"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Film, Comic Books
Creators | Attack on Titan creator Hajime Isayama estimates that the blockbuster manga series will end in three years. “I’d like to end things quickly, with a tight pace of story developments,” he told Japan’s Da Vinci magazine, “and then I always end up feeling like I should qualify that with a ‘but,’ so for now, I can’t say anything more specific.” [RocketNews 24]
Conventions | Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa, has a thriving entertainment industry, and comics are blossoming there as well. At The Beat, Deji Bryce Olukotun interviews Ayodele Elegba, co-founder of this past weekend’s Lagos Comic Con, about the popularity of comics, what makes the Nigerian comics scene different from others, and the ever-present problem of piracy. [The Beat]
September marches on, Wednesday by Wednesday, which means so too does DC Comics’ theme month. This year the publisher has suspended publication of its New 52 titles, replaced them with Futures End one-shots, and slapped new and improved (i.e. smaller) lenticular 3D covers on them, each bearing a “#1.”
One could certainly question the logic in tying all of the New 52 books, even the extremely popular ones like Batman, to a middling weekly series set in a possible future that will never come to pass and that seems to be a fairly reliable mid-list seller. But this week’s crop of one-shots demonstrates that, despite the fact that each book has the words “Futures End” in the title, many of them have somewhere between nothing and very little to do with the actual plot of the event series.
In the previous two installments of our weekly look at these specials, I recapped the basic plot of Futures End. But this time, I see I need not even bother. DC shipped 11 of the books this week, but I only read five — and the only thing those issues shared in common is that they’re set five years in the future (not that they had much of anything at all to do with Futures End).
This month marks the third anniversary of of the New 52, and, as was the case with each September since the 2011 relaunch of DC Comics’ superhero titles, that means the entire line is being unified under an umbrella theme … or gimmick, depending on how charitable you are.
In 2012, it was “Zero Month,” with each book telling a story set in the hero’s first year of rebooted continuity. Last year, it was “Villains Month,” featuring fancy 3D covers, decimal-point issue numbers and stories starring DC’s antagonists. This year, its a little from column A, and a little from column B: There are more of those fancy covers, but all of the stories are set five years into the future.
As I did last week, I’ve grabbed a handful of new Futures End one-shots, more or less at random, for review. This week DC released 10 Futures End one-shots, of which I have five sitting in a little stack next to me as I type. Last time, I tried ordering the reviews from worst to best, but I had trouble doing so this week, as there wasn’t really a stand-out like Grayson. Rather, these five seemed to cluster around a baseline of mediocrity, with a few being slightly better, others slightly worse.
In the near future, some sort of sentient operating system has awoken and taken over the world, transforming its inhabitants into cyborgs that then either kill or assimilate the rest of the population. To try to prevent this apocalyptic nightmare, Batman Bruce Wayne sends Batman Terry McGinnis into the past to stop that operating system from being created.
I know parts of that plot might sound familiar, but notice the presence of Batmen in it, so obviously I am describing The New 52: Futures End, DC Comics’ weekly series set five year in the future, where McGinnis is trying to alter his past to save his future.
I wonder if DC could send someone back in time, whether they would have altered the storyline of Futures End a bit. It’s always difficult to tell exactly how well a particular series is selling — in part because of the insane way the direct market sells comics, in part because publishers don’t typically release numbers — but one expects DC might have had higher hopes for Futures End, given that this year’s theme month of September is devoted entirely to tie-ins to the storyline, as the company has suspended much of its New 52 line and replaced it with
52 42 Futures End one-shots.
Digital comics | Bruce Lidl looks at the digital-comics landscape following Amazon’s purchase of comiXology a few months ago. ComiXology’s announcement that it would allow DRM-free purchases of some comics may lead to a fissure in the market, he says: “In fact, we may be beginning to see a kind of bifurcation in the digital comics market, between companies tied to large global media conglomerates, that maintain a fervent faith in the need for some kind of DRM control for their multi-billion dollar intellectual properties, and the smaller publishers more concerned with creator autonomy and exposure.” He also talks to some digital-first creators about how they approach the market. [Publishers Weekly]
I’ve found the new Justice League United to be a rather surreal reading experience, until this point, for all sorts of reasons: It’s hard to believe DC launched this series to replace the much-ballyhooed — 52 variant covers! — Geoff Johns/David Finch Justice League of America after a mere 14 issues; it’s weird to see DC quietly reversing its “holding the line at $2.99″ policy with a Marvel-ous price point of 22 pages for $3.99; it launched with a zero issue that was actually a must-read first issue so that the story chapters and the issue numbers are now forever out of sequence; it featured Hawkman having an arm lopped up only to grow it back the next issue because Nth Metal; it featured an attempt to give the old grim-and-gritty treatment to Ultra the Multi-Alien; and so on.
