Tagged: DC

Mike Gold: 52 Original Future Crises Of Sin

Original SinNow that the Big Two are deep into their mandatory summer crossovers – as opposed to their mandatory winter crossovers, their mandatory spring crossovers, and their mandatory fall crossovers – I can’t tell the players without a scorecard.

At the core of both series is the same plot: all or most of the sundry parallel universes are going to collide into one, if, indeed, that many. This does not envelop either series in an aura of originality, particularly when Marv Wolfman and George Pérez did this 29 years ago. You may not think they did it better way back in the early days of the Gilded Age of Comics (and you’d be wrong about that), but at the very least you could understand that story. Original Sin and Future’s End… not so much.

At least Marvel’s Original Sin is built around a clever plot point: somebody offed The Watcher and stole one or both of his eyes… and then, one eye exploded implanting various deep dark secrets held by various characters into the brainpans of those who were within the blast radius of the eyeball.

No, I don’t know how big the blast radius of a Watcher eyeball is. And I’m a bit pissed off at offing the big bald guy anyway, but it’s comic books, where death has no meaning whatsoever. If they ever kill Aunt May off, she’ll be back in a few months with a bionic bustle.

DC’s Future’s End simply makes no sense. Batman Beyond is sent back in time to prevent the end of the world as we know it, but he misses his mark and arrives later than he was supposed to. Well, fine. That’s it. The hero blew it and it’s over, right?

No such luck. All the characters wander around slapping their foreheads and mumbling woe is me a lot. It doesn’t help that this series features the New 52 version of the DC Universe, which really hasn’t been very well-defined or thought out, but has been compromised after-the-fact by bureaucrats who wouldn’t know a good comics story if they bothered to read one.

It was time to retire the mega-event crossover before we started worrying about Y2K. But these puppies make money, so the Big Two are going to keep on hitting the event button like a crack whore with new kneepads.

It’s easy to understand why comics fans like the Marvel movies. They exist in a comparatively small universe with clear roadmaps. DC doesn’t have that goodwill going for them, and Man Of Steel offered little hope.

But we continue to hope. These are great characters. We love them, and we hope that someday the powers at Warners and Disney start to trust those characters as much as we do, before the core audience is all on catheters and people start to view Superman and Wolverine the way we view The Lone Ranger and Buck Rogers.

Before time runs out. 

John Ostrander: Reading With the Enemy

Comics Code Authority SealThis week it was writer Chuck Dixon and artist Paul Rivoche ruffling feathers. Together they wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “How Liberalism Became Kryptonite for Superman.” The WSJ is a conservative publication and both Chuck and Paul are conservative members of the comics community.

The title of the article sums up the tone of the article pretty well. The article states “Our fear is that today’s young comic-book readers are being ill-served by a medium that often presents heroes as morally compromised or no different from the criminals they battle. With the rise of moral relativism, ‘truth, justice and the American way’ have lost their meaning.” They cite how in a single issue of Action Comics published in 2011 Superman gave up his American citizenship. (Interestingly enough, this story was written by David S. Goyer who would later write the screenplay for Man of Steel and is writing the Batmanv Superman movie and the upcoming Justice League movie. I’ve talked about Mr. Goyer before.) Chuck and Paul bemoan “That issue, published in April 2011, is perhaps the most dramatic example of modern comics’ descent into political correctness, moral ambiguity and leftist ideology.”

I guess that means me. Suicide Squad was nothing if not an exercise in moral ambiguity. I think you could say most of my work lives there. I’m certainly left on the political spectrum. “Political correctness?” I think that depends on how you define it but I could probably be accused of that as well, especially from the right. So I guess my work is dead center with what Chuck and Paul regard as wrong with the comics industry.

I have some problems with their selection of facts and their interpretation of those facts. For instance, they say “Superman, as he first appeared in early comics and later on radio and TV, was not only ‘able to leap tall buildings in a single bound,’ he was also good, just and wonderfully American.” Might I suggest they go back and read those earliest tales. Superman takes on crooked politicians and even the U.S. Army. He was a renegade and an outlaw. The earliest Batman carried a gun. I suppose that makes him wonderfully American, too. The heroes changed with the advent of World War II and became part of the war effort.

Superhero comics nearly died out in the 50s. Chuck and Paul state: “In the 1950s, the great publishers, including DC and what later become Marvel, created the Comics Code Authority, a guild regulator that issued rules such as: ‘Crimes shall never be presented in such a way as to create sympathy for the criminal.’ The idea behind the CCA, which had a stamp of approval on the cover of all comics, was to protect the industry’s main audience – kids – from story lines that might glorify violent crime, drug use or other illicit behavior.”

