Hey, there, gorgeous! Welcome to the latest installment of Tact is for the Weak, the article that’s gonna cut you up the middle if you don’t stop interrupting me!
Let’s face it, folks; controversy sells. Be it the amazing Tact is for the Weak or the latest Michael Moore rantumentary, the more people talk about it, the better it will do. Really, though, you need look no further than the comics industry to find a prime example of this. Whether it’s Alan Moore’s thought-provoking look at “heroic terrorism” in V for Vendetta or the nude chick on the latest Tarzan cover, questionable taste seems to equal dependable profits. It should come as no surprise, then, that he who masters the controversy wand shall be elevated to superstar status.
Let’s take a trip in time to the early 1970s. Back in the day, social issues weren’t really addressed in comic books, with many creators preferring to stay on the path of the pussy…foot…and simply regurgitate mad scientist plots and alien conqueror “epics.” Suddenly, a pair of guys named Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams stepped up to bat on DC Comics’s Green Lantern/ Green Arrow. From out of nowhere, these guys swept the comics world (and indeed, the general public!) with a wave of stories dealing with the issues of the day: racism, overpopulation, and drug use, to name a few. Since then, many writers have attempted to bum sloppy seconds off of this legendary run with their own “controversial” and “eye-opening” diatribes. One such coattail-rider is DC Comics’s notorious Judd Winick.
Judd Winick’s fifteen seconds of fame began in 1994 (and somehow it still hasn’t ended!) when he was selected as a cast member for MTV’s Real World 3: San Francisco. During the airing of that show, he became friends with fellow roommate Pedro Zamora, a prominent AIDS activist. After the show ended, the two continued their friendship, and when Pedro fell ill due to AIDS complications, Winick took over for Pedro on the AIDS lecture circuit, until Pedro finally passed away. Inspired, Winick wrote his critically acclaimed Pedro and Me, a graphic novel detailing his friendship with Pedro. This gut-wrenching tale of friendship and loss earned Winick six American Library Association awards, a GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) award, and was nominated for an Eisner Award.
How touching. Unfortunately for Winick, his subsequent popularity has since receded into memory, and found himself floundering for years for another award-winning blockbuster. Unfortunately for the rest of us, it seems that Winick’s specialty is in tales of morality and holier-than-thou editorializing, and in his quest for the next piece of awards hardware to put on his mantle, the readers have been forced to sit through countless stories of trumped-up importance and character misrepresentation at the expense of the comic book characters we all know and love.
There are other infamous “Winickizations,” of course. In 2001, Winick introduced the character of Terry Berg to DC’s Green Lantern comic book, who soon revealed that he was gay. Merely five months later, Winick wrote “Hate Crimes,” a story in which, after coming out of the closet (and into our hearts! Well, those of us that aren’t homophobic…or terrorists. You’re not a terrorist, are you?), Terry was brutally beaten and hospitalized in an obviously homophobic attack. This was a completely necessary character development, of course! It must have certainly come as shock to Winick that this entirely new concept earned him two new GLAAD awards!
More recently, Winick took over the writing chores on DC’s Green Arrow, following stellar runs by Kevin Smith and Brad Meltzer. In late 2004, Winick revealed that the character of Mia Dearden (a former child prostitute saved and taken in by Green Arrow), had contracted HIV. Yet, a few issues later, Winick had Mia take up the superhero mantle of Green Arrow’s sidekick, Speedy, making her the foremost HIV-positive comic book character, a move which earned Winick a spotlight segment on CNN.
However, this particular plot twist didn’t leave everyone content. Kevin Smith, upon hearing that Winick had given Mia (Smith’s creation) HIV, was fairly irate that Winick had not even consulted him on the treatment of the character. As you can see from the picture, Smith was so incensed as to raise his sacred eyebrow (but obviously, he must remain ever silent in the face of adversity). Plus, one has to wonder about the as-yet unaddressed ethical dilemma of an HIV-positive hero (or heroine). Given that DC has an affinity for making their characters bleed, it’s awfully risky for a girl with a known transmutable-by-blood disease to be out engaging in such violent behavior. Of all people, one would hope that Judd Winick would be familiar with the risks involved with HIV, but so far we have yet to see any real ethical explanations. I realize that this is just a fictional character, but as a writer, one has to stay true to the essential ideals and personality of the characters they write, and having an HIV-positive sidekick getting down and dirty fighting crime is pretty irresponsible, even for Oliver Queen.
