Posts Tagged ‘Birds of Prey

07
Sep
11

Classic EBI #107: The Next Great Crisis

It’s time to get nostalgic this week, friends. In the past 10 years, we’ve gotten comics about most of the great TV shows (and toy properties) of my childhood — G.I. Joe, TransFormers, Thundercats, He-Man, and so forth… most, but not all. Today I take a look at four 80s properties that have remained buried since the 80s, and rank their chances for a resurgence.

Everything But Imaginary #414: Lost Nostalgia

But in this week’s classic EBI, I’m drifting back to the great comic book crisis of of 2005: the decision to raise the prices of $2.25 comics to $2.50.

Heh. Ah, we were so young.

Everything But Imaginary #107: The Next Great Crisis

Those of you who, like myself, feverishly watch the world of comics for news learned this week that another great Crisis is about to be unfolded. Something that will leave us dumbfounded. Something that will leave us breathless. Something that will no doubt change the world of one of the two biggest comic book companies forever.

I refer, of course, to the announcement that Marvel Comics is raising the prices of all of its $2.25 books to $2.50. Not that there are that many $2.25 books left in the first place, but this does mark a major shift for Marvel and a major shift for people’s wallets. Sure, 25 cents doesn’t seem like much. Taken by itself, it isn’t much at all. But if you buy ten $2.25 books a month, that’s an increase of $2.50, and if you’ve got a strict budget for comics, that means one less comic you’re able to buy, which means decreased sales, which multiplies by the number of readers who will have to make that cut. And it’s worse, of course, the higher the pricepoint goes — $2.75, $2.99, $3.50, $3.99…

DC Comics isn’t blameless here, of course. This month they snuck in a much smaller increase that many fans didn’t even notice – all of their $2.95 books jumped to $2.99. But the company still has a few $2.25 books, including all of those comics aimed specifically at kids, which is a good thing. Pricing a comic book out of a child’s reach not only defeats the entire purpose of publishing a children’s comic in the first place, but even worse, cuts off a gate for the potential future comic book readers. If no kid can afford to buy comics, how will he grow up and become a regular reader with a pull list and a compulsion to hit the shop every Wednesday?

Now that the announcement is being made, however, I’m hearing from all quarters about readers planning to cut Marvel Comics from their pull folders. And in many cases, it’s not the books that don’t need their support, that will sell anyway like Astonishing X-Men or Amazing Spider-Man, it’s books that are critical winners but don’t have a huge following like District X.

What does this tell us? I’m no businessman, I’ll admit that right up front, but I can put two and two together and come up with four. Marvel is raising prices, one must assume, to recoup higher production costs. When the cost of making a comic goes up, the only ways to get the money back are to increase prices or sell more copies. I think we can all agree on that. However, a price increase (except on books with a hardcore fan base, like those mentioned above) will almost always be accompanied by a drop in sales. And there aren’t enough comic book fans to go around to begin with. Can any company really afford to price itself out of the reach of its audience?

Marvel is putting out a slew of new titles in the coming months as well – a revitalized New Warriors series, a new Thing ongoing, and a new miniseries called Gravity, all for example. But if comic fans can’t afford the books in their folder now, how do you convince them to start purchasing new comics at three dollars apiece?

I spent a good amount of time this weekend discussing this with a buddy of mine. Mark happens to manage a comic shop of his own, and was particularly taken aback by the news of the increase. “It’s just going to get the long time readers to stop buying the books they normally do because they can’t justify spending $30 a week on books they read once,” he said.

His solution to the problem? Well… it’s kind of a drastic one, so get ready for it.

Cut prices.

“If I have a $20 a week budget right now, I can buy say 7 books a week,” he said hypothetically. “Drop it to $2 a book, you can now buy 10 books a week, a net sales increase of 3 books, increasing circulation and advertisers.”

Now would the production costs of creating a comic book make this feasible? Well it’s obviously not impossible, because some companies do that very thing. Beckett Comics puts out books for $1.99 an issue. They’re a bit shorter than regular titles from Marvel or DC, but the quality of the paper stock is much better, and the quality of the story and art are top-notch.

And for those of us who don’t care as much about paper stock… why can’t that be cut to a less expensive stock? I realize some people, those who are more geared to the artistic end of comics as opposed to the story end as I am, would be upset by such a move. But there are many people that would gladly take a cut in paper quality if it meant their monthly comic book bill would no longer outstretch their car note.

Marvel and DC could take a note from Archie Comics, actually. Sure, laugh it up if you want, but Archie Comics are currently priced at a comfortable $2.19 a regular issue (and not much more for their 100-page digests). A weird number, perhaps, but other than Beckett it’s the most reasonably priced comic company on the market. And they have two things the Big Two don’t have – a more traditional paper stock, and a heck of a lot of readers. It doesn’t reflect on the Diamond sales chart, but if you factor in the number of Archie comics sold on newsstands – to kids, mind you, the same ones who are finding it harder to afford Marvel Adventures Starring Spider-Man – you’ve got a juggernaut that outstrips almost any X, Spider or Bat-comic you care to mention. Most comic fans don’t realize that, but it seems clear to me that Archie knows something the other publishers don’t.

So why not at least try to appeal to both classes of reader? In the 90s, one of the few things Marvel did that I thought was a good policy was start releasing two editions of many of their top-selling (X-Men, Spider-Man) comics: one on regular newsprint for $1.50 and one on higher-quality glossy paper for $1.95. No other changes, no variant covers, no exclusives – just a lower-priced alternative for someone who’s in comics to read them and not to collect them.

Speaking of variant covers, that’s something else that’s getting increasingly disturbing to me. In the 90s, the comic book market was flooded, then abandoned and almost shattered by an influx of speculators, people who swarmed to buy thousands of copies of “hot” books like Youngblood #1 or Superman #75 in the hopes of filing them away for a few years and then using them to pay for their children’s college education. Eventually, though, it dawned on them that if thousands of people have millions of something, there will be no demand for it and the price will stagnate. Those Youngbloods were about as rare as Jefferson nickels. So the speculators left in the same droves that they arrived in.

That said, anything that feels like an effort to cater to the speculators is something that bothers me, and that’s what the new crop of variant covers feels like to me. I don’t mind a variant cover once in a while, for a really big issue that deserves it, but in recent months Marvel has been cranking them out at warp speed. Aside from the “Director’s Cut” issues, there have been variants on titles like Ultimate Fantastic Four #13 (not special except that it’s the first issue of a new story arc), Astonishing X-Men #4 (which was special in that it featured the surprise return of Colossus, but the variant cover featured him on it and ruined the ending of the book for anyone who hadn’t read it yet) and Ultimate Spider-Man #54 (which was special only because they recolored the “movie” Spider-Man in the issue and released it as the “Arachno-Man variant”).

Then there’s New Avengers. It’s a good title. It’s a solid seller. It’s a book that moves itself. So why is Marvel releasing each of the first six issues with at least one variant cover?

To promote their new artists, it would seem. Each of the artists doing a variant is part of what they’re calling their “Young Guns” program. While I don’t like variants in most cases, I can accept that they want to promote the new artists. But if that’s the case, to push these new talents to the forefront, why is it the variants will decrease in number with each of the six issues? Why is it going to be impossible for everyone who wants a complete set of the six variant covers to get them all, simply because there won’t be as many of #2 as there were of #1, or as many of #3 as there were of #2, and so on? Does that promote the artist, or does that simply drive up the value of the book on the back-issue market, which like the variant/hologram/foil cover craze of the 90s, is only driven by speculators, who never last and who deflate the market when they leave? And how many times can a speculator bubble burst before what remains is too small to sustain the artform?

