Tagged: Action Comics

REVIEW: Superman vs. the Elite

1000256214-w370-300x300-4442412In the 1940s, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster produced a two-pager for Life that showed if the Man of Steel were alive, he’d grab Hitler and Mussolini and bring them to justice, saving countless millions of lives. A nice bit of wish fulfillment during World War II.

In the 1970s, comic book writers began exploring what it really means to have someone as powerful as Superman operating in a world much like ours. Writer Elliot S! Maggin was among the first to bring up this theme more than once and was followed in subsequent years by a variety of others, reflecting the different perspectives of the creators and tastes of the audiences.

Just in time for Action Comics’ 775th issue in 2001, Joe Kelly became the latest writer to tackle the concept. After all, the world’s problems — ethnic strife, religious warriors, belligerent regimes, and destruction of the eco-system – could be easily handled by someone with the powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. But, does any one person be he human or Kryptonian actually have the right to impose a singular will on billions? As the problems appear to multiple, the need for a simpler solution can be awfully appealing.

Enter the powerful telepath Manchester Black. Accompanied by three others, his Elite appeared to be the heroes a stressed world population desired, offering a clear alternative to the hands-off employed by the World’s Greatest Super-Hero. With Doug Mahnke’s powerful artwork, the story was a nice, modern day take on the recurring theme.

Now, Kelly has adapted that well-regarded story into a 72-minute animated film, the latest from Warner Premiere’s direct-to-video series based on the DC Universe. Superman vs. the Elite, coming Tuesday, breezily handles the themes with heavy doses of action and wanton destruction. The film more or less follows the comic although there are changes for the format including the early appearance of Dr. Light to show this is a DCU tale. The Atomic Skull is also used as the recurring threat that practically begs for an ultimate solution and is a nice thread carried through the tale.

The story moves well, thanks to director Michael Chang who demonstrated a great facility for action with the wonderful Batman: The Brave and the Bold. And for a change, I found the score, from Robert J. Kral, to be exceptionally good. I tend not to notice the animated scores but this one stood out which is more than I can say for the lousy character design work. For a story based on the ultra-realistic work from Mahnke, this is overly cartoony for the subject matter. Superman looks like he has a broken nose and every character, save Lois Lane, is just too cartoony for their own good. For some unknown reason, the producers seem to think they need to redesign the look of the characters for each feature, a decision I strongly disagree with.

A saving grace, though, is the dialogue. The characters demonstrate real personality with affection, snark, humor, and a distinct point of view and it makes me miss Kelly’s work on mainstream superheroics. As delivered by George Newbern and Pauley Parrette, you feel the love that binds Superman and Lois. Robin Atkin Downes as Black and Melissa Disney as Menagerie are also terrific.

In a world where Superman is the premier hero, but not the sole super-powered figure, the arguments on the central theme is incomplete. At one point he says to Lois that Black targeted him alone, obviously because he was first and is the most powerful of the bunch, but it’s a discussion that should be held between the JLA (representing the full heroic community) and the world, maybe via the United Nations. As a result, the final arguments between Superman and the angry, power-mad Black fall flat and feel incomplete.

The animated adventure comes complete with the usual assortment of extras, although I’ve come to miss the DC Showcase shorts, often better than the lead feature. The commentary from Kelly and Eddie Berganza, the editor of the original story, is interesting, especially when Berganza questions Kelly about some of the choices he made in writing the animated script. There’s a 15 minute as Kelly discusses the Elite’s in-print appearances which is vaguely interesting but also incomplete as it doesn’t really give you a sense of their flash-in-the-pan role in the DCU (in fact, the two volumes collecting their Justice League Elite maxiseries are currently out of print). A variety of talking heads, including a soldier, academics, and animation exec Mike Carlin also explore the themes raised by the story, making for an interesting, if a little dry, featurette. The original comic is on hand in digital form although it’s a little tough to read and navigate but it reminds me of how powerful the art was, emphasizing the story’s point. Finally, there are some selected Superman Adventure cartoons from producer Alan Burnett and a 15 minute preview of this fall’s The Dark Knight Returns Part 1. Given the timing, it’s interesting to see a photo gallery for next month’s The Dark Knight Rises but no trailer for it.

Overall, this is an above average offering, the fourteenth from Warner Animation, and makes for entertaining viewing. The distracting character designs should be forgiven since it tells a story with a strong narrative point of view, something missing from too many of the others.

