Tagged: Crisis

Mike Gold: No Fire This Time

In her column last Monday, Mindy Newell talked about how an old-time friend and fellow comics reader was jumping off of the ship. Too many cataclysmic events leading directly into too many cataclysmic events. Not enough real story.

I know other readers who feel the same way, and this spring’s cataclysmic events from DC and Marvel provide an excellent opportunity to take the time they now spend reading DC and Marvel and watching the movies and teevee shows produced by, or with, DC and Marvel.

I get that, and I feel the same way. I love this medium. Always have, always will. A great many of my most enduring friendships have their roots in comics fandom, as did my marriage. But, damn, by the time I hit the staples I want a real story and not just another overwhelming grab for whatever’s left in my bank account.

In terms of my time, the Two Universes’ loss is Image Comics, Dynamite Comics, Boom Studios and IDW’s gain. Oh, I’ve always been attracted to these publishers, as well as to the artsy-fartsy output from the intelligent folk at Fantagraphics and Abrams and their ilk. And Archie, too. Hell, if Harvey was still around, I’d probably find something worthwhile over there as well. I enjoy the medium that much.

But I’ve spent all of my literate life having a special love for superhero comics and for their creators. It’s the backbone of American comics. And I’m kind of pissed that the Two Universes are trying to chase me and my buddies away.

Not that a lot of people care. North Americans spent about two-thirds of a billion dollars on tickets to Marvel’s The Avengers (source: Box Office Mojo). In the United States, The Avengers comic book sells around 50,000 copies. That same year North American comic book sales totaled less than one-half billion dollars (source: Comichron). All comics. From all publishers. All year long.

That’s pathetic.

We vote with our feet. If we don’t like something, we don’t spend money on it. Of course, fans are a bit different: we’re likely to continue to spend money on once-loved comics titles until we’re either absolutely certain they suck, or we are hopelessly confused.

Mindy’s friend is by no means alone. Disney and Warner Bros don’t give a fart about comic books, they care about return on investment. Fine; that’s their job. But from looking at the bottom line – hell, even trying to find the bottom line – it is quite possible that the movies and teevee shows in all their forms will be the only places we’ll be able to get our capes on.

(With apologies to James Baldwin.)

The Point Radio: Why NBC’s CRISIS Is Different

NBC’s new hostage centered drama, CRISIS, might seem a bit familiar when you compare it to other shows on the air right now. However, series stars RACHEL TAYLOR and LANCE GROSS quickly point out just why their show is not what you are expecting. Plus ABC drops the axe on ONCE UPON A TIME IN WONDERLAND and it’s going to be a great year for ELFQUEST fans.

THE POINT covers it 24/7! Take us ANYWHERE on ANY mobile device (Apple or Android). Just  get the free app, iNet Radio in The  iTunes App store – and it’s FREE!  The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE  – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

The Point Radio: The Twists And Turns On CRISIS

The new NBC thriller CRISIS is filled with twists and turns. So how does the cast keep up? We asked series regulars RACHEL TAYLOR and LANCE GROSS to fill us in, plus 24 gets a comic prequel and who is talking TV on Twitter?

THE POINT covers it 24/7! Take us ANYWHERE on ANY mobile device (Apple or Android). Just  get the free app, iNet Radio in The  iTunes App store – and it’s FREE!  The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE  – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

The Point Radio: COSMOS Returns With Love

In 1980, we were all transfixed by the show COSMOS, hosted by the late Dr. Carl Sagan. Now Seth MacFarlane is producing a new COSMOS, headed by Neil DeGrasse Tyson and with strong ties and much respect for the original. We’ll tell you just what those are as Neil talks about his plans for the series, Plus DC decides it’s a look at the future for the next Big Event.
COSMOS premieres on NatGeo, Fox and several other outlets this Sunday (March 9th). See more at CosmosOnTV.Com

THE POINT covers it 24/7! Take us ANYWHERE on ANY mobile device (Apple or Android). Just  get the free app, iNet Radio in The  iTunes App store – and it’s FREE!  The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE  – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

Mindy Newell: The Problem With Diana – Part Three

So this is the story told in the Florida courtroom.

