Friday, July 13, 2018

Betty Brant

Betty Brant

First appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #4, September 1963

History: a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she worked as J. Jonah Jameson's secretary at the Daily Bugle, later becoming a reporter herself, first dating Peter Parker and later marrying fellow journalist Ned Leeds for a time.

Was subject to the following acts of discrimination: after Brand New Day came about in 2008, some of the best character developments were drastically erased, and she was belittled in a story from #583 in 2009 where Peter Parker makes it sound like she's having an affair with Marlon Brando, just to make her look more like a gossip writer. And when she holds a birthday party later, nobody even comes around, because they resent the job she gets at the Bugle. She's basically alienated.

What's wrong with how this was done? Writers like Mark Waid went out of their way to marginalize a once decently written character in almost the same way Mary Jane Watson was. It's but one of many grievous errors made for the sake of One More Day, long viewed as one of the worst stories in modern Marvel history.

That particular story may have been quietly dropped, but the damage has remained for a long time after, and does nothing to salvage Spider-Man. Certainly not so long as Joe Quesada remains in charge.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Ned Leeds

Ned Leeds

First appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #18, November 1964

History: a young reporter for the Daily Bugle, he dated and later married secretary/reporter Betty Brant. He was co-created by none other than Stan Lee and the late Steve Ditko.

Was subjected to the following act of discrimination: in the mid-80s, at the time of the Hobgoblin tale, Ned, while trying to bring down the Kingpin, fell victim to brainwashing by the Hobgoblin (which damaged his relations with Betty), Rod Kingsley, and was framed as being the Hobgoblin (much like Flash Thompson was around that time). Ned was murdered by the Foreigner at the behest of Jason Macendale in the 1986 Spider-Man vs Wolverine special, and for a time afterwards, it was thought Ned was the Hobgoblin.

What's wrong with how this was done? This story turn was the result of machinations by Jim Owsley (Christopher Priest), whose work as both writer and editor have been very hit-or-miss. It was controversial at the time, with Peter David, Tom deFalco and Ron Frenz taking offense, mainly because Owsley kept it secret until the last minute. It wasn't considered very plausible either; just a cheap excuse to kill off an established co-star.

Was there any good to come out of this? A decade later, in the 1997 Hobgoblin Lives miniseries, an effort was made to exonerate Ned by retconning in-story that Rod Kingsley/Hobgoblin was the culprit all along, and had brainwashed Ned.

This year, in ASM Annual #42, Ned was revealed to be alive (it seems he was resurrected by the Jackal in Clone Conspiracy), or a clone of him turned up. I'd like to think that's good news, but coming at a time when Mary Jane Watson was still thrown out by Joe Quesada's editorial mandates, it decidedly wasn't. (With terrible scribes like Dan Slott taking charge, how could it be?) The takeaway from this is that Ned was sadly a victim of frivolous obsessions with garnering attention at all costs, no matter how poor the artistic merit could've been to start with.

To date, there's only been a few male characters I've added to this database, but I think Ned Leeds certainly qualifies, and I realize there can be advantages in keeping track of some of the men in comics too.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Profile: Heather Glenn

Heather Glenn
First appearance: Daredevil #126 Vol 1, 1975
Death: Daredevil #220 Vol 1, 1985

History: She was the daughter of a rich industrialist factory manager. She helped Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson open up a new law firm called Storefront Clinic, and subsequently learned Matt's secret identity as Daredevil. She was co-created by Marv Wolfman and Bob Brown. She even guest-starred at least once in Iron Man, and similar to Tony Stark, suffered from alcoholism.

Was subjected to the following act of discrimination: she committed suicide after believing her relationship with Matt had fallen apart by hanging herself in her apartment.

What's wrong with how this was done? Fortunately, very little, maybe because her death was by suicide, rather than coming to a more grisly end via murder, as happened with Karen Page during Kevin Smith's run in 1998 on the 2nd volume.

I'll have to admit though, that it's a shame Marvel's staff at the time thought the only good way to give Glenn a sendoff was by sending her into the afterlife. If that's the only way they can think of dropping a character they no longer want to use, how can they call themselves creative?

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Profile: Gloss


Real name: Xiang Po
First appearance: Millenium #2, January 1988

The Guardians who created the Green Lantern Corps invested in a Millenium Project to form a group of successors on Earth, which saw 10 people gathered together to learn about the cosmos and be granted special powers. One of them was the young Chinese girl Xiang Po, whom the Guardians bestowed the power to draw energy from the Earth's "dragon lines". She'd go on to form the New Guardians group, which had a brief series in 1988-89 running 12 issues and whose cast was partly comprised of characters from the GL series, whose 2nd volume had ended in 1988.

Was subjected to the following act of discrmination: during the Justice League: Cry for Justice miniseries written by James Robinson in 2009, she was one several characters killed off by Prometheus.

