Tagged: Wally West

Marc Alan Fishman: A Tale of Two Flashes

Flash Rebirth

DC’s Rebirth brings with it a commitment to the tenents of the brand before things got overtly grim and gritty. No better examples crossed my desk this past week – opening up my now monthly shipped comic pack – than Titans and The Flash. Forgive me, I’m not actually sure if they are supposed to be preceded or followed by the Rebirth moniker… the shop keep explained it to me a week ago, and I honestly don’t even remember now. But no bother. Each issue was read and absorbed, and I’m here to finally say the words:

DC put out some great comics.

Titans directly follows the Rebirth one-shot reintroduction to the DCU from a few weeks back. As you’ll recall that’s where (SPOILER ALERT) we learned the Watchmen may be big baddies in this new version of the DCU, that there’s up to three Jokers running around, and the Nehru collar is slowly falling out of style. But most importantly: Wally West has returned from the void that swallowed him whole during the now-defunct New52.

For a first issue, Titans takes things aggressively slow. In antitheses to the norm of #1 issues, here we get basically just a single drawn-out scene. Wally has returned to Titans Tower – err – Apartment, to gather intel on his former team. Nightwing immediately springs forth from the dark to fight the would-be intruder. A few panels – and one big shock – later, Dick Grayson remembers his fast friend. Not long after that, a similarly paced intro-fight-shock-apology occurs with each of the remaining Titans (in this iteration we have Nightwing, Arsenal, Garth, Donna Troy, and Lilith). A couple of hugs and exposition about a potential big bad to hunt down, and the issue is donezo.

The Flash reintroduces Barry Allen to all, by way of a more rote version of his well-treaded backstory. Taking cues from the recent TV series, our definitive origin is now this: Barry witnessing the murder of his mom when he was 7, by Professor Zoom. His father is incarcerated for the murder, and Barry spends his days eventually exposing and incarcerating Zoom at Iron Heights. Barry is still CSI, under TV-guided Captain Singh. The issue pulls a bit of a wink and nod by starting us off at this familiar crime scene; a murdered mother, a father to blame, a child who watched it all. But this isn’t Barry Allen’s backstory. It’s present day, where he’s tending to a new case in Central City. And with his lab equipment churning away, Barry takes to the streets.

We’re caught up to the Rebirthening of Wally West, but this time from Barry’s perspective. After a similar explanation of the potential big bad, Barry splits from his protege to continue in his own way. He runs to the other top CSI in the DCU; Batman. From there, a quick reset of known facts (Comedian’s bloodied pin, visions of speedsters, mentions of time bandits…), a cliffhanger to chew on, and the issue ties itself up in a neat bow.

Beyond the snarky synopsis though, both of these books peel back the words of Geoff Johns not more than a few weeks back. As I’d snarked about previously, the DCU creative powerhaus incarnate took umbrage towards the cynical and cyclical nature of the brand he himself represented. He appealed to the baser instincts of the DCU: to celebrate heroism and optimism over real-world issues and the doldrum of continually modernized comic canon. At the time, I scoffed. In fact, if you go back and read my words, I vowed to continue to ban my enjoyment of their (and Marvel’s) books! But somehow, like a jilted ex, I couldn’t quit on comics. And while neither Titans or Flash were perfect… they were what was promised.

While we’re still very high above the week-to-week gestalt of what all DC is trying to prove with their Rebirth movement. But if the aforementioned issues are the spark to ignite the new wave of pulp, then I’m very much game for the future. Even with the imminent threat of further dragging down Alan Moore’s creation into the mire of pop-cannon or the threat of unknown Speed Force demons, it’s hard to finish either opening salvo and not walk away with a smile. Titans overtly celebrated friendship and the makeshift families we build for ourselves – through the lens of a formerly hokey after-school superhero club. Flash begins right where the New52 left us off – angry, depressed, embittered – before pivoting towards hope, rationality, and the teaming up of dissimilar heroes working towards a common goal.

Suffice to say I’m timidly optimistic myself. While he didn’t pen either issue, I feel as if I owe Mr. Johns a drink the next time we cross paths. Granted it won’t ever happen… but I’ll be damned if I don’t owe it to him anyways. The future is bright once again.

And that is a Flash Fact.

Mindy Newell: Hard Labor

DC_Rebirth_PreviewsCVR_marquee_570c4aca6f05f2.91744031

So Mike Gold, our old and grumpy and sly editor, threw down the gauntlet last week, challenging the marvelous Marc Fishman and the grammatically incorrect me to read the same comic and opine on it. That comic was DC Rebirth #1, the umpteenth revision of the company’s four-color mythos. Marc had his turn on Saturday. Today is mine.

Unlike Marc, I didn’t have travel a long and hard road 45 minutes from my suburban home to another suburb “to make a transaction.” Unlike Marc, I live in a city and the nearest comics store is three blocks away. However, I’m not a particular fan of this four-color emporium – I used to have a fantastic shop six blocks away where I browsed and hung out and bought for many decades, but it closed because of the owner’s illness – so I downloaded and read the e-comic version.

First the positives:

The artwork, by Gary Frank, Phil Jimenez, Ivan Reis, Ethan Van Sciver, Brad Anderson, Jason Wright, Joe Prado, Matt Santorelli, Gabe Eltaeb, and Hi-Fi Colorists, is brilliant, breathtaking, and inspiring. It’s clean, it’s sharp, and it’s spectacular. The storytelling is so fantastically good that no writing is even necessary to follow the story, and every emotional nuance is there in the faces of every single character, from cameos to supporting characters to the “all-stars.”

