Sunday, October 31, 2010

Why would you do this?

This is a random entry I’ll admit (and a tad bit late to be topical...). But I was looking at the Bat Family one shots for Bruce Wayne the Road Home which came out in October and something just bothers me.

Check out the covers. They are pretty amazing and I like how they all link together and like even more that the only one I’m not getting is on the end so it won’t mess up the flow (and since that is the book I constantly wonder why they even still group it with the Bat books, I wonder if this was done on purpose).

But if you look at the order you are supposed to read the issues in, then things get difficult. According to a recent interview with Fabian Nicieza, who coordinated the event, the proper reading order is Batman and Robin, Red Robin, Outsiders, Batgirl, Catwoman, Gordon, Oracle, Ra’s al Ghul.

That’s a completely different order! Parts are the same, yes, but the simple fact is that they will not read in the order that the covers connect in. This just seems like a strange choice. Did they not have the order set when they asked the cover artist to make these covers? Did the order change at some point? Or was there just a mix up of some kind?

I know it’s a little thing, but I can’t be the only one who doesn’t visit my comic shop every single week. I’ll get all these books together in a week or so. If I hadn’t read this article then I would have just tried to read them in cover order and would have gotten pretty confused when I tried to read the last chapter fourth. I’m hoping that they will make the reading order clear in the comics themselves. It still just really seems like an odd choice to me.

They are awfully pretty covers though, so I’ll let this one slide.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Vote for the Legion Leader!

There is an election underway right now that the outcome of which will change the future. I’m not talking about the one all the news stations are covering. That’s for someone else (and probably someone still living in the US) to talk about. I’m talking about the vote for the new leader of the Legion of Superheroes.

In an exciting move DC is having the readers chose who the new leader will be. This is an old tradition that they are bringing back and I’m excited to see the outcome. Readers and fans can go online here and cast their vote for one of the 25 active legion members. The election will last three weeks and end November 10th.

I’ve never read Legion before this new series, but I’m really excited by this whole thing. Letting the readers chose is risky as they could really throw the writer a curve ball. Paul Levitz probably doesn’t have 25 separate results figured out for this event. I’m sure he has a few things in mind for certain characters, but he has no idea who it will be so he can’t devote a lot of time to it. It’s a ballsy move, saying “tell me what you want, my readers, and I will oblige, even if it’s a character I hate (and there is at least one character on the list that Levitz has voiced dislike of in the past…)!” If we do get one of the more out-of-left-field choices it will be really fun to see how he creatively accepts our challenge. I feel more invested in the story now, especially if the character I vote for ends up winning.

If you follow the title I urge you to go and vote based on your own personal preferences. But, if you don’t have a strong preference, or you don’t read the book but would like to vote anyway so that you play a part in shaping the fate of a comic book (it’s cool, I’d be voting even if I wasn’t reading the title) allow me to try to sway your vote in a few of my favorite directions. Here are my top five potential candidates, and I’d be happy with any of them leading the team.

5. The “safe” pick: Cosmic Boy
Character in a nutshell: One of the founding members of the Legion and the first leader. Has magnetic powers.

I see Cos as sort of the Legion’s Scott Summers in that he’s very easily associated with the role of leader. I honestly didn’t know before this election happened that there had been many leaders of the Legion. I thought Cosmic Boy was always the leader. That shows how much I know, but also shows how naturally the character falls into that role. He certainly has experience and would probably serve the team adequately.

This pick isn’t very fun of course, because the whole point of having elections is to create change. And the members have been kind of dumping on Cos’s leadership abilities in the recent issues in order to drum up tension for the election. Also, he recently revealed that one of the reasons he’s always been the “leader” type was so that his best friends Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl could be happy together as they pursued their relationship. And so Cos hasn’t really had that much in the way of romance. The point of rotating leadership is so that all of the miserable responsibility isn’t left to oppress one person for too long. So maybe it’s time for Cos to take a step back and try to do something for himself for a change. I’d be fine with him continuing as the leader, but I wonder if the character would be better served by passing the torch for a while.

