REVIEW: "DC Universe: Rebirth" #1 Makes the Future of DC Comics Look Genuinely Bright
Vertigo has announced the fall release of two Neil Gaiman deluxe hardcover editions, The Sandman: Overture and Free Country: A Tale of the Children’s Crusade.
The first may seem a tad optimistic, as the six-issue bimonthly miniseries by Gaiman and J.H. Williams III, which debuted in October 2013 as part of the 25th anniversary of The Sandman, has yet to release its final two chapters. Set to arrive in November, the deluxe edition will include all six issues, the gatefold from the debut issue, plus extras like pages from the Special Editions and script pages.
As we noted on Wednesday, multiple Eisner winner J.H. Williams III designed the packaging for Blondie’s upcoming album Ghosts of Download. But his art is also used in the new lyric video for the first single, “I Want to Drag You Around” (this week’s Record of the Week on BBC Radio 2).
Check out the video below. Ghosts of Download goes on sale May 13.
One of the common comments when people see the work of J.H. Williams III is that it looks like fine art. It is, and as it turns out he has some fans in Blondie. This week the rock band debuted the packaging for its upcoming album Ghosts of Download, and it features a expansive set of artwork that Williams created exclusively for the release.
“The package design is a unique one, there will be two albums in one package – featuring the Ghosts of Download album along with another album of Blondie’s greatest hits newly recorded, and a deluxe version with all kinds of extra goodies,” he explains on his website. “I did all of the design work for Ghosts, while the Hits portion was done by someone else. I worked on every visual aspect of this release, from concept, to cover design, to booklet design, and all the same for the Vinyl Double LP. There are different pieces or alterations for the CD versus the vinyl, and the same situation for some foreign versions of the release – GO COLLECTORS GO!”
J.H. Williams III has made a career out of taking comics art to the next level — and now he’s taking it from comic pages to the museum wall.
On March 15, San Francisco’s Cartoon Art Museum will host “Overture: An Evening With J.H. Williams III,” showcasing his original work, including selections from The Sandman: Overture, including the above cover from Issue 3. The museum has already installed several of Williams’ pieces in its gallery, but the artist promises “many more” leading up to the formal event on March 15.
Vertigo has debuted the television commercial for The Sandman: Overture, the new miniseries by Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III. The DC Comics imprint is billing the comic as “the first new Sandman story in 17 years,” which seems to overlook the 2003 graphic novel The Sandman: Endless Nights.
There’s no word yet as to where the ad will air, but last year’s Before Watchmen campaign was in heavy rotation on IFC, BBC America and (the now-defunct) G4.
The Sandman: Overture #1 was released Oct. 30.
I think it’s hard to overestimate the value of The Sandman, the 75-issue Neil Gaiman-written series that began its life as a revival of the late-’70s Joe Simon/Jack Kirby character, and ended up as 1,600-plus page epic that was one of the all-time best gateway comics — not to mention a powerful factor in the mainstreaming of adult comics content and a then still-emerging graphic novel market.
So Gaiman returning to Dream of the Endless (and the first Dream, rather than Daniel), for the first time since 2003’s The Sandman: Endless Nights? That should be a pretty big deal, right?
For The Sandman: Overture, which debuted this week, Gaiman is paired with Promethea artist J.H. Williams III (better known these days for his run on Batwoman), colorist Dave Stewart and letterer Todd Klein, who lettered all the previous Sandman comics.
As exciting as the project is, it also feels rather dangerous for writer, reader, character and publisher. You know what they say about going home again, after all, or catching lightning in a bottle.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of The Sandman, Neil Gaiman looked back to the very beginning of the acclaimed series to answer a lingering question: What left the mighty Lord of Dreams so weakened that he was able to be imprisoned for 70 years?
“We learn, as the story goes on, that he arrived in England exhausted, dressed for war, from somewhere very far away, and that was why they captured him so easily,” Gaiman told Fast Company ahead of the Wednesday debut of The Sandman: Overture, his six-issue collaboration with J.H. Williams III. “But I never told that story. And it’s big, and it’s very weird.”
