"U.S.Avengers": A Guide to Marvel's New Patriotic Superhero Team
DC Entertainment’s latest direct-to-DVD animated film, Justice League: Gods and Monsters, marks the return of Bruce Timm to DC’s superheroes. Timm is, of course, a familiar presence to a generation of fans, as cartoons featuring his design style and creative input were on television from the 1992 debut of Batman: The Animated Series to the 2006 finale of Justice League Unlimited (and those shows and everything in between them now live forever online and on DVD).
Gods and Monsters features Timm’s designs, and he additionally co-wrote the story with longtime collaborator Alan Burnett and executive produced the film (Sam Liu directed it).
DC is certainly treating the film as an event, as the company has produced a suite of a half-dozen tie-in comics, something not usually done for animated projects (although it should be noted the bulk of its recent animated films have been direct adaptations of particular story arcs, making comic tie-ins redundant; Gods and Monsters shares a title with a 2001 JLA one-shot, but is otherwise an original project).
One of the most memorable Spider-Man storylines of the 1980s remains J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck’s “Kraven’s Last Hunt,” which featured the ultimate battle between Kraven the Hunter and Spider-Man. Now, nearly three decades later, Marvel has enlisted Neil Kleid to author a prose adaptation, Spider-Man: Kraven’s Last Hunt.
To mark the novel’s release today in comic stores, Kleid talked with me about the nuances of the adaptation. He’ll appear today at 6 p.m. for a book signing at JHU Comic Books in New York City.
For those who have followed DC’s promotion of Justice League 3000, this week’s inaugural issue must arrive with something of an asterisk. Announced in June as the latest reunion of Justice League International’s Keith Giffen (plot and breakdowns), J.M. DeMatteis (script) and Kevin Maguire (pencils), within two months the series became an unflattering example of creative-team chaos. In August, artist Howard Porter replaced Maguire, thereby postponing the series’ October debut. According to Maguire, DC apparently wanted something more dark and gritty, which doesn’t quite fit the style we now know as “bwah-ha-ha” — but by the same token, one wonders (as did Maguire) what DC thought it would get from the trio’s collaboration.
Still, to echo Donald Rumsfeld (and, 15 years earlier and more to the point, my entertainment-journalism professor), you review the comic you have, not the comic you wish you had. The first issue of Justice League 3000 reads like an artifact from the mid-1990s, when DC cranked out dystopian-future Elseworld stories fairly regularly; and Porter’s art is emblematic of the issue’s gritty, scratchy tone. This isn’t JLI. It’s not of a piece with Giffen and DeMatteis’ work writing Booster Gold, or even the current Larfleeze. It’s more like the short-lived, Giffen-written Threshold, crossed with an original-variety Marvel 2099 title.
In short, this first issue isn’t bad, just rather frustrating. I suppose the series has potential, and its creative team probably deserves a couple of issues to advance the plot. Regardless, JL3K #1 starts off negative and teases even more. It doesn’t give readers much optimism, outside of a vague sense that at some point, things can only get better.
SPOILERS FOLLOW, of course.
Oh, DC, you came so close to a slam dunk. If you had told me Keith Giffen, J. Marc DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire would be working on Legion of Super-Heroes, I’d have been beyond excited. After all, Justice League International was nothing if not a superb ensemble comedy, and what richer source of super-ensemble action does DC have than the Legion?
Instead, though, we’re getting Justice League 3000, set in the Legion’s 31st century and apparently following the events of August’s final Legion issue, but not explicitly tied to the 55-year-old super-team. This raises two questions. First, whither the Legion itself? DC has previously put the Legion on hiatus, although never for too long, so one wonders how long it’ll lie dormant this time. Second, why does it have to be such a familiar Justice League? The initial roster includes Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash and Green Lantern, with redesigns (courtesy of Howard Porter) that retain some fairly familiar elements. Is the League being “Avengers-ized,” so that every major super-team must have some “JL” in its name?
And those two questions combine for a third: How sustainable is JL3K, really?
