Tom Bondurant, Author at Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources
Continuing the retrospective, we come to Crisis on Infinite Earths #4, which went on sale during the first week of March 1985. Narrative captions give the in-story date as July 1985 (as was the case in Issue 3), which isn’t that important now, although later we will see that the bulk of the series happens/happened in that month.
Anyway, Crisis #4 puts the superheroes in the background to follow some vignette-style arcs, mostly involving Pariah and the Monitor. This has the effect of distracting the reader from the bigger cosmic goings-on. However (at the risk of overloading on negatives), this doesn’t mean that nothing happens — it’s still happening, even in the background. Re-reading this issue, I was struck by how quickly it moves, such that by the time Pariah turns in horror to watch a cosmically-coordinated cataclysm, it’s the bottom of Page 22 and therefore far too late to stop. Indeed, just about everything that can go wrong does go wrong — which at the time struck me as a genius move, and still resonates today. The issue was written and edited by Marv Wolfman, penciled by George Pérez, inked by Mike DeCarlo, lettered by John Costanza and colored by Anthony Tollin. Bob Greenberger was the associate editor, with Len Wein the consulting editor.
It was Mark Waid Week last week at Marvel, and the veteran writer penned two more winning installments of S.H.I.E.L.D. (issue #3) and Daredevil (issue #13).
For the latter, Waid and artist Chris Samnee (with colorist Matthew Wilson) poked fun at the old “loved one in danger” trope, as Daredevil fought to save Kirsten from an unknown opponent. Not only did this happen with the express acknowledgment that Daredevil’s relationships tend to have unhappy ends, it explored just who might want to abduct her, and put a couple of subplot-servicing twists on top just for good measure. Waid and Samnee have been so reliably good for so long on this title that they may risk being taken for granted, but this issue was a real treat. Done in one but with a final-page hint of future danger, Waid’s script was propulsive enough to keep the reader both involved and guessing throughout.
Winter finally caught up with the Memphis suburbs over the past couple of weeks, bringing nasty bouts with freezing rain and (currently) a little snow. Digging out from under the ice has been more tedious than anything else, but the persistent cold kept us all housebound for a little while. Of course, compared to folks in other parts of the country, we are very lucky.
Still, the mere idea of days at home with nothing else to do made me want to search the DC archives on comiXology for decent binge-reading material. Everything from the New 52 forward is available there, so the following recommendations are for older series. I’ve tried to stay away from the bigger names, and go instead for stories and series which might make the time indoors a little more tolerable. They’re also organized according to Convergence eras, so even if you’re not coping with the cold, you can still look forward to April and May.
If you liked the first half of Convergence in the April solicitations, you’ll probably enjoy the other set of shoes dropping in May. In fact, the second issues are all extra-sized (but not more expensive), filled out with previews of June’s coming attractions.
However, it’s not all anticlimaxes or “second verse, same as the first.” There are a couple of twists: Not only will the New 52 characters be participating, but the solicitation for Convergence #8 makes it clear this is for all the cosmic marbles. “There can be only one reality” after these two months of nostalgia — and we may have to read the books themselves (gasp!) to see what that looks like.
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Finally, it’s here. After months of speculating about the practical effects of DC Comics’ cross-country move, the publisher revealed its regular lineup, which starts in June. With 20 new ongoings and four new miniseries joining 25 returning titles, it’s widely seen as the end of the New 52. I wrote about that aspect of DC’s news over the weekend, but today it’s time to dig into the emerging details of the new superhero line.
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Actually, let’s begin with one more nail in the New 52’s coffin: Just 12 of those initial 52 ongoings will continue unabated in June’s lineup. Moreover, eight of those 12 are books DC will publish until the last sun flickers out: Action Comics, Superman, Detective Comics, Batman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and Justice League. The other four charter New 52 members surviving to June are Batgirl, Catwoman, Green Arrow and Aquaman.
This past week, DC Comics revealed the new roster for its line of superhero books. Starting in June, the publisher is debuting 24 new titles (including a handful of miniseries) to go along with 25 returning series. Because these numbers don’t add up to 52 ongoing series, and because the phrase “The New 52″ doesn’t appear anywhere in either of DC’s press releases about the roster, many comics news sites (including CBR, ComicsAlliance, and The Beat) have deemed this to be the end of the New 52 brand.
