X-POSITION: Bennett Talks "Years Of Future Past's" Teenage Mutant Savior Heroes
In an era where the creator’s rights conversation is as loud as its ever been in comics, this week saw some surprising news quietly slip out onto the web: Black Lightning creator Tony Isabella and DC Comics have taken the first steps towards reconciling a very contentious relationship.
The writer has long contended he’s the sole creator of DC’s first black superhero to star in a solo series as the character wasn’t introduced under a work-for-hire agreement but rather a partnership between he and DC. It was only after Isabella sought to buy out the publisher’s interest in the character following the cancellation of that first series in 1978 that he says DC declared artist Trevor Von Eeden as Black Lightning’s co-creator.
While Isabella did some later work with the publisher — most notably the first nine issues of a 13-issue Black Lightning revival in 1995 — he’s spent the majority of the past two decades being very vocal about his discontent with the publisher and their treatment of him. Most recently, the writer spoke out against DC’s choice to revive and redesign the hero as part of the New 52 initiative.
I wasn’t a fan of the first volume of the Geoff Johns-written original graphic novel series that attempts to reinvent Batman for a new generation (to put it somewhat mildly). In addition to being wholly unnecessary — the Dark Knight is almost constantly being reimagined for mass audiences — Johns made a series of strange changes to the basic story and cast, seemingly reflective of a desire to be different for the sake of being different. That, and, ultimately, he presented a story that contradicted Batman’s idealistic “no guns, no killing” philosophy by having another character save Batman from certain death by killing the villain with a gun.
Given how confounding I found that first volume, I was surprised – and happily so – to find this sequel is a much stronger work. Johns, penciler Gary Frank, inker Jon Sibal and colorist Brad Anderson return to their very particular story of the beginning of Batman’s crime-fighting career … or, at least, a Batman’s crime-fighting career. It’s a distinction likely lost on the intended audience, but this is the Batman of the current, post-crises alternate Earth designated “Earth One.”
Although Convergence races on, it’s not DC Comics’ only cosmically minded title. This week brought a couple more takes on everyone’s favorite bit of heavenly housekeeping, as Justice League #40 kicks off “Darkseid War” and The Multiversity #2 concludes Grant Morrison’s meta-epic. Each makes clear connections to Crisis on Infinite Earths (and thus, by extension, to DC’s pre-Crisis output), and each reflects its writer’s philosophy.
However, where one extols the virtues of infinite creative diversity, the other focuses on the cyclical nature of it all. Today we’ll see which issue uses its approach more effectively.
SPOILERS for both issues, of course …
I hope it was by design that DC Comics released both The Multiversity #2 and Justice League #40 on the same day the two-month Convergence event reached its halfway point. However, it’s difficult to identify a plan in the publisher devoting the bulk of its output for the final week of April to three unrelated stories about the Multiverse. DC released 18 comics this week, and, of those, just five had nothing to do with its Multiverse.
If you haven’t been reading any of those titles — and if you haven’t, I’m afraid you’re not going to find this review terribly engaging — here’s a quick reminder of what’s going on in those three stories about the Multiverse:
Business | Indian digital comics and animation producer Graphic India has raised $2.8 million in seed financing, led by CA Media, the Asian investment arm of the Chernin Group (which previously acquired “a large minority stake” in the company). Founded in 2013 as a subsidiary of Liquid Comics, Graphic India is perhaps best known for the Stan Lee-created Chakra: The Invincible. The funding will be used to create content in English, Hindi, Tamil and other Indian languages for mobile devices. [Variety]
Creators | Geoff Johns says he returned to Superman because he was interested in giving the Man of Steel a new confidante: “When I was just thinking about the character and thinking about the story possibilities, every time my brain started to picture him talking to somebody with a problem he was having … or dealing with Clark and Superman, it always was just with another superhero. I quickly realized [Superman] didn’t really have anyone normal in his life that he could talk to again, because no one knew his secret.” The other reason: The opportunity to work with John Romita Jr. [Comic Riffs]
Ahead of the debut of the Man of Steel’s new power and costume in Wednesday’s Superman #38, DC Comics has released a graphic charting the history of his abilities, from super-speed to flight to, now, super flare.
