Grotesque Anatomy
Thursday, August 19, 2004
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Here's an oldie but a goodie.  (Originally posted on the Comic Book Galaxy Forum but since deleted.  For other sites -- such as Fanboy Rampage and The Beat! -- that linked to the original version of this thread, feel free to point those links to this entry now.)

John Jakala



Joined: 05 Aug 2004
Posts: 8

PostPosted: Thu Aug 05, 2004 9:04 pm    Post subject: Geoff Johns: Threat or Menace?

Alan -

I've been discussing this a bit with Chris Allen over on my blog, but I thought I'd stop over here and ask you directly: So what's your beef with Geoff Johns? I get that you don't like his work, that you think it's mediocre and perhaps too highly valued by many fans, but I'm confused by your desire to see him removed from the industry "by any means necessary." Am I taking your statements too literally here? Are you exaggerating for hyperbolic effect? If not, I guess I just don't understand the wish for someone to be booted from the industry.
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John Jakala
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 05, 2004 10:01 pm    Post subject: Re: Geoff Johns: Threat or Menace?

John,

There are plenty of people that should be booted from the industry, it's just that Johns should be the first to go. More than any other mediocre writer, he has been given free reign to misguide the fates of a number of icons like The Flash, JSA and Avengers, making them unreadable for anyone who wants more than just shambling avatars stumbling through their superhero comics. He writes characters that, at their best, I have enjoyed a great deal over the years, and currently none of them are any goddamned good at all. Believe me, I would LOVE to have good Flash comics to read. I'd love me SON, who loves the character from the JLA cartoon, to be able to read his adventures in comics. But with Johns's one-note sadism holding the title hostage, there's nothing to be done but to try to point out that this particular fucking emporer has no goddamned clothes.

Christ, at least Chuck Austen sucks in interesting ways.

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John Jakala



Joined: 05 Aug 2004
Posts: 8

PostPosted: Thu Aug 05, 2004 10:59 pm    Post subject:

Alan,

How is your attitude any different from those fanboys who bemoaned that Morrison was "ruining" the X-Men with his weird, trippy ideas? If you're not enjoying what so-and-so is doing on a certain title, isn't the best course of action to find another comic that *does* give you the buzz you're looking for? Why does it have to be The Flash that delivers the thrills? You're pretty plugged in to the comics scene: Couldn't the fact that Flash has become unreadable for you free up time and money to devote to other books?

And what about all the people who *are* enjoying what Johns is doing on Flash, JSA, etc.? Doesn't their enjoyment factor into the equation at all?

I hope you don't mind my pressing this issue, but I'm genuinely perplexed by your take on this.
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John Jakala
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Joined: 29 Jul 2004
Posts: 37

PostPosted: Fri Aug 06, 2004 5:38 am    Post subject:

John,

If you honestly can't detect a qualitative difference between the work of Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns, then there's no point whatsoever in discussing this.

But if it makes you feel better, sure, there's no difference, Morrison and Johns are creative equals and JSA is every bit as nuanced, intelligent and compelling as THE FILTH, THE INVISIBLES, ANIMAL MAN, KILL YOUR BOYFRIEND, SEBASTIAN O, ST. SWITHIN'S DAY and of course NEW X-MEN.

Silly, ain't it?

I hadn't pegged you as one of those people who gets nervous and defensive when someone like me states the truth passionately, John, and I hope I'm wrong, because I like what you do.

ADD
ADD



Joined: 29 Jul 2004
Posts: 37

PostPosted: Fri Aug 06, 2004 9:57 am    Post subject: Re: Geoff Johns: Threat or Menace?

Here you go, John, my final thought on this topic for the time being:

http://www.comicbookgalaxy.com/blog/2004/08/persistent-sucking-of- geoff-Johns-john.html

Thanks.