That writing, by Geoff Johns, is no less than anyone would or could expect from a man who is a master of his craft. As Marc said, and as I concur, “Geoff [Johns] made his career (in my humble opinion) – and also im-not-so-ho, and c’mon Marc, don’t be so modest or polite! – on harnessing emotion and sewing it into the rich tapestry of DC’s long-standing continuity.” Geoff also has the writer’s gift of building tension, that all-so-important command of plot that keeps the readers engaged and turning pages, while not forgetting those common-to-us-all integral and humane emotions that unite us with our fictional avatars, doppelgangers, and heroes.

And weaving through all of this is an understanding of the complexity of the DC universe since the hallowed days of Crisis on Infinite Earths collapsed it all into a ball of wax, and playing on his loom to bring it all back into one single tapestry.

B-I-G! S-P-O-I-L-E-R! C-O-M-I-N-G! U-P! S-O! S-T-O-P! R-E-A-D-I-N-G! N-O-W! O-R! T-O-U-G-H! L-U-C-K!

The climatic and emotional moment in which Wally West reconnects with Barry Allen, his uncle, his idol, and his mentor, is so! right-on! bro! that even I, jaded and cynical and world-weary, felt a wee bit of the emotional lumping in throat. Barry Allen was the Flash I knew and loved, the symbol of the Silver Age of DC, that – if you’ll excuse the expression – golden era of my life in which I discovered and fell in love with comics and their universes of imagination and adventure.

His was the lynchpin that kept it all together, and when that lynchpin was pulled from its place, it all fell apart for me. Supergirl was gone, the Legion of Super-Heroes were strangers, and Superman and his family (Superboy, Krypto, Ma and Pa Kent, Lois, Perry, Jimmy, Lana, Lex Luthor, Lori Lemaris, Lyla Lerrol, Jor-el, Lara, Lex Luthor, Lena Thorul, everyone! – along with his hereditary planet of Krypton, were all just one disjointed mess of a fallen soufflé. It was, in too many ways, just one big funeral.

Okay, here come the negatives.

Though I realize for purposes of plot, for purposes of story, for emotional climatic wallop, and for purposes of cleaning up the mess of the fallen soufflé that the DC Universe has become, it was (and is) necessary for ReBirth #1 to wind its way through the many layers of said soufflé, giving acknowledgement to everything that has come since 1985 and Crisisespecially the “Dreary52.”

However, the almost biggest pitfall of the storyline is that Wally, struggling to survive in and escape from the Speed Force before he succumbs to death, isn’t immediately drawn to the man who gave him everything that he was and became, not only as a man, but as Kid Flash and then as the Flash. Given that it is this rich, undying love and bond between the two that saves both Wally and Barry from the Anonymous “what and who” that threatens on the nearing horizon, it just doesn’t make sense.

If the answer to the “Big Bad” is, as Marc said (and to paraphrase) “hope, optimism, love, friendship, kindness, and heroism,” then doesn’t it seem that all of Wally’s attempts to “reach out and touch someone” are useless fodder that merely stuffs 81 pages with folderol? As I read it, it is really Wally’s soul, not truly his physical body, his very being, that is being torn apart and filtered into the Speed Force (art not withstanding); and if that being does not want to go, fights for survival, would not it first and foremost search for that anchor which means the most to it, that gave it meaning to exist in the very, very, very, very first place?

But of course that would have been a different story.

My absolute B-I-G-G-E-S-T problem with the story is the inclusion of the Watchmen. Okay, okay, I know, all we see is the blood-dropped Smiley Face. But Watchmen was, and is, a singular novel, existing outside the DC Universe – in fact, it was Alan Moore’s adaptation of the old heroes of Charlton Comics which had been acquired by DC Comics. It had, and has, absolutely nothing at all to do with the mythos of the DC universe. It stood, and stands, on its own, and is considered by many critics as one of significant works of the 20th century. It was chosen by Time Magazine as one of the “All-Time Novels” published since the magazine’s founding in 1923. Here is what critic Lev Grossman wrote when the list was published in 2010:

 “Watchmen is a graphic novel – a book-length comic book with ambitions above its station – starring a ragbag of bizarre, damaged, retired superheroes: the paunchy, melancholic Nite Owl; the raving doomsayer Rorschach; the blue, glowing, near-omnipotent, no-longer-human Doctor Manhattan. Though their heyday is past, these former crime-fighters are drawn back into action by the murder of a former teammate, The Comedian, which turns out to be the leading edge of a much wider, more disturbing conspiracy. Told with ruthless psychological realism, in fugal, overlapping plotlines and gorgeous, cinematic panels rich with repeating motifs, Watchmen is a heart-pounding, heartbreaking read and a watershed in the evolution of a young medium.”

And though, yes, Time Magazine is part and parcel of that “huuuuge” – I just had to get my Trump dig in – mammoth known as Time-Warner, of which DC Comics is also a flea in that mammoth’s wooly hide, it’s pick to be on that list was not influenced by its publishing house. There are many books on that list without “Warner Publishing” on their copyright pages.

It is crass and mercenary to me, not to mention oh-so unimaginative, that DC has the chutzpah to claim literary ownership (if not copyright rights) to a work that is included with such masterpieces and classics as Animal Farm; To Kill a Mockingbird; The Great Gatsby; The Grapes of Wrath; One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; On the Road; Mrs. Dalloway; Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret; and Beloved.

