Axel-In-Charge: Waid & Samnee on "Black Widow" and the Dawn of the All-New, All-Different Era
The Grumpy Old Fan/Women of Action crossover continues. In our first installment, Tom and I agreed that there are some interesting things going on in Catwoman and tried to fit Winick’s characterization into the context of Catwoman’s history (or rather, our limited understandings of Catwoman’s history). When we left off, I was trying to decide whether or not I trust Judd Winick to be telling The Last Self-Destructive Catwoman story and take the character into a positive direction. As we pick up, Tom helps me with that.
TOM: I agree that the ’60s TV show was a big influence on the character’s perception, although I’m not sure how much it really changed in the comics. There is certainly a lot of “crazy” in Michelle Pfeiffer’s 1992 Batman Returns performance, and I think a lot of that is an extension of the TV show more than, say, taking off from Batman: Year One. Maybe that’s part of what we’re seeing in the current series’ self-destructive aspects, although that could just be a coincidence.
That’s a good point about Gail Simone’s “Last Hostage Story,” and it would be a good time for the New-52 Catwoman to break out of a downward spiral. Selina’s flashes of extreme violence are presented as outbursts of deeply-repressed rage, like she’s ultimately mad at the world for trying to take away what she perceives as having gotten fairly. She talks herself into spending easily-traceable cash because she figures she deserves it, even though she knows she’s flirting with disaster. Similarly, in #6 she tells Batman she’s earned that money, and besides it would just go to very bad people. Conversely, when Bone tells Catwoman his own philosophy, she really lets him have it, because he killed her friend for daring to steal the property he prized so highly. For all her talk about “earnings,” she really does value her relationships more, but it’s almost like she doesn’t think she deserves them and ends up trying to satisfy herself materially (and sexually with Batman, of course). That’s a lot of emotional baggage to unpack, although from an historical perspective it makes this Catwoman less mature.
Anyway, the violence: as with issue #1’s sex scene, I didn’t really need to see Selina bite off Reach’s ear in issue #6. I suppose that shows us just how far gone Selina was at that moment, and it was arguably in keeping with #1’s eye-gouging, #3’s baseball-bat-beating, and #5’s fight, but maybe a little more discretion was in order. Actually, I say “maybe” without much sarcasm, because to me — as bad as it sounds — the violence almost needs to be as explicit as the sex, both to show their “importance” in Selina’s life and so that one doesn’t overwhelm the other. These six issues show an arc full of extremes (in the classical sense, not the ’90s sense), because that’s where Winick and March have put Selina. Contrast page 2 of issue #6 with the last panel of the last page. In both, Selina is wearing only her catsuit, sitting barefoot with her knees pulled up to her chest. On page 2, it’s because she’s in police custody, her gear’s been taken from her, and her hands are cuffed behind her back. There she’s trying to maintain a defensive pose, staring at the world with bug-eyed defiance. She’s vulnerable physically and trying to stay composed mentally. On the last page, though, it’s the opposite: having taken off her gear herself, her outward vulnerability shows Gwen she’s ready to open up inwardly, and her pose is more relaxed as a result.
[In a happy accident, Michael May and I were both planning to examine the current Catwoman series, so we decided to join forces for a special two-parter.]
TOM: For a little while last September, the first New-52 issue of Catwoman was one of DC’s more infamous books. It started literally with a shot of Selina Kyle’s bra, and it ended with her and Batman doing it, as they used to say, like they do on the Discovery Channel. Back then, Catwoman #1 was yet another example of DC Doing It Wrong, trading on cheesecake to sell comics, and ignoring what the likes of Ed Brubaker, Darwyn Cooke, and Will Pfeifer had done with the character in the process.
When I read Catwoman #1 along with every other New-52 first issue, honestly, the sex scene bothered me. It seemed unnecessary in the context of a pretty decent first issue, and it did seem like writer Judd Winick and artist Guillem March were taking a characterization shortcut by establishing Selina firmly in relation to Batman. Granted, it was presented as Selina practically willing Batman into the act — she notes that he “protests,” then “gives in” — but all things being equal, I’m still not sure you want your first issue to end with “and then I seduced the heck out of Batman.”
