"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Comic Books, Film
This post is about world-building. Ideally (and at the risk of being too cute), world-building would be what you made of it. The notion of a shared superhero universe implies a certain level of consistency, which at best offers a rich, textured backdrop and at worst becomes a tangled thicket of details. Naturally, each reader’s level of involvement will vary, and these days readers have quite a few options. Today I’m trying to sketch a general picture of how those options affect the stories themselves, and vice versa.
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Over the years — over the decades, really — it has been suggested that I read too many comic books. These concerns are not insignificant, and over the decades I have tried to deal with them appropriately.
However, while talking about DC’s Big Events with a friend on the way to the movies, I got a new perspective on the way these stories are received. Basically, my friend had seen Identity Crisis on a list of all-time worst comics and wanted my thoughts, because he had enjoyed it. Similarly, he liked Blackest Night not so much for the nonstop carnage, but for the sense that there were consequences.
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Today our special guest is Tim Seeley, whose work you may know from Hack/Slash, Bloodstrike, Witchblade, Colt Noble, the upcoming Ex Sanguine and Revival, and much more.
To see what Tim has been reading lately, click below.
Don’t ask me how I remember this, but it was just about twenty years ago that the first previews of Dan Jurgens’ Justice League began appearing. After five years, the “bwah-ha-ha” era was winding down, and Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis were leaving Justice League America. Giffen was also stepping away from plots and breakdowns for Justice League Europe, with JLE’s scripter Gerard Jones taking over as the book’s only writer; and Brian Augustyn replaced Andy Helfer as both books’ editor.
With a number of the New 52 titles changing creative teams before they’re even a year old, it’s too early to start talking about any long-lived, let alone definitive, runs on a particular book. Still, DC clearly hopes these books will be around for a while, even without the folks who launched ‘em. It got me thinking about past changes of the guard, and how they have followed some well-established interpretations.
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At first I wasn’t especially excited about too much in DC’s February solicitations. However, the more I looked around, the more optimistic I became. Six months into the New 52, some connections are starting to gel, and their interactions (well, as far as what you can glean from the ad copy) seem more organic. As always, there were a few pleasant surprises in the collected editions, and some details from which to spin hopeful speculation.
But enough with the purple prose — let’s hit the books!
TO UNLIMITED AND BEYOND
The gee-whizziest news of the February solicitations has to be the digital-first format of Batman Beyond Unlimited. I have not been the quickest to adapt to digitally-conveyed comics, mostly because my personal technology level hasn’t caught up. However, I do read a number of webcomics, as well as newspaper strips online, and if the price were right, I’d gladly sample BBU’s features on my computer before picking up the print version. Having Dustin Nguyen and (yay!) Norm Breyfogle involved doesn’t hurt either.
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So here we are, the last week of the New 52 rollout, and I must say it’s been a fascinating — sometimes exhausting — ride. It’ll be good to get back to more normal posting next week, but I have enjoyed these marathon stream-of-consciousness reviews. Although DC has said over and over that these books are all part of the same revised universe, there are so many different styles and approaches on display (The early ‘90s! The mid- to late ‘90s!) that the line seems a lot more heterogeneous than it did five weeks ago.
Moreover, the realization that these books are the new status quo is only now starting to sink in. Overall it’s a good feeling, but bittersweet too. After all, I had 25 years to get used to the last line-wide revampings.
SPOILERS FOLLOW, as always.
Before the New 52 created the need for an all-new Firestorm, Atomic Robo-writer Brian Clevinger was going to pick up the character where Brightest Day had left him. At the Atomic Robo blog, Clevinger talks about being approached by DC and working with them to come up with an initial six-issue story outline. He extensively covers not only his approach to the character, but an issue-by-issue look at the outline.
I don’t mention this in a “Boo Hoo! Why couldn’t we have had this?!” kind of way. In fact. Clevinger expresses nothing but well-wishes for Firestorm’s new creative team of Gail Simone, Ethan Van Sciver and Yildiray Cinar. But it is a fascinating look at the creative process and a fun peek at what might have been.
[Ronnie and Jason] are two guys who share something incredible. Something that can help to make the world a better place. But it’s something that would never exist without both of them. And they don’t necessarily agree on how to use it. They didn’t grow up together, they didn’t come into this as friends, it was pure random chance that it takes these two guys to make something amazing happen. I mean, maybe this is just me turning every conversation into something about Robo, but this sounds a lot like Scott Wegener, me, and Atomic Robo.