Let me put it bluntly. What difference does it make how “hot” a new comic is right now if, 20 years from now, there’s nobody left buying comics at all?

I don’t mean to sound like I’m picking on Marvel – they’ve got some of the best characters and best talent in the business. And let’s be fair, DC does variant covers as well, but not nearly with the frequency that Marvel does, and when they do, those variants are usually a 50:50 ratio, meaning that neither cover will be worth more or harder to find than the other. The exceptions to this are when they put a variant cover on a second or third printing of a book. I don’t have a problem with that at all. Second or third printings simply ensure that everyone who wants a copy of a comic will be able to get one, and changing the cover, either by making it a black-and-white “sketch” cover or changing the artwork entirely, differentiates it from the first print. That way you know at a glance which printing of the comic you’re getting (compared to the old days where you had to search the tiny print on in the indica to find where it said “SECOND PRINT”) and if you’re the type who likes variant covers, hey, there’s a bonus for you. But even with a different cover, these second and third prints almost never appreciate in value the way a first print does, and therefore are of no use to the speculators, and don’t contribute to that dangerous bubble.

That brings me to another point – reprints. Some companies don’t do them at all. These companies, I think, are only hurting themselves. Granted, most of the time the books that sell out entirely wind up being collected in trade paperback form down the line, but that’s another thing entirely. Some people prefer the monthly books to paperbacks. Others may get used to waiting for the paperbacks and drop the magazines entirely, quashing the initial sales numbers, causing the books to fail and preventing the trade paperbacks from ever being printed.

If a book sells out and there’s enough demand for a second print, why not do it? It costs the same to print, it costs the same to the reader, and it puts that book in the hands of as many people who want it as possible. Which means that people who may have skipped issue #2 because they missed issue #1 now can come back, which translates to higher sales in the long run. Marvel is getting better on this point – they’ve been doing more reprints lately, and their “Must Haves” program (which collects three or four comics in a relatively inexpensive edition) is a really good thing. Getting those early issues in the hands of more people will translate into higher sales for future issues.

That brings us to something that Marvel does very well that other companies – DC in particular – could take note of. A while back, Marvel started prefacing almost every one of their comics with a “previously” page. It’s a quick introduction to the characters and a bit explaining how the story led up to the current point. It makes it easier for a reader to jump in on any issue and start to grasp what’s happening.

DC very rarely does this, and when they do, it’s usually because the writer works it into the comic book. The writers of Gotham Central are particularly clever about this, they usually start the issue with a one-page recap disguised as a news broadcast or a perp’s rap sheet, which just happens to give the reader everything he or she needs to know to get into the issue.

Then there are books like Lucifer, which leave new readers completely in the dark. This is one of the most dense, layered titles in DC’s Vertigo line, and has a very dedicated fan base. I think a rich, detailed, complex comic book is a great thing. But the problem with Lucifer is that it’s so detailed, so complex, that it’s almost impossible for a new reader to come in and start to enjoy the title. I’ve been reviewing the book in DC’s advance packs for about 16 issues now, and I’m still clueless half the time. Lucifer needs, at least, a previously page. Some fans of the title have told me that not every comic needs to be new-reader friendly. I’ve got to disagree. Let’s say your comic book starts the first issue with a readership of 50,000. Almost every comic takes a hit with issue #2, first of all. Then, naturally, a title loses readers to attrition – readers who grow bored or drop the title due to monetary concerns or just quit reading comics altogether. That readership will dwindle. And if there’s no place for new readers to join in, then the comic can’t grow, and eventually will dwindle to the point where it’s no longer economically feasible to keep producing it. Now writer Mike Carey has announced that the title will end relatively soon – with issue #75, I think – completing the story he set out to tell. Having that definite ending in sight will probably keep the fans on-board through to the finish line. But other titles without a clear-cut ending place and no way for new readers to join in won’t have that advantage.

So there you have it, friends. The biggest problems, in my opinion, facing comic books today, the things that are leading to the real crisis. And I don’t say this as a doomsayer. I’m not saying this to make anyone bail, I’m not saying this to quash all hope. I’m saying this because I love comic books, I love ‘em like oxygen, like water, like double-pepperoni and sausage pizza. And I want us all to look at these problems and fix them. Now. Before it’s too late.

I’ve offered some suggestions here. Some of them, for one reason or another, may not be possible. I’m no economist. But we have to start somewhere, and until some ideas are put forth, nothing will change. Like Scott McCloud said at the end of Understanding Comics, I’m not writing this to end the debate, I’m writing this to start one. Fans. Retailers. Creators. Publishers. All of us together need to be ready to talk about this, to shape the future, and to do what it takes to keep comic book around long enough for our children to hand them down to their children. Or even to throw them out while their children are at summer camp. That’s what parents tend to do, so I’m told.

So let’s talk about it. Now. All of us.

Let’s try to save comics together.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: March 16, 2005
My Uncle Todd threatened to disown me if I didn’t pick this as my “Favorite of the Week,” and while I refuse to bow to familial pressure, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that Birds of Prey #80 was really, really good.

I almost gave the honor to Adventures of Superman #638, which was a surprisingly touching portrait of Lois and Clark’s relationship, but the conclusion of Birds of Prey simply blew all other comics from last week out of the water. There’s a major revelation in this issue, something I never saw coming but which makes perfect sense and drastically changes the way these characters will relate to each other for a long time to come. Gail Simone hit another home run this issue.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginnerand the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.comand visit him on the web atEvertime Realms.Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.
10
Aug
11

Classic EBI #103: Old Dogs, New Tricks

Boom! Studios, the publisher that has been turning out great comics based on various Disney-owned TV shows, cartoons, and movies since 2009, recently confirmed that their production of Disney comics will end in October with their Darkwing Duck/DuckTales crossover. This isn’t really a surprise, and the assumption seems to be that the characters will be folded into Marvel Comics, which Disney purchased about six months after the Boom! deal began. So the questions I ask in today’s Everything But Imaginary are simple: What is Marvel going to do with Disney Comics? And what should Marvel do with Disney Comics?

Everything But Imaginary #410: Marvel’s Mickey Mouse Outfit

In this week’s classic EBI, we’re rolling back to February 23, 2005, when I took a look at the legacy of the Golden Age, both in characters and creators.

Everything But Imaginary #103: Old Dogs, New Tricks

This weekend, I was sitting around reading the latest issue of Comics Buyer’s Guide (which, incidentally, is still the best publication out there about comics), and I was gratified to see an ad from Heroic Publications announcing an upcoming Alter Ego trade paperback. Most of you have never heard of Alter Ego, of course. A few of you may recognize it as being a fanzine published by comic writer and editor supreme Roy Thomas about the Golden and Silver Ages of comics. Three of you, based on our Everything But Imaginary Insta-Poll Technology, seem to think it’s some sort of Greek sandwich.

But it was also a four-issue miniseries written by Thomas and drawn by Ron Harris in the mid-80s, and it’s one of my favorite little-known gems of the comic book world. In this series, published by the now-defunct First Comics, a teenager named Rob Lindsay wound up with a box of Golden Age comics in mint condition, including some he’d never heard of, and with some really bizarre stories (like characters from one publisher showing up in another publisher’s book, which was rare in the 80s and unheard of in the 40s, although these days it happens with such frequency that they’re thinking of adding an inter-company crossover bell, not unlike an ice cream truck).

