Monday, June 27, 2011

Why, DC. WHY?

The biggest question raised in my mind by DC's upcoming line-wide relaunch is: 
Okay, you're probably thinking to yourself about now that I'm taking this too personally being frickin' paranoid.  To that I counter that if DC doesn't hate me, why, then, do they not want me to read their comics?  The entire relaunch, and the list of titles that will be part of  it, seems calculated to keep me away from the comics shop.  
Consider that among the titles not returning in September are the only two comics that I'm currently buying on a monthly basis, Xombi and Secret Six.  The latter I discovered only a couple of months ago, with the Doom Patrol crossover, but it became one of my favorite comics almost from the first page I read and I will miss it.  Still, I did only start reading it with #30, so I've got the first two and a half years of the series to catch up on either through back issues or trade paperback collections.
The end of Xombi after only six issues serves to give credence to J. Caleb Mozzocco's speculation over at his blog Every Day Is Like Wednesday that the whole relaunch idea couldn't have been in the works for all that long despite the claims of DC's Unholy Trinity (Didio, Lee and Johns) that they've been planning this for a couple of years now.  "After all," Caleb asks, referring to the recently concluded retelling of the history of the DCU in DC Universe: Legacies, "why bother making and publishing this comic if you knew you were going to change the history it covered anyway in about a year?"  Similarly, why would they launch any new title in the spring of this year knowing that no matter well it sold or what the critical reception was that they were going to cancel it a mere six months later?  Neither move seems to make much sense unless Dan Didio just woke up one day last month and said, "Hey, this brilliant idea just came to me in a dream. I gotta tell Jim and Geoff.  They'll love it." (Actually, now that I think about it a little, it's far more likely that the whole fiasco was the idea of Fanboy-In-Chief Johns.)
I think this is meant to be Captain Atom
With one exception, which I'll get to later, the list of 52 titles that DC will be publishing doesn't really hold any attraction for me.  True, there will be titles featuring my two favorite super-hero characters, Green Arrow and Captain Atom.  Regular, or even casual, for that matter, readers of this blog are no doubt aware of my love of the Emerald Archer, to whom I have devoted two whole months worth of posts over the life of the site.  I became a fan of Captain Atom back in the 80's due to his eponymous series by Cary Bates and Pat Broderick and his leading role in Justice League Europe.  Unfortunately, and further proof, to my mind, at least, that the company hates me, DC has handed these characters to perhaps the worst writer they have ever employed, J.T. Krul.  Krul's already been making a mess of Green Arrow's legacy for over a year now, and I can't even begin to imagine the horrible train wreck that his Captain Atom series will no doubt turn out to be.  I'd venture to guess that Captain Atom's book will be among the first of the new 52 titles to go on the chopping block.
The one title that I just might consider picking up is Action Comics, which will be written by Grant Morrison.  Morrison is my favorite writer in comics, and anyone who's checked out All-Star Superman knows that he can tell a hell of  a story about the Man of Tomorrow.  On the negative side of the equation is the announcement that Action will be one of only four of the 52 relaunched titles that will be priced at $3.99 rather than $2.99.  Whatever happened to "holding the line," guys?  Still, this probably means that it will have a few more pages than the other books, and it's not like I'm going to buying anything else, after all, unless its more comics from smaller publishers.  

