Funnybook Babylon

May 10, 2012

Five Years Later: The Oral History of Countdown to Final Crisis

Filed under: Articles,Downcounting — Chris Eckert @ 10:00 pm

Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of Countdown #51. Hopefully everyone honored the anniversary in the same way as its creators: by trying to forget that Countdown ever existed.

Indeed, what can be said about Countdown that has not already been said about the Vietnam War? It was a quagmire, an unwinnable war of attrition that even the planners could not find a graceful way to end. It left a psychic scar on the nation, and destroyed the best years of countless young men’s lives.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite as bad as Vietnam. If nothing else, Countdown provided the spark that led to me blogging about comics. And if you don’t think that’s a good thing, fine: it also provided us a near-perfect lab specimen of what an Editorially Driven Comic Book looks like. To a certain extent, everything you can say about Countdown is true of nearly every Big Two superhero comic:

  • It was published to fill a hole in the schedule
  • Non-Executive-Staff creative members were treated like interchangeable cogs, comic-producing machines
  • Plot Events (and importance to the companywide Uberplot) were privileged over what would be traditionally called “story” and “character”
  • It received constant “comics” “media” attention on the big blogs despite no one, not even the interviewers and DC employees extruding the book weekly, seemed to care in the least

Countdown may have been a lightning-in-a-bottle, textbook demonstration of what you get when the entire publishing line of a company is hashed out by people who have never been hired to be creators on a dry erase board, then handed down piecemeal to people actually hired to be creators. But it isn’t the last. From countless Blackest Night tie-ins (now with free prize inside!) to Marvel’s endless series of Avengers Presents: We Need Some Movie Tie-Ins, from Avengers vs. X-Men to Before Watchmen, we are seeing a shift towards ever more editorially driven comics from “The Big Two”. All of the gradual, glacial movement towards treating superhero comics as something that might exist because a creator had a compelling story seems to be eroding. Of course, this exists in all media: just as there Has to Be an issue of Batman every month, there also has to be a few dozen episodes of CSI shows every year, an appropriate number of Star Wars Extended Universe novels, a Battleship motion picture, whether anyone has the perfect idea for it or not. But the ratio of “someone has a good idea they have pitched” to “someone in marketing decided this needs to exist” is growing more and more lopsided. (more…)

August 8, 2008

Downcounting Backwards: Overman

At some point Downcounting became too much of a chore to bear; it was a struggle to write something more cogent than variants on, “NO REALLY, WHAT IS ANYONE INVOLVED WITH THE PRODUCTION OF THIS BOOK THINKING?” Once it became obvious that Countdown to Final Crisis and its related titles weren’t really counting down to Final Crisis or anything else, I made peace with the fact that I had developed intimate knowledge of something with no real significance or worth besides being DC’s life-imitates-art “Great Disaster”.

But now that we know that Grant Morrison had literally nothing to do with the hundred-or-so books that were meant to lead into his Final Crisis series, picking through these books becomes a fascinating exercise in reverse-engineering. There are clearly threads that someone with access to Final Crisis’s plot decided to pick up on, though it seems much was lost in translation.

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March 26, 2008

FBBP #50 – Featuring the Peerless Power of David Brothers

This week features blogalaxy surfing zen master David Brothers as we talk about Pedro’s attempts at sub-super villainy, review Cap, Iron Man, Death of the New Gods, Incredible Herc, and War is Hell. We even talk about he who should not be named who is spoiling books for Tom Spurgeon. It’s our 50th show, so that means… nothing right?

Notes after the Jump.

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February 27, 2008

Downcounting – A Guide for the Perplexed: Gutting It Out pt. 2 – Jimmy Olsen

Filed under: Downcounting — Chris Eckert @ 9:00 pm

I’m only delaying the inevitable, putting off the Multiversal stuff. It was the focus of these past couple of months, very much to the expense of some of these other stories. But hey, now they’re all hurtling towards their epic conclusion of shit going down, so let’s check in on everyone’s favorite thirty year old cub reporter, Superman’s Pal…

Jimmy Olsen, Bugfucker!
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February 26, 2008

Downcounting – A Guide for the Perplexed: Gutting It Out pt. 1 – The Pied Piper

Filed under: Downcounting — Chris Eckert @ 8:00 am

Maaaan, Countdown. I know it’s been forever. I know that there are only nine issues left, and shit is about to go down, I suppose some people might want to know what has happened in the past eleven issues. Half the cast blew up and died, and the other half are all on Apokalips for some reason, and shit is about to go down!

That’s really all you need to know! Come back in May! We good?

…No? Damn. So what have these forty-two issues, these eight hundred and forty-two pages of story, this $125.88 plus applicable taxes and ancillary books established so far? Let’s leave the C-List Monitor Posse and Multiverse Clusterfuck on the table for the moment, what about all our other plotlines that have discovered that All Roads Lead to Apokalips?

The Pied Piper was shocked to discover that his homophobic shackle buddy Trickster was brutally murdered by Deadshot. He was even more shocked to discover that their shackle was programmed to self-destruct twenty four hours after either prisoner was killed. What possible purpose did this feature have? Why, to have someone in a book called Countdown yell:

OMIGOD!

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January 6, 2008

Downcounting: A Guide for the Perplexed: OMNIBUS EDITION! (Part 3)

Filed under: Downcounting — Chris Eckert @ 10:16 pm

Jeez o Pete, just call me a Writer from Television and Film Writing a Funnybook, because I have been LATE. Work was hellish for a couple of months, and I prompted came down with some sort of ebola/OMAC virus the moment I had time off for the holidays. But that’s no excuse! Every day that I don’t post Downcounting is another day someone might be tempted to pick up the book for themselves. Thankfully, it seems like the message is coming through — no one seems to be bothering with the plethora of Countdown tie-ins — and that’s good! I’ll be doing a big summary of all those many books shortly, but trust me: you’re missing very little.

This post is going to wrap up our DC Omnibus recap of Countdown issues 27-22, and I’ve got issue-by-issue recaps of 21-18 in the pipeline for the next few days. After that, I hope to be able to adhere to my New Year’s Resolution: “Downcounting: Not Quite So Late in ’08”
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December 12, 2007

Downcounting: A Guide for the Perplexed: OMNIBUS EDITION! (Part 2)

Filed under: Downcounting — Chris Eckert @ 1:44 pm

You read six Countdowns
And what do you get?
Another stress headache
And a burning regret

Last time in Downcounting, we learned:
1. That Super___ Prime gets all swoll after Sinestro Corps War and is back to being a clumsily written mockery of the “Comic Book Guy” who thinks things need to be “like they used to be”, only with significantly more genocide than the average nerd is capable of mustering.
2. That the C-List Monitor Posse is still beefin’ with each other, and trying to find Ray Palmer
3. The Monitors are talking about going to WAR, and have decided to do so! Soon! Seriously, two more long epic speeches, maximum!
4. Monarch is doing things that involve at least three completely wretched spin-off mini-series. Readers of Countdown might understandably assume that his motivations and plans are explained in these spin-off books. They would be wrong.

But those are just the most high-profile, multiversal storylines going on in Countdown! What about the little people?
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December 8, 2007

Downcounting: A Guide for the Perplexed: OMNIBUS EDITION! (Part 1)

Filed under: Downcounting — Chris Eckert @ 7:36 pm

Hola, amigos. How’s your narrative spine? I know it’s been a long time since I rapped at ya, but it’s hit the busy season at my job, plus as you’ve all probably noticed, it’s been an eventful six weeks! Halloween, Thanksgiving, Veteran’s Day, inclement weather, Pakistani martial law, writers’ strikes, Wu-Tang beefin’, Chavez referendin’: you turn away for one second and a million things happen! It can be quite overwhelming; luckily we’ve got Countdown around to slow everything down, like a lazy bank holiday afternoon down the Phosphate shop. I’ve got six whole weeks of Countdown to blow through here (132 pages, $17.70 USD), so I’m going to break this down by character arc so you can see just how much happened in these six issues:

