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The Superhero Blues Part Three: The Teen Titans Challenge Two

The Narrative:

I’m not going to start out my run with a team origin arc. The way I’ve set things up, the characters will come together naturally because they operate in the same area. In a similar vein, I can use the same idea to incorporate Static and Blue Beetle earlier (and not have to have arcs inducting them into the team).

The first arc opens with Wonder Girl asking Red Robin to find her kidnapped friend, Vanessa Kapatelis. Together with the other Titans, the duo discover that Vanessa was kidnapped by Roulette under the employment of Doctor Cyber. Doctor Cyber transforms Vanessa into the Silver Swan (the plan is to have Wonder Woman fight Silver Swan in one of Roulette’s death matches). Wonder Girl is captured and forced to fight in her mentor’s place, only to be saved by the other Titans. Roulette is captured. Doctor Cyber and Silver Swan escape.

Team Members: Red Robin, Gear, Bumblebee, Wonder Girl, Static, Blue Beetle, Beast Boy, and Terra.

The second arc introduces Raven and her brothers Power Boy (a reworked combination of the two Power Boys) and Brother Blood. The trio have been tasked by their father, Trigon, to conquer Earth by their own devices. Brother Blood intends to accomplish this task through his Church of Blood. Raven and Power Boy betray their brother and seek out the Titans to stop him. Gear and Power Boy develop feelings for each other over the course of the arc until Power Boy leaves the team after murdering Brother Blood and the Church of Blood.

Raven joins the team. Beast Boy and Terra are dating at this point. I’m thinking of pairing Raven with Jericho.

Zero Issue will detail the coming together of Red Robin, Bumblebee, and Gear as nascent Titans. The story will feature a gang war in San Francisco and the introduction of Lynx as Tim Drake’s Catwoman.

The third arc will feature Joseph Wilson/ Jericho seeking out Raven’s aid in cleansing himself of the various personality shades plaguing his mind. At the same time, the Fearsome Five have come to San Francisco. The Titans have difficulty defeating their foes (Psimon, Mammoth, Shimmer, Gizmo, and Jinx) until Jericho turns the tide by possessing Mammoth and Gear defeats Gizmo.

Jericho joins team. Romantic feelings between him and Raven.

The fourth arc will, at some point, coincide with “Death of the Family.” At this point, I’ll loan out Red Robin to the Batfamily for the duration of the story. Meanwhile, Gear is seeing Nathan Prince (who is actually working at the behest of the H.I.V.E. to recruit Gear), the Silver Swan returns to plague the Titans (Doctor Cyber is a member of H.I.V.E. at this point.), and an old enemy of Beast Boy returns to take revenge. The arc ends with Silver Swan being freed by the Titans of her conditioning and Gear being kidnapped by the H.I.V.E. At the same time, Lynx is approached by a mysterious individual.

Around this point should be Villains Month. I’m not sure who I’d focus on. Maybe Silver Swan as she recuperates from her ordeal and flashing back to some of her actions as a villain.

The fifth arc will tie in to “Forever Evil” by having the Titans try to defend San Francisco and the Bay Area from the Secret Society represented by the Terror Titans (The General, Dodge, Sun Girl, Enigma, Inertia, and Lynx). At the same time, Static and Bumblebee search for the still kidnapped Gear, who is being forced to work for the H.I.V.E. The Titans defeat their evil counterparts when Lynx betrays the Terror Titans and Miss Martian and Ravager (Grant Wilson) arrive to lend a hand. Wilson is killed protecting his younger brother.

The sixth arc begins with Red Robin devastated by his lover’s death and the search for Gear ongoing. Eventually, Bumblebee and Static are captured and meet with Gear and Mal Duncan, another kidnapped genius. The rest of the team finally learn of the H.I.V.E.’s plans and move to stop them and their evil schemes. The Titans invade the H.I.V.E. fortress and confront the H.I.V.E. Master. The Titans are on the ropes until Power Boy returns to get his boyfriend back.

This leads into the seventh arc as Trigon makes his move. And one of Trigon’s two remaining children on Earth has their own plans for conquest.

I’m going to leave things there. Damn, I have more ideas than I thought for my version of the Teen Titans. I know that I haven’t really touched on a lot of the characters in this brief synopsis. Wonder Girl, like Donna Troy, is dating someone outside of the team. A non superhero. Tim Drake has his relationship with Lynx. Beast Boy and Terra have been dating forever. Raven and Jericho are in a relationship. And Gear’s love life is interesting. I’m thinking he’ll eventually have a long term relationship with Starman.

