Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
August is the third month of DC Comics’ revamped lineup, which has yet to begin in earnest. Although you might think that would limit what there is to discuss in the August solicitations, I found a good bit to talk about. There are some unusual marketing moves, a few good guest-star opportunities, and even some nice tchotchkes. Let’s take a look.
“Truth” rolls on throughout the four Superman titles, and with its secret revealed in DC’s Free Comic Book Day preview, there’s not much point in speculating about the details. I’m not sure what to think about DC pairing its latest linewide relaunch with a couple of massive changes to Superman and Batman. I started reading The Amazing Spider-Man after the dust had settled from “One More Day,” because I didn’t want to deal with a series of big events or their immediate ramifications. Accordingly, it makes me think that Supes will have his secret restored at some point — perhaps in time for next spring’s Issue 50, which would also be just in time for the big Batman v Superman movie — and if I were thinking about returning to Superman, I might just wait until then. (Of course, since the New 52 relaunch, Supes has gotten far more attention than Clark has, so this could just be an extension of that.)
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This week DC Comics rolled out its July solicitations. Because they mostly cover the second month of a relaunch whose first month is still six weeks away, they feel rather comment-proof. I mean, last month was the time for first impressions, so you can’t really comment further on storylines that haven’t started or creative teams whose first issues haven’t appeared. That said, July brings the first issue of the Cyborg solo series, as well as the return of Justice League United, so it’s not as if there’s nothing new.
HAIL TO THE VICTOR
As a longtime (i.e., aging) New Teen Titans fan, I’m a little torn about a Cyborg ongoing series. A spotlight on Victor Stone is long overdue, and I think the character is versatile enough to handle a wide range of adventures. (It’s also nice to note that with Starfire and Grayson, there will be three ongoing series based on ex-Titans.) However, I feel like Marv Wolfman and George Pérez established a lot of Vic’s backstory carefully and purposefully from 1980 through 1990, and then chucked it out the window when “Titans Hunt” blew up the Titans status quo. As the New 52 rebooted Vic (and since Forever Evil did it literally), he starts this ongoing with pretty much a blank slate. I’m looking forward to seeing what David Walker, Ivan Reis and Joe Prado have planned, but I hope that includes some of that forgotten history.
March is the final full month of the New 52, so appropriately enough it also brings the solicitations for the first full month of … well, whatever we end up calling these books. (The Fine 49? The Diverse Curse-Reversers? The Too Few For 52 Redo?)
Actually, this month it’s more like the Thrivin’ 45, because these solicits don’t include four ongoing series already announced as part of the post-Convergence lineup: Justice League United, Cyborg, Mystic U and Dark Universe. No doubt they’ll benefit from the extra month’s rest.
Among all the new and returning series are a number of associated changes and comebacks. There’s Tight-Shirt Superman, Mecha Batman, Pointy-Wristed Wonder Woman, Hoodie Green Lantern, the reintroductions of Reneé Montoya and Kate Spencer, and Selina Kyle back in the Cat-suit. Even with all that, though, there’s So! Much! More!
Let’s get started, shall we?
If you liked the first half of Convergence in the April solicitations, you’ll probably enjoy the other set of shoes dropping in May. In fact, the second issues are all extra-sized (but not more expensive), filled out with previews of June’s coming attractions.
However, it’s not all anticlimaxes or “second verse, same as the first.” There are a couple of twists: Not only will the New 52 characters be participating, but the solicitation for Convergence #8 makes it clear this is for all the cosmic marbles. “There can be only one reality” after these two months of nostalgia — and we may have to read the books themselves (gasp!) to see what that looks like.
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In our current age of instant accessibility to an unimaginable library of entertainment, it’s difficult to imagine the hold that broadcast television once had on the culture. In the 1970s, people stayed home on Saturday nights to watch the CBS comedy lineup of Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart, and Carol Burnett. On Tuesdays, ABC had Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley. Of course, NBC owned Thursday nights for decades, from The Cosby Show, Cheers and L.A. Law in the ‘80s to Seinfeld, Mad About You, Friends, ER and The Office in the ‘90s and ‘00s.
