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Week of September 9th, 2013

 

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and Marriage oh my!

 

By Jim Durdan

 

Item 1: A few weeks ago IDM release the latest version of the classic T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents comic (Hereafter called Thunder Agents). IF you are not familiar with this wonderful title then you really need to find either the archive editions that DC published or check the back issue bins of your local comic shop.

 

The premise of the team is that they all have unique powers given to them by a piece of technology that they were. Be it super strength, the ability to fly, read minds and a few other powers. The down side is that every time they use the power they run the risk of killing themselves, because the tech in question is deadly over time. In one case the technology granted it’s user super speed, but at the cost of rapidly aging the wearer.

 

The creators of Thunder Agents read like a who’s who of comicdoms elite.  They were created by Wally Wood and Len Brown. Over the years people like Gil Kane, Steve Ditko, George Perez, Jerry Ordway and a host of others have been part of the creative team that has make Thunder Agents one of the most overlooked classics of the silver and bronze age.

 

Originally Thunder Agents came from a small publisher, Tower Comics in the sixties and was a more or less hit or miss proposition. Months would go by without an issue being published.  Eventually Tower would fold, and Thunder would, over the next 4 decades be published by a half a dozen companies, some maintaining the style and tone of the original comics, others only using the Characters as little more than chess pieces to tell a rather uninteresting story with an agenda (Solsons Productions rant on the Reagan era is something to read if you ever want to know how to NOT do a Thunder Agents book). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T.H.U.N.D.E.R._Agents

 

Eventually the property found its way to DC. Two miniseries were produced in 2010 and 2011. In general the feel of the series stayed true to the original Thunder Agents, but the tone of amazement and joy found in the original series were gone. I think in time DC might have been able to reinvent the team in a way that felt fresh without ignoring all that had gone before. Unfortunately we will never know. Retail sales just were not there, and DC either opted not to pursue a continuing licensing agreement or just cut its loses and released the license. Either way the latest version of the Agents is now at IDW and it’s a mixed bag at best.

IDW has made the decision to do a full relaunch of the title, it would appear that all that has gone before has no longer happened. Not just the DC stories, but all the stories. In this regard it is much like the Star Trek reboot. The characters are familiar, but they are tweaked and different. If I wasn’t such a fan of Wally Woods originals this wouldn’t really bother me, but I am and it does.

 

One of the joys that I have always associated with Thunder Agents is the same type of joy I had by reading early X-men comics. Sure, things were grim at times, and yes sometimes a character would even die, but the team aspect, and the fact that they never gave up was just enjoyable. And be it X-Men or Thunder these were basically good people who had been handed the crap card in their life and were making it work.

 

With the IDW relaunch most of that is now gone. One of the Agents starts out life a pro sports hero and then becomes a street hood when his career collapses. I think I’ve seen that before, a few dozen times at least. Key relationships that were part of the character interactions are now gone, or yet to be revealed. It all feels very bland. At least DC was trying to make changes where they needed to be made and still keep original continuity. IDW doesn’t seem to care about that. The characters aren’t who we remember them to be and that in and of itself is a problem. Don’t go into this expecting a nice comfortable read, instead prepare for something that is trying to make characters relevant in the 21st century that already were fine without it. At the exposition in the first 4 pages of the story is beyond heavy handed.  Let’s hope issue 2 begins to reassemble the Thunder Agents into something that is exciting and stays faithful to Wally Woods’s originals.

 

Item 2: Please can we stop with the idiotic numbering schemes! Batman 23.1, Justice League 23.1, etc. etc. etc. I hated it when Marvel did it and I hate it when DC is doing it. Not sure why we just can’t continue with the next numeral in the series. I can think of no logical reason that they would want to do this. These stories aren’t worthy of a real number? So why even publish them??? It’s because they are all part of the Forever Evil event? Well that’s great; still number them like real comics. If anyone can give me a really good reason for this, then please let me know.

