Sunday, August 16, 2015

On DC's Looney Tunes variant covers

DC's full November solicitations should be along shortly, but while we wait I thought it would be worthwhile to spend some time looking at the publisher's plan for the variant cover theme of the month. Taking advantage of being owned by Warner Bros, they're importing Looney Tunes characters to appear alongside their superhero characters on 25 different comics (They've previously exploited such corporate synergy to do Mad magazine variants).

I'm hoping there's a solicitation for a trade collection of the 2000 mini-series Superman & Bugs Bunny, in which Mr. Mxyzptlk and The Do-Do (from 1938's Porky In Wackyland) use their apparently similar powers to merge the DCU with the Looney Tunes-iverse for the sake of mischief. I've only read the first half, so I'm still not sure how it ended, exactly (happily, I assume), but it's gotta be one of the few Justice League adventures from the popular, JLA period to never be collected in trade (um, that I know of).

Below are the covers, which you can also see and comment on here on DC's site; you'll note that each of the credits end with "and Warner Bros. Animation." I'm not sure exactly what that means in this context, but the various Looney Tune characters are all so on-model that there's not variation in their appearances from cover to cover, and, if the cover artists themselves did draw the characters, they did so with such fidelity that there's no evidence of personal style (The Tweety Bird who appears on the Darwyn Cooke cover just looks like Tweety Bird, rather than Darwyn Cooke's Tweety Bird, and so on). I've only listed the first credited artist, as I'm not certain who did what, so there are probably plenty of colorists and a few inkers whose names are included below, but the full credits are at DC's site.

So without further ado...

Action Comics #46 by Neil Edwards

Here's Bugs Bunny, an anthropomorphic rabbit and star of animated cartoons, posing with Superman, the humanoid star of a line representational-style comic books. Should the former really have a more realistic human anatomy than the latter?

Bugs is here show wearing his Super-Rabbit costume from the 1943 short, Super-Rabbit. He gains his Superman-like powers by eating a "super carrot," and must occasionally eat another when his powers begin to wane, which is awfully close to the origin of DC Comics' later anthropomorphic rabbit superhero, Captain Carrot (mots recently seen in Multiversity).

Beyond the fairly poor drawing of Superman, what really strikes me about this image is that how Bugs' costume was immediately familiar to me, even though I've only seen it in that one short subject during the dozens of times I've seen it, but Superman still looks "off" in his New 52 costume. I wonder how long it will take until I immediately, unconsciously accept that as the "real" Superman costume. I've lived with the original one (and it's occasional, temporary tweaks, like a black field behind the S-shield) for 38 years now. Will I need another 38 years with the New 2 costume, or will it never really replace the original in my mind, because the original was the first one I encountered, and thus had a deeper impression on me? (And, of course, it's never gone completely away; the "real" Superman costume actually shows up in another of these covers).

I wonder how long it took the kids who remember Superman's very first appearance in Action Comics (Vol. 1) #1 to get used to the change in his S-sheild, or did they just simply quit reading Superman comics when they aged out of them, and never gave it another thought...?

Aquaman #46 by Ivan Reis

The only example of Bugs Bunny cross-dressing among these variants, as he so often did in the cartoons, with the result of sexually confusing his opponents, usually Elmer Fudd. This is a pretty strong one conceptually, juxtaposing as it does the two "worlds" of the characters in a way that clashes strongly. Again, it's too bad that Aquaman's not wearing his regular costume (that's Aquaman in the water, by the way). During the "Divergence"/"DC You" initiative, he was one of many characters to get a new costume design, which, in his case seemed a little sudden, as he got a new costume in September of 2011 (although like Green Lantern Hal Jordan, Aquaman's New 52 redesign was minor enough to be barely noticeable).

I'm not sure what the redesign signifies, but I suspect it is to bring comic book Aquaman closer to movie Aquaman...or what we've seen of movie Aquaman so far. At any rate, it's a little too bad, as that Aquaman will only be about six months old when this sees print, and thus not as immediately recognizable as he would otherwise be were he wearing his orange, fish-scale shirt.

Batman #46 by Yannick Paquette

Conceptually perfect, this one shows a 100% typical Batman scene–the Dark Knight swooping down like a monstrous bat to ambush superstitious, cowardly criminals–simply swapping out modern Gotham thugs for a pair of Looney Tunes gangster characters. Both Batman and the gangsters are behaving exactly as they would naturally, but their juxtaposition makes the cover work. This one is fairly strong.

