Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Not a lot in DC Comics’ May solicitations really strikes me as “new.” That’s due partly to a lot of the new books being set to launch a month earlier. Generally, the superhero line continues to contract, while The New 52 — Futures End kicks off, the New 52 version of Doomsday keeps rampaging through the Superman titles, and Batman Eternal rolls on. Nevertheless, I do have the irrational sense that the line is gearing up for something even more significant, and will be adding new series over the next few months.
Still, if we’re to get excited about the regular fare, we may have to read between the solicitations’ lines — so let’s get on with it, shall we?
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A NEW 52 FOR THE NEW 52
And here it is, Futures End. Last year I wrote the New 52 needed its own version of 52, the year-long miniseries that spanned time and space to focus on the lesser lights of the superhero line. I talked about exploring the geography of the still-new shared universe, doing character studies, and essentially giving the reader a good sense of place and/or connection.
Less than three weeks after the final issue of DC Comics’ The Green Team: Teen Trillionaires arrived in stores, Gail Simone has announced the cancellation of its companion series The Movement with May’s Issue 12.
Unfortunately, this book just never found a big enough audience,” the writer posted Sunday on her blog. “The people who loved it, loved it hard, but that number was too small. I am bummed about it, we wanted to do a book that didn’t read or look like anything else out there, and I think we accomplished that. I take the responsibility, I think it took a little while for people to really adopt the characters, which was a conscious choice but also a risky one in this very cautious market where people have to be extra careful of which books they choose.”
Launched in May 2013, The Movement and The Green Team were a look at the 1 percent and the 99 percent, the haves and have-nots, in the DC Universe: While The Green Team, by Art Baltazar, Franco and Ig Guara, centered on teens who used their wealth to purchase power — and super powers — Simone and Freddie E. Williams II’s The Movement focused on another group of teens who used their abilities to fight corruption in Corral City.
“Whenever a book is cancelled, people often get mad at the publisher — it’s understandable, but in this case, we received nothing but support from DC,” Simone wrote. “They knew it was a dicey prospect, a book not set in Gotham or Metropolis with no known heroes, and an unusual core theme. They knew it was a bit risky commercially and they did it anyway, and they let us run out to twelve issues to finish it properly, when almost any other publisher would have cut it earlier on.”
This look at DC’s latest round of solicitations may be quicker and dirtier than usual, mostly because this week I thought I was going to be talking about Teen Titans’ cancellation. We’ll do a little of that this week, along with the other titles on the chopping block.
However, for a while now we’ve known that April — being the first post-Forever Evil month — will feature some big changes, and those start right here.
BY THE NUMBERS
I count 47 ongoing New 52 series, but that includes the six books canceled as of April, and it only counts Batman Eternal — which, contrary to my expectation, is not solicited as a limited series — once. Thus, if DC still wants to hit the magic number, it needs to come up with 11 new series for May.
Warning: There will be a good bit of “in my day” talk in this survey of DC’s February solicitations. It’s the unavoidable contradiction of the publisher’s current superhero-comics model: Make everything “new,” but tease enough of the familiar old elements to keep longtime fans interested. While this practice goes back decades in corporately run superhero comics, the New 52 has tried so hard to distinguish itself that the old ways sometimes stand in even starker contrast.
Probably my biggest frustration with Forever Evil is its limited scope. Oh, sure, every electronic device on DC-Earth says “THIS WORLD IS OURS,” and writer Geoff Johns has teased a revamped Blue Beetle and Doom Patrol — but from the three issues published already and the three more solicited, it looks to be nothing more than Luthor’s Legion of Doom (plus Batman and Catwoman) vs. the Crime Syndicate. Ho-hum. We know the three Justice Leagues are imprisoned, the Teen Titans are bouncing through time, the Suicide Squad is depleted, and Nightwing is the Crime Syndicate’s prisoner, but where are the rest of the superheroes? What happened when they presumably rose up to challenge the Syndicators?
Conventions | A even bigger obstacle than the San Diego Chargers to the proposed $520 million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center could be the California Coastal Commission, which must approve the project before it can proceed (the stage agency has regulatory oversight of land use and public access to the California coastal zone). The commission’s 11 members are meeting today through Friday in Mission Valley, where they’re expected to consider staff objections about reduced access to the bay; a bridge, estimated to cost about $42 million, from the foot of Fourth Avenue in the Gaslamp Quarter has been floated as a solution. A public hearing is being held Thursday. The expansion of the convention center is viewed as critical to keeping Comic-Con International in the city past 2015. [U-T San Diego]
Digital comics | IDW Publishing released its first batch of digital comics on the motion-comics platform Madefire this week. The selection includes partially animated My Little Pony, Star Trek and Transformers comics, which sell for $1.99 each. Jeff Webber, IDW’s vice president of digital publishing, noted that because Madefire has a partnership with DeviantArt, the books are being exposed to “an incredibly broad network of illustration fans.” To commemorate My Little Pony’s Madefire debut, Dave Gibbons drew the image at right “to show that Friendship IS Magic!” `[Publishers Weekly]
Passings | Cartoonist Jack Matsuoka, who chronicled life in the Poston, Arizona, internment camp in his book Camp II, Block 211, has died at the age of 87. , Born in the United States to Japanese parents, Matsuoka was a teenager when his family was sent to internment camps in Salinas, California, and then Poston. After leaving the camp he was drafted and served as an interpreter for the U.S. Army in occupied Japan. He went to college on the G.I. Bill and worked as an illustrator and cartoonist for many years. Camp II, Block 211 was based on sketches he did while living in the camps and set aside for many years; his mother found them and encouraged him to share them with the public. They were put on exhibit in San Francisco and then collected into the book, which was first published in 1974. A revised edition was released in 2003. [The Rafu Shimpo]
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, our look at what comics and other things we’ve been perusing lately. Today our special guests are Caleb Goellner, Buster Moody and Ryan Hill, the creative team of Task Force Rad Squad, the hot new comic find of 2013. Especially if you were ever a Power Rangers fan. Or even if you weren’t, as Moody and Hill’s art is just kind of wonderful on its own. Our old friend and former colleague Graeme says it “pretty much does for Power Rangers what Jeffrey Brown’s Incredible Change-Bots does for Transformers,” and that’s a very apt description. You can download it yourself here, and pay whatever you think is fair.