 

Item 3: The best book out this last week might be one you passed over, and if you did get it. It’s the 2013 version of Batman Black and White. This is a 6 issue miniseries that will showcase the various talents of some of the best and the brightest in the DCU stable. It is a digital first book so you can go get it right now, even if you’re reading this at 4AM. The first issue is written by Chip Kid with art by Michael Cho and features Batman, a young Dick Grayson Robin and Superman. Probably not a new 52 story and all the better for that. It once again shows why the original Robin is still the best.

 

Item 4: Till death do us part. If for some reason you spent the week in your doomsday bunker fearing the worst out of the whole Syria mess and popped up yesterday, well you missed a little something. (By the way it appears that was were Dan Dido was this week since he only surfaced on Saturday to say he had just caught up with the who issue. ) So what happened? Well, J.H Williams and W. Haden Blackman the writer’s in residence on the Batwoman book quit. The reason was that DC editorial had nixed the lead character from marrying her fiancé. Oh, did I mention that the lead character was gay? DC made a huge point of announcing that several years ago and the book has been moving along ever since. But it has been obvious for some time that a large gap was opening between the writers and DC Editorial (Stop me if you’ve heard that one before) . Williams and Blackman were going to marry the lead figure and her fiancé. The story line has been building to this for several years. Editorial however pulled the Plug, saying engaged is fine, married is a big no no.

 

The media had a field day, all the way from the Daily Telegraph in England to the Drudge Report in America ( The most visited news site in the USA) reported that DC had nixed the idea because it was gay marriage. Unfortunately, while e that would have been horrible enough, it’s not the truth. The truth is that DC has now officially declared and edict that none of their heroes will ever marry.

 

We should have seen this coming when the New 52 launched and the marriage of Lois and Clark was dissolved. Now, according to reports in the last 24 hours Aquaman and Mera aren’t married. Animal and his wife look like they are heading to divorce and that must be making DC Comics ecstatic.

 

What is the reasoning for this? Well according to Dan the Man it’s because heroes should not have happy personal lives, so they can’t get married.  That is OUTRAGEOUS. Remember how the comic world was enraged of the magical dissolution of the Peter Parker Mary Jane Watson marriage. Well this is ten times worse, because DC has basically said that all of its heroes have to be miserable for the rest of eternity. No Bruce and Selina, no Barry and Iris, no Lois and Clark, no Hal and Carol, not freaking nothing!

 

One of the best memories I have from the Silver/Bronze age was when I discovered that the Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle of Earth 2 had married and had produced a child. Her name was Helena Wayne. Indeed in the current Earth 2 mythos that same child still exists, and from apparently the same parents. Perhaps in that case they never married, and that makes it all right with DC. Maybe that’s the take away from this, heroes can’t marry but it’s OK to sleep around.  In one fell swoop DC has managed to make all of the heroes less noble, because all of them are commitment phoebes, unable or unwilling to commit to anyone in their life, to settle down, to attempt to lead at least a partially normal life. Truly what would have been worse to the status of all of these characters? Is DC afraid that by marrying it’s heroes the general readership would no longer relate to them? Seems to have worked for Reed and Sue Richards.

 

I have refrained from making any statements about the ongoing circus that the DC editorial office appears to be, but this is enough.  Let your creative people create, let them do what they need to do to make the stories engaging and fun, and keep interference to a minimum.  And for god sake don’t say stupid things like “Our Heroes can’t have good personal lives” .Why is that Dan the man? Marriage is a wonderful thing, but it presents a whole new level of complexity in a person’s life.  Without some indication that these persons are growing, evolving as characters, then what you have presented to the reading public is a static caricature of the Pre 52 universe that is morally abhorrent and weak.

 

The reality is that Dan and friends have made a huge mistake and are now trying to save face. It is up to the readers, you and I, to call them on it. Aquaman and Mera should be married. Lois and Clark need to be together. Bruce and Selina need to have the hint of a possible future. At this point it looks like that the only comic that reflects the reality of life that DC publishes is Smallville Season 11. Think about that!