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Grumpy Old Fan | Relaunch roundup, Part 1

After a year, I still don't quite get the knee-braces

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.

Onward!

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Tony Fleecs’ comics-themed retro pulp covers


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 »

Mark Torres to launch Ink:Toxicated at Singapore convention

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.

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Cartoon Network releases all three ‘Bat Man of Shanghai’ shorts online

Last month we posted shaky footage from a short from Cartoon Network’s DC Nation programming block called “Bat Man of Shanghai.” Featuring an anime-influenced Catwoman in 1930s China, it made me long for the return of DC’s Elseworlds imprint, in which creators reimagined familiar characters in different time periods and settings.

Now, just as the Elseworlds nostalgia had subsided, Cartoon Network has released a three parts of the series online — each spotlights a different character — showing us Bane’s ode to King Kong, Bruce Wayne’s transformation into Bat Man and a high-speed three-way fight.

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No good can come from succumbing to ‘Bat Temptation’

Except for you, of course, because you’d have this very funny print hanging on your wall (see the full image below). The artist is DnaPna and you can buy his “Bat Temptation” piece in a variety of formats at society6.

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Ragnarok and renewal in The Dark Knight Rises

Christian Bale as Batman

An uncomfortable familiarity hangs over much of The Dark Knight Rises, the final film in the Christopher Nolan-directed Batman trilogy. Some of it comes from the disquiet of watching familiar characters and settings suffer. However, some of it comes from the use of overly familiar movie tropes. For example, one of the early “Batman must come back” scenes feels lifted from a style guide. Another scene, much later, echoes Luke and Han’s join-us-no-join-me exchange just before the Death Star attack. Oh, and William Devane shows up in a very William Devane-esque role.

Accordingly, The Dark Knight Rises is not a perfect movie. It doesn’t have the intricate plotting of its predecessor (2008’s The Dark Knight, like you didn’t know). Any socially conscious message about “the 99% vs. the 1%” is lost in Bane’s repurposed sloganeering and Selina Kyle’s disillusionment. In one spot, the movie seems to skip dusk entirely, going from twilight to pitch-black night in less than eight minutes.* Furthermore, although I hate to disagree with Sean, at times Bane sounds like Darrell Hammond’s Sean Connery (and apparently — beware of spoilers past the link — I am not the only one who thinks so).

Nevertheless, its epic ambitions are mostly realized, and it exists mainly to give its principals (i.e., just about every major character still left from 2005’s Batman Begins) closure. This, I want to emphasize, it does exceptionally well. Four years ago I compared The Dark Knight to David Fincher’s serial-killer meditation Zodiac, but this time I’m going with Doctor Zhivago by way of James Bond. A macro-level exploration of Begins’ “why do we fall?”, it builds to a thrilling, triumphal, bittersweet final shot. I’m looking forward to seeing it again, and eventually to examining the trilogy as a whole.

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SDCC ’12 | Please, DC, can we get a Shanghai Catwoman comic?

In case we didn’t already miss DC Comics’ Elseworlds imprint enough, at Comic-Con International on Sunday Cartoon Network premiered a fantastic clip from DC Nation’s three-part short series “Batman of Shanghai,” featuring an anime-influenced Catwoman in 1930s China (there’s also a cameo by a floppy hat-wearing Bane). If DC Comics doesn’t do something with Shanghai Catwoman — I love that character design — well, they’re really missing the boat. Maybe they can relaunch the character’s solo title (again) in the next wave of the New 52.

Check a somewhat shaky, but surprisingly decent-quality, fan-captured video of the clip below.

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What Are You Reading? with Aubrey Sitterson and Charles Soule

The Massive #1

Happy Father’s Day and welcome to What Are You Reading?, where each week we talk about what comics and other stuff have been on our reading piles. Today’s guests are two of the contributors to Skullkickers #18, which features several “Tavern Tales” short stories by different creative teams. Joining us today are Charles Soule of 27, Strange Attractors and Strongman fame, and Aubrey Sitterson, winner of the Skullkickers Tavern Tales Contest. He’s also the writer of Gear Monkey for Double Feature Comics and community manager for WWE Games.

To see what Charles, Aubrey and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.

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Quote of the day | ‘As a person with eyes, I am a little offended’

This is a drawing that someone drew and was like, “Yeah! That’s a good enough drawing!”

Man, I don’t even care if that drawing is official or whatever, I can’t believe someone drew it and thought it was okay to show people. People can see that drawing! PEOPLE WITH EYES. Why do I even fight so hard to make my art look good when someone else drew that. As a person with eyes, I am a little offended.

Faith Erin Hicks, not losing her funny while expressing offense about Guillem March’s cover to Catwoman #0.

