Sunday, July 31, 2011

Has DC been getting Wonder Woman wrong for 15 years now?

While reading through Marc DiPaolo’s War, Politics and Superheroes for the first time (review here, if you missed it), I took a lot of notes of things I found interesting, and worth more thinking about, talking about and writing about somewhere down the line.

One such torn yellow piece of paper had the words “Superman never had his own Dark Knight Returns” scribbled on it, and tucked between two pages talking about how the Superman of the ‘80s and ‘90s was more compelling as a guest-star in other heroes’ narratives than his own.

Another says “Last 20 Years of WW comics as rebuke” and was holding a page in the chapter entitled “Wonder Woman as World War II Veteran, Feminist Icon, and Sex Symbol.”

As you may have noticed, I’m somewhat fascinated by Wonder Woman, particularly because of how amazing her original Golden Age comics were and the staggering gulf in quality between them and so much of what has followed—that, and the fact that she’s proven such a perennially difficult character for DC to seemingly be able to “get”, and then sell that particular take to the public for embracing. (Wonder Woman, is, of course, not alone in this “never quite getting over like Superman or Batman” status quo, but she’s sort of unique in that she’s never gone away either. She’s always nominated, but never wins. She’s always in the wedding, but never the bride. She goes to the play-offs every year, but never gets to the final round. Note to self: Decide on a better metaphor later, and then use that).

In his book, DiPaolo devotes an awful lot space to Wonder Woman, for obvious reasons—she was conceived of as one of the most, if not the most, political superheroes of them all. Even Captain America, who was little more than a masked avenger version of Uncle Sam, isn’t as political as Wonder Woman; he simply functions as a bit of propaganda, or a symbol straight out of a political cartoon, while Wonder Woman was constantly arguing for progressive, liberal politics at odds with the status quo (In the hopes of cutting off any ignorant comments, please note I’m using “liberal” and “conservative” literally here; the former meaning “increasing liberty” and the latter meaning “conservation of the status quo, or restoring a previous one,” not as the codeword epithets they’ve become).

That’s not a controversial reading at all, is it? It’s right there in her origin—Wonder Woman was supposed to leave Paradise Island to stop war and teach the sick, fallen outside world a better way to live.

Regardless, in his discussion of Wonder Woman, DiPaolo walks us through her conception, her original adventures and how she has evolved over the years. I was particularly interested in reading the section in which he discusses DC’s portrayal of her from, say, the post-Perez years through Infinite Crisis, and the fact that he singled out Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ Kingdom Come as the most powerful and influential portrayal of the character, one that would go on to influence her potrayal in the comics and, through them, the Justice League animated series for years to come.

What’s so strange about this is that Kingdom Come is intentionally set pretty far out of DC continuity—that is, it uses DC characters and the DCU setting, but its own versions versions of them, not the “real” one—and was a purposefully dark, apocalyptic story set in a dystopian future. While ultimately an optimistic story with a happy ending, it depicts many of the superheroes like Wonder Woman making choices the real versions never would, leading to them ending up as more extreme versions of themselves and bringing their fictional world to the precipice of dramatic tragedy.

DiPaolo on our current Wonder Woman:
in many ways, the Wonder Woman of the modern era featured in the Justice League cartoon is a top-to-bottom reinvention of Diana crafted by Alex Ross and Mark Waid for Kingdom Come (1996). That miniseries featured a bitter Wonder Woman of the future who has failed in her mission to bring peace to “man’s world” and been exiled from Paradise Island. Stripped of her idealism and air of wise, “experienced innocence,” this Wonder Woman is a tragic, Xena-like figure who attempts to bring peace to planet Earth by effectively trying to coax Superman into conquering the planet for her…Eventually, the paternalistic Batman and Superman try to get Diana to stand down and see reason, hoping to help her rediscover her inner idealist and become the “real” Wonder Woman once again.
DiPaolo notes that Ross’ visual portrayal of the character made her likable despite the obviously wonky morality she developed in the series, and helped popularize her enough to put her back in the center of the DC Universe (Did Ross and Waid invent the concept of those three as the “Trinity” of the DCU? Aside from Alan Moore’s “For The Man Who has Everything,” I’m having difficulty thinking of a pre-Kingdome Come story involving them as a trio).

Regarding her high-profile in the DCU of the late-nineties and early-zero zeroes, DiPaolo uses the examples of Darwyn Cooke’s New Fronteir (another, “imaginary” story featuring a different version of the character, but one in which she again is markedly brutal) and the Greg Rucka-written, but DC Comics editorial-conceived-and-approved of The OMAC Project, in which the “real” Wonder Woman breaks the villainous Maxwell Lord’s neck in order to stop him from mind-controlling Superman into killing her, Batman and others.

DiPaolo again:
Unlike earlier incarnations of the character, who would never consider killing, the new Wonder Woman is presented as too pragmatic and too ruthless to spare the life of an opponent she sees as both deadly dangerous and irredeemable. On the one hand, her position is presented as far more reasonable than Superman’s and Batman’s, who argue the position that used to be taken by Diana herself that it is always wrong to kill an enemy, even if that enemy is Adolf Hilter or The Joker. On the other hand, in both storylines, Diana is presented as being too violent and too ruthless to be truly heroic, and her honor and purity are somewhat stained by the blood on her hands.”
Now, The OMAC Project is only one story, but it is, in fact, the main Wonder Woman story of the 21st century, and its events drove much of the more prominent stories featuring the character over the past few years—it was part of why the Trinity broke up and disbanded the Justice League in Infinite Crisis and why the Amazons attacked in Amazons Attack; it drove the Wonder Woman monthly for a while and lead to its (ill-starred, as it turned out) relaunch and, as recently as Blackest Night: Wonder Woman and Justice League: Generation Lost the, killing of Max Lord was an important plot element.

But the general tone of Wonder Woman’s comics and appearances, her portrayal, even the way DC editors and creators tend to talk about her in interviews all do seem to have been greatly influenced by the warrior version of Wonder Woman from Kingdom Come—Wonder Woman as fighter, Wonder Woman as ultimate bad-ass, Wonder Woman as conflicted soldier waging constant war in the name of peace.

It’s easy to pick out stories from this period that directly reflect this version of Wonder Woman, which I guess I never really traced back to Kingdom Come (which was one of the very first comics featuring the character I ever read). Think Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia, with its suggestive cover, or JLA: A League of One, where she takes down the whole JLA. Even in Grant Morrison’s JLA run, Wonder Woman is defined by her dramatic battle actions and mighty heroic deeds rather than her dialogue or interactions with people (Morrison wrote the JLA characters as remote and inhuman, but his Wonder Woman was even more remote than the other characters, something he's attributed to not really getting her the way he does Batman and Superman).

This is the Wonder Woman we’ve been seeing for the past 15 years or so. After citing his examples, DiPaolo writes:
...these stories seem to rebuke Wonder Woman harshly even as they work to restore her to a position of prominence in the comic book world. The modern-day Diana is strong and admirable, but she is also frightening and reckless in a way that she arguably would not be if more women writers and artists were assigned to craft her adventrues. While the latest version of Wonder Woman gets to play an interesting role as an agent of chaos in the DC universe, she is arguable the epitome of the “Feminazi” that Rush Limbaugh made famous in the 1990s when he compared abortion rights activists to perpetrators of the Holocaust. These days, Wonder Woman is a ruthless, sexless woman with blood on her hands who has more in common with her archenemies the Nazis then she would ever be willing to admit.
I should now pause to note that DiPaolo does indeed take some time to dilineate the virtues of Rucka, Phil Jimenez and even Gail Simone and Jodi Picoult’s work on the character, and what they did to try to make her a more sympathetic, complicated and real character. But surveying the majority of Wonder Woman comics over the past 15 years, particularly the ones which have been most popular, most prominent within the publisher’s output and in which she is a co-star or character instead of the lead, the militaristic, pragmatic-to-the-point-of-ruthless Wonder Woman certainly seems to be the dominant one.

It’s amazing to compare this Wonder Woman to the one in the 1940s, who used to convert her worst villains into her staunchest allies by showing them respect and compassion. And not garroting them with her lasso of truth or snapping their necks.

I’m excited to see what Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang come up with in the new Wonder Woman #1; I’m hoping they’re able to restore some of the sense of fun and wonder to her, and to make her a more likeable and heroic figure than she’s been of late.

“The male writers who have penned her stories of late love to imply that Diana would be a lot nicer, and a lot happier,” DiPaolo writes, “if she’d just have sex with Batman or Superman, put some more clothes on when she goes out in public, and shut up with the annoying politics already.”

