Tagged: Flashpoint

Marc Alan Fishman: It Ain’t Over ‘Till The Fat Guy Sings

I’m half the man I used to be.

OK, more like 2/3rds, but that’s being picky, no? Let me be blunt: as much as I shamelessly self-promote Unshaven Comics, The Samurnauts, and any wares for which I am able to shill, patting myself on the back honestly is uncomfortable territory. This week, I’m letting my guard down in a way that frankly I’m afraid to. There’s no use in hemming and hawing over it here in the preamble though. And spoiler alert. I get a little long in the tooth this week, but I’m hopeful you’ll find it… inspiring? Avante!

My name is Marc Alan Fishman, and I am a fat, fat man. Or perhaps it’s better to definitively declare it: I am, after a year’s work… a less fat man. If you particularly care about numbers, I’m fairly certain, to date, I have dropped a bit more than 80 pounds. Some people would dare say it’s closer to 90. I’m not one of those people, but hey, it’s a good rumor to spread.

My personal health has been a boring-as-hell roller coaster ride in reverse; plummeting in a freefall of increasing fatness from middle school ending at some point around 2011. For those playing at home, that included college, dating and then marrying my wife Kathy. In 2011, I was hospitalized due to kidney stones – truly a pain comparable to reading issues of Flashpoint. Whilst my body expelled sharp rocks out of my nether-bits, I was met with the trifecta of diagnoses: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type II diabetes. The best part of it – it didn’t come as a shock at all.

I never knew my Grandpa Meyer Fishman. He died of a heart attack. My own father had one himself, survived, but wound up with a quintuple bypass in his mid-forties. The writing had long been on the wall, and I figured why fight the universe? This lead to a life of fast food, bad choices, and an aversion to physical activity akin to the Hulk’s aversion to normal-colored trousers.

But you see, the story only truly begins in 2011. For the next year, I righted the ship. I ate according to strict rules. I took my blood sugar twice a day. I logged in food and personal data religiously. And I dropped a considerable amount of weight. I purposely never found out how much I’d tipped the scale at when I was hospitalized. I figured it never did me any good to quantify being one foot in the grave. Then, in 2012, a new-lease-on-life Marc Alan Fishman received his fair share of cat calls and back-pats. But they truly felt hollow. The work I’d done was merely to eat less crap. Nothing more. The new state of being was medically-sound, but empty in the soul. And so, slowly, I gave up the good fight.

One bad decision here, one little cheat there, and slowly over the next four years I’d put back on nearly everything I’d lost. I gave myself every excuse in the book. My day job was stressful. We’d had a kid. Unshaven Comics and freelance designing rendered my work day as 18 hours on the clock out of every 24. Flashpoint sucked. It was hot out. That guy over there looked at me funny. The McRib was still not a menu staple.

Like I said: I had excuses.

May 8th, 2016. My pants – which came with the fat-guy-secret-shame elastic waist band – were pulled to their limitations. My wardrobe consisted only of stretched-out henleys, and graphic tee-shirts that had seen better days. Going to restaurants became secret panic-attacks in anticipating being sat in a booth. And, like the unnamed narrator in Fight Club, somehow, I reached bottom. I typed a letter to myself. An op-ed directed solely at myself, you see. And in it, I pulled no punches:

I know the truth: I fell off the wagon HARD, for no real reason. I succumbed to temptation because no one I know is comfortable calling me out on it. But I don’t blame anyone; I’m my own worst enemy. I’ve always been it. I’ll always be it. Cold hard facts: My lifestyle has gifted me gout, diabetes, and most recently… the reminder that I’ll only request seating at a “table,” as I don’t fit in the booths anymore. It’s embarrassing, and I need to quell it.

And with that, I made the commitment to change. My mantra was – and still is – very simple. I vowed to make small, significant changes to the way I live. To capture the food I eat, the mood I’d been in, and the exercise completed each day, without fail. To commit to completing some kind of exercise every day, without fail. To eat better food, in better portions… and to never think of food as a reward or punishment. And to commit to all of this knowing that unlike before: this wasn’t a sprint, nor a marathon; this was to be the way I’d strive to live until my brain could be successfully transferred to a cyborg body in 2039.

Over the course of a year (and change, natch), each little change begat another, and then another. I started taking walks outside last summer. When daylight savings hit, I bit the bullet and bought a gym membership. When I realized I was (and still am) far too embarrassed to lift weights next to other actual humans, I built up a collection of weights and such at home. I started out completing very small workouts a few nights a week. Then it grew to a nightly routine. Paired with my one hour of TV before bed, I force myself to complete a little workout during commercials. A few sets a night have seen me reach personal lifetime best numbers that have continued to rise. I even hired a wellness coach to help me fill in the gaps where I’d continued to stumble.