However, the single most surreal aspect of the book may be one that’s suffused so much of the New 52, but is particularly present in the team books that rely on shared history (despite the fact that there isn’t really any shared history). In Justice League United, writer Jeff Lemire and penciler Mike McKone have assembled a rag-tag group of superheroes — Animal Man, Green Arrow, Star Girl, Hawkman and Supergirl — led by Martian Manhunter, whose place in the new DCU and relationships with the other Justice Leaguers is still ambiguous.
Comics | The Lussier family of Barrhaven, Ontario, will be offering more than 25,000 comics for sale June 7 in their garage to benefit the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. The Lussiers not only collect comics, they use them as part of their homeschooling curriculum, and when a comics shop in New Hampshire closed last year, they bought 20,000 comics from the owner; they also buy comics online. “We use comic books to really teach kids about life, and about finances and about debt,” said father Rob Lussier. Their collection includes The Incredible Hulk #271, which has appreciated quite a bit in value because it contains
the first an early appearance by Rocket Raccoon, who’s featured in Marvel’s upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Still, 12-year-old Alexandre is philosophical: “If the movie is good, [the value] will go up, but if it’s really bad, it might just plummet.” [Metro]
Of the three weekly series DC Comics is releasing this year, Futures End is arguably the most “important.” It spans the entire superhero line, bridges the gap between Forever Evil and 2015’s Big Event, and promises to change the New 52 irrevocably.
None of that apparently is deemed sufficient to attract new readers, because Futures End’s preview issue kicks off with 20 pages of your favorite characters either turned into, or slaughtered by, giant killer spider-bots.
To be fair, maybe the folks behind FE wanted to attract those readers already interested in a certain other let’s-prevent-the-robot-holocaust storyline from their crosstown rivals. But it’s not just X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Terminator or even Star Trek: First Contact (where you can hear the Borg Queen gloat “Watch your future’s end”) that Futures End echoes. Just off the top of my head, evil and/or assimilated versions of our heroes appeared in Final Crisis (remember Wonder Woman’s Female Furies?), in the Swamp Thing/Animal Man crossover “Rotworld” — which, by the way, I seem to be alone in liking — and in Flashpoint’s dog-eat-dog timeline. A future ruled by OMACs was also part of the Justice League: Generation Lost miniseries. Back in the day, “changing the bad future” was the plot of 1991’s summer crossover Armageddon 2001 and the unrelated JLA arc “Rock of Ages,” and 1992’s Eclipso: The Darkness Within featured “heroes turned bad.”
Typically, I don’t interview a creator twice about the same project. However, David Liss is a writer whom I consider to be greatly undervalued; if you never read the Black Panther stories he did with Francesco Francavilla a few years ago, you should remedy that situation immediately. We initially discussed his creator-owned Angelica Tomorrow in 2012, but along the way publishing plans (and options available to Liss) expanded, and an opportunity presented itself to bring artist Allen Byrns into the discussion.
DC Comics’ upcoming relaunch of Justice League of America was announced in August as Justice League Canada before it was changed in January to Justice League United. But with the arrival next month of Issue 1, the name will revert once more to Justice League Canada — if only on one cover.
Confused? Don’t be. As the Toronto Star reported over the weekend, the publisher will release a Canadian variant for the debut issue, featuring a recolored version of Mike McKone’s cover emblazoned with “Justice League Canada” (complete with maple leaf emblem). It will be available to all retailers.
Emerald City Comicon may not come with the metric ton of announcements that Comic-Con International does, but in a way it’s all the better for it. Comics still feel as if they’re front and center just where I like them, and the announcements have more charm because they aren’t screaming to be heard over the din of film and television rollouts.