One of the comics was Alter Ego, a weird tale about a super-powered hero battling an evil tryant, the Crimson Claw. A mask fell out of the comic and, thinking it was a giveaway, Rob put it on, only to be transported to another dimension where World War II was still in high gear and all of the Golden Age characters he’d read about in his grandfather’s old comics were still alive and kicking. And he himself had been transformed to Alter Ego, their leader, and the only hope of saving his world and theirs from nuclear devastation.

I really don’t know how well-received the comic was when it was first published – I discovered it a few years later at a flea market, where I got all four issues for a quarter apiece. It looked interesting, and heck, it was only a buck for the whole miniseries. I’ve read those issues dozens of times over the years. It was one of the best single dollars I’ve ever spent. I even got Thomas to autograph the first issue for me at a convention a few years ago.

One of my favorite things about the title, though, was that Thomas didn’t whip up a bunch of “new” Golden Age heroes to plug into his tale – he secured the rights to several real characters who, not being published by Marvel or DC, had faded into obscurity: Captain Combat, the Holy Terror, Skyboy, Yankee Doodle and Camille the Jungle Queen. He even dug up Lev Gleason Publishing’s Daredevil, although with Marvel using the name these days, he called him Double-Dare in the comic.

At any rate, it was a great comic, and with a trade paperback scheduled for release this month, I’d recommend anyone who digs the Golden Age of comics try to find a copy. You know. Both of you. Which brings me around to where I was going in this column – so much of the time we, as comic fans, are looking for the next big thing. The next great writer, the next great artist, the next smash hit character. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m sure a great many of us hope to someday be the next great writer or the next great artist. But there’s still so much life in those classic creations that people are totally missing out on! Thomas was one of the kings of mining Golden Age material for new stuff – during the same period he published Alter Ego he also was doing great stuff at DC with the All-Star Squadron and Secret Origins, which were both steeped in the Golden Age.

These days, you don’t see a lot done with Golden Age properties, except for characters who were created in the Golden Age and have remained consistently popular, like Superman and Captain America. Marvel made an effort recently with New Invaders, but it fell flat pretty quickly. Really, the only one in comics really doing much with it at all at the moment is Geoff Johns in JSA. He’s using the original incarnations of perpetually popular characters like Green Lantern and the Flash, but he’s also brought back new or updated versions of classic, lesser known heroes like Mr. Terrific, Dr. Mid-Nite, Sand and (bless him for this one) the Red Tornado.

There are smatterings of respect to the Golden Age across the rest of the DCU. The Justice League keeps the original Crimson Avenger’s uniform on display in the Watchtower, a symbol of the first superhero in their universe. Lady Blackhawk has recently joined the Birds of Prey, and the Blackhawk name is kept alive by a new elite fighter squad. The Guardian will be part of Grant Morrison’s new Seven Soldiers of Victory. There’s even a new Manhunter, at least the fourth such incarnation of the character since the original one in the Golden Age.

Perhaps even more disturbing to me than the lack of screentime Golden Age properties seem to get these days, though, is the lack of respect Golden Age creators get. We’re talking about the guys who not only invented the medium and genres we all love, but most of them got royally screwed by the publishers in the process. So while Jim Lee has gotten richer off his work with Superman and Batman, the guys who created and defined those characters have struggled. I’m not downing Lee, mind you. I’m just sad that Jerry Siegel, Joe Schuster, Bob Kane and Bill Finger (who got the rawest deal of just about anybody in the Golden Age) didn’t get the recognition they deserved while they were with us.

I try to hit a major con every year or two, and I’ve noticed something that really disturbs me. People are willing to stand in line for up to two hours for an autograph by Michael Turner or Mark Silvestri. And that’s fine – they’re both great artists and I enjoy their work. But then I’ll wander on over to the Artist’s Alley section and I’ll see guys like Mart Nodell sitting there alone, with no one coming close to shake his hand and ask for his signature.

Even sadder, I’ll bet at least 75 percent of the people who just read that paragraph don’t even know who Mart Nodell is.

He was the co-creator (with the aforementioned royally screwed Bill Finger) of a fella by the name of Green Lantern. The first one, of course, Alan Scott, but without him there would have been no Hal Jordan, no Guy Gardner, no John Stewart, no Green Lantern Corps, and Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver wouldn’t currently be doing some of the best work of their careers.

If you ever see him at a con, go talk to him. He’s an interesting guy – I’ve met him twice now and I was amazed each time. He’s happy to sign anything you bring him. He even takes copies of Zero Hour #0, which prominently featured ol’ Hal and happened to have a blank white cover, and does a sketch of a Lantern in green ink. Man, how cool is that?

You see it happening to more recent creators that are getting past their prime too. You may hate what Chris Claremont is doing with X-Men these days, but the man at least deserves respect for having taken what was, at the time, a stagnant, b-list Marvel title and making it one of the flagship books of the entire industry. John Byrne’s Doom Patrol may not be your cup of tea, but he did a run on Fantastic Four that was unparalleled in its quality until Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo took over. Don’t get the new stuff if you don’t like it, but give credit where credit is due as well.

Every art form needs to be constantly looking forward, looking ahead, trying to remain interesting, exciting and revolutionary. You’ve got to be ready to make that journey in the future. But every journey needs fuel, and there’s still an awful lot of fuel to be found in the past, if only you know where to look for it.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: February 16, 2005

Damn you, Geoff Johns.

I didn’t want to like Green Lantern: Rebirth. In fact, I was fully prepared to hate it. I felt like the whole series was DC’s way of capitulating to a vocal minority of fans who have spent the past ten years whining about Hal Jordan like babies who had their bottles taken away from them. To be honest, I still feel that way. But the fact is, no matter why this comic was scheduled in the first place, Johns is telling a fantastic story that’s redeeming Hal and tying up decades of continuity into one tight, concise tale that appears well on the road to reestablishing the one thing I have really missed since the revamp: the Green Lantern Corps. Issue 4 of this series was the best yet, showing some great action scenes, a fantastic moment with Green Arrow that I want as a poster, and the best artwork of Ethan Van Sciver’s career. I’m loving this book.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.

07
Aug
11

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 232: Spider-Man, DC Changes, and Phineas and Ferb

Blake and Kenny hang out this week and touch upon a wealth of new comic book topics, but not before giving their ecstatic review of the TV movie Phineas and Ferb: Across the Second Dimension! After that moment of geeking out, the guys talk about the Ultimate Spider-Man news, images of Henry Cavill as Superman and Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, the aftermath of War of the Green Lanterns, a more thoughtful reaction to the DC Relaunch, the prospect of a Tuxedo Gin movie, and more! In the picks, Kenny chooses Power Girl #26 and Blake goes with Flashpoint #4. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 232: Spider-Man, DC News and Phineas and Ferb

20
Jul
11

Classic EBI #99: The Makings of a Universe

For years now, I’ve maintained a steadfast and unbroken tradition of not being at San Diego Comic-Con. This is not for lack of desire. So today, I take a look at the stuff happening in San Diego this year I wish I could be a part of…

Everything But Imaginary #407: What I’ll Miss in San Diego

But moving back in time, it’s January 25, 2005 and I’m taking a look at just how tight the continuity of the DC Universe has become in the last year or two. I’ll leave you guys to decide in this counts as irony or not.

