BEST BETS: "Jessica Jones," "Big Trouble/Escape from New York" & More October 2016 Highlights
At first glance, The Multiversity: Guidebook #1 — this month’s chapter of Grant Morrison’s grand epic exploring DC Comics’ Multiverse — looks like a somewhat-skippable book, supplemental material of the sort that the publisher used to release under the title Secret Files & Origins.
Everything seems to bear that out, from the content advertised on the cover (like the already well-traveled map of the Multiverse) to the artists involved (Marcus To and Paulo Siqueira are good, but not of the same superstar status as previous Multiversity artists) to the particular Earths the cover boys come from (the Batman on the left is from Morrison’s new version of the world of The Atomic Knights; the Batman on the right is an off-model drawing of the character from an Earth introduced in Morrison’s brief Action Comics run).
Second and third glances confirm that initial assessment of this book’s importance. On flip-through, you’ll note that about half of its 70 pages are devoted to illustrated prose in an airy, space-filling format, defining each of the 52 Earths and identifying a few of the key players.
But once you start reading the thing? Well, on a purely conceptual level, as a piece of comics writing and a piece of comics writing about comics, it’s probably the most ambitious, important and fascinating chapter of The Multiversity to date. And that’s in addition to being an extremely timely reminder of how to “read” DC’s continuity-realigning storyines and just what, exactly, it is that makes DC Comics and the DC Universe so special in the first place.
Marvel released its November solicitations, and as I’ve feared for a few months now, New Warriors by Christopher Yost and Marcus To is ending with Issue 12. This isn’t exactly a surprise, as anyone even casually watching its sales probably saw this coming: July’s Issue 7 sold about 17,000 copies, a few thousand below the traditional line of death for a Marvel title.
While the writing may have been on the wall, it’s sad to see such a fun and spirited comic go away. As a longtime fan of New Warriors, this fourth attempt to revitalize the property was the most true to the fondly remembered original series by Fabian Nicieza, Mark Bagley and Darick Robertson. The bright and energetic art was fantastic, the dialogue was pitch-perfect, and yet … it just didn’t click with enough readers.
So what’s the problem?
Unfortunately, the creators had an uphill climb for a number of reasons. Some are unique to the New Warriors and others are shared by non-marquee properties at Marvel, DC and other publishers. In February, when this New Warriors series launched, I celebrated the B-list characters and their comics. Now six months later, we’re staring down the barrel of cancellation. These B-listers are a double-edged sword, so now it’s time to look at the edge of the sword that we don’t like (or however that metaphor works).
In less than a week, New Warriors #1 by Christopher Yost and Marcus To will be in my grubby little hands. While everyone else will still be basking in the glow of this week’s new Wolverine and Punisher series, I’ll be resurrecting my dormant Marvel zombie for some much-neglected superhero nostalgia.
Most of my comic book-loving friends cite Spider-Man or Superman as their favorite characters, and the ones they read religiously as kids; they’re undeniably iconic. However, the superheroes that resonated most with me were those off the beaten path; the obscure characters have always led to the more satisfying reading experiences, even if it often meant tolerating missteps and frustrating gaps in time.
Maybe it’s a matter of rooting for the underdog, but I think generally there are more opportunities for exciting and entertaining stories when your main cast isn’t the star of several feature films and a merchandising empire.
I first encountered the New Warriors in 1990, not long after their debut. I was new to the Marvel Universe, and only Firestar was somewhat familiar to me from her role on Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, but she didn’t act the same as she did in the cartoon. She didn’t even have the same pet: Where was Ms. Lion? (Actually, that’s fine, leave Ms. Lion out of it. In fact, never mention Ms. Lion again.) Instead, Firestar had a pet cat named Pum’kin, which suited me fine — I was always more of a cat person anyway.
Late last night the imprint announced it will publish Hacktivist, a hardcover original graphic novel exploring “the modern world of hacking and activism.” The book began as an idea by actress Alyssa Milano after she learned about that world through her philanthropic endeavors and her friendship with Twitter creator Jack Dorsey.
“I’m very involved with in global activism and philanthropy,” Milano said in a statement. “I like the idea of everyday people doing good. I picture [Dorsey] leaving the office at night and going home, where he locks himself in his room and starts hacking to change the world.”
In this fictional story, the two founders of an upstart social-media service are discovered by the U.S. government to be one of the foremost “black-hat hacker teams” in the world, setting them on a path to question what’s right and decide what’s best for themselves and the world.
The nominees have been announced for the 2013 Joe Shuster Awards, and faithful readers of Robot 6 will notice many familiar names on the list, including Fiona Staples, Brandon Graham, Jim Zubkavich, Ryan North and Darwyn Cooke. As you can see from that sampling, the nominees are broad in terms of styles and genres.
Named in honor of Superman co-creator Joe Shuster, the awards recognize the best of the Canadian comics world; nominees must be either Canadian citizens or permanent residents in Canada. The nominees are chosen by a committee and the winners by a jury, so there is no public vote. The awards will be presented Aug. 25 at a location to be announced later.
And with no further ado, here are the nominees:
• Isabelle Arsenault – Jane, le renard & moi (La Pastèque)
• Patrick Boutin-Gagné – Brögunn (Soleil)
• Stuart Immonen – All-New X-Men #1-4, AvX: VS #1, #6, Avenging Spider-Man #7, Secret Avengers #21 (Marvel Comics)
• Yanick Paquette – Swamp Thing #5, 7-9, 13-14 (DC Comics)
• Ramón K. Pérez – John Carter and the Gods of Mars #1-5, AvX:VS #6 (Marvel Comics)
• Fiona Staples – Saga #1-8 (Image Comics)
• Marcus To – Batwing #9-15, 0, The Flash #10,15, Huntress #4-6 (DC Comics)
Archaia and Ishimori Production Inc. are teaming up to re-interpret Shotaro Ishinomori’s classic manga series Cyborg 009 for Western readers. The new edition is written by F.J. DeSanto (The Spirit, Immortals: Gods and Heroes) and Bradley Cramp (Gattaca), and illustrated by Marcus To (Red Robin, The Huntress). Archaia has provided ROBOT 6 with an exclusive preview of the graphic novel, set for release early this year.
