"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Comic Books, Film
DC Entertainment may not have planned it this way — “planning” being something with which DC may be only tangentially familiar — but I doubt its high-ups wanted to release these December solicitations the Monday after what had to be a pretty rough weekend. When you’ve just had to deal with a celebrated creative team walking off a fairly successful book — citing “editorial interference,” and reminding people that the character’s original writer also left after increasing frustration with DC — you might not want to follow that up by calling attention to all the other changes coming before the end of the year.
And don’t worry, there’ll be plenty of Batwoman and “sucky personal life” talk before we’re done. Solicits first, though …
If the first week of Villains Month is any indication, a good bit of the decimal-point issues will feature stories set in the early stages of the Crime Syndicate’s takeover. This wasn’t that apparent from the September solicits, and subsequent months also appeared light on explicit crossovers. December is about the same, with Teen Titans dropping out of the crossover lineup, and Pandora and Phantom Stranger joining the three Justice League books, the three Forever Evil [Colon] miniseries, and Suicide Squad.
I’m still kind of flummoxed by Dan DiDio’s comments last weekend at Baltimore Comic-Con explaining why Batwoman can’t marry her girlfriend Maggie Sawyer. “Heroes shouldn’t have happy personal lives,” he said at the start of the DC Nation panel, according to several sources. “They are committed to being that person and committed to defending others at the sacrifice of their own personal interests. It’s wonderful that they try to establish personal lives, but it’s equally important that they set them aside. That is our mandate, that is our edict and that is our stand with our characters.”
I don’t disagree with the idea that main characters ought to struggle. A sunny walk through the park doesn’t make for much of a gripping adventure yarn. That is pretty basic writing strategy for drama: Put your characters through hell and watch them climb out. Serialized superhero stories, and in fact most Western narratives, are structured around that up and down of going from seeming defeat to triumph. It’s particularly appropriate for Batman and his family of books: The Dark Knight is built around tragedy, and his obsession over fixing that tragedy is what drives him. Bruce Wayne continually sacrifices his personal life in his constant pursuit to make sure what happened to him won’t happen to anyone else. It’s that drive that’s turned him into something of a social misfit — he can play the part of Mr. Debonair but getting emotionally close to him is almost impossible.
So on that level, I don’t disagree with DiDio.
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 Waluk, Superior Spider-Man and more.
It’s rare that you see an artist do a continuous long run on a monthly comic series these days. Mark Bagley, Charlie Adlard and John Romita Jr. are among the relative few, and even their tenures are sometimes broken up by extra-sized issues or a biweekly shipping schedule. But joining those ranks of the most prodigious artists in comics is a fairly new face: Francesco Francavilla.
The Italian artist has been steadily working up through the ranks in the comic industry since his debut in 2006, but 2012 was his breakthrough year, as he won an Eisner Award for his covers, saw his creator-owned series Black Beetle start at Dark Horse and drew two arcs of Captain America and a fill-in issue of DC’s Swamp Thing. But in October, things are getting crazy, with Francavilla working simultaneously as the artist on three series — Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Archie’s Afterlife with Archie at Archie, and his own Black Beetle: Necrologue at Dark Horse.
This has already been a blockbuster year for Francavilla, with seven complete issues already released — Black Beetle #1-4, Batwoman #21, Hawkeye #10 and #12 — plus an astonishing 46 covers for various publishers. Forty-six!
In an interview earlier this year with ROBOT 6, he commented on his amazing flurry of work by dubbing it “Creative ADD,” and even admitting he sometimes forgets what he does due to the sheer volume.
“The other day I was flipping through Previews and I saw a cover I forgot I did!” The artist told Tim O’Shea. “Then I went to check if I forgot to invoice it too!”
James Brown ain’t got nothing on Francesco Francavilla.
Welcome to the first “Report Card,” a new feature we plan to run every weekend. If “Cheat Sheet” is your guide to the week ahead, “Report Card” is a look back at the week in review. It will include an overview of top news stories you might have missed, as well as a look at the Robot 6 team’s favorite comics that we read this week.
So read on to find out what we thought of Batwoman #21, X-Files: Season 10 #1, Becky Cloonan’s Demeter and much more.
Frequent readers of ROBOT 6 know I’m a big supporter of Francesco Francavilla, and particularly his Black Beetle character. Wednesday marks the release of The Black Beetle: No Way Out #3, the penultimate issue in the first of a series of miniseries for Dark Horse. As much as I was eager to learn about the pulp-fueled noir comic, I was equally keen to chat with Francavilla about his approach toward layout and storytelling in general.
As part of the interview, Francavilla shared some preview pages for the latest issue.
Tim O’Shea: Comparing the early adventures of the Black Beetle, as shown in Night Shift versus No Way Out issues 1 and 2, how liberating did it feel to be increasingly ambitious with your layouts on the pages?
Francesco Francavilla: Very liberating. One of the tricky parts of doing Night Shift was to have three small installments (chapters) of eight pages. I wanted each single chapter to be meaty enough to be entertaining on its own, but I also wanted each chapter to end with a cliffhanger. Going from that to a full 22 pages a month with No Way Out, I have much more room now to have fun with different layouts and give extra room for some big reveal sequences.
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.
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Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, where the Robot 6 crew shares their picks for the Royal Rumble … I mean, talks about what comics we’ve read recently. Today our special guest is Landry Walker, writer of Danger Club, Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Little Gloomy, Tron and more.