4. The gut pick: Mon-El
Character in a nutshell: spent years in the phantom zone to emerge and become a hero of the 21st century, then sent back into the phantom zone for 1000 years until the Legion could cure his lead poisoning. Has all the powers of Superman but is weakened by lead and not Kryptonite.

I realize that I don’t so much have strong reasons to want Mon-El as leader; I just have this gut feeling that he would be a good person to have in the role. Mon-El has been through a lot. Pretty much everyone this guy has ever known or loved is dead (since he’s from our time), except for his Legion family. Not only has he done his share of heroic things, but he’s also had to endure three periods of entrapment in the Phantom Zone, the longest of which lasted for 1000 years of being intangible and lonely. The Legion always seems to need a Superman representative, and Mon-El can fill those big shoes. His role so far in the ongoing has been to exposit about the break up with his long time girlfriend (for which no reason was given), break apart some rocks, and then to go on a fetch quest to retrieve Polar Boy. I’d like to see him more, and being the leader would make that possible.

3. The popular pick: Phantom Girl
Character in a nutshell: longtime member with powers of intangibility.

Several other blogs are throwing their support behind Phantom Girl, and for some very good reasons. She has never been leader, despite her long membership on the team, so many feel that it is her turn. She’s a strong character, and has recently been sort of a confidant/advisor to a number of characters who have been seeking her out for help with their problems. This is a good leadership trait. Also, it would be nice to have a female leader (and surprisingly she's the only one on my list).

She is one of the most deserving members of the chance to be leader. She’s got a lot of support behind her, and I’ll be pleased if she ends up winning (even though she’s only my #3 pick).

2. The symbolic pick: Chameleon Boy
Character in a nutshell: Shape shifter who is the son of the Legion financier RJ Brande

There are a number of good reasons for Cham to be the leader. He’s the son of the man who is pretty much solely responsible for the Legion existing. His father died not too long ago, so it would be a great time for him to step up and take a leadership role to carry on his father’s vision for the future. He just got back from a secret mission to the past to save the bottled cities from Brainiac’s ship and essentially reseed the galaxy with them. This is not just a big deal because it saved many lives, but because many of the worlds they essentially restarted are the home worlds of Legion members a thousand years down the line. Cham even got to release the bottled city from his own planet, essentially restarting his own world. This is no small accomplishment and the Legion owes him a great deal of thanks for this. What better way to reward his efforts than making him their leader?

He’s also a giant middle finger to the xenophobic governments that plague the Legion right now. It would sort of be like saying, yes, here’s our leader. He’s not human. He has orange skin and everything. Deal with it. Cham’s race (the Durlans) are pretty much un-trusted everywhere because honestly, how are you going to trust people who can literally be anyone? But the Legion members do trust Cham and this would be a really nice way to show it. Plus we already know that there is going to be a Durlan assassin group working against the Legion, so I think it could create some interesting story drama.

1. The most interesting pick: Gates
Character in a nutshell: An insectoid alien from the Legion of Earth-247 (the reboot legion) who decided to stay with the Legion of New Earth as they have a shortage of non-humanoid members. Creates teleportation gates.

Gates would be a really fun pick for a lot of reasons. First, he’s a non-humanoid alien and, like Cham, having him as leader would send quite the message in the book’s current climate of xenophobia. It would also probably lead to a very different outlook on things. Gates didn’t want to be in the Legion in the first place. He thought they were a fascist military group but his planet had elected him as their representative and he was forced to join. He grew to tolerate his humanoid teammates and even formed some close friendships…however; he’s left that all behind. You see, Gates isn’t from the same universe as the current Legion. He stayed behind after the Legion of Three Worlds event during Final Crisis.

