DC Comics hasn’t had a particularly good run of things lately. To be frank, the publisher has done blown it a number of times over the past few years. But don’t worry, DC fans — I’m sure it’ll soon be Marvel’s turn, as the two rivals seem to trade off every five years or so.
I’ve been calling out DC for the past couple of weeks, but that doesn’t mean everything it does strikes me as wrong. It’s important to declare shenanigans, but it’s also important to recognize when a publisher does something that’s good for comics.
So here are six things DC is doing right:
1. Digital comics: Legends of the Dark Knight and Adventures of Superman are digital-first anthology series that feature some excellent creators (from Jeff Parker and Chris Samnee to J.M. DeMatteis and Jeff Lemire) producing completely accessible and entertaining stories that stand on their own; no college course on the New 52 or Crisis on Infinite Earths required. Yes, these stories are out of continuity — so for a percentage of readers, they don’t count. That’s a mistake, because there’s nothing wrong with a straight-up superhero tale that exists on its own terms. These two anthologies are the gems of DC’s digital-first line-up, but Batman ’66 and Batman: Li’l Gotham also offer fantastical takes on the iconic Caped Crusader that are bright and fun. For those exhausted by the angsty versions of serious stories, you owe it to yourself to check these out.
It’s hard to believe that after the 2005 miniseries Batman/Scarecrow: Year One, Sean Murphy hit a rough patch where he couldn’t land work at DC Comics. Since then, he’s cut his own path through the publisher beginning in 2008 with two issues of Hellblazer and then continuing with Joe the Barbarian, Hellblazer: City of Demons, American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest, his creator-owned Punk Rock Jesus, Batman Beyond and now his collaboration with Scott Snyder, The Wake.
On Wednesday, Murphy returns again to the Dark Knight with a story (written by John Arcudi) in the debut issue of the revived Batman: Black and White, which was preceded last week by the release of his Batman: Black and White statue, the 50th in the DC Collectibles line. That’s quite the turnaround.
Although he’s not attending Comic-Con International this year, Sean Murphy is keeping busy. The Brooklyn-based cartoonist, who’s illustrating the Vertigo series The Wake, has opened his doors to do a limited number of commissions. It’s rare for Murphy to accept private commissions, but he’s hoping to help fund the purchase of a house. Whatever the reason, these are a chance for fans to see Murphy draw something he seldom does in comics — superheroes.
While Murphy has work like Batman/Scarecrow: Year One and Teen Titans: Cold Case to his credit, he’s best known for non-superhero projects like Joe the Barbarian, American Vampire and Punk Rock Jesus. These commissions — four have been released so far — show Murphy doing Marvel and DC’s top heroes, from Batman to Wolverine to the Punisher. Oh, and also … Tom Waits.
If you’re shopping for a gift for that special evil family member or friend, I have the deal for you: The latest and greatest self-help book for supervillains goes on sale today in the form of The Supervillain Field Manual: How to Conquer (Super) Friends and Incinerate People by King Oblivion, who had a little help from ghost writer Matt D. Wilson and illustrator Adam Wallenta.
Because I didn’t trust King enough to give him my my email address, I contacted Wilson to see if he was forced to do the book against his will or simply embarked on the marginally evil project of his own free will. Fortunately, Wilson seemed to have enjoyed himself and was more than willing to share insight on the guidebook to becoming an effective supervillain. He wasn’t all about enabling evil, by the way; toward the end of the interview he shares tips on comics he’s currently enjoying.
Tim O’Shea: Let’s go back to your first self-help supervillain book (2012′s The Supervillain Handbook). How did you come to decide there might be a market for evil-comedy instruction books?
Matt D. Wilson: You’re probably giving me a little too much credit there in terms of business sense. It’s not so much that I thought there was a market; I just kind of felt compelled and figured it’d be a fun thing to do. I actually wrote that first book back in 2009 or so, and it took three-plus years to get it published anywhere.
DC Comics will resurrect its well-regarded anthology Batman: Black and White beginning in September with six double-sized issues.
Originally published in 1996 as a four-issue miniseries, the anthology was the brainchild DC’s Vice President of Art Direction & Design Mark Chiarello, then a Batman Group editor, who sought out such top creators as Bruce Timm, Joe Kubert, Bill Sienkiewicz, Neil Gaiman, Ted McKeever and Katsuhiro Otomo to offer their own interpretations of the Dark Knight — in black and white.
The concept was revived in 2000 as a series of backup features in Batman: Gotham Knights, featuring contributions by the likes of Alex Ross, Paul Dini, Warren Ellis, Jim Lee, Chris Claremont, Paul Pope, Steve Rude, Harlan Ellison, Paul Grist, Darwyn Cooke, Jill Thompson and Mike Mignola. That title ended in 2006, but several Batman: Black and White have since been adapted as motion comics by Warner Premiere and DC Entertainment, and inspired numerous statues released by DC Direct.
