Friday, September 2, 2011


I read my first DC comic book when I was around 5 years old, circa 1974. It was an issue of Batman, whose TV adventures (starring Adam West, of course) I was already watching every day in reruns and loving thoroughly. From then on, I was hooked, and I don’t think a month has gone by where I haven’t brought at least a few new DC titles into my home.

I first saw Star Wars when I was around 8.  I liked it, certainly enough to start collecting the action figures, the toy spaceships, and the earliest novels, and to actually sit through most of The Star Wars Holiday Special. But a few years later, I saw The Empire Strikes Back and I was absolutely blown away. That’s when my love for George Lucas’s creation kicked into overdrive, ultimately spanning decades. I ended up owning every home video release of the saga. The original pan-and-scan VHS box set from the late 1980s—a gift from my parents. The remastered widescreen VHS box set from the early 1990s. The Special Edition VHS box set from the late ’90s. The DVD box set from 2004. And I even bought the prequels on DVD, albeit individually.

But as of August 31, 2011, I’m saying goodbye to both DC Comics and Star Wars, two things that have meant a great deal to me for most of my life. With both, I’ve simply reached the breaking point.

DC’s widely publicized 52-title relaunch is serving as the perfect exit for me. To be honest, I was becoming increasingly disenchanted with their output for quite a while, despite the fact that they publish two of my favorite characters, namely Batman and Superman. I certainly could have dropped all of the books before now, but I hung in there, thinking that a creative turnaround was just around the corner—even though with each passing month, most of the stuff I was reading was just getting more and more disappointing, or confusing, or frustrating, or just plain bad. I say this not only as a longtime reader but also as an industry vet—someone who has written and edited many comic books and whose skills were honed by learning directly from such creative figures as Mark Gruenwald, Tom DeFalco, Roger Stern, J.M. DeMatteis, Ralph Macchio, Tom Brevoort, and Bob Budiansky.

DC’s overly long, egregiously padded, occasionally impenetrable, ultimately empty “event storylines” like Countdown to Final Crisis, Batman R.I.P., Final Crisis, Blackest Night, Brightest Day, War of the Green Lanterns, Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne, and the “New Krypton” saga in the Superman titles left me feeling ripped off—and angry. Angry at the writers, the editors, and DC’s executives for cheating me and every other reader who bought these books in good faith, expecting well constructed, coherent, and complete reading experiences and not getting anything of the sort.

I’m not against reboots or relaunches or whatever you want to call them. I thoroughly enjoyed the 1985 limited series Crisis on Infinite Earths, which gave the DC Comics universe a brand-new start. I absolutely loved John Byrne’s 1986-88 run on Superman, which wiped away decades of continuity and restarted the character from Day One—in fact, the Byrne stuff is what made me a regular Superman reader. And for the most part, I really liked what Frank Miller did in Batman: Year One

But the thing is, the same executives, editors, writers, and artists who have guided DC for the last few years, who have set the overall direction for the company, who are responsible for the “event storylines” and everything else mentioned above, are the very same folks responsible for this relaunch. And from what I’ve seen, the new DC line seems to have pretty much the same approach, the same mentality, as before.

A perfect example is Justice League #1, the first salvo of the relaunch, which hit the stands on August 31. 

I didn’t buy it, but I did read it. And what I found was more of the same—decompressed storytelling designed to drag the story out over a number of issues for eventual collection in hardcover or trade paperback. Which means nothing really happens in the first issue. All you get, essentially, is a teaser. This is supposed to be the Justice League’s first issue, but there’s no Justice League in it. Set in the past, the Justice League doesn’t exist yet when the story begins—which is fine, but the team doesn’t form by the end of the issue, either. Half of the members don’t even show up. It’s all just set-up, with the focus on Batman and Green Lantern meeting for the first time, along with a one-panel appearance by Superman (wearing his new costume—yuck) and a sequence devoted to Cyborg before he became Cyborg. With a cover price of $3.99. (So much for DC’s “Holding the Line at $2.99” promotion.) Maybe the story will turn out to be just dandy, and it will read wonderfully in collected form. But for those readers not waiting for the collected edition, for the ones buying each issue as it hits the stands, when will the story actually kick in? At this rate, it seems like issue #3 would be the earliest. How will all of the theoretical new readers that DC is hoping to pull in react when they realize they’ve plunked down four bucks—again, in good faith—and all they got was a snippet that took them five minutes to read? Is that really going to make them want to come back for more?

