After four installments, Comic Book Resources’ monthly “B&B” feature, in which DC Comics Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras and Editorial Director Bobbie Chase answered questions from readers and CBR’s Josie Campbell, is no more. Jerry Ordway’s work situation, and controversies generally, were apparently to blame. Of course, DC is free not to participate in such things, and CBR is likewise free to investigate such controversies on its own. Still, the whole thing only highlights the problems DC has had in connecting successfully with fans.
Now, it may be more accurate to say DC has had problems connecting successfully with fans who are vocal about their negative opinions of the company. For all I know, DC may be quite popular with whatever audience it has targeted. Regardless, despite its constant PR presence, today’s DC seems a lot more guarded than it has been; and I think that can only hurt it in the long run.
Ironically, part of the problem is the corporate-comics news cycle. Each week’s worth of DC books has a couple of promotional features, namely the “All Access” editorial and the new “Channel 52″ two-pager. Beyond that (and probably more frequently than once a week) the company issues press releases and facilitates interviews for various news sites. Furthermore, each month’s solicitations advertise what’s coming out at least two months in the future; and during convention season the company can manage its particular messages in person. That’s a lot of information for a company whose bread and butter come from a few dozen monthly 20-page story installments.
Publishing | In advance of Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio and Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada discuss who’s reading their comics, and the creative challenges of writing about characters who have been around for generations. Asked if he was the custodian of contemporary myths, DiDio answered, “You know, I feel like a renter, to be honest. I’m in charge at this moment, and the goal is to keep these myths healthy enough so that, eventually, you can pass them down to the next person who rents them.” [Chicago Tribune]
Conventions | Christopher Butcher, the organizer of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, talks about how the show has grown and what to expect this year, including an interesting slate of international creators, from David B. to Taiyo Matsumoto. [The Comics Reporter]
Like the early-morning regrets after an all-night bender, DC Comics reportedly has decided to pull back from plans for its “WTF Certified” cover promotion — at least in terms of the controversial title.
Newsarama reports that Co-Publisher Dan DiDio told attendees at last week’s ComicsPRO annual meeting the “WTF Certified” logo won’t appear on any of the comics released in April, “because we don’t need it.” According to an unnamed retailer, DiDio said there’s already awareness of the event among store owners and readers.
When contacted this morning by ROBOT 6, DC declined comment.
The title refers to the linewide event featuring gatefold covers designed to reveal scenes that “leave reader in a state of shock.” “This was a way to accentuate that threat or shocking moments in our heroes’ lives,” Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras said in a Jan. 14 interview with Comic Book Resources. “What we’re doing with the covers is thematically linked to that. They will be page-fold covers; the covers will tell you a story. There will be an image that will crack the page fold, and as you open up the cover, you’ll say, ‘Oh, wow!’”
DC Entertainment Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee will appear with a half-dozen DC creators on the Jan. 22 episode of Face Off, the Syfy competition series that pits special-effects makeup artists against each other.
The episode, shot in July at Comic-Con International, challenges the competitors to create their own superheroes with assistance and advice from Lee, Mark Buckingham, Cliff Chiang, Tony S. Daniel, David Finch, Nicola Scott and J.H. Williams III. The winning design will be featured in Justice League Dark #16, which goes on sale Jan. 30.
Publishing | Pulp heroes The Spirit, Doc Savage and The Avenger disappeared from the DC Comics lineup more than a year ago, with Co-Publisher Dan DiDio now confirming on his Facebook page that the company’s rights to the characters have lapsed. Brian Azzarello paired the vintage characters with Batman, Black Canary, the Blackhawks and other current DC heroes in his First Wave miniseries, which launched in 2010. Heidi MacDonald adds, “we’ve heard that at WB it was pointed out that DC paying good money to license old characters didn’t make much sense when they had their own catalog of little-used characters to exploit.” [Blog@Newsarama]
Digital comics | As noted here Monday, comiXology was No. 3 on the list of top-grossing iPad apps of 2012, and in the press release announcing this, the comiXology folks dropped another number on us: They have served more than 2 billion pages since their launch three years ago. [comiXology]
“I have just completed scripting the first two issues of an on-going series for DC Comics,” he posted Sunday on Facebook. “Can’t say what the title is until DC wants the news out. But I imagine a lot of people will be quite surprised to see me take over the writing chores on this particular property. Been having a (surprisingly) fun time with it so far.”
Starlin later added, “It’s a title I have never before had anything to do with, really from out in left field. Shouldn’t be too long before DC Comics makes the announcement. I believe my issues begin in April.”
That second comments narrows down the possibilities somewhat, as Starlin has worked on such DC titles as Action Comics, Batman, Detective Comics, The Flash, The Legion of Super-Heroes and Superman. OK, maybe that doesn’t help so much after all. However, we do know that it’s an existing series.
Starlin’s announcement comes just as DC confirmed that industry veteran J.M. DeMatteis will join Dan DiDio as co-writer of Phantom Stranger with March’s Issue 6.
Comics strips | An original 1986 Sunday installment of Calvin and Hobbes, drawn and hand-colored by Bill Watterson, has sold at auction for $203,150. The piece had been owned by Adam@Home and Red and Rover cartoonist Brian Basset, who exchanged original comics with Watterson in 1986. [The Daily Cartoonist]
Best of the year | The Top Ten lists are coming thick and fast now. Michael Cavna counts down his favorites of the year, which include Chris Ware’s Building Stories, Raina Telgemeier’s Drama, and Matt Dembicki’s Washington, D.C.-focused anthology, District Comics. [The Washington Post]
Best of the year | … and George Gene Gustines weighs in with his list. [The New York Times]
Seemingly in response to blowback from Thursday’s surprise announcement that one-time Vertigo flagship Hellblazer will be canceled and resurrected in the New 52 as Constantine, DC Comics has released a statement from Co-Publisher Dan DiDio expressing pride in the nearly 25-year-old series.
“We’re supremely proud of Vertigo’s Hellblazer, one of the most critically-acclaimed series we’ve published,” DiDio said. “Issue #300 concludes this chapter of Constantine’s epic, smoke-filled story in style and with the energy, talent and creativity fans have come to expect from Peter Milligan, Giuseppe Camuncoli and Stefano Landini. And no one should worry that John is going to hang-up his trenchcoat — he lives on in March, in the pages of the all-new DC Comics New 52 ongoing series, Constantine, by writer Robert Venditti and artist Renato Guedes.”
If the statement was meant to soothe fans of Hellblazer, the only remaining title from Vertigo’s 1993 launch, it didn’t work. One commenter on the DC Comics blog insisted that, without the comic’s trademark vulgarity, nudity and adult themes, “it cannot possibly be the same.” Another referred to the upcoming Constantine as “basically Hellblazer-lite.” Still another fan offered his take on DiDio’s comments, summarizing, “We are very proud of Hellblazer so we are cancelling it. This logic is perfectly sound!” (At our sibling blog Comics Should Be Good, Sonia Harris offers her own thoughts on the announcement, and ideas for making Constantine for financially lucrative.)
However, Venditti, best known for his work on The Surrogates and the newly revived X-O Manowar, assured his Twitter followers that, “I have a TREMENDOUS amount of respect for Constantine and the creators who made him who he is. I’m taking this very seriously.” Asked whether the New 52 version of John Constantine will still be bisexual, he replied, “Keeping everything under wraps right now, but the goal is to keep Constantine recognizable. Don’t fix what ain’t broke! “
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is famed as host of PBS’s NOVA scienceNOW and as a frequent guest on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. But as of this week, he’ll also be known as the man who located Krypton.
In a story called “Star Light, Star Bright” in Action Comics #14, which goes on sale Wednesday, Tyson himself helps Superman find his homeworld on the last day of its existence.
“As a native of Metropolis, I was delighted to help Superman, who has done so much for my city over all these years,” Tyson said. “And it’s clear that if he weren’t a superhero he would have made quite an astrophysicist.”
In reality, using information provided by DC Comics, the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History did pinpoint a red dwarf star capable of supporting of Krypton-like planet in the constellation Corvus — 27.1 light years from Earth. The star can be seen at right ascension 12 hours, 10 minutes, 05.60 seconds, and declination 15 degrees, 04’ 15.66.