However, over the course of the The Sandman‘s 75-issue run, there were at least two other untold tales that are certainly just as big, and undoubtedly just as weird — and they both involve the letter D (naturally).
“If we ever get to the 50th anniversary, I may tell the story of how the character of Delight became Delirium, or the story of how the first Despair died,” Gaiman teased. “But that’s the 50th anniversary, so there’s plenty of time.”
Although Destruction, who long ago abandoned his Endless duties and disappeared, was found during the series, Delight’s transformation into Delirium was a mystery to which not even Destiny knew the answer. And while clues were dropped about the death of the original Despair — she even appeared in 2003’s Endless Nights — readers were left wondering about the details, including who was behind it.
But, hey, we can hold out until 2038 for the answers, right?
I like this too-brief piece for The Guardian in which writer Neil Gaiman recounts the beginnings, and the “end,” of The Sandman and artist Dave McKean recalls the evolution of the comic’s distinctive covers.
“I’d been keeping it secret that the story would one day end. But, around issue 30, I began dropping hints,” says. “And it was explained to me that this couldn’t happen: with a successful monthly, when a writer leaves, a new one comes in. I decided not to argue. But in every interview I did, I said I hoped they would stop it when I left, because if they did I would keep on working for them. That percolated into the world and one day I got a call from Karen [Berger] saying: ‘You know, we really can’t keep this going after you’re done.’ That was the biggest thing Sandman changed: DC’s most successful comic was stopped because the writer was done. Otherwise, the brand would have been tarnished.”
As a nice bonus, there’s also a gallery of McKean’s favorite Sandman covers, complete with commentary. The Sandman: Overture, by Gaiman and J.H. Williams III, with variant covers by McKean, debuts Oct. 30.
“Batwoman” #24 hit stores this week, and it’s the final issue by J.H. Williams and W. Haden Blackman. After the duo stated they would leave “Batwoman” due to editorial interference, DC Comics announced that incoming series writer Marc Andreyko would take over with “Batwoman” #25, a full two issues before Williams and Blackman’s intended exit. (This was later confirmed with a revised December solicitation for “Batwoman” #26.) On Williams’ personal blog, the “Batwoman” writer/artist expressed his dismay that the creative team’s closing arc of the story was cut short.
“I’m depressed over this a bit. And frustratingly the issue will give no arc conclusion, or conclusion to our run,” Williams said via his blog. “We apologize to you readers for that. It wasn’t what we wanted to happen.”
Batwoman Vol. 3: World’s Finest (DC Comics): It’s difficult to talk about this comic without also discussing the announced departure of its creative team which, like several others that have worked on DC’s New 52, left amid quite public complaints of editorial interference.
As an auteur-driven book starring a relatively new character that’s barely been drawn by anyone other than artist and co-writer J.H. Williams III, the whole affair strikes me as strange, as Williams seems to be at least as big a factor in the book’s continued existence as the word “Bat” in its title. And it’s stranger still he and co-writer W. Haden Blackman are only now reaching the breaking point, as from a reader’s perspective, DC appeared to have pretty much left them alone to do their own thing; like Grant Morrison’s Batman Incorporated and the Geoff Johns-written portions of Green Lantern, this book seems set in its own universe and is sort of impossible to integrate into the New 52 if one thinks about it for too long (with “too long” being “about 45 seconds”).
Regularly cited as one of the best of DC’s current crop of comics, Batwoman is definitely the company’s best-looking, and most intricately, even baroquely designed and illustrated. As for the word half of the story equation, I found Batwoman — and this volume in particular — to be extremely strange, even weird, more than I found it to be good.
DC Comics hasn’t had a particularly good run of things lately. To be frank, the publisher has done blown it a number of times over the past few years. But don’t worry, DC fans — I’m sure it’ll soon be Marvel’s turn, as the two rivals seem to trade off every five years or so.
I’ve been calling out DC for the past couple of weeks, but that doesn’t mean everything it does strikes me as wrong. It’s important to declare shenanigans, but it’s also important to recognize when a publisher does something that’s good for comics.
