Last week, Marvel released a free comic enitlted March on Ultimatum Saga, a basic guide to the history of the Ultimate Marvel Earth and its heroes. Although one or two of the facts reported are in question (as I discussed in my article Where Have All The Editors Gone?), it is an appropriate release when you consider that the Ultimate Marvel titles are supposed to suffer a dramatic change as a result of the crossover Ultimatum.
Ultimatum #1, written by Jeph Loeb and illustrated by David Finch, will be on sale the first week of November. If you missed out on the free comic and don’t feel like paying for the online subscription, here’s a quick rundown of just a couple of the recent major events that you should be aware of.
Back in the 1960s, the first doll to be called an "action figure" was created. The "G.I. Joe" line (named after a term used to describe a generic soldier) was a popular toy and depicted soldiers from different U.S. armed forces. In the 1970s, it was re-tooled as the Super Joe Action Team.
In the 1980s, the line was re-launched by Hasbro as "G.I. JOE: A Real American Hero" and now there was a story wrapped around the action figures. It was said that the different characters were all part of a group called G.I. JOE, essentially a counter-terrorist strike force involving the best agents from all branches of the military. Their primary enemy was said to be Cobra, an organization bent on world domination, led by the vicious Cobra Commander and aided by the Scottish war profiteer James McCullen Destro.
This new storyline ignited an interest among fans that has continued for years, inspiring multiple cartoon series, a new live-action movie coming out next year, and a comic published by Marvel and written by Larry Hama (Wolverine), who also wrote the "history files" of the characters for their trading cards and who was no doubt aided by his own experience in the military.
The series spanned 155 issues from 1984 to 1994, along with a few spin-off titles, all of which added deep layers of history and characterization to the JOEs and veered heavily away from the more light-hearted cartoons. Stories ranged from flashbacks to Vietnam to high-flying action in exotic locales to epic struggles between ninjas and battles with science fiction super-villains. In 2001, Devil’s Due Publishing began their own G.I. Joe series, picking up years after the Larry Hama series had ended and lasting over 130 issues, not including spin-offs.
Now IDW has taken the property and has new plans for their own G.I. JOE comics. But rather than continuing the original series and dealing with years of history, they’ve decided to reboot the entire universe from scratch, re-imagining the world and introducing the players to a brand new audience. And this isn’t just one new series. IDW is actually launching three titles under the G.I. JOE banner: G.I. JOE, G.I. JOE: Cobra and G.I. JOE: Origins. The third title will be written by Larry Hama himself.
The three titles will be edited under the direction of Andy Schmidt, who was Marvel’s editor for the cosmic crossover Annihilation. Schmidt spoke to CBR about the new titles and how they will relate to each other. Although each title will reflect the same people and occasionally reference events featured in the other books, the intention is to keep them separate so that readers can follow just one line if they so wish without feeling like they’re only getting part of a story. Likewise, a story that begins in one will not directly continue into one of the other titles.
Andy Schmidt remarked, “[G.I. JOE] has a large cast and will focus on characters and character beats but it’s more the ‘big action movie’ style title. If you really want to get to know Duke, Stalker and the other JOES, then Origins is the book for you. If you’re looking for more of a suspense-thriller feel then Cobra is the way to go. None of the titles is the lead book. Together they all form a strong foundation." Schmidt added, "Obviously, I’m hoping fans will want to try all three and I think those that do will be very happy, but I don’t want to twist anybody’s arm. Each book can be read on its own, but if you’re reading all three you’re going to get some extra layers."
To kick-start the relaunch, IDW is releasingG.I. JOE #0 this month to the tune of one dollar. "It’s not preview pages," Schmidt assured. "There’s actual story content in the issue, so you can see which one or two or three of the books you want to buy.”
Something is going on in comic books. Have you noticed? It’s been happening for a few years now. For some reason, certain comics are not making sense with the rest of the established universe and history. For some reason, things that don’t make sense have been running rampant throughout the fictional realities of DC and Marvel.
Have you noticed it? Sure you have. I’m not the only one, right?
Have you checked out DC Decisions #2? It’s very interesting. Guy Gardner is on Earth rather than Oa. And Power Girl is around instead of still trapped on the new Earth-2. Does this story take place before the current JSA storyline? Or afterward? It would be nice to be told in a brief footnote.
Then there’s the recent Hawkman Special where Carter Hall was told that his memories of being the Ancient Egyptian Prince Khufu were a lie and it basically was said that Khufu couldn’t have existed. Okay, um, wait a second. Black Adam and the wizard Shazam were both there and lived alongside Khufu. And the JSA actually went on a time travel mission a couple of years ago and worked with Khufu against a younger Vandal Savage. How can all of that be explained by false memories? Has the entire JSA been infected with identical delusions?
