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Grumpy Old Fan | With Games, the play’s the thing

The New Titans in the "Perez 2" era

The New Teen Titans: Games is the latest in an ever-expanding series of projects I never thought I’d see — a list which includes 2001’s The Dark Knight Strikes Again, 2005’s Englehart/Rogers/Austin Dark Detective, the various Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire Justice League International reunions, and of course George Pérez finally getting his bravura turn on JLA/Avengers.

In the waning years of the 1980s (so the stories go), New Teen Titans co-creator Marv Wolfman had an idea for a Titans graphic novel. Wolfman, Pérez, and editor Barbara Kesel conceived Games — basically a supervillain-caper story with an espionage/terrorism angle — as a one-shot spinoff of the wildly successful ongoing series. Pérez then drew some 70 pages before complications sent the project into the limbo of unfinished possibilities. However, as the years went by and the stars realigned, and that possibility of finishing Games turned into probability, Wolfman and Pérez were forced to rethink their approach to the material, both in terms of changed styles and changes in content.

Accordingly, the Games we have today isn’t quite an artifact or a re-creation. Although it is rooted significantly in Titans lore, it doesn’t seem inaccessible to new readers. It’s a continuation which, for various reasons, can’t be “official,” and it’s also a standalone story which offers another look at the pair’s signature work. It may well be their last word on these characters, but it’s hardly an ending. It’s what they would have done twenty-odd years ago, except that it works best when taken slightly out of that context.  Take it from someone who grew up in the land of strong bourbon — Games may be one of the most potent distillations of the Wolfman/Pérez experience.

Naturally, all that requires some explanation, so here we go….

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‘Every generation needs the comics recreated for them’

In a well-timed interview with The Village Voice, veteran editor and writer Marv Wolfman, chief architect of the landmark Crisis on Infinite Earths, offers an interesting perspective on DC Comics’ relaunch, addressing continuity, “event fatigue” and how the 1985 reboot didn’t accomplish all that he’d initially hoped.

Wolfman reveals that, similar to DC’s New 52, his original plan post-Crisis was for all the publisher’s titles to start fresh, with a new No. 1 issue.

“When I first pitched Crisis my belief was, at the end, that a new DC universe would be formed,” he tells the weekly, “all the books would begin with number 1 starting with a new origin in each, and Crisis would never be mentioned again because, as I set it up, the Earth would be reformed at its origin and so what had been had never happened as a new Earth was created. The Crisis itself therefore “never happened” though its effects would last. But ultimately the Powers That Be decided they didn’t have enough people to pull that off and so the Crisis was constantly referred to which I always felt was a mistake.”

He also touches upon the need for comics to change — “they need to evolve, and they need to keep fresh in order to stay relevant” — his dislike for “overarching continuity” — “The line I’ve been using since before Crisis is, ‘Continuity holds the best writer hostage of the worst'” — and the post-Crisis rise of event comics.

“In a way, Crisis spawned an entire industry of mega-events when it should have only given birth to those kinds of events where something vitally important had to be achieved,” Wolfman says. “Sadly, it didn’t turn out that way so these days you often here the term ‘event fatigue’ being bandied about.”

What Are You Reading?

Hello and welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? Today’s special guest is Shannon Wheeler, New Yorker cartoonist and creator of the Eisner Award-winning comic book Too Much Coffee Man, Oil & Water, the Eisner-nominated I Thought You Would Be Funnier and the upcoming Grandpa Won’t Wake Up.

To see what Shannon and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …

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Comic Strips to Comic Flicks: Marv Wolfman movies they haven’t made (yet)

In recent years, we’ve seen a boatload of comic books and graphic novels make their way to the silver screen, from Big Two stalwarts like Spider-Man and Batman to independent titles like Scott Pilgrim and 30 Days Of Night. Among the various adaptations, though, is an overlooked veteran who has fueled some of comics biggest successes on the big and small screen: Marv Wolfman.

With this year marking his 43rd year in the comic industry, Marv Wolfman has done it all: he’s been editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics, wrote one of the defining event series of all time in Crisis On Infinite Earths and created memorable characters such as Blade, Black Cat, Nova, Deathstroke and the New Teen Titans. He pioneered the idea of inventory stories at the major publishing houses, and as a creator he was the catalyst for companies to start crediting creators by name in comics. He’s been one of the key figures in comics adaptations in video games and animation, scripting episodes of Teen Titans, Batman: The Animated Series, Transformers, Spider-Man, Cadillacs & Dinosaurs and even some non-comics hits like Jem and The Garbage Pail Kids.

Marvel’s first major Hollywood success came thanks to the Marv Wolfman & Gene Colan creation of Blade, and his work on The New Teen Titans was one of the pillars of successful Teen Titans cartoon. But with all that work out there, comics still has a lot of Wolfman gems to offer movie producers. Here’s a highlight of some natural born hits coming from the mind of Wolfman and his collaborators.

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Grumpy Old Fan | Surprise me: DC Comics Solicitations for August 2011

Featuring the classic Blizzard vs. Polar Bear battle!

