The discussions of Grant Morrison’s take on Talia brings to light an important question in regards to superhero franchises-whats more important? The interpretation that people buy? Or the one that gets the reviews? The answer is simple, they both are.
A bad interpretation that sells little, does not gain critical attention and is forgotten are the one that are the problems. The other two each influence the characters visibility among audience. The popular one can get the character into the hands of someone who may not like them, or did not give them much thought. The proper characterization will keep the audience of the character thrilled. They both work. Yet in superhero comics-like all entertainment mediums-people want “good” to equal sales and that’s never going to happen.
First off, good in subjective. I think Judd Winick and Guillem March’s Catwoman is good. I am in the minority with online bloggers and critics there. Though I am in decent company if the sales match the LCS orders, where Catwoman did pretty well. The Catwoman book was problematic, pushed style over substance, and just not good from a technical standpoint. Yet it was fast paced, reckless, daring and over the top. It was unlike any book I was reading and having a tolerance for grindhouse and exploitation films I was not turned off. So hey, a bad interpretation that was successful for me.
Another point is a misunderstanding of most audiences want in a lead. Audiences want a character they can quickly gravitate to. Sometimes the better takes on characters have complex characterization and that can push away potential readers. Sadly well written complex female characters have an even harder time appealing. Well, women in general are harder to sale to some male audiences. Sometimes it isn’t that they are complex but it’s the attitude of the characters involved that may turn away readers. I get turned off by the Fantastic 4, specifically Mr. Fantastic and Human Torch. I don’t care if the books are good, I just don’t want to read them. I’m not a Fantastic 4 fan for a number of reasons and some of the characters are the reason.
Lastly, its not characterization its everything else. Its the tone, the pacing, the art. The bad interpretation may be providing a brisker pace or have more stunning visuals to the reader.
The importance of a well done version of the character. Long time fans of a hero, villain, what have you have to deal with a lot of BS from the companies. As a Wonder Woman fan I know this to be true. Wanting to see the character on the page to reflect your ideal version is a wonderful feeling. Of course, another important thing about good interpretations is that a well reviewed but low selling run can also pull in new fans too. It just may appeal to a more discerning audience or skeptical one.
Both takes are important to the character. Its important to keep the character alive for the fans who stood by them. The other in having more visibility.
Ultimately, getting back to Talia, my own opinion is simple-I never really cared much for her before Morrison’s run. I viewed her as another of Bruce’s femme fatale who was not as fun as some of the other ladies in his life. When she was in books with her father, Ra’s stole the scene for me. As a bad guy she seemed second fiddle. I think she’s more dangerous now. Did Morrison screw her up to get there? I’ll take your word for it. However ask yourself, before Grant Morrison set off for his large arc where was Talia in the scheme of things? One of the heads of the secret Society occasionally cameo in peoples books to give orders to the villains that get more screen time? Teaching Selina how to guard her mind from people trying to invade to find Batman’s identity?
Of course if Talia dies its all for naught right? Nah. Its comics. She’d be back.