Additionally, reader responses ranged from acceptance to outrage. Across the internet, message board posters and bloggers have often bemoaned the sudden decline in story quality on Green Arrow following Winick’s emergence, and to be frank, I tend to agree. Over the past two years, we’ve seen way too many storylines involving random brainless monsters and city-wide mini-wars; we’ve seen Winick destroy a carefully-rebuilt relationship between Green Arrow and Black Canary by Ollie having an affair with none other than a blood relative of another DC hero (by the way, this homewrecker soon met her own demise for no apparent reason other than to clear the field). We’ve witnessed the virtual disappearance of Connor Hawke (Green Arrow’s son and one-time successor) within the title, and we’ve had to stomach a recent storyline revolving around the Villains United (especially Dr. Light and Merlyn, two B-listers with a grudge left over from Identity Crisis) seeking revenge on Green Arrow in an arc that could have been completed in half the space without Winick’s endless dialogue drivel. And now, much to the readers’ chagrin, Green Arrow is one of the few titles whose writer has not changed One Year Later. Currently, the historically anti-establishment Green Arrow is now somehow the mayor of his city. What’s more, Winick has begun his latest shot at grabbing some morality-motivated award, setting up numerous parallels between the fictional Star City and the recent tragic events in New Orleans (such as the physical separation of the implicit “black” and “white” quarters of the city by the construction of a massive walled “highway bridge”), which he is sure to use in the future as a tool for political commentary.
Winick’s reputation at DC hasn’t gotten him any new friends, either. Winick has become DC’s go-to guy for dirty work, much like Geoff Johns has become DC’s resident revamp expert. An Outsiders arc focusing on child abduction? Done. A story in which C-lister Omen and A-lister Donna Troy are killed? Already there. And what happened to Winick’s involvement with Infinite Crisis? Originally, the entire event was billed as a fairly collaborative effort between Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka, and Judd Winick. Since then, Winick’s name has been all but dropped from the marquee.
Between his poor historical resume at DC, his contrived writing style, his warped sense of “necessary” character development, and his insatiable thirst for controversy-driven shock sales and awards, Winick has succeeded in alienating many from the titles he works on. Hopefully, titles such as Outsiders and Green Arrow will not be cancelled due to the ever-dropping readership, but unless Winick pulls another GLAAD award out of his ass (get it when I say “out of his ass?”), that may be the inevitable fate of these books. Only YOU, the readers, can let DC know how you feel!
And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for: the announcement of this week’s Tactless Book of the Week Award! This week, the award goes to… DC Comics’s Infinite Crisis #6! That’s right, two consecutive issues of this series have now earned the award! Of course, there are SPOILERS ahead.
This time, DC’s mega-event miniseries has, in many fans’ opinions, gone too far with the blood and death in the story. After a lengthy battle, a certain boy of mettle has met with his untimely (and fairly gruesome) demise. Here’s another zinger: how many heroes does it take to blow up a finger? Now, given that my favorite character (Hal Jordan) actually does something of significance in this issue, you would think that I would be happy. However, it seems that Hal Jordan is someone that Phil Jimenez has yet to successfully draw, and any good Hal pictures are actually drawn by his new regular artist, Ivan Reis. Plus, Conner Kent’s demise would have been much more effective (and tasteful!) if, in the very same week, DC had refrained from revealing Robin’s plot to clone his dead pal (see the latest Teen Titans issue). Plus, the whole Anti-Monitor armor thing? It’s just a solar energy collector to keep Superboy Prime juiced; apparently, SBP made the armor to intentionally look like the Anti-Monitor.
One cool moment, though, was the hidden Grant Morrison tribute (did you catch it? Let’s see if Julian found it before I did!). While sifting through the infinite earths for Earth Prime (based on our world), Alexander Luthor finally finds it…and reaches out of the pages and towards the reader! A great reference to the Animal Man run that, for many people, served as precursor to Infinite Crisis.
Well, that’s all I’ve got for now, folks. But, before I go, I want to extend my congratulations to our Editor-in-Chief Mike Phillips, for posting the 100th comment on Tact is for the Weak! It’s an all-around record for Sequart.com in terms of the total comments made for a single article(see, controversy does sell!), and we don’t plan on stopping any time soon! Plus, Mike has been a great resource and an all-around good sport when dealing with the sh** that goes down here between the HTML, so I’ve gotta give him props for those big brass balls of his! Also, we’re nearing the 6,000 hit mark; if you look up at the hit counter and realize that you’re number 6,000, let us know!
Okay, that’s all for now. I command you all to go forth and spread my word, so that the heathen public will know my loving embrace! WHAMMY!