Conventions | The Angoulême International Comics Festival has announced the Official Selections for the 2012 festival, which will be held Jan. 26-29 in Angoulême, France. Eddie Campbell’s Alec, Craig Thompson’s Habibi and Daniel Clowes’ Mister Wonderful are among the almost 60 graphic novels on the list. [Angoulême]
Editorial cartoons | The Columbus Dispatch suspended political cartoonist Jeff Stahler after finding that his Monday cartoon was too similar to a New Yorker cartoon published in 2009. At The Daily Cartoonist, Alan Gardner posts several of Stahler’s cartoons alongside earlier pieces with similar punchlines. While one can debate whether Stahler lifted his ideas from the older cartoons, it’s obvious that he drew them in his own style, unlike David Simpson, who was recently accused of copying Jeff McNally’s cartoons. [Comic Riffs]
Crime | Several pieces of original artwork, among other items, were stolen from the car of AdHouse Publisher Chris Pitzer while he was in New York City last weekend for the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival. Pitzer is offering a reward for any information leading to the recovery of the artwork. [AdHouse]
In a week in which the debuts of Batman and Wonder Woman fired on all cylinders, you have to think DC Comics didn’t expect the spotlight to be stolen by the first issues of Catwoman and Red Hood and the Outlaws. Alas, online discussion over the past 48 hours hasn’t been focused on the accessibility of the former or the potential of the latter (if indeed either demonstrates accessibility or potential). Instead, it’s centered on a bra-flashing Selina Kyle engaging in aggressive costumed sex with Batman, and a semi-amnesiac Starfire who’s become little more than an emotionless sex mannequin.
I feel as if I should be worked up by the depictions but, to be honest, I’m just deflated by the whole thing. The best I can muster is, “Sigh … again?” and maybe, “This is the kind of storytelling and characterization you relaunched your entire line for?” But here are some of the highlights of what others are saying on the subject:
• Winick’s statement to Newsarama about the response to Catwoman #1: “This is a Catwoman for 2011, and my approach to her character and actions reflect someone who lives in our times. And wears a cat suit. And steals. It’s a tale that is part crime story, part mystery and part romance. In that, you will find action, suspense and passion. Each of those qualities, at times, play to their extremes. Catwoman is a character with a rich comic book history, and my hope is that readers will continue to join us as the adventure continues.”
Taking over the DC Comics Twitter account today, editor Rachel Gluckstern revealed Guillem March’s cover for Catwoman #4, teasing, “What business could Catwoman possibly have at Stately Wayne Manor?”
The relaunched Catwoman, by March and writer Judd Winick, debuts next week. The fourth issue arrives in December.
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly column where we successfully answer the question in the title. Our special guest this week is Janice Headley, events coordinator, publicist and “ambassador of awesome” for Fantagraphics.
To see what Janice and the Robot 6 crew have been reading this week, click the link below.
DC Comics continues its promotional assault in the press to push “The New 52″ to a mainstream audience, with the theme this week, apparently, being diversity. At least four stories this week — three of which were posted Wednesday — tackled the subject and put the spotlight on Static Shock, Batwing and more. Here are some of the highlights:
• The Huffington Post previewed the first issue of Judd Winick and Ben Oliver’s Batwing yesterday, the same day it arrived in shops. Winick spoke to Bryan Young about the origins of Africa’s Batman: “… if you consider that we’re coming from a starting place that this is a Batman who lost his parents to AIDS and was a boy soldier. That’s square one for us. In the first couple of pages Batwing is talking about the fact that one of the things Batman has to do is instill fear. And Batwing points out that he’s not really sure that a man dressed up as a bat is really going to scare the average criminal in Africa. Batman just tells him that ‘you’re just going to have to sell it.’ And that’s the point, it’s a different world.” An unabridged version of the interview can be found at Big Shiny Robot.
