One of the most interesting attributes of comic books as a media form is the frequency with which creative teams change. It’s rare to see a show-runner leave a successful TV show, and even rarer to see multiple executive producers within a year. (Commander in Chief, is the rare recent exception, but one that hardly bodes well for the system’s prospects.) Movies sometimes change personal between sequels, but, most likely, no-one gave thought to the prospect of the sequel before the first movie was made. Creators also sometimes change in genre fiction, especially after the initial creator has passed (like the new Bond novels), but authors hardly change in serious fiction. Although I’d pay money to read Thomas Pynchon write a Zuckerman novel, it’s not something anyone’s likely to see.

It’s really quite amazing how regularly comics change their creative teams. It’s such an established part of the genre that we don’t really think about it, yet something truly different and worth thinking about. Comics exist within a push-pull of long-term storylines and attracting new readers; being “true” to a character’s history and reinvention; remaining within continuity and a continuum and being accessible to anyone who buys the issue. Some stories, like “Final Crisis,” don’t even pretend to be comprehensible to the amateur reader, but other comics, like Superman, have to belong to everyone. Superman is such an American myth that any American needs to be able to read Superman and understand what’s going on. It’s why you can’t do anything truly radical to the character (like make him electric blue!)–at least not for too long. Also, while a storyline may be very good on its own (like upgrading Metropolis), there’s a strong chance that it will be diminished by later authors. Frank Miller’s “dark” superhero stories of the 80’s were brilliant, but much of what came after only cheapened them.

So it is that the first issue of the James Robinson run on Superman is just so-so. Robinson is one of the best authors working in comics. His Starman was probably the best superhero comic of the 90’s/early 200s; at least the most consistently great. Robinson made us care about every aspect of the character’s universe. His history, his city, his rogues gallery, his personal life. The lives of the families in the city. It was a completely unique world. His recent run on Batman was highly enjoyable, and one of the better Two-Face stories, even if not so unique. But his Superman, while promising, leaves a lot to be desired. Robinson clearly wants us to care about the characters, but his initial attempts (let’s let Krypto narrate part of the issue!) fell flat. Robinson has more than earned the benefit of the doubt (though, there’s always the danger that some characters are just too stupid to succeed) but on it’s own, Superman 677 was not an especially good issue and only time will tell if Robinson, a great writer, is a great writer of Superman.

Two recent neologisms led me to this week’s topic: disappointment. The first is “nuke the fridge,” a film calque of “jump the shark.” In a brilliant post on the phrase, Kottke discusses its hyper-absorption by the blogerati and the ensuing backlash. Or: his (hers? its? their?) backlash of one. And so, the post ends with these thoughts:

Memes seem to be spreading so rapidly now on the web that they burn out before they can properly establish themselves. It’ll be interesting to see if nuke the fridge makes it through this ultra-virulent phase and somehow slows down enough to jump to casual mainstream usage. (more)

The second neologism comes from A.O. Scott’s review of “The Love Guru.” In explaining just how bad the movie is, Scott argues that the it is not enough to simply say the movie is not funny. “No, “The Love Guru” is downright antifunny, an experience that makes you wonder if you will ever laugh again.” (link) It’s this type of insight that makes Scott’s reviews must read even if he doesn’t always have the most discerning eye.

The fact that someone decided to create an unnecessary film version of “jump the shark” attests to the seriousness we attach to being letdown by so-called “low” culture. Someone was so disappointed by “Indiana Jones” that they needed to create a whole new idiom for it, despite the fact that “jump the shark” is already used attributively (as in its main urban dictionary definition); it’s really only a matter of time before the word becomes acceptable in academic discourse, and/or used to describe a once-great bartender who can now scarcely muddle a julep. Likewise, Scott needed a new term for his review. “Funny” is a subjective category; saying you don’t find something funny is almost a challenge to the next person to find it funny. “Antifunny” looks to be an inherent quality, something that Michael Haneke might go for were he to direct a comedy. In my opinion, the word is so useful, that I’ve decided to do my part in ultra-virulently spreading the meme.

Antifunny also takes the movie out of the realm of disappointment. Disappointments, are often reevaluated, given a new lease on life (this yahoo answers thread has a nice list). Works can be ahead of their time, or released a little too late. While both De La Soul’s “3 Feet High and Rising” and the Beastie Boys’ “Paul’s Boutique” are considered classics, De La’s album came out a few months earlier, and “Paul’s Boutique” was forever endowed with a silver medal. [A wrote a way-too-long post about this about a year and a half ago.

In short, disappointments are a temporal matter and can really only be determined after the fact.

For example, is it “disappointing” that Big Brown didn’t win the Triple Crown? Sure, but history may not really think so. If his Belmont is any indication, Big Brown might just go down as the worst Derby-Preakness winner of all-time. What is really disappointing, and only so in retrospect, is the fact that Point Given didn’t win the Kentucky Derby. At the time, losing the derby upsets people close to the horse, fans, and gamblers. But looking back at years later, Point Given’s loss is devastating, a supreme disappointment. Not only did he win the second two legs of the triple crown, he went on to win both the Haskell and the Travers, becoming the only horse to win 4 million dollar races in a row. Point Given was a super-horse whose lone bad race happened to be the Kentucky Derby. Or the election of 2000. In 2000 it was a little disappointing but in hindsight, truly devastating.

To that end I propose some neologisms of my own. Maybe we need to have “antipointments,” things so bad that not only do they disappoint, they never have a chance of appointing us. Or the German-sounding “distranspointments”, things that only reveal themselves to be disappointing with or over time. I’m as open to ideas as the next person. Just don’t disappoint me.