REVIEW: "DC Universe: Rebirth" #1 Makes the Future of DC Comics Look Genuinely Bright
“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.
As with many Jack Kirby creations, we could spend a long time on the Forever People. I’m not a Kirby scholar, although naturally I’ve tried to learn more about what the King wanted his characters to be. In that respect, the end of the original Forever People series was somewhat ironic: Kirby closed out Forever People Vol. 1 #11 (October-November 1972) with the group stranded on the distant planet Adon, far away both from Earth and from the ongoing conflict between New Genesis and Apokolips. Indeed, “stranded on Adon” was still their status when the big Who’s Who encyclopedia came out in 1985-86.
Not surprisingly, since then DC has revived the Peeps (if I may call them that) a handful of times. The latest is this week’s Infinity Man and the Forever People, which switches things up a little by giving top billing to the mysterious being who can trade places with his young allies. When DC announced that Dan DiDio and Keith Giffen were writing and drawing, I was skeptical, but willing to give it a chance.
In fact, it’s not a bad first issue. It introduces most of the cast (except for one headliner), it lays out a good bit of the New 52’s New Genesis setup, and while it occasionally seems a bit “edgy for its own sake,” generally it keeps to the spirit of the original. One character even says “without [Kirby], none of this would be possible.” That’s pretty on the nose, but appreciated.
Regardless, the new Forever People has a lot to live up to.
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Aw yeah! In my household, the best news from DC’s June solicitations is the six-issue Tiny Titans: Return to the Treehouse miniseries. I showed the cover to my 5-year-old and she was crestfallen to learn it didn’t come out for another three months. At least she can fill the time reading the other paperbacks (and Superman Family Adventures) and watching Frozen on an endless loop.
I may also have to get the Li’l Gotham figures, although at $13 a pop they are pretty pricey. Perhaps just Batman and Robin.
Oh, there’s more? What could it be …?
LET’S GO PLACES
The solicitation for Futures End #6 — advertising Ray Palmer, Frankenstein and Amethyst’s trip into the Phantom Zone — makes me irrationally optimistic about the series generally. I think the New 52 needs this series (or something like it) to present a coherent shared universe, because for the past two and a half years it’s been a clash of disparate styles and an array of changes without much to pull it all together. If Futures End can manage a good-sized, eclectic cast, and convince readers they’re all able to function in the same basic environment, that’ll go a long way towards giving the superhero books common ground.
“When you think of Superman in the 1950s, only a handful of artists come to mind – and Al Plastino’s one of them. Along with the likes of Wayne Boring and Curt Swan, Plastino brought a level of humanity to Superman that had never been seen before. This amazing, super-human being now had a smile like you or me. He brought out the human side of a modern myth. It was nuanced but game changing. We can’t thank him enough for his work at DC, and we’re thinking of all those close to him during this difficult time.”
– DC Entertainment Co-Publisher Dan DiDio, discussing the work of prolific Superman artist Al Plastino, who passed away at age 91
Dan DiDio informed his Facebook followers Thursday that he was set to appear on today’s episode of tje daytime talk show The View, and the DC Entertainment co-publisher did appear — not as an in-studio guest, but as one of several industry dignitaries who interacted with co-host Whoopi Goldberg at New York Comic Con.
Goldberg explained at the beginning of the segment that she attended the convention seeking advice on how to get her comic book idea published. In addition to DiDio, Goldberg — already a part of geek culture due to her role as Guinan on Star Trek: The Next Generation — sought the counsel of Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada, Kevin Smith, Seth Green, Clare Grant, Ronald D. Moore, Diana Gabaldon, True Blood‘s Kristin Bauer van Straten and more, in a comedic montage segment.
“The greatest thing I discovered is it’s really family oriented,” Goldberg said of the event. “People come dressed with their families. … They’re happy to be there.” Watch the segment below.
The unexpected connection between comic books and The View is set to continue Friday morning, with DC Entertainment Co-Publisher Dan DiDio booked to appear on the daytime talk show. The guest spot stems from The View co-host Whoopi Goldberg’s attendance at last weekend’s New York Comic Con, where the EGOT winner reportedly shopped around a graphic novel idea.
“Tomorrow on The View, I get to appear with Whoopi Goldberg and listen to her comic series pitch,” DiDio wrote Thursday on his Facebook page. “I only hope she brought samples of her work!”
According to the World Entertainment News Network, Goldberg was at NYCC participating in the the time-honored tradition of trying to break into the comic book business. “I was pitching a comic book that I’m hoping to do… I’ve been a comic book kid all of my life,” the actress/host/comedian is quoted as saying. “One of those things you don’t see is … comic book heroes, female, with any hips, you don’t see them over 12 years old, maybe something sagging a little, nothing is ever moving. So I’m working on something that will alleviate that … It will be me (as a superhero) … I do look like a comic book hero and I love that.”
