“It’s a more serious version of Superman. It’s not like a heart attack. We took the mythology seriously. We take him as a character seriously. I believe the movie would appeal to anyone. I think that you’re going to see a Superman you’ve never seen before. We approached it as though no other films had been made. He’s the king-daddy. Honestly that’s why I wanted to do it. I’m interested in Superman because he’s the father of all superheroes. He’s this amazing ambassador for all superheroes. What was it about him that cracked the code that made pop culture embrace this other mythology? What we‘ve made as a film not only examines that but is also an amazing adventure story. It’s been an honor to work on. As a comic book fan, Superman is like the Rosetta Stone of all superheroes. I wanted to be sure the movie treated it respectfully.”
– Man of Steel director Zack Snyder, discussing his upcoming reboot of Warner Bros.’ Superman franchise, as well as his 2009 adaptation of Watchmen
Passings | Cartoonist and animator Bill White has died at the age of 51. According to his Lambiek page, White studied animation at the Kubert School and was a penciler and inker for a number of publishers, including DC Comics, Marvel, Archie, Disney and Harvey. His animation work included stints on Ren and Stimpy and Inspector Gadget. Infinite Hollywood has a nice remembrance. [The Daily Cartoonist]
Comics | Jim Beard looks at the apparent contradiction between the mass popularity of superhero movies and the relatively limited audience for the comics that spawned them; Mark Waid attributes this to a lack of comics shops, while Ethan Van Sciver thinks that most people simply have a hard time reading comics. Two local retailers weigh in as well, making this an interesting and well-rounded overview of the problem. [Toledo Free Press]
J. Torres explains his newest project:
A number of my Canadian comic book pals and I grew up reading Alpha Flight, Captain Canuck, or Wolverine comics and we’ve always thought that there should be more Canadian superheroes out there. Over the years, we’d periodically get together and inevitably talk about the Canadian superheroes we’ve created (sometimes dating back to childhood) and always wanting to do “something” with them.
Well, we’re finally about to do something — something pretty big, and pretty cool. Kinda like Canada itself, eh?
That something is True Patriot, an anthology of short stories featuring homegrown Canadian superheroes, and Torres has announced a stellar roster that includes Scott Chantler (Two Generals), Ramon Perez (A Tale of Sand), Andy Belanger (Kill Shakespeare), Faith Erin Hicks (Friends With Boys, The Adventures of Superhero Girl) and the team of Jack Briglio and Ron Salas. The anthology will be 100 pages, full color (or “colour,” as they say north of the border), and available in both hardcover and digital formats. Watch for the campaign to go live on IndieGoGo on Oct. 1, but in the meantime, check out Torres’ blog for some cool character designs.
Passings | Douglas Phillips, who drew many stories over the years for the rough-and-tumble British boys’ comics The Rover and The Victor, has died at the age of 85. [Blimey!]
Creators | Green Lantern writer (and DC chief creative officer) Geoff Johns is returning to his hometown, Detroit, to appear at a comics shop and the Arab American National Museum, promoting Baz, the first Arab-American Green Lantern. Johns himself is of Lebanese descent. [Detroit Free Press]
… a superhero movie, by definition, you know, it’s comic book. It’s for kids. It’s adolescent in its core. That has always been its appeal, and I think people who are saying, you know, “Dark Knight Rises is, you know, supreme cinema art,” I don’t think they know what the fuck they’re talking about.
– director David Cronenberg, on the limitations of superhero movies
Although he’s focusing on whether superhero movies can be art, the part of that quote that most interests me is Cronenberg’s assertion that the superhero genre is for kids and is “adolescent in its core.”
My first reaction was that it’s Cronenberg who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The Comics Aren’t Just for Kids Anymore meme has been going on so long that it’s now accepted fact. We should be clear that when we say “comics aren’t just for kids,” what we really mean is that superhero comics aren’t just for kids, but that’s still a fact, too. If anything, the challenge is to find superhero comics that are appropriate for children. This is not a new observation.
There are some punk-rock girls on Tumblr who think McGuinness’ covers are the best things they’ve ever seen in mainstream comics. Then there are some dudes in their 40s who like big hair and big boobs and aren’t crazy about it. And I get it. If this your favorite superhero, you want to like looking at them, but we can’t please everybody. It’s sort of like the weather in Portland … if you don’t like it, just wait a while. Someone will do something that you like. And with the costume … You know, the market will dictate that. If people don’t like it, then she’ll be back in the lightning bolt suit. Let’s just see how it goes.
– Kelly Sue DeConnick, on Carol Danvers, the new Captain Marvel
You should definitely read the entire interview, as DeConnick has really gotten into her character’s skin. But I thought this reflection on external appearances was interesting as well — both the importance of the immediate visual impact of the character and the acknowledgement that fan reaction does have an impact.
ArtInfo spotlights a satirical poster campaign by Oakland artist Neil Rivas that uses superhero illustrations by the likes of Jack Kirby, Alex Ross, Jae Lee and John Byrne (completed with trademarked logos) to address the hot-button political issue of illegal immigration. Titled simply “Illegal Superheroes,” the posters feature such characters as Wolverine, Superman, Black Widow, Wonder Woman and Optimus Prime, whose presence in the United States would likely violate federal law.
Purporting to be from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the posters caution, “Super heroes who enter this country without proper authorization are breaking the law, plain and simple. These ‘illegal super heroes’ are subject to deportation at any time. Their very presence is in direct violation of federal law.” The customized hotline numbers at the bottom of each flyer provides the caller with details about each of the undocumented heroes (for instance, “The ThunderCats, a family of cat-like humanoid aliens from the planet Thundera, are known to have entered the U.S. illegally when they saved the world with Superman from Mumm-Ra and his Mutants in a 2004 DC crossover”). ArtInfo has the full breakdown of the messages explaining each character’s illegal status.
