Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Saturday, September 08, 2007

I hate the Superbuddies...

I have a confession to make.

I hate HATE anything Superbuddies.

No, that's not really true. I rather liked Formerly Known As The Justice League for what it was. A pretty funny if substance free collection of jokes.

But "I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League"?! I'm sorry. It's utter crap. Moreover, it's incredibly overrated crap.

I've never been a really huge fan of humor that requires the characters to be grossly distorted to make the jokes work. Yeah, it's funny that Booster would wish them in Hell. But is he that stupid? No. And really, if you're going to stretch him so far to make that joke, why even use that character at all?

And as a Guy Gardner fan I'm especially annoyed at the caricaturation of my favorite. What? I've got fan-entitlement moments as much as anyone else. It doesn't bother me so much that the timeline doesn't work (Guy got Vuldarian powers during the same time Ice was killed. That adventure was WHY he wasn't there), it's not even that they massacred his personality enough to make him actually fondle a teenaged girl.

(Guy, even at his assiest, wasn't the sort to feel up a woman. Lewd comments sure, but that was pretty much the end of the line. He did it to get them pissed off, not because of any sexual reason. And he certainly wouldn't do it after Ice's death.)

...okay, maybe I am a little bothered that they exacerbated the token jerk to someone who'd sexually ASSAULT a teenaged girl for a joke because paedophilia/ephebophilia is FUNNY.

I'm not bothered by the lawyer thing. Though it seemed pretty pointless. Yes, we law-types are borderline evil, but gym teachers are evil too. Why not work in the joke with something that actually fits his background?*

No. My big problem was that they brought back Ice. Stupidly.

And that intelligent people try to tell me how heartbreaking it was when Guy and Fire played Orpheus to her Eurydice...

and. Um. NO. It was really really awful. It wasn't even original. It didn't even keep in tune with the rest of the story. (First you make Guy a molester, then you introduce Ice as a fast food worker in Hell? And NOW you want to tug at my heart strings?!)

Maybe I would have liked it were I coming right off of JLI to read it. But I didn't. I came off of Warrior. And I know that there's probably only about ten people who could stomach the horribly stylized nineties art enough to actually read the issues, but the whole grief/acceptance of Ice's death PLUS a reconciliation of sorts with Fire? All done. Much better and truer to the characters there.

You know, Ice is mentioned maybe three times in the entire series. Once when Guy storms her kingdom, violently shoving would-be guards aside cursing and shouting until he's met by Queen Olaf next to a memorial. She doesn't try to stop him and he gets quiet. Then they speak partially in Ice's language, which he speaks clumsily but understandably and English. It's a man grieving for his love, a woman for her daughter, and that woman reaching out to the man as mother and son in their time of mutual loss.

Another time, Guy's alien abilities are going quite mad, out of control, he's raging and they can't do anything to contain him. Until Matrix-Supergirl becomes Ice. Then he stops. They reach him. He doesn't say anything about her. They don't really talk about it at all. But that's part of why it's such a powerful moment. When nothing else would reach him, her image did.

The third and last time she's addressed is the Christmas issue, which Guy begins moping about his losses and ends with a new maturity about what he has. After a reconciliation with his father (dead, via Spectre), he argues with a slowly-getting-more-inebriated Fire, then meets Olaf. He shows her what he made (had made?) for Ice, in Warrior, an incredibly beautiful statue. It dominates Warriors, dwarfing even the Green Lantern monuments. She is moved and she gives him a small magically created figurine of him and Ice together. She tells him that he can't bury himself in grief. In the past. Then he and Fire collide, are about to fight, lock eyes over it (naturally they're under the mistletoe) and they decide to mutually share their love and grief for Tora in other ways.

It's really a lot better than it sounds. It was really emotional in execution.

Aside from those moments though, Ice is never really mentioned. But somehow throughout the entire run, his grief and love for her is this incredibly powerful underlying thread. Especially as Guy is finally able to mature in a way he wasn't medically capable of in JLI. It's poignant particularly that the Christmas issue really marks the pinnacle of his emotional growth into the man Tora always wanted and believed he could be.

And every bit of it is in character. The emotional growth felt organic and stuck (a rarety in comics), while the way in which Fire and Guy reconciled might be tawdry with other characters with the two of them, with the way they feel and act, two passionate and emotional people quick to express temper and hate, capable of such loyalty and worked. They weren't a romantic couple and it wasn't about sex, it was about both of them letting go of grief and past hurts and anger and finding something else. They're friends after that point and it works.

