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You know how what goes around comes around. Or, to put it another way, comic book fans love to bitch and moan. It is impressive to look at this DC New 52 Timeline of Departures, Firings, and Bridge-Burnings, a long list of high traffic comings and goings. I had forgotten half of them and it isn’t even a complete list. But it’s also easy to stir up outrage. The Harley Quinn thing was, to be honest, a badly written script, but for everyone who was tut tutting “how could they do it the week before Suicide Prevention Week??!!?!??” I’d like to point out…it wasn’t even the week OF Suicide Prevention Week…it was the week BEFORE Suicide Prevention Week. it’s a bit much to expect the DC Nation bloggers to sit with a calendar of awareness events and plan their coverage. In other words…you were reaching, people. Plus, just as Black History lasts right into March 1st, and women get breast cancer on December 12th, suicide should be prevented year round.
Perhaps with that in mind, and with tweetrage over DC’s Dan DiDio growing, everything has come around, and pundits are now saying, “Wait a minute, do we really want someone to lose his job?” On a more practical level, wishing and hoping that Warner Bros. execs will somehow be influenced by fan tweetrage to make major business decisions is just childish.
Besides, even while sales show some attrition, the New 52 DC is way more successful than the old 47 DC, or whatever it was. The New 52 was the kind of game changing success story that gives you a ton of leeway for all kinds of later missteps and setbacks. That’s just how the game works.
4. The old DCU ain’t coming back. No matter how much you wish for it, DCE is not going to come around, two years later, ‘admit’ they were wrong, put things back to the way they were. Sales-wise, the reboot has been a success, and, in fact, reboots in general are a standard practice in the entertainment industry. You see the same kind of thinking about iconic characters and the ‘illusion of change’ at Marvel as well, and it reflects the attitude of pretty much all corporate intellectual property owners in the age of cross-branding and global marketing. Warner Bros. is not going to change their minds to suit the whims of a relatively small readership. There’s much more money to made in movies and TV, and the Batman franchise alone has been rebooted, what… four times now?
As I’ve often noted in private conversations, as co-publisher, Dan DiDio has one of the qualities that companies love in an executive: he’s a decision maker. In fact maybe he makes too MANY decisions, and many of them are highly debatable, but nature abhors a vacuum or a hemmer and hawer. DiDio is anything but.
The reality, as I outlined in my “Coloring Book Theory” post, is that Big Two comics are now editorially driven. Period. The End. If top notch talent calling the shots on corporate icons sells more copies, eventually it will become more the norm, but sales will have to slip a lot more than they have for that to happen.
And yet, the current craze for the 90s in comics—from aping the art styles of 90s Image artists to lenticular covers to no name talent on top books—shows no sign of slowing down, even though the 90s were the lowest ebb for corporate comics since Wertham. Even with the corporate realities I just outlined, homogeneity is a big wet blanket that tends to dull excitement. The New 52′s biggest breakout has been its own brand, a brand that will eventually chip away in standard attrition.
These trends take a looong time to play out, however, and hashtags aren’t going to speed things up.
Straight from the offices of Publishers Weekly, it’s More to Come! Your podcast source of comics news and discussion starring The Beat’s own Heidi MacDonald.
In this week’s episode, Heidi and the rest of the More to Come Crew – Calvin Reid and Kate Fitzsimons – discuss Batwoman, J. H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman and DC’s editorial interference issues, the revived Penny Arcade “Dickwolves” controversy and ramifications for PAX, iFanboy stops operations, Mark Waid turns print comics retailer, Heidi MacDonald gives a talk about less known influential graphic novels at the Library of Congress and much more in this podcast from PW Comics World.
Now tune in Saturdays for our regularly scheduled podcast!
After Mark Waid’s“Four Panels that Never Work” comic was seen just about everywhere yesterday, one might have been forgiven for thinking that given the fourth-panel poke at Geoff Johns penchant for mutilating heroes, Waid and Johns must be feuding or something. However, Waid showed up in the comments at Robot 6 to answer questions and revealed that it was merely a friendly rib:
Geoff and I are cool so far as I know. It’s a joke, and it’s nothing I’ve not given him good-natured grief about to his face in years past. (Though looking at the two stabbings just in this week’s DC comics alone, I wish I’d generalized that joke simple to “DC comic.”) I’ll make fun of my own shortcomings in the upcoming sequel, “4 More Panels That Don’t Work,” fair enough?
Waid had a couple of other quotables in that comment thread, including this one:
I’d like to point out that if it weren’t for vile, women-hating misogynist shitbags, we wouldn’t HAVE a mainstream comics industry.
TweetFree Comic Book Day is coming up, and Marvel have today revealed what their release is going to be – Infinity, by Jonathan Hickman and Jim Cheung. This looks like a prelude to the oft-rumoured cosmic event Marvel will be running in Autumn (why have just one event a year?). However, strangely enough there’s no [...]
Spider-Man is hands down one of the most popular characters ever to leap from the pages of Marvel Comics, and is even a strong contender for one of the most popular comic characters produced by any comics publisher. He’s also displayed a particular trademark flexibility in successfully taking to the silver screen and flourishing through merchandizing. It may come as a surprise that it’s taken this long for a collection of scholarly essays on Spider-Man to make it onto the shelves, but it’s here at last with WEB-SPINNING HEROICS: Critical Essays on the History and Meaning of Spider-Man, edited by Robert Moses Peaslee and Robert G. Weiner, both pillars of the scholarly community when it comes to getting books and essays about comics into print, and colleagues at Texas Tech University. The field of comics scholarship is taking off at colleges and universities world-wide, introducing courses and even degrees in comics studies, prompting a need for texts about comics and models for approaching comics scholarship with attention to detailed analysis, historical context, and solid research methods.
[Dr. Robert Moses Peaslee and Robert G. Weiner. Photo taken by Isaac Villalobos, used courtesy of The Daily Toreador]
Peaslee and Weiner have quite an impressive track record in laying out that foundation for the future appreciation and celebration of comics while engaging with comics in an approachable way that can speak to the savvy fan and the graduate student alike. Their most recent project gives the Web-Slinger the attention he deserves while pondering some of the questions that have made him so fascinating for over 50 years. The essay collection WEB-SPINNING HEROICS contains contributions from over 20 scholars, ranging from both established writers to newer enthusiasts and explores topics such as Spidey’s cultural and historical context, issues of gender in Spider-Man comics, and in-depth studies of particular Spidey texts from comics to films, many of them “under-examined” by readers and scholars alike. The collection contains an impressive array of perspectives and suggests the diversity of interest out there today about Spider-Man’s ever-evolving role in the history of comics. Editors Rob Peaslee and Rob Weiner took the time to answer some questions for The Beat about their experiences putting the book together, and also on their own fascination with Spider-Man’s legacy.
Hannah Means-Shannon:What made you want to put together a Spider-Man based collection of comics scholarship? What’s your own personal history with Spider-Man comics and Spidey in pop culture?
Robert Moses Peaslee: It was really just a great opportunity for us to work together for the first time. We’d been looking for an excuse to collaborate on an edited volume, and a character like Spidey presented a perfect focus for our respective foci in comics and films. Rob’s background in comic scholarship is well known, and I’d done some analysis over superhero film characters – and Spidey in particular – previously.
Robert G. Weiner: I agree with Rob Peaslee here. It was a terrific excuse to work on something together. I’d previously done an edited volume on Captain America and with the new Spider-Man movie reboot, doing a scholarly book on the character seemed like an appropriate thing to do. I’d read a bunch of Spider-Man graphic novels while working on my Marvel Graphic Novels Annotated Guide so I was very familiar with the character and the surrounding mythos. I realized how compelling Spider-Man is as a character.