What does finally losing his shorts after seven decades tell us about our Superman? He’s self-conscious, insecure and worries so much about what others think about him that he’ll make radical changes just to try and look cooler…?
– J. Caleb Mozzocco, putting Superman’s new design into historical context, and not liking what he sees
The greatest thing you’re likely to see all day — hell, all week — is Joel Micah Harris‘ series portraits of DC Comics and Marvel superheroes as manatees. As ludicrous as the concept is, Harris manages to wring a lot of emotion out of these mash-ups, creating downright regal images of Martian Manatee Hunter and Captain Amanatee, and depicting a Fastest Manatee Alive that’s not only fleet of flipper but maybe a little melancholy.
See Martian Manatee Hunter and Womanatee below, and many more on Harris’ DeviantART page.
“Sadly, the lesson that was gained from these books was not that comics didn’t need to be hacked-out, disposable, interchangeable stories but could be well written and relevant. Instead what happened was every superhero comic, whether it lent itself to the transformation, or not, was made grim and gritty, which meant more violence, more sex. more trying to fit the superhero world into the real world.”
– John Rozum, putting the Grim and Gritty Era into historical context.
Webcomics | Philip Hofer, the creator of the ComicPress WordPress theme used by many webcomics artists, discusses that and his new WordPress product, Comic Easel. [The Webcomic Beacon]
Creators | Peter Bagge talks about his comics and his relationship with Robert Crumb as both a contributor to and editor of Crumb’s anthology Weirdo: “With the style of work that I do, I like it to look on the surface like it’s shallow and stupid, but when you read it, the context is really sweet; [Crumb] saw that right away. I remember telling him ‘I have some story ideas, using fictional characters that are stand-ins for me, and I’m remembering things that are embarrassing and hard to write about. Even though I’m hiding behind a fictional character, I’m nervous talking about embarrassing events from my past. I’m a little bit afraid. He said ‘Those are exactly the stories you need to tell, especially if it won’t go away, and are always in the back of your head.’” [Graphic NYC]
Comics | With the release today of Marvel’s heavily publicized Astonishing X-Men #51, which features the wedding of Northstar and Kyle, writer Marjorie Liu and associate editor Daniel Ketchum reiterate that “their story is just beginning.” When asked whether he’d be interested in a Northstar solo series, Ketchum replied, “Is that even a question? I can have a pitch ready by the end of the day. Spoiler alert: Storm and Dazzler will be recurring guest stars.” The New York Times, meanwhile, spotlights Ohio couple Scott Everhart and Jason Welker, who were set to be married this morning in a ceremony at Midtown Comics in Manhattan. Unlike Northstar and Kyle, however, Scott and Jason can’t count Mayor Michael Bloomberg among their wedding guests. [The Advocate]
Publishing | Todd Allen turns an analytical eye on Marvel’s twice-a-month releases as well as the cover prices of the publisher’s comics. Overall, prices are down a bit and frequency is up, but Allen isn’t sure if that’s an actual trend. [The Beat]
Although readers will have to wait until sometime in June — perhaps not coincidentally, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month — to learn which established DC Comics character will be reintroduced as gay, we already know at least two details: It’s a major character (better luck next time, Doll Man), and it’s a guy.
“One of the major iconic DC characters will reveal that he is gay in a storyline in June,” Courtney Simmons, DC Entertainment’s senior vice president of publicity, confirmed to ABC News following the weekend revelation by Co-Publisher Dan DiDio that the formerly heterosexual figure will become “one of our most prominent gay characters.”
With those 18 words, Simmons drastically narrows the list of candidates, eliminating such popular guesses as Vibe (he’s neither a major character nor an iconic one) and Hawkgirl (she’s a … she). However, Simmons’ quote also raises the question of just what DC considers “major” and “iconic.”
“Take the character of Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson. Like the character of Katniss in The Hunger Games, she has skills you might not expect from her if you mistook her for what her unlucky Russian interrogator did—just another pretty face. Black Widow, or Natasha Romanoff, is a more complicated character than Katniss, though. Possessed of numerous languages, secretive, a spy from childhood with a ‘very specific skillset,’ she’s not all good, though she’s working for good now—she has, as she says, “red on her ledger.” Flawed as she is, as they all are, that only serves to make her more empowering as a role model. You can imagine a young generation of girls watching this movie and thinking they want to be like her, now fighting for good, able to take down aliens and bad men and get bruised and bloody but never give up. As a woman, she’s outnumbered in her gender (the other badass woman in the group is S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill, who gets fewer lines but still manages to escape and outsmart certain death over and over again while looking beautiful, as does Natasha). Maybe they’re pretty girls, but they absolutely get their time to shine alongside and on equal footing with the guys in a non-sexualized way. While they do wear tight-fitting black clothes that reveal their femininity (this is a big-budget movie based on a comic book, after all, and the dudes are wearing some skintight stuff as well), they are not considered “less” either by the men or by each other—or even, gender-equally so, by the villains.”
– Jen Doll, writing for The Atlantic Wire on the blockbuster success
of Marvel’s The Avengers, and the importance of superheroes
Typically, I’ll spend most of Saturday in panels, but the first one I was interested in wasn’t until later in the morning, so I killed time taking in some of the more offbeat exhibitors, like Ben the Bubble Guy, a businessman who hires himself out for birthday parties, corporate events, funerals. Okay, maybe not funerals.
When it was time, I headed up to the fourth floor for the AV Club‘s panel on the Future of Superheroes.