S*P in happier times1. 32 pages worth of”¦. SUPER___ PRIME! That’s right, the Countdown Crew weren’t content to spoil the fate of only one primary character out of the more successful Sinestro Corps War crossover! At the halfway point, Super__ Prime comes on the scene, apparently “swollen with power” and drawn looking like a 30s-ish man instead of a kid, which is either a clever ass-covering or the rare instance of something not being an art error in Countdown. Ol’ Super___ Prime is killing off entire planets to show what a threat/idiot he is! Over the course of two issues, Prime systematically murders everyone on Earth-15, The Earth Where Some People Take Over Costumes from Other People. I admit, it seemed like a horrible waste of an Earth when it first showed up, so if Prime had to blow up a planet, I guess this one was probably the best choice. Apparently he plans to destroy every single Earth in the Multiverse except his own, so that his planet is the best, or something.
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December 3, 2007

Downcounting Presents: APOLOGY FOR LATENESS!

Filed under: Blurbs,Downcounting — Chris Eckert @ 12:55 am

We’re coming back soon, I promise!So much has happened in the past month — lucky for you, the plot developments in Countdown continue to move at a pace that puts DMV employees in dumb stand-up comedy jokes to shame! I seem to have been caught up in that (or possibly my job), but I assure you, more Downcounting is imminent! Stay tuned, true believers!

October 27, 2007

Downcounting Presents: Batman & the Downcounters: Four of a Kind: 3 of 4 (#28, “And Now, Forager!”)

Filed under: Downcounting — Chris Eckert @ 3:06 pm

Still on the fast boat to the HALFWAY POINT of this epic Countdown! Stuff is really going to heat up soon, I just know it! I mean, they’re getting around to naming characters they introduced ten issues ago, you know shit is ON!

28 AND COUNTING… “NOW, FORAGER!”

Google Image Search, where the hell is my Flippa Dippa fan art???pp. 1-4 True to their word… now, Forager! And unlike her appearance about ten weeks, ago, this time Forager’s got a name, wings and some insect titties. She’s also got an awesome superiority complex where she keeps on calling humans silly little “gnats”, foolish “bugs in an anthill”… which is fascinating, since Forager’s people are “bugs”/insectoid, and Forager I was basically a civil rights activist for the Bugs, and Forager II is meant to be following in his proud progressive footsteps. So as soon as she hits Earth, she starts being totally speciesist against humans, and using the Language of the Oppressors to do it! Also she busts up in on Jimmy and says she needs his help! But for what? Why would Forager possibly want to talk to Jimmy Olsen? I am stumped, this is quite the cliffhanger! Oh, also they got around to naming Big Words this week. Still no mention of what Gabby’s name is, or why he and Scrapper are still being drawn as little kids. Also, STILL NO FLIPPA DIPPA. This is a miscarriage of maritime justice!
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October 26, 2007

Downcounting Presents: Batman & the Downcounters: Four of a Kind: 2 of 4 (#29, “Another Country Heard From”)

Filed under: Downcounting — Chris Eckert @ 4:26 pm

29 AND COUNTING…

No time for fancy intros and outros, I have been told we are hurtling towards the HALFWAY POINT of the series, and so things will start happening at a breakneck speed! Let’s go! (more…)

October 24, 2007

Downcounting Presents: Batman & the Downcounters: Four of a Kind: 1 of 4 (#30, “Family Feud”)

Filed under: Downcounting — Chris Eckert @ 6:58 pm

NOTE: DUE TO UNFORSEEN DELAYS, THE FINALE OF ‘UPCATCHING’ WILL BE SEEN IN DOWNCOUNTING ANNUAL #1 LATER THIS YEAR. WE SINCERELY APOLOGIZE FOR THE INCONVENIENCE.

We’ve been a little backlogged, so you haven’t been seeing much Downcounting. But things have righted themselves, and over the course of the next four days there will be daily updates to Downcounting, in a special event we are calling Downcounting: Four of a Kind! This will of course lead into an ongoing series Batman & the Downcounters that will be written by Judd Winick Peter Tomasi Tony Bedard Chuck Dixon TO BE ANNOUNCED!

