Tagged: Brian Michael Bendis

Marc Alan Fishman: Jump In, Let’s Save the World

fishman-art-131026-150x1502-9729017Erik Larsen, of Image Comics fame, said on his Facebook wall (and I’m paraphrasing and ignoring some of his sluttier words…) “Every comic is a jumping on point. Why are you so scared?”

Those words hit me like a brick house. As many of you know, I write a weekly review of a single comic book over at MichaelDavisWorld . The cool part (aside from Michael Davis calling me “his fourteenth favorite cracker just behind the Ritz”), is that with this new mantra instilled in me it was as if a veil had been pulled from before my eyes.

As many of you read last week, the era of collectability is all but dead. With that logic, combined with Larsen’s standard flapping in the wind… I decided that for the next good-long-while, I would review issues I’d never read before; ones that caught my eye for no personal reason like a love a particular character. While it’s not been a perfect plan that’s opened me up to worlds I feel like I’ve been missing all my life, it has given me plenty of new perspective. But I digress.

Larsen’s point makes sense when you apply it to other media. You see, this is how I tackled my initial fear. I didn’t start watching (and loving) The Cosby Show, Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman, or even Batman: The Animated Series from their very beginnings. I’ve certainly stumbled into movies playing on cable a quarter, a third, or hell, three-fifths into their running time, and saw them to their conclusion – and later got myself caught up. My first CD was Aerosmith’s 12th studio album. Guess what? I didn’t immediately run out and purchase 1 through 11. I bought their greatest hits album. Zing!

As I noted last week, prior to the Image renaissance of the early 90s my generation didn’t have “jump on points” clearly labeled on the covers of our favorite comics. You want to like the X-Men? Good, go get Uncanny #197 and dive in. Think Superman might be your speed? Action Comics #643 is right there for the taking. Enjoy! One simply couldn’t wait for the volume to end, reboot, or reset. I’d abstained from the monthly comics throughout high school, for the very fear Erik rails against. “How could I possibly enjoy Detective Comics #546 without knowing what happened 20 issues ago?” Hence, I purchased trade paperbacks instead. It didn’t take long of course to note that they were in fact collections of pre-existing issues. Tada!

A single comic book, yes, even Watchmen #11, is small slice of entertainment. A solid fifteen minutes tops, if you’re a slow reader or Brian Michael Bendis is doing dialogue. And if a comic is written well, and drawn well, you know it regardless of subtext. Hence, if you jumped into any comic off the shelf and it was worth its salt, you could catch up and have a new series to enjoy. If the comic doesn’t work for you, then a few bucks are wasted, and you have some glossy toilet paper next time you head to White Castle.

My hunch is that the whole “death of the collectible comic” stems from this ideology of having to be there from the beginning. Hell, let’s be honest, kiddos. When a book starts to get hot it’s fast-tracked to tradesville and then your local comics shop makes it all-too-easy to get in before it’s too late. I know for a fact I would never have followed Irredeemable, Y: The Last Man, or the current Hawkeye had it not been for that fast-track-treatment.

The rush-to-trade happens, I largely assume, when the printed single issues are selling fast enough to warrant the collection. The rub here of course is that for every big publisher able to push things like that to the racks, there’s tons more being left at the station because it’s not exactly a great business move to dump a ton of trades on a store that isn’t selling out dozens of copies of The Atheist.

Much like Community is beloved by critics and a group of rabid fans but doesn’t garner the ratings like Friends, at the end of the day the argument is moot: a #1 excites the fans to buy more than #2, 3, or 237. But that’s been discussed. What Erik suggests, and I concur, is simple: Go buy that #2, 3, or 18. If the cover looked cool, buy it. When you flip through it on the rack and you chuckle a bit at the dialogue, buy it. If your friend at the gym told you he’s been on the book for months now, and says you’d love it, buy it.

You don’t know until you try. You’re smart enough to connect the dots, even when they’re scattered. Our industry doesn’t always need to slam on the reset button in order to get you back into the fracas. Take the leap. You might actually stumble across something that really puts the pep in your step.

I mean seriously… what are you… scared?

SUNDAY: John Ostrander!

MONDAY: Mindy Newell!


John Ostrander: Never Ending

Ostrander Art 130818 - LEFTOstrander Art 130818 - RIGHTIn the beginning, the Justice League of America on Earth-1 met the Justice Society of America on Earth-2 for an Annual Crisis and it was good. Usually it was really damn good. You waited for each yearly team-up eagerly.

And this begat Crisis on Infinite Earths and that was stupendous. A real game changer for DC. Continuity was never the same again. And this is turn begat Legends, a smaller miniseries that helped re-define the major DC characters and launched several books such as Suicide Squad, Justice League, and an all-new Flash. And it was good. Well, it was very good to me. It helped launch my career at DC and gave me two books, the aforementioned Suicide Squad and I would up taking over Firestorm. And those begat a lot more work for me and that was very, very good so far as I’m concerned.

These also begat a lot of sales and the lesson was not lost on Mighty Marvel and so begat Secret Wars, Secret Wars II, The Infinity Gauntlet, the Infinity Gauntlet Rides Again and so on. And all of these, both at DC and Marvel, begat tie-ins and spin-offs, selling books and making money but also increasingly disgruntling fans. And that’s not so good.

