Seven major concerns, two pieces of good news about DC's "Rebirth", and more from my notes from ComicsPRO's annual meeting -- available at Comic Book Resources. Thoughts? (Yeah, the Monday posting was a surprise to me as well)
Seven major concerns, two pieces of good news about DC's "Rebirth", and more from my notes from ComicsPRO's annual meeting -- available at Comic Book Resources. Thoughts? (Yeah, the Monday posting was a surprise to me as well)
Not that anyone really needs to hear what I think, but several of the new costume designs for the DC icons look like pure sales death for those characters. I'm not so worried about the Batman Robot look because Snyder and Capullo have been SLAUGHTERING it on BATMAN, and I'm more than willing to give them the benefit of the doubt as a result; and the Green Lantern with a hoodie look is terrible, but GL sales have already dropped to their lowest point in a decade or more, so there's not a lot of bottom to find there any longer.
But these two?
Here's the thing: to me, Superman should visually be a character that you would want to run TO, not run FROM. Whether or not that's his ripped cape on his hands, and not blood, he does absolutely have splatters of blood all over his pants and boots.
I'm OK with the T-shirt look, but it's a signifier, to this reader, of looking back, not forward, which I think is a mistake. The other real mistake is losing the spit curl in front (which, maybe you're dumb like I was for the longest time, but it, too, was an "S")
But, yeah, the main thing to me is that THIS guy looks angry and horrible, and not some one who is inspiring and heroic. Grant Morrison once said his most fervent aim was to literally have the DC universe come to life. I once thought that would be awesome, but I'd be petrified if TODAY's DCU were to do that.
Wonder Woman's costume is kind of more appalling. I'm perfectly fine with "losing the skin" (though why oh why would they keep the "cheescake" artist on the book, if that's the direction?), but y'know, I think it would be better to not then give her a GIANT SCARLET "V" on her crotch with WHITE ARROWS POINTING TOWARDS IT.
The claws are pretty awful, and the pauldrons are pretty pointless -- the reason one HAS pauldrons is to protect the joints of your plate mail armor -- there are no joints involved here. I also question those stars, because they look like such an after thought rather than a real design choice.
I just wish the entire costume didn't "read" so dark -- and that's, I think, the impact of replacing the skin with a dark navy blue. That and, how on earth would would get into boots like that, and/or fight in them?
But, yeah, giant white arrows pointing at the scarlet V of her crotch. Ugh.
Greetings from the Cosmic Habitrail! (That is how Flash now gets from one dimension to the next, right?) Due to an overabundance of running around and an underabundance of organizational skills, I have very, very brief show notes for Episode 137, our Book Club edition. but! I do also have a two hour long podcast for you, so... <nudge, nudge>. Eh? Eh?
After the jump...both of those things!
00:00-05:28: Greetings! We start off with a short, but happy bit of news about Erotic Vampire Bank Heist. At the time of recording, EVBH was #13 in the Heist category in the Kindle store (as of the time of these notes, it's #23). (If you like pulp adventure, crazed '70s adventure, and a generous dollop of explicit sex but have not picked up a copy, check it out! Yes, those are indeed two hyperlinks to the exact same page. I am shameless like that.) 05:28-36:48: Graeme has had a busy week, improved by Marvel's solicitation text of Miracleman that, instead of using Alan Moore's name, uses the impressive nom de plume, "THE ORIGINAL WRITER." Unsurprisingly, this leads us to discuss the pro & cons of Marvel's approach in reprinting the material. Other topics included: Neil Gaiman; inappropriate spouses; the brilliance that is Hayley Campbell; beard conditioner; Joel Golby; anal bleaching; Don DeLillo; nostalgia; dick pails; and (somehow) more. 36:48-41:35: Want more comic talk with less mention of dick pails? Graeme has read the second volume of the Secret Society of Super-Villains, in a follow-up to the episode where I read the first and he is more than happy to report on his findings. 41:35-44:54: In a bit of compare and contrast, Graeme has also read Justice League of America #8, a Forever Evil tie-in issue by Matt Kindt and Doug Mahnke. 44:54-52:07: Also on Graeme's reading table: Forever Evil: Trinity of Sin: Pandora ("Yes, now it was has two subtitle,s" as Graeme puts it) by Ray Fawkes and Francis Portela, and Rogues Rebellion by Brian Buccellato and Patrick Zircher. The latter leads us to talk a bit about (of course) The Rogues, The Flash, William Messner-Loeb's run on The Flash, inexpensive Comixology reprints, Kamandi, and more. 52:07-1:04:12: From Kirby, we move on to the first subject of this episode's installment of Wait, What? The Book Club: Battling Boy by Paul Pope. It's Paul Pope doing Jack Kirby as a Miyazaki movie! (With a lot of Ditko and Fleischer Brothers' Superman cartoons thrown in there.) What could be wrong with that? Help Graeme try and solve "The Mystery of The Phantom Grouser" and see! 1:04:12-1:21:32: Al Ewing wrote Avengers Assemble #20, a done-in-one Infinity tie-in issue, which Graeme wanted to talk about, and Jeff asks about Al's Mighty Avengers. Although this is a perfect segue to talk about the next subject for WWBC, Jeff throws in .02 about the latest issue of Batman &…. by Pete Tomasi and Patrick Gleason. (It's issue #23, the one with Two-Face.) Jeff also wanted to talk about Detonator X, the pre-Pacific Rim Pacific Rim by Ian Edginton and Steve Yeowell, that's collected as the graphic novel pack-in for issue #341 of Judge Dredd Megazine. There's a bit of discussion about Beyond Zero, the pack-in from Meg #340, as well. 1:21:32-1:53:37: But finally we do get around to the second topic of the Wait, What? The Book Club: Zombo: You Smell of Crime…And I"m The Deodorant, by Al Ewing and and Henry Flint. It's a little tough to just jot out a quick list of stuff we throw into the mix while talking about this because so much is in this book. But needless to say, The Beatles, Robocop, Steve Gerber, the Rutles, Nick Fury, Frank Miller and Jack Kirby, 2000 A.D. and Donald Trump, and much more are mentioned, but the brilliance of this book is actually really, really hard to accurately sum up or oversell. It's really brilliant stuff and you should pick it up, whether you listen to us blather about it or not. 1:53:37-end: Closing comments! We talk about the possibility of "best of" lists, a bit more about Secret Society of Super-Villains, classic DC's weird obsession bylaws, Justice Legion, our future podcasting schedule and more!
The podcast is up on iTunes and it is also below. Please check out Brian's shipping list, John Kane's fine round-up of comics he's read, and other lovely bits and pieces below (Brian's piece on understanding how to order books in the direct market over at Comic Book Resources is also great). We wouldn't want to rob you of the experience.
Next week: Next week! We'll see you then!
Yes, okay! As always, I have nothing clever to say in this space, but unlike always, I'm not going to waste your time saying it. I've got show notes with images! Links! Prizes! (There are no prizes!) Torrid confessions! (There probably will not be any torrid confessions.)
After the jump: Show Note Machine...Go!
0:00-25:22: Bemoaning the fact that we're not nearly as organized as other podcasts, Graeme makes a prediction about we'll be talking about this episode as a way of introducing this episode to listeners. This allows me to retool a favorite aphorism here in the show notes: "If you want to make God laugh, introduce a podcast." It leads right into our first order of business: talking about the latest crazy developments in DC's 3-D cover event. If you've already read Hibbs' post about this already, you'll be a step ahead of most of the points Jeff makes here, although he does bring his own unique tin foil hat spin to the situation. Also covered, the recent decision in Kirby v. Marvel, what it means to "hamburger a muffin" and the opening of a new Salt & Straw right near Graeme. Verily, this is the Mighty Wait, What? Age of Golden Epicureanism! 25:22-34:07: Also on a non-comics tip, Stephen Colbert and Bryan Cranston, which famous people we've been compared to, the Adult BMI guidelines, Tarder Sauce, and more. 34:07-45:37: Todd McFarlane, Len Wein and Gerry Conway discussing sexism and comic books! which we discuss without the context provided by some later tweets made by Conway. And who is…. the Billy Joel of comics? Find out here, along with a torrid confession from Jeff! (Oh, okay, so there was one of those, after all. Huh.) 45:37-58:05: And in this week's installment of "Welcome to Jeff's Big Basket of Sour Grapes," Jeff talks about a Twitter exchange between Rob Liefeld and Erik Larsen and their consideration of comic book criticism. Graeme, trying to bring the sense, just ends up bouncing the ball of generosity off Jeff's ungenerous blockhead for an impressively long time. 58:05-1:04:00: Also, under discussion, Mark Millar's comments about rape. You probably can imagine our reaction to that one but...maybe not? 1:04:00-1:21:40: And now it's time to talk about some comics we've read -- a little bit about AvX (and the kindness and generosity of the Whatnauts), but also a lot about the genius that is Rogue Trooper and Cat Shit One. This leads to our we-might-as-well-make-it-official-and-call-it-weekly discussion about 2000 A.D., which in turn leads to discussion about comic book covers, which in turn leads to Velvet by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting, 1:21:40-1:26:08: Jack Kirby's In The Days Of The Mob! It is available! It is…not cheap! Not cheap at all! 1:26:08-1:27:21: Copra Compendium (which I can't say aloud without thinking of Weird Al-esque lyrics set to "Copacabana" which is probably why I probably called it Copra Companion half the time) Vol. 2! Jeff loves this like burning, worries that Graeme may not. But either way, there is so much lovely stuff, including the panel shown below and discussed in this podcast:
1:27:21-1:31:33: That inspires Graeme to talk about Lynn Varley, Trevor Von Eeden, and the Kickstarter the latter is running with Don McGregor for Sabre: The Early Future Years. 1:31:33-1:34:12: Graeme has read Cartozia Tales, the shared fantasy universe featuring some outstanding work by Jen Vaughn, Jon Lewis, Dylan Horrocks, and more. 1:34:12-1:38:34: Trilium #1 by Jeff Lemire. We've both read it. We both discuss it. 1:38:34-1:41:55: Jeff fumbles and bumbles through some display problems to try and convey how much he digs Jaco the Galactic Patrolman by Akira Toriyama, as well as Toriyama's brilliantly dopey pre-Dragonball series, Dr. Slump. One of the panels Jeff discusses super-briefly is this one:
1:41:55-1:45:04: The first collection of Talon from DC! Did Graeme like it almost as much as Jeff likes Toriyama…or even more than Jeff likes Toriyama? Tune in and find out. 1:45:04-1:52:08: The final volume of Bakuman is out, which is very bittersweet for Jeff. Despite the frustrations with how Viz has handled publication of this manga (and the generally anticlimactic nature of the last volume), man of man, Jeff is going to miss that series. 1:52:08-end: Closing comments! Graeme makes it sound like we won't be back next week but we will! (I think.)
See, look at all that. Links! Images! Torrid confessions. (Well, a torrid confession.) Nice, eh? So you should go hear it! It is on iTunes -- eventually -- and it is here for your convenience:
As always, we thank you for listening and hope you enjoy! (Now if you excuse me, I have a new chapter of Jaco The Galactic Patrolman to go read....)
Hopefully you all made it through any storms okay, my American friends! If you did I've got some rubbish about comics for ya.Content! You might not want it, you might not like it but it's there!
G.I. COMBAT #5 Featuring The Haunted Tank Art by Howard Victor Chaykin Story and Words by Peter J. Tomasi Coloured by Jesus Arbutov Lettered by Rob Leigh The Unknown Soldier Art by Staz Johnson Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray Coloured by Rob Schwager Lettered by Rob Leigh The Haunted Tank created by Russ Heath and Robert Kanigher The Unknown Soldier created byJoe Kubert and Robert Kanigher DC Comics, $3.99 (2012)
First up, I have to thank Corey (Ottawa) for bringing this comic to my attention. If it wasn't for our Canadian Contingent I'd not have known the art chores on this were by everyone's favourite filth peddler Mr. Howard Victor Chaykin! I wasn't expecting much here to be honest, I thought he'd probably be busy drawing comics too frisky for the UK to have any electrolytes left over for a book about a, well, a haunted tank. I don't know if it's being able to clip art the shit out of this book due to its emphasis on hardware but the bits that aren't hardware have Howard Victor Chaykin pounding the pages with a barrage of highly entertaining images. Unlike, so I hear, the pounding he's giving the pages in that other (banned) book.
