Axel-In-Charge: Navigating the "Civil War II" Landscape, Bringing DMC to Marvel
The end of August also marks three full months worth of DC Comics’ line-wide relaunches. Naturally, the highest-profile of these are in the Superman titles, featuring a depowered and spiritually depantsed Man of Steel; and in the Bat-books, where a buff, mohawked James Gordon is the new Dark Knight. The two main Green Lantern books are also going through status quo upheavals, as Hal Jordan has gone off the reservation with a stolen power-ring prototype, while John Stewart, Guy Gardner and a handful of their colleagues have been hurled into parts unknown. (I’d say more, but it’d spoil the latest issue of Green Lantern: Lost Army.)
While I’m not exactly getting tired of these various plots, I am starting to wonder how long they can each be sustained. That, in turn, reminded me of similarly dramatic storylines that played out over much longer periods of time. I’ll be discussing a lot of storylines today, from the Silver Age to the present, and I’m sure I haven’t listed every possible one. (Spoilers: I won’t have time to get to a “dead and revived” list.) Some of these arcs were planned with endpoints, and some reverted to “normal” thanks to external factors. However, each tested the limits of readers’ tolerance for change.
When discussing Crisis on Infinite Earths #3, I noted the story’s “seams were starting to show.” A few months later, I thought Issue 6 was more concerned with “marketing.” Now, with Issue 9 — which appeared in comics shops 30 years ago, during the first week of August 1985 — not only has the miniseries burst its original boundaries, but the crossovers have become more pervasive.
Although the bulk of the issue involves the Villain War (as last issue’s cliffhanger language called it), it starts off by setting up crossovers with Green Lantern, New Teen Titans and Firestorm. It also features some clunky dialogue and name-checking cameos, which by now are as much a part of Crisis as the red skies were.
Still, even if Issue 9 is something of a rough-and-tumble indulgence amid the ongoing struggle to save all creation, it has its moments. Scenes of tragedy and triumph are executed fairly well, characters exit and enter the stage effectively, and the issue is propulsive enough to energize an otherwise weak cliffhanger.
The comics I bought this week were full of ex-Teen Titans, and I don’t even read Teen Titans. Besides the usual mimbo antics in Grayson, Donna Troy and someone who looks a lot like Aqualad showed up as antagonists in Wonder Woman and Aquaman, and Wally West was mentioned but not seen in The Flash.
And then there was Cyborg, relaunching the Titan-turned-Leaguer under the guidance of writer David F. Walker, penciler Ivan Reis and inker Joe Prado. Last year, when a Cyborg movie was announced as part of Warner Bros.’ ambitious superhero slate, I thought DC Comics might well look to the original Marv Wolfman/George Pérez New Teen Titans stories as the foundation of any upcoming solo series. Now that series is here, and Vic isn’t quite the same character he was in the 1980s. The 2011 reboot severed his ties to the Titans in favor of an origin based around the Justice League. What’s more, 12 years of animated adventures as part of Teen Titans and Teen Titans Go! have no doubt affected readers’ perceptions.
Have you ever gotten the Frozen Smile? The eyes say “I have no idea how to respond” while the mouth still thinks everything’s fine?
I got it the other day while talking to a co-worker about Teen Titans Go!. She loves it as much as her kids do, and my daughter loves it as well. I then mentioned that I haven’t had as much of a chance to see it, but I do have all the DVDs from the 2003-06 Teen Titans series. That brought things to a halt. When I mentioned the earlier show, it was evidently like saying I’d read the scripts in the original Klingon, because her face froze after that and she got out only an “Uh-huh….”
Today I’m going to talk about some of DC’s just-announced 2016 miniseries, and Raven in particular, because once again I suspect a lot of potential readers may be giving DC the ol’ frozen smile.
* * *
This week DC Comics rolled out its July solicitations. Because they mostly cover the second month of a relaunch whose first month is still six weeks away, they feel rather comment-proof. I mean, last month was the time for first impressions, so you can’t really comment further on storylines that haven’t started or creative teams whose first issues haven’t appeared. That said, July brings the first issue of the Cyborg solo series, as well as the return of Justice League United, so it’s not as if there’s nothing new.