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Comics A.M. | May sales shatter records; Spiegelman joins Occupy Comics

Avengers vs. X-Men #4

Publishing | May was a huge month for comics sales in the direct market, and John Jackson Miller quantifies just how huge: It was the biggest month for dollar sales in the “Diamond Exclusive Era” (i.e. since 2003): “Diamond’s Top 300 comics had orders totaling $25.72 million, an increase of 44% over last May and the highest total since Diamond became the sole distributor in 1997. It beats the total of $25.37 million set in December 2008.” [The Comics Chronicles]

Comics | Art Spiegelman is contributing a prescient New Yorker cover from 2001 to the Occupy Comics anthology; other creators who are contributing work include Alan Moore, Jimmy Palmiotti and Dean Haspiel. [Underwire]

History | Joe Sergi takes a look at the comics burnings of 1948, a series of disturbing events in which children, no doubt goaded on by well-meaning adults, collected comics door to door and then burned them in a public bonfire. [CBLDF]

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Mattel reveals Tiny Titans, Death San Diego exclusives

Tiny Titans

The operative word for Mattel’s San Diego exclusives this year would be “cute,” if the three DC Comics items they posted on their MattyCollector site today are any indication. As you can see above, they’ll be offering a set of Tiny Titans collectible figures with a display base. And if that’s not enough of a cute overload for you, click below to see the Death figure and the Polly Pocket Comics Villains set, featuring a trio of Bat villains, labeled “A” for “Adorable.”

They also announced some Masters of the Universe and Ghostbusters exclusives as well, so click on over if you want to check those out.

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C2E2 2012 | Friday Photodiary

Welcome to C2E2

One of the things a lot of pros like about C2E2 is the late start on Friday. It doesn’t open to the public until 1:00 pm, so creators can sleep in and recover from their trips if they want. Or, if they want to go early to set up or just walk around and visit with each other, they can do that too. It’s also helpful for press jerks taking lots of pictures. Lots. Of pictures.

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Gene Gonzales helps the DCU swing with ’60s fashions

Gene Gonzales has been posting a series of drawings lately that feature DC characters re-imagined in 1968 fashions. So far he’s done Catwoman, Death, and The Riddler, but I’m hoping there’s a lot more to come, because these are fantastic.

Hell, now I want a DC ’68 mini-series almost as much as I want someone to start an art blog of Death in period-appropriate dress throughout the history of the world.

Ben Caldwell draws Catwoman; promises more sketch-sharing

It’s difficult to type through the tears knowing that this Ben Caldwell drawing is not from a Catwoman comic I can buy with my money. What makes up for it is his promise to post more daily sketches, primarily at his Twitter account, but also – if we’re very good and eat our vegetables – on his blog. So get to following!

Women of Action | Catwoman (feat. Grumpy Old Fan)

The Grumpy Old Fan/Women of Action crossover continues. In our first installment, Tom and I agreed that there are some interesting things going on in Catwoman and tried to fit Winick’s characterization into the context of Catwoman’s history (or rather, our limited understandings of Catwoman’s history). When we left off, I was trying to decide whether or not I trust Judd Winick to be telling The Last Self-Destructive Catwoman story and take the character into a positive direction. As we pick up, Tom helps me with that.

Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman

TOM: I agree that the ’60s TV show was a big influence on the character’s perception, although I’m not sure how much it really changed in the comics. There is certainly a lot of “crazy” in Michelle Pfeiffer’s 1992 Batman Returns performance, and I think a lot of that is an extension of the TV show more than, say, taking off from Batman: Year One. Maybe that’s part of what we’re seeing in the current series’ self-destructive aspects, although that could just be a coincidence.

That’s a good point about Gail Simone’s “Last Hostage Story,” and it would be a good time for the New-52 Catwoman to break out of a downward spiral. Selina’s flashes of extreme violence are presented as outbursts of deeply-repressed rage, like she’s ultimately mad at the world for trying to take away what she perceives as having gotten fairly. She talks herself into spending easily-traceable cash because she figures she deserves it, even though she knows she’s flirting with disaster. Similarly, in #6 she tells Batman she’s earned that money, and besides it would just go to very bad people. Conversely, when Bone tells Catwoman his own philosophy, she really lets him have it, because he killed her friend for daring to steal the property he prized so highly. For all her talk about “earnings,” she really does value her relationships more, but it’s almost like she doesn’t think she deserves them and ends up trying to satisfy herself materially (and sexually with Batman, of course). That’s a lot of emotional baggage to unpack, although from an historical perspective it makes this Catwoman less mature.

Anyway, the violence: as with issue #1’s sex scene, I didn’t really need to see Selina bite off Reach’s ear in issue #6. I suppose that shows us just how far gone Selina was at that moment, and it was arguably in keeping with #1’s eye-gouging, #3’s baseball-bat-beating, and #5’s fight, but maybe a little more discretion was in order. Actually, I say “maybe” without much sarcasm, because to me — as bad as it sounds — the violence almost needs to be as explicit as the sex, both to show their “importance” in Selina’s life and so that one doesn’t overwhelm the other. These six issues show an arc full of extremes (in the classical sense, not the ’90s sense), because that’s where Winick and March have put Selina. Contrast page 2 of issue #6 with the last panel of the last page. In both, Selina is wearing only her catsuit, sitting barefoot with her knees pulled up to her chest. On page 2, it’s because she’s in police custody, her gear’s been taken from her, and her hands are cuffed behind her back. There she’s trying to maintain a defensive pose, staring at the world with bug-eyed defiance. She’s vulnerable physically and trying to stay composed mentally. On the last page, though, it’s the opposite: having taken off her gear herself, her outward vulnerability shows Gwen she’s ready to open up inwardly, and her pose is more relaxed as a result.

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