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’ve read more Justice League # 1’s than I would care to count. Each time we get something drastically different from the previous iteration, making it hard, for me at least, to say exactly what makes for a definitive Justice League book. Grant Morrison’s run was pretty damned fantastic. As was the JLI group. The earliest incarnations of the team I’ve only read a handful of, mainly because I don’t have a ready access to the back issues the way I do with the JLI to present. (I have all of JLI, the Morrison era JLA book, and dropped the last volume of the book around Final Crisis)
I wasn’t going to bother with DC anymore. I’ve been slowly working my way out of monthly comic buying and sticking to trade releases and only keeping the books that I have the strongest of attachments to. JLA wasn’t one of those books. But I have to admit that the hype around Geoff Johns and Jim Lee tackling the book in an all new continuity was enough to make me pick up the first issue. The (arguably) biggest names DC has to offer working on a title that should be their premiere book of the lineup is not something that comes along everyday. I’ve likened it to putting Bendis on New Avengers back in 2005. How it took six years for DC to figure out a winning formula is beyond me. Johns alone would have been enough to sell the book but Jim Lee is a demi-god to most of the loyal comic buying public. The early numbers for the book indicate as such, what the actual sales translate to is another question entirely.
But what about the book itself? Is it any good?
That’s a little bit harder to answer. The book reminds me of a fine mixing of Bendis’ work on the early days of Ultimate Spider-Man as well as Johns’ own work when he relaunched Green Lantern. Like USM, this is an origin story, and it’s decompressed quite a bit. The days of a team assembling, fighting a threat, and moving on to the next issue are long gone. In this issue we get Batman, still being hunted by the police as they’re not yet aware that he’s “one of the good guys” as he tries to take down a monstrous looking villain that I at first mistook for a revamped Killer Croc.
Eventually Green Lantern gets himself involved. We soon learn through his banter with Batman that super-heroes are a relatively new phenomenon here and that the world doesn’t quite know what to make of them as of yet. Green Lantern is then surprised to find out that Batman is just some dude in a mask, bereft of any real superpower. The writing here is quick, snappy, breezy, and light. It covers a fair amount of ground in setting up the status quo and getting the ball rolling. The timeframe for this issues is fairly short, so by the time you get to the end of the book, some people might be a little let down, regardless of the somewhat tantalizing cliffhanger where we’re introduced to this new continuity’s Superman.
I can’t say this is a bad book. Jim Lee is on his A-game and there’s quite a bit to cover in a world where the rules haven’t been defined yet, so no matter what there’s a sense that no matter what Johns crammed in it would never be enough. If anything, the only thing I can say is that the book is promising. It’s an origin story where they have free reign to play around with the elements as they please. It looks like we’re seeing some tweaks already with the way they handle Cyborg, who we see as a high-school football player in this issue. The elements are there and only the rest of the arc will tell us if this was all worth our time or not.
I know that this year has been a bit different when it comes to the content I’ve posted on the blog. After leaving my job at the comic shop back in December I had to make the painful decision to alter my comic buying habits to accommodate my new lifestyle. As such, I’ve been getting my comics from an online retailer, mailed out once a month and as such I haven’t had much luck posting real reviews on a timely basis. It’s just a sad byproduct of my current situation. Another byproduct has been the steady decline of my interest in the mainstream comics scene. I have, sadly, been dropping titles I once considered vital with each passing month and have instead been focusing on creator-owned work that manages to resonate with me more than anything that DC or Marvel sends down the chute every month.
I never thought I’d see the day that I’d say this but I may just be done with DC comics. Lately the only books that I can say I’ve enjoyed fully are Morrison’s Batman Inc., Palmiotti & Gray’s Jonah Hex, Cornell’s Action Comics and Gail Simone’s Secret Six. Roberson’s handling of the Superman book has also been admireable. But that’s five books out of a line that will see 52 titles jump started with a new # 1 issue.
Dan Didio was quotes in the USA Today article as saying:
In September, more than 50 more first issues will debut, introducing readers to stories that are grounded in each character’s specific legend but also reflect today’s real-world themes and events. Lee spearheaded the redesign of more than 50 costumes to make characters more identifiable and accessible to comic fans new and old.
“We looked at what was going on in the marketplace and felt we really want to inject new life in our characters and line,” says Dan DiDio, who co-publishes DC with Lee. “This was a chance to start, not at the beginning, but at a point where our characters are younger and the stories are being told for today’s audience.”
Fans around the internet have been in an uproar over this and I have to say that I understand where some of them are coming from, in light of this news coupled with the rumors that have been coming out that have not yet been substantiated such as Lois & Clark’s marriage being lost in the new continuity as well as several creative team changes that are less than exciting including a possible loss of Gail Simone from Birds of Prey. The last time that happened it sucked just about all the energy from the book and it was left to die a slow death. On the other hand Grant Morrison is rumored to be taking over the central Superman title and it is confirmed we will be getting a Justice League book written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Jim Lee, in a move that clearly parallels Marvel’s decision to put Bendis on New Avengers several years ago.
