X-POSITION: Phoenix, Upstarts & More Tear Up Bowers & Sims' "X-Men '92"
Publishing | Vox takes a lengthy look at the effects of DC Comics’ efforts to diversify, in terms of characters, titles and creators. The article, which includes interviews with Marguerite Bennett, Genevieve Valentine, Dan DiDio and Jim Lee, notes that while new titles like DC Comics Bombshells have been successful, others launched under the “DC You” umbrella – Black Canary and Midnighter, for instance — are on far shakier ground, sales-wise. However, Co-Publisher Lee suggests the company is standing behind the initiative: “I think it’s important for us to listen and to learn and basically to adjust and pivot. There is this emerging audience. Comics are changing. At the end of the day, if you’re going to remain competitive and grow and flourish, you have to be able to adapt and change and evolve.” [Vox.com]
Graphic novels | A number of incoming freshmen at Duke University have refused to read Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, chosen as the summer reading selection for the class of 2019. Brian Grasso started the conversation by posting on the class Facebook page that he wouldn’t read the graphic novel because of its depictions of sexuality, saying, “I feel as if I would have to compromise my personal Christian moral beliefs to read it.” That opened up a discussion in which some students defended the book and said that reading it would broaden their horizons, while others shied away from the visual depictions of sexual acts. And Grasso felt that the choice was insensitive, commenting: “Duke did not seem to have people like me in mind. It was like Duke didn’t know we existed, which surprises me.” [Duke Chronicle]
In an era where the creator’s rights conversation is as loud as its ever been in comics, this week saw some surprising news quietly slip out onto the web: Black Lightning creator Tony Isabella and DC Comics have taken the first steps towards reconciling a very contentious relationship.
The writer has long contended he’s the sole creator of DC’s first black superhero to star in a solo series as the character wasn’t introduced under a work-for-hire agreement but rather a partnership between he and DC. It was only after Isabella sought to buy out the publisher’s interest in the character following the cancellation of that first series in 1978 that he says DC declared artist Trevor Von Eeden as Black Lightning’s co-creator.
While Isabella did some later work with the publisher — most notably the first nine issues of a 13-issue Black Lightning revival in 1995 — he’s spent the majority of the past two decades being very vocal about his discontent with the publisher and their treatment of him. Most recently, the writer spoke out against DC’s choice to revive and redesign the hero as part of the New 52 initiative.
Passings | Archie Comics artist Tom Moore died yesterday at the age of 86. Moore got his start as an artist in the Navy, where he served during the Korean War: His captain found a caricature that Moore had drawn, and instead of calling him on the carpet, he assigned him to be staff cartoonist. Moore’s comic strip, Chick Call, ran in military publications, and after the war he studied cartooning in New York, with help from the GI Bill. Moore signed on with Archie Comics, drawing one comic book a month, from 1953 until 1961, when he left cartooning for public relations. “It’s important to create characters that can adapt to anything, but whose personalities are consistent,” Moore said in a 2008 interview. “Establish that, and don’t deviate. Betty doesn’t act like Veronica, and Charlie Brown doesn’t act like Lucy.” He returned to cartooning in 1970, drawing Snuffy Smith, Underdog, and Mighty Mouse, and then went back to Archie to help reboot Jughead, staying on until his retirement in the late 1980s. After retiring, Moore taught at El Paso Community College and was a regular customer at All Star Comics. [El Paso Times]
Publishing | DC co-publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio talk about the comics market as a whole, variant covers, and their move to Burbank, among many other topics, in a three-part interview. [ICv2]
Commentary | Christopher Butcher discusses the way the comics audience has diversified, and the way that parts of the industry (the parts that aren’t involved, basically) have refused to acknowledge the enormous popularity of newer categories of comics by “othering” them: “‘Manga aren’t comics,’ went the discussion. They were, and are in many ways, treated as something else. The success that they had, the massive success that they continue to have, doesn’t ‘count’. All those sales and new readers were just ‘a fad’, and not worthy of interest, respect, or comparison to real comics. It was the one thing that superhero-buying-snobs and art-comics-touting-snobs could agree on (with the exception of Dirk Deppey at TCJ, bless him): This shit just isn’t comics, real comics, therefore we don’t have to engage it.” Butcher sees these attitudes changing at last, though, thanks to the massive commercial and critical success of books like Raina Telgemeier’s Smile (three years on the New York Times graphic novel best-seller list!) and Mariko and Jillian Tamaki’s This One Summer. [Comics212]
Graphic novels | The 70th volume of Naruto topped the June BookScan graphic novel charts, followed by Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home and the 23rd volume of The Walking Dead. The rise up the chart by Bechdel’s celebrated 2006 memoir can probably be chalked up to its musical adaptation, which opened in January on Broadway and earned five Tony Awards. [ICv2]
Conventions | Lisa Halverstat rounds up some facts about Comic-Con International, including the number of attendees at the first Comic-Con (100), the number of scheduled events (2,040) and the amount of money con-goers are expected to spend in San Diego ($80.4 million, or $619 per person). [Voice of San Diego]
Comics | In advance of a radio show titled “White Men in Capes,” to be broadcast Tuesday, BBC News looks at diversity in comics and finds it lacking; as DC Entertainment Co-Publisher Dan DiDio says, there “doesn’t seem to really be a proper representation of ethnic characters across the entire industry.” He talks about DC’s efforts to bring diversity to its line, and he explains why: “There’s a very hungry audience, excited audience and the reason why we know that exists is because we go to the conventions and we hear from our stores and you hear the make-up of the people shopping in those stores.” [BBC News]
In the 75 years since he was introduced as the original Robin, Dick Grayson has inspired a legacy and numerous imitators, battled a staggering array of criminals, led the Teen Titans, graduated to the identity of Nightwing, and even assumed the mantle of Batman, for a while. But his greatest achievement very well may be surviving the past decade of DC Comics.
