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Grumpy Old Fan | 10 from 2013, 10 for 2014

Lead On, O Bat Eternal

Lead On, O Bat Eternal

Time once again to revisit some thoughts about the year just ended, and offer some thoughts on the year to come.

First, let’s see how I did with 2013:

1. Man of Steel. Last year I asked “a) how well will it do with critics and moviegoers; and b) yes, of course, will it help set up Justice League?” It got a 55 percent (i.e., Rotten) ranking from Rotten Tomatoes (although 76 percent of RT visitors who cared to vote said they liked it).  Financially, Box Office Mojo called it a “toss-up,” putting it in the same category as Star Trek Into Darkness, World War Z, The Wolverine, The Hangover Part III, Pacific Rim and, uh, The Smurfs 2. I liked it well enough — I seem to like a lot of things “well enough” — but perhaps Super-fan Jerry Seinfeld’s musings about missed opportunities speak best to the film’s reception. MOS itself didn’t help set up a Justice League movie, at least not as expressly as, say, Nick Fury talking about the Avengers; but I think it’s safe to say that the sequel will go a long way in that regard.
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Grumpy Old Fan | Twelve DCs of Christmas

The Old Man could change a fuse quicker than a jackrabbit on a date

The Old Man could change a fuse quicker than a jackrabbit on a date

Because it’s the day after Christmas, and I don’t want to write 1,500 words about Forever Evil and its Justice League tie-in — except to say they both felt a lot like stereotypical Lost, and not necessarily in a good way — here’s a stocking’s worth of number-based observations about DC past and present.

Twelve Crisis issues: I talk a lot about 1984-85’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, mostly because it so completely transformed not just DC’s shared-universe continuity, but its publishing philosophy. On its merits, Crisis is a mixed bag, pairing stunning visuals with a sometimes-flabby narrative. However, despite its sprawl, COIE ended up with a definite structure. The first four issues deal with a mysterious antimatter onslaught which destroys whole universes, apparently including the familiar Earth-One and Earth-Two. The final page of Issue 4 is nothing but black “smoke” clearing away, revealing blank white space. Issues 5 and 6 offer vignettes on the five surviving universes, as time periods intersect in “warp zones” and ordinary people see multiversal counterparts of departed loved ones. Issues 7 and 8 are, to put it bluntly, the Big Death issues, with Supergirl saving her cousin from the Anti-Monitor and the Barry Allen Flash destroying Anti-M’s latest doomsday weapon. Issues 9 and 10 feature the “Villain War” and a two-pronged time-travel assault on Anti-M’s efforts. That ends with a shattered, otherwise “blank” comics panel, as the Spectre wrestles Anti-M for control of history itself — and issues 11 and 12 feature the heroes of a new, singular universe fighting a final battle against the Anti-Monitor. Today’s decompressed (and sometimes decentralized) Big Events focus more on character moments and slow burns, and more often than not they don’t have to streamline fifty years of continuity, but Crisis remains a model for just how big an Event can be.
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Grumpy Old Fan | DC’s March is in like a Vamp, out like a Talon

In 'Batman: Odyssey,' he's steering with those teeth

In ‘Batman: Odyssey,’ he’s steering with those teeth

We’ve known for a while that DC’s superhero line will go through some changes in the wake of Forever Evil, and as the March solicitations bring the end of that Big Event, not surprisingly the month looks rather transitory. In fact, Forever Evil #7 is scheduled to appear on March 26, just as the final issue of Blackest Night — also written by Geoff Johns as a spinoff of his highest-profile series, in case you’d forgotten — dropped on the last week of March 2010. (It must be pure coincidence that these solicits feature a $200 White Power Battery tchotcke.) Back then, BN #8 was supposed to “set the stage” for the “next epic era of DC Comics,” which turned out to be about 18 months long and featured the biweekly sort-of-sequel miniseries Brightest Day. This time, Forever Evil #7 teases the importance of the “Hooded Man” and promises to “leave the DC universe reeling and reveal the secrets to the future.”

So, yeah, sounds like another cliffhanger ending, perhaps even leading into another big-deal miniseries — specifically, the May-debuting weekly Futures End.  Considering that the three tie-in miniseries (ARGUS, Arkham War and Rogues Rebellion) all seem to feed into FE #7, the actual content of that final issue may well be a giant scrum, not unlike the final issue of Flashpoint, in which some cosmic button is pushed, defeating the Crime Syndicate but at a significant cost to DC-Earth. As it happens, there’s no mention of the “Blight” sub-crossover (bringing together Phantom Stranger, Pandora, Constantine and JL Dark) feeding back into Forever Evil, but I’m not sure how much it’s supposed to relate, beyond being about the JLD trying to pick up the post-invasion pieces.

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Duane in Calif. gets a piece of the action (figures)

DarkseidSixInch

Duane in Orange County, Calif. is a man of action — action figures, that is.

“I have always had toys, but growing up I couldn’t have nearly as much as I wanted,” he said. “… Now, when I want something, I seek it out furiously. Unfortunately, as I get older the collectibles that I want get more and more expensive.”

