Axel-In-Charge: Bringing "Dead No More" to FCBD, the Original "Civil War's" Legacy
“People clamor for Black Panther or Luke Cage, and the incredible response when the Static show was announced — that wasn’t just black fans going ‘yay, about time.’ That was fans going, ‘yay, about time.’ Everyone knows diversity is good. We want black superheroes, we want female superheroes, we want Latino superheroes. That makes things better. And they don’t have to be sidekicks or buddies, they can be rock stars themselves.”
— Reginald Hudlin, in an interview with Comic Book Resources, discussing the Static Shock live-action digital series, and the desire for diversity in superhero-comics adaptations
While there may not have been a slew of big announcements coming out of DC’s C2E2 panels this weekend, there were several fun little tidbits that came up during the panels, particularly during the Q&A sessions. Here are a few that caught my eye from the New 52 panel and the Superman/Batman panel:
• While Static won’t be joining the Teen Titans, Bob Harris, DC editor-in-chief, did say something “might be happening with Static relatively soon.” Static Shock was one of the first titles cancelled after the launch of the New 52, and I don’t think we’ve seen the character since then (I should always ask Tom before I make statements like that). He’s the most well-known character to come out of the Milestone universe, having had his own cartoon, so a return would make sense.
• A fan asked whether there would be “an answer as to Renee Montoya’s status in the New 52″ and whether Batwoman will be drawn closer to the other Bat-books. “Yes and yes,” Harras said. Montoya took over as the Question in the pre-New 52 universe, and since that role is already taken by someone else entirely in the New 52, it’s doubtful she’ll be taking on that name again (though I wouldn’t rule it out completely). But she had a pretty rich history in the DCU even before that, so she’d be a welcome addition.
[Note: all this was written before I read any of this week’s comics.]
As mentioned last week, part of this look back at my New 52 reading is the chance to see where I might drop some titles. Not that I want to be negative unnecessarily, but it’s always good to make sure you really like what you buy. While I do buy some books “just because,” it’s very easy simply to fall into the habit of reading the same things month in and month out, neither looking forward to them nor missing them when they’re gone.
Therefore, let’s push through some bad vibes and talk about a couple of books I let drift away. Besides Superboy (covered last week), there was Red Lanterns (written by Peter Milligan, penciled by Ed Benes) and Grifter (written by Nathan Edmondson, penciled by CAFU). Originally I liked Red Lanterns because I thought it had recast Atrocitus as a distracted middle-management type, questioning his place in the universe while his functionaries went down their own demented paths. However, as the months went by the series never really built up any momentum, and for a premise based around the blood-spewing power of RAGE!!!1!! that’s not so good. Much the same applies to Grifter: thought it had potential, but it didn’t hold my interest.
To mark what would have been the 50th birthday of Dwayne McDuffie, who passed away a year ago Tuesday, actor-director Stefan Dezil is circulating the trailer for Static Shock: Blackout, a 12-minute short based on the late writer’s best-known creation. Shot on RED for $5,000, the short centers on Daisy Watkins, a New York City reporter who travels to Dakota City to discover the identity of the teenage vigilante.
Static Shock: Blackout, which stars Dezil as Virgil Hawkins and Nadine Malouf as Daisy Watkins, will debut online in mid-March.
Last month former Static Shock writer John Rozum revealed his side of why he left the New 52 series after only a handful of issues. His reasons came down to creative differences with his editor and with artist Scott McDaniel–or, as Rozum said on his blog, “From the first issue on, I was essentially benched by Harvey Richards and artist/writer Scott McDaniel.”
Now McDaniel has posted his side of the story on his website, noting, “I have remained SILENT because I fear no good thing comes from this type of public display. However, John chose to bring this into the public square. He has forced me to speak openly about our experience together on Static Shock, to correct the public record before his grotesquely distorted account matures in people’s minds as the truth of what happened here.”
McDaniel’s post is lengthy, as he gives some context around the book’s origins, the pressure of following in the footsteps of Dwayne McDuffie and the original Milestone book and how a poll on CBR about the New 52 books from last summer indicated the potential challenges the book might have in the marketplace. He then shares his side of how the collaboration started and when it soured, going into detail on some of the plot points Rozum called out in his original posts on the subject.
As I said, it’s lengthy and a lot to digest, so I’ll refrain from cutting any more of it up to post here and encourage you to read it on its own. My takeaway from all this is that sometimes people just don’t work well together, even talented creators like Rozum and McDaniel. Hopefully both of them will have a better experience on their next projects (which I look forward to seeing). I do agree with Rozum’s previous statement about the potential for Static Shock to be a breakout comic for DC, so hopefully this doesn’t sour the publisher on revisiting the character.
