Warning: There will be a good bit of “in my day” talk in this survey of DC’s February solicitations. It’s the unavoidable contradiction of the publisher’s current superhero-comics model: Make everything “new,” but tease enough of the familiar old elements to keep longtime fans interested. While this practice goes back decades in corporately run superhero comics, the New 52 has tried so hard to distinguish itself that the old ways sometimes stand in even starker contrast.
Probably my biggest frustration with Forever Evil is its limited scope. Oh, sure, every electronic device on DC-Earth says “THIS WORLD IS OURS,” and writer Geoff Johns has teased a revamped Blue Beetle and Doom Patrol — but from the three issues published already and the three more solicited, it looks to be nothing more than Luthor’s Legion of Doom (plus Batman and Catwoman) vs. the Crime Syndicate. Ho-hum. We know the three Justice Leagues are imprisoned, the Teen Titans are bouncing through time, the Suicide Squad is depleted, and Nightwing is the Crime Syndicate’s prisoner, but where are the rest of the superheroes? What happened when they presumably rose up to challenge the Syndicators?
In “By the Numbers,” ROBOT 6 takes a look back at the events of the past five days … in numbers.
With Thursday’s announcement that Neil Gaiman is returning to the Marvel Universe and bringing with him Angela, the character at the center of his eight-year legal battle with Todd McFarlane, we’re left to wonder about the whereabouts of Marvelman. We also look at the surprise departures at DC Comics, and what the right price is when you name your own.
Joshua Hale Fialkov’s resignation from Green Lantern Corps and Red Lanterns was certainly unexpected, but it wasn’t nearly as surprising as the primary reason for the writer’s departure: an editorial edict to kill off John Stewart.
To a generation of fans who came of age watching Cartoon Network’s Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, the character is Green Lantern — forget Hal Jordan, Alan Scott, Kyle Rayner and the rest. In addition, he’s perhaps DC Comics’ most recognizable African-American character, facing competition only from Static and Cyborg, each of whom also appeared on television.
ROBOT 6 reached out to the voice of Stewart himself, veteran actor and comedian Phil LaMarr, for his reaction to DC’s editorial decree.
[Note: all this was written before I read any of this week’s comics.]
As mentioned last week, part of this look back at my New 52 reading is the chance to see where I might drop some titles. Not that I want to be negative unnecessarily, but it’s always good to make sure you really like what you buy. While I do buy some books “just because,” it’s very easy simply to fall into the habit of reading the same things month in and month out, neither looking forward to them nor missing them when they’re gone.
Therefore, let’s push through some bad vibes and talk about a couple of books I let drift away. Besides Superboy (covered last week), there was Red Lanterns (written by Peter Milligan, penciled by Ed Benes) and Grifter (written by Nathan Edmondson, penciled by CAFU). Originally I liked Red Lanterns because I thought it had recast Atrocitus as a distracted middle-management type, questioning his place in the universe while his functionaries went down their own demented paths. However, as the months went by the series never really built up any momentum, and for a premise based around the blood-spewing power of RAGE!!!1!! that’s not so good. Much the same applies to Grifter: thought it had potential, but it didn’t hold my interest.
Legal | Neil Gaiman comments briefly on the settlement agreement that ends his decade-long legal dispute with Todd McFarlane over Medieval Spawn, Angela and Cogliostro, and a handful of derivative characters: “The main thing is, I feel like an awful lot of good things have come out of it. … I think the various decisions, particularly the [Judge] Posner decision, were huge in terms of what the nature of dual copyright in comics is. What is copyrightable in comics is now something that there is a definite legal precedent for. There were a lot of things that were … misty in copyright [law] that are now much clearer. And it’s of benefit to the creator.”
