I will agree with on Enigma. For me, that book surpasses Watchmen.
I will agree with on Enigma. For me, that book surpasses Watchmen.
I understand not everyone is going to agree with that sentiment, but oh well.
Writers before artists.
Artists before concepts.
Concepts before characters.
There are all sorts of ways in which it wasn't; it wasn't nearly as dense with character, it wasn't as layered or as ambitious in terms of the complexity of the subject matter it was trying to comment on or the sheer number of things it was trying to 'say', it was often laughably heavy handed (in it's critique of 80s, most notably), and it was far less structurally innovative or complex.
That's something else entirely, of course. I'll scream up and down that something like "New Frontier" was a book I'd rather re-read.In fact, I hold Planetary in higher regard than Watchmen from a personal taste standpoint.
But that doesn't make it as impressive, and I'd never confuse the two.
Yes, I think what Ellis did on Planetary was fundamentally less intelligent, less innovative, and frankly less insightful - less descriptive of the human condition - than Alan Moore's Watchmen, but even if you choose not to agree with me in that regard, there can't be any real argument that Watchmen was the more impressive technical masterpiece.
You seem to be arguing two different things, here.It stands up just fine next to Watchmen. It's the kind of story that companies should be striving to tell, rather than the nostalgia regurgitation they are doing at present.
When compared with general superhero fiction, Planetary was of course above the bar. There are only a handful of books currently being published that might match or exceed Planetary's ambition, intelligence, skill, and sheer character.
But we're comparing it WATCHMEN, and I don't think it holds up.
In some respects, I'd agree. In others, it falls short.I will agree with on Enigma. For me, that book surpasses Watchmen.
For one, much of the 'helping people' is on a very global, or even abstracted, scale. 'A million dead is a statistic, but one a tragedy' and all that. Planetary was very much a book with a mission statement, a guide for living; look forever forward without flinching, and revel in the beautiful strangeness of the world around you. These are big ideas, and are often presented as such, and that can sometimes feel clinical or unrelatable to people.
For another, and perhaps more damning in this medium, the emotions of the characters are rarely TOLD to us, and there aren't many emotionally obvious or manipulative moments. As a readership, the comics community is predisposed to recognizing and expecting certain tropic elements, and certain achetypes. There's no obvious 'everyman struggling to make good and come to grips with responsibility', no one overtly weeps or directly tells us what they are feeling and how much it hurts. Much of the emotion is implied, hidden behind manners or bravado or sarcasm, as it might be in real life.
These few moments you mention are more concrete, more obvious, and I think most tend to see them as emotionally resonant. Others, less so, though I think that too is unearned and comes down more to expectation.There's genuine pleasure in Planetary, but also solid grief, terror, and romance. In nearly every scene we see a variety of emotions and differing reactions from the characters and most scenes show a deliberate attempt to evoke emotion in the audience. How do you get through the ghost cop issue without feeling something? Or, later, when we realize what he's being kept ignorant of heaven to keep him bitter and useful? How do you not have an urge to fist pump and shout when Snow throws caution to the wind in the final issue, because he wants his friend back? The Wilder and Hark hug?
I'll say that in terms of our main cast, I never quite felt invested in them. They had their moments, Snow especially, but it was the one-off characters that made an impression.Planetary has tons of witty extrapolations and polish jobs, sure, but I'm far more in it for the characters, their lives interrelations, than I am for the academic and homage aspects, or the stringing-it-along agendas and counter-agendas.
Ellis' Planetary certainly 'hit' on a number of pop cultural phenomena, but it was often cringingly superficial or obvious about what it had to say, and I think that is the damning piece of the book. He, more often than that, didn't have much to say, and it falters as a serious piece of criticism or analysis, instead becoming a regurgitation (And, at least at points, it clearly DOES attempt to be a critique).
Which has been understood by most since the 1950s, I think.It's detournment of basic serial fiction "world like ours" tropes that we'd accepted, such as isolating or stockpiling wonders away from the populace, was excellently handled, and simultaneously criticized nearly every other comic out there, but also highlighted why that sort of MO is necessary to keep those ongoings ongoing.
Hardly. Morrison and Moore had been doing this since the 80s.The idea of standalone stories that linked up, which the series sustained nearly the entire time, was novel for its time, when most American comic books were a steady stream of soap rolling over issue to issue with decreasing attempts to craft a beginning and end, much less a thematic point to a single issue's nominal story.
