It’s always a great feeling when you find good comics in a place you weren’t suspecting. But as a reader, fan and journalist, I was surprised at how good the DC Comics digital titles are. But why? DC has put out great books, and continues to do so now with some of its New 52 line-up; I was also a big fan of the publisher’s previous digital-first endeavors with Zuda. Why then is it so surprising that the current crop of DC Digital is good? Then I figured it out.
First, a primer: Launched in early 2012, the DC Digital titles premiere online with weekly installments and are later collected in print. Originally consisting of just two series, Batman Beyond Unlimited and Smallville: Season 11 (both coincidentally continuations of canceled television shows), the line expanded in the fall with the anthology-style Legends of the Dark Knight, companions to the TV drama Arrow and the video game Injustice: Gods Amongst Us, and Batman: Li’l Gotham. The imprint’s most recent addition is an anthology called Adventures of Superman.
WonderCon Anaheim 2013 kicked off yesterday at the Anaheim Convention Center, with badges for Friday selling out at some point during the day. Saturday and three-day badges already sold out, so it looks like just Sunday is left if you were hoping to attend but didn’t purchase your badge in advance.
There weren’t a lot of announcements coming out of the show yesterday, and in fact I’m not completely sure what could be considered “WonderCon news” and what was just, um, news, but here’s a round-up of stuff you may have missed from Friday:
• 2014 will bring a crossover between DC’s two Earths, according to Earth 2 writer James Robinson. “If I’m talking about a big event that’s happening in 2014, it’s all these characters meeting each other,” said Robinson, citing Crisis on Infinite Earths and the Justice Society during his spotlight panel in Anaheim. Robinson also said his goal was to make sure the writers involved in the event were invested in the story, and described himself as “the point guy” when it comes to the event, saying that Scott Snyder, Geoff Johns and Dan DiDio are also very involved. Earth 2 is also getting its own Batman, and the book will also feature the introductions of Starman (Ted Knight), Red Arrow (Earth 2′s version of Green Arrow), Hourman, Wildcat, Mister Miracle and Big Barda in the future.
DC Comics’ digital-first series Batman Beyond and Justice League Beyond will get new creative teams this summer, which will also see the official debut of the Batgirl of the future.
IGN.com reports Nightwing writer Kyle Higgins and Venom artist Thony Silas will take the reins of Batman Beyond, with Sean Murphy and Jordie Bellaire providing covers, while Avengers Academy writer Christos Gage and Superboy artist Iban Coello will take over Justice League Beyond. JT Krul and Howard Porter will remain on Superman Beyond.
However, before Higgins and Silas make their debut, writer Scott Peterson and artist Annie Wu will introduce the future Batgirl, who’s said to have a good working relationship with Commissioner Barbara Gordon, in her own story arc in July.
Welcome to the new weekly interview series Conversing On Comics, in which Robot 6′s Chris Arrant talks with notable people in and around the comic industry, focusing on the creative lives of artists, writers, editors and other figures in the industry. Look for new installments every Friday.
Dustin Nguyen isn’t your traditional superhero artist. Sure, he can draw like the best of them — and has done so on Detective Comics and Wildcats 3.0. But Nguyen’s managed to forge his own path without sacrificing his own sense of style, from his early angular work on DC/Wildstorm’s Jet to his maturation as a storyteller in Wildcats 3.0 and onto his entrenchment as a veteran on various Batman titles. And like some of his contemporaries, he’s brought painting into his work, but not in the mold of Alex Ross or Steve Rude; he relies upon a nuanced palette and application using watercolor and acrylic.
For the past five years, Nguyen has devoted himself almost exclusively to the Dark Knight and the denizens of Gotham City with runs on Superman/Batman, Detective Comics, Batman: Streets of Gotham, Batman & Robin and Batgirl. But now Nguyen is spreading his wings and pushing himself to what seems like the next stage of his career as he begins writing (with longtime inker and friend Derek Fridolfs) the digital-first Batman Beyond while also preparing to go outside of superheroes — and outside of the DC Universe entirely — as he draws a new American Vampire series subtitled Lord of Nightmares. And Dustin’s not finished yet, as the project he wants to do next is a first for him: a creator-owned book of his own.
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’d grab with two hands the new issue of Orc Stain #7 (Image, $2.99). Stokoe is one of the few people in mainstream comics blending storytelling in art and writing seamlessly, creating an organic piece of work that’s as good to eat as some of the fictional food he presents in the book. Spaceman #4 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99) has, in its short run, showed the best of what can be done at Vertigo and is pretty exhilarating, especially if you re-read it from the beginning. After that I’d pick up my regular double-shot: Invincible #89 (Image, $2.99) and Walking Dead #94 (Image, $2.99), and then top it off with The Twelve #10 (Marvel, $2.99). I’m appreciative Marvel and the creators saw fit to see it through, and the story’s all the better for it.
