Written by Geoff Johns & Kris Grimminger
Art by Butch Guice
And yeah, if we're going to say goodbye to the The Factual Opinion portion of this DC/Humanoids blog-extravaganza, we're going to make sure that we say goodbye on terms that set things back to zero: mommy has dick jokes she'd like to make, mommy needs these serious Euro-comics to move back to where they belong, which is wherever they sit when the public chooses not to buy them. (Which, for those of you who don't read the comments sections, wasn't in A) bookstores or B) most comic book stores or C) any actual places.) To smooth the transition, we'll be closing the door by taking a look at that most American of things, a Humanoids/DC release called Olympus, written by DC's go-to Green Lantern, Flash and Giant Epic Crossover scribe Geoff Johns and his Witchblade partner Kris Grimminger, with art by Butch Guice, who sometimes goes by Jackson and is one of those guys who helped kill Superman for a couple of months in the late 90's.
Now, my most recent installment of this little cross-over dealt with a book that we kindly referred to as "not a very good comic." If we're going to put Olympus on that same scale of comparison, where interesting cartooning and intelligent design sense marred by overly wordy and under-cooked dialog can end up at the bottom, being defined as "not very good", we're going to need to invent some new kinds of swear shovel to dig out the bottom for Olympus. We'll need to use words that fully express the overall sickness and decay that comes about when one is witness to, say, the throwing of an elderly person whom one loves into a brick wall, preferably from some kind of inclined ramp so as to gain enough velocity that the initial impact shatters bone while also delivering an instant, silent coda to the subject's choked pleas for mercy. You need words that are bigger than "a fucking stupid piece of shit" if you're going to categorize Olympus alongside the Nikopol Trilogy, which we're calling "really good", and Different Ugliness, Different Madness, which we considered "not good.") Because, yes, Olympus hits that mark, but then it walks up to the mark and says "You set this too high" and moves it down around Ogre # 1 and says "I think I can beat that. I've definitely got more masturbation potential."
Are we being clear enough here? The killing old people thing probably covered that. Let's be clear:
This comic is swill. It's stupid crap, the kind of stupid lazy crap that makes irritating, snobby elitist pricks seem like they are spot-the-fuck-on when they make their over-the-top statements, when they explain why they avoid American genre work by saying "Comics aren't art" or "Comics are for children" or "Some comics are okay, but only if they're about dating and crying or struggling with their shitty upbringing or funny hats and talking clocks or pre-war Berlin or moody old dog-fuckers." Unlike Transgenesis, which was our first foray into how bad the Humanoids could get, Olympus is bad from a couple of people who seem to know better, or at least know how to do their job.
Make no mistake: it's fun to pick on a guy like Johns--a guy who seems to be genuinely nice and non-mentally impaired--for writing the umpteenth "Fight for what matters, what matters can always be discovered at the end of fisticuffs" version of Green Lantern, or JSA or Flash or whatever other super-hero books it is that he writes that I don't read because hey, I'm not 450 years old and don't give a shit about the elderly super-hero shenanigans of my ancestors. It's fun because he's popular, because he's successful at what he does, because there's no sense from the guy's work that he doesn't fucking enjoy the hell out of what he does. He's not a pussy crybaby, see? Besides all that, Geoff Johns can hit the beats he's expected to hit in the comics that he writes, a good portion of the people who read those comics want that stuff he gives them, and he constructs stories that work for that group, and at a certain point, one has to just hold off the bile and say that he's clearly doing something right at least some of the time, no matter how much personal taste and working human eyeballs say different. Johns does shit a lot of people like: goodie fucking two shoes for those people. So did the Backstreet Boys, so does Deepak Chopra--it doesn't make those people geniuses, but it does make them good at their job, even if their job is feeding shit to penguins. Butch Guice is another guy who knows how to do shit that people like, and while the day where people bought stuff strictly because of the artist started dying out as soon as people got a taste of what Youngblood # 2 read like, Guice has his fans and he probably worked hard to get them. While it may read to this particular guy that Olympus is a book that laughs directly in the face of sensible, compelling design sense, that it contains art mistakingly making dubious claims that the hyper-realistic figure drawings contained within correlate to actual human beings or physical movement: it's obvious we could totally be wrong. Plenty of people would make the opposite argument, plenty of people do, and some of them, a select few: not paint-chip eating 8 year olds! (Although they do collect fucking toys.) Maybe the reason that Olympus outsold DC's version of the Metabarons (and was rumored to be one of the top-selling books of the entire line) has less to do with the name recognition factor of the American audience and more to do with a level of quality so far surpassing this tender readers brain that I am, like the Lo Fidelity All Stars before me, attempting to operate with a blown mind.