Marc Alan Fishman: In Defense of Modern Comics, Part 2

Welcome back to the ranting and raving, kiddos. Be forewarned, some time has passed since my last article – one week to be exact – but I’m still angry as all get-out. For those just joining us: Tim Marchman’s review of “Leaping Tall Buildings” in the Wall Street Journal was an incendiary piece of trash. The review meant to blame the lack of universal love (and sales) of comic books due (in part) to the “clumsily drawn” and “poorly written” books themselves. Last week, I argued on the side of the artists. This week, I mean to tackle this asshat’s jab at the scribes of our pulpy tomes.

To say that, on the whole, modern comics are “poorly written” is just about the silliest opinion I’ve heard since my buddy told me “Ranch dressing tastes bad on chicken.” First off, ranch is delicious on chicken. More to the point, modern comics are writing rings around previous generations. We’re in a renaissance of story structure, characterization, and depth. Writing, much like art, is largely subjective when it comes to collective opinion. That being said, certainly anyone with minimal brain power might be able to tell good writing from bad. Easy enough for us all to agree that the Avengers was better written than the Twilight movies. OK, maybe that’s a bit unfair. Axe Cop is better written than Twilight… and it’s penned by a six year old. Either way, I’d like to think we the people (of Comic Landia) might defend the quality of today’s comics as being leaps and bounds better than books of yesteryear.

I know this might be daring (and insane) of me to say… but for those old farts and fogies that proclaim comics “aren’t what they used ta’ be!” – and imply the scripts are worse now than they were in the 60s or 70s – should go back to the nursing home, and yell at the TV until dinner. Call it a sweeping declaration. Call it mean-spirited. But I call it as I see it: Modern books are simply written better. Today’s comics – when they are good – embrace pacing, motif, and intelligent payoffs by and large far more than ever previously. I assume Marchman, while researching for his article, was only reading Jeph Loeb books. And if that’s the case? He’s probably right. But I digress.

Open a book today. You’ll see things that previous generations simply failed to execute properly. A modern comic is unafraid to let the art speak for itself. Not every panel needs an explanatory caption box anymore. Gone are lengthy thought balloons that explain away every ounce of subtlety. Writers allow their characters time to emotionally deal with their actions, and end books on a down note when needed. And as much as terrible crime against nature it is, modern writers are even willing to ret-con, reboot, or reexamine the past of a character to better flesh out their drive or motive. It’s been done before, I know, but never as good as it’s being done now.

Comic writers today (again, “by and large”) embrace risk like no other generation before them. Guys like Kurt Busiek and Robert Kirkman channel their love and admiration of tropes and stereotypes, and drill down to new and unique concepts that spin old ideas into fresh ones. Dudes like Grant Morrison and Jonathan Hickman layer super-psuedo science and lofty concepts within their stories to transform the truly implausible to the sublimely believable… a metamorphosis of story that a Stan Lee would not have ever delivered to the true believers. And what of our own ComicMix brethren, whose bibliographies aren’t complete… Would John Ostrander or Dennis O’Neil say that the scripts they write today aren’t leaps and bounds better than their earlier work? As artists (be it with brush or word), we always strive to evolve. That equates to the present always being better than the past.

Simply put, Marchman’s postulation that the scripting of current comics is to blame for the lack of sales in comparison to alternative media (like movies or TV) is hilariously wrong. While he’s quick to back his point with the cop-out “continuity” argument, he lacks the niche-knowledge necessary to know how idiotic he sounds. With the advent of Wikipedia, friendly comic ship owners, digital publication of archive materials, as well as countless other online resources… the barrier to entry for someone truly interested in buying a comic is the commitment to seek out the backstory. To blame the lack of sales on an arbitrary assessment of the quality of the stories, was made without considering the avalanche of amazing material being published today.

If I can use a trope from the bag of Seth MacFarlane, I’d like to end on hyperbole. You see, Mr. Marchman, if you want me to believe that comics today are poorly written? I’d like you to read current issues of Action Comics, Batman, Animal Man, Swamp Thing, Invincible Iron Man, Fantastic Four, The Boys, Dial H, Saga, Irredeemable, Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi, Justice League, Green Lantern, Powers, Monocyte, The New Deadwardians, Batman Incorporated, Courtney Crumrin, Saucer County, Fatale, and Batwoman. Then get back to me. Until that time? Suck-a-duck.

SUNDAY: The Aforementioned Geriatric John Ostrander

Dennis O’Neil: Are Comic Books… Invulnerable?

Call comics “the little issues that could?” Or maybe the “phoenix of mediatown?”