George Zimmerman looks out his window. He sees Treyvon Martin walking down the block. Zimmerman picks up his gun, goes outside, gets in his car, and hunts Martin down. Zimmerman finds Martin and confronts him. Martin is carrying a dangerous bag of Skittles. The two men get into an altercation. Zimmerman shoots Martin dead. Zimmerman tells the police that Treyvon Martin started the altercation and that he, Zimmerman, was “standing his ground.”

Can you pick out what is wrong in the story?*

•     •     •     •     •

Newell Art 130722As I was saying…

I started to regret ever taking on the whole assignment. I felt I was turning out crap. I was embarrassed. I was sad. I worried about my future as a comics writer. And finally…

I got fed up.

I will never forget the day it happened. I was arguing with Alan. And something in me simply exploded…

Mt. St. Mindy blew.

“Fuck you!!!! I don’t need this shit! I quit!!!!”

I slammed the door as I left. I walked out to the elevator. I pushed the button. I was fuming. I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

I was done. But Marv (Wolfman) had followed me out to the lobby and there he talked me down, convincing me to keep going, not to quit. He walked me back to the office, and I apologized to editor Alan Gold, and he apologized to me. (And by the way, Alan is a terrific guy, and he and I got along beautifully when we weren’t discussing Wonder Woman.)

So I finished the run. If you can’t remember that far back, the series was ending to prepare the way for George Pérez’s relaunch, and I was responsible for only the last three or four issues. But to be honest, I don’t think I would have stayed on with Alan as the editor, despite our personal friendship, even if the series had continued. I think I would have been fired. Lesson here, boys and girls: never curse out your editor in a loud voice that can be heard everywhere and starts the office talking. Or simply, never curse out your boss. These days I would still want to yell and curse and scream, but I’m a little bit wiser and a whole lot older (not just chronologically) – meaning more mature (?) – and I would try to find a solution that worked for both my editor and myself. Or, if that didn’t work, take myself off the book.

So I was done with Diana.

Until November 1989, and Wonder Woman volume 2, number 36.

Wonder Woman had been rebooted in 1987. Not many people remember that Greg Potter was the original writer/scripter, by the way, with George co-plotting and penciling. But Greg dropped out after the release of Wonder Woman #2, and George became the plotter, with Len Wein writing the scripts until issue #18, when George took over the whole shebang.

This post-Crisis reboot was the one that did it for me. As I’ve stated previously, I have always loved Greek mythology, and my favorite stories about Diana were those involving the Amazons and their gods. Apparently, George and Greg appreciated the rich background, too. The inclusion of the Hellenic mythos and theology of gods and goddesses with supernatural powers but all too human personalities and foibles finally imbued Diana with her own raison d’être that brimmed with a new truthfulness for the character.

Responding to the heartache and prayers of Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons, who had led her followers to an island shielded in the mists from the patriarchal and brutal world in which they lived, (as the Isle of Avalon is in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists Of Avalon), the goddesses instructed Hippolyta to shape a baby girl out of the earth, and breathed the “gift of life” into the clay. (Hmm…in Jewish lore this makes Diana a golem. A golem is a figure made of clay upon whose forehead the Hebrew letters aleph, mem, and tav are written out to spell emet, which means “truth,” and doesn’t Diana have a golden lariat that forces those bound by it to speak truth? Boy, could I run with that one!)

The child was given the gift of beauty and compassion by Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love; the gift of wisdom from Athena; the power and strength of the earth from Demeter; the creativity, passion, authority, and energy of fire from Hestia, Goddess of the Hearth; and from Artemis, the Huntress, respect for all life and a mastery of weapons. Only Hermes, of all the male gods, bestowed a gift upon Diana – that of speed and the power of flight.

This Diana, though once grown a great warrior and unafraid to use force when necessary, was also a “stranger in a strange land” – not only an innocent in the ways of the world, but unable even to speak English when she first arrived here as an ambassador (or emissary) from Themiscrya.

