INTERVIEW: "Batgirl and the Birds of Prey" Hunt Rebirth's Oracle
So here we are, the last week of the New 52 rollout, and I must say it’s been a fascinating — sometimes exhausting — ride. It’ll be good to get back to more normal posting next week, but I have enjoyed these marathon stream-of-consciousness reviews. Although DC has said over and over that these books are all part of the same revised universe, there are so many different styles and approaches on display (The early ‘90s! The mid- to late ‘90s!) that the line seems a lot more heterogeneous than it did five weeks ago.
Moreover, the realization that these books are the new status quo is only now starting to sink in. Overall it’s a good feeling, but bittersweet too. After all, I had 25 years to get used to the last line-wide revampings.
SPOILERS FOLLOW, as always.
Comics | Dismayed by the portrayal of Catwoman in DC Comics’ relaunched series, Alyssa Rosenberg of ThinkProgress asks whether feminists are wasting their time in hoping and lobbying for better portrayals of women in mainstream superhero comics. While she understands the desire to walk away, the decides in the end “it’s worth it to keep nudging”: “… Even if the industry doesn’t change, there should be voices in the background when folks read these books pointing out their problems. The key is getting folks who really just want to see, say, Catwoman bang Batman and nothing else to hear those critiques and to find a way to engage with them constructively, which is really, profoundly difficult. But I’d rather live in a world where people who don’t want to hear the works they like criticized have to work to shut them out, rather than leaving them to relax into the blissful sounds of silence.”
At The Atlantic, Noah Berlatsky points out that not all comics are like Catwoman or Red Hood and the Outlaws, and recommends some alternatives. Meanwhile, Tom Foss jokingly suggests that the “new” Starfire is merely replacing longtime New Teen Titans creeper Terry Long. [ThinkProgress, The Atlantic]
Whether by accident or design, this week was dominated by female leads (four, not including Starfire in Red Hood) and Bat-titles (four including RH; five if you count Birds Of Prey). It is tempting to say the woman-led titles ran the gamut of experiences from A to D, but thankfully it is a little more complicated than that. As you might expect, the week produced issues of varying quality, although I found something to like about each one. Sometimes it was harder to find that one thing, though….
Naturally, SPOILERS FOLLOW.
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In theory, the DC Universe Presents anthology has a longer lease on life because its sales can’t be judged fairly on the basis of only one arc. I suppose that, given Deadman’s relationship with one of Hawk & Dove’s headliners, that book’s readers might be interested in this one. By and large, though, the audience for this title is made up either of DC stalwarts waiting for a good Obscure Character X story, or (less likely, I’d say) impulse buyers. Such an approach might have been a great way to introduce a totally new character within the context of the New 52, and piggyback that feature on the rest of the relaunch’s popularity — but I’m not surprised DC chose Deadman, fresh off Brightest Day.
It was the strangest thing — when I woke up this morning I was younger, single, and most of my clothes had high collars and funky seams….
Okay, let’s cut that out right now. Don’t worry, I’m still middle-aged and married, with the same beat-up wardrobe. However, I have read all but one of this week’s New-52 books, and now I get to share them with you. (The local comics shop got shorted on Batwing #1, which is too bad, because as one of the few sort-of new concepts being offered, I was especially looking forward to it. Next week for sure!) Generally I thought most had at least some potential, and I was mostly impressed with the efforts the various creative teams made. Of course, that doesn’t mean I liked everything, but I did like more than I thought I would.
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Legal | A Michigan judge on Monday denied a defense motion to dismiss the murder case against former retailer and convention organizer Michael George, who will now stand trial a second time in the 1990 shooting death of his first wife Barbara. His trial is set to begin Sept. 7. George, 51, was convicted in 2008 of killing his wife in their Clinton Township comic book store. However, later that year Macomb County Circuit Judge James M. Biernat set aside the conviction based on claims of prosecutorial misconduct and the emergence of new evidence that might have resulted in a different verdict. [The Detroit News]
Comic strips | On Sept. 11, the Sunday comics pages will mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11 as 93 strips from six syndicates participate in “Cartoonists Remember 9/11.” After publication, the strips will be collected at CartoonistsRemember911.com. [USA Today]
Education | Updating Monday’s report about rising waters in White River Junction, Vermont, imperiling The Center for Cartoon Studies’ Schulz Library, Director James Sturm says that while the building was seriously damaged, thanks to the efforts of students, staff and alumni, not a single book was lost. Cartoonist Jen Vaughn, meanwhile, details the rescue, with accompanying photos. [The Comics Reporter, The Beat]
As insufferably precious as Sara Varon’s comics can seem at first glance, they’re frequently suffused with a melancholy that belies their outward cutie-pie nature. Most of her books deal with the tricky nature of friendship, both our essential human need for connection and companionship and also how we often define our own identity through our contact with others. She rarely sugarcoats these relationships, either — Robot Dreams had a rather nasty betrayal at its focal point after all. That all can seem like heady stuff for an all-ages book, but Varon smartly refuses to delve too deep into psychology blather, preferring to keep the actions and visuals as simple and self-explanatory as possible.