Sure an Orpheus-Eurydice story can usually cause a little tingling in the back of the eye, but it's cheap and dreadfully overdone. Practically everywhere, as though it's a badge of "hey look, I'm cultured, I know greek myths!"

Which isn't fair of course. Orpheus is a powerful story, full of emotion, a man loves so much that he can't resist that one look back. Doubt robbing him of all he'd dreamed of. But...honestly? It's a tragedy because of the trope. It's a tragedy because of the concept. There's nothing inherent to the characters.

If Superman and Lois Lane acted out the Orpheus myth, it'd be just as sad and heart-wrenching. If Nightwing and Kory/Barbara/whichever he's in love with right now did it, it'd be able to wrench a tear from many a cold eye. But it's not really THEM. It's about loss in general. NOT about Superman, Nightwing, or anyone else's grief or love. It's just about the loss.

I did like that Guy had enough will not to look back. But really, I don't think Bea would have either. But of course, someone has to. Or the story isn't a tragedy. And in retrospect, it's awfully meaningless now that Ice is back, isn't it?

Warrior wasn't a tragedy. And even if they hadn't...resolved things so admirably in that one issue, it still wouldn't have been a tragedy. It was a story arc about growth. About a boy, if not chronologically, becoming a man.

And you know what? Now that Ice is back? It's STILL powerful. Because the point wasn't the loss, it was about moving past and beyond. When they finally reunite, I hope they're together again, but if their time has passed, that doesn't change any of the emotional strength of those stories.

And don't get me started on the stupidity of the mirror universe and kinky S&M Mary Marvel or lisping Captain Marvel. That was just really really dumb.

(*Heh, it occurs to me though that Guy as a lawyer = Geoffrey Fieger. Okay. Now I DO want Guy to get that law degree. Hehehe.)


  • At September 08, 2007 2:28 AM, Blogger Ragnell said…

    You're right about Guy. In Giffen's old JLI run and the GL run, Guy was a childish nationalistic prick. He wasn't sleazy, he was just stupid.

    In those Superbuddies miniseries, when Giffen had to do the non-brain-damaged Guy because he had the yellow ring he came off as sleazy.

  • At September 08, 2007 2:29 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Thing is, Guy didn't get unbrain damaged until Warrior anyway!

    So with the yellow ring, stupid was more than acceptable! But then the Orpheus plot wouldn't have "worked" I guess...

  • At September 08, 2007 2:32 AM, Blogger Ragnell said…

    Plus, no way Odin (especially the DC Odin who has kidnapped the JSA to run through Ragnarok for him) or Freyja would've let someone of Ice's power get away. She'd have been in Valhalla or Folkvang, not Hell.

    (That doesn't count her coming back to life in BoP, since they can just get her back when she dies again.)

  • At September 08, 2007 2:37 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Why'd they put the minor Norse goddess in the Greek myth anyway?

    Like I said in AIM, they should do that story with Sigurd, Brunhilde and the ring of fire.

    Ice. Trapped in fire. It'd work. With Guy as Sigurd. Or Guy AND Bea since it's a ring

    If you're gonna crib, at least crib from something a little less overdone, yeesh.

  • At September 08, 2007 2:39 AM, Blogger Ragnell said…

    But they couldn't have COMPLETELY stolen that story, they'd have had to make some original stuff up because as bad as making Guy a sleazy bastard was, they knew they wouldn't get away with Ice convincing Guy to kill Fire in her sleep.

  • At September 08, 2007 2:40 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Well, yeah. :-P I wasn't saying they should crib all of it.

    And honestly, I figured both Guy and Bea would be Sigurd. They could kill someone else in their sleep via teamwork! It'd be a bonding experience!


    I'm a little twisted

  • At September 08, 2007 2:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Do you know if there's a reason Ice's mother has a man's name?

  • At September 08, 2007 2:43 AM, Blogger Ragnell said…

    So who gets to be Atilla the Hun?

    And Sigurd's crazy-ass mother is the best part of that story! How could you crib and leave her out?

  • At September 08, 2007 2:44 AM, Blogger Ragnell said…

    Ingvild -- Her Dad wanted a boy.

  • At September 08, 2007 2:45 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Ingvild: I believe in the original JLI issues there was a King Olaf. He was kind of evil. As was Ice's brother.

    I vaguely remember something about Ice's mother taking the name when she took the throne as well. I could be mistaken.

  • At September 08, 2007 3:04 AM, Blogger Aero! said…

    Few people can claim immortality. But this is almost certainly the most compelling and timeless indictment of a comic's failure to address the thematic implications of Warrior ever written. Mark this day, history!

