First Issue Spectacular! (or, What the Hell is This Garbage?)

Greetings! This is Tact is for the Weak, the comics articles that all the other articles avoid at the office. Generally speaking, this article will focus on the issues pertaining to the comics industry that directly affect you, the reader, and the characters that you know and cherish. If a character is being mishandled, if certain creators are making people unhappy, or if at any time there is some issue that is dividing the world of comic fans, just light up the ol’ Tact-signal and I will be there with my shoulder chip in place and my axe to grind. My intent is to provide a witty, critical, and often funny (or not; there’s just no pleasing some people) take on anything related to comic books. In case of disaster, the magic red ‘X’ is right over there in the corner of your screen. Pansy.

On to business…

They say that the first comic book you buy determines your attitude towards comics for the rest of your life. I know quite a few people that absolutely refused to read comic books until a friend coaxed them into reading Watchmen, or The Dark Knight Returns, or some other such masterwork. After their initial dip into the best part of the comic book pool, their eyes opened wide and they dove into the waves of the medium with a new enthusiasm.

My first issue was Green Lantern Vol. 3, #50.

Of course, at the time, I had no idea why the issue was important, who the green man was, or what “era” it was that the cover professed to end; all I knew was that the man’s suit of armor (or whatever it was) looked awesome, and as a bonus, the cover had the telltale scratchiness of glow-in-the-dark material. Having just received my allowance from my parents, I decided to forgo the usual weekly candy purchase and bought the book instead.

Now, here’s the thing: I was eight at the time, and I had no idea what the book was about. No idea, as in “Hal Jordan who? Green what?” Nonetheless, somehow I instinctively knew that the man in green was the good guy, and the pink dude with the ‘stache was the bad guy. It didn’t matter that the fight was rough, or that everything blew up in the end because of the green man; I just wrote it off as something I would understand when I was older. The man in green was obviously the good guy; he was bleeding after the fight, he was crying, and he was obviously just as human as I (unlike the pink Dracula-with-a-handlebar wannabe).

Of course, knowing what I know now, I realize that this was not Hal Jordan’s finest moment. By the same token, this was not a lofty time it for the comic industry, either. The transformation of Hal Jordan from hero to murderer was just another notch in a long line of atrocities committed in the world of comic books for the sake of shock value. Robin had been murdered, Batman broken, Superman killed. Hell, they even brought back Barry Allen, only to snatch him back and leave us writhing in the agony of comics blue balls (all you awkward teens know what I’m talking about). And this was just DC Comics! All across the board, be it at Marvel or various indies, the accepted rule of thumb was “the bloodier, the better.” The superhero gave way to the anti-hero, who killed his prey and used guns and bombs, rather than spider-sense and X-ray vision. Then again, the X-ray vision thing always creeped me out. I mean, Superman can turn it off, right? Or is he stuck in see-thru mode when Batman is using the stall next to his?

In any event, only now are those dark times being rectified. We see Marvel and DC unloading their creative salvoes through stories such as Infinite Crisis and the upcoming Civil War. However, unlike previous years, we await these developments with the knowledge that, even as the events in the comic books appear to grow ever darker, this time it’s going to end all right. This time, the heroes will win unequivocally, heralding the dawn of a new and brighter future. And this time, the cream will work. The doctor promised!

*ahem* However, we must remain ever watchful of what it is The Man perceives as the public’s desires (in this case, The Man probably being Dan Didio or Joe Quesada). Audiences need to make their opinions heard so that the writers, artists, and editors out there know where the line is, and that is the main agenda of this article. Sometimes, all it takes is a good, hot fire lit under the proper asses to get people talking. As mature and realistic readers, we cannot expect everything to go our way (otherwise, where would the drama be?), but that does not give complete license to the gifted few that control the fates of the characters we all know and love (say it with me now: “No more unnecessary shock-value tragedy! I’m looking at you, Judd ‘I-gave-a-16-year-old-ex-prostitute-HIV’ Winick).

Simply put, we cannot allow bad trends, bad writers, or bad choices to dictate the next paradigm shift in comics. Seriously, does anyone really like that new Spider-man costume? Be honest! And is anyone really buying every single variant cover out there? I prefer the pencils on my covers colored, thank you. Ill-informed decisions like these can lead to sales drops, reader decline, and, most importantly, long-lasting effects that, due to the importance of continuity in the medium, will forever mar even the greatest of characters (electric Superman, anyone?). After all, you never know which comic book will be someone’s first. Don’t let it be their last.

With these goals in mind, I think it’s a safe bet to say that this could be the start of a beautiful relationship. It will start off awkward and embarrassing (just wait until you have to introduce me to your parents!), slowly blossom into a deep and caring bond, and then, when you least expect it, I will walk in on you reading some other article and things will only end in tears. You heartless bastards.

Before I leave, I would like to introduce one more feature that will hopefully become a permanent fixture here on “Tact is for the Weak”: the Tactless Book of the Week. This prestigious award will be given every week in this article to the book that has demonstrated a clear lack of tact, either within its pages or involving events pertaining to the book’s release.

To kick off this award, I’ll treat you all to a double-shot of tactlessness. First for this week, the Tactless Book of the Week Award goes to… DC Comics’s Birds of Prey #90. Yes, I know the title came out last week, but this story has earned its place in the immortal Hall of Tactlessness. Fan favorite writer Gail Simone (of Villains United fame) pretty much does what everyone reading DC books for the last year and a half have been waiting for: she tells Batman to go kiss off (quite literally). There are some terrific moments where Barbara and Jim Gordon (who is now aware of Barbara’s other life) utterly defy Batman, as well as a scene where Batman actually compliments Huntress on her crime-fighting. However, the award is truly earned by Black Canary; not only does she really stick it to Deathstroke (in the eye), but when Batman actually admits he’s made a mistake (hey, I think a flying pig just buzzed by my window!), she rewards him by planting a big fat kiss on his dark and spooky mug (it’s the bat-ears; even I get excited every time I see those things). I hope that Green Arrow over in the JLA book gets rid of the Envy Sin possessing his body before he hears about this one!

An honorable (sort of) mention goes out to this week’s Adventures of Superman #648. In the solicit, DC claimed that the issue would revolve around some presumably important discussion between Superman and Lois Lane in the midst of Infinite Crisis. However, given that the entire issue was dialogue-less, no such discussion ever took place. DC gets an A+ for a great read, but an F for lying their asses off. This just goes to show, kids: never trust Dan Didio.

Well, that concludes this article. Make sure to check back here next week as I release the veritable hounds of hell upon…whatever angers me at that time. Cheers!

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