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Grumpy Old Fan | DC’s March solicitations come in like a lion

The sociopathic apple doesn't fall too far from the incredibly-driven tree

No small amount of drama accompanies the March solicitations, thanks to Gail Simone’s unexpected dismissal from Batgirl.  There’s also turnover at Swamp Thing and Birds of Prey, potential clues to the end of “Death of the Family,” and the usual I-remember-this! commentary on collections.

Ready? O-kay!

FOLLOW THE BOUNCING BALL

The big stories are the departures of Simone from Batgirl and Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette from Swamp Thing. It seems particularly odd in Simone’s case because it leaves the fate of Batgirl’s current antagonist in the hands of a different writer. Maybe that means Simone’s original plans for him didn’t go over particularly well with DC, or maybe it’s something totally unrelated. Either way, looks like it’ll be at least another month (in January’s Issue 16, her last issue) before we learn anything significant. At any rate, Ray Fawkes writes two issues of Batgirl starting with Issue 18.

As of March, Jim Zubkavich is your new Birds of Prey writer, Andy Kubert draws the lead story in Batman #18, and Trevor McCarthy draws Batwoman #18. Also, in a move that threatens to have me try out Phantom Stranger, the very fine J.M. DeMatteis comes aboard as co-writer with Issue # (guest-drawn by the equally fine Gene Ha and Zander Cannon).

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A look at Francis Manapul’s sketches and layouts for The Flash

The first collected volume of the New 52 era of The Flash has hit shelves, and on its blog, DC Comics is showcasing rough layouts by artist and co-writer Francis Manapul. And they’re gorgeous.

In comic stores now (and in bookstores later this month), The Flash, Vol. 1: Move Forward collects the first eight issues of the run by Manapul and co-writer/colorist Brian Buccellato and doesn’t spare on the the extra features, with an inside look at layouts and sketches done by Manapul — some of which are being rolled out on DC’s blog (and below).

In the new wave of creators and runs from the New 52 relaunch, Manapul’s work on The Flash has been a standout for both its art and writing. As most of DC’s marketing is geared toward writers and story developments, it’s a welcome change to see the publisher leaning so heavily on the artistic component.

After years in the industry, Manapul seemed to come of age at DC, first with his work on the Superboy story inside Adventure Comics with writer Geoff Johns, then on the Flash title with Johns, and now on the New 52 Flash title. Much in the way Scott Snyder has become one of DC’s top writers, Manapul is emerging as one of the publisher’s leading artists.

Getting back to the subject of these excellent layouts, DC promises to post more on its blog later this week.

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Food or Comics? | Multiple Warheads of lettuce

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.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Multiple Warheads: Alphabet to Infinity #1

Chris Arrant

If I had $15, I’d dutifully pick up Dark Horse Presents #17 (Dark Horse, $7.99). With all the stories and the variety of genres, this is a comics haul all under one roof. This month’s issue has a great looking Carla Speed McNeil cover, and inside’s star looks to be Richard Corben adapting an Edgar Allan Poe story. Beat that, comics! After that I’d do an Image two-fer with Multiple Warheads: Alphabet to Infinity #1 (Image, $3.99) and Invincible #96 (Image, $2.99). On the Multiple Warheads front, I’ve been salivating over this ever since it was announced – I bought the premature version of this back when it was published by Oni, and it’s built up in my mind as potentially greater than King City … and I loved King City. In terms of Invincible, I feel this book has the best artists working in superhero comics – and the writing’s not to shabby either. They’re doing a lot of world-building here, and having Cory Walker join with Ryan Ottley on this essentially split book makes it the highpoint of the series so far.

If I had $30, I’d double back to Image and get Prophet #30 (Image, $3.99). Of all the prophets, I love Old Man Prophet the best – and this issue looks like a mind-bender. After that I’d get Ghost #1 (Dark Horse, $2.99). Kelly Sue DeConnick and Phil Noto look like a dream team and Dark Horse really scored a coup by getting them together on this book. I was a big fan of the original series (Adam Hughes!) so I’m excited to see if this new duo can make it work in a modern context. Third up would be Secret Avengers #33 (Marvel, $3.99). Make no mistake, I love that Rick Remender is so popular now that he’s graduated to the upper echelon of books, but I’m remorseful he’s having to leave his great runs on this, Uncanny X-Force and Venom. This Descendents arc is really picking up steam. Lastly, I’d get National Comics: Madame X #1 (DC, $3.99). I’m a fair-to-middling fan of Madame Xanadu, but the creators here – Rob Williams and Trevor Hairsine – mean it’s a Cla$$war reunion! Love that book, love these guys, and love my expectations here.