I don’t have a whole lot of hope that we’ll see Wonder Woman asking Tea Party supporters why they talk about socialism like it was a bad thing or marching in pride parades, but if they can keep her out of pants, out of battles to the death and out of lip-locks with Superman and Batman, that would probably be a pretty good start.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Comic shop comics: July 13-27

All-New Batman: The Brave and The Bold #9 (DC Comics) This issue struck me as particularly weak for the creative team, which has thus far set a pretty high standard for the book. There’s nothing necessarily bad about “3:10 To Thanagar,” a space-set team-up with Hawkman, and I’m hard-pressed to think of an aspect of the book that seemed wanting to me, it just didn’t excel in the same ways many of the past issues have.

The only part I really enjoyed was the way pencil artist Rick Burchett drew a slumped, unconscious Gentleman Ghost in the amusing last-page splash.Well that and the idea of Batman and Hawkman shooting the shit while traveling through space for hours.


Birds of Prey #14 (DC) Hmm, didn’t the higher-ups at DC tell BOP’s editors and creators that they were canceling this volume of the series with the fifteenth issue?

Because this is an awfully weak note to go out on, ending with a whimper instead of a bang. The book ends with a two-part fill-in, of which this is the first half. Guest-writer Marc Andreyko has provided a script that may have been sitting in a drawer for months, even years, given it’s timeless lack of immedicacy or consequence.

The Golden Age Phantom Lady joins Lady Blackhawk and Black Canary to hang out and flirt with World War II veterans as a sort of charity work, while flashing-back to a time in the 1950s when the CIA recruited the two Ladies and Black Canary’s mom to go to South America and fight some Nazis.

Then those same Nazis—or their descendants, or experiments, or whatever—return in the present day, for revenge! Is this the end of the Birds of Prey? Yes, yes it is. The book is canceled next month, and some pretty serious rebooting is expected (Barbara Gordon is being de-aged and un-Oracled, and who knows what’s up with Black Canary in a world where Superman is the first superhero…maybe she’s her own daughter with her mom’s memory from Earth-2 again or whatever her Bronze Age deal was).

The art is just this side of wretched, with solicited guest-artist Billy Tucci getting just nine pages, and the other 11 being drawn by the unsolicited Adriana Melo and JP Mayer; their work looking as rushed and poorly executed as it does in the bi-weekly DC Universe Online Legends.


Captain America & Bucky #620 (Marvel Entertainment) Here’s a real-life anecdote for you: I recently got a new day job in a slightly bigger city with a comic shop of its own, and, since I’ll be commuting there five days a week now, I set up a pull-list/file thingee with them. When putting together my list, I asked them about the “new” Captain America comic, and they showed me Captain America #1.

That wasn’t the one I wanted. I couldn’t remember the title, but I knew Chris Samnee was drawing it, it was set during World War II, I thought Ed Brubaker was writing it and I knew it was starting with a number other than #1.

It took about five minutes of me and the two comics retailers looking at the Captain America comics section (one of them picking up one of the 5,000 or so miniseries Marvel launched over the last few months featuring Cap and saying, “Is it this one?” over and over) until one of them looked it up online and asked if I meant Captain America & Bucky, which is launching with #620 instead of the more traditional #1.

So two professional sellers of comic books and one semi-professional comic book blogger and critic had a hell of a time trying to figure out the title, issue number of a particular comic book, and only succeeded because of the Internet. Imagine a civilian who knew only one or two pieces of information about the book coming in and trying to subscribe to it!

This is yet another Ed Brubaker-scripted WWII era comic, only this time he’s working with co-writer Marc Andreyko (whose work I usually like, despite hating the last comic of his I read, which you just got done reading about) and working with the immensely talented Chris Samnee, whose work on The Mighty Thor was some of the best I’ve seen from Marvel.

Samnee’s presence is what sealed the deal for me on this book.

It opens in 1935, and is narrated by James “Bucky” Barnes, essentially telling his origin story—from his childhood to the first time he put on his sidekick uniform.

Samnee’s art doesn’t disappoint; the book is full of highly-detailed art work, the action occurring on well-appointed “sets” full of period “props” and the “actors” are all great at their jobs.

It’s the sort of exceptional comics art that, if you removed all of the dialogue and narration boxes, or if they were written in a different language, you’d still be able to follow the story pretty accurately.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the words, of course. The dialogue and narration are all pretty straightforward, and used to make a rather fantastical premise seem realistic enough that you can almost kinda sorta imagine it happening in our world.

I’m glad we finally figured out what the hell book this was.

Ed McGunnes’ cover is pretty lame though, and I’m a big fan of hi style in general. It just seems pretty unimaginative, and Bucky’s shoulders are kind of freaking me out.


Daredevil #1 (Marvel) Written by Mark Waid, drawn by Marcos Martin and Paolo Rivera (two of the best, most imaginative and highly stylized comics artists working on superheroes at the moment, whose styles nevertheless mesh quite well), costing only $3* and promising a radical new direction for a character whose been in grim and gritty rut since Frank Miller was writing him and I was still learning to read, this seemed like a pretty safe gamble on trying a new book.

I’m glad I did—this is just about as perfect as mainstream, corporate-owned superhero gets. Instead of scanning pages and pages and saying, “Look at how amazing this page is!” I guess I could just point out the cover, note the ways in which the two artists—each get a short story of their own in this issue—visually depicts Daredevil’s radar-like replacement sense are clever, communicative and beautiful, but different then the way its communicated on that clever, communicative and beautiful cover.

If you had to chop your superhero pull-list down to one book…

Well, maybe the second issue will be terrible, I don’t know. But this? This is golden.


DC Retroactive: Batman—The ‘70s #1 (DC) I was sort of surprised to learn that Tom Mandrake was chosen to draw this issue, as I thought the idea was to reassemble creative teams from the chosen era, and I don’t remember reading any Mandrake-drawn Batman comics from early than the 1990s.

Mandrake, inking his own pencils, pulls off a pretty neat trick here though, as his artwork throughout the lead-story in this oversized, half-reprint, $5 one-shot looks at once like the work of modern Tom Mandrake, but also within the spectrum of DC superhero art from the era.

Part of that may be a matter of fashion and design, but it also has a lot to do with the way Batman and other characters are drawn, the poses and and so on. If Mandrake’s style weren’t so personalized, if the coloring wasn’t so good, it would be easy to mistake this for a comic from the 1970s, so bravo for that (The paper is thick, pulpy and papery too—maybe not the same stock from the seenties, which I wouldn’t really recognize, not having been born until the end of the decade—but at least early ‘90s, spinner-rack stock, rather than the glossy magazine stuff that would come later).

Genuine ‘70s creator Len Wein scripts “Terror Times Three!”, and it certainly reads like a product of the era, beginning with a four-narration box, purple introduction about the smell on the night breeze of Gotham City.

It’s Batman vs. a new (or old?) version of The Terrible Trio, with goofy, era-appropriate costumes and equipment, and a cliffhanger ending that doesn’t have anywhere to go except retroactively. The story was straightforward but enjoyable (it can be hard to remember given all the shitty Batman comics in existence, but it’s actually really rather hard to screw up a “Batman fights some colorful criminals” story).

It’s paired with another Len Wein-scripted Batman story, this one “Dark Messenger of Mercy!” from 1979’s Batman #307. It’s drawn by John Calnan and Dick Giordano, and features Batman using his detective skills to try and track down a killer targeting Gotham’s hobo population. He’s assisted by some comically colorful hobos.

I don’t know how sizable the market is, but, based on this one, I know I’d be interested in DC Retroactive: Batman—The ‘70s #2.


DC Retroactive: JLA—The ‘70s #1 (DC) Writer Cary Bates is joined by pencil artist Gordon Purcell, inker Jose Marzan Jr. and penciler/inker Andy Smith (drawing 26 pages is hard!) for the first of the Justice League Retroactive specials, and he presents a clever, cute (too cute, for some readers, maybe…?) guest-starring Julisu Schwartz.

When Kanjar Ro attempts to hijack Adam Strange’s zeta beam, the former gets sent to earth, while the latter gets shunt off to “Earth-Prime,” the “real world,” where the heroes only exist as DC Comics characters, and which The Flash has visited before.

While Hal Jordan and Hawkman take off after Kanjar Ro, The Flash leads Wonder Woman, Green Arrow and Zatanna to Earth-Prime, where doctors have locked up an amnesiac Adam Strange, thinking him a crazy person (The word “cosplay” not being common in English for a few decades yet).

