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Last week I laid out a lot of numbers and background on the distribution of character-oriented franchises in the New 52. (Along the way I got confused about the New 52 version of G.I. Combat; it was canceled after Issue 7, but its zero issue brought its total to eight.)
Accordingly, this week discusses whether the New 52 needs to get back up to its eponymous number of titles, or whether a smaller stable of ongoing series is a more sustainable environment. We’ll get into some other concerns as well, but the overarching question — as DC transforms its biggest franchise, the Bat-books — involves how the publisher chooses to allocate its resources.
(Because I forgot to do it directly last week, I want to acknowledge my debt to Dave Carter, who started me thinking about all this when he charted New 52 longevity in January and who, providentially, has just started listing DC rosters of Augusts past.)
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Cartoonist Nate Simpson burst into comics in 2011 with his Image Comics series Nonplayer. He won the prestigious Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer Award just three months later, sold the film rights to he comic, and then unfortunately broke is collarbone. Now, three years later, he’s back — but not how you might think.
The owners of Metropolis Collectibles and ComicConnect, who in August paid a record $3.2 million for a pristine copy of Action Comics #1, will display “the Holy Grail of comic books” on Thursday at their New York Comic Con booth (#2630). Alas it’s only on Thursday.
The first comic to fetch more than $3 million at auction, the issue is one of just two copies of 1938’s Action Comics #1 — featuring the first appearance of Superman — to be graded 9.0 by the Certified Guaranty Company (the other is the comic once owned by actor Nicolas Cage, which sold in 2011 for a then-record $2.16 million; however, its pages aren’t considered “pristine”). Only about 30 unrestored copies of Action Comics #1 are thought to exist.
This copy was acquired several years ago in a private sale by Darren Adams of Pristine Comics in Federal Way, Washington, and stored a temperature-controlled vault. He said the original owner bought the comic from a newsstand in 1938, and then kept in a cedar box for about four decades until a local dealer in West Virginia purchased it in an estate sale. The issue then passed to a third person, who held onto it for 30 years. Adams said he turned down an offer of $3 million, and instead opted to sell the comic in a highly publicized eBay auction.
Confession time: I haven’t seen the Season 2 premiere of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. yet. Don’t get me wrong, I want to, but things have been busy here, and when I do tune in (thanks, Hulu Plus!) I want to give it my full attention. TV has become very serious in recent years, and the best stuff tends to require the viewer to invest some brain power into the shows.
It’s a good thing, but it can get a little exhausting. And if you’re a Marvel fan, there’s a lot to keep track of in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Characters, locations, devices and plotlines might trigger some stored bit of trivia in your brain and lead to a different appreciation for the approach.
Here at The Fifth Color, I try to keep abreast of all the Marvel comics news I can, and it’s requiring me to track more and more movie rumors and casting decisions — which is weird because The Fifth Color began as a way to relate to comics and how we readers view the stories. But comics are becoming more than just you and the pages in your hand; there’s a now a strong media influence on how we see comics. Even something as simple as a mobile game can draw you into a comic shop and change how you see the books on the shelves. No joke, I had a customer show me a comic cover he had unlocked on a Marvel mobile game and ask me if we had that book in stock. He wanted to find out what it was about. That’s good marketing.
Note: This week’s post, and probably next week’s, get pretty number-heavy. Also, this week’s post contains a lot of history and background data. I have tried to make it all entertaining, but consider yourselves warned. Either way, there’s still the Futures Index.
Starting this week, the Batman line gets a makeover. Gotham Academy, from writers Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher and artist Karl Kerschl, is a delightfully spry addition to the Bat-landscape. Amid a franchise dominated (not unreasonably) by stylized, unflinching urban avenging, GA’s unique perspective is both welcome and necessary. Waiting in the wings are new Batgirl and Catwoman creative teams, as well as new titles Arkham Manor and Gotham After Midnight. (The three new books apparently take the places of Batman: The Dark Knight, Batwing and Birds of Prey.)
