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DC Comics turns a new page this week

Beginning Wednesday, DC Comics relaunches its line of superhero comics with 52 No. 1 issues and 52 new creative teams, with the continuing stories of Green Lantern, the Flash and company available the same day digitally as in comic shops.

“It’s always nerve-racking, even when you have one new book coming out. Now everybody has all their first issues coming out in one month,” says Geoff Johns, DC Entertainment’s chief creative officer and writer of the new Justice League series with artist (and DC co-publisher) Jim Lee.

“It’s like a big jam session between all these great creators.”

Johns and Lee are the resident rock stars of DC’s “The New 52” initiative, and their book is already a hit before it arrives Wednesday: Pre-orders of Justice League No. 1 have topped 200,000 copies, making it the most successful comic of 2011. (The last DC book with similar numbers was Johns’ Blackest Night No. 1 in 2009 with 205,000 sold.)

Six other titles that will roll out over the next month — including the trademark DC titles Action Comics and Detective Comics— also have broken 100,000 pre-orders, the benchmark for a best-selling comic.

What made DC special in the past, says co-publisher Dan DiDio, was its diverse books; the mystery, war, horror and Western comics of the new 52 sharing shelf and digital app space with the superhero books will reflect that. “The big thing is the number of people who are saying they’re gonna buy all 52. It’s not something we were shooting for, but boy, do we love it.”

Adds Johns: “There’s a reason people get into this world and stay there. There’s something for everybody in here.”

Wednesday also brings to a close Johns’ alternate-universe event series Flashpoint, which brought an upswing in sales when it premiered in May.

Johns says there’s a story bridge between the last page of that comic and the first page of Justice League, which finds Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, the Flash, Wonder Woman and others five years in the past of the new continuity, when superpowered beings first make themselves known to the public.

“It wasn’t until these iconic characters banded together and decided to become champions for Earth and the regular people that the word ‘superhero’ came into the lexicon,” Lee explains. “That is an important turning point for the DC Universe, and it sets the stage for the rest of the 52.”

Since June 1, when DC announced the relaunch that would feature renumbered books, more contemporary origin stories and all-new costumes for characters, there has been plenty of reaction.

It’s created huge buzz for a company that’s been No. 2 to top dog Marvel Comics for years in the marketplace.

But at the same time, it has caused an outcry from angry hard-core fans.

Some are incensed that a book like Action Comics, which introduced Superman in 1938 and has been going strong for 904 issues, now starts over with a first issue. Some are worried that their favorite runs and story lines now “won’t count” in a new continuity.

And even what seem like small character gripes — for example, Barbara Gordon is back to being Batgirl and walking again after years of being in a wheelchair, thanks to the murderous Joker — are a huge deal for fans.

“There are plenty of angry customers over this,” says John Robinson, co-owner of Illinois’ Graham Crackers Comics chain of nine stores. “I’ve heard the usual ‘I can’t believe they’re doing this,’ ‘They’ve betrayed us,’ etc.

“I’d say about 60% to 70% of those protesting the loudest will still end up buying the stuff. There’s just too much hype and interest — even the haters are curious.”

Lee says all the changes, even breaking up Superman and longtime love Lois Lane, were done to create different possibilities and new stories for all-new readers trying books out on their iPad as well as for old-school fans who have been bagging and boarding their beloved comics for decades.

“What cool things can we do that haven’t been done before? That was our guiding principle,” Lee says.

As a retailer and a fan, Gerry Gladston of New York’s Midtown Comics welcomes DC’s decision to take strong action to combat a recession-battered market that’s been losing readers for some time.

“I’d say that DC’s plan is working like a charm so far,” says Gladston, whose Times Square location hosts a midnight launch party Tuesday night with signings by Johns and Lee.

Even at 12:01 a.m., with books finally in readers’ hands, the pair won’t breathe a sigh of relief.

“No!” Johns says. “We’ve got the next issue to do! You can’t take breaks.”

“We certainly have grabbed everyone’s attention, and now we have center stage,” Lee adds. “Be careful what you wish for. Now we’ve got to execute and deliver.”

From: http://www.usatoday.com/life/comics/story/2011-08-28/DC-Comics-turns-a-new-page-this-week/50166706/1

The time Marvel Comics almost published Batman and Superman

The time Marvel Comics almost published Batman and SupermanThe blog of former Marvel editor Jim Shooter has become a wealth of absolutely crazy stories as of late (see: the origins of Secret Wars, the script for the Dazzler movie), but this latest anecdote takes the cake. According to Shooter, Marvel almost licensed the publishing rights for every single DC character.

The tale begins in February, 1984, when Bill Sarnoff of Warner Communications called to offer Marvel DC’s roster for print:

Bill said, more or less, that Marvel seemed to be able to turn a substantial profit on publishing comics, as opposed to DC, which consistently lost money, a lot of money, and had for a long time. On the other hand, LCA (Licensing Corporation of America), Warner’s licensing arm did very well with the DC properties, while Marvel “didn’t seem to do much licensing.”

I guess the few million a year we made from licensing, mostly from Spider-Man, seemed paltry to him, what with the fortune that just their big four, Superman, Batman, Robin and Wonder Woman brought in.

I told him I thought Marvel would be very interested, and that I would discuss it with Marvel’s President, Jim Galton.

So, I did. I told Galton about my conversation with Sarnoff. Galton said he’d give Sarnoff a call.

The next day, I went upstairs, poked my head into Galton’s office and asked whether he’d called Sarnoff and, if so, how that went?

Galton said he told Sarnoff we weren’t interested.

I was stunned. Why not?!

Galton said-and this is prima facie evidence of the fact that he missed Comic Books 101 in publishing school-since DC books weren’t selling, “those characters must not be any good.”

Shooter eventually convinced Galton that this was indeed a very profitable idea and came up with a series of seven initial flagship titles: Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Legion of Superheroes, Wonder Woman, Teen Titans, and Justice League. Word of this possible deal eventually leaked, and future Superman writer John Byrne showed up at Shooter’s office with a cover for Superman emblazoned with the blurb “1ST MARVEL ISSUE!” Although the deal eventually got rolling, mounting legal pressures scuttled it:

Very soon thereafter, First Comics launched a lawsuit against Marvel Comics and others, alleging anti-trust violations, among other things.

One test of anti-competitive market dominance is market share of 70% or more. At that time Marvel held a nearly 70% share, 69-point-something. DC was around 18%.

I think it’s safe to say that when you’re being sued under anti-trust laws, it’s a bad time to devour your largest competitor.

On the other hand, there is the “we-have-a-clue-and-they-don’t” or “superior acumen” defense. We considered arguing that defense and pressing on with the deal.

But, no. Ultimately, the suits and lawyers decided to play it safe and backed away from the DC deal.

