Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
For all its attempts at inclusion, Convergence is limited to what DC Comics has “allowed” historically within its shared universe. The three main Convergence time periods are basically 2011, 1994, and 1984-ish, and they each interact with other superhero-flavored genres.
However, through the years there’s also been a thread of DC superheroics set outside the main-line milieu. More often than not, these stories aren’t really concerned with detail-oriented “what ifs” — Communist Superman, vampire Batman, etc. — but with the larger questions surrounding the superhero genre itself. If you’re going to talk about DC and you don’t want to talk about Convergence, more than likely you’re going to run into these stories.
Passings | MAD Magazine writer Lou Silverstone has died at age 90. Silverstone was the writer of many of MAD‘s movie and television satires in the 1960s and 1970s, starting with “Bananaz,” a parody of Bonanza. Later he went to work for Cracked, MAD‘s chief competition, and he also wrote for the Jackson 5 animated series and the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents comic, a gig that he got through former MAD artist Wally Wood. The MAD website also pays tribute to Silverstone. [News From ME]
Conventions | Oregon’s Cherry City Comic Con has a new owner and a new attitude. The con fell on hard times last year, and at one point this year’s show was canceled. New owner John Roache bought the show when he heard that news; he and his wife, artist Nicole Brune, had been to last year’s show and enjoyed it. He’s keeping the name but changing the format to more of a pop-culture convention, with a long list of entertainment guests, and he has expanded the number of slots available for vendors. The show is scheduled for April 11-12. [Statesman Journal]
Winter finally caught up with the Memphis suburbs over the past couple of weeks, bringing nasty bouts with freezing rain and (currently) a little snow. Digging out from under the ice has been more tedious than anything else, but the persistent cold kept us all housebound for a little while. Of course, compared to folks in other parts of the country, we are very lucky.
Still, the mere idea of days at home with nothing else to do made me want to search the DC archives on comiXology for decent binge-reading material. Everything from the New 52 forward is available there, so the following recommendations are for older series. I’ve tried to stay away from the bigger names, and go instead for stories and series which might make the time indoors a little more tolerable. They’re also organized according to Convergence eras, so even if you’re not coping with the cold, you can still look forward to April and May.
Video games | Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai has revealed a video game will be released later this year for smartphones, tablets and personal computers based on his long-running historical action-fantasy comic. Called Usagi Yojimbo: Way of the Ronin, it’s not the first video game to feature the samurai rabbit: Samurai Warrior: The Battles of Usagi Yojimbo debuted in 1987 for Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC. Expect more details next month at Comic-Con International in San Diego. [Facebook]
Conventions | Organizers of the Denver Comic Con anticipate that this weekend’s show was their second-largest ever. Batgirl writer Gail Simone praised the show, noting it sold out Friday and Saturday: “Sheesh, both Friday and Saturday completely sold out, the place was packed. There are tons of interesting guests, lots of great panels, and a real emphasis on diversity. The attendees have huge percentages of females, there’s more cosplayers here than any con this size I have been to, and very welcome indeed, there are lots and lots of kids.” [Denver Post]
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.)
This week saw the return of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents from DC Comics in a new miniseries by writer Nick Spencer, who wrote the previous, pre-New 52 edition of the book. This time he’s joined by artist Wes Craig, who picks up where CAFU and several guest artists, like Mike Grell, Nick Dragotta, Dan McDaid and Dan Panosian, left off.
The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves have had a long, tumultuous publishing history. Before DC Comics announced they were bringing the concept back last year, the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents had been published by at least seven different publishers since the 1960s. It started with a 20-issue run by Tower Comics, the longest run the title would enjoy in its history. One thing the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents have always enjoyed over the years is association with some of the industry’s best talent, with the likes of George Perez, Dave Cockrum, Keith Giffen, Steve Ditko, Jerry Ordway, Paul Gulacy, Terry Austin and of course Wally Wood working on the characters.
So what do folks think about the title’s latest return? Here’s a sample of reviews of the first issue:
Andy Hunsaker, CraveOnline: “The new T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 has managed to keep its previous continuity – a privilege shared mostly by Things Geoff Johns Writes and Batman – but Spencer has lightened up the proceedings significantly, injecting a bit more fun into this first issue. It’s a bit thick with exposition this time around, but while in other cases it might seem turgid, as a reader of the previous series, it feels rather welcome. This iteration is a bit more straight-forward, and there’s much less of the feeling that everything sucks and will suck forever for everybody involved. In fact, the two people who wound up killing their own family members go out on a date in this issue – the no-bullshit Colleen Franklin, who killed her supervillain mother The Iron Maiden, and the much-bullshit Toby Henston, aka Menthor, who put a special mind-control helmet on and found his skullduggerously planned betrayal to his brother’s terrorist organization Spider rewritten into a triplecross. Henston even goes so far as to say ‘We could all use a little sunshine in our lives.’ That attitude sure helps to dissipate that hesitation about picking up the series.”
Writer James Robinson tweets that low sales might cut short his twelve-issue Shade miniseries. That would be a shame, because the first two issues of The Shade are tremendously entertaining, great-looking superhero comics. Robinson has returned to the character he revitalized, bringing with him the artistic talents of Cully Hamner and a bevy of high-profile guests like Darwyn Cooke, Frazer Irving, Javier Pulido, and Jill Thompson. The Beat’s Todd Allen has written a supportive post, noting along the way that certain New-52 titles which are selling below The Shade #1’s level (30,648 issues estimated sold to retailers) might also face the axe.
I’m somewhat skeptical of this rumor, despite Robinson’s insider knowledge, for reasons having to do with the 2009-10 miniseries The Great Ten.
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a “Splurge” item.
I have to say, this is an amazingly slow week for me in terms of new releases. If I had $15, I’d pick up the fourth issue of Dark Horse’s Angel & Faith series ($3.50), which has surprised me by turning out to be my favorite by far of the new Buffy series (due, in large part, to Rebekah Isaacs’ artwork, which is superb). I’d also grab the third issue of IDW’s Star Trek monthly ($3.99), in the hope that it’ll be as good as the first two issues; hardcore Trek fans, you should really be looking at this book, if you’re not already. Also on the list to grab: Thunderbolts #166 (Marvel, $2.99), continuing a great storyline from what might be one of the most underrated books from either of the big two publishers. One of the few nice things about Marvel’s recent Cancelpocalypse was seeing so many people speak up about how much they love Thunderbolts, and I’m right there with them; Jeff Parker’s done great things with this book.
At first I wasn’t especially excited about too much in DC’s February solicitations. However, the more I looked around, the more optimistic I became. Six months into the New 52, some connections are starting to gel, and their interactions (well, as far as what you can glean from the ad copy) seem more organic. As always, there were a few pleasant surprises in the collected editions, and some details from which to spin hopeful speculation.
But enough with the purple prose — let’s hit the books!
TO UNLIMITED AND BEYOND
The gee-whizziest news of the February solicitations has to be the digital-first format of Batman Beyond Unlimited. I have not been the quickest to adapt to digitally-conveyed comics, mostly because my personal technology level hasn’t caught up. However, I do read a number of webcomics, as well as newspaper strips online, and if the price were right, I’d gladly sample BBU’s features on my computer before picking up the print version. Having Dustin Nguyen and (yay!) Norm Breyfogle involved doesn’t hurt either.
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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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In many ways, for longtime DC superhero readers, this is the first week of the rest of our lives. This is the week the first batch of New-52 second issues come out, and as such, this week the New 52 stops being a September-specific gimmick. We all know the second issue is where the rubber meets the road. Accordingly, in conjunction with a look at December’s titles, here’s where I am after a month of first issues.
Back when the September solicitations came out, I listed 37 books that I was planning at least to try:
Action Comics, All-Star Western, Aquaman, Batgirl, Batman, Batman And Robin, Batwing, Batwoman, Blackhawks, Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, Catwoman, DC Universe Presents, Demon Knights, Detective Comics, The Flash, Frankenstein: Agent Of SHADE, The Fury Of Firestorm, Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern: New Guardians, Grifter, Justice League, Justice League Dark, Justice League International, Men Of War, Mister Terrific, Nightwing, Red Lanterns, Resurrection Man, Static Shock, Stormwatch, Supergirl, Superman, Swamp Thing, and Wonder Woman
… Specifically, thank goodness this is the last batch of solicitations before the New-52 lineup. As with the previous two sets of solicits, these exist partly to advertise November’s books, but also to keep consumers excited about September’s. Paradoxically, however, that means I can’t really get excited about them until September’s books arrive, and with them some real context.
As always, though, there are more things in the solicits than the New-52, so at least we can discuss some things substantively.
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The serious business of Comic-Con got underway Thursday in San Diego with a wave of panels and announcements. Here are the highlights:
• Announcements at the Marvel panel included Jeff Parker and Patrick Zircher’s Hulk of Arabia arc, a new Deadpool arc, an Avengers Academy recruitment drive and Villains for Hire, a new spin on the Heroes for Hire concept. Also in the works: A series of Avengers Origins one-shots.
• T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents is coming back in November; the new comics will be written by Nick Spencer and drawn by Wes Craig.
• At the Marvel Digital panel, Marvel senior vice president of publishing David Gabriel announced that Marvel will begin simultaneous print and digital release of its Spider-Man and X-Men comics, starting next week with Amazing Spider-Man #666 and Spider Island line.
• At the Vertigo panel, Executive Editor Karen Berger announced a new graphic novel called Marzi that would ba marketed to both young and old readers. She also said that Vertigo will launch a new Halloween anthology in October and a totally new series later this year.
Here’s some great news from San Diego Comic-Con — T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents are returning in November with a new six-issue series by writer Nick Spencer, artist Wes Craig and “special guest artists” like DC’s first run did. Flashpoint artist Andy Kubert will provide the covers.
“It’s the little book that could! Nothing seems to stop this thing,” Nick Spencer told The Source. “I’m very grateful to DC for allowing us to continue telling this story that everyone involved has become so passionate about. This is really what we’ve been building towards since the very first issue– everything comes to a head here, and the twists and turns only get crazier as we delve deeper into it. To get to see this story through is enormously fulfilling from a creative perspective, and I’m excited and hopeful that with the collected edition on its way and the first arc already available digitally, we’ll have an opportunity to introduce a legion of new readers to these fantastic characters and the rich history of T.H.U.N.D.E.R.”
“We were thrilled with the response the first volume of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents got, so we wanted to do a new #1 so people who’ve been curious about the title would have a clean place to jump on board,” series editor Wil Moss said. “Nick Spencer has a crazy level of passion for this title, and he’s come up with a truly great story for this miniseries — underground warlords, deaths, rebirths, betrayals — trust me, you won’t want to miss it! And to have the incredibly versatile and talented Wes Craig on board as the main interior artist, with Andy freakin’ Kubert on board for covers? Not to mention the surprise guest artists who’ll be contributing to #2-5? You’ve no doubt already reworked your comics budget so you can pick up all 52 new books we’re launching in September — what’s one more?”
The first issue comes out Nov. 16, the same day as the trade paperback collection of the first T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents run.
Welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? Our special guest today is Chris Butcher.
Butcher is the manager of The Beguiling in Toronto and founder of The Toronto Comic Arts Festival. He’ll be at the UDON Booth #5037 and The Beguiling Original Art Sales Booth #1629 at San Diego Comic-Con this weekend.
To see what Chris and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …