With the end of Geoff Johns’ tenure on Green Lantern and Grant Morrison’s upcoming farewell to Batman, a fan’s thoughts turn naturally to other extended runs. Marv Wolfman wrote almost every issue of New (Teen) Titans from the title’s 1980 preview through its final issue in 1995. Cary Bates wrote The Flash fairly steadily from May 1971′s Issue 206 through October 1985′s first farewell to Barry Allen (Issue 350). Gerry Conway was Justice League of America’s regular writer for over seven years, taking only a few breaks from February 1978′s Issue 151 through October 1986′s Issue 255.
However, in these days of shorter stays, I wanted to examine some of the runs that, despite their abbreviated nature, left lasting impressions. At first this might sound rather simple. After all, there are plenty of influential miniseries-within-series, like “Batman: Year One” or “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?,” where a special creative team comes in to tell a particular story. Instead, sometimes a series’ regular creative team will burn brightly, but just too quickly, leaving behind a longing for what might have been.
A good example of this is found in Detective Comics #469-76, written by Steve Englehart, penciled by Marshall Rogers and inked by Terry Austin (after Walt Simonson penciled and Al Milgrom inked issues 469-70). Reprinted in the out-of-print Batman: Strange Apparitions paperback, and more recently (sans Simonson/Milgrom) in the hardcover Legends of the Dark Knight: Marshall Rogers, these issues introduced Silver St. Cloud, Rupert Thorne, Dr. Phosphorus and the “Laughing Fish,” featured classic interpretations of Hugo Strange, the Penguin and the Joker, and revamped Deadshot into the high-tech assassin he remains today. Tying all these threads together is Bruce Wayne’s romance with Silver, which for my money is the Bat-books’ version of Casablanca. It’s the kind of much-discussed run that seems like it should have been longer. Indeed, I suspect it’s one of the shorter runs in CSBG’s Top 100 list.
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Graphic novels | The top-selling graphic novel in bookstores in February was the 60th volume of Naruto, according to Nielsen BookScan; four other manga made the chart as well. Actually, it’s an interestingly eclectic mix, with eight volumes of The Walking Dead, the first volume of Saga, Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, and Chris Ware’s Building Stories making the list, as well as The Book of Revelation from religious publisher Zondervan. Marvel was entirely absent, but two of DC’s New 52 collections appearing. [ICv2]
Comics | Former DC Comics President Paul Levitz talks about the new edition of 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Myth-Making, which has been broken out into five volumes and expanded to include more art and an additional creator interview in every volume; the first volume, The Golden Age of DC Comics, is out now. Levitz also touches on the history of the company, the importance of characters, and the impact of young readers on the early comics: “It wasn’t adults tending to what they wanted their child to read or libraries selecting. It was the kids of America who said I love Uncle Scrooge as its done by Carl Barks, I love the Superman comics that are coming from Mort Weisinger’s team at DC, I love the Marvel comics that Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko are creating. And they really got to choose those things that became trendsetters in the culture and ultimately leading to the massive success of the superhero movies in more recent years.” [Complex Art + Design]
Welcome to the very last Food or Comics. Next week our new-release picks will take a different format, but this week we’re still talking about what comics we’d buy at our local 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.
Let’s be honest, if I had $15, I’d make sure that Batman Incorporated #8 (DC Comics, $2.99) was first on my list. Not because of any controversy — I’ve been enjoying the series all along — but because I’d be worried it’d sell out if I waited. I’d also grab two Dynamite books: Jennifer Blood #23 and Masks #4 (both $3.99); Al Ewing has done just insane, amazing things on the former, and the Chris Roberson/Dennis Calero team on the latter is just killing it.
If I had $30, I’d find myself time traveling to all the weeks prior in which I didn’t use all $30 to borrow a dollar from past-me, just so that I could get Showcase Presents Justice League of America, Vol. 6 (DC Comics, $19.99), which takes the series firmly into the 1970s and brings the team face to face with villains including the Shaggy Man, Amazo and countless other favorites of my childhood.
Should I have some splurging left in me after that nostalgia-fest, I’d likely go for the Judge Anderson: PSI Files, Vol. 3 collection (Rebellion, $32.99), which picks the series up just after I’d dropped off the 2000AD radar for awhile, and hopefully gives me the chance to get back into the character, now that I am firmly into Thrill Power again.
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.”
I debated about whether to include the current Worlds’ Finest as part of this project. According to the rules I set up for myself, I was only going to cover comics that were named after their female leads. I decided that because Birds of Prey was an all-female team, that would qualify, but for a lot of fans, Worlds’ Finest conjures images of Batman and Superman, not Huntress and Power Girl. Then I looked at the book’s actual logo. Although the official name of the comic is Worlds’ Finest, you can’t tell that by looking at the cover. It looks the way I’ve written it in the title of this post: Huntress/Power Girl: Worlds’ Finest. That qualifies, as far as I’m concerned.
