Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Oh No You Don't

Apparently I'm going to have articles about this every day. That seems to be what I'm doing.

This afternoon on Comic Book Resources, an interview with Keith Giffen appeared in which he discusses his new title, Justice League 3000. One of the things Giffen said was (emphasis mine):

"[...]At least now I know where the first year of "Justice League 3000" is going, and it's going to pay off in a lot of different ways where people will cut us a break and stop screaming about, "They're canceling the Legion for this?!" No. They cancelled the Legion because it wasn't selling. Now we're doing this book. I'm sure, somewhere down the line, the Legion will come back. Relax. Maybe more people should have bought the book. How about that? I know it's a radical idea, but it's something you might want to consider.

Don't get me wrong, I love the Legion! The Legion is like a siren singing to me all the time. I keep returning to that book over and over again like a mental patient. But I'll tell you one thing -- the book wasn't selling enough to continue. The end."

Oh, I've considered it, Mr. Giffen,* and you're right** in one sense: if the book had sold better, DC wouldn't have cancelled it. I think that's indisputable, and I've been keeping it in mind the whole time. But you, and more importantly the tall foreheads at DC, might want to consider this:

Maybe the book should have been better. Maybe it should have had a writer on it who had a vision for how to write in 2013 about a couple dozen young people carrying on Superman's legacy ten centuries in the future. Maybe the company who published the comic shouldn't have surrendered the title to the whines of a mewling cadre of hardcore nostalgists.

Don't blame people for not buying the book, Mr. Giffen. It wasn't that great. DC has screwed the pooch with the Legion ever since Dawnstar's arm appeared in the back of Justice Society #1, and this is where it's brought us. Don't pile it all on the readers, even if some of us are dumbasses; we aren't driving this train.


* What's better for me to call him? Keith? Mr. Giffen? It sounds like I'm smarting off at him no matter which one I use. Which is no good. I have a lot of time for Keith Giffen, and even though he said something I take issue with, he's not really part of the problem here.

** Although it's silly to castigate Legion fans for complaining about the book being cancelled, by saying maybe-you-should-have-bought-it. The people who want the Legion back are probably the people who were buying it, and it doesn't really sit well with us to take that blame. What, should I have bought two copies of each issue? Ten?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

To say the least, I was appalled at Keith Giffen's remarks slamming every Legion fan out there who laments that their favorite comic has been cancelled and replaced by his new amazing garbage.

Yes, I wish sales were better. I also wish folks would have supported Paul Levitz's work a bit more. It wasn't stellar, but it wasn't horrible either. The art sucked when DC decided to play rotating artist which did nothing but kill the title by dumping Portela for anyone who could hold a pencil.

I can't blame the retro-boot Legion formula for killing the title. (I never read any of the reboot or three boot stuff to know the difference). The idea of taking the Legion back to its roots is what brought me back to the title after a 20 year hiatus. Yet the product suffered, not only because Levitz had trouble adapting his writing skills to current reader demands, but because DC editorial rushed the ending of v. 6 to make the way for the New 52, then stole 7 great characters from the Legion to make the sub-par Legion Lost, effectively taking most of the futuristic alien angle away from the title, forcing 5 new kids into the membership to switch things up when Levitz was using the to tell decent Legion Academy stories in Adventure Comics, and then rushing the end of other stories for the #0 issue event. If Levitz could have had the chance to tell his story the way he wanted to, things might have worked out differently.

Yet, I really wonder if DC wanted the Legion to succeed in the New 52. Volume 7 was a botched job from the first issues and sales confirmed it. The fact that there wasn't any crossover between Legion and Legion Lost didn't allow new readers the opportunity to sample the other title and draw in more readers. Plus, the Culling crossover with the Teen Titans, Superboy and Ravangers was the worst excuse of BS that I've seen in a long time. It killed Legion Lost, and when their title ended, all the extra guest stars stole the show. Over on the main title, you could tell Levitz wanted to use his lost characters like Dawnstar and Tellus, but couldn't and had to create some forgettable fill-ins to take their place in his story. And when Levitz did begin to hit his stride, DC gave him the worst artists to illustrate his stories. The art killed the book as much as the story telling. Giffen played a role in the title's demise, hyping his role in how he was going to make the Legion spectacular again and then quitting after one issue. He did more damage than good, and now he has the audacity for blaming the readers for the title's cancellation.

If DC corporate wanted to make Legion a top 10 selling book they could have. Instead they worked hard to handicap the series and even Levitz's ability to write it. The only bright spot was the incredible art by Pete Woods and Francis Portela. Yet, artists can't save the day when everything is stacked against them.

Sorry, for the rambling, but I'm bitter at the moment. I'm bitter at Giffen's sarcastic remarks, I'm bitter at DC editorial, at the New 52 revamp, at the lack of interaction between readers and writers that used to be part of comics with the old letter column pages to help give creative teams a feel of what fans are thinking. There were so many things DC could have done to correct problems instead of making them worse, and Giffen has the gall to say it was the fans' fault. I'll be glad when Levitz gets to end his series in two more issues, hopefully with dignity, and I can just walk away from this mess and not look back.

I will always cherish my Legion original/retro-boot collection, even the stuff that wasn't as good, because I am a die hard fan, but I will never forget how DC screwed over us fans and how Giffen poured salt in our wounds.

