Tuesday, July 10, 2012

(links)

Hello loyal and likely frustrated EDILW readers; miss me? I didn't plan on being gone quite so long, although I did want to let news and ordering information regarding my newly available Mothman Comics hang at the top of the blog throughout the weekend (Remarkably enough, copies are still available!), and then post my regular, weekly links post on Monday but, um, I didn't. So now it's Tuesday night, and I'm just getting around to Sunday night's post. Expect the stuff you'd normally expect to see here...DC and Marvel's October previews reviewed, for example, and a Comic Shop Comics column...just two days later than usual until I catch up.

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As it turns out, Ann Nocenti is the writer who is taking over Catwoman, and isn't the writer who is taking over Detective Comics. I took note of this post on DCWKA because I had completely forgotten that Nocenti wrote Batman/Catwoman: Trail of the Gun. I don't remember that series, which I read as it came out, in very great detail, but I do remember quite liking it at the time. I remember Nocenti inventing one or two pretty great, colorfully disfigured villains of the Dick Tracy variety, and I remember really liking artist Ethan Van Sciver's costuming of Catwoman, which blended the basic design Catwoman was wearing around that time—the purple, Jim Balent-era costume—with the gray, whiskers-and-tail outfit of 1980s.

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Here's the much-talked-about Tim Marchman's much-talked-about interview with Watchmen editor-turned-Before Watchmen: Ozymandias writer Len Wein, in which Wein is given a PR handler to help him/guard him through what must be Wein's, I don't know, ten thousdandth interview of his decades-long career.

It's pretty funny.

Here's a sample:

It is really a question of individual taste: either you think that the story of a man who kills millions of people with a fake telepathic squid is improved by the inclusion of details about how he was bullied as a child or not.

And here's Marchman discussing the quality of the book:

Everyone has done their job.


Still, you can’t judge a naked bit of product made over the violent objections of Moore, one of the two people with any moral if not legal right to control it, as just a comic.

One part that I think is worth pulling out and paying special attention to, however, is this exchange, in which Wein reveals how much money he makes while talking about how much money Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons make off of Watchmen, whether they own it or not:

So, bringing this all back to Len Wein, I wasn’t surprised at his reaction when I asked for his thoughts on the fact that a lot of people would say Watchmen was just stolen from Moore and Gibbons (who, it should be noted, has tepidly endorsed the whole thing).

“A lot of people,” he said, “would be wrong.”

I asked if he could go into that a bit.

“They’ve stolen nothing from Alan and Dave,” he said. “A—the whole argument that, ‘We’ll give this back to you when it stops selling,’ and they’ve never given it back to them, is because it has never stopped selling. There is not one year of my own income—and my own income is considerable—where I would not trade that year off of what Alan simply made in back money off of the Watchmen.”
It's at that point that Wein's handler jumps in to cut off talk of specifics, but what struck me was the part where Wein refers to his own income as "considerable."

I think a lot of folks have spared a lot of the creators involved scorn, and, in part, I understand why—it feels weird to be angry at the publisher/corporation for exploiting two creators, and to also be angry at another group of creators, for being part of it. Personally, I think they all of the Before Watchmen creators deserve a degree of scorn (with the exception of Joe Kubert, due to his oldness), and I don't think "scab" is too strong a word to use when referring to them in relation to this project.

Wein's statement above sort of deflates the, "Well, comics writers and artists gotta eat" argument. I believe I've noted before that none of the artists involved are struggling or starving artists at this point in their career—DC did seem to go out of their way to choose the biggest popular, name creators that would agree to work on the project over the objections of one of its originators—and here's Wein saying that it is in fact the case that he doesn't need the money, his income is considerable.

So I guess he's doing it in an attempt to cash-in and make some Watchmen money, is that it?

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Reading the piece, I began to wonder if DC always has a PR minder involved in interviews, or if this case was special because of Marchman's last big piece on comics or because of the special, controversial nature of the Before Watchmen project? (And will Pam be following JMS around San Diego this week, pushing a little button that delivers an electric shock to him through a specially-made collar he is contractually obligated to wear whenever he says something colossally stupid about the project which, so far, has been everything he's said about the project?)

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Tucker Stone, Abhay Khosla and Nate Bulmer return for another installment of "Comics of the Weak," this time with guest star Joe "Jog" McCulloch, who reviews Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #1 and just destroys it; and it's an excellent review, by the way. McCulloch doesn't just trash it because it's a reprehensible thing that shouldn't exist, a comic that highlights all the worst and saddest things about the industry built on the medium we all love so, but because it deserves it, quality-wise (apparently). McCulloch argues with the book, and the book loses.