And here I am. On the path to 190 pounds by mid-July. I’ve truly never felt as good as I do now, in my lifetime, ever. Yeah, I’m even counting grade school – the last time I was ever truly able to run, jump, or play.  I am now, at 35, better than I was at 25. And my beard is a hell of a lot nicer looking then when I was 15.

And so, I end on an inspiring note not to you, my friends and fans reading this. I end on an inspirational note to myself: It took a year to completely change who I am outside and in. With that same determination, the same successes can translate to Unshaven Comics and The Samurnauts. To be the better Marc Alan Fishman means to give the best back to the world. If I want to see my products be what I know they can be? I need only continue to make small and significant changes to how I work. Nothing comes to those who wait for the world to change. Make the change yourself, do the work, and reap the rewards when you’re finally able to lift your head up.

Be well.

Marc Alan Fishman: To Every Season, Turn, Turn, Turn

As we wind things down on the current season of TV, I’m of two different minds on two shows I’d long held in similar regard. Agents of SHIELD (no, I don’t want to add all those extraneous periods. You know what I mean, right?) and The Flash. Both turned in seasons that were rife in comic references. AOS gave us Ghost Rider, LMDs, Madame Hydra, and a dash of the non-Marvel-sanctioned Matrix. The adventures of Team Flash gave us… Flashpoint. I am nothing if not full of opinions on both.

Let’s start with the good, shall we? For the first time in the history of the show, Agents of Shield dug its heels in deep with reverence to the pulpy source material. Because of this, the normally cinema-by-way-of-a-limited-budget show felt larger than ever. With pronounced arcs carrying through a disjointed season, we finally got a TV show with the pacing and payoff akin, truly, to actual printed comics. We had a genuine drive from the beginning to end – allowing the final beats of the season to encompass literally everything that came before it. The means justified the ends, and by the time the stinger for the 2018 season drops, we’re exhausted in the best way.

Beyond the prowess of the prose, where AOS shined brightest came collectively in character development. Over the course of this season, nearly each member of the team was given an arc to follow. And while perennial favorite Phil Coulson was left with the least to improve upon, even he was given a few badass moments to chew the scenery on. With Phil mostly on the dramatic sidelines this time around, the MVP of the season falls solely on Iain De Caestecker’s Leo Fitz.

Where he and co-science-bro (by-way-of-Sam-and-Diane) Jemma Simmons were once the bright-eyed innocents of the team, Fitz was saddled with the most growing up to do over the lengthy season. Shouldering the moral arguments of science-over-dogma, followed by a What If conceit Stan Lee himself would have been proud to take credit for, left our Scotsman bereft of any remaining innocence by season’s end. That the writers of AOS make the gravitas of Fitz’s arc feel deserved stands out as the season highlight for me.

You’ll note we’re three paragraphs in, and I’ve not had a single good thing to say about The Flash. Sadly, much like my thoughts around the literary basis of the arc, Flashpoint does for the TV show the same as it did for the comic and animated feature: drag the whole series down into the muck and mire that plagues DC all too often these days.

Simply put, The Flash’s best moments all contained themselves in the singular episode that largely snuck away from the timeline-altering plot that drove the entirety of the season. The Supergirl crossover episode that showcased Grant Gustin’s singing chops, Duet, stood alone as the single point of light in a dreary season.

As with the source material, The Flash saw Barry Allen time-travel to the past to save his mother from her timely demise. By doing so, we entered an Elseworld tale that spins out like so many would-be DCU alternate timelines. Things are darker, grittier, sadder, and devoid of the humor and spritely spirit that has long been the calling card for the show’s continued success. And by doing so, and pitting Barry Allen against yet another Speed-Based-Villain for the series… we are treated to yet-another-plot wherein Barry must. Run. Faster. Except this time, he merely gets by with a little help from his friends.

Speaking of… Not to continuously drop elbows on a dead Beta Rey Bill here (sorry, I know I’m crossing the streams, but I don’t know any more famous comic book horsies), but Team Flash is as much to blame over the dead-in-the-water season as any linger ties to Flashpoint itself. Whereas AOS took time to build, and rebuild their continuously expanding team – taking time to really allow the audience to get into the heads of Mack, Yo-Yo, and even The Patriot – The Flash seemed content to heap team member after team member into Star Labs without ever expanding each character beyond one or two notes they began with. Be it Wally West, that one scientist who HR Wells loved, or Malfoy CSI (I think his name is Julian, but he’s not worth the Googling), basically every Flash-bro walked into Star Labs, delivered or received a litany of pep-talks about their value to the team, and then sat back to let Barry run and mope. By the season’s end, I felt a connection to every Agent of Shield. I left The Flash wishing I had any feelings whatsoever.

At the end of the day, we know both shows will return for another season. My hope is that Barry and his team will return to the real roots of the character – the fun, and hope – and largely forget as much of the Savitar saga as metahumanly possible. As for Agents… Heh. Well, let’s just say Coulson did his job; I can’t wait to see where they go from here.

Marc Alan Fishman: The Rebirther Movement

Ross DC

So, DC Comics is vowing – once again – to reset-ish their universe via the “Rebirth” event coming soon to a comics shoppe near you. And DC’s CCO Geoff Johns posted a heartfelt mission statement into the back of the current crop of DC comics to reannounce it, since Dan DiDio announcing it doesn’t count or something. Well, knowing that some of us snarky malcontents have long abandoned the ship, Newsarama was happy enough to reprint his plea. Let me paraphrase:

Dear Fans, remember when I wrote great books, and you loved DC? Well, pretend the New 52 never happened, and come back. We totally get that some of you got mad and left, but because of reasons… we’re making good books again. Because our creators have passion. And I wrote those ‘Rebirth’ books about Green Lantern and The Flash… so that name is synonymous with not sucking. You know, unlike ‘Crisis’ or ‘One Year Later’, or ‘Trinity’, or ‘Flashpoint’. So, come back. I swear it’s worth it this time, you cynical pricks. Love, Geoff Johns.

All my snark aside, Johns hits on some of the major cornerstones of what did make DC great for me as a fan not that long ago; legacy, a singular and understandable continuity, and solid stories that pit heroes against villains in new and interesting lights. The pre-New52 DCU was good. Maybe even great. The Flash had a veritable family. As did the Bats, and the Supes, and the multi-colored Lantern brigades. But as with all good things, the boardroom saw potential sales stagnation and slammed on the brakes. Then came “Flashpoint,” and a new universe was made. But you knew all this. And you knew/know that the entire purpose of the system shock was to place new #1s on the shelves; because that makes for temporary sales spikes. And new merch. And new opportunities for newness. Newness begets money. And so on.

Plus, Marvel kinda sorta did it too, and their movies are minting billions.

But forgive me Geoff. It’s all a bit “too little, too late”, isn’t it? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times? Well, I don’t know how the saying goes anyways. I just can’t shake the feeling that we’re doing the same dance again, and somehow expecting different results. As I stated previously, with Rebirth comes the same damned shit in new packaging. It’s enough to make me declare – ahem (and please excuse this harsh-but-necessary-language) fucking stop it.

Once again Johns, DiDio, Lee, and the lot of DC execs are cramming specials, new #1s, and semi-monthly comic drops on us under the guise of “the continuing pursuit of giving our fans what they love.” And, sure, they changed the price point (a dollar less per issue, for an undisclosed page count per book), but that won’t matter when fans of a character are asked once again to invest more money per month to enjoy the adventures of a given character! And DC knows this. Because if you are a true fan, you likely would give a chance to all the new creative teams surrounding a character you like; sort of what DC hoped fans would give nearly every New 52 title at least a starting arc to pique their interest.

Rebirth? Hardly. Consider it just another rebranding. And as always: it’s a game of Darwinian survival; those books that don’t sell X copies will fall by the wayside, lest they be an upcoming movie or animated feature.

Deadpool 13And don’t paint me a complete malcontent here, folks. I loved DC comics from the moment I purchased my first back issue of Shadow of the Bat when I was 13. I followed the entirety of Kyle Rayner’s career until Hal Jordan rebirthed himself. I purchased coffee table books of Alex Ross art, and read the DC Encyclopedia until the spine broke. But a decade worth of decline beginning in my college years through my “spendy twenties” right up until I had a new mouth to feed and a mortgage to pay left me embittered to the cheap tactics of comics-by-committee.

A part of me doesn’t even blame a true fan like Geoff Johns for winding up in this place. He wrote (and still writes) amazing stories. His heart is seemingly pure. In his lament, he mentions terms like legacy, epic storytelling, and my favorite: honoring what’s come before while looking to what will come tomorrow. It’s everything I want to hear as a fan.

But, Mr. Johns, what comes tomorrow is more of the same: a litany of new series I’m supposed to drop coin for, full well knowing we’ll be right back to retcon city long before my son is practicing for his Bar Mitzvah. You know it. I know it.

Sorry, Geoff. Your words were hollow. And much like Rebirth to come? I’m not buying it.

Stay tuned next week, when I tell everyone what I am buying in place of “The Big Two.”

Marc Alan Fishman: Dear Marvel and DC…

Dear Marvel and DC,

It’s been too long since I’ve written you, and for that I am very sorry. I’d think it awkward, given that I was once a weekly reviewer of your monthly publications, but I’ve essentially all but given up on them over the last six months. And it’s not because of financial concerns, or even a matter of proximity. Certainly sparing ten to twenty bucks a week for a decent load of your wares from one of the fine comic shops mere blocks from my office was once a weekly delight. But over time, my pull list dwindled and dwindled. Each book in your respective repertoire began to feel repetitive, dull, or forced. And as insult to the injury… the shop I frequented only carried indie books they “knew would actually sell” unless I specifically sought them to be ordered and held. It was a dark time, and I flew a white flag.

I’ve done this in the past. Like a jilted lover, sometime absence makes the heart grow fonder. I figured I’d soon see the new announcements stemming from successful dalliances on TV and the multiplex. With a growing fan-base learning about Hydra and Kree maps, or hearing the name Black Adam whispered with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson being cast, there was no doubt in my mind you knew that the world was set to look at your publishing ventures as potential incubators for those next great ideas.

And then, as if you’d not learned from past mistakes, you started announcing one major-huge-epic-don’t-miss-it-or-by-Rao-you’ll-be-out-of-the-loop-for-decades event after another.

I believe in tough love. It’s never easy to swallow, I know. In my life, it’s always followed by a period of reflection and growth. My high school art teacher said I couldn’t draw my way out of a paper bag. I went to art school and learned how. My college professor said I’d only get out of my art what I put into it. In response, I completed an 8′ x 10′ woodcut with a 1mm gouge. My first employer after graduation said I’d never amount to an art director. I’ve been one now for going on eight years. So trust me when I say that this comes from a place of kindness:

Your events, by and large, really suck.

Yeah, I know you’ve got sales data to prove me wrong. But you know what I have? I have an informed opinion. Civil War was cool. How did The Initiative do for you shortly after? Identity Crisis was excellent, until it got rapey. Fear Itself was novel for a hot minute until I realized it was a D&D campaign from 1996. Flashpoint, Countdown to Final Crisis, and yeah Final Crisis were worth more as toilet paper than as solid fiction. Oh, I’m sorry, I was supposed to read them in 3-D, and backwards because Grant Morrison said it’d make more sense that way? I said the same thing when I tried to convince my wife sweatpants were a viable option for date-night.

And here with both of you announcing and announcing cryptic apocalyptic coinciding crises sometime in the spring? It’s reminiscent of The Producers. I mean, how many dancing Charlie Xaviers will we need before we start guessing it’s all one big joke to you?

The fact of the matter is no amount of adjective-dropping will entice me away from my most glorious hibernation. You’ve both cried wolf far too many times now. Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me thirty-two times with multiple X-Men deaths and rebirths, time-bullets, time-vampires, ret-conned continuities, and multiple-multiverses… shame on you. You seem to forget that after every one of these universe shattering events comes fallout. Canceled series of stalwart brands. Bold new books that will be canceled long before their given a chance to find a rhythm and fan base. Not to be lewd about it, but guys, you can’t shit the bed and then expect us to clean it up with a smile.

I don’t care if Tony is going to be a power-sharing super-douche. Or that Alexander Luthor never really died. Or that Wolverine is dead until Shadowcat phase-pulls his rotting corpse out of his statue-self followed by a trip back through time using Booster Gold’s leftover suit. I don’t even care if you’re exploring new What-If universes with Spider-Gwen. It doesn’t get me hot and bothered that you’re potentially ret-conning away the New52. No matter your proposed gimmick, I’m not buying it.

At the end of the day, I smell your desperation a mile away. It wasn’t like this when Mark Waid was batting 1000 on Daredevil. It wasn’t like this when Geoff Johns was expanding the Green Lantern and Flash mythos without traveling outside the borders of their respective books. You know you can be better than this, but instead are trying to win over everyone with a grand sweeping motion. It’s just not necessary.

And when you realize that? I’ll be back in the shop with my money in hand.

Sincerely,

Marc Alan Fishman

Ex-Pat. Indie Creator. Bridge Burner.

Marc Alan Fishman: Wanted, Dead or Alive … Not Both.

Wolverine Potato HeadSo I guess when the AV Club is reporting on the future death of Wolverine, the cat is out of the bag, eh? In yet another PR stunt, the mainstream comic houses show their full hand in hopes mega media attention will somehow garner a boost in pulp sales. I’m reminded of that saying concerning the definition of insanity. And surely this is a topic we, the snarky columnists of any number of media outlets, have covered… well… to death. It’s still worth another look though, so indulge me, kiddos. It’s time to beat a dead horse.

Isn’t it a shame when the knee-jerk reaction of your most dedicated fan-base upon hearing about the death of a beloved character comes with an audible snicker and eye roll? Suffice to say when I’d read the newswire piece it didn’t come as a shock, as much as a continual reminder that my favorite medium was often regarded as kitsch. And truly, no other medium comes to mind – save perhaps for soap operas or pro wrestling– where the announcement of a significant loss bares no bitter fruit as much as it comes complete with scoffs from the peanut gallery.

Wolverine to be stripped of his healing factor and killed. Peter Parker’s mind is destroyed, only to be inhabited by Otto Octavius. Batman banished forever in time by the impact of some Omega beams. Superman dead. Thor dead. Professor X dead. Steve Rogers dead. Jean Grey dead. Colossus dead. Hell… Bucky Barnes dead. Phil Coulson dead.

