Hindsight may be 20/20, but nostalgia is blind!

If you’re here for the Brotherhood of Dada, I got started on them this morning, and there will certainly be more tomorrow, but right now I wanted to say a few words about this Cooke-Millar tomfoolery (link via Graeme McMillan).

Now, let me preface this by saying that I have never read anything by Millar or Cooke (and, on a related note, I’ve added a “donations” button somewhere down there beneath the blogroll–I don’t expect people to fill the Fiore coffers, but I can promise that, if anything actually does accumulate there, I will certainly use the proceeds to begin catching up on what I’ve missed in the past 12 years or so! And it goes without saying that I would be extremely grateful to anyone who has the inclination and the wherewithal to help out in this way…)

Anyway, let’s just be clear on this one–I’m not talking about New Frontier or Ultimates, I’m talking about this:

Why are we doing it? And I don’t need the stock answer that there’s some books for kids and some for adults. Why does this group of Adults need this at all? Why haven’t they turned to other genres for more adult content? This is not even an issue aimed at creators. More the general audience we sell to. You guys love to buy this stuff. It sells like crazy.

and this (courtesy of Christopher Butcher):

Darwyn’s work, and most of you are missing the point by comparing it to Millar’s, at all times respects the aims of the original creations (and not in a “John Byrne’s interpretation of the creator’s wishes” kind of way either, they really aren’t the same). DC NEW FRONTIER is a “mature book”, yeah, but there’s also no mature-readers label on it either. Any kid could pick it up (just like any kid in the 50’s and 60’s could pick up any book DC published) and read it and get a rollicking adventure story and that was Darwyn’s intention from the start. There are deeper themes there, but they’re all subtext. This means that, much like a good piece of crossover fiction, a book can be mature and intelligent without a big CONTENT ADVISORY STICKER on the front. And if it HAS to have that sticker, why does it HAVE to use children’s characters to do so?

It just comes down to respect, respect for the artists and authors who created a work, and for their rights and their artistic intentions. You wanna be the big transgressive bad boy who goes around vomitting on classical paintings, fine, but don’t try and play both sides of the fence. Don’t pretend that you’re doing something noble or unique. You’re the guy who goes around vomitting on other people’s work, period.

Respect? No. I’m sorry. Respect and art should have nothing to do with one another. This is more of that Seth/ADD “lost innocence of the silver age” stuff, and it’s no good man. Jeff Parker has this syndrome too. Ditto Kurt Busiek and Mark Waid. (we won’t even discuss John Byrne) The early Marvels were profoundly unsettling in their time, and that’s the legacy I’m interested in. Now, Mark Millar’s work sounds pretty boring too, but mainly because he’s “deconstructing” a straw man (and here I’m mainly proceding upon the evidence of Geoff Klock’s critical writings, not the works themselves, so maybe there’s more to this Ellis/Millar stuff than I’m aware of–who knows?)… I certainly don’t care if anyone “disrespects” the creators/characters/genre requirements of the past–in fact, I encourage it! If Lee/Ditko had adhered to Darwyn Cooke’s philosophy would we have gotten Spider-Man or Doctor Strange? No way. I like Sean Collins’ post on this subject–although, personally, I would prefer to dismiss the whole Cooke vs. Millar debate. This is not an either/or scenario–Grant Morrison (like Mark Gruenwald before him) found a way to follow in the innovative tradition of the silver age Marvels without succumbing to Alex Ross-style reverence (I’m the guy who compared Ross to Leni Riefenstahl remember? And look, I just did it again!) or mindless iconoclasm.

Okay–enough punditry!

Good Night friends!



  1. I can only laugh when people start saying stuff like this… I think the real problem is that everybody (well, almost everybody) has indeed turned into “Millar v. Cooke,” which turns the issue from a larger question about the “right” way to do superhero comics based on established characters, into “Who does it more ‘right,’ Millar or Cooke?” (Of course, Cooke himself sort of did this by talking about The Ultimates specifically.) Since Cooke and Millar seem to be on the opposite extremes of an artificial binary opposition, the whole debate becomes about those two extremes, and you end up with Sean’s charcterization of Cooke as the “Fanboy who Can’t Let Go Of His Childhood Characters” on one end and Chris’s charcterization of Millar as “Fanboy who Can’t Let Go Of His Childhood Characters But Needs to Corrupt Them” on the other. When you look at it that way, both sides of the debate look pretty unappealing to me. But we’re missing the other artists, the Morrisons and the Gruenwalds, I suppose, whose revisionist works neither offer slavish respect nor “vomit” on their sources.

    Steven Berg

  2. And for all I know, Darwyn Cooke isn’t really the slave of “respect” he’s made to sound like — I’ve not read anything he’s written, so I wouldn’t know. I’ve read enough Millar to guess Chris’s epithet “the vomiting guy” is pretty accurate, if a bit over the top.

  3. Agreed Steven–Cooke’s actual work might be wonderful (I’m sure he’s not an Alex Ross!)–but his rhetoric is awfully lame. And Millar’s position doesn’t sound any better. Is it possible that Grant Morrison is the only living writer who remains blissfully unaware of this counterproductive binary? Roger Stern, Roy Thomas, and Gerry Conway (along with pre-nutzo Byrne) have all successfully avoided this particular Scylla-and-Charybdis in the past–but not lately… What about Bendis? (haven’t read him either)


  4. Bendis might get lumped in the “Millar” crowd because he wrote Alias, the Official Marvel Book of Saying “Fuck” a Whole Lot. But his work seems far from the “mindless iconoclasm” of Millar. I think I’d give credit also to Peter Milligan and Mike Allred with X-Statix, despite that book’s inaccurate (but probably very clever on Marvel’s part) marketing as the superhero comic for people who hate superheroes. I can’t think of any others, although that’s probably more a matter of my (willfull) ignorance of most currently published superhero series.

  5. “If Lee/Ditko had adhered to Darwyn Cooke’s philosophy would we have gotten Spider-Man or Doctor Strange? No way.”

    If I could offer a rebuttal: Spider-Man and Doctor Strange were not ‘unsettling’ re-creations of new characters Dave. Stan, Steve, and Jack (depending on who you listen to) Wanted to do something unsettling and Created a new character or two to do so. Darwyn is all about The Authority or whatever, ‘unsettling’ new heroes doing great big new things and setting new standards. New creations, new works for adults. Not dumbing-down and X-TRIZ3MME3E-ing children’s characters…

    There’s a clear difference there isn’t there?

    – Christopher

  6. Christoher,

    I just don’t see the difference between creating new characters and using established ones–what I want are interesting new stories. Characters are tools that help a writer & artist tell a story–that’s it!


  7. Cooke’s New Frontier is pretty rockin’ homage-y stuff. Highly entertaining.

    Does it matter to me, the reader, whether, in New Frontier, Cooke’s being “respectful” of the intent of the original artists? No, not really. I care about the quality of the final work, not about the intent of the creative team. (Or, as–was it Napoleon? Disraeli?–said, “I don’t think it matters to me whether my cook hates me or not.”)

    For that matter, who knows what the intent of the original writers and artists was? Never mind what they said later about their work; do we know for sure that they particularly cared about Spider-Man or Superman beyond the paycheck their work brought in? Do we know for sure that they cared about the character more than the quality of the work?

    I’m curious. When musicians do covers, do these questions come up? As far as I can tell, in literature, when the equivalent of a cover is done, the question of the original creator’s intent is raised, but is not privileged beyond the intent of the cover artist. I’m thinking, for example, of Alice Randall’s THE WIND DONE GONE, her retelling of GONE WITH THE WIND from the perspective of a slave at Tara. There was the predictable shrieking and geshrying over the revisionism (a word I don’t use pejoratively), and some people were offended at her viewpoints, but as far as I remember no one questioned her right to do this retelling on the grounds that it was disloyal to Margaret Mitchell’s intent.

    I hope, if superhero comics last another century, something I doubt, that we will have gotten beyond this by then.

    Jess Nevins

  8. The Gone With the Wind analogy is interesting….that was a case essentially based on, if I remember right, copyright/trademark. In other words, Mitchell owned the characters, and had the authority to protect them.

    But of course historically copyright has recognized that eventually we should stop caring about the creator of a piece of work; the work goes free into the wild, for use by all. Anyone can use Don Quixote, or Rose Red, or Lady Macbeth in any way they choose, in any medium they choose. And no one should care if this is use inconsistent with how Cervantes or the Brothers Grimm or Shakespear conceived of their characters. Is this wrong? And if not, why should comics be any different? I can’t see any reason why. Of course, being able to play with existing characters doesn’t mean that results of this play will be good or useful or interesting. In any event, sign me up for the good stories, built out of whatever materials are best.


  9. No, intellectual property issues was the -legal- axe they used against Alice Randall, and actually they were successful (IIRC) against her not on the basis that Mitchell’s estate owned the characters but rather that Randall took too much of the text of GWTW. It wasn’t about whether Randall had the right to make use of the characters for different purposes than Mitchell would have liked; Mitchell, that racist harridan, wouldn’t have liked anything to do with Randall. It was only that Randall was clumsy in making use of Mitchell’s original text.


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