Sunday, March 06, 2011

What the Flashpoint creative teams tell us about DC's strategy regarding talent

When DC first announced the size of their upcoming Flashpoint crossover event, there was a great deal of hemming and hawing over how many specially produced miniseries it involved—14, each three-issues long, in addition to the main five-issue Flashpoint miniseries by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert (or Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert and Whoever They Get to Draw The Last Few Issues When Kubert Falls Behind, as is more likely).

That number, if still accurate, would add up to 47 individual books, and $140.53...if DC continues to “hold the line at $2.99,” as their ad campaign says they would.

Of course, the publisher seemed to be going the route that Marvel has settled on during the last four or five years of constant event crossovers from the Big Two, in which there’s a big miniseries and, rather than individual issues of regular, ongoing series tying into the event, individual miniseries are launched.

That generally seems like a win-win situation, since if you’re reading Fantastic Four monthly but don’t really care about Secret Invasion, you can keep on reading FF and not worry about the crossover stealing an issue from the creators and the story they have n progress. If you want to know how the FF deal with the Skrulls in that series, then you can pick up Fantastic Four: Secret Invasion.

From a fan or reader’s perspective, the strategy seems positive: Flashpoint and maybe issues of The Flash are all you’ll really need to read (at least, with Johns’ last crossover event, which spun out of Green Lantern, issues of GL were integral to reading along with Blackest Night), and the other 14 series are more or less voluntary, and you can simply pick and choose based on the characters and/or creators you like.

(From the perspective of a retailer, creator, rival publisher or even someone within DC, I could see this looking like way too many, as, if it hits, it risks sucking up all the oxygen at the expense of other titles; I don’t think it’s been proven, but it seems to me that the evidence suggests that the direct market customer base isn’t growing, so new titles simply cut more, smaller pieces out of a pre-existing pie; customers will either spend more money on more comics, or just buy less of some comics in order to buy other comics).

Now whether those comics are too many or not—again, from a fan or reader perspective—would likely depend more on who was making them rather than who was in them.

That is, if DC doled out the work to the same dozen creators who seem to end up writing and drawing all of their inessential, editorial suggested, or short-turn-around projects (think Countdown tie-ins, or anything Batman-related not written by Grant Morrison in the past few years), then that probably wouldn’t be a good sign.

If you’ve paid much attention to DC in the past five years, you can probably rattle off the names of many of their Go-To Guys, who, unfortunately, have acquired an aura of This Doesn’t Matter that transfers to whatever their bylines are attached to, due to their recent credits more so than their talents. You know, Tony Bedard, Fabian Nicieza, Scott McDaniel, J.T. Krul, Sterling Gates, Peter Tomasi, Tom Derenick, Jim Calafiore…maybe Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, James Robinson, Ed Benes, Ardian Syaf, Adriana Melo and Cliff Richardson.

The most potentially exciting aspect of at least 14 new miniseries featuring DCU characters and tied into a high-profile, heavily promoted event crossover is that it means a lot of work for a big audience (as big as the audience for DC super-comics gets, anyway). And that couldpotentially—see a lot exciting creators who are new (or just new to DC) getting to show what they’re capable of in a very big, very bright spotlight.

Well, DC began releasing the creative teams attached to some of the previously announced titles on Friday, giving us our first clues of what route they would be going with finding creators to do all that creating—The usual suspects? New creators? High profile folks playing in the DC toybox? Fourteen new series written by Geoff Johns? Or Seven by Johns and seven by Grant Morrison?

Let’s take a look, one by one. I’ll link to DC’s Source blog for each one; they rolled this out about one-per-hour on Friday. Follow the links and you can also see the covers and a little teaser tagline in the post's title.


One bit of bad news seems to be that it looks like each series will have a different cover artist, so only the logo and maybe trade dress will distinguish the books from other, non-Flashpoint books. I got excited when I saw Dave Johnson’s Batman cover (above), the first DC revealed on Friday, and hoped that meant Johnson was doing all the Flashpoint covers, but no such luck (Johnson’s pretty much the best, when it comes to covers).


