"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Comic Books, Film
Recently, an off-hand tweet by Kurt Busiek brought something interesting to mind. First, the tweet: “There are SUPERMAN BY GARCIA-LOPEZ and BATMAN BY ARCHIE GOODWIN hardcovers coming. Life is good.”
The two books he’s talking about are Adventures of Superman: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Tales of the Batman: Archie Goodwin, both hardcovers and both scheduled for release in April. It’s interesting because, by and large, DC Comics hasn’t released a lot of books focusing on a creator. Sure, the publisher has made exceptions for Alan Moore (DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore), Jack Kirby (Jack Kirby Omnibus) and Geoff Johns (The Flash by Geoff Johns Omnibus), but seeing it done for creators like Goodwin and Garcia-Lopez feels different somehow. While Goodwin was a positively epic force during his time in comics, he’s not exactly a household name in the modern parlance of comics fans (unfortunately), and Garcia-Lopez was an artist, not a writer like all of those listed above. DC, and comics in general, has shown itself to be very writer-centric in terms of the attribution of works, so for me this is a breakthrough — or at least a crack in the wall.
Spurred on by these ideas, I’m beginning to think of what else, and who else, DC could capitalize on with its massive library of work created in the past 78 years. Here are some ideas:
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.
If I had $15, I’d walk out of the comic store with one book this week Fatale, Vol. 1: Death Chases Me (Image, $14.99). I fell off this book after the first issue, preferring to read in trades, and now that time has come. I’m looking forward to being surprised at what Brubaker and Phillips have done in this first arc as the debut issue was very promising.
If I had $30, I’d load up at Image with Manhattan Projects #4 (Image, $3.50), Prophet #26 (Image, $2.99) and Hell Yeah #4 (Image, $2.99). Prophet is becoming my favorite Image book because it unites my comic heroes of childhood (Prophet!) and one of the top cartoonists out there (Brandon Graham) with a surprising introduction of BD-style science fiction. Hell Yeah is a fun romp reimagining the staples of ’80s and ’90s comics as if John Hughes were the eighth Image founder. Last up I’d get Wolverine and the X-Men #12 (Marvel, $3.99). I was worried this series would get derailed by Avengers Vs. X-Men, but Aaron and Co. have managed to keep it on point as best as conceivably possible. It’s an ideal opening to bring Rachel Summers to the forefront, and the smirking Kid Gladiator on the cover is full of win.
If I could splurge, I’d get Michel Rabagliati’s Song of Roland hardcover (Conundrum Press, $20). I’ll always admire Free Comic Book Day, because it was there that a little Drawn and Quarterly one-shot introduced me to Rabagliati’s work. I’m surprised to see this new volume of his work not published by D&Q, instead published by Canadian house Conundrum. Anyway, this book appears to deal with the death of the father-in-law of the lead character, Paul. It’s been extremely engaging to see Paul grow through the series, and having him deal with events like this as I myself grow up and experience similar events is really touching.
The greatest comics of all time don’t appear on bestseller charts or canon lists or big-box bookstore shelves. They are the property of the back issue bins and thrift store crates and convention hawkers of America, living like the medium itself in the unseen crags and pockets of publishing history…
Daredevil #220, composed and drawn by David Mazzucchelli, colored by Christie Scheele, scripted by Denny O’Neil, with unspecified assistance by Frank Miller. Cover-dated July 1985. Published by Marvel Comics Group.
How acquired: In a back-issue sale at the worst/best comic book shop in the Los Angeles area. You know the type of place: dust everywhere, smell of Indian food, way too hot, full boxes of X-Force #1 from the early ’90s blocking the shelves in the back. The type of place where when they have a half-off bin blowout you can grab all the David Mazzucchelli Daredevil issues for a flat fee, and get them to let the ones that aren’t in the bins (like this one) go for half price too, provided you’re willing to sell them your heavily dented copy of Absolute Watchmen.