Everything But Imaginary #99: The Makings of a Universe

I believe in credit where credit is due, so you’ve really got to give Stan Lee props for really creating our current concept of a superhero “universe.” Oh, superheroes had met before. All of the top National (later DC) Comics heroes had come together as the Justice Society of America in the 40s. Superman and Batman frequently appeared together in World’s Finest Comics. Even Atlas (later Marvel) had their collections of World War II-era characters like the Invaders and the All-Winner’s Squad.

But it was Stan the Man, writing approximately umpteen billion Marvel comics every month (this record would be held until Brian Michael Bendis broke into the business) that really started to forge a world with his creations. The adventures of the JSA didn’t impact the characters in their own titles, nor did the various team-ups that had happened. What Stan did, and did so well, was begin to mix events from various comics. If the Thing lost his powers in Fantastic Four, then he’d be powerless if the team happened to appear in Avengers that month. If Spider-Man was on the run from the law (in other words, if it was a day of the week ending in “y”), Foggy Nelson may have mentioned it in Daredevil. This was nowhere more evident than when Hawkeye, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver — villainous foes of Iron Man and the X-Men, reformed and joined the Avengers.

These days, though, Marvel has sort of lost its cohesion as a universe. Each of Spider-Man’s three titles seem to exist in their own pocket world and barely connect. Nearly two years have passed in Daredevil during Bendis’s run, while other Marvel titles have only progressed a few months. Why, Magneto took over the entire city of New York at the end of Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, and not a single other title even made reference to it. Except for comments in various titles about the events of Avengers Disassembled and the gloriously continuity-heavy She-Hulk title, it’s hard to feel like there’s a Marvel “universe” anymore.

But man, DC is trying to make up for it.

As Marvel’s titles have grown looser and looser, DC’s are getting tighter. And I’m going to warn you right now, this column is about to get spoiler-heavy for half of the books in the DC line, so if you see a title bolded you don’t want to know about, you may wanna skip ahead.

It’s easy to point to Identity Crisis as the genesis of this transformation. Like the ending or hate it, it was a huge storyline that has had an astronomical impact on the DC Universe. Just a month after the story’s conclusion, we’ve already seen fallout everywhere: the death of Robin’s father has impacted his own series, which in turn has impacted the other Batman-family books. It’s also being dealt with in Teen Titans, and dealt with extremely well. The Titans are also dealing with Lex Luthor’s battle armor, lost during that miniseries.

The apparent death of Ronnie Raymond is the very catalyst for the new Firestorm series. As if that weren’t enough, it’s sparked a storyline in Manhunter, as DC’s newest vigilante is trying to hunt the murderous Shadow Thief.

In Flash, Wally West has to cope with the fact that his uncle, the paragon of virtue Barry Allen, was one of a subset of the Justice League that agreed to tamper with the minds of their enemies — and what’s worse, has to deal with restoring an enemy who, in turn, is threatening to turn many of his reformed colleagues like Trickster, Heat Wave and the Pied Piper back to their old dark ways. In Adventures of Superman, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are struggling with the same revelation.

And that’s just the stuff directly from Identity Crisis.What other links are appearing among the many titles of the DC Universe lately?

• After the events of “War Games,” the Birds of Prey have recruited a new member and left Gotham City, impacting every Batman title, particularly Nightwing — because he’s still in love with Oracle. Plus, the cops of Gotham Central are even more hostile towards the caped crusader than ever.

• Speaking of Nightwing, Starfire has quit the Teen Titans to join his team, the Outsiders, to try to help him cope with all the trauma in his life as of late.

• Speaking of the Titans, they’ve linked up with two other titles. Green Arrow’s sidekick, the new Speedy, has joined the team. A few months ago, the young heroes got caught up in a time-travel adventure that wound up restarting the entire universe for the Legion of Super-Heroes, and writer Mark Waid has promised that he and Barry Kitson are doing the new Legion as the official future of the DCU — it’s up to the other writers to get them there.

• In Jeph Loeb’s Superman/Batman title, we met the all-new (yet all-classic) Supergirl, who’s about to get her own title. There’s also a rumor that she may check in with the Teen Titans herself. Plus, Loeb is currently milking DC properties as diverse as Kamandi, Cinnamon, Jonah Hex and the Freedom Fighters for the current arc in that title. He’s brought back characters that haven’t been seen in years.

• In Wonder Woman’s title, she’s gone blind after a battle with Medusa. When she guest-appeared in Adventures of Superman, not only was she still blind, but she was wearing the same blindfold. Not too hard a trick, of course, since the two books share a writer, but it’ll be more impressive in a couple of months during a promised crossover with Flash.

• Speaking of crossovers and books with the same writer, Bloodhound wound up merged with Firestorm (both books by Dan Jolley) and the Monolith lent a hand against Solomon Grundy to Hawkman and Hawkgirl (two books by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray).

“Okay, Blake,” you’re saying, “We get your point. There are a lot of crossovers. So what?” My, you can be rude sometimes, did you know that?

Here’s the point of all this.

A few months ago a group of five writers, Brad Meltzer, Judd Winick, Greg Rucka, Geoff Johns and Jeph Loeb, conducted an interview where they promsied that they were building the future of the DC Universe. And if you look at the books I’ve mentioned, you see their names all over the place, along with other talented writers like Devin Grayson, Gail Simone, Marc Andreyko, Bill Willingham and others I will feel bad later for leaving out.

Clearly, this is going to be a monumental task, even looking ahead to promised events such as DC Countdown and the enigmatic Crisis 2.

Those stories are going to be the framework of the DC Universe of the future.

What we’re seeing now, across the entire line, is the foundation. We’re seeing the hints, the clues, the groundwork. And knowing that this is what we’re seeing, we get to have all the fun of watching as everything is put together.

Some people, I understand, don’t like continuity that tight. I know that. But for those of us who do, watching as it is created before our eyes is something really really incredible. Something amazing.

Something I once may have even called Marvelous.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: January 19, 2005

While we’re on the subject of those truly remarkable books, I have to give credit again to Geoff Johns for turning out the best comic book of the week, Teen Titans #20. Since the murder of his father and the death of his girlfriend in agonizingly short succession, Robin has tried to repress his emotions in an effort to prevent from becoming more like Batman (which was nice and ironic, since repressing his emotions only made him more like Batman). This issue dances around some action, but at its core is a heartfelt examination of a son’s grief and his desperate attempt to continue forging his own future, and not let it be determined for him.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.

 

 

15
May
11

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 221: Nola Comic-Con 2011

It’s the first of a series of special podcasts from this year’s Nola Comic-Con! Blake, Mike and Kenny spend a few days on the convention floor, talking geek stuff like the finale of Smallville, the Neil Gaiman-penned Doctor Who, convention sketches, cosplayers, and why parking garages HATE Kenny “The Fan-Guy Fanguy.” In the picks, Kenny went with Birds of Prey #11 and Blake chooses FF #3. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 221: Nola Comic-Con 2011

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30
Mar
11

Classic EBI #83: Spoiler Space

The world is full of comic book nerds, especially in Hollywood… but why don’t we see a lot of original superhero characters outside of comics? Can superheroes only thrive in one medium?

Everything But Imaginary #392: Medium Defiance

And in this week’s classic EBI, let’s look back at Oct. 6, 2004, when I thought about all the spoilers that were invading the internet… and I… struck… back…

Classic EBI #83: Spoiler Space

Now that we’ve all had a chance to read Detective Comics #799, wow, what a shocker, huh? I never suspected that Robin’s father, Jack Drake, would be killed by the Joker and a hermaphroditic gerbil on PCP. Talk about a shocker!

