Monday, January 17, 2011

Last week's comics news...this week!

First, I apologize for the lack of posting lately. A daily comics blog, a week-daily comics blog, a day job, trying to sell freelance writing, making one's own comics, sleeping, eating, showering and attempting a social life now and then sure does eat up a lot of time, and EDILW unfortunately isn't always at the top of that list of priorities. I do try to make up for my lack of frequency with verbiage, though.


I don’t link to Alan Kistler’s Agent of STYLE columns at Blog@Newsarama as often as I should (nor as often as I mean to), in large part because most of the link-blogging I do is at Blog@ already. But I really like those columns; they’re probably my favorite feature at the site at the moment, although I do like that Caleb Mozzocco fellow’s stuff.

Kistler’s latest is a piece on Spawn, presented as a Q-and-A with Spawn. In addition to being a fun little piece, it was a surprising and informative, because I guess I never realized Spawn’s costume changed at all.

If you ever find yourself with a lot of time to kill on the Internet—say, you’re working, for example—check out the Agent of STYLE archives. Is your favorite character in there? Probably.


The occasion that apparently inspired Kistler to look at Spawn’s wardrobe was the release of the 200th issue of Spawn last week.

That’s a lot of issues of Spawn.

I was a teenager of just 15 tender years when Image Comics originally launched, and while I never read any of the founders’ Marvel work, I was intrigued enough by all the Creators First rhetoric and Todd McFarlane’s exaggerated style to pick up the series.

One of the things I found most appealing about McFarlane’s art was that it combined attributes of two Batman artists I really liked, and Batman was my superhero gateway drug.

See this picture?
McFarlane drew ridiculously massive capes and amounts of any projecting or billowing material the way Kelley Jones does and did, and he gave Spawn Kelley Jones’ Batman-like claw/paw hands.

I’d have to go through back issues with a scanner to find good comparison’s between Norm Breyfogle’s art and McFarlane’s, but I used to see a lot of similarity in the artists’ work—in that cover image at least, the speedlines and the bats that look like Gothic origami suggest are similar to things one sees in Breyfogle’s art all the time.

(It honestly confounds me that Breyfogle never became as popular as, say, McFarlane—his work is stylistically pretty reminiscent, although much, much better on a foundational/storytelling level, and it also shares similarities with Andy Kubert’s, who I think would have been a fine Batman artist if he ever had time to draw more than an issue or three every year or so).

I read Spawn’s origin story, which I believe lasted four issues or so, as McFarlane had it drip and drab out. Then there was something about a child serial killer and/or rapist that was probably my first experience with superhero decadence that struck me as ultimately pointless (Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns, Arkham Asylum, Swamp Thing, Killing Joke…those books were dark and decadent, but they also had stories and ambitions that justified going to dark places. Spawn didn’t).

McFarlane brought me back with that spate of issues with guest-writers—Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller and Dave motherfuckin’ Sim—and I think I read another issue or two before it felt dark and pointless to me again.

That’s just about my entire history with the character, barring the two Batman crossovers—the Miller/McFarlane Spawn/Batman and the Doug Moench/Chuck Dixon/Alan Grant/Klaus Janson Batman/Spawn: War Devil.

Miller’s story was extremely weak, but it was a pretty big deal at the time, to have Miller writing Batman one more time. I liked McFarlane’s art quite a bit—he does a pretty great Batman, and his take on the character is the one I like the best (A Breyfoglian one, where there’s a real man in the suit, but he’s wearing a suit of exaggerated art).

War Devil wasn’t great any shakes either, but it was interesting that all of the Batman writers at the time had a hand in it, making it seem very official (If they did that today, there would be what, a dozen writers involved….?), and it was great fun to see Janson drawing Spawn. (Well, those two comics and a truly awful live-action movie and a not so hot animated series on HBO).

Someone could probably do a nice overview article on McFarlane and Spawn and the impact they’ve had on the industry and comics during the course of those 200 issues, but I can’t, given my limited experience and exposure.

