Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fan Ramblings – Chloe in DCU!

Back when I was in high school I started watching a little show called Smallville. My favorite character was one Chloe Sullivan, intrepid girl reporter, classmate, and friend to our hero Clark Kent. While in the first few seasons Lana struck me as the highly annoying center of Clark’s hopeless romantic delusions, Chloe was the good friend and helper. She was curious and caring. And even though you understood that she had some feelings for Clark beyond friendship, she remained loyal and helpful.

I only watched the first two seasons regularly and the third season sporadically before I went off to college and my evenings became filled with homework and group meetings and dinners with friends. I pretty much stopped watching all TV except for Adult Swim. The last episode I remember seeing my senior year was the cliff hanger season finale in which they set up the idea that Chloe may well have died in an explosion! I was upset and worried that they were writing my favorite character (who wasn’t DC cannon after all) off of the show. Luckily, it was not so. I know a few things that have happened thanks to the internet, but I’ve avoided most news. I have a LOT of Smallville to eventually catch up on. And one day I’ll find the time and the means to do so (despite advertising it, my local video store doesn’t have Smallvillle DVDs and Hulu doesn’t work outside of America).

When I left the show Chloe had not yet learned Clark’s secret. I always wanted her to do so, because I pictured her really helping Clark test his own limits and learn to control his powers. I saw her functioning sort of like the big sister from The Secret World of Alex Mack (anyone else remember that show? I used to love it!). I pictured her setting up experiments and gathering data and being really amused by the whole situation. Her character was established as a trustworthy companion and I wanted that relationship to expand. And, of course, I wanted Chloe to have a bigger role on the show since she was my favorite character. I am happy to know that she does in fact learn his secret in a later season.

Recently I was thrilled to discover the news that Chloe will finally be coming to the DCU proper! She is a great character with a lot of potential and I am so excited that she can now play a role in the comics. It will be interesting to see what her comic back-story will be. Reportedly she is still from Smallville and is a reporter. Is she still the childhood friend of Clark Kent? From what I’ve heard of the show recently Chloe fills sort of an Oracle like role, being the go to girl for information with a vast network. Clearly that role is already filled in the comics but will she retain any of those skills? And I suppose most importantly, does she still know Clark’s secret?

With Smallville preparing for its tenth and final season I was really worried that her character would fade from popular radar and never find her way into the comics. There has been talk of potentially adding her character for some time now, but I was beginning to fear that we were never going to get beyond the talking about it stage. But to Nick Spencer who finally made this happen, I say thank you! And best of all, he is a fan of the show and the character and is trying to fit her into continuity with as much of her character in tact as possible.

Chloe will be appearing in the Jimmy Olson back up in Action Comics. I can’t imagine she will have the largest role, but just getting her into the comics universe was probably her biggest hurdle. Now that she will be established as a character in the DCU any writer can use her in a story. And I really hope they will take advantage of this opportunity.

Chloe isn’t the first character to make the jump from media property to comic book cannon. Two other amazing female characters from the Batman universe got their start on Batman the Animated Series. They would be, of course, René Montoya and Harley Quinn. Both characters have had a great run in the comic’s universe growing and developing as characters. With those two in mind it’s easy to look forward to Chloe’s comic future.

Welcome to the DCU Chloe Sullivan!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fan Ramblings – Aw Yeah, Kid’s Comics! UPDATE!

Well, well, well, it seems as though looks can be deceiving. According to the coverage of the DC Kids line at Comic Con, the Billy Batson and Batman titles aren’t being canceled after all! And they didn’t get uncanceled due to fan backlash or anything, they were never going anywhere in the first place. This seems to be the end of the current chapter for the books but they will keep right on coming with a new chapter.

According to the Newsarama coverage, these books will continue under new editorial leadership. Basically, it seems like an excuse to generate new #1 issues. And this may in fact be the only time that I can understand, and possibly support, the idea of a (more or less arbitrary) new #1 issue. The point was brought up during the panel that high numbers seem a little contrary for a kid’s comic. “Keeping them lower makes them seem younger for the kids,” Didio said. To me, this really makes sense. Kids can see a comic and they can feel the potential to have all the issues. They won’t be scared away by a high number that could seem intimidating to young readers (and the parents! I’m sure some mothers might worry about picking up issue #378 for their kid thinking, “How many of these things am I going to have to buy?” A number like 10 is much friendlier). The kid’s are young and the books for them should echo that youthful feeling. If the numbers get too high, it’s not just meant for them anymore. When you are trying to hook kids on the idea of comics, it makes sense to aim for something that feels uniquely theirs. Having said this, I rather hope that they don’t renumber Tiny Titans. I’d like that to be the exception to the rule, to really show how far kid’s comics can go. Plus I want Geoff Johns to draw a cover for issue #100.

On top of that a new kid’s comic was announced: “Young Justice.” Now many of us expected to see something for this upcoming cartoon series since DC seems to legitimately be trying to tie their TV properties back into the comics, but the best news of all was that it was hinted that the same team working on Billy Batson will be doing the Young Justice book! That means yet another kid’s title from the extremely talented Art Baltazar and Franco! I could not be happier with this news and will be picking up this title without fail.

Also of note, The Barenaked Ladies, at Comic Con for The Big Bang theory which they sing the amazing theme song for, apparently bought Tiny Titans books and gave the creators tickets and backstage passes to their show. The band was already swimming in cool points, but this breaks the flood gates on cool in my opinion.

Didio said more plans for kid’s books are in the works and that they plan to put out 6-8 kid’s books each month. I am curious if this is 6-8 books total including Looney Tunes and Scooby and the Cartoon Network stuff, or if this is 6-8 books involving DC characters and then those other books too. I’m assuming the former, but really hoping for the later. I’m actually very excited for the future of the DC Kids line right now.

The other bit of news that excited me was that DC addressed a few factors that might help these books sell to children! DC is looking into a potential $1 price point for an all-ages book so that KIDS CAN AFFORD COMICS! The issue of trying to get comics into other stores was mentioned too! And apparently the Tiny Titans/Little Archies crossover may be the best thing to happen to the comic. From the article Didio said:

“The Archie people have this amazing ability to get into areas that sometimes are harder to get into. So, as they put together the material with the Tiny Titans, you'll be seeing them out in grocery stores and department stores. There is a lot of regulation and stuff behind this. It's a lot of red tape but we will get them out there through the Archie folks”


But my point from the last post still remains. At the same panel Dan Didio said, “If the demand is there, we want to do as many of these books for the kids as we can.” So they still need your help and support and I still strongly encourage you to go pick up some books for kids you know the next time you visit your comic shop.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Fan Ramblings – Rotating Writers

I’m tired of rotating writing teams. These days it seems as though many ongoing titles are plagued by the fact that they can’t keep a consistent writer. As a writer myself (unpublished), not of comics but fictional prose, I know that it takes some time to find your character’s voices. With fiction I can draft a lot and change things before anyone ever reads it. But with periodicals the deadlines are quicker and you are dealing with characters that you did not create. Especially with team books, it’s going to take a while to figure out all your players. You have to balance the main characters and figure out the relations to their supporting cast and enemies. Some of these relationships are very easy, but others are complex and will take some time to get just right. Even if there are plenty of resources to help the writer it takes practice to get the voices out on the page convincingly.

Probably my biggest pet-peeve with changing writers is the loose story ends. Often a writer has some “big plan” in mind when they start a book, some big reveal they are working toward, a relationship they are building for a specific reason, or hints and teases at something bigger down the road. And then for whatever reason the writer goes away. It seems like nine times out of ten the new writer won’t even look at what was going on before. They have their ideas, which may not mesh well with where the story was going or even recent growths in characters. Do writers not talk to each other?

A big example of this that is eating at me right now is the mystery Judd Winick ended his Batman run with. Dick Grayson found something about an old case, and possibly about his parents’ deaths, that Bruce was hiding from him. Winick was the regular writer at the time, and took a break for Tony Daniel to do an arc. The whole time I was reading that arc I realized that I cared less about who Black Mask was and more about what was on that flash drive. I couldn’t wait for Winick to come back and continue that story. But then Winick started writing JL Generations Lost and Daniels was upgraded to the regular writer. I will honestly be shocked if anything comes of that flash drive now. It will probably just be a loose end that hangs around in the air.

I don’t know if Winick doesn’t want to tell Daniels about it because he figures he’ll be back on Batman at some point and can tell the story himself or if he did tell Daniels about it and Daniels doesn’t want to tell that story. I’m sure those aren’t the only two options either. But I feel that it’s hurting the book. Instead of focusing on the story at hand I’m wondering about the story they aren’t telling.

When the Batwoman ongoing hits the shelves it won’t have Greg Rucka’s name attached because he’s focusing on his creator owned work at the moment. He had a three issue arc planned out to explain the origins of Alice, a new enemy introduced in his recent Detective Comics run. This was supposed to be the end of his Detective Comics run, but for whatever reason he didn’t do it. Now I KNOW that this story won’t be picked up by the Batwoman ongoing because in an interview JH Williams III said that its Rucka’s story and he thinks Rucka should be the one to tell it. I understand that thought as a creator, but as a fan it just makes me mad. That’s a highly interesting storyline that I really want to know about. And now we may never get to see it. By the time Rucka gets back to DC someone else may have messed with Alice making the origin he planned when he created her not fit anymore. At the very least it will have been so long that fans may not care about Alice any more. The buzz is hot right now and it seems a shame not to take advantage of it.

Chris Yost has recently left Red Robin. I’m not too fazed by this particular case for three reasons. First is that the major storyline he had going seems to have ended. Since he seemed to know he was leaving, he had time to wrap things up. Second is that the writer taking over is Fabien Nicieza who was writing the Robin series before it was cancelled for Battle for the Cowl. Since this writer already knows and loves the character I feel a little less apprehensive about the change. But third, and most importantly, I’m not that worried about it because I know that Yost and Nicieza have talked. In an interview with Yost he mentions talking with Nicieza about the things that were still up in the air. Just knowing that makes me feel like things won’t be ignored. Clearly egos didn’t get in the way of these two talking about the book and the character they both love. And even if Nicieza doesn’t do things the way Yost would have at least he should be touching on these things rather than ignoring them.

But since Nicieza is taking over Red Robin he’s dropping Azrael, a book he’s been on since it started. This one bothers me in particular because the very first issue of Azrael showed a future scene with him DEAD. At the time I thought it was a ballsy move, because if the readers know the character is going to die then as a writer you’d better make it damn interesting for the reader in the meantime so when he dies it actually means something. It just seemed like Nicieza had a plan to get him to that point, but now that could all go out the window. Maybe David Hine knows where the story was going, but I’m worried that they are going to try to stretch it out. The sales aren’t great either, which makes me wonder why they even bothered to replace Nicieza. Why not just let him finish the book with an ending that would be satisfying to those of us who were reading it? I won’t judge yet; I like some of Hine’s other stuff, but my view on the whole situation is rather pessimistic.

Most of the time I dread a writer shift. I know many people see it as a jumping off point for a book. I think a lot of those people follow writers more than they follow characters, but I too have dropped a book at a writer change. I dropped Outsiders when Dan Didio took over. I picked up the book because it was tied to the Batman universe after Battle for the Cowl and because I liked Tomasi’s work on Nightwing. The solicits after he left the book seemed to take the team away from the Batbooks. And I was frustrated because I felt that most of the upcoming teasers from Origins and Omens would never happen (honestly, did they hold true for any book?). I don’t hate Dan Didio as a writer or anything (although I am still of the opinion that editors shouldn’t be writing anything more than a mini here and there. If you want to be a writer, quit being an editor and be a writer like Tomasi did. If you are an editor you should be focusing on editing /end rant).

I suppose the other thing that chased me away from Outsiders is a common problem that plagues team books (I’m looking at you Teen Titans). Every time a new writer comes on board we have to have a new team lineup (normally with the tagline of a “bold new direction”). I HATE this. I’m buying the book because I like the characters that are in it. If you want to add one or two new characters during your run that’s alright. I don’t mind meeting new faces, and it’s a team after all. And if you are going to have someone leave, that’s okay too, but it better damn well feel organic to the character and not just put them on a bus because you don’t feel like writing them.

Teams work because the members trust each other, know each other, and are able to depend on each other. The “bold new direction” the books always claim to have often works out the same way: the team DOESN’T know each other and so they don’t trust each other and so they get their asses kicked and fight a lot until they can learn to be a team. This can be a good story. However, it is only a good story when it doesn’t keep happening every few years (or months in some cases…). Because the end result of this kind of story should be the team functioning as, you know, a team. Then you can get back to telling real stories about bad guys and how the good guys stop them. It seems like writers don’t remember how to do that lately. It seems like it’s easier to tell the “team doesn’t trust each other” story than the “team working well together playing off of each other’s nuances and getting the tough job done” story.

As I was thinking about this, I remembered another loose end that never got tied up. In the Nightwing comic there was an arc in which Nightwing was targeted by a braces wearing assassin who was rather obsessed with his iPod. He kicked Nightwing’s ass and buried him alive (we’ll ignore the fact that shooting or stabbing him would have been much more effective, and he would have had proof to show who ever hired him). Anyway, Nightwing digs himself out of the grave and survives. As far as I remember there was maybe one more scene with the mysterious assassin (I don’t think he never got a name or even a clear shot of his face) finding out that Nightwing was still alive. And then the writer changed and this was never brought up again. This feels like a wasted plot. He was established as a real threat to Nightwing and honestly, what assassin wouldn’t go to correct their mistake. It’s a matter of professionalism. And it would ruin your rep. It’s always been something I wished they would pick back up, mostly because I want to see Nightwing kick his ass this time around.

I understand that things come up and sometimes can’t go as planned. Someone who had planned to be on a book for a while has some important personal issues and needs the time away or just can’t handle the schedule they are on. Sometimes company politics get in the way and writers leave for long periods of time. Sometimes writers get a better offer. However, it happens way too often to be excusable and there has to be something that DC can do about this. I simply refuse to believe that this is an unfixable problem. Two of the bestselling books right now are Green Lantern and Batman and Robin. Geoff Johns has been on Green Lantern for a good chunk of time and has been able to develop huge stories (and thankfully for fans of the book, has no plans of leaving). Grant Morrison has been on Batman for several years now and is working on the newest chapter of his ongoing epicness. This is what happens when you give writers a chance to grow a title and work with it over time. This is how you keep fans reading a series and excited about what is to come. When it comes to writers I and many fans appreciate some consistency. Even if they don’t click at first, give them a little time to work it all out.

I could continue rambling about the importance of consistent art on a book, but I think this one has gone on long enough. I can’t be the only one this bothers. Share your thoughts below!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Comic Buzz – The Sixth Gun

Creative Team: Cullen Bunn (W) Brian Hurtt (A)
Oni, ongoing, 1st and 2nd issues available in July

I had no idea that I liked the genre of the “weird west” before I read the first issue of this comic. I have nothing against westerns in general; they just aren’t my normal cup of tea. I’ve seen a lot of good old western movies, but it’s not a genre I would ever call my favorite. But throw in supernatural stuff and you’ve easily got my interest.

You may have seen “The Sixth Gun” already as the first issue was Oni’s offering for Free Comic Book Day this year. Not a preview of the first issue; the whole first issue. But if you missed out, have no fear because Oni has wisely put the entire thing on the web for you to read at your leisure. And the issue is available for reorder (although this time it won’t be for the low, low price of free) to come out on the same day as issue 2 hits stores (which was last week, I'm slow getting this one up, sorry).

The story is set after the Civil War and centers around a magic gun sought by many a nefarious fellow. One of a set of six, the gun falls into the hands of a young innocent girl. Her best hope is the none too saintly Drake Sinclair, who has an agenda and secrets of his own.

The world is set up beautifully with a smattering of magical items and totems that I hope we’ll learn more about as time goes on. The most interesting thing to me is that even though this is a first issue, everything that they placed in this world genuinely feels like it belongs there. Nothing feels out of place or forced into the setting. The first issue was able to make me feel comfortable with the setting while still doing a good job of introducing characters and plot. My favorite part of his world so far is the Gallows Tree. The artist did a great job capturing the creepiness of this unnatural thing, while at the same time making it spellbindingly intriguing.

This series is already getting a lot of attention. There are several interviews online with the writer. There is a prose piece to help further introduce you to the world of “The Sixth Gun” which involves zombies and cannibals (I’ll also link parts two, three, and four to make them easier to find).

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fan Ramblings - Kid's Comics

I was rather sad when I looked at DC’s solicitations for October. Not one, but two of the comics in the Johnny DC line will see their final issue that month, “Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam” and “Batman: the Brave and the Bold.” This is not too long after the cancelation of the “Super Friends” comic in the same line. The only surviving kid’s title with DC characters is the amazing “Tiny Titans” (which was mysteriously absent from the October solicits for some reason). We’re left with “Looney Tunes,” “Cartoon Network Action Pack” and “Scooby Doo, where are you?” This is really sad to me.

This does absolutely nothing to detract from the idea that comics aren’t for kids anymore. And really, if the industry wants to keep going in the future, they need to tap into that market. They need to make comics that kids enjoy. I refuse to believe that these characters are simply not marketable to that demographic. Kids love superheroes. They watch them on TV; they dress up as them for Halloween; they buy their action figures. So why do the kid’s comics sell so badly?

Not every kid has a parent who reads comics. And as it stands right now, the only place to find comics, kid’s or otherwise, is in a comic book store. There are online options too, but they seem less feasible to the 7-12 demographic I assume we’re aiming for. They may all have cell phones these days, but I still think credit cards are beyond most of their means. The problem isn’t that kids don’t read comics, it’s that they often don’t have the opportunity to buy them or even have them bought for them.

Most comics are never going to make it back onto the magazine racks at grocery stores. But I think it could benefit sales if some of the all ages books could. I mean, who could see a cover of ANY issue of “Tiny Titans” and not think, wow, my kids would love this! I’m sure many parents are scared of comics and think they are all full of sex and violence. And that’s part of the problem too. Parents need to be able to see these kid friendly comics and know at a glance that this is something intended for their kids. We talk about judging a book by its cover, but most parents are going to do just that. They are going to glance at the cover and make a snap judgment about if the book would be okay for their little angels. I’m not saying that all of these books need to watered down or sport adorable crayon like covers like “Tiny Titans” but something needs to be done to really scream to parents “I’m okay for your kids to read!” And a small logo may not do the trick.

Comic companies always seem to throw out the line about really caring about their kid’s books, but the reality often seems to suggest differently. Kid’s comics cannot be handled the same way as mainstream comic books if they want to be successful. Marketing and distribution needs to be suited to the unique challenges faced at targeting kids.

But none of that gives us a solution, and I don’t like complaining about things without suggesting something that could be done to help if possible. So I propose this. Next time you are out shopping for comics, take a look at the kid’s comics. Pick up a few that you think should continue and give them to kids that you know. Tell their parents where you got them, so if the kids enjoy them they know where they can find more. Perhaps offer to go with them and show them the kinds of books to be looking for or even offer to pick up a few during your normal comic book runs. Talk to teachers you know or local librarians. If your shop doesn’t have kid’s comics ask why. Try to stir up a market for these comics and increase the sales, if only by a few units.

Why do I want to support kid’s comics so much? I don’t have kids of my own, but to me the matter is simple. Kid’s comics are fun to read. I read “Tiny Titans” every month and it puts a smile on my face. I have a couple of Marvel Adventures titles over here to use as prizes for my students. I read them when I’m having a bad day. A few have even had to move from the prize pile into my keep pile because I enjoyed them so much. I like drama and action and maturity in my comics too. But not all my comics. Some days you just want to read something that is fun. And that is what well written kid’s comics offer. Don’t get me wrong, not every kid targeted comic is going to be a good comic. Not all are going to make you laugh and some are just going to be stupid. But when there are good ones out there we need to support them or they will go away. And the more support we give to them the more we can hope that the companies will invest in them talent wise. And more good comics is good news for everyone. Don’t be scared off by an all ages label.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Waiting for Trade? – Stuff of Legend Book 1: The Dark

Creative Team: Mike Raicht and Brian Smith (W), Charles Wilson (A)
Price: $13.00
Available Now (special signed edition available from Th3rd World's website with original sketch!)

During the 1940s a young boy is kidnapped by the Boogieman and taken into the Dark. It’s up to his loyal toys and pet dog to journey into the unknown to rescue their boy. I know some people were skeptical of this one saying that talking toys were nothing new. I’ll agree; that part of the premise has been interpreted in several different ways before, but this is no Toy Story.

 When the toys enter the Dark they change. The toy soldier and Indian princess become real flesh and blood versions of themselves. The teddy bear becomes a fierce grizzly. And there isn’t a happy fairyland waiting inside the closet for them. Instead they must do battle with the Boogieman’s army of forgotten toys and journey through his mysterious and hostile world, all in the hopes of somehow finding and saving their boy. As with Beasts of Burden, this isn’t really a little kid’s book. There are some darker elements to the story, like death and betrayal, that are probably too much for very young readers.

The toys are all very individual with different opinions on what they are doing and how far they should go. The toy soldier is very loyal, while the highly intelligent piggy bank has some doubts about if they can succeed. The toys interact well off of each other and create an interesting group dynamic. The boy’s dog, Scout, is the only character to not change in the dark, remaining an un-upgraded puppy amid shooting cowboys and bayonet wielding soldiers. Some of the toys are wary of him due to his habit of chewing on them back home, but others are more understanding.

The art alone was enough to sell me on the project. I saw the preview of the book from last year’s Free Comic Book Day (which you can read for yourself here) and was floored by the art. It’s done in a sepia toned shaded pencil and it really captures the feel of the story, adding to the atmosphere of the book (for a process piece on how he does it read here). The characters are amazingly drawn, adorable in toy form and fearsome in the Dark. The Boogieman is scary and unsettling and everything the terror of childhood should be. I was shocked when I learned that this is the artist’s first work in comics. I would not be surprised if we see more of him in the future (he has deservedly been nominated for a Russ Manning Promising Newcomer Award).

I usually try to post a lot of interview to let people see as much about the book as possible, but I really feel this one speaks for itself in the previews.  But I'm a creature of habit, so here are some interviews with the writers and artist about Volume 2.  Here is a quick video interview with the gang.  Here are a few older interviews from when the first issue was announced in case you are worried about spoilers or just want to see what the buzz was like and the pitch that got me and many others very interested.

This book contains the first volume of the tale, which was released in two huge no ad comics last year. Due to the fantastic response to that first volume several more are planned. The story will continue to be told in miniseries with the second volume beginning this week (which you can preview here, according to that cover we're getting a cymbal monkey!). The creators know how the story will end, but how long they have to tell the story of the journey depends on sales.  The better it does the longer the story can continue and the fuller the picture will be.  I encourage everyone to pick this one up and give it a try.  I really can't recommend it enough.    Lots of other people have good things to say about it too.  And like many of those that I recommend I will probably be picking up this trade even though I own the floppies for the fantastic extra content.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Fan Ramblings – Bat overload?

Wow. In July I ordered no less than 14 comic books that have to do with Batman or characters from the Bat-universe and Gotham City. This week seems to be Batman announcement week and on the not so distant horizon we have a new ongoing by David Finch, a new mini featuring Knight and Squire, and yet another mini tied into Bruce Wayne’s return to Gotham. And let’s not forget that we are still waiting on the upcoming Batwoman ongoing that doesn’t have a release date yet.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE Batman. I wouldn’t be getting this many (read as all) of the Batman titles if I didn’t love him and his universe. I’m just beginning to wonder if there can be too much of a good thing. With this many books, the editors are going to have their hands full. Things need to make sense between the books and character developments will need to be consistent. This is not going to be an easy job. And they haven’t always been on top of this sort of thing before…

Granted, some of these books are more or less self-contained. Azrael is kinda off in his own corner of Gotham. Knight and Squire will be in DCU England. Batman Confidential is doing whatever it is doing. The Red Hood mini is set in the past, Batman Beyond is in the future, and Batman Odyssey is outside of continuity. That helps to lighten that load a little, but there is still a lot that needs to work together.

And that could be a major issue with the “big deal” that is sure to be Bruce’s return. And I suppose my biggest problem is that DC keeps reminding me that Bruce is coming back and I DON’T WANT HIM BACK YET! I’m really enjoying Dick Grayson as Batman. It works. It’s successful. It’s fun and new and different. I always knew Bruce would be back and that that would probably reset the status quo, but I was hoping we had more time. I could be wrong I guess. There could still be some surprises in store. But DC doesn’t seem to be being coy about the idea at all, which leads me to believe that they don’t have a reason to be. They don’t have a reason to say, “It might not be what you expect,” because it’s going to be exactly what everyone expects: Bruce back as Batman. I really do hope I’m wrong.

I’m also wondering if we will see some of the current Bat lineup canceled in the coming months. Not all the books have had fantastic sales. I’ll also admit to being worried about the prices of these upcoming books. DC has snuck some $3.99 comics (with no extra content) at us in recent months and a new series is probably a decent place to try out a new price point (I’m looking at you Emerald Warriors). I’m against this, not just because I don’t want to pay more, but because a higher price point is not the way to gain support for a new series.

And as much as I love Batman, I’d rather they focused on making all the current books really top tier books, before throwing more into the mix. Less sometimes really is more when you are working to make the less the best it can be. Several of the books are very strong right now (Batman and Robin, Red Robin, and Batgirl come to mind) but others could use a little more support or a little more creative freedom or a little more something to push those books up the charts.

All of my rambling aside though, I will likely pick up all 3 comics. Knight and especially Squire are really fun characters. The fact that a British writer is taking then on adds a bit of genuineness to the comic that makes it hard to resist. I’m excited to get to know DCU England. The idea of Batman the Road Home isn’t a bad one, although it’s hard to imagine that the big things won’t be covered in the main books. It will be nice to get a closer look at some of Bruce’s various relationships, but it does strike me a bit as milking this “event” for all its worth. And as for Batman the Dark Knight, as much as Batman doesn’t really need another ongoing when there are so many other characters out there deserving a shot at their own book, it has to do with the more magical and supernatural side of the DCU and focuses on Batman as a detective and those are big draws for me. But if he doesn’t write Etirgan as a rhyming demon I’m going to be upset. I wish they’d have tested the waters with it as a miniseries before making the jump to ongoing, but whachagonnado?

By the Numbers – July

Another abstract look at my pull list in number form!

Total comics for the month: 52

Change from last month: -6

Company Run Down:
DC: 29
Vertigo (DC): 5
Marvel Authors: 1
Image: 3
Ape: 1
Aspen: 1
Avatar Press: 1
Boom!: 3
D. E.: 2
IDW: 1
Oni: 3
Th3rd World Studios: 1
Zenoscope: 1

Average price I paid: $2.04

0 Issues: 0
First Issues: 5
Last Issues: 5

Ongoing: 28
One shot: 0

Batman Issues: 14
Brightest Day books: 5

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Pull List Maintenance - 6 comics I’m in danger of dropping

In no special order:

Doom Patrol

There’s nothing really wrong with Doom Patrol. It’s enjoyable enough, but it just doesn’t really grab me. I don’t feel this rush or anticipation to read the next issue. I actually enjoyed the Metal Men back up far more than the Doom Patrol comic itself, but with that canceled my tie to the book has weakened. I probably would have dropped it when Metal Men went away, but my fiancé wanted to stick it out a while longer and see what the book could do. It really needs to wow us soon though or it’s gonna get cut.

Sweet Tooth

Again, there is nothing wrong with this book. I was really enjoying the first few issues, but I feel like we’ve hit a lull. I don’t know, maybe this one will read better in collected form. It’s just not wowing me like some of the others, and I’m getting so many comics that it’s hard to justify an ongoing that isn’t wowing me. I really like the characters though, so I’ll probably end up sticking it out to see where it goes.


I’m still mad about the delays. This book seems to come out when it feels like it. I still like the story, but figure that switching to trade might be more enjoyable. I’m not really enjoying (or usually even reading) the letters column in the back, which I assume won’t be printed in the trade, so really it’s not a great loss. Also, I never read the first series of Powers, and I’d like to get caught up on what came before. The series hasn’t really been confusing, but I do feel like I’m missing out on some things. It’s a good series but with the delays I feel like I don’t even remember what happened in the last issue sometimes, so it would probably flow better in trade. And at the moment the story isn’t grabbing me to the point that I can’t walk away from it. Still on the fence with this one.

Greek Street

I was really enjoying this story when it came out, but I feel like the focus is going to shift soon (based on solicits). This could be an okay thing, or it could be unfortunate. I won’t judge till we get there, but I am nervous about this one. Again it’s a pretty good read every month, but it doesn’t compel me to put it at the top of my stack. When I get to it I get to it. Also, I’m worried about the sales. I don’t know how Vertigo goes by those things, but it doesn’t seem to be doing too well. And if it’s going to be canceled soon I’d like to see it out for its full run. I don’t want it to be canceled (although my checkbook wishes something I read would be so I had the excuse to drop it).

Batman Confidential

This book has just gotten weird. It was originally advertised as some of Batman’s earliest untold adventures. Which was cool and fun and different writers were doing interesting things with it. It seemed to still be in cannon, just in a detached back-story kind of way. But now it seems to have morphed into the weird Batman miniseries book. I probably won’t actually drop this book because, let’s face it, if these stories were advertised as miniseries I would probably buy them anyway. It just seems like a weird shift happened when I wasn’t looking. And now I don’t really know what to expect from it anymore. Is this cannon still, or have we wandered away from that?

Teen Titans

I’ve been cutting this book a lot of slack. I’ve been ignoring the fact that we can’t seem to have any consistency on the team either in the book or creating the book. I’ve been overlooking it because I like a lot of the characters. I’ve been overlooking it because it’s the only place I can find most of these characters. But man, the last issue I read (not the most recent issue, but I can’t remember the number) was just terrible. The dialogue was dreadful. It didn’t flow worth a damn and was disjoined and distracting. And, as is often the case with badly written dialogue, NO ONE TALKS LIKE THAT! I was glad when the issue was over. The story wasn’t very good, but I’d seen worse, and I appreciated seeing Static’s old supporting cast. But overall it just left me shaking my head. And why is Cassie mad at Connor? They reunited in Adventure Comics and everything seemed fine. What the heck did I miss that now she isn’t talking to him or whatever? And what’s with the fantasy animal kick from Beast Boy? And what exactly did he do to protect the team in the explosion? Did he turn into a phoenix and absorb the blast or something? Does that even work? I have so many questions and most of them are along the lines of “…Huh?”  This fall the book is expecting yet ANOTHER new writer, so I'll probably stick around to at least see how that goes.

Now that that is out of my system I’d love to let others vent as well. Are there any monthly comics you are reading that you are in danger of dropping? Or any comics you’ve dropped recently?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Fan Ramblings – Wonder Woman’s new look and new direction

So, it seems that DC has decided to change Wonder Woman’s costume to go with her “bold new direction” under JM Straczynski’s pen. Announced on DC’s the Source blog, her new costume is supposed to make her feel more modern and reflect some big changes for the character.

I’m not all too thrilled about the contents of the announcement. Let me just establish that this is not a knee jerk reaction against change. Change can be good (Dick Grayson Batman, Whoop!). But their announcement was designed to generate buzz and to get people excited about the new concept. For me, it has rather failed in that regard. I don’t want to completely write off the book before it even comes out, and I certainly won’t advise anyone against getting it, but it certainly doesn’t make me want to spend my money on it (what is this strange sense of déjà vu?). I wasn’t following Wonder Woman to begin with, but I have some interest in the character, and this simply doesn’t appeal to me. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look.

Let’s start with the costume. Random side story: When I was making a bulletin board about American superheroes for my Japanese students it was difficult to find a picture of Wonder Woman that seemed appropriate. Now, Wonder Woman has some curves (not Power Girl level, but still) and I understand that the artists want to show them off. And I suppose it lets her keep a feminine aspect to her warrior like character. But her costume looked more or less like a swimsuit, and while I wasn’t really worried about “scandalizing” the kids, I was worried that the school principal might think that it was inappropriate for school. I did find some great images, but she was by far the most difficult superhero to do so for. While her look is iconic, I personally can’t argue with the idea of a bit of updating.

Overall, this new look isn’t too bad. I’m glad to see she isn’t in ridiculous heels. The pants are a nice touch (although if Supergirl got complaints for wearing shorts under her skirt, then I can only imagine what that particular group of fans will think about this…). There are still enough elements of her old costume that give her a distinctly Wonder Woman feel, although I will admit it seems more like something I could picture Donna Troy or Wondergirl wearing that Diana. It is still strongly feminine. But that jacket…it looks like something out of a 90s comic where everyone had HUGE shoulder pads. It gives her a really biker-ish look. For me it really throws the whole look off. While I have some criticisms of the outfit it isn’t a disgrace or an abomination in my eyes. It could work but it doesn’t have me clamoring for a poster or action figure or anything.

According to Mr. Straczynski the look “reflects her origins in both the outside world and the world of Amazons” (more on that later) and that “it’s a look designed to be taken seriously as a warrior.” As I just mentioned, I see a lot more biker in this costume than I do warrior. She looks like a fighter I guess, but to me that isn’t exactly the same thing as a warrior. Maybe that’s my issue. I can see her beating up thugs on the street, but it’s hard for me to picture her with, say, a sword and shield fighting a mythological beast or a god. And for me, that’s a big part of who Wondy is.

Moving on, JMS says the costume helps to answer some fan questions from over the years such as “how does she fight in that thing without all her parts falling out?” and “where does she carry anything in that outfit?” I’ll give them credit for trying the more practical route, but the whole pockets issue wasn’t keeping me up at night. If I’m willing to suspend my disbelief about Amazons existing and Greek gods and superheroes in general, I think I can live without knowing if she has pockets. She has an invisible jet; maybe her pockets are invisible too?

And then we get to the part that sent me into a fit of giggles. It was honestly hard for me to take this next part seriously. About Wondy’s trademark bracelets JMS said, “The bracelets are still there, but made more colorful, tied on the inside and over the hand, with a script W on each of them that form WW when she holds them side by side…and if you get hit by one of them, it leaves a W mark. This is a Wonder Woman who signs her work…letting her enemies know that she’s getting closer.” Oh, where to begin. The whole WW thing when held side to side made me think of something like Power Rangers or Sailor Moon with her smacking her arms together unnaturally crying out, “Wonder Woman powers activate!” It’s not like she doesn’t have a W elsewhere on her costume and really needed that to be incorporated. When I read that they leave marks my mind went back to the Phantom movie, where he punched people and left skull shaped scars. It just seems a bit campy to me to see bad guys sprawled out with a W on their forehead. And if you look at the drawing those Ws are on her wrists. So unless she is smacking people around with her forearm…ouch…then she can’t be leaving marks on them. I have no problem with how they look; it’s what he seems intent to use them for that is hard for me to take seriously.

Okay, now that we’ve taken a good look at her, let’s take a look at the reasons for this redesign. Apparently our new Wonder Woman arc begins with an alternate timeline courtesy of the Greek Gods. For reasons one assumes will be revealed down the line, the Gods have changed the timeline so that Paradise Island was no longer under their protection. It was attacked and most of the Amazons, including Hippolyta, Wondy’s mom, were killed. Three year old Diana was spirited away before the battle and raised in an urban setting. Now 20 years later she is beginning to discover her Amazon powers. She’s still on the run as the surviving Amazons are being hunted. And she has little to no memory of the pervious timeline. So Diana must fight for her survival, protect her fallen people, and probably restore the timeline by the time this is all through.

Now, when I first read this I thought that this would be a really great story…for an Earth One graphic novel version of Wonder Woman. The Earth One graphic novels are supposed to retell superhero origins in a more modern setting and are to be more accessible to new readers as they are self contained and out of continuity. So far Superman and Batman are getting this treatment. Wonder Woman would seem like an obvious character to consider for this. And honestly, this story sounds like a failed Earth One pitch to me (more modern look, discovering her powers, all new enemies, etc.). And if it was an Earth One story, I would probably have read it and actually been looking forward to it. It’s not a bad story idea; I’m just not sure how it’s going to work in the shared DC universe.

This timeline change could affect more than just Wonder Woman’s character. What about Donna Troy and Cassie Sandsmark (Wonder Girl)? Donna is in the Justice League and Cassie is central in Teen Titans. Will they suddenly not exist and never be mentioned? And let’s not forget that Wonder Woman broke the recently resurrected Maxwell Lord’s neck when he was controlling Superman. It was the only way to stop him. So does that mean that in this new timeline Maxey is still controlling Superman? Because then he should never have died which is going to wreck havoc with the Brightest Day stories. And what does this do to the JLA? Clearly Wonder Woman wasn’t a founding member since she is just now getting her powers. In fact, it sounds like no superhero should even recognize her at all. Except maybe Booster Gold.

I would imagine that this story will be rather self contained so as not to cause all of those problems listed above. It still raises a whole lot of questions as to how this could possibly work in the shared DCU. The short answer is, it really can’t without some DRASTIC changes to stories already in progress. That’s why I think it sounds better as a standalone, outside of continuity story. Which is what I seem to remember JMS saying he likes to write. That’s why he’s good at “The Brave and the Bold.” It isn’t in continuity, it can be forward in time, backward in time, it’s completely free reign. Wonder Woman can’t be without slipping into some sort of pocket dimension that separates her book from everything else going on and then catches up again once it’s finished. I think the fans could deal with that. If that is the case I’m hoping it is spelled out very clearly in the issues or else it could be very confusing.

But good or bad, I’m sure this will all only be temporary. After a year or so things will be restored to how they were because Status Quo is God. Even if people really like this change and sales go up it probably won’t last. After all, the sales of “Batman and Robin” have been top 10 since the book started, but that’s not stopping them from bringing Bruce back after just a year. I understand that Wonder Woman’s book hasn’t been selling very well and that DC felt that some sort of drastic change was needed to make her relevant and get people interested. But if you have to completely change who the character is in order to get people interested I think you are kind of missing the point. I’m not saying that’s what JMS will do. The book’s not out yet, so I can’t judge, but he is changing most of where she came from which has a great effect on the person she turned out to be. As someone on a message board pointed out, now her new origin is really reminiscent of Superman. If I was a longtime Wonder Woman reader, only to see everything that I had been following basically ignored, I would probably be pretty upset. So while they may pick up a number of new readers with this, some who have been loyal to Wondy in the past may jump ship. It’s a risky ploy.

And I am one potential new reader who won’t be jumping on board. If the reviews for the series are amazing I will consider the trade, but at the moment I’m content to let this one pass me by. And like I feared the Superman story could be, this entire premise seems to be INCREDIBLY polarizing of the fans. There are those who are outraged by it and those who are very excited about it. There are also those who want to support it just to spite those who are outraged by it (those kinds of people always confuse me). And there is the quiet middle ground of those who are unsure but perhaps cautiously optimistic. One thing is certain, the announcement of the new costume on the Source has gotten more comments than any article I’ve ever seen on the site (the Superman “Grounded" stuff got about 40 comments, as did DC entering digital comics. This Wonder Woman entry already has over 160). So if one of the goals was to get people talking (in the no publicity is bad publicity vein) then so far it’s already been a big success.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Fan Ramblings – Superman gets “Grounded”

No, Ma Kent didn’t tell him to go to him room. But DC comics is beginning a year long story line in which the man from Krypton will be voluntarily pinned down to Earth and walking across America to reconnect with the people he’s been away from. And I have some reservations… I’m not going to bash a book that hasn’t even come out yet, but I am going to give my opinions and impressions of the idea. I don’t even want to discourage others from giving it a shot. I’m simply going to explain why I’m not too keen on the idea and therefore won’t be buying it.