ADD
John Jakala



Joined: 05 Aug 2004
Posts: 8

PostPosted: Fri Aug 06, 2004 7:26 pm    Post subject:

Alan -

My point wasn't that the works of Morrison and Johns are on equal footing but that your reaction to Johns' mediocrity on FLASH struck me as similar to rabid fanboys' defensive reaction to Morrison's "weirdness" on NXM. If you're not digging Morrison on NXM, seek out something else you *do* dig. If you're not enjoying Johns on FLASH, go read something else that *does* tickle your superhero funny bone. (And if you're really upset that The Flash as a particular character is unreadable in his monthly title, search out some back issues on eBay that are more to your liking. Heck, I'll send you my copy of THE FLASH ARCHIVES if you'd like it.)

I'll grant you for the sake of argument that Johns is a hack, and that his mere competency is somehow the Biggest Threat Facing Comics. I still don't understand why anyone should expend any energy toward removing him from comics. Yes, write about his work from time to time; point out all the ways he offends the more developed and refined critical faculties; recommend other works that are better worth readers' time and money. But don't pretend (1) that repeated ranting about Johns will get others who have reflected upon his work and legitimately enjoy it (for whatever reason) to stop buying his work; or (2) that removing Johns (and everyone else somehow determined to be substandard) will magically elevate comics to a medium where Only Good Works grace the shelves. Non-genius, mindless entertainment will still find its way into the marketplace, Johns or no Johns.

I find it interesting that Mark Millar makes your list of approved superhero comic book writers. I haven't read Johns' FLASH, so I'm not sure how sadomasochistic it is, but I have read parts of Millar's ULTIMATES and ULTIMATE X-MEN and SPIDER-MAN and those all seem pretty sadistic and brutal to me. Isn't Millar's approach on books meant to serve as entry-level titles totally inappropriate given that the featured characters appear in movies and other media geared toward children?

And I apologize for my being nervous and defensive: It's not so much that the truth scares me, even when passionately expressed; it's all the Comic Book Orange Alerts and other hysterical tactics that unnerve me.
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John Jakala
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Joined: 29 Jul 2004
Posts: 37

PostPosted: Sat Aug 07, 2004 8:30 am    Post subject:

"If you're not enjoying Johns on FLASH, go read something else that *does* tickle your superhero funny bone."

John, I agree that this is a good policy for the average comic book reader.

My opinion of Johns comes almost entirely by way of review copies I've been sent or the occasional issue I've bought because I was interested in an art change (Porter on Flash) or to investigate the buzz (JSA and Hawkman, gak). I'd also note that, as someone who runs a website about comic books (oh, my mum woulda been so proud), I feel some responsibility to stay aware of what is going on in the varioous segments of the industry.

"(And if you're really upset that The Flash as a particular character is unreadable in his monthly title, search out some back issues on eBay that are more to your liking. Heck, I'll send you my copy of THE FLASH ARCHIVES if you'd like it.)"

As I have mentioned more than once, I'm most interested in the Flash as an entry-level superhero for all ages, which is what he has been for 95 percent of his history. And mostly for my son, who would seriously love some Flash comics that are fun and exciting and inventive and don't have people peeling the flesh off their own faces and sewing their lips closed.

So if you'd like to send the Flash Archives volume for him, John, I'm not gonna say no.

"I'll grant you for the sake of argument that Johns is a hack, and that his mere competency is somehow the Biggest Threat Facing Comics."

The biggest threat facing comics is not Geoff Johns. He isn't even in the top 100 biggest threats facing comics. He is just the Biggest Bore in the Wizard Top Ten, which is generally PACKED with bores, so it's really quite an accomplishment.

"I still don't understand why anyone should expend any energy toward removing him from comics."

Honestly, John, how much energy do you think I've expended? Do you envision me organizing pickets and benefit concerts and going door to door to decry him to the hoi polloi? While it's funny to imagine, in truth I have mentioned it a time or two in the context of writing about what IS good in comics, and frankly, it didn't take that much energy at all.