While the details of the settlement are confidential, it’s known that Gaiman and McFarlane now share ownership of Spawn #9 and #26, as well as the first three issues of an Angela spin-off series. [Comic Riffs]
Publishing | IDW’s Chief Operating Officer Greg Goldstein attributes a bump in the company’s September sales to several factors, including DC’s big relaunch: “The reality is the DC New 52 brought some people into comic book stores that hadn’t been in comic stores for a while, and we had the opportunity to sell them some of our books as well as the other books that are available to them. But clearly, people who had not been focused on comics came out of the woodwork a bit.” It didn’t hurt that IDW had its own launches of properties familiar to those outside of comics, including the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, an ongoing Star Trek series and the Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes crossover. [ICv2]
Legal | A Belgian judicial adviser has recommended that the nation’s courts reject a four-year-old bid by a Congolese student to have Herge’s 1931 Tintin in the Congo banned, or at least restricted, because of its racist depictions. The recommendation is being viewed as a major setback for the case, as the opinion of the Procureur du Roi (Senior Crown prosecutor) is requested and typically followed by the court. [The Guardian]
This week, I count at least five New-52 books picking up pretty much where they left off. Chief among these are Green Lantern and Red Lanterns; followed by Batwoman, which was supposed to come out months ago. Batman and Robin keeps its previously-announced regular creative team, and Legion Lost spins out of the pre-existing Legion of Super-Heroes. Overall I thought this week was pretty strong, but there were a few clunkers, including at least one book which really disappointed.
Just think — after this week, we’re more than halfway done…!
SPOILERS FOLLOW, but not too many.
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Here’s a quick review of DC’s Red Lantern Corps concept, introduced by Geoff Johns and company in 2007: Long ago, The Guardians of the Universe created an android army to police all of an existence, but a glitch in their programming caused them to commit genocide in “Sector 666,” killing all of the billions who lived there save five. These five formed a terrorist cell, and eventually one of them, named Atrocitus, killed the other four and used the power of his anger and need for revenge to form the Red Lantern Corps.
They wield the red energy of rage, and becoming a Red Lantern involves expelling all of the blood in the body, replacing the beating heart with the ring itself, and then pumping a sort of gory, acidic, liquid energy through the veins, which is often spit and vomited out as a weapon.
If you’ve only a passing familiarity with Green Lantern comics, the Red Lanterns are the characters you see puking blood on the covers.
So, perfect for little kids, right?
One might not think so, but artist Art Baltazar seems to have developed a knack for turning some of the modern DC Universe’s least all-ages concept into kid-friendly gold, as he demonstrates monthly in his Tiny Titans comic (Wherein Dr. Light is a science teacher, Deathstroke a elementary school principal and all the minor Titans characters brutally murdered in the pages of Teen Titans live in perfect harmony).
Baltazar gets his drawing hands on Red Lantern Dex-Starr, The Red Lantern who is also a house cat, in Super Hero Splash Down, one of the DC Super-Pets line of heavily-illustrated prose books for younger readers (Each are about 50 pages long, consist of three chapters, and have big, comic book sound effects embedded in the paragraphs, making for fun books to read aloud).
Although it seems like DC’s big relaunch announcement came out an eternity ago, it actually took the publisher less than two weeks to roll out the 52 titles and their creative teams for the big relaunch/reboot/overhaul coming in September. Now that the cats are out of their respective bags, I thought I’d see where various creators and characters will land after the reboot.
So I went back through DC’s August solicitations to see who was writing or drawing what, and tried to map everyone to their post-relaunch project — if they had one. However, looking at DC’s August solicitations, there seem to be several fill-in issues, so where appropriate I tried to map the most recent ongoing creative teams to their new projects (for instance, I consider Gail Simone and Jesus Saiz the regular creative team for Birds of Prey, even if they aren’t doing the last two issues before September hits). Keep in mind that I just went through the ongoing series and skipped over all the miniseries … of which there are a lot, what with Flashpoint winding up in August.
It’s also worth noting that although several creators didn’t appear in the “big 52″ announcements, that doesn’t mean their tenure with DC is necessarily over — some, like Frazer Irving, have said they have future projects that haven’t been announced. So I tried to note where creators have talked publicly about their post-relaunch plans with DC (or lack thereof, as the case may be). The same could probably be said for some of DC’s characters as well. Or, as Gail Simone said on Twitter: “Again, September is NOT THE END. There’s still plans for characters that we haven’t seen yet.”
So let’s get to it ….
Wow, DC Comics has returned from the holiday break with a vengeance. On its multiple blogs and here on CBR, the publisher has unleashed a veritable avalanche of announcements and initiatives for 2011.
Topping the list is the announcement, first mentioned by DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson and then expanded upon by Jim Lee, that DC will be holding the $2.99 price point across its line for all standard format ongoing series from both the DC Universe and Vertigo.
Meanwhile, PR guru David Hyde unveiled the return of letters pages to DC’s comics, presumably in the place of the current DC Nation column. Letters will be collected from both snail-mail submissions and messages submitted to the publisher’s new DCLettersPage.com website.