What better way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon than watching one of those guys from the land where it rains all the time?
This 80-minute feature produced by Respect Films and Sequart contains interviews with Morrison, along with various folks he’s worked with and inspired throughout a thirty year career writing everything from All-Star Superman to Zenith, and just might give insight for what he’s going to do when he reboots Action Comics next month. (Not included is the story of how I saved Grant’s first Doom Patrol story from being completely incomprehensible.)
I wasn’t going to write about this because the last column was all about me, and I don’t want you all thinking that “it’s all about her,” because it’s not, really, but I just reread my first column, and I did promise you, so…
I wish I could tell you that I always knew I wanted to be a comics writer, and that I was encouraged by my high school teachers and then went to university and majored in English with a minor in writing, or that I was a “convention-ho” and showed sample after sample after sample of my writing to every editor who didn’t make a beeline for the bathroom when they saw me coming. Or that I’m related to someone in the comics world, and hey, a little bit of nepotism doesn’t hurt. (Let’s get real, here, right?)
Once upon a time –1983 – I was working in the OR at a “great metropolitan hospital of a major American city.” It was an ordinary day, with no hint of things to come. Lunchtime came, and, not having anything to read while I ate, I went down to the hospitality shop, thinking I would pick up a magazine or maybe a paperback. None of the magazines or books was really catching my interest, when out of the corner of my left eye I noticed a rack.
It’s interesting to watch how time and again, writers, artists, moviemakers, and studio executives struggle to find ways to adapt the very first comic book super-hero. Superman was something readers (and rival publishers) had never seen before, and he served as the template for the heroic fantasy that followed these last seven decades. When you have powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men, you need visionaries to bring the character from the printed page to other media. Robert Maxwell figured out how to do that with the popular radio serial. In fact, Maxwell came up with various characters and concepts that seeped into the comics, a symbiosis that made both stronger.
I was given to considering Superman in his many forms when the eight-disc Superman The Complete Anthology Blu-ray set arrived for review. Warner Home Video has taken all the previous versions and spruced them up a bit, added some new features, and placed them in a handsome box. Despite the uneven content, this is a must-have for fans.
When the Fleischer brothers got a chance to animate the Man of Steel, they set the standard that all other animators have emulated or strived to match. It certainly raised the bar when Superman came to the movie serials, with Kirk Allyn looking the part but the low budget and low-tech kept his feats to the above-average, not super-human. Things got somewhat better with the George Reeve television series of the 1950s, imprinting the archetype on two generations of television watchers and comics readers. Again, Maxwell receives credit for his serious translation to the half hour demands of syndicated television before he left and it got dumbed down in subsequent seasons. (more…)
By now, you’ve probably heard about the controversy– ZOMG SUPERMAN RENOUNCES AMERICAN CITIZENSHIP!!! A lot of people are taking this panel at right from Action Comics #900 out of context.
For me, I always thought that “Truth, Justice, and the American Way” was a bit redundant. At least, I hoped that it was, because that implied that the American Way didn’t actually include truth and justice. As it turns out, the phrase wasn’t even original to the character. Remember the introduction to the Fleischer Superman cartoons of the 40s?
Heard it? Never-ending Battle for Truth and Justice… but no American Way. Same with The Adventures Of Superman radio show, which started with:
Look! Up in the sky!
It’s a bird!
It’s a plane!
“Yes, it’s Superman–strange visitor from the planet Krypton who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Superman, who can leap tall buildings in a single bound, race a speeding bullet to its target, bend steel in his bare hands, and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great Metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for truth and justice.”
And this was during World War II, not exactly a time short on American patriotism.
It wasn’t until 1952 that the TV series gave us:
Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! (“Look! Up in the sky!” “It’s a bird!” “It’s a plane!” “It’s Superman!”)… Yes, it’s Superman … strange visitor from another planet, who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men! Superman … who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel in his bare hands, and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way! And now, another exciting episode, in The Adventures of Superman!
Why was “the American Way” phrase added? Probably for the same reason that the words “under God” started showing up in the Pledge of Allegiance around the same time– it was supposed to help fight communism.
Considering this issue shipped the same day Barack Obama had to take extraordinary steps to prove that he was born in this country to the same sort of people who are now braying that Superman has betrayed them, I cannot help but be a bit confused. The fictional character is a real American citizen, and the President of the United States isn’t?
Of course, Superman really wasn’t born in the United States. (He really wasn’t born at all, but play along with me here.) If you asked Superman to produce a birth certificate, he couldn’t– hell, the Kents lied to get Clark one.
Now, whether DC made a good storytelling choice here– that’s for the next article.