And I personally find it worthwhile, when pointing out what IS good in superhero comics (Brubaker, Moore, Cooke, Morrison, often Bendis, Ellis, Millar, occasionally even Joe Casey), I find it helps to also discuss what is mediocre and lifeless, especially when something that is as, yes, soporific as the majority of Johns's comics are still manage to sell in the tens of thousands, while better and more creative and more engaging comics languish in obscurity. It's grating, I admit it. But talking about the dichotomy allows a writer to compare and contrast, which you may have heard is a valid technique in discussing two elements that share similar properties (Johns and Morisson are both men who write comics after all, even if the comparison crashes to the ground immediately thereafter).

"Don't pretend (1) that repeated ranting about Johns will get others who have reflected upon his work and legitimately enjoy it (for whatever reason) to stop buying his work; or (2) that removing Johns (and everyone else somehow determined to be substandard) will magically elevate comics to a medium where Only Good Works grace the shelves."

Actually, John, having been doing this for about a half-decade now, I HAVE had readers write to me to tell me that my writing finally got them to take a look at their pull list and more honestly evaluate how much they aren't enjoying marginal works. You may not care for my technique, and that's fine; as you suggest to me, if you're not enjoying it, move on. There's plenty of other stuff about comics to read on "This, the comics internet."

"I find it interesting that Mark Millar makes your list of approved superhero comic book writers."

Thanks for the condescension. I'm trying to keep this civil, because as I've said, John, I like what you do, and more to the point, to the degree that we've interacted over "This, the comics internet," I like you personally.

That said, if you can find a place where I have posted my "List of Approved Superhero Writers," I'll gladly pay you $1000.00.

Just because I have a list in my head of writers whose superhero work I enjoy more than others, and just because I share that list with my readers in an informal manner (NOT as the List of Approved Superhero Writers you speak of), does not mean that this is received wisdom that I assume All Right Thinking Mammals Share.

Here's a big revelation, John: EVERYTHING I WRITE IS MY OPINION. Feel free to dismiss or embrace it as you like, as long as you are able to understand it. If you disagree with it, that's great. If you feel it's really important that Geoff Johns Stay in Comics, tell me why. Tell me why the industry wouldn't be better if marginal hacks like him got the fuck out of the way for people with an actual creative spark in their psyches.

"I haven't read Johns' FLASH, so I'm not sure how sadomasochistic it is..."

Well, it's less nausea-inducing than Frank Tieri's nipple-and-eyeball-eating early years (and you BETTER not think I'm making THAT up), but it's altogether inappropriate for any reader under the age of 14, and I think that's wrong, when as I have mentioned, The Flash is deliberately marketed to kids as part of an animated cartoon series and accompanying line of action figures which are 100 percent kids' stuff.

"I have read parts of Millar's ULTIMATES and ULTIMATE X-MEN and SPIDER-MAN and those all seem pretty sadistic and brutal to me."

I don't disagree. However in the case of THE ULTIMATES A) They are also done with occasional wit, creativity and genuine entertainment value and B) The Ultimates is aimed primarily at adult readers through trade dress and artistic style. I have children, John, and they're not int he least bit engaged by the look of The Ultimates. They don't want to read it and the art is too complex to intrigue them. The Flash on Cartoon Network is just the opposite.

And I'm not going to address Millar's Spider-Man or Ultimate X-Men because in the case of the first I've never read it and in the case of the second, I didn't care for it very much. I don't remember anyone ever peeling the flesh off their faces in it, though the modest sexual overtones (Jean sleeping with Logan) would mark it as a title for strictly 12 and up, I guess.

"Isn't Millar's approach on books meant to serve as entry-level titles totally inappropriate given that the featured characters appear in movies and other media geared toward children?"

The only purely entry-level Millar book I am aware of is Superman Adventures, which is generally lauded for its all-ages appeal.

One final note, John. I've seen this ongoing, blog-and-message-board-spanning discussion of ours described as a "tiff," and again, I hope I'm not coming off as uncivil. I have no desire to insult you or do battle with you. I've tried to respond to your questions because I think it will provide more insight for both of us (and perhaps one or two others) about just why Johns's work is just so damned aggravating.

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John Jakala



Joined: 05 Aug 2004
Posts: 8

PostPosted: Sun Aug 08, 2004 10:26 pm    Post subject:

Alan -

I understand that as a critic who tries to keep his pulse on all aspects of the comic book industry, you feel an obligation to be familiar with writers such as Johns. That's why I said in my earlier post that you should write about Johns' work from time to time. What I don't understand is the desire to remove Johns (or anyone else) from the comic book industry. I don't picture you organizing grass-roots campaigns to remove Johns from comic book office, but I do recall your disparaging Johns repeatedly, most recently in your discussion about Moore and Morrison and in your review of EIGHTBALL #23 ("the majority of people who buy comics and support their local comics shops, want nothing more than to be comforted by the type of shit Geoff Johns can squeeze out in his deep and dreamless sleep"). Your devoting all that space to deriding Johns is what I meant by "expending energy." I know it's not much, but that's kind of my point: Even that infinitesimal bit of energy seems wasted to me, for the two reasons I've already mentioned. I'm sure there are readers whom you've managed to sway by pointing out something they hadn't considered before. But I was referring to readers "who have reflected upon his work and legitimately enjoy it" such as Shane Bailey. Unless you're going to start arguing that such readers have deluded themselves into a state of False Consciousness, I think it's best simply to let those readers have the books they enjoy while you stump for books you feel are better worth their time. And even if you believe that Johns' work is so egregious that it's Harming Comics, I don't think that removing Johns and everyone else who will fit in the U-Haul of Shame will Save Comics: other mediocre writers will rise to take their place. That's why I believe it's a better use of your time to promote good works if your goal is to elevate the medium. (Although even then I think a critic's impact will be small, not sweeping, but I think the positive approach will work better than the negative one.)

Again, not saying you shouldn't do reviews of stuff you don't like. On the contrary, I think you should, as it provides your readers with a (negative) baseline by which they can determine your tastes. I'm just saying that I find the effort (or desire) to Improve Comics by removing creators below a certain talent threshold misguided. You may disagree with me (which is fine; in fact, it could lead to an interesting discussion about the role and reach of criticism in any field) but I just want to make sure we're talking about the same thing here.

ADD wrote:
I've seen this ongoing, blog-and-message-board-spanning discussion of ours described as a "tiff," and again, I hope I'm not coming off as uncivil. I have no desire to insult you or do battle with you.

Well, our discussion appeared on Fanboy Rampage, so it must be a tiff!

Seriously, I don't much mind if you take jabs at me. For one thing, I think everyone knows that if you get into a disagreement with Alan David Doane, you can expect some cutting remarks coming your way, so I can't say that I didn't know the risks going in. For another thing, a certain amount of conflict can make an otherwise dull debate lively and engaging for other readers. (Plus, it gives me an excuse to indulge in my own rhetorical flourishes.)

The only thing that does irk me is when you write things such as:

Quote:

"If you honestly can't detect a qualitative difference between the work of Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns, then there's no point whatsoever in discussing this."

"I hadn't pegged you as one of those people who gets nervous and defensive when someone like me states the truth passionately, John, and I hope I'm wrong, because I like what you do."

"talking about the dichotomy allows a writer to compare and contrast, which you may have heard is a valid technique in discussing two elements that share similar properties"

"Here's a big revelation, John: EVERYTHING I WRITE IS MY OPINION. Feel free to dismiss or embrace it as you like, as long as you are able to understand it."

and then claim you've been nothing but civil all along. Again, I don't mind you getting some barbs in, but at least be honest about it. Your trying to play the wounded martyr in all this is the only thing that does insult me.

