UnSHIELDed: "Agents of SHIELD" Evolves With the Marvel Cinematic Universe
Students of DC Comics’ publishing history can probably rattle off at least a few editors from the company’s first few decades. Whitney Ellsworth edited the Batman and Superman books in the 1940s and ‘50s before becoming a producer on the Adventures of Superman television series. In the Silver Age, Mort Weisinger presided over an exponential expansion of Superman’s mythology, including all those varieties of Kryptonite, the introductions of Supergirl, Krypto and the Legion of Super-Heroes, and ongoing series focused on Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. Similarly, as editor of the Batman titles, Jack Schiff supervised one of the character’s most recognizable periods, filled with colorful mysteries and giant-sized props.
Of course, the phrase “Silver Age DC” is virtually synonymous with Julius Schwartz, who worked with writers Gardner Fox and John Broome and artists Carmine Infantino, Mike Sekowsky and Gil Kane on rebuilding DC’s superhero line. One could argue fairly reasonably that without them DC Comics as we know it today might not exist (and neither would today’s Marvel).
However, while Ellsworth became DC’s editorial director in 1948, Schwartz Schiff, and Weisinger weren’t in similarly lofty positions. Today we readers hear a lot about “editorial control” and the dreaded “editorial interference,” charges aimed largely at the men at the top: Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras, Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee and Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns. We hear a lot from them (illuminating and otherwise) about the general direction of the company. We also hear a good bit from various writers and artists, including Johns and Lee, regarding specific titles.
Nevertheless, on the management tier in between are the books’ editors themselves; and that’s the area about which I’ve become rather hazy. Therefore, I started looking through New 52 credits boxes, and supplementing this research through the Grand Comics Database, to see who was editing what.
After four installments, Comic Book Resources’ monthly “B&B” feature, in which DC Comics Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras and Editorial Director Bobbie Chase answered questions from readers and CBR’s Josie Campbell, is no more. Jerry Ordway’s work situation, and controversies generally, were apparently to blame. Of course, DC is free not to participate in such things, and CBR is likewise free to investigate such controversies on its own. Still, the whole thing only highlights the problems DC has had in connecting successfully with fans.
Now, it may be more accurate to say DC has had problems connecting successfully with fans who are vocal about their negative opinions of the company. For all I know, DC may be quite popular with whatever audience it has targeted. Regardless, despite its constant PR presence, today’s DC seems a lot more guarded than it has been; and I think that can only hurt it in the long run.
Ironically, part of the problem is the corporate-comics news cycle. Each week’s worth of DC books has a couple of promotional features, namely the “All Access” editorial and the new “Channel 52″ two-pager. Beyond that (and probably more frequently than once a week) the company issues press releases and facilitates interviews for various news sites. Furthermore, each month’s solicitations advertise what’s coming out at least two months in the future; and during convention season the company can manage its particular messages in person. That’s a lot of information for a company whose bread and butter come from a few dozen monthly 20-page story installments.
Shortly after Comic Book Resources announced DC Comics will no longer participate in a monthly Q&A feature, the publisher has launched “What’s New in The New 52″ on its own press blog.
CBR’s four-month-old “B&B” column featured Editor-In-Chief Bob Harras and Editorial Director Bobbie Chase answering questions from Staff Writer Josie Campbell and readers about series launches and cancellations, story developments and, occasionally, controversial decisions. But in an editor’s note appended to today’s installment, CBR wrote, “the DC team has made it clear to CBR that discussing some of the more controversial debates surrounding the company and the comics community is not something they feel comfortable doing in this format, and ultimately they decided to no longer participate in this feature.”
The inaugural installment of DC’s weekly “What’s New New in The New 52″ is devoted to Harras’ brief discussion of changes in character designs between a preview for Constantine #1 and the release of the issue, and a first look at Papa Midnight.
“The title pretty much says it all – this is where we get to play show and tell,” he wrote by way of introduction. “New looks, new designs, new villains, new heroes … See the trend? The New 52 is about trumping expectations and keeping readers on their toes. Every week, you’ll get a glimpse of that here.
However, why the feature appears on the DC blog intended for press rather than the one dedicated to fans isn’t explained.
Like the early-morning regrets after an all-night bender, DC Comics reportedly has decided to pull back from plans for its “WTF Certified” cover promotion — at least in terms of the controversial title.
Newsarama reports that Co-Publisher Dan DiDio told attendees at last week’s ComicsPRO annual meeting the “WTF Certified” logo won’t appear on any of the comics released in April, “because we don’t need it.” According to an unnamed retailer, DiDio said there’s already awareness of the event among store owners and readers.
When contacted this morning by ROBOT 6, DC declined comment.
The title refers to the linewide event featuring gatefold covers designed to reveal scenes that “leave reader in a state of shock.” “This was a way to accentuate that threat or shocking moments in our heroes’ lives,” Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras said in a Jan. 14 interview with Comic Book Resources. “What we’re doing with the covers is thematically linked to that. They will be page-fold covers; the covers will tell you a story. There will be an image that will crack the page fold, and as you open up the cover, you’ll say, ‘Oh, wow!'”
DC Comics this afternoon announced the May cancellations of six more series, a mix of first-, second- and third-wave New 52 titles: Deathstroke, The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Man, The Ravagers, The Savage Hawkman, Sword of Sorcery and Team 7.
They follow DC Universe Presents, I, Vampire, Saucer Country and Superman Family Adventures, which end with with their April issues.
“There’s a variety of reasons for when we unfortunately have to cancel a book,” DC Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras told Comic Book Resources. “The main focus on this, and this is the big picture, is we try to take a look at it as, these characters will not go away. Even though, yes, Savage Hawkman is being canceled, you’ll be seeing a lot of him in Justice League of America. We have also plans for Deathstroke going forward. So even though, as I said, the monthly title is going away, the characters are still going to be very important to the ongoing storyline of the New 52.”
With the launch of Comic Book Resources’ new monthly feature with DC Comics Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras and Editorial Director Bobbie Chase arrives announcements of a slew of creative changes, including confirmation that Jim Starlin is the new writer of Stormwatch.
Best known for his work on Marvel’s cosmic titles, Starlin has been teasing since early December that he would take the reins on an existing DC series beginning in April. Yvel Guichet joins him as artist. Other creative shifts in April include:
• Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes will write the newly launching Constantine, taking over Robert Venditti with Issue 2. “Robert came to us with a fantastic pitch for Constantine,” Harras told CBR. “We really loved what Robert’s doing — he’s working on Demon Knights now, and he’s also working on another project for us that I really can’t go into which is a big deal for us. But at the end of the day, Robert and Dan [DiDio] and I spoke, and Constantine was, for him, one book too many. It was the one thing that we had to go, “If we want you to focus on this one project, maybe we should make a change on Constantine.”
For the most part, news that DC Comics is canceling six titles from the initial New 52 didn’t come as much of a shock — with one possible exception. The critically acclaimed O.M.A.C. by Dan DiDio and Keith Giffen is marked for cancellation with Issue 8, alongside the other fledgling series whose sales have foundered.
While DC Comics Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras expounded on both the “Second Wave” of the New 52 and the reason for the cancellations, the fact remains that, month-to-month, O.M.A.C. has been a consistent all-star in reviews, even going so far as to be the No. 52 title on CBR’s Top 100 Comics of 2011.
Wait … No. 52? Fifty-two as in, “The New 52″?
Whether it was dumb luck or a harbinger of things to come, that is indeed the slot O.M.A.C. took in CBR’s Top 100 of 2011, a fitting piece of offbeat trivia for one of the quirkiest books of the DC relaunch.
“With all these books, and this is where I’m going to sound corny, every book we put out, we want to succeed. Every book is kind of like a child, you want it to work. Books like O.M.A.C., yes, I loved O.M.A.C., and you know the hard work that goes into that. Unfortunately, sometimes these books don’t find the audience you were hoping they would. We knew from the beginning, when we created the New 52, some of these books that we were discussing earlier, there was always the discussion of replacement titles if something was not performing to the extent where we’d like it to be. It’s always unfortunate when something doesn’t work out the way you’d like. It doesn’t mean these characters are going to go away. One thing I really think is exciting is you will see O.M.A.C. land in another book. You will see Hawk and Dove land in another title. This is the fourth time I’ve used this term, so again I apologize, but we are world-building. These characters, even if their books are going way, they are still part of the DC story. We’ll still be seeing them.”
Awards | The Visual Effects Society has named Stan Lee as the recipient of the VES 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award, which honors individuals whose “lifetime body of work has made a significant and lasting contribution to the art and/or science of the visual effects industry by way of artistry, invention and/or groundbreaking work.” Previous recipients include George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Ray Harryhausen and James Cameron. The award will be presented Feb. 7 at the 10th annual VES Awards. [press release]
Organizations | The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund reports it raised $12,500 last weekend at New York Comic Con. [CBLDF]
Awards | Comic-Con International has opened nominations for the The Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award, which awarded to “an individual retailer who has done an outstanding job of supporting the comics art medium both in the community and within the industry at large.” [CCI]
Fans and retailers awaiting the final, polished pitch for DC Comics’ sweeping line-wide relaunch may be interested in “DC: The New 52,” a video presentation snagged by Bleeding Cool.
The two-and-a-half-minute video has closing arguments from Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee, Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras, Executive Editor Eddie Berganza and Action Comics writer Grant Morrison, all backed by sweeping shots of the cover art from many of the new titles. As you might expect, they ratchet up the excitement in their pitches, using “new” at least 14 times, “opportunity” four times, and “fresh” three times, focusing on the relaunch and same-day digital as a chance to attract new readers.
But Lee, who comes across as genuinely excited, is by far the most quotable of the five, with comments like, “This is a moment in history, for fans and retailers alike,” “We’re looking to grow the industry” and “We’re going to give them something that’s the mother of all events.”
Watch the video after the break.
The big news of the date — and the week, most likely — is today’s announcement that former Marvel Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras was named as DC Comics’ next editor-in-chief. Harras is the first person to have held the editor-in-chief position at both Marvel and DC, and his appointment has set creators on all corners of comics abuzz. Here’s a sampling:
Tom Brevoort, vice president-executive editor of Marvel: “Well, that was unexpected. Big props to my old boss Bob Harras on scoring the top DC editorial job. […] Of course, this does mean that I now have to retire the memorial photo of Bob that’s been sitting here in my office …”
Writer Warren Ellis: “In a tumultuous time at DC Entertainment, which I must remember to start calling it, the steady presence of Bob Harras is very probably what is required.” (Read a longer post on his website)
Writer Greg Rucka: “Funny being so out of the loop. All this DC news I missed! Congrats to Bob Harras and his EiC posting! Many happy returns!”
Writer/artist Rob Liefeld: “Bob Harras named DC comics EIC! This is pretty damn awesome. This will be good. […] The great thing about the Bob Harras EIC announcement is that it’s controversial, unexpected and instantly energizes the biz. […] I’m an unabashed Bob Harras fan, he gave me my big break. So it’s nice to see him back on top doing well. […] Age of Apocalypse, X-Force, X-tinction Agenda, X-Cutioners Song, Gen X, Deadpool. Bob Harras presided over all of these. Good resume.”
The one-time editor-in-cChief of Marvel Comics has been selected to reprise that role for the Distinguished Competition. Robert Harras has been named Editor-in-Chief, VP, DC Comics, overseeing editorial for DC Comics, DC Universe, MAD Magazine and Vertigo, and reporting directly to Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee. Harras had been serving as group editor, Collected Editions for the company.
The move comes at a time when DC is still feeling its way forward following the announcement that many of its non-print divisions will be moving to parent company Warner Bros.’ home turf of Burbank, Calif. — with up to 80 employee layoffs and relocations in the offing — while its struggling WildStorm and Zuda imprints are shutting down entirely. Of course, Harras is no stranger to tough times at a Big Two publisher, having presided over Marvel during its late-’90s bankruptcy.
DC had been without an official editor-in-chief since the departure of Jenette Kahn in 2002. As executive editor, Dan DiDio was mainline-DC’s de facto editor-in-chief, and the absence of such a figure since DiDio’s promotion to co-publisher was a much-noted aspect of the year since Diane Nelson was brought aboard as president of DC Entertainment.
As CBR’s Kiel Phegley notes, the announcement bears additional interest in that it appears to be the first time that “DC Universe” has been used by the company to refer to an imprint akin to Vertigo. DC’s shared-universe titles are obviously an institution dating back decades, but the newly official-seeming nomenclature may serve to distinguish these mostly-superhero titles from books that the DC line has inherited from WildStorm and Zuda.