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DC's Identity Crisis


The NZA
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...so, for those keeping score, its been pretty controversial: wives of certain JLA members have been raped & killed, the ante is being raised...there's much darker implications on the heroes' side so far, as well. Courtesy of Newsarama, here's the first 3 pages of # 3, out this week or so...

 

IDCR3_01.jpg

 

IDCR3_02.jpg

 

IDCR3_03.jpg

 

..so yeah, its not a great jump-on for non-fanboys, as there's a bunch of no-namer DC villians even i dont know, but it's been pretty interesting so far.

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  • 1 month later...
  • 1 month later...

That's a shame, its gettin exciting too. Even Capn's on this one. There's rumors of who's behind it, but im dyin to see...itd be badass if im right.

 

Meantime, more family members/loved ones of JLA members are being bumped off, and last month's issue saw a very prominent member lose theres, as well as a classic JLA'er to boot! This one's competing with

Avengers: Dissasembled in the shock department.

 

Reprint cover for # 2:

 

IC2_2nd.jpg

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  • 3 weeks later...

Yeah, i used Wizard and some sites to catch up.

Basically, the calculator was one of these amazing silver-age super villians (if im not mistaken), whod actually wear a giant calculator on his chest, and mathematically figure out his odds of beating you....i think Batman beat his ass a lot.

 

Now, they got him selling information to up & coming villians, just cause he does his homework and knows where to find heroes off duty, etc....i think theyre playing him up as a low-level batman, but as a villian, and i like that take. That's golden compared to a calculator-chest guy.

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  • 4 weeks later...

An interesting look back from Newsarama...

 

BRAD MELTZER - AN IDENTITY CRISIS LOOK BACK 

by Matt Brady

 

It’s all over but the shouting at this point – and, given the subject and story of Identity Crisis, there will be some shouting for a while to come, both pro and con. The seven issue miniseries, written by Brad Meltzer, with art by Rags Morales and Michael Bair, and colors by Alex Sinclair, which started with a murder, and ended in December with an ending that had fans buzzing was arguably the major highlight of DC’s 2004. Issues sold out, fans talked and talked and talked about it, critics laughed, cried, and fell in love. The outside media noticed it.

 

It was a Big Deal.

 

Now, with the story fully out, and the ripples on the pond starting to settle, we sat down with Meltzer to talk about the process of writing the miniseries, his view of the reaction, the impact, and a few specifics.

 

Newsarama: From the very start – before you even put the first word on the page, what was your intent with this story? Was it to take the DCU from point A and move it to point B; tell an Elongated Man story that would forever change him; explore the human sides of the heroes of the DCU; or just tell a good story…?

 

Brad Meltzer: To me, the goal is the same with anything I write:  tell the best story I can.  But to get more particular, I never set out to change the DCU.  That’s just silly.  The DCU is, was, and will be just fine without me.  All I wanted to do was explore these characters and take a more personal look at their lives.  As I said in our very first interview together, I wanted to look behind the masks and explore the real cost of being a hero.  There’s a cost to putting on the cape, and I think we’ve very much ignored that over the years, just assuming with each story that:  “Well, this is what heroes do.”  And that’s fine if that’s the story you want to tell -- believe me, I like those books too.  But that’s not what this story was about.  This was about the hero’s life.  And that’s not the hero’s life.  The risk is nearly insurmountable. 

 

NRAMA: When you pitched the story to DC, what was the initial reaction? Were there any large elements of the story that DC asked you to tweak or adjust, or is what came out in #1-#7 pretty much just what you wrote?

 

BM: What you read was exactly as I originally pitched it.  And that’s a testament to Dan Didio, Mike Carlin, and Paul Levitz.  When I first came to comics with Green Arrow, I’d heard so many comic industry horror stories about editorial interference, rewriting, and all the headaches.  Identity Crisis was the opposite of that.  They came to me and said, “We’re looking for an emotional story that would get at the core of what it really means to put on a cape and mask…and to give it some depth, you can kill this one character.”  That was all they gave me, which is exactly how I wanted it.  It was up to me to figure it out.  I then plotted the whole book out:  the deaths, the rape, the ascendancy of the villains, bringing Deathstroke to the forefront of the DCU, hinting at Hal's return, Robin’s father, the new Boomerang, all the interconnecting relationships that add community to this supposed real universe, and of course, the mindwipes. 