Now imagine that NBC — which has since conceded Thursday to ABC’s now-dominant block of “Shondaland” dramas — will be replacing two months’ worth of regular Thursday programming with new episodes of the shows that typified “Must See TV.” Would you want to check in on Sam Malone, George Costanza, Ross & Rachel, or the doctors of Chicago General after all this time? Maybe, maybe not.
Well, for good or ill, that’s the bet DC Comics is making with the comics marketplace in April and May, by bringing back characters (and versions of characters) that haven’t been seen in anywhere from three to 30 years. Will readers want to check in with those characters, even if they’re the only DC game in town? Maybe, maybe not. It depends, I suspect, on some unquantifiable combination of character, creative team, and reader attachment to either or both. At long last, the first batch of Convergence solicitations is here, and today we’ll run through them.
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A while back I wrote that DC Comics could stand to cancel some books, but this isn’t exactly what I had in mind. DC’s March solicitations are among the most significant of the New 52. The August 2011 solicits, which were the last of their particular era, were relatively routine; back then, every superhero title was either being canceled or relaunched. By contrast, March 2015 looks like the start of another line-wide makeover. It will see the end of several series, including some charter members of the New 52.
The solicits actually extend to the week of April 1, which will feature a slew of annuals, the final issues of the three weekly series, and Convergence #0. (All that will cost you $54.89 retail.) With Convergence then taking over April and May, readers will have to wait until June’s solicits (coming in February, of course) for the first full picture of the New However-Many. Although the nature of Convergence still suggests that some old, familiar elements will be reintroduced into the New 52 — because why say “every story matters” if you’re not going to use at least some of them going forward? — these solicits are arguably the strongest indication to date that the New 52 isn’t going away.
In April, DC Comics released solicitations for its July titles alongside an extra batch of advance listings for the September Futures End-related one-shots. This week, in a move that’s perhaps unintentionally similar, the publisher’s February solicits arrive amid advance info about the spring’s Convergence tie-ins.
The scheduling gap isn’t quite as great — only a couple of months here, as opposed to five months last time — and I can understand why DC would want to avoid a lot of negative fan speculation about Convergence. Still, it steals some thunder from the current batch of solicitations, which try to compensate with a raft of Harley Quinn variant covers (including, strangely enough, one for Harley Quinn itself). In addition to her own series and Suicide Squad, Harl also gets a Valentine’s Day Special, another hardcover collection, a statue, an action figure, and a guest-shot in Deathstroke. At this rate I’m expecting her to be Wonder Woman’s new Amazon queen.
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Although the first issues of Who’s Who and Crisis \on Infinite Earths got a headstart in the closing months of 1984, January 1985 kicked off DC Comics’ 50th anniversary in earnest. No doubt real life — i.e., the DC offices’ upcoming westward move — is preventing the publisher from starting the 80th anniversary celebrations this January, and the solicitations certainly don’t have much in the way of commemoration.
(To be sure, the month’s variant-cover scheme involves the 75th anniversary of The Flash, which Robot 6 contributor J. Caleb Mozzocco has already covered extensively on his own blog.)
Therefore, while the real fireworks will probably have to wait another couple of months, the January solicitation tease the return of Robin, changes in the Super-status quo, and other various and sundry plot churning.
One thing that jumps out at me from these solicits has to do with numbering. Now, we all love numbering — big versus small, gimmicks versus straightforward integer progression — but the January books are soliciting the 38th issues of the remaining original New 52 titles. That puts the 50th issues of those series on track for January 2016; or, more likely, February 2016, if next September is another “take a break for a set of specials” month. If I were DC and wanted to relaunch my various titles, and I were a year away from a set of 50th issues, I’d probably wait a year.
There’s a lot to like in DC Comics’ December solicitations, most of it due to the return of some old friends and the uber-nostalgic glimpses at a traditional status quo. It’s not like the New 52’s changes are being rolled back — I have no illusions about that, and I’m not sure how it would work if it did happen — but DC is always best served when it can channel the familiar aspects of its past in vibrant new forms.