Covers: Dave Johnson
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Art: Eduardo Risso
This is, thus far, the biggest and best news regarding Flashpoint creators, as the Azzarello/Risso team on pretty much anything can demand attention and sell some comics. That team is, of course, the one responsible for 100 Bullets, as well an under-appreciated run on Batman (which had the misfortune of falling between Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee’s “Hush” and Judd Winick’s Jason Todd-resurrecting run) and the Batman strip in Wednesday Comics, which in many ways was the best strip in the project, at least in terms of functioning as a weekly comic strip.

So far so good!

Covers: Scott Kolins
Writer: Scott Kolins
Art: Scott Kolins
It’s nice to see a stack of a single, repeating byline like that; I don’t like many of the artists DC has been allowing to take over titles as writer/artists of late (David Finch, Tony Daniel), but I do like the idea of DC allowing for such individual, auteur comics based on their characters.

I haven’t been crazy for everything Kolins has done since returning to DC as a writer/artist, but he’s a very good artist, and his writing has been strong enough on what I've seen that I’m willing to try pretty much anything he does. After a run with Johns on Flash and Blackest Night: The Flash, I think it’s safe to assume the guy can do Flash-related comics just fine.

This one’s not really as big a deal as Azzarello and Risso, but I suspect there won’t be too many fans complaining too loudly about it, either. (For what it’s worth, I’ll be pre-ordering this series, as well as the Batman one; those are the only two I'm sure I'll be pre-ordering at this point).

Covers: Joe Bennett & John Dell
Writer: Jimmy Palmiotti
Art: Joe Bennett & John Dell
And here we have our first real disappointing team.

Personally, I’m pretty ambivalent towards Palmiotti’s writing, with or without Justin Gray. Sometimes I really like his stuff (Radical's Time Bomb, which I just mentioned last night, for instance), sometimes I really hate it; often it’s just okay. He’s not a writer I would avoid, but not one I’d buy a comic simply because he wrote it, either.

He has his fans, though, certainly. As the co-writer of Jonah Hex, the just-canceled Freedom Fighters and a short run on Power Girl, he doesn't seem to have a lot of sales heat at DC, so I wouldn't really call him a high-profile writer.

I don’t care for artist Joe Bennett’s work at all. Bennett was one of the 52 and Justice League: Generation Lost artists, and his work has also appeared in the last volume of Checkmate, Amazing Spider-Man , Teen Titans and Terror Titans. Three of the above were weekly, bi-weekly or tri-weekly series, so a certain amount of slack probably needs allowed for not-very-good art appearing in them, but even Bennett’s monthly work that I’ve seen hasn’t been to my taste.

I’m mildly intrigued by the concept of this book—based on the cover, it looks like it’s Deathtroke as a pirate, and Ravager is his ship, not his crazy brother and/or crazy daughter—but between the creative team and the complete apathy I’ve developed for the everywhere, all the time character of Deathstroke, this isn’t one I can imagine ever wanting to read.

It also, unfortunately, feels a bit like an assignment handed out to the folks who were in the office that day.
Covers: Cliff Chiang
Writer: JT Krul
Art: Mikel Janin
Wow, how do you like Chiang’s cover for this one? I love everything about it, particularly the seal, which looks like it will be balancing the DC bullet logo on its nose in the final cover.

Despite the cover and the intriguing title, I’ll most likely give this a pass based on the presence of Teen Titans writer J.T. Krul. I’ve heard form a few of you—and read from Tim O’Neil lately—that Krul isn’t as terrible a writer as the fact that he wrote Rise of Arsenal would suggest, that the series shouldn’t be blamed on Krul, but by editorial fiat.

