Examining "Rebirth's" Treatment of Legacy & Promise of a Less "Grimdark" DC Universe
In case you didn’t notice, Comic-Con International happened last weekend. As always, it was an epic affair with tons of announcements, stunts and surprises. Amid cannons firing, actors dressing up as themselves, and big movie plans, there were also a good number of genuine surprises from comics.
Usually I end up picking a winner of Comic-Con, but after Dynamite Entertainment flooded the air waves with announcements the days before the event, no one else seemed to stand out as the clear winner. It’s not that everyone slacked off, however: They brought a good variety of interesting and exciting projects, and a number of standout announcements made my ears perk up. So instead of declaring a winner, I’m going to run down my Top 6 Comic-Con surprises in comics.
Before I start, though, two publishers deserve a little recognition for serious contenders for the Comic-Con crown. Top Shelf Productions classed up the joint by bringing in Congressman John Lewis for the debut of his graphic novel, March: Book One with artist Nate Powell and co-writer Andrew Aydin. I have little doubt this trilogy will end up being a historic release with profound benefits for schools, libraries and organizations looking for a powerful teaching tool and first=person account of the Civil Rights Movement and non-violent resistance. Plus, come on, photos of Lewis meeting Neil deGrasse Tyson and Lou Ferrigno? Everybody else, just pack it up. Maybe not as much of a milestone, but IDW Publishing also deserves a nod for the pure quantity and variety of good-looking books announced.
OK, on with my list:
Author Chuck Palahniuk, whose 1996 novel was adapted into the cult film Fight Club, is writing a long-awaiting sequel. The trick is that it won’t be a novel, but a graphic novel! And this was announced very “Oh, by the way” during the Q&A of a panel, so there’s proof Comic-Con can still be spontaneous. In a way, he’s following the lead of Janet Evanovich, whose Dark Horse graphic novel Troublemaker with artist Joëlle Jones was a continuation of her Barnaby series. With the name recognition and following of Fight Club, and the original author’s direct involvement, this can’t help but be a big seller. I’m very interested to hear why Palahniuk chose graphic novel over traditional novel. Perhaps with the hopes of pulling in more of the movie fans? Whatever the reason, I don’t think I ever would’ve expected that. Fingers crossed he finds the right artist.
No creative team was announced, but adapting the most famous work of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson is a bold move. This was another hugely unexpected announcement, but without the involvement of the late Thompson, I’m a little more worried about this being pulled off successfully. It also visually might have more to overcome. Not only is there the cult film, but also the influential illustrations of British cartoonist Ralph Steadman. A comics adaptation will have to find a way to stand on its own visually but also maintain the essence and spirit of a book that has generated a lot of passionate opinions. It may be an uphill climb, but IDW has a good track record, just looking at Darwyn Cooke’s adaptations of the Parker series alone. IDW CEO Ted Adams has stated he’s very serious about getting this right, so fingers crossed for what could be a crazy ride.
IDW’s second spot on my list is a resurrection of the landmark comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland by Winsor McCay. Even Google recognized the strip’s playful brilliance last year for one of its Google Doodles. It must be in the public domain by now, so I suppose it’s open season, but this is such a remarkable piece of work tied to one specific creator that it’s hard to picture someone else doing it right. So just who would have the audacity to continue such a sublime piece of 20th century cartooning? Eisner-winner Eric Shanower, who’s acclaimed for his multiple Wizard of Oz comics with Skottie Young at Marvel, as well other Oz comics and novels. He’s also the creator of the award-winning Age of Bronze, a massively ambitious retelling of the Trojan War. So he’s no stranger to faithful adaptations or expanding on established worlds. Artist Gabriel Rodriguez is the artist on Joe Hill’s horror series Locke & Key, which has also been nominated for several Eisners. Truthfully, the burden is on Rodriguez with this project because of the fantastical imagery McCay created. The good news is that Rodriguez is one of the reasons Locke & Key was such a standout comic from the beginning. There’s a wistful fantasy element to his art, and his abilities with portraying kids and teenagers is valuable here. The cover alone is a strong showing, able to recapture the spirit without being a slave to it. While it feels strange to see anyone else try to do McCay, I really hope they pull it off.
This is just funny. According to CBR’s report of the panel where this was announced, the audience burst into laughter at the sight of the cover. That’s exactly the right response to this announcement. No doubt due to the overwhelmingly positive response to Jeff Parker and Jonathan Case’s Batman ’66 digital comic, DC is going to recapture the magic of the Dynamic Duo’s two guest appearances on The New Scooby-Doo Movies from late 1972. While those episodes don’t quite have the same cultural status as Adam West and Burt Ward’s versions of the characters, they are still fondly remembered. Sholly Fish is no stranger to either universe of characters, having capably written DC’s Scooby Doo, Where Are You? comic and comics based on various DC animated shows for years. No artist was announced, but so far this looks like it will be a fun splurge.
This was definitely a surprise, but sadly screams of trademark renewal. The odd line of angry-cyborg comics published under the Marvel UK banner are making a comeback. You know, the Q&A portion of Marvel panels usually get requests about some pretty obscure characters, which can be indicative of demand, but I can’t say I’ve ever heard of anyone asking about these guys. I don’t even think they got a passing mention in Sean Howe’s otherwise massively thorough Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. Still, it doesn’t mean something entertaining can’t be pulled out of there and Andy Lanning is a good candidate to do just that. Being largely raised on ’90s Marvel Comics, I’ll admit to having some Death’s Head II comics (even though the original is better) and to having a morbid curiosity about this.
Everyone is going on about how Nightcrawler is coming back in Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness’ Amazing X-Men, but we all know the real story is that Firestar is finally joining the X-Men. The co-star of the early ’80s cartoon Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends has long been relegated to the pages of Avengers or Young Allies, but her first proper Marvel Universe appearance was in the pages of Uncanny X-Men. Her own miniseries, beautifully drawn by Mary Wilshire, was solidly set in the X-Men corner, and those connections continued to resurface during her definitive depiction in New Warriors. Aaron appears to be a big fan of the character, she’s long been a favorite of mine too, and I can’t wait to see McGuinness’ rendition of her, so allow me this small moment of geeked out bliss.
While we’re on this ’90s kick, I also have to give honorable mention to the announcement of Sam Kieth’s The Maxx getting remastered.