If I could splurge, I’d splurge all over Shaolin Cowboy Adventure Magazine (Dark Horse, $15.99). Can DH do two excellent anthologies? We’ll see… but fortunately they’ve got Geof Darrow’s Shaolin Cowboy to lead the way in this pulpy throwback. Shine on, you crazy super-detailed diamond, shine on.

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Comics A.M. | Council OKs San Diego Convention Center expansion

Comic-Con International

Conventions | San Diego City Council has given final approval to the planned $520 million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center, viewed as necessary to keeping Comic-Con International in the city past 2015. The project still faces a legal challenge to a financing scheme involving a hotel-room surtax, as well as state regulatory approval, leading the city attorney to caution that the targeted 2017 completion date is just “a goal.” Whether Comic-Con organizers can be convinced to sign another three-year extension to their contract remains a big question. [NBC San Diego]

Conventions | Most of Heidi MacDonald’s article about New York Comic Con is behind a paywall at Publishers Weekly, but she pulls out some stats at The Beat: Ticket sales are up 190 percent over this time last year. As the capacity of the Javits Center is somewhere south of 110,000 people, this means the ReedPOP folks won’t sell any more tickets than last year, but they are selling out faster. Three-day and four-day passes are already gone, only Friday tickets remain, and ReedPOP vice president Lance Fensterman expects everything to be sold out by the time the show begins. [The Beat]

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Food or Comics? | Stelle or Steed and Peel

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.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Showcase Presents Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld, Volume 1

Graeme McMillan

It’s an odd one for me this week; if I had $15, I’d probably just grab two of DC’s Zero Month books (Batman Incorporated and Flash, both $2.99) and then skip straight to the $30 portion of the week so that I could pick up the Showcase Presents Amethyst, Vol. 1 collection (DC, $19.99), if only to reassure me that the original series was good after last week’s revival.

If I were to splurge, I’d step outside of DC’s purview and go for IDW’s Joe Kubert Tarzan Artist Edition. I was one of the many people who didn’t really “get” Kubert as a kid, but his linework won me over as I got older, and the chance to see some of his best-looking art in “real size” is something that I’d love to be able to embrace.

Chris Mautner

If I had $15, I’d get Batman Incorporated #0, probably the only DC zero book I’ll get, and Vol. 11 of Yotsuba&!, because I could use some irrepressibly cute manga about an adorable green-haired girl right about now.

If I had $30, I’d put away Yotsuba&! and get Barbara, Osamu Tezuka’s manga about a would-be artist who takes in a lovely but strange homeless woman, only to become convinced that she is his personal muse. I know there was a bit of grumbling that DMP went the Kickstarter route in getting this published, but honestly, I’m just happy to have more Tezuka in print.

What constitutes a splurge purchase? How about six, hardcover, slipcased volumes of Robert Crumb’s sketchbook work, priced at about $1,600, courtesy of the fine folks at Taschen? Yeah, I think buying that would be a “splurge purchase.” It would also constitute sheer madness and a one-way trip to the poorhouse, but at least you’d have all those nice Crumb books to keep you company. I’m sure they’d make a fine pillow.

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Grumpy Old Fan | DC’s December is getting closer all the time

Not the face!

Here in Memphis this week, September finally turned the corner into fall. High temperatures are mostly in the 70s, the air is getting crisper, and the sky is turning a paler blue. Unlike July or August, when October and November seem far in the future, a nice September makes December that much easier to imagine.

In September you start to settle into the routine which will take you through the winter — and that’s apparently true as well for the New 52 superhero books. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

MOVERS AND SHAKERS

Ivan Reis and Joe Prado head to Justice League with December’s Issue 15, and I for one am happy. Although I like Jim Lee fine, I think Reis is better-suited to big, multiple-character action. It’s hard for me to explain the distinction, so consider this: How would “Sinestro Corps” or Blackest Night have looked if Lee had drawn them?  Reis manages crowds quite well, and Justice League should be crowded.

Also, while I’ve been rather down on Justice League of late, the expanded roster (teased over a year ago) and the Atlantis-centered storyline make me optimistic that the book is … well, doing what I’d like it to do, which is being a showcase for, and gateway to, the larger superhero universe. So, well done, solicitation!

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Lora Zombie’s burlesque take on DC’s superwomen


Russian artist Lora Zombie has a portfolio full of work influenced by comic book iconography, though posed in a resolutely non-traditional form. She paints DC Comics’ female characters in work reminiscent of classic pin-up art, while her take on their male counterparts features them in a particularly non-dynamic fashion (but dig Batman’s Chuck Taylors!). Prints of all these are available at Eyes On Walls. Much more below.

