DC Comics hasn’t had a particularly good run of things lately. To be frank, the publisher has done blown it a number of times over the past few years. But don’t worry, DC fans — I’m sure it’ll soon be Marvel’s turn, as the two rivals seem to trade off every five years or so.
I’ve been calling out DC for the past couple of weeks, but that doesn’t mean everything it does strikes me as wrong. It’s important to declare shenanigans, but it’s also important to recognize when a publisher does something that’s good for comics.
So here are six things DC is doing right:
1. Digital comics: Legends of the Dark Knight and Adventures of Superman are digital-first anthology series that feature some excellent creators (from Jeff Parker and Chris Samnee to J.M. DeMatteis and Jeff Lemire) producing completely accessible and entertaining stories that stand on their own; no college course on the New 52 or Crisis on Infinite Earths required. Yes, these stories are out of continuity — so for a percentage of readers, they don’t count. That’s a mistake, because there’s nothing wrong with a straight-up superhero tale that exists on its own terms. These two anthologies are the gems of DC’s digital-first line-up, but Batman ’66 and Batman: Li’l Gotham also offer fantastical takes on the iconic Caped Crusader that are bright and fun. For those exhausted by the angsty versions of serious stories, you owe it to yourself to check these out.
Arriving on shelves Wednesday, Wonder Woman, Vol. 3: Iron not only collects issues 0 and 13-18 of the DC Comics series but also includes such behind-the-scenes material as Cliff Chiang’s character designs for Orion and a rough sketch for the zero issue splash page. While much of the art debuted last year at New York Comic Con during the “Concept to Page” panel, the trade paperback also features Jim Lee’s take on Orion, which DC has provided exclusively to ROBOT 6, along with some of Chiang’s art. You can see it all below.
Brooklyn Brewery is celebrating the return of New York Comic Con on Oct. 10 with a redesign of its superhero-inspired brew Brooklyn Defender, courtesy of Wonder Woman artist Cliff Chiang. The American Black Ale was created exclusively for the convention last year, when it sported a design by Tony Millionaire.
“We’re thrilled to have Cliff design the Defender this year,” wrote Brooklyn Brewery’s Brian Dochney. “We’ve been admiring his design work for years, and his Wonder Woman run has been on our pull list every week. Cliff has given us a darker more contemporary Brooklyn Defender, willing to brave any bar to defend against his gallery of rogues the ‘Foam Jobs.’”
The ale was created by brewmaster Garrett Oliver, and it sports a vintage logo designed by the legendary Milton Glaser, New York magazine co-founder and the man behind the DC Comics bullet and I ♥ NY.
Brooklyn Defender will be relaunched Sept. 21 at the Brooklyn Brewery Tasting Room, and will be available before and during New York Comic Con at select venues (see the full list here).
DC Entertainment Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee will appear with a half-dozen DC creators on the Jan. 22 episode of Face Off, the Syfy competition series that pits special-effects makeup artists against each other.
The episode, shot in July at Comic-Con International, challenges the competitors to create their own superheroes with assistance and advice from Lee, Mark Buckingham, Cliff Chiang, Tony S. Daniel, David Finch, Nicola Scott and J.H. Williams III. The winning design will be featured in Justice League Dark #16, which goes on sale Jan. 30.
It’s Thursday afternoon as you’re reading this, but it’s still Wednesday night as I write it. Usually on Wednesdays, I work at my day job until 5 p.m., and then, after I shout “Yabba-dabba-doo!” and slide down the tail of my sauropod/steam shovel, I hop into my car and drive to my local comic shop and pick up a small stack of comic books. Then I return to my apartment and read them, and then I write brief reviews of them all for a weekly feature I post on my home blog and then I write my weekly post for Robot 6.
Wednesdays are, generally speaking, pretty busy days for me. This one’s even busier than usual, as in addition to the above, I have a few extra writing assignments I need to finish before the end of the week and I still have two homemade Christmas presents for loved ones I need to finish putting together.