DC Entertainment Co-Publisher has gone on the record time and again that he wanted Nightwing as the “big death” in 2005’s Infinite Crisis, which was underscored in January when he uncovered the original whiteboard pages for the event’s timeline (Jason Todd then would’ve assumed Nighting’s identity, only to be rejected by the Bat-Family). However, it turns out that plans for Dick Grayson’s downfall predate even that.
We’re in the second week of what I suppose I should call “Divergence,” because “Not the New 52″ sounds a little too cute. Last week was the first proper look at the new Superman status quo, and this week features the first full issue of the new Batman. For the most part, the new directions and relaunches I’ve seen have been pretty intriguing. However, underlying them is the age-old issue of maintaining a character’s core attributes.
I’ve talked about this before in the context of honoring a character’s creators. William Moulton Marston wanted Wonder Woman to have a very specific social-justice viewpoint, and to a certain extent Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster had a similar goal for Superman. Nevertheless, the two characters ended up developing in different ways.
Marston’s creative voice was never really duplicated, so Wonder Woman became just a bit more generic. Meanwhile, Superman’s multimedia success resulted in a number of new influences, which eventually helped transform Siegel and Shuster’s creation into an Establishment figure. Of course, subsequent shifts in society generally and comics particularly would push back, as with the Green Lantern/Green Arrow stories and Jack Kirby’s Jimmy Olsen in the ‘70s to the more socially conscious Wonder Woman stories in the ‘80s, ‘90s, and ‘00s.
After more than three years as the New 52 brand, DC Comics is retiring the branding and undergoing a status quo shakeup following the events of “Convergence.” The new initiative will not have a unifying name and will be comprised of 25 continuing series and 24 all-new ones, some featuring creators and concepts that are completely new to the publisher.
To get as many people as possible excited about these new offerings, DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio revealed during a discussion with members of the press that the company plans on releasing a number of original eight-page stories highlighting these fresh starts for free via the DC website, comiXology and other platforms.
“If you get yourself into a grind with event after event, sooner or later, you’re going to be only artificially propping up the sales of your books, and your line itself. Only the event is what’s driving people, not the individual characters, and you’re being forced to add more and more things in just to attract attention. The bigger win for us is to be able to rotate the crops a little bit. Replant the land, grow strong characters, and that way, when we build something else out of it, we have a much stronger base from which all these other stories can be told. And if you look back in DC’s history, and even comics history, most of these characters that exist today, that are all now traveling in a group setting, in every event, from one event to the next — they travel as a traveling sideshow, almost — that wasn’t the case when they were introduced. Every character existed and breathed in its own right, and when they crossed over, it was special. What we want to do is make those individual things special again.”
– DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio, talking with Comic Book Resources about the company’s post-“Convergence” plans
If DC Comics’ announced overhaul of its publishing line in the aftermath of Convergence took you back nine years to Infinite Crisis and “One Year Later,” you’re definitely not alone.
“To me, the similarities between the two are quite prevalent,” DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio wrote over the weekend on his Facebook page. “In terms of expectations and challenges, the lessons learned in the ‘One Year Later jump’ were applied to insure our June series (hopefully) don’t experience some of the same pitfalls (you can draw your own parallels after reading).”
Launching in March 2006, the “One Year Later” storyline pushed the narratives of all of the DC Universe titles one year after the events of Infinite Crisis, allowing creators to explore the ramifications of the crossover’s continuity changes (there were also numerous series cancellations, launches, relaunches and renamings). That time gap was then filled in with the weekly series 52.
The 2005-2006 DC Comics crossover Infinite Crisis may be best remembered for Superboy-Prime’s “continuity punch,” and for a staggeringly high body count. However, it turns out that figure could’ve been a little higher, and perhaps even more controversial.
While cleaning his basement, DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio uncovered the original whiteboard pages laying out the event’s timeline, as well as a “hit list’ (below), which is exactly what it sounds like — a rundown of characters marked for death.
“Always fun to see where we started now that we know where it ended up,” DiDio wrote on his Facebook page.
Publishing | DC Entertainment Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee talk about the state of the comics market, DC’s upcoming move from New York City to Burbank, the growing female audience and more. “There’s also a diversification within the audience itself the past couple of years,” Lee observed. “You’ve seen more women, more female readers, in general. When we launched Batgirl and Gotham Academy, those books struck a different note, different tonality, and that was in large part due to editor Mark Doyle bringing these projects together with different kinds of creators. It was our way of broadening the base of the Batman family of books but doing it in a different way to attract a different audience. I think it speaks well to the future that we’re not just going to strike the same note looking for the same customer. […] You can’t necessarily rely on the same continuity, the same core hardcore comics-driven material; you have to diversify, broaden your net and bring in different voices to the company.” [ICv2]
Maybe it’s the exhaustion talking, but I can’t stop watching this GIF of Jim Lee, Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Dan DiDio, John Romita Jr. and Scott Snyder from the Entertainment Weekly Social Media booth at Comic-Con International. It may be my favorite thing today, at least until I find the next thing …
“Two centuries. I would love to see what kind of foil or hologram Dan DiDio could put on a book in the year 2214.”
— Superman writer Geoff Johns, responding to a question in his Reddit AMA thread about how long, in an ideal world, would his run on the series be. Other highlights from the Q&A can be found at Comic Book Resources.