Even the supporting characters made sense. Steve Trevor was still in the Air Force, but he was older and involved with Etta Candy, who was also more mature and with a realistic physique for her age. And Diana’s mentor in Patriarch’s World, a.k.a. Man’s World, was one Julia Kapatelis, an archaeologist and scholar of the ancient Greek world, who recognized Diana’s speech as a variant of early Greek, and who had a daughter, Vanessa, just about to enter her crazy ‘teens.

Working on this Wonder Woman with George and Karen was absolutely sublime. He was doing the plots, but it was definitely a partnership; and all the characters were so real, so defined – they were easy to write because I knew just what each one would say in whatever situation they found themselves.

The highlight of our work together, im-no-so-ho, was Wonder Woman #46, “Chalk Drawings.” It was ostensibly about Lucy’s suicide, but George and I decided to not focus on Lucy herself; instead, it was about the aftermath of Lucy’s final action. No one knew why Lucy had killed herself; everyone searched for an answer; everyone blamed him or herself. Even Diana, who went home to seek solace from her mother, only to learn from Hippolyta that even an Amazon is capable of committing suicide; even an Amazon cannot always find the answer or the way to help. And with the beautiful artwork of Jill Thompson and Romeo Tanghal, I believe it deserves to be a classic.

On a personal level, having had to deal with clinical depression throughout almost my entire adult life – it wasn’t properly diagnosed until my mid-30’s, btw, and don’t ever try to tell me antidepressants, especially the SSRI class, is more dangerous than the disease, because I will bite your face off – that issue was very special to me, and really emphasized what Wonder Woman, the hero made of clay, the golem, stands for…

Emet.

Truth.

* The truth about George Zimmerman is that he deliberately went out and hunted down and provoked, Treyvon Martin. The truth about Treyvon Martin is that he was the one who “stood his ground.”

TUESDAY MORNING: Emily S. Whitten

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis, if he’s recovered from SDCC

 

REVIEW: Justice League #22 – When The Tale Wags the Dog

JL22Justice League #22 came out today, touching the fuse for DC’s summer event, Trinity War, which we already know leads into the fall event, Forever Evil.

(Obviously, there’s your mandatory SPOILER ALERT!)

In all fairness, it’s a heck of a setup issue – the battle lines are drawn, it is made abundantly clear the stakes are high, and there are wheels within wheels of which few of the players are aware. It’s a book that absolutely brings you back next week to see what will happen. Geoff Johns is a master of this – he weaves a long-form plot into his books that all ties up into bows whenever he chooses to pull the plot threads. I don’t think he’s ever written a book that didn’t delight me in all his years at DC.

Add to that his wonderful ability to pull obscure characters and plot threads out of the distant past and make them relevant and exciting today. We saw the Shaggy Man make his debut in the New 52 recently, and in this issue we see the on-screen premiere of The Outsider, an old Batman villain (and a long story in and of himself), and a variant version appearing in the Flashpoint minis, written by James Robinson, the mini which I went on record as being my favorite of the bunch, and the one “new” character I said I’d most like to see find his way to the New 52. I’ll be curious of the details of this new iteration of the character.

Having said that, the book had several things going on in the book that I found infuriating, more as a reflection of what’s going in comics in general today.

Death, Death and Death

We saw two characters (seemingly) die in the book – one brand new and one very old. Old Firestorm villain Plastique took out Madame Xanadu, and thanks to The Outsider’s manipulations, Superman seems to have killed the brand spanking new Doctor Light. The former is annoying because of the legacy of the character, the latter, not only because the character was seemingly created solely to be killed, it’s another minority character to have been used in the same fashion. Geoff caught some hell for a similar scenario in Aquaman – a new character of middle eastern descent was killed off in her first adventure – a flashback, no less.

I say “seemingly” because a sub-issue is while DC has sworn blind that the new status quo is “dead is dead,” they don’t seem to mind swerving the readers with the heavy suggestion that a character has died only to reveal the next issue that they’re fine, it was just a flesh wound, they switched at the last minute, etc. Now that’s a tried and true device, used endlessly in the Republic serials, but as Annie Wilkes explained, it’s not good storytelling, it’s cheating. Catwoman never got into the cockadoodie chair.

So it’s entirely possible that Madame Xanadu teleported, or was teleported away, and that Doctor Light will return with even more amazing powers and a serious mad on for the heroes. But the point is, the moment was designed to shock us, provide a hotshot to get us back for the next issue, as opposed to creating a solid dramatic moment. In a documentary, Hitchcock talks about the difference between shock and suspense: one provides a moment of excitement that passes quickly, and one provides a long scene of emotional duress that people will talk about for a long time. Both of these deaths were mere moments. And if they turn out to be false alarms, they’ll be empty moments.

Stories Without End

Literally and figuratively. Event crossovers, mini-series, any story, really, but finite, limited stories should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. There’s lots of opportunity to lay plot threads that can be returned to should the need arise, but time was you’d close the last issue and think “That was a good story.” Or at least, “That wasn’t that good, but at least it’s over”.

The Empire Strikes Back may be the first example in modern narrative where that didn’t happen. They already knew they were making a third film, so there was less of an impetus to make the film end definitively. It didn’t really end – it just paused for three years.  Everyone was safe and all, but there were so many questions left unanswered it felt more like a season finale than a film.

So too in comics, the event / maximegacrossovers don’t quite end as much as they seem to just lead straight into the next one. The defeat of the Big Bad only serves to set up the next one, and not even in a few months – sometimes right at the end of the last issue. Marvel’s been doing this for some years now – each big event would set up the next, and the event wouldn’t quite…end, it’d just say “Join us for next event in a few weeks!”

Geoff Johns had been writing one big long story in Green Lantern, one that included several huge crossover events. But they were all discrete, they ended, they had winners and losers, and there was a sense that something had been achieved.  Even if the next big plot point was teased at the end, it was given months, even years to grow and bloom.

DC has done a couple of these in the past. The Oracle: The Cure mini-series had an overcrowded mess of a climax (what pro wrestling fans refer to as a “Schmoz” finish) that literally ended with “The story continues in Batgirl #1!”  James Robinson’s much maligned mini Justice League: Cry for Justice(!) Seemed to have gone through quite an overhaul – originally pitched as a more “pro-active” League, it quickly turned into nothing but a springboard for Green Arrow’s new plot twist. AND it was chock full of death that only happened to make the main characters angry and “Justice!”-yelly.  James was good enough to un-do one of the more egregious demises, and did it well.

This is DC’s first attempt at Marvel’s “direct flow” format in a big way, but at least they’re being fair about it. We’ve already been told, clearly and distinctly, that the events of Trinity War will cause the villains to win, which will be portrayed in September’s Forever Evil event, and the “villains month” of books. We don’t know “The ending” per se, but we do know that it won’t be an ending, per se.  It’ll be a direct segue to the next event, and a very expensive event it’ll be, if you’re the type that likes to get every part of the story.

It effectively changes Trinity War from the main event to a mere prologue to the next event. I do not expect many plot points to resolve here, save for the various teams realizing they need to team up to fight the real threat. I expect the actions of Superman to be explained to the public very quickly and quickly forgotten, far different from the way they dealt with Wonder Woman’s killing of max lord in the last universe, and the stellar way Gail Simone is dealing with the death of her own brother, and Commissioner Gordon’s (a.k.a. her father) witness of the act.

The Roots Are Too Deep

There’s nothing wrong with foreshadowing. It’s the sign of quality literature. Before Crisis on Infinite Earths, they teased The Monitor in DC titles a full year ahead of time.  In this event, at least one title, Justice League America, seems to have been set up for the express purpose of setting up this event.  It exists not because there was enough demand for a third JL series (tho sales suggests the audience was happy to accept it), but only to serve as a place to put all the plot that would be needed to have Trinity War make sense.

This has been happening for some years now. Dwayne McDuffie’s run on Justice League was severely hindered by Editorial asking him to shoehorn in plot points that only served to set up an upcoming event, and in some cases, being asked to step aside entirely for a couple months.

There’ve been more than a few examples of Editorial getting in the way of the creators since the New 52 came to be as well, many of them ending in creators leaving said books, willingly or no. There’s nothing wrong with an Editor wanting to work with the writer on the stories. When the editor starts taking more of a role than the writer, conflict is almost certainly to follow. There hasn’t been an editor good enough to do that in several decades, and I don’t see one coming along anytime soon.

