The Biggest Superhero Films That Didn't Happen, Part 2
Comic Books, Film
Arrow Season 2.5, which debuted Monday, will alternate weeks with The Flash: Season Zero. Set between the second and third seasons of the hit television series, Arrow is penned by executive producer Marc Guggenheim and staff writer Keto Shimizu, and illustrated by Joe Bennett and Jack Jadson. The Flash: Season Zero, meanwhile, takes place between the events of the pilot and the second episode, and is written by Andrew Kreisberg, Brooke Eikmeier and Katherine Walczak, with art by Phil Hester and Eric Gapstur.
Not a lot in DC Comics’ May solicitations really strikes me as “new.” That’s due partly to a lot of the new books being set to launch a month earlier. Generally, the superhero line continues to contract, while The New 52 — Futures End kicks off, the New 52 version of Doomsday keeps rampaging through the Superman titles, and Batman Eternal rolls on. Nevertheless, I do have the irrational sense that the line is gearing up for something even more significant, and will be adding new series over the next few months.
Still, if we’re to get excited about the regular fare, we may have to read between the solicitations’ lines — so let’s get on with it, shall we?
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A NEW 52 FOR THE NEW 52
And here it is, Futures End. Last year I wrote the New 52 needed its own version of 52, the year-long miniseries that spanned time and space to focus on the lesser lights of the superhero line. I talked about exploring the geography of the still-new shared universe, doing character studies, and essentially giving the reader a good sense of place and/or connection.
So much time, money and creative effort is spent to bring comic-book superheroes to moving-picture life that it’s almost backward to contemplate how those adapted environments could be translated back into comics form. Thanks to technology, live-action and animated adaptations are finding new ways to convince viewers they’re seeing powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men.
And yet, these adaptations only go so far. Movies trade spectacle for (relative) brevity, offering two-plus hours of adventure every two to three years. The reverse is true for television, which is more prolific but often less earth-shattering. Both have to deal with practical considerations such as running time, actor availability, and the streamlining of complicated backstories. Thus, to borrow a phrase from politics, adaptations are often exercises in “the art of the possible.” By comparison, comics have much fewer limitations.
Therefore, comics versions of those adaptations must necessarily limit themselves, even if they only choose to work within some of those real-world limitations. Sometimes this is as simple as telling stories set within the adaptation’s version of continuity. However, sometimes comics are the most practical way to “continue” a well-liked adaptation, and thereby perpetuate its visual and tonal appeal.
I talked about it last week, but there’s a lot to unpack in the recent Williams-and-Blackman-leave-Batwoman imbroglio. Part of it is DC Comics’ apparent need to keep characters relatively unchanged, which these days includes being young and unmarried. Co-Publisher Dan DiDio has already explained this in terms of heroic sacrifice, so I suppose that’s as close as we may get to official company policy on the matter.
However, before DiDio made his comments, I was wondering whether DC didn’t want the non-costumed half of Batwoman’s main couple to remain single and uncomplicated. After all, Maggie Sawyer goes back further than Kate Kane, and has appeared in both the animated Superman series and in Smallville. Thus, a certain part of the TV-watching public probably associates Maggie Sawyer more with Superman than with Batwoman; and DC might not want to have her tied permanently to the Bat-office.
This, in turn, brings up the issue of DC as a “content farm,” providing material for future adaptations. Obviously the publisher has almost 80 years’ worth of characters and stories ready to provide inspiration. Indeed, over the decades, that inspiration has gone both ways. However, more recently it seems like the adaptations have been influencing the comics to a greater degree than the comics have been influencing the adaptations, and in the long run that’s not good for either side.
DC Comics’ August solicitations include both the end of “Trinity War” and of four series, including the latest Legion of Super-Heroes title. Otherwise, not much jumps out at me. Even the collected-edition section isn’t that diverse, as it’s heavy on “Death of the Family” books and pretty light on the vintage reprints.
NOT QUITE DEAD
If Talon weren’t a Bat-title, I’d say it was getting ready to be canceled. Issue 11’s solicitation refers to an “epic finale,” with Batman pitching in to help “eliminate the Court of Owls once and for all.” However, because so much work went into making the Court of Owls a credible threat to the Bat-clan, I doubt they’ll be eradicated completely. Likewise, I don’t think Talon is going anywhere, at least not yet.
