Tom King Wrote Heroes in Crisis, but DC Chose the Characters

In an interview King gave to ComicBook as the awful Heroes in Crisis was coming to its ugly close, he used some pretty absurd defenses for what he associated himself with. Some of the stuff he told them includes:

 

There’s always a struggle struggle for readers. They get emotionally invested in characters and it’s natural to want a happy ending — but on the creative side, do you think that could ever really happen short of DC closing down tomorrow?

If some hero just walks into the sunset and is never seen again? I don’t know, I mean I feel like the only people that stay the same, having stability in all comics, are Batman’s parents — except he’s been talking with his father — and Uncle Ben, right? That’s it, that’s the list. It used to have Bucky on it, but I just saw a huge, billion-dollar movie that had a lot of Winter Soldier. So I don’t know, I think that the stories continue. That’s the whole point of our medium, is the stories continue. Gardner Fox tells something to Cary Bates and then that person tells something to William Messner-Loebs, and then he tells Mark Waid, and then he tells Geoff Johns and then he tells Josh Williamson and that’s just how the story goes. It’s a conversation between generations over what Hero X means. And I don’t think there’s any one generation there that would be like, “okay, we’re stopping here, we’re done, we’re good.” Because that generation knew that’s the whole point of this thing, is to have this conversation.

 

Why do I get the vibe this is some kind of gimmick to justify the awful directions they’re going in? That whole “conversation” bit sure is fishy, considering he hasn’t actually conversed with anyone who disapproves of deconstructing and defaming heroes and co-stars.

 

So, it’s 2019 and it’s comics, so you’ve been getting death threats from Wally West fans and all the craziness that comes with a major change like this in the modern social media era.

I don’t think I got death threats from Wally West fans. I got a lot of hate from Wally West fans, which of course, I understand that and that makes total sense to me. The death threats were from people whose minds were a little thicker than that. It wasn’t sound, mainstream fans sad about Wally West, it was people who were crazy that I think just were taking it out on me at that moment.

 

Since he never actually showed anybody screenshots of the alleged threats, why should we believe this at face value? Besides, if he really “understood” Wally West fans, he wouldn’t have taken the assignment, and Geoff Johns wouldn’t have brought Wally back so superficially

 

Real time response to serialized, monthly storytelling is a strange animal, though. It’s hard to imagine what Brad Meltzer would have gone through trying to tell Identity Crisis with Twitter, but that is what you had said early on was a book that shared DNA with this one.

Yeah, I don’t know. I wish I could say that it’s all hunky dory and I don’t care. But I mean, I want to make everybody happy, I just don’t do it. The failure’s my fault, not yours. And if I could write some legitimately fun story that everyone loved, I’d write it in two seconds. But for me to write good, it has to be this weird, personal stuff, and the weird, personal stuff tends to scratch at these heroes, and get them to places where some people don’t want to see them go.

That said, I face this time and again, this is kind of what I do. I tear down heroes to their essential components and build them back up. I mean, to the first page in Mister Miracle, he’s bleeding out, he’s cut his own wrist. The first issue of Omega Man, Kyle Rainer gets his neck chopped open, the first issue of The Vision has his daughter being stabbed through the heart, right?

This is sort of what I do, but at the end of the day, hopefully people say “oh, he had some respect for that Mister Miracle, he wasn’t just doing it to be mean, he was actually doing it to exploit his character and to elevate the character.” Mister Miracle went through hell, but now everybody knows who Mister Miracle is, right? Same with Vision, I put him through hell. I had him almost turn into absolute evil, but it elevated that character a little bit, and now they’re doing the TV show which, you know, had something to do with my stuff. So, hopefully people will see at the end of the day, we’re doing the same thing with Wally. Wally hasn’t had a successful solo comic since, when? 2003? What I’m saying is, the idea behind this is to elevate that character. Everyone is now talking about Wally. Everyone wants to see where Wally goes next. Everyone wants Wally to get the attention that that character deserves. He’s my favorite Flash. He’s my entry into DC comics — The Flash #53 by Messner-Loebs and Larocque was my first DC comic. I love that character. I have a page above my desk of Wally from that Flash run and I think this, at the end of the day, will shine a spotlight on my character and put him at the center of the DC universe, in a place he hasn’t been for 15 years.

 

Oh, sure Wally’s his favorite Flash. If he was, then again, he wouldn’t have taken the assignment, and he wouldn’t make a career out of deconstruction, which is more or less what he’s hinted at in the interview. Something Grant Morrison specialized in too, now that I think of it, and it’s a very bad influence that’s ruined many mainstream comics. As King hints he’s taking the path of grabbing everyone’s attention through being offensive, not merit.

 

But would Meltzer really have taken the kind of flak he did for Identity Crisis if he did it today? Good question, because SJWs can come as either those who supposedly take offense at his work, but truly don’t, or, take his side regardless of how revolting the tale was. Another point to be made is that, neither he nor DC would reverse the abominable story’s status quo setup regardless of the reaction, on social media or otherwise. It took at least a decade until they finally jettisoned it from canon, and if done today, it would be the same situation.

 

And the only reason Wally hasn’t had a solo book since the end of the 2000s is because an editorial mandate decided Barry should be brought back and Wally kicked to the curb, all because of commercialism wagging the dog for the sake of TV series and movies. King’s justification for turning Wally into even so much as a crazy, misguided soul is just another slap in the face to the audience.

 

When the Sanctuary story you first teased at DC in DC becomes Heroes in Crisis, that word “Crisis” puts the biggest possible spotlight on it. Has that affected the way that you’ve had approach the work? Because obviously with something like Mister Miracle, for all the attention it got, it was almost uniformly positive attention because the only people who cared were the people who were enjoying it.