The CCA was created to circumvent government censorship that was threatened following Dr. Frederick Wertham’s book Seduction of the Innocent, which alleged that comics were a corruptive influence on children. He said Superman, who in this era – when he was quintessentially “good, just and wonderfully American” – was both un-American and a fascist. Wertham’s work also was later discredited. There followed hearings by the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency, first led by New Jersey Republican Senator Robert Hendrickson and later by committee member / anti-crime crusader / presidential candidate Estes Kefauver and that scared the Big Comics publishers and that created the CCA. The publishers didn’t do it out of any moral conviction.

The CCA was a stranglehold on creativity and guaranteed it would infantilize the comics industry for decades. It was disbanded when it became irrelevant. Maus, which Chuck and Paulboth justly praise, would never have passed the Code.

The thing is – Chuck and Paul should know all this. They’re either being disingenuous or dishonest.

However, what bothers me more is the reaction of some ostensibly liberal members of the comics industry, who have announced that they will never again read anything by these two men because of this article. To my mind, the work exists independently of the creator. Chuck and Paul have done fine work over the years and I suspect will do so again. Not all of it will appeal to me, I’m sure, but that’s true for everyone’s work. Are there exceptions to this? I think so – if someone is doing a piece that is primarily propaganda, I would avoid it. If that’s a habitual thing with a creator, I might avoid him or her … like I avoid Rush Limbaugh.

If, however, it’s simply a different point of view then, no, I don’t and I shouldn’t avoid them. Even if I don’t agree with that point of view, I should hear it, find out what I can learn from it. Or – maybe – I’ll be entertained. Even if the creator and I do not agree politically.

I regard this as a far more serious problem than two conservatives speaking their collective minds about the comics industry. It is our increasing national inability to countenance anything that does not fall within our own increasingly shrinking moral view that’s the problem. No outside voices to test or shake our faith –whatever that faith may be. We need not only to talk to (instead of at) each other; we need to listen. They may be wrong … but so may we.

 

Mike Gold: Restoring Our Sense of Wonder

Savage DragonBack in the days of purple hallucinogenic duplicator fluid, Bill Schelly published a great fanzine called Sense of Wonder. In an era when there were many first-rate fanzines (Alter-Ego, Fantasy Illustrated, RBCC), Bill’s zine was the most aptly-named. That’s what comic books were all about. Playing to the sense of wonder.

Today, well, not so much. Comics offer us nitty-gritty, slow moving but quick reading stories that are meant to be collected into trade paperback form. The audience is a lot older than it was a half-century ago, and that’s okay. Times change, tastes change.

But then there’s the “baby-for-the-bath-water” argument. I think we have turned our backs on a vital portion of our potential audience. We’ve finally addressed the younger end of the audience, primarily through recent efforts from Boom!, IDW and Archie, although DC and Marvel continue to churn out needlessly lame versions of their cartoon characters. That’s their problem. Our problem is, how do you keep the readers too old for Adventure Time but too young for Hawkeye? What do we have for the “bridge” readers?

Obviously, it’s an issue of commitment from the publishers. They must invest in their own future, and sometimes they’re trying to sustain their current efforts and don’t have the cash flow or incentive to experiment. But, I think, it’s also a talent issue. It’s hard for a publisher to turn down a great concept from established talent. It happens – well, it happens a lot, but we need more.

The greatest comics creators bathed in the sense of wonder. Jack Kirby, Wally Wood, Will Eisner, Bud Sagendorf, Carl Barks, Carmine Infantino… the list is nearly endless. And many of those who grew up reading these masters bathe in similar waters: Jim Starlin, Walter Simonson, Keith Giffen, Howard Chaykin, et al. But too many comics creators who are not on Medicare are sadly less likely to be fantasists.

Today there are only a handful of such titles being produced by the larger publishers. But Erik Larsen has been doing Savage Dragon for 200 issues – if you count crossovers and mini’s, that number is probably about 300. Somebody must be buying it, and I doubt it’s just a couple people with severe myopia thinking they’re getting a lot of variant editions.

Maybe we perceive such stuff as “children’s comics” and we feel indulging in such storytelling is a step backwards. Retro. I don’t think so. The sense of wonder addresses all audiences. Just go to the movie theater during afternoon showings and count the number of old geezers wearing 3-D glasses.

We need to address the entire humanity of potential audiences. And we desperately need to hold on to our sense of wonder.