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The Superhero Blues Part Two: The Teen Titans Challenge One

The Challenge: I’m going to set the challenge at the start of the New 52. Everything remains the same, except for Teen Titans.

The Team:

Tim Drake/ Red Robin will lead my version of the Teen Titans. I choose him because he is my favorite Robin (and, to be honest, out of all the characters associated with Batman). I’d keep him fairly close to his pre-New 52 character and past. The only difference is that Tim broke with the rest of the Batfamily when Damian was appointed Robin. He now operates as the solo hero, Red Robin, while also attending university. (I’m thinking in the Bay Area, though Metropolis is another strong possibility).

Cassandra Sandsmark/ Wonder Girl. Remember, Donna Troy is still unavailable for understandable reasons. I’ll change Cassie’s origin up by having her mother join with Julia Kapatelis as being one of the people who welcomed and helped acclimate Wonder Woman to the world outside of Themiscyra. I’m tempted to keep Cassie as a daughter of Zeus, but leave that to be revealed later. No matter the reason, Cassie has powers similar to Wonder Woman and, therefore, receives training from her big sister.

Virgil Hawkins/ Static and Ritchie Stone/ Gear. I really like these two characters from Static Shock. And I really want to write them. Given that Static has his own title at the beginning of the New 52, I’ll separate the two. Virgil, as depicted in his series, moves to New York to finish out high school, and Gear moves to the Bay Area where he partners with Red Robin.

Gar Logan/ Beast Boy is a mainstay of the Teen Titans. My version maintains his early history, only the Doom Patrol is replaced by the nascent Titans.

Raven is also a mainstay of the Teen Titans. She will maintain much of her history, save that she was, at some point, raised by her father. I’ve always preferred Raven to be more conflicted in her relationship with her father.

Tara Markov/ Terra is infamous in Teen Titans history. Will my version be friend or a deadly enemy?

Karen Beecher/ Bumblebee is DC’s first African American superheroine. She should have a role in the New 52. My version of Bumblebee is a metahuman rather than gaining her powers from a suit. She will be a classmate of Red Robin’s. Along with Red Robin and Gear, Bumblebee will form the core of the Teen Titans.

This list is by no means complete. These eight heroes comprise the team as it appears in the earliest arcs. But team members will leave and others take their place.

I recognize that my team is lacking some big names, names associated with the Teen Titans. Given that I’m centering this challenge in the New 52, some characters are unavailable. Donna Troy and Wally West are out, Cyborg is in the Justice League, and Starfire and Arsenal are running with Jason Todd. Superboy, Blue Beetle, and Static all have their own titles, which make me leery of using them. Especially when they are hundreds or thousands of miles away from the action of Teen Titans. But, that said, I would be willing to include them later on as their series end or a means to include them into my story becomes available. The same is true of the other traditional sidekicks. And, Bart Allen is not invited to the party, regardless. I never liked him.

The second part of the Teen Titans Challenge will explore some of the story ideas I have.

Teen Titans (New 52) Vs. Young Avengers (Marvel Now)

This post indicates either A) I’m a complete DC fanboy or B) many comic book reviewers are morons. 

The Teen Titans are a group of young superheroes who have come together to protect themselves and other young metahumans from a nefarious (and mysterious) organization. The Young Avengers are a group of (mostly legacy) young superheroes who have reunited to defeat an interdimensional parasite with a mother complex. Both works are the latest iteration of popular franchises. Both works have seen controversy. And both works have (or will) end(ed) recently. I have read both series. I have read all of the Teen Titans available at my local library (Our Right to Fight and The Culling, plus I’ve read Rise of the Ravagers). I have also read the first volume of Young Avengers (Style > Substance). All that considered, I have to say that I actually like Teen Titans more than the Young Avengers.

What?

I will not deny that Scott Lobdell’s writing leaves a lot to be desired. Especially when it comes to Teen Titans. The plotting is haphazard at best and the dialogue is (at times) reminiscent of really bad teen dramas. But the core plot driving the series is a good on. A strong one, actually. In contrast Kieron Gillen’s writing is stronger with more coherence and better dialogue. But the core plot driving the series is, in my opinion, a stupid one. 

