Tom Bondurant, Author at Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources

Grumpy Old Fan | Stick a fork in DC’s March solicitations

Liquid metal

A punch so hard it knocks the green off

A while back I wrote that DC Comics could stand to cancel some books, but this isn’t exactly what I had in mind. DC’s March solicitations are among the most significant of the New 52. The August 2011 solicits, which were the last of their particular era, were relatively routine; back then, every superhero title was either being canceled or relaunched. By contrast, March 2015 looks like the start of another line-wide makeover. It will see the end of several series, including some charter members of the New 52.

The solicits actually extend to the week of April 1, which will feature a slew of annuals, the final issues of the three weekly series, and Convergence #0. (All that will cost you $54.89 retail.) With Convergence then taking over April and May, readers will have to wait until June’s solicits (coming in February, of course) for the first full picture of the New However-Many. Although the nature of Convergence still suggests that some old, familiar elements will be reintroduced into the New 52 — because why say “every story matters” if you’re not going to use at least some of them going forward? — these solicits are arguably the strongest indication to date that the New 52 isn’t going away.

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Grumpy Old Fan | Can ‘The Flash’ be a pacesetter?

The times, they are a changin'

The times, they are a changin’

A little over a year ago, I asked, “what do we want out of a [superhero] comic-based TV series?”

This season, DC Comics fans have plenty of material to fuel that debate. I still haven’t seen any of Gotham or Constantine, but I’ve really enjoyed the combination of The Flash and Arrow. With both shows taking a break for the holidays, today I want to see what satisfies and what doesn’t.

SPOILERS FOLLOW for Arrow and The Flash, including some for the most recent episodes.

* * *

It took me a while to warm up to Arrow. After taking most of last season to catch up — and, as it happens, missing the Barry Allen episodes — I seem to have gotten on board just at the right time. Because I am not a fan of superhero shows that de-emphasize the “superhero” part, it was harder for me to accept that Oliver Queen would skulk around the urban jungle in a hood and eyeblack. That sort of intermediate realism (which now reminds me of the short-lived TV show based on Mike Grell’s Jon Sable comics) somehow requires more suspension of disbelief than a full-on costume and codename does.

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Grumpy Old Fan | ‘Crisis’ at 30, Part 1

But do they know it's Christmas?

But do they know it’s Christmas?

Thirty years ago, as part of the first ship week in December 1984, the debut issue of Crisis on Infinite Earths arrived in comics shops. Cover-dated April 1985, and scheduled to appear on newsstands during the first week of January, it was the flagship title of DC Comics’ year-long 50th-anniversary celebration. The two-year Who’s Who encyclopedia had launched a month earlier, and most of DC’s series would tie into Crisis at some point; but this was the book that promised big changes.

We talk a lot about the legacy of Crisis — high-stakes events, crossovers, reboots, etc. — but that can obscure the story itself. For all that it was designed to do, and all that it promised, Crisis remains both uneven and intriguing. At times it can read like a ramshackle assembly of exposition and spectacle, held together by the combined wills of its creative team. Some of it is flabby, some of it is clunky, but Crisis can still be thrilling, and even touching. In any event, it remains one of the great mileposts of DC history, so it can certainly stand another look.

Today is for the first issue, but this series will continue periodically throughout 2015. Grab your own copies of Crisis and follow along!

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Grumpy Old Fan | To Grandmother’s Earth we go?

Oh, like I was going to pick another cover

Oh, like I was going to pick another cover

(NOTE: The Futures Index is on Thanksgiving vacation, so you’ll get a double dose next week.)

It doesn’t look good for the current Universe Designate 2. If the title of the miniseries Earth 2: World’s End weren’t enough of a clue, the setup of its companion Futures End tells the tale: Apokoliptian troops devastate the planet, forcing the refugees into the main DC Universe (Designate Zero). Moreover, glimpses of the previous Earth-Two — one-time home to DC’s Golden Age heroes and their legacies, like you didn’t know — suggest that it might be making a comeback.

Considering the New 52 relaunch eliminated the original versions of the Golden Agers, their collective reinstatement isn’t without its own set of issues. A few months ago I looked at how the current Earth-2 has distinguished itself from its predecessor. Therefore, today let’s ask how the return of that predecessor might work.

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Grumpy Old Fan | DC hopes you’ll heart Harley in February

Convergence

Convergence

In April, DC Comics released solicitations for its July titles alongside an extra batch of advance listings for the September Futures End-related one-shots. This week, in a move that’s perhaps unintentionally similar, the publisher’s February solicits arrive amid advance info about the spring’s Convergence tie-ins.

