Axel-In-Charge: Navigating the "Civil War II" Landscape, Bringing DMC to Marvel
Bryan Hitch has been a professional artist for more than a quarter century, so it makes perfect since that after all that time he would want to try his hand at writing as well as drawing a comic. This year saw the premiere of such an effort, the Image Comics six-issue miniseries Real Heroes.
The premise is direct: A group of actors portraying a team of superheroes gets thrust into an alternate universe, where they’re forced to portray actual heroes. Two issues will be released this month (Issue 4 arrives Wednesday, followed Nov. 12 by Issue 5) in an effort to catch up to its its schedule, before the series wraps up on Dec. 10.
In our interview, Hitch discusses how much he enjoyed writing and his intention to write more, and elaborates on his decision to have his last creative word on superheroes be his next project.
In the wake of Comic-Con International, The A.V. Club launched a week-long celebration of comics — called, appropriately enough, Comics Week — that’s included a discussion about diversity by Janelle Asselin, Karl Bollers and G. Willow Wilson, an interview with Becky Cloonan, a spotlight on the comics-inspired song “Alley Oop,” and a comics tribute by Ryan Brown (God Hate Astronauts) to his influences.
However, as much as I’ve liked all of the pieces, my favorite so far is easily cartoonist Chad Sell‘s touching ode to Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch’s The Authority #8, and how the depiction of Apollo and Midnighter’s relationship affected him as both a closeted teen and as a budding artist.
While DC Comics sacrificed some bragging rights in 2011 when it rebooted its superhero line, even the never-before-renumbered Action Comics and Detective Comics, one consequence of relaunching TEC was that it was only a matter of time — 26 months, to be exact — before the company got around to publishing a new Detective Comics #27. And that the second Detective Comics #27 would see release during the 75th year of Batman’s career, well, all the better.
The first Detective Comics #27, published in 1939, was, of course, the first appearance of Batman. The anthology’s cover was surrendered to an arresting image of a spooky man in tights, wearing a bat-mask and sporting huge bat-like wings, scooping up a gangster in a headlock while swinging in front of the yellow field above a city skyline. “Starting this issue,” the cover trumpted, “The Amazing and Unique Adventures of The Batman.” Inside, Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s pulp- and film-inspired detective hero cracked the “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate,” and the amazing and unique adventures begun therein have yet to cease.
DC has honored that milestone in various ways over the years, with notable celebrations including Michael Uslan and Peter Snejbjerg’s 2003 Elseworlds one-shot Batman: Detective No. 27, and 1991’s Detective Comics #627, in which the Alan Grant/Norm Breyfogle and Marv Wolfman/Jim Aparo creative teams did their own takes on “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate,” and both the original story and a 30th-anniversary version by Mike Friedrich and Bob Brown were reprinted.
This week brings Detective Comics (Vol. 2) #27, and another opportunity to celebrate that original issue, and Batman’s 75th anniversary, which DC does in a 90-page, prestige-format special issue — essentially a trade paperback with some ads in it — featuring contributions from the writers of all four of the main Batman books of the moment and about as strong a list of contributing artists as a reader could hope for.
Over the past few years, Brad Meltzer has become one of the pinch hitters of comics.
Although his day job as a bestselling suspense novelist and TV host of History’s Decoded has kept him from taking on an extended comics project since 2006’s Justice League of America relaunch, Meltzer has stepped in for a number of comics projects over recent years, including an arc on Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 and a recent short in Art Baltazar and Franco’s Aw Yeah Comics.
Next up for the writer is a special contribution to DC Comics’ Detective Comics #27, arriving next week. The spiritual heir to the first appearance of Batman will clock in at more than 100 pages to kick off DC’s 75th anniversary celebration for the Dark Knight, with contributions by Scott Snyder, John Layman, Mike W. Barr and more creators from the character’s past and present. And for his part, Meltzer will team with artist Bryan Hitch to retell “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate,” the Bill Finger/Bob Kane short that began the Batman legend in 1939’s Detective Comics #27.
We spoke with Meltzer about the legacy of the original story and the challenges of bringing it into the modern era – and not for the first time – while DC shared an exclusive first look at Co-Publisher Jim Lee’s variant cover for the issue.
It’s been almost two years since Avengers 12.1, an issue where Tony Stark warned that Ultron comes back smarter each time he’s reborn. Well, Hank Pym’s robotic “son” is back again, and apparently smart enough to take over New York City and transform it into a dystopian dictatorship. The first issue arrived on Wednesday, written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary and Paul Mounts, the same creative team who created that 12.1 issue — and the same writer who teased it in an issue of Avengers back in 2010.