 

NRAMA: So there wasn’t much hands-on from DC in the sense of laying things out for the future?

 

BM: Not at all. People think it was some edict from DC:  “Fix this, set up that…”  None of that’s true.  In fact, I was practically done writing the entire seven issues before DC ever saw the first draft of the first issue.  As a novelist, I need to get it all done at once.  I didn’t decide, “Hey, I need to redo the DC villains.”  I just wrote the villains I wanted to write.  Using those B and C characters gave me far more room to explore, and let me poke far more into the humanity of the characters.  In the end, when I handed it in, much of it was a surprise to DC.  As always, though, Dan Didio saw the big picture immediately and said, "Perfect, now we have these revived villains, a rift in the League, and lots of stuff to use in x, y, and z.” 

 

Let me be clear about this: for DC, the Identity Crisis story came first, and it was designed to be a small, emotional story.  Then when it was all done and finished - over two years ago, they realized they now had some new stories to pull out of it.  So, to answer your question, they said:  Kill this one character.  I started from there.

 

NRAMA: Speaking of novel-writing, how did writing a story like this differ from writing a murder mystery as a novel? For example, in broad strokes, what would you have done differently if you were writing Identity Crisis as a novel, rather than episodic fiction that required multiple cliffhangers?

 

BM: Not much different at all.  In a novel or a comic, I don’t start writing a single word until I figure out the big picture, and by that, I don’t just mean the murderer - though I need that as well.  To me, the best stories have to be about the characters.  Every one of my novels is a mystery, but to me, they’re about the characters first.  What’s the arc of this character?  How will this character be affected and changed by these events?  What do they learn?  If there’s no difference between how we find the character, to how we leave the character, then what’s the point?  The best stories should comment on, affect, or at the very least identify some cross-section of the human condition.

 

NRAMA: Also in the comics vs. novel approach, how did writing this story as a piece of a shared universe affect how you structured and wrote it? For example, if this was a novel, with your own characters, would anyone else have died? Anyone have lived that didn’t in the comic?

 

BM: If it were an Elseworlds tale, we could’ve killed Lois and Superman and Batman and all the big guns, which is the fun of doing an Elseworlds.  But to me, the amazing part was letting this live in continuity -- and in letting these decisions stay with the heroes over time.

 

NRAMA: You mention that the story was pretty much done by the time DC saw it for the first time. Was anything excised from your original story due to conflicting plans from other offices, or just...well, for any other reason? Were there scenes on the cutting room floor?

 

BM: No.  Before I started, I asked Dan and Mike to check everything so we wouldn't have to cut things away or reedit.  We did add small mentions like having Kate Spencer [Manhunter] be the prosecutor in issue #7, but the only scenes missing were the ones I personally just couldn't find space for.  In issue one, I wanted more vignettes to show the heroes' personal lives:  Red Tornado and his adopted daughter...Kyle seeing Pieface...I wanted to look at all the different types of relationships the DCU holds.  But we'd already pushed the first issue to 48 pages, so some just had to go.

 

NRAMA: From the start, there were cries from fans that you were irrevocably changing beloved characters forever, and adding a dark layer to a cadre of DC heroes. First off, why these heroes in the first place – the JLA members that you selected, why?

 

BM: Like anyone else writing comics, I just picked the era I liked best.  The Satellite League was my League growing up.  And it was a complex League.  People forget the emotions that made that era so interesting.  Today, we all point to Teen Titans for the highlights of characterization, which we should - but back then, the League had some great drama too.  Barry rebounding with Zee after Iris died…the Ollie/Katar feuds…Red Tornado’s daughter and his struggle for humanity.  They were people.  That’s why I was drawn in. 