Batman Beyond #6 by Craig Rousseau

I'm not terribly fond of this one, which shows Batman Beyond Tim Drake teamed with Duck Dodgers (of the 24th-and-a-half century) fighting a villain that I suppose hails form the Batman Beyond TV cartoon (and who recently appeared in the new Batman Beyond comic), Inque. There's no real joke here, or even any strong juxtaposition based on any sort of symmetry (or thematic opposition) between the characters. They're just two future characters.

Batman/Superman #26 by Ryan Sook

This is probably my least favorite of them all. It took me a few seconds to "get" it, as it is simply a cover of an image from Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns (an iconic-ish image, sure, but not the most iconic, or the second most iconic, or even third or fourth). In the original, it was Superman facing down Batman in his big, custom-made Superman-fighting armor. Here perennial rivals Sylvester and Tweety take their places, although their relationship isn't really analogous to that of Superman and Batman in most other stories (Sylvester is villain to Tweety's hero) and Tweety's not wearing big, chunky armor here.

Black Canary #6 by Pia Guerra

This is probably one of the better ones, offering an immediately evident juxtaposition joke that works with the characters...and even goes fairly deep into the Looney Tunes bench to pull up a particular version of Tweety Bird, the one from 1960's Hyde and Go Tweet, in which the little bird gets doused in Dr. Jekyll's formula (would that Dark Knight homage work better with this Tweety on it, I wonder...? No, it probably still wouldn't work right).

I particularly love the look on Foghorn Leghorn's face.

Catwoman #46 by Darwyn Cooke

This one is probably the best of them all. Cooke draws Catwoman in one of her most immediately recognizable costumes–the one he designed–holding a Tweety Bird who is in the middle of the delivering his catch phrase, which can be applied to her, while Selina gives the viewer a look showing her own personal feelings about meeting Tweety Bird.

Cyborg #5 by Cully Hamner

Not quite as strong as the Catwoman variant, but this one's pretty good. I think a desert setting for a background would make more sense than the strange high-tech background, which suggests Justice League HQ or STAR Labs, rather than the sort of place Wile E. Coyote usually gets his Acme-brand packages delivered to him.

Deathstroke #12 by Ryan Benjamin

That's a pretty inspired pairing, although the execution's lacking: Deathstroke in random falling action pose, Yosemite Sam in random flying action pose, generic urban background.

This is the first one to make me wonder about the wisdom of the comics and characters chosen. Is it weird to put a cartoon character on the cover of a comic called "Deathstroke"...? I mean, most of DC's superheroes area also cartoon characters (although I don't know if Deathstroke was ever called Deathstroke in a cartoon; I've never seen any of Young Justice, if he's in that, but I know in Teen Titans they just called him "Slade"). And unlike Batman and Superman and Wonder Woman and the rest of the DC character, Yosemite Sam doesn't have various versions of himself, some for kids and some for grown-ups, you know. Another of the more "adult" of the DC superhero titles, Harley Quinn, also gets a Looney Tunes variant, but it features a more obscure guest-star, and one less likely to be recognized than Yosemite Sam.

Detective Comics #46 by Ben Caldwell

Daffy Duck, wearing his Duck Twacy hat from the 1945 short The Great Piggy Bank Robbery, closely investigates an issue of a Bastman comic that is from Japan for some reason. Above him loom prominent members of Batman's rouges' gallery, in an allusion to that particular short, in which Daffy is inspired by a Dick Tracy comic to dream himself as the famous "duck-tec-a-tive" and ultimately face a bizarre rogues' gallery of Dick Tracy villains (which have always been pretty bizarre; there's not a whole heck of a lot of space between the originals and the parodies.

It's a nice, straightforward piece, provided you don't think too long about it, but I'm perplexed by the fact that he's reading a Japanese comic. Anyway, it's nice to see Caldwell's versions of so many classic characters.

The Flash #46 by Francis Manapul

A clever (if obvious) idea, although the presentation could be stronger. I confess to being slightly surprised by the presence of Speedy Gonzalez; it's been quite a while since I've seen any of his cartoon appearances, but he doesn't seem like a character that aged very well.

Grayson #14 by Mikal Janin

Next to Cooke's Catwoman/Tweety Bird cover, this is probably the best, accomplishing a double allusion: To Dick Grayson's first appearance and to Porky Pig's penchant for smashing through the skin of a drum to deliver his catch phrase. It's a bit on the complicated side, maybe, but it works nicely.

Green Arrow #46 by Kevin Nowlan

This one I don't like at all. Pairing the Robin Hood-inspired Green Arrow with Daffy and Porky as they appeared in the 1958 Robin Hood Daffy is a pretty good idea, but, again, the execution is wanting. Nowlan (or whoever) just drops a giant Green Arrow in the background behind them, and he doesn't seem to be interacting with the character or the environment in any way at all.

