DC Comics: The New 52
“… I got back into comics because of stereotypes. I think there was some big controversy in some convention — I wasn’t in the industry because I was off doing other things — about how there were no women in comics, and then I got a call, ‘We need women in comics.’ So if I got back into the industry because I’m a token female, I say great! I’m all in! [...] They put me on Green Arrow, and I have to admit, I just didn’t get Green Arrow. I struggled with him. He was a rich playboy in an armored suit who was young. I liked the old Green Arrow, the wise guy who was stealthy and a social crusader — Denny O’Neil’s Green Arrow. This was a different Green Arrow and I didn’t connect with him. Now, doing Katana and Catwoman, I have no idea if there was a meeting where someone said, ‘Let’s give the girl writer the girl books,’ but I instantly related to those characters! It’s fun to write girls.”
– veteran writer and editor Ann Nocenti, discussing her recent return to comics in a fascinating conversation with Louise Simonson at Comic Book Resources that touches up their careers at Marvel, creations like Longshot and Power Pack, attitudes toward female creators in the ’80s, and much more
Publishing | This wrap-up of the third annual India Comic Con, which drew an estimated 50,000 attendees (up from 15,000 last year), doubles as a snapshot of that country’s $22 million comics industry. The growth of the market is attributed in large part to the rise of graphic novels, which are luring young-adult readers. [The Times of India]
Comics | Writing for The Atlantic, Noah Berlatsky weighs in on the backlash over DC Comics hiring Orson Scott Card in an article titled “The Real Reason to Fear a Homophobe Writing a Superman Comic”: “It’s disturbing to have Orson Scott Card writing Superman, then, in part because Superman is supergood, and the supergood shouldn’t hate gay people. But it’s also disturbing, perhaps, because Superman is a violent vigilante — and because violent vigilantism in the name of good is often directed not against injustice, but against the powerless.” [The Atlantic]
Publishing | Todd Allen analyzes the sales of DC Comics’ New 52 titles from their September 2011 launch to the past month. Sales of any series tend to drop off from one issue to the next — Allen compares it to radioactive decay — and when the numbers drop below 18,000 for a couple of titles, DC tends to cancel them in batches and start up new titles to replace them. That plus crossovers and strong sales of some flagship titles has kept the line fairly stable until recently, but as Allen notes, the replacement titles tend to crash and burn pretty quickly, and overall sales have dipped a bit. [Publishers Weekly]
History | David Brothers has a great column for Black History Month, featuring Krazy Kat, All-Negro Comics and other titles by black creators. [Comics Alliance]
Retailing | Diamond Comic Distributors has announced it will return to Chicago April 24-26 for its annual Diamond Retailer Summit, held in conjunction with the April 26-28 Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo . The three-day event includes presentations from sponsoring publishers, focus groups, and retailer workshops and roundtables. [Diamond Summits]
Awards | Johanna Draper Carlson has resigned as a judge for the 2012 Glyph Comics Awards following a disagreement over which works are eligible for the annual honors. Carlson believed judges should be able to nominate comics (as is the case with the Eisners), but the organizers limited the pool to comics that were submitted to them, which resulted in a smaller group of nominees. [Comics Worth Reading]
Comics | A Columbus, Ohio, entertainment weekly lays out a case for the city — home of Jeff Smith, the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum and the Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo — becoming, like Portland, Oregon, a hub for comic books. “Comics in Columbus is a weird underground, sort of hip-hop thing,” indie publisher Victor Dandridge Jr. says. “We’re like hip-hop in the Bronx in ’79, just on the corner doing our thing.” [Columbus Alive]
Conventions | Bart Beaty files a final report on this year’s Angouleme International Comics Festival, and his verdict is … meh. “There was a consensus all around that the show was flat. People would throw around adjectives like “fine,” “good,” and “okay.” It wasn’t a disaster (as were some of the shows disrupted by construction), but it also wasn’t that memorable either” [The Comics Reporter]
On the heels of Thursday’s wave of cancellations, DC Comics has announced two new politically themed series from creators Gail Simone and Freddie Williams II, and Art Baltazar, Franco and Ig Guara.
Debuting in May, the companion titles The Movement and The Green Team bring into the DC Universe the economic issues that propelled the Occupy movement and dominated much of the 2012 presidential election. In short, they’re a look at the 1 percent and the 99 percent — the haves and the have nots – in a world populated by superheroes.
“The Movement is an idea I’ve had for some time,” Simone tells The Huffington Post. “It’s a book about power — who owns it, who uses it, who suffers from its abuse. As we increasingly move to an age where information is currency, you get these situations where a single viral video can cost a previously unassailable corporation billions, or can upset the power balance of entire governments. And because the sources of that information are so dispersed and nameless, it’s nearly impossible to shut it all down. [...] The previous generations of superheroes were not created to address this, it’s a legitimately new frontier, both for the real world and for storytellers. ”
When I talked about DC Comics’ April solicitations a few weeks back they hadn’t yet been “WTF-Certified.” (Caleb has an excellent roundup of the WTF specifics, and I am unlikely to improve on his observations.) That phrase suggests strongly either that DC is no longer interested in anyone young enough to use “Why The Face” in casual conversation; or, conversely, that polite society now freely tolerates even an abbreviated F-bomb.
