Robot 6

Grumpy Old Fan | ‘People’ get ready for DC in June

"Dad, can we get this now?"

“Dad, can we get this now? … How about now?”

Aw yeah! In my household, the best news from DC’s June solicitations is the six-issue Tiny Titans: Return to the Treehouse miniseries. I showed the cover to my 5-year-old and she was crestfallen to learn it didn’t come out for another three months. At least she can fill the time reading the other paperbacks (and Superman Family Adventures) and watching Frozen on an endless loop.

I may also have to get the Li’l Gotham figures, although at $13 a pop they are pretty pricey. Perhaps just Batman and Robin.

Oh, there’s more? What could it be …?

LET’S GO PLACES

The solicitation for Futures End #6 — advertising Ray Palmer, Frankenstein and Amethyst’s trip into the Phantom Zone — makes me irrationally optimistic about the series generally. I think the New 52 needs this series (or something like it) to present a coherent shared universe, because for the past two and a half years it’s been a clash of disparate styles and an array of changes without much to pull it all together. If Futures End can manage a good-sized, eclectic cast, and convince readers they’re all able to function in the same basic environment, that’ll go a long way towards giving the superhero books common ground.

Much the same goes for Justice League United, which features Hawkman, Lobo, Supergirl and traditional Hawkman foe Byth all fighting on the planet Rann, presumably alongside Rann’s champion (and traditional Hawkman ally) Adam Strange. Now, you may think “Gee, that sounds like a lot of Hawkman,” and you’d be right. Moreover, often I cannot be bothered to care very much about Hawkman. (For example, I didn’t know that Shayera Thal had already made her New 52 debut.) However, I do like it when the Justice League goes to familiar DC planets and fights classic (if obscure) villains, because it broadens the scope of the book, and lets the DCU seem that much bigger.

ODDS AND ENDS

Although the Justice League solicit mentions “The Chief and his treacherous Doom Patrol,” I still think there’s a new Doom Patrol series on the horizon. Besides the fact that DC launched the ill-fated John Byrne-driven Doom Patrol out of a JLA arc, I just can’t see Geoff Johns writing a “treacherous” Patrol without setting up a more benign one.

While there will surely be more to say substantively about them later, I notice two things about Johns, John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson taking over Superman with June’s Issue 32: It removes Superman from the inter-title crossover “Doomed” (which continues only in Action and Superman/Wonder Woman) and, like Superman Unchained, it features a new character who’s strikingly similar to Superman.

These solicits note that Supergirl #32’s cover and Batgirl #32’s story were originally supposed to appear in their previous issues. That reminds me of the bad old days of 2006-07, when high-profile books like Action Comics and Wonder Woman were delayed for months. Certainly this isn’t as bad, and fill-in issues are nothing new, especially if DC wants to keep to its standard shipping schedule as much as possible. Still, shuffling content around like this is never all that good.

The first issue of Secret Origins will feature the first Robin, the second issue will feature Batman, and now the third gives us Batwoman and Red Robin (plus Green Lantern Hal Jordan). Aside from allowing DC to answer some nagging Bat-continuity questions, it looks like DC is hedging its bets generally on this series. I’ll be curious to see how long it will go before it doesn’t showcase a Bat-character.

Speaking of which, the mention of Nocturna in the Batwoman #32 solicit, and I have to admit I was not expecting to see her get a New 52 makeover. (She actually shows up in the latest issue, which is out this week.) Nocturna was a big part of the mid-1980s “biweekly” Batman stories. Specifically, she had a fling with Batman, she tried to adopt Jason Todd before Bruce Wayne could, and her brother was Anton Knight, a serial killer called the “Night-Slayer.” It was real soap-opera material, but I don’t remember it being too bad. Anyway, since none of those things would seem to be important to Batwoman and/or the New 52, I’m curious to see what Andreycko and company do with her.

BOOKS ON THE BUBBLE (AND THE BUBBLE BURST)

Pandora #12 and Phantom Stranger #20 are on the schedule for June. It’s not like I expect — or am rooting for — either one to be canceled, but they have lasted longer than a lot of New 52 titles. (Also on that list: Batwing, an original New 52 book that will hit Issue 32 in June.) I’m also a little amazed that, with both books part of the “Trinity of Sin,” it’s been 12 months and there’s still only two of them. That has to be good news for the future of both, doesn’t it? Even if TOS: The Question debuts in July, surely DC wouldn’t cancel Pandora or PS before all three books got to share shelf space for a while. I guess that pushes the over-under on Pandora to Issue 18.

Larfleeze is canceled with Issue 12. I’ve been reading it all along, and while it’s been a weird little series — like the G’Nort/Scarlet Skier parts of late-period Justice League International, but on LSD — it’s still been fairly entertaining. I am looking forward to the G’Nort issues, because Giffen, DeMatteis and Kolins haven’t quite made Larfleeze sympathetic, but overall I think twelve issues is about right.

CELEBRITY WRITERS

I think the first thing we have to ask ourselves about Kevin Smith co-writing the Batman/Green Hornet team-up is what about the dick and fart jokes? This will represent the clash of two distinct dialogue modes — stylized camp versus slackerbabble — and while you’d think the former would prevail, you have to wonder how much of the latter will show. Speaking of which, Smith and Phil Hester’s Green Arrow is getting a reprint. I bought those issues when they came out, but now I am curious to see how they hold up. I suspect they won’t be adapted for The CW anytime soon.

I’m a little surprised that Harlan Ellison’s® 7 Against Chaos is getting a paperback, because I don’t remember a whole lot of people talking about it when it came out in hardcover. In fact, I don’t remember DC promoting the hardcover very heavily — at least not to the level you’d think a Harlan Ellison/Paul Chadwick collaboration would warrant. Maybe I just wasn’t looking in the right places.

COLLECTIONS

It may be nothing, but I see that the Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years collection includes 14 stories from Detective Comics and five stories from Batman, whereas the Joker companion book (which really should come out next year, or at least much later this year) includes nine stories each from Detective and Batman. There’s a lot of familiar stuff in these two books (although I don’t see Robin’s origin — maybe he gets a spotlight next year?), so they should be good general-interest surveys.

This month’s Sugar & Spike Archives Award For Most Unlikely DC Reprint goes to Cinder and Ashe, a four-issue miniseries from the mid-1980s by Gerry Conway and José Luis Garcia-Lopéz. I have no idea why DC is reprinting it now, almost 30 years later. It doesn’t tie into the larger DC Universe, it’s not a superhero story, and as far as I know it’s not being turned into a TV show or movie. Still, given the creative team, it should be good, and it’s certainly affordable.

It’s tempting to say that the Brightest Day Omnibus comes from a similar spot in left field. It really doesn’t tie into New 52 continuity (unless parts of it are still valid thanks to the Green Lantern grandfather clause), but I could see DC reprinting it for Geoff Johns fans.

Looks like the Django Unchained miniseries sold well enough to warrant a paperback. The movie is in my Netflix queue, so maybe I’ll see it before this collection comes out.

FOR THE FIRST TIME IN FOREVER

In a certain cynical sense, there may be no better encapsulation of DC’s superhero books in the second decade of the 21st century than Dan DiDio and Keith Giffen relaunching Jack Kirby’s The Forever People. Certainly DC and Marvel each have — to put it mildly — a complex relationship with Kirby and his characters. However, because there are a lot fewer Kirby creations at DC than there are at Marvel, they tend to stand out: the Challengers of the Unknown, OMAC, Etrigan, Kamandi … and the Fourth World.  We have come to expect, if not to demand, a certain degree of deference by present-day creative teams to the style and sensibilities Kirby established for these features.

As it happens, the first New Gods story I read was in a mid-1970s issue of Adventure Comics. It was probably written by Gerry Conway and penciled by Don Newton, and it featured Orion in his short-lived superhero-style outfit that made him look like Geo-Force. I didn’t think anything more about it until a few years later, when the Justice League and Justice Society traveled to New Genesis and Apokolips to stop Darkseid from destroying Earth-Two. That three-parter (written by Conway and picking up from the end of that Adventure run, and pencilled by Dick Dillin and George Pérez) was a good example of the “go somewhere to visit relatives” type of JLA/JSA team-up popular in the Satellite Era. Instead of your grandparents in Vero Beach, though, it was Earth-X and the Freedom Fighters, Earth-S and the Marvel Family, the 30th Century and the Legion of Super-Heroes, and the end of time and a supercharged Jonah Hex (it was complicated). Anyway, Conway, Dillin, and Pérez did pretty well by Kirby (I particularly liked Pérez’s staging of Darkseid “recruiting” the Earth-Two villains), and if DC had left the New Gods alone for the most part after that, I’d have been happy.

Indeed, DC almost did just that, since Kirby’s graphic novel The Hunger Dogs was supposed to be the final, fatal battle between Orion and Darkseid, bringing to a close a saga that was never supposed to run perpetually. Nevertheless, DC didn’t want to say goodbye to the New Gods, so since the mid-1980s, it’s tried — with varying degrees of success — to revive them.

That said, though, I’m not sure anyone outside the DC offices is too terribly excited about DiDio and Giffen on Forever People. Their version of OMAC didn’t sell well enough to make it past Issue 8, although it garnered a lot of net-positive reviews. Even if a good bit of those reviews were variations on “I didn’t expect to like this,” that was still a win for DiDio, because now he can do something like this and readers will have to remember whatever it was they liked about OMAC.

I could probably explore a few conspiratorial scenarios — trademark maintenance? Another middle finger to the haters? A backdoor way to connect the New Gods of Wonder Woman, Justice League, Earth 2, and Worlds’ Finest in one editorially-controlled title? — but that’s beside the point. I bought all eight issues of OMAC, but I remember that DiDio’s Phantom Stranger was pretty toxic; so I am prepared to play fair with Forever People.

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Well, that’s what jumped out at me this month. What looks good to you?

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Comments

12 Comments

Unless part of DC’s strategy is “keep trying things that have already failed in the new 52,” trademark maintenance has to be part of titles like Forever People (or Star-Spangled War Stories that was announced today). The list of old DC titles they’ve recycled (and then pulled the plug on after 8 issues) keeps getting longer. Or are they thinking there’s an untapped market of Kirby fans who didn’t buy OMAC but will buy an even more obscure Kirby revival by the same creative team as the previous short-lived attempt?

On one hand, I’m always excited to see these old concepts and titles brought back, but in effect, they are limited series without being labeled as such.

I wonder if the “Infinity Man” part of the Forever People title is the part that wants/needs trademark protection, never having had it before, and with the word “Infinity” having loomed so large at Marvel last year. It does seem to be that kind of a litiginous tit for tat relationship these days.

Trademark maintenance seems to be the most important thing for DiDio and his cronies. The boredom continues.

My entire household, including my 15 year-old daughter went nuts when I told them Tiny Titans was coming back. I honestly think I will need to order three copies of each issue, so my son can share his copy with his school mates, I can share mty copy with my wife and my daughter has one to take to show HER school mates. Generally my daughter and her friends consider themselves “too cool” for superhero comics (but not comics in general, which is a refreshing change from when I was a kid – Saga is the most popular of course !) but they devour everything Art & Franco do. Even, bizarrely, the Green Lantern animated comic. My theory is that the “cuteness” factor outweighs the general disdain for superheroes.

I think it’s probably over trademarks too. I definitely enjoy some Kirby stuff though and The Fourth world and Challengers are so much fun.

With the New Gods characters, even if they are good comics, they still won’t sell. They have never really sold on their own. Some of DC’s revivals with those characters have been off but some of them have been pretty good takes, but they never catch on. Darkseid works as a DC villain, but I don’t think outside of using the characters within the JLA that the others catch on.

I’d say the Forever People would probably be one of the hardest ones to update, as the characters are so much of their time.

Sales may be low, but Phantom Stranger is a terrific series. The media have a tendency to keep low volume/high quality series’ on the market, particularly if there is a chance that sales will improve.

If you are not buying this book, you should. DeMatteis has moved the character away from “Judas the Betrayer” into something very different and unique.

Jake Earlewine

March 21, 2014 at 5:52 am

DC = Dilapidated Comics

Wake me when it’s over.

definitely getting a lot of those New 52 collections. Cinder and Ashe — I don’t remember reading that series, but Garcia-Lopez is a good draw for me. And although I don’t like Conway that much, when he did non-super hero books, he was ok.

i don’t read monthlies any more, but i might jump back in to support the Forever People and the upcoming Star Spangled War Stories.

I would love a collection of Atari Force if we’re going for the great and obscure – but I’m sure the rights are complicated. The same with Marvel’s Micronauts.

Oh, and I love Sugar & Spike and I bought the Archive Edition!

g is right, I’d love to see an Atari Force collection. Excellent series!! Micronauts, too!!

Batwings longevity would be more impressive if they hadn’t pretty much rebooted the series in issue 19

I wonder if the secret origin of Red Robin will explain why he was introduced to the new 52 as a former Robin, currently Red Robin and later declared to have never been Robin …probably not

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