Thursday, May 22, 2014


I reviewed the long-in-the-works Paul Dini/Joe Quinones original graphic novel Black Canary and Zatanna: Bloodspell for Robot 6. Yes, it has a stupid title, and yes it's ridiculously expensive (I'd advise trade-waiting; you've already waited eight years, what's another few months...?), but it is really rather good. I really hope it brings a lot more attention to Quinones (that guy's art is great, and he deserves to be as widely read as possible). And man, it was a blast revisiting the "old" DC Universe, and seeing the "real" or "classic" or whatever versions of those characters again, even if only for a little while.

And I'm afraid that's all I've got for you right this moment. I did visit the comic shop this week and come home with a fairly healthy stack of books, but I haven't had time to review 'em yet; hopefully this weekend. But maybe I can find something else for you to read in the mean time...

—I really enjoyed David Carter's post of sales analysis on DC's April for The Beat. Carter does a couple of things I really like.

One is attaching the prices of each comic to the sales info. I believe the high cost of comics to be a factor in how poorly so many of them seem to sell, but the sales evidence doesn't seem to back this up. The more expensive comics seem to sell better than most of the cheaper ones (Of DC's ten best-selling books in April, six of them were at the $3.99 price point). I think fans are pretty much always going to buy Batman and Justice League comics, no matter how much DC charges for them (and Marvel really helped them out, by training readers to countenance $4 super-comics), but it does mean they'll have less comic book money left to blow on things like The Flash and Green Arrow and Batwing and The Movement.

And two, and I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before, but I like how Carter points out things like, "After this point in the chart, all further titles are outsold by Image's The Walking Dead..." Which was, in April anyway, everything DC published save Batman, Batman Eternal and Justice League United.

I think it offers an important perspective that, for example, Lumberjanes outsold All-Star Western, StormWatch, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, most of Vertigo's titles, Batwing and The Movement, or that My Little Pony outsold not only all of those, but also three Green Lantern titles, Supergirl, Teen Titans, Green Arrow, Catwoman, Batwoman, Constantine, Swamp Thing and more.

Why, it's almost as if there's a large audience for things other than superhero books out there, a large audience looking for all-ages comics periodicals based on original concepts and licensed concepts...

During the course of his article, Carter suggests that maybe the publisher's Green Lantern line should emulate what's been going on with the Batman line, and perhaps cancel all the lower-selling titles and replace them with a Green Lantern weekly akin to Batman Eternal. In essence, DC has been publishing a Green Lantern weekly for pretty much ever now, as all of the Green Lantern titles regularly participate in big crossover stories that circulate through all of the books, but most of them don't sell all that well, and none of them sell as well as the main title, despite how closely tied together the storylines might be. Canceling Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern: New Guardians, Red Lanterns and, eventually, Sinestro (which seems to be replacing Larfleeze, although both books featuring Lantern villains will overlap for a bit) only to replace them all with a new, weekly Green Lantern Corps or Green Lantern Eternal or whatever would make a hell of a lot of sense, and probably sell a lot more comics.

I found the sales on two books in particular interesting. One was that of The Flash, which just launched a new creative team featuring art by Brett Booth, who recently received a lot of negative attention online for being a jerk on Twitter. Did that have anything to do with sales on his book? I don't know. Maybe not, as I'm not sure how his being-a-jerk fell on the calendar in relation to comic shops' deadlines for pre-ordering issues of The Flash, but the new creative team only added...59 new readers (Well, shops ordered 59 more copies then they did in March).

Sales on TEC, which also featured a new creative team (and, unlike the one that took over Flash, it was a pretty much universally lauded creative team), weren't explosively high either (less than 1,000 more unites shipped). That one genuinely surprised me. I read this one, and it was pretty well done, even if the plot was generic. Still, with Batman fans already spending $4 a month on Batman and now $12 more a month on four issues of Batman Eternal, I imagine all the less-important Bat-books are going to suffer, even, apparently, the B-book, TEC.

