"Supergirl" Casts its Lucy Lane
(Time once again for ROBOT 6 contributors Tom Bondurant and Carla Hoffman to email each other about the year in DC and Marvel superhero comics. This year’s exchange took place between DEc. 26 and Dec. 30. And be sure to check out Part 1 of the conversation.)
Tom Bondurant: One of the more pleasant surprises this year was the extent to which the Big Two started going after a different audience. New books like Ms. Marvel and Gotham Academy, and makeovers for Batgirl and Catwoman, have found success with distinctive, unconventional approaches. How long can they keep this up? Will digital distribution help these books, if it’s not doing so already? Are the Big Two really committed to branching out?
Carla Hoffman: Branching out is such a double-edged sword. It sounds weird to say that, because diversity is so championed online, but when a book can alienate old readers, you really have to draw in a lot of new readers to make up for it. Believe it or not, there were some who complained that Kamala Khan took the Ms. Marvel name rather than getting her own moniker. The good news is that Ms. Marvel is such a quality book and so important to the next generation of comic readers, not to mention Marvel Comics itself, I couldn’t care less if a (pardon my use) grumpy old fan can’t change with the times. Marvel published about 40 new titles this year — everything from Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu to Rocket Raccoon. Not all of the titles stuck (R.I.P. She-Hulk, try again later), but that’s still a lot of new stuff to try that isn’t just another variation of a Wolverine comic.
Continue Reading »
(Time once again for ROBOT 6 contributors Tom Bondurant and Carla Hoffman to email each other about the year in DC and Marvel superhero comics. This year’s exchange took place between Dec. 26 and Dec. 30.)
Tom Bondurant: First let’s address the elephant in the room — or, more accurately, the infinite number of parallel rooms, each containing a slightly different elephant. In 2015, both Marvel and DC are building Big Events around their respective multiverses. Conventional wisdom predicts that DC is doing this to address fan criticisms of the New 52, perhaps resulting in some continuity tweaks.
Carla Hoffman: Oh, man, I hope that’s true! Honestly, I have a hard time judging the inner workings of our respective companies sometimes because I always hear more from the fan side than the production team. Enough customers come in, day in and day out, with a piece of their mind on how things should be run or changed, but rarely do the people in charge — not creators and editors, mind you, the people who sign the checks at the end of the day with real power — come forward to say, “We feel this is the right direction.” Tom Brevoort on Tumblr comes close with his tireless open forum, but even then there’s always going to be company policy. If DC is brave enough to go “Maybe we shouldn’t have thrown the entire baby out with the bathwater” and massage their continuity into a more pleasing shape for fans, that’s going to be a heck of thing that will have an effect on readership, for sure.
The Futures Index is taking a break for the holidays. In fact, this post looks to be about 1,300 words on the value of taking a break. You might not think the topic should take that much space, but breaks can be tricky things.
For starters, downtime isn’t always an easy commitment, not least because it means giving up control. If you’re not checking messages until Jan. 2, you’re admitting that the world can get along without you. Accordingly, comics publishers that have new material for Dec. 24 and 31 are telling their customers not to worry — the comics will be there for them. (There are a lot of “important” comics out this week too, like the Robin Rises special and a few installments of the Lantern books’ “Godhead.”)
Still, no matter what — or if — you’re celebrating, the last week of December all but forces you to slow down, because so many others are. Sometimes this slowdown doesn’t occur until the very last hours of the 24th or 31st, when you’ve done all you can do and the ticking clock can no longer be outrun.
DC Comics faces a similar deadline on April 1, when its regular roster of series goes on hiatus for two months. We know already the Convergence comics will feature stories set in previous versions of DC continuity, but so far we can make only educated guesses (at best) about what will be next.
A while back I wrote that DC Comics could stand to cancel some books, but this isn’t exactly what I had in mind. DC’s March solicitations are among the most significant of the New 52. The August 2011 solicits, which were the last of their particular era, were relatively routine; back then, every superhero title was either being canceled or relaunched. By contrast, March 2015 looks like the start of another line-wide makeover. It will see the end of several series, including some charter members of the New 52.
The solicits actually extend to the week of April 1, which will feature a slew of annuals, the final issues of the three weekly series, and Convergence #0. (All that will cost you $54.89 retail.) With Convergence then taking over April and May, readers will have to wait until June’s solicits (coming in February, of course) for the first full picture of the New However-Many. Although the nature of Convergence still suggests that some old, familiar elements will be reintroduced into the New 52 — because why say “every story matters” if you’re not going to use at least some of them going forward? — these solicits are arguably the strongest indication to date that the New 52 isn’t going away.
A little over a year ago, I asked, “what do we want out of a [superhero] comic-based TV series?”
This season, DC Comics fans have plenty of material to fuel that debate. I still haven’t seen any of Gotham or Constantine, but I’ve really enjoyed the combination of The Flash and Arrow. With both shows taking a break for the holidays, today I want to see what satisfies and what doesn’t.
