Saturday, May 28, 2016

This Captain America Hail Hydra Thing

A lot of people (including a lot of non comics readers!) have been asking me about this, so I'm addressing this here. For those of you not in the loop, Marvel put out a story that wants us to believe Captain America has been a Hydra Sleeper agent all this time.
First a disclaimer: Writer Nick Spencer is one of those new Marvel guys who I really like. His Superior Foes of Spider-Man was a fantastically inventive and witty comic that kept me going for 20+ issues.

And I fully realize that in this day an age, it's hard to come up with headline grabbing ideas for mainstream comics. New writers probably have to wrangle corporate agendas, event schedules and editorial directives that would make, oh, I don't know, something like Rich Buckler's Deathlok run an impossibility today.

With that said, I can't really wrap my mind over what a misstep this Cap story is. For one thing, we all know it can't be a real thing. It would be like a story where Batman saves his parents from dying.

Secondly, it seems to fly in the face of the fans of the MCU which Marvel has spent over a decade kissing up to. Don't get that last part? Well, look at the Captain America in the picture above. Does he look like the classic 70's/80's Captain America? Where are the wings on his mask? (like in this image below)

Oh, they got rid of those because, y'know, they didn't match the movie version. Which is all find and dandy, but then Marvel go and write a story that completely dismisses this contingent, and now over half the internet is flipping the fuck out because they don't know how to reckon with the zaniness that sometimes comes with traditional comics. This has led to some half ass attempts by Marvel to say, "...uh...wait and see. It's just a story...don't flip out..."
It's unfortunate that it's made so many people so upset, but I think the actual story that we're telling is something that we can stand behind. ~ComicBookResources
That's Marvel's SVP of Publishing Tom Brevoort sounding about 80% sure he's okay with this story. Then he goes on to explain how people shouldn't think the story has anti-Semitic undertones. That's always how you want to close an interview - dismissing accusations of racism.

Now, if we are honest with ourselves, this is ostensibly just be another shaggy dog Marvel continuity moment no one will remember in 3 years. However, I think what happened is that Marvel wanted to try and steal some of DC's Rebirth thunder, so they were originally going to hype the hell out of the issue, but then backed off. (I suspect they caught wind of some early backlash.) Unfortunately, pre-release chatter had them talking about this issue as the type of revelation that would have "long lasting repercussions." What we really have here is another Spider-Baby moment.

Unfortunately, Captain America's popularity is at an all time high now. So, writing a story that plays havoc with the MCU zeitgeist rightly gets a lot of people talking negatively about you. I don't want to come off as one of those Joseph Campbell Power of Myth sycophants, but that line of thinking isn't without some merit.

Sometimes, it's just enough to write a story where Cap wails on a bunch of Hydra guys.

Why is that so hard to understand?

- Jim

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Is Wonder Woman a Xena Rip Off now?

Remember when only comic fans discussed comic characters? Yeah, there was once a time when some bit of comic book news would only be discussed on comic book message boards. Now, just about every sub culture news site post news articles about comic books and movies. And while this has democratized the discussion of comics and characters, it also allows people to perpetuate false information about comics much in the same way that FaceBook lets your mom warn people about Herpes from toilet seats.

One of the things I see pop up a lot that bothers me is the notion that Wonder Woman is now just a Xena rip off. Usually, the poster is implying that a sword/shield bearing Wonder Woman only exists because Xena exists.

 Let's put that falsism to rest today.

First, she was shown using a sword in the Golden Age

AND there are some instances where she used a sword in the Bronze Age

But, the sum total of both are probably less than the number of times Batman used a gun in the Golden Age.

The real game changing stories are the ones George Perez created just after the Bronze Age. When Perez rebooted the character for the Post Crisis era, he gave Diana and the Amazons a very distinct warrior makeover. This is in 1987, 12 many years before Xena [ appeared on Hercules ].

Later, in 1995, John Byrne would add to this by presenting a Justice Society of America with a more warlike Wonder Woman. Again, this precedes Xena's television appearances. UPDATE: This actually is about the time Xena started appearing on Hercules, so while it's possible that John Byrne might have been influenced by Xena, the precedent set by George Perez was already well in place as a more likely influence.