HM-S:Obviously, there was plenty of interest in participating in the collection, with over 20 essays in the book. Did the level of interest surprise you?
RP: Personally, no…I think the academy being what it is, you can do put out a call for an edited volume on the Performativity of Pancake Eating and get a fair amount of interest. And Spidey is of much greater interest in than pancakes…or almost any other pop culture icon for that matter. I’d say he’s top-10 globally in terms of most recognizable fictional characters.
RW: No, the level of interest was not surprising! I consider Spider-Man to be one of the big three of the most recognizable sequential art characters in the world (those being Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man). The one thing I was disappointed with was that we didn’t get much in the way of extended Spidey family Universe analysis (Spider-Woman, Spider-Girl, Cosmic Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2099, Scarlett Spider etc.). By the way, I consider Tom DeFalco’s writing on Spider-Girl to be some of the best comics writing period. That series was great.
We do have some well-known contributors working in the field of sequential art scholarship, media studies, film, education, journalism, business, and history among others.
HM-S:Does Spider-Man, or other mainstream, long-running superheroes get enough attention in comics scholarship? What do you see as still needed when addressing super-heroes in comics scholarship?
RP: From my perspective, the big black hole in sequential art study is engagement with the audience…what meaning is derived from these forms, characters, and narratives? How do readers/viewers/gamers incorporate them into their sense of self, worldview, etc.? Spider-Man, as a character ostensibly “more like us” than his superhero colleagues, would seem especially pertinent in this regard.
RW: I agree with Rob Peaslee here. One of the important questions to answer is how have the comic companies producing superhero “products” engaged with their audience historically? While there are good works out there on comic culture, there is still so much related to fandom that could be studied and understood from all kinds of angles. Comic conventions are a goldmine for scholars wanting to see how superheroes have impacted our ethos. What causes someone to dress up like Spidey, Batman, Green Lantern, the Flash or villains like, Poison Ivy, Bane, Doc Ock, Green Goblin, Venom? Is it more than just fun? There is something that fans identify with in the character that it becomes personal.
HM-S:The book has a foreword by Tom DeFalco. What was his reaction when you initially approached him about putting together the collection?
RW: Actually, one of our contributors was corresponding with J.M. DeMatteis, and somehow Tom De Falco found out through J.M. about the project. He contacted me initially. We are so grateful he contributed and gave his blessing to the project. I consider him one of the best (along with J.M. of course) in the long line of Spidey scribes. He was a delight to work with. It is always nice to have someone who has actually written or drawn the character get involved with an academic tome like ours.
HM-S:I have seen WEB-SPINNING HEROICS on the shelf in comic book shops. Do you think casual comic fans are likely to pick it up? Would it be accessible for all levels of readership?
RP: Most of it, yeah. There are a few essays that deal with some pretty formidable theory, but that’s as it should be. Spider-Man and his universe tap into some areas that we believe require some substantially sophisticated thinking to truly unpack. But we built the book to have something for the fans, the creators, the historians, and the scholars. Hopefully, that comes through.
RW: Yes I think there is enough there that all types of readers could get something from the volume. As Rob Peaslee says, there are a few weighty pieces in the volume, but there is also material anyone into Spidey could enjoy.
HM-S:Why do you think Spider-Man comics have endured so long in the popular imagination and in print?
RP: I think it’s the radical reliability of Peter Parker. Spider-Man is the disguise that enables him to be the Peter he feels he needs to be in order to live authentically.
RW: I agree with Rob Peaslee here. Peter Parker really was a different kind of superhero and the character resonated with the comic reading public in 1962-63. Peter/Spider-Man has never really waned since then. Despite having this “wonderful” power, Peter has lots personal problems and angst (and continues to do so). The supporting characters are all interesting and the villains are fascinating. Whether in red/blue, black, or even white, the Spidey costume is just plain cool.
HM-S:Why do you think Spider-Man has translated so well to the silver screen? What do you think film versions bring to Spider-Man mythology?
RP: Clearly, superhero texts are tailor-made for film. There’s the hero’s journey story-structure that fits so well in the dominant American cinematic mode of three-acts and climax. There’s the potential for fantastical or sci-fi-driven storylines that both maximize Hollywood’s potential for creating CGI and satisfy the audience’s desire for escape and spectacle. But what’s made Spider-Man and Batman successful on screen to a much greater degree than their peers, I think, is their flaws, which lead to much more compelling character arcs. People think they’re going for the explosions and the web-slinging, but what ultimately brings them value is a compelling inner story.
RW: I think the technology has gotten up to speed to make a believable Spider-Man movie. One only has to compare the 1970s live action Spider-Man television series with the films to see the difference. One of the things that the Spider-Man films have done right is the seamless way they combine CGI with live action. When Spidey is bouncing around New York it looks good and not “cheesy.” (Grant Morrison said it was “dreamlike”). One of the big problems with the Hulk films is that the audience is always aware it is watching a big green CGI creature and it looks that way. The Avengers did the best version of the character so far As Rob Peaslee mentions above, the “inner story” is what is compelling about Spider-Man. The relationships he has with the supporting characters combined with the villains.
HM-S: Rob Weiner,what motivated you to write about the romance between Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Mary Jane for the collection? Why did this relationship catch your attention particularly?
RW: Well I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of romance in superhero comics. For example, a lot of readers don’t realize that even Professor X once considered Jean Grey a “love” interest when she first joined the X-Men (along with the other X-guys). In particular, those early Marvel stories usually written by Stan Lee always had this anxiety concerning romance. Matt Murdock and Foggy always pining for Karen, Peter Parker getting turned down on dates, Sub-Mariner always chasing Sue Storm, Captain America always keeping his distance, Wasp/Janet always flirting with all the other heroes in her attempts to get Hank/Ant-Man’s attention.
Spider-Man presents an interesting case. I had original thought of the concept for the 2010 Film & History conference which had romance as its theme. One of the reasons the Spider-Man movies are so successful is that at their core the films are romances rather than action films. The opening narration in the first film sets this up as Parker discusses his love for Mary Jane. I thought it would be interesting to compare and contrast the three films with three important events in their relationship from the comics from different eras. I found it amusing that Parker was always trying to avoid meeting Mary Jane in those early comics (which was a great plot device). In both the comics and films Mary Jane is a strong woman who demands respect, equality, and Peter’s loyalty. Even though in all of the films she gets taken by the villain and Spidey has to rescue her, she knows the risks of being Spider-Man’s partner and accepts it. She makes the choice despite the danger. I also thought it would be interesting to explore from the comics the marriage and subsequent erasing of their relationship. Peter Parker/Spider-Man doesn’t often get a “break” when it comes to romance, but there have been a few moments of happiness and joy.
HM-S: Rob Peaslee, what do you think that psychoanalysis can bring to an understanding of Spider-Man comics or Peter Parker/Spider-Man particularly? Why did you choose this topic to explore in the collection?
RP: This article was actually a reprint of a piece I published in a journal several years ago, and Rob Weiner convinced me that it had a place here. I think psychoanalysis is a rich theoretical framework not only for approaching Spidey, but for understanding the structure, content, and reception of the superhero text more generally. It’s not the only way to look at the superhero, obviously, but when we consider Freud’s ideas about the id, wish-fulfillment, degradation, etc., it’s hard not to see these notions on display in nearly every superhero story.
