Tagged: Convergence

Mike Gold: Well, It Ain’t Much Of A Secret War

Secret_Wars_9_CoverOur friends at Marvel Comics have informed the world that “the biggest Marvel event of all time” will come to an end four weeks from today, on January 13, 2016.

Of course, the “biggest Marvel event of all time” is in the mind of the beholder. Personally, I would have picked the release of the first Fantastic Four #1 back in 1961, or the release of Marvel Comics #1 back in 1939. But that’s just the way I see it, and I’m the one digressing from the point.

They’re talking about the release of the ninth and final issue of Secret Wars, the third such dull mega-event employing that title. The penultimate issue came out last week, and that one was late. This one is later. In fact, it is so late that the entire Marvel Universe which was supposed to be upended by this series (opinions differ) already has been upended to the extent that it was to be upended, and the “All New All Different” #1s started shipping last month. The House of Idea delivered something like six second issues this week alone, plus one or two third issues, plus two All New All Different first issues. Again, I’m talking about what arrived in the stores today.

So, to the extent that the “event” was an event, the ending is not. Well, maybe a little, as Alex Ross’s beautifully subtle cover suggests (as does Scottie Young’s variant cover, but it’s done is a somewhat different style). I’m not knocking the series itself; it’s pretty much as good as those things get and, having stewarded one of these things myself, I know how difficult that is. Well, maybe not: I worked for Dick Giordano and not for the ghost of Walt Disney.

Secret Wars Scottie YoungBut most all of the cats are out of the bag, and the one or two left in were clearly in need of kitty litter. Once you blow the ending in many dozen comics that precede the finish, you’ve got no finish. Just one long, nicely illustrated footnote.

Secret Wars 2015 has been a fiasco. Counting the number of comics that tied in to the series is a lot like guessing the number of jelly beans in the jar at the voter’s registration office: it could be done, but it’s far easier to just talk a walk. There were Ultimate tie-ins, 2099 tie-ins, Age of Apocalypse tie-ins, Marvel 1602 tie-ins, House of M tie-ins… and something called “Battleworld.”

I read a number of the many Battleworld mini-series, and some of those were pretty good. Therefore, some were not. But, really folks, we used to get those sort of stories in one sitting in a giant-sized comic book called What If? Battleworld should have been titled Why Bother?

Having talked with my fellow comics fans at a ridiculous number of conventions and store appearances lately, I know I am not the least bit alone in saying this. “All New All Different” is just more of the same old same old, to be dicked around with in next summer’s Big Event.

Marvel said Secret Wars 2015 wasn’t a reboot, and as far as I can tell it mostly sort of wasn’t. It’s a reboot in the way that the Doctor Who revival a decade ago was: some things have changed, but that change came in a linear fashion. However, there is one important difference: the Doctor Who revival was quite, quite good.

I’ve been a Marvel Comics fan since Fin Fang Foom was a hatchling, so I don’t want to end on a downer. So I’ll say this: despite its many problems, its overreach and its oversaturation, Secret Wars 2015 made a hell of a lot more sense than Convergence.


Molly Jackson: Knowing Too Much

Knowing Too Much

Marvel has been slowly and steadily announcing their plans for their “new universe” coming this fall. It has been the hot topic on most geek blogs and is keeping people excited, sort of. In just watching this event creating the new Marvel Universe unfolds, I already have some misgivings with how things are going.

With nearly two months left of the current world-changing event, we already know who is going to survive Secret Wars. We already know what new series they will be in and who the creative team is. It’s no fun if you know the answer before the question is done being asked. And now the question is, why bother reading the event at all?

I’ve waited a little bit before jumping into buying Secret Wars. I had just finished with Convergence – which was basically the same event – and needed a break from world combining. Also, I was not a huge fan of the Free Comic Book Day prequel comic. And frankly, I wanted to hear people’s reactions. A friend has told me the basics but admitted that while it is interesting, it is not the most cohesive story. I’m considering just skipping Secret Wars all together since I already know the outcome.