Okay, I’m not going to push the biblical phraseology thing any further because it stops being clever and just gets real annoying real fast. That’s my point – things get old quickly. These days, the “events” happen so much on the heels of one another that its gets hard to tell where one ends and another begins.

I can’t really complain – it’s getting me some work. I’m doing the Cheetah issue for Villains Month that’s part of Forever Evil and I was happy to get it (and – yes – to plug it). I also had some room to play with the character’s background and, I think/hope, the issue has wound up as a pretty good story. I don’t want to be a hypocrite – I can’t decry something in which I’m a participant.

I’d also like to suggest this – the main writer on a lot of DC’s events these days is Geoff Johns, just as Brian Michael Bendis has done on a lot of the Marvel Crossover Events. These are two top talents working at the top of their respective games. They both weave stories, working in plot threads that have appeared in other books leading up to the Event. It does give an epic quality to DC/Marvel’s respective canons.

However, I’m concerned that it could lead to Reader Burn-out. (Hm! The title for the next big crossover event – Burnout!) The books cost money and its not just the central core books of the event. True, most of the spin off books you don’t have to buy (except for the Cheetah one shot connected to Forever Evil; that one you really have to buy) but all the hype connected with any Event starts to numb the reader (IMO). I’m going to sound like a COF (Crusty Old Fart) but I really do think it was better in the old days when the JLA met the JSA just once a year. It was an event to which you could look forward instead of just lurching from one Can’t Miss story to another.

Maybe the point is sales and if the Events sell and garner a big chunk of overall sales that month, maybe that’s all they need to do. I have no objections to that.

Especially if it’s the Cheetah spin-off. Buy lots of copies of that. Buy spare copies to give to friends and family. Pre-order it now.

Hmmm. Maybe I understand Event programming better than I thought.




Emily S. Whitten: “Marvel Heroes”

Whitten Art 130611On June 4, Gazillion’s Marvel Heroes MMOARPG launched to the public. And I’m here to tell you that it’s a heck of a lot of fun to play, especially if you are a Marvel fan.

Marvel Heroes is a free-to-play PC game featuring a story written by Brian Michael Bendis (which begins with a set of prequel motion comics that you can watch here). I covered the basics of the game in my previous Marvel Heroes column, so I’m going to move right into my review here.

The Good Stuff:

One of the strongest pros in this game is, of course, the Marvel IP – and what Gazillion has done with it while designing the look and feel of the game. With five starting character choices and twenty-one Marvel heroes currently available, each with three to five costumes (although Spider-man has six and Iron Man eleven!), players can instantly play as a Marvel hero who looks and talks like he or she came straight out of the comics. If players are willing to spend money, they can play as non-starter heroes from the get-go, and equip the heroes with favorite costumes as well (heroes and costumes are also available as in-game drops, but they are rare). And people who get tired of one character have plenty of choices available if they want to switch things up.

The characters look like the heroes we know and love; the costumes are iconic; and each character has unique voice-over work, some of which is done by actors who have previously voiced the same character in other media or games (e.g. Steve Blum reprises his role as Wolverine). Through this voice work, the characters interact with the environment and other players in ways that fit with their comics personas. (One thing I like about the voice-over work is that sometimes, the lines actually make me laugh out loud.) Some of the heroes even have enhanced costumes, with special effects and separate voice-over work (for instance, Pirate Deadpool speaks in a pirate voice). There are also “artifacts” you can get that change the cosmetic look of your hero a bit, or that add to their powers. The game even has a few pets available – like Old Lace from Runaways! Favorite characters of mine so far include Deadpool, Jean Grey, Rocket Raccoon, Iron Man, Scarlet Witch, and Hawkeye; and Gazillion plans to continue releasing new heroes, with Human Torch , Squirrel Girl, and Emma Frost being three announced heroes that I’m looking forward to playing.

The powers available for each hero are also mapped directly from Marvel lore, and can be customized via power points to make your individual hero suited to different play styles (melee, ranged, tank, team support, etc.) while still feeling authentic. The powers can also look pretty darned cool, like for instance when Jean Grey goes into her Phoenix Transformation and flies around with a flaming phoenix around her. Her other powers even have a different (fiery) look to them when she’s using them while transformed. The characters also have lore-appropriate epic Ultimate Powers, which can eventually be unlocked at higher levels and are mostly awesome. (I love that Iron Man’s is called House Party and calls up other Iron Man suits, just like in the movie.) You can also customize hero performance through gear drops, which come with various affixes like defense, or +X to a power, or gain of spirit on use of a basic power, or a personal favorite of mine, freeze.

