INTERVIEW: Gail Simone Guides 'Blockbuster Update' of Red Sonja, Vampirella and Dejah Thoris
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.
On Friday, DC Comics announced four titles will launch in September, at which point the New 52 DCU (or New52U) will be one year old, and every title will get a special zero issue (you remember; you were there).
At this point, it’s unclear whether DC will be canceling four existing books to make room for this third wave of new titles — remember when the publisher announced a half-dozen new books in May, it was to replace a half-dozen canceled ones — but given the amount of work that went into making “The New 52″ a thing, it seems likely that four books will be canceled shortly to keep the number consistent.
Of course, DC doesn’t always do what seems most likely, does it? For example, when rebooting and relaunching the entire line of comics in an attempt to increase readership by seeking out new audiences, it mostly just rearranged their creative teams, so the “new” DC Comics were being made by the same people who made the “old” DC Comics, which is a little like a losing baseball team deciding to have all the players trade positions and see if that helps.
But what about these new titles? Who is making them, and what chance do they have in today’s market? Better than Hawk and Dove and OMAC? What chance do they have of growing today’s market or, at the very least, growing DC’s readership?
Let’s take a closer look at the books, and judge them by the judge-able information DC has released: Continue Reading »
Publishing | Bob Wayne, DC Comics’ senior vice president of sales, and John Cunningham, vice president of marketing, discuss May sales figures, which show the publisher edging closer to Marvel in market share and Batman topping Justice League. Wayne also explained why DC won’t change its practice of publishing collected editions first in hardcover, then as inexpensive paperbacks: “While certain titles do get a deluxe or an Absolute Edition at some point, we think our retailer would be leaving a lot of money on the table if we didn’t give consumers the chance to buy hardcovers first on select titles. The sales we are having in both channels on Batman and Justice League in the month of May indicate that we don’t have that many people waiting the trade, looking for that cheaper edition. A lot of people seem to want a nice durable hardcover and we plan to follow this model for the foreseeable future.” [ICv2]
Piracy | Manga scanlators (and proprietors of other bootleg comics sites, such as HTMLComics.com) have argued that reading manga on their sites is no different from checking it out of the library. Librarian and graphic novel expert Robin Brenner explains why that just isn’t so. [About.com]
Although DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio emphasized just last month that his goal is to keep the core DC Universe line at 52 titles, with new books introduced only after others are canceled, this morning’s official announcement of four series debuts alongside the September “Zero Month” initiative will push the count past that magic number. At least temporarily.
IGN.com confirmed with DC that there will indeed be more than 52 in September with the addition of the “Night of the Owls” spinoff Talon, the fantasy Sword of Sorcery (anchored by “Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld” with a “Beowulf” back-up), The Phantom Stranger and the DCU/Wildstorm-merging Team Seven. Each title will debut with a zero issue, and then continue in October with #1.
However, that doesn’t mean no New 52 titles are being canceled: The publisher already revealed that Justice League International will end in August with Issue 12 (artist Aaron Lopresti is now penciling the Amethyst feature in Sword of Sorcery), and it’s likely it won’t be alone for long.
“We’ve announced one cancellation already, which is Justice League International, and at this time, we’re looking at reviewing the rest of the line,” DiDio told Newsarama. “But one of the primary goals is to maintain the number 52 as the number of series that we’ll be doing on a continuing basis. […] One of the things we try to do in this case is, as the expression goes, [not] throw the baby out with the bath water. So if a series does go away, we want to make sure we have a proper place for the characters, because the idea of just bringing everything to an end or a close so that nobody else can use anything else from there is detrimental to the line and the universe that we’re building. So the primary goal here is, even if a book comes to an end, that there’s some aspect of that series that moves forward and still continues on.”
DC has rolled out its “Third Wave” announcement with interviews across the Internet with Talon co-writer Scott Snyder, Sword of Sorcery creators Christy Marx and Aaron Lopresti, The Phantom Stranger writer Dan DiDio and Team Seven writer Justin Jordan. Check out the zero-issue covers for Batman Incorporated, Team Seven and Talon below. (Update: Now with full Talon cover and The Phantom Stranger promo image.)