So was it worth the wait? Here are a few opinions from the web who thought so or thought no, as the case may be:
It is relentlessly focused on the evocation of nostalgia, to a degree that’s remarkable even among super-comics (a genre that’s built out of nostalgia-evocation), but what is perhaps most interesting about the book is the particular frequency of nostalgia the publishers appears interested in.
Yes, this is a comic book seemingly about other comic books, a comic book like so many other Marvel comic books you’ve already read, but which Marvel comic books, and from which decade? That’s what’s unusual about this particular go-round.
It’s hard to look at the cover and not think of the 1990s.
No longer content with variant-cover schemes, Marvel has upped the ante in its silly cover-gimmick arms race with DC Comics, and come up with an embossed gold-foil cover. There’s a metallic shine to the wrap-around cover (the back of which is really an ad for the second issue), justified in-story by the fact that this is about a robot. That robot, Ultron, like the “AU” and “Marvel” logos, is embossed, so the comic feels special — not just metaphorically, but literally. Run your fingertips all over it with your eyes closed; yeah, this isn’t your typical issue of Avengers!
“Despite Marvel coming to me and asking for the Cap series, rather than my pitching it to them, it was constantly being sidelined and eventually dropped to my disappointment. Since Ultimates ended, I’d been less and less involved in a collaborative process at Marvel. They now had their various brain-trusts, architects or whatever the gang was calling themselves, and that was what led their creative process. It seemed a very closed shop and not what it was like when I signed up to do Ultimates at all. I felt like they wanted an illustrator not a creator, and that was very frustrating to me. I’d submitted several proposals for various series, getting nowhere; Cap was dropped, and I didn’t even feel involved in the story I was working on. It really felt like I wasn’t contributing the way I wanted to be.
Obviously the work I did there over more than ten years is a true high point in my career and, in looking at the Marvel movies, clearly influential, but I guess there’s a time when you feel like you don’t know anybody at the party anymore or nobody’s laughing at your jokes and it’s time to call a cab. Possibly, had I known the Ultron series was longer than the five issues I’d originally thought and if I hadn’t had the Cap book pulled from under me, I may never have considered moving on, but stuff changes I guess.
I don’t want any of this to sound anything other than light, frothy and pleasant though. There’s no regret or bitterness, far from it. There’s always things one could have done differently or better but I had an amazing time and got play with a lot of company toys, and it made my career in the best way possible. Now in going forward I feel like I have some incredible opportunities I might otherwise not have had.”
– Bryan Hitch, in a lengthy interview with Comic Book Resources, discussing his departure from Marvel following Age of Ultron
If it seems like only last week that we were looking back on Marvel’s 1980s sci-fi series ROM: Spaceknight, that’s because we were. Spurred by Hasbro’s new trademark filing for ROM, we summed up the inauspicious history of the Parker Brothers action figure, and the more successful — and more fondly remembered — comic book it spawned.
But no sooner had we left Galador and the Dire Wraiths behind than Comic Book Resources debuted art from Marvel’s Age of Ultron #2, by Brian Michael Bendis and Bryan Hitch. And right there on the massive two-page cork board, squeeze between photos of Doctor Strange and Wiccan, is none other than ROM, greatest of the Spaceknights!
Are the two things related? It’s certainly possible — after all, Marvel and Hasbro have had a long (and presumably profitable) relationship that continues to this day with Avengers and Superhero Squad action figures, giant plastic Hulk hands and the like. So who better than the House of Ideas to help revive that plastic relic of 1970s toy chests? However, it’s unlikely Marvel would plunk another company’s character into a major story event, particularly after it’s had to untangle its own creations from licensed properties over the decades (ROM, Micronauts, Godzilla, et al). It seems more probable that Bendis and Hitch are having a little fun, dropping a figure from Marvel’s past among some of its more prominent players. Still, though, an Easter egg like that is usually tucked away along the edges of a panel or a page, not smack-dab in the middle …
Ahead of DC Comics’ Superman panel this afternoon at New York Comic Con, Bryan Hitch has confirmed the existence of Man of Steel, the rumored movie tie-in written by Scott Snyder, and explained why he isn’t involved. It’s thought that Jim Lee will pencil the new series, expected to launch in 2013.
Responding to questions generated earlier this week by a Rob Liefeld tweet and subsequent Bleeding Cool post, Hitch took to Twitter early this morning to clear up the status of his work on Marvel’s Ultron War and rumblings about a relaunched Superman/Batman series with Brad Meltzer as well as the new Superman title.
“There’s a lot of misinformed stuff out there judging by the mails and tweets I’ve had these last two days do let me clarify a bit,” the artist wrote. “Ultron whatever it’s called is long since finished, last year really. I WAS offered a potential Supes/Bats book but Brad didn’t have time. So Supes-Bars [sic] never got beyond a ‘wouldn’t it be nice if?’ stage. Later Jim and Dan [DiDio] suggested Man of Steel with Scott Snyder which would have been great as we adore each other but I’m committed to other projects so that didn’t happen. I have several projects on the go, all creator owned and that’s where I’ll be for the foreseeable future. The new stuff is pretty cool though and you’ll hear about it when the year turns.”
DC’s The Source blog provides a look at the variant cover to Action Comics #10, featuring artwork by famed The Ultimates and America’s Got Powers artist Bryan Hitch, with colors by Paul Mounts.
Check it out after the jump.
Hello and welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? Today our special guest is Chris Williams, editor of the web series The Variants.
To see what Chris and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …
Creators | Veteran artist Jules Feiffer is publishing his first graphic novel (not counting a graphic novel-ish work in the 1970s), and he says his fans won’t recognize it, as it’s in a much more realistic style than his other work. Feiffer got his start in Will Eisner’s studio but felt he couldn’t draw like the other artists there, but he seems to have developed the ability recently: “Now I seem to be able to work in the adventure story drawing style. All of this comes out of my early love of Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler.” [Publishers Weekly Comics World]
Creators | Pitting teenagers against one another for a television reality/talent show, America’s Got Powers may sound a bit like The Hunger Games, but artist Bryan Hitch says there’s more to it than that: “The talent show/gladiatorial stuff isn’t the story, though — it’s the setting against which the story takes place and at heart this is the story of two brothers and how they changed the world, or at least the world from their point of view. It’s personal, emotional and, given my own visual tendencies, massive, explosive and destructive!” [USA Today]
Kinda like this:
The limited edition fragrance is made of lemon, mandarin and coriander leaf; essential oils of landanum, violet leaves and rosemary; plus amber, leather and cedar — all essential ingredients of the Super Solider serum.
Cap is currently framing the Diesel site, which has various blog posts featuring the hero. Check out another look at the box art, drawn by Bryan Hitch, after the jump.
One tagline for the big alien-invasion movie Independence Day cautioned, “Don’t make plans for August.” Well, perhaps the biggest news coming out of DC’s August solicitations is the pervasive sense of foreboding they have about September. Rich Johnston maintains that a whole crop of new No. 1 issues is on tap for the fall, but there are no “FINAL ISSUE!” blurbs to be found on any of the current ongoing series.
While that doesn’t rule out a line-wide relaunch, the solicits also seem to say that readers won’t have to worry about a line-wide reboot. As noted in this space a couple of weeks back, the degree of change will probably be different for different titles. Nevertheless, now that we have a better idea of how August will look, let’s see what it says about September….
After 18 years, former Image studio and current DC Comics imprint WildStorm is shutting down this December. And as many have noted already, the house that Jim built has produced many awesome, memorable and even game-changing (to steal a phrase from Rob Liefeld) works in the last two decades.
Here are six of them that we found to be particularly awesome; let us know what we missed in the comments section.
1. Sleeper: There have been many comics that mash up superheroes with down-and-dirty genres like crime and espionage over the past decade; this may just be the best. The high concept is a gripping one: Super-spy Holden Carver is so deep undercover in an international super-criminal organization that when his one contact is placed in a coma, literally no one knows he’s secretly on the side of the angels. Carver’s predicament, the way he plays and gets played by both sides, his growing unwillingness or inability to draw the ethical lines needed to save his soul, if not his life–such is the stuff of a great crime drama. Superstar in the making Ed Brubaker brings all his talents and obsessions to the table here: his knack for crafting morally compromised characters while neither romanticizing their misdeeds nor softening them up, his recurring theme of how the secrets and sins of our pasts never truly leave us, his belief that damaged people seek out other damaged people to repair that damage, his eye for and ability to work with strong visual stylists. In this case that meant Sean Phillips, never better in his ability to believably root spectacular action and super-powers in a naturalist-noir milieu. All of this in a WildC.A.T.s spinoff, proving just how wild WildStorm was once willing to go.
Even its relatively short run redounds to its benefit: The complete story of Holden Carver is yours to own inexpensively, read easily, and ponder at your leisure. (Sean T. Collins)