J. Michael Straczynski
So, is this a tradition? I have to come up with a better subtitle…
For the past couple of years, I’ve picked out twenty random DC topics, of various levels of importance, for a paragraph’s worth of analysis each. No guarantees as to accuracy, of course — this site is for entertainment purposes only. Regardless, even a blind pig finds a truffle now and then.
With last year’s list in mind, let’s get right to it–!
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1. DC at 75. My first impulse — which is not necessarily the correct one — is to say that DC had a relatively low-key anniversary, because there was no single celebratory event unifying the superhero line, like there was in 1985 with Crisis On Infinite Earths. I think that’s unfair, though, considering that the superhero books did have some commemorative covers, and there was a big coffee-table book. That’s about right, I guess.
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The Walking Dead and Scott Pilgrim dominated graphic novel sales in bookstores in December, claiming nine of the Top 10 spots on the Nielsen BookScan chart.
Buoyed by the record-setting first season of the AMC television adaptation, zombie comic landed the top spot with The Walking Dead: Compendium One, the $60, 1,088-page collection of the first 48 issues of the Robert Kirkman-Tony Moore-Charlie Adlard series. Three volumes of The Walking Dead, including new editions of the first two collections, appeared in the Top 10, and five in the Top 15.
All six volumes of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim made the Top 10, which could be attributed to the November release of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World on DVD and Blu-ray — or a sign that the series is on its way to becoming a perennial bestseller.
Meanwhile, Superman: Earth One, the hardcover graphic novel whose blockbuster sales led J. Michael Straczynski to abandon the Superman and Wonder Woman monthly series so DC Comics could fast-track a sequel, plummeted from No. 1 on the chart to No. 15. The retail news and analysis site ICv2.com suggests the book may be a victim of availability — there may not be enough additional copies to replenish what’s been sold — rather than a decrease in interest. Indeed, Superman: Earth One is No. 5 after nine weeks on The New York Times hardcover graphic books list.
Creators | Renowned artist Steve Rude has announced that money raised from an online art and comics auction has enabled he and his family to keep their home: “When I saw the bread coming in after Gino made her announcement (this was unbeknownst to the oblivious Dude), I was, and still am, in a mild state of stupefication. The outpouring of generosity was clearly far beyond what Gino and I could’ve asked for. Your contributions poured in from all corners of our planet; the sizeable backstock of comics and Dude related ‘higher reading paraphernalia’ were ordered by the spit-load; and Erik Larson bought his complete Next Nexus 3 issue! All said, we saved the house.” The Nexus creator is still working to regain his financial footing, so he’s selling 2011 calendars and, soon, a new sketchbook. [DudeNews]
Comic strips | Cartoonist Jim Davis has issued an apology for an ill-timed Garfield strip that appeared on Veterans Day. The strip, which appeared in newspapers on Thursday, featured a standoff between Garfield and a spider, and referred to “an annual day of remembrance” called “National Stupid Day.” In a statement, Davis explained that the strip was written almost a year ago, “and I had no idea when writing it that it would appear today — of all days.” [CNN, The Daily Cartoonist]
“…Straczynski basically indicates that the future is stand-alone works and short runs, which strikes me as a terrible vote of no-confidence in terms of such a company’s — an industry’s! — bread and butter. If JMS doesn’t want to write continuing series, doesn’t that suggest that fans might want to reconsider reading them?”
–The Comics Reporter’s Tom Spurgeon, analyzing the ramifications of J. Michael Straczynski’s decision to depart his runs on Superman and Wonder Woman for the original graphic novel series Superman: Earth One and similarly formatted projects. “I think that’s where the business is going,” JMS said in his statement; will it go there faster now that one of its most high-profile writers has made the switch?
“For those who’ve been asking, yes, JMS is finishing The Twelve. #9 & 10 are done, and Chris [Weston] is waiting on script from JMS this week.”
–Marvel Senior VP – Executive Editor Tom Brevoort on the other book J. Michael Straczynski departed mid-stream, the long-delayed Marvel maxi-series The Twelve with artist Chris Weston. Perhaps this is one of the “high-visibility mini series…with a beginning, middle and end” to which JMS was referring in his statement about leaving Superman and Wonder Woman to focus on non-monthly comics. (The “and end” part’s the kicker.)
“I think we call that ‘Pulling a Palin.’”
–Writer, editor, and long-suffering Superman superfan Mark Waid, presumably comparing writer J. Michael Straczynski’s abrupt mid-storyline departure from his controversial Superman and Wonder Woman revamps to focus on the (previously announced) second volume in the Superman: Earth One series with former Alaska governor Sarah Palin’s departure from office to do…whatever it is Sarah Palin does now. I say “presumably” because as far as I know, Superman hasn’t yet walked far enough across America to be able to see Russia from his house.
Throughout the character’s history, Superman has been introduced and reintroduced to various audiences through various media. There have been Supermen on radio and film, on television and in prose, and of course in comics. The new Megamind apparently leans heavily on a Superman pastiche, and the newest “proper” Superman movie is being guided by producer Christopher Nolan.