 

As far as “adding a dark layer,” to me, a hero isn’t just the person who fights the easy fight -- it's the person who fights the hard one.  I put the League in an impossible moral dilemma.  Watching them make a mistake and battle -- for years -- to overcome it…watching it test them and destroy them…and then seeing them still try to persevere -- that’s the measure of a hero. 

 

NRAMA: As for changing the characters forever, what’s your reaction to that claim, that you took characters that had been relatively unchanged for decades, and altered them forever?

 

BM: This is the tough one because there’s a fine line between wanting everything to be interesting and dynamic, versus wanting everything to be exactly as it was when you were thirteen.  Truth be told, even I want both.  Why do you think I put Elongated Man in his old red costume?  But at the end of the day, I think the best any writer can do with these icons is to leave the characters different than you found them, but always true to themselves.  To me, Batman is being true to himself.  Superman is being true to himself.  Even the Leaguers and how they voted are being true to themselves.  You can debate this forever, but look – individually - at where they were at that moment.  They’re self-righteous, noble, hypocritical, selfless, depressed, willful, and heroic -- and I didn’t create those roles.  Those roles have been there for years.  That’s why they’re the world’s greatest superheroes.  They are us.  I wish I created Ollie.  I wish I created the self-doubt in Zatanna.  She’s the most powerful member they have, but for some reason never reached her potential.  All I did was start pulling on the thread of the sweater and bring those issues to the forefront.  What’s most amazing to me is, just putting on a costume…being a vigilante, you’re already breaking the law.  But we accept it and love them for it because we believe it’s all worth it.  All I did was skate down the slippery slope and make the “is it worth it?” question that much harder to answer.

 

As for people’s reactions, my biggest surprise in the series was when issue #2 - the rape and the mindwipe - was published, the first post I saw online said, “I’m with Hawkman.  Who’s with me?”  Right there, I knew we had hit an important button.  For the League, that moment forced them to question and reevaluate everything they believed it.  Sue was violated physically, and the reaction was to violate Light mentally?  That’s their response?  It is if you’re acknowledging the personal tragedy in these people’s lives and being true to how it colors their decisions. 

 

And the fact that when Barry Allen - the Saint - was wedged into that deciding vote -- when the symbol of the Silver Age was forced to decide whether to step into the darkness -- that the majority of readers agreed with and understood his logic - even if they themselves didn’t condone it - was a complete reaffirmation of the unchanged, enduring strength of these characters.

 

NRAMA: That said though, what’s your view of fans who feel…well, anger at these changes to characters they’ve known and loved for years? That for years, they’ve been hiding this secret?

 

BM: What can I possibly feel but empathy?  I’m a comic fan.  These characters changed my life too.  They taught me my values.  They engaged me when no one else did.  More important, I know what it’s like to look at a story and say, “Oh, why’d you go and do that?  That character was better than that plate of shit you just fed them.”  But again, that doesn’t mean I’m right and the writer of that story is wrong.  It’s just my opinion.  To that end, after five novels, I’ve learned it doesn’t make sense to argue with people’s opinions.  When I wrote The Tenth Justice, I got a stunning review in Time magazine and the crappiest review of my life in Entertainment Weekly.  For my second novel, EW gave me an incredible review, and Time wouldn’t even look at it.  As one of the most important lines of Identity Crisis says, “People see what the want to see, and hear what they want to hear.” -- and that’s not a bad thing.  It’s just reality.  It’s what makes us complex and different and separate from robots.  Everyone has their own opinion – and they’re entitled to it.

 

NRAMA: Touching on some specifics from the story. The fight in issue #3 pretty much brought back Dethstroke to his reputation of being the baddest mofo in the DCU. How long did that action sequence take you to choreograph?

