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Grumpy Old Fan | New year, old habits from DC in January

Rowsdower!

Rowsdower!

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.

LOOKING AHEAD

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.

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DC heroes juice up with French drink brand

fruity1

French manufacturer Orangina Schweppes has partnered with DC Entertainment to produce special cans for its Oasis fruit-drink brand featuring some of the publisher’s most iconic superheroes.

According to The Ephemerist, the promotion is tied to the 75th anniversary of Batman, here portrayed by Mangue Debol. He’s joined by Ramon Tafraise as The Flash, Fambougeoise as Wonder Woman and  Orange Presslé as Superman. It’s worth noting that all four heroes seem to be wearing a variation of their New 52 costumes, which don’t often appear in licensing efforts.

You can see closeups at Geek Art.

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Jeffrey Baldwin statue unveiled in Toronto park

jeffrey-baldwin-statue

A bronze statue honoring 5-year-old abuse victim Jeffrey Baldwin, depicted in his Superman costume, was unveiled Saturday at Greenwood Park in Toronto.

The story of the Toronto boy, who died in 2002 of starvation and septic shock after years of abuse by his grandparent guardians, received renewed attention in Canada last fall with a coroner’s inquest, during which Jeffrey’s father testified to his love of Superman. “He wanted to fly,” Richard Baldwin recalled. “He tried jumping off the chair. We had to make him stop. He dressed up [as Superman] for Halloween one year. He was so excited. I have that picture at home hanging on my wall. He was our little man of steel.”

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Take a look at DC Collectibles’ Jae Lee action figure line

jae lee figures

Jae Lee’s work on Superman/Batman has simultaneously been among the most unique and divisive of DC Comics’ New 52. After years working on Marvel’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, Lee’s return to superhero work has found a balance between iconic and creepy; while his style might seem tailor-made for the likes of Batman and Catwoman, his depiction of Superman has been both haunting and boyish in all the various main- and alternate-universe incarnations.

And now, DC is using those designs as the basis for a line of collectible figures.

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‘Astro City’ gives an old ‘Wish’ new life

ASTRO-Cv3n16-tease

[Editor’s note: Each Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss the best in comics from the last seven days — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.]

Ever since its return under the Vertigo banner, Astro City (from Kurt Busiek, Brent Eric Anderson, and company) has been pretty great on a consistent basis. Don’t get me wrong, it’s always been a highlight of my pull list; but the current run has really been something special. Last month’s issue #15 — concluding the story of a sweet little old robotics genius and the supervillain who sought to ruin her — was particularly heartwarming. (What’s that? Something in my eye? No, I’m just tired….)

Then, however, I read this week’s issue #16. Readers looking for familiar pastiches will be rewarded immediately, since the broad strokes of the story are deliberately reminiscent of Silver Age Superboy and Lex Luthor. (The energy-headed hero Starbright also looks a bit like Firestorm, but that’s more incidental.) It’s a tale of awkward friendship, super-powered rivalry, and an act of simple kindness which literally transforms a life. As Busiek reveals on the letters page, the middle part of the story comes from his unpublished eight-page script for an installment of the backup feature “Superman: The In-Between Years.” In hindsight it’s easy to see how that script would have worked as a look into the developing dynamics between the Collegian of Steel and his former friend — but as usual, Astro City has taken those elements in undreamt-of directions.

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Grumpy Old Fan | Balancing out the New 52, Part 2

Really, isn't everything fifty-fifty? Either it happens or it doesn't

Really, isn’t everything fifty-fifty? Either it happens or it doesn’t

Last week I laid out a lot of numbers and background on the distribution of character-oriented franchises in the New 52. (Along the way I got confused about the New 52 version of G.I. Combat; it was canceled after Issue 7, but its zero issue brought its total to eight.)

Accordingly, this week discusses whether the New 52 needs to get back up to its eponymous number of titles, or whether a smaller stable of ongoing series is a more sustainable environment. We’ll get into some other concerns as well, but the overarching question — as DC transforms its biggest franchise, the Bat-books — involves how the publisher chooses to allocate its resources.

