Archive for the ‘comics’ Category

The Real 25 Essential Graphic Novels Of DC Entertainment

May 13, 2013

The “DC Entertainment Essential Graphic Novels and Chronology 2013” has published a list of what DC consider their “Top 25 Essential Graphic Novels.”

It’s a pretty good list, with a few edits.  Here’s the list as I would do it:

  1. Watchmen
  2. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
  3. The Sandman Volume 1: Preludes & Nocturnes
  4. Batman: Year One
  5. V For Vendetta there’s no doubt that V For Vendetta is an amazing book, but in my mind it’s #26 on a Top 25 list.  Instead, wouldn’t you really want to read the book that, along with Sandman, redefined comic book writing for the modern era?  That’s why I’d give this spot to the Garth Ennis/Steve Dillon classic Preacher Volume 1: Gone To Texas.
  6. Saga of the Swamp Thing Book One
  7. Fables Volume 1: Legends In Exile
  8. Batman: The Killing Joke The Deluxe Edition
  9. Y: The Last Man Volume 1: Unmanned
  10. All-Star Superman
  11. Kingdom Come
  12. Batman: The Long Halloween
  13. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume 1
  14. Batman: Earth One Instead of another “Year One” style book, the better pick would be a compliment to the legacy and myth of the Batman, and one familiar to viewers of the DC animated films. Namely, Batman: Under The Red Hood.
  15. Green Lantern: Rebirth this, and Flash: Rebirth, are very “inside baseball.”  Both books were used as a mechanism for DC to bring two dead characters (the Silver Age Green Lantern and Flash) back to life.  They were powerful stories for older readers like me, but to new readers they fall short due to a lack of context.  Instead, I’d go with a great Green Arrow title.  Specifically the one that is defining some of the urban edge that the television show Arrow is trying to create; Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters.
  16. American Vampire Volume 1
  17. Blackest Night this was the culmination of a multi-year story across Green Lantern (that started, funny enough, with Green Lantern: Rebirth).  Instead of this “third act,” I’d recommend “backing up” and going with Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War.
  18. Final Crisis I loved Final Crisis.  Loved it!  But in a Top 25 list, it’s #26 (tied with V For Vendetta).  The better Grant Morrison selection would be the book that helped modernize super heroes in the late eighties; Animal Man Book 1: Animal Man.
  19. JLA Volume 1
  20. Identity Crisis
  21. Batman: Hush
  22. Joker (tie) I’m going to cheat here.  I can’t knock Joker off this list, because it’s a great book, and fans of the Batman film will like this book.  What I will do is compliment this with the Grant Morrison/Dave McKean Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth.
  23. The Flash: Rebirth (see #15)  I’d use this spot to recommend one of the best super hero series of the last few years, Ex Machina Volume 1: The First Hundred Days.
  24. Superman: Earth One Volume 1 If you have to pick a Superman “Year One” title, the better choice is the book that inspired the Smallville TV series, Superman: For All Seasons by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale (who also did Batman: The Long Halloween).
  25. Planetary Volume 1: All Over The World And Other Stories

Occupy Other Comics

October 10, 2011

As per my previous blog posts, for the most part I’ve enjoyed a number of the DC “New 52” titles.  Yes, a few titles dropped off my list, but overall I’m sticking with it.

My enjoyment clouded my better judgement and I did a very stupid thing, I decided to go to the message boards, read a few blogs and their comments sections.

Mistakes Were Made

What I read got me angry and depressed.

From what I was reading, DC titles are apparently the only titles available for purchase.  There are no alternatives and you would think that there was a law stating people must purchase DC Comics by penalty of imprisonment.

Page after page of people reading titles they don’t like.  Talking about what they didn’t like.  Reading titles to “punish” themselves and then complaining about them to hear themselves talk.

What To Do?

First off, I have the Constitution app on my iPhone and it makes no mention of such a law (to be fair, I’m unclear on state laws outside of Texas).

But here’s my response to this type of behavior: Leave!  If you are not happy with the current DC New 52 titles, stop buying them and stop reading them and read titles you do enjoy.

Why Do I Care?

Comics “journalism” barely exists, and it’s a pain in the neck to have to read through this type of stuff to get to even halfway decent conversations about titles I do enjoy.

Why Voting With Your Dollars Works

I personally like many of these titles.  Which is why I purchase them.  If you don’t like them.  My advice, as above, is to not purchase them.

There has been a lot written about “voting with your dollars,” and all of it is true.

Opinions on Tumblr, blogs, message boards, etc. are the least effective way to tell DC Comics how you feel about their titles.  The most effective way to show them what you like, the one that they will always see, is when you give them your money (or in this case, withhold it). 

It’s simple.  Either you purchase their product.  Or you don’t.  Your opinion as to like or dislike of a company’s product is secondary to whether you are spending your money with them.

Period.

If you have seen the movie Private Parts, Howard Stern in the 1980’s and 1990’s had as many haters as he did fans.  When WNBC dug into it they found that the haters listened longer than the fans.  The haters were unknowingly keeping Stern on the air by boosting his ratings.  Had they not listened, they might have dumped him.

Opinions expressed online, as I’ve mentioned in the past, do not count for much.  The best way to be heard is to vote with your dollars.

Time Is Short, Enjoy It

If your idea of a good time is spending money on things you don’t enjoy and complaining about how much you didn’t enjoy it; go ahead.  It’s an odd way to spend your free time, but that is your choice.

But if you agree that life is too short.  If you agree that you want to spend your free time (and your money) enjoying yourself, than pay attention: buy other comic books.

What To Buy

As I was compiling this list, it just kept getting bigger and bigger.  Which was kind of cool.

This list is a document that provides a number of alternatives so that you can “safely” transition out of the DC New 52 titles you don’t like and supplement them into any number of things you’ll like as much…or maybe more.

One of the most common complaints for sticking with DC titles is the enjoyment of the super hero genre, so this list is focused primarily on super heroes, fantasy and science fiction; all the core elements of the DC Universe.

It’s true.  There is an entire world of comic book reading that is outside of the DC New 52.

DC Comics

Yes.  This is the same company putting out the titles you don’t like.  However, outside of the New 52 is a back catalog of 70+ years worth of comic book stories that even readers of 30+ years (such as myself) have not yet really cracked into.  DC is doing a tremendous job of publishing Showcases, Archives and hardcover collections of much of this work.  Not to mention the work being done with digital publishing.  The archives range from the mainstream (Superman) to the obscure and niche (Secret Society of Super Villains).  In addition, back issues are easy to find on the Internet or in good local comic book shops like Austin Books (they sell pre-bagged sets of story-arcs and mini-series on a regular basis).  There are thousands of hours of comic books waiting to be read.  And re-read.  And publications like Back Issue, Alter Ego and any number of blogs extensively cover this time period.  Are these titles old?  Yes, but if you have never read them, than they’re new to you.

Vertigo

As of late, Vertigo’s publishing strategy has been…confusing.  But they still have a few core “world building” titles focused on fantasy.  iZombie, for instance, is one of the best titles being published by DC Comics and both the Unwritten and Fables have similar loyal fan bases.

Marvel

With Marvel, there are a number of options:

  • New Marvel: for every DC title, there are at least 2 Marvel titles 😛  In all seriousness, there are a number of Marvel writers who write in the “DC style.”  Marvel has done a great job of dividing up their universe into “imprints” (X-titles, Spider-titles, Avengers, cosmic, etc.).  Pick your imprint and run with it.  While there’s overlap, for the most part you can find the titles you like and stay inside that imprint.  Spider-Man is a good example.  That title is in the middle of its own event (Spider Island) that doesn’t crossover into the other imprints but is creating a very rich and interesting story within the core title and crossovers under the Spider-titles.
  • Marvel All Ages: these titles (a number of which are written by Paul Tobin) are the closest thing to Golden Age DC you’ll find on the shelves, but done with a very modern sensibility.
  • Ultimate Comics: Marvel is breaking the rule of “don’t let the genie out of the bottle” and has been constantly changing the Ultimate universe.  Starting with the stories from Ultimate Spider-Man #1 and working forward to today it’s quite exciting and the new titles under Jonathan Hickman are unlike anything DC is publishing.  (as a side note, Ultimate Spider-Man is consistently the best super hero comic book being published today).
  • Marvel Comic Book Archives: like DC, Marvel is moving like a freight train to put it’s archives back into print and available digitally.  If you like Jim Lee’s artwork, Marvel is doing an Omnibus series of X-Men collections with the classic Chris Claremont/Jim Lee run.  Do you like Captain America?  They’ve got a metric ton of Essentials, Masterworks and hardcovers/trade paperbacks collecting his adventures going all the way back to Captain America #1 and all parts in between.  Never read the Walt Simonson Thor?  They just put it in Omnibus form.  Like the DC archives, there’s enough here to keep you entertained for years.  And it’s all new to you.
  • Icon: top writers like Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker and Mark Millar are putting out some of the best titles in the medium under this imprint.

Dark Horse

  • Star Wars: the Star Wars “universe” of titles is overlooked by many readers, but there’s a lot going on over there.  Former DC writer John Ostrander is one of the writers building that world and there are numerous titles for the various eras (past, present, future) with all sorts of crossovers and events happening.  I even saw a new title that’s a secret agent/spy title set in the Star Wars universe.  Not to mention, they have been reprinting all the Marvel Star Wars work as well as the previous Dark Horse work dating back to the 90’s available in Omnibus and trade paperbacks.
  • Conan: Dark Horse is also the current license owner of Robert E Howard’s Conan.  In addition to new stories  (including some by Roy Thomas), they are also reprinting some of the classic hard-to-find Marvel stories.
  • Whedonverse: Buffy, Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse are all being published by Dark Horse.  And these titles have some of the top writers in comic books working on them.
  • Hellboy and BPRD: Mike Mignola has been working on Hellboy universe stories since the 90’s.  Dark Horse has all of these (and the BPRD stories) available in trade paperbacks.  In my discussions with readers in the comic store, I have found that Hellboy fans are “super fans.”  They love this title.  Why not try it out?

Image

Every month, I am always amazed at how much product is being published by Image.  Image 2.0 (post-founding 7) has amazing titles like Chew.  The Sword (which recently completed).  Walking Dead and Invincible from Robert Kirkman.  The Intrepids (a “Fantastic Four”-style super hero title).  Paul Grist’s Jack Staff is a perfect example of an amazing super hero title that few are reading.  Image is still a great alternative to the big two and there’s always something around the corner.  There are a lot of titles in the Image catalog and I will mention an additional one by name that’s not a super hero title.  Heart by Blair Butler and Kevin Mellon is set in the world of mixed martial arts fighting and looks to be well worth your time and money.

Top Cow (Image)

While Top Cow publishes under Image, they have their own rich universe with titles like The Darkness and Witchblade.  Both titles are undergoing revamps after their Artifacts event and will be perfect jumping on points for new readers.  As a point of interest, these titles were previously by DC writers Phil Hester and Ron Marz and those story-arcs are available in trade paperback.  Top Cow is a very nice fantasty-based alternative to DC super heroes.

IDW

Locke & Key is a title that everybody should be reading.  Period.  Why you would waste your time on titles you don’t like and not read this amazing book is beyond me.  But what about the rest of IDW?  They’ve got 30 Days of Night coming as a monthly with Steve Niles writing.  Former DC mainstay John Byrne has his Next Men here as well as a new title (Cold War) coming in the next month.  And, IDW has licensing rights to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (with Kevin Eastman writing), G.I. Joe, Transformers and Star Trek; both classic and the J.J. Abrams version.

2000 AD

For as many American comic book readers that know of Judge Dredd, I’d wager that fewer have actually read a Judge Dredd comic book.  In the past, 2000 AD (the anthology Judge Dredd appears in) was difficult to obtain in the US (and a bit expensive).  Some of the most notable writers and artists in comic books started their careers working on Judge Dredd and 2000 AD characters.  In the past few years, they’ve stepped up their American presence significantly with “Case Files” collections reprinting Dredd’s adventures in chronological order along with special collections showcasing some of the celebrity talent.  If you’ve ever wondered what Mark Millar, Brian Bolland, Grant Morrison, etc. were like when they started, these books are a goldmine.  In addition, 2000 AD is also publishing some of the other titles like Rouge Trooper, ABC Warriors, etc. and even publishing some of the more obscure (and never before seen in America) work like the British war comics that inspired Garth Ennis’ work.

Dynamite Comic Books

Yes, Dynamite has The Boys by Garth Ennis, which is the polar opposite of DC Comics.  But they’ve also created a nice catalog of titles based on licensing Green Hornet, Lone Ranger, Zorro, Vampirella and more recently Flash Gordon.  And, of course they are now home to the Kirbyverse; characters that Jack Kirby created after he left DC Comics (and Marvel).  This new line of titles is being developed under the watchful eyes of former DC creators Alex Ross andKurt Busiek.

Boom Studios

Former DC Comics writer Mark Waid is writing modern day Superman and DC Comics in the form of Irremediable and Incorruptible.  They don’t have the DC bullet on them, but they channel the Bronze and Modern Age era of the comics that they are inspired by.  Also at Boom are the Stan Lee line of titles written by current and former DC Comics writers Paul Cornell, Chris Roberson and Mark Waid.

Archie

While Archie comics are not super hero titles, they are putting out some great material; and it’s former DC Comics creators who are behind some of that work.  Paul Kupperberg and Norm Breyfogle are two of the creators currently working at Archie.  Both of them instrumental in the creation of DC Comics in the 80’s and 90’s.  And today Archie announced that they will be relaunching their super hero titles (aka “The Red Circle”) for digital distribution.

Self-Published Independent Press Titles

Terry Moore wrote one of the best super hero comic books in the form of Echo, but you might not have read it because it was self-published.  He’s part of a group of self publishers who are producing some amazing work on their own and should be supported.

Manga

Manga is one of my weak spots, but there are hundreds of titles that Americans have not read that are being enjoyed by millions of readers overseas.

In Conclusion

I am perfectly happy with the DC New 52 and will continue to read them and supplement my reading with some of the titles above.

But if your’e one of those people who don’t like the titles being given to you by DC, you have a number of options outside of the New 52.  Stop reading titles that you don’t like.  Start reading titles that you will enjoy.  Vote with your dollars.

Occupy other comics.

If there is not a single thing in this blog post that doesn’t provide you with a satisfying alternative for the DC New 52, you’re on your own and I tried…

Week 4 Of DC: The New 52

September 30, 2011

The “Did Not Buy” Category

  • The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men
  • Green Lantern: New Guardians
  • The Savage Hawkman
  • Teen Titans
  • Voodoo

Gold Medal Winners

The Flash: I will admit that I was hesitant when I heard that the writing on this title was going to be done by the artist (Francis Manapul) and the colorist (Brian Bucelleto); only because I”d never read anything they’d written previously.  Some of the best writers in comic books started as artists, and artists tend to have a different perspective on writing and the good news is that this title is in extremely good hands with these two.  It was a great read.  What’s more interesting though is how Manapul has been translating “time” with his sequential storytelling techniques.  He’d begun doing this on the previous Flash title and he’s continuing it here.  Honestly, if you want to show someone how the narrative of comic books is different from any other medium, this is a title does that.  This is the type of title that gets used in college courses to show effective sequential art storytelling.  Manupal was already producing some of his best art on Flash and now it’s great to see him and Brian Bucelleto take “full” ownership of the title.