The conclusion of the “Men of Tomorrow” storyline by Geoff Johns, John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson, the new issue apparently climaxes with the unleashing of what the writer calls “the most destructive power Superman has.”
As the new year is still fairly new, it’s time once again to revisit some old speculation, and offer a fresh batch.
2015 promises to be an unusual year for DC Comics, thanks to a couple of well-publicized real-world events: moving its offices from New York to California, and publishing two months’ worth of retro-themed comics while the regular series take a break. Although I’m getting tired of writing about these things, they will continue to dominate DC news for the next little while. Accordingly, counterintuitive though it may be, this week I’m going to resist talking about them as much as possible. You know they’re coming, I know they’re coming; but let’s try to find some other topics in the meantime.
Now to catch up on 2014’s items:
1. Anniversaries. Besides Batman’s 75th, which naturally got lots of play, I noted that last year was the 50th anniversary of the Teen Titans, the 55th of the Silver Age Green Lantern, Nightwing’s 30th, Zero Hour’s 20th and Identity Crisis’ 10th. The Titans got a commemorative hardcover and IC likewise received a new edition. However, Nightwing-the-series ended in 2014, as Nightwing-the-identity was exposed and Dick Grayson got a new spy-oriented comic. I also wondered whether the 50th anniversary of Batman’s “New Look” would get some special attention (it didn’t, unless you count the flood of Batman ‘66 love that accompanied the long-awaited home video releases of the New Look-inspired series).
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(Time once again for ROBOT 6 contributors Tom Bondurant and Carla Hoffman to email each other about the year in DC and Marvel superhero comics. This year’s exchange took place between DEc. 26 and Dec. 30. And be sure to check out Part 1 of the conversation.)
Tom Bondurant: One of the more pleasant surprises this year was the extent to which the Big Two started going after a different audience. New books like Ms. Marvel and Gotham Academy, and makeovers for Batgirl and Catwoman, have found success with distinctive, unconventional approaches. How long can they keep this up? Will digital distribution help these books, if it’s not doing so already? Are the Big Two really committed to branching out?
Carla Hoffman: Branching out is such a double-edged sword. It sounds weird to say that, because diversity is so championed online, but when a book can alienate old readers, you really have to draw in a lot of new readers to make up for it. Believe it or not, there were some who complained that Kamala Khan took the Ms. Marvel name rather than getting her own moniker. The good news is that Ms. Marvel is such a quality book and so important to the next generation of comic readers, not to mention Marvel Comics itself, I couldn’t care less if a (pardon my use) grumpy old fan can’t change with the times. Marvel published about 40 new titles this year — everything from Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu to Rocket Raccoon. Not all of the titles stuck (R.I.P. She-Hulk, try again later), but that’s still a lot of new stuff to try that isn’t just another variation of a Wolverine comic.
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Geoff Johns has revealed finished art from the long-awaited second volume of Batman: Earth One by Gary Frank, Jon Sibal and Brad Anderson.
The original graphic novel is scheduled to arrive on May 6, nearly three years after the debut of the first volume. They’re part of the Earth One line that retells the earliest adventures of some of DC Comics’ superheroes, free of current continuity. Teen Titans: Earth One was released in November, with Superman: Earth One Vol. 3 scheduled to hit shelves in February.
DC unveiled the covers for the new volumes of Superman: Earth One and Batman: Earth One in August.
DC Entertainment has debuted the first look at the upcoming Batgirl Black and White statue, based on the fan-favorite character redesign by Cameron Stewart and Babs Tarr.
Set for release in September 2015 from DC Collectibles, it’s the first Batgirl statue from the popular Black and White line that’s included The Joker, Harley Quinn and numerous takes on Batman. Irene Matar, who sculpted DC Collectibles’ Batman: The Animated Series line, also sculpted Batgirl.