[[[Shazam! The Golden Age of the World’s Mightiest Mortal
]]]By Chip Kidd, with photographs by Geoff Spear
Abrams ComicArts, 246, pages, $35
With one magic word, Billy Batson turned from a 10-year old orphan into Captain Marvel. It was a form of wish fulfillment that beat [[[Superman]]] and may well explain why Fawcett’s comics were outselling DC Comics’ Man of Steel. Maybe it was CC Beck and company’s clean, slightly cartoony style. It was probably a combination of these factors, but for a time, comics featuring Captain Marvel and his extended family were outselling Superman in his own title or [[[Action Comics]]] and [[[World’s Finest Comics]]].
On the other hand, Superman beat the [[[Big Red Cheese]]] in one arena and that was in licensing. There was bread, a comic strip, a radio series, the amazing Fleischer cartoons, the serials, and so on. Captain Marvel, most know, had the Tom Tyler serial and that’s about it. Well, not quite. Thanks to über-fan Chip Kidd, we now know that there was plenty of licensed stuff for the kids. In the lavishly illustrated Shazam!, Kidd along with photographer Geoff Spear take us on a tour of the obscure and little-known product to carry images of the good Captain and his pals.
The prose is breezy and gives us a cursory history of the character and the company that brought him to light. There’s little in the way of analysis but there are many interesting anecdotes, some of which were new even to a vet like myself. It would have been interesting to gain a greater understanding of why Fawcett couldn’t parlay their sales success to a greater licensing presence, which may well have allowed them to outlast his competitor in the years that followed.
In a more or less chronological order, we see artifacts from the Captain Marvel fan club, toys, costumes, badges, contest prizes and the like. Most of it carried artwork produced by Beck’s New Jersey studio or taken from the comics themselves, so they maintained that great look and feel of the comics. There’s Beck’s powerful hero in flight alongside Mac Raboy’s graceful Captain Marvel, Jr. and the plucky Mary Marvel, first envision by Marc Swayze. The book expands its scope to include other Fawcett heroes who benefited from association, notably [[[Spy Smasher]]]] who Kidd equates as Fawcett’s Batman. While DC managed to license Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, Fawcett seemed to outperform them in terms of characters found on product although DC’s heroes were in higher profile venues such as comic strips and radio.
It is nice to be reminded that it was Fawcett that figured out how to grow the franchise with the teen sidekick additions long before Superboy or Supergirl found their way into print. Heck, we get pages of licensed product featuring Hoppy the Marvel Bunny who preceded Krypto by 13 years. I had never imagined the funny animal incarnation would merit any merchandising but there are miniature figures, temporary tattoos, and paint book.
There’s a charm to these products from the 1940s, small in size and easily affordable for mere dimes. We get to see some of the correspondence the good captain sent out to his fans, including news and contests. Most of these items are rare and fetch high prices and its terrific to see them more or less catalogued in this handsome volume.
Kidd and Spear also take the time to show us the illegal knockoffs from Cuba and having these here, truly makes this book fun to flip through.
This is a loving tribute to the character that goes a long way to highlight just how popular he truly was during comics’ golden age. It certainly belongs in your comics library, along with Kidd’s similar tributes to other characters from his youth.
By Alan Cowsill, Alex Irvine, Matthew K. Manning, Michael McAvennie, Daniel Wallace
352 pages, DK Publishing, $50
This is a tough book to review given growing up reading the majority of titles covered here in addition to working on staff for twenty years plus continuing to contribute to the company today. It’s also a book I wish I had written. That said, this is a mighty undertaking that is strong and eminently readable. This is a worthwhile 75th anniversary collector’s item and a great way to encapsulate DC Comics’ rich history. By all means, this belongs on your bookshelf.
It is almost impossible to properly encapsulate the 75 years of DC Comics alone but this book also attempts to weave in the histories of the companies or properties now owned by DC, including Fawcett’s super-heroes, Charlton’s Action Heroes, and the Quality Comics library. Unfortunately, these all get lip-service rather than a proper meshing of titles therefore significant publications are absent.
DC Comics began as one title, New Comics, released in 1935 by Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson. It added titles slowly and when there was a disagreement over the size of the company, Jack Liebowitz, who bought out Wheeler-Nicholson with Harry Donenfeld, decided to expand in partnership with Max Gaines, forming All-American Comics. It would be years before Gaines sold out and the two companies became National Comics.
