Because this space is normally reserved for DC Comics and its stable of characters, you might think a post on Miracleman goes a little outside the lines. However, Miracleman was based on Captain Marvel, who is a DC character in the same way that Miracleman is now a Marvel character: the wonderful world of intellectual-property rights. That’s just one of several traits the two features share, so today I’ll be comparing and contrasting. I’ll also consider whether Marvel’s upcoming Miracleman revival could affect DC’s latest version.
Miracleman (under its original name of Marvelman, but you knew that already) started out as a way to hold onto British readers of Captain Marvel when the latter closed up shop in the mid-1950s. In that form, the series lasted until 1963. In 1982, writer Alan Moore headed up a revival that started by updating familiar elements, but ended up going off in a decidedly different direction. As reprinted, renamed, and subsequently completed in the United States, Moore’s Miracleman (from Eclipse Comics) filled 16 issues, give or take some reprints, and came out over the course of about four and a half years (cover-dated August 1985 to December 1989). Moore’s artistic collaborators included Garry Leach, Alan Davis, Chuck Austen (under the name Chuck Beckum), Rick Veitch, and John Totleben. From June 1990 to June 1993, Eclipse published eight more issues, written by Neil Gaiman and drawn by Mark Buckingham, and an anthology miniseries (Miracleman Apocrypha) came out from November 1991 to February 1992. For various reasons, though, no new Miracleman has seen the light of day for over twenty years.
That’s all about to change, starting with January’s reprints from Marvel. It remains to be seen whether today’s readers will be interested in 20- to 30-year-old stories from a writer whose popularity isn’t what it once was, and which will apparently be reprinted initially in a somewhat-pricey format. Additionally, Miracleman has turned into much more of an “Alan Moore book,” as opposed to a Captain Marvel parody. Therefore, its return doesn’t strike me as the sort of thing which will automatically generate more interest in Captain Marvel; but their similarities (and even some of their differences) can be instructive.
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Some might say we’re experiencing the Golden Age of superheroes in film, but in reality it’s just live-action catching up to animation. Warner Bros. Animation has been a trailblazer in that area, with 26 feature films based on DC Comics’ characters since 1993. And with the recent release of Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, based on the 2011 Flashpoint crossover, we’ve come up with a half-dozen other DC series or arcs Warner Bros. could (and should) look to for future animated films.
The first part of “Trinity War” (in last week’s Justice League #22) relied rather significantly on the changes the New 52 relaunch facilitated: Superman, Wonder Woman, and Billy Batson/Shazam (hereinafter “Billy/Shazam,” or maybe just “Captain Marvel”) each acted in ways incompatible with long relationships.
In the old days, Superman and Wonder Woman would have been close friends, Superman and Captain Marvel would have had a unique (almost mentor-protegé) relationship, and Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel would at least have had some Greek mythology in common. However, the main conflicts of “TW” Part 1 depended on Wonder Woman being more of a warrior than an ambassador, Superman trusting her hostility, and Billy/Shazam not knowing either of them that well. As such, it appeared to exemplify the freedom a relaunch confers, specifically to ignore the restrictions of previous developments to put these characters quickly on opposing sides.
In other words, one might reasonably have seen Part 1 as a) realizing the New 52 allowed for a particular Shocking Event and b) working backward to create the conditions that would lead to said Event. “Because we can do this, how do we do it?”
Trinity of Sin: Pandora #1 (written by Ray Fawkes, drawn by Zander Cannon, Daniel Sampere, Vicente Cifuentes and Patrick Zircher) is not a terrible first issue, although it does trade on some pretty horrific images. It’s not a boring issue, although the title character’s emotional arc is essentially an 8,000-year, 20-page slow burn. For a character who so far has been a walking plot point — and who is still advertised mostly as a plot element for the next Big Event — the issue isn’t even that obtuse. Pandora #1 is a fairly well-executed comic book which does a decent job of humanizing its heroine, but which still hasn’t justified its own existence.
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Traditionally, the average superhero character included a strong element of wish-fulfillment. Perhaps it came simply from having powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal folk, or perhaps from the plausibility of training one’s mind and/or body to the limits of human potential. Maybe those powers, or that training, had been personally costly: a parent’s death, a home’s destruction or a tragedy that could have been prevented.
If you want to see what the Justice League does next, you can wait for the next issue or you can fast-forward into the future — the far future — in DC Comics’ digital-first series Justice League Beyond.
Launched last year, Justice League Beyond shows the flagship team in the futuristic continuity established by the animated series Batman Beyond (which also has a digital-first comic). Saturday’s installment of Justice League Beyond features the debut of one of the publisher’s most overlooked heroes — Shazam, whom you can see in a Robot 6′s exclusive preview, below.
Introduced in 1939 by C.C. Beck and Bill Parker, Shazam (formerly known as Captain Marvel) is a wholesome superhero from an earlier, more time who doesn’t always work well in a modern setting. Having him show up in the future of Justice League Beyond, even further removed from his Golden Age roots, makes the classic hero seem that much more of a throwback — and that’s something writer Derek Fridolfs is tackling head-on with artist Ben Caldwell.
On the eve of Shazam’s debut, Robot 6 spoke with Fridolfs about the hero’s introduction, and his work on Justice League Beyond.
As a tribute to Beastie Boys co-founder Adam “MCA” Yauch, who passed away May 4, 2012, artist James Curran is showing “A Year and a Day,” an exhibit at Beach London that features 35 framed prints, each showcasing three iconic representations of references made in the band’s lyrics. Among them are comic-book nods to Captain Marvel, Popeye and underground artist Vaughn Bode.
A limited number of prints will be available for sale during the exhibition, which runs through Sunday, with proceeds benefiting Macmillan Cancer Support. You can check out the related video below, along with two more comics-related images.
It looks like June is shaping up to be pretty big for DC’s superhero comics. There are five new ongoing series, including Superman Unchained, Batman/Superman, Larfleeze, Pandora and, best of all, the return of Astro City. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo kick off a revised Bat-origin in “Zero Year,” and the Green Lantern books get new creative teams. (There are spoilers for those GL books in the solicitations, but if you’ve been paying attention it’s probably nothing you haven’t already figured out.)
FIRST, AN ENDING
The “Shazam!” conclusion takes up all 40 pages of Justice League #21. It’s been a long time coming — starting way back in Issue 7, getting a 23-page spotlight in Issue 0, and skipping issues 12, 13 and 17. In the end it should clock in just shy of 200 pages, which would have made it a robust nine-issue miniseries. By comparison, Geoff Johns’ and Gary Frank’s Batman: Earth One graphic novel was 138 pages. It may read better as a collection, because it hasn’t always seemed paced for a series of backup stories. Being absent from Issue 17 hasn’t helped either. Still, it should have three straight installments between now and June, so maybe it’ll finish strongly.
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In news that will surprise no one, I enthusiastically add my voice to the chorus advising comics companies to give Jerry Ordway work. Mr. Ordway represents, for better or worse, a particular style of superhero storytelling. His detailed, textured work is both realistic and stylized. He’s also become associated with a traditional approach to superheroes, mostly by drawing the Golden Age characters and their descendants. Similarly, his modern-day Superman and Marvel Family work gave those books a pretty “classic” look.
In fact, for a long while Jerry Ordway helped define Superman. He was an original contributor to the 1986 John Byrne-led revamp, penciling Adventures of Superman first for writer Marv Wolfman and then for Byrne. When Byrne left, he took over writing Adventures before moving over to the main Superman book. In one way or another, he was involved with the Superman titles from 1986 through 1993, when he started working on Captain Marvel in the Power of Shazam! graphic novel.
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.
Scott Snyder was already one of DC Comics/Vertigo’s rising stars when he began writing Detective Comics two years ago. In fall 2011, as part of DC’s New 52, Snyder moved over to the main Batman title and began writing Swamp Thing as well. His Batman work has helped put the title on a number of best-of-2012 lists, Swamp Thing is in the midst of the “Rotworld” crossover, and his collaboration with Jim Lee on a new Superman title will begin in 2013. American Vampire is going on hiatus for most of the year, but that will help him and artist Sean Murphy debut The Wake. I spoke with Snyder on Dec. 13, just after Batman #15 was published.
Thanks to Scott for his time, and to DC’s Alex Segura and Pamela Mullin for making the interview possible.
Tom Bondurant: I don’t know about the preliminaries [but] I will say that one phrase that kept coming to mind when I was thinking about interviewing you was that line from Ghostbusters: “How is Elvis, and have you seen him lately?”
Scott Snyder: [laughs] Thanks! Well, I’m a huge Elvis fan, so that really starts the day off right, hearing that.
The biggest news from this round of solicits is probably the cancellations of Blue Beetle, Grifter, Legion Lost, and Frankenstein. I’ve been buying Beetle and Frankenstein, so I’m sorry to see them go.
Naturally, this means we can look forward to four new titles in February. If I had to guess, I’d say a new Shazam! ongoing series will spin out of the current Justice League backup, but according to January’s solicitation, the backup doesn’t seem to have reached a suitable stopping place. It’s possible that February’s Issue 17 could wrap everything up one week and lead into Shazam! #1 the next, but that would depend on Justice League shipping on time (in the third week of the month), and I’d think DC would want more wiggle room in case of a delay. Accordingly, the odds of a Shazam! series in the next batch of solicits seem rather long.
Still, the backup series has been running in Justice League since #7, so (counting the Shazam-centric Issue 0, but subtracting the lack of backup in Issue 13) February’s Issue 17 would mark its eleventh installment. That is subject to change, since the October solicits advertised a Shazam! backup which was not in the actual issue. Still, if my rough math is correct, that’s about 154 total pages of story — more than the New Teen Titans: Games paperback, but less than the Superman/Shazam collection — but the solicit for January’s Issue 16 (part 11, remember) just talks about continuing the origin. With that in mind, even if Issue 17 concludes the backup, the character could still appear in JL as a Leaguer until he does whatever he’s going to do in “Trinity War.” Yadda yadda yadda, now I think probably no new Shazam! series until that event is over.
