"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Film, Comic Books
One of the most symbolic moments of Superman is when he changes from his guise as Clark Kent to become the Man of Steel. The idea that the wearing of a costume imbues some kind of unquantifiable power is a key part of what makes superhero comics work; otherwise, they’d just be adventurers and action heroes.
But speaking of change, changes in superhero costumes have become as much a part of the comics as the heroes themselves. From Superman’s early days with his golden emblem to the modern “S” today and on through to other years (including Batman’s countless wardrobe changes), the design of a superhero isn’t static and a redesign has proved, many times, to be just the thing to make a character work.
In this week’s “Six by 6,” I pinpoint six of the most dynamic and powerful redesigns in superhero comics. Redesigns that saved a character from obscurity, put them in a new light or simply simplified what was already there.
In late 2011, when DC Comics relaunched its entire superhero line with the New 52, some characters were completely overhauled while others saw no changes at all. But with the debut last month of Justice League of America’s Vibe, we saw writers Geoff Johns and Andrew Krisberg attempt to transform a D-list character — a comic-book punchline — into a new hero and a force to be reckoned with. The artist tapped to help make that happen was Pete Woods.
Beginning his career in the 1990s an intern at Wildstorm, Woods has quietly become a trusted artist in DC’s stable. He’s had extended runs on Robin and Catwoman, but his most celebrated work came when he partnered with writer Paul Cornell to give Lex Luthor a chance ot shine in Action Comics. Woods recently completed a run on Legion Lost, and split time doing brief stints on Aquaman as well as Marvel’s Avengers Assemble while preparing for his current assignment on Vibe. He’s an artist’s artist, constantly refining his style and innovating in his approach. But he’s also an editor’s artists, consistently meeting deadlines.
I reached out to Woods to talk about his current gig, and discovered he’s in the early days of switching up his style. After years of doing much of his work digitally, Woods decided to return to his roots and draw his pages the traditional way. The computer’s still there for the odd task, but this 17-year comics veteran is going for a fresher, more organic style by doing it all by hand.
George Clooney’s mask from 1997’s Batman & Robin, Halle Berry’s costume from 2004’s Catwoman and Christopher Reeve’s outfit from 1983’s Superman III have been donated by Warner Bros. to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Please hold your “Because nobody else would take them” remarks until the end.
They were among the more than 30 items from 13 Warner Bros. features said to “represent significant performances and films that have been influential in American life.” Somewhere, Joel Schumacher is feeling a sudden sense of vindication.
Other props presented Friday by Warner Bros. Chairman Barry Meyer include a Gremlin model from Gremlins 2: The New Batch, stop-action puppets from Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, and a chocolate bar and golden ticket from Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
“… I got back into comics because of stereotypes. I think there was some big controversy in some convention — I wasn’t in the industry because I was off doing other things — about how there were no women in comics, and then I got a call, ‘We need women in comics.’ So if I got back into the industry because I’m a token female, I say great! I’m all in! […] They put me on Green Arrow, and I have to admit, I just didn’t get Green Arrow. I struggled with him. He was a rich playboy in an armored suit who was young. I liked the old Green Arrow, the wise guy who was stealthy and a social crusader — Denny O’Neil’s Green Arrow. This was a different Green Arrow and I didn’t connect with him. Now, doing Katana and Catwoman, I have no idea if there was a meeting where someone said, ‘Let’s give the girl writer the girl books,’ but I instantly related to those characters! It’s fun to write girls.”
– veteran writer and editor Ann Nocenti, discussing her recent return to comics in a fascinating conversation with Louise Simonson at Comic Book Resources that touches up their careers at Marvel, creations like Longshot and Power Pack, attitudes toward female creators in the ’80s, and much more
When DC Comics announced it was launching a series based on its popular Ame-Comi line of figures, I don’t think I heard a single person say, “Yes! I was hoping for that!” The Ame-Comi collectibles can be imaginative and attractive (some more than others), but no one was clamoring for a series that sexualized DC’s superheroines even more overtly than they already are. In fact, the most common responses were either head-scratching or eye-rolling, depending on how much the person thought DC has legitimately tried to reach out to female readers lately. But then the creators were announced.
Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray write the series and Amanda Conner drew the first couple of installments, which were serialized digitally first, 10 pages at a time. Putting the creators of the well-regarded Power Girl series on Ame-Comi Girls was a smart move and convinced a lot of readers who otherwise would have dismissed the comic – including me – to give it at least an initial look.
Angoulême is synonymous with comics, so it’s probably to be expected that when marriage-equality supporters marched in the French city last weekend they enlisted some familiar faces for the cause.
On her blog, local artist Algesiras posts a handful of photos of banners depicting several famous comic characters sharing a same-sex kiss. There’s Tintin and Captain Haddock, Catwoman and Poison Ivy, Asterix and Obelisk, Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck, Blake and Mortimer, and Spirou and Fantasio, among others.
“Notice the rings on the hands of the characters,” Algesiras writes. “I think the best one is the one with the Smurfette, because it mocks the fact that the Smurfette is the only female in the Smurfs world. She’s not alone anymore.”
The 40th annual Angoulême International Comics Festival kicks off Jan. 31.
Occasionally I talk about how perfunctory the monthly solicitation ritual can be … but not so for April!
On the same day the solicitations were released, Comic Book Resources launched its new “B&B” column, featuring editors Bob Harras and Bobbie Chase, and chock-full o’ factoids about various books. Moreover, the solicits were themselves packed with new story arcs, new creative teams, and an even more heightened feeling of coyness.
