Monday, 8 November 2010

Better Off Dead?

A few weeks ago, the DCU Source blog gave notice that they were redoing the origin of Ice, one of the sweetest and innocent superheroes out there. That Judd Winick was behind it made a lot of people very nervous but what also ticked off a lot of people was the announcement from Justice League: Generation Lost's editor, Brian Cunningham:
"For those of us that read the Super Friends series in the 1970s where Ice was originally introduced as Ice Maiden, we all know how absurd her origin was. With Gen Lost #12, writer Judd Winick provides Ice with a credible and tragic origin that does not negate what we already know."
Either he and/or Winick had totally confused two separate characters - Ice and Icemaiden and which I blogged about at some length here. I finished that post by saying: "I dread to think what this "credible and tragic origin" is that Winick's come up with."

Well, issue #12 of Justice League: Generation Lost landed and, it seems, my dread was well deserved.

Back in the old days of the Giffen / DeMatteis Justice League America, Ice was a mostly quiet, shy hero who somehow managed to see the good in Guy Gardner way before the rest of us and became his girlfriend, though to be honest it was a mostly on-off relationship.

Towards the end of their run on the League titles, Giffen and DeMatteis (along with Gerard Jones who was scripting the Justice League Europe title with Giffen plotting) threw together a somewhat patchy crossover between the titles called Breakdowns. Basically both teams get torn apart by a number of means, including the dreaded red tape of bureaucracy. Undergoing an efficiency review, poor old Ice ends up getting fired but not before admitting that she is "a Scandinavian ice goddess."

The story continues and various League members end up fighting against the powers that be in Bialya and it's during this fight that the inter-League title crossover meets the other DC crossover that was running at that time: the War of The Gods.

War... was a Wonder Woman-centric crossover which had various deities from mythologies world wide suddenly announcing themselves and attempting to take over the world. Needless to say, the Norse gods were no exception and we were treated to the DC versions of Loki, Thor and Baldur as they tried to conquer the Scandinavian countries. Being a goddess herself, Ice senses all this and leaves the Bialyan fight to save her people.

The actual fight with the Norse gods is all over fairly quick and the Justice League titles get back to the Breakdowns story, such as it is. The reason I mention this is that first Fire, then the rest of the League followed Ice to her homeland, fought against the gods and were told by Ice that her people were safe:

All of that tied in with her back story as given in Secret Origins #33 (which I detailed in the post linked above).

Several issues later, after the Dan Jurgens run on Justice League America and the Death of Superman storyline, new writer Dan Vado had Ice leave the League and return to the mountains and her people. It's fairly obvious from the artwork that she's entering a fantastical place:

Here she meets up with her family once more - her mother and father whom we met briefly in Secret Origins. Her mother's glad to have her back, particularly as her father's aged terribly - he's weak and feeble and, while Ice had been living in the outside world, he's moved closer to death.

We also meet for the first time Ice's brother Ewald who turns out to be something of a black sheep. As their father has weakened, Ewald has all but taken control of the ice kingdom and put out a story that Ice had died some years before.

All this takes place as a sub-plot scattered throughout issues of Justice League America while the rest of the League deal with alien fugitives and a doppleganger Guy Gardner.

With Ice's return, her father seems to rally a little and manages to face up to Ewald for the first time in years, telling him that perhaps, as his eldest child, Ice should inherit the kingdom and not Ewald.

Not surprisingly, this doesn't go over well:

Yes, he even does the whole shaking his fist thing!

Ice's mother thinks it's a great idea and attempts to convince Ice that she should stay and rule the country. Those plans are scuppered by Ewald who, while he doesn't flat out admit it, appears to have killed their father during the night and thus before he could officially name Ice as his successor.

Ewald proves he's a bad guy by imprisoning Ice and working with his secret, mysterious benefactor to turn the people's hearts and minds against his sister. The benefactor turns out to be the Overmaster who would - several issues hence - kill Ice.

Before that happens, Ice has her mother leave the ice kingdom and head outside with her JLA communicator which, when activated, results in a visit from Green Lantern and Power Girl. At the time, Power Girl was still under the impression that she was the grand-daughter of Arion of Atlantis and seemed to be changing her costume every other month, hence the blue and white outfit. Hal Jordan's arm, by the way, had very recently been broken by Mongul during the Reign of the Supermen storyline which brought Superman back from the dead.

It's not long before a message gets back to the JLA that Ice needs help and, like all good team do, they come running to help one of their own:

No one, I'm sure, will be surprised to hear that the meeting between the League and Ewald's army (which is really half a dozen magically created giants) ends up in a big fight. Ice is rescued and recovers enough to confront her wicked brother, defeating him and, again, being asked by her mother to remain and rule the kingdom:

Though she's tempted, she heads back with the League and, as mentioned above, in five or six issues time ends up being killed by the Overmaster.

So why have I just summarised a couple of years worth of stories featuring Ice? Well, it's obviously connected with the hideous ret-con of her origin that Winick has provided in Justice League: Generation Lost #12.