 

Marc Alan Fishman’s Snarky Synopsis: C.O.W.L. #1

cowlWritten by Kyle Higgens and Alex Siegel, Art by Rod Reis

Glazing over the racks this week, a single book sparked a twinkle in my eye. A bold and graphic cover, with a simple acronym placed  – C.O.W.L. – and it beckoned to me. A closer inspection… Chicago Organized Workers League. A glance inside: A mashup of Mad Men-esque style, combined with capes and my hometown? Sure, Astro City and other books have played plenty in the space. But none that were specific to Chicago. None that name drops streets like Ogden and Wacker and dumps an actual map in its inside cover. Call me soft (and pull back a stump!), but I couldn’t resist. Glad I took the chance, the book is tip-top.

Kyle Higgens and Alex Siegel certainly know their way around pacing. The book itself starts with a beautiful cold open action sequence. A soviet spy/super villain takes a team of heroes along for a ride as he makes way to escape from a botched assassination of a local Alderman. No better way to show case powers these days then the super villain on the run schtick. We meet Blaze, Radia, Arclight, and Recon of the Tactical Division – the SWAT team, if you will. After that, the rest of the book deals mostly with the Investigation and Patrol Division, which have less fancy code names. Higgens and Siegel crib style heavily from Top Ten; but skew less towards the fantastic and astonishing in lieu of gritty realism. The powers are more or less ordinary, it’s really a substance over style in the final presentation. In lesser terms, the writing duo delivers Law & Order by way of X-Men First Class, kept tightly packaged in a single city. It’s slick – but breathes easier because there’s little push to make the scope to wide-lensed after the initial salvo.

If there’s any bones to pick with the script, then they come solely entrenched in the Bechdel Test. The lone lady between the pages barely registers as more than a Sue Storm stand-in. Funny enough too, that she’s marginalized in her single scene moment with the COWL captain. I’ll note. though, that this is clearly a tongue-in-cheek moment. I’ll safely pray is just a set-up for a bigger and smarter payoff in the future.

Normally I’d have more running commentary about the script and dialogue. Frankly, there’s little else to say. But I can attest that the art chores by Rod Reis are plenty worthy of my prose. The presented style is a schizophrenic post-modern Marvel. Part Rotoscoped photos, part digital painting, part scratchboard scrawl, all daringly idiosyncratic. Reis channels Bill Sienkiewicz, Brett Weldele, and Brent Anderson amidst his own unique flashes. At its best the book is a chic and deconstruction of kinetic form and deciphered emotions. In lesser spots, it’s a slap-dashed race to the next panel. As a digital artist myself, it’s hard not to see the easy roads taken in certain shots, but Reis is clever when he hides his tracks. By integrating characters into a Rotoscoped background, and literally smudging them together, he creates a look we’ve seen before, but smartly never in this era.

It’s interesting to me how much I accept Reis’ styling here, over what might be considered a more technically proficient house style book from Marvel or DC. It sets in motion an opinion that has been evolving in my taste over the last year or so. The current trend at the big two – DC more so than Marvel by a magnitude of ten at least – is proportional, slick, and Photoshopped to a squeaky-clean finish worthy of Oxy-Clean. Reis and C.O.W.L. spit in the faces of Superman and his Pine-Sol brethren. Of course when you look at the comparison of artists in the aforementioned paragraph above, it should come as no surprise. But I digress. The fact is that modern technology can quickly suck the life out of a comic book, as talents artists see their pages merely as means to an end. It’s when boundaries are stylistically pushed that the medium shows why it’s still so unique and viable in the marketplace.

When companies choose to churn out the capes and cowls (no pun needed here), and don’t challenge their art teams, we lose. The biggest gripe that carries itself to art critics of our precious comics being ‘kitsch’ come largely due less to the by-the-numbers stories, and more towards the simple, repeated, and dull art. When one can’t tell a Superman comic from an X-Men book, it’s less because of the tight-knit, overly complicated costuming and more because the big-muscled, pin-up, repeats that coat the pages.

However, with Marvel’s recent efforts like She-Hulk, Rocket Raccoon, and Ghost Rider I can see the tides changing. To bring it back to “C.O.W.L.”, Rod Reis proves that when the art takes a chance to add layers of complexity to the script… the book itself becomes infinitely more interesting. Had this book been phoned in by any number of overseas half-price pencilers, inked by a team of cut-rate work-for-hires, and then colored by a finishing service, I doubt I’d be as chipper as I’ve been. Digression over.