If I had $30, I’d go all company-owned super heroes. Avengers #23 (Marvel, $3.99) for the continuing fight against HYDRA by Brian Michael Bendis and Daniel Acuna. Acuna’s really (finally) had a chance to blossom on this book and I hope he sees it through for a good long while. After that I’d get FF #15 (Marvel, $2.99), which has silently outstripped Fantastic Four in my book; the added bonus for this issue particularly is seeing artist Nick Dragotta on this book. I’d wrap it all up with Batman Beyond Unlimited #1 (DC, $3.99). I’ll admit I missed out on the complete fervor of Batman Beyond, but I’m excited by Dustin Nguyen and Adam Beechen’s work and the possibilities of them taking on a future rendition of Batman and the JLA.
And if I could splurge, I’d check out the overlooked Key Of Z TPB (Boom!, $14.99). New York City street warfare told against the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse? Sounds like my kind of book. Newcomer artist Aaron Kuder’s got an interesting style that I’d been meaning to check out, and this gives me just that chance.
At first I wasn’t especially excited about too much in DC’s February solicitations. However, the more I looked around, the more optimistic I became. Six months into the New 52, some connections are starting to gel, and their interactions (well, as far as what you can glean from the ad copy) seem more organic. As always, there were a few pleasant surprises in the collected editions, and some details from which to spin hopeful speculation.
But enough with the purple prose — let’s hit the books!
TO UNLIMITED AND BEYOND
The gee-whizziest news of the February solicitations has to be the digital-first format of Batman Beyond Unlimited. I have not been the quickest to adapt to digitally-conveyed comics, mostly because my personal technology level hasn’t caught up. However, I do read a number of webcomics, as well as newspaper strips online, and if the price were right, I’d gladly sample BBU’s features on my computer before picking up the print version. Having Dustin Nguyen and (yay!) Norm Breyfogle involved doesn’t hurt either.
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DC Comics announced today that Batman Beyond, which went away for awhile when the DC New 52 line-wide relaunch happened, will return next February as, in their terms, a “digital first” series. The comic by Adam Beecham and Norm Breyfogle will be released as weekly chapters digitally prior to being collected each month in a 48-page printed series, Batman Beyond Unlimited.
Batman Beyond will actually entail one-half of the print comic; the other half will be Justice League Beyond by Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolf, which will also be released digitally before it hits print. This “marks the first time that DC Entertainment is launching an ongoing series digitally ahead of its planned monthly print release,” the Source said.
Fans of the previous Batman Beyond series might remember that it was one of DC’s first comics to be released on the same day in digital format as it was in print.
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. We’re coming a little late today due to a power outage in my neck of the woods — due to a blackout, not because I spent the money for the electric bill on Flashpoint or Fear Itself tie-ins.
If I had $15, my first pick off the shelf would be Vengeance #1 (Marvel, $3.99); I love Joe Casey, and especially when he’s given a long leash and room to play in a big universe. Seeing Nick Dragotta drawing this is an added bonus. Next up would be comics’ dueling summer blockbusters, Flashpoint #3 (DC, $3.99) and Fear Itself #4 (Marvel, $3.99). After that, I’d get the excellent Flashpoint: Batman, Knight of Vengeance #2 (DC, $2.99); when Azzarello is on the ball he’s great to read, and this seems to be that.
Although it seems like DC’s big relaunch announcement came out an eternity ago, it actually took the publisher less than two weeks to roll out the 52 titles and their creative teams for the big relaunch/reboot/overhaul coming in September. Now that the cats are out of their respective bags, I thought I’d see where various creators and characters will land after the reboot.
So I went back through DC’s August solicitations to see who was writing or drawing what, and tried to map everyone to their post-relaunch project — if they had one. However, looking at DC’s August solicitations, there seem to be several fill-in issues, so where appropriate I tried to map the most recent ongoing creative teams to their new projects (for instance, I consider Gail Simone and Jesus Saiz the regular creative team for Birds of Prey, even if they aren’t doing the last two issues before September hits). Keep in mind that I just went through the ongoing series and skipped over all the miniseries … of which there are a lot, what with Flashpoint winding up in August.
It’s also worth noting that although several creators didn’t appear in the “big 52″ announcements, that doesn’t mean their tenure with DC is necessarily over — some, like Frazer Irving, have said they have future projects that haven’t been announced. So I tried to note where creators have talked publicly about their post-relaunch plans with DC (or lack thereof, as the case may be). The same could probably be said for some of DC’s characters as well. Or, as Gail Simone said on Twitter: “Again, September is NOT THE END. There’s still plans for characters that we haven’t seen yet.”
So let’s get to it ….
