Robot 6

Grumpy Old Fan | DC’s July looks toward the horizon

Whosoever holds this hammer...

Whosoever holds this hammer…

For a while it felt as if DC Comics was just going to talk about all its July books without ever soliciting them. News of Grayson and Robin Rising and relaunches of Suicide Squad and Teen Titans trickled out of the DC offices before the dam finally burst on Tuesday afternoon. (That’s why this week’s planned look at the “pilot episode” of Batman Eternal will have to wait.)

In fact, these solicitations are a little overstuffed, with a list of DC’s special September issues that lets us compare and contrast. Note too that while the September issues take place in The Future, they’re only two months removed from their July predecessors — so a good bit of current storylines may well be put on hold.

BECAUSE YOU LOVE THE NUMBERS

Here are the numbers. For the superhero line, DC is soliciting 42 regular ongoing series in July, plus the penultimate issue of Superman Unchained and an extra issue of Justice League. (It’s also putting out five annuals, five issues each of Batman Eternal and Futures End, a Harley Quinn special and the Robin Rising special, for a grand total of 61 single issues.) For September, there are 40 special Futures End tie-in issues, with 3-D covers like those on last year’s “Villains Month” comics. Basically, all the regular ongoing series except All Star Western, Justice League 3000 and Secret Origins get a Futures End issue in September. That doesn’t necessarily mean those three series are canceled, as none of them is part of Futures End’s “five years later” premise. September also includes a Booster Gold: Futures End issue, which one might reasonably think is a good indication of a new series for Booster — but I guess we’ll have to wait and see to be sure. Thus, July’s 42 ongoings, minus the three non-participating series, plus the Booster Gold issue, equal September’s 40 issues.

I have to say, it’s entirely possible that a series with a September issue still could be canceled in August. DC did that last year with Dial H, and books on the bubble could meet a similar end. The solicits for July’s Pandora and Phantom Stranger have a certain air of finality about them.

THIS AND THAT

I talked about Grayson and Robin Rising last week, so this week I will note only that July’s Secret Origins includes Damian’s origin, and the September issue of Grayson puts him in Russia, where the Suicide Squad will be in July. Speaking of which, given all that’s going on with Vladimir Putin and Russia in the real world, I’m a bit surprised that DC is sending the new Suicide Squad on a mission to DC-Russia. I doubt they’ll be headed to Crimea or the Ukraine, but who knows what will happen in the next two and a half months?

As mentioned above, Justice League ships twice in July, with the second issue concluding the “Injustice League” arc. Two quick thoughts: I don’t expect this to be the end of Luthor and Captain Cold’s involvement with the League, and neither do I believe the newest version of the Doom Patrol will have only two issues in the spotlight. Surely Geoff Johns intends to launch a more heroic DP out of JL.

I’m guessing the mysterious menace beneath Arkham Asylum, mentioned in the Batman Eternal solicits, is the New 52-ified Deacon Blackfire, whom we saw ministering to Doctor Phosphorus last week in B:E #2.

Because I haven’t been following the latest Harley Quinn series, I have no idea whether July’s Comic-Con special is rooted in one of its subplots; I’m sure it doesn’t matter. The issue sounds a lot like Harley’s zero issue, which also featured a bevy of artists doing rapid-fire gags. Ultimately it’s good to see DC putting out funny superhero comics — this week’s G’Nort guest-shot in Larfleeze #10 was pretty good — even if they’re not aimed squarely at me. Regardless, here’s hoping Harley Quinn’s success inspires more humorous entries into the superhero line.

COMING SOON, THE PLATINUM-LEVEL CROSSOVER

If Superman Unchained were continuing, we might begin to see the Super-titles split into two tiers: the “big-name creative team” series (i.e., Superman and Unchained) and the “ready for crossover” series. We have seen a little of that in the Bat-books (most recently with “Gothtopia,” crossing over among Detective, Batgirl, Catwoman, and Batwing), and we’re seeing it in the Super-titles with “Doomed!” Yes, “Doomed!” just started in the Super-books, but it’ll still be going strong in July, with installments in Action Comics #33, Superman/Wonder Woman #10, Action Comics Annual #3 and Superman/Wonder Woman Annual #1. Meanwhile, as long as we’re talking about extended Superman and Batman storylines, “Red Daughter of Krypton” and “Zero Year” both conclude in July. I’d expected the former to go a little longer, but I’ll be glad to see Kara back in the blue leotard. (As it happens, Guy Gardner will be wearing blue in September …)

WITH ONE BREATH, WITH ONE FLOW, YOU WILL KNOW

Apparently one of the big things in Futures End is (spoiler!) Green Arrow’s death, so the tease of a new GA in July’s Green Arrow solicit is appropriately suspenseful. Similarly, both July’s and September’s Aquaman solicits (as well as September’s Aquaman and the Others) involve Mera ruling Atlantis; and Nocturna appears to be a big part of both July’s and September’s Batwoman issues. Good job, synergistic solicits!