A big part of this coyness comes from April’s cover gimmick. Actually, we readers can only see half of the gimmick — because while every New 52 book will sport a fold-out cover, the solicits only show the left side. (Makes me wish there were a retailers-only edition of Previews, as this is just the kind of thing which surely irritates them.) To add to the anticipation, every New 52 solicitation ends with a question. Accordingly, this month more than usual, the solicits are structured precisely to set up dire consequences and leave them unresolved. Suspenseful!
Ah, but that sort of thing only encourages me. Let’s dive in, shall we?
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Welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at the comics, books and other things we’ve been perusing of late. Our guest today is Tyler James (@tylerjamescomic), the publisher of ComixTribe, which is both an online resources for comic creators and a new creator-owned imprint. Tyler is also the writer of the superhero murder mystery The Red Ten, which goes on sale Dec. 19, and the organizer of the annual 30 Characters Challenge, in which writers and artists attempt to create 30 characters in just 30 days, one for every day in November (it’s under way now at 30characters.com).
Here’s what Tyler and the Robot 6 crew are reading this week:
“Pop surrealist” painter Isabel Samaras‘ solo exhibit “Making a Better Yesterday Today” opened Saturday at San Francisco’s Varnish Fine Art. The show features her interpretations of classic art with pop culture characters like Batman, Wonder Woman and the Planet of the Apes. She talks about it a bit on her blog where she describes how the exhibit uses QR technology to offer guests an artist’s commentary on the show:
If you have a smartphone with a QR (Quick Response) Reader App, you can listen to me yap a bit about each of the new paintings. Just scan the code on the wall by each piece and you’ll hear real actual thoughts that came out of my real actual head via my mouth.
Hit the jump to see a few samples of the paintings, then visit Varnish Fine Art’s site to see even more before joining me in lamenting that you don’t live in San Francisco. Unless of course you do live in San Francisco, in which case – by all means – rub it in.
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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Russian artist Lora Zombie has a portfolio full of work influenced by comic book iconography, though posed in a resolutely non-traditional form. She paints DC Comics’ female characters in work reminiscent of classic pin-up art, while her take on their male counterparts features them in a particularly non-dynamic fashion (but dig Batman’s Chuck Taylors!). Prints of all these are available at Eyes On Walls. Much more below.
Legal | Marvel has sued a Jerusalem retailer for $25,000, claiming the well-known Kippa Man store is infringing on its trademarks by selling unlicensed yarmulkes bearing Spider-Man’s likeness. “A reasonable consumer could be fooled into thinking that the infringing product is manufactured and/or sold by the plaintiff with the knowledge and/or approval of the defendant,” Marvel said in its complaint. Kippa Man owner Avi Binyamin notes the yarmulkes are manufactured in China, and that he only sells them. “There are 20 stores on this street, they all sell the same thing,” he told The Jerusalem Post, theorizing that he’s being targeted because his store is well known. The Times of Israel characterized the lawsuit as “the first move by Marvel against what it perceives as widespread copyright infringement in Israel, where products featuring its copyrighted superheros are commonly sold.” [The Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel]
Because it’s the first week of the New 52 Year Two, the time has come to review where I stand at the end of Year One. It also happens to be the week I’m away on a bidness trip, unable to react to whatever dern-fool thing DC did on Wednesday.
That would probably take a back seat anyway, because I’m a little curious myself to look back at these books. In terms of reading habits, it’s been a rather funky year. Some weeks I wouldn’t have time to read everything I bought, and sometimes that meant books just dropped off my radar. I caught up with a few of these, but a few I just didn’t miss — which, of course, is never a good thing.
You’ll remember that last year I bought all 52 first issues, and talked about each as September proceeded. Of those which remain, I am reading 27: Action Comics, All-Star Western, Animal Man, Aquaman, Batgirl, Batman, Batman & Robin, Batwing, Batwoman, Blue Beetle, Catwoman, DC Universe Presents, Demon Knights, Detective Comics, Firestorm, Flash, Frankenstein, Green Lantern, GL Corps, I, Vampire, Justice League, Justice League Dark, Stormwatch, Supergirl, Superman, Swamp Thing and Wonder Woman.
Additionally, I was reading six titles that have since been canceled: Blackhawks, JLI, Men of War, OMAC, Resurrection Man and Static Shock. For a while I also read Grifter, Red Lanterns, and Superboy. Filling in some of those holes are second-wave titles Batman Incorporated, Earth 2, Worlds’ Finest and Dial H.
To keep your eyes as glaze-free as possible, this will be a two-part survey. Today we’ll look at the Superman and Batman families, the “historical” titles, the main-line Justice League books, and a few others.
Remember those faked Marvel pulp covers by Calamity Jon Morris? Well, I’ve just came across these by Tony Fleecs (you may well remember his “adorable tragedies” series of illustrations), riffing on a similar theme. Fleecs will be selling prints of these designs at his many upcoming convention appearances (listed at his blog). More pulpy goodness can be found below. Continue Reading »
IDW Publishing staple Mark Torres is launching an art book Ink:Toxicated this weekend at the Singapore Toy, Game and Comic Convention. The book is published in a very rock ‘n’ roll 12-inch by 12-inch format, and features 48 pages of work done for IDW, Image and Dark Horse alongside assorted pin-ups and sketches. The book also includes “an exclusive mini-graphic concierto” (sic) called Sliver. There’s a large gallery of great-looking preview art at Parka Blogs.