We’re seeing too many stories that exist only to set up an upcoming event, stories that don’t quite fit in the continuing narrative of the titles, ones that don’t quite end, and ones that just plain get in the way. They cause a small jump in sales as collectors grab the “first chapter” of the next big event, but they rarely bring new readers long-term.

There’s every ability for a writer to turn out a great story, even if any or all of these issues appear.  I fully expect to enjoy the rollercoaster ride that Geoff and his cronies have set up. But it’ll be in spite of what I describe above, not because of them.

Martha Thomases Stands for Hope

Thomases Art 130621Late to the Man of Steel party, but I am compelled to weigh in. Here are my thoughts, which I don’t think are spoilers, but be warned if you’re squeamish about such things.

When I worked at DC in the 1990s, I was known as the person who liked Superman. Which is odd, really, because without Superman, there would be no DC. In any case, the consensus was that Superman wasn’t cool because he wasn’t dark or broody. Over the next decade, Superman became cool, not only in the comics, but also on a top-rated television program. People stood on line at Macy’s anchor store for the chance to meet editor Mike Carlin.

And then Superman Returns bombed, and the conventional wisdom was that Superman, as a character, needed to be dark and brooding after all. He had to be made “modern.”

Anyone who was reading Superman before John Byrne’s 1986 reboot will remember a dark and brooding character. The late, pre-Crisis Superman was always thinking mournfully of his lost planet, his lost birth family, his lost adopted family, and his sense that he could never have a family of his own. Alan Moore captured this brilliantly in his 1985 story, “For the Man Who Has Everything.”

This film is certainly dark. In a recent interview, Bill Nye said, “Space brings out the best in us.” But not, apparently in our production design.

On all of Krypton, it seems, the only colors are blacks, grays and metallic. There do not seem to be any blondes. We don’t see any vegetation above ground, and the Kryptonians we see wear either armor with capes or robes that appear to be ceremonial. It’s beautiful, but it really took my out of the movie, as I wondered how any civilization could be so determinately dreary. I suppose it’s possible that an entire planet could have its own art director to show how Seriously Dark and Mature they are, but to me it just seemed like the everybody went Goth at the same time. When we have the big reveal of Kal-El’s Superman suit, I wondered when Jor-El had discovered blue and red.

Amy Adams is a delightful Lois Lane, maybe the best I’ve ever seen. Her performance is completely believable as a hard-charging, ambitious reporter. She never plays girly or helpless. I only wish she would give lessons to Maureen Dowd.

Laurence Fishburne is a terrific Perry White. If only he had more to do.

The real hero of the movie, to me, is Christopher Meloni, in his most memorable movie role since Wet Hot American Summer.

Which brings me to my biggest regret. The body count in this movie is ridiculously high. The final battle over Metropolis must kill hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people. And it’s not just Zod and his minions who destroy. Superman topples his share of skyscrapers. My Superman would have moved the battle to an ocean. The ending, to my mind, is completely out of character. I know it’s been done in the comics, but there was immediate fall-out and regret, which we don’t see here.

It’s especially disturbing, given that Warner Bros. apparently went out of their way to market this movie as something traditionally religious families would enjoy. The script makes a big deal about Clark being 33 years old (which seems to me to be too old for Clark to be so naive, but I’m not in film marketing), Even if one can ignore the Jewish roots (which, before that, were Babylonian, Assyrian and Egyptian) of most of the Superman mythos, one would still notice the tug-of-war between Jonathan and Martha Kent over whether Clark should stay in or out of the closet about his differences.

Maybe this is the problem. Maybe trying to make a film that will appeal to those too self-conscious to be hopeful at the same time trying to appeal to evangelicals produces a mush.

Or maybe the creative team needs another film to find their legs. That’s what happened with Batman.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

 

Marc Alan Fishman: DC Entertainment – Trouble Every Day

Did you hear? Did you hear? The sky is falling! That’s right! There’s no time to pack a bag. Just grab your cell phone and head towards my car. Now get in! Call your loved ones. Tell them to do the same. Where are we going? How the hell should I know? They just told me to grab you and leave, leave, leave!

