TIMES, TIME, AND HALF A TIME. A HISTORY OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM.

Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.



Showing posts with label Wally West. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wally West. Show all posts

Monday, November 4, 2013

A Farewell to Nick Cardy (1920-2013)



Since 2011, possibly no group of characters in the DCnU has suffered more than the classic Teen Titans. Sadly, the creator who helped make that series so memorable, Nick Cardy, passed away yesterday at the age of 93. A war veteran, Cardy returned to America and became one of the most important comics artists of the Silver Age. You can see a selection of his best covers here and here, and tributes here, here and here.

Cardy during his days as a soldier. Image Source: CBR.

On the Unofficial DC Discussion Boards, we discussed Cardy when he gave one of his last interviews to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in May 2013. Cardy was a veteran of World War II. He fought as part of the US Army's 3rd Armored Division, 'Spearhead,' and as one fan put it: "Holy Cow! He was in some very scary places!"

66th Infantry Division black panther insignia, designed by Nick Cardy. Image Source: eBay.

Wiki:
Cardy did World War II military service from 1943 to 1945, earning two Purple Hearts for wounds suffered as a tank driver in the armored cavalry. He began his Army career with the 66th Infantry Division, during which time he won a competition to design its patch, creating its snarling black panther logo. His art talent led to his being assigned an office job at division headquarters. This lasted, Cardy recalled in an interview, because a general who had seen Cardy's cartoons in an Officers Club had Cardy assigned to his own corps. (Cardy gave the name as "General Shelby Burke", but no one by that name or similar is found in the federal archives.) As the artist tells it, the only opening was for a corporal in the motor pool, so Private Cardy was promoted and assigned to that duty. This, he said, led in turn, upon his being shipped to the European theater, to Cardy's assignment as an assistant tank driver for the Third Armored Division, under General Courtney Hodges. Later, between the end of the war and his discharge, Cardy said he worked for the Army's Information and Education office in France.
Cardy's subsequent work as a comics artist reflected the way American popular culture helps US society digest its most difficult trials.

Because of his war history, Cardy had seen some of the most bloody human actions:
Awarded two Purple Hearts for his combat injuries in the war, Cardy experienced his share of wartime horrors; he saw his tank commander get his head blown off when they were ambushed by German troops with bazookas.
Undoubtedly because of his war experiences, Cardy's best art always had a lot of gothic dark elements. But he consciously chose to contrast those elements with his heroes' luminous brightness, innocence, freedom and beauty:
Drawing those commonplace moments in a war was necessary to his sanity. Incidents such as his tank commander being killed, or seeing cartloads of dead bodies, or opening a trap door to see dozens of scared faces looking up at him, are "something that you'd rather not know," said Cardy. "I tried to focus on the lighter stuff. "I had a policy after I got out of the Army. I was so tickled to get out of the Army alive, I was not gonna let anything bother me."
This is why above all other characters, under his pen, the Titans became beacons of youthful hope, shining out of the darkness.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Eduardo Barreto: Titanic Farewells

Raven: post-resurrection emotions of a character. NTT Vol. 2, #39 (Jan. 1988). 

This has been a strange holiday season.  Every week, I have heard about 3-4 deaths, either acquaintances, or public figures. Today, more sad news. Farewell to a fine illustrator from Uruguay, Eduardo Barreto, who died on December 15.  He graced the pages of DC's Titans title from 1985 to 1988.  He followed on this series in the wake of huge fan favourites George Pérez and José Luis García-López.  At the time, the New Teen Titans was still one of the hottest American comic books in the world, pencilled by two of the industry's most famous talents.  Barreto filled the shoes of his predecessors and more.  He made the characters his own.

Barreto had the tough task of making a resurrected, post-apocalyptic Raven have emotions when she had never had them before.  The cover above from 1988 was Raven's first real smile since her introduction in 1980.  After Pérez tore her apart, it took Barreto to show how a character, reborn after death, shot through with evil, would manifest emotions for the first time and bizarrely - yet haltingly and believably - come back to life to experience some joy.
New and old gods. NTT Vol. 2, #9 (June 1985).

