Well, I’m as surprised as anyone that we’re back for round two, but here we are, immersed in a 6000 page catalog yet again! Let’s dig in!
Arsenic Lullaby Publishing
- Arsenic Lullaby Pulp Edition - AL comes out so infrequently I haven’t had the chance to read it in YEARS, but I’m glad to see it’s still around and will definitely be picking this up. If it were any less funny it would be the most offensive comic ever produced, but it’s NOT less funny and it’s the best for messed up humor.
- Imagination Illustrated: The Jim Henson Journal - If you, perhaps, are a fan of the late muppet master, this adaptation of his diary sounds pretty cool (although I admit to having zero clue what they mean by adaptation). It certainly has the potential to be extremely cool, though.
- Superbia (Ongoing) #1 - I haven’t checked out Grace Randolph’s Superbia mini, but I probably should have. We’re both huge fans of Randolph’s based on her Muppet-related work from Boom.
- Lady Death #23 - Wait, WHAT year is this?!?!? I’m all for irony, but this is ridiculous.
- Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities and The Orm of Loch Ness - More crazy madness in the Mighty Powell Manner!
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow — Wonderland - I’m not a Buffy follower, but it IS written by Jeff Parker, so it may be worth checking out on the strength of that alone.
- Goon #44 - Giant monsters, cockfighting, and sexy ladies: I hope you CAN judge a book by its cover!
- Before Watchmen - I’m glad to see that the fourth (and final) issues of these abominations in the eyes of the Moore means we can put them safely behind us and forget they ever happened.
- Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus Vol 4 TP - The final volume of DC’s top-notch chronological reprints of the Fourth World. This is comics at it’s best, and Jack Kirby’s most focused and personal work.
- Joe Kubert Presents #2 - It’s sad, but Joe Kubert’s participation in the Before Watchmen travesty pretty much guaranteed I wouldn’t support his future work. Still, kudos to DC for releasing an anthology starring this comic book legend. I hope they do this with other creators in the future.
- Legends of the Dark Knight #2 - Ben Templesmith doesn’t tend to do superhero work, so if you’re still reading DC’s output, this is probably going to be beautiful and spooky, if nothing else.
- Showcase Presents: Weird War Tales Vol 1 TP - I’ve never been much of a war OR a horror comic fan, but just looking at the list of creators involved here, it’s a pretty tempting bargain.
- Evil Ernie #2 - As confused as I am that there would be a Lady Death comic in 2012, multiply that by a hundred for Evil Ernie. Did anybody really miss that cackling ghoul? REALLY?
- Masks #1 - Chris Roberson writes and Alex Ross paints the team-up book featuring all of the pulp characters Dynamite has been relaunching. I just can’t believe I have to wait so long to get it in my hands. My only question is why the hell they’d cover up Zorro’s face with the logo like that?
If you’re so inclined, there’s another $300 of Golden Age crime and horror reprints to be had here.
- Eerie Archives Volume 12 HC - If you recall, the last time I ran this feature I was pleased by the numerous options for snagging old-school horror reprints. I’m afraid this is a rabbit-hole I can’t bring myself to go down, but it’s fascinating and welcome.
- Alex Toth’s Zorro: The Complete Dell Comics Adventures HC - $50 for 240 pages is REALLY spendy, but if you love Toth (and you really should) it promises to be a lovely collection.
- Berkeley Breathed’s Opus and Outland - IDW’s archival reprints have been rivaling the qwuality of Fantagraphics’. Here they wrap up their work on Breathed’s Bloom County by publishing his two follow-up strips.
- Judge Dredd #1 - I haven’t had the opportunity to read much Dredd before, but IDW’s new series is probably a decent starting point, at least if they ensure their stories actually GO somewhere.
- Judge Dredd: The Complete Brian Bolland - $50 is pretty steep for 248 pages, but it’s at least guaranteed to be gorgeous and a decent primer on the character. I’m thinking about snagging it.
- Mad: Artist’s Edition - IDW’s Artist’s Editions are shot from the original art and printed at the original size, with all the corrections, blue lines, etc left in place so the reader can get the best possible impression of the artwork. This one will include SOME story from every issue between #1-18 — including Bat Boy and Rubin — and promises to be the best possible glimpse you can get of real comics history.
- Bloodstrike #34 - Rob Liefeld takes the reigns for the first time in the Extreme relaunch, and we’re going to see the most Liefeldy characters of the bunch in this one, including the original Shaft (displaced from Youngblood) and blatant Lobo ripoff Bloodwulf. So yeah, I’m pretty psyched.
- Cyber Force #2 - Coming off a successful Kickstarter campaign (which I admit I contributed to), this is going to be FREE if you visit a participating retailer. So do that.