At least twice in my long – ye gods! – long association with the form, I thought they were going down. Not all the way down: I thought, sure, comics will survive, the way poetry and harpsichord music has survived, as entertainment for aficionados, the loyal few who are willing to make a sacrifice or two to keep something they love alive. But as something vaguely resembling a mass medium? Huh uh.

Comics’ first decline began in the late40s-early 50s, after a lot of self-righteous souls and maybe a few who were just plain ambitious condemned the funnybooks as either amusement for the mentally challenged or the devil’s pulp, luring the nation’s youth into wicked thoughts and, Lordy, Lordy, who knew what kind of naughty behavior? Dozens of publishers bit the big one and those that survived barely survived.

Then… something happened. I’m not sure exactly what. Part of it was that the country became aware and accepting of popular culture and, in the Kennedy era, maybe a little less anal, and part of it was that our two giants, Julius Schwartz and Stan Lee, reinvented superheroes and those characters were pretty much identified with the medium that begot them.

In the mid-seventies, when general interest magazines were virtually extinct – wha’d I do with my latest issue of Collier’s, anyway? – and it was becoming harder and harder for a kid to get his monthly Batman (Spider-Man, Herbie the Fat Fury, et. al.) because the small stores and newsstands where a kid could find his favorites were also becoming extinct, that crazy New Jerseyite Phil Seuling and a few like-minded visionaries created the direct market and suddenly comics had what Colliers and the other slicks and the pulp fiction magazines didn’t have: a place to sell the stuff. The direct market was a direct descendant of fan activities – the clubs, the conventions – and so, takes a bow, fans. You did your bit.

About a decade later, comics’ suffered an artificial boom when innocents with disposable income were led to believe that comics were investment: buy a hundred copies of Spawn #1 and put yourself through college! Well, no. It took the world about four years to realize that while Action Comics #1 could fetch over a hundred K at auction, it was mostly because there weren’t many copies left on the planet. It wasn’t hard to find a copy or two of the first Spawn. The boom was bust and some publishers vanished and the survivors suffered, having swollen to a size that accommodated the boom’s demand and was too big and too costly for the bust.

When I walked out of an editor’s office for the last time, a dozen years ago, I wondered if I wasn’t feeling the deck list beneath my feet. But, no. The news is that comics are again on an upswing, moving into the digital age, learning from past mistakes, benefitting from enormously popular film adaptations.

Okay, sooner or later comics publishing will end. But so will you and so will I.

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases, Bookie


Marc Alan Fishman: Help! I’m A Marvel Zombie!

Seriously, it happened so slowly, I never saw it coming. It’s long been a fact: Marc Alan Fishman is a card carrying member of the DC Nation. But then, something changed. Flashpoint was one epic-crossover-super-event-that-changed-everything too many. With the New 52, I’d made a steadfast rule: In order to conserve money and my sanity, any book that delivered two issues in a row that left me bored or was just terrible I would remove from my pull list.

Like every red-blooded nerd worth his salt, when a book is dropped from my box, I can’t help but seek to replace it with something new. And now that I look across the board, Marvel is now on equal footing, book-for-book with my pull list for DC.

More important, every Marvel book on that list is one that when I see it on the shelf, I get truly excited. Truth be told, I get Blue Beetle, Batgirl, Justice League Dark, Green Lantern Corps, and Resurrection Man – and they are good comics, but none of them excite me anymore. I’m slowly coming to terms with it; New 52 be damned… Make Mine Marvel.

Simply put, right now Marvel is putting out better books than DC. I welcome the flame war and argument from the interwebs. Based solely on the Marvel books I’ve read in the last three-four months, DC pales in comparison in story depth, quality, scope, and clarity. A few examples, you ask?

Take the Fantastic Four. Jonathan Hickman’s run on the title has been compared to Kirby and Lee’s initial run; and said with sincerity. His “War of the Four Cities” multi-year arc was as epic as any DC “Crisis” without the multitude of mini-series. While it did spawn a second book, FF, the grandeur has been well contained. Even better, FF brings the ideology of the family and creates an excuse to explore more of the Baxter Building collective without over-saturation. It’s a riff, not a rip-off. Compare this to the four Green Lantern titles being pumped out at DC and you can see how a little consolidation can really tighten up a title’s overall quality.