I just don’t like it. Seriously does Wiccan making a mistake have to be the cause of every Young Avengers series going forward? Wasn’t that what caused the last series? 

Wiccan is my favorite character from Young Avengers and I hate how he is characterized in the first issue and in subsequent issues. And the more I think about it, the less interested I become in the series as a whole. 

I’m talking about the confrontation between Billy and Teddy after Teddy’s down low superheroics. Teddy’s dialogue makes no sense. And it makes less sense the more times I read it. How does Teddy not having his adoptive mother (while Billy has his foster parents and the Scarlet Witch) excuse his breaking his promise to his boyfriend? It comes off, in text, as nothing more than a deliberate guilt trip. And to serve the plot as a means to get Billy to perform his, increasingly requisite, misuse of his powers to generate the plot. 

Clearly, I loathe this scene and how it initiates the story.

Now before I get accused of giving Teen Titans a pass, I’m not particularly fond of Red Robin’s character in the New 52. He is certainly a downgrade from the Tim Drake pre New 52. And don’t get me started on N.O.W.H.E.R.E. Could there be another nebulously nefarious organization with as convoluted a history? And, to be honest, Harvest should have been more of a salesman. He should have been more of a tempter. 

In the end, though, I find Teen Titans, though not as artistically original, to be the better read. Young Avengers, though artistically original, doesn’t really achieve its promise. I want to read more Teen Titans. I’m not looking forward to Young Avengers.

Young Avengers ended with issue 15 of Gillen’s run. It is a shame that there doesn’t seem to be any moves for a third creative team (so far). 

Joining Young Avengers in cancellation is Teen Titans with next months issue. I wonder what the next Teen Titans series looks like. 

Hopefully it isn’t a rehash of previous runs. Same goes for Young Avengers.

I just hope Bunker and Solstice don’t end up forgotten in limbo. 

 

 

R.I.P. Teen Titans (Until Next Time)

So. Teen Titans is coming to an end in April. 

The New 52 iteration of the Teen Titans has been controversial since the beginning. Rather than reintroducing the team with core (and traditional) members (say the team as constituted in the Teen Titans animated series), the team is a mix of traditional members (Robin/ Red Robin, Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, and Superboy) and newer members (Bunker, Solstice, and Skitter) with Raven and Beast Boy being relatively late additions to the team. 

This decision, coupled with the initial storylines, and the unfortunate dictates of trying to figure out/ make up what the hell is actually going on in the New 52 incredibly hampered the series. (And several other series in general, but this is not a post to slam the New 52). 

Was this new iteration of Teen Titans any good? It was decent but it could have been a lot better. It certainly was a critical failure. 

For me, I was disappointed much of the time. While I like the idea behind the team’s formation, I’m bitterly disappointed by the execution. And, to be honest, Tim Drake’s character is a butchered shell of what it once was. But hey, there is still Bunker (my favorite after Red Robin). 

Now, though, begins the wait to see what happens to the team as a new creative team, eventually, relaunches the series. Will the team’s composition be the same? What will happen to Bunker, Skitter, and Solstice? That is my biggest fear. When new characters are suddenly left adrift after a creative change, they, and their fans, are often left out in the cold. 

But that is the deal comic book fans make. 

I just hope Bunker will stick around and not be consigned to comic book limbo. 

 

R.I.P. Young Avengers (Until Next Time)

What is wrong with Young Avengers? The latest series is ending in January after fifteen issues and a full year in publication. Apparently, the current creative team had a set story they wished to tell, and now that it is told, they have nothing else to add. Seriously? That was all?

Prepare for a rant in three, two, one . . .

Don’t get me wrong. I like Kieron Gillen’s writing. I love Jamie McKelvie’s art. But a fifteen issue single arc dealing with a transdimensional parasite with a kyoiku mama complex is all they had? Cue eye roll.

I’ve bitched about Young Avengers before. I despised Children’s Crusade and disliked Young Avengers: Dark Reign quite strongly. And I cannot say I’ve been too fond of this present, soon to be ended series. After reading the first two issues, I cannot say that kyoiku mama parasite interested me. Even if the whole point is to try and find new ways of engaging with and writing about younger superheroes.

Perhaps I have the same relationship with Young Avengers that I have with Naruto: a strongly love/ hate relationship. I want to love the series, but the foibles the series commits makes that impossible.

In a way nothing about the plot of this series has really pleased me.