The scheduling gap isn’t quite as great — only a couple of months here, as opposed to five months last time — and I can understand why DC would want to avoid a lot of negative fan speculation about Convergence. Still, it steals some thunder from the current batch of solicitations, which try to compensate with a raft of Harley Quinn variant covers (including, strangely enough, one for Harley Quinn itself). In addition to her own series and Suicide Squad, Harl also gets a Valentine’s Day Special, another hardcover collection, a statue, an action figure, and a guest-shot in Deathstroke. At this rate I’m expecting her to be Wonder Woman’s new Amazon queen.
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Grumpy Old Fan | Necessity invented Black Canary’s mother

And thus did Black Canary proclaim "the '80s are over"

And thus did Black Canary proclaim “the ’80s are over”

(NOTE: I’m happy to acknowledge the hard work and obvious dedication of the blogger Count Drunkula, whose Black Canary fansite Flowers & Fishnets was a great resource in putting together this post.)

Recent developments on The CW’s Arrow have gotten me thinking about the various twists and turns visited over the years upon DC Comics’ Black Canary. The television series has come at the character from a few different directions, even splitting some of her characteristics among three players. It makes sense for an adaptation of Green Arrow to include at least a nod to his longtime love interest, as traditionally they’ve been one of DC’s most prominent super-couples.

However, Black Canary didn’t start out as part of Green Arrow’s supporting cast, and even a cursory glimpse of her past invites some careful examination. Indeed, for a few years in the ‘80s, the history of Black Canary threatened to approach Hawkman levels of continuity complexity. Today we’ll look back at that history, and specifically at how a shared-universe setting can both screw up and enrich a character.

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Grumpy Old Fan | Coming together, splitting hairs

Imps gone wild

Collateral damage

For months speculation had raged about what DC Comics would do to mitigate the logistics of its West Coast move. This week the publisher made it officialConvergence is a two-month, 89-issue event starting April 1.  It involves a central weekly miniseries and an array of two-issue micro-series combining various versions of venerable DC folk. Basically, if you’ve ever wondered whether Blackhawk could beat Kamandi, or wanted to see the Superman of 2010 square off against the Green Lantern of 1944, next April and May are going to be pretty fun for you.

I’ve been writing about this for so long that I’m not sure what else to say. (And yet, here we are.) Last week I wrote about DC’s various narrative delays and deferrals. Now I’m even more certain we’ll have to wait until June for the next significant DCU development. Still, the fact that Convergence is happening is … I don’t want to say “encouraging,” but it does seem like progress toward an ultimate — no pun intended — resolution. (Note: This presumes that DC does in fact have specific plans for the superhero line.)

Therefore, today let’s survey the Multiversal landscape, with an eye toward determining Convergence’s role in the grand scheme of things.

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‘Bob’s Burgers’ builds on its inspiration

BobsBurgers-900x470

[Editor’s note: Each Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss the best in comics from the last seven days — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.]

Since sports have kept Bob’s Burgers off the air for the past few weeks, this week’s Bob’s Burgers #3 (from Dynamite) was especially welcome. It’s a potent distillation that uses the comics format to capture the show’s unique tone and energy.

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Grumpy Old Fan | The constant campaign, revisited

Trust me, this was a huge deal at the time

Trust me, this was a huge deal at the time

Several years ago, in a post for the old Great Curve blog that’s surely lost to history, I called DC Comics’ steady stream of crossovers the “constant campaign.” Just as winning candidates must shift from electoral strategies to actual governing, so I argued that DC had to stop churning and changing and settle into telling stories. These days DC isn’t so much into line-wide crossovers — not like 2004-09, when Identity Crisis led into Infinite Crisis and from there to Final Crisis — but it has a similar lack of focus.

* * *

Although the New 52 makeover is only a little more than three years old, it’s gone through quite a bit of change. Many series, and many creative teams, have come and gone. The original 52-series lineup boasted a number of distinctive, idiosyncratic writer/penciler combinations. Now, however, with this week’s final issue of Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s (and friends’) Wonder Woman, only Justice League, Batman and Batman & Robin have kept the same writer since the relaunch. Moreover, only the two Bat-books have kept the same writer and penciler.

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Grumpy Old Fan | New year, old habits from DC in January

Rowsdower!

Rowsdower!

Although the first issues of Who’s Who and Crisis \on Infinite Earths got a headstart in the closing months of 1984, January 1985 kicked off DC Comics’ 50th anniversary in earnest. No doubt real life — i.e., the DC offices’ upcoming westward move — is preventing the publisher from starting the 80th anniversary celebrations this January, and the solicitations certainly don’t have much in the way of commemoration.

(To be sure, the month’s variant-cover scheme involves the 75th anniversary of The Flash, which Robot 6 contributor J. Caleb Mozzocco has already covered extensively on his own blog.)

Therefore, while the real fireworks will probably have to wait another couple of months, the January solicitation tease the return of Robin, changes in the Super-status quo, and other various and sundry plot churning.

LOOKING AHEAD

One thing that jumps out at me from these solicits has to do with numbering. Now, we all love numbering — big versus small, gimmicks versus straightforward integer progression — but the January books are soliciting the 38th issues of the remaining original New 52 titles. That puts the 50th issues of those series on track for January 2016; or, more likely, February 2016, if next September is another “take a break for a set of specials” month. If I were DC and wanted to relaunch my various titles, and I were a year away from a set of 50th issues, I’d probably wait a year.

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Grumpy Old Fan | Firestorm, Cyborg and corporate synergy

Science bros

Science bros

We’re just now into the back half of October and it’s already been a busy month for DC Comics’ television and movie adaptations. Gotham got under way, The Flash debuted and Arrow has returned, with Constantine on deck. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. announced a massive slate of Justice League-related movies, stretching from 2016’s Batman v Superman to 2020’s Cyborg.

However, the adaptation pipeline has the potential to flow in two directions. Between Caitlin Snow’s potential Killer Frost, the second episode’s Multiplex and the promise of both Ronnie Raymond and Martin Stein, the new Flash show seems pretty intent on bringing in a good bit of Firestorm lore. If DC executives hadn’t already been thinking about yet another Firestorm comic revival, The Flash’s immediate success may well encourage them to. Similarly, of all the movies Warner Bros. apparently intends to make over the next six years, the only one without a solid comics presence is Cyborg.

Therefore, today we’ll look at these two creations of the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, to see what DC might do with their four-color futures.

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‘Astro City’ gives an old ‘Wish’ new life

ASTRO-Cv3n16-tease

[Editor’s note: Each Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss the best in comics from the last seven days — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.]

Ever since its return under the Vertigo banner, Astro City (from Kurt Busiek, Brent Eric Anderson, and company) has been pretty great on a consistent basis. Don’t get me wrong, it’s always been a highlight of my pull list; but the current run has really been something special. Last month’s issue #15 — concluding the story of a sweet little old robotics genius and the supervillain who sought to ruin her — was particularly heartwarming. (What’s that? Something in my eye? No, I’m just tired….)

Then, however, I read this week’s issue #16. Readers looking for familiar pastiches will be rewarded immediately, since the broad strokes of the story are deliberately reminiscent of Silver Age Superboy and Lex Luthor. (The energy-headed hero Starbright also looks a bit like Firestorm, but that’s more incidental.) It’s a tale of awkward friendship, super-powered rivalry, and an act of simple kindness which literally transforms a life. As Busiek reveals on the letters page, the middle part of the story comes from his unpublished eight-page script for an installment of the backup feature “Superman: The In-Between Years.” In hindsight it’s easy to see how that script would have worked as a look into the developing dynamics between the Collegian of Steel and his former friend — but as usual, Astro City has taken those elements in undreamt-of directions.

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Grumpy Old Fan | Balancing out the New 52, Part 2

Really, isn't everything fifty-fifty? Either it happens or it doesn't

Really, isn’t everything fifty-fifty? Either it happens or it doesn’t

Last week I laid out a lot of numbers and background on the distribution of character-oriented franchises in the New 52. (Along the way I got confused about the New 52 version of G.I. Combat; it was canceled after Issue 7, but its zero issue brought its total to eight.)

Accordingly, this week discusses whether the New 52 needs to get back up to its eponymous number of titles, or whether a smaller stable of ongoing series is a more sustainable environment. We’ll get into some other concerns as well, but the overarching question — as DC transforms its biggest franchise, the Bat-books — involves how the publisher chooses to allocate its resources.

(Because I forgot to do it directly last week, I want to acknowledge my debt to Dave Carter, who started me thinking about all this when he charted New 52 longevity in January and who, providentially, has just started listing DC rosters of Augusts past.)

* * *

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Grumpy Old Fan | Balancing out the New 52, Part 1

Larfleeze, not beloved among the franchisees

Larfleeze, not beloved among the franchisees

Note: This week’s post, and probably next week’s, get pretty number-heavy. Also, this week’s post contains a lot of history and background data. I have tried to make it all entertaining, but consider yourselves warned. Either way, there’s still the Futures Index.

Starting this week, the Batman line gets a makeover. Gotham Academy, from writers Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher and artist Karl Kerschl, is a delightfully spry addition to the Bat-landscape. Amid a franchise dominated (not unreasonably) by stylized, unflinching urban avenging, GA’s unique perspective is both welcome and necessary. Waiting in the wings are new Batgirl and Catwoman creative teams, as well as new titles Arkham Manor and Gotham After Midnight. (The three new books apparently take the places of Batman: The Dark Knight, Batwing and Birds of Prey.)

All look promising, and each offers a new look at a seldom-seen aspect of the Batman mythology. Moreover, it’s vitally important for DC to reach out to a diverse audience, particularly one that may have felt underappreciated over the past few years.

However, all this innovation comes at a time when the in-name-only New 52 has been stuck for a while at around 40-odd series. Only 21 of the original 52 ongoings are still being published, although books like Teen Titans, Suicide Squad and Deathstroke have been relaunched with new volumes. Similarly, we might view Grayson and Justice League United as continuations of Nightwing and the New-52 version of Justice League of America.

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The New Yorker profiles ‘The Last Amazon’

wonder-woman-cropped

[Editor’s note: Each Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss the best in comics from the last seven days — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.]

Anyone seeking an antidote to recent Wonder Woman-related idiocy need look no farther than Jill Lepore’s story “The Last Amazon” in the Sept. 22 issue of The New Yorker.

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