The third issue of Crisis on Infinite Earths, which appeared in comics shops 30 years ago this week, or thereabouts, is probably the first to feel all “Crisis-y.” After two table-setting issues introducing the Multiverse to the characters and situations that would reshape it, Crisis #3 ramps up the carnage. From the New Teen Titans to the Haunted Tank, from the Legion of Super-Heroes to Jonah Hex, and otherwise across time and space, the issue is one giant disaster-movie trailer.
Now, I didn’t say the issue itself is a disaster, but some seams may be starting to show in the overall story. This 25-page installment was written and edited by Marv Wolfman, penciled by George Pérez, inked by Dick Giordano and Mike DeCarlo, colored by Tony Tollin, and lettered by John Costanza. Bob Greenberger was the associate editor and Len Wein was the consulting editor.
For a while now, it’s been hard to avoid talking about some sort of Multiverse.
Between Forever Evil, Futures End and World’s End, The Multiversity, Convergence, and recent looks back at Crisis on Infinite Earths, the grand structure of DC Comics’ cosmos has come back into the spotlight. Even Marvel is jumping into the deep end of the infinitely varied pool. (All things being equal, there will be another Crisis post next week, so the talk will continue at least in this space.) While I’m inclined to leave Battleworld and its ramifications to the experts, it’s all been reminding me of a “Power Girl Problem” — and no, it’s not costume-related. This week we’ll talk Kara Zor-L and a few other continuity tangles, with an eye towards avoiding future pitfalls.
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Paul O’Brien sums up the basic difficulties nicely:
In our current age of instant accessibility to an unimaginable library of entertainment, it’s difficult to imagine the hold that broadcast television once had on the culture. In the 1970s, people stayed home on Saturday nights to watch the CBS comedy lineup of Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart, and Carol Burnett. On Tuesdays, ABC had Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley. Of course, NBC owned Thursday nights for decades, from The Cosby Show, Cheers and L.A. Law in the ‘80s to Seinfeld, Mad About You, Friends, ER and The Office in the ‘90s and ‘00s.
Now imagine that NBC — which has since conceded Thursday to ABC’s now-dominant block of “Shondaland” dramas — will be replacing two months’ worth of regular Thursday programming with new episodes of the shows that typified “Must See TV.” Would you want to check in on Sam Malone, George Costanza, Ross & Rachel, or the doctors of Chicago General after all this time? Maybe, maybe not.
Well, for good or ill, that’s the bet DC Comics is making with the comics marketplace in April and May, by bringing back characters (and versions of characters) that haven’t been seen in anywhere from three to 30 years. Will readers want to check in with those characters, even if they’re the only DC game in town? Maybe, maybe not. It depends, I suspect, on some unquantifiable combination of character, creative team, and reader attachment to either or both. At long last, the first batch of Convergence solicitations is here, and today we’ll run through them.
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Last month marked the 30th anniversary of the first issue of Crisis on Infinite Earths, the ur-Big Event whose ripples continue to influence today’s (and tomorrow’s) superhero books. Accordingly, I thought it was a good time to revisit each issue on its approximate anniversary. That’s not because each issue of COIE was always a landmark unto itself, but because we tend to remember Crisis’ effects more than the ways in which the story was told.
Thus, it’s time for Issue 2, which was published in the direct market during the first week of January 1985. The issue was written by Marv Wolfman, penciled by George Pérez, inked by Dick Giordano, colored by Tony Tollin and lettered by John Costanza. Wolfman is listed as the issue’s editor, with Bob Greenberger as his associate editor (and co-plotter, according to COIE: The Compendium) and Len Wein as consulting editor.
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When the first few pages of Wonder Woman ’77‘s inaugural installment finds the Amazon Princess squaring off against a trio of Soviet roller-derby assassins, clearly it’s setting a very specific tone. DC’s latest digital-first series borrows its core conceit from the successful Batman ’66, presenting new comics stories from the world of an old TV adaptation.
Indeed, so far it’s fairly faithful to the show’s then-present-day setting, with Diana Prince and Steve Trevor working for a fictional government intelligence agency (the IADC) and getting their exposition from IRA the computer. Accordingly, in terms of period pieces, it’s not exactly The Americans, but writer Marc Andreyko and artist Drew Johnson have done a great job capturing both the look of the show and the style of its leads. Their Lynda Carter is spot-on, and their Lyle Waggoner evokes TV-Steve’s sparkly toothed swagger perfectly. Johnson (with colorist Romulo Fajardo Jr.) draws an especially detailed 1977, from the subtleties of Wonder Woman’s costume to the crowds at Studio 52. (Of course it’s “Studio 52.”)
