DC Comics' July Highlights: "Batgirl," "Nightwing" and a "New Super-Man"
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? This week’s special guest is Simon Monk, an artist whose “Secret Identity” paintings we featured here on Robot 6 not too long ago. Monk is actually selling limited edition prints of his paintings on his website now, so go check them out.
To see what Simon and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Comics College is a monthly feature where we provide an introductory guide to some of the comics medium’s most important auteurs and offer our best educated suggestions on how to become familiar with their body of work.
Strap yourself in, kids, because this is going to be a big one, as we run through the lengthy and considerable career of one of mainstream comics’ biggest stars, Grant Morrison.
Supergods, his new prose book on the subject of superheroes, isn’t the least bit confusing. It is, however, slightly confused.
While the book eventually earns its self-help book-sounding subtitle of “What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human” in its closing chapters, that subtitle is a poor distillation of the actual contents of the book, which are a bit scattershot.
Supergods is partially a history of American superhero comics (and their British reflections). It’s partially a biography of Grant Morrison and his career in the comics industry, which naturally overlaps with the first concern at a certain point. And it’s partially a cultural history of the concept of the superhero in the 20th and 21st centuries, with the Promethean subject of what superheroes can teach humanity shining through here and there.
Morrison is an excellent writer, in prose as well as in comics-scripting it turns out, and the pages of the book are fiercely passionate, vibrating with authority and conviction on their subject, and thoroughly encrusted with often lyrical sentences and clever, even brilliant turns of phrase.
Despite these considerable virtues, the wandering mission makes it a frustrating read, as does the fact that Morrison’s many tics come to the fore almost immediately, and can make for a rather uncomfortable read (perhaps especially for those of us who have heard versions of many of these stories before, and from different perspectives).
Legal | As he promised he would do last month after a federal judge declared the heirs of artist Jack Kirby had no claim to copyrights on the superheroes he co-created for Marvel Comics, Kirby family lawyer Marc Toberoff filed an appeal Monday with the Second Circuit Court of Appeal.
“Specifically, the estate of comic book superhero legend Kirby — co-creator of Captain America, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, The Avengers, Iron Man, Hulk, The Silver Surfer and Thor — sent notices terminating copyright to publishers Marvel and Disney, as well as film studios that have made movies and TV shows based on characters he created or co-created, including Sony, Universal, 20th Century Fox and Paramount Pictures,” Deadline reports. [The Hollywood Reporter, Deadline]
Publishers | DC Comics have released details on the midnight release of Flashpoint #5 and Justice League #1 on Aug. 31. The publisher is offering a free over-ship of Flashpoint #5 for retailers who order 125 percent of their order for Flashpoint #1, and the publisher has noted that that these are the only two DC titles shipping that week that can be sold at midnight. The promotion is only available to U.S. and Canadian accounts; due to the Aug. 29 bank holiday, the midnight sale option will not be available to UK retailers. [ICv2]
Legal | Michael Dean looks at the recent ruling by New York federal judge Colleen McMahon that the family of Jack Kirby has no claim to the copyrights of the characters he co-created for Marvel. Dean notes, “Some legal observers were expecting Marvel to be the second major comics-publisher domino to fall when Toberoff filed on behalf of the Kirbys, but there is a key difference between Kirby’s comics work and Siegel’s: It was well established that Superman already existed as a full-blown character concept before Siegel and Joe Shuster pitched him to DC, whereas Kirby, who died in 1994, did most if not all of his Marvel work on assignment from the publisher. In the case of work for hire, the Copyright Act defines the instigating employer/publisher as the Author of the work.” [The Comics Journal]
Legal | Marc Toberoff, the lawyer suing Marvel on behalf of Jack Kirby’s heirs, plans to appeal Thursday’s ruling by New York federal judge Colleen McMahon that the Kirby estate had no claim to copyrights on the superheroes Kirby co-created for Marvel Comics. “We respectfully disagree with the court’s ruling and intend to appeal this matter to the Second Circuit,” Toberoff told The Hollywood Reporter. “Sometimes you have to lose in order to win.” [The Hollywood Reporter]
Creators | Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison chat about Supergods, The Sandman, Superman and more. “…when I did comics, it was also a performance,” Morrison said. “It’s like playing live. You don’t get much time to edit; we don’t really do second drafts in our business. I love that aspect of comics, where you could have a Sandman out and people would be talking about it immediately, and we could be responding to things that were happening all around us and it could be published three months later, or two months later, depending on how late we were. It’s not like writing a book, which is over a span of years like building a cathedral. The comic is so instant. That’s why it covers the seismic shifts of culture very, very accurately.” [Shelf Life]
[Mark Millar and J.G. Jones’s] Wanted articulated a new myth for the hordes of suddenly cool under-achievers who’d been lionized by the rise of “nerd culture.” Big business, media and fashion were, it seemed, so starved of inspiration, they’d reached down to the very bottom of the social barrel in an attempt to commodify even the most stubborn nonparticipants, the suicide Goths and fiercely antiestablishment nerds. The geeks were in the spotlight now, proudly accepting a derogatory label that directly compared them to degraded freak-show acts. Bullied young men with asthma and shy, bitter virgins with adult-onset diabetes could now gang up like the playground toughs they secretly wanted to be and anonymously abuse and threaten professional writers and actors with family commitments and bills to pay.
Soon film studios were afraid to move without the approval of the raging Internet masses. They represented only the most miniscule fraction of a percentage of the popular audience that gave a shit, but they were very remarkably, superhumanly angry, like the great head of Oz, and so very persistent that they could easily appear in the imagination as an all-conquering army of mean-spirited, judgmental fogies.
In the shadow of The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell’s immensely influential book on social networks and marketing, nobody wanted to risk bad word of mouth, little realizing that they were reacting, in many cases, to the opinions of a few troublemakers who knew nothing but contempt for the universe and all its contents and could hardly be relied upon to put a positive spin on anything that wasn’t the misery and misfortune of others. Too many businesspeople who should have known better began to take seriously the ravings of misinformed, often barely literate malcontents who took revenge on the cruel world by dismissing everything that came their way with the same jaded, geriatric “Meh.”
– Action Comics and Batman Inc. writer Grant Morrison on the nastiness of “nerd culture” in Supergods, his new prose non-fiction book about superheroes. Morrison uses the protagonist of his former friend and protégé Mark Millar’s Wanted, a downtrodden office drone who launches a rape-murder spree when he discovers he’s part of a secret supervillain society, as a symbol of how nerds, a group of people bullied and marginalized by society, have frequently used the newfound power conferred upon them as pop-culture trailblazers to bully and marginalize others. Or as another writer of science fiction once put it, “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.” (He likes Wanted, fwiw.)
It’s a bit surprising to see Morrison resorting to the fat-virgin stereotype, but in the context of the book it becomes clear that he was burned pretty badly by over-the-top fanboy rampages, up to and including threats against him, following such works as New X-Men and Final Crisis — hence the obvious and perhaps forgivable rancor in response. Food for thought during the San Diego Comic-Con, nerd culture’s annual Woodstock?
(via Matthew Perpetua)