"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Film, Comic Books
The Forever Evil and “Gothtopia” crossovers don’t exactly dominate DC Comics’ January solicitations, but compared to the more mundane goings-on in the other series, they tend to stand out. For that matter, Forever Evil doesn’t sound like it’s promising much more than a lot of clenched jaws, dark humor and grim spectacle.
Still, if it has to happen sometime, it might as well be in January. I don’t mind January so much; it’s the darkest month of the year, but after a hectic holiday season it’s a chance to catch one’s breath. Going back to work after New Year’s Day and realizing there’s not much more to do but look forward to spring is like waking up at the crack of dawn and surveying a wide, flat, featureless plain — gray from the winter cold and just barely lit by the first rays of the distant sun — and realizing that if you’re going to make it across that plain, you’d better start walking.
Sometimes you just have to get through January, is what I’m saying — but sometimes getting through it isn’t so bad.
Whew! How was that for an intro? Weren’t we talking about comics?
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DC Comics has hired a slew of writers and artists in the wake of the New 52; someone has to do all those new books, right? But as you would expect, there are a lot of proposed pairings of creators and projects that were nixed before they saw print.
Earlier this week, Powers artist Michael Avon Oeming revealed artwork he had done for DC when he was in line to illustrate the recently launched Katana. Although DC ultimately went down a more realistic route with artist Alex Sanchez, these two pieces by Oeming are a bittersweet taste of what could’ve been.
Awards | Online voting is open through April 30 for the sixth annual Inkwell Awards, which recognize excellence in comic-book inking. The winners will be announced during a ceremony at HeroesCon, held June 7-9 in Charlotte, North Carolina. [Inkwell Awards]
Comics | On the website of the conservative Media Research Center, Kristine Marsh and Matt Philbin accuse DC Comics and Marvel of having a “homosexual agenda”: “Like the rest of American pop culture, comic books have increasingly included pro-gay propaganda pieces aimed at the children and young adults who read them.” [Media Research Center]
Apparently we misunderstood: The New 52 doesn’t refer to the number of titles DC Comics publishes each month but rather the number of times each title changes creative hands. That’s what it seems like sometimes, what with firings by email, quitting on Twitter, rehirings and more. The general impression from behind-the-scenes tales is that the New 52 is in chaos. However, the end product might suggest DC is actually somewhat holding it together.
Creative changes are nothing new; turnover is inevitable. The key is how that turnover is managed. The ideal is to have a long and satisfying run by a cohesive team smoothly transitioning to a new team. Lord knows that doesn’t always happen, and we’ve certainly been hearing about it not happening recently.
With all of the news of creators coming and going, or going before they even get there, it’s easy to get distracted from the results of the finished product. So, I decided to take a look at a sampling of DC’s New 52, from its launch in late summer 2011 to today, and see how the stability of various titles was affected by creative changes. For my survey, I looked at the Justice League family of books, which includes the flagship Justice League, as well as Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Arrow and others generally associated with the JLA that haven’t had a big Hollywood movie.
Ann Nocenti is a creator who caught my attention in different ways over the years. As a news and documentary junkie myself, her career path (which ventured into journalism and making documentaries at various times) fascinates me. Once she agreed to a interview about her new DC Comics series Katana, I filled her in-box with my questions. Wednesday marks the release of Katana #2, in which the lead character has become a member of the Sword Clan in her quest for vengeance. Nocenti’s discussion of her current work becomes even more interesting to read when juxtaposed the recent Comic Book Resources interview with Louise Simonson and Nocenti regarding their journeys into writing comics.
Tim O’Shea: I love your ability to offer conflicting imagery in the first issue of Katana. For instance, you stage a fight with Katana in a garden sculpture park/kawaii park (including teddy bear topiary). Was that your idea or did artist Alex Sanchez suggest it?
