Thursday, September 30, 2010

DC has a new Editor in Chief

The announcement has come that DC has a new Editor in Chief, one Bob Harras, the former editor in charge of collected editions and former Editor in Chief of Marvel back in the late 90s. I was surprised by the announcement as I figured that the Co-Publisher team of Dido and Lee were pretty much covering those kinds of things. I expected this kind of announcement to come sooner and when it did not, I assumed that it wasn’t coming at all. But with the massive restructuring going on I guess this was the point at which they finally decided it was needed. And it kind of adds a fresh start feel to the whole thing. I mean now he won’t be blamed for any of the inevitable firings to come (since that was already in motion before he was named). I really wish that I had a long winded opinion on the subject, that I was familiar, at all, with this man’s previous work and reputation, but honestly I know nothing about this man.

I browsed some user comments on the announcement on Newsarama and Comic Book Resources and it seems to be pretty evenly divided between those who are optimistic and those who are gloom and doom about the matter. From the comments I’ve read it seems like this man, like pretty much anyone ever, has made some really good choices and also some really poor ones. He has impressed people and pissed off people. He didn’t have perfect run while at Marvel, but he did so some good things that people remember. He also did some bad ones that have stuck with people.

And no matter what he did at Marvel, I have a hard time judging a man on his actions over 10 years ago. Sure he seems to have made some really bad choices on some things, but the hope is that he learned from those things and many other things in his many years of experience since then. And he certainly seems to have a lot of experience in comics. The comic world is a very different place than it was back then. The customers are different and the economy is different. Yes, if he runs DC now just like he ran Marvel back then things are going to suck, but mostly because they are two very different times and it will require different things to be successful. And since he has been working in comics this whole time it is silly to assume that he hasn’t noticed the changes along with the rest of us.

I know that there are several good points about his time in the collected division, but honestly, I don’t know what that position is in charge of and I don’t have the knowledge to really evaluate that. It still seems like sort of a weird promotion, as, if they were going to promote an editor, it seems like they would have gone with one working on current titles and not collections. But perhaps my thinking there is wrong. This man worked with all the imprints of DC in that job. Now he is not only editor in chief of the DCU, but will also be responsible for Vertigo and Mad Magazine. Perhaps a single group editor would not have had a firm view on the scope of the company. Also, like his past or not, he does have experience in the position, and that should count for something.

The biggest positive opinion I have is that I am glad that the promotion was from within. I’m very happy that someone under another Warner Brothers department was not shuffled into the mix. Then we would all really have something to complain about. This man has worked in comics for a very long time and, to me at least, that makes him a lot better than many other people they could have moved into this position.

I really feel like I should be telling you all how excited I was for the future of DC with this decision or expounding upon what a poor choice it was. But I can do neither. I suppose we’ll all just have to wait and see how this turns out. There will likely be things that people love and people hate. There will probably be things he is rightly blamed for and things he will be blamed for unnecessarily. He’s stepping into a tough job where he will never be able to please everyone and I can only wish him the best of luck. And of course, I selfishly hope that I am one of the ones he does manage to please.

Monday, September 27, 2010

“Wait, they are ending an entire universe?”

That was my fiancé’s reaction when I told him that the Wildstorm imprint of DC comics was closing. It’s always sad to see things like this close, mostly because it will mean a lot of good people will be out of jobs.

I don’t read any of the Wildstorm universe titles (and never have), so I don’t feel personally wronged by any of this. The only thing I’m reading from Wildstorm come the December closing is Victorian Undead II, which is a self contained miniseries. I have to assume that it will continue as is, just with a new logo on it (EDIT: Finally found an interview that mentioned it specifically and it will continue with a new logo as I thought).

But I do feel for fans of this universe. It’s going away for “awhile” before these characters show up again under the DC logo. It’s still unclear as to if they will keep their own universe or if they will be folded in to the DCU. I’m really hoping for the former as fans of the Milestone and Red Circle characters seem to have been disappointed with those characters’s absorption into the DCU (and I really can’t blame them). And really (from my point of view at least), with their own universe storytelling is much easier. I think it would benefit the books and the characters to exist on their own. Of course a mandatory miniseries down the line will be required to cross over the two universes for whatever reason, but I think for the most part it will be better for everyone if they can keep to themselves. I honestly don’t think this is likely and assume they will just be added to the already overcrowded DCU, but I will remain hopefully that someone will see the light on this matter.