Also, what's with that new costume. I have honestly lost track of how many costumes and redesigns Green Arrow has gone through in just four years.

Green Lantern #46 by Jorge Corona

While not a terribly exact homage to the cover of Green Lantern #49, moving Marvin The Martian further back into the image like that makes enough room for his dog K-9 in the background. This is one of the all-around stronger pieces, I think, homaging a particular image that should be familiar to many DC Comics readers (certainly those enough into comics enough to consider chasing variants), only using a Looney Tunes character whose presence makes logical sense.

Harley Quinn #22 by Amanda Conner

It seems quite appropriate that the one DC super-character who is practically a Looney Tune herself (her weapon of choice? A cartoonishly large mallet) is re-enacting a scene from a Bugs Bunny cartoon herself, here giving Gossamer a makeover (albeit a Harley-style one). The bunny slippers are a particularly nice touch.

Justice League #46 by Scott Williams

Well this is a random assortment of Looney Tunes characters cosplaying as the Justice League, with no real logic as to who's who or why. I mean, Bugs is Superman, sure, and Daffy's a Green Lantern as he was during that one episode of the Duck Dodgers cartoon series, but "villains" like Wile E. Coyote, Sylvester and the Tasmanian Devil are in the Justice League along with the "good" characters.

Also, this has Lola Bunny in it, and man, I do not care for Lola Bunny one bit. If you haven't seen any Warner Bros, Looney Tunes cartoons post-Tiny Toons (lucky!), then she was created for the very weird Space Jam in 1996, specifically to be a love interest for Bugs and, more specifically still, to sell stuff to little girls.

JLA #46 by Howard Porter

To demonstrate the destructive power of the Tasmanian Devil, he's here shown tearing through the Justice League. I don't really care for Porter's staging, and I don't really get the cliff, but it's a pretty good use of all of the characters.

New Suicide Squad #14 by Bill Sienkiewicz

Huh. This is one of the worse ones, if only because it looks particularly slapped together. Sienkiewicz is unquetionably a good artist, but it looks like someone simply took a piece of art of his and Photoshopped some Looney Tunes related imagery around it.

Also, Sienkiewicz drew New 52 Deadshot, but pre-New 52 Harley. Huh.

Robin: Son of Batman #6 by Pat Gleason and Mick Gray

This one's a pretty nice companion piece to the the Catwoman cover, giving Sylvester a bird to replace the one that found itself in Catwoman's clutches.

I hope Granny gets there in time to stop Sylvester and Junior from opening that cage, or they're going to get the beating of all nine of their lives.

Sinestro #17 by Dan Pasonin

If there's a joke somewhere in this cover, I can't find it.

Starfire #6 by Emanuella Luppicino

The skunk who is always trying to kiss a cat that doesn't want to be kissed find himself trying to be kissed by a Tamaranian who he doesn't want to kiss.

Superman #46 by Ryan Sook

Sook drops The Crusher, from 1948's Rabbit Punch, into his version of the cover of Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali...interesting to note that Superman is in his old costume, and therefore looks like himself on this cover, as opposed to how he appears on the cover of Action Comics.

Superman/Wonder Woman #23 by Karl Kerschl

Superman and Wonder Woman meet Witch Hazel and...the scientist from Water, Water Every Hare...I think...? I like Kerschl's art, and am always happy to see it. Not much to this one though, and, obviously, there are certainly worse ones.

Teen Titans #14 by Joe Quinones

Well, the idea here seems to be to put a bunch of "teen" characters, but, um, I don't know if it really works. I never thought of Tweety as a kid before, I just assumed he was the same age as Sylvester.

Wonder Woman #46 by Terry Dodson

An homage to one of the better shorts, 1957's What's Opera, Doc?, this is one of the better ones, I think. It's...weird to see Wonder Woman looking like she's enjoying herself on the cover of a comic book, isn't it...?


googum said...

Shoot, I saw on Twitter one artist may've done all the Looney Tunes characters for these...and wasn't credited in the solicits! Don't have his name in front of me, though.

SallyP said...

I only wish that the interiors would be as much fun as the exteriors.

revelshade said...

About that Sinestro variant-

Chuck Jones always said that the key to Wile E. Coyote's character lay in Santayana's statement that a fanatic is one who redoubles his efforts when he has forgotten his aim. I can kinda see how that might apply to Sinestro, who "saved" Korugar by turning it into a brutal totalitarian state. And as far as the pile of ACME dynamite and the "World Domination" sign go... I got nothin'.