"U.S.Avengers": A Guide to Marvel's New Patriotic Superhero Team
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.
Italian artist Andrea Sorrentino first garnered major attention for his work in late 2011 on DC Comics’ New 52 title I, Vampire. Beginning with Green Arrow #17, Sorrentino teamed with writer Jeff Lemire to become the series’ new regular creative team. Shortly after that first issue debuted, Sorrentino agreed to an interview regarding his new assignment, and in particular his artistic approach on some of the scenes for that first issue.
In addition to featuring some of the pages (which we discuss) from Green Arrow #17, DC also provided some exclusive black-and-white art for Green Arrow #20 (set for release on May 1). Green Arrow #18 has been on stands since March 6; Green Arrow #19 arrives April 3.
Tim O’Shea: In Ryan Lindsay’s CBR review of Green Arrow #17, he wrote, “Sorrentino uses insert panels to highlight certain dramatic and bombastic moments amidst the kinetic action, such as when Queen is ambushed and gets into an arrow fight. This skill set, used consistently but not overbearingly, allows Sorrentino to slow some pages down, deliver detail on multiple planes of a panel, and also brings movement to a static image.” How much do you and writer Jeff Lemire the design and layout of pages, since he is an artist as well? Or does he leave you alone to design the pages as you want?
Andrea Sorrentino: I’d say it’s a mix of his and my ideas. Jeff is a (very good) artist and has a very personal way of making layouts in his created-owner works, so he did bring some of them in this project, too. In this case there was in the script the idea of some little panels that would focus on some parts of a bigger image or scene to make some details of the action to pop from the page. This would give the idea of how tactical Oliver’s mind can be during a confusing moment like the one in Emerson’s office. I discussed the idea with Jeff and used the same solution in order to set the pace of the scene. The main goal was to use those inset panels to try to give a feeling of “slow-motion” effect by guiding the reader’s eye to focus and zoom a bit on some details of the action slowing the time of reading in contrast with the main scene that is delivered in the bigger panel (and at a faster pace). It’s something we’re used to seeing a lot in some movies (especially in recent years) and I was trying to reach for something similar here.
Apart from this, I’ve to say that working with Jeff has been awesome till now and I’m really improving a lot just by talking and collaborating with him.
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, where we reveal our picks for the best Super Bowl ads … er, where we talk about what we’ve been reading lately. Today our special guest is Sonia Harris, who writes a weekly column – Committed – for Comics Should Be Good, and is a graphic designer on books such as Butcher Baker the Righteous Maker (collected in hardcover now from Image Comics) and upcoming comic books SEX (beginning March) and The Bounce. (beginning May).
To see what Sonia and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
As DC Comics parcels out its April solicitations ahead of their full release at 2 p.m., we learn that I, Vampire and DC Universe Presents will be canceled with Issue 19, and Saucer Country with Issue 14. Update: The all-ages Superman Family Adventures also will end with Issue 12.
Launched in September 2011 as part of the New 52’s “Dark Group,” I, Vampire teamed writer Joshua Hale Fialkov and artist Andrea Sorrentino for a revival of the horror-romance serial that appeared from 1980 to 1983 in the House of Mystery anthology. Although the new series was a solid performer out of the gate, with the debut issue selling nearly 36,000, by the 14th issue that figure had slid below the 14,000 mark.
“Yep. I, Vampire is done as of 19. It’s been an amazing ride,” Fialkov wrote this afternoon on Twitter. “Thanks to all of my collaborators and stay tuned for the kickass conclusion. I’ve known For almost four months and got to write the ending I wanted. No complaints.”
Another of the New 52 launch titles, DC Universe Presents debuted with a Deadman storyline before embracing such diverse characters as the Challengers of the Unknown, Vandal Savage, Kid Flash, Blue Devil and Blue Beetle. Like I, Vampire, the anthology started solidly enough, with more than 41,000 copies but — again, like I, Vampire — it had plummeted below 14,000 by Issue 14.
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).
[Note: all this was written before I read any of this week’s comics.]
As mentioned last week, part of this look back at my New 52 reading is the chance to see where I might drop some titles. Not that I want to be negative unnecessarily, but it’s always good to make sure you really like what you buy. While I do buy some books “just because,” it’s very easy simply to fall into the habit of reading the same things month in and month out, neither looking forward to them nor missing them when they’re gone.