So then I had a brilliant idea! Well, an idea. Maybe instead of writing two blog posts tonight, one for Every Day Is Like Wednesday and one for Robot 6, I would just write my usual Wednesday-night blog post and put it here instead of there, thus killing two birds with one stone, as the saying, which was popularized back when people still killed birds with stones, goes.
Here then, are a few paragraphs about each of the new comic books I bought and read this Wednesday (now if only I could give blog posts as a Christmas gifts to my family members, the rest of this week would be pretty chill):
Publishing | DC Comics may no longer hold the rights to create new stories about The Spirit and other pulp heroes like Doc Savage and The Avenger, but it does retain the license to publish The Spirit Archives for “the foreseeable future,” according to Denis Kitchen, agent for the Will Eisner estate. Most of the hardcover collections are out of print. [The Beat]
Digital comics | Third time’s the charm for retailer Steve Bennett, as he goes through three different tablets (one was stolen, one malfunctioned) on his way to the ideal digital comics experience. [ICv2]
Creators | Tom Spurgeon kicks off his annual round of holiday interviews with a lengthy conversation with Alison Bechdel, creator of Fun Home and Are You My Mother? [The Comics Reporter]
Every week, hard as it may be to believe, I try honestly to offer something I think might interest the larger group of DC Domics superhero readers. However, this week I am invoking a personal privilege. For one thing, with Halloween on a Wednesday (when I usually end up writing these essays), the holiday will more than likely take priority.
The main reason, though, is that today is my birthday, and as you might have guessed from the headline, this year is my 43rd birthday. Therefore, this week I have pulled together an especially memorable DC story and/or issue from each of those years, 1969 through 2012. (Note: They may not always line up with the actual year, but just for simplicity’s sake, all dates are cover dates.) These aren’t necessarily the best or most noteworthy stories of their particular years, but they’ve stuck with me. Besides, while I’ve read a lot of comics from a lot of sources, for whatever reason DC has been the constant. Maybe when I’m 50 I’ll have something more comprehensive.
* * *
Graphic novels | The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has written to the Enfield, Connecticut, school district to ask that Matthew Loux’s SideScrollers be reinstated to its summer reading list and to point out that the district did not follow its own procedures when it removed the book last month after the mother of a ninth-grader complained about the graphic novel’s profanity and sexual references. [CBLDF]
Digital comics | Digital distributor iVerse has unveiled a new deal to sell foreign-language translations of Marvel and Archie comics worldwide. iVerse will have exclusive global rights to Marvel’s foreign-language comics, both floppies and trades, while for Archie they will create apps in different languages for different countries, starting with Japan, China, and India. iVerse CEO Michael Murphy says that 50 percent to 65 percent of the company’s digital sales are to international customers (including Canada). Nonetheless, the comics will be “platform-independent”: iVerse will provide translation (through a combination of machine translation and human editors) and distribution, so the comics will be available through their Comics + app but also through other channels, such as Amazon or iBooks. [Publishers Weekly]
DC Comics this morning unveiled variant covers for Before Watchmen by Jim Steranko, Steve Rude, Paul Pope, Tim Bradstreet, Jim Lee, Cliff Chiang and David Finch.
The sprawling, and hotly debated, prequel to the seminal 1986 miniseries by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, Before Watchmen debuted last month with the first issues of Minutemen, Comedian, Silk Spectre and Nite Owl, all of which landed on Diamond Comic Distributors’ Top 10 for June. According to sales estimates, all four titles broke the 100,000-copy mark. Before Watchmen: Minutemen #2 arrived in stores Wednesday.
Check out all seven variant covers below.
Welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly rundown of what comics and other stuff we’ve been checking out recently. Today our special guest is cartoonist Austin English, creator of the graphic novel Christina and Charles and publisher of Domino Books.
To see what Austin and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
I’ve always been fascinated with projects that could have been but got nixed before they finished (and sometimes before they even got started). The latest in that pantheon of would-be projects is a series of Captain America posters by Cliff Chiang. Although he’s been working under a DC exclusive for years that prevents him from working on Marvel Comics, he recently blogged about a project where he’d draw Captain America in a series of propaganda posters on behalf of an un-named marketing firm lobbying to do work for the movie.