According to the solicitation text provided to MTV Geek, September’s Batman: Black and White #1 will feature stories by Chip Kidd and Michael Cho, Neal Adams, Joe Quinones and Maris Wicks, John Arcudi and Sean Murphy, and Howard Mackie and Chris Samnee. Priced at $4.99, the 48-page first issue is scheduled to arrive Sept. 4.
Hello everyone, Happy Memorial Day weekend to America, and welcome one and all to What Are You Reading? This week we are joined by special guests Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder, the creative team behind Halloween Eve and the upcoming Rocket Girl. I spoke to them earlier this month about Rocket Girl, which surpassed its Kickstarter goal but you still have some time to get in on the action and rewards.
To see what Brandon, Amy and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Much in the way Marc Maron’s WTF podcast provides a more personal, and sometimes profound, look at comedians as they’re interviewed by a fellow comedian, comic artist and Savannah College of Art and Design professor Shawn Crystal has turned the spotlight on comic-book creators.
Earlier this year Crystal launched the podcast InkPulp Audio (available on iTunes here), and it’s already generating buzz among his fellow creators. The artist who introduced me to it said, tongue in cheek, that he’s “hoping Crystal will soon be the Oprah of comics.” While that remains to be seen (keep checking under your chairs for that new car), the podcast finds him talking shop with such artists as Sean Murphy, Eric Canete, Ryan Stegman and Rick Remender.
The idea for the podcast came to Crystal as he found himself at a crossroads.
Often when comic creators are asked about their dream job, most expect them to respond with a specific character they want to tackle, some fondly remembered superhero on which they hope to leave their mark. Of course, not all comic creators think that way.
Writer and artist Sean Murphy has made a name for himself working on almost everything but superheroes. Instead, he’s made readers take notice with the likes of Punk Rock Jesus and Joe the Barbarian. When he’s done work-for-hire, he’s mostly stayed clear of the usual suspects, with stints on former Vertigo stalwart Hellblazer and a spinoff book for Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque’s American Vampire. His actual superhero output is few and far between, but well worth looking out for — from his Batman/Scarecrow: Year One miniseries to the delayed-but-finally released Teen Titans one-shot.
Graphic novels | April was a slow month for new graphic novel releases, so the BookScan Top 20 had plenty of room for some backlist titles. The Walking Dead dominated, of course, but the 10th volume of Sailor Moon was there for a second month and actually moved up a notch. And the first volume of Saga came in at No. 12, perhaps because people were curious as to what all the fuss is about. [ICv2]
Editorial cartoons | Nick Anderson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist for the Houston Chronicle, has responded to Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s criticism of Jack Ohman’s cartoon with a cartoon of his own. [Comic Riffs]
Conventions | Jeff Smith, Brian Wood, Sean Murphy and Raina Telgemeier are the headline guests at the Maine Comics Arts Festival in Portland on May 19. [Foster's Daily Democrat]
DC Comics’ digital-first series Batman Beyond and Justice League Beyond will get new creative teams this summer, which will also see the official debut of the Batgirl of the future.
IGN.com reports Nightwing writer Kyle Higgins and Venom artist Thony Silas will take the reins of Batman Beyond, with Sean Murphy and Jordie Bellaire providing covers, while Avengers Academy writer Christos Gage and Superboy artist Iban Coello will take over Justice League Beyond. JT Krul and Howard Porter will remain on Superman Beyond.
However, before Higgins and Silas make their debut, writer Scott Peterson and artist Annie Wu will introduce the future Batgirl, who’s said to have a good working relationship with Commissioner Barbara Gordon, in her own story arc in July.
So this is what happens when you praise Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern run …
Let’s be clear: I do not generally have violent mood swings. My sense of well-being does not depend on the fortunes of DC Comics. I don’t pretend to have any special insight into the publisher’s inner workings, and I’m sure the reverse is equally true. However, after saying many nice things about Green Lantern a couple of weeks ago, and then eviscerating the humorless “WTF Certified” last week, it was pretty surprising to see the May solicitations address both topics.
NEXT, RAFALCA JOINS THE LEGION OF SUPER-PETS
The Green Team may have been a group of entitled, self-satisfied jerks with an abnormal need for validation, but if anyone can make them lovable — or, alternatively, entertainingly clueless — it’s Art Baltazar and Franco. I don’t see this book as DC scraping the bottom of the character barrel. Rather, I take it as a good-faith attempt to update a (perhaps misguided) concept for the sensibilities of our time. Not quite “at least they’re trying,” but … at least it’s not another big-name spinoff, you know? (Although a new Steel series is always welcome.) Regardless, the over/under for this book has to be somewhere around 6 issues.