It’s unclear if the Marvel and DC universe would have eventually intertwined like when DC acquired former Charlton Comics characters (Blue Beetle, The Question, etc.). But gee-whiz! The possibilities here were somewhat staggering. In an alternate universe, there’s a Frank Miller Dark Knight/Daredevil series floating around.

Top image: 1976’s (totally unrelated) Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man.

From: http://io9.com/5835091/the-time-marvel-comics-almost-published-batman-and-superman

Superman Beyond #0 by Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz

Superman Beyond #0

Plots, Pencils, and Scripts: Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz
Finished Art by: Sal Buscema
Lettering by: Dave Sharpe
Colored by: Chris Beckett

Published by: DC
Cover Price: $2.99

Note: This review is for the digital version of the comic available from DC Comics on Comixology

Q: How can you tell whether or not you will like this book?

A: The villain is named Armorgeddon and even before he becomes a low rent Absorbing Man, his name was Mangler Macarro. Definitely cut from the old school cloth. If you are rolling your eyes, you probably will not like this book. If you’re like me, you got a nostalgic smile and are curious to read more.  Superman Beyond #0 is everything I love about being a comic fan.

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Before it was “hiatused,” Batman Beyond was my favorite comic that DC put out.  On top of that, I am a long time Spider-Girl fan, so when I heard Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz would be working on this title, I was interested in seeing what they can do.  I am happy to report that this book is exactly what I was expecting it to be.  But as I discuss later, is that enough in the modern comic market?

The comic starts with a much older Superman who has been wandering the universe like Kane from Kung Fu after the death of Lois Lane and the defeat of Lex Luthor.  This apparently happened in Superman/Batman Annual 4.  I actually had no idea Superman Beyond had appeared in mainsteam DC comics, so I need to check that out.

Superman keeps finding himself get pulled back into being a hero. The comic starts with him protecting an alien world from invasion, and there is a great homage to Action Comics #1’s cover in the process.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, without Superman and Luthor, Metropolis has become pretty crime heavy. But, there have been no major “world-demolishing threats” coming from there so the Justice League have not been all that active in stopping it. You get the impression that they consider it to be slumming.

And Batman has enough to deal with in Neo Gotham. This actually is a nice tie in to a scene that happened in the early issues of the current Batman Beyond run where Batman makes it clear to the Justice League that Neo Gotham will always be his first priority.

In Metropolis prison, we meet a criminal named Mangler Macarro (did Stan Lee name him?), whose ex-wife has decided to stop bringing his young daughter to prison to visit him. Mangler gets sent to Lex Labs on a work detail (whoever thought that was a good idea needs to be fired from their job in the penal system) and ends up knocking over a container of glowing green goo. He turns into Armorgeddon, with powers similar to the Absorbing Man.

Armorgeddon is determined to see his daughter and ends up smashing up Metropolis and pummeling the Justice League in the process.  Superman happens to be back on Earth, visiting his family’s graves and mulling over a job offer from Jimmy Olsen.  He shows up to help the Justice League. Superman is showing signs of his age and realizes that his approach to fighting villains just doesn’t work anymore.  He tries to fight a little smarter, and in the end, he ends up getting a nasty wound in his chest.

Armorgeddon almost falls to his death, and Superman risks his life to save him, which makes Armorgedden respect him.  Superman realizes that he still can do some good on Earth.

The comic ends with a great conversation between Bruce Wayne and Clark over Lois’s grave. There is some friendly competition in their tones. In fact, all of the dialogue through this comic is really well written. Superman especially had some great lines back and forth with the Justice League.

I really enjoyed this comic from beginning to end. It really reminded me of what got me to fall in love with comics back in the late 80?s.  It had great action, a lot of characterization, and tells a whole story in just 22 pages.  The art is solid and conveys the emotional range of the book, from the aging Superman to the conflicted Armorgeddon.  DeFalco and Frenz make a great team, and this is the perfect book to show off their talents.

There are some moments that have been done to death, like when Armorgeddon sees his daughter and she freaks out.  But I really think they worked very well in the context of the story.

I definitely want to see Superman Beyond come back as an ongoing.  DC has seemed to do real well with Batman Beyond, and I have heard rumors of ongoing Justice League Beyond and Superman Beyond titles.  I would be first in line to buy them.  This is a great expansion to the DC Universe.

This actually was a pretty difficult comic for me to review. I really was not sure how to approach it. It was a book that definitely appealed to my tastes, but at the same time, I also understand that it just might not have a place in the modern comic market.   Older readers want something a lot edgier, a little less playful.  Young readers are likely going to think it’s just old fashioned.

That thought actually made me pretty sad. DeFalco and Frenz definitely recaptured the magic they had in Spider-Girl, but considering that book was always near cancellation, that might not be enough here to maintain an audience.  I am not trying to be negative. I loved Superman Beyond #0, and I think this needs to be an ongoing series, pronto. I just don’t want to see it not do well and turn Marvel and DC away from this direction.

Final Score: 8.5 – Not for everyone, but if you love a fun, classic superhero story, Superman Beyond is for you.


From: http://insidepulse.com/2011/08/26/superman-beyond-0-by-tom-defalco-and-ron-frenz/

The Power of Reboots: From Superman to Star Trek, Apes & Beyond

The response usually includes a condemnation of the dearth of new ideas in Hollywood; accusatory statements of the industry merely feeding on itself instead of trying something innovative, and general creative laziness. All of which can absolutely be true, and, indeed, has been proven to be true time and again as new takes on ideas from the past bear out the notion that that’s exactly where they should have stayed. But at the same time, we’ve seen growing evidence that, in the right creative hands, reboots offer the opportunity to reinvigorate a once thriving franchise, character or concept and make it extremely palatable for one segment of the audience that may not be overly familiar with the original incarnation, as well as the one that does and would like to see it live on in some form – even if they don’t realize it when word of said reboot first gets out.

The first recent example that comes to mind is the James Bond franchise with 2006’s Casino Royale, which introduced Daniel Craig as 007 and brought the agent back to his earliest days (though set in a modern world). While today Craig has secured his position (as far as many are concerned) as the Alpha Bond, at the time there was absolute outrage among the global 007 enthusiasts. After all, Pierce Brosnan seemed to be handling things nicely, beginning with 1995’s GoldenEye and then continuing with 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies, 1999’s The World is Not Enough and 2002’s Die Another Die, which, incidentally, became the highest grossing Bond film up until that point. When producers Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli nonetheless announced that they would be revamping the series and reintroducing Bond at the start of his career with a new actor in the role, people thought they were mad; that they were violating the axiom of not fixing something that wasn’t in need of repair. But, to their credit, they saw something that Bond fans did not and Casino Royale became a critical and commercial hit, instantly establishing that Daniel Craig was indeed Bond.