Tomasi gives him a totally stupid story to illustrate involving a nutty veteran clad in The Flag being tank-napped into a supernatural rescue mission while being pursued by Wonder Woman's high-tech ex Steve Trevor. It is nonsensical stuff but, I don't know if you've ever given it much thought but, the whole concept of The Haunted Tank isn't going to win any awards for realism. So why not go wide on the goofiness. Chaykin seems to be enjoying himself and it all comes together a lot more successfully than some of his recent efforts. Not once did Jesus Arbutov's colour work have me reaching to ring the police and at times I was tempted to throw back my head and bellow Blessed-style "CHAYKIN'S AWAKE!!!" Maybe he just enjoyed ringing up his russety pal Russ Heath and irritating him by going "Pop! Just drawn a tank! Pop! Just drew another! These computers are great! Now how long did it used to take you to draw these tanks, Russ? Pop! Drew another! Hey, I ever tell ya I can see the beach from my window?" I don't know, I just really enjoyed his stuff this time out. It was GOOD!
WOLVERINE MAX #1 Art by Roland Boschi & Connor Willumsen Written by Jason Starr Coloured by Dan Brown Lettered by VC's Cory Petit Wolverine created by Len Wein, John Romita Snr and Herb Trimpe Marvel, $3.99 (2012)
While Jason Starr is a good writer of novels and I have also been known to enjoy the work of Roland Boschi the real reason I picked this up was because of Connor Willumsen. He does not disappoint! Boschi's pages seem somewhat rushed and concern the present day Wolverine fighting sharks and having no memory of why he ended up doing that. Also, his legs grow back and everyone is only slightly perturbed by this. Perturbed's too strong a word actually. I know health care professionals are rushed off their feet and are basically the busiest people in show-business and The Japanese are a modest people...but I think two legs growing back, bones and all, would cause more than a raised eyebrow and a muttered aside, suggesting such an event is more a case of exhibitionism than it is straight up miraculous. Jason Starr's handling of Wolverine's talents but in the real world is off to a choppy start is what I'm saying.
Willumsen, however, burns rubber from the off with his flashback scenes which portray Daniel Day Lewis from There Will Be Blood stepping into the original Claremont/Miller mini-series but in a grubbily humming Underground Comix stylee. So amazing are his inky doings that even the writing seems elevated with Victor sounding especially characterful in his disdain for the normals. I would buy this series purely for the further expansion of these elements. I would but Marvel seem to have upset Connor Willumsen so much that he has jumped ship. His work will not be appearing in any subsequent issues of WOLVERINE MAX and so I will not be buying them as without him this comic will be less than GOOD! Well done there, Marvel! Yes, that is sarcasm.
DAREDEVIL: END OF DAYS #1 Art by Klaus Janson and Bill Sienkiewicz Written by Brian Michael Bendis & David Mack Coloured by Matt Hollingsworth Lettered by VC's Joe Caramagna Daredevil created by Bill Everett and Stan Lee Marvel, $3.99 (2012)
I asked my LCS why they sent this (you're darned tooting I did) and they said it was because I liked Janson and Sienkiewickz, which is true. What they failed to factor in is that ladling the steaming hot writing of Brian Michael Bendis over the top of their efforts is, at this stage in the game, like climbing a stepladder to fart repeatedly right in my face as I admire a Vermeer. It's distractingly puerile and pretty quickly spoils the whole experience. The best bit (i.e. the very worst bit of very many bad bits) is when Ben Urich's (very long, very, very fucking awful) monologue accuses his audience (his readers, geddit!) of not appreciating words. This is super-awesome because he's being written by someone who treats the English language with all the care and attention of a hungover abattoir worker placing his bolt-gun to a steer's head.
This is a writer who seems to have a working vocabulary of, maybe, fifty words and whose solution to every writing conundrum (an introduction to The Incal, an introduction to a HVC art book, a recipe for quiche, instructions on how to install a Norton Commando Boyer ignition etc) is always a chatty, faux-conversational, uninformative, space devouring style which smashes grammar's head in with a brick and is in no way to be taken as an indication of a complete inability to write anything approaching a joined up sentence. Christ, this is why I ask my LCS not to send his (dismal, dismal) stuff. This comic is smug, vacuous, inane, pandering, complacent ineptitude par excellence. This comic is CRAP! I did not like it.
THE INFERNAL MAN-THING #3 Art by Kevin Nowlan Written by Steve Gerber Lettered by Todd Klein Also "...Man-Thing!" from Savage Tales #1 Art by Gray Morrow Written by Gerry Conway & Roy Thomas Man-Thing created by Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway and Gray Morrow Marvel, $3.99 (2012)
And so we close the comic and close the curtain on one Steve Gerber as he defies the laws of nature and reality to bow out of comics for the final time, some four years after his physical death. As we bite back the tears lets allow a manly clap on the back for Kevin Nowlan who did Gerber proud twice over with beautifully considered art to which he then applied a thoughtful and innovative colour palette. Together with this final VERY GOOD! chapter of Gerber's playful, humane and imaginative end-song Marvel have also included Manny's first appearance. Whether placing an ending with a beginning together in such close proximity is Marvel's way of acknowledging the Cycle of Life or just another attempt to squeeze a property until the pips squeak we'll probably never know. (Steve Gerber would have known.)
I've not been impressed with this series so far but I will admit that while this issue still wasn't terribly good it was a whole lot better. Maybe it had something to with a sudden upswing in the density of incident or the fact that Phillips' art seemed more lively since he was given a couple of occasions on which to strut his stuff style-wise. I still don't find it to be convincingly evocative of a time and place; it'll take more than some beards in a VW van to make me swoon at the authenticity of the '7os vibe, man. At times I can almost smell the spirit glue holding all the sideburns on. Most deflating of all is the fact that the series is still hamstrung by bizarrely conservative and old-fashioned sense of horror (tentacles! men in robes with daggers! cemeteries!) which means the horror is never actually, well, horrible.
The humourlessness of the whole thing has also struck me recently; this was unfortunate because I then realised I couldn't recall one incidence of humour in all the work I've read by this author. That's a lot of pages in which to not crack a smile. Maybe it's me. Senses of humour are personal after all but still the funniest thing in FATALE #8 is when the rather tasteless competition in the lettercol results in one John Cleaver out writing this whole series with just one paragraph. Mind you, if any readers do want to send me pictures of them crying while they remember horribly traumatic events from their lives they are welcome to do so(*). Get really close in there so I can see the fat bulbs of those tears bloating from your sad ducts, kids! The winner could receive a pen! So, yeah, this issue was OKAY! and you can buy it from The Savage Critics Digital Shop...here! (Although if more than 10% of the comics reading audience do so a big red light starts flashing and Brian Hibbs starts rushing everyone to the shelters as AROOOGA! AROOOGA! echoes rounds his shaggy head. It's a true fact, cats and kittens!)
(*) Don't do this. It's a joke.
ACTION COMICS #13 Featuring... Superman in..."The Ghost In The Fortress of Solitude" Art by Travel Foreman Written by Grant Morrison Coloured by Brad Anderson Lettered by Steve Wands Superman in..."A Boy And His Dog" Art by Brad Walker (p) & Andrew Hennessy(i) Written by Sholly Fisch Coloured by Jay David Ramos Lettered by Patrick Brosseau Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster DC Comics, $3.99 (2012)
It's strange the connections your mind makes. In my head Morrison's recent callous remarks regarding the treatment of Siegel and Shuster and the portrayal of animals throughout his work suggests to me one of those lovely people who care more for the feelings of animals than those of people. Which is all really cuddly on the surface until you press them on the issue and they suddenly hiss at you that people deserve what they get! Which I find a less than generous rationale and more than a little confusing in its mix of sentiment and insensitivity. Almost as confusing as this comic which I have a strong suspicion makes no sense but as I too have a soft spot for tales of the gud dog I'll let its muddled nature pass this time and say this comic was OKAY!
So yeah, those were certainly some words about what I believe scientists are now calling COMICS!!!
First off, our new graphic is courtesy of the incredibly talented Adam P. Knave (who on top of all the other things he does and does well, has added podcaster to the mix. Go check out The Glory, The Glory, why don't you?) and our old dashed-off scattershot introductions to the podcast, courtesy of me who has once again managed to land himself behind a scheduling eightball.
But! That doesn't mean we didn't attend to our duties, as far as answering your questions go. On the contrary, Episode 84 of Wait, What? is our first hour and forty five minute foray into the savage wilds of your inquiries. Among the ground covered by Graeme McMillan and me: our recommendations for DC Showcases and Marvel Essentials (both real and imaginary), the fall of Vertigo's Sincere Age, Alan Moore and the plight of 1963, our Free Comic Book Day picks, the damning influence of Big Question Mark, event comics, follow-ups to articles discussed without being read, work for hire vs. creative owned work, Steve Gerber and Foolkiller, Submarine, Elite Squad, our favorite comic book city, and assorted cage matches and Hunger Games.
Also: Stuff. Additionally: Things.
Men and Women With X-Ray Eyes (And/Or Specs) have already seen the podcast radiating in the iTunes spectrum (grappling perhaps with an Infrared Manta). Those of us with only stereoscopic or lesser degrees of vision can certainly be satisfied with the auditory equivalent, as available below:
As always, thanks for listening and we hope you enjoy!
Thanks for your patience during our mild vacation! In return, we offer you Wait, What? Ep. 75, which features more than two and twenty minutes of Graeme McMillan and me "stealing the air" or "pump[ing] up the volume" or whatever it is you "kids" call it. [Thanks to Joolian for pointing out that should really read "two hours and twenty minutes," damn my eyes!]
Do we talk Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and The Walking Dead? Do we, ever! Dare we discuss Gary Friedrich, Ghost Rider and Marvel? Dare, we do! Tire I of answering rhetorical questions? Frankly, yes, but I won't let that get in the way of telling you we also chat about L.J. Smith and The Vampire Diaries; John Rozum, Scott McDaniel, and Static Shock; and James Doohan and William Shatner and Star Trek.
Also, there's Brian Bendis' ideas for the New 52; sales expectations for the Marvel and DC; Marvel's possible reboot and their strategies for Avengers Vs. X-Men; the myth of the Marvel Architects; Joss Whedon and Buffy The Vampire Slayer; and et cetera, and what have you, and like that.
If you were the type to indulge in auditorial gambols, you may have encountered our gift in the wild autumnal splendor that is iTunes (where nearly-extinct creatures like Ping and DRM still play). But if not, please take it as it is offered here, with utmost generosity and verbal pomposity:
As always, we thank you for listening and hope you enjoy!
I'm just back from Dallas and the 2012 ComicsPRO meeting. I forgot that the laptop didn't have any of the log-in info for the Savage Critic site, and I forgot to write it all down, so, gr to that! I have an entire Tilting column that I'm going to write which is sort of kind of "about" the meeting (but not really, since that won't be for three more weeks, and then we're talking about the past, which no one ever likes!), but I don't think I'll have any room there for any of this stuff.
I wrote these all down on scraps of paper, but I did ask that I can report them... but I might have made a transcription error somewhere here. If so, I trust someone from DC will send me an email!
• DC's John Rood, on digital: "We were surprised to find out that the conversation we're having about digital is about aiding physical (format) growth, NOT managing physical decline; this is utterly different than any other media's results" (Actually, that clause after the semi-colon might be my own thought, and not a quote, I can't quite tell from how I wrote it down. A reporter I am not!)
This is important stuff, and I think it changes the conversation completely.
• The redemption rate on the combo pack for the digital codes in JUSTICE LEAGUE? It was just 20% on issue #1, and it has dropped to just 10% (on #4 or #5, I don't think was 100% clear) -- it appears that DM consumers bought those AS COLLECTIBLE VARIANT COVERS, rather than because they wanted a digital copy!!!