Kyle Higgens, Alex Siegel and Rod Reis have captivated me. Sure, I was an easy sell given the real estate buried in the pulp. But beyond the cheap pop of recognizing my hometown, came a stylistic experiment that built up a simply police procedural into a universe building Mad Men with a set of super powers. It’s why Image continues to stand tall with a catalogue of boundary-pushing sequential fiction. Color me happy kiddos, and do yourself a favor and give a gander to the gams on this hot little number.

Martha Thomases: Yeah, Baby!

My son is 30 years old today. And while this is a wonderful thing and I’m thrilled to have the experience, it also demonstrates one of the great failures of my lifetime. He stopped reading comics before I did. When I was a kid, before the direct market, before cable television, before the discovery of fire, kids might read comics for a few years but usually stopped around the time they started high school. There were a lot of reasons for this (puberty, team sports, rock’n’roll) but I’ve always thought a big reason was the spotty distribution. It was more difficult to be a dedicated fan when you couldn’t be sure that the magazine racks would have the same titles every month. Still, I was an unusual child. I kept reading comics, despite the hardships, despite my gender. I’ve always enjoyed a quest – especially when said quest involves shopping. Of course, I wanted to pass on these values to my child. We spent many happy hours in his youth, walking to the comic book store on Comic Book Day, reading comics, discussing comics. He met Stan Lee before he started school. When I applied for a job at DC, I remember telling Paul Levitz that my five year old kid could explain Crisis on Infinite Earths and the multiverse, and Paul wanted to arrange for him to come in and explain it to the editorial staff. After I got the job, my kid could sit in the DC library and read the bound volumes of back issues because the librarian knew he would take care of the books. My son learned important lessons from his father, too. By the age of three, he could tell a Tex Avery cartoon from a Bob Clampett. Family values were important to us. And now, this. He’ll explain that it’s not his fault. The monthly comics that he read all of his life left him. The Flash that he knew (Wally West) is gone. So is the Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner). I could have said the same thing at his age, when The Powers That Be took away my Flash (Barry Allen) and Green Lantern (Hal Jordan). The difference is that TPTB made new characters who had new stories. I might like them or not, but they were new. My son’s heroes were replaced by the characters his parents liked. That’s a problem. The market for superhero comics (and I love superhero comics) isn’t adapting to a new audience. It’s adapting to the old one. My boy still enjoys a good graphic novel. He likes a lot of independent, creator owned series (which he buys as trade paperbacks). He can still speak with great wit and insight and humanity about the socio-economic and political implications of Superman and Batman. If we’re in the same city at the same time, I’m sure we’ll go see Guardians of the Galaxy together. He’s turned me on to some great books. I’m loving Saga based entirely on his recommendation. But I wait for the trades. Maybe I’m not as old as I look

John Ostrander: Why Did I Do That – Martian Manhunter

Well, David S. Goyer was busy making friends this week.

If you don’t know the name, Goyer is a big time heavy hitter writer. He’s done some comic books but mostly is known for screenplays, including Man of Steel and the upcoming Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice and the subsequent Justice League film as well as a score of others. This suggests he knows what he’s doing.

His comments this week might suggest differently. On the Scriptnotes podcast (which has now disappeared), he said the She-Hulk “… is the chick that you could f–k if you were Hulk… She-Hulk was the extension of the male power fantasy. So it’s like if I’m going to be this geek who becomes the Hulk then let’s create a giant green porn star that only the Hulk could f–k.”

Stan Lee, who created the She-Hulk, replied: “Only a nut would even think of that.” ‘Nuff said.

Goyer also had some choice words for J’Onn J’onzz, a.k.a. the Martian Manhunter/Manhunter from Mars. Let’s use his words, shaaaaall we?

“How many people in the audience have heard of Martian Manhunter?” Following a healthy smattering of applause, Goyer joked, “How many people that raised their hands have ever been laid?”

Goyer continued: “Well, he can’t be fucking called ‘The Martian Manhunter’ because that’s goofy. He could be called “Manhunter.” … The whole deal with Martian Manhunter is he’s an alien living amongst us, that’s the deal. He came out in the ‘50s, and he had basically all the powers of Superman, except he didn’t like fire, and he could read your mind. So here’s the best part: So he comes down to Earth and decides, unlike Superman who already exists in the world now, that he’s just going to be a homicide detective, and pretend to be a human homicide guy. … So instead of using superpowers and mind-reading and like, “Oh, I could figure out if the President’s lying or whatever,” he just decides to disguise himself as a human homicide detective. Dare to dream.

“I would set it up like The Day After Tomorrow. We discover one of those Earth-like planets… So maybe like… we get the DNA code from that planet and then grow him in a petri dish here… He’s like in Area 51 or something and we’re just basically… doing biopsies on him.”