Blood-spattered Smiley Face also telegraphs to me that the “Big Bad” will have something to do with the machinations of Adrian Veidt, a.k.a. Ozymandias, of whom Dave Gibbons, artist of Watchmen, said: “One of the worst of his sins [is] kind of looking down on the rest of humanity, scorning the rest of humanity.”

Hmm. If I may digress here for another moment of Trump-O-Rama: “Sounds familiar.”

*sigh* Sorry, Wally. Sorry, Barry. I’m feeling jaded, cynical, and world-weary again.

Marc Alan Fishman: DC Rebirth Saved Me

rebirth

Followers of this column are about to do a double take. They will question my sanity, my constitution, and whether I’m now a pod-person. But, heed my words, for they are true.

I traveled a long and hard road from my suburban home 45 minutes north to a different suburb so that I could make a transaction I’d honestly figured I wouldn’t make for years to come. After giving up mainstream comics (and weekly comic purchases) for two years, I handed over three bucks and picked up DC Universe Rebirth.

And I loved it.

Stop laughing at me.

In all the lead up to the big epic oh my Rao event I may have said a few … ahem… embittered words over the whole announcement. And to be fair, a lot of my points will remain valid in spite of my newfound like of Geoff Johns’ epic apology for the New52. It’s still a return to event-driven sales spikes, resetting books once again to #1, and making all of comic book fandom play a rousing game of WTF when it comes to figuring out what actually happened in continuity and what didn’t. But it doesn’t serve me anymore to deal in the macro. Let me crack open the book and figure out how Johns served me a plate of raw crow and I lapped it up like… oh, whatever eats a crow quickly.

Geoff Johns made his career (in my humble opinion) on harnessing emotion and sewing it into the rich tapestry of DC’s long-standing continuity. As he elevated the JSA, the Flash, Green Lantern, and other then-off-in-the-margin players through the DCU, Johns maintained a through-line of optimism… until Flashpoint. As the start of the New52 directive, Johns helped usher in the new era of DC Continuity, one meant to gel better with various other media properties, update languishing characters, and scrubbing off the dirt of one or two many crises. But in doing so, the New52 embraced the dour side of the DCU. Suddenly everything seemingly needed to carry a hipster-sheen and a splash of fuck you to it.

Rebirth acknowledges this and takes a smart step back. We’re reintroduced to the lost Wally West, and are given him as the anchor to whatever this new future holds. Across four chapters and the epilogue Wally searches for a single soul who can actually remember him. As the speed force (a penciling, inking, and coloring nightmare of a deus ex machina if ever there was one) threatens to tear Wally apart and disperse him to the next would-be speedster, we relive his complicated backstory in between scenes and snippets in the current continuity. And as Johns has relished in it before, again everything feels earned, and intelligently aligned.

Wally feels as if the world has simply forgotten emotions, states of being, and relationships. His attempt at anchoring to Batman (the clear progeny of analysis and logic) fails. A trip to visit the once-wielder of the Thunderbolt is met with confusion and fear, proving that legacy is no tether either. We’re even goaded into believing in the power of love, only to see Linda Park rebuke a waning Wally. It’s almost gut wrenching. Wally West, once a ward, then the hero… finally gives abandons hope.

And then Wally heads home for a final goodbye with the man who’d started it all. Barry Allen.

What follows between the two of them is a scene so potent I can’t do it justice in description. Johns and his cadre of astounding artists produced tears in my eyes over the bond between fictional characters I don’t even care that much about. While I do love (and own) Johns’ entire run on The Flash I’ve never claimed more than a passing fondness for the scarlet speedster(s). But here, across 60 sum pages, I’m now looking for the local chapter of the Speed Force Anonymous.

Hello, my name is Marc Alan Fishman, and I think I love the Flash. All of them.

But, even moreso, I love hope. Optimism. Love. Friendship. Kindness. Heroism. Everything I’d stopped seeing two years ago when I gave up comics. Here in Rebirth, I got it all back in spades, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t begrudgingly call the shop after finishing it to subscribe to a few books a month. More on that in future columns. Rebirth as a single stand-alone issue suffers only from the fact that it is meant as a one-and-done precursor, spinning off into 20+ books in the included checklist. This is where my review ends and the snark reemerges. Left to his own devices and narrative, Geoff Johns weaved a wonderful – dare I say masterful – tale. But in the context of the epic event, we’re still crushed under the weight of publishing profit mandates. The end of the issue is well earned, but truly to be continued. And ain’t no way I’m continuing it to the tune of that many new books.

But you see, fellow readers of Rebirth, you are likely asking… what of the 500-pound blue, naked elephant in the room – well, actually, Mars.

I’m going to leave you here, and politely toss the gauntlet of coverage to my ComicMix cohort, the magnificent Mindy Newell. Until next time, I’m your humbled and humiliated comic reader once again.

Marc Alan Fishman: In Defense of the Modern Comic, Part 1

Once again, my Facebook friend Jim Engel tipped me off to another jumping-on point for a rant. I think I owe him a Coke. Seems someone at the Wall Street Journal perked up at the news that the Avengers crossed the bajillion bucks meter, and it stemmed a very obvious question: If the movie is that popular, shouldn’t there be some kind of carry-over to the parent media? And the simple answer is one we comic fans hate to admit: Ain’t no carry-over cash coming through the doors of the local comic shop over this (or any other) movie. So the WSJ writer, one Tim Marchman, decided to take his book review of “Leaping Tall Buildings” and turn it into a tirade on the industry  I want so badly to call home. Now don’t get me wrong, Marchman makes a few solid points. OK, he makes a lot of them. But I know you guys like me when I’m pissy… And one point in particular boils my blood faster than Wally West got eliminated from the New 52:

“If no cultural barrier prevents a public that clearly loves its superheroes from picking up a new Avengers comic, why don’t more people do so? The main reasons are obvious: It is for sale not in a real bookstore but in a specialty shop, and it is clumsily drawn, poorly written and incomprehensible to anyone not steeped in years of arcane mythology.”

