By now, you’ve probably heard that Dan DiDio is out as the co-publisher of DC Comics. Heidi covers a lot of it:
The departure of Dan DiDio as DC Co-Publisher on Friday was both long expected and shocking. His exit was rumored many many times over the years, and every contract renewal was a will he or won’t he suspense movie.
Rob Salkowitz over at ICV2 notes that this could be the first clear sign of some major changes in direction since DC’s parent company, Time Warner (now WarnerMedia), was acquired by AT&T last summer.
DiDio was something of a polarizing figure because of the direction of DC’s publishing strategy over the past few years. That has led to a lot of speculation about what was behind the sudden move, and whether it’s related to specific issues like DC’s impending “5G” initiative or some pent-up dissatisfaction within the company over his leadership.
But what is/was 5G? Rather than that new wireless spectrum that’s being talked about for phones and wifi, DiDio had something else in mind:
The basic idea has been floating around since the middle of last year, and is seemingly yet another response to flagging sales. The idea was sort of to Ultimatize DC: all of the main heroes would be replaced by new younger versions, a tried and true comic book procedure which ends up giving you a great wave of cheers when the originals return AND new refreshing characters with youthful appeal.
Rob goes into detail about some of the financial issues behind this, focusing on AT&T’s purchase of WarnerMedia for $85 billion, doubling their debt to $170-odd billion, making them the most indebted publicly-traded company in the world by a factor of at least two, and about $70 billion in BBB-rated debt is coming due in the next 4-5 years, which must be repaid on schedule to maintain investment-grade status for its bonds.
But Rob missed the giant concrete block suspended over the wizard’s head…and the thread breaks in 13 years.
Because in 2033, unless there’s a big change in legislation… Superman enters the public domain.
Followed by Batman, Sandman, and the original Captain Marvel in 2034; Robin, the Flash, Green Lantern, Dr. Fate, Hourman, the Spectre, and Johnny Thunder in 2035; and Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, and Aquaman in 2036.
What percentage of the overall value of DC Comics is made up of those characters? 50%? 75%? 90%??? Whatever it is, it’s a lot. And it’s going to start going away very soon.
Now, DC won’t lose all of that value immediately. But there’s not going to be a lot preventing anyone from reprinting those stories, or making new stories from them. Or new movies and TV shows. Heck, there won’t be anything preventing Marvel from publishing Superman stories.
My take on 5G is that Dan was trying to get out from under by creating new characters that could still be held under copyright, holding on to value for the company going forward. And now that Dan’s gone… what are they going to do?
Last column we discussed what happens to those criminals on Adventures of Superman who shoot at Superman only to have their bullets bounce off him. Bottom line, they get charged with some crimes. But that’s just for shooting at Superman. There are still two very important questions that remain unanswered.
First, why did the invulnerable Superman, who already had bullets bounce off of him, duck when the bad guys threw their guns at him? Actually, we need to answer a question before that one – hey, if airplanes can pre-board, I can pre-first – namely did Superman actually duck a thrown gun?
From my research, inextensive though it was, I can say it definitely did happen. Once. In the first season episode “The Mind Machine.”
Theories abound, as to why Superman ducked but the one I think the best is that in parts of said scene, Superman wasn’t being played by George Reeves but by a stunt double named Dale Van Sickle. Van Sickle bore a slight resemblance to Reeves, but it wasn’t enough to survive close scrutiny. Or even the level of scrutiny you could get on those small, grainy, not-hi def, cathode-ray TVs of the 50s. If you study the scene, you’ll note that after the gunshots, Superman is standing erect and smoke obscures his face. That’s because it was the stunt double who nobody wanted you to see very well. Then, when the bad guy winds up to throw his gun at Superman, the Man of Steel avoidance ducked, again hiding his face. I think Superman ducked so that no one would notice the stunt double or that “Superman” wasn’t Superman.
The more-important question is this: if one of those bullets ricocheted off Superman and rabbitted into an innocent bystander could the criminals be brought up on charges for that injury? For once I have an easy answer for you. Yes.
With what crime could the criminals be charged? Okay, now we’re back to our usual complicated answers.
Before we can answer that question, we must answer another question or three. Such as, did the poor bystander die, or only get injured? Meaning is it homicide or assault? Then there’s, did the criminals know the bullets would bounce off of Superman? (Yes that again.) And finally, what were the criminals doing before Superman confronted them?
Let’s take the easy question first. If the bystander is only injured, then, irrespective of whether the criminals knew the bullets would bounce, the crime is going to be what the Model Penal Code calls aggravated assault.
Aggravated assault is knowingly causing bodily injury with a deadly weapon. A quick show of hands, how many of you think a gun is a deadly weapon? (Come on, it’s not a trick question, even Wayne LaPierre cops to that one.) But there’s a second prong to the definition, aggravated assault can also be recklessly causing serious bodily injury while showing indifference to others.