Ah well. That’s really DC’s concern, not mine.

On top of all that, I see Batman still being portrayed as an arrogant, anti-social, paranoid, xenophobic asshole—a portrayal that’s always irked me. I see his 10-year-old, born-out-of-wedlock son Damian—a character I didn’t like when he was first introduced and who I still can’t stand—sticking around post-relaunch, still operating as the new Robin. As far as I’m concerned, if anything should have been wiped out with this relaunch, it was Damian. So I’m done with Batman. And I’ve seen and read enough about the relaunched Superman to conclude that it’s not going to be my cup of tea—starting with that new costume.

And if I’m done with Batman and Superman, that means I’m pretty much done with DC as a whole.

As for Star Wars and George Lucas… I was planning to get the entire six-movie (yes, including the prequels) box set on Blu-ray. I’d love to see them with the best picture quality possible, and with kick-ass sound. Not that the DVDs are in any way lousy—they look and sound fine. I was curious about all the extras that the Blu-ray set was going to include, particularly the deleted scenes. But as I was about to hit the “pre-order” button on, I stopped myself and let reason prevail. I had to know what further changes Lucas made to these films before I’d commit to buying them in a new format. Because unless you’ve been living on the remote ice planet Hoth for the last 18 years or so, you know that George Lucas has kept tinkering with the Star Wars movies, changing them. He’s added and/or deleted special effects and sound effects, altered dialogue, re-edited scenes, adjusted the sound mixes and the colors of the lightsabers, and even shoehorned in characters and actors who weren’t there originally.

I put up with all of these changes, though some bothered me more than others. (It’s not just that Han shot first—it’s that Greedo didn’t shoot at all! I didn’t mind Lucas replacing the original Emperor with actor Ian McDiarmid in The Empire Strikes Back, as it provides consistency with Return of the Jedi and the prequels—but why did he have to change the dialogue? It didn’t add anything and was actually more clunky than before. And adding a scream to Luke in Empire after he let himself fall off the walkway to escape from Vader was absolutely ridiculous. Luke made a calm, cool, collected, conscious decision to fall away. He purposely chose possible death over joining Vader. So why the hell would he scream in terror as he plummeted? Fortunately, Lucas removed that particular tweak when he released the films on DVD.)

I was dreading what further changes had been made for the Blu-ray release—and I was right to do so. The news broke on August 31 that there were indeed more alterations to the films, and they had leaked on to the Internet.

I’d known for years that Lucas was going to replace the Yoda puppet in The Phantom Menace with a CGI version that would match what he looked like in the other prequels. I didn’t mind that—the puppet in Phantom Menace didn’t look good and wouldn’t be missed.

But that wasn’t enough for ol’ George. In Star Wars, when the Tusken Raiders are ransacking Luke’s landspeeder, Ben Kenobi scares them off by making the sound of some local creature that they apparently fear. Lucas has changed this sound several times, and each change is worse than the one before it. Which makes this latest one the worst of all. Seriously, it sounds like Sean Hayes from Will and Grace getting a reach-around while someone parks a car up his rectum.

Lucas also added CGI to the Ewoks’ eyes in Return of the Jedi, so that you can see them blink now. Not a deal-breaker for me, since I kind of zone out whenever the Ewoks are onscreen anyway.

But then he really crossed the line. He completely ruined one of the most important moments in the entire series—certainly the most important moment in Return of the Jedi. The Emperor is blasting Luke with Force lightning. Luke can’t defend himself. He calls out to Vader, “Father, please! Help me!” In the original version of the film, and in every single version up until now, Vader stands there watching and remaining totally silent and mysterious, his thoughts and feelings unknown. It’s a tense, suspenseful, even nerve-wracking sequence. You don’t know what Vader is going to do until he actually does it. Well, here’s the new version of the scene: 

What the hell?!? Talk about killing a moment. Talk about sapping a scene of its power, suspense, and tension. Talk about giving away what’s about to happen. How in the name of all that’s holy could this change be considered an improvement?

