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Posts tagged “Superman

Court Rules Superman Belongs To Warner Brothers

Fleischer-Superman-lois-lane-620x

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.

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Comic Review – Superman/Wonder Woman # 1

wwsupcoverI 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.

Rating: 4.5/5


Weekly Comic Reviews – 7/31/2013

I Do Not Actually Look Like Jesse Custer

Today was my first day back in the comic shop since 2010. It felt a bit odd, to be honest. I can tell you the most vivid thing that I did not forget was the smell, that unmistakable smell of abundant paper. It was somewhat like coming home again after a long vacation. There is something warm and inviting about that place. A lot of it has to do with the people. I’m happy to be in my element again. I do not know for certain how long I’ll be there. I’d love to stay for a good long while, as it is familiar and comforting to me. If nothing else, I got to sit down and read some new comics today, which I haven’t done in a while and I’ve got some opinions you guys might be interested in hearing.

BATMAN_ANN2_ra4ejm6iuw_BATMAN ANNUAL #2
Written by: Scott Snyder
Pencilled by: Wes Craig
Inked by: Craig Yeung, Drew Geraci
Cover by: Jock
Color/B&W: Color
Page Count: 48
U.S. Price: 4.99
On Sale Date: Jul 31 2013

A special ZERO YEAR tie-in! Bruce Wayne’s first year as the Dark Knight has just barely begun…and already dangerous elements are coalescing, leading Bruce toward his final destiny.

I’m still a month or so behind on my regularly scheduled Batman reading but this Annual issue is enough of a standalone story that I didn’t feel lost. If following the narrative is a concern for you, breathe a sigh of relief because it would take a lot of effort to be confused by this particular issue. Here we are presented with a one-off story where Batman is brought in to Arkham Asylum by the powers that be to test out a new high-security section of the prison called the “Tartarus Wing.” It has been specifically designed to hold the most dangerous of Gotham’s rogues gallery and the folks running the asylum figure that if Batman can’t get past the defenses, nobody can. Batman’s arrival coincides with that of a new orderly by the name of Eric Border, a fresh-faced young idealist who is straight off the bus from Metropolis. He’s the sort of guy who believes that the work done within the walls of Arkham Asylum can benefit those incarcerated there and the world outside. From the reader’s perspective, we are meant to read him as a naive simpleton. He is a foil to Batman’s philosophy and obvious parallels to Superman’s handling of Metropolis with Bruce’s handling of Gotham can be drawn.

While Batman is defeating the defenses of the new wing, Border embarks on a B-plot expedition that finds him encountering the earliest patient to be committed to Arkham, a character going by the name of the Anchoress, whose backstory is that she willingly locked herself away at the Asylum to truly rehabilitate herself. Her name is derived from the Anchorites, who were penitents who would lock themselves away after recognizing the damages of their crimes. The Anchoress speaks about the difference between the Asylum as she entered it, several generations of Arkham ago, and where it is currently, as a simple repository for evil. You can guess who she blames for the shift in atmosphere.

The Annual is much in line with what these Annuals are usually like, that is to say it is competently written and this particular one makes some interesting comments on Batman and the Asylum, whether he does any good locking his foes away at Arkham and whether their incarceration furthers the escalation of violence in Gotham. It isn’t entirely new ground, but it is handled well enough to make it worth reading, especially if it ties into Zero Year as heavily as the front cover implies. As I admitted earlier, I’m a little behind so I can’t speak to its relevance in that arena.

Rating: 3 out of 5

SM_ANN_2_CVR_fnl_d3p47hlexk_SUPERMAN ANNUAL #2
Written by: Scott Lobdell, Frank Hannah
Art by: Pascal Alixe
Cover by: Andy Kubert
Color/B&W: Color
Page Count: 48
U.S. Price: 4.99
On Sale Date:  Jul 31 2013

What repercussions lurk beneath the surface from Brainiac’s first attack—and how does it all set the stage for the battle of Metropolis? Plus, how can the Man of Steel fight something he can’t physically stop!

I may be behind on Batman but I haven’t broken the cover of a Superman book in well over a year. I sorta gave up on all Superman related books around the same time and just never found the time or energy to check up on them. This issue begins Sunset Boulevard style with Lois lying on the sidewalk narrating her own near-death experience. We find out that Clark is off doing the whole internet blogger thing while Lois stays at the Daily Planet, preferring the dying journalism industry because she feels it gives her the power to speak the truth the most loudly.

One night while working late Lois encounters a woman who begs for help, her head is swollen and resembling the appearance of Brainiac. As if on cue, we are flashed back to the first Braniac invasion detailed in the early launch of the new-52. What follows is a mystery without a mystery because the “who” element is already answered with no sense of drama. There are twenty people who have been reported missing since the Brainiac attack and, surprise, they all are connected somehow. The writing in this issue isn’t great as there is no rise or fall to the narrative, simply a progression. In the last page it becomes clear why; this is only the first part of a puzzle that will be answered in the pages of Action Comics and Superman in a crossover called Psi-War, which I was unaware of because I am out of the loop.

Compared to the Batman annual, out on the same day, this issue seems to be lacking all around. The artwork is quite good and seems more polished than I expected for the issue, but Lobdell’s writing does nothing for me. It doesn’t stick the landing as a lead-in to a crossover and misses the mark by a wide margin as a standalone issue, which I feel an Annual should be able to manage.

Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

WOLVFLESH2013001-DC11-LR-b9abaWolverine – In The Flesh # 1
Written by: Chris Cosentino
Art by: Dalibor Talajic
Cover by: Tim Seeley
Color/B&W: Color
U.S. Price: 3.99
On Sale Date:  Jul 31 2013

Reality star Chris Cosentino tells a tale about Wolverine and food like only a Top Chef Master can! Adamantium claws meet steel kitchen knives in a culinary caper staring your favorite costumed Canadian!

Oh boy, where do I start with this one. Firstly, I don’t know who Chris Cosentino is because I’m not a fan of Top Chef. I’m more of a Chopped guy. So I only read this issue because of the novelty in a celebrity chef writing himself into a Marvel comic. One which I assume is canon. It’s glorious fan-fic given total validation by the publisher. Long story short, I love the premise and I wish they would do more with it. I’d read a book about Peter Parker taking a cooking class from Giada DiLaurentis. I would pay good money for a story where Deadpool tries to kill Gordon Ramsay but then they team up to fix a terrible restaurant. I don’t care that its ludicrous. I like ludicrous. Is the book any good?

Well, it’s entertaining to say the least. A couple of bike riders find a corpse that is apparently the work of a serial murderer known as the Bay Area Butcher. Logan finds out about it and after taking a look at the bodies he calls in his good friend Chris Cosentino, celebrity chef and master of “offal cuisine” dishes, which are prepared with ingredients normally tossed aside when an animal is butchered. Logan and Chris come to the conclusion that whoever this killer is, he must have some culinary or butchery experience.

And so the team up begins!

Really, I don’t want to give anything away because the book is crazy in a way you have to experience for yourself. Seriously, if you’ve got some spare cash and need to pick something up that will make you ask yourself if you truly read what you think you did, please pick up this book. Everyone needs to be exposed to this madness. It’s the best kind of madness I’ve had the pleasure of indulging in a long while. Honest to blog.

Rating: 3 and 1/2 out of 5 Stars


ORSON SCOTT CARD, THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, PUBLIC OUTRAGE, AND ARTISTIC INTEGRITY

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The most recent solicitations in Previews showed the listing for the upcoming Adventures of Superman anthology title, slated to include a story written by Orson Scott Card and illustrated by Chris Sprouse. Card of course is best known for writing Ender’s Game, a terrific piece of sci-fi literature, and being a homophobic prick with ties to the National Organization for Marriage, a group openly opposed to equal rights for homosexuals and transgenders. DC has been standing behind their decision to hire Card for the title, stating that a person is entitled to their views and therefore he should not lose work as a result. I think that a company has the right to make judgment calls about the quality of their employees’ character as well, but that’s neither here nor there at the moment.

What is here is an announcement that artist Chris Sprouse saw the writing on the wall and extricated himself from the situation before the shitstorm became a hurricane,

“It took a lot of thought to come to this conclusion, but I’ve decided to step back as the artist on this story,” Sprouse said in a statement released Tuesday. “The media surrounding this story reached the point where it took away from the actual work, and that’s something I wasn’t comfortable with. My relationship with DC Comics remains as strong as ever and I look forward to my next project with them.”

Due to the creative change, the Card story will not appear in the first collected issue out May 29. Instead, it will feature a story by writer Jeff Parker and artist Chris Samnee, as well as a tale by Jeff Lemire and one by writer Justin Jordan and artist Riley Rossmo.

DC is also looking for a replacement illustrator for Card’s story.

“We fully support, understand and respect Chris’s decision to step back from his Adventures of Superman assignment,” the company said in a statement. “Chris is a hugely talented artist, and we’re excited to work with him on his next DC Comics project. In the meantime, we will re-solicit the story at a later date when a new artist is hired.”

Here is where I begin to editorialize, so if you just wanted to know the details, that part of the article has ended. Now we get onto my personal rant bus and start shooting through logical intersections. Some rhetorical pedestrians may be collateral damage.

I do believe that DC comics had the right to hire Card for this project. I don’t think they are beholden to the public to remove him because a section of the population doesn’t agree with the personal views of the artist. In fact, I think they should be forced to deal with the repercussions of hiring someone like Card. This is already a PR nightmare for DC. They are feeling it. There is no way that they can come off looking good because of this little fiasco. They made an error in judgment hiring Orson Scott Card to write this story. They banked on name recognition to boost sales. They seemingly did not imagine that name recognition works both ways. I think they reckoned that the controversy would not be so large that the readership wouldn’t meet a respectable quota for the title. I’m sure they expected folks to pick up the book in speculation, wondering if Card might do something off-kilter that would get people talking about Superman and, by proxy, DC as a company. This is indicative of so much of why I am all but done reading DC books. I read Batman out of habit. The same way I instinctively brush my teeth in the morning. It is part of a routine. But DC has for the last few years made mistakes that have alienated me in a way that makes me weary of taking a risk on new titles they publish and getting invested in their products. There is no sense of cohesion to DC’s publishing strategy and the way they handle the reactions of their readership to their nonsensical decisions is just the icing on the cake.

Chris Sprouse leaving the title makes sense. He knows it isn’t a good move for him to be associated with this project. As a result, Card’s story is without an artist and thus won’t be in the issue when it goes to print. Will people support the title now that Card is temporarily gone? I don’t know for sure. Let’s say they do. Does DC take note that numbers went up after the announcement of Card’s absence? I’ll say no, because they really won’t have any way to compare until an issue with Card’s involvement hits the stands and they see the difference in sales. The book is going to be a lightning rod any way you look at it. In short, DC is going to be dealing with this for a while.

What am I trying to say with all this? I’m saying that DC has the right to hire someone like Card. They also should have the good sense not to. This isn’t a plea to get rid of Card on my part, more of a plea for the people at DC to make better decisions. All across the board. Have they scored a PR win AT ALL since the first launch day of the New 52? All we’ve heard about is artist discontent, shuffling creative teams, sales slipping down the charts, the furor over the Gail Simone fiasco and now this debacle. When was the last time Marvel had to deal with this sort of bad press? I honestly can’t remember. I don’t want to start an argument about DC vs. Marvel in terms of editorial decisions, because that would be an article too frustrating to write. What I do want to do is put the idea out there that DC can, could, and should be better than all of this.

Be better DC. Be better.


Amy Adams is Lois Lane

According to reports from the L.A. Times, Oscar nominated actress/certifiable beauty Amy Adams has been cast as Lois Lane opposite Henry Cavill in Zack Snyder’s upcoming Superman film. This is such a step up from Kate Bosworth in Superman Returns that it almost defies the ability to write a coherant blog post about it. The fact of the matter is that no matter what you think of Snyder as a director, and the internet has been a veritable mosh pit of differing opinions following the opening of Sucker Punch, the pedigree of the cast is nothing less than stellar with Cavill, whose work in The Tudors is quite good, and previously reported Kevin Costner as Pa Kent and now Amy Adams on board as well. If by some miracle we get Viggo Mortenson on board as well, which has been speculated with rampant fury as of late, we may see the most well assembled Superman production of our time.

Just about every Superman iteration thus far has had something that worked well for it. Christopher Reeve was superb as the Man of Steel. In the 90’s, Teri Hatcher was a fabulous Lois Lane and the chemistry between her and Dean Cain was what kept that show afloat. Smallville has its moments, most of which revolve around Michael Rosenbaum, Allison Mack, John Glover, and, in a pinch, Erica Durance. Snyder’s film has an amazing cast, a treatment from the Nolan’s and the directive from everyone not to be a black hole of awful proportions. We could very well get something worthy of Superman hitting the big screen once again in 2012.


Weekly Comic Reviews

I Do Not Actually Look Like Jesse Custer

Guys, this week was a killer. Probably the most major comic release date in a while. You have no idea how many people have been coming in asking about Batman Incorporated over the last few weeks. That final panel in Batman & Robin sold people in a way that I can’t really describe and I for one am thrilled that so many people are realizing how awesome Grant Morrison’s take on the Dark Knight truly is. The man knows what he’s doing. In Morrison we trust.

AVENGERS #7 3.99
BATMAN #704 2.99
BATMAN INCORPORATED #1 3.99
BATMAN THE RETURN #1 4.99
DEADPOOLMAX #2 (MR) 3.99
GREEN LANTERN #59 (BRIGHTEST DAY) 2.99
OSBORN #1 BIG (OF 4) 3.99
POWER GIRL #18 2.99
SIXTH GUN #6 3.99
SPIDER-GIRL #1 BIG 3.99
SUPERGIRL #58 2.99
SUPERIOR #2 (OF 6) (MR) 2.99
SUPERMAN #705 2.99
THUNDERBOLTS #150 4.99
X-23 #3 2.99
X-MEN #5 3.99

Now after a good long day of writing about prostitution in the middle ages for a history paper, I can tell you about how awesome a few of these books are.

BATMAN # 704

The weakest of the new Batman releases is the core title, which sadly seems like a middle of the road affair by Tony Daniel when compared to the amazing work done by Morrison and Finch in the other books released this week. Not to say that the book is horrible, it’s better than it has been recently, especially Daniel’s art which looks less rushed than I’m used to, but unfortunately the entirety of the book seems rather pedestrian when placed alongside the nearly pitch-perfect Batman Incorporated title. I think my main gripe with this title comes from the fact that it reads like a throwaway title from the late nineties or early two-thousands in it’s pacing, its art, and its choice of villainry.

The book suffers from feeling all too familiar to stories we already read but with minor tweaks. Unfortunately, the books that this seems derivitive of aren’t the best parts of Batman lore. I think that the book could stand to take a few more risks rather than settle into a comfort zone that’s so blatantly par for the course.

Then again, when Tony Daniel takes risks we get Catgirl, a character that I almost want to like out of the sheer absurdity of her existence. But then again, my tastes differ in certain areas from the general public so I won’t take a stand on that character until she’s had the chance to mature under another team of writers.

BATMAN INCORPORATED # 1

This book is everything you should want in a Batman title. Morrison manages to find the right balance of tone between the ridiculous, the macabre, the adventurous, and the outright fun. The book essentially turns into a globetrotting Bruce and Selina super-happy-fun action hour where Batman and Catwoman fly to Japan to begin preparations for that branch of the Batman Inc. plan to be put into motion but are sidetracked by a murder mystery and a cult of ninja assassins. There’s even some tentacle rape hentai jokes that seem all too appropriate coming from the mind of Grant Morrison.