If the criminals knew the bullets would bounce off Superman, they knew a rebounding injury was as likely here as in a Basketball game. The law dictates that people intend the reasonably foreseeable consequence of their acts. So if the criminals knew the bullets would bounce like an inflated Bumble, they knowingly caused the reasonably foreseeable physical harm resulting from a bouncing bullet.
Even if the criminals didn’t foresee the bouncing bullets might hit another person, firing at something, or someone, that is going to make the bullets bounce when other people were around would be a reckless act showing indifference to others. Which constitutes an aggravated assault under the second definition.
If the criminals didn’t know the bullets would bounce then they thought they’d injure Superman and shooting at Superman would be aggravated assault. But, the bullets didn’t hurt Superman, they hurt a bystander. Ha! The law covers that possibility. The law may be an ass, but sometimes it’s smart enough to anticipate things.
The law anticipated this possibility with the transferred intent doctrine. If criminals intend to cause harm to person A but end up harming person B instead, the criminals’ intent to hurt A is transferred to the injury to B and the criminals are guilty of assaulting B. Because our criminals knowingly tried to injure Superman their criminal intent transfers to harming the bystander and they’re guilty of aggravated assault of the bystander.
What if the bystander dies? Obviously, we’re talking a homicide, but which homicide?
If the criminals didn’t know the bullets would bounce off Superman and thought they would kill him, then the criminals are guilty of aggravated murder or murder in the first degree; whatever that crime is called in Metropolis, other than antisocial. That’s because the criminals tried to kill Superman but ended up killing another person. Once again the transferred intend doctrine transfers the intent to kill Superman onto the unintended killing of the bystander.
If the criminals did know the bullets would bounce, then we have to know what the criminals were doing that attracted Superman’s attention. It’s not like Superman was flying around until he got bored then decided to go hassle some guys to see whether they’d shoot at him. No, true to their names, the bad guys were doing something bad and Superman was trying to stop them.
If the criminal were committing a major felony when Superman intervened, then the felony murder rule comes into play. Criminals who cause a death while committing a major felony like armed robbery or kidnapping – and most of the crimes in Adventures of Superman involved one or both of those; especially kidnapping Lois Lane (Adventures_of_Superman) or Jimmy Olsen (Adventures_of_Superman) – commit first degree murder under the felony murder rule. This is true whether the deceased is the original victim or a bystander.
If the underlying crime was a lesser crime that wouldn’t trigger the felony murder rule, we’re in the realm of manslaughter. In some states, like Ohio, causing a death while committing a felony or misdemeanor that didn’t trigger the felony murder rule is an involuntary manslaughter. So if the criminals were committing a minor crime and killed someone by shooting at Superman, the criminals would be guilty of an involuntary manslaughter.
But what about Superman? Can he be brought up on charges for allowing bullets to bounce off of him and strike a bystander? A criminal charge of negligent homicide could apply to a person who allows another person to die through negligence. Superman allowing bullets to bounce off him without checking to make sure other people weren’t around is probably negligent homicide, provided a prosecutor wanted to risk reelection by bringing Superman up on charges. Nowadays, to prevent the possibility of Superman negligently killing someone, Superman either melts the bullets with heat vision or plucks them out of the air.
But what if Superman intentionally kills someone by, say, snapping his neck in battle?Oh no! Once was enough. I’m not going there again!
Sorry it’s been a while. September until May constitutes a while, cause it’s a bit longer than a little while. Between out of town comic book conventions, trips to Chicago, family vacations, trips to Chicago, holidays, even more trips to Chicago – including a lengthy one to help my daughter when, first, she pulled a rib muscle and couldn’t lift her two-year-old and another lengthy one when she gave birth of my grandson – and various and sundry other sundries that I can’t talk about quite yet; I just haven’t had much time to write a column.
But I’m back with a vengeance. The vengeance being what the fine and patient folks at ComicMix will demand if I go this long between columns again. So, as the Prufrock is in the puttin’ words together; “let us go then, you and I…”
…And then they throw their guns at him.
Seriously, how many times did we see that scene play out in the Adventures of Superman TV show with George Reeves? Superman confronts some two-bit thugs – the show’s budget didn’t allow them to spend more than twenty-five cents for extras – the thugs would shoot at Superman, and the bullets would bounce off him harmlessly. Then, after the bad guys emptied their guns at Superman without effect, they’d throw their guns at him believing guns thrown at maybe 50 mph will do Superman harm when projectiles moving at 1,067 feet per second had already bounced like their last rent check.
An oft-repeated scenario which prompted one Ron Hartley to tweet me with a question: under this fact pattern, would the criminals be guilty of a crime? Not some silly low-grade crime like illegally discharging a firearm or an excessive noise violation, are they guilty of a major crime?
To which I answer, it depends. No, not because lawyers are constitutionally incapable of answering a yes or no question “yes” or “no.” I answer it depends, because the answer actually does depend on a few variables.