“The big selling point is that this material is true to the source material, but it gets the chance to examine all the aspects of Watchmen that made it great. We’re seeing the characters in a different light, but also a light that is reflective of the original material. And we found ways to really push the stories in new directions but be true to the original concepts and conceits.
We’re bringing on some of the greatest writers in comics today, as well as the greatest artists, and together they’re creating a package that we feel could stand side by side with the original material.”
– DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio, discussing the draw of Before Watchmen
Brian Truitt has a nice backgrounder on the Before Watchmen controversy at USA Today that allows both sides to state their case. If you’re just tuning in, on the eve of the sprawling prequel’s debut, this will save you a lot of time. The basic question: Should DC Comics create a prequel to Alan Moore’s Watchmen despite his opposition to the project?
DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio: “The strength of what comics are is building on other people’s legacies and enhancing them and making them even stronger properties in their own right.”
Former DC writer Chris Roberson: “Watchmen is a book, complete in one volume, with a beginning, middle and end. The continued attempts to recontextualize it as a ‘franchise’ or a ‘universe’ are, I think, part of the problem.”
Darwyn Cooke, one of the Before Watchmen creators, also observes that Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons does support the new books, and that his voice should not be ignored. (Cooke is also spotlighted in a separate article about the Before Watchmen: Minutemen miniseries, which debuts Wednesday.)
Still not heard from: Lewis Carroll, L. Frank Baum and J.M. Barrie on how they feel about Moore’s reuse of their characters in Lost Girls.
“There was no master plan behind it all; we certainly had that character storyline in motion months ago before President Obama had come out with his statement, and the timing of the Marvel thing was coincidental because it was at Kapow that someone asked the question. You can’t necessarily manufacture that kind of attention in the mainstream press. Sometimes these things take on a life of their own, and this was a story that was literally picked up and went on its own. But that said, the point it raises is really good, it’s an interesting discussion. Dan’s answer came out of someone asking, ‘In the New 52, you’ve had a chance to change heroes ages and their origins and their race — why didn’t you change any sexual orientation?’ Basically Dan decided, you know what, maybe this was an opportunity to do some of that. The storyline comes out of that rethinking of what our standard policy was before.”
Although readers will have to wait until sometime in June — perhaps not coincidentally, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month — to learn which established DC Comics character will be reintroduced as gay, we already know at least two details: It’s a major character (better luck next time, Doll Man), and it’s a guy.
“One of the major iconic DC characters will reveal that he is gay in a storyline in June,” Courtney Simmons, DC Entertainment’s senior vice president of publicity, confirmed to ABC News following the weekend revelation by Co-Publisher Dan DiDio that the formerly heterosexual figure will become “one of our most prominent gay characters.”
With those 18 words, Simmons drastically narrows the list of candidates, eliminating such popular guesses as Vibe (he’s neither a major character nor an iconic one) and Hawkgirl (she’s a … she). However, Simmons’ quote also raises the question of just what DC considers “major” and “iconic.”
Less than a year after Dan DiDio indicated that DC Comics wouldn’t alter the sexual orientations of existing characters in the New 52, the co-publisher revealed Saturday at the Kapow! Comic Convention in London that he’s changed his position.
When asked by a fan during a convention panel why race or age could be changed in the relaunch but not sexual orientation, Bleeding Cool reports DiDio responded that a previously established heterosexual character will be reintroduced as “one of our most prominent gay characters.” Bob Wayne, senior vice president of sales, added that like President Obama, DiDio’s stance “has evolved.”
Just as the initial reviews of Before Watchmen begin to trickle in, DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio takes to The Guardian to defend the sprawling prequel, which he calls “a love letter” to the seminal 1986 miniseries by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, and to respond to the writer’s scorching criticism of the project as “completely shameless.”
“Honestly I can understand why he might feel the way he does because this is a personal project to him,” DiDio tells the U.K. newspaper. “He has such a long and illustrious career and he’s been able to stand behind the body of work he’s created. But quite honestly the idea of something shameless is a little silly, primarily because I let the material speak for itself and the quality of the material speak for itself.”
He reiterates that DC won’t “shy away from the controversy on this – as a matter of fact we’re embracing it because we have belief in the strength of the product and stand behind it.”