Check out his collection of action figures — Power Rangers, Doctor Who, DC Comics, Avengers and more — below.

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Grumpy Old Fan | It can’t be Halloween all the time

Spoiler alert: Rick Jones sneezes on the Martians

Spoiler alert: Rick Jones sneezes on the Martians

I really like Halloween, but it’s always been hard for me to come up with a spooky post that relates to DC Comics. The emphasis here is on “for me”: DC has a wealth of spooky material from which to draw, and I’ve just never been able to work with it meaningfully.

For this year’s Halloween post I thought about doing a survey of DC’s horror-themed titles over the years, because certainly the publisher has had its share. There are stalwarts that go back decades, like House of Mystery, Swamp Thing and The Sandman (whose sequel miniseries starts this week, as you might have heard). The first round of New 52 titles included I, Vampire and Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE — and while both of those have bitten the dust, Justice League Dark still heads up the superhero line’s magic-oriented section.

However, the more I thought about it, this space is really not big enough — yes, even with my extreme verbosity — to do right by the horror books. Besides, most of them have ended up at Vertigo, although some are being reincorporated into the superhero line. House of Mystery is a good example of the “serious horror” migration. It started out in the ‘50s as a supernatural anthology before switching over to science fiction (after the fall of EC) and then, briefly, superheroes (specifically, the Martian Manhunter and “Dial ‘H’ for Hero”). When the Comics Code relaxed its stance on all things scary, HOM told horror stories, including an extended run as the original home of “I, Vampire.” The title ended in 1983, after 32 years and more than 300 issues, but it’s never really been forgotten. The House itself (along with its companion from another eponymous title, the House of Secrets) became a part of The Sandman’s landscape, and was the setting for a Vertigo relaunch, which ran from 2008 to 2011 (42 issues and a couple of specials). Now it belongs to John Constantine and serves as Justice League Dark’s headquarters, which I suppose is better than limbo.

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DC Collectibles reveals New York Comic-Con exclusives

sbff_nycc_ivy_exclusive-tease

DC Collectibles has revealed their con exclusives for October’s New York Comic-Con, which include a Super Best Friends Forever: Poison Ivy PVC Figure and an action figure two-pack featuring Green Lantern Hal Jordan and Blue Lantern Saint Walker.

Like the three Super Best Friends Forever figures released for San Diego, the Poison Ivy PVC Figure is designed by Lauren Faust and sculpted by Irene Matar. It measures approximately 6.625” tall and is priced at $24.95.

The DC Comics Super Heroes: Hal Jordan & Saint Walker Action Figure 2-pack is sculpted by Robert Lynders. This set is the latest in the 3.75” scale and is priced at $29.95.

Both items can be bought at the Graphitti Designs booth #755 at New York Comic-Con.

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Grumpy Old Fan | DC’s December: New homes for the holidays

Required reading

Required reading

DC Entertainment may not have planned it this way — “planning” being something with which DC may be only tangentially familiar — but I doubt its high-ups wanted to release these December solicitations the Monday after what had to be a pretty rough weekend.  When you’ve just had to deal with a celebrated creative team walking off a fairly successful book — citing “editorial interference,” and reminding people that the character’s original writer also left after increasing frustration with DC — you might not want to follow that up by calling attention to all the other changes coming before the end of the year.

And don’t worry, there’ll be plenty of Batwoman and “sucky personal life” talk before we’re done. Solicits first, though …

FOREVER MODEST

If the first week of Villains Month is any indication, a good bit of the decimal-point issues will feature stories set in the early stages of the Crime Syndicate’s takeover. This wasn’t that apparent from the September solicits, and subsequent months also appeared light on explicit crossovers. December is about the same, with Teen Titans dropping out of the crossover lineup, and Pandora and Phantom Stranger joining the three Justice League books, the three Forever Evil [Colon] miniseries, and Suicide Squad.

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Comics A.M. | ‘Infinity’ #1 is this year’s third ‘million-dollar book’

Skottie Young's variant for "Infinity" #1

Skottie Young’s variant for “Infinity” #1

Publishing | ICv2 continues its look at August’s direct market numbers, declaring Marvel’s Infinity #1 a million-dollar book, the third this year to top $1 million in sales, thanks to its $4.99 cover price and estimated orders of 205,000 (DC Comics’ Justice League of America #1 and Superman Unchained #1 are the other two). However, it’s also important to note that Infinity #1 was offered to retailers at a deep discount (up to 70 percent). [ICv2]

Digital comics | Jeff DiBartolomeo explains why he left his job at HBO (he was one of the developers of their HBO Go app) to become chief technical officer at comiXology: “What’s interesting to me is seeing this market, which is one I’m not vary familiar with, and seeing the potential. It’s proving to be useful to have me come [to Comixology] with a different set of eyes, at a different angle.” [TechHive]

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Matt Cowan comments on casting confusion with ‘Sounds Like’

sounds_like_ben_affleck_by_mattcantdraw-d6kpokl

Matt Cowan’s handle on DeviantArt is “Matt Can’t Draw”, which isn’t necessarily true. Sure, he is more of a designer, a conceptual artist, than a straight-up “drawer.” His latest series, “Sounds Like,” is possibly a thinly veiled dig at the lack of imagination of Hollywood casting departments. Or is it just an excuse to draw his favorite characters together?

