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….
Since the March solicitations kick off the back half of the New 52′s first year, it’s probably worth noting that the whole line remains unchanged: no “midseason replacements” like Justice Society, but no cancellations either. If I hear relieved sighs from OMAC and Men of War, certainly Dan DiDio and Jim Lee have to be pleased generally that they’ve gotten this far with the 52 intact.
Well, pleased or stubborn, I suppose. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.
Ahem. Away we go…!
One of my pet peeves about the New-52 is the sense that it lacks a meaningful “history.” For at least the last few decades, a reader might not have known exactly what had happened or when, but s/he could tell that these characters hadn’t just fallen off the turnip truck. I say this because the solicits for Justice League #7 and Flash #7 both allude to their books’ untold backstories. With Justice League, we’ll learn about membership turnover and other details of the five years between the League’s debut and today. (To be sure, some of that has already been alluded to in the League’s previous present-day appearances, like JL Dark #1.)
At first I wasn’t especially excited about too much in DC’s February solicitations. However, the more I looked around, the more optimistic I became. Six months into the New 52, some connections are starting to gel, and their interactions (well, as far as what you can glean from the ad copy) seem more organic. As always, there were a few pleasant surprises in the collected editions, and some details from which to spin hopeful speculation.
But enough with the purple prose — let’s hit the books!
TO UNLIMITED AND BEYOND
The gee-whizziest news of the February solicitations has to be the digital-first format of Batman Beyond Unlimited. I have not been the quickest to adapt to digitally-conveyed comics, mostly because my personal technology level hasn’t caught up. However, I do read a number of webcomics, as well as newspaper strips online, and if the price were right, I’d gladly sample BBU’s features on my computer before picking up the print version. Having Dustin Nguyen and (yay!) Norm Breyfogle involved doesn’t hurt either.
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I was going to open with some snotty Wow, the holidays went by super-quickly! comment, but then I read the first issue of Justice League in seven weeks. Sometimes DC gets ahead of itself; sometimes it’s a little behind. Happens to the best of us — sometimes you do two solicitation roundups in three weeks….
Anyway, with the January solicitations, the New-52 books each turn five issues old. Series wrapping up their first arcs this month include Blackhawks, Batwoman, Animal Man, and the Deadman feature in DC Universe Presents. (Not to worry about the latter, because there is a lot of Deadman in these solicits.) I’m not sure why five issues is such a wonky number for story arcs — there are five-issue miniseries all the time and they collect just fine. Still, I expected most of the New-52 books to take six issues for their introductory stories, and most of them may yet do that. Only a few books look to finish their first arcs after December’s issue #4s (Hawkman and Frankenstein, probably OMAC, maybe Batgirl), and those plus this month’s are barely an eighth of the relaunched line. It makes next month’s solicits more intriguing, I suppose.
Regardless, we live in the now (as it were…) so — onward to January!
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The New York Comic Con officially opened its doors this afternoon, but comics publishers and distributors have been releasing announcements leading up to it all this week. Here’s a round-up of news from today, as well as some that hit earlier this week.
• DC Comics, who were having a pretty good week already, announced two creative team changes for the New 52. Ann Nocenti of Daredevil and Longshot fame will write Green Arrow starting with issue #7. She spoke to Comic Book Resources about her approach to the series: “I have a particular way of writing a comic. Comics are short. They are only twenty pages, so you can take a year of comics and that can be your opera, and the opera can have a lot of different passages in it. I kind of believe every issue should be a single story, just a complete story. But there is a momentum that forms like triptychs over it, and then it forms your big overtures, and then the whole thing ends up kind of operatic. I also want a beginning, middle and end, a classic short story approach to every single comic. What I do is I try to figure out, what is the kick in this comic, what is the main feeling I want to get, and everything in the comic has to serve that.”
• And Marc Bernardin (Monster Attack Network, The Highwaymen, The Authority) will take over the writing duties on Static Shock beginning with issue #7. “As a fan and as a writer, one of the great things about Static isn’t just that he’s a new hero, it’s also that he’s a young hero,” Bernardin told CBR. “He will make the mistakes of youth and, even though the New 52 is resetting a lot of heroes to their early days as do-gooders, there’s nothing quite like the fumblings of a teenager.”
