To begin this review, I must admit that I wasn’t originally going to read this title. I felt like my perception of the title was unfairly skewed by internal biases. I didn’t want to invest in another Bat-title, regardless of whether Batman was a central character or not. I also didn’t really cotton to the premise. It felt like Morning Glories in Gotham on paper. But I changed my mind on the book simply by virtue of the fact that I trust Becky Cloonan. I also really like Karl Kerschl’s artwork, but I’ve ignored books by artists I love before. Essentially, I put my faith in a writer I trust to make magic with the premise. I’m glad I gave the book the chance, because it is truly something special.
I really haven’t found myself as enthralled in a Gotham title not featuring Batman since All Star Western launched back in 2011. With that title going away, this feels like a worthy replacement in my off-the-wall Gotham reading slot. Titles that play with the periphery of Batman’s world can be a hit or miss affair, but talented writers and artists can really make all the difference in the world.
Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher give us a truly wonderful book unlike anything else DC is publishing at the moment. Focusing on a handful of new characters, primarily on two young teenage girls, the book has the distinction of being one of the most diverse books on the market. In a world where the marketplace is expanding and the demand for characters who are anything but boring white males, a book featuring characters like Olive Silverlock and “Maps” Mizoguchi is a refreshing change of pace.
It is also appreciated that while Cloonan and Fletcher do establish that there is certainly mystery afoot, and the story arc they’ll be unspooling is certainly going to be interesting, the first issue is mainly focused on letting us get to know our protagonists as characters and really flesh them out. The reader is treated to a slow burn of a character study on these two young girls, letting us really get a feel for their personalities so that by the time we understand that things are truly not as they seem at Gotham Academy, we like these characters enough and are invested in them in such a way that the narrative carries a substantive amount of weight. Much like the family drama that drove the majority of Ms. Marvel earlier this year, Olive’s personal troubles and Maps’ enthusiasm for her life at a new school give us a lens through which we can view the stories that Cloonan and Fletcher want to tell.
It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I feel like those willing to overlook their own hesitance to try the book, like myself, will find something to enjoy here. Truly a spectacular debut issue and quite possibly my favorite new DC launch in years.
The character rights to Superman have been in dispute for some time now. The court case between Warner Brothers and the Siegel and Shuster families has raged for quite some time. An original deal was made with the Shuster family and Warner Brothers in the early nineties that would allow payments throughout their lifetime for the use of Superman. A similar deal was supposedly reached with the Siegels in the early 2000s as well. Those deals notwithstanding, both families have been embroiled in legal battles with Warner Brothers over ownership rights. Close to a year ago the Siegel family lost their final appeal and this week the same court that shut down that case ruled against the Shusters as well, securing all rights to Superman and any characters derived from his use for Warner Brothers.
With talks of copyright extension in the news it is interesting to take a look at this case and see how different and yet the same things are within the comic book industry when it comes to the handling of work for hire. DC Comics does have a fairly decent track record as of late. Talks of royalty checks showing up in Chuck Dixon’s mailbox when The Dark Knight Rises hit theaters for his contributions to creating Bane got a lot of press. Apparently DC has no incentive to do this, but did so for reasons nobody can truly fathom. Creator rights seem to be a very broad spectrum from case to case. I think everyone is quite aware of how Marvel treated Jack Kirby and Joe Simon regarding their contributions to the Marvel universe.
Most people who do work for hire understand the ramifications of that. Look at Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker and their reactions to the Jim Gordon TV show announcement and the use of The Winter Soldier. They know that Marvel is well within their rights to use those characters and ideas because that was in the terms of their contract with the company. Most creators are realistic when it comes to how their work-for-hire output is utilized and what expectations they should have regarding compensation. Siegel and Shuster were in a very different boat when they made their deal with DC comics in the early twentieth century. They tried to secure a fair shake for their involvement when they were alive and their family continued that fight after their deaths.
The world of copyright and creator rights is an ever shifting landscape. The comics industry should certainly treat their creators with more respect. The people in charge would not have these characters without the creative types doing their job. Royalties for new creations shouldn’t be such a stumbling block. I don’t work for any of the major companies so I don’t want to overstep my bounds. But I don’t think I’m going out on too far of a limb to say that I support creators and creator rights and think that its not bad business to support the people who keep your enterprise alive.
There has been a lot of ink spilled about the controversy surrounding this Harley Quinn series. Mainly around that “tryout” page where artists were encouraged to draw a scene depicting the title character preparing to commit suicide in a bathtub with electrical devices hanging above her. There were plenty of good arguments made as to why that was a bad idea. The fact that it got hyped up in the middle of suicide prevention awareness month was a major blunder. We could easily spend a couple thousand words talking about whether a book focusing on a character who is clearly mentally deranged needs to walk the logistical tightrope of addressing a topic like suicide. No amount of context or satirical intent will silence certain elements on either side of the argument. I’m going to say that Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner are good people. I’ve never seen anything that would indicate either of them was looking for a cheap laugh, or to make light of suicide as a topic. It just isn’t in their character.
So the first thing I have to do while discussing this issue is point out that the panel in question does not appear in the final product. The talent search yielded a page by Jeremy Roberts where most of the page remains intact but the panel depicting the suicide is absent, replaced by a panel with Harley riding an Apollo style rocket in outer space. Within the context of the book, the fourth-wall breaking creators are discussing Harley’s role in the Suicide Squad, which would explain the panel in question. Honestly, with that context, it makes perfect sense. I applaud everyone involved for seeing that it is a sensitive topic however and going in a different direction. The page in question gives off a vibe of Harley’s perceived death wish without diving into the mental illness/suicide quagmire.