One tagline for the big alien-invasion movie Independence Day cautioned, “Don’t make plans for August.” Well, perhaps the biggest news coming out of DC’s August solicitations is the pervasive sense of foreboding they have about September. Rich Johnston maintains that a whole crop of new No. 1 issues is on tap for the fall, but there are no “FINAL ISSUE!” blurbs to be found on any of the current ongoing series.

While that doesn’t rule out a line-wide relaunch, the solicits also seem to say that readers won’t have to worry about a line-wide reboot. As noted in this space a couple of weeks back, the degree of change will probably be different for different titles. Nevertheless, now that we have a better idea of how August will look, let’s see what it says about September….

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What Are You Reading?

The Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 3

Welcome once again to What Are You Reading? Today our special guest is John Jackson Miller, writer of Star Wars: Knight Errant and Mass Effect comics for Dark Horse and various Star Wars prose novels. He’s also the curator of The Comics Chronicles research website. His next comics series, Star Wars: Knight Errant, Deluge, starts in August.

To see what John and the Robot 6 crew are reading, click below.

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Head back to Barsoom in Dark Horse’s John Carter of Mars collection

John Carter, Warlord of Mars

Back in the 1970s Marvel Comics published a series starring one of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ seminal characters, John Carter, which featured the work of Marv Wolfman, Gil Kane, Dave Cockrum, Chris Claremont, Walt Simonson and many more great creators. John Carter, Warlord of Mars ran for 28 issues with three annuals, and next month Dark Horse will release a collection of the entire series.

You can find more info and a six-page preview featuring some sweet Gil Kane/Dave Cockrum art after the jump.

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Grumpy Old Fan | Old favorites, new memories

New Teen Titans #13

Many times we superhero fans talk about the “need” to read certain prior issues and/or storylines. Blah blah blah, every issue is someone’s first, etc.

Well, I’m here to tell you … if you’re a fan of Silver Age DC, or of Marv Wolfman and George Pérez’s New Teen Titans, and especially if you’re a fan of NTT‘s Garfield Logan, you need to read the original Doom Patrol. Having just finished Showcase Presents The Doom Patrol Volume 2, which reprints the back half of the DP’s original series, I can say honestly that my eyes have been opened. I never really “got” the appeal of the Doom Patrol before I read this collection — but I get it now.

What’s more, those old stories shed new light not just on what the DP meant to its fans, but on what Wolfman and Pérez were trying to do with Titans.

SPOILERS FOLLOW for some decades-old stories …

* * *

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George Pérez confirms another delay for Teen Titans: Games

Teen Titans: Games

George Pérez confirmed the decades-in-the-making Teen Titans: Games graphic novel has been delayed again, because of his recent medical procedures and scheduling conflicts.

The highly anticipated book, conceived in the mid-1980s with New Teen Titans writer Marv Wolfman, has been announced and postponed numerous times over the past 25 years. The 120-page graphic novel had been scheduled this time for a Nov. 3 release; lists Jan. 11, 2011, as the new date.

“The fault is entirely mine,” Pérez explained on his Facebook fan page. “I’m afraid that a confluence of events, including my worsening eyesight which prompted the ongoing surgical procedures that I’ve already covered here and the bad timing of committing to Legacies before I knew that Games‘ deadlines had been compromised. … With Legacies being an ongoing series, as opposed to Games being a one-shot, it was determined that the monthly series had to be prioritized since my involvement with that series had already been publicized.”

Set in the ’80s, Games features a classic Titans lineup — Nightwing, Troia, Cyborg, Changeling, Starfire, Raven, Jericho and Danny Chase — pitted against a mysterious villain playing a deadly game.

Pérez, who apologized to fans and to Wolfman for the additional delay, wrote: “I have about 25 pages left to draw and I’m hoping that, when the book is finally re-solicited (and it will be!) that it will be at least a tiny bit worth the long wait.”

Read Pérez’s full statement after the break:

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Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

Borders Group headquarters

Borders Group headquarters

Retailing | About a week after laying off 100 people in its Tennessee distribution center, Borders Group has cut an unspecified number of jobs from its corporate headquarters in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The company laid off 88 corporate workers in January following disappointing holiday sales. []

Legal | Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter and state broadcaster Sveriges Television have been reported to the police for publishing “child porn” in the form cartoons. According to a news report, the illustrations (identified as manga) depict “two men having sex in the background, and one of an obviously under-age girl exposing herself to an older man who becomes so turned on that he suffers a nose bleed.” [The Local]

Legal | Robin Brenner attempts to put a recurring argument to rest by explaining why scanlation websites are not like libraries. []

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Talking Comics with Tim: Jen Van Meter

Amazing Spider-Man Presents: Black Cat 2

Amazing Spider-Man Presents: Black Cat 2

Today marks the release of the second issue in writer Jen Van Meter and artist Javier Pulido’s four-issue Amazing Spider-Man Presents: Black Cat miniseries. I recently had occasion to email interview Van Meter about the project, the overall collaboration experience and transitions, as well as near-term Hopeless Savages (Oni) plans (plus heist genre recommendations and covert gardening tips). After you read the interview, please be sure to check out the seven-page preview that CBR posted last week.