Sunday, June 26, 2011

They Finally Did It: The DC Relaunch

Jim Lee's Justice League
I can picture Marv Wolfman sitting at bar nursing a drink and saying to the drunken middle-aged businessman next to him for the umpteenth time, "The whole thing was my idea, y'know.  I wanted to do it 25 years ago," as the man tries to ignore him and concentrate instead on how he's going to tell his wife that he has lost his job, faces indictment on multiple charges and just lost the house and kids in a poker game.  
What Marv is talking about in the fictional scenario above is the news that has had the comics blogosphere abuzz with speculation for the past couple of weeks:  the recent announcement by DC Comics that they are going to be re-starting their entire line with 52 new #1 issues come September.  I'm coming a little late to the game, as its been at least two weeks, an eternity in cyber-space, since DC dropped this particular bombshell, but below are some of my thoughts on the news.
Wolfman did, in fact, propose such a line wide re-numbering to follow his re-alignment of the DC Universe in 1985's Crisis On Infinite Earths.  As we know, DC higher ups rejected the idea at the time. In retrospect, it might have been better to go ahead and reboot the entire line at once rather than revamping each character one by one over the course of the next decade.  Ultimately this practice made DC's continuity even more convoluted and confusing than it supposedly was before Crisis.  
Truthfully, I didn't find DC's pre-Crisis Universe, or, rather, Multiverse, confusing at all.  I was ten when I first encountered a JLA/JSA crossover and the concept of multiple Earths with different sets of heroes, and I had no trouble grasping the concept at all.  I thought the Multiverse was a really cool concept.  In fact, at first, I thought that eliminating it in Crisis was a really bad idea.  What made me accept it was that Crisis turned out to be one of the greatest super-hero comics ever published.
Anyway, getting back to the topic at hand, since '85, DC has sort of flirted with Wolfman's idea a couple of times.  In 1994, following the absolutely horrid Zero Hour crossover, they had "Zero Month" in which every DC Universe title published that month was a #0 and featured a new beginning for the characters or a re-telling of their origin or some aspect of their past.  Then following the even more horrid Infinite Crisis (or, as I refer to it, Infinite Crappiness), DC pulled the "One Year Later" stunt, which, as the name suggests, jumped all the DCU titles forward in time by one year.  The slightly less horrid 52 was then published to fill in the story of that missing year.
Now, of course, they have, for some reason, decided that the time is right to at last take the plunge and restart the whole kit and kaboodle from the beginning.  Like the stunts mentioned above, this move is tied to a big crossover, occurring on the heels of the currently on-going Flashpoint event.  
What would have been a daring and radical move had they done it back when Wolfman wanted to these days seems more like the natural progression and logical end of the trends in the comics industry since that time.  Nearly every title from both major publishers has been renumbered, rebooted, revamped , reconfigured or rejiggered at least once in the past quarter century.  You could probably fill a longbox just with all the various Captain America first issues alone. 
Yes, if I'm going to be perfectly frank (and if I'm not, what's the point of writing a blog), rather than being the bold, visionary step that the DC Unholy Trinity of Dan Didio, Jim Lee and Geoff Johns  obviously want us to see this relaunch as, the whole stunt carries about it just more than a slight stink of desperation; a last ditch effort to generate the fan interest that the actual comics themselves consistently fail to and get the non-comics reading world to pay them some atttention.   DC could, as they did with Crisis, win me over by producing some really great comics.  However, based on the info they've released about the 52 new titles so far, I see few chances for that to happen. I'll get into some of my thoughts about a few of the new titles in a future post.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Gene Colan: 1926-2011

My mind is simply reeling at the enormity of the talent that the world of comics lost yesterday.
Gene Colan self-portrait from 1967's Daredevil Annual #1
Born on September 1, 1926, Colan began working in comics at the age of 18, embarking on a career that spanned from the Golden Age into the early 21st century.  His best known, and arguably flat out best, work was for Marvel in the late Silver and Bronze Ages, where he was one of the company's most prolific pencillers.  If you had a complete collection of Marvel's black and white Essentials series of reprints, it would include just as much art by Colan as by Jack Kirby, if not more. He created the definitive look of Daredevil over the course of a run spanning more than eighty issues, drew every one of Tomb of Dracula's 70 issues, and made a talking cartoon waterfowl in the world of humans seem perfectly natural and believable in the pages of Howard the Duck.   Among his other credits at Marvel are Sub-Mariner, Captain America, The Avengers, the short lived Howard the Duck newspaper strip, and Iron Man, which he began drawing in 1966 under the pseudonym "Adam Austin."
At DC, he re-united with Tomb of Dracula author Marv Wolfman to create Night Force, and had memorable runs on Batman  and Wonder Woman.  
In 1980, Colan and his collaborator on  Howard the Duck , Steve Gerber, teamed up again to create one of the earliest independent graphic novels, Stewart the Rat.
Honestly, if I tried to list all of  Gene Colan's many credits and accomplishments in this post, I wouldn't get any sleep tonight.  (Today's post at Sequential Crush spotlights his work in the romance genre.)
Gene Colan, the man, will certainly be missed by those who knew and loved him, though his work will live on for a very long time to come.