Although it never got past the pitch stage, my art-lovin’ mind salivates at that idea. Here’s the roughs Cliff did for the project:
And get this — Chiang planned on bringing in Jock and Dave Johnson to do some covers too. Shame it never got greenlit. Maybe Captain America 2?
Good grief, it’s the eleventh month of the New-52! The forty-six books left from the original class are just about ready to wrap up their first year, and in some cases their second collection. Where does the time go? (And when can we stop calling it the “New” 52?)
In fact, both Batman #11 and Animal Man #11 promise “stunning conclusions” to their inaugural arcs. Of course, the Owls storyline looks more like a traditional multi-title crossover (even if most of it takes place in the main Batman book), whereas Animal Man’s storyline only involves an Annual and a little bit of Swamp Thing. Usually I am frustrated with the very idea of looking ahead three-plus months, because it’s the serialized-comics equivalent of being forced to check your watch halfway through a movie. Here, though, knowing that these two series are headed for big finishes in July helps adjust my expectations about where they are now.
Similarly, we’ve seen three months’ worth of solicitations (and more than that in hype) on the two Earth-2 titles, but for me that’s built up anticipation. Despite the concept’s radical reworking, I’m eager to see how it all comes together.
Now to more specific comments….
Continue Reading »
NOTE: The images have been removed at the request of GQ.
Wonder Woman artist Cliff Chiang and GQ designer Benjamin Bours have revealed Chiang’s illustration of director, screenwriter and comics scribe Joss Whedon for a feature in the May issue of the magazine titled “The Geek Shall Inherit the Earth.”
“It’s always a treat to do some editorial illustration,” Chiang writes, “and when it’s a portrait of somebody as beloved in the comics scene as Joss Whedon, I couldn’t ask for a better subject.”
See a much larger version of his illustration below, and visit Bours’ website to see more pages from the Whedon profile.
It would be easy, and probably utterly predictable, for me to launch into an all-out rant about the origins of the New-52 Wonder Woman. In fact, because I found Kelly Thompson’s arguments fairly persuasive, that may still happen. However, I am more inclined to agree with Ragnell that the latest round of Amazonian revelations doesn’t quite square with what we’ve already been told, not just in Wonder Woman but in Justice League too. Therefore, there’s a chance that Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang are trying (with the best of intentions, naturally) to be provocative, ginning up interest in the book before the real story comes out.
Make no mistake, I understand completely Kelly’s argument that this version of Wonder Woman undercuts DC’s most venerable feminist institution. Even if the account in WW #7 is squarely contradicted, the insinuation is still pretty harmful. Either way, this is not the “old” Wonder Woman. Accordingly, this may simply be a new Wonder Woman, as different in origin as Hal Jordan was from Alan Scott; and her history may be the brutally-simple solution to the decades-old issue of “what to do with Wonder Woman.”
* * *
2011 was a great year for writer Sam Humphries; he and artist Steven Saunders self-published and self-distributed a successful one-shot called Our Love Is Real, which sold out several times and eventually was picked up by Image Comics. From there, he teamed up with artist Dalton Rose for a six-issue, self-published and self-distributed series called Sacrifice. The first issue came out last month and told the story of Hector, a time traveler/Joy Division fan who finds himself in the middle of the Aztec empire. The comic includes not only references to Aztec culture, but also pop music and the culinary delights of Rancho Peñasquitos.
Humphries has guest-blogged with us several times in the past, so when it was time to send out invitations to the big Robot 6 birthday bash, I put him at the top of the list. He brought gifts, too, in the form of a rundown of the various references included in the first issue of Sacrifice, a look at the Jade Edition cover variant of issue #2 by Wonder Woman artist Cliff Chiang and critical information on the healing powers of tacos. You can pre-order a physical copy of the second issue through TFAW.com, or you can find it at several comic shops. The first issue can be downloaded now via Graphicly or comiXology.
Now let’s hear from Sam …