Punk Rock Jesus ends its world tour Wednesday with the release of the final issue, as Sean Murphy sends Chris and the Flak Jackets to Jerusalem. Courtesy of DC Comics, we’re pleased to share an exclusive preview of Punk Rock Jesus #6, which includes a pretty awesome double-page spread by Murphy.
This is a comic that regularly shows up in our What Are You Reading? and Food or Comics? columns, and with good reason. Check out the solicitation text and preview 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. I’m filling in this week for Michael May, who is off in Florida spending his splurge money on mouse ears and giant turkey legs.
If I had $15, I’d start of the week with Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples’ Saga #7 (Image, $2.99). Saga has become a real bright spot in comics for me being sci-fi without being “sci-fi,” being romance without being “romance,” and being great at being great. It gives me the same excitement the way Bone, Strangers In Paradise and A Distant Soil did back in the early 90s. Next up would be Punk Rock Jesus #5 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99) by Sean Murphy. Murphy’s really exceeded my expectations here, creating a nuanced and elaborate world that has great art as a bonus. You can really tell Murphy’s been thinking about this story for awhile now. After that I’d get Invincible #97 (Image, $2.99), to finally get the truth behind the new Invincible, Zandale. I’ve been enticed by what’s been teased so far, and I hope the inevitable return of Mark Grayson doesn’t prevent me from seeing more of Zandale in the future. Last up with my $15 budget would be my call for the best superhero book on the stands today, Wolverine & The X-Men #20 (Marvel, $3.99). I feel like the title isn’t getting the attention it deserves with Marvel NOW! upon us, but Jason Aaron and Nick Bradshaw are absolutely delivering it here.
If I had $30, I’d double back and double up on Brian Wood with Conan The Barbarian #10 (Dark Horse, $3.50) and The Massive #6 (Dark Horse, $3.50). The Massive has survived the monumental loss of artist Kristian Donaldson, forging on in Wood’s story of one ship trying to survive in an ecological destitute Earth. Over at Conan The Barbarian, Declan Shalvey looks to be bringing the goods and showing he’s more than a Marvel superhero artist. After that I’d get the second series debut of Where Is Jake Ellis? (Image, $3.50) by Nathan Edmondson and Tonci Zonjic. This is a mighty pairing, and seeing them peel back the layers on Jake Ellis has been fun.
Batman and American Vampire writer Scott Snyder, who only yesterday confirmed his new Superman ongoing with Jim Lee, will reteam with his American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest collaborator Sean Murphy next year for a Vertigo miniseries called The Wake.
Announced today during the Vertigo panel at New York Comic Con, the underwater sci-fi epic uncovers suspense and horror beneath the ocean’s surface as “a discovery is made that will reveal a secret mythology.” Snyder promised sea monster and other creatures, adding, “Hopefully you guys will like it as much as we do!”
“I couldn’t be more excited about The Wake!” the writer told the Vertigo blog. “This is a story Sean and I have actually been developing together for more than a year, a big, twisted, sprawling science fiction and horror epic, all of which begins with a single, terrifying discovery at the bottom of the ocean. It’s one of the most ambitious stories I’ve ever done, and there’s no one I’d rather be creating it with than Sean Murphy.”
Murphy, who also illustrated Hellblazer: Survival of the Fittest and Joe the Barbarian for the imprint, wraps up his own Punk Rock Jesus miniseries in January. Read coverage of the full Vertigo panel at Comic Book Resources.
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 start with a couple of Marvel firsts, even though one of them isn’t technically a first issue: Uncanny Avengers #1 ($3.99) and Red She-Hulk #58 ($2.99). This is the first week of Marvel NOW, and they’re starting with books by creative teams I’m excited about. Next I’d get Stumptown V2 #2 ($3.99) and wind things up with the Halloween Eve one-shot. I actually supported the Kickstarter for the latter, so my copy is probably already on the way to my mailbox, but hypothetically let’s assume that it wasn’t. It’s by Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder, two creators whose work I’ve enjoyed in the past. So if it wasn’t coming to me in the mail, it would come home in a paper bag from the comic shop.
If I had $30, I’d add an outgoing Marvel title (Marvel THEN?), Fantastic Four #611, which features the end of Hickman’s run before he moves on to Avengers and Matt Fraction takes over the first family of Marveldom. Next I’d grab Green Lantern Corps #13 ($2.99) as I like the direction the GL books have been headed in lately, and Conan #9 ($3.50), the second half of Brian Wood’s collaboration with Vasilis Lolos. Finally, I’d grab Point of Impact #1 ($2.99), the new crime book by Jay Faerber and Koray Kuranel.
This is a splurge in price only; if I had $50, then Chris Ware’s Building Stories would definitely have been at the top of my buy list this week. It’s a big box of little comics, as Chris put it, and as luck would have it I really do have $50 in gift certificates that I got for my birthday to buy it with. Thanks Mom and Dad!