Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Justice League doesn't really seem to enjoy reading DC Comics.

Many of this past week's DC Comics contained a two-page house ad promoting the DC Essential Catalog, which you can find at your comic shop, or online at It's designed to help sell DC's graphic novels and collections as gifts. Most of the ad consists of the above image by pencil artist David Finch, depicting the founding members of the New 52 Justice League, crowded around a pile of short boxes and graphic novels and reading in the snow in front of the Hall of Justice. The far right includes a checklist of the Top 25 collections and graphic novels on that "essentials" list, under the heading "DC Essential Graphic Novels 2018" (More on that in a bit).

What most struck me about the ad, however, is how downright unhappy the Justice Leaguers all look to be reading comics at all.

Granted, most people don't grin, smile or otherwise evince great joy while they are reading, but come on gang, aren't you trying to sell these dang things? It wouldn't hurt to at least fake some enthusiasm!

Here we see Superman and Wonder Woman, both standing up and reading--they both have super-endurance, so it may not be as uncomfortable for them to stand up and read as it would be for any of us--and standing incredibly close to one another while they do so. Each of them hold half of the book in one hand, and I have no idea who turns the pages, given that they are so close neither would be able to reach it with their other arm.

They are reading DC Universe: Rebirth #1. Superman looks pretty bored, while Wonder Woman either has a slight smile, or maybe that's just the way she did her lipstick. Perhaps Superman is bored, though; he can probably read each spread at super-speed, and then has to wait for Wonder Woman to catch up.

Green Lantern Hal Jordan is hovering above his teammates reading Batman Vol. 1: I Am Gotham by Tom King, David Finch and others. He seems to be the happiest of all the Leaguers, but I think there's a pretty good chance he's just faking it for the picture. After all, I'm not entirely sure that Hal Jordan can read.

The Flash is reading Watchmen over Batman's shoulder. He looks bored, but then, he probably is bored, given the speed at which he can read. He may be off fighting the Rogues in Central City, and just running back to the Hall of Justice to read a page every thirty seconds or so during the slow parts of the battle.

Cyborg, resting his huge mechanical bulk atop a pair of short boxes and no doubt crushing the contents within--so much for Near Mint!--is taking in Sandman: Overture. He looks pissed.

Aquaman has similarly tried to make himself comfortable by using the short boxes full of comics as furniture. They don't have either comic books or cardboard boxes in Atlantis, so perhaps his confusion is understandable, but I can't imagine his super-dense, well-muscled body is good for the boxes or the books within. If this scene continues very long, I imagine both he and Cyborg will fall through the collapsing boxes at some point.

Aquaman is frowning at the pages of Justice League Vol. 1: Origins, and I don't blame him! What has got him so upset about the book? Is he shocked at how casually Superman murders his foes? Is he appalled at everyone's New 52 costume redesigns? Is he missing his pal Martian Manhunter? Or can he just not believe his sideburns and necklaces in that story?

Finally, here's Batman's frozen scowl as he reads Watchmen. Does he hate the book? Or is he simply irritated that Flash is reading over his shoulder? Neither. That's the face he always makes; he's Batman, after all.

As for the top 25 books on the 2018 reading list, I was struck by how damn old so many of them are. From the 1980s you have Watchmen, Batman: The Killing Joke, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, V For Vendetta and Batman: Year One. Of slightly more recent vintage is The Sandman Vol. 1: Predludes & Nocturnes which, of course, brings us into the '90s, when such books as Batman Adventures: Mad Love, Preacher Book One and Batman: The Long Halloween were published.

There are a handful of collections from The New 52 reboot/relaunch, including Justice League Vol. 1: Origin, Batman Vol. 1: The Court of Owls, Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Blood, The Flash Vol. 1: Move Forward and Aquaman Vol. 1: The Trench. From the most recent publishing initiative, the "Rebirth" era, there's DC Universe: Rebirth, Batman Vol. 1: I Am Gotham and Superman Vol. 1: Son of Superman.

I think Batman: The Dark Knight: Master Race is the most recent publication on the list.

Many of those 25 are classics of the super-comic genre, and are therefore evergreens, but I found it somewhat striking that there are so many decades-old comics being promoted in that house ad, you know?

Of possible interest is the fact that of these 25 books,  two are drawn by DC co-publisher Jim Lee, three are written by the publisher's president and chief creative officer Geoff Johns, three are either written and/or drawn in part by Frank Miller and three are written by Alan Moore, whose Watchmen is currently being used as fodder for a DC Universe event story written by the company's publisher, very much against his will.

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