The problem I have with the Justice League book being handled by Johns & Lee, aside from the fact that the creative team is almost begging for publishing delays, is that it seems like they’re aping Marvel’s formula several years after it has already gotten stale. Granted, DC could never make such a move any time after Marvel does anything similar because it’s either too soon or too late after the fact for it not to seem like a stunt or playing catch up. My philosophy when it comes to the DC v. Marvel debate comes down to the way Marvel treats its writers. They sell the writers in a way that makes them out to be superstars. Marvel presents their writers as the A-list. The cream of the crop. Brian Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, Dan Slott, Jason Aaron, Nick Spencer, et. al are sold as being equal commodities to the characters they write. DC does not seem to do the same for their writers outside of Morrison or Johns. They have a SMATTERING of amazing talent in people like Chris Roberson, Matt Sturges, Gail Simone, Paul Cornell, Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray, and so many others. But you don’t see DC publicizing them like walking gods of creativity the way Marvel does with their stable.
The whole line-wide reboot thing reads like a desperate stunt. DC loves to pull stunts. The repeated weekly series plan alone shows that. This stunt in particular will alienate a great deal of the fanbase and probably lose them for a good long time. They say that the point of all this is to garner new readers by eliminating the confusion surrounding certain characters and their continuity but they are failing to understand the simple reason why the comics market isn’t viable to younger readers and that’s that comic books are not cost effective to the consumer.
The article in USA today also mentions that beginning in September, DC comics will be going same-day release with digital and print copies. This is a major leap forward in the digital market but raises even more questions. Are the digital comics going to be significantly cheaper than the print counterparts? If DC wants to make me pay full price for a copy of the new Superman # 1 at $2.99 when I can get it from an online retailer for anywhere from a 10-40% discount, then what is the impetus for me to switch to digital? The price debate is probably the most important hurdle that the comics industry will have to face in the coming years. I bought a blu-ray movie yesterday for $8.99. That’s two plus hours of entertainment plus special features for roughly ten dollars with tax applied. A comic book is 20 pages of content for about $3.25 after taxes are applied and the best case scenario is usually a ten minute read-time if there’s actually any dense content to the book. If you’re trying to attract new readers, you have to give them more bang for their buck. I respect DC for trying to lower the cost of buying comics, but the content provided for the price is a huge turnoff to people who aren’t already hooked. Add to that the fact that comics aren’t readily available anywhere outside of specialized shops and you’ve got a major dilemma. All the continuity stunts in the world will not save you from that pitfall. Comics are being displayed at Barnes and Noble now, but I’ve seen that selection and it’s not very impressive and not too well organized.
I don’t want to sound like a doomsayer, foretelling the end of comics or anything like that. The industry will adapt and survive in some manner, because too much money stands to be lost if they don’t. But the logic that has gone into DC’s latest stunt boggles the mind of anyone who takes the time to look at it carefully. Perhaps this whole article will be rendered worthless when more information becomes available. I hope everything does work out for the best. I still have friends who work in the retail level of the industry, and all the writers and artists who I’ve developed a rapport with since developing this blog don’t deserve to see their chosen profession crumble because the companies don’t know how to adapt. All I can do is sit and wait and see if what DC has to offer is worth paying for.
Inmates Running The Asylum : Jim Lee Named Co-Publisher & Geoff Johns Named Chief Creative Officer at DC Comics
The internet got itself all up in a maelstrom over the news that Jim Lee would join Dan Didio as a co-publisher while Geoff Johns would step up as DC’s new chief creative officer.
A lot of people took this to mean that now every book published by DC will be populated by death and mayhem, with just a tinge of regressive silver-age obsession. A Teen Titan would die every month and so on, etc., etc.
Look people, I riff on Geoff Johns a lot. I mean, I’ve nearly been assaulted in the shop by merely stating that he’s not the greatest writer of all time and that as a writer, his stories won’t be remembered in 20 years time as anything more than an example of what comics were like at a particular point in history. His writing is really rather middle-of-the road. The fact of the matter is that his books sell because of hype and promotion, not because of quality. Blackest Night is not an amazing event. It’s actually fairly tepid. But people buy it because they’re told it’s important. His stories are not particularly inventive or ground breaking, which is partly due to his obsession over the DCU’s history.
So after spending a paragraph ripping on the guy (again), how can I actually defend his appointment?
Perhaps because he’s exactly what the company needs. He’s a fanboy and at the same time he’s a businessman. He knows comics on the retailer level, because he is one, as well as on the creator level. He knows h0w to hype his own product to the fans. He sees himself as one of us and speaks as such. Which is something that DC has seemingly lacked, a sort of fan-level enthusiasm. DC has, as of late, seemed so corporate and robotic when compared to Marvel’s hype machine. I believe that having someone like Johns overseeing the creative direction of the company, and being able to sell that direction, will be a major boon to DC. Which I really do hope for, because I love DC comics. I grew up with Batman and Superman as much as I did Spider-Man or the X-Men.
All I can say is, please, stay calm and remain optimistic. If I can do it, so can you.