THERE YOU GO AGAIN
I am starting to think Secret Six is the comic Gail Simone was born to write, even more so than Birds of Prey. There’s always been a dark undercurrent running through her DC work, from BOP to Batgirl to The Movement, but only with the Sixers could she really cut loose. Indeed, as much as I enjoyed Scandal, Bane, Deadshot and the rest, I’m eager to see what she can do with six cryptically united strangers, most of whom will probably be new to us.
Those who believe the traditional, pre-New 52 DC Universe is still out there, somewhere in the Multiverse, can reasonably hang their collective hat on the return of the Keith Giffen/J.M. DeMatteis Blue Beetle and Booster Gold in Justice League 3000 #12. I’d go even further, and say this version of Beetle and Booster probably follows directly from the two “Super Buddies” arcs that Giffen, DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire produced in the mid-2000s. The second one, I Can’t Believe It’s Not the Justice League, ended rather pointedly with Beetle and Max Lord sharing a happy moment. That, of course, stood in stark contrast to the Countdown to Infinite Crisis special, in which Max shot Beetle in the head, and then (a few months later) successfully dared Wonder Woman to execute him. Therefore, the Beetle and Booster of JL3K hail from an Earth where things turned out quite differently — but ironically, they’ve been awakened in a dystopian future where the Justice Leaguers are darkly twisted versions of their old selves. Not that Giffen and DeMatteis can’t find some comedy there, but I’m having trouble summoning up a bwah-hah-hah.
Following DC Comics’ solicitations over the past few months has been fairly intriguing. The company’s West Coast move in early 2015 looms over all its actions, and makes it hard to gauge whether a new series or new creative team is a long-term commitment or a brief burst of experimentation. Moreover, that makes it tempting to say that anything you don’t like — or, for that matter, anything you do like — might be gone by April.
Oh, well. A little paranoia can’t hurt, but we’re not here to talk about that. Open a window to the November solicits and read along!
November brings new creative teams for Wonder Woman (the Finches and Richard Friend), Superman/Wonder Woman (Peter Tomasi and Doug Mahnke) and Supergirl (Mike Johnson, Kate Perkins and Emanuela Lupacchino). I’m still in wait-and-see mode on the Finches. However, after several years of reading Tomasi and Mahnke’s work, I feel like I know what’s coming from them. S/WW should look great, as Mahnke is no stranger to either Superman or Wonder Woman, having drawn JLA and various issues of the New 52 Justice League. I suppose I’m cautiously optimistic about Tomasi, because this is the sort of book that plays to his strengths. He’s good at reconciling and unifying different perspectives on characters, and that’s pretty much what S/WW has always had to overcome. Ironically, it’ll probably be less of a concern in the absence of Azzarello and Chiang, but I suspect Tomasi will keep those elements around.
Some months the solicitations don’t inspire much in the way of analysis. The superhero serials just sort of chug along, and maybe there’ll be an unusual creative team or an idiosyncratic collection to enliven things. Not so with DC’s October solicitations, which include a number of new series, storylines, and creative changes.
This next bit will sound conspiratorial, but I don’t think it’s an unreasonable supposition. I believe — or at least I would not be surprised to learn — that all these debuts and changes are starting in October because that will give them at least six issues to resolve themselves before the big springtime move to the West Coast. For example, six issues is pretty much the minimum for a collection, so if any of the new series just drop immediately into the sales cellar (I’m looking at you, Klarion; say hi to GI Zombie), DC can still have enough for a trade paperback. That’s not to say a reboot is inevitable next spring — notwithstanding one panel in Robin Rising that should jump-start such talk — but I could see a good bit of the superhero line taking a potential victory lap over the fall and winter. (Apparently I am not alone in thinking this.)
What’s more, “all the same” isn’t much of an exaggeration. The 41 New 52 titles that are getting Futures End one-off tie-ins bear the same prices, release dates and copy as they did in the July solicits. The September listings do add cover art and credits, which are important details; but they don’t change the gist or tone of the previewed plots. More on this later.
