With the end of Geoff Johns’ tenure on Green Lantern and Grant Morrison’s upcoming farewell to Batman, a fan’s thoughts turn naturally to other extended runs. Marv Wolfman wrote almost every issue of New (Teen) Titans from the title’s 1980 preview through its final issue in 1995. Cary Bates wrote The Flash fairly steadily from May 1971′s Issue 206 through October 1985′s first farewell to Barry Allen (Issue 350). Gerry Conway was Justice League of America’s regular writer for over seven years, taking only a few breaks from February 1978′s Issue 151 through October 1986′s Issue 255.
However, in these days of shorter stays, I wanted to examine some of the runs that, despite their abbreviated nature, left lasting impressions. At first this might sound rather simple. After all, there are plenty of influential miniseries-within-series, like “Batman: Year One” or “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?,” where a special creative team comes in to tell a particular story. Instead, sometimes a series’ regular creative team will burn brightly, but just too quickly, leaving behind a longing for what might have been.
A good example of this is found in Detective Comics #469-76, written by Steve Englehart, penciled by Marshall Rogers and inked by Terry Austin (after Walt Simonson penciled and Al Milgrom inked issues 469-70). Reprinted in the out-of-print Batman: Strange Apparitions paperback, and more recently (sans Simonson/Milgrom) in the hardcover Legends of the Dark Knight: Marshall Rogers, these issues introduced Silver St. Cloud, Rupert Thorne, Dr. Phosphorus and the “Laughing Fish,” featured classic interpretations of Hugo Strange, the Penguin and the Joker, and revamped Deadshot into the high-tech assassin he remains today. Tying all these threads together is Bruce Wayne’s romance with Silver, which for my money is the Bat-books’ version of Casablanca. It’s the kind of much-discussed run that seems like it should have been longer. Indeed, I suspect it’s one of the shorter runs in CSBG’s Top 100 list.
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If that was all Red Sonja was, I wouldn’t want to write about her at all. She’s a lot more than that to me, and to her fans, I’m sure. A thousand imitators showing more flesh have come and gone, and Sonja is still here. [...] But I also think it does a bit of a disservice to lump all male readers together like that, as well. I have found the male readership to be remarkably supportive of great female characters again and again, with Birds of Prey, with Wonder Woman, with Batgirl. I want a Red Sonja that isn’t just a cult title, with every character I love, when I take them over, I want to preach their gospel, I want people to know why I love them so much. Red Sonja kicks a megatonnage of ass, that’s what she does.
— Gail Simone, whose Red Sonja series debuts in July from Dynamite Entertainment, in a Q&A with ICv2
Simone goes on to say she will be changing the character somewhat: “I think she’d gotten a bit omnipotent, and a bit icy, over the years. I want her to be more impulsive and prone to rash judgment.” And she’s going to tinker with Red Sonja’s origin story because “it needs to be reconsidered and retold in a way that’s less about weird gender politics from ages ago.”
The metal bikini, though? That’s gonna stay, apparently. But Dynamite has commissioned regular and variant covers from some of the top female artists in the business, including Colleen Doran, Fiona Staples, Amanda Conner, and Steph Buscema, which opens the door to some interesting interpretations of the character.
Last month DC Comics announced it had put together a new list of “essential” graphic novels and collections, designed to help casual readers and completists alike. This week I picked up a copy of the 121-page catalog (Issue 1, of course) along with my regular Wednesday haul.
Now, we all love lists, and this looks to be more comprehensive than the 30-item Jeph Loeb-heavy suggestions DC had previously offered. Could the new DC Entertainment Essential Graphic Novels and Chronology 2013 actually represent the depth and breadth of DC’s vast publishing history, and at least try to give each major character the attention he or she deserved?
I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but judging from the two pages devoted to “Women of DC Comics,” the answer doesn’t look promising for said women. As Sue (of DC Women Kicking Ass) and Bleeding Cool have already pointed out, Green Arrow and the Flash both get two-page spreads (each, to be fair, split between a one-page portrait and a one-page checklist), while Wonder Woman has to share two pages with Batgirl, Batwoman, Catwoman and the Huntress. Although the DC Entertainment Essential Graphic Novels and Chronology 2013 could use more female-centric titles (no Power Girl, Manhunter, Stephanie Brown or Cass Cain Batgirl, or Stars and STRIPE, and not a lot of Supergirl), today it may be enough just to focus on Wonder Woman.
