EXCL. PREVIEW: Superman Escapes a Black Universe in "Dark Knight III" #5
Honestly, the post title is a little misleading. Overall, I liked “Trinity War.” It was paced well, the creative teams did a good job wrangling all the characters and (for the most part) keeping them in character, and both story and art were top-notch. Basically, it felt like an old-school Justice League/Justice Society team-up, and for this grizzled veteran of the crossover wars, that’s high praise.
Nevertheless, its conclusion frustrates me, and I can’t talk about it without a massive spoiler warning. About the only thing I can say without reservation is that this week’s Justice League #23 featured the conclusion of “Trinity War.” To reveal much more about it would spoil the last page of the issue.
This is a terribly ironic situation, because DC Comics has made no secret about the setup for the sequel miniseries, the seven-issue Forever Evil. However, in the interests of preserving at least a nominal sense of fair play, I can’t really talk about that either. It all makes me feel very cynical, just when I was feeling good.
Anyway, if you’ve read the issue — or if you don’t mind knowing absolutely everything that happens, including the usual history lessons and ill-informed speculation — let’s talk.
When DC Comics published the final issue of Geoff Johns’ eight-year, 150-ish issue run on the Green Lantern character in May, it came in a massive package: An 80-page, $7.99 comic book with a spine, its 66-page story by Johns and his many artistic collaborators complemented by eight pages or so of “Congratulations, Geoff Johns!” from his bosses, his colleagues, his collaborators, his admirers, his family members, a few celebrities and a few “celebrities.”
When DC published the final issue of Grant Morrison’s seven-year run on the Batman character this July, it was simply a regular, $2.99, 24-page issue of Batman Incorporated, the second ongoing monthly created specifically for Morrison to tell his Batman story.
The actual celebration and send-off of Morrison’s tenure on the character— or at least the last few years of it – came out this week, and, in a move that seems appropriately off-beat, Morrison himself had next to nothing to do with Batman Incorporated Special #1, a series of short stories featuring Morrison creations and resurrections of long-retired characters by various creators, only one of whom actually worked with the writer during any of those seven years’ worth of comics.
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Business | The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has approved Disney’s plan to build a 58-acre television and film production facility on the sprawling Golden Oak Ranch, near Santa Clarita, California. Located less than an hour north of Los Angeles, the 890-acre ranch has been owned by Disney since 1959, serving as the backdrop for projects ranging from Little House on the Prairie to Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Pirates of the Caribbean: The World’s End. ABC Studios has been producing more series than Disney’s Burbank facilities can handle, requiring additional sound stages to be rented. The new facility is targeted for completion in 2016.
Marvel Animation opened a new studio early last year in Glendale, just minutes from Disney’s Burbank lot. Marvel Studios later followed suit, moving from Manhattan Beach to new offices in Glendale. [TheWrap]
Students of DC Comics’ publishing history can probably rattle off at least a few editors from the company’s first few decades. Whitney Ellsworth edited the Batman and Superman books in the 1940s and ‘50s before becoming a producer on the Adventures of Superman television series. In the Silver Age, Mort Weisinger presided over an exponential expansion of Superman’s mythology, including all those varieties of Kryptonite, the introductions of Supergirl, Krypto and the Legion of Super-Heroes, and ongoing series focused on Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. Similarly, as editor of the Batman titles, Jack Schiff supervised one of the character’s most recognizable periods, filled with colorful mysteries and giant-sized props.
Of course, the phrase “Silver Age DC” is virtually synonymous with Julius Schwartz, who worked with writers Gardner Fox and John Broome and artists Carmine Infantino, Mike Sekowsky and Gil Kane on rebuilding DC’s superhero line. One could argue fairly reasonably that without them DC Comics as we know it today might not exist (and neither would today’s Marvel).
However, while Ellsworth became DC’s editorial director in 1948, Schwartz Schiff, and Weisinger weren’t in similarly lofty positions. Today we readers hear a lot about “editorial control” and the dreaded “editorial interference,” charges aimed largely at the men at the top: Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras, Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee and Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns. We hear a lot from them (illuminating and otherwise) about the general direction of the company. We also hear a good bit from various writers and artists, including Johns and Lee, regarding specific titles.
Nevertheless, on the management tier in between are the books’ editors themselves; and that’s the area about which I’ve become rather hazy. Therefore, I started looking through New 52 credits boxes, and supplementing this research through the Grand Comics Database, to see who was editing what.
With the advent of DC Comics’ New 52, de facto head writer (and DC Entertainment chief creative officer) Geoff Johns took on the unenviable task of reinvigorating DC’s underwater superhero Aquaman. After nearly two years, Johns and his various collaborators have done so with aplomb, and it looks like with November’s landmark 25th issue they’re bringing back a long-lost character to the Aquaman mythos.
Have you ever heard the expression, “If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing well?” Have you heard about DC Comics’ He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, whose first six-issue miniseries was just collected? Have any of the people involved with the creation of those comics heard of that expression? Because from the results, it sure doesn’t seem to be the case.
