Welcome to SBC’s The Panel, a chance for you to put your burning questions – comics-related or otherwise – to a group of comics professionals.
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This week’s question is as follows:-
What are the sort of things that you’d first look at when attempting a revamp of a ‘classic’ character? Would you feel any obligation to long time readers of the book, or is your aim simply to tell the best stories you can, using what you consider works and dumping the rest? For example Superman, Batman or Spider-Man?
First you have to keep in mind what the editor wants. I remember reading up on the whole Scarlet Spider becoming Spider-Man fiasco and the small, fun story that was good in theory turned into a long drawn out mess because of editorial and the marketing team. On the other hand Ron Marz had to get rid of Hal Jordan and usher in Kyle Rayner in a relatively short time with the editors just saying something in the effect of “make the title good”. Personally, I think he did a damn good job all around, especially in the time he was given.
After figuring out what your editor wants from you, I’d say the next thing is to tell the best stories you can. Not to slight your obligation to the long time readers or the creators that worked on the project before you, telling a great story is the best way to pay homage to both. Not to jump on the Chuck Austin bashing bandwagon (I really, really liked the War Machine story he did), but his work on the X-titles is an example of how not so great storytelling can turn off longtime fans and potential new readers. He said it was from the restraints given to him by Marvel that messed things up, they deny it and imply possibly the fault was with him… who knows. On the other hand consider Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns or Barry Windsor-Smith on Weapon X. They were given the ok by the editors and they set out to make damn good stories. It was different, it wasn’t what some readers expected, but the work speak for themselves and has affected everything after.
After knowing what the editor wants and thinking on creating the best damn story you possibly can, then you work in details. As the writer you should know what the fans of the property want because you were possibly a fan too, right (going back to the last column about how work for hire creators are getting paid to do fan fiction)? What you want to see in the comic is probably what many of the other fans want to see in the comic. If you’ve followed the series, you know what’s gone before, so using that as a springboard you’re already respecting what came before.
Now considering this is a revamp, we have to figure what type of revamp this is. Is this a start from ground zero type like Marvel’s Ultimate line or DC’s Zero hour? Or is this a change that happens in the pre-established title like Bendis on Daredevil , Bendis on Avengers, or Grayson & Rucka on Black Widow? Also we need to know why the character needs such a revamp.
Me personally, I’d like to revamp Superman. An iconic character, the movies were great, and even Smallville entertains me, but Superman in comics annoys the hell outta me. Why? Nothing happens in the book. Superman is the strongest being in the universe pretty much. You already know the outcome of whatever new situation he comes across because he’s Superman. Too much perfection equals stale reading. The only times Superman in comics was interesting was when they shook things up. Doomsday was badass. That was a fight I would have paid to see (well I did, but you know what I mean). Then he actually died! Who saw that coming? The reign of Supermen was different, and cool. The return rocked because Superman didn’t have the bright and happy costume with his underoos outside his tights- no, he had a black containment suit with a silver S shield and sporting long hair. He dared to be different, and I liked that. Then things slowly went back to the status quo and got boring again. They didn’t give people enough credit- sure Superman is an icon, but he doesn’t HAVE to look the way he did in the 50’s for people to recognize him. The shield and the red cape is all you need. The costume needs a serious redesign and upgrade.
As for the storyline, I have an idea but I’ll have to present it to DC first. All in all, you can keep the main themes that people like about a character without being overly anal about innate and silly details that take away from said character. I figure if you follow this line of thinking, it’s a triple win situation from editorial to fans to being satisfied with yourself and your work as a creator.
Bart Thompson is the founder of Approbation Comics and creator of “Vampires Unlimited”, “the Metamutoids”, “ChiSai”, and “Chaos Campus: Sorority Girls vs Zombies”.
No clue on this one. Never done it.
Donna Barr has books and original art at www.stinz.com, webcomics at www.moderntales.com, www.girlamatic.com, and has POD at www.booksurge.com Nothing she won’t try, at least once…including writing a column for SBC at this link!
I’ve come up with a few revamps in my short time as a writer and I think, for me anyway, the most important thing you must consider is, “Is this a good story?” Regardless of what you try to do with the character, you have to make sure the pages are turned. After that…after getting a good hook, I try to use as much of the established continuity that I think will enhance the story, but not necessarily tell the story for me. I don’t feel obligated to doing it…as someone who has a certain amount of affinity and affection for these characters, it’s just something I like to see as a reader, so as a writer, I try to do the same. I am conscious of not doing it in a heavy handed way, but as I’ve not been given the opportunity to do it yet, this remains to be seen. I think the other key thing I look for in a revamp is someone people either hate or haven’t heard of in a while. Obscure characters always seem to work well in revamps because their continuity is less cluttered (God bless Geoff Johns and James Robinson for even attempting Hawkman) and you can have more fun with the characters. Also, very often, the bigger characters…your Superman, Batman, Spidey, etc… they seem to be just fine or they could use a minor tweaking. I like taking a pure soul and twisting their lives around a little. Call it the sadist in me.
Vito Delsante’s creator owned mini-series, “The Mercury Chronicles”, with artist Jim Muniz, is now in development with Image Comics and will hit stands late this year. “Batman Adventures Vol 2: Shadows and Masks” (DC Comics) is out now! He will next be seen in Reflux Comics #3 (August) and in X-Men Unlimited #5 (October).
I think a revamp totally depends upon what the company wants. Not to sound like a yes-man, the company owns the character, pure and simple. The parameters of a revamp are first determined by the desires of the company, as voiced by the editor. I would find out what the company wants first before I take on a revamp. Otherwise I’d waste my time and theirs coming up with ideas that will be shot down. After that is taken care of, then I’d look at the history of the character to see what angles could be explored. Or I might just tell a series of cool tales, playing with the history of the character, using elements underutilized in the past. Every character is different and so is every company. My main task would be to tell fun stories, stories I’d like to read.
Vince Moore is the editor for DarkStorm Studios, a comics company started by Kevin Grevioux of Underworld fame.
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