Axel-In-Charge: Facing the 'Divided' Marvel NOW! Future
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! “
New Superman writer Scott Lobdell is wasting no time putting his mark on the relaunched series: With this week’s Issue 13, he shakes up Clark Kent’s life, as well as one of the foundational elements of the Man of Steel’s mythology. Warning: If you don’t want details of Superman #13 spoiled before Wednesday’s debut, turn back now.
[Note: all this was written before I read any of this week’s comics.]
As mentioned last week, part of this look back at my New 52 reading is the chance to see where I might drop some titles. Not that I want to be negative unnecessarily, but it’s always good to make sure you really like what you buy. While I do buy some books “just because,” it’s very easy simply to fall into the habit of reading the same things month in and month out, neither looking forward to them nor missing them when they’re gone.
Therefore, let’s push through some bad vibes and talk about a couple of books I let drift away. Besides Superboy (covered last week), there was Red Lanterns (written by Peter Milligan, penciled by Ed Benes) and Grifter (written by Nathan Edmondson, penciled by CAFU). Originally I liked Red Lanterns because I thought it had recast Atrocitus as a distracted middle-management type, questioning his place in the universe while his functionaries went down their own demented paths. However, as the months went by the series never really built up any momentum, and for a premise based around the blood-spewing power of RAGE!!!1!! that’s not so good. Much the same applies to Grifter: thought it had potential, but it didn’t hold my interest.
“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
So what, exactly, does a chief creative officer do? Well, if the chief creative officer in question is Geoff Johns, then one of the most obvious answers is “write a whole heck of a lot of comic books.”
Johns is writing three ongoing monthly books for DC Comics, all of which happened to ship this week. While reading them all doesn’t exactly give one a copy of his job description, it does give one a sense of what he’s doing at DC, what he’s not doing and what’s different from his role at the publisher than when he was merely its most popular and prolific writer.
Michael Green, Mike Johnson and Mahmud Asrar’s Supergirl is my favorite superhero comic right now. What they’re doing on that series is remarkable. Asrar’s gotten a lot of credit for the unique look he gives the comic, and that’s justifiable: He gives the characters a lot of emotion that enhances Green and Johnson’s script. He also knows how to draw convincing teenagers, and I especially like his younger-looking Superman, who appears to be around the same age as Supergirl. I wouldn’t want that in the Superman series or Action Comics, but it makes the two characters look more like peers in Supergirl, which is important for the story these guys are telling.
The series begins with Supergirl’s emergence from some kind of pod/spaceship with no memory of how she got there. From her perspective, she was just on Krypton, getting ready to go through some kind of coming-of-age ceremony. Her cousin Kal-El was just an infant a few moments ago, so when Superman shows up at the crash site, she’s distrustful of him. He’s not so sure what to make of her either.
The rest of the series so far is largely a fish-out-of-water story in which Supergirl tries to figure out her place on Earth. Green and Johnson plot this out in a believable, kind of heartbreaking way, with Supergirl’s trying to avoid making Earth her new home. Twelve issues in and she still hasn’t mastered an Earth language. She even returns to what’s left of Krypton to test Superman’s claim that it’s been destroyed.
Even as the debate still rages over last week’s revelation that Superman and Wonder Woman begin a romantic relationship in the new issue of Justice League, The Associated Press introduced a potential new wrinkle: that in DC Comics’ New 52, not only have the Man of Steel and Lois Lane never dated — something readers have known for more than a year — but that they “likely” never will.
However, a DC spokesman told Comic Book Resources the latter assertion “definitely” didn’t come from the publisher, which has characterized the story development as “the new status quo,” one made possible by the year-old relaunch that wiped clean much of the history of the DC Universe.
The Twitter tirade unleashed by Rob Liefeld last week when he announced his abrupt departure from three DC Comics titles boiled over this weekend as the outspoken creator took aim at Batman writer Scott Snyder and Marvel’s Senior Vice President of Publishing Tom Brevoort.
On Wednesday Liefeld, who had been writing and penciling Deathstroke and plotting Grifter and The Savage Hawkman, criticized DC for what he described as ‘massive indecision, last minute and I mean LAST minute changes that alter everything” and “editor pissing contests,” singling out Associate Editor Brian Smith as “a little bitch” and “a big dick.”