I have some passing knowledge of the Martian Manhunter, having done (with Tom Mandrake) a series starting back in 1998 so I have a thought or two on this subject. Last week I explained some of my thinking in creating Amanda Waller so this seems a good point to explain some of my thinking on working with J’Onn J’Onzz.

Goyer and I are in small agreement: I also felt that in many ways the Martian Manhunter was a green clone of Superman. He had most of the same powers and, instead of Kryptonite, his weakness was fire. When Tom and I did our series, we wanted to focus on what made him and Superman different. The principal one was that, while born an alien, Kal-El came to earth as an infant and was raised as a human. His values are Midwestern values. J’Onn came to earth as an adult; he was raised in a Martian culture. He’s not American; he is fundamentally alien – a Martian.

Tom and I decided we would investigate and explore Martian culture in our version. He was telepathic; his race was telepathic. What did that mean? What were the societal rules? Rape, for example, would not only be physical; it could be emotional and mental. On the flip side of the coin, sex would involve a melding of minds as well as a melding of bodies. With his race dead, J’Onn would be forever denied that. He could never again experience physical love on so deep a level.

Martians could fly, levitate, and pass through walls; their houses would have no doors or windows or stairs.

J’Onn can turn invisible; we had it that, on arriving on Earth, he saw and experienced how violent and paranoid humans can be. He chose a persona that allowed him to act like a human in order to better understand who and what we were. We had him having several other human identities as well (credit where credit is due: Grant Morrison first brought up that concept).

The idea that he would be grown from a Petri dish is not an uninteresting idea for a character; it’s just not J’Onn J’Onzz. I talked last week about being true to the fundamental aspects of a character and, to my mind, Goyer’s take on the Manhunter from Mars isn’t it. (Sidenote: why is he the Martian Manhunter? Because there are already plenty of other Manhunters in the DCU.)

This might not matter but Goyer is right now the go-to writer for DC cinematic stories. If he has this little fundamental understanding of a mainstay DC character, how much will he have for other DC characters? It’s not that hard to check on what has been done; the Martian Manhunter entry on Wikipedia takes only a few minutes to read and its pretty accurate.

I also don’t understand the underlying contempt not only for J’Onn and the She-Hulk but for readers and fans of the characters. “How many who raised their hands have ever been laid?” Why did Goyer feel the need to get all William Shatner on folks? Why the snark… and sexist snark at that?

Maybe he just doesn’t like the color green. Let’s not ask him what he thinks about Kermit the Frog. I’m not sure I need his observations about Kermit and Miss Piggy.

 

Marc Alan Fishman: Don’t Let Your Dreams Crush Reality

Yeah, you read that right. You see, while spending a rushed weekend at the super-fantastic MCBA Spring Con (Hi Russ!) in Minneapolis, me and my Unshaven cohorts had nearly 14 hours of drive time round trip to gab about literally everything on our minds. And, boy, did we exhaust our brains. We discussed every TV show we’d seen in the last season. We reviewed every comic we’d read in the last month. We reminisced about junior high school, high school, and our college years. After that hour was done, we resorted to actual work.

Ever wanted to know how Unshaven Comics writes and conceptualizes issues of The Samurnauts? Well, even if you don’t, you’re gonna find out, kiddo! It’s during great long drives to conventions that we crack open the laptop and plot out 36 pages of Samurai-Astronaut action at a time. We start literally at page 1 panel 1, and begin to plan. We argue about pacing. We dissect character moments. We plod through action sequences. We get distracted and take an hour to discuss the look of a giant robot. We try hard to remove child-like grins from our bearded maws to no avail. And by the time we need to stop for gas, munchies, and snacks, we’ve built up the finale to Curse of the Dreadnuts.

The second half of our trip allowed us to daydream a bit. Between sips of Mountain Dew, and drags off of various candy bars, we imagined a world where all our hard work would have paid off. You see, no surprise, we plan on launching a major crowd-funded campaign when the final issue of Curse is rounding the bend. We’re going to be seeking funding to get us to the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas, in 2015. There, we intend on doing what we do best – pitch fearlessly – in hopes of snagging a deal to take the Samurnauts property to the next level.

No doubt you see how hard we must have been dreaming. For you see, shortly after that jaunt into the surreal, we envision someone optioning our licensable property for a TV show. And shortly after that, we were buying office space in Downtown Homewood Illinois and running our lives on the small fortune we’d amass.