(Image via It’s a Dan’s World)
The artists behind this September’s “New 52″ have taken to Twitter, thanks once again to David Macho, revealing a whole lot of art from the new books that are due next month. There are a couple of hash tags to follow over on Twitter … #52splash will show you pages of new stuff from Greg Capullo (above), Scott McDaniel and many others. And as Kiel noted last week, #thenewvillains hash tag that kicked off last week slowed down after last week’s push, but a few new posts have popped up today.
And speaking of villains, I don’t think anyone has shared artwork yet for the villain of the new Justice League title — who it turns out is one of DC’s biggest and baddest, Darkseid.
Check out more artwork after the jump, and watch the hash tags for more!
Welcome to Shelf Porn! It’s been awhile since we’ve posted this feature and we’re back with quite the collection today, as David Dougherty, a lawyer from Florida, shares his nicely displayed collection of statues and original art.
If you’d like to see your collection featured here, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And now let’s hear from David …
I talk about Crisis On Infinite Earths a lot in this space, and justifiably so, given its place in DC history. However, I’ve never been entirely comfortable with its lead villain, and it starts with his name: The Anti-Monitor.
Now, I know he calls himself simply “The Monitor,” and I know (thanks to various recent DC events) that he’s actually the Monitor assigned to the Anti-Matter Universe. Still, he’s best known with the prefix — and again, the prefix is where the trouble begins.
See, Anti-M (so nicknamed by R.A. Jones, critic for the classic fanzine Amazing Heroes) isn’t the only villain defined as the evil counterpart of a familiar superhero. There’s the Reverse-Flash (and his Golden Age predecessor, the Rival), the Cyborg Superman, the Composite Superman, the Sinestro Corps, Black Adam, and probably some others buried deep in my Who’s Whos. Heck, I can think of three “anti-Batmen” right off: Cat-Man, the Wrath (parents fatally shot by Jim Gordon on the same night the Waynes were killed), and Prometheus (psychopathic-criminal parents also shot by cops).
Anyway, those villains all have the advantage of well-known opponents. The Anti-Monitor is the evil answer to … a guy DC readers barely knew.
Although it seems like DC’s big relaunch announcement came out an eternity ago, it actually took the publisher less than two weeks to roll out the 52 titles and their creative teams for the big relaunch/reboot/overhaul coming in September. Now that the cats are out of their respective bags, I thought I’d see where various creators and characters will land after the reboot.
So I went back through DC’s August solicitations to see who was writing or drawing what, and tried to map everyone to their post-relaunch project — if they had one. However, looking at DC’s August solicitations, there seem to be several fill-in issues, so where appropriate I tried to map the most recent ongoing creative teams to their new projects (for instance, I consider Gail Simone and Jesus Saiz the regular creative team for Birds of Prey, even if they aren’t doing the last two issues before September hits). Keep in mind that I just went through the ongoing series and skipped over all the miniseries … of which there are a lot, what with Flashpoint winding up in August.
It’s also worth noting that although several creators didn’t appear in the “big 52″ announcements, that doesn’t mean their tenure with DC is necessarily over — some, like Frazer Irving, have said they have future projects that haven’t been announced. So I tried to note where creators have talked publicly about their post-relaunch plans with DC (or lack thereof, as the case may be). The same could probably be said for some of DC’s characters as well. Or, as Gail Simone said on Twitter: “Again, September is NOT THE END. There’s still plans for characters that we haven’t seen yet.”
So let’s get to it ….
Following their announcement that they were starting everything over and relaunching all their titles with new first issues this fall, DC Comics today announced the creative teams for ten of the titles.
And while Tom may have other thoughts on his mind this week, here are some of my quick thoughts on those announcements:
Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang on Wonder Woman: Now all we need to know is whether she’s forming a rock band or not … but seriously, art wise, in my eyes, perfect choice. I’m a huge fan of Chiang’s, so I was just hoping we’d see him on any regular title. And Wonder Woman seems like a great fit. Azzarello, meanwhile, probably isn’t the first name I would have thought of when thinking about Wonder Woman, but the more I think about it, the more I like the idea. Of the creative teams revealed so far, this is probably becoming my favorite, or is at least tied with …
Ethan Van Sciver, Gail Simone and Yildiray Cinar on Firestorm: Back at WonderCon in 2010, Simone and Van Sciver teased that they were working together on something. Could they have been talking about Firestorm? Maybe; Simone also said on Twitter that she and Van Sciver have another as-yet-unannounced project they’re working on, so it could have been something else. I like the fact that Van Sciver is co-writing the book (rather than drawing it), and it’s getting a bit of a reboot. “Jason Rusch and Ronnie Raymond are two high school students, worlds apart – and now they’re drawn into a conspiracy of super science that bonds them forever in a way they can’t explain or control.” So you have two writers with very different worldviews writing a character composed of two other characters with wildly different worldviews. That’s actually pretty cool. Yildiray Cinar, meanwhile, has been killing it on Legion, so he’s a plus to a team I was already liking.