  • At September 08, 2007 3:06 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Hmm, I think my reaction to Howard Chaykin's Collateral Damage was better, actually. :-)

  • At September 08, 2007 4:49 AM, Blogger LurkerWithout said…

    At the end of the that arc of JLA: Classified both Fire and Guy are reassured by the others that they propablly never WERE in Hell. At least not the main parts. It was mostly Etrigan fucking with them...

    I also remember something by...Peter David? Not sure. Anyway, by whoever wrote the novel version of Death of Superman, where Supes inner monologues on the then JLA roster. Beetle, Booster, Ice, Fire, Maxima and...that voodoo guy. And he brings up how the two are perfectlly competent until they work together. And then they suddenly turn into Abbott and Costello...

    Hell, Giffen brings it up in the first arc for the Superbuddies. Where Ted tries to avoid spending time with Booster because he doesn't want to go back to that...

  • At September 08, 2007 4:56 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Lurker: I don't really think "It's all a dream"/"It wasn't real" is any sort of defense against my claims of it being cheap and overdone.

    I'm pretty sure in fact, that it's MORE ammunition for my complaint. :-)

    Besides, that's not Etrigan's style at ALL. So even HE's out of character!

    And while Beetle and Booster got up to crazy shenanigans in JLI, it must be noted that neither of them was the kind of lobotomized mental patient Booster was in ICBiNtJL.

    There's funny and then there's stupid. For me, ICBiNtJL crossed that line.

  • At September 08, 2007 6:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The best take on the Orpheus / Eurydice legend starts here. (Tip: Leviathan is an infant / toddler who perceives the family cat and his stuffed bunny as friends and advisors.)

  • At September 08, 2007 10:58 AM, Blogger SallyP said…

    Well, at the time that I read ICBINTJL, I hadn't read Warrior yet, so I thought it was a tad over the top, but hilarious. THEN I read Warriors, and realized...Hey, wait a minute!

    As ridiculous as it was though, it could have been much much worse. Originally, I have heard, Giffen wanted Mary to lose her virginity to Guy...a concept that just makes me cringe. Fortunately, the editors thought it was a bad idea.

    You know the part with Guy and Ice that I find unbelieveably moving? When he has the yellow armor that Beetle gave him, and he's going off to Oa for the final showdown with Hal. Tora wants to go, but he wants her to stay, because he's not really sure that any of them are going to make it back. And then she's left behind, and her tears are turning to ice, and hitting the ground with a little tinkle. It wasn't Beau yet, but it was powerful.

  • At September 08, 2007 11:05 AM, Blogger SallyP said…

    Oops, it's me again. I found it interesting that you mentioned the time in Warriors when Guy's powers were out of control, and Supergirl is able to bring him out of it, by appearing as Ice.

    It works both ways too. Most recently, while the Birds of Prey were rescuing Ice, she was out of control, and using her powers on them, and frankly, beating the pants off of them. Oracle got Huntress to ask Ice if Guy would approve of her behavior, and that was all it took, to shake her our of her delirium and back to normal.

    I thought it was a cool moment.

  • At September 09, 2007 1:44 AM, Blogger Evan Waters said…

    "Out of character" only goes so far for me, though- frankly I find these versions of the heroes so much more interesting than their nobler counterparts. It's basically the sitcom version of the DCU, which is one reason I think it's a real shame that was shattered- there's no corner of the continuity that's really like that anymore.

  • At September 09, 2007 1:47 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Heh, maybe that's it. I'm not a huge sitcom fan.

    I do think there's a lot of humor to be mined with the characters...but I think that the humor's funniest when the characters are actually the characters.

    If you're gonna take them so far out of that, why use them at all?

  • At September 09, 2007 3:05 AM, Blogger Ununnilium said…

    Personally? I still think it was moving and awesome.

    But then, I haven't read Warrior; maybe my opinion would be different if I had. I think not, tho.

  • At September 09, 2007 3:59 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    I'm not trying to tell you not to like it. :-) Heck, there's a reason the Orpheus story is a classic.

    It really didn't work for me.

    And I resent seeing my favorite couple used for yet another retelling of that overrated legend. :-)

  • At September 09, 2007 6:02 PM, Blogger Darren said…

    Sorry, but I really loved the Superbuddies. After picking up "Formerly Known As..." and "I can't believe it's not..." randomly at Powells I have since tracked down every issue of Giffen and DeMatteis's run on Justice League. Those 2 books opened up a whole period of DC's output that I missed the first time, and I couldn't be happier that I stumbled across them.