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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 only had $15, I’d walk out a happy camper despite only having one book, because that book is 20th Century Boys, Vol. 22 (Viz, $12.99). While your typical American comics fan may have no idea who Naoki Urasawa is, he is in my mind undoubtedly the best cartoonist working today. Twenty-two books in and he hasn’t let up, delivering comics’ example of long-run storytelling perfection a la Sopranos. Friend is one of the most terrifying villains I’ve seen in comics in some time, and the mad assemblage of childhood pals out to stop him are some of my most treasured fictional friends.
If I had $30, I’d come back to comic stores on an American tip, starting off with Godzilla: Half Century War #2 (IDW Publishing, $3.99) by James Stokoe. I missed this when the first issue came out, but since then I’ve found it and relished its pure cartooning chaos. The first issue was an ideal debut, and I’m interested to see Stokoe take Lt. Murakami to Vietman in the ’60s for the ongoing war on Godzilla. After that I’d get the satisfying chunk, Dark Horse Presents #16 (Dark Horse, $7.99). I’ve been repeating the same praises every month, so let me try to spin it differently. This new issue, I have little idea what’s in it besides the return of Crime Doesn’t Pay; there’s a new series by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray in it I have heard nothing about, but DHP has re-built its track record of excellence and I’m fine spending $7.99 sight unseen. My final pick would be Daredevil #18 (Marvel, 2.99). Chris Samnee is quite different than the original artists on the book, but is excelling with Mark Waid in a new way — and that’s good. Instead of aping what had gone before, Samnee assuredly gives us his own style that would make any true fan of art in comics smile.
Oh ,wait, I found some money. I know, I’ll buy Memorial, Vol. 1 (IDW, $24.99). I missed this in singles, and this hardcover looks like the perfect chance to me to make up for past mistakes. These covers by Michael WM Kaluta really get my heart beating, and I’ve been wanting to read more of Chris Roberson on his own. The preview on IDW’s website gives me the impression it’s got down-to-earth personality amidst a fantasy world, and reminds me of classic supernatural fiction like A Wrinkle in Time or The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Mimicking comics in more ways than one, Warner Archive is offering a variant cover to its upcoming release of Shazam!: The Complete Series. The standard cover features a photo collage of the series’ main actors (see below), but the variant will have artwork by Jerry Ordway, creator of DC’s well-regarded Power of SHAZAM! series from the late ’90s.
It’s pretty smart marketing, too, because according to Super Hero Hype (who’ve confirmed with Warner Archive), the Ordway cover is only available to those who pre-order the series before its release date on Oct. 23. A lot of older fans have fond memories of watching the live-action show over a bowl of Fruity Pebbles on Saturday mornings, but haven’t seen it since and don’t know if it’s as good or fun as they remember. Younger fans don’t know what it’s like at all. Waiting to hear some buzz by others who’ve seen the new DVDs before spending $34.95 on the set is a reasonable strategy, but the Ordway cover makes it more enticing to go ahead and plunk down that $35 on a blind buy. Fortunately, we have more than a month to make up our minds.
Warner Archive isn’t so cruel as to make this the only way to get the art from Ordway’s cover, though: The Warner Archive podcast has a promotion going where you can get a poster version for free.
Creators | Alex Zalben talks to James Robinson about his rebooted version of DC Comics’ Justice Society in Earth 2, and the process of creating a world of one’s own: “It always starts with certain plot points that immediately come to you, and you always want those moments to happen at some point, and you work towards them. There are some characters that come to you almost fully formed in your mind, and those are you anchors. And same with the world, there are some aspects of the world that you say, this is what I want to do, here or there, or there. They’re the anchors, and you slowly begin to add the other pieces so it links, and forms, and becomes a whole tapestry.” [MTV Geek]
Creators | Geoff Johns talks about the new, more nuanced version of Billy Batson that he and artist Gary Frank are creating in the Shazam back-up stories in Justice League: “Billy is trouble, but trouble in a way that I think we’ll find understandable, relatable and fun. He has a heart, a big one, but he also has a protective shell around it. He’s mischievous, independent and strong. He’s conflicted, tough and sad. And many other things. For us, Billy had to be as complex and as interesting as his alter ego.” [Hero Complex]
Legal | The Arizona legislature passed a sweeping bill last week that would make it a crime to communicate via electronic means speech that is intended to “annoy,” “offend,” “harass” or “terrify.” While the law was intended to update the state’s telephone harassment laws to encompass the Internet, it’s not limited to one-to-one communications and thus, as the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund notes, could criminalize “all manner of writing, cartoons, and other protected material the state finds offensive or annoying.” Media Coalition, a trade association that includes the CBLDF among its members, has sent a letter to Gov. Jan Brewer urging her to veto the bill. [Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Media Coalition]
Passings | Rex Babin, editorial cartoonist for the Sacramento Bee and a Pulitzer Prize finalist, has died of cancer. [The Daily Cartoonist]