So here are six things DC is doing right:
1. Digital comics: Legends of the Dark Knight and Adventures of Superman are digital-first anthology series that feature some excellent creators (from Jeff Parker and Chris Samnee to J.M. DeMatteis and Jeff Lemire) producing completely accessible and entertaining stories that stand on their own; no college course on the New 52 or Crisis on Infinite Earths required. Yes, these stories are out of continuity — so for a percentage of readers, they don’t count. That’s a mistake, because there’s nothing wrong with a straight-up superhero tale that exists on its own terms. These two anthologies are the gems of DC’s digital-first line-up, but Batman ’66 and Batman: Li’l Gotham also offer fantastical takes on the iconic Caped Crusader that are bright and fun. For those exhausted by the angsty versions of serious stories, you owe it to yourself to check these out.
“The circumstances could be more pleasant. You never want to take over a book when people leave on not the best terms, but the character is so rich and I’m such a huge fan of everything Greg [Rucka] and Haden and J.H. — especially J.H. — have done on that book, that I’m not going in to rearrange everything and say, ‘Everything that went on before is bad. I’m going to fix it.’ I want to do right by the character, and the character that they have done … I’ve got to say, the reaction on the Internet — I expected to be vilified, and drawn and quartered, and I’ve only been called ‘gay Uncle Tom’ by about three websites, so statistically, I’m ahead of the game. Statistically, the Internet’s been great to me.”
— writer Marc Andreyko, in an interview with CBR TV, discussing taking the reins on DC’s Batwoman following the sudden departure of J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman
I’m still kind of flummoxed by Dan DiDio’s comments last weekend at Baltimore Comic-Con explaining why Batwoman can’t marry her girlfriend Maggie Sawyer. “Heroes shouldn’t have happy personal lives,” he said at the start of the DC Nation panel, according to several sources. “They are committed to being that person and committed to defending others at the sacrifice of their own personal interests. It’s wonderful that they try to establish personal lives, but it’s equally important that they set them aside. That is our mandate, that is our edict and that is our stand with our characters.”
I don’t disagree with the idea that main characters ought to struggle. A sunny walk through the park doesn’t make for much of a gripping adventure yarn. That is pretty basic writing strategy for drama: Put your characters through hell and watch them climb out. Serialized superhero stories, and in fact most Western narratives, are structured around that up and down of going from seeming defeat to triumph. It’s particularly appropriate for Batman and his family of books: The Dark Knight is built around tragedy, and his obsession over fixing that tragedy is what drives him. Bruce Wayne continually sacrifices his personal life in his constant pursuit to make sure what happened to him won’t happen to anyone else. It’s that drive that’s turned him into something of a social misfit — he can play the part of Mr. Debonair but getting emotionally close to him is almost impossible.
So on that level, I don’t disagree with DiDio.
Welcome to “Report Card,” our week-in-review feature. If “Cheat Sheet” is your guide to the week ahead, “Report Card” is typically a look back at the top news stories of the previous week, as well as a look at the Robot 6 team’s favorite comics that we read.
So find out what we thought about Waluk, Superior Spider-Man and more.
While many of us were enjoying our holiday, Comic-Con International organizers were busy releasing the programming schedule for Thursday, July 18, the first full day of the San Diego convention. The rundown for Friday, July 19 should come along early this afternoon.
As we’ve come to expect, Thursday’s lineup is a healthy mix of comics, television, toys, fantasy and film (although light on the latter, which take center stage on Friday and Saturday). The comics programming includes panels from Avatar Press, Bongo Comics (it’s the publisher’s 20th anniversary), BOOM! Studios, Dark Horse, DC Entertainment, Kodansha Comics, Marvel, Monkeybrain Comics (it’s that publisher’s first anniversary), TwoMorrows, Vertigo, Viz Media and Warp Comics.
However, that’s only for starters, as there are spotlights on Chris Samnee, Jeff Smith, J.H. Williams III, Dan Parent and Gary Frank, The Walking Dead‘s 10th-anniversary panel, and discussions about digital comics, gender in comics, LGBT webcomics and much, much more.
Check out some of the comics-related highlights below, and visit the Comic-Con website for the full schedule: