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John Byrne
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Joined: 11 May 2005
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Posted: 29 March 2007 at 8:47am | IP Logged | 1  

This morning I was clicking thru some of the commission pieces in the Gallery -- a little exercise I occasionally perform to "psyche" myself up for the next commission -- and I paused on the one with Spider-Woman, Ms Marvel, Tigra and She-Hulk. It got me thinking about the oft invoke sanctity of "author's intent".

Now, me, I am a big fan of "author's intent", and I think that whenever possible writers coming to characters after the creator has departed should keep in their minds what that creator meant the characters to be. Likewise stories. Little is served by digging into some old story and turning it inside out. "Everything you know is a lie" is a solid approach, but only if used sparingly.

Anyway -- where my mind ended up drifting as I looked at this particular commission piece was back to the days when Ms Marvel was only a glint in Stan Lee's eye -- and the character was intended to be Jean Grey! (Logical, right? Marvel Girl becomes Ms Marvel.) Thoughts about resurrecting the X-Men's title put the kibosh on Jean getting her own book, but her presence in UNCANNY X-MEN leads to another divergance. Roger Stern has told the story of interviewing Chris Claremont back when he was the new kid on the block who had only just picked up the X-Men assignment. Roger remembers having to correct Chris from time to time, as he spoke of his plans for the characters and kept mixing up Jean and Lorna.

Elsewhere, Madrox, the Multiple Man was originally going to be called Xerox, until Marvel's lawyers decided the name had not become quite that generic. Frank Miller, in BATMAN: YEAR ONE, was setting up a gag in which Jim Gordon waxed rhapsodic about his unborn "son", the punchline being the birth of Barbara -- until someone up at DC did the math, and noted this would mean Barbara was younger than Dick Grayson! This is how Barbara suddenly ended up being "adopted".

It's stories like this that make me chuckle when some fans get just a wee bit too intense about the "creator's intent" -- like the ones who wrote in to ask if MAN OF STEEL was "what Seigel and Shuster intended". So much of what we "intend" never gets anywhere near the printed page.

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Flavio Sapha
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Posted: 29 March 2007 at 9:28am | IP Logged | 2  

Random thoughts:

- "Marvel Girl" always sounded "off" to me.  Perhaps because in Portuguese itīs translated as "maravilha", same as "wonder"...with WW and Wonder Girl already established, it gives Jean an aura of redundancy (in fact she ended up being called Garota Marvel in Brazil...what, sheīs related to the Captain?).  BTW, "Wonder Man" sounds terrible to me, as if he were intended to be WWīs male counterpart. 

- In Italy they had RANXEROX, the junkie android, drawn by Liberatore. Recommended for cyberpunk fans (or comics readers who donīt mind drug scenes and mild porn).  Xerox did sue. 

- Talk about a big disappointment.  The birth of Gordonīs male baby was very anti-climatic.  The one weak point of Year One. 
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John Byrne
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Posted: 29 March 2007 at 10:42am | IP Logged | 3  

The "baby goof" underscored something I found very significant with DC and their fans. One of the most repeated phrases I heard when I did MAN OF STEEL was "That's not right!" (or, more often "That's wrong!"), yet I heard almost none of such comments about YEAR ONE or DARK KNIGHT. Frank changed origins, changed character relationsips, changed chronologies -- and except for the baby, no one said "That's wrong!"

It struck me as odd that Batman, who was the "cool" character, seemed to have attracted fans who were far less anal (or far less informed) than Superman's fans.

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Patrick T Ditton
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Posted: 29 March 2007 at 10:42am | IP Logged | 4  

...Wolverine being a psycho / loner
...Batman being a detective

intent like that?

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John Byrne
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Posted: 29 March 2007 at 10:52am | IP Logged | 5  

Wolverine is a good example.

Len intended him to be 18, the claws in the gloves.
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Patrick T Ditton
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Posted: 29 March 2007 at 10:57am | IP Logged | 6  

Len intended him to be 18, the claws in the gloves.

*************

From the READER'S viewpoint - we were never told this, were we?  Was this just "writer's intent" scribbled somewhere for the "creators" at Marvel?

Similary with Marvel Girl, Madrox, etc.?  How are WE the fan supposed to know what the true (initial) intent was in some cases?




