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The slow death of superhero deaths

Batman Incorporated #8

Batman Incorporated #8

Here we go again. A major news outlet has enthusiastically run the exclusive story that a major comic book character dies in a comic released today. Superhero deaths and their inevitable resurrections have been a staple of comics for decades thanks to the sales bump they tend to get from press coverage. But the giddy acceptance of superhero deaths is starting to crack.

Since the heady days of “The Death of Superman,” mainstream news has loved a dying superhero icon. In 1992, Superman’s death was such a big deal, newspapers were writing hand-wringing editorials about what it could mean for the state of America. Right from the start, DC Comics only guaranteed he would be dead until March 1993, but somehow that got lost in the din of cultural symbolism and frenzied collectability. People really thought he was dead, even if they sensed it was financially the stupidest thing DC could do. Needless to say, Superman came back. And ever since, it seems Marvel and DC have been chasing that same media buzz by (temporarily) killing off their marquee characters, whether it be Batman, Captain America, Spider-Man or even the Human Torch. But with each passing media blitz, an interesting thing is happening: Mainstream outlets are beginning to become just as jaded about superhero deaths as we longtime readers are.

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Grant Morrison and the problem of an immortal Batman

batmaninc8

Warning: Spoilers for Batman Inc. #8, The Dark Knight Rises, and Ridley Scott’s Prometheus follow.

Grant Morrison’s reflection on his Batman run is interesting, in that it offers insight into what the writer thinks makes the character tick, but the part that jumps out at me was the very end where he brings up Robin and asks, “What son could ever hope to replace a father like Batman, who never dies?”

It’s something I’ve been thinking about since seeing Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. As flawed as that film is, it has some intriguing ideas about the relationship between creator and creation, whether that’s alien and human, inventor and android, or parent and child. On that last dynamic, Charlize Theron’s character Vickers observes, “A king has his reign, and then he dies. It’s inevitable.” That’s a horrible thing to say about your father. It is, however, true.

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Some thoughts on the future of Damian Wayne

batman-incorporated8-croppe

Hey, have you somehow managed to avoid hearing about the thing that’s going to happen in that one comic book Wednesday? The thing the writer and publisher are so excited about that they’ve been hyping it up in various media?

If so, then you must be the sort of comics fan who doesn’t like to have story points spoiled for you in advance, so out of respect for you, and respect for  the diligence you’ve shown in so far being able to avoid having the story — whatever it is, in whatever book it’s unfolding — spoiled for you, I’m going to bury this entire post below the break.

So, if you already know what I’m talking about, read on!

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Quote of the Day | Grant Morrison on his epic Batman run

Grant Morrison

Grant Morrison

“I chose to build my story around the basic trauma, the murder of his parents, that lies at the heart of Batman’s genesis. It seemed to me there would be a part of Bruce Wayne that resented his parents for leaving him and especially resented his father for not being Batman that night, so the principal villains were an archetypal bad father figure in the form of Dr. Hurt and a dark mother in the form of Talia, our villain for the concluding chapters of the story. This master theme of damaged and ruined families was nowhere more in evidence than in the creation of Damian, the first ‘Son of Batman’ to be acknowledged in the canon. In many ways this has been Damian’s story as much as it has been the story of Bruce Wayne and it’s a story that had its end planned a long time ago – for what son could ever hope to replace a father like Batman, who never dies?

Grant Morrison, in an essay on the DC Comics website, addressing his more than six-year stint
writing the Caped Crusader, from Batman to Batman and Robin to Batman Incorporated

Grumpy Old Fan | Relaunch roundup, Part 1

After a year, I still don't quite get the knee-braces

Because it’s the first week of the New 52 Year Two, the time has come to review where I stand at the end of Year One. It also happens to be the week I’m away on a bidness trip, unable to react to whatever dern-fool thing DC did on Wednesday.

That would probably take a back seat anyway, because I’m a little curious myself to look back at these books. In terms of reading habits, it’s been a rather funky year. Some weeks I wouldn’t have time to read everything I bought, and sometimes that meant books just dropped off my radar. I caught up with a few of these, but a few I just didn’t miss — which, of course, is never a good thing.

You’ll remember that last year I bought all 52 first issues, and talked about each as September proceeded.  Of those which remain, I am reading 27: Action Comics, All-Star Western, Animal Man, Aquaman, Batgirl, Batman, Batman & Robin, Batwing, Batwoman, Blue Beetle, Catwoman, DC Universe Presents, Demon Knights, Detective Comics, Firestorm, Flash, Frankenstein, Green Lantern, GL Corps, I, Vampire, Justice League, Justice League Dark, Stormwatch, Supergirl, Superman, Swamp Thing and Wonder Woman.