Publishers | DC Comics have released details on the midnight release of Flashpoint #5 and Justice League #1 on Aug. 31. The publisher is offering a free over-ship of Flashpoint #5 for retailers who order 125 percent of their order for Flashpoint #1, and the publisher has noted that that these are the only two DC titles shipping that week that can be sold at midnight. The promotion is only available to U.S. and Canadian accounts; due to the Aug. 29 bank holiday, the midnight sale option will not be available to UK retailers. [ICv2]
Legal | Michael Dean looks at the recent ruling by New York federal judge Colleen McMahon that the family of Jack Kirby has no claim to the copyrights of the characters he co-created for Marvel. Dean notes, “Some legal observers were expecting Marvel to be the second major comics-publisher domino to fall when Toberoff filed on behalf of the Kirbys, but there is a key difference between Kirby’s comics work and Siegel’s: It was well established that Superman already existed as a full-blown character concept before Siegel and Joe Shuster pitched him to DC, whereas Kirby, who died in 1994, did most if not all of his Marvel work on assignment from the publisher. In the case of work for hire, the Copyright Act defines the instigating employer/publisher as the Author of the work.” [The Comics Journal]
Publishing | Charlaine Harris, author of the “Sookie Stackhouse” novels on which HBO’s True Blood is based, says that after she finishes the last two “Sookie” books, she plans to work on a graphic novel with Christopher Golden. “I’m very excited about that. It’s called Cemetery Girl with Christopher Golden, and it’s a very exciting opportunity.” Harris had mentioned wanting to do a novel called Cemetery Girl back in 2009, about “a girl raised by ghosts in a cemetery,” but put it on hold when she found out the plot was similar to Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.
Based on the description in the news report, it sounds like the story has been tweaked, as it says the graphic novel “centers on a woman who finds herself living in a cemetery with no memory of her past but a clear sense of a mysterious threat hanging over her.” This isn’t the first time Harris’ characters have found their way into comics, as IDW publishes comics based on HBO’s True Blood, and an adaptation of her Grave Sight novels has been published by Dynamite. [NBC San Diego]
Publishing | Former Marvel Comics editor and Transformers writer John Barber has joined IDW Publishing as a senior editor. IDW also announced the promotion of Tom Waltz to the company’s first senior staff writer position, in addition to his duties as editor, and the expansion of the company’s book department with longtime IDW employee Alonzo Simon becoming an assistant editor. [press release]
Retailing | Although the 14th volume of The Walking Dead wasn’t released until June 21, it still managed to secure the No. 2 spot on BookScan’s list of graphic novels sold in bookstores that month, behind the 51st volume of Naruto. It’s the ninth consecutive month that at least one volume of the horror series has appeared in the BookScan Top 20, a run that began as marketing geared up for the AMC television adaptation. [ICv2.com]
Publishing | Darwyn Cooke has announced that the release of Parker: The Martini Edition will be postponed for a few months, and takes full responsibility for the delay. The book is now scheduled to debut at the Long Beach Comic Con in October [Almost Darwyn Cooke’s Blog]
Publishing | John Jackson Miller looks at the history of comics numbering, which he traces back to dime novels of the 19th and early 20th centuries: “Comics are anomalous in American magazine publishing because most comics don’t use volume numbers and issue numbers that roll over ever year; rather, the numbers keep on going. In that, our numbering is much like that used for the cheap, disposable fiction of the earlier days.” [The Comichron]
The big-budget adaptation of Green Lantern is a fairly entertaining popcorn movie with a stentorian beginning, a strong finish, and a middle section which feels about a half-hour longer than it actually is. That’s not entirely unwelcome, because GL’s leads are charming when they need to be and engaging otherwise. Ryan Reynolds makes a good Hal Jordan, Blake Lively comes across pretty well as Carol Ferris, Mark Strong stands out as Sinestro, and Peter Skaarsgard plays Hector Hammond effectively as a misfit-turned-skeevy-sociopath.
Unfortunately, this is not director Martin Campbell’s best genre film, falling short of both the brisk, precise Bond reinvention Casino Royale (2005) and the clever, nimble Mask Of Zorro (1998). Even so, Green Lantern is an ambitious attempt to bring the comics’ fusion of space opera and Earthbound superheroics to a general audience, and for the most part it succeeds.
Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, the latest foray in Warner Brothers’ collection of straight-to-DVD animated movies, is a tired collection of military cliches interspersed with some impressive fight scenes. Words like honor, sacrifice and bravery get batted around like a well-used hacky sack at a Grateful Dead concert, but to little effect, other than to remind you that there’s a big screen, live-action movie starring Ryan Reynolds that will be coming out in theaters any day now.
Written by Cullen Bunn and Shawn Lee; Illustrated by Matt Kindt
Equal parts Hellboy and Hulk, The Tooth is the story of a young man named Graham Stone who inherits a spooky old estate from his grandfather, Ezekiel. While looking over the place, Graham discovers a room full of “occult esoterica,” a collection of dangerous artifacts that Grandpa Zeke spent a lifetime accumulating. Unfortunately, Graham doesn’t understand how unsafe the stuff really is and grabs an amulet designed to control a mystical, yellow tooth.
Who does understand the significance of the collection is Caleb King, evil mage and one-time arch-nemesis to the late Ezekiel Stone. But when King gets rough with Graham, the supernatural tooth forms a humanoid body and grows to fightin’ size in order to protect his new… well, “master” doesn’t seem like the right word, but the relationship between Graham and the Tooth is hard to define.
Graham doesn’t command the Tooth, but it is attached to him, sometimes quite literally. In between battles with King’s monsters, the Tooth shrinks down and implants itself in Graham’s gums. Graham acts as a reluctant host for the creature who in turn defends the young man. The relationship between the mild-mannered protagonist and the uncontrollable monster brings classic Hulk comics to mind, while the Tooth’s occult origins and the evil wizard who seeks to exploit them are reminiscent of Hellboy.
by Yuichi Yokoyama
Picturebox, 320 pages, $24.95.
It might seem odd at first glance to describe Yuichi Yokoyama’s work as dynamic, given his minimalist, antiseptic style that edges ever so closely to outright abstraction without ever crossing the line. Yet a close inspection of his work, particularly his latest book, Garden, shows what an utterly apt adjective it is. Nothing of significance ever happens in Yokoyama’s world, at least not in the sense we think of it when talking about narrative. There’s precious little plot per se, no threats or crisis, and no character development to speak of. Yet everything is in constant motion, in constant flux, if not already transforming then ready to be transformed into something else or at least be moved about. No one stands still in Garden, and their actions are depicting in tight close ups, off-kilter worm’s-eye-views or panoramic vistas. He’s Jack Kirby without the bombast or violence.
Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths
by Shigeru Mizuki
Drawn and Quarterly, 368 pages, $24.95.
Disclaimer: At the request of the publisher, I wrote a letter of recommendation when they were applying for a grant from a nonprofit organization to aid in the publication and promotion of this book.
Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is nothing less than a spit in the face of militarism, war and feudal attitudes. It is an angry book, but it doesn’t shriek its indignation, though the temptation certainly seems to be there. There are few histrionics on display or scenes of outright, explicit condemnation. Rather, the book is content to let the general inhumanity on display speak for itself.
Creating a comic book version of Planet of the Apes is a proposition fraught with danger. It’s been a long time since Mr. Comics’ Revolution on the Planet of the Apes, so I don’t remember if I quit reading it because I didn’t like it or if I decided to wait for a collected edition that never came. I do remember liking Salgood Sam’s art on it, but being disappointed that it was a bridge between Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and Battle for the Planet of the Apes, the two films in the series that I’ve never seen. I haven’t seen them partly because they’re not generally regarded as any good, but also because – as prequels to the original PotA film – they cover a time period that I’m not all that interested in. While intellectually I’m curious to see how the world of PotA came to be, I’d much rather see adventure stories set in the world of the first movie.
BOOM!’s new series doesn’t do that exactly, but it gets awfully close and ends up presenting something that I didn’t realize I wanted, but really do. Set long after Battle for the Planet of the Apes, BOOM!’s comic shows readers a time in which apes and humans are technically equal, but bigotry towards humans and an imbalance of power in favor of the apes have created a tense situation. That doesn’t sound all that different from the last couple of movies in the series, but it is in at least one important way. Where Conquest and Battle were set more or less on then-contemporary Earth (or that’s the impression I gathered from reading Revolution), enough time has passed between then and the new series that the world’s starting to look something like the original movie.
One of the coolest things about the first film was that its version of Earth was a post-apocalyptic fantasy world. So much of what made it awesome was the look of it: the apes’ costumes, the buildings; the primitive humans. It was a world ripe for exploration, which is why it’s so disappointing that the films immediately went away from that in favor of traveling to the relative mundaneness of the past; our present. BOOM!’s series is back in the fantasy world, though it looks better than any that’s been presented on screen.