Below the jump, some examples of Baretto's work from that period.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Reflections on the Revolving Door of Death 7: DC's Epic Fail with the Titans and their Heroines: Terra, Raven, Donna Troy, Starfire

Raven, drawn by Diego Latorre.  Hat tip: Titans Tower.

This post was originally supposed to be simply an introductory piece for a series of posts on the character Raven, similar to the series I did for Terra (here) - the second in a blog series on the Titans' heroines' continuities. But last week's releases made me expand the introductory post on the Raven continuity series, to make a general comment on DC's treatment of the main Titans women. To see my whole review of Raven's continuity as a study of how a horror character works, please continue reading here.

On 28 September, DC ended the first month of its reboot.  Last week's Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 marked a new low in the company's two-decade devaluation and dismemberment of one of its flagship franchises, the Titans. From one end of comics-related corners of the Internet to the other, fans are debating Starfire's transformation into a low grade, soft porn, amnesiac sex doll for the sexually and cerebrally challenged (for reviews, go here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here; and discussions here and here).  But like I say, this is just the latest in dozens of outrages inflicted on these characters. The bad treatment of the Titans stems from DC's enforcement of hierarchy associated with superhero generations, or legacies, which I've blogged about here

As far as the Titans are concerned, the record over the past decade especially proves it won't get better until the editors at DC change. The classic Titans are a special barometer for this because they are the original legacy characters, the second tier, who against all odds in the 1980s made it and became something different and better than their elders. If anything is going right or wrong in the DC universe, you'll see it in the Titans first, because DC is about legacies even more than it is about Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.  DC is having trouble handling its legacies concept, and it really shows.

Sidekicks were originally introduced to humanize DC's stalwart A-list heroes; Robin debuted as a joke-cracking young doppelgänger of Bruce Wayne, who could lighten Batman up.  Over time, the Titans became the echo-A-listers who could do edgy, even Marvelesque, stories the A-listers couldn't.  That included being flawed, as with Speedy's drug addiction.  But it wasn't always a weakness: Gar Logan was the Doom Patroller who didn't go insane - or whose sanity, at least, was a given - despite his never-ending confrontation with death, typical of all DP characters.  The phenomenal success of the New Teen Titans proved that there was a huge area around the A-listers of potential story-telling that could never be done with the A-listers because the latter were too powerful or too perfect.  But the NTT was successful because it did not follow the Marvel formula all the way.  The Titans always reasserted a DC ethic of pure, true-blue heroism in the eleventh hour.  They made you want to stand up and cheer for them, because they were troubled, but they stood by each other and always found a way through the nightmare.  In a way, that was a greater heroic journey than anything Superman faced when he battled Luthor, or when Batman struggled against the Joker; those threats were externalized.  With the Titans, threats were always external and internal.  They struggled as much with the dark parts of A-list legacies as they did with external villains.

Tossing the classic Titans under the bus is problematic not just for their fans, but in the long run, for DC. I have to quote Dan from It's a Dan's World: "I'd put to the jury the Perez/Wolfman era of that franchise is as key to the compan[y's] success as Watchmen or The Dark Knight Returns." He's right. Why? Because that era of the NTT solved the legacy problem, and removed glass ceilings that the powers that be are now so keen to maintain. The NTT established that characters could move laterally in interesting ways that allowed them to flourish beneath their absent mentors' shadows.

In the NTT, these characters could be flawed, over-burdened by impossibly huge legacies, and still triumph in different ways, based on their personalities and their individual characterizations.  It wasn't just 'about family' which has become the cloying cliché that DC's editors (even Wolfman, now) never tire of harping on about.  The Titans did and should demonstrate how DC's legacies could be a viable concept.  During the 90s, the Titans lost a lot of their drive, given that the writer Wolfman, who still had a fine ear for the characters, was exhausted and facing editorial mandates.  He also lost control of Dick Grayson to the Bat editors.  This is a critical problem for the Titans, because the Titans are Dick Grayson's gift to the rest of the DC Universe, separate from anything he ever did with Batman.  He is the first and best Titan.  In return, the Titans made Grayson, the first Robin, their ultimate leader, an individual and a respected hero.