Feh, I say. Feh! In each instance of the leaked announcement, I immediately retort “…until sales drop, or a movie comes out.” And if you’re a betting man, you’d be smart to go all in each time. I think though, that ranting and railing against something you could count on as easily as the tide coming in, is a waste of negative feelings.

What sits at the root of all of these stabs into the mainstream ether is the soul-crushing realization that our beloved cape-and-cowl crowd are all for-profit entities, each built to harness the dollars and cents of a loyal customer base that has proven more often than not to continually purchase product even while loudly protesting it. Simply put, one need not sweat the wrath of the fanboys and girls until they leave you high and dry at the checkout counter. And as attendance at comic conventions continue to swell, and the multiplex becomes choked annually with blockbuster after blockbuster… there’s little need to fear that our ink-and-paper rags are going away while the licenses need to be coddled.

And what would you do if you were the EIC of a major comic book publisher? You’d keep hitting your cash piñatas until they stop dropping Tootsie Rolls. One can’t simply let their comic character live and die with the times. They must constantly be in a cycle or dramatic repartee with one another. They must converge on mighty battlegrounds. They must make odd alliances. They must recalibrate, reinvent, and redefine their very being every few months. The moment they stop, the attention is drawn elsewhere. Even to let a mortal man, like Frank Castle – a character whose very mission is clearly drawn in severe black and white terms – die a hero’s death, is really just another way to bookmark him for a new series later. One cannot simply let a comic character die… not when there’s a bloodstone to find and money left on the table.

To learn of Wolverine’s impending dirt map should not actually be met with a scoff, and an upturned nose. As in nearly all my aforementioned examples of re-re-retconned demises… in their immediate wake came some of the best stories I’d ever read concerning that character! When Batman was time-bulleted away, Scott Snyder’s Detective Comics gave me the Dick Grayson I’ve always wanted to read. When Dan Slott took the leap to let Otto drive as the friendly neighborhood wall-crawler, he opened up a fantastic object lesson in proactive versus reactive heroism. And when Wolverine bites the big one, it will be less about ending his story as it is opening up a new chapter in the plethora of X-books that will no doubt be touched by the loss. Death, as it were, is then less about the loss specifically of the character in question, rather, it’s about the aftermath that needs to be considered.

It is sad to me that we must accept this as fate; that our heroes and villains are merely pawns in a never ending churn and burn of story arcs and universe resets. In the time since its inception, the Marvel Universe (the 616), and the DCU (whatever we call current continuity since it’s neither new, nor 52) have relegated themselves to reinvention at every turn of the corner. Unlike a soap or the WWE, where fictional characters can eventually die in real life… or even Doctor Who, who remains the same alien in spirit, but purposefully reimagined to coincide with the times – mainstream comic books must remain forever in Neverland. While DC tried hard to create legacies with a few of their major heroes (The Flash and Green Lantern, most of all), they too eventually succumbed to a massive PR stunt (the still-absolutely-unbearable Flashpoint), in order to move the zeitgeist back into its clutches.

So mourn not for James Howlett, folks. Let no tears stain your mutton-chopped cheeks for his once robust form. For now, he will join any number of other X-Men at the famed Marvel Island. He’ll enjoy the umbrella drinks, and free bacon… as the 616 spins out of control.

Because let’s face it, a world with Wolverine leaves a roster spot open on at least 1,246 different teams. And that is why we mourn.

REVIEW: Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox

JusticeLeagueTheFlashpointParadox-finalboxartThe larger and more sweeping the cosmic event, the more the audience needs a character to act as the anchor. This was a lesson Marv Wolfman learned while writing the first such event, Crisis on Infinite Earths. Years later, when he was afforded the opportunity to novelize it, he focused on The Flash as his focal point. Similarly, Geoff Johns built the entire Flashpoint miniseries around Barry Allen and used it to upend the DC Universe and set the stage for the new 52.

While the miniseries was a beautifully drawn, sprawling mess that made little sense whatsoever, the animated adaptation does a better job honing the story and its spinoffs into a tighter, more focused tale. It still doesn’t make a whole heck of a lot of sense but it’s entertaining to watch. Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is now out on Blu-ray from Warner Home Video and it’s a strong entry in the line.

Flash06

Essentially, the Flash, despite knowing better, goes back in time to prevent his mother’s death, an inexplicable decision exacerbated by his 25th century foe, Eobard Thawne, t

he Reverse Flash. Thawne channels the speed force, which they both access, to create some sort of time distorting “speed boom” that totally alters the DC Universe. As a result, Allen awakes up in a world where Mom is happily alive but not for long as Atlantis and Themyscira are waging a war that threatens to shatter the planet. He also no longer has his powers.

