One of the most symbolic moments of Superman is when he changes from his guise as Clark Kent to become the Man of Steel. The idea that the wearing of a costume imbues some kind of unquantifiable power is a key part of what makes superhero comics work; otherwise, they’d just be adventurers and action heroes.
But speaking of change, changes in superhero costumes have become as much a part of the comics as the heroes themselves. From Superman’s early days with his golden emblem to the modern “S” today and on through to other years (including Batman’s countless wardrobe changes), the design of a superhero isn’t static and a redesign has proved, many times, to be just the thing to make a character work.
In this week’s “Six by 6,” I pinpoint six of the most dynamic and powerful redesigns in superhero comics. Redesigns that saved a character from obscurity, put them in a new light or simply simplified what was already there.
You may remember the story of an antisocial teen working his way into Bruce Wayne’s life, and even becoming part of his family, before dying in a Robin costume.
You might also remember this story being called “Punish Not My Evil Son,”* as told by writer Bob Haney, penciler Neal Adams, and inker Dick Giordano (note: GCD credits Adams), in The Brave and the Bold vol. 1 #83 (April-May 1969).
Like much of the Haney oeuvre, “Punish” depends on unique circumstances that otherwise might not fit well within Batman’s shared universe. Young Lance Bruner, who’s around the same age as teenager Dick Grayson, is the son of one Prof. Bruner, Thomas Wayne’s “closest friend.” When we first meet him he’s horsing around with a couple of Wayne valuables and smarting off to Alfred, so already he’s off to a bad start. However, he shows Bruce an agreement signed by both Prof. Bruner and Dr. Wayne, which provides that “if anything ever happen[s] to the professor[,] the Wayne family promises to adopt and raise Lance.” Indeed, Bruce remembers seeing baby Lance in his dad’s arms, and recalls further that the professor was “the finest man I’ve ever known … besides my own dad!” Lance has already tearfully played the orphan card, so Bruce reminds a skeptical Dick how a certain other kid came to live at Wayne Manor — and away we go.
Joshua Hale Fialkov’s resignation from Green Lantern Corps and Red Lanterns was certainly unexpected, but it wasn’t nearly as surprising as the primary reason for the writer’s departure: an editorial edict to kill off John Stewart.
To a generation of fans who came of age watching Cartoon Network’s Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, the character is Green Lantern — forget Hal Jordan, Alan Scott, Kyle Rayner and the rest. In addition, he’s perhaps DC Comics’ most recognizable African-American character, facing competition only from Static and Cyborg, each of whom also appeared on television.
ROBOT 6 reached out to the voice of Stewart himself, veteran actor and comedian Phil LaMarr, for his reaction to DC’s editorial decree.
So this is what happens when you praise Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern run …
Let’s be clear: I do not generally have violent mood swings. My sense of well-being does not depend on the fortunes of DC Comics. I don’t pretend to have any special insight into the publisher’s inner workings, and I’m sure the reverse is equally true. However, after saying many nice things about Green Lantern a couple of weeks ago, and then eviscerating the humorless “WTF Certified” last week, it was pretty surprising to see the May solicitations address both topics.
NEXT, RAFALCA JOINS THE LEGION OF SUPER-PETS
The Green Team may have been a group of entitled, self-satisfied jerks with an abnormal need for validation, but if anyone can make them lovable — or, alternatively, entertainingly clueless — it’s Art Baltazar and Franco. I don’t see this book as DC scraping the bottom of the character barrel. Rather, I take it as a good-faith attempt to update a (perhaps misguided) concept for the sensibilities of our time. Not quite “at least they’re trying,” but … at least it’s not another big-name spinoff, you know? (Although a new Steel series is always welcome.) Regardless, the over/under for this book has to be somewhere around 6 issues.
“I’m obviously ending my run with a little sadness because I love these characters, every single one of them. But I’m walking away feeling very proud of what we’ve done and very grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with so many fellow creators. It’s that collaboration, and every reader out there, who have made this a truly special experience. It’s hard to imagine a GREEN LANTERN universe without characters like Atrocitus, Larfleeze, Saint Walker, the Indigo Tribe or the rest of the gang anymore. And I can’t count how many Lantern t-shirts of all colors I continue to see.”
Lately I’ve been pretty complimentary of Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke’s work on Green Lantern. Honestly, this is something of a shock. It’s not that I don’t like Johns, Mahnke, or GL — far from it — but the book has sneaked up on me, going from a nice habit to a must-read, and the new Lantern has a lot to do with it.
Green Lantern Simon Baz debuted in September’s Issue 0 as an Arab-American caught up in various schemes, who of course demonstrated the ability to overcome great fear. He wears a ring containing messages from the dead-ish Hal Jordan and Sinestro, but he carries a gun in case the ring fails him; the first fellow Lantern he encounters is B’dg, the extraterrestrial squirrel. Simon endures it all with courage and spirit, and in short order he’s kicked GL into another gear.
Simon’s introductory arc concludes this week — sort of, SPOILERS FOLLOW — with Green Lantern Corps Annual #1, the final installment of “Rise of the Third Army.” However, this just paves the way for “Wrath of the First Lantern,” which goes for the next couple of months. After that, April’s Lantern titles may not be part of an overarching story — at least, not one with a “_____ of the [Numbered] _____” title — but these plot threads apparently won’t be resolved before then, either.
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, where the Robot 6 crew shares their picks for the Royal Rumble … I mean, talks about what comics we’ve read recently. Today our special guest is Landry Walker, writer of Danger Club, Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Little Gloomy, Tron and more.
To smell what Landry and the Robot 6 crew are cookin’, click below.
It’s Thursday afternoon as you’re reading this, but it’s still Wednesday night as I write it. Usually on Wednesdays, I work at my day job until 5 p.m., and then, after I shout “Yabba-dabba-doo!” and slide down the tail of my sauropod/steam shovel, I hop into my car and drive to my local comic shop and pick up a small stack of comic books. Then I return to my apartment and read them, and then I write brief reviews of them all for a weekly feature I post on my home blog and then I write my weekly post for Robot 6.
Wednesdays are, generally speaking, pretty busy days for me. This one’s even busier than usual, as in addition to the above, I have a few extra writing assignments I need to finish before the end of the week and I still have two homemade Christmas presents for loved ones I need to finish putting together.
So then I had a brilliant idea! Well, an idea. Maybe instead of writing two blog posts tonight, one for Every Day Is Like Wednesday and one for Robot 6, I would just write my usual Wednesday-night blog post and put it here instead of there, thus killing two birds with one stone, as the saying, which was popularized back when people still killed birds with stones, goes.
Here then, are a few paragraphs about each of the new comic books I bought and read this Wednesday (now if only I could give blog posts as a Christmas gifts to my family members, the rest of this week would be pretty chill):
Hello and welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading?, where each week we talk about comics and other stuff we’ve been checking out lately. Today we welcome special guest Joshua Williamson, writer of Masks and Mobsters, Captain Midnight (which has been running in Dark Horse Presents), Uncharted, Voodoo and much more.
To see what Joshua and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …
Digital comics | Technology journalist Andy Ihnatko discusses the significance of DC Comics’ expansion of its digital-comics availability from comiXology and its branded app to the iBooks, Kindle and Nook stores: “Now, all of the company’s titles have a presence in the same bookstore where hundreds of millions of people worldwide buy the rest of their content.” [Chicago Sun-Times]
Conventions | Steve Morris reports in on this past weekend’s Thought Bubble convention, in Leeds, England, which sounds like it was amazing. [The Beat]
Conventions | Meanwhile, on this side of the pond, Young Lee has an account of Durham’s NC Comicon. [Technicianonline.com]
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.”
