I don't know if anyone pays any attention to this blog anymore but I always hate when I find an abandoned blog that doesn't have some sort, I don't know if this is the right word, but let's call it a conclusion. The reason I gave up this blog is because I finally admitted to mysel that writing about comics wasn't my passion, it was making comics. So starting on Halloween of last year I launched Heavy Breakfast, a web comic that has been updated more or less once a week. Go check it out.
I'm finally back, I've been busy reading all these new DC books, and I figured instead of doing a bunch of reviews I'd list some random thoughts.
*I guess Justice League was fun but really sucked as an introduction to the DC universe, sure it was a good idea pairing up the heroes from DC's most recent movies but I don't know if stringing those potential new readers along while they wait for the Justice League to assemble is the best long term strategy. Ah well, it sold 200,000 copies so what do I know?
*Aside from the unquestionable sales success I think DC's greatest accomplishment is finally having critically acclaimed creative teams on the Trinity. Action Comics, Batman, and Wonder Woman rank among those books everyone should be reading, after the whole debacle with JMS, I though this would never happen.
*Okay, so I guess I was wrong about Animal Man, though I would say the success of that book has a lot more to do with the strength of Jeff Lemire as a writer than it has to do with a general interest in Animal Man, though there's definitely a fair amount of that too.
*I wasn't sure even Grant Morrison could come up with a take on Superman that would click with today's audience but his arrogant, working class hero strikes the perfect balance of the different and the familiar. Going to dread seeing the character in that new costume after this first storyline though.
*I hate to say it but Paul Levitz has lost that Legion magic. I couldn't even bring myself to finish this first issue, as I had long since forgotten why I ever liked these characters. Not a good sign when even a dedicated fan doesn't know why he should care, especially when you consider the target audience are new readers.
*My votes for books that will get canceled first? Voodoo (obscure character, critically panned), Men at War (lacks marquee talent combined with a $3.99 price tag), Resurrection Man (a book canceled due to lack of interest in the 90s with no trade paperback to boost interest), and OMAC (because it's Kirby, and unless we're talking about Marvel or Grant Morrison, no one but Kirby could make Kirby work)
*I don't know if I'll feel the same way several months from now but Frankenstein ended up being my favorite of all the books. It's exactly like BPRD except goofier, stranger, and uglier. A lot of people hated Alberto Ponticelli's artwork, but I think his rough style helps the feel of the book.
*Swamp Thing looked gorgeous, I've always felt Yannick Paquette was an artist always on the verge of something amazing, and this book shows it. Scott Synder also delivered an engrossing story with genuine scares. However I must add that it's probably only engrossing to previous Swamp Thing readers, as it fails to make for a compelling introduction to the character what with him appearing only on the very last page. And yes, I think we can all agree that Superman cameo screamed editorial mandate.
*Sword & sorcery, family horror drama, supernatural team book, and even superheroes. I appreciate the sense of variety on these books, each time I picked up a different book I was delighted by how unique a reading experience it offered.
*Yes, Flash did end up being significantly better than I had expected. Francis Manapul and Brian Bucchelleto are providing the kind of visually fresh art that's become a bit too rare these days. Fingers crossed that this will become DC's artistic response to Marvel's current Daredevil ongoing.
*But this whole thing was really soured by DC's response to those who spoke out against Starfire in "Red Hood & The Outlaws" and that infamous scene in "Catwoman". They responded by reminding readers to be sure to pay attention to their ratings, even though sites like Bleeding Cool have shown how inconsistent those ratings are. I think it would have better to just not say anything if their response was going to be so dismissive.
It's rough seeing Doctor Strange nowadays. He doesn't have a Sanctum Sanctorum, he doesn't have his Cape of Levitation, he doesn't have his All-Seeing Eye of Agamotto. He's now just a regular guy in a trench coat whose suave mustache is the only clue to any casual viewer that he's someone extraordinary and not a random pervert fresh from some half decayed porno theater.
At some point in the last couple of years Marvel seems to have become ashamed of its magic characters, sweeping under the carpet any character whose existence didn't fit logically in a world where radiation gives men super powers and so of course Doctor Strange, Marvel's living embodiment of magic, was the one to receive the most downgrading. They scrubbed away all the most intriguing Ditkonian elements away from, leaving him to seem like nothing special at all.
If such treatment were done to some random C-lister from the 70s like Adam Warlock there wouldn't be much reason for concern, but this is Doctor Strange, he's a staple of the Marvel universe. In his earliest adventures Steve Ditko defied conventions and created a world of psychedelic imagery combined with postmodern art thereby influencing numerous artists for generations to come. Then in the 1970s Steve Englehart would use the character to explore the metaphysical and spiritual concerns which helped to usher in deeper storytelling in comics. Then in the 80s Roger Stern would begin an epic run on the character that ranks among Stern's best work. Since then the character has been in miniseries featuring some of the best talents in comics; Brian K. Vaughn, Peter Milligan, Brendan McCarthy, Mike Allred, Tony Harris. In case you were not aware those people have got ALL KINDS of Eisners. My point is Strange has had numerous classic stories and clearly draws the attention of significant talent.
I think Marvel's just ashamed of the camp. Despite my argument in how great Doctor Strange is, I have to admit that he's also kind of corny. He's the guy who shouts "By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth!" or "By the all-seeing Eye of Agamotto". Then there's the wild hand gestures, the mustache, and that costume that brings to mind a mix between a Dio album cover and Joseph's Technicolor Dreamcoat. And Wong, he's got an Asian servant named Wong. It's no wonder that the character spawned a hilarious parody in Doctor Orpheus on Adult Swim's "Venture Bros", because to his very core he is pretty goofy. Maybe this is why Marvel has been so aggressive about cleaning house on the character, seeing just what needed to be removed to make the character seem serious. But instead of making him better focused it just caused him to tumble further and further away from what made him appealing. It's just one of those unfortunate side effects of a comic audience demanding "serious" storytelling.
But I can't say Marvel didn't try, in the 2000s there were a slew of fantastic miniseries. Marvel didn't radically change Strange in any of these stories, instead trying to sell the classic version of the character to today's audience. They even went as far as to get some of their best creative minds to work on these titles. But despite their best efforts no one read them. After that they passed him along to Brian Michael Bendis to see what he could do. Needless to say that lead to how things are now.
But maybe this dark time for the character is on its way out. Matt Fraction will be writing a new Defenders ongoing featuring Doctor Strange. Fraction sounds like he has some solid ideas which will definitely take advantage of this character. I won't lie, the part I find most exciting is seeing Strange in promo art wearing what appears to be a goofy red vest over a black body suit, it's no flowing cape that looks like an old Indian rug but it'll do.
*Does anyone plan to regularly buy the Justice League combo packs? The idea I'm assuming behind this is that someone may want to buy both a physical copy as well as a digital copy. This is an idea you see in vinyl records and DVDs. But in both these examples you need that digital version to enjoy the product in a way you couldn't do easily with that product alone. What scenario can you think of where you'd have to have a comic in a different format because you couldn't enjoy it in the way you have it? Carry it on a bus? Flip through it while on a toilet? No, neither of these seem likely. I'm not sure someone is going to cough up an extra dollar for what I suppose is a sense of novelty. It's like DC was so desperate to one-up Marvel's digital game that they just threw out something without much prior thought.
*DC seems to have its books divided into those for preexisting fans and those for those possibly imaginary new readers. So what about that third group? The ones for no one. I look at books like Captain Atom, The Savage Hawkman, and Blackhawks and wonder just who they have in mind. These books all star characters that have limited or no appeal (otherwise there would be at least one Captain Atom trade paperback, you know?) and don't seem to tie-in to any obvious comic outsider trends like teen vampires or guys in tight shirts. It would appear DC putting out books doomed to fail are part of their relaunch strategy as well.
*I am absolutely shocked DC is putting out another THUNDER Agents series even if it is only a 6 issue miniseries, it's kind of like when they put out a multi-issue miniseries with those Red Circle characters right after all of their ongoings completely bombed. I know THUNDER Agents had a small following but is that really grounds to throw away money?
*Strange observation vaguely associated with this thing: You know what isn't in the back of the last issues of the two Flashpoint minseries I read? An acknowledgment of the existence of ongoing series that tie into these miniseries. In neither "Frankenstein & the Creatures of the Unknown" and "Secret Seven" is a blurb saying something like "read the continuing adventures of ____ in their own ongoing starting next month". I'm sure there were ads in those books acknowledging their existence but what about those oh so important new readers who may not make that connection?
*On one hand I'm impressed with DC's commitment to staying on schedule but at the same time they sure have switched out a great deal of artists a mere three months in. Considering that DC's stated they planned this relaunch over a year ago I'm surprised things are falling apart so fast, it makes it hard to have faith in the overall stability of this project.
*I love Legion of Super-Heroes with all my heart but damn, what is DC thinking by putting out THREE LOSH titles? The series' glory days are long since past and if we've learned anything from the recent relaunch of LOSH and Adventure Comics is that the market can barely support one ongoing let alone two. I guess those promo rings for the first issue of "Legion: Secret Origin" will help a bit but I doubt they will ever make the money back from at least two of these titles.
I want you to think about an age old image, it's the 1920s, a damsel in distress is lying on the tracks, a man in black has placed her there. Now I ask, what is he twiddling? I imagine you didn't say "his earlobes".
The mustache, yes, the mustache, what has happened to villains with mustaches? Think of the classic villains of comic books. Guys like The Puzzler, The Prankster, Abra Kadabra, The Machinesmith, Adam Orion, Turner D. Century, Brainstorm, El Diablo. See? All brilliant, all deserving of the title of "greatest villain the printed page has ever seen". When you read the stories where whatever smooth skinned, boring hero fought these hirsute hustlers you knew it meant business, however this hero was going to win it would only be just barely.
So what happened, I have to ask, why all the folliclephobia? Imagine how much more intimidating characters like Bullseye or Darkseid would be with an empowering Imperial or a delicious DuPont.
I know, I see you now stroking that smooth, triple shaved chin of yours not quite grasping my argument. Well try out these cold hard facts: Did you know that leading scientists have stated that an individual is 11% intimidating if they have a mustache? It's true. In some Eastern European countries the mustache was considered so evil that instead of burying men with mustaches they were instead tossed into the woods to be eaten by bears as you see these people lacked science but we forgive them. When asked why he didn't act sooner to intervene in World War II president William Taft simply held up a picture of Hitler and gestured at his mustache and for the questioner, that was suffice.
Not enough? Clearly you're not a man easily convinced, that's to be expected of a soft minded man with mutton chops. I laugh for you've experience the threat, no no, I mean to say the tyranny of mustaches. Just think back to those old episodes of Batman, didn't you ever wonder why you seemed so scared to watch the episodes with David Wayne's Mad Hatter or how the sight of Cesar Romero's powdered over mustache just made you want to wretch? That was the mustache's power. And when you had your first job, you remember that manager you had who had that big ol 'stache? I bet you often dreamed of killing him, not necessarily because of how mean he was to you but more so due to a deep-rooted fear that he may one nightsneak into your room as you slept and perform some unspeakable evil act on you of an occult nature. Yes, again, the mustache proves it's strength.
If I've gotten through to you then hopefully you will hear my plea. Let's go back to that era of mad bombers with crazed fu manchus to go with crazed hair, bank robbers who don't have to wear masks because their van dyke covers so much already. So next time you're reading a comic where Batman or whoever is being slowly dunked into a tank full of acidic worms and the villain reveals a bare upper lip think to yourself "Hey man, why all the face?"
This week saw a lot of teaser images for DC's upcoming movies though some of them weren't intentional and what kind of fan would I be if I didn't try to make huge assumptions based off a handful of images without context?
First up is the first official image from the Zack Synder helmed "Man of Steel", a movie being made for copyright reasons first, and for genuine entertainment second, maybe. Here we have our Superman, Henry Cavill, hanging out in some incredibly dark bank vault. I'm not really sure what they're trying to convey with Superman destroying a bank, but the dim lighting makes me worry that this is going to be as edgy and music videoy as Zack Snyder's previous films.
Now as for Superman's costume I think it was a good move to stick pretty close to the classic costume. The only real difference the blue Spider-Man gills and that parachute sized cape. The gills make sense as I doubt regular blue would look so eye-catching but that cape is going to look pretty odd during action scenes. Seriously, that thing's Spawn-sized.
The one lingering mystery is his red underwear. After much searching for a brighter version as well as far more time in PhotoScape staring as Superman's groin than I care to admit to I'm unsure if we're getting the classic crimson crotch or the now modern regular blue pants.
My biggest complaint is that logo, it's unnatural and kind of bloated, like something that would be on a budget Superman Halloween costume. It looks like it couldn't handle a gentle breeze let alone a bullet.
Verdict: Probably the right direction but I highly doubt I'll like the execution.
Now for the double feature of Bane and Catwoman from "Dark Knight Rises" which is perhaps the most under-guarded moviesetever.Earlier in the week a ton of images of Tom Hardy's Bane leaked but now all I can find is this single image on Bleeding Cool. From what I recall Bane wears a wool-lined coat, and some outfit covered in lots of pouches that I will choose to describe has combat fatigues. I think we can all let out a sigh of relief that this costume is far-removed from the typical comic book outfit because a luchadore mask and muscle shirt would probably damage the credibility of the Batman movie world.
