Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
Finally, it’s here. After months of speculating about the practical effects of DC Comics’ cross-country move, the publisher revealed its regular lineup, which starts in June. With 20 new ongoings and four new miniseries joining 25 returning titles, it’s widely seen as the end of the New 52. I wrote about that aspect of DC’s news over the weekend, but today it’s time to dig into the emerging details of the new superhero line.
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Actually, let’s begin with one more nail in the New 52’s coffin: Just 12 of those initial 52 ongoings will continue unabated in June’s lineup. Moreover, eight of those 12 are books DC will publish until the last sun flickers out: Action Comics, Superman, Detective Comics, Batman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and Justice League. The other four charter New 52 members surviving to June are Batgirl, Catwoman, Green Arrow and Aquaman.
Artist Ken Lashley leaped into the spotlight this week with his collaboration with writer Gail Simone on DC Comics’ latest incarnation of Secret Six. No stranger to the publisher, he’s provided covers for such titles as Suicide Squad and Superboy, and drawn interiors for Superman: Doomed. A quick glance of CBR’s previews archives reveals the variety of work he’s done for other publishers in recent years, including a couple of AXIS Revolutions covers for Marvel.
To get an idea of the variety of characters Lashley draws, as well as some of his commissions, one needs only to look at his Instagram profile (where he posts under the username Ledkilla). In addition to the range of talent he shares with his fans, he clearly relishes shooting some of his samples at interesting angles, adding a layer of kineticism.
Last week I laid out a lot of numbers and background on the distribution of character-oriented franchises in the New 52. (Along the way I got confused about the New 52 version of G.I. Combat; it was canceled after Issue 7, but its zero issue brought its total to eight.)
Accordingly, this week discusses whether the New 52 needs to get back up to its eponymous number of titles, or whether a smaller stable of ongoing series is a more sustainable environment. We’ll get into some other concerns as well, but the overarching question — as DC transforms its biggest franchise, the Bat-books — involves how the publisher chooses to allocate its resources.
(Because I forgot to do it directly last week, I want to acknowledge my debt to Dave Carter, who started me thinking about all this when he charted New 52 longevity in January and who, providentially, has just started listing DC rosters of Augusts past.)
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When DC Comics relaunched its superhero line in 2011 with the New 52, there was an unmistakable sameness to the aesthetic of many of the titles. Sure, there have been some eye-catching exceptions, but for the most part, the Jim Lee-led character redesigns have exerted great influence over the DC Universe for the past three years.
If you’re a fan of Jim Lee, that’s pretty awesome. If you’re a fan of a lot of artists and styles, that’s less awesome and has made the New 52 sometimes frustrating and occasionally baffling. There are more than 75 years’ worth of characters bursting with the imagination of hundreds of creators. Why filter all that down to such a narrow experience for readers? I love Oreo cookies, but can I ever have chocolate chip cookie?
But then, along comes new Batman Group Editor Mark Doyle, who moved from Vertigo in February. Suddenly, there’s a new creative team, a new costume and a new outlook, for Batgirl, followed by announcements of Gotham Academy, Arkham Manor and, just Tuesday, Gotham By Midnight, demonstrating that Batman and his world are a resilient and powerful corner of the DC Universe. It’s one where offering different aesthetics adds a richness to the entire line while (possibly) attracting the eye of those looking for something different in their reading experience.
Essentially, Doyle just installed a snack bar. So let’s go eat!
Conventions | The Phoenix Convention Center was evacuated Thursday, the first day of Phoenix Comicon, after a fire alarm was triggered by a damaged heat sensor (something similar occurred during last year’s event). Attendees were allowed back in to the venue after about 30 minutes. The convention, which in 2013 drew a record 55,000 people (leading organizers to cap attendance), continues through Sunday. [The Arizona Republic]
Retailing | Kirby Tardy, owner of Collectors Comics in Grand Rapids, Michigan, looks back at 35 years in the business. The store opened downtown in 1979 as Opalia’s Amorphium, and started out carrying a wide range of merchandise; since then it has gone in the opposite direction from many comics shops and focuses mainly on comics themselves, not peripheral items like figures or games. At one time there were several branch locations, and Tardy and his wife Debbie spent a lot of time going to comics conventions in the 1990s. The couple is planning to retire next year, but hopes the business will continue with new owners. [MLive.com]
“The nice thing about coming in to write the New 52 is I don’t have to worry about what came before the New 52. That stuff is great and it can serve as inspiration, but continuity is the devil. [laughs] As a writer, having to slavishly make sense of too much continuity can kill a story. Yes, you want to stay true to the spirit of things, and continuity can absolutely be your friend in creating resonance and a sense of history and paying off certain emotional things – BUT: It was a beautiful, beautiful thing for me walking into the New 52 and being able to look at a small range of stories that had been told, and those are the things that are set in stone, and the rest of it we can make up as we go. We can build the stories that make sense for our characters in order to tell the emotional story that we’re telling.”