Similarly, the continued existence of Batman Incorporated is one of the questions posed by the sure-to-be-epic conclusion of Grant Morrison’s Bat-work. In other words, is a revamped Club of Heroes so wrapped up with Morrison that it can’t survive without him? More to the point, is a Morrison-less Batman Inc. still marketable? Presumably the answer rests in the sales numbers for August’s Batman Incorporated Special — which, incidentally, appears to indicate just who among the various Inc.’ers survives the end of the regular series. I guess DC isn’t worried about spoiling such things, because it’s done something similar with the last couple months of Lantern Corps solicits.
It’s always a great feeling when you find good comics in a place you weren’t suspecting. But as a reader, fan and journalist, I was surprised at how good the DC Comics digital titles are. But why? DC has put out great books, and continues to do so now with some of its New 52 line-up; I was also a big fan of the publisher’s previous digital-first endeavors with Zuda. Why then is it so surprising that the current crop of DC Digital is good? Then I figured it out.
First, a primer: Launched in early 2012, the DC Digital titles premiere online with weekly installments and are later collected in print. Originally consisting of just two series, Batman Beyond Unlimited and Smallville: Season 11 (both coincidentally continuations of canceled television shows), the line expanded in the fall with the anthology-style Legends of the Dark Knight, companions to the TV drama Arrow and the video game Injustice: Gods Amongst Us, and Batman: Li’l Gotham. The imprint’s most recent addition is an anthology called Adventures of Superman.
After introducing DC Universe staples ranging from Batman and Nightwing to Monsieur Mallah and the Brain to the world of Smallville, writer Bryan Q. Miller is turning his attention to comics’ best-known superheroine. Or at least an interpretation of her.
In an interview with MTV Geek, Miller reveals August’s Smallville Season 11 #16 will see the debut of Wonder Woman in the world established by the long-running television series, although not by that name. Yet. Still, the writer assures, she is “Diana of Themyscira. Daughter of Queen Hippolyta. Amazon Princess.”
More than four years after she last appeared on television, Lana Lang will return in DC Comics’ digital-first series Smallville Season 11.
In the eighth season of The CW drama in the Season 8 episode “Requiem,” Lana was forced to leave Metropolis after she absorbed a kryptonite bomb into the nanoskin of her power suit, making her unable to be near Clark Kent.
“Since then Clark has not only gotten over Lana, but he has moved on with his life,” Season 11 writer Bryan Q. Miller, who also worked on the TV series, tells TV Guide. “He got engaged to Lois Lane and became Superman. “A lot has happened in Lana’s absence.”
According to the website, she’ll be reintroduced April 5 in “Valkyrie,” a storyline drawn by Season 11 cover artist Cat Staggs that follows Lois Lane on assignment for the Daily Planet to the Congo to investigate the Angel of the Plateau, a costumed superheroine — guess who! — fighting African warlords. Miller indicates “we will see a villain from Smallville days past” in the second chapter.
April 12 will see the debut of the spring’s main arc, “Argo,” in which Superman and Booster Gold travel to the 31st century to see the Legion of Super-Heroes. New chapters of “Valkyrie” will appear between installments of “Argo.” New chapters of Smallville Season 11 appear online each Friday.
A brief indulgence before we get started: July 14 marked eight years since I started blogging about comics on my own little website, the now-dormant Comics Ate My Brain. Since one of my first posts was called “Robin Problems,” it’s a happy coincidence that this week we return to the original superhero-sidekick identity.
Although I’m not always happy with DC Comics as a company, I have a lot of empathy for the people who work on superhero comics, especially those who populate convention panels. Regardless of how we think they’re doing their jobs, those are still their jobs, and I wouldn’t want to go to work every morning facing a steady torrent of criticism from my customers. (We lawyers get more than enough workplace second-guessing as it is.) It also can’t be easy traveling around having to face one’s critics in person.
That said, if the alternative-fuels industry could harness avoidable fan outrage, DC Comics would be the new OPEC. Once again demonstrating a knack for how not to behave, its panelists practically laughed off legitimate questions about switching out fan-favorite Bat-protege Stephanie Brown for the “more iconic” Barbara Gordon.
After those original accounts appeared online (on Friday the 13th, no less), more details emerged to help explain just who did what. It’s still a situation where DC higher-ups asked to remove Stephanie (which, it can’t be said enough, is really asking for trouble); but apparently the series’ writer got to choose her replacement. Don’t worry, we’ll get into all the nuances.
Following some confusion at Friday’s Superman panel, DC Comics confirmed today at Comic-Con International that Stephanie Brown won’t be appearing as Nightwing in Smallville Season 11. As rumored, she’ll be replaced by Barbara Gordon.
