Axel-In-Charge: Facing the 'Divided' Marvel NOW! Future
For most of us, it’s getting to be the middle of April. Everything is blooming and getting greener. Our thoughts turn to familiar rites of spring like baseball, taxes, and that new Green Lantern preview.
On Earth-Solicits, of course, it’s July. The greenery is withering in the heat, the tax refund is spent, and half the Reds are sick thanks to being downwind from the Proctor & Gamble plant. Nevertheless, the residents of Earth-Solicits are just bursting at the seams, excited to tell you all that’s been happening in their world …
… but they can’t tell you everything, because then you’d have no reason to visit.
This sort of fan dance is especially pronounced in the current crop of solicitations. When something like a third of DC’s superhero line is taken up with titles like War of the Green Lanterns: Aftermath, Brightest Day Aftermath, and especially the cottage industry which is Flashpoint — titles which jump off from endings readers have yet to see, and/or which go deeper into books yet to begin — it’s hard to get excited, because right now it’s all hype for hype’s sake.
Thankfully, that’s not all there is to the July solicitations, so let’s cruise on….
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BECAUSE “HERE’S YOUR JELL-O, OLD MAN” WOULDN’T FIT ON A COVER BANNER
Can’t remember exactly when, but it was probably around ten years ago that FOX decided to celebrate some anniversary of baseball broadcasting by televising each inning as if it were set in a different era. At first there was minimal camera-work and graphics (or maybe no graphics at all), but as the “years” went by, more and more technological innovations were added, until the last couple of innings were up to early-2000s standards. That’s what DC’s “Retro-Active” series sounds like to me: aping older styles while working gradually to today’s standards.
Of course, FOX can choose not to use a multiple-camera setup a lot easier than DC can bring back some of the writers and artists most associated with ‘70s DC. For the Superman special, the very fine Eduardo Baretto fills in for the late Curt Swan; J. Bone subs for Mike Sekowsky on the Wonder Woman special; and the deaths of Dick Dillin and Irv Novick require players to be named later on the JLA and Flash specials.
Speaking of which, there’s a lot of “TBD” in the Retro-Active solicits, not least in the stories to be reprinted. For example, “Pesky” Martin Pasko’s Retro-Active story will deal with Mr. Mxyzptlk, but he also wrote a Mxy story for Superman #335 (May 1979). Is that story now out of contention, or will the specials be compare-and-contrast affairs? Wait ‘til July, I guess.
Len Wein wrote a lot of well-remembered Batman stories in the ‘70s, including February 1971’s “The House That Haunted Batman” (co-written by Marv Wolfman for Detective Comics #408), March-April 1974’s “Moon of the Wolf” (Batman #255*), and the two-part introduction of Clayface III in ’Tec #s 478-79 (July-August 1978 and September-October 1978). Neal Adams pencilled the first two, while Marshall Rogers pencilled the Clayface stories, so any of those would be fine choices. There’s also “A Caper A Day Keeps The Batman At Bay” from Batman #312 (June 1979), pencilled by Walt Simonson.** All of these stories were inked by the late Dick Giordano, who played a huge part in establishing Batman’s ‘70s style.
Denny O’Neil was Green Lantern’s writer for pretty much all of the 1970s (including the backup feature in The Flash), so there’s a lot to choose from as far as the Retro-Active reprint. Since Mike Grell is drawing the main Retro-Active story, I suspect the reprint will be something from his years with O’Neil on GL. For what it’s worth, I’ve always liked the two-part Replikon story from issues #108-09 (September-October 1978) — GL, Green Arrow, and Black Canary fight a sort of alien Amazo who’s gone after Earth’s ozone layer.
Like Denny O’Neil, Cary Bates was “the” Flash writer of the ‘70s (and a good bit of the ‘80s too), so picking just one story for the Retro-Active reprint might be tricky. Again, though, I have a couple of sentimental favorites: “Steal, Flash, Steal!” from May 1976’s #241; and “The Golden Glider’s Triple Play” from January 1978’s #257. The first has the Mirror Master turn our hero evil, and the second puts Iris and Barry’s parents in harm’s way.
DC could have gotten the ubiquitous-writer hat trick if Gerry Conway, and not Bates, had written the main story for the JLA’s Retro-Active special. Conway wrote a good bit of Justice League throughout the ‘70s before becoming regular writer with February 1978’s #151. (To be fair, Conway will write the ‘80s JLA Retro-Active special.)