 

BM: That fight lasted eight seconds in my head, but took almost a full week to write.  I just wanted to see a truly intelligent villain stage a ferociously intelligent attack.  Forget smashing buildings and throwing cars -- I wanted the only super power you saw to be brain power.  The most telling part was watching the reaction.  All the Flash fans said, “Oh, Flash should’ve taken him.”  All the Green Lantern fans said, “GL should’ve taken him.”  Maybe.  But not on the worst day of their lives, when they’re preoccupied with their dead friend, and Deathstroke is coming at them with eight seconds of the most frightening ruthlessness they’ve ever seen.  That’s why we made a conscious effort that when the League takes him down; no one’s using their powers.  They lost fighting with their heads, so they fight with their hearts.

 

As far as the fight itself, my personal favorite was the Atom and the laser pointer.  When I had that, I thought, “Now Deathstroke’s thinking…”  And when Rags and I talked about it, I said, “Of the whole series, these are the pages I can’t wait to see.”  I sat by my fax as they came out.  In fact, the original page count for this issue was 22 pages.  When DC read the fight scene, Dan called me up and said, “Don’t change a word, but let’s expand it to thirty pages.”  He just wanted to see Rags blow the %^&@ing windows, doors, and roof off, which of course, he did.

 

NRAMA: Another quick nitpick - how did Jean Loring know Tim Drake's secret identity? 

 

BM: You mean besides the fact she spent hours at a funeral with every hero in the DC Universe, including her ex-husband, who all trusted her and would talk openly around her?

 

NRAMA: Okay, there was that…  Back to the larger picture, were all of the deaths in the story the same as your initial draft? Were there more that you had? Less?

 

BM: I didn’t know they’d let me kill Firestorm until halfway through, which to me, fit in so well as a moment to show a type of death we don’t usually see much of:  the quiet, accidental death on the job.  For me, Firestorm’s death was my tip of the hat to Dollar Bill in Watchmen, who gets his cape caught in a revolving door.  That’s just real life.  People die on this job -- and  those deaths aren’t always glorious.  Otherwise, everything stayed in place, including Jean as the villain.  It was always Jean.  It never changed from Jean.  And in my mind, making anyone else the killer would ignore the overall themes of the series.  Again, people may argue this, but Boomerang couldn't pull off the murders, and neither could Jack Drake.  Sure you can always pick Luthor or Darkseid for the big bang, but again, that’s not what the themes of the story were about.

 

NRAMA: Speaking of the killer’s identity, you knew from day one that fans would have theories about who the killer was, and up until issue #7, there were plenty of theories out there. Did you see any that particularly intrigued or amused you?

 

BM: I was amazed how many people jumped for the Luthor red herring in issue one.  It just speaks to the power of that character and his influence in the DCU.  I was also amazed that so few people jumped for my Jericho hint when Deathstroke is fighting the JLA.

 

NRAMA: Given that, as you’ve said, you're a major fan of the characters, did you write any scenes that caused yout o sit back and just…well, take a moment, for lack of a better term?

 

BM: Oh sure - The shot of Batman embracing Tim Drake in issue #6, where it says, "Batman and Robin.  Orphans." was one of two moments where I looked at the art and for a moment forgot I was one of the people working on the comic.  I asked Rags to have Batman embracing Tim with the shards of the Robin costume -- an attempt to protect Tim in a way that we as readers immediately knew would forever fail and fall short.  But when I saw the art -- by turning Tim's single eye toward us, the reader -- Rags made us feel all the pain of a little boy grieving for his dead father.  It's the most amazing focal point, and when I saw that page, my heart sank for Tim.  That was Rags at his best.  In a novel, the written word only gives you so much -- seeing the art bring it to life -- there's nothing like it, and again, Rags and Bair and the lighting by Alex Sinclair really brought it to life. 

 

I'm also proud of the fact that, in the end, we were able to address the sense of community in this supposed real universe, and most important, were able to once again embrace one of the greatest constructs of the genre:  the existence and need for secret identities, which for so long had been laughed away.  Otherwise, for pure emotion, the scenes that got to me were the Elongated Man and Sue scenes.  That page of him cradling Sue in issue one as the water rains down...the subtle picture on the endtable in issue #7 of them embracing...and certainly the closing few pages of the whole series.  Those are just so bittersweet to me.  Ralph trying to cope...determined to adjust to this new reality...and actually doing it.  It was interesting to me that some people read that scene and thought he'd lost it.  To me, Ralph was back.  The League endures -- and so do human beings as they learn to cope.  And why does the last word balloon have no tail on it (and why is it centered on the page as opposed to being on his side of the bed)?  Because we don't know who's saying it.