To smell what Landry and the Robot 6 crew are cookin’, click below.
He’s one of the most prolific creators in comics, but odds are only a small segment of his audience knows him by name. One of the foremost colorists in the industry, Dave Stewart is in demand as a collaborator for today’s top artists, and one of the most versatile players on the comics scene. He’s also dominated the Eisner Awards’ coloring category, winning seven of the past nine years.
I reached out to Stewart because I’m an admirer of his work and, because frankly, we don’t hear nearly enough from him. We talked about his place in comics, and his role as frequent collaborator with the likes of Mike Mignola and J.H. Williams III. I also asked about his early ambitions to become penciler, and the potential of trying that again some day.
The nominees have been announced for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s 24th annual Media Awards, which honor outstanding portrayals of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities.
The nominees for outstanding comic book are:
Manga | Tezuka Productions, which handles the works of Osamu Tezuka, has signed a deal for Diamond Comic Distributors to distribute its comics, toys, T-shirts and other products outside of Japan. [Previews World]
Comics | Sean Howe, author of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, discusses the clash between the creative drive and the corporate interest, as it played out at the House of Ideas: “There’s certainly a cautionary tale in there, but I think it’s inevitable — because Marvel Comics is a really rich example of the way that pop culture works and that the Marvel story really gets to the way that art and commerce are always going to be battling it out in pop culture. If you’re trying to have mass appeal and artistic expression at the same time, there are going to be compromises. And when you bring powerful corporate interests into the equation, it’s pretty predictable what will happen.” [The Phoenix]
The biggest news from this round of solicits is probably the cancellations of Blue Beetle, Grifter, Legion Lost, and Frankenstein. I’ve been buying Beetle and Frankenstein, so I’m sorry to see them go.
Naturally, this means we can look forward to four new titles in February. If I had to guess, I’d say a new Shazam! ongoing series will spin out of the current Justice League backup, but according to January’s solicitation, the backup doesn’t seem to have reached a suitable stopping place. It’s possible that February’s Issue 17 could wrap everything up one week and lead into Shazam! #1 the next, but that would depend on Justice League shipping on time (in the third week of the month), and I’d think DC would want more wiggle room in case of a delay. Accordingly, the odds of a Shazam! series in the next batch of solicits seem rather long.
Still, the backup series has been running in Justice League since #7, so (counting the Shazam-centric Issue 0, but subtracting the lack of backup in Issue 13) February’s Issue 17 would mark its eleventh installment. That is subject to change, since the October solicits advertised a Shazam! backup which was not in the actual issue. Still, if my rough math is correct, that’s about 154 total pages of story — more than the New Teen Titans: Games paperback, but less than the Superman/Shazam collection — but the solicit for January’s Issue 16 (part 11, remember) just talks about continuing the origin. With that in mind, even if Issue 17 concludes the backup, the character could still appear in JL as a Leaguer until he does whatever he’s going to do in “Trinity War.” Yadda yadda yadda, now I think probably no new Shazam! series until that event is over.
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This week sees the print debut of Legends of the Dark Knight, the ongoing print version of DC’s digital-first Batman anthology. By design it’s not part of the regular Batman line, and therefore not counted as one of the New 52. However, it gives me an excuse to ask how many Bat-books DC Comics really needs.
Now, I don’t mean that to be as dismissive as it sounds. The current Batman line is built on years, if not decades, of steady readership and fan attachments, and you don’t just wave that away. Nevertheless, if there are only 52 slots in the main superhero line, must the Batman Family claim a quarter of them? The relaunch has made pruning these titles both easier and harder, and today I want to look at the opportunities it presents.
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Artist Peter Nguyen takes on DC Comics superheroines in a terrific print for New York Comic Con that includes everyone from Batwoman and Big Barda to Wonder Woman and Miss Martian. “There are some women who I left out I am sure but for the sake of sanity let’s just say they are the little dots in the back,” Nguyen writes on his blog. “Or off world fighting a greater threat. I had a ton of fun with this one and i hope you guys like it. I added a cosmic treadmill for fun so we can get at least one Flash rep in there amongst all the fliers, glider, and rock floating riders.”
See the full image below, and check out Nguyen’s work process on his blog.
Here in Memphis this week, September finally turned the corner into fall. High temperatures are mostly in the 70s, the air is getting crisper, and the sky is turning a paler blue. Unlike July or August, when October and November seem far in the future, a nice September makes December that much easier to imagine.
In September you start to settle into the routine which will take you through the winter — and that’s apparently true as well for the New 52 superhero books. Let’s get on with it, shall we?
MOVERS AND SHAKERS
Ivan Reis and Joe Prado head to Justice League with December’s Issue 15, and I for one am happy. Although I like Jim Lee fine, I think Reis is better-suited to big, multiple-character action. It’s hard for me to explain the distinction, so consider this: How would “Sinestro Corps” or Blackest Night have looked if Lee had drawn them? Reis manages crowds quite well, and Justice League should be crowded.
Also, while I’ve been rather down on Justice League of late, the expanded roster (teased over a year ago) and the Atlantis-centered storyline make me optimistic that the book is … well, doing what I’d like it to do, which is being a showcase for, and gateway to, the larger superhero universe. So, well done, solicitation!