- Thought Bubble Anthology 2012 - New work by Warren Ellis and Tony Harris alone would probably make me pick up this book, but there are some other top-name creators involved here. I would HAPPILY support a full TPB with this caliber of creators attached, but this one is only 32 pages.
The Marvel NOW! soft relaunch (and where have we heard THAT little chestnut before?) is upon us, and now it’s time to ask myself if I want to continue aiding and abetting Marvel and DC’s game of soulless one-upsmanship or if I just want to check out now, like I did with the New 52. Truth be told, there’s very little here that I find exciting, more just strategic. Still, since I haven’t made that decision yet I’ll still keep an eye on them here.
- All-New X-Men #1 - As long as the original 60′s stories still “happened,” I’m VERY nervous about this book. Despite their mission the original mutant teens were still pretty happy-go-lucky, and I’d hate to see that ret-conned into no longer being true or having that explicitly destroyed.
- Captain America #1 – In which Cap becomes John Carter, Warlord of Mars. Who says the Silver Age is dead? All you have to add is Cap-Mite and you’ve got 50′s Batman.
- Indestructible Hulk #1 - MArk Waid is on fire lately, but Hulk: Agent of SHIELD? Um…Not setting ME on fire.
- Thor: God of Thunder #1 - Thor isn’t really one of the titles I pick up, but it IS Jason Aaron and that counts for a lot.
- Uncanny Avengers #2 - The X-Avengers seems like a cynical ploy to me, like marrying the children of different royal families to build a stronger empire. And yet Rick Remender, John Cassaday, and the Red Skull are a VERY tempting combination. The Scott Summers lobotomy, though? Eww.
- DX Soul of Chogokin: Mazinger Z Action Figure - Should you have $440 of disposable income or, like Friend of the Blog Ben who had the FIRST Mazinger Z web page on the Internet (it was a LOOOOONG time ago!), this looks pretty damn sharp. And if in the future they should happen to make one featuring Optimus Prime or Voltron, well…I can;t say I wouldn’t snap it up myself.
- Shadowman #1 - Valiant’s relaunch has been the highest-quality line-wide relaunch since…Well, since The Rob kicked Extreme off again. Every single title I’ve read has been top-notch, even the ones I never really cared for originally. With Shadowman they’re bringing back someone I really did like back in the day, so I’m happy to see Jack Boniface get the return he deserves.
Orders must be in to your LCS by September 18, 2012 (OOPS, sorry friends!) and are scheduled to arrive in November.
It’s rare that we get surprised anymore. Usually books are previewed and spoilered all over the Internet (and make no mistake there will be SPOILERS here, too) so that by the time you get it home and in front of you, you usually know exactly what you’re going to get when you crack open the cover. Past that, once a few issues have been released you get to know the tone and approach of the book, so even with a great title the latest issue tends to feel like just the most recent installment of an excellent run (see also Jeff Parker’s books, or Jason Aaron’s, or Jonathan Hickman’s).
And so it’s been with Adventure Time, the comic anthology of Cartoon Network’s hit (I have to assume) show. Written by Ryan North (of Dinosaur Comics) with art by Mike Holmes, it’s been a pretty consistent book. Fun, zany mayhem with the characters you love, chock full of anthropomorphic candy and fist bumps, it’s a breezy read that somewhat betrays exactly how funny it is. I mean, there’s a joke in almost literally every single panel. Plus hidden messages!
When I brought home issue 5 I figured I knew exactly what I was into. In this issue Jake the dog and Finn the human visit their pal BMO, who offers them a cupcake, but since they can’t decide how to share it a contest is devised: whoever can walk in a straight line the longest wins. It doesn’t take long for their friendship (and most likely, laziness) to override their competitiveness so they can work together. Then they stumble across Adventure Tim –a Finn/Jake composite — and his friend ALN. They discover that their friends and adventures are almost exactly the same, but just a tad askew. The Mice King attacks, they team up, and Finn and Jake return home having learned how to share.
Which is amazing. I mean, it just works on all levels. A kid could pick this up and get a funny, self-contained story (it’s a standalone issue) with a nice moral about teamwork and sharing that doesn’t feel overworked or preachy. An adult can read it and stay happily delighted by the gags.
But then — and I apologize if every other reader got this immediately and I’m just slow to arrive — North surprised me. The entire issue was a love letter to fandom.
Finn and Jake’s race in a straight line? That’s a pretty straight homage to the first Superman/Flash race from Superman #199. Adventure Tim is an admitted mashup of Finn and Jake, but it’s also a nice reference to the Composite Superman/Batman. And Tim’s friend? There’s been a long-time theory that when Arthur C. Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey, the insane computer HAL 9000 was a reference to IBM because those are the letters you get when you subtract one from each letter of IBM. And when you subtract one letter from BMO it equals ALN.