But is it any good?
Worlds’ Finest corrects the biggest problem I had with its predecessor Huntress, also written by Paul Levitz. That miniseries had some fun stuff in it, but my complaint was that it wasn’t really about anything other than Stop That Generic Villain. The Huntress could have been switched out for any other hero without changing the story in a meaningful way. In Worlds’ Finest, Levitz makes the comic about his two heroes. As much as being about fighting bad guys, this is the story of Huntress and Power Girl’s friendship and their attempt to adjust to the new world they’ve landed in. That’s a huge improvement.
As a reflection of that, there’s a lot of banter between the two women. Unfortunately, it’s not up to the standard for that kind of thing set by Gail Simone on Birds of Prey. I’m tempted to let Levitz off the hook for not being able to perfectly replicate what worked about Black Canary and Oracle, but I don’t know if I should. As much as I realize it’s not completely fair, it’s also impossible to read Huntress and Power Girl’s quipping without comparing it to the easy relationship in Simone’s series. Black Canary and Oracle felt like real friends and their conversations felt like a natural part of their relationship. Huntress and Power Girl call each other “BFF” and say things like, “You go, girl.” I appreciate the effort, but even without the Birds of Prey comparison, their dialogue doesn’t feel real.
Creators | Alan Moore will make a rare convention appearance in September — his first in 25 years, according to this article — at the inaugural Northants International Comics Expo in Northamptonshire, England. To attend Moore’s hour-long talk on writing comics or the hour-long question-and-answer session, convention-goers are required to donate graphic novels to the Northamptonshire Libraries, which will have a table at the event. [Stumptown Trade Review]
Creators | Mark Waid gets the NPR treatment, as Noah J. Nelson interviews him about his digital comics initiatives. “I got news for you: I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and this is the hardest writing I’ve ever had to do,” Waid says of creating digital comics. [NPR]
Publishing | Abrams ComicArts editorial director Charles Kochman discusses the publisher’s spring lineup, which will include William Stout’s Legends of the Blues, Darryl Cunningham’s What the Frack, a history of Bazooka Joe comics, and a Will Eisner artbook written by Paul Levitz. [ICv2]
Passings | Dr. Scott Henson, who retired from a career as a neurosurgeon and became a cartoonist, has died at the age of 52. Henson, who treated Superman actor Christopher Reeve after his fall, took up the pen after his health problems forced him to leave the medical field and created the panel cartoon Natural Selection under the pen name Russ Wallace. The cartoon was picked up by Creators Syndicate and syndicated nationwide. [The Charleston Gazette]
Publishing | Deb Aoki provides a thorough analysis of Tokyopop’s Anime Expo panel, in which the once-shuttered manga publisher announced a new title and hinted at more. [About.com]
Creators | Paul Levitz discusses Worlds’ Finest, his buddy comic featuring Power Girl and Huntress: “There’s always been a certain level of humor and cool confidence in a light way associated with Power Girl that’s been fun, and the Huntress has always been the more determined of the women in the DC Universe — a woman with a sense of mission and a crossbow ready to take your eye out. [USA Today]
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, where each week we detail what comics and other stuff have been on our reading piles. Our special guest today is David Harper, associate editor over at the recently redesigned Multiversity Comics.
To see what David and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
DC Comics released four of the six “New 52 Second Wave” titles this past week, making it hard to choose what to focus on this week … so I figured I wouldn’t. Instead, here are round-ups of reviews for all four titles: Earth 2 #1 by James Robinson, Nicola Scott, Trevor Scott and Alex Sinclair; Dial H #1 by China Miéville, Mateus Santolouco, Tany Horie and Richard Horie; World’s Finest #1 by Paul Levitz, George Pérez, Scott Koblish, Kevin Maguire, Hi-Fi and Rosemary Cheetham; and G.I. Combat #1 by J.T. Krul, Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Ariel Olivetti and Dan Panosian.
Keith Callbeck, Comicosity: “The multiverse returns! To fanfare or dread, depending on how you feel about pre-Crisis DC. But this is not your parents’ Earth 2. Completely reimagined by James Robinson, the creator most responsible for bringing the JSA back to the DCU with his series Golden Age, this Earth 2 is a world recovering from war. The story feels like a really good Elseworlds book (which Golden Age was as well) and not a What If…? type tale, though that element exists.The heroes of Earth 2 have existed for much longer than the five years of Earth Prime. When the parademons attack, paralleling the first arc of Johns’ Justice League, it is a much more mature Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman there to battle them.”