    And to be honest I just don't care if Guy or Booster's characterization is off. If you don’t get too invested in any one particular storyline or interpretation, it is possible to enjoy other takes equally. To a degree such continuity errors are unavoidable with characters from the big two, and discrepancies or contradictions don’t really bother me. I can enjoy "the goddamn Batman” just as much as Morrison’s version, if I don’t judge them by the same criteria. And if there’s a book you really don’t like, then hey don’t pay it any mind (yes even if it’s canon). Say I don’t like Austen’s “Draco” run on Uncanny X-men? (To me Nightcrawler is just another mutant, not some half-breed son of a demon - bleh!), but that’s cool, I just ignore it.

    Ooh that sounds a little ranty doesn’t it? Gotta say I love your blog normally.

  • At September 09, 2007 8:14 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Darren: Are you sure you read this blog? Because it really doesn't sound like you've read enough of it. :-)

    I don't get invested with any one storyline or interpretation, what I get invested in is the synthesized whole of the character.

    Admittedly some characters are harder to synthesize than others, but Guy Gardner is one of those that really isn't. If you pick a Guy Gardner characterization from two different time periods, they're going to be remarkably different (because he's a character that's gone through remarkable changes). But if you pick two from the same time period, in general you're going to get consistency.

    (For example: Guy Gardner in Blue Beetle, Guy Gardner in GLC, and Guy Gardner in Green Lantern are still quite visibly the same guy)

    In the early 90s, with his brain damage, there were two overlapping characterizations of Guy. Gerard Jones wrote him as a bratty child essentially. Giffen wrote him as an ass. It worked out remarkably well fitted together. Reading Green Lantern alongside JLI expanded the picture: the assiness becomes a projection from the child into what he thinks he's SUPPOSED to be like/do. (Which makes sense as the character has had very bad role models.)

    Sometimes interpretations don't always fit as well. But there's a difference between not fitting as well and being totally off.

    For example, Booster Gold was in varying interpretations as a shallow materialistic schemer, an enthusiastic team player, and a selfish jerk.

    All of which are valid interpretations of the character and can be synthesized into a really complex interesting whole.

    However there's a difference between an alternate interpretation of the character and pulling a brand new characterization out of your ass because it's funny, unsupported by anything that came before.

    IS Booster Gold self-centered, materialistic, shallow and with a blind-spot a mile-wide? Yes. Depending on the time period/interpretation.

    Is Booster Gold a moron who is stupid enough to play with Dr. Fate's toys and WISH THEM TO HELL? Not by any pre-established fact of the character. That's a man who's too stupid to live past childhood, not a man who's a scheming survivor with a heart of gold.

    Is Guy Gardner a jackass? Yes, of course. Is Guy Gardner a man who would say obscene things to a teenaged girl simply to rile her up? Depends on the time period, but yes.

    Is Guy Gardner a man who would physically put his hands on a teenaged girl? OR contemplate obscene things regarding an unconscious teammate?

    No! Never! Guy's always had lines he would not cross! He's always been surprisingly moral, in his own asshole way! You can write a lot of horrible behavior as in character for him (in that time period anyway), but in the end, he still toed the line!

    Moreover, no hero can do what he did. Not and seriously remain one. Sexual assault of a minor goes very, very, far beyond acceptable character deviation from a joke.

    The plots and events may not fit together, but we should at least be reading about the same damn characters. And if a joke requires characters to be absolute morons (or you know, SEXUALLY ASSAULT SOMEONE) then it's a waste of time.

    There are many funny situations that Keith Giffen is more than talented enough to write involving a light-hearted team consisting of an IN-CHARACTER Booster, Beetle, and company. With many funny clashes with an IN-CHARACTER (for the time period anyway) Guy Gardner, without resorting to cheap unsupported and contradictory deviations from character.

    I'm not saying that you can't like Superbuddies, but I would strongly recommend you not try to claim the "humorous deviations" for the sake of the storyline are somehow valid interpretations of the characters based on everything we've seen prior, at THIS blog. Because I have about 15 essays about Guy Gardner on this blog that can be used as evidence that I WILL explain ENDLESSLY, POMPOUSLY and with FAR TOO MANY WORDS why they are not.

  • At September 09, 2007 8:26 PM, Blogger Ragnell said…

    You forgot the major problem with this sort of msicharacterization for the sake of a joke.

