Monday, October 22, 2012

Why They Don't Let Me Write For DC Comics: C.A.P.E.S

I'm not a big fan of DC comics. Come to think of it, that probably answers the title of this post, but let's just ignore that for now.

I mentioned in a previous post that I was always more of a Marvel guy because the world that those characters inhabit seems to be more conducive to stories that are more true to life and easier to relate to. For me, DC's heroes were always more archetypal. By the time I got to them, Superman had already become Superman-esque, Batman just another dark brooding gadgeteer. The fact that these characters originated these archetypes, at least in terms of them being the most popular examples, didn't matter to tiny child me. I wanted interesting stories, not just interesting characters, and with DC, the stories always seemed to take a backseat to the glorification of the character and reinforcement of the themes they represented. By contrast, Marvel characters were always inexorably tied to their storylines. Spiderman without the death of Gwen Stacy or the origin of Venom, or even the Clone Saga, would not be as interesting a character.   

I think this is best illustrated in the distinction between Marvel's What If stories and DC's Elseworlds. Whenever DC tells an alternative story, it places the characters into strange new contexts, "Batman as a Vampire or a Mad Scientist, Superman as a Nazi or a Communist," all ways to show the character in a new light to examine what makes them tick. Marvel's What If series takes the approach of re-examining past stories, "What if Gwen Stacy never died, What if Thor turned evil, etc," seeing how their characters would react to shifts in their narrative. One places what the character is about thematically at the forefront, while the other shakes up the connection between the character and their history. In short, it doesn't matter what stories you tell with Superman or Batman as long as you stay true to what they are and what they represent, while a character like Spiderman changes and grows with the story more like a real person.

Or, sometimes he doesn't, or he does, then makes a deal with the fucking devil to reverse all those changes, because fuck it.

While I don't enjoy the comics as much, I do happen to be a fan of the animated adaptations of DC properties. Between the Timm/Dini/McDuffie DC Animated Universe and the ensuing straight to DVD series, DC seems to take the same pride in constructing a cohesive universe for their characters as Marvel has with their cinematic one. One of the movies I wanted to focus on today is Justice League: DOOM. Evidently (i.e. according to Wikipedia) it's based on a storyline called Tower of Babel that centers around the notion that Batman keeps a file on all of his Justice League teammates describing how to take them out in case they go rogue or fall under mind control. When the team's greatest villains get hold of the information, they proceed to use it against them. It's a great idea and allows for a wide range of character exploration for the entire team, especially in terms of showing how much of Batman's psychological and strategic prowess is based on paranoia. The only thing I would do differently is expand on it. Just having one group of bad guys learn about a few heroes is a good start, but what if it went global? Here's my pitch - Batman dies, publicly, and sets off a chain of event that changes the DC universe forever, for everyone.

It starts on a typical night of patrolling for Batman that leads him to a heist in some well publicized place like a society dinner or the opera (somewhere where Bruce Wayne would be instantly recognized). It's not a supervillain, just some punk who gets a lucky shot in, and Batman is killed. The killer runs off and one of the guests immediately rips off Batman's mask, revealing his identity to the world. The police raid the Batcave, arresting Alfred before he has a chance to erase the computer files, and the forensic team finds a file not just on every Justice League member, but on every superhero in the DC universe, including their secret identity if applicable, and a means to take them down. Forces in the government step in. People in positions of power who have always been inclined to want to wield greater control over the superhero community form a special committee to do just that, but unlike Marvel's recent Civil War arc, they don't need the heroes to come out of the closet, and they know all the weaknesses of the ones who refuse to cooperate.

I was toying with a version of this story for my own comicbook universe, but wasn't sure if I wanted to take things that far with it, even though, as I've mentioned before several times, it doesn't actually exist. The organization formed would have a backronym related to superheroes for it's title. I was thinking C.A.P.E.S., something like Crimefighter Alternate Persona Enforcement Strategies (something like that, but less clunky and awful sounding). The massive crossover event would eventually lead to an ongoing story following the agents who monitor superheroes and work to expand on the database as new heroes emerge everyday. Still, I think it could work with DC, especially with the recent storyline upheaval coinciding with the re-launch. Maybe tack this on as a coda to the previous universe, or even continue the previous universe in a new form post identity revelation.

And if it doesn't work out, one of them can just make a deal with the devil and reverse it all, because fuck it.
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