INTERVIEW: Spencer Declassifies "Captain America: Steve Rogers'" Hydra Secrets, Cosmic Connections
Ask someone in comics what they think about Jim Shooter, and you’re bound to get very strong, and very different, opinions. Sometimes, in fact, from the same person. The self-described “writer. editor. large mammal.” has been innovative on several fronts, not only in founding Valiant, Defiant and Broadway, but also in serving as editor-in-chief of Marvel during the pivotal early ’80s, and even breaking into comics at the tender age of 13. And now he’s started telling stories about his time in the industry.
On the newly launched JimShooter.com, the respected creator has begun talking at length about his experiences and acquaintances in comics — from Stan Lee to Mort Weisinger and more. Of particular interest to me has been a post about regrets he has in the industry, as well as describing that he pitched to DC’s Legion of Super-Heroes back then because he thought that team’s stories in Adventure Comics were the worst comics on shelves.
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy on Wednesday based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on what we call our “Splurge” item.
If I had $15:
I’d start with Witchfinder: Lost and Gone Forever #1 ($2.99). I love weird western tales and can’t imagine a better creative team for one than the writers of BPRD and artist John Severin, who illustrated so many of Atlas’ classic westerns. Then I’d grab The Muppet Show, Volume 5: Muppet Mash ($9.99) because hey, Roger Langridge, Muppets and classic monsters.
If I had $30:
I’d add a couple of Big Two all-ages comics to the pile. If Marvel’s Super Hero Squad Spectacular #1 ($3.99) is half as fun as the show it’s based on, it’ll be worth taking home and reading to the boy. I’ll just have to keep ignoring the irritating, unnecessarily three-fingered character designs. I’m even more confident that we’ll enjoy DC’s Super Friends, Volume 4: Mystery in Space ($12.99) because we’ve been so delighted with the first three collections. David just turned nine and by way of celebration, he wanted to go back and re-read the Superman’s Birthday story from volume two.
Because they went live around the same time as last week’s column, I’ve had the better part of a week to consider the April DC solicitations. I’d like to tell you I dug deep into the language and the numbers, forsaking all regular human needs in order to unlock the secrets of DC’s superhero springtime, but we all know that didn’t happen. I blame the football.
There could be a couple of reasons to cut two issues from the runs of Brightest Day and Justice League: Generation Lost. Twenty-four issues may be easier to collect, logistically speaking, than twenty-six. DC may also want to wrap up these storylines in advance of Free Comic Book Day (May 7 is the Saturday after the month’s first Wednesday), when I presume the big Flashpoint push will begin. The solicit for Flash #12 seems to indicate that Flashpoint starts in May.
Welcome to another installment of “Food or Comics?” Every week we set certain hypothetical spending limits on ourselves and go through the agony of trying to determine what comes home and what stays on the shelves. So join us as we run down what comics we’d buy if they only had $15 and $30 to spend, as well as what we’d get if we had some “mad money” to splurge with.
Check out Diamond’s full release list if you’d like to play along in our comments section.
If I had $15, at least $9 of it – okay, $8.98 – would be already spoken for. The first issue of Batman Incorporated ($3.99) and one-shot lead-in Batman: The Return #1 ($4.99) offer up the first glimpses of what Grant Morrison has in mind for his new Batus-quo and, after the way he brought the RIP/Return of Bruce Wayne storyline to a close, I’m pretty much on board no matter what. The remaining money…? It’s a tough one, but I’m going to go for Spider-Girl #1 ($3.99), pretty much because I like Paul Tobin’s writing, I like the Twitter gimmick (Somewhere, Joe Casey’s going “I did it first in Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance!” and I know, Joe), and, most importantly, the Spider-Girl short was my favorite part of last week’s Amazing Spider-Man relaunch issue. Who could’ve seen that coming?
These days it’s very easy not only to discover some venerable bit of pop culture, but to bone up on its history almost as thoroughly as if you’d experienced it in real time. Although it’s some thirty-odd years old, only fairly recently have I become acquainted with the excellent Dire Straits song “Romeo And Juliet.”
The song doesn’t quite track the play, instead choosing a different take on the tragedy of true love. Juliet, not death, separates the star-crossed pair; and the refrain has Romeo pour his broken heart out to her:
Juliet! When we made love you used to cry/
You said “I love you like the stars above, I’ll love you ‘til I die”/
There’s a place for us (you know, the movie song)/
When you gonna realize, it was just that the time was wrong?
The song is almost triumphal in its melancholia, running the emotional spectrum from highest high to deepest low. In one of those low points, Romeo moans,
You promised me everything, you promised me thick and thin, yeah/
Now you just say, “Oh Romeo? Yeah, you know I used to have a scene with him.”
It’s about incredible passion, and the desperate need such passion creates … but it’s also about the reality that sometimes passion fades, or at least stops being returned in kind. “Romeo And Juliet” creates the sort of longing that can make you hug your significant other that much tighter; and if that’s not your current circumstance, it can bring you to the brink of tears remembering your own long-lost Juliet.
And — of course, right? — it now reminds me of my own relationship with the Legion of Super-Heroes.
