Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Miss Fury and Masks

Ever since Dynamite advertised her appearance, it was only a matter of time before they advertised a series with Miss Fury. Written by Rob Williams (a host of Marvel credits to his name that I never read) and art by Jack Herbert (one of Dynamite's more capable artists, doing admirable work on Kirby Genesis) and a host of covers by Alex Ross and a host of others that are unknown to me and from the ones shown, none of which are particularly striking.

In the article at CBR,  it talks about the story being about the original Miss Fury and make it sound like she's bouncing between the past and present.  But, for all it's talk about being about the original character, it doesn't actually sell us on or talk about the original character. The places it does, it gets it wrong such as referring to her as a pulp heroine. She never appeared in the pulps. She was created and appeared primarily in newspaper strips though Timely (aka Marvel) reprinted some of them in comic book form which arguably had the effect of making sure she was still remembered years later. Also, it seems they are going down the same path they did with the Shadow and the Black Terror and over-literalize aspects of the character. With the Shadow, they took the question and answer of "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows" and turned it into a literal super-power. With the Black Terror, took the name and skull & crossbones on his costume and went overboard with pirate themes though it has nothing to do with the character. With Miss Fury, well, there's this bit of hyperbole: "As witness to generations of bloodshed and violence, Miss Fury has lots of righteous rage… and anger is her fearsome power." Of course, anger and fury is NOT her power. If any it's that the costume is supposed to bring her good luck though she suspects it might also bring her bad luck.

To add insult to injury, there's no mention about the strengths of the original character: the gorgeous artwork, an early female character created, written and drawn by a woman (Tarpe Mills), the many interesting and colorful villains and supporting cast and love interests that she populated the world with. From the interview, you don't get the gist at all that they read anything of the original character other than possibly a brief bio with a pic somewhere.

Gotta love the pic of her in the bath in the article. Why is she wearing gloves? And, half the newspaper is apparently submerged in the bathwater! On one hand, wonderfully drawn and sexy, but the end result is one of total stupidity. Based on what a man thinks a woman does in a bathtub perhaps?

Masks: The chinks were there in the advertising and in the first issue. But, with the second issue, the comic goes off the rails and pretty much completely throws the central concept under the bus. The idea of this being a series featuring the original pulp heroes was already a bit stretched to include the Green Hornet and Kato, but at least they seem close to their original incarnations as did the Shadow. The Spider looks like the Dynamite comic version but at least the signs are that they are taking the cue to being more faithful to the pulp version. But, the advertised use of Black Terror and Miss Fury, characters who don't fit with either the time frame of the story or concept gave me pause. And, then you have a Zorro who is a whole new creation. The downside is that we don't get legitimate characters that are better fits than these.

With the second issue, we have a different artist. The layouts aren't as dizzying as Ross' but the artist is poor on backgrounds and clarity of action. We have a scene of Miss Fury changing from evening dress into costume, but there's no way she was carrying that costume on her and no mention of it. We see the Green Lama, but because of legal issues, it's a magic-using hero instead of the pulp hero. Gee, if you were going to have to use a magic based hero, why not Mandrake or Chandu who already fit that role?

"It's the Black Umpire! Three Strikes, You're out!"
Because, this isn't about actually using the original characters in character. This is driven home when everyone is played up second rate to the Shadow and the Green Hornet to everyone, including his side-kick. We get scenes made to play up the cool factor of Kato, but not Green Hornet. Wentworth in the pulps was called "the Master of Men" and he's a powerful, charismatic, dynamic personality and easily a peer and equal of the Shadow. Won't get that here. Meanwhile, the Black Bat basically gets a whole new origin. It's cool to see Tony Quinn going into action as Quinn, but it looks like this is where he's going to get blinded and lead him to becoming the Black Bat, essentially giving us a whole new character who just happens to use the same name and motif. Looking at his portrayal on a future cover, my first thought, "It's the Black Umpire! Three Strikes, You're out!" Once they stopped being true to the original characters though, the whole point and draw of this mini-series is lost. I'm not seeing some little known favorites teaming up in a slam-bang adventure because most of them are for all intents and purposes new characters. For example, what makes John Byrne's Captain America/Batman crossover fun is that it works and is true to all of the characters involved. Part of the whole point of crossover stories is the fidelity aspect to the characters involved. The more faithful you are and make it work, the better the story is. Once, you start making changes to the characters willy-nilly to force them into your story instead of making the story work, you're losing the whole point and producing at best a second rate book.

I don't doubt that some of the decisions are business related. With Project: Superpowers, Dynamite secured comicbook trademarks on the Green Lama and Black Terror. But, it's been over a year since they were last used and trademarks must be used to be kept. Yet, by the same token, there's bad business decisions being made as well as there is a lack of consistency between titles. Dynamite has the Black Bat appearing here and getting an origin. However, Dynamite is also pushing a Black Bat comic that has the character getting a different origin and different costume. While the Spider looks the same here as he does in Dynamite's ongoing series, the two are largely different characters with completely different relationships to their supporting cast. It's a failure at generating a synergy and interest between the books.