It looks like June is shaping up to be pretty big for DC’s superhero comics. There are five new ongoing series, including Superman Unchained, Batman/Superman, Larfleeze, Pandora and, best of all, the return of Astro City. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo kick off a revised Bat-origin in “Zero Year,” and the Green Lantern books get new creative teams. (There are spoilers for those GL books in the solicitations, but if you’ve been paying attention it’s probably nothing you haven’t already figured out.)
FIRST, AN ENDING
The “Shazam!” conclusion takes up all 40 pages of Justice League #21. It’s been a long time coming — starting way back in Issue 7, getting a 23-page spotlight in Issue 0, and skipping issues 12, 13 and 17. In the end it should clock in just shy of 200 pages, which would have made it a robust nine-issue miniseries. By comparison, Geoff Johns’ and Gary Frank’s Batman: Earth One graphic novel was 138 pages. It may read better as a collection, because it hasn’t always seemed paced for a series of backup stories. Being absent from Issue 17 hasn’t helped either. Still, it should have three straight installments between now and June, so maybe it’ll finish strongly.
Continue Reading »
No small amount of drama accompanies the March solicitations, thanks to Gail Simone’s unexpected dismissal from Batgirl. There’s also turnover at Swamp Thing and Birds of Prey, potential clues to the end of “Death of the Family,” and the usual I-remember-this! commentary on collections.
FOLLOW THE BOUNCING BALL
The big stories are the departures of Simone from Batgirl and Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette from Swamp Thing. It seems particularly odd in Simone’s case because it leaves the fate of Batgirl’s current antagonist in the hands of a different writer. Maybe that means Simone’s original plans for him didn’t go over particularly well with DC, or maybe it’s something totally unrelated. Either way, looks like it’ll be at least another month (in January’s Issue 16, her last issue) before we learn anything significant. At any rate, Ray Fawkes writes two issues of Batgirl starting with Issue 18.
As of March, Jim Zubkavich is your new Birds of Prey writer, Andy Kubert draws the lead story in Batman #18, and Trevor McCarthy draws Batwoman #18. Also, in a move that threatens to have me try out Phantom Stranger, the very fine J.M. DeMatteis comes aboard as co-writer with Issue # (guest-drawn by the equally fine Gene Ha and Zander Cannon).
“I have just completed scripting the first two issues of an on-going series for DC Comics,” he posted Sunday on Facebook. “Can’t say what the title is until DC wants the news out. But I imagine a lot of people will be quite surprised to see me take over the writing chores on this particular property. Been having a (surprisingly) fun time with it so far.”
Starlin later added, “It’s a title I have never before had anything to do with, really from out in left field. Shouldn’t be too long before DC Comics makes the announcement. I believe my issues begin in April.”
That second comments narrows down the possibilities somewhat, as Starlin has worked on such DC titles as Action Comics, Batman, Detective Comics, The Flash, The Legion of Super-Heroes and Superman. OK, maybe that doesn’t help so much after all. However, we do know that it’s an existing series.
Starlin’s announcement comes just as DC confirmed that industry veteran J.M. DeMatteis will join Dan DiDio as co-writer of Phantom Stranger with March’s Issue 6.
Welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly rundown of what comics and other stuff we’ve been checking out recently. Today our special guest is cartoonist Austin English, creator of the graphic novel Christina and Charles and publisher of Domino Books.