The environments and enemies are also Marvel-specific in some pretty cool ways. We get maps like Hell’s Kitchen (accompanied by a cool Daredevil motion comic) which feel kind of dingy and shady and like Daredevil’s Hell’s Kitchen might; and maps like the Savage Land, which have dinosaurs (yay!). Other areas include the Jersey Docks, Madripoor, and more. The maps are randomized, which makes re-playing levels not overly monotonous. There are also fun side-missions, like an abandoned subway tunnel, or a convenience store, or a small island, that usually house a few enemies and sometimes a treasure chest. And then there are locations like the Hand Tower or Kingpin Tower that feel very authentic in design and end with a boss like Elektra or the Kingpin. (And I can’t explain why, but the fact that I can destroy Kingpin’s couch cushions on the way to the boss fight is a never-ending joy to me. Take that, Kingpin!) Enemies vary by location, so players will find themselves fighting AIM, Hydra, the Hand, the Maggia, etc.; as well as additional bosses, like Doc Ock, Venom, Taskmaster, MODOK, and more.

Everything about the game shows that Gazillion cares about the details of the Marvel universe and put a lot of thought into the design – up to and including the load screen tips, which sometimes address gameplay, but other times share facts about heroes and locations (and occasionally inform you that Deadpool is not standing behind you right now, which is always a relief). The motion comics are also part of the immersion – and are peppered throughout the game to move the story along. While I don’t love every single one of them, most are very cool and the introduction comic, the Madame Hydra fight comic, and the Taskmaster Institute comic come to mind as very enjoyable (the Taskmaster Institute one is the best).

Another area in which I think Marvel Heroes has done well is in the game’s accessibility to new gamers or new MMO players. For instance, I love Marvel and I love gaming. I have a comics collection that spans several shelves and is at least 3/4 Marvel, and I own an XBox and have played numerous games on it, including playing through Marvel Ultimate Alliance 1 & 2 an embarrassing number of times. However, until this game, I had never played an MMO-style game before, and hadn’t played a game on a PC in years. Marvel Heroes makes it easy to pick up the mechanics of gameplay during the prologue level (The Raft), and through interactions in player hubs, such as the crafting tutorial or the mission that sends you around Avengers Tower to “talk” to several non-playable characters and gain Marvel background information.

The game also makes teaming pretty easy – if you are looking to team up and don’t know anyone, you can try the chat window to talk to other players; or you can use the function that automatically puts you in a party. While in a team, there is a team “bodyslide” teleport feature, which transports you to the location of whichever team member you’ve chosen; and, of course, there is a team channel in chat through which you can talk to only your teammates.

Although this is not part of the actual game, I also think that Gazillion’s customer service is worth a mention here. Despite Gazillion being a relatively small company, I’ve consistently had good experiences with their community interactions and customer service. For example, during the launch of the game, there were a few problems that caused early access (for which users such as myself had paid) not to be available at the promised time. While that was disappointing, Gazillion addressed the issues with compensation for the delay, which, in my view, more than makes up for it. (Yay, a pet! I wanted a pet anyway.)

The Not-As-Good-Stuff:

Overall, I really like this game. However, there are a few issues that I think hamper enjoyability a bit.

One of these issues is the storage space (the S.T.A.S.H.) that you get for your heroes’ equipment and costumes; for XP, item find, and other boosts; and for crafting materials. The space allotted with the free game is pretty small and not organized into tabs or sections; and crafting materials, which you will need many of if you want to craft anything, don’t stack, and quickly fill up the available space. I realize that the small amount of storage space is deliberate, because Gazillion needs to make money, and people buying more S.T.A.S.H. space is one way they can do that – but I resent having to buy inventory space in a way that I don’t having to pay money if I want a new hero or costume, or a performance boost, or a cosmetic item (I have no problem with spending money for any of those things). They could have started us out with at least a little more space, or allowed us basic organizational tabs for crafting, gear, and other items. Also, while I received a S.T.A.S.H. storage tab specifically for the hero I purchased with my premium pack (Deadpool!) I did not get a tab for either of the Valentine’s Day special heroes that came along with that purchase and included costumes. So although I’m happy to have the heroes and costumes, unless I buy more tabs, four spaces in my general tab are always going to be taken up by costumes, which is a pain.

Another area that could use some improvement is in character balance – because although of course you don’t want playing Scarlet Witch to feel the same as playing The Hulk or Storm or Captain America, if one of these characters is noticeably overpowered at the same level as another hero who is very weak, the game can seem pretty skewed. I have seen some instances of this; however, I know that with MMOs, balance continues to be tweaked through and after game release, so I expect this will even out. In terms of balance, a few of the bosses could also use some work – particularly the Rhino, who just straight-up kills you if you’re standing in the path of his charge (hard to consistently avoid since he’s a world boss, so you’re always fighting him with a number of other players and their accompanying power effects, which can make it hard to tell you’re about to be run down). Again, though, I am guessing (hoping!) this may be adjusted as Gazillion works out some balance kinks, since I know this problem existed with Bullseye before and they adjusted that fight.

And To Sum Up:

I am really enjoying Marvel Heroes. I think it’s had a strong start, looks great, and has a lot of cool features. I do see some potential for improvement with the aforementioned issues, and perhaps by adding, e.g., achievements to the game and the like, but given that we know Gazillion intends to keep adding characters and other features to the game as time goes on, I have high hopes for this to continue to be a fun place to play for quite some time.

So if you like gaming (or you don’t know if you like gaming but would like to give it a try), or you like Marvel, or you like both, check out Marvel Heroes!