Therefore, let’s push through some bad vibes and talk about a couple of books I let drift away. Besides Superboy (covered last week), there was Red Lanterns (written by Peter Milligan, penciled by Ed Benes) and Grifter (written by Nathan Edmondson, penciled by CAFU). Originally I liked Red Lanterns because I thought it had recast Atrocitus as a distracted middle-management type, questioning his place in the universe while his functionaries went down their own demented paths. However, as the months went by the series never really built up any momentum, and for a premise based around the blood-spewing power of RAGE!!!1!! that’s not so good. Much the same applies to Grifter: thought it had potential, but it didn’t hold my interest.
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, where each week we talk about what comics and other stuff have been on our reading piles. To see what the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Creators | Cartoonist Stacy Curtis talks about inking Cul de Sac for creator Richard Thompson, who announced last week he’s ending the celebrated comic strip because Parkinson’s disease has left him unable to maintain the schedule: “I never felt inking Cul de Sac for Richard worked. It was like going into a theater to see Jerry Seinfeld do stand-up and watching Steve Martin deliver his lines. And that’s what it felt like. Every time I sat down at my drawing table to ink Cul de Sac, I could hear a narrator’s voice say, ‘For tonight’s performance, the part of Richard Thompson will be played by his understudy, Stacy Curtis.'” The final strip will appear Sept. 23. [Stacy Curtis]
Graphic novels | Andrews McMeel Publishing, which has focused on comic strips and comic strip compilations up to now, has announced its first original graphic novel series: The Chronicles of Desmond, by Mark Tatulli, creator of Lio and Heart of the City. The books will be published in October 2013 under Andrews McMeel’s new AMP! imprint and will be aimed at middle-grade readers. [Publishers Weekly]
Hello and welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? Our guest today is Caleb Goellner, pug lover and senior editor of ComicsAlliance.
To see what Caleb and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly rundown of what comics and other stuff we’ve been checking out recently. Today our special guest is cartoonist Austin English, creator of the graphic novel Christina and Charles and publisher of Domino Books.
To see what Austin and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Retailing | In the wake of the August closing of the Atomic Comics chain, Mesa, Arizona-area retailers are searching for ways to diversify in an attempt to keep their own stores afloat. Mike Banks, owner of Samurai Comics, has even opened a new location next to Atomic’s former flagship store to serve customers who suddenly found themselves without a comics shop. [East Valley Tribune]
Creators | Mike Mignola talks about his plans for next year’s Hellboy in Hell: “It’s a personal story about him, but with huge ramifications for the structure of Hell. I’m trying to get Hellboy free of the giant, Beast-of-the-Apocalypse storyline. That story has to get bigger before it can be put away. This first arc is the culmination of all the prophecy crap I’ve been trotting out throughout the years. We put a lot of things to bed.” Mignola also discusses his plans for B.P.R.D. and why he can’t watch the pilot of The Amazing Screw-On Head. [io9]
Creators | Tom Spurgeon continues his holiday interview series with a lengthy chat with Jeff Parker that spans his early comics-reading experiences, the influence of his artistic background on his writing, and his career at Marvel. [The Comics Reporter]
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.)
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!
Continue Reading »
So here we are, the last week of the New 52 rollout, and I must say it’s been a fascinating — sometimes exhausting — ride. It’ll be good to get back to more normal posting next week, but I have enjoyed these marathon stream-of-consciousness reviews. Although DC has said over and over that these books are all part of the same revised universe, there are so many different styles and approaches on display (The early ‘90s! The mid- to late ‘90s!) that the line seems a lot more heterogeneous than it did five weeks ago.
Moreover, the realization that these books are the new status quo is only now starting to sink in. Overall it’s a good feeling, but bittersweet too. After all, I had 25 years to get used to the last line-wide revampings.
SPOILERS FOLLOW, as always.
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.
It is, thankfully, the last week of September which means that, if I had $15, I only have one more week of new launches from DC to pick out potential favorites, Sophie’s Choice-style. This week: Aquaman #1, Flash #1, Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Men #1, Justice League Dark #1 and Superman #1 make the cut (All DC, all $2.99 each).
If I had the chance to add some more money to take that total to $30, I’d go for some Marvel books: Brian Michael Bendis gets well-represented with Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #2 ($3.99); New Avengers #16.1 ($2.99), his “new readers jump on” issue with art by Neal Adams; and Brilliant #1 ($3.99), his new creator-owned book with Mark Bagley. Here’s hoping I’m in a suitably Bendis-y mood when I read all of these ones.
Splurgewise, it has to be Habibi (Pantheon, $35), Craig Thompson’s new graphic novel. I know a few people who’ve had a chance to read it already, and everyone has made it sound like a large leap ahead from Blankets, and something almost worth the many-year wait it’s been since his breakthrough last book. I’m really looking forward to this one.