It’s funny: I was afraid that it would be further changes to The Empire Strikes Back—one of my all-time favorite films—that would keep me from getting the Blu-ray set. I wasn’t really worried about Return of the Jedi. I figured the odds were that any more changes to that film would be an improvement. So naturally, Lucas zeroes in on the most effective, most important, most powerful moment, the one that needed no change whatsoever, and he pisses right on it. It took this to make me finally accept that George Lucas’s talents, his taste, and his judgment as a creative force are long gone.

Lucas says these are his movies and he can do whatever he wants with them—and he’s absolutely right. But I don’t have to support it. And from this point on, I won’t. 

On one message board, someone responded to the news about the Star Wars Blu-rays by writing, “I wish George Lucas would just die already so that this will stop.”

To paraphrase a line from Chris Rock, I don’t approve of that sentiment—but I understand it.

So yeah, I’ve reached the point where I’ve decided to let these two particular ships sail on without me. But with a sense of genuine gratitude and fondness, because for a good long time, the voyages were wonderful indeed.

UPDATE: I just wanted to mention that I've now read FLASHPOINT #5, the pivotal issue that sets up the "new" DC Universe. It certainly wasn't perfect, but I have to say that the last few pages alone were worth the cover price. Extremely touching and expertly executed. Kudos to writer Geoff Johns and artist Andy Kubert. It's not enough to keep me coming back, but it's a very nice way to close out my time as a regular DC reader—with a smile instead of an angry grimace. 

© All content copyright Glenn Greenberg, 2011.


  1. Lucas' judment as a creative force left him in 1983 when he introduced the Ewoks and it never came back.

    As for the new DC--- aren't most of the people responsible for this revamp the same people that led Marvel to the heights of "greatness" it reached in the early 1990s? ;)

  2. Glenn, I agree with every single word posted here, so no comments from me this time. However, I will note that I officially gave up on Star Wars almost exactly two years ago:

  3. Well said Glenn. You provided solid reasons that clarified your decision to part ways with the franchises you have loved. The DC relaunch brings to mind the expression, "Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic". I worked on "Heroes Reborn" what a pile of poo that was... It appears that people have NOT learned from mistakes in the past.

    Mike Rockwitz

  4. This may seem like an oversimplification but it seems to me that both franchises have lost something very basic: Charm.

    Timothy Tuohy

  5. The first comic book I ever bought (and still own!)was Justice League of America #6--"The Wheel of Misfortune!" There was a team in it. There were ideas in it. There was even a story in it! I became a die-hard fan. I went back and read the earlier issues, including the very first one, Brave and the Bold #28, in which the JLA first appeared--as a team. I eagerly read the JLA's origin story a few issues later, I think issue #9. I kept buying JLA for several more years after that.
    More recently… I haven't bought a comic book in years. But the combination of JLA nostalgia and my admiration of Jim Lee's art persuaded me to buy this new Justice League #1. I thought that with the relaunch, DC would use the opportunity to set things aright, to create stories that sparked the imagination while allowing new readers to jump on at any time. Sadly, this is not the case. Glenn, everything you said I agree with. The new issue was just more of the same--a bunch of pretty pin-up shots strung together by the barest of narrative. No team. No ideas. No story. A lot of pages of characters sniping at each other. If this issue sets the template for the new DC, it seems to me that DC is setting itself up to repeat the mistakes of the last few decades--dragged out, impenetrable storylines that, instead of inviting readers in, especially younger readers, only serve to exclude them. Pricey books in which hardly anything really happens. I thought this relaunch was a reaction to flagging sales, an effort to make DC more reader-friendly. Based on this issue, I'd say so far it looks only like a marketing gimmick to boost sales short-term. Maybe that's all any comic book company can hope to do these days. But hey, at least the book's got pretty art (it got me to buy it!).

  6. Wow...

    this is definitely the most compelling blog post I've read from you in a while. I feel like a part of me is dying. I've been with you on the Star Wars journey for most of our lives and I never thought I'd see this day!