And until next time, Servo Lectio!




Emily S. Whitten: The Marvel Heroes Game and the Latest from PAX East

Whitten Art 130326For anyone who’s interested in gaming, a whole lot of gaming news came out at the PAX East gaming convention this past weekend.

Given my devotion to Marvel and my affinity for playing any game that features Deadpool ever, I was particularly keen to hear the latest news about Marvel Heroes, the free-to-play MMOARPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Action Role Playing Game) created by David Brevik (of Diablo and Diablo 2 fame) and currently in production at Gazillion Entertainment.

Marvel Heroes, if you haven’t heard about it, is being designed as a free-to-play PC game in which players can advance through the game without spending any money (although there will be a store available for optional purchases). The story for the game, which centers around Doctor Doom and the Cosmic Cube, is written by well-known and multiple award-winning Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis, and Marvel artists are producing comic-style cut-scenes to accompany that story.

In developing this game, Gazillion has been able to draw on all of Marvel’s considerable intellectual property, and the game is slated to feature numerous Marvel heroes and costumes, including those already announced or depicted in the model sheets on the website and in the Founders Program Ultimate Pack. (I’m particularly excited to see that Deadpool (of course), Human Torch, Jean Grey, and Iron Man will be available! I’m also looking forward to seeing what they’ll do with Emma Frost’s powers.)

Voices for the characters are being done by a number of excellent popular voice actors, some of whom are reprising their roles as Wolverine, Deadpool, and more from other media. Once obtained, playable Marvel heroes can be customized in-game, using costumes, items, and allocations of powers. Marvel Heroes will also feature multiple locations from the Marvel universe (including the Savage Land. Dinosaurs, yay!!), and allow for teaming with other players, and bonuses from teaming up.

Given all of the above, and the inclusion of awesomely fun stuff like the enhanced Pirate Deadpool costume, and the excellent trailers and videos Gazillion has released to the public so far, there is a lot to look forward to in the finished game. And since any new video game with Marvel IP is an immediate draw for me, I definitely wanted to hear the latest updates from PAX East.

And updates there were! The first of which is the newly-announced release date of June 4 of this year, with early access starting May 28 for Founders Program pre-sale pack purchasers (early access varies depending on which tier of pack is purchased). The Founders Program is ongoing, and closed beta access – which used to be reserved for the $180 Ultimate Pack – has now been expanded to the $60 Premium Pack as well.

The next bit of fresh news is that PvP will be available at launch, and that you will be able to team up during PvP. Experience points gained in PvE play will transfer to PvP, and vice-versa. Gazillion also announced that it’s planning to have end-game content which will include both team challenges and open challenges. End-game content will also feature “Ultimate Powers,” which are special abilities tailored to each hero, and which can be gained after the first run-through of the story. Having these powers leveled up will apparently be key to achieving victory during end-game challenges. These powers can be leveled up by getting and spending duplicate “hero tokens.”

…And here is where we get to the only part of Gazillion’s PAX announcements that seems troubling, rather than exciting: “hero tokens.” One of the biggest positives about a game based on Marvel IP is the ability to play as your favorite Marvel heroes. That’s been one of Gazillion’s selling points for this game since the get-go – that there will be a ton of heroes available now and in the future, from the popular to those with more of a cult following; and that players will be able to choose to play as those characters.

Prior to this past weekend, it was understood from Gazillion’s public statements that specific individual heroes would be purchasable in the game’s store, for those who didn’t want to wait until their favorite hero chanced to drop in the game. This was planned as a primary way to fund the free-to-play game. As evidence of how this mechanic was intended to work, Gazillion’s FAQ on the pre-sale page says:

What Heroes are offered for free at the beginning of Marvel Heroes?

When you start playing Marvel Heroes, you will be able to pick a hero from a choice of several, and play through the entire game for free, finishing the story. You will only be able to choose one hero to play; other heroes may be granted as random drops throughout the game. To ensure you get to play a specific hero, you will be able to purchase them.” (Emphasis added).

This explanation was echoed by Director of Community & Customer Support Stephen Reid in a YouTube video posted Dec 28, 2012, at the 4:45 mark. In another YouTube video, posted on Feb 14, 2013, Karin Ray, Assistant Producer, says: “One thing I really like about the Premium Packs is, they come with a little extra currency. So, let’s say I purchase the Avengers Assemble pack, which doesn’t come with Black Widow; and I love her. I can take that extra currency and I can just scoop her up for my team.”

However, at PAX East, Gazillion announced a different game mechanic called the “hero token” (each token representing a specific hero). In essence, the way these tokens would work is that along with dropping randomly in the game (which is not a change from the previously announced design); they would now also drop randomly from an “item” that will be purchasable in the store as a replacement for specific purchasable heroes. In other words, there would no longer be a way to buy a specific hero; only an item that gives a chance at one. And the random hero you receive might turn out to be either one you don’t want, or one that you already have (which is where the use of duplicate tokens to level up your Ultimate Power comes in).