Now, I know I’ve been negligent in keeping this column up to date, and we’re nearing the halfway point – I’m sure a great deal has happened, and perhaps you are behind! So if you’re not sure what’s happened in the first 400 or so pages of Countdown, here’s a quick summary: (more…)

October 3, 2007

Downcounting Presents: Upcatching: A FBB Event in Three Parts (Book II: #31: “New Frontiers”)

Filed under: Downcounting — Chris Eckert @ 9:58 am

Welcome to Book II of Upcatching. We only have three books worth of this so I can’t waste too much time — it’s not like this is a 51 part weekly series or anything! This installment of Downcounting covers Countdown #31, a doubly-inaccurate title as nobody visits Earth-21 (the New Frontier Universe, until someone decides to contradict this like they have several other Earth-* designations), and everything characters do visit is just repetition of plot points we’ve already seen, in stories that are rehashes and nostalgia festivals for the most part anyway. COWBOY UP!
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September 27, 2007

Downcounting Presents: Upcatching: A FBB Event in Three Parts (Book I: #32: “Girls Gone Wild”)

Filed under: Downcounting — Chris Eckert @ 2:59 am

So much to do, so much to say… again, apologies for the delays, I hope no one got bored and bought these books instead of being patient. Welcome to UPCATCHING: A Funnybook Babylon Event in Three Parts!!! For this article, we’ll be catching up with issue 32 is titled “Girls Gone Wild”. Yeah, if they’re not going to put any thought into their titles, neither am I. Part II will take a look at today’s Countdown #31, and Part III this weekend will be a massive exploration of Countdown Tie-In books, aka the Comics Where Things Happen Sometimes. Part III will be exploring two of the most hilarious twist endings of recent memory, so if you haven’t spoiled yourself, get on a search engine or ask at your local comic shop about what happened at the end of Amazons Attack #6 and the Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding Special. That should give you just about enough time to wrap your head around how ridiculous both of these were, and be prepared to read more about them this weekend. So now, let’s get down to it, Downcounters – MOUNT UP!
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September 18, 2007

Downcounting – A Guide for the Perplexed: #33, “Let’s Make a Deal”

Filed under: Downcounting — Chris Eckert @ 1:59 am

So anyone looking at the August sales charts (shh — don’t tell Jamaal!) might notice that Countdown has experienced an unexpected sales bump. In an even more shocking twist, it turns out that it’s no sales bump — Countdown has been selling better than reported ALL ALONG!

I hear JSA is crossing over with Kingdom ComeAs discussed in the comments of Jamaal’s article, apparently Diamond was underreporting the sales of Countdown because the initial issues were returnable; now that it’s not returnable, we see that it’s actually solidly in the top 20, and one of DC’s only bonafide top-sellers. People, I thought we had a deal. On the subject of Countdown, To paraphrase Jay-Z, Hov’ reads that, so hopefully you won’t have to go through that. And now I find out that there are theoretically another ten thousand or so people who are buying this thing… I know I am but one small voice, but I know I am not alone. It’s harder to find someone who avowedly enjoys this book than someone who trashes it on a regular basis. But there’s clearly a Silent Majority buying this every week, and thrilling at the suspense of whether or not Mary Marvel will Go Evil or Not, whether Anyone Will Ever Find Ray Palmer, and Whether or Not Forerunner is Ever Going to Appear Again. I don’t know what to say. What more can I say?

Too often this is the only “positive” thing people think of when discussing DCWell, I do know one thing to say; let’s keep things positive, and point out that DC released a big chunk of books this week that ranged from decent to really quite good. Black Adam and Booster Gold follow up on characters from the actually-entertaining 52 in ways that might border on “continuity porn” but are at least enjoyable. Kurt Busiek continues his oft-sidetracked “Camelot Falls” story in Superman alongside Carlos Pacheco, and John Ostrander shows that the 1980s are back — in Countdown related mini-series with Suicide Squad: Raise the Flag. Best of all, Dwayne McDuffie makes his in-comic-Justice-League debut on JLA Wedding Special, which does not contain a wedding, but does contain some characterization and set-up that makes me excited to read the next issue of a Justice League comic for the first time since Joe Kelly left. And hell, they just put out Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus v.2 a couple of weeks ago — not only is it great, but it’s the foundation of half of what DC is doing right now. Why not pick up any of these books next week, in lieu of Countdown? I’ll be right here for you.
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