And there we sat, in the still of the night… the engine hum and highway hypnosis setting in. Wisconsin is a boring state to drive though when it’s pitch black out. After a few beats passed, I’d snapped out of our collective haze of profiteering. “But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, boys. We haven’t even finished the colors on issue 3.” A wave of cold, honest truth passed through us. With it came the most wondrous moment of clarity after our long weekend.

Whether we crowdfund our way to Vegas, or not… whether we ever turn Samurnauts into the global phenomenon we know it could be… whether we ever realize any reality beyond our current station – traveling by car, anchored by day jobs, and still floored that we have legitimate fans – truly it’s been the journey that has been the prize all along.

For the last half a decade, I’ve had the opportunity to see my two best friends grow into consummate professionals. Matt Wright produces insanely detailed, beautifully nuanced, forever under-appreciated commission work at every convention that the greats don’t take time to complete. Whereas others I’ve seen in the Alley whip through markered slap-dashery in order to profit, Matt always feels compelled to turn the hard-earned dollars of the fans into frame-able art. And Kyle Gnepper? Beyond his abilities in plotting, writing, and word-smithery, he’s the backbone of Unshaven Comics. Any success we’ve ever enjoyed comes squared solely on his silver-tongue and fearless nature. Kyle has forced himself to stand hours on end, literally hawking wares to every passerby. We’ve equated him to the Predator. Heat signatures walk by, and they are politely pounced on with true passion.

To wreck our reality with needless navel-gazing is truly absurd. Certainly when we launched ourselves as a company, the intent was to break-in to comics at breakneck speed. After five years, we realize that’s a dream no longer worth having. We know the reality – there’s no barrier to entry in the industry. We’ve been faking it until we made it, and no one has been the wiser. DC and Marvel will likely never call, but the fans who pick up our book and declare that it looks like nothing they’ve ever seen (and they love that) prove to us that we need not ever be a part of the big two.

Nor do we feel compelled to land at Boom!, Avatar, Image, or Dark Horse. Much like the Mouse and the Warners… there’s little reason to serve in heaven while we rule in Hell. And as such? We’ve toured the Midwest, shook hands with the East Coast, and are now looking West. We’ve put literally thousands of Samurnauts into the hands of the unsuspecting public. We’ve done it on our own, and now enjoy having a reputation (small as it may be) with a growing fan base. To destroy that reality with pipe-dreams of piles of unknown riches is akin to losing sight of what we’ve been after all along.

The reality is we’re living the dream now, and no amount of money should get in the way of that continuing.*

*But don’t get us wrong. If you want to license the Samurnauts, call me, e-mail me, or wink loudly. We’ll sell out in miliseconds.

 

REVIEW: The New 52 Futures End #1

FuturesEnd1

FUTURES END #1
Written by Brian Azzarello, Jeff Lemire, Dan Jurgens and Keith Giffen
Art by Patrick Zircher

I won’t lie to you, this book’s got me confused.

It starts in the semi-distant future of the time of Batman Beyond, a world that has been taken over by the latest iteration of Brother Eye, a sentient satellite/robot/thingy, which has taken over the world in Terminator-esque fashion.  In an attempt to Fix What has Gone Wrong, Batman Beyond/Terry McGinnis comes back in time to kill someone, a person not specifically named as of yet, but since in this story, they maintain that now it’s Mr. Terrific who built Brother Eye, one might be able to guess he is the target.

The thing is, Terry has not gone back in time far enough.  He landed fives years in our future, a time where Michael Holt has already created Brother Eye and is in the process of introducing its technology into society.  Terry says they’re seven years too late, but he landed five years in the current DCU’s future, which means he should have landed about two years in its past, relative to our present, which would be a little bit before the narrative of the New 52 even started

AUSTIN-crossEyed

Timeline worries notwithstanding, another big problem here is that we’ve already seen Brother Eye in the New 52, in the pages of Dan Didio and Keith Giffen’s OMAC, and he had no connection to Mr. Terrific at all.  At the same time the Mister Terrific book was going (and I was enjoying it) and there was no mention of any Brother Eye technology at all.  Indeed, when they ended the book, they tied it into the coming Earth 2 title instead.  If one wanted to go there, one would have to assume that this book spoils to some degree the events in the aforementioned Earth 2, wherein Michael is currently in somewhat dire straits.

I must assume it will be explained, but we’re once again in a position where DC seems to be reversing itself on the storylines of a new universe that’s not yet even three years old.  This appears to be the third version of Brother Eye in only five years, and the fourth in total.  In the previous iteration of the DCU, Brother Eye was created by Batman as a fail-safe system to take down his fellow heroes should the need ever arise.  The system gets out of hand…

and they have to take it down, a goal at which they only partly succeeded, as various OMACs kept popping up in various places.