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Food or Comics? | Amontillado or Amulet

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.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Locke & Key: Grindhouse

Graeme McMillan

I don’t know quite why, considering I’ve been feeling cynical and disinterested in the DC Universe over the past couple of weeks, but I find myself tempted by both Flash Annual #1 and Justice League International Annual #1 (both DC Comics; $4.99) this week; something even more surprising considering I haven’t been following the JLI series past trying out the first issue. And yet, if I had $15 this week, I suspect I’d be using a chunk of it for that. I’d also grab Joe Hill and Gabriel Hernandez’ Locke & Key: Grindhouse (IDW Publishing, $3.99), because, well, Locke & Key is a very, very good comic book.

If I had $30, I may find myself picking up the first collection of Peter Panzerfaust (Vol. 1: The Great Escape; Image Comics; $14.99) because I like the high concept behind it even if I managed to miss the single issues. People who did pick it up in singles: Is it the kind of thing I’d like, do you think?

Should I find the money and ability to splurge, I find myself surprisingly drawn to Dark Horse’s Star Wars Omnibus: Clone Wars Vol. 1 ($24.99); I blame people in my Twitter feed talking about Star Wars Celebration last week, and my thinking, “I haven’t really kept up with Star Wars in ages” in response. Does that count as peer pressure?

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Grumpy Old Fan | The games begin for DC in November

Control of the Firestorm Matrix will be decided by Rock-Paper-Scissors

College basketball season starts back up in November, so that makes thinking about bracketology only a little less premature. Looking at the various discrete (and, occasionally, indirect) crossovers happening throughout November’s New 52 solicitations, I couldn’t help but picture the field of 68, with each individual game a step along the way to … “Trinity War,” I guess …?

OPENING ROUNDS

Green Lantern’s “Rise of the Third Army” occupies the four GL titles, of course, but it also brings in Justice League, where the solicit for issue #14 wonders where Hal is. (After reading this week’s GL #12, I have a better idea about that.) Likewise, GL #14 guest-stars the League.

From the solicits I wonder if “ROT3A” takes place mainly in GL (with a little JL on the side). “Night of the Owls” was advertised that way (you only need to read Batman, because the other Bat-books dealt with ancillary stories) and it kind-of fits with the way the New-52 books have hyped their creative teams. Johns, Scott Snyder, and Jeff Lemire are responsible for a total of seven books (GL, JL, Aquaman, Batman, Swamp Thing, Animal Man, JL Dark), and each writer has at least one book in some sort of crossover this month.

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Grumpy Old Fan | Used universes

Scott Lobdell, are you listening?

We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of the New 52, and I anticipate doing the usual examinations of what worked and what didn’t. Until then, however, this preliminary post will try to organize my general impressions.

I have tried to keep an open mind about the various changes, but apparently I keep coming back to the New 52-niverse’s lack of meaningful fictional history. Much of this comes from the five-year timeline, but a good bit of it is due to storytelling styles. While origin stories can generate a nominal setting, including a regular supporting cast, many of the New-52 books held off for various reasons — like readers pretty much knowing the origins at the outset — and with today’s practical concerns, many books spent their first 12 issues on extended arcs.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been talking about this as a function of “idea generation,” but I think it is a more elemental concept. Specifically, it seems like I have been conditioned to expect a certain amount of continuity in a modern shared universe. Furthermore (and more troubling), I suspect the simple acknowledgment of preexisting continuity helps mitigate whatever weaknesses may exist in the stories themselves.

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Grumpy Old Fan | Sidekicks, icons and DC public relations

And now I am hungry for waffles. Mmmm ... waffles ...

A brief indulgence before we get started: July 14 marked eight years since I started blogging about comics on my own little website, the now-dormant Comics Ate My Brain. Since one of my first posts was called “Robin Problems,” it’s a happy coincidence that this week we return to the original superhero-sidekick identity.

Although I’m not always happy with DC Comics as a company, I have a lot of empathy for the people who work on superhero comics, especially those who populate convention panels. Regardless of how we think they’re doing their jobs, those are still their jobs, and I wouldn’t want to go to work every morning facing a steady torrent of criticism from my customers. (We lawyers get more than enough workplace second-guessing as it is.) It also can’t be easy traveling around having to face one’s critics in person.

That said, if the alternative-fuels industry could harness avoidable fan outrage, DC Comics would be the new OPEC. Once again demonstrating a knack for how not to behave, its panelists practically laughed off legitimate questions about switching out fan-favorite Bat-protege Stephanie Brown for the “more iconic” Barbara Gordon.