How about the newly relaunched Defenders? Matt Fraction’s “vacation” title is a glorious send up to an old and mostly forgotten secondary team… dusted off, polished up, and presented wonderfully in the modern age. While only five issues in, I’ve been nothing but impressed up until now. In fact, Defenders #4 easily tops my list of best comics I’ve read for the year. The year is early, yes, but amongst dozens and dozens of issues, I’ve little doubt it won’t falter from my top ten by years end. It’s a comic not afraid to be written with a smirk… that knows when to be deadly serious, or just go for the nut shot. Something Justice League International tried to do, and fell on its face for attempting.

For those following my reviews on Michael Davis World, you’ll no doubt also note my recent jaunt into Spider-Land with the Amazing Spider-Man title. With the promise of the “Ends of the Earth” storyline being a good jumping on point for new readers, I dove into a title and character I’ve always wanted to read, but never did because of the bad mojo that came with the book. Ask anyone about Spider-Man’s most recent bullet points and I doubt you’ll see a face light up when discussing One More Day, the Other, or even Spider-Island. That being said, the series thus far has been a joyous romp. A Saturday morning cartoon concept with a hidden maturity, that has a perfect balance of comic-book-quirk with well thought out plot development.

And over in Invincible Iron Man? Well, Matt Fraction is proving what a truly potent writer he is by shaking off the grime of the horrendous Fear Itself crossover crud and taking his baby book back to form. His long-winding plot of Mandarin’s careful and calculated destruction of Tony Stark has been a slow burn that’s been a long time coming. And when everything recently came to a head, we got a moment in comics I’ve dreamed of reading since I finished The Watchmen – an arc where the hero loses because he’s been out-matched. It was bold, ballsy, and has me chomping at the bit for more.

All this, and I’ve not even mentioned Daredevil or Ultimate Spider-Man. I’d love to, but well… I’ve not read them yet. But they are high on the list for me to catch up on, the second the next DC book takes a dive in my box. Resurrection Man? I’m looking at you.

Now, of course, Marvel isn’t perfect. Just a few weeks back on my podcast, a lifelong X-Men fan told me he’d literally given on comics all together because of the terrible decline of his favorite mutants. And let’s give credit where credit is due: Fraction and Hickman’s bold pacing is very much in-step with Geoff Johns and Grant Morrison’s work on Green Lantern and Batman over the last 60 or so issues. Anyone who read “Batman R.I.P.” can see what “The War of the Four Cities” or most of the run on Invincible Iron Man is being inspired by (not directly mind you… but certainly in conceptual scope). And DC is not without its own amazing titles. Action Comics, Batman, Animal Man, Swamp Thing, and Green Lantern always float to the top of my reading pile when I pick them up.

This of course leads me to ask the bigger questions. Was the New 52 not powerful enough overall to keep me from being lured away? Is Marvel just in a great rhythm right now? Will X-Men vs. Avengers cause some major crisis to interrupt all the goodness coming out in their top titles? Or with the second wave of new books (Dial H and JSA are both looking mighty fine to me…) hitting shelves soon, will DC reclaim me?

Don’t worry, I’ll let you know.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander Feeds The Chickens


“Shelly” Moldoff: 1920 – 2012

One of the last of the Golden Age greats, artist Sheldon “Shelly” Moldoff, died today at the age of 91.

Best known for his work on the Batman titles between 1953 and 1967, Shelly first visualized such canonical characters as the original Batwoman, the original Bat-Girl, Bat-Mite, Clayface (Matt Hagen), Poison Ivy, and Ace the Bat Hound.

Shelly was a major contributor the DC / AA Comics lines, starting with the sports cartoon “Odds ‘N Ends” published in Action Comics #1. He took over Hawkman shortly after its creation. He also drew Blackhawk, the Black Pirate, Space Ranger, the Legion of Super-Heroes, the Batman and Robin team-ups in World’s Finest, an occasional Superman story, Gang Busters, a multitude of Jack Schiff’s public service pages during the 1950s, and the covers for the first appearances of The Flash (Flash Comics #1) and Green Lantern (All-American Comics #16).

During his long and bountiful career, Shelly also drew Kid Eternity for Quality Comics, Big Boy and many other commercial comics, and was one of the earliest contributors to EC Comics.

On a personal note, I had the privilege of hosting Shelly on many comics convention panels and always found him to be an affable, well-informed contributor. He honored my late wife on her 44th birthday with a beautiful recreation of the All-American #16 cover, which featured Linda’s favorite character.