When Danny Donovan shared some thoughts about what went wrong with Static Shock, he ended up inspiring John Rozum to reveal his own insights into the recently canceled series. In the comments to Donovan’s post, Rozum writes:
I went into Static Shock with a lot of high hopes. Among them was showing that Static wasn’t simply an A-list character, but one of the most powerful in the DCnU. I really wanted this series to be fun and exciting and to bring the same degree of creativity to it that I put into Xombi balanced with making Virgil’s personal life at least as engaging as his superhero life. I also saw Static Shock as an excellent gateway through which to pull the rest of the Milestone characters into the DCnU.
I quickly learned that none of these plans were going to see fruition. I wound up being shunted to the sidelines as the writer while Scott McDaniel’s “high concept” criminal syndicate made up of Power Rangers and a big monosyllabic thug took center stage and Harvey’s ideas of the 2 Sharon’s and slicing off Static’s arm were implemented as desperate means of trying to draw attention to the book.
I tried my best to keep it from being a total turd, but as I said, I was completely sidelined. My main contributions were the Pale Man character, Guillotina, naming the school after Dwayne McDuffie, and including Hardware, along with random lines of dialogue. I decided it was unethical to stick with a title that a) I thought was garbage b) that people were buying because of my involvement, due to Xombi, when really I had nothing to do with it c) because I wasn’t being utilized on the title.
Frankly, Static deserved a lot better.
“With all these books, and this is where I’m going to sound corny, every book we put out, we want to succeed. Every book is kind of like a child, you want it to work. Books like O.M.A.C., yes, I loved O.M.A.C., and you know the hard work that goes into that. Unfortunately, sometimes these books don’t find the audience you were hoping they would. We knew from the beginning, when we created the New 52, some of these books that we were discussing earlier, there was always the discussion of replacement titles if something was not performing to the extent where we’d like it to be. It’s always unfortunate when something doesn’t work out the way you’d like. It doesn’t mean these characters are going to go away. One thing I really think is exciting is you will see O.M.A.C. land in another book. You will see Hawk and Dove land in another title. This is the fourth time I’ve used this term, so again I apologize, but we are world-building. These characters, even if their books are going way, they are still part of the DC story. We’ll still be seeing them.”
Since the March solicitations kick off the back half of the New 52’s first year, it’s probably worth noting that the whole line remains unchanged: no “midseason replacements” like Justice Society, but no cancellations either. If I hear relieved sighs from OMAC and Men of War, certainly Dan DiDio and Jim Lee have to be pleased generally that they’ve gotten this far with the 52 intact.
Well, pleased or stubborn, I suppose. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.
Ahem. Away we go…!
One of my pet peeves about the New-52 is the sense that it lacks a meaningful “history.” For at least the last few decades, a reader might not have known exactly what had happened or when, but s/he could tell that these characters hadn’t just fallen off the turnip truck. I say this because the solicits for Justice League #7 and Flash #7 both allude to their books’ untold backstories. With Justice League, we’ll learn about membership turnover and other details of the five years between the League’s debut and today. (To be sure, some of that has already been alluded to in the League’s previous present-day appearances, like JL Dark #1.)
It seems like we were running a different trailer every day and twice on Sunday for one of DC’s New 52 books back in August and September, but then they stopped coming once the first issues hit the stands. Until today, anyway; Scott McDaniel, co-writer and penciller of Static Shock, sent over one for issue #4, which comes out Dec. 7. It’s the last issue he co-wrote with departing writer John Rozum; McDaniel’s writing issues #5 and #6 himself, with Marc Bernardin joining McDaniel as of issue #7.
I was going to open with some snotty Wow, the holidays went by super-quickly! comment, but then I read the first issue of Justice League in seven weeks. Sometimes DC gets ahead of itself; sometimes it’s a little behind. Happens to the best of us — sometimes you do two solicitation roundups in three weeks….
Anyway, with the January solicitations, the New-52 books each turn five issues old. Series wrapping up their first arcs this month include Blackhawks, Batwoman, Animal Man, and the Deadman feature in DC Universe Presents. (Not to worry about the latter, because there is a lot of Deadman in these solicits.) I’m not sure why five issues is such a wonky number for story arcs — there are five-issue miniseries all the time and they collect just fine. Still, I expected most of the New-52 books to take six issues for their introductory stories, and most of them may yet do that. Only a few books look to finish their first arcs after December’s issue #4s (Hawkman and Frankenstein, probably OMAC, maybe Batgirl), and those plus this month’s are barely an eighth of the relaunched line. It makes next month’s solicits more intriguing, I suppose.