Flash forward three years to 2009 and the release of director JJ Abrams and writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman’s Star Trek, arguably the most polarizing reboot ever. The idea was to inject Trek with a little Red Bull in the form of Star Wars-like energy coupled with the establishment of a new timeline that would allow Kirk, Spock and the rest of the crew of the starship Enterprise to start their adventures anew without impacting on the continuity of everything that had come before. MANY people argued that these changes weren’t necessary, but, in fact, they were. Star Trek was all but dead. Enterprise had limped off the air without making much of an impact (unfortunately – the show is extremely underrated) and Star Trek: Nemesis was ignored in its brief run in theatres, with the official magazine shutting down and even the website more or less fading away. But thanks to the efforts of Abrams/Kurtzman/Orci and the rest of the film’s cast and crew, new life was pumped into the final frontier, Star Trek was suddenly mainstream and, most importantly, people began rediscovering the original version. Now anticipation is high for the next installment – though the one misstep in this particular reboot has been waiting SO long to get a sequel going, perhaps losing what would have been built-in momentum had things come together more quickly.

This summer skepticism was abundant with word that 20th Century Fox’s reboot of the Planet of the Apes franchise, in the form of Rise of the Planet of the Apes (directed by Rupert Wyatt, written by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver), was going to be released. While there is no question that the original film series (which spanned five entries from 1968 to 1973) was a sci-fi phenomenon in its day, there was little to indicate (including Tim Burton’s financially successful, though critically scorned 2001 remake of the original) that there would be an audience waiting for this one and that it would be received as anything less than a tired joke at this point. But the one thing that critics, moviegoers and even old time fans did not expect was that Rise of the Planet of the Apes would be a film with HEART; that the motion capture created apes would be flesh and blood “human beings”. And, because everyone kept their eye on story, character and heart, it seems as though the entire franchise has been reborn with Fox no doubt going to be announcing a sequel at any time.

The jury is still out on next year’s Dark Shadows, the Tim Burton version of the 1960s soap opera that casts Johnny Depp in the role of “reluctant vampire” Barnabas Collins. That one will truly be the great experiment, because, like Star Trek and Planet of the Apes, if it’s a hit, it will reinvigorate the entire concept and bring the original (a true phenomenon in its day) back into the pop culture forefront. If not, then Dark Shadow fades into the annals of time once the generation of kids who ran home from school every day to watch it is gone.

Then, of course, there’s the DC Comics relaunch of 52 titles, doing away in the majority of instances with old continuity and starting things from scratch. Many fans look at this as nothing more than a massive publicity stunt; that the company will wait a year or so and then do another crisis on a helluva lot of Earths to preserve what is working, do away with what is not and bring back what the fans truly love. The corporate line, however, claims that this isn’t the case; that this is their bold new step into the future and an opportunity to introduce their line – especially because digital versions will be available day and date with their printed counterparts – to a whole new audience that might not head to a comic shop, but would far more likely be willing to download a comic to read on their iPad or other such device.

Is this, then, an act of desperation (though one that could be working – the new Justice League #1 has pre-orders of 200,000 copies)? In an interview with Rolling Stone, writer Grant Morrison muses, “There’s always going to be a bit of that, because comics sales are so low, people are willing to try anything these days. It’s just plummeting. It’s really bad from month to month. May was the first time in a long time that no comic sold over 100,000 copies, so there’s a decline… There’s a real feeling of things just going off the rails, to be honest. Superhero comics. The concept is quite a ruthless concept, and it’s moved on, and it’s kind of abandoned the first-stage rocket [comics]. And moving on to movies, where it can be more powerful, more effective. The definition of a meme is an idea that wants to replicate, and it’s found a better medium through which to replicate, games, movies. It would be a shame, because one of the most amazing things about those universes is that they exist, there’s a paper continuum that reflects the history.”

Morrison, of course, knows from whence he speaks in that he is writing the revamped Action Comics, which returns the Superman character back to his base roots. And as far as the Man of Steel is concerned, the timing for this reboot has probably never been better. Let’s face it (and this is coming from someone with a lifetime’s worth of fascination with Big Blue), while the “S” symbol may be one of the most recognizable in the world, the character itself doesn’t hold the public in sway in the manner that he once did. To many, Superman is passe, a relic from childhood that isn’t necessarily one that they want to embrace as they get older. And today’s kids seem to be more in to Batman, Spider-Man and Iron Man than Supes. So between the efforts of Morrison and DC, as well as director Zack Snyder with his currently-shooting Man of Steel, it’s quite possible that Superman will indeed become a fictional champion of the world again, allowing this 73-year-old icon to capture the collective imagination once more.

All of which comes together to serve the notion that if approached not just from a commercial point of view, but, instead, driven by genuine creative spirit, the reboot can successfully allow those things that once touched us deeply to live in our hearts again.

What’s your feeling? Please sound off below.

The world of Planet of the Apes is exploding with the global success of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, new comics, new illustrated novels, new non-fiction books, a sequel about to be given the green light, etc. Explore the full world of the Apes with news, interviews and much more. Just click on the image below.

From: http://www.comicbookmovie.com/fansites/mediageek/news/?a=45237

A Super Idea – Winston

Starting next week, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash and the other superheroes of the DC Universe are going back to basics.

In the process, they’re all going to start over with issue No. 1.

Starting with Wednesday’s release of “Justice League” No. 1 and continuing through September, DC will be restarting its entire comics line, streamlining some characters while keeping parts of their previous histories, and totally redesigning others and starting from scratch. Some existing story lines were resolved, while others ended abruptly.

Among the changes, Superman is getting a revamped origin story and will be the star of two comic books. “Action Comics,” the comic book that introduced Superman in 1938, will follow him at the dawn of his heroic career five years in the past, when people didn’t know what superheroes were and he was widely mistrusted. His other comic, titled “Superman,” will be set in the modern day, with Superman now a well-known hero.

DC also is switching to a same-day digital release schedule. All digital copies will be released on the same day as the print editions, all in hopes of winning new fans — without alienating the old ones. Digital copies can be bought and read on computers or tablets using the DC Comics or Comixology apps. There will be 52 comic book titles, including familiar characters and some more obscure ones, with a mix of superheroes, war comics and even a Western title.

Many comic book titles have restarted at issue 1 in the past, but this is the first time a major comic book company has started its entire line over and made so many changes at once.

“By doing this, slamming on the brakes and restarting, they can legitimately say they’re offering something for everyone,” said Matt Brady, 42, a Winston-Salem native who is a comics-industry observer and writer. He was a founder of the comic news site Newsarama.com and has moved into writing comic books, including a story in last month’s “Batman 80-Page Giant.”

“The fan in me is kind of sad,” Brady said. “These are the versions of characters I grew up with for the last 20 years.”