Tim O’Shea: In prepping for this miniseries, did you go back and read past Black Cat appearances for background? Are there any writers in particular whose approach to the character appealed to you more than others?

Jen Van Meter: I spent the most time with the early Marv Wolfman material, honestly. I like to go back to the beginning whenever I’m asked to take on a character I don’t feel I know well. The things I loved about her, particularly in Amazing Spider-Man 195, were her fierce determination and her strength — the Femme Fatale stuff is there, but it’s really overshadowed by her toughness in his treatment of her. I looked at or revisited many other appearances and caught up on the most recent stuff, but I think I really relied on Wolfman the most to tell me who she is.

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Grumpy Old Fan | Titans, go … away?

The New Teen Titans #39

The New Teen Titans #39

Thinking about the idea of “definitive” runs (touched on last week) brings me back to one of DC’s seminal creative teams. Of course, for fortyish DC fans like me, that team could only be Marv Wolfman and George Pérez, whose New Teen Titans helped DC straddle the line between Silver Age homage and Marvel-style soap opera.

When NTT premiered in the summer of 1980, the DC superhero line looked pretty static: Cary Bates and Curt Swan on Action Comics, Gerry Conway writing Justice League, Irv Novick drawing Batman, Don Heck drawing Flash. Not that these were talentless hacks churning out pulp dreck — far from it — but Marvel had Frank Miller, Chris Claremont, John Byrne, and Wolfman and Pérez themselves. Teen Titans was a twice-cancelled title, yadda yadda yadda, naturally it changed the course of DC’s history.*

It sounds redundant to call Wolfman and Pérez’s four-year collaboration “definitive” — how could it have been otherwise? — so I won’t dwell on that too much. Instead, for now let’s say it was a singular collaboration, with a beginning, middle, and end. Many of the book’s long-term story arcs began as character-based subplots, and many of those were on display in issue #1. Besides the issue’s main plot (Starfire escaping the Gordanians), Robin is snippy to Batman, Wonder Girl reminisces at the site of the abandoned building where she was rescued as an infant, Kid Flash has to be coaxed back into superheroics, and Cyborg hates his half-human existence.

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Wolfman and Sharpe to bring God of War video game to comics

God of War

God of War

With all the video game-to-comics adaptations we’ve seen over the past few years, I’m surprised we’re just now seeing this one. Marv Wolfman and Kevin Sharpe will bring Sony’s God of War to comics for a six issue mini-series from Wildstorm.

I’m a big fan of this game, and apparently, so is Wolfman.

“There have been very few times in my career when I’ve asked to do a comic. This is one of them,” he told IGN in an interview. “When I heard a rumor that DC/Wildstorm might be doing God of War, I put in my name right away and kept pushing for it. God of War has been my favorite video game to play, both #1 and #2. Also, I’ve always loved greek mythology – I brought the Greek Titans into my old Teen Titans comic. Coincidentally, I was in Athens just a few months back for a convention and toured all the old Greek temples.”

In God of War, you play as the brutal Kratos, a former minion of Ares who wages war against his former master to help save the city of Athens. Both the first game and its sequel draw heavily from Greek mythology, so Kratos spends a good part of the game using his Blades of Chaos on minotaurs, ogres and other nasty beasts, as well as a few Greek heroes and the gods themselves. You also have to solve very large-scale puzzles, such as the mystery of the Temple of Pandora, which is attached to the back of the Titan Cronos — one of the coolest settings ever in a video game.

The first issue is due in October.

Six by 6 | Six comics that made us cry

Tom Strong #36

Tom Strong #36

This week Chris Mautner suggested we share our softer sides and each talk about three comics that broke down our tough-guy exteriors and made us openly weep as we turned the pages. It’s a risky venture, to be sure; to some members of our audience, this will destroy the “manly man” image we’ve worked so hard to build up on the blog, but for others, it will show there’s more to who we are than just bad jokes and Shelf Porn.

So here they are — six comics that made us cry. After reading our selections, be sure to grab a tissue and tell us what comics made you cry as well.

1. “We’re brothers, Tom”

I always thought Tom Strong was the weakest of Alan Moore’s ABC line (in fact I said so rather openly in issue #231 of The Comics Journal). Oh sure, there were lots of colorful dialogue and zany plots, but I felt the series was sorely lacking in gravitas. The characters seemed too thinly sketched to me and I couldn’t find myself forming enough of an emotional commitment to them to care about what happened to them. It kept hinting that there was a lot more going on under the surface, but that’s all it would do, hint.

That was until the final issue, no. 36, where, during the “end of the world as we know it” created by Promethea, Tom is confronted by the ghost of his arch-enemy Paul Saveen, who reveals that he is, in fact, Tom’s half-brother. What follows is one of the most tender scenes I’ve ever read in a superhero book (“Jesus Paul” Tom says, breaking down “We tried to kill each other.”) When, two pages later, Tom introduces Saveen to a passerby with a simple “This is my brother. This is my brother Paul” well, I just lose it. –Chris Mautner

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