First, let’s zero in on of what crime might the criminals be guilty? Not murder. Superman didn’t die. But by firing their guns the criminals did commit an act which, if successful, would have resulted in killing Superman. That’s attempted murder. Then there’s some type of assault. What type? As a bar-be-cue chef who’s fond of Shakespeare might say, “Ah, there’s the rub.”
I turn to the Model Penal Code, a document written by the American Law Institute in an effort to update and unify the penal laws throughout the country. Toward that end, the MPC contains model statutes which define crimes and penalties. Since it’s first publication in 1962, more than half the states have modified their criminal codes to incorporate language of the MPC in their penal codes. So the MPC is about as close to a universal criminal law of the land as we’re likely to get.
The MPC defines aggravated assault as causing, or attempting to cause bodily harm to another with a deadly weapon. Note that attempting to cause part, that means the criminal doesn’t have to cause actual injury, the criminal can merely attempt to cause injury with a deadly weapon. So if a criminal shoots at you and misses, you’re lucky. The criminal, not so much. The criminal attempted to cause physical injury with a deadly weapon, and so is guilty of aggravated assault, even though you’re peachier than a peach cobbler washed down with peach schnapps.
To get back to our question, if criminals shoot at Superman and the bullets bounce off him, the criminals still attempted to cause bodily injury or death. So they would be guilty of aggravated assault and attempted murder. Right?
To which I say, not so fast there, Speedy Gonzalez. Like a man who leapt into a brick wall, you’re jumping to contusions.
There’s one additional matter that must be considered. We must also answer the question did the criminals know the bullets would bounce off of Superman when they shot at him?
In the law, an attempt crime – such as the attempted murders or aggravated assaults we’ve been talking about – is what the law considers a specific intent crime. In order to be guilty of an attempt, the criminal must have specifically intended to commit the crime he or she was attempting. In our Superman question, to be guilty of either attempt crime, the criminals must have either intended to kill Superman or to cause him physical harm when they shot at him.
Now we know that killing Superman with bullets is impossible, they bounce off him like raindrops on roses. (Don’t complicate the matter with hypothetical Kryptonite or magic bullets, we’re not talking about the Kennedy assassination.) So killing Superman with bullets is impossible. The law recognizes the possibility of an impossibility defense to attempt crimes. If a criminal is attempting to commit a crime that is impossible, then the criminal could not have intended a specific result, because that result is impossible.
So there you are, if the criminals were attempting the impossible crime of shooting Superman, then they can’t be guilty of attempted murder or aggravated assault. Right?
Of course, not right. Not only can’t the law can’t answer a yes or no questions “yes” or “no,” it can’t even answer it with a definite maybe. It’s got to throw in a few depends along with a perhaps or two to muddy up the maybe.
Let’s look at a classic example law schools use to explain this conundrum. A man – the criminal – shoots another man – the victim. But what if the victim was dead at the time the criminal shot him? Obviously, it’s impossible to kill a man who’s already dead. So the criminal can’t be guilty of murder. But can the criminal be guilty of attempted murder, or does the impossibility defense come into play?
The answer to that question depends on what the criminal knew at the time he shot the dead man. If the criminal knew the man was dead, then the criminal knew killing the victim was impossible. The criminal couldn’t have specifically intended to kill the victim, so the impossibility defense would apply, because the impossibility negated the defendant’s specific intent.
But what if the defendant didn’t know the victim was already dead? What if the criminal believed the victim was alive when he shot and did intend to kill the victim? Then the impossibility defense doesn’t apply.
The law reasons it out like this, if the criminal attempts an impossible crime but doesn’t know it’s impossible, then the defendant would have been successful in the crime, had the facts been as the defendant believed them to be. So, because the defendant intended to cause a specific result, the defendant is still guilty of the attempt, even though the crime attempted turned out to be impossible. If our hypothetical would-be murdered cum corpse abuser didn’t know his intended victim was already dead, he would be guilty of attempted murder.
Or, to get back to the original question, if the crooks shot at Superman knowing the bullets would bounce off of him, they might be guilty of littering for spreading spent bullets all over the place, but they wouldn’t be guilty of attempted murder or aggravated assault. They knew murder and assault was impossible so didn’t specifically intend either. If, on the other hand, the mugs didn’t know the bullets would bounce off Superman and believed the bullets either kill or injure Superman, then they’re not only stupid, they would also be guilty of attempted murder and aggravated assault. Is it any wonder that I retired from the law? After almost three decades in that morass of maybes and trying to make sense of laws that have more depends in them than a nursing home, my hair turned whiter than snow on the Night King’s butt.
If you’re of a certain generation, you remember the big summertime issues that your parents picked up for you on the way to whatever you were doing that required a long car ride to get there– comics that gave you new stories combined with older fare that brought you into a richer shared universe.
This summer, Walmart shoppers will get a chance to do that again as DC Entertainment announced today that a series of “giant” monthly comics will be sold exclusively in more than 3,000 participating Walmart stores around the country.