DiDio showed a sense of humor about his convention encounter with Goldberg, saying in the comments section of his Facebook post, “Whoopi was sweet, humble and gracious, you never would have known she was a comic fan.”
Last year, The View announced Marvel’s same-sex marriage between Northstar and his boyfriend Kyle in the pages of Astonishing X-Men; The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman appeared on the show in 2011. Whether the View panel will ask DiDio any Wally West questions remains to be seen.
Longtime collaborators Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani have been on a roll recently, partnering their Aw Yeah Comics store with Alter Ego Comics, tackling Itty Bitty Hellboy at Dark Horse, which will also collect their Aw Yeah Comics series, and bringing the “Li’l” treatment to several Dynamite Entertainment titles.
However, they’re not finished yet: Aureliani announced over the weekend on Twitter, “Big news out of DC comics and @dandidio1 says so: can you say: Tiny Titans?,” followed by, “Yes! It’s true! New Tiny Titans coming soon!” Although there’s been no official announcement, DC Comics Co-Published Dan DiDio re-tweeted the second message.
The Eisner Award-winning all-ages series, which ran for 50 issues from April 2008 to May 2012, depicts the lighthearted adventures of child versions of DC heroes (primarily the Teen Titans) at Sidekick City Elementary, where Deathstroke is principal and Darkseid is the lunch lady.
There’s no word yet on when, or in what format, fans should expect the return of Tiny Titans.
I read all 13 of the Villains Month issues released this week by DC Comics, and in so doing I saw 89 people killed (Kryptonians and Thanagarians included) in all manner of ways. I saw people shot to death with laser guns, with regular old bullet guns, with eye-beams, with an arrow and even with an umbrella. I saw people stabbed, bludgeoned, impaled, decapitated, blown up, pushed off buildings, flash-frozen and shattered. I saw someone’s neck snapped, someone’s life-force magically drained, people sliced in half with psionic energy, and others torn to pieces by claws.
I saw a bestial woman eat the still-beating hearts of her victims.
But man, the rabbit that Arcane tore in half? That’s the image that sticks with me from this week’s Villains Week offerings. Thank God they didn’t put that on the cover; imagine that arc of rabbit innards being flung your way in lenticular 3D!
DC Entertainment may not have planned it this way — “planning” being something with which DC may be only tangentially familiar — but I doubt its high-ups wanted to release these December solicitations the Monday after what had to be a pretty rough weekend. When you’ve just had to deal with a celebrated creative team walking off a fairly successful book — citing “editorial interference,” and reminding people that the character’s original writer also left after increasing frustration with DC — you might not want to follow that up by calling attention to all the other changes coming before the end of the year.
And don’t worry, there’ll be plenty of Batwoman and “sucky personal life” talk before we’re done. Solicits first, though …
If the first week of Villains Month is any indication, a good bit of the decimal-point issues will feature stories set in the early stages of the Crime Syndicate’s takeover. This wasn’t that apparent from the September solicits, and subsequent months also appeared light on explicit crossovers. December is about the same, with Teen Titans dropping out of the crossover lineup, and Pandora and Phantom Stranger joining the three Justice League books, the three Forever Evil [Colon] miniseries, and Suicide Squad.
I’m still kind of flummoxed by Dan DiDio’s comments last weekend at Baltimore Comic-Con explaining why Batwoman can’t marry her girlfriend Maggie Sawyer. “Heroes shouldn’t have happy personal lives,” he said at the start of the DC Nation panel, according to several sources. “They are committed to being that person and committed to defending others at the sacrifice of their own personal interests. It’s wonderful that they try to establish personal lives, but it’s equally important that they set them aside. That is our mandate, that is our edict and that is our stand with our characters.”
I don’t disagree with the idea that main characters ought to struggle. A sunny walk through the park doesn’t make for much of a gripping adventure yarn. That is pretty basic writing strategy for drama: Put your characters through hell and watch them climb out. Serialized superhero stories, and in fact most Western narratives, are structured around that up and down of going from seeming defeat to triumph. It’s particularly appropriate for Batman and his family of books: The Dark Knight is built around tragedy, and his obsession over fixing that tragedy is what drives him. Bruce Wayne continually sacrifices his personal life in his constant pursuit to make sure what happened to him won’t happen to anyone else. It’s that drive that’s turned him into something of a social misfit — he can play the part of Mr. Debonair but getting emotionally close to him is almost impossible.
So on that level, I don’t disagree with DiDio.
Students of DC Comics’ publishing history can probably rattle off at least a few editors from the company’s first few decades. Whitney Ellsworth edited the Batman and Superman books in the 1940s and ‘50s before becoming a producer on the Adventures of Superman television series. In the Silver Age, Mort Weisinger presided over an exponential expansion of Superman’s mythology, including all those varieties of Kryptonite, the introductions of Supergirl, Krypto and the Legion of Super-Heroes, and ongoing series focused on Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. Similarly, as editor of the Batman titles, Jack Schiff supervised one of the character’s most recognizable periods, filled with colorful mysteries and giant-sized props.
