INTERVIEW: Gail Simone Guides 'Blockbuster Update' of Red Sonja, Vampirella and Dejah Thoris
The problem is that heroes win. Episodic storytelling can only get away with formula for a short amount of time before something has to change, and if there’s one constant to mainstream comics, it’s that the heroes should win. Maybe not all the time, but eventually.
When heroes lose, it bums us out. I’m not saying comics called “Magneto” or “Sabretooth” don’t sell well, it’s just they’re not going to sell as well as one labeled “Wolverine.” As readers, we come to see our heroes face a peril they will eventually overcome. Marvel’s Civil War and Dark Reign were great examples of the heroes ostensibly losing the battle, but in time (and a couple of other events later) they would win the war.
With every success our heroes experience, a greater challenge should be on the horizon. No one wants to see Spider-Man fight street-level criminals forever; let’s take him into space! Or put him with the Avengers! And so the stakes rise higher and higher with every foe defeated. Instead of having heroes face bigger and bigger catastrophes — Earth can only be in peril in so times each week — there has to be a different kind of challenge to keep our heroes on their toes and readers on the edge of their seats. So, we change the hero; maybe it’s some new powers, maybe it’s a new supporting cast, maybe we go facelift, costume change or new personality.
Take The Superior Spider-Man: Pretty much all of the above were thrown at Spider-Man to give the character a new look, new cast and new outlook. Stories began focusing less on if Spider-Man was going to win and more on how he was going to do it with Doctor Octopus in control. And because books with Doctor Octopus’ name on the cover won’t likely sell as well as those with Spider-Man’s, there’s little risk in making the switch for a while to see if it shakes things up. The old status quo eventually returns, and everyone feels like they got a little vacation.
Probably the best example of the personal shake-up is the Hulk. He’s somewhat of a cottage industry of protagonists in himself. He has tons of supporting characters, and some of the most important ones to the Hulk mythology are those in his own head.
WARNING: Some talk of Hulk #6, so please grab a copy and read along!
When DC Comics relaunched its superhero line in 2011 with the New 52, there was an unmistakable sameness to the aesthetic of many of the titles. Sure, there have been some eye-catching exceptions, but for the most part, the Jim Lee-led character redesigns have exerted great influence over the DC Universe for the past three years.
If you’re a fan of Jim Lee, that’s pretty awesome. If you’re a fan of a lot of artists and styles, that’s less awesome and has made the New 52 sometimes frustrating and occasionally baffling. There are more than 75 years’ worth of characters bursting with the imagination of hundreds of creators. Why filter all that down to such a narrow experience for readers? I love Oreo cookies, but can I ever have chocolate chip cookie?
But then, along comes new Batman Group Editor Mark Doyle, who moved from Vertigo in February. Suddenly, there’s a new creative team, a new costume and a new outlook, for Batgirl, followed by announcements of Gotham Academy, Arkham Manor and, just Tuesday, Gotham By Midnight, demonstrating that Batman and his world are a resilient and powerful corner of the DC Universe. It’s one where offering different aesthetics adds a richness to the entire line while (possibly) attracting the eye of those looking for something different in their reading experience.
Essentially, Doyle just installed a snack bar. So let’s go eat!
Even as DC Comics announces another intriguing addition to its Batman line, the horror title Gotham By Midnight, artist Karl Kerschl has unveiled the first look at colored panel from Gotham Academy #1, offering a hint at what readers can expect from the October-debuting series. He has also posted a few black-and-white panels on his blog.
Written by Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher, with art by Kerschl and colorist Romain Gaschet, Gotham Academy is a teen drama set in the city’s most prestigious school (or, as the official description reads, “set in the shadow of Batman and the craziness of Gotham City”).