Available for $4.99, each 100-page anthology features all-new stories written exclusively for these books by some of DC’s top creative talents, including Tom King (BATMAN, MISTER MIRACLE, HEROES IN CRISIS), Dan Jurgens (ACTION COMICS, BATMAN BEYOND), Brian Michael Bendis (SUPERMAN, ACTION COMICS, THE MAN OF STEEL), Andy Kubert (NEW CHALLENGERS) and others. Each title will also include additional story arcs drawn from fan-favorite DC eras such as the New 52, Rebirth and the New Age of DC Heroes.
Each of the four titles – SUPERMAN GIANT, JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA GIANT, BATMAN GIANT and TEEN TITANS GIANT – will arrive in stores by July 1. Beginning in August, the Superman and Justice League of America titles will arrive in week one of each month, with the second pair, Batman and Teen Titans, arriving approximately two weeks later.
“We are extraordinarily excited about working with Walmart to expand the reach of our books,” said DC Publisher Dan DiDio. “These new monthly books combine new and accessible stories with reprints of classic comic series. It’s a great way for new readers to get into comics and follow the characters they’ve grown to love in TV and film.”
The debut title lineup includes:
SUPERMAN GIANT #1
SUPERMAN GIANT #1 features chapter one of the two-part “Endurance,” an original story written by Jimmy Palmiotti (HARLEY QUINN, ACTION COMICS) with art by Tom Derenick (HARLEY QUINN, CYBORG, BATMAN/SUPERMAN). TheDaily Planet sends Clark Kent to Tornado Alley to do a story on the area, but when the storm hits, it turns out that this mild-mannered reporter is more helpful as Superman.
The issue also includes:
THE TERRIFICS #1 (2018) – From this year’s New Age of Heroes and born of the events of DC’s hit series DARK NIGHTS: METAL. Mr. Terrific, Metamorpho, Plastic Man and Phantom Girl are a team of heroes bound together by fate and united by the spirit of exploration and discovery. Together these heroes plumb the depths of the fantastic to learn what it means to become family.
GREEN LANTERN #1 (2005) – Written by best-selling writer Geoff Johns with art by Ethan Van Sciver and Carlos Pacheco, this first chapter launches the fan-favorite three-part story “No Fear,” in which Hal Jordan makes his return to the DC Universe as the Green Lantern, casting the light of justice on the darkest corners of Space Sector 2814.
SUPERMAN/BATMAN #1 (2003) – The iconic fan-favorite story arc, “Public Enemies,” returns, courtesy of writer Jeph Loeb, with artists Ed McGuinness and Tim Sale. Batman and Superman unite when President Lex Luthor accuses the Man of Steel of a crime against humanity and assembles a top-secret team of powerhouse heroes to bring Superman in by any means necessary.
September’s SUPERMAN GIANT #3 features Eisner Award-winning writer Tom King’s first return to the Man of Steel since his poignant and heartfelt tribute story, “For Tomorrow,” in the pages of ACTION COMICS #1000. Together with DC Master Class artist Andy Kubert, this powerhouse team will take readers on a new 12-part adventure titled “Up in the Sky!” When a little girl is kidnapped and taken from Earth, Superman embarks on a galaxy-spanning mission to find the perpetrators…but has to decide what lengths he will go to in order to save one life!
TEEN TITANS GIANT #1
In this original six-part Teen Titans story by Dan Jurgens with art by Scot Eaton, Wayne Faucher and Jim Charalampidis, the Teen Titans’ pizza dinner is interrupted by the introduction of a new villain, the Disruptor. Teaming up with the Fearsome Five and working as an agent of H.I.V.E., he had one mission: kill the Teen Titans! The battle spills onto the streets of San Francisco, putting its citizens at risk, while H.I.V.E. uses this distraction to begin their plan for world conquest!
Additional issue #1 stories include:
SUPER SONS #1 (2017) – From DC’s smash-hit Rebirth event, writer Peter J. Tomasi and artist Jorge Jimenez reintroduce the sons of Superman and Batman, Jonathan Kent and Damian Wayne, in part one of “When I Grow Up.” As Robin, Damian’s more than ready to take his place at the heroes’ table and has zero plans to wait his turn. And he’s dragging Superman’s son along for the trip, whether Jon likes it or not!
SIDEWAYS #1 (2018) – Also from the New Age of Heroes, this story written by Dan DiDio with art by Kenneth Rocafort introduces fans to high schooler Derek James who, during the events of DARK NIGHTS: METAL, has acquired powers from the Dark Multiverse and stepped into the role of superhero! But when cracks begin to appear in the space-time continuum, he soon learns that with that much power comes even greater liability!
TEEN TITANS #1 (2003) – Written by best-selling author Geoff Johns with art by Mike McKone. Cyborg, Raven, Starfire and Beast Boy welcome in a new roster of young heroes to train to defend humanity—Wonder Girl, Impulse and a Superboy who’s been cloned from Superman’s DNA!
BATMAN GIANT #1
Batman is on the case of a missing girl in “One More Chance,” an all-new story by writer Jimmy Palmiotti and artist Patrick “Patch” Zircher. Batman is the world’s greatest detective, but what happens when the trail in his newest case leads him back to a place from his past that he never expected to revisit?