First off? On behalf of the industry as a whole? Fuck you. And normally I refrain from the potty mouth, but here is one occasion I feel damned correct in using it. Second, let me clarify where my anger lies. I agree with him about location. The local comic shop is indeed a specialty store. One that carries a stigma of exclusivity that can’t be broken, except on very rare occasion. Most comic shops try hard to throw open their doors to the general public in hopes of enticing them in with their fictiony wares, but the general public doesn’t look to consume their books off the shelf anymore. Ask Borders. But I digress.

I won’t even argue his point about continuity. I could easily argue that, mind you, and if people respond violently enough to this article I may talk about it in a few weeks. Suffice to say, yes, it’s a big barrier to entry. Anyone walking in, fresh out of the theater, would be hard pressed to know where exactly to start reading an Avengers comic. The movie-roster tie-in isn’t well-liked by any reviewer, and the modern Bendis epic-arcs (Disassembled, Civil War, Dark Reign, etc.) are amazingly dense with history. Enough at least to perhaps scare off someone from really taking a leap of literary faith. Again, I digress.

The jab Marchman takes specifically toward the “Clumsily Drawn” aspect of modern comics. Frankly, I don’t get where he’s coming from.

Let’s talk about those clumsy drawings he’s obviously so urped by. Take a look across the racks of your local comic store. Do you see what I see? I see a breadth of styles more diverse than any other period of comic book publishing. Do you think, even for a nano-second, that years ago you’d see Travel Foreman’s sketchy macabre style sharing shelf space with Mobius-inspired types like Frank Quitely and Chris Burnham? Or the crisp and clean lines of the Dodsons bunked-up nice and cosy next to the loose and energetic John Romita, Jr.? No. You’d get 17 Rob Liefeld clones boasting whips, chains, impossible guns, and thigh pouches. Go back to the 80’s? You’d get a sea of house-styled Neal Adams / Dave Gibbons / George Pérez wanna-bees and an occasional Bill Sienkiewicz or Frank Miller thrown in.

I truly believe we are in an amazing time for comic book art. Artists and editors are finding a real balance between new styles, and composition to tell a story. Not every book is perfect mind you (and yes, there is still a house style to both Marvel and DC… but assuredly not as rigid as it once was). On the whole, a comic off the rack today has more chance of being an original artistic statement than a commanded tracing of “something that sells.” While comic sales have plummeted from the false peaks of the 90’s… I truly doubt it is the fault of the art on hand. Well, except for Scott McDaniels’ stuff. Yeesh.

Now, I know that there’s some debate amongst my ComicMix brethren about this point-in-question. I openly beg for some of that debate to happen in the comments below. I’m hard-pressed to believe that on an industry level that the artwork is to blame for comics’ dwindling sales. As I look across the smattering of books I’ve been reading these days – Daredevil, Invincible Iron Man, Batman, The Boys, The Manhattan Projects… and flip through the pages of artists truly giving their all to every panel – I get a little verklempt. I want all of you to go on with out me. I think about this Marchman, and all I can think is “Ver es kon kain pulver nit shmeken, der zol in der malchumeh nit gaien!”

Now go on… discuss!

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

 

Emily S. Whitten: Getting Started in the Comics Industry

I love comics. I love reading them, thinking about them, discussing them, and even critiquing them. I also love writing them, something I’ve discovered in the last couple of years as I started writing a series of webcomics about characters in upcoming comic book-related movies, which were then published on movie news websites like MTV Splash Page and ReelzChannel. Since that time, I’ve realized that I’d really like to keep writing comics, including, hopefully someday soon, full issues for a major company, to be seen by all the worrrrrrld [insert maniacal laugh here].

That may seem like a big leap, but it could happen. After all, most of the people who are or have been involved in professional comics started out just as I did: as ridiculously huge fans of the medium and the characters and stories. I mean, sure, maybe a few here or there got pulled into a job and then discovered they liked it, but for the most part, the people making comics do it because they were fans who, basically, landed their dream jobs through expressing their love of or thoughts on comics.

There are some great public examples of this amongst the current Big Names in comics. They include Geoff Johns, who wrote in to DC Comics as a kid with suggestions for the Superboy storyline. There’s also Kevin Smith, whose lifelong comics fandom landed him a number of roles in comics-writing after he’d already made a name for himself with movies (and he also owns Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, the first comic book store I ever went to, being a Jersey gal). There’s also Gail Simone, who came to the attention of comics publishers through her website Women in Refrigerators, which critiqued the treatment of female characters in comics, and has since written a weekly column on Comic Book Resources and a lot of great comics about both male and female characters, including well-received stints on the all-female group comic Birds of Prey. (I mention this comic in particular because I think it’s great that after Simone expressed her opinion on a certain issue in comics, she had the opportunity to address that issue by writing a number of female characters.) And let’s not forget Mark Waid, whose studio tour on Comic Book Resources reveals just how much of a fan collector he is, as well as giving us this quote about a three-page sequence from Flash #0 that hangs on his wall: “[it’s] the scene where the adult Wally West meets his ten-year-old self and tells the boy that no matter how rotten his young life seems or how hard the days are to get through, when he grows up, every wish he’s ever wished for will come true. It’s hands-down my favorite sequence I have ever written because – and I say this in all sincerity – I often dream about being able to travel back in time and tell young Mark Waid that same thing.”