Today DC Comics revives an old tradition by allowing fans to select the next leader of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Through the wonders of 31st-century 21st-century technology, readers no longer have to mail in their votes. Instead, they visit the Legion election website and simply click on one of the 25 candidates. (Twenty-five?)
If you’ve not had the time to brush up on the contenders, you might consider the well-reasoned endorsement by the Legion Abstract fan blog of Phantom Girl, “one of the longest-serving of all Legionnaires, yet has never been leader.” Michael at The Legion Ominicon voted for Gates, the socialist insectoid teleporter, “just to see what [writer] Paul Levitz would do with him.”
On the DC Universe blog, Editor Brian Cunningham notes that Legion elections “can have some very interesting consequences.”
“A reader poll throws us a potential creative curve ball,” he writes. “I recall during the 1980s, the readership elected longtime Substitute Legionnaire Polar Boy — an unlikely turn of events, given the illusion that the Legionnaires themselves were voting. But Paul, who wrote the series at the time, just rolled with it and crafted some very clever and entertaining stories around it.”
Voting ends on Nov. 10. The winner will be revealed in December’s Legion of Super-Heroes #8.
There are about to be nine regular Batman titles — Detective Comics, Batman, Batman & Robin, Streets Of Gotham, Gotham City Sirens, Batgirl, and Red Robin, plus the November-debuting Batman Inc. and The Dark Knight. There are three regular Superman books (Action Comics, Superman, and Supergirl) and three regular Green Lantern books (GL, GL Corps, and Emerald Warriors). At the risk of oversimplifying, each of these titles exists on its own for a reason. Each supposedly tells its own stories, and each is independent (to whatever degree) from the others in its family.
And I feel a little hypocritical suggesting this, because I am all for the independence of any given series, but … what if these series worked together better?
DC tried to do just that on a macro scale a few years ago, when the weekly Countdown tied into practically every major superhero series. Described as the superhero line’s “spine,” and advertised as a bridge to the big-event Final Crisis, Countdown turned out to be an odd little gerrymander of a story, uneven and often confusing. Currently, several of DC’s books bear the banner of DC’s biweekly Brightest Day, but for the most part they only share characters with the year-long miniseries.
Paul Levitz‘s return to the Legion universe has been under way for the past several months (writing the character’s early days in Adventure Comics and the regular ongoing stories in Legion of Super-Heroes). With a gamut of issues already out I thought it would be a great time to discuss his work. Plus I got an opportunity to find out what it was like to be a student of Frank McCourt, as well as how a journalism class during that era helped strengthen his writing ability. My thanks to Levitz for indulging my questions and DC’s Alex Segura for his assistance in facilitating the interview. This Wednesday, September 22, will see the release of Legion of Super-Heroes 5.
Tim O’Shea: Before our Legion discussion, I would be remiss if I did not ask about being taught English at Stuyvesant High School by Frank McCourt (as mentioned at this Midtown Comics Times Square signing in May 2010). What were some of the major lessons you took from his instruction? Did you stay in touch with McCourt after high school–did he know how successful you became as a writer?
Paul Levitz: McCourt was teaching English, not yet officially Creative Writing, when I was his student. Vivid memories include the range of literature he opened our eyes to—Achebe and Mishima, the examples that still stick with me, and their very different world views and life experiences. He was very encouraging to me about my interests in comics, and my fanzine publishing, which was great. We stayed lightly in touch—I recall sending him the trade of Great Darkness when it first came out, and an email note back—and saw each other several times after he became an author. The best moment was a fund raising dinner for Stuy’s 100th, at which he presented me with an award (predominantly for my work on the 100th Anniversary book about Stuy). The other lesson, from a distance in time, is the power a good teacher has—looking at the long list of writers who came through his classes over the years, and our attachment to him. It’s one of the reasons I’m starting to teach now.
Last week DC Comics senior editor Ian Sattler teased “one of those great books that make us all stand around the editor’s office going ‘wow.'” He also shared a collage of images featuring Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Superboy, Red Robin and several other characters drawn by several different artists. In our comments section for that post, commenter funkygreenjerusalem wondered if maybe it was a teaser for Superman/Batman #75.
Yesterday editor Eddie Berganza also shared some artwork and details on an upcoming project, this one being Superman/Batman‘s 75th issue, and I’m starting to think maybe funkygreenjerusalem was right about the first teaser. Here’s what Berganza has to say about the issue:
Now under that icon, some very impressive talent has made its way through its pages. And this couldn’t be more true of the book that will be coming out soon. Starting with an awesome cover by Frank Quitely, the lead story is by Paul Levitz, who finally gets to team the Legion of Super-Heroes with Batman as well as Superman and Superboy, all lusciously illustrated by Jerry Ordway, no stranger to Strange Visitors. But this is just the beginning. What follows is a special section featuring 2-page strips. My homage to WEDNESDAY COMICS.