But the writer in him, he said, “likes the idea of a universe of firsts again. To redo this in a contemporary setting, you have a lot to do.”

He has pitched a comic idea to DC co-publisher Dan DiDio, who he said “liked it and is holding onto it.” But Brady said he couldn’t discuss any details.

Some Winston-Salem comic book fans are looking forward to the new universe, while others are apprehensive.

“I’m hesitant, but I will give it a chance,” said John Chambers, 47. He read comics as a kid but then stopped, getting back into them about five years ago. “I’ve already signed up to get all 52,” he said. “I want to give them all a fair shake and see what I want to keep reading.”

Christian Burris, 40, said he doesn’t like that the reboot means a lot of comics with long histories — including such long-running titles as “Action Comics,” which introduced Superman in 1938, and “Detective Comics,” which introduced Batman in 1939 — will be starting over.

“Aside from the sales angle, why muck with the universe?” he said. ” ‘Action Comics’ was at issue 903, and it was going to hit 1,000 soon. I understand the need to reinvigorate the stories, but to start everything at number 1 just seems too gimmicky.”

“I’m excited about it,” said Michael Canty, 41, who has been reading comics since he was 6 or 7. But he’s not convinced the changes will be permanent. “It always has to go back to the status quo, so who knows how long this will last?”

The only DC comic title Robin Gallagher, 27, reads is “Batman and Robin.” She is thinking of giving other titles a chance.

“I think it’s a good idea,” she said. She teaches pre-K to fifth-grade students at the Downtown School. She thinks this will benefit kids who wanted to read comics without getting mired in convoluted continuity.

“It can be really confusing for them,” she said. Young people see the superheroes in movies such as “The Dark Knight” and “The Green Lantern,” she said. But when they go to the comic shop, “they don’t know where to start.”

Adam Casey, the manager of Ssalefish Comics in Winston-Salem, said there was some concern in the industry that this could lead to some people dropping out of comics. “Every good jumping-on point is a jumping-off point,” he said. “Comic collectors can now stop and have a full run.”

But the shop has heard from a lot of customers interested in the revamped comics, and about 55 people pre-ordered all 52 first issues coming out next week and in September.

The mood of most fans, he said, has been “anticipatory, partly because there are things to look forward to.”

“It is a bold move, and I believe it was necessary,” said Jermaine Exum, the manager of Acme Comics in Greensboro. “DC Comics is the home of some of the most recognizable and long-running characters in the world. … They have a real chance here with these relaunched titles. Anyone can start reading any series.”

Exum said he isn’t worried about DC’s emphasis on digital comics taking away from the customers who come into comic shops. “When they talk about digital, they’re reaching out to a customer base that would not have found their way into a comic shop,” he said.

From: http://www2.journalnow.com/entertainment/2011/aug/25/super-idea-ar-1327798/

You shall know our Velocity: A Richmond comic shop and the coming DC reboot

If our lunch conversation is his norm then I need to hang out with Patrick Godfrey more often. We’re inside a bustling, but not crowded, Harrison Street Cafe one recent afternoon. With him nibbling at his food, and me nibbling at mine, we talk about the things that really keep us up at night.

Now, there was nary a mention of the country’s recently downgraded credit rating, or our respected policy ideas for the recent rebellion in Gadaffi-led Libya. No. What we do talk about is something that excites both of us to the point where food jettisons from our mouths at nearly the speed of light: the goddamn Batman.

More specifically, we discuss the progress being made on The Dark Knight Rises which has been filming in Pittsburgh. Warner Bros., the principal financier, has just that morning released the first official photograph of Catwoman, who will be played by Anne Hathaway.

Patrick, whose head is shaven with the exception of just a smidgen of what seems to be two-weeks growth, is a bit burly and with an almost-burly man’s beard. He received text messages from friends at 7am this morning, announcing to him their denunciation of the new costume for the feline cat-burgler depicted in the 2012 Batman sequel. They were sentiments not at all shared by the man who sits across from me.

“Why not get excited about it?” he says.

It is not a response of mere indifference. He is not a some middle-aged hopeless romantic who sees the best in things even when the worst is so omnipresent. He knows that, when the movie gets released it may suck harder than anything that’s ever sucked before. But, he’ll cross that bridge should he ever get to it.

For now we chat about our mutual excitement for the film, how the key villain, Bane, will hopefully be given respect as a character unlike the abominable celluloid that flickered across thousands of movie screens in 1997 called (shudder) Batman Robin. Batman, and indeed comics, are having a renaissance of late. The recent Captain America film has done well with both critic and box office alike, Thor was a surprisingly enjoyable experience that featured the talents of Shakesperian greats Anthony Hopkins and director Kenneth Branaugh, X-Men: First Class rekindled the spark missing in the last mutant movie, and The Green Lantern, well…

Hollywood’s recent past has also been kind to comics. The success of Spider-Man, Iron Man, and The Dark Knight helped make the current crop of super hero cinema timely and relevant to the cultural zeitgeist. The future is looking rather bright as well, with the much hyped The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man reboot, and Warner Bros. second attempt to revive Superman in The Man of Steel–and these are but a few of what comic lore will provide film-goers in the coming year.

As a result, the stereotype of comic readers being nerdy, sexually-frustrated, pimple-ridden organisms is going the way of print journalism. “The stigma just isn’t there anymore,” says Patrick. “People are aware of [comics] more.”

And in the coming weeks, major comic publisher DC Comics will do something that they’ve never done before in the hopes of attracting new readers–start over. Beginning in September, 52 titles will begin with issue #1.

Let me explain.

Since the debut of the Man of Steel, Superman comics have unfolded a very unique, very fictional history. It’s a history so replete with events that, should someone desire to begin reading any one of the several monthly Superman titles, they would be virtually lost. A new reader would have to figure out established and existing story arcs that make them feel as though they have plunged headlong into a foreign world.

For instance, did you know that Superman died in a 1992 storyline after battling a mysterious monster named Doomsday? He then came back (only after four other mysterious ‘heirs’ appeared). The same goes for Batman. Did you know that there have been four Robins in the Caped Crusader’s crime-fighting career? Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and most other long-lasting comic characters all have existing stories and happenings that would make a new reader think twice about what they were about to get themselves into.

Patrick and I talk about this point and about what the reboot means for those largely ignorant of the extensive history of these characters (e.g. yours truly). “I’m seeing a lot of excitement coming at me,” says the co-owner of Velocity Comics. The excitement comes from people like me who were once comic readers but for a variety of reasons faded from loyal readership. Previous attempts on my part to pick up a Batman comic made me feel as though I was beginning to watch a movie minutes before its denouement: I felt lost, overwhelmed, unable to feel like I was truly in the story. The likely thinking on DC Comics’s part is that, with a surfeit of comic movies inspiring traditionally non-comic fans to begin collecting comics (or at least consider the idea) the comic publisher needs to do all that it can to accommodate these new readers.