[A psychologically transforming moment in AMAZING FANTASY #15]
HM-S:What other heroes or topics could benefit from further study and discussion these days?
RP: Funny you should ask, Hannah! We’re working on another collection about a prominent character from the comics universe, but as that is under review right now and we don’t want to steal our own thunder just yet, we’ll have to leave you to speculate.
RW: Oh I think the field is STILL wide open. There is so much history and many heroes and villains that deserve the academic treatment. As I’ve argued before, I see comics as a form a social history. They are documents of the time in the same way movies and novels are. I’d love to see more analysis of the darker heroes like Spawn, Punisher, The Demon, Ghost Rider, Blazing Skull, Creeper, Deadman, Man Thing, Sub-Mariner, Moon Knight, Deathlok, and the Phantom Stranger not to mention those wacky superhero stories from the 1950s. I know there has been scholarship on these characters but there is always room for more. So much comics scholarship focuses on the last 30 years, but as someone trained as a historian, I like to know what do the earlier (Golden Age) comics say about our world past and present?
HM-S:What got you into comics scholarship and writing about comics?
RP: I came in the back door, as it were, from the movie theater. I’ve only recently begun reading comics…in fact, I’ve probably read more scholarship about comics than I’ve read actual comics. Rob Weiner has been a significant mentor in this regard.
RW: Comics have always been a part of my life off and on since I was a little. I started to write and study comics while I was working as a public librarian over 15 years ago. I started obtaining graphic novels for the library collection and began reading them. I wrote an article about collecting graphic novels for the Texas Library Journal and then it just took off from there. However, I always thought there was something “deeper” in sequential art storytelling. When I first read WATCHMEN in 1990, I remember thinking this could be used in a philosophy or political science class. I spent six years reading and writing for the Marvel Graphic Novels Annotated Guide, which was my trial by fire.
HM-S:Are there any upcoming projects you’re working on that you all would like to spread the word about?
RP: The piece we’re working on fills a void in the scholarship so large and obvious, that until we’re under contract, we don’t want to say too much. Somebody else might slap their forehead and beat us to it. Stay tuned…
RW: Ditto above! I do have a volume that I co-edited with my librarian colleague Carrye Syma on the educational power of sequential art (Comics and Education) forthcoming from McFarland.
HM-S: Flipping through WEB-SPINNING HEROICS, I have to confess, opened my eyes to how many great topics are worth discussing in-depth when it comes to Spider-Man, and also made me think of new directions for exploring Spider-Man as a cultural phenomenon. That’s certainly the role of good scholarship, providing springboards for the imagination of readers, so thanks for the tireless work, Rob Peaslee and Rob Weiner, in putting the collection together. Looking forward to all your mysterious projects yet to come documenting the role and significance of comics!
Hannah Means-Shannon writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on WordPress.
On March 30th, WonderCon attendees got treated to a bonus feature in a Spotlight panel with Ann Nocenti, Jim Lee acting as her interviewer. The two had so much shared history that they reminisced about the “good old days” at Marvel as well as plunging into the current artwork that most impresses them on their work for DC. The panel opened with a tone-setting description from Nocenti of her time as a Marvel writer and editor, “back in the day when Marvel Comics was so much fun”, when you could “smoke and drink and have guns in the office”. Lee confirmed that the gun in the office was an observable phenomenon, and Nocenti added by way of explanation that guns were needed for “reference”.
Lee started off by introducing Nocenti as the “self proclaimed female token writer at DC” and asked her how her current state came to be, considering that in her Marvel days there were several women on staff. Nocenti commented that though there were women at Marvel, she recalled that there were never any women at comic cons back then, unlike the demographic at WonderCon. “It must have been rough on you guys”, she teased Lee. Some of her workmates at Marvel, she explained, were Mark Gruenwald, “the soul of Marvel Comics”, Larry Hama, who was known for “pounding, crazy music” in his office, and Peter Sanderson, a “living archive” of all things Marvel.
Nocenti obviously had fond memories of the bullpen days at Marvel, stating, “The physical bullpen made the place creative”. She had a steep learning curve upon arriving at Marvel with a fine arts background, and had a lot to learn under her first editor Jim Shooter, someone who she described as “having a beautiful sense of story” and who ingrained in her the need for a “can’t/must” moment of conflict for a hero. The maxim still holds true for Nocenti, she confirmed. “He’s right”, Lee said, “Conflict is one of the key things in drama”. “Louise Simonson also had a huge influence on me”, Nocenti added, a woman who had the “power to cloud men’s minds” according to legend, by infusing even her most severe criticisms with a “cheerful attitude”.
Nocenti shared some of the lessons she learned from editing at Marvel with the audience, including the need for the editor present a fan’s perspective to the writer or artist: “A good editor has to understand that a writer is working so hard, and is so over worked, that they need ideas thrown at them from a fan’s perspective”. But from the editor’s perspective, she observed, it often leads to bizarre conversations and often caused her to ask herself “Did I just say that?” when generating “wacky” ideas with writers. Nocenti particularly enjoyed crossover development in the bullpen, and feels that she wasn’t alone in that enthusiasm, sharing “really exciting creative meetings” where “everyone would want to play at the same party”. Her advice to editors is to “learn everything”, like a “captain knows how to run a ship”, and she feels that this approach was encouraged at Marvel, but is less common today. This enables an editor to “know what everyone’s going through”.
Lee presented Nocenti with a copy of a comic they had once collaborated on together, though she confessed she didn’t recall the book, X-Men #39. After flipping through it and chatting together, Nocenti declared, “This looks like a great story. I want to buy this and read this!”, to the audience’s amusement. Lee’s questions, however, led Nocenti into darker recollections, about the “mini implosion” period at Marvel that led to her departure. Ron Perlman, she narrated, came into her office one day, wanting to meet her, and was fairly charming, but the “next thing we knew, he had gutted Marvel” financially. It was a “very traumatic” experience for “old timers”, she commented, and brought to her attention a famous quote from Dorothy Parker: “Don’t put all your eggs in one bastard”. After leaving Marvel, Nocenti worked in journalism, teaching, and filmmaking, gaining a wealth of experience that she now finds useful for life back in comics.
Writing a story about Catwoman in Arkham Asylum, for instance, she said, is drawn from a combination of her experiences working “at a place like Arkam” in her youth, and also from later editing Prison Life Magazine, which contained the work of prisoners. She observed a psychological feature that she’s incorporated into comics, the fact that it’s often “one small thing” that drives people crazy, not necessarily the bigger issues in life. Her experiences as a journalist and activist also led Nocenti to visit China, and some of her observations there led directly to her recent writing on GREEN ARROW, particularly noticing the pervasive “firewalls” on internet access in China and the sense of surveillance. Though she enjoyed working on GREEN ARROW, Nocenti explained that she “just couldn’t find her connection” to the character and was happy to move on to writing CATWOMAN, a character who she felt immediately in sync with. Her work on KATANA, too, keeps her imagination on its toes, drawing on the “idea of ancient clans, where the rich hire Samurais and ninjas are like spies”.
Lee and Nocenti spent the remainder of the panel showing and discussing process artwork and completed panels from upcoming CATWOMAN and KATANA stories, and enthusing over their finer features. The images included the set up for what Nocenti described as a “big gang war” for Catwoman and scenes in Arkham with “old torture devices”. Nocenti’s work on KATANA is based on her own obsession with martial arts and Kurasawa and martial arts films. “All comic book writers are doing really is unloading their personal obsessions on the page”, she confessed. This leads the writer to worry that readers might not find it interesting, she said, but in the case of Katana, Nocenti’s obsessions have translated to plenty of interest from fans. Nocenti regularly practises karate and judo around the house to see how Katana would move and act, and makes things even more “realistic” through watching martial arts films. It’s clear that her adaptable nature, shown throughout her varied career paths, is still going strong, and that her personal enthusiasm for her projects is still one of Nocenti’s most defining features.
