Warning: There will be a good bit of “in my day” talk in this survey of DC’s February solicitations. It’s the unavoidable contradiction of the publisher’s current superhero-comics model: Make everything “new,” but tease enough of the familiar old elements to keep longtime fans interested. While this practice goes back decades in corporately run superhero comics, the New 52 has tried so hard to distinguish itself that the old ways sometimes stand in even starker contrast.
Probably my biggest frustration with Forever Evil is its limited scope. Oh, sure, every electronic device on DC-Earth says “THIS WORLD IS OURS,” and writer Geoff Johns has teased a revamped Blue Beetle and Doom Patrol — but from the three issues published already and the three more solicited, it looks to be nothing more than Luthor’s Legion of Doom (plus Batman and Catwoman) vs. the Crime Syndicate. Ho-hum. We know the three Justice Leagues are imprisoned, the Teen Titans are bouncing through time, the Suicide Squad is depleted, and Nightwing is the Crime Syndicate’s prisoner, but where are the rest of the superheroes? What happened when they presumably rose up to challenge the Syndicators?
After teasing us in recent weeks with glimpses of “Tales of Metropolis, Starring Lois Lane” and “Metal Men,” DC Entertainment has announced that, beginning Tuesday, it will be adding the animated shorts from the second season of DC Nation to YouTube and the DC Comics videos page.
That means those of us who aren’t glued to Cartoon Network on Saturday mornings will soon get to enjoy “Tales of Metropolis,” Art Baltazar and Franco’s “Super Pets” and Robert Valley’s stylish Charger-driving Wonder Woman in their entirety.
The comic book annual has, in recent years, become an endangered species. Once an oversized, extra-length dose of the characters and concepts a reader could count on appearing once a year (or, you know, annually), the changing funny-book landscape has made them a less appealing proposition.
The rise of the graphic novel and trade paperback collections made “novel-length” adventures appearing in actual, off-the-rack comic books somewhat obsolete. The rising price of comics helped make annuals seem less practical; if a 20- or 22-page comic costs $2.99 or $3.99, a 48- or 56- or 64-page one would be prohibitively expensive. And with the shrunken market, it doesn’t make sense for a publisher to release an additional, extra-long issue of almost every title in its line.
Following the recent (and adorable) Bizarro animated short, Cartoon Network has released a clip from “Tales of Metropolis, Starring Lois Lane,” which premieres Saturday as part of the channel’s DC Nation programming block. While the previous installment of “Tales of Metropolis” gave us a glimpse of a no-nonsense Lois, this preview reveals her in intrepid-journalist mode — “Best reporter ever!” — as she refuses to allow Batman to dodge her questions about his sources of funding.
Moving from supporting player in the Bizarro short to star here, it’s obvious the only place Lois has left to go is her own animated series, Lois Lane: Best Reporter Ever – preferably with Jimmy Olsen as her faithful, if clueless, sidekick.
DC Nation airs Saturdays at 10 a.m. ET/PT on Cartoon Network.
In case you missed the animated short when it aired last month as part of Cartoon Network’s DC Nation programming block, DC Comics has now made the adorable “Tales of Metropolis” available online.
It’s just a little more than a minute long, so I don’t want to spoil it, but the short centers on a downright-endearing Bizarro, whose attempts to pass as a mild-mannered reporter (Not-Bizarro!) are foiled first by a tenacious Lois Lane and then by an alien invader. As with so many of the DC Nation shorts, the characterizations just about perfect (even the three-second cameo by gullible/clueless Jimmy Olsen).
Watch the full short below.
DC Comics goes bad in September, turning all 52 slots of its superhero line over to its less-savory characters. That’s pretty much the story of the superhero solicitations, although there are some interesting collections coming this fall.
On its face, Forever Evil sounds like a pretty straightforward, traditional superhero story. I think the “heroes disappear, villains romp” plot was even an episode of Super Friends. Accordingly, all things being equal, I have no problems with using it for a line-wide crossover. No doubt the DC Comics of 2013-14 will season it with plenty of violence and depravity, sucking away my goodwill accordingly; but those details will have to wait until the comics themselves come out.
