Tuesday, May 06, 2014


I heard about Marvel's "100th Anniversary" special comics in a couple of roundabout ways, but seeing this post (linked to by Tom Spurgeon at The Comics Reporter this morning), reminded me of it. The most important takeaway is this: Holy ish, James Stokoe is doing an Avengers comic! I'm really excited to hear that; Stokoe is one of very few artists I'd be willing to violate my own personal no $3.99/20-22-page comics ban for (Ross Campbell is another).

The idea behind the project, as editor Nick Lowe explained to Comic Book Resources in the first of the above links, wss to imagine and then create the comics that Marvel Entertainment might be publishing on their 100th anniversary in 2061, one full century after Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's 1961 launch of Fantastic Four, and the official start of the Marvel Universe.

I've said many times before that modern Marvel tends to steal good ideas from DC Comics, while modern DC only steams to steal bad ideas from Marvel, and this seems like a pretty solid example of the former. In 1998, DC published the Grant Morrison-helmed event DC One Million, which included a weekly series by Morrison and artist Val Semeiks and special #1,000,000 issues of all of their comics, some of which proved more integral to the storyline than others (Morrison and Howard porter's JLA #1,000,000, for example, was one of the more integral, as the event essentially spun out of JLA).
The premise of the series involved the Justice League from a far-flung future visiting the present, allowing Morrison to play with time travel stories in some interesting ways allowed by the DC Universe. The far-flung future was the 853rd century, so chosen because that would be the century in which the one millionth issue of Action Comics would be published, if DC continued to publish a new issue of it every month (And they didn't renumber it at all, as they did in fall of 2011 as part of The New 52 reboot).

While the DC One Million series was itself a regular comic book series from the late '90s, the tie-ins were imagined to be the one millionth issues of those books, the comics that would have appeared in the 853rd century. JLA #1,000,000 did the best job of this, as it featured the characters who would presumably be starring in the title at that point traveling back in time to meet the characters starring in JLA in 1998; it also pretended to be interactive in a way that prefigured Marvel's "AR" program.

Most of the tie-ins didn't really think it through the way JLA #1,000,000 did, and thus many of them didn't really work; they were just specially numbered tie-in issues to the crossover/event/storyline. But Marvel's less-ambitious (it's only one century in the future, not 830-some centuries in the future) shares at least some basic elements with the DC One Million tie-ins.

As for DC stealing bad ideas from Marvel, let's return to Futures End again. As I said of the Free Comic Book Day special #0 issue, much of it struck me as incredibly derivative of other comics and other stories from other media, most prominently Marvel's recent Age of Ultron event series (in which an army of robots controlled by an artificial intelligence created by a superhero in the past has conquered a dystopian future, with only a few hold-out heroes still left to fight back. Their plan? Send someone back in time to stop the artificial intelligence from ever being created, perhaps going so far as to kill the hero responsible), although I saw a lot of the Terminator movies in it (as I did in Marvl's Age of Ultron as well, obviously), Jeff Lemire and Scott Snyder's "Rotworld" storyline from their Animal Man and Swamp Thing books, and even a touch of the Iron Man movies (in Batman Beyond's high-tech super-suit's operating system, A.L.F.R.E.D.).

I've since read a few other, far smarter pieces about Futures End #0, one is a piece by Sarah Horrocks about the above image (I think; I suck at understanding Tumblr, I saw a link on Abhay's blog and went from there) and the other is a review by Joe McCulloch that appears in his The Comics Journal column.

McCulloch writes that "I don’t even read very many superhero comics, yet there still wasn’t a single moment in here that didn’t feel acutely derivative of either (1) older DC comics or (2) the most obvious of SF genre touchstones." He sees similarities to Star Trek (whichever movie or TV series had The Borg in it), DC's own crossover event series Armageddon 2001 and, at least in the time jump aspects, DC's "One Year Later."

I've also read in a few places that the storyline is reminiscent of X-Men storyline "Days of Future Past," which I never read, but I do know involves a dystopian future, robots and time travel.

That's an awful lot of stuff for a single issue of a series to remind readers of. I suppose one could pick at many superhero event series from the Big Two and find plenty of movies and previous comics storylines that they are derivative of, but they sure seem to jump out at you in Futures End, don't they?


By the way, this
is totally going to be the new this
isn't it?


Oh, Jog brings up a very interesting point in his discussion of Futures End, regarding the number of creative folks involved with the book versus the similar numbers of (uncredited) people involved in the creation of many manga series. That's something I've wondered about in the past, too. A lot of manga that I read doesn't credit everyone who does everything, just the main author, although it's not exactly a secret that many assistants are involved in various capacities. They are sometimes credited at the back of the book, or in the little autobio comics many manga-ka make, the artist will discuss the people helping him put each issue together.