I’ve occasionally thought of checking in on Spawn, but now I wouldn’t even know where to begin—the big Image founders crossover series written by Robert Kirkman seemed like a good place, but I’m not sure where that comic is at now in terms of release/completion (And I study the new release lists pretty damn thoroughly every week while writing Twas….).

Now when I think of McFarlane and Spawn, I mostly just think of toys, baseballs and legal battles with Neil Gaiman, but I wonder if McFarlane helped introduce any teenagers to Alan Moore or Dave Sim (and if that was the start of Moore’s work on various Image-related franchises…?). He did introduce the direct market to Brian Michael Bendis in a big way and now it’s kind of hard to imagine Marvel Comics and/or the direct market without Bendis in it, isn’t it?

Fun fact: McFarlane is now so far off my personal radar that I actually had to look up whether it was “McFarlane” or “MacFarlane,” while I’ve now written about J. Michael Straczynski so often that I no longer need to look his last name up.


Have you seen this yet? The bizarre sexual objectification of Sarah Palin is a topic way too broad and icky to get into at any great length of level of sincerity here, but it’s weird that it hasn’t stopped yet.

The cover looks like one of those old fake nude images you’d find on the Internet if you searched for “Jennifer Aniston + nude” in 1998, where Aniston’s head would be photoshopped onto a naked model.

And the details are a little…much.

Honestly, I can’t think of a single nice thing to say about Sarah Palin, but that cover just strikes me as unfair to her in some way. Which, in a way, is fine—Sarah Palin is certainly unfair to everyone else all the time, after all—but it makes me feel sort of sad and embarrassed for whoever made that image, the creators of the interior story, Antarctic Press for publishing the book, and comics in general.

The worst part is that I think writer Fred Perry and artist Ben Dunn are some pretty creative, pretty talented guys, and the very existence of this book strikes me as…tragic.

If you look at the interior artwork, you’ll see from Dunn’s nice, manga-inspired work that he and, uh, whoever did the pin-up of a woman with glasses in lingerie aren’t exactly basing their art on Palin at all. Other than that she wears glasses. Like Palin. And millions of other women.

The story doesn’t seem like it has any real familiarity with Palin at all either. Here’s the solicitation from Previews:

Energy catastrophe has struck worldwide! Massive oil spills, nuclear meltdowns and more leave us desperate for viable energy sources to rebuild global society and technology. Inspired by a little tea party, Sarah Palin hits upon the answer: steam power! She begins the "Steam Initiative", touting geothermal energy as the cure for what ails ya. The heads of Big Oil and Nuclear Power are less than happy with this trend, and they send their agents to do in the Rogue Republican.

Uh-huh. Sarah Palin, whose big national debut included a passionate cry for oil drilling while fans chanted “Drill baby, drill” becomes a champion of geothermal energy over oil and nuclear power, huh?

Steam Gore sounds like it might be more in-keeping with the subject matter, but then the point isn’t to actually have a comic book that has anything to do with the title character so much as to mix a couple of bizarre fetishes onto a cover and hope there are enough suckers willing to spend $4 on it.

And no one jerks off thinking about Al Gore (probably not even Al Gore).


Have you seen the new Wonder Woman line of cosmetics yet? The Beat has the most thorough discussion of them, including pictures of all the products, that I’ve seen on any of the big comics blogs. Probably because Heidi MacDonald is a girl.

What’s most interesting to me is that Michael Allred did some promotional art, and he draws a hell of a Wonder Woman, shown fighting a Ray Harryhausen-esque Medusa. Have I already added Mike Allred to the list of people who should draw Wonder Woman? No? Let’s do that now then, shall we?

Mike Allred should draw Wonder Woman. (Mike Allred should draw everything.


So what have we got so far?

People Who Should Draw Wonder Woman:
Adam Warren
Paul Pope
Kate Beaton
Jamie Hernandez


The best and biggest news of the week (sorry, Flashpoint) was undoubtedly that Drawn and Quarterly would be publishing Kate Beaton’s online strips.

I was quite impressed with how Tom Spurgeon summed up here appeal:

The comics industry is a much more jaded place than it was a quarter-century ago when readers in almost religious fashion sifted through new work in what seemed like a constant pursuit of new talent. That Beaton has hit in today's crowded marketplace with comics fans both traditional and new, fans hardcore and casual, as significantly and completely as she has, I think speaks to her special, obvious and widely appealing talent.

