Wednesday, August 03, 2005

JLA Classified #10

WHERE ARE LANE AND KENT? I WANT THEIR BLOOD.
-- Perry White, Daily Planet Editor


I was eagerly anticipating this JLA Classified arc. Warren Ellis turned the superteam on it's head with Stormwatch and The Authority, so his take on one of comics' definitive superteams seemed like it would be something to see.

The thing that makes this particular 22 pages great is the same thing that makes me question it. His Daily Planet, his Perry and Lois and Clark ... well, they're too good. Their dialogue leaps off the page, and crackles like a mad version of His Girl Friday. It's the most interesting I've ever seen any of these characters, and Ellis establishes them instantly as savvy, urban people who are very good at what they do. Perry is a cross between J. Jonah Jameson and Hunter S. Thompson, and Clark Kent finally shows some of the wit one of the fastest minds on earth should be capable of. Best of all is the one simple page where Lois gets down to work on a researching a story. It did more for her character than decades of hearing what a crack reporter she is. It's actually shown for once, and made me realize that Lois Lane is the Bob Woodward of the DCU.

LANE. KENT. I AM YOUR EDITOR. PREPARE TO DIE.
-- Perry White, Daily Planet Editor


And what's wrong with all that? What's wrong with writing the most enjoyable Lois and Clark in ages? What's wrong with writing the most impressive comics newsroom since Transmetropolitan? What's wrong is that this isn't an "Ultimate" line, or an "Elseworlds", or an "All-Star". This JLA Classified arc doesn't exist in it's own continuity, but needs to fit into the established DC Universe.

The question I have is this: how far can you go in a shared universe? These characters have been established by many other writers. They've been established as largely insipid and boring, but they've been established nonetheless. So how far is too far? Having Perry literally howling for Lois and Clark's blood is a far cry from the character that's been established. Should Ellis have to hold back because no one else seems to be able to write these characters with any sort of flash or fun?

I don't know what the answer is. While I love seeing creators like Ellis run wild in the DCU, one of the disadvantages in a shared universe is the sharing part. You can't go breaking someone's toys, or rearranging them utterly. While you play with them you need to play by the rules, and at the end of the day you need to give them back largely as you got them. And this isn't as simple a charge as a new costume or a death, the things that usually pass for "change". This is much more subtle, and it's something few writers could pull off successfully.

PEOPLE KILL THEMSELVES EVERY DAY. IN FACT, I INTEND TO KILL MYSELF AFTER I HAVE DRUNK YOUR BLOOD.
-- Perry White, Daily Planet Editor


If Marvel can have The Pulse, why can't DC have The Daily Planet? I would be first in line to buy a monthly 22 pages of this, with nary a red cape in sight. It's a shame that this kind of characterization is so shocking. It's a shame that it's even an issue that Lois and Clark and Perry sound out of character because they sound intelligent. But it is, and it will disappear when this arc is over. And all nattering about a writer's responsibility in a shared universe aside, I'm glad I got a chance to read it.
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5 comments:

Jim Roeg said...

You tell 'em, Mark! What a horrible situation, when the quality of the writing can occasion a "continuity" debate. Sign me up for the Daily Planet monthly by Ellis and Guice too!

Shane Bailey said...

I really enjoyed this sequence too, but something did feel "off" and I think you hit it right on the mark.

It's sad, but what can you do? Maybe Waid, in his editorial position in the DCU where he was talking (kidding?)about watching over Jimmy Olsen, etc., can do something about this.

I would buy a Daily Planet comic by Ellis and Guice too. It would give Ellis a nice place to throw all his weird research too.

Mark Fossen said...

"It's sad, but what can you do?"

I don't even know what you should do. Sometimes I write just to figure something out, whith no answer when I start. This is a case where I don't have an answer even when I stop. :)

Things needs to be consistent, because that's part of the conbceit, especially at DC where they are making the universe more consistent. But man ... if someone said "Sorry, Warren. Bland them up at bit", that would be ... yikes.

And if I were one of those petition-starting people, I'd start my "DC Give Us a Daily Planet Book" online petition! We'd have three signatures already!

Shane Bailey said...

I'd love to see a Daily Planet book where Ellis could work most of this stuff into his stories. If the real world is this weird imagine what the news stories are like in the DC Universe. What's an interesting story to the people that work and play in a world where men and women fly around and have battles on the streets of Metropolis?

Jim Roeg said...

Shane, that Ellis material is going to give me nightmares--great idea though!