I will admit that before this announcement I didn’t really have a clear view of Wildstorm’s place. DC was the superhero place and Vertigo was the place for more mature comics and things that had nothing to do with superheroes. Wildstorm had all the licensed comics, but also its own universe and then some series that weren’t related to that universe. I couldn’t really get a hold on the thread that tied the line together that really said, “This title is a Wildstorm book.” With this closure it seems as though perhaps I wasn’t the only one. I don’t want to say that Wildstorm was doomed or anything, but I do feel like we’ve seen it decline in the past few years and as sad as the announcement was it wasn’t completely surprising.

I’ve seen some people fearing for the continuation of Vertigo after the cancelation of EVERY other DC imprint. But I have to disagree. Vertigo pulls a lot of weight at DC, especially in trade sales. Series like Fables and Sandman sell a lot of books so Vertigo has become pretty well known and brand recognition counts for something. It also makes a lot of sense to keep Vertigo around to have a place for creator owned properties outside the superhero genre. From the looks of things it appears that the focus will now be that DC = superheroes and Vertigo = everything else. If DC is dividing things the way I think they are going to then it would be really stupid to get rid of Vertigo. People who are looking for more “mature” comics in terms of content and subject matter know to go to Vertigo. If you suddenly grouped everything under the DC banner then people wouldn’t know where to look for things and thus you could lose sales. Some might argue that the darker more mature subject matter is creeping into our “fun” superhero comics and I would agree. But there is still a difference between a book that sometimes has dark plots and a mature book that revolves around dark plots. Most of the latter are to be found over at Vertigo. I personally feel like the Vertigo books have a sort of flavor to them that makes them distinct from the DC books. And this is what I feel Wildstorm was lacking.

It will be interesting to see how many of the Wildstorm books that were not in the Wildstorm universe find a home at Vertigo. Now that I think about it, the Wildstorm universe might be better served by continuing under the Vertigo imprint. This isn’t going to happen, but it would keep them separate from the DCU and would allow them to maintain their own universe and stories. It certainly is a situation I will be watching as it unfolds.

By the Numbers – September

Total comics for the month: 55
Change from last month: 0

Company Run Down
DC: 29
Vertigo (DC): 4
Antarctic Press: 1
Ape: 2
Archaia Entertainment: 1
Aspen: 1
Boom!: 4
D. E.: 2
GG Studios: 1
IDW: 3
Image: 4
Oni: 1
Th3rd World Studios: 1
Zenoscope: 1

Average price I paid: $2.13

First Issues: 3
Last Issues: 2

Ongoing: 30
Mini-series: 25
One shot: 0

Batman Issues: 15
Brightest Day books: 6

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Trade Buzz? – The Saga of Rex

Creative Team: Michel Gagne (W and A)
Image, released in November, $17.99

This doesn’t quite fit with how I normally do Comic Buzz as it’s not a new series but a graphic novel release. But it’s also not a good Waiting for Trade because those recommendations are of things I have read in their entirety and recommend to those of you who trade wait. But it is something exciting coming out that I want to share and it is in the graphic novel form, so I’ll just label it as both and call it a day.

This 200 page story was originally published a chapter at a time in an anthology comic called “Flight” and will now be collected for the first time. This is also the first time the story will be presented in order as the last volume of “Flight” actually had the first chapter of the story. There is a bit of narration in the first chapter but after that the story relies on visuals to tell the story without text.

The story features an adorable little fox named Rex in his sci-fi adventure for love. Yeah, that’s a lot of genres. Rex is kidnapped by a spaceship and taken to another planet full of wonders he has never seen before. There Rex has a variety of adventures with strange creatures and falls for one of the Blossoms who are capable of mating with various species from throughout the universe. Did I mention how adorable it is? I don’t have to really, just look at that cover yourself! How can you not say “Awwwwwwwwww”?

Michel Gagne created, illustrated, and colored this entire work, so you know it’s been a labor of love for him. When I read that he has done considerable work in animation including two of my all time childhood favorites “An American Tale” and “The Land Before Time” I got the feeling that this will really be something I enjoy.  Rex's first adventure was a children's book called A Search for Meaning: The Story of Rex (which you can read online here), and hopefully we'll see more of this adorable little guy in the future.

So if you like foxes, adorableness, adventure, love, stories told without words, fun, whimsy, or some combination of the above, you might want to track down the Saga of Rex once it hits shelves this November. It’s certainly on my birthday list!

If you really need more in the way of preview go here for massive previews of 6 of the chapters or here for an interview with Gagne!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Fan Ramblings – Are two Bats better than one?

*What follows may contain spoilers for Batman if you are not caught up*

DC recently set to rest a lot of the speculation floating around by revealing that once Bruce Wayne returns Dick Grayson will not be stepping down and we will in fact have 2 Batmen in the DC Universe. Dick Grayson will be Batman in Batman, Batman and Robin, and Detective Comics. Bruce Wayne will take the lead in Batman Inc., The Dark Knight, and (the almost always forgotten by anyone talking about the Batbooks) Batman Confidential. Dick Grayson will remain the protector of Gotham City while Bruce takes a more global approach.

I wrote before about the massive number of books in the Bat Family, and mentioned at the time that I didn’t actually want Bruce Wayne back because I wanted more of Dick as Batman. Well, it seems as though DC has helped to settle my trepidation about that. And honestly, it does solve some of the editorial problems I foresaw as well. I think it will be easier to handle two separate Batmen than the same one in every book.

When I first heard that Bruce Wayne was making his completely expected return so soon I immediately thought, oh god, Dick better not just give up the cowl the second Bruce walks in saying ‘Well that was fun.’ If this past year had been nothing but stories with Dick Grayson bumbling around in his father’s clothes, never really fitting in as the Batman role and not really ever getting things right, then I might buy that kind of a reaction. I would also have been royally pissed off and this blog would be filled with a LOT more rage. But that’s not what happened. It is true that Dick Grayson never wanted to be Batman, and at first he felt awkward in the role (and seemingly ever writer working on the Batbooks got his shot at milking that idea). But he grew into it and made it his own.

Here’s an example. In issue 13 of Batman and Robin Dick is riding in the Batmobile with Commissioner Gordon. Now Gordon isn’t stupid and is well aware that this is a different Batman. He points out that Dick calls him Commissioner Gordon while the “other Batman” had always called him Jim. Dick just smiles and tells him that he’ll keep calling him Commissioner Gordon if that's okay. And then Gordon makes the comment that most of the cops in Gotham LIKE HIS WAY OF DOING THE BATMAN THING BETTER. No, I’m not saying that this means that Dick is better than Bruce and that we have no reason to have Bruce around or anything silly like that. But what I do feel it shows is that Dick is doing a damn fine job as Batman, and that he should be aware of this fact. He can’t play the “No one believes I’m really Batman card” anymore. He is Batman. He is a different Batman than Bruce was, but he is a good one nonetheless. After a comment like that (from one of the most respected men in all of the Batman books) it would make absolutely zero sense to me for Dick to just throw off the cowl without a second thought.

Also, it wouldn’t make sense for Bruce Wayne to come back and not recognize what a freaking awesome job Dick has done, not just with being Batman, but with helping to shape Damian as a person. Little shit that he still is, Damian is loyal to Dick. He is Dick Grayson’s Robin. They have a good thing going there. And Bruce isn’t so single minded as to not be able to see that. Come on, Bruce is a strategist. He should be able to look at the situation and say, “hey things are going pretty well. I’ve still got a job to do, but I can focus my attentions elsewhere now that the kids are holding down the fort in Gotham.”

I personally do not feel that Dick Grayson going back to being Nightwing would be a demotion. Dick proved himself a hero outside of the shadow of the bat. That identity is still his, and I’m sure that somewhere down the line that’s what things will return to. I just don’t want it to happen yet. I want Dick to really think about what being Batman means to him. Yes, we ALL know he initially didn’t want to do it. And Bruce didn’t want him to do it. But in true heroic fashion, Dick saw a need and filled it despite his personal feelings. And now, it will change from being an obligation to being a choice. And I think that it makes sense for Dick now to WANT to keep doing what he is doing. He’s found a rhythm and he’s made the cowl his own.

I’m optimistic about things to come. We get more Dick Grayson Batman and people who only wanted to read about Bruce in the cowl have their books too. Things are new and different and it will be nice to see these ideas explored. And this outcome makes far more sense to me than a lot of others would. I know fans are divided on this new idea, and what new idea doesn’t divide the fan base these days? I have no ill will toward anyone who hates the idea of two Batmen. I don’t think I’m right and they are wrong. I simply hope that we can agree to disagree and keep an open mind until we actually see the stories in action. Then we can all react with praise or rage as required.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Fan Ramblings – Sherlock Holmes Comics

When I was very young I wanted to be a detective when I grew up. I made my own detective kit and routinely went around my house trying to solve mysteries like “The Caper of the Missing Coffee Cup.” I suppose that it is no surprise that my favorite superhero is known as the world’s greatest detective. I have always loved a good mystery and gravitate toward characters who are great detectives both in comics and out (such as House, Psych, Monk, Detective Conan, the Great Mouse Detective, Rescue Rangers, and Phillip Marlow).