Thankfully, we've got Professor Challenger to set things straight.
"This is comics, man! You've got photorealistic Guice art featuring a nice blond girl in a skimpy bikini throughout the whole book. There's lots of cursing, but also lots of cool Greek mythology and monsters! How can you go wrong with that? The story centers around a gorgeously sexy female archaeology professor and two of her gorgeously sexy students on a diving expedition off the coast of Thessaly. Oh yeah, there's also the obligatory guy on the team too. Of course, he's perfect looking as well. In other words, Hollywood cast this comic! Who cares though? Guice's art is so nice to look at and the horrible monsters these people are about to come into contact with are plenty ugly enough to counterbalance the overabundance of beauty. Where do the horrible monsters come from? That's where Johns and Grimminger's story kicks in. Without giving too much away, I can say it involves Pandora's Box. It involves modern day pirates. There's a big storm and a shipwreck on an island that may or may not be the site of the mythological Olympus. There's Jurassic Park-style encounters with creatures like the Cyclops, the Minotaur, the Gorgons, and much more. There's lots of gruesome deaths, lots of cursing, but there's also lots of character development and a crash course on the basics of Greek mythology. OLYMPUS even features one classic laugh-out-loud reference to Ray Harryhausen's magnificent CLASH OF THE TITANS. OLYMPUS kicked my ass. Note to DC and Humanoids: Give us some more of this kind of stuff. If this doesn't garner some Eisner awards nominations for Johns and Guice this year then there's something seriously wrong with the nomination process."
What can you say about that, I wonder? Obviously, this guy digs the work. He's not alone, either. More than a few got into Olympus. Is it hubris to say they're completely wrong? Is it petty to question whether or not "a nice blond girl in a skimpy bikini" is really something to be proud of, to point to as a memorable foundation? There's nudity in Enki Bilal's Hunting Party as well, should that have been something more prominently featured on the cover? How about the statement "without giving too much away, I can say it involves Pandora's Box"--doesn't that imply that there's more going on in Johns & Grimminger's plotting than "hot chicks and half-naked guy open Pandora's Box, trouble ensues"? (Because that is the extent of the "story", that's all that happens.) Oh, and there's "lots of cursing." Now, "lots" is obviously a subjective definition--there isn't cursing on every page of Olympus, it's certainly not going to be mistaken for a Geto Boys album--but you can't really argue that somebody is wrong if something does occur multiple times and they want to call it "lots." Some people, for whatever reason, give a fucking horseshit cuntsucking fuckbag of a whore-slathering fuck about that kind of stuff, other people just take it for what it is, words that don't mean a goddamn sucking of cored out jelly-roll teabaggery shining assholes, just language, it's there. Not because it's shocking, or because it's lazy, or even because it's offensive. Just because is sometimes just because, not everything needs, wants or demands a reason. But hey: maybe Geoff Johns is dumb and can't express himself like a grown up, or maybe the Professor is a namby-pamby weenie who should spend more time playing Magic The Gathering. Maybe the world would be a better place if we all grew our own vegetables. "Maybe" is a fun place to visit, but I'll be fucked if I'm going to live there.