And yet, the goal of Superman Earth One — written by J. Michael Straczynski, pencilled by Shane Davis, and inked by Sandra Hope — seems different from many of the Man of Steel’s other origins. Earth One has Krypton, the Kents, Lois, “Jim” Olsen, the Daily Planet, and of course the familiar red-and-blue costume; but it is most concerned with redefining Clark Kent and his mighty alter-ego. Aside from the “Earth One” brand itself (about which more later), there are very few Easter eggs for longtime fans. This is not a distillation of seventy-plus years’ worth of Superman stories into some platonic ideal (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Instead, it’s almost as if Straczynski and Davis are making a concerted effort to avoid such references.
Regardless, Superman Earth One (there is no colon in the title) clearly seeks to redefine and reintroduce the original superhero to a new audience. As a reintroduction, and more specifically as the first of what is presumably an ongoing series of graphic novels, it’s not a bad beginning — but it doesn’t quite feel like Superman yet.
SPOILERS FOLLOW, of course.
It probably should: Wonder Woman #606′s variant-cover homage to Leonardo da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man” by Alex Garner is also just a bit similar to artist (and Marvel Editor in Chief) Joe Quesada’s promotional image for the J. Michael Straczynski Spider-Opus The Other. Why, that kind of playful tweak of the competition is almost…Marvelesque, isn’t it? I for one am hoping that this means that Leather-Jacket Wonder Woman will shoot spikes out of her arms and eat a dude’s face.
(via Marc-Oliver Frisch)
A few weeks ago, Cincinnati retailer Kendall Swafford sparked a debate at ICv2.com when he took his DC Comics sales representative, by name, to task for the publisher’s lack of promotional support for Superman #703. You see, that’s the issue in which the Man of Steel swings through the Queen City during his much-ballyhooed cross-country trek. And Swafford’s store is named … Up Up & Away.
“Why isn’t DC on top of this?” Swafford asked. “Why isn’t someone from DC Entertainment playing the point man and helping to coordinate efforts to increase sales of the book? This book, if nothing else, plays on our feelings of civic pride, the same way we collectively share in the winning ways of local sports teams.”
DC didn’t send posters of the comic’s cover or offer help to coordinate press releases or line up an actor to play Superman, he complained: “I’m not looking for someone to do my job for me, I’m looking for someone on their end to help realize this book’s potential.” Several retailers chimed in to defend the sales rep, and to point out it’s not his job to handle publicity, leading Kendall to question the position rather than the employee. “That DC had no one from publicity, sales or even janitorial playing point man on this Superman event is frustrating to me,” he wrote in response to criticism.
However, Swafford didn’t let his frustration with DC get in the way of promoting the issue or his store, located in the Cincinnati suburb of Cheviot (it’s “a one-square-mile town within the city,” he explained). He teamed up with organizers of Saturday’s Cincinnati Comic Expo to promote the issue in Cheviot’s Harvest Home Parade, hired a Superman actor, printed banners, sent out a press release. Cheviot Mayor Samuel Keller even declared Sept. 15 as “Superman Day.”
There’s just one little problem: DC revealed that Superman #703 won’t be released this week, as originally planned, but a month later (there won’t be an issue at all in September).
To OGN or not to OGN, that is the question that’s been raised by panel reports from San Diego that suggest DC may have changed their plans for their Earth One graphic novel series — something that DC said isn’t the case.
Back in December, DC announced a new series of Earth One original graphic novels featuring Superman and Batman set “on a new earth with an all-new continuity.” During the Superman: The Man of Tomorrow panel at Comic-Con International last month, someone asked J. Michael Straczynski about the future of these graphic novels. Straczynski is the writer of the first one being released this November, which features the story of a young Superman.
“The last question went to Straczynski,” CBR’s panel report by Kevin Mahadeo reads. “The fan asked whether the writer plans on continuing the ‘Earth One’ stories. The writer revealed that the hardcover release will be followed up with single issues, which will later be collected.”
Although panel reports on both Comic Book Resources and Newsarama were published during the show, it wasn’t until this past Sunday that people really started to take notice of that sentence — Kevin Huxford, Johanna Draper Carlson, Heidi MacDonald and Augie De Blieck Jr. have all posted about it this week.
It is one of the most familiar scenes in all of superhero comics. Hal Jordan, Green Lantern, is right in the middle of a dilemma when, from off-panel, a new voice enters the scene.
“I want to ask the ring-slinger a question,” the voice begins. We know already that the questioner’s concerns run deeper than the present emergency.
Indeed, you might think you know where this is going — an elderly African-American man’s earnest soliloquy, a space-cop’s perceptions up-ended — and if you were reading April 1970′s classic Green Lantern vol. 2 #76, you’d be right.
Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Michael Klein takes note of a caption box in Superman #701 that sets the scene in “Philadelphia, Pennsylvania … the South Side,” specifically, on the 500 block of S. 48th St. The thing is, the city doesn’t have a “South Side” — it’s South Philadelphia or, more commonly, “South Philly” — and even if it did, that block wouldn’t be in it. You see, the intersection of 48th and Larchwood streets is in West Philadelphia (aka University City, aka where the Fresh Prince of Bel Air was born and raised).