Whatever the reasoning, DC wants its April fold-out covers to be SO! SHOCKING! that even the casual browser cannot refuse them. This is not a bad goal in and of itself. Indeed, we might quibble about which quick exclamation best captures such a “must-read” impulse — OMG! would be too Bieber-feverish, and “wait, what?” is taken — but as far as real WTF covers go, these are a bit tame.
See, back in the olden days, when print publications actually sold well, a comic’s cover absolutely had to command the consumer’s attention, and thereby encourage him or her to spend a few hard-earned coins (ask your parents, kids) on the new DC titles. The late Julius Schwartz is supposed to have said that a book would sell well if its cover boasted a gorilla, a motorcycle, the color purple and/or a question posed to the reader. (During Mark Waid’s editorship of the 1980s Secret Origins, its 40th issue got all four.) As there was no Internet providing potential readers with constant updates — and therefore requiring a steady stream of update-friendly factoids — the cover had to do all the heavy-lifting.
DC Comics this afternoon announced the May cancellations of six more series, a mix of first-, second- and third-wave New 52 titles: Deathstroke, The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Man, The Ravagers, The Savage Hawkman, Sword of Sorcery and Team 7.
They follow DC Universe Presents, I, Vampire, Saucer Country and Superman Family Adventures, which end with with their April issues.
“There’s a variety of reasons for when we unfortunately have to cancel a book,” DC Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras told Comic Book Resources. “The main focus on this, and this is the big picture, is we try to take a look at it as, these characters will not go away. Even though, yes, Savage Hawkman is being canceled, you’ll be seeing a lot of him in Justice League of America. We have also plans for Deathstroke going forward. So even though, as I said, the monthly title is going away, the characters are still going to be very important to the ongoing storyline of the New 52.”
Whether due to use-it-or-lose-it legal concerns about trademarks, or simply to remind everyone of exactly what it owns, DC Comics has come up with a variety of ways to recycle old titles, ranging from the 1997 Tangent event to the anthologies Mystery in Space and Ghosts to the short-lived National Comics revival.
This week the company brought back Young Romance, the title of the Joe Simon/Jack Kirby-created comic that was published from 1947 to 1975, as a Valentine’s Day special featuring a half-dozen stories of romance in the New 52 DC Universe.
An interesting mix of creators are involved, an interesting enough mix to merit a look at what they might do with some of these characters and couples in eight pages. So join me for mini-reviews of every story in Young Romance: The New 52 Valentine’s Day Special.
DC Comics announced last week that its April superhero comics will be “WTF Certified,” presumably because the month kicks off with April Fool’s Day. In doing so, the publisher made itself the easiest of targets for snide remarks. Let’s take a quick sample of the ones I found in just a five-minute search:
- “[A]n all-too-apt description of the current state of the publishing company” — The AV Club’s Oliver Sava
- “I am looking forward to ‘MILF March’ featuring all the superheroes’ mothers” — Mike Sterling
- “DC has the ability to sell comics to literally anyone with an internet connection now. It’d be nice if their tenor reflected that.” — Kevin Church
- “The company announced that all 52 of its mainstream titles would have a ‘WTF Certified’ stamp on it, presumably as a wink to fans who have been wondering what the fuck has been going on at DC.” — Outhousers.com
- “This is not a hoax, not an imaginary story, but a certified edgy promotion! The covers are gatefolds, with the “What the” part on the front and the ‘fuck’ part on the inside.” — Heidi MacDonald
- “Remember how DC is having their mature and genteel ‘WTF Month,’ where the cover is supposed to fold out and make you swear in shock and exasperation … and if children still read DC comics, presumably get your mouth washed out with soap?” — Todd Allen
- “I thought every month was WTF month at DC?” — about one-fifth of everyone leaving a comment beneath an online article on the subject
It’s not that weird for DC Comics (or, to be fair, arch-rival Marve), to occasionally be metaphorically walking around with a “Kick Me” sign on its metaphorical back, but it is pretty weird for DC to affix the sign itself and make such a big, aggressive show of pointing it out to everyone.
So let’s get to kicking them, I guess. But where to start? With the name of the event, naturally.
According to recent convention scuttlebutt, DC Comics is apparently canceling its latest Hawkman series, the New 52-launched Savage Hawkman, perhaps as early as May’s Issue 20.