I hate “dark and gritty.” Some days I wake up and say a little prayer on announcement weekends like this one, where the House of Ideas sells us on the next batch of comics’ twists and turns that no one hails a new book as being a must-read because it will be “dark and gritty.” I like to think that’s we’ve moved past thinking that shading your books in big, black washes and stockpiling your panels in death, dismemberment and human anguish means your comics are better or “more realistic” than one that’s more lighthearted. After all, death not only gets you an annotation in the Overstreet guide, but it also means something important has happened.
That’s what makes Deadpool so interesting as a character and as an ongoing comic. Nothing really important happens in a Deadpool comic; he doesn’t cross over with big events all that often, and he’s more a guest star in other characters’ comics than a major player in his own. He also happens to be wacky, dangerous in a Bugs Bunny sort of way and more self-aware than most heroes, whether anti- or super-. With the right creative team, Deadpool can make you think while making you laugh, or tug at the heart string and your funny bone. At his worst, he’s like a CBS sitcom: high in ratings, panned by critics, divisive in his target audience and competing against the better shows.
Marvel NOW! Deadpool wonderfully leans toward the former, with Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn balancing humor and horror on a katana’s edge, as Deadpool #18 expertly delivers on both this week.
WARNING: HUGE spoiler for Deadpool #18 this week, so please grab your copy and a box of tissues and read along!
Publishing | Heidi MacDonald reports that shareholders of Platinum Studios held a conference call Wednesday, with President Chris Beall sending a letter to founder Scott Rosenberg suspending him indefinitely as the company’s chief executive officer. Rich Johnston posted the press release announcing the call, and some of the topics on the agenda were fairly jaw-dropping. [The Beat]
Publishing | Andrews McMeel Publishing and Universal UClick (which are different divisions of the same company) are collaborating on a new line of digital comics, Udig, which collects themed newspaper strips into short e-books (the one I checked had 55 comics) for $2.99 each. [Good E-Reader]
It was a tough week here at Camp Chain Reactions, trying to pick from the half-dozen or so first issues that arrived on Wednesday. Luckily there was nothing on the ballot Tuesday that ruled against doing more than one of these roundups each week, so expect to see one or two more before Monday.
Speaking of elections, let’s start off with a book that apparently (I haven’t read it yet) features zombie presidents: Deadpool #1. Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn tag team on the writing, as Tony Moore and Val Staples provide the art. Do they do justice to the merc with a mouth? Here are a few opinions from around the web:
Kelly Thompson, Comic Book Resources: “Duggan and Posehn take just the right tack for a Wade Wilson book, coming up with an outlandish idea of resurrected former presidents out to destroy America so that they can rebuild it. Dead president zombies on the loose is a concept that effortlessly inserts Deadpool into working for S.H.I.E.L.D., of all places. The result is comedy gold. Duggan and Posehn, in addition to conceiving of a perfect plot for Wade, have a good handle on his energy and sense of humor. Not every joke lands, but the ones that do are great and the ones that don’t still make a reader groan good-naturedly. Zombie FDR making jokes about a ‘new deal?’ This is fun.”
Crime | Police in Jackson, Mississippi, have recovered a comic-book collection valued at $19,000, and arrested two suspects in the burglary. [WJTV]
Legal | Gerry Giovinco questions why Marvel and DC Comics zealously defend their intellectual property rights, going so far as to sue a birthday party company that rented out lookalike costumes, but don’t even touch the many porn parodies of their comics that have sprung up in recent years. [CO2 Comics]
Comics | A Florida mother was upset to discover Chick tracts among her children’s trick-or-treat haul, saying the comics are racist and offensive. It’s the second time in as many weeks that the long-controversial evangelical comics have been publicly called out by a displeased parent. [KTNV]
“Some of you are against celebrities making comics, but @thebrianposehn’s art is wonderful & Roger Moore’s scripts are hilarious.”
– television and comics writer Gerry Duggan, following the release of the above teaser from Marvel
trumpeting the creative team for a new Deadpool series (that’s Duggan and Brian Posehn writing,
and Tony Moore illustrating, as far as you know)