 

NRAMA: Speaking of the ending in regards to “the hero confronting the villain” - there wasn't a big fight, or even much loud speaking. Sure, Jean was a civilian in all of this, but it seemed that there was a door you could have opened which would've had her putting on a costume and going nutty and becoming the next major super-villain of the DCU. Why was your ending the one you chose rather than the other road? 

 

BM: That's the ending that fit with the book and the themes of it. The story was always about the tragedies that happen on, for lack of a better word, the more "human" side of being a hero.  In that examination, we were able to acknowledge that, especially in comics, there are things worse than death -- most specifically, the death of ideals, the death of faith, and the death of self.  That's where the Jean story completely collided with the mindwiping story, especially when looked through the lens of protecting those we love -- and that's also where I hope we showed that emotional wounds can cut deeper and hurt far more than someone throwing a building at you.  To go the super-villain way is fine - obviously, I love a good super-villain -- I dedicated half of issue three to a super-villain, but for the ending, I just thought it would've ignored the point of the series.

 

NRAMA: Moving over to some of what can be seen as set-ups for future, post-IC stories – were all of those elements - the new Boomerang, which Geoff Johns will be playing with in Flash, Tim’s dad’s murder, which will resonate in his own series and Titans -  originally in your story, or did you get any requests from DC/other writers to add things in that, while fitting in the story, were things they could play with later?

 

BM: When I started plotting, they gave me the “death list” of other characters I could kill.  There were two huge characters on that list, but to be honest, I had no desire to kill them.  One, because I liked them.  Two, because I knew they’d be back in two years.  Throughout Identity Crisis, I tried to constantly poke at that most malleable concept in the comics genre, the non-permanence of death.  And in the end, I took the deaths that told the best story, not the ones that would sell the most books.  To this day, I think we told a better story for it. 

 

As for the set-ups, I asked if I could kill Boomerang.  They told me I had to clear it with Geoff, which was easy because he’s one of my closest friends.  I said to him, “If you let me have Boomerang, I’ll give you one who is hopefully even better.”  And that was the only plot thread I decided to let dangle.  Sure, we could’ve said, “His mom is X.”  But again, that’s not what the book was about.  It was about Boomerang Senior finding his son -- and most important, using Boomerang as the catalyst to explore the human side of the villains.  That thread consumed me more and more with each issue, and in my mind, added to the concept of duality that we were exploring on nearly every level. 

 

Beyond that, there were no long term plans worked out until the series was done, and almost all of those were with Geoff, who happened to be trapped in my house during the Baltimore hurricane a few years back.  He read the entire series right there and then we just got our geek on.  He started going, “When it’s all over, can I use the Luthor armor?  Sure.  Dr. Light?  I’d love it.  Whattya think about this with Boomerang?  And in JSA, what if this or that or the other thing?”  To this day, Geoff’s my favorite person to talk comics with.  He sees the small picture and the big picture, which is harder than people think.  After that, Dan came and said, “Hey, Calculator can do this, and we can use Deathstroke doing this…”  They get the credit for taking all those balls and running with them.

 

NRAMA: The wrap-up with issue #7 left some pretty big loose ends – Batman not knowing that he’d been mind-wiped, Tim obviously messed up by learning how pointless his father’s death was, and others. Are these unresolved issues just indicative of this kind of story, that is, there is no happy ending after a murder/unexpected death, and people are just…for lack of a better phrase, screwed up afterwards?