By contrast — and nothing against him, that’s for sure — the Grand Comics Database says Cary Bates wrote a total of seven issues during the ‘70s. These included the introduction of teenaged Golden Eagle in #116 (“The Kid Who Won Hawkman’s Wings,” March-April 1975); “The Parallel Perils of Adam Strange” in #120 (July 1975); “The Hero Who Jinxed The Justice League” in #121 (August 1975); the 1975 JLA/JSA team-up in #s 123-24 (October-November 1975), in which Bates and co-writer Elliot S! Maggin participated directly; and an Adam Strange two-parter in #s 138-39 (January-February 1977).
Naturally, my money’s on one of the early one-issue stories — probably the Golden Eagle one, because the JLA/JSA team-up has already been reprinted and the new Retro-Active story involves Adam Strange. As it happens, though, that JLA/JSA story also involved Earth-Prime, as does the new Retro-Active story. The solicitation promises an appearance by a “special DC legend,” who I’m guessing will be Julie Schwartz, because in these situations it’s always Julie Schwartz, never anyone like Jenette Kahn or Bob Rozakis. Sure, Julie knows the Flash personally and helped shape DC as we know it, but it’d be nice to have the Answer Man help the JLA solve a particularly tricky case. Come on, DC, the kids love Bob Rozakis–!
As they did for June’s #711, Steve Scott and Ryan Winn draw Tony Daniel’s script for Batman #712. Marc Andreyko and Billy Tucci make an intriguing guest creative team on Birds Of Prey #14. Bernard Chang draws Justice League of America #59, stepping in for regular artists Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund.
As the solicit for Batman: The Dark Knight #4 announces proudly, the book “now featur[es] art by rising star Jay Fabok!” Naturally, my first thought is that this helps the book get back on a regular schedule. However, doesn’t it also rob the book of its main selling point — namely, an ongoing Batman book drawn (and, perhaps less importantly, written) by David Finch? Obviously DC is free to have two ongoing Bruce-as-Batman series as part of its juggernaut Bat-franchise; but once again we see a familiar tradeoff between high-profile talent and consistent scheduling. It also forces the issue, much earlier that I would have expected, of what happens when Finch has to give up part or all of his duties on the book. Like Batman And Robin post-Morrison, DC will need to figure out where B:TDK will go once Finch is gone altogether.
Green Arrow #14’s credits (James Patrick writing and Agustin Padilla drawing) look a lot like a guest creative team, although they’re not credited as such. The end of Brightest Day (including a few months to wrap up outstanding subplots) would be a good place for J.T. Krul and Diogenes Neves to leave the book, and the more paranoid part of my brain wonders if that’s happened. The more practical parts think it’s just a fill-in issue.
CONNECTING THE DOTS
Speaking of being paranoid, it’s been a while now since the First Wave line was reportedly cancelled, but Doc Savage and The Spirit are still set to have July issues. Naturally, DC could still cancel those before they see print, but for now, the reprieve continues.
Last month I noted that Wonder Woman’s “Odyssey” arc would end a couple months shy of Flashpoint’s final issue. The two storylines don’t appear to have much in common, other than both dealing with altered history, and the “Odyssey” changes being mentioned by a Flash time-watcher. Now, however, it looks like “Odyssey” will end with August’s Wonder Woman #614, one month before Flashpoint #5. Whether this is meant to bring the two stories closer, in some kind of sync-up, is still unclear — but it’s curious nonetheless.
In Batman Incorporated #9, Batgirl infiltrates “an exclusive girls’ finishing school.” Meanwhile, Supergirl #66 continues the Girl of Steel’s undercover mission on a college campus. I’m hoping that neither reads like a rejected “Charlie’s Angels” script.
The very existence of the War of the Green Lanterns Aftermath miniseries still seems like an attempt to milk another few bucks out of this summer’s projected Lantern-mania. After all, wouldn’t the “aftermath” be told in the three monthly titles? However, I then noticed that there was no Green Lantern issue solicited for July. It’s possible that the book is taking a month off to get back on schedule; but solicits tend to be optimistic generally, and assume that any delays will work themselves out (see, e.g., Batman: The Dark Knight. Accordingly, I wonder whether this means bad consequences for Hal and/or another character specific to Green Lantern. Surely DC wouldn’t do that in Hal’s second month of movie-stardom — but then again, surely DC wouldn’t deprive those potential new readers of their second month of Green Lantern comics … right?
Also missing from the July schedule is Static Shock #2. You’ll remember that issue #1 was solicited for May, and then in June came the Dwayne McDuffie tribute special. I doubt there are sinister forces keeping the book off the schedule — maybe it ran into production issues too.
ODDS AND ENDS
You know, I have been a New Teen Titans fan since their 1980 preview in DC Comics Presents #26. It’s no exaggeration to say that Marv Wolfman and George Pérez are still significant influences on my superhero-comics scholarship. Even so, the Games graphic novel has been teased so many times that, despite all the assurances of progress, I just can’t get too excited about it. Not that I won’t be excited to hold the finished product in my cold, clammy hands, mind you — but I went through much the same emotional cycle with JLA/Avengers. That turned out better than I could have expected, and I think Games will probably be satisfying too, in its own way. Now someone please remind me, when Games is rescheduled for February 2016, to cut and paste this paragraph into that month’s roundup of solicits.
When I was looking at DC’s long-running series last month, I didn’t mention Looney Tunes, even though it was approaching issue #200. As I understand it, the Johnny DC books play by a different set of rules, so there may have been fewer obstacles between Looney Tunes and the landmark, which it will reach in July. Certainly there’s not much incentive outside of the Direct Market for relaunching with a new #1, and if the book sells well enough, DC will just keep publishing it. So congratulations, Looney Tunes comic, and here’s to hundreds more.
I’m not used to seeing the name “Harry Potter” in a list of solicitations, so that’s why the Mad Harry Potter Special caught my eye.
Last month was the big Road To Perdition revival, and this month brings a new edition of A History Of Violence. That’ll be good, since somehow I missed out on both book and movie.
I didn’t think Unwritten would revisit the Golden Age of Comics, and I really don’t expect it to touch on Siegel & Shuster and the creation of Superman. Regardless, I shouldn’t be that surprised, and the more I think about it, the more I look forward to Unwritten #27.
Was THUNDER Agents an exception to Nick Spencer’s exclusive contract with Marvel? I hope so — but then, I hope he’s also carved out another exception for a Jimmy Olsen sequel.
It’s not the first time this has happened, but the Deus Ex paperback comes out two weeks after the last issue of the miniseries. That’s a fast turnaround!
Glad to see DC reprinting Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire’s “Metal Men” backup series from the just-cancelled Doom Patrol. It’s heavy on the wacky, and it also introduces a more (I hesitate to say) grounded Metal Man, to good effect.
I’m pleasantly surprised to see four issues of Jerry Ordway and Peter Krause’s Power Of Shazam! collected as a DC Comics Presents magazine, but I also note that July’s DCCP Superman #4 includes a Marvel Family guest-shot. If DC reprints nothing without some ulterior motive (and assuming Osiris’ role in Titans hasn’t made him that popular), maybe more Marvel Family stories are on the way.
Having read most of the stories in the Mad Love collection, I keep meaning to get the hardcover, so I’m glad it’s coming out in paperback. Obviously these are animated-style adventures, including a classic Mr. Freeze story and the titular tour de force which was later adapted into one of the best “Batman: The Animated Series” episodes. “Mad Love” is even better as a comic, although hearing Kevin Conroy smirk “Puddin’” makes it close.
I note that the Doom Patrol: Fire Away paperback collects issues #14-21, although the book is supposed to end with next month’s #22. Now, is that just a typo (probably, considering how #21 ends), or will #22 be collected separately (probably not; same reason), or — and this I consider extremely unlikely — is the book coming back after Flashpoint? I ask because the collection’s solicit calls it the “latest” volume, not the “final” one….
Also supposed to get the axe was DC’s Archives line, although the solicit for the first Lois Lane Archives may not do it any favors. For $60.00 retail you get 264 pages’ worth of Silver Age hijinx, which works out to a little under 23 cents per page. Contrast that with the Kamandi Omnibus Volume 1, which is some 180 pages longer for $10.00 cheaper. I’m pretty sure the difference comes down to paper quality, and the Archives are pretty sturdy otherwise; but the Omnibus’s 11.2 cents per page is about half of the Archive’s.
Price per page apparently doesn’t slow down the Absolute line, as four big-name books get new printings, just in time (mostly) for the holidays. Maybe this year I’ll get that Absolute Watchmen under the tree….
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Well, that’s what jumped out at me this month. What looks good to you?
* [Later adapted into a “Batman: The Animated Series” episode.]
** [At first I thought of Wein, Simonson, and Giordano’s “Dreadful Birthday, Dear Joker” from Batman #321, but it was cover-dated March 1980. Although it probably came out towards the end of 1979, I imagine the cover date removes it from contention.]