Creator / Christopher Priest (comics)
Christopher Priest, formerly Jim Owsley, is a (retired) comic book writer. He's famous mostly for things that have very little to do with his comics (namely, his race and various inter-office pissing contests), which is a shame, because as far as the people who read his work are concerned, he may have been one of the very best the industry ever saw.
His most famous works were Quantum and Woody
(about two dysfunctional best friends turned superheroes), Power Man And Iron Fist
(about two dysfunctional superheroes turned best friends), The Ray
(which was Invincible
ten years before Invincible, only with lots more Time Travel
), and perhaps most famously, his Black Panther
relaunch, considered by many (if not most) fans to be the definitive take on Panther, and is largely credited with legitimizing the character beyond being "that black guy in the back of the Avengers team photos".
He also worked on Deadpool
, Justice League Task Force
, and other, less popular/successful characters and teams (including his doomed-from-the-starting-gate epic, The Crew
.) He never really got a crack at writing Batman
, or any other A-list character. Reports of how bitter (or not) he was over this vary. While a lot of his fans like to claim racism is responsible, Priest himself has always taken the high road, focusing more on just exactly how difficult it is to truly break through in the industry, particularly if your first or second project isn't an enormous success, and the tendency of DC and Marvel to give their flagship books to flagship talent.
He was a notorious victim and/or perpetrator of Executive Meddling
His work is known for non-linear storytelling, snark, meta-commentary, snark, deconstruction of the genre, snark, subtlety, snark, verbosity, snark, pith, snark, character driven plots, and snark. Or, if you prefer, Anachronic Order
, World of Snark
, Lampshade Hanging
, Leaning on the Fourth Wall
, Sarcasm Mode
, Deconstructive Parody
, The Snark Knight
, Getting Crap Past the Radar
, Vitriolic Best Buds
, Wall of Text
, Deadpan Snarker
, Wham Line
, Snark-to-Snark Combat
, Character Development
, and Better Than a Bare Bulb
The absolute king of the Beat Panel
Tropes associated with Christopher Priest:
- Affably Evil: A lot of Panther's foes fall into this, as does Vandal Savage.
- Affirmative Action Legacy: Played straight occasionally, but mostly played with. For example, (white) Everett K.Ross is forced to briefly assume the mantle of the Black Panther.
- All There in the Manual: His website functions as this for a lot of his work that was either unfinished or changed on account of Executive Meddling.
- Affectionate Parody: Quantum and Woody is this to superhero comics in general.
- Alternate Company Equivalent: Marvel's Sentry is basically Triumph, minus all the flaws and conflicts that make Triumph interesting. This was apparently an improvement,as Sentry was a much, MUCH more popular character than Triumph.
- Angry Black Man: Almost all of his works go to great lengths to avoid this, and it's frequently subverted, averted, and deconstructed. In the case of Quantum, it's averted, subverted, double-subverted, deconstructed, and then just generally beaten to death and fed to a goat.
- Anti-Villain: About half of Panther's rogues gallery. Also Vandal Savage.
- Bash Brothers: Power Man and Iron Fist. To a lesser extent, Triumph and Ray or Quantum and Woody.
- Panther's Dora Milage are Bash Sisters.
- Batman Gambit: Villains like to try this on Panther. It never, ever works. Triumph likes to try this on bad guys. It works occasionally.
- Beat Panel: Arguably the Trope Codifier for modern comics.
- Because Destiny Says So: Used a lot to manipulate Ray but never actually true.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Lobo learns this the hard way with Ray.
- Black Best Friend: Played with a lot in Quantum and Woody, as Quantum is so ridiculously straight-laced and suburban that people are usually shocked to find out he's black under his costume.
- Better Than a Bare Bulb: Constantly, especially in Quantum and Woody, Deadpool, and Black Panther.
- Betty and Veronica: Done in The Ray, with Jenny as Betty and Black Canary as Veronica.
- And again in Panther, with Monica Lynne as the Betty and Storm as the Veronica.
- Came up a second time in Ray, with Jazz as the Betty and Gaelon as the Veronica.
