Monday, August 12, 2013

The Stargrave Syndrome

Hi! Dave-El here and welcome to I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You, the little blog that could.

This past week, in the world of comic books, Kevin Maguire announced he was fired as the artist of the forthcoming Justice League 3000. Now I wasn't sure about this concept. After all, it was replacing the Legion of Super Heroes as the stalwarts of super derring do in the 31st century. The uniqueness of the Legion was to be replaced by 31st century versions of 21st century heroes. That being said, Legion had several hurdles to overcome to be a bigger success and stay a part of the DC line up. (See this post for more on that.)

On the other hand, Justice League 3000 may be derivative but there's no denying the obvious marketing appeal of the adventures of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman...OF THE FUTURE! It's certainly an easier sell that explaining a super hero team that counts Bouncing Boy among its members. And the creative team assembled to bring the Justice League to life in the world of tomorrow certainly made it a little easier to embrace this concept.

Keith Giffen, J M DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire, the legendary team that brought us the "Bwa-Ha-Ha" era of the Justice League, would be taking the reigns of this new endeavor. OK, it felt like I would be cheating on my Legion buddies but I was willing to give this a shot.

Then bye-bye Maguire. Apparently DC wanted this project to be a bit darker, a bit grittier and apparently they were shocked (SHOCKED, I say!) that the Bwa-Ha-Ha team wasn't delivering exactly that. So out goes Maguire and in comes Howard Porter.

When Grant Morrison launched his version of JLA oh so many moons ago, I liked Howard Porter's art. I know others took issue with it but me, I actually saw Porter as being in the company of Dick Dillin as a definitive Justice League artist. But that was then. In recent years, I have not be as enthused by Porter's art. The zap and the pizazz I saw in those JLA issues seems to be missing. Now I feel a bit bad for offering that criticism as I believe Porter had a hand injury years ago that could've ended his career. The fact that he can still draw is a testament to his talent and his determination. But still, sadly, no longer one of my faves.

Meanwhile, it didn't take long for Marvel to capitalize on DC's shortsightedness and scooped up Kevin Maguire to draw an issue of Guardians of the Galaxy. Brian Michael Bendis noted he was thankful to whoever at DC made that possible.


But this is not the first time we've seen something like this at DC recently. Writers or artists announced for current or new series only to be let go or forced off after only 1 or 2 issues or hell, even before the first issue is published. One of the most egregious of these incidents was the loss of the Andy Diggle/Tony Daniel team on Superman in Action Comics. By the time their first issue hit the shelves at my LCS, Andy was already gone. The fact that the issue was every bit as good as I thought it would be only deepened my disappointment, a level of disappointment that was comparable to what I felt when this happened:




OK, to be clear, THIS was NOT the disappointment. This was, in fact, one of the coolest, most awesome Legion stories Li'l Dave-El had ever read.

Of course, Li'l Dave-El's been down this road before. See here and here and here for that tale of excitement and woe. But surely this wouldn't happen again, not after the epic awesomeness that was Superboy and the Legion of Super Heroes#239, "Murder Most Foul" by Jim Starlin with Paul Levitz and Joe Rubinstein.

Do yourself a favor. Take a moment to follow this link to that most groovy of groove-tastic destinations, Diversions of the Groovy Kind. There you can read this story in all its multi-hued, zip-a-tone glory. But also read the Groove Agent's intro to this post as he relays the tale of what was to be and what actually came to be. And trust me, the ol' agent's not exaggerating about the level of shattered expectations that occurred when the follow up finally saw print in issue #s 250 and 251.

A 64 page story truncated down to 42. Instead of Joe Rubinstein on inks, the embellisher's job was instead given to Dave Hunt (who, at that time, was being pressed into service to ink everything not being inked by Vince Colletta or Frank Chiramonte). Strangely paced and off kilter. The story was as big a mess as the wrap of the Stargrave story.  It was so bad that Jim Starlin asked for his name to be removed; it was replaced in the credits with "Steve Apollo".

This was back in 1978. Now it's 2013 and as the saying goes, "the more things change, the more they stay screwed up"...or something like that. But is it me or does this sort of thing seem to happen more frequently than it used to?

I'm not saying DC doesn't have the right to do what it wants with it's characters. Any writer or artist who works for DC or Marvel knows they write or draw a character or a series at the discretion of the owners. But it seems to me to not only be bad form to shuffle the decks like this but bad business. Maybe DC doesn't know what they hell their doing but do they have to be so damn obvious about it? How many times since the launch of the DC's New 52 have we seen this played out? 

Consider this: what happened to Jim Starlin on LSH back in 1978 was at a time of considerable desperation for DC. This was in the early aftermath of the devastating DC Implosion. I imagine there was a lot of grasping at whatever was available to fill a sudden and severely reduced line up. And while I read somewhere that Joe Rubinstein was not available to ink 250 and 251, my instinct is that DC wasn't prepared to pay for Joe Rubinstein and Dave Hunt came a lot more cheaply. (No evidence of that, mind you; just my opinion.)

So what happened to Starlin's Legion story was born out of a time of struggle at DC, a time of desperation.

What's their excuse today?

Oh, well. At least the Legion Super Heroes never again set me up for high expectations only to let me down.
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In a forthcoming blog, the Legion Super Heroes again sets up Dave-El for high expectations only to let him down. Will he never learn?


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