IF you wanted to find one glimmer of truth in the whole Xena/Wonder Woman aspersion, then I would say that Xena may have popularized the visual imagery of women warriors in a way that has helped Hollywood feel more comfortable with the character.

But that's a far cry from just being a Xena rip off.

- Jim

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Zatanna Lost 100 Pager

It's been a while since I've presented a new entry in my Lost 100 Page Super Spectaculars, but at the request of some of the guys in the Back Issue Facebook group, I decided to commission my favorite Lost 100 Pager artist, Reno Maniquis to come up with art for a Zatanna 100 Pager! (Click to see the full sized version.)

This time, Reno went the extra mile and came up with dialogue for the cover, so the clever play on the word Fate is his idea. Here is his original artwork. 

We actually ended up with two versions of this cover because Zatanna wore several different outfits during the Bronze Age. Here is a second version in a different outfit.

We both said we disliked the black jump suit/pony tail combo. While it's probably more true to the Bronze Age, it was just a horrible design.  Here's how it looked on the cover of Justice League in the issue it was introduced.

 As you can see, it was better off the way it was.

- Jim

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Second True Origin of Identity Crisis

A few months ago, I wrote about how Darkseid was the true mastermind of Brad Meltzer's Identity Crisis. While the post was mostly some fun speculation, this week I happened to stumble across what I'm pretty sure is the actual inspiration for Meltzer's storyline: Justice League of America 122.

Quick Summation: Doctor Light uses his powers to mix up the leaguers secret identities. Why he does this, I'll touch on in a second, but crux of his scheme gives us the issues title:

The title, while pretty much a smoking gun, isn't the only connection to the 2004 story. There are a few others.

For one, amnesia (or mind wiping) is a main plot device:

See, Dr. Light's plan is to have every Justice Leaguer (with the exception of Aquaman) switch secret identities. For instance, Hal Jordan will think he's Barry Allen. Then when he unwittingly shows up in Central City Police station to work at Barry's job, he'll fall for a trap that only the Flash could get out of. 
 Why Dr. Light couldn't just set up said trap in Star City where Hal Jordan works is beyond me. That's probably why I'm not a master super-villain.

Anyway, also just like in Identity Crisis, there is a "death" in this issue. In this case it's Aquaman, who meets his end when he accidentally touches booby trapped luminescent fish.

One of the most dramatic scenes in Identity Crisis is when Batman loses his shit and attacks his fellow leaguers:

 Here is the scene in JLA 122 that I think inspired IC's angry Batman attack:

Another, more tenuous connection is this scene where Atom takes out Dr. Light by jabbing a needle in his skull.

I suspect this scene was the inspiration for how Jean Loring killed Sue Dibney in Identity Crisis by jumping on her brain.

What all of the connections have in common I believe is the older JLA 122 versions probably deeply affected young Brad Meltzer in a way that stuck with him. I'm sure we all have scenes from old comics that we remember reading when from our youth that rocked our world as kids. In Brad's case, he was able to take some of that youthful anxiety and increase it in a way that was effective on adults. (In some cases too effective.)

There are many people who do not like Identity Crisis for a number of reasons, (like Grant Morrison, who takes great offense with the Sue Dibney rape scene.) And while I think it definitely has its flaws, the mini-series does indeed find a way to take some of the elements from Bronze age stories and make them more provocative and interesting for an older audience.

The real question is: Is that a good thing?

- Jim

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Wonder Woman, Kamandi and Doom Patrol news

Over at ComicsAlliance, there is an article that suggests that the 2017 Wonder Woman solo movie is going to be "Pretty Dark." 

While this might seem like an odd direction given that Batman v Superman seems to have suffered from reviews that called it too dark and joyless, it really doesn't surprise me for a number of reasons.

1) This movie was well into production prior to the bleak reviews BvS received.
2) The movie is set during World War I, and it's probably next to impossible to have a FUN movie in which trench warfare has any part.
3) I suspect that reversing gears from their Green Lantern inspired No Jokes edict isn't going to be as simple as flipping a switch.

Honestly, if it were me, I think I would have found some way to put the movie in World War II and add some Justice Society characters.  Yeah, I know this would cost a lot of money in reshoots (I guess) but with the rumors that Time Warner is already getting reshoots for the Suicide Squad to put in more joviality, I don't know if rejiggering the Wonder Woman movie that would be a real show stopper at this point. It definitely sounds like a better strategy than doubling down on Grim and Dark.