This… is a puzzling idea. First of all, in a game that is based on a previously established IP with devoted fans, removing the ability to guarantee the acquisition of the particular hero(es) a player already loves when paying money seems to remove their incentive to pay money for, presumably, the most expensive purchasable item in the game. Secondly, for anyone who purchased a Founders Pack prior to this announcement, one element of their pack (the in-game currency) can now no longer be used in the way it was previously advertised (as explained by Karin Ray above).

Since the announcement, there have been negative reactions to this mechanic on Twitter, in the comments of news pieces on Marvel Heroes’ PAX announcements, and on Reddit. Happily, however, Gazillion is paying close attention to their potential customers, as illustrated by this response to the feedback: “We’re hearing you loud and clear. Changes coming!” The developers have also indicated elsewhere that there will be more information on this mechanic coming very soon, and that they will be responding to feedback and announcing additional details that they hope will make people happy.

I hope that will be the case, and will report back with an update when it’s available. I’m also still looking forward to the launch of the game, and hope for even more exciting news as it gets closer.

And in the meantime, Servo Lectio!

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis and Barbie Dolls

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold and the Super-Hero Ideal


Marc Alan Fishman: Tough Act To Follow

The other week on my podcastFishman Art 130216 (to which you’re all listening, right? Right?) I lamented on a bold move I’d have to make after reading the incredibly terrible “Rise of the Third Army” event in the Green Lantern comics. I decided after following the book for nearly 15 years I would drop it. And I placed the blame squarely on Geoff Johns’ mighty shoulders. As if the lords of comic bookery heard my cry of exhaustion… Johns announced his stepping down from his emerald perch. And I looked up into the sky, and swear I saw a hawk wink at me.

And while I could spend the entirety of this column discussing why Geoff Johns’ name no longer comes with the reverence and respect it once did from me, I choose to digress to a more optimistic topic. With Johns and his entire GL crew stepping away, it will soon be time for new creative teams to grab the reigns of DC’s biggest B-lister and his C and D-list cohorts. And with that comes major cosmic boots to fill. Consider this my open letter to those new teams: reportedly, Peter Tomasi on the lead Green Lantern title, Joshua Hale Fialkov on Green Lantern Corps and Red Lanterns, possibly Robert Venditti or Justin Jordan on New Guardians, and Keith Giffen on Threshold. Please note: I write on Tuesdays for my column on Saturday, but all of this unsolicited advice still applies to those who actually land the jobs.

Before you new people even open up a blank word document to scribble down thoughts and ideas, go pick up Mark Waid’s Daredevil run over at Marvel. Now read it. Now read it again. Waid, in his own right, may be one of the most prolific and amazing writers in contemporary comicsdom. I asked that you pick up his DD run not only because it’s amazing but because it followed Brian Michael Bendis’ run, which lasted about a decade if I’m not mistaken. Waid proved that even with that much narrative weight attached to a character, he could find a fresh perspective and new legs. And he did it in spades.

Now that you’ve seen that it can be done, it’s time for you to do it yourself. Realize above all else that the issues and events before your run must inspire you, not weigh you down. Bendis drug Matt Murdoch to hell several times over. Waid took that and found a way to flip it. So too, will you have to do the same with the entirety of DC’s cosmic comics. But to be fair? If nothing else, Geoff Johns built you an entire universe to play in.

Over nine years Johns took a single Green Lantern – Kyle Rayner – forgot him, and in his place built an entire emotional spectrum of warring aliens. He reignited the Green Lantern Corps. He created depth with villains (who have since had a slight change of heart) like Sinestro and Atrocitus. He created mystery with Larfleeze, and the Indigo Tribe. He created the Blue Lanterns, who up ‘til this point were essentially hero support from D&D. He granted Krona his own epic end. He retconned in an entirely new origin for the Guardians. He even made another new Earth Lantern (who I’ll mention is totally not a terrorist). It’s easy to see how anyone walking into all of this might be overwrought by this newfound continuity. Where does one even begin?

If it’s not already clear to you: consider working a year (or more, Rao willing) without an event. Is it even possible? I beg of you to look to the past. Comics, albeit serialized soaps for teens and wish-they-were-still-teens, were born in an era where complete thoughts could be told in a single floppy issue. And while I’ve explored both the good and the bad of today’s modern “write for the trade” era writing styles, suffice to say after nine years of nothing but event-driven drama for my favorite sect of mainstream comic books? My white flag has been flying since the new 52 graced my longboxes.

At the core of every great run on comic books these days, comes a commonality of concept. I cite Grant Morrison or Scott Snyder’s runs on Batman, Jonathan Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four and FF, Bendis’ run on Ultimate Spider-Man, or Matt Fraction’s run on Invincible Iron Man or his current run on Hawkeye. With each of these books (and a few other fine examples I’m missing), the creators all present a singular vision of the hero and their world. They start from a seed, and grow their own microverses within their respective issues. And in each of these cases, they take into account the continuity that occurred before them, but choose to move past it. Our past informs who we are, but it doesn’t need to be what keeps up from moving forward. So too, are our heroes of pulp and paper.