To help remind Strange of his real identity, the League recruits his co-creator, Julius Schwartz. Zatanna gives Wonder Woman the dress form the cover of Wonder Woman #178 as a disguise for visiting the DC offices, which doesn’t seem so smart—what if sees her?

The back-up reprint of 1975’s JLoA #123 similarly features Julius Schwartz and is similarly set in-part on Earth-Prime.

Stuck for story ideas, young JLoA writers Cary Bates and Elliot S. Maggin borrow the Cosmic Treadmill Schwartz keeps in his office; the former ends up on Earth-2, where a zap from The Wizard makes him evil, and the latter journeys to Earth-1 in an attempt to convince the Justice League to help him find his co-writer. The villainous Cary Bates then tricks the Justice League into murdering the Justice Society, and Maggin is powerless to stop him.

Awesome.

Looking at the covers on comics.org, it looks like the storyline continues to the next issue, where supposedly the writers will figure out a way to resurrect the dead JSA members, but since that's not collected here, and there's no to be continued, it seems pretty final.

I think I actually preferred the reprint to the original, in this particular special.


DC Retroactive: Wonder Woman—The ‘70s #1 (DC) For this issue, DC also paired a writer active from the era with a current artist, and I think they made a rather bold but welcome choice on the latter.

The opening story, “Savage Ritual,” is by Dennis O’Neil, best known as a Batman writer and editor and for his work on DC’s two big Green-colored characters, but who also did a lot of work on more fantastical characters like Wonder Woman and the Justice League. He was a writer who seemed ahead of his time in a lot of ways—I know from reading Showcase volumes that a lot of his scripts from decades ago seem more like the work of the mid-eighties than that of the sixties or seventies—so this story seems at once modern and retro.

The artist is J. Bone, a favorite of mine whose work is primarily seen at DC on the covers of Super Friends and the occasional insides of some of the best issues of that unfortunately canceled series. Here Bone is striving for a more accurate period style, and the results are…interesting. It doesn’t really look like the product of the seventies, save for a panel here or there in isolation, but it doesn’t seem quite like any Bone art I’ve seen before, or like a Wonder Woman comic circa 2011, either.

It’s great stuff, and oh how I wish art with this much style and personality weren’t a rarity among DC super-comics these days.

I’m a tad confused as to the Wonder Woman's status quo in this issue, as the seventies were a confused period for the character, and in this issue she wears both her familiar superhero-costume and an all-white get-up. The gist of the issue is that an alien force has captured and imperiled Paradise Island, and she must face some semi-illusory challenges in order to rescue her homeland, in the process proving to the force that she hasn’t sinned against her true self by pretending to be something she’s not.

Given that O’Neil was the writer who originally de-powered, re-costumed and tried to make Wonder Woman a more realistic, Emma Peel-style hero instead of a story book princess/superhero, it’s a particularly interesting story for O’Neil to write. The conflict sort of peters out at the climax—the nature of the threat is never thoroughly reviewed and dealt with—but there’s a nice little emotional punch in the final panel.

The back-up reprint is from 1972’s Wonder Woman #201, which features a rathe rprominent guest-star. Because the cover of the issue isn’t also reprinted, I had no idea that guest-star was in the comic, so was pleasantly surprised when she showed up (and I like that too rarely seen costume).

This is also by O’Neil, and features sumptuous art by Dick Giordano. Wonder Woman is in her kung-fu phase, and is hanging out with blind master I-Ching, who speaks solely in sayings apparently learned from fortune cookies (Seriously, everything he says is an annoying inspirational bumper sticker. Diana says someone looks familiar but she can’t place her exactly, and I-Ching replies, “Wisdom dictates that those difficulties which can not be solved be cast from the mind!” What an asshole that guy is).

There are some unfortunate racial stereotypes, and the sexualization of Wonder Woman so long ago was kind of neat to see (including a panty-shot and one weird panel where her lips are shown in profile in extreme close-up, while she talks to Ching shown in the background of the panel), but Giordano’s art was a welcome treat, and this story even seemed colored pretty well for a product of the era.


Green Lantern #67 (DC) The end of the “War of the Green Lanterns” story arc, and the current volume of Green Lantern, seems awfully rushed, perhaps because so much space is wasted on splash pages, a bad habit Geoff Johns and Dough Mahnke don’t seem to doing anything to drop (A worse habit, perhaps, is my continuing to complain about it month in and month out while still buying the book; what can I say, I’m starved for DC superhero comics, and this is one of the few I can still stand month in and month out).

It’s not just the waste of space though, and the fact that it makes the book past fast, giving big moments a rushed, cursory feel. In this particular issue, it’s not even very good storytelling.

The book opens with a completely silent, wordless (save for a little green narration box saying “Oa.”) splash page of Hal and the GLC flying at the reader. Turn the page, and you find a two-page silent, wordless splash featuring the Earth GL’s flying at the entity-possessed Guardians of the Universe.

It’s not until the fourth page that the story starts, and there are two more full-page splashes and one more two page splashes within the 20 pages. That’s seven pages that are splashes, or more than one-third of the book. That’s seven pages devoted to five panels.

The story is fairly exciting and interesting, leading to a new status quo that DC already spoiled—Hal Jordan’s kicked out of the Corps for being so awesome he’s able to transcend the ring’s programming, Sinestro is his replacement—although it makes for a weird read, given the knowledge of the upcoming reboot.

Solicitations seem to indicate that the Green Lantern franchise will be hardly effected, but it’s hard to imagine how it all fits into a streamlined five-year timeline, even the basics—Hal Jordan’s Green Lantern for years, then he goes crazy and dies, then he’s replaced by Kyle Rayner, then Kyle has John Stewart replace him on Earth while he goes out into space, then Hal Jordan comes back to life, and the last five years worth of Green Lantern happens.

Mahnke’s art remains some of the best DC is publishing, even with his own 3600-member Corps of inkers, and colorists Gabe Eltaeb and Randy Mayor make their presence felt in some of the battles involving the bright, neon rainbow of colors involved in some of the battles (I particularly liked the panels where Krona sics light constructs of variously colored snakes on Hal.

If it weren’t for the reboot, I’d be pretty excited to see what happens next. As it is, I’m as much curious, confused and worried as I am excited, but I am planning on reading Green Lantern #1 in September.


Red Robin #25 (DC) Despite my long time affection for Tim Drake, who was my Robin, the teenager who joined Batman’s crusade around the same time I started reading Batman comics, I haven’t read a single issues of this series to date, mostly because of how confused, ill-planned and unattractive much of the Bat-family of books has seemed to me of late (For example, I can’t stand that Red Robin costume, and what I saw or heard of what was going on in the book—including a legacy version of Anarky, another old favorite of mine, and more fights with Ra’s al Ghul and his crew—didn’t exactly excite me).

So why start with this issue? Well, the cover had another character I have a lot of affection for, Cassandra Cain, my Batgirl (It was sort of weird reading this too, as, and I know this will sound fannish and weird, but I sort of realized how much I missed the characters while reading through this).

The book is by Fabian Nicieza, Marcus To and Ray McCarthy, who I believe has been the creative team for quite a while now. Nicieza’s a talented writer, although it’s difficult to judge his skills too critically, as so much of what he’s been doing for DC over the last few years seems dictated as much by circumstances by his own initiative (At least, that’s the way it looks to me, and is one of the reasons that I don’t seek out the writing of writers like he or Tony Bedard or Peter Tomasi, but am more likely to pick up something by Geoff Johns or Grant Morrison, who seem to get to iniate changes in their characters and franchises).

I was a little surprised—and pleasantly so—by how good To’s work was.

The issue was fairly accessible, although the opening reminded me why I’ve been uninterested up until now—something about the League of Assasin’s and Ra’s al Ghul types, Tim Drake about to be raped by a naked girl villain of some sort—and a lot of plot seemed hurried through, perhaps having been rewritten to end the book (and Tim Drake’s story…?) before the September relaunch (which looks like it will be rebooting Drake completely).

I really like Cassandra Cain’s new identity—“The Black Bat”—and her costume is for the most part pretty strong, although I’s not crazy about the Ragman/Etrigan-shaped cape, the Wildcat-like tape on her forearms (which is weird; I like drawing tape like that, and looking at other folks’ drawings of tape in black and white art), and, especially, the claws on her fingers, which seems pretty redundant on a character who can beat up anyone in the world.

Red Robin spends much of the issue cowl-less, so that’s cool too.