I also have a note here that there were 15k combo packs for #1, and it's down to 5k now (so, actually, those might be semi-legitimately rare covers)
• The single best sales day for day-and-date DC digital comics has been and continues to be the first Wednesday of release; when the price drops by a dollar there's a teeny spike in velocity -- evidently it is the 10th best sales day (Is that "on average" or for a specific title? I don't think that was clarified) -- but not any kind of a huge surge; this would seem to indicate that digital buyers are just fine paying the full print price, so that they can be "part of the conversation" at initial release.
I, for one, think that IF the "99 cents!" crowd were even CLOSE to correct, that $1.99 day would be the strongest day of release. It isn't. It's #10. You get what your behavior indicates.
"New" comics will never been 99 cents on an ongoing basis, ever, if you ask me -- it would just be leaving money on the table; and it means you can never do anything to stimulate sales by putting material ON SALE!
• It was indicated that New 52 digital books were remarkably consistent and in parity with their print brethren -- drops in sales of print were mirrored in similar proportions in digital. They gave us an average percentage-of-print for digital, but I lost the piece of paper I wrote that on (I told you I suck!), so I can't remember if it was average across the board or on a specific title, or, really what the exact number was. It was very low, however -- I want to say somewhere between 10 and 15 %.
• DC is actually going to release the full results of the Nielsen data, generally. Next week or something -- they showed us slides, and some of that has been reported anecdotally, but we were assured of a FULL release of ALL data to ALL retailers, not just ComicsPRO.
Which means everyone in the world is going to see it soon.
This is AWESOME on DC's part; and when it happens, all you internet pundits should try really hard to NOT be assholes about the data points, and, y'know, maybe THANK THEM for sharing something very very expensive, instead of complaining about things you don't like about it.
(I know, I know: "good luck with that")
FURTHERMORE, DC has every plan to continue to FOLLOW UP on the surveys with more surveys -- this is NOT a one-shot thing. DC flew two Nielsen employees to the ComicsPRO meeting to help gather opinions about what the next questions should include; that should indicate that they were pretty serious.
Outside of DC, most of the digital points were seconded by every other publisher in attendance
That's what I have for you today; time to try and stuff my leaking brain back into my ears...
Old war comics written about by old man - pictures at Eleven! Here's a thing: In MAN OF ROCK by Bill Schelly, a book which is all about Joe Kubert and the things he has spent his time doing, there is no mention of BLITZKRIEG. (Other than that Bill Schelly's book is, however, VERY GOOD!)
It's okay, Bill Schelly, I think I've mentioned BLITZKRIEG enough for everyone!
And now our Feature Presentation:
It was 1976 and it was time to see WW2 “through the eyes of the enemy”. This was hardly unprecedented. Joe Kubert (b. 1929)and Robert Kanigher (1915 – 2002)had previously worked up and on Enemy Ace in Star Spangled War Stories. Said series was an innovative look at WW1 (1914-18) through the character of a German air ace modelled upon The Red Baron (Manfred Von Richthofen not Snoopy). These stories are collected in their entirety in SHOWCASE PRESENTS: ENEMY ACE which is a plump lump of B/W brilliance (VERY GOOD!). Giving in to the temptation to gorge on the contents, however, results in an unavoidable recognition of the repetition in their structure. If read in the short bursts as it was initially published it becomes clear that this repetition was entirely intentional. Read any individual Enemy Ace story and you get a complete story with all the information required to understand the context and point of what was on the pages.
Modern readers may also finds some of the contents a bit broad at best and belief defying at worst. That’s understandable but tends to underestimate the fact that these are primarily stories and their intention is principally to entertain and then, typically, to make a point. To get the most out of them it’s probably best to view them as a form or parable rather than an attempt to accurately reflect reality. You probably remember The Parable Of The Killer Skies from Sunday School. The contents of Showcase: Enemy Ace will always be of interest thanks to the astonishing performance of all the artists involved; Joe Kubert, Neal Adams, Frank Thorne, Howard Victor Chaykin and John Severin. There were indeed giants in those days but it’s worth stressing that of these lofty talents Joe Kubert’s scalp was the most sky scraping. I’m a like me some Joe Kubert, I do. But the fact that these stories are still readable is evidence of the rock solid craft brought to the task by Robert Kanigher.
A lot of people liked Enemy Ace but not enough people, sales on the book kept falling and, as Editor, Kubert was forced to drop the series and replace it with The Unknown Soldier. (Don’t worry if I’m going to talk about The Unknown Soldier it will be a time other than this one.) The point here is that the success of Enemy Ace is due to the fact that the techniques involved were as taut as Cher’s face. So Enemy Ace wasn't a total success but it was very popular which is more than can be said for The War To End All Wars (which is a case of false advertising if ever I saw one). Of course after the world got its breath back it decided to produce the more popular sequel WW2. And it was in this setting that Kubert and Kanigher attempted to replicate the success of their “through the eyes of the enemy” approach.
But because you are paying attention you are now thinking why do that? If Enemy Ace couldn't pull in the punters why launch a whole new series with a similar premise? The DC Explosion is why. It’s aptly named because it was about as controlled and disciplined as an explosion. The fact it was almost immediately followed by the DC Implosion should tell you just how successful cramming as much stuff onto the spinner racks turned out to be.Given the urgent need for fresh recruits to be rushed to the Retailing Front many comics were sacrificed on the spinner racks. BLITZKRIEG was amongst the cannon fodder.
BLITZKRIEG #1 - 5 By Ric Estrada, Sam Glanzman and Lee Elias(a), Joe Kubert & Robert Kanigher(w) (DC Comics, $0.30 ea, 1976)
Sadly the big thing about BLITZKRIEG is how half-baked it seems. There's an interesting premise ("Yeah, but how was WW2 for The Bad Guys?") but it just doesn't get any traction. The stories themselves are solid enough to start with but as the series progresses they start to become more hazy, lacking a point around which Kanigher can cohere his scripts. It's a good framework though; following three German soldiers through the war and having them reflect the mindset of "The Enemy" (who unsurprisingly will be surprisingly like "Us"). The first problem is that Kanigher has too many protagonists. Sgt. Rock and Enemy Ace have a strong central figure around which events can orbit and whose experiences provide the Reader with an "in". BLITZKRIEG has Franz, Ludwig and Hugo. Franz is blond and handsome representing The Intellectual, Ludwig is a meathead always thinking of ladies and Hugo is a speccy bald weasel always thinking about food. It's fairly clear that they are three separate aspects of Man and their very separation is that which blinds them to the fact that if all three were united in one individual more perspective would be available, possibly even enough to grant them the wit to realise that what they are involved in is both inhuman and insane.
And, to be fair, BLITZKRIEG doesn't stint on the depiction of the horrors perpetrated by these ordinary guys. Throughout the course of this series the "heroes" kill women and children, both armed and unarmed, massacre P.O.W.s and are active in the horror of the pacification of The Warsaw Ghetto. It's unpleasant stuff and there lies BLITZKRIEG's second main difficulty. By focusing on this barbaric string of events it's hard to root for our Three Stooges. The series focuses so hard on these atrocities that there is barely even room for our three chums to pop up and offer their character revealing insights ("I like bread!", "I like ladies!", "I like Butterflies"! Jesus, these guys make Brick Tamland look nuanced.) The Reader never gets to know them because they are hardly present in the narrative and when they are they are always saying the same things. They never change and they never learn no matter how bad things get, no matter how stained their hands.
But then maybe that's the point. Maybe that's how these things happen. Franz, Ludwig and Hugo appear totally at the mercy of events, pulled under by the current of History only to resurface briefly to state to themselves (and to us) the only things that keep them functioning; their appetites and their belief that this is necessary, or at least unavoidable. They are trapped in a narrative not of their making and they cling to sanity only by reducing themselves to their most basic, unthinking needs. That would be good, I think. But I only think that, I don't know that. And I think I only think that because that is how I am naturally inclined to think. I don't believe there is much on the actual pages to convince me that the authors (writers and artists; comics is a gestalt thing remember) are moving me by design to these thoughts. But then inspiring thought in a reader isn't such a bad thing. Even if the particular colour of that thinking is an unintended by product. Because, maybe, WW2 is the kind of thing that happens when people stop thinking and let other people do that for them, particularly when those people doing the thinking are the kind of people who should be heavily medicated and monitored for their own safety.
BLITZKRIEG has other problems too. The premise is a deceptively complex one and the truncated nature of the episodes (roughly 11 pages) doesn't allow enough room for the authors to really start working. What a comic like BLITZKRIEG needs to succeed, amongst other things, is room to breathe. In the '70s comics authors were rarely allowed this luxury. Sure, modern comics do get this break but if comics from 2000 to 2011 have shown us anything it's that if you give comics creators room to breathe often that's all they do; breathe. Then there's the nature of the conflict BLITZKRIEG depicts. Enemy Ace not only has a single protagonist but also benefits from being set in a conflict where "Good" and "Bad" are entirely more nebulous labels, and the meaning of these is further diffused by the concepts of honour, duty and tradition. These concepts had pretty much worn out their welcome by the time WW2 rolled around, sure, they lingered and were important but by no means to the same extent and the longer the war rolled on the more denuded of meaning these concepts became. In a War in which people are putting other people in ovens, reduced to cannibalism, arming their children and dropping nukes on civilian targets honour, duty and tradition aren't really going to be able to cut it. Hell, even "Good" is going to have its work cut out for it. Presenting WW2 "through enemy eyes" would require rather more serious thought than BLITZKRIEG can muster.
Given the moral morass of its setting, its uncharismatic leads, fuzzy storytelling and general lack of polish BLITZKRIEG fails to achieve its lofty ambitions but...but...even at its worst BLITZKRIEG is wholly innocent of the most objectionable charge that could be raised at such an endeavour. At no point are the actions of the Germans glamorised or presented as attractive. That would be the worst thing and BLITZKRIEG doesn't do that thing.
Authenticity is usually a concern with war books. Personally I’m rubbish at authenticity as long as Hitler isn't a space-stoat and the Yanks aren't riding gorillas into battle I’m generally okay. Luckily though back when smoking was good for you readers used to send letters in to comics and in issue #4 we have a letter which addresses the accuracy of BLITZKRIEG #1 thus saving me the bother:
"...mistakes are prevalent in this issue. Uniform insignias and ranks were inaccurate.The main characters were portrayed as privates. However, their weapons sub-machine guns were not issued to privates, who were armed withWW1 bolt action rifles throughout the entire war...German panzer represented was not built until 1941. The Molotov Cocktail was not named until 1941...In the Polish campaign Rommel was a Colonel attached to Hitler's bodyguard..." (text edited from Cadet Captain Rudy S. Nelson's letter from BLITZKRIEG#4)
So, not so accurate then but accurate enough if accuracy isn’t too much of a concern. And I don’t want it come across like special pleading but back when steak was a breakfast cereal research was proper work. You had to leave the house and visit these buildings called "libraries" which had "books" in them with "pages" and, yeah, I know it sounds like a madman's dream or something. Luckily, the ever reliable Sam Glanzman leaps into the trench of doubt and picks up the authenticity potato masher and chucks it back in your face with some pics'n'facts spreads about tanks and planes (The Panther Tank, Dornier DO-335A and the F-40 Corsair) before supplying a "3-D table-top diorama" where kids could paste the pictures to cereal boxes and through the judicious use of scissors and imagination recreate their own hellish scene of human suffering to treasure forever ("U.S.S. Buckley Rams The U-66"). Or at least 'til the cat got hold of it.
The intentions of all involved are, I’d say, honourable and good but we all know where the road paved with those leads. Except Ernest Hemingway who said that the road to Hell was paved with stuffed donkeys, but that guy liked his pop a bit too much. Obviously this comic isn't Hell on paper but the good intentions of all involved don’t stop it being more interesting than successful. Way more interesting than successful in fact but since I like interesting things I’d ultimately call BLITZKRIEG GOOD!, although as entertainment it’s probably EH! Having said that though there is the odd panel like this one below which brings BLITZKRIEG back up to GOOD!
And like moral certainty - I'm GONE!
Have a nice weekend, everybody!