That is not the least bit surprising, really, given the publisher’s historical difficulty in keeping readers interested in Hawkman, and given the way in which the title and the character were served by the line-wide reboot and the accompanying creative-team chaos. It’s too bad, though, given how easily DC could have simply published the sort of Hawkman title the 21st-century super-comic audience would support, rather than The Savage Hawkman.
The series launched in September 2011 along with the other 51 new series comprising DC’s New 52 initiative, featuring a rebooted continuity for the then 71-year-old hero and a redesigned costume featuring more armor and pointed edges (most notably a set of Wolverine-like claws frequently waved in the direction of the reader on the covers). The creative team consisted of artist-turned-writer/artist Tony S. Daniel, who was just handling the writing, and Philip Tan, who was providing the art.
Over the summer I wrote about the rate of “idea generation” across decades of DC history. Essentially, I was talking about the number of new ideas (or new uses for old ideas) being produced under current superhero-comics storytelling trends. Idea generation and world-building go hand in hand, such that the more ideas you can harmonize into a reasonably coherent (and accessible) shared universe, the better.
The 2006-07 weekly miniseries 52 put DC’s shared universe to good use. Written by Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka and Mark Waid, laid out by Keith Giffen, and drawn by an array of artists, 52 had a handful of C- and D-list characters guide readers through various obscure corners of the DCU. 52’s locales included a Metropolis without Superman, Black Adam’s Khandaq, an island of mad scientists, and the farthest reaches of outer space. 52 also featured its share of new characters, like the Chinese super-team called The Great Ten, the intergalactic despot Lady Styx and the dark religion of the Crime Bible. Of course, it also debuted new versions of Batwoman, the Question, Infinity Inc. and Supernova.
Because it chronicled a year in which the Trinity of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman each disappeared from public view, and because it had that year all to itself (thanks to the other titles’ concurrent “One Year Later” time-jump), 52 gave readers a unique opportunity to poke into the dusty corners of DC’s attic. Due (mostly) to the vagaries of its truncated timeline, the New 52 apparently doesn’t have such an extensive history. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t take readers on a similar journey.
If it’s the first Grumpy Old Fan of 2013, it must be time for “Ten From the Old Year, Ten For the New.” For those who came in late, every January I evaluate 10 predictions/observations from the previous year, and present 10 for the next. Accordingly, first we have commentary on 2012′s items.
1. The Dark Knight Rises. I had three rather superficial questions about the final Christopher Nolan Batman movie. First, “[c]an it make a skillion dollars?” Not quite — while it did make over a billion dollars worldwide, it didn’t make as much as its predecessor domestically, and it came in second to The Avengers. Next was “[w]ill it have Robin?” Well … [SPOILER ALERT] it depends on your definition of “Robin,” I suppose. And finally, referring to certain issues about Bane’s elocution, “[w]ill it have subtitles?” Nope — as it turns out, they weren’t needed. Instead, Bane’s accent was perfectly suited to breaking not just Batman, but Alex Trebek as well.
Veteran creator Jim Starlin, who last month revealed he’s taking over as writer of an unnamed DC Comics series, teased the project over the weekend with a look at a potential costume design for the still-unannounced project.
“Here’s a new outfit design that may or may not be used in the on-going comic series I’m writing for DC Comics,” he wrote on Facebook. “Still can’t tell you what it is and I’m sure this posting will only confuse things even further than they already are. Aren’t guessing games terrific fun?” He added, “I’ll check this week and see if DC will let me show more teasers, maybe some of the artist’s layouts for the pages. Then everyone can guess who he is.”
Starlin, who’s best known for his Marvel cosmic stories, hinted last month that the existing DC series is one “I have never before had anything to do with.” His run is expected to begin in April.
At the end of every year Carla Hoffman and Tom Bondurant exchange emails about the fortunes of the Big Two. Look for Part 2 on Wednesday!
Carla: Here we are, heading toward the year the Mayan calendar might not have thought would ever come: 2013. The future gets closer and closer! Technology advances! Politics change! And yet, comic books are still here. How cool is that? It’s been a heck of a year, full of ups and downs, movie premieres, new #1 issues and the never-ending race to produce better, faster comics.
I have to admit, Image has been doing a really great job keeping up with the Big Two, producing award-winning books in a variety of formats and getting involved in TV to draw new readers into a wide array of comic book genres. But we’re not here to talk about them! We’re here for the greatest shows in town, the Merry Marvel Marching Society and … our Distinguished Competitors.
My first question is kind of a no-brainer: How’s the New 52 treating you these days? And, after a year, is it still the “New 52″?
Tom: Well, as a practical matter, it’s the “New 52″ for as long as DC wants it to be. Actually, I think I have stopped seeing that little blurb on the covers. I happened to look at Aquaman #15 yesterday, kind of out of the corner of my eye, and was surprised it was there. Part of me thinks that it could confuse those hypothetical new readers, but then I thought that about “Earth One,” and that doesn’t seem to have hurt those books.
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