BATMAN GIANT #1 also includes:
BATMAN #608 (2002) – Written by Jeph Loeb with art by comics icon Jim Lee, issue #608 kicks off “Batman: Hush,” one of the most popular storylines in the Dark Knight’s fabled history. When Batman sets out to unmask the mystery character wreaking havoc in his life, he teams up with an unexpected ally (Catwoman) and finds himself facing off against not only his deadliest foes, but some of the toughest characters in the DC Universe, including Poison Ivy, Killer Croc and even Superman!
NIGHTWING #1 (2011) – From DC’s New 52, this story by writer Kyle Higgins and artist Eddy Barrows debuted a new look for Dick Grayson as he dives into a tale of murder, mystery and superhuman evil against the backdrop of Haley’s Circus, the place that started him on his path from acrobat to orphan to sidekick and ultimately superhero!
HARLEY QUINN #1 (2011) – Also from the New 52, writer Jimmy Palmiotti and artist Amanda Conner break Harley Quinn out of The Joker’s shadow with all the force of a giant mallet!
Beginning with BATMAN GIANT #3 in September, superstar writer Brian Michael Bendis makes his DC debut on the Dark Knight with a 12-part story, “Universe.” Batman’s run-in with the Riddler leads the Caped Crusader into a mystery that spans the globe!
JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA GIANT #1
Justice League member Wonder Woman is spotlighted in “The Conversion,” an all-new story from NIGHTWING writer Tim Seeley and artists Rick Leonardi and Steve Buccellato. In this single-issue story, Wonder Woman comes face to face with Ares, god of war—who sees her as a promising new recruit!
JUSTICE LEAGUE GIANT #1 also includes:
JUSTICE LEAGUE #1 (2011) – From the incomparable team of writer Geoff Johns and artist Jim Lee comes this version of the League from the New 52. In this alternative spin on the union of Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg, superheroes are a strange and new phenomenon. The mysterious Batman discovers a dark evil that requires him to unite these reluctant heroes to protect Earth from a cosmic-level threat!
THE FLASH #1 (2011) – In this New 52 version of the Fastest Man Alive, writer Brian Buccellato and artist Francis Manapul introduce Barry Allen to a villain who not only can be everywhere at once, but is also a close friend of the Scarlet Speedster!
AQUAMAN #1 (2011) – Award-winning writer Geoff Johns and dynamic artist Ivan Reis team up on this story from the New 52! Aquaman has given up the throne of Atlantis, but the sea still has plans for Arthur Curry as a broken race of undersea creatures, the Trench, emerges from the ocean depths, bent on destroying the surface world!
In issue #2, Seeley teams up with artists Felipe Watanabe and Chris Sotomayor on “Mother’s Day,” a stand-alone story where Wonder Woman returns to Paradise Island for the first time since her exile, only to find that the Amazons – and Queen Hippolyta – have been abducted by Echidna, the mythological Mother of Monsters, with a brood of unstoppable beasts as children!
Issue #3 begins another original 12-part Wonder Woman story by HARLEY QUINN co-writers Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti called “Come Back to Me.” When Steve Trevor’s plane crashes on an island outside of time itself, it’s up to Wonder Woman to rescue him from this mysterious land, full of monsters, dinosaurs and some very surprising citizens.
Somewhere around the mid-point of one of the chaotic action sequences in Justice League, a thought echoed in my head. “Avengers was better. I know it was. But why?” Put a pin in that.
And while we’re at it, consider this the blanket SPOILER ALERT. I’m not going to be holding back on plot points and such.
Justice League was a solid effort to continue DC’s course correction. Full stop. The flick tries hard to shake itself of its sullen feeder-films – save for Wonder Woman, which wasn’t downtrodden at all – and ultimately sticks the landing by final credit roll. Over the course of two hours (and change), Zach Snyder, Joss Whedon, and Chris Terrio assemble their (kinda) Lanternless league efficiently. The threat is worthy of the big bangers of the DC(E)U. The quips and sardonic looks feel well-worn and dare I say earned.
So why did the entire movie leave me feeling an uneasy mélange of contentedness balanced equally with ennui? I mean, Rao-be-damned, the movie just made me use the word ennui!
When I noted the efficient assemblage of the titular superteam, it comes couched with a cacophony of caveats. Our introduction to Barry Allen / The Flash seems to speed through his origin in a manner sans-irony given his power set. While he’d been on the fringes of Batman v Superman, we’ve been granted no real anchor to his character by the time he’s donning his car-wreck of a costume. It’s all flashes of awkward Big Bang Theory Sheldonisms smashed on top of tearful angst over the incarceration of Henry Allen. Late in the film, he shares a moment (one of the better exchanges, I should add) with Victor Stone / Cyborg, declaring they are the accidents. But because it comes so late – during the predictable recuperation of the nearly-defeated team scene (that all superhero team movies need, I guess) – it just feels like a tacked-on bon mot, instead of a necessary moment of respite.