Funeral services will be Tuesday at Kraeer funeral home, 1655 University Drive, Coral Springs Florida.



justice-league-doom1-300x4021-2474974When Mark Waid joined the creative team on JLA, he told a pretty terrific story about Batman’s secret protocols for neutralizing the Justice League of America falling into Ra’s al Ghul’s hands. In the “Tower of Babel” story, he used it to take out the League in order to execute a plan for world domination.  It made for a fine story arc that allowed Batman to leave the team for time and resonated with fans given the weighty thematic material. It has endured in memory and prompted Warner Premiere to approve JLA: Doom, an adaptation as a part of their ongoing series of direct-to-DVD animated features

The resulting production, on sale tomorrow, is bittersweet because it marks the final script from the talented Dwayne MacDuffie. And it needed series editing which clearly was not done, making it a deeply flawed adaptation of the source material. The dramatic core is here, but given short shrift in two brief scenes while the remainder of the story is a series of chaotic and badly choreographed fights strung together. Any semblance of characterization for the heroes or villains is seemingly accidental as the story allowed the JLA to trade blows with a variety of familiar villains. (more…)

$2 million comic collection up for auction today

Superman making his debut in Action Comics No....

Because we can never have too many copies of Action Comics #1… the real one, no offense to Grant Morrison.

Michael Rorrer said his great aunt once mentioned having comic books she would one day give him and his brother, but it was a passing remark made when they were boys and still into superheroes.

Ruby Wright gave no indication at the time — and she died last February, leaving it unclear — that her late husband’s comic collection contained some of the most prized issues ever published. The 345 comics were slated to sell at auction in New York on Wednesday, and were expected to fetch more than $2 million.

Rorrer, 31, of Oxnard, Calif., discovered his great uncle Billy Wright’s comics neatly stacked in a basement closet while helping clear out his great aunt’s Martinsville, Va., home a few months after her death. He said he thought they were cool but didn’t realize until months later how valuable they were.

Rorrer, who works as an operator at a plant where oil is separated from water, said he was telling a co-worker about Captain America No. 2, a 1941 issue in which the hero bursts in on Adolf Hitler, when the co-worker mused that it would be something if he had Action Comics No. 1, in which Superman makes his first appearance.

“I went home and was looking through some of them and there it was,” said Rorrer, who then began researching the collection’s value in earnest.

He found out that his great uncle had managed as a boy to buy a staggering array of what became the most valuable comic books ever published.

“This is just one of those collections that all the guys in the business think don’t exist anymore,” said Lon Allen, the managing director of comics for Heritage Auctions, the Dallas-based auction house overseeing the sale.

The collection includes 44 of The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide’s list of top 100 issues from comics’ golden age.

via Inherited comic collection expected to fetch $2M – Yahoo! News.

MARC ALAN FISHMAN: Trades vs. Monthlies – An Unpopular Stance

It seems when I write pieces here on ComicMix that are good-natured and optimistic, no one cares. When I get hot and bothered (and make sweeping declarations that demand debate), you get excited. So, you want riled up? You got it!

I think the comic book industry as a whole would be better off if it went digital for all monthly titles, and only printed graphic novels.

Settle down, settle down. You’ll have a chance to put me in my place in the comment section. Or you can skip my argument completely, and just go down to the bottom of the page, and start the flame war. Either way, my ego gets fed.

Let’s face it. Making a comic book every month isn’t easy. If it was, Justice League wouldn’t be two weeks late. But wasn’t there a big hard-and-fast rule in place stating no book would be delivered late, lest the creative team be removed for one that could keep up? Well I guess that only applies to talent who don’t exclusively work for the parent company, and have “Chief” on their business cards. But I digress.

Most comic books these days are “written for the trade.” Almost every cape on the racks today get four to six issues of a singular plot-line that crescendos into a final epic conclusion. Then, if we’re lucky, a one-shot to settle things down to the status quo. And the cycle repeats. In the case of other books (Matt Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man comes to mind) these arcs could last up to a year or even longer. This means that every month you get a bite of the candy bar. Wouldn’t it be nice to just eat the whole damned thing all at once? In an medium where the end product is sum of many parts, having all those parts only stands to make the whole piece better.

Brian Michael Bendis may physically have a disease preventing him from writing a book that isn’t deconstructed. And frankly, who disagrees that he works best in the bigger picture? I won’t ever buy singular issues of Ultimate Spider-Man. It’s too good in trade. The same goes for many other books I happen to get (or borrow with frequency); Invincible, The Sandman, Astro City, Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina, Fables… need I go on? In all of those cases, and so many more, collecting a book into a longer format makes for a more enjoyable experience. And when a trade it released, there is no waiting for that next chapter. I know there’s a massive caveat to that one folks, but I think the point is clear enough.

But Marc, you plea… If the industry went straight-to-trade, comic book shops would simply close up and die. Because right now, most comic book stores I know are so swamped with business they don’t even carry trades. Or action figures. Or magic cards. Or D+D. Or host local bands. Or have organized book clubs. The fact is, store owners lose more money stocking their shelves with every monthly book that comes out, and subsequently not sell them, then do they on carrying trades. One store in particular, Challengers Comics + Conversations in Chicago, told Unshaven Comics that they would only carry our book when it became a trade.

When I was told this by the very cool owner, my eyebrow raised. “We do far more business in trades than we do in monthlies man, sorry.” They even have a “Library” subscription where so many dollars a month guarantees you access to shelves of trades to “check out.” If I were a commuter and lived anywhere near the store, I’d be on that like Michael Davis on an Asian GoGo Dancer. My point being that brick and mortar stores could augment their current offerings and not lose their leases.

Monthly books allow fans to “sample” a title before committing to it. And those who follow along with my reviews (over on Michael Davis World, plug plug plug) know that recently I’ve committed to a “two bad issues in a row means I drop the title” policy. Thus far, that means I’ve dropped JLI, Red Lanterns, Green Lanterns: New Guardians, The Fury of Firestorm, and Irredeemable. If my dream came true, wouldn’t that mean I would stand to lose more money buying a multi-issue trade for a series I’d be unhappy with? I’m willing to eat crow on that one. To a point. You see, in the cases of all those books I listed, they all suffered from the same problems.

Predictable plots hampered by a repetitious narrative structure, or incoherent direction on the whole. As an example, Fury of Firestorm(s?) issue to issue took the same plot point (Danger! Transformation! Hitting!) and regurgitated it three times in a row. Through the fatigue, it becomes clear; the entire first arc takes place over one or two nights. Read as a whole though, the pacing wouldn’t be as troublesome to me. And in the case of JLI, where the plot was as by-the-books as you could get… I would contest that taken in 1 large chunk, it’s far easier to enjoy the staple “assemble the team and fight the giant evil” plotline when it’s not broken up into six parts. Especially when it fights for my attention with better-written monthlies like Batman, Action Comics, or Fantastic Four.

It’s a big argument, one that I hypocritically don’t even support on the other side of the aisle. Unshaven Comics made the decision to release issues in lieu of trades. But that, as Alton Brown would say, is for another show. I’d like to think I’ve given you enough to mull over. So, go ahead my bubbalas. Talk amongst yourselves. I’m getting a little verklempt. Trades vs. Monthlies… Discuss!

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MARC ALAN FISHMAN: The Unshaven DC New 52!

… or how I learned to stop worrying about Michael Davis and love his bombs.

So let’s just get this out of the way. The last Spanish class I took was senior year in high school. I did get an A in it. But between then and now I’ve filled my brain with other more important facts aside from the difference between juevos and huevos. One means balls. The other means eggs. But the one that means eggs also means balls… in the testicular vernacular. My bad.

Those who aren’t following the east-coast-by-way-of-living-on-the-west-coast-vs.-mid-west battle that’s taking place here in the hallowed halls of ComicMix, let me bring ya’ll up to speed. A few weeks ago, Michael Davis applauded DC’s reboot of their universe. He said it was a bold move by the powers-that-be, and while he didn’t love every single thing they did, his praise was for the top brass having the big ones to allow the universal reset. The following week, I said that the praise was silly. The reboot wasn’t really a reboot. It was slapping #1s on every book, rebooting a handful of titles and just assuming most everyone would take all their love and knowledge of the former continuity, and allow it to inform their reading of the new books. I think it’s not so much a bold move, as a lazy one that succeeded in doing exactly what the powers-that-be wanted it to do; it moved product, and created publicity. That doesn’t take balls. It takes a bottom line for net profits.

I was fine to leave the discussion at that: a gentleman’s debate on just how ballsy the move truly was. Michael Davis however, had other plans. He spent this week saying I was now Dead To Him, and proceeded bait me to tell all of you just how a snot-nosed punk (like me) might reboot the DC. For those who didn’t read his pitches, I recommend you do. Or actually let me save you the time; pretend it’s 1993 and go read some Milestone Books. Then look for all of them on the shelves today. Didn’t find ‘em? Me neither. So Mr. Davis, or as I now call you, … Mickey D… let me tell you (and the crowd forming around us) about how I might shuffle things around had I the One Ring, Sword of Omens, The Force, and the last name DidioLeeJohns.