In the New 52, Brother Eye is back in control of a single OMAC, in the person of one Kevin Kho.  After the brief (but enjoyable) run of his title, he popped up in various titles, most recently the Suicide Squad, mere weeks ago during the events of Forever Evil.

(And this is all over and above the original OMAC series created by jack Kirby during his brief but creative period that he was at DC, a period that also brought us The New Gods, another stable of heroes too good for DC to not keep using.)

So I’ve no idea how these stories from the current DCU will be tied to the new facts presented in this first issue of the weekly book (which got a tease last weekend as part of Free Comic Book Day.

The story as presented has some obvious parallels to The Terminator, but older DC fans will also recall the MaxiMegaCrossover Armageddon 2001, where a hero of our time chooses to take control of the world, forcing a person to come back to the past, discover which her is was, and stop them.

The book suffers from a weakness not of the story, but the premise itself.  Taking place five years in the future of the DCU, it can be safely assumed that the events of the story will never come to pass, so we’re effectively reading a just short of a year-long(more on that in a moment) “imaginary story” that will have no impact or connection to the ongoing narrative of the regular titles.  Such stories are lots of fun to read in graphic novel or other one-shot format, but 40-odd issues at three or four bucks each?  Not so sure.  I mean, Trinity was entertaining, and Countdown…a bit less so, but both ended up being very expensive stand-alone stories, and they got a lot of people quite annoyed as a result.

They’ve certainly started the death toll quickly, with one major DC down already, and one super-team which was getting positive press for apparently getting a major spot in the book…suddenly not.  But again, since the book takes place in a nebulous future that will almost certainly never take place, there’s no sense of loss at all.  I expect we’ll hear neither hue nor cry at these, or any deaths in the book, as even the most casual reader will suss the fact that they Won’t Really Count.

There’s another weekly starting in October that will connect with Futures End in some way.  I think it takes place in the present in the DCU, which, if so, would still be later than when the string of events supposedly started.  How they’ll connect, or if it will be a story you could enjoy on its own, we shall have to see.

But here’s the thing – Dan Didio has already let slip that all three weeklies (the third being Batman Eternal, which is quite good so far) will not all be a year long, as the past weeklies have been, but will all be ending in March of 2015.  This certainly gives the impression that something will be coming in April of 2015, which only happens to be the 30th anniversary of Crisis on Infinite Earths.

So DC has effectively gotten people to already half-discount the current story, making it seem like it’s nothing more than a prologue to Whatever’s Coming Next.  It’s the exact same mistake they made with Trinity War and Forever Evil.  They sold Trinity War as a Big Event, but as soon as news (and the solicitations) for Forever Evil came out, interest in Trinity War all but ceased as people assumed that FE was the real Big Event.  It’s a process they’ve been using since Infinite Crisis, but now that people are hip to the move, interest in the current book drops as soon as news (or even just rumors) of the next Event come to light.  Forever Evil has ended, though the last issue of the book has been delayed over a month, resulting in several books coming out that take place after the ending.  And largely, save for Dick Grayson, not a heap of a lot seems to have changed. Lots of rebuilding, some strained relations between folks who knew Grayson, but pretty much it seems to be back to first position.

Mixed into the coming months is also Grant Morrison’s next mini Multiversity, which also deals with other worlds of the DCU, and will (assuming it doesn’t get delayed, because how could that ever happen on a Grant Morrison book?) will also be ending next Spring.

So DC has certainly done a good job of getting people interested in next April.  Problem is, there’s a whole Gorram year between now and then, a year full of books that DC needs to keep people interested in.  If people start to get a whiff of a Clever Theory that DC plans to pull another massive change to their books, we may end up with a year-long lame-duck session, with people dropping books they presume (correctly or no) are going to go away, which will only serve to make that more likely a possibility.

In short, DC needs to make its books exciting and engrossing right now, and not dangle a carrot into the future and ask us to trust them.  Sorry but fool me…lessee, carry the four…

Let’s just say I hope we’ll all be here come next April.

Michael Davis: Enter– Deathlok! with J. August Richards

Today is my birthday.

As is my custom, as Master of The Universe, on my birthday, I like to give gifts on the very day I receive such. I like to show those who appreciate me I’m appreciating them right back.

I’ve been writing for ComicMix a long time yet I’ve never given you guys a present on my birthday. Many see my weekly words of enlightenment as gifts but they should not be called such.