HAIL TO THE VICTOR
As a longtime (i.e., aging) New Teen Titans fan, I’m a little torn about a Cyborg ongoing series. A spotlight on Victor Stone is long overdue, and I think the character is versatile enough to handle a wide range of adventures. (It’s also nice to note that with Starfire and Grayson, there will be three ongoing series based on ex-Titans.) However, I feel like Marv Wolfman and George Pérez established a lot of Vic’s backstory carefully and purposefully from 1980 through 1990, and then chucked it out the window when “Titans Hunt” blew up the Titans status quo. As the New 52 rebooted Vic (and since Forever Evil did it literally), he starts this ongoing with pretty much a blank slate. I’m looking forward to seeing what David Walker, Ivan Reis and Joe Prado have planned, but I hope that includes some of that forgotten history.
Part of the toymaker’s World’s Greatest Heroes brand, the series of 8-inch figures will debut in the fall with Nightwing, Starfire, Raven, and Cyborg. Figures Toy Company notes they’ll be compatible with other its other DC Comics releases, which are retro-style dolls with clothing and 16 points of articulation.
We’re just now into the back half of October and it’s already been a busy month for DC Comics’ television and movie adaptations. Gotham got under way, The Flash debuted and Arrow has returned, with Constantine on deck. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. announced a massive slate of Justice League-related movies, stretching from 2016’s Batman v Superman to 2020’s Cyborg.
However, the adaptation pipeline has the potential to flow in two directions. Between Caitlin Snow’s potential Killer Frost, the second episode’s Multiplex and the promise of both Ronnie Raymond and Martin Stein, the new Flash show seems pretty intent on bringing in a good bit of Firestorm lore. If DC executives hadn’t already been thinking about yet another Firestorm comic revival, The Flash’s immediate success may well encourage them to. Similarly, of all the movies Warner Bros. apparently intends to make over the next six years, the only one without a solid comics presence is Cyborg.
Therefore, today we’ll look at these two creations of the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, to see what DC might do with their four-color futures.
Considering that the July solicitations also previewed September’s Futures End tie-ins, and the final issue of Forever Evil arrives this week after being scheduled originally for March, the August listings feel like just one more ingredient in a jumbled publishing stew. When it’s all done, maybe we’ll see that it’s all worked together. Now, though, we might have to wait until the October solicits for a clearer picture of where DC’s superhero line is going.
In the wake of the New 52’s various revisions, the Grant Morrison-written The Multiversity miniseries seems like an artifact — if not a relic — from the pre-relaunch days. Like the Morrison-written Batman Incorporated, it was originally conceived in that environment, when legacy characters abounded and beloved Silver Age elements were reemerging. Of course, with Earth 2, Worlds’ Finest, Forever Evil and Futures End, parallel worlds have hardly been absent from the New 52; so perhaps The Multiversity is meant to expand that storytelling device even further. I get the feeling that many things are about to change (again) for DC’s shared superhero line, and if some Morrison-infused characters are going to be part of that, I hope they stick around for a while.
Although the five-years-later setup of Futures End won’t be here until May, it got me thinking about a not-so-new New 52. The current comics take place some five years after Superman and company debuted — plus, apparently, a year for the face-free Joker to recuperate — so if you add five more years, it’s like double the amount of history! Well, double the amount of history that “matters,” I guess.
As I have been pretty critical of the present timeline, I’ll be curious to see how Futures End treats those additional five years. I suspect that, for the most part, they’ll be five years of “filler,” in the sense that mostly bad, Futures End-specific things happened during that time to bring DC-Earth to whatever sorry state we see in FE #1. I’ve heard that when all the New 52 books jump ahead five years (in September, naturally), they’ll reflect where their creative teams would like to take the characters in five years — but those will only be single issues, as opposed to the year-long weekly installments of Futures End. Besides, my bitter, resentful impulses remind me that it might well have been simpler just to start off with a 10-year timeline that would only have tweaked the old pre-relaunch status quo, not thrown out huge chunks of it.
