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We’re already one month into 2014, or MMXIV for you Roman readers, and already the highs and lows of the comicscape are on the horizon. Image is getting a bunch of new titles from established super talent, DC is canceling one of the best books they’re putting out right now, and it doesn’t look like I’m getting my gritty Paste Pot Pete comic anytime soon. Figures.
However, what brighter light is there than hope? So come with me into the light — BUT NOT IN A CULT WAY — and let me show you what our hope may bring:
WASN’T EXPECTING THAT, HUH? Well it wasn’t going to be all “better characters” and “more pants on gals” cuz that’s safe. I’m out there, man, I’m on the edge!
Anyway, one of the biggest advantages DC has, or used to have depending on how you look at it, is its Vertigo line. It offers them the ability to create comics aimed for an older audience. Comics that play with deeper themes, darker situations, and bigger threats. Not only that, but it allows them to branch out from their set universe with things like American Vampire and Fables.
Marvel MAX can’t help them break away from the Marvel characters, but it can offer a darker, more adult view of their universe. There is no better example of this than Punisher MAX.
Punisher MAX allowed the Punisher to behave at his full potential (that’s Bullseye up there, in case you were wondering, the Punisher doesn’t have a strange severed finger fetish). It wasn’t all “I’ll kick your butt!” and people being shot off panel. It was as dark, violent, foul-mouthed, and morally gray as the Punisher should be.
So imagine all the potential in making a comic as dark and adult as it can be. Imagine Deadpool MAX (whose regular comic is already twisted enough), imagine Blade MAX, or Black Widow MAX. It would be amazing!
BUT WAIT! That’s only the normal picks. The limited Fantomex MAX just ended and Fantomex was pretty far down the list of characters to get an MAX title. So why stop there? Why not a Doom MAX comic that follows some twisted adventure of Doctor Doom. A Cable MAX that follows Cable struggling to survive throughout time. I’m just spitballing here, but what about a Paste Pot Pete MAX? The possibilities are endless!
Amazing Spider-Man has become something of a controversial comic. If you hadn’t figured it out from the title or you haven’t been paying attention for almost a year, heads up: MEGA SPIDER-SPOILERS.
Ever since Doc Ock placed his mind into Peter’s body — becoming what’s referred to as “Spock” — it’s been one giant nerd battle. Some felt it was too great a change, one that ruined the book, while others felt the radically fresh take was sorely needed. Only one thing was for certain: Peter would eventually come back. That’s just how it goes.
And now it looks like he finally is. However, I hope we don’t get back Peter Parker proper… more of a new Pete. We do know that Ock has erased most of Pete’s memories, save for a few key ones, and that’ll most likely create a different Pete than the one we’ve seen before. Put I kind of want more than that… I want a blend.
What I mean is kind of the early Spider-Man in the current Marvel universe. A young, mostly naive, boy scout-y Spider-Man. However, he knows that he had memories stolen, he knows that he used to have a more complete history. He used to be another person, and he struggles with it. So now all the character dynamics have changed. Is he still in the Avengers? Is he still friends with the usual characters? Can he be?
Comics have always been on the forefront of progressive media. Well. Maybe. Actually that may be only kind of true. Certain types of characters have appeared first in comics, but they’re usually not handled the best. Also racism.
SPEAKING of not handled the best, 2013 saw the first transgender character in comics (Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol be damned).
I give Gail Simone, the writer, a lot of credit for this. It’s awesome to have a transgender character in comics and it’s awesome that they’re not some kind of awful stereotype. However I do feel this was a bit off.
You see, this is Barbara Gordon’s roommate. There wasn’t a lot of set up to this and it kind of went away as fast as it came in. Maybe it’s just me, but with something like this, there should be a build up, some kind of conflict, an obstacle overcome. Something that’s a part of the story, not just blurted out in a way that feels tacked on. Don’t make the transgender aspect the biggest part of the character, for Kirby’s sake please no, but make the reveal mean something to us.
Secondly, it would be awesome if this was a bigger character. This is nitpicking, I get it, but Barbara Gordon’s Roommate isn’t exactly swinging for the fences. There are superheroes of almost every race, nationality, and religion. OH, and a transgender roommate to superhero.
In 2013’s Batman arc, Death of the Family, we got an edgier, darker Joker. One who cut off his own face then wore it like a mask.
Admittedly, I didn’t much like this take at first. It seemed needlessly over the top. Many said it altered the character too much, but that wasn’t it for me. It didn’t seem to fit the character. It was twisted, sure, but not in the lethally flamboyant way of the Joker. More like a regular serial killer. In fact, it had me convinced it was another character posing as the Joker right up until he “died”. Maybe it still is, who knows.
I guarantee they wont keep the Joker away for long, but my hope is how he’ll be once he returns. Scott Snyder seems to grasp the Joker’s grandiose killer sense of humor (having Arkham guards carry a horse through the halls then shooting the horse to have them start over when one dies, for instance) so I think its possible.
When the Joker returns, I hope for him to be less Kevin Spacey in Seven and more of a mirthful maniac. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want the character to stay stuck as how he has been, oh no, I want him to progress. It’s just that he needs to be something more than just a killer or even a psychopath. He’s the antithesis of Batman, a force of sheer destruction that transcends madness. He doesn’t need a cause to wreak havoc, he just needs to be.
Most of all, there’s some twisted fun in what he does. Like a roller coaster with a flaming pit at the end. There are plenty of psychotic Batman villains who go on disturbing crusades to prove a point. Joker isn’t one of them.
Most of these hopes boil down to one thing: taking chances. 2013 was a great years for chances taken and a lot of good material came out of it. But I think we can do better.
To stay ahead of Image and the rolling sea of web comics, the Big Two will need to take their stories to places yet unexplored. More titles the Thor: God of Thunder, that takes a known character and tells stories that could only be told with that character. Titles like Animal Man and Swamp Thing that reinvent old stories and characters in ways that push the limits of the medium.
I hope smaller publishers use their freedom to publish more of the original stories the Big Two can’t. Sex Criminals, Bedlam, Todd the Ugliest Kid are all stories we’ve never seen before. Stories built on fertile territory (no I will not make another Sex Criminals joke).
Stories that take chances are the kind we remember. That’s why this is my biggest hope for 2014.