Like I said, I realized how much I missed the pair, perhaps in large part because of how well Nicieza writes them—after reading so many comics where they’ve seemed “off” or wrong in the last five years, they seemed like their old selves again.

The whole experience was overshadowed by the knowledge that everything about the run was now in lame duck status though. Robin mentions discovering a larger plot that “I’m sure will annoy me for months to come,” for example, breaks up with his girlfriend, gets a new base of operations and so on, and, as a reader it's hard not to keep thinking, "No it won't, you start over from scratch in two months man."


Tiny Titans #42 (DC) Art Baltazar and Franco introduce Bizarro Girl, a bizarre Tiny Supergirl, and another Bizarro character I imagine we’ll be seeing again, in this issue. Match, who Geoff Johns turned into a sort of scary Bizarro version of Superboy in the pages of Teen Titans, and who is here also a Bizarro Superboy, is smitten, and takes romantic advice from Beast Boy, who has a Krazy and Ignatz relationship with Terra (only with rocks being thrown instead of bricks).




*After the first issue, anyway, which is $3.99/31

Friday, July 29, 2011

Some thoughts about Captain America: The First Avenger (which may contain spoilers, so don't read this if you care)


The Dark Knight and Batman Begins can suck it; I think this was a far better movie than either of those, which I've always thought were overrated. While parts Dark Knight might be far superior to parts of Captain America, I think it's worth noting that Captain America didn't have any of the eye-rolling, cringe-inducing, "let's-just-stick-this-stupid-motorcycle-or-Batmobile-or-whatever-scene-in-here-because-the-toy-division-said-we-had-too" elements. Captain America was a more even, more consistent film, feeling less like a product of a committee than the two Batman flicks, which I only single out because of how widely regarded they are as the best superhero movies.

Also, I don't feel like giggling every time I hear Cap talk the way I do every time Christian Bale's Batman opened his mouth.


—If I had to single something out as the worst part of the film, I would say it was Hugo Weaving's Red Skull make-up/mask. It looked an awful lot like a modern drawing of the Skull from the comics, but it also looked like a costume instead of...whatever it's supposed to be. It wasn't as gory and well, skull-like as I assumed a live-action, real-world Red Skull would be.


—I kind of love superhero period pieces, I think.


—I liked the fact that in developing his evil super-Nazi accent, Weaving apparently decided to just do an extended Arnold Schwarzenegger impression.


—Will no one say the word "Cosmic Cube" aloud? I didn't miss the part where they said that phrase, did I? I just heard Johann Schmidt refer to it as "the tesseract" and "the jewel of Odin's treasury" or something like that.


—I was a little surprised when Chris Evans was announced for the role, as he wasn't anyone I would have thought of casting, were I in the position to cast stars in superhero movies. I think he's a great actor—first coming to my attention in a surprisingly effective action/thriller type movie I had to review for the paper I used to work for, 2004's Cellular—but everything I've seen him in had a high degree of humor to the character. Plus, he'd already played a Marvel superhero before.

Just like casting Christian Bale as The Flash in a Justice League movie, it seemed...weird having one actor play more than one superhero from the same shared universe, you know?

Evans is pretty great in this though. The character's emotional range isn't terribly great, consisting mostly of earnestness, mixed with occasional disappointment. But Evans is good in his role, and the movie around him is so strong it sure seems like a great performance, even if its unlikely he'll be winning many acting awards come awards season (I don't know, maybe he'll get an MTV Movie Award...)


—I have absolutely no idea how they did the special effects that made Chris Evans into the pre-serum skinny, 90-pound weakling Steve Rogers, which I found really, really cool. I'm slightly less jaded about movies than I am at comics, so it's kind of thrilling to see something you haven't seen before, and not know exactly how it was achieved.


—Stanley Tucci was surprisingly good too, in a weird role that he made a lot meatier than it might have been in a different director's movie.


—Tommy Lee Jones was very good too. On behalf of the entire comics community, I officially forgive Tommy Lee Jones for his part in the crime of Batman Forever.


—I really liked Dominic Cooper's Howard Stark. He looked just like Tony Stark used to look in the original comics, I thought, before the more modernized-looking one started appearing (i.e. sporting a goatee instead of a mustache, dressing like a product of the late twentieth/early 21st century instead of like a dude from the '50s or '60s). When I first started seeing Dr. Pepper cans with Howard Stark on them, I thought maybe they were forcing the connectivity of the Marvel movie universe a bit too much, but while watching the movie, I actually wanted to see more of Cooper's Stark.


—Come to think of it, everyone was pretty good in this. I'm having trouble singling any actor out as not-very-good, you know?


—Hydra looks better in black than in green, I think.


—The World's Fair scene was awesome.


Red Skull's car was awesome. It out-awesomes Green Hornet's Black Beauty and Batman's many batmobiles and -wings and -pods as the coolest vehicle in a superhero movie, I think.


—There was no snowboard scene in the movie after all.


—Sadly, Dr. Zola never gets a new body. Maybe next movie...?


—They handled Bucky really well, I thought. It was very different from the comics version, but it was surprisingly effective way to put Captain America's boy sidekick into a modern film version. Essentially, they're just friends and peers, with scrawny Steve playing the little brother role to Bucky pre-serum, and their roles reversing after wards. Bucky never gets a costume though, which, given the way Cap backed into his costume in the movie, probably wouldn't have made a whole hell of a lot of sense anyway.


—This is another of those Nazis-looking-for-supernatural-artifacts movies, with Schmidt mentioning "Hitler's digging for trinkets in the desert" to remind moviegoers of Raiders of The Lost Ark. I recently read—well, listened to an audio-book of while commuting—Mitch Horowitz's rather interesting 2010 book Occult America, and there was a section of it dealing with the pop culture myth of Hitler's obsession with the occult. According to Horowitz, while Hitler was interested in Norse myth and Teutonic hero stories to the extent that they could be used as metaphors and rhetorical devices, he had little time for secret societies, psychics and the like, and believers in the occult were just as likely to be persecuted by the Nazis as the many other groups they persecuted.

This movie about a super-soldier dressed like a flag fighting a guy with a red skull for a head commanding an army of laser-gun wielding storm-troopers is not historically accurate!


—During the climactic fistfight in the cockpit of the giant flying wing, I found myself wanting to re-watch the 1996 direct-to-video Batman/Superman Movie: World's Finest, which also a gigantic flying wing style airship targeting a major American city, and a big fight in its cockpit.


—It's a credit to Evans, Hayley Atwell and the filmmakers that I felt myself getting a little choked up during the scene at the end where Captain America crashes that flying wing thing into the ice...even though I knew Captain America would "die" and that he would survive in the end. Well, it's a credit to them, or a comment on my sensitivity and/or mood while I was watching the movie, I guess.


—I was extremely surprised that it started with the discovery of Captain America in modern times, and even more surprised that it ended how it did, with a surprisingly long scene that sort of undercut some of the suspense that would have existed between a movie that ends with Captain America heroically sacrificing his life to save America and another movie (The Avengers) that opened with the discovery that he was still alive after decades of suspended animation.


—When the movie ended, after the main credit sequence that played over the propaganda-style poster images, I was the only one in the 1/4 full theater who got up and started walking out. The only one. Not another person moved. Noticing this, I decided to hang around in the back and watch the rest, thinking there must be a secret scene at the end like the last few Marvel flicks had and I somehow didn't hear about it, but everyone else did.

That, or everyone was trained to expect one, whether one was coming or not.


—While sitting through the endless credits, I noticed a short list of comics creators who got special thanks, similar to the way the Thor credits assigned thanks to specific creators who worked on Thor comics over the years. I noticed that Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting were among them before they scrolled by.

Mark Millar's name was also among those listed. Millar probably deserves some sort of screen-writing credit, as the last scene of the film was almost lifted directly from an issue of his Ultimates comic.


—I was disappointed to see that Joe Simon and Jack Kirby didn't get a "Captain America created by" credit during the main credits sequence, along with the director, screen writers, costume designer and so on. Instead, during the scrolling end credits, there's one saying something like "based on the Marvel comic by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby."

That's better than nothing, but I found it mildly upsetting. Well, more irritating than upsetting I guess, as those words and phrases mean different things. Simon and Kirby created the character himself, in addition to the comics, so why make it sound so equivocal? Also, Captain America technically predates Marvel, even if Timely Comics, which published the first Captain America comics, eventually became Marvel. Just citing the pair as the creators of Captain America, then, would have avoided all that murkiness. "Based on characters created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby" would have maybe been better still, then.


