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Publishing | As part of its coverage of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Variety spotlights DC Entertainment’s digital moves, particularly its “Digital First” initiative, with titles like Smallville, Arrow and Batman: Arkham Unhinged, and the increase in sales since the company began going day-and-date with its comic books in September 2011. “What we launched last year as an experiment, we’ll increase the frequency now because it’s gotten so popular,” Hank Kanalz, senior vice president of Vertigo and Integrated Publishing, says of Digital First. [Variety]
Retailing | Halifax, Nova Scotia, comics retailer Calum Johnston is looking for a new location for Strange Adventures, as the current location is being redeveloped and the rent will go up as a result. Johnston would rather pay for more staff than pay a higher rent: “When people come in looking for a major title like the death of Peter Parker in Marvel Comics’ The Amazing Spider-Man, they inevitably have questions about other titles. It is important to have staff available to keep customers up to date on new developments and titles.” [The Chronicle Herald]
No small amount of drama accompanies the March solicitations, thanks to Gail Simone’s unexpected dismissal from Batgirl. There’s also turnover at Swamp Thing and Birds of Prey, potential clues to the end of “Death of the Family,” and the usual I-remember-this! commentary on collections.
FOLLOW THE BOUNCING BALL
The big stories are the departures of Simone from Batgirl and Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette from Swamp Thing. It seems particularly odd in Simone’s case because it leaves the fate of Batgirl’s current antagonist in the hands of a different writer. Maybe that means Simone’s original plans for him didn’t go over particularly well with DC, or maybe it’s something totally unrelated. Either way, looks like it’ll be at least another month (in January’s Issue 16, her last issue) before we learn anything significant. At any rate, Ray Fawkes writes two issues of Batgirl starting with Issue 18.
As of March, Jim Zubkavich is your new Birds of Prey writer, Andy Kubert draws the lead story in Batman #18, and Trevor McCarthy draws Batwoman #18. Also, in a move that threatens to have me try out Phantom Stranger, the very fine J.M. DeMatteis comes aboard as co-writer with Issue # (guest-drawn by the equally fine Gene Ha and Zander Cannon).
I hear a lot of rumbling from the February solicitations — the First Lantern, the last Hellblazer, the new JLA — like the Next Big Things are simmering under the surface. Yes, this is how DC wants me to think, but there’s no guarantee that my anticipation will live up to the books themselves. Still, at least things are happening, which is nice. There are endings and beginnings, changes and reintroductions, and a few good reprints too.
So, without further ado …
JUST BE GLAD IT’S NOT “20,000 LEAGUES”
The “expansion of the Justice League” advertised in Justice League #17 may be related to the new Justice League of America, but I suspect it will have more to do with the main League’s roster additions (which, if memory serves, were teased back in summer 2011). I base this mostly on the fact that JLA #1 comes out two weeks before JL #17, and therefore I doubt DC would want its latest high-profile first issue to spoil the end of “Throne of Atlantis.”
DC Comics has declared Wednesday, Oct. 10 as “Arrow Day” to celebrate the premiere of the Arrow television series on The CW.
What’s Arrow Day, you ask? Well, when fans visit direct-market stores on Oct. 10, they’ll receive a free Arrow #1 Special Edition custom comic — it’s characterized as “the perfect companion for the show’s premiere that night” — as well as a six-page preview of Green Arrow #0, which was released earlier this month. The publisher is also providing retailers with promotional posters and bags for the TV series.
Readers will also be able to download the first chapter of the new Arrow digital comic series written by the show’s executive producers Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg, with art by Mike Grell.
Developed by Guggenheim, Kreisberg and Greg Berlanti, Arrow centers on wealthy young bad boy Oliver Queen, who after being marooned on a remote island for five years returns to Starling City with a mastery of the bow and a determination to make a difference.
The series stars Stephen Amell (Hung) as Oliver Queen, Colin Donnell as Tommy Merlyn, Katie Cassidy (Supernatural, Melrose Place) as Laurel Lance, David Ramsey (Dexter) as John Diggle, Willa Holland (The O.C.) as Thea Queen, Susanna Thompson (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) as Moira Queen and Paul Blackthorne (24) as Detective Quentin Lance.
Arrow premieres Wednesday, Oct. 10 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.
Here in Memphis this week, September finally turned the corner into fall. High temperatures are mostly in the 70s, the air is getting crisper, and the sky is turning a paler blue. Unlike July or August, when October and November seem far in the future, a nice September makes December that much easier to imagine.