Editorial cartoons | The New York Times has apologized to readers who were offended by an editorial cartoon about India’s space program that depicted the country as a man in traditional dress, leading a cow and knocking at the door of the “Elite Space Club.” “The intent of the cartoonist, Heng Kim Song, was to highlight how space exploration is no longer the exclusive domain of rich, Western countries,” reads the apology, signed by editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal. “Mr. Heng, who is based in Singapore, uses images and text — often in a provocative way — to make observations about international affairs. We apologize to readers who were offended by the choice of images in this cartoon. Mr. Heng was in no way trying to impugn India, its government or its citizens.” [The New Indian Express]
“Everyone’s like, ‘He’s so powerful, I can’t relate to him.’ Are you kidding me? He’s the most relatable character ever. He grew up on a farm, he doesn’t have a lot of friends, feels isolated, he can’t tell everybody what his secrets are. He’s a great character. He feels overlooked — who hasn’t felt overlooked, or wanted to connect with people? All social media is, is people wanting to connect with other people. That’s all it is. Because people long to connect with other people. And Superman is the embodiment of that. He’s more relevant now than ever.”
Maybe it’s the exhaustion talking, but I can’t stop watching this GIF of Jim Lee, Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Dan DiDio, John Romita Jr. and Scott Snyder from the Entertainment Weekly Social Media booth at Comic-Con International. It may be my favorite thing today, at least until I find the next thing …
DC Entertainment and Warner Bros.’ year-long celebration of Batman’s 75th anniversary will continue in a big way later this month at Comic-Con International in San Diego, with several of the creators most associated with the character set to appear on the “Batman 75: Legends of the Dark Knight” panel on Thursday, July 24.
Notably, The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One‘s Frank Miller — in a relatively rare appearance at a comics-centric panel — will join fellow Bat-luminaries Grant Morrison, Jim Lee, Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, current Batman team Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, and DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns.
On Saturday, DC will commemorate the Caped Crusader’s storied history in other media, with Batman: The Animated Series vet Paul Dini, longtime Batman voice actor Kevin Conroy, Batman ’66 Meets the Green Hornet co-writer Ralph Garman and more.
The two panels are something of a bisected version of the treatment DC gave Superman last summer, with a Superman 75th Anniversary panel including folks from both the worlds of comics (Morrison, Dan Jurgen) and movies/television (Henry Cavill, Tim Daly).
For their first issue of Superman, writer Geoff Johns, penciler John Romita Jr. and inker Klaus Janson (with colorist Laura Martin and letterer Sal Cipriani) have served up an intriguing blend of action and introspection. There are the requisite nods to semi-obscure (Titano!) and really obscure (J. Wilbur Wolfingham?) Superman minutiae, and one subplot seems destined to undo a New 52 development. However, while Issue 32 of Superman Vol. 3 is concerned with managing the Man of Steel’s status quo, a good bit of it revolves around the new character(s) that will apparently drive this story arc.
Accordingly, the issue doesn’t feel quite so much like the start of a bold new era (although it could well be); instead, the new creative team uses the issue to ease into its story, such that the action serves the character work. Considering that almost half of the issue involves fight scenes, that seems like an odd observation, but it’s kind of an odd issue overall.
The question then becomes whether those characters — Superman included — are compelling enough to follow month in and month out. Last month, Johns told Comic Book Resources that readers should “[j]ust give us one issue and that’s all. I think we’ll earn your trust and your time and your investment in one issue because I really believe in this first issue and I really believe in what we’re doing.”
Whether Superman #32 meets that standard is therefore somewhat unclear. It lays out the characters and their concerns pretty broadly, and (somewhat like Johns’ and Ivan Reis’ Aquaman) it depends to a certain extent on answering reader frustrations. Still, on balance, it works. This is a very good issue of the New 52 Superman, with all that implies.
Read on for more, and as always …