The other hand is, I was excited to give Marvel another chance sans the weight of their overgrown universe. In the past, I had a hard time trying to jump into large universes because of the weight of history and the complex, never-ending storylines. Then, Marvel Point One happened. I tried out and liked quite a few issues. However, the series I enjoyed failed to keep me interested because they immediately went back to complex tales. DC Comics learned from this, and then made their complete reboot a lot more accessible. My hope was a new start for Marvel meant an easier entrance to exploring that universe beyond just a few standalone stories.

It all comes down to why I read anything. I read to experience through another’s eyes, hear another’s thoughts and feel another’s feelings. I read to explore new worlds and characters. And I read to enjoy the plot unfolding before me. All I can hope is that Marvel’s new universe won’t be completely spoiled before it is even born.

Mindy Newell: Do Not Fold, Spindle, Or Mutilate Me!

Yesterday I ran into a friend from high school as I was leaving the supermarket. He told me that he is moving to a smaller place and so he’s trying to sell off his comics collection, which runs into the thousands and thousands. He’s going to keep some of them because he loves them, and for posterity, and for hopefully great value in the future. But he hasn’t been able to offload most of them – which I said probably has something to do with the economy, because even if the Dow is over 18,000 and the unemployment rate is under 5.5%, most everyone is keeping their Washingtons and their Lincolns and their Benjamins in their wallet or under the bed. He also told me that once DC’s two-month limited series Convergence is done in April, he’s also going to be done with comics.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because all it is now is one big cataclysmic event leading into another,” he said. “It’s boring, it doesn’t mean anything, and I’m not wasting any more money on the shit.”

Yeah. I get it.

PowBack in the eighties the comics industry was experiencing a boom in great visual storytelling that was busting down all the preconceived notions about comics. No more pop-art balloons. No more women whose only aim in life was to become a Mrs. fill-in-your-favorite-single-super-guy here. No more “*choke* *gasp* *sob* How ironic!” neatly wrapped up endings. Stories became more complex; the superheroes weren’t always red-white-and-blue American good guys who always saved the day.

Yes, Marvel had been doing this since the introduction of Spider-Man in Amazing Fantasy #15, cover-dated August 1962, but across the country there was an explosion of energy in the eighties: the independent market took root and prospered, the Comics Code Authority seal vanished from covers, the Brits launched a second pop culture invasion, and people were openly reading comics on the subways, on the buses, at work, and at school. The story ruled, man!

Comic historians can tell you when it exactly happened, but I know that it was after Crisis on Infinite Earths and Secret Wars and, especially, The Death of Superman, that the story disappeared and the event took over.

Ah, The Death of Superman – everyone was buying multiple, multiple copies and stowing them away in attics and cedar chests and shoeboxes because everyone knew they would be worth $$$$$$ someday. Only of course millions of issues were printed and of course DC wasn’t going to really ice their licensing giant and of course the public’s ability to be sucker-punched was infinite (pun intended). So of course it will be about 500 million years before a mint copy of the issue will be worth gazillions. But of course DC made money, lots and lots of money, and generated lots and lots of publicity, including a Time magazine cover.

And so of course, the people at the top of the corporate DC ladder wanted to do it again. And again. And again. And again.

And so they did.

And Marvel did it as well. I think they started (but again, ask a comic historian for the exact stats and dates) after Secret War I with the expansion of the X-Men line, which led to crossovers, which led to X-Men crossovers, which led to Iron Man and Thor, and Punisher expansions which led to crossovers and then to across-the-line events.

Oh, and let’s not forget the variable covers with Mylar and special graphics and holograms. And there were “3-D” pop-up pages, and double-page fold-outs and…

Dig it, man. These were all events.

But what happened to the story?

It went elsewhere…to the comics that nobody really noticed (and so got cancelled), to the book publishers who started graphic novel lines, and, especially in Marvel’s case, to the movies and television. (Although, as Marc Alan Fishman recently noted in his column last week, DC’s Flash is gettin’ it.)

John Ostrander’s column yesterday reflected on the wonderful world of robotic (computer) storytelling. He noted that these stories, and I’m using shorthand here, suck big time. Grammatically correct and all that, but no heart. No soul. No emotion.

But the Cylons evolved, and I’m guessing so will these programs, John.

Maybe not in our lifetime, old friend, or yours, but one day there will be an X-Men or a Superman or a Daredevil or a Batman written by a computer.

