Thursday may have started a bit slow in the news department, but it sure ended with a huge bang. Here’s a roundup of announcements that hit today from Comic-Con International in San Diego:
• Neil Gaiman announced via video that he will write a new Sandman miniseries that will detail what happened to Morpheus to allow him to be so easily captured in The Sandman #1. J.H. Williams III will provide the art. “It was a story that we discussed telling for Sandman‘s 20th anniversary,” Gaiman said, “but the time got away from us. And now, with Sandman‘s 25th anniversary year coming up, I’m delighted, and nervous, that that story is finally going to be told.” The series will be published by Vertigo sometime next year.
• Legendary will also publish the Majestic Files by J. Michael Straczynski, which will feature art by Geoff Shaw and Matt Banning.
• Terry Moore will write a Strangers in Paradise prose novel to coincide with the comic’s 20th anniversary next year. He also plans to do an all-ages comic after Rachel Rising finishes in 30-40 issues.
I’m pretty sure every other DC-Comics blogger in the known universe will be doing this, but for me it is an imperative: from now through the end of the month, this space will give short, probably reactionary, and likely ill-considered reviews of all 52 new titles. Not surprisingly, then, this week is all Flashpoint #5 and Justice League #1.
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I liked Flashpoint #1 pretty well. I thought it was a promising start to a story that — in a daring departure for a big event — could stand on its own without universe-altering ramifications.
Of course, that was in early May, a lifetime ago.
While Flashpoint #5 finishes that story, it does so in a way that feels maddeningly hollow. Not the epilogue, mind you — that sequence just manages to avoid mawkishness, and is a well-done counterpoint to the end of issue #1. No, my problem with issue #5 (and to a lesser extent with the miniseries generally) is the way in which writer Geoff Johns apparently just decides he needs to wrap things up.
SPOILERS FOLLOW for Flashpoint #5, and later for Justice League #1 …
Ahead of the release on Wednesday of Flashpoint #5 and Justice League #1, signaling the beginning of its line-wide relaunch, DC Comics has kicked off a promotional assault in the mainstream press to sell “The New 52″ to a broader audience. While USA Today, with a circulation of 1.8 million the second-largest newspaper in the United States, looks to be the hub for coverage, DC has also reached out to publications like the New York Daily News, the New York Post and the Boston Herald. Here are the highlights so far from the 11th-hour push:
• USA Today takes a broad overview of the relaunch, talking with DC Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee, Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns, and a couple of retailers. “There are plenty of angry customers over this,” says John Robinson, co-owner of Graham Crackers Comics chain in Illinois. “I’ve heard the usual ‘I can’t believe they’re doing this,’ ‘They’ve betrayed us,’ etc. I’d say about 60% to 70% of those protesting the loudest will still end up buying the stuff. There’s just too much hype and interest — even the haters are curious.”
• The newspaper also hones in on the publisher’s new same-day digital strategy, which debuts Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET when Justice League #1 will be available for purchase digitally. Hank Kanalz, senior vice president for digital at DC Entertainment, acknowledges the challenges of getting the initiative off the ground: “Some books are working really far ahead of schedule, some are down to the wire, and it’s just a matter of coordinating and about overcommunicating. We have to make sure it goes off without a hitch, which is why we’re not sleeping right now. We’re going much wider to a mass audience than ever before, so it’s a matter of making sure we have everything ready to go.”
1. For Batman and Green Lantern, if it ain’t broke, DC’s not fixing it. In 2010, you had to go all the way down to the Direct Markets #109 bestelling title, the debut of J. Michael Straczynski’s abortive tenure on Superman, before hitting a DC book that wasn’t part of the Batman line, the Green Lantern line, or the Green Lantern-spawned Blackest Night and Brightest Day events. DC has rewarded the creators behind these franchises’ success by keeping them more or less in place, albeit with some title-swapping and artist-shuffling. Geoff Johns, Tony Bedard, and Peter J. Tomasi are still writing the three main Green Lantern series (along with the previously announced Peter Milligan on Red Lantern), while Grant Morrison, Scott Snyder, Tony Daniel, David Finch, and Tomasi are still handling the books with “Batman” in the title (with long-time Gotham Citizens like J.H Williams III, Gail Simone, and Judd Winick filling out the line).
2. DC’s rolling the dice big-time on an I Can’t Believe It’s Not Vertigo-verse. Today’s big announcement of new “dark” titles features such Vertigo characters as Swamp Thing, Animal Man, Shade the Changing Man, John Constantine, Madame Xanadu, as written by such Vertigo creators Peter Milligan (Hellblazer), Jeff Lemire (Sweet Tooth), and Scott Snyder (American Vampire). That’s quite a vote of confidence in Vertigo’s taste in creators, characters, and tone, especially given that many industry observers saw the line as an afterthought for the new regime. Of course, how this will impact Vertigo itself has yet to be seen. It’s also worth considering that Vertigo’s biggest and most durable hits over the past decade or so have tended to be creator-owned titles existing in their own worlds and straying pretty far from the imprint’s horror-magic roots, so launching eight shared-universe horror-magic books — over one-sixth of the new DC Universe line — is a gamble in and of itself.
Even as filming begins on The Dark Knight Rises and production gears up for Man of Steel, DC Comics appears poised to transform a relaunched Justice League into its flagship title.
The new series, by superstar creators (and DC executives) Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, kicks off a sweeping editorial shakeup that sees the publisher restarting its entire superhero line in September with 52 No. 1 issues that will introduce “a more modern, diverse DC Universe,” with many characters sporting changed origins, ages and costumes. It also marks the beginning of same-day digital release for all DC Universe books.
As Comic Book Resources reported late yesterday, the 52 titles are believed to include Superman by Grant Morrison, Hawkman by James Robinson and Philip Tan, Birds of Prey by a writer other than Gail Simone, Green Lantern by Johns, Teen Titans by Fabian Nicieza, Justice Society of America, Wonder Woman that bears little resemblance to J. Michael Straczynski’s truncated run, and the previously announced Aquaman by Johns and Ivan Reis. We can likely add to the list the delayed Batwoman by J.H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman and Amy Reeder (both because the series has been in production for a long time and because DC is reaffirming its commitment to diversity with such characters as Jaime Reyes/Blue Beetle, Cyborg and Kate Kane).
But leading the charge is Justice League — no “of America” this time, just Justice League — a title that will feature, at its core, DC’s A-list superheroes: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash and Aquaman. The team roster, USA Today reports, will ultimately boast 14 members — judging from the cover of the first issue, Cyborg, and not Martian Manhunter, will round out the traditional Big Seven — but the focus will be on those iconic characters. Now with their flipped-up collars, new ‘dos and revamped origins.