Among the “subtle” alterations is that Kal-El’s rocket misses Kansas and is captured by the U.S. government; Thomas Wayne survives but Bruce is shot by Joe Chill; the wizard Shazam shares his power with multiple kids, and Steve Trevor never arrived on Paradise Island, a.k.a. Themyscira. There are others but it’s a dark, depressing place to live when you have the unrepentant Len Snart running around as the beloved Citizen Cold.

Batman-Aquaman

While focusing on the core JL characters, plus Cyborg for those needing affirmative action, it totally ignores the heroes and champions of bygone eras (except for some version of Sandman), most of whom would gladly come out of retirement to prevent the war from happening. Occult beings such as the Spectre or Dr. Fate certainly would have intervened. And then we have Grifter, who was never a part of the DCU here  so it’s a mess.

Allen convinces the alcoholic Dark Knight to help him regain his speed and then they race to stop global Armageddon, allying themselves with an odd assortment of other metahumans. They also rescue the Kryptonian from custody and he miraculously demonstrates all his powers within hours of exposure to the sun although it took him years in the other reality to develop them and just as long to master them.

WonderWoman

But things zip along at such a dizzying pace, you just watch. Director Jay Oliva has a sure hand with the film, as he has in the last handful of outings. He’s saddled, though, with fairly unattractive character designs that once more over emphasize the upper half of the male bodies and give everyone pointy chins. Jim Krieg, another Warner animation vet, does a nice job making the necessary modifications to contain the story in 81 minutes. A few too many characters show up and don’t do anything but it’s nice to see them.

As usual, Andrea Romano brings in an A-list assortment of actors to voice the players led by Justin Chambers as Allen, Kevin McKidd as Thomas Wayne, and C. Thomas Howell as Thawne. The other major players include  Vanessa Marshall (Wonder Woman), Cary Elwes (Aquaman), Michael B. Jordan (Cyborg),  Kevin Conroy (Batman), Dana Delany (Lois Lane), Nathan Fillion (Hal Jordan’) and Tim Daly (Superman).

The miniseries worked as a transition by establishing the DC, Vertigo and WidlStorm universes as three parallel worlds (out of 52 known parallel universes) being brought together into a New DC Universe. The only real hint that the reformed timeline at the film’s end is the modified Flash costume Allen wears. Otherwise, it all seems the same but do watch the film through to the end of the credits for a 10 second hint of the following film, the first to resemble the New 52.

11The disc comes with the usual assortment of supplemental features. You get audio commentary from  Producer James Tucker, director Olivia, screenwriter Krieg and Johns as they chat about adapting the comics to film although there’s little new revealed here.

Rather than provided newcomers with a primer as to what this is all about, you get “A Flash in Time: Time Travel in the Flash Universe” (22 minutes) as The Hero’s Journey author Phil Cousineau provides more historic perspective than the others do for the comics that influenced the miniseries. Cousineau takes himself too seriously and the source material underexplained. Then there’s  “My Favorite Villain! The Flash Bad Guys” (19 minutes) as Cousineau, Krieg, Johns and current Flash writer Brian Buccellato discuss some of the colorful foes making up the legendary Flash Rogues’ Gallery. For Blu-ray viewers, there are Flash-centric episodes from

Justice League and Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Finally, there’s a Sneak Peak at Justice League: War (8 minutes) and Flashpoint #1 Digital Comic Excerpt (a mere 8 pages in the hopes you go out and buy the graphic novel).

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

 

Marc Alan Fishman: Help! I’m A Marvel Zombie!

Seriously, it happened so slowly, I never saw it coming. It’s long been a fact: Marc Alan Fishman is a card carrying member of the DC Nation. But then, something changed. Flashpoint was one epic-crossover-super-event-that-changed-everything too many. With the New 52, I’d made a steadfast rule: In order to conserve money and my sanity, any book that delivered two issues in a row that left me bored or was just terrible I would remove from my pull list.

Like every red-blooded nerd worth his salt, when a book is dropped from my box, I can’t help but seek to replace it with something new. And now that I look across the board, Marvel is now on equal footing, book-for-book with my pull list for DC.

More important, every Marvel book on that list is one that when I see it on the shelf, I get truly excited. Truth be told, I get Blue Beetle, Batgirl, Justice League Dark, Green Lantern Corps, and Resurrection Man – and they are good comics, but none of them excite me anymore. I’m slowly coming to terms with it; New 52 be damned… Make Mine Marvel.

Simply put, right now Marvel is putting out better books than DC. I welcome the flame war and argument from the interwebs. Based solely on the Marvel books I’ve read in the last three-four months, DC pales in comparison in story depth, quality, scope, and clarity. A few examples, you ask?

