Thursday, January 24, 2013

2013 Newsarama Matt Kindt interview on "Manhunter" back-ups

After working my butt off the past few years juggling school and then jobs, not to mention the New 52 finally euthanizing my interest in the DC Universe, I've had a tough time motivating myself to sustain my online presence. I can't tell you how many hours I used to spend on linkposts for DC Bloodlines, at one time a daily feature, and now that blog is lucky to get attention a few times a month. It's a good thing that will_in_chicago keeps his eye on some of the comic news sites and gives a head's-up, especially on weeks like this one where I've had trouble getting back to routine daily scheduling. He already alerted us to a CBR interview with Geoff Johns on Justice League of America's lead feature, and has followed up with one on what appears to be simply titled "Manhunter" back-up strips for the book at Newsarama. I tore apart a similar interview last year when the project was announced, and Kindt gave me reason to be mean once again.

In so many words, Kindt basically says that he got hooked-up with DC to finish out the run of Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. after Jeff Lemire left, then bugged Geoff Johns until he got thrown this bone. How's the Martian Manhunter taste? “Well, I always say this but it's true, there isn't a bad or uninteresting character in the DCU. I'd write any of them. The very nature of super heroes and the DCU in particular lends itself to some crazy story ideas and storytelling. Martian Manhunter in particular though has his own interesting angles...” Did this son of a bitch just call J'Onn J'Onzz a minger? He did! He just said he'd write anybody he could get his mitts on, and he got the Alien Atlas, and will now proceed to use him to tell the exact same types of stories he's already doing in Mind Mngt. He also pointed out that Rebel Wilson and Anna Kendrick both sang in Pitch Perfect, so one is like the other, except Anna Kendrick is Superman and Martian Manhunter isn't.

Besides trotting out the same tired lines, this time we get some quotes on the material Kindt referenced to derive inspiration. “I grew up reading JLA and the "funny" Justice League was some of my favorite of that era. A friend of mine sent me one of those big Martian Manhunter "essentials" reprints so I looked at that a little bit to get some sense of the older history of the character.” So okay, you read the same JLA comics everyone else did, including some International stuff, then thumbed through a Showcase Presents. My, such dedication. Such reverence. You don't think he's going to pitch all of that aside and decide to wing it, do you?

“But honestly, we're doing something new with Manhunter, so he should "feel" the same as the classic character but true to the sense of what DC has been doing with all the 52 titles. It's going to be new. It's the equivalent of what you see in movies really, when they bring comic characters to the big screen you end up getting writers and directors that hadn't read comics all their lives or hadn't read comics for a long time so you come back to these characters and you're thinking rationally as an adult now — and how do these powers really work? You end up getting surprised, like when Magneto first used his powers to bend Wolverines claws and throw him around. I hadn't seen that before but it made perfect sense! You end up getting some new and fun ideas to characters you thought had been completely explored and tapped out.”

Broheim, let me explain this to you slowly, okay dude? Wolverine's first issue of X-Men was #94 as part of an "All-New, All-Different" line-up. The very first time this new grouping fought the old X-Men foe Magneto ten issues later, the guy used his mastery of magnetism against Wolverine's adamantium claws and Colossus' steel skin. By their second fight in #112, it had been revealed that Wolverine's claws were part of his body, not just inside his gloves. That's how early we're talking here. Thanks to this revelation, one of the most famous X-Men covers of all time sees Magnus making Logan try to stab himself in the face. It's an obvious idea, and one the filmmakers of the X-Men movies were likely aware of, since the director's fanboy friends gave him a crash course on the franchise. Your friends tried to help you the same way, and you thumbed your nose at them, making the same mistake as every failed Martian Manhunter solo writer (and admittedly, a few marginally successful ones.) You go do something "new" with no sense of history, and tell A.J. Lieberman we said "hi." Meanwhile, I'll keep hoping Geoff Johns is dictating your plots, because him I halfway trust. Then again, he helped usher in Parallax as a cloud of diarrhea splashed across the silver screen, so there's the other half of the way this could go. When you point at the "new" ideas seen in film adaptations, comic fans envision emo Spider-Man doing a dance number with the Shaq Steel while pinching Tank Girl's rubber nipples in Spawn's 16-bit CGI Hell.

Kindt goes on to point out how important the character's "alien-ness" and being "scary" is, despite his primary hook being "more humane than humanity" from the very beginning in 1955. Kindt talks up new applications of powers, which might be interesting if he gave any indication of actually understanding the character. Mooring the back-ups to the lead story also sounds boring. On the other hand, he claims experience and comfort handling eight page shorts, a rare gift in the age of decompressed serialization. I hope the guy wins me over, and telling satisfying relatively self-contained back-ups would be a good start.


will_in_chicago said...

Frank, I will try to keep an eye on what is coming out. In many ways, I am glad that it seems that DC is trying to treat the JLA and J'Onn J'Onzz seriously. Geoff Johns overall reassures me, while Kindt makes me wonder if he is the sort of person who should never be interviewed or do public relations. He comes across as arrogant.

I believe in building on good elements in traditions, and I think that there is a lot of good things that can be drawn into the past. J'Onn can be alien, scary and more humane than humanity. Maybe a day in Middleton, where J'Onn visits an elderly Diane Meade might be nice. (Okay, there would have to be some action, so maybe Diane helps J'Onn on a case.)

LissBirds said...

That whole "you're thinking rationally as an adult now" line got under my skin. Well, after watching comic book movies from a young age, I came to print comics as an adult and I have no trouble rationalizing how comic book powers "really" work. What I really want is a good story, with good characters, with a bit of suspense and action, and some decent art. I'm tired of everything having to be rationalized down to the smallest detail so that it takes up the majority of a writer's time. Just tell me a story already, and make it a good one.

I can understand a writer not knowing all of a character's continuity (I still have trouble keeping it all straight myself,) but at least be willing to put the effort in to do a little research and talk to a few fans to get the essence of the character. For example, I can't quite remember when the whole "scary" Martian Manhunter trope came about (the 90's?) but at least I'd try to get it all sorted out if I were a writer.

Who knows, maybe it will be good.

But I said the same thing walking into a theater in 1999 to see Star Wars Episode I and wound up getting my heart ripped out and stomped all over by George Lucas.

Diabolu Frank said...

Will, you don't build on sand... you build up from a foundation. Creators have been offering Bold New Manhunters since the '60s, disregarding previous work and coming up with stuff that just gets disregarded by the next guy. The stuff that works for the Manhunter have been the instances where elements carried over across stories and creative teams (Oreos, Gypsy, the revival of telepathy, Despero and Malefic as signature villains, etc.) Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to recreate Cay'an as D'Kay, Commander Blanx as the Marshal, and generally regurgitate.

Liss, I liked The Phantom Menace well enough for a few hours, then woke up the next morning feeling depressed about how wrong that debacle was. The prequel trilogy is a perfect example of focusing on schemes and minutia instead of telling entertaining stories with compelling characters. If I have Obi-Wan Kenobi's midi-chlorians in one hand and Ben Kenobi's "the Force" in the other, I'll choose the ghost in the fairy tale. Kindt is talking about abstract storytelling elements instead of characters, and trying to "fix" one of DC's more popular characters instead of providing him with a long-needed world to inhabit. I'll take Diane Meade in a consistent supporting role over Martian Manhunter as a "key" player in an upcoming event series every time.

Omega Agent1 said...

Liss, Bravo.