Snyder, among other creators, came to Smith’s defense on Twitter, writing that, “from my small experience with him, [Smith] has been a great guy to work with. To be fair, I know absolutely nothing of what went on on Rob’s books (Rob has always been really supportive of me and Jeff and others). But I’d feel bad, having worked with Smitty on N.O.T.O. [“Night of the Owls”] and now Joker, […] if I didn’t say that he’s been a stand-up guy to deal with. Again, nothing against anyone, just deal w/Smitty every week now, and I’d feel bad not saying.”
About that time Liefeld tweeted to his followers, “It’s not you. It never has been. It’s Batman.” That apparently triggered a direct-message exchange with Snyder that Liefeld later made public, first by copying the writer’s private comment, “I can assure you Batman doesn’t sell the way it does because it’s Batman. It sells that way because of me and Greg [Capullo],” and then by posting screencaps (below).
Rob Liefeld, who teased last month on the heels of Grant Morrison that he too would be leaving DC Comics soon, announced his abrupt departure this morning with a flurry of tweets criticizing his editors and the handling of the New 52. Although he’s listed in the solicitations for Deathstroke, Grifter and The Savage Hawkman through November, the writer/artist states that next month’s zero issues will be his last.
“Officially got off the DC52 treadmill this morning,” he wrote, adding, “I believe in what DC is doing, but had to preserve my sanity. I walked off all 3 books. Can’t wait to see any attempts to spin. I have every email.”
Liefeld was among the original creators when DC launched the New 52 a year ago, penciling and later also writing Hawk & Dove before moving in May to Deathstroke (writing and penciling), The Savage Hawkman and Grifter (plotting both).
“This is the 4th time I quit in the last 4 months. This time it will stick,” he wrote from a theater, where he was watching The Expendables 2. “Never thought the Image section of my book would be topped. This last year was a humdinger. The DC52 chapters will go top all of it. […] Reasons are the same as everyone’s that you hear. I lasted a few months longer than I thought possible. Massive indecision, last minute and I mean LAST minute changes that alter everything. Editor pissing contests… No thxnjs. Last week my editor said ‘early on we had a lot of indie talent that weren’t used to re-writes and changes … made it hard.’ Uh, no, it’s you.”
Liefeld is only the latest creator to exit DC’s New 52 titles amid complaints of a relaunch plagued behind the scenes by disorganization and indecision. Notably, George Perez expressed his frustration over the repeated rewrites and lack of creative freedom that he contends led to his run on Superman being cut short.
“Don’t look for any tell all interview with me,” Liefeld added. “Just follow this feed. … the best stuff has not been shared — not even close!”
Although we’ve seen many new titles in DC Comics’ New 52, there really haven’t been new characters. Sure, we’ve been introduced to new versions of old favorites or new additions to larger, historic franchises, when you’re talking about wholly new concepts, with no years of built-up awareness, then the New 52’s titles are rather … old. That is, until September’s Talon series.
Talon spirals out of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman story arc “Night of the Owls,” in which Bruce Wayne discovers a centuries-old secret society named the Court of the Owls has been operating under his nose. The new series follows Calvin Rose, a member who goes rogue and tries to stay one step ahead of the organization. This isn’t a new character carrying the legacy prefix of Bat-something, Super-something or continuing the legacy of an entrenched hero like Green Lantern; Talon is a new character, cut from a new cloth. And that’s important.
DC and Marvel have been chided (and rightfully so) by fans and pundits for their inability to create new characters with new titles to join established stalwarts like Spider-Man and Batman. But just as Hollywood studios find it easier to produce sequels and retreads, the superhero universes of DC and Marvel create new feature characters largely by riding on the coattails of established ones. What would Daken or X-23 if they weren’t the children of Wolverine? Would Batwoman have as much impact if she didn’t share the Bat-emblem? And just look at the recent switch-up of Thunderbolts to Dark Avengers, to better align itself with the more recognized “Avengers” mantle.
And while Talon isn’t completely new, as he springs out of an organization introduced in recent Batman comics, he’s by far the closest thing to new DC or Marvel’s superhero universes have seen in some time. Let’s see how it works.
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.”
Ending speculation that began last month at HeroesCon when Jeff Lemire teased that a Neil Gaiman character will be introduced into the New 52, DC Comics announced at Comic-Con International that Timothy Hunter of The Books of Magic will appear in the upcoming story arc of Justice League Dark.
The news came out of today’s “Tales From The Dark and The Edge” panel, where Lemire revealed Gaiman gave his permission to use Tim, whose debut will be teased in September’s zero issue of Justice League Dark.