And what of the aforementioned Mr. Stone? He’s Deus Ex Machina – ironically, figuratively, and literally. He’s given what might best be described as the affirmative action gift of the longest origin of the group, but never are we invited in the mind of the part-man-part-machine. Stone is stone-faced essentially for the length of Justice League, removing every ounce of characterization Khary Payton has been investing into Cyborg since 2003. When Cyborg of Justice League mutters a soft-spoken Booyah, it comes with the tenacity of a wet fart – meant only as lip-service, not fan-service.
And then we have Aquaman by way of the Abercrombie shirtless collection. WWE’s Roman Reigns, err, Jason Momoa exists as multiverse variant of Arthur Curry so devoid of the traits I’d long associated with the character, I all but abandoned any known factoids of the comic book original minutes into his first scene opposite Bruce Wayne – who himself was enjoying his take on the Fall Hugo Boss collection. Their shared scene, the one you no doubt saw in the trailers and commercials, sets us up for the League’s water-based warrior. He’s a hard-drinking, hard-fighting, surfer-lone-wolf with a pitchfork and a chip on his shoulder. His origin isn’t really told so much as it is scribbled, child-like, on a bar wall, and then half-dialogue-vomited in an appropriately confusing underwater scene. Verily.
Reading through my last few paragraphs may make you believe I utterly loathed Justice League. But you’d be wrong. For every dour note I left the theater with, came an equal smirk of joy overseeing the goodness that Snyder actually captured. Superman, after two incredibly dark films finally is presented the way we want him to be. Full of hope, love, and swagger. Wonder Woman continues to be the best female protagonist in comic book films by several levels of magnitude. And Batman? He’s rich. He’s funny when he wants to be. Believably human. And hilariously voice-modulated. All that, and we didn’t get any meaningless self-sacrifices, or fighting a giant blue sky-beam. Heck, the stinger at the end of the film even got me to clap.
So, why then, did I inevitably wind up in an Avengers conundrum? It stands to note that there’s no way to ignore that Marvel assembled their uber-team successfully a full five-years ago. And by the time it made its way to the movieplex, had given the general teeming masses of newly minted fanboys (and girls) time to live with the main members of their cast (Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor primarily). Because the feeder films (Iron Man, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Thor) had all been well-received, there was a feeling of earned glee when the Avengers coalesced to punch mindless CGI aliens for forty minutes. In contrast, Justice League carries with it the weight of mismanaged and darkly derided prequels (minus Wonder Woman), and oozes desperation from its pores. It’s cut-to-shreds-by-committee, and feels as such. Avengers was lived in. Justice League came across like a wrongly-coined #MeToo.
But perhaps, there exists a silver lining amidst my kvetching. Justice League did leave me excited for what was to come. And it’s that feeling above any others that leaves my eyes on the horizon for the pantheon of DC superheroes… rather than the floor in collective shame.
As of my typing up this column, DC Comics employee of over twenty years and Superman Group Editor Eddie Berganza has been fired from the company in relation to the sexual harassment and assault allegations raised against him for nearly a decade. This is in large part due to the Buzzfeed article that hit this past Friday, the amazing journalism of Jessica Testa, Tyler Kingkade, and Jay Edidin, former DC editorial staffers Janelle Asselin and Liz Gehrlein Marsham for speaking to Buzzfeed on the record, and all of the other victims who spoke anonymously out of fear of the very real fear of retribution. Since the release of that article, Molly McIsaac has also come forward about her encounter with Eddie Berganza’s sexual harassment.
Many people are rightfully asking why did it take so long remove Berganza when his sexually abusive behavior has been an open secret for nearly a decade? For better or worse, the answer is that in a post Weinstein world we are taking these accusations more seriously. This happened because Buzzfeed reported on it. When people tried to put pressure on DC Comics to act in April of 2016 in the aftermath of Shelly Bond’s dismissal – including myself – it wasn’t taken seriously outside of comics press and the story died in the wake of Dan Didio deleting his Twitter account and DC Entertainment honcho Diane Nelson sending out a memo assuring us that DC Entertainment cares about the safety of their employees. The memo didn’t even mention Berganza’s name. It was a heavy slap in the face to comics journalist, pros and fans all over that helped to reassert the notion that victims are the problem and abusers will always be protected until it is absolutely impossible to continue protecting them.
Make no mistake; DC Comics did what it did because there was absolutely no way to continue protecting Eddie Berganza.
As of my writing this, DC Comics has not addressed Bob Harras’ role in seemingly and allegedly ignoring filed complaints with HR and assisting in Berganza’s rise in the company at the expense of many women within DC and countless more that were denied opportunities as a result of his continued employment or didn’t even attempt to throw their hat in the ring because of Berganza’s presence. Nothing will salvage the comics careers of all of those women, some we know and some we don’t, who fell in love with these adored characters as kids and grew up to learn that you would need to be willing to endure sexual harassment, propositions, and compromising your ethics to work in – of all places – the Superman office.