Take the Fantastic Four. Jonathan Hickman’s run on the title has been compared to Kirby and Lee’s initial run; and said with sincerity. His “War of the Four Cities” multi-year arc was as epic as any DC “Crisis” without the multitude of mini-series. While it did spawn a second book, FF, the grandeur has been well contained. Even better, FF brings the ideology of the family and creates an excuse to explore more of the Baxter Building collective without over-saturation. It’s a riff, not a rip-off. Compare this to the four Green Lantern titles being pumped out at DC and you can see how a little consolidation can really tighten up a title’s overall quality.

How about the newly relaunched Defenders? Matt Fraction’s “vacation” title is a glorious send up to an old and mostly forgotten secondary team… dusted off, polished up, and presented wonderfully in the modern age. While only five issues in, I’ve been nothing but impressed up until now. In fact, Defenders #4 easily tops my list of best comics I’ve read for the year. The year is early, yes, but amongst dozens and dozens of issues, I’ve little doubt it won’t falter from my top ten by years end. It’s a comic not afraid to be written with a smirk… that knows when to be deadly serious, or just go for the nut shot. Something Justice League International tried to do, and fell on its face for attempting.

For those following my reviews on Michael Davis World, you’ll no doubt also note my recent jaunt into Spider-Land with the Amazing Spider-Man title. With the promise of the “Ends of the Earth” storyline being a good jumping on point for new readers, I dove into a title and character I’ve always wanted to read, but never did because of the bad mojo that came with the book. Ask anyone about Spider-Man’s most recent bullet points and I doubt you’ll see a face light up when discussing One More Day, the Other, or even Spider-Island. That being said, the series thus far has been a joyous romp. A Saturday morning cartoon concept with a hidden maturity, that has a perfect balance of comic-book-quirk with well thought out plot development.

And over in Invincible Iron Man? Well, Matt Fraction is proving what a truly potent writer he is by shaking off the grime of the horrendous Fear Itself crossover crud and taking his baby book back to form. His long-winding plot of Mandarin’s careful and calculated destruction of Tony Stark has been a slow burn that’s been a long time coming. And when everything recently came to a head, we got a moment in comics I’ve dreamed of reading since I finished The Watchmen – an arc where the hero loses because he’s been out-matched. It was bold, ballsy, and has me chomping at the bit for more.

All this, and I’ve not even mentioned Daredevil or Ultimate Spider-Man. I’d love to, but well… I’ve not read them yet. But they are high on the list for me to catch up on, the second the next DC book takes a dive in my box. Resurrection Man? I’m looking at you.

Now, of course, Marvel isn’t perfect. Just a few weeks back on my podcast, a lifelong X-Men fan told me he’d literally given on comics all together because of the terrible decline of his favorite mutants. And let’s give credit where credit is due: Fraction and Hickman’s bold pacing is very much in-step with Geoff Johns and Grant Morrison’s work on Green Lantern and Batman over the last 60 or so issues. Anyone who read “Batman R.I.P.” can see what “The War of the Four Cities” or most of the run on Invincible Iron Man is being inspired by (not directly mind you… but certainly in conceptual scope). And DC is not without its own amazing titles. Action Comics, Batman, Animal Man, Swamp Thing, and Green Lantern always float to the top of my reading pile when I pick them up.

This of course leads me to ask the bigger questions. Was the New 52 not powerful enough overall to keep me from being lured away? Is Marvel just in a great rhythm right now? Will X-Men vs. Avengers cause some major crisis to interrupt all the goodness coming out in their top titles? Or with the second wave of new books (Dial H and JSA are both looking mighty fine to me…) hitting shelves soon, will DC reclaim me?

Don’t worry, I’ll let you know.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander Feeds The Chickens

 

Which is the Real DC Earth?

Characters of the Multiverse duel in an issue ...

Image via Wikipedia

 

Recently, DC Comics has made a big deal over the fact that the Earth where the New 52 comics have been telling stories is the Main Earth. This is to clearly separate it from the Earth-One seen in the hardcover graphic novels – the first of which, Superman: Earth One came out to great acclaim last year and the next, Batman</em><em>: Earth One is due out later this year. It also paves the way for people to understand that the Main Earth is not the same homeworld as the events seen in two second wave releases in May: Earth-2 (featuring the Justice Society of America) and World’s Finest, which features Power Girl and the Huntress of that world trapped on Main Earth.  And while we were initially told this Earth-2 would be the home of World War II’s mystery men the reality seems far from it.

 

So what, you wonder, became of New Earth which resulted from the events of Infinite Crisis? We were told that it was altered through the events depicted in the Flashpoint event last summer, which in turn revised reality which gave us Main Earth.