All look promising, and each offers a new look at a seldom-seen aspect of the Batman mythology. Moreover, it’s vitally important for DC to reach out to a diverse audience, particularly one that may have felt underappreciated over the past few years.
However, all this innovation comes at a time when the in-name-only New 52 has been stuck for a while at around 40-odd series. Only 21 of the original 52 ongoings are still being published, although books like Teen Titans, Suicide Squad and Deathstroke have been relaunched with new volumes. Similarly, we might view Grayson and Justice League United as continuations of Nightwing and the New-52 version of Justice League of America.
As Banned Books Week winds down, the American Library Association has released a video of Stan Lee addressing literacy and attempts to ban comic books.
“There have been times when people tried to ban comics, they felt that they stifled a child’s imagination because, why should a child see pictures of what he or she is reading about,” he says. “But my answer to that always was the same: Why would anybody go to see a Shakespeare play, because you’re seeing the characters on the stage? Maybe there should be no plays; maybe we should just have to read the script. Maybe there should be no movies, there should be no television shows, there should be no radio shows — just read the script. Obviously, that’s ridiculous. Reading is the basis for all these other things.”
The sprawling intertitle crossover “Doomed” wrapped up this week with the release of Superman: Doomed #2. It’s a 40-page installment produced by writers Greg Pak and Charles Soule and artists Ken Lashley, Szymon Kudranski, Cory Smith, Dave Bullock, Jack Herbert, Ian Churchill, Aaron Kuder Vicente Cifuentes, and Norm Rapmund (assisted ably by colorist Wil Quintana and letterer Taylor Esposito). However, it’s getting some attention due to the final page.
Yes, “Doomed” began as a sequel to an as-yet-unseen event — the New 52 version of the monster’s first deadly battle with Superman — but it’s ended, like many a crossover before it, as a tease for the next big thing. Moreover, it’s joined by the only Futures End special one-shot without its own series (yet); namely, Futures End: Booster Gold.
Accordingly, today’s all about how everything might start to make sense, and how it doesn’t quite make sense for DC to go that way.
SPOILERS FOLLOW for the finale of “Doomed” and for Booster Gold.
If your parents ever complained that all of those Spider-Man and X-Men comics would interfere with your school work, show them this: This spring the University of Baltimore will offer a course examining modern culture through the lens of Marvel’s films, television series and comic books.
Thought to be the first class of its kind in the United States, “Media Genres: Media Marvels” will not only explore the intricate plotlines, characters and backstories that form the Marvel Cinematic Universe but also try to understand our fixation with superheroes and fictional global threats. Students will also study Joseph Campbell’s monomyth of the “hero’s journey.”
Banned Books Week | National Public Radio’s Lynn Neary covers Banned Books Week, with interviews with frequently banned creators Jeff Smith (Bone) and Dav Pilkey (Captain Underpants). Although Smith acknowledges he was initially shocked to see his acclaimed fantasy adventure among the 10 most challenged books of 2013, he soon came to terms with the distinction. “I mean my heroes are on this list,” he says. “People like Mark Twain and Steinbeck and Melville and Vonnegut, so part of me also kind of says, ‘OK, fine I can be on this list.'” [NPR]
Banned Books Week | Michael Dooley runs a brief excerpt from Fun Home, and Keith Knight does a show-and-tell of his comics that were too controversial for some newspapers. [Print Magazine]
The winners of the 10th annual Joe Shuster Awards were announced Saturday in Toronto. Named in honor of Toronto-born artist Joe Shuster, co-creator Superman, the awards recognize the best of the Canadian comics world.
In addition to the traditional awards, this year’s event included the introduction of the T.M. Maple Award, which honors “someone (living or deceased) selected from the Canadian comics community for achievements made outside of the creative and retail categories who have had a positive impact on the community.” The first recipients were the late Jim Burke, aka T.M. Maple, who wrote more than 3,000 letters to comic book letter columns between 1977 and 1994, and the late Debra Jane Shelly, longtime volunteer at Toronto conventions and comics events.
The winners are listed in bold below. The Beat has photos and audio from the ceremony, held at Back Space Toronto.
Happy Saturday and welcome to Shelf Porn, where each week we feature one fan’s collection. Today’s shelves come from Austin Tinius, comics creator and publisher at Bogus Publishing.
If you’d like to see your collection right here on Robot 6, you can find complete details at the end of this post.
And now let’s hear from Austin …
There’s a lot to like in DC Comics’ December solicitations, most of it due to the return of some old friends and the uber-nostalgic glimpses at a traditional status quo. It’s not like the New 52’s changes are being rolled back — I have no illusions about that, and I’m not sure how it would work if it did happen — but DC is always best served when it can channel the familiar aspects of its past in vibrant new forms.
THERE YOU GO AGAIN
I am starting to think Secret Six is the comic Gail Simone was born to write, even more so than Birds of Prey. There’s always been a dark undercurrent running through her DC work, from BOP to Batgirl to The Movement, but only with the Sixers could she really cut loose. Indeed, as much as I enjoyed Scandal, Bane, Deadshot and the rest, I’m eager to see what she can do with six cryptically united strangers, most of whom will probably be new to us.
Those who believe the traditional, pre-New 52 DC Universe is still out there, somewhere in the Multiverse, can reasonably hang their collective hat on the return of the Keith Giffen/J.M. DeMatteis Blue Beetle and Booster Gold in Justice League 3000 #12. I’d go even further, and say this version of Beetle and Booster probably follows directly from the two “Super Buddies” arcs that Giffen, DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire produced in the mid-2000s. The second one, I Can’t Believe It’s Not the Justice League, ended rather pointedly with Beetle and Max Lord sharing a happy moment. That, of course, stood in stark contrast to the Countdown to Infinite Crisis special, in which Max shot Beetle in the head, and then (a few months later) successfully dared Wonder Woman to execute him. Therefore, the Beetle and Booster of JL3K hail from an Earth where things turned out quite differently — but ironically, they’ve been awakened in a dystopian future where the Justice Leaguers are darkly twisted versions of their old selves. Not that Giffen and DeMatteis can’t find some comedy there, but I’m having trouble summoning up a bwah-hah-hah.
Mail-order comics services have been around for decades, but with the Internet they’ve grown by leaps and bounds. Still, when you put together the words “online” and “comics,” many people naturally think digital, but a new online mail-order business is putting print — and comics as a physical product — squarely into the limelight.
Launched earlier this summer, Comic Cartel has the standard offerings of other online mail-order services, with the ability to shop for individual issues and graphic novels, as well to create subscriptions. But what sets Comics Cartel apart is its attention to detail when it comes to comics as a physical object — one worthy of high care and exceptional packaging.
Hello and welcome to Shelf Porn, our weekly trip into the home of one fan. Today’s collection comes from Batfan and father Andrew Seymour, who shares his comics, statues and more.
If you’d like to see your collection featured right here on Robot 6, you can find submission details at the end of this post.
And now here is Andrew …
It won’t be long before the Legion of Super-Heroes reappears in the New 52. This week’s two-page editorial spread (written by editor Brian Cunningham) teases next month’s “The Infinitus Saga,” a Justice League United arc pitting the newest batch of Leaguers against the future’s greatest super-team.
Providentially, rumors have begun circulating about the Legion’s possible jump to the big screen, as Warner Bros.’ answer to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Among the reactions to these rumors were Eric Diaz’s suggestions (at Nerdist) and The Beat’s conclusion that “I never got the Legion [but] this could be a charming and exciting film.”
To be sure, it’s way too early to evaluate the merits of a Legion film. Heck, there may not even be a Legion movie, if Batman v Superman underperforms. However, two things jump out at me from this coverage: First, the blockbuster Guardians has opened the door for adapting all sorts of superhero obscurities. Second, any adaptation must deal with — and most likely overcome — the Legion’s history (and history of reboots).
With regard to the latter, The Beat calls the feature “classic DC — a continuity-heavy series that has a smallish but rabid following, and a huge cast of characters who are sometimes oddballs”; and Nerdist notes that “DC has struggled to keep the book relevant” for most of the past 30 years.