And Eddie Berganza isn’t the only person to make that statement true.
An open letter to Dan Didio has been circulating for over a week that not only brings up Berganza, but Mike Carlin, as a known harasser that inappropriately touched a female staffer. Like Eddie, Mike has been both a Superman Group Editor and an Executive Editor at DC Comics with his greatest achievement being The Death of Superman. Mike Carlin’s name is printed in literally millions upon millions of comics. He’s had lines wrapped around stores waiting for his signature. Unlike Eddie, Mike was able to allegedly harass his way to further promotions. He was promoted out of the comics division and currently works as the Creative Director of Animation for DC Entertainment. As of this writing this there has been no indication that Bob Harras covering for Eddie Berganza or Mike Carlin’s alleged harassment are being looked into.
Comics professionals including Rafael Albuquerque, Gail Simone, Cliff Chiang, Tee Franklin, Lilah Sturges, Sophie Campbell, Tony Isabella, Kurt Busiek, Tini Howard, Sina Grace, Kate Leth, Amy Chu, Tamra Bonvillain, Joshua Hale Fialkov, Christopher Sebela, Matthew Rosenberg, Kwanza Osajyefo, Tess Fowler, Mark Waid, and so many more stepped up to make their voices heard in the aftermath of the Buzzfeed article dropping on Friday. This is important not only because we should be standing up for victims of abuse, but because comics professionals are terrified of retaliation against them by DC Comics.
I want to make this crystal clear to people reading, as fans and casual readers may not be aware of or understand the reality of all of this. Speaking out against the brass is more than looked down upon; it’s disqualifying. Rafael Albuquerque mentions this in his statement on Berganza. Other professionals including Kwanza made it crystal clear on Twitter that speaking out could mean getting blacklisted, but it would be hard if we all ban together. Maybe in a post Weinstein world speaking out to defend victims won’t get you blacklisted like it has in the past to rising stars like Nancy Collins, but I talked to many comics professionals off the record during all of this with Berganza and many freelancers are still terrified. That should be alarming, but also sobering to everyone reading this that standing up against serial sexual assaulters can lose you work, but turning a blind eye to victims can get you a gig on a Superman book.
We might have the power now to change the dynamics at DC Comics and much of the rest of the entertainment industry if not all industries. We may be at a tipping point where we will no longer be a society that protects abusers, but rather one that stands up for victims. We need to be that society, and we may not be there just yet but we might be close. The only way we can do it is if we stand together. They can’t blacklist us if we all protect each other.
So look: we’re all part of the same whole, right? I mean, we can all trace our origins to the same big bang, between 13,000,000 and 14,000,000 million years ago, give or take a few calendar pages, so I shouldn’t have to perform mental/verbal gymnastics to convince you that radio drama has a relationship with comic book scripting, beyond the obvious, that both are what Stephen King calls story delivery systems.
But there may be a few gnarlys lurking in the crannies of bandwidth who present themselves as doubters. We shall let them continue gnawing on fish bones when I sweep you back some 68 (again giving or taking some of those pesky calendar pages — but much smaller calendar pages this time).
It’s me, there in the kitchen, standing on a chair so I can reach Mom’s white plastic radio which lived atop the refrigerator, also white and sometimes called the “icebox.” I was listening to – I was heeding – my programs. Superman. (Of course, Superman!) Captain Midnight. Buck Rogers. Tom Mix. (He was a cowboy, and of course we made room for cowboys.) These, and others I may be forgetting were after school shows, broadcast on weekdays between four and six.
I heeded them. Oh, yeah.
The radio stuff wasn’t all that was in my post-toddler portfolio. There were also the comic books and some weeks I got only one, largesse from Dad who picked it up along with milk for the family after Sunday Mass. Some weeks, though, I had a lot more than a single paltry comic to read. Every once in a while, often on a sunny afternoon, I collected my used comics, put them in a wagon and visited the homes of the other kid-comics readers in the neighborhood and, sitting on somebody’s porch, we’d trade: their used and maybe slightly torn comics for mine. Our books were never doomed to Mylar bags, to be hoarded like the contents of Uncle Scrooge’s vault. Our comics were only getting started! They were destined to extend their gifts of enchantment and delight into the future, to porches we had never seen and maybe even city blocks that would be new to us.
So, yes, I was a comics nerd before there were such things. But… except for the days when I went a’trading, I had only one new comic in a week. Pretty sparse diet of high adventure. But radio – Monday through Friday, exciting stories – and a bunch of them. Sure, they were continued but I didn’t mind that, and I didn’t know what the characters looked like (unless they also appeared in comics) but that was okay, too.
Better than okay. Not seeing the humans who belonged to the voices, I visualized them – you know, made them up in my head – and while I was at it, I imagined cars and planes and buildings and lots more. I imagined a world.
Pretty good training for a kid who would grow up to be a comic book writer.