In the long run, DC Comics canceling Teen Titans may not mean much: The Legion of Super-Heroes is on hiatus, but it’ll be back. Likewise, I think there will be a new Teen Titans title — maybe called Young Justice? — sooner rather than later.
What’s curious about the end of this particular series, which coincides with writer Scott Lobdell’s departure, is it suggests more than just a name change. The Titans began as an all-star team, like their mentors in the Justice League, but over time the title focused increasingly on interpersonal relationships. The New 52 version of the team now features a Wonder Girl and Kid Flash who have virtually no connection to their older namesakes. Only Superboy has a solo title, and besides him only Red Robin appears regularly outside of Teen Titans. That makes the Titans rather insular, so I wonder if the inevitable relaunch will try to address that.
Whatever happens, odds are that the all-star structure that characterized DC super-teams since the 1940s has faded into the background for good. This week we’ll examine the Titans’ place in the superhero line, and see what the book has to offer going forward.
Thanks to Tom Spurgeon, I read a fascinating article about “using Graph Theory to create a digital model of the whole of Marvel continuity,” from comics to TV and the current crop of movies. It maps out connections among characters — unsurprisingly, the three big groups relate to the X-Men, the Avengers, and Spider-Man — but it also discusses exceptions to characters’ defining traits. For example, Hawkeye is Clint Barton (or not), who is an archer (most of the time) and an Avenger (except when he’s a Thunderbolt). Marvel appears to be using this model to answer basic questions like “who is that?” and “how does s/he relate to this over here?” — with an ultimate goal of getting fans of its movies and TV shows to try the comics.
As you might imagine, this sort of analysis would have been ideal for the pre-New-52 status quo, whose five generations of characters (going from the original Justice Society to Damian Wayne) included many with multiple code names. Chief among these were the original Teen Titans who, following the examples of Dick Grayson and Wally West, graduated from sidekicks to “grownup” superheroes. Initially, logistical concerns facilitated these changeovers (we need a new Robin; we need a new Flash) — but in terms of the intersection of continuity and character development, none of the Titans had quite as much on her résumé as Donna Troy.
Thirty-six questions. Six answers. One random number generator. Welcome to Robot Roulette, where creators roll the virtual dice and answer our questions about their lives, careers, interests and more.
Joining us today is Gabriel Hardman, who is co-writing and drawing Star Wars: Legacy and co-writing Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm. He’s also the creator of Kinski, a new digital miniseries from Monkeybrain available now through Comixology.
Now let’s get to it …
First I’d like to thank DC Comics for plastering its latest spoiler unavoidably across the Internet bright and early Monday morning. It did confirm something I’d suspected since before Christmas, but being surprised still has a certain appeal, you know?
(That assumes this isn’t reversed in an issue or two. Kyle Rayner was killed one issue and revived the next during a Blackest Night crossover, and something similar is eminently possible, albeit unlikely, in this case.)
Anyway, Caleb has done a great job covering the event’s immediate impact, and Corey and Michael have also talked about significant aspects of you-know-what, so for my part I’ll be taking a closer look at the “position” itself. Some people study the presidency, some the papacy, and some of us have spent most of our lives reading about … well, you know.
SPOILERS FOLLOW, I suppose.
I hear a lot of rumbling from the February solicitations — the First Lantern, the last Hellblazer, the new JLA — like the Next Big Things are simmering under the surface. Yes, this is how DC wants me to think, but there’s no guarantee that my anticipation will live up to the books themselves. Still, at least things are happening, which is nice. There are endings and beginnings, changes and reintroductions, and a few good reprints too.
So, without further ado …
JUST BE GLAD IT’S NOT “20,000 LEAGUES”
The “expansion of the Justice League” advertised in Justice League #17 may be related to the new Justice League of America, but I suspect it will have more to do with the main League’s roster additions (which, if memory serves, were teased back in summer 2011). I base this mostly on the fact that JLA #1 comes out two weeks before JL #17, and therefore I doubt DC would want its latest high-profile first issue to spoil the end of “Throne of Atlantis.”
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.
* * *