Wait, hold on. I just got a text. Shut up, I know I shouldn’t text and drive. But I can’t help it, we’re in the middle of a crisis! I’m not sure which crisis. The sky is white, so it’s not Crisis on Infinite Earths. The sky isn’t red, so it’s not Final Crisis. The sky isn’t upside down, so it’s not Flashpoint.

Oh. Oh! OK, this makes sense. Yup. DC is going belly up. No, I’m not kidding. My credible source here says so. No I won’t stop the car. Hear me out.

My pal, who likes to remain a little anonymous – we’ll call him R. Johnston, wait no, that’s too easy. Rich J. texted me just now that there’s a storm a’ brewin’ in New York. No, it’s not Hurricane Sandy. Rich is great with these things, trust me. He’s like spy mixed with fly on the wall. For reals.

So, he got wind of a super secret set of individual meetings at DC HQ which he’s speculating (which totally makes this real, you know) means big things for our boy blue. Here’s the hot tip:

With Vertigo Honcho Karen Berger going on the lamb, there’s mutterings this is the beginning of a mass exodus to Burbank. Yup, with the last bastion of the Paul Levitz era seeking refuge in other parts of fiction (if at all), DC’s ties to it’s former home seem more sentimental than anything else. What with everything going digital these days, wouldn’t it behoove the couldn’t-be-for-profit publishing side to just nestle itself closer to the teat of Movies, TV, and Other Media by Papa Warner?

And since the rumor mill is chugging along, we also have word that maybe these meetings (which again we have no actual proof happened, or any notion of who was in them) could also entail the stepping down of one Diane Nelson as head of the company. Maybe these meetings hold the secret to the new head cheese … Speculation is abound!

And Richie also told me (via text – don’t worry, I can read really long texts while driving) that these meetings could mean a big upheaval of publishing policy! I don’t even know what that means, but I’m scared poopless. I mean, first Karen leaves … then Diane steps down … and then the whole company goes only digital, moves to California. What’s next? Superman stops wearing his red underwear. Oh. My. New Gods! OK, I’m pulling over. Get out, pal. Just run for the hills! It’s all coming down. We might as well get some fast food, and wait for the universe to reset.

Sigh. All joking aside, unlike some bloggers, let me make this even more clear: I write my articles several days ahead of time. As the writing of this column, this story over on Bleeding Cool was a rank-and-file piece of absurdity. While Johnson makes all-too-clear he has no clue what’s going on, rather than get some sources and crank out a piece, he buried this little Chicken Little story in an attempt to what… get us commenting? Ranting and railing? I’m not entirely sure.

Be that as it may, unless anything concrete is published on this subject, here’s my two cents: most of what Rich conjures from the ether sounds pretty plausible. The New 52 sales seem to have leveled off, and the books, while low in number, are all very much akin to their brethren before the fall of Rome; predictable, great in parts, boring in most others, with plenty of worthless crossovers to go around. The fact is DC’s ties to New York are only superfluous at this point. Creative teams are assembled via the Internet. Books are compiled digitally and whisked off to Canada, or China or Apokolips to be printed and distributed.

We can also safely assume with Harry Potter done and over with, WB is putting heads on the chopping block if Justice League doesn’t pull off Avengers-like hype and profits. Diane Nelson may not want to be around when they inevitably miss the mark there (and I’m no less hopeful, just realistic). And to round it out … what “big publishing initiative” could they announce, aside from a hike in price for physical books? I’m yearning to be surprised.

At the end of the day, the sky ain’t gonna fall. Superman will be around for plenty of years to come. And there will always be too man-Bat books on the shelf. And we’ll always be here, to lap up the rumors like starving dogs, and fight one another over these oddly plucked bones of potential news. But, consider my inner Gold here to leave you on this thought:

Been checkin’ out the news

Until my eyeballs fail to see

I mean to say that every day

Is just another rotten mess

And when it’s gonna change, my friend

Is anybody’s guess

(From “Trouble Every Day” by Frank Zappa¸©1966 whatever publishing company Frank had in 1966, All Rights Reserved.)

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

 

Michael Davis: Off The Hook

Marvel Now! A new beginning for the Marvel Universe!