* * *
It took me a while to warm up to Arrow. After taking most of last season to catch up — and, as it happens, missing the Barry Allen episodes — I seem to have gotten on board just at the right time. Because I am not a fan of superhero shows that de-emphasize the “superhero” part, it was harder for me to accept that Oliver Queen would skulk around the urban jungle in a hood and eyeblack. That sort of intermediate realism (which now reminds me of the short-lived TV show based on Mike Grell’s Jon Sable comics) somehow requires more suspension of disbelief than a full-on costume and codename does.
Thirty years ago, as part of the first ship week in December 1984, the debut issue of Crisis on Infinite Earths arrived in comics shops. Cover-dated April 1985, and scheduled to appear on newsstands during the first week of January, it was the flagship title of DC Comics’ year-long 50th-anniversary celebration. The two-year Who’s Who encyclopedia had launched a month earlier, and most of DC’s series would tie into Crisis at some point; but this was the book that promised big changes.
We talk a lot about the legacy of Crisis — high-stakes events, crossovers, reboots, etc. — but that can obscure the story itself. For all that it was designed to do, and all that it promised, Crisis remains both uneven and intriguing. At times it can read like a ramshackle assembly of exposition and spectacle, held together by the combined wills of its creative team. Some of it is flabby, some of it is clunky, but Crisis can still be thrilling, and even touching. In any event, it remains one of the great mileposts of DC history, so it can certainly stand another look.
Today is for the first issue, but this series will continue periodically throughout 2015. Grab your own copies of Crisis and follow along!
(NOTE: The Futures Index is on Thanksgiving vacation, so you’ll get a double dose next week.)
It doesn’t look good for the current Universe Designate 2. If the title of the miniseries Earth 2: World’s End weren’t enough of a clue, the setup of its companion Futures End tells the tale: Apokoliptian troops devastate the planet, forcing the refugees into the main DC Universe (Designate Zero). Moreover, glimpses of the previous Earth-Two — one-time home to DC’s Golden Age heroes and their legacies, like you didn’t know — suggest that it might be making a comeback.
Considering the New 52 relaunch eliminated the original versions of the Golden Agers, their collective reinstatement isn’t without its own set of issues. A few months ago I looked at how the current Earth-2 has distinguished itself from its predecessor. Therefore, today let’s ask how the return of that predecessor might work.
In April, DC Comics released solicitations for its July titles alongside an extra batch of advance listings for the September Futures End-related one-shots. This week, in a move that’s perhaps unintentionally similar, the publisher’s February solicits arrive amid advance info about the spring’s Convergence tie-ins.
The scheduling gap isn’t quite as great — only a couple of months here, as opposed to five months last time — and I can understand why DC would want to avoid a lot of negative fan speculation about Convergence. Still, it steals some thunder from the current batch of solicitations, which try to compensate with a raft of Harley Quinn variant covers (including, strangely enough, one for Harley Quinn itself). In addition to her own series and Suicide Squad, Harl also gets a Valentine’s Day Special, another hardcover collection, a statue, an action figure, and a guest-shot in Deathstroke. At this rate I’m expecting her to be Wonder Woman’s new Amazon queen.
Continue Reading »
(NOTE: I’m happy to acknowledge the hard work and obvious dedication of the blogger Count Drunkula, whose Black Canary fansite Flowers & Fishnets was a great resource in putting together this post.)
Recent developments on The CW’s Arrow have gotten me thinking about the various twists and turns visited over the years upon DC Comics’ Black Canary. The television series has come at the character from a few different directions, even splitting some of her characteristics among three players. It makes sense for an adaptation of Green Arrow to include at least a nod to his longtime love interest, as traditionally they’ve been one of DC’s most prominent super-couples.
However, Black Canary didn’t start out as part of Green Arrow’s supporting cast, and even a cursory glimpse of her past invites some careful examination. Indeed, for a few years in the ‘80s, the history of Black Canary threatened to approach Hawkman levels of continuity complexity. Today we’ll look back at that history, and specifically at how a shared-universe setting can both screw up and enrich a character.
For months speculation had raged about what DC Comics would do to mitigate the logistics of its West Coast move. This week the publisher made it official: Convergence is a two-month, 89-issue event starting April 1. It involves a central weekly miniseries and an array of two-issue micro-series combining various versions of venerable DC folk. Basically, if you’ve ever wondered whether Blackhawk could beat Kamandi, or wanted to see the Superman of 2010 square off against the Green Lantern of 1944, next April and May are going to be pretty fun for you.
I’ve been writing about this for so long that I’m not sure what else to say. (And yet, here we are.) Last week I wrote about DC’s various narrative delays and deferrals. Now I’m even more certain we’ll have to wait until June for the next significant DCU development. Still, the fact that Convergence is happening is … I don’t want to say “encouraging,” but it does seem like progress toward an ultimate — no pun intended — resolution. (Note: This presumes that DC does in fact have specific plans for the superhero line.)
Therefore, today let’s survey the Multiversal landscape, with an eye toward determining Convergence’s role in the grand scheme of things.