In September you start to settle into the routine which will take you through the winter — and that’s apparently true as well for the New 52 superhero books. Let’s get on with it, shall we?
MOVERS AND SHAKERS
Ivan Reis and Joe Prado head to Justice League with December’s Issue 15, and I for one am happy. Although I like Jim Lee fine, I think Reis is better-suited to big, multiple-character action. It’s hard for me to explain the distinction, so consider this: How would “Sinestro Corps” or Blackest Night have looked if Lee had drawn them? Reis manages crowds quite well, and Justice League should be crowded.
Also, while I’ve been rather down on Justice League of late, the expanded roster (teased over a year ago) and the Atlantis-centered storyline make me optimistic that the book is … well, doing what I’d like it to do, which is being a showcase for, and gateway to, the larger superhero universe. So, well done, solicitation!
July’s a great time to anticipate October: football; temperatures on the brisk side; the crisp smell of falling leaves; the cold rains that somehow aren’t depressing. I also like that DC Comics seems to be settling into its own seasonal patterns, using the fall to set up a slew of new creative teams and launch big new storylines. Having all those #13 issues in the run-up to Halloween doesn’t hurt either.
Of course, now we get to judge them all harshly, based on a few sentences and a photo for each….
COMINGS AND GOINGS
John Layman and Jay Fabok come aboard Detective Comics, replacing Tony Daniel. Daniel leaves regular Bat-work after several years writing and penciling in various combinations. I was never really enthralled with his writing, which seemed content mostly to approximate what a Batman story should be; but if Detective’s sales are any indication, I am in the minority. Daniel moves over to Justice League for two issues, so that likely eases the pain.
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Tomorrow DC Comics releases the second of the new reader-friendly “Earth One” graphic novels, Batman: Earth One. Originally announced in 2009, this second graphic novel is just hours away from release, and people are already looking toward the line, and this title’s, future. DC has already announced that J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis have a sequel to Superman: Earth One due out Nov. 6, and Geoff Johns let slip that he was already writing a Batman: Earth One sequel in an interview posted on Entertainment Weekly‘s website. With those two balls in the air, and DC actively looking to expand their roster of mainstream-friendly characters, I thought I’d give some unsolicited advice on what they should consider next for the “Earth One” line.
DC Comics in September brings together two gimmicks. This being corporate-run superhero comics, naturally these two things have been tried before. September’s unified cover themes remind me of January 2009′s “Faces of Evil” (not particularly uplifting) and January 2011′s “Salute to White Space.” The new “Zero Month” recalls August 1994, when every main-line DC superhero title got an Issue #0 in the wake of July’s weekly, timeline-tweaking Zero Hour miniseries. Just over four years later, in September 1998, the weekly DC One Million miniseries launched all the superhero books into the 853rd Century with #1,000,000 issues.
Personally, I’m looking forward to September 2013′s Roman Numeral Month, September 2014′s Hexadecimal Month, and September 2015′s Binary Month (can’t wait for Justice League #100100!).
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August marks the end of the New 52′s first year — and whether it’s the practicalities of collected editions or a prelude to mass cancellation, there’s a lot of finality in these solicitations.
Storylines conclude in All Star Western, Aquaman, Catwoman, Deathstroke, Frankenstein, GL Corps, Legion of Super-Heroes, Red Lanterns, Resurrection Man, Suicide Squad, Voodoo, maybe GL: New Guardians, and the main Justice League book. Big changes are coming for Stormwatch, Captain Atom and Green Lantern. August also sees the final issues of Justice League International (about which more later), iZombie and Scalped.
On the other hand, new stories begin in Flash and Batman, and the big Animal Man/Swamp Thing crossover kicks off. Better yet, J.H. Williams III returns to art on Batwoman with Issue 12, which not only starts a new storyline but guest-stars Wonder Woman. It’s somewhat ironic for a guy who drew the guest star-heavy Chase that his Batwoman work hasn’t ventured too far into the larger DC Universe, so I’m really looking forward to his Wonder Woman. (Along the same lines, I can’t wait to see what Gail Simone does with Batwoman in the latter’s Batgirl appearance.) Apparently the Next Six titles also just keep humming along.
Collectively, it may make the next four weeks a waiting game. With September set to include fifty-two zero issues, at least one of those will replace JLI on the schedule. From now until the September solicits are released, I wouldn’t be surprised if DC announced more cancellations in order to free up those zero issues for new series’ debuts.
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Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, where each week we detail what comics and other stuff have been on our reading piles. Our special guest today is David Harper, associate editor over at the recently redesigned Multiversity Comics.