But as with every superhero, there is a commensurate supervillain waiting to pounce. The Joker to Batman, Lex Luthor to Superman. Comic shops like Velocity do not have a single figure that plagues them, but rather a phenomenon that is ever-strengthening: technology.

— ??? —

February 2003, Patrick and his co-owner take over a local comic shop and re-brand it Velocity. “Owning a comic store was never a professional goal,” says Patrick over lunch at Harrison Street. He worked at a local comic shop in the late 1990’s while working towards an Illustration degree at VCU. Working part-time eventually turned into a managerial role, which ultimately turned into ownership of his very own comic shop.

“It turns out,” says Patrick of running a sustainable comic business, “we’re pretty good at it.”

The reason for the success is that he’s selling a passion of his own. I ask him how long he’s been reading comics. “Since birth,” he says, without deliberating. “I don’t know how it happened [i.e. reading comics], but it did.” His employees share this infatuation. “They have to be excited about it. It has to be a passion.” But this is not a passion merely for selling, something that the stereotypical car salesman has–comics mean something to Patrick. A great deal, in fact. So when we talk about one of his favorite comics, Scalped, he convinces me to read it. Not because he sees dollar signs hovering above me like vultures waiting for the right time to descend, but because he’s genuinely excited about the story and art, which makes me, in turn, excited about the same things. Even if I should run into him on the street in two weeks and tell him that I bought the first volume of the series, not from his store but from Amazon.com, he wouldn’t care. “So, tell me,” he would say. “What did you think of it!?!”

Amazon is only one of his direct competitors these days. The other is ComiXology, a digital distributor that has created Android and iOS apps for leading comic publishers (e.g. DC, Marvel, and Image). As part of its reboot, DC has initiated a Retailer Affiliate Program with its “digital storefront.” What this means, in layman’s terms, is that local retailers will be able to have a financial stake in digital sales. While the idea seems simple enough, existing press about the affiliate program seems a bit nebulous. So, I’m eager to ask Patrick about it, as I think that a smart, business-savvy owner of a local comic shop would be privy to information from DC Comics and ComiXology that I do not. Not so.

“I have a hard time wrapping my head around” the process, says Patrick. It seems that the noble idea of including tangible comic shops in the digital publication fold is only that: an idea. Patrick has no immediate plans to combine Velocity Comics’s presence with that of DC and ComiXology digital partnership. I assume that all this makes him nervous about the ploys of the diabolical villain, Technology, chipping away at his business model. But he’s not–he’s actually optimistic.

The next five years of digital publishing “will be good for my business.” His reasoning is this: the more available comics are to the public, the more likely they are going to venture into Velocity Comics. With the financial and critical success of comic characters over the last several years, I wonder precisely how cinematic releases affect his business. For instance, I ask him did the release of the film Captain America: The First Avenger cause a direct increase in sales of Captain America comics? He smirks and shakes his head.

“Not even a little bit.”

Most well-know characters (the Batmans, the Spider-Mans, etc.) don’t result in increased sales of that respective character’s comics at Velocity. What does promote an increase in sales, however, are the lesser-known comics that become adapted films. These include comics such as Scott Pilgrim, Hellboy, 300, Road to Perdition, etc. But this buying behavior is also indicative of Velocity’s soul.

He tells me that every comic shop has a niche, a certain identity, that distinguishes itself from other comic shops. One might be more focused on role-playing games, another on toys, and another on an extensive collection of back issues. What about Velocity?

“Velocity Comics is independently-minded,”

I can’t help but think that part of its modus-operandi stems from Velocity’s own publishing experience.

Several years ago a writing and artist “collective” got together, consisting mostly of artist friends, including Patrick. Other members of this creative cadre included Jesse Bausch and James Callahan, who collaborated on Strange Detective Tales, which was subsequently published by Velocity’s ad hoc imprint, Oddgod Press.

Another comic titled Runoff, with both art and writing done by Tom Manning caught the attention of Guillermo del Toro, well-known in both comics and Hollywood circles as an astute fan of the comic medium who adapted comic titles Blade (starring Wesley Snipes) and Hellboy to film. Before del Toro became involved in the Peter Jackson-produced The Hobbit films, he was very interested (perhaps still is) with making Runoff a feature film. The comic also earned the interest of film producer Don Murphy, who had a hand in bringing such comic stories into film format as From Hell (starring Johnny Depp) and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (starring Sean Connery). The attention of what Patrick affectionately calls a “weird hotbed” also earned Patrick the opportunity to meet Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, who provided a supporting blurb for Strange Detective Tales.

“Publishing,” however “is an unforgiving business,” says Patrick. The amount of time and resources it demands ultimately proved the venture nothing more than a hobby (albeit a very heartfelt one). Despite the creative success and accolades, Oddgod titles “never supported” Velocity Comics in a financial sense. Although the creative venture undoubtedly gave Patrick the chance to experience the production side of the comic business. It’s perhaps this experience that would make him more sympathetic to other comic publishers, especially those, like DC Comics, who are trying new things. I ask Patrick what the DC relaunch means to him. In numbers.

In the past, he would order no more than 50 copies of some DC titles (a few only averaged about 5 sold copies per month). The coming relaunch, however, has Patrick ordering upwards of 200 copies per title to meet the demand, an amount that Patrick says is “unprecedented.”

Seeing this as a good time to move beyond my Batman predilections, I ask Patrick which titles he’s looking forward to the most. Here’s his Top 5:

1) Action Comics
2) Stormwatch
3) Wonder Woman
4) Swamp Thing
5) Animal Man

“That’s the big one,” he says about Action Comics. The series will begin roughly five years before the timeline of most of the other 52 rebooted series. The comic will re-imagine Superman’s arrival to Earth, and a public that is initially quite weary of this the first of supernatural entities to populate the planet.

When I ask him how my beloved Batman looks to fare, he says good things about the creative team that will begin working on both the new Batman and Batwoman series. I know nothing about the Batwoman character; but that’s the whole point of the reboot–to give new readers an opportunity to become familiar, and perhaps even begin to love, characters such as these.

My teenage self smiles a bit more knowing that I’m going to collect comics once again. But then the question becomes: do I subscribe through Velocity, or should I try reading comics on my new iPad? I ask Patrick what perks there are going through him. He says that Velocity Comics will offer 30% discounts to those who buy all 52 rebooted comics. “No minimum number” of comic subscriptions are required, says Patrick. No deposit needed, either. If you begin subscribing to any number of titles, even just one, you get 10% off every item you purchase in the store. If you subscribe to a comic and don’t like it, simply cancel your subscription. No obligation. No contract.

