Soule Finds a Weakness in the Afterlife, Discusses Surprise "Inhuman" Return
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
Comic-Con International has debuted Jim Lee’s cover for the 2014 souvenir book, which celebrates the 75th anniversary of Batman’s introduction in Detective Comics #27.
Colored by Alex Sinclair, the image of the Dark Knight crouching on one of Gotham City’s ubiquitous gargoyles during a thunderstorm is penciled and inked by Lee (a rarity, as his work is typically inked by Scott Williams). Details about T-shirts bearing the illustration are promised soon.
Manga | Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan has knocked longtime bestseller One Piece from the top of Japan’s manga charts. Market research firm Oricon reports that Attack on Titan, which has 13 volumes in print, sold 8,342,268 copies in the first half of the year, making it the bestselling series in Japan. One Piece, which has long held that title, sold 4,936,855 copies of 73 volumes, but it did top the charts for single-volume sales, with 2,825,339 copies sold of the latest volume. The numbers cover the period from mid-November to mid-May. [Anime News Network]
Publishing | DC Entertainment Co-Publisher Jim Lee talks about his history with Batman in advance of DC’s 75th-anniversary celebration for the character. [Asbury Park Press]
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has teamed with Heritage Auctions to auction original art to benefit the nonprofit organization. Although Charlie Adlard’s contribution has already been snatched up, the rest of the inaugural lot — original art by Jim Lee and Paul Pope, and a letterpress broadsheet signed by Neil Gaiman — are up for bid through Saturday.
“CBLDF’s important work on behalf of the comics industry makes them an important organization to support,” Lon Allen, Heritage’s managing director for comics and comics art, said in a statement. “We’re proud to join the artists who donated these pieces by contributing our services to help the Fund reach our bidder community. We hope to make a meaningful impact on their work protecting comics!”
Even if Frank Miller and Jim Lee never finish All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder — and, let’s face it, they’re never going to — they can take satisfaction in introducing a grateful world to “I’m the goddamn Batman,” a phrase that launched a thousand memes and ended at least as many comic-book arguments. (“How could Batman survive a fall from that height?” “He’s the goddamn Batman, that’s how.”)
And now it’s been immortalized on an Arizona license plate as “GDBTMN,” registered by Phoenix resident, and Batman fan, Art Landis (seen below). “I decided to finally personalize my plates, as celebration of Batman’s 75th,” he tweeted over the weekend. “I honestly didn’t think the MVD would let it happen.”
Now Landis just has to come up with something for next year, the 10th anniversary of the release of All Star Batman & Robin #1.
Over the past few years, Brad Meltzer has become one of the pinch hitters of comics.
Although his day job as a bestselling suspense novelist and TV host of History’s Decoded has kept him from taking on an extended comics project since 2006’s Justice League of America relaunch, Meltzer has stepped in for a number of comics projects over recent years, including an arc on Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 and a recent short in Art Baltazar and Franco’s Aw Yeah Comics.
Next up for the writer is a special contribution to DC Comics’ Detective Comics #27, arriving next week. The spiritual heir to the first appearance of Batman will clock in at more than 100 pages to kick off DC’s 75th anniversary celebration for the Dark Knight, with contributions by Scott Snyder, John Layman, Mike W. Barr and more creators from the character’s past and present. And for his part, Meltzer will team with artist Bryan Hitch to retell “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate,” the Bill Finger/Bob Kane short that began the Batman legend in 1939’s Detective Comics #27.
We spoke with Meltzer about the legacy of the original story and the challenges of bringing it into the modern era – and not for the first time – while DC shared an exclusive first look at Co-Publisher Jim Lee’s variant cover for the issue.