Those words are the title and tag line for Marvel’s latest universe direction and marketing approach. Seems a bit like the DC reboot to me, I could be wrong. I was… once.

Full discloser. I don’t spend a great deal of time following the comic book industry. That is to say I don’t make it a point to go to comic book websites, publishers websites or any of the zillion forums where people talk about what goes on in the industry. So, I don’t know how much press or hype surrounds the Marvel Now agenda. If I’m late to the party it’s because I simply don’t pay attention to press or hype.

Given the stuff I’ve been able to pull off in my career you may find it strange that I don’t follow the industry closely at all. I won’t bore you with my résumé but trust me, it’s impressive. I’m mostly clueless as to trends or news in the industry and I plan to stay that way. My way of doing business works best for me if I’m not influenced by what or who is hot.

As an example just about every mainstream publisher does comics these days. I put Simon & Schuster in the comic book business…in 1996. One of the reasons I was able to do that deal was because I don’t pay attention to trends, I pay attention to the idea and where would be the beat place to exploit that idea.

Disco was a trend, Hip-Hop was a movement created by ignoring what was popular at the time and which music now dominates the planet?

Here’s a hint, KC and The Sunshine band are not represented.

I visit ComicMix a few times a week but just to read the columns; any news I get is because I see something on the site that just screams to be read. ComicMix is how I learned about the DC reboot, Before Watchmen and Marvel Now.

Incidentally, I thought I would hate Before Watchmen and love the DC reboot. I actually like some of the Watchmen books and the DC reboot was for the most part cool, but did I love it?

Nah.

Regardless of what I thought of the books I knew and I said the reboot would be a success and it was, big time. I was sure it would be effective because of the buildup which, after I was aware of the reboot, I noticed everywhere and the originality of the concept didn’t hurt either.

But, here’s the thing, it wasn’t original, far from it. That particular kind of event has been being done for – all DC did was changed the “hook.”

Marvel is not ripping off DC vis-à-vis a universe reset; they are following DC with a new hook for their books.

I write for television as well as mainstream publishers. Here’s a little of what I’ve learned as a television creator.

Very few things are new.

Consider these classic TV shows: Father Knows Best, Eight is Enough, The Partridge Family, The Brady Bunch, Charles in Charge, Home Improvement, Modern Family, The New Normal, The Cosby Show.

All of the above are based on the same premise essentially they are the same show, to produce a “new” idea the creators simply changed the hook.

The Cosby Show was pitched like this, “it’s Father Knows Best except the family is black.” They changed the hook. Now you can take any of the above shows and do the same thing.

Some require changing more than one hook but you get the idea.

The Partridge Family is the Brady Bunch except they sing. Home Improvement is The Cosby Show except the family is white. Etc, etc, etc.

Marvel Now is DC’s new 52 except it’s Marvel…Now!

Look, redoing comic book universes is not new. Publishers have been doing it for decades on a smaller scale usually just rebooting a character. DC and Marvel did universe overhauls in the 80s and have been doing it ever since. DC with the Crisis series and Marvel with Secret Wars.

DC came out of Crisis with one earth and Marvel came out of Secret Wars with a black Spider-man, sort off.

DC’s New 52 was a brilliant move because they changed the hook on everything. Universe overhauls staring with a mini-series or one title were always implied to span the entire universe but DC went ahead and said it out loud and kept saying it so the age old universe overhaul was now something bold, new and that seemed to never have been done before.

Why?

Because of the way DC presented it. You call something “new” enough times and even if you have seen it a million times after a while you start believing the hype.

I have no dog in the fight between the New 52 and Marvel Now. Neither company is writing me a check these days so speaking as just a fan I hope the Marvel Now stuff is great.

A lot of people are going to think Marvel ripped off DC with this idea, they didn’t. The idea is not new. Rather or not Marvel was motivated by the success of the New 52 I’m sure that played a part in it but that is just par for the course in comics and in a few years it will happen again on some level.

Meantime, Dark Horse, Image and IDW are not thinking about “universe overhauls,” they are thinking about original content. Those publishers are doing some great work, or as we say in the hood, those publishers are off the hook.

