Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Graphic novels | A number of incoming freshmen at Duke University have refused to read Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, chosen as the summer reading selection for the class of 2019. Brian Grasso started the conversation by posting on the class Facebook page that he wouldn’t read the graphic novel because of its depictions of sexuality, saying, “I feel as if I would have to compromise my personal Christian moral beliefs to read it.” That opened up a discussion in which some students defended the book and said that reading it would broaden their horizons, while others shied away from the visual depictions of sexual acts. And Grasso felt that the choice was insensitive, commenting: “Duke did not seem to have people like me in mind. It was like Duke didn’t know we existed, which surprises me.” [Duke Chronicle]
Passings | Archie Comics artist Tom Moore died yesterday at the age of 86. Moore got his start as an artist in the Navy, where he served during the Korean War: His captain found a caricature that Moore had drawn, and instead of calling him on the carpet, he assigned him to be staff cartoonist. Moore’s comic strip, Chick Call, ran in military publications, and after the war he studied cartooning in New York, with help from the GI Bill. Moore signed on with Archie Comics, drawing one comic book a month, from 1953 until 1961, when he left cartooning for public relations. “It’s important to create characters that can adapt to anything, but whose personalities are consistent,” Moore said in a 2008 interview. “Establish that, and don’t deviate. Betty doesn’t act like Veronica, and Charlie Brown doesn’t act like Lucy.” He returned to cartooning in 1970, drawing Snuffy Smith, Underdog, and Mighty Mouse, and then went back to Archie to help reboot Jughead, staying on until his retirement in the late 1980s. After retiring, Moore taught at El Paso Community College and was a regular customer at All Star Comics. [El Paso Times]
Publishing | DC co-publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio talk about the comics market as a whole, variant covers, and their move to Burbank, among many other topics, in a three-part interview. [ICv2]
Commentary | Christopher Butcher discusses the way the comics audience has diversified, and the way that parts of the industry (the parts that aren’t involved, basically) have refused to acknowledge the enormous popularity of newer categories of comics by “othering” them: “‘Manga aren’t comics,’ went the discussion. They were, and are in many ways, treated as something else. The success that they had, the massive success that they continue to have, doesn’t ‘count’. All those sales and new readers were just ‘a fad’, and not worthy of interest, respect, or comparison to real comics. It was the one thing that superhero-buying-snobs and art-comics-touting-snobs could agree on (with the exception of Dirk Deppey at TCJ, bless him): This shit just isn’t comics, real comics, therefore we don’t have to engage it.” Butcher sees these attitudes changing at last, though, thanks to the massive commercial and critical success of books like Raina Telgemeier’s Smile (three years on the New York Times graphic novel best-seller list!) and Mariko and Jillian Tamaki’s This One Summer. [Comics212]
Comics | In advance of a radio show titled “White Men in Capes,” to be broadcast Tuesday, BBC News looks at diversity in comics and finds it lacking; as DC Entertainment Co-Publisher Dan DiDio says, there “doesn’t seem to really be a proper representation of ethnic characters across the entire industry.” He talks about DC’s efforts to bring diversity to its line, and he explains why: “There’s a very hungry audience, excited audience and the reason why we know that exists is because we go to the conventions and we hear from our stores and you hear the make-up of the people shopping in those stores.” [BBC News]
DC Collectibles has revealed its Comic-Con International-exclusive pencil-deco BlueLine Edition Batman action figure, designed by Jim Lee.
In a video that premiered this morning on USA Today, the DC Comics co-publisher unboxes the collectible, which will be available in two versions: the standard $40 package, which includes and exclusive print by Lee; and the $300 limited edition of 150, each of which comes with a signed original sketch by the artist (he’ll draw 50 each of Batman, Harley Quinn and The Joker).
Moleskine has arrived in Gotham City with a collection of limited-edition Batman notebooks, debuting today.
Produced in collaboration with Warner Bros. Consumer Products, the series features four notebooks with cover art by John Cassaday, Mike Mignola and Jim Lee. A fifth with art by Frank Miller from The Dark Knight Returns on its cover and flyleaves will be available in a numbered run of 5,000 exclusively from Moleskine’s website and stores. All of the notebooks come with limited-edition Batman stickers.
For many reading comics today, WildStorm may be a small footnote in the history of DC Comics or a pit stop in Jim Lee’s path to becoming one of the most powerful figures in comics. For those of a certain age it was something more. If you’re more than a casual fan, someone who perhaps knows what the “C.A.T.” in WildC.A.T.s stood for or always wondered what Aegis Entertainment was, there’s a new project you should know about: WildStorm Oral History.
Readers and, especially, retailers may have plenty of reasons to be annoyed by Superman Unchained, the now-complete series available this week in a fancy-schmancy 350-page, slightly oversized hardcover “Deluxe Edition.”
DC Comics announced the awkwardly titled series — please note, there are no literal or metaphorical chains either going on or coming off in the story — as an ongoing, promoted with seemingly countless variant covers (more on these later). In theory, it sounded like a can’t-miss comic, featuring as it did the work of Scott Snyder, one of (if not the) most popular writers in the direct market and Jim Lee, one of (if not the) most popular artists in the direct market, working on DC’s flagship (and second-most popular) character.
In reality, the book turned out to just an nine-issue miniseries, rather important information a retailer would have taken into consideration when ordering. Whether or not it was always intended to be a miniseries, I don’t know; it reads as a complete story with a beginning, middle and end, and it fits into the New 52 continuity, but loosely enough that one need not have any idea what’s going on in any other book to follow it easily (Snyder really pulled off some great line-straddling here, as this reads equally well as part of the New 52 and as a standalone book for a new or lapsed Superman fan). The plan might have originally been for it to be ongoing, until the reality of a Lee drawing a monthly series set in.
