Axel-In-Charge: Navigating the "Civil War II" Landscape, Bringing DMC to Marvel
Batman is celebrating his 75th birthday this year, which may come as a surprise. I mean, look at that smooth, handsome face, or what little of it is visible beneath his cowl. Look at those ripped muscles, or the way he runs across rooftops and beats up criminals — why, Batman doesn’t look a day over 35!
Now just as it did recently for Superman, DC Comics is releasing a pair of hefty, 400-page hardcover collections that serve as a sort of survey for how the character has been portrayed and functioned in the publisher’s comics line during since his first appearance. Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years and The Joker: A Celebration of 75 Years aren’t exactly the comics equivalents of greatest-hits albums, but they are nice starting points for newcomers and/or casual fans, offering quick, compelling overviews of the title characters through the decades.
The Batman volume, featuring Jim Lee’s rendition of the character from the 2003 storyline “Hush” on the dust jacket, must have been particularly challenging to assemble, given the thousands and thousands of pages of Batman comics, featuring dozens of different takes by scores of creators.
“There was a time when I was 23 years old that I thought my career was over because I couldn’t move my hand. It turned out it was just a pinched nerve. But Archie Goodwin, the [Marvel] editor at the time, made sure that when I went to the doctor, I was covered for medical bills. I didn’t have health coverage then. I try to pay it forward. I do a lot of philanthropic and charity work. Some of my greatest awards, greatest rewards, have not been for comic work, but for charity work. Like art — thank you’s for money raised — from children in the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Photos from their wishes coming true. They’ll laminate it into a plaque that I can hang on the wall. I cherish those. I was actually the subject of a wish once, a child wanted to meet me. Me, out of all the things he could have wished for. Good gosh, that is something that I will never forget.”
— veteran artist and writer George Perez, recalling the nicest thing anyone has ever done for him
Welcome to “Cheat Sheet,” ROBOT 6′s guide to the week ahead. And just like that, Comic-Con International is upon us. But while tens of thousands of people are dashing to airports, exiting planes and checking into hotels on Wednesday, many of the rest of us will be making our weekly pilgrimage to the comic book store for this week’s releases.
So before the announcements start rolling out of San Diego, join us to see what comics caught the eyes of the ROBOT 6 contributors.
So this is what happens when you praise Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern run …
Let’s be clear: I do not generally have violent mood swings. My sense of well-being does not depend on the fortunes of DC Comics. I don’t pretend to have any special insight into the publisher’s inner workings, and I’m sure the reverse is equally true. However, after saying many nice things about Green Lantern a couple of weeks ago, and then eviscerating the humorless “WTF Certified” last week, it was pretty surprising to see the May solicitations address both topics.
NEXT, RAFALCA JOINS THE LEGION OF SUPER-PETS
The Green Team may have been a group of entitled, self-satisfied jerks with an abnormal need for validation, but if anyone can make them lovable — or, alternatively, entertainingly clueless — it’s Art Baltazar and Franco. I don’t see this book as DC scraping the bottom of the character barrel. Rather, I take it as a good-faith attempt to update a (perhaps misguided) concept for the sensibilities of our time. Not quite “at least they’re trying,” but … at least it’s not another big-name spinoff, you know? (Although a new Steel series is always welcome.) Regardless, the over/under for this book has to be somewhere around 6 issues.
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, where we take a look at the comics, books and other things the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately. We kick off the new year with Brian Cronin from Comics Should Be Good! as our special guest. In addition to running our sister blog, Brian is also an author, having written two books on comics trivia. He also runs the blog Urban Legends Revealed, where he talks about sports and entertainment urban legends.
To see what Brian and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back for another round of Robot Roulette. It’s kind of like Vegas, without the mob connections or chances of actually winning money–comic creators spin the virtual wheel and get six questions thrown at them to answer.
Today Kurt Busiek takes his six questions and turns them into gold. Kurt, of course, is the award-winning writer of Astro City, Liberty Project, Untold Tales of Spider-Man, Marvels, Avengers, Arrowsmith, Shockrockets, Thunderbolts, Iron Man, Kirby: Genesis, JLA/Avengers, Trinity, Superman: Secret Identity, Conan, Power Company and many, many more comics. You can find out more about him on his website.
My thanks to Kurt for agreeing to answer our questions. Now let’s get to it …
Every week, hard as it may be to believe, I try honestly to offer something I think might interest the larger group of DC Domics superhero readers. However, this week I am invoking a personal privilege. For one thing, with Halloween on a Wednesday (when I usually end up writing these essays), the holiday will more than likely take priority.
The main reason, though, is that today is my birthday, and as you might have guessed from the headline, this year is my 43rd birthday. Therefore, this week I have pulled together an especially memorable DC story and/or issue from each of those years, 1969 through 2012. (Note: They may not always line up with the actual year, but just for simplicity’s sake, all dates are cover dates.) These aren’t necessarily the best or most noteworthy stories of their particular years, but they’ve stuck with me. Besides, while I’ve read a lot of comics from a lot of sources, for whatever reason DC has been the constant. Maybe when I’m 50 I’ll have something more comprehensive.
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Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.
If I had $15: Whoah, another tough week to narrow things down. Is every Brian Wood-written title required to come out the same week of each month? Do Dark Horse and Marvel get together and plan it that way, so that people who only buy Wood comics only have to go to the store once a month? I think more than half the DC titles I buy come out this time every month, too. So yeah, lots to pick from …
Anyway, I’d start with one of those Brian Wood comics, Conan the Barbarian #8 (Dark Horse, $3.50), which features Vasilis Lolos on art. Lolos drew one of my favorite issues of Northlanders, “The Viking Art of Single Combat,” so it’s cool to see the two of them working together again. I’d also get a comic I’m sure will be popular with a few of my colleagues, the first issue of the new Stumptown miniseries by Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth (Oni Press, $3.99). Next I’d get Manhattan Projects #6 (Image, $3.50); this issue turns the focus from America’s secret science program to Russia’s secret science program. Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra are having a lot of fun with this one. Finally, I’d get Uncanny X-Force #31 (Marvel, $3.99), which really picked things up last issue … and this is a comic that’s usually running on twice as many cylinders anyway.
If I had $30, I’d also grab two finales from DC Comics — Shade #12 and Resurrection Man #0 (both $2.99). Honestly, I never expected to see a Resurrection Man comic again, much less by the guys who wrote the original, so the fact that we got a good run of 13 issues is a pleasant surprise. Shade, of course, was planned as 12 issues from the beginning, and was a nice return to the Starman-verse by writer James Robinson. That leaves me room for three more $2.99 comics, which means I’m going to bypass X-Men, The Massive and Avengers Assemble this week (let’s assume that I’ll one day spend my splurge money on the trades) and instead go with Chew #28 (Image, $2.99), It Girl and the Atomics #2 (Image, $2.99) and Demon Knights #0 (DC Comics, $2.99).
Splurge: Assuming I wouldn’t spend my unlimited gift card on single issues, I’d be looking at the first Bucko collection from Dark Horse ($19.99) and Fantagraphics’ Is That All There Is? trade ($25).
Recently, an off-hand tweet by Kurt Busiek brought something interesting to mind. First, the tweet: “There are SUPERMAN BY GARCIA-LOPEZ and BATMAN BY ARCHIE GOODWIN hardcovers coming. Life is good.”
The two books he’s talking about are Adventures of Superman: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Tales of the Batman: Archie Goodwin, both hardcovers and both scheduled for release in April. It’s interesting because, by and large, DC Comics hasn’t released a lot of books focusing on a creator. Sure, the publisher has made exceptions for Alan Moore (DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore), Jack Kirby (Jack Kirby Omnibus) and Geoff Johns (The Flash by Geoff Johns Omnibus), but seeing it done for creators like Goodwin and Garcia-Lopez feels different somehow. While Goodwin was a positively epic force during his time in comics, he’s not exactly a household name in the modern parlance of comics fans (unfortunately), and Garcia-Lopez was an artist, not a writer like all of those listed above. DC, and comics in general, has shown itself to be very writer-centric in terms of the attribution of works, so for me this is a breakthrough — or at least a crack in the wall.
Spurred on by these ideas, I’m beginning to think of what else, and who else, DC could capitalize on with its massive library of work created in the past 78 years. Here are some ideas:
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? This week our special guest is artist Ivan Anaya, one of the winners of the winner of the Skullkickers Tavern Tales Contest. He’ll join the other winner, writer Aubrey Sitterson, on a story for Skullkickers #18.
To see what Ivan and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonson’s “Manhunter” was the story of Paul Kirk, a big-game hunter, ex-superhero and retired covert operative who was killed by a rampaging elephant and revived by the mysterious Council. Dedicated to world domination, the Council also created enforcers out of Kirk’s clones, and trained them all to be unstoppable assassins. Kirk rebelled, of course, earning the Council’s wrath; and that’s where the main story picks up.
The seven-part serial ran in Detective Comics #437-443 (October/November 1973-October/November 1974). Appearing initially as an eight-page backup feature, its final chapter was a full 20 pages, not coincidentally because it guest-starred Batman. As such, the whole thing would fit in an 80-Page Giant with room to spare, but it is full of tight, dense storytelling that encourages multiple readings. Among other things, it received a total of six Shazam awards from the Academy of Comic Book Arts: Best Short Story (“The Himalayan Incident,” 1973; “Cathedral Perilous,” 1974), Best Writer (Goodwin, 1973-74), Outstanding New Talent (Simonson, 1973), and Best Feature-Length Story (“Götterdämmerung,” 1974). It was one of Simonson’s first big projects, and his early work combines a raw, organic quality with energetic, propulsive layouts. Each short chapter packs a full issue’s worth of plot, character, and action into its eight pages, and the finale makes a regular-length issue feel like an annual. Even Batman’s potentially-distracting involvement helps distinguish Kirk from DC’s garden-variety masked men. You’ll want to read it slowly to catch all the details, but it’ll keep you turning pages to find out what happens next.
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? This week’s special guest is Simon Monk, an artist whose “Secret Identity” paintings we featured here on Robot 6 not too long ago. Monk is actually selling limited edition prints of his paintings on his website now, so go check them out.
To see what Simon and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
The internet is rightfully rich with tributes to Al Williamson in recent days. When news of his passing got around, I decided to contact a variety of folks to find out their favorite Al Williamson work. Some were willing to single out certain works, others preferred to speak to his work as a whole. I loved the variety I was able to elicit from respondents, be it with replies to my request or directing me to previous statements they had made about Williamson since his passing. My thanks to the many folks who replied, as well as Dark Horse’s Jim Gibbons for gathering a couple of these perspectives for me (speaking of Dark Horse, be sure to read Dave Land’s Al Williamson recollection at the publisher’s new blog). In addition to these Williamson recollection/recommendations, it would be spectacular if you share your own favorite Williamson works in the comments section. Finally, please note that the Williamson family has suggested donations (in lieu of flowers) be made to:
Yesteryears Day Program (a program for frail, isolated, or impaired seniors)
2801 Wayne Street
Endwell, NY 13760
The Al Williamson Scholarship Fund
The Kubert School
37 Myrtle Avenue
Dover, NJ 07801
Jim McCann‘s name is going to be popping up in Marvel Comics more regularly starting toward the end of this month. First up is the May 26 release of the writer’s Dazzler one-shot, followed by the June 3 launch of his Hawkeye & Mockingbird ongoing monthly series. I recently got to discuss both projects in an email interview. It’s never dull for me to chat about Marvel characters with a writer who clearly both enjoys and does his research. My thanks for McCann’s time.
Tim O’Shea: For folks that are afraid the Dazzler one-shot is a nostalgia romp, far from it–in fact the story comes out of the recent Necrosha event. Can you talk a little bit about it?
Jim McCann: Dazz has a bit more heat & attention on her post-Necroshia, both with the fans…and with her enemies! Specifically Mortis, a.k.a. Lois London, her long-absent half-sister, who has massive anger issues and a very strong desire to kill Dazzler!
I wanted to give Dazzler a strong nemesis and family, two things all great characters need, and found both in Lois. They avoided the fight in Necrosha, but, as the cover & solicit says, THIS is the fight, the Necrosha Aftermath for these two!