I don’t think my iPad can compete with that.

From: http://rvanews.com/news/velocity-richmond-comic-shop-coming-dc-reboot/49827

DC Comics hopes revamped heroes and digital will save the day

Hero Complex Exclusive: Action Comics #1 variant cover from DC’s “The New 52.” (Jim Lee/DC Comics)


Hero Complex Exclusive: Batman #1 variant cover from DC’s “The New 52.” (DC Comics)


Action Comics, one of the titles to be released in DC’s “The New 52.” (DC Comics)


Action Comics, one of the titles to be released in DC’s “The New 52.” (DC Comics)


New art for Aquaman, one of the titles to be released in DC’s “The New 52.” (DC Comics)


New art for Batman, one of the titles to be released in DC’s “The New 52.” (DC Comics)


New art for Batwoman, one of the titles to be released in DC’s “The New 52.” (DC Comics)


New art for Batwoman, one of the titles to be released in DC’s “The New 52.” (DC Comics)


New art for Batgirl, one of the titles to be released in DC’s “The New 52.” (DC Comics)


New art for Detective Comics, one of the titles to be released in DC’s “The New 52.” (DC Comics)


Art from Green Lantern. (DC Comics)


Art from Green Lantern. (DC Comics)


New art for Justice League, one of the titles to be released in DC’s “The New 52.” (DC Comics)


New art for Justice League, one of the titles to be released in DC’s “The New 52.” (DC Comics)


New art for Justice League, one of the titles to be released in DC’s “The New 52.” (DC Comics)


New art for Swamp Thing, one of the titles to be released in DC’s “The New 52.” (DC Comics)


Superman, Batman and Aquaman after the big changes. (DC Comics)


New art for Wonder Woman, one of the titles to be released in DC’s “The New 52.” (DC Comics)


DC Comics co-publishers Dan DiDio, left, and Jim Lee. (Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)


Hero Complex Exclusive: Art from Action Comics #1 variant cover from DC’s “The New 52.” (Jim Lee/DC Comics)

DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio was at a comic-book store in New Jersey when he noticed something alarming. Over the course of an hour, only two customers came in. And, this was a Saturday — the busiest day of the week for most retailers.

“The walk-in, casual fans have gotten away from us,” DiDio observed. “We are down to just the die-hard buyers.”

Comic-book stores have become increasingly barren, with sales dropping consistently over the last three years and down an additional 7% so far in 2011.

Theories abound as to why. Some blame convoluted story lines, while others point to cynical publicity stunts like killing key characters only to bring them back a few months later. But the main culprit more likely lies beyond the page: Today’s youth is far more interested in spending its leisure hours in the digital worlds of YouTube, Xbox and Twitter.

The generational shift is not lost on DiDio and his associates at DC. For the first time, the comic-book company will now make each of its issues available on digital devices such as iPads the same day it arrives in stores — a jarring departure for many retailers that only have to look at the fate of record stores to see the dangers that digital downloads present to brick-and-mortar merchants.

As part of a two-pronged strategy to try to revive its moribund business and draw newer, younger readers, the nation’s oldest and best-known comic-book publisher has also decided to start over from scratch. Beginning Aug. 31, DC launches its “New 52,” with well-known titles such as “Wonder Woman” and “Batman” as well as more obscure ones including “Static Shock” and “Blue Beetle” starting at No. 1 and featuring a mix of new costumes, new origins and simplified story lines.

The strategy is a calculated risk by the Warner Bros.-owned company to keep superheroes alive in comics as they become more important than ever on the big screen and in other media.

“Publishing is the engine that creates and incubates ideas for the other divisions of Warner Bros.,” said DC co-publisher Jim Lee. “We need to streamline our comics so new fans can come in and know exactly what’s going on.”

It’s crucial to Warner that the gambit succeeds, but not because the tiny publishing business makes a big difference to the bottom line of Hollywood’s biggest studio or its corporate parent, Time Warner Inc.

Warner in 2009 reorganized its comic-book business into a new unit called DC Entertainment, headed by the studio’s former “Harry Potter” guru Diane Nelson, and moved its headquarters from New York to Burbank, down the street from the Warner lot. The move came just a few weeks after Walt Disney Co. agreed to acquire DC’s larger competitor Marvel Entertainment Inc. for $4.2 billion.

“Green Lantern.” (Warner Bros.)

The goal for both entertainment giants is to build on the success of such superhero blockbusters as “The Dark Knight,” “Spider-Man” and “Iron Man.” Despite the failure this year of the costly “Green Lantern” movie and an aborted “Wonder Woman” television pilot, Warner has multiple DC-based movie projects in the works, including next year’s “The Dark Knight Rises” and 2013’s Superman film “Man of Steel.” There’s also a slew of planned video game releases, animated series and direct-to-DVD features.

Warner needs DC’s comics to stay culturally relevant and generate new ideas. At the same time, the millions of movie fans are seen as potential comic-book buyers.

“There is a generational opportunity to get new readers,” said artist Rob Liefeld, who is drawing DC’s new “Hawk and Dove” series. “The industry has been stagnant, and it’s the right time to hit the reset button.”

Action Comics, one of the titles to be released in DC’s “The New 52.” (DC Comics)

Some of the biggest changes are being made to DC’s 73-year-old icon Superman, and they go beyond replacing the red Speedo part of his costume with jeans. The hero will be “aged back” to his 20s, and Clark Kent’s marriage to Lois Lane, which happened 15 years ago in the comic books, has been erased.

“We want to return to that classic love triangle of Lois, Clark and Superman that people know so well,” Lee said.

More accessible stories are one part of DC’s game plan. The other is getting comics into readers’ hands. In the 1990s, there were 7,000 to 9,000 retailers that sold comic books, including newsstands and drugstores. Today there are a little more than 2,000, most of which are specialty shops.

“When I was growing up, there were three places I could walk to and get comics,” said Marv Wolfman, a veteran writer and former editor in chief of Marvel. “Today a kid might never see a comic book.”

Digital downloads are an obvious solution, but until now most publishers have only experimented with back issues online, fearful of upsetting the retailers who generate nearly all of their revenue. DC is the first to put the Internet on equal footing.

“Comics have lagged behind other media for so long in embracing digital,” said David Steinberger, chief executive of leading digital comics retailer ComiXology. “I about fell out of my chair when DC told me what they were planning.”

DC Comics co-publishers Dan DiDio, left, and Jim Lee. (Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)

To salve retailers’ concerns, DiDio and Lee have gone on a “road show” around the country touting a plan to let them set up their own digital storefronts and collect 30% of revenue. Gerry Gladston, co-owner of New York-based Midtown Comics, acknowledged that there’s been plenty of angst among his fellow retailers.

