Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Although U.S. publishers occasionally experiment with weekly series — DC Comics, for examples, will soon have three on its plate, with Batman Eternal, New 52: Futures End and Earth 2: Worlds End — comic books in North America traditionally have been released on a monthly schedule. It’s been that way for decades.
However, today sees the conclusion of weekly miniseries that not only make you reconsider that tradition, but also leads you to wonder whether the story’s impact would have been lessened by monthly release.
Created by writers Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman and artist Afua Richardson, the five-issue Genius was published weekly throughout August by Top Cow Productions (the final two installments went on sale this morning). This break from the tradition allowed the story to build a momentum that would have been missed had it unfolded over the course of five months.
First off, yes, I have read the first issue of Batman Eternal, but since its “pilot episode” includes issues #1-3, I’ll be talking about those more specifically in a couple of weeks. Eternal is one of two weekly series DC will offer this year, the other being Futures End, a look into the shared superhero universe five years from now.
However, we might well ask what difference will there be, one year from now, between an issue of either series and your average issue of a monthly title? When Eternal and Futures End are collected in their entirety two years from now, how different will they be from collections of Court of Owls or Throne of Atlantis?
The obvious differences are time and volume. The year-long weekly comics that DC put out from 2006 through 2009 — 52, Countdown and Trinity — all used their speedier schedule to tell a big story in a (relatively) short time. Instead of letting their epic tales play out over four-plus years, these series each got ‘em done in one.
Now think about sitting down with one of these thousand-page sagas. It won’t take a year to read, but it’s not something to approach lightly. That puts a special emphasis on how they’re to be read. Today we’ll look at DC’s history with weekly series (and some related experiments), with an eye toward what the two new ones might offer.
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Over the summer I wrote about the rate of “idea generation” across decades of DC history. Essentially, I was talking about the number of new ideas (or new uses for old ideas) being produced under current superhero-comics storytelling trends. Idea generation and world-building go hand in hand, such that the more ideas you can harmonize into a reasonably coherent (and accessible) shared universe, the better.
The 2006-07 weekly miniseries 52 put DC’s shared universe to good use. Written by Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka and Mark Waid, laid out by Keith Giffen, and drawn by an array of artists, 52 had a handful of C- and D-list characters guide readers through various obscure corners of the DCU. 52’s locales included a Metropolis without Superman, Black Adam’s Khandaq, an island of mad scientists, and the farthest reaches of outer space. 52 also featured its share of new characters, like the Chinese super-team called The Great Ten, the intergalactic despot Lady Styx and the dark religion of the Crime Bible. Of course, it also debuted new versions of Batwoman, the Question, Infinity Inc. and Supernova.
Because it chronicled a year in which the Trinity of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman each disappeared from public view, and because it had that year all to itself (thanks to the other titles’ concurrent “One Year Later” time-jump), 52 gave readers a unique opportunity to poke into the dusty corners of DC’s attic. Due (mostly) to the vagaries of its truncated timeline, the New 52 apparently doesn’t have such an extensive history. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t take readers on a similar journey.
Anyone who has had the displeasure of editing or reading poorly executed copycat literature is likely entertained by the core premise of writer Andrew Foley & artist Fiona Staples’ Done to Death trade collection: an editor who sets out to kill the writers of bad literature. This trade collection, which was released by IDW on September 21, had quite a six-year journey to get on the shelves, as Foley explained to me in this email interview. My thanks to Foley for his time. Once you’ve read this interview, be sure to read the late September interview that Foley did with CBR’s Shaun Manning.
Tim O’Shea: How long have you been developing Done to Death and how did it come to be at IDW?
Andrew Foley: It’s taken a little over six years to finally get this collection on the shelves. The original five issues took a little more than a year from to get from the initial pitch to publication. After parting ways with Markosia Fiona and I spent quite a while looking for the right publisher for the collection. In the early portion of my career, I had publishers I was working with: abruptly go out of business; unilaterally break contracts they’d agreed to; elect not to publish several graphic novels (at least one fully illustrated) I wrote for them while being constantly reassured they would see the light of day; stiff dozens of creators when the publisher decided the moment for their wildly ambitious anthology series had passed; and just generally try to advance themselves on the backs of passionate (if naïve) creators.
There are some great indy publishers out there. Red 5 springs to mind. But there are also a distressingly high number of predatory companies around whose sole purpose is to acquire or control as much intellectual property for as little as possible in the hopes that one will become 30 Days of Night or Cowboys & Aliens and get optioned for millions of dollars. It’s a bit like playing the lottery, only each ticket represents hundreds of hours of labour on the creators’ parts.
Scooping his own company’s blog, DC Co-Publisher Jim Lee posted the final pencils for the cover of ICONS: The DC Comics and WildStorm Art of Jim Lee to his Twitter account last night. Trinity-tastic! Anyone else having a hard time getting used to Batman being in the forefront of the Batman-Superman-Wonder Woman pose-offs these days, though?
ICONS comes out this August from Titan Books. You can check out a less dark’n’dramatic rejected cover composition for the book at The Source.
UPDATE: The Source also has the final inks, if you like your Dark Knight extra dark.
Although I wrote quite a lot over the past year about DC’s weekly series Trinity, I kept coming up with questions that went outside the scope of my weekly notes. Fortunately, writer Kurt Busiek was nice enough to participate in the following e-mail interview, conducted after Trinity concluded (and after he returned from a well- deserved vacation).
We discussed the nuts and bolts of producing Trinity, its connections to a couple of Busiek’s other DC projects, a few nitpicky items, and what the year-long series leaves behind.
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