Conventions | Organizers of Tokyo’s Comic Market (aka Comiket), the world’s largest self-published comic book fair, have received a threat letter, leading them to consider their options for the planned Dec. 29-31 event. The preparations committee said it has been in contact with local police and the Tokyo Big Sight, where the semiannual convention is held. The incident follows a series of threat letters containing powdered and liquid substances sent in the past month to more than 20 locations linked to Kuroko’s Basketball creator Tadatoshi Fujimaki. About 560,000 attended Comic Market 82 over its three days in August (that’s turnstile attendance, not unique visitors). [Anime News Network]
Creators | Patrick Rosenkranz catches us up on S. Clay Wilson, who suffered a massive brain injury in 2008 (the cause isn’t clear) and is still recovering. “Wilson’s favorite word is still ‘No!’ He used to be a motor mouth but now he’s mostly monosyllabic. After a long life dedicated to being the baddest boy in comix, he’s become a grand old man, but he’s no longer in his right mind. He used to be able to out-talk, out-booze, out-cuss, out-draw, and outrage almost anyone but he doesn’t drink, smoke, snort or draw dirty pictures any more. He doesn’t walk much either and seldom leaves the house, and only in a wheelchair.” [The Comics Journal]
Happy Veterans Day and welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at the comics, books and other things we’ve been perusing of late. Today our special guest is Brady Sullivan, the writer of Death Springs, a free weekly webcomic with artist JC Grande (Image’s Johnny Monster). He also has several print projects currently out or hitting the shelves soon, including the recently released action/satire Revolution Aisle 9.
To see what Brady and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.
If I had $15, I’d spend the first $3.99 on the first issue of 47 Ronin, a retelling of a Japanese legend written by Mike Richardson and illustrated by Stan Sakai. I saw a preview of this and it looks phenomenal. Next up is my favorite soap opera, Life With Archie #24 ($3.99), in which Moose contemplates running for the Senate and The Archies reunite. This comic is consistently well written and the stories really drag me in. I’ll slap down another $3.99 for Popeye #7, because I’m a Roger Langridge fan. And because I love a bargain, I’ll finish up with Freelancers #1, a new series from BOOM! Studios that looks kinda fun — and hey, there’s a variant cover by Felipe Smith, one of my favorite manga artists.
If I had $30, I’d revert to my childhood and pick up the Doctor Who Annual ($12.99) from Penguin. When I was a kid, the British comics annuals were the high point of the holidays, and I’m pretty sure I have a vintage Doctor Who one tucked away somewhere. It’s probably aimed at kids but that just means I can share it with my nephew and nieces.
The splurge item to get this week is the new box set of Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. This is Miyazaki’s longest manga by far, and the story continues after the movie ends. It’s going to be the same large format as Viz’s earlier box set, but the seven volumes are being bound as two this time. It’s $60, but I noticed Amazon is offering a steep discount, so I’ll add another splurge: Nickolai Dante: Sympathy for the Devil ($29.99), a story that ran in 2000AD. I saw artist Simon Fraser describe it at NYCC this way: “Nikolai Dante is a swashbuckling hero from the far, far future, the year 2666, where he is alternately working for and against the czar, and for his own family and against his family, and in the meantime trying to get as drunk and screw as many women as he possibly can.” Sold!
Every week, hard as it may be to believe, I try honestly to offer something I think might interest the larger group of DC Domics superhero readers. However, this week I am invoking a personal privilege. For one thing, with Halloween on a Wednesday (when I usually end up writing these essays), the holiday will more than likely take priority.
The main reason, though, is that today is my birthday, and as you might have guessed from the headline, this year is my 43rd birthday. Therefore, this week I have pulled together an especially memorable DC story and/or issue from each of those years, 1969 through 2012. (Note: They may not always line up with the actual year, but just for simplicity’s sake, all dates are cover dates.) These aren’t necessarily the best or most noteworthy stories of their particular years, but they’ve stuck with me. Besides, while I’ve read a lot of comics from a lot of sources, for whatever reason DC has been the constant. Maybe when I’m 50 I’ll have something more comprehensive.
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