I’ll admit that his being chosen doesn’t really make a ton of sense in story. The characters have known him for maybe a few months tops (and in story they are the ones voting, not us). They seem to already be making quick use of his abilities, but does that really mean that they trust him? He’s only been in about 2 issues of the new run and his contribution to those has been giving snarky remarks about how he has to do all the work. But I, for one, love his snarky remarks and would love to see how the writer handles the challenge of having him as a leader. I want to see more of him and I think voting for him here is the best way to send that message. And who knows, maybe being from a different universe entirely would give him a unique unbiased outlook on some things.

Plus, just look at him. He’s the coolest looking Legionnaire on the ballot!

By the Numbers – October

Here are the stats of the comics I bought in October, also known as the month of the one shot!

Total comics for the month: 67
Change from last month: +12

Company Run Down
DC: 38
Vertigo (DC): 4
Wildstorm (DC): 1
Ape: 2
Archaia Entertainment: 1
Aspen: 1
Boom!: 4
D. E.: 2
Dark Horse: 1
IDW: 3
Image: 8
Oni: 1
Zenoscope: 1

Average price I paid: $2.20

First Issues: 2
Last Issues: 4

Ongoing: 24
Mini-series: 24
One shot: 15
Half trade thingies: 4

Batman related issues: 19
Brightest Day books: 6

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Comic Buzz – DC Comics Presents

If you looked over the solicitations for DC comics for October and beyond you might have noticed a group of titles under the name DC Comics Presents. These books are each about 100 pages of reprinted material that is hard to find, out of print, or has never been collected in a trade paperback. Ian Sattler referred to them as being “half-trades” at Baltimore Comic Con. And his comment immediately following that statement is why I’m writing up this blurb. “We're doing 3 Young Justice reprints with that,” he said, “Check 'em out when we do them cause we'd like to do more.”

Young Justice is one of those titles that for whatever reason has never been collected in trade. It seems like EVERY convention panel I read about, someone asks about it, but apparently they still think that there isn’t enough interest to print them. So now we have this. And I can only assume that the purpose of these little half trades it to test the waters to see if a trade release would be worthwhile. I’m sure it’s also here to help advertise the new Young Justice cartoon series that will be starting soon (although the show won’t be anything like the old comic or feature hardly any of the same characters…alternate Earth and all that).

Young Justice is a title that I have always wanted to read, but have never had available. I’ve heard so many good things and already really like most of the characters. I’ll be picking up all of these Young Justice half trades for sure to show my support for a trade release.

For those who are interested, the October “half trade” selections are Brightest Day #1 (a collection of Hawkman and Deadman stories from days past), Superman #1, Batman # 1, Green Lantern #1 (focusing on an arc early in Kyle Rainer and Jade’s romantic relationship), Young Justice #1, Jack Cross, and Batman/Catwoman. November continues this trend with Young Justice #2, Batman #2, Brightest Day #2 (this time with Firestorm and Martian Manhunter), Chase, Superman #2, and Green Lantern and Flash #1. December features T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1, Batman Beyond #1, JLA #1, Young Justice #3, Brightest Day #3 (with Aquaman and something from Teen Titans), Batman #3, and Superman #3. January cuts back a bit with only three titles; the Atom, Lobo, and something else about Superman.

You can find out more information (such as specific stories/issues included) on DC’s webpage.

Many of the titles chosen seem to reflect characters that may be of current interest in comics, such as the Brightest Day collections which are just stories about the characters who are spotlighted in Brightest Day. Also they are spotlighting some fan favorite creators.

It’s an interesting format and I do like that DC is trying some new things. I really don’t know how successful these things will be though. The ones that collect a full story or arc should do alright, but the ones that seem to contain seemingly random issues of a series may not fare as well (as some people prefer to read things in order).