Ahead of the release on Wednesday of Flashpoint #5 and Justice League #1, signaling the beginning of its line-wide relaunch, DC Comics has kicked off a promotional assault in the mainstream press to sell “The New 52″ to a broader audience. While USA Today, with a circulation of 1.8 million the second-largest newspaper in the United States, looks to be the hub for coverage, DC has also reached out to publications like the New York Daily News, the New York Post and the Boston Herald. Here are the highlights so far from the 11th-hour push:
• USA Today takes a broad overview of the relaunch, talking with DC Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee, Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns, and a couple of retailers. “There are plenty of angry customers over this,” says John Robinson, co-owner of Graham Crackers Comics chain in Illinois. “I’ve heard the usual ‘I can’t believe they’re doing this,’ ‘They’ve betrayed us,’ etc. I’d say about 60% to 70% of those protesting the loudest will still end up buying the stuff. There’s just too much hype and interest — even the haters are curious.”
• The newspaper also hones in on the publisher’s new same-day digital strategy, which debuts Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET when Justice League #1 will be available for purchase digitally. Hank Kanalz, senior vice president for digital at DC Entertainment, acknowledges the challenges of getting the initiative off the ground: “Some books are working really far ahead of schedule, some are down to the wire, and it’s just a matter of coordinating and about overcommunicating. We have to make sure it goes off without a hitch, which is why we’re not sleeping right now. We’re going much wider to a mass audience than ever before, so it’s a matter of making sure we have everything ready to go.”
Education | The Center For Cartoon Studies’ Schulz Library in White River Junction, Vermont, was damaged over the weekend in flooding caused by torrential rains from Hurricane Irene. According to CCS Director James Sturm, volunteers called in Sunday night were able to remove about 70 percent of the library’s collection and move the remaining materials to higher shelves. However, he indicated to Tom Spurgeon that the building itself may be a loss. [The Comics Reporter]
Publishing | Jim Shooter, former editor-in-chief for Marvel Comics, shares the story of how DC Comics almost licensed the publishing rights to their characters to Marvel in the mid-1980s. Obviously the deal never happened, which Shooter said was due to a lawsuit by First Comics alleging anti-trust violations. [Jim Shooter]
Creators | Gail Simone discusses her upcoming work on Batgirl and Fury of Firestorm. [TFAW]
Although it seems like DC’s big relaunch announcement came out an eternity ago, it actually took the publisher less than two weeks to roll out the 52 titles and their creative teams for the big relaunch/reboot/overhaul coming in September. Now that the cats are out of their respective bags, I thought I’d see where various creators and characters will land after the reboot.
So I went back through DC’s August solicitations to see who was writing or drawing what, and tried to map everyone to their post-relaunch project — if they had one. However, looking at DC’s August solicitations, there seem to be several fill-in issues, so where appropriate I tried to map the most recent ongoing creative teams to their new projects (for instance, I consider Gail Simone and Jesus Saiz the regular creative team for Birds of Prey, even if they aren’t doing the last two issues before September hits). Keep in mind that I just went through the ongoing series and skipped over all the miniseries … of which there are a lot, what with Flashpoint winding up in August.
It’s also worth noting that although several creators didn’t appear in the “big 52″ announcements, that doesn’t mean their tenure with DC is necessarily over — some, like Frazer Irving, have said they have future projects that haven’t been announced. So I tried to note where creators have talked publicly about their post-relaunch plans with DC (or lack thereof, as the case may be). The same could probably be said for some of DC’s characters as well. Or, as Gail Simone said on Twitter: “Again, September is NOT THE END. There’s still plans for characters that we haven’t seen yet.”
So let’s get to it ….
DC spent the day rolling out announcements about the Batman books in anticipation of its line-wide September relaunch…with one conspicuous absence until the very end.
