“Now, see, I haven’t read any superhero comics since I finished with Watchmen. I hate superheroes. I think they’re abominations. They don’t mean what they used to mean. They were originally in the hands of writers who would actively expand the imagination of their nine- to 13-year-old audience. That was completely what they were meant to do and they were doing it excellently. These days, superhero comics think the audience is certainly not nine to 13, it’s nothing to do with them. It’s an audience largely of 30-, 40-, 50-, 60-year old men, usually men. Someone came up with the term graphic novel. These readers latched on to it; they were simply interested in a way that could validate their continued love of Green Lantern or Spider-Man without appearing in some way emotionally subnormal. This is a significant rump of the superhero-addicted, mainstream-addicted audience. I don’t think the superhero stands for anything good. I think it’s a rather alarming sign if we’ve got audiences of adults going to see the Avengers movie and delighting in concepts and characters meant to entertain the 12-year-old boys of the 1950s.”
– Alan Moore, addressing modern superhero comics in an interview with The Guardian about Fashion Beast, his collaboration with Malcolm McLaren. Moore also touches upon the influence of his work on other writers, and gets in a jab another in the process: “Grant Morrison has actually self-confessedly made a tactic of not only basing some of his narratives on my style or my work but also trying to make himself more famous by slagging me off at every opportunity. I have nothing to do with him.”
Avengers: Endless Wartime (Marvel Entertainment): Marvel’s new line of original graphic novels — note the “Marvel OGN” logo on the spine — is off to a pretty strong start with this continuity-light Warren Ellis-written, Mike McKone-drawn story of an Avengers squad facing a new form of semi-sentient weapon evolved from a generation-old attempt to marry Nazi science with Norse magic.
That’s a good conflict for an Avengers comic, as the team includes a Nazi-fighting hero and a Norse god, and, better still, both Captain America and Thor were tied to the this new weapon’s origin.
Ellis does his usual fine job of mixing current science, speculative next-level science, elements of our zeitgeist and corporate superheroes with something that feels appropriate, cool and like the writer has something to say. Additionally, he has a pretty decent handle on the characters, and does a relatively good job of singling out particular voices (this is the first time in a long time that I’ve read an Avengers comic where everyone didn’t talk like Brian Michael Bendis).
Cap, Thor, Iron Man, Wolverine, Captain Marvel, Black Widow and Hawkeye, who reflects Matt Fraction’s version, are a bit of a rag-tag group, but they seem to be assembled primarily for their military backgrounds. “Do you know, I just realized I’m the only non-soldier in the room,” Tony Stark says at one point, and Captain Marvel sneers back, “That’s right, Tony. You’re just an ex-arms manufacturer in a metal death suit.”
Graphic novels | France 24 examines the Thursday release of Asterix and the Picts — the first album by new creative team Jean Yves-Ferri and Didier Conrad — from a political perspective, noting that the story, in which Asterix and Obelix journey from ancient Gaul to Iron Age Scotland, has already become part of the current debate about Scottish independence. [France 24]
Creators | Chinese cartoonist Wang Liming, who spent a night in police custody last week on charges of “suspicion of causing a disturbance,” spoke to the press this week. Liming, who has more than 300,000 followers on his microblog account, first ran into trouble two years ago for one of his cartoons, but police told him that China has freedom of speech and he could continue drawing. Nonetheless, another of his cartoons, depicting Winnie the Pooh (a frequent cartoon stand-in for Chinese President Xi Jinping) kicking a football was deleted and suppressed by censors. “For them, drawing leaders in cartoon form is a big taboo,” the cartoonist said. “I think the controls on the Internet are too harsh. They have no sense of humor. They can’t accept any ridicule.” [Reuters]
Publishing | Sales of IDW Publishing’s My Little Pony comics, in single-issue and graphic novel format but not counting digital, have topped 1 million copies. (It does really well in the iBookstore — there are multiple issues in the Top 10 every week — although it seldom registers on the other digital comics platforms.) IDW’s Ted Adams says this is because it’s such a great comic, but shrewd marketing such as offering a special Scholastic Book Fair edition with a bonus pony figure probably helped a lot. [ICv2]
Digital comics | The motion-comics platform Madefire has secured $5.2 million in funding. In July it announced agreements with four comics publishers — IDW, BOOM! Studios, Top Cow and iTV — and the first IDW comics came out in August. Madefire also has a partnership with DeviantArt. [Publishers Weekly]
Summer is officially over, so this is a little late, but I’ve been meaning to talk about a certain arc from the summer of 1993. It was the height of the speculator bubble, when everything came with cover enhancements, trading cards, unfortunate hairstyles and/or superfluous pouches.