The comics are poorly made — among the worst I’ve seen produced by an industry-leading publisher — but they’re bad in a very particular way.
They aren’t unreadable; I made it all the way through He-Man and The Masters of the Universe Vol. 1 without giving up. If pressed, I’m sure I could come up with some worse, more poorly made comics from DC in the recent past, but I might have difficulty thinking of worse comics from creators of such a relatively high caliber as some of those involved with this project, or an example of a series so bewilderingly bad.
Seemingly rushed through production like a term paper written the night before it’s due, many of the comics’ problems appear to originate with there being just too many creators working too fast and with little communication to meet a particular deadline. But,the funny thing is that it’s just a He-Man comic that no one in the comics-reading audience seemed particularly excited about, let alone interested in.
So it’s hard to imagine a reason DC decided to steam ahead with its creation to meet an arbitrarily chosen deadline before, say, nailing down a single creative team. Put another way, this is a bad comic book, and I can tell you what makes it a bad comic book, but I can’t hazard a guess as to why the people responsible for it made the decisions they did that resulted in it being so bad.
The first part of “Trinity War” (in last week’s Justice League #22) relied rather significantly on the changes the New 52 relaunch facilitated: Superman, Wonder Woman, and Billy Batson/Shazam (hereinafter “Billy/Shazam,” or maybe just “Captain Marvel”) each acted in ways incompatible with long relationships.
In the old days, Superman and Wonder Woman would have been close friends, Superman and Captain Marvel would have had a unique (almost mentor-protegé) relationship, and Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel would at least have had some Greek mythology in common. However, the main conflicts of “TW” Part 1 depended on Wonder Woman being more of a warrior than an ambassador, Superman trusting her hostility, and Billy/Shazam not knowing either of them that well. As such, it appeared to exemplify the freedom a relaunch confers, specifically to ignore the restrictions of previous developments to put these characters quickly on opposing sides.
In other words, one might reasonably have seen Part 1 as a) realizing the New 52 allowed for a particular Shocking Event and b) working backward to create the conditions that would lead to said Event. “Because we can do this, how do we do it?”
If you can’t make heads or tails “Trinity War,” DC Comics’ universe-spanning crossover that begins Wednesday with Justice League #22, who better than Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns to explain it? And how better to lay out the premise of the six-part storyline than with a slickly produced video? (Bonus question: Just how many cups of coffee can one person go through?)
Seriously, “The Truth Behind Trinity War” is incredibly well done, and may even change the minds of a few people who previously had no interest in the publisher’s latest summer event.
“Trinity War” kicks off with Justice League #22, and then continues in Justice League of America #6, Justice League Dark #22, Justice League of America #7 and Justice League Dark #23 before concluding in Justice League #23 (there are also a handful of tie-ins; you can find the checklist here). Well, “concluding,” as the events of “Trinity War” lead into Forever Evil and Villains Month …
DC Comics goes bad in September, turning all 52 slots of its superhero line over to its less-savory characters. That’s pretty much the story of the superhero solicitations, although there are some interesting collections coming this fall.
On its face, Forever Evil sounds like a pretty straightforward, traditional superhero story. I think the “heroes disappear, villains romp” plot was even an episode of Super Friends. Accordingly, all things being equal, I have no problems with using it for a line-wide crossover. No doubt the DC Comics of 2013-14 will season it with plenty of violence and depravity, sucking away my goodwill accordingly; but those details will have to wait until the comics themselves come out.
THE SHAPE OF EVIL
In fact, the part of “Villains Month” that interests me most is its structure. Yes, there are 52 single issues coming out of the superhero line in September, plus Forever Evil #1. However, those 52 issues ostensibly “represent” only 18 series: Action Comics, Aquaman, Batman, Batman and Robin, Batman/Superman, Batman: The Dark Knight, Detective Comics, Earth 2, The Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Justice League, JL Dark, JLA, Superman, Swamp Thing, Teen Titans and Wonder Woman. Furthermore, 16 of the 52 are Bat-books, more than the Justice League books’ 10 issues and twice as many as the Superman books’ eight issues. Add Batman/Superman #3.1, and 35 of the 52 will have “Batman,” “Superman” or “Justice League” on their covers. In fact, 16 of the 18 series are already on my pull list (sorry, Green Arrow and Teen Titans), so I’ll probably be putting back a fair amount of these, which won’t make my comic shop’s job any happier.
