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Topic: Q For Mr Byrne: De-Uniquing’s Legacy Post ReplyPost New Topic
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John Byrne
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Posted: 12 June 2018 at 8:00pm | IP Logged | 1 post reply

Just throwing a radical idea out there, I am thinking some might think it is not great. When the Spider-Man Clone Saga in the 1990s was in full swing, I thought it would have been interesting if Peter Parker died (for real) and Ben Reilly took over as the real Spider-Man. Kind of like Golden-age Green Lantern vs. Silver-Age Green Lantern (one ended and the other begins). I was OK with Wolverine dying and replaced with X-23. Wolverine had 4 decades of stories, which is a lot (just don't bring him back.)

If you think 4 decades of stories is a lot, it's a cue for you to stop reading, not a cue to change the character(s).

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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 13 June 2018 at 5:55am | IP Logged | 2 post reply

Thinking about the illusion of change, I like older stories where it appears someone has taken on the mantle of a hero, e.g. one of those classic covers where the character throws away his costume or someone else becomes Superman or whatever. 

All reset by the end of the tale, of course!
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Andrew Bitner
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Posted: 13 June 2018 at 6:40am | IP Logged | 3 post reply

Many "legacy" stories end up being about why the original, be it Bruce Wayne, Steve Rogers, or Peter Parker, is the best.

When Batman's back was broken, Jean-Paul Valley (Azrael) was the murderous AzBat--a nod to something many fans said they wanted. DC showed them why that was a real bad idea. Jim Gordon as RoboBat likewise. Dick Grayson has stepped up to be Batman, and he was actually pretty good, with an interesting rapport with the new Robin--but it wasn't going to last.

Steve Rogers was replaced by more than one guy, but one of the better known is probably John Walker (aka USAgent). He was also a meaner and more violent version of Cap, again showing why Rogers IS Captain America. (Sorry if you're a fan of FalCap or BuckyCap.)

And Peter Parker... well, I like Miles, but he won't replace Peter as my favorite Spider-Man. He's a good character, spinning off from Peter's legacy, but he ain't THE Spider-Man.

Long winded way of saying, some legacy characters exist only to show why the one who wore those colors first wore them best.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 13 June 2018 at 6:53am | IP Logged | 4 post reply

When Batman's back was broken, Jean-Paul Valley (Azrael) was the murderous AzBat--a nod to something many fans said they wanted. DC showed them why that was a real bad idea. Jim Gordon as RoboBat likewise. Dick Grayson has stepped up to be Batman, and he was actually pretty good, with an interesting rapport with the new Robin--but it wasn't going to last.

When Bruce Jr stepped into the role in GENERATIONS, I deliberately turned him into an unlikable character -- and got quite a few complaints from readers who did not like the "nastier" take on Batman. I was, of course, merely reflecting what was going on in the comics at the equivalent time. My little ploy to underscore that the originals are usually better.

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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 13 June 2018 at 7:14am | IP Logged | 5 post reply

 Andrew Bitner wrote:
Long winded way of saying, some legacy characters exist only to show why the one who wore those colors first wore them best.

A valid point, Mr Bitner!

For me, whilst I agree with that, the problem right now that I have is the fact that many, many decades ago, such a story might have been told over two issues. Or one. Then, around the 90s, we're talking a year or more. Nowadays, it's the same.

Same with anything, really: if "Secret Empire" had been published in the 70s, maybe it'd have been a four-part epic, not whatever it was now (over a year and with many tie-in issues).
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Tom French
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Posted: 13 June 2018 at 11:54am | IP Logged | 6 post reply

Making sure I have this right:

The RED Hulk is the Rage Hulk...
The ORANGE Hulk is the Greedy Hulk...
The YELLOW Hulk is the Fear Hulk
The GREEN Hulk is the Hulk with Will (is Will an emotion?)
The BLUE Hulk is the Hopeful Hulk
The INDIGO Hulk is the Compassionate Hulk
The VIOLET Hulk is the Love Hulk

They all banded together to battle the BLACK Hulk, but were saved by the WHITE Hulk, right...?
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John Byrne
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Posted: 13 June 2018 at 1:23pm | IP Logged | 7 post reply

And the plaid Hulk, who is the accountant for the others.
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Andrew Bitner
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Posted: 13 June 2018 at 1:41pm | IP Logged | 8 post reply

God save us from the wrath of the tie-dye Hulk...
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Andrew Bitner
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Posted: 13 June 2018 at 1:42pm | IP Logged | 9 post reply

And I liked the subtle nod to the "grim and gritty" direction Batman had taken at the time, JB. It's fun to get the subtext in stories like this one. :)
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Andrew Bitner
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Posted: 13 June 2018 at 1:51pm | IP Logged | 10 post reply

Robbie, you're right--a story like Secret Empire would have been a two-fer at most, not a year-long slog that drags Steve Rogers through the mud.