DiDio also dismisses assertions by Moore that DC is “still apparently dependent on ideas that I had 25 years ago,” saying that, “all the characters in all the universes and all that we do in comics, we’re constantly building on other people’s lores and legends. […] Realistically some of Alan’s strongest works at DC outside of Watchmen were built off of characters like Swamp Thing which was created by Len Wein, Superman, Batman, so many of our great characters he’s worked on and they helped build his career.”
Earlier today Kevin linked to all those images of Before Watchmen that BuzzFeed had posted after their visit to the DC offices, but if you’re less curious about the project and are more curious as to what the inside of Dan DiDio’s office looks like (spoiler alert: comics!), they took a bunch of pictures of DC’s working environment as well. Click on over to see the reception area, the giant mural depicting several DC characters by different artists, and the offices of Will Dennis, Mark Chiarello and DiDio.
Spurred by DC Comics’ upcoming Watchmen prequels and its prolonged legal battle with the heirs of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, iZombie writer Chris Roberson announced last week he would end his relationship with the publisher following the release of his Fairest arc — only to have the company decide his “services were no longer required” for the Fables spinoff. The developments triggered substantial discussion, and debate, online, so it’s perhaps to be expected that Roberson would be brought up over the weekend to DC Comics Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee during the Before Watchmen panel at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.
Asked by moderator Geoff Boucher how, as a creator, Lee reconciles Roberson’s comments about DC’s position on creators’ rights, the Image Comic co-founder replied, “I don’t know the writer, Chris [Roberson], and so — you know, it certainly would have helped if I could have talked to him or if he would’ve reached out to me. It seemed odd to me — as a creator, I would not publicly state I have a problem with the company that’s paying me to do work for them and I’m going to quit after I finish this one project. It would seem wise to me to wait until you finish that project to voice that complaint.”
DiDio was more terse in his response, saying, “As far as I’m concerned, he made a very public statement about not wanting to work for DC, and we honored that statement.”
“See,” Lee joked, “now that’s the line that’s going to run.”
The great strength of DC’s superhero line is its heterogeneity — that is, its history of bringing together different genre-based roots and different storytelling approaches. However, as the shared-universe model came to dominate superhero serials, DC’s various high sheriffs have tried to impose various kinds of order on these disparate perspectives. Starting in the Silver Age, the infinite Multiverse organized characters broadly, for example by generation (Earth-Two), publisher (Earth-X, Earth-S, Earth-Four), or special category (the Crime Syndicate’s Earth-Three, the Zoo Crew’s Earth-C). Crisis On Infinite Earths consolidated a lot of that, The Kingdom’s Hypertime sought unsuccessfully to reincorporate it, and 52 compromised with a scaled-back set of parallel Earths. Today, the New-52 setup still has a Multiverse, but the main DC-Earth has scaled back its superheroic history dramatically.
Details aside, though, each of these cosmological structures is an attempt to bring some deeper meaning to DC’s superhero line. Put simply, for a long time DC’s superhero books weren’t about something, whereas Marvel presented a “world outside your window” in which superpowers came with their own sets of problems. Thus, from the post-Crisis 1980s until the end of Flashpoint last summer, DC was arguably “about” superheroic legacies, and had no small success putting new faces with old names.
And again, those details are not especially germane to today’s post. Instead, I want to talk about the nature of DC’s various traditions, the extent to which those traditions should guide the publisher, and whether DC’s superhero books can, collectively, ever really be “about” anything.
Internet | Sandman co-creator Neil Gaiman joined with Trent Reznor, Aziz Ansari, OK Go and 14 other members of the creative community in signing an open letter to Congress against the PROTECT IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act. “We fear that the broad new enforcement powers provided under SOPA and PIPA could be easily abused against legitimate services like those upon which we depend. These bills would allow entire websites to be blocked without due process, causing collateral damage to the legitimate users of the same services – artists and creators like us who would be censored as a result,” the letter states.
Warren Ellis and Fantagraphics have also come out against the bill, while Peter David, who is against the bill in its current form, takes aim at those who “endorsed the piracy, supported the piracy, enabled the piracy, felt their own actions weren’t piracy, and now refuse to accept the consequences of their own actions.” ComicsAlliance has posted an editorial against the bill and rounded up webcomic reactions to the blackout. [NeilGaiman.com]