SPIDER-MANDATE: The Lowe-down on "Secret Wars," Tie-Ins and Stacey Lee
For many reading comics today, WildStorm may be a small footnote in the history of DC Comics or a pit stop in Jim Lee’s path to becoming one of the most powerful figures in comics. For those of a certain age it was something more. If you’re more than a casual fan, someone who perhaps knows what the “C.A.T.” in WildC.A.T.s stood for or always wondered what Aegis Entertainment was, there’s a new project you should know about: WildStorm Oral History.
When DC Comics relaunched its superhero titles in 2011 with the New 52, one of the effects was the integration of characters from the former Wildstorm imprint into the DC Universe. Those Wildstorm heroes had a good showing in Flashpoint and in the New 52’s debut titles, but by way of attrition, their presence soon dwindled.
After already seeing series like Voodoo, Grifter,Team 7 and the Wildstorm-esque Ravagers canceled, today we learned that Stormwatch will end in April with Issue 30. It gives a little bit of time for recently hired series writer Jim Starlin to wrap up, but its cancellation is another bad sign for fans of Wildstorm.
Ahead of the release of the Vertigo solicitations, MTV Geek has official confirmation that the long-teased Tom Strong and the Planet of Peril will at last debut in July.
Initially discussed in early 2011, following the closing of DC Comics’ Wildstorm imprint, the miniseries teams the character’s co-creator Chris Sprouse with his Tom Strong and the Robots of Doom collaborator Peter Hogan for an adventure that sends the science hero on a quest for the one thing that can save the lives of his daughter Tesla and her unborn child.
2012 marked the end of one of the more notable and at times controversial superhero series in recent memory, The Boys. The monthly series, in which writer Garth Ennis and company cast a cold, satirical eye on the superhero genre and American culture, came to its natural conclusion a few months ago, though there didn’t seem to be much talk about it on the Interwebs.
That being the case, I thought it might be fun (and hopefully enlightening) to start up some sort of discussion about the series, so I ensnared JK Parkin, one of the few people I know who has read the entire thing, to do a little Q&A with me. I think it turned out pretty well. Click on the link below to see if you agree with my assessment.
Writer Gail Simone calls Ben Abernathy “one of the best editors/idea men in the business,” and over the past 15 years — through his time at Dark Horse, Marvel, WildStorm, DC Comics and now digital publisher Madefire — he’s pushed the boundaries of what can be done in the medium. He was part of Marvel’s move into trade paperbacks and graphic novels, and shepherded WildStorm’s hard sci-fi and superhero work. WildStorm gave way to DC Digital, where Abernathy helped to break the mold of how comics are read, and that continues at Madefire, which publishes serialized creator-owned comics online and via mobile devices.
In addition to discussing Abernathy’s work at Madefire, I asked the longtime editor about his time at WildStorm, where he took over for Scott Dunbier, and his thoughts on the imprint’s collapse in 2010.
Ben Abernathy, who left DC Comics last week after more than a decade with the company — most recently as digital editor — has joined Madefire, the innovative motion-comics company launched last year by Ben Wolstenholme, Liam Sharp and Eugene Walden.
“About two years ago Ben [Wolstenholme] and I realized there would be a point very early on where Madefire needed a full-time editor – if all went to plan!” Sharp tells ComicBooked.com. “We started to draft a wish-list – and it barely got past one! Ben Abernathy!”
Abernathy, who worked briefly for Dark Horse and Marvel, was senior editor of WildStorm until the imprint was closed in 2010 amid a corporate restructuring and he was moved with other staff to DC’s West Coast digital division. “… Ultimately, the industry is heading to a predominantly digital delivery and that’s not a reflection whatsoever on the direct market or the print publishers–it’s just a reality based on technology and the evolving audience,” Abernathy says in a Q&A on the Madefire website. “From the position I held at DC, I had the opportunity to see some of the reading tools being developed for the industry, and from the moment I saw Madefire’s work, I could tell they were ahead of the curve. Way ahead. And you’re right: I wouldn’t be answering these questions if I didn’t believe that 100 percent and wasn’t committed to doing everything possible to help facilitate this next step.”