I would be quite happy if some writers wanted to go back to done in one, two or three issues. We have plenty of examples of stories with GIGANTIC impact that were not 12-issues-with-spinoffs. "Days of Future Past" was two issues, albeit with a bit of set up beforehand. "The Galactus Saga" was... two issues? Maybe three?

You can tell the tale of somebody else trying to be the book's central hero but once you get to the point, maybe it's best to get off it and on to the next story.
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Tom French
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Posted: 13 June 2018 at 2:26pm | IP Logged | 11 post reply

So... the PINK Hulk is the gay one, or in honor of the month, RAINBOW Hulk?

Edited by Tom French on 13 June 2018 at 2:26pm
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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 13 June 2018 at 2:58pm | IP Logged | 12 post reply

Less is definitely more, Andrew.

I don't mind something taking longer. A good TV example is the "Court Martial" trilogy in THE A-TEAM. It needed 3 episodes to tell the capture, trial, etc. There is no way they could have done that in a 42-minute episode. No way at all.

Same with Galactus' original story (3 issues). One issue would not have been enough.

Where there is a creative need to tell a longer story in comics, fine. Our host doing the entire MOS arc in one issue would have been impossible. Ditto "The Lazarus Affair" (4 issues) in early 80s Batman. 

But where it may be a marketing tactic, I think it's flawed.

Mr/Mrs Editor walking into a room is fine if it's, "This complex Green Lantern tale, involving many sectors of space, really needs 3 issues to work."

But a marketing mindset (not blaming one editor) of, "Let's drag this story out for 12 months, and a #0 issue, so we can market it as a deluxe trade!" is one that I am not a fan of.

It's all subjective, of course. Some may have felt the Galactus trilogy was too long; others may feel "Secret Empire" is too short. It's up to the person.

But I read so many great tales from yesteryear. No rose-tinted glasses from me, I promise (some 70s Man-Wolf issues I read were not enjoyable to me) whilst some modern comics are great, e.g. I am enjoying G.I. JOE comics.

However, generally, I like how things were done and dusted in no more than four issues years ago. And they were good. There was that late 60s Cap/Bucky arc (where Cap appeared to die, Rick Jones wore the Bucky outfit/mask, they battled Hydra). It was 3 issues. That was enough. 

One can read and enjoy some of these 3-issue/4-issue arcs. But anything I have to put a catheter in to read (e.g. "Secret Empire"), well I'm just not a fan of that approach.
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Rebecca Jansen
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Posted: 13 June 2018 at 4:27pm | IP Logged | 13 post reply

If de-uniquing includes not having quite so many world's greatest scientists and millionaire playboys and top fashion models and expert ninjas and maths whizzes...than I'm for de-uniquing. Also for comics new readers can follow without a fictional encyclopedia.
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Eric Sofer
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Posted: 13 June 2018 at 4:57pm | IP Logged | 14 post reply

De-uniquing is definitely a thorny bit of business at times. The issue is, it goes back nearly as long as there have been comics. And I'm not sure it was always bad.

There were so many partners and sidekicks that happened so long ago, and they seemed really effective at the time. Robin. Toro .Aqualad. Namorita. Hawkgirl. Mary Marvel. Captain Marvel Jr. The Lieutenant Marvels.

I guess Fawcett's Marvel Family really were the first ones to push the topic... but for the greatest part, there were three super-heroes* in their own books, and while their powers were rather carbon copy, I don't think their characters were as much so. Of course, they were similar, and with a regular team up book, they probably WERE the first de-uniquers.

*Or four, if you want to count Hoppy the Marvel Bunny. DEFINITELY de-unique!

There's one I didn't mention - Captain America. At that time, in the era of new heroes, it was no surprise that there was a surfeit of patriotic heroes. A cross of two genres, if you will - comics and patriotic fervor - shortly thereafter set burning brightly by 12-7. It was inevitable.

The question is... were the original comic book heroes themselves de-unique versions of prior heroes? It's often said that Superman had his origins, in part, in Hugo Danning in Philip Wylie's "Gladiator." Batman is something of an amalgam of, among others, Sherlock Holmes and especially the Shadow. Captain America followed the Shield by ten months. The Flash, and then the Whizzer, seem pretty obviously based on Hermes/Mercury. And so on.