I’ve never really been convinced by the “He doesn’t suck, he was just writing the sucky stuff the way his editors wanted him too” argument to explain bad comics. I’m sure it is true in some cases—I can certainly think of writers whose work varies widely in quality depending on which editor they’re working with—but I have a hard time respecting a creator who purposefully churns out dreck because they were asked to and happily signs their name to it because of…whatever. Money? A byline? A contract? Friendship with the editor?

(It’s a hard line stance, and maybe even an unfair one, but it’s an easy one for me to take, since I haven’t found myself in that position—as much as I’d like to write comics I myself don’t have to draw and labor to publish myself, I’d like to think I’d be principled enough not to write shittily just because I was working with a shitty editor who wanted me to write shit).

Anyway, when I see “J.T. Krul,” I read that as, “I don’t want to read this comic book.”

I’m not familiar with the artist, but I like the work I see on his blog and Deviant Art page okay; I suppose it will depend on who colors it and how, as the black and white stuff looks better than the stuff with glossy colors. (Here’s a little something to make the fangirls sigh, though)

Covers: Rags Morales
Writer: Adam Schlagman
Art: Ben Oliver
Well this sure sounds boring (Rags Morales cover or no). I kind of hate Hal Jordan as a person (I know he’s not real shut up), so the prospect of him without a Green Lantern ring, just sort of Halling around for 60 pages doesn’t really excite me much.

This creative team kind of excited me at first, as I couldn’t attach any work to either creator, despite the fact that their names both sound familiar.

A big of Googling later, I see that Schlagman is apparently an assistant editor at DC, and apparently making his comics writing debut here (Is the latter true? If anyone can correct me, please do). That doesn’t fill me with a lot of hope, but I guess there’s no reason for it to fill me with dread either—maybe he’ll end up to be more of a Tomasi than a DiDio behind the keyboard.

Ben Oliver is apparently a British comics artist who has drawn a whole bunch of comics I haven’t read, including issues of The Authority, The Losers, Ultimate X-Men and 2000 AD. They don’t let bad artists draw for 2000 AD, do they?

So there’s a better than even chance this will turn out pretty good. On the other hand, it is a comic about Hal Jordan. Not Green Lantern Hal Jordan, just Hal Jordan.

This series, by the way, wasn't one of those that were originally announced, so it either replaces one (Maybe Abin Sur, Green Lantern?) or is an additional one.

Covers: Shane Davis
Writer: Rex Ogle
Art: Paulo Siqueira
Not a lot to go on regarding a premise for this series. The title would make me think it’s a book full of profiles of the characters in their altered environment, but this is supposedly a three-issue miniseries, which should mean it’s a comic book story.

Rex Ogle has a bad-ass name, and wrote the “Coven of Three” back-up in Teen Titans that featured Ted Naifeh art. I haven’t read it, but was eagerly awaiting a trade collection of it, mostly because of Ted Naifeh art. Ogle also did some short pieces for the publisher, and is apparently also an assistant editor.

If you want to write comics some day, then becoming an assistant editor at DC is apparently a good way to go.

Siqueira has done some art for the Spider-office in the last few years, and you can check out his Deviant Art gallery here. Looks okay to me. Something about his commissions and pin-ups remind me of Benes’ work, but I can’t quite put my finger on what.

This is a tough one though. I don’t know what the book is about and I’m not familiar with either of the primary creators. I don’t know, maybe this is something to flip through in the shop…

Covers: Ardian Syaf & Vicente Cifuentes
Writer: Tony Bedard
Art: Ardian Syaf & Vicente Cifuentes

Ah-ha! I knew it was only a matter of time before Bedard’s name popped up! This creative team definitely falls into the Usual Suspects category, and as such, its not one I find tremendously exciting.

I do so love Aquaman though, so, I don’t know…again, maybe one to decide on in the shop the week it comes out.