Ann Nocenti: I do a lot of research before writing a comic, then try to forget it all before actually writing the scripts in order to allow something new to seep in. When I was first offered Katana, Jim Lee said something about how it would be great to have the fight scenes in spectacular visual settings, rather than alleyways and streets, and his comment stuck with me. So when researching Japan, I was enchanted by kawaii art, how it is both soothing and endearing, and yet it reminded me of my childhood filled with Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty tales — the myths that are hoisted on little girls. So I set the battle in a kawaii park, but it was Alex’s idea to turn that into a topiary. I was surprised and delighted when the art came in. I also wanted to play with visual riffs on feminist themes — to contrast what is expected of women, both here and in Japan, when one is raised in a traditional fashion and yet struggles to be progressive. I was raised Catholic, so I can understand that. Visually, I want to continue the idea of strong settings for the fight scenes: In Katana #2 there is a battle in a zoo and at a double-ended sword show. In Katana #3 the battle is in a boat graveyard.
“… I got back into comics because of stereotypes. I think there was some big controversy in some convention — I wasn’t in the industry because I was off doing other things — about how there were no women in comics, and then I got a call, ‘We need women in comics.’ So if I got back into the industry because I’m a token female, I say great! I’m all in! […] They put me on Green Arrow, and I have to admit, I just didn’t get Green Arrow. I struggled with him. He was a rich playboy in an armored suit who was young. I liked the old Green Arrow, the wise guy who was stealthy and a social crusader — Denny O’Neil’s Green Arrow. This was a different Green Arrow and I didn’t connect with him. Now, doing Katana and Catwoman, I have no idea if there was a meeting where someone said, ‘Let’s give the girl writer the girl books,’ but I instantly related to those characters! It’s fun to write girls.”
– veteran writer and editor Ann Nocenti, discussing her recent return to comics in a fascinating conversation with Louise Simonson at Comic Book Resources that touches up their careers at Marvel, creations like Longshot and Power Pack, attitudes toward female creators in the ’80s, and much more
Happy Presidents Day weekend, America, and happy Sunday to everyone else. Welcome to a very presidential What Are You Reading?, which really isn’t that different than a regular one, but you can imagine every entry being written by Daniel Day-Lewis if you’d like.
Today our special guest is Chris Smits, publisher of Aw Yeah Comics Publishing! and blogger at Creator-Owned Comics. Aw Yeah Comics, of course, is the all-ages comics series being created by Art Baltazar and Franco, with help from folks like Mark Waid, Brad Meltzer, Jason Aaron and many others … including Chris. If you’d like to get your hands on the adventures of Awesome Bear, Daring Dog, Polar Cycle, Marquaid, Action Cat and more, then let me point you to their Kickstarter campaign, which has hit its goal but you can still get in on the fun (and the comics!)
And to see what Chris and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Retailing | Diamond Comic Distributors has announced it will return to Chicago April 24-26 for its annual Diamond Retailer Summit, held in conjunction with the April 26-28 Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo . The three-day event includes presentations from sponsoring publishers, focus groups, and retailer workshops and roundtables. [Diamond Summits]
Awards | Johanna Draper Carlson has resigned as a judge for the 2012 Glyph Comics Awards following a disagreement over which works are eligible for the annual honors. Carlson believed judges should be able to nominate comics (as is the case with the Eisners), but the organizers limited the pool to comics that were submitted to them, which resulted in a smaller group of nominees. [Comics Worth Reading]
“When I wrote Typhoid Mary, there were some strong female protagonists in comics, but I didn’t like the gender garbage bins that female extras went into: wife, bimbo, good girl, slut, witch etc. But men were often disposable in the same way: lunkheads, etc. Now I see plenty of strong females in comics. But both men and women in comics still get used as ‘cannon fodder’ (I am guilty of this myself) where a one-dimensional male or female is needed to play a stereotype and disposed of. But the female leads in their own books, the ones I’ve read, like Batgirl and Wonder Woman and Batwoman are very strong characters.”
Publishing | Heidi MacDonald reports that shareholders of Platinum Studios held a conference call Wednesday, with President Chris Beall sending a letter to founder Scott Rosenberg suspending him indefinitely as the company’s chief executive officer. Rich Johnston posted the press release announcing the call, and some of the topics on the agenda were fairly jaw-dropping. [The Beat]
Publishing | Andrews McMeel Publishing and Universal UClick (which are different divisions of the same company) are collaborating on a new line of digital comics, Udig, which collects themed newspaper strips into short e-books (the one I checked had 55 comics) for $2.99 each. [Good E-Reader]
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).
It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. We’ve each picked the five comics we’re most anticipating in order to create a list of the best new stuff coming out two months from now.
As usual, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell us what we missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.
G.I. Joe #1: As if G.I. Joe wasn’t entirely in my guilty pleasure wheelhouse already, IDW Publishing relaunches the title with Fred Van Lente as writer and the tease of social and media commentary as the team is forced to go public in its fight against Cobra. Seriously, that’s just unfair, people. (IDW, $3.99)
Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life As A Weapon TP: One of the best-looking comics around, thanks to David Aja (and Javier Pulido, on a couple of the issues contained herein), and something that I suspect I’m going to want in a collected edition to give to friends wanting some fun, fast-moving action stuff to read. Best thing Matt Fraction’s done in a long time, too. (Marvel, $16.99)
New Tales of Old Palomar HC: Continuing my Love and Rockets education, a chance for me to pick up Gilbert Hernandez’ return to Palomar in this new collected edition of his Ignatz series. This is definitely my favorite of Beto’s work, so I’m happy to see more. (Fantagraphics, $22.99).
The Sixth Gun: Sons of The Gun #1: A new spin-off series from Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt’s spectacular horror western? Why, I really don’t mind if I do, thanks very much. For added benefit, having Brian Churilla show up for art duties is pretty sweet, as well. (Oni Press, $3.99)
Young Romance: A New 52 Valentine’s Day Special #1: Even if I’m feeling less than enthused about the majority of DC’s superhero line lately, I have to admit, the idea of a Valentine’s Day special one-off is just far too tempting for me to ignore. (DC Comics, $7.99).
I hear a lot of rumbling from the February solicitations — the First Lantern, the last Hellblazer, the new JLA — like the Next Big Things are simmering under the surface. Yes, this is how DC wants me to think, but there’s no guarantee that my anticipation will live up to the books themselves. Still, at least things are happening, which is nice. There are endings and beginnings, changes and reintroductions, and a few good reprints too.
So, without further ado …
JUST BE GLAD IT’S NOT “20,000 LEAGUES”
The “expansion of the Justice League” advertised in Justice League #17 may be related to the new Justice League of America, but I suspect it will have more to do with the main League’s roster additions (which, if memory serves, were teased back in summer 2011). I base this mostly on the fact that JLA #1 comes out two weeks before JL #17, and therefore I doubt DC would want its latest high-profile first issue to spoil the end of “Throne of Atlantis.”
In the immediate wake of the 2012 election, the emerging story is “demographics.” Specifically, the electorate of 2012 seems almost to have duplicated the coalition of 2008 that first elected President Obama. In fact, this year saw a slight increase in the number of Latino and Asian-American voters, and a corresponding decrease in the number of white voters. The next Congress will include 20 female senators; and for the first time in history, white men will be in the minority of the Democratic side of the House of Representatives.
It’s probably a coincidence that this week, DC Comics announced two new ongoing series, one for the Latino hero Vibe and one for the Asian heroine Katana. Each was created in the early 1980s, Vibe by Gerry Conway and Chuck Patton for Justice League of America, and Katana by Mike Barr and Jim Aparo for Batman and the Outsiders; and each will be in the new Justice League of America series debuting in February.
Meanwhile, though, a lack of diversity is almost hard-wired into the main Justice League. While the new series may mitigate that, it could just be a venue for more “edgy” fare. We’ll know more in a few months, but today I want to look at the League’s attempts to integrate.
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