To see what David and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Good grief, it’s the eleventh month of the New-52! The forty-six books left from the original class are just about ready to wrap up their first year, and in some cases their second collection. Where does the time go? (And when can we stop calling it the “New” 52?)
In fact, both Batman #11 and Animal Man #11 promise “stunning conclusions” to their inaugural arcs. Of course, the Owls storyline looks more like a traditional multi-title crossover (even if most of it takes place in the main Batman book), whereas Animal Man’s storyline only involves an Annual and a little bit of Swamp Thing. Usually I am frustrated with the very idea of looking ahead three-plus months, because it’s the serialized-comics equivalent of being forced to check your watch halfway through a movie. Here, though, knowing that these two series are headed for big finishes in July helps adjust my expectations about where they are now.
Similarly, we’ve seen three months’ worth of solicitations (and more than that in hype) on the two Earth-2 titles, but for me that’s built up anticipation. Despite the concept’s radical reworking, I’m eager to see how it all comes together.
Now to more specific comments….
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The great strength of DC’s superhero line is its heterogeneity — that is, its history of bringing together different genre-based roots and different storytelling approaches. However, as the shared-universe model came to dominate superhero serials, DC’s various high sheriffs have tried to impose various kinds of order on these disparate perspectives. Starting in the Silver Age, the infinite Multiverse organized characters broadly, for example by generation (Earth-Two), publisher (Earth-X, Earth-S, Earth-Four), or special category (the Crime Syndicate’s Earth-Three, the Zoo Crew’s Earth-C). Crisis On Infinite Earths consolidated a lot of that, The Kingdom’s Hypertime sought unsuccessfully to reincorporate it, and 52 compromised with a scaled-back set of parallel Earths. Today, the New-52 setup still has a Multiverse, but the main DC-Earth has scaled back its superheroic history dramatically.
Details aside, though, each of these cosmological structures is an attempt to bring some deeper meaning to DC’s superhero line. Put simply, for a long time DC’s superhero books weren’t about something, whereas Marvel presented a “world outside your window” in which superpowers came with their own sets of problems. Thus, from the post-Crisis 1980s until the end of Flashpoint last summer, DC was arguably “about” superheroic legacies, and had no small success putting new faces with old names.
And again, those details are not especially germane to today’s post. Instead, I want to talk about the nature of DC’s various traditions, the extent to which those traditions should guide the publisher, and whether DC’s superhero books can, collectively, ever really be “about” anything.
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at what the Robot 6 crew has been reading lately. Today our special guest is Jamaica Dyer, creator of Weird Fishes and Fox Head Stew, which can be read over at MTV Geek. She also recently did a concert report in comic form from San Francisco’s Noisepop for Spin Magazine.
To see what Jamaica and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Comics | As part of an Associated Press article about comics addressing real-world issues, it’s revealed that the glamorous Cheryl Blossom, an Archie Comics character who has appeared throughout the years, often as a fourth player in the traditional Archie/Betty/Veronica love triangle, will battle breast cancer in a new storyline. According to Editor-in-Chief Victor Gorelick, Cheryl feels fortunate she can afford treatment, which “opens the door that there are a lot of people who cannot afford this kind of treatment and we have to see where that’s kind of going to lead.” [The Associated Press]
Conventions | Paul Gravett files his report on the Angoulême International Comics Festival. [Paul Gravett]
The big news from April’s solicitations was revealed last week, as DC announced the cancellation of six of the original New-52 books (to be replaced with five new series plus the returning Batman Incorporated). While there’s more to say about this on its merits, I do like DC keeping a fixed number of ongoing series. Nerds love structure, right? (Besides, it’s kind of like programming a television schedule.)
Of course, just two weeks ago I predicted that all of the original New-52 books would get to their twelfth issues, in part so that DC could claim they each “told their stories.” That doesn’t seem to be the case here, at least not from the solicitation texts. Instead, the solicits for each final issue mostly advertise how the series are all going down swinging. We know now, too, that in some ways this isn’t really the end: Mister Terrific’s Karen Starr looks like the Power Girl of the upcoming Worlds’ Finest; Men Of War’s superhero/military mashup should transition smoothly to G.I. Combat; and I don’t think DC will kill off Hawk and Dove again.
Actually, if I were Captain Atom, I’d be a little nervous. According to ICV2′s December sales estimates, Hawk & Dove was the highest-selling New-52 book to be cancelled (18,014 copies at #114), but CA was right behind (17,917; #115).
Anyway, on to the solicits themselves….