- Gender flipped in Quantum and Woody. Quantum was Betty, Woody was Veronica, and Amy Fishbein was Archie.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Deadpool, even moreso than usual. To elaborate, in his first Deadpool story, Deadpool is admitted to a retirement community, in which all the other residents are the protagonists of other Priest titles which had been cancelled. They assure Deadpool that he'll be cancelled as well. Priest's run ends with Deadpool murdering Priest and throwing his body in a tar pit, accompanied by the cheers of all of Priest's old characters.
- The same run also included repeated references by both Deadpool and Loki along the lines of "None of this is really happening... there is a man... with a typerwriter."
- Breaking Speech: Death Masque loves give these, but they come off kind of forced. Vandal Savage, on the other hand, is a pro.
- Brick Joke: Occasionally.
- Boring Invincible Hero: Priest gave Ray a really, really versatile and diverse power set, and avoided this problem by giving Ray problems that couldn't just be solved with a fight scene, and focusing on his inexperience and doubts. Part of the reason other writers very rarely use Ray, or conveniently forget half his powers, is because he's no longer inexperienced and it's hard to consistently come up with problems that can challenge somebody at Ray's power level.
- To elaborate: there's an alternate future where Ray turns kind of evil and ends up killing all of the other superheroes except Triumph and The Flash.
- For those wondering, Ray, essentially, has the combined powers of Green Lantern, The Flash, Wolverine, Captain Atom, and The Atom, with a side order of illusion casting, invisibility, teleportation, and intangibility.
- Ray's complete control of light in all its forms is the reason he, basically, doesn't exist whenever there's a major Green Lantern-related problem. He can literally defeat all seven corps by himself without breaking a sweat.
- Somebody finally realized this late in Blackest Night, where Ray single-handedly destroyed a whole bunch of Black Lanterns (which had otherwise been shown to be invincible to everything except the combined powers of other lanterns).
- Butt Monkey: Triumph. Love him or hate him, the guy gets screwed over more than just about anybody else in comics.
- To elaborate: Would have been, basically, what Superman became (Earth's most famous/recognized hero), only his first mission (during which he founded the JLA) went wrong and he was kicked out of the timestream. Ten years later, he comes back, having missed ten years of his life and relationships, only nobody remembers him. His old teammates are Earth's mightiest heroes, while he's relegated to, essentially, the training team. Then he gets his back broken. Then, tired of having his authority challenged, his team leader (and former subordinate), Martian Manhunter, beats him to within an inch of his life and fires him from the team, effectively isolating him from his only friends in the world (Ray and Gypsy, whom he essentially considered family). Then the Devil shows up. THEN Triumph swallows his pride, and apologizes to J'onn, who still won't let him back on the team. Triumph is about to sell his soul, but Ray and Gypsy show up, tell him how much they care about him, and it looks like a happy ending... until Ray accidentally sells Triumph's soul, which has the side effect of removing his powers and erasing him from history AGAIN.
- Later writers made it even worse, particularly Grant Morrison, who implied that an unseen adventure into the microverse left Triumph with permanently reduced... powers.
- Calling the Old Man Out: Poor Ray has to do this every other issue or so. It's rarely effective.
- Woody tries to do this to his father, but it doesn't quite work.
- Character Development: Turned Black Panther from the token black guy in the Avengers into, basically, Marvel's Batman, only smarter and cooler. And he did it without messing with continuity or throwing established character under the bus.
- Triumph's journey was fascinating, and ultimately turned him into a very deep and relatable (still flawed) character...but the fans had labeled him The Scrappy long before that.
- Companion Cube: Achebe's hand-puppet, Daki. Woody's guitar.
- The Cowl: A running theme in Priest's work is that it's basically impossible to actually be this. Quantum tries, but can't quite pull it off. Panther seems to, but deep down is one of the most caring and compassionate men on the planet.
- Death by Origin Story: Occasionally, most famously with Quantum and Woody's fathers. Memorably played with and eventually averted in The Ray.
- Die for Our Ship: Malice attempts to enact this in-universe.
- "Die Hard" on an X: Priest pitched, described, and wrote his Deadpool run as "Seinfeld with supervillains".
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Happened to Mystek, as Priest didn't want other writers screwing up the character's backstory.