What? Oh, you mean you guys haven’t read it yet? You mean it won’t even be available to purchase for several more hours? Oh, gosh, I feel terrible now. Wow, it’s a good thing that everything I said there was complete and total rubbish, isn’t it? But now that I’ve got your attention, this would be a good time to talk about spoilers.

A “spoiler,” of course, is any piece of information regarding the plot of a story that you didn’t know yet, in essence, “spoiling” it for you. The term “spoiler” was coined because “ruiner” sounds funky. And before we go on much further, in case you didn’t get it, I was lying in the first paragraph. Being the kind, benevolent, dashing, callipygian, modest columnist-type-person that I am, I would never actually tell you what happened in Detective Comics #799 because that would spoil it for you. Also because some of you may know where I live.

For as long as there has been fiction, there have been spoilers. If you go back to the 1500s you can find scrolls written by people talking about that startling new play wherein, at the end, SPOILERS AHEAD! Romeo and Juliet both kill themselves. But since the invention of the Internet, spoilers have become a much bigger problem because now people have the ability to opine from anywhere in the world to anywhere in the world as fast as the information can be processed in their brains. Or, more frequently, their mouths, since often people on the Internet have found ways to bypass their brains altogether.

This problem, of course, is not exclusive to comic books. Websites like Ain’t It Cool News make their name by giving out juicy spoilers for movies far in advance (and conveniently forgetting about it when the spoiler turns out not to be true), but at least they have the courtesy to stamp a big warning label before the spoiler appears. This, unfortunately, will not stop idiots from e-mailing it to you or blabbing it in a chatroom, but in this day and age, that’s the price you pay for daring to get out of bed in the morning.

You can also spoil books – I’m a big fan of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, and frequently visit a message board devoted to such. When the advance review copies of the last book in that well-loved series began to circulate a month or so ago, there was a massive storm on that board between the people who were hurling spoilers around right and left and the people who didn’t want to know. One jerk actually went so far as to post the entire plot of the book in the middle of a thread where people were congratulating the administrator for pulling the plug on spoilers. Another popped into a chatroom and spouted out the ending to people who hadn’t read it yet. And this is for the end of a series that some people have been reading for 22 years. There is a word for people who do that sort of thing. However, I will not tell you what that word is since the CXPulp.com filter would most likely block it out anyway. (HINT: it ends in “weed”.)

Now some people don’t mind spoilers. Some people are perfectly happy knowing that SPOILERS AHEAD! “Rosebud” was the name of his sled before the movie even starts. And if that’s your thing, hey, that’s fine. But there are an awful lot of us out there, myself included, who prefer not to know the ending. You’re the kids who always snuck into your parents’ closet looking for Christmas presents, whereas we’re the kids who just looked at the 18-inch box under the tree and hoped against hope that a puppy could fit in there somehow. If you want to discuss spoilers, you’ve got every right to, but you should also have the respect and courtesy to keep them amongst yourselves and not go blabbing that you find out in Amazing Spider-Man #512 that SPOILERS AHEAD! Norman Osborne is the father of Gwen Stacy’s children to anyone who hasn’t heard it yet.

Just last week a thread appeared here which started with the phrase “Well, now that we’ve all read Superman/Batman #12…” and proceeded to give away the entire plot. The trouble with this thread was, not all of us had read Superman/Batman #12 yet. This appeared on Friday. The book came out Wednesday. Not everyone gets their comic books the day of release – or even the same week – and you can’t just assume that they have. If I hadn’t finished reading the book about five minutes before, I may have had to go to the guy’s house and hit him with a frozen halibut.

Even worse was an incident a few weeks ago in the forum of our own Chris Sotomayor. Soto, one of the best colorists in the biz (and I say that out of genuine admiration, not just because he hosts a forum here), was discussing his upcoming work on the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Book of the Dead. Fans were speculating as to who would appear in that book, since the current Avengers Disassembled storyline was resulting in many casualties. Then someone appeared in the thread and asked Soto if he could post some pictures since, by now, we all knew that SPOILERS AHEAD! Hawkeye was the character who died in the much-touted Avengers #502.

The problem with this? He posted this message nearly a week before Avengers #502 even went on sale!

Oh, I was ticked.

Now to his credit, he’d tried to do something, at least. He changed the font color to white. Unfortunately, since the background text on the site is various shades of gray, that was worse than useless and the book was seriously spoiled for me. And it didn’t help that everybody else was talking about the death like it was common knowledge soon afterwards.

The obvious question to ask here is, how long is information considered a spoiler? Technically, I’d say any time before you, personally (or to be more specific, I personally) have read the comic. But that gets a little ridiculous. I mean, just because someone has never read Avengers #4 doesn’t mean they don’t already know SPOILERS AHEAD! they found Captain America frozen alive in a block of ice, thawed him out, made him a member of the team and he served proudly for at least 500 issues.

So how long is a reasonable amount of time to consider something a spoiler? When do you have to stop putting information like SPOILERS AHEAD! the boat sinks and Leo drowns in those little gray text boxes we use to shield the masses? I know some fans would prefer something remain a spoiler until the trade paperback comes out – this specifically applies to those fans who wait for the trade paperback. But I don’t think that’s always necessary. If you’re writing in a thread about Identity Crisis #3, you can reasonably assume people have read Identity Crisis #2 and know that SPOILERS AHEAD! Dr. Light raped Sue Dibney already.

Rather than cruising on a set period of time, I think it’s fair and logical to assume something is a spoiler until the next issue of that title comes out, whenever that happens to be. When Birds of Prey went biweekly, by the time #74 came out it should have been acceptable to reference how, in #73, SPOILERS AHEAD! Oracle defeated Brainiac.

And if that means you’ve got to talk about NYX #5 in spoiler blocks for the next six years or so before #6 comes out, so be it.

Some people don’t mind spoilers. Some people even like ‘em. And those people have plenty of opportunity to talk about them. But if you’ve got spoiler info, make sure you present it as such for a reasonable length of time. Otherwise, you’ll be like Homer Simpson walking out of The Empire Strikes Back and saying, SPOILERS AHEAD! “Wow, who would have thought Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father?”. This would, by extension, make the rest of us the people standing in line outside the theatre who wanted to kill him for saying it, and since very few of us have yellow skin, four fingers and an overbite, it’s not a fair analogy.

Like so many problems in the world of comics (and the rest of the world too, when you get right down to it), you can solve this one if you just apply a little common sense. Try it sometime. You might even like it.

Favorite of the Week: September 29, 2004

It’s a darn good thing that I had read Superman/Batman #12 before I read the spoiler, because this was a fantastic issue. (And considering how long it took to come out, it better have been.) Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Barda have stormed Apokalips, hoping to rescue Kara from the clutches of Darkseid… but what if she doesn’t want to be rescued? There’s plenty of action this issue, and then just when things seem to have settled down, Jeph Loeb hits you in the gut with a knockout punch, a real shocker. Granted, it’s the sort of shocker that you’re certain will be resolved in one of two ways, but it’s a shocker nonetheless. Now let’s all just hope Michael Turner manages to turn out issue #13 before Kara is old enough to have grandchildren.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast and the weekly audio fiction podcast Blake M. Petit’s Evercast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page, and check out his new experiment in serial fiction at Tales of the Curtain.

12
Jan
11

Classic EBI #72: Rockin’ Robins-The Boys (And Girl) Wonder

The big comic companies are poised to start killing off heroes again. Is it really a big deal any more? Can we almost calculate with a formula how long it will take for them to come back?

