Axel-In-Charge: Navigating the "Civil War II" Landscape, Bringing DMC to Marvel
Happy Sunday and Happy Fourth of July, as we once again delve into what the Robot 6 crew are reading this week. Joining us as our special guest this week is Jeff Lemire, creator of Sweet Tooth, The Nobody, The Essex County Trilogy and Lost Dogs, and the writer of the Atom strip in Adventure Comics and the upcoming Superboy series.
To see what Jeff and the Robot 6 crew are reading, click below …
Green Lantern and Garth Ennis are responsible for very different comics; bloggers Tom Spurgeon and Tim O’Neil are two very different writers. Yet in recent days, both have posted about how they’ve reached their limit with comics about/by the aforementioned individuals — for very different reasons. And they’ve written some thought-provoking things about that tipping point where you decide “You know what? This comic isn’t for me anymore” in the process.
First up is Spurgeon, who in linking to Charles Hatfield’s negative review of Geoff Johns’s Green Lantern-starring opus Blackest Night said he hasn’t even read the series yet, simply because he has no interest in ever reading a comic about Green Lantern again. Says Spurgeon:
Let me be clear right from the start: I don’t think that Dan DiDio, Geoff Johns, and assorted other DC functionaries had this week in mind whenever they decided to kick off a cycle of crossover-driven carnage which Blackest Night brought to a close. I don’t think they said to each other, back during George W. Bush’s first term, “we want a miniseries starring the Hawks, Aquaman and Mera, Captain Boomerang, Firestorm, and Black Adam Jr. We’ll bring Deadman back to life, and he’ll tie it all together. Oh, and we’ll bring Barry Allen back and launch his new book the same day.”
It’s a neat thought, though, isn’t it? Barry was the avatar of the Silver Age, and his new #1 drops the same week as the first issue of the you’d-think-it-would-be-peppy Brightest Day. They’re both written by DC’s new Chief Creative Officer, Geoff Johns (BD is co-written by Peter J. Tomasi). Heck, DC should’ve gone for broke and called April 14, 2010 the start of the Brightest Age. Some loose ends notwithstanding, I think we are done for a while with the annual Event That Changes Everything — and before I bury the lede too deeply, I’m not entirely sold on BD, but I liked Flash #1 a lot.
(SPOILERS FOLLOW for both books…)
* * *
Blackest Night, written by Geoff Johns and pencilled by Ivan Reis, is the culmination of at least five years’ worth of Green Lantern storylines, not to mention elements from DC’s recent Big Events. It sets up several more storylines, both in the GL books and throughout DC’s superhero titles. It also lays out a new way to look at the very nature of life in the DC universe.
These are all elements of what I’ve called “process” stories: vehicles for taking characters from one basic setup to another, many times without much more depth than that. Process is a big part of Blackest Night — these rings work together thusly, these beings power the rings like so, etc. I haven’t had much use for process stories. Indeed, if BN were merely a process story, it would be an eminently appropriate way to cap DC’s perpetual-crossover period. One more cog in the four-color Rube Goldberg device.
Thankfully, Blackest Night aims higher — and that ambition saves it from the tedium of pure process. BN isn’t perfect by any means: it’s a gruesome spectacle of ripped-out hearts and (literal) emotional manipulation, Geoff Johns’ dialogue can be clunky, and Ivan Reis’ pencils are sometimes overwhelming. Ultimately, though, the miniseries is an engaging diversion with its own point of view, and I ended up liking it well enough.
SPOILERS after the jump for Blackest Night #8 … don’t say I didn’t warn you …
Yesterday the eighth and final issue of Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis’s hit event comic Blackest Night came out, and DC has been celebrating its successful conclusion (how about that fold-out spread, huh???) in grand fashion. On Tuesday, DC’s official blog, The Source, hosted an open thread for fans to share their favorite Blackest Night moments and memories. Source blogger and PR guru Alex Segura posted a heartfelt encomium to the series, its spinoffs, and its creators once it wrapped on Wednesday. Today, editor Eddie Berganza contributed a eulogy of his own.