Yeah, no. People really hate Heroes in Crisis. [Laughs]

I feel like Heroes in Crisis and Batman and Mister Miracle all sort of tell the same story, like my second theme. The first theme was about the Iraq War, the second theme in my career is about, “what do you do after trauma?”

And the way I’m telling it in all three different comics — I think to write about trauma, sometimes it makes people feel trauma. I know that sounds wrong but I don’t know how to write about that topic without sort of getting into the muck of it.

 

Well I think that sums up what he really thinks of fans. And what if the first theme is really an anti-war theme, coming as it does from somebody who’s pretty much a leftist, and already made clear he doesn’t like Donald Trump? As before, the questions of how it ever made sense to put characters from a science-fantasy based universe into something so out-of-character and unorganic are ignored, because the direction is what matters, not the story merit.

 

Do you think it’s difficult to make people feel empathy with that if they don’t have personal experience — don’t know what it is?

I don’t know if that’s true. I don’t know anybody who has never made a mistake in their life. Who’s never lost control of themselves and had regrets about it. Or had a moment where they made a bad decision, and then tried to recover from it. Those seem to be fairly universal experiences and I don’t think you need to have gone to war or anything, I just think that’s part of everybody’s everyday lives. People make mistakes, you know? If we make these heroes into these sort of cartoon copies where all that makes them great is how strong they are, then they’re not strong, right? If you’re never having a moment of vulnerability, then you’re never brave. You’re just kind of existing.

I think to truly be brave and to be heroic is to have moments where you are weak, and then to overcome those moments or to face those moments, or to come back from those moments. Showing that you’re vulnerable is not a weakness. Showing that you’re vulnerable is a strength, at least to me.

 

But is he willing to admit a project like Heroes in Crisis is one of the biggest modern mistakes in comicdom, much like Identity Crisis before it and even Avengers: Disassembled? Obviously not. No less atrocious is how he believes it’s wrong to depict fictional superheroes as “cartoon copies”, an obvious dismissal of surrealism and defense of “realism”, even though the end result in the finished product is far from realistic. And he completely misses the point, that, vulnerable or not, nobody wants Wally to be even so much as an “accidental” murderer. Is that so hard to understand? Or that being realistic isn’t the answer to everything? What’s almost hilarious is that he’d surely defend Mary Sues if there came along another project not unlike the Captain Marvel mess published Marvel until now, even as he preaches for the sake of supposed realism.

 

Now, here’s the part at the end of the interview that’s eyebrow raising:

 

This all started with Harley and Booster, and you talked a lot about how much you love those characters and obviously you’ve gotten to write them a lot. How strange has it been that you spent six months elevating those characters, and now the big takeaway is like “holy s–t, Wally!”?

You go back to what I did with Booster in the beginning, and I did it in Batman. It was like “what? What did you do to Booster? You made him so terrible.” And now as you see in Heroes in Crisis, he came back from being terrible and now he’s kicking ass again. This was always about those three characters. It was a Harley story, a Wally story, and was a Booster story. As I’ve said many times before, I don’t pick the characters for my story; I give my plot to the editors and then the editors pick the characters for me. So I told them in the beginning, “this is what it’s going to be — it’s going to be about one hero who’s made a mistake and it’s going to be about the two heroes that get framed for that mistake.” And they said, “okay, it’s Booster, Harley, and Wally, those are the three characters.” I mean they’re a joy to write, I love writing them. That’s almost what I miss the most about this book is writing those two. Booster is the most fun character in comics, except maybe Hal Jordan.

 

Whether they picked or he did, one thing is clear: the story, as he himself implied, shares a lot in common with how Brad Meltzer and Dan DiDio put Identity Crisis together: it was reported at the time that DC editorial – the same one that employed Eddie Berganza – offered “a slew of killable characters”, and this is clearly a repeat of the same tactic, confirming how much value they really do put on certain characters, both major and minor.

 

Interestingly, when the miniseries was first launching, CBR ran an article by somebody who said all the killing of any characters they felt like was wrong:

 

If DC really plans to kill two major characters, will their deaths be worth it? Can their deaths ever be worth it? When you kill off a character, you lose the ability to market them and tell new stories. At this point, DC and its readers have narrowed things down to three prime candidates for the meat grinder: Tim Drake aka Red Robin, Roy Harper aka Arsenal, and Green Lantern Kyle Rayner. The publisher seems to be focusing its attention on characters who aren’t the focus of an ongoing series. But DC doesn’t have to kill these characters; it doesn’t have to kill anyone, and there are many reasons why.

 

Well this is certainly one of the saner, more respectable things they’ve said in quite a while! Now, if they can get one of their contributors to pen a column calling for exoneration and resurrection of the dead heroes and co-stars, that’d be getting somewhere too. In fact, if they could just call for a boycott of any writer who’s only doing this for a paycheck while lying about their fandom for any particular hero and co-star, that’d be another plus. Without meritocracies, there’s no entertainment and nothing thought-provoking at all. CBR should really consider.

 

For now, this serves as another example of what’s wrong with DC’s editorial, dishing out their repellent mandates as usual, and a major problem that began in the 1990s, getting worse as time went by.

 


 

Originally published here.

Avi Green

Avi Green

Avi Green was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. He enjoyed reading comics when he was young, the first being Fantastic Four. He maintains a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy of facts. He considers himself a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. Follow him on his blog at Four Color Media Monitor or on Twitter at @avigreen1