Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
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.
In the 75 years since he was introduced as the original Robin, Dick Grayson has inspired a legacy and numerous imitators, battled a staggering array of criminals, led the Teen Titans, graduated to the identity of Nightwing, and even assumed the mantle of Batman, for a while. But his greatest achievement very well may be surviving the past decade of DC Comics.
DC Entertainment Co-Publisher has gone on the record time and again that he wanted Nightwing as the “big death” in 2005’s Infinite Crisis, which was underscored in January when he uncovered the original whiteboard pages for the event’s timeline (Jason Todd then would’ve assumed Nighting’s identity, only to be rejected by the Bat-Family). However, it turns out that plans for Dick Grayson’s downfall predate even that.
In a new behind-the-scenes video from Rocksteady Studios, developers offer a look at one of the most anticipated new features of Batman: Arkham Knight: Dual Play Combat.
As Batman, players an team up with the likes of Robin, Nightwing or Catwoman, and then switch characters during combat, with the game’s artificial intelligence taking over as the Dark Knight. In this gameplay video, Batman partners with Nightwing to clear out a warehouse filled with Penguin’s thugs.
Gerry Conway has written more comics than I care to count, including career-defining runs on The Amazing Spider-Man and Justice League of America. During his tenure at DC Comics in the 1970s and ‘80s, he co-created Firestorm, Steel the Indestructible Man, Vixen and Vibe (among many others). He wrote the first relaunch of New Gods and helped craft the Robin-to-Nightwing transition. Recently, he’s been calling attention to the use of “derivative” comics characters in other media — for example, the Flash TV show’s Caitlin Snow, who shares a name, a scientific background, and a Firestorm connection with the most recent version of Killer Frost’s alter ego.
DC responded to Conway’s concerns with assurances of fair compensation, but the matter also goes to the heart of the publisher’s shared universe.
DC Collectibles has debuted its second wave of action figures based on the upcoming Batman: Arkham Knight video game.
Revealed by MTV News, the figures of Catwoman, Commissioner Gordon, Nightwing and Robin stand between 6.5 inches and 6.75 inches tall, and feature somewhere around 20 points of articulation, as well as character-specific accessories and (in most cases) interchangeable hands. They join Wave 1’s Batman, Scarecrow, Harley Quinn, Arkham Knight and the Gamestop-exclusive Red Hood, released in April.
Nine months after the debut of Grayson: Earth One, writer/director Hisonni Johnson is back with the second episode of the fan-produced web series, which reimagines the origin of Nightwing.
Titled “The Boy and the Bullet,” this chapter picks up moments after the previous episode, following young car thief Jason Todd who, “in another life,” becomes the second Robin. However, in this continuity, “Jason is left to navigate America’s most dangerous city in search for purpose, safety and a family to call his own. Unfortunately … he finds one.”
The second episode of the fan-produced Nightwing: The Series will likely be bit of a crowd-pleaser, as it offers a glimpse of the Dick Grayson/Barbara Gordon relationship, and includes cameos by Jason Todd, Bruce Wayne and … well, you’ll see. However, it also tinkers with the Bat-family timeline, and seems to borrow from a still-controversial story to explain Dick’s change in identity from Robin to Nightwing. So … well, watch for yourself.
Created by Danny Shepherd and Jeremy, the Kickstarter-funded five-episode series premiered last week.
Danny Shepherd and Jeremy Le made a bit of a splash in summer 2012 with the release of their fan film Batman: Nightwing Vs. Red Hood, leading them to launch a successful Kickstarter campaign — they exceeded their $20,000 by nearly $15,000 — to fund a web series focusing on Dick Grayson.
The result surfaced this week with the debut of Nightwing: The Series, which sends Batman’s former sidekick on a search through the streets of Bludhaven for Deathstroke, who murdered a U.S. senators and numerous others. The second of five episodes arrives Oct. 6.
Note: Due to my travel schedule, the Futures Index is taking a break this week. There will be a double dose next week to get us back on track.
Something I didn’t mention in last week’s post about The Multiversity #1 is the persistent notion that corporate-controlled characters have, for lack of a better phrase, “lives of their own.” In other words, we know how Superman, et al., are “supposed” to act, based on common, recurring elements, which are ostensibly independent of any particular creative team. Because The Multiversity offers a prime opportunity to play around with those elements and the expectations they engender, this week I wanted to go a little more in that direction.
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We begin with Batman, and specifically a scene from the now-classic Batman: The Brave and the Bold cartoon. “Legends of the Dark Mite,” written by Bat-guru Paul Dini, features a brief-but-incisive dig not just at fans, but at the corporate culture which has nurtured the Caped Crusader over these past 75 years. See, Bat-Mite wants to see his hero fight a supervillain, but Batman just wants the little guy to vamoose, and suggests the imp summon Calendar Man. Yadda yadda yadda, Calendar King has killer Easter Bunnies.
(Note: Post title is taken brazenly from a Mystery Science Theater 3000 riff on the serial The Phantom Creeps.)