I, Vampire: please forgive me while I indulge in breaking my arm patting myself on the back.  Dan, my friend and creator of Red Light Properties, brought Joshua Fialkov to my attention over the summer when he told me to pick up Echoes.  So, when I saw that he was slated to write a title in the New 52, I was telling everyone I could that this would be the sleeper hit of the line.  And, it’s up there.  He setup a great “world” in which to play in with the vampire lore (and an excellent protagonist and conflict).  Most surprising was the artwork from Andrea Sorrentino, who is using a Jae Lee-style approach to this title.

Silver Medal Winners

All-Star Western: Justin Grey and Jimmy Palmiotti Jonah Hex stories have always been good,but the change they made with this title completely refreshes the character for older readers and provides a nice point of accessibility for the new.  The most shocking thing about this title was when I looked up artist Moritat and was presented with the knowledge that he’s not a French or Italian comic book artist, but rather a young American dude.  And to be clear, this guy can draw.  This title has some of the most inspired artwork of the new line.  Speaking of which, I honestly think that DC is missing something by not publishing All-Star Western in a quarterly graphic album format (pre-packaged for overseas sales).

Aquaman: so, Katy at the comic shop loves Aquaman, and this title let her down.  I only “like” Aquaman, and this title let me down too.  Had it not been for two thing, this would have been a gold winner.

  1. A scene with a hipster d-bag that was clearly supposed to be “meta” in terms of how comic book readers on the internet have no tact or manners (which, I do agree with, but there’s a time and place).  It was used to give character backstory, but it came across as extremely forced and extremely annoying.  This could have been done in other ways without the annoying aspects (like, he could have talked to the waitress about it).
  2. In the New 52, civilians think of Aquaman as a doofus.  Why call attention to that when the whole point is to reinvent characters with the reboot?  The mission statement is to make Aquaman cool again, so by saying it, Johns makes readers think it to be true.  And yet, it’s not true.  But the trap is that if you say something enough times, people think it to be true.  Which is why I wish that Johns would have played the character with the respect he deserves instead of the butt of jokes.  This completely distracted from all of the other good character moments in the title.

Because it’s Johns, I’m sticking with this title in the hopes that he pulls away from that and gives Aquaman his proper standing in the New 52.

Blackhawks: this title is G.I. Joe in the DC Universe (further compounded by the fact that the writer, Mike Costa writes G.I. Joe comics over at IDW).  And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  It’s a fine read.  Not great.  It’s good. It’s what I was expecting.

Justice League Dark: Peter Milligan is one of the best writers in comic books.  He wrote one of my favorite comic books of all time, Skin.  A comic that moved me like few others have.  He was one of the foundation writers that built Vertigo comic books in the 90’s and combined with his work on X-Statix, he can be considered one of the godfathers of modern comic book storytelling.  That said, I didn’t love this title out of the gate, but I did see enough ideas and concepts that Milligan was setting up where I feel that he’ll pay it off soon enough and I would like to stick around to see it happen.

Third Place

Batman: The Dark Knight

DC Universe Presents (Deadman): I gave this title a shot based on the writer, Paul Jenkins, but didn’t find much here.  I’ll sit this one out until the next character-arc in this anthology

Superman: I fear for the new reader who starts with this title, in that it is a very text heavy and quite dense.  I suppose one way to look at it is that the reader is getting their money’s worth…but I don’t see it that way.  George Perez is the writer and breakdown artist and this is the second time he has “rebooted” a core DC character (the first being Wonder Woman, post-Crisis).  He is one of the few writers working on the New 52 with this level of experience in “redefining” a character for a new age.

While the conflict that Perez establishes in the first issue is interesting, it’s not a direction that I personally care to read more about.  It’s similar to my review of Green Arrow.  I get enough of this type of content in other places and don’t care to read about it in yet another place.  That’s just me.  I’m sure that other readers will find the situations being presented to be exciting and it feels quite a bit like a modern take on the “Bronze Age” Superman stories.

I’d point you to The Signal Watch blog’s review of this issue for a great alternative take on this issue (he quite liked it).  What’s interesting is that I was going to stick with this title.  Ride it out to see if it could channel some of the Bronze Age goodness and get me interested.  The announcement on Friday that Perez is leaving the title with issue 7 made me reconsider this and I will be dropping the title.

Week 3 Of DC: The New 52

September 23, 2011

Big week, and in my haste I forgot to ask for DC Universe Presents to be pulled for me (so that will come when I get that book).

As a side note, for later in the post I need to explain that the way I read my comics is by stacking my pile starting with the titles I’m trying out and have no expectations for.  Than, I go based on past performance – ordering them from silver down to gold.  So for example, this week Avengers is the last title in my stack because it’s the title I’m most looking forward to reading.  My biggest crisis is when there are multiple Bendis titles in a week and I’m forced to determine which goes last.   

The “Did Not Buy” Category

  • Blue Beetle
  • Green Lantern Corps

Gold Medal Winners

Batman: everyone has their favorite Batman, and it usually is the interpretation that they were first exposed to (a moment of silence to pray for the children who first saw Batman in “The New Adventures of Batman” Filmation cartoon).

Batman as a character is fully formed, but it’s interesting to watch writers over the era pull in certain character traits and push back on others.  It’s a combination of the writer and the era in which they write him.  An interesting visualization would be to map Batman’s character traits in a “SWOT analysis” type of chart and then plot out the different eras and writers over the past 70+ years.

What I saw in Scott Snyder’s interoperation was something that I love about Batman; focusing on his detective skills.  My favorite Batman stories are where he is less a guy in a costume punching dudes and more “the world’s greatest detective.”  Snyder was practicing with Dick Grayson in Detective Comics recently, and he’s really ratcheted it up for this title.

Combining that with balancing Bruce Wayne as an approachable business and family man (and not the guy who comes across as a jerk), and this is a winner.

The title reads exceptionally well, so much so that I’d hold this up to anyone who watches television shows like “Bones,” “Criminal Minds” or “CSI” and say that this is far more fulfilling and far more compelling.  It’s got action.  The murder mystery.  Strong character development.  Snyder is hitting on all cylinders with this one.  His Batman goes strongly onto that SWOT chart along with the other great Batmans (Batmen?) of the past 70 years.

Catwoman: per my review of Batwing, I am biased since the author is a friend of mine.  That said, this is a remarkably strong issue for both story and art.  The character voice is firmly established and there are nice hints to her background/past provided in the first issue.  There’s action, humor and an ending that works as a story element for both plot and character in upcoming issues.  The art on this title by Guillem March is spectacular.  He does this thing where he draws everything hyper-realistic, but the cats are cartoony; and it totally works.  I should also mention the colorist Tomeu Morey added a tremendous amount of energy and depth to this book.  It’s lush and one of the most beautiful and skillfully colored titles out this week.  If you want an example of how a good colorist can make an issue better, study this issue.

Since it is being discussed online, I would ask people to read the issue for themselves and form their own opinion on the title, and not just rely on reviews (which I’ve found don’t always provide proper context).  Read the issue for yourself, move away from the echo chamber and you’ll see that there are both positive and negative responses to this issue.  It’s ok to like it.  It’s ok not to like it.  But read it and make your own decisions and participate in the thoughtful and meaningful debate happening online and in comic stores (and avoid the pitchfork/torch wielding mob mentality of the forums).

As always, everyone is entitled to their opinions and two things I think that have been sorely minimized in this discussion:

  1. This is a T+ (16 years-old and up) rated title.  Just like The Dark Knight film is PG-13, this is a title that has an appropriate age attached to it as well.  Our culture treats sex as taboo and yet we are unfazed by violence (This Film Is Not Yet Rated does a better job of explaining this than I can here).
  2. The other thing I would point out is that this is just the first issue.  We’re only 20 pages into this story and everything is connected when you think about serialized fiction.  It will be interesting to see where the conversations move to in 6 issues.  12 issues.

Supergirl: Michael Green (the co-writer for this title) wrote on Jack & Bobby.  At the very least that gets him $2.99 and 20 pages of my time.  I wasn’t expecting much from this title and at the end I liked it quite a bit.  The writers gave a good sense of the voice for the new Kara and while the setup is similar to Supergirl origins of the past (Loeb/Turner Superman/Batman comes to mind), I suspect we haven’t seen it in this way, so I’m in.

Wonder Woman: there were a few pages of this title where I kind of didn’t know what was going on (it felt disjointed in the middle with a setup that was confusing, at least to me), but it pulled together towards the end and the cliffhanger was both shocking and got a bit of a laugh from me because of the nature of what Azzarello is doing.  The Cliff Chiang art is perfect, and you wonder how nobody ever tapped him to draw Diana before this.  I see this title getting stronger with the next issue and really building a nice foundation for some good Diana stories.

Silver Medal Winners

Birds of Prey:the original Chuck Dixon Birds of Prey was a “meat and potatoes” mercenary action/adventure comic book.  Gail Simone added her personality to the book and certainly gave it a tone that was unique to the title (and to her).  I commend Swierczynski for not trying to mimic Simone, but attempting to write his own version of this book.  His version leans more towards Dixon than Simone.  Which is not to say that there’s not humor in this issue.  There is, and there’s a character who might become a fan favorite if Swierczynski plays his cards right.  This feels like a standard “top of the stack” read for me.  Some people watch CSI, NCIS or Law & Order reruns.  I have my “top of the stack” titles…

Legion of Super Heroes: everything that a new reader would need to start on this title is there, but it means paying attention.  We’re talking the difference between the pilot to CSI and the pilot to Battlestar Galactica.  Paying attention is rewarded for both new and old readers.  But you gotta work at it.  That said, Paul Levitz is a master storyteller.  He’s got a lot going on with the relationships (a staple for Legion titles) and he’s got some good plot points established in the first issue.  Good action, nice cliffhanger but like Birds of Prey, this title has always received placement at the “top of the stack.”

Nightwing: this title felt a lot like Supergirl in that it spent a lot of time giving the reader a sense of who the “new” Dick Grayson is.  His voice.  His background.  Where he is at in his life.  It’s all there and done very well.  The mystery that’s being setup feels much like something from the Chuck Dixon run (two Dixon references in one blog. A record?), but I feel like Kyle Higgins knows where he’s going with this title and has a good sense of the character.

Red Hood and the Outlaws: I do not find Scott Lobdell all that funny (my personal opinion), and yet he feels the need to continue to put jokes in his titles.  It was enough to knock this from a gold to a silver.  Lobdell is a good writer when he can get out of his own way and there was enough there to bring me back for another issue.  Like Birds of Prey, it’s a “meat and potatoes” action/adventure title.  Editorial would do right by themselves to maybe space this and Birds of Prey out so they don’t ship together (so as to get new readers who might be picking up both titles to come in 2x a month as opposed to once).

The Drop List

Captain Atom: this was a well-written title and the art was unique and some of the best stuff I’ve seen come from the talented Freddie Williams II and colorist  Jose Villarrubia.  It’s just not for me.  The subject matter and the character didn’t interest me, but it’s a heck of a title and it might find its way to the bottom of someone else’s stack in a few months.

Week 2 Of DC: The New 52

September 16, 2011

The “Did Not Buy” Category

  • Batman And Robin
  • Deathstroke
  • Red Lanterns
  • Resurrection Man
  • Suicide Squad
  • Superboy

Gold Medal Winners

Batwoman: after a number of false starts, Batwoman is finally back.  JH Williams III is a sequential art master whose pages probably make industry veterans jealous.  If you want to get someone into comic books, this is the title to give them.  It’s lush.  It’s extremely well-wrtiten by Williams and Blackman and it’s extremely accessible but has all sorts of “easter eggs” for old farts like me.  I am quite glad to have Batwoman back in my rotation.

Demon Knights: finally, a book for the LARP crowd.  Am I right, ladies?  In all seriousness, Cornell is in his element with this title.  The setup is dirt simple.  The characters are blank slates and the action is over the top.  This is meant to be a “fun” book and that tone comes across despite the misleading cover. This book benefits by not being a “super hero” title (even though it has magic elements) and I suspect most people, myself included, will enjoy having this in their pull to break put the monotony of traditional super hero titles.

Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.: Lemire is 2-0 with Animal Man and now this title.  This is a quirky over-the-top blend of high concept science fiction and dark humor that when put together is a ton of fun.  This title reminds me of Warren Ellis Stormwatch mashed up with odd 1980’s indie comic books.  I liked the Flashpoint mini-series and I’m on board for the regular series.

Green Lantern: since Geoff Johns started writing Green Lantern, this title has always been consistent and it’s never bad.  I would say the same for this new issue.  It’s a lot of setup and I can’t say I know where it’s going, but I’ve been enjoying the ride so far and there’s no reason to stop any time soon.

Silver Medal Winners

Grifter: the cover was extremely misleading.  Grifter, sadly, is not falling and shooting things.  t honestly couldn’t tell you what the heck is happening in this title and I don’t know that it caught my interest per say, but I have a bit of a hunch that something is buried in this book that might be enjoyable and I’m going to try to give it one more shot.

Third Place (aka “The Drop List”)

Legion Lost: I understand that the conflict for this book will come from the fact that people from the future are going to have to deal with being stuck in the present, but I read enough books about the present.  I’d rather read about the future.  So, this title gets dropped.  Outside of my issues with the setting for this title, there’s nothing “wrong” with this title, per say.  It’s very well executed if this is what you’re into.

Mister Terrific: I can’t help but feel like this title was trying to make Mister Terrific into the DC version of Iron Man.  But if you’re going to compete head-to-head against Marvel, you gotta be as good, or better.  The problem is that this title is neither in my opinion.  Iron Man is currently being written by one of their strongest writers (Matt Fraction).  It’s an unfair matchup and I didn’t find enough to compel me to stay on board.

Week 0 And 1 Of DC: The New 52

September 9, 2011

As previously mentioned, I am giving the DC “New 52” titles one issue, 20 pages, to convince me to stick around.

Given the sheer bulk of new titles coming out at the same time from one publisher, this lends itself to a somewhat interesting experiment in deconstructing the creation of a perfect first issue (or “jumping on” point) for new readers.

I suspect it will be after I do all of my reviews that I’ll post a summary of my finding.  In the meantime, here are the reviews.

Spoiler free!

What I Did Not Buy

Since I purchase titles primarily based on creators (whom I either follow and/or am interested in), there are a number of books that I passed on.

  • Detective Comics: I am a fan of Tony Daniel’s art, but having tried on a number of occasions to get into his writing, it just wasn’t for me.  Others seem to like him, and if I start to see reviews that express his style has changed, I might revisit this title in trade or digitally.
  • Justice League International
  • O.M.A.C.: the interesting thing here is that I was on board, but then I read the io9 preview and it had the opposite effect on me.
  • Static Shock: love the character, but I’m not convinced that the current creative team can top the original McDuffie/Leon run.  Another opportunity for a creative team to prove me wrong and if the chatter is positive, I’ll reconsider.

What I Did Buy (Gold Medal Winners)

The “gold medal winners” are the books that nailed it in twenty pages and there is no question that I’m on board for the foreseeable future.

Justice League: Geoff Johns and Jim Lee have the difficult task of not telling the story of how the League was put together, but also structuring this book in a way that defines the next era of super hero comic books from DC.  No pressure.  Geoff does character dialogue very well, so it’s no surprise that there’s a good amount of the issue with Batman and Green Lantern (two of the most recognizable characters to new readers) talking to each other.  He also uses Jim Lee to his advantage in some beautiful and lush action sequences.  As co-publisher, Jim Lee is setting a pace for the other artists in the line with very dynamic and stylized page layouts (see Animal Man, Batwing and Swamp Thing).  The interesting thing here is that the mistake for this book would have been to turn it into a Michael Bay explosion fest.  That’s the difference between films and comic books.  Films are a one time purchase.  Comic books require the reader to want to know what happens next and to show up for the next issue and the one after that.  By that standard, this book is following the right course and trajectory with it’s cliffhanger ending.

Action Comics: when I think of the people that know Superman.  I mean really know Superman.  I mean like ‘what was the address of the farm was in Smallville’ know Superman, three people come to mind; Mark Waid, Chris Roberson and Grant Morrison.  There are a number of references back to the original Action Comics #1 (including when Superman saves a woman from her abusive husband) and while this Superman is a bit “naive” and maybe “darker,” we all know where this is going to end up.  So really what we’re looking at is the journey of how a young man from the midwest meets the city and how it turns him into the greatest superhero of all time.  And that journey doesn’t conclude on day one.  It takes time.  And this is the book where that happens.

[Update: Mark Waid responded to me on Twitter with the following

RFD 1, Box 72. Kent HOUSE was on 321 Maple. Pa’s store was on the 100 block of Oak St. DUH. http://pic.twitter.com/sblcXq7

]

Animal Man: this, and Swamp Thing, are two books where the author clearly knew exactly the tone they wanted for the title.  The first page is a bit of a gimmick, but it pays off strong as the issue progresses.  Lemire combines family elements with gothic horror and this is perfectly carried by Travel Foreman’s minimalistic style and beautiful page designs.  Animal Man and Swamp Thing are the type of comic book that give new comic book readers a sense of the “cinematography” that an artist can achieve creating a stylized look that they would not find on television or in a film.  And it’s not just about dudes in capes (though they do show up).  What I also like about this title is that there’s no middle ground.  You either loved it, or it’s not for you.

Batwing: full disclosure, I am friends with the author (Judd Winick) so while this might come off as a biased review, it doesn’t mean that this title isn’t fantastic. In the 20 pages of this first issue, Judd is able to clearly define how this book is different from Batman in Gotham City.  He gives a sense of the place, the people, the characters and all while also providing some great opportunities for artist Ben Oliver to deliver beautifully rendered action sequences.  This is the book that is going to come in under the radar and surprise people.  It’s written as a straight-up action/superhero comic book, but Judd makes the characters and the setting the real focus and it’s something we’ve not seen before.

Swamp Thing: Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette are following the successful Alan Moore/Steve Bissette/Rick Veitch model for this title; specifically the tone of the early issues with the trippy late 80’s layouts and how ‘nature’ was both a setting and a character that played off of Alec Holland.  This is, what I think, is resonating with most of the positive reviews online.  People liked that Swamp Thing.  This looks like that Swamp Thing.  A+B=C.  They like this title.  And it would be easy for Snyder/Paquette  to simply be a “cover band,” but that’s not why these guys are two of the top creators in the business. They are simply using this as a starting point to provide easy access into something that is going to be unique unto the collaboration between the two of them.  Already in the first 20 pages I see an increased levels of horror (reminiscent of the Wein/Wrightson run) and a trajectory that in a few issues (or maybe even a few pages) will be referred to in the future as “the Snyder/Paquette” run and not merely a homage.

Silver Medal Winners

The following are titles I enjoyed, but am putting “on notice” that in another 20 pages, I might not stick around.

Batgirl: Gail Simone has a very difficult task to accomplish with this title.  She has to bridge the gap from The Killing Joke to current day in a way that is respectful to old readers and any number of groups looking for blood.  I have faith in her ability to do this, and am actually impressed that she decided not to tackle this in the first issue.  She’s taking readers on a journey and hints at the timeline which I’m sure she’ll expand on in future issues.  My problem with the book was the actual writing of the issue.  Specifically the tone.  She is applying the same type of tone she used on Secret Six; disturbing one minute, funny and quirky the next and then back again.  Two problems with that tone for this book.  1) there’s a bit more emotion that is coming out of the Jim / Barbara relationship which puts another ball in the air and messes put the balance and rhythm.  2) the jokes are not funny.  Not a single joke or gag in this issue landed.  In fact a few were so cliche that I cringed.  That’s my opinion.  As far as the art, this is certainly one of the most beautiful titles of week 1, no question.  I’m going to give this another shot with issue 2 to see if it can figure itself out, but this issue was simply, “OK.”

Stormwatch: if you are a science fiction novel reader, this is your title.  No question.  Paul Cornell writes science fiction novels and has taken that style of writing to Stormwatch.  And it fits perfectly.  The problem that this title had is that it references quite a bit of the DC Universe…that nobody has read yet.  I’m kind of amazed that editorial chose to put this as a Week 1 book, as opposed to waiting for it to go after certain books (one of which is referenced in this issue but has yet to come out).  That shouldn’t (and doesn’t) affect how I felt about this title.  I think much of it had to do with so much of this issue being setup, which is why I’d like to stick around and give it another shot.

Third Place (Insert Glengary Glen Ross Speech Here)

I will not spend too much time on these titles, since I try to stay away from negative reviews.  I will say that I read these titles.  They were not for me.

  • Green Arrow: this title is being eliminated due in large part to a personal bias I have with regard to comic books that try to cover the technology industry.  I work in the industry and it’s hard for me to read about it and not analyze it more than I should.
  • Hawk And Dove: my one complaint with this book had to do with a reveal on the final page and some color issues that confused the heck out of me given some new costume designs for one of the characters.  I don’t know, maybe it was just me.
  • Men of War: there were a number of people that I trust who loved this title.  I have been spoiled by the Garth Ennis “war stories” from Dynamite (and Vertigo) and wasn’t seeing this book going in that direction.  This is a title that I will keep my eye on and could revisit in trade in months to come.

…so, that’s the news folks.  I.  Am.  Out of here…

Fight The Real Evil: Glee, SDCC And Who’s Using The Remote…

July 22, 2011

Cue Sinéad O’Connor ripping up the title card from Glee…

It’s July, which means it’s that time again and of course I feel the need to gripe about San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC, see previous blogs on this subject)

As mentioned in the past, I sympathize with the organizers of SDCC.  They clearly are trying to maintain a comic book focus for the event, but the Hollywood stuff continues to overpower them.

It’s almost like inviting a friend over to watch a football game and he/she doesn’t actually even like football and decides to handle the  remote in your living room.  You’d like to be a polite host but at the same time, they keep switching channels during the commercials and don’t quite seem to be quick enough to get back to the game when it starts back up.  The host can only do so much before they loose control of the situation.

…oh, and they won’t take a hint on when to leave.

It’s a long way to get to a point, but it leads me to the following question: who the <blank> invited Glee?

Glee.  Seriously.

As a reminder, the mission statement for Comic-Con reads:

Comic-Con International is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to creating awareness of, and appreciation for, comics and related popular art forms, primarily through the presentation of conventions and events that celebrate the historic and ongoing contribution of comics to art and culture.

While television qualifies as a “related popular art form,” the content of said television (Glee) is a stretch.

Not to mention that Glee does not, “celebrate the historic and ongoing contribution of comics to art and culture.”

One could argue that so many other things do not qualify either.

Well, that might be true, but I’m focusing on the “low hanging fruit here.”

And Glee is ripe and in season.

I have come to accept that SDCC has been co-opted as a “nerd culture” event and that Hollywood stretches the “letter of the law” when it comes to what they bring down to San Diego.

Everything in moderation.

But Glee?

So.  Here’s what I’d ask of anyone going to SDCC.

Don’t go to the Glee panel.

Make sure that on Sunday at 10 AM, Hall H is completely empty.

Make that room look like the planet Arrakis.*

Show Hollywood that you’re sick of their non-football liking friend hogging the remote in our living room.