When Quality went out of business in the 1950s, DC took over their titles, continuing several of them, notably [[[G.I. Combat]]] and [[[Blackhawk]]], without missing a beat. In the 1970s, DC acquired rights to their heroes, from Captain Marvel to Spy Smasher, fully coming to own them within a decade. And as a gift to their executive editor, Dick Giordano, DC also acquired the Charlton heroes that Giordano once edited, headed by Captain Atom. When Bill Gaines died, DC became the parent to Mad, but the EC line of titles from [[[Picture Stories from the Bible to Weird Science]]] are missing. The purchase by DC of WildStorm changed the company. You’ll see some of this throughout the year-by-year presentation.
We get anywhere from one to two spreads per year when many years were bursting and deserved twice the space. Unfortunately, as happens with these DK projects, entire spreads are devoted to cover or panel blow-ups that unnecessarily take up space. As a result, you may scratch your head at the emphasis given to some titles and the absence of others.
In a statement released this morning on DC’s The Source Blog, DC Comics is continuing to clean house and as they put it… “Build a company for the future.” Let’s take a second to see where exactly the axe is falling, and what that future may look like.
The first major change Lee and DiDio mention is the increase of production over at MAD Magazine, which now publishes on a bimonthly schedule. In addition to the increase there, obviously they are branching the brand out with the aforementioned new cartoon show.
Past this bit of news though, it seems DC is ending an era or three within its offices and engaging in some heavy corporate streamlining.
First, everything non-comics will be making the move to the left
coast. The folks at ComicsBeat covered it well, but the basic gist is simple: many folks may be looking for new work come the new year as anything related to the development and production of feature films, television,
digital media, video games and consumer products (all of DC Direct, for example) as well as the
company’s administrative functions moves to a Warner Bros.-managed
property in Burbank, where they can consolidate all the overlap of those departments with WB Consumer Products and the like. It’s not clear yet whether this will include comics sales and marketing.
Next, Wildstorm is closing down and being absorbed into DC. As they said:
After taking the comics scene by storm nearly 20 years ago, the
WildStorm Universe titles will end this December. In this soft
marketplace, these characters need a break to regroup and redefine what
made them once unique and cutting edge. While these will be the final
issues published under the WildStorm imprint, it will not be the last we
will see of many of these heroes. We, along with Geoff Johns, have a
lot of exciting plans for these amazing characters, so stay tuned. Going
forward, WildStorm’s licensed titles and kids comics will now be
published under the DC banner.
Essentially this means that the Wildstorm Universe will simply be known as “Earth 238” or whatever number Grant Morrison assigns it. DC will allow time for readers to forget about Grifter, Maul, Spartan, Fairchild, and the other lost boys and girls in the Wildstorm Universe… and come back with a few Brand New Amazing Mini Series with hope that those feeling nostalgic for big biceps, bigger guns, and really big boobs will revive the now dying universe of characters.
Also, let’s not forget the other imprints of Wildstorm, including Homage Comics (Astro City), and the Alan Moore founded America’s Best Comics (Tom Strong, Promethea)… all of which is currently up in the air. Astro City creator Kurt Busiek was quoted as saying: “They haven’t said anything yet about creator-owned Wildstorm books.
Presumably they want to talk to us first. And right now, they’re busy
absorbing what this means for them. So I doubt I’ll know anything for a
day or two.”
Bleeding Cool has the best take I’ve seen on Wildstorm’s death of a thousand cancellations.
Note also that with this move, the editorial staff at Wildstorm will be undergoing a “restructuring” as well. It will be “folded into the overall DC Comics Digital team, based in Burbank…” While we don’t know specifically what restructuring will occur, obviously, it seems the team will shrink in its cross country move from Manhattan to L.A. Makes us wonder if DC was promised a shot at The Tonight Show as well.
Next to fall? To no one’s surprise, ZUDA. The webcomic imprint, which had its site shut down back in July, will cease to be after this week. As they said:
After this week, we will cease to publish new material under the ZUDA
banner. The material that was to have been published as part of ZUDA
this year will now be published under the DC banner. The official
closing of ZUDA ends one chapter of DC’s digital history, but we will
continue to find new ways to innovate with digital, incorporating much
of the experience and knowledge that ZUDA brought into DC.
ZUDA, which had very little going for it by way of mainstream popularity or attention, doesn’t come as a shock to anyone. With webcomic giants like Scott Kurtz and the boys at Penny Arcade doing just fine, the ZUDA project never really found its legs, past the success of one of it’s initial offerings, Bayou, by Jeremy Love.
