INTERVIEW: "Batgirl and the Birds of Prey" Hunt Rebirth's Oracle
Winter finally caught up with the Memphis suburbs over the past couple of weeks, bringing nasty bouts with freezing rain and (currently) a little snow. Digging out from under the ice has been more tedious than anything else, but the persistent cold kept us all housebound for a little while. Of course, compared to folks in other parts of the country, we are very lucky.
Still, the mere idea of days at home with nothing else to do made me want to search the DC archives on comiXology for decent binge-reading material. Everything from the New 52 forward is available there, so the following recommendations are for older series. I’ve tried to stay away from the bigger names, and go instead for stories and series which might make the time indoors a little more tolerable. They’re also organized according to Convergence eras, so even if you’re not coping with the cold, you can still look forward to April and May.
As the reviews editor for Comic Book Resources, I accumulate a lot of collected editions. For better or worse, trade-waiting has become a part of the comics landscape, but it’s easy to tell when a collection rises above the pack. Whether it’s through superior craftsmanship, incredible bonus material, attention to the little details or a combination of all three, there are always a few trades that rise to the top, and make for an enjoyable reading experience and a fantastic display piece.
Thus, here are a few of my favorite collected editions of 2014, factoring in the strength of the original material, and what makes the collection worth picking up for those that might already own the single issues — ranging from budget-conscious trades up through the incredibly pricey omnibus editions.
This will not be a post about how Saga is awesome. I’ve written 30 of those already. No thrilling over Lying Cat here, no desperation for the next issue, none of my hopes to see The Will return to action or for [SPOILER] to [SPOILER] and [SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER].
Nor will I lose my cool over the fact that, right now, my bookshelf contains two excellent and weird and hilarious China Mieville (China Mieville!)-penned trades of Dial H, complete with blink-and-you’ll-miss-‘em anti-MPAA digs. Or that Neil Gaiman, in the – yikes — almost two decades since I picked up my first Sandman trade, has evolved from Sensational Comic Book Writer Neil Gaiman to MechaGaiman, Devourer of Worlds, Savior of Publishing and Champion of Art. Or that Genevieve Valentine is writing Catwoman!
I won’t flip out about The Wicked + The Divine or Chew or either Marvel, Ms. or Captain.
There’s no solicitation for Justice League 3000 in November, and it’s not hard to imagine why. Reworking a first issue from scratch, with a new artist and what sounds like a new tone, undoubtedly isn’t something even one of the Big Two can do on short notice. Instead, DC Comics goes back to the Bat-well both for November’s only new series, and to goose the sales of various superhero titles.
As always, though, there’s enough in the new batch of solicitations to keep us busy this week — so without further ado …
ALWAYS BET ON BLACK
Apparently “Zero Year” will include a “Blackout In Gotham” plot point that can stretch into a dozen other DC titles, including non-Bat-books like Action Comics, Green Arrow, Green Lantern Corps and The Flash. This makes a certain degree of sense, as it takes place back in the “before-time” of the George W. Bush administration, before the various superhero jurisdictions were established, so you’d expect someone like Superman to take a road trip if he thought Gotham needed him. However, thanks largely to this being Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman, the blackout — which, as far as I can tell, would otherwise be just one part of one title’s flashback storyline — ends up involving more books than DC’s actual line-wide Big Event, Forever Evil. The latter includes the eponymous miniseries, three ancillary miniseries and the three Justice League books, but only two other ongoing series (Teen Titans and Suicide Squad, each of which has been tied into 4EVEv since it started). The total is “Zero Year” 13, Forever Evil 9, and almost half of the latter’s score is miniseries. Personally, I don’t mind a discrete Big Event, and I’m not surprised that DC would exploit “Zero Year.” I’m just a little surprised at how heavily it seems to be relying on “Zero Year” in November.
No small amount of drama accompanies the March solicitations, thanks to Gail Simone’s unexpected dismissal from Batgirl. There’s also turnover at Swamp Thing and Birds of Prey, potential clues to the end of “Death of the Family,” and the usual I-remember-this! commentary on collections.
FOLLOW THE BOUNCING BALL
The big stories are the departures of Simone from Batgirl and Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette from Swamp Thing. It seems particularly odd in Simone’s case because it leaves the fate of Batgirl’s current antagonist in the hands of a different writer. Maybe that means Simone’s original plans for him didn’t go over particularly well with DC, or maybe it’s something totally unrelated. Either way, looks like it’ll be at least another month (in January’s Issue 16, her last issue) before we learn anything significant. At any rate, Ray Fawkes writes two issues of Batgirl starting with Issue 18.
As of March, Jim Zubkavich is your new Birds of Prey writer, Andy Kubert draws the lead story in Batman #18, and Trevor McCarthy draws Batwoman #18. Also, in a move that threatens to have me try out Phantom Stranger, the very fine J.M. DeMatteis comes aboard as co-writer with Issue # (guest-drawn by the equally fine Gene Ha and Zander Cannon).
Despite the considerable critical backlash, DC Comics’ Before Watchmen line of titles has become one of this summer’s top sellers, and the publisher announced at Comic-Con International that it’s revisiting the classic Sandman in a prequel written by Neil Gaiman. With that in mind, I’ve come up with six other wells the company could return to for new projects. I’m not saying they should or shouldn’t, but given recent events this might be where fans, and DC, could look next.
Happy Mother’s Day and welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? Today our special guest is Ryan Ferrier, who I spoke to a couple of weeks ago about his comic Tiger Lawyer and recently kicked off an Indie GoGo project to fund the second issue.
To see what Ryan and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
The standard format for digital comics is single issues, which can be an expensive way to read an entire story. Fortunately, more and more publishers are experimenting with digital bundles and graphic novels, and here’s the biggest one of them all: ComiXology is offering Warren Ellis and John Cassaday’s Planetary, all 633 pages/27 issues of it, for $24.99. (Unless I’m missing something, this is only available on comiXology’s Comics app, not on the DC app.) That’s quite a bargain compared to buying it one issue at a time, which would set you back almost $52 (the first issue is free), and it includes an eight-page introductory story as well.
This is where the rubber meets the road for potential digital customers. On the one hand, $24.99 is a lot of money for something that is “only” pixels on a screen; on the other hand, it’s cheaper than the print edition—even secondhand, if Amazon is any guide. This looks like it may be a trial balloon of sorts, as it is only available until July 16. One has to wonder why—hopefully DC isn’t going in for that “digital vault” stupidity. Once you put the package together, it should stay on the digital shelf forever—it’s not like you’re going to run out of books. On the other hand, having the deal end just before Comic-Con may be significant; maybe there’s something more on the way.
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, some creators have emerged as magnets for Hollywood types — and one writer in-particular has more to offer than anyone else: Warren Ellis.
Warren Ellis emerged in the late 1990s as the foremost sf writer working in comics. Starting with the seminal DC/Vertigo series Transmetropolitan and moving into his re-invention of the superhero genre with The Authority, Planetary and later Nextwave, Ellis became a rare thing — a successful writer in both the creator-owned field as well as the super-hero dominated work-for-hire mainstream. Along the way he became a prolific writer, with seemingly more graphic novels and trade paperbacks on shelves than any other comic creator. He’s produced more than 40 creator-owned series, with the recent film REDderived from the three-issue series he did with Cully Hamner. Ellis himself is no stranger to Hollywood — he’s worked on animated films for G.I. Joe, Castlevania and the upcoming anime based on Marvel’s Iron Man and Wolverine.
With such a broad and intelligent ouvre of work, Hollywood’s already lined up several more Ellis works they’d like to put on the big screen — but here are some ideas they may have not thought of (yet).
After 18 years, former Image studio and current DC Comics imprint WildStorm is shutting down this December. And as many have noted already, the house that Jim built has produced many awesome, memorable and even game-changing (to steal a phrase from Rob Liefeld) works in the last two decades.
Here are six of them that we found to be particularly awesome; let us know what we missed in the comments section.
1. Sleeper: There have been many comics that mash up superheroes with down-and-dirty genres like crime and espionage over the past decade; this may just be the best. The high concept is a gripping one: Super-spy Holden Carver is so deep undercover in an international super-criminal organization that when his one contact is placed in a coma, literally no one knows he’s secretly on the side of the angels. Carver’s predicament, the way he plays and gets played by both sides, his growing unwillingness or inability to draw the ethical lines needed to save his soul, if not his life–such is the stuff of a great crime drama. Superstar in the making Ed Brubaker brings all his talents and obsessions to the table here: his knack for crafting morally compromised characters while neither romanticizing their misdeeds nor softening them up, his recurring theme of how the secrets and sins of our pasts never truly leave us, his belief that damaged people seek out other damaged people to repair that damage, his eye for and ability to work with strong visual stylists. In this case that meant Sean Phillips, never better in his ability to believably root spectacular action and super-powers in a naturalist-noir milieu. All of this in a WildC.A.T.s spinoff, proving just how wild WildStorm was once willing to go.
Even its relatively short run redounds to its benefit: The complete story of Holden Carver is yours to own inexpensively, read easily, and ponder at your leisure. (Sean T. Collins)
Obligatory Tardiness Joke: I was going to wait a year or so to discuss Planetary #27, but you know….
Ahem. My most recent trip through the Planetary series was a couple of weeks ago, on a Sunday afternoon. I read the first two Planetary paperbacks before dinner, and finished off issues #13-26 after “Mad Men.” After years of waiting interminably between issues, it became almost compulsory for me to read the next one immediately, regardless of how late it was getting. Taken as a single extended storyline, Planetary starts slowly, but before too long has gained considerable momentum.
In what he bills as the first part of “A Planetary Restrospective,” Funnybook Babylon’s Chris Eckert goes all Nate Silver on the Warren Ellis-John Cassaday series, which concludes this week after 27 issues … and more than 10 years.
Eckert isn’t fooling around, either: He has a pie chart — one that breaks down Cassaday’s page output over the past decade. A pie chart!
Take us back to Feb. 3, 1999, the day the first issue of Planetary was released, Mr. Peabody Eckert: “Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, Geoff Johns and Greg Rucka were all newcomers to mainstream comics with a smattering of ‘Big Two’ credits between them. Mark Millar was best known in America as Grant Morrison’s writing partner. No one had heard of Bill Jemas or Dan DiDio, and when people thought of ‘comic book movies’ Batman & Robin or Spawn came to mind.”
Simpler times, indeed.
But back to the pie chart: I’m not sure what it really tells us, other than Planetary and Astonishing X-Men comprise about three-quarters of Cassaday’s interior work since 1999. Still, though, everything’s better with pie charts. And pie.