Everything But Imaginary #382: Lining Up to Die

But going back in time, let’s go to July 21, 2004. Tim Drake wasn’t about to die, but he was out as Robin and Stephanie Brown was about to take over. My, how times change, eh?

Classic EBI #72: Rockin’ Robins-The Boys (and Girl) Wonder

If there’s one thing I love about my gig here at Comixtreme CX Pulp, it’s getting to advance review comics people haven’t read yet. Sometimes, it allows me to warn people off a bad title. Sometimes it allows me to shout the accolades of a good book you may otherwise have missed. And sometimes, such as is the case with Robin #128, it makes me suddenly turn into Cartman from South Park and chant Nyeah, nyeah, nyeah, I read it and you didn’t!

Ahem. But I digress. This week’s Robin, which you may or may not have read by now, depending on how early you read this column, is a doozy. Bill Willingham has been doing a spectacular job since taking over the title, crafting a great story about Tim Drake and his apparent successor, and this issue takes a major, major twist. So, to help out those of you playing along at home, I decided this week’s “Everything But Imaginary” would be a quick refresher course on those wacky kids who have worn the Robin costume.

Now the first Robin was… anybody want to guess? Did I hear a Dick Grayson in the back? Wrongo, buddy. The first kid ever to put on the Robin costume, at least in the old continuity, was a young scrapper named Bruce Wayne. After his parents were murdered, shot by a mugger in Crime Alley, Bruce dedicated himself to becoming a crimefighter. Still a child, he desired to study at the feet of a great detective, but he knew his would-be mentor would not want to deal with him. He put together a garish constume and convinced the detective to begin teaching him… and since he was as brilliant as a “Robin Red-Breast” in the suit… well… you know.

Eventually, Bruce discovered his mentor had deduced his identity (this would become a pattern), but was impressed enough that he continued to teach him anyway. This story is probably no longer part of DC continuity, but who can really tell these days? I included it mainly to laugh at people who expected me to start with Dick Grayson.

Speaking of Dick, we all pretty much know the story of how he came under Batman’s wing. An adult Bruce, now the shadowy avenger of Gotham City, attended a performance of the traveling Haley’s Circus, where a trio called the Flying Graysons was performing. The youngest, Dick, performed a dazzling triple somersault in the air, a trick that only a handful of acrobats in the world could do. This fact was not lost on Bruce, nor on another audience member… a small boy named Tim Drake.

As the performance continued, however, disaster struck. The trapeze the elder Graysons were using broke, and Dick was forced to watch his parents plummet to their deaths. Suspecting foul play, the grieving boy listened outside of the office of the circus manager, where he heard two thugs working for crimelord Anthony Zucco extorting money, claiming that more “accidents” would happen if he didn’t pay. The boy swore venegeance, but turned to find himself face-to-face with Batman. Bruce had recognized his own fate in the boy and took him in, entrusting him with his secrets and making him his partner, Robin. Together, they caught Zucco, and Robin himself took a photograph of Zucco shoving a man off a building, sending him to the electric chair.

Bruce made Dick his ward and raised the boy until he was 19 when, on a rooftop battle like a thousand others, the Joker managed to put a bullet in Robin’s shoulder. Guilt-stricken, Batman decided he no longer wanted a partner, and an enraged Dick left him, going to the only other father-figure he had ever had since his real parents were murdered… Superman. The man of steel told the former boy wonder a Kryptonian legend of a mysterious warrior whose name, translated into English, was Nightwing. Dick adopted the identity for his own and began his own path, still estranged from his former “father” — and his anger grew when a new Robin appeared on the streets.

Batman ran across a young man named Jason Todd attempting to steal the tires from the Batmobile. His parents had been murdered, it turned out, by the criminal named Two-Face. Not wanting to condemn the basically good child to the court system, he took him to a halfway house for orphans, which Jason discovered was really a front for a teenage street gang. He helped Batman round up the crooks and, in exchange, Batman made him the new Robin. The partnership was short-lived, however. Jason was brash and unstable, and when Batman grounded him, taking him off the streets until he was ready, he left. Finding clues in his father’s belongings, Jason found out the woman who had raised him was not really his mother, and he set out across the world to find the woman who gave him birth. Batman tracked Jason to the middle east, where together they found his real mother, a doctor in a relief station. She betrayed them to the Joker, however, and after beating Jason within an inch of his life, the clown prince of crime left mother and son trapped in a hanger with a bomb.

And the bomb went off.

It was all a gimmick by DC Comics, as it turned out. There were two versions of the last chapter of this story, one in which Jason survived and one in which he died, and readers were allowed to call a 1-900 number and vote.

As it turned out, Jason just wasn’t that popular.

Batman arrived just in time to see his partner die. He raced back to the states, where the Joker had somehow gained diplomatic immunity by allying himself with a sovereign nation that happened to have a terrorist regime in charge. Batman and Superman foiled the Joker’s scheme to kill the delegates to the United Nations, but the murderer escaped again.

With one Robin dead and the other separated from him, Batman slipped into a depression. He became more brutal on the streets, a fact that was not lost on a young boy… named Tim Drake. Even as a small child, Tim had been amazed at Dick Grayson’s feats at the circus, and one day he saw a news broadcast of Robin in action, performing the same triple somersault that Dick had. Tim deduced Robin’s identity, and from there, Batman’s as well. Seeing what Jason’s death had done to his hero, Tim tracked down Nightwing and confronted him with his knowledge, trying to get him to return to Batman’s side.

Unsure what to do, Dick brought Tim to his former mentor. Batman did not want a partner, though, and was in the middle of tracking down Two-Face. Nightwing went out to help him, but Tim, back at the Batcave, deduced they were walking into a trap. Donning Jason’s old costume, he rescued them both and Batman relented, training him for a few months before unveiling Tim Drake as the new Robin.

Life wasn’t rosy for the Bat-family after that. Tim’s mother was murdered and father maimed by the Obeah Man. Batman had his spine broken and sent a newcomer, Azrael, on the streets in his place. After Azrael went nuts and the family had to take him down, Dick took on the Batman mantle for a few months so Bruce could finish his recovery. It was not until then that the two proud men finally buried the hatchet and admitted that they loved one another as a father and son. Bruce even eventually adopted Dick Grayson legally.

Then Jack Drake found something out.

Jack discovered the truth about his son, Tim, who was leading a double life as Robin. He broke into the Batcave and held a gun on Bruce until his son came back, and father and son had a talk. Tim finally agreed, for the sake of his father, to quit, and Gotham City was again left without a Robin.

But not for long.

Tim’s girlfriend, Stephanie Brown, led a double life as well. The daughter of the villainous Cluemaster, she prowled the streets as the would-be superhero Spoiler. Batman had briefly trained her, but “fired” her after declaing her unfit. With Tim sidelined, Steph approached Batman again… and to her shock, was admitted into the family as the fourth Robin.

The question now is, why? Bruce had declared her unfit before. Did he change his mind? Did she prove herself? Or was it a ploy to try to lure Tim back? And more importantly, would the new Robin be able to survive the assassin named Scarab, who is dancing across Gotham murdering young men she suspects may be Robin?

Lots of questions. Few answers.