Comics have a long history of reflecting the political and social issues of the times, whether that’s Green Arrow and Green Lantern dealing with teen drug abuse or Superman fighting slumlords. So it’s no surprise DC has two comics this month that draw influence from the Occupy movement that was all over the news media in 2011 and 2012. The first, titled The Movement, is by Gail Simone and Freddie Williams II, and came out on Wednesday. Later this month will bring us the Green Team, the 1 percent to The Movement‘s 99 percent, even if they aren’t directly linked in terms of story.
“I have this feeling that a lot of the best adventure fiction is based on the idea of standing up for the little guy against oppressive forces. If you go back and look at Zorro, or the Shadow, or the Lone Ranger, you can pretty quickly see that that idea of a masked protector pre-dates comics entirely,” Simone told Comic Book Resources. “There’s something very powerful about that, and it’s completely non-partisan. The idea of someone laying their life on the line for others is a big part of why I read superhero comics, and yet, even in some really popular books, I feel like that theme has been lost a little — there’s a bloodthirstiness to a lot of books and you can’t always see why these characters are heroes, or even admirable anymore.”
ROBOT 6′s Tom Bondurant shared his thoughts on the first issue Thursday, and here are a few more thoughts from around the web:
In the very first panel of The Movement #1 there’s a blonde in black leather and fishnets. Her strong resemblance to old-school Black Canary seems designed deliberately to remind readers of writer Gail Simone’s previous DC Comics work. However, there’s nothing straightforward — at least not yet — about this new series. Simone’s script is a maze of upended expectations, and Freddie Williams’ art likewise seems made up of unsettled lines. The overall effect is disorienting, which might not be the best way to begin a from-scratch series like this one. But The Movement #1 works well as the first chapter of what will hopefully be a long run.
To see what James and the Robot 6 crew are reading, click below …
Frequent readers of ROBOT 6 know I’m a big supporter of Francesco Francavilla, and particularly his Black Beetle character. Wednesday marks the release of The Black Beetle: No Way Out #3, the penultimate issue in the first of a series of miniseries for Dark Horse. As much as I was eager to learn about the pulp-fueled noir comic, I was equally keen to chat with Francavilla about his approach toward layout and storytelling in general.
As part of the interview, Francavilla shared some preview pages for the latest issue.
Tim O’Shea: Comparing the early adventures of the Black Beetle, as shown in Night Shift versus No Way Out issues 1 and 2, how liberating did it feel to be increasingly ambitious with your layouts on the pages?
Francesco Francavilla: Very liberating. One of the tricky parts of doing Night Shift was to have three small installments (chapters) of eight pages. I wanted each single chapter to be meaty enough to be entertaining on its own, but I also wanted each chapter to end with a cliffhanger. Going from that to a full 22 pages a month with No Way Out, I have much more room now to have fun with different layouts and give extra room for some big reveal sequences.
Gail Simone has one of the most personable and idiosyncratic voices in comics. It’s why fans follow her in books like Batgirl, Birds of Prey and Secret Six, and it’s how she broke into the comics industry from being a Comic Book Resources columnist. And 2013 is shaping up to be a big year for Simone with the launch of her creator-owned Leaving Megapolis with Jim Califoire, a new Red Sonja series at Dynamite and The Movement at DC Comics (which she spoke about at length Friday with Comic Book Resources), and continuing on her cathartic run on Batgirl.
I reached out to Simone following the Red Sonja announcement to talk to her about that new book, but also her career in general. Her off-again, on-again time on Batgirl has already been covered ad nauseum, and there’s more to her story than that.
“I want to remind readers of this column that all the Marvel NOW! launches are going strong — none have been canceled or RE-relaunched in a whole new direction after 3 or 4 issues — which is a testament to the talent and coordinated effort of our writers, artists and editors,” Marvel’s Axel Alonso said in last week’s Axel-in-Charge column. Yeah, it’s another trademark swipe by Marvel at its competition, but he isn’t wrong. Putting aside the snarkiness, there’s something to be said for a.) making a plan and sticking with it, b.) having faith in the choices you made, and c.) not undermining your creators and your fans with sudden shifts in creative teams.