(Because I forgot to do it directly last week, I want to acknowledge my debt to Dave Carter, who started me thinking about all this when he charted New 52 longevity in January and who, providentially, has just started listing DC rosters of Augusts past.)

* * *

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Bill Sienkiewicz ‘fixes’ offensive Superman/Wonder Woman tee

superman-wonder woman-fail

In the aftermath of the controversy about a pair of sexist shirts licensed by DC Comics, celebrated artist Bill Sienkiewicz has created a his own revised design for the “Superman Does It Again” tee.

His version includes a second image, on the back of the shirt, with the Man of Steel’s “Score!” answered with Wonder Woman’s “Fail!!” — and an Amazonian fist to the Kryptonian’s jaw. “Maybe a bit too on the nose,” the New Mutants and Elektra: Assassin artist wrote on his Facebook page, “but there you go …”

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Grumpy Old Fan | Balancing out the New 52, Part 1

Larfleeze, not beloved among the franchisees

Larfleeze, not beloved among the franchisees

Note: This week’s post, and probably next week’s, get pretty number-heavy. Also, this week’s post contains a lot of history and background data. I have tried to make it all entertaining, but consider yourselves warned. Either way, there’s still the Futures Index.

Starting this week, the Batman line gets a makeover. Gotham Academy, from writers Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher and artist Karl Kerschl, is a delightfully spry addition to the Bat-landscape. Amid a franchise dominated (not unreasonably) by stylized, unflinching urban avenging, GA’s unique perspective is both welcome and necessary. Waiting in the wings are new Batgirl and Catwoman creative teams, as well as new titles Arkham Manor and Gotham After Midnight. (The three new books apparently take the places of Batman: The Dark Knight, Batwing and Birds of Prey.)

All look promising, and each offers a new look at a seldom-seen aspect of the Batman mythology. Moreover, it’s vitally important for DC to reach out to a diverse audience, particularly one that may have felt underappreciated over the past few years.

However, all this innovation comes at a time when the in-name-only New 52 has been stuck for a while at around 40-odd series. Only 21 of the original 52 ongoings are still being published, although books like Teen Titans, Suicide Squad and Deathstroke have been relaunched with new volumes. Similarly, we might view Grayson and Justice League United as continuations of Nightwing and the New-52 version of Justice League of America.

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Licensed DC Comics tees draw accusations of sexism

Shirts

Two licensed T-shirts featuring DC Comics’ Trinity have sparked accusations of sexism among online fans.

The first shirt, as reported at DC Women Kicking Ass and spotted by CBR contributor Tamara Brooks this past weekend at Long Beach Comic Con, depicts Superman and Wonder Woman in a passionate embrace with the caption, “Score! Superman Does It Again!” As takedowns of that shirt began to circulate on social media, another one, bearing the phrase “I’m Training to Be Batman’s Wife,” was brought into the discussion.

Both shirts present undeniably sexist messages: The former positions the most prominent female superhero as a prize to be won, stripping away the character’s 75 years of nuance and feminist themes. The latter would be perfectly acceptable if it had only stopped before that final word; the assumption that the goal of any woman’s training would be to become someone’s wife is antiquated at best.

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Superman’s trunks make a return in J. Bone cartoons

jbone-superman2

I don’t know whether it was cartoonist J. Bone’s intent, but I like the suggestion that his “sun-friendly” Superman costume is a send-up of the not-exactly-convincing justification for Starfire’s skimpy costume — namely, that she draws her power from the sun and, therefore, needs to expose as much skin as Earth laws will allow. Heck, these new threads could even work as a response to those who miss those signature red trunks in the New 52 design.