Aw.

Of course, compared to these greats and all of their former-fan-now-professional companions, including my esteemed fellow columnists at ComicMix, I wouldn’t say I’ve had too much of a “career in comics” to date. But like, I suspect, at least a few big names today, I have gone from being “just a fan” to being much closer to where I’d like to be in the industry, and have high hopes of continuing along that trajectory in the future. I know that a lot of other fans have similar hopes. So I thought I’d take a couple of minutes to look back at my own experience with comics so far and see how it’s progressed.

As a kid I hadn’t read many comics, and didn’t even know there were such things as “comic book stores” devoted to (gasp) just that medium. There were a few comics in the house that belonged to my oldest sister – the ones I remember being some old collections of Archie and some individual issues of Richie Rich – and I did read those few books countless times, and remember being enamored of both the funny and entertaining stories and the way the illustrations complimented and enhanced them. But I didn’t lack for reading materials, with an English teacher for a mom and two older sisters who loved books, so I never went looking for more comics.

Television, however, was a different matter. You didn’t have to go out and find television shows – they came to you! So I grew up on a healthy mix of cartoons like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, ThunderCats, X-Men: The Animated Series (I still love the theme song!), DuckTales and Darkwing Duck, Batman: The Animated Series, and countless others, most of which either started as or ran concurrently with comic books (although I didn’t know it at the time). I also, thanks to my dad, got a healthy dose from an early age of adventure and comics-related shows and movies he loved, including Sky King, The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet, and the Christopher Reeve Superman movies. Fast forward a few years, and I was addicted to Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (and even later, I got hooked on Smallville. Apparently I can’t resist on-screen Clark Kent). So comics have always been a part of my life, and I’ve always been a fan, but I didn’t realize it.

In 2008, that all changed. Thanks to an ex who suggested we go to the local comic book store for Free Comic Book Day, I started getting interested in collecting paper comics. On that fateful day he recommended a character that “I think you’ll like,” i.e. Deadpool; and after flipping through a couple of issues, I was completely hooked. In the following month I acquired and read all the Deadpool books I could find (as well as a slew of other comics, both new and old), and, in a joking conversation with the ex in which I was pretending to answer questions as Deadpool, I think I said something like, “wouldn’t it be funny if Deadpool was online answering questions?” and he said, “You should totally do that,” and thus, the first entry of Ask Deadpool was born. I made up the first few questions myself; and by the next day, people were writing in. I’ve now been regularly answering questions online as Deadpool for four years.

I’ve never had much of an interest in writing fanfiction generally, but with comics, it feels a little different. In a strange way, the comics industry could be looked at as the ultimate repository for quality fanfic (except that as it’s published, it becomes canon). There are so many professionals that got their start playing in sandboxes that were built by previous professionals that writing a comic book character non-professionally feels less like fanfic and more like practicing to join the fun. Sure, my Ask Deadpool writing is still fanfic (until I take over Deadpool at Marvel and write it for the next 20 years, mwahahaaaaa), but it’s different than someone writing about a closed universe such as, say, the Harry Potter series. Not only is writing comics fanfic a great way to practice writing previously published characters’ voices, but there’s actually the chance that all that practice might someday be put to use, professionally.

And there’s also the chance that in writing about something you love, you will accidentally become known as a gigantic Deadpool fan to everyone you know and many people you don’t, which will result in a friend getting a cool Deadpool print signed to you by one of the best inkers in the business (hey-oh, Nathan Massengill!), and you will be so excited about it that you will get it framed, and send a thank you email and photo of the framed print to the inker, and subsequently become friends with the inker, who incidentally convinces you to go to a comic con and introduces you to a bunch of other cool people in comics, and soon other fans and all these people who actually work in comics will know you as the biggest Deadpool fan ever, and this turns out to be a pretty good thing.

Because then you will turn out to be “the most passionate Deadpool fan” that a movie news site has encountered, and will be asked to write a fan article about Deadpool for them, at the same time that you just so happened to have started writing comic strip scripts using Deadpool and other characters to commentate on current pop-culture news, and have found another fan who’s a great artist and has agreed to draw the comics, and it turns out that you’ve already written a script that exactly fits the topic of the article. And the news site likes it, and want to see more.

That’s how I ended up having webcomics published on popular movie news websites. (Although it’s also important to know your own value and not be afraid to pitch something. My Avengers three-part series ran on MTV Splash Page because I actually pitched it to the editor, rather than him finding me.) The same passion for comics and network of people and happenstances has also led to me meeting the folks here at ComicMix and being invited to write a weekly column; and to me meeting another writer who has already had several comic scripts published professionally, and with whom I am now plotting out the greatest comic series ever created (well we think so, anyway). And although I can’t predict the future, I have high hopes that for me, it will hold an abundance of work in comics.