Moore, moving off his Image work, was getting back into single issue storytelling, and loads of shorts in Tomorrow Stories, however, but at roughly the same time as Planetary, and again, in very much defiance of the mainstream MO.
I said it was "novel for its time," not that it'd never been done or that Warren Ellis was completely alone in it. It was rare. Anyone who can get their hands on every Marvel or DC comic released in '99 can see how rare it was.
But, then, I don't agree with any of the points you made in your response ("since the 50s"? really? Have you read a mainstream comic published since then? I know you have...) we're probably at an impasse.
Has anyone read Ellis' original pitch/proposal for the series? It pretty clearly lays out what he was attempting to do structurally and thematically with the book.
The whole thing can be found here: http://home.earthlink.net/~rkkman/frames/
but here are a few excerpts:
The Wildstorm Universe is just the obvious shiny surface of an Earth with superheroes. Go a little deeper, and you find strangeness and wonder on a planetary scale. There are people weirder and more marvellous than the WildC.A.T.S. or StormWatch, who simply prefer to operate outside the glare of world publicity. There are mad and beautiful things beneath the skin of the world we know, that you only see when you look at things on a planetary scale...
...and I'm not talking about X-Files stuff. Fun as it is, it's done to death. I'm talking about a world in the superhero genre whose only known heroes, for the most part, are sourced in conspiracy theory and hallucinated alien histories. What if, underneath all that, there was an entire classic old superhero world? What if there were huge Jack Kirby temples underground built by old gods or new, and ghostly cowboys riding the highways of the West for justice, and superspies in natty suits and 360-degree-vision shades fighting cold wars in the dark, and strange laughing killers kept in old Lovecraftian asylums... what if you had a hundred years of superhero history just slowly leaking out into this young and modern superhero world of the Wildstorm Universe? What if you could take everything old and make it new again?Obviously Planetary is not Watchmen, it wasn't trying to be Watchmen, and honestly nothing should try to be Watchmen. It was its own thing and was groundbreaking because it did its own thing not because i was trying to be like something else. Planetary was trying to do something that hadn't been done in comics but staying true to its roots as a Wildstorm super-hero comic.PLANETARY will be told in self-contained single issues; think of each issue as a three-minute pop single.
Naturally enough, it'll be a regular Wildstorm superhero comicbook, with 22 pages of comics and use of the inside front cover for catch-up material.
It's important not to lose sight of the fact that PLANETARY, first and foremost, is a superhero comic. Despite the unusual intended nature of the covers (discussed below; basically, we treat each issue like a new single from a band, and so each cover will look unique in its own right), this will look and feel like a superhero comic. As you've seen, the protagonists are all superhuman. Each issue deals with a superheroic theme. But; we play each story like a very short movie. It'll be done completely straight, dialogue-driven, careful clear storytelling. Not dull storytelling; PREACHER has the straightest cleanest storytelling in monthly comics, but it don't look dull. The goal is simply to make the book read in as straightforward and easily comprehensible a fashion as possible while keeping the pages snappy and attractive. When we do an action scene, it's going to look like goddamned John Woo -- visually wild and incredible, but dead easy to follow and understand.
Judging whether something is overrated is difficult if you have only experienced the after and not the before. So many times something breaks ground and everyone and everything rushes int to sow that ground that was broken the originator seems blah by comparison if you never saw the ground before it came. There is a lack of perspective and context in the judgement. Planetary is what it is, and in terms of what Ellis was trying to achieve, it worked brilliantly. If it didn't succeed at being something it wasn't trying to be-that's not a fault of the work but a misjudgment in the expectations of the ones making the judgment. I like Moore and Gibbons Watchmen, doesn't mean I want to read it in Ellis and Cassaday's Planetary. Same with Morrison's Invisibles or other groundbreaking works. But to each their own and the fun is in discussing these kinds of things and seeing how other people view the things I like and dislike and the whys ans wherefores of their opinions. If everyone thought like me the world would be a much less interesting place for me to experience.
A lunatic is easily recognized...You can tell him by the liberties he takes with common sense...and by the fact that sooner or later he brings up the Templars.
I didn't read the whole thing, just what you quoted here, but yeah that much about Planetary was pretty clear.
I'm not really faulting Planetary, it clearly accomplishes the goal it intended to. But this very thread has people saying things like it's the best comic ever made or that it rivals Watchmen, and that's kind of my point. I think people are overhyping Planetary, which affected my own enjoyment in reading it.