Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Stuff I'll Probably Be Throwing My Money Away On Next Month

Last week I wrote that I'll probably be picking up Before Watchmen: Dollar Bill in February to see how Len Wein and Steve Rude flesh out the story of one of the more minor characters from Watchmen.  Well, while preparing for that post, I took a peek at what else DC was offering up for sale next month, and I thought I'd share with you some preliminary impressions of a couple of items that will most likely be finding themselves a home in my comics boxes or on my bookshelves.  
Another book that I've written about previously that I'm planning to get is Hellblazer #300, which brings to a close the Vertigo imprint's longest running title and last remaining of the six existing books that formed the original core of the line on its launch in 1993.  As I've speculated on numerous previous occasions, the loss of the adventures of John Constantine to mainstream New 52 line combined with the forthcoming resignation of founding editor Karen Berger seem to bode ill for the future of Vertigo.
Then there are the two ongoing comics that I have been purchasing regularly since their debuts eighteen and ten months ago, respectively.  The first is Action Comics, though #17 may be the last issue of that title for me, as it marks the end of the story line begun by Grant Morrison in #1 and the writers departure from the title.  I've only read one comic by incoming writer Andy Diggle, but I did like it, so maybe I'll give his run a couple of issues to see how it goes.  That's a decision I'll put off until March, however.
Next up is Earth 2.  While the book hasn't been quite as good since the plot actually kicked in as it was for the first couple issues when writer James Robinson was setting up his alternate world and introducing the major and minor characters, its still one of the best super-hero comics I've read from DC in quite some time.  This issue also promises the introduction of the New 52 version of Dr. Fate, which I'm sort of curious to see.
I have made no secret on this blog of my longstanding and slightly unnatural love for Oliver Queen, a.k.a. the Green Arrow.  Because of this, I desperately want the character's eponymous monthly comic to be good.  However, in its New 52 incarnation, the closest Green Arrow has come to anything that I might want to read on a sustained basis were the three issues written by Keith Giffen and Dan Jurgens.  DC, I'm sure, wants Green Arrow to be worth reading as well, which is the best spin I can put on the fact that in February the book is getting its fifth creative team in the year and a half since the New 52 relaunch.  
The new writer is Jeff Lemire.  I've not read anything he's written previous, but I've yet to find a reviewer who's had anything all that bad to say about any of it.  As I did with Ann Nocenti before him, I plan to give Lemire one story line to impress me.  
Another reason I'll be picking up up Green Arrow #17 is that I'm somewhat intrigued by the the actual text of the solicitation, which reads:
"As Ollie struggles to come to terms with the loss of his fortune, his company and his heritage, he discovers a shocking truth about his father that ties to his time stranded on an island before he became Green Arrow."
The second part of that sentence seems to indicate that Lemire, most likely at the direction of DC management, is planning to move the book in a direction more in line with the story of the CW's TV series Arrow.  I have mixed feelings about that, as, while the show is not really bad at all, I'm not overly fond of it, however, if DC really wants fans of the series to sample the comics, then I suppose its not such a dumb move.  
It's the first part of the description that has really piqued my interest, though.  I've always preferred poor Ollie to rich Ollie, partly because that's how I first encountered the character, but mostly because its in that era that the best Green Arrow stories were told.
Above, I mentioned having read only one comic by Andy Diggle and having liked it.  Well, that comic was Green Arrow: Year One.  Based on that mini-series, I'm thinking that once Lemire moves on, and given this books track record that will probably happen sooner than later, DC should give Diggle a shot at writing GA's exploits on a regular basis.  While I liked Year One, at the time I read it I sort of consigned it to an alternate history or something like that, despite it being the new "official" version of GA's history, because I couldn't quite see the Oliver Queen depicted therein becoming the character I'd been reading for the past few decades.  However, I can see him becoming the New 52 Green Arrow, thus making Diggle a natural to continue his adventures in the monthly book.
Lastly, there's Crisis On Multiple Earths Volume 6, the latest in the series of trade paperback collections of the meetings of Earth One's Justice League and their counterparts in Earth Two's Justice Society that were an annual tradition in the pages of Justice League of America from 1963 until 1985 and the merging of all of DC's alternate worlds in Crisis On Infinite Earths.  These have always been some of my favorite comics of the Silver and Bronze Ages and, quite naturally, I already possess the first five volumes in the series.  The latest edition covers the years 1981 to 1983 and includes the first of the JLA/JSA "crossovers" to actually crossover into another title, winding its way through three issues of Justice League and two issues of the World War II set JSA book All-Star Squadron, thus making it the longest of the JLA/JSA team-ups. 
Compared to amount of new comics that I buy most months, that's actually quite a long list I've compiled above, and I'm sure I'll be writing about at least one or two of them here in the future.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Full Disclosure

