Axel-In-Charge: Waid & Samnee on "Black Widow" and the Dawn of the All-New, All-Different Era
Whether you call it “Divergence” or “DC You,” November represents the sixth month of DC Comics’ line-wide retooling. In just about three months it’ll be time to start taking stock of what worked and what didn’t, but for now we’re looking at what’s new and/or shiny.
THE 800-POUND GORILLA BOSS OF GOTHAM CITY
At the head of the line is a certain Bat-sequel. The hype surrounding Dark Knight III: The Master Race is understandable considering the shelf life of The Dark Knight Returns. It and its follow-up are two of DC’s most evergreen reprints, and DK3 will no doubt join them in the Valhalla of immortal collected editions.
Just in case franchise fans needed any more incentive to preorder Batman: Arkham Knight, Rocksteady Studios and WB Games are offering one more enticement: the “Gotham’s Future” Skin Pack, featuring the costumes from the animated Batman Beyond and the seminal comic miniseries Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.
On the opposite end of the timeline, an in-game skin based on Batman’s 1939 debut is being offered as part of the Serious Edition comic bundle.
“I do admit that I am surprised that the series has such a high profile still but, make no mistake, I’m very happy to be a part of it. I can’t speak for Frank [Miller], but neither I nor anyone else in the DC office realized the impact of the books at that time. It would have been crazy to predict way back then. It’s not unheard of to have a particular project garner a lot of attention in the moment, but it is unusual for a project to cast such a long shadow, to hold up so many years later. Dark Knight Returns was a hurricane. It was a force of nature that swept everyone up in its path, and I learned a lot from that experience. I’d love to work with Frank at least once more, whether it’s for the 30th anniversary or something else, so this is my way of starting to put the offer out there. Let’s go, Frank — it would be great fun!”
Warner Bros.’ announcement of a “Batman vs. Superman” sequel to Man of Steel at Comic-Con International triggered a 161 percent surge in digital sales of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns in July, setting a record for a full-priced DC Entertainment digital title, Variety reports.
The publisher previously mentioned “a huge jump in month-over-month [digital] sales” of Frank Miller’s pioneering 1986 work, but didn’t offer more than that. Like most publishers, DC doesn’t reveal actual sales figures for either print or digital.
The influential four-issue miniseries brings an aging Batman out of retirement a decade after the death of Jason Todd to save Gotham from sinking deeper into decay and lawlessness. With the help of a new, female Robin, Carrie Kelly, the Dark Knight ends the threat of the mutant gangs that have overrun the city and confronts two of his greatest enemies. But then he must face his former ally Superman in a battle that only one will survive.
Although Man of Steel director Zack Snyder was quick to caution at Comic-Con that the sequel wouldn’t be an adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns, actor Harry Lennix read dialogue from the book — “I want you to remember, Clark, in all the years to come, in all your most private moments, I want you to remember my hand at your throat” — and Miller was reportedly set to meet with the filmmaker.
While Heritage Auctions has sold other original art from the landmark 1986 DC Comics miniseries — a page from Issue 3, featuring Batman and Robin in mid-air, fetched a record $448,125 in 2011 — this is the first cover to ever appear at auction. It’s also the only one from the four-issue series to be rendered completely in pen and ink by Miller, “with no significant painted elements or overlays.” Heritage characterizes it as “artistically the best of the four.”
“For fans of modern comics, this drawing is where everything really begins,” Heritage Vice President Todd Hignite tells The AP.“This moment defines Miller’s Dark Knight, and the modern day perception of Batman, like no other drawing.”
The auction also includes a 9.2 graded copy of 1940’s Batman #1, which marks the first appearance of Catwoman and The Joker. A similar copy sold for $850,000 in 2012.
The record price paid at auction for a comic is held by a near-mint copy of Action Comics #1, which fetched $2.16 million in 2011. Online bidding is expected to begin July 12, with the auction held Aug. 1-3 in Dallas.
I love these alternative designs that Fabio Castro came up with for four Batman graphic novels. Seriously, I want to trade in my current editions of Batman: Year One and The Dark Knight Returns for these. And I’d buy The Killing Joke and Under the Red Hood just to complete the set.
But it got me wondering; especially Under the Red Hood, which doesn’t seem to belong in the same collection as those others. I suspect that Castro included it simply because he wanted something to fit a red cover. I’m not picking on him. Maybe I’m wrong and Under the Red Hood is absolutely a classic, but even if it’s not, I still love Castro’s cover. It just got me thinking about what the truly great Batman stories are. Year One and The Dark Knight Returns are no-brainers, and while I don’t especially care for The Killing Joke, I understand how its writer and the effect it had on Barbara Gordon make it “important.” But what other Batman stories deserve to go next to those? Hush? A Death in the Family? Knightfall?
I’m genuinely asking. What’s the Batman canon? Sound off in the comments.
A couple of weeks ago, I wondered whether we could trace the entire sidekick-derived wing of DC’s superhero-comics history back to Bill Finger. Today I’m less interested in revisiting that question — although I will say Robin the Boy Wonder also owes a good bit to Jerry Robinson and Bob Kane — than using it as an example.
Specifically, this week’s question has nagged me for several years (going back to my TrekBBS days, even), and it is this: as between Alan Moore and the duo of Marv Wolfman and George Pérez, who has been a bigger influence on DC’s superhero books?
As the post title suggests, we might reframe this as “who won the ‘80s,” since all three men came to prominence at DC in that decade. Wolfman and Pérez’s New Teen Titans kicked off with a 16-page story in DC Comics Presents #26 (cover-dated October 1980), with the series’ first issue following the next month. Moore’s run on (Saga of the) Swamp Thing started with January 1984’s issue #20, although the real meat of his work started with the seminal issue #21. Wolfman and Pérez’s Titans collaboration lasted a little over four years, through February 1985’s Tales of the Teen Titans #50 and New Teen Titans vol. 2 #5. Moore wrote Swamp Thing through September 1987’s #64, and along the way found time in 1986-87 for a little-remembered twelve-issue series called Watchmen. After their final Titans issues, Wolfman and Pérez also produced a 12-issue niche-appeal series of their own, 1984-85’s Crisis On Infinite Earths.* The trio even had some common denominators: Len Wein edited both Titans and Watchmen (and Barbara Randall eventually succeeded him on both), and Gar Logan’s adopted dad Steve Dayton was friends with John Constantine.
More than nine months after an original splash page from Batman: The Dark Knight Returns sold for a record $448,125, Heritage Auctions is offering two more original pieces of Frank Miller art, expected to bring in more than $50,000 each.
Consigned by Miller himself, the pieces are the cover to 2006’s Absolute Dark Knight and the frontispiece from the 1997 10th-anniversary edition of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.
“It took me years to define, in my own mind, Batman as less a creature of vengeance than of vigor,” Miller said of the Absolute Dark Knight cover. “This piece is one of my personal favorites. To me, it sums the man up.” And on the Batman and Robin splash: “Like any hero, Batman is complex. Here we see him as a father figure, instructing one of my favorite creations, dear Carrie Kelly.”
The two pieces will be auctioned Feb. 23 by Heritage, which notes that while Miller worked with inker Klaus Janson and colorist Lynn Varley on The Dark Knight Returns, “these images are rare examples of 100 percent Frank Miller pencils and inks on his most popular character.”
Frank Miller, whose tirade against the Occupy movement was met with a largely negative, and frequently heated, response, has found an unlikely defender: left-leaning writer Mark Millar.
In a post on his Millarworld forum, the writer of Kick-Ass and The Ultimates says, “It’s strange to watch your favourite writer getting strips torn off him for a couple of days.”
“Politically, I disagree with his analysis, but that’s besides the point,” Millar continues. “I wasn’t shocked by his comments because they’re no different from a lot of commentators I’ve seen discussing the subject. What shocked me was the vitriol against him, the big bucket of shit poured over the head by even fellow comic-book creators for saying what was on his mind.”
As one commenter points out, it probably shouldn’t be shocking that Miller’s no-holds-barred screed, which characterizes Occupy protesters as “a pack of louts, thieves, and rapists” who “can do nothing but harm America,” was answered with a degree of vitriol. Or, in the commenter’s words, “if you throw the first bucket of shit […] then you should be prepared for some splashback.” Perhaps if Miller’s commentary had been more reasoned and less inflammatory — “decorous,” as Miller himself would say — the reaction might’ve reflected that.