The interesting thing here is, until recently I didn’t really sit down and think to myself, “hey, maybe I could actually write comics. Like, professionally.” Instead, I was just having fun with something I enjoy, and expressing a passion for characters and a medium I’ve come to love. As it turns out (I think, and evidence suggests), this is a pretty good way to get started in comics, and the more I think about what I’d like to write in comics, the more ideas I have. Along with the greatest comic series ever created, I’d love to write Deadpool for Marvel someday (after much more practice, perhaps!) and I’ve got a Superman story in my head that I think would knock people’s socks off. And that’s just what’s percolating in my brain right now. But really, whatever happens in my future, I’m overjoyed that I am where I am today, writing about a medium I love and interacting with people who keep me inspired, and plan to continue to write columns, and webcomics, and anything else people will let me write professionally, for as long as I can. And maybe, if you’re a passionate fan like me, you can do that too! Servo Lectio!

Wednesday Morning: Mike Gold Covers Covers

 

MARC ALAN FISHMAN: Animation Domination – Marvel Universe vs. DC Nation

Friends, we are at the dawn of a new and great age. The mighty Marvel Universe and the dynamic DC Nation each will have a block of programming on cable television. On Saturday mornings. Set those DVR’s to stun, kiddos.

Sure, both the House of Mouse and the Brothers of Warner have each ventured into the cartoon cavalcade before, and they were glorious times indeed. As I recall at their heyday, Spider-Man and the X-Men were in full force. Batman’s animated adventures become a power hour with the addition of Superman. And throughout the late 90s and early aughts we’d be privy to all sorts of spin-offs, short lived series, and some toons we may all wish had never seen the light of day. Don’t fret… I’ll have a whole column to dedicate to them soon enough.

The DC Nation block leads off with Green Lantern’s new CG series. Kids ken to the Clone Wars will find fast friends in Kilowog and Hal Jordan as they romp around space helping protect innocents from the wrath of the deadly red lanterns. Following the emerald knights is Young Justice – the continuing tale of a modified DCnU with a team of sidekicks turned proto-titans.

On the Marvel side of the coin, we’ll get the new Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon and the continuing saga of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes with … well… The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Both blocks will feature fanboy-service by way of interstitial shorts, special segments, and probably a few bonus promotions. DC Nation shows on Cartoon Network, and Marvel Universe will show up on Disney XD. Thus far, DC is ahead of the curve with their block of programming having debuted two weeks ago. Marvel is launching in early April. I can safely report that DC came out of the gate very strong.

I admit I was very nervous about the Green Lantern series when the trailer debuted back in the summer. The Bruce Timm-meets-Clone Wars styling didn’t immediately strike me as being indicative of the quality of previous animated incarnations of DC property. But, like the true emerald enthusiast that I am, I gave the pilot a shot. I was quite impressed. While the character models are a bit too stylized for my personal taste, the writing is high quality. Hal comes across bountifully cocky. Kilowog as the buddy in this buddy-cop-cartoon works surprisingly well. The Red Lanterns are even given a bit of depth out of the gate, quelling most of my fears by the end of the first episode. If there’s any complaint I have thus far, is my fear of the series not exploring the true expanse of cosmic characters. and focusing too much on the Red Lanterns. Simply put, by the end of the season I want Larfleeze, damnit.

Young Justice has been a quietly rising star in DC’s animated belt. The “made cool for the preteen crowd” style keeps me coming back to soak up the fresh redesigns. And their treatment of Aqualad has done more for the character than Geoff Johns did in all of Brightest Day. While their treatment of Conner Kent is a skosh too angsty for my taste… they balance it out superbly with Wally West. The show has taken some time to get its sea legs firmly planted, but a slow burn of serialization paid off at the tail of their first season. Not every story they’ve done has been a complete winner, but the action sequences and cameos from adult league members has always kept things moving. Suffice to say, have it anchor the DC Nation shows their commitment to find new life after the Bruce Timm era-of-awesome.

Over at Marvel, I have to say I’ve never been this excited for a block of their programming. In the mid-nineties, they produced an Iron Man / Fantastic Four block that started strong and staggered stupendously. Their Spider-Man cartoons have always been solid. The X-Men cartoon tackled an amazing amount of comic milestones, but ended sloppily. With their Avengers cartoon though, they have achieved something I honestly did not think I’d see: a comic-inspired take on their quintessential team, done in a manner that is both accessible to new fans and a wink and nudge to their old base. With top-notch voice acting and a fearless plummet into a cadre of villains, the series has been nothing short of brilliant. Every team member has been given time to shine. Suffice to say it not only tows the line for Mickey… it makes me forgive them for releasing the Avengers cartoon from 1999. Wait. Scratch that. Nothing will make me forgive them for that. Seriously? Ant-Man as team leader!? But I digress…

Last, but not least, is ole’ Web Head. Ultimate Spider-Man appears to take its cue from the Brian Michael Bendis penned series, with a bit of a comedic bend to it. With a supporting “and his amazing friends” cast including Nova, Power Man, Iron Fist, and White Tiger… who among serious comic fans are salivating just a little bit? I suggest you check out the trailer, and get ready for the return to quality toonage from our pals over on the Disney float.

So as I’d said before… make sure to have those DVR’s at the ready. And for all you evil pirates, make sure the Torrent Bay is loaded. It’s a good day to be a comic book fan, cartoon lovers… Hop aboard the bandwagon before it takes off without you.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

REVIEW: “Justice League: Doom”

If you’ve been a fan of Warner Bros.’ direct-to-DVD DC Universe movies, you are no doubt eagerly awaiting the February 28th release of Justice League: Doom. ComicMix’s own Glenn Hauman and Mike Gold attended a press screening of the movie, along with the mandatory press conferences and post-game roundtable discussion. We decided to take a conversational approach to our preview – not quite a review, as we’re avoiding spoilers. Still, if you’re extraordinarily anal retentive (the fanboy/fangirl affliction), you might want to just look at the pictures.