For fans of DC’s various Multiverses, this has turned into a big week. Action Comics vol. 2 #9 offers Earth-23, while the new Earth 2 and Worlds’ Finest series center around the latest take on Earth-2.
First, though, a nitpicky note. As usual with DC’s cosmologies, things can get confusing quickly, so here are some helpful definitions. The Infinite Multiverse refers to DC’s classic Multiverse, which saw its last big hurrah in Crisis On Infinite Earths. Worlds of the Infinite Multiverse have their number-tags spelled out, as with Earth-One and Earth-Two. (The Infinite Multiverse also had some letter-tagged worlds.) The 52 Earths refers to the Multiverse revealed in 2006′s 52 #52. Its worlds are tagged only with numerals, as with Earth-2 and Earth-51. There is the Earth One series of graphic novels, with which we are not concerned. Finally, there is the Current Multiverse, which may in fact still be the 52 Earths, and which apparently follows the same naming conventions. I will try hard to avoid getting into a discussion which dwells on these distinctions.
Now then …
These three issues each take different perspectives on the parallel-world concept. Earth 2 #1 lays out the rough recent history of the parallel world and introduces us to its major players. Similarly, all of Action #9 takes place on Earth-23, although it’s part of the background of Grant Morrison’s larger Superman work. Earth-2 in Worlds’ Finest #1 is background as well, since it’s part of the main characters’ shared backstory, but not a place with which they currently interact. Accordingly, I liked each of these introductory issues on their own merits, because I thought each did what it needed to within those particular contexts.
SPOILERS FOLLOW for Earth 2 #1, Worlds’ Finest #1, and Action Comics vol. 2 #9.
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?
If you work in the industry for as number of years, you’re bound to gather a number of unique artifacts from your time spent. People have been delighted in recent weeks with Tom Brevoort’s “The Marvel Age of Comics” Tumblr showcasing the editor’s collection of original art and assorted oddities, and now The Hero Initiative is partnering with a Florida gallery to show off one-of-a-kind printer’s proofs for covers collected by renowned editor Julius Schwartz during his 42-year tenure at DC Comics.
Titled “Proof of Heroes,” the exhibit at Bear & Bird Boutique + Gallery will feature nearly 300 comic book cover printer’s proofs from 1964 to 1974. These printer’s proofs were sent to Schwartz for final approval before going to press, and features artwork from such comics legends as Nick Cardy, Neal Adams, Mike Kaluta and Carmine Infantino. The exhibit is set to run from Jan. 20 to March 3 at Bear & Bird’s Lauderhill, Florida, location, just above the comic store Tate’s. On Jan. 21, DC icons Paul Levitz, George Perez and Alex Saviuk will be on hand from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. for a signing, followed by a reception from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The printer’s proofs will be available for just $100 each (certificate of authenticity included). All proceeds benefit The Hero Initiative.
Publishing | Four months in, the DC Comics relaunch seems to be a success. The most recent sales figures show Justice League #1 selling more than 360,000 copies since August, and Batman #1 and Action Comics #1 selling more than 250,000. By contrast, Marvel’s strongest seller was Ultimate Spider-Man #160, which was in the 160,000-copy neighborhood. These figures seem to reflect sales in the direct market only; it would be interesting to see how many digital copies have been sold. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Awards | Nominations are open for this year’s Eagle Awards. [Eagle Awards]
Retailing | San Francisco retailer Brian Hibbs shares the top-selling graphic novels in his store for 2011, by units and by dollars. [Savage Critics]
Retailing | Christopher Butcher looks back on the events of the past year in the comics store he manages, Toronto’s The Beguiling. [The Beguiling blog]
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.
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, I’d be a judicious comics buyer and pick the top four out of over 20 titles I’d want this week. DC/Vertigo makes it slightly easier by making the new Brian Azzarello/Eduardo Risso joint Spaceman #1 only $1. This dollar price point for first issues combined with the $9.99 price point they sometimes do for the first volume of comic trade paperbacks surely gets a lot of traction. Next up I’d get Jason Aaron’s new era of the X-Men in Wolverine & X-Men #1 (Marvel, $3.99) with Chris Bachalo. I’d also get my regular pulls of DMZ #70 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99) and The Walking Dead #90 (Image, $2.99) and last–but first in my stack to read-–would be Secret Avengers #18 (Marvel, $3.99). I hear some Ellis guy is writing it, but the big draw for me is artist David Aja. His Iron Fist run is one of my top favs in comics in the past ten years, and he’s a titan in my book.