Also, Abhay's Before Watchmen referencing routine is pretty funny.

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This line in last week's installment of Tom Spurgeon's weekly "This Isn't A Library" feature made me laugh: "I probably don't have to tell you there's nothing more American than Popeye, the Muppets or swamp monsters."

I look forward to the day when the U.S. mint adjusts the faces on our currency to reflect that fact.

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I suppose the biggest news of this past week was Marvel's announcement of their new "Marvel NOW!" publishing initiative, their kinda sorta response to their Distinguished Competition's "New 52," although they of course don't refer to it as such.

If for some strange reason you haven't read all about it already—like, say, perhaps EDILW is the only website devoted to comics you read, and you get all your comics news through me—I think I'd suggest this article as a good one to give you an idea of what it will entail.

I don't generally enjoy that kind of front page newspaper-style writing, but it's informative and very, very basic, which is what I needed to be able to read a piece on "Marvel NOW!" all the way through, as I guess I'm so burnt out and exhausted by reading about/thinking about/talking about "The New 52" that I just don't have it in me to care about the other big superhero shared-setting universe getting an overhaul.

Briefly though, I'm till not entirely sure what to make of this "Marvel NOW!" business. For me personally, I think if they only published $2.99 books, and published them on a regular, predictable monthly schedule with consistent creative teams (instead of publishing them once, twice, three times...maybe four times a month, what with annuals and ".1" specials), that would be the best and smartest move they could make to, if not increase readership, than at least stop repelling it.

Some of the announced creative team assignments sound interesting, like putting Brian Michael Bendis on the X-Men franchise after he spent much of the last decade on the Avengers franchise (Does this mean it's safe to start reading Avengers comics again?!), and, if nothing else, it seems like a decent opportunity for curious readers to try out a whole bunch of comics.

I know that I personally want to read monthly super-comics again, especially now that I live close to a comic book store and make enough money to blow some on comics after a few years in which those things weren't the case, but at this point I'm so out of the habit, I have a hard time imagining that this wil really get me to start reading more Marvel comics in their serially published, comic book-comic book format(right now, Daredevil is all I'm reading).

"Marvel NOW!", by the way, sounds like a really, really terrible name (Marvel's not real great at coming up with catchy names for branding efforts. Take, for example, "Season One" for their new, new reader-friendly line of graphic novels retelling the origins of certain characters, or that goofy ".1" initiative).

I will, of course, take that back if every time a Marvel employee says "Marvel NOW!" in public, they pronounce it just as it's written; exploding and drawing out the "NOW!" into a shout.

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One key difference between "The New 52" and "Marvel NOW!", at least from what little we've been shown so far, is that only most of the Marvel characters are getting redesigned into shittier costumes, instead of all of them.

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Oh hey, you guys have already heard about the "New 52" debut of the rebooted Black Lightning in the rebooted DC Universe, right? (Perhaps you even heard it from me?)

I suppose it seems kinda silly to reboot Black Lightning at this point, given the miniseries Black Lightning: Year One just did that in 2009 (see also Green Arrow and The Huntress), but if they make the new Black Lightning shoot black-colored lightning in their new continuity—something I discussed at some length in one of my first comic strips here at EDILW—then that will be exactly one thing worth rebooting the DCU over.

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(Of course, DC could have just rebooted the color of Black Lightning's lightning bolts and left the rest of their universe and continuity alone, but that ship has already sailed)

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By the way, this totally makes up for DC canceling Solo before they got around to a Joe Kubert issue. The only downside? No Enemy Ace.

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Why in God's good name did DC launch 52 new titles last September—plus 10 more this year, to replace some of those first 52 that no one read—and not relaunch Solo...?

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Hey, remember that time the Enemy Ace's puppy died, and he freaked out and killed a whole bunch of people? That was awesome.

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I thought this mini-gallery comics from political cartoonists responding to actor Andy Griffith's death was worth looking at for the way it demonstrates the way multiple cartoonists reacting to the same story can come with more-or-less the exact same ideas.

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I thought this infotainment comic strip contrasting the finances of Batman and Spider-Man was pretty cute.

I'm sure, this being the Internet, someone disagrees quite vehemently, but I always thought of Batman as a Buffet rule kind of guy; a billionaire capitalist who is all about paying taxes to help maintain and improve social safety nets.

Like, he obviously doesn't care about maintaining and growing his wealth as much as he cares about justice, vengeance and punishing criminals. Just think of the millions and millions of dollars he's spent on just a series of special cars he uses to travel from preventing one mugging to the next.