None of this is done with an overt nod and a wink, but it’s there if you choose to see it and otherwise completely transparent, as it should be. This is an exceptional and amazingly-crafted book, and that’s just the main feature. The second backup is by indie legend Paul Pope, who manages to tell a short four-page story that’s true to both the characters and his own sensibilities. Finally, the last story is a one-pager by Superman savior and Monkeybrain founder Chris Roberson and his 8 year-old daughter Georgia, with art by Lucy Knisley. It’s a nicely-told story, but the involvement of actual children along with their professional parents is such a charming touch I hope kaboom! continues to utilize it.
These days there are so many comics out there that just don’t know how to package and deliver entertainment. All too often a story gets split into 6 issues and winds up stretched so thin that each part feels like the middle, or is bogged down in needless continuity, or frustratingly ignores any continuity whatsoever. It’s so REFRESHING to pick up a comic where every single one of the 22 pages is packed with content, where there are no extraneous panels and every one is a delight. Seriously friends, this is a perfect comic book.
Free Comic Book Day 2012 has come and gone, and judging by the crowds of excited people I saw at every store I went to (5 over about 4 hours that morning) it was a pretty big success. But how were the comics that were given away? Well, I managed to come home with a pretty big stack of them, so let’s take a closer look.
- Adventure Time/Peanuts - The classic Peanuts stories are great, the new stuff leaves me cold. Okay, that half of the flipbook out of the way, let’s talk Adventure Time. This is a great example of what Kaboom is doing with their AT series. The main story follows all the style guides (and fits within the gutters of issue one), but there are also a couple short stories by indie creators where they can go off and tell whatever stories they like. It’s a good, fun mix of a good, fun series, and an excellent representation of what you’d get in an issue of Adventure Time.
- Archaia Presents Mouse Guard and Other Stories - Man, did Archaia raise the bar with their FCBD issue, giving out a 41-page (unless I miscounted) HARDCOVER sampler. I can’t say every sample was good — Cursed Pirate Girl was somewhat illegible and I had to skip past it — but the Mouse Guard synopsis story (I really need to be reading that!) and Cow Boy by Nate Cosby and Chris Eliopoulos were excellent. Cow Boy is definitely going on my next order. Another fun surprise: a Labyrinth story! There’s no branding on the story itself but once I recognized Hoggle (okay, it’s not that hard), the other characters came flooding back to me. THIS is what FCBD should be about!
- Atomic Robo/Neozoic/Bonnie Lass - Even though Archaia put out this Free Comic Book Day’s strongest issue, the Atomic Robo team of Brian Clevenger and Scott Wegener yet again put out an amazing offering this year. Usually reserving FCBD for a Robo/Dr. Dinosaur fight, this year they teamed up! Well, in a way. As always it was hilarious, and as always you should be reading it year-round. The other samples in here didn’t offer content nearly as strong. Neozoic hopped from scene to scene (and even from person to person in the same conversation) so much it felt like panels were missing. Transitions definitely were. Bonnie Lass was fine, but nothing remarkable.
- Avengers: Age of Ultron #0.1 - This is a good FCBD choice from Marvel. High-profile (or rather more importantly, highly talented) creators, recognizable characters appearing in a movie opening the same weekend, and the first part of what will obviously be a huge storyline. It’s well-written and well-drawn, but after going through it 3 times, I just can’t decide on it. Is it for the new reader or us established folks? It definitely feels like part 1 of 13. The return of Ultron is great, but it feels unusually built up. I just have no idea about this one. Strategically it’s a good call, but it mostly left me cold. Maybe that’s just a reflection on my relationship with mainstream superhero comics than anything else.
- The Censored Howard Cruise - Outside of the obvious creators Crumb, Pekar, and Sheldon I’m not terribly knowledgeable about the original Underground Comix creators, so this joint effort by Boom! (really!) and the CBLDF was a nice addition to the day. And it really is censored for the FCBD edition, though the upcoming releases will not be. I was trying to come up with a good way to describe Cruise’s work until Charles Brownstein put it much better than I could have in the backmatter: “Cruse’s technically accomplished line style has a wholesome quality that provides a stark contrast to his candid discussions of sexuality, drug use, and censorship.” A great offering for the student of both comics and comix. It’s also worth noting that Boom! has a new Roger Langridge collection coming out called “The Show Must Go On” that we’ll both need to keep our eyes peeled for.
- Dinosaurs vs Aliens - Since we’re discussing how comics work, DvA fails completely, offering only 8 pages of actual comic book and filling up the rest with sketches, concept art, and text pieces. It’s an interesting book, but not really enough sequential art to qualify as a comic. Skepticism ruins the rest of the goodwill I have for this title. Movie director comes up with painfully obvious mash-up (since those are all the rage), hires the best comic writer in the business to write a screenplay, then does a comic to provide street cred (see also: Cowboys vs Aliens). Oh well, at least the art will be beautiful.