12:40 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Anonymous: I'm not sure there is or was anything wrong with Levitz's writing skills. (Although he did make some storytelling choices that baffle me.) Mostly I think he ran out of things to say about the Legion sometime in 1988 and hasn't been able to replenish them since.

I do blame the retroboot. Not completely, but significantly. It was a huge backwards step when the Legion should always be stepping forward. (As was the assignment of Levitz to write the book.)

As for Giffen, well, look. Right now Giffen's and DC's priority is to promote JLMMM. Which is as it should be. One of the things that might get in the way of a good reception of JLMMM is for it to inherit some kind of stigma from the recent failed Legion title. So he's doing what he can to counter that. That's all fine.

Where Giffen made his mistake was to not think carefully enough about who he was talking about. (I suspect.) He was talking about comics fans as though they were one big group: people who a) hadn't bought LSHv7 and b) were complaining about LSHv7 being cancelled. But of course, those people are probably two groups for the most part; Giffen just didn't hit that nuance as he was on his way to all the other stuff he was talking about.

I also think that Giffen thinks that he and LSH fandom go way back together to such an extent that he can say gently chiding stuff to us and we'll take it in the right spirit. I am happy to do that, speaking only for myself, but obviously I also wanted to address the substance of what he was saying.

And, finally: I don't think DC stepped on the Legion on purpose. I think they just don't know what they're doing. You know, never attribute to malice, and all that stuff.

8:51 AM  
Blogger Meerkatdon said...

I don't think DC has ever really understood the Legion or Legion fans. To be fair, though, "Legion fans" isn't a homogenous group. Matthew doesn't like the retro Legion. Anonymous didn't read reboot or threeboot. I want to read about all three Legions and many, many more versions as well. Another Legion fam grew up with threeboot and is still seething about how DC treated Jim Shooter.

What pleases one subset of Legion fans angers another, and vice versa.

The new realities of DC comics publishing seem to require that all properties prove themselves within 6-9 months or face cancellation/reboot/etc. No particular version or the Legion, or creative team approach, can stick around long enough to build readership.

(BTW, I DID buy two copies of each issue, plus the digital edition. So I know firsthand that it doesn't help.)

Regarding the magical formula for making the Legion successful in today's comics publishing environment, I can only quote Herbert Bayard Swope:

"I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure -- which is: Try to please everybody."

6:50 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

"Matthew doesn't like the retro Legion."

I do, though! I like them just fine. I think it was a bad idea to instantiate them in the comic books, and I think they weren't well served by their stories, but I totally like them.

"I don't think DC has ever really understood the Legion or Legion fans."

Well, the thing is, they don't really have to. All they really have to do--I'm way oversimplifying here--is to find a writer who has a vision for the Legion and can put it over, and let him or her do it without editorial interference. Do that and most of the other problems take care of themselves.

8:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aside from his orignal run with Levitz on the Legion, I hate everything Giffen has ever done on and with the Legion. I will not read JL3000.

8:41 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Well, I know you're not in a small club. I'm a huge fan of the 5YL run, though, but the Legion is the only DC stuff I'm currently supporting, as noted here. Otherwise I might give JLMMM a try.

9:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Giffen likes to bait the fans,but I think he was really giving voice to the snubbed sense of entitlement DC seems to feel about Legion fans,that we should just buy any Legion comic they put out,no questions asked.News flash,DC:we'll buy a comic if it's worth the money.You have to earn our support,not take it for granted.
The fans aren't blameless here,either.We want two things;we want the LSH to change and we want the LSH to stay the same.Pity the publisher that tries to balance that equation.
I say,a space-pox on both their planets.

2:51 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

No, the fans are certainly not blameless: it was those nostalgist miscreants who saddled us with this unfruitful Levitz/retroboot combination. I refuse to accept any of that blame personally, though; I've never demanded that the Legion stay the same, and I didn't want change for the sake of change either, and I always said so right out here in public where at least two or three people could read about it.

11:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous said, "Aside from his orignal run with Levitz on the Legion, I hate everything Giffen has ever done on and with the Legion. I will not read JL3000.'

While I can't say that I hate everything Giffen has ever done on and with the Legion, I can say that I hate everything he has done (in any comic) since he developed a massive ego and decided he's the greatest thing in comics since Jack Kirby. He, his ego, and his increasingly bizarre (and ugly) art style have caused me to bail out on a number of things over the years.

I will look at JL3000 in the comic shop, but since I already have a good idea of what it will be like. Ultimately, his stuff is all the same.

This latest version of Legion had potential, but what it really needs is not necessarily a "comics writer," but a space opera writer who digs comics.

Clearly, Levitz no longer fits this bill, and Giffen seems to be more into dystopia than EE Doc Smith.

Honestly, if Marvel can pull space opera super heroes off (repeatedly, as gigantic chunks of their continuity depends on space opera), obviously it is do-able to find writers who have that kind of imagination, and there is a market for it.

8:10 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I'm still okay with Giffen; he's on my short-list of ex-Legion writers who are as far as I'm concerned welcome back on the title at any time, no questions asked (Giffen, Waid, Simone, Manning, DnA).

But like you I'd rather someone new and fresh. Like, I don't know, Tara Tallan.

8:17 PM  

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