Robot 6

Ten from the old year, ten for the new

Grumpy Old Fan

Grumpy Old Fan

Last January, I listed ten items I’d be watching in 2008 from (or related to) DC’s superhero line.  Today I’ll revisit each of those and offer ten new items.

Can you stand the excitement?!?

Yeah, I thought so.  Let’s cruise on.

2008

1.  The Dark Knight. I was afraid that a too-intense Joker might confirm for the normals that they didn’t want to have anything to do with modern Batman comics.   I don’t think that happened, exactly.  As far as I could tell, Heath Ledger’s Joker didn’t spark any protests from parents afraid to buy their kids Dark Knight toys.  (Of course, I didn’t see any “Magic Trick Joker” action figures out there either.)  Instead, while Ledger’s performance turned out to be one of the movie’s big selling points, TDK seemed to do more for superhero movies than it did superhero comics.  In any event, I doubt that all the upheavals in 2008’s Batman books would have made them especially friendy to the general public.

2. Final Crisis. I mused that FC wouldn’t be “preoccupied with legislation,” and thought that “fans [were] willing to give Morrison and J.G. Jones the benefit of the doubt, making FC a big seller despite Countdown’s poor reception.”  In hindsight, I suppose it depends on your definition of “big seller.”  By and large, I’ve enjoyed the miniseries and its tie-ins, but as I wrote last month, it’s

an esoteric, creator-driven project which must fit into the every-Wednesday model of big-event series. I have nothing to back up either of the following assertions, but I suspect that for a good bit of the people who followed Countdown, FC doesn’t mesh with orthodox continuity strongly enough; or otherwise doesn’t feel enough like a big-event crossover. (Conversely, for many non-regular DC readers, FC may feel too heavily connected to Dan DiDio’s “culture of continuity.”) FC’s shipping schedule, and lack of connection to the regular titles, has also made it easy for every-Wednesday readers like me to forget it’s there.

Naturally I’m reluctant to judge Final Crisis on its merits until it has finished.  Unfortunately, it was supposed to be over by now, and I think that continues to reflect poorly on DC’s scheduling abilities.

3. The 2008 weekly series (i.e., Trinity). I try to be unbiased about my other current weekly obligation, honest.  I do think it’s one of the more new-reader-friendly titles DC publishes, although I’m not sure you could start cold this late in the game.  (Judging by its sales, I’m not sure there are that many new readers anymore.)  However, so far it’s been a nicely-paced, entertaining epic, and when collected, it should make a nice primer on DC’s superhero world.  I was right about it being “disconnected from the main line of DC books,” but wrong about its launch date being during Final Crisis‘ “natural break.”

4. Wonder Woman. In my heart I wanted to call this an unqualified success, since the book has finally gotten a stable creative team able to tell good standalone stories … and then I looked at the sales charts, where WW was #76 in October 2008 with under 40,000 issues sold to retailers.   Crossover-friendly books like Supergirl and Batman and the Outsiders (!) were doing better, and so were Justice League and Trinity, titles which featured the character prominently.  Wonder Woman‘s “Sinestro Corps”-style event, “Rise of the Olympian,” has started already, so we’ll see how much attention it attracts.

5. Justice League of America. Ironically, just as the book is coming out of its crossover-facilitating period, it must now deal with upcoming changes to Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.  Apparently James Robinson’s Justice League title has also been postponed.  I don’t expect those developments to affect the quality of Dwayne McDuffie’s writing, but once again I’m eager for him to start telling his own stories without having to set up or react to someone else’s.

6. The New Teen Titans reunion (i.e., Titans). Last year I wrote, “[a]nything that makes the book less of a perfunctory exercise in fan entitlement is a positive sign.”  So far, though, I haven’t seen much in the way of positive signs.  Apparently the book will be tied into two titles I didn’t read, and have no plans to read:  Marv Wolfman and Rick Leonardi’s Vigilante revamp, and the already-concluded DC Universe:  Decisions miniseries.  I really hope Titans doesn’t take over the JLofA crossover-clearinghouse role.

7. Superman’s 70th anniversary. Can’t complain a whole lot here, since the anniversary itself coincided with Jerry Siegel’s heirs being awarded the estate’s share of the character’s copyright.  I do hope that by 2013, everyone’s on the same page and ready to celebrate the character’s 75th.

8. The Legion of Super-Heroes’ 50th anniversary. On balance I think it was a good year for the Legion, starting with the well-received “Superman and the Legion” story in Action Comics and ending with the first two issues of Legion of Three Worlds.  However, both of those stories dealt with Geoff Johns’ revival of the Earth-1 Legion, which looks to be the dominant version going into 2009 and beyond.  This raises the issue of the Legion’s accessibility, and the related issue of DC’s target audience.  If it’s guys like me who grew up on that version, mission accomplished.  If it’s anyone else, good luck.

9. Manhunter, All-Star Wonder Woman, and/or All-Star Batgirl. Last year I wondered whether any of these titles would see an issue published in 2008, and I bet (wisely, at the time) on Manhunter.  However, with the title’s cancellation, it was a Pyrrhic victory.  Overall, I wanted to see more solo-female-headlining books out of DC, but no such luck. In fact, Catwoman was cancelled too, and Birds Of Prey will be replaced by an Oracle miniseries.  2008 did see miniseries for Wonder Girl, Raven, Batgirl, and the Huntress, but that’s not quite the same commitment.  Recently, Dan DiDio appeared to tease a second Wonder Woman title (maybe All Star Wonder Woman, since he’s “seen pages“), as well as the oft-promised Greg Rucka Batwoman, so there’s the potential for growth.

10. The new Batman Encyclopedia. Thankfully, 2008 wasn’t all bad.

* * *

Now for 2009:

1.  The Watchmen movie. Once the dust settles from the litigation — and I think “settle” is the operative word here — it’ll be time once again to evaluate how regular folks react to the Citizen Kane of superhero comics.  This time, though, enough people might actually be familiar with the book to make the discussion worthwhile.

2. The Blackest Night. From what I can tell, this has gone from being a storyline within the two Green Lantern books, a la “The Sinestro Corps War,” to its own miniseries.  With that comes the potential for crossovers into the rest of the superhero line — and that, I’d say, would put DC back in the line-wide crossover business.  This is not exactly good news.  If DC were making cars, the line-wide crossovers would be its SUVs.  For the better part of two years, it looked like DC had gotten out of the SUV business and was focusing on smaller models.  Accordingly, for DC to expand Blackest Night seems to me like looking at a midsize and wondering whether it couldn’t trade fuel efficiency for more cargo space, a higher center of gravity, and a luggage rack.

3.  Life with Geoff. 2008 was a good year for Geoff Johns.  He helped steer three of DC’s seven foundational franchises (Superman, Green Lantern, and the Legion of Super-Heroes), with a Flash revamp on deck.  His work on Action Comics, Booster Gold, Justice Society, and Legion of Three Worlds was well-received.  He goes into the new year having elevated expectations for Blackest Night, Flash:  Rebirth, the Legion revamp, and Superman:  Secret Origin.  If DC has hits with any of those, it should be very happy; and it’s certainly possible for the company to do well with two or even three.  I don’t expect his Legion work to sell the way the other three could, but when that’s the only caveat, he must be doing something right.

4.  Life without Geoff. However, the titles Johns has left, or will be leaving, face 2009 with a little less certainty.  Booster Gold is now in the hands of creator Dan Jurgens, Action will be turned over to writer Greg Rucka (working with Nightwing and Flamebird instead of Superman), and Justice Society will welcome writers Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges.  These are not bad changes by any means — but consider the uneven post-Johns fortunes of Flash and Teen Titans.

5.  Variety of genre. Dan DiDio has talked a fair amount about the DCU line’s non-superhero books, headed up by Jonah Hex, arguably The Spirit (which is outside the DCU for crossover purposes) and the occasional Sgt. Rock miniseries.  Back in September DiDio also mentioned an upcoming Warlord ongoing series from creator Mike Grell.  Adam Strange, Captain Comet, and other sci-fi characters can thank Jim Starlin for their recent miniseries, but miniseries is all they’ve gotten.  I’ve already spouted off about this topic, so for now I’ll just note that the publisher has plenty of non-superhero fare, like Blackhawk and Challengers of the Unknown, which tends to go unused outside of appearances in the superhero books (for example, the Waid/Perez Brave and the Bold).

6.  The price-point polka. Okay, it’s a poor choice of phrase, but I’m a lawyer, not an economist.  Anyway, conventional wisdom seems to say that with Marvel moving its regular floppies to $3.99 per 32-page issue, DC will eventually follow suit.  If Internet reaction is any indication, $3.99 will be too much for the weekly-LCS visitor.  You’d think that neither Marvel nor DC want those regular readers to change their habits, but if the 32-page floppy (22 pages of story) shows signs of circling the drain, a format change seems inevitable.  Personally, I expect the publishers to raise prices further while also expanding page counts — say, $4.50 for 48 pages.

7.  Franchise events. Each of DC’s foundational franchises except Justice League has its own sales-goosing event for 2009.  Besides Flash:  Rebirth, Blackest Night, and the Legion relaunch, there’s “Battle for the Cowl”; “New Krypton” and its aftermath; and “Rise of the Olympian.”  Apparently there’s something cooking with the Titans books as well.  While I expect big things from the Johns-written events, I’m not so sanguine about the others.  Fans frustrated with the end of “Batman R.I.P.” may wait out “Cowl” until the new Batman emerges.  We’ll see how the Superman books do after Johns leaves.  I don’t know that there’s enough interest in Wonder Woman’s own book for “Olympian” to produce a sales spike, and I have similar doubts about whatever the Titans books have cooking.

8.  Aquaman. Lord only knows what will happen with Aquaman — whoever turns out to be Aquaman — in 2009.  There’s one in Final Crisis and there’ll be one in Blackest Night.  At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if he turned out to be related to Wendy from Teen Titans.  I’m not going to say that as Aquaman goes, so goes DC’s superhero line.  However, I’ll be interested to see the path his comeback takes, and at what group of readers it’s directed.

9.  The Milestone and Red Circle characters. When DC announced that the Red Circle (i.e., Archie) characters would be introduced via Batman team-ups in The Brave And The Bold, I thought that was a decent plan.  Now, however, the news that they’ll get a series of one-shots makes me a little more nervous about their chances.  I’d give good odds that at least one Milestone character spins off successfully into his or her own title by the end of 2009.  For a given Red Circle character, the odds of the same thing happening just got a lot longer.

And finally…

10.  “Batman:  The Brave and the Bold.” After starting off with The Dark Knight, this makes a nice bookend, don’t you think?  Here’s hoping the show is as fun over the long haul as it’s been so far.

Like I said last year, I’ve probably missed some things, but we’ve got 51 more weeks.  Until next time!

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Comments

12 Comments

Welcome back!

Some interesting stuff here. I’m really looking forward the Geoff’s work at DC this year. He’s making some big changes in what he’s attacking this year and that usually means good things creatively. I too am concerned about the others taking on the titles he’s leaving, but JSA is the one I think is in the best hands.

Aquaman — not worth watching. Well, usually not worth watching. And I like the character. I have no hope that this character will ever return to the Top 100 comics.

Milestone and Red Circle — if DC doesn’t drop the ball on this, I’d be surprised, but I also don’t know that I can blame them. This is a very easy one to drop. I see more value in the Milestone characters than Red Circle, myself. Frankly, were I DC, I’d hand the Red Circle characters over to a Johns or Morrison or some other high profile, highly creative creator and let them just go to town.

Well, J. Michael Straczynski is handling the Red Circle characters, and a lot of people seem to like him. :-) I just wonder about the way DC’s rolling them out.

That $4.50 for 48 pages thing: Do you see that as 48 pages of story, so the whole book would be closer to 60 pages, or is it 48 pages for the whole book where about 30 of the pages are story?

Tom – Ahh, JMS, huh? OK, totally missed that somehow. There’s possibilities there, but I think from the get go thr project is somewhat doomed. It’s a real uphill climb to get fans on board, especially in an economy where people are making hard choices about comics purchases.

Tom, let me first say it’s great to have this column back! Is it a regular feature for Tuesdays, or is that still to be determined?

There’s a lot of good choices in your top 10, and I look forward to seeing what DC does along with the rest of your readers. I would be curious if the 48 page $4.50 book isn’t either an anthology or flip-book featuring multiple stories…

Cheers,

B

Yep, Tom is now officially on Tuesdays. That way he won’t have to do two columns (GOF and the Trinity Annotations) on the same day.

Thanks for the warm welcome, everyone! Yes, GOF is on Tuesdays now (with Trinity annotations on Thursdays).

My hypothetical “new floppy” would be $4.50 for 48 pages total, with (you’d think) at least 10-12 pages of ads. That would be enough for a regular 22-page story and a shorter backup, or at least two shorter-than-usual features.

And as always, I have no special insight into DC’s plans.

First, welcome back to the blogosphere, Tom!

Second, it’s a really sad statement on All Things DC when a hardcore DC man like yourself has very little positive say about both the year behind and the year ahead…

Right now, I’m down to just Green Lantern & GLC (and I buy Ex Machina in trades). I’ve dropped all the Bat-titles now (or they’ve been cancelled) that Bruce has gone AWOL, and I dropped all the Superman stuff too. Maybe I’ll give the WW “Olympian” arc a try, but for some reason she’s never really stuck with me. I love WW on the JL/JLU cartoons, and I like her fine in team books too, but she’s never really clicked with me on her own. I want to like her, so I’m not sure where that disconnect comes from… It’s really a shame that the All Star line appears to be DOA (aside from the occasional issue of B&R). Maybe All Star WW would be just the thing for me. Same with All Star Batgirl… I was looking forward to that title!

I’m really not interested in buying Blackest Night outside of the GL books… I hope those books will stand on their own. Haven’t we all pretty much burned out on Mega Events (from both DC and Marvel)? I guess Didio & Co. didn’t learn from Sinestro Corps War?

I still disagree about Trinity though… I don’t consider myself a “new reader,” but I’m also not an expert on or student of the history of the DCU. I enjoyed the first few issues, but things started going off in too many weird tangents for me. Too many characters were thrown into the mix, the Big Three disappeared from their own book (what is it about DC constantly taking Supes, Bats and Wondy off the table?), and I felt like I needed to have read all of Busiek’s older DC works just to know what he was doing. Your annotations helped, but the book just wasn’t for me. I’m sure it’s a good book in its own way, it simply wasn’t what I was expecting.

But then, I find myself saying that more and more about DC’s offerings. Sigh.

And isn’t it interesting that the DC of 1989 seemed to take full advantage of that year’s Batmania? I don’t recall all the exact stories and what years they came from, but I do recall a lot of fine stories from that era, stories that were generally new-reader friendly and a lot of good GNs or Prestige format books. Contrast that with how DC flat out blew it in regards to Batmania 2008. Aside from the (quite good) Joker original GN, nothing else DC offered in 2008 was going to have much appeal to non-readers who enjoyed TDK. Unless you count reprints of old chestnuts like Dark Knight Returns, Year One, Killing Joke, Long Halloween, etc.

I have no idea why parents would have a problem with DK or batman toys. The movie was not that violent! Parents shoul pick up the comics their kids are reading! The joker is way more violent in print! Also a lot of other comics are full of violence and or sex. I am not saying that is wrong, I just think its dumb and naive to single out movies and or toys. Ever read the bible? Seriously disturbing stuff in there!

I have no idea why parents would have a problem with DK or batman toys. The movie was not that violent! Parents should pick up the comics their kids are reading! The joker is way more violent in print! Also a lot of other comics are full of violence and or sex. I am not saying that is wrong, I just think its dumb and naive to single out movies and or toys. Ever read the bible? Seriously disturbing stuff in there!

Many readers seem to be saying “Trinity is too hard”. I am enjoying having to use my brain to read a book. One of the reasons I enjoy time traveling within a book is that you have to pay attention and use your brain to keep up with the writer, a la Ex Machina. That’s also why I enjoy Grant Morrison’s work, as well as Warren Ellis and Alan Moore. Sometimes they make my brain hurt, but I always feel smarter in the following days.

If I wanted mindless entertainment that I can’t remember the next day, I’ll read Chuck Dixon, Chuck Austen, John Byrne, or Brian Bendis.

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