And it will be an event.


Marc Alan Fishman: DC’s Newest – A New Hope or Phantom Menace?

Marc Alan Fishman: DC’s Newest – A New Hope or Phantom Menace?

Section 8Well, it’s been a while since I’ve been snarky. And I use that italicized denotation to declare to you that my right eyebrow is fully engaged and riding high, whilst its partner is floating low. There is a smirk across my mouth that clearly tells you that I’m excited. These are the announcements Internet op-ed folk dream of reading – and then immediately speculate, rant, and blather about.

The New 52 is dead. Long may you rot, New 52.

Following up from the soon-to-pass “Convergence” epic-to-end-all-epics-except-that-last-epic crossover event, DC will be overhauling its monthly title list to include 25 currently running series, and a newly announced (well, like, a week ago announced) set of 24 new titles that may just be rebrands, or retitled series they still are putting out. So, be prepped for yet-another-batch of #1s to flood your racks and drain your wallet. And I say your wallet because in spite of all the good karma DC is attempting to gain by admitting some present-day faults with this stunt, I have yet to be impressed. If anything, this current PR initiative leaves me even more tepid regarding mainstream comic bookery.

Dan DiDio’s press release declared the shifting sands of the line as “allow[ing] us to publish something for everyone, be more expansive and modern in our approach and tell stories that better reflect the society around us.” All in all, that’s a great sentiment. It clearly rides the line between apology and promise for the future. Something for everyone hits right in the bread basket. As the average comic shop goer continues to diversify – both in who goes to the shop as well as what those in the shop are looking for – declaring that a motif of the line was to expand beyond the norm of capes and cowls is a great thing to strive for.

Of course if you then look at the line being offered, tt’s a big fat lie.

The rest of the quote deals with incorporating a modern approach in telling stories that reflect the society around us. This leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. They said the same thing with the New 52 and all we got were angsty superheroes and an abundance of Nehru collars. Oh, and the death of a ton of worthwhile continuity and legacy. But I digress.

Be that is it may, there’s glints of hope peering out in between the predictable. The Bryan Hitch written and drawn Justice League of America gives me the hope from last time I gave a crap about DC’s biggest team – the Morrison years. We Are Robin takes what appears to be a street-level justice bent, likely set in Gotham. It harkens back perhaps to GCPD, a series that I wish there were more of in any incarnation of the DCU. And for those who like to celebrate the odd, well, Bat-Mite or Bizarro might take typical cape-and-cowl crud and give us something unexpected.

Peering further down the list though, we get series that seem to be dusting off concepts the modern reader isn’t going to know. Prez, Omega Men, and Section Eight: I’m looking at you. Seeing these titles amongst the noobs has me scratching my head. Pair those What the-? titles with lame ducks like Black Canary, Martian Manhunter, and Cyborg and I’m no longer scratching… I’m shaking it in sadness.

Not because I don’t want these series to succeed, mind you. But the truth of the matter is none of these books are on the tips of the tongues of those seeking new books or concepts. And while DC may hope some jazzy art, or a modern concept will instantly enamor the geeks at large with the new books… someone somewhere should denote that one simply can’t “Batgirl” their way to victory. It will take heavy lifting by the respective creative teams to lure the initiated into the fold – and then it will take near perfection of execution to keep those books alive. If they want a hint, they should go back to New York and ask Marvel about Hawkeye.

The truth of the matter is that it will take an amazing leap of faith for any of the new series to be more than just another attempt at making buzz. While putting great talent on a book (like Ennis and McCrea on Section Eight – a series tied to their old hit, Hitman) is never a bad thing… putting out this many number one issues in succession makes it infinitely harder to see the kind of success DiDio is hoping for. It’s not enough to hack and slash your way through the catalog and dump a ton of new books on the public under the guise of the shifting tides.

The announcement on the whole reeks to me of boardroom politics and analytic-based commodity profiteering. Simply put, the powers-that-be figured out that #1s spike sales. So, fuck all… flood the market again, wrap it up in some nice PR about diversity, and save the line for another two years.

Mark my words: if half of the newly announced series are still being published at issue #13, feel free to shave my face.


