Axel-In-Charge: Navigating the "Civil War II" Landscape, Bringing DMC to Marvel
In the 75 years since he was introduced as the original Robin, Dick Grayson has inspired a legacy and numerous imitators, battled a staggering array of criminals, led the Teen Titans, graduated to the identity of Nightwing, and even assumed the mantle of Batman, for a while. But his greatest achievement very well may be surviving the past decade of DC Comics.
DC Entertainment Co-Publisher has gone on the record time and again that he wanted Nightwing as the “big death” in 2005’s Infinite Crisis, which was underscored in January when he uncovered the original whiteboard pages for the event’s timeline (Jason Todd then would’ve assumed Nighting’s identity, only to be rejected by the Bat-Family). However, it turns out that plans for Dick Grayson’s downfall predate even that.
(Note: Post title is taken brazenly from a Mystery Science Theater 3000 riff on the serial The Phantom Creeps.)
When DC announced Grayson in April, I wrote about the dangers of separating Dickie G. first from his mentor, and then from his friends in the Titans. Because Grayson is predicated on removing Dick from the superhero realm entirely, I’ve been ambivalent (at best) about this book. Even after reading the first issue — which was a good introduction to the series, and which stood on its own nicely — I still have some concerns. Most of these come from a desire (perhaps unwarranted) to judge a series in a larger context. Therefore, today we’ll talk both about the debut issue of Grayson (written by Tim Seeley and Tom King, drawn by Mikel Janín, and colored by Jeromy Cox), and whether that sort of big-picture evaluation is fair to it.
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First let’s get some of the obligatory historical perspective out of the way. Dick Grayson has been around for almost 75 years, longer than just about all of DC’s A-listers, including The Flash, Hawkman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern. Moreover, Dick/Robin has been adapted for various non-comics venues for almost as long, starting with radio and movie serials in the 1940s and continuing right through to today’s Teen Titans Go! Many of these more recent adaptations either alluded to, or showed directly, Dick’s transition to the Nightwing identity; and collectively they speak to the general public’s awareness of the character and his particular dramatic functions.
Conventions | Clem Bastow notes a disconnect at Oz Comic-Con in Melbourne, Australia, where women were a slight majority in the audience but were severely underrepresented as guests; DC artist Nicola Scott was the only woman in the comics contingent. Organizer Rand Ratinac said it was purely a matter of availability: “We offered for literally dozens if not hundreds of different guests, we always do, because you’re dealing with people whose schedules they sometimes can’t lock in until a month before the event. This time, of the people that we wanted, there were just a lot of guys that were available. Next year, it could be a whole bunch of girls; it all just depends who can come.” But Scott points out that there are simply fewer women in superhero comics than in the other sectors of the industry and superhero creators are what brings the audience in the door. [The Guardian]
Conventions | Organizers of the growing Asbury Park Comicon have announced that, after three years, they’re relocating the New Jersey convention to the Meadowlands Exhibition Center in Secaucus and renaming it East Coast Comicon. Founders Cliff Galbraith and Robert Bruce say the nearly 40-mile move was triggered by a sharp increase in rates at the Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel in Asbury Park, but the hotel’s manager thinks it’s because the venue couldn’t accommodate the dates requested by organizers. The inaugural East Coast Comicon will be held April 11-12, 2015. [Asbury Park Press]
Passings | Amadee Wohlschlaeger, who drew the comic strip Weatherbird for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for 70 years, has died at age 102. Weatherbird, which debuted in 1901, is the oldest continuously published comic in the United States, and Wohlschlaeger (who went by just his first name) is one of just four cartoonists to draw it. He was named one of the top 10 sports cartoonists in the country, and his drawing of Stan Musial inspired the statue at Busch Stadium. [KSDK]
This has turned out to be an eventful week for fans of the first Robin (and of the role in general), thanks to a Robin Rises one-shot, leading into the unveiling of … well, whoever’s going to wear the red vest for the foreseeable future, and Dick Grayson’s latest relaunch, a July-debuting ongoing series called simply Grayson, wherein the former Boy Wonder will start a new life as a super-spy.
With each of ‘em about three months away, obviously I’m not equipped to pass judgment on the merits of either. However, I can tell you what I think about Dick and Robin, how those impressions affect my snap judgments, and why you should — and shouldn’t — listen to someone like me.
Writer/director Hisonni Johnson has debuted the first episode of Grayson: Earth One, a fan-produced web series that re-imagines the origin of Dick Grayson/Nightwing in a familiar setting, with familiar characters, but without the DC Universe continuity.
“The twist being that Richard Grayson has never had the good fortune of being adopted as a child by Bruce Wayne, thus never becoming the boy wonder,” Johnson writes. “Instead, we have a Richard Grayson that had to fend for himself on the unforgiving streets of Gotham and, even worse, the streets of Bludhaven. A character that has to overcome years of dog eat dog mentality to become a selfless and kind individual. To ultimately fulfill his destiny and become a HERO.”
Judging from this video, it’s Arrow meets Catwalk, with occasional Dark Knight cameos. And, really, the acting and production standards aren’t that far removed from a typical CW series.
In conjunction with the premiere, Johnson has launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise $40,000 to produce five more episodes — a full season.
First I’d like to thank DC Comics for plastering its latest spoiler unavoidably across the Internet bright and early Monday morning. It did confirm something I’d suspected since before Christmas, but being surprised still has a certain appeal, you know?
(That assumes this isn’t reversed in an issue or two. Kyle Rayner was killed one issue and revived the next during a Blackest Night crossover, and something similar is eminently possible, albeit unlikely, in this case.)
Anyway, Caleb has done a great job covering the event’s immediate impact, and Corey and Michael have also talked about significant aspects of you-know-what, so for my part I’ll be taking a closer look at the “position” itself. Some people study the presidency, some the papacy, and some of us have spent most of our lives reading about … well, you know.
SPOILERS FOLLOW, I suppose.
Cosmic Book News snagged a copy of the DC Comics: The New 52 preview a day early — street dates be damned! — and uploaded scans of the opening pages of Geoff Johns and Jim Lee’s Justice League #1, the vanguard of DC’s line-wide relaunch. It’s an entertaining enough sequence, with Gotham City’s finest pursuing Batman across rooftops as he, in turn, chases some sort of raggedy cyborg villain, only to come face to face with Green Lantern for the first time.
But it’s the first panel, above, that captured my attention, as it establishes the events as unfolding “five years ago,” “when the world didn’t know what a super-hero was.” That the first issue of Justice League takes place in the past isn’t a surprise, but the time frame may be. It could also prove tricky for Batman’s history.
Apparently unsatisfied with such alumni as Presidents Ford, Bush, Clinton and Bush, Secretary of State Clinton, several Supreme Court justices and senators, and holographic doctor Robert Picardo, Yale University has laid claim to one more distinguished graduate: billionaire playboy-philanthropist Bruce Wayne.
To make the case for the (secretly) Dark Knight as a Yalie, the Yale Alumni Magazine turned to author, designer and Batman devotee Chip Kidd, who turned to … the 1960s Batman television series. Specifically Episode 33, in which Aunt Harriet reveals that Bruce’s grandfather actually founded the secret society Skull and Bones.
“This is a rather neat conceit when you think about it,” Kidd writes in the magazine’s March/April issue. “The implication is that it’s in the nature of the Wayne men to create a unique identity for themselves that is both public and yet fiercely private. For what is ‘Batman and Robin’ but the ultimate secret society, with only two members?”