A lesser set of writers would take the last scenes of however Johns and company ends their books and emulate where they thought they were going. But you, new creative teams… will do better. You will find the essence of your respective lanterns, and will build your own bold direction. You will celebrate nine years of new ideas with years of your own. You will refrain from creating more secrets hidden in lost continuity. You will refrain from crossing over the books because one of you had a great idea that needs everyone else in the pool. You will find ways to use heroes and villains that already exist, or create new ones that help elevate your stories. You will not feel the need to end every major arc with Hal (or John, or Guy, or Kyle, or Not Terrorist) reciting the oath and blasting something to oblivion. You will not give Kyle Rayner another new costume. You will not make John Stewart blow up another planet. You will not play emotional footsie between Hal and Carol.

You will go boldly where no one has gone before. And if you’re worth your salt, you’ll earn my subscription back.

Sunday: John Ostrander

Monday: Mindy Newell


Klaus Janson returns to Daredevil– along with Bendis, Mack, Sienkiewicz, and Maleev

Klaus Janson returns to Daredevil– along with Bendis, Mack, Sienkiewicz, and Maleev

Finally, after being announced almost five years ago, we have a preview.

Marvel is pleased to present your first look at Daredevil: End of Days #1, from the creative tour de force of Brian Michael Bendis, David Mack, Klaus Janson, Bill Sienkiewicz and Alex Maleev! When Matt Murdock’s greatest secret remains a mystery – there is only one man who can uncover it, investigative reporter Ben Urich! Witness the end of the Man Without Fear this October in Daredevil: End Of Days #1!

FOC – 9/17/12, ON-SALE 10/10/12

Marc Alan Fishman: The Top 5 Comics I’d Like To See

In an effort anger the Internet – and save me the time of writing too much – I figured this week I’d take a trip into Fantasy Land. Here is a list, simple and to-the-point, of five books I’d love to see hit the stands. This probably won’t happen unless we’re on Earth 29.

The Avengers: Written by Geoff Johns, Art by Peter Krause.

With his ability to handle a multitude of characters (see his run on Justice Society, or to a lesser degree, Justice League) and draw from countless years of continuity to craft original tales, John’s would deftly deliver a truly epic arc for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Peter Krause (of Irredeemable fame) has an amazing ability to show emotion, and a wide range of your more traditional superheroes. Put together? I think the fans would assemble in droves for a chance to see the premier Marvel team run through the proverbial wringer. And with John’s latent ability to hone lesser villains (see Captain Cold, or his subtle shifting and deepening of Sinestro), no doubt this impossible title would be one for the ages.

Green Lantern: Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Art by Mike Norton.

Brian Michael Bendis could do perhaps what no other writer has done for Hal Jordan in the last 10 years of his comic booking career: he could make me give a damn about Hal. Bendis, master of the talking head page, could instill the much-needed pathos to what has basically been a cardboard cutout of a hero since his “rebirth.” Given his pedigree and ability to craft subtle, nuanced characters, I’ve little doubt his emerald knight would finally be a human being, akin to the Ultimate Peter Parker, with far more years under his power-ringed belt. And with Mike Norton’s clean, concise, and emotive style? Well, I think the book would look as sharp as it read. Norton’s often forgotten runs on Blue Beetle and Green Arrow proved to me long ago, he’s the go-to guy when you need stalwart presentation.

DC Kids Cavalcade: Written by Art Baltazar, Franco, and Keith Giffen, Art by Katie Cook, Art and Franco, Jill Thompson, and a Troop of Others.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. “Anthologies don’t sell.” Well, maybe they would if the stories and art in them wasn’t always a crap shoot, maybe it’d have a chance. I’d kill to see a monthly rag where the funniest minds in comics met with an endless parade of the most kid-friendly artists. Give us a chance to see Katie Cook’s Batman saga or “Tails From The Litter Box: The Midadventures of Dex-Starr.” Pair Giffen’s sharp wit with Art’s never-not-cute style. What could be more perfect for young readers, than a never-ending series where each issue packs in a brand new kid-friendly (but with plenty of Easter eggs for adults) tale? Nothing that I can think of, darn-it.

Thunderbolts: Plotted by John Ostrander, Scripted by Gail Simone, Art by Ethan Van Sciver

No, I’m not just pandering for my close and personal friend John Ostrander. OK, maybe I am a little. But hear me out. Ostrander’s original run on the Suicide Squad is just an amazing piece of sequential fiction. His ability to mine realism in the face of the absurdity of comics is unparalleled. Match this with the wit and charm of Gail Simone? You get yourself one fancy-assed book about ne’er-do-wells. It stands to note I found Simone’s Secret Six to be the sleeper hit of DC in the mid-aughts. Certainly her pitch-perfect evil side would pair well with John’s, and together they could craft a story about Marvel villains trying to change the world. Since Marvel doesn’t really have an “evil only” book per say, I’d think this’d be an interesting one to see. Pair them with Gail’s buddy Ethan Van Details? And you have a gory and beautiful mess on your hands. Van Sciver’s meticulous style would be great to see, when there’s no forced lighting, constructs, or fire being forced into every panel. When its time for poop to hit the fan though? There’s no one better for the art duties.

Metal Men: Written by Matt Fraction, Art by Chris Burnham.