“We’re not at all convinced that digital will attract a lot of new readers,” he said, “but we hope that it will drive people to our stores.”

Others, however, believe DC’s new digital strategy may mark an inflection point for an industry that will soon be paper-free.

In the short run, it seems everyone in the comic-book industry will benefit. DC’s flagship title, “Justice League No. 1,” has pre-orders for more than 200,000 print copies, which would make it the bestselling title of 2011. Six other new DC No. 1’s already have more than 100,000 pre-orders.

“Fan interest is huge — much of it positive, some negative, and some very cautious,” Gladston said.

But much-hyped events and reboots have boosted comic-book sales before without much long-term effect. Wolfman wrote one of the earliest in 1985 with “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” which was originally intended to result in every comic book restarting at No. 1, before editors decided against it. Since then, events, crossovers and reboots have become a near annual occurrence for DC and Marvel.

“The stunts have run their course,” Liefeld said. “This is the biggest one in the past 25 years, and nothing else can come close.”

The worst-case scenario for DC’s new strategy is that few new readers stick around and existing ones are alienated by the changes. But the relaunch’s architects said it’s a necessary risk.

“The truth is people are leaving anyway, they’re just doing it quietly, and we have been papering it over with increased prices,” DiDio said. “We didn’t want to wake up one day and find we had a bunch of $20 books that 10,000 people are buying.”

– Ben Fritz and Geoff Boucher

RECENT AND RELATED

‘Superman’ first look: The new Man of Steel

DC Comics: First look at ‘The New 52’ commercial

Morrison to Hollywood: Make Superman a ‘brawler’

Milton Caniff’s ‘Steve Canyon’ flies again

Morrison’s twist: Wayne partners with Batman

Bridges: ‘R.I.P.D.’ movie is ‘really out there’

Morrison on class: Bruce has butler, Clark has boss

Morello’s ‘Orchid’: Suicide Girls meets Joan of Arc

Morrison takes Batman away from ‘blue-collar’ rage

Jim Lee and Geoff Johns seek DC’s heroic future

Morrison: Superman is humans’ ‘greatest-ever idea’

From: http://herocomplex.latimes.com/2011/08/22/dc-comics-exclusive-covers-batman-superman-revamped-heroes-and-digital-will-save-the-day/

From Page to Screen – The Faithfulness of the Screen Adaptation – Part Two (I …

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How happy are you with your CBM? Do you think they got the costume right? Is the cape the correct length in your personal vision of that character? Was the filmmaker faithful to the source material? Did they take too much creative licence?

Below is the first part of a two part piece on Superman in the media.
________________________________________________________________________________

PART TWO: SUPERMAN

“Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! Strange visitor from another planet with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men!” The Man of Tomrrow. The Man of Steel. There’s no one who has not heard of the tale of Kal El, lone survivor of the planet Krypton, who in a moment of desperation by his father Jor El rocketed him to safety mere moments before the planet met it’s fate.

The first Superman as he would come to be known was first brainstormed in 1933 by 18 year old creators Jerome Siegel, a Jewish Canadian immigrant and Joseph Shuster. He was conceived of as a bald villain with powers of telepathy and little else. (One can postulate that this version of The Man of Steel was the first evolution of Lex Luthor.) This first version os Superman failed to gain popularity.

Superman, as he appears more or less today made his debut in the launch in the June ’38 issue of Action Comics #1. The character was an instant success. Fans by the thousands including GI’s headed overseas to fight Hitler’s regime well received the character that, though fictional, proved that good could indeed triumph over the forces of evil; he gave people hope for a better tomorrow. Issues flew off the shelves, with Action’s only competition being a character from Fawcett Comics, accused of being a plagiarized version of Superman. By 1943, audiences young and older would gather round the radio for ABC Radio’s production of “The Adventures of Superman” voiced by on radio air talent Bud Collyer.

Of course, one can’t mention Superman on film without acknowledging the wonderful animated cartoon produced by Fleischer Studios in 1941 that would be the benchmark of latter animated series, most notably Bruce Timm’s work. Though cheaply produced and complete with racist slurs and depictions of stereotype, they endure the test of time as amazing examples of master animation.

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The next logical move, it seemed, would be for Superman to appear as a flesh and blood person. In 1940, for the annual Macy’s Parade, actor Ray Middleton was recruited to fill the cape. Superman made his first appearance in public to thousands of adoring and cheering fans.

By 1948, Republic Pictures sought out actors to wear the now iconic shield in on screen adaptations. Many actors were considered and screen tested, but very few impressed producers until Vaudeville actor Kirk Alyn was screen tested in costume. Alyn had been a choral singer is stage and screen weaterns. 13 serials were produced for Republic with Alyn as Kal El. All of the elements were indeed in place, staying true to written comic works of the day. The special effects being “state of the art” at the time included badly choreographed brawls, hand drawn animation on live action film to simulate taking off, landing and in-air action as well as a costumed mannequin on a zip line for flying sequences. Nevertheless, the public wanted more Man of Steel.

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By the 1950’s the medium of television began to pick up momentum. The standard workload on an individual as well as domestic responsibility forced the average person to remain at home, so television seemed the next trend in home entertainment. One hardly had time to visit the local theater.

In 1951, it was decided to bring Superman to the small screen. The part was offered to bit part actor George Reeves, who was apprehensive, thinking television to be too limiting to his career. The actor accepted the role, and in 1951, the second modern tale of the man of tomorrow hit the airwaves. The show covered all of the comic book mythology, from Jor-El to Jimmy Olsen. Superman on the small screen was very well received by the viewing public. Each week, kids could be found in front of their household sets, sometime with homemade tea towel around their necks as capes. It is widely regarded today, (in it’s context) as one of the most faithful adaptation to comic incarnations. However, Reeves would come to resent the role he felt typecast him, and according to legend would personally burn the uncomfortable heavy wool costume at the end of each shooting season. Reeves tragically met his end in 1957 with a fatal gunshot wound, the source a mystery even today.

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The Man of Steel would not see screen production again for 25 years.
________________________________________________________________________________

TO BE CONTINUED IN PT II

From: http://www.comicbookmovie.com/fansites/ReverendJonnyNemo/news/?a=44923

Exclusive: Brian Azzarello talks Wonder Woman and Spaceman

“You just touched on something as far as the Trinity goes; there’s no such thing as the trinity. That’s invented you know. There’s Superman and there’s Batman and there’s everybody else,” he says.

But that’s not the way he intends to leave it: “So what I want to do, I want to create that damn trinity. I want it to mean something.”

Does that mean she’ll have to stand on her own? He replies with: “Isn’t that the point, isn’t that what she needs?”

Brian Azzarello.jpgThough not tied down by dated continuity like the more recent writers on the title, Azzarello has the imminent reboot of the entire DC Universe to deal with. Will they have heavy constraints from DC as things get under way, or does the restart equal a free pass?