Photo Credits: All photos in this article were taken by semi-professional photographer and pop culture scholar Michele Brittany. She’s an avid photographer of pop culture events. You can learn more about her photography and pop culture scholarship here.
Hannah Means-Shannon writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on WordPress.
Or: how did we get here anyway? Chris Eckert does something we’re surprised more anal retentive fans internet researchers haven’t done, and collates Five Years Later: The Oral History of Countdown to Final Crisis using the plethora of internet interviews that flooded the comics internets in the innocent days of 2007. Although, as Eckert points out, a lot of material from that era has been removed, including most of Newsarama and The Pulse, to name but two. So what was Countdown?
it also provided us a near-perfect lab specimen of what an Editorially Driven Comic Book looks like. To a certainly extent, everything you can say about Countdown is true of nearly every Big Two superhero comic:
It was published to fill a hole in the schedule
Non-Executive-Staff creative members were treated like interchangeable cogs, comic-producing machines
Plot Events (and importance to the companywide Uberplot) were privileged over what would be traditionally called “story” and “character”
It received constant “comics” “media” attention on the big blogs despite no one, not even the interviewers and DC employees extruding the book weekly, seemed to care in the least
Our own memory of the time is similar…as the above teaser circulated (as did the one below) following the revelation of the 52 mini-series, it seemed tearing apart every little continuity link of the DCU for story shock value became the goal. And they also repretnt what has become status quo for the DCU: people crying mourning in a shattered landscape of dark greys, browns and green And not everything worked out behind the scene either:
MARTS: For the first four books, we’ve brought in Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, Adam Beechem, Sean McKeever, and Tony Bedard. These are our key writers who will be working with Paul in the beginning, but also that doesn’t stop us from bringing other writers in to work on the project… If we choose to crossover with another storyline or a book which is being driven by another writer, we can allow that writer to come onboard and tell their portion of the story inside Countdown and working with Paul. That way, there will be a real feeling of cohesiveness between the series and Countdown, but it also allows the writer to maintain some level of input and control over the character they’re writing on a monthly basis.
Eckert: In case anyone is curious, this never happened.
Some would argue that 52 is where the EDC became the only thing driving the superhero mainstream. But surely COUNTDOWN is where it drove off into the unchartered territory that would lead to the New 52 revamp.
Ever since Dan DiDio said off-handedly that a DC character would be gay upon their return to the New 52, the internet was rife with discussion about who it might be. Bulleteer? Ambush Bug? Bat-Mite? Were three people who nobody thought it might be.
But then MTV Geek suggested that the character would be original Green Lantern Alan Scott. Which, officially, DC have now confirmed to be the case. So insecure Batman fans can breathe a sigh of relief, while Wonder Woman fans will look glumly at their feet. Maybe next reboot, you guys.
In interviews published in seemingly every newspaper in Americatoday, EARTH 2 writer James Robinson discusses his decision to change the sexuality of the character upon his reintroduction to the DC Universe:
What I really want to do with this character is make the fact that he’s gay to be a part of who he is and not to be the one identifying aspect of him… have his humor and his bravery be as much or more a part of him as his sexuality.
And what you can grab from most of the interviews is that this does seem to be a storyline Robinson organically planned, which was simply hijacked by publicists to try and steal some of the limelight from Marvel’s gay marriage. Aware that de-aging Scott would mean Obsidian, Scott’s homosexual son in the previous continuity, would be magically erased from existence, Robinson simply decided that Scott would make a strong gay character instead. Here he is in the next issue of EARTH 2:
Tall, isn’t he? And finally, a last quote from Robinson.
Quite honestly, it was an offhand comment that Dan made at a panel in England that got everybody suddenly aware and excited. I’m as surprised by it as you are. This was not ever meant to be sensational. It’s meant to be about a team that’s well-rounded, that shows the diversity of the world around us.
DC have finally confirmed what people have been whispering/typing misspelt into ALL CAPS headlines for months now – that September’s issues for all their New 52 titles will be ‘Zero’ issues, and wind back in time to reveal the origins of each character. What this will do for books like Action Comics or Demon Knights, which have already done that, is uncertain. I’m sure Grant’ll think of something.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Dan DiDio explains that this zero initiative is intended to help new readers who want to know the origin of each character (although it seems like an idea more geared towards satisfying long-term readers who want to know which classic stories are still in continuity). So September will have 52 origin stories released, before the titles all revert back to issue #13 in October.
….well, apart from four of them.
Yes, DC have announced that the third wave of their New 52 will start soon, with four titles being cancelled to make way for four new books. Start panicking for the future of your favourites! We already know that Justice League International is over with issue #12, and those who pay keen attention to sales (you know who you are) will likely be looking carefully at the future of Captain Atom and Blue Beetle, among others.
But what will the four new titles be? Well there aren’t many details yet – expect CBR or DC’s own ‘The Source’ blog to reveal more later today, no doubt – but we do know what the books will be, and roughly what they are about. They are:
Talon: A spin-off from the current Batmancentric ‘Court of Owls’ crossover, written by Scott Snyder.
Team Seven: The team Geoff Johns has been teasing for months in the main Justice League title, as Steve Trevor, Dinah Lance, Amanda Waller, John Lynch, Cole Cash, Alex Fairchild and Slade Wilson join forces to fight Superman or something. This announcement could suggest that Suicide Squad is facing cancellation, which will surely delight Harley Quinn fans if true.
Phantom Stranger, also launching out of the teases Geoff Johns made in DC’s Free Comic Book Day issue, although how they’ll string a story together out of him is anybody’s guess. DC promise that this is the book which will explain the origin of the New 52 Universe as a whole, so that could be the hook.
And the final book is Swords and Sorcery starring the return of Amethyst, bizarrely enough. Which means the market has no place for an ongoing Storm, Black Widow, Hepzibah or Spoiler series, but is happy to support Amethyst. Ah well! This book looks like the most fun of the four.
No creative teams announced for these books, by the way, aside from the Snyder/Talon announcement. We’ll likely have to wait a little longer for the lucky soul relaunching Amethyst to be revealed. I ruddy love Amethyst.
If this were ten years ago, the question would be easy. If it were twenty years ago, it would be even easier. But today? It’s tougher.
The first few names that come to mind are guys like Bryan Hitch or Steve McNiven. Those guys move units, but they’re not super huge in the marketplace anymore. John Cassaday has been away for too long, and sometimes I wonder if he’s devalued his work to a certain extent doing only covers for the last chunk of years. DC already tried to make a big deal of bringing David Finch over to do Batman, and that resulted in a Batman book that only David Finch fans buy. Anyone else even close is already working with Mark Millar.
It may be hard for you kidlings to believe, but starting with, probably Neal Adams, there were many artists who were so popular and groundbreaking that a) artists everywhere began drawing just like them and b) their names on a book meant instant sales. Frank Miller. John Byrne. George Perez. Bill Sienkiewicz. Art Adams. And, yes, Todd McFarlane and Jim Lee, followed by such folks as Joe Madureira and J. Scott Campbell. Image Comics was formed when the superstars of the moment jumped ship. Perhaps it was the rise of creator-owned comics which meant that a talent such as, say Mike Mignola, would concentrate on his own creations. Bryan Hitch popularized the “Wide Screen look” but today’s homogenized house styles—and the rise of studios and agents in South America and Europe—have made it a lot harder for a signature talent to arise and totally dominate.
