectacular Wolverine, Wolverine: The Best There Is At What He Does and Superfluous Wolverine, will help to fill the gap and will help draw non-comics readers into comics shops after the movie is a hit. Oh wait. No, that won’t work, since all of those books will be cynical, angry books, mired in years of confusing continuity that would take ten years to understand. My bad.

My crystal ball is clouding over, but I do have a few more predictions for next year:

1. Usagi Yojimbo will continue to be an amazing comic, with spectacular writing, good art, and it will appear on a regular monthly schedule. It’s creator, writer and artist, Stan Sakai, with perform this feat, amazing in and of itself, while still finding time to do another few odd projects, such as lettering a Groo miniseries for Dark Horse. Comic book scientists will still be unable to distill and bottle this amazing man, and other comics creators will still be unable to duplicate his feats.

2. The third issue of Kevin Smith’s Batman book will not ship. Look for it in 2011. It will still suck.

3. Peter David will launch a new series starring Hawkeye, a popular character who has had his own series in the past, but never seems to be able to keep one long term. The series will be smartly written. It will have humor, but will also handle serious subjects. It will be popular with critics and get good reviews. It will have strong art, with clean storytelling and a sense of fun. It will be cancelled within the first two years.

4. Judd Winick will start writing another three titles in the DCU. Characters in those titles will note that instances of rape, general violence and needless slaughter increase by 150%.

5. The comics industry will continue to hemorrage readers, while the leaders in the industry refuse to consider alternate business strategies that would keep the artform alive in the longterm. Oh, how I wish I had a punchline for this one.

And, I’m spent.

Hey! Don’t throw Hawkeye under the bus like that! X-Factor hasn’t been cancelled (again) yet, has it? It’s funny that we assign certain traits to certain writers. If the characters were actually living and breathing members of a contained universe, do you think they’d be having water cooler conversations about who’s handling their writing duties?

Fade in on Hulk, Moon Knight and Ms. Marvel talking in the break room of a nondescript office building. Iron Man approaches with a casual saunter.

IRON MAN: What’s up, homeslices?

HULK: Have you seen Spidey?

IRON MAN: Nah. Kid’s a square. Too angsty for me.

MOON KNIGHT: Pfft. Not anymore. Bendis got a hold of him for some event comic. Poor Petey is talking like a fry cook with a head injury. Takes ten minutes to say hello.

MS. MARVEL: That’s so sad. Did you hear that Peter David is taking over my book?

IRON MAN: Well, it was nice knowing you!

Everyone laughs.

HULK: You’re lucky. I’ve got two titles right now. One with Slott and one with Claremont. I wake up in the morning and I don’t know if I’m supposed to be bashing stuff and throwing out clever quips or if I’m just supposed to be standing around delivering panel-cramping monologues about my feelings and every relationship I’ve ever had.

The group nods their heads in agreement. Just then, Green Arrow walks into the room. He’s looking around confusedly.

GREEN ARROW: Anyone seen Batman?

HULK: Last I saw him, Kevin Smith had called him into his office. But that was six months ago.

MOON KNIGHT: Anyone know what Smith’s doing with that whole Daredevil/Bullseye thing? I swear he’s got bodies buried under the floorboards.

Hercules storms into the room. He whips his coffee mug across the room and imbeds it in the wall.

HERCULES: Goddamn, Millar! Even I don’t have enough muscles to keep up with these redundant fight scenes!

GREEN ARROW: Hey, just be glad you’re not part of the Legion! I hear Winick took over that book and now they only have four members left. Freakin’ bloodbath. Families. Friends. Pets. Raped and dismembered. I hear they only found chunks of some of the Substitute Heroes. I don’t know what refrigerators look like in the 31st century, but they must hold a lot.

Ms. Marvel starts crying. Moon Knight moves over to comfort her.

IRON MAN: I miss the good ol’ days. Stan Lee couldn’t write for crap, but at least we all got home in one piece.

HULK: And almost everyone’s name rhymed too. Big help.

HERCULES: Yeah. So…what do you guys think about Grant Morrison?

IRON MAN: I hear he turned Wonder Woman into a dude. And an astronaut. S/he can see into the future now.

MOON KNIGHT: Hmph. Lucky break. Sales ought to go through the roof on that one.

Fade out.

Sigh…I’d take one meticulous, thoughtful Stan Sakai over a hundred Judd Winicks any day.


Costume Critique: Night Thrasher

Oct-17-08

They say that clothes make the man. I don’t know who “they” are, but they must have been crying in their Chardonnay when Marvel unveiled Night Thrasher for the first time.

The above picture really doesn’t do the defunct leader of the original New Warriors justice, but it’s almost like Marvel knew that and refused to actually ever show him in his full glory. Where’s the overcoat? Where’s the skateboard?

Yeah, that’s right. I said “skateboard.”

You can rest assured that any time a superhero uses a skateboard, it’s going to make them a memorable character…one way or another. And Night Thrasher certainly doesn’t disappoint in that realm. Nothing says XTREME!!! quite like a dude hitting another dude in the face with a gnarly deck (and then chugging a Mountain Dew while totally high-fiving any nearby object with limbs).

