EXCL. PREVIEW: Luke Fights Boba Fett in Aaron & Cassday's "Star Wars" #6
Fans of the weekly format — like yours truly — had an interesting new comic book day. That’s because all three of DC’s weekly series concluded on Wednesday, and the publisher kicked off its next weekly series with a zero issue.
When it comes to weekly comics, the first and last issues are the most important. Weeklies have a distinct advantage over monthlies, in that readers tend to be more forgiving from issue to issue. Perhaps the art is rough, but we excuse it, because we understand the brutal deadline pressure. Perhaps the story drags and stalls, but because a new issue arrives each week, we don’t have a lot of time to dwell on the flaws — and there’s always the hope it will get better with the next installment, which, of course, is just seven days away. But when we reach the final issue, that hope is gone, and readers discover whether their investment in the story— time and money — was worthwhile.
I’m a big fan of weekly comics in general, and DC’s experiments with the format over the past decade in particular. Some of those weeklies have been among the best DC comics I’ve ever read (Wednesday Comics, 52), some have been so bad I checked out after after the first few issues (Countdown, Earth 2: World’s End), and some have fallen in between (I enjoyed Trinity, and have never hated The New 52: Futures End enough to drop it).
Batman Eternal, which published its 50th issue Wednesday, has been a great example of what’s so enjoyable about weekly comics (there’s something for you at the shop every Wednesday, they offer space for a large cast and sprawling story), in addition to providing a good blueprint for future weeklies (co-plotters, a small group of rotating scripters who also serve as consulting writers, and a focus on a single franchise), even while representing the main weakness of the format (without massive amounts of lead time, super-speedy artists or a carefully assembled roster of artists with compatible styles, the books will necessarily feature sub-par, often disjointed artwork that will only read worse in trade).
I’ve actually gotten more and more excited about Batman Eternal the longer it’s run, as there’s been a mystery to the storyline regarding the identity of the villain. On more than one occasion a villain appears who seems to fit the bill, only to be dismissed later, revealing that he’s either working for someone else, or was invited to take part in a conspiracy to destroy Batman and Gotham City by a person unknown to him.
Crime | Police have surrounded an industrial park in the town of Dammartin-en-Goele, France, 25 miles north of Paris, where the two suspects in Wednesday’s massacre at the offices of satire magazine Charlie Hebdo are believed to be hiding. Police say brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi have taken over a print shop and are holding a hostage, and have reportedly told negotiators they wish to die as martyrs. The Associated Press reports that a second, apparently linked siege at a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris is believed to involve Amedy Coulibaly, suspected of killing a police officer on Thursday. Police say he’s holding at least six hostages. [The Guardian]
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman is big in New York City. Well, huge may be more like it.
At 13th Dimension, Dan Greenfield has a gallery of photos taken over the holiday weekend at Times Square, where Google’s block-long, 8-stories-tall digital billboard — the largest in North America — ran an ad for Batman, Vol. 1: The Court of Owls (available on Google Play, naturally).
Readers and, especially, retailers may have plenty of reasons to be annoyed by Superman Unchained, the now-complete series available this week in a fancy-schmancy 350-page, slightly oversized hardcover “Deluxe Edition.”
DC Comics announced the awkwardly titled series — please note, there are no literal or metaphorical chains either going on or coming off in the story — as an ongoing, promoted with seemingly countless variant covers (more on these later). In theory, it sounded like a can’t-miss comic, featuring as it did the work of Scott Snyder, one of (if not the) most popular writers in the direct market and Jim Lee, one of (if not the) most popular artists in the direct market, working on DC’s flagship (and second-most popular) character.
In reality, the book turned out to just an nine-issue miniseries, rather important information a retailer would have taken into consideration when ordering. Whether or not it was always intended to be a miniseries, I don’t know; it reads as a complete story with a beginning, middle and end, and it fits into the New 52 continuity, but loosely enough that one need not have any idea what’s going on in any other book to follow it easily (Snyder really pulled off some great line-straddling here, as this reads equally well as part of the New 52 and as a standalone book for a new or lapsed Superman fan). The plan might have originally been for it to be ongoing, until the reality of a Lee drawing a monthly series set in.