- Image 20 - Image takes their shot this year with a sampler of their upcoming titles. Going with a book full of teasers is probably a good call (although I’m obviously biased towards a full comic) but nothing I read inspired me to pick any of them up.
- The New 52 - Despite my DC boycott I still picked this up, figuring it at least wasn’t putting any money in the Time-Warner coffers. Another teaser book, this kicks off the backstory behind Pandora, the mystery woman who appeared in each of DC’s 52 #1 issues. No disrespect intended to the creators involved, but a passing familiarity with Greek mythology and a play-through of God of War is probably all the Pandora stories we need.
- Spider-Man: Season One - This whole “accessible universe” thing is getting out of hand. A decade ago Marvel kicked off the Ultimate line with the intent of luring in new readers. Then DC launched their Earth One line of OGN’s for bookstores and rebooted their whole damn universe. Unwilling to be beaten at their own game, Marvel then launches THEIR line of bookstore OGN’s, doing the exact same thing every other relaunch has done since John Byrne did Spider-Man: Chapter One. If you love modernized Spider-Man reboots this will be right up your alley, but otherwise this is pretty inessential.
- Stuff of Legend/Finding Gossamyr - I’m always charmed by the soul and charming artwork of the Stuff of Legend books, though I don’t see it on the stands often enough to keep up with it. (Fortunately, there’s an ad in the back for a collection of the first two volumes, which I will definitely pick up). Finding Gossamyr was a little confusing…It looks like a young boy solves a math problem that leads to a portal to another dimension, but tI had a little trouble reading the transition between the two worlds. The artwork was a nice cartoony style, and the story was intriguing more than mysterious for it’s own sake. If you enjoy Narnia-type alternate world stories, this is a title to keep an eye out for.
- Transformers: Regeneration One #80.5 - My love of comics started with the original Marvel Transformers series. I was given a three-pack innocently enough, but suddenly it’s 30 years and thousands of issues later. There will always be a soft, biased spot in my heart for those Robots in Disguise. Sure, their adventures were mainly used to reinforce toy lines, but by the end of the original 80-issue run we got to some truly original stories as we reached the final battle with Unicron written by Simon Furman and (mostly) drawn by Andrew Wildman.
Yes the Cybertronians were victorious, but in the aftermath were some of the grayest, bleakest stories I had ever read as the Transformers struggled to find purpose again. Furman got to tell stories that didn’t require introducing new toys and could focus on the characters. Wildman, who if I recall was a pretty divisive art choice at the time, was my favorite TF artist ever, able to draw alt modes and robot forms equally well and distinctly. What really set him apart were the distinctive (and dare I say, human) faces with spittle frequently flying and battle damage showing they may be robots, but they’ve clearly been to Hell.
Together they got away with telling some truly weird stories. Galvatron travels to kill his past-self before realizing he would cease to exist. Megatron and Ratchet fuse into a Two-Face robot. And then five issues after defeating the ultimate evil they were gone.
Their run based my entire opinion of what Transformers COULD be. Even though it’s been a while since I’ve gone back to see how they hold up, make no mistake: I know full well that most of the comic series was pretty bad, not to mention some truly awful cartoon episodes. But those issues…well they showed a lot of growth and potential for more.
Wildman and Furman have teamed up many times since that series end, even on Transformers, with Armada. Those darker issues seem to have inspired other approaches to the characters as well, but none of them have worked for me. The names and characterization are roughly the same, but the Armada or Energon Optimus Primes just aren’t the
same to me like the G1 Prime is, just like Alan Scott is not Hal Jordan is not Kyle Rayner.
Now here we are, 21 years after that series ended, and Furman and Wildman are back, picking up where they left off. Or rather, 21 years after they left off. They do so fairly seamlessly. Furman’s story could have been more linear rather than bouncing around, but we’re definitely going to get back to the original (and if I may be so bold, my) characters. And Wildman’s art returned to exactly where I remember, without all the overly-angular jagged faces obviously inspired by the movies. This is a very good comic, and I’m really excited to see where they take us.
(Now after having written all this, I feel like I’ve done Geoff Johns a disservice by my griping about him turning DC into what he loved most as a kid.)
- 2000 AD - The surprise find of FCBD 2012! I’ve never seen a 2000 AD FCBD issue before; I didn’t even know they participated. The first pleasant surprise was the large magazine size, so it stands out from all the other offerings. Then it gives several complete chunks of comics. Sure, some of the stories were a part one but it’s an accurate representation of what to expect from 2000 AD. Then the contents showcased a little bit of everything: classic sci-fi, some horror, a vintage Alan Moore story, and a superhero satire. I’ve never read an individual issue of 2000 AD before, but after this I think I might need to add it to my pull list.