Look at these. They're all really nice, and would all work just fine in some sort of Elseworlds/Imaginary Story context. The Green Arrow one, actually, would work just fine in-continuity, and woulda been a better New 52 redesign then the one they went with. I like The Flash too, although it really echoes The Flash redesign that Frank Miller did for the character in Dark Knight Strikes Back. Anyway, some really nice drawings and some really nice costume design. (I only saw this because Tom Spurgeon posted a link to it on Comics Reporter. I hope you guys all read Comics Reporter; if you only read one comics blog, that should probably be the one you read.)

Here's Andrew Wheeler with an interesting fact: DC Comics has canceled 47 books since they launched "The New 52" in September of 2011. It's a really great bit of analysis, and Wheeler notes that there are different kinds of cancellations, not all of which are bad...or, at least, not bad in the same ways that the other kinds are bad (Batman, Inc's cancellation is different than that of Hawk and Dove, which was different than that of Animal Man, which is different than that of Nightwing for example).

One part that really struck me was the part where Wheeler noted that trying to keep 52 books going at all times, which means often quickly cancelling ones that aren't selling only to replace them immediately with a new book could be seen as a great virtue, if DC were using it as an opportunity to try out all kinds of different books constantly. But instead, there's a pretty homogenous tone and style to all of the books. Sure, they've flirted with different sub-genres of superhero comics, like superhero-horror, superhero-Western, superhero-military, superhero-fantasy and so on, but it's all been superhero comics, usually of the self-serious, humorless variety, and drawn in a Jim Lee-inspired WildStorm-esque house style. A daring idea in The New 52 has been reviving The Green Team (as a serious superhero comic) or letting Gail Simone invent her own team of superheroes, not creating books addressing new or different audiences, or setting books in the "old" universe or outside the New 52 DCU, or working in different modes.

This is probably the money line: "DC’s core audience can’t support such a sprawling line, but DC’s editorial approach can’t reach a wider audience." That's something I'd write down and tape on my office wall, if I were Dan DiDio.

Spurgeon has some additional thoughts.

Me, I think the problem with The New 52 is and has been apparent since they launched. First, the line was way too big. Second, they didn't look very far outside of the people already working for them in terms of finding fresh creative blood, and many of the "new" (too DC) creators they did seek out didn't work out so well, with Batman's Greg Capullo being the exception that proved the rule. Third, they apparently spent about a fortnight working out the logic, rules and history of their new universe, and conceiving of the new versions of all their characters, assuming the same creators who were fucking things up left and right before the relaunch would suddenly all turn into Grant Morrison after the relaunch, and a new, perfect, new-reader friendly versions of all their characters would somehow come into being if they just changed their costumes, reset all the dials back to #1 and had a shorter, secret continuity that no one knew about, not even the creators (or characters).

It hasn't really worked out for them.

—And hey, speaking of Andrew Wheeler, here's his next installment of "Original Spin" at Comics Alliance. I like that feature a lot.

—And, finally, speaking of DC and their need to replace canceled titles, the final issue of Forever Evil finally shipped this week. In addition to Grayson, which seems to be spinning out of the events of Forever Evil, I can see a couple of post-Forever Evil possibilities for new titles: Plastic Man, Blue Beetle, The Doom Patrol, Owlman, The Metal Men, Power Ring and Luthor. I don't know that we'll actually get any of those—Luthor, Power Ring and The Doom Patrol will be appearing in Geoff Johns' Justice League for a while at least—but all of those characters get some form of direction during the course of its series and/or tie-ins and none of them have had New 52 books yet (Except Blue Beetle, but Forever Evil introduces Ted Kord, who, in The New 52, could end up being Blue Beetle II, a legacy version of Jaime Reyes, who was the first and only Blue Beetle in the New 52 so far, a reversal of their roles in the old DCU).

Additionally, Owlman and Power Ring are evil opposite versions of Batman and Green Lantern respectively, and those are two franchises that DC has never been shy about expanding.

—Mini-reviews of all the comics I got this week, and coverage of Forever Evil #7, coming soon. Hopefully.

—Oh, and here's all you need to know about the most important issue facing the comics Internet today.

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