The recent Ultimate Origins mini-series has been delving into the past of the Ultimate Marvel Universe. Now at last, we’ve learned how many of the heroes and super-humans of this reality are related and interconnected. We’ve learned the startling secrets of the creation of the mutant gene and Mutant Zero, we’ve seen the initial transformation of the Hulk and how he was responsible for the deaths of Peter Parker’s parents (although writer Brian Michael Bendis recently denied this at Batlimore Comic-Con, the recent March on Ultimatum one-shot confirms it). We’ve seen the secrets of Nick Fury and learned that he’s been around since World War II.
But most startling about the Ultimate Origins mini is the sub-plot that takes place in the present-day. A Watcher has appeared, a strange device with a single eye that claims to be part of a hive-culture. The first Watcher appeared on Earth when Captain America, the first true post-human of the Ultimate Marvel Universe, recieved his enhanced abilities. Now hundreds of Watchers are appearing all over Earth. Which means that something catastrophic is coming.
They didn’t show up during the coming of Gah Lak Tus. What could be coming now that is worse?
Possibly the end of human civilization. Magneto is back. He’s angry. He has a plan. And he may have already defeated Thor.
The story is Ultimatum, a new mini-series written by Jeph Loeb and illustrated by David Finch. The tagline is simple. "For what they’ve done, they will have to pay the ultimate price." Rumors abound how much this will change the Ultimate Universe and alredady some are whispering that characters will die and titles will be cancelled. Be on the look out.
But Ultimatum isn’t the only thing Marvel is throwing at us. It has recently been revealed through a leaked cover image that the New Avengers line-up, following Secret Invasion, is likely to include Wolverine, Spider-Man, Ronin, Luke Cage and the new Captain America (Bucky Barnes). Wonder who’s gonna be on Dark Avengers if they didn’t pick up Wolverine.
And in his most recent Cup o’ Joe on Myspace, Joe Quesada talks about Deadpool, Madelyne Pryor, Secret Invasion and how the Malibu characters are not coming back anytime soon.
Marvel is over-joyed to announce that Daredevil #111 has sold out at Diamond and thus will be re-solicited. The second printing will have a wrap-around cover with art by Clay Mann.
If you don’t know who this lady is, that’s because she’s just been introduced. She makes her debut in Daredevil #111, by Ed Brubaker and Clay Mann. This issue is the beginning of a new story-arc and is also set-up to be a jumping-on point for new readers.
Daredevil’s been through a lot lately. His wife is in a mental institution. He finds himself attracted to another woman. And he’s never in short supply of enemies. As any Daredevil fan can tell you, one of the hero’s most personal foe is the assassin Bullseye. Gifted with an innate understanding of geometry and physics, Bullseye can take any hand-held object and instantly calculate how to throw it so that it becomes a lethal weapon.
Over the years, Bullseye has destroyed Daredevil’s world twice, first by killing his lover Elektra (although she was later resurrected) and then later by killing his other great love, Karen Page. When Daredevil once tried to get revenge on the killer by dropping him from a rooftop, the little psychopath just got himself an adamantium spine and got back into action. Nowadays, Daredevil couldn’t go after Bullseye even if he wanted to, as the assassin serves as an agent of Norman Osborn’s Thunderbolts and thus has federal protection.
The very mention of the name Bullseye causes Daredevil pain and anger. How much worse will it be when he finally meets the new Lady Bullseye, a woman who has dedicated herself to emulating the assassin, whom she considers a hero? And while Bullseye killed for the sheer enjoyment of it, moving from one body to the next without a care, our new Lady Bullseye looks on murder as an art form, to be carefully laid out and appreciated in all its glory.
This new issue is an enticing one and Lady Bullseye promises to be an interesting new rogue. So if you haven’t gotten your copy of #111, be on the look-out for the second printing!
A large portion of America is all about Hollywood. Who’s the new big star? What new movie is coming out? Which director will blow us away this year? Understandably, we have so many struggling artists – actors, singers, writers, directors all trying to find their big break – that it’s become cliche.
Likewise, we comic fans have similar feelings towards our books. Who’s the new big writer? What artist is going to knock or socks off with photo-realistic work? What new title is going to give us a new reason to love comics? How many more teams will Wolverine join before people realize there must be at least three of him?
But what if … what if these two paradigms were merged? What if strange beings with exotic looks and super-human abilities made their way to California and waited on tables while they auditioned to star in a comic book? What if a lad who was born with blue-skin and antennae was able to be an extra in an Image comic while he dreamt of one day starring in his own on-going series?
So if you checked our site yesterday faithful readers, you know that the CW has given the green light to a new live action series to replace Smallville (or join it if it continues for a ninth season). This series, The Graysons, woud focus on the life of young Richard John Grayson (called DJ in the show), who many of us know will grow up to become the first hero called Robin.
Whether you think such a show can work or not, it’s undeniable that Robin is a household name, partly due to his contant appearances in various media. And that’s not even considering the fact that he’s gone through quite an evolution in comics, uniquely so compared to many other super-heroes.
In DC Comics, Richard John Grayson, known to everyone as "Dick", was a circus acrobat along with his parents. The Flying Graysons were a famous act in the traveling Haley Circus. But during a stay in Gotham City, a protection racket organized by mobster Tony Zucco tried to get money out of the circus owner. When he refused, the trapeze was sabotaged and Dick’s parents fell to their deaths in front of a live audience. The audience included Bruce Wayne, secretly the Batman, who took in the adolescent boy and aided him in bringing Zucco to justice.
Dick was a natural due to his inherent talen and years of training in athletics and acrobatics. This, along with his heart and determination, allowed him to pursuade the Batman that he was worthy of staying on as a full-time apprentice and, later, a partner. Wearing a costume that emulated his old circus outfit, Dick called himself "Robin." Originally, it was said this was because he was styling himself on Robin Hood. In later years, it would be said that "Robin" had actually been his mother’s nickname for him, either because he was born on the first day of spring or because as a child he never sat still and was constantly "bop-bop-boppin’ around." Part of the reason he was called Robin and not given a serious super-hero name was because back in the 1940s, sidekicks were only given nicknames so that the writers would be able to save any cooler titles only for more serious super-heroes.
Over the years, Dick proved himself to be a formidable hero and a gifted detective, becoming leader of the original Teen Titans. As he entered adulthood, he was no longer satisfied being viewed as Batman’s kid sidekick and believing that the Dark Knight did not give him enough credit, he left Gotham to carve out his own life. Eventually, inspired by a story Superman had told him of a Kryptonian hero, Dick returned to his super-hero role under the new name of "Nightwing", an identity he has kept for nearly twenty five years now. He is well-respected in the hero community and was even made leader of the Justice League for a short time. And whenever Batman needs him, this black-clad acrobatic avenger is willing to return to Gotham to help out.
That’s the comics. What about his appearances in film and television?
There’s been a lot of confusion about Supergirl recently. Since her re-introduction by Jeph Loeb in the pages of Superman/Batman, she has had a few conflicting stories concerning her nature and origins. And even then, she (and readers) had to deal with the fact that she wasn’t the first to bear that name. Today, Supergirl #34 was released, featuring the new creative team of writer by Sterling Gates and artist Jamal Igle, who promised they would start a new, interesting direction with the character, clearly establishing who she is and what she’s all about.
People, listen to me. The hype is true. This issue is a fantastic jumping-on point. It is written in a way that if you have never read a Supergirl comic before, you will understand what’s going on and who is up to what. There is a small blurb on the title page explaining that Kara Zor-El is Superman’s teenage cousin who came to Earth and tries to fight for "truth, justice and the Kryptonian way." There is an editor’s foot-note by Matt Idleson telling you exactly when this issue takes place in relation to Supergirl’s appearances in other comics (God bless you, Matt).
And for anyone who hasn’t been reading the comic so far, there are quick conversations characters that bring you up to speed on Kara Zor-El and how, ever since she arrived on Earth not too long ago, she has been making a lot of mistakes and stumbling in her journey to become a hero worthy of the legacy of her cousin Superman. To compliment the impressive writing, Jamal Igle’s art, as always, is clean, pretty and very emotive. You completely understand what’s going through the character’s heads even if you don’t look at the dialogue.
If you have any interest in the character or are curious about a young, fun girl with powers, this issue is a must-read. You even get to learn some Kryptonian insults!
Next month, Supergirl #35 is supposed to recap the basic origin of Supergirl, just to clear up things for anyone who’s still confusing her with the previous incarnations who were running around. As Gates said recently at the Baltimore Comic-Con, "Supergirl should be simple. She’s Superman’s cousin. Boom."
But I know you readers out there are curious about past continuity. Some of you remember a Supergirl who wore a t-shirt and mini-skirt or a Supergirl who had wings of fire and claimed to be an angel. And you’re thinking, "Hey, Jack! What’s the deal here?"
Well, look no further, faithful readers! At ComicMix, we enjoy indulging such questions. So, in the same vein of my Road to a Crisis article, I present to you a rundown of the various Supergirls who have graced the DC Universe. Please note, I will be dealing with the Supergirl characters who actually stayed on through multiple stories. I will not be going into detail about how one time Jimmy Olsen wished a Supergirl into existence, etc.
The X-Men have been going through a lot of changes recently. With the X-Mansion recently destroyed (for what I think is the third time now), and with Xavier no longer trusted by the majority of the team, the mutant heroes have picked up stakes and moved to San Francisco, a community which welcomes mutants. Certain characters have had interesting experiences trying to adjust to the west coast and Marvel is putting out a few mini-series under the banner of Manifest Destiny that tackles this subject.
Wolverine: Manifest Destiny will feature the Canadian "Canuckle-head" making his way into California only to discover that a bounty has been placed on his head. Honesty, as if it weren’t hard enough being a mutant who’s often targeted by Mafia and Yakuza and somehow divides his time between solo missions and being both an illegal Avenger and an X-Man and leader of X-Force. It turns out that Wolverine’s ex, now leader of the Triads, has summoned a quartet of mystical warriors who each are fully capable of killing the nearly-immortal hero and they’re not going to stop until the contract has been fulfilled.
This story is brought to you by artist Stephen Segovia and writer Jason Aaron. Fans will recognize Segovia’s excellent work from the ongoing series Wolverine: Origins. Jason Aaron has gotten a lot of praise not only as the writer of Verrtigo’s Scalped, but also for his hard-edged Wolverine: Origins story arc "Get Mystique" and his accomplishment in taking the Ghost Rider series and re-energizing it with interesting drama, a high-level of humor and enjoyably insane violence. With credits like that, Wolverine: Manifest Destiny is sure to be a hard-hitting, violent ride. Just perfect for Wolverine fans.
Don’t believe me? Then you obviously need to read the new Ghost RIder series and see for yourself how Aaron has made the demonic anti-hero more fun than he’s been in years. And here’s what some folks said following "Get Mystique."
James Hunt of ComicBookResources.com said, "Jason Aaron has himself an appropriate niche, telling a solo Wolverine action story that showcases the character’s brains as much as his brawn."
And Daniel Crown of IGN.com remarked, "To put it simply, Wolverine is an extremely torn character, and it just so happens that Jason Aaron is outstanding when it comes to writing irresolute characters."
The X-Men books have really risen in quality in the past few months so this story comes with high hopes.
DC Comics told Newsarama that the current Legion of Super-Heroes title will end with the publication of issue #50.
Dan Didio, DC Senior VP and Executive Editor, explained "I thought that [writer] Jim [Shooter] and [artist] Francis [Manapul] have done a terrific job with the series, and ’50’ seemed like a really nice number to bring this series to a conclusion."
Jim Shooter broke into comics by writing for the Legion in Adventure Comics when he was only 15 and created many of its now famous characters and villains. When he was asked about the book’s cancellation, he remarked, "It’s a drag, but I get to finish most of my story. It would have finished in Issue #54, but Issue #50 is going to be a 30-page story, and I’m hoping people will be intrigued enough that they’ll want to finish the story …. I understand new comics sales are not doing so well right now. Which is weird. Just look at this crowd. Everyone seems so excited about comics."
This current Legion series came about as the second attempt to completely reboot the characters from scratch (nicknamed the "threeboot" by fans). Originally tackled by Mark Waid (Kingdom Come) and Barry Kitson (JLA: Year One), the new series was meant to bring in new fans since the Legion had been doing poorly on sales for some time. In an interview I held with Mark Waid soon after the book’s launch, Waid commented that DC had believed it to be necessary to "throw out the baby with the bathwater" since other attempts to bring in new audiences, such as the critically-acclaimed Legion Lost story by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, had failed to increase interest in the team. This strategy had been used before of course. In the late 1980’s, the Legion stories were pushed forward five years to show the characters now as all being older and dealing with a harsher, crueler future than they had been used to. And in the early 1990’s, after the crossover Zero Hour, the Legion had been re-booted from scratch, altering their names which were now considered hokey (Lightning Lad become Livewire, Element Lad became Alchemist, etc.).
In the reboot, Waid brought back the original code-names that not been used since the early 90’s (changing Livewire back to Lightning Lad, Apparition back to Phantom Girl, etc.), yet altered many of the characters and re-interpreted their powers and nature. Originally, Colossal Boy had been a young man who could grow to great heights. In Waid’s continuity, he was actually from a society of giants and, in his mind, his power was that he could shrink to Earth-man proportions (thus, he often argued his name should really be "Micro Lad"). Waid also changed the book to be less a group of heroes bound by a need for justice and more about the Legion representing a movement towards social change, directly challenging their society that had become obsessive about social taboos and maintaining routine, predictable behaviors at all costs. Whereas the original team had often cried out "Long live the Legion," Waid’s team would grin sarcastically as they shouted "Eat it, grandpa!"