THE SHAPE OF EVIL
In fact, the part of “Villains Month” that interests me most is its structure. Yes, there are 52 single issues coming out of the superhero line in September, plus Forever Evil #1. However, those 52 issues ostensibly “represent” only 18 series: Action Comics, Aquaman, Batman, Batman and Robin, Batman/Superman, Batman: The Dark Knight, Detective Comics, Earth 2, The Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Justice League, JL Dark, JLA, Superman, Swamp Thing, Teen Titans and Wonder Woman. Furthermore, 16 of the 52 are Bat-books, more than the Justice League books’ 10 issues and twice as many as the Superman books’ eight issues. Add Batman/Superman #3.1, and 35 of the 52 will have “Batman,” “Superman” or “Justice League” on their covers. In fact, 16 of the 18 series are already on my pull list (sorry, Green Arrow and Teen Titans), so I’ll probably be putting back a fair amount of these, which won’t make my comic shop’s job any happier.
Conventions | Comic-Con International in San Diego is about six weeks away, so it’s time for Tom Spurgeon to post his massive list of tips for those planning to attend: “It helps to remember that the hassle of going to Comic-Con is mostly an accident of our recent cultural history — All those spectacle movies! All those fantasy franchise books! Marvel’s post-bankruptcy comeback! All those graphic novels! The toy explosion! The rise of manga and anime! — rather than something the convention itself enjoys or endorses or requires or was ever shooting for. I honestly don’t have any more fun going now than I did in ’96 or ’01, back when it was so much easier to attend the con that the worst-case scenario was registering on-site and staying in a $65 hotel ten blocks away. It wasn’t that long ago! But I also can’t stress this enough. I still have fun.” [The Comics Reporter]
Seventy-five years ago, on or about April 18, 1938, the company that would become DC Comics published the first issue (cover-dated June 1938) of a new anthology series. Today, Action Comics #1 is remembered mainly (and justifiably so) for introducing Superman.
Naturally, many of the elements and concepts from that first Superman story have changed over time. In Action #1, all we see of Krypton is its final fate. Pa Kent doesn’t have a first name, and Clark works for the Daily Star. There’s no Lex Luthor, no Jimmy Olsen, no Kryptonite, and no Superboy. Even Superman’s powers pale in comparison to what they would become.
However, two characters are already fleshed out pretty well, with motivations and dynamics instantly recognizable to today’s readers. One, of course, is Clark Kent, who creates the Superman identity to “turn his titanic strength into channels that would benefit mankind,” and who hides that strength behind a pair of glasses and a meek demeanor.
The other is Lois Lane.
Beginning later this week, customers of That’s Entertainment will be able to find Worcester, Massachusetts’ “Pop-Culture Emporium” at the corner of Park Avenue and Lois Lane. The store isn’t moving from its 20-year-old location, however. Rather, the city is changing the short private road that runs beside the building from Marmon Place to Lois Lane, in honor of Superman’s longtime love interest.
That’s Entertainment owner Paul Howley and manager Ken Carson made the formal request in March 2011; it received unanimous approval in August from City Council. The store is paying for the manufacture and installation of the new street sign, which will be put up this week. A formal ceremony will be held Sunday, with artist Paul Ryan drawing sketches of Lois Lane on a special commemorative print given free to attendees. There also will be a Lois Lane look-alike contest.
Serialized storytelling provides superhero-comics publishers a pretty handy buffer. Anything can be judged unfairly, perhaps even after the whole story has been collected. Don’t like a preview image? Wait until the issue itself comes out. Don’t like how the story is going? Wait for it to end, so you can evaluate it in a more proper context. Don’t like how the story ended? Hey, at least you got the thrill of following it issue by issue.