 

BM: Now that the story’s done, what’s most fascinating to me are the comments about loose plot threads.  Personally, except for Boomerang, as we discussed, I think every thread is addressed.  It may be quieter than you’d like, or different than you thought it’d be, but the answers are in the book, especially with Batman.  "Bruce knows what he wants to know, and more than any of us, he also knows that you should never underestimate what someone will do for the people they love."  It’s one of the most vital lines in there, not just as it drives at Batman, but as it takes on the themes of the entire series.  Look at it in the context of every relationship in the series: from Ralph and Sue, to GA, to the League, to Boomerang, to the Drakes, to Clark, to Ray and Jean...etc, etc.  Of course, others have already widened the debate to include whether Batman knows consciously or subconsciously, but I know my answer.  From start to finish, Identity Crisis wasn't written to "lead into" anything.  It was designed to be a stand alone -- and I'm proud of the answer in that context.  Think about it:  Batman's story wasn't meant to be a cliffhanger.  I realize it can certainly be read as one, but in my interpretation, there doesn't need to be a follow-up.  For me, Batman's worst wounds are always self-inflicted.  However, if other writers want to build on that moment or see it differently, well, that's the beauty of comics:  the tapestry of different interpretations on the same characters/moments/interactions.  As I said before, Batman is being true to himself.  "Bruce knows what he wants to know, and more than any of us, he also knows that you should never underestimate what someone will do for the people they love."

 

NRAMA: That said, from what’s being brought to light, DC is using Identity Crisis as a springboard for both a large handful of follow-ups as well as a start event for a larger universal change among the characters. Gut-level, and coming from starting off as a comics fan back in the day, what’s your feeling at having established what’s looking to be a large piece of DC’s foundation that will be built on for the foreseeable future?

 

BM: There’s this tiny panel in JLA/Avengers where the characters are looking back at their greatest battles/victories/defeats.  The page is filled with every scene the incredible George Perez and Kurt Busiek could squeeze in there.  There’re dozens and dozens of panels from all over the DCU.  And if you look really really close, you’ll see one of those panels is Green Arrow’s fight against Solomon Grundy from my Green Arrow run.  As a comic reader, I will never, ever be able to describe the moment when I saw that.  To me, even though I’d never even considered it happening, that was the dream fulfilled.  It was as if we suddenly existed.  That story we told, it wasn’t just brushed away.  It was there -- living in the textured connectivity of continuity.  And it’s humbling.  As writers of these heroes, we’re allowed to interact with greatness.  All I can ever do is hope to be up to the task.

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I was veery careful about what i read back there. I just bought the 1st three issues. Was gonna wait for the trade, but before some shit-for-brains-junkie-dog-fucker ruins the ending for me like Wizard did Hush, I'ma enjoy the nail-biting suspence, 'cause ultimately, that's why i like comics.

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  • 13 years later...

CBR: Brad Melzer On The Lessons Of DC's Identity Crisis 

Quote

"I remember at the time, people were writing, "Rape has no place in a comic." To me, if you say in any medium that subjects are off limits? Well, I'll say it this way. I wish there was no rape in the universe. I wish that awful event never took place. But if we say that we can't discuss this as a culture, we're in an even worse place than just having it exist. It will always be uncomfortable, and that's what art always has to do. Our medium has to deal with those issues, and that's what it's always done. Whether it was Stan Lee's soapboxes, or Black Panther being introduced, or the Hard Traveling Heroes dealing with issues of the counterculture. Wherever it might have been, there have always been places where comics have taken on the hardest issues in society, and I hope it always will. It may not please everyone, but art is not always meant to please you. It's, at its best, meant to challenge you."

 

looking back? while not quote as edgelord as he, this did feel like a DC event inspired by mark millar: shock/controversy with no direction, from the awful scene to the loss of Tim's dad 

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Identity Crisis was to DC what the Ultimate Marvel imprint and stuff like MAX was to Marvel, it was a necessary step to growing up, it doesn't hold up AT ALL, but it was an important part of the process.  Much like The Killing Joke I think it works waaay better as a self-contained one-shot divorced of continuity than just a random super dark spot in the canon.  But yeah, its approach to making superheroes more "adult" was hacky and extremely juveneille in a lot of ways, especially where women and sexualized violence are concerned.  At leas, unlike The Ultimates, very few people sing Identity Crisis' praises these days.

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