Squandered Development Potential

March 10, 2007

Story subplots and developments that either got botched, or werenít even explored

By Avi Green

If youíre of the mind that comic books could use some interesting story and character developments, plus some interesting subplots, one of the reasons many comics today can turn out to be disappointing is because these things either arenít resolved satisfyingly, or worse, theyíre not even explored at all.

And itís not just at Marvel where story developments have all but become non-existent by now, but also at DC, where it would seem as though theyíre coming up with something, but lo and behold, they did not.

And I guess you could say that itís DC thatís disappointing here. Our example for this meeting will be the writings of one Geoff Johns, whose works I was otherwise frightened away from some time ago. Thinking back upon some of his work, I saw that there were quite a few subplots that couldíve had some workable character drama in them, yet they were never dealt with.

Letís start first with the Flash. For example, there were at least two new cast members introduced in 2001, police officers Fred Chyre and Jared Morillo. The former seemed as though he might develop a relationship with Iris West Allen (mostly because he wanted to be close to the child of Julie Jackam, his late partner), the latter developed a power to heal from any wound almost like a vampire after being sliced by Cicada in the Blood Will Run storyline with some kind of techno-dagger.

Not only that, but, there was also, as speculated at the time on Johnsí own message board, that Morilloís wife, whom we didnít see on-panel, was Fiona Webb, the girlfriend of Barry Allenís who almost became his second wife before Barry was forced to slay Professor Zoom to stop him from murdering her.

Youíd think that these kind of details could lead to some interesting side developments, right? They certainly did have potential for something of the sort. Well, guess what happened? Presto, nothing came of them. It wasnít a matter of if they were simply botched, like say, the initial revelation of whom the Hobgoblin was during the late 1980s in Spider-Man. Rather, they were tossed aside, virtually forgotten, and with Infinite Crisis, you could say that it seems unlikely that theyíll do anything about them now.

In fairness to Johns, I will say that the first part of his Flash run was splendid. It was after issue #191 that he slowly began to run downhill and self-destruct. Mostly because, if story subplot development couldíve been a winning formula for the Scarlet Speedsterís book, then after the whole Crossfire arc was done, thatís when any or all of these subplots shouldíve been explored. Come to think of it, an action plot done with far less jarring violence than what ďRun RiotĒ featured wouldíve been more welcome too. But alas, jarring violence, something which has become a questionable staple of some of Johnsí writing, is what we got. And the subplots which couldíve made for some interesting developments? Swept under the rug and practically canned and forgotten. Chyre and Morillo were slowly phased out as supporting characters, and even Julie Jackamís son, Josh, whose father is the Weather Wizard, was forgotten pretty quickly too. This has the effect of making it seem as though that whole plot was just done in order to give Mark Mardon a renewed reason for wanting to antagonize the Flash, and little else.

This whole tendency of Johns to come up with story subplots that were left unexplored was not limited to just the Flash Ė even books like JSA, Hawkman, and even Teen Titans had at least one item that was abandoned even before itíd begun. Like say, when the Society brought in a new curator for the small museum they kept in their old brownstone headquarters in New York City, and then he was offed some time later. Or how about the budding romance between Wonder Girl and Superboy, which first sparked at the start of the TT run and was then trashed when Kon-El was offed during Infinite Crisis? And over in Hawkman, it would seem as though he might develop an affair with Jayita Sahir, a historian from India, until she was murdered by the corrupt police chief Nedal?

None of these worthwhile subplots were ever followed through on convincingly, if at all, and were all thrown out the window

Now personally, itís not like I consider character and story developments, not to mention subplots, the most important thing above all, even for Marvel Comics these days, where I can only wonder if itíd be best to leave some of that on the back burner for awhile. But if youíre not going to explore the subplots you came up with in the book youíre writing, I can see no reason why to even come up with them in the first place. Whatís the use, or the point?

Thus, I figured out what was wrong, or what became wrong, with Geoff Johnsí writing. And thatís one of the reasons why Iím more careful what I read of him today. Because heís not following through on subplots that could have promise.

Itís not just him, of course. Even novelist Greg Rucka, I hate to say, is becoming one of DCís more pretentious writers, and Mark Waid seems to be losing it. How come? Well, letís just say that their going along willingly with all the mishmash that grew out of Identity Crisis, has hurt their credibility, as well as Ruckaís own multicultural leaning in 52, where it looks as though heís willing to follow through with an editorial mandate Ė replace Vic Sage, the only Question for me, with Renee Montoya, a lesbian and former police official.

Thatís the disturbing problem with the current DC, that theyíre suddenly going the multicultural route by replacing some of their more ďminorĒ characters with minority groups characters, presumably because nobody will give a damn. But, as I for one can show, I do. I have nothing against adding minority groups characters as stars and such, but if itís going to be done at the expense of the everypeople who came before them, then simply put, thatís doing something almost similar to real life, when governments start belittling their own native populations for the sake of immigrants, mostly illegal, and whose loyalty to their adoptive country is questionable, for example, by giving them welfare benefits that the natives donít seem to get, and tolerating their abuse of said welfare to boot. As some would say, itís like anti-white discrimination.

To make a point, thatís why, while as of today, I tend to buy trade paperbacks much more than pamphlet issues, I have decided to boycott the ďAll-New AtomĒ, because of the defamation of Ray Palmer and Jean Loring. Itís not meant as a swipe at Gail Simone, her own willingness to comply with editorial mandate notwithstanding, it is simply meant to show that I have points on which I stand firm. And if theyíre going to degrade/insult them as they have so far, then simply put, I cannot and will not have anything to do with their book.

End of a Realm

Last year, an old website I used to frequent, Hero Realm, shut down after being in operation for about six years.

Iíll be honest, I was really mad at the webmaster, Alex Hamby, after he trash-talked about Identity Crisis, which I mentioned above, in 2004. Sometimes I wonder if I even overdid myself when slamming the bizarre biases I felt heíd sunk into. And yet, strangely enough, almost three years afterwards, I donít feel terribly worked up about his actions anymore.

Is it because ultimately, he did lose audience as a result of his dumbing down the site? Is it because there was a time when we actually were on good terms? I may never know, and may never figure it out.

In all that time since, Iíve turned to blogging, but even when Iím writing about comic books, thatís but one thing that Iíve stopped thinking about. And I certainly am not worked up about what the site ended up becoming either.

It was certainly a shame that Hamby had to do something as dreadful as he had, but somehow, as much as I detest Identity Crisis, I just canít get worked up about his own sugarcoating of DCís miniseries.

It was really sad to see the site go, to be honest. But as they were dumbing down the site and nobody was even trying to protest (if they did, they were exiled, as I discovered), I guess it canít be all that surprising.

But, Iím just not worked up about it anymore, and, as I once said, I wish Hamby no ill. Itís now part of the past, and should remain there.

Simply put, the time has come to move on.

Copyright 2007 Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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