Instead of Glee, might I suggest the following alternative comic book-based programming for Sunday at 10 AM:

  • Archaia Entertainment and The Jim Henson Company: The Early Works of Jim Henson Screening with Special Tale of Sand Discussion (Room 4)
  • The Annual Jack Kirby Tribute Panel (Room 5AB) with Mark Evanier, Walt Simonson and Erik Larsen among others
  • Axe Cop (Room 6DE)
  • Comic-Con How-To: Audio Books with Scott Brick (Room 28DE)**
  • Teen Comics Workshop (Room 30CDE) with Xeric Award winner Gene Luen Yang among others
  • Comic Book Fairs: Using Comics as a Literacy Tool (Room 32AB)
  • 10:30 – 11:30 Wild Cards (Room 6BCF) with George R.R. Martin and Paul Cornell among others
  • 10:30 – 12:00 omics Arts Conference Session #13: Monsters, Somnambulism, and Anarchy: Romantic Vertigo in the Modern Age (room 26AB)

The funny thing is, when I started this blog I didn’t know what else was happening on Sunday at 10 AM.

The reality is, this is a wealth of comic book goodness.

Seriously.  Comic books are still at SDCC.  You just have to know where to look.  And when you can find them, you can be sure that you’ve hit some awesome stuff like that Mark Evanier panel about Jack Kirby.  Evanier knew The King.  Worked for The King.  Wrote a book about The King.  This panel is an SDCC mainstay.  And to have Walt Simonson there too!  C’mon.

Axe Cop!  Nuff said.

Or the Teen Comics Workshop.  If you are a young adult and looking to get into comics, this is a far better use of your time than watching clips from Glee that you can see on YouTube next week.

And what about that Wild Cards panel?  Aside from George R.R. Martin being on there, it’s about the process of adapting comic books to prose.  I’d pay money just to sit in on something that interesting (especially since I have the old Epic Wild Cards series).

So.  You can choose from one of these insanely amazing panels.  Or sit in a room to watch the producers of Glee show clips.

Exactly.

Having Hall H completely empty and packing these comic book panel rooms to the rafters will hopefully send a message to Hollywood: Stop hogging the remote!

…and maybe learn something about football before you come over the next time.

* yes, Dune is a novel.  But it was also a movie and the movie was adapted into a comic book.  

** Note: I know that the How-To on Audio Books is not comic book-based.  But Scott is a friend and does Brad‘s audio books so I felt the need to plug his panel.

52 Pickup – What I’ll Be Buying During September’s DC #1 Reboot

July 5, 2011
Action Comics #1 (April, 1938)

Action Comics #1 (April, 1938)

The entire line of 52 DC #1 reboot titles have been announced, and the following is my pull list / recommendations for September.

A few notes up-front about this list.

  • These are my personal recommendations and should be treated as such.  If you don’t agree with my recommendations, that’s cool.  We’re still friends.  🙂 I encourage you to make your own decisions.
  • My methodology for purchasing comics is that I tend to follow writers.  Then artists.  Then characters.  I wrote about this in great detail in a previous post.  A good writer can steer me to buy a book about a character I don’t care about.  Example: Geoff Johns on Aquaman (sorry Katy!).  But as much as I love Adam Strange, if he’s in a book with a writer I don’t like, I’ll take a pass.
  • My attention span is limited to 20 pages before I loose interest in a reboot title (something covered in my other post under “The DC Challenge”).  Meaning, if they don’t wow me with the first issue, I’m not going to stick around for a full story-arc for it to “get better.”  Creative teams who are not conscious of the fact that they are fighting for my attention and need to grab me at the jump don’t deserve it.

Strong Buy Recommendations

New Justice

  • Justice League (Geoff Johns/Jim Lee): the first title out of the gate, and it’s sure to be a winner.  The creative team alone sells me on this book.  Two of the chief architects behind the reboot, working together on the heaviest hitters in the DCU.  You had me at, “JL.”
  • Aquaman (Geoff Johns/Ivan Reis): if Johns and Reis can make Aquaman cool again (and let’s face it, he hasn’t been cool since his days in Detroit), then this will be a book to remember.
  • Wonder Woman (Brian Azzarello / Cliff Chiang): Azzarello often gets left out of conversations about great super hero writers, but if you look at his body of work, he’s written some of the best Superman and Batman  stories in the past few years with the Luthor and Joker books.  Cliff Chiang is both no stranger to drawing Amazons (see Green Arrow/Black Canary) and a personal favorite artist of mine since his days illustrating Josie Mac.

Green Lantern

  • Green Lantern (Geoff Johns/Doug Mahnke and Christian Alamy): while Johns didn’t create Hal Jordan, he has an understanding of how to write this character and that’s made for one of the most consistent books over the past few years.  I’m glad he’s staying on this title and look forward to the new run.

Batman

  • Batman (Scott Snyder / Greg Capullo): Snyder is coming off of an exceptional run on Detective Comics.  My first thought was that he might be misplaced on Batman (as opposed to Detective Comics) since it was his focus on the crime investigation and human elements that made the book such a great read.  That said, Snyder is a professional writer and I’m certain he can adapt to work on the flagship title.
  • Batgirl (Gail Simone/Ardian Syaf): while Gail Simone has logged a lot of time writing Barbara Gordon, she hasn’t actually written her as Batgirl.  Few have over the past 20 years.  So it will be interesting to see how she approaches Barbara back in the role of Batgirl (assuming it is Barbara behind the mask).
  • Batwing (Judd Winick/Ben Oliver): Batman is cool, but Batwing is going to be cooler.  This is what the reboot is all about.  Taking concepts to places they haven’t been before with characters who might have not been represented in the past.  This should be on everyone’s list (and, because I know Judd is gonna knock this out of the park).
  • Batwoman (J.H. Williams III/Haden Blackman/Amy Reeder): this was the most anticipated title of 2011 before the reboot and the fact that it’s still on track is excellent news.
  • Catwoman (Judd Winick/Guillem March): trust me when I tell you, this is gonna be the breakout book of the Bat titles.  I spoke to Judd about what he plans to do with this book, and it’s gonna be a page-turner.
  • …and though it’s not launching until 2012, Grant Morrison/Chris Burnham on Batman, Incorporated is also a must buy.

Dark Side

The key to these “Dark Side” books will be if they really let the creators push these books to the type of “Veritgo space” that the old DC Swamp Thing, Hellblazer and Doom Patrol tread in (before they got moved into their own imprint).  I’m waiting for the group editor here to say that the safeties are off…

  • Animal Man (Jeff Lemire/Travel Foreman): Lemire excels at telling stories with intimate family moments and I’m hoping that he’s allowed to go “dark” (see above note) with his storytelling here.  Read Sweet Tooth.  He can do it, it’s a question of will they let him go there.
  • Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE (Jeff Lemire/Alberto Ponticelli): Lemire is clearly one of the new writers that DC is betting heavily on.  I’ll be interested to see what he does on this team book and am enjoying his take on the character in Flashpoint.
  • I, Vampire (Josh Fialkov/Andrea Sorrentino): I almost skipped over this book, until I saw that it was Josh Fialkov writing it.  His series Echoes was quite good (thanks for the heads up on that, Dan).  Again, if he can really go “dark” on this book, that’ll be the difference between a lame vampire book and one that stays in the buy pile.
  • Justice League Dark (Peter Milligan/Mikel Janin): terrible title and while this book was sorta done already in Doom Patrol #53 with the Legion of the Strange (Comics Alliance), I’m hoping Peter Milligan makes this something to talk about like he did when he was writing X-Statix for Marvel.
  • Swamp Thing (Scott Snyder/Yannick Paquette): Snyder is one of their strongest writers right now, and he understands horror (see American Vampire), so it stands to reason they’d put him on the Swamp Thing relaunch.

The Next Generation of Justice

  • Legion of Super Heroes (Paul Levitz/Francis Portela): not only did Paul Levitz understand the Legion when he wrote the book the  first time around, but since he’s been back he’s shown that he’s still got it.

The Edge

The note that I made about the “Dark Side” books is the same note I’d make about these books.  Any line called “The Edge” better feel more like a Vertigo crime book and less like a middle-of-the-line DC book, or it might as well be just another title on the shelf.

  • Blackhawks (Mike Costa/Ken Lashley): Costa was part of the G.I. Joe: Cobra book from IDW.  That gets him a shot at trying to win me over.
  • Stormwatch (Paul Cornell/Miguel Sepulveda): Cornell won me over with his work on Action Comics.  I’m on board (even though Martian Manhunter can be a pretty boring character).

Superman

  • Action Comics (Grant Morrison/Rags Morales): Morrison is one of the most imaginative writers working in comics, and he writes stories that make your brain explode (in a good way).  It’s almost laughable to think that the man who was once the poster child for Vertigo and seen as being “too weird” is now writing the most iconic comic book character ever created.  And Morales is an artist who can do both action and emotion (re-read Identity Crisis and it’s all there).
  • Superman: The Man Of Tomorrow (George Perez/Jesus Merino): in February of 1987, after the Crisis on Infinite Earths rebooted the DC Universe, George Perez rebuilt Wonder Woman from the ashes.  Now he will be back to do the same for Superman.

Cautiously Optimistic

Justice League

  • DC Universe Presents  (Paul Jenkins / Bernard Chang): an anthology is going to be pretty important in filling in some of the “gaps” and quite frankly, I’ve always liked anthologies.  Paul Jenkins is a very underrated writer and I’m happy to see him back from working across the street at Marvel.  That said, anthologies are hit or miss, so I’ve moved it to this column.
  • The Flash (Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato): while I love Manpaul / Buccellato as artists, they are unproven as writers and that’s the only reason they’re not in the “strong buy” column.  I’m hoping that these two surprise me and push this title over the top.
  • Mister Terrific (Eric Wallace / Roger Robinson): while I have read a few comics from Eric Wallace, I do not have an opinion of him one way or the other.  Neither do I for Roger Robinson.  This is one of the rare instances where a character (Mister Terrific) is compelling me to try a title.

Batman

  • Birds of Prey (Duane Swierczynski/Jesus Saiz): I’ve tried a number of Swierczynski’s Marvel titles, and they never really resonated with me.  I’m hoping that the move to DC, the reboot and the fact that he’s on a team book are all enough variables that maybe get me on board with his writing.
  • Detective Comics (Tony Daniel): while I am not a huge fan of Daniel’s writing, the vote of confidence to keep him on Batman as a writer and shift him to this title is enough to make me give it a shot.  As a polite reminder to Daniel, I would point out that he has 20 pages to get me to stay on the title.
  • Red Hood And The Outlaws (Scott Lobdell/Kenneth Rocafort): pairing Jason Todd with Roy Harper is enough to get me to check this out.

Dark Side

  • Demon Knights (Paul Cornell/Diogenes Neves): I have very little interest in this book, but the idea of Paul Cornell writing it will at least get me in the door for a first issue.

The Next Generation of Justice

  • Hawk & Dove (Sterling Gates/Rob Liefeld): Hawk & Dove is what first brought most people to the attention of Rob Liefeld.  Say what you will about his art style, but he brings a level of enthusiasm to the page that few artists can match.  I should also mention that Sterling Gates is a very talented writer and did some great work on Supergirl (another youth-oriented book).
  • Legion Lost (Fabian Nicieza/Pete Woods): I have very little interest in the concept, but I know that some of Nicieza’s best work was on the New Warriors, so I’m going to give this a shot.

The Edge

  • Grifter (Nathan Edmondson/CAFU and BIT): Edmonson’s “Who Is Jake Ellis?” from Image is a neat series.  I’m a fan of Cafu and Bit, so this book is worth a try.
  • OMAC (Dan DiDio/Keith Giffen and Scott Koblish): the cover image looks more like the Hulk and less like the original OMAC.  DiDio is doing what Johns and Lee are doing; working on titles in the trenches with the rest of their creative teams.  So that gets him a spot on my list.
  • Sgt. Rock And The Men Of War (Ivan Brandon/Tom Derenick): see my comment about what I’m looking for from the Edge titles.  Brandon can write gritty war comics.  It’s going to be less about ability and more about if they let him take the title in that direction or keep him in the middle.

Superman

  • Supergirl (Michael Green and Mike Johnson/Mahmud Asrar): I’ve enjoyed Michael Green’s books (and TV work) in the past, so he gets a shot to show me what he’ll do for Supergirl.

Final Count:

  • Strong Buys: 19
  • Cautiously Optimistic: 13
  • Total: 32/52

Can’t wait for September…

Action Comics #1 (September, 2011)

Action Comics #1 (September, 2011)

Green Lantern: The Credits You Didn’t See

June 17, 2011

My review for Green Lantern will be the next thing I post, but I want to be very clear that this movie is receiving an F as my official rating because it failed to credit any of the writers, artists and editors whose work the film was based on.

Why do I feel so strongly about this?

As a primer, creator’s rights is a topic that is very familiar to comic book readers.  Back in the day, the industry had most writers and artists locked into contracts that were…well, the only word to use in retrospect is “shameful.”

In addition to the stories you know about, like Siegel & Shuster signing away Superman, there are also stories that are even more horrific:

  • Bob Kane signed a “sweetheart” deal with Batman that ensured his continued credit for creating the character and cut out his co-creator entirely, a gentleman by the name of Bill Finger.
  • The legal battle between Jack Kirby and Marvel and possibly the most egregious business practice which was where Marvel would stamp the back of their pay checks with contracts that forced creators who needed to endorse them (read: get paid) to have to sign away their labor as “work for hire.”  So sign the contract, or starve.

While some of these individuals entered these contracts willingly, I think that we can all agree that nobody could anticipate how things would turn out years down the road.

Things could have easily imploded, like vaudeville or old time radio, and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

But they didn’t.  Instead, companies like DC Comics and Marvel make billions of dollars off of the work of these individuals often without a credit to their names on the work.

Contracts have gotten better over the past 20 years or so, but the legacy stuff where the bulk of the money is made, are still pretty dicey and it’s times like this where legal obligation and doing the right thing meet at a crossroads and it defines a company.

At the end of the Thor movie, Marvel (see above) surprised many fans with a “Thanks” credit given to a handful of writers and artists whose work clearly influenced the film.  It wasn’t something they needed to do.  They did it because it’s the right thing to do.

When Batman Begins came out, a number of writers and artists whose work was featured in the film received small payments from DC Comics.

Which is why when the credits rolled on Green Lantern, people such as myself were in disbelief when the credit simply read: based on the character appearing in DC Comics magazines (or some such boilerplate copy).

Considering this was similar wording used in the Superman television series from the 1950’s (when DC was dodging Siegel & Shuster), it would have been laughable if it were not a sad, shameful and pathetic.

Warner Brothers and DC Comics should be ashamed of themselves for not stepping up and recognizing the backs on which they are to make millions of dollars.  

The same company that continues to try to screw the Siegel And Shuster estates at every turn is the same company that did this utterly low-class move.

So, before I go into a complete frenzy, let me share with you the credits that should have been on the screen:

  • Bill Finger.  Yes, the same guy who Bob Kane screwed over.  He and an artist by the name of Martin Nodell created the original Green Lantern.  An interesting piece of trivia about Nodell is that he worked at the Leo Burnett Agency where he helped create the Pillsbury Doughboy.
  • That character ended publication in 1951 and it wasn’t until the late 1950’s when an editor named Julie Schwartz got the idea to take the names of old DC comic book characters and revive them with “modern” science-fiction backgrounds, something he did successfully with The Flash.
  • Schwartz hired writer John Broome and artist Gil Kane to remake Green Lantern for the modern world.  Their version, Hal Jordan, is what the film is based on.
  • In fact, they not only created Hal Jordan, but Hector Hammond.  Oa.  Guardians.  Tomar-Re.  Carol Ferris and Sinestro.
  • Even the basic logo/look of the ring (the two horizontal lines with the circle in the middle) came work done by Kane and Nodell.