There will always be a certain distance between fans and professionals, simply because the pros know where the stories are going and the fans can only make educated guesses. The previous paragraph’s view of it may be cynical, but I don’t think it’s too far off. Beyond nostalgic, blue-sky wishes for publishers to stop aiming low, and for fans to stop assuming the worst, I don’t have any easy solutions. Sometimes I just wish these sorts of observations weren’t necessary.
Having said all that, I’m not going to call the latest Superman/Wonder Woman pairing (in this week’s Justice League #12, as you might have heard) The Dumbest Thing DC’s Ever Done. I’m not sure it’s even in the Top 20. Heck, I’m not sure it’s the dumbest thing DC’s done in the past 12 months.
What I will say is that it misses the point.
Even as the debate still rages over last week’s revelation that Superman and Wonder Woman begin a romantic relationship in the new issue of Justice League, The Associated Press introduced a potential new wrinkle: that in DC Comics’ New 52, not only have the Man of Steel and Lois Lane never dated — something readers have known for more than a year — but that they “likely” never will.
However, a DC spokesman told Comic Book Resources the latter assertion “definitely” didn’t come from the publisher, which has characterized the story development as “the new status quo,” one made possible by the year-old relaunch that wiped clean much of the history of the DC Universe.
“Batman is considered THE detective in comics (he first appeared in Detective Comics and has been there for 70+ years, after all) and the rest of the Bat-Family are right up there with him. But, the reputation, I’m sad to say, is undeserved. It’s HARD to write a detective in a comic book format. I know. I’ve been there. There’s only so much room for clues and for drawn out searches. Stories in comics have to move so fast that being a detective, even for Batman, usually comes down to a trail of muddy footprints, with a mud that comes ONLY from one certain place in an area of five square yards, where the murderer happens to be standing right now …”
– Paul Tobin, killing my long-held dream that Detective Comics will ever live up to its name.
Is he right, though? I love Paul Tobin, but is it that tough to write a mystery comic? Seems like Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker might disagree. Or is it just tough to write a mystery comic featuring Batman or other superheroes? Tobin’s certainly correct that most Batman stories aren’t actually detective stories, but is that a problem with the comics medium, the superhero genre, or just the writers themselves?
Is it a problem at all? Am I the only one who’d really enjoy seeing Batman do some actual sleuthing? Or Lois Lane put some actual investigating into her journalism?
Comics | As part of an Associated Press article about comics addressing real-world issues, it’s revealed that the glamorous Cheryl Blossom, an Archie Comics character who has appeared throughout the years, often as a fourth player in the traditional Archie/Betty/Veronica love triangle, will battle breast cancer in a new storyline. According to Editor-in-Chief Victor Gorelick, Cheryl feels fortunate she can afford treatment, which “opens the door that there are a lot of people who cannot afford this kind of treatment and we have to see where that’s kind of going to lead.” [The Associated Press]
Conventions | Paul Gravett files his report on the Angoulême International Comics Festival. [Paul Gravett]
If you haven’t had enough of Kerry Callen’s awesome animated comics covers — and how could you possibly have? — he’s posted a couple more on his blog. That’s Lois Lane #29 above, but click through to see him make Jim Steranko’s classic Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD #4 even more psychedelic than it already was.
Colleen Doran isn’t the first artist who springs to mind when I think of Archie Comics, but she signed a contract with them to do a Betty and Veronica project a few years ago. Unfortunately, it didn’t pan out, but she posts a few sketches of the characters, whom she was to draw in her own style rather than Archie’s house style (which varies a bit, but not this much). Unfortunately, there’s no Archie, whom she said was “very hot,” but hopefully she’ll find those drawings and put them up as well.
Doran sees the drawing on the left as a good start for a Lois Lane character as well, and by happy coincidence she’s planning to pitch a Lois Lane miniseries to DC Comics: “I see Lois as a super-smart, Kathryn Hepburn/Rosalind Russell type. At a serious newspaper, instead of a yukky on-air correspondent.” Yes, please!