You know, before DC Comics so politely sent me the entire run of the New 52 launch issues, I don't think that I'd ever read an entire month's worth of a superhero universe before. I have to say, it's kind of exhausting. But that doesn't mean that I'm not going to try and run down very quick capsule reviews of all 52 right here, right now, as Fatboy Slim once said many many years ago oh God I am so old. ACTION COMICS #1: In retrospect, maybe my favorite of all 52 books, this one feels like it actually understands how to reboot a concept without overwhelming the reader with information or assuming that they already know everything; Grant Morrison's script has some of his shorthand dialogue, but it's dense and filled with "action" throughout, and this feels like a satisfying chunk of comics that also lays the groundwork for future stories. Very Good.
ALL STAR WESTERN #1: It's heresy amongst the comicsinternet to admit that I'm not a massive fan of Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti's Jonah Hex, but it's never really done a lot for me. That said, this felt solidly Good, setting up the new status quo for the character - and offering enough introduction to the character for new readers - with some really nice art by Moritat. I'm amused by yet another "Gotham is built upon conspiracy and evil" storyline so soon after last month's finale of Batman: Gates of Gotham, though.
ANIMAL MAN #1: Oh, this was so almost good. Jeff Lemire's writing is... good, I think, although I feel like he stumbles on the more domestic side of things here, and I like the subtle repositioning of this series as a horror book. But the art is just not serving the writing well at all; Travel Foreman can be an interesting stylist, but he ruins scenes here, most importantly - and, I think, damningly - the final page, which is robbed of its full impact by some weird staging that basically wastes the top half of the page. Also not helping, the inks by Dan Green (which veer between too heavy and almost weightlessly light) and some very dull, flat colors by Lovern Kindzierski. Eh, then, because of the art.
AQUAMAN #1: Yes, Geoff, I get it: Aquaman isn't a comedy punchline anymore. I would've preferred it if we'd had a chance to decide that for ourselves instead of suffering through the "blogger interview" midway through the book, but overall, this is a pretty Good first issue, setting out its pitch, introducing its characters and having a decent enough hook for the next few issues. That said, if you were reading Brightest Day, you pretty much know what's in here already; this is very much a continuation of what was happening with the character in that book.
BATGIRL #1: I don't know if this was flop sweat or something else, but this just didn't work as well as I'd been expecting it to. Maybe because it's so joyless, something that writer Gail Simone didn't seem to have a problem expressing with the character in Birds of Prey, but there really is something very... rushed and filled and self-important about this issue that made it feel like you were being hurriedly brought up to speed by someone who wanted you to know how serious everything was. World's dumbest cliffhanger, too. Eh.
BATMAN #1: Greg Capullo's art is surprisingly nice - Yes, a little too MacFarlane for my tastes, still, but what can you do? - and Scott Snyder's story is... I don't know. Nice, but somewhat slight, perhaps? I'll be coming back for a second issue, but I think that's more down to goodwill for the creative team than anything having particularly wowed me with this debut. Okay, I guess.
BATMAN AND ROBIN #1: Now this was much more my speed, perhaps because I enjoyed this version of Batman more - One who seems to be dealing with his trauma after X number of years processing survivor guilt as Batman, instead of just burying it - than the one in Batman or Detective (And, really, I can't believe that a linewide reboot didn't result in a slightly more consistent portrayal of Batman. He feels like a different character everytime he appears, like Superman. That doesn't seem like a good thing to me), or perhaps because there was more of an urgency on display here than in Snyder's title. Either way, Good, and a much better "first issue" than the last time Peter Tomasi and Pat Gleason took over the book.
BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT #1: Talking of wildly varying characterizations, this book... uh... exists. I don't know what to say about it. If you want a generic Image-style take on Batman, complete with pouty mouths from David Finch and overdone dialogue by Paul Jenkins, this is for you, I guess. I was completely underwhelmed, and laughed out loud as the kids say at the reveal of "One-Face" at the end of the book, especially because he still has half of his face scarred. Awful, but I'm sure it'll have its audience. Oh, and Jaina Hudson is the new Jezebel Jet.
BATWING #1: The first of the "This was much better than I expected" books of the 52, I found myself drawn into this more than I'd thought I would. Maybe it was Judd Winick's take on the character and his secret identity (A cop working outside of the system, because the system is so corrupt), or perhaps it was Ben Oliver's lovely, weirdly hazily dream-like artwork, but this convinced me to try the second issue, which I really wouldn't have thought would've been the case. A low Good, perhaps, but I have to say: This feels much more like a mini-series than an ongoing, already.
BATWOMAN #1: This, however, was a letdown. Not because it wasn't Good, because it was. But I'd been expecting more, spoiled by Greg Rucka's run on Detective. The writing here - by artist JH Williams and co-writer Hayden Blackman - was fine, and hit all the right notes, but didn't surprise me or have the emotional depth that Rucka's had, and the art, while beautiful, also lacked the impact or purpose of the original run. Even though I'll be back for future issues, and even though I enjoyed this, I found myself disappointed nonetheless. That's what I get for having high expectations.
BIRDS OF PREY #1: I'm not sure why, but this felt like it had too much space in it, if that makes any sense. What's here is fine, it's a perfectly Okay comic book, but it feels too empty for some reason, like something is missing. I can't quite put my finger on it, but something isn't quite right, like it's only half of the intended story or something.
BLACKHAWKS #1: I love Mike Costa's Cobra series for IDW, which is why it depressed me so much to realize how much I didn't like this first issue (The art by Graham Nolan and Ken Lashley didn't help; it's overly busy and not quirky enough to make me want to keep paying attention). You can't fault him for throwing the reader in as everything's already happening, but I didn't find any character particularly interesting, mysterious or even distinctive enough to care about, and as a result, the whole thing left me cold. Awful, sadly.
BLUE BEETLE #1: On the podcast, I said this was like the Blue Beetle we had before, but less so. Tony Bedard and Ig Guara make all the right moves, but it lacks the heart or originality to make me want to come back for issue 2. Eh.
CAPTAIN ATOM #1: Hey, everyone who's always wished that there was a Doctor Manhattan solo title spinning out from Watchmen, now you have your dream book. Sadly, it's written by JT Krul - who ruins the goodwill he'd built up from an Okay first issue by ending with a stupid "Is Captain Atom about to die?" cliffhanger (It's his first issue, so I think that question answers itself) - but, on the plus side, the art by Freddie Williams II is very nice indeed. If it gets smarter in future issues, it could end up being worth checking back in with in future, I suspect.
CATWOMAN #1: Oh, man, haven't I said enough about this already? Cheesecakey pandering with a depressingly unsexy tone and annoyingly passive lead character. Awful.
DC UNIVERSE PRESENTS: DEADMAN #1: I swear to God, this is like a black hole in my brain. I have read this book multiple times, and it really refuses to stay in there. Pretty much the definition of Eh for me, although I'll say that Bernard Chang never really gets the credit for his work that he deserves. I'd love to see him paired with less garish colorists sometime.
DEATHSTROKE #1: Fun last-minute twist aside, there's little in this book that appeals: I don't care about the character or the machismo on display, and Joe Bennett has always been hit-or-miss (with an emphasis on the latter) for me. Eh.
DEMON KNIGHTS #1: Punny title aside, Paul Cornell pretty much won me over with the sense of humor on display in this one, much like Jon Rogers did the same in IDW's Dungeons and Dragons book (which this is oddly reminiscent of, it has to be said). Weirdly parochial, but all the better for it. Very Good.
DETECTIVE COMICS #1: Tony "Salvador" Daniel - Has he ever used his middle name before? - aims high and doesn't quite make it, but oh man, can you see him try. There's nothing particularly wrong with this, but there's nothing particularly right, either; it all feels familiar, and more workmanlike than previous attempts. Having Daniel be writer/artist on a Batbook when you also have David Finch doing the same elsewhere in the same franchise feels a bit weird to me, for some reason; I feel like Daniel comes off worse, even though he's better at deadlines and arguably better as a writer, too. Eh, and that's only because I wasn't as appalled by the final page as many were.
THE FLASH #1: After the disappointment of the last Flash run, color me shocked to have enjoyed this as much as I did. Francis Manapul's art is just great - that opening double page splash! The page of Barry in his apartment! - and it turns out that his writing (along with Brian Buccellato) is much faster-paced and more fun than Geoff Johns' on this book. I like the new Barry Allen, and love his relationship to Iris in this new continuity. More of this, please. Very Good.
FRANKENSTEIN, AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E. #1: Another frustratingly "almost" effort from Jeff Lemire - I know where he's going! I just wish he'd made it there! - with equally frustrating art from Alberto Ponticelli, which is just a little too scratchy for its own good (and, like Travel Foreman in Animal Man, a little off in the framing when it really counts). There's a lot to like here, so I'm tempted to put this down to first issue nerves and hope that this book ends up sorting itself out down the line. That said, this is Okay, and I think that the just-finished Xombi played in the same sandbox in a much more entertaining and original way...
THE FURY OF FIRESTORM THE NUCLEAR MEN #1: Of the two Gail Simone books this month, this is the more enjoyable, but it has almost as much crammed into it as Batgirl, leading to a weirdly claustrophobic feeling. That said, I like the new spin on the concept (and the title), and wonder where, exactly, we're going from the end of this issue. Is this going to be DC's second attempt at doing a Hulk book? Yildiray Cinar's art is weirdly reminiscent of Francis Manipul's as far as the inks go, but I'm not sure if it fits here just yet... All in all, an Okay start, but with the potential for either greatness or creative dead-ending within the year.
GREEN ARROW #1: It's as if JT Krul, Dan Jurgens and George Perez set out to create the most generic, boring superhero book imaginable... and succeeded. Crap.
GREEN LANTERN #1: Considering how self-important (and self-conscious) this title had become before the relaunch, it's surprising that Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke manage to essentially play this first issue for laughs and get away with it. Good, although I found myself wishing that the last page had been held back for a few months, if only because I really enjoyed seeing dick Hal Jordan so much.
GREEN LANTERN CORPS #1: I was always going to be a sucker for this book; John Stewart and Guy Gardner are my favorite Green Lanterns, Peter Tomasi's previous run on the title was something I really enjoyed, and there's no Hal Jordan or Kyle Rayner to harsh my buzz. Sure enough, I really dug this; uberviolent opening aside, I appreciated the "this is where our leads are" intros before the mystery was revealed, and the final page felt weighty and dramatic enough to bring me back next issue. Sure, Fernando Pasarin's art feels like a little bit of a letdown after that Doug Mahnke cover, but it's still pretty great in a "Bryan Hitch but more approachable" way. Very Good, for me.
GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS #1: And then there's this. This is just a bit of mess, whether it's the loss of the "some time ago" caption at the opener explaining that the book opens with a flashback, or the failure to really explain who all the different Lantern characters are, it seems sloppy and at odds with the other Lantern books, and Tyler Kirkham's art doesn't necessarily help, either. Awful.
GRIFTER #1: Finally answering that eternal fanboy question "What do you get if you cross Sawyer from Lost with ROM, Space Knight," this is Okay for those of you who enjoy this kind of thing; Nathan Edmonson's script is a bit light on explaining things, but I suspect that's intentional, and CAFU's art seems too polite for the story being told for my tastes. I don't know; there's nothing wrong with it, but there's also nothing that feels especially compelling about it, either, if that makes sense. I think Fringe probably does this kind of thing better, really.
HAWK & DOVE #1: I wanted to like this book so much, and then Rob Liefeld couldn't stop himself reminding me that he's a terrible, terrible artist. Everything happens at crazy angles! People's mouths change size without explanation! Everyone looks permanently in pain because of all the scratches on their bodies! It's a shame, because you get the feeling that Sterling Gates is really trying to work with Liefeld's energy, but he's overwhelmed by it on this issue. Truly, unhappily Awful.
I, VAMPIRE #1: On the plus side, Andrea Sorrentino could pass as fake Jae Lee if the position ever opens up. On the minus side, this is worryingly murky in terms of story (and storytelling; it's not just Joshua Hale Fialkov's script here, the art really does it no favors), and reads like someone's idea of doomed romance a la Twilight, but even more melodramatic. I'm sure there is a massive audience for this, but I found it pretty Eh at best.
