DC Comics hasn’t had a particularly good run of things lately. To be frank, the publisher has done blown it a number of times over the past few years. But don’t worry, DC fans — I’m sure it’ll soon be Marvel’s turn, as the two rivals seem to trade off every five years or so.
I’ve been calling out DC for the past couple of weeks, but that doesn’t mean everything it does strikes me as wrong. It’s important to declare shenanigans, but it’s also important to recognize when a publisher does something that’s good for comics.
So here are six things DC is doing right:
1. Digital comics: Legends of the Dark Knight and Adventures of Superman are digital-first anthology series that feature some excellent creators (from Jeff Parker and Chris Samnee to J.M. DeMatteis and Jeff Lemire) producing completely accessible and entertaining stories that stand on their own; no college course on the New 52 or Crisis on Infinite Earths required. Yes, these stories are out of continuity — so for a percentage of readers, they don’t count. That’s a mistake, because there’s nothing wrong with a straight-up superhero tale that exists on its own terms. These two anthologies are the gems of DC’s digital-first line-up, but Batman ’66 and Batman: Li’l Gotham also offer fantastical takes on the iconic Caped Crusader that are bright and fun. For those exhausted by the angsty versions of serious stories, you owe it to yourself to check these out.
Welcome to “Report Card,” our week-in-review feature. If “Cheat Sheet” is your guide to the week ahead, “Report Card” is typically a look back at the top news stories of the previous week, as well as a look at the Robot 6 team’s favorite comics that we read.
So find out what we thought about It Came!, Astro City, Wolfsmund and more.
As Stan Lee sayings go, “Every comic book is someone’s first” isn’t quite as well-known as “With great power comes great responsibility,” but it’s nevertheless one that comics editors and creators should integrate and internalize just as thoroughly. It’s probably much less true today, now that comics are sold primarily through specialty shops (and, increasingly, online) instead of on newsstands and spinner racks, than whenever Lee first said it.
But regardless of whether Executive Assistant Assassins #13, Fearless Defenders #7 or Tarot Witch of the Black Rose #81 — to pick three titles from this week’s shipping list — will actually be anyone’s first comic book, as long as publishers continue to sell comics as serialized stories, then the thought that one of those could be someone’s introduction is a pretty good guiding principle for creating those comics.
With that in mind, this week I read a handful of second issues of some prominent new books from the biggest players in the direct market, with an eye toward how friendly the material might be toward a new reader starting the series — or comics in general — with that issue.
Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson, Alex Ross and Alex Sinclair returned to Astro City this week, with a brand-new first issue published by DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint. The creative team introduces us to several new characters, including the fourth wall-breaking Broken Man and the anime-inspired American Chibi. Old favorites are also still in residence, including Samaritan and Bill Pullam, one of the ordinary citizens we met earlier in Astro City’s history.
It’s a first issue that feels comfortably familiar but also refreshingly different, as we kick off what looks like a big event within the Astro City world. I definitely found it well worth my $3.99, but if you don’t believe me, here are a few more reviews that might convince you:
Welcome to “Cheat Sheet,” ROBOT 6′s guide to the week ahead. It’s back to a full work week — unless, of course, you’re heading to Charlotte, North Carolina, for HeroesCon 2013.
However, before you board that plane or plot that route, there’s a New Comics Day chock-full of quality releases. Join our contributors for a rundown of some of the highlights.
Less than a month after DC Comics announced that Astro City will return in June as part of “DC proper,” the company has revealed the acclaimed superhero series by Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson and Alex Ross will actually be released under the Vertigo banner.
While that will make little difference to fans of the long-running comic, the move helps to bolster the mature-readers imprint, which only recently lost the Hugo Award-nominated Saucer Country and its longtime flagship Hellblazer (relaunched as Constantine in the DC Universe). Astro City will certainly stand out as a rare example of a superhero title on the Vertigo stable.
Debuting in 1995 at Image Comics before ultimately moving to Wildstorm, Astro City centers on the denizens of a mecca for super-powered beings. The title has been on hiatus since DC shuttered the Wildstorm imprint in 2010. The new series continues from the previous arc, a Silver Agent two-parter that served as an epilogue to Astro City: The Dark Age.