The Titans, who overcame their derivative origins and became heroes that made it were broken down during the 1990s.  They had finally torturously been reset by Devin Grayson into something recognizable by 1998-1999 in the Technis Imperative.  Under the recent editorial régime of Dan Didio at DC, that picture changed.  Didio's entrance coincided with Geoff Johns's handling of the Titans in the 2003, which is considered a good run.  But in retrospect, Johns planted the seeds for the current mess. 

I don't know where and when Johns lost his grasp of the Titans, but I think we have to go back to this period to find it.  He supplanted the original Titans with weakened, watered-down, nth-level legacy characters (Young Justice).  Johns's vision dove-tailed well with Winick's kill off of the Titans' strongest members in Graduation Day (2003); these were characters who caused greatest static with the A-listers (Donna Troy) or who gave the Titans their claim to being a separate original and independent franchise in the DCU (Lilith) .  The Titans then showcased some really ugly concepts (Terror Titans, 2008). They became totally disposable (see: the long list of Titans' deaths from the 2000s).  They could commit murder and do Fountain-of-Youth drugs derived from the remains dead children (Roy Harper).  They could lose all dignity and previous characterizations that once showed why their superficial natures were never their internal realities (Gar Logan and Starfire).  They could lose their identities completely in their legacies (Dick Grayson).  Or they could be wordlessly and relentlessly sidelined until there was nothing left of them (Wally West).  This treatment of the classic Titans, but also the Young Justice characters (who are incredibly, getting preferential treatment from DC, although looking at them, you'd never know it) reveals that DC's top editors do not understand legacies or how they should function in this fictional universe.  Nowhere is this more obvious than in the idiotic DCnU attempt to de-age the A-listers and force Titans' tropes onto them, but without the promise of final victory rooted in characterization, heart and camaraderie.  DC is trying to wipe the Titans off the map, and turn the A-listers into Titans. DCnU is the Titansverse writ large, but without the soul that made Titans stories work.  Ironic?

Speaking of loss of soul, Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 continued DC's treatment of heroes as non-heroes.  It's a post 9/11, ramped up Marvel feet-of-clay idea.  As far as I can tell from Co-Publisher Dan Didio's work on the Outsiders, this is his ideal approach: lots of action and sex - low on words and minimal characterization - with heroes so flawed that they're practically villains.  The moral vacuum is the new seat of virtue.  None of this works well with DC characters, who, once upon a time, offset their godlike status with complex characterization, stories - and yes, complicated legacies.  Once upon a time, DC was not the house of simplistic, wordless, internalized failure.  The degradation of Starfire took DC one step closer to that end.

This is mass entertainment that clearly states what kind of audience it thinks is out there: the lowest common denominator.  The book and its editors are insulting the readership with this expectation.  They are especially insulting fans who like the book.  Even the bait and switch typical of Didio-era story-telling is unlikely for DCnU's 52.  This is not a set-up for a better story.  Don't believe the lie: it's not going to be all right after all.  As Shirley MacLaine said: "Sometimes deep down, there is no deep down."

Todd explains that Kory can't remember her history with the Titans and can't distinguish between men she has sex with. Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 (Nov. 2011).

The problem with Red Hood and the Outlaws is that it is the title associated with any reassembly of the classic Titans in the DCnU.  And there is plenty wrong here - obviously deliberately introduced to build expectations about this new universe: the issue completely destroyed Starfire's character.  It also subtly transplanted Dick Grayson's dark, crazy doppelgänger, Jason Todd, as the new leader of Grayson's Titanic legacy.  I have some sympathy for Todd, but he's being used here as an instrument to turn the tables - to turn Nightwing's separate, non-Bat adventures upside down - to finally and completely undermine Grayson's accomplishment with a separate legacy franchise that at its best was stronger and better than the Justice League of America.  Before we even get to Kory's new airhead interest in mechanical anonymous sex, the first issue featured three former Titans cavalierly murdering people.  They are 'outlaws,' with standards to match.