The story is about nine people who are kidnapped from around the world to become test subjects by The Black Ghost Organization, a secret society that provides weapons of mass destruction to the highest bidder. The victims are put through a series of experiments that transform them into super-powered weapons, but with the help of a compassionate project scientist, the living weapons rebel, escape, and set off on a mission to stop Black Ghost from plunging the world into a perpetual state of war.
The publisher states: “Created in 1964, Cyborg 009 was Japan’s first and most-popular super-team, quickly becoming one of the most influential manga series of all time. The original manga has been published in over 250,000,000 copies of weekly comics and comic books worldwide.” There’s also a new, 3D CGI animated feature film in the works in Japan, and DeSanto is working to produce a live-action version.
Archaia Entertainment has confirmed it’s partnering with Japan’s Ishimori Productions to publish a Western re-imagining of Shotaro Ishinomori’s classic sci-fi manga Cyborg 009.
Set to debut in 2013 digitally and in print, the hardcover graphic novel written by F.J. DeSanto (The Spirit, Immortals: Gods and Heroes) and Bradley Cramp (Gattaca) and illustrated by Marcus To (Red Robin, The Huntress) will feature the classic characters and origin, “re-imagined for a new worldwide audience.”
Debuting in 1964 in Weekly Shonen King, Ishinomori’s Cyborg 009 follows nine humans kidnapped to undergo experiments by the evil Black Ghost organization that transform the test subjects into living weapons. The nine cyborgs band together to rebel against their captors and stop Black Ghost from plunging the world into a perpetual state of war.
“On the surface, Cyborg 009 appears to be a science fiction action/adventure story,” DeSanto said in a statement. “However, Ishinomori’s creation has endured because it’s a story about the human spirit triumphing over incredible adversity. The sort of emotional trauma these nine people experience could happen to anyone, anywhere, and at any time. Instead of becoming dark and oppressive, the story evolves into a message of hope and cooperation between people of different countries and races who share the singular goal of bringing peace to the planet. Humanity is the heart and soul of Cyborg 009.”
I actually tried and then gave up on Paul Levitz and Marcus To’s Huntress before starting this tour of superhero comics featuring women, but one of the things I wanted to do with the experiment is to get a large, healthy sample of each series before passing judgment. I’d only read a couple of issues of Huntress before giving up on it, so I felt like I needed to go back for at least a couple of more. I ended up reading the entire six-issue mini-series, but that was just because it finished before I got around to catching up and I figured, “Why not?”
My problem with the series mostly has to do with lack of dramatic excitement. Marcus To draws an attractive Huntress and does a nice job of depicting the luxurious lifestyle of rich people living around the Mediterranean, but the plot is extremely basic: dictators who are also human traffickers are evil; Huntress wants to stop them because she’s a good guy. Though the story takes place mostly in Italy, there’s a Gotham connection to explain Huntress’ being on the case, but if this is your first exposure to her (which it is, because this is an all-new Huntress created especially for the New 52), just having the crimes relate to Gotham isn’t enough to know why that’s important. Does this Huntress have a Batman-like need to protect that city? Is she idly curious and chasing a rabbit down its hole (before uncovering something darker)? This comic isn’t telling.
When I wrote about Birds of Prey, I caught a little flack in the comments for complaining that there are no personal stakes for the heroes of that series. Most of the commenters understood though that I wasn’t suggesting that every villain has to have a personal connection with the hero. That gets unbelievable really fast and I’m not suggesting it for Huntress. But I do want to feel like there’s a reason for a story to be told other than just, “So there’s this bad guy and he needs to be stopped.” Why does this particular hero need to be the one to do it?
Hey kids, it’s time once again for What Are You Reading?, a weekly look into the reading habits of your Robot 6 bloggers. This week our special guest is Rik Offenberger, comics journalist and public relations coordinator for Archie Comics.
To see what Rik and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? This week our special guest is Dark Horse assistant editor Jim Gibbons, who I spoke to about his new job on Friday.
To see what Jim and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …
By now most folks will have read Red Robin 4 (which was released on September 9), but if it’s still in your reading pile from this past week please make sure to read it before reading this interview with series writer Christopher Yost. (Consider that your official spoiler warning.) In addition to discussing the events of the issue, we delve into the plans ahead for the book and the life of Tim Wayne (formerly Drake), as well as the premiere of the new series artist Marcus To as of issue 6.
Tim O’Shea: Issue 4 is now out and had a fairly big reveal in the hunt for Bruce Wayne. This has been building up for four issues, did DC tell you exactly how they wanted the reveal to occur–or did they give you some creative levity to structure the reveal in your own way?
Christopher Yost: [Editor] Mike Marts and I had been talking about this from day one, and it was something that I wanted to do from the start. Tim’s incredibly smart, incredibly driven… if there’s evidence and clues out there, he’s going to find it. And as you saw, he did. We still haven’t revealed what put him on that road, of course… but I knew I wanted to tie Red Robin into the end of Grant’s Final Crisis super-early on.
But to answer the question, DC has given me nothing but freedom and creative levity. It’s pretty great.