 

Except…

 

(more…)

MARC ALAN FISHMAN: X-Men vs. Avengers? Pray for a Reset…

MARC ALAN FISHMAN: X-Men vs. Avengers? Pray for a Reset…

So we’ve all heard the news, right? The next big thing to be constructed by the architects of the House of Ideas is a doozy. “X-Men Vs. Avengers” touts the titular teams of the 616 waging war against one another in hopes of quelling Hope and her potential Phoenix Force powers. Now this may be putting the cart before the horse… so let’s go to the official release:

“The Avengers and X-Men have learned that the all-powerful embodiment of both death and rebirth known as the Phoenix Force is on a crash course for Earth… and it needs a new host to unleash its immeasurable power. But what is the shocking decision tied to the Phoenix’s return that will pit the Avengers against the X-Men? And when good friends become bitter enemies, what does this mean for the future of the Marvel Universe?”

Since I’m a betting fellow, and love to stick my foot in my mouth… I’m going to answer those questions. At best? I’ll nail what all of you are already thinking. At worst? I’ll piss the lot of you off, and Axel will send a goon squad to my house to cap me off at the knees. Let’s roll them bones!

What is the shocking decision tied to the Phoenix’s return that will pit the Avengers Vs. The X-Men? Well, most people round the interwebs believe it will tie to Hope Summers. For those (like me) who don’t know Hope from Adam, Wikipedia was kind enough to enlighten me. You see, the short and sweet synopsis says that when Scarlet Witch went bananas back in Disassembled, she reduced the mutant population down to 198 lucky losers.

The first mutant born after this mass de-powering was Hope. Immediately after she was born, Cable and Bishop came a calling. Cable said she was the Messiah. Bishop said she was a crazy cracker who would eventually murder over a million people. Herman Cain came forward to say he didn’t harass her. A whole bunch of convoluted continuity happened after that. Suffice to say all these prophecies, in line with the well-documented return of the Phoenix Force, can safely answer the question; Hope is most likely the target of the celestial upgrade. Let’s assume the X-Men think she’s gonna save humanity. The Avengers assume another crazy bitch gonna get some shiz. Let the mini-series unleash itself!

And when good friends become bitter enemies, what does this mean for the future of the Marvel Universe? Well this isn’t such an easy answer now, is it? I think there are two schools of thought. The conservative true believer might postulate that this will draw harsh lines between certain X-people and certain Avengineers. There will be many hard fought battles.

Since it’s hero on hero action, let’s assume some villains will try to get away with evil while the do-gooders pound each other on the street. Wolverine will have to choose a side. Cyclops will go toe-to-toe with Cap in a battle for who adds the perfect amount of starch to their unitards. Colossus will pound the Red Hulk in the middle of a well-populated area, causing millions of dollars of collateral damage.

What does a car insurance policy look like in Marvel’s Manhattan anyways?

At the end of the day, the conservative epic will end with more questions than answers. Hope will undoubtedly get the force within her. She’ll see all the fighting, and perhaps will sacrifice herself out in space or maybe shack up with Galactus. He’s got to be lonely, right? The dust will settle, and the heroes will be mad at each other. 15 new books will cover the epilogue. 12 new X-Teams and 459 new Avenger teams will emerge.

Now, let’s say Marvel’s been paying attention to the competition lately. What if they take a more ballsy approach? A universal reset might not be the worst ending, now would it? As we all know, Bendis is hanging up the Avenger cloak of writership after all of this hoopla. Marvel’s losing the battle at the stands (barely) to DC. DC is all fresh and new and shiny. Marvel is shoulder deep in crazy continuity. Maybe a Phoenix-level razing of the universe could become a Flashpoint to significant change? See what I did there… And while this is merely wild speculation, I for one would love to see Marvel do something this jarring. Picture it. One More Day? Gone. Age of Apocalypse? A faded memory. Secret War? A secret we can all forget. Now, of course a TON of Marvel backstory is simply amazing and untouchable. So is DC’s…and it didn’t stop them. The numbers don’t lie. Sometimes a big risk can garner big rewards.

Marvel’s mega-bucks in the multiplexes have meant a generation of kids are savvy to their characters; But still they may be queasy at coughing up the coin to catch up to convoluted continuity. With Hope decimating the universe, there’s a chance to keep the good stuff, forget the bad, and catch a whole new crop of fans wanting an easy jumping on point. After all the fighting over her, the X-Men and Avengers witness Hope rise above them. “Enough!” She’ll scream. We fade to white… and in the wake, the 617?

Now, if I were to wage a bet on this, I’m no fool. This crossover is like so many before it; An excuse to make extra mini-series, epilogues, prologues, tie-ins, et al. The series itself will be an excuse to the same excesses we’re used to by now. The book itself will be well drawn, sharply written, but ultimately a fluffy complicated plot to move the next batch of editorial mandates forward. Don’t believe the hype kiddos. Stick to the main book… enjoy the battle scenes, and pray Cable unleashes a gun that fires other guns (tip of the hat to LBFA). When the dust settles, we all know what it’ll really mean for the Marvel Universe.

Another epic event in just six months!

SUNDAY: John Ostrander’s New Year’s Thrills!