(edited for spelling)


Edited by Patrick T Ditton on 29 March 2007 at 10:58am
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Greg Reeves
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Posted: 29 March 2007 at 11:12am | IP Logged | 7  

It seems that the more I find out about how a character was originally intended, I find myself glad that they turned out the way they did.  Some of the original ideas for Star Wars characters are horrid IMO.  I can't imagine (or simply don't like) the sound of Wolverine as an 18 year old with costume claws.
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John Mietus
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Posted: 29 March 2007 at 11:15am | IP Logged | 8  

 John Byrne wrote:
[Y]et I heard almost none of such comments about YEAR
ONE or DARK KNIGHT. Frank changed origins, changed character
relationsips, changed chronologies -- and except for the baby, no one said
"That's wrong!"


You weren't listening in my direction, then.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 29 March 2007 at 11:23am | IP Logged | 9  

It struck me as odd that Batman, who was the "cool" character, seemed to have attracted fans who were far less anal (or far less informed) than Superman's fans.

++++++++++++

My theory behind that is that the Superman mythology had been fairly consistent since the Weisinger days. All of those elements were pretty much ingrained in people's heads (Jor-El with the headband and the sun on his shirt, the super-pets, and so on). Thus, when Man of Steel rebooted the character (and swept away many of those old barnacles), people were unaccustomed to the revised mythology.

Batman, on the other hand, had gone though some radical reinterpretations over the past few decades. The character went from the look and style of the "goofy" era of the 50s, to the "New Look" 60s, to the O'Neil/Adams "Darknight Detective" in the 70s, to the Marshall Rogers/Jim Aparo era in the late 70s and early 80s.

I think the amount of flux that had been in the Batman books for the past 30 or so years made fans of the character more open to change and different interpretations.

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Glenn Greenberg
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Posted: 29 March 2007 at 11:24am | IP Logged | 10  

<<You weren't listening in my direction, then.>>


Or mine!
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Jacob Reyn
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Posted: 29 March 2007 at 11:26am | IP Logged | 11  

Without the wonderful arbitrarily coincidental changes that our majestic universe has bestowed upon the creation and changes to the comic magazine characters of our time, I don't think we would have become so lucky as to gain the heroes we have now.
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Ron Farrell
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Posted: 29 March 2007 at 11:27am | IP Logged | 12  

Or mine.

I was far more accepting of MOS than YEAR ONE.

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Michael Roberts
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Posted: 29 March 2007 at 11:28am | IP Logged | 13  

From the READER'S viewpoint - we were never told this, were we?  Was this just "writer's intent" scribbled somewhere for the "creators" at Marvel?

Similary with Marvel Girl, Madrox, etc.?  How are WE the fan supposed to know what the true (initial) intent was in some cases?

---

I thought that was the point of the original point.
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Bruce Buchanan
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Posted: 29 March 2007 at 11:31am | IP Logged | 14  

It also goes to show that what we, the readers, think of as "Creator intent" often is the result of a broadly collaborative process involving not just writers and artists, but editors, publishers, senior management, even marketing and sales staff.
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Juan Jose Colin Arciniega
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Posted: 29 March 2007 at 1:06pm | IP Logged | 15  

I don't think that Mr. Byrne's intentions for Magpie were for every writer to kill her whenever they took a book with Batman on it!
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James Hanson
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Posted: 29 March 2007 at 1:50pm | IP Logged | 16  

This industry seems to have a history of being unconcerned with author's intent-- from the constantly changing histories of Batman/Superman, to the reimagining of the Flash, Hawkman, GL that launched the silver age, to the reboots of the 80's, and now the current Civil War/Spider-Totem/Crisis #9876043.

Readers just seem to pick whichever version of a character they like best and act as if it's the "true" version of the character. Fans who screamed "foul!" over Byrne's Superman relaunch b/c it didn't match the silver age didn't seem too concerned that Superman had stopped being the political crusader strip that Siegal and Shuster drew in the late 30's.

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Ed Love
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Posted: 29 March 2007 at 2:21pm | IP Logged | 17  

When I think of author's intent, I think of it as keeping true to the spirit of
the character, a story you could pretty much see the creators writing if
they were creating the character today. Thus Man Of Steel and Year One
both work for me as in both cases the characters were updated but still in
the spirit of how they were intended (which is why I don't like THE DARK
KNIGHT RETURNS). Moore's Swamp Thing "Anatomy Lesson" was half and
half, it kept the character a horror character, darkening it and amping up
the horror aspects. But, on the other hand he changed the nature of the
character from a science fiction character to a supernatural one and the
basic man trapped in a monstrous body motif. I miss the old Swamp
Thing with more mudpacked body. It'd be nice to see a writer decide to
stop trying to emulate Moore and return the character back to his original
roots. But I look at the current Big Two, and I see little of MoS or Year One
in their approaches, but instead seem to go out of their way to trash
previous versions of namesakes or writing the characters as if the original
creators got them wrong. Instead of just simply telling stories starring
Aquaman or Captain Marvel, each writer sets out to "fix" them.
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Martin Redmond
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Posted: 29 March 2007 at 5:29pm | IP Logged | 18  

I think characters should remain true to type. It bugs me reading an introverted character turn extraverted for no real reason. Some characters should be more chatty than some and so on. That's the stuff I care about.
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Ray Brady
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Posted: 29 March 2007 at 5:51pm | IP Logged | 19  

I feel obliged to point out that Wolverine's claws were definitively stated to
be part of his gloves in an issue of the Mighty Marvel Fun Book. For my
money, this is the only reference material that counts as canon.
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Stephen Robinson
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Posted: 29 March 2007 at 6:11pm | IP Logged | 20  

It struck me as odd that Batman, who was the "cool" character, seemed to have attracted fans who were far less anal (or far less informed) than Superman's fans.

++++++++++++

My theory behind that is that the Superman mythology had been fairly consistent since the Weisinger days. All of those elements were pretty much ingrained in people's heads (Jor-El with the headband and the sun on his shirt, the super-pets, and so on). Thus, when Man of Steel rebooted the character (and swept away many of those old barnacles), people were unaccustomed to the revised mythology.

**************

SER: These are good points. One thing I've noticed is that most of the creators at DC are apparently Silver Age junkies -- that's why we wind up with Kara Zor-El Supergirl and Kandor and the Fortress of Solitude and so on. I know there was some demand among fans for the restoration of the Barbara Gordon Batgirl but it paled to the demand for the Kara Zor-El Supergirl.

For many of these creators, Frank Miller provided the "backstory" Batman.

Tangentially, it's interesting to compare BATMAN BEGINS and SUPERMAN RETURNS. The former is heavily influenced by the Batman comics post-Miller (YEAR ONE, LONG HALLOWEEN, which itself was greatly influenced by Miller's work). SUPERMAN RETURNS, meanwhile, was mostly inspired by a thirty-year-old movie. It took very little from the post-Byrne SUPERMAN (JB's version of Clark Kent and Lex Luthor, for example).

SMALLVILLE, also, is very Silver Age in some ways.

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Andrew Bitner
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Posted: 29 March 2007 at 7:21pm | IP Logged | 21  

Author's intent is a useful thing but I think that there are instances where a creation evolves into something better under a different writer, artist or both. She-Hulk would be my prime example; the original character, in her "Savage" incarnation, was pretty limited. It was only when Roger Stern and then JB picked her up and did new things with Jennifer Walters that she became more than a Hulk knockoff.

Of course, there are many, many counter-examples, where creators ignore what is fundamental to a character...

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Brad Hague
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Posted: 29 March 2007 at 7:24pm | IP Logged | 22  

The sad thing with Superman now is which so many recons, reboots, movies, TV shows, Crises, different Earths, etc....  How much can one REALLY care about a definitive background for Kal-el?  You just have to take him as he is now and not think too much about his origin.
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Brad Hague
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Posted: 29 March 2007 at 7:25pm | IP Logged | 23  

To get back to the original thought of the thread... I wonder sometimes if Stan Lee even HAD an original intent for some of his characters other than to simply be interesting.
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Brian Hague
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Posted: 29 March 2007 at 7:25pm | IP Logged | 24  

Isn't there a reference to Wolverine being "different" from the other X-Men when they're captured in issue 98 or thereabouts? For a time there was talk of him being one of the High Evolutionary's New Men, wasn't there? Later, Archie Goodwin used a variation of the New Man in human form idea for his creation of Spider-Woman, which was then undercut and rewritten by Marv Wolfman to make her more palatable to the general audience.
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Jeff Kraschinski
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Posted: 29 March 2007 at 7:35pm | IP Logged | 25  

 Stephen Robinson wrote:
SER: These are good points. One thing I've noticed is that most of the creators at DC are apparently Silver Age junkies -- that's why we wind up with Kara Zor-El Supergirl and Kandor and the Fortress of Solitude and so on. I know there was some demand among fans for the restoration of the Barbara Gordon Batgirl but it paled to the demand for the Kara Zor-El Supergirl.

This is likely due to Kara getting killed off in Crisis #7 (instead of writers figuring out how to write her without being a Superman in drag) versus Barbara "merely" getting shot and crippled by the Joker.

Her new incarnation as Oracle is an interesting and empowered heroine despite her paraplegia, unlike Kara being turned into stellar worm-food.

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