But that should bring you up to speed. A lot of information, to be sure, but it’s not nearly as complicated as Supergirl’s history, is it? You guys really should be reading this title — one of the best in the bat-family at the moment, after Birds of Prey, and one that Willingham has made a favorite of mine again. The whole thing twists on you again today, and you’ve got no excuse not to follow through and check it out.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: July 14, 2004

I’m afraid this may become something of a redundancy with me over the next five months, but Identity Crisis #2, simply put, blew me away. We learn why Elongated Man suspects Dr. Light murdered his wife, we learn what the Justice League did all those years ago that they’re so ashamed of, and we learn something pretty horrifying right at the end. And I haven’t the slightest idea where it’s going next. And that is a great thing.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast and the weekly audio fiction podcast Blake M. Petit’s Evercast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page, and check out his new experiment in serial fiction at Tales of the Curtain.

08
Sep
10

Classic EBI #64: When a Comic Becomes a Book

In this week’s new Everything But Imaginary column, I take a look at the similarities between webcomics like Penny Arcade and webshows like The Guild and discuss why the web makes a new vista for content.

Everything But Imaginary #366: Those Who Will Listen

But in this week’s classic EBI, I continue last week’s discussion of books that were made into comics by turning the idea the other way around… to comics made into books.

EVERYTHING BUT IMAGINARY 5/26/04

When a comic becomes a book

Last week we talked about the phenomenon, both old and new, of books becoming comics. Classics Illustrated, The Hedge Knight — I was even told of one non-comic reader who wants to read The Wood Boy based on that column. So why haven’t you people sent me the Oz comics I said I was missing yet?

Ahem. Sorry. Anyway, this week we’re going to look at the flipside of this phenomenon, when a successful comic book series becomes a novel. The prose kind, not the graphic kind. Although not as common as the book-to-comic transformations, comic-to-book adaptations aren’t new either — a simple Google search for this column showed a novel called The Adventures of Superman written by George Lowther waaaaaaay back in 1942. If there’s anything earlier than that, I don’t know about it — but please, tell me.

There are two basic formats we’re going to talk about here — books that are straight adaptations of comic stories and books that tell new stories based on comic characters. There’s also sort of a subgenre of novels based on movies based on comic book characters, but that’s a whole different ball of wax.

The first straight comic-to-book adaptation I know of was in 1993 when Roger Stern condensed a year’s worth of comic book continuity into his New York Times best-seller, The Death and Life of Superman. Stern pulled the entire story of Superman’s battle with Doomsday and his return into a tight, well-written book that was a lot of fun. But since he was writing for a broader audience than the comic, he had his work cut out for him. He totally eliminated Green Lantern’s presence in the third act (which is ironic since it was the events in that story that led to Hal Jordan going insane and virtually every GL story told since then), and since the Justice League of the time was still made up mostly of the second-stringers from Keith Giffen’s recently-ended tenure, he had to work in explanations of Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, Guy Gardner and (shudder) Bloodwynd (who, it would turn out, was really the shapeshifting Martian Manhunter, although there was also a “real” Bloodwynd out there, so the current Xorn mess in X-Men isn’t without precedent). It was a really good novel, but exhausting for the writer, and it may not be a coincidence that Stern didn’t do another novel for nine years, when he contributed to the series of Smallville books.

Dennis O’Neil tried to follow up on this book with a Batman: Knightfall novel, but since that saga was even more spread out than Superman’s, it was harder to condense and didn’t work as well. Somehow, though, the biggest bat-saga of all turned into a great book when Greg Rucka turned out Batman: No Man’s Land in 2001. Writing the book from the first-person viewpoint of Oracle was a stroke of genius, since the character’s far-flung techniques of information gathering gave her access to information in the comics she wasn’t present for, and the result was the best Batman novel I’ve ever read.

Another adaptation that succeeded thanks to a clever trick was Elliot S. Maggin’s Kingdom Come novel. A comic vet, Maggin had also written two Superman novels that came out to coincide with — but not adapt — the first two movies. His adaptation of Mark Waid and Alex Ross’s masterpiece was fantastic, though. In the story, a pastor named Norman McCay is charged by the Spectre with observing Earth’s superheroes and deciding who is responsible for the near-apocalyptic conflict they create. In the novel, as well as the comic, the Spectre opens up Norman’s perceptions, allowing him to see the thoughts and histories of each character. The result was something unique — a first-person omniscient narrator for the novel.

Beyond just that trick, though, the writing is beautiful and expands the story nicely. (A particular favorite exchange of mine comes when the ghost and the preacher are discussing the nature of Superman’s relationship with Wonder Woman. The Spectre says, “But you are saying that, in the realm of human relationships, there are no definable rules. Is that possible, Norman, in the context of God’s creation?” Norman replies, “I’m not saying any such thing. Most certainly there are rules. We just are not smart enough to know what they are.” Brilliant.)

This is not to say there have never been comic-to-novel flops. Last year I found a novel by Arthur Byron Cover adapting J. Michael Straczynski’s Rising Stars. Since Fiona Avery was writing the Rising Stars: Bright miniseries at the time, I thought this was a new story set in that universe. It turned out to be an adaptation of the first several issues of the comic (which, due to a feud between Straczynski and Top Cow, has yet to reach its promised conclusion). Still, reminded of the works of Maggin and Rucka, I gave it a try.

Big mistake. The book was a disaster. Cover wrote the book from the first-person viewpoint of the character Poet, but unlike the last two books, he didn’t have any clever tricks to explain how his viewpoint character possessed information he shouldn’t have had. He resorted to reading diaries, watching security tapes and, in one particularly painful segment, pure supposition, with our narrator saying, “And he probably said something like…” and then proceeding to quote the comic verbatim.

What’s more, Cover didn’t know when to trim. A wonderful early issue of the comic, the story of a girl who grew up among the super-powered denizens of the world but never exhibited powers of her own, became a boring and superfluous chapter of the novel. I put the book down disappointed and didn’t go back to pick up the second book in the series.

But we’re still on adaptations, and I do want to take a little time to talk about new stories. While sporadically printed since the 40s, original novels based on comic books have become more ubiquitous over the last few years. Not counting things like the Smallville and Justice League books, which expand the universes of their television shows, there are still plenty of novels to choose from. Marvel did a pretty extensive line in the 90s which, I regret to say, I read very little of. At the time — in the wake of the clone saga and Onslaught and other disastrous decisions, I was so disgusted with Marvel that for over a year the only monthly title I read was Untold Tales of Spider-Man. It took Thunderbolts to bring me back, and at that point the novels were fading. The only one I read was a crossover novel they did with the X-Men and Star Trek: The Next Generation, which was clearly done to take advantage of the fact that Pocket Books was publishing both series and Marvel temporarily had the Star Trek license. The book, Planet X by Michael Jan Friedman, was so bizarre I had to give it a try. Eh. I’ve read worse.

DC has come back with a new line of Justice League novels, each spotlighting a different member, but featuring the whole team. I’ve read two of them so far — Batman: The Stone King by Alan Grant and Wonder Woman: Mythos by Carol Lay. (I’ve also got Mark Schultz’s The Flash: Stop Motion in my “books to be read soon” pile and I’m trying to find Dennis O’Neil’s Green Lantern: Heroes Quest.) The Batman book wasn’t bad, although not spectacular either, but I was rather disappointed in the Wonder Woman book. Lay’s version of the princess wasn’t the strong, powerful woman we’ve come to know and love, and that’s a shame, because the writing itself was really quite good.

The best books of new stories I’ve ever read, actually, were the Further Adventures Of… series that started around the same time as the first Batman movie. Edited by Martin H. Greenberg, these were books of short stories by comic book or sci-fi/fantasy writers based on their characters. Most of the stories were just okay, but some were outstanding. The series included a Batman volume, a Joker volume, a Superman, a second Batman (focusing on second movie villains Catwoman and the Penguin) and a Wonder Woman edition I never got to read but really wish would come back into print.