It’s reasonable to think that two of the September flash-forward issues would cross over, particularly when one is Justice League and the other is JL United, but the prospect of the League and Legion of Super-Heroes against an army of invading Martians makes my withered old fan’s heart beat just a little faster. It looks like there are at least a couple of other crossovers, too: Batman’s “extreme methods” in Batman, Detective and Batman and Robin; and Wonder Woman’s God of War posturing in her own title and in Superman/Wonder Woman.

COMINGS AND GOINGS

The creative team behind the new Star Spangled War Stories Featuring G.I. Zombie looks pretty impressive. Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti are always reliably entertaining, and Scott Hampton should bring an appropriately moody look to these adventures. However, despite the ridiculously high-concept premise of an undead soldier — adapted presumably from the previously established “G.I. Robot” feature — I don’t know how long these folks can keep the stories fresh (as it were). I mean, once you address the obvious moral issues and do a couple of “unstoppable killing machine” moments, what else is there?

So it looks like Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang are leaving Wonder Woman pretty soon — although the listing for Wonder Woman #33 doesn’t offer many clues about when its new storyline will conclude.  Those will leave some pretty big boots to fill, not least because the Wonder Woman creative team tends to be pretty closely scrutinized.

With the new Earth 2: World’s End weekly set to debut in October, I suspect Earth 2 and Worlds’ Finest are headed for the last roundup. At least they’ll continue in some form. Doesn’t look good for the original Earth-2 Superman, though.

COLLECTIONS

None of the solicits for the Forever Evil-related Justice League hardcovers contains the phrase “Forever Evil.” (To be fair, they do include either the word “Forever” or the word “Evil.”) This despite the fact that Justice League’s issues wove subplots in and out of the events in the Forever Evil miniseries, while Justice League of America dealt with the heroes’ prison and Justice League Dark was part of the four-title “Blight” tie-in crossover.

I know I must seem often like a doddering idiot talking about the relative merits of single issues versus collected editions, considering that I have been reading the former for so long that it’s hard for me to imagine switching. However, it’s nonsense like this that only reinforces my single-issue habits. At the end of February I figured Forever Evil would be collected like Blackest Night, which was dumb for BN and remains so.

Why, if DC insists on these types of crossovers, is it content to keep collecting its series by title and not story? “Throne of Atlantis” was collected in an Aquaman hardcover and a Justice League hardcover, each of which contained relevant issues from the other series, but neither of which included exactly the same material. Even if DC wants to avoid such confusion going forward, the question remains: how are these things so hard? If you have one story, odds are you know when it starts and when it stops, and you know what it contains, and that way you can put it all in one place. If DC adapted Gone With the Wind, it’d probably do separate volumes for Scarlett, Rhett and Melanie, because, hey, you can read what you want, you know?

Indeed, that’s what it seems to have done for the Forever Evil tie-in “Blight,” which ran through JL Dark, Pandora, Phantom Stranger and Constantine, but is apparently being collected piecemeal as those series are being collected. What’s more, the 18 issues of “Blight” were all part of a single gigundo story, not four different perspectives on the same small incident — so it’s not like you could read, say, Pandora and get the gist of everything. The JL Dark hardcover is a good example. Because it contains two issues’ worth of “Trinity War” and six of “Blight,” you have to read it in conjunction with the other series’ collections just to avoid massive gaps in the narrative. Fortunately, the Constantine paperback comes out Aug. 6, so you can get a head start before the JL Dark hardcover comes out Aug. 20. The Phantom Stranger paperback drops in September, around the same time as the Forever Evil hardcover, and the Pandora paperback follows in October.  Of course, impatient readers could always just download the issues themselves. With all that in mind, would it really have been more confusing to collect “Blight” on its own, even if it took up two or three books?

Now then …

I’m happy to see Showcase Presents Captain Carrot finally on DC’s schedule. It was a fun series that didn’t overstay its welcome, and the Oz-Wonderland War was pretty decent too. I have all these issues, but they’re not all in the best condition, so it’ll be good to have everything in one volume.

Along the same lines, I don’t buy a lot of Absolute editions, but I may have to make an exception for Absolute Batman Incorporated. While it’s only the last big chunk of Grant Morrison and company’s sweeping Bat-saga, it’s probably the chunk that stands alone the best — and the Absolute format would sure complement all that pretty artwork.

AND FINALLY …

I would be a lot more excited to read the new Teen Titans if not for that oversexualized Kenneth Rocafort cover. I liked a lot of Will Pfeifer’s previous DC work, and ordinarily I would be more excited about him working on the new series. However, the cover just screams “inappropriate,” not to mention “lowest common denominator.”

Others have spoken on this topic (and its aftermath) much more eloquently, and I defer to them. Among other things, this whole cluster reminds me of a Tom Tomorrow cartoon from 1997 or so that made fun of an Esquire cover featuring supermodel Christy Turlington. Although Esquire was (and still is) trying to market itself as a magazine for sophisticated, refined men, Ms. Turlington was looking seductively into the camera and tugging slightly at the button of her low-riding jeans. This, as the cartoon put it, conveyed a rather unsubtle message: “Hey, good-looking man who reads Esquire! How’d you like to get into my pants?” The cartoon concluded with a couple of sweaty lugs complaining that really, they were too sophisticated, and noting in their own defense “We read Esquire, do we not?”

The comparison isn’t exactly on point, but to me it speaks to a similar set of desires. DC wants to flatter a certain portion of its readership by using the old “edgy” angle, so the new Teen Titans cover puts Wonder Girl’s breasts front and center. It tells the horn dogs that this is a “sophisticated, mature” take on a team of teenage superheroes — as opposed to the kiddy-fied Cartoon Network versions, which attract a larger, more diverse (and therefore clearly less discriminating) audience. In reality, however, the cover has probably boxed in both DC and its intended audience, and fostered in them an “us-against-the-world” mentality, such that if anyone’s offended, it’s her own fault.

I can tell you right now that this cover has put me off buying the new Teen Titans. Again, I like Pfeifer, I’ve liked Rocafort pretty well on the Superman books, and for the better part of 30-odd years (from the mid-‘70s to the mid-‘00s) I have read some form of Teen Titans. Although that last part has undoubtedly contributed to whatever fannish entitlement I feel toward the Titans, I try to recognize that it’s not all about pleasing my particular sensibilities. My experience makes me a guide, not a gatekeeper. Indeed, when I finally stopped getting Titans (somewhere around 2004), it was because I couldn’t relate to the main characters anymore. They weren’t my generation of Titans — but more importantly, they were someone else’s.

At its best, Titans can create that sort of emotional attachment, regardless of who is Robin, Kid Flash or Wonder Girl. I know the counter-argument: “Give it a chance; we love these characters and we want to forge that bond too.” However, it doesn’t take much to undermine that sort of foundation, and this sort of objectification does a lot of undermining. The Teen Titans concept has shifted slightly over the past 50 years, from “sidekicks teaming up” to “young heroes coming into their own,” but if it’s now one of the last places where 15-year-old boys (or those who aspire to such status) can go for cheap thrills — First they came for Wonder Girl’s boobs, and I said nothing — everyone involved seriously needs to re-evaluate their priorities.

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Comments

15 Comments

For me the irony of the ‘over-sexualised’ TT cover is that, in the scheme of comic things, that image of Cassie is relatively tame. Yep, she’s got big boobs and I question the need to show her cleavage but she’s front and centre and looking like she’s in charge, women literally just posed like sex objects. There are far worse offenders out there but the shrill debate over that cover drowned out sensible debate. And if straight teen boys want to leer over boobs they should just go to the mall. There are girls as young as Cassie showing off way more skin than this.

Personally I’m just glad she’s not in a tube top and thong. Yep, I have that little faith in the way comics portray women.

Also lost in the debate, the gay being relegated – back of the bus for you, Bunker. At least Cassie got the prime spot…

I can your criticism of the new Teen Titans book. However, I don’t think is a bog deal…though, to be fair, if you felt morally disgust, then that’s a personal matter. My opinionis irrelevant due to that fact.

But I don’t think there’s a problem with the cover. It is edgy, but that’s the point. I don’t think DC should get criticized for giving the market what they want. And quite frankly, I think the fact that she’s sexually confident is the reason why is getting backlash. These are heroes, meant to be envisioned the way you want to see it. Her sexually observed behavior should not be a reason to discredit her look, because if you criticize the look, in theory, you criticize her. What’s the point of creating appealing and confident characters if everyone hates them? Catwoman is a strong and independent woman who shows off some skin and gets everything her way, to the point of manipulating those she can. But that’s what makes her appealing and sexy. She did everything on her own, without any help. Why can Wonder Girl have that sane attitude and self-confidence? Because she is little Wonder Girl? Sounds like an unreasonable argument.

Granted, the Teen Titans were never a joy to me. I’m quite aware of their historic background and its character personaloties, so those whose IQ’s on the series is high may share a knowledgeable and in-depth opinion, like you @Tom. But that is a judgment call, and before you know it, there may be more to Wonder Girl than you even realize it.

Oh, not. Not again with the TT cover dilemma again. A cover doesn’t make the comic. I’m pretty sure the guys at DC are laughing and counting the money they are saving thanks to the free publicity. It’s “Red Hood and…” all over again.

This old fan agrees with you regarding seeing the Justice League team of with the Legion of Super Heroes to take on invading martians…that sounds like a blast!

Obviously we’ve already reached the point where people are reacting in an “oh, I’m sick of hearing about this therefore why does it even matter” way, but as Tom himself stated, DC could/should have looked at that cover adn thought “wow, we’re really focussing on the breasts here aren’t we… I wonder if anyone ELSE will focus on them too…?”

Clearly there’s going to be naysayers who say that everyone is “whining” or making a big deal out of nothing, but that’s a fantastic way to just brush this under the carpet because you’re “tired of reading about it”.

And the excuse that she’s “sexually confident”… well… I’ve never really seen any of the GUYS be “sexually confident”. Usually they’re just confident. And yes, it’s great to think of any female character as confident and empowered and whatnot… but do they have to be “sexually” confident. Seriously? I mean, is it even necessary. Heck, I definitely love a fair few female characters more than a 3-dimensional flesh and blood human male should do… but it kind of talks down to you when a female character has to be “sexually _____” anything.

“Sexually intelligent”, “sexually strong”, “sexually powerful”… can they not just be “intelligent”, “strong”, “powerful”? Do you get what I’m saying?

“And if straight teen boys want to leer over boobs they should just go to the mall. There are girls as young as Cassie showing off way more skin than this.”

I’m not trying to start anything here, DC Sheenan. However, if this is true… then why would it be OK for teen girls to be dressed like that in public… but not on the cover of an actual comic book?

Jake Earlewine

April 25, 2014 at 4:52 am

I’m just amazed people are still buying DC comics after these last couple years of total crap.

I’ve heard people say, “It’s not all bad, check out the ‘Court of Owls’ story in Batman” or check out “Dial H for Hero”. In the last couple weeks I found both of them at the public library, and decided to really give them a good read. I found they are utter garbage. They left me wondering if those who enjoyed them had actually read any really good comic books. I am so grateful I didn’t spend money to buy them.

Wow, 5 paragraphs protesting cleavage on a comic book cover. There is something so quintessentially “comic book blogger” about that.

Edgy?

There’s nothing edgy about any of this. Nothing that pushes any part of any conceivable envelope. The original critique of the cover was dead-on, but the central problem has been lost in the din of people complaining about and championing cartoon boobs: There is NOTHING on that cover that sells the book to anything but the already entrenched, dwindling audience that already knows and cares about these characters. There’s no welcome mat for new readers besides the #1 on the cover, and in these days of constant relaunches and retreads, everyone knows that numbers lie, too.

The New Suicide Squad cover does a better job in that regard, depicting a story of the old guard deposed, in favor of the new leadership. Even though it’s nothing new stylistically, at least there’s a hint of an intriguing plot development. The Titans just stand around.

Wow, 5 paragraphs protesting cleavage on a comic book cover. There is something so quintessentially “comic book blogger” about that.

Um, no. Tom wrote five paragraphs about how it is utterly assinine it was for DC to have published a cover like this because, in the face of declining sales and a dwindling fanbase, rather than making a smart business decision and publish a series that would appear to a broader audience, thereby selling better and, y’know, actually making them more money, they are instead publishing a book with a teenage girl sporting a pair of gigantic breasts, which is going to just end up alienating & driving off even more potential readers.

I would not be at all surprised if Dan DiDio and his associates are secretly embarassed and disgusted by the success & popularity of the two Teen Titans animated series because, at heart, they are not saavy business people attempting to increase DC’s profitability, but rather a bunch of overgrown fanboys who have control of their favorite toys and don’t want anyone else to play with them.

“that oversexualized Kenneth Rocafort cover”

BWAHAHAHAH!! If you consider that “oversexualized”… Geez…

I hope Earth 2 and World’s Finest will not end. Currently, they are my favorites. I have a feeling that the Earth-2 characters will find themselves on Earth-1 and in a new book.

I think there has been too much over-the-top arguments over the breast-size that the real questions are forgotten.
of course the original critique was complaining about many things. Wonder Girls impractical costume, unnatural figure, dubious perspective, the minority character hidden in the background, etc.
But I feel one issue in the piece and response isn’t properly discussed.
Age.

How do you determine the PRECISE age of a non-existent person in a drawing (given that the person will not have a real date of birth)? and how important is it to do so?
(note- by precise I mean more specific than how physically mature the character looks)
Must comic characters have a fixed age or can artists depict them growing up or at different ages?

Is this linked to the earlier controversy over the proposed Powerpuff Girl’s alternative cover where some people thought it was unacceptable for reasons too “obvious” to explain while others felt it was tame and innocent, with both groups feeling there was something wrong with people in the other group?

I thought “lowest common denominator” was the central strategy of the New 52
(either that or recreate the early Image on a larger scale…)

I’m just amazed Jake Earlewine continues to read about and comment on a topic he apparently hates and despises.

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