- Valiant 2012 - Even though this was just a teaser book, it worked. I’m sufficiently piqued for the Valiant relaunch this summer. Unfortunately, it’s still a bad free comic. Marvel and DC put out things like this monthly; it’s a promotional item.*
* Yes, they’re all promotional items, but the point of Free Comic Book Day is, you know, a free comic book.
- Yo Gabba Gabba - I really don’t know what to say about this one, since I am neither a small child nor a guardian of small children. It definitely won’t appeal to anyone whose age is approaching double-digits, and there’s no hipster cred other than some nice work by Mike Allred and Evan Dorkin. But might it get small children into appreciating comics? Yes. Yes it might. And that’s one to grow on.
And that was my 2012 Free Comic Book Day. I think it was a raging success, even if not every book was. I hope you found some great comics out there and have maybe been inspired to track down a few new things. And only 11 months until next year’s!
I’m glad the days of Fredrick Wertham are behind us, where paranoids found dirty drawings in every nook and cranny. And I really have no problem with the realism in comic art today, where artists take it to draw every zipper and seam in a costume (or uniform, if you’d prefer).
But I was reading Uncanny X-Men #534.1 and came across this panel…
…and I can’t help but think that’s no seam. I have no idea how this made it into a Marvel comic.
Whether you’re a well-established reader, looking for the chance to sample something new, or looking to introduce a new reader, don’t pass up the opportunity!
I’m pretty bad about reading webcomics. Sure, I know they’re the big new thing, but with so much other stuff to keep track of online they wind up on the bottom of my surfing pile. Ironically, I tend to pick them up when the print collections come out because, obviously, I do everything the wrong way.
And so it is with Kate Beaton’s webcomic Hark! A Vagrant, which I just recently snagged after hearing too many good things about it to keep ignoring. And sure, there are the occasional superhero gags, like this great one about my buddy Aquaman:
But it’s just as likely to be about Canadian historical figures and Victorian literature, as evidenced by this amazing strip based around Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.” At first I thought I had to be misreading something, or misremembering some long-ago reading assignment but no, Beaton went there. And thank goodness she did, because there aren’t nearly enough comics that appeal to the literary nerd in me and still manage to be outright hilarious.
While there’s likely a chance the literary/historical focus could alienate some readers who are more into comics featuring Final Fantasy sprites, I found it a breath of fresh air. Much like R. Sikoryak’s Masterpiece Comics, I found the pieces much easier to appreciate when I was familiar with the material they reference, but still easy to follow and get the joke even if I didn’t know the Canadian politician in question or (I know, I know) read Jane Eyre.
Please, check out Hark! A Vagrant. Besides, unless you’re weird like me, it’s free!
Geoff Johns, now DC’s Chief Creative Officer, has expended a considerable amount of time and effort restoring the DCU to what he remembers and loved as a kid. And good for him! He did the work, came up through the ranks, excelled at his craft, and wound up in a position to guide DC to what he likes best. However, it does open the door for every other fan and DC-lover to do the same thing. When we (inevitably!) become the CCO we’ll do the same thing. As a sneak peak, here’s a preview of the things we’ll do to restore DC to what we remember as kids.
See, I didn’t start reading DC books until ’92 or ’93 with the death and return of Superman. There actually aren’t many good memories of DC when I was a kid to which I’d want to return, but there are somethings I’d do responsibly with my great power.
- Flashpoint/ DCnU was all a dream. The Psycho-Pirate awakens from it to find he’s still in a padded cell within Arkham. ANNNnnnndd….
- Barry’s dead. It’s nothing personal, Bowtie, but your death was the best thing about you story-wise. We’ll pick up with Wally again sometime after Waid’s phenomenal arc, “The Return of Barry Allen.” I like my heroes full formed rather than whining about the burden of legacy and self-doubt. Also, what’s wrong with guys with gadgets? Captain Cold’s powers are now natural? WTF?!? Instead of being inspired by the cool Icicle, he’s inspired by the douchy Johnsian Icicle, Jr.? Come one Manapul! I’d have a moritorium on the use of Captain Cold so that he could rest from having such a horrid redo.
- Justice League International – This has come back somewhat with the New 52, but I like the idea of a Justice League in every country. In fact, it was SUCH a good idea that Marvel had their own take on it with the Fifty-State Initiative. It allows for more interesting backdrops, more characters to get spotlight, and gives other areas of the DCU such a time to shine. To this end, Max Lord isn’t a villain anymore, either. He was such a good bureaucratic good guy, a character we just don’t ever see. And much like the (Marvel) Sandman’s return to villainy from heroism, it doesn’t feel right. We’ve seen too many of his inner thoughts to buy that.
- I’d also bring back annuals. What better way to tell a few short stories, tryout new writers/ artists/, make a few bucks, throw in some nifty supplement material, and entertain the reader? If there’s something better than an annual not tied to a cross-over, I haven’t found it. To my mind, an annual is a good way to both audition talent and examine aspects of a character or character dynamics that can’t find page space in the regular book.