The artwork on display here is robust and amazing. They really could not have found a better fit. Paquette’s Selina is as sexy as she’s ever been and the subtle touches he uses to portray Batman are astounding. It’s one of the best looking Batman books in a long time, rivaled only by Finch’s work in The Return which I’ll be discussing shortly.

If you pass on this one you will regret it later. This one is a home run in every sense of the damn word. Buy this book now!

 

BATMAN THE RETURN # 1

I was wary of this particular title. That apprehension faded after the first few pages where Grant Morrison gives us what equates to graphic poetry, telling the story from the perspective of the bat that crashed into Bruce’s life when he needed to find his avatar. David Finch’s artwork guided the narrative with masterful flow and tone, showing off some of his most brilliantly stylized work to date.

That the art is this good is not surprising, given the subject matter and how much Finch loves to work with shadows and the darkness, but the complexities of the narrative were surprising considering that this is essentially the jumping-on point for new readers and Morrison made no attempt to censor his sensibilities and gave us intricate mysterious plot threads as well as hyper-neo-noir technological action adventure with jetpacks and robotics intertwined with some nitty gritty fight scenes.

If you’re planning on reading any of this week’s bat titles I highly recommend that you start off with this one as it outlines the new status quo for Batman quite handily and works to assure us that the people working on every title are going to be working as a cohesive unit to tell what seems like a hell of a story and if this one-shot is any indication, they’ll be bringing their a-game every step of the way.

SPIDER-GIRL # 1

From Marvel we get the newly minted 616 version of Spider-Girl, formerly Arana, in her first solo title. The whole Young Allies thing didn’t seem to work out so well so I’m pensive about this title, but hopefully they’ll let it go long enough to deter fans from yelling at them for cancelling what amounts to their only major female-driven solo title. (Scarlet doesn’t count, guys.)

It’s off to a good start. Establishing the cast of characters and letting the new readers get to know Arana in case they haven’t followed her from her humble beginnings in the revamped Amazing Fantasy from a few years back. The storytelling style is sound and concise, but from someone like Tobin who has a pretty firm grasp on narrative technique this isn’t really a surprise. The plotline seems familiar, as most superhero books are bound to borrow from each other a bit, but the expression, through a “twitter”-esque thought balloon parade seems fresh enough to distinguish it from other similar go-arounds.

I’m hoping it will stick around long enough to take off, because the character really is an interesting one. I especially liked her when she was in Ms. Marvel, another title that I sorely miss.

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And now I go back to writing about whores. I guess this is what Frank Miller feels like all the time. A-ZING!!!!


J. Michael Stracynski Stepping Down From Superman & Wonder Woman

Does Anyone Else Think he Looks Like Frank Langella?According to the official DCU newsblog, JMS will be taking his leave from the Superman and Wonder Woman monthly titles citing a need to prioritize the release of the next Earth One graphic novel as well as his recent healthy issues as the reasons for his early departure. Those concerned about whether or not the current storylines will be left dangling will be happy to hear that oncoming Superman writer Chris Roberson (of iZombie and Cinderella fame) as well as new Wonder Woman scribe Phil Hester will both be working off of Stracynski’s plot outlines. Those of you hoping that the storylines would be abandoned are out of luck. I would argue that the premeses behind the current direction of both books were sound and interesting, simply not being taken in the right direction due to Stracynski’s understanding of the characters being deeply flawed.

I’m sure some overzealous fanboys will be quick to theorize that this has something to do with the critical reaction to the series but the truth is JMS got mainstream exposure for the title, so whether or not the faithful drank his kool-aid was not a concern of the people publishing the books. He isn’t being forced off because of his failures, if anything it seems like they want to replicate the amazing success of Earth One as soon as possible considering the buzz on the first installment seems to be mostly positive.

The thing to take away from this is that both new writers for Superman and Wonder Woman are ASTOUNDING talents who I personally cannot wait to see tackle the characters. Especially Phil Hester. I have a sketch of Green Arrow he drew for me hanging framed in my office. He’s awesome. You should share my enthusiasm. I have enough to go around.