What's wrong with how this was done? The miniseries was notorious for serving as a cheap excuse to kill off almost any minor character the DC editors considered expendable, including Lian Harper. All for no good reason, and just to serve as justification for Green Arrow to kill off Prometheus later...and then get into a pointless clash with the Justice League, made to look as though they have zero understanding of the terrible incident Prometheus caused. One can only wonder if it was all intended as an anti-war metaphor, since this was in the years after the war in Iraq to bring down Saddam.

And it all gave the Justice League a very bad name, while doing nothing more than throwing Steve Englehart and Joe Staton's creation Gloss, who could've had potential on her own under the right kind of writers, into oblivion as though her being fictional makes her automatically worthless. I think the New Guardians series was mediocre, but that's mainly the fault of Englehart and Cary Bates (the latter who wrote the majority of the book), not the characters, some of whom were given very unfair treatment.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Profile: Harbinger

Real name: Lyla Michaels

First appearance: New Teen Titans Annual #2, 1983

History: an orphan who survived a shipwreck, she was rescued by the Monitor (the being stuck in an eternal fight with the anti-Monitor), and became an assistant to him during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, where she would help arrange for henchmen and weapons to test the superheroes in the impending war. After her appearance in the Millenium crossover of 1988, she joined the New Guardians, who were partially connected with the Green Lantern Corps.

Was subjected to the following act of discrimination: in the 12-issue New Guardians series, she, along with almost all the other team members, was subjected to the AIDS virus; one of the first stories in comics to address the subject that was big in the 80s. In 2004, when DC was reintroducing the original Supergirl, Kara Zor-El, to the DCU, she turned up in a guest appearance on Wonder Woman's Themyscira island, and was killed while defending Kara from the forces of Darkseid that would kidnap her for his own uses. Her corpse was later reanimated during the Blackest Night crossover.

What's wrong with how this was done? This had to be one of the cheapest paths they could go in to pointlessly kill off a character who could've still had her uses. But turning her into a living dead zombie only added insult to injury, and Blackest Night was by far one of the most disgusting, troll-the-audience publicity stunts DC could have ever conceived. And any friendship she was forming with the reintroduced Kara Zor-El was thrown out the window.

Most of the characters who were killed off at that time have thankfully been revived/exonerated since (though Harbinger's status is still unclear as of this writing). But the editors wasted tons of time pulling those stunts in the first place, and cost a lot of readership who shouldn't have been alienated in the first place.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Record: Scott Lobdell

One of the most pretentious writers Marvel employed in the 1990s to script the X-Men, Scott Lobdell most unfortunately has some bad moments in his record that served to sully what was once an effective series. I'll try to list here some of his bad efforts here.
  • As one of the writers in charge of stories spotlighting Rogue and Gambit, he did a poor, tiresome job depicting their ostensible relationship with the lady's siphoning power posing such an obstacle, it only led under his unimpressive writing to a lot of agonizing and frustration. Not to mention that in at least a few scenes where the "Ragin' Cajun" would try to come on to Rogue with physical contact, she'd jump away in fear of causing injury. The irritating long term effect of such scenes would be that it'd look like he was a sex predator, however unintentional. And at the same time, it made Rogue look absurdly scared.
  • In Uncanny X-Men #328, he scripted a tale where Sabretooth gutted Psylocke after she tried warding off his threats to Boomer/Tabitha Smith (not shown in graphic detail, thankfully). All for the sake of conceiving a tale where the formula to heal her injury would result in a dagger-shaped tattoo across her left eye.
  • In his last story for X-Men prior to Grant Morrison taking over for 3 years in the early 2000s, Lobdell's "Eve of Destruction" made Jean Grey look like a mindless robot, who wouldn't even demand Northstar stop assaulting a cardboard panel of a character named Paulie Provenzano over a pointless quarrel for the sake of filling panels. It was utterly awful.
  • When Lobdell was writing Red Hood and the Outlaws during DC's New 52 era in the early 2010s, there was trivial criticism vented over Starfire's skimpy costume. This almost obscured a much more valid complaint - she was made to sound like a brainless vagrant who was willing to have sex for the sake of almost any man she came upon, and told Roy Harper "love has nothing to do with it." This had the effect of making her come off as a subservient tool for men instead of working as her own agency and thinking for herself. It also made Tamaranians (the alien race she came from) look bad, if that matters.
In addition to the above, Lobdell even admitted he once sexually harassed a lady cartoonist at a convention, which makes it look like his mindless positions got the better of him. None of this reflects well on his resume, though he may have learned his lesson about his misdeed at the convention since. I certainly hope he did, because he still shows signs here and there he probably didn't.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Record: Gerard Jones