- No more Rainbow Lantern Corps – There will always be Green Lanterns, that’s a given, but the rainbow Corps (Corpses?) are only diluting the brand. First task: get rid of all but green and yellow rings. That’s been enough for 60 years. We’ll then pare that down to one lantern corps: Green. Most likely, just to make my mark, I’ll keep one yellow ring and have a lone Sinestro Corps member (not Thaal Sinestro) patrol the universe serving up fear.
- Jason Todd is dead – Nuff said. Fuck that guy
- As a basic concept/ look, I’ve always been drawn to Hawkman. As a character…or convoluted series of characters… not so much. As Assistant CCO of DC, All of Hawkman’s origins go bye-bye. He’s not the reincarnation of an Egyptian prince, he’s not an alien. He’s not an avatar for some Hawk-god. He’s not even an amalgamation of those ideas. He’s just a shirtless guy with wings and a cool helmet that likes to beat the tar out of criminals with a mace…and he’s been around a long time. A non-origin worked for Wolverine for over twenty years. Why does Hawkman have to be from somewhere? He simply is. Done.
- Marvel Crossovers – The Marvel/DC crossovers may not have always been great, but they’ve always been fun. When I’m in the CCO seat the Marvel relationship will be repaired and task one will be getting the Batman/Daredevil crossover going. I’m sure Bendis and Maleev are still up for it. I think I’ll ditch the Amalgam concept, though.
- Guy Gardner: Sexist Pig – Guy Gardner was always an ass, but for no discernible reason (other than spite). Since taking the reins on Green Lantern, Johns has toned down that attitude considerably, and just made it a result of Gardner’s enthusiasm for the job. We’re going back to the sexist braggart we all loved to hate. But don’t worry: if you don’t like this particular take where there’s Jerk Guy Gardner, Earnest Guy Gardner is also lurking. By Giffen and DeMatteis, if they’re willing.
- When was the last time the Martian Manhunter actually hunted “men”? You need somebody found? Go see J’onn J’onnz. Yeah, we’re bringing that shit back.
- No Superboy – I hopped on just after Crisis happened, when Clark Kent became Superman as an adult. This was also before Reign of the Supermen, when DC just wanted to expand the brand. While the Silver Age had some great stories, I think they’re silly for modern continuity. And there have been dome decent Connor Kent stories, the whole thing seems like emo Superman. So let’s just go back to that blissful period without a Superboy.
- No Guardians – Those little blue guys are asses, and much like Matt’s feelings toward Professor X, I don’t think I’ve ever read a good story with them.
- I’ve mentioned this before, but maybe someone will listen if I say it often enough. Captain Marvel and company need their own universe to play around in. It’s got to be a more timeless place. A modern setting doesn’t work, and being forced into a universe where dark psychotic killers exist turns Cap into drab generic punch’em-up kind of guy. A kid that turns into a grown up when he/ she utters a magic word is an idea that appeals to pre-teens because of its silliness and it’s wish fulfillment. A Captain Marvel book needs to be written with the same sensibility as Spongebob Squarepants or a Tex Avery cartoon. Silly and strange should be the order of the day when it comes to Captain Marvel.
- Tim Drake: Robin – The current Robin situation is a huge mess. Damian Wayne makes for a few good Morrison stories, but I’ve never liked the idea of Son of Batman, and it would take a huge reset button to put him back. Honestly, I don’t know why DC didn’t do that in 2011. Tim Drake was the right Robin for his time. Rather than an acrobat, a physical character, he was something of a hacker, which played to Batman’s detective side and had to work EXTREMELY hard for his physical development. And he was all planning, no impulse, which put him at odds with Jason Todd (seriously, fuck that guy). Meanwhile, it feels like he was shoehorned into the Red Robin role because no one wanted to get rid of him but nobody knew what to do with him. Put him back in the Robin suit and let’s get Damian back to being a digression.
- Only Batman and Superman have multiple titles – It seems like only Superman and Batman can truly support more than one title. Not Green Lantern, Aquaman, or Flash. Let’s not dilute the brand, DC. Focus your best talent on the top titles. There don’t need to be 4 Lantern-related books on the stand each month.
- One thing I’d keep that Johns and co. are doing right is the re-introduction of the anthology title or titles with rotating foci. While every hero or team is someone’s favorite, not all characters can support their own title. The New 52′s DC Universe Presents is an opportunity to… dare I say it… showcase characters and stories of this nature. But, why not do more? Bring back Mystery in Space and cast a wider net. Give the fans their Space Cabby, ULTRA, The Multi-Alien, Adam Strange, and others. What about a House of Mystery or a similar title for darker/ magical characters? Not only would I shuffle characters, I’d shuffle creators often. I’d use anthologies as an incentive to bring over and keep creative talent. It’s an opportunity for creators of on-going titles as well as new talent to play with more toys from the box. The only stricture would be to stay away from characters that currently have their own title.