“This is a major milestone in the Superman mythos that gives our Super Hero a place in the universe,” said DC Entertainment Co-Publisher Dan DiDio. “Having Neil deGrasse Tyson in the book was one thing, but by applying real world science to this story he has forever changed Superman’s place in history. Now fans will be able to look up at the night’s sky and say – ‘that’s where Superman was born.’”
Legal | The prosecution has laid out its case in the trial of former 2000AD artist Brett Ewins, who was charged with “grievous bodily harm with intent” following a January incident in which he allegedly stabbed a police officer responding to complaints about a man shouting throughout the night. Ewins, who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia years ago and is on medication for it, suffered cardiac arrest during the confrontation and was hospitalized for three weeks. He reportedly has no memory of the incident. The defense will contend that the blow to the head rendered him unconscious (like a sleepwalker) so he was not aware of what he was doing. [The Evening Standard]
“The New 52 is one year old today! We knew going in that it was a major risk and heard every concern, but we had faith in what we were doing and felt it was the right thing for our characters, company and industry. Needless to say, the relaunch achieved everything we hoped for and more! Thanks to everyone for taking the chance and joining us on this wild ride. We have a month long celebration with Zero Month in September and knowing what we have in store for 2013, its easy for me to say, the best is yet to come.”
– DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio, marking one year since the Aug. 31, 2011 debut of Justice League #1
by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, the flagship of the company’s linewide relaunch
While DC Comics is marking the first anniversary of the New 52 in September with a Zero Month, for the second anniversary the publisher is considering a much larger celebration: a linewide crossover.
“I’d love to be able to celebrate the anniversary of The New 52 with something that feels so special and something that unifies the line thematically (maybe not story-wise),” Co-Publisher Dan DiDio tells ICv2.com. “We’re leading to probably our first crossover event in the latter half of next year, but you’re going to see a better continuity developing through the line.”
Publishing | ICv2 sits down for a three-part interview with DC Comics Co-Publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio that takes the long view of the past year, covering the launch of the New 52, the effect of digital and the loss of Borders, and the recent discussions around creators’ rights. “It’s a cyclical thing. It’s an issue that constantly comes back,” DiDio said. “We hear about the great jobs and the great books that creators might participate in, but what we don’t hear about are all the books we’ve invested in over the years that never delivered, where we’ve invested in the talent and the time to make sure they had the opportunity to tell the stories they tell. It’s a very big picture, and it’s a very complex issue that can’t be boiled down. One thing I feel the most strongly is that I feel extraordinarily confident that we do everything we can to make this a very creator friendly company, to make sure they have an opportunity to tell the stories they want to tell with our characters and also in their creator owned stories too.” [ICv2]
A brief indulgence before we get started: July 14 marked eight years since I started blogging about comics on my own little website, the now-dormant Comics Ate My Brain. Since one of my first posts was called “Robin Problems,” it’s a happy coincidence that this week we return to the original superhero-sidekick identity.
Although I’m not always happy with DC Comics as a company, I have a lot of empathy for the people who work on superhero comics, especially those who populate convention panels. Regardless of how we think they’re doing their jobs, those are still their jobs, and I wouldn’t want to go to work every morning facing a steady torrent of criticism from my customers. (We lawyers get more than enough workplace second-guessing as it is.) It also can’t be easy traveling around having to face one’s critics in person.
That said, if the alternative-fuels industry could harness avoidable fan outrage, DC Comics would be the new OPEC. Once again demonstrating a knack for how not to behave, its panelists practically laughed off legitimate questions about switching out fan-favorite Bat-protege Stephanie Brown for the “more iconic” Barbara Gordon.
After those original accounts appeared online (on Friday the 13th, no less), more details emerged to help explain just who did what. It’s still a situation where DC higher-ups asked to remove Stephanie (which, it can’t be said enough, is really asking for trouble); but apparently the series’ writer got to choose her replacement. Don’t worry, we’ll get into all the nuances.
Nerdist has posted video from the LA Times Festival of Books panel in April in which DC Comics Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee discussed Before Watchmen, the hotly debated sequel to the influential 1986 miniseries by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. The conversation was widely reported on at the time, but now you can watch it for yourself.