Olympus is one of those stories that smells of a Hollywood intent on its sleeves, a shitty film script masquerading as story: It follows some hotties onto an island by way of pirate attack, monsters start killing them and the story spends the last 20 pages climaxing with the nice pirates--one of whom can't wait to open a pony ranch--teaming up with the four "normal" people so that they can put Pandora's Box back on a pedestal and get magically transported to where their boat took off from in the first place. It's the type of plot that can be described in a sentence, with the type of characters best defined by which actor would play them in the film version, and the trade collection is padded with "character design" pages that are pretty much splash page head shots, interesting to no one but the Butch Guice fan who pays to buy the original--"Look! I got a framed drawing of a blonde girl smiling! It's like I live in an art gallery of boredom!" The story's dialog is tricked out with all manner of cliche, with characters stopping mid-exposition to say things like "My father's a control freak, too. At least he was before he went to prison" and "Our parents made us take archery in high school. Sarah's actually better than I am" or, my personal favorite, to the pirate:
"What did you want to be when you were a kid?"
Of course you wanted to be a cowboy. The transition to yacht pirate off the coast of Greece with a multi-ethnic crew and diamond smuggling: that always starts when your youth is a Waylon Jennings song and Butch Guice is drawing you in a sleeveless, fur-edged trenchcoat. It's either cowboy of fireman, there really are only two options.
Olympus isn't a completely valueless comic. If nothing else, it's an extraordinarily accurate and strong depiction of the garish stupidity that a bad comic with high production value can be, the kind of thing designed to seek out the all-genre defense of the reverse-snob, that attitude that "cultural product A is designed to entertain and shouldn't be compared against other products designed to do more", the type of tired article that's proffered by those who finger themselves to a recording of their grandmother mumbling "say something nice or nothing at all". Because while Olympus sets its sights abysmally low, and according to the majority of the reviews I read, hit them all...fuck that, it is shitty hack work. The Professor Is Wrong. It's a comic that deserves to get shit on, to get acknowledged only to be reviled--not because the reaction will "make comics better", people who buy into that should continue shoving their heads up their ass until they're tonguing their spinothalamic tract--no, it should be dismissed and ignored because it's shit, and that's the only fun thing you can do with shit. You don't waste time trying to explain the validity of the action movie it was trying to be, the attraction of the stand-alone adventure comic--you don't need to, because Predator and Mark Millar's Enemy of the State make the case for you alone, by the simple fact that they just are good action, they are good adventure. It's only the shit that attracts the inclusion of the exclamation point, of the "well, maybe I'm just a working class hero, but I liked it, what do I know". That's Olympus, in a nutshell: it's a comic that tried to sneak across the foul line and say it was just like the stories it's Library of Congress classification puts it alongside, and failed to do a single one of the things required to be considered a respected part of that classification. It forgot to be decent, it decided not to have a point--but worst of all, it failed to entertain.
Considering that was the only goal?
Pretty fucking pathetic.
-Tucker Stone, 2009
T1 Introductions & Miss: Better Living Through Crime by Joe McCulloch
T2 Fragile & The Horde here at TFO
T3 Sanctum & Transgenesis 2025 Vol 1: The Ancestor here at TFO
T4 The Incal (Preparations by Joe McCulloch
T5 Son Of The Gun here at TFO
T6 The Incal (Execution) by Joe McCulloch
T7 White Lama here at TFO
T8 The Technopriest here at TFO
T9 Bouncer, Megalex & Metal Hurlant by Joe McCulloch
T10 The Metabarons by Joe McCulloch
T11 Memories here at TFO
T12 The Chaos Effect here at TFO
T13 The Bilal Trilogy here at TFO
T14 Townscapes & The Beast by Joe McCulloch
T15 Different Ugliness, Different Madness here at TFO
T16 Coming soon from Joe McCulloch
T17 Olympus here at TFO