To see what Austin and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Creators | Ali Ferzat, the Syrian cartoonist who was abducted and beaten last year because of his criticisms of the government, was named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World.” “Tyrants often don’t get the jokes, but their people do,” Pulitzer Prize-winning Politico cartoonist Matt Wuerker writes in his tribute to Ferzat. “So when the iron fist comes down, it often comes down on cartoonists.” [Time]
Publishing | In one of its wide-ranging interviews with comics publishers, the retail news and analysis site ICv2 talks with Dark Horse CEO Mike Richardson about the state of the market, the loss of Borders, his company’s 2011 layoffs, webcomics, and some early missteps with its digital program: “Quite honestly we’ve run into a few issues because the programs that we’ve done haven’t worked as well as we wished. We created some exclusive material and got less participation than we had hoped for. […] We gave codes out to retail stores to drive customers into their stores. They could pick up the exclusive content by going to their participating comic shop. Evidently we didn’t do a good enough job getting the word out, so we’re retooling that.” [ICv2.com]
Retailing | Rumors have begun to swirl that online retail giant Amazon plans to open a brick-and-mortar store in Seattle within the next few months to help gauge the profitability of a chain. The store reportedly won’t just sell e-readers and tablets, but also books from Amazon’s newly launched publishing division. [Good E-Reader, Gawker]
Publishing | Japanese publisher Shueisha Inc. released the 65th volume of Eiichiro Oda’s pirate manga One Piece last week with a first printing of 4 million copies, tying the record set in November by the previous volume. [The Mainichi Daily News]
Retailing | Howard Ackler writes about the final days of Dragon Lady Comics, the Toronto retailer that closed last week after 33 years in business. [National Post]
Legal | The U.S. Justice Department and the FBI on Thursday shut down the popular file-sharing site Megaupload, seized $50 million in assets and charged its founder and six others with running an international enterprise based on Internet piracy that’s cost copyright holders at least $500 million in lost revenue. The FBI has begun extradition proceedings in New Zealand to bring company founder Kim Schmitz, aka Kim DotCom, to the United States. He and three other associates are being held without bail until Monday, when they’ll receive a new hearing. Three others remain at large. They face a maximum of 20 years in prison.
News of the shutdown was met with retaliation by the hacker collective Anonymous, which attacked the websites of the Justice Department and the Motion Picture Association of America.
It’s Christmas Eve, and we’re winding down here at Robot 6 to go spend time with family and friends. Before heading off to celebrate, though, you’ll find a collection of holiday-themed links after the jump, along with this year’s collection of holiday cards we received.
On behalf of all of Robot 6, have a great holiday and stay safe. We’ll see you next week.
(Above: a Christmas showdown by Matthew Petz)
Hello and welcome to a special holiday edition of What Are You Reading? Actually it’s just a normal edition of What Are You Reading?, because changing the font color to red and green, and adding twinkling lights around the border just made it harder to read.
Our special guest this week is Andy Khouri, associate editor over at ComicsAlliance, where he drops comic news and commentary on a daily basis.
To see what Andy and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Don’t ask me how I remember this, but it was just about twenty years ago that the first previews of Dan Jurgens’ Justice League began appearing. After five years, the “bwah-ha-ha” era was winding down, and Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis were leaving Justice League America. Giffen was also stepping away from plots and breakdowns for Justice League Europe, with JLE’s scripter Gerard Jones taking over as the book’s only writer; and Brian Augustyn replaced Andy Helfer as both books’ editor.
With a number of the New 52 titles changing creative teams before they’re even a year old, it’s too early to start talking about any long-lived, let alone definitive, runs on a particular book. Still, DC clearly hopes these books will be around for a while, even without the folks who launched ‘em. It got me thinking about past changes of the guard, and how they have followed some well-established interpretations.
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Creators | Any Empire and Swallow Me Whole creator (and our special guest this weekend for What Are You Reading?) Nate Powell appeared at the United Nations earlier this month with several teen-fiction writers who contributed to What You Wish For, a benefit book to fund libraries in Darfuri refugee camps in Chad. Video of the event can now be found on the U.N. website. [Top Shelf]
Business | Details on the collaboration between Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment Inc. and former Disney CEO Michael Eisner’s Vuguru have emerged: The two companies will work on a YouTube channel called “Stan Lee’s YouTube World of Heroes.” The channel is one of the 100 online video channels announced by the Google-owned video site, which seeks to add “professional, high-quality programming” to its site. [Los Angeles Times]
Business | They might move slow and eat people, but MSNBC estimates that zombies are worth about $5 billion to the economy. [MSNBC]