Welcome to the new weekly interview series Conversing On Comics, in which Robot 6’s Chris Arrant talks with notable people in and around the comic industry, focusing on the creative lives of artists, writers, editors and other figures in the industry. Look for new installments every Friday.
Dustin Nguyen isn’t your traditional superhero artist. Sure, he can draw like the best of them — and has done so on Detective Comics and Wildcats 3.0. But Nguyen’s managed to forge his own path without sacrificing his own sense of style, from his early angular work on DC/Wildstorm’s Jet to his maturation as a storyteller in Wildcats 3.0 and onto his entrenchment as a veteran on various Batman titles. And like some of his contemporaries, he’s brought painting into his work, but not in the mold of Alex Ross or Steve Rude; he relies upon a nuanced palette and application using watercolor and acrylic.
For the past five years, Nguyen has devoted himself almost exclusively to the Dark Knight and the denizens of Gotham City with runs on Superman/Batman, Detective Comics, Batman: Streets of Gotham, Batman & Robin and Batgirl. But now Nguyen is spreading his wings and pushing himself to what seems like the next stage of his career as he begins writing (with longtime inker and friend Derek Fridolfs) the digital-first Batman Beyond while also preparing to go outside of superheroes — and outside of the DC Universe entirely — as he draws a new American Vampire series subtitled Lord of Nightmares. And Dustin’s not finished yet, as the project he wants to do next is a first for him: a creator-owned book of his own.
File under “Oh, Right, the ’90s”: Over the weekend Scott Dunbier, former executive editor of Wildstorm and current special projects editor of IDW Publishing, tweeted a photo from a late 1990s New Year’s Eve party of a sharp-dressed, if “a bit tipsy,” Jim Lee … riding a camel. Lee, the Wildstorm founder turned DC Comics co-publisher, added only, “Doing my Nixon.”
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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If you’re a habitual reader of superhero comic books, or, worse still, a writer whose primary focus is the comic book medium and industry, chances are you’ve been thinking about DC Comics pretty much constantly this summer. It’s been hard not to, given the ambitious, controversial scope of the publisher’s upcoming relaunch, and the way they’ve managed to keep the conversation going by carefully doling out information about it at their own pace.
And, when you think about DC Comics these days, chances are you’re thinking of Jim Lee’s versions of the characters.
Beyond his current role as the company’s co-publisher, Lee’s become the company’s defining artist (ironically, perhaps, without actually working on a regular comic book series for quite some time). He’s the guy who draws the public face of the company’s stars.
Click on dccomics.com, and you’ll see Lee’s Justice League as the banner. Click to the company’s The Source blog, and you’ll see a Lee-drawn Trinity as the banner. Lee designed all of the characters for the publisher’s DC Universe Online video game. Lee redesigned much of the DC Universe for their upcoming relaunch (and quite radically so compared to the more modest DCUO designs). It was Lee who drew the company’s Google doodle a while back, and a great deal of DC-branded merchandise, from tennis shoes and to action figures, features Lee versions of the characters.
The pervasiveness of his visual influence extends to many of the artists chosen to work on the characters’ comic books, and the style in which they’re depicted—DC is too big a publisher to really have a house style, but there’s a loose majority style in which Lee’s influence is rather apparent.
So with visions of a high-collared Justice League dancing in my head as they usually do (Confession: I think about the Justice League the way some people you might encounter on a big-city street think about the CIA and mind control), I was at my local library the other day and noticed a big, huge, atlas-sized tome sitting on a cart, awaiting to be filed back where it belonged.
The cover featured a dramatically-lit Trinity, an outcropping of rock hiding their feet, standing above giant gold letters reading “ICONS” and “Jim Lee.” Picking it up—with an “Oof!” and the thought, I really need to start working out again—I saw that it was actually Icons: The DC Comics and Wildstorm art of Jim Lee.
Naturally I brought it home to pore over, thinking it might be some sort of Rosetta Stone to how Lee went from the guy who made Jeph Loeb’s totally random “Hush” story arc into something readable to becoming the guy who will define DC Comics for a generation (if the relaunch works out as they seem to hope it will, otherwise he might become known as the guy who made DC’s superheroes look silly for a few years in the 20-teens).
If nothing else, the book was about the size and weight of the Rosetta Stone.
[Okay, maybe we have — but when fearless leader JK Parkin suggested that DC blogger Tom Bondurant and retailer/Marvel blogger Carla Hoffman could do a back-and-forth about it, we were happy to oblige. The following was conducted via email from June 17 through June 22.]
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[When we left off yesterday, the question was whether long-established characters or relative newcomers were easier to sell.]
Carla: I know DC has said there will be new characters, but how do you think that’s going to go? Will these be the next Booster Gold or the latest Chase? (P.S.: I sort of remembered that last name so I just looked that up and I was right! There was a character called Chase! I started selling comics when Chase was on the stands!)
Now, as for what I’m going to emphasize to customers as they look up and shout “Save us!”… and I’m going to have to whisper “no” on this one, Tom. The whole point of this re-something is to let a new reader pick up a book with a fresh start and a feeling of confidence that they are beginning at the beginning. Now, if someone wanted to read a Superman issue before, well… where did one begin? That’s where your LCS should factor in; clerks should be there to help people find the book they’re looking for. Most times, one of us at Metro will have read something that a customer is looking for. In this way, we can ask what they like in general (‘What movies do you like?’, etc.) and then direct from there. Does this make sense?
“Shortly before the decision was made known that DC was closing the Wildstorm imprint, I was asked to pitch a line-wide ‘new direction’ for Wildstorm… not a reboot, but just what would come next after the World’s End thing. A year’s worth of stories for three titles. I was so into it, and now the pitch sits in the vault with all the rest of its friends.”
–DMZ, Northlanders and DV8 writer Brian Wood, revealing what might have been if DC Comics hadn’t closed down its WildStorm imprint. Based on the three ongoing series that WildStorm was publishing before they were shuttered, the series Wood references are most likely The Authority, WildCATS and Gen13.
I guess the silver lining here is that DC does still own the characters, so there’s always a chance that we’ll see Authority and the rest again … and who better to revive them than the guy who revived DV8?
Almost immediately after ABC announced the cancellation of Pushing Daisies in November 2008, creator Bryan Fuller began talking about resurrecting the quirky comedy as a comic book. Over the next two and a half years since, he’s occasionally offered updates about the fate of the pie-maker who can bring things back to life, saying just last fall that the first issue “will hopefully be out in early 2011.”
Well, it’s early 2011, and there’s no first issue. But Fuller has offered, or rather tweeted, the next-best thing: a preview of the first page. He doesn’t indicate who the artist is, though.
There’s also no word yet as to when we’ll see the first issue, as Pushing Daisies had been destined for DC Comics’ recently closed WildStorm imprint.
Fuller has described the comic as a 12-issue series that ties up loose ends left by the show’s untimely demise as the characters deal with a flash flood that empties bodies from a nearby cemetery.
Check out the full page after the break.
Welcome to another round of What Are You Reading, where we all sit around the virtual coffeehouse and talk about the books we’re currently enjoying (or not as the case may be). Our guest this week is Wilfred Santiago, author of the soon to be released biography of Roberto Clemente, 21. Look for an interview with me and Santiago about his new book in the coming weeks. In the meantime, click on the link below to see what he and my fellow Robot 6ers are reading this week.
What could be worse than a slide show about a stamp collection? Probably a blog post about a comic-book collection….
Among other things, the Vast Bondurant Comic-Book Library now includes over 11,000 single issues spread over 23 long boxes and 15 short boxes. My goal — which seems to recede in the distance the more I consider this project — is to separate all of the newer issues and shorter-run series from the old warhorses like Detective Comics and Fantastic Four. That means bringing the Gotham Centrals and Hourmans out of those big boxes with all the Green Lanterns and Incredible Hulks, into smaller boxes which won’t strain my aging vertebrae.
That scintillating introduction should tell you just how thrilling the past couple of days have been for me (not least because the project is far from over). This is the paper equivalent of defragmenting a hard drive, and it is not the most engaging of topics. Nevertheless, the process has forced me to examine how I use this library. After all, books are for reading, not for taking up space — and the way we read comic books, especially superhero comics, is changing dramatically.