It looks like June is shaping up to be pretty big for DC’s superhero comics. There are five new ongoing series, including Superman Unchained, Batman/Superman, Larfleeze, Pandora and, best of all, the return of Astro City. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo kick off a revised Bat-origin in “Zero Year,” and the Green Lantern books get new creative teams. (There are spoilers for those GL books in the solicitations, but if you’ve been paying attention it’s probably nothing you haven’t already figured out.)
FIRST, AN ENDING
The “Shazam!” conclusion takes up all 40 pages of Justice League #21. It’s been a long time coming — starting way back in Issue 7, getting a 23-page spotlight in Issue 0, and skipping issues 12, 13 and 17. In the end it should clock in just shy of 200 pages, which would have made it a robust nine-issue miniseries. By comparison, Geoff Johns’ and Gary Frank’s Batman: Earth One graphic novel was 138 pages. It may read better as a collection, because it hasn’t always seemed paced for a series of backup stories. Being absent from Issue 17 hasn’t helped either. Still, it should have three straight installments between now and June, so maybe it’ll finish strongly.
Continue Reading »
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 …
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:
I’m very excited to read Casanova: Avaritia ($4.99), the first new Casanova storyline in what seems like a dog’s age. There’s something about this series that seems to bring out Fraction’s best, perhaps it’s the mere fact he’s working with Fabio Moon and (this time around) Gabriel Ba allows him to rise to the occasion. That and The Boys #58 ($3.99) will probably round out my initial purchases.
[A quick note before we go too much farther: I started writing this post before DC’s big announcement about its September-and-beyond plans. In fact, I wanted this particular post to be about something other than Flashpoint and/or line-wide reboots -- so depending on your perspective, I picked exactly the right week, or exactly the wrong week, to draw that line. In any case, it’s probably not hard to tell, from the past few weeks’ worth of posts, where I stand on current events.
[So there you go. On with the business at hand.]
Since it’s pretty much summer, and time to think about catching up on reading, let’s revisit DC’s list of “30 Essential Graphic Novels” — “best-selling titles that you must read[, ]whether you are just beginning to discover graphic novels or you are an established fan looking to expand your collection.”
The list is almost four years old, and has had a few minor updates. (Pride Of Baghdad replaced The Quitter, and Crayon Shinchan replaced Sword Of The Dark Ones.) For the most part, though, it’s the same compilation — heavy on the Batman and the Jeph Loeb, a decent amount of Alan Moore (but no Swamp Thing), a couple of Sandman books and Hellblazer, but no Wonder Woman, no Joe Kubert, and no Jack Kirby. While there are at least a couple of representatives from each of DC’s imprints, there aren’t many hints at the real scope of DC’s diverse publishing history.
Publishing | The 60th volume of Eiichiro Oda’s popular pirate manga One Piece sold more than 2 million copies in its first four days of release. It’s the first book to move more than 2 million copies in its first week of sales since the Japanese market survey company Oricon began reporting its charts in 2008. As we reported last week, this volume’s 3.4 million-copy first printing set a record, and propelled the series past the 200 million-copy mark. [Anime News Network]
Editorial cartoons | Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Matt Davies has been laid off by the Gannett-owned Journal News in White Plains, N.Y. [Comic Riffs]
Publishing | Abrams has made three comics-related promotions: Susan Van Metre to senior vice president and publisher, overseeing all comic arts books as well as Abrams Books for Young Readers and Amulet Books; Charles Kochman to editorial director of Abrams ComicArts; and Chad W. Beckerman to creative director, overseeing design for all comic arts books as well as Abrams Books for Young Readers and Amulet Books. [Abrams]
After 18 years, former Image studio and current DC Comics imprint WildStorm is shutting down this December. And as many have noted already, the house that Jim built has produced many awesome, memorable and even game-changing (to steal a phrase from Rob Liefeld) works in the last two decades.
Here are six of them that we found to be particularly awesome; let us know what we missed in the comments section.
1. Sleeper: There have been many comics that mash up superheroes with down-and-dirty genres like crime and espionage over the past decade; this may just be the best. The high concept is a gripping one: Super-spy Holden Carver is so deep undercover in an international super-criminal organization that when his one contact is placed in a coma, literally no one knows he’s secretly on the side of the angels. Carver’s predicament, the way he plays and gets played by both sides, his growing unwillingness or inability to draw the ethical lines needed to save his soul, if not his life–such is the stuff of a great crime drama. Superstar in the making Ed Brubaker brings all his talents and obsessions to the table here: his knack for crafting morally compromised characters while neither romanticizing their misdeeds nor softening them up, his recurring theme of how the secrets and sins of our pasts never truly leave us, his belief that damaged people seek out other damaged people to repair that damage, his eye for and ability to work with strong visual stylists. In this case that meant Sean Phillips, never better in his ability to believably root spectacular action and super-powers in a naturalist-noir milieu. All of this in a WildC.A.T.s spinoff, proving just how wild WildStorm was once willing to go.
Even its relatively short run redounds to its benefit: The complete story of Holden Carver is yours to own inexpensively, read easily, and ponder at your leisure. (Sean T. Collins)
This week brings the end of an era, as DC Entertainment announced that the WildStorm imprint is shutting down in December. That, of course, has brought a lot of commentary and remembrances around the web.
- Both Newsarama and The Beat have round-ups of reactions from creators and former WildStorm employees. As Heidi notes in her intro, “…it isn’t just another in a long list of comics imprints that have ended over the years. It’s the end of a comics company that made history for 18 years as a vital part of several revolutions in commercial comics.” She received a comment from Rob Liefeld that really drives home how game-changing WildStorm was, noting how several prominent creators got their start under WildStorm, and how WildStorm published some of the biggest comics works of the past two decades.
- My favorite piece on WildStorm is probably Andy Khouri’s essay on ComicsAlliance, where he talks about the generation of comic fans who have grown up with WildStorm (and Fairchild’s breasts). “… the history of WildStorm tracks well with that of many turn-of-the-century babies like myself, whose unconditional affection for the comics medium (and, in some cases, employment in the comics industry) can be traced back to WildStorm founder Jim Lee’s pied piper act, where the most influential comic book artist of the 1990s lured a generation away from the safe, altruistic heroes of our childhoods and into much darker, much sexier and much more violent comic book worlds where we roamed free before he finally led us back to water,” he wrote.
“Hoping for the best for friends at Wildstorm, and the business side of DC…All I know about this, I’ve learned from Twitter. I assume I’ll find out more when the guys at Wildstorm have dealt with whatever eruptions this is causing for them.
“To all who’ve been asking: They haven’t said anything yet about creator-owned Wildstorm books. Presumably they want to talk to us first. And right now, they’re busy absorbing what this means for them. So I doubt I’ll know anything for a day or two.”
–Astro City writer Kurt Busiek, whose guess as to how the move of much of DC’s business end to Burbank and the closure of WildStorm will impact his colleagues — not to mention on his long-running creator-owned title, heretofore published through that imprint — is apparently as good as ours.
Comic-Con International in San Diego doesn’t officially kick off until tomorrow, but they are hosting a preview night tonight. And not surprisingly, there were some announcements today, albeit not as many as we’ve seen on Wednesday in years past — or at least not as many as I remember on Wednesdays from years past. Maybe the fact that we’ve had so many announcements leading up to Comic-Con over the last week or so led to a quieter pre-con Wednesday. I won’t complain; instead, let’s see what was announced …
• BOOM! Studios announced at a press conference this afternoon that writers Paul Cornell and Chris Roberson would join Mark Waid as the trio of writers working with Stan Lee on a new line of comics. Cornell and artist Javier Pina will bring Soldier Zero to life in October, Mark Waid and Chad Hardin will tackle The Traveler in November, and Chris Roberson and Khary Randolph’s Starborn debuts in December.