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I wasn’t a fan of the first volume of the Geoff Johns-written original graphic novel series that attempts to reinvent Batman for a new generation (to put it somewhat mildly). In addition to being wholly unnecessary — the Dark Knight is almost constantly being reimagined for mass audiences — Johns made a series of strange changes to the basic story and cast, seemingly reflective of a desire to be different for the sake of being different. That, and, ultimately, he presented a story that contradicted Batman’s idealistic “no guns, no killing” philosophy by having another character save Batman from certain death by killing the villain with a gun.
Given how confounding I found that first volume, I was surprised – and happily so – to find this sequel is a much stronger work. Johns, penciler Gary Frank, inker Jon Sibal and colorist Brad Anderson return to their very particular story of the beginning of Batman’s crime-fighting career … or, at least, a Batman’s crime-fighting career. It’s a distinction likely lost on the intended audience, but this is the Batman of the current, post-crises alternate Earth designated “Earth One.”
Geoff Johns has revealed finished art from the long-awaited second volume of Batman: Earth One by Gary Frank, Jon Sibal and Brad Anderson.
The original graphic novel is scheduled to arrive on May 6, nearly three years after the debut of the first volume. They’re part of the Earth One line that retells the earliest adventures of some of DC Comics’ superheroes, free of current continuity. Teen Titans: Earth One was released in November, with Superman: Earth One Vol. 3 scheduled to hit shelves in February.
DC unveiled the covers for the new volumes of Superman: Earth One and Batman: Earth One in August.
There are a lot of existential questions one could ask about this project: Why does it exist? Why is it an original graphic novel instead of a comic book series? Why is it subtitled “Earth One”? What does that mean, this year? What does it have to do with Superman: Earth One? Who on Earth is it for? Why was DC Comics promoting it as the more-or-less official Dark Knight Rises tie-in, distributing previews the week of the film’s release? And so on.
The whys I asked myself the most once I actually started reading it, however, regarded the particular choices writer Geoff Johns made while creating it. It’s full of significant, even radical, changes to the familiar elements of what you might think of as the basic Batman story and cast, and many of those changes seem completely random, in service of nothing in particular … save maybe a pretty messed-up message.
I’ve read just about every single comic Johns has written, and while I wouldn’t’ go so far as to say I’m a fan of his writing, I’m definitely very interested in it. I enjoy reading it for its faults as much as for its strengths, and I share his interest in the colorful characters and deep, complex history of the DC Universe, which the bulk of his writing has been concerned with.
In my experience, his very worst work has been that done without the crutch of DCU continuity, the sort of anything-goes wheel-reinventing he’s attempted on the recent Justice League reboot, with which he was paired with the direct market’s most popular artist Jim Lee, who brings strong drafting skills to Johns’ script, but little personality, flair or emotion. Johns’ very best work, on the other hand, has involved in-progress characters he was shepherding from a pre-established Point A to his own desired Point B, with artists capable of emotive character design and accessible, warm work. (His too-brief run on Superboy with Francis Manapul leaps immediately to mind, as does his early Stars and STRIPE with Lee Moder and his long, uneven run on Green Lantern with various artists of various skills and styles.)
Creators | Although he almost missed the anniversary, Mark Waid celebrates 25 years as a comics professional by recalling his first day of work at the DC Comics offices: “If you’re wondering what an Associate Editor does – or did in 1987 – I’ll list my job duties those first two days. Ready? Here we go: I erased Green Arrow pages. Eight hours a day for two days.” [MarkWaid.com]
Publishing | DC Comics’ Senior Vice President of Sales Bob Wayne and Vice President of Marketing John Cunningham are pretty upbeat about DC’s most recent graphic novels — with some justification, as a number have made The New York Times graphic books best-seller list. “Batman: Earth One has been a runaway bestseller for us, even better than Superman: Earth One,” Wayne said. “People are familiar with the Superman: Earth One title and we don’t have explain what the new book is about.” [Publishers Weekly]
Publishing | DC Comics’ Batman: Earth One, by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, topped the Nielsen BookScan list of graphic novels sold in bookstores in July, one of five Batman books to populate the Top 20. The remainder of the chart was dominated by manga — five spots, with the newest volumes of Sailor Moon and Naruto claiming Nos. 2 and 3 — The Walking Dead — three volumes, with the latest slipping from No. 1 to No. 4 — and Dark Horse’s two Avatar: The Last Airbender books, by Gene Luen Yang, both of which remain in the Top 10. [ICv2]
Publishing | Archaia CEO PJ Bickett talks about some new planned digital products and the current Archaia strategy for its books: “As of right now for 2012 we’ve really focused on some key titles and in building those out as real brands. In the past we’ve taken more of a throwing it out there and hoping for the best [approach] and now we’re taking a more strategic, targeted and strategic approach. We’re seeing a lot of great efforts as a result of it.” [ICv2]
More than two years have passed DC Comics first announced that Geoff Johns and Gary Frank were working on an “Earth One” graphic novel starring Batman, one that Johns said would allow the duo to “break the restraints of any continuity and focus on two things: character and story.”