Even at just nine issues, Superman Unchained was plagued with delays that made reading it serially something of a chump’s game. It took 15 months to publish those nine issues. That averages out to a bimonthly-ish schedule, but the delays were random and erratic: Issues 4 and 5 shipped in consecutive months, for example, and then there was a two-month delay before Issue 6, and a three-month delay before Issue 7. If there’s a more perfect argument for waiting for the trade than Superman Unchained, I’ve yet to hear it (you even get all 58 covers in this collection, some process stuff and no ads, and at $29.99 it’s cheaper than the buying all nine single issues at $3.99).
So, yes, if you’re in the business of trying to sell comics to people, you may have some ill will toward this book. And if you tried reading it “monthly,” you may also not feel great about it. I can’t defend DC’s production or marketing of the book, but I would argue in favor of forgiving Superman Unchained. Because the thing is, it’s actually a pretty great Superman story.
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Archie: The Married Life Book Six (Archie Comics): This is a phone book-sized collection of the final seven issues of Life With Archie, the series set in a possible future where Archie is married to Betty … and Veronica, in two alternate timelines. The narrative jumps between those parallel realities in a way that can be downright confusing when read in such a huge chunk as the collections offer.
While the stories feature the same fairly sprawling cast — and the character designs and are style are, as usual, in perfect harmony no matter whose names are in the credits — there’s more differences between the two timelines than just which girl Archie settled down with. In one timeline, Jughead is dating Ethel; in the other he’s having a baby with Midge. Likewise, Reggie is either a newspaper reporter or a mechanic with a reality show, and Moose is either Riverdale’s mayor or Riverdale High School’s janitor. And so on.
There are a few things both universes share, however, like Kevin Keller having been elected to the U.S. Senate, campaigning on gun control, an issue driven home by a mass shooting in the nearby Southport Mall. And, of course, in the final two issues, the “Death of Archie” and the epilogue that follows, the story is carefully, delicately crafted so that every line and every panel can be read so they’re the conclusions of both storylines, despite all the differences between the two.
Legal | The Malaysian cartoonist Zunar is being investigated once more under the country’s Sedition Act, his lawyer revealed Tuesday. Three of Zunar’s assistants were arrested last week for selling two of his books, neither of which has been officially banned, and his webmaster has been summoned to talk to police on Thursday. Zunar has also been called in for questioning at a future date. What’s more, the Malaysian Home Ministry has appealed the Court of Appeals’ decision to remove the ban on two of Zunar’s other books. [Malaysia Chronicle]
Publishing | Red Giant Entertainment has announced that retailers ordered about 900,000 copies each of its four anthology comics, which are ad-supported and will be given away for free. The company, which also releases digital comics and paid print comics, kicked off this program with a package of four zero issues on Free Comic Book Day. [ICv2]
Passings | Dr. George Slusser, co-founder of the University of California, Riversides’ renowned Eaton Collection of Science Fiction & Fantasy, passed away Tuesday at age 75. Curator emeritus and professor emeritus of comparative literature, Slusser expanded the Eaton holdings from 7,500 items to more than 300,000, making it the largest publicly accessible collection of science fiction and fantasy literature in the world. It encompasses novels, journals, manuscripts, comics and manga, fanzines and anime, and includes first editions of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Action Comics #1 and The Fantastic Four #1. “Over three decades, George Slusser built the Eaton Collection up from a small core of titles into the world-class archive that it is today,” Rob Latham, co-director of UC Riverside’s Science Fiction and Technoculture Studies program, said in a statement. “The field of science fiction scholarship owes him an incalculable debt.” [UC Riverside]
All-New Doop (Marvel): It’s perfectly appropriate for any series starring peripheral X-Men character Doop to be a weird one, however, the miniseries collected in this trade paperback is weird in a weird way.
Doop was created by writer Peter Milligan and artist Mike Allred for their iconoclastic (and somewhat -controversial) 2001 X-Force run, which was then relaunched under the name The X-Statix. The premise involved a group of celebrity-wannabe mutants who used their powers for fame and fortune by starring in a reality show; holding the camera was a mysterious, gross, floating, potato-shaped green creature that spoke its own, indecipherable language and answered to the name Doop.