Glenn: The story, and the universe, felt familiar – not just because we’ve known these characters forever, but because it was Dwayne McDuffie’s take on them, his POV from Justice League and from Justice League Unlimited. One of those “you don’t realize how much you miss it until it’s gone” things.

Mike: DC’s animated universe came about organically, from the original Fox Batman Adventures through Doom… with major exceptions like that Teen Titans and that unnecessary and initially unwatchable The Batman series a couple years ago. Dwayne played a major part in that Justice League animated universe to be sure, but those Batman and Superman series created the foundation of this universe, as well as the bouncing off point for many of the actors.

Glenn: Speaking of the DC animated universe: one thing that was weird for me, throwing a new bit of unexpected unfamiliarity, was meeting Kevin Conroy, the voice of Batman for two decades, because he just doesn’t quite look the part in real life – he looks more like the Scarecrow. I found myself mentally covering up his face from his nose up, superimposing a cowl on him. Or am I just that weird?

Mike: Yeah, Conroy is pretty skinny and he’s got a great face. But I think he’d be perfect as Jason Blood or Orion of the New Gods.

Glenn: Conroy as Jason Blood, live action? Oh, that works really well.

(more…)

MARC ALAN FISHMAN: Just Kill Kyle Rayner

Typing that title hurt. A lot. It’s been stated here time and again: I am a Kyle Rayner fan. Here I sit, sarcasm sitting in its glass jar next to me, legitimately about to make the argument that my favorite character in comics be given a dirt nap… and I don’t mean the Steve Rogers–Bruce Wayne dirt nap kiddos. I mean the Gwen Stacy sleep of the pulpy gods. But why, you ask, would I suggest such a fate to the character that inspired this bearded bloke to make comics himself? I paraphrase Dr. Denis Leary:

“Elvis Presley should have been shot in the head back in 1957. Somebody should’ve walked up behind Elvis in ‘57 with a 44 magnum, put the barrel of the gun right up to his brainstem and just pulled the trigger, so you can remember Elvis in a nice way. Wouldn’t it be nice to remember Elvis thin, with a big head of hair? Maybe that gold lame suit. Wouldn’t that be nice? Because how do you remember Elvis? You know how you remember Elvis. He was found in the toilet with his pants around his ankles and his big fat hairy sweaty king of rock and roll ass exposed to the world and his final piece of kingly evidence floating in the toilet behind him!”

And as I look on the career of Kyle, since 2005, I see a fat Elvis, crapping on the pot.

Kyle Rayner was brought into the fold of DC Comics in January of 1994. After they wrote off Hal Jordon as a villain-turned-martyr, they introduced new blood into the comic. Kyle represented everything Hal didn’t. He was timid, indecisive, and anything but fearless. All he was, was a kid with an amazing imagination. A kid given the ultimate toy, and a universe to save. For lack of a better M.O., Kyle Rayner was DC’s Spider-Man. An everykid being shown that with great power rings comes great responsibility. It was a bold move. And over ten years he was given free reign to learn, and grow. I grew with him. Kyle joined the Justice League (during the fantastic Morrison run), and became the POV character we could get behind. While Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman were the serious heroes, Kyle was the kid who could still yell “cool!” Simply put, with Kyle Rayner, DC had the bold and inventive reboot they’re so desperate to have now.

In 2005, Dan DiDio and Geoff Johns decided that the comic book world had enjoyed too much of this “modern” era and declared the silver age be reborn! Hal Jordan was resurrected, and with it took every last ounce of thunder Kyle had mustered in his 10 year tenure as the torch bearer. This is the moment folks, where, had I the will power, I would politely take Rayner’s ring and hurl it into the sun. Ever since “Rebirth” Rayner has floundered, flopped, and died a slow and pitiful character death. Ask ole’ Geoff or Dan, and I’m sure they’d feed you a brilliant line on how he’s still “relevant and as awesome as ever!”… Let’s go to the tape!

Since 2005, Kyle Rayner has… uh… got chummy with Guy Gardner… and… became Ion until they gave that to another alien we’ve since forgotten about… and … uh… got taken into Parallax for an issue… put on a blue lantern ring for a day… oh! And at some point his mom died, and he lost 17 girlfriends. Some died. Some blew up. Others turned out to have daddy issues. Ain’t it riveting?

Simply put, with Hal as the lead green meanie, Kyle fails to matter in the great scheme of things. As Barry Allen came back put Wally West out of a job, so too, does Kyle remain a waste of ink. The whole concept of legacy is so strong at DC (far more than Marvel…), but with the reboot, and continual Geoff Johning of the multiverse… legacy is fast becoming nothing more than an MMO title.

And so, this September, DC rebooted its entire universe. With Hal continuing to be the star of the flagship series (mainly because he was the star in a wonderful flop of a film this summer…), and John Stewart (affirmative action at it’s best!) and Guy Gardner (because we all love angry Irish guys, right?) over on GL Corpse (pun intended), what was Kyle given to do? Well, with GL: New Guardians… He’s the top banana in an adventure that will undoubtedly:

1. Have him shack up with a random space chick. And then she’ll die.

2. Have him wear a plethora of rings, resulting in him changing costumes 10 more times.

3. Remove any semblance of his character, and have him shout various generically heroic things as he saves the day.

4. At some point, he’ll mention all the good things he’s done as a Green Lantern, reminding us Raynernauts that he mattered there, for a while.

5. He’ll grow a bitchin’ half-beard.

I’ve been through the first two issues of the series. I’ve yet to be impressed. It’s like a cattle call for all the last two years worth of Lantern D-listers, all brought together for yet-another-unforeseen-prophetic-battle. Rayner will end up working with Bleez (the slutty Red Lantern), Arkillo (the tongue-less Kilowog of the Sinestro Corps), the Orange jelly-bean thing from Larfleeze’s lantern, Fatality (the only character in the DCU to have even less to do since Kyle Rayner’s original run on GL), an Indigo Lantern (who we still know nothing about, nor care about at this point) and Saint Walker (all will be well, and have some milk!).

Two issues in and nothing has happened. Seriously. 40 pages of content that has seemingly set up a single final splashpage of him in some kind of White-Lantern getup. As if we haven’t seen that before?

Ultimately, if DC wanted to ‘shake things up’ with their reboot, it was the perfect time to shed some dead weight. Since the love affair with all things Silver Age is still in full swing, the world simply doesn’t need a Kyle Rayner. And as one of his biggest fans, I’d much rather have seen him retire his ring for a desk job… instead of continuing to not-matter in the grand scheme of things. He could take a seat next to Wally, and they could simply wait until the next crisis. Or until someone recalls why he mattered in the first place.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

If I rebooted the Justice League: Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkwoman, Martian Manhunter

If I rebooted the Justice League: Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkwoman, Martian Manhunter

According to a friend I trust, when the trailers for the Green Lantern movie appeared, kids asked, “Why did they make Green Lantern a white guy?”

That’s not a joke like “Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings?” It’s because, to folks under thirty, this is the Justice League:

But this is DC’s reboot:

How many ways is it awful? The short list:
  1. Instead of being a team of individuals, they look like they go to the same tailor.
  2. Aquaman is one of my favorite characters, but he shouldn’t be part of the core League. He should only appear when a case involves the seas.
  3. Cyborg is great in the Titans, but he doesn’t have a distinct role in the League unless they turn him into a brilliant scientist. Also, his name is generic—it’s like calling a character Robot. Give him back to the Titans.
  4. One woman? Are you kidding me? Humanity is 51% female, and there’s one woman in the core team?
So, what would my reboot look like?
  1. GMiss Martian photoreen Lantern is John Stewart, a black man who is the one and only Green Lantern of Earth. In the reboot, he’s the guy that Katma Tui (instead of Abin Sur to make it clear that the ring can go to anyone who is worthy) chose to wield the ring.
  2. The Flash, in something like the iconic uniform, is Ricky Estrada, a Mexican-American man with the personality of Wally West.
  3. Hawkwoman is Shayera Hol, a Thanagarian cop who comes to Earth in pursuit of an alien crook. Her partner, Katar Hol, is killed, and their ship is destroyed, so she stays on Earth for longer than was planned, and comes to love the planet.
  4. The Martian Manhunter always seemed goofy to me: a green version of Superman who can change shape and gets weak in the presence of fire? Use Miss Martian instead.
  5. The Wonder Woman from my previous “If I rebooted…” post.
  6. The Batman from my previous “If I rebooted…” post.
  7. The Superman from my previous “If I rebooted…” post.
A fundamental principle should apply to characters like Green Lantern and Hawkwoman: Heroes should be unique—unless someone offers a lot of money to make a movie or TV show about a variant like Supergirl or Batgirl.

MARC ALAN FISHMAN: “This is not MY _______!”

So, there I was, doing what I suppose I do far too often… scouring Facebook for status updates. A quick refresh, and there was an update from a friend saying how “This is not my Bucky Barnes.” He was referencing a purchase he’d recently made of a golden age Bucky figure, and how he hated the new Winter Soldier-era Barnes figure. Suffice to say, after seeing his umpteenth remark how a modern interpretation of one of the classic comic book heroes he loved so dearly rubs his rhubarb the wrong way, I had enough.

Call it being cantankerous in my own “Hey, I know you think I’m too young to form a real opinion, but screw you, I can anyways” way… but I’d like to say that this kind of general malaise towards interpretation and experimentation grinds my gears to a screeching halt. In short? Quit your bitchin’ gramps. It’s 2011. Your childhood memories remain intact, in spite of your fear that they won’t.

It’s this common thread amongst the older comic book fans that I truly find offensive. Maybe that’s not the right word. I’m not implying it’s anyone here on ComicMix mind you, but the conglomerate of silver/golden-age dick-chuggers who poop their pampers anytime anything changes in the fictitious worlds of their youth, drags us all down. We’re all entitled to our opinion, mind you, and I don’t deny anyone their right to express that opinion. See folks, I’m young, under-appreciated, and don’t know shit-about-nothing; But I’m taking this time to start a large debate. Mind you no one will answer my call, but I’ve never not had fun at screaming into the black abyss of the internet before.

This notion, that the creators of today can’t reinterpret a character because it’s not their version of the character, is a waste of breath. Ed Brubaker’s retcon of Bucky Barnes as the Winter Soldier was an amazing feat. He took a character that was long gone, and brought him back in a story that got real attention from new fans. Here was this relic of another era, repurposed for modern times, done with a deft hand. His origin remained intact. He never took away from the character who he was. Yes, he turned a once chipper, bright-eyed innocent kid (who had no problem murdering Nazis with guns) into a cold and ruthless killer.

(more…)