- The Dulcinea Effect: Quantum has this bad for Amy Fishbein. Ray has it for Black Canary. Kasper has it for Okoye. You get the idea.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The story "Ray gets shot in the head."
- Executive Meddling: Oh my yes. On pretty much everything he worked on, but ESPECIALLY at DC. He's also been on the Executive side of this trope, and he'd be the first to admit he was occasionally as guilty of this as anyone.
- Femme Fatale: Malice. Tempest (the one from Ray, not the one from Quantum And Woody). Malice. Titania (spoiler: actually Copycat). Malice. Fang. Malice. Have we mentioned Malice yet?
- First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Everett K. Ross is the narrator for most of the Black Panther works, which have superhero Black Panther as the main character.
- First-Person Smartass: Ross from Black Panther.
- Five-Man Band: Justice League Task Force
- "Freaky Friday" Flip: Happens in both Quantum and Woody and Black Panther.
- Gambit Pileup:
- Most Black Panther stories, and a lot of the Justice League Task Force stuff. Quantum usually thinks this is going on, but he's never right.
- The Crew has a decently epic one, as well, although we never really get to see it play all the way out on account of the book being too good to last.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Successfully published a Justice League story in which Wonder Woman gives Aquaman a BJ. The kicker? The last line of the scene is Aquaman muttering "I wish they'd sent J'onn". Nobody has ever topped that one at Marvel or DC.
- Happy Dance: Ray does a memorable impersonation of James Brown, accompanied by hard-light constructs to facilitate Browns' "cloak" bit, across the Washington skyline after bedding Black Canary.
- He's Back: As of 2013, Priest is back for a "Quantum and Woody" miniseries.
- Hope Spot: Ray gets one of these every once in a while. They never last.
- Jerk Ass: Loads, but ESPECIALLY Triumph. Woody also qualifies (but mostly only to Quantum).
- Knight in Sour Armor: Triumph eventually ends up as one of these. It's played with a bit, as his cynicism and snark sometimes alienates him from other heroes, to the extent of making them less effective as a team.
- Lampshade Hanging: Often, in everything, but especially in Black Panther and Quantum and Woody.
- Lawful Stupid: What Ross thinks of Wakandan customs and tribal laws that let things like Killmonger becoming Black Panther happen.
- Legacy Character: Ray, Kasper Cole (for two different legacies), Steel (kinda), the second Woody, Killmonger (kinda).
- Let's You and Him Fight: Uses this one a lot, particularly in Black Panther and The Ray. Ray is particularly guilty of it, as the first issue of his second series ends with him killing Superboy.
- Manipulative Bastard: Oh boy. Black Panther, Triumph, Vandal Savage, White Wolf, Achebe, Killmonger, Happy Terrill, Neron, Woody (but only to Quantum), War Machine, Triage, Blackjack, Death Masque, Loki...
- Mighty Whitey: Subverted masterfully to create the Panther villain White Wolf.
- Mistaken for Gay: "We're not a couple!"
- Name's the Same: This Christopher Priest is not the same person as the British novelist who wrote The Prestige. It's partly to avoid confusion on this score that Owsley/Priest billed himself simply as "Priest" on some later works.
- Noble Demon: Much of the drama in later issues of The Ray comes from the question of whether Vandal Savage is this, pure evil, or an Anti-Villain. All of the above.
- No Holds Barred Beat Down: Triumph takes one so severe that it breaks his back. Kasper Cole takes on from Killmonger.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: Henry Peter Gyrich is the Government, Mister!
- The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Death Masque to Ray, White Wolf to Black Panther, Killmonger to Black Panther, Man-Ape to Black Panther...
- Phlebotinum Overload: A constant concern in Quantum and Woody. Comes up occasionally in The Ray as well.
- The Plan: Black Panther and most his enemies LOVE these. Vandal Savage in his DC work is as good as anybody. Triumph (from Justice League Task Force), thinks he's good at these, and he's right... sometimes.
- Put on a Bus: At one point, Queen Divine Justice literally puts The Incredible Hulk on a bus to get him out of the story.
- Remember the New Guy: Triumph's whole character concept is this, only nobody remembers him... but they should.