One tagline for the big alien-invasion movie Independence Day cautioned, “Don’t make plans for August.” Well, perhaps the biggest news coming out of DC’s August solicitations is the pervasive sense of foreboding they have about September. Rich Johnston maintains that a whole crop of new No. 1 issues is on tap for the fall, but there are no “FINAL ISSUE!” blurbs to be found on any of the current ongoing series.
While that doesn’t rule out a line-wide relaunch, the solicits also seem to say that readers won’t have to worry about a line-wide reboot. As noted in this space a couple of weeks back, the degree of change will probably be different for different titles. Nevertheless, now that we have a better idea of how August will look, let’s see what it says about September….
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly round-up of … well, what we’ve been reading lately.
Today our special guest is the legendary Gilbert Hernandez. Known best as the co-creator of Love & Rockets, his other works include Sloth, The Troublemakers, Chance in Hell and Yeah! with Peter Bagge (which is being collected by Fantagraphics)
To see what Gilbert and the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, click below.
Last week saw the release of the new ongoing Batman Beyond series by Adam Beechen & Ryan Benjamin, and today comes a well-sourced rumor that noted independent artist Ted Naifeh (Courtney Crumrin) might be joining the book. Over on his blog this morning, Naifeh posts seven sketches of characters from Batman Beyond and an open-ended, almost rhetorical question, asking if the title needed a fill-in artist.
Back in September, Robot 6′s own Kevin Melrose made the case for getting DC to put Naifeh on a Batbook — and this might be the first signs of DC listening. In 2010 Naifeh openly lobbied for a job at DC with a series of stellar sketches of DC characters, and in May he did a back-up in Teen Titans.
Anyway, enough speculation — Here’s one of the images; click on it to jump to Naifeh’s blog to see all seven.
DC Comics already has several series that go public in print and digital form on the same day, and today they announced that they are adding Batman Beyond to the mix.
It’s an interesting choice, because it looks to me like DC is banking on Batman Beyond reaching, um, beyond the regular readership. In fact, they say as much in the press release:
“Batman Beyond was a critically acclaimed, fan favorite animated series that still has a large number of fans to this day,” said Hank Kanalz, SVP Digital, DC Entertainment, “By releasing the ongoing comic series digitally, we’re hoping we reach that audience and bring back any fans of the show who may be lapsed comic readers.”
This would seem to be a good opportunity to promote the comic outside the usual circles. As I have written before, it can be hard for non-regulars to find digital comics. This is an attractive product with a ready-made fanbase; the question is, can DC bring the two together?
Grumpy Old Fan | Notice I am not making a Spinal Tap reference: DC Comics Solicitations for (January) ‘11
Good grief, it’s not even Halloween and I have to think about the first DC comics of 2011? Even trying to pronounce that number makes my tongue stumble — I keep wanting to say “twenty-eleven” and it sounds like something made-up. Worse, I keep wanting to say twenty-leven, like a common hillbilly.
Nevertheless, I do like DC’s cover gimmick for January Two Thousand Eleven. The white backgrounds and big logos remind me of Superman #701′s minimalist cover, and that isn’t a bad thing. The cumulative effect of the style’s uniformity is also more effective than the last time DC emphasized the logos, back in (cover-date) February 2002. The light, open design is also a lot more cheery than January 2009′s black-background “Faces Of Evil.”
Still, we’re more interested in what’s between the covers, are we not?
JUST A TASTE
Right off I am pretty impressed with the selection of one-shots at the top of the solicits. The Starman/Congorilla special sounds very fun, especially with Rex the Wonder Dog involved. I’m curious to see what the Shazam! special does with Billy and Mary Batson, and I’m always glad for new John Henry Irons stories. The Wonder Girl special doesn’t interest me that much, but it doesn’t seem entirely about her anyway. Although most of these specials appear to tie into regular books (Justice League, Titans, and Teen Titans), they sound good enough on their own merits.
Batman Beyond, the six-issue miniseries based on the Warner Bros. cartoon, will become an ongoing series in January, DC Comics announced this afternoon.
Writer Adam Beechen (Countdown, Justice League Unlimited) and artist Ryan Benjamin (Midnighter & Grifter, Iron Man) will continue as the creative team on the title, which will relaunch with a new Issue 1.
Announced in March at Emerald City Comicon, the miniseries debuted in June, and centers on Terry McGinnis, the future Batman, as he grapples with a strained relationship with mentor Bruce Wayne and the emergence of a new killer with ties to the Dark Knight’s past. The fifth issue of what DC calls “the surprise hit of the season” will be released on Oct. 20.
Warner Bros. Animation’s Batman Beyond aired for 52 episodes from January 1999 to December 2001, and spawned an earlier DC Comics miniseries as well as a short-lived ongoing title.