Maybe it was inevitable simply because it was already present, in a manner, with those first comic book characters.
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Sam Houston
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Posted: 13 June 2018 at 5:31pm | IP Logged | 15 post reply

I am ok with some "similar" versions of characters as the personality of the characters add to some definition of "individual". A great example is when John created Frankie Raye/Female Human Torch...similar powers, but different enough and different types of people to justify her existence.
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Sam Houston
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Posted: 13 June 2018 at 5:35pm | IP Logged | 16 post reply

Talk about de-uniquing! I just recently found out about this! Really? Was there a need for this? Yes, create a Revolutionary hero, but like this?



Steven Rogers (Revolutionary War)

Captain Steven Rogers was a Revolutionary soldier who acted as the costumed Captain America of his era. Despite being called "Captain America" by some, the Revolutionary War era Captain Steven Rogers is not recognized as an officially-established Captain America. The position was created by the modern US government through the department of the US Army in World War II, while Captain Rogers acted even before the USA even existed as an independent established country.
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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 13 June 2018 at 5:45pm | IP Logged | 17 post reply

Ah, heroes that were around before other heroes. That's a whole other topic (and a great one at that, Sam!).

I mean, TV did that a lot. The Six Million Dollar Man, eh? Well, wasn't there a bionic man before him? And in the live-action Hulk series, there was a two-parter - "The First" - where there had actually been a Hulk 30 years before Banner's Hulk.

De-unique has become a word here at JBF Central. But what's the word for those who predated the heroes we've come to love?
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Sam Houston
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Posted: 13 June 2018 at 5:58pm | IP Logged | 18 post reply

Thanks Robbie. Perhaps "pre-unique"? ;-)

Years ago I read somewhere (whether it is true or not or has changed, I don't know) that the Green Hornet is a descendant of the Lone Ranger. To me this is ok, because of the different costume identities and such (one had a white horse, the other a black car called "Black Beauty").
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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 13 June 2018 at 6:11pm | IP Logged | 19 post reply

Pre-unique works for me!

Happened with inanimate objects too, most notably vehicles. Was KITT the first special car? Well, no there was KARR...
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Peter Martin
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Posted: 13 June 2018 at 8:13pm | IP Logged | 20 post reply

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Brian Hague
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Posted: 13 June 2018 at 11:36pm | IP Logged | 21 post reply

The term has become a pejorative against DC here on this forum, but as has been pointed out, "more of the same" of what the reader enjoys has been built into the super-heroic formula since day one when the companies put out ashcan issues to establish copyright on variants of their characters to beat the competition to the punch.

That story, "The First Batman" is, believe it or not, not the first "First Batman" story to make it into print, but is a case of the editors re-using an idea from an earlier issue, in this case, one in which Batman discovered a pro boxer who once used a "Batman" identity in the ring. In the update, the costume is worn by Bruce Wayne's father at a costume party, leading to him meeting the mob boss who will one day send Joe Chill to kill him and his wife.

It's worth noting that DC's "families" of characters came late in the game for them compared with Marvel's embracing the idea. Of course, Fawcett's "Marvel Family" with its various Uncles, Lieutenants, and Bunnies was the granddaddy of them all, setting the standard for multiple iterations and enjoying phenomenal sales as a result. Mary, Junior, and the gang were extremely popular back in the day.

While DC had occasional forays into "de-uniqued" (sigh.) versions of their characters, Superboy, who is only Superman himself in a series of non-continuity bound adventures as a boy, is really the only one to stick around from the Golden Age. Green Arrow endured a number of knock-offs such as Miss Arrowette, Green Error, and Xeen Arrow, but none were introduced as recurring characters. 

DC didn't begin bringing in regular "family" style characters and opposite numbers until the mid-Fifties with Batwoman, Bat-Girl, and Bizarro, nearly twenty years after Batman and Superman debuted. Supergirl had a one-issue magical precedent and had a version show up in Superboy before her debut in 1959, but neither was designed to stick around.

Once the Golden Age versions of the characters were established as living on their own separate Earth in 1961, the pattern so often criticized here was set, but still, only the "Big Three" and a handful of others were actually duplicated. Alan Scott is not Hal Jordan, nor is Jay Garrick Barry Allen. As for the other Earths, most of those did not contain doppelgangers. Earth-3, the villainous Earth, did and the magically created and then disposed of Earth-A did. Earths X and S did not. It isn't until Marvel writers came over to DC in the 80's to mock the idea that we started getting funny animal Earths and "Infinite" variations. 

