Every week, hard as it may be to believe, I try honestly to offer something I think might interest the larger group of DC Domics superhero readers. However, this week I am invoking a personal privilege. For one thing, with Halloween on a Wednesday (when I usually end up writing these essays), the holiday will more than likely take priority.
The main reason, though, is that today is my birthday, and as you might have guessed from the headline, this year is my 43rd birthday. Therefore, this week I have pulled together an especially memorable DC story and/or issue from each of those years, 1969 through 2012. (Note: They may not always line up with the actual year, but just for simplicity’s sake, all dates are cover dates.) These aren’t necessarily the best or most noteworthy stories of their particular years, but they’ve stuck with me. Besides, while I’ve read a lot of comics from a lot of sources, for whatever reason DC has been the constant. Maybe when I’m 50 I’ll have something more comprehensive.
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Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop 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 a splurge item.
If I had $15: Whoah, another tough week to narrow things down. Is every Brian Wood-written title required to come out the same week of each month? Do Dark Horse and Marvel get together and plan it that way, so that people who only buy Wood comics only have to go to the store once a month? I think more than half the DC titles I buy come out this time every month, too. So yeah, lots to pick from …
Anyway, I’d start with one of those Brian Wood comics, Conan the Barbarian #8 (Dark Horse, $3.50), which features Vasilis Lolos on art. Lolos drew one of my favorite issues of Northlanders, “The Viking Art of Single Combat,” so it’s cool to see the two of them working together again. I’d also get a comic I’m sure will be popular with a few of my colleagues, the first issue of the new Stumptown miniseries by Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth (Oni Press, $3.99). Next I’d get Manhattan Projects #6 (Image, $3.50); this issue turns the focus from America’s secret science program to Russia’s secret science program. Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra are having a lot of fun with this one. Finally, I’d get Uncanny X-Force #31 (Marvel, $3.99), which really picked things up last issue … and this is a comic that’s usually running on twice as many cylinders anyway.
If I had $30, I’d also grab two finales from DC Comics — Shade #12 and Resurrection Man #0 (both $2.99). Honestly, I never expected to see a Resurrection Man comic again, much less by the guys who wrote the original, so the fact that we got a good run of 13 issues is a pleasant surprise. Shade, of course, was planned as 12 issues from the beginning, and was a nice return to the Starman-verse by writer James Robinson. That leaves me room for three more $2.99 comics, which means I’m going to bypass X-Men, The Massive and Avengers Assemble this week (let’s assume that I’ll one day spend my splurge money on the trades) and instead go with Chew #28 (Image, $2.99), It Girl and the Atomics #2 (Image, $2.99) and Demon Knights #0 (DC Comics, $2.99).
Splurge: Assuming I wouldn’t spend my unlimited gift card on single issues, I’d be looking at the first Bucko collection from Dark Horse ($19.99) and Fantagraphics’ Is That All There Is? trade ($25).
Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonson’s “Manhunter” was the story of Paul Kirk, a big-game hunter, ex-superhero and retired covert operative who was killed by a rampaging elephant and revived by the mysterious Council. Dedicated to world domination, the Council also created enforcers out of Kirk’s clones, and trained them all to be unstoppable assassins. Kirk rebelled, of course, earning the Council’s wrath; and that’s where the main story picks up.
The seven-part serial ran in Detective Comics #437-443 (October/November 1973-October/November 1974). Appearing initially as an eight-page backup feature, its final chapter was a full 20 pages, not coincidentally because it guest-starred Batman. As such, the whole thing would fit in an 80-Page Giant with room to spare, but it is full of tight, dense storytelling that encourages multiple readings. Among other things, it received a total of six Shazam awards from the Academy of Comic Book Arts: Best Short Story (“The Himalayan Incident,” 1973; “Cathedral Perilous,” 1974), Best Writer (Goodwin, 1973-74), Outstanding New Talent (Simonson, 1973), and Best Feature-Length Story (“Götterdämmerung,” 1974). It was one of Simonson’s first big projects, and his early work combines a raw, organic quality with energetic, propulsive layouts. Each short chapter packs a full issue’s worth of plot, character, and action into its eight pages, and the finale makes a regular-length issue feel like an annual. Even Batman’s potentially-distracting involvement helps distinguish Kirk from DC’s garden-variety masked men. You’ll want to read it slowly to catch all the details, but it’ll keep you turning pages to find out what happens next.
Season’s Greetings and welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at what we’ve been reading lately. Today our special guests are Geoffrey Golden and Amanda Meadows, editors of Devastator: The Quarterly Comedy Magazine for Humans. Their latest issue has a video game theme, with contributions from James Kochalka, Corey Lewis, Danny Hellman and many more. And if you head over to their website between now through Dec. 16, the code ROBOT6 gets you 20 percent off single issues.
To see what Amanda, Geoffrey and the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, click below.
Since the end of 2011 is right around the corner, it’s as good a time as any to look forward to what DC may bring us in the next year. The fun part is, the (relatively) eclectic New-52 relaunch has made these sorts of predictions a little less accurate. Nevertheless, I think DC remains a fairly conservative publisher overall, at least in terms of the kinds of comics in its superhero-centric main line, so we can make some educated guesses. The fact that all but one of the New 52 featured well-established characters (and the 52nd was Batwing, buoyed by Batman Incorporated) doesn’t exactly hurt either.
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Accordingly, we start with two of DC’s most prolific titles which haven’t yet been reintroduced in the New-52 context: Adventure Comics and World’s Finest Comics (or, as you might know it, Superman/Batman). Both were on the pre-relaunch roster, but neither appears likely to make a comeback. Pre-relaunch, Adventure had become the second Legion of Super-Heroes title, following a brief run of Geoff Johns/Francis Manapul Superboy stories. The New 52 has since filled both roles, both with Legion Lost and the Legion: Secret Origins miniseries, and with the revamped Superboy. Adventure could come back as an anthology, but the New 52 already has the ongoing DC Universe Presents and the miniseries My Greatest Adventure for spotlights and new-character tryouts. As for Superman/Batman, changes to the Man of Steel’s overall outlook may include this relationship. Put simply, I don’t see the New-52 Superman teaming up with the (same old?) Batman on a regular monthly basis — at least, not right now.