Superheroes are a genre onto themselves now, birthed in comics, but spread out to television, movies and even novels. There are plenty of great stories to tell in any of those forms (I know of one pretty good one myself), and there’s always room to grow. While putting superheroes on the sci-fi rack instead of the graphic novel rack may not bring in a huge influx of readers, it certainly can’t hurt — and a good story is a good story, no matter where you read it.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: May 19 2004

Blame Jeph Loeb and Gail Simone. Like this week’s column wasn’t long enough, for the first time since I started this feature I find myself unable to choose between two fantastic comics, so we’ve got a tie. In alphabetical order…

Birds of Prey #67 wraps up most of the loose threads from Simone’s first year on the title in real style, bringing in lots of guest stars and capping off the mysteries of the senator who wants Oracle dead and the assassin who killed Black Canary and Shiva’s sensei. As good as Robin is these days, this is still the best title in the bat-family at the moment, and it’s not letting go of that title easily.

Superman/Batman #10, however, is the best book starring either of those two iconic heroes. The mystery of the girl who purports to be Superman’s cousin from Krypton continues with a fight with Wonder Woman, an attack on the island of the amazons, and a genuinely shocking death. Plus there’s that nifty Michael Turner artwork. This book gets better every single month.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast and the weekly audio fiction podcast Blake M. Petit’s Evercast. E-mail him at Blake@comixtreme.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.

21
Jun
10

Recent Comics Roundup: Brightest Day & Dark Tower

Today I’m going to give you guys my thoughts on a few recent comics, including three more Brightest Day issues, and the most recent comic in Marvel’s version of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower. Let’s start with a book that hit the week I was in Pittsburgh…

Justice League: Generation Lost #3

Continuing the story of the four Justice Leaguers who remember the truth about Maxwell Lord. As we’ve learned through Booster Gold’s little robot sidekick Skeets, though, computer intelligences also remember Maxwell Lord and all the nasty things he did — and that includes the scarab that gives power to the current Blue Beetle, Jaime Reyes. Jaime’s family is targeted by a group of Max’s OMACs, and he joins up Booster Gold to help hunt down the man who murdered his predecessor. It’s really nice to see Jaime having a place in this group, and what’s more, writers Keith Giffen and Judd Winick spread out and cover a lot more of the DC Universe here as well. Fire’s confrontation with her former associates in the Checkmate organization is very strong, and the return of another former JLI member at the end bodes poorly for our heroes. The tone of this book, of course, is drastically different from the old “Bwa-ha-ha” comedy of the original JLI run, but that doesn’t mean the book doesn’t work. the story is very solid and the characters feel like they’ve evolved since the old days, Booster especially. I also really love Tony Harris‘s cover, featuring Jaime and Ted Kord. It’s just a great cover, really. Three issues in, I’ve really been impressed with this maxi-series. I just hope that the writers can keep up this quality for the next 11 months.

Rating: 7/10

Brightest Day #4

In the fourth chapter of the core Brightest Day series, the Hawks find an arch built from the bones of their many, many former incarnations. There’s a trap that’s been laid for them, something that’s been calling to them for a very long time. Deadman, meanwhile, finally gets a chance to rest, only to find himself throwing down with Hawk and Dove, an oasis in the New Mexico desert mysteriously dries up, and Ronnie Raymond starts to have some nasty dreams about what he did while he was a Black Lantern. There’s definite plot progression here, although some of it is incremental. The Deadman story, however, moves forward quite a bit. This, I think, is the way to best handle a book like this one. With such a large cast, coming out every other week, each issue should progress all of the stories a little bit and one of them a lot. That makes for a satisfying read, and it seems like Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi have figured that out. What happens at the end of this issue is really cool — it’s one of those instances where the characters come to the sort of conclusion that the readers did two or three issues ago, and they start to act on it. One of the most interesting things about Brightest Day thus far has been the strange new powers that Deadman is exhibiting. If the cliffhanger here is any indication, next issue we may actually get an examination of how those powers work, and that’s something we’re all interested in seeing. It’s also nice to bring in the Hawk and Dove story, which hasn’t played much a part in this main title yet (they’ve been featured more prominently in Birds of Prey). Solid issue.

Rating: 7/10

Birds of Prey #2

Speaking of the Birds of Prey, Gail Simone and Ed Benes‘s return to this title has been magnificent. Black Canary and Huntress find themselves facing a strange woman called the White Canary. As they go into battle their teammates — Hawk, Dove, and Lady Blackhawk — arrive on the scene just in time to find themselves targeted… not by the villains, but by the Gotham City Police Department. While the characters feel familiar — and wonderfully familiar — the book has a different dynamic than it did in its previous incarnation. There’s a different status quo, a different feeling, and that’s all to the good. We’ve actually got the Birds here trying to escape the GCPD and protect the Penguin, and the way it comes about doesn’t feel forced and it doesn’t make anyone seem out of character. The book is exciting, the fight scenes are fantastic, and the last few pages really makes Oracle out to be the bad-ass she actually is. Forget the fact that she’s in a wheelchair, forget the fact that she doesn’t have any super powers. Barbara Gordon’s mind and skill can make her one of the most powerful characters in the DC Universe, and Gail Simone gets that more than anybody else. The book doesn’t really seem to have a direct tie to Brightest Day, other than the inclusion of Hawk and Dove, but that’s no problem. You can read the title by itself or as part of the larger story, and either way, you’ve got a great comic.

Rating: 9/10

And as a little change of pace, let’s look at something that doesn’t have anything to do with Brightest Day, but is cool nonetheless…

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger-The Journey Begins #2

Despite having perhaps the most unwieldy title of any comic book published this year, this miniseries has really turned out to be strong. The first cycle of Dark Tower comics ended with the previous miniseries, The Battle of Jericho Hill. Although this miniseries has begun the adaptation of the first Dark Tower novel, we’re still filling in backstory, showing how Roland, the last gunslinger, went from the massacre at Jericho Hill to the point we find him at the beginning of Stephen King‘s masterwork. Here we see Roland’s final journey to his destroyed homeland, the introduction of a creature whose family will turn out to be very important to him later in the series, a terrible sight and a bloody battle, and some haunted happenings back home. Robin Furth, King’s longtime assistant, is doing great work developing the story. All of her additions and alterations come with King’s approval, which makes it easier to accept, but even if he wasn’t involved the things we see here work very well with the world he established. Peter David‘s script, and the artwork of Sean Phillips and Richard Isanove come together to make a really magnificent comic book. I’ve been reading the Dark Tower comics ever since Marvel began publishing them a few years ago, but it’s been some time since I was so impressed by an issue that I felt compelled to talk about it. King fans, check this out. It’s great stuff.

30
May
10

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 172: Lost-The End

Your good buddy Chase returns for a very special chat with Blake and Kenny about the final episode of Lost! After six years of waiting, what questions did the final episode answer? What was left unresolved? Which episodes were most important and which ones were the most fun to watch? And is the Lost Experience really over? In the picks, Chase goes with Avengers #1, Kenny digs the return of Birds of Prey, and Blake is happy with Fantastic Four #579. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@comixtreme.com!

Music provided by the Podshow Podsafe Music Network.

Episode 172: Lost-The End
Inside This Episode:

Plus: The newest Disney adventure film has hit theaters! The boys check out Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time in this week’s At the Movies bonus episode!

At the Movies Episode 17: Prince of Persia-The Sands of Time




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