After those original accounts appeared online (on Friday the 13th, no less), more details emerged to help explain just who did what. It’s still a situation where DC higher-ups asked to remove Stephanie (which, it can’t be said enough, is really asking for trouble); but apparently the series’ writer got to choose her replacement. Don’t worry, we’ll get into all the nuances.

Onward!

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Grumpy Old Fan | My hero Zero: DC’s September solicits

The Lana/Lois team-up YOU demanded!

DC Comics in September brings together two gimmicks. This being corporate-run superhero comics, naturally these two things have been tried before. September’s unified cover themes remind me of January 2009’s “Faces of Evil” (not particularly uplifting) and January 2011’s “Salute to White Space.”  The new “Zero Month” recalls August 1994, when every main-line DC superhero title got an Issue #0 in the wake of July’s weekly, timeline-tweaking Zero Hour miniseries. Just over four years later, in September 1998, the weekly DC One Million miniseries launched all the superhero books into the 853rd Century with #1,000,000 issues.

Personally, I’m looking forward to September 2013’s Roman Numeral Month, September 2014’s Hexadecimal Month, and September 2015’s Binary Month (can’t wait for Justice League #100100!).
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Mimoco unveils DC Universe, Dark Knight Rises MIMOBOT series

Mimoco has introduced adorable MIMOBOT designer USB flash drives featuring Superman, The Flash, and Batman and Bane from The Dark Knight Rises. They join the previously released Batman and Green Lantern series. However, Bane is a limited-edition Comic-Con exclusive, meaning you’ll have to trek to San Diego, or have a friend pick one up for you (or, y’know, pay a minor fortune on eBay).

Mimico is counting down to Comic-Con by revealing a new exclusive or premiere each Tuesday at midnight until the convention begins. These DC Comics drives are only the first, so there are four more sets to go. Check out the individual drives below, along with a MIMOBOT Dark Knight Rises teaser.

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Quote of the day | ‘Don’t mess with my cake’

“The real answer to questions like, ‘Why doesn’t the Flash clean up Gotham City, too?’ is ‘It would make Batman’s cake lousy. People read Batman because they like crimefighter stuff where Batman’s cool, and don’t really want to see Superman or the Flash or Green Lantern mess with that particular cake.’ On the other hand, people who like stories where Batman and Superman and Green Lantern work together have the JLA cake, and some people like both kinds of cake.

But if you start to tie it together with logic foremost in your plans rather than entertainment, then you need to explain why Superman doesn’t help all the other heroes almost all the time, and why aren’t the crimefighters turned into SF-type heroes to make them more effective, and you end up with everything being JLA cake, and no solo Batman cake left. Or you come to the conclusion that it doesn’t work, so Batman shouldn’t be in the JLA, which maybe preserves the Batman cake, but it messes up the JLA cake.

So in the end, the answer to all of these questions is: Don’t mess with my cake.”

Kurt Busiek, using a cake/frosting metaphor to point out how logic should never trump fun in shared-universe superhero comics. He’s right of course, and that he even has to point this out goes to show how grown-ups ruin everything.

(via The Comics Reporter)

Grumpy Old Fan | Who won the ‘80s?

Where the over-people gather to watch big-screen botanical throwdowns

A couple of weeks ago, I wondered whether we could trace the entire sidekick-derived wing of DC’s superhero-comics history back to Bill Finger. Today I’m less interested in revisiting that question — although I will say Robin the Boy Wonder also owes a good bit to Jerry Robinson and Bob Kane — than using it as an example.

Specifically, this week’s question has nagged me for several years (going back to my TrekBBS days, even), and it is this: as between Alan Moore and the duo of Marv Wolfman and George Pérez, who has been a bigger influence on DC’s superhero books?

As the post title suggests, we might reframe this as “who won the ‘80s,” since all three men came to prominence at DC in that decade. Wolfman and Pérez’s New Teen Titans kicked off with a 16-page story in DC Comics Presents #26 (cover-dated October 1980), with the series’ first issue following the next month. Moore’s run on (Saga of the) Swamp Thing started with January 1984’s issue #20, although the real meat of his work started with the seminal issue #21. Wolfman and Pérez’s Titans collaboration lasted a little over four years, through February 1985’s Tales of the Teen Titans #50 and New Teen Titans vol. 2 #5. Moore wrote Swamp Thing through September 1987’s #64, and along the way found time in 1986-87 for a little-remembered twelve-issue series called Watchmen. After their final Titans issues, Wolfman and Pérez also produced a 12-issue niche-appeal series of their own, 1984-85’s Crisis On Infinite Earths.* The trio even had some common denominators: Len Wein edited both Titans and Watchmen (and Barbara Randall eventually succeeded him on both), and Gar Logan’s adopted dad Steve Dayton was friends with John Constantine.

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