In defending the Before Watchmen project Dan Didio expressed the traditional view of the mainstream comic book industry saying that the industry’s strength lies in “building on other people’s legacies, enhancing them and making them stronger.” How does this view square with the 21st Century comics industry when we are seeing the benefits of creator owned and controlled projects like Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead?
Bob Wayne: I think you are blurring the passion that the writers and artist have when they are working on a property as not being creative unless they have an ownership stake in the property. I think there is room for both models in our publishing plan, and certainly in comics overall. I don’t think one of them excludes the other from being successful. I don’t think that the success of The Walking Dead means that Fables doesn’t work or vice versa. They are just different ways for publishing companies, artists, writers, and creators to work together to maximize each property, and there’s no one way, no one-size-fits-all to do it.
John Cunningham: I think that there is a tendency in the way the world works now to try to view everything as an “either or.” It’s either this way or it’s that way. I just don’t think that the world works in an “either or” fashion, and I certainly don’t think that this particular question funct
Well, the issue is that having a regular gig at Marvel or DC has traditionally been a relatively cushy deal for artists and writers, especially if they have an exclusive (like the one Rivera walked away from at Marvel). Think about it: guaranteed work, royalties, maybe even health insurance. Whereas with a creator-owned comic — unless you have a progressive publisher willing to provide you with a deal where you keep some or all of your rights — you have to essentially set up your own business.
But, as in the case with Rivera, it boils down to owning your own characters and having enough equity to be able to survive the years when publishers aren’t knocking on your door (an issue made more urgent and timely since the tragic case of Static co-creator Robert Washington III).
Whether it’s been Before Watchmen, the Avengers movie, the success of Saga and The Walking Dead (the fact that #100 is being estimated to be the top-selling book of the year, in a year when both Marvel and DC are desperately trying to outdo each other, makes me happy to an extent it’s difficult to describe and hard to explain the reasons for, I shamefacedly admit) or the tragic, truly heartbreaking news of the death of Robert L. Washington III, 2012 has been the year of … what? Creator rights? Not exactly, but perhaps people actually really thinking about creator rights and talking about it seriously again for the first time in … a decade? Longer?
Like I said, this should be a 3000 word article, but I’ll just briefly note this: Paolo Rivera is clearly one of the top talents of this generation as far as mainstream comics go. And all the stuff he did at Marvel was great but I always felt a little bad that we had never seen him bust out into his own thing. And now he has, posting some cryptic hints of his next project on Twitter:
Rivera’s moving on is clearly a very friendly one, but to be blunt, Marvel’s publishing infrastructure simply doesn’t support a new project by a creator—even one of Rivera’s stature. Icon is just for the chosen few (all writers). Other than that? What and how?
I’ll be even more blunt: you are simply not going to grow as a creator sticking with company-owned legacy projects all the time. The two hottest writers of the moment
DC has been rolling out a new ad campaign featuring their creators…or Makers as they’re called. (As we pointed out, the official word at both Marvel and DC is “Talent.”) This is noteworthy, because Image already rolled out a very similar campaign, as Image publisher Eric Stephensonpointed out briefly and sharply.
It’s the opposite tack from Marvel, which promotes its creators as “Architects,” positioning them as being responsible for a “House of Ideas,” although that branding also removes the “creator” term — again, with good reason — and portrays what the creators do as a job, instead of something more romantic and idealistic.
Perhaps this is the best way for both Marvel and DC to take advantage of increasing awareness on the part of the audience about who is writing and drawing their favorite books, and the cult of personality that promotes, while also downplaying the issue of authorial ownership. Of course, it’s also possible that DC simply chose the term “makers” for its alliterative qualities when paired with the word “Meet,” and are pushing creators because there’s no big publishing news coming from them this year. I guess we’ll see in a couple of weeks when SDCC begins…
So far DC has rolled out Scott Snyder and Geoff Johns, but you can see the whole talent gallery here. With the long-time focus on characters, not creators, this is a nice switch from DC, and also a reality-facing moment: readers follow creators just as much as characters these days.
It would almost be self-aggrandizing to praise Noelene Clark’srecent women in comics piece in the LA Times, since I’m quoted so extensively in it, but I’m happy to say that the bulk of the cartoonists she spoke with were also proponents of the idea that I often promote here: women have already had massive, historic success in the comics industry, and at this point those outlets that aren’t adapting to the wave of female readers and creators are truly out of step with the times, and not the trendsetters.
MacDonald, Abel, Oleksyk and others are quick to point out that the frequently spotlighted superhero genre is just a tide pool in an ocean of work — a tide pool that has somehow managed to delay the sea change undergone by the rest of the industry.
“They consistently make editorial decisions that seem designed to alienate women,” Abel said. “So it’s self-reinforcing. If you’re constantly straight-arming women, women aren’t going to read them. If they don’t read them, they don’t grow up imagining them. If they don’t grow up imagining them, they’re not going to make them.”
As long as I’m here, I’d like to expand on my comments in the piece on just WHY the Big Two are so lagging behind the rest of the comics (and the publishing and even film worlds) in catering to female nerds and readers.
While I enjoy the heroic efforts on the part of DCWKA’s Sue, Kyrax2, Geek Mom and the squadron of superhero suffragettes out there, and support most of their points, I feel their efforts are pre-doomed. Sure it’s obvious that a character like Stephanie Brown—a character with a younger,more vocal following—deserves to be featured in her own book. Sure it’s obvious from the licensing alone that a Wonder Woman book aimed at young girls would find an audience.
My essay on Marvel and DC as dedicated safe spaces for male-focused entertainment got quite a bit of talk going, which is the best possible reaction to any essay. Several very smart people wrote rebuttals, and these posts also generated very thoughtful comment sections.
The very articulate Laura Sneddon took on my essay and a bunch of recent nerd gender issues with Women in Comics: It Ain’t Over, which also announces that the battle is going to continue. Both Laura and Sue chide me for giving up on superhero comics. Here’s Sneddon’s take:
This double standard still exists today, where women in independent and autobiographical comics are seen as acceptable and normal (much like women authors in prose and poetry), while women creators in action and superhero comics are seen as the odd ones out. And indeed the statistics bear out that they are the minority, even as women readers of these comics continues to increase. Any argument that we should be happy with what we've got, and turn our back on the superhero strips misses the point of these action comics – they are not just for men, and it is not only men that want to create and consume them. That's what the publishers might think, but it sure as hell shouldn't be what they actually think.
Women buy the majority of cinema tickets, and buy the majority of books. Women are a powerful sector of the media consumption pie, and when a large media craze hits, it’s generally women who are making up the majority of sales. Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games, 50 Shades of Grey – each of which single handedly kept the publishing market afloat every time it’s poised to sink. What publisher wouldn’t want to appeal to this mass market of hungry readers? And yet even the independent and literary comics struggle to find such exposure. Why? Because the general public’s idea of comics is that they are the superheroes, the scantily clad tits and ass covers, the boys domain, the shops that women often feel unwelcome in, and the comics that women supposedly do read are often hidden behind them. When any mainstream press article focusing on these latter titles must first establish, again and again, that women do read comics, that comics are for grown ups, and that spandex isn’t a necessity, it’s easy to see why they just skip past them instead to the latest literary wonder prose.
Sneddon’s post has a lot of great links including this brilliant post by Gail Simone which I’ll gank in its entirety:
YOU KNOW WHAT IS EXHAUSTING? …being at a convention, a busy convention, and having dozens, sometimes hundreds of women in my signing line, not there because they are being dragged there but because they love comics—taking pictures with them, admiring their amazing cosplay, listening to their ideas and hopes and favorite stories, listening to their passion about the characters and the medium in general, talking with endless female aspiring writers and so many ridiculously talente
Saturday brought a boatload of news from DC, which isn’t surprising, given the number of comics panels they held.
In Saturday’s DC The New 52 panel, Geoff Johns said that his version of Aquaman will add a humor element by having the other characters in the DCU see him in the same funny but unflattering light that most people do in the real world. Meanwhile, the new version of Hawkman, as written by Tony S. Daniels will no longer have Hath Set as his archnemesis, instead introducing a new foe. Cyborg, originally a member of the Teen Titans, will now be a founding member of the Justice League.
Meanwhile, in Green Lantern news, Sinestro will continue to bear the Green Lantern ring, while Hal Jordan will be homeless, for some reason, which will be played for laughs.
Coming soon to a poster near you!
In DC’s The Dark and The Edge panel (we see what you did there, yes, yes, darker edgier, we get it) it was revealed Animal Man will return as a horror comic written by Jeff Lemire and inspired by early pre-Vertigo comics. Lemire also will create the new title Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE. Paul Cornell will create the new book Demon Knights, featuring Etrigan, Madame Xanadu and Vandal Savage among others as a sort of “Magnificent Seven”. Meanwhile, Swamp Thing will no longer be a different person from Alec Holland, reversing Alan Moore’s reinterpretation of the character, and yet every Swamp Thing story will remain in continuity. Suicide Squad will also return, with an emphasis on the premise’s darker nature. Joshua Fialkov will write a new take on the classic horror comic I, Vampire. Stormwatch will return, written by Paul Cornell, and Apollo and The Midnighter will still be gay and a couple. Issue 1 will be their first meeting. Because none of these books will be part of the Vertigo line, they will lack the line’s traditional nudity and profanity.
Okay, by now you’ve all heard about how the topic of women working in superhero comics (and women geeks, but that’s another post) was the talk of the town at Comic-Con. At each of the daily DC New 52 panels, a woman dressed as Batgirl would ask about more women characters, what characters her daughter should dress as and more, to an increasingly hostile reception among other attendees. There’s much more on this woman and her reception on the internet but we’ll get to that in a moment.
I was only able to attend one DC New 52 panel, and it was the first one on Thursday, the one that has gotten a particular soundbite spread all around the internet. DC has made all their panels available as podcasts, and I guess if you are a real Kremlinologist you’ll want to comb over these tapes for clues and evidence. I do want to talk about the panel I attended, because there are some things that happened that I witnessed that I haven’t seen reported, and some other private moments that I witnessed that I think add to the whole picture. So here’s what I know:
This first panel was a hot ticket as everyone thought this would be where the most sparks flew. I attended the panel with our own first timer, Ali Colluccio. The line was humongous — I really didn’t think we’d get in. Ironically, we were standing only two people behind Rich Johnston, who was busily posting and taking phone calls even while standing in line — that guy worked his ass off at the Con, for sure.
As Ali and I chatted we got into a conversation with the man standing in front of us, the owner of a store in Burbank called Emerald Knights. He introduced himself and gave me his card, but it doesn’t have his name on it, and I didn’t write it down, so I’ll call him The Owner. Of course I asked him what he thought of the relaunch, and he was generally positive. However, he said “I’m concerned that they’ve gone from 12% women to 1% women creators.”
I allowed that I was surprised to hear a MAN saying this, as it usually seemed to be the female element that was complaining. The Owner told us that his wife is a writer, and he sees getting more women in the business as part of growing it. Clearly a man of vision!
When we got into the room (just about the last to get in, I might add!) few seats remained so Ali and I and The Owner all sat in the far left of the room. The panel began — you can read my live blog here. Ali and I both had our laptops out taking notes, so we were both head down working.
This afternoon, Bill Willingham tweeted some typically frank thoughts about working on superhero comics — in recent years, he wrote JSA for DC, and before that, SHADOWPACT, a group book featuring several of DC’s more supernatural characters…and Detective Chimp. And as many have said before him, working with recent brands of editorial direction tended to mitigate against spontaneity:
To answer your question, no, I am not done with superhero comics. I surely love me those heroes. But the next thing will take a little time. Past superhero series I’ve been involved with had too many captains trying to pilot one boat. Characters taken from me mid-story. Plots imposed from above, and then changed arbitrarily. That’s no way to tell any story well. So the next project will be one I create from the ground up and control fully. No more begging permission from distracted gatekeepers.
It wasn’t just a matter of characters taken away for big crossovers and such. I had one character, Liberty Belle, taken from my JSA……to join the JLA — but no one told me. I learned far after the fact from @matt_sturges who read a script of mine and wondered why I was still using her in the JSA. Call from editor? Nope. Call from fellows who took her for the JLA? Nope. Silly way to run a circus.
Yeah, Shadowpact was another example of abrupt changes made constantly to stories that had been approved for months…… starting with 1st page of 1st issue, and never letting up. Too bad. I had hopes for the series too.
Don’t get me wrong. I think work for hire is a reasonably fair system, provided you know what you’re getting into. But to hire a fellow to write a series, approve the stories, but then do everything possible to disrupt and derail those stories seems odd.
No editorial hasn’t increased over the years, they’ve gotten (at least in one house) more chaotic. Today’s idea supplants yesterday’s idea! Now, everyone implement the changes on the fly! Hold on! We just had a new set of ideas at lunch! Everyone get ready for new changes! No I will not list all of the changes required for any series, only because it would be too long a list. But to say changes were called for on every page of every issue wouldn’t be an exaggeration.
Willingham still enjoys his FABLES experience, however:
Good question. On Fables there is editing, well in advance of production, but never last minute whim changes required. And no one at DC can grab Fables cast members, without my say so, for other stories. That’s the job of big TV networks.
Venom by Rick Remender has Remender on writing chores, with the art split between Tony Moore and Tom Fowler, and a variety of inkers on Moore. I pulled this volume out of the library on a lark and it turned out to be a much deeper read than I was expecting.
The series premise is that Venom (the alien symbiote that was Spider Man’s black costume) has fallen into the hands of the military. They’re letting the symbiote bond with soldiers and using it for black ops missions. The latest soldier to bond with it is Flash Thompson. Yes, Spider-Man’s old #1 fan and Peter Parker’s high school bully frenemy. Thompson joined the army and lost his legs in combat. Among other bonuses for Flash, when he’s wearing the Venom suit, he has legs again. On the other hand, if you bond with the symbiote too long, it takes over. The symbiote also can exert its will when its host loses his temper. Flash Thompson lose his cool? That’s certainly an established character trait.
This book is a character study of Flash Thompson with regular bursts of ultra-violence. It lives in a dark place, as Flash has to work through his pathos, least the symbiote take control of his body. He struggles to stop thinking like a bullying jock. He worries about his relationship with Betty Brant, who thinks he’s relapsing into alcoholism any time he disappears for a mission. He tries to deal with his relationship, or lack thereof, with his father in the final act.