Of course, the phrase “Silver Age DC” is virtually synonymous with Julius Schwartz, who worked with writers Gardner Fox and John Broome and artists Carmine Infantino, Mike Sekowsky and Gil Kane on rebuilding DC’s superhero line. One could argue fairly reasonably that without them DC Comics as we know it today might not exist (and neither would today’s Marvel).
However, while Ellsworth became DC’s editorial director in 1948, Schwartz Schiff, and Weisinger weren’t in similarly lofty positions. Today we readers hear a lot about “editorial control” and the dreaded “editorial interference,” charges aimed largely at the men at the top: Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras, Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee and Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns. We hear a lot from them (illuminating and otherwise) about the general direction of the company. We also hear a good bit from various writers and artists, including Johns and Lee, regarding specific titles.
Nevertheless, on the management tier in between are the books’ editors themselves; and that’s the area about which I’ve become rather hazy. Therefore, I started looking through New 52 credits boxes, and supplementing this research through the Grand Comics Database, to see who was editing what.
Publishing | ICv2 has one of its periodic Big Interviews with DC Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee, this time covering how new readers are finding digital comics, how variant covers are working and graphic novel sales in bookstores, among other topics. Here’s Lee’s rather elliptical take on the flurry of recent changes in creative teams: “Without getting into the specifics, from the outside looking in, it might look like there’s a string of changes that point to one common theme, as you suggest. But from the inside looking out, you’ll see that each one has a different set of circumstances and conditions that ultimately led to the conflicts or the resignations or changes in creative personnel.” [ICv2]
Retailing | ICv2 also reports that Amazon and Overstock.com are having a price war on graphic novels, and readers are the beneficiaries. The website did a little shopping around and found a handful of graphic novels priced at up to 70 percent off full retail. [ICv2]
As part of the big push for the opening of Man of Steel, and the 75th anniversary of Superman, DC Comics Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee appeared this morning on Bloomberg Television to discuss the evolution of the character, the new series Superman Unchained, digital comics, and what trickle-down effect the film might have on the company’s comics.
Lee on Superman Unchained: ““I was working with Scott Snyder and we said if we could only tell one Superman story, this is what we would tell. If you only have one shot you want to do all the classic element of superman. We have lots in there. We have Lois. We have Lex Luther doing diabolical things. There is a new villain named Rathe. I think we can reveal that now. That is an exclusive. Scott will hate me for that [Laugher]. We are adding things to his mythology and that’s how you keep him fresh and relevant.”
If the recent New York Times profile of former Vertigo Executive Editor Karen Berger — to say nothing of industry sentiment — made it appear as if the position and prestige of the 20-year-old imprint have been greatly diminished under the restructured DC Entertainment, the company would like to assure you otherwise.
A new Associated Press article, which seems tailored in response to that May 29 piece, turns the spotlight away from Berger and on to her successor Shelly Bond, who has worked at the imprint since its launch in 1993.
The Times contends that Berger’s departure in March “raises questions about the future of Vertigo and where its renegade spirit fits into an industry and a company that seem increasingly focused on superhero characters who can be spun off into movies and TV shows.” However, Bond speaks in rosier terms about the direction of the imprint, which lost its last founding title — and longtime flagship — in February with the end of Hellblazer (which was resurrected in the DC Universe as Constantine).
“I am so ready to bring in some new blood and new bravado and just continue to show the masses that comics are the most essential part of pop culture,” she tells The AP.
In the recent New York Times profile of former Vertigo Executive Editor Karen Berger, Dave Itzkoff writes that DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio “said it would be ‘myopic’ to believe ‘that servicing a very small slice of our audience is the way to go ahead.'” It’s a weird way to structure the quote, but assuming Itzkoff is accurately capturing what DiDio meant, that’s a controversial stance for DC to take.
But he kind of has a point. Heidi MacDonald rightly notes that Vertigo books make up roughly one-third of DC’s list of essential graphic novels, but if we’re just going by sales, Vertigo’s slice of DC’s pie does look pretty small. According to Diamond Comic Distributors, just 6 percent of DC’s graphic novels in April’s Top 100 were Vertigo titles. The percentage was a lot higher in March (15 percent), but only 7 percent in February. The number of Vertigo titles in the Top 100 has been pretty consistent in the past three months: two or three. What made the difference in March was that DC had less Top 100 titles overall. Of course, that only covers a short amount of time and only includes direct market sales, but if we look at a list of what DC considered its top-selling graphic novels as of last autumn, only about 13 percent of those are from Vertigo. None of that is super-scientific, but it paints a pretty good picture of how much Vertigo contributes to DC in terms of sales.