My favorite character is Wiccan (not a shock, I know), but I detest how his character has been written lately. It is great that he is, arguably, the main protagonist of the series (and of Children’s Crusade). But seriously, is writing him as a Shinji Ikari expy the best direction?

Let’s be clear, the plots of the last two Young Avengers arcs have featured Wiccan initiating the story by fantastically fucking up. The first time, in his pursuit to find and redeem his mother, a teammate died at Doom’s hands and saw the birth of Kang. This time? I haven’t been keeping up, but it seems to be a clusterfuck, all because he wanted to do something nice for his boyfriend.

After all of this, Wiccan had the right idea when he gave up superheroics. In universe, at least, why the fuck is he not at Avengers Academy or Jean Grey? The boy needs freaking training, regardless of whether or not he going to remain a hero or not.

Personally, an arc that drives Wiccan back into superheroics rather than reinforcing his choice to quit would have been better. One that Wiccan himself did not generate. What that could have been, I do not know. I’m not writing it.

The only good point about this whole thing is, perhaps, the relationship troubles it is giving Wiccan and Hulkling. Not that it will go anywhere in the end. . .

Part of the problem with Young Avengers as a series is that it has to deferentiate itself from other teen superhero books. Especially Teen Titans. I’ve been thinking of the two series together for a while. Now, Marvel itself is not limited to Young Avengers when it comes to teen superhero books. It has/ had Avengers AcademyAvengers ArenaWolverine and the X-Men, etc. And each takes a different track in how it approaches being a teen superhero.

For the Young Avengers, that track is reminiscent of a bunch of fanboys (and girls) cosplaying their favorite Avenger. The only problems are that these kids have super powers and face life and death situations without any sort of training. (Not that Spider-man was ever actually trained, either. . . ).

In addition to the elements of cosplay, the direction of idea separation, of difference, is to make Young Avengers feel more like a teen drama like 90210 or Glee (it has explicitly been compared to Skins). Whether the attempt is successful or not depends on the eye of the reader.

Compare Young Avengers (vol. 2) to Teen Titans (New 52). Teen Titans is a far more traditional superhero comic book. And it is very successful, despite the lambasting of the writing from many fans. While Young Avengers started strong with the first few issues, it dropped precipitously. Currently, it hovers in the early hundreds. Compare to Teen Titans that routinely beats it by at least twenty points on the sale charts and for a good portion of its existence, rested in the thirties (it was in the seventies for last month’s issue).

What is an observer to make of this? Gillen is by far the better writer, but Lobdell is beating him on the numbers. Is this just habit buying or is there something else going on?

I want to root for Young Avengers. I want to love it. I was so psyched for the possibilities teased by Gillen, but now I’m wallowing in the bitterness of lost opportunities. Maybe whoever is going to write Young Avengers volume 3 will avoid these pitfalls. But I wouldn’t hold my breath. After all, this seems to be endemic to Young Avengers. But how can the series be successful if this continues?

“Skins Meets Superheroes,” What Was I Thinking When I Agreed with This?

Before I begin, I must admit the possibility that I am a DC fanboy. Therefore, it is possible that my criticism of Marvel Comics, and Young Avengers from Marvel Now! in particular, is rooted in my fanboy state. But I don’t think so. I am perfectly willing to criticize DC’s Teen Titanstoo (especially given that while I love the concept, I hate the writing).

But this post is aimed at Young Avengers as written by Kieron Gillen. When I first read the initial issue in January, I reviewed it very positively. Perhaps, in hindsight, I was too generous. I have since then read the second issue (and am, so far, passing on the third).

The reason for my growing dissatisfaction with the series is partially rooted in genre but also, as will become clear, in narrative. I still love the art, it is the writing that is bugging me.

Let’s first begin by looking at the comparison of the British teen series Skins with Young Avengers. Why is this comparison even made? I think the clear answer lies in that terrific opening scene from issue one. Where Kate Bishop wakes up in bed with Noh-Varr. But, honestly, that is the only scene that is reminiscent of Skins (okay, maybe Loki in the dinner could count in a pinch). But that is it.

The majority of the first issue, and the whole of the second, is rather traditional superhero fare. With a heavy dose of idiot plot (as carried by pretty much every character).

What has really troubled me, on a second reading of the first issue, is the interaction between Billy and Teddy. Given the nature of the genre (superhero comics), Billy is at fault because he does not want to be a superhero any more. Guess what? Two of his friends died the last time he played hero (and though Doom and Iron Lad committed the murders of Stature and Vision, Billy’s idiocy started it all). Given the extent of Billy’s powers, would it not actually be better if he never cosplayed hero again?

The more I think about it, the less sympathetic I am to Teddy, to be honest. Yes, in the grand scheme of things  Teddy has lot everything save his boyfriend. But how does that translate to cosplaying hero on the down low? And really, “I fell in love with a superhero,”? What the fuck! So, did Teddy fall in love with Billy Kaplan or with Asgardian/Wiccan? The person or the character? Personally, the narrative might have been more interesting if Billy broke up with Teddy for that comment.

Of course, Billy being Billy, he then proceeds to perform an idiotic action. That is compounded by Loki and America Chavez performing idiotic actions. Yeah, they’re teenagers, but seriously. Couldn’t Loki have just told Ms. America that he was trying to prevent Wiccan from bringing a transdimensional parasite to their reality? And what the hell with the Not-Ms. Altman acting like Stepford Mom? Wouldn’t the plot be better served with her being less immediately antagonistic? I know I haven’t read issue three (with four and five still to drop). But again, I am bitterly let down by this initial arc.

Is it possible that I want a stronger sense of rebellion or independence in my young superhero team comics? As I said in the introduction, I love the concept of the Teen Titans in the New 52, but I don’t like the writing. And from what I’ve heard about the upcoming The Movement from Gail Simone, I suspect that I do prefer a more rebellious/ independent take. (I am, actually, looking forward to The Movement).

Has part of my problem with Young Avengers always been my annoyance at the characters cosplaying as heroes rather than struggling to do the right thing, whatever that is, with powers they don’t quite understand? Is it, perhaps, the fact that, despite the promise of these kids standing alone, they are very much still looking up to/ dependent on their role models? Perhaps.

Regardless of whether or not my issue with Young Avengers is rooted in any sense of fanboydom for the opposition, disappointment with the narrative, or general dislike for the kind of superheroics espoused,  I am leaning towards dropping this series (if I haven’t already). I just don’t feel where this series is going. Perhaps if there is more Skins and less Heinberg, the series would be more enjoyable.

I’m a Teenager with Super Powers. I Want to be a Hero (or Villain)!

Why is it that people with super powers inevitably become heroes or villains? Only a few are “civilians” (and usually not for long). This has frustrated me lately. Especially when it comes to teen heroes and villains. 

Okay, this is superhero fantasy, so characters becoming superheroes are par for the course. It is a genre thing. But, so often it seems as if being a hero (or a villain) is the only career choice. 

Now, I get why the Teen Titans are heroes. They have usually been brought together to face threats that older, more experienced heroes have ignored. Like Trigon and N.O.W.H.E.R.E. Should Red Robin’s team have gone up against an organization kidnapping and torturing metahuman teens? Hell no. But was anyone else doing a damn thing about it? Again, hell no. So, what choice did Red Robin and the others have? None. They had to fight. 

What about the Young Avengers? I like them. And I love Gillen’s take on them (expect a review this weekend). But what is their reason to fight, to be heroes? None, really save that many of them are related to previous Avengers. However, they come off as more akin to super powered cosplayers than anything else. Although, to be fair to the Young Avengers, it is not like the adult Avengers do much good either. Seriously, has anyone done anything about actually training Billy? Seriously, he’s far more powerful than Wanda was at that age. Anyway, moving on to more of Marvel’s merry teenaged heroes. . . 

The impetus for this post is my strong dislike for the first volume of Avengers Academy. I mean there is a lot of potential there. But at the end of the day, the really interesting story arc is negated for more traditional heroics (with a good side helping of angst). And, to be honest, none of those characters are very compelling. 

But, what is interesting, is that for the Avengers themselves it seems perfectly logical to begin training the next generation of Avengers (excluding the prexisting Young Avengers). Of course, the actual goal is to prevent them from becoming villains. Though I wonder if later additions to the book have the same potentiality. 

An interesting take on this whole debate comes from early issues of Wolverine and the X-Men as well as X-Men: Legacy. How much educating outside of superheroics actually occurs? How well prepared are the students for the outside world should they choose not to become future X-Men (or whatever)? Or is the expectation that all of them will be superheroes? And is that really what Xavier dreamed of?

At the end of the day, this is superhero fantasy. So, it is to be expected that the goal of young people with super powers is to become heroes (or villains). Again, though, it would be really interesting to explore such a world from the perspective to those who don’t want that life. Or who are forced into it. 

Next time, do I really have to talk about that?

Comics: Buying and Collecting, with a Dose of Fickleness

Right now, I’m listening to the Comic Vine PodcastSo far, I’m enjoying it greatly. Especially since it marks the return of James Robinson. Hell, even if the podcast is nearly three hours long!

Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about comics lately. For this post, I want to forgo writing about writing comics. Rather, I want to focus on buying and collecting comics.

I’m fickle. It is a flaw I’m deeply familiar with.

A few months ago, I pointedly “dropped” Stormwatch and Teen Titans. And now, I’m kicking myself in the butt for it. Mind you, I haven’t read either of them in months. And I want to hop back on them. Of course I’ll have to scramble at some point to pick them back up. Especially Teen Titans (of which I only have two issues)!

This got me to thinking about what I like and don’t like in superhero comics.

I have a strong fondness for teen/ youth heroes. Even if I’ve dropped off of the Teen Titans bandwagon recently, I haven’t stopped being interested in what goes on in the series. And everyone knows I’m salivating about the relaunch of Young Avengers. Though I’m not so sure if I want to check out Avengers Arena. I’m not really feeling that one.

I’m also kicking myself for not focusing on Wonder WomanLike Teen Titans, I have only two issues of Wonder Woman (11 and 12). Damn it! I need more!

I’ve also dropped off of Captain Marvel. Although I don’t know if I really want to keep following that series. I loved the first two issues, so . . .

But, I really can’t afford to follow every comic I would love to. Especially when they cost $3.99 and come out biweekly. That explains why I’m not really following X-Men Legacy. The idea sounds interesting, but I don’t know. There are other books I want to pick up.

Let’s move away from superheroes and play a little with creator owned comics. I’m upset with myself that I still haven’t started picking up creator owned series (baring volume one of Morning Glories). I really need to make myself pick some up. But superhero comics are so damned addictive!

 

That’s it for today. I may have a post on writing up tomorrow. Until then. . .

Tim Drake on My Mind

The controversies surrounding Tim Drake, former Robin (?) and current (always?) Red Robin, just seem to be piling up. From questions about his relationship to Batman, his sexuality, and his current status as a “Robin,” Tim Drake’s New 52 existence has been fairly controversial.

The most recent occurrence of the long running and varied controversy originated with comments made by Teen Titans writer Scott Lobdell at SDCC. In his comments, Lobdell seems to indicate that Drake was never an official Robin and raised questions whether or not he deduced Batman’s identity on his own.

Understandably, the comics sites erupted with rage in the comments section. What? Drake was never a Robin? What was he then? He didn’t figure out who Batman’s identity? WTF? Much like the controversy surrounding Alan Scott’s sexuality, an offhand comment on a panel caused a firestorm of controversy.

Now, in an interview with Comic Vine, Lobdell goes into further detail with his intentions. Given the five year guideline, all four Robins served during that short amount of time.  So, how does Tim Drake stand out from the other Robins? How is he special?

Whatever it is that Lobdell is doing seems to be centered around Tim considering himself Red Robin from the start rather than just Robin. Perhaps there is a fundamental difference between Drake’s relationship with Bruce compared to his predecessors. Or something.

Let’s be clear. The New 52 hasn’t been kind to Tim Drake. From having his own long running series (both Robin and Red Robin) and appearing in Teen Titans, Drake is now relegated to Teen Titans where, though he is the leader and main protagonist, he does have to share the spotlight with six other main characters.

I can see, in that light, a need to make Tim Drake/ Red Robin stand out from his predecessors and successor as Robin (or something like that). Now, what exactly is Lobdell aiming to do? We, the reader, don’t know. We won’t learn exactly what is up with Drake’s new origin until September 26.

Now, will the changes be good or bad? Depends on how the story idea is executed. Though I have largely dropped the series, I may pick up the Teen Titans 0 issue to check out Red Robin’s new origin.

But, this whole fracas does raise issues about the New 52’s continuity. I was under the impression that there was a falling out between Red Robin and Batman that saw Drake temporarily retired. But in the Bat Family titles, the relationship seems to be more friendly. Does this make sense? Not really, but the thing with comic books is that continuity is shot. Utterly shot. No matter if there is a reboot, continuity is shot. Each writer determines the continuity on their book or aligns the continuity with a certain grouping of titles or fellow writers.

Remember, comic books are a long form serial with a rotating and interchangeable cast of creators. Each change unveils new directions and new continuity to pay attention to.

Personally, I agree with Grace Randolph’s assertion that a new number one, a reboot, or what not is not needed to jump in to comics (or a new series). All a new reader needs to do is jump in. And the rest attends to itself. Another take, perhaps, is to read for the narrative rather than for continuity or the world.

So, where does that leave me on the changes to Tim Drake? I want to trust Lobdell’s story direction. But I have not been in love with Teen Titansto be honest. I’m willing to give Lobdell the benefit of the doubt. And then if it sucks, criticize him for it.

Comic Books: Characters, Creators, and Being a Gay Fan

I’m a lapsed comic book fan who has recently gotten back into comic book reading. In an earlier post, I described myself as a DC fanboy who wants to branch out into smaller publishers and creator owned titles. And I don’t know why I’m not enthusiastic about Marvel. I’ll aim to follow those two threads in another post or two on comics in the near future. What I want to discuss here is how I choose what comics I want to read.

Generally, fans of the Big Two (Marvel and DC) come in (roughly) permutations of two broad categories. Readers in the first category (and likely the most prevalent) are those who follow specific titles and characters. Readers of the second category are those who follow specific creators and creative teams. Now, the key to this formulation lies in permutations. Some readers start out being more character or title centric, but become fans of a specific creator or team and decide to follow their concurrent and subsequent work. And there are many other possible permutations (which can be left alone for now).

I describe myself as a mixture of the two. During my first period of heavy comic book reading, I was strongly character and title driven. Batman, Spider-Man, X-Men, Catwoman, Robin (Tim Drake), Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner), etc. are some of the titles I followed as a kid, creative team unimportant. Flash forward a few years. I’m now increasingly more a creator centric reader rather than a character/ title centric reader. Although the character/ title does still influence what I want to read.

Of the titles I’m following, the two that most align to focusing on character and title are Teen Titans and Stormwatch. The rest of what I follow are mostly geared towards creative teams. In fact, increasingly whether I like the creative team trumps whether or not I am “devoted” to the title or characters.

Being a gay comic book fan (I won’t describe myself as a geek) adds an interesting complication to things. Yes, part of the reason why I picked up Teen Titans and Stormwatch is because of the inclusion of gay heroes. While I am generally interested in the Teen Titans (and Tim Drake), Bunker did play a role in my picking it up. And of course, Stormwatch is notable for having two of the premier gay superheroes in Apollo and the Midnighter. Now, some could consider my picking up Earth 2 as being similarly influenced by Alan Scott’s sexuality. But at the time I picked up Earth 2 #1, I was under the impression that the new gay hero would appear in Geoff Johns’s Justice League! I picked up Earth 2 because I’m a fan of James Robinson.

There is, to a degree, a sort of politics that goes along with following the adventures of gay heroes. It is important to let the major publishers know that diversity is a good thing and encourage further inclusion. I want to read about the adventures of gay heroes. And hell, what about some gay villains, too?

But, this does not mean that I’m going to follow a series with gay characters if I don’t think it is any good. A good example is Stormwatch. Paul Cornell’s initial run is a great read and introduction to the characters. I hate to admit that I missed issues 7 and 8, and I’ve read issues 9 and 10. Right now, I’m not loving Peter Milligan’s run on the series. It seems to be a series of scattered oneshots and character pieces that don’t really go anywhere. Of all the titles I’m following, it is likely that Stormwatch will be the first I drop. Unless something changes.

Now, a few years ago, I was really into Young Avengers. Personally, I think it is a shame how badly mishandled the series was. Once Heinberg  left Marvel after the first 12 issues, another creative team should have taken over the book. The occasional miniseries that come out in regards to various Events did the property no favors, in my opinion. Marvel should not have waited for Heinberg to finish out the concept with Children’s Crusade. It should have been a monthly ongoing. Now, fans of the team and its members will have to hope that other writes will release them from the Limbo of Forgotten Characters.

How fans choose to approach reading and collecting comics is an important one. And it is important to understand the reasons behind making conscious selections. Making the right choices can alleviate the frustrations that go along with being comic book fans.

As a gay comic book fan, I think it is important to include glbt characters in a number of roles. As I said earlier, I want to read about gay heroes and villains. But comic book shopping decisions must not be based solely on limited criteria.