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Power couples: ‘Superman/Wonder Woman’ and ‘Astro City: Victory’

superman-ww-astro-city

Superman is the world’s greatest superhero, Wonder Woman is the world’s greatest superheroine. They have so much in common — their superpowers, their costume colors, their hobbies, their social organizations — that they seem perfect for each other … if only it weren’t for that nosy reporter friend, or girlfriend, or wife, or object-of-his-affection that’s kept the Man of Steel more or less spoken for over the course of his 75-year career.

I suppose that’s why Superman and Wonder Woman so often become a couple in various out-of-continuity stories like Kingdom Come and Injustice, and a large part of why DC Comics decided to use its 2011 reboot as an opportunity to make the pair a super-powered power couple, one of the more dramatic, non-sartorial changes in either characters’ milieus the reboot has so far introduced.

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Jeffrey Baldwin statue, with Superman emblem, is nearly finished

jeffrey-baldwin-superman-statue

The memorial statue of 5-year-old Jeffrey Baldwin wearing a Superman costume is nearly complete, and should be ready for a planned Oct. 18 unveiling, Heat Vision reports.

The story of the Toronto boy, who died in 2002 of starvation and septic shock after years of abuse by his grandparent guardians, received renewed attention in Canada last fall with a coroner’s inquest, during which Jeffrey’s father testified to his love of Superman. “He wanted to fly,” Richard Baldwin recalled. “He tried jumping off the chair. We had to make him stop. He dressed up [as Superman] for Halloween one year. He was so excited. I have that picture at home hanging on my wall. He was our little man of steel.”

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Revisiting Fleischer Studios’ monumental ‘Mechanical Monsters’

superman-mechanical monsters

I recently had the pleasure of rewatching The Mechanical Monsters, the 1941 animated Superman short from Fleischer Studios. I viewed it once before in the early ’90s on a cheap video tape that virtually disintegrated after just three uses. However, we’re in the new millennium now, and thanks to the dual magic of public domain and YouTube, the Fleischer cartoons are easily accessible for free in the comfort of your own home.

Do remember the “Beware the Gray Ghost” episode of Batman: The Animated Series? Bruce Wayne watches an old serial starring his childhood hero Simon Trent (voiced, in a stroke of genius, by none other than Adam West).  He’s suddenly transformed into a little kid again, with all the cynicism of adulthood melting away. That was me watching the Fleischer Superman cartoons. I’d searched for these videos for analytical purposes, but instead I walked away with words like “Wow!” and “Gee whiz!” popping into my head.

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Canada introduces Superman coins featuring iconic DC covers

superman-15-cropped

Less than a year after unveiling seven collector coins celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Man of Steel, this morning at Fan Expo in Toronto the Royal Canadian mint introduced four more, featuring iconic Superman comic book covers.

The superhero’s milestone anniversary and Toronto roots were also celebrated last year with a set of stamps from Canada Posts. Although Superman was created in 1933 by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster when they were teenagers living in Cleveland, Shuster was actually born in Toronto, and lived there until age 9 or 10. He worked as a newspaper boy for the Toronto Daily Star, whose building served as a model for the Daily Planet (originally called the Daily Star).

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Pristine copy of ‘Action Comics’ #1 sells for record $3.2 million

action1The finest known copy of Action Comics #1, featuring the first appearance of Superman, sold late this afternoon on eBay for a record $3.2 million. It’s the first comic to fetch more than $3 million at auction.

The previous record price of $2.16 million was paid in 2011 for a copy of the same comic once owned by actor Nicolas Cage. While both are rated 9.0 by the Certified Guaranty Company, the Cage issue had “cream to off-white pages”; this one is considered to be in pristine condition. They’re the only two copies of Action Comics #1 to receive that high of a rating.

This copy was acquired several years ago in a private sale by Darren Adams of Pristine Comics in Federal Way, Washington, and stored a temperature-controlled vault. He said the original owner bought the comic  from a newsstand in 1938, and then kept in a cedar box for about four decades until a local dealer in West Virginia purchased it in an estate sale. The issue then passed to a third person, who held onto it for 30 years.

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