Granted I don’t have the column space to denote 52 pitches mind you, but I’m chock full of ideas. Given the power, here’s a taste of what I’d do, with a real reboot:


Nothing needed to change from what they already are doing in Action Comics, really. Grant Morrison’s return to the Golden Age to draw inspiration makes me love this title and character again. The only thing I’d like to add? Agustus Freeman IV, a prominent member of the secretive “Metropolis Society” takes a young Clark Kent under his wing, to show how him to take his immeasurable power, and use it to the best effect for the greater good. But how does he know Clark’s secret? “I know a Kryptonian when I see one. And I haven’t seen someone from my homeland in 173 years.” Grant and Rags continue their collaboration.

Green Lantern

Fighter Pilot-Turned-Astronaut Hal Jordan is manning Ferris Aeronautics’ last hope for a government contract: an experimental small spacecraft using advanced propulsion technology. While out on its first voyage past Mars, a bright green light cuts across the sky. It impacts the red planet, hard. Always one to act first and think later, Highball Jordan lands to investigate. In a freshly made crater, an alien reaches out to Hal telepathically. “There isn’t any time. You must take me to Earth. I must see Doctors John Henry and Curtis Metca–” Before he can end his plea, a red flame engulfs the dying telepath. A vicious alien, with a fiery red glow, and an odd symbol etched into his chest, drips blood from its snarling mouth… hovering above menacingly. It lunges toward Hal. Grabbing the first thing that catches his eye, he flails a green obelisk at his attacker. Splorch! Hal throws the still smoldering crash victim into his shuttle, along with the now glowing green alien-smacker. He takes off towards earth, still pursued by the now-even-angrier blood-spitter. The ship lurches once. Twice. “Hal Jordan of Earth, you have the ability to overcome great fear. The war of emotion rages on. Welcome to the Green Lantern Corps.” A flash of emerald light, and the ship is hurdling towards a strange portal. Over the com system, Carol Ferris yells… “Hal! What’s going on?! We need the Sapphire back in one p–” Written by Geoff Johns. Art by Doug Mahnke.


Detective Chimp and a ragtag group of magically endowed heroes take mystically-themed odd jobs from out of their office… the back of the Oblivion Bar. First case? Getting June Moon put back together again, before the she tears the world into bits! (Hey, I loved this book when this was the pitch, and taking a few cues and characters from the already decent Justice League Dark would give this book a bit more levity, instead of unneeded angst. Plus, magic is cool.) Written by Gail Simone, art by Darwyn Cooke.

Teen Titans:

Everyone loves the circus… except Carmine Falcone. Don’t blame him though. Hally’s Circus turned down his offer for his family’s “amazing protection and accident insurance plan.” When the big top opened up that fateful night, it would never open up again. The only survivors? Dick Grayson, and Megan Moore. The Boy Wonder and the Girl of a Thousand Faces had their family taken away from them. Inspired by the heroes that have popped up around the world as of late (like the mysterious Batman of Gotham City, the Flash, and Superman) Dick and Megan vow to exact their revenge. But they can’t do it alone. A few Facebook messages later, a team of teens with amazing abilities unite to become the Teen Titans. Better not tell the adults. Written by Judd Winnick, art by Mike McKone.

Of course I have more pitches than these, but well, I only have so much space per week. I think I’ve made my point? The basic gist here is simple… Taking a chance by starting every book over, would allow a whole new set of readers an opportunity to get acclimated to characters they might otherwise feel are too heavy in history to start anew. And old fans can find that love of their characters, with just a few modern twists and a wink and nod. It’d be a move that – dare I say it – would take considerable huevos.

Or, you know… I could just make them all black.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MARC ALAN FISHMAN: Why I Don’t Like The New 52

For those following along with all of the columnists here at ComicMix, no doubt you checked out Michael Davis’ article “Why I Like The New 52”and Michael made some great points. DC’s reboot of their entire line of superhero comic books was, as he so eloquently put it, ballsy. Oh, but the self-proclaimed Master of the Universe sadly is mistaken. To have completely rebooted 60+ years of continuity would take serious juevos. The fact is, DC hasn’t done anything close to that. It’s a point I’ve been jumping up and down on now for months… and who am I to disregard my own nerd rage over the issue. Let me get my soapbox, megaphone, and crazy pants. It’s rant-time, kiddos.