I know I dedicated a lot more space on that little issue than I intended. I wanted to cover the actual issue, not the issues people had before the book came out. So let’s start from the beginning.
This book is good. It’s fun. It put a smile on my face. Why? Well, Palmiotti and Conner have a playful tone that carries throughout and they manage to find a through-line for Harley criss-crossing through various art styles while breaking the fourth wall and showing us that Harley truly can be a versatile character. The book is essentially Amanda and Jimmy showing that there are an infinite number of possibilities for Harley as a character and, with the correct art team, any one of them could be a viable long-running series. This is an introductory issue where Harley has to figure out what Harley wants to be. It’s a metatextual commentary on the creation of comics itself filtered through a character who, for all intents and purposes, could be viewed as simply one dimensional.
I think that freed from the constraints placed upon her by the Suicide Squad book, this title could truly be a blast. Honestly, I was reminded of the way that Jimmy and Justin Gray put such a fun spin on Power Girl, who much like Harley had infinite numbers of interpretations waiting in the wings. No character is without merit, and while I personally don’t have much of a connection to Harley and only really found her intriguing within the context of Batman The Animated Series, I think this issue is one of the more solid releases DC has put out in a while. It certainly surprised me in ways I wasn’t expecting.
I say go in with an open mind and see where the issue takes you. You may find yourself surprised where you end up.
Sandman Overture # 1 hit stores on October 30th and while it was expected to ship every other month with issue two coming in this December, Diamond has notified retailers that issue two has been pushed to February with orders for the solicited December issue cancelled outright. People are predictably blaming artist JH Williams for the delay and expressing disappointment over a series that had over a year of lead-in time already being affected by delays. This is yet another blow to DC’s image that it doesn’t need right now. The response to the first issue, at least from my standpoint in the retail end of things, was overwhelmingly positive. I don’t imagine that this delay will affect sales all that much, as those who were dead set on picking up the issues of Sandman will do so no matter when they hit stands, but at a time when DC needs fewer bullet points for the online community to take pot shots at you can imagine that one of their most hyped and anticipated series seeing a two month delay is at the top of the pile for things they don’t want to deal with.
Somehow missed in all the hooplah at NYCC this week was the tidbit Franco Aureliani let slip over twitter that Tiny Titans will be making its return to DC Comics. While this might be confusing to some considering that the Teen Titans the book features aren’t recognizable at all in the new 52, the return of Art and Franco to the title is cause for joy and celebration. Itty Bitty Hellboy has been brilliant and we can only hope for more greatness with volume two of Tiny Titans.
No news yet as to when it will happen, but let’s all take a moment to get our hopes up and enjoy the return of a great book before its inevitable cancellation.
I remember for a while DC seemed hellbent on making Weekly Comics a thing. 52 was probably their best shot at the concept. Countdown was the sort of mess you wish you could forget and I have almost entirely forgotten Trinity. DC wants to give the thing another go with Scott Snyder this time helming the project alongside a team of writers that include James Tynion IV, John Layman, Ray Fawkes, and, most interesting to me at least, Tim Seeley. Art duties will be handled by Josh Fabok, who I speculated would find a major project when the switcharoo with creative teams on Detective was teased a while back. Other artists will likely join him on the project soon. (source)
All of this is of course in connection to Batman’s 75th Anniversary. You can expect big things for Batman soon. In conjunction with this announcement, DC stated that the upcoming Detective Comics # 27 will be a 96 page epic featuring work from some pretty heavy hitters including Frank Miller, Paul Dini, Brad Meltzer, and Neal Adams with art provided by Greg Capullo, Jim Lee, Chris Burnham, Mike Allred and others.
I have been more than a little harsh towards DC lately. I feel like they just don’t know how to communicate with their audience in a way that doesn’t come off as condescending anymore. Their PR campaigns and their outreach to the folks that buy, read, and love their books leave a lot to be desired. The publicity for Superman/Wonder Woman for example, just seemed off message from the get-go, as if DC didn’t understand what audience they were reaching to with this one. DiDio’s comparison of trying to appeal to the Twilight audience angered many of DC’s loyal fans, a great example of how out of touch the company is with most of its publications. I think that the books should speak for themselves in most cases, but part of the publishing game is talking up your product and that is one of DC’s recent failings. They just aren’t very good at being their own hype-man.
This is unfortunate considering that Superman/Wonder Woman is a surprisingly well-written, beautifully drawn book. I did not have high hopes for the first issue because the DC hype machine made me feel that I wasn’t in the target audience and that the writing would likely not be in line with what the characters are experiencing in their own titles. I am happy to say that I was proven wrong. Writer Charles Soule, who has been making a name for himself in recent months, gives Diana and Clark some real depth here. Obviously the crux of the story is their relationship, and he uses that coupling as an excuse to better explore the character traits of each of the heroes as individuals. Like a mathmatic equation, we get to see the individual parts that comprise the eventual answer that is their relationship. It isn’t melodrama in the way I was expecting. I am quite impressed with how well everything gels together. The bouncing back and forth between Clark and Diana in their civilian lives and in the midst of a crisis gives the reader varied perspectives that also make the narrative flow smoothly.
Let me also state for the record that this is probably Tony Daniel’s finest work. His pencils are clean and strong with the ink and color work making every panel pop in a way that I haven’t seen from his artwork thus far. I may have been dismissive of him at times, which I now regret because if this is his A-game it is easy to see why he has become a top-tier artist.
Simply put, this is a major home run for DC. One they desperately needed.