Regardless, we live in the now (as it were…) so — onward to January!
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The New York Comic Con officially opened its doors this afternoon, but comics publishers and distributors have been releasing announcements leading up to it all this week. Here’s a round-up of news from today, as well as some that hit earlier this week.
• DC Comics, who were having a pretty good week already, announced two creative team changes for the New 52. Ann Nocenti of Daredevil and Longshot fame will write Green Arrow starting with issue #7. She spoke to Comic Book Resources about her approach to the series: “I have a particular way of writing a comic. Comics are short. They are only twenty pages, so you can take a year of comics and that can be your opera, and the opera can have a lot of different passages in it. I kind of believe every issue should be a single story, just a complete story. But there is a momentum that forms like triptychs over it, and then it forms your big overtures, and then the whole thing ends up kind of operatic. I also want a beginning, middle and end, a classic short story approach to every single comic. What I do is I try to figure out, what is the kick in this comic, what is the main feeling I want to get, and everything in the comic has to serve that.”
• And Marc Bernardin (Monster Attack Network, The Highwaymen, The Authority) will take over the writing duties on Static Shock beginning with issue #7. “As a fan and as a writer, one of the great things about Static isn’t just that he’s a new hero, it’s also that he’s a young hero,” Bernardin told CBR. “He will make the mistakes of youth and, even though the New 52 is resetting a lot of heroes to their early days as do-gooders, there’s nothing quite like the fumblings of a teenager.”
DC Comics has selected Marc Bernardin as the new writer of Static Shock, replacing John Rozum, who announced his departure from the relaunched title last month.
Bernardin, a former senior editor for Entertainment Weekly who co-wrote The Highwaymen and The Authority for DC, will join current artist/co-writer Scott McDaniel with March’s Issue 7.
“As a Black comic book fan and as a father of Black children, it’s really important that people see themselves reflected in a media they like,” Bernardin tells BET.com. “I remember growing up and looking at the Cosby Show for the first time and getting to look at people who were like me and doing things like I did, people who were my age going to college and studying for exams. I think for a long time, a Black kid picking up a comic book never got the chance to see himself, so I think that characters like Static are incredibly important.”
Static Shock #2, by Rozum, McDaniel and Andy Owens, was released last week.
Welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? Today our special guest is Kevin Colden, whose comic work includes Fishtown, I Rule the Night, Vertigo’s Strange Adventures and Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper, among others. He’s also the drummer for the band Heads Up Display.
To see what Kevin and the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, click below …
As DC Comics, retailers and fans prepare for another round of New 52 titles next week, here’s a collection of the latest news and such …
• DC’s Bob Wayne told CBR’s Kiel Phegley that they planned to extend certain sales incentives to retailers through December, and this week DC released more details on what exactly that means — additional discounts for qualifying retailers on certain books, returnability on many titles and variant covers for several books, including the fourth issues of Justice League, Batman, Action Comics, Flash and Green Lantern.
• Wired’s GeekDad talks to Tony Bedard about the relaunched Blue Beetle series, which is due in shops next Wednesday. Bedard notes that the new series will be “less convoluted” than the last one in terms of Beetle’s origin, noting that this time around it isn’t tied to Infinite Crisis. He also notes Ted Kord won’t figure into the new series: “I loved the Ted Kord Blue Beetle as much as anyone. But he doesn’t figure into this new Blue Beetle series at all. My mission right now is to make 15 year-old El Paso high school student Jaime Reyes into the best character and the best Blue Beetle imaginable. And I have really good material to work with there. As anyone who read the last series or caught his appearances on Brave & The Bold will tell you, Jaime is a character teens and twenty-somethings can really latch onto. He has a terrific supporting cast and I’m building a ‘rogues gallery’ for him that will knock your socks off. None of this means that Ted Kord never existed. It’s just that before we go back and rehash the past, we are going to build a solid future for DC, and Jaime Reyes is the future.”
It was the strangest thing — when I woke up this morning I was younger, single, and most of my clothes had high collars and funky seams….
Okay, let’s cut that out right now. Don’t worry, I’m still middle-aged and married, with the same beat-up wardrobe. However, I have read all but one of this week’s New-52 books, and now I get to share them with you. (The local comics shop got shorted on Batwing #1, which is too bad, because as one of the few sort-of new concepts being offered, I was especially looking forward to it. Next week for sure!) Generally I thought most had at least some potential, and I was mostly impressed with the efforts the various creative teams made. Of course, that doesn’t mean I liked everything, but I did like more than I thought I would.
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