DC books of the 40's, 50's, and 60's had multiple stories in nearly every issue and rarely carried storylines over to the next month. More story ideas were required to fit the formula of DC's books than the later ropey, every month's "to be continued" Marvels. Marvel, however, while requiring less material, happily dove head first into "de-uniquing" their books almost as soon as Lee moved out of the primary writer's position. Roy Thomas created "Counter-Earth" in 1972, a mere ten and a half years into Marvel's existence and populated it with alternative (read "de-uniqued") versions of Reed Richards, Tony Stark, and Victor Von Doom immediately. Thomas also gave us the Squadron Sinister, a group of villains copycatting DC's JLA in 1969. He then copycatted his copycats in 1971 by introducing Earth-S, a parallel world upon which the bad guys' original inspirations, the Squadron Supreme, lived, making the Sinister team duplicates after the fact. Editors have largely been unable to keep them straight since.

Not content with his work to date, Thomas in 1972 created Marvel's own Earth-A upon which Reed Richards became the Thing and Ben Grimm gained a host of different powers. Contrary to what's been written here in the past, Counter-Earth, Earth-S, and Earth-A were not created as one-offs and were immediately brought back time and time again, their characters becoming regular Marvel mainstays in some cases. 

Marvel displayed no reticence in "de-uniquing" its characters early on and continued doing so without restraint afterwards. Spider-Woman debuted in 1977, a mere fifteen years after Spider-Man, in response to Filmation's intent to produce a "Spider-Woman" animated series. Marvel beat them to the punch by fast-tracking the character into an issue of Marvel Spotlight, causing Filmation to call their character "Web-Woman," and even took the fight to them on Saturday mornings by giving Spider-Woman her own animated series. 

She-Hulk came out in 1980, eighteen years after the Hulk, and preceded an onslaught of gamma-powered duplicates that arguably began with the Abomination in 1967. Someone up-thread gave Marvel a "Blue Hulk" idea for nothing. A grand gesture, but unnecessary since Jeph Loeb's daughter and cartoonist Chris Giarusso had a recurring Blue Hulk character already appearing in Marvel Comics humor strips for some time. 

Once "What If" came about in 1977, every issue gave us another parallel universe, populated with de-uniqued straw men, supposedly intended as one-shots, but some were revisited within the series itself, and later the Exiles were created to continuously travel between such worlds constantly. Numbered parallel Earths became a fundamental part of Captain Britian's storyline in 1983 with the debut of the Captain Britian Corps, which is something Marvel would never, ever do, except that they did, quite happily. Since then, we've had Marvel Earths with funny animals and apes. The characters themselves have so many iterations they're tripping over themselves in Ultimate crossovers and Spider-Verses a go-go. Of course, this is all DC's fault somehow.

So... DC, damn them, damn them, damn them a thousand times over, had a few Family style characters and a couple of parallel Earths on which duplicate versions existed in the 1960's. Letter writers of the 70's occasionally bemoaned a Wildcat or Spectre appearance in "Brave and the Bold," but there was never as much confusion as Marvel loyalists would have you believe. It wasn't until Thomas and Wolfman came over from Marvel in the 80's that the number of parallel Earths spun out of control and became ridiculously "Infinite." 

Meanwhile, sainted Marvel, all praise be unto Lee, began minting near-exact duplicates of their characters in long-running, extended storylines more quickly than DC did with theirs, and arguably did so more blatantly and commercially.

But nevertheless, Bad DC. Bad, bad DC. Bad, bad, bad. 

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Brian Hague
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Posted: 13 June 2018 at 11:45pm | IP Logged | 22 post reply

That revolutionary war version of Cap may have created as a tribute to a pin-up Kirby did in his "Captain America's Bicentennial Battles" treasury. He also did pin-ups of Cap as a Western hero and an astronaut.

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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 14 June 2018 at 2:34am | IP Logged | 23 post reply

Well, Brian, I learnt a lot there. So there was another Supergirl first? And a Miss Arrowette? 

I think I am going to be busy with Google later. ;-)


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Andrew Bitner
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Posted: 14 June 2018 at 7:05am | IP Logged | 24 post reply

The thing about "pre-unique" characters is that they are still spinoffs of the original. There wouldn't have been a "first Hulk" if there hadn't been a Hulk. Ditto Batman, et al. It's another form of de-uniquing, to say "oh hey, I wasn't exactly the *first* to be Captain So-and-So..."

First example I can think of is introducing Black Adam as the "first Captain Marvel"--any others predate that one?

And Robbie? I agree about the whole "writing for the trade" mentality forcing writers into doing arcs instead of one-two-three part stories. The industry has leaned into that model, though, knowing they can make more money over a longer period of time with trades than with monthlies.
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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 14 June 2018 at 7:10am | IP Logged | 25 post reply

Yes, you're right. It does make me smile at times. I mean, "We can build the world's first bionic man - but, hang on, we did create one before that." Or, "We've put so much effort into building KITT, but there was this KARR prior to that..."

It can be fun in some respects. 
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