A lot has happened in that time; DC Comics went and did a whole line-wide reboot, tossing out histories of various characters and starting from scratch, allowing “makers” to “break the restraints of continuity” on all of DC’s characters. Does that negate the need for an Earth One graphic novel line, then? The most base answer would be no–the first Superman:Earth One graphic seemed to do pretty well for DC, sales-wise. Plus Batman’s always been a popular enough character to warrant multiple books, out-of-continuity digital stories and countless Elseworlds tales back when DC was regularly publishing them. If the market can support Batman Incorporated, Batman & Robin and even Batman: Death by Design, why not Batman: Earth One? Besides, he has a new movie coming out later this month.
So putting aside the question of whether we need another Batman graphic novel, much less another take on the origin story, how does this one stack up? Tom gave his review on Thursday, and here are a few more opinions from around the web for your consideration:
Admittedly, it’s harder to get Superman right — that is, it’s easier to craft a satisfying Batman story than it is to tackle the Man of Steel. On top of that, the creative team of Batman Earth One is the well-oiled combination of writer Geoff Johns and penciler Gary Frank, who proved fairly effective on (yes) a series of Superman stories a few years back — not like the first-time teaming of J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis on Superman: Earth One.
Therefore, I had higher expectations for Batman: Earth One, because Johns and Frank (with inker Jonathan Sibal and colorist Brad Anderson) had the wind at their backs. In fact, that tailwind helped them craft a satisfying standalone introduction. Batman: Earth One takes full advantage of the graphic-novel format, mixing bits of the Darknight Detective’s history with a few new wrinkles to make a distinctive, cohesive whole that rises above its various high concepts. The worst thing I can say is that all the references reminded me superficially — and only superficially — of Johns’ fan-serving Justice Society episode of Smallville. Still, even if BME1 were just a TV pilot, I’d be pretty excited for the series.
SPOILERS FOLLOW, of course:
Tomorrow DC Comics releases the second of the new reader-friendly “Earth One” graphic novels, Batman: Earth One. Originally announced in 2009, this second graphic novel is just hours away from release, and people are already looking toward the line, and this title’s, future. DC has already announced that J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis have a sequel to Superman: Earth One due out Nov. 6, and Geoff Johns let slip that he was already writing a Batman: Earth One sequel in an interview posted on Entertainment Weekly‘s website. With those two balls in the air, and DC actively looking to expand their roster of mainstream-friendly characters, I thought I’d give some unsolicited advice on what they should consider next for the “Earth One” line.
Publishing | Heidi MacDonald catches word that Top Cow Publisher Filip Sablik is moving on to a new job, which will be announced next month at Comic-Con International (Rich Johnston contends that gig is at BOOM! Studios). Friday will be Sablik’s last day at Top Cow; Social Marketing Coordinator Jessi Reid will assume his marketing duties. [The Beat, Bleeding Cool]
Creators | Through its partnership with the Small Press Expo, the Library of Congress has acquired works by cartoonists Matt Bors, Keith Knight, Jim Rugg, Jen Sorensen, Raina Telgemeier, Matthew Thurber and Jim Woodring. Dean Haspiel’s minicomics collection was added to the holdings just last week. [Comic Riffs]
Publishers, creators, retailers and fans rolled into Chicago this weekend for the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo, or C2E2. While the convention officially kicked off Friday, the announcements started rolling out Thursday during the Diamond Retailer Summit. After going through Kiel Phegley’s lengthy report on CBR, I’ve pulled out a few tidbits that publishers shared with attending retailers:
• Dynamite Entertainment shared that the first issue of Garth Ennis and Aaron Campbell’s The Shadow, which comes out next week, will likely go to second print. Following their Vampirella and Pantha projects, they also plan to roll out more of the former Harris Publications characters they now own, and they said they plan to work again with Kevin Smith in the future, who they’ve worked with on Bionic Man and Green Hornet.