Kory and her nU personality.  Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 (Nov. 2011).

It's ironic that Red Hood and the Outlaws came out last week.  On the same day, New Teen Titans: Games finally hit shops.  The worst thing about the uproar over Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 is that it has drowned out appreciation of Games, a graphic novel from the creators (Wolfman and Perez) who made the Titans world-famous; Games was over twenty years in the making, of the highest quality, and worth the wait.  This is typical of the malaise at DC.  The quality product goes to the bottom of the pile, while the intentionally worst reimagining possible of the same characters gets pushed to the fore by viral Internet marketing, propelled by bottom-of-the-barrel scandal-hype and cheap sensationalism. Maybe this is supposed to be the nU reality dystopia that would have existed in a world where Jason Todd stepped into Dick Grayson's shoes.  DC has also stated that the DCnU is an opportunity to do stories they could never normally have done had regular continuity stayed intact.

Whatever the rationale, the problems started long before the DCnU reboot.  DC's treatment of the Titans heroines has been one red flag after another on has gone wrong and why.

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Titans Dream Cast


It's weird when the publishers of a fictional universe erase a whole era.  This is what DC is doing with the whole Titans comics continuity. Ironically, the New Teen Titans graphic novel Games is coming out this fall.  Originally conceived by Marv Wolfman and George Perez and set in late 1980s' continuity, Games has been delayed for over twenty years. Yet it arrives just as these stories and characters are about to be completely retconned. 

The Games graphic novel finally revisits the heyday of Titans in the 1980s, right at the point when you would expect its revival. Instead, we are seeing an erasure.  For a giant sleeping Gen X fanbase, these comic book superheroes were DC's answer to Marvel's X-men, and Games should awake teen memories. It may get old fans interested in the characters again, even though the classic Titans are being rammed through and obliterated in the DCnU reboots.  DC has shown little interest in rediscovering what made this title great, reviving its superteen soap opera formula that merged so well with sci-fi, space epics, and magical themes.  DC also doesn't seem interested in returning to complex story-telling and characterization that made the Titans title famous.  As one fan on the DC boards remarked:
Funny, I was just reading Jim Shooter's blog (E[ditor] I[n] C[hief] at Marvel from 1978 - late 80's (I think)). Someone had posted something in the comments that reminded me of the current DC way of thinking:

"Steve Englehart has said on his website that around 1990 or so, Marvel editorial decreed that character development should basically stop, since the characters had evolved "too far from their roots."

And I think Marvel went bankrupt in the mid 90's.

Let's see if DC can do better with their version of this idea.
Now that Games will soon be published, the live action Titans movie that Warner is not making is next up.  If they ever do turn to the project, would they consider the Judas Contract for the screenplay?  Or the Terror of Trigon?  Other big storylines are the team's first trip to Tamaran, Titans Hunt, or a Brother Blood film. Below the jump, a post that shows the Titans a little love.  This is my favourite possible cast for a Titans film.  There are other suggestions out there (here, here, here, here, here and here), some of which I've drawn from for this post.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Generation X Goes Back to the Future 6: Thirty Years of DC's New Titans - A Tribute

NTT #1 (Nov. 1980)

Thirty years ago this month, the preview for a great new comics title, The New Teen Titans, came out in DC Comics Presents #26.  For fans like me, who picked up that issue at a plain old newsstand (I can still smell the cigarette smoke, chocolate and bubblegum in the store, which has long since closed), that preview and the issues that followed immediately stood out as something special.