Milligan imagined a dramatic behind-the-scenes life for the character in a two-part, 2003 Wolverine/Doop miniseries, and writer Jason Aaron ran with the joke, including Doop as a member of the faculty at the Jean Grey School during his Wolverine and The X-Men run. For the most part, Doop functioned as a background joke, one more signifier of the zany environment of the new school for young mutants, though Aaron did pair with Doop’s co-creator Allred for a one-issue story that focused on the character as a behind-the-scenes, floating potato-thing-of-all-trades.
Milligan returns to the character for this miniseries, in which Allred only provides the covers, while David LaFuente draws the majority of the art. Milligan takes Doop’s behind-the-scenes portfolio to an extreme, marking him as a character capable of traveling through “The Marginalia,” entering and exiting the comic-book tales in order to influence their outcome.
The story Doop influences here is “Battle of the Atom,” the Brian Michael Bendis-helmed X-Men crossover that involved Cyclops’ X-Men team, Wolverine’s X-Men team and an X-Men team from the future engaged in a fight over what to do with the teenage original X-Men plucked out of the Silver Age and currently hanging around the present.
Conventions | The Rhode Island Convention Center exceeded capacity Saturday for what may be the first time in its history, leading the state fire marshal to temporarily bar entry to Rhode Island Comic Con. At one point, about 1,500 attendees were left out in the rain, including some people who stepped out for a minute and couldn’t get back in. Organizers sold a reported 23,000 tickets for a venue that holds just 17,000, and the way the show was configured reduced the capacity to about 15,000. They apologized Saturday afternoon for the “hiccup.” [Providence Journal]
Comics | Joshua Rivera picks the best comics and graphic novels of October. [Entertainment Weekly]
Comics | Check your longboxes, folks: Copies of Marvel’s Sunfire & Big Hero 6 #1, from 1998, with a CGC grade of 9.8 are selling for $450 and up ahead of the premiere of the Disney animated film, and even non-graded copies are good for $25 or more. [ICv2]
Creators | Captain Marvel writer Kelly Sue DeConnick talks about the character, and her reaction to the newly announced Marvel film: “I feel so proud of her, like Carol is this person who lives in my head, and ‘look what you did, girl!’ It feels like a friend just got a promotion.” [Speakeasy]
Publishing | Chris Butcher announced that, after three years as marketing director, he’s left UDON Entertainment to focus more fully on his work for the Toronto store The Beguiling (where he’s manager) and the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (where he’s festival director). [Comics212]
Legal | The Japanese publisher Square Enix has filed a counterclaim against SNK Playmore, asking Osaka District Court to rule that its manga Hi Score Girl doesn’t infringe on copyrights held by the video game company. Earlier this year, SNK brought criminal copyright violation charges against Square Enix after learning Hi Score Girl contains more than 100 unauthorized images of characters from SNK Playmore games. The manga has been put on hold because of the dispute. [Anime News Network]
Conventions | Who’s buying, and how much are they spending, at conventions? Rob Salkowitz mines the numbers from a recent Eventbrite poll of convention-goers to get some answers: Most people spend between $100 and $500 per person; cosplayers actually spend a bit more than average; and women shell out more money at conventions, while men spend more online. [ICv2]
Editorial cartoons | The New York Times has apologized to readers who were offended by an editorial cartoon about India’s space program that depicted the country as a man in traditional dress, leading a cow and knocking at the door of the “Elite Space Club.” “The intent of the cartoonist, Heng Kim Song, was to highlight how space exploration is no longer the exclusive domain of rich, Western countries,” reads the apology, signed by editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal. “Mr. Heng, who is based in Singapore, uses images and text — often in a provocative way — to make observations about international affairs. We apologize to readers who were offended by the choice of images in this cartoon. Mr. Heng was in no way trying to impugn India, its government or its citizens.” [The New Indian Express]
Fans of Batman, and of Jock, take note: The acclaimed artists of such series as The Losers and the upcoming Wytches has donated a page from Detective Comics #871 for an eBay auction to benefit a 2-year-old with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Although Nathaniel’s prognosis is said to be good, he faces a few years of treatment, during which time his parents will have to make regular trips to the hospital.
Maybe it’s the exhaustion talking, but I can’t stop watching this GIF of Jim Lee, Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Dan DiDio, John Romita Jr. and Scott Snyder from the Entertainment Weekly Social Media booth at Comic-Con International. It may be my favorite thing today, at least until I find the next thing …