• USA Today talks with Supergirl co-writers Mike Johnson and Michael Green about their approach to the relaunched title, and provides a five-page preview of the first issue, which goes on sale Wednesday. “We’re really excited about the opportunity to hand this book to a female reader who is into things like The Hunger Games,” Johnson says. “This is a strong character with her own point of view.”
• Writer J.T. Krul will be replaced by Keith Giffen and artist Dan Jurgens on Green Arrow with December’s Issue 4. The news comes just days after John Rozum announced he’s leaving Static Shock.
It was the strangest thing — when I woke up this morning I was younger, single, and most of my clothes had high collars and funky seams….
Okay, let’s cut that out right now. Don’t worry, I’m still middle-aged and married, with the same beat-up wardrobe. However, I have read all but one of this week’s New-52 books, and now I get to share them with you. (The local comics shop got shorted on Batwing #1, which is too bad, because as one of the few sort-of new concepts being offered, I was especially looking forward to it. Next week for sure!) Generally I thought most had at least some potential, and I was mostly impressed with the efforts the various creative teams made. Of course, that doesn’t mean I liked everything, but I did like more than I thought I would.
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It’s finally here: The first full week of DC’s New 52 brought 13 brand-new titles – only the tip of the iceberg as September progresses. If the quality of this week’s books is any indication of the rest of the New 52, there will be some very difficult cuts to make at the end of the month.
From now through the end of September, I’ll provide brief overviews of each book with the pull-list status at the end. With no further ado, it’s time to jump into Week 2 of the New 52! Prepare for a number of Bat-family books, the new JLI, Sgt. Rock for the modern age and more!
Warning: Spoilers ahead!
This book sets the benchmark for this week as to what a New 52 #1 should be. Jeff Lemire brings new life to Buddy Baker in an incredible story that both takes advantage of the character’s rich history and introduces new elements in the spirit of DC’s relaunch. Not only does Lemire give readers a welcome reintroduction to Animal Man with a stunning cliffhanger that will leave them wanting more, Travel Foreman’s interior pencils are gorgeous, only adding to the unique feel that Lemire gives this title. It’s a great first issue, and I can’t wait to read more. If I could read only one New 52 issue this week, this would be it.
… Specifically, thank goodness this is the last batch of solicitations before the New-52 lineup. As with the previous two sets of solicits, these exist partly to advertise November’s books, but also to keep consumers excited about September’s. Paradoxically, however, that means I can’t really get excited about them until September’s books arrive, and with them some real context.
As always, though, there are more things in the solicits than the New-52, so at least we can discuss some things substantively.
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Retailing | A federal bankruptcy judge has granted Borders Group permission to loosen the terms of its $505-million bankruptcy loan, giving the bookseller more time to line up a buyer and avoid the immediate liquidation of 40 more outlets. The book chain, which has closed 237 of its 642 stores, will file a proposal on July 1 to sell itself at a court-approved auction to a guaranteed buyer — most likely, the Los Angeles-based Gores Group. The private-equity firm has a plan that would save about 250 of the remaining Borders locations by transforming them into “more appealing destinations” similar to the Apple Store chain. [Bloomberg]
Retailing | Bud Plant, one of the initial direct-market distributors who, at one time, operated the largest chain of comic stores in the United States, has announced his retirement. In a letter to his mailing list, Plant said he is looking to find a buyer for Bud’s Art Books, his mail-order/online retail business. [The Comics Reporter]
Retailing | Jetpack Comics in Rochester, New Hampshire, has put out the call for area residents to participate in a photo shoot for retailer-specific variant cover for The Amazing Spider-Man #666: “This is not the first time Rochester has appeared on the cover of a comic book — the organizations also organized a photo shoot of Main Street that was featured on the cover of a Godzilla comic, with the city about to be crushed by the creature. [...] According to Jetpack Comics owner Ralph DiBernardo, after seeing how well the Godzilla comic sold, Marvel Comics wanted to capitalize on that success and suggested the city be featured again.” [Foster's Daily Democrat]