Additionally, I was reading six titles that have since been canceled: Blackhawks, JLI, Men of War, OMAC, Resurrection Man and Static Shock. For a while I also read Grifter, Red Lanterns, and Superboy. Filling in some of those holes are second-wave titles Batman Incorporated, Earth 2, Worlds’ Finest and Dial H.

To keep your eyes as glaze-free as possible, this will be a two-part survey. Today we’ll look at the Superman and Batman families, the “historical” titles, the main-line Justice League books, and a few others.

Onward!

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Morrison reveals Action Comics, Batman Incorporated departures

Action Comics #13

In a wide-ranging interview with Comic Book Resources, Grant Morrison revealed he will finish his tenure on Action Comics with January’s Issue 16, followed later next year by his departure from Batman Incorporated with Issue 12.

“The idea was always that I’d keep doing it as long as it gave me a lot of pleasure and allowed me to express myself ,” the writer said, expressing a desire to move beyond superhero stories. “And it still does, but I can see the end coming closer. I’m coming to the end of long runs and stories I’ve had planned in my notebooks for years and the stuff I’m developing now is quite different. The Action Comics run concludes with issue #16, Batman Incorporated wraps up my take with issue #12, and after that I don’t have any plans for monthly superhero books for a while. Multiversity is eight issues, and I’m 30-odd pages into a Wonder Woman project but those are finite stories.”

Multiversity is the long-promised miniseries — it originally was set for release in 2010 — that spans seven different Earths, featuring characters from the DC Comics catalog as diverse as Shazam, the Charlton heroes, a pulp Justice Society and Captain Carrot. And the Wonder Woman project is his frequently discussed take on the heroine that seeks to reintroduce the “weird, libidinous kind of element” prevalent in the early stories by her creator William Moulton Marston.

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DC postpones release of Batman Incorporated #3 following shootings

In the wake of Friday’s shootings in Aurora, Colorado, DC Comics has delayed the release of Batman Incorporated #3, originally set to go on sale Wednesday, because the issue “contains content that may be perceived as insensitive in light of recent events.” It will instead be released Aug. 22.

In an email sent Monday to retailers, the publisher explained that, “Out of respect for the victims and families in Aurora, Colorado DC Entertainment has made the decision to postpone the release of BATMAN INCORPORATED #3 for one month because the comic contains content that may be perceived as insensitive in light of recent events. We request that retailers do not make this issue available as previously solicited.”

Artist Chris Burnham addressed the delay on Twitter, writing, “Batman Inc #3 is going to be delayed a month due to some grim imagery that would seem wholly inappropriate given the Aurora killings. The book printed on time. I’m looking at a copy on my desk right now. This isn’t a scheduling excuse, we’re trying to do the right thing. It’s not just a Batman comic with guns in it. There’s a specific scene that made DC & the whole Bat-team say ‘Yikes.’ Too close for comfort.”

Comic Book Resources has an exclusive preview of Batman Incorporated #3, which features the New 52 debut of Matches Malone, and finds Batman on the trail of who’s trying to kill Damian.

What Are You Reading? with Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque

Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Our guest this week is Spanish artist Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque, who drew the comic Elle for Soleil. He’s also working on a story for the upcoming Skullkickers #18 with J. Torres.

To see what Alberto and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.

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Comics A.M. | Are You My Mother?, The Walking Dead top indie bookstore chart

The Walking Dead, Vol. 1

Sales charts | The American Booksellers Association has released its list of the top-selling graphic novels in indie bookstores for the eight weeks ending May 27. At first glance, it looks like it’s mostly literary graphic novels (Habibi, Are You My Mother?) with a healthy sprinkling of The Walking Dead. [Bookselling This Week, via The Beat]

Creators | Grant Morrison discusses the second issue of Batman Incorporated, which features Batman’s lover and Robin’s mom, Talia al Ghul. [USA Today]

Comics history | Could comics history have been radically different if Jerry Siegel had a different last name? Larry Tye, the author of the new Superman a biography, talks to Fresh Air about the origins of the Man of Steel and how he changed over the years: “The editors in New York over time started to exercise their editorial control. They saw this as both a character and a business. They would go down to the level of dictating just what his forelocks looked like. They could be too curly. His arms should be shorter and less ‘ape-like.’ And Joe should get rid of his hero’s ‘nice fat bottom.’ His editor told him that he worried that that made Superman look too ‘la-dee-dah.’ And they were really concerned about the image of the character.” [NPR]

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Comics A.M. | New York Comic Con absorbs New York Anime Festival

New York Comic Con

Conventions | ReedPOP has officially announced it will fold the New York Anime Festival into New York Comic Con, rather than continue them as separate events held at the same location. “This move has nothing to do with our loyalty or commitment to the anime community and everything to do with the growth and identity of New York Comic Con as a leading pop culture event,” ReedPOP’s Lance Fensterman said in a statement. “NYCC embraces all elements of the pop culture world, including anime, and we have evolved to a point where the existence of NYAF outside our universe is almost a contradiction. We will be better able to serve the anime community from within the NYCC infra-structure rather than have a show which is separate and which will always be dwarfed by everything that New York Comic Con represents and is.” [press release]

Passings | Cartoonist Jim Unger, whose one-panel comic Herman served as an inspiration for Gary Larson’s The Far Side, passed away Monday at his home in British Columbia. He was 75. The comic appeared in about 600 newspapers worldwide from 1974 until Unger’s retirement in 1992. [The Daily Cartoonist]

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What Are You Reading? with Mark Andrew Smith

Prophet #21

Happy Memorial Day, Americans, and welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? Our special guest today is Mark Andrew Smith, writer of Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors, Amazing Joy Buzzards, The New Brighton Archeological Society and Sullivan’s Sluggers, which is currently available to order via Kickstarter.

To see what Mark and the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, click below.

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Chain Reactions | Batman Incorporated #1

Batman Incorporated #1

This week saw the return of Batman Incorporated, a series that was cut short when DC Comics launched the New 52 initiative but was allowed to wrap up its plotlines in the Leviathan Strikes one-shot–effectively becoming our last view into the previous DC continuity. Or was it? Batman survived the rebirth of the universe fairly intact, and now with the relaunch of Batman Incorporated by Grant Morrison, Chris Burnham and Nathan Fairbairn, we get a glimpse at some of the dangling plotlines from that series–as well as some great new moments, like the introduction of Bat Cow.

How did folks feel about the relaunch? Here’s a round-up of just a few reactions from around the web:

David Pepose, Newsarama: “While Scott Snyder might bring the grit back to the Dark Knight, Grant Morrison is all about bringing back the flash. Six months after the last installment of Batman Incorporated, Morrison and artist Chris Burnham show that they’ve still got it, bringing action, mystery and suspense to this dark, pop-infused take on Gotham City.”

Bobby Shortle, Talking Comics: “I’m going to put this out on front street, Batman Incorporated #1 is a horrible ‘first issue’ of a comic book. I’m not saying it’s a bad book, because in fact it has several fantastic moments, but as an inaugural outing it does more to confuse than to welcome in new readers. Perhaps constant readers of the franchise will decry this review because they are perfectly happy to not have to sit through an expositional recount of events they have all ready consumed, but to them I say, ‘I think you are missing the point.'”

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Comics A.M. | Comic-Con to resell 5,000 one-day passes

Comic-Con International

Conventions | Organizers of the sold-out Comic-Con International will resell 5,000 one-day passes for the July 12-15 convention. No date has been announced for the online sale of the canceled or returned badges; to receive notification, and to participate, convention hopefuls must sign up for a member ID by 5:30 p.m. PT Thursday. Badges sold out the first time within an hour and 20 minutes. [U-T San Diego, Comic-Con International]

Comics | Following up on the news of the impending Northstar-Kyle wedding, Michael Cavna talks to Tom Batiuk (Funky Winkerbean), Jon Goldwater (Archie Comics) and Paige Braddock (Jane’s World) about writing about gay relationships — and dealing with their editors and syndicators. [Comic Riffs]

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Grumpy Old Fan | Can the New 52 count on the Next Six’s Earth-2?

"You're not going out in *that*?!?"

Although they won’t be solicited for a few more weeks, DC has already been talking up the six new(ish) titles coming in May. G.I. Combat, Dial H, Ravagers, and Worlds’ Finest join the returning Batman Incorporated and the long-rumored Justice So– I mean, Earth 2 — as the replacements for most of the New-52’s lowest-selling books.

As with the original New-52 group, every new title except one is familiar to longtime DC fans; and as with the original New-52, that book spins out of an existing feature. (Then it was Batman Incorporated begetting Batwing; here it’s the Teen Titans/Superboy nexus spawning Ravagers.) However, where the New-52 tried noticeably to make many of its books accessible — or at least uprooted them from established DC lore — most of the new titles seem to require some prerequisite reading.

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Grumpy Old Fan | Ten from 2011, ten for 2012

Red underwear makes a comeback in 2965

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.

2011

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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