All well-deserved, as far as I’m concerned: Blackest Night clearly worked for its intended audience, myself included. A hook everyone could understand, a huge (and fun!) expansion of the Green Lantern mythos that convincingly roped in characters from the Flash to Lex Luthor to Hawk and Dove, rock-solid art from Ivan Reis, perhaps the most t-shirt-friendly concept in comics history…I had a hoot with this book and its parallel Green Lantern tie-ins as well, and judging from the uniformly positive fan feedback in the comments for Segura’s tribute, I’m far from alone.
Artist Ryan Kelly shares four sketches he’s selling on his blog, featuring various Lanterns of various colors. He plans to use the money for travel expenses and to print a personal project he’s working on called Funrama.
This means one of two things: Either this is the most amazingly rock-solid issue-to-issue performance of an event comic ever or, more likely, as chartwatcher Marc-Oliver Frisch points out, Diamond knocked 20 percent of Siege #1’s sales off its January chart to account for returnability. Either way, it seems the earlier hue and cry that Siege is some kind of flop need to be significantly dialed down.
Look, I have no idea what Marvel’s internal sales expectations for Siege were or are. I know that the “seven years in the making” hype creates the sense that this was supposed to be the blockbuster to end all blockbusters, and thus sales comfortably beneath those of a late-run Blackest Night issue give the impression of failure. But at the same time, Siege is way shorter than any of the other events Marvel has done in recent years, suggesting the company and creators had a different view of its structure and goal than, say, Secret Invasion. They also started promoting its follow-up, the line-wide “Heroic Age,” more or less concurrently with Siege itself, and in a way that pretty much assured readers of the outcome of the series — in other words, Siege has been treated as much as a means to the end of “The Heroic Age” as an end in itself. All in all, it comes across as a very different beast than Blackest Night does across town.
Meanwhile, Siege isn’t the only title with some mysterious sales-chart goings-on going on. Blackest Night #7’s 130,613 copies appears at first glance to represent an amazing 30-percent increase over Issue 6’s first-month sales of 100,651, and that’s pretty much how ICv2 reported it. But keep in mind Issue 6 was first sold during Diamond’s “skip week” between Christmas and New Year’s, meaning it actually shipped the week before it went on sale; retailers who failed to sign an embargo agreement received their copies the first week of January instead, and thus 35,344 copies’ worth of sales ended up showing up on the January charts rather than the December charts. Thus, Issue 7’s performance represents a drop of around 5,000 copies, not an increase of 30,000. Blackest Night is still the hottest thing in monthly comics these days by a long shot, but it’s not adding a third of its readership with its penultimate issue, any more than it lost a third of its readership in December.
Publishing | The penultimate issue of DC Comics’ Blackest Night miniseries led a weak February in the direct market, which saw comic-book sales slip 3 percent from the same month a year ago. Sales of graphic novels, on the other hand, actually rose 1 percent — the category’s first increase since March 2009 — which the retail news and analysis website ICv2.com notes is “somewhat remarkable given that over 12,000 copies of Watchmen were sold in February 2009, over 10 times the number sold in February of 2010.”
Blackest Night #7 sold more than 130,000 copies, followed at No. 2 by Marvel’s Siege #2, with about 108,400. They were the only titles to break 100,000 in February. ICv2 notes that sales of Blackest Night increased some 30 percent from the previous issue’s first month while those of Siege were virtually unchanged. That seems like an impressive performance for both titles.
DC Comics revealed yesterday the cover to Blackest Night #8 by Ivan Reis. And like the cover to Green Lantern #52, it now makes sense as to why they didn’t share the cover when the original solicitations came out, as it spoils the end of BN #7 … check it out after the jump.
After the events of Blackest Night #7, which came out yesterday, DC reveals two covers for Green Lantern #52. You might remember that when originally solicited, DC held back the covers for this issue, and now we know why … they didn’t want to spoil the end of BN #7.
SPOILERS for the latest issue of Blackest Night after the jump …
After the release of seven plastic promotional rings for Blackest Night and the announcement of three more for Brightest Day, some fans are hoping DC Comics will show the Legion of Super-Heroes a little love.
It seems only logical that a Legion flight ring should come next. After all, the Green Lantern Corps, the Flash Family and the teenagers from the future form a sprawling trinity of functional superhero jewelry. Plus, Legion of Super-Heroes is being relaunched with legendary series writer Paul Levitz at the helm.
But just in case DC needs a little convincing, fans have organized a grass-roots postcard campaign reminiscent of the one launched in September to return Wonder Woman to its original numbering. (Of course, that one originated with the publisher, not with readers.)
Blogger Sven Straatveit points out that DC already has a flight-ring mold — a ring was released with DC Direct action figures of Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl — so the company won’t have to shell out money for design or sculpting. Sound reasoning, that.
So how about it, DC?
Siege #1 was January’s bestselling comic. Written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated by Olivier Coipel, it’s the capstone to years’ worth of event-driven Marvel Universe storylines, and the launchpad for a linewide rebranding called “The Heroic Age.” Anecdotally, it’s generated a lot of happy chatter from readers, especially following its gut-wrenching (heh heh) second issue. It’s a major milestone in the Marvel metastory by two of the company’s most popular creators, and it’s literally a chart-topper.
So why, as Marvel Vice President-Executive Editor Tom Brevoort points out, are people saying it’s a flop?
According to ICv2’s sales estimates, Siege #1 sold 108,484 copies. That’s just a hair above the 106,444 copies purchased of the month’s No. 2 comic, DC’s Green Lantern #50, which is the eighth issue of a Blackest Night tie-in arc. Blackest Night proper’s sixth issue sold 135,695, well above the figures for the launch of Marvel’s much-hyped event.
A longer-range comparison makes for grim reading, too. Veteran number-cruncher Marc-Oliver Frisch of The Beat ran down some stats at his blog:
One of my pet theories about superhero comics is that the best of them don’t hesitate to tap into what I call “inner-eight-year-old gold” — those simple, magical ideas that made playing with your Secret Wars or Super Friends action figures so much fun. (I, for one, made Iron Man and Magneto arch-enemies. I mean, c’mon, it’s right there!)
One of my favorite such goldmines is the opposite-number villain, those baddies who share a hero’s basic look and power set but change the color scheme and otherwise stand as a mean-spirited mirror image. That’s why I’ve loved Geoff Johns’s Green Lantern run ever since he introduced the Sinestro Corps, and why that love has only gotten stronger as a whole rainbow of Lanterns has been introduced for Blackest Night and beyond. And like a kid playing with his toys, I can’t help but daydream about which other characters it’d be cool to draft into the War of Light.
Looks like I’m not the only one. Over at his blog The Cool Kids Table, Ben Morse has selected a rainbow of Marvel characters he thinks are fit to wield the various multi-hued Power Rings floating around the DCU right now. If he had his way, you’d have a very different Red Hulk on your hands from the one Jeph Loeb concocted, while Clint Barton would look more like Green Arrow than ever and Storm would be making Love rain o’er everyone. This isn’t the first time he’s done a Lantern Draft, either: Like any DC fan worth his salt, he came up with his own personal picks for the roles currently filled in Blackest Night by Mera, Lex Luthor, Scarecrow, Ganthet, the Flash, the Atom, and Wonder Woman. Click the links to see his full rosters.
“Turns out nobody has any extra copies of those ring books…” Thus tweeted newly minted Marvel Vice President, Executive Editor Tom Brevoort this morning. And based on the accompanying picture, which showed a stack of covers for Blackest Night tie-ins that were part of DC’s recent power ring promotion, your sarcasm detectors were right to go off there.
It’s anecdotal evidence, to be sure, but the photo, and a subsequent pic documenting some 300 mailed-in covers from a single store, show that some retailers at least are both willing and able to take Marvel up on its controversial offer to retailers to exchange one Deadpool variant of Siege #3 for every 50 copies or covers of DC’s “ring books” they receive.
But will the initiative be a success overall, for either Marvel or the participating retailers? Does all the publicity for it factor in positively or negatively? Those probably aren’t the kind of questions you can answer with an iPhone photo, but we’ll see.