For many DC Comics readers, 20 years ago was also the summer of “Reign of the Supermen!” That’s not necessarily enthusiasm — the exclamation point was part of the title, which in turn was inspired by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s early proto-supervillain story, “The Reign of the Superman.” The third (and by far the longest) chapter of the “Death of Superman” saga began with teasers at the back of Adventures of Superman #500, published around April 15,* and ended with Superman Vol. 2 #82, published around Aug. 26.** Those four and a half months may not seem like much, but they saw 20 issues of the four regular Superman books (including Action Comics and Superman: The Man of Steel) spread over 20 weeks. In fact, “Reign” was front-loaded, with all four titles marking the official start of the arc on April 29 or so, two weeks after Adventures #500. That meant there were some weeks without a new installment, and those were sometimes hard to take.
“Reign of the Supermen!” is not the greatest Superman story ever memorialized in print. On one level it is very much a product of its era. However, for the Superman books, that era was energized not just by the efforts of their creative teams, but by the overarching framework the books had developed. While “Reign” wasn’t the only big DC event of the summer — for one thing, the debut of DC’s imprint Milestone Media has much more historical significance — it’s a reminder of the ebbs and flows of serial superhero storytelling, and it remains instructive today.
Warning: This is a very long post, because I think there’s a lot of background to be explored.
I’m terribly fond of Joe Gordon, editor of the Forbidden Planet International blog. Last night he posted this video of himself hosting the Grant Morrison panel at the Edinburgh Book Festival. Gordon gets more confident as the panel goes on after a shaky start, bless him; Morrison is, as ever, tremendous value: He breaks down the plots of many of his upcoming projects, including much-anticipated projects as The Trial of Diana Prince, Seaguy Eternal, Multiversity, the hook of the Flash story he keeps mentioning, and the joys of pitching superheroes to Warner Bros.
You may recall that in January, Metalocalypse and Venture Bros. director Jon Schepp launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a documentary about Superman Lives, the abandoned Tim Burton film that would’ve starred Nicolas Cage as the Man of Steel, Chris Rock as Jimmy Olsen, Tim Allen as Brainiac. Well, that drive surpassed its $98,000 goal, and now The Death of ‘Superman Lives’: What Happened? has a teaser trailer.
And it’s very teaser-ish, with a lot of quick shots of websites that covered the campaign (including ROBOT 6), production art from the abandoned film, and glimpses of new interviews with the likes of Mark Waid and Grant Morrison — and all tied together by somewhat-haunting audio and video from a March Q&A in which Cage talks about the Kickstarter.
Better still, the trailer promises The Death of ‘Superman Lives’: What Happened? will arrive in summer 2014, which means by this time next year, we could know the full story behind what could have been “the weirdest Superman movie ever made.”
Conventions | Next week, Salt Lake City will get its first comics convention, Salt Lake Comic Con, which has already sold a reported 23,000 tickets (the event’s website says 20,000). But founder Dan Farr expects attendance to far exceed 40,000, surpassing the 33,000 recorded for New York Comic Con’s inaugural year.[Deseret News, The Salt Lake Tribune]
Conventions | Oni Hartstein, the co-founder of Intervention, talks about why she established the Washington, DC-area convention and why its DIY aspect sets it apart. [Comic Riffs]
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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Although a new profile of Grant Morrison closes with the promise of the third and final volume of Seaguy in 2014, his collaborator Cameron Stewart cautions excited fans that “It’s still a long way off.”
Published ahead of Morrison’s appearance at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the Guardian article focuses primarily on the newly retitled Wonder Woman: The Trial of Diana Prince, and touches upon some recent personal losses, his dispute with Rebellion over the Zenith rights and — seemingly out of nowhere — his, let’s say, complicated history with Mark Millar before ending on the long-awaited conclusion of Seaguy.
