INTERVIEW: "Batgirl and the Birds of Prey" Hunt Rebirth's Oracle
Travel Foreman’s “Justice League United” sketchbook has surfaced online, unveiling some of the creator’s unused concept artwork for the now-cancelled title’s cast of characters. The alternate designs are surprisingly different from earlier designs, and offer a bold alternative to the inevitable costumes that were used for the “Rebirth” rebranding. Foreman worked on “Justice League United” for issues 11, 12 and 16 — the final issue of the series.
The sketchbook offers glimpses at unused art for characters including Stargirl, Animal Man, Liberty Belle, Union, Hourman, Hawkwoman, Stanley (and his monster, Spot), Tomorrow Woman, Rex, Major Force, Wildcat, and B’Wana Beast.
Since ending his run on Animal Man in 2012, artist Travel Foreman has released relatively limited comics work — primarily covers and short stories — largely because he remains focused on his long-gestating creator-owned project Zuerst. However, it turns out he nearly tackled another series for DC Comics, with his Animal Man collaborator Jeff Lemire.
On his blog, Foreman posted sketches created in preparation for Lemire’s Justice League United title. That work ultimately never came to pass, but these sketches — and the raw creativity shown by Foreman — are certainly invigorating, if perhaps disappointing for fans who’d have enjoyed seeing the story arc materialize.
I’ve found the new Justice League United to be a rather surreal reading experience, until this point, for all sorts of reasons: It’s hard to believe DC launched this series to replace the much-ballyhooed — 52 variant covers! — Geoff Johns/David Finch Justice League of America after a mere 14 issues; it’s weird to see DC quietly reversing its “holding the line at $2.99″ policy with a Marvel-ous price point of 22 pages for $3.99; it launched with a zero issue that was actually a must-read first issue so that the story chapters and the issue numbers are now forever out of sequence; it featured Hawkman having an arm lopped up only to grow it back the next issue because Nth Metal; it featured an attempt to give the old grim-and-gritty treatment to Ultra the Multi-Alien; and so on.
However, the single most surreal aspect of the book may be one that’s suffused so much of the New 52, but is particularly present in the team books that rely on shared history (despite the fact that there isn’t really any shared history). In Justice League United, writer Jeff Lemire and penciler Mike McKone have assembled a rag-tag group of superheroes — Animal Man, Green Arrow, Star Girl, Hawkman and Supergirl — led by Martian Manhunter, whose place in the new DCU and relationships with the other Justice Leaguers is still ambiguous.
As discussed here last week, the final page of Forever Evil promised a particular kind of big event as its follow-up. However, the just-concluded miniseries also inflicted more immediate consequences on the Justice League; it’s those I’ll be talking about today.
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I previously mentioned that the New-52 relaunch/reboot didn’t really add a new “structural” feature to the superhero line, in the way that “Flash of Two Worlds” established the Multiverse or Crisis on Infinite Earths facilitated all those legacy heroes. At the time I didn’t really mention the addition (or re-integration) of the WildStorm and Vertigo characters, but I still don’t think that’s as big a deal as the Multiverse or the generational timeline. The difference is that Flashpoint brought in characters mostly to the present-day DC Universe, whereas COIE and (to a lesser extent) the original Multiverse both dealt regularly with larger spans of time. In the latter cases, the superheroes first emerged in the runup to World War II, and those adventures ended up informing their modern-day counterparts. While the New 52 had books like Demon Knights and All Star Western that were set even further in the past, they could only influence the main superhero line obliquely.
Welcome to Best of 7, where we talk about “The best in comics from the last seven days” — which could be anything from an exciting piece of news to something great fans are doing to an awesome comic that came out. So let’s get to it…
DC Comics’ upcoming relaunch of Justice League of America was announced in August as Justice League Canada before it was changed in January to Justice League United. But with the arrival next month of Issue 1, the name will revert once more to Justice League Canada — if only on one cover.
Confused? Don’t be. As the Toronto Star reported over the weekend, the publisher will release a Canadian variant for the debut issue, featuring a recolored version of Mike McKone’s cover emblazoned with “Justice League Canada” (complete with maple leaf emblem). It will be available to all retailers.
Crime | Police in St. Charles, Missouri, have arrested 24-year-old Adam Radigan and charged him in the Monday-morning robbery of a comic store employee. The robbery occurred in the parking lot as the employee walked out of the Fantasy Shop with a bank bag that contained $26 in coins. The suspect allegedly indicated he had a gun and demanded the bag; after the employee handed it over, fled on foot. Nearby schools were briefly locked down after the incident. [The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, KDSK]
Comics | “Seattle and the Northwest have carved a lasting niche in the comics world by applying the same traits to cartoons that we apply to music — lo-fi, provocative and introspective. Our comics are often funny as in peculiar, not necessarily funny as in laugh-out-loud, our heroes bumbling rather than swashbuckling”: Tyrone Beason looks at Seattle’s thriving alt-comics scene, and talks with Peter Bagge, Ellen Forney, Tom Van Deusen and the organizers of the Short Run Comix and Arts Festival. [The Seattle Times]
CBC News has debuted new details about the young Cree superheroine to be introduced next month in DC Comics’ Justice League United #0, by Jeff Lemire and Mike McKone.
Code-named Equinox, Miiyahbin is a 16-year-old from Moose Factory, Ontario, whose power comes from the Earth and changes with the seasons. As revealed in October, the character is inspired in part by Shannen Koostachin, a teenage activist who lobbied the federal government for a new school in Attawapiskat First Nation, on the James Bay Coast. Koostachin died in a car accident in 2010 at the age of 15.
“Creating a teenage female superhero was interesting to me because, generally, most superheroes are white males,” Lemire told CBC News. “We need diversity and we need different personalities. You need very distinct voices for personalities on the team or else you just start writing the same character in a different costume.”
To conduct research for Equinox, the Toronto-based creator of the Essex County trilogy traveled north to Moosonee and Moose Factory on James Bay, where he received feedback from local residents.
Aw yeah! In my household, the best news from DC’s June solicitations is the six-issue Tiny Titans: Return to the Treehouse miniseries. I showed the cover to my 5-year-old and she was crestfallen to learn it didn’t come out for another three months. At least she can fill the time reading the other paperbacks (and Superman Family Adventures) and watching Frozen on an endless loop.
I may also have to get the Li’l Gotham figures, although at $13 a pop they are pretty pricey. Perhaps just Batman and Robin.
Oh, there’s more? What could it be …?
LET’S GO PLACES
The solicitation for Futures End #6 — advertising Ray Palmer, Frankenstein and Amethyst’s trip into the Phantom Zone — makes me irrationally optimistic about the series generally. I think the New 52 needs this series (or something like it) to present a coherent shared universe, because for the past two and a half years it’s been a clash of disparate styles and an array of changes without much to pull it all together. If Futures End can manage a good-sized, eclectic cast, and convince readers they’re all able to function in the same basic environment, that’ll go a long way towards giving the superhero books common ground.
This look at DC’s latest round of solicitations may be quicker and dirtier than usual, mostly because this week I thought I was going to be talking about Teen Titans’ cancellation. We’ll do a little of that this week, along with the other titles on the chopping block.
However, for a while now we’ve known that April — being the first post-Forever Evil month — will feature some big changes, and those start right here.
BY THE NUMBERS
I count 47 ongoing New 52 series, but that includes the six books canceled as of April, and it only counts Batman Eternal — which, contrary to my expectation, is not solicited as a limited series — once. Thus, if DC still wants to hit the magic number, it needs to come up with 11 new series for May.