Thanks to Tom Spurgeon, I read a fascinating article about “using Graph Theory to create a digital model of the whole of Marvel continuity,” from comics to TV and the current crop of movies. It maps out connections among characters — unsurprisingly, the three big groups relate to the X-Men, the Avengers, and Spider-Man — but it also discusses exceptions to characters’ defining traits. For example, Hawkeye is Clint Barton (or not), who is an archer (most of the time) and an Avenger (except when he’s a Thunderbolt). Marvel appears to be using this model to answer basic questions like “who is that?” and “how does s/he relate to this over here?” — with an ultimate goal of getting fans of its movies and TV shows to try the comics.
As you might imagine, this sort of analysis would have been ideal for the pre-New-52 status quo, whose five generations of characters (going from the original Justice Society to Damian Wayne) included many with multiple code names. Chief among these were the original Teen Titans who, following the examples of Dick Grayson and Wally West, graduated from sidekicks to “grownup” superheroes. Initially, logistical concerns facilitated these changeovers (we need a new Robin; we need a new Flash) — but in terms of the intersection of continuity and character development, none of the Titans had quite as much on her résumé as Donna Troy.
Of course, comics weren’t limited to that one section: While Gilbert Hernandez’s Marble Season was named the best book in Comics & Graphic Novels, it also appeared at No. 71 on the editors’ rundown of the Top 100 of 2013, alongside Rutu Modan’s The Property (No. 80). Here’s the full Comics & Graphic Novels list:
- Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened, by Allie Brosh (Touchstone)
- Batman, Vol. 3: Death of the Family, by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo (DC Comics)
- Saga, Vol. 2, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
- Boxers & Saints, by Gene Luen Yang (First Second)
- Battling Boy, by Paul Pope (First Second) Continue Reading »
Owner Dish Network, which bought the already-struggling company in a 2011 bankruptcy auction announced this morning it will also end the Blockbuster By Mail service in mid-December and shutter its distribution centers. According to Reuters, 2,800 employees will lose their jobs.
As with the decline of music stores that preceded it, the death of Blockbuster is being attributed to the rise of digital (in particular, Netflix), which curiously enough — and despite fears to the contrary — hasn’t appeared to harm another specialty channel: direct-market comic stores. In fact, all indications appear to point to digital helping print sales. Could it be that comic shops, long the subjects of apocalyptic predictions, end up as the last ones standing?
The family of a 3-year-old in Hespeler, Ontario, is upset that the girl was given a couple of the controversial evangelical comic tracts during a night of trick-or-treating.
“Anyone thinking that a 3-year-old Princess Rapunzel … needs to be subjected to pictures of cruelty and violence on any day, let alone [Halloween] – a day for kids to be kids – is pretty shameful,” the girl’s father Rod Murray told the Kitchener Record.
One of the booklets lil’ Rapunzel was handed was “Somebody Loves Me,” which depicts a child beaten with a club by his alcoholic father and thrown out of the house. While sleeping in an alley, the gravely injured boy is told by a passerby that “Jesus loves you” before he dies and his carried off by an angel. The other is more difficult to figure out from the article’s description, but it apparently involves people — possibly Adam and Eve among them — covered in sores. In other words, comic tailor-made for a 3-year-old.
I really like Halloween, but it’s always been hard for me to come up with a spooky post that relates to DC Comics. The emphasis here is on “for me”: DC has a wealth of spooky material from which to draw, and I’ve just never been able to work with it meaningfully.
For this year’s Halloween post I thought about doing a survey of DC’s horror-themed titles over the years, because certainly the publisher has had its share. There are stalwarts that go back decades, like House of Mystery, Swamp Thing and The Sandman (whose sequel miniseries starts this week, as you might have heard). The first round of New 52 titles included I, Vampire and Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE — and while both of those have bitten the dust, Justice League Dark still heads up the superhero line’s magic-oriented section.