You may have heard, since the beginning of 2017, that onetime comics writer Gerard Jones was arrested on charges of storing child pornography in his computer equipment, and is suspected of committing an even worse offense over in Britain. Besides those revolting discoveries, I do believe his record as a comics writer has some items in it worth pondering. What he may have done wrong with any and all of the superhero books he'd written, not the least being the books he wrote for Malibu Comics, and that could be both before and after Marvel bought them out in 1994. So here, I may be able to list at least a few moments in his writing career worthy of attention.
  • In the premiere of Green Lantern volume 3, John Stewart's watching a TV news report that includes word of a child kidnapping. In light of the discoveries of Jones' crimes in real life, that's obviously not going to age well.
  • In the second issue of the series, Guy Gardner goes to a porn shop (where he finds the Tattooed Man and picks a fight with him all for the sake of making Guy look like a parody of "jingoists"). I think we can all figure out why time won't be kind to that story segment.
  • The Guardian named Appa Ali Apsa, first introduced by Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams in the early 1970s as an observer for GL and Green Arrow at the time they were "hard travelin' heroes" was turned insane, deadly and villainous in the beginning story (when it was first reprinted in 2003, the given title was "The Road Back"), becoming the adversary they had to combat, and was finally killed at its end. In retrospect, I don't think this was getting off to a good start, taking a decent character and turning him crazy and murderous (he killed another character, seen in the 2nd issue). Mainly because Hal Jordan didn't seem particularly miserable they had to wipe him out. If anything, it was hardly focusing on the real villains in GL's rogues' gallery, who could've made for just as good a premise. Jones did all this just to set up a story where several colonies of races from across the galaxy would learn to live together, as though that couldn't be done.
  • In the 1st Green Lantern Quarterly from 1992, he wrote a story featuring Arisia, where the alien girl who'd boosted herself artificially to a theoretically mature age in 1986 had now reverted mentally to the age of a 13 year old. In light of the charges filed against Jones in 2017, this is why his early 90s story doesn't age well now.
  • In the 1992-93 GL: Mosaic spinoff, he wrote Ch'p, the chipmunk-like alien, getting killed by a truck on the planet Oa (a whole colony of humans was moved there by Appa ali Apsa). And I'm wondering what was so wrong with the poor little guy that they had to turn him into a sacrifice on the alter of slaying minor characters just because of how supposedly easy that was?
  • Although Jones did resurrect Katma Tui in GL: Mosaic, it was otherwise as an energy construct, and I'm not sure it was even in the same way Wonder Man/Simon Williams was. As a result, I'm not sure if Jones ever exonerated Carol Ferris properly. After all, that storyline from Action Comics Weekly in 1988 where Carol slew Katma when she was under the Star Sapphire influence was a very bad step in storytelling, and not reversing it entirely, IMO, did little to help mend a serious mistake.
  • In the first storyline or two from Wonder Man's 1991-94 series, there were some subtle attacks on capitalism, with an inventor who'd become a criminal now wanting to do business with corrupt governments overseas, all because he thought he'd been taken advantage of earlier by domestic corporations.
  • In light of the allegations against Jones, his jokes in Justice League Europe focusing on Power Girl's boobs and cleavage aren't bound to age well. (Nor for that matter is an idiotic joke he made about women sipping diet soda and becoming aggressive as a result.)
  • I'd mentioned before that Jones wrote a story starring Shanna the She-Devil in Marvel Comics Presents #70-73 during 1991? There's something else he's left in a broken heap for at least a while, but then, what good is a story that relies on horror elements when somebody like him is doing the scripting?
  • Though he never scripted the mainstay MCU's Hulk, he did write Hulk 2099, part of Marvel's mid-90s 2099: World of Tomorrow line, which wasn't very successful, and if he was doing it for the sake of exploring his whole notion of violent entertainment being "good for kids" he sure blew it.
  • One of the most notable titles in the Malibu line of superhero knockoffs he wrote was Prime, a Captain Marvel clone about a young teen boy gaining powers to turn into an adult superhero, who went after child rapists, including a school instructor. It goes without saying Jones' own arrest for sex felonies will ensure this Malibu product falls flat on its face.
  • Towards the end of his official career in superhero comics, he wrote Batman: Fortunate Son in 1999 (the title appears to be inspired by a Bruce Springsteen song), an early-days OGN tale where the Masked Manhunter and Dick Grayson, in his early days as Robin, were investigating the case of a rock star accused of blowing up a studio. The message of the yarn was apparently that rock music makes people insane. Oh, isn't that classic. I don't know what Jones was smoking when he came up with that one, but it's very ridiculous, especially now that he's been arrested for his sexual misconduct felony.
Over the past year since Jones' offenses made headlines, I've had to reevaluate some of the stories I read that he'd scripted, and concluded they weren't so entertaining at all, let alone respectable of past works that came before, and the Ultraverse books will surely wind up under an entirely different perspective now. Recalling that he won an Eisner in 2005 for his history books like Men of Tomorrow, it remains to be seen if the board of directors thought to revoke his prize, which he didn't deserve to win. He belongs in the category of overrated scribes whose personalities can easily ensure their stories wind up becoming more dated that others.