- Running Gag: Constantly.
- We're not a couple!
- Master Planner/Tuna Sandwhich.
- I was assigned to watch the Black Panther for four days.Four days. That was X years ago.
- There is a man... with a typewriter.
- Screw Destiny: Queen Divine Justice tries, and fails, to get out of her role as a member of the Dora Milaje.
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: Ray finds himself having to do this a lot.
- Stable Time Loop: Ray is responsible for his own father's becoming a superhero and passing his powers on to his son. There's another, more complicated one involving Gaelon as well.
- Stalker with a Crush: Galleon to Ray... because she's his girlfriend from the future, come back in time to make sure he doesn't turn into an evil jerk.
- Status Quo Is God: Priest went out of his way to avert this whenever possible, whether he was changing the origin of the Justice League, or killing off his own main characters. Or making one of them look like Tom Cruise against his will.
- Stealth Parody: Did it to himself, scripting a Quantum and Woody story that spoofed Black Panther.
- Strangled by the Red String: This seems to be about to happen to Ray and Gaelon (in-universe) thanks to Gaelon messing around with time travel, but the book got cancelled before the plot could be resolved, so we don't know.
- Take That Me: Woody at one point reads, and eviscerates, an issue of Black Panther.
- Techno Babble: Constantly, especially in books involving Triumph, Ray, or Black Panther.
- The Call Knows Where You Live: Priest LOVES this trope.
- In The Crew, the Call knows where you live, and will show up there with a couple of dangerous renegade superheroes in tow.
- In Black Panther, the Call dresses up in a kitty suit and runs the most powerful country in the world. And will come and get you, even if you get reassigned to Antartica. Even if you'd rather stay in Antartica.
- It was a really hard decision.
- In The Ray, the Call knows where you live, and will lie to you about who you are, who your parents are, and which parents (fake or otherwise) are dead or alive. Also, there is another Call who not only knows where you live, but will threaten and/or murder your loved ones until you answer it. And that Call is coming from inside the house.
- In Quantum and Woody, the Call will force you to live within 12 hours of the person who annoys you most in the world, or else you die.
- Timey-Wimey Ball: Both Comic Book/The Ray and Black Panther had a lot of super-complicated time travel that mostly makes sense. Mostly.
- There IS a letter that never gets written in Ray. It's given to him by Gaelon in the future, then he delivers it to her in the present, then she delivers it to him in the future, etc. It's even explicitly stated that it's in his handwriting.
- Triumph's relationship to time and paradoxes is just an unholy mess altogether, and it only got worse after Priest stopped writing him. Eventually, somebody wrote a story that pretty much said "Time and Triumph don't get along, and his continuity is pretty much fluid because of it." Weirdly, they bothered to do this about ten years after he stopped appearing in anything.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Power Man And Iron Fist, Captain America & The Falcon, Quantum and Woody, Quantum and the other Woody, Ray and Triumph, Deadpool and Constrictor... Priest likes this trope.
- Whole Plot Reference: There's an AMAZING Justice League Task Force story that does this with Dracula of all things.
- Wretched Hive:
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Quantum, almost constantly. Triumph, even more often than that.
- Ray's whole character is basically this, as he was locked in his apartment for the first eighteen years of his life, and just about everything he knows about the world he learned from watching TV.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: In The Ray.
- What Might Have Been: Christopher Priest was in the running to helm the JLA relaunch before it went to Grant Morrison.
- This can be extended to Priest's whole career... had he burned one fewer bridge, or stayed in the industry one more year, or had one more artist that "got" him, he might be talked about in the same breath as Morrison, Moore, etc... instead, he's "that black guy who wrote Panther". Priest's never-realized run on a mainstream Justice League title might have been fantastic... his Martian Manhunter is often regarded as one of the best takes on the character, and pretty much everyone agrees that he did great things in his limited opportunities with Batman, Aquaman, etc.
- What You Are in the Dark: Neron likes to pull this. It ALMOST works on Triumph.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Happens occasionally in Priest works. This possibility is brought up repeatedly with regards to Triumph, though it never reaches fruition under Priest. Grant Morrison eventually picked up the plot thread, though.