    It makes characters people like unlikeable. Heroes get to be flawed, but they all have lines they won't cross. That's part of what makes them heroic, they won't sink to a certain low. If they do sink to that certain low but will still perform heroic feats, they're antiheroes.

    These characters, Blue Beetle and Guy Gardner, they're jerks but they're heroes. There's always been that redemptive line, that low they won't sink to that still lets the audience like them. Its the "heart of gold." Turning Guy into a sleazy predator and Booster into a total moron takes them to the low they wouldn't hit before, for the sake of a punchline.

    In doing so, it takes them from decent but flawed characters to people you don't want to root for anymore. These weren't harmless humorless antics, or mild deviations that can be added to the whole of the character or just taken on their own merit as the characteristics of heroes. Guy and Booster were shown as harmful people. Guy (a character with an origin as special education teacher) became the sort of person you wouldn't trust near a young girl. Booster was the sort of person you sure as hell wouldn't trust with your life.

    At least the 80s JLI stories let them be heroes and be funny.

  • At September 09, 2007 10:18 PM, Blogger Darren said…

    Kalinara: I do and I understand where you're coming from certainly, but I just went off on my own little tangent -sorry, I just have an irrational fondness for both series.

    I do agree with you about the ridiculous sexual assault "humour" however. Not cool, just not cool.

    Besides I haven't actually read "Warrior" –a deficiency I will have to remedy at some point, as I've had it recommended before.

  • At September 10, 2007 12:19 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Sally: Oh! Smith DID write the scene with Ice! :-)

    Darren: Heh, I'm not without my bias admittedly.

    See, honestly, it's not even so much that they did a cheap Orpheus scene.'s that they did it with MY favorite couple! Hmph.

    I liked Formerly Known As. I'd probably have liked ICBiN, except for the parts that involved my favorite character. :-)

    I'm one of THOSE sorts of fans. ;-)

    I'll admit MOST of the jokes were fairly funny though. :-) I got more annoyed by them trying to be serious.

    Warrior...well, you kind of have to know what you're getting into to like it, I think.

    Really early Guy Gardner (pre-name change) is just surreal. Like a Superhero Bobby's World. The world according to Gerald Jones's take on Guy.

    Dixon's take actually stabilizes the character some, corresponding it with the later JLA when Wonder Woman led. With some nice backstory filling in that makes alot of sense.

    Really though, the part of the series that pretty much everyone refers to when they say Warrior is Beau Smith's run. Which is pretty freaking insane.

    Emerald Fallout (#21-22) ties directly into Emerald Twilight. It's pretty good though. Lots of character moments. Pretty sane though. Then the madness starts.

    It starts with a sort of old style pulp adventure story satire. Guy and a safari type group go into the wilderness to find him powers. Among other things. There are tribes of Warrior Women, snake demons disguised as a guide, nazis riding on dinosaurs. Guy gets very bizarre nineties type powers.

    After that point he gets the bar and settles in and things get crazy. The individual stories are insane and often involve things like gender shifting, secret societies, returns of evil clones, Major Force, disgusting enemies that look vaguely like they're comprised of living genitalia with tentacles, aliens with really bizarre tongues, toonverse parodies, and the like. All accompanied by very stylized (and thus horrific) nineties art.

    Don't get me wrong, I think it's an amazing series. Beneath all the craziness there's this core of genuine emotion threaded through it. It's also incredibly satisfying on a feminist level. It really, ultimately makes the change from JLI-era Guy Gardner to the one we see all over the place now make sense. (I've blogged it as an adolescence metaphor, myself. But that contains spoilers, so I wouldn't advise reading it. I link it because I'm an egotist.)

    Still, it's probably not for the faint-of-heart, so brace yourself. :-)

  • At September 10, 2007 3:07 AM, Blogger Marc Burkhardt said…

    I liked the Superbuddies myself, but I understand your beef Kalinara.

    In my mind, Hal Jordan has been portrayed out-of-character since Green Lantern v1 #76 - the famous/infamous GL/GA team-up.

    Frankly, I always thought Silver Age Hal had more class than commonly thought ...

    Hmmm ... Someday, I'll have to write an actual post to back up that thought!

  • At September 10, 2007 4:58 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Hi Keeper!

    I have to equivocate though that I tend to think if a characterization stays fairly steady throughout a number of years it's more of a "character change" than an "out of character" thing. Not always a GOOD change, admittedly. :-)

    ...though personally, I thought Hal was pretty awful with Carol in the old Kane issues. Very domineering, social-power-grabbing to me. Not saying that his feelings for her weren't returned, but his way of expressing them left a lot to be desired.


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