Monday, December 12, 2005

Critical Response

While on my lunchbreak, I thought I'd take a few minutes to respond to some of the feedback I've read about JSA #80. As I've said in interviews all along, whether you liked or hated this arc, it was all my fault so I'll take the blame and throw my two cents into the hat.

The first two issues of JSA that I wrote were remarkably well-received. The third has been pretty much split down the middle with most of the negative comments revolving around the deaths of the characters of Hector and Lyta, otherwise known as Dr. Fate and his wife, Fury.

As some people have speculated, their deaths were indeed editorially mandated. I believe there are big things coming up for the character of Dr. Fate during and after all this Crisis business and, unfortunately, as a direct result Hector and Lyta became expendable. While their deaths were inevitable, the manner in which they died were left up to me.

That's where most people seem to feel the ball was dropped. People aren't happy that the two were written off so quickly and in such a minor fashion; that Lyta and especially Hector, one of the integral characters of the series, deserved a better end than what they got.

And you know what? You're right. They did deserve better. They deserved a whole six-issue story where they could have gone out in a blaze of glory. What they got was a 4-page subplot spread out over 66 pages of story.

Climb aboard my rocket ship and let me take you back in time a few months, let's say...mid summer.

I'm hip deep in plotting out two major storylines for this arc: Dr. Fate's last battle with Mordru (not my choice for villain but I had a lot of fun with him) and Jakeem's misadventure in the Fifth dimension. Either one is enough to carry three issues of story on their own so doing both plotlines justice is going to be tricky. All told, I've got 66 pages of story to workwith and a ton of plot points and character beats I'm stitching together to form the story. On top of that, it's a little nerve wracking stepping onto a book so intricately linked with THE MOST POPULAR WRITER IN COMICS TODAY. Not that I ever have but I'd imagine it's like dating a girl when her last boyfriend was a porn star. problem. I'm more excited than anything else and having a great time putting things together. I'm even pushing at this point to try to get John Byrne to pencil these issues as an extra treat. As an aside, I couldn't be happier that Don instead chose to come back to the book to draw these issues, it was a great swan song for both of us and he did an amazing job.

My phone rings and I'm told that, by the way, Hector and Lyta need to die and Fate needs to evolve into the Kingdom Come, Nabu version of the character by the end of the story. I think to myself, "Cool! That's one way to make sure my storyline doesn't get lost in the shuffle."

I start to put some ideas together, take a look at the clock and realize that it's problem time. Because I don't have any extra pages allotted to do it. This story is already packed to the gills.

So I did the best that I could, which was to cut four pages from Jakeem's storyline and give them over to Hector and Lyta. Maybe if I was a better, more experienced writer I could have come up with something better. Personally though, I firmly believe thatI should get an Eisner for managing to get the job done with only four pages to work with. On top of that, I snuck in a cameo by Dream and even left the death scene open enough that, although I was told Hector and Lyta were being written out permanently, there was still an untold story there. Their bodies are still out there, preserved in the snow, so maybe they'll cheat death in some way or form eventually. Not to give any die hard Hector and Lyta fans false hope but I even got an email from Geoff Johns the other day saying the same thing.

It's comics, after all. Anything can happen and eventually...usually does.

The other main criticism I've heard is that people were left wondering how Johnny Thunder, who died a while back, now seems to live again in the Fifth Dimension. Well...I guess we all know what ground those four extra pages would have covered now, don't we?

That's not entirely true. I originally was going to give Johnny Thunder a much larger role in this story, to the point where I even cliffhangered the first issue on his surprise appearance. As I wrote the second issue, though...I changed my mind. For a dead guy, I got to thinking that Johnny had been in the book an awful lot lately and I cut him way, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back. It wasn't his story, it was Jakeem and the Thunderbolt's.

As far as how he's alive in the Fifth Dimension in the first place...who says he's alive? I have a theory about The Thunderbolt and Johnny Thunder but I'm not going to share it publically because I hope to use it as some point in the future, maybe in a Classified arc. This crackpot theory of mine explains why, after he died, did Johnny seem to temporarily merge with the Thunderbolt (who then reverted back to his original form over the next several issues) and also explores other characters, like Saradin, who had wielded the Thunderbolt's power and were also present in the Fifth Dimension.

I'll give you a hint in the form of a dialogue exchange I left on the cutting room floor. In the spirit of Christmas or whatever.

JAKEEM: Johnny? We've got room for one more. You coming home?
JOHNNY THUNDER: Thanks, Jakeem...but if you ask me, it sure does look an awful lot like HEAVEN around here.
JOHNNY THUNDER: You'll see...someday.

On that note, I've got pages waiting to be inked and a life waiting to be lived. Thanks to everyone for all the message board posts, private messages and emails. For three months, I felt like the King of the Prom.

Thanks for reading.


Anonymous said...

Hey Keith,
It was nice of you to take the time to explain the in's and out's of this story. As you know, I'm a fan of your work and I really did love the 3 part JSA story. I guess I'm on the side of the fence that says "It rocked all the way", but I can see how others must have felt, however, like you say, it's just comics and I'm sure bigger things are being planned. :)


Eric Fell said...

Thanks for letting us in on the process, Keith!


keith champagne said...

For the non-comic fans that read this page, tons of additional feedback to this post can be found at:

Captain Infinity said...

Hector and Lyta's death may have seemed like a letdown to some people, but I think it adds some realism. If every hero went out in a "blaze of glory" it would just seem contrived. This is a dangerous job and people die. Sometimes they die doing something supremely heroic (like Supeman) and sometimes they are just defeated (like Blue Beetle.)

To know that a bullet to the head or hypothermia can take out a hero just the same as Doomsday is a good thing.

Dr. Bobb said...

Don't listen to the haters Keith, you did a great job. But tell me...what the heck's up with Peachy Pet?