—The actual end-scene was pretty superfluous after the end of the movie, which already showed Captain America waking up in 2011 and confronted with Nick Fury, the dude who's been showing up in Marvel superhero movies to assemble a team. Having him show up again and try to recruit Cap seems sort of redundant, doesn't it? That was followed by a proper teaser trailer though, which...didn't reveal a whole hell of a lot, really, just that Thor, Cap, Fury and Iron Man would be sharing screen time in The Avengers.

All I really noticed was that Thor looked a lot lamer in the Avengers teaser than he did in Thor...he seemed poorly groomed, his hair too long and too scraggly, and he was wearing what looked like a weird plastic sleeveless t-shirt with discs on it. It looked like a prop departments recreation of Bryan Hitch's Ultimates costume design, but I think I preferred the armor the costume designers of Thor had come up with.


—Because the Red Skull's super-science was attributed to Norse mythological magic-science in the movie, I imagine Avengers won't be doing the Ultimates plot (aliens aiding the Nazis in World War II, returning to take over earth), despite how heavily influenced it seems by Ultimates so far.


—Also while watching that trailer, I thought they better hurry up and make a Black Panther or Ant-Man and The Wasp movie, because right now it looks like The Avengers are just a bunch of buff white guys—Thor, Iron Man, Cap, Hawkeye—with Fury and Black Widow as supporting characters (They might not actually be supporting characters, but, unlike the three Avengers with their own movies, they lack super-powers and real costumes and, um, movies of their own, so they seem like the B-Team).


—I wonder how they will handle Captain America sequels, given the fact that the movie covered his entire career fighting in World War II. As much I'd like to see him fight Batroc The Leaper or team-up with The Falcon, the Captain America premise and the hyper-patriotism inherent in it can get awfully uncomfortable the further removed it gets from World War II. (That, and much of what I liked most about the film was the setting and milieu, the sorts of things that would be lost if we saw a Captain America II: Revenge of the The First Avenger set in modern times. I suppose they could always do movies set during the first movie, as there were lots of montages alluding to other Cap adventures, but I don't know—it was so well done, you kind of don't want to see them mess with the story, you know?)


—Hopefully they'll just do Captain America and Maybe Some Other Golden Age Guys Fight Namor For Two Hours...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Meanwhile, at Robot 6...

Just a heads-up: I wrote at some length about a few different aspects of Chester Brown's Paying For It, and the piece went up at Robot 6 this afternoon. You can go read it, if you like.

It is 2011, right?

1.) Matt Wayne posted a tribute he wrote to the late Dwayne McDuffie and submitted to the folks at Comic-Con International for inclusion in their program, having been asked to do so. They asked him to change it, and he declined. Wayne wrote that the industry needs to understand that, "Dwayne should have been running the comics business, and instead he was barely tolerated," and, more saliently, "[T]here’s no question in my mind that, given the finite length of Dwayne’s career, he would have been better off both financially and creatively to have never worked in comics at all, and gone straight into animation instead."

2.) When recently asked about the continuing legal debates regarding the deal Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel struck in the 1930s with what became DC Comics regarding Superman, Grant Morrison quite unfortunately seemed to blame Shuster and Siegel, question their motives and even laugh at them (In only the space of a few sentences!).

It was an especially unfortunate statement because, while Morrison is an incredibly talented and imaginative writer who would no doubt have been equally successful writing in any medium or industry he chose, the fact of the matter remains that the medium and industry he chose was comics, and the mainstream American comic book industry, with almost all of his work of note being published by the corporate entity that bought Superman off those kid artists he mentioned, and much of it in the superhero genre, which Siegel and Shuster invented.

One can't really say that if it weren't for Siegel and Shuster, Morrison would be a hobo today, and no, I don't think it's fair to say that Morrison is riding on Siegel and Shuster's coattails. But he has spent a great deal of his creative life living in a city that Siegel and Shuster founded.

Morrison's statement was doubly especially unfortunate given the fact that just yesterday a prose book of his was released. The subject matter? Superman. (Please see Abhay Khosla for more).

3.) Matt Seneca assembled a time line of the late Gene Colan's history working in comics.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Two things:

In the latest installment of Tucker Stone's must-read regular "Comics of the Weak" review feature, in which the writer takes a crowbar made of words to the deserving knees of superhero comics, he makes an interesting connection between Marvel's relaunch of their Daredevil comic, and DC's plan to relaunch all of their comics soon.

Marvel's plan with the Daredevil comic was to hire a really good writer (Mark Waid), a pair of really great artists (Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin). That writer decided on a new direction that acknowledges, and is even to a certain extent a reaction to, the last 20 years or so of Daredevil-branded comics, but is otherwise not wholly indebted or beholden to the radical 1980s deconstructionist take on the character, which was popular enough at the time that it simply became the way everyone did the character. The artists, in addition to being able to draw extremely well, were both imaginative and inventive, using their layouts and their illustrations to communicate fantastic super-powers and more mundane, real-world settings in exciting ways.

In short, to relaunch the book, Marvel hired the best creators, who in turn did some of their best work, doing something new and fresh, if classic-feeling in tone. They didn't blow anything up or tear anything down. No babies were thrown out with any bath water. No one had to wear this:Imagine how much less scary DC's September relaunch/reboot plan would be if they simply did the digital initiative, renumbered everything and took Marvel's approach to relaunching Daredevil to each of their books.

How excited would you be to walk into a comic shop in September if that was the plan?

Of course, that would depend on their being 52 more Mark Waids, 52 more Paolo Riveras and 52 more Marcos Martins out there, and I don't think there are. Or, if there are, they're not working in superhero comics at the moment.

And, on the subject of talented folks working within and without superhero comics, and on the subject of Daredevil and on the subject of Things I Spent Some Time Thinking About Because of Tucker Stone, I suggest you read Matt Seneca's post about the late Gene Colan's relationship with Marvel Comics.

It's sobering—hell, it's depressing—but we've all gotta take our medicine if we're gonna get better. So, like I said, read it.

It's a bad, bad world we live in, and sometimes I can't help but feel ashamed of it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Marvel's October previews reviewed

Those shiftless layabouts at Marvel Comics finally got around to releasing their solicits for the books they plan to publish in October, a full eight days after the energetic go-getters over at DC (The Marvel solicits usually come out the day after the DC solicits).

I imagine this was done for the same reason they released their solicits a week late around the time of the Comic-Con last year—because they wanted to announce some of their exciting new October releases at the convention itself.

These include the introduction of both Marvelman and Mickey Mouse into the Marvel Universe, putting L. Frank Baum Oz adaptation artist Skottie Young on a new Muppets comic instead of just reprinting the Boom Muppets comics, publishing crossover books Donald Duck Vs. Howard The Duck and Dr. Strange and The Wizards of Waverly Place and killing off all the X-Men and Spider-Man, since they don't own the movie rights any more, so what's the point really?

Okay, none of that's true. It's business as usual at Marvel, really, as you can see for yourself by reading the solicits over at Newsarama.

Here's what caught my eye this month...


AVENGERS #18
Written by BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS
Pencils and cover by DANIEL ACU√ĎA
Marvel Comics 50th Anniversary
Variant by RYAN MEINERDING
The madness and drama of FEAR ITSELF has taken its toll on the mighty Avengers and now they must reinvent themselves once more! The entire world awaits word of who will be the Avengers! This is one of the most important chapters in Avengers’ history. You will not want to miss the shocking surprise announcements!!
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99


Aw yeah, look at that cover! Are Avengers readers in for the same sort of pulse-pounding picking-a-line-up-by-looking-at-photos action JLA readers enjoyed at the beginning of Brad Meltzer’s one-year run on Justice League of America? Meltzer kept it going for half a story arc, but Bendis is the master of keeping conversations and dull business going for pages and pages longer than they need to—how long will Cap be looking at headshots? Six issues? Eight?


I like that image of a gigantic Hank Pym trying to squeeze into a photo. Just shrink, you idiot!


AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #671
Written by DAN SLOTT
Pencils & Cover by HUMBERTO RAMOS
"Spider-Island" PART FIVE
Now the moment you’ve been dying to see, Tiger! Mary Jane Watson finally spiders-up! Plus a giant battle pitting brother against brother. But let's face it, you just care about that cover!
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99


Geez, why is MJ wearing so much clothing?

Also, when did ASM move to the $3.99 price point?


Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive #524 may have the longest and most confusing name and numbering of all of Marvel’s comics (I’m going to have a hell of a time trying to read David Liss and Francesco Francavilla’s run in trade down the road, given the fact that the title changes, aren’t I?), but it also has the best cover.


DAREDEVIL #5
Written by MARK WAID
Pencils & Cover by MARCOS MARTIN
Variant Cover by BRYAN HITCH
THE DEATH DEFYING DEBUT OF MARCOS MARTIN!
One honest man -- just one -- exists in the vast criminal corporation known as Roxxon Oil, and Daredevil has to find him before a nightmarish disaster claims the entire Eastern Seaboard! Can DD get to him in time--or will this issue's surprise villain get to him first?
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$2.99


I haven’t published a review of it here yet, because I’ve been trying to post the more timely stuff (Comic Con reactions, this post, something soon on Captain America: The First Avenger) first, but I read the first issue of the new Daredevil the other day, and it is great stuff. Perfect, really. Give it a shot, if you haven’t already (And don’t worry about not knowing jack shit about Daredevil; it’s extremely accessible—I haven’t read two consecutive issues of a Daredevil comic since Kevin Smith and Joe Quesada were on the book).


FEAR ITSELF #7 (of 7)
Written by MATT FRACTION
Penciled by STUART IMMONEN
Cover by STEVE McNIVEN
Variant Cover by STUART IMMONEN
Variant Cover by BILLY TAN (to be revealed after the events in Fear Itself #6)
• Tony Stark returns from the depths with a last-chance arsenal that will transform the Avengers from Earth's Mightiest Heroes...into Earth's Last Hope!
• It’s THOR'S DAY-- the day that everything ends!
• Double sized Finale with a little something extra for keen eye
56 PGS./Rated T+ ...$4.99


Thor’s Day? I’m pretty sure it will actually come out on Woden’s Day.


Are those two Ghost Riders making out or just snuggling, or perhaps sharing a slow dance? They don’t have lips or tongues, so it’s impossible to know for sure.


THE FEARLESS #1 (Of 12)
Written by MATT FRACTION, CULLEN BUNN & CHRIS YOST
Penciled by MARK BAGLEY & PAUL PELLETIER
Cover by ART ADAMS
Variant Covers A, B, C and D by TBA
FEAR ITSELF AFTERMATH!
A new twice-monthly series featuring Captain America, the Avengers, and heroes and villains across the entire Marvel Universe! In the wake of FEAR ITSELF, CLASSIFIED. By the acclaimed writing team of Matt Fraction (FEAR ITSELF), Cullen Bunn (FEAR ITSELF: THE DEEP) and Chris Yost (FEAR ITSELF: SPIDER-MAN) and the powerhouse art team of Mark Bagley (ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN) and Paul Pelletier (THE INCREDIBLE HULKS).
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$2.99


I love the concept of these sorts of accelerated-schedule series, which DC has been doing more of and in greater volume than DC (I believe Marvel’s just done a handful of five-issue weekly series so far, unless you also count their experiment with a thrice-weekly Amazing Spider-Man, which rarely came out like clockwork anyway).

I also love the art of Mark Bagley and Paul Pelletier, have read more good stuff from Matt Fraction and Chris Yost than I’ve read bad stuff, and have no opinion on Cullen Bunn (Aside from liking his name). Therefore I’d totally be into this…if only I had read Fear Itself itself.

I can’t imagine this will be easily accessible if you skipped FI entirely…of course, Brightest Day didn’t seem all that dependent on familiarity with Blackest Night…so maybe it will be readable. I guess I have a few months to decide.

The other day I made a joke about how DC seems to steal Marvel’s bad ideas, while Marvel steals DC’s good ideas; that was before I noticed that Marvel had Bagley, the primary artist on DC’s weekly series Trinity, drawing part of this more-frequently-than-monthly series.


HERC #9
Written by FRED VAN LENTE & GREG PAK
Penciled by DAVID HAHN
Cover by TOM GRUMMETT
AN ELEKTRA-FYING ISSUE OF HERC! Herc has rejected his demigod status to distance himself from his Olympian ties, especially his father Zeus. Unfortunately for Herc, that distance is about to get a lot shorter, as Zeus has decided to move in with his wayward son after an angry Hera de-powers him. As if parental baggage wasn’t problematic enough, Herc’s status as Brooklyn’s protector has put him at odds with some powerful enemies. A team-up with the skilled assassin Elektra could give him the help he needs... as long as his dad doesn’t muck it up first. Written by Marvel scribes Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente and drawn by the astounding David Hahn, it’s a Herc story not to be missed!
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$2.99


I really like David Hahn. I’m sooooooo far behind on Marvel’s Hercules comics now though…


Is the Hulk wearing Red Hulk Hulk hands? Is he having some sort of terrible circulation problem, as the enormous number of engorged veins poking up through all of his veins would seem to suggest, and the veins in his hands and wrists just plain popped, and he’s leaking blood? Or did he just kill someone?

This, by the way, is one of the Marc Silvestri covers to the new Incredible Hulk #1. It’s written by Jason Aaron, who seems like he’d be a good Hulk writer, it’s drawn by Marc Silvestri, who does not seem like he’d be a good Hulk artist (not to my tastes, anyway), and it will cost $4 for a 32-page issue, which generally means 22-pages of story. It will have five or six different covers. You know, maybe Marvel wouldn’t have to charge four bucks per comic if they didn’t have to pay a half dozen artists to draw different covers for every single one of their books.


LEGION OF MONSTERS #1 (Of 4)
Written by DENNIS HOPELESS
Art & Cover by JUAN DOE
A monster adventure to scream over!
Elsa Bloodstone hates monsters – and when the trail of a mysterious serial killer leads to their underground city, Elsa’s ready to kick some horrific butt. Morbius the Living Vampire, Werewolf by Night, the Living Mummy and the slithery Manphibian have news for her, though; the monsters are innocent, and the real killer is out there...a creature so terrifying and vicious that even monsters are scared to death! Elsa Bloodstone and the Legion of Monsters are on the case!
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99


Here’s a pretty perfect example of a comic I want to buy—a bunch of characters I like, drawn by one of my favorite artists—but Marvel doesn’t want to sell me. At least, not badly enough to charge a reasonable amount of money for it.


This is a nice concept Ale Garza has employed on his cover for Spider-Man #19. Has no one used that before?


ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN #3
Written by BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS
Penciled by SARA PICHELLI
Cover by KAARE ANDREWS
Who is behind the mask?
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99


Spider-Man.

Well that was an easy question.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Comic-Con announcement reaction-o-rama!

I did not go to San Diego Comic Con this year, due to my abject poverty and the price associated with traveling from northeast Ohio to the Pacific coast of the United States. That, and also because of my debilitating phobia about flying in an airplane. And of crowds. And of the state of California. And of celebrities. And women. And people in costumes. And Dan DiDio. And the accusing eyes of people at booths as I walk by without buying things from them. And... Well, let's just move on, shall we?

While I did not attend SDCC this year, I did spend an awful lot of time on the Internet reading coverage of the convention. It will not surprise you, given the content of my blog, that one of the subjects I was most interested in was the reception that the crowds would give news of DC's upcoming reboot, relaunch and re-branding efforts, as this was the first big industry convention since they announced the move, which is either the most audacious and ambitious thing the often hidebound company has ever attempted, or the most self-destructively insane (Not that those two things are mutually exclusive, now that I think of it).

A word of warning: If you're as sick of me talking about DC Comics as I suspect many of you are, feel free to scroll down to the later, smaller bullet points. I tried to get all of that business out of the way first, before turning my attention to other announcements.


I’m sure all of the comics news sites covered the “New 52” panel, but the one I read was The Beat’s live-blogging of it (complete with charming live-blogging typos!), so I’ll link to that one.

Tom Spurgeon has noted a couple times this week that the DC panels tend to be “defensive and slightly hostile,” which is one thing that hasn’t really changed (Although why would it? The same folks who have been in charge over the last few years are still in charge of the “new” DCU). While “defensive and slightly hostile,” sounds about right, I probably would have characterized them as passive-aggressive, or even aggressively passive-aggressive.

I guess the panel didn’t deteriorate into a riot, which is good, and it didn’t sound like the entire room was virulently opposed to the new direction, which is obviously a good thing for DC.

Reading the answers and questions really made me kind of sad though, and for the first time since they announced their new direction, I really felt like the “DC Universe” as a shared setting, as a partially autonomous, open source (to a large if select group of people given access) entity was ending. (Which makes the last year or so worth or stories particularly disappointing; if they were ending the DCU, they really oughta done something Crisis On Infinite Earths or JLA Vs. Avengers or bigger to burn it all down with; when COIE reshaped their continuity and cosmology, Alan Moore wrote “Whatever Happened to The Man of Steel?” as the “last” Superman story. This time, we get the JMS-and-committee-created Superman-walking-around story, the title of which I couldn’t even tell you).

Of the new 52, I’ll definitely try out a few issues of Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and Aquaman, the only titles where I’m confident I’ll like the work of the creators and am at least optimistic enough about the new directions that I think they could be good, and I’m sure I’ll read more in trade eventually, some out of affection for the creators and others out of curiosity, but everything in the “New 52” sounds like an Elseworlds or "Imaginary Story" to me.

Now, while no real good can come of me typing up a one-way argument with strangers thousands of miles away—and even less good can come of you wasting your time reading it—there were a few particularly depressing things form that panel I wanted to highlight.
“Hire more women. You went from 12% women to 1% women.”

“Who should we have hired?” DiDio demanded. Some from the audience suggested Nicola Scott and Carla Speed McNeil.
I don’t even know how to respond to that. I hope DiDio didn’t sound as defensive as “DiDio demanded” makes him sound.

At the very least, I wonder what happened to Felicia D. Henderson and Nicola Scott, both of whom were working for DC before the announcement (and the latter of whom was one of their better artists). Or they could flip through Marvel’s trade of Girl Comics, full of creators who are all women and who all work at least occasionally for the Big Two and can do superhero stuff just fine.

Or they could, I don’t know, look for some. Don’t these guys ever just spend an hour or two clicking around DeviantArt, or pick up something random and cool-looking off the new comics rack and think to themselves, “Hmm, I wonder if this Marian Churchland or Emily Warren person would like to draw a superhero comic…?”
On Wonder Woman:

Eddie; What you’ve done is turn the gods into something modern, not just toga wearing guys.”

Cliff: We’re bringing them into a world that is modern.”
Greg Rucka and his artist collaborators did the exact same thing during their run on the title eight years ago (a run interrupted by Infinite Crisis and various other initiatives spearheaded by Dan DiDio and others responslbe for “the New 52.”)
Lobdell talks about the Teen Titans: “We thought that Wonder Girl would be separated from being yet another version of Wonder Woman and have worked really hard to make these characters like you’re there at ground zero of a brand new book.”
How, exactly, do you take a second-generation, legacy sidekick conceived and named after Wonder Woman and make her something other “yet another version of Wonder Woman”…? And why would you even try?
It’s a reason we’re holding it to $2.99. It’s a big investment we’re trying to make it as accessible and affordable as possible .
This is the part where I would be hauled out of the panel, screaming, “What about Flashpoint #2, you monsters?!
NEW Q: What about Widening gyre and Elseworlds.

DiDio: Widening Gyre #2 will come out when Kevin Smith’s schedule clears up. Batman Odyssey is scheduled to come out right after the launches. The 52 books isn’t all that we’re producing. but we are trying to limit the amount of product on the stands, to make it a stronger line overall.
I am glad DC will continue to publish things other than their new, rebooted universe, and I hope there will still be projects featuring the characters I like that I can read without having to look at that Superman costume or feel sad about the creative bankruptcy of the Big Two. Like those DC Retroactive books, for example.

That said, did you guys read Batman: The Widening Gyre,? It completely broke me. It may be the worst comic I’ve ever read, worse even than that completely insane, practically unreadable-as-comics Jeph Loeb-written Ultimates comic with that Battle Chasers guy…well, not quite that bad, but still pretty bad. In the same ballpark, anyway. I couldn’t even bring myself to review it here. I’m going to try again sometime, but it was the strangest comic DC ever published, in several key ways.
Eddie Berganza; I have a timeline you’ll never see. We’re keeping the most important events but compressing it. We are not making this for people to have to read all the history at once.
What? Really? Why will we never see it? Will you let the other creators and writers see it, at least?
Didio: This is why we need new readers, so we have people who didn’t read what I said before. With Arsenal they didn’t like it when we ripped his arm off, and now they don’t like we put it back on.

Q: What about his daughter?

Q: We want beginning characters and this is about Roy startingout and this takes place before he had kids.
And here’s the strangest thing about a relaunched DC universe that still contains so many of these characters.

Is it really possible to interest new readers and/or civilians in a character named “Arsenal” with the power of super-aim based on, um, his name, costume and powers, and nothing else? How do you do a starting out version of a character that is the grown-up sidekick of another superhero?

And how on earth does Arsenal Roy Harper and Nighwing Dick Grayson even exist as the grown-up, adult versions of Green Arrow and Batman’s sidekicks if Green Arrow and Batman have only been around for five years?


So DC has confirmed the dissolution of the Superman/Lois Lane marriage. It’s really weird to hear folks from DC talking about how Clark Kent is bachelor and how they’re bringing a “fresh perspective” and opening up “dramatic new story possibilities.”

They’re essentially restoring Superman to his 1939-1996 marital/romantic status. Lois Lane as a TV reporter, Lois dating a douchebag and a media conglomerate buying out the Daily Planet are all story points and status quos I’ve seen in the comics and other-media Superman stories repeatedly before as well.

Turning the clock back 15 years doesn’t really sound all that fresh and new to me, but I guess it’s in keeping with Warren Ellis’ statement that he thinks DiDio sincerely believes making comics more like they were in the nineties will restore that decades huge sales levels.


—David Uzumeri’s write-up of another panel on the subject for Comics Alliance is a lot less depressing
Lee stated that things were way too easy for Clark Kent with his beautiful wife, nice apartment, and high-paying job, so they felt it was important to restore the love triangle and the sense that Superman couldn't get everything he wanted.
If you’ve even a passing familiarity with what DC has done with the Superman character in the last five years—including de-powering him and forcing him into retirement for a (fictional) year, killing off his dad Pa Kent, exiling him from Earth, giving him an adopted son and then taking his adopted son away, restoring a huge Kryptonian population of 100,000 or so to a new planet in Earth’s solar system and then killing them all off, “too easy” is a weird way to look at the characters’ life.

What is interesting about this statement, particularly as regards the live triangle, is the belief that the Lois Lane/Superman/Clark Kent love triangle is essential the character and concept. The argument could certainly be made.

Personally, I think it was, but mostly because Superman was an adolescent power fantasy, a kids comic character. Now that he’s more of a shared, all-ages character, and that his readership has grown up, I don’t think the adolescent romantic/sexual tension that exists between his two selves and Lois Lane is necessarily as relevant—and decades of good Superman comics in which the two are married partners bear that out.

That love triangle aspect of the character is also, I think, a product of the early 20th century, and now seems dated and chauvinistic. Why can’t Superman be himself around the woman he loves? Why can’t they be equal partners? Why must Lois be so dumb that she can’t see two men in her life are one and the same?

The move would definitely be one that might give Lois Lane more panel time, but there’s a danger of reducing her to a plot point and story object instead of a character, and, I think, diminishes her—she’s no longer the human being that landed the most perfect mr. perfect in the world, the single person who is complete equals with Superman, instead she’s someone with a crush on him that Superman would like to be with if it weren’t for his pesky secret-identity and the fact that girls are yucky and have cooties and might get hurt by a villain if they ever fournd out she was dating Superman.

Whatever happens, I do hope they will keep Superman and Lois chaste until their identities are revealed. The few instances where I’ve seen a romantically involved Superman and Lois, wherein Lois doesn’t know Superman is really Clark Kent, have struck me as exceedingly creepy (That Superman/Doomsday animated direct-to-DVD featurette leaps most immediately to mind, and I must confess to have forgotten whether the Lois in Superman Returns new Superman’s secret identity or not—I might just be creeped out by any of the many other creepy things in that movie).
DiDio pointed out that the characters had aged a lot in the DC Universe, with many of them having wives, children and multigenerational legacies. Barbara Gordon was a character they discussed a lot, with most DC staffers feeling that she was likely in her mid- to late 30s. Additionally, they wanted to de-age the characters for story reasons, to allow them to go on voyages of self-discovery, since many of the current DC characters had already matured so much. At the same time, they wanted to tell fresh new stories rather than rehashing old ones, just with younger versions of the characters who hadn't already overcome their greatest battles.
That actually sounds a bit right to me. I would have said Gordon could be no younger than her mid-twenties, but was probably early-30’s.