However, the more I thought about it, this space is really not big enough — yes, even with my extreme verbosity — to do right by the horror books. Besides, most of them have ended up at Vertigo, although some are being reincorporated into the superhero line. House of Mystery is a good example of the “serious horror” migration. It started out in the ‘50s as a supernatural anthology before switching over to science fiction (after the fall of EC) and then, briefly, superheroes (specifically, the Martian Manhunter and “Dial ‘H’ for Hero”). When the Comics Code relaxed its stance on all things scary, HOM told horror stories, including an extended run as the original home of “I, Vampire.” The title ended in 1983, after 32 years and more than 300 issues, but it’s never really been forgotten. The House itself (along with its companion from another eponymous title, the House of Secrets) became a part of The Sandman’s landscape, and was the setting for a Vertigo relaunch, which ran from 2008 to 2011 (42 issues and a couple of specials). Now it belongs to John Constantine and serves as Justice League Dark’s headquarters, which I suppose is better than limbo.
Because this space is normally reserved for DC Comics and its stable of characters, you might think a post on Miracleman goes a little outside the lines. However, Miracleman was based on Captain Marvel, who is a DC character in the same way that Miracleman is now a Marvel character: the wonderful world of intellectual-property rights. That’s just one of several traits the two features share, so today I’ll be comparing and contrasting. I’ll also consider whether Marvel’s upcoming Miracleman revival could affect DC’s latest version.
Miracleman (under its original name of Marvelman, but you knew that already) started out as a way to hold onto British readers of Captain Marvel when the latter closed up shop in the mid-1950s. In that form, the series lasted until 1963. In 1982, writer Alan Moore headed up a revival that started by updating familiar elements, but ended up going off in a decidedly different direction. As reprinted, renamed, and subsequently completed in the United States, Moore’s Miracleman (from Eclipse Comics) filled 16 issues, give or take some reprints, and came out over the course of about four and a half years (cover-dated August 1985 to December 1989). Moore’s artistic collaborators included Garry Leach, Alan Davis, Chuck Austen (under the name Chuck Beckum), Rick Veitch, and John Totleben. From June 1990 to June 1993, Eclipse published eight more issues, written by Neil Gaiman and drawn by Mark Buckingham, and an anthology miniseries (Miracleman Apocrypha) came out from November 1991 to February 1992. For various reasons, though, no new Miracleman has seen the light of day for over twenty years.
That’s all about to change, starting with January’s reprints from Marvel. It remains to be seen whether today’s readers will be interested in 20- to 30-year-old stories from a writer whose popularity isn’t what it once was, and which will apparently be reprinted initially in a somewhat-pricey format. Additionally, Miracleman has turned into much more of an “Alan Moore book,” as opposed to a Captain Marvel parody. Therefore, its return doesn’t strike me as the sort of thing which will automatically generate more interest in Captain Marvel; but their similarities (and even some of their differences) can be instructive.
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“Comics used to be easy. You pitched something and if one publisher didn’t buy it, another would. Margins are tight now, and few comics are profitable. So it’s more like the Hollywood model of pitches and notes and so and so on while years crawl by. The same reasons I never wanted to write a screenplay are now present in comics. The ebooks let me just write the damned thing, and it’s out for public consumption within weeks.”
If you somehow missed Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle when it aired Tuesday, or you simply want to watch it again, PBS has made the entire three-hour documentary available for viewing online.
Hosted by X-Men Origins: Wolverine actor Liev Schreiber, the documentary by Michael Kantor features interviews with the likes of Stan Lee, Adam West, Lynda Carter, Michael Chabon, Jules Feiffer and the late Joe Simon and Jerry Robinson, and chronicles how comic books “were subject to intense government scrutiny for their influence on American children and how they were created in large part by the children of immigrants whose fierce loyalty to a new homeland laid the foundation for a multibillion-dollar industry that is an influential part of our national identity.”
All three episodes — “Truth, Justice and the American Way,” “Great Power, Great Responsibility” and “A Hero Can Be Anyone” — can be viewed below.
The Forever Evil and “Gothtopia” crossovers don’t exactly dominate DC Comics’ January solicitations, but compared to the more mundane goings-on in the other series, they tend to stand out. For that matter, Forever Evil doesn’t sound like it’s promising much more than a lot of clenched jaws, dark humor and grim spectacle.