The main point here is that if DC is giving this treatment to something you like, by all means support it. There is no “waiting for trade” here as these releases are already essential trades. And if you don’t support it now there may not be further trades for you to wait for.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

DC Price Cuts – The Good and the Bad

This past weekend DC announced that come January (almost) all of their $3.99 books would drop back to $2.99. They cite concerns of fans and retailers as the driving force behind the decision. We’re all no doubt cheering for the lower prices and most of us are hoping other companies follow suit. Marvel had hinted at some kind of similar price drop, but it seems unclear exactly what that will entail. But they say that you can’t get something for nothing and this is a true case of that. There’s always a catch and this case is no different.

When I first heard the announcement, I assumed that it pertained to the $3.99 titles that were only 22 story pages such as Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors, Batman Inc., and Batman: Dark Knight. These were the books that were the biggest rip offs and certainly seemed in need of a price reduction. These books are included in the line wide price drop, but so are books like Detective Comics, Action Comics, and Teen Titans which had all included back up features increasing the story page count to 30.

I was actually okay with paying more money for more content. I thought the backups were a neat idea and gave exposure to some underused characters. They weren’t all brilliant, but it was an interesting idea and I enjoyed reading them. All of these stories will simply be gone in January. It ticks me off a little because it seems as though the writers were not consulted on this matter, or even warned that it was coming. A day before the announcement I read an interview about Detective Comics and the backup was included in the discussion as normal. I’d have been happier if the backup stories were given a chance to end and then, once the run was finished, the books dropped their page count and price. We’ve been assured that these stories will finish in one shots or miniseries, but since the stories were coming out 8 pages at a time it may take a while for fans to see the rest of it.

A close read of the press release about this matter shows that not only will the price on these books drop; the page count will too. We’re going from 22 pages of story to 20. Now this almost seems like a fair trade, 2 more pages of ads for a dollar less in price, until you realize that this change is LINE WIDE. Yes, that means that every book, including the majority of DC’s books that were $2.99 for 22 story pages, will drop to 20 pages. And further confounding news, books in the Vertigo line will be affected as well.

So while there are a number of books that we will now be getting a “better” deal on, chances are there are many books that you buy that will be losing content. So you’ll be paying the same price for less. And while the price drop on those few titles is great, this part of the announcement it not good news.

Some people have said that the loss of only 2 pages won’t really matter. If anything it will force writers to condense their storytelling and possibly eliminate 2 page spreads (which are already losing appeal due to the rise of digital readers). But we must also remember that the majority of these writers and artists are freelancers and are paid by the page. Now, company wide, everyone will be paid less per month. It may not seem like a huge loss, but 2 pages a month is 24 pages a year. That’s basically an entire month’s pay check that these creators and their families will no longer have. And an entire month’s worth of story that we will never see.

I was initially thrilled by this news and was happy to see DC taking the initiative and recognizing that in the current economy the dollar can only stretch so far. But the longer I look at the situation the more it seems like they wanted to cut content, so they needed something to distract us. If that was the intent it certainly seems to have worked. People aren’t talking about the whole picture as much as I feel they should be. And I’m worried that a lot of people might not even notice…

EDIT:  Okay, I just heard a semi-convincing argument for the page cut and wanted to give it some face time here.  In a video interview with Dan Didio and Jim Lee they point out that with 2 less pages a month books that are plagued by delays may be able to come out on time and they may be able to fix some of their scheduling problems (see October Batman books).  Creative teams who are faster could still be getting that month's worth of pay by producing 13 books in the span of a year (if they produce at the same rate they end up with 2 extra pages a month).  I hadn't considered that there is no rule saying you can't be ahead of schedule and that being ahead of schedule is good news for everyone.  So that is one point in their favor I suppose, though I still think it warrants more discussion.

I'm also wondering what they will do with things that were already in development like the new Batwoman ongoing slated for February.  JH Williams knows he has to get his art done ahead of time to stay on schedule, so how far ahead was he when they made this decision?  Will he have to go back and eliminate some pages now?  And there have to be at least a few other creative teams who have been working ahead.  I wonder how all of this will affect them.