I grew into adolescence reading this title as the 80s unfolded.  I read a lot of titles I'm sure my contemporaries would recognize: Atari Force, Alpha Flight, Amethyst, Legion of Superheroes, The Uncanny X-Men, The New Mutants, and later Elfquest, Love and Rockets, Swamp Thing, Hellblazer and Sandman, as well as several others - including mini-series like Sword of the Atom, Cloak and Dagger and Hawk and Dove, and ground-breaking graphic novels and limited series like The Dark Knight Returns, Batman: The Killing Joke, V for Vendetta, Crisis on Infinite Earths and The Watchmen.  But among all these great books, at its best, The New Teen Titans stood out, head and shoulders above the rest.  Maybe it's because the NTT captured the early-to-mid 1980s as seen from a youthful point of view so perfectly (the title had well passed its peak by the time the character Danny Chase was introduced in 1987).  The lineup of core NTT members is here.

Along with Claremont's revamped X-men from this period, the New Teen Titans are Generation X's superheroes.  There was something in the NTT title of a latchkey generation that felt (and still feels) forgotten, overlooked, misunderstood or dismissed by their elders.  At first Gen Xers, like their parents, were seduced by the glamour of 80s' high life.  But they were also the first witnesses of the private cost of that life within families.  Xers were compelled to survive in Brave New social settings and develop new values to cope in Postmodern and Post-Postmodern circumstances, while riding the economic booms and busts generated by their predecessors.  That's what The New Teen Titans was all about - and it was especially about building a family in a world where families had broken down.  Later Titans titles have picked up the same themes.  The Titans are a pop culture mirror held up to reveal the trials of a generation that has repeatedly absorbed the often unseen costs of Boomer-driven social change.  And for skeptics out there who don't read comic books and think they're just for kids - that's why this title is relevant. 

Every character fit a superficial Gen X stereotyped label endowed upon the cohort by the Boomers - but every character showed hidden depths that belied those labels. This is a big part of the Gen X experience - Xers were constantly being defined by Boomers, yet always knew in their hearts that they were something else. And so - Dick Grayson (the sell-out), Wally West (the Alex P. Keaton conservative), Donna Troy (the perfectionist), Gar Logan (the slacker), Victor Stone (the tech guy), Raven (the New Age wicca girl), Koriand'r (the anti-feminist sex bomb).

Beneath these Xer stereotypes, every superhero on this team was an anthropomorphized version of a specific archetype - an incarnation of a particular heroic value.  For years, Boomers have accused Xers of being cynical, ungrateful and nihilistic.  A close reading of this pulp fictional corner of pop culture can tell you at a glance how profoundly wrong they are.  Generation X's values are, however, very difficult for Boomers to perceive, let alone understand.  The bonds between the Titans represented how their heroic values played out as Xers struggled for years with a prolonged, misunderstood, cohort-wide introspection on behalf of their entire society. They also had to take on the legacies of their predecessors without compromising their own identities and convictions.

This is a tribute to the Titans as pop fiction icons that shows different ways that these superheroes reflected the Gen X experience.  That's before we even look to the obvious accomplishments of DC's creators: Marv Wolfman, George Perez, Romeo Tanghal, John Costanza, Adrienne Roy, Len Wein and their immediate successors - including Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, Eduardo Barreto and Phil Jiminez.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

DC Comics that Made Me a Fan

Wonder Woman's Golden Age Invisible Plane came when she called it.

Over at the DC message boards, someone just asked: "What story made you a DC Comics fan?"  I've been reading comics since the 1970s, and have a collection that runs from the 1940s up to the present.  It's interesting to ask what stories really stand out in my mind through all that pulp and all that fiction.  There are lots of great stories of course - the New Teen Titans arcs The Hunt for the Killers of the Doom Patrol and The Judas Contract are part of one of my main comic reviews on this blog - so I won't mention them here.  This isn't a 'best stories' list.  The question involves stories that really left an initial, indelible, lasting impression, the very first ones that grabbed my imagination and that I still remember before all others after almost forty years.  I'll save my non-DC fan inspirations for another entry.