Even When I’m Wrong, I’m Right

Say whatever else you want about me but I’m more than happy to admit when I’m wrong. In last week’s column while commenting about the upcoming “Archie Goes NASCAR” storyline I wrote that it was Betty Cooper “who as far as I know has previously never shown any interest in motor vehicles” that was going to be behind the wheel, not Archie.

Joseph West was good enough to write in to let me know otherwise. “For the record, Betty has long been shown as having an interest in cars,” he wrote. “There’ve been many stories over the decades showing her car repair expertise.” He then cited numerous examples from the comics to prove it.

But I’m just as happy to crow when I’m right. In my February 10, 2006 column about the then white hot zombie fad I predicted that within five years there’d be a TV series about zombies. I thought for sure it would probably be on one of the premium channels but it was CBS that just announced it was picking up a series called Babylon Fields, “a zombie-themed hour” described as being a “sardonic, apocalyptic American comedy-drama where the dead are rising and as a result, lives are regained, families restored and old wounds reopened”.

Translation: these zombies will be more interested in finding emotional closure than consuming human brains. Basically this sounds like a cross between two other CBS shows, Ghost Whisperer and Jericho, but still a bit edgy for prime-time Network TV.

I took note of the cancellation of The Boys from DC; a series I appreciated, if not exactly enjoyed, which sold well at Dark Star so I’m hoping it’ll be able to find another publisher quickly. On the other hand, it’s nice knowing there is an outermost marker buoy when it comes to “adult” depictions of super-heroes.

Apparently last weeks Civil War: The Return cheesed lots of people off (there were genuine cries of “worst comic ever” heard over on the Newsarama boards).

Now me, I’ve always liked the Marvel Captain Marvel, from the original green uniform with Saturn chest insignia (it’s a singularly cool look; if Mar-Vell’s not using it somebody else really should) to the blonde, cosmic incarnation. But could there possibly be something else behind his sudden return?

Maybe it’s just nostalgia. I wish I could take credit for this but it took store manager Tad Cleveland to point out to me that Captain Marvel was one of the last Marvel characters from the 70s to be revived. I mean, we already have Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Ghost Rider, The Punisher and Spider-Woman in prominent positions in the Marvel Universe; it would look kind of silly if Ms. Marvel enjoyed a revival and the male character she’s a knock-off of didn’t.

I’m sure there are those out there who feel otherwise but as someone who was there I can tell you none of these characters were particularly well thought of at the time (not by super-hero fans anyway). They were thought of as being just echoes of trends currently the rage in popular culture, from martial arts to horror to “Blacksploitation” movies to vigilantes sick of a soft on crime society to (heaven help me) “women’s lib.” Marvel came up with these characters in the first place because traditional super-heroes weren’t selling…and the publisher was desperate enough to try anything (even incredible long shots like Star Wars and Conan the Barbarian).

But the really interesting thing (to me) about the whole thing is that this couldn’t happen today. The direct sales market is so hermetically sealed and devoted to superheroes nothing from the outside world could enter it without alienating the bread and butter readership. There are plenty of recent examples of Marvel failing to launch concepts that could have been a success…in any market other than ours, like the tween-skewing Teen Machine or Spellbinders. The closest they’ve come is Marvel Zombies…though the prospects for Dark Tower are looking pretty good.

Speaking of Dark Tower, Dark Star Books in Yellow Springs, Ohio is one of the nearly 150 stores signed up to be part of the first-ever midnight release of The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born #1on Tuesday, February 6. Our usual closing time on Tuesdays is 7PM but we’ll be staying open until 12:01 AM (and then some) and will offer our customers prizes, surprises, refreshments, etc. I’ll be sure to tell you all about it next week.

My point? The next time super-heroes stop selling what are publishers like Marvel and DC going to do…publish more super-hero comics? It would be nice if they had something else to fall back on.

Like..? Apropos of nothing, I hereby declare DC should publish All Star Detective Chimp with Rex the Wonder Dog, to be written by Bob Burden and drawn by Art Adams. The all-ages, always done-in-one stories would focus on the talking animals as they cross the country in their Winnebago solving crimes; and since I’m dreaming, an animated series based on it would immediately follow.