[REPOST/LNH] Saviours of the NET #7: 'A Fight Scene! A FightScene!'

Tom Russell milos_parker at yahoo.com
Fri Apr 21 21:02:38 PDT 2006

Saxon Brenton wrote:

> Actually, running off on a semi-tangent from that: Tom, I apprecaite that
> you're embarrassed by a lot of your early work, but I have yet to be
> convinced that this *persistent* self-flagellantion is productive or
> healthy.
> Just saying...

Duly noted. :-)

I've also got to work on my persistent need to apologize for my
behaviour nine years ago.  I'm a different person now than I was at
that time, and it really feels that way: when I run across some old
post of mine or flame war that I started, it's like I'm looking at the
childish antics of a whole 'nother person.  A person I don't
particularly like, and whom I'd have very little patience for if he
existed today.

But I know that I was that person.  And that's something that's
upsetting to me.

At that time, the thing I loved most about superhero universes was the
history of it.  The way one story intersects with another, and becomes
another thing entirely.  The way the threads weave in and out.  And,
yeah, that's still a big part of it for me.  The feeling that I'm
adding to some great big story gives me goosebumps to this day.

But at the time, I *wasn't* adding to the great big story.  Making Gary
Niceguy the son of Sarcastic Lad, for example: that didn't *add* to the
story.  Retconning Carolyn's mother into CPDC and making Carolyn the
daughter of Killfile-- that didn't add to the fabric of the LNH.  Or
the time that all anime on television was replaced by insipid
children's programming featuring a purple dinosaur.

And there are reasons why this early work didn't add to the story of
the Looniverse as a whole: first off, they were cheap ploys.  EXACTLY
the kind of bad twists and writing that I hated in mainstream comics at
the time, and to this day.  It took me a while to realize I was doing
it.  And it took me a little longer to realize the reason why I was
doing it, the same reason why Brubaker brought back Bucky and Bendis
disbanded the Avengers: it leaves a mark.

Fanboys adore writers like Alan Moore, who ended the career of Batgirl.
 And, as what, a cheap joke?  Because it wasn't her story.  It wasn't
even Jim Gordon's.  THE KILLING JOKE was the Joker's story.  And, if
you ask me, I'd say that was wrong.  The last Batgirl story should be
Batgirl's story.  Just as the death of Firestorm should be a story
about Firestorm, not four fucking pages in the middle of a miniseries.

As much respect as Moore and Meltzer have for the DC universe and some
of its heroes as a whole, they DO NOT have respect for Batgirl or
Firestorm.  Because if they did, they wouldn't *end* them so casually.
And, in my mind, since they lack that very basic respect for the
intellectual property of others, they have no right to alter it--
especially not in the course of a few panels, almost as an

I think it's a little sadistic, too: consider that Barb is crippled,
stripped, humiliated, and tortured.  It's strongly implied that she is
raped.  I'd rather not see this happen to anyone-- but if you're going
to do that to a character, you owe it to them, and to those who came
before you and worked on that character, to show some sympathy for
them, to give them the focus, instead of using cynical distance and
perverse casuality.

When writers make major changes to the characters and the universe they
inhabit, the stories are taken more seriously than your usual superhero
escapist entertainment, because "serious literature has consequences"
and in "funnybook stories" nothing ever changes.  And I think that's
the only reason why Barb Gordon was shot and paralyzed: because Alan
Moore is a Serious Writer who Writes Serious Stories.  Because Alan
Moore wants to be taken seriously.

There are Serious Writers who work in comic books and RESPECT the
characters they write. Like Kurt Busiek.  I enjoyed his run on AVENGERS
immensely.  Though his stories had reprecussions, he didn't have the
Scarlet Witch go insane *years* after her kids had vanished, resulting
in the death of many Avengers and the disassembly of that august body.
He just told good stories, the best he could, about characters he
loved.  He didn't kill them off as a cheap stunt because he understands
that cheap stunts are preternaturally disrespectful and that they are
not good stories.

There's a danger to this approach, to telling good stories and staying
away from high-stakes events.  High-stakes storytelling attaches a
*name* to the story.  When you say Kraven's Last Hunt, I say DeMatties.
 When you say Daredevil's Secret Identity Revealed, I say Bendis.  Poor
Sue Dibney raped and murdered (or, actually, murdered and raped, since
the the assault *was* in issue two)?  Meltzer.