The correct word is blessings.

I’m happy to correct my oversight with what I’m sure you will agree is an wonderful gift, my exclusive conversation with J. August Richards, better known to ComicMix readers as Mike Peterson from Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

(more…)

Mindy Newell: Columnist Columnizing

Newell Art 140421“Don’t you wish you had a job like mine? All you have to do is think up a certain number of words! Plus, you can repeat words! And they don’t even have to be true!” – Dave Barry

Some thoughts this week reflecting upon my fellow ComicMix columnists’ opinions…

Last week Martha Thomases felt compelled to once again write about the bullshit practice of attacking women who “o-pine” (as Bill O’Reilly says) and dare to speak “truthiness,” as Stephen Colbert puts it, in her column, Criticizing Criticism. Toward the end of the piece Martha wrote about a panel at Washington, D.C.’s Awesome Con (held just this past weekend) that she was planning on attending. The name of the panel was “Part-Time Writer, Full Time World.” All the panelists were women, and apparently they were going to “O-pine” and “speak truthiness” about balancing the demands of a full time job, of being a parent, of having a part-time job – with these women, the “part-time” job is writing – with having time for your personal life, all while keeping a sane thought in your head. She made an excellent point when she pointed out that there were no men on the panel.

Hmm…

To (mostly) quote myself in the “comments” section of Martha’s column:

“As far as the full-time job/parenting/writing/hobby balance thing, it’s not a question of whether or not men don’t do any parenting. I think a lot of men are extremely involved in their kids’ lives these days.

“But what I think what Martha is pointing out is the assumption by the con runners, or at least those who set up this particular panel, that it’s only women who are dealing with this conundrum. Or, to give them the benefit of the doubt, maybe they just wanted to do a “Women in Comics” panel and thought this would be an interesting twist on the subject. Either way, it does seem somewhat sexist–against both sexes for a change!

“The answer, btw – and I feel that I am qualified to answer this conundrum because I was a single parent, and also because I’m now watching Alix and Jeff juggle parenthood, work, and school – is, paraphrasing a certain global sports apparel company:

“‘You just do it’…

“While seeking plenty of help from family, friends, babysitters – and sometimes, if you’re really lucky, an understanding boss or editor.

“And then, when the kids are all grown up and have families of their own, you have the luxury of being a grandmother, and you can just love and spoil the kid and then hand him back when you’re tired or he get’s cranky or it’s just time for you to have some
“me-time.”

“And be proud of yourself, because you just ‘did’ it.”

Denny’s and Marc’s columns made me think once again of how Marvel is doing everything right, and how DC is doing everything wrong. As I indicated in last week’s column, Marvel’s creation of a “telefilmverse” has been just brilliant in its adaptation of its comic universe’s history, in its invigoration of old concepts and old heroes, and in the excitement and joy its inventiveness is creating in both old and new fans.

I grew up a total DC geek in its Silver Age. I loved The Legion Of Super-Heroes, Superboy, Green Lantern, Supergirl, and the “Imaginary Stories” of Julie Schwartz’s Superman. In the 80s and early 90s I was hooked on all things Vertigo (Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Grant Morrison’s Animal Man, to name just a few), Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s New Teen Titans, George’s Wonder Woman (even before I co-wrote it), Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen’s Legion Of Super-Heroes (before I was involved), Dan Mishkin, Gary Cohn, and Ernie Colon’s Amethyst, Princess Of Gemworld (ditto), Mike W. Barr and Brian Bolland’s Camelot 3000 (ditto) and many more. Back then DC was a groundbreaker, an innovator, “Bold” and “Brave.”

Today when I think of DC I think of words like moribund, and mired, and morose.

Today, like Marc Alan Fishman, I say, “Make Mine Marvel!”

Paul Kupperberg’s review of  The King Of Comedy https://www.comicmix.com//reviews/2014/04/17/review-king-comedy/ is dead-on. If you haven’t seen this movie, see it.

John Ostrander: Happy, happy, happiest of birthdays! I left you a comment, but I don’t know where it went, because it’s not there now. Just know that I wish you everything you talk about in the column – to live even longer than your paternal grandfather and his continue to bang out comic series and a new novel on a regular basis. I can’t wait to read the new GrimJack series, and that brilliant novel that resides on the New York Times Bestseller list for longer than Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games ever did. I want to see Peter David green with envy (just teasing, Peter!) with your success. Hell, I want to see me turn green with envy and choleric with bitterness about your success! And I want you to remember, bro, in the words of that old poet-hipster, James Taylor…

You’ve got a friend.