Last but not least, a title so impossible to exist, 14 editors just burst out laughing over how unsellable it’d be. This iteration of the Metal Men would be a mash-up of sorts. Fraction has proved he’s got the uncanny (natch) ability to build slow, methodical tales without boring his audience to tears. And based on his most current work on the Defenders, he’s proven he can be witty to boot. Pair him with the “in-the-prime-of-his-career” Burnham, whose carefully crafted dynamic figure work is second to none, and you have a book that’d look as sharp as the titular metallic men in question. Fraction could world-build around the odd duck Doc Magnus, but not lose the fun always associated with the franchise. Toss in some climactic battles with new versions of Chemo, Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, or Monsieur Mallah and the Brain… and you have a perfectly unsellable train wreck – that I’d buy 10,000 copies of.

BONUS! GrimJack: Written and drawn by Unshaven Comics.

What? Boys are allowed to dream!

OK, Internet. Time to tell me how wrong I am! Or better yet? Pitch your impossible book below. We’ll take a vote, make a petition, and incite riots for the best idea. Now, go do that voodoo that you do so well.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

Marc Alan Fishman: Compress the Decompression

Just for funsies, I cracked open my DC Archives: Green Lantern hardcover the other day. An hour later, I’d reminded myself why I was never the biggest fan of Hal Jordan. But that’s a discussion I’ve bemoaned about here before, so I’ll spare you. What struck me, though, was the sheer density of the material presented. Oh, how have times changes. Some argue for the better. Others say nay. Concerning the amount of plot presented today in the standard off-the-rack rag we all love so much, it’s a debate I’m willing to fill a few inches of babble about.

I can’t personally put a pin at the exact moment of time when comic book writers started decompressing their material. My best guess is that it was a slow burn starting in the mid-eighties, that reached critical mass somewhere around the time Brian Michael Bendis was being knighted by Joey Quesada. Truth be told, I’m not a comic historian (like the incomparable Alan “Sizzler” Kistler) and I’m inspired by Michael Davis’ Lazy-Man, so I’m not doing the research to find out exactly when. Suffice to say, it’s no difference to me when this all happened, so much as whether it has been for the better of the medium. And that answer isn’t exactly black and white.

The thing is, when I read through those Silver Age reprints I couldn’t help but feel slighted. Huge problems for the titular hero were dispatched in a matter of a few panels. Why? Because by the turn of a page, we were already onto the next plot point / problem / story beat. In one story, Hal is called to a prehistoric world where he must save the blue skinned Neanderthals from evil yellow dino-birds. One panel? He’s punching them. Next? He’s blasting them with a big green canary. Next? He’s home. In less than a handful of pages, the entire story is wrapped up. For anyone out there that wants to defend that as being higher quality that last months’ issue of GL… come see me behind the shed. Simply put, this “gotta cram an entire story in 12 pages!” mentality may have suited people 20 years ago… But not now.

When it’s done right, modern comics have the pacing, depth, and content akin to a good movie. Take the first arc of Mark Millar’s The Ultimates. Not only do we get origins for Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Ant Man, the Wasp, and Captain America, but we get true moments of cinematic glory. When the Hulk rampages in the city, horny and angry, it’s a moment earned through the build up of tension across the four books it took to get there. If the same book were made in the Silver Age? Hulk would have been tearing up a building in one panel, booted out of it in the next, and laughing about the lessons learned before the page turn. In other words? Decompression gives the reader a chance to absorb characterization and depth.

When it’s done wrong, a book becomes a banal burden. How many times in the modern era have we plunked down good money to read a book that doesn’t move a story forward, for seemingly no reason? When an arc is immediately all too familiar, we can end up purchasing six or more issues of a story despite our ability to glean the entire plot beat for beat.

Case in point? Justice League International. In the very first issue, it was as clear as day: The team would assemble for the greater good, but show terrible cooperation. The big bad guy would do increasingly bad things and the team would eventually have to unite in order to win the day. And because I knew that this would be the arc they’d travel on, I simply dropped the title. The idea that all stories must “write for the trade” is a double-edged sword. When the plot comes out of the box of “been there done that,” all you’re doing is wasting ink and paper.

Let me not poo-poo the Silver Age without pulling back my anger just a bit. These older tales had something modern comics lack. Balls. Big brass ones. Do you think, even for a second, Batman of Zur-En-Arrh could have been pitched and published as an original concept in 2012? Not on your life. The older books had a mentality to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. It allowed ol’ Hal Jordan to be on a primitive planet fighting dinosaurs on one page, and then be whisked away to the anti-matter universe for a skirmish with the Qwardians on the next.

With the way modern books are published, those two concepts alone might take up the better part of a year to explore. Modern books slow time down to a visceral crawl. Case in point? For as good as Ultimate Spider-Man is… did you know it took Bendis five-plus years of bi-monthly issues to cover a single year of Peter Parker’s life? In 60 issues in the 60s, Spider-Man had fought 47 villains, went to college, teamed up with the Avengers, became a lounge singer, and still had time to forget to bring the eggs home for Aunt May.