John Ostrander: Secret Convergence Wars

Starting April 1, DC Comics is launching its new meta-Crisis series, Convergence, in which characters from different planets and timelines will be thrust together on the Blood Moon to fight fight fight. In May, all of Marvel’s multiverse will go blooey with bits and pieces being recombined into a single place called Secret Wars: Battleworld and, no doubt, every one will fight fight fight. Worlds/characters will live, worlds/characters will die, and nothing will ever be the same yet again.

It’s the same concept as DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths back in 1985 (and Convergence, at least in part, is a thirty year Anniversary celebration of that event). For you young’uns who weren’t around, COIE was a 12 issue maxi-series with a very real purpose – to modernize and re-boot the DC Universe and continuity.

To be honest, I think that’s a necessity every so often for every continuity. Over the years, narrative barnacles form on characters and concepts and its good every so often to scrape them off and get back more to the basic concepts that attracted us to the characters/books/universes in the first place. That’s what the movies and TV shows made from comics have been doing – they take what is essential, respecting the source material without being bound to every bit of it, and re-interpreting it and presenting it fresh for a large audience, as if those stories were being created today. Fanboys may protest, fanboys may cry, but nothing remains the same.

IM-not so-HO (to steal from Mindy Newell), that’s a very good thing. It makes the characters and stories accessible to a larger audience, usually a much larger audience. It has the potential to grow the audience for these characters – except that the versions they see on TV or in the movies bear no resemblance to the versions they find in the comics. For example, if you like Chris Hemworth’s Thor and go to the comics, you’ll find Thor is now female. Remember that cool character the Falcon in the last Captain America movie? He now is Captain America.

It’s hard to make the comic characters track with their movie/TV versions but not impossible. When Jan Duursema and I were doing Star Wars set on the time between Episodes II and III before III came out, we had access to an early version of the script for III. We had to sign stiff non-disclosure statements but we were able to make our stories work within that time frame.

Of course, DC has said that the cinema versions of their characters do not match up with the TV versions but Marvel has gone out of its way to make TV and movies all part of one version of the Marvel Universe.

Marvel Comics has always disdained the reboots that DC has done, claiming they don’t need them but, in fact, they do. One of the really interesting aspects of Captain America is that he was frozen at the end of WW2 and wakes up in a modern world. That became a trope that you couldn’t keep repeating as the comics aged; it was no longer the Sixties and having Cap whine about being out of time for 50 years would be very tiresome. But being able to say he was thawed out in our day revives that trope and that makes it interesting again.

Continually re-inventing the characters can make them fuzzy and blurred. I’ve heard artists talking about “noodling” a page to death or erasing your pencils so often that you only get muck on the page. Doctor Strange has suffered that as every new writer coming on wanted to give their version of his origin with the “Everything you thought you knew is wrong!” schtick.

Crisis on Infinite Earths suffered from not having a clear idea of who the characters should be once you finished deconstructing what you had. To my mind, reboots need to get back to core ideas – what is unique about a given character or concept. Write them for modern audiences while capturing their essence which is what many of the movies and TV shows have done.

What will be most important about the two events – Convergence and Secret Wars: Battleworld – is what comes next. How will the companies and their writers and artists re-interpret their classic characters so they seem fresh and new and relevant for the here and now. Capture our loyalty again not with stunts (which may fuel sales but not imaginations) but with new visions of who these classic characters are. Make them familiar and yet new.

Good luck, Marvel and DC. Sincerely. Good luck.


Mike Gold’s Got Plenty…

… of nothing.

Actually, that’s not true, but we (daughter Adriane and I)  spent the better part of the day wiring up new media gizmos and overhauling our Internet and fussing with the powers-that-be at the cable company, and we’re not done yet.

Ergo, I have no time and even less energy to pound out my weekly illumination.  Yep, I am getting old indeed. No more voluntary all-nighters.

So I’ll leave you with this single thought, one I passed on to artist extraordinaire ChrisCross yesterday: why does DC’s two-month Convergence stunt sound more interesting than the past three years of The New52?

Yeah, it’s a trick question. I just wanted to name-drop.

But if you’re truly dying to read something incendiary, try my column over at Michael Davis World this week. Yeah, it’s political. Real political. And incendiary. So there.