Otherwise, these solicits contain only a handful of additional main-line superhero titles. These include the second Multiversity issue (with the awesomely alliterative subtitle Society of Super-Heroes: Conquerors of the Counter-World), the final issue of Superman Unchained, four issues each of Futures End and Batman Eternal, and the first Teen Titans: Earth One hardcover.
Therefore, this month’s solicitation roundup might get a little weird.
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Considering that the July solicitations also previewed September’s Futures End tie-ins, and the final issue of Forever Evil arrives this week after being scheduled originally for March, the August listings feel like just one more ingredient in a jumbled publishing stew. When it’s all done, maybe we’ll see that it’s all worked together. Now, though, we might have to wait until the October solicits for a clearer picture of where DC’s superhero line is going.
In the wake of the New 52’s various revisions, the Grant Morrison-written The Multiversity miniseries seems like an artifact — if not a relic — from the pre-relaunch days. Like the Morrison-written Batman Incorporated, it was originally conceived in that environment, when legacy characters abounded and beloved Silver Age elements were reemerging. Of course, with Earth 2, Worlds’ Finest, Forever Evil and Futures End, parallel worlds have hardly been absent from the New 52; so perhaps The Multiversity is meant to expand that storytelling device even further. I get the feeling that many things are about to change (again) for DC’s shared superhero line, and if some Morrison-infused characters are going to be part of that, I hope they stick around for a while.
For a while it felt as if DC Comics was just going to talk about all its July books without ever soliciting them. News of Grayson and Robin Rising and relaunches of Suicide Squad and Teen Titans trickled out of the DC offices before the dam finally burst on Tuesday afternoon. (That’s why this week’s planned look at the “pilot episode” of Batman Eternal will have to wait.)
In fact, these solicitations are a little overstuffed, with a list of DC’s special September issues that lets us compare and contrast. Note too that while the September issues take place in The Future, they’re only two months removed from their July predecessors — so a good bit of current storylines may well be put on hold.
BECAUSE YOU LOVE THE NUMBERS
Here are the numbers. For the superhero line, DC is soliciting 42 regular ongoing series in July, plus the penultimate issue of Superman Unchained and an extra issue of Justice League. (It’s also putting out five annuals, five issues each of Batman Eternal and Futures End, a Harley Quinn special and the Robin Rising special, for a grand total of 61 single issues.) For September, there are 40 special Futures End tie-in issues, with 3-D covers like those on last year’s “Villains Month” comics. Basically, all the regular ongoing series except All Star Western, Justice League 3000 and Secret Origins get a Futures End issue in September. That doesn’t necessarily mean those three series are canceled, as none of them is part of Futures End’s “five years later” premise. September also includes a Booster Gold: Futures End issue, which one might reasonably think is a good indication of a new series for Booster — but I guess we’ll have to wait and see to be sure. Thus, July’s 42 ongoings, minus the three non-participating series, plus the Booster Gold issue, equal September’s 40 issues.
Aw yeah! In my household, the best news from DC’s June solicitations is the six-issue Tiny Titans: Return to the Treehouse miniseries. I showed the cover to my 5-year-old and she was crestfallen to learn it didn’t come out for another three months. At least she can fill the time reading the other paperbacks (and Superman Family Adventures) and watching Frozen on an endless loop.
I may also have to get the Li’l Gotham figures, although at $13 a pop they are pretty pricey. Perhaps just Batman and Robin.
Oh, there’s more? What could it be …?
LET’S GO PLACES
The solicitation for Futures End #6 — advertising Ray Palmer, Frankenstein and Amethyst’s trip into the Phantom Zone — makes me irrationally optimistic about the series generally. I think the New 52 needs this series (or something like it) to present a coherent shared universe, because for the past two and a half years it’s been a clash of disparate styles and an array of changes without much to pull it all together. If Futures End can manage a good-sized, eclectic cast, and convince readers they’re all able to function in the same basic environment, that’ll go a long way towards giving the superhero books common ground.