A little catch up for anyone who hasn’t been following lately. Over a year ago now Superman fought Brainiac and managed to unbottle the city of Kandor. Brainiac’s obsessed with learning and possessing all knowledge so he would fly around from planet to planet and steal a cultural center of each world to study, shrink and put it in a bottle. Then, so that no new knowledge is created from that world, he implants something in the planet’s core that makes it explode after he leaves. In current continuity, this is how Krypton was destroyed.

So Superman managed to get Kandor back and make it regular sized again and we had 100,000 Kryptonians wandering around on Earth and then later on the new planet of New Krypton on the other side of our sun. Superman saw this as a chance to reconnect with his birth heritage and really get to know where he came from. So he spent a year not on Earth dealing with the various issues that surrounded New Krypton including the death of his uncle and the fact that the Kandorians got Zod out of the Phantom Zone and made him the leader of their military. During this time Superman did not appear in the “Superman” comic book or in “Action Comics” where he got his start. He was in the “World of New Krypton” miniseries while the other Superman books focused on Superman’s more extended cast and how they were dealing in Metropolis without him. But because this is comics and Status Quo is God New Krypton was destroyed and Superman is back on Earth.

J. Michael Straczynski is taking over the Superman ongoing comic now and his first arc will apparently be a 13 issue run with Superman walking across the country. And I’m honestly not impressed with the idea. It’s really risky to say the least. Fans have been complaining for months now about wanting Superman back in his own book, so this should make them happy I guess, but it also takes away a lot of Superman’s supporting elements. Like his wife. Who he has already been separated from for a good long while. You would think he would need to reconnect with her. And here we have another year long story arc that could strongly polarize fan reaction.

One of the themes behind this whole story arc is apparently to get the country talking about Superman again. It’s an ambitious goal. One of the ways DC is trying to accomplish this is by having a contest in which people can write in to petition to have their own hometown be one of the places Superman visits. At first I thought this was a great idea. I started to get excited about it. I thought, hey, it would be really cool to get Superman to College Station, Texas! I bet I could write up all my college friends and together we could flood the contest with a bunch of entries supporting College Station. Even if people don’t particularly like Superman the chance to have your university featured in a comic book would be pretty cool. For a brief moment DC’s plan seemed to work. I was ready to spread the word about Superman to friends who didn’t even read comics and to try to get them as excited about the idea as I was.

And then I kept reading. Turns out, this contest is only open to people who live within 50 miles of nine predetermined major cities. None of them near Texas or anywhere in the south at all. My excitement immediately faded. I felt cheated. I understand that the route is more or less set so that the book can come out on time. One Nebraska town is about the same as another Nebraska town I suppose (at least those within 50 miles of Omaha), so there will only need to be minor rewrites to the script in order to make the winner’s town fit. But it took an idea that I saw as grand in scale and as really having the potential to get the whole country talking down to a very small scale gimmick.

Now if I lived within 50 miles of one of those cities I would probably still be very excited. But again, knowing that a lot of it is probably preconceived and pre written there is a chance that your wonderful little town is going to be in an issue all about teenage prostitution or drug dealing or how depressed everyone is because the economy sucks. Are these issues really going to show what makes these towns great, or are they simply going to be fill-in-the-blanks on the setting and maybe reference photos for the artist? Will these cities be prominently featured in the issue at all? Or will Superman just pass a “Now leaving Your Town” sign, making it merely an Easter Egg? Or will it be background while he walks along talking to someone about something? Will he even bother to stop in these towns?

There are a lot of questions we can’t know the answers to, but I certainly feel that the scope of this project isn’t as grand as they are making it out to be. On top of that, the deadline for submissions is July 12, just under 2 weeks away. The essays are short (750-1,000 words, this rambling blog entry is already that long) but I’m not sure if that’s really enough time to “get people talking” about it. And if the writing quality of the entries matches the writing quality on most comic book message boards (the audience I assume will be most aware of this contest and likely to enter) DC is going to be shifting through a lot of garbage to get to the well articulated essays. I could be completely wrong about this, but I’m just not sure that the response to this will be what they are expecting/hoping for.

On a final note, I don’t read superhero comics to be reminded of the things that suck in my life. I don’t really want to read about Superman seeing the parts of the US that suck and the things that not even the mighty Superman can fix. I don’t want to be reminded about the poor economy when I pick up most comic books. I don’t need my flying man to be in a more realistic world. I also feel this could date the comic. Will it still be accessible or meaningful in five years? Ten years? Anyway, I will have to judge the success of this book based on reviews of people who actually read it, because I will not be. I do admire the balls it took to green light this project and hope that it doesn’t blow up in anyone’s face.

And why can’t I shake the Forest Gump vibe this thing sends me?

By the Numbers – June

A look at what I'll be getting in the mail soon, my June comics reduced to statistics!

Total comics for the month: 58
Change from last month: +7

Company Run Down
DC: 33
Vertigo (DC): 5
Icon (Marvel): 1
Marvel Authors: 1
Image: 6
Aspen: 1
Boom!: 4
D. E.: 2
GG Studios: 1
IDW: 1
Oni: 1
Zenoscope: 2

Average price I paid: $ 1.97

0 Issues: 1
First Issues: 9
Last Issues: 4

Ongoing: 27
Mini-series: 29
One shot: 2

Batman Issues: 19
Brightest Day books: 5
Series with colors in the title: 5