One year, I’ll get up to Seattle to experience the event firsthand, but in the meantime, I get to absorb all the news and photos like everyone else, as they’re posted online. ECCC even streamed all of its panels on flipon.tv. Anything that happened in Room 301 is free for anyone to watch. Everything else can be purchased with a full archive pass for $14.95. Or if, you don’t want to sit through hours of panel footage, there’s CBR’s coverage or, heck, try Google or something.
A number of announcements jumped out as particularly noteworthy, so let’s run through The 6 Best Things from ECCC. And from my count, Dark Horse won Emerald City. Your miles may vary though, so post your favorites in the comments.
CBC News has debuted new details about the young Cree superheroine to be introduced next month in DC Comics’ Justice League United #0, by Jeff Lemire and Mike McKone.
Code-named Equinox, Miiyahbin is a 16-year-old from Moose Factory, Ontario, whose power comes from the Earth and changes with the seasons. As revealed in October, the character is inspired in part by Shannen Koostachin, a teenage activist who lobbied the federal government for a new school in Attawapiskat First Nation, on the James Bay Coast. Koostachin died in a car accident in 2010 at the age of 15.
“Creating a teenage female superhero was interesting to me because, generally, most superheroes are white males,” Lemire told CBC News. “We need diversity and we need different personalities. You need very distinct voices for personalities on the team or else you just start writing the same character in a different costume.”
To conduct research for Equinox, the Toronto-based creator of the Essex County trilogy traveled north to Moosonee and Moose Factory on James Bay, where he received feedback from local residents.
Batman: The Dark Knight Vol. 3: Mad (DC Comics): Poor Batman. His new continuity is only a few years old, and already he’s suffering from threat inflation, so that now seemingly every crime is one that could level Gotham City and every villain a mass-murderer with a three-figure body count to rival The Joker’s.
In this volume — collecting six issues and an annual from writer Gregg Hurwitz’s run on The Dark Knight — it’s The Mad Hatter’s turn for an upgrade. A villain formerly portrayed as either obsessed with hats or with Lewis Carrol’s Alice books or both, depending on the writer, Jervis Tetch here begins his road to villainy by killing a rabbit, then uses a step-ladder to reach the face of an underling who he proceeds to murder by plunging his thumbs into the victim’s eyes. From there, he murders a housewife by bashing her head in with an iron, he kills hundreds—hundreds!—of Gothamites through his mind-control technology, and he then has Batman’s girlfriend killed…by having her beaten to death in front of him.
In response, Batman tears one of the Tweedles’ jaws off, beats the diminutive Hatter until he’s drenched in his villain’s blood, then tosses him into a pond to drown until Alfred reminds him that he can’t kill the Hatter, or else he’ll be no different from him. I don’t think Batman should ever resort to lethal force, but Alfred’s argument isn’t all that powerful as presented here, given that one side of the scale has a madman murdering scores of innocents, and the other has Batman killing said killer.
That’s not the only surprisingly cliched bit of the story, which invents a new origin full of childhood trauma for Jervis Tetch akin to those Hurwitz previously gave The Scarecrow and The Penguin. Batman also decides he loves his current girlfriend, reluctantly reveals his secret identity to her and then, the very next night, one of his foes murders her while attempting to torture Batman’s secret identity out of her.
It’s a pretty problematic plot, to say the last.
Creators | Kuroko’s Basketball creator Tadatoshi Fujimaki remained silent over the past year while hundreds of threatening letters were sent out to retail stores that sold the manga and anime, venues that hosted doujinshi (fan comics) events connected with it, and even his alma mater, but now that police have arrested a suspect in the case, he has made an official statement. Fujimaki expressed relief that the suspect had been caught, thanked the police who were involved in the investigation, and promised that more chapters of Kuroko’s Basketball are on the way. [Anime News Network]
Conventions | Salt Lake Comic Con producer Dan Farr is voicing his support for the construction of a “mega hotel” near the Salt Palace convention center. The Utah state Legislature ended its legislative session without passing a $100 million bill to fund such a hotel, but backers hope to see it revived in the next session. Ticket sales for the 2013 convention topped 50,000, and Farr told the local news station, “A convention center hotel would be a big help for us.” [Fox News 13]
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.