I've often wondered how it is that manga is so successful at presenting such a uniform-looking story when many hands are involved, whereas when several different artists are involved in a DC or Marvel super-comic, there's no real consistency in design or style. This isn't necessarily a modern phenomenon, either. Even when comics were done in a more assembly-line fashion, even when Marvel's house style was "draw like Jack Kirby," it was obvious that Jack Kirby wasn't drawing all those comics, even without reading the credits boxes.

(Similarly, I've also wondered how it is that manga does such a good job of telling serious, dramatic action stories involving teenagers that are also full of overt sexual imagery and a great deal of humor and still manage a consistent, non-icky tone, whereas I'm not sure I've ever read an issue of Teen Titans that did any one of those things well, let alone all of them at once).

These Mike Allred variant covers are all amazing. I generally think variant covers are dumb and stupid and I hate them, and I'm not going to "chase" any of these, but damn, I'd love to have the opportunity to buy a comic book collecting nothing but Allred's covers.

Many of them feature Batman and related characters—The Joker, Robin, Batgirl—and while those characters reflect the versions from the live-action, 1960s TV show, many more of these are basically just "straight," like the above image. Check out Allred's Superman, his Aquaman, his Wonder Woman, his Harley Quinn, his extended Green Lantern Corps, his Flashes, his Justice League Dark. Those are all great clean, cool, smooth, elegant drawings of some great, striking, iconic, simple costumes.

I don't know how one can look at, say, Allred's Superman or Aquaman or Flash and think, "Eh, that's alright, but I prefer The New 52 version." (In my fantasies, Allred was one of the artists—along with Darwyn Cooke and Dean Trippe—that DC asked to redesign all of their characters as part of their September 2011 relaunch. Which would have consisted of 26 totally awesome comics, instead of Batman, Wonder Woman and 50 not-so-hot ones).

Anyway, if anyone in a position of great power at DC is reading, can you guys publish a collection of these Allred covers, kinda like Marvel did for their Wolverine art appreciation variants a few years back...?

Or if any eccentric millionaires are reading, can you buy all of the Mike Allred variant covers, carefully cut them off of the comics they were on, and mail them to me? Thanks!
I scanned this image from the Image Comics-published graphic novel Noah, drawn by Niko Henrichon from an early draft of Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel's script for their film by the same name, a different draft then the one the final film was made from.

As you can see, one of The Watchers, fallen angels in Aronfsky and Handel's Noahs that ally themselves with Noah and his family to fulfill God's will and to earn his forgiveness, is named Magog. That name appears five times in the Bible; in two instances as the name of the son of Japheth (who was Noah's son, which would make Magog Noah's grandson), while the other references are more cryptic. Magog and Gog appear in prophecy (In the Books of Ezekiel and Revelation), in the Qu'ran, in European legends, in weird end times paranoid fantasies, in President George W. Bush's planning for his Iraq war. And, of course, Magog appears in Mark Waid and Alex Ross' 1996 tour de force Kingdom Come and, much later, in Ross and Geoff Johns' Justice Society of America run, and a short-lived 2009 spin-off solo series.

Speaking of Noah and things I scanned but didn't post previously, here's another image from the Ken Ham-written Dinosaurs of Eden book, in which Noah and his family give thanks to God for sparing them during the Deluge, while a pair of Spinosaurs amble by them. Perhaps Noah and his family are also thanking God for sparing them from the carnivorous dinosaurs that are right behind them? Just think, if those guys were hungry, the entire human race could have been wiped out then and there.


Bram said...

Despite the large mark it left and the legacy it spawned, Days of Future past is only two little issues (and is all the stronger for it).

Seek it out. Should be in any of several collections — just remember that not only was this the first time that timeline was introduced, it was the first time a number of characters appeared.

Jer said...

That Sarah Horrocks piece is pretty thoughtful. A lot of her reactions to that image are pretty much what I thought about the whole "Future's End" #0 issue - it's a massive piece of trolling various parts of DC's fandom to stoke fan-outrage to get people talking about it on social media with an eye towards selling the books.

It makes me wonder if they know that the story itself is such a cobbled-together bits-and-bobs of recycled genre tropes that they needed to fall back on the schlock schocking imagery and fan-poking to sell the book. In which case - why not write something else instead? When you've got 5 writers on a book and you have to fall back on cheap stunts to motivate people to talk about it in your very first issue, that should be a signal that your story is pretty weak and maybe you should sit down for a bit of a rethink.

(Although I do know that fans in the social media tend to talk less about books that they enjoy and more about books that they're "hate-reading" or reading like they're watching a car crash. It is probably easier to get fans to talk a lot about a book that they hate than to talk a lot about a book that they like well enough but aren't in love with.)

Evan said...

The impression I got is the Futures End is primarily going to be about exploring a possible future of Earth New52 and that the whole plotline with OMAC was just an excuse to get McGinnis there and make him visit as many places as possible. So I'm actually glad that it uses a lot of common sci-fi cliches. It means that the reader can grasp the plot quickly and the writers can devote more time to the setting.

Of course, only time will tell if they do this successfully.