– Action Comics and Batman/Superman writer Greg Pak, on juggling different timelines, and different worlds, in the two DC Comics series
The past decade has been good one for Cully Hamner. His creator-owned miniseries Red has served as inspiration for two hit feature films, and he’s found himself in the upper echelon of DC Comics’ talent roster as a cover and interior artist, as well as a character designer for the publisher’s New 52. Now the Alabama-born artist, who recently turned 45, is working on an undisclosed “big” project for DC that will allow him to both draw and co-write, something he’s been wanting to do for years. While he has penned stories for anthologies and one-shots, this will mark his first time writing on a larger scale.
I’ve talked with Hamner for years by email and at conventions, discussing trends in comics, his own work and our shared interest in superhero costume design. After several months of back and forth, I finally caught up with him for this conversation.
It doesn’t matter how many years I’ve read comics, on the eve for the launch of a new series that piques my interest, I always get pumped with excitement. Such is the case this week, given that writer Cullen Bunn and artist Dale Eaglesham‘s Sinestro #1 hits shelves on Wednesday.
The series marks a departure in style for Eaglesham as he pursues a darker, horror tone, an approach he discusses in this interview. He also discusses discusses the opportunity to digitally ink his art, being colored by Jason Wright, collaborating with Bunn, and looking forward for the chance to indulge in Kirby dots (aka Kirby Krackle).
In summer 2011, the Geoff Johns/Andy Kubert event series Flashpoint was reaching its climax, and the fifth issue was devoted to The Flash trying to unscramble the mixed-up, dystopian timeline in a typically Flash way — by running around really fast.
Near the end, there was a strange, two-page spread of an interlude that seemed almost grafted on: The Flash catches a glimpse of a mysterious, hooded woman with glowing eyes and lines all over her face, who says portentously, “Because the history of heroes was shattered into three long ago. Splintered to weaken your world for their impending arrival. You must all stand together. The timelines must become one again.”
The timelines were those of the DC Universe, the WildStorm Universe and a handful of DCU characters who had mainly been appearing in books published by DC’s Vertigo imprint. The result? The New 52, the biggest and most dramatic reboot the oft-rebooted, retconned and otherwise tinkered-with DC Universe had ever experienced in the history of forever; they even relaunched Action Comics and Detective Comics!
Although the five-years-later setup of Futures End won’t be here until May, it got me thinking about a not-so-new New 52. The current comics take place some five years after Superman and company debuted — plus, apparently, a year for the face-free Joker to recuperate — so if you add five more years, it’s like double the amount of history! Well, double the amount of history that “matters,” I guess.
As I have been pretty critical of the present timeline, I’ll be curious to see how Futures End treats those additional five years. I suspect that, for the most part, they’ll be five years of “filler,” in the sense that mostly bad, Futures End-specific things happened during that time to bring DC-Earth to whatever sorry state we see in FE #1. I’ve heard that when all the New 52 books jump ahead five years (in September, naturally), they’ll reflect where their creative teams would like to take the characters in five years — but those will only be single issues, as opposed to the year-long weekly installments of Futures End. Besides, my bitter, resentful impulses remind me that it might well have been simpler just to start off with a 10-year timeline that would only have tweaked the old pre-relaunch status quo, not thrown out huge chunks of it.