• Dark Horse Comics announced two Buffy the Vampire Slayer spinoff miniseries; one featuring Spike and one featuring Willow (Editor Scott Allie spoke more about them with CBR). In addition, legendary artist Russ Heath will draw some pages in an upcoming issue of Buffy. Dark Horse will launch a new Dragon Age series in August, following the online miniseries that’s been running on Dark Horse Digital. They also confirmed that Becky Cloonan will return to Conan after James Harren’s three issues, and they announced Ex Sanguine, a five-issue miniseries by Tim Seeley and Josh Emmons. Finally, The Goon will go monthly with issue #40.
The next phase of the New 52 begins in May, as six new titles debut and Rob Liefeld carves out his own niche with a handful of others. My first impressions of the Next Six remain largely positive, but we’ll get into that in a bit.
SEEMS LIKE OLD TIMES (GOLDEN AGE EDITION)
Basically, what we know about Earth-2 so far is that it has its own (multi-generational) version of the Trinity, it’s home to Alan Scott, Jay Garrick and probably Ted Grant, and at some point Darkseid invades. This does not mean that everyone who first appeared during the Golden Age still did. Indeed, we can suppose that, because the New-52 Huntress is apparently in her early 30s (at most, I’m guessing), that would make her parents at least 50-ish and probably closer to 60 or even 70. Thus, the Earth-2 Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle could have become Batman and Catwoman anywhere from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s. It’s a significant change from the original Earth-Two, where Helena Wayne was born in the early 1950s and became the Huntress in the late ’70s.
Before we jump into 2012, I have one last bit of business to take care of: toting up my 2011 predictions, and offering a set for the new year.
1. The Green Lantern movie. Last year I predicted that GL would be “more lucrative than Captain America, not as much as Thor. It ended up making $116 million domestically ($219 million worldwide), well behind Cap’s $176 million ($368M globally) and Thor’s $181 million ($449M globally). Also, it wasn’t as good. I liked it well enough (and from what I hear I may like the Blu-Ray version more), but apparently I was in the minority.
2. Superman and Wonder Woman after JMS. I just had questions for this entry: will Roberson and Barrows stay on Superman? (No.) Will Diana keep the jacket and pants? (No jacket, pants optional.) Finally, I asked “[w]ill sales improve once ‘Grounded’ ends?” Guess that depends on how you define “ends,” because “Grounded” closed out that Superman series; and the next issue of Superman was a New-52 No. 1 which sold almost 100,000 more copies than its predecessor. We may never know what might have happened to Superman without the New 52, but probably not that.
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The listing and cover art appeared this morning on Amazon.com for Batman: Earth One, the long-awaited DC Comics graphic novel by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank.
Announced in December 2009 along with the bestselling Superman: Earth One by J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis, Batman: Earth One takes Bruce Wayne back to Crime Alley, where tragedy set him on the path to become the world’s greatest detective. Both graphic novels were originally set to debut in 2010, but obviously only Superman hit that target date. Batman is listed for release on May 8, 2012 (not necessarily set in stone), a little more than two months before the opening of The Dark Knight Rises. Here’s the Amazon description:
Geoff Johns, the writer of BLACKEST NIGHT, GREEN LANTERN and INFINITE CRISIS re-teams with superstar artist Gary Frank, his collaborator on SUPERMAN: SECRET ORIGIN, SUPERMAN:BRAINIAC and SUPERMAN & THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES, to create this original graphic novel that gives new insight into Bruce Wayne’s transformation into Batman and his first year as The Dark Knight. This follow-up to the # 1 New York Times bestseller, SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE, by J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis is the latest in the series that features the industry’s top writers and illustrators and their unique takes on DC’s characters. It’s the perfect book for new readers of graphic novels as well as longtime comic book fans.
(via Collected Editions)