His clothing remind me of a seasoned mercenary which could mean we'll see the skilled tactician from the comic books. His gas mask, I really don't know, it seems quite BDSM and it's the only time in the entire franchise where I wasn't so sure it fit with the rules of the world. It, combined with the clothing, makes me think Bane looks like a boss from Metal Gear Solid which I guess is kind of cool.
Teaser shots of Anne Hathaway's Catwoman/Selina Kyle finished off the week with a bitchin' picture of her tearing things up on a Batpod. I chose to avoid reading message board responses as I imagine this stripped down look did not sit well with some fans. I'm sure people are let down by the lack of her signature cat ears but I don't think that would fit with the world Christopher Nolan's made. Instead it seems to be going for a strictly logical costume that features a sleek, form fitting outfit and some Sam Fisheresque pair of night vision goggles.
While I understand the logic of the design I must admit it lacks the sort of visual flair that Heath Ledger's Joker had. If you remove those night vision goggles she's just some woman in a plain black body suit. But then again it's just one teaser image, maybe there's more to see. Furthermore the costume is only half the character, who knows what Hathaway's interpretation of the character will add.
Verdict: I'm sold on some of these ideas but not so much on others. I'll save my judgment until we get an official trailer.
I want to start by saying I have immense respect for Stephen Bissette, not only as an artist, writer, but more importantly for being one of the few comic industry figures willing to speak out against the tyranny of the industry. I'm willing to believe Bissette has paid dearly for it, as it's been some time since we've seen new work from someone so unquestionably talented. But that's the price you pay for blowing the whistle on the injustices of corporations. Last week Marvel once again helped sully Jack Kirby's legacy, this time in court when a judge stated Kirby's family had no right to claims of copyright for the characters he co-created. True to form Stephen Bissette made it loud and clear that he would not stand for it.
Bissette starts off by pointing how all it took for DC to change was the SDCC Batgirl, a woman I previously mentioned on here who stood up at most of DC's panels and took the company to task for not hiring more women creators during their September relaunch. Just this week DC posted on their blog that they were taking steps to fix the problems she mentioned. Bissette says that it was time for fans to take the same approach in response to last week's ruling. He says that the best way to do this is to boycott ALL product featuring a Marvel-owned Jack Kirby creation. Fans should stop watching the cartoons, reading the comics, seeing the movies, and so on. Then when next year's San Diego Comic Convention comes along fans take the same approach and at their panels fans should take a stand against the company as "San Diego Comicon 2012 should be the least comfortable event".
But I have some problems with this idea. First of all I feel the wrong people will be affected first, and only maybe eventually the right people as well. Right now month-to-month Marvel sales make up about half the market share so when you go into a comic book store and say you're boycotting Marvel you're telling these struggling, barely left comic book stores that you're not going to buy a significant chunk of their product. Keep in mind that they order two months in advance meaning there's going to be at least two months of product that will sit there. Next up in the chain is comics distributor Diamond who if suddenly faced with financial struggles will start cutting the lower tier employees. Then comes the artists and writers on those titles people are boycotting, granted people on exclusive contracts can afford to have a low-selling title or two, but how about creators who switched from lower-paying independent publishers to a more financially viable gig. It's only after the independently run comic book stores, Diamond staff, and non-exclusive creators are affected that finally maybe the people who actually had a say in Kirby's estate will feel anything but god knows how long that will take.
The other problem is that the grim reality of the comics reading community is that there's a disturbingly large amount of fans who just don't care. Just today when Robot6 covered Bissette's protest the very first comment was from someone stating they could not understand how Kirby's heirs could believe they deserve any money since they didn't create these characters, though I doubt this person realizes that this same argument could be made to say that Marvel doesn't deserve anything as they also did not create these characters. The problem is that this group of fans are far more interested in having title stability, they want the security of having the same comic come out month-to-month which would be interrupted by any victory for Kirby's heirs. To them the suffering of the people who helped create their favorite characters mean nothing, Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby are basically abstract concepts to them, as far as they know Iron Man and Spider-Man simply sprung into existence from Stan Lee's head.
If we really want to stand a chance of affecting change we need to be more aggressive about this, we need to literally make our voices be heard. We have to be like the SDCC Batgirl, she showed us how a concerned fan can make a difference. We can't be passive about this, we have to be in Marvel's face, we have to be bold and unafraid. Instead of hurting the wrong people and asking too much of a group unwilling to even understand why this is wrong we need to go out and incessantly write letters to Marvel, endlessly post on their message boards, and yes, go to those panels at conventions and make these people uncomfortable. Only then I feel the right people be forced to listen.