A couple of weeks ago, I wondered whether we could trace the entire sidekick-derived wing of DC’s superhero-comics history back to Bill Finger. Today I’m less interested in revisiting that question — although I will say Robin the Boy Wonder also owes a good bit to Jerry Robinson and Bob Kane — than using it as an example.
Specifically, this week’s question has nagged me for several years (going back to my TrekBBS days, even), and it is this: as between Alan Moore and the duo of Marv Wolfman and George Pérez, who has been a bigger influence on DC’s superhero books?
As the post title suggests, we might reframe this as “who won the ‘80s,” since all three men came to prominence at DC in that decade. Wolfman and Pérez’s New Teen Titans kicked off with a 16-page story in DC Comics Presents #26 (cover-dated October 1980), with the series’ first issue following the next month. Moore’s run on (Saga of the) Swamp Thing started with January 1984’s issue #20, although the real meat of his work started with the seminal issue #21. Wolfman and Pérez’s Titans collaboration lasted a little over four years, through February 1985’s Tales of the Teen Titans #50 and New Teen Titans vol. 2 #5. Moore wrote Swamp Thing through September 1987’s #64, and along the way found time in 1986-87 for a little-remembered twelve-issue series called Watchmen. After their final Titans issues, Wolfman and Pérez also produced a 12-issue niche-appeal series of their own, 1984-85’s Crisis On Infinite Earths.* The trio even had some common denominators: Len Wein edited both Titans and Watchmen (and Barbara Randall eventually succeeded him on both), and Gar Logan’s adopted dad Steve Dayton was friends with John Constantine.
Comic strips | Cartoonist Tom Batiuk, whose Funky Winkerbean has addressed such topics as teen pregnancy, land mines and capital punishment, will next turn his attention to gay rights in a storyline about a gay couple that wants to attend the prom at the comic strip’s fictional fictional Westview High School. “It struck me that whenever I sit in classes at Midview High, which I still do, my overall impression is that the younger generation’s attitudes toward gays is more open and accepting than their predecessors,” Batiuk said. “It’s not perfect, but it shows promise for an emerging generation that will bring this issue (intolerance) to an end. I wanted to take those two opposing viewpoints to reach across that divide of intolerance.” The month-long storyline begins April 30. Funky Winkerbean appears in more than 400 newspapers nationwide. [The Chronicle-Telegram]
Conventions | The hotel reservation system for Comic-Con International in San Diego will open Thursday at 9 a.m. PT, as the yearly mad dash for discounted hotel rates begins. CCI has posted a list of hotels, and if you’re willing to stay in Mission Valley, you can book a room early. The process will be the same as last year — select up to 20 hotels where you’d be willing to stay, and you’ll get a confirmation email no later than April 1. You can leave your April Fool’s jokes in the comments below. Also of note this year, shuttles to and from hotels will run 24 hours a day during the show, beginning at 5 a.m. Thursday. [CCI]
Editorial cartoons | Michael Cavna rounds up nine editorial cartoons commenting on the killing of Florida teenager Tryavon Martin. [The Washington Post]
Although DC Comics’ new printing of the Batman: Year One Deluxe Edition doesn’t arrive in stores until next week, the 144-page hardcover already has drawn sharp criticism — from artist David Mazzucchelli himself.
“DC just sent me this book last week, and I really hope people don’t buy it,” he told The Comics Journal‘s Dan Nadel. “I didn’t even know they were making it, and I don’t understand why they thought it was necessary — several years ago, DC asked me if I’d help put together a deluxe edition of Batman: Year One, and Dale Crain and I worked for months to try to make a definitive version. Now whoever’s in charge has thrown all that work in the garbage. First, they redesigned the cover, and recolored my artwork — probably to look more like their little DVD that came out last year; second, they printed the book on shiny paper, which was never a part of the original design, all the way back to the first hardcover in 1988; third — and worst — they printed the color from corrupted, out-of-focus digital files, completely obscuring all of Richmond’s hand-painted work. Anybody who’s already paid for this should send it back to DC and demand a refund.”