In any case, check them out below. And if you harbor some irrational prejudice against DeviantArt, Cowan’s work is also posted to his Tumblr.

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Grumpy Old Fan | ‘Trinity War,’ the worst of both worlds?

This cover is a spoiler, sort of

This cover is a spoiler, sort of. (Don’t look, you fool! Don’t look!)

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.

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Cheat Sheet | From ‘Sacrifice’ to ‘Chin Music’ to Fan Expo

aug19-cheat-sheet

Welcome to “Cheat Sheet,” ROBOT 6′s guide to the week ahead. It seems like we only just finished Comic-Con International, and now we’re heading into another major event: Fan Expo Canada in Toronto, the third-largest pop-culture convention in North America. But that doesn’t begin until Thursday, giving everyone plenty of time to squeeze in a trip to the local comic book store.

To see what ROBOT 6’s contributors have at the top of their Wednesday shopping lists, keep reading.

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Grumpy Old Fan | DC goes dark in November

Ironically, not part of the "blackout"

Not part of the blackout

There’s no solicitation for Justice League 3000 in November, and it’s not hard to imagine why. Reworking a first issue from scratch, with a new artist and what sounds like a new tone, undoubtedly isn’t something even one of the Big Two can do on short notice. Instead, DC Comics goes back to the Bat-well both for November’s only new series, and to goose the sales of various superhero titles.

As always, though, there’s enough in the new batch of solicitations to keep us busy this week — so without further ado …

ALWAYS BET ON BLACK

Apparently “Zero Year” will include a “Blackout In Gotham” plot point that can stretch into a dozen other DC titles, including non-Bat-books like Action Comics, Green Arrow, Green Lantern Corps and The Flash. This makes a certain degree of sense, as it takes place back in the “before-time” of the George W. Bush administration, before the various superhero jurisdictions were established, so you’d expect someone like Superman to take a road trip if he thought Gotham needed him. However, thanks largely to this being Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman, the blackout — which, as far as I can tell, would otherwise be just one part of one title’s flashback storyline — ends up involving more books than DC’s actual line-wide Big Event, Forever Evil. The latter includes the eponymous miniseries, three ancillary miniseries and the three Justice League books, but only two other ongoing series (Teen Titans and Suicide Squad, each of which has been tied into 4EVEv since it started). The total is “Zero Year” 13, Forever Evil 9, and almost half of the latter’s score is miniseries. Personally, I don’t mind a discrete Big Event, and I’m not surprised that DC would exploit “Zero Year.” I’m just a little surprised at how heavily it seems to be relying on “Zero Year” in November.

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Grumpy Old Fan | On model kits and quantifiability

Bus From Speed!

Bus From Speed!

Who’s up for some discussions about Starfleet fonts in the “Phase II” period?

Anyone?

Well, that’s not all we’re going to talk about today, but it does occasionally engage my brain. (And don’t worry, when we get there, it shouldn’t be that painful.) Today’s topic deals with the desire to make the imaginative “real,” in a tangible or practical sense. It’s what happens at the intersection of re-creating and explaining.

See, part of expressing my nerdom is building model kits, and especially Star Trek models. On one level this is pretty straightforward, because the bulk of those kits are based on the physical (or CGI) models used. However, sometimes you get an urge to build something that wasn’t on screen.

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Annual report: Reviews of DC’s 2013 summer annuals

annuals

The comic book annual has, in recent years, become an endangered species. Once an oversized, extra-length dose of the characters and concepts a reader could count on appearing once a year (or, you know, annually), the changing funny-book landscape has made them a less appealing proposition.

The rise of the graphic novel and trade paperback collections made “novel-length” adventures appearing in actual, off-the-rack comic books somewhat obsolete. The rising price of comics helped make annuals seem less practical; if a 20- or 22-page comic costs $2.99 or $3.99, a 48- or 56- or 64-page one would be prohibitively expensive. And with the shrunken market, it doesn’t make sense for a publisher to release an additional, extra-long issue of almost every title in its line.

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SDCC ’13 | DC’s Diane Nelson on movies, Vertigo & Harry Potter

Diane Nelson

Diane Nelson

As the finishing touches are put on Comic-Con International ahead of Preview Night, The Hollywood Reporter releases an interview with DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson that’s a blend of polite sidestepping of delicate or unannounced subjects — the departure from Warner Bros. of her boss Jeff Robinov, Man of Steel 2, the long-developing Justice League movie — and insight into how the media giant views the DC properties.

Naturally, given the outlet, much of the discussion involves film and television, with Nelson addressing why she thinks Man of Steel succeeded while Green Lantern didn’t, and why DC’s movie plans have been developing so slowly, the conversation veers a little closer to comic books when she’s asked what five characters she’d like to seen on the screen.

Sandman is right on top,” Nelson responds. “I think it could be as rich as the Harry Potter universe. Fables. Metal Men. Justice League. And yes, I’m going to say it: Aquaman.”

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