WEDNESDAY: Mike Gold Wants You Off Your Ass

 

REVIEW: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1

Years in the making, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns was never intended to rewrite the rules for the Caped Crusader or become the template for a generation of storytelling. It was, though, the culmination of a series of events that occurred at DC Comics and in Miller’s professional development that nicely dovetailed together. The right book, character, and creator all arrived at the right time, when an audience was ready to accept the radical re-imagining.

Ever since the four-part story heralded the arrival of the Prestige Format and was the first entry in the current field of graphic novels, The Dark Knight Returns has been an influential touchstone to storytellers. Its use of character, page construction, color, and theme showed that four-color heroes can be used for darker concepts, exploring new ideas. As a result, people have been clamoring to see it adapted for the screen, any screen, so it could continue to thrill us. We were teased with the folk at Warner Animation paying homage to Miller’s art style and now-iconic imagery in Animaniacs and Batman the Animated Series.

At long last, Warner Premiere has delivered their finest effort, paying tribute to the story written and pencilled by Miller, inked by Klaus Janson, and colored by Lynn Varley. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 is out on home video, as a Combo Pack (Blu-ray, DVD, Ultraviolet) and shows the affection from the first frame.

Bob Goodman remained utterly faithful to the story, compressing the first half of the graphic novel into a brisk 76 minutes that still contains the moments you want. Commissioner James Gordon and Bruce Wayne have a nice, warm friendship, Alfred remains his acerbic self, and Carrie Kelly is gung-ho and awkward. The first half of the story deals with several threats to Gotham City, first the gang known as the Mutants and their muscle-bound leader who wants to own the town; and Harvey Dent, seemingly physically cured but proving his mind is as fractured as ever. And watching from confinement is a homicidal maniac long-thought drugged into submission.

The best thing director Jay Oliva, who cut his teeth on Man of Steel and Green Lantern: Emerald Knights), did was show us what Miller could only hint at: a 50-year old man who really has to struggle to keep up. He strains to climb a rope and isn’t fast enough to take down the mutant leader the first time they brawl (in fact their two fights is almost a template for the Batman-Bane confrontations in The Dark Knight Rises). This is a 50+ hero who hasn’t seen action in a decade, but we know from the opening scene he remains addicted to adrenaline and action. His return evokes the creature of the night that first established his reputation in the city and once more inspires the populace.

Visually, Miller’s beefed up main characters and gritty style is nicely replicated, complete with making Batman larger-than-life so he dwarfs Carrie and most other mortals. The story remains a future from the fixed point of the 1980s since the story is dependent on that particular view of America, which means so much of the technology appears antiquated by today’s standards but works wonderfully. There’s also a nice meta shout-out to other titles from 1985-87 that helped reshape comics: Crisis on Infinite Earths, Watchmen, and V for Vendetta.

As usual Andrea Romano has assembled a stellar cast for the voices and while most will lament the absence of Kevin Conroy as Batman, Peter Weller more than ably fills the cape and cowl with gravitas. He’s older, wearier. David Selby’s Gordon has much of the same feeling which is nicely contrasted by Ariel Winter’s Carrie. Wade Williams as Dent and Michael McKean as a blowhard psychiatrist nicely round out the cast.

Interestingly, the packaging avoids imitating Miller’s style, a curious choice. Similarly, Miller, Janson and Varley’s lack of participation in the extras is glaring. They are merely represented with a digital comic excerpt from issue one of The Dark Knight. Instead, we get “Her Name if Carrie…Her Role is Robin” (12:00) with Grant Morrison, Mike Carlin, Alan Burnett, Bruce Timm, and others discussing the radical use of a girl as the new sidekick. There are some nice bits placing this in an historic context.  The 2008 “Batman and Me: The Bob Kane Story” (38:00) is reused here and we’re reminded of the egotistical Kane avoiding sharing credit with anyone.

On the Blu-ray is a Two-Face two-parter from Batman the Animated Series. There’s also a sneak peek of part two, due out in early 2013.

It’s a shame Miller wouldn’t participate and the film lacks a commentary track since bringing this to life appears to have been a labor of love for all involved.