    I do agree with you, and I haven/t supported any of Lucas' revisionist history since I forced myself to by the very first remastered DVDs. Even those tweaks irked me, but I was willing to let them go. THESE are beyond ridiculous. If it wasn't obvious before...Lucas is a one trick pony. Hasn't had an original thought in 30 years. Every artist knows that there is comes a point in the creative process where one more brush stroke, one more line, can ruin a piece of art. Lucas never got that part down. He will tinker with these, like a madman, for the rest of his days, until they are no longer recognizable to us. Good riddance. I'll watch my DVDs until they wear out. And when those go, I still have the originals (untouched and perfect as they were) on VHS somewhere in my attic.

    It was fun while it lasted, bro!

  7. Barry,

    You have a really good point there. The rot started to set in with Return of the Jedi, but I don't think any of us fully realized that until the Special Editions and the prequels. I think the majority of fans looked at Return of the Jedi as a bit of a misstep, not nearly as good as what preceded it, but hardly an indication that Lucas has started to lose it.

    Now we know better.

  8. Bunche,

    I do remember your post about Star Wars, and it was a classic. Nancy Culp in a bikini!

  9. Mike,

    In my opinion, this DC relaunch is far worse than Heroes Reborn. At least Heroes Reborn was limited to just a handful of books.

  10. Bob,

    Thanks for posting! Great to get your reaction.

  11. Nick,

    I never really thought this day would come either!

    But really, Lucas is just batshit insane at this point. I can't take it anymore! :-)

  12. I'm pretty excited about ACTION COMICS #1, actually, and the new take on Superman has real potential. I loved Timm and Dini's take on him, so I have no problem with a Superman who's quicker to anger and perfectly willing to piss off powerful people, friend or foe.

    I read JLA #1 and it didn't blow my mind or put me off. I'm perfectly willing to read the second issue to see if things pick up, though.

    I'd love to see a return to old school compression. If the digital format makes comics an impulse buy again, that could happen.

    I suppose I'd sum it up by saying writers should aim comics at the intelligent ten year old again.-- David Walton

  13. You don't necessarily have to swear them off, just treat them like a distant acquaintance from high school who has friended you on Facebook. Sure it's interesting to know what they're up to from time to time, but there's no real compunction to make them part of your everyday life. Plus, with Lucasfilm and DC's carpetbombing publicity departments, you probably can't avoid hearing at least a little of what they're up to.

    As for Lucas "ruining" the Emperor scene in Jedi, pshaw!! Nonsense. That scene has NEVER worked in the first place. It's a hollow pseudo-climax with zero emotional resonance.

    Maybe that's due to Hamill's unconvincing anguish with the 'help me stuff'--that always felt like he was semi-faking it, trying to manipulate dad. Maybe it's due to the "Go Dog Go"-level dialogue or Marquand's blocky, lifeless direction.

    For me, the scene didn't ring true because they'd spent three movies building up Darth as The Biggest Bad Ass in the Galaxy (TM). And then he turns "nice" and is redeemed because he saved Luke from a shuffling, geriatric, bent over, mumbling guy who we barely know? If Darth is The Biggest Bad Ass in the Galaxy (TM), then you have to show us that the Emperor is an even bigger bad ass, and that never effectively takes place onscreen--we are just told he's really mean, and telling is Screenwriting No-No #1.

    So forget about the prequels--it's 1983 and here's what shoulda happened:

    Ideally there would have been no Death Star II (a terrible, terrible idea--should have been entire @#$%ing Imperial Fleet vs. one tiny system of 2-3 planets housing all that's left of the Rebellion—real dire Alamo stuff). But if you've GOTTA have the DS2, here's how it goes: Darth gets the Emperor on board and (remember how he was playing him in Empire) it's really just a trap because Darth slays him, which takes about 5 seconds because he's a weak, little old guy. Why do this? Because Darth Vader is The Biggest Bad Ass in the Galaxy (TM) and now he's also the ruler of the Empire. Bwahahahaaa!

    The rest of the movie goes by pretty much as is, except we give Han something to do this time and replace the @#$%ing Ewoks with an intelligent tribe of locals who don't like the Rebels but learn to work with them against the Empire [Self-Editor's Note: I believe this is called "The Plot To Avatar"].