DC didn’t reboot much. In fact, they merely slapped #1’s on all their issues, and placed a gigantic asterisk besides nearly every single one. To call this the “New 52” is akin to calling Gus Van Sant’s Psycho completely original. You see, DC may have changed the numbering, but they haven’t reset their backstories. That is to say, they did – to a point.

Nearly every book they’ve put out has carefully chosen to pick events, mannerisms, and relationships established over the last half a century… and take us into their continuity mid-stream. You know David Copperfield didn’t actually make the Statue of Liberty disappear, he used a sly game of bait and switch. DC did the same thing. Whenever the fans asked the powers-that-be if a major event from continuity occurred in this new DCU or not… they waved their hands, misdirected us, and said “just keep reading.”

As Michael said, that takes serious balls.

Break it down. The New 52 reset a handful of the major players. Superman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman were all spit-shined and given a thorough makeover. And their books are better for it. Superman’s series had been crushed under event after event. From his “death” to the his “electric blue and red” days, to the rise of New Krypton to its eventual fall, casual fans could hardly hit the shelf and feel like they could relate. Wonder Woman’s title was bounced from several amazing writers, who all tried in their own ways to add depth, class, and angst to Diana’s stories. But aside from murdering Maxwell Lord, what kid on the street could tell you what she did since?

And Aquaman? Where do I begin? Water-hand, squid-head, Sub-Diego. I rest my case. Putting a #1 on those books and forgetting the last 10-15 years, isn’t such a bad idea when your parent company starts clamoring for more widespread appeal, is it?

And other books? Still confusingly convoluted beyond reproach. In the Batman corner of the DCnU, there’s Bruce’s bastard son-turned-Boy-Wonder, Nightwing, Tim Drake, a Black Batman, Batman Inc., a Joker with a misplaced face, Batwoman, and Babs “Miracle on 34th Street” Batgirl. You can put all the #1’s you want on those books, but find me a kid who bought them who didn’t immediately take a stroll down Wikipedia lane to make sense of the countless callbacks to continuity which is now unconstructed. In Batgirl alone, all we know for sure is there was an accident, she lost the ability to walk, she got it back. Did the Joker shoot her? Well, all DC says is “keep reading.”

In Green Lantern’s sector, we have no less than four active Earth Men wearing the emerald ring. For those who picked up their shiny #1’s of GL, GL: Corps, and GL: Emerald Knights were treated to the following backstory: At some point there was this thing called Blackest Night… maybe. Hal Jordon killed a Guardian of the Universe, who had a Red, Yellow, Orange, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet power set… maybe. Kyle Rayner was the last GL… at some point? Sinestro now has a Green Ring. Again, these plot points were all in their respective #1’s. If you had no knowledge of these characters before starting these books, how would you approach getting your bearings on all this backstory? Ask DC, and they’ll gladly tell you “keep reading.”

Now, let me be clear and fair here. I read a ton of DC books. I love many of them. Of the New 52, Action Comics, Batman, Batgirl, Green Lantern, Animal Man, and Justice League Dark barely make it home before they’re read with near rabid fervor. As a fan of all of these characters, I have a great understanding of their mannerisms, backstories, and relationships to fill in the gaps that their respective books have yet to cover. Because modern comics are written more cinematically, their creative teams bank on the fact that their fan base isn’t coming into their books completely cold. In the case of newer characters, or transplants from Wildstorm, these books aren’t fairing so well. With 3 issues in, November’s top sellers were Justice League, Batman, Action, and Green Lantern. Blue Beetle, Omac, and Voodoo? 89. 104. 105. Without the allure of “read and see what continuity we kept, and which we threw out with the bathwater…” fans weren’t as kind.

Before the books all came out, we fans debated hotly how much of our continuity would be thrown into this potluck reset. DC cleverly keeps moving the target on the answers. The truth of the matter is this: The allure of a universal restart in comics is a pipe dream at best. At the end of the day, comic books are a business first. The DCnU was a stunt that paid off in spades.

To end 60+ years of backstory, and start all over simply will never happen. The industry thrives on the soap-opera format; keep what works, and forget the rest. If you pay close enough attention you’ll just go mad. I started this out as a rant on Michael Davis’ kudos to the DC’s testicular fortitude, but in looking at the stack of their books, and my dwindling bank account? It tells me Michael was right all along.

DC, you made me madder than hell, and took more of my money than you ever did before… all so I could make a grand sweeping point. And now, after I’m done shouting from the rafters, I realize that’s all you ever wanted me to do in the first place. Good for you. That took serious balls.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander