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Grumpy Old Fan | DC’s January solicits: See 2013 — and die!

Sadly, no Slim Pickens variant

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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Food or Comics? | Wonton soup or Womanthology

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.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

20th Century Boys, Volume 22

Chris Arrant

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.

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Shazam! DVD gets the power of a Jerry Ordway variant cover

Jerry Ordway's variant cover to SHAZAM!: The Complete Series

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.

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Comics A.M. | Relaunching Justice Society, rebuilding Billy Batson

Earth 2 #2

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]

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Comics A.M. | Arizona legislature passes bill censoring electronic speech

Arizona state flag

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]

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What Are You Reading? with Beth Scorzato

Hell Yeah

Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Our special guest this week is Beth Scorzato, managing editor of the excellent comics news and commentary site Spandexless.

To see what Beth and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.

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Chain Reactions | Justice League #7

Justice League #7DC Comics kicked off their New 52 reboot last August with Justice League #1, putting two superstar creators–who also happen to be members of the company’s management team–on their flagship team title.

Writer Geoff Johns and artist Jim Lee told a six-issue story about how this new version of the League came together to fight Darkseid and an invasion from Apokolips a few years back. That story ended a month ago, and this month brings a new chapter and a guest artist to the comic, as Johns teams with Gene Ha for a story that gives longtime Wonder Woman supporting character Steve Trevor a role with the League. Also of note in this issue is the beginning of a back-up tale featuring the New 52 debut of Shazam!

So what do folks think about the League’s jump to the present day? And what about the Billy Batson back-up? Here’s a round-up of what a few people thought …

“The Villain’s Journey, Prologue”:

Greg McElhatton, Comic Book Resources: “With Justice League #7, Geoff Johns and guest artist Gene Ha jump the series forward to the present day and I’m sure most readers will be saying, ‘It’s about time.’ Reading this comic, I can understand why and it makes me wish we’d started at this point all along. Thanks to a lack of ‘this is how they all met,’ we end up with a much zippier pace. A threat raises its head, the Justice League shows up and quickly defeats it. Each plot point is hit quickly and effectively and then the story moves forward. Johns also shows us how the different members are getting along with one another and longtime Wonder Woman supporting character Steve Trevor is given a larger role as well. As the new addition to the line-up, Cyborg’s position within the League is well-defined, in some ways taking the spot that Oracle had in Grant Morrison’s JLA. It makes more sense to have him on the team now, and it’s nice to see him working out without either dominating or fading into the background of the comic.”

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Quote of the day | ‘We’re not … doing Gandalf in a red leotard’

The redesigned, and renamed, Shazam, by Gary Frank

“… The cape is now more of a cloak but, beyond that, the magic power is now a part of the look. The idea is that the lightning is always crackling around him, the power barely contained. He is, in effect, a conduit for the power. [...] We’re not ditching the muscles and doing Gandalf in a red leotard.”

– artist Gary Frank, talking with Comic Book Resources about the redesign of Billy Batson/Shazam
for “The Curse of Shazam” backup feature in DC’s Justice League

Comics A.M. | Archie co-CEO talks Kevin Keller marriage, boycott

Life with Archie #16

Comics | Bryan Young talks to Archie Comics Co-CEO Jon Goldwater about the attempted boycott of Life With Archie #16, which featured the marriage of Kevin Keller, as well as the changes that have taken place within the company to make that marriage possible. “When I got to Archie my first mandate was to talk to the staff and creators and say ‘Change things up. Try new things. Be bold. Be daring. Be creative.’ If there was an idea I felt was out of line or too crazy, I’d nix it. But for the most part, people like Dan Parent came to me with excellent ideas and suggestions. Kevin Keller is a perfect example of that. I don’t think you would have seen the previous regime publish Kevin.” [The Huffington Post]

Awards | Cartoonist Alison Bechdel has won the 24th annual Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement, presented by the Publishing Triangle, the association of lesbians and gay men in publishing. [GalleyCat]

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Grumpy Old Fan | Multiverses and Marvels

All-Star Squadron #36, one of many issues Roy Thomas was destined to write

This is going to be another “we liked it the old way” type of post. I take no particular pleasure in these, because there are only so many ways to rail against change, especially changes involving decades-old characters and concepts.

Nevertheless, the latest charges of Crimes Against Tradition are against the new Earth 2 and “Shazam!” features. The original Earth-Two came to represent generations of superheroes active since the late 1930s, but the current one is apparently “five years of supers, give or take”; and the new don’t-say-the-M-word “Shazam” is apparently also something called the Third Sinner. So yes, DC, I try to be open-minded, I will give these things reasonable chances to win me over, and no one has destroyed my treasured old comics — but wow, you don’t make it easy.

Therefore, today I want to look at why the old versions might still matter, but just as importantly why they still matter to fogeys like me.

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Here’s what the new Shazam! looks like

Shazam!

The character formerly known as Captain Marvel will make his debut in Justice League #7, but you can take a look at him right now thanks to DC Comics and the New York Post.