But that is neither here nor there. Sure, the skateboard is an integral part of making fun of this lousy costume, but it’s not the only failing point. Let’s start from the top:

Night Thrasher looks like one of those low-budget direct-to-video superheroes who assembled his costume by shopping at the local sporting goods store. I can imagine him going through a hastily scribbled checklist with his precocious neighbor kid sidekick…

NT: Paintball mask?

KID: Check.

NT: Knee and elbow pads?

KID: Check and check.

NT: This costume is gonna be rad and really strike fear into the hearts of those evil real estate guys hoping to close down the local rec center in order to put in a parking garage for their high priced condos.

KID: Right on, NT! We should have one of those rousing 80’s-style montages!

NT: Not now, precocious sidekick. Evil is afoot!

KID: Awww…

NT: Back to the list. Random pieces of dirtbiking “armor?”

KID: Check.

NT: Long black overcoat?

KID: They sell those at sporting goods stores?

NT: Nah. I already had one. Just thought it would look cool. It’s totally black.

KID: Okay.

NT: Skateboard?

KID: Huh?

NT: You don’t expect me to take the bus, do you? Plus, I can totally smash some faces with it. THWUMP!

KID: Right. I think I hear my mom calling me…

NT: Not so fast, true believer! We have one more important element to consider.

KID: What’s that?

NT: Sticks.

KID: Sticks?

NT: Oh yeah. I could make some wicked weapon out of sticks.

KID: …

Aaaand…scene. Seriously. What were they thinking?

There is absolutely no way that I can top what you just wrote. I should point out that, in all fairness, I found myself loving the character of Night Thrasher, as Fabian Nicieza wrote him in the original New Warriors comics. I actually count Nicieza’s New Warriors as one of my favorite comics from Marvel in the early 90’s and I thought he did an amazing job at making these characters interesting and making the book unique. However, that does not excuse this costume. Or the skateboard. Good Lord, the skateboard!

Of course, skateboarding was popular in the early 90s, so it shouldn’t be surprising that it would show up in a comic. But a popular fad does not a new hero make. Hackeysack was also popular, and I suppose we should all thank someone at Marvel Editorial for nixing the sure-to-be-classic, HackenSackster, who must have been discussed at the same meeting. We were spared one hero born of a then-current fad at the very least.

The skateboard of young Night Thrasher was perhaps never put to better use than when it was employed against the Punisher, as a weapon. I would love to have been Microchip at that time.

MICROCHIP: Man, Frank, you look like crap. What happened to you?

PUNISHER: Some kid hit me with his skateboard.

MICROCHIP: BWAH-HA-HA!!

PUNISHER: Shut up Micro.

I was really hoping to find some screen caps of Night Thrasher beaning the Punisher with his skateboard and using the skateboard as a shield against the Punisher’s bullets, but sadly, the internet is failing me today. Of course, the Punisher need not be as embarrassed as Terrax, a freakin’ Herald of Galactus, who also got slapped around by a young punk using a skateboard to escape the power cosmic. Truly, I think the skateboard should have caught on in the Marvel Universe. Iron Man used to have roller skates; he should have been trading them in for a skateboard!

The skateboard actually disappeared after a year or so, no doubt as people realized that it was not lending their new character much dignity. Sadly, that horrible helmet never left, and so our hero looks like he should be killing pretty co-eds at Camp Crystal Lake. Look, it’s not that a helmet isn’t a good idea for your costume when you’re going to be fighting the forces of evil. It’s a great idea. But dude, you’re a Bruce Wayne rip-off with tons of money; heck, even your skateboard was made of some super strong alloy and tricked out with blades and other gadgets. Why did you think it was ok to spend $8 on a hockey mask and consider your headgear good to go?

How many jokes do you think Night Thrasher had to endure for the knee pads? “Why do you need the knee pads Thrash? Got some special plans with Kid Nova after the fight?” “Oh, shut up Speedball.” Were the knee and elbow pads there to teach kids about safety? That seems a mixed message: “Yes kids, you can jump around on your skateboard, stabbing and punching people, and you can play with guns and grenades and fight really buff guys who carry Uzis….but for the love of God, WEAR YOUR KNEE AND ELBOW PADS!” Perhaps they were to be like Batman’s chest emblem; it’s brightly colored and it’s supposed to serve as a target for criminals to shoot at, so they’re hitting him where he’s most heavily armored. Perhaps Thrash thought that, since they were some of the only areas on his costume that weren’t black, they’d attract the bad guy’s fire. Or perhaps he thought he could Brer Thrash them into attacking there: “No sir, Mr. Terrax, please don’t hit me in the elbows or knees! I’d surely be defeated if you hit me there!”

Finally, I have one question: What the hell is the point of the bandanna on his leg? It’s on every single bloody version of his costume, and it makes so sense to me. At least I can say that, while the elbow and knee pads are ugly as sin, they do have a practical purpose, since they do provide protection, in case he falls off his skateboard in the middle of a fight with a Herald of Galactus (how embarrassing!). But what does the bandanna signify? Is it supposed to be a gang sign? Is he in a gang? The other New Warriors didn’t have to wear colors. Is it a symbol of some sort, like when you have handkerchiefs hanging out of your back pocket; certain colors denote certain things you enjoy? Was Thrash cruising people as he battled crime? Please, can someone explain the bandanna?!

Yeesh. Not a bad character; horrible costume.

Damn. I forgot the Chachi bandanna. It really did tie the outfit all together.