What keeps this moving along is the internal monologue as Flash tries to be the man he thinks he should be as circumstances conspire against him. Were you expecting
That’s not to say this book is mislabeled. Batman by Gene Colan is exactly what it is. The thing is, this is an art book. The time period collected in the book, roughly late 1981 through 1983 is an interesting period in the history of DC. Marv Wolfman and George Perez had already struck gold with New Teen Titans. Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen started their collaboration on Legion of Super-Heroes. Mike W. Barr and Jim Aparo launched Batman and the Outsiders. Things were starting to turn around a little. Marvel creators were starting to come over. Gerry Conway had been at DC for a while. Roy Thomas had arrived and was doing things like All-Star Squadron and Arak (which never captured the Conan audience it was intended to). Doug Moench would arrive at the end of this period. And, of course Gene Colan.
Colan’s initial batch of work included some Batman, Wonder Woman, The Phantom Zone (a Superman mini-series with Steve Gerber) and Night Force (a horror series with Marv Wolfman that never captured their Tomb of Dracula audience). This book is a collection of Colan’s Batman. The thing is, it isn’t a linear collection. Possibly some of the skipping around was due to the variety of books Colan worked on for DC. Possibly some of it being his work coming out in blocks.
For the most part, this book collects the Gerry Conway era of Batman. In that time frame, Conway wrote both Batman and Detective Comics. The art chores were a little bit of a bullpen. You had Don Newton, Gene Colan, some Irv Novick, Dan Jurgens, Dan Day, Curt Swan and so forth. Don Newton was really the most constant and artists would swap between books.
Storywise, sometimes you’d have stories that stayed in Detective or Batman. Sometimes they ran through both books. Regardless, the plentiful subplots ran through both.
In many ways, Batman of this era was similar to how Spider-Man has been run in recent years. And this makes picking up just the Gene Colan issues a strange thing to read. The second story in the book is a Poison Ivy tale from Batman #344. It wraps up a story that started in Batman #339 (a Conway story drawn by Novick) and had been running in the background for 4 issues in between. Subplots jump around. First there’s a mayoral election, which gets partially resolved in what’s reprinted. Suddenly Commissioner Gordon is pushed out of office outside the scope of these stories. There’s a subplot of the Human Target taking Bruce Wayne’s place as Deadshot stalks Wayne that is resolved in issues not reprinted. The introductions of Harvey Bullock and Jason Todd are events that take place in between reprinted issues. The final issue is the beginning of Doug Moench’s Thief of the
What is it about the Legion of Super-Heroes that pulls in ex-Marvel editor-in-chiefs. Roy Thomas wrote it. Gerry Conway wrote it. Jim Shooter came back for another run. Now Tom DeFalco is taking over Legion Lost with issue #7. Writing changes announced on Superman, Green Arrow and Legion Lost before the 4th issues hit the stands? You can’t say DC is averse to change.
His schedule just couldn’t keep up with a monthly series right now. It’s a bummer because Fabian and I had discussed some really cool ideas for the series, but I understood his reasons, and we parted on a positive note with hopes that someday we can reteam on something else down the road.
In all honesty, Legion Lost wasn’t very well received and Nicieza may not have been a good fit for the property. Where Nicieza might be considered old school, DeFalco is older school and when you add Legion Lost to an issue of Superman Beyond, I think we can now officially call this DeFalco’s return to DC. Return? Yes, while his career has been primarily at Marvel, DeFalco did a string of stories, primarily in Superman Family, for DC back in the late ’70s.
What’s on tap for Legion Lost?
A crossover with TEEN TITANS involving the organization known as N.O.W.H.E.R.E. — with a revelation that will change the entire course of LEGION LOST!
For a clean reboot, the New 52 sure does seem to have crossover on the brain. Then again, there was a time when Teen Titans and Legion were DC’s flagship titles, so at least there’s some symbolism here.
In the meantime, we await Nicieza’s next series and note that there’s another ex-Marvel EIC at DC in Bob Harras. When will he write a Legion comic?
These days, it seems like three years on a title is a good run. Brian Michael Bendis is calling it a day with eight years on the Avengers titles. In an interview with Comic Book Resources, Bendis says:
“I’m going to wrap up ‘Avengers’ and ‘New Avengers.’ At the same time the first storyline of ‘Avengers Assemble’ will be done,” Bendis told CBR. “It’s a good time to move on to other things. Before I go, though, I’m ending things big. I’m in countdown mode. You know when you’re watching a show like ‘Breaking Bad,’ and every episode feels like the second to last episode? That’s where I’m at. I’ve been on the Avengers longer than anybody in the history of the book. When you take everything into account, I’ve written over 200 issues. I’m very, very proud of that, and what we have coming up this summer gives me the opportunity to go out on a high note. I know enough about showbiz to know that’s a great time to go.”
Looking back at his time on the Avengers, one word comes to mind: events. The two things that immediately popped into my mind were Secret Invasion (Bendis spent a lot of time laying the ground for it before the actual series) and Dark Reign. Upon closer examination, throw in the mini-event of Avengers:Disassembled, which led directly into House of M. The New Avengers hiding out during Civil War. The Bendis Avengers run really has been the spine of Marvel for the bulk of the last seven years.
This is not to say everyone was enchanted by the Bendis Avengers. Plenty of fans didn’t think they actually _were_ Avengers comics. This is not an entirely invalid viewpoint. Bendis did his own thing, with his own flavor on Avengers.
There are at least 3 things on the Avengers plate for 2012. First off, Norman Osborn has just returned and re-taken command of H.A.M.M.E.R. Thus far, the current storyline appears to be a redux of Dark Reign, but without crossovers into all manner of other titles. Actually, the launch of this arc has been more lively than things have been in a while. (Neal Adams on the point one issue didn’t hurt.) The endcap to the Bendis run will almost certainly be the long-foreshadowed “Ultron War.”
In the middle of all this, Bendis is one of the cast of writers for Avengers Vs. X-Men, joining Jason Aaron, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction and Jonathan Hickman. This is a 12 issue bi-weekly series, starting in April. Actually, it’s probably really a 13 issue series, since Bendis is writing a zero issue for March. The writers will tag off with each writing a couple issues. The plotlines involve the return of the Phoenix Force and the return/redemption of the Scarlet Witch. Interestingly, this would be wrapping up a plot element that’s been simmering in the background since Bendis had Wanda utter “No more mutants” in Aven
When DC announced the 52 relaunch, there were a handful of titles I was concerned about: Xombi, Legion of Super-Heroes, Jonah Hex and T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. As it turns out, the only one I got burned on was the criminally under-appreciated Xombi. Last week, the new volume of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents came out.
The first question is: “Did the last series count or is this a total reboot?”
The first answer is: “The last series counts. Think of this like you think of the next B.P.R.D. series. It’s a number #1, but it’s clearly the next chapter.
This new volume is ever-so-slightly tweaked. Nick Spencer (Morning Glories, Infinite Vacation, Iron Man 2.0) is still writing it. The new artist is Wes Craig (Guardians of the Galaxy, Batman Strikes). Craig seems like a good fit for the story. T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents tends to swap back and forth in time from the ’60s to the present and Craig’s style fits both time periods without needing a lot of altering. I’m not so sure I don’t like him on the book better than CAFU and I didn’t have any issues with CAFU.
The other tweak is in the story structure. The previous series had parallel tracts: the main story was in the present, while a series of backups were set in the past and gave the backstory of the history of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. This new #1 is set only in the present. When some backstory is revealed, the flashback is narrated from the present. This keeps the backstory in a tighter context and keeps the story moving forward in more direct way than the last series. The previous series may have been structured with the old DC $3.99 and add a back-up feature format in mind, prior to everything rolling back to $2.99 and 20 pages. This direct approach is a better way to go when you’re dealing with 20 pages of space.