And to see what Task Force Rad Squad + the Robot 6 Irregulars are reading, click below …
Comics have a long history of reflecting the political and social issues of the times, whether that’s Green Arrow and Green Lantern dealing with teen drug abuse or Superman fighting slumlords. So it’s no surprise DC has two comics this month that draw influence from the Occupy movement that was all over the news media in 2011 and 2012. The first, titled The Movement, is by Gail Simone and Freddie Williams II, and came out on Wednesday. Later this month will bring us the Green Team, the 1 percent to The Movement‘s 99 percent, even if they aren’t directly linked in terms of story.
“I have this feeling that a lot of the best adventure fiction is based on the idea of standing up for the little guy against oppressive forces. If you go back and look at Zorro, or the Shadow, or the Lone Ranger, you can pretty quickly see that that idea of a masked protector pre-dates comics entirely,” Simone told Comic Book Resources. “There’s something very powerful about that, and it’s completely non-partisan. The idea of someone laying their life on the line for others is a big part of why I read superhero comics, and yet, even in some really popular books, I feel like that theme has been lost a little — there’s a bloodthirstiness to a lot of books and you can’t always see why these characters are heroes, or even admirable anymore.”
ROBOT 6’s Tom Bondurant shared his thoughts on the first issue Thursday, and here are a few more thoughts from around the web:
In the very first panel of The Movement #1 there’s a blonde in black leather and fishnets. Her strong resemblance to old-school Black Canary seems designed deliberately to remind readers of writer Gail Simone’s previous DC Comics work. However, there’s nothing straightforward — at least not yet — about this new series. Simone’s script is a maze of upended expectations, and Freddie Williams’ art likewise seems made up of unsettled lines. The overall effect is disorienting, which might not be the best way to begin a from-scratch series like this one. But The Movement #1 works well as the first chapter of what will hopefully be a long run.
Gail Simone has one of the most personable and idiosyncratic voices in comics. It’s why fans follow her in books like Batgirl, Birds of Prey and Secret Six, and it’s how she broke into the comics industry from being a Comic Book Resources columnist. And 2013 is shaping up to be a big year for Simone with the launch of her creator-owned Leaving Megapolis with Jim Califoire, a new Red Sonja series at Dynamite and The Movement at DC Comics (which she spoke about at length Friday with Comic Book Resources), and continuing on her cathartic run on Batgirl.
I reached out to Simone following the Red Sonja announcement to talk to her about that new book, but also her career in general. Her off-again, on-again time on Batgirl has already been covered ad nauseum, and there’s more to her story than that.
So this is what happens when you praise Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern run …
Let’s be clear: I do not generally have violent mood swings. My sense of well-being does not depend on the fortunes of DC Comics. I don’t pretend to have any special insight into the publisher’s inner workings, and I’m sure the reverse is equally true. However, after saying many nice things about Green Lantern a couple of weeks ago, and then eviscerating the humorless “WTF Certified” last week, it was pretty surprising to see the May solicitations address both topics.
NEXT, RAFALCA JOINS THE LEGION OF SUPER-PETS
The Green Team may have been a group of entitled, self-satisfied jerks with an abnormal need for validation, but if anyone can make them lovable — or, alternatively, entertainingly clueless — it’s Art Baltazar and Franco. I don’t see this book as DC scraping the bottom of the character barrel. Rather, I take it as a good-faith attempt to update a (perhaps misguided) concept for the sensibilities of our time. Not quite “at least they’re trying,” but … at least it’s not another big-name spinoff, you know? (Although a new Steel series is always welcome.) Regardless, the over/under for this book has to be somewhere around 6 issues.
On the heels of Thursday’s wave of cancellations, DC Comics has announced two new politically themed series from creators Gail Simone and Freddie Williams II, and Art Baltazar, Franco and Ig Guara.
Debuting in May, the companion titles The Movement and The Green Team bring into the DC Universe the economic issues that propelled the Occupy movement and dominated much of the 2012 presidential election. In short, they’re a look at the 1 percent and the 99 percent — the haves and the have nots — in a world populated by superheroes.
“The Movement is an idea I’ve had for some time,” Simone tells The Huffington Post. “It’s a book about power — who owns it, who uses it, who suffers from its abuse. As we increasingly move to an age where information is currency, you get these situations where a single viral video can cost a previously unassailable corporation billions, or can upset the power balance of entire governments. And because the sources of that information are so dispersed and nameless, it’s nearly impossible to shut it all down. […] The previous generations of superheroes were not created to address this, it’s a legitimately new frontier, both for the real world and for storytellers. ”