I of course have no insight into how things are really being run at DC. But from an outsider’s perspective, it feels like its editorial strategy is inspired by the likes of The Hunger Games and Battle Royale. Every man for himself, blink once and they’re gone, blink twice and their replacement is gone. On the day DC announced the new new writers for the Green Lantern books, I remember seeing a tweet that said something like, “Oh, I figured they wouldn’t announce the new writers until [next weekend's] WonderCon.” My first thought? Just wait — maybe they will.
Comics| Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, expressed dismay about the backlash to DC Comics hiring sci-fi author, and outspoken gay-rights opponent, Orson Scott Card to write Adventures of Superman. Card is a board member of the organization, which works against the legalization of same-sex marriage. “This is completely un-American and it needs to be stopped,” Brown said. “Simply because we stand up for traditional marriage, some people feel like it’s OK to target us for intimidation and punishment.” NOM last year launched boycotts of Starbucks and General Mills because of their support of same-sex marriage initiatives. [The Huffington Post]
Retailing | Gabi Shepherd, owner of Olympic Cards and Comics in Lacey, Washington, talks about the importance of courting teenagers, who are often not welcome in other retail stores: “I have found that if I am going to make this the community center that I want to make it then the kids are a big part of that. It makes them feel good when they come in and someone knows who they are. It’s important. It’s respect.” [ThurstonTalk]
So this is what happens when you praise Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern run …
Let’s be clear: I do not generally have violent mood swings. My sense of well-being does not depend on the fortunes of DC Comics. I don’t pretend to have any special insight into the publisher’s inner workings, and I’m sure the reverse is equally true. However, after saying many nice things about Green Lantern a couple of weeks ago, and then eviscerating the humorless “WTF Certified” last week, it was pretty surprising to see the May solicitations address both topics.
NEXT, RAFALCA JOINS THE LEGION OF SUPER-PETS
The Green Team may have been a group of entitled, self-satisfied jerks with an abnormal need for validation, but if anyone can make them lovable — or, alternatively, entertainingly clueless — it’s Art Baltazar and Franco. I don’t see this book as DC scraping the bottom of the character barrel. Rather, I take it as a good-faith attempt to update a (perhaps misguided) concept for the sensibilities of our time. Not quite “at least they’re trying,” but … at least it’s not another big-name spinoff, you know? (Although a new Steel series is always welcome.) Regardless, the over/under for this book has to be somewhere around 6 issues.
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. ”
Creators | Colorist Jordie Bellaire launches a protest against a convention that refuses to include colorists as guests. “Your one sentence, ‘this is not a colorists thing,’ was surely the most pigheaded and dismissive thing I’ve been told since I began professional coloring,” she writes, and then goes on to point out all the things colorists do to make comics great and make a forceful argument for including them (as many major cons already do). In a later post she explains why she won’t name the convention. [Jordie Colors Things]
Graphic novels | A study soon to be released by a University of Oklahoma researcher shows that students who read a textbook in graphic novel form retained more than those who read a straight prose textbook. [The Oklahoman]
Occasionally I talk about how perfunctory the monthly solicitation ritual can be … but not so for April!
On the same day the solicitations were released, Comic Book Resources launched its new “B&B” column, featuring editors Bob Harras and Bobbie Chase, and chock-full o’ factoids about various books. Moreover, the solicits were themselves packed with new story arcs, new creative teams, and an even more heightened feeling of coyness.
A big part of this coyness comes from April’s cover gimmick. Actually, we readers can only see half of the gimmick — because while every New 52 book will sport a fold-out cover, the solicits only show the left side. (Makes me wish there were a retailers-only edition of Previews, as this is just the kind of thing which surely irritates them.) To add to the anticipation, every New 52 solicitation ends with a question. Accordingly, this month more than usual, the solicits are structured precisely to set up dire consequences and leave them unresolved. Suspenseful!
Ah, but that sort of thing only encourages me. Let’s dive in, shall we?
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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.