You know, I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like Beaton’s work. I’m sure they’re out there—everything is hated by someone somewhere—but I’ve yet to see some contrarian on the comics blogosphere or an anonymous commenter say “Kate Beaton sux."

I am surprised it’s taken so long for one of the bigger publishers to take on Beaton (I understand there was a collection with a small print run previously—so small I could never buy one), and I am surprised that it’s D+Q. I’m not sure why I’m surprised; I guess I just sort of assumed it would be Dark Horse who eventually printed Beaton comics, based on the fact that they’re the one’s publishing Achewood, Sinfest and some of the other more popular Internet phenomenon cartoonists (Dark Horse also included at least one Beaton strip in one of their MySpace/Dark Horse Presents projects/collections).


Andrew Garfield looks fine as Spider-Man to me. I like that they’re giving him what looks like a new costume, too. I think the more distance the new set of Spidey films can put between themselves and Sam Raimi’s, the better—it will serve both sets of films better to differentiate as strongly as possible, so that they’re not constantly being compared to one another. The tendency to do so will be ever-present of course, but I would think producers would want to minimize that tendency in the audience members.


This past week or so saw a lot of poring over sales data by smarter people then me, and a lot of analysis of that data. I posted links and made a few passing remarks on some of those posts in Linkarama columns, but had intended to offer some wore well-constructed thoughts at too-great length later on.

The problem was, every day or so another person would chime in with some compelling-seeming information, and I fell further and further behind on my plans to comment.

So why don’t you check out MacDonald’s round-up on The Beat, she links to all of the major analysis stories I noticed in the last week or so. She titles her post “Creators Are King,” but I wonder if maybe it shouldn’t be “Cross-Media Is King.”

—Erik Larsen noted that nine of the top ten graphic novels of 2010 were creator-owned, but Sean T. Collins noted that nine of those ten were also bolstered by either heavily promoted films or TV series. And those nine spots were taken by only three different books/sets of creators—Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim, Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.’s Kick-Ass and Robert Kirkman/Tony Moore/Charlied Adlard’s Walking Dead.

If you look at Walking Dead and Scott Pilgrim, both were clearly successes before live-action adaptations entered the picture, but it’s just as clear that the adaptations helped immensely. Kick-Ass is a little trickier in that it never really existed without at least the expectation of Hollywood adaptation attached, since plans for a movie were announced around the time the first issue rolled out. Actually, Bryan Lee O’Malley wasn’t that far into his seven-volume series when buzz regarding the development stage of the movie kicked in.

In other words, those three would probably have been successful without other-media adaptations, but they wouldn’t have been that popular…and maybe not have been among the top ten books of the year.

The fact that 26 of the best-selling single issues from DC Comics were either written or co-written by either Geoff Johns or Grant Morrison is a nice feather in those particular writers’ caps, but should be pants-soilingly horrifying to everyone else at DC. (More horrifying is if you factor in Brian Michael Bendis and realize that, as Collins says, “The ENTIRE INDUSTRY is a three-man operation.”)

It’s worth noting the importance of the media tie-in here, too. Morrison’s main focus at DC is the Batman franchise, which is one of the two franchises that sells well for DC and can compete with Marvel’s franchises. Batman, of course, has benefited from cross-media promotion almost constantly since the mid-’60s or so, and we’re currently between the biggest superhero blockbuster of all-time, The Dark Knight, and it’s in-development sequel, while Batman: Arkham Asylum and its sequel stoke video-gamers’ love for Batman and Cartoon Newtork airs Batman: The Brave and The Bold.

Johns’ big focus is the Green Lantern franchise, DC’s only other franchise that sells well for them and can compete with Marvel’s better-selling franchises, and which is about to spawn it’s first live-action would-be blockbuster film.

—Green Lantern’s popularity has long struck me as strange, and I’m still a little weirded out to see Hal Jordan on Hostess snack cakes or sneakers, given his decades of sub-Aquaman level of acceptance by the population at large (That is, civilians). Additionally, Green Lantern comics have never really been all that big a deal until about 2005, when Geoff Johns got involved.