Created in 1939 by artist C. C. Beck and writer Bill Parker, the New 52 version of Billy Batson’s alter-ego will run as back-up tale in Justice League by writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank. According to Johns, the character will “be far more rooted in fantasy and magic than it ever was before.” Hence the cloak.

“With SHAZAM! Gary and I will be focusing on the magic hero instead of the super hero,” Johns told DC’s The Source blog. “For centuries, science has ruled the world, but now magic is returning. We’re telling the story of the hero’s young alter ego, Billy Batson, a foster kid at a crossroads in his life. The question is, how does the emotional journey of this troubled teenager collide with the fate of the world? The Rock of Eternity and the legacy of SHAZAM! will be explored in a different way as the extent of Billy’s connection to the magic world around him is greater than ever before. The story will have a profound impact on Justice League later in the year and you’ll see new characters, locations and creatures along with the classics from the SHAZAM! universe. Billy’s friends and enemies will be along for the ride.”

Quote of the day | Erik Larsen on the curse of Shazam!

“By that logic I should change my name to Eric Larson. Geoff Johns should change his name to Jeff Johns since everybody spells it that way anyway.”

Savage Dragon creator Erik Larsen, responding to the news that, after 40 years of dancing around Marvel’s trademark by using titles like Shazam and The Power of Shazam, DC Comics is officially changing Captain Marvel’s name to … Shazam. Geoff Johns explained the decision was made, in part, because “everybody thinks he’s called Shazam already, outside of comics.”

NYCC | A round-up of Saturday news

Avengers Assemble

Saturday at the New York Comic Con brought news for the Avengers, Superman, Legendary Comics and … Disney’s Prep & Landing? Here’s a round-up of announcements from the show today.

• With a big, blockbuster Avengers movie scheduled for next May, Marvel announced a new ongoing series, Avengers Assemble, by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Mark Bagley. The book will launch next March and will feature most of the Avengers featured in the movie — Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye and the Hulk. The first arc will feature the villainous group the Zodiac.

• Speaking of that big, blockbuster Avengers movie, fans were treated to new footage from it featuring Bruce Banner and the Black Widow. Tom Hiddleston spoke to CBR about his work on the film.

• Marvel also announced that writer Rick Remender and artist Gabriel Hardman will take over Secret Avengers with issue #21.1, adding new members and pitting them against a new Masters of Evil.

At the Cup O’ Joe panel today, Marvel also announced a Disney/Marvel crossover — Prep & Landing: Mansion: Impossible. It features the elves from the Disney television special who prepare homes for the arrival of Santa Claus every Christmas eve — only this time they’re trying to break into Avengers Mansion to get it ready for Santa. Written by director Kevin Deters and drawn by story artist Joe Mateo, the story will run in the back of the Marvel Adventures books as well as Avengers #19 in November.

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NYCC | Shazam back-up to run in Justice League

Just Imagine ...

Fans wondering if or when the original Captain Marvel, a.k.a. Shazam!, would make an appearance in DC’s New 52 can wonder no more. DC Comics announced today at the New York Comic Con that writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank will team up on a back-up feature, The Curse of Shazam, that will run in issues of Justice League starting with #5.

Beyond that, DC offered very few details. We’ll keep you updated as more news becomes available.

Johns and Frank have worked together previously on Superman: Secret Origin and Action Comics, and are the creative team for the upcoming Batman: Earth One graphic novel.

As I went looking for art for this post, I was reminded that this isn’t the first time Frank has drawn Shazam — back in 2002, when DC Comics recruited Stan Lee to “reimagine” some of their characters, Frank teamed up with him on a very different version of the character.

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Grumpy Old Fan | The Alternative Thirty

DC Universe: The Stories Of Alan Moore

[A quick note before we go too much farther: I started writing this post before DC’s big announcement about its September-and-beyond plans. In fact, I wanted this particular post to be about something other than Flashpoint and/or line-wide reboots — so depending on your perspective, I picked exactly the right week, or exactly the wrong week, to draw that line. In any case, it’s probably not hard to tell, from the past few weeks’ worth of posts, where I stand on current events.

[So there you go. On with the business at hand.]

Since it’s pretty much summer, and time to think about catching up on reading, let’s revisit DC’s list of “30 Essential Graphic Novels” — “best-selling titles that you must read[, ]whether you are just beginning to discover graphic novels or you are an established fan looking to expand your collection.”

The list is almost four years old, and has had a few minor updates. (Pride Of Baghdad replaced The Quitter, and Crayon Shinchan replaced Sword Of The Dark Ones.) For the most part, though, it’s the same compilation — heavy on the Batman and the Jeph Loeb, a decent amount of Alan Moore (but no Swamp Thing), a couple of Sandman books and Hellblazer, but no Wonder Woman, no Joe Kubert, and no Jack Kirby. While there are at least a couple of representatives from each of DC’s imprints, there aren’t many hints at the real scope of DC’s diverse publishing history.

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