JUSTICE LEAGUE #1: Hey, remember when everyone was talking about this book? Well, not much has changed since then. I like it, for what it is; I like dick Hal Jordan, I think there's a reasonably strong mystery introduced and I don't care that the entire team isn't in there despite the cover. But I'd be lying if I said I thought it was more than just Good; there were other books that the relaunch could have led with that seem better suited for all-new readers and a heavy media blitz.
JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #1: It's not quite Shade Peter Milligan - or, for that matter, Secret Seven Milligan - but there's the potential for getting there with this opener (I really liked the perversity of the Kathy reveal), and Mikel Janin's art is lovely. Slightly underwhelming, I've got a lot of faith that this Good first issue will turn out to be a very good series.
JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL #1: Potentially Green Arrow's main competitor in the "most generic superhero comic" race - And Dan Jurgens is involved with this one, as well! Clearly, this is karma for killing Superman twenty years ago - this just feels like a subpar fill-in to a comic from some point in the 1980s, complete with inexplicable Margaret Thatcher cameo appearance. Considering the potential for a JLI series spinning out of the surprisingly strong Generation Lost mini, this is a tiny bit heartbreaking. Awful.
LEGION LOST #1: The good: Pete Woods' art is just amazing here, really, really great stuff. The bad: Unless you're a Legion fan already, this is likely entirely impenetrable stuff. I love the Legion, and this almost made no sense to me whatsoever. It doesn't help that important things happen off-panel (So, Timber Wolf just picked up the bad guy and no-one tried to stop him?), the characters have no real introduction and just way too much happens to let the reader have any time to make sense of it on first, second or even third reading, because there's not enough space in the book for everything. What it ends up as, then, is a good-looking mess. That's what we call Awful round these here parts.
LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #1: I've really, really tried to convince myself that New Levitz Legion is just like Old Levitz Legion, but I think this is the issue when I realized I couldn't keep it up. I'm unsure whether it's Levitz or his circumstance, but everything feels so jumpy and fractured that there's no chance - or, it seems, space - to build up the long running soap operatics that I loved the first time around, with everything ending up sacrificed for whatever big storyline that I find myself uninterested in. Eh as much as I wish it were otherwise.
MEN OF WAR #1: Someone, somewhere, found this to be more than some generic "Are you really a man?" cliches wrapped around a superhero mystery, but it wasn't me. Awful, and the back-up strip was even worse.
MISTER TERRIFIC #1: Another book that I really, really wanted to like - Although that's almost entirely down to the original release info containing the hilariously melodramatic line about him fighting "science gone bad!" - and the actual book... kind of lived up to my expectations, perhaps? There's a lot to like here (The new origin, with a time travel mystery replacing the Spectre's telling him "Hey, that white guy? You should rip him off," for example), but it doesn't come together properly, and ends with a cliffhanger that just makes no sense in a first issue ("Is this character acting weird? How would you know! You've just met him. Tune in next month to find out if he is or not!"). But... Again, maybe it's goodwill, but even though this was just Okay, I'm holding out hope for better soon.
NIGHTWING #1: I came to really like Dick Grayson when he was Batman, so why do I find almost everything in his new title feeling like it's a step backwards? Whether it's Dick visiting the circus again, or telling us how good it is to feel like himself, all of it feels more forced and less genuine than it should. Eh, and most of my fondness for the character disappears entirely as he disappears behind a pile of dialogue and sentiment we've heard before.
OMAC #1: If it wasn't for Superboy, this might have been the best surprise of all 52 books. Somehow, Keith Giffen and Dan Didio manage to channel Kirby's sense of fun, if not his sense of originality - This is a reboot of an existing concept, after all - by smooshing together Office Space, the Hulk and the original OMAC to come up with something that feels like it owes as much to Giffen's own Ambush Bug as it does Kirby, and it... weirdly... works. It's very much not for everyone, but I think that's true of the original OMAC as well. It's an odd feeling to think that Dan Didio came up with one of the most individual and arguably the most fun of all of the New 52 books, but there you go. Very Good, and long may it stick around.
RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS #1: I think we can also file under "Things I've said too much about," but short version: Not for me even before we hit the "Starfire is an amnesiac bimbo nymphomanic" thing. Crap.
RED LANTERNS #1: If Ed Benes wasn't drawing this book, I have the strangest feeling I would have actually liked it, because Peter Milligan's script - or, more properly, his narration - is weirdly compelling here, and feels oddly subversive to all the Geoff Johnserisms in the scenes surrounding it. If he ends up carrying that further in future issues, I could see this becoming a sleeper hit for the the cool kids who are perfectly okay with women who can twist their bodies to simultaneously show off their butts and their breasts at the same time. Eh, with chances for better later.
RESURRECTION MAN #1: Clearly, it's books dealing with life after death that I have a problem with. Like the Deadman book, this one also barely registers after multiple re-reads. Eh, then.
THE SAVAGE HAWKMAN #1: For everyone who ever thought "What would make Hawkman awesome would be if his armor and wings came out through his pores like Warren Ellis' Iron Man!" then this is apparently the book for you. For the rest of us, this is a book where Hawkman tries to burn his costume for some unknown reason, then gets attacked by it, and then it turns out it's living inside him or something. It really is as bad as it sounds, although Philip Tan's watercolor art is rather nice in places. Awful, though.
STATIC SHOCK #1: It's modern Spider-Man, with the rest of the Milestone universe seemingly playing the supporting cast. It's surprising just how ready I was for that book, without ever realizing it. Good, although I'm already worried about it, now that we know that John Rozum is off the book by #4.
STORMWATCH #1: Like Batgirl, it's possible that this book fails because the writer was far too aware of what they had to do; there's too much empty exposition in this issue, and it's an issue that needed useful exposition. Paul Cornell doesn't quite catch the tone of Warren Ellis' characters, and the disconnect is obvious in a way that isn't obvious; no-one sounds quite right, and everything feels off-kilter as a result. It's a book that simultaneously feels dense and sparse, and Miguel Sepulveda's art, static and heavy, doesn't help with that feeling. A low Eh, and it should be much better.
SUICIDE SQUAD #1: Forget skinny Amanda Waller; this book has way bigger problems. You know, things like an awkward structure (Not helped by multiple artists working on the same issue), a ridiculous set-up and thoroughly flat characterization throughout. Disappointingly Awful.
SUPERBOY #1: I was genuinely surprised by how much this book feels like science-fiction instead of a superhero book, at least in this first issue, and how there's an interesting lack of moral certainty at show just yet (I'm sure that'll change in time). With RB Silva's clean art and Scott Lobdell's strongest script for the relaunch by far, this is Good stuff.
SUPERGIRL #1: This is also surprisingly Good. A complete reboot for the character, and a chance to start from a personality closer to Sterling Gates' work with the character - Probably the character's most recent high point - instead of the wishy-washiness of the origins of the previous version, this issue isn't showy in the slightest, but gets the job done nonetheless.
SUPERMAN #1: Oh, oh, oh. Oh, Superman. I guess, if nothing else, this issue does provide an alternative to Action Comics, mainly in that Action was really good, and this isn't. Where to start? The confusing opening (Is the new Daily Planet built? It would appear so on page 2, but I'm still not sure if that was meant to be a glimpse into the future or not. If it had been rebuilt, would the previous site still have the remains of the old one?), the hilarious scenes of Lois et al discussing journalism ("Print is dying!"), Clark being bitter and mean to Lois, the genuinely horrible examples of Clark's journalism... There is so much wrong with this issue, but primarily I think the underlying structure is the biggest problem: Too much is, again, forced into too small a space, and this time, it's combined with a super brawl that is neither exciting or even interesting, leaving the impression that Superman's life is dull, full of sniping arguments and a ham-fisted idea of how journalism works. It's a mess, and one not saved by Jesus Merino's sterling attempts on art. Awful, and maybe the biggest disappontment of the bunch.
SWAMP THING #1: Talking of wordy, this is another overly-verbose book that could've easily dialed back the exposition to sensible levels and become infinitely better as a result (The whole Superman scene in particular felt unnecessary). That said, like Animal Man, the horror tone works and there's definite potential here. Okay, but greedily, I wanted more.
TEEN TITANS #1: It's a slow start, true, but I'll admit to being sucked in to Scott Lobdell's plan of essentially running one story between this and Superboy - although that final scene in both books has different dialogue and staging in some parts, which seems a completely avoidable mistake to me - and enjoyed this much more than I was expecting from early previews. A high Okay - I still have my issues with Brett Booth's art, I'm sorry - and I might even keep going on this, at least until the entire team is together.
VOODOO #1: You know, deep within this book, there's an interesting idea about an alien invasion happening in plain sight, with the alien as the central character. But getting there in this case means working through a lot of gender politics that's trying to have its cake and eat it at the same time ("Yeah, this is cheesecake, but look, the strippers are real women with class and babysitter problems and shit! But here's some more T&A anyway!"), and... I'm just not interested, ultimately. Awful.
WONDER WOMAN #1: Holy crap, it's the last book. I was beginning to think this would never end. And it's ending on a high note, too; sure, Brian Azzarello's script is sharp and fast-paced (if a little short on explanations, but there's time for those later), but this is entirely Cliff Chiang's show, and he doesn't even vaguely fail to deliver. This is a wonderful looking book - Matt Wilson's colors help considerably - and all the moreso because there's nothing else like it on the DC stands right now. The mythical quality of the story seems on a different scale to all the other New 52 books as well, and the strong individuality of the book makes it feel more like an event... and that's a nice feeling for a Wonder Woman book to have. Very Good, and one of the best books of the line so far.
Now, as the saying goes: What did you think?
(Wait a minute. Reverse that.)
It's the latest episode of Wait, What? wherein Graeme McMillan and yours truly talk about those comic books what need talking about: Wolverine #9; Flashpoint tie-ins The Superman Project #1 and Reverse Flash #1; James Robinson's JLA; Earth X; Green Lantern Mosaic; Kirby Genesis #1; Steve Englehart's Captain America and much more. You might even discover the true identity of that cute little tyke up there.
It should be available on iTunes by now, and it is also the sort of thing that you could be listening to here and now, if that's the sort of thing that kung-pao's your chicken:
As always, we hope you enjoy and thanks for listening!
Find it at CBR, all about how the market is likely to respond to DC's reboot plan.
I thought I was clear, but, man, already the talk back threads are filled with people who don't seem to have much reading comprehension?
Anyway, chat here, as well, if you like.
I think the "official" one that DC wants you, the consumer to see is the US Today one, but I think that Bob Wayne's statement is probably the better one to look at. I'll reprint this below the jump...
Here's Bob Wayne (I could link you to Rich, but he doesn't need more hits):
A LETTER ON THE DC UNIVERSE AND SEPTEMBER 2011
To our comics retail partners,
In the time I've worked at DC Comics, I've witnessed any number of industry defining moments. But today, I bring you what is perhaps the biggest news to date.
Many of you have heard rumors that DC Comics has been working on a big publishing initiative for later this year. This is indeed an historic time for us as, come this September, we are relaunching the entire DC Universe line of comic books with all new first issues. 52 of them to be exact.
In addition, the new #1s will introduce readers to a more modern, diverse DC Universe, with some character variations in appearance, origin and age. All stories will be grounded in each character's legend - but will relate to real world situations, interactions, tragedy and triumph.
This epic event will kick off on Wednesday, August 31st with the debut of a brand new JUSTICE LEAGUE #1, which pairs Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, together for the first time. (Yes, this is the same week as FLASHPOINT #5.)
We think our current fans will be excited by this evolution, and that it will make jumping into the story extremely accessible to first-time readers - giving them a chance to discover DC's characters and stories.
We are positioning ourselves to tell the most innovative stories with our characters to allow fans to see them from a new angle. We have taken great care in maintaining continuity where most important, but fans will see a new approach to our storytelling. Some of the characters will have new origins, while others will undergo minor changes. Our characters are always being updated; however, this is the first time all of our characters will be presented in a new way all at once.
Dan DiDio, Bob Harras and Eddie Berganza have been working diligently to pull together some of the best creative teams in the industry. Over 50 new costumes will debut in September, many updated and designed by artist Jim Lee, ensuring that the updated images appeal to the current generation of readers.