Conventions | HeroesCon, which begins Friday in Charlotte, North Carolina, will double in size this year, with the exhibit area increasing from 100,000 to 200,000 square feet. “There’s a whole lot more of everything,” says founder Shelton Drum. Including people? Last year’s convention drew in 17,000 attendees, and Drum thinks this year’s event will attract more newcomers curious about the source material of their favorite movies. [Winston-Salem Journal]
Creators | Peter Bebergal talks with Alan Moore about Jerusalem, magic, comics, and the tendency to conflate gods with superheroes: “It is contrived, because they’re not at all the same. Superheroes are the copyrighted property of big corporations. They are purely commercial entities; they are purely about making a buck. That’s not to say that there haven’t been some wonderful creations in the course of the history of the superhero comic, but to compare them with gods is fairly pointless. Yes, you can make obvious comparisons by saying the golden-age Flash looks a bit like Hermes, as he’s got wings on his helmet, or the golden-age Hawkman looks a bit like Horus because he’s got a hawk head. But this is just to say that comics creators through the decades have taken their inspiration where they can find it. Before I was interested in magic as a viable way of life, I was certainly aware of the occult, and wouldn’t be above taking names or concepts or ideas from the occult.” [The Believer]
Hello everyone, Happy Memorial Day weekend to America, and welcome one and all to What Are You Reading? This week we are joined by special guests Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder, the creative team behind Halloween Eve and the upcoming Rocket Girl. I spoke to them earlier this month about Rocket Girl, which surpassed its Kickstarter goal but you still have some time to get in on the action and rewards.
To see what Brandon, Amy and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Who’s your Green Lantern writer?
If you started reading the series in the ‘60s, odds are it was John Broome. He didn’t write every Green Lantern story of Hal Jordan’s first decade, but he was there for the character’s introduction (in September-October 1959’s Showcase #22), and he lasted until March 1970’s Green Lantern #75.
If you joined the Corps in the the ‘70s, your Green Lantern writer was Denny O’Neil, who had already written a few GL stories before getting the regular gig with the landmark Issue 76. He guided the feature through some rocky patches — including the book’s cancellation, its time as a backup feature in The Flash and its 1976 relaunch — before finally taking a bow with June 1980’s Issue 129.
The ‘80s saw a parade of writers, including Marv Wolfman, Mike Barr, Len Wein and Steve Englehart (and in GL’s time as an Action Comics Weekly feature, Jim Owsley/Christopher Priest and Peter David). Each made his own contribution, be it Hal’s exile from Earth, John Stewart’s star turn, the Guardians’ sabbatical, or the enigmatic Lord Malvolio. The early ‘90s belonged to the neo-Silver Age stylings of Gerard Jones, and the balance of the decade was all Ron Marz and Kyle Rayner. Starting in 2000, Judd Winick took on Kyle for three years, then Ben Raab wrote a few issues, and Marz came back for one last crack at his creation.
And since then, it’s been all Geoff Johns.
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The mythologies built by comics, particularly superhero comics, is often pointed out as one of the great accomplishments of the medium.
There’s no doubt the Marvel and DC universes are impressive feats of world-building. In Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, Sean Howe proclaimed the Marvel Universe “the most intricate fictional narrative in the history of the world”. If you discount DC because of its various universe resets from Crises and Flashpoints and what-have-yous, I guess that’s true. Whoever gets to wear the crown, both sets of characters have been generating dozens of stories, usually hundreds of stories, every month since the late 1930s. Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon universe might be in third place.
Of course, superhero comics aren’t alone in this: In Japan, popular manga series also tend to get pretty long in the tooth. Osamu Akimoto’s police comedy Kochikame has been running weekly since 1976, resulting in more than 1,700 chapters collected in nearly 200 volumes. Takao Saito’s twice-monthly crime manga Golgo 13 is older, having launched in 1969. One Piece has 69 volumes, Naruto has 64, and Bleach 58.
These are amazing accomplishments, but we don’t appreciate the satisfying arc of a finite story often enough.
More than three months after teasing that he and his Green Lantern collaborator would reteam on “a new project later this year,” this morning Geoff Johns made it official: Artist Doug Mahnke will join him on Justice League of America.
The announcement arrives in a farewell message from the writer in today’s Green Lantern #20, which marks the end of a nine-year run that began with 2004’s Green Lantern: Rebirth. After praising artists Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis and Joe Prado, Johns continues, “And Doug Mahnke … he’s the current superstar I work with every month on Green Lantern and have for years now. Doug, you’re one of the most amazing and unique artists in the business. Your power, grit and sense of wonder can be seen at its very best in Green Lantern #20. I’m fortunate to continue working with Doug as we head over to Justice League of America.”
“The run started with Hal and Sinestro and kind of continued that relationship, which only got stronger when Sinestro became a Green Lantern again and he and Hal were forced to team up. As I was building towards this next confrontation involving the land of the dead, Hal returning from the dead again and Sinestro and him having another change in their relationship, it just felt like the right time to go. Once I got through this next phase of Hal and Sinestro’s relationship and how it went all the way back to ‘Rebirth’ and then to this point, to me, that was the right time to move on. The story decided it. I think the last issue has a lot of stuff in it that puts an exclamation point on everything we did on the run. […] [Hal has] sacrificed his life, and now he has to find his way back again. It started with a ‘Rebirth,’ it ends with a rebirth. It just felt right. Hal is a character who lives for the day and he’s so full of life, death can’t stop him. It was exactly the right storyline to go out on with him.”
– Geoff Johns, talking with Comic Book Resources about his nine-year run onGreen Lantern, which comes to an end Wednesday