“Is this the comic book version of revisionist history?” one commenter asks. “Maybe you should have started in Texas.”
The misstep is, of course, one of the pitfalls that comes with setting a story in such a specific real-world locale. With Lex Luthor otherwise occupied, perhaps the geographical goof will fill the role of archnemesis in the “Grounded” arc, as J. Michael Straczynski and Eddy Barrows take Superman through Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon and Washington. (I’m guessing the “South Side” caption will be changed for the collected editions.)
Okay, so Straczynski botched the neighborhood, but how did Superman #701 score with the other Philadelphia touchstones? Well …
“[Superman] stops at a diner for a ‘Philly cheese steak sandwich’ but is short on money,” Klein writes, “so the waitress allows him to work it off by cleaning the storeroom. He also thwarts drug dealers by setting their stashes on fire with his X-ray vision and talks a woman off a ledge. Standard stuff.”
We’ll have to wait until Wednesday to learn whether it was the term “Philly cheese steak sandwich” that drove the woman to the ledge.
Like clockwork, Comic-Con organizers have released the schedule for the third day of the convention, Saturday, July 24.
Below you’ll find highlights of the comics-related programming, ranging from movie panels for Warner Bros.’ Green Lantern and Marvel’s Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger to Joe Quesada’s traditional “Cup O’ Joe” and “Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 6: Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour vs. The Fans.”
The full programming schedule for Saturday can be found here.
10 to 11 a.m. Spotlight on Carla Speed McNeil — Comic-Con special guest Carla Speed McNeil is best known for her creator-owned title Finder. A few years back, Carla took new stories of Finder to the Internet, and the result was an Eisner Award for best webcomic of 2008 and a new series of reprints from Dark Horse. Carla talks about her work and what’s next in this Spotlight panel. Room 3
10 to 11 a.m. The Black Panel 2010 — This year’s Black Panel will be one for the ages. The focus will be on empowerment, education, real-world networking, and finally but never last, fun. The panelists include entertainment attorney Darrel Miller, novelist Nnedi Okorafor, artist Denys Cowan and writer/producer/director Reggie Hudlin, with moderator Michael Davis. Once they answer life’s burning questions, they’ll chill with a salute and Q&A from the audience with actor/writer/director Bill Duke. As always, surprise guests who will rock your world. Room 5AB
10 to 11 a.m. Marvel Comics Writers Unite! — The third in Comic-Con’s series of “Year of the Writer/Comics Writers Unite!” panels focuses on Marvel Comics and includes Comic-Con special guests Brian Michael Bendis (Avengers, New Avengers, Ultimate Spider-Man), Matt Fraction (Invincible Iron Man, Thor) and Chris Claremont (X-Men Forever, X-Women) in a discussion with writer Mark Waid (Amazing Spider-Man, Irredeemable). Room 6DE
It was virtually impossible this week to escape coverage of Wonder Woman’s costume change, even if you didn’t visit any comic websites. The announcement was made Monday in The New York Times and quickly spread to The Washington Post, BBC News, the Los Angeles Times, ABC News and well beyond. Reactions to the makeover were virtually instantaneous, of course.
But what about the response to the milestone Wonder Woman #600 which, in addition to contributions by the likes of George Perez, Gail Simone, Geoff Johns, Amanda Conner, Louise Simonson and Scott Kolins, features a 10-page prologue to J. Michael Straczynski and Don Kramer’s yearlong arc? It’s a story that not only introduces the new costume but establishes a new, if perhaps only temporary, timeline in which Themyscira is destroyed and an infant Diana is bundled off to be raised in an urban setting.
Here’s just a sampling of reactions to Straczynski and Kramer’s “Odyssey” prologue, and to Wonder Woman’s new
Gloria Steinem, to The Associated Press: “It’s an exact copy of Superman, who came as a baby from the exploding planet Krypton. This destroys her home, her Amazon mother and sisters, and gives her no place to go to gain strength and create an inspiring storyline.” The whole idea, she said, is based on “what seems to be the brainstorming of a very limited group of brains.”
Dan Phillips, IGN: “Fortunately, not even the ridiculousness of the new costume can rob JMS’s prologue of its overwhelming sense of excitement and, for lack of a better term, wonder. It’s been ages — and maybe even forever — since I’ve been this excited about a Wonder Woman story, and that excitement is due in large part to JMS’s decision to try something new with the character. Because let’s face it: even Wonder Woman’s biggest fans must admit the character has never enjoyed a level of success in her actual stories equal to her iconic status. It’s long overdue that someone with the mammoth stones of JMS tried to breathe new life into Wonder Woman without worrying about fussing up what’s come before. Diana’s new look aside, JMS’s plan has a ton of potential.”
Occasionally I find myself on a Monday or a Tuesday wondering what Thursday’s topic will be. Such was the case this week –
– and then the hand of Providence offered up J. Michael Straczynski’s radical take on Wonder Woman.
SPOILERS FOLLOW for what was actually a very enjoyable Wonder Woman #600….