“Actually I can’t do whatever I want,” he says. “I’ll tell you this though, the first issue’s all done and we’re running right up to the edge, as far as what we can get away with. We’re pushing the envelope with this one. I firmly believe that that’s what this character needs right now.”

Azzarello has given life to established big-name favorites and he’s turned the independent world on its head with the likes of his award-winning run on 100 Bullets, published on DC’s Vertigo label.

So how will DC’s new beginning affect him and how he’ll handle Wonder Woman? “I can only speak for myself, were doing a soft reboot, we’re not getting rid of her history or anything like that.”

He then adds, with a little reassurance and a laugh: “People need to relax, she’s not wearing pants. But it’s not going to be a superhero book. I can guarantee you that, it’s not a superhero book. It’s a horror book.”

Wonder Woman in a horror book written by Brian Azzarello definitely sounds like a departure from the norm. But one that I agree the character needs and could prove to be one of the 52’s most interesting.

Though we’ll be treated to only one new DC title from the writer, the good news doesn’t stop with Wonder Woman. Returning to a familiar imprint as well as putting the band back together, Brian spilled a little on his other new project.

“Well [Wonder Woman] is September, the following month Spaceman debuts from Vertigo. It’s the entire 100 Bullets team back together.” And if the returning creative team isn’t enough incentive, he adds: “The first issue’s a buck, so there’s no excuse not to buy it and it’s got extra story pages, for a dollar.” The last said with a smile, much like the one I’ll have after getting 28 pages of new material for one US dollar.

Azzarello’s run on 100 Bullets matched the title’s boast of one hundred, but the author intends to bring a completely fresh take to a desolate concept with Spaceman: “It’s funny ’cause we are world building with this story. It takes place in a kind of a dystopian future. A lot of the dire predictions that scientists have made about things like climate change have come true, a lot of economic upheaval.”

Spaceman no2 Brian Azzarello.jpgMuch like he did with Bullets, Azzarello might just revitalize a genre with his new book, adding: “It’s not science fiction, it’s science hell.” Also compared to the former, what kind of run can the fans expect out of Spaceman? He offerws: “The first arc is nine issues. Then we’re gonna take a break; you’re getting nine issues the first year.

“Yeah, we’ve got some other ideas that we want to do but 100 issues on one thing, we’re not going to do that again,” adding with a smile and a laugh: “We want to tell smaller quicker stories.”

There’s another new aspect for the writer as he shapes this bleak future: “I’m playing around a lot with language, I’m trying to invent this future slang and it’s been really fun.”

Next month kicks off what should be an incredibly busy year for Brian, but is he looking ahead to what’s next: “I’m really happy with what I’m working on right now. There’s a few other things down the road, but right now I’m concentrating on Wonder Woman and Spaceman.”

But what isn’t this comic idol being asked? What’s he doing right now that nobody knows about?

“What am I doing right now that nobody’s asked about? Oh, because of all this crappy weather right now we have an ant problem in my kitchen, so I’ve been killing ants. That’s what I’ve been doing lately!”

Not much information was available at the convention via panel or publisher, but with gracious contributors like Azzarello we stay in touch with the books and characters we love the most.

Huge thanks to Brian for giving his time and answering questions on a very hectic day. And thanks to Wizard World for the accommodations and event access.

From: http://blogs.coventrytelegraph.net/thegeekfiles/2011/08/exclusive-brian-azzarello-talk.html

Book Review: “Supergods,” by Grant Morrison

Now he’s written a magnum opus of sorts, “Supergods,” a history of (and tribute to) costumed heroes, and though it’s not a comic — it’s just, you know, words — it’s still kind of a team-up. In this case, the two heroes are two sides of the same man. Let’s call them Grant Morrison-Thoughtful Historian and Grant Morrison-Comics Superstar. When Thoughtful Historian drives the action, “Supergods” is a lively guide to the ways that costumed crusaders have reflected and affected the times in which they lived. When Comics Superstar takes over, though, the book turns into a bafflingly tone-deaf memoir — an ego trip of superheroic proportions.

The early chapters of “Supergods” are lovingly crafted odes to the Golden and Silver ages of comics. Take Morrison’s fascinating discussion of the diametrically opposed heroes of the DC Comics universe: Superman and Batman. One’s the ur-human, an immortal sun god. The other’s a creature of the night, a mortal man turned revenge machine. The small-town hero and the big-city outlaw: Morrison nails it when he calls Superman the Beatles and Batman the Stones.

It’s great fun to read Morrison on Stan Lee’s chummy authorial voice — “The comic itself became a buddy” — and the incandescent art of Jack Kirby, who created “monumental heroic figures to carry the energetic charge of his visions.” And Morrison isn’t always a fan; you won’t often read criticism of Alan Moore’s crucial “Watchmen” as pointed as his.

But when he was born in 1960, Morrison writes, he “joined the continuity,” and “Supergods” turns in its second half from fictional superheroes to the real-life superhero Grant Morrison. For fans, tales of how Morrison’s creations Flex Mentallo and the Invisibles came to be will no doubt be illuminating. But Morrison’s life story is so self-aggrandizing that it’s the memoir equivalent of a hero’s bulging codpiece. “Being young, good-looking and cocky forgave many sins,” he says about his early career, and by the time he describes himself as blowing his “Arkham Asylum” royalties on “champagne, drugs, and spur of the moment expeditions around the world,” non-worshippers may find themselves saying “sigh” aloud, like a comic-book character.

And while Morrison’s comics acumen is unparalleled, he’s less sure-footed when he dips into other media. For every canny criticism, like his praise for M. Night Shyamalan’s underrated superhero movie “Unbreakable,” there’s a head-scratcher like his uncharitable description of grunge music as a “whining, snarling soundtrack to the lives of kids who had to pretend really hard to be scared anymore.”

That’s not even to mention the often creepy male chauvinism on display in his crack about the “baby-fattish” Alicia Silverstone or his explanation that girls are drawn to the comics scene because of “the youth, the energy, and the style-mag write-ups,” not, of course, because they enjoy the stories.

Happily, it’s Thoughtful Historian who finishes the book, with a meditation on real-life superheroes like Angle Grinder Man, a tights-clad British gent who saws the immobilizing clamps off illegally parked cars. In a way, we’re all superheroes now: Thanks to air travel and the Internet, we can soar like Superman and detect like Batman. We’ll never be fabulously wealthy superstud Grant Morrison, of course, but at least the comics let us dream.

Dan Kois is a cultural critic and the author of “Facing Future,” about the Hawaiian musician Israel Kamakawiwo’ole.

From: http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/book-review-supergods-by-grant-morrison/2011/06/28/gIQAGTqOQJ_story.html

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