On the flipside, one bit of DC Rebirth news I've seen that has me interested is the story that DC is going to have a 12 issue Kamandi series written by different teams to present a story that is interconnected.

Check out these teams:  

Dan Abnett & Dale Eaglesham,  
Peter J. Tomasi & Neal Adams,  
Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti
James Tynion IV & Carlos D'Anda
Bill Willingham & Ivan Reis
Steve Orlando & Philip Tan,
 Marguerite Bennett & Dan Jurgens,  
Keith Giffen & Steve Rude
Tom King & Kevin Eastman,  
Greg Pak & Joe Prado,  
Rob Williams & Walter Simonson,  
Gail Simone & Ryan Sook
Len Wein & José Luis García-López.

This sounds exactly like the type of challenge that might inspire writers to create some pretty entertaining comics. And those creative teams are top notch. I hope this project works well and spawns similar projects using other DC characters!

Finally, DC also announced that Gerard Way, whose Umbrella Academy has been quite the success for Dark Horse, will be working on a new Doom Patrol series

This series will actually be part of a larger initiative by DC wherein Way guides a new DC imprint called Young Animal which will also use some other long forgotten DC characters like Cave Carson and Shade the Changing Man.

At first I was a bit dubious about this news, simply because I'm not a fan of celebrities turned writers in ANY media, but after some discussion and reflection, I realized, this is probably exactly what DC needs to reignite it's lackluster Vertigo demographic.

Thinking about Vertigo in the past, maybe someone like Way is exactly what they need? A well known personality with a defined aesthetic to help give the brand a new identity for new writers to converge around. I mean, I don't know, but you have to sort of think that having Gaiman work there was one of the things that provided a smooth entry for Ellis, Ennis and Vaughn (though he may have come after Gaiman had left.) Since then, Vertigo has sort of been this empty shell without a real figurehead to speak for it.

With that said, of the three projects, I'm probably the most interested in the Kamandi Challenge.

- Jim

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Brave and the Bold Omnibus

So I just found out that DC is putting out something they call The Bronze Age Batman Omnibus. Checking it out on Amazon, it's really more of a Brave and the Bold Omnibus as it's going to to feature issues 87 to 122 of the Brave and the Bold.

Sound just like the sort of thing I'd be all about, right? I mean, the great Jim Aparo art and, ahem, topical, Jim Haney stories make that my favorite era of Brave and the Bold. However, the cover is a bit lackluster. Check this out:

No two ways about it - that cover really doesn't "sell" the great Bronze Age content. What's even worse is that because of the title, this looks like this is going to be the ongoing trade package for this entire line. :(

Anyway, I took it upon myself to redesign the cover more to my liking. Here's what I came up with.

You'll notice I took the liberty of spelling out the exact nature of the content by adding the Brave and the Bold masthead AND giving Bob Haney and Jim Aparo credits on the cover.  I also took advantage of all the guest-stars that appeared in the issues to make the cover more eye catching.

The one issue some people might have with my cover is that Batman isn't shown. That's a fair complaint, so a created another version which had shows the Batman on it.

Hope you like them!

- Jim

Monday, March 28, 2016

BvsS Aftermath

I won't waste your time with another review of Batman vs Superman. I think if you google a bit, you'll find one or two reviews online. Instead, let's talk about some of the questions that have popped up since the movie came out this weekend.

1) If the production cost for the movie was $250 million, then why does Batman vs Superman need $800 million to break even? 

I suspect it's because Time Warner is using the movie's "marketing costs" to cover the debt of other bad projects.

2) Did Disney pay critics to make bad reviews of the movie?

There may have been a passive influence, but I think it's highly unlikely a full blown conspiracy was in the works.

3) Will the bad reviews cause Time Warner to take a different approach with the other movies?

Possibly. Check out this article where James Wan, the director of Aquaman states his movie will have a lighter tone.

4) Finally, will this movie start a backlash against Rotten Tomatoes?

Not likely. While people have accused the site of having reviews that seem to skew towards certain agendas, I think all will be forgiven by the time Civil War comes out, and fans will go back to using the RT scores to (wrongly) justify if a movie is good or not.

Anyway, feel free to use the comments section to add your own questions!

- Jim


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