So, Bruce Wayne is reclaiming sole possession of the mantle of the Bat, while Batman and Detective Comics are swapping creators: Batman writer/artist Tony Daniel will be taking over Detective Comics, while ‘Tec writer Scott Snyder is taking over Batman with artist Greg Capullo of Spawn fame. Both books will star Bruce Wayne rather than his protege and stand-in Dick Grayson beneath the cape and cowl.
Following their announcement that they were starting everything over and relaunching all their titles with new first issues this fall, DC Comics today announced the creative teams for ten of the titles.
And while Tom may have other thoughts on his mind this week, here are some of my quick thoughts on those announcements:
Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang on Wonder Woman: Now all we need to know is whether she’s forming a rock band or not … but seriously, art wise, in my eyes, perfect choice. I’m a huge fan of Chiang’s, so I was just hoping we’d see him on any regular title. And Wonder Woman seems like a great fit. Azzarello, meanwhile, probably isn’t the first name I would have thought of when thinking about Wonder Woman, but the more I think about it, the more I like the idea. Of the creative teams revealed so far, this is probably becoming my favorite, or is at least tied with …
Ethan Van Sciver, Gail Simone and Yildiray Cinar on Firestorm: Back at WonderCon in 2010, Simone and Van Sciver teased that they were working together on something. Could they have been talking about Firestorm? Maybe; Simone also said on Twitter that she and Van Sciver have another as-yet-unannounced project they’re working on, so it could have been something else. I like the fact that Van Sciver is co-writing the book (rather than drawing it), and it’s getting a bit of a reboot. “Jason Rusch and Ronnie Raymond are two high school students, worlds apart – and now they’re drawn into a conspiracy of super science that bonds them forever in a way they can’t explain or control.” So you have two writers with very different worldviews writing a character composed of two other characters with wildly different worldviews. That’s actually pretty cool. Yildiray Cinar, meanwhile, has been killing it on Legion, so he’s a plus to a team I was already liking.
Hello and welcome to Wha Are You Reading? Today our special guest is illustrator, photographer, writer, filmmaker and jazz musician Dave McKean, whose works include Cages, Mr. Punch, Signal to Noise, The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, Violent Cases, Coraline and many, many more. He has a new book with writer Richard Dawkins, The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True, coming out in October, as well as a graphic novel called Celluloid coming out from Fantagraphics in June. Special thanks to Chris Mautner for asking him to participate this week.
To see what Dave and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …
Learning that DC was cancelling five superhero titles reminded me immediately of the “Saturday Night Massacre,” when President Nixon’s firing of special prosecutor Archibald Cox led directly to the resignations of Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckleshaus. But, you know, that’s just me. I may be one of the few superhero-comics bloggers who went through a Watergate phase in college. Got two term papers out of it, at any rate.
But I digress. As we all know, the May solicitations are out, and DC will still be publishing a significant number of superhero comics — so let’s get to ‘em, shall we?
* * *
YOU MIGHT HAVE HEARD THERE IS A GREEN LANTERN MOVIE
Seems like the last time DC did a multiple-issue “prequel series” to one of its big movies was 2006, with four lead-ins to Superman Returns. I liked Superman Returns, but those related comics weren’t too memorable. However, I do like the creative teams on these one-shots — Geoff Johns (a no-brainer for GL), Marc Guggenheim, Jerry Ordway, Joe Bennett, Karl Kerschl, Fernando Dagnino, and Cliff Richards, plus the screenwriters — so they may be more worthwhile.
When I heard that the next DC animated movie was going to be Batman: Under the Red Hood, I cringed. For one thing, I’ve never been a big fan of Judd Winick’s writing. For another, when I originally heard that Jason Todd had come back from the dead, I did a facepalm. Must everything be constantly recycled in superhero comics for the sake of fanboy nostalgia? Can’t we just leave some things be? Not that Death in the Family was some great masterpiece (it wasn’t) but can’t we look at least a little bit forward instead of constantly looking over our shoulder, building castle after castle on sand?
So no, I wasn’t particularly excited to watch this latest Warner Bros. adaptation, expecting it to be something along the lines of that dreadful Superman/Batman affair or the horrid Wonder Woman film.