"Where could the cup be?"
Since the Sherlock Holmes movie recently our classic detective has been getting a lot of press. With the writings of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle safely within the public domain there are many different takes on the character available. Some are very traditional, while others seem to be ideas taken directly from a fanfiction forum somewhere.

Recently, a lot of Holmes related comics have appeared and I just can’t help but be tempted by them, even by the really gimmicky ones. I know some of them are just attempts to cash in on Holmes’ current popularity, but I just can’t help but think, “But what if it’s good?” So now, I’ll share with you, some of Holmes’ more recent comic adventures.

Sherlock Holmes (Dynamite Entertainment)
By far the most traditional Holmes story of those listed here, you will gain a lot from this story if you are a Holmes fan. Many familiar characters make an appearance, like Inspector LeStrade and Holmes’ brother Mycroft. In this story Holmes is the only suspect in a locked room murder. It wasn’t the most amazing Holmes’ story I have ever read, although the mystery was complex enough to keep me interested for five issues. All in all though, it never shook off the fanfiction feeling for me. Worth a read, but not necessarily worth buying unless you are a Holmes fan.

Sherlock Ninja (Antarctic Press)
I really wanted this one to be decent. It includes two of my favorite things: Sherlock Holmes and ninjas! Unfortunately this was not the greatest match made in heaven. I was disappointed to find that the art was black and white. Black and white art can be done well (like in Walking Dead) but here it simply made everything muddled. Nothing really stood out. And the fight scenes were terrible. I couldn’t figure out what was going on half of the time. And when you have what should be cool ninja fights, that is a big problem. Overall this was a single issue that was pretty forgettable. I don’t regret buying it, as it amused me slightly, but it’s not one that I would really recommend anyone pick up, unless they just want to say that they own something called Sherlock Ninja.  And yet if an issue #2 shows up I would probably buy it anyway just to see where they go with it...

Victorian Undead (Wildstorm)
In another I-can’t-believe-they-are-really-doing-this premise, this series is all about Sherlock Holmes vs. zombies! Like Sherlock Ninja above, I was suckered in by the pairing of two of my favorite things. And for what it was, I feel it was well handled. Sherlock Holmes DID get called in on his fair share of strange and unbelievable cases in his time, so this isn’t as out there as it could be. I think I would have liked this story a tad better if it had just been Holmes and company dealing with a zombie invasion. But things are, of course, more complicated than that, and it turns out that the zombies are being led by *SPOILER ALERT* Holmes deceased arch nemesis Professor Moriarty. It wasn’t really a surprise, and unfortunately I didn’t feel like it added a lot to the zombie story. In fact, once that was reveled I felt that the zombies took a back seat to Moriarty zombie in importance. The story changed from Holmes vs. zombies to Holmes vs. Moriarty who happens this time to be a zombie. I wanted to read about Holmes fighting something completely out of his element, and it kinda fell short in that regard. But all in all it wasn’t a bad read and had enough Holmes character cameos to keep me happy. Apparently the series did well enough to spawn an October one shot with Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and a second miniseries starting in November with Holmes vs. Dracula! I’m hoping that this time the series can focus on the undead half of the equation a little more.

Muppet Sherlock Holmes (Boom!)
This title isn’t out yet, but based on the preview images I’ve seen I have high hopes for it. It’s a Muppet parody with Gonzo as Holmes and Fonzy as Dr. Watson. Kermit will make an appearance as Inspector LeStrade and by the end there will probably be more Muppets than you can shake a magnifying glass at. Unlike the other items on this list, this miniseries is retelling four classic Holmes stories; The Speckled Band, A Scandal in Bohemia, The Red Headed League, and The Musgrove Ritual. The content has been tweaked of course to stay within the atmosphere of the Muppets and to condense the story down to 24 pages, and while each issue/case is a separate story, there will be threads that tie the whole series together. As this is a parody, I have high hopes that it will take what it needs from the source material, but also never take itself too seriously. If you have kids who like to play detective or like the Muppets this might be a good series to pick up for them!

If they make a Lego Sherlock Holmes game I am SO there!

Whatever may befall our favorite detective I'm sure I'll be along for the ride.  How about the rest of you?  Any insane story ideas you would like to see in future comics?  Do you have a favorite character that you are driven to pick things up for, even when you know some of its going to be crap?