- Elseworlds – Placing familiar heroes in unfamiliar settings is a GREAT idea and produced some amazing stories. Books Holy Terror, Red Son, and The Nail were both interesting takes on our heroes and took their concepts to the core so we could really examine what makes them strong. In fact, it was such a good idea that it was the theme for an entire year of annuals. Let’s see some more.
Wednesday morning DC Comics announced the long-awaited (and long-reported by Rich Johnston) news that they would be “building” on Watchmen by releasing a series of “Before Watchmen” mini-series. Featuring each of the major characters in the original series plus a Minutemen series, the new series will build on the mythology of the Watchmen universe and finally turn those characters into a fully-formed brand to be marketed and exploited.
I spoke about this on our Twitter account a couple months ago when Bleeding Cool started running leaked concept art by creators we now know are attached to the project, but since 140 characters bursts doesn’t allow for much depth of thought, it seems like the opportune time to elaborate.
It’s long been the conventional wisdom that for Marvel and DC, comics don’t pay the bills, it is the licensing of characters that brings in the real money. And especially recently, with line-wide relaunches, monster trucks, and twitter accounts hyping mass media appearances more than comics, it feels like more than just the conventional wisdom. Comic books may be dying out, but through licensing the characters can live on in perpetuity. Therefore, with every financial reason to do it and no creative impetus behind it**, Before Watchmen isn’t an artistic endeavor, it’s a blank check for DC to enhance the brand and keep the licensing money coming.
Let’s be honest, most of the major comic book characters you know and love are 40-60 years old now. Other than
Watchmen, which is one of the best selling graphic novels ever, how many comic book characters can you name were created in the last 25 years and are household names? Spawn, probably. Deadpool, maybe. The list is pretty thin. The Watchmen characters are well-known, popular, and just sitting in the DC vaults unused. Perhaps it’s inevitable that Watchmen gets dragged hurming and scheming into the 21st century, but without the unanimous blessing of their creators I can’t put my support behind it.
Kudos to DC for getting Dave Gibbons’ approval on the new works, but that’s only half the solution. In order to get me on-board for this (and I want to be, truly I do) Alan Moore has to sign off on it as well. Can you imagine Steve Dillon spinning off Preacher without Garth Ennis, Eduardo Risso continuing 100 Bullets without Brian Azzarello (one of the Before Watchmen creators!), or Darick Robertson doing more Transmetropolitan without Warren Ellis*?
Of course not. Those books were made by creative TEAMS, and the artist and writer are both critical to their success. Before Watchmen is an event by committee, not an artistic vision at work. But the main reason those spinoffs wouldn’t work? All of the books I mentioned are creator-owned titles. Watchmen had the misfortune of coming out too soon***. Had it been published in 1996 instead of 1986 it would have been released as a creator-owned series through the Vertigo imprint! Had Vertigo existed back then Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons would have owned the series and its characters, never squabbled about DC keeping it in print in perpetuity (therefore preventing the rights from reverting back to Moore and Gibbons) and they probably would have done the prequels they considered TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO!
The Internet, predictably, exploded. And there have been some good rebuttals to the outrage. J. Michael Straczynski, who will be working on the Nite Owl and Dr. Manhattan books, told Comic Book Resources:
“A lot of folks feel that these characters shouldn’t be touched by anyone other than Alan, and while that’s absolutely understandable on an emotional level, it’s deeply flawed on a logical level. Based on durability and recognition, one could make the argument that Superman is the greatest comics character ever created. But neither Alan nor anyone else has ever suggested that no one other than Shuster and Siegel should ever be allowed to write Superman. Alan didn’t pass on being brought on to write Swamp Thing, a seminal comics character created by Len Wein, and he did a terrific job. He didn’t say “No, no, I can’t, that’s Len’s character.” Nor should he have.”
That’s an excellent point. Here’s the thing: Siegel and Shuster never intended to be the only ones ever telling Superman stories, or that it would never continue past a certain point. Hell, Superman was originally a newspaper strip, a serial if ever there was one. Their only beef was that they didn’t get adequate payment for all DC exploited Superman. The same goes for Kirby. Truth be told, the same goes for Alan Moore when he worked on Batman, Vigilante, and Green Lantern. Moore doesn’t WANT the money, he wants DC to leave it alone (well, that and let him get the rights back).
JMS goes on later to say:
“Again: on an emotional level, I get it. But by the same token, Alan has spent most of the last decade writing some very, very good stories about characters created by other writers, including Alice (from Wonderland), Dorothy (from Oz), Wendy (from Peter Pan), as well as Captain Nemo, the Invisible Man, Jekyll and Hyde and Professor Moriarty. I think one loses a little of the moral high ground to say, “I can write characters created by Jules Verne, HG Wells, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle and Frank Baum, but it’s wrong for anyone else to write my characters.”"