Martha Thomases: Free Comics, Convergence And More!

This is going to be a slap-dash column, full of random thoughts (and, I hope, insights) because I’m having a slap-dash episode. The plumber is supposed to be here fixing my kitchen sink at some time in a four-hour period. I don’t know when he will arrive, but I’m pretty sure it will be when I’m in the middle of something really complicated.

The super in my building is supposed to come by to hang a picture for me that is too heavy for me to hang by myself. Again, that time thing makes it difficult to plan properly, or to think and act in an orderly manner.

My son and his girlfriend are coming to visit (hence the increased urgency for a working kitchen sink) and I have to make up the guest room, make sure there are snacks in the fridge, and explain to Salina the cat that she can’t sleep there at night.

So yes, I’m not thinking a lot about comic books, nor their spin-offs into other media. Except that super-speed and super-strength would be especially useful right now. Together, they would put my plumber and super out of business. Working people will have enough problems from Congress over the next two years without me wishing for extra abilities that make their lives more difficult.

Anyway, here are my random thoughts.

  • Convergence, the DC event that lets the corporate staff move to Burbank and get settled, sounds great to geek me. No, it won’t draw in new readers. No, I won’t like everything. But I’m psyched for Tom Peyer on The Atom, Larry Hama on Wonder Woman, Gail Simone on Nightwing/Oracle, Alisa Kwitney on Batgirl and Greg Rucka on Question.
  • That said, it seems that event-driven comics are not the guaranteed sales they once were and this is only good for comics. I mean, I’m fine with Spider-Man showing up in the third issue of every new Marvel series (god, I’m old), or a new DC character finding herself in Gotham, because that’s a way to introduce new readers to the book. Universe-spanning crossovers are the antithesis of this. Instead of using something familiar to make a new reader comfortable with taking a chance on a new title, crossovers tend to be so complicated (especially if one reads only a few titles consistently, not all of them) that it’s easier to skip the whole thing.
  • You know what would bring in new readers? Free comics. And, yes, Free Comic Book Day is a wonderful thing. So wonderful that I think we can take its success and use it to try to reach more targeted audiences. For example, if I, as a single woman living in Manhattan, could get a Groupon for a free first issue (or trade paperback) of Saga, redeemable at my local comic book shop, I might try it.

Yeah, it’s not cheap. Image would have to support the plan with co-op dollars. Still, I think it would draw in a bunch of people that comic book marketing doesn’t normally reach.

  • I’m liking Matt Ryan as the title character on Constantine. He seems to enjoy the hell out of all the snark he’s supposed to convey. The scripts aren’t terrible – a bit heavy on the exposition, but that’s what happens when there is a new universe to introduce to viewers. I like the way they use comic book art as Easter eggs.


His tie is always askew in exactly the same way. I just know there is someone on set whose job it is to wrangle the tie. It doesn’t look casual. It doesn’t look reckless. It doesn’t look like John Constantine, man of mystery, is caught in a world beyond his control.

It looks affected. More than anything, it reminds me of Miami Vice.

It’s a tie, John Constantine. If you don’t want to wear it, don’t wear it. If you put it on in a half-assed way, day after day, every day, I will think (and I’ll try to use words you’ll understand) you are a wanker.

  • Like a good geek, I get my comic books on Wednesday, usually in the morning because that’s how it fits into my round of errands. Often, I don’t actually sit down to read them until the weekend.

For the last few weeks, I have left-overs on Tuesday.

Are comics worse? Am I outgrowing them, finally, fifty years after all my childhood friends? Is it just a fluke of chance, that storylines aren’t appealing to me?

I take my own advice and try to pick up something new, from an independent publisher, on a regular basis. Lots of these comics (see Saga, above) become part of my regular list. So I don’t think it’s happening because I’m a slave to super-heroes. I still like them.

Any suggestions?

  • There is a new Stephen King book out this week. It’s titled Revival and I know almost nothing about it. I love Stephen King books. Reading one feels like getting into a warm bath, because I know that he can tell a story, and create characters I’ll care about. He cares about them, too.

And I’m probably not going to have the time to read it until the kids go home. And I like having them here and don’t look forward to their leaving.

Maybe I can stay up all night reading. When I finish reading my comics.