Still, if it has to happen sometime, it might as well be in January. I don’t mind January so much; it’s the darkest month of the year, but after a hectic holiday season it’s a chance to catch one’s breath. Going back to work after New Year’s Day and realizing there’s not much more to do but look forward to spring is like waking up at the crack of dawn and surveying a wide, flat, featureless plain — gray from the winter cold and just barely lit by the first rays of the distant sun — and realizing that if you’re going to make it across that plain, you’d better start walking.
Sometimes you just have to get through January, is what I’m saying — but sometimes getting through it isn’t so bad.
Whew! How was that for an intro? Weren’t we talking about comics?
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It’s been a while since the announcement, and subsequent postponement, of Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle, so it’s worth noting that the documentary will air tonight on PBS as part of a three-hour block of programming called simply “Superheroes Night.”
Hosted by X-Men Origins: Wolverine actor Liev Schreiber, the documentary by Michael Kantor feature interviews with the likes of Stan Lee, Adam West, Lynda Carter, Michael Chabon, Jules Feiffer and the late Joe Simon and Jerry Robinson, and chronicles how comic books “were subject to intense government scrutiny for their influence on American children and how they were created in large part by the children of immigrants whose fierce loyalty to a new homeland laid the foundation for a multibillion-dollar industry that is an influential part of our national identity.”
You can read a description of the three one-hour episodes below. Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle premieres tonight at 8 ET/PT on PBS.
Welcome to Shelf Porn, your weekly look at a fan’s set-up. Today’s shelves come from Dan in the UK, who shows us his comics, original art and more.
If you’d like to see your collection featured here on Shelf Porn, check out the submission instructions.
And now here’s Dan …
This week sees the debut of Superman/Wonder Woman, the very existence of which brings into sharp relief a number of concerns about the treatment of both characters in the New 52. We’ll get into the specifics in a minute, but for now it may be enough to say that if the book had come out under a previous administration (say, the post-Infinite Crisis period, when the two leads were especially close friends), it might be enjoying a warmer overall reception. Superman/Wonder Woman #1 isn’t a bad comic book, but its premise — assuming the reader accepts it — does make for some awkward moments.
Digital comics | Declaring that “the mainstreaming of digital publishing is nearly complete,” veteran technology writer Andy Ihnatko outlines three major steps the industry still needs to take: a move by Dark Horse to comiXology; the adoption of ePUB as an industry standard; and the abandonment of digital rights management. “We should be grateful to DRM,” Ihnatko writes. “‘What about piracy?’ wasn’t Marvel or DC’s only qualm about digital publishing, but it was a question that needed to be addressed before the major publishers could go all-in. But now that comiXology is up and running, and people have been ‘trained’ to use the new infrastructure, DRM is becoming less and less valuable with each passing quarter.” [Chicago Grid]
Digital comics | For readers only now discovering digital comics, Jeffrey L. Wilson provides a guide that covers the basics, from what they are to where they can be found and how much they cost. [PC Mag]
Comics mash-ups are a dime a dozen nowadays — only this morning we updated the legal wranglings concerning This Charming Charlie — but few are stranger than this one dreamed up by the blog of Elite Fixtures, which appears to be an otherwise-normal company that sells lighting, bathroom faucets, doorknobs and the like.
“Popular Comic Books Get Mashed Up With Lamps” is just what it sounds like … if what it sounds like involves replacing key characters and elements from well-known comic-book covers with lamps. I’d call it a bizarre, but ingenious, bit of viral marketing, if there were something in the images that might send people flocking to Elite Fixtures. So I’ll just leave it at “bizarre.”
By way of explanation, the blog states, “At EliteFixtures.com, we think lamps are pretty super. Charged with the power of electricity, they can brighten a room with a single bulb and dispel shadows from the darkest corners. There is nowhere to hide from the Power of the Light! Which got us thinking … what would happen to our favorite comic heroes in a face-to-lamp showdown?”
See some of the covers below, and the rest at the company’s blog.
Hello and welcome to Shelf Porn, where we take you inside one fan’s house to check out their stuff. Today’s collection comes from Christian in Victorville, Calif., who shows us his comics, art, statues, original art and one gigantic gun.
If you’d like to see your collection featured here on Shelf Porn, check out the submission instructions.
Take it away, Christian …