The DCU Source Blog in question ends with a long blurb about the future of the company, and it’s increased focus on the “digital initiative”. They even go on to note their happiness at the success of their current digital offerings, which bring in “…anecdotal stories of lapsed readers returning to the art form and
of brick and mortar stores gaining new customers who sampled digital
comics.” We here at ComicMix would love to talk to some of those folks and hear said stories, because we’ve not been privy to any “I gave up paper comics with the Death of Superman, read Action Comics #701 on ComiXology, and rushed back to my local brick and mortar store that stayed in business during those 18 or so years, to start buying comics again!” stories.
As more turns up on this, we here at ComicMix will let you know. Stay tuned…
What started out as a joke between editors of the Daily Cross Hatch blog, Brian Heater and Sarah Morean, has stormed across the land to become a for us nerds to celebrate in tandem. Read Comics in Public Day is exactly what it sounds like. Remember to the “norms”, “muggles”, and “non-nerds” comic books are but mere childish things. While they may have heard of “Graphic Novels”, and probably have seen more than one film lately that was once based on some form of comic literature… they themselves wouldn’t be caught dead perusing an issue of Action Comics or Ghost World whilst out and about. And while hipsters flick and pan on their iPhones, iPads and Kindles, and the spinsters cling to their romance novels whilst whisking themselves on planes, trains, and buses… They look down their noses at we who de-bag our copy of Ultimate Spider-Man, and revel in the mid-adventures of Peter Parker. They don’t “get” our Hellboy BPRD patch sewn lovingly on our Messenger Bag of Holding. They scoff at our mock Blue Lantern Ring, which we wear on Mondays, to remind us to hope for a good week. And when they gaze that steely gaze… we may feel… less good about our choices.
But Not Today.
On this day, I tell you to don ALL your extra giveaway rings. Put that mock Mjolnir on your belt. Don your favorite Kirby-era 70s faded in the wash New Gods shirt. And more than any of that… pull out one of those “kitsch-rags” whilst you are in public. And if you find yourself in the Baltimore Area, take some public transportation, in full cosplay gear, and read that new Brightest Day you had squirreled away. Laugh out loud when Scott Pilgrim makes a funny declaration. Snort and chortle as loudly as you’ve ever chortled before when Deadpool breaks the fourth wall. And then when those who choose to mock you do so? Look them in the eye, and exclaim “Excelsior!” Then… get off that public transportation, and find your way to the Baltimore Comic Con! Join your brothers and sisters in arms, and celebrate all the goodness that can be had at a great convention. And while you’re there? Say hi to some of the ComicMix family in attendance. On the floor, and at their own tables are Mark Wheatley, Robert Tinnell, Adriane Nash, Mike Gold, Timothy Truman, John Workman, Andrew Pepoy, and Glenn Hauman! Shake their hands. Take their picture. Then have them snap a shot of you, reading that new Lone Justice trade you needed. Better yet… Go outside with that copy of Lone Justice, and read it in a nice public park. Snap the picture there, and then send it on to the folks at readcomicsinpublic.com.
You have your marching orders. Now go make us proud.
Hallmark will return to Comic-Con this summer with a line up of exclusive DC Comics, Star Wars, and Simpsons products for the event to introduce enthusiastic collectors (that’s you,
fanboys…) to the world of “Keepsake Ornaments”. Just in case your calendar isn’t marked yet, Comic-Con
International falls on July 21-25 this year, at the San Diego Convention Center in California. Here’s the run-down:
75 Years of DC Comics features the publisher’s three most iconic heroes bursting into action from the very comic books in which they made their first cover appearances—Wonder Woman in Sensation Comics No. 1 (January 1942), Superman in Action Comics No. 1 (June 1938) and Batman in Detective Comics No. 27 (May 1939). Limited run of 750.
A whopping three days after Action Comics #1 took in a cool $1,000,000, the Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas reported to Comic Riffs that a copy of Detective Comics #27 sold for $1,075,500 last night. #27 you say? Why not #1? Well folks, don’t we all know that issue features the debut of a pointy eared vigilante who’s made a career out of being cooler than ole’ Big Blue. Just like it’s Action Comics counterpart, the issue was an 8.0 graded book by the CGC scale. With only 100-200 copies left in the world, this again marks a major sale in the aftermarket for comic books.
Richard Donner makes a great couple movies about you, Superman? Batman Begins and The Dark Knight was better. People thought you were so cool in Kingdom Come, oh Man of Steel? Face it, old Bruce kicked your keester in Dark Knight Returns. And you thought you had him there for a second, didn’t you, Clarky-poo. A million dollar comic sale! Well, this was a million-plus. Suck on that green kryptonite.
As for us here at ComicMix, we’re gonna go check on our aforementioned copies of Ultraforce #1 and the “Darkchylde Summer Swimsuit Spectacular”. Cause, well, you never know.