As the new year is still fairly new, it’s time once again to revisit some old speculation, and offer a fresh batch.
2015 promises to be an unusual year for DC Comics, thanks to a couple of well-publicized real-world events: moving its offices from New York to California, and publishing two months’ worth of retro-themed comics while the regular series take a break. Although I’m getting tired of writing about these things, they will continue to dominate DC news for the next little while. Accordingly, counterintuitive though it may be, this week I’m going to resist talking about them as much as possible. You know they’re coming, I know they’re coming; but let’s try to find some other topics in the meantime.
Now to catch up on 2014’s items:
1. Anniversaries. Besides Batman’s 75th, which naturally got lots of play, I noted that last year was the 50th anniversary of the Teen Titans, the 55th of the Silver Age Green Lantern, Nightwing’s 30th, Zero Hour’s 20th and Identity Crisis’ 10th. The Titans got a commemorative hardcover and IC likewise received a new edition. However, Nightwing-the-series ended in 2014, as Nightwing-the-identity was exposed and Dick Grayson got a new spy-oriented comic. I also wondered whether the 50th anniversary of Batman’s “New Look” would get some special attention (it didn’t, unless you count the flood of Batman ‘66 love that accompanied the long-awaited home video releases of the New Look-inspired series).
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(Time once again for ROBOT 6 contributors Tom Bondurant and Carla Hoffman to email each other about the year in DC and Marvel superhero comics. This year’s exchange took place between Dec. 26 and Dec. 30.)
Tom Bondurant: First let’s address the elephant in the room — or, more accurately, the infinite number of parallel rooms, each containing a slightly different elephant. In 2015, both Marvel and DC are building Big Events around their respective multiverses. Conventional wisdom predicts that DC is doing this to address fan criticisms of the New 52, perhaps resulting in some continuity tweaks.
Carla Hoffman: Oh, man, I hope that’s true! Honestly, I have a hard time judging the inner workings of our respective companies sometimes because I always hear more from the fan side than the production team. Enough customers come in, day in and day out, with a piece of their mind on how things should be run or changed, but rarely do the people in charge — not creators and editors, mind you, the people who sign the checks at the end of the day with real power — come forward to say, “We feel this is the right direction.” Tom Brevoort on Tumblr comes close with his tireless open forum, but even then there’s always going to be company policy. If DC is brave enough to go “Maybe we shouldn’t have thrown the entire baby out with the bathwater” and massage their continuity into a more pleasing shape for fans, that’s going to be a heck of thing that will have an effect on readership, for sure.
The Futures Index is taking a break for the holidays. In fact, this post looks to be about 1,300 words on the value of taking a break. You might not think the topic should take that much space, but breaks can be tricky things.
For starters, downtime isn’t always an easy commitment, not least because it means giving up control. If you’re not checking messages until Jan. 2, you’re admitting that the world can get along without you. Accordingly, comics publishers that have new material for Dec. 24 and 31 are telling their customers not to worry — the comics will be there for them. (There are a lot of “important” comics out this week too, like the Robin Rises special and a few installments of the Lantern books’ “Godhead.”)
Still, no matter what — or if — you’re celebrating, the last week of December all but forces you to slow down, because so many others are. Sometimes this slowdown doesn’t occur until the very last hours of the 24th or 31st, when you’ve done all you can do and the ticking clock can no longer be outrun.
DC Comics faces a similar deadline on April 1, when its regular roster of series goes on hiatus for two months. We know already the Convergence comics will feature stories set in previous versions of DC continuity, but so far we can make only educated guesses (at best) about what will be next.
The marquee installment of The Multiversity may have been last month’s Pax Americana, but I was especially excited to see what writer Grant Morrison and artist Cameron Stewart (with colorist Nathan Fairbairn) would do with the Captain Marvel Family in this week’s Thunderworld. I was not disappointed. The Marvels have long been a sort of unicorn for DC’s superhero line, personifying both its potential and its abuse, and even its history (acquired as they were after the demise of Fawcett Comics). However, many modern takes on Cap and company often elicit negative comparisons to the character’s previous treatment. These boil down to some form of “why can’t it be like the old days?” (which, after all, is a common enough DC complaint).