I was kind of surprised to see how high Peter Parker's salary was, but then I realized he lives in New York City, rather than Ohio, where living expenses mean a salary that looks like a fucking fortune to this freelancer probably doesn't even cover rent, web-fluid ingredients and Aunt May's medication co-payments.

Although Spidey sure wastes a lot of money on clothes, according to that infographic...

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John Layman is the new Detective Comics writer, and Jason Fabok is the new Detective Comics artist.

That announcement doesn't really excitement too terribly much, but it's certainly good news for Layman and for DC.

It would have been a much bigger deal, I think, if DC could have announced him as the new writer last Septemeber on the relaunched Detective Comics #1, rather than announcing that the dude writing and drawing the relaunched TEC was the dude that was writing and drawing the other Batman book the month before.

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The Comics Journal's Dan Nadel talks about a few of the Before Watchmen books, comparing their quality to one another, in a blog entry: "But then again, they were all 'better' than the last DC comics I read — all of the 52 first issues."

And then, he writes:

Oh wait, I forgot, I also read (perversely) Batman Earth One, which I guess is some sort of practical joke? Right? Someone dared someone else to make a movie pitch into a book, and include lots of bromancing and Deer Hunter stuff, right? Because I’ve never seen bromancing like that before.

I wasn't excited about, or even interested in, Batman: Earth One (I never did read the Superman one, in part because I can't imagine anything less interesting to read than JMS Superman comics), until I read Nadel's description of it.

Tom Bondurant had a much more generous view of the book, and in the course of his review he revealed a few other tidbits of information that made me want to read Johns' pitch for a Batman movie or HBO series, which Gary Frank apparently storyboarded.

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You may have also heard (...from me...?) that DC has announced Ann Nocenti as the new writer of Catwoman and that Tony Daniel would be filling in for Jim Lee on Justice League.

I'm curious about Nocenti on the book (and I wish Guillem March was still drawing it), and I think I'll try it out now.

The Daniel announcement is kind of funny in that it seems to indicate the JLA book is rather quickly regressing back to where it was before the "New 52" relaunch...hell, before James Robinson came on as writer.

Here we see Lee needing his third and fourth fill-in (Gene Ha did one previously, another issue had three credited pencil artists), it coming from someone who is not exactly Jim Lee or Gene Ha caliber (although a lot of folks seem to like Daniel, even though I think he is the worst), and look the cover even has all the Leaguer's laying around in rubble, just like 75% of the covers of the previous volume of the series did.

Okay, my math is off, but look. Here's Daniel's cover that DC released to, I don't know, get people excited, maybe...?
And here's a walk down (bad) memory lane:
Also of note is the fact that writer Geoff Johns is, in this two-issue arc that Daniel is going to be drawing, introducing the New 52 Cheetah.

The Cheetah is, of course, one of Wonder Woman's archenemies, but like Wondy supporting characters Steve Trevor and Etta Candy, she's being introduced in the pages of Justice League rather than in the pages of Wonder Woman.

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Here's Andrew Wheeler's latest review of the latest issue of Marvel's Avengers Vs. X-Men series. I like his pieces on it.

There are several images in the post.

Here's one:
Why is that one X-Men so big? That's the Native-American character with the knives, who is the brother of the dead Native-American character, and who has some sort of culturally insensitive codename, like Warpath or Red Devil or The Scalpinator or something, right?

Is he just drawn too big, or is he supposed to be, like, a giant? Because I've read several comics with that guy in them, and I don't remember him being a giant. But maybe the art in those comics was bad, and this is actually fine...?

I don't know.

I know this panel of Namor is the greatest, though:
Why wasn't that the cover of the issue...?

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Okay, one more panel from that issue:
The slapper is, of course, The Black Panther. The slapee, who you probably don't recognize out of his armor, is Tony Stark, aka Iron Man.

Man, think how different the last few years of stories in the Marvel Universe would have been if Black Panther was always around to slap Tony Stark every time Tony Stark had a bad idea. He could have been like Stark's sobriety coach, his slapping sobriety, only instead of just keeping Stark off of booze, he could also keep him off of ideas like Superhero Guantanamo or clone-bots of Norse gods with their lightning hammers set to "kill."

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This "Guest Post From An Occupy Dude" on Wonkette uses this summer's Avengers movie as an example of a distraction keeping people from thinking about and working to solve our real problems, part of a bigger discussion about how Americans tend to get worked-up over the wrong things.