The premise doesn’t look too promising though, as this seems to be Aquaman-as-Namor, only with a Nazi haircut. And a tiny, tiny trident. Or a bigger-than-average fork. I’m not sure which.

Covers: Miguel Sepulveda
Writer: Adam Glass
Art: Rodeny Buchemi & Jose Marzan
Writer Adam Glass comes from the world of genre TV (another good way to launch a career in comics writing, gang!) and has Deadpool: Suicide Kings, an issue of Deadpool Team-Up and a short from Deadpool #1000 to his credit.

Buchemi drew a few issues of Marvel’s Incredible Hercules, which burned through artists awfully quickly, and has done at least one short story for DC (in their 2009 holiday special anthology). I liked his Inc Herc work.

Hopefully Marzan is the inker on the book, and not a second penciller, as I’d be worried if a first issue had two pencillers credited at this point.


Okay, so, that looks like two books I’ll pre-order, and a few more I’ll keep my eye on.

It looks like DC’s strategy for assigning these books—at least based on what we’ve seen so far—was a combination of the usual suspects and some newer creators whose work was nevertheless well within the bounds of Big Two fare.

Only the Batman book looks like it came out of someone thinking, “Who would be, like, an ideal Batman creative team…?”

Of course, they’ve only announced a few of the books so far. Checking against the original release of titles, it looks like Legion of Doom and Hal Jordan are both new books, so they’ve either replaced other titles, or there will be at least 16 titles in addition to Flashpoint itself, rather than the 14 initially announced.

Yet to go are The Outsider, Abin Sur, The Green Lantern, Project: Superman, Frankenstein & The Creatures of The Unknown, Secret Seven, Wonder Woman and The Furies and Lois Lane and the Resistance.

DC may be holding off on announcing them just to wring out maximum online comics media coverage (it's working), or because they don't know the creative teams just yet (yikes) or maybe, just maybe, because the really big creative teams are yet to come.

You know, Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neil on Frankenstein, Los Hernandez Bros on Wonder Woman, Frank Miller on Lois Lane, Matt Howarth on Abin Sur, Dan DiDio and Joe Quesada on The Outsider, Dave Sim and Jeff Smith on Superman.

Fingers crossed!


Nick Ahlhelm said...

Didn't Adam Schlagman write the Marvel Spider-Man anti-drug insert comic from 2000 or 2001?

According to ComicBookDB, he's also written some holiday stories and a story in Tales of Blackest Night. So pretty much the typical DC assistant editor working his way to DC writer structure.

Kid Kyoto said...

Good round up both of the event and of how DC seems to be making their decisions.

A few random thoughts...

What are those planes on the Hal Jordan cover supposed to be? They look like F14s but F14s are Navy and Jordan was in the Air Force, and F14s don't have that spike on the nose. How hard is it to find references on airplanes?

Working in television to get into comics is like becoming a rock star for a chance to do Old Navy commercials.

I would read the heck out of Los Bros Hernandes on Wonder Woman.

I nope, still don't care about DC's current output.

SallyP said...

I do believe that Adam Schlagman wrote the Green Lantern story in the Halloween Holiday special. It was with Guy, so I liked it. Nothing fabulous, but nothing particularly horrible either.

Frankly, the thought of Hal flying around without a ring and STILL getting hit in the head somehow fills me with delight and anticipation.

Diabolu said...

Halfway to free! No purchases for me? Hopefully!

Dara said...

@Kid: "Working in television to get into comics is like becoming a rock star for a chance to do Old Navy commercials."

That's one of the funniest things I've read in a long time!

Yeah, so...established writer, established writer, editor taking on writing duties, another editor taking on writing duties, established writer, TV writer...

The days of a writer like me breaking in to the Big Two on even a marginal book or odd mini-series are long over. Sigh.

Siskoid said...

I liked your analysis. I hope you'll keep us abreast of developments!

caleb said...

Well, I guess they're revealing the final eight on The Source today, so I suppose I can do another post just like this this weekend...