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Friday, August 06, 2004

The Persistent Sucking of Geoff Johns -- John Jakala really wants to know why I believe Geoff Johns shouldn't be writing comics. Now, not that Johns is the only one -- I'd love to pack up a U-Haul full of him and Tieri and Austen and probably a dozen others if I got frothed up enough about it and send them all over to Wendy's to fulfill their true destiny. In a comment thread at Jakala's blog last night, Chris Allen hit the nail square on the head, slammed the ball out of the park, and took Daddy All Around The World:

It seems odd to me that for all the defense of Johns, no one has anything good to say about his comics other than that he resuscitated Flash's Rogues Gallery, which one would assume was practically an editorial mandate, anyway. If he wrote a story that made anyone cry or jump up and cheer, I'd love to hear about it. If someone wants to argue ADD's point that his take on iconic characters is inappropriate for children (people ripping their faces in The Flash, the aforementioned "Pym job"), I'd like to hear that as well.

I'm not interested in throwing the guy out of the industry, but I think it's entirely fair to turn a critical spotlight on the guy's work to see if it measures up. If it's forgettable and harmful to beloved characters, let's point that out, and try to effect some change to get someone better in place. Comics readers are too often accepting of substandard work as long as it hits the expected story beats. The writers of Yes, Dear are probably more talented than half the writers in the comics industry, so why don't we demand better? Look how we congratulate ourselves: "I liked JSA until it became one big "arc" after another." When was that, the second arc? It's a superhero book, they all work in one arc after another.

The format isn't the problem, the content is. It's just not interesting enough. It's not about visionaries vs. hacks, it's simply about not enough creators striving to their fullest to be interesting and real and passionate, and not enough readers and critics demanding that they be so. Another minute spent on Geoff Johns is a minute not spent on Los Bros. Hernandez or Carl Barks or Ware or even a solid, no-bullshit pro like John Wagner. Better to be a Millar who can fly gloriously off the rails into abominable failure than the Disneyland kiddie car comics creators putt-putting around the track with the governor on the accelerator and the metal rail in the middle to keep them from breaking away from the pack.

This gets to the very heart of my outrage that Johns is not only employed in comics but entrusted with some of its most enduring icons, almost all of which he has mishandled and made inappropriate for the young readers they are meant to serve as entry-level titles for. When people are peeling the flesh off their faces in The Flash, that's one more comic my 8-year-old son wants that I can't buy him. If Johns wants to do sadomasochistic comics for grown-ups, I'm all for it. Let him go to Eros and have a freakin' party. But as long as The Flash is part of an animated series on Cartoon Network, watched and enjoyed by tens or hundreds of thousands of children (many more, no doubt, than the numbers of people reading Johns's version of the character), his sadistic, brutal approach to the character is totally inappropriate. I might even be inclined to cut him some slack if the stories were any goddamned good at all, but on title after title after title, Johns's soporific story-arcs have done nothing but bore me, and anyone looking for actual creative energy to be expended in the creation of these sooperhero funnybook entertainments. And I'm just frigging sick of it.

We have to have superhero comics, yes. Because a good number of people like them, and a good number of comic book shops, for whatever reason, actually make their nut on them. All I propose on this issue -- all I ever propose, if you're sharp enough to parse my apparently complex and challenging prose -- is, let's have superhero comics that don't suck.

Warren Ellis, Brian Michael Bendis, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, David Hine, Joss Whedon, Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca, Ed Brubaker, Darwyn Cooke, Mark Millar and many others regularly prove that this is possible. Compared to any one of these creators, Johns, Austen, Tieri, yes, they should all be thrown out on their ears. I have no doubt there are plenty of would-be writers just waiting for a chance to get into the field, dying for an opportunity to be sucked into the corporate comics machine and chewed up and spit out in a few years.

All I ask is give these poor bastards the chance to step in and actually be creative. All I really ask is for readers to recognize shit when they see it and to stop buying it. Support what engages your imagination, and eschew comics that just fill up five or ten minutes a month, leaving you bored and vaguely dissatisfied. Recognize that feeling that settles in when you realize what a waste of three bucks a JSA or Weapon X is, and goddamnit, spend it on something more worthwhile. It doesn't even have to be comics. Buy flowers or candy for your girlfriend or your wife or boyfriend or husband or child or whoever. Stop wasting your money reinforcing the industry's unfortunately accurate conviction that Crap Sells. Just stop it already.


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