I don’t think it matters over much, so long as you don’t think about it. Personally, I guess Superman and Batman will always seem “older than me” to me, no matter how old I get; I’m currently 34, so I think of the Wally West/Dick Grayson generation as my age, between 25-35, and the original Justice Leaguers in their mid-40’s. Maybe when I’m 50 or 60 I’ll see that differently though.

I think there’s a real danger here that DC will end up repeating themselves though; the temptation is going to be extremely great to “do-over” stories with the characters.

And, of course, whenever there’s talk of difficulties or limitations with the writing of characters—like Marvel’s argument that being married made Spider-Man stories too hard to tell, or that the DCU heroes are now too experienced—I get a little depressed, as it sounds like a veiled admission of defeat, a failure of imagination. If you honestly can’t think of a way to tell any good Spider-Man stories with a married Spider-Man, for example, then maybe you shouldn’t be telling Spider-Man stories. I’m sure there’s a pool of several dozen to several hundred other writers and cartoonists out there; someone oughta be able to do it.
On Superman's Continuity: When asked for six examples of Superman stories that are still in continuity, Berganza mentioned Doomsday and then gave five classic parts of Superman mythology, such as Krypton exploding.
Uh-oh. Well, double uh-oh, I guess. First, not being able to name five other Superman stories is kind of scary. Secondly, if they rebooted his marital status, than almost everything since the mid-nineties is now in that same weird place where Spider-Man comics were after their continuity-ectomy: Like, they happened, but happened completely differently, since the character’s weren’t married…?


I really liked The Crow the first time I read it. I was a teenager at the time, and read it after Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a book with which it shared some aesthetic, I think. I liked the first movie (mostly). As powerful as both were, particularly that comic, I never thought that the concept itself had much juice beyond the story and characters of the original stories. (I remember hating the second movie, and only seeing the third one at all because Kirsten Dunst was in it, and I heart her; somehow, I never read any of the other Crow comics produced).

That said, there’s obviously a lot of interest in the character and concept, so I’m not surprised it’s coming back, nor that IDW’s the publisher doing it. It’s really rather weird to look at the The Crow today, however, and think of him as a 21st century character or product. Looking at him and his story in context though, James O’Barr was well ahead of his time in a lot of ways, and he and his comics wielded an awful lot of influence over certain elements of pop culture.

The other two IDW projects mentioned in this report sound even more appealing. I can’t imagine what the Popeye comics would be like, if they are new, comic book adventures based on the old strip continuity, but I’m really excited to learn more.


Marvel is publishing a new Villains For Hire book, which has Misty Knight leading a team of villains. Kinda like DC’s old Suicide Squad, in which tough black lady Amanda Waller lead a team of villains. Or current Thunderbolts, in which tough black guy Luke Cage leads a team of villains?

I wonder if this means Thunderbolts is going away…? If not, that’s two books with two very similar concepts going on at the same time. Heck, Luke and Misty are even pals in the Marvel Universe, aren’t they?



DC released a mess of interior art from a bunch of their books. Unsurprisingly, the Batwoman stuff looks particularly nice, and those Guillem March images were enough to get me to overcome my resistance to Judd Winick’s writing. I think I’ll read Catwoman in trade someday…I can always just ignore the words and look at the pictures, right? The sense of motion in some of those panels is just amazing…


—I’ve never watched any Star Trek—none!—not a single TV show episode or a single movie (In 2002, I tried to find episodes of Voyager in preparation for a feature article I was writing about a Star Trek celeb-starring fundraiser for Ohio gubenatorial candidate Tim Hagan being held in Cleveland; his wife, actress Kate Mulgrew, played Captain Janeway; I didn't manage to find any before the article saw print, however). And I am quite adverse to the Legion, despite given the concept a couple of chances (Waid and Kubert’s short-lived run, Geoff Johns’ Action arc “Superman and The Legion of Super-Heroes” and Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds).

So why do I think this sounds kinda cool?


This crossover sounds even weirder to me than a Star Trek/Legion one. Johanna Draper Carlson wonders after the appeal. I would probably buy it if it featured Josie and the Pussycats instead of the Archie gang.


Really? I still haven’t read the second one yet. The first one was really rather good, though.


—This doesn’t sound as flashy and exciting on the surface as some of the other announcement, but I be there’s a pretty good chance it’s going to end up being a lot better than a lot of the above mentioned projects: Guy Delisle’s next book is going to be about his time spent in Jersualem.

I was particularly intrigued by Drawn and Quarterly's Editor-In-Chief and Publisher Chris Oliveros’ statement that, “There has never been a book like it.” Considering the fact that I can think of a handful of cartoonists who have spent time in the same geographical area and produced great works, this should be something special.


—Current comics creators probably shouldn’t opine about Siegel and Shuster’s treatment of and by DC in public, especially if they’re currently working on Siegel and Shuster’s signature creation and on DC’s biggest cashcow of all time. Even Grant Morrison, who seems like one of the smartest, nicest and coolest folks in super-comics, come across as sounding like a bit of a jerk in doing so.


—I can’t wait to read Frank Miller’s Holy Terror, although I’m gonna have an awfully hard time not mentall drawing little bat-ears on the lead character while reading it, I think.


I guess Image is publishing a MacGyver comic…? Here’s Robot 6’s mention of the announcement, in a round-up of news:

Image Comics will resurrect the classic television show MacGyver as a five-issue miniseries written by MacGyver creator Lee David Zlotoff and Doctor Who writer Tony Lee, and illustrated by Becky Cloonan.
And here’s a transcription of my thoughts while reading that sentence:
Really? Why that’s a weird thing for Image to publish, I can see what Zlotoff would want to do that, but I can’t imagine anyone wanting to read—OHHH, Becky Cloonan.



—The line-up for this new Defenders comic from by Matt Fraction and Terry Dodson sounds a little goofy—Red-She Hulk? Iron Fist?—but I do love The Defenders, and will likely give this a try if it’s $3 a pop.

My pitch for a Defenders book would be to title the book Defender Avengers—having the word “Avengers” in the title would totally be worth at least 20K units ordered a month, I bet.


—Have you guys noticed that in the past half-decade or so, Marvel seems to steal all of DC’s good ideas, while DC steals all of Marvel’s bad ideas?


I like both of the Wonder Girl costumes in this gallery of “New 52” redesign sketches better than the one they ultimately went with (Or did they go with the second one, and Booth just draws it weird?) I especially like the one I excerpted above. (I also really, really like this, Wonder-person costume, and the idea of Wednesday Comics creator Ben Caldwell doing a Wonder Woman series.

September’s relaunched Wonder Woman snagged one of the better creative teams of all 52 new books, but man, how cool would it be if they did something really radical, like a Wonder Girl—Wonder Woman’s adventures when she was a girl!—book by Caldwell…?


—I’m excited about both of Fantagraphics’ two big archival announcements, Zap and creator-specific collections of EC Comics.

I still haven’t caught up with their Krazy Kat, Complete Peanuts or even Popeye yet though. And there's the Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck stuff coming up too!

After I post this, I’m gonna go by a lottery ticket.


That’s kind of cool, actually. Not putting-CaptainMarvel-and-Plastic Man-in-the-founding-line-up cool, but still pretty cool. I think I will try Justice League #1 after all…


—Finally, according to this report, former New Teen Titan Cyborg will be a founding member of the Justice League. What does that mean for the history of the Teen Titans, a run of comics which is among DC's best-loved and best-remembered (particularly for folks who were reading back during the time Marv Wolfman and George Perez were working on them), but also comics that inevitably age the DCU, as it starred the sidekicks coming of age and becoming young adults themselves. If it's knocked out of continuity, than that could be troubling, but I notice DC is gearing up to sell a Wolfman/Perez original graphic novel set during those fictional years and using that continuity.

I wonder if Martian Manhunter's absences from the new Justice League means that he is no longer a founding member. That's going to really, really, really hurt that character's standing and marketability in the future, although I suppose if he is kicked out of the League and grafted on to the new Stormwatch line-up, it signals DC having finally given up on him.

If DC wanted a black person on the founding League, I do wish they would have went with Black Lightning, Amazing Man, Vixen, Icon or Hardware, John Stewart or even Mr. Terrific instead of Cyborg, if only because it moves him from one generation of heroes, back to another (Hey, does that age him and make him more experienced?). But then, I suppose the choices depend on how much DCU continuity is changed (Was there a Golden Age with a JSA and All-Star Squadron? Did Batman recruit Black Lightning into The Outsiders a few years after he turned down League membership? Was there a JLA Detroit? Is the Milestone Universe still part of the DCU?), and I don't know anything about all that.