The basic premise of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents is that there’s a non-governmental agency (“Higher United Nations”) that has some tech items that grant the users super powers… but using the powers burns up the lifeforce/body of the users. It’s been around since the 1960s. Their old terrorist foes have resurfaced and T.H.U.N.D.E.R. has just re-staffed a fresh crop of agents. (That was pre-52 reboot volume of the series.)
So what’s going on here? Two threads have not quite converged yet. Thread number one has agents Dynamo, Lightning and NoMan on a peacekeeping mission to “Subterranea” when someone from their past shows up. Thread number two has Toby Henston (the new Menthor) and Colleen Franklin having a little discussion about how the Menthor helmet was built and a… quirk to it’s design that’s a little disturbing to Henston.
Thread number two is by far the more interesting and picks at some emotional scabs for the characters.
Yes, this is a legacy title. It’s not about generational heroes, but there is a history to the organization and who wore the devices in the past. Unlike the last, pre-52 reboot version of Justice Society, this is legacy espionage series. Cold war legacy where the “super” in “superspy” is a bit more literal and the gadgets are the powers.
I like this relaunch quite a bit, but I fear some of the high notes may be dulled if you haven’t read the first volume. Oh, you should be able to pick up the gist of what’s happening, but there’s so
You may recall an ongoing blame battle between writer John Rozum and artist Scott McDaniel over the New 52 launch title STATIC. Rozum was the first of the New 52 creators to walk, and revealed it was because of creative differences with McDaniel. Now McDaniel has told HIS side of the story — in a 15,000 word novella that covers every moment of every conference call in minute depth. McDaniel says he has never written anything before, but he seems to have a great future as a court reporter.
There’s a ton of “he said/he said” going on in the post.
Looking back on the situation, I think John simply felt there was nothing he could contribute. I solved most of the story issues to Editorial’s satisfaction, not him, and he was relegated to scripting a novice’s plots. And that infuriated him.
For my part, I am ashamed of being so angry. I am not ashamed of the work I contributed, but of the manner in which I offered it at this time.
And again, I hurled no expletives, or personal insults or insults of any kind. I simply refused to lay down before the master, instead making him earn each step.
You may not be able to get through this blow by blow account so we’ll just agree with Graeme McMillan’s take — there are no good guys/bad guys, just guys with different views.
Reading the two together – and parsing out the passive aggressiveness in both – what becomes clear very quickly is a creative mismatch between McDaniel and Rozum’s sensibilities, as well as a horrendous breakdown in communications between editorial and the two creators; instead of there being any smoking gun of “He Said He Said” gossip or controversy here, it just seems sad and a wasted opportunity all round. Static Shock deserved better.
If you can get through the whole McDaniel piece, there is a lot of perhaps unintentional insight into the state of the DC office during the whole New 52 rollout, such as this:
Again, Harvey and I were very concerned about the sales trend on STATIC. Please recall this topic from earlier in my statement. This historic sales trend is no joke. It's real. Sales cool. Harvey and I feared that, as retailers were preparing to order #4 through #6, if they didn't see evidence of real story momentum and something important and cool happening that would attract additional readers, they would not change their historical ordering patterns and the book would simply slide into cancellation, if not by issue #6, then maybe by #8 or #10. Again, John expressed a contrary opinion. To him, that stuff wasn't worthy of consideration – only story mattered. And he was gonna bring the story.
Again and again McDaniel comes back to preoccupation with sales—parsing CBR polls and Diamond charts for any meaning. (Were McDaniels and editor Harvey Richards privy to the actual numbers, one wonders.) While this seems like
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Joss Whedon started something when he decided to continue Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a comic. Now DC/Warners is following that lead and continuing Smallville as a comic, with Season 11 set to drop in April or May, depending on which format you want to read it in.
The comic will be written by Bryan Q. Miller, who was part of the Smallville writing staff and ended up as the Executive Story Editor. He also spent a couple years writing the Batgirl comic. Miller is as authoritative a Smallville vision as was available and he’s written comics before, so it seems like a good match there. The art will be by Pere Perez. Perez was on Batgirl with Miller and has done a few other things, notably some work on the Nightwing and Flamebird Action Comics run a couple years back.
The release schedule has a little bit of a quirk to it. Weekly digital comic “chapters” starting April 13, 2012 (a Tuesday) and then collected into a print edition starting on May 16. Offhand, I’d say the digital is there to do two things:
Trying to find the Smallville fans that are certainly dedicated enough online, but don’t seem to have a presence in the Direct Market. Cat Staggs is the cover artist for the digital edition and Gary Franks for the print. Having Franks, much more famous in the DM, for the print comic does speak to different audiences.
Mimicking the weekly schedule of a TV show.
Buffy started out with huge numbers as a monthly comic and settled into merely very good (for an independent comic) monthly numbers and a lot of trade paperback sales. It will be interesting to see if Smallville can find similar success.
We also have an answer to an old question. What will it take to get DC to do a regular Smallville comic? The show getting cancelled.
Fans of the smash-hit TV series Smallville haven’t had much to cheer about since the show ended its critically acclaimed 10-year run on The CW last May. That’s all going to change with the upcoming new comic book series from DC Entertainment: SMALLVILLE SEASON 11. Written by former Smallville show scribe Bryan Q. Miller, the new digital first series will be published digitally on April 13, 2012, with new digital chapters released weekly thereafter. Additionally, the online chapters will be offered in a print periodical, along with an episode guide to the hit television series, with the first print issue released on May 16.
The new comic book series picks-up where the show left off (with Clark officially now as Superman!) and features other fan-favorite characters including Oliver Queen/Green Arrow, Chloe Sullivan-Queen, Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, and General Lane. The book features an all-star creative team – in addition to Miller, SMALLVILLE SEASON 11 creators include print cover artist Gary Frank (SUPERMAN SECRET ORIGIN), digital cover artist Cat Staggs and interiors by Pere Perez (BATGIRL).
“Six months after Clark Kent donned the cape and took to the skies to save Earth from Apokolips… enter Season 11!” enthuses Miller. “New allies abound! New enemies afoot! And old friends return where they’re least expected! Pere and colorist Chris Beckett have done a fantastic job of capturing the look of the
Over at iFanboy, Jim Mroczkowski points out that the battle between Good and Wednesday has been very clearly won by Wednesday, with both Marvel and DC sticking to schedules even if it means the artist rosters are in constant flux:
“This is the greatest outrage in the history of human endeavor!” people cried. “We need to take a stand against these fat cat comic book creators, sleeping until noon while the rest of us camp out in the cold rain for books that will never come. We must vote with our wallets and punish these layabouts for their hostile disrespect for the audience. They knew the schedule when they signed up for the project. They should have prepared for this somehow. Stand up and be heard, reader! We want our comics, and we want them like clockwork!”
I was idly reflecting on those days when I realized I hadn’t heard anyone trying to start that rally for a long time now. It had been ages since I heard anyone complain about delays. In fact, the only complaints I could remember seeing lately were “who’s this clown drawing issue #6 of my DC book?” and “why is Marvel trying to kill me by double shipping all these series and shifting the artists around so much?”
For sure retailers are very happy that the trains are running on time—late books means lesser profit and we all need every penny. But the “Artist of Minute” isn’t really doing anything to boost brand loyalty either, is it? Display CommentsAdd a Comment