Now on to the ways in which I've offended. I'm not sure how my statement "I find it interesting that Mark Millar makes your list of approved superhero comic book writers" was condescending. (A bit sarcastic, yes, but condescending, no.) I thought the list of comic book creators you mentioned positively was in contrast to those writers whose work on superhero comics you disapprove of, so I referred to it as "your list of approved superhero comic book writers."

You may say that you were only offering the list in an "informal manner" but when you're contrasting that list with writers whose "true destiny" is to work at Wendy's, writers whom you're eager to kick out of the comic book industry, I think it's easy to see where readers might get the impression that you view your personal list as more than just some humble suggestion. No, you didn't refer to it as your list of Officially Sanctioned Superhero Writers, but I thought the overall tone of your post was going in that direction, so using the term "approved" (which can mean either "thought of favorably" or, more strongly, "given authoritative endorsement") struck me as an appropriate way to take issue with the elitism I perceived in your post. Again, I don't mind your rhetoric, but I do mind when you use it and later attempt to disown it. And if I can't poke fun at your excesses, where's the sport in that?

I know it's your opinion -- even when stated in such a grandiose manner ("anyone looking for actual creative energy to be expended in the creation of these sooperhero funnybook entertainments" will likewise be bored by Johns' soporific work, just as you were, otherwise they're obviously not concerned with "actual creative energy") -- that's why I referred to it as your list (not Wizard's or The One True List). I just thought Mark Millar's inclusion on that list was odd given your stated reasons for feeling Johns was inappropriate for working on superhero comics. (It's also interesting that one of the other creators on your list -- Darwyn Cooke -- has expressed similar misgivings about Millar's superhero work.)

So here's where you mentioned your list of approved superhero writers. Do I get the thousand bucks in one lump sum or in installments? ;)

ADD wrote:
The only purely entry-level Millar book I am aware of is Superman Adventures, which is generally lauded for its all-ages appeal.

Well, I'm not sure how a book is determined to be "purely entry-level," but let's stipulate for the moment that it has something to do with its content and presentation. If that's the case, then isn't Johns' FLASH just as demarcated as non-entry-level as Millar's ULTIMATES and other books are? (Just as Jean's sleeping with Logan marked Millar's ULTIMATE X-MEN as a title geared toward ages 12+, doesn't the peeling of flesh and sewing of lips in FLASH signal to you that that book is meant for a certain age-level?) And doesn't The Flash appear in DC's Justice League tie-in comic, with an artistic style closely matching that of the cartoon, so that you do have an entry-level comic featuring The Flash for your son? (And I know you said you haven't read Millar's SPIDER-MAN, but a recent issue I flipped through had the Vulture's face being brutally disfigured by the Black Cat. But perhaps the Dodsons' artistic style doesn't appeal to younger children; I don't know.)

ADD wrote:
You may not care for my technique, and that's fine; as you suggest to me, if you're not enjoying it, move on. There's plenty of other stuff about comics to read on "This, the comics internet."

But you're one of those most widely-read online comics pundits! I have to react to you! ;)

And even if I didn't enjoy reading your work, I would never suggest that you should be removed from the comics opinionosphere. I might cry into my beer, pitifully bemoaning the fact that I don't have anywhere near the audience or influence you do, but I'd never wish for your removal. How could I? When I disagree with you, it spawns fun monster threads like this one!

ADD wrote:
If you disagree with it, that's great. If you feel it's really important that Geoff Johns Stay in Comics, tell me why. Tell me why the industry wouldn't be better if marginal hacks like him got the fuck out of the way for people with an actual creative spark in their psyches.

