Monday, November 21, 2005

"Don't Judge It Till You Read It!"

Or: "Brains? Who Uses THOSE Anymore?"

In the realm of debating comics, there are certain stock phrases that come up time and time again. Sometimes they're justified, usually they aren't. But every now and then I find myself faced with a particular, specific argument that's so wrongheaded I'm usually left speechless.

This argument basically amounts to "Wait till Product X comes out before criticizing it." For context's sake, this was most recently brought up in a discussion regarding the upcoming "Planet Hulk" storyline, where someone pointed out it sounds quite similar to a 1970's story wherein Hulk went to Jarella's world and everyone was green. It's pre-PAD, so I don't have direct experience with the parallel, but it's apparently recognizable enough that a lot of people are commenting on it.

The predominant response to this claim has been that people are judging "Planet Hulk" based on some teasers and images, without knowing anything more about the story. That they're presuming to write off the whole thing as Marvel recycling old stories, with no evidence to support such a theory.

Well, you know, except for those times Marvel does recycle old stories. Granted that being a Marvel/DC apologist these days requires a rather massive set of blinkers, but really, no one can get away with claiming neither company digs into the archives on a fairly regular basis. "Infinite Crisis" is a "Crisis on Infinite Earths" retread with some cosmetic changes made to avoid looking like a direct reprint. "House of M" was an inferior "Age of Apocalypse" inversion (and they went and dug up the original story for Akira Yoshida this year, didn't they?). JMS' "Sins Past"? "Decimation" being a wide-scale retread of the Alan Davis Uncanny story with the High Evolutionary, or the Claremont/Windsor-Smith "Lifedeath"?

The point is, you can only autocannibalize your own stories so many times until people start expecting that of you. If Marvel's stuck with being called "The House of Idea" (that's not a typo), they really do have only themselves to blame, because they do nothing to discourage these expectations. Instead of making "Planet Hulk" look distinct on any level, they do the opposite and make sure the only thing the readers know is that it sounds like a 30-year-old story with a new coat of paint on it.