    Luke gets on the DS2, finds out that OF COURSE Darth isn't his father (How big is the freaking universe? What are the odds of it actually being true?). Darth lied, because he does that—just ask the dead Emperor. We never find out who Luke's father is because it DOESN'T MATTER--never did. They battle it out, Luke miraculously manages to come from behind and kills The Biggest Bad Ass in the Galaxy (TM). Peace reigns throughout the galaxy once again. The End.

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  15. To Clive --

    First, thanks for posting!

    "As for Lucas 'ruining' the Emperor scene in Jedi, pshaw!! Nonsense. That scene has NEVER worked in the first place. It's a hollow pseudo-climax with zero emotional resonance."

    All I can say is, it worked for me just fine on May 25, 1983. I remember getting all worked up, anxious for Vader to DO SOMETHING. I couldn't have been alone, because when he finally took action, everyone in the theater cheered loudly. (And I think Hamill is fine in the scene. I never detected any attempted manipulation of Vader on Luke's part. Unfortunately, Lucas decided that the hero we'd been following for two-and-a-half movies would turn out to need to be saved by Daddy in the end instead of saving the day himself, which is what should have happened.)

    RETURN OF THE JEDI was always something of a disappointment to me. A lot of Marvel's Star Wars comics published in-between EMPIRE and JEDI are far more satisfying and more faithful to the spirit of the previous two movies. Before JEDI came out, I imagined that the bulk of it would take place on Tatooine. Vader has to know that Luke would go there to rescue Han from Jabba, so I figured he'd bide his time and wait till Luke arrived there and then POUNCE.

    So you'd have the rescue of Han from Jabba, and then, as the smoke clears, BAM! Vader and his forces show up. I envisioned a furious lightsaber duel between Luke and Vader in the desert.

    As for Vader being Luke's father--I had assumed Vader was lying, up until the moment Yoda confirmed that it was true. I was actually disappointed in that, mostly because it made Obi-Wan a liar. I had theorized that Vader might turn out to be a CLONE of Luke's father. But I don't think I ever thought he'd turn out to be the real deal, until that's exactly how it turned out. I accepted it, but as the years have passed, I've come to think the series overall would have turned out far better had Vader been lying.

    At the very least, it would have spared us the bullshit of Leia being Luke's sister, and Lucas would have had to actually write a REAL resolution to the Luke/Han/Leia triangle and have them sort things out as adults, rather than the total cop-out he resorted to.

    Man, I used to think he was a GENIUS...

  16. I think the biggest problem with Lucas' handling of the franchise is that at some point, he stopped treating it like a fairy tale. The best example I can think of is the idea that the Clone Troopers took out the Jedi instead of Vader single handedly hunting them down in every corner of the galaxy. But it's all symptomatic of letting a larger than life tale get bogged down by the mundane.


  17. "the idea that the Clone Troopers took out the Jedi instead of Vader single handedly hunting them down in every corner of the galaxy."

    I never got the impression that Vader took out all the Jedi singlehandedly. As Obi-Wan himself said in the original film, "A young Jedi named Darth Vader, who was a pupil of mine until he turned to evil, HELPED the Empire hunt down and destroy the Jedi Knights."

    One of the few things Obi-Wan told Luke that WASN'T misleading or an outright lie, as it turned out!

    Based on that line, I always envisioned Vader working with Imperial forces to wipe out the Jedi.

  18. Singe-handedly was a bit of an exaggeration on my part, but I did envision a much more active role. As it is, we never got any real reason why the galaxy feared Vader, or more importantly, why Obi-Wan feared him and Palpatine needed him. Because he took out some eight year olds that thought he was there to protect them?

    In a perfect world, the second film would have covered Anakin's defection, and the third would have have been Vader at the peak of his powers mowing down Jedi left and right while Anakin made a last ditch effort to save the twins. Oh, well!

    BTW, Glenn, I don't know if I've ever had the opportunity to tell you this, but I'm a big fan of your Spider-Man work, both as a writer and an editor. It's nice to see that the Clone Saga and the post Saga work (like Goblins at the Gate) is being revisited lately. So a big thanks for that!


    David Walton