Mazzucchelli, who collaborated with Frank Miller on the seminal 1987 storyline, said he’s sent letters and emails complaining to DC executives but has received no response. The new printing, which includes new introductions by Mazzucchelli and Miller, goes on sale March 14.
More than nine months after an original splash page from Batman: The Dark Knight Returns sold for a record $448,125, Heritage Auctions is offering two more original pieces of Frank Miller art, expected to bring in more than $50,000 each.
Consigned by Miller himself, the pieces are the cover to 2006’s Absolute Dark Knight and the frontispiece from the 1997 10th-anniversary edition of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.
“It took me years to define, in my own mind, Batman as less a creature of vengeance than of vigor,” Miller said of the Absolute Dark Knight cover. “This piece is one of my personal favorites. To me, it sums the man up.” And on the Batman and Robin splash: “Like any hero, Batman is complex. Here we see him as a father figure, instructing one of my favorite creations, dear Carrie Kelly.”
The two pieces will be auctioned Feb. 23 by Heritage, which notes that while Miller worked with inker Klaus Janson and colorist Lynn Varley on The Dark Knight Returns, “these images are rare examples of 100 percent Frank Miller pencils and inks on his most popular character.”
With so much being reported about Alan Moore’s connections to the Occupy movement — through his endorsement of its ideals, his contribution to Occupy Comics, and protesters’ co-opting of the David Lloyd-designed Guy Fawkes masks — U.K.’s Channel 4 News coaxed the V for Vendetta writer from his home in Northampton to London to meet some of the demonstrators for the first time.
“It’s a bit surprising when some of the characters you thought you made up suddenly seem to escape into ordinary reality,” Moore told some disguised protesters. “I mean, what is it about the mask — is it just useful, or what?”
The report also delves into Frank Miller’s criticism of the Occupy movement, Moore’s displeasure with film adaptations of his works and, yes, the irony that each Guy Fawkes mask that protesters buy puts more money into the coffers of Time Warner, one of the world’s largest media conglomerates.
Perhaps the most disturbing scene in Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again (also known as DK2; Miller and Varley 2001-2002) is where Batman attacks the corporate leaders of the United States government, giving the word “terrorism” a new meaning. The Anarcho-terrorist superhero’s assault is directed against “the real monsters” (page 53, panel 1), the corrupt powers-that-be that rule behind a virtual president….In “late capitalism”, the virtual transactions of financial speculators determine the entire economy of countries, the “democratic” political system of their governments and, of course, the real life of their citizens. We should ask ourselves if the world we inhabit now is so different from the virtual United States ruled by the computer-generated president Miller imagined.
—The Comics Grid’s Pepo Pérez wonders if Frank Miller and Lynn Varley’s The Dark Knight Strikes Again was prophetic (in a way Miller himself probably wouldn’t approve of today). Personally, I think it’s a stretch to compare the real America to Batman’s America. I mean, one has a glossy, shiny surface built on human suffering, as citizens participate in a sham democracy treated like a sporting event by blathering talking-head news-media figures, while corporations engaged in criminal conspiracies for which they suffer no lasting legal consequences loot the world with impunity behind the scenes. The other has Batman in it.