It starts with Steve Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen doing the only sequel they ever will to IT’S A BIRD… with “It’s A Bat, ” a story of how an editor tries to get a special section like this going. It continues with Billy Tucci and Peter Tomasi with Gene Ha each playing up the grand adventures of our heroes, while Adam Hughes, David Finch, J.T. Krul, Francis Manapul, Duncan Rouleau, Jill Thompson, Michael Green with Mike Johnson and Rafael Albuquerque and Shane Davis all show us how the Superman and Batman families have been inspired by these two icons. From Supergirls to super-pets, and a wild take on a Lex Luthor and Joker teaming by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo, it has it all, but don’t just listen to me. Go check it out!
The issue goes on sale Aug. 25.
As a part of their 75th anniversary, DC Comics has recruited several artists to recreate covers from classic comics, which will be used as variant covers for several of their books this year.
Yesterday they revealed another one, this time by Joker artist Lee Bermejo, who draws the cover to the last chapter of my favorite Legion story, “The Great Darkness Saga.” You can find the original cover after the jump.
DC’s July solicitations include such high-profile titles as Brightest Day, Justice League: Generation Lost, three Grant Morrison Bat-books, Neal Adams’ Odyssey, and the 50th issues of Ex Machina and Green Lantern Corps. We’ll touch on some of those in this modest survey.
However, as usual, it was an eclectic group of books which caught my eye … starting with a feature I wasn’t expecting to see.
NIGHT AND DAY
I hate to dismiss a series which I’d like to read before it’s even seen the inside of a comics shop, but I think the Atom Special and its subsequent co-feature may do better in collected form than in single issues. I base this on the quite-possibly-irrational notion that a significant amount of DC readers want to read about the Atom, but don’t especially want to follow the Legion of Super-Heroes.
Yildiray Cinar, artist on the upcoming Legion of Super-Heroes relaunch from DC Comics, has been sharing all sorts of Legion-related artwork on his blog, including this really nice Dawnstar piece. He’s got a lot of other cool stuff up there, too, such as Cloak & Dagger, Adam Strange and a Legion vs. Trigon piece, so go check’em out.
After the release of seven plastic promotional rings for Blackest Night and the announcement of three more for Brightest Day, some fans are hoping DC Comics will show the Legion of Super-Heroes a little love.
It seems only logical that a Legion flight ring should come next. After all, the Green Lantern Corps, the Flash Family and the teenagers from the future form a sprawling trinity of functional superhero jewelry. Plus, Legion of Super-Heroes is being relaunched with legendary series writer Paul Levitz at the helm.
But just in case DC needs a little convincing, fans have organized a grass-roots postcard campaign reminiscent of the one launched in September to return Wonder Woman to its original numbering. (Of course, that one originated with the publisher, not with readers.)
Blogger Sven Straatveit points out that DC already has a flight-ring mold — a ring was released with DC Direct action figures of Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl — so the company won’t have to shell out money for design or sculpting. Sound reasoning, that.
So how about it, DC?
Birds of Prey isn’t the only DC Comics series returning this spring. The publisher announced this morning that it will relaunch Legion of Super-Heroes with writer Paul Levitz and artist Yildiray Cinar at the helm.
Levitz, who recently stepped down as president and publisher of DC, wrote the series on and off between 1974 and 1989, creating landmark runs against which all later versions of the title are inevitably compared. Cinar is probably best known for his work on the Ravager co-feature in Teen Titans.
As previously announced, Levitz also will write the recently relaunched Adventure Comics, which also features the Legion of Super-Heroes.
“It’s such fun to be back in the future, blowing up planets, undoing Legion marriages, revealing unrevealed factoids, and starting improbable new relationships,” Levitz told the DC Universe blog. “If there’s a better job in comics than writing the Legion, with its vast cast and creative opportunities, I’ve never held it.”
Levitz talks more about Legion and Adventure with Graeme McMillan at io9.com.
We know that Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul are wrapping up their run on Adventure Comics with issue 6, which will be followed by a Blackest Night tie-in issue written by Tony Bedard. And we know that Paul Levitz, former president and publisher of DC Comics, is slated to start writing the book starting with the book’s first annual next year.
But what happens in between? Levitz hinted to CBR in October that the book would be used to wrap up the story of the Legion in the 20th century, and today DC released more details on that — and unless I missed something somewhere, confirmed the rumored Superman event that’ll run next summer.
First tings first … according to DC’s Source blog today, Adventure Comics #8 will kick off a four-issue story that also runs through several of their Superman titles called “Brainiac & The Legion of Super-Heroes.”
According to Assistant Editor Will Moss, James Robinson and Julian Lopez will provide a 10-page story about the Legion members who are in the 21st Century; Sterling Gates and Clayton Henry will provide a 10-pager about the Legion in the 31st Century; and Eric Trautmann and Pier Gallo will provide a 10-pager about General Lane’s Human Defense Corps. The story will also run in the Superman and Supergirl titles, as well as a fourth “mystery” title.
“Featuring Superman, Supergirl, Superboy, Mon-El and the Legion of Super-Heroes, it not only brings to a head all the Legion subplots that DC has been laying down since the JLA/JSA ‘Lightning Saga’ story, but also sets the stage for this summer’s blockbuster Superman event!” Moss said.