The publication of JUSTICE LEAGUE #1 will also launch digital day-and-date for all ongoing superhero comic book titles - an industry first.
On Wednesday, June 1st, this initiative is expected to be announced in a nationwide feature article, and we're hopeful the news will be picked up by media outlets around the world. Throughout the month we'll reveal more details of our plans with articles in both the mainstream and comics press and on June 13th the Diamond catalog solicitations for all of the September titles will be released, followed by the June 29th street date of the print version of Previews.
DC Comics will support this initiative with an innovative mix of publicity, promotional efforts and retailer incentives designed to maximize your opportunity to increase your DC sales. We will discuss additional details of these incentives when we get closer to solicitation later in June.
We'll be updating you more through email as September nears. But today, I hope your share our enthusiasm for this historic news!
Bob Wayne SVP, Sales DC Entertainment
SOME of my thoughts, in chaotic and jumbled order:
1) FIFTY TWO new #1's? First off, that's insane, second off, that's FUCKING insane. Who on earth will buy all of those? The DCU is roughly 35-ish monthly ongoing titles now -- is Vertigo rebooting, too? I don't *think* it is? So they're increasing the line by 50%-ish?
2) This CAN ONLY work if we get a big wave of civvies coming in... but 13 titles a week is way way way too much for civvies. Two or three a week might maybe have been possible?
3) full line-wide day and day is potentially huge because of the ripple impact it might have. It will take very very very few current customers moving channels to have a catastrophic cascade impact along and down the chain. Maybe as little as 3-5%? If we're not netting more NEW readers (and I DO NOT MEAN "Marvel readers switching loyalty") (And see above) we're really running the risk of the entire comics market collapsing in fairly fast order -- and I'm including things that aren't superheroes.
4) this smells more like a jumping off point to me, for a lot of current readers -- especially the "super fans". I wonder what Garret thinks?
5) There was a time to do this: after the First CRISIS. Or maybe after the "Final" one. I don't think the economy/market is (at all) in the right place to absorb this right now.
6) FIFTY TWO new superhero #1s? Are there 52 strong creative teams out there? Editors who know how to shepherd a story properly? Seriously, DC hasn't shown the editorial strength to have more than 8-12 (maybe) "on all cylinders" have they? I'M NOT TRYING TO BE MEAN ON THIS -- but the consumer reality in the comics market is that readers judge this kind of initiative by the "WORST" element of it, not the BEST.
7) Fuck, they should have staggered out the launch over a few months... 1 (or 2, maybe 3) new books a week until they were up to their "right" number. I bet a LOT of people would try the "new" DC if the DCU was just 12 titles total in month #1
8) DCU Editorial, per Didio, has by and large been a cycle of events -- generally with "big beats" hitting every two-ish weeks (sometimes more frequently)... for like the last 6-7 YEARS. But here's the thing: structurally these kinds of beats can be generated because of history -- "starting over" would appear on the face to eliminate that particular crutch?
9) The last time they tried anything EVEN REMOTELY like this it was a critical failure, and largely a commercial failure. Those three words? "One. Year. Later."
10) I don't want to trade the numbering on the "legacy" titles for the short-term bounce of a #1. In 2011 THAT BOUNCE NO LONGER "STICKS". It is no more than a 2 month bounce any longer. In my secret heart, I was praying for the other way around -- that they'd go back to "old" numbering on everything -- GREEN LANTERN would be #487, or whatever it would have been.
11) Does this mean that all of the backlist on my racks will now be dead weight? If they're rebooting Superman continuity, do I want to have ANY copies whatsoever of 98% of the in print Superman backlist?
12) This part fills me with dread: "a more modern, diverse DC Universe, with some character variations in appearance, origin and age. All stories will be grounded in each character's legend - but will relate to real world situations, interactions, tragedy and triumph." DC is not Marvel, and, I think the appeal of DC over Marvel is the more fantastic nature of much of the characters/cosmology. "The New Blue Beetle will be a Filipino Transexual character" (or whatever) doesn't sound like a recipe for success to me, though.. and DC's track record on "diversity" actually succeeding with the audience is fairly poor.
13) They've done REALLY well in keeping this on the downlow, though, haven't they?
14) Following up on #11, does this imply we're going to go 6-ish month without any NEW DC backlist? Will DC be smarter about WHAT gets collected and what doesn't?
15) FIFTY-TWO new #1s? Jeebus.
16) If this hits, it *could* hit big; but if it fails, it will be catastrophic.
17) JUSTICE LEAGUE by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee sounds like something I could sell mountains of -- if it was the lead of the month. First, are the other 51 teams at that status (answer: no. Because there are not 51 other creative teams of that weight IN ALL OF COMICS), and, second, will it get lost in the other 51 books?
There's more, I'm sure -- this is pure gut reaction, without any long think behind it.. look for something more reasoned, I suspect, in the next Tilting at Windmills in about two weeks...
Hal Jordan? Funny you asked. As a result of of the death of his father, he’s refused to acknowledge fear, forever living a life of risk and insubordination. He lacks professionalism and restraint and has never been able to keep his emotions in check. The Green Lantern Corps--a paramilitary police organization whose shield he operates under--was willing to look the other way, until he started hanging out with aliens who have and use colored rings from other spokes of what’s been called “The Emotional Spectrum”. Forming what's been called the Rainbow Squadron, this unofficial team of Jordan's is unacceptable to the Corps, so he must be, and he will be...arrested.
That’s the blurb I wished they’d use for this series. It would look good in a bold white font on an all black background, being read aloud by a Kevin Conroy-type. I didn’t really have to change any of the comic's actual text either, that’s all from the first few pages of this issue.
The rest of this issue's pages follow.
The rainbow squadron--or the Kaledeioscopic Klan O' Kosmic Kops, they don’t seem to have a real name--have just discovered a large black hardcover book, and this book contains the Guardian’s darkest secrets. (The Guardians are the small floating blue people who give out the Green Lantern rings.) This big black book is about the size of a mid-range automobile, and when Hal Jordan decides to close it, he uses his ring to create an old lady wearing the female version of the Col. Sanders tie to close it for him. There is a bit of a hubbub when it is revealed that Atrocitus (he’s the Red Lantern, they’re the ones who vomit blood) already knew the secret that the team came to find, which is about a rogue Guardian named Krona who is responsible for killing everyone in Atrocitus “sector”. (Sectors are like states, but intergalactic. I don’t believe it has ever been explained who came up the borders of the individual sectors, which sounds like an untapped well of historical map-constructing possibility if you ask me, which I am.) Responding to Atrocitus’ betrayal with some of the lack of restraint that’s got him in hot water, Hal Jordan lashes out and smashes our Red Lantern against a wall, which makes cracks in the wall and also squirts the Red Lantern signal out of Atrocitus’s back. Embarrassing? On purpose? It just reminds me of the old Spider-Man light signal that he’d spray out of his belt. I bet they don’t let him use that anymore now that he wears that white suit. It would just be a big flashlight! That’s what cops do, not Spider-Man.
Then, there’s a big surprise that interrupts the fight that was getting ready to go down between Hal (who is a regular human man) and Atrocitus (who is a big tough alien who vomits blood), which is disappointing. The book pops open, and Larfleeze (the Orange Lantern who represents people with large comic book collections) gets tricked into grabbing an actual orange lantern (which is attached to a easy-to-see chain). The chain sucks Larfleeze into the book like a flushed toilet, making way for the reveal of...Lyssa Drak, the Story Vampire! She’s the Keeper of the Book of the Black! See?
Oa is where the floating smurf people live. They are in their hovering room, talking about themselves and how disappointed they are in Hal Jordan, which I’m pretty sure is the only thing I’ve ever seen them do with their time, except for in Blackest Night, when a bunch of them got their hearts ripped out. They seem really put out that their lantern wielders always go bad, but not so much that they’re actually upset about it, because having emotional reactions would be unacceptable.
Although these sorts of comic book cutaways usually resolve itself by throwing out some kind of cliffhanger line before returning to the previous Hal Jordan-centric action, this one doesn’t. Instead, a big light show goes off, turning the hover dome--that's a dome for hovering--into a massive reverse planeterium, which makes yellow shit squirt out of the noses and ears of the Guardians.
PERSONAL ANECDOTAL ASIDE TANGENTIALLY RELATED TO GREEN LANTERN COMIC:
There’s this actor guy I know, who has a pretty good career now playing terrorists in Stephen Speiberg movies as well as scientists in Keanu Reeves movies, but when I knew him, all he wanted to do was a scene from Narc where he played the Jason Patric part and me and my old roommate played the Busta Rhymes and other rapper part. In the scene, Busta and the other guy are beat-to-shit and tied to chairs, which seemed pretty boring. To have a bit of fun with it, we both bought massive amounts of the really expensive fake blood, the kind that has a mint flavor and nutritional information, and then we just went to fucking town, making our own capsules and packs and pouring the shit in any manner of things. When we did the scene--which just consisted of us crying and screaming expletives while our very own Jason Patric forgot his lines and fake punched us--we had so much blood pouring out of our mouths and scalp that you could hear people retching while they watched. Later on, I found out the secret: people will tolerate hardcore violence, and they’ll tolerate fake blood coming out of just about anything, including your groin (that was all me son), but the sight of it coming out of the ear? It was made clear to me in no uncertain terms that the average audience member is always going to turn their nose--and quite possibly, their lunch--up when that starts to happen.
BACK TO THE COMIC
The lightshow and yellow bodily fluid are all attributable to the return of Krona, the Guardian that the Crayola Unit are looking for...on the other side of the galaxy! (Actually, the comic just says that Hal's Color Guard is in the Lost Sector, i’m just assuming that means other side of the galaxy because that would be dramatic.) Krona has brought the “entities” with him, they are gigantic alien dragon-looking characters chained to the inside of his ripped up black cape-y outfit, which makes him look like a cross between a Smurf AND Gargamel, with a touch of Doctor Octopus for good measure. The entites each represent one of the different colored rings, and are named as follows:
The Butcher: Entity of Rage Parallax: Entity of Fear Ophidian: Entity of Avarice Proselyte: Entity of Compassion Adara: Entity of Hope Ion: Entity of Will and last, but not least Predator: Entity of Love
Predator is the entity of love? Is that some kind of meta joke designed to make fun of people that hate relationships? Why can’t “Love” have an entity with a goofy, meaningless name like....well, like all of them, except for Rage, who gets a pass because Rage has “The” in its name, which is pretty awesome. When I get a bulldog--and trust me, I'm getting a bulldog someday--it will be named Dumptruck and The Dance Contest, because I really like the idea of having "and" and "The" in the names of animals.
Anyway, after this big reveal--it’s a two-page splash, this twenty-two page comic’s second--the story makes a quick return to Hal Jordan's Planeteers. Sinestro is yelling at the librarian vampire (they used to work together) but she is still mad at him for abandoning her to live inside a book. (Which is fair.) According to her, the book she was living in has more “tales of the unknown” than a different book has about the Green Lanterns. This seems like an obvious thing to say, but it's ultimately irrelevant, isn't it? Hal and Company pretty much came here for Krona and Krona related information; the book itself and the blue lady who live inside it aren't really important to the story in any concise way, she's just important to these particular pages and the particular beats this issue has to hit. Considering how obvious this is, it's curious why additional attention is being placed on it. Alternatively, maybe this is where they start setting up the next Green Lantern "Event" that will follow this one, as that seems to be the pattern of these Green Lantern comics--constantly postponing actual conclusions.
Anyway: in keeping with the necessities of the plot which dictate that Hal Jordan start hanging out with people again, the Sexy Bondage Librarian freezes some of our least favorite team members inside the giant book, and the comic returns to Oa.
Back on Oa, Krona is being a bad guy, meaning he is ripping off somebodies lower jaw, which is an old school technique from the Old Testament. It works like a charm, if your ultimate goal is to really hurt somebodies face, and that seems to be Krona's ultimate goal. Awaken the Giant Within and all that. After this one page break for jaw-ripping, we're back to the Lost Sector, where Hal, Sinestro and Hal’s ex-girlfriend are all struggling to escape the giant book, which is eating them. Hal's ex-girlfriend is wearing that kind of bathing suit that has to be glued or taped onto the female body, which is why you’ll only think they are sexy until the first time you see one of them get taken off, and then you'll be a bodysuit man for life. For some reason, these three are being quicksanded into the book instead of frozen like the Hope and Compassion people were , which would have been quicker and not allowed Hal and Sinestro the time to kiss their rings together, which is the Green Lantern version of “crossing the streams”, which is a reference to the movie Ghostbusters. Like in Ghostbusters, this instance of doing something you shouldn’t as a last resort--I'm assuming ring kissing is also totally dangerous--totally works, and Hal is set free, although all of his team disappears and their rings clatter to the floor. To show us how big of a deal this is, Doug Mahnke draws the panel of Hal Jordan reaching towards his team’s rings from a viewpoint INSIDE Sinestro’s ring, which, for a comic supposedly about emotionless justice drones, is pretty clearly geared towards making one feel some kind of emotion. And bang, right then, the other Green Lanterns--the ones from the first part of this comic, who were all worked up about Hal’s Team of Useless Multi-Colored Fucking Assholes--have arrived, and they're ready to do some arresting!
They arrive in a one-page splash, which is great for people who don’t have a lot of time, because it makes this comic take a lot less time to read. After we get this inspired use of the serialized comic book medium out of the way, one of the Green Lanterns who has arrived to arrest Hal Jordan does something totally dickish that endears him to me forever. Here, take a look:
That part where the long skinny one says “What book?” and then says “It doesn’t matter” before Hal can finish answering--that’s such a prick move. In your smug plastic asshole face, Hal Jordan. You just got fucking served, buddy. Oh sure, Hal argues a little bit more, but it’s obviously just time-killing bullshit, because the comic keeps jumping back to Oa and the Krona guy, who is putting the yellow entity of fear (Parallax) inside the gigantic green Coleman lantern all of the smurfs on Vowel Planet pray to. For some reason, this gives all of the non-Hal Jordan Green Lanterns yellow eyes, and then the long-skinny dick one wakes up, freaks out, and starts shooting his own alien version of the Swastika out of his ring. (I thought it might be a specific swastika, but I used google to find this picture of the world’s swastikas, and it seems to be one of his own long n’ skinny alien construction.) Back on Oa, Krona looks to have turned the Guardians into his own version of Hal’s rainbow squadron, which ha ha, I already saw how useless that kind of 90's Benetton ad works out when you plop them into a face off against a gigantic book of secret stories. Like any good hero at the start of a tale, Hal Jordan runs away, thus starting the War of the Green Lantern Corps off on the classic foot of "For a Guy With No Fear, You Sure Are A Big Fucking Coward".
I guess I'd rate this Eh or Okay? The part where the guy got his jaw ripped off was pretty surprising.
I'm just back from Dallas, and the 2011 ComicsPRO meeting. It was a very very very good meeting -- there is literally not a more productive weekend in comics on the calendar, though a lot of what happened and was discussed won't, necessarily, interest you the consumer. I will, I think, have a much fuller report in a few weeks in the next TILTING, but in the meantime I want to share one bit while its still fresh in my mind.
A lot of time was spent on discussing Digital, as you might expect, but early on on the first day, DC co-Publisher Jim Lee made a visual analogy that sort of guided my thinking for the rest of the weekend.
Jim held up two hands. In one hand he had a regular 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper, and in the other, he had a piece of dental floss. The former, he said, represented the revenues from print comics. The latter? Revenue from digital.
Now, clearly, digital will continue to grow -- heck, maybe with a lot of effort and brain cycles, it might even grow to be the size, say, of an index card, but the actual real on-the-ground reality of digital comics sales are that they are a virtually (heh) insignificant way of making money for the publishers.
This same idea was echoed again and again and again by each and every publisher at the meeting, and even the very providers of digital services: this is not a significant revenue generator as of yet, and certainly NOWHERE NEAR able to match, let alone surpass, the sales from physical print comics.
We're a niche market. A successful niche, to be sure, but a niche nonetheless, and not one that simply putting comics content in front of civilians will INHERENTLY and effortlessly drive sales of any huge value to the overwhelming majority of the market participants. As near as I can tell, most to the evidence says that digital is selling primarily to the lapsed or geographically-unable-to-participate markets (40%, I kept hearing over and over again, of sales are coming from Europe) (40% of a piece of dental floss, remember!)
If you're a rah-rah digital booster, that's perfectly fine. But I'd ask you not to make the same mistakes of the previous generations of fans-but-not-business-people who have said things like "If only we had comics related movies, that will fix all of our problems!" or "Manga sales are going to solve all of our problems!" or "If only we were in bookstores, we'd solve all our problems!" or any of that. All of these theories have turned out to.... well, not be reality-based is the kindest way to put it.
Digital isn't a magic bullet, and virtually every person with an actual business involvement in the production and sales of comics understands this. Digital is magic dental floss.
From the very first page, you can tell that someone new is handling SUPERMAN #707. After more than half a year of a passive, dickish Man of Steel walking across America and coming across either standoffish and dick-like or curiously naive, the first page of the issue has Superman doing three "super" things - Stopping a bank robbery (with bullets bouncing off his chest!), saving a girl's life (by stopping a train! With his bare hands!) and grabbing a falling helicopter. It's as if new writer Chris Roberson thought, "People might need a reminder why Superman is awesome." The true fun starts on the next page, though; the inescapable point of Roberson's first issue as "scripter" - Although Straczynski's hand is evident in the "We're real people in the middle of America and life is hard for us real people" interlude in the center of the issue, there's enough in this issue that feels at odds with the rest of "Grounded" to feel as if Roberson is rethinking the story as a whole, instead of just writing dialogue for someone else's plot - is that something is wrong with Superman. He says it himself, without realizing it, multiple times ("What good is the truth, Miss Lane, if it just causes suffering?" being the most telling, even moreso than "Everything used to be so clear. Truth. Justice. The American way. But now? Now, I'm not sure about anything" at the end of the issue), and it's pointed out to him a couple of times, as well. We get a potential explanation as to why - mind control of some sort, courtesy the woman who's been following him across the country - and a hint at a possible solution, courtesy of the guest stars on the final page (One of whom seems to be Super Obama, which makes me wonder if guest artist Allan Goldman misinterpreted some direction to draw the presidential Superman from Final Crisis #7), but that almost doesn't matter: By saying "This is Superman when he's broken," Roberson immediately makes "Grounded" into a story that has much more potential than the one JMS seemed to be writing (If nothing else, it begs the questions, "How does he get 'better'?" and "What does it mean for Superman to be 'fixed'?", both of which are more interesting than "Can Superman walk across the country?").
It's not enough that Roberson pulls the story - and the character, and the series - out of a nosedive in surprisingly short time, though; he also demonstrates though a couple of different techniques that he gets what's been missing from the character in recent months, and it's not just Superman saving the day - there's a welcome... I don't want to say "retro," but a welcome use of thought balloons and shout-outs to some of Superman's more obscure powers that suggests that Roberson is ready to bring some of the imagination back to the character, some level of the fantastic and, well, less grounded elements that make the character so worthwhile. There's something genuinely endearing about reading Lois point out that Superman doesn't actually need a cellphone without it coming across as too snarky.
The issue isn't perfect - Roberson leans a little too heavily on the "something is wrong with Superman" thing with three fairly blatant teases in one issue for my taste, and Goldman's art throughout is fairly lacklustre, like a blander Fernando Pasarin but without the acting chops - but it is solidly Good, and compared with what Superman has been suffering through for the last four installments of this story, feels like the franchise is finally back on the right track again. Now, let Superman get back to being Superman, bring on Chris Samnee as artist and you'll have something ideal.
Apropos of nothing, I re-read James Robinson's run to date on JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA over the weekend - in part because I hadn't read the latest issue by that point, and wanted to remind myself of what was happening before I did - and, as I did so, I realized two things. Firstly, it's actually a book that I've come to really love, despite itself. And secondly, I can completely understand why that "despite itself" might be such a problem for everyone else. Let's get this out of the way first of all: Robinson's JLA is very, very different from his Justice League: Cry For Justice. It's not as overwrought or, thankfully, as overwritten, and tonally it's much lighter and more constructive than the mini that preceded it. In fact, one of the things that I like about it is how much it's contributed to the DCU, whether it's a new German superteam (The Elite Guard, who are apparently using repurposed Rocket Red technology) or a new magical society on the dark side of the moon, ruled by the golden age Green Lantern. He's also brought in STAR Labs for the first time in a long time, it seems like, and uses forgotten or underused characters like Naiad, Josiah Power or Sebastian Faust in a way that feels less like Easter Egg cameos but something more organic, and I really enjoy that - That he makes JLA into a book that's somehow bigger than the team itself, and more of a book about the DC Universe.
It's something that spills into the story arcs, which skew towards the epic wherever possible: Something is destroying the multiverse! Something is causing all the people with environmental superpowers to go insane! There's an ambition to what Robinson's trying to do, and it really appeals to me. So much so, in fact, that it allows me to overlook the (admittedly, fairly obvious) problems with the book. For one thing, there's the scattered nature of the plotting - Less so now, thankfully, but the first six issues of Robinson's run was marked by some amazingly disjointed plots and two complete overhauls to the team's line-up, one happening midway through the third issue of the new line-up and essentially happening off-panel with little explanation. Presumably, a lot of that was editorially mandated (Even if some of it makes little sense: Cyborg was seemingly written out to go... nowhere?), and a plot that started his run took two issues off before continuing for three issues before disappearing for another six issues.
There's also the issue of the art. JLA has been a book that's historically never really worked artistically for me since maybe Adam Hughes' JLI run way back when (with the exception of Doug Mahnke's art in the last run), and viewed in that continuum, Mark Bagley's art is definitely better than Ed Benes' or Howard Porter: Characters are in proper human proportion, and page layouts are clear and understandable. But - and this may be inking, in part - there's a generic quality to the faces, and everyone looks about seventeen years old. Which, you know, works great on Ultimate Spider-Man, but not so much here. Things aren't likely to get better with Bagley's departure, as Brett Booth - one of the few comic artists whose work I'd honestly classify as ugly - is set to take over as regular penciller. I hope it'll surprise me, but I'm not holding my breath.
I know that I should classify JLA as a guilty pleasure: I'm well aware that it has large flaws, but there's something about its spirit and ambition, about its sense of fun, that makes me love it nonetheless. Much like the equally-flawed-yet-addictive X-Men Forever, it's something that I find myself looking forward to, and wanting more of as soon as I'm finished with each issue. Objectively, I know that it's probably only Okay, but for whatever reason, I wouldn't feel right calling it any less than Good.
Coming up next: My 2010 Guilty Non-Pleasure.
I'll say this for Paul Levitz: He's got an amazing fast learning curve for making comics work. Or, at least, half of one. When LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #1 debuted six months ago, I admit to being disappointed by a script that seemed more expositional than enjoyable, and more predictable and awkwardly-paced than my (admittedly rose-tinted) memories of his 1980s run on the title would've led me to believe. But now that #6 is out, it feels as if the old magic is back. Oh, there've been some teething troubles, and a lot of the first six issues feel like the work of someone stretching muscles for the first time in awhile, and seeing how old clothes fit, to mix metaphors - There are plots that seem to flip between issues (That Earth Man as Green Lantern thing didn't really seem to go anywhere, and Saturn Girl stealing a Time Bubble to... not travel through time with... was also an odd moment - Not to mention the fact that Titan's destruction in the first issue seems to still feel like a dangling plot at best, or gratuitous at worst), and familiar threats that were introduced and dispatched so quickly as to feel weightless retreads (Darkseid's followers were surprisingly weak, and presumably laying groundwork for something down the road), but each issue has been a significant improvement on the one before. #6 in particular - A split issue, with two main stories and a one-page introduction to the Legion Leadership Election that reminded me more than anything of Mark Waid's letters page from his last relaunch of the book - offered up the best balance yet of characterization, plot and just plain cohesion that the series has seen yet, and something on par with Levitz' last run on the book.
(It helps that this issue is illustrated by guest artists Francis Portela and Phil Jiminez; for some reason, Yildiray Cinar's work is much more hit-and-miss on the series than I'd expected, based on other work I've seen of his. Perhaps it's the inking? But Portela and Jiminez both offer up solid work with personality in #6, and it really helps the story, I think.)
Weirdly, though, while Legion has been improving each issue, the same sadly can't be said for the companion run in ADVENTURE COMICS. It's not that the Superboy and The Legion: The Early Years sequence Levitz and various artists are offering up are bad, per se, more that they seem scattered and not necessarily fulfilling either their potential or purpose. Levitz has talked in interviews about these initial issues of Adventure as being created in response to a conversation with Geoff Johns about the lack of an entry-level book for the Legion, and in one sense, it works on that level - You get to see Superboy in the 30th Century for the first time, you get to see the origin of the Legion - but on another, it really doesn't. For one thing, the stories happen out of order: You get the early Legion in the first issue, then the current Legion remembering the origin of the Legion in the second, then the third issue presents an even earlier Legion than the first, before things settle into some kind of order for the next three. The worst part is, each of these time jumps happens without any kind of signifier for anyone who doesn't already know their Legion, just as stories that are shout-outs to existing Legion continuity happen without full context, so that they only really make sense to existing fans (Like this week's #520, which is about the "death" of Lightning Lad, and ends with him still in stasis, without any explanation about how he got out - Something that won't be followed up on anytime soon, considering the book jumps to "contemporary" Legion continuity with #521); some issues read as if they should be accompanied by a reprint to help you understand what's going on in the larger scheme of things. Even if each issue had a satisfying story in-and-of itself, it'd still fail as an introduction for newcomers, and will undoubtedly make for a very disjointed, disorientating read in collected format.
Again, it's something that seems to be addressed; starting with the next issue, the series is dropping the flashback format and starting to act as companion to the regular Legion book, with the Green Lantern subplot taking over for a couple of issues before Phil Jiminez jumps on and the series becomes, essentially, Legion Academy: The Series. There's something unusual about seeing problems in both books being dealt with so quickly, I have to admit, and something weirdly old-fashioned about the notion. Have I just gotten used to creators sticking to their guns even as readers jump off books in droves? Possibly, and that's both a depressing and telling thought. But, for now, consider the first six months of Levitz' third reign over the Legion to be a slow ramp from Okay to Very Good on Legion of Super-Heroes, and a slightly-less impressive uneven swing between Eh to Okay on Adventure. But what, as the man says, do you think?
Mommy got me an exclusive.
This is Deathlok, part of a squadron. Along with some Deathlok pals, he/it has come back in time to kill various superpowered types before they can grow up and do all those various things that Deathloks don’t like. They don’t like babies, cops, wanna-be super-heroes, people on first dates, and, according to the end of the comic, they don’t like Steve Rogers either.
This is the Red Skull, chucking a baby boy out of a window. He’d given the kids mother a choice: she kills her husband “with a pair of old scissors”, or Skull kills the baby. The line, “the Skull is hardly a man of his word”, refers to the fact that the lady went ahead and killed her husband, but the kid still went out the window.
Although it has nothing to do with Brian Azzarello, these story points are part of Marvel’s secret “First Wave” initiative, which was accidently announced at one of Gareb Shamus’ Wizard conventions, either the Topeka one or Chesapeake Mountain. As Ed Brubaker described “First Wave” at that convention, during a video interview with the lovely ladies of the Samoan Pop Culture Explosion, “Let’s be honest, all of us at Marvel were caught a bit flat footed when DC revealed that they were going to follow up slaughtering homosexual characters in Cry For Justice with the death of an eight-year-old girl, also in Cry For Justice”, he said. “So we scrambled a team, and we gave them an assignment,” he added. Mopping his brow, he continued, “And that assignment was to kill some fucking babies.” Rubbing his lips with a copy of Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life, he then screamed, “We’ve assembled a fantastic teeeeeeeeem!”
As of this writing, it’s still unclear how soon DC got wind of their competitor’s plans–Brubaker’s interview disappeared within a scant few hours–but DC found out somehow, which is what pushed them to demand J.T. Krul insert a malicious baby slaughter into his script for the Blackest Night Titans miniseries. (Krul’s embarrassment over having to include a scene where Donna Troy pops her zombie son’s skull with her palms is well known across the industry, he’s turned it into a veritable barroom drama. As Heidi Macdonald so aptly described it to Dirk Deppey in last month’s three hour “Blogging: You’ll Need A Computer?” livechat, “No convention is complete until you’ve seen J.T. act out his Moment of Shame at the after-party. He has a whole box of props, you might even call it his second career.”)
It’s not difficult to understand why this explosive information hasn’t circulated before–both Marvel and DC have long embraced the strategy of burying their most controversial decisions in a sea of superfluous information, relying on their audiences natural tendency toward human exhaustion to hide the dirty laundry. (The Brubaker quotes came from Matt Fraction’s audio interview with the Comics Buyer’s Guide, but only after Fraction had spent four hours describing his preferred strategies for beating Desktop Tower Defense, and Macdonald’s remarks don’t appear until Deppey’s finished reading the names of every single professional wrestler he believes is a closeted homosexual, which, because it’s Deppey, is all of them.)
Of course, following yesterday’s release of the three comics, New York’s corporate comics scene exploded into a sea of tautly wrought terrorscapes. It’s a well-known fact that Dan Didio took a morning gig working the bagel cart outside of Joe Quesada’s apartment building sometime in 2008, after it was revealed that Quesada is incapable of walking by a bagel cart without stopping to purchase a Mountain Dew and six packs of sugar. "Pappy calls this my medicine!" This morning’s Marvel Vs. DCmeet-up was expected to be more of the same, plucky disagreements over how many people really care about Arsenal, but things have taking a horrible turn for the baroque. When Joe decided to show up for his morning fix carrying a plastic doll made up to appear like the dead body of Liam, the eight year old girl who died in yesterday’s Cry For Justice, he undoubtedly expected Didio to take it in good fun–after all, Blackest Night is still outselling Siege, and if the internet’s reaction was any indication, Marvel’s attempt to steal the spotlight from Cry For Justice by painting cartoon x's over the eyes of nature's greatest miracles haven’t worked.
Initial police reports, leaked to CNN by a policeman who kept calling CNN on his first generation iPhone while videotaping the crime with his second generation iPhone, which are both totally unlocked because only lame-o’s that don’t matter still use locked iPhones, describe a tableau of grindhouse carnage. Didio was enraged, failing to realize that Quesada was carrying a plastic doll. Grabbing a sixty cup coffee urn, he ran out into the early morning New York traffic and grabbed the first pansexual Canadian infant he could find, screaming “I’ll fucking show you decadence, you goddamned immigrant.” Apparently perplexed as to how to remove the top of the coffee urn–”You have to unscrew the top part, and that thing can get pretty hot”, Geoff Johns goofily explained–Didio began trying to situate the child underneath the urn’s spigot, planning to show up Quesada’s jibe by scalding a baby with hot coffee. Luckily, Dwayne McDuffie was there, and utilizing his well known forearm strength, beat Didio into the pavement with that stack of unpublished Justice League scripts he’s always carrying around with him. At the time of this publication, Didio’s bail hearing has reached its sixth ridiculous hour, following the man’s bizarrely inappropriate decision to hire Grant Morrison to represent him. (While not a trained lawyer, Morrison’s claims towards having a “spectral understanding of the law” whenever he overdoses on muscle relaxants have always impressed Dan.)
While Quesada has refused all direct questions regarding the incident, he did release the following statement, represented in full:
“We at Marvel have always worked to support the trend towards ultraviolence–our readers like it, we like it, and you’d have to be fucking terrified of money to put a leash on Mark Millar. But we’ve always tried to remember that, at the end of the day, we’re making a product, a bit of fun, and that if we take it too seriously, if we try to make some kind of philosophical statement about justice or heroism, we’re going to end up with a dour, boring slice of poorly written shit. You’re going to see plenty more children die in Marvel comics over the next few years, right up until it stops being a financially successful thing to do, but I can promise you this: unlike James Robinson, we’re never going to do it so we can teach you a moral lesson. We’ll leave that shit to the Huffington Post.”
My very very first thought was "Well, wait, where does that leave Karen and Vertigo?"
My second thought was "Just knowing the little I know about Life and Power, a five-headed power-sharing structure doesn't seem like it has much practical chance to work."
My third thought was "Well, good for Jim and Geoff" as this expands on what they were pretty much already doing, and gives them some Portfolio, and, we would hope, a pay raise to keep doing it.
My fourth thought was, and this was my uncharitable one, "Uh... Dan? Really?"
I haven't made any particular secret that I don't like many of Dan's editorial policies and instincts, but that's all Armchair Quarterbacking on my part. *I* don't have to like them, as long as enough of my customers do. But that's just difference of opinion and if Warners like his sales figures, then who am I to say otherwise?
But I have major concerns about Didio in terms of his willingness to engage with the Direct Market retailer; which, given the rhetoric on display about the importance of our segment of the market and the dominance of intent on comics and print makes it kind of all the more nerve-wracking.
(Not that I am not pleased that they crafted that rhetoric in the first place -- because that puts them at least a step above Marvel's historical public statements -- but things change when the rubber meets the road, and "say" and "do" are very different things)
From a business-to-business POV, rather than the do-I-like-his-output POV, I've found Dan to largely be dismissive of any idea that doesn't fit his notions, and defensive about the ones he has. That's not necessarily a bad thing for an editorial position, but I deeply fear the potential problems as the publisher.
I remember Dan angrily yelling at me (I nearly typed "screaming", but that's maybe a touch too strong) on the floor at WonderCon... '07 was it? when I questioned how they handled the solicitation process for COUNTDOWN. I mean on the floor of the con, seriously.
Here's the thing when dealing with retailers: when it comes to something within their own four walls, they're almost always correct. When I come to you with, "this is what my preorders have been on project x, y, and z; but project Q had this minuscule fraction of that number because of how you chose to release information in the name of 'secrecy'" then you have to give that weight, you have to take it seriously, even if it goes against how you'd like to run things.
I want to underline that I'm talking about business-related things, not opinions like "I don't like title Q".
I also remember the ComicsPRO meeting where a bunch of concerned retailers from, let's call them Red States, were really upset about the content that was going into ostensibly "code approved" DCU titles -- the drug use in that issue of FLASH, the "God damn"S and so on, and, again, Dan get utterly dismissed these concerns as having any validity whatsoever. I mean, at all -- "it's nothing worse than prime time TV", I think was the phrasing? Angry raised voices again.
Look, I'm in the Bluest neighborhood in the Bluest City in the Bluest state in the country, and when I hear these retailers say, "We're really concerned because these things hold a lot of potential problems from angry parents, and we're afraid it is possible some of us might even get arrested", and I instantly agreed -- because that is the truth within their four walls. I don't have a horse in that race, but I sure understand that THEY do.
I've seen Dan be utterly dismissive of retailer concerns on things like not having the named protagonists even appear in their own books for extended periods of time, and so on and so forth.
I do think that the job of EIC of a super-hero universe might mean always thinking you're right, once you've made a decision, is the only way it can work. But I think that the job of Publisher needs someone who knows that they're probably wrong a lot, and hopefully you become a little less wrong the next time.
It has been at least a year since I've had any interaction with Dan, so this isn't any recent activity, to be sure; and I'm sure at least one person reading this is slavering to respond with "further proof you hate the guy", but I don't. I completely admire his energy and above all else his passion for what he does -- I like people who BURN. That's what moves the world.
But what I want, and what I think the Direct Market needs, is a publisher at DC who is extremely willing to change their mind on business matters when presented with appropriate evidence, and none of my business interactions with Dan have given me confidence he would do so.
My fifth thought was "Well, let's see how it works"
My sixth thought, and one I had seconds after hitting "post", so this is an edit about 90 seconds later, is "don't be a douche, Bri, congratulate him" which is absolutely correct, I'm a douche: Congratulations, Dan.
And, of course, the seventh thought was "Man, it must suck to be the '...and the rest' part from the Gilligan's Island Theme Song", so congrats to Caldon and Rood as well. I'm sure they'll learn to hate me soon enough! (Starting....now!)