Even at just nine issues, Superman Unchained was plagued with delays that made reading it serially something of a chump’s game. It took 15 months to publish those nine issues. That averages out to a bimonthly-ish schedule, but the delays were random and erratic: Issues 4 and 5 shipped in consecutive months, for example, and then there was a two-month delay before Issue 6, and a three-month delay before Issue 7. If there’s a more perfect argument for waiting for the trade than Superman Unchained, I’ve yet to hear it (you even get all 58 covers in this collection, some process stuff and no ads, and at $29.99 it’s cheaper than the buying all nine single issues at $3.99).
So, yes, if you’re in the business of trying to sell comics to people, you may have some ill will toward this book. And if you tried reading it “monthly,” you may also not feel great about it. I can’t defend DC’s production or marketing of the book, but I would argue in favor of forgiving Superman Unchained. Because the thing is, it’s actually a pretty great Superman story.
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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.
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DC Entertainment has debuted the first look at the upcoming Batgirl Black and White statue, based on the fan-favorite character redesign by Cameron Stewart and Babs Tarr.
Set for release in September 2015 from DC Collectibles, it’s the first Batgirl statue from the popular Black and White line that’s included The Joker, Harley Quinn and numerous takes on Batman. Irene Matar, who sculpted DC Collectibles’ Batman: The Animated Series line, also sculpted Batgirl.
Publishing | DC Entertainment Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee talk about the state of the comics market, DC’s upcoming move from New York City to Burbank, the growing female audience and more. “There’s also a diversification within the audience itself the past couple of years,” Lee observed. “You’ve seen more women, more female readers, in general. When we launched Batgirl and Gotham Academy, those books struck a different note, different tonality, and that was in large part due to editor Mark Doyle bringing these projects together with different kinds of creators. It was our way of broadening the base of the Batman family of books but doing it in a different way to attract a different audience. I think it speaks well to the future that we’re not just going to strike the same note looking for the same customer. […] You can’t necessarily rely on the same continuity, the same core hardcore comics-driven material; you have to diversify, broaden your net and bring in different voices to the company.” [ICv2]
Maybe it’s the exhaustion talking, but I can’t stop watching this GIF of Jim Lee, Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Dan DiDio, John Romita Jr. and Scott Snyder from the Entertainment Weekly Social Media booth at Comic-Con International. It may be my favorite thing today, at least until I find the next thing …
“Certainly when you relaunch a whole universe, something like the New 52, you’re gonna essentially create a bible that kind of guides and dictates the evolution and growth of the universe. We’re in year three of that, and certainly every story that’s created is done through the collaboration of an editor with the writer and the artist and the rest of the creative team. So I certainly think Mark Doyle coming on and becoming the Batman Group editor was a big part of that. I think it’s also a recognition that our audience has evolved and we wanna make sure that we tell the stories that the audiences are craving. So we identified this need. We’re coming out with these different kinds of storylines, and, frankly, it’s exciting because we have a lot of Batman books, and I think it’s a disservice to the fans and to the character to have everything feel of the same tonality. I’m a big fan of Becky Cloonan, so I’m really looking forward to her work on Gotham Academy. I think it’s healthy for the business, and it’s an exciting time to be a Batman fan.”
— DC Entertainment Co-Publisher Jim Lee, talking with Entertainment Weekly about the decision to take “the Batman world” in a different direction with the newly announced Arkham Manor and Gotham Academy. (He also mentions Batgirl among the developments he’s looking forward to in the back half of Batman’s 75th anniversary celebration.)
DC Entertainment Co-Publisher Jim Lee has been known to hold scavenger hunts at Comic-Con International and C2E2, dropping visual clues on Twitter to direct his fans to hidden character sketches. For this Comic-Con, however, he’ll celebrate his fast-approaching 50th birthday (it’s on Aug. 11) by giving away 50 previously drawn sketches at his spotlight panel on Sunday.
“I can do a sketch, it’s like a very complicated signature — so I think the quickest sketch I can do is like a minute and a half,” Lee tells DC All Access. “So I’d have to do it, literally, in two days.”
DC Entertainment and Warner Bros.’ year-long celebration of Batman’s 75th anniversary will continue in a big way later this month at Comic-Con International in San Diego, with several of the creators most associated with the character set to appear on the “Batman 75: Legends of the Dark Knight” panel on Thursday, July 24.
Notably, The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One‘s Frank Miller — in a relatively rare appearance at a comics-centric panel — will join fellow Bat-luminaries Grant Morrison, Jim Lee, Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, current Batman team Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, and DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns.
On Saturday, DC will commemorate the Caped Crusader’s storied history in other media, with Batman: The Animated Series vet Paul Dini, longtime Batman voice actor Kevin Conroy, Batman ’66 Meets the Green Hornet co-writer Ralph Garman and more.
The two panels are something of a bisected version of the treatment DC gave Superman last summer, with a Superman 75th Anniversary panel including folks from both the worlds of comics (Morrison, Dan Jurgen) and movies/television (Henry Cavill, Tim Daly).
“Speaking specifically of that particular cover, we always list the writers’ credits on the cover, and he scripted that issue. No one is denying Bill’s massive contributions to the DC mythology — not just Batman. It’s never been our take that it was only Bob Kane. But the credit by Bob Kane, that’s a very specific thing, and has been around since the creation of Batman, over 75 years ago. It’s hard to talk about this publicly other than, we love what Bill Finger has contributed to the mythology, and we’ve always acknowledged and compensated him and his estate for that work.”
– DC Comics Co-Publisher Jim Lee, addressing Bill Finger’s credit on the cover of the upcoming Detective Comics #27 Special Edition, and renewed discussion of the late writer’s role as the co-creator of Batman