A couple of days ago, in my speculative post about the upcoming Before Watchmen: Dollar Bill one-shot, I issued a blanket condemnation of the previous Before Watchmen efforts as rehashes of what Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons did in the original Watchmen.  In the interest of, as I titled this post, full disclosure, and total honesty (which, as Billy Joel reminds us, is such a lonely word and hardly ever heard) I feel obligated to reveal to my readers that I based that statement on hearsay and anecdotal evidence gathered from reviews, solicitations and other on-line sources. The only one of the bunch that I've actually bothered to read was the first issue of the Minutemen series, which, while it provided new biographical details about the members of the eponymous super-team, did in fact include a fair amount of rehashing.  I liked Minutemen #1, but not really enough to commit to spending four bucks a month on it over the course of half a year.
I did briefly possess copies of the first issues of Ozymandias and Comedian, which were given to me by a friend, until I fobbed them off on some poor unsuspecting fool at a White Elephant gift exchange last month without bothering to actually read them.   When I flipped through Ozymandias, it seemed, from the art, to be simply a retelling of Adrian Veidt's life story from Chapter XI of Watchmen.  Having read that chapter, and in fact the entire graphic novel, more times than I can readily remember, I didn't feel I needed to read that issue.  As for the Comedian book, I just couldn't get past that hideous cover and thus didn't even open it.   I mean, just look at the damned thing over there.  Disgusting, ain't it?
I've got to wonder if whoever commissioned or designed that repulsive cover image actually thought it was going to help sell the comic.   Is that even the function of comic book covers anymore?  Is there such a thing these days as a casual reader who might be induced to pick up a new comic because of the cover image or copy?  Or are most new comics pretty much pre-sold to a dwindling community of fans and collectors who'll buy the damn things no matter what the publisher slaps on the outside?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Why "Before Watchmen: Dollar Bill" Just Might NOT Suck

Some, such as J. Caleb Mozzocco in his first post of the year at Everyday Is Like Wednesday, may mock, to me, Before Watchmen: Dollar Bill sounds more promising than any of the other BW mini-series or one-shots published or announced so far.  Unlike some of the previous efforts, it won't, in fact it can't, be a mere rehash of what Alan Moore did with the character in Watchmen, because there's really nothing there to rehash.  In Moore's original graphic novel, Dollar Bill is a mere cypher. He's little more than a name and a costume.  That's not a knock on Moore, though.  Watchmen is bursting with fully realized, three dimensional characters.  Dollar Bill just doesn't happen to be one of them.  He's not so much a character in Moore's tale as an object lesson.  He's the Minuteman who gets killed while stopping a robbery thus causing the others, especially Nite Owl, our point of view character in the 40's super group, to realize that crime fighting isn't a game and that they can get seriously hurt or even die.
Therefore, Dollar Bill writer Len Wein, together with artist Steve Rude, has a unique opportunity not afforded the other Before Watchmen writers to create a mostly original character and craft a tale that truly expands and enriches the world of Watchmen in a way that they wouldn't be able to in stories about Rorshach or the Comedian or any of the other major characters in Watchmen
Whether Dollar Bill, and Wein, can live up to that promise is something we'll have to wait until February to find out, and I think that I might just go ahead and pick this book up.  If nothing else, with Steve Rude drawing it, it will at least look good.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

That Was The Blog That Was: A Gutter Talk Year In Review

To begin with, let me say that 2012 was not a good year for this blog.  I managed a mere 58 posts during the previous 52 weeks. (Compare that to October 2010, when I managed nearly that number in just one month) I shall try to do better in the new 12 month cycle, but I'm making no promises.  Still, there were some happenings in the world of comics that managed to break through my lethargy and compel me to go to the keyboard and share my special brand of ill-considered analysis with the world at large, or at least my couple of dozen regular  readers.  Below are recaps of some of the more interesting developments of the 366 days just gone by.
The big controversy of the year  was the debate over creators' rights inspired by DC's decision to publish Before Watchmen, a series of prequels to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' 1985 classic, despite Moore's objections, though Gibbons did give it his somewhat half-hearted blessing.  I wrote at length about this issue (here, here, here, here, here, and again here, although that last post is really more about my all-time favorite Superman story than it is about Before Watchmen) during the spring and early summer, and linked to Moore himself opining about it in a BBC radio interview, so there's really not much more to say about it now.
The major business story of the year, at least amongst the rank and file of geek culture, was, of course, the October announcement of the Walt Disney Company, also owners of industry leading comics publisher Marvel, aquiring Lucasfilm and the rights to the Star Wars franchise, accompanied by the promise of a new installment in the film series to come in 2015.  You can read my first impressions of the news here.
DC's Public Relations shop showed more creativity and energy than is on display in many of the comics themselves as they managed to drum up a fair amount of unwarranted mainstream media hype over minor developments in a couple of those comics.  First came the announcement that one of the company's "iconic" characters, eventually revealed to be original Green Lantern Alan Scott (leading to much speculation about what exactly DC thinks "iconic" actually means), was to revealed to be gay in the 2nd issue of Earth 2. Even more mystifying was how the publisher's flaks somehow got respectable news outlets to cover Clark Kent quitting his job as a reporter for the Daily Planet in a fairly undramatic scene from Superman #13.  At least in the case of Earth 2, there was a decent story behind all the hype, though not so much with the Superman tale.
Meanwhile, it appears that the writing is on the wall for DC's two decade old Vertigo imprint.  First came the announcement that the imprint's longest running title, Hellblazer, will come to an end with its 300th issue in February with the book's lead character, John Constantine, reappearing the following month in a new series set in the mainstream New 52 DC Universe.  Coming quickly of this news was word of Vertigo founding editor Karen Berger's decision to step down as head of the imprint as of March.  Furthermore, I have heard from a semi-reliable source that Vertigo is no longer entertaining proposals for new projects and has canceled some others already commissioned.  Given all these developments, it seems that one of the big stories in next year's year in review post will be the news of the demise of DC's venerable mature readers line.
While I lamented the passing of science fiction legend Ray Bradbury in June, one death that I failed to note was that of Golden Age veteran Sheldon Moldoff, who died on Superman's birthday, February 29.  This is sort of fitting, given that he was the last surviving contributor to the first Action Comics #1, the issue that introduced the Man of Steel and jumpstarted the entire comics industry.  However, he was, perhaps ironically, best known as a ghost artist, illustrating numerous Batman stories appearing under the mass-produced signature of Batman co-creator Bob Kane. Among the classic tales of the Caped Crusader which Moldoff delineated were "The First Batman" from Detective Comics #235, in which the discovery of an old Halloween costume worn by Bruce Wayne's father ultimately leads to the capture of Lew Moxon, the mobster who hired Joe Chill to kill Thomas Wayne for daring to testify against him, and Batman #156's "Robin Dies At Dawn", one of the most awesomely bizarre Batman stories ever, which has Batman deciding to hang up his cape and cowl after he is nearly killed by bank robbers wearing gorilla suits because he's hallucinating as a result of having participated in a top secret government experiment. Seriously, bank robbers dressed as gorillas would be enough to make this story a classic, but this story isn't even about them.  They're just one random element of weirdness in a stew of mind-boggling madness.  As an added bonus, there's even an appearance by Ace, the Bat-Hound.  
That's pretty much what stuck in my mind as I looked back over the comics news of the past year.  Let's now look forward to the surprises that 2013 has in store for us, shall we?