I don't think it's really important that Geoff Johns Stay in Comics, just as I don't think it's really important that Geoff Johns Be Forcibly Removed from Comics, or that everyone be as clever and innovative as Moore and Morrison. Perhaps it's a bit pessimistic of me (I prefer to view it as pragmatic), but I don't think the comics medium -- or any medium -- will ever be made artistically ideal (whatever that would mean). Furthermore, I don't even know if that's a healthy goal, thinking mainly in economic terms. Looking at other industries, crap sells. Furthermore, one person's crap is another person's -- well, not treasure, but enjoyable fluff at the very least. I know I'd much rather read Johns' JSA than anything by Bendis or Millar, but I don't think Bendis or Millar should be banished from comics because of that. And even if we could banish all the creators we disliked, I'm guessing they'd mostly be replaced by other creators we disliked, not creators who resonated with us 100% of the time.

Really, shouldn't you be happier that the market more closely reflects your tastes than mine? After all, Bendis and Millar both write books that outsell Johns's work by a wide margin each month. You should be celebrating! I'm the one who should be getting the U-Haul ready!

ADD wrote:
The biggest threat facing comics is not Geoff Johns. He isn't even in the top 100 biggest threats facing comics.

I'm sensing a fun new list for The Comics Journal to work on. ;)

ADD wrote:
I like what you do, and more to the point, to the degree that we've interacted over "This, the comics internet," I like you personally.

Aw, shucks, ya big lug. You had to go and get all mushy on me, dincha?

And I've enjoyed our interaction, too. Just because things may be getting a little more heated between us than they have in the past doesn't mean I'm getting ready to delete you from my blogroll or anything. Heck, if impassioned arguments led to denouncing one's sparring partners, then Chris Hunter and I would have parted ways long ago. (HA HA HA! I love working in gratuitous jabs at Hunter!)

ADD wrote:
So if you'd like to send the Flash Archives volume for him, John, I'm not gonna say no.

Will do! I'll email you off-forum to make sure I still have your current address. I haven't read all the stories yet, so I can't guarantee there are no scenes of people peeling the flesh off their own faces or sewing their lips closed, but it's the Silver Age, so if there are, I'm sure they're pretty tame by today's standards.
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John Jakala
Grotesque Anatomy: • The BlogThe Forum
Graeme McMillan
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 08, 2004 10:45 pm    Post subject:

John Jakala wrote:
Well, our discussion appeared on Fanboy Rampage, so it must be a tiff!


It's a clash, goddammit.

And, ADD? You owe John some money, if you ask me. Because, saying this:

ADD wrote:
...when pointing out what IS good in superhero comics (Brubaker, Moore, Cooke, Morrison, often Bendis, Ellis, Millar, occasionally even Joe Casey)...


and naming names like you did looks suspiciously like that list of your Approved Superhero Writers that you promised to pay John $1000.00 for, if he pointed one out to you later in the same post. But if John doesn't want the money, I'll happily take it. Hell, you could even donate it to the CBLDF and I'll be happy.
Chris Hunter



Joined: 29 Jul 2004
Posts: 12

PostPosted: Mon Aug 09, 2004 3:37 am    Post subject:

That Scumbag, Fight-Startin' Jakala wrote:
Heck, if impassioned arguments led to denouncing one's sparring partners, then Chris Hunter and I would have parted ways long ago. (HA HA HA! I love working in gratuitous jabs at Hunter!)


Bastard.
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Chris Hunter



Joined: 29 Jul 2004
Posts: 12

PostPosted: Mon Aug 09, 2004 8:34 pm    Post subject:

ADD wrote:
As I have mentioned more than once, I'm most interested in the Flash as an entry-level superhero for all ages, which is what he has been for 95 percent of his history. And mostly for my son, who would seriously love some Flash comics that are fun and exciting and inventive and don't have people peeling the flesh off their own faces and sewing their lips closed.


I have an honest question about this for you, Alan. I completely understand your point about The Flash being entry level/all ages fun and that the way that it's currently written, it's not that at all.

My question is this: do you feel that all of the blame for that should rest on Johns? I ask because, ultimately, The Flash is editorially mandated and I feel that Johns isn't completely to blame for the direction of the book. I think that partial blame should rest on the shoulders of the editors as well.

What are your thoughts about that?
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