Because of that, the Green Lantern brand’s current popularity seems particularly fragile to me, similar to the way that, say, Thor’s does over at Marvel. GL has always been an essentially second banana sort of character (if not a third banana), and while it’s nice to see him graduating to the A-List, it also seems like something that could be snatched away really quickly. Say, by a movie bombing, and/or turning out as terrible as the trailers for it make it look.

It’s certainly possible that the recent rise in Green Lantern’s popularity has more to do with the essential wish-fufillment concept of the character, the magical aspects of an artifact that you could earn simply by being a good enough person—no smarts, physical training or supernatural origin needed—that can transform you into a superhero finally catching on.

But that seems sort of unlikely. Green Lantern has been around since 1940…catching on in a huge way 65 years later? How often does such a thing happen? Is it more likely that the GL franchise owes its popularity to Geoff Johns, the approach to comics-making he has and how it resonates with what’s left of the mass comic book audience at this point in the industry’s history, that Johns’ influence has managed to make the fiction DC Universe revolve around his Green Lantern comic and the excitement over a movie? (Or perhaps that DC’s main Green Lantern comics has been its most consistent, least tampered-with and often best-drawn comic for so long now…?)

The Collins post linked to above mentioned that DC is putting a lot of eggs in just two baskets. I wonder—and would probably worry, if I were at DC—if there’s a Green Lantern popularity bubble, which means a bust is on the horizon.

It seems like it would behoove DC to start priming another second banana for the sort of promotion to the A-List that they gave Green Lantern halfway throughout he last decade. Unfortunately, that seems like it was as much a happy accident as something that could be repeated—otherwise DC would have a lot more hits then they do now, and a lot fewer books selling below 25K or so.

It seems like the company has at least been trying to replicate that formula. They had Green Lantern: Rebirth creative team Johns and Ethan Van Sciver try Flash: Rebirth (Although one essential difference probably hurt the latter a bit—the Green Lantern miniseries was about the event of Hal Jordan coming back to life and resuming his role as Green Lantern; the Flash miniseries was about what happened to Barry Allen after he came back to life and resumed his role as the Flash in the pages of another book), had Johns write a new Flash series and are now attempting a Johns-helmed line-wide crossover centered around The Flash the way Blackest Night was centered around Green Lantern (more on this below).

Brightest Day seems to be folding an Aquaman: Rebirth and a Martian Manhunter: Rebirth type of story into its narrative.

I guess the next character to attempt to Green Lantern would be Wonder Woman, although DC’s been trying to revamp her unsuccessfully for a while now, and nothing’s seemed to stick since Greg Rucka’s left the book years ago.


So how about that Flashpoint, huh? Blog@ rounded up all the teasers here (teasers that Chris Sims had some fun with here), DC’s Source blog revealed some logos/symbols paired to taglines here and finally here’s a little trailer-like series of panels announcing the creative team of Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert.

It sounds like the story will deal with someone—a Reverse-Flash, presumably—running around through time, changing significant events to prevent DC’s superheroes from becoming who they are at the moment.

That particular schtick seems extremely familiar, and I know we’ve seen lots of riffs on what if The Waynes weren’t murdered, or what if Superman’s rocket landed here, there or somewhere else, or Krypton never exploded at all and so on. Much will therefore depend on where Johns goes with it and what he does with it; I assume it’s the context leading to those changes that will make or break the story, moreso than whether or not we’ve seen stories where Batman’s parents were never murdered and he never became Batman or not.

Right now my main concern is this: Will Reverse-Flash be able to travel through time to help Andy Kubert stay on schedule, or is this going to be yet another big DC crossover event story where they announce an artist who starts the series and fails to complete it?


Dru said...

I wonder if we're going to look back on Deadpool and Green Lantern ten years from now and find that it's like looking back on Venom and the Punisher today. Both those guys carried, what two dozen books a week back in the 90's?

nicholas said...

Kate Beaton's first (so far, only) book is still available (although, from the looks of things, not for very long):