Again, there is a bit of a difference here. Presumably Moore has no problem with others using his work 70 years after his death, when it would enter the public domain. He’s a smart man, and understands public domain (which kept Lost Girls from being published in the UK for a while, until the Peter Pan rights expired) and the concept of transformative works. Now I do feel from time to time like Moore is a crotchety, hypersensitive guy who won’t rest until he can find fault in everything, like someone’s grandmother, but in these instances I feel he’s got a solid basis for his feelings.
With the New 52 relaunch, the over-reliance on events (and making them bigger and more inflammatory each time), and now this, DC is making it quite clear that they are more concerned with getting our money and the perpetuation of brands rather than integrity. And not necessarily the artistic kind, just good ethics. And I just can’t support that any more. With Watchmen 2 happening, I am officially done with DC Comics and all it’s associated creators. At the moment
- Lee Bermejo
- Amanda Conner
- Darwyn Cooke
- Adam Hughes
- J.G. Jones
- Andy Kubert
- Joe Kubert
- Jae Lee
- J. Michael Straczynski
- Len Wein
Not that I was buying any JMS titles anyway, but we’ve been always told that we vote with our wallet. Well, my three dollars (let’s face it, they weren’t getting $4 from me anyway) isn’t going to support this system or those who enable it.
Most support I’ve seen so far has come in the form of how DC is a company whose goal is to make money, so they can do what they want with characters they own. Or that the new titles sound great. And those statements are ALL true. These are DC’s characters, and maybe it IS stupid of them to have these characters and not capitalize on them. I think an Azzarello/Bermejo Rorschach series would be AMAZING. But I can’t support it, not without the approval of both Moore and Gibbons.
And may God have mercy on our souls if we ever see a Dr. Manhattan monster truck.
*Cully Hamner did some Red prequels without Ellis, but since we never heard complaints from him, we have to assume they were sanctioned.
** So far, what we’ve heard is Dan DiDio approaching creators to work on the project, which means it’s coming down from an editorial/managerial level. And while I imagine the creative process behind these books is an honest one, it’s not the same as, say, Geoff Johns coming up with Green Lantern: Rebirth.
***Ditto Sandman, but DC has been very careful not to alienate DC by using his characters without his okay. Their relationship with Neil Gaiman may very well be the result of lessons learned working with Alan Moore.
Over the course of our lives, Matt’s heard me talk a lot of craziness, make a load of overreaching declarations, and talked me down off many a ledge. So these were his thoughts when we discussed the news.
Where does this idea come from that Alan Moore is the only one to touch Watchmen?
Who’s out there clamoring for more? It’s a fairly complete story with few or no holes. If nothing else, didn’t we learn our lesson as fans with The Dark Knight Strikes Again?
Before Watchmen, so what? When rumblings of this started way back, I had no interest in seeing prequels or sequels. That view has not changed. I don’t get the idea that people are so attached to the unlikeable, shallow, impotent, and petty caricatures that Alan Moore used to tell his story. Anything I ever wondered about them is given to me in the pages of the original 12 issues. So if I want a good Rorschach prequel story, I’ll read The Question, and the same goes for Moore’s other “creations” and their Charlton counterparts. I can’t make myself care about it because it isn’t affecting how I feel about the original story. Just because DC’s doing it doesn’t mean I have to read it.
It’s funny that Watchmen is the third rail of comics. Why does this story get people so up in arms?
In terms of the outcry and insistence that it have Moore’s blessing, I find myself agreeing with… God help me… JMS. It’s DC’s property. Again, whatever is done now by whomever will not change the original story, its significance, or my own feelings about the story.
Maybe the stories will be good. Maybe they’ll be forgotten not unlike DC’s Kingdom. At the end of the day, the only problem I have is that I always find blatant pandering insulting. It bothers me that DC feels that it can dangle new Watchmen stories and we’ll automatically open our wallets and fork over four or five dollars a pop.
All great points. JMS continued his excellent point-making this morning, after drawing comparisons to his work Babylon 5. Namely, the company owns the property and it would suck, but they have the right to do what they wish with the characters. And I agree, they certainly do have the right, I just wish they wouldn’t exercise it.
The rights for Watchmen were always supposed to revert to Moore and Gibbons once the book went out of print, which it never has. The was never supposed to be an issue, a book had never stayed continuously in print before. Watchmen is a victim of its own success. So I’d say that’s why Moore is the chosen one in this case.
While several creators have tried getting the rights to their creations back, namely Kirby, Siegel, and Shuster, but as recently as Marv Wolfman, but Steve Gerber was notoriously against other creators working on characters he created, notably Howard the Duck and Omega the Unknown.