Several years ago, in a post for the old Great Curve blog that’s surely lost to history, I called DC Comics’ steady stream of crossovers the “constant campaign.” Just as winning candidates must shift from electoral strategies to actual governing, so I argued that DC had to stop churning and changing and settle into telling stories. These days DC isn’t so much into line-wide crossovers — not like 2004-09, when Identity Crisis led into Infinite Crisis and from there to Final Crisis — but it has a similar lack of focus.
* * *
Although the New 52 makeover is only a little more than three years old, it’s gone through quite a bit of change. Many series, and many creative teams, have come and gone. The original 52-series lineup boasted a number of distinctive, idiosyncratic writer/penciler combinations. Now, however, with this week’s final issue of Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s (and friends’) Wonder Woman, only Justice League, Batman and Batman & Robin have kept the same writer since the relaunch. Moreover, only the two Bat-books have kept the same writer and penciler.
Although the first issues of Who’s Who and Crisis \on Infinite Earths got a headstart in the closing months of 1984, January 1985 kicked off DC Comics’ 50th anniversary in earnest. No doubt real life — i.e., the DC offices’ upcoming westward move — is preventing the publisher from starting the 80th anniversary celebrations this January, and the solicitations certainly don’t have much in the way of commemoration.
(To be sure, the month’s variant-cover scheme involves the 75th anniversary of The Flash, which Robot 6 contributor J. Caleb Mozzocco has already covered extensively on his own blog.)
Therefore, while the real fireworks will probably have to wait another couple of months, the January solicitation tease the return of Robin, changes in the Super-status quo, and other various and sundry plot churning.
One thing that jumps out at me from these solicits has to do with numbering. Now, we all love numbering — big versus small, gimmicks versus straightforward integer progression — but the January books are soliciting the 38th issues of the remaining original New 52 titles. That puts the 50th issues of those series on track for January 2016; or, more likely, February 2016, if next September is another “take a break for a set of specials” month. If I were DC and wanted to relaunch my various titles, and I were a year away from a set of 50th issues, I’d probably wait a year.
We’re just now into the back half of October and it’s already been a busy month for DC Comics’ television and movie adaptations. Gotham got under way, The Flash debuted and Arrow has returned, with Constantine on deck. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. announced a massive slate of Justice League-related movies, stretching from 2016’s Batman v Superman to 2020’s Cyborg.
However, the adaptation pipeline has the potential to flow in two directions. Between Caitlin Snow’s potential Killer Frost, the second episode’s Multiplex and the promise of both Ronnie Raymond and Martin Stein, the new Flash show seems pretty intent on bringing in a good bit of Firestorm lore. If DC executives hadn’t already been thinking about yet another Firestorm comic revival, The Flash’s immediate success may well encourage them to. Similarly, of all the movies Warner Bros. apparently intends to make over the next six years, the only one without a solid comics presence is Cyborg.
Therefore, today we’ll look at these two creations of the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, to see what DC might do with their four-color futures.
Last week I laid out a lot of numbers and background on the distribution of character-oriented franchises in the New 52. (Along the way I got confused about the New 52 version of G.I. Combat; it was canceled after Issue 7, but its zero issue brought its total to eight.)
Accordingly, this week discusses whether the New 52 needs to get back up to its eponymous number of titles, or whether a smaller stable of ongoing series is a more sustainable environment. We’ll get into some other concerns as well, but the overarching question — as DC transforms its biggest franchise, the Bat-books — involves how the publisher chooses to allocate its resources.
(Because I forgot to do it directly last week, I want to acknowledge my debt to Dave Carter, who started me thinking about all this when he charted New 52 longevity in January and who, providentially, has just started listing DC rosters of Augusts past.)
* * *
Note: This week’s post, and probably next week’s, get pretty number-heavy. Also, this week’s post contains a lot of history and background data. I have tried to make it all entertaining, but consider yourselves warned. Either way, there’s still the Futures Index.
Starting this week, the Batman line gets a makeover. Gotham Academy, from writers Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher and artist Karl Kerschl, is a delightfully spry addition to the Bat-landscape. Amid a franchise dominated (not unreasonably) by stylized, unflinching urban avenging, GA’s unique perspective is both welcome and necessary. Waiting in the wings are new Batgirl and Catwoman creative teams, as well as new titles Arkham Manor and Gotham After Midnight. (The three new books apparently take the places of Batman: The Dark Knight, Batwing and Birds of Prey.)
All look promising, and each offers a new look at a seldom-seen aspect of the Batman mythology. Moreover, it’s vitally important for DC to reach out to a diverse audience, particularly one that may have felt underappreciated over the past few years.
However, all this innovation comes at a time when the in-name-only New 52 has been stuck for a while at around 40-odd series. Only 21 of the original 52 ongoings are still being published, although books like Teen Titans, Suicide Squad and Deathstroke have been relaunched with new volumes. Similarly, we might view Grayson and Justice League United as continuations of Nightwing and the New-52 version of Justice League of America.