I’ve been a fan of Superman since I was a wee lass – ever since watching that first Christopher Reeve Superman movie on TV. While the X-Men are relatable and Batman is cool and Deadpool is dark yet hilarious, Superman remains the ideal – the symbol of hope and the hero we should all strive to be.
I haven’t watched or read every shred of Superman that’s ever been produced, but I have consumed quite a lot of it; and even when I consider a particular portrayal to be an utter failure to embody Superman (hello, Man of Steel!!), I’m always willing to give the next iteration a chance. I mean, hey – how can you call yourself a Superman fan if you don’t have hope?
But with all the Superman that’s out there, there’s one part of the lore we hear about but still don’t generally see much of – a place that’s almost as much of a mystery to Clark Kent as it is to us. It’s the place of his birth – Krypton. Since a foundation point of the Superman mythos is that it was destroyed as he flew away from Krypton as the last survivor, it makes sense that we don’t often get to experience it in depth. Sure, we’ve seen flashbacks, and alternate universe versions, and the bottle city of Kandor; but we haven’t really lived and breathed Krypton.
The planet and culture have always fascinated me – when creators do approach or reference it, its laws and customs are often portrayed as stern and unyielding, despite its supposed advances in being civilized (and in the sciences particularly). As a lawyer and political theorist, I’m always interested in how societies are structured – and the success or failure of said structures. Not to mention it’s just plain cool to see a fully envisioned alien culture. I do sometimes feel that no one has quite done it justice yet; which isn’t surprising, since Clark Kent and Superman, not Krypton, are by default the focus of Superman stories.
For all the faults I found with Man of Steel (and I mean alllllll the faults. So many faults. Let me count the faults.) one thing I did like in that movie was the glimpse we got of that movie’s vision of Krypton. So I’m definitely interested in another modern take on the planet.
The upcoming Krypton show, which is coming to SyFy in 2018, aims to give us just that. It does have a serious challenge to overcome – giving us a version of Krypton and its inhabitants that both fits with why fans like Superman and also invests us in the fate of the pre-Superman alien culture and family. Given all the times Clark Kent’s human upbringing have been contrasted with the Kryptonian way of doing things, that may be a difficult bridge to cross – but I am more than willing to start that journey with the cast and crew and see where it goes.
Although SDCC saw the very first reveals about the show and thus there were some things we couldn’t yet discuss, I had a great chat with series star Cameron Cuffe (Seyg-El) and Executive Producers Damian Kindler and Cameron Welsh.
They shared what their vision for this (old) new world is like, what characters we’ll be seeing, and how they approach the House of El.
And happily, I can share that with you too.
Check out the interviews below for more Krypton details. And as always, until next time, Servo Lectio!
Look, over there – isn’t that Charlie Brown’s pal Linus, belly crawling through the pumpkin patch? No, not Linus, but somebody who’s awfully familiar. Let’s get closer and… Rats! Do you believe that?
It’s me, looking the way I look in photographs Mom used to keep in a chest of drawers – that is, like a skinny eight-year-old. And now I’m getting up, rising from the pumpkin patch like some pagan deity.
The question is, where will I be when I’m finally on my feet? Oh, the suspense is killing us! Okay, okay, maybe not killing us, but… I don’t know. Making us feel queasy?
Table that for now and have a look around. I’ve been here before, but when?
And suddenly I’m gobsmacked! Because I’m in the small store Dad and I stopped at after Sunday Mass that sold bread and milk and stuff like that and comic books and – omygosh!, isn’t Superman #96? That’ll be worth a pretty penny on the collectors’ market.
Except that it won’t. In this reality, there are no collectors and so in this realty Supes 96 is worth the dime that is the asking price of most comics and… just exactly what is going on here?
The faithful among you may recall that some weeks back I mentioned “browsing” and sort of half-suggested that I might revisit the subject. Welcome to Revisitation Junction. And here we find young Dennis in progress, reaching for a copy of The Sub-Mariner and a cosmic page is turned – a cosmic reality that would be and our young time traveler
Is not so young and he’s still reaching for the Superman, but now the location is different; this store is very large and filled with all kinds of merchandise and the comic books are displayed on a wire rack that revolves and let us now pause and bow to the wondrous wire racks of my youth.
Brace for the turning of a cosmic page and –
Dennis doesn’t like where he is: what must be a bus depot in a large city. He’s wearing a Navy uniform (isn’t that a surprise!) The air stinks of cigarette smoke, the floor is encrusted with something black and probably lethal, and the comics in front of him are displayed in another wire rack, this one wide and flat, pushed against a wall. The whole scene is dirty and cold and depressing.
Join me in the turning of a cosmic page and –
Big contrast to the last destination. A very nice shop. Clean and well-lighted. Pleasant and comfortable. And full of comic books, some in foreign languages, and almost nothing else.
So. A shop that sells onlycomics. Has he somehow stumbled into some kind of science fiction?
What the heck! Maybe the best move is to go back to where it all started. Maybe this time he’ll run into Linus.