DC’s serialized superhero-style comics operate on two basic levels: First, they’re an array of periodicals, with a different lineup of issues published each week. Next, those installments are collected into distinct volumes and published on a separate schedule. That’s nothing new. The single-issue reader sees the books differently from the collection-oriented reader, and each way has its advantages and disadvantages. These days, however, caught somewhere in the middle is the miniseries.
Since the New 52 relaunch, miniseries have been a lot more scarce in DC’s superhero line. That’s understandable, considering that the New 52 itself began as a group of ongoing series, and (even if DC isn’t putting out exactly 52 of ‘em each month) it takes a good bit of effort to maintain that many regular titles. Nevertheless, not so long ago, superhero-style miniseries were about as plentiful as their ongoing cousins. The last time I looked at the numbers in detail was in the summer of 2008 — when, over the previous five years, miniseries issues accounted for about one-third of the superhero line’s output.
Of course, DC still produces big event-style miniseries — just look at Forever Evil and its spinoffs, to say nothing of the Before Watchmen minis — but those tend to be sure things, as are the recent Damian Wayne and Batman: Black and White miniseries. The kind of miniseries that tests the market’s appetite for a particular character — think Huntress, My Greatest Adventure or Human Bomb — has become considerably more rare since the New 52 debuted. Instead, the New 52 has produced low-selling, quickly canceled ongoing books like Blackhawks, Sword of Sorcery, Threshold and Green Team. That track record isn’t exactly flattering, so today we’ll look at whether DC might want to ease up on the ongoing-series commitments, and put more minis back on its schedule.
This look at DC’s latest round of solicitations may be quicker and dirtier than usual, mostly because this week I thought I was going to be talking about Teen Titans’ cancellation. We’ll do a little of that this week, along with the other titles on the chopping block.
However, for a while now we’ve known that April — being the first post-Forever Evil month — will feature some big changes, and those start right here.
BY THE NUMBERS
I count 47 ongoing New 52 series, but that includes the six books canceled as of April, and it only counts Batman Eternal — which, contrary to my expectation, is not solicited as a limited series — once. Thus, if DC still wants to hit the magic number, it needs to come up with 11 new series for May.
“I know it was a bit of heavy lifting for some of the longtime fans of the core characters on the book — and Newsarama fans haven’t been shy about voicing their complaints — but I can’t find it in my heart to apologize.
I was hired to write a series that started the team ‘on page one’ … no history, no preexisting relationships, for readers that were not familiar with the concept of Teen Titans. The new continuity being what it was, Bart could not have been Bart Allen from the future, Superboy could not have been a clone who spent the last few months living on the Kent Farm as Ma and Pa had died some 10 years ago, and on and on. … so while I wouldn’t expect anyone to agree with every choice I made or was handed, I will say I remain very proud of the book I’ve worked on for the last 30-odd issues.”
– writer Scott Lobdell‘s message to longtime Teen Titans fans as the DC Comics series heads toward its April cancellation
Hot on the heels of Monday’s news that Wally West is poised to make his long-requested New 52 debut comes word that Ted Kord, the second Blue Beetle, will return to the DC Universe in April.
Ted Kord returns to the DCU in Forever Evil #7, and plays a role in Justice League post-Forever Evil,” writer Geoff Johns teased Newsarama in an interview tied to this morning’s announcement that Lex Luthor will join the team in the aftermath of the crossover.
Time once again to revisit some thoughts about the year just ended, and offer some thoughts on the year to come.
First, let’s see how I did with 2013:
1. Man of Steel. Last year I asked “a) how well will it do with critics and moviegoers; and b) yes, of course, will it help set up Justice League?” It got a 55 percent (i.e., Rotten) ranking from Rotten Tomatoes (although 76 percent of RT visitors who cared to vote said they liked it). Financially, Box Office Mojo called it a “toss-up,” putting it in the same category as Star Trek Into Darkness, World War Z, The Wolverine, The Hangover Part III, Pacific Rim and, uh, The Smurfs 2. I liked it well enough — I seem to like a lot of things “well enough” — but perhaps Super-fan Jerry Seinfeld’s musings about missed opportunities speak best to the film’s reception. MOS itself didn’t help set up a Justice League movie, at least not as expressly as, say, Nick Fury talking about the Avengers; but I think it’s safe to say that the sequel will go a long way in that regard.
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