For those of you fortunate enough to have missed it, Ice's new origin is that she was a gypsy child in Norway, one born with power over ice and snow. The entire clan her family belong to are thieves though Ice's father is, of course, a noble sort and is planning to take them away from it all:

So that his father, Ice's grand-father, doesn't discover Ice's powers, he spends year after year telling Ice that she has to remain calm and in control. Of course, the grand-father finds out about her powers years later, after they've run away, and when he comes to take her back, Ice's father tells her to cut loose and freeze everything. This ends up with Ice causing the deaths of her grand-father, his gang of half a dozen thugs and, inadvertently, her own father who, with his dying words tells her "Always be careful. Be quiet. Be . . . be . . . calm."

Most of Justice League: Generation Lost #12 is a fight between Fire and Ice until, at the end, Ice regains some sense of self and suddenly realises what's been happening all her life:

Yep, the whole thing about being an ice goddess was a lie. She made it up to repress the memory of causing the death of her own father. That's the "credible and tragic origin" that Judd Winick has come up with, the one which, according to editor Brian Cunningham:
"does not negate what we already know."
How exactly are the Justice League's interactions with Ice and her family not negated by this ret-con? If Ice made the whole thing up then the ice kingdom never existed and a big chunk of the JLA's history is completely . . . errr . . . negated!

Seriously, what do we gain by having this new origin for Ice? As I said in the earlier post, being an ice goddess from a mythical race of ice people is no more ridiculous than being an Amazonian princess moulded from clay and being granted life by the Greek gods. These are comics, for Cthulhu's sake - why do we need a "credible and tragic origin" for a character who was, as stated in the Source blog article, a "pensive, shy flower" something which made her pretty much unique in the DCU?

All it's done is turn her into another angst ridden, angry superhero.

Utterly pointless. My only vague, tiny hope is that this'll all turn out to be a Max Lord-induced false memory so we can simply ignore this car crash of a ret-con.

Oh, and as a little post-script - when I read the issue and came across the page where Ice remembers everything, it triggered something in my own memory:

The whole causing the death of a loved one and repressing the memory thing? Winick's done that before: John Stewart in Green Lantern #147 was shown to have repressed a memory of causing not his father's but his sister's death.

It's like he's not even trying.


  1. Hey man,
    I appreciate the level of love you have for ICE, it's obvious that care about her as a character, about how she's portrayed, and her history. But IMO, and I'm not alone here, she's a c-list character. Her origin being tweaked A LOT, even in the grandest of schemes, isn't really a blip in the over all story telling. Either in the DCU. Or frankly, even for her.
    In all due respect, as you detailed what stories get screwed up in this retcon, I'm struck by what a LOUSY story it is. It’s horribly dated, and thin. And for that matter, it shines a lantern on how dated and thin Ice's origins are as well ( at least to ME.) Seeing this makes me appreciate the direction Winick is taking A LOT more.
    I don't think Ice has been made angst-ridden. I think he's made her background more compelling. Ice coming from PEOPLE, rather than some tribe of Norwegian magical folk, seems much more compelling to me.
    We don't have to agree and I'm sure we don't. But again, I don't think what he's done is earth shattering simply because Ice is such a minor character. And I think its' change for the better. I think it allows the story of Ice some place better to go, to grow, and become more popular.
    I don't really care if a few issues in her long, and not very popular history get canned.
    I understand that you do.
    But I think as someone who cares about this character as much as you do, you may take note, that I’ve never seen this many people taking an interest in her. I bet, and hope, it will continue.

  2. It's certainly true that not much was being done with Ice or her background previous to this series. And aesthetics do simply differ as to whether gritty faux-realistic tales (and given the context, faux realistic is as realistic as you can get) are better than ones that are fantasy-based.
    But I'm not sure why tweaking Ice's origin is worth devoting an issue to if she's such a minor character. Now I'm afraid she's even more minor - who wants to read an issue of The Adventures of Ice, The Crazy Woman Who Lies?

  3. I like the fantasy origin better than the stupid tragic gypsy storyline. I don't read comics for realism.

  4. Wow! Actual discussion on something I posted! Excellent job.

    Thanks for posting and keep it coming - I'll be posting something more on this soon.

  5. The worst thing about this new origini is the racism: a tribe of thieving gypsies, completely corrupt apart from one man and his daughter? What is this, ripped from The Sun's editorial page?

  6. Martin - you can just imagine the Daily Mail readers fuming at this: "Bleeding gypsies, coming over here, stealing our goddesses..."

  7. Than you for writing such a great blog here. What Martin says is true and fans like "Anonymous Nov 8, 2010 11:31 AM" piss me off. What makes Ice a C-list character? She is one of my top 10 favorites and has been since the 1980's. I hate when someone slams a character I love and care about and says basically... "Who cares? She is not my favorite so do what you want. None of it matters anyway because she is a c-lister" Where is the list? Who determines it? You may not care but, I do.

    Thank you again for writing such a great blog.

    1. Thanks for chiming in and I hope you're happier with Ice's portrayal in the new JLI - I know I am! With a bit of luck, Dan Jurgens will completely ignore Winick's origin.

    2. So far so good. I have read a lot of your blogs here I'm a big fan.


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