Dig the analogy:

There’s a real-life battle waging out there and instead of paying attention, most of us are watching “The Avengers.” Don’t get me wrong, I saw “The Avengers.” I’m not saying don’t watch the shit; I’m just saying don’t watch ALL of it. If the Incredible Hulk had used his anger screaming at the television because the Lakers lost instead of beating up the assholes from another planet, mankind woulda been fucked.

"The assholes from another planet," by the way, is a much cooler name than either "Loki's army" or "The Chitauri."

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Is Avengers Vs. X-Men an entertaining comic? I have no idea. I still haven't read Fear Itself. But it sure seems like it must be pretty entertaining; I, for one, am really enjoying reading criticism of it.

Here's a pretty insightful (and fun) piece by Tim O'Neil from a few weeks ago that you should all totally read if you haven't already.

O'Neil seems to be particularly flabergasted by the fact that there is a spin-off book entitled Avengers Vs. X-Men: Versus which exists solely to have the fight scenes that the comic entitled Avengers Vs. X-Men doesn't have room for; not because there are just so many fights that no single comic can contain them, but because the book that promises Avengers fighting X-Men in its title doesn't actually have any Avengers fighting X-Men in it (Is it crazy to think maybe both books would be improved by embedding the fights from AVX:V into AVX itself? The latter book already features multiple artists and a carousel of rotating writers).

I also like the way O'Neil frames the conflict. I guess I didn't realize that at a certain point the X-Men started accusing the Avengers of anti-mutant bigotry, which is pretty funny. O'Neil notes you can't really call Captain "Actually Punched Hitler In The Face" America of bigotry, but couldn't Captain America just, like, remind the X-Men of the fucking Avengers roster?

"Look guys, see Wolverine standing right here next to me? He's a fucking mutant and he's an Avenger. Beast? Mutant and Avenger. Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver? Mutants; Avengers. We are obviously cool with mutants, we've been cool with mutants for ever."

It'd also be cool to see the Avengers ask Cyclops and the X-Men exactly how many non-mutants are on the X-Men roster at the moment, and have the Avengers play the reverse racism card.

That has to be happening in one of the tie-ins, right? Like, mathematically?

Finally, here's a funny paragraph, in which O'Neil tries to make some sense of the crazy-ass politics of the storyline:

Let's put it another way. Say for a minute that the United States government found out that the ghost of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was heading towards the planet Earth for unknown reasons. The only thing they know is that Dr. King's ghost has recently destroyed a number of planets with billions of people on them, and we have no reason to believe that Dr. King's ghost will behave any differently when it reaches earth. So the world unanimously decides to try and prevent Dr. King's ghost from reaching Earth, except for a small group of African-American activists who accuse the rest of the world of being racists for not wanting to risk getting the planet destroyed by the pissed-off revenant spirit of America's greatest civil-rights leader.

Well, when you put it that way...

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Here's another review of Avengers Vs. X-Men #7, from Paul O'Brien, who reads all of Marvel's X-Men comics. If he's seeing glaring errors in it, that's not a good sign; the professional editors of comic books should probably be at least as well versed in them as their readers. Or at least be able to fake it better than they are apparently doing.

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And here's a review I wrote, not of Avengers Vs. X-Men, but of Ed The Happy Clown, Gloriana and Birdseye Bristoe, two of which have two rather strange things in common.

I worry that the conceit of the piece might interfere with my acknowledgment and recommendation of quality work, so let me say it here bluntly: You should really check out Birdseye Bristoe. It's a comic that would have flown under my own personal radar, but Drawn and Quarterly put it right under my nose, where I couldn't possibly fail to see it. It's a really great book, and of the three, the one I think you'd be best served seeking out (Everyone already knows that Kevin Huizenga is a genius, anyway).

The above image is a detail from the inside back cover of Birdseye, which is made-up to look like a wall of newspaper clippings. You can read a preview of the book here.

3 comments:

Rev'd '76 said...

I thought it very genteel of Mr. Marchman for not commenting upon how at-odds the presence of the PR handler was, given DC's unassailably ethical position...

As ever, DC provides their own worst defense.

Tom said...

I can't get excited by either Marvel or DC's cape stuff. I'm waiting to see what will happen after Didio and Quesada are gone. If that ever happens. The one thing I can count on is you can't really screw around too much with Batman. If Snyder leaves, then maybe I can make a clean break.

Supergirl started off strong but I dropped it after 2 or 3 issues. There's some interesting concepts in Wonder Woman but I dropped that book after a few issues too. To keep throwing away $3 to $4 an issue to see if any of it gets better seems silly.

Akilles said...

Well, I`ve changed my mind. I wont be reading Before Watcmen-comics.