(And here's the funny thing: these are all decent stories.  Kraven's
Last Hunt is incredible, and it *respects* Kraven and Spider-Man, and
it *understands* them.  The first TEB of the "Out" storyline (I haven't
read the others) is a very compelling read, highly satisfying.  And I
find Identity Crisis, for the most part, to be an embrace of the Silver
Age and of superheroes, despite of and also because of its cynical
retconning.  But poor Firestorm...)

High-stakes stories give you something to connect to the name, ensures
you'll never forget them.  But writers who shy away from those sort of
stories can often be forgotten.  "Who was it that wrote IMPULSE after
Mark Waid but before DeZago?  You know, there were all these silly
characters running around, like the Green Cigarette..."

And some will remember that it was Bill Messner-Loebs (some will like
him, some will hate him).  When you say Alan Moore, I say WATCHMEN and
SWAMP THING and I feel sorry for poor Barb, she didn't deserve that!
... But when you say Bill Loebs, what stories come to mind?

It's not like he wasn't prolific.  And his stories weren't bad.  He
wasn't Ron Marz or Howard Mackie.  Some of Bill's stories were pretty
good, and when I come across one of them now and again in my readings,
they give me a lot of pleasure.  They're not as memorable or
"important" as the Stories That Change Everything, but they have
respect and love for the universe he's working in.

When I started writing, I wanted to be an important writer.  Often
times, I'd write about things I didn't understand, because These Are
The Things Important Writers Write About.

When I started with the LNH, I wanted to be an important writer.  I
wanted to be remembered.  I wanted to make sure I couldn't be ignored.
I was an Alan Moore (without the talent).  I've gotten better at
writing, and, like Alan Moore, I think I'm pretty good when I don't get
too pretentious.  But now that I have some modicum of talent, I don't
want to be an Alan Moore.  I don't want people to say my name and
immediately associate me with, say, Frat Boy becoming homosexual. :-)

Which, like WikiBoy's cure for AIDS, was never intended to stick.  In
the case of the Frat Boy story, I restored status quo at the
conclusion-- admittedly a cop-out, and one of the dangers of shying
away from high-stakes.  But other writers liked what I did, and ran
with it.  And I think that's terrific.  That's what a shared universe
is about.

As for WikiBoy/AIDS/having sex with just about every living person
thing-- he's WikiBoy for Chrissakes!  Of course he's going to get
retconned!    That's the whole point of his powers!  I'm not about to
take a big dump-- or, in this case, WikiSplooge-- into the public
sandbox.  Only a child tries to remake the sandbox in his image.

And I'm not a child anymore.  I don't want to be an Alan Moore.  I want
to be a Bill Loebs.  I'd rather someone come across a story that they
love and discover that I was the one who wrote it.  I'd rather write
great stories that have no major reprecussions.  I'd rather quietly add
to the tapestry of the LNH, because I respect it now.  I love it more
than I love myself.

I love the LNH, and the people who people the Looniverse.  By people, I
refer to both the writers on RACC and the characters they've written.
I consider them all to be among my dearest friends.

I've hung out with Sister State-the-Obvious and Cheesecake-Eater Lad
for nearly nine years now.  With Obscure Trivia Lad and Irony Man.
With poor Cannon Fodder and ridiculous, imperious Ultimate Ninja.  I
care for them very deeply; I cherish them and I want to protect them
from those that would do them harm.

I'm working on an anniversary story for LNH vol. 2 # 12, to be posted
(naturally) on April 29.  It's something of a sad story, and parts of
it has moved me very deeply.  It's not because I think my story is that
good, or indeed even because of anything I've done; it's because of the
deep feelings I have for these beloved characters.  It's because of all
the work so many others have done over the course of fourteen years.

When I look back on my old posts, I'm looking at someone I now consider
to be my antithesis.  That's why I hate his stories, and that's why I'm
always apologizing for the way he tried to ruin things.

At the same time, it's hardly productive to keep apologizing and
bashing on this idiotic Russell kid.  After a while, it begins to
schmack of schtick.  So I'll keep it to myself from here-on in.

Just thought I'd offer some words of explanation and reflection.  Feel
free to comment on any or all of it: conversation is healthy, even if
self-flaggelation is not. :-)


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