The introduction of the one-time Spoiler turned Robin turned Batgirl alongside Batman in DC’s digital-first series was announced last month, giving some consolation to fans frustrated that the character has yet to be seen in the New 52. But even as Comic-Con began, a rumor emerged that the publisher had changed its mind.
On Friday, the fan who made headlines at last year’s convention as “the Batgirl of San Diego,” attended DC’s Superman panel in hopes of getting answers, but walked away with none. So today she returned for “The New Wave” panel, where Co-Publisher Dan DiDio delivered the official news: Stephanie Brown is out, and Barbara Gordon is in.
If you’re a Stephanie Brown looking to get to the bottom of a rumor about your favorite character, you’d think the best place to go for answers would be today’s DC Comics Superman panel at Comic-Con International. But you’d be wrong.
According to Comic Book Resources’ report, a fan dressed as Stephanie Brown approached the microphone to ask whether the character would appear as Nightwing next month in the digital-first Smallville Season 11, as the publisher announced last month, or whether there was truth to the rumor that she is being replaced by Barbara Gordon. Unfortunately for the fan, writer Bryan Q. Miller wasn’t on the panel as scheduled (he arrived late to San Diego), and the response she did receive was … let’s say unhelpful, and maybe a little flippant.
“The first rumor wasn’t known by us,” DC’s Vice President of Marketing John Cunningham replied, “and I have not heard of the second in the halls of DC, so I can’t comment.”
“But there was art!” the fan shot back.
“Are you going to believe art or are you going to believe us?” Superman writer Scott Lobdell said to the laughter of the audience. Cunningham gave her a Court of Owls mask, so that’s something.
Not satisfied with the recent announcement that Stephanie Brown will debut as Nightwing in the digital-first Smallville Season 11, hopeful fans of the superheroine are mounting a campaign to convince DC Comics to reintroduce the former Robin and Batgirl into its main universe.
Taking a cue from die-hard viewers of Jericho, who mailed more than 20 tons of nuts to CBS headquarters in an effort to secure a second season, the people behind “Waffles For Stephanie” are asking fans to mail (you guessed it) waffles to DC Comics on Aug. 10, along with a letter explaining why the character deserves a place beyond Smallville.
DC Comics in September brings together two gimmicks. This being corporate-run superhero comics, naturally these two things have been tried before. September’s unified cover themes remind me of January 2009’s “Faces of Evil” (not particularly uplifting) and January 2011’s “Salute to White Space.” The new “Zero Month” recalls August 1994, when every main-line DC superhero title got an Issue #0 in the wake of July’s weekly, timeline-tweaking Zero Hour miniseries. Just over four years later, in September 1998, the weekly DC One Million miniseries launched all the superhero books into the 853rd Century with #1,000,000 issues.
Personally, I’m looking forward to September 2013’s Roman Numeral Month, September 2014’s Hexadecimal Month, and September 2015’s Binary Month (can’t wait for Justice League #100100!).
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When Batman won’t be alone when he debuts in August in DC Comics’ digital-first Smallville Season 11 — that much was clear from the cover art released earlier this week. But it turns out that’s not Robin but Nightwing warning the Caped Crusader of
Superman’s The Blur’s arrival. What’s more, that’s not a young Dick Grayson under the mask, but rather Stephanie Brown.
“Bruce can be somewhat of an angry man,” writer Bryan Q. Miller explains to TV Guide. “Stephanie’s personality is so can-do and unsinkable and bright, so it’s very much on purpose on Bruce’s part that he has a good cop going out on patrol with him every night.”
The storyline, called appropriately enough “Detective,” will also explain why Stephanie is Nightwing and not Batgirl, the identity she assumed in the DC Universe from 2009 to 2011. Miller, a former staff writer and executive story editor on The CW’s Smallville, also wrote DC’s Batgirl during Stephanie’s time in the costume.
Batman and Nightwing will arrive online in Smallville Season 11 in August, and then in print in September. Miller is joined on the four-part arc by ChrisCross and Marc Deering.
It was something the producers could never do on the television show for reasons that probably make a lot of sense to somebody, but the comics don’t have the same restrictions: As DC Comics’ September solicitations reveal, the Smallville Season 11 digital-first comic will feature Superman’s first meeting with … Batman.
“I feel like I’ve been sitting on a Christmas present for everyone since January,” Smallville Season 11 scribe Bryan Q. Miller, who was a staff writer and executive story editor for The CW series, said on his blog. According to the solicitation text for the story arc, appropriately titled “Detective,” “The hunt for his parents’ killer puts a vigilante known only as ‘the Batman’ on a collision course with the Man of Steel.”