Which is why the way that Warner Brothers and DC Comics chose to credit the creation of this character can be summarized in one word: shameful.

The DC #1 Reboot (AKA The Long Road To September)

June 2, 2011

The announcement from DC Comics in USA Today this past Tuesday can be summarized as follows:

The entire line of DC Universe (DCU) comic book titles are getting a major overhaul this coming September.  This “reboot” eliminates some titles, adds new ones.  It will assign new creative teams pretty much across the board and will develop new takes on all of the characters.  All titles will ship digitally on the same day as they are available in comic book stores and, every title gets (re)numbered to #1.

The Tuesday announcement also stated that the first title will be The Justice League, written by Geoff Johns (Chief Creative Officer of DC) and penciled by Jim Lee (co-publisher).

Is This The First Time This Has Happened?

DC has done this a number of times over the course of its 75+ year history.

The Silver Age in the 1960’s.  1985’s Crisis On Infinite Earths.  1994’s Zero Hour.  And most recently, 2006’s One Year Later.

Those are the major ones.  There are also “softer” reboots that have happened during the run of any particular series such as the tonal shifts of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman in the 1970’s.

Reboots in the DCU, and other serialized fiction, are cyclical due to the fact that the problems with integrating the increasing amounts of continuity over an extended period of time.

While it can be debated whether it is the ideal solution, the reboot is seen by many as the natural (and easiest) release valve.

Why Dump The Continuity? 

From the outside looking in, the density of continuity is often seen as the barrier holding back new readers from entering comic books.

It can be argued that every reader has to start somewhere, and every reader eventually gets up to speed with continuity (I managed to do this before my tenth birthday, without the aid of the Internet).

But that only addresses the most loyal of fans.  Casual readers require fewer obstacles to get on board.

The reboot solves this problem for new readers.  They get to start on the ground floor along with everyone else (myself included).

For existing readers, like me, it means closing the door on one continuity and opening the door to another.

Frankenstein Monster Say Change (and Fire) Is Bad!

And as we know, he would be wrong in saying that.

Change is often met with fear and I’m sure that many longtime fans will see this as a personal attack.  That the stories they know and love no longer “count.”

The reality is that this opens the door for new stories to be known and to be loved.  And to count for everyone.

And I have to think there will be nods to those old/known/loved/counted stories.

This is inclusive.  Not exclusive.

But Will It Work?

It’s hard to say if this will work or not because so much has changed in the industry over just the past ten years.

Distribution channels for how readers get comics.  The quality of writing and art.  The familiarity of new readers with the characters from exposure in movies and television.  The crossover of comic books into mainstream culture.  Etc.

It’s hard to compare this reboot with even the 2006 One Year Later because, market conditions aside, the scope of this type reboot has not been done in so long that it’s difficult to compare.

It would be like comparing the original King Kong with the 1976 and 2005 remakes.  The storytelling is different.  The market is different.  Too many variables.

What I will say is that this reinvigorates the line and people are talking.  DC has the attention that they want.

As to if they will maintain the current readers and bring in new ones as well…there will be a lot of attention on the Septembers sales charts  (as will November, December, etc.).

Where Do I Personally Stand On The Reboot?

Continuity is a platform of moral superiority for many fans.  Knowing more than other readers is seen by many as a status symbol.

And let’s face it, it’s also selfish.

It’s selfish in that continuity can grow to be so large and so vast that it builds a wall around the medium making it difficult for others to come in and access it.

The fact that everyone is now starting on the ground floor is OK with me.  I’d trade in my 30+ years of DCU knowledge for more readers enjoying comic books.  I’m fine with that.

I’m fine with more people in the comic book store on a Wednesday if it means that we’re all talking about the same stories we read last week.

Part of the reason I feel this way is something on the Greg Fitzsimmons podcast about nostalgia and the fact that nostalgia is exclusionary.

That really stuck with me.

What Will I Be Buying?

Each day is bringing new information on the creative teams and titles (see today’s announcement on The Source Blog  for the 10 “New Justice” titles) but a list of creative teams and 25 word descriptions aren’t enough to pass judgement.

I won’t know how I feel about the titles themselves until I read them in September.  After all, we do not know what we do not know.

So, here’s my strategy: based on previous performance by the creative teams + my interest in the descriptions of the titles, I will try sample books and then make my judgements.

For example: Brian Azzarello is a a writer who has yet to let me down.  Cliff Chiang is a phenomenal artist.  They’re on Wonder Woman.  I’m down for that book.

Should You Be Excited About This If You Currently Don’t Read Comic Books?

Not to tell you how to feel, but yes.  Yes you should excited about this.

If you are a new reader, it’s your opportunity to get in on the ground floor.  And by that, I don’t just mean with DC.  It could help you work your way into reading other comic books.

Across the street, Marvel comics is publishing some pretty awesome stuff.  If  you were at all impressed with the Thor movie, you owe it to yourself to see the epic scale of action and drama happening in the Fear Itself mini-series by Matt Fraction and Immonen.

That new Justice League title in the USA Today article looks like a sure bet to please new readers.  Geoff Johns and Jim Lee are two of the most talented creators in comics and 2 of the masterminds behind this reboot.  Think of it like the David Chase scripted episodes of the Sopranos.

But what about the other 51 titles?  My suggestion is to read about the creative teams and descriptions.  See what catches your attention.  Use Wikipedia (or the comments section on this blog) to learn more about the writers and artists.

For instance: Brian Azzarello wrote a great Joker hardcover that can tune you into his writing style.  Cliff Chiang illustrated a cool comic based on Neil Young’s Greendale.

There are plenty of books to sample, today, that skirt continuity that can give you a feel for some of the creators working on the reboot.

I also suspect previews and samples will be online (and on the iPad) as we get closer to September.

Find your local comic book store (Comic Shop Locator) and ask them what they’d recommend.

My Open Challenge To DC (AKA “The DC Challenge”)

I won’t beat around the bush.  DC, don’t mess this up!

Comic books are $2.99 for 20 pages and that’s the amount of money and time  you have to maintain me as a reader for each title.

Let me put this in nice big bold letters to be clear – you have 20 pages to convince me to keep purchasing each title.  You need to recognize that there is an over saturation of entertainment sources (and content), so asking me to spend more than 20 pages to “wait for it to get good.” is not an option.  

My brother and I were having a conversation about the show “The Event.”  He was trying to convince me that in the later episodes it found it’s bearings and started to get good.

Too late.  I’d already moved on to watching other shows that secured my free time.

The modern consumer does not have the time or bandwidth to “wait for something to get good.”  It needs to grab them out of the gate.  Go hard or go home.  

My Open Challenge To The Internet

If you’re happy hating on the announcement before you’ve even read the comic books, maybe it’s time  you left.

As in now.

Leave.

Vote with your dollars and go elsewhere. 

Marvel publishes great comics.  They’d be happy to have you.

I was flipping through Previews yesterday and was amazed at how many Star Wars titles Dark Horse is publishing these days.  You can go there.

Dynamite has all those Green Hornet titles.

Seriously,there are plenty of comic books being published weekly that if you didn’t want to read DC comics, you could enjoy other things and never miss them.

And that’s fine.  If it’s not your thing.  It’s not your thing.

And voting with your dollars will tell DC this.  And if enough people do that, maybe things will change again.

But then again, if enough people buy these books then maybe it shows them that they’re on the right track.

Change is not always a bad thing, my advice is to embrace it and see where it takes you.