Once dead, twelve heroes and villains were resurrected by a white light expelled from deep within the center of the Earth. The reason behind their rebirth remains a mystery. But it will not be a mystery for long. This is the Brightest Day.
So reads the mission statement which began each issue of the year-long, twice-monthly, just-concluded Brightest Day miniseries (written by Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi, drawn by various artists). One might therefore be forgiven for thinking that BD would have used this premise to mold those characters into an imperfect ensemble, in order to explore collectively what “life after death” meant in a superhero context.
Instead, BD farmed out almost half its potential cast to other titles, thereby transforming itself (rather quickly) into a multi-headed Rebirth-style rejuvenation. From there it reintroduced readers to Aquaman, Hawkman and Hawkgirl, Firestorm, J’Onn J’Onzz, and Deadman, and used them in turn to reintroduce … well, you probably know by now, but let’s wait a while to talk about that.
News of The Flash’s cancellation has led to speculation that the title, whenever it returns, will pick up its original numbering. Considering that Wonder Woman was renumbered last year to reflect the accumulation of all its various incarnations, and Adventure Comics resumed its original numbering as well, Flash might not be the last title DC renumbers.
Today I’ll look at Flash and several other DC titles which could get this treatment in the next several years.
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First, though, let’s consider Wonder Woman. Last year, the 45th issue of WW Vol. 3 was dubbed issue #600, thereby implicitly treating the current series and its predecessor as direct continuations of the original 1942 series. The math was pretty straightforward: Vol. 1 went to issue #329, and vol. 2 went to #226, so that left the 600th issue to vol. 3’s 45th. (329+226+45 = 600.) Volume 2 did have two irregularly-numbered issues, #0 (part of 1994’s “Zero Month,” which the rest of us called August), and #1,000,000 (for DC One Million, naturally).
With the Green Lantern movie coming out in the middle of the month, June looms big for DC’s superhero line. Since writer/executive Geoff Johns has become so identified with GL, you’d expect it would be a big month for him too — and indeed, between GL-related items and the Flashpoint event, Johns’ influence is felt all around the June solicitations.
Away we go –!
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MORE LIKE “CASHPOINT,” AMIRITE?
Sometimes I think Flashpoint should completely interrupt DC’s superhero line for three to five months. After all, if all of DC history is changed (again), but the ongoing books can still tell current, normal-timeline stories, aren’t readers just waiting for the reset button to be pushed? Still, whatever suspense might be gained from such a setup is probably outweighed by the aggravation it would cause; not just to readers who’d have to wait out those months, but to DC’s professionals themselves, who’d either have to arrange things logistically to avoid disruptions, or risk leaving an ongoing arc hanging. In any case, obviously none of the regular DC books are going on a break to accommodate and/or reflect Flashpoint — except for The Flash, which is eminently appropriate.
What could be worse than a slide show about a stamp collection? Probably a blog post about a comic-book collection….
Among other things, the Vast Bondurant Comic-Book Library now includes over 11,000 single issues spread over 23 long boxes and 15 short boxes. My goal — which seems to recede in the distance the more I consider this project — is to separate all of the newer issues and shorter-run series from the old warhorses like Detective Comics and Fantastic Four. That means bringing the Gotham Centrals and Hourmans out of those big boxes with all the Green Lanterns and Incredible Hulks, into smaller boxes which won’t strain my aging vertebrae.
That scintillating introduction should tell you just how thrilling the past couple of days have been for me (not least because the project is far from over). This is the paper equivalent of defragmenting a hard drive, and it is not the most engaging of topics. Nevertheless, the process has forced me to examine how I use this library. After all, books are for reading, not for taking up space — and the way we read comic books, especially superhero comics, is changing dramatically.