“It’s honestly the best I’ve ever written,” he says of the saga that began in 2004. “It never sold well, but it’s my thing. I want Seaguy to remain as my statement about life and death and the universe.”
But while The Guardian asserts the final miniseries, presumably still titled Seaguy Eternal, is “due out next year,” Stewart suggests that timeline is a bit optimistic.
“INB4 everyone assuming Seaguy 3 is done or even a work in progress, when I have still not even received a script,” he wrote this morning on Twitter. “Which isn’t to say I’ve been sitting around waiting for a script that isn’t coming — I’ve been busy, so has Grant. It’s still a long way off.”
Also of note from the Morrison interview:
Retailing | Following a price war during which it lost $11,000 a day, Overstock.com has vowed to match Amazon’s price on books, including graphic novels, going forward. Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne thinks he can get better prices from publishers who want to boost competition for Amazon. However, as ICv2 points out, Overstock’s graphic novel selection is smaller than Amazon’s, and prices overall have risen since their recent price war. [ICv2]
Creators | Todd McFarlane recently claimed no work that was “trying to get across a message” has succeeded as a comic, but Laura Sneddon finds proof to the contrary at the Stripped festival in Edinburgh, where she talked to Joe Sacco, Paul Cornell, Stephen Collins and Grant Morrison about the ideas that drive their comics. [New Statesman]
While the big news to come out of Kevin Smith’s new “Fatman on Batman” interview with Grant Morrison is the new title for his long-teased Wonder Woman graphic novel, the most interesting part of the discussion may be when the subject turns to Batman: The Killing Joke.
The influential 1988 one-shot, by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland, is perhaps best remembered for The Joker’s shooting of Barbara Gordon, leaving the once and future Batgirl paraplegic. But after listening to Morrison’s interpretation of the book’s ending, Smith realizes the impact of The Killing Joke is far greater: “Alan Moore secretly wrote the last Batman story.”
Remember when Batman was a jerk?
Remember when Batman was such a jerk that no less than Mark Waid called him “broken”?
Starting in 2006, writer Grant Morrison aimed to help fix him; and this week, with Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 #13, Morrison concluded his Bat-saga. The issue is a neat encapsulation of the themes Morrison has played with for the past seven-plus years — including the portability (and immortality) of “Batman,” the uniqueness of Bruce Wayne, and the importance of not going alone — all drawn with verve and giddy energy by Chris Burnham. (There’s even a dialogue sequence where the punchline is “Cancelled!”) Like the infinite-Batman cover or the eternal-circle image that dominates an early spread, Batman will go on, but it is the end of a unique era.
As usual, though, some history first …
While Grant Morrison’s remarks about bondage, submission and eroticism in early Wonder Woman comics may receive widespread attention, his more subdued comments in a new interview may actually shed the most light on his long-awaited take on the Amazing Amazon.
Talking to USA Today about Wonder Woman: Earth One, his 120-page graphic novel with artist Yanick Paquette, the writer explains that, “I’m really focusing a lot more on the mother and daughter story in it between Hippolyta and Diana. I want it to be that kind of book, a story about women.”
In an impromptu interview at The Walking Dead‘s 10th-anniversary party held during Comic-Con International, CBR’s Karl Keily spoke briefly with Grant Morrison about the one superhero he’d still like to tackle, the status of his Rogue Trooper screenplay, and whether fans should expect another MorrisonCon.
Karl Keily: You just wrapped up your epic, decade-long, redefining Batman run. Are there any other iconic characters you’d like to revamp next?
Grant Morrison: The Flash is the only one left that I would still do. If I’m gonna do the Flash, I want to do it as a science-fiction story like The Incredible Shrinking Man or Stephen King’s Thinner, or The Fly, where you basically take a scientist and then subject him to a very simple equation. For Barry Allen, he’d just be getting faster and faster and faster — and what would that mean? Because somewhere up there is the speed of light, and when you hit the speed of light, basically all time stops and it’s the end. That’s the limit. So we’re watching this guy progress through it, faster and faster. By the end of Act 1, his clothes are burning off every time he moves, so he has to build himself a suit, and then he paints the suit red like a Ferrari and is just speeding around like he’s on coke all the time! I want to do that as a sci-fi story, but out of it comes the familiar image of the Flash. I think that’d be totally different, just taking it from a different angle.