The Forever Evil and “Gothtopia” crossovers don’t exactly dominate DC Comics’ January solicitations, but compared to the more mundane goings-on in the other series, they tend to stand out. For that matter, Forever Evil doesn’t sound like it’s promising much more than a lot of clenched jaws, dark humor and grim spectacle.
Still, if it has to happen sometime, it might as well be in January. I don’t mind January so much; it’s the darkest month of the year, but after a hectic holiday season it’s a chance to catch one’s breath. Going back to work after New Year’s Day and realizing there’s not much more to do but look forward to spring is like waking up at the crack of dawn and surveying a wide, flat, featureless plain — gray from the winter cold and just barely lit by the first rays of the distant sun — and realizing that if you’re going to make it across that plain, you’d better start walking.
Sometimes you just have to get through January, is what I’m saying — but sometimes getting through it isn’t so bad.
Whew! How was that for an intro? Weren’t we talking about comics?
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I read all 13 of the Villains Month issues released this week by DC Comics, and in so doing I saw 89 people killed (Kryptonians and Thanagarians included) in all manner of ways. I saw people shot to death with laser guns, with regular old bullet guns, with eye-beams, with an arrow and even with an umbrella. I saw people stabbed, bludgeoned, impaled, decapitated, blown up, pushed off buildings, flash-frozen and shattered. I saw someone’s neck snapped, someone’s life-force magically drained, people sliced in half with psionic energy, and others torn to pieces by claws.
I saw a bestial woman eat the still-beating hearts of her victims.
But man, the rabbit that Arcane tore in half? That’s the image that sticks with me from this week’s Villains Week offerings. Thank God they didn’t put that on the cover; imagine that arc of rabbit innards being flung your way in lenticular 3D!
DC Comics kicked off its Villains Month last week, as the evil opposites of the Justice League invaded the DC Universe, seemingly disposing of all the heroes and taking over the world.
Likewise, the villains have been taking over DC’s New 52 line of comic books, with the MIA heroes finding the covers of their books occupied by bad guys. Those are, of course, the collectible and somewhat-controversial (among retailers) 3D lenticular covers.
But as the case with books, we shouldn’t judge a comic by its cover, so let’s continue reviewing our way through the contents of the Villains Month issues. As with last week’s batch, I’m rating each book on a 10-point scale of how evil it is, with “Not Very Good” being the worst and “Absolute Evil” the best, and noting its connectivity to the Forever Evil crossover event that sparked the promotion in the first place.
If you’ve been keeping up with the events in the DC Universe, then you know things are looking particularly grim for the good guys.
At the conclusion of “Trinity War,” the Justice Leagues faced an invasion from the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3 — “The birthplace of all evil,” as one character called it — evil counterparts of the Justice League. In the first issue of Forever Evil, these villains claimed to have killed all of the Justice Leaguers, they freed all the supervillains from all the super-prisons and organized them into an army called The Secret Society, they did some awful things to Nightwing and then even moved the moon to permanently block out the sun.
To mark the occasion of evil temporarily winning (again), DC declared September Villains Month, and is interrupting the ongoing adventures of its heroes with special “.1″ issues starring various villains. Each of these was to bear a fancy plastic 3D cover that jacked the price up a buck and ultimately created shortages, an artificial collectors/speculators market and irritated a whole bunch of retailers, many of whom were already pretty irritated by having to figure out how to order something like, say, Justice League #23.3: Dial E, which fused one of the publisher’s best selling comics with one of its worst.
We — and by that I mean you and I, for the course of this post — aren’t going to concern ourselves with that aspect of the books, however. Instead, let’s look under those covers, whether they’re the fancy plastic 3D ones or the regular, cheaper “standard edition” ones and concern ourselves with the quality of the comics concealed behind the covers.
The comic book annual has, in recent years, become an endangered species. Once an oversized, extra-length dose of the characters and concepts a reader could count on appearing once a year (or, you know, annually), the changing funny-book landscape has made them a less appealing proposition.
The rise of the graphic novel and trade paperback collections made “novel-length” adventures appearing in actual, off-the-rack comic books somewhat obsolete. The rising price of comics helped make annuals seem less practical; if a 20- or 22-page comic costs $2.99 or $3.99, a 48- or 56- or 64-page one would be prohibitively expensive. And with the shrunken market, it doesn’t make sense for a publisher to release an additional, extra-long issue of almost every title in its line.
Conventions | HeroesCon, which begins Friday in Charlotte, North Carolina, will double in size this year, with the exhibit area increasing from 100,000 to 200,000 square feet. “There’s a whole lot more of everything,” says founder Shelton Drum. Including people? Last year’s convention drew in 17,000 attendees, and Drum thinks this year’s event will attract more newcomers curious about the source material of their favorite movies. [Winston-Salem Journal]
Creators | Peter Bebergal talks with Alan Moore about Jerusalem, magic, comics, and the tendency to conflate gods with superheroes: “It is contrived, because they’re not at all the same. Superheroes are the copyrighted property of big corporations. They are purely commercial entities; they are purely about making a buck. That’s not to say that there haven’t been some wonderful creations in the course of the history of the superhero comic, but to compare them with gods is fairly pointless. Yes, you can make obvious comparisons by saying the golden-age Flash looks a bit like Hermes, as he’s got wings on his helmet, or the golden-age Hawkman looks a bit like Horus because he’s got a hawk head. But this is just to say that comics creators through the decades have taken their inspiration where they can find it. Before I was interested in magic as a viable way of life, I was certainly aware of the occult, and wouldn’t be above taking names or concepts or ideas from the occult.” [The Believer]
Creators | Pickles creator Brian Crane, who was recently named Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year by the National Cartoonist Society, talks about how he was ready to give up on his dream of being a cartoonist after his pitches were rejected by three syndicates, but his wife wanted him to keep going: “To prove her wrong, I sent it to The Washington Post Writers Group. She proved to be right. Since then, I’ve learned: She’s almost never wrong.” [Comic Riffs]
Comics | Chicago City Council recently passed an ordinance, which takes effect in July, regarding wage theft, and Interfaith Worker Justice, a Chicago organization, has put together a 32-page comic explaining workers’ legal rights and what recourse they have if their employers illegally withhold their wages. [Crain's Chicago Business]
Happy Easter and welcome once again to What Are You Reading?, where we review the stuff we’ve been checking out lately. Today we are joined by Miranda Mercury and Voltron writer Brandon Thomas, whose collection of original art and other stuff we featured in Shelf Porn yesterday.
To see what Brandon and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
While I was enjoying my time at APE up in San Francisco, the New York Comic Con was raging on with announcements and such. Before I get into a rundown of the comic-related news coming out of the East Coast today, let’s jump back to yesterday real quick so I can update one of the items from my Friday round-up. I mentioned that Dark Horse would publish a comic based on the upcoming video game The Last of Us, but I didn’t know at the time the most important part — the always awesome Faith Erin Hicks is co-writing AND drawing the comic. That’s a “Stop the presses” moment if I’ve ever seen one.
Ok, now on to Saturday …
• Apparently space is the place at NYCC … following DC’s announcement of Threshold yesterday, Marvel officially announced the return of two of their cosmic titles — Guardians of the Galaxy and Nova. Guardians, written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Steve McNiven, comes out in February and apparently will feature Iron Man, or at least someone in his armor. Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness are the creative team for Nova, which features Sam Alexander, the Nova from Avengers vs. X-Men.
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Today our special guest is Tim Seeley, whose work you may know from Hack/Slash, Bloodstrike, Witchblade, Colt Noble, the upcoming Ex Sanguine and Revival, and much more.
To see what Tim has been reading lately, click below.
Publishing | Three million-dollar Kickstarter drives, including Rich Burlew’s $1.2 million campaign for The Order of the Stick, make the fund-raising site look like a pot of gold to some folks, but it’s not that easy: Suw Charman-Anderson, who;s contemplating a Kickstarter drive herself, looks at the factors that make the big money-makers so successful. [Forbes]
Editorial cartoons | The New York Times has responded to Daryl Cagle’s criticism of its hiring policy and fees for editorial cartoonists, saying the newspaper will delay bringing political cartoons back to its Sunday review section until editors have had time to revisit their policies. [The Cagle Post]
Editorial cartoons | For those who want a look at the bigger picture, Columbia Journalism Review surveys the landscape of editorial cartooning and in particular, the economics of syndication. [Columbia Journalism Review]
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a “Splurge” item.
If I had $15, I’d get one from almost every box–Image’s Invincible #85 ($2.99), DC’s DMZ #71 ($2.99), Marvel’s Wolverine and The X-Men #2 ($3.99) and independent title RASL #12 ($3.50). Not much to say about any of these I haven’t already said, except anytime Cory Walker draws a book I’d pay twice cover price.
If I had $30, I’d sneak out of Thanksgiving preparations to first get a book I was surprised I liked as much as I did, despite the last issue’s ending: Shade #2 (DC, $2.99). One thing I wasn’t amped to see was Deathstroke, but given James Robinson and Cully Hammer’s track record I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Next up would be the epic (in my mind, at least) team-up of Warren Ellis and Michael Lark on Secret Avengers #19 (Marvel, $3.99). Seeing Ellis boil down the concept into “Run the mission. Don’t get seen. Save the world.” Hits me right between the eyes, and this new issue’s preview has be salivating over it. Last up, I’d pay the giant size price tag for Fantastic Four #600 (Marvel, $7.99) although my patience has worn a little thin with ending the series then bringing it back for #600.
Publishing | IDW’s Chief Operating Officer Greg Goldstein attributes a bump in the company’s September sales to several factors, including DC’s big relaunch: “The reality is the DC New 52 brought some people into comic book stores that hadn’t been in comic stores for a while, and we had the opportunity to sell them some of our books as well as the other books that are available to them. But clearly, people who had not been focused on comics came out of the woodwork a bit.” It didn’t hurt that IDW had its own launches of properties familiar to those outside of comics, including the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, an ongoing Star Trek series and the Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes crossover. [ICv2]
Legal | A Belgian judicial adviser has recommended that the nation’s courts reject a four-year-old bid by a Congolese student to have Herge’s 1931 Tintin in the Congo banned, or at least restricted, because of its racist depictions. The recommendation is being viewed as a major setback for the case, as the opinion of the Procureur du Roi (Senior Crown prosecutor) is requested and typically followed by the court. [The Guardian]
Peppered with questions over the past few months about the status of Wally West in DC’s New 52, The Flash collaborators Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato have professed a fondness for the character, and even teased that he would crop up at some point.
But in a just-posted interview with Comic Book Resources, the co-writers revealed they’ve submitted a Wally proposal to DC. The problem is, the publisher doesn’t seem to be in a rush to reintroduce the former Kid Flash turned Fastest Man Alive.
“The pitch is on Dan [DiDio's] desk,” a laughing Manapul tells CBR. “Let’s see if he finds it! That’s really all there is to say!”
However, when contacted by CBR, a DC representative said there are no plans for Wally West at this time.
Buccellato addressed the Wally Question on his blog in August, shortly before the relaunch: “We often get asked that very fair question, and we wish we had an answer that would satisfy. But the simple truth is we don’t. Our book is about Barry. We are focusing on Barry. And there is nothing we can say to put Wally fans at peace. Sorry, guys. I really am. And we are not bothered when we are asked about Wally. It’s okay to ask us … I’m glad there are people out that that feel so strongly about The Flash. Unfortunately, there is no new information to impart. I can’t tell you why there is no Wally.”
He did offer some speculation, though, centering on Wally’s origin being dependent on Barry Allen, and Warner Bros.’ interest in a Flash movie featuring the latter version.
Check out the CBR interview with Manapul and Buccellato for details of their plans for The Flash.
Although this won’t raise the pop-culture alarms that news of the end of the marriage of Clark Kent and Lois Lane did, DC Comics has confirmed that another, much older union will bite the dust in the publisher’s line-wide relaunch: that of Barry Allen and Iris West.
The word comes this afternoon from editor Brian Cunningham, who writes at The Source that Barry, like Clark, is a single man who’s never been married. “I’ll give you all a few seconds to take that in and digest it,” Cunningham says.
That’s right, as with Clark and Lois, post-Flashpoint the nearly 45-year-old marriage of Barry Allen and Iris West never happened. It’s probably not a huge surprise, considering the push to make superheroes younger and/or more relevant tends to involve the jettisoning of spouses (see also: Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson).
But in the New 52, Iris and Barry aren’t dating, either. No, like Lois, The Flash is seeing somebody else — in his case, his longtime lab assistant Patty Spivot, who was introduced back in 1977, when Barry and Iris had only been married for 11 years. Surely the Central City Police Department has rules about relationships in the workplace …
“If that upsets you, sorry about that,” Cunningham writes. “But I make no apologies for opening up a traditional storytelling avenue with our hero’s romantic life, something that’s been shut closed for a very long time now. This is no indictment of marriage. I’m a married man and wouldn’t trade it for anything. But in the realm of fiction, I feel strongly that this change to Barry opens up fresh, new creative directions and exciting new storylines.”
He assures Iris fans that she’ll remain a part of The Flash‘s supporting cast, writing a blog for the Central City Citizen’s website.
The Flash #1, by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, arrives in stores Sept. 28.