Introduced in the 1990 miniseries The Books of Magic by Gaiman and John Bolton, Timothy Hunter was an outwardly normal boy who was born as a conduit for raw magic and destined to become the greatest magician of the age. He went on to star in three ongoing series, The Books of Magic (1994 to 2000), Hunter: The Age of Magic (2001 to 2003) and Books of Magick: Life During Wartime (2004 to 2005).
Renowned creator George Perez, who stepped down as writer and breakdown artist of DC Comics’ relaunched Superman after just six issues, revealed he couldn’t wait to leave the high-profile title because of frustrations over repeated rewrites and a lack of creative freedom. “It was not the experience I wanted it to be,” he said.
“Unfortunately when you are writing major characters, you sometimes have to make a lot of compromises, and I was made certain promises,” Perez said in a recently released Q&A video from this year’s Superman Celebration, “and unfortunately not through any fault of Dan DiDio — he was no longer the last word, I mean a lot of people were now making decisions [..] they were constantly going against each other, contradicting, again in mid-story. The people who love my Superman arc, the first six issues, I thank you. What you read, I don’t know. Because the fact that, after I wrote it I was having such frustration that I told them, ‘Here, this is my script. If you change it, that’s your prerogative, don’t tell me. Don’t ask me to edit it, don’t ask me to correct it, because I don’t want to change something that you’re going to change again in case you disagree.” No no, Superman is a big character. I was flattered by the responsibility, but I thought this was getting a little tough.”
“I didn’t mind the changes in Superman, I just wish it was the same decision Issue 1 or Issue 2,” he continued. “And I had to kept rewriting things because another person changed their mind, and that was a lot tougher. It wasn’t the same as doing Wonder Woman. I was basically given a full year to get Wonder Woman established before she actually had to be enfolded into the DC Universe properly. And I had a wonderful editor Karen Berger who ran shotgun for me. They wanted me to recreate what I did from Wonder Woman, but it’s not the same age, not the same atmosphere, I couldn’t do it any more. And the writer who replaced me, Keith Giffen, was very, very nice. I’ve known Keith since we both started in the industry, he called me up when they asked him to do Superman to make sure I wasn’t being fired off Superman. And regrettably I did have to tell him no, I can’t wait to get off Superman. It was not the experience I wanted it to be.”
When most fans think of Dave Gibbons, his seminal work with Alan Moore on Watchmen is likely the first thing that comes to mind. However, the acclaimed artist and writer prefers to look toward the future, even brushing aside a question about Before Watchmen, the sprawling DC Comics miniseries that’s been the topic of so many recent conversations, with a terse, “I have no comment on that.”
During Kapow! Comic Convention, Robot 6 spoke briefly with the legendary creator about his views on digital comics, DC’s New 52 and the state of the industry.
Robot 6: You’re seen as a huge influence, but who excites you in the field these days?
Dave Gibbons: Asking an open ended-question like that is very dangerous, ‘cause invariably I’ll think of people who I greatly admire when you’re not here. I can say in general what I find interesting at the moment are the creator-owned books. I’m really pleased with all the things like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, where people can get finance to do their own comics. The Internet allows people to very quickly build up a large audience. It allows publishing without huge overheads, which is very positive. I love the fact that in today’s comic world, classic work is readily available in brand-new formats, such as the IDW Artist’s Edition series.
Captain Atom, Resurrection Man and Voodoo will end in September, joining Justice League International in DC Comics’ second wave of New 52 cancellations. As the publisher announced last week, four new titles — Talon, Sword of Sorcery, The Phantom Stranger and Team 7 — will launch as part of the “Zero Month” initiative.
In short, four series end, four series begin, and in October the title count returns to the magical 52 and balance is restored to the DC Universe.
The solicitations also reveal that September’s DC Universe Presents #0 will feature Blackhawks’ Mother Machine, Hawk and Dove, Mister Terrific and O.M.A.C., all characters whose titles ended in May, underscoring comments made last week by Co-Publisher Dan DiDio that, “if a series does go away, we want to make sure we have a proper place for the characters.”
Think of it as the 2012 version of the Cancelled Comic Cavalcade, only this time with all-new adventures that the solicitation text promises will “play out across the entire New 52.” It’s a 64-page issue by the likes of DiDio, Cafu, James Robinson, Rob Liefeld and Marat Mychaels.
Note that there’s no sign of Static or the Men of War crew, who were also set adrift in the New 52’s first wave of cancellations. Perhaps there will be room for those characters, alongside Captain Atom, Resurrection Man and Voodoo, in an upcoming issue.