When DC announced Grayson in April, I wrote about the dangers of separating Dickie G. first from his mentor, and then from his friends in the Titans. Because Grayson is predicated on removing Dick from the superhero realm entirely, I’ve been ambivalent (at best) about this book. Even after reading the first issue — which was a good introduction to the series, and which stood on its own nicely — I still have some concerns. Most of these come from a desire (perhaps unwarranted) to judge a series in a larger context. Therefore, today we’ll talk both about the debut issue of Grayson (written by Tim Seeley and Tom King, drawn by Mikel Janín, and colored by Jeromy Cox), and whether that sort of big-picture evaluation is fair to it.
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First let’s get some of the obligatory historical perspective out of the way. Dick Grayson has been around for almost 75 years, longer than just about all of DC’s A-listers, including The Flash, Hawkman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern. Moreover, Dick/Robin has been adapted for various non-comics venues for almost as long, starting with radio and movie serials in the 1940s and continuing right through to today’s Teen Titans Go! Many of these more recent adaptations either alluded to, or showed directly, Dick’s transition to the Nightwing identity; and collectively they speak to the general public’s awareness of the character and his particular dramatic functions.
If you’re a comics fan with a near-religious devotion to your favorite superheroes, do we have a window treatment for you: Marissa Garner has created a stunning series of prints that imitate the look of stained glass and features everyone from Batman and his allies to Spider-Man and his rogues to Sailor Moon.
What’s more, they’re printed on transparency paper, and can be attached to a window, creating that instant cathedral effect.
Check out some of Garner’s print below, and even more on her Etsy page, where they can be purchased.
This has turned out to be an eventful week for fans of the first Robin (and of the role in general), thanks to a Robin Rises one-shot, leading into the unveiling of … well, whoever’s going to wear the red vest for the foreseeable future, and Dick Grayson’s latest relaunch, a July-debuting ongoing series called simply Grayson, wherein the former Boy Wonder will start a new life as a super-spy.
With each of ‘em about three months away, obviously I’m not equipped to pass judgment on the merits of either. However, I can tell you what I think about Dick and Robin, how those impressions affect my snap judgments, and why you should — and shouldn’t — listen to someone like me.
This look at DC’s latest round of solicitations may be quicker and dirtier than usual, mostly because this week I thought I was going to be talking about Teen Titans’ cancellation. We’ll do a little of that this week, along with the other titles on the chopping block.
However, for a while now we’ve known that April — being the first post-Forever Evil month — will feature some big changes, and those start right here.
BY THE NUMBERS
I count 47 ongoing New 52 series, but that includes the six books canceled as of April, and it only counts Batman Eternal — which, contrary to my expectation, is not solicited as a limited series — once. Thus, if DC still wants to hit the magic number, it needs to come up with 11 new series for May.
Time once again to revisit some thoughts about the year just ended, and offer some thoughts on the year to come.
First, let’s see how I did with 2013:
1. Man of Steel. Last year I asked “a) how well will it do with critics and moviegoers; and b) yes, of course, will it help set up Justice League?” It got a 55 percent (i.e., Rotten) ranking from Rotten Tomatoes (although 76 percent of RT visitors who cared to vote said they liked it). Financially, Box Office Mojo called it a “toss-up,” putting it in the same category as Star Trek Into Darkness, World War Z, The Wolverine, The Hangover Part III, Pacific Rim and, uh, The Smurfs 2. I liked it well enough — I seem to like a lot of things “well enough” — but perhaps Super-fan Jerry Seinfeld’s musings about missed opportunities speak best to the film’s reception. MOS itself didn’t help set up a Justice League movie, at least not as expressly as, say, Nick Fury talking about the Avengers; but I think it’s safe to say that the sequel will go a long way in that regard.
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Because it’s the day after Christmas, and I don’t want to write 1,500 words about Forever Evil and its Justice League tie-in — except to say they both felt a lot like stereotypical Lost, and not necessarily in a good way — here’s a stocking’s worth of number-based observations about DC past and present.
Twelve Crisis issues: I talk a lot about 1984-85’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, mostly because it so completely transformed not just DC’s shared-universe continuity, but its publishing philosophy. On its merits, Crisis is a mixed bag, pairing stunning visuals with a sometimes-flabby narrative. However, despite its sprawl, COIE ended up with a definite structure. The first four issues deal with a mysterious antimatter onslaught which destroys whole universes, apparently including the familiar Earth-One and Earth-Two. The final page of Issue 4 is nothing but black “smoke” clearing away, revealing blank white space. Issues 5 and 6 offer vignettes on the five surviving universes, as time periods intersect in “warp zones” and ordinary people see multiversal counterparts of departed loved ones. Issues 7 and 8 are, to put it bluntly, the Big Death issues, with Supergirl saving her cousin from the Anti-Monitor and the Barry Allen Flash destroying Anti-M’s latest doomsday weapon. Issues 9 and 10 feature the “Villain War” and a two-pronged time-travel assault on Anti-M’s efforts. That ends with a shattered, otherwise “blank” comics panel, as the Spectre wrestles Anti-M for control of history itself — and issues 11 and 12 feature the heroes of a new, singular universe fighting a final battle against the Anti-Monitor. Today’s decompressed (and sometimes decentralized) Big Events focus more on character moments and slow burns, and more often than not they don’t have to streamline fifty years of continuity, but Crisis remains a model for just how big an Event can be.
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