Creators | Watchmen writer Alan Moore responds to recent comments made by The Dark Knight Returns creator Frank Miller: “I think that the Occupy movement is, in one sense, the public saying that they should be the ones to decide who’s too big to fail. It’s a completely justified howl of moral outrage and it seems to be handled in a very intelligent, non-violent way, which is probably another reason why Frank Miller would be less than pleased with it. I’m sure if it had been a bunch of young, sociopathic vigilantes with Batman make-up on their faces, he’d be more in favour of it. We would definitely have to agree to differ on that one.” [Honest Publishing]
Creators | Sarah Glidden, creator of How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less, chronicles her time at Occupy Miami Nov. 15-21 in a sketchbook. [Cartoon Movement]
Creators | Corey Blake follows up on the Bill Mantlo story published by LIfeHealthPro, including some clarifications of issues raised in the story and additional details on various fundraisers over the years to help pay for Mantlo’s care. [Corey Blake]
Creators | Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society Podcast interviews Skullkickers writer Jim Zubkavich about piracy and the Stop Online Piracy Act. [Berkman Center for Internet & Society Podcast]
No one tell Frank Miller, but Occupy Wall Street has donned the mantle of the Bat. During last Thursday’s “Day of Action” march across the Brooklyn Bridge by New York City-based protesters, a powerful light projector bathed the monolithic side of the nearby Verizon Building with OWS slogans, in a move directly inspired by the Gotham City Police Department’s preferred method of contacting Batman.
In an interview with Xeni Jardin at Boing Boing, project coordinator Mark Read had this to say:
It came up at an action coordination meeting. We were talking about what to do on the 17th. We had a sense that the morning on Wall Street would be forceful and confrontational, and we wanted to not do the same kind of thing in the afternoon. Initial talks focused on having a thousand people taking the bridge in the afternoon, and continuing in a militant mode of activism. But we started thinking about creating a more unifying moment. A celebration of the birthday of Occupy Wall Street. Maybe taking the roadway and having lots of arrests might not be best thing. What if we took the pedestrian walkway, and gave out LED candles? We would give out 10,000 LED tea candles, a river of light streaming over the walkway.
And a guy named Hero, who has been central to a lot of facets of the occupation since the beginning, turns to me and says, “We need a bat signal. The 99%.”
I said, I think I can do that. I know just enough about how the technology works that I think I can pull that off. And for the past two weeks, I’ve worked full time on figuring that out.
It’s hard to say what my favorite part of this story is. Batman inspiring a real-life fight for social justice? The low-income housing resident who bravely donated her apartment as a base of operations? The choice of positive, uplifting slogans projected in light, against the metaphorical backdrop of a pretty ugly week for the country? The use of the face of a big building as the canvas for the OWS-signal, a la Gotham Cathedral in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns? The fact that the dude who came up with the idea is named “Hero”?
Read the message in full and watch a video of the signal in action (both via Boing Boing) after the jump.
Richard Pace sends up Batman: The Dark Knight Returns in his response to Frank Miller’s recent tirade against Occupy protestors, writing, “I’d prefer to remember Frank Miller as the sometimes brilliant, long-haired nerd glaring from his back-cover photo on The Dark Knight Returns trade rather than the fedora-wearing, incoherent lightweight hack he’s become.”
Read the full comic strip, titled “The Dick Knight,” on Pace’s blog.
Frank Miller, whose tirade against the Occupy movement was met with a largely negative, and frequently heated, response, has found an unlikely defender: left-leaning writer Mark Millar.
In a post on his Millarworld forum, the writer of Kick-Ass and The Ultimates says, “It’s strange to watch your favourite writer getting strips torn off him for a couple of days.”
“Politically, I disagree with his analysis, but that’s besides the point,” Millar continues. “I wasn’t shocked by his comments because they’re no different from a lot of commentators I’ve seen discussing the subject. What shocked me was the vitriol against him, the big bucket of shit poured over the head by even fellow comic-book creators for saying what was on his mind.”
As one commenter points out, it probably shouldn’t be shocking that Miller’s no-holds-barred screed, which characterizes Occupy protesters as “a pack of louts, thieves, and rapists” who “can do nothing but harm America,” was answered with a degree of vitriol. Or, in the commenter’s words, “if you throw the first bucket of shit […] then you should be prepared for some splashback.” Perhaps if Miller’s commentary had been more reasoned and less inflammatory — “decorous,” as Miller himself would say — the reaction might’ve reflected that.