The key here, in this carpy columnist’s opinion, is balance. Not every book needs to “write for the trade.” Some of the best comic books I own are single-issue stories that aren’t anchored to one trade or another. When done well (for example, GrimJack: The Manx Cat), a dense story across six books can feel like a novel in and of itself. When done poorly (the middle 30s and 40s of Irredeemable), a decompressed story can feel more like a worthless stall and cash-grab.

Far be it from me to spend so long pontificating about the pacing of a story as my article gets longer and longer. I guess when it comes down to it… to summarize… or in other words, wrap things up: Pacing in modern comics has never been more important. As a fan, all we can hope for is a feeling that we’ve gotten our money’s worth by the time we place the comic in its bag and board.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander


MARC ALAN FISHMAN: Animation Domination – Marvel Universe vs. DC Nation

Friends, we are at the dawn of a new and great age. The mighty Marvel Universe and the dynamic DC Nation each will have a block of programming on cable television. On Saturday mornings. Set those DVR’s to stun, kiddos.

Sure, both the House of Mouse and the Brothers of Warner have each ventured into the cartoon cavalcade before, and they were glorious times indeed. As I recall at their heyday, Spider-Man and the X-Men were in full force. Batman’s animated adventures become a power hour with the addition of Superman. And throughout the late 90s and early aughts we’d be privy to all sorts of spin-offs, short lived series, and some toons we may all wish had never seen the light of day. Don’t fret… I’ll have a whole column to dedicate to them soon enough.

The DC Nation block leads off with Green Lantern’s new CG series. Kids ken to the Clone Wars will find fast friends in Kilowog and Hal Jordan as they romp around space helping protect innocents from the wrath of the deadly red lanterns. Following the emerald knights is Young Justice – the continuing tale of a modified DCnU with a team of sidekicks turned proto-titans.

On the Marvel side of the coin, we’ll get the new Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon and the continuing saga of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes with … well… The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Both blocks will feature fanboy-service by way of interstitial shorts, special segments, and probably a few bonus promotions. DC Nation shows on Cartoon Network, and Marvel Universe will show up on Disney XD. Thus far, DC is ahead of the curve with their block of programming having debuted two weeks ago. Marvel is launching in early April. I can safely report that DC came out of the gate very strong.

I admit I was very nervous about the Green Lantern series when the trailer debuted back in the summer. The Bruce Timm-meets-Clone Wars styling didn’t immediately strike me as being indicative of the quality of previous animated incarnations of DC property. But, like the true emerald enthusiast that I am, I gave the pilot a shot. I was quite impressed. While the character models are a bit too stylized for my personal taste, the writing is high quality. Hal comes across bountifully cocky. Kilowog as the buddy in this buddy-cop-cartoon works surprisingly well. The Red Lanterns are even given a bit of depth out of the gate, quelling most of my fears by the end of the first episode. If there’s any complaint I have thus far, is my fear of the series not exploring the true expanse of cosmic characters. and focusing too much on the Red Lanterns. Simply put, by the end of the season I want Larfleeze, damnit.

Young Justice has been a quietly rising star in DC’s animated belt. The “made cool for the preteen crowd” style keeps me coming back to soak up the fresh redesigns. And their treatment of Aqualad has done more for the character than Geoff Johns did in all of Brightest Day. While their treatment of Conner Kent is a skosh too angsty for my taste… they balance it out superbly with Wally West. The show has taken some time to get its sea legs firmly planted, but a slow burn of serialization paid off at the tail of their first season. Not every story they’ve done has been a complete winner, but the action sequences and cameos from adult league members has always kept things moving. Suffice to say, have it anchor the DC Nation shows their commitment to find new life after the Bruce Timm era-of-awesome.

Over at Marvel, I have to say I’ve never been this excited for a block of their programming. In the mid-nineties, they produced an Iron Man / Fantastic Four block that started strong and staggered stupendously. Their Spider-Man cartoons have always been solid. The X-Men cartoon tackled an amazing amount of comic milestones, but ended sloppily. With their Avengers cartoon though, they have achieved something I honestly did not think I’d see: a comic-inspired take on their quintessential team, done in a manner that is both accessible to new fans and a wink and nudge to their old base. With top-notch voice acting and a fearless plummet into a cadre of villains, the series has been nothing short of brilliant. Every team member has been given time to shine. Suffice to say it not only tows the line for Mickey… it makes me forgive them for releasing the Avengers cartoon from 1999. Wait. Scratch that. Nothing will make me forgive them for that. Seriously? Ant-Man as team leader!? But I digress…

Last, but not least, is ole’ Web Head. Ultimate Spider-Man appears to take its cue from the Brian Michael Bendis penned series, with a bit of a comedic bend to it. With a supporting “and his amazing friends” cast including Nova, Power Man, Iron Fist, and White Tiger… who among serious comic fans are salivating just a little bit? I suggest you check out the trailer, and get ready for the return to quality toonage from our pals over on the Disney float.

So as I’d said before… make sure to have those DVR’s at the ready. And for all you evil pirates, make sure the Torrent Bay is loaded. It’s a good day to be a comic book fan, cartoon lovers… Hop aboard the bandwagon before it takes off without you.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander