Ray Sonne: I liked this issue much better than the first one.
I want to preface that before delving further into observations of how the era Crisis on Infinite Earths #2 handled the concept of good and evil. In fact, I possibly liked this issue because of the differences between then and now. Reading this series isn’t the only retro thing I’ve been doing lately; I’ve started watching the original Star Trek series for the first time and the handling of heroes and villains is similar.
The heroes in Crisis are heroic. So heroic to the point where they acknowledge themselves as heroes by proxy of Firestorm referring to The Monitor as part of the “bad guys.” They save confused, stampeding Mammoths from getting shot to death by futuristic, trigger-happy citizens. They rescue last survivors of dead worlds from falling to their own demise. They look their disintegrating friends in the eyes and swear to rescue them.
This is important to note because Crisis is a landmark for some of the last times heroes act so good. Because, as most of you probably know, Watchmen begins getting published the year after. And Watchmen was a new, shiny bell that DC has still yet to stop ringing.
Watchmen has strength in what Crisis does not. It regards its antagonist and protagonists equally as characters, as horrible and flawed as they all are. Everyone has their own unique motivation and philosophy. They aren’t empty and confusing and senselessly evil like The Harbinger. The Harbinger doesn’t work as a villain now because after Watchmen and the 90s, we expect our villains to be as developed and interesting as the heroes they face.
But somehow, this got flipped around. Creators seem to think that readers wanted heroes to match villains instead of villains that matched the hero in passion and intelligence. As a result, our admirable, wonderful heroes became complex and dark.
And frankly…now they’re not as much fun as they used to be as when they were sincere about saving the world. Heroes are no longer written like Captain Kirk, handsome and dashing and kind. They don’t pause in the middle of a high-tensioned plot to save the helpless; in order to get paid any mind, the helpless has to be held captive by the villain. The helpless must prove their utilitarian worth in order to be saved.
It’s a saddening concept. Do we really not believe that there are people out there who would use their special abilities save falling boys? Do we really no longer believe in noble friendships, in pulling the people we care about out of impossible situations? Do we really think that in order to be motivated to do absolutely anything, we need our parents shot dead in cold alleyways?
Why don’t the superhero publishers produce heroic stories anymore?
I have some other things to say about the older and better way of handling continuity and how The Joker spraying sticky, white goo onto Batman’s face is the most blatantly homoerotic thing I’ve seen in a superhero comic in quite some time. But I’ll let the rest of you have that conversation, if you wish. Even if you despise the superhero genre, anything to note about the latter part of the 20th century’s handling of good/evil in literature or other forms of media?
Daniel Elkin: I dunno exactly what you’re asking at the end here, Sonne, but if you’re trying to continue to claim that the heroism in this Crisis crap is more pure than the moral ambiguity of Watchmen, we really need to understand the implications of such a statement. This is Ted Cruz territory. Simple heroics, the black and white world of 1985 DC comics, the “you’re either on the bus or off the bus” sort of thinking inherent in this sort of Superman and Green Lantern and Cyborg is, first off, totally non-reflective of reality (and I know, I know, this is entertainment and I know, I know, this is “Super-Heroic”, and I know, I know that a certain level of suspending our disbelief is in order), but it’s also really, really dangerous.
It’s this sort of thinking that propelled Reagan to become a beloved president even though he consistently forked out his tongue at human rights, refused to acknowledge that AIDS had reached plague-like proportions, and was responsible for one of the greatest public urinations on the Constitution in our nation’s history in the Iran-Contra affair. It’s this sort of thinking that led to films like Rocky IV and Rambo: First Blood Part II, both of which were also released in 1985, and both of which were jingoistic and misogynistic and racist and horrific on an epic scale and perpetuated our belief that our country, right or wrong, was the only one who could police the planet.
(I should note, though, that 1985 also saw the release of Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins starring Fred Ward which totally redeemed it as a film year)
When you remove the subtly of moral fluidity, when you call people simply heroes tried and true, you grant them the power to do as they will because we trust them to do right, and we’ve all seen how wrong that can go, the horrible things done in the name of What’s Right Black And White.
But I think an examination of heroism is in order when talking about this Crisis (my Crisis). Issue Two doesn’t start with an “infinitude” but it does start with the “Dawn of Man” (and, of course, ellipses). Here, back in this distant past, we get our first hero — ham-fistedly named “Anthro” as if Marv Wolfman thought that might be clever — who defines the trope; he’s the progenitor of the idea, the ur-hero. What is his motivation? To save his village from the rampage of the “Serpent Noses” (again, Wolfman, come on)! But is it really? Or is it really for selfish reasons, a celebration in his honor, so that his name will last beyond his existence.
If what we do, we do primarily for ourselves, are our motivations pure? Are we really being heroes?
For Marv Wolfman and George Perez and the 1985 DC Comics of this Crisis On Infinite Earths, the answer seems to be, “Shut the fuck up, hippie. We know better. Let us take care of this for you.”
It’s no accident that the “certain devices powerful enough to halt the anti-matter tide…” that the Monitor has planted in “five crucial eras throughout time” are shaped like enormous, shiny, gold phalluses after all.
God this book infuriates me…
Beyond the homoeroticism of the Joker’s sticky white goo, beyond the fact that everyone expresses shock with the same open faced gape no matter what the circumstance, beyond the fact that I don’t even know what the fuck is up with the “Psycho Pirate” (and why everyone has to say his full name each time), there is something so fucking smug about this comic, about the ideas inherent in its execution, about the ethos it is trying to promulgate, that each turn of the page brings another shudder to my shoulders.
I’m just waiting for Larfleeze to show up so my head can fucking explode and I can quit reading this crap.
Finally, the Monitor admonishes, “Find that hope, Lyla — call on it soon, for the darkest times are only hours away.” Fitting words for the ending of Issue #2 — words I should probably hold on to as well seeing as there are 10 more issues to go.
Yet instead I take solace in Kamandi’s words there in the middle of this issue, “Will someone tell me what’s going on here?”
This is really my Crisis.
Michael Bettendorf: I don’t even know where to pick up, you two. We’re talking about heroism and baddies and sticky goo and I’m still trying to figure out what the hell is going on.
I get it, I mean, universes are crumbling, this team of epic heroes have been gathered to activate the five penis-pylons to stop the anti-matter wave. The Monitor’s powers become inversely sapped as the bad guy’s are becoming stronger – wait – do we even know who the bad guy is yet? I mean, who the Harbinger is being brainwashed by or whatever?
As I mentioned in the first conversation, I have little to zero knowledge of any of these characters, let alone the differences between their Earth-1-2-3-4-WHAT-IS-HAPPENING-counterparts. So there’s something up with child Lex Luthor, but beyond that I’m still trying to figure out the whole point of this and keep these heroes straight.
I can get over the fact that Batman, for God knows what reason, has the precise solvent in his utility belt to rid his face of the Joker’s sticky goo. That’s just something I both love and hate about superhero comics. I mean, why does he have the solvent? If this was a fantasy book or a sci-fi book those sort of discrepancies would be ripped apart, but because it’s a superhero comic the general consensus is, “who cares?” and move on with the story. I loathe it and admire it all in one, but you know what I can’t get over?
The God-awful amount of text.
Maybe it’s the copies that I have or the program I’m using to read them, but my eyes get strained after just a couple of pages that it’s hard to enjoy. The text is crammed into any available space on the page. I’d rather see Perez’s artwork. Anyone else feel it’s wordy for the sake of being wordy?
In regard to heroism, would you want to read characters that are that black and white good or bad? Wouldn’t that get old?
The latest run of Moon Knight depicts him as the protector of those who travel at night. He tends to help others and resists Khonshu’s vengeance so much that he loses his aspect briefly. That’s arguably a noble, good character. A case could probably be made for Hawkeye as well.
Part of what needs to be taken into consideration is how our views of good, bad and heroism have changed since these publications. What do we consider to be a hero? Batman seeking vengeance for his murdered parents as the Dark Knight, Captain America defending honor and holding patriotism in his highest regard? Marvel and DC are going to publish what sells, so how much of this is on us? If we keep buying these sorts of tragic, revenge and line-walking “heroes” then that’s what we’re going to get. I think that’s why we’re seeing indie and smaller publishers gaining so much ground now. They’re willing to take the risk to publish writers and artists that pose these questions. Maybe the big two aren’t willing to take that risk
Sonne: I like how you’re assuming that this is only the first time the Joker has shot his sticky goo onto Batman’s face while its a strong possibility that he has done it so frequently before this instance. That explains why Batman has found the correct type of solvent to carry around everywhere in case he needs to clean himself.
Elkin: Michael did mention “penis-pylons” though. So he wins all the trophies and perhaps, in this small way, creates the perfect metaphor to summarize Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Bettendorf: I guess Batman and the Joker’s relationship is one of the most complex in comics history so…someone needs to delve into the goo headfirst and write about this aspect of their relationship. As far as the penis-pylons go…I have a feeling this is only the first time they’ll be mentioned in this series.
Sonne: Bring. It. On.
Kristopher Reavely: I’ve been fighting with the words I want to use to express how annoyed I was, once again opening up my Crisis TPB and reading Issue 2. The Dawn of Man is how it begins and from there I read a horrific story of how at the beginning of our species characters spoke English. I dont know if its just me or did that part not bug anyone else. I remember reading comics in the 80’s and most of the time when someone spoke a foreign language the words were slanted or done in an interesting font in order for the reader to understand that there was a different language being used or a unique way that the character was speaking. Crisis provided none of these signs and for some reason it really bothers me. It almost seems like Wolfman felt his story was so amazing that we would all accept whatever drivel he put out for us. I feel bad to say that I actually think that it was Wolfman that shot gooey cream in all readers faces with this story. I am truly hoping it gets better because to me it feels like this is a downward spiral. The art is fine, but in some areas it’s fantastic, in others I worry that Perez was getting tired. Issue 2 is not good, I can only find one thing to say about the story, at least it made Batman look like an incompetent ass. I’m so accustomed to the perfect version of Batman that it was nice to see him with Jokers foam all over his face.
Here’s hoping something gets better or I might have to stop reading soon.
Elkin: You think Perez was getting tired? Imagine how letterer John Costanza must have felt. So. Many. Words.
I think the two things we can take from Crisis #2 are: “penis-pylons” and “Joker’s foam”. These are apt metaphors, my friends. Poignant as they are apt. This series so far seems to be all about a man, convinced that size does indeed matter, desperately trying to compensate.
Crisis on Infinite Earths, the shiny red new sports car of comics. Revving that engine at the stop light.
And we’ve got ten issues left to go, Hoss…
Luke Miller: I was a little less enthused here than I was with the first issue. It felt like a continuation of set-up without much actually happening. I enjoy a nice slow burn as much as the next guy, but really only when it’s building tension and not frenetically jumping around to a dozen different characters and settings. I don’t know if I have a lot else to add for this issue, but first and foremost, Michael, if your penis looks like these pylons, with jagged golden spikes coming out of it, you really need to see a physician. Like, immediately. Don’t even finish reading this paragraph. Go. Now. That is the real imminent crisis here.
I did enjoy creepy, zombie-Flash showing up